Hey folks, I don't know about you, but I just begin getting twitchy when I don't think I'm gonna hear from the startlingly amazing jive-talking stellar swinger, Anton Sirius. He's obviously not used to the squalid existence he is undertaking in Toronto, but he is putting on a face and being a real trooper acting like he's having fun when we all know he can't wait to leave planet Earth faster than Leary's ashes. But hey... I think he's as cool as the cat's meow, and now I'll turn it over to Anton to make us all go Puuuurrrrrrr.....
Tuesday the 14th
I'm starting to get recognized, not as my intergalactic hipster self, but as AICN's representative- it's very strange. Perhaps it has something to do with the Harry-ish beard I have adopted.
The Ned Beatty interview is cranked out- hope you enjoy it. There were a million questions I just didn't have time for, so don't rag on me for not getting the big Zod-Otis reunion quote (Stamp is here with the Limey.)
Speaking of near-misses, Maggie Cheung is not here. This is only funny if you know that I have never, no matter what city I've been in and who I've known there, never met her. She did the tour with Irma Vep, and I wasn't here. I'm here to see Augustin, roi du kung-fu, and she doesn't show. We supposedly passed within fifty feet of each other in Heathrow once, but I'd like to think my Most-Talented-and-Beautiful-Actress-Working-Outside-of-Hollywood Senses would have gone off if we had.
More interviews for tomorrow: Dan Clark of the Item, Michael Lantieri, director of Komodo and FX guru (he won an Oscar for Jurassic Park), and maybe Jesper Jargil (director of the von Trier doc the Humiliated.) Any questions you wish answered send, as always, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Movie (USA 1999, directed by Chris Smith.)
Come on, you can tell me- you have a dream, don't you? Something you've never told anyone perhaps, some secret longing that would transform your life utterly if you only had the courage to seize it with both hands and hang on for dear life. Well, Mark Borchardt has a dream- let me tell you about it.
American Movie is the story of that dream, a film called Northwestern, and the twists and turns that lay on the path to its… well, that's the thing- it's still unmade. To make money for THAT film Mark ended up making a different one- Coven (available for purchase at www.americanmovie.com). But by the end of American Movie you will want to see them both, someday. Trust me.
Mark is a natural, every film geek's hero. The archival footage of his 'More the Scarier' series should bring back fond memories for anyone who was inspired to pick up a camera after they too saw Night of the Living Dead. Mark's friends and relatives are painfully real, too- we all know a Mike, don't we? Don't we all have an Uncle Bill?
This is one of those movies that has you walking away wondering what you've been doing with your life- but then you think of Mark, and his dream, and you realize that it's not too late, the stars were never really out of reach. Anything is possible in this crazy mixed-up world. Anything. All you need is a little bit of passion, and a dream.
(You'll be wondering why a review of Coven doesn't follow this one- that's because they didn't show it after American Movie. Boo! But don't worry, as soon as I find time to watch my own personal copy, a report will be winging its way to you.)
Augustin, roi du kung-fu (France 1999, directed by Anne Fontaine)
Go on, admit it- you're an Orientaholic. The most important event of the year, in film or otherwise, is Princess Mononoke. You've got a Jet Li poster on your wall. You knew who I was talking to when I interviewed Po Chih Leong. Well, have I got a movie for you!
Augustin is the story of an almost Mr. Bean-ish Frenchman, a struggling actor who is in love with all things Chinese. He longs to star in kung fu movies but his only experience comes from taping the audio tracks to movies he sees and 'practicing' at home (the opening credits are a scream, with Augustin's credits laid over Drunken Master footage.) A vision of sorts prompts him to pack up and move to the root of kung fu's majesty- or at least, Paris' Chinatown, which is as close as he can get.
Augustin's affection for its characters is infectious, whether it's the odd, sweet lead or his acupuncturist, played by the luminous Maggie Cheung, the Most-Talented-And-Beautiful-Actress-Outside-of-Hollywood. While Augustin's quest is played for laughs, in a Quixotic sort of way, the movie never makes fun of him. And the ending, resolutely non-Hollywood that it is, will nail anyone who's ever fallen in love with a culture not their own right through the heart.
But why do you need all this to tell you to see it? It's Maggie! Mortal incarnation of Goddess! The true heir to Audrey Hepburn (Gwyneth be damned!) Most-Talented-And… aw, you know the rest. Go. See.
The Humiliated (Denmark 1999, directed by Jesper Jargil)
Of all films in recent history none have quite the reputation of Lars von Trier's the Idiots. The Cannes reaction to it single-handedly justified everything von Trier has ever said or implied about awards and trophies. Now comes the Humiliated, the blow-by-blow account of the filming of the Idiots, and we get to see for ourselves just how disastrously wrong they were.
Jargil gets almost uncomfortably close to the process, which is at once collaborative and confrontational. Von Trier may be a madman-tyrant on set, but he's the sweetest madman-tyrant you'll ever meet. Jargil also was given access to von Trier's audio diaries, and his private thoughts act as a guide through the tangled wilderness of his actions. The Humiliated also shows some of the difficulties inherent in translating theory (the Dogme manifesto) into reality. But it isn't just an adjunct of the Idiots- the Humiliated is an extraordinary film in its own right, much as Hearts of Darkness stands on its own merits whether you've seen Apocalypse Now or not (although has that ever been put to the test?).
The Humiliated is in the first rank of filmic documentaries. Not to be missed.
Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes (USA 1999, directed by Cass Paley)
For those of you who don't know who 'Long' John Holmes was, he… well, he was… um, he had a big dick. Thirteen and one half inches, to be precise. And with that massive tool he cut a path through the American cultural landscape quite unlike anyone else's.
Wadd documents Holmes' life, from his beginnings in the porn industry to his final death-spiral. The details are interesting, to be sure, but I found the movie somehow uninvolving- between the fact that this story has already been shown, lightly fictionalized as Boogie Nights, and the fact that the film was one big tease (a film about porn that's 98% talking heads? Waaah!) I just couldn't get into it. Holmes' career was so much larger than life that to reduce it to sound-bites seems almost a disservice. We do get an excellent sense of Holmes the chameleon- no two people have quite the same take on him. And we do get to meet someone too monstrous for fiction- Holmes' second wife Misty. But on the whole, unless you're a true porn connoisseur (in which case you know this story already) I can't recommend Wadd.
I'm too tired and disappointed right now- you'll have to insert your own penis joke here.
Ned Beatty Interview Ned Beatty is a Hollywood legend, having starred in such films as Superman, Network and Deliverance, and worked with such directors as Spielberg, Altman and Spike Lee.
Anton Sirius: How did you become involved in Spring Forward?
Ned Beatty: Well, I'll tell you, I was really reluctant to take this on at first, because, when I first read the script, my initial reaction was that the part should be played by a black man. It was a beautiful script, but I couldn't see myself in that role. And they kept coming back but I would turn them down. Finally we all sat down and they said, "What will it take for you to do this picture?" And I had to really think about why I was so adamant that this was a role for a black man. What it was, was this- back in my childhood, growing up during and after the war, the older men that I knew who shared that quality of patience, of gentleness, they were all black men. So I had to go all the way back to that before I was ready to take on the role.
AS: This role, this picture obviously mean a lot to you. What was the hook for you, what got your attention about it?
NB: This film is just so different than most of what's getting made today. There's this strain of… this anti-humanism that seems to be in a lot of films. They're just filled with explosions and guns and… there was a film I was attached to, that I was supposed to do, but it kept starting up and then they'd shut it down, and back and forth for a few years. Finally the producers had solid backing, but it had been four years since I'd read the script, so I asked to read it again before committing. And I found out this nice, sweet comedy suddenly had a building exploding on page four. For no reason- before the character had been on the run, and they weren't going to show the events that led to him running, but now- boom. And later on in the script, not even directly connected to the main plot, the character inadvertently causes more explosions. It was ludicrous. The other thing too- my daughter, she's a teenager now, recently recommended a film that had really gotten to her- it was with Robin Williams, the one about… oh, the whole family that ends up reunited in heaven…
AS: Oh! What Dreams May Come. That one hit me pretty hard too.
NB: Yes, well, I saw it and the first time I saw it I was quite moved. The next time, not as much, but watching it and thinking about my daughter's reaction, I thought back to when she was three years old and she was at that point in her life where she was just finding out about death, that people have to die. And when she found out she was pissed, I mean really upset that this happened. And I liked that this movie (Spring Forward) could also spark those kinds of emotions.
AS: Just in researching your career for this interview, and the vast number of films you've done, I noticed you have cut down your workload somewhat the last couple of years. There was a time in the early '90s where you were taking on six or seven projects a year, TV movies, whatever.
NB: Well, you see, I lived in Los Angeles for a year, just to see what it was like, being there. I found I didn't like living in the city very much, but when you are right there… plus, when I was younger I was quite facile, I was known as a quick study. Now that I'm older that facility isn't as sharp, but there was a time when I was a guy they'd call at the last minute to take over for someone.
AS: You'd get the call and a week later be flying to the set.
NB: A week? I'd get calls in the middle of the night. I remember this one time Mickey Rooney was supposed to be shooting something in Texas. So he flies down there, gets to the airport- and there's no one there to meet him. Well, he's not too happy about it, and who could blame him? But he gets a cab and goes to the hotel- and there's no reservation. Of course he had the wrong hotel. But he's 70 years old, he doesn't need this crap. Pfft- he's out of there, back on the plane. So I get the last-minute call, "Can you come down?" etc. Of course, when I got to the airport there were four producers waiting with a limo.
AS: While we've still got a minute, how was Tom Gilroy to work with as a director?
NB: Fantastic. Marvelous. Tom really is a genius. He's going to go on to make some unbelievable pictures. He has that gift where he can be nice and warm and accommodating- except when he's not.
AS: There's a line you just don't cross.
NB: Exactly, he has a vision and if something gets in the way of that, look out.
AS: The thing that impressed me most was his visual sense.
NB: Yes, Tom knew what he wanted to do, and he had an excellent crew with him.
AS: Oh, for sure, but there's a certain expectation of what the film will be like- an actor directing for the first time, with a very talky script, but it's not what you'd expect at all.