The credited writers of Roland Joffe's (!) Captivity are Larry Cohen and someone going by the name of Joseph Tura. And If I need to explain to you why that's the greatest thing I've read all week, then there's a huge gap in your film education.
12:17 Addendum: I've idly snooped around the trades, and it seems Larry Cohen was the only credited writer on Captivity throughout its production, meaning that someone did enough script doctoring to warrant a credit from the WGA and was quite satisfied to not be the, uh, co-father of this apparent turkey.
... as a very real threat to the fruit and vegetable canning industry, the Clean Carpet Act of 1985 and American motherhood. So there. Thus concludes my comments on the Russian Mafia's involvement in the conspiracy to destroy Kristy McNichol's acting career. I'll now open the floor to all questions unrelated to the subject which I've just discussed at length. You, sir.
Q: Are you really really coming out of bullshit semi-retirement to join CHUD's writing staff?
A: I am. I really am. And I don't like your tone.
A: 1980 American League Rookie of the Year Joe Charboneau, is that you?
A: Well, why didn't you say so?
JC: I thought you'd get mad.
A: I'm certainly not very happy.
A: Fer cryin'... okay, I'm going to stop identifying myself as the "answer", since you've ruined the whole Q&A format by hiding under the cloak of anonymity like some "pudhead" taking shots at Mike Binder.
JC: Um, I hate to ask for a favor under these circumstances, but could you not identify me as "JC"? It's blasphemous.
JBS: You've found Jesus. How trite.
JCh: It's not that, it's just... I haven't fared well with zealots.
JCh: The ball-point pen incident?
JBS: He was just some whacked-out Indians fan, wasn't he? I didn't know dude was rolling with the Stab-for-Jesus brigade.
JCh: Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. This is a Cleveland Indians fan circa 1980 we're talking about. Living in Mexico City. Guy probably had a whole battery of hang-ups.
JBS: That I will not dispute. Let's get back to the whole point of this press conference as it does not pertain to the Russian Mafia's involvement in the conspiracy to destroy Kristy McNichol's acting career.
JCh: Oh. You still need me for this?
JBS: I don't need you in particular for this, but someone's got to lob me questions.
JCh: Alright. Um... you're writing for CHUD now?
JBS: Yes. Yes, I am.
JCh: That's all?
JBS: That's all.
JCh: You're kind of a dick.
JBS: And you ruined my childhood, so we're even.
(The Jeremy Boobie Smith and Joe Charboneau No-Singing, All-Grousing Revue opens July 10, 2007 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Previews begin as soon as Kevin Spacey beats it with that Eugene O'Neill horseshit. Tickets go on sale April 1st. Lame, right?)
First of all, read Sharon Waxman's New York Times article on the behind-the-scenes wrangling between Joe Roth and Julie Taymor on Across the Universe, and tell me whose side she's very clearly on. To give you a hint, I'll cite this paragraph:
Mr. Roth, a former Disney studio chief who proclaimed his ’60’s-influenced, artist-friendly ethos in 2000 by naming his new company Revolution Studios, is himself a director, of films like “Christmas With the Kranks,” “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” and “Freedomland.”
On one hand, that's just brutal honesty. True, Waxman's omitting what might be Roth's best directorial effort, Coupe de Ville, but only the twenty or so ardent defenders of that particular picture are likely to cry foul on her selectivity. And yet I still think Waxman is unfairly slanting her piece in favor of Taymor, who's thus far been a bust as a filmmaker artistically and commercially (maybe Frida broke even with its $56 million domestic haul, but I'd have to be willing to swallow that reported $12 million production budget - and, judging from what I've heard from unbiased sources about that so-so Miramax feature, I ain't). If Waxman's seen the movie, she should probably tip her hand a little and lobby on its behalf; otherwise, it's difficult to claim a dog in this fight.
I am, however, pleased that we've moved beyond the "Joe Roth: Defender of Artistic Integrity" era, since he has kinda been involved with a lot of movies notorious for being undone by studio interference (e.g. Nightbreed, The Exorcist III and, of course, Gigli - by the way, I love that Roth is adamantly against directors having final cut after Gigli, as if he couldn't have seen that one coming after Meet Joe Black).
How about "What's something a mother should never offer her bare-chested ten-year-old son while she's tucking him in, particularly when there's a bass-heavy funk cue chugging on the soundtrack?"
Thankfully, writer-director Horace Jackson keeps the potentially incestuous action limited to the above-mentioned, which will only come back to haunt the titular character of Johnny Tough when bagging his first piece of ass in, considering the milieu, probably a year or two later and then for the rest of his life. I should add that the proffering of a rubdown actually comes as a relief at the end of a sequence - which might be one continuous shot, though I'm not suggesting Jackson is craftsman enough to pull that off indelibly - that starts with the mother, clad in a slinky bathrobe, playfully chasing her half-naked son out of the bathroom and into his room, where Jackson frames him in the background while having his mother approach him (back to the camera) from the fore as if stalking her lover.
By this point, though, you're pretty certain that Johnny Tough isn't going to veer off the asphault for some harrowing cinematic offroading like other grindhouse movies might, as Jackson's already made it perfectly clear that he's attempting a beat-for-beat, urban... re-staging of The 400 Blows - "attempting" because he doesn't have the filmmaking chops to pull it off, and the ellipses/italic "re-staging" because it's nicer than saying "rip-off", as Jackson fails to cite his inspiration. But let's not be too rough on the guy; judging from his very limited oeuvre, he was a socially conscious producer of message pictures intended to alert African-Americans to the ills afflicting not only the ghetto but the suburbs as well.
And that's one of the more interesting aspects of Johnny Tough: it takes place in Hollywood, not Watts. Granted, Hollywood was considerably more dangerous back in the mid-1970s than it is now, but, despite being more ethnically diverse, it still had plenty in common with the not-exactly-crime-free suburban areas outside of Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago. So we're watching an African-American brood struggle with the kind of filial turmoil seen in such culturally disparate pictures as Rebel Without a Cause, Rocco and His Brothers and... The 400 Blows!
Since Jackson is to Truffaut as a filmmaker as Harmony Korine is to Jack Dempsy as a pugilist, Johnny Tough never leaps up to the level of those classics, but it's not at all disposable either. The children in the film, led by Dion Gossett as Johnny, are unique and completely unpretentious in a way that may not recall the born-performer brilliance of Enzo Staiola in Bicycle Thieves, but nothing that polished has any place in a movie this ragged. It's just nice to see Jackson giving his young actors lots of room to play and just be kids in front of the camera; I especially enjoyed the boy whose every line reading was an excuse to appropriate the kind of laid-back, jive-talking swagger popular on street corners all over the country at the time. I also loved that the white teacher (Rich Holmes, contributing perhaps the seminal portrayal of caucasian stiffness in film history) lets this kid get away with his Jimmy Walker-inspired recitation of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, but shuts down the persecuted, very white, would-be teacher's pet at the first sign of struggle. He doesn't play favorites, this one.
As with The Chinese Mack, the real saving grace of Johnny Tough is its finale, which, in this instance, subverts the iconic freeze-frame last shot of The 400 Blows in a manner that words could never do justice. All I can say is that I want that image on a t-shirt and as the wallpaper on my computer immediately.
I'll get into the other part of last night's L.A. Grindhouse Festival double-feature, Brotherhood of Death (aka Dudley's Dad vs. the Klan), a little later. As a real movie, it's better than Johnny Tough. It also features the funkiest theme music anyone ever scored for the KKK, so you know it's Andrei Rublev good.
"I do believe my testicles are smashed," said Alfred.
He may have been lying, perhaps even joking, but one thing was certain: he was bleeding profusely from the crotch. And it was at this point, as the room began to spin like Fiona Lewis at the end of The Fury (or, if you do not watch Brian De Palma movies, like Jean Pierre-Leaud whilst pinned to the wall of "The Rotor" in The 400 Blows), that he remembered to his extreme embarrassment he owed a call to Carl Weathers. And it was then, for the first time in his life, that Alfred began to hurt.
CBS's broadcast of the 2007 NCAA Championship begins at 9:00 AM PST tomorrow, which is precisely the same time I am to be connected with Hal Hartley for a Creative Screenwriting interview. As I have been spoiling for a tête-à-tête with Hartley - a major influence on my own writing since being blindsided by The Unbelievable Truth at the impressionable age of sixteen - for close to a decade, it would be exceedingly rude, unprofessional and, on a more practical note, distracting to have Davidson-Maryland or Louisville-Stanford running (muted) in the background as I converse with Hartley (who's calling from Berlin... yes, the one in Germany). But the contrast is compelling to me. Okay, "compelling" is overstating it; I'm semi-amused at the aesthetic opposition of these two seemingly disparate things - though if Hartley's a big basketball fan, this could just turn into me giving him updates in between mini-disquisitions on the "purpose" of the non-sequitur and the irony of being a global filmmaker with a rapidly dissipating audience.
Basically, I'm doing a lousy job talking myself into turning the television on during an interview.
It's called "Lucky Alan", and it's here. And, no, I haven't read it yet. Maybe when I'm done transcribing Sir Elijah Roth...
And guess who's missing his third consecutive L.A. Grindhouse Festival program! And guess how head-punchingly happy he is about it!
But I did get the opportunity to chat w/ QT at length recently (a highly recommended issue 'cuz it's full of me!), so that's something. Also, on an unrelated-to-me note, you should absolutely download Jeff Goldsmith's podcast of his Chris Rock/Louis C.K. Q&A following the Creative Screenwriting screening of I Think I Love My Wife (a very funny, very admirable, but thoroughly unsuccessful adaptation of Eric Rohmer's Love in the Afternoon). Thanks to Jeff's estimable moderatin' skillz, it's essentially an hour's worth of new material from two of the best stand-up comedians working today.
Odd. I've always said that when Brian Robbins remakes Casablanca, Peter Lorre's character will blow himself up in an internet cafe.
Finally, i-bankers just discovered Mark Ruffalo. If there's a segment of the moviegoing population that would consider You Can Count on Me a chick flick, it's this collection of cocaine-hoovering, girlfriend-snatching, Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius half-reading cretins who play at being human when they're not lumbering around Market Street grunting at Brooke Adams.
Life has a funny way of keeping you from fucking off in the myriad ways you'd like to if rent and utilities and blackmail would only have the common decency to pay for themselves. So, yeah, I missed Machine Gun McCain and Wipeout!, and will probably blow off that sexploitation triple-feature this weekend. I only make promises to break them. I will, however, be all over Rolling Thunder and The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and hope to write about as much of the rest of this festival for the next month-and-a-half. In the meantime, here's a really cool quote from Michael Mann:
I don't like style. Style is what happens when form is orphaned because content left; it's good in commercials. My attitude is that the audience is a highly sensitized organism sitting there in a dark room and everything has an effect.