DIY Film Fest: Great directors who were One and Done

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp®

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Marlon Brando on the set of “One Eyed Jacks.”

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s FilmWeek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, has another film festival you can put on yourself, in the comfort of your own home.

Lots of filmmakers direct only one movie.  Far fewer of them direct a movie that’s in any way notable. And, by notable we mean good, if not very good or better, iconic.

1.  Marlon Brando / “One-Eyed Jacks” (1961)

Actors make up most, but not all of this DIY One and Done Film Festival, and first on our list is Marlon Brando, who directed just one movie and was done with the director’s chair. “One-Eyed Jacks” (1961) is more or less a spaghetti western with no Italians.  Brando and Karl Malden play bank robbers. Dad Longworth (Malden) leaves Rio (Brando) to rot in prison for 11 years. Bad blood builds.

Stanley Kubrick was set to direct but he and Brando had issues so Brando took over. Yeah, Marlon Brando fired Stanley Kubrick. Crazy.

A number of sources report that Brando was an indecisive and demanding director. His first cut was five hours long. Paramount cut it in half and it did good business, with better than decent reviews. Brando didn’t like it, but Martin Scorsese often calls “One-Eyed Jacks” one of his favorite westerns, and James Caan, who would go on to work with Brando in “The Godfather,” is a particularly big fan.

2. James Caan / “Hide in Plain Sight” (1980)

The second film in our One and Done DIY Film Festival – James Caan’s one and only directorial effort – “Hide in Plain Sight” (1980). Loosely based on a true story, the movie is about a blue collar Caan, who is kept from his children when his ex-wife’s mob-connected new husband is taken into federal protection.

“Hide in Plain Sight” has the tone and timber of a Martin Ritt film –  it’s “Hud” meets “Norma Rae.” One person standing up against an unjust system. Critics were mixed: praising the performances but generally suggesting that Caan’s direction was slavish to the true story. But I like it.

3. Dustin Hoffman / “Quartet” (2012)

Most people think Dustin Hoffman directed the 1978 drama “Straight Time,” in which he stars. True, he began the film as director, but  soon handed the directing duties over to veteran filmmaker Ulu Grosbard.  Hoffman would wait 34 years before giving it another go. His one and only directorial effort is the 2012 film “Quartet,” starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly among others.

And it is notably lovely in just about every way.

4.  Theodore Witcher / “Love Jones” (1997)

Last in our DIY one and done film festival: Theodore Witcher.  I know, you’ve never heard of him. But he did write and direct one iconic film that’s 20 years old this year. “Love Jones” stars Larenz Tate and Nia Long.

The film is about a poet name Darius, played by Tate, and a talented young photographer called Nina, played by Nia Long. Mostly the film is this couple and their friends. They talk about is love and sex and friendship and if all can ever be had together. They do while being black, which was still a big deal in 1997.

I have no idea why a guy who wrote and directed a film as notable as “Love Jones” didn’t take or get another shot at the director’s chair.  A buddy was in a Denny’s spot Teddy Witcher directed some years ago. Who knows, maybe there was just more money in commercials.

But if “Love Jones” is the only movie I ever get from One and Done director  Theodore Witcher, it will definitely do.

DIY Film Fest: Women I love, in 4 films I love, that need a little more love…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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Sharon Stone in “The Quick and the Dead”TRISTAR PICTURES

 

LISTEN HERE:  http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2017/01/19/54508/tim-cogshell-s-diy-film-fest-women-i-love-in-4-fil/

I’m a sucker for girl talk movies, true love stories, and movies where a lady rides into the sunset after she shoots the bastard who killed her daddy – in the head. This DIY Film Festival is for films that I love, about women that I love, in movies that should have got a lot more love.

1. “Live Nude Girls” (1995)

“Live Nude Girls” was directed by Julianna Lavin, who directed this film, one episode of Party of Five in 1998, and nothing else.  This happens in Hollywood more often than you’d think, but it happens to female  filmmakers even more often than that. It stars Dana Delany, Laila Robins, Lora Zane, Cynthia Stevenson and, ironically, Kim Cattrall as the over or under sexed member of the foursome – depending on your point of view.

“Live Nude Girls” is a wonderfully funny and intimate movie about  four lifelong friends at an all night bachelorette party for one of them who is getting married for the 3rd time. This film is practically a blueprint for “Sex and the City” which started three years later. It’s frank and funny and sexy and filled with a female energy that reminded me of my very cool big sister and her amazing girlfriends, lounging in conversation, as I loitered near, always at the ready to fetch cigarettes and Fresca. It was the 70s.

2. “Living Out Loud” (1998)

“Living Out Loud,” directed by Richard LaGravenese, stars Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah and ecstasy – both the emotion and the drug. In the movie, Holly Hunter’s husband abandons her for a younger woman.

Sure, it’s a well worn premise, but it’s considered thru a wide range of emotions, spoken out loud, sung out loud, and even fantasized out loud. Hunter confronts her circumstances with philosophical introspection about the choices she’s made; with direct confrontation of those who’ve done her wrong … and with the occasional hit of ecstasy.

The highlight is this amazing dance sequence that I still find myself fantasizing about  from time to time. Occasionally, I’m even in it.

3. “Besieged” (1998)

“Besieged” is a Bernardo Bertolucci film starring Thandie Newton and David Thewlis. This is a love story about truest love.  Although, at first glance it might seem like a movie about stalker who plays the piano really well, David Thewlis portrays a man – a passionate composer and pianist – who falls in love with his African housekeeper on first sight. And why the hell wouldn’t he – she’s Thandie Newton – but his adoration is about much more than her beauty.

In her he sees pure intention, resilience, and a strength that his privileged existence could never know. Out of that comes a kind of love that leads him to  sell everything he owns, including his beloved grand piano, to give her the one thing she truly wants.

4. “The Quick and The Dead” (1995)

Last in my DIY film festival about women that I love, in films that I love, that need a little more love is “The Quick and The Dead.” This is Sam Raimi post-“Evil Dead” and pre-“Spiderman” directing a wicked Cowgirl movie. It stars Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and Russell Crowe star alongside a young Leonardo DiCaprio, with Gary Sinise, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Olivia Burnette, the great Pat Hingle, and the late Tobin Bell of the Saw films.

If you missed this wicked gunslinger revenge flick because you believed the middlin’ reviews from back in the day – you got suckered. It was accused of being too campy. Like that’s a thing.

In “The Quick and the Dead,” the Lady slaps leather with a bunch dastardly bastards, including the one that killed her daddy.  Like I said – I’m a sucker for girl talk movies, true love stories and movies where a lady rides into the sunset after she shoots the bastard who killed her daddy – in the head.

‘Loving’ inspires a DIY Film Festival of miscegenation films and shows you need to see…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp   

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You don’t need to wait for the local art house to put on a themed film festival. Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, is producing a series of DIY Film Festivals for Off-Ramp listeners to throw in the comfort of their own homes.

WATCH HERE:

 

LISTEN HERE:  ‘Loving’ inspires a DIY Film Festival of miscegenation films and shows you need to see

This DIY film festival is about miscegenation. Don’t know or remember what it means? Good.

Miscegenation is sex or marriage between people of different races — usually whites and blacks. It was illegal in much of the U.S. until the 60s, and was also either taboo or forbidden in cinema. This DIY festival, including a documentary, a short silent film, and even a few TV episodes, is inspired by Jeff Nichols’ new film “Loving,” which is about the 1967 miscegenation case that changed the law and the movies.

1. “The Loving Story” 2011

“Loving” was inspired by the HBO documentary, “The Loving Story,” which is the first film of our festival. Mildred and Richard Loving were an interracial couple who married in 1958, despite Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws.

 Richard and Mildred Loving in "The Loving Story," the 2011 documentary
Richard and Mildred Loving in “The Loving Story,” the 2011 documentaryTHE LOVING STORY

As good as the new narrative film is, the 2011 doc is better.

The Hays Code, the rules the movies were governed by, stated explicitly: “Miscegenation (sex-relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.” When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Lovings, the 1930 Hays Code was replaced by the Classification and Rating System Administration. But before that, miscegenation was still fodder for Hollywood.

2. “What Happened in the Tunnel” (1903)

The earliest film to take on miscegenation may have been Edwin S. Porter’s very short 1903 film “What Happened in the Tunnel.”  It was considered funny in 1903, but the film probably contributed to the earliest rules on the miscegenation.

3. “Imitation of Life” (1934)

In the first “Imitation of Life,”  Fredi Washington plays Louise Beavers’ fair-skinned daughter who rejects her black heritage — and her mother — in favor of passing into the white world and landing a white husband. It barely made it past the censors, but today it’s in the National Film Registry, and Time called it one of “The 25 Most Important Films on Race.”

You might also want to check out Douglas Sirk’s 1959 “Imitation of Life,” which is still popular among African American women of a certain age.

4. “Pinky” (1949)

In “Pinky,” Jeanne Crain is a young woman who slips into passing as white almost by accident when she goes away to nursing school. She feels guilty, but yet so aware of what being white could mean to her life. Pinky doesn’t hate being black, she just wants what life being white could offer … including the white man who wants to marry her.

5. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (1967)

Next on our list, Stanley Kramer’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” from 1967, in which a white girl falls in love with a black man, played by Sidney Poitier, and when the families meet for dinner, they hash it out earnestly. This film took a beating from the left and the right from the day it was released, as we saw in “The Butler,” when David Oyelowo’s young Black Panther disparages Sidney Poitier. It’s problematic for any number of reasons, but I defend its intention — fervently. Before the change in the movie code or the Loving decision, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” faced down the nations’ bigots.

6. “Movin’ with Nancy” (1967)

After the Loving case, the notion of miscegenation in film and television evolved. Soon we saw the first kiss on American prime time network TV when Kirk and Uhura kissed in a 1968 episode of “Star Trek.” The suits from the network resisted the interracial kiss — but the tepid peck made it to air and is said to be the first such kiss on network TV.

Or maybe it wasn’t:

The December 1967 episode of “Movin’ with Nancy” features a kiss between Nancy Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. more than a year before that “Star Trek” episode. The easy, friendly kiss comes at the very end of the photo session scene. A few years later,  in February of 1972, Sammy would go on plant the kiss that sealed the deal for anti-miscegenation attitudes in America once and for all.

Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Carrol O'Connor on "All in the Family"
Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Carrol O’Connor on “All in the Family”CBS

When Sammy kisses Archie Bunker, it was effectively the first kiss between a Protestant-white-male-bigot and a black-male-converted-Jew on American television.

It was on the cheek, and in many ways is reminiscent of that original kiss in Edwin S. Porter’s short silent film. Only this time it’s not racist and is actually funny. It left the nation a little stunned and ended the issue of miscegenation in American media — forever — although the state of Alabama would not repeal its miscegenation laws until the year 2000.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

DIY Film Fest: 5 movies with major, minor, or moot continuity errors…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

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Film critic Tim Cogshell talks Oscars buzz at AirTalk’s FilmWeek at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on February 18, 2015.BILL YOUNGBLOOD/KPCC

Tim Cogshell is film critic for KPCC’s Off-Ramp and Filmweek, and for Alt Film Guide. He blogs at CinemaInMind.

Continuity errors in cinema are legend.  There are a some classic doozies, like the croissant Julia Roberts is chomping in “Pretty Woman” that becomes a pancake.

The errors come in a number of categories, from crew and equipment earnestly working to get the shot they are in, to props magically appearing and disappearing between cuts, to material or narrative anachronisms.

Sometimes they matter, sometimes they don’t — who cares if Rick’s trench coat is wet when he boards the train in Paris?! — and sometimes they make the movie.  Here’s a quick DIY Film Festival of films you might want to see for their dubious continuity – and you can judge for yourself if they break or make the movie.

1. Deep Purple burns Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous”

Deep Purple’s “Burn” figures prominently in the background of a scene from writer-director Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous,” set in 1973.

A precocious teen, Crowe was a writer for “Rolling Stone” in 1975. He spent time on the road with The Eagles, the band on which he based the fake iconic rock band, Stillwater, in “Almost Famous.” And he wrote the definitive cover story on The Eagles. But he got a lot of the music wrong in the movie. That Deep Purple album was released 1974. There are a few of those in “Almost Famous” – along with some T-shirts for tours that wouldn’t happen for another decade.  To fans of classic rock these errors ruin the movie, but most people don’t even notice them.

2. No Justice No Peace for Peebles’ “Posse”

Director Mario Van Peebles 1993 film “Posse” is set in 1898, but a crowd shouting “No justice, no peace” is straight out of 1992, along with the late great Nipsey Russell asking, “Can’t we all just get along?!”

These anachronisms were controversial at the time.  Some critics and audiences – out for a rooting-tooting cowboy movie – called it blunt political commentary that the broke suspension of disbelief … As if casting Big Daddy Kane and Tone Loc didn’t already do that.

3. A slice of American Pie in “Born on the 4th of July”

Don McLean’s “American Pie” is forever associated with Oliver Stone’s “Born of the 4th of July.” The song is played and heard by characters in the film several times … in scenes set 1969.  The problem? The album was released in 1971. Still – would any other song do? The of loss of an American ideal represented in Don McLean’s ode to Buddy Holly is a perfect metaphor for the American ideal lost by Ron Kovic. This movie and that song go together, continuity be damned.

4. YouTube in “The Hurt Locker?”

At one point in “The Hurt Locker,” specialist Owen Eldridge, played by Brian Geraghty, says “…. they’re going to put me on YouTube.” Nope. “Hurt Locker” is set in 2004 and YouTube did not launch until 2005, which the producers of this film, which came out in 2008, should have thought about in 2007. Or maybe not, because it won a bunch of Academy Awards in 2009.

5. Hair AND Wardrobe:  “TNT Jackson” and the magic panties

But my favorite continuity mistake of all time is in an early 70s Blaxploitation classic called “TNT Jackson.” It stars stars Jeannie Bell as a young black karate expert out to avenge her brother’s death on the mean streets of Hong Kong.

There are a number of badly staged karate fight sequences in the movie, and Jeanne kicks much fake karate ass in all of them. But this was an exploitation film after all, so one of those fight scenes takes place when the exciting TNT Jackson is wearing nothing but a pair of panties and a wicked afro. During this perfectly fabulous scene, TNT kills the lights to even her odds against her multiple attackers.

TNT JACKSON (1974)

When the lights come back on, the intrepid Ms. Jackson is wearing different panties. They were brown. Now they’re white. The lights go out and come back on again. And the panties change again. You can’t help but notice … because she’s only wearing the panties and the wicked afro. This is a perfectly crazy continuity mistake. And I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog).  His reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/