Monday, March 27, 2017

Listen Here: Actor's Actor Kevin Corrigan Tells Tons of Great Stories and Does Impressions

The actor Kevin Corrigan (born on this day in 1969) has been nearly omnipresent in independent American films for better part of three decades. The list of his credits in both independent and studio films is crazily impressive. To name a few: GOODFELLAS, TRUE ROMANCE, LIVING IN OBLIVION, TREES LOUNGE, HENRY FOOL, BUFFALO '66, SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS, LULU ON THE BRIDGE, THE DEPARTED, THE TOE TACTIC, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, BIG FAN, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, RESULTS, and the upcoming INFINITY BABY.

He's also a compelling storyteller, as anyone who attended his AFS Moviemaker Dialogue in 2014 can attest. Here, from April of 2016, is an interview with Corrigan from The Best Show with Tom Scharpling. It's one of the best podcasts I have ever heard, and an illuminating portrait of Corrigan's creative method. It is also hysterically funny and punctuated by Corrigan's spot-on impressions.

Listen to the podcast here.

When asked about his decision to become an actor for life, with all the attendant ups and downs, Corrigan replies:
"I always felt like, you know, MEAN STREETS was my favorite movie for a long time, and it still is. It's still in the hall of fame in my mind of the best movies. And it often comes back to me. Things just bubble up into my consciousness that got there the first time I watched MEAN STREETS, or the first 25 times I watched it as a teenager...  
"There was an English teacher I had in my junior year of high school. She showed us A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and I was just completely... She could have given me a hit of ecstasy and that's the effect it had on me... It has such a narcotic effect... and often the movies we love are about narcotics or involve them at some point."
And then he's off on the subject of drugs and the creative process. This gives you some idea about the perambulations of mind that Corrigan displays during his storytelling. Interviewer Scharpling, who is a tremendously funny storyteller himself, operates in a more reserved key here than usual and gives Corrigan room to fly.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From 100 Years Ago, Charlie Chaplin's THE IMMIGRANT

In the 100 years since Charlie Chaplin made THE IMMIGRANT, the cinema has advanced immeasurably in technical sophistication, but the basic blueprint of what the film artist can do was already set by Chaplin and his contemporaries. Here, broad comedy and delicate artistry coexist, and the tension created, is the spark that gives movie comedy life.

It's important to note that the voyage to America undertaken by the immigrants in this film - a voyage undertaken by Chaplin himself when he came to America from his native England - was thought to be a universal subject at the time. This is because immigration was a fact of recent generational memory for most Americans, and sharing that immigrant experience was, and is, an important part of the American story.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Linklater in Filmmaker Magazine: "This is the Best Year AFS has Ever Had"

There's a great new piece in Filmmaker Magazine in which AFS Founder and Artistic Director Richard Linklater discusses the present and future of AFS.

In the piece, Linklater lays out what might just as well be a blueprint for the new AFS Cinema opening later this spring:
“I say this all the time to the great people who are working at the Film Society, but I mean it: this is the best year we’ve ever had.” Linklater continued. 
“Usually you only realize the peak times when they’re over, i.e. ‘oh, that was a golden age at the time but I didn’t recognize it at the time.’ I’m recognizing it at the time. We’ve got a wonderful organization, we have the best people, and it’s been a thrill. We’re appreciating that and just trying to serve film-lovers and our film culture locally. It’s something Austin can do. We feel there’s a need there and we’re there for that. We’re looking forward to showing a lot of movies, to give that film that wouldn’t have a theatrical run anywhere else in town — we want that film to show for a week or more and to hold it over if it’s doing well. We want the film to build an audience here. When you show it only one night, a lot of people can’t go that night. When you show it for a week, it gets reviewed and becomes a thing. We look forward to offering that opportunity to a lot of films and to be a collaborator with other film organizations. We want to make a film-happening space. It’s going to be fun.”
We'll have more information about the opening of the AFS Cinema soon. Get ready for a great new addition to the Austin moviegoing landscape.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Watch This: Nearly 3 Hours of Interviews with Director and Stunt Legend Hal Needham

The late Hal Needham (born on this date in 1931) was once the highest paid stuntman in the world. With the help of his old friend and frequent collaborator Burt Reynolds, Needham successfully made the jump to film directing in 1977 with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, a huge international hit. He made a number of other films in the following twenty or so years, from enormous successes like THE CANNONBALL RUN and HOOPER to the megaflop MEGAFORCE. One of his final projects was a TV movie entitled BANDIT: BANDIT BANDIT, which may be the strangest title in history.

As a stuntman and stunt coordinator, Needham was a tough guy who brooked no nonsense. As a director he had the kind of rapport with fast cars and the people who loved them that enabled him to imbue vehicles and car chases with personality and drama, a major key to his success.

From the Archive Of American Television, here is a career spanning interview with the salty and funny Mr. Needham, spanning three long chapters and cross-referenced with links.

We'll just get you started here:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Strange Case of Mimsy Farmer

Mimsy Farmer in THE MASTER & MARGARET (1972)

It's hard to think of a film career as unusual and variegated as that of Mimsy Farmer (born on this date in 1945). From her beginnings as a squeaky clean child actress, through her years in Europe as a new kind of Aquarian star and on into her current status as one of filmdom's most sought after scenic sculptors whose work has appeared in films from PAN'S LABYRINTH to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Starting as a teenage ingenue on television shows such as THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET and MY THREE SONS, she soon became a very busy day player. Some small film roles followed, and, as she began to mingle with a more cosmopolitan crowd, she developed an interest in LSD, and particularly in its therapeutic powers. In 1967 she moved to Vancouver Island and spent a number of months working as a nurse in a program founded by Al Hubbard, the "Johnny Appleseed of LSD." During this period she took LSD and administered LSD to a number of patients.

On returning to Hollywood she found that her experience with LSD prepared her for a new kind of role, and in the remarkably tone-deaf, but fascinating, RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP (1967) she embellished her performance with an absolutely amazing LSD dance sequence that is one of the glories of '60s exploitation cinema.

Here is that scene, in full:

As next-level as her performance in in RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP, the rest of the film is depressingly old-fashioned and sexist. A trip to Europe to work on a Roger Corman racing film proved to be fateful and her next major role was in Barbet Schroeder's MORE (1969), in which she portrayed a sexually free, heroin addicted vamp. It's a fine, bold performance, and it caught the attention of, not only audiences, but other European filmmakers.

Here is the (nudity filled) trailer for MORE:

In the sun-drenched psych-noir THE ROAD TO SALINA (1970), director Georges Lautner cast her in a part similar to her wild, Ibiza-partying libertine in MORE. The film was seen by few but its reputation has appreciated over the years.

Dario Argento was the next filmmaker to use Farmer's peculiar, soft/hard screen presence, this time in the seminal giallo FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971) Her casting was inspired, as was her performance, and she would appear in a number of other giallo thrillers during the '70s.

This was a decade of unusual, often very adventurous films, such as the Yugoslavian adaptation of THE MASTER AND MARGUERITE (1972), the deeply disturbing BODY OF LOVE (1972), and TWO MEN IN TOWN (1973) in which she costarred with both Jean Gabin and Alain Delon. 

But no film from this period can compare, for sheer weirdness and well, Mimsy-ness, to Francesco Barilli's masterpiece THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK (1974). The reissue trailer below gives a sense of the uncanny atmosphere of the film, and of Farmer's highly engaged performing style.

She worked steadily on European television and in films throughout the '70s and '80s. In 1989 she married scenic sculptor Francois Poirier. Mimsy, a very fine painter and sculptor herself, entered the field alongside Poirier and she has created sculptures for such films as BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001), CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005), PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006), THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) and the new BEAUTY & THE BEAST (2017).

Here is a recent photo of Mimsy Farmer with one of her creations, a fox named Gilda, created for a commercial art campaign.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Filmmaker Magazine: Fewer than 30 2016 Features Shot on 35mm

Excellent piece in Filmmaker Magazine today about the declining number of features shot on 35mm film, and the difficulties faced when using the classic medium. The format delivers warmer and more vivid colors, grain-based resolution and, to many, simply looks better. As the industry standardizes more on digital throughput, the challenges for 35mm users multiply.

For instance, as the article mentions in a callback to an earlier article, Roger Deakins, who shot the Coen's HAIL CAESAR!, bemoans the lack of quality film stock, and even says, provocatively, of film, "I'm sorry, it's over."

Anna Biller, who made THE LOVE WITCH on 35mm, even had problems finding proper cement and leader.

On the other hand, Ciro Guerra, whose EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT was filmed deep in the Amazon basin, loved the tank-like solidity of 35mm equipment, particularly its resilience in tough conditions.

Jeff Nichols' DP Adam Stone also had good words for 35mm shooting, admitting that a magic hour shot in LOVING simply would not have looked as good without the warmth of 35mm.

Here are all the 2016 releases listed in the article, shot entirely or partially in 35mm.

IN THE SHADOW OF WOMEN (Philippe Garrel)
SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)
LOVING (Jeff Nichols)
JASON BOURNE (Paul Greengrass)
GOLD (Stephen Gaghan)
SING STREET (John Carney)
DEADPOOL (only one shot in 35mm) (Tim Miller)
HIDDEN FIGURES (Theodore Melfi)
HAIL CAESAR (Coen Bros.)
THE LOVE WITCH (Anna Biller)
TOO LATE (Dennis Hauck)
AFERIM! (Radu Jude)
VALLEY OF LOVE (Guillaume Nicloux)
LA LA LAND (Damien Chazelle)
FENCES (Denzel Washington)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Listen Here: The Podcast that Inspired the Upcoming Richard Linklater & Robert Downey Jr. Project

As all of those folks who joined us last year for our screening of Penny Lane's excellent animated documentary NUTS! know, the story of John R. Brinkley is, well, nuts. Last week it was announced that Richard Linklater and Robert Downey have optioned an episode of the Reply All podcast about Brinkley to make what will certainly be a jaw-dropping narrative feature about the strange "doctor."

An ambitious quack with a degree from an institution called "Eclectic Medical University," Brinkley made quite a name for himself in the '20s and '30s as the "goat gland doctor." The idea was, that make impotence could be easily cured by placing goat testicles inside a man's scrotum. It sounds ridiculous, and is without medical basis, but it became a very popular treatment and made Brinkley a rich man. Additionally, as an early believer in radio advertising, he built his own massively powered radio station to advertise his treatments, alongside a very unusual slate of other programs.

The medical review boards brought it all crashing down around him, and Brinkley went into politics to lash out at his political enemies, running as a populist candidate for Governor of Kansas and espousing any number of "alternative facts." He did not quite succeed, though he got closer than anyone expected.

The next chapter of his life took him to the Mexican border, where he was given a license by the Mexican government to operate a massive radio transmitter. He lived in Del Rio, Texas and conveyed his messages across the border by several means, all of which were eventually outlawed, and he was forced to cede the station, but not before popularizing the "border radio" station, which would have a major cultural impact through the middle years of the century.

I'll let the Reply All podcast tell you the rest of the story here. NUTS! filmmaker Penny Lane and Brinkley biographer Pope Brock are interviewed on that podcast as well.