Category Archives: Movies

F-Bombing with Silent Bob

One of the great things about travel is that you meet the most interesting people. Earlier this month, at the Sun Valley Film Festival, we met Kevin Smith.

You may know Smith better as “Silent Bob.” Yet he couldn’t stop talking.

That’s right: The man who is known throughout the cult filphoto(6)m world as Silent Bob — for his pantomime roles in such movies as “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Dogma” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” all of which he also wrote and directed — has found his voice.

It’s not as if he ever lost it. Fans who saw the 1997 movie “Chasing Amy” may recall the three-minute spiel of wisdom and regret that he offered to Ben Affleck in the wake of more than an hour of muteness. But placed in a setting where he could speak directly to dozens of fans at the Sun Valley Film Festival in mid-March, he waxed poetic … if you consider “F-bombs” poetic.

It was 10 in the morning at the Nexstage Theatre. Smith, who had arrived early that same morning — on a private jet from Burbank, Calif., with Hall and Oates’ “Man Eater” on a two-hour loop — was dressed in Boise State University blue and orange, in a XXL-sized hockey jersey bearing the name “Fat Man.”

“The benefit of an early morning Q&A is that it is absolutely the fittest that I will be all day long,” Smith said. “Because the minute I start eating, it’s all fucking over.”

For more than an hour, Smith, 43, talked. He discussed his start in movies, his career evolution and his newest projects.
As a New Jersey convenience and video store clerk, Smith made “Clerks” on a shoestring in the early 1990s, casting himself as “Silent Bob.”

“It’s 164 pages of ‘dick’ jokes set in a convenience store,” he said. “I can’t memorize all this shit. I’ve never been good at memorizing things, and now that I smoke as much as I do, I generally can’t act. So being Silent Bob was good for me, ‘cause I like to fucking watch. I could be a mute witness to the whole thing.”

Released in 1994, “Clerks” won acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and was released into general distribution by Miramax — which then offered Smith $75,000 to write the sequel, “Mallrats.” “Suddenly, I’m a paid professional,” Smith said. “I hit the fucking lottery of life.” He spent 12 years working for Miramax, “getting paid an obscene amount of money,” he said. But by the mid-2000s, he set out on his own: “I’m all about destroying my career, over and over again.”

He produced documentaries and podcasts, and wrote and directed a movie called “Red State,” signaling a venture to the dark side. “Happy pphoto(7)eople aren’t all that interesting,” Smith said. The gallows humor of “Red State” (2011), starring John Goodman, Melissa Leo and Michael Parks, “is as serious as a heart attack,” Smith said.

“I had to figure out a way to make movies that didn’t necessarily come from my heart,” Smith said. “When it came to film, I just wanted to rip out fatty chunks of my heart, throw it between two platters, and ask, ‘Does anybody get it?’ I love watching fucked-up movies. I didn’t know how to make fucked-up movies when I started.”

His latest movie is “Tusk,” a special-effects “horror thriller” made for $3 million. Starring Haley Joel Osment and Justin Long, it is scheduled to be released later this year. “It’s a movie about a guy who tries to turn another guy into a fucking walrus,” Smith said. “Oddly enough, it becomes the most personal movie and the best movie I’ve ever made. It is absurdity that is played earnestly straight.”

And then he gave advice.

“We have great ideas all the time,” Smith said. “They don’t get executed. But why not you? Nobody’s ever going to hand you things, so just go try. Take one year of your life for yourself, and say, I’m going to try anything I want to try. Take the chance and go for it.

“In the last few years, I’ve just been seizing that more often. When fucking whimsy strikes, I just push it like a shopping cart, or like Sisyphus, right up the fucking hill.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Leslie Stevens “Excels in Solitude”

Leslie Stevens

Actress Leslie Stevens heard her late mother speaking through her as she acted in the short film “She, Who Excels in Solitude,” now showing at the BendFilm Festival.

“Don’t you dare let anybody tell you that you can’t do what you want to do, just because you’re a woman,” Stevens said. “That was my mother’s voice.”

“Solitude,” a 20-minute film by writer-director Mako Kamitsuna that grew out of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, made its Pacific Northwest debut this morning. It will be presented again at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Regal Old Mill theaters.

Stevens also has a co-starring role in “Black Irish,” a 15-minute film about racial tensions in a working-class neighborhood of Boston. It shows at 8:30 p.m. today at the Tin Pan Theater and 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Regal Old Mill.

“She, Who Excels in Solitude” is a look back at a 1960 NASA study that considered adding female astronauts to the male-dominated Mercury program.

“Female civilian pilots were undergoing secret medical tests in New Mexico to see if they had ‘the right stuff,’” Stevens said. “This film deals with one woman who is a pilot, and one who is a nurse administering the tests. They’re both trying to break the glass ceiling for themselves.

“As the older woman, the pilot, I recognize that the nurse is in danger of abandoning her goals from the pressure of the job. I kind of kidnap her in my plane and convince her not to give up her dreams.”

In “Black Irish,” Stevens said, “I have one scene as the working-class broad who runs human resources in a warehouse. That was a frickin’ hoot, playing that role with bad eyeshadow and a Boston accent.”

Born in Tulsa, raised in St. Louis, Stevens was a child gymnast who became a professional dancer. Only three years ago did she give up dancing to devote full time to acting.

“It was an internal shift,” she said. “You can feel when you direct creative energy and awareness in a new direction. When you allow yourself to be transformed, other things begin to move.”

An upcoming feature film, “The Boarder,” will showcase Stevens’ talents in a leading role — as the actress plays the wife of an African-American pastor in a family that adopts a troubled 11-year-old boy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

BendFilm Festival 2012 Is Here

BendFilm opens its ninth annual run in downtown Bend tonight. And I personally am halfway through my ninth year as a citizen of Bend.
Coincidence? Yeah, probably. But the international festival of independent film has enmeshed me in its web — first as a magazine editor that emblazoned its cover with the first festival, later as a volunteer member of the selections committee.
For the past four years, I have been a member, albeit a quiet one, of BendFilm’s board of directors.
Memories? I have many of them, starting with festival founder Katie Merritt. She built a successful event from scratch, showing amazing creativity, skill and pure moxie in shaping what has become an institution not only in Central Oregon but also among aspiring Hollywood filmmakers.
Perhaps my favorite movie ever screened here was “Born into Brothels,” which subsequently won the Academy Award as best documentary of 2004. But I recall many more, such as “9” (2005), a UCLA animated student short that Tim Burton turned into a full-length movie; “Outsourced” (2007), which later became a popular television series; and “Den Osynlige (The Invisible)” (2004), a supernatural Swedish thriller that was remade into an American feature, “The Invisible” (2007).

Personalities? I won’t forget actress Rosanna Arquette devoting much of her time in Bend developing a friendship with a young cerebral palsy victim. Actor C. Thomas Howell describing an intimate moment in his early film career to awards-banquet attendees who didn’t really want to hear it. Director John Waters enthralling Tower Theatre goers with ribald tales of “Polyester” and “Cecil B. Demented.”

This year, the roster of foreign-produced films extends well beyond neighboring Canada. Germany, Denmark, Ireland and Poland all have entries, along with Thailand, Brazil, Tunisia and South Korea. That’s five continents’ worth, in case you weren’t counting.

But the movies to which I’m really looking forward are two documentaries — “Ethel,” which opens the festival program with a 5 p.m. showing today at the Tower, and “The Revolutionary,” to be presented at 2 p.m. Friday at McMenamins and at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Oxford Hotel.

“Ethel” is a full-length documentary biopic of the life of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy, as directed by their daughter, filmmaker Rory Kennedy. “The Revolutionary” tells the story of Sidney Rittenberg, an American who invested 35 years of his life in Maoist China.

Here’s a trailer for “The Revolutionary”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH9w34onSC8

I’m also looking forward to the West Coast premiere of “Deadfall,” with a stellar cast that includes Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson. Set in Canada in wintertime, it is billed as an “icy thriller (with) a shocking climax.”

Go online to www.bendfilm.org for complete festival information, or drop by the festival office at downtown Bend’s Liberty Theatre, just north of the Tower Theatre on Wall Street.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Finding Bliss on East Fifth

Morris Bliss (Michael C. Hall) awakens to another mundane New York day.

When I parted company last night with writer-director Michael Knowles, he was having a drink with other filmmakers and movie lovers at a bar called Velvet in Bend, Oregon.

This was ironically appropriate, given that the genesis of his latest movie, East Fifth Bliss, may also be traced to a bar called Velvet in New York City.

Knowles is one of the luminaries at this weekend’s BendFilm Festival.  And East Fifth Bliss is a strong contender for honors when festival winners are announced tonight.

A quirky comedy-drama starring Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame, the movie follows a mid-30s New Yorker named Morris Bliss in his struggle to find self-esteem.

Morris lives in a small apartment with his widowed father (Peter Fonda), whose presence is a constant reminder of the emotionally wrenching death of his mother two decades earlier.  An introverted book lover, Morris wants to travel but has no money nor job prospects.

Enter a string of characters who include NJ (Chris Messina), his best friend, a slacker with exaggerated swagger; Stephanie (Brie Larson), a sexually precocious 18-year-old; Jetski (Brad William Henke), Stephanie’s father, anxious to relive his high-school antics with classmate Morris; Andrea (Lucy Liu), a married woman in mid-life crisis; and Hattie (Sarah Shahi), an urban rebel who is not what she appears to be.

As Morris interacts with these characters, he finds his stagnant life beginning to change.

Check out the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqVecMLeCVY

Director Michael Knowles discusses "Bliss" with this blogger. (Barb Gonzalez photo)

Knowles, 42, had already established himself as a capable actor, writer and director — Sex and the City fans may remember his role as “Marathon Man” in a 2001 episode — when he ran into author Douglas Light in 2007 at the Velvet Cigars Lounge in New York’s East Village.

Light had just finished his debut novel, East Fifth Bliss, to considerable acclaim.  He gave a copy of the book to  Knowles, who was so impressed that he suggested they collaborate on a film script.  For the next six months, Knowles said, they hung out at the Velvet Cigars Lounge, drinking, smoking and writing.

Hall was recruited to play the lead role of Morris through a mutual friend, but the demands of filming his TV series Dexter, followed by treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, didn’t allow him to shoot the movie until last year.

Produced on a $750,000 budget, it is now on the film-festival circuit, where it recently was honored as “best feature” at the San Diego Film Festival.

The general theatrical release of East Fifth Bliss, by Variance Films, is scheduled for March 23, 2012.  It will simultaneously go to Video on Demand, Knowles said.

Born into a working-class family in southern New Jersey, Knowles got hooked on acting his senior year in high school.  He studied acting and screenwriting — along with martial arts — for 4½ years in New York, appearing in numerous off-Broadway productions before landing that “first paying gig” on Sex and the City.

Somewhere along the way, he realized, “It’s hard to make a living acting.”  And while he still makes occasional on-screen appearances, he has recently focused on writing and directing.

His first two movies, Room 314 (2006) and One Night (2007), were ensemble dramas.  Now, he and Light hope to go to production soon with an adaptation of the novelist’s most recent book, Where Night Stops.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Wild Horse, Wild Ride

A hand reaches out, a wild mustang hesitates

The answer: “Wild Horse, Wild Ride.”

The question, which I am frequently asked by friends who know that I sit on the board of directors of BendFilm: What films do you recommend seeing?

With the annual four-day tribute to independent cinema beginning tomorrow at locations throughout Bend and Sisters, the questions are coming more often these days.  I did not serve on the festival selections committee this year, but I have seen a handful of festival movies.

One of them I found particularly memorable.

Alex Dawson

It’s a full-length documentary film, written and directed by Alex Dawson (same name, different person than last year’s actress-producer of “Clara’s Carma”), co-directed by her cinematographer husband, Greg Gricus.

Here’s the trailer: http://wildhorsewildride.com/trailer.html

“Wild Horse, Wild Ride” follows eight horse lovers from different parts of the United States — Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin and New Hampshire — who enter an event called the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge.

This annual competition gives 100 participants each 100 days to break and train a newly captured wild mustang, enabling the animal to be adopted outside of the wild-horse pens.

You’ll meet Charles and Carlos, a father and son from the Navajo Indian Reservation; Melissa, a biomedical graduate student at Texas A&M University; and Nik and Kris, home-schooled New Hampshire brothers with an intuitive training philosophy.

You’ll cheer for George, an aging Texas cowboy muddling his way through his seventh marriage; Jésus, a young construction worker who lives in Wisconsin but misses his father’s ranch in Mexico; and Wylene, the ultimate Texas cowgirl, a glamorous but tough-as-nails single mother.

The film climaxes at the end of the 100 days in Fort Worth, Texas, where the amateur handlers show their horses before putting them up for auction.  To keep the animals as their own, they must successfully bid against the public.

After more than three months of bonding with the mustangs, this is a heartbreaking moment for the trainers, many of whom are young and don’t have $2,000 or more, to spare in a bidding war.

Dawson’s story and Gricus’s brilliant photography — his past credits have included work on the National Geographic, Discovery, History and Travel channels — won’t leave many dry eyes in the house.

“Wild Horse, Wild Ride” won the Audience Choice award in the documentary category at the Dallas International Film Festival earlier this year, and it took home two awards at the Phoenix Film Festival.

The movie has been chosen to open the Sisters portion of the festival. It will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Sisters Movie House, along with an equally wonderful short called “Library of Dust.” It will be reprised in Sisters at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

The only Bend showing of “Wild Horse, Wild Ride” will take place at 12:30 p.m. at the Tower Theatre, where it is paired with “Small Town Doc,” a 12-minute short filmed in La Pine.

Individual film tickets may be purchased online for $11 at www.bendfilm.org.  They are also available for $12 at BendFilm headquarters at The Hub (the old Liberty Theatre, 849 N.W. Wall St., Bend) up to 60 minutes before the start of a show.

2 Comments

Filed under Movies

BendFilm: The Perfect Age

 

 

Zegers and Ritter in "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll" (Red Hawk Films)

 

The first thing you should know about “The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is that it’s not really about rock ‘n’ roll.

Selected as the opening feature of the 2010 BendFilm festival, the movie explores the boundaries of friendship within the context of the music industry.

Although the soundtrack is heavy on blues and classic rock music, from Canned Heat and Bob Dylan to Nirvana and Alice in Chains, “It’s more about people and relationships,” said director Scott Rosenbaum.

 

Scott Rosenbaum (Barb Gonzalez photo)

 

Rosenbaum and his co-writer, Jasin Cadic, were still dealing with jet lag when we sat down this morning over stiff cups of java at the Lone Pine Coffee House on Tin Pan Alley.

“Our biggest challenge was not to write a cliche,” Scott said. “But we could’ve written this story about two guys who are accountants.  It’s a story of betrayal, abandonment, loyalty, freedom … and ultimately, passion and friendship.”

“The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll” shows tonight at 8:30 at the Tower Theatre, and again Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Sisters Movie House.  Tickets are $10, available at the door (arrive early!) or online at http://www.bendfilm.org.

The story goes something like this: Spyder (Kevin Zegers, of Transamerica and Normal) is a hard-rock musician who had huge success with his first album. When his second release flops, he returns to his Long Island hometown to reconnect with his old friend and collaborator Eric (Jason Ritter, TV’s The Event and Joan of Arcadia), whom he hasn’t seen in seven years.

An accomplished guitarist and songwriter in his own right, Eric convinces Spyder to join him on a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles, with famed music impresario August West (the almost-legendary Peter Fonda, Easy Rider, Yulee’s Gold) driving the bus down Route 66.

The movie also stars Taryn Manning (8 Mile, Sons of Anarchy) as Spyder’s manager, and features such actors as Ruby Dee, Lucas Haas, Lauren Holley, Kelly Lynch, Aimee Teagarden and Billy Dee Williams.

 

Jason Cadic (Barb Gonzalez Photo)

 

Some of the last surviving members of the great blues bands of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf — keyboardist Pinetop Perkins, now 97; guitarist Hubert Sumlin, 78; and harpist Sugar Blue, 60 — play key roles. “Rock ‘n’ roll’s the bastard son of the blues, man!” says Spyder.

Cadic, who co-stars in the film as Bixx, Spyder’s bass player, is a real-life rock musician. His new band, Star Killer, will make its debut on Halloween night at the House of Blues in New Orleans. He is also a painter of mixed-media abstract canvases, featured in New York galleries. And he designs sets for such Big Apple fashionistas as Gucci.

“I just go with the flow and don’t say no to anything,” Jasin said. “The daytime stuff helps me do stuff at night. The music is my hub. Everything else spins off that.”

Rosenbaum spent 10 years as a Wall Street trader, then turned his focus to film making. In 2006, he was given “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to join director Spike Lee as a set production assistant during the making of “Miracle at St. Ann” in Italy. “It was a great learning experience,” he said, that helped to launch him into his own career.

Check out the trailer at this site: http://www.theperfectageofrocknroll.com/

1 Comment

Filed under Movies

BendFilm: Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams

 

Jack Roberts as Duncan Christopher

 

Jack Roberts and Justin Monroe grew up in Oklahoma as awkward youths with big dreams. And that’s why their new movie, “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher,” is able to so successfully express that angst.

Already a winner of awards at five film festivals from Tulsa, Okla., to Edmonton, Alberta — and an official selection in 11 other film festivals, from Vermont to Buenos Aires — “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams” makes its Oregon debut tomorrow, on the opening night of the BendFilm Festival.

It will be presented at 9 p.m. at the Regal 1 Theater in the Shops at the Old Mill District. Tickets are $10, available at the venue or online at http://www.bendfilm.org.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams” is a fictional work, but it’s not that far removed from the memories of Jack Roberts, the movie’s star and writer.

The movie’s main character, Duncan Christopher, is the son of a rock star who flipped out and died. That didn’t stop Duncan from wanting to be a rocker like his daddy. Raised in social isolation until his 30th birthday, he moves to Tulsa and tackles his dream … initially, in a karaoke bar.

Roberts was unable to make it to Bend for the festival, but in his place are Heather Roberts, his wife and co-star, and Justin Monroe, his longtime friend and the movie’s director. They joined me today for a round of drinks and conversation at 900 Wall.

I quickly learned that there is much more to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams” than first meets the eye.

“When you make a movie, you have so much opportunity to benefit the community,” Heather said.  “A project like this is so life-giving.”  And that, she said, is the premise upon which their production company, Hearth Creative, is founded.

“We want to go into communities and develop our films as part of those communities,” she explained.

“Duncan’s story is basically Tulsa’s story,” Justin added. “We moved from Los Angeles back to Tulsa, where Jack and I had grown up. For three years, we became part of that community again. We used as many local actors and musicians as possible. Our amazing soundtrack is 99% local (a CD will be released soon).

“This is a heartfelt story. It is about awkwardness and occupational dynamics. And we hope we take our viewers on a journey: Certainly, as you watch the movie, you get somewhere different than where you started.

“We wanted to shine the metaphorical belt buckle of Oklahoma.”

The Roberts and Monroe families — Heather (a former Congressional aide) and Jack have two young children; Justin (once a rock ‘n’ roll singer) and his wife, Kasey, have a preschool-age son and daughter — have just moved to Portland. They intend to benefit Oregon just as they did Oklahoma, and are already seeking out musicians to help them with the soundtrack of their next movie.

“It will be a modern-day Western on the Oregon Trail,” Justin said. “Jack is just finishing the seventh draft. In scope and time investment, it will be 10 times bigger than ‘Duncan Christopher.’ ”

The director said he hopes to begin shooting the movie in the spring and summer of 2011, with Jack Roberts riding horseback from Kansas City to Portland.

1 Comment

Filed under Movies