Show Me The Money, The Current State of Indie Films by Steven Hallex

Recently, I attended an Roundtable about the State of Independent Film Directors. The color Green was so prevalent, it could have been St. Patrick’s Day. For nearly two hours, the six filmmaker’s in attendance endured questions of finance and profit with an uneasy grace, while rarely did an audience member come forward with an inquiry into the life and motivations of a director.

After all, this is Washington, and if anything, we know the bottom line; in a town where the residents mull over the gargantuan Federal Budget, film budgets such as the $750,000 Alejandro Hauterman paid to produce “”Little Thieves, Big Thieves”” seem minuscule. So minuscule, in fact, that they are not dignified with a screening in this city, except in the eleven days of FilmFest DC. Nevertheless, the crowd of about forty–packed into a nook at Border’s on 18th & L streets, and largely ignored by patrons skimming the shelves for Marilu Henner’s diet book or the latest “”Chicken Soup”” title– was comprised of independent film enthusiasts, who bore profound concerns for the viability of independent films. Their fears were validated when Brazilian filmakers Claudio Mac Dowell (“”The Call of the Oboe””) and Rosane Svartman(“”How to be Single in Rio””) related the difficulty Brazilian films have cracking into theaters in their own country. “”At best, they get limited showings in Rio and Sao Paulo”” says Mac Dowell. They also lamented the virtual impossibility of their films’ finding commercial success in the United States. Though “”Central Station”” and “”Life is Beautiful”” made tidy profits here last year, they are an under whelming exception to an overwhelming rule. The difficulty, they all agreed, is on account of the language barrier. “”[Americans] don’t want to go to the cinema to read”” Mac Dowell–who had some trouble with English–added, in reference to subtitles. Hauterman currently has three projects in the works–all in English. “”The market for a Spanish film is very, very small. I film in English for better distribution.”” One of the first questions that an audience member was the standard, “”how was the film financed.”” The answers revealed running trends in off-Hollywood financing. Mac Dowell received joint support from Dutch and Brazilian backers, as well as a filmmaker’s prize from HBO. When that ran out, he fell back on a tax-shelter for filmmakers, a program also exploited by Svartman. Svartman, in addition secured the sponsorship of a beer company, only having to add a scene in which patrons at a bar were seen drinking the company’s product. Hautman had a German partner as well as grants from the Venezuelan film board and from TNT Latin America. It has become common as film budgets bloat, for foreign producers, lacking the fat purses found in the U.S., to forge international alliances. In the future, we are likely to see more films with producers from three or more countries. Finances are patchy and profits are sparse, but non-studio filmmaking has its benes. “”The beauty of independent filmmaking”” offers “”The Sky is Falling”” director Florrie Lawrence “”is that you control what you do,”” and in the following minutes all, including moderator Eddie Cockrell (“”Variety”” critic) bandied about the term “”Freedom,”” and nodded to each other’s comments. With your limited budgets, I asked, are there any freedoms you lose? Would your film have been different if you had a big budget? “”Not really”” Lawrence answered. “”I have no trouble with the limited funds. Above all, I didn’t want to compromise. The production values weren’t great, but there were tricks you learn.”” Her producer, David Parks, immediately added: “”You can’t throw dollars at problems. The big studios should learn lessons.”” independent film, over the years, has irreversibly grown apart from the studio product. So much so that a “”Two-tiered”” system has emerged, in which independent films are financed through equity and use small distributors. Increasingly, they are being pushed off the Multiplex screens and are coming to rely on small movie houses and film festivals for screenings. Mac Dowell stated frankly: “”It’s terrible to be dependant on film festivals for distribution.”” But it is the only remaining way for an independent filmaker to get his work in front of distributors. These distributors understand that the character-driven formula of these films, such as last year’s “”Life is Beautiful,”” and “”Affliction,”” appeal to steadily shrinking audience. Late in the day, one intrepid audience member asked the panelists for their thoughts about the future of character-driven narrative, and for once, they disagreed. Lawrence was the most pessimistic:”” I think thoughtful, character-driven films are in great danger in America. However, I will continue to make indies.”” Mac Dowell blamed the domestic distributors: “”The American audiences are thirsty for these films. You have a commercial market that is not being exploited.”” Svartman’s remarks contained some philosophic optimism: “”There will always be thoughtful, character-driven films. It is a universal and timeless thing.”” Unfortunately, so is moolah.

The Making of Six String Samauri By Ed Ritchie

Death Valley is a hell of a place to shoot a movie. Literally. It’s one of the hottest places on earth, frying up the second-highest temperature ever recorded, 134 blistering degrees Fahrenheit! But it’s also got endless miles of restless sand dunes. And vast panoramic landscapes with shimmering ponds that reflect towering mountains.

The sunsets paint the desert in a warm glow that could deceive you into thinking humans could even survive there. In all, there’s more than 3.3 million acres of spectacular desert scenery. So if you’re mad enough to gamble doing your first feature length action movie on a shoestring budget, Death Valley just might be the place. If you’re mad enough.The team of director/writer Lance Mungia and actor/writer Jeffrey Falcon were mad enough, and they proved it by scraping together $25,000 for the production of their independent film called “”Six String Samurai””. Did it pay off? If winning film festival awards, having the William Morris agency broker your deal to fund production for a nation-wide theatrical release, plus spin offs like a TV series and comic book means success – then it certainly paid off for Mungia and Falcon. Does that mean your “”average action packed, rock and roll fairy tale”” movie can be done for what amounts to pocket change in Hollywood? Not exactly. “”We figured we could shoot weekends in Death Valley and pull off this spectacular martial arts epic for twenty five grand or so in loans and credit card bills,”” said Mungia. “”We picked Death Valley because I could get in with a student permit, and its locations look like they’re from another world, yet, they’re all accessible and within an hour of each other. That decision was great for the film’s look, but horrible for Jeff’s and my pocketbooks.”” So Mungia and Falcon began their three-month shoot in November ’96, and watched as their production costs began to rise – faster than a thermometer on one of Death Valley’s hottest days. It wasn’t as if this inspired team had been splurging on an extravagant production. Their one camera was a rickety 35mm non-sync antique borrowed from Panavision. Additionally, they were shooting on expired 100′ rolls of end stock donated by Fuji Film, forcing them to constantly change mags due to the one minute loads. As for the production team? “”During those months no one was ever paid a dime,”” said Mungia. “”We could barely afford to feed anyone. We’d sleep in tents or cars, eating nothing but hot dogs and drink no-name sodas every weekend.”” How about the costumes and sets? “”Six String’s”” are much more creative than some big budget releases (“”Star Trek – Insurrection”” and “”Soldier”” are two that pale next to “”Six String””). Was that where they overspent? “”We’d written the script around locations that existed, and around costumes we could cheaply make,”” said Mungia. “”Since the film was a post-apocalyptic fantasy, we could make a costume out of anything. Jeff got kicked out of a swap meet once for rummaging through their trashcans. Yet it wasn’t that we weren’t getting anything done, because we were always flying, getting sometimes fifty setups in a day. But we’d totally underestimated the enormity of the film. The details were killing us. We were doing massive location and costume changes daily, plus action, all from the back of a rented U Haul truck.”” At that rate, the shoestrings finally unraveled, and by January, after just three months, Mungia and Falcon found themselves completely tapped out, along with all the relatives and friends who had been willing to gamble on the project. “”We’d amassed well over 3 hours of dailies and overshot our budget by an additional $25,000,”” said Mungia. “”But we’d still only shot 25 percent of the film. I could have sworn it was more.”” Yet the team went back to Death Valley for one last weekend. That weekend the weather and the desert’s bureaucracy went against them. Heavy winds kicked up a storm that blew away their tents and blasted them with sand. While shooting a scene of a motorcycle off-road, Park Rangers hauled them out, fined them, and refused to allow any more shooting without permits. Rather than waste the rest of the weekend, they stopped in Palm Springs to shoot scenes using a junkyard and field of windmills for backgrounds. “”When we came back to shoot again a month later, the junkyard was gone,”” said Mungia. “”If we hadn’t been kicked out of Death Valley, we’d never have been able to get the scene, which is one of my favorites.”” Favorite scene or not, “”Six String Samurai”” and its producers needed money. And lots of it if the previous three months experience was any indication. Hollywood has a reputation for being a place with lots of money. But the first place Mungia and Falcon went was Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival had accepted Mungia’s short film “”A Garden For Rio””. So Mungia, Falcon, Kristian Bernier (director of photography) and some of the crew, descended on the festival for a “”shameless crusade to save our unfinished film””. They showed a trailer for the film to practically anybody that would watch, and got some interest, but no money. So it was back to Hollywood where their four minute trailer got them some new meetings, but still no deals. Next stop? The American Film Market came to Santa Monica, so Mungia and Falcon went back on their shameless crusade. They got enough interest to start serious negotiations, but it was Mungia’s calls to the William Morris agency that finally generated some cash. Super agent Cassian Elwes liked what he saw so Mungia and Falcon had a deal for money and distribution in the unbelievable short time of two weeks. Armed with their experience and a new budget, Mungia and crew headed back to the desert, where they managed to suffer more as the trials of location shooting threw them additional hardships and mishaps. “”In the past 15 years I’ve been in 17 action pictures in Asia where the schedules and conditions have been brutal,”” said Falcon, “”but this was by far the hardest film I’ve ever done.”” But was it worth the struggle?Falcon doesn’t hesitate, “”After you create your own ‘stamp’, people come to you,”” he said. “”They know you can create something from nothing, or on an ultra low budget. During the shooting in the desert we were suffering. But we knew if we could make the film the way we wanted, we could succeed. You have to have the thought in your head that you can succeed.”” So what does having a success like “”Six String Samurai”” as a calling card mean? “”Now I can call people and actually get them on the phone,”” said Mungia. “”And we’ve been having meetings on other people’s projects,”” added Falcon. “”But I think going out with your own material is ultimately much better. Doing other people’s projects means having producers, writers, and others attached. So you end up making a film by committee.”” Mungia and Falcon would prefer not to go that route, but can they get their next project done?””It’s a total question mark,”” Mungia said. “”We know what we would like to do, and the way to succeed,”” he continued. “”You’ve got to plan ahead. If it takes six months or a year just to write a script, take the time. It’s going to take a lot of time, energy and attention to detail. So surround yourself with good people you can trust and just go out and do it.”” That philosophy proved to be successful for Mungia and Falcon. However, other independent filmmakers might want to write their story in a location other than Death Valley.

Director Ann Lu Has Big Dreams of Hollywood Success

Ann Lu enters the skirmish known as filmmaking with “”Dreamers,”” a movie, coincidentally about the struggle itself. As of this writing, the eventual release date for the film remains indeterminate, pending a distribution agreement. It seems the final hurdle to the silver screen is the most challenging.

Imagine spending one-third of your time making films, and the other two-thirds haggling with powers-that-be. This is the true life of a filmmaker, beneath the varnish manufactured by Hollywood itself. When a filmmaker is not thanking critics for their praise, giving interviews to flattering writers, or running to the bank to deposit their latest seven-figure check, they are struggling: with investors and executives, with accountants, with cast and crew, with the power company and the IRS, and very often, with their own soul.For most, this struggle is too harrying. After a few years, they strike the tents, and retreat to vocations that offer more tangible rewards. Those are the people the industry doesn’t want; the non-professional, the easy capitulator. Its system is a well-constructed sieve, ensuring that only the grittiest sort remain in their auspices. All successful filmmakers remember their time being shaken through the proverbial sieve.Nascent filmmakers, regardless of talent, experience its purgatory. There are hundreds out there right now, fighting a single-handed war against artistic oblivion. It is a desperation that denies introspection, and eludes expression with words, at least until one has distant hindsight.It can, however, be portrayed with images. With “”Dreamers,”” Ann Lu has done just that. A visual memoir of the present, a cathartic outcry at times, “”Dreamers”” rolls all the frustrations of artistry and young life into a ball of gleaming images. Two kids, Dave and Ethan, shield themselves from hectoring childhoods with dreams of celluloid glory, which hold a power and beauty much like the sun sitting above the hills of eastern Tennessee, the film’s setting.Dreams are like amulets: intricate, splendorous, a charm worn for guidance, and also a weight that holds some in place and causes others to drown. As adults in Hollywood, Dave and Ethan learn– all too soon and all too well– that while dreams protect against some of the calamities in life, they also tear the soul apart from the inside.Their story does not resolve itself in their favor: their abilities to make these dreams work for them are not particularly potent; they are not prodigies. Nor does the story actually “”end.”” The artist who surrenders will find that his replacement has already arrived.Ann Lu is the new blood. Cautious, passionate, and imaginative, she makes you believe she deserves success, and is due, even if this is her first time as director. I picture her in China–before coming to U.S. in 1993– standing alone in a yellowing field, looking towards the sun. It is afternoon, the sun hangs in the west. She follows it in her mind.AntagonistHer aspirations have a powerful foe in contemporary Hollywood politics. With skyrocketing budgets, studio heads must be more cautious: they cannot produce many $ 50 million-plus movies that nobody goes to see. By necessity, contemporary films need to be commercial more than they need to be good. Which usually means they are familiar. The small, personal films are being turned down for their limited appeal, and the simple fact that the studios have less money to make them. For outsiders like Ann, there are now fewer inroads. She even worries if a director like Stanley Kubrick could succeed in contemporary Hollywood: “”Things were easier back then; studios were run by filmmakers. Somewhere, the M.B.A.’s took over and put emphasis on testing, marketing, and merchandising. It is hard for filmmakers with an agenda to fit in. Somehow, they have got to find a way to reconcile artistic integrity with commercial viability.””Her attitude is pessimistic, not defeatist. In fact, she believes industry is ignoring these films to their own detriment: “” It is a mistake to underestimate the size and purchasing power of people who watch this type of film. If they focus their product entirely for the seventeen year old ‘popcorn muncher,’ they are missing a whole group of people who can see value in films with personal vision.””””Even the way things are now, I think if you don’t give up, somehow you will get a break. I don’t know how: I’m still waiting for mine; but I think that if you wait long enough, you will find a way to reach audiences.””Eyes, Hands, and VoicesArt is material vision. The artist is simply one who knows how to use the given tools to make internal vision into material fact. In filmmaking, many of these tools happen to be other artists. Actors, cinematographers, set designers, and many others are artists just as much as writers and directors. Each brings personal vision to the project. The challenge of a director is to utilize these many visions in a way that successfully portrays her own. Without the talents of Neal Fredericks at her disposal, Ann could not have made such a distinct film. In “”Dreamers,”” camera angles and shooting techniques cross your mind more often than acting, dialog, or editing. Neal plays it to his best advantage, never letting you forget that the camera is the voice and not the eyes of the film; a viewer sees the characters and scenery with only as much sympathy as the cinematographer has himself.He is playful, even hedonistic with the photography, shunning the conventional, eschewing the objective, establishing the camera as a flamboyant presence within the film. He shoots dreamers in 35mm, 16mm, and video, according to Ann’s conception of the film. He also shows strong technical ability by conquering the film’s challenging lack of artificial light.At this moment, he is better known. His cinematography in “”The Blair Witch Project”” ( for which he has received only $5,000) was a serious topic of discussion last year, with its herky-jerky frames and varying picture quality. Neal got mixed praise and scorn for his facsimile of amateur camerawork. “”‘The Blair Witch Project’ is the first movie I know of that tried to portray reality with total immediacy and spontaneity”” he says, in part referring to the largely ad-libbed dialog.””Can I interrupt?”” Ann interjects. “”I was just thinking about [Ingemar] Bergmann’s ‘Persona,’ and the way it blurs the boundary of reality and illusion. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is about the surface of reality, which in this movie comes off as an illusion. It intrigues me why this movie caught on with the public. The thinking is all improvisation, which makes it feel like an intrinsic record of the present. I think that opens a link to every audience. “” I believe Ed [Myrick] and Dan [Sanchez], were having a Bergmann moment during that shoot. They set out to do nothing more than re-create reality.””Neal adds: “”So many of us re-create reality in our own measured way. In the eight days of shooting, I think we set out to re-create reality in a more horrifying way.””””This film is one without control.”” Ann replies “” If there is no control, what is the point of being a filmmaker? I think if Bergmann saw ‘Blair Witch,’ he would say ‘why didn’t I make this?’ It has a lack of conscience in confronting reality. It intrigues me.””Neal: “” I could shoot a feature film. They are a dime a dozen. I prefer films that make the best use of camera and lighting. I like controlling my position, even if I am afraid to get involved. A real film director, like [Ann], controls the look. Her main style is to find places that match her imagination. For instance, she found the coffee shop that appeared in [“”Dreamers””], and she said to me: ‘look, this is the way my coffee shop looks ‘. “”Ann concurs: “” More than anything else, I want to re-create reality.Everything I did in this movie was creating the right environment, the right mood. That is why I only used natural lighting [which meant a lot of neon]. The goal was to reflect the psyche in the context it was in. Neal’s work helped achieve that. The look was self-reflective; very much about seeing and being seen.””Sexual BodyAnn and Neal met six years ago in Atlanta, working on “”Compelling Evidence,”” a B-erotic thriller. Ann has never gotten over the experience: “”I like films about sex and violence. The films are enjoyable in a primitive way, because they portray the human condition so shamelessly.”” “”Dreamers”” is a sensual if not erotic movie, containing several fleshy sex scenes. This is likely to become an Ann Lu trademark: “”I enjoy sex, it is part of life. I dream of breaking into people’s houses to have sex. If people go to a movie of mine and find the sex somewhat entertaining, that’s great. Movies are supposed to entertain. But if you go in, and come out wanting to write an essay about it, that’s fine too.””The set of the film was not immune to the tension created by differing sexual attitudes: “” Dave’s sex scene was a problem. The actor– Jeremy Jordan– is sexually ambiguous. Sex doesn’t mean much to him. Well, he had problems when it came time to do the scene. When they both took their clothes off and got close, Jeremy freaked.

Spike Lee, 15 For 15, By Michelle Alexandria

“”Bamboozled”” marks Spike Lee’s 15th film, in 15 years, the prolific and always controversial director’s latest project throws a pipe bomb into the current debate of racism in Hollywood. His impressive body of work includes classics like, “”Do The Right Thing””, “”Clockers””, “”Malcom X””, and “”Jungle Fever””. Spike uses his films as a billy club to force America to look at its ugly history of racism and continually remind us how that legacy still serves as an undercurrent to the racial attitudes that we all harbor today, whether you are black or white.

In his latest effort, “”Bamboozled””, he takes on the continued racism and stereotyping in the television Industry. This “”intensely thought provoking”” satire, makes wince, while you laugh at it. “”Bamboozled”” manages to elicit several distinct emotions in you at a single time, anger, laughter, held back tears, and even defiance at the same time.This award-winning director who sparks controversy with just about every thing that does and says recently sat down with EclipseMagazine and a roundtable of journalists from other organizations. Hi reputation precedes him. We expected him to be angry and controversial, but was surprised [and a little disappointed] to see him relaxed, happy, and ready to go toe to toe with us. RoundtableDid you have any problems pulling the cast, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Damon Wayons, Savion Glover, Tommy Davidson, etc. together?SpikeNo, they read the script and wanted to do it. They thought they where very good parts and could contribute to the movie.Roundtable When you look at blacks in the media today, what do you see as today’s minstrel shows?SpikeWell, where are you from? (He asks the reporter, reporter responds, “”I’m from””) [Spike, laughs], you guys [BET] show a lot, those videos you guys show, gangster rap, are a form of minstrel shows. Bling, Bling… I call them like I see them.Roundtable The Rev. Calvin Butts in NY, went off on a particular video, TLC, can you give us an example, or examples of videos that you feel are minstrel or something that set you off?Spike[Referring to elements in Gangster Rap Videos] The Bentleys, the ever flowing Cristal, the standard shot of people throwing $100 bills at the camera, the scantily clad – not my words – “”ho’s and bitches””, constantly gyrating. Bling, Bling….Roundtable Other than Gangster Rap Videos, what other shows, Comedy, or otherwise would you consider minstrel?SpikeI think there are shows on television that are boarder line minstrel. I’d hope that this film would show that in this new millennium you wouldn’t have to wear blackface or put on a minstrel performance.Roundtable Can you be a little more specific?SpikeNo, I think that’s as specific as I need to be.Roundtable Was there a difference in between in footage quality between the narrative portions and the television show?SpikeWe shot the show on Film, while the rest of the movie was filmed on Digital Video.RoundtableThe film really does a good job of showing the behind the scenes workings of the “”industry””….SpikeWe were trying to show how the industry works, but also show that we are partly to blame for what gets put out there because we are a part of it. We accept these roles.RoundtableAfter viewing the film some of us talked and discussed the pain that we felt while watching this film. At times, it’s also really funny, when can you laugh and not laugh?SpikeThe film is Satire and we want people to feel uncomfortable laughing at it.RoundtableAre people laughing with us, or at us?SpikeIt depends on who is doing the laughing. You really can’t dictate how people are going to react to your film. All you can do is put it out there. I don’t think this film is, “”ha, ha, ha,”” I think that people should be uneasy while they watch this film.RoundtableHaving said that, do you want people to walk out of this film thinking about their relationship to other people, their race, etc.?SpikeEverything, their relationship to the images, what they watch, what they think is funny, and to understand the history of racism in the Industry, etc…RoundtableIn a recent interview, someone asked you why there was no solution outlined or suggested in the film. SpikeI’ve seen this before, when “”Do The Right Thing”” was criticized because it didn’t offer any solutions. At the end of the film, you leave us hanging out in the wilderness without any answers. I think it’s a cop out to diminish the work.RoundtableThere was a lot of violence in this film. Did you have any reservations about including it?SpikeNo, I think the violence in the film is a comment on violence. It’s not exploitation or promotion of violence.RoundtableWho do you blame for the current slate of minstrel shows? The black actors who consent to do them or the producers who produce them?Spike There is enough blame to be spread around. The best thing about this film for me, is that I have tremendous respect for the original black actors who were forced to do minstrel shows and put on black face in the past. While at the same time, it’s made me even more critical of us [and I include myself] for what we do now, because we have a lot more choices in what we can do today.RoundtableFive years ago it used to be that African Americans where always the villains and that time they were completely a moral, one-dimensional killers drinking 40’s and doing drive-bys. Nowadays, it seems like Hollywood is over compensating by having white actors play the bad guy roles, the only difference is, now the villains are nice and cuddly, fully three dimensional characters. The type of guys you want to bring home to mother. For example, the Bruce Willis, character in “”The Whole Nine Yards””, is a killer, but a “”loveable killer””. Do you think that now that white actors are taking on bad guy roles Hollywood is more sensitive to how the character is portrayed than they were in the past, when black actors would play the bad guy?SpikeWell, they have always done that. For the most part, whether you are a black or white actor, the villain has always been the choice role. What has to change is the diversity of the writers.RoundtableNow that Hollywood, seems to be scared to have a black actor play a bad guy, while at the same time they don’t want them to play the hero either, do you think there are less roles for black actors today?SpikeIt depends on who the Heroes are. I think Denzel’s character in “”Remember The Titans”” is a hero. I don’t want to make any blanket statements, but I don’t think we have the range of roles that every one else does.RoundtableFrom a hip-hop point of view, we were talking earlier today about it becoming it’s own form of minstrel.Spike[laughing, and interrupting] wait, wait, I didn’t condemn all hip-hop, it’s the Gangster Rap that I don’t like. RoundtableDo you think there is anything on television now that serves as a good counter balance to the negative stereotypes?SpikeWell, I was watching the Yanks game, so I haven’t seen Gideon’s Crossing yet.RoundtableSomeone mentions that it has some annoying gospel music….SpikeIsn’t it funny, that whenever you see black people on television that they have gospel music playing, even on “”City of Hope””. [joking] Every single time… I mean, I’m not saying that we don’t love gospel, but we have a range of musical interests.RoundtableHow do you respond to the Time Magazine article that says that “”Spike Lee’s, Bamboozled, shames us all, you have rage for the powerful, and contempt, for the masses””…SpikeI have compassion for the masses, while at the same time you have to show people the truth. I think shame comes from the institution of television and film. If you look at the final montage of this film, it shows the legacy of the Industry. It’s funny if you look at the Academy Awards, they always have the 3-5 minute montage that shows the history of film. You may get a shot of Whoopie, or Denzel getting whipped, or Mookie throwing the garbage can through the window, but I say we start a petition to make the Academy Awards show the final montage of “”Bamboozled.””RoundtableSpeaking of the “”Bamboozled”” montage, why didn’t you continue it to the present day and show a linkage, did you think it would be too heavy a statement?SpikeNumber one, we feel that we do that to some extent with our commercial [they do a spoof of designer Tommy Hillfinger, calling his stuff Tommy ‘Hillnigger’] and the mou-mous [a spoofed gangster rap group]. Number two, there’s no way those groups would allow their videos, and clips be used in a montage like this. RoundtableWhy didn’t you handle this subject in a Documentary form?SpikeHow many people see documentaries?RoundtableHow much of Michael Rapaport’s character came from your direction and how much came from within him?Spike Michael Rapaport is nothing like that character. He’s very cool people, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, he gets outraged when young white kids come up to him and say “”what’s up, my nigger.”” Unfortunately there are a lot of Dunwittys [Rapaport’s Character] out there, especially in this Industry and also running a lot of these rap labels. To get back to an earlier point, I don’t think every black person in my films has to be 100 percent “”angelic””, that you can’t have a crack head in the film, to me that wouldn’t be very realistic. My point is, there has to be a balance and I would like to see the characters be fully three-dimensional. As I said before, most villains have the meatiest parts.Roundtable You said that you were convinced that there are white people in Hollywood who think they know black people, better than black people themselves. Do you think that it’s possible for a white person, to know a black person better than another black person?Spike[laughing] I think that if I where white, and I thought that was true, I wouldn’t tell a black person that.RoundtableDo you think Generation X will understand what you were trying to accomplish with Generation X?SpikeI think they will.RoundtableIn the film, what do you think made the minstrel show so successful, was it the hype, or do you think the audience where naturally drawn to it?SpikeA combination of both.RoundtableWhat is your definition of a “”Minstrel”” show?SpikeIt’s something that everyone needs to make up their own mind, it’s not something that you would find a clear definition of in the dictionary.RoundtableHow do you respond to the following statement, “”this is a film that white people, definitely need to see, but black people can pass””… Their are black people who feel that “”we’ve seen this already before””, that “”we know our history”” and it’s “”too depressing to watch””.SpikeI disagree. I think everyone needs to see this film. A lot of black don’t know our history.RoundtableWhat part of the film affected you the most?SpikeFor the actors, Damon and Savion said it killed them to put on the black face every day. That it scared them emotionally. You can see them getting dehumanized and see their real emotion. For me, I’d say the end when we killed one of the characters. RoundtableWhat are your plans for the future, and what do you think of the Internet’s ability to bring new programming to the masses?SpikeIn the next few months we will be making some announcements about several new television projects that we are working on. I’m tired of all the comedies on television so we are creating new dramas. I don’t really see the Internet being a replacement for television, it’s fine for short films, but I don’t see a lot of people watching that little screen for an extended period, maybe in the future, but not now.RoundtableDid Savion’s statement “”as long as I’m hoofing and making money, it’s all good”” mean that young people only care about making money and not the consequences of what they do?SpikeThat’s not just young people. I think it’s up to each individual artist to make their own decisions as to what they think is right for them.Fini

ATLANTIS – Disney’s Lost Continent Adventure Loses Its Way. By Sean O’Connell

In the process of shedding the usual song-and-dance routine, Disney discards their sense of adventure, too. For “”Atlantis,”” Disney’s big-budget entrance into the summer movie season of 2001, the studio took the safe road by hiring the masterminds behind the enormously successful “”Beauty and the Beast”” and “”The Hunchback of Notre Dame,”” Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. The film, reportedly set in the early 1914, follows the adventures of inept but earnest adventurer Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox), who believes he’s one step away from decoding the location of the lost continent of Atlantis.

The crucial last step is provided by the eccentric Preston B. Whitmore, a philanthropist and old friend of Milo’s grandfather who funds an expedition to the spot where the continent should have vanished. Accompanying Milo are the usual cast of politically correct characters, including the African American doctor, the Mexican teenage girl, the French (Italian? Bad accent.) explosives expert, the mercenary (voiced by James Garner) and a mole-like person who provides absolutely no comic relief.Perhaps to keep with the Jules Vern-style story, Trousdale and Kirk present animation that’s rough around the edges, boxy and unpolished. Character’s faces are square, and the visuals lack detail. Intentional or not, it works to a certain extent, though the backgrounds look hazy and vague. Despite the lack of songs, Disney religiously sticks to their proven formula, but when you reach a point in the film when a lively song penned by Sir Elton or Celine Dion might have elevated the material, the film falls flat. By the time you reach the climax, a flurry of chase scenes and brutal battle sequences that are much more advanced than 1914 would allow, you’ll wonder why you’re so very bored. Final Grade D

Swordfish: This One’s Big Enough to Keep

“”Swordfish,”” the next summer slammer to attempt to weave gunfights, car chases and gratuitous nudity together in a coherent matter, starts off with the biggest bang of the season that literally has to be seen to be believed. It wouldn’t give too much away to say that the scene involves plenty of C4, hostages, John Travolta, a slew of ball bearings, and the same stop-motion camera work made popular by “”The Matrix.”” But this works. And more miraculously, “”Swordfish”” holds its own for 90 minutes after said opening sequence, a trick that’s mightier than you’d think.

Travolta, reeling after last year’s “”Battlefield Earth”” and “”Lucky Numbers,”” plays Gabriel Shear, a rogue spy who operates his computer piracy at arm’s length of the law. For his next project, which involves him stealing $9 billion in unused government funds, Shear needs the help of famed computer hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman), a Leavenworth inmate on parole who only wants enough money to get his daughter back from his drug-addicted ex-wife. Halle Berry co-stars as the women in Shear’s life who may not be as loyal as she seems, and Don Cheadle plays the FBI honcho assigned to bring Shears down.As is required of most blockbusters in the post “”Sixth Sense”” age, “”Swordfish”” boasts more twists that a third-graders French braid, and most of them make sense, which is a pleasant surprise. Director Dominic Sena (“”Gone in 60 Seconds””) stages fantastic action sequences and lingers his camera on them long enough for us to appreciate them, a novel concept that has eluded the choppy directors behind “”Bait,”” “”Double Take”” and countless Jean Claude Van Damme films. Plot holes big enough to fly a bus through do appear, more to force the film’s surprise twist than anything. Sena avoids them, for the most part, by keeping the film in fifth gear, burying logical questions under layers of shiny car chases and glistening guns. “”Swordfish”” will not boost Travolta out of the acting cellar he climbed into with “”Battlefield Earth”” and “”Lucky Numbers,”” but it does further the argument that Hugh Jackman is a bona fide star waiting for the right role. Admittedly it’s not the freshest catch, but as a summer break, it’s certainly one fish you shouldn’t throw back.

Charlie’s Angels Review by Michelle Alexandria

Let’s start by saying that Charlie’s Angels is a hard movie to defend. The direction is awful; it had bad acting, a substandard script, and the action sequences where a pale imitation of John Woo – the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery doesn’t hold up here. But somehow this incredible mess of a movie manages to turn into 90-minutes of clean, kitschy, cheesy fun.

Actress and now producer Drew Barrymore (Dylan) has to be admired for taking on the task of creating material that showcase women as strong willed, ass kicking vixens, who don’t need to be rescued by some doped up male action star.She successfully did this in 1998’s “”Ever After””, a film where she managed to turn the beloved Cinderella into a strong willed heroine who wasn’t sitting around singing “”Someday My Prince Will Come””, her Cinderella, was strong in both body, mind and spirit and it was this strength that won her, her Prince Charming. Not the whimpering and simpering found in other versions.In Charlie’s Angels our new Angels are now Natalie (Cameron Diaz) a ditzy/klutzy blond who is really a genius, yeah right. Dylan (Drew Barrymore) a red-haired tough girl from the streets who has a chip on her soldier, and Alex (Lucy Liu) a rich girl with social graces and brains to match, also along for the ride is Bill Murray (who is in this film in Body, but slept walked through it) as Bosley. In homage to the original series, and a nice touch, John Forsythe reprises his role as the voice of Charlie, their mysterious boss whom no one has ever met.Charlie’s Angels doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, is it a serious update to the 70’s hit television series that made international stars out of Jacqueline Smith, Farrah Fawcett, and Kate Jackson? Or is a parody of a show that itself wasn’t exactly high art? Let’s look at the evidence, without giving away too much of the film, you be the judge.Exhibit one; what the hell was that opening title sequence? It was hysterically funny in its badness; it opened just like the television show did by showcasing our heroines growing up, going through police academy training and highlights of previous missions, including a direct rip off of a jail break clip from the original show, and I think they were being serious. While watching this beginning one is hard pressed to tell what, first time Director McG, was trying to accomplish here. Was he being serious or was he being tongue in cheek, while watching the sequence one gets the sinking suspicion he was trying to set a serious tone but failed miserably. There are many action sequences in this film that where completely hampered by the Director’s fascination with trying to duplicate Hong Kong, action master, John Woo. Woo who is known by his signature slow motion, over the top, high-octane, blood- pumping sequences have nothing to fear from McG. “”McG, I know John Woo, John Woo is a friend of mind, and you sir, are no John Woo.””Instead of letting a fight choreographer do his work, McG seems to interject him into the scene, a director should be “”felt,”” not “”seen””. For instance there’s a moment in the film where one of the Angels does a karate kick where it’s painfully obvious that not only is she on wires, but they suspend her in the air for several seconds before her kick is “”thrust forward”” toward the bad guy (played by creepy Crispin Glover) in slow motion of course, where right before boot kicks face there’s an jarring edit that switches to “”real time”” speed. Normally you can let a slip like this pass, but there are just too many of these badly edited sequences to ignore. After awhile it becomes just too comical to not notice. As far as the story goes, let’s see it has something to do with a billionaire communications baron Roger Corwin (Tim Curry), who kidnaps computer whiz Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), our super Angels are hired by Knox’s business partner Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch) to find Knox. As far as the acting goes, it seems like all the actresses (Drew, Cameron, Kelly, and Lucy) had a blast making this film, while all the guys where seemingly sleep walking. There doesn’t seem to be much of an investigation as the case seems to solve itself within the first 1/2 hour of the film then we are left with a bunch of goofy set pieces. The film seems to have been written in three parts by masters of the 1/2 hour television formula, as it seems to tie up story points every 1/2 hour. The producers must realize their audience (which I count myself as one) have very short attention spans and cannot sit through a film if the plot drags out for more than thirty minutes at a time.It’s this frenetic pacing and constant movement is what saves this movie from being a total disaster, the 90-minutes fly by and is genuinely entertaining in spite of itself. Or maybe I was in a good mood when I saw it (not). Final Grade C+

Nurse Betty Review by Mac VerStandig

I am told that “”Nurse Betty”” has a running time of 108 minutes. But I wouldn’t know because 75 minutes of this ridiculously silly movie that tries to achieve the seemingly impossible goal of combining a relative reality with the most far-fetched fantasy all-the-while hoping that American audiences will be dumb enough to not catch on was enough for me. I don’t mind wild comedic day dreams, ultra-serious dramas nor much of the in between for that matter.

“”Nurse Betty”” tried to mix the two genres with an absolute disregard for the laws of Hollywood chemistry, I found myself hating the screening I was attending even more than I had disliked my previous night’s entertainment: the final episode of “”Survivor.”” That show was a lame combination of melodrama and occasional comedy, but at least a string of consistent reality ran through it. No such salvation exists in “”Nurse Betty.”” Further aggravating matters is Ren

Van’s Warped Tour, By Bill Whiting-Mahoney

Vans Warped Tour 2000 cannot be better with its perfect blends of lesser known hip-hop, metal and punk bands, and popular mainstream artists. This type of professional but intimate festival environment certainly attributes much to its six-year success, and it’s a gorgeous creation to have in an age of big-budget, corporate-sponsored concert events.

Perhaps the only gripe one can come up with against the Vans Warped Tour isn’t much of a complaint at all. There are over 30 bands on four separate stages at the festivals sixth summer outing this year and quenching one’s curiosity to experience even half of this great and diverse line-up may be an exercise in futility. But what one does manage to catch is likely to be spectacular.What was surprising about this year’s event was the amount of access that both press and fans had toward the artists of this festival. While dozens gathered around the Bif Naked souvenir stand to get autographs from the female singer later in the day, various musicians and extreme-sport athletes on the bill could be spotted wandering around the crowd. As well, press members and numerous fans were given overwhelming access to the festival’s backstage area to meet members of MxPx, Suicide Machines, Save Ferris and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I had the opportunity to ask Tom Wisniewski of MxPx about his thoughts on life on the road.I haven’t really missed out on much, for obvious reasons,”” said Wisniewski, 23, on the band’s touring career which began when he was 18. “”I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 years. I wouldn’t have said 5 years ago that I would be on the Warped Tour for the third time, so who knows?”” Not surprisingly, the two main stages drew the biggest crowds where The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Green Day, Long Beach Dub Allstars and NoFx lit the crowds up. But some of the smaller bands on these stages managed to hold their own against these ska and punk heavyweights.The sexy presence of lead singer Monique Powell highlighted a fun performance by Save Ferris and the youthful energy of MxPx pleased the girlies in the crowd. The hip-hop excellence of Jurassic 5 proved to be a gem moment of the day which drew surprisingly rave responses from the crowd. As well, the intensity of “”Last Resort”” by the rising alt-rock group Papa Roach and the old-school punk presence of Anti-Flag were awesome standouts.On the less crowd populated third stage, Gob graced their punk-metal set with an occassional Metallica riff that drew noise from their supporters and ended their decent set with a careening version of The Rolling Stones “”Paint It Black.”” Later in the day, the blistering English group One Minute Silence rocked to a bare crowd while Green Day drew the majority of the Warped spectators to their pleasing set. Still, OMS singer Yap gathered the few dozen onlookers together around one side of the stage while bassist Glen Diani leapt from a 20-foot stack of amplifiers onto the gatherers. It may not have been as popular as “”Welcome to Paradise,”” but the group still gave their fans a jarring show. Green Day and the Bosstones were certainly the big draws of the afternoon and with good reason. The charisma of Bosstones lead singer Dicky Barrett cannot be overstated, especially during the crowd favorites of “”1-2-8″” and “”The Impression That I Get.”” Green Day drew the most onlookers, even those of the old-school persuasion who frown upon this bastardized form of radio-friendly punk. Green Day are still hugely popular judging from the crowd they drew and killer versions of “”Welcome To Paradise”” and “”Longview”” highlighted their great set. It’s a wonder that the Bosstones can bring as much energy to their set night after night with a touring schedule that regularly breaks 300 shows per year. Still the eight-piece ska-group are absorbing onstage despite their rigorous schedule.””How much would it suck to work a real job?”” said Bosstones bassist Joe Giddleman about their motivations. “”Along the way, some fucking band started talking about how difficult it is to tour and ‘poor me, poor me.’ I just don’t find that to be true.””Along with Green Day and the Bosstones, the most popular act of the afternoon proved to be Long Beach Dub Allstars, which features Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh, the two surviving members of the now-legendary ska group, Sublime. Led by energetic lead singer Opie Ortiz, the Dub Allstars kicked through a couple original tunes among the Sublime drenched setlist of “”Caress Me Down”” and “”Badfish”” which featured bassist RAS-1 on vocals. The Dub Allstars ended their great tribute set to deceased Sublime singer Brad Nowell with their radio staple hit “”Santeria”” where the crowd supplied the vocals for the entire song.””What would you do if you got your dick cut off?”” said Wilson after the set when asked why he and the Dub Allstars keep the spirit of Sublime alive. “”I would be lost without my music.””The Vans Warped Tour may be leaning further away from its aggressive, die-hard punk roots each year with its diversity and mainstream talents. Yet, one thing that the festival has not lost is its human spirit which rocks straight down to its hard-core origins.

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