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DP/30: Amigo, writer/director John Sayles

26 Responses to “DP/30: Amigo, writer/director John Sayles”

  1. berg says:

    chalk up another one for dp/30

  2. Mike says:

    I adore Passion Fish. I’m not sure I’ve seen a Sayles movie since Men With Guns. Have there been any worth watching since that I missed?

  3. Rob says:

    No one will agree with this, but I was deeply moved by Casa de los Babys.

  4. sanj says:

    i like this dp/30 – go back and get 5 more minutes.

  5. Mike says:

    I liked Limbo, until the “end.”

  6. Colin says:

    Seriously, this video should be required viewing for any and every film school student. This is crash course for the history of independent film over the past 30 years. This guy gets it, while most others are just pretending to play a role.

  7. berg says:

    John, I just got a call from Burt Reynolds, he wants his shirt back … seriously you need to do a Sayles dp30 and give it the Muzursky treatment

  8. cadavra says:

    Mike: Nearly all of them, but HONEYDRIPPER is one of his most purely entertaining films ever and a must-see. I’m glad to be one of the fortunate few who saw it in a theatre.

    AMIGO starts out a bit pokey, but once it gets going it’s pretty swell, though it is definitely not a “fun” film.

  9. Hallick says:

    God I wish he’d do another television series. He’s one of maybe a handful of people (a shop teacher’s handful at that) who I’d imagine could put out a show as good as “The Wire” if he put his mind to it.

  10. Tuck Pendelton says:

    I really enjoy Sunshine State. But Silver City is pretty dreadful.

  11. ThriceDamned says:

    Honeydripper is great. Lone Star is a minor masterpiece I find, and I have a real soft spot for Sunshine State as well. Agree on Silver City, couldn’t get into it at all. I remember how astoundingly bad Danny Huston was in it, a guy who’s usually excellent.

  12. Hallick says:

    Silver City was “script doctor, heal thyself” bad.

  13. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Limbo is a masterpiece and I love the ending. Casa de los Babys is a great showcase for some brilliant actresses and very entertaining. Sunshine State is also really good. Silver City has a great cast but is a disappointment. Haven’t seen Honeydripper. Amigo sound great.

  14. JKill says:

    Yeah, I’ll second what Paulmd said, in that CASA DE LOS BABYS, if nothing else, is a great showcase for how wonderful those actresses are, and it also includes a few powerhouse scenes and a bunch of interesting, complex ideas that aren’t easily digestable.

    My favorite of his recent work is SUNSHINE STATE, which is a great mutli-character piece. I’m actually seeing AMIGO tonight with Sayles in attendance, so I will chime in with how that goes later.

  15. torpid bunny says:

    I haven’t seen luxuriant upper chest hair like that since 9th grade p.e. class’s Coach Jones.

  16. torpid bunny says:

    But I liked the interview too.

  17. Tuck Pendelton says:

    Lone Star is his undisputed masterpiece. Great cast, great gimic of going back in time in camera (metaphor for the past and present being so close) and the issues of race and immigration, which Sayles always throws in there.

    It’s got some great lines too. “I’m as liberal as the next guy.” “If the next guy’s a redneck.”

    Eight Men Out is another one that is incredibly overrated. It came out the same year as Bull Durham so people tend to overlook it, but that’s a great script given how many characters were involved in that story and how much emotion you feel toward the end.

    Brother from Another Planet – its looooooowwwwww budget sci-fi, but there’s some good ideas in there.

  18. hcat says:

    I agree that Lone Star is magnificent, but wouldn’t call it undisputed. I think many people would toss up Passion Fish and Brother as his best, and I consider Matewan his best, deepest work.

    I’m not saying that to argue or get listings going of his projects, I think we can all agree that he has done some amazing work especially considering the miniscule budgets he has to contend with. He handles ensembles well while still being able to give great showcases to actors that normally didn’t get a chance to shine like David Strathain, Joe Morton, and Chris Cooper.

    Now excuse me while I go look up to see if City of Hope is streaming on Netflix.

  19. sanj says:

    John Sayles needs to hang out with more directors / actors with some money like Adam Sandler who wrote
    Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star ..

    maybe in a few years John will write Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star 2 ….

  20. djiggs says:

    So, there was a comment about his shirt and chest hair but not the nuthugger shorts?!? God, this man is one of the top pioneer artists that America has produced. Seaucucs 7 (the real “Big Chill), lianna, brother from another planet, passion fish, matewan, sunshine state, men with guns, honeydripper (best Danny Glover performance ever), 8 men out, discovering Chris Cooper/david straiharn (who I always used think were the same person), giving Matthew mccongahuey his first substantial role, city of hope, ballsiness of limbo’s storytelling especially the ending (witness it’s effect on Sopranos finale & before that Angel’s tv finale), the magnificent Lone Star in the wonderful independent film year of 1996, and so much more.

  21. berg says:

    since 9th grade p.e. class’s Coach Jones.

    … at Churchill High School we had a p.e. teacher named Coach Roach

  22. JoJo says:

    Tuck you said:

    “Eight Men Out is another one that is incredibly overrated”

    From what you said after, though, I’m assuming you meant UNDERrated? I love Eight Men Out. One of my favorite movies of the ’80s.

  23. Don R. Lewis says:

    Sayles was the source of probably my worst/most awkward “celebrity” interaction ever. Because of him I rarely if ever say anything to a filmmaker I admire.

    I was at Sundance a while back (12 years maybe?) and had along a book that compiled all of Sayles’ interviews into one. I was a HUGE Sayles fan. Huge. I hopped off a bus at Prospector Sq. theater and had to pee really, really bad but didn’t know where the bathroom was so I ducked into the cafe to ask. When I went in there, I saw Sayles sitting at a table drinking a cup of coffee and got kind of starstruck. I actually never approached filmmakers back then either. Anyway…

    I found out where the bathroom was and on the way there told myself that if I came back and he was there, I’d get him to sign my book and maybe strike up a conversation if he wasn’t busy. Sure enough he was still there so I went over to him with the book and a pen. He wasn’t with anyone so I said, “excuse me, Mr. Sayles. I’m a really big fan of your films and I have this book. I was wondering if you’d sign it?”

    He snatches the book out of my hands and goes, “where did you get this!?” I told him “Amazon.” He seems like, pissed or annoyed and goes, “well, I’ve never seen this. I didn’t sign off or approve this. Where’d you get it again?!?” He’s like, pissed that I bought some apparently rogue book that contains all his interviews. It’s not like it was a tell-all or an un-authorized biography. He flips through i all pissed off and looks at the back cover.

    So I tell him again that I got it at Amazon and I didn’t realize it was unofficial or not something I shouldn’t have. He kind of glares at me, snatches the pen out of my hand and writes “Best, John Sayles” in it and gives it back. Looks away and starts reading something.

    It was so weird. I just thought he’d be cool and man, was he ever NOT cool. I don’t hold it against him, maybe he was having a shitty day or doesn’t like people like me. Whatever. It just weirded me out.

  24. JKill says:

    AMIGO is a really strong, intelligent, perceptive and morally provoking film. It’s kind of quintessential Sayles in the way it explores these different cultures and classes bumping up against each other and the socio-political forces of their time. The lead guy (who is apparently a well known Filipino actor whose name I’m having trouble finding right now…) and Dillahunt get some really great, subtle character work to do, and as always, there’s a serious attention to the place and community as character. Worth checking out.

    My local arthouse is actually doing a Sayles retrospective right now, and he was there tonight to introduce the movie and do a QandA. He was very gracious, intelligent and in good spirits but Don your story has me very glad I didn’t find myself in a situation where I said/did anything stupid/accidently irritating. It would be a bummer to meet an icon like that and have that result.

  25. Mike says:

    I had watched Lone Star (and loved it) a few months before I met Chris Cooper. I was working at Blockbuster and he came in, and I was hoping to tell him how much I had liked him in the movie. But when he brought whatever VHS tape to the counter, I had to tell him he had a late fee. He didn’t get mean, but I can tell it irked him, so I chickened out of complimenting him.

    It’s not worth it to approach celebrities – just admire from afar.


Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin