Film Essent Archive for July, 2010

Can You Do Me a Kindness?

Just a note for you NYC folks: Winnebago Man premieres there this weekend, and tix are reportedly selling out. I caught Winnebago Man last year at Cinevegas, and it is hilarious. From last year’s Cinevegas dispatch:
I also very much enjoyed Winnebago Man, in which director Ben Steinbauer became obsessed with tracking down Jack Rebney, better known to many folks through YouTube as The Winnebago Man (or, alternatively, The World’s Angriest Man) courtesy of a viral video of outtakes of Rebney taken during an industrial video shoot for the recreational vehicles, in which he rants and swears most impressively. Steinbauer managed to track down Rebney, considered by found video afficionados to be a “holy grail” of sorts, to find out what happened to him. While I’m not normally in favor of the director of a documentary being in the film itself, this particular case is an exception, given that the story is somewhat about the relationship that evolves between Steinbauer and his crusty, curmudgeonly subject.
Winnebago Man is an immensely enjoyable film, and that’s at least in part due to some excellent editing choices by Malcolm Pullinger. It’s also worth noting that one of the cinematographers credited on the film is Brad Beesley, who also shot and directed the surprisingly poignant Summercamp!, which is one of my favorite underappreciated documentaries.

Me again. If you’re in NYC and you’ve not seen Winnebago Man, go see it, will you? Added bonus: Michael Moore and Jack Rebney, the Winnebago Man himself, are expected at the screenings at the Sunshine Cinema.

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Armond, Armond, Quite Contrary

I was just reading this piece that Ray Pride linked to about Armond White on Maclean’s, in which writer Jaime Weinman attempts to dissect the man whose penchant for contrariasm has made him one of the most talked about critics du jour.
Love him or hate him, but you have to admire White for finding a way to use the internet to reinvent himself, rather than just shaking his fist in the air and yelling at those damn kids to get off his print critic lawn. Roger Ebert, who’s quoted in the article from this piece calling that White a “… troll. A smart and knowning one, but a troll.” has also learned to leverage the power of the internet to his advantage, communicating more directly with his large fan base through both his online journal and prolific use of Twitter. But whereas Ebert has been accused in recent years of growing too soft and generous with his reviews, White is the bellwether of contrariasm. If everyone else loves it (see: Toy Story 3) White is almost certain to review it negatively. If most other critics slam a film, White is likely to find something to like about it.

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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook