I just realized Film Independent’s yearly Directors Close-up series starts next week. I went last year, and with the exception of the directing actors session with Rodrigo Garcia, it was a disappointing experience. Mostly because the panels were moderated by Mary Sweeney who was a total bore. You would have never guessed she was a filmmaker that has worked with David Lynch (according to IMDB, they were also married) from the pedestrian and uninspired questions she asked.
Directors Close-Up Schedule
This year the moderation promises to be livelier. John August is passionate and committed to sharing his knowledge on the craft with other filmmakers and screenwriters. I’ve attended one of his panels at the WGA and he did not disappoint. The other moderator is Neil LaBute. And lucky me, he’ll be moderating the Writing and Directing Comedy session. I will sit up front, raise my hand, and wave it frantically until I get called on. I could not care less about his alleged misogyny. Nope. I will ask him what it was like to direct Nic Cage in one of my favorite comedies ever: his remake of The Wicker Man. Was the bear suit Nic’s or his idea? Was the line “Not the bees!” improvised or on his script? I know you’re thinking that’s rude. But I just need to know, what the fuck was up with that? Was it really UF (unintentionally funny) or is LaBute a modern day Douglas Sirk?
If you have not seen it, you must. I haven't seen the original, which is generally regarded as a good movie, so I'm tempted to sink the original to the bottom of Whoops! Ocean anyway, because obviously it resulted in the remake, but the parents can't be blamed for the sins of the child. Or at least that's what parents of shitty children are always telling everybody. There are many details of the movie that are hilarious. Such as the website Cage uses instead of Google to get directions. Or the part where he gets locked in a cistern and is probably going to drown, but just before his impending doom, he manages to fall asleep and have a nightmare. Or the part where he's a cop but he doesn't follow any normal legal courses of action that a cop would follow when a child has been reported missing. Or that he wears a jacket and tie throughout the whole ordeal only to change into a bear suit in the end. Or everything about this movie. This may be a horrible movie but it has more laughs than any intentional comedy these days. How can you not love the mysterious Summers Isle, which is populated almost entirely by Kathy Bates or Cage sidekicking a teenage girl into a wall and punching others in the face, or Mother Goddess Ellen Burstyn, face painted like an NFL fan, leading neutered male servants in a costumed fertility parade, or little schoolgirls chanting "Phallic symbol! Phallic symbol!" or Cage pointing a gun at a woman and threatening her with "Step away from the bike!" I'm convinced LaBute lost the thread of his original ideas, and, by page 15, decided to write a comedy by flailing out blindly hoping to accidentally reverse the tide of progress with a casual, intellectually misplaced beeyatch slap.
Here are some highlights of this almost-cult classic:
Will I have guts to risk getting myself escorted out of the theater, possibly even getting banned from Film Independent? Stay tuned.
P.S. If you think that directors just point the camera at Cage and let him go to town with his role, read the following gem and think again:
Cage: “So many directors are so arrogant. For example, Klaus Kinski -- who Werner Herzog has a legacy with -- he was very frustrated with the arrogance. We always hear Werner's side of the story about "Klaus was this and Klaus was that" but you never get to hear Klaus' side of the story. I was doing a scene (on Bad Lieutenant) -- it was in my second day of shooting -- and we all know the imagination and preparation (required) to think I was on cocaine (for the character). There was a little bottle of baby powder, and I'm snorting that. I'm psyching up, I'm psyching up, and he comes up and says (in German accent), "Now Nicolas, what is in that vial?" And I was like, "Are you kidding me? After four hours of this you're gonna actually ask me that? Take me out of my preparation? You would think the director would understand the actor's process and give us the space and the room to do what it is we need to do.”
This is hilarious on many levels, especially if you are familiar with Herzog. And why is it that it's impossible not to hear Herzog's lethargic Bavarian-accented voice every time he is quoted on print?