The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out by Wayne Byrne

The Cinema of Tom DiCilloBook Review
Title: The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out
Author:  Wayne Byrne
Publisher: Wallflower Press
Released: September 2017
Pages: 208
ISBN-13: 978-0231185356
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5

I admit that I can’t review The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out by Wayne Byrne without bias, but I can say that my bias is formed by a deep appreciation of Tom DiCillo’s films and Tom DiCillo, the man. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the book from Columbia University Press’ Wallflower division and am pleased to give you my honest opinion about it.

I believe that the first of DiCillo’s films that I ever saw was Living in Oblivion, when I rented it on DVD soon after it was released – likely in 1996. As a life-long film fan, Living in Oblivion, a humourous, heartfelt film about the making of an independent film, was an absolute treasure to discover and has since become DiCillo’s seminal masterpiece. It wasn’t long after that when I also rented and enjoyed watching Johnny Suede, the now cult film with a cool surf music score that helped to launch Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener’s careers. Because I’ve always enjoyed Keener’s work and because she was in four of DiCillo’s films, I kept watching them and had seen at least four of them before I got to know a lot more about the filmmaker.

Then, in a strange, albeit serendipitous twist of fate, I became friends with Tom DiCillo when I discovered his blog as he was writing about the process of releasing and trying to find a distributor for When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors (which won a Grammy in 2011), over seven years ago. The Doors are on my Top 5 Favourite Bands of All Time list and as such they formed the basis for our original conversation. However, we have continued to stay in touch ever since, because Tom is a very accessible, generous man with a kind heart and genuine appreciation for his fans. Not only am I a fan of his body of work, but I admire and respect him as an artist and a human being.  I’m equally enamored with Tom’s music project, The Black and Blue Orkestre, because I love his singing voice and the combination of Spaghetti Western, Surf and Cinematic Gothic Rockabilly grooves that form the music.

But back to the book. This volume by Irish author and Film Studies lecturer / education consultant Wayne Byrne is an extremely well-written, intelligent, enthralling addition to the Directors’ Cuts series published by Wallflower Press and a must-read for any cineaste or film student. It took Byrne five years to complete, but during that time he interviewed not only Tom DiCillo, at length, but also many of the actors in his films, including Steve Buscemi who wrote the foreword.

“In short, this wonderful book details the ultimate triumphant journey of one of independent cinema’s smartest, funniest, and fiercest warriors.” ~ Steve Buscemi

Byrne’s book is an interesting in-depth look at all of DiCillo’s eight independent films (seven of which premiered at Sundance) the agony and the ecstasy of birthing them, as well as an honest, insider’s view into the independent film industry and the machinations of the Hollywood system.

In his book, Byrne analyzes the themes of identity, family, and masculinity in DiCillo’s work and supports it with “in-depth coverage of the generic and aesthetic aspects of DiCillo’s distinctive and influential film style.” Through detailed chapters on each of his feature films, readers receive “…a candid look behind-the-scenes of both the American independent film industry – from the No Wave movement of the 1980s, through the Indie boom of the 1990s, to the contemporary milieu – and the Hollywood studio system.”

Byrne studied the writing, production, and release of each of DiCillo’s films and followed them with an extensive and intriguing Q&A with him, as well as exclusive interviews with many actors and collaborators including Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell, John Turturro, Chris Noth, Maxwell Caulfield, Matthew Modine, Gina Gershon, Kevin Corrigan, Alison Lohman and John Densmore and Robby Krieger of The Doors.

Johnny Suede (1991)
Living in Oblivion (1995)
Box of Moonlight (1996)
The Real Blonde (1997)
Double Whammy (2001)
Delirious (2006)
When You’re Strange (2009)
Down in Shadowland (2014)

I own all DiCillo’s films and have watched them all again with new eyes after reading Byrne’s book, getting something new from each of them even though I’ve seen six of them previously, at least a couple of times. Perhaps that is what allows DiCillo’s work to endure throughout the years. It is clever, often subversive and upon first viewing you may think, “Well, what was that all about? That was a bit bizarre…”, but upon further viewing, you really get a feel for the director’s unique style and voice, use of colour, choice of music (often created by composer Jim Farmer) as well as the themes that inspire him. It is DiCillo’s way of viewing and expressing humanity in his work with his distinct sense of humour and pathos that makes these films stand out in the crowd of slick, violent, comic-book infested, often soulless, unoriginal movies from Hollywood that we’re seeing today. Give me the work of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater, The Coen Brothers, Michael Winterbottom, Tim Burton and Tom DiCillo any day. If you agree, read this book.

Drunk Film School: 9 Simple Classes with Independent Writer/Director TOM DiCILLO

DRUNK FILM SCHOOL

Tom DiCillo Drunk Film School

Have you ever thought about going to film school?

Have you ever thought, “I’d like to try it but it’s just too much money.”

Have you ever thought, “Fuck that shit; who needs it?”

IF SO THEN THIS COURSE IS FOR YOU.

9 simple classes with independent writer/director TOM DiCILLO.

Hosted by Duane Andersen, professor and filmmaker at Utah Valley University. All episodes constructed and edited by Tom DiCillo

This is Part 5 of a 9-part series called DRUNK FILM SCHOOL with Tom DiCillo.

Watch all 9 episodes of DRUNK FILM SCHOOL here:

www.tomdicillo.com/blog/drunk-film-school/

Artistry and Celebrity: An Interview with Harry Goaz by Kofi Forson

Harry Goaz

Harry Goaz, “Self Portrait” (2015), photographs, mounted on Dibond, 63.75 in. x 63.75 in. (All images courtesy of the artist)

By KOFI FORSON, JUL. 2016

Harry Goaz was first cast as Deputy Andy Brennan in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, a role he has reprised for a continuation of the series to be broadcast on Showtime. Mister Goaz gleams from a jet set Hollywood allure, legendary in what he has become, an avuncular hero to millennials with works of fiction and photographs.

Kofi Forson: What a pleasure, Harry. I suppose everything goes back to and falls on your initial meeting with David Lynch.

Harry Goaz: Well, it’s a very famous and also a well-loved story by Mr. Lynch himself of our meeting. At the time I was a young whippersnapper scuffing around Los Angeles with some worn out Tony Lamas, working two jobs and studying. One of my jobs was as a driver for a private car service that specialized in getting high profile types in and out of places with little fanfare. One night I received a call to pick up Mr. Lynch in the Hollywood Hills to take him down into Hollywood for a memorial ceremony for the late, great Roy Orbison. At the time Mr. Lynch was already known to me as THE director of Blue Velvet, which happened to be an indelible game-changer of a film for me as a young and hungry artisan. He was very open, affable and completely without guile. After I dropped him off I impulsively decided to pull up and just sit in the car and see if I could see him coming out. He seemed surprised that I was still waiting. At the end of a very long evening as I was pulling up into his driveway he asked me what I did besides driving. I told him that I was an actor. His demeanor seemed to shift to a solemn and serious shade. He nodded his head and said, “It is the hardest life.” I said yes sir, but you have to love it. He nodded and said, “That’s it, you have to love it. You have to love it!” He told me he was working on something very special and asked me to send in my picture. Voila! Thank you Universe…and Mr. Lynch!

Harry Goaz untitled photograph

Harry Goaz, Untitled (2013), photographs, 31 in. x 48 in.

KF: You were cast as Deputy Andy Brennan in Twin Peaks. How did this character originate?

HG: Andy Brennan was a character created quick-on-the-draw as I was delivered to the set fresh and green in about two to three weeks after meeting Mr. Lynch.

KF: When did David Lynch contact you about reprising your role as Andy Brennan? Had you been in communication with him over the years?

HG: I started communicating with Mr. Lynch again two summers ago, prior to that I had no communication with him. That summer I had a very old-school cellular phone that was an expectantly low performer in the Black Hills of New Mexico, and with Mr. Lynch calling from Paris, our conversations consisted of us yelling at each other. I liked that. The conversations comprised of him asking many good questions. Many! Good times . . .

Harry Goaz "Kimmy on back lot"

Harry Goaz, “Kimmy on back lot” (2016), photographs, 18 in. 25 in.

KF: Did you sense early on David Lynch was making history? What was the mood on the set?

HG: I did not think in those terms, and in retrospect I guess that may have been because I was so young and excited to be on set. I think everyone was very cognizant of how special it was that Mr. Lynch was going to venture into television. There certainly was a palpable amount of wide-eyed exuberance on the set and on location. Months later, after all of the post production and editing, I remember being by myself on the night of the premiere on ABC Television. I was in bed in a glass room in the hills overlooking the entire Los Angeles basin. When the opening credits began to roll I remember looking out and the entire basin had turned a beautiful, forest green as thousands and thousands of televisions glowed with the opening credits. But, for the sake of our conversation let’s say MILLIONS, Kofi. In THAT very moment I realized that history was being made…

KF: Has it been an easy transition getting to play the same character after all these years?

HG: My apprehension was that I had lived in character as Andy for some very long periods. I had a hard time letting him go. I think that Mr. Lynch knew that a lot of us veterans were just going to need to know our marks and allow him not to direct us, but to paint his sets with us.

Harry Goaz Untitled 2016

Harry Goaz, Untitled (2016), photographs, Edition of 5, 64 in. x 60 in.

KF: You studied with William Traylor at The Loft Studio.

HG: The Loft Studio was a brutal and life changing experience for me. There were eight of us in our class. I remember regurgitating on the afternoons before some of my scenes because I was so nervous. Not one day passed during those times though when I had definitive flashes of just how lucky and privileged I was to study there. At nights I would get on the bus in those scruffy Tony Lamas to go home and be incredibly grateful. I remember all those rides home at night. All of them!

KF: Was it William Traylor who inspired your love for acting?

HG: NO!!!! Hahaha. He was one of the best things that happened to me in my education, however. He really drove me deeper into characters and vastly increased my concentration for timing. I’m sure he is in Hell somewhere right now kicking Andy Warhol’s feet off of a coffee table. Hahahaha. Can I say that? When I look back at my early exposure to film and television, Michael Caine comes to my mind. There was something about how much larger he resonates on a full screen as opposed to his physical stature as a mere mortal. I of course didn’t know that in my youth, but was able to fathom what was happening later as an actor.

Harry Goaz "Dakota's Death Bed"

Harry Goaz, “Dakota’s Death Bed” (2015), photographs, 36 in. x 71 in.

KF: What are your impressions of art? Do you value the role of the artist as an enfant terrible or do you enjoy works of art on the basis of talent and craftsmanship?

HG: BOTH!! Might I also say that there is an incredible amount of ravishing and impressionistic art coming from some very, very young kids in Istanbul? I’m not privy to what the protonic combustion happening there is, but I’m there two trips from now. Won’t that be a great phone call?

KF: Like the Tom Waits composition… Telephone Call from Istanbul!

Who are some of your favorite artists? What period in art do you like the most?

HG: Very young I was a devotee of Rauschenberg. Even though some viewers considered the strokes and texts as being impulsive, I found them to be frightfully complicated and in some ways crippling because of how much inference could be placed on the piece as a whole. There were also images of Ruscha floating around in my head and I did not identify them as such until later. I was very moved that art was being facilitated in such a clean and minimalistic way when Ruscha was delivered upon me. The messages seemed vast to me and I had never thought of art in that way. There seemed to be such honesty in it for me. I could go back to them over and over again.

KF: The movie Figurehead centers on the making and selling of art.

What interests you about the making of art? Do you still paint?

HG: I don’t paint anymore and have returned to photography. There was a rebirthing for me to return to the old Screbneski black and whites and the colors of Bourdin. Something just fired up in me again. It’s been simmering a couple of years and I have dived right into the deep end of it again. And you must understand I left photography in the late 70s!! I have curated a number of private collections and even that seems to be careening back to photographic images. Life — ‘Tis a tale of revisions and rewrites!

Harry Goaz "Skippy's Ghost on Bel Air Road"

Harry Goaz, “Skippy’s Ghost on Bel Air Road” (2016), photographs and Tempura, 8 in. x 12 in.

KF: You recently published a series of short stories which were translated into Russian, French and Portuguese.  

HG: I have a tidy little army of lovers for my stories. They run anywhere from one to three lines and are usually accompanied by my older images. It’s like when Keith Richards said “yeah” off-mic at the end of “Brown Sugar.” The kids are eating and I am feeding.

KF: Would you say your love for art is primal? Who are some of your favorite writers?

HG: Oh, excellent question! As for me I would say yes. Well let me amend that; I think art is primal for everyone until they get all layered and shellacked up and become encumbered with all of the “business” of becoming a human being and trying to live in a world with others.

Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, John Berger’s “The Shape of a Pocket,” John Cheever and Richard Bausch will all send me to a happy grave.

KF: In the book Image/Music/Text the French philosopher, Roland Barthes speculates on the theory behind the image, text and music. You have experienced the practice of art as performer, visual artist and writer.

What has been your involvement with music?

HG: Interesting that you would mention Roland, you psychic devil. I always go back to how his MANY hardships were the catalyst for his greatest academic concepts and victories. At this point in my life, as a more mature viewer, I rarely am able to ‘view’ ANY images without music. I compose all images with music whether it be conceptualizing or editing.

Harry Goaz "Door Open at 3:00AM"

Harry Goaz, “Door Open at 3:00AM” (1995), photographs, chromogenic print, 12 in. x 14 in.

KF: We now live in an internet and celebrity culture. Are you fascinated by the spontaneity in what has become a quick path to fame? Is the role of the artist as genius still relevant?

HG: I was, but so many people are famous now. I think artist as genius is relevant, but not to say that all great art has come from genius. I would like to think that there is more than an army of us out there who spend inordinate amounts of time consuming art and trying to find our place as mere mortals… WM

Kofi Forson
Kofi Forson is a writer, POET and PLAYWRIGHT living in NYC. His current blog is BLACK COCTEAU, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture.

*Originally printed in Whitehot Magazine in August 2016 issue here. View all articles by Kofi Forson here.

Meet Dr. Samita Nandy, Founding Director of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) in Canada

Dr Samita NandyI’d like to introduce my readers to my friend, Dr. Samita Nandy, who just happens to have a very interesting story and is the founder of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies in Canada. Dr. Nandy holds a Doctorate in Media from Curtin University in Western Australia, a Masters on Communication and Culture from York University in Toronto and is a certified Broadcast Journalist. Her research and writing focus on celebrity culture, shifts in stardom, and intersection of cultural meanings of fame and social identity. Her work has been sponsored by international and national grants and awards in Canada and Australia.

Her international media relations and work led her to be featured with Global Television’s Anwar Knight and Allison Annesley on Daytime and prime-time show First Local on Rogers Television, CBC News, CTV’s Breaking News CP 24, OMNI TV, The Globe and Mail, ANOKHI Media, SNAP Downtown Toronto newspaper, Eternity Watch magazine, ATN Television Network, CINA 1650 AM, Rivaaj, Starbuzz Weekly, Cineblitz, Mississauga News, and J-Source in Canadian Journalism Foundation. Nandy has taught postgraduate and honors degree courses at University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Curtin University. She is the Founding Director of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) and Director of Communications at non-profit organization Nouveau iDEA (International Dimensions of Entertainment and Arts) with over 8,000 members and 80,000 online readers. She has spoken at many international conferences and her published writings on social and cultural issues inspire many readers.

Samita and I initially became acquainted on Facebook when she wrote to me. She was still studying in Western Australia and wrote to me about an organization called Nouveau iDEA, for which she is Director of Communications, because I’m a big supporter of the Arts.  I told her that my best friend had lived in WA for many years and she shared that her boyfriend lives in Kingston, Ontario where I live and she calls Kingston her second home when she’s not in Mississauga. Samita told me that she’d get in touch with me when she was back in Canada and she did. We met in person over a year ago and became fast friends. She is one of those people who actually walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to living her life with passion, integrity and spiritual purpose. She’s a truly lovely, intellectual and creative soul and I’d like to give her this opportunity to tell you about The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.

Dr. Nandy, please tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to pursue your particular course of studies.

Dr. Nandy: First of all, thank you for wanting to interview me for your Scully Love Promo blog.  A bit about myself: I am an academic, artist and activist.  Prior to joining university, I had a science background.  With a passionate interest and score of 86% in biology, I had the option to become a medical doctor. However, I preferred communication that brings social justice and change in representations of talent.  For me, media is a tool in communicating the change that I intend to see.  This intent and fearless determination led me to conduct my Doctoral research in media and celebrity studies.

What is the primary mission of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies? 

Dr. Nandy: The primary mission of The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies is to administer and facilitate teaching, training, research, creative productions and an international network of scholars in critical studies of media and celebrity culture. We are committed to developing courses, conferences, seminars, workshops, discussions, writing retreats, exhibits, and performances in open-access formats.  Since we aim to restore the Latin root celebrem in the etymology of the celebrity, we recognize its connotation of celebrating distinction and merit in both academic and non-academic career paths. 

What inspired you to create it?

Dr. Nandy: While I was conducting my Doctoral research, I saw the Dr Samita Nandy receives her PhDgrowing academic and public demand for knowledge of fame and its practices. Soon after my Doctorate, the Routledge journal Celebrity Studies in the UK and its inaugural conference in Australia offered a formal and honorable introduction to its study and practices including creative arts.  I always felt the compelling need to bridge gaps between higher education and arts that Celebrity Studies enable. I also felt the urgency to make research and creative practice available to the public in artistic spaces, and empower social change through knowledge communities.  There were a number of faculty members that were inspired to make a significant difference in the public sphere.  I took up the inspiration to apply theoretical perspectives and methodological concerns, and enable social change that academic teaching and research often seek.

Who are the people who would most likely benefit from affiliation with The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies?

Dr. Nandy:  Faculty, graduate students, and creative practitioners in academic and non-academic career paths will benefit from affiliation with the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies.

Are you presently looking for staff and/or volunteers for CMCS? 

Dr. Nandy: CMCS will appoint an educational outreach coordinator and social media manager to disseminate our growing content.  Apart from that, we are always open to interns who are determined to develop and contribute academic knowledge and professional skills.  We have qualified faculty members, post-doctorates and media professionals that can support the development with adequate supervision.

What exactly does a Fame Critic do?

CMCS LibraryDr. Nandy:  A Fame Critic is a critic and commentator on celebrities in higher education and media industry.  The function is similar to that of a film critic offering reviews, analysis, and evaluation of films but in this case, media representation of celebrities is examined.  For a Fame Critic, criticism does not mean negating a celebrity’s work.  Rather, the critic positions talented personalities within varied yet specific contexts of fame, thus adding intellectual and aesthetic value to media representations.  In tabloid journalism, talent and emotions of celebrities are often commodified and sold as standard objects of trade.  In this respect, gossips, scandals and rumors are common but overlook journeys and contexts that are central to creating and understanding celebrated artists.  Through written reviews, spoken words, and performing arts, the Fame Critic offers an empowered understanding and appreciation of celebrities as well as media that represent them.

Why do you think that Celebrity Studies deserves to be considered as an important course of study?

Dr. Nandy: Celebrity culture has a pervasive presence in society and effect on our lives. In tabloid journalism, images of celebrities represent what Richard Dyer calls a ‘success myth’.  It is based on lucky breaks, special talent, hard work and ordinariness.  The basis of this success is not complete.  The reality is that fame is a media construction that conceals the role of publicity and promotions, and is not inclusive.  From this perspective, a celebrity need not be talented.  Rather, as Daniel Boorstin asserts, “A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their wellknownness.”  Many talented people do not know of necessary tools, remain unknown, or limit themselves to future hopes and standards of fame.  In order to celebrate one’s path and shine as a star, it is important to carve out a niche talent and know necessary tools but, more importantly, to focus on the journey and its moments that unfold limitless possibilities of the talent.  Celebrity Studies is important because it focuses on the critical exploration of fame in historical and contemporary contexts.  It also demystifies the industrial and political processes of production, circulation, and distribution of talent. Since fame is a media construction, Celebrity Studies is indispensable to critical understanding of knowledge and practices of media.

Tell us about what you’ve most recently been working on.

Dr. Nandy:  On behalf of the Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies, I am developing courses, publications, and performances.  The performances are based on music composed by Australia’s Myles Wright (www.myleswright.com). The work has been an exciting part of the post-doctoral phase of my career.

What is your primary goal right now in terms of your career?

Dr. Nandy: Right now, my primary goal is to facilitate integration of teaching, research, and creative arts in academic and non-academic programs.

What can students learn from the courses that you’re currently developing and teaching?

Dr. Nandy: Students can learn theoretical perspectives, research methods, and practical tools that are essential to understanding media and celebrity culture.  Since I incorporate an element of performance in my courses, students are able to use an arts-based approach in their career as well as their personal journeys in developing talent.

What role does spirituality play in your writing, public speaking and course development?

Dr. Nandy: For me, spirituality is a shared non-physical relationship with self and others.  A unique creative self is rooted in one’s spirituality and is expressed through embodied practices.  In order to push material and social boundaries, it is necessary to explore and accommodate one’s spirituality in the act of creating.  In my writing, speaking, and course development, spirituality is often expressed as unconditional love, which I bear in my relation to self and others. 

You talk about unconditional love a lot in your writing. What does unconditional love mean to you?

Dr. Nandy:  There are two kinds of emotions: love and fear.  I choose love Dr Samita Nandyand yes, I often mention it – I am passionate about it!  For me, unconditional love is a commitment to care that is free from past and social conditions including sexism, ethnocentrism, speciesism, and class discrimination.  From this perspective, unconditional love starts with self and ends with non-judgmental recognition of others.  If we question a practice, it should be about the conditions of society and not victims of the conditions.  Unconditional love is not meant to be perfect but rather a progression that includes taking one step at a time.  I believe that unconditional love is one of our highest talents that are not taught for the privilege of few. Yet it is easy and empowering once explored.  When we release ourselves from conditions, our creative core is free to recognize its distinctive path and shine as a star, which is the underlying message of all my work.

What is Nouveau iDEA all about and how can people get involved?

Dr. Nandy: Founded by media personality Tushar Unadkat, Nouveau iDEA is a non-profit arts organization that offers an inclusive and motivational space for diverse artists.  I started working with Nouveau iDEA as the Director of Communications in 2004.  Currently, Nouveau iDEA supports independent artists by sharing and promoting their upcoming work through our regular newsletters and posts.  The best way people can get involved in it is by joining the Nouveau iDEA groups on Yahoo and Facebook.  In the near future, we will be holding public events where artists can meet and share information in person.

Tell us about your favourite form of creative expression.

Dr. Nandy: I would say performance.  Writing is an embodied act and I find it fascinating to extend it into performances!  I am particularly interested in contemporary dance that offers living examples of change in intimate spaces as well as on stage or screen. 

Who are you most interested in connecting with and how can they reach you?

I am always interested in connecting with individuals open to learning in both academic and non-academic careers.  I can be reached at info@cmc-centre.com.

Thank you very much Dr. Nandy for your thoughtful and insightful answers to my questions. It is always such a pleasure to have a conversation with you and I hope that my readers will find not only information but inspiration in this interview that will resonate with them and inspire them to look at fame and the study of celebrity culture in a different way.

The Ledge: A Suspense Thriller With A Riveting Narrative That Should Not Be Missed!

DVD REVIEW
Title: The Ledge
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Director: Matthew Chapman
Principle Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Patrick Wilson, Terrence Howard, Liv Tyler
Length: 101 minutes
Released: September 27, 2011
Stars: 4.5

I rented The Ledge based entirely on its cast, without ever reading the plot synopsis on the back cover of the DVD.  This is one of those magical times when the movie you pick without much thought turns out to be one that you can’t stop thinking about.

The Ledge is a truly compelling dramatic suspense thriller (filmed in Baton Rouge, LA) that explores love, pain, human relationships and the complexities of our religious and spiritual beliefs.  It’s not a popcorn movie.  It’s deep, provocative, and explores faith in a very original way by both attacking and condoning religious beliefs.

The movie opens with a man talking to a doctor about his state of fertility and then quickly cuts to a younger man (Charlie Hunnam of Queer As Folk & Sons of Anarchy) walking along the roof of a very tall building, out onto a ledge, and it appears that he is about to jump.  We soon realize that he doesn’t want to jump but is being forced to and over the course of the next 95 minutes (which unfolds in real time), we find out why.  How did he get there?  If he doesn’t jump, someone else is going to die.  Why?  Who is it?  An interesting premise…

At the same time, there’s a cop (Terrence Howard of The Brave One, Hustle & Flow and is also a musician) who is sent to the scene to negotiate and try to talk the guy out of jumping.  We discover that he’s dealing with his own extraordinary personal situation and that both of the men are struggling with faith.  In fact, all of the characters in this film are faced with circumstances that force them to look at faith; either their belief or disbelief.  But this is not a preachy movie and you care about every person in the story.

Written and directed by Matthew Chapman, The Ledge took quite a few years to get made, but Charlie Hunnam knew he had to play Gavin Nichols from the time he read the script, four years before he started filming.  After watching the performances given by Hunnam and Patrick Wilson, I have a renewed commitment to watch them in Sons of Anarchy and A Gifted Man.

The Ledge is a refreshing far cry from today’s Hollywood mainstream film fare.  This is exceptional storytelling with a brilliantly written script that was brought to life by a cast of passionate and seriously gifted actors.  The lead role of Gavin is flawlessly portrayed by the remarkably intelligent and charismatic Hunnam while his nemesis, Christian fundamentalist, Joe Harris, is also played to perfection by the astounding Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Little Children).  Their common love interest, Shana, is created with complete honesty and emotional depth by the exquisite Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) who can express more with just her face than most actresses of her generation.  Christopher Gorham (Harper’s Island, Ugly Betty) lends grace to the supporting role of Gavin’s HIV positive, gay roommate, Chris.  Finally, and no less important or impressive is the role of Detective Hollis Lucetti, played by the divine Terrence Howard (who co-executive produced the film), who so completely made me believe in his character’s emotions and predicament that I felt physically ill at the end of the movie.  I was so moved, I felt as if I’d had the wind knocked out of me while tears trickled down my face.

It isn’t often that I’m so surprised and motivated to write a review about a movie rental, but I could not let this one go back to Classic Video without telling my network about how excellent I think it is.  I watched Terrence Malick’s Oscar-nominated visual feast, The Tree of Life, the night before and although I admired the beauty of his filmmaking, I was left feeling somewhat confounded by the storyline.  That isn’t the case with The Ledge.  It’s a return to classic filmmaking in the sense that it doesn’t rely on any of the trappings of modern movies.  There are no special effects, explosions, or super heroes trying to save an unrealistic world.  The Ledge is simply a spellbinding story, impeccably conveyed by its director and actors.  After watching the film and some of the interviews featured in the extras on the DVD, I wanted to watch it all over again and that does not happen very often.

The Ledge is sexy, romantic, suspenseful, philosophical and terrifying, and all of those components are seamlessly woven to create a really riveting narrative that should not be missed.

One Act Play Competition!


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BOTTLE TREE PRODUCTIONS

ONE ACT PLAY COMPETITION

For Writers

First Prize $1,000
Second Prize $250
Third Prize $100

One Act Plays of any length may be submitted to Bottle Tree Productions at 126 Wellington Street, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3C8

Phone: 613-542-0070 Email: info@bottletreeinc.com

or check out http://bottletreeinc.blogspot.com/

Please have your copy bound and if you wish it returned, please include a manuscript-sized SASE.

The entry fee for each submission is $25. Please make cheque payable to Bottle Tree Productions.

Multiple submissions accepted!

The competition runs until November 30th, 2009.

Winners will be announced in January of 2010.

If you want a critical analysis of your work, please enclose a cheque for $50 made payable to Bottle Tree Productions.

For more information about Bottle Tree Productions and its’ 2009 season, visit its’ official website at bottletreeinc.com.

Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman

Book Review
Title: Long Way Down
Authors: Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
Publisher: Sphere
Released: 2007
Pages: 352
ISBN-10: 1847440525
ISBN-13: 978-1847440525
Stars: 4.5

I’ve been a big fan of Scottish actor Ewan McGregor since first seeing him in the movie Shallow Grave in 1995 and discovered his best mate Charley Boorman, son of English film director, John Boorman, in the movie he made with Ewan (where they first met) called The Serpent’s Kiss (1997). Of course I didn’t know that the two men were best friends until I saw their television documentary series about their first motorcycle journey around the world together called Long Way Round on DVD. Being a motorcycle (although I admit I don’t ride but would like to learn) and travel lover, I was very excited by their 20,000 mile trip from London, England to New York City via Europe, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Alaska and Canada and became absolutely enchanted with the obvious love, humor, respect and camaraderie between these two incredibly gifted, spirited and adventurous motorcycle enthusiasts and UNICEF ambassadors.

When I heard that Charley and Ewan were going to film a second television series called Long Way Down about their almost 15,000 mile ride on May 12, 2007 from John O’Groat’s, Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa (in 85 days), I couldn’t wait to see it! It aired on the National Geographic channel earlier this year and sadly I don’t get the channel so I had to wait until I could get the DVD which I now have. I still can’t wait to see it because this time I decided to read the book, Long Way Down, first and then watch the DVD.

The book (and DVD), available through Chapters.Indigo.ca, is a very well written, extremely interesting and enthusiastic travel journal with Charley and Ewan taking turns sharing their impressions of and emotions about the various places they visited on their trip, including France, Italy, Sicily, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia (Ewan’s personal favourite), Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It also has 48 pages of beautiful colour photos which document many important moments along the way including their stop at the ancient city of Leptis Magna in Libya, the great pyramids in Alexandria, Egypt, meeting an Ethiopian man named Teslu who lost his leg when he stepped on a mine buried on his doorstep, reaching the Tropic of Capricorn and Ewan meeting a baby rhino named Lola.

We discover that Ewan is an animal lover who would love to have his own wildlife sanctuary but he doesn’t care for riding through sand and Charley, the stronger bike rider of the two (he rode the Dakar, don’t you know!), popped a wheelie at the border crossing into every new country they entered. Ewan’s wife Eve joined them in Malawi to ride with them for a week, much to Ewan’s delight, and Charley’s wife Ollie and his daughters Doone and Kinvara met them at the finish line in Cape Town along with Ewan’s parents and brother Colin. We also learn about their favourite charities and some of the people assisted by them who touched their hearts, as they stopped to visit and raise awareness for them along the way, including the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, Riders For Health and UNICEF.

An excerpt from the final chapter, A Motorcycle Diary, courtesy of Charley:

CHARLEY: On the outskirts we pulled over and draped the Scottish flag Ewan’s nephew had given us across the back of Ewan’s bike. I could hear him singing ‘O Flower of Scotland’ and then we were on the last leg, cruising through the streets to the Arabella Sheraton. I thought about a final wheelie but strangely perhaps I was more reflective. The enormity of what we’d been able to achieve began to sweep over me, brought home I think by the little bit of gravel we’d ridden to get to the very tip of the continent at Cape Agulhas. I was suddenly humbled, a little bit of dirt where we stood on the pegs and stuck our elbows out. I thought of the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, I thought of Zambia, Tanzania: all those gnarly, muddy, sandy, potholed roads. It occurred to me that ten years from now, five even, those roads would be gone, buried for all time under tarmac. The Africa Ewan and I had ridden through would be changed forever.

I defy anyone who loves travel, motorcycles and adventure to not utterly love this book, as well as the television series, and if you haven’t already fallen in love with the beautiful souls that are Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, you will! There are rumors of a possible Long Way Up series which their fans will wait for with anticipation and in the meantime, Charley has already filmed the hit BBC show By Any Means in which he travels by various modes of transport from Wicklow, Ireland to Sydney, Australia. Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor have changed the face of television travel documentaries forever!

YouTube brings you a 9½ minute preview of Long Way Down: