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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

SIFF 2009 Dispatch: Ein! Zwei! Die!

I’ve caught a few films at SIFF that are “hold review” films, meaning although they may have played at earlier fests (and been reviewed from those fests) they now have distribution, so we can’t write full reviews on them at SIFF. I can, however, write briefly about them, so here’s a roundup of three of them.
In the Loop, the festival opener, is a sharp, funny political comedy that’s been called something akin to the love child of The West Wing and The Office. As the Brits and the Americans bicker over starting a war or stopping one, the political tug-of-war among the players keeps up a frenetic pace, with rapid-fire dialogue that’s often completely politically incorrect; insults are hurled back and forth like hand grenades so quickly it can be hard to keep up with it all through the laughter of the audience. James Gandolfini is particularly good as a peace-loving general, but all the players in In the Loop, including his, have alliances and hidden agendas, and the film is biting and often very funny (though when you mull over much of the plot after seeing it, and ponder how close to the truth it likely is, it’s actually kind of scary).

The Garden, nominated for an Oscar this year, is a doc about the fight to save a community garden in South Central Los Angeles. Constructed just after the Rodney King riots, the 14-acre garden, grown and nurtured from an abandoned patch of dirt by a group of dedicated, mostly Latino farmers, grew to become the largest urban farm in the United States — until the farmers showed up one day to an eviction notice.
The ensuing fight to save the garden is documented in the film, but what’s also documented are the myriad facets of politics, greed and racism that all played a part in the battle. The Jewish legal owner of the property is painted here as anything but a mensch, the city councilwoman is shown to be up to her elbows in back-room deals, and, perhaps most surprisingly, the racial tension between black and Latino residents over which group controls South Central creates much of the drama. While the dialogue and pacing are very different from In the Loop, both films show the ugly underbelly of politics; The Garden, though, shows more how the lives of the people with the least political power are affected by those who wield it.
Dead Snow, aka “the Nazi-zombie flick,” isn’t the best zombie film ever made, but it does have the benefits of having a herd of well-organized undead Nazis marshalled by their evil commander, some attractive Norwegian victims, an opening scene set amusingly to “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and perhaps the best tagline ever (“Ein, Zwei, Die!”). Writing-wise, it’s very self-aware of the stereotypes of horror films in a way that’s a bit reminiscent of Scream, and some of the special effects are over-the-top, but it’s all campy good zombie fun. I expect Dead Snow plays better as I saw it — in a dark theater packed with eager horror fans — than at home on DVD, so when it comes to your neck of the woods, try to catch it that way, preferably with a group of attractive victims, er, friends. And look out for any zombie Nazis who might be lurking in the shadows as you walk to your car.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon