Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film is a long, chaotic, sometimes over-the-top read, with lots of interesting characters, soundbites and a glut of interviews. It’s the story of how the gritty, realistic view of indie film in the 1990s became a staple of a moviegoer’s diet. By Peter Biskind, the book chronicles how indie films cemented its place in our cultural consciousness and ripped the cover off the business of producing and promoting movies, exposing its seedy underbelly.
For a time, all I could think of during a movie was how many scenes got left on the cutting room floor, whose fault it really was if it turned out to be a steaming turd pile, and who had had to be wined and dined to actually get the film promoted. In the end, if Biskind is to be believed, indie film isn’t nearly as independent as it professes to be.
He shone the spotlight on a number of major movie players, including a non-confrontational, passive-aggressive Robert Redford – pilloried as an irresponsible diva – and Quentin Tarantino, who comes off as the world’s greatest attention seeker, but the limelight is grabbed straightaway by Harvey Weinstein, gigantic both in person and persona.
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Playboy wasn’t the biggest part of my adolescence because I’m a girl. Everyone knows Harlequin is girl porn, not Playboy magazine. I may not have owned the prerequisite well-thumbed copy with some pages suspiciously glued together, but I did get to sneak peeks here and there. Centrefolds, tits, strategic posing, sanitized sexuality, but sexuality all the same.
I wasn’t too familiar with Hefner the activist, the savvy editor, the guy who pushed for access to birth control and saved the Hollywood sign from being torn down. The Hef I’m familiar with is the kindly old man in The Girls Next Door, the one who had three pretty blonde girlfriends and was content to let them hog the spotlight while he worked on his scrapbooks. I liked that Hef. He seemed like the kind of guy who’d accomplished what he’d set out to do and was enjoying the fruits of his labour. Sure, having three girlfriends who weren’t just old enough to be his daughters but were also varying degrees of sameness (blonde, busty and tan) was … weird? Eccentric? Greedy? They were all consenting adults. His girlfriends seemed happy enough with their lot in life and certainly profited from it.
So Hugh Hefner has gone to the great big bunny ranch in the sky. Some think heaven to Hef is likely meaningless after all his time on earth. Some say he’s already gone through his allotment of seventy-two virgins and he didn’t even have to commit jihad to do it. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a great outpouring of sadness. Certainly not from me – not that I’m glad he’s dead or anything. I just feel like a guy who spent a third of his life in a bathrobe hosting crazy bacchanals in a giant mansion, sorting through a bevy of blonde girlfriends, can’t have missed very much in life.
The truth is, you will wake up and realize the old life you had, as you knew it, is gone. And the truth is, you will want it back. You will want it back with all your heart, and it will hurt, because that is what loss feels like.
The truth is, even if you did find a way to go back, things are never going to be exactly as they were because you aren’t exactly the same person anymore. Neither are the people you left behind. There will be parts of you that you recognize, the core of you that makes you who you are, like your love of books, of adventure, of the absurd, and your ability to put things down and walk away for good. There will be parts of you that you will lay to rest, like your need to writhe unabashed under flashing lights with strangers, to stumble home with addled wits and equally addled friends. There will be parts of you that are new and surprising, like your increased capacity to compromise and the true extent of your caring. The truth is, the march of time is inexorable, and the change it brings is inevitable for you, and for everyone else you know.
The truth is, you will get tired. Of each other. Of the sameness. Of the monotony. You won’t always like the same things, and want to do everything together because the truth is, sometimes sharing space – your space – with another human being gets claustrophobic.
Put to rest what you thought of me While I clean this slate With the hands of uncertainty So let mercy come and wash away What I’ve done
– What I’ve Done Linkin Park, Minutes to Midnight
Today’s post is brought to you by the untimely death of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Untimely for all of us maybe, but timely to him. I’ve seen a dozen thinkpieces pop up over the past two days since word spread that he’d hung himself on Chris Cornell’s birthday. Most people reacted with shock, anger, and sadness. Mine was surprise, but I wasn’t as surprised as I thought I would be. Anyone familiar with his work was aware, at least on a subconscious level, that this was a guy who had inner demons he dealt with every day. He sang about endings as beginnings, about sunsets over sunrise, about being numb, about things that rippled under his skin begging to be set free.
Fairy tales are stories we tell children for the sake of their self preservation. Hansel and Gretel is a cautionary tale – adults can be awful, always leave a trail for your parents to follow and respect people’s homes. Jack and the Beanstalk is another – the family cow is important, ensure you get the proper return for your investment, stealing is lucrative and so is upper body strength. Rapunzel is about freeing yourself and the power of true love, Puss in Boots is about dressing for success and harnessing the power of hubris. They’re not always lessons on how to be a good person, but they are almost always about survival, because life will always have monsters. Evil witches in houses made of candy drops and gingerbread still exist, only these days they’re seemingly harmless gentlemen in windowless white vans, handing out candies to children.
Quite a few of them live online, like the Nigerian Prince, a vampire who uses e-mail to promise a substantial cut of his money in exchange for helping him move it out of the country. It will of course involve a very small fee, and anyone who falls for it eventually keeps paying all these small fees, waiting for the big pay-off, getting drained of their life savings in the process. Imposters love e-mail. A number of them use it to claim your Apple/Paypal/Netflix account is inactive, leading you down a path that eventually ends in forking over sensitive information like your birthdate, the high school you went to and your mother’s maiden name, before you realize you don’t even have an Apple account. These fishermen – phishers, because we’re stylish – lay your life wide open for identity theft and before you know it someone is spending vast amounts of money in your name and your credit rating is shot to hell along with your dreams of owning a car and a decent home.
Some people hate the Trump administration so much, they say they’ll move to Canada. It’s not hard to do, a drunken group of American revellers once floated down to Canada by mistake. At last year’s annual Port Huron Float Down, the winds were so strong it pushed partiers down the St. Clair river, stranding them in Canadian waters without documentation, prompting the Coast Guard to come to their rescue.
America’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is getting a number of people hot under the collar. Not that millions are fleeing in droves, but there’s certainly been an uptick in illegal immigrants crossing over the US border into Canada on foot. It’s not as easy as floating down a river by mistake, and no one will gun you down the way they do down Mexico way, but it can still be hazardous to one’s health. In Northern Minnesota, Mavis Otutseye, a Ghanaian woman, was found frozen to death in a field half a mile away from a Canadian border town. Authorities believe she may have been trying to cross over illegally. When they learned she had plans to visit her daughter in Toronto who’d just given birth, it became the biggest human interest story of the week, and the finger pointing began. Death does that.
This makes me envision a younger, slimmer, version of myself running down an endless beach in euphoric slow motion, scarf trailing in the gentle breeze. Because emotions. And sweet, sweet innocence. I have days when I can hardly remember what it was like to be free from care, and this piece just slammed into all my feelings.