Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Shot Andy Warhol

Year 9, Day 144 - 5/24/17 - Movie #2,639

BEFORE: "Factory Girl" is a bit of a dead-end, so I'm going to invoke the new 2017 rule that allows me to link between films when they share a character - so Andy Warhol carries over from "Factory Girl" as a character.  Here he's played by Jared Harris, who's known for appearing in the middle seasons of "Mad Men", a series I'm still working on finishing. 

Someone must have screwed up at AMC - I've been watching the show on Demand, they post 3 or 4 episodes every 2 weeks or so, and that's about the right rate for me, considering how many other things I'm watching.  But after posting Season 5, Episodes 4-6, when those were taken down, they were replaced with NOTHING.  What gives, AMC, are you going to tease me with the first 58 episodes of a series, and then cut me OFF?  But then this week new episodes got posted, and they were Season 5, episodes 10-13.  What happened to Episodes 7-9?  How am I supposed to move forward after skipping three episodes? 

Fortunately, I've got a back-up, which is to watch the shows through my wife's Netflix account.  (I could even watch them faster that way, but I've got too many other shows and movies to watch...)  And the other reason I don't like to use the Netflix is that films are just a little bit TOO available there, I could build a list of movies that are playing there that aren't on premium cable yet, but I don't want to go down that rabbit hole just yet.  Besides, I've already got a watchlist of 130 (still!) films that I already have on hand, plus a 2nd list of films that are airing that I want to DVR in the next 2 weeks, a 3rd list of recent films that haven't aired yet that I need to keep an eye out for, and a 4th list of films that I can watch by borrowing an Academy screener from the boss.  So I can't see how a 5th list of movies is going to help me out any, it's just going to make things even more complicated.  Right?

THE PLOT: Based on the true story of Valerie Solanas, who was a 60's radical preaching hatred of men in her manifesto.  She wrote a screenplay for a film that she wanted Andy Warhol to produce, but he continued to ignore her.

AFTER: I live in New York and ride the subway, so I think I know what crazy people look like - the ones talking to themselves, or to everyone and no one, saying the same things over and over.  We had an experience in February in Atlantic City where we sat next to a very sketchy guy in a restaurant in the Borgata, and we called him "Twitchy".  He kept saying things aloud, over and over, like "I have to leave in 5 minutes" and "Where are my smokes?" and just generally not making much sense.

The problem here is, it's hard to distinguish the portrayal of a similarly crazy character from that of an actor who hasn't been given enough of a script to fill up her screen time, so she's asked to improv and instead keeps falling back on the few lines that were given to her, over and over.  So I can't tell if this is a "good" performance or not, if it's authentic to the craziness of the real Valerie Solanas, or if not enough was known about her, just a few fragments of speech or quotes from her writing, and the actress was told to just roll with those.

Every time she comes into contact with Andy Warhol, it's the same things discussed, "Did you read my screenplay?"  "Can I have that copy back?" and "When are you going to produce my film, Andy?" and I guess I'm leaning toward "crazy" over "improvised", because you can sort of connect the dots where a crazy person, who keeps getting stuck in these circular arguments, would eventually allow the dialogue to devolve into "That son of a bitch, he won't read my screenplay, and he won't give that copy back, and worse, he's never going to produce my film!"  Well, Valerie, what would make you happy, because if he gives you the screenplay back, then he can't really read it, and he's certainly not going to be able to produce it without keeping a copy.

Eventually Valerie finds a publisher for her "manifesto" (after explaining to other characters, and the home audience, what "S.C.U.M." stands for, about 10,000 times) and then she hits the next bugaboo, signing the contract with the publisher.  So it turns into, "That son of a bitch, keeping 10% of the royalties for himself, and paying for the publicity costs out of the gross sales, how dare he!"  There's already a certain amount of madness and futility involved in contract language and distribution rights, and from what I've seen at my jobs, it can be enough to drive a creative person insane.  So this sort of rings true to me. 

At the animation studio where I work, we've kept a file of the crazy e-mails we've received over the years.  (Our last studio address was the former home of a porn magazine publisher, so we also got a lot of weird mail from incarcerated men, but that's another story...)  We used to get long, rambling e-mails from a woman in France who was convinced that the presidents of France and the U.S. were tapping into her brain via various satellites, and that she'd been forced to have children with various notable animators, and then made to forget about those children.  Reading them aloud was always a weird mix of comedy and tragedy...

If felt like the film kept repeating itself, as if it were afraid to stray off too far in any one direction.  Why not get more into the films that the Factory DID produce, or Warhol's activities when he wasn't eating dinner or being interviewed.  Nope, it feels like someone felt that any of that would distract from Valerie's story, so let's just show her saying and doing the same things over and over, really drive those points home.

Plus, most of the Warhol entourage members and hangers-on, like Ultra Violet and Rotten Rita, are seen only briefly, so I never felt like I got to know any of them, let alone Warhol himself, who still remains something of an enigma.  The exception to this may be Candy Darling, the transgender actress who was famously mentioned in the Lou Reed song "Walk on the Wild Side".  ("Candy came from out on the the back room, she was everybody's darling.")  I was reading recently how this song is being banned in Canada for being "trans-phobic", which is flat-out ridiculous.  If anything, Lou Reed appreciated the new sexual lifestyles of the 1960's and supported trans-gender people whenever possible.  And now the song is banned, just because it talks about transgender people shaving their legs and giving head?  Great, the one song (except maybe for "Lola") that championed the trans-gender cause, and it gets labeled "trans-phobic"?  There's no sense to that.

Starring Lili Taylor (last seen in "Mystic Pizza"), Jared Harris (last seen in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."), Stephen Dorff (last seen in "Immortals"), Martha Plimpton (last seen in "Another Woman"), Lothaire Bluteau, Justin Theroux (last seen in "Zoolander 2"), Anna Levine, Peter Friedman (last seen in "Someone Like You"), Tahnee Welch (last seen in "Cocoon: The Return"), Jamie Harrold, Donovan Leitch Jr., Michael Imperioli (last seen in "The Call"), Reg Rogers, Bill Sage, Jill Hennessy (last seen in "Robocop 3"), Coco McPherson, Myriam Cyr, Lorraine Farris, Craig Chester, Victor Browne, Billy Erb, Anh Duong, with cameos from Mark Margolis (last seen in "Noah"), John Ventimiglia (last seen in "Money Monster")

RATING: 3 out of 10 mylar balloons

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