Thursday, March 12, 2015

LIZ SMITH: Dennis Hopper's Final Act ...

The cast of “The Last Film Festival" means business.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
by Liz Smith

At Long Last — Will Dennis Hopper's Final Film Be Completed? ... Madonna: She was Living in "HeartBreak City" but she's an "Unapologetic Bitch" now ... Honoring Doris Day — Why the Academy Behaves So Foolishly.

“PEOPLE HAVE said to me, ‘Why are you bothering? Dennis Hopper has been dead five years. Why go on trying to finish this movie? And I say, ‘What? — should we not try to preserve the films of Bogart or Garbo because they’re dead? Should we stop reading Shakespeare because he’s dead?

“Come on, Dennis Hopper was an icon and innovator within indie filmmaking. He deserves every effort I can make.”
That’s director/producer/writer Linda Yellen. Five years ago she directed Dennis Hopper in his final film performance, the aptly, eerily titled comedy, “The Last Film Festival.” The movie was just a few scenes short of completion when Dennis became ill and died shortly after.

(How far this giant talent had traveled from the moon-faced boy of “Giant,” playing Elizabeth Taylor’s son! Taylor and Hopper were approximately the same age, 24, but La Liz was made to look older as the Texas matriarch, in the second half of the movie.)
Dennis Hopper as Jordy in "Giant."
LINDA Yellen’s “The Last Film Festival” chronicles a lot of frantic, fading show biz types attending an ineptly organized film festival in the boondocks of middle-America. It also stars JoBeth Williams, Chris Kattan, Leelee Sobieski, Katrina Bowden, Joseph Cross, Donnell Rawlings and in the most surprising, amusing performance of her career, the beautiful, talented, Jacqueline Bisset, equipped with a wild Italian accent!

Linda, who has produced or directed twenty six films, and collected Peabody Awards, Emmys, and other honors, has tried, in between other projects, to complete “The Last Film Festival.”
Linda goes over Dennis' lines.
Now, Linda is making one more valiant effort, with the help of 21st century technology. She hopes the final funding — about $90,000 — will come via Kickstarter, the global fundraising platform whose mission is to help start — or in this case complete — creative projects. It has been extremely successful so far. Time magazine honored Kickstarter as one the “Best Inventions of 2010.” Kickstarter is the Internet version of becoming something of a patron of the arts, or a Broadway “angel.” Ordinary people can “own” a little part of the projects, get some credit, be in on the ground floor, so to speak. (Sundance is also vitally interested in seeing this film completed.)
Hollywood bigwigs come into town.
Linda, Jackie Bisset and other cast members have filmed a video to encourage interested parties. Hopper, the star of “Easy Rider,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Blue Velvet,” Hoosiers” and dozens and dozens of other films, big and small, good and bad, feature or TV, made such an indelible impression, refining and re-defining his image during five decades of relentless work. He deserves the honor of having his last effort completed and released.

If you’re interested, go here. And do it now! Visibility and donations in the first few days are super-encouraging.
Jackie Bisset — She has admirers!
BY THE way, thinking of “The Last Film Festival” puts me in mind of the interview I had with Jackie Bisset after she finished her work in the movie. We met in a brightly lit, crowded Manhattan restaurant. I was early. When Bisset walked in — there was a long staircase, appropriate for a movie star entrance — the room went silent in admiration. We had a marvelous talk — I’ve known Jackie for years. At one point I noticed a neighboring table of young men, not one older than 23. They were transfixed.

“You have admirers!” I said to the star. “Oh, Liz, they don’t even know who I am!” I replied, “Even better. They just think you’re gorgeous.”

As we walked out of the restaurant, I complimented Jackie again on her wildly funny accent in the film. She responded by instantly going into character, and carrying on the end of our time together as a crazy Italian movie queen. One of the most hilarious moments I’ve spent with any actor!

More recently, we saw a literally stunned Jackie accept a Golden Globe for her performance in the cable miniseries “Dancing on the Edge.” They had her seated all the way in the back, and as she had not expected to win, she was somewhat flustered by the time she reached the podium. Social media had a fine time with her surprise, but that’s all it was.
Jacqueline Bisset and Dennis Hopper talk it over.
“THIS IS the part when I detach, each time they write a hateful word, dragging my soul into the dirt/I want to die, never admit how much it hurts.”

That’s Madonna, singing “Joan of Arc” on her album, “Rebel Heart.” The album has received some brilliant reviews, some bashes, some “so whats?” In short, the usual reaction to The Big M, ever since 1983. (For somebody who was “definitely going to be over” by 1986, she seems to have hung on admirably.)
She's not Joan of Arc ... not yet.
THERE are three, count ‘em, three versions of “Rebel Heart.” The regular, the deluxe and the super-deluxe. The super-deluxe has something like 25 songs.

I’m no great music critic, like longtime Madonna fan Jim Farber of the Daily News (He also scored a terrific interview with Madame.) I am also not a fan, or at least do not understand some of Madonna’s more out-there and outré offerings. That said, the “regular” version of “Rebel Heart” (which, oddly doesn’t even include that song) displays haunting aspects to the star’s view of her life. “Joan of Arc,” “Ghosttown,” “HeartBreak City” and “Wash All Over Me” are all beautifully sung, and reveal a vulnerable woman contemplating the vicissitudes of fame — perhaps even the fading of fame — and love within the confines of her super-celebrity. And, also, her own view of herself. Which of course, is not normal. So Madonna is writing/singing from a rarefied perspective — ego, victimization, love, lust, and betrayal writ large by fame.

She is amusingly bitter on “Unapologetic Bitch” a song that unforgivingly deconstructs the aftermath of her last affair: “I’ll admit it, when we did it, I wasn’t satisfied!”

(Madonna says she can’t date men her own age because they usually have children and responsibilities and cannot deal with her “crazy” life. Yet dating younger men doesn’t seem terribly satisfying, in the end, if we are to believe her music.) Actually this song, and “HeartBreak City” are 21st century versions of the kind of soulful/resentful material made most powerful by groups such as The Shangri-Las or even the late, great Lesley Gore.

There’s fun to be found in the Indian-tinged “Body Shop” and intensity in “Devil Pray” — no Madonna album can pass without religious references, one way or another. M’s early immersion in Catholicism is ever ripe for her reinventions.

As for the mass of other material — some of which is distractingly self-referential — the more musically informed will have to decide. What I know, what I can say, is that the best of “Rebel Heart” reveals the true beating, hurting, human heart of Madonna. When she takes off her crown, the queen aches just like any woman.

And that’s no opinion. I know the woman behind the image.
Sacheen Littlefeather accepting the Oscar for Marlon Brando in 1973.
I AM always after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to honor Doris Day. I am told they ask her, but won’t give the award unless she attends. Her representatives say she is simply not up to that.

In the past, haven’t they given the Academy Award to people who couldn’t or wouldn’t appear for some professional or personal reason? Yes! Marlon Brando (he sent Sacheen Littlefeather out, representing Native Americans) ... Sophia Loren (in Italy) ... Joan Crawford (in bed with a “cold” — actually just too scared) ... Elizabeth Taylor (for her “Virginia Woolf” Oscar, kept away from the ceremony by her co-nominee Richard Burton, who feared she would win, and he wouldn’t. She did, he didn’t.) There are many, many others.

Does the Academy want a repeat of the Mary Pickford debacle — presenting the Oscar when it was too late for her to know what was going on? Embarrassing for her and the audience. That great star deserved better. So does Miss Day.

And if DD doesn’t want to be filmed, fine. Send her the damn thing and give her a fabulous tribute on the telecast. A montage of Doris Day movies would be far more entertaining than most of what happens on the Oscar stage anyway.

Contact Liz Smith here.