ISSUE 07 / JANUARY 2014

“IN LOVE WITH HER ”

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

CONTENTS
Should Auld Editor’s Letters Be Forgot
THE MOVIES A Brief History Of Britney Spears Alan Turing: The Father Of Ai The Auteur Of Alone Introducing The Alamo 100 The Hidden Gems Of Monty Python And The Holy Grail The Search For Jake Ryan
Spike Jonze, Jackass: How One Man Can Make Beautiful Movies And Stupid Tv Shows

Life Imitating Art: Terry Gilliam And Brazil

Editor-in-Chief
Devin Faraci

Managing Editor
Meredith Borders Henri Mazza

Associate Publisher Art Director
Joseph A. Ziemba

Graphic Designers
Cara Jackson, Stephen Sosa

Copy Editor
George Bragdon

Contributing Writers
Brandy Fons | brandy@fonspr.com

Greg MacLennan, Sarah Pitre, Ray Wagner, Jordan Hoffman, Joseph A. Ziemba

Public Relations Inquiries
All content © 2013 Alamo Drafthouse
drafthouse.com badassdigest.com birthmoviesdeath.com drafthousefilms.com fantasticfest.com mondotees.com

INTERACTIVE SCREENINGS & PARTIES
COMING SOON TO THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE
BRITNEY SPEARS TRIBUTE PARTY
SHE HIT US, BABY, ONE MORE TIME, AND THAT WAS WHEN SHE WAS NOT YET A WOMAN. THIS MONTH WE’RE CELEBRATING THE ORIGINAL POP PRINCESS WITH AN ENTIRE NIGHT DEDICATED TO BRITNEY, BITCH!

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK QUOTE-ALONG

WHIP-AND-SHOOT-ALONG WITH THE ONE AND ONLY INDIANA JONES IN THIS DEBUT PRESENTATION OF OUR MOST EPIC QUOTE-ALONG PARTY YET! FEATURING GIANT BOULDERS IN THE THEATER AND FREE FEDORAS FOR EVERYONE!

STAND UP AND DO THE TRUFFLE SHUFFLE, WEAR AN EYE PATCH JUST LIKE ONE-EYED WILLIE’S, AND ENJOY A FREE BABY RUTH WHILE QUOTING ALONG WITH ALL OF YOUR FAVORITE LINES. GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!

THE GOONIES QUOTE-ALONG

BY FAR THE SINGLE MOST QUOTABLE MOVIE OF ALL TIME. JOIN US FOR THIS ENCORE PRESENTATION FEATURING FREE COCONUT HALVES SO EVERYONE CAN GALLOP ALONG WITH KING ARTHUR AND HIS BRAVE KNIGHTS!

MONTY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL QUOTE-ALONG

For Tickets & Showtimes Check Out Drafthouse.com Interact With The Action Pack Online: @TheActionPack | Facebook.com/ActionPackEnt

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Should Auld Editor’s Letters Be Forgot
DEVIN FARACI Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

New Year’s resolutions? Let’s leave the resolutions to the irresolute; here at BIRTH. MOVIES. DEATH. we’re just going to keep on truckin’ with another issue of great content about great movies. Also, Drafthouse queso and beer are like kryptonite to the most wellmeaning resolution… This month we’re proud to introduce the Alamo 100, a screening series that spotlights what we think are the best movies ever made. And since this list was compiled by the Alamo Drafthouse programming team, you can expect it to feature some titles that wouldn’t make your average hoity-toity list, like this month’s SIXTEEN CANDLES. Speaking of SIXTEEN CANDLES, this issue features our intrepid search for the true Jake Ryan. And in more truthful truthiness, we examine the man who brought us the concept of AI, Alan Turing. Why, you ask, are we talking about AI? Because this month’s Drafthouse Selects title -- the new release movie we really, really think you should see -- is Spike Jonze’s HER, a movie that has the editorial staff murmuring ‘masterpiece.’ HER is Jonze’s fourth film, and when you think of him you think of playful art movies and classic music videos. But he’s also one of the creators of JACKASS, the ultimate dumb gross-out comedy franchise, and this month we look into how one guy can be both things. We also look at what all of Jonze’s features have in common: loneliness. He isn’t the only great auteur we have this month: you can read about Terry Gilliam’s battle with the studio to bring his vision of BRAZIL to light. And for something completely different and yet

still Gilliam-related, we look at some of the best under the radar jokes in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, a movie with so many jokes it’ll take you years to count ‘em all. But wait! There’s more! There’s Britney Spears in these pages! RAGING BULL! RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK! Hell, let’s do a resolution: BIRTH. MOVIES. DEATH. hereby resolves to keep bringing you smart, fun articles about movies throughout 2014. I think we can keep that resolution. 6

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Screening In January At The Alamo Drafthouse
Inspired by the upcoming release of “HER”, the Alamo Drafthouse programming team presents a month of screenings on the theme of “Artificial Intelligence and Organic Love.” For tickets, showtimes, formats, and a full list of titles, visit drafthouse.com.
BRAZIL Dir: Terry Gilliam,1985, R, 132 min
BUY TICKETS

the most famous final shots in the history of movies. Prior to CITY LIGHTS, Chaplin’s goal was to make people laugh. Just like Buster Keaton. Just like Laurel & Hardy. Just like Hal Roach and Mack Sennett and everybody working in motion picture comedy. But with this movie, the straight-forward slapstick of Chaplin’s earlier two-reelers (ONE A.M., BEHIND THE SCREEN) was balanced with something else. Something that his feature films like THE KID and THE GOLD RUSH had only hinted at -- genuine emotion. This was Chaplin’s creative breakthrough, his realization that movies could be utilized for more than kicks-to-the-pants and pie fights. With over a decade of technical precision under his belt, Chaplin created a warm, hilarious and beautiful non-maudlin romantic comedy that changed the world. To this day, CITY LIGHTS continues to change the world, simply because it makes people happy. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. (Joseph A. Ziemba) THE GOONIES Dir: Richard Donner, 1985, PG, 114 min
BUY TICKETS

A bureaucrat in an Orwellian, retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and in doing so becomes an enemy of the state. Orwell, Huxley, Kafka and Einstein are all touchstones of this darkly humorous, wildly imaginative, satirical master-stroke of Terry Gilliam’s career. Diving deep into the twisted recesses of his mind, Terry Gilliam crafts one of the most haunting versions of the future ever put to screen. Featuring an all-star cast of Jonathan Price, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Robert DeNiro and Bob Hoskins, BRAZIL is the perfect storm of lunacy and social commentary. It’s a 1984 FOR 1984. It’s about flights of fantasy and the nightmare of reality. Terrorist bombings and late night shopping. True Love and creative plumbing. (Greg MacLennan) CITY LIGHTS Dir: Charlie Chaplin, 1931, Passed, 87 min
BUY TICKETS

People go to the movies because they want to feel happy. No one understood this fact more than Charlie Chaplin. And it was never more perfectly realized than CITY LIGHTS. After awakening from a good night’s sleep on a city statue, the destitute Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets a beautiful, blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) and buys a flower. Hours later, the Tramp prevents the suicide of a millionaire (Harry Myers) on the waterfront. Salvation! Celebration! Intoxication! After a night of drunken chaos, the Tramp wakes up in the millionaire’s house and asks his new pal for money. Feeling pity for the flower girl, the Tramp uses his newfound “wealth” to buy all of her flowers, then drive her home in the millionaire’s Rolls-Royce. From there, CITY LIGHTS gracefully unfolds with misunderstandings, burglaries, jail sentences, a very unlikely boxing match and one of
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

It’s easy to put a bunch of kids in front of a camera, expose some film and call it a movie. But it’s not easy to make a timeless celebration of friendship, adventure and THE TRUFFLE SHUFFLE and call it THE GOONIES. Mikey (Sean Astin), Brand (Josh Brolin), Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Corey Feldman), and Data (Ke Huy Quan) are The Goonies. And they have a problem. Their families face eviction at the hands of some rich white guys who want to turn their neighborhood into a golf course. But the discovery of a treasure map belonging to a pirate named One-Eyed Willy could ensure that “the Goondocks” never go away. At the same time, a family of killers named The Fratellis bust out of the clink. After a run-in with The Goonies, The Fratellis kidnap Chunk and force him to hang out with Sloth, a half-man, half-beast who enjoys watching Errol Flynn movies and eating Baby Ruth candy bars. What

TABLE OF CONTENTS

all of this means is that One-Eyed Willy’s treasure is up for grabs. And Goonies never say die!! George Roy Hill’s THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964) and Don Coscarelli’s KENNY & COMPANY (1976) showed the world that movies about kids didn’t need to be stupid. Or pandering. Or maudlin. They just needed to be genuine. And fun. They needed to capture what it feels like to be twelve-years-old -- every moment a jumping-off point for something bigger, filled with discovery and unstoppable invincibility. Since most adults are idiots, this is not an easy task. But like Hill and Coscarelli before them, director Richard Donner and scriptwriters Steven Spielberg and Christopher Columbus captured something special. THE GOONIES is a near-perfect snapshot of what it feels like to be a kid caught in a fantastic situation. But it’s also near-perfect entertainment for everyone else. From the hilarious and quotable exchanges (“I’m setting booty traps!”) to the positive reinforcement of how triumphant life can be when you have great friends, this is the definition of a “feel good” movie. Whether you’re 78 or 11, whether you’ve watched it four-hundred-and-fifty-two times or you’re seeing it for the first time, THE GOONIES never changes. It never degrades. It remains a smart, thrilling volcano of adventure that makes the world a better place. It also has ghost pirates. Midway through the movie, The Goonies find themselves an underground tunnel that ends at the bottom of a wishing well. The well is their salvation. They could climb up and save themselves from the Fratellis. But in doing so, they’d forfeit Willy’s treasure. Mikey says: “Up there, it’s their time. It’s THEIR time up there. But down here, it’s our time. It’s OUR time down here.” That pretty much says it all. (Joseph A. Ziemba) RAGING BULL Dir: Martin Scorsese, 1980, R, 129 min
BUY TICKETS

that the film is as equally entertaining as it is a gutwrenching triumph. Filmed in beautiful black-and-white and housing the greatest performance of Robert De Niro’s career, RAGING BULL is a quintessential cinematic achievement. (R.J. LaForce)

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Dir: Steven Spielberg, 1981, PG 115
BUY TICKETS

Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan blasted onto the scene in 1981 and declared the return of great adventure. Nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture, INDIANA JONES instantly became one of the greatest films of all time. For nearly 3,000 years man has searched for the lost Ark of the Covenant. No one knows its secrets and it is protected by forces beyond your imagination. It is desired above all things by both good and evil men. An army with the Ark in its possession would be rendered unstoppable... that is unless someone else finds it first. Harrison Ford IS Indiana Jones in this Nazi-bashing romp around the globe on a race to find the lost Ark of the Covenant. White-knuckle action and sly humor created a masterpiece of cinema for the ages, for all ages. (Greg MacLennan) SIXTEEN CANDLES Dir: John Hughes, 1984, R, 93 min
BUY TICKETS

It’s been 30-plus years since Martin Scorsese’s landmark masterpiece was released, yet it has lost none of the raw power and emotion that made it an American classic. A brutal, and brutally honest, look at the life of boxer Jake La Motta, a heavyweight champion who doesn’t let the ring bottle up his fiery rage. Focusing on his life outside of the sport, including the close relationship with his equally hotheaded brother and his tumultuous marriage, Scorsese presents a portrait of a broken man who slowly deteriorates the love around him. Slowly falling from grace, both as a fighter and a man, La Motta’s story is a tragic one, which makes the fact

I’m pretty sure that John Hughes is responsible for my survival of high school. Beneath the comic exaggerations and sweet romanticism, the ordinary geeks in his films all gave me the same life-changing advice: “Prepare for the worst, but don’t stop hoping for the best.” And no character

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

exemplifies this wisdom better than Samantha Baker in SIXTEEN CANDLES. Whenever I had a particularly rough day in school, or an extremely awkward encounter with my unrequited crush, I always reminded myself that Samantha had it worse. Like, did a freshman guy ever try to dance with me while spastically yelling, “Very hot! Very hot!” Um, no. Did my entire family ever forget my birthday? No way! Did my grandmother ever feel me up? HECK NO. Samantha, on the other hand, endured all of that crap (and more!) and she STILL got to kiss the hottest senior over a tasty birthday cake in a super posh house. And that’s the magic of SIXTEEN CANDLES. With

moments that make us cringe in recognition, it’s a story rooted in adolescent authenticity, but in the midst of that reality, it offers us the dream that our wishes could actually come true. This film, which easily made my Top 10 in the Alamo 100, educated me as a teen while also inspiring me. Even now, many years after my own sweet sixteen, I still relate to Samantha Baker, who faced high school’s mundane struggles and still never stopped hoping for her happy ending. In celebration of those tiny (yet monumental) teenage triumphs over adversity and awkwardness, I invite you to join me for Girlie Night, where we’ll pass sex test notes, stare obsessively at Jake Ryan and toast to the wonderful legacy of John Hughes. (Sarah Pitre) 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / NOVEMBER 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A Brief History Of Britney Spears
HENRI MAZZA Alamo Drafthouse Media Director @henrimazza Read more at badassdigest.com

This month the Action Pack DJs are celebrating the return of Britney with a whole night of music videos and dance parties at every Alamo Drafthouse in the country. In honor of this achievement, undoubtedly the pinnacle of her career, we present this brief look back on where she’s been and what it took to get her into this storied realm of Action Pack parties. DECEMBER 2, 1981 Britney Jean Spears is born in Kentwood, Louisiana, an incredibly tiny rural town on the border of Mississippi. Once known as the Dairy Capital of the South, that all stopped in the 1970s when the dairy farm in the city shut down forever. It took them a few years after that to cancel their annual dairy parade, but by the time Britney was born it was just a place that didn’t do much of anything. 1984 Britney is three years old, and she starts taking dance lessons. Because preschool is for suckers. 1986 Her school throws a big graduation ceremony when her class finishes the demanding work of kindergarten, and Britney performs by singing “What Child Is This” to all attendees. Sources can neither confirm nor deny that she was literally asking about who she was when she was singing that song, but echoes of that theme would come up again and again in her music. 1990 At the tender age of 8-years-old, Britney goes to Atlanta to audition for the Mickey Mouse Club. The good people at Disney tell her that she is too young, so she goes to New York to take classes at the Professional Performing Arts Center, because elementary school is for suckers. 1991 Britney gets a role in the off-Broadway production of RUTHLESS! When she leaves, Natalie Portman takes her
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

spot. Natalie has since said that as soon as Britney leaves the pop princess stage she is interested in taking her role there as well, but in the meantime she bides her time by acting in major motion pictures. 1992 At 10-years-old, she competes on STAR SEARCH. She wins the first round, but loses in the second round. Years later Ed McMahon kicked himself for being stupid enough to allow the biggest pop star of his era out of his grasp. 1993 Britney finally gets to live out her dream when she is accepted into the Mickey Mouse Club. Among her peers in that class are a series of other performers who would continue to make a name for themselves as adults, including Nikki DeLoach (HOLLYWOO, LOVE & OTHER DRUGS), Tate Lynch (AMERICAN IDOL SEASON 3, not a winner), and T.J. Fantini (DRIVE IN, CHILD STAR CONFIDENTIAL). Also some dudes named Justin and Ryan, but whatever. 1995 THE NEW MICKEY MOUSE CLUB becomes THAT OTHER OLD MICKEY MOUSE CLUB after it’s canceled. Britney goes home to Kentwood and can’t stand how stupid and boring high school is, because she knows it’s for suckers. She starts a girl group with former Mousketeer Nikki DeLoach and names it Innosense. This is clearly a terrible idea. 1998 Britney leaves Nikki and the girls of Innosense behind to sign with Jive Records. She records ...BABY ONE MORE TIME in Sweden, then when she comes back to the U.S. she does a tour of malls, because those still existed then and Tiffany had made that kind of tour look super cool in her video for “I Think We’re Alone Now.” After that she went on her first real concert tour, as the

TABLE OF CONTENTS

opening act for N’SYNC. 1999 The music video for “…Baby One More Time” is released, and the image of Britney as a Catholic school girl who just has to dance and show off her belly button helps the album rocket to number one. Justin Timberlake is all, “Heyyyyyyy…” and winks at her a lot. 2000 Britney makes another album, and is once again smart enough to include ellipsis in the title, with OOPS!… I DID IT AGAIN because she knows grammar police are her number one fans. Justin was all, “Hey, girl, I said, ‘Heeeyyyyyyyy’” again, and this time Britney gets all, “You look cute.” They start dating and move in together. BUT THEY NEVER EVER HAVE SEX. According to what they tell the press. 2001 She returns to the VMAs and carries a snake on stage. PETA is super pissed. Later that year she and boyfriend JT show up at another awards show wearing all denim outfits, and the fashion police arrest them forever. 2002 Justin and Britney break up, and teens everywhere are super excited because they know that this means soon THEY will get to date one of the biggest pop stars ever. Britney makes the movie CROSSROADS, and the world wonders why Dan Aykroyd would stoop to appearing in such drivel. But that scene where she almost has sex with the Mac from the old Are You a Mac or a PC? commercials is kind of awesome, mainly because she’s in her underwear and you totally understand how completely devastated

Justin Long’s character must be in that moment. 2003 Madonna and Britney make out on stage at the VMAs, and Madonna takes the opportunity to suck a tiny piece of Britney’s soul out of her mouth in order to help herself stay young for another five years. Madonna also curses Britney in this moment because she has voodoo powers and she is jealous that everyone is buying Britney’s music instead of her own. Britney doesn’t know it yet, but this is a milestone in her career.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

2004 Britney marries her childhood friend Jason Alexander, who is not in SEINFELD at all, in a rushed ceremony in Las Vegas, because she is now crazy after Madonna cursed her. She divorced Jason 55 hours later, but she continued hanging around Madonna and doing Kabbalah with her, which Madge used to make sure her power over poor Britney kept going strong. Later that year she announced that she was engaged to her dancer Kevin Federline, and no girls anywhere said, “Oh, well that makes sense because he seems totally hot enough for you, Britney.” Then the two of them were featured in a reality show called BRITNEY & KEVIN: CHAOTIC and the whole world could see the damage Madonna did when she sucked out her soul. 2005 Using the youth and vitality she stole from Britney that night at the VMAs, Madonna releases her new album, CONFESSIONS ON A DANCEFLOOR, which became her biggest worldwide hit to date. Britney doesn’t do much of anything except have a baby and hang out with K-Fed all the time. 2006 Britney drives around LA with her baby in her lap, and the press is like, “What the fuck is this?!?” She says she has to do that because of paparazzi, and this makes no sense to anyone, especially the paparazzi who have to point out that the only reason people know this has happened is because they took a picture of it, and they clearly couldn’t have seen the baby at all if he had been in a child seat in the back where the windows are tinted. Mercifully for everyone involved, Britney and K-Fed file for divorce in November. 2007 Inspired by her nemesis and rival, Natalie Portman, Britney decides to try out her look from V FOR VENDETTA and shaves her head. Everyone thought she did this because she was crazy, and the legal system even gave her kids to Kevin Federline, which is INSANE BECAUSE WHY WOULD YOU GIVE K-FED THAT KIND OF POWER. 2008 Britney loses visitation rights to her children and is checked into the psychiatric ward of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she is put on involuntary psychiatric hold. When asked if he feels bad at all for tossing his old princess out of the Magic Kingdom and into the cold, cruel world with nothing but her own burgeoning sexuality to support herself with, Mickey Mouse just laughs in a high-pitched voice and goes back to grooming Miley Cyrus.

Later that year Britney gets out of psychiatric care, regains visitation rights, and releases her 5th album, CIRCUS. The first single, “Womanizer,” is clearly referencing her time with Mickey Mouse and the way he tried to use her up. The public loves it and she has yet another hit. 2009 CIRCUS debuts at Number One on the Billboard charts, and Britney gets the thrill of her life when I decide to celebrate my 32nd birthday at her concert in Houston, TX, and she kind of looked in my direction for one second. 2010 Britney begins dating her agent at WME, Jason Trawick, because dating people she works with has always worked out for her in the past. 2011 Knowing that all the signs pointed to an apocalypse in 2012, Britney released the single for “Till the World Ends” and let everyone know that she intends to spend her last moments on earth not with Trawick, K-Fed or her children, but rather simply by dancing in an underground shelter while planet Earth is exploding all around her. Everyone agrees, and the world comes together for New Year’s Eve in a celebration of Roland Emmerich movies and pop music. 2012 The world does not end. Britney appears in a Will.i.am song, “Scream & Shout,” where she speaks in a weird British accent as a clear way of saying, “Fuck you, bitch” to Madonna, who spent much of the last ten years living in London. 2013 Britney and Jason break up and stare, blinking, into the sun. Britney begins work on her next studio album and releases it in December of that year. Madonna is banned from the Alamo Drafthouse forever for texting during a festival screening of 12 YEARS A SLAVE. 2014 Britney Spears is honored by the Action Pack, who dedicates an entire party at the Alamo to her awesomeness. After more than 10 years, the curse is lifted, and Britney emerges as the true victor in her war with Madonna. So there you have it -- a concise and 100% accurate history of the life of Britney Jean Spears. And remember, kids: if Madonna tries to make out with you at an MTV Awards Show, just say no! 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

Alan Turing: The Father Of AI
RAY WAGNER Badass Digest Science Correspondent @ray_wagner Read more at badassdigest.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

There are a few luminaries whose names most of us know: Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Edison. Albert Einstein. Their innovations define our modern world, and for one reason or another, the innovators themselves have infiltrated our collective conscience. There are far more whose work underlies literally every day of our modern lives, but whose roles are more esoteric. To name but a few, these are people like Carl Friedrich Gauss, Claude Shannon… and Alan Turing. This looks to be the year that at least one of that more anonymous assembly, Alan Turing, moves a bit further into popular light. And, although he contributed to the downfall of the Nazi war machine and is recognized as the father of not one but two entire fields of study, it’s his tragic end as much as his accomplished life that will propel him into cineplexes later this year. But that cuts straight to the end of his tale and, frankly, it’s not the story we’re here to tell today. Alan Turing was born in 1912 to an English family with vaguely aristocratic roots, and he spent the majority of his youth defying the classics-heavy curriculum of the day in favor of more scientific topics. His undergraduate years at the University of Cambridge set him off on a successful career as a mathematician, and early on he gravitated toward defining what it meant for a problem to be solvable. Rather than approaching the challenge purely through mathematics, Turing conceived of an idealized device -- later known as a Turing machine -which should be capable of solving any problem that is solvable. He was well on his way to inventing the modern notion of the computer, but the start of the second World War sent him in other directions for a time. Turing joined the British war effort by enlisting in the top secret code-breaking effort. The Germans had been using the legendary Enigma machine to encrypt their communiques for several years, and the curtain of secrecy it afforded them played havoc on the Britons. Polish mathematicians had managed to open a crack in Enigma, but their solution was fragile, and the Germans kept increasing the complexity of the machine as the war progressed. Turing worked out how to create a far more robust solution, helping to build an electromechanical computer called a bombe. As Enigma improved, so did Turing’s bombe, giving England a decisive advantage over her adversaries. Although the bombe was a computer, it looked nothing like what we would consider a computer today. At that time, computing machines were as much mechanical as they were electrical, and each was designed only to

solve a specific problem. Turing’s bombe worked out the right settings to apply to a captured Enigma machine for decoding intercepted messages, but it couldn’t really do anything else. As the war wound down, Turing came back to his idea of an idealized machine that could solve any solvable problem. He conceived of a universal machine that could access stored instructions and act as they directed before turning its attention to a different problem with a different set of instructions. In doing so, he described the design of the modern, programmable computer. For his contributions, he’s now widely recognized as the father of computer science. Turing had always been fascinated by the natural world and the mathematics underlying biology, and he easily saw the similarities between the human brain and his idealized Turing Machine. He posited that a reasonably sophisticated computer would be able to replicate the workings of the human mind, and in a seminal 1950 paper titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Turing explored the question: can machines think? In that work, he formulated the now-famous Turing Test: allow a human operator, isolated in a room, to interact with both a machine and another human, isolated in separate rooms. If the operator cannot tell the difference between the two, the machine can be considered to be intelligent. In doing so, Turing spawned the field of artificial intelligence. Sadly, his success was short-lived. Turing made no particular secret of the fact that he was homosexual, and in 1952 he was charged with indecency, to which he plead guilty and for which he was sentenced to chemical castration. He endured the treatments for more than a year, and within another year he was found dead of cyanide poisoning. The coroner ruled that he’d killed himself by eating a poisoned apple. Turing’s story, and his tragic ending, will come to theaters later this year in THE IMITATION GAME, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing. Perhaps then, more people will come to know of his pivotal role in building our modern world. Until then, armed with our new appreciation for the man, let’s spend this January at the Alamo Drafthouse celebrating Spike Jonze’s HER and Turing’s enduring legacy as the father of both the computer and artificial intelligence! 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Auteur Of Alone
DEVIN FARACI Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

All art is, on some level, created out of loneliness. Artists try to communicate their intimate feelings and truths to the rest of the world, trying to bridge the infinite gap that separates us. That loneliness -- and the attempts to communicate through it -- resonates deeply in the feature films of Spike Jonze. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH means a lot of things, but the central conceit -- entering a tunnel that puts you in another human being’s head -- is about the obliteration of the spaces between us. The group of old people who are guarding the tunnel want to live longer, sure, but they want to live longer as a group, joined together forever in the vessel. They’re not just leaving behind mortality, they’re leaving behind solitude. In Jonze’s next film, ADAPTATION (written, like BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, by Charlie Kaufman), Charlie experiences the most agonizing kind of loneliness. He shares DNA with his identical twin brother Donald, but they couldn’t be more different. Even the being who is, on some biological level, the same as Charlie is alien to him. Charlie struggles to connect with other people, hoping that his writing will do the trick, but he finds that the script for his adaptation of THE ORCHID THIEF will not work, that he can’t find the words to say the things he wants to say. All of Jonze’s protagonists are artists -- Charlie the writer, Craig the puppeteer in JOHN MALKOVICH -- and Max in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is no exception. Even though he’s a little kid, Max has a precocious, creative mind, and he’s built a beautiful diorama of another world in which he wants to live. In that world, unlike the real one, he’ll have friends who care about him, people who listen to him. In the real world Max plays alone in the snow, trying to get his sister to hear him through a closed window. He can’t communicate to her, and he can’t communicate the anger and loneliness he feels to his mother; he’s only able to express it in growls as he chases the cat around the

house. Like all of Jonze’s heroes, Max is surrounded by people and yet feels utterly, helplessly alone.

It all culminates in his latest movie, the masterpiece HER, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore (a writer) lives in a bustling, crowded future Los Angeles but finds his every day to be utterly solitary. His job has him writing letters for others, experiencing their intimacy, an intimacy he fears can never again be his in the wake of his impending divorce. Theodore is able to speak for others, but he can’t communicate his wants and needs… until he meets Samantha, who just happens to be the AI that powers his new operating system. In each of Jonze’s movies the loneliness is pierced through unconventional living, and HER never makes a judgment about the love Theodore has for Samantha. The premise sounds like a joke -- a guy falls in love with Siri! -- but the reality is powerful and, in many ways, reassuring. Loneliness, Spike Jonze tells us, can be transcended, even if it’s just for the time you’re in an actor’s head or living on an island of monsters or falling in love with an artificial intelligence. And it’s transcended in those hours we spend in Spike Jonze movies, realizing someone else understads how we feel. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introducing The Alamo 100
SARAH PITRE Alamo Drafthouse Programmer @poshdeluxe Read more at badassdigest.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Asking an Alamo programmer to name his or her favorite movie is like asking a mother to name her favorite child. Wait, no, that makes it sound too easy. Asking an Alamo programmer to name his or her favorite movie is like asking a mother to name her favorite child, knowing that the rest of her kids will be taken away. Nope, that still makes it sound too easy. Asking an Alamo programmer to name his or her favorite movie is like asking a mother to name her favorite child, knowing that the rest of her kids will be killed. Okay yes, that’s exactly how it feels. And that, ladies and gentleman, is why we are presenting the Alamo 100, and not the Alamo 10 or the Alamo 50. When we first had the idea of compiling a list of our most cherished films, we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the criteria, and not just because we wanted to put off this Sophie’s Choice for a while longer. There are plenty of lists, based on everything from cinematic achievement to popularity, floating around the celluloid landscape, and we wished to avoid redundancy in adding our own voice to the pile. In the end, it all boiled down to the fact that we just love the hell out of movies. And so this list is defined, not by filmmaking genius or cultural impact, but by the space reserved in our hearts. The Alamo 100

encompasses the movies that we wore out on VHS, the films our friends are sick of hearing us rave about, the cinematic gems that feel like living, breathing members of our family. This is a list that reminds us why we fell in love with cinema in the first place, and why the magic of that romance will never fade. A quick glance at the Alamo 100 reveals the incredible diversity of taste on the national programming team, which consists of Tim League, RJ LaForce, Greg MacLennan, Tommy Swenson, Joe Ziemba and myself. We’re incredibly proud of the fact that our passions encompass 1960s French films and modern day rom coms, Kubrick masterpieces and epic action flicks, obscure trash-horror and feel-good classics. There is simply no classification that can contain our devotion to the silver screen. In order to generate the Alamo 100, each programmer first created his or her own list of 100 favorites, a Herculean task that caused a fair amount of heartache in the office. These titles were then compiled and ranked based on two factors: 1. their rank on each programmer’s list 2. the number of times the title appeared on more than one list. The results are an eclectic mix of shoe-ins and surprises, and we hope that this wildly divergent collection leads to many conversations within the Alamo community. You can explore the full list at Alamo100.com, where you can see which titles drew the most votes and also check out each programmer’s individual favorites to find out with whom your tastes most align. In January, we’re launching the Alamo 100 in all of our theaters with seven titles that capture the spirit of this list, and throughout the year, we’ll be screening many more. Because we can’t live without these movies, and we can’t let you live without seeing them. 6

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Hidden Gems Of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
JORDAN HOFFMAN Badass Digest Contributor @jhoffman Read more at badassdigest.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

With comedy being subjective, there’s no point in arguing what’s the funniest movie of all time. But it’s just a case of mathematics to argue what film is most densely populated with jokes. Contenders would be AIRPLANE! and Woody Allen’s LOVE AND DEATH and maybe even something like STEP BROTHERS (though those are predominantly performance vamps, not written gags). But pound-for-pound I’m making the case for what Tim the Enchanter refers to as “The Most Holy Grail.” MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, 1975’s surrealist romp through Arthurian legend, is essentially a series of loosely related sketches with only a minimum of plot. In addition to having one of the highest profit ratios based on budget in all of cinema, it is positively stuffed with so many layers of humor that it’s impossible to catch it all on the first go. Some jokes are straightforward. “Message for you, sir!”, Sir Lancelot’s servant Concorde says as an arrow with a note pierces him in the chest. That’s a joke even a Python-hater can laugh at. (I saw my wife, who just doesn’t see what’s funny in the British troupe, chuckle at this the other night.) Then there are the scribbles in the corner -- the weird things that aren’t jokes, per se, but oddities that become funny over time just because they are so bizarre. I first came to MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL via VHS. I kept renting it, enough so that I finally bought a copy (which was a very big deal at the time). It got to the point where I could recite many of the bits by heart. (Yes, yes, I was one of those kids.) Part of Python’s charm, especially to an American, is the musicality of the British accents and phrases. To be completely honest, there were blocks of text I had memorized that, I’ll admit, I didn’t even know what the words meant. “It’s a fair cop?” I guess I know what that means? Do English people really say that? But it wasn’t only that I didn’t know the British idioms. There is so much insanity on display in HOLY GRAIL that sometimes there’d be a joke right in front of your face that you didn’t even realize was a joke. I don’t just mean missing clever background things (Cowardly Sir Robin’s shield bears the image of a chicken! I didn’t notice that until at least the fifteenth viewing). I mean that if you watch this movie with an eye off the center, you’ll find yourself asking, “Wait, why the hell is that happening? That makes no sense!” Let’s take that closer look. During the “Bring Out Your Dead” bit, as you are meant to be laughing at the gallows humor of the

idea, you may see a woman banging on a cat in the same manner as banging on a rug to clean it. You can clearly hear the cat meowing, but for some reason I just thought this was part of the general soundtrack. It took me a while to catch that this was actually happening at the top of the frame. During the “Constitutional Peasants” bit, one of the finest pieces of comic writing ever, Michael Palin’s unlikely political zings are so quoteworthy that it took me a really long time to ask, wait, just what in the world are he and Terry Jones doing? They are on their knees collecting dirt, for some reason. There’s even the stray line of “Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down here...” Maybe this is just me, but even though I heard that line (and could recite it) it didn’t dawn on me to take the step back and wonder why they were rooting around in the mud in the first place. (Later in the film, a woman is seen bashing a log into a stream. Maybe she is trying to fish? Upon reflection, it’s hard to say.) The Socratic discussion between Terry Jones’ Bedevere and the townsfolk in the “A Witch?” bit flies by at lighting pace, and has a lot of things going on. For starters, it is mocking the factoid about witch trials -- how the accused were tossed in water and if they didn’t drown it would be an indicator of witchcraft, and then killed. Then there’s just the silly logic path Bedevere leads them through (“ah, can you not also build bridges out of stone?”) Then there’s weirdness like Bedevere’s helmet having a hinge over the faceplate that he constantly has to tinker with... and an old man in the crowd having shaving cream on his face. There’s so much to take in that, when Bedevere asks “what else floats in water?” you laugh at strange but correct responses like “Very small rocks.” But if you listen closely, you’ll hear an excited Michael Palin shout out “Lead! Lead!” Again, maybe I’m just a dunce, but it was years, decades even, of me loving this movie before I thought, “Hey, wait a minute -- lead is, like, the opposite of something that floats. W-why? W-what? Why would he say that? THAT MAKES NO SENSE!” While on the “why”s, why is the hand that turns the pages of “The Book of the Film” snatched away by a gorilla? (In the old VHS crop you could barely see this.) Another thing about VHS -- you couldn’t hit a button to get subtitles. So concerning the “Camelot” song, there was no way you were getting all those lines. It

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

wasn’t until 1989 and the release of the “Monty Python Sings” album that I got my hands on a lyrics sheet. I immediately discovered two things: yes, that last line is “I have to push the pram a lot” (I had no idea what a pram was, but it sounded dirty) and, whoa, there are lines in here that are intentionally indecipherable. Specifically: We’re knights of the round table/our shows are formidable (pronounced for-mid-ABLE) But many times/we’re given rhymes/that are quite unsingable (pronounced un-sing-ABLE). Finally learning this made my dweebish head explode. As did realizing that a joke amongst the French taunters was an exercise in ridiculous illogic. When they see the “Trojan rabbit” one says to another “ah! Un cadeau!” By 9th grade I spoke enough French to know this meant “a present” But another taunter -- and mind you, this is blazing by very quickly, and all off-screen -- says “quoi?” So the first guy translates and says “a present!” which is received with an “oh, un cadeau.” But... but if they’re both French... then why would... I know, I know. That’s the whole joke. But with the whole scenario of the taunters and the rabbit and trying to figure out what is happening, well, this ended up as a joke I didn’t notice for over ten years. Also, one of the taunters has a hole in his pants and you can almost see his junk. The funniest, strangest part of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL is Arthur and Bedevere “saying ‘Ni’ to that old woman.” (PS -- the old woman is another one smacking a cat up against the wall.) The

Knights of Ni are absurd on their own. The sidequest to find a shrubbery is preposterous and the way Graham Chapman says “very well!” when the old lady says “do your worst” is just hilarious beyond words. Then Bedevere mispronounces Ni as Nu. The lunacy is at warp factor ten by now. Then, of all the people to show up, there’s Roger the Shrubber. I swear to you, I think I nearly asphyxiated with laughter the first time I saw this. But as Eric Idle is introducing himself (and God knows how he said “I arrange, design and sell shrubberies” without laughing) there’s a tiny little gag -- the strangest bit of phrasing -that sums up just how vigilant Monty Python were about cramming in as many extra jokes wherever they could. “There is a pestilence upon this land!” Roger the Shrubber sighs. “Nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress at this period in history.” Even though there’s the whole B-story of the murdered documentary historian and the cut to “Intermission” on the Bridge of Death, there isn’t that much fourth-wall breaking with the Knights. By and large, they are living the story. (This helps sell the big finish at the end.) For audience winking, there’s really only one biggie: a huge laugh when Arthur refers to Terry Gilliam’s creepy troll as “the old man from Scene 24.” But this little extra zing thrown in “at this period in history” is an additional jab while you are already getting your ass kicked by comedy. How long did it take for me to finally hear this line? I noticed it for the first time this week. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

The Search For Jake Ryan
SARAH PITRE Alamo Drafthouse Programmer @poshdeluxe Read more at badassdigest.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Jake Ryan. Spoken in fervent whispers and wistful sighs, these two words hold a sacred meaning to disciples of the ‘80s. Jake Ryan. His name is a wish, a dream, an incantation that leaves dreamy-eyed expressions in its wake. Jake. Ryan. The one who got away. Created by the masterful mind of John Hughes, Jake Ryan was always meant to be a heartthrob, with his athletic prowess, his gorgeous face and his disdain for the social order. He’s every cliché of high school hotness stripped down to the sincerest level and then subverted: a jock who’s smart, a rich kid who isn’t materialistic, a Homecoming King who doesn’t give a crap about being popular, a senior who’s taken (I mean really taken) but makes himself available to a lowly sophomore. He is, in a word, perfect. Jake Ryan is the ideal, but more importantly, he’s the attainable ideal. Handsomely straddling the line between magic and reality, he’s a god who floats through the halls in a cloud of mystique and a mortal who lowers himself to pick up a nobody’s note from the floor. The great height of his status doesn’t prevent him from seeing Samantha Baker, a girl who should be invisible to him, and his golden confidence fails him whenever he tries to talk to her. It’s sweetly endearing that he, the almighty crush, gets just as flustered as Samantha, the awkward dork. It’s also incredibly sexy, because suddenly, Samantha has power over the heart of her obsession. There was only one step left to transform Jake Ryan from a fictional dreamboat to a cinematic icon: the right actor. In the SIXTEEN CANDLES casting room, the decision ultimately boiled down to two candidates: Michael Schoeffling and Viggo Mortensen. (Can you picture Aragorn pulling up in a Porsche and surprising Samantha?) According to Molly Ringwald, Mortensen included a kiss in his audition, while Schoeffling refrained. His decision may have been based on nerves, but it’s preferable to assume that, even then, Schoeffling understood Jake Ryan’s charming reticence. When 23-year-old Schoeffling slipped on a sweater vest and topsiders in 1984, he probably had no idea that he was about to gain a permanent place in the American cultural landscape, not to mention the fantasies of teenage girls (and grown women) everywhere. It was his first credited role, and the film was John Hughes’ first directing gig. But fortunately for all of us, both men nailed it. From his chiseled cheekbones to his manly brow, Schoeffling certainly looked the part of Jake Ryan (although, at 5’8”, he had to stand on risers for certain

scenes), but more importantly, he personified the soul of Jake Ryan. His piercing gaze glimmered with earnest emotion, and his deep voice channeled both husky swagger and timid gentleness. Whether he’s totally bombing on the phone to Samantha’s house or asking for love advice from Farmer Ted, Schoeffling brought an understated note of comedy to the role that makes Jake Ryan less pristine and therefore more interesting. His last scene in the movie might be the most swoon-worthy, but it’s the moment when he tries to talk to Samantha at the school dance that embodies the magical essence of Jake Ryan -- a shy grin from a boy who should have nothing to be shy about. Following SIXTEEN CANDLES, Michael Schoeffling went on to play other tantalizingly attractive characters, such as Joe in MERMAIDS and Al Carver in WILD HEARTS CAN’T BE BROKEN. But after the latter in 1991, he simply stopped. It seems that he grew tired of the instability of Hollywood and planned to focus on providing for his wife and two children. So of course, he did the most romantic thing possible: he moved to Newfoundland, Pennsylvania and opened up a woodworking shop. That’s right, Jake Ryan now creates handcrafted wooden furniture in rural Pennsylvania. John Hughes himself couldn’t have written a better ending. While Schoeffling’s departure from film was a loss in the short term, it turned out to be an incredible gift in the long run. Rather than burning out his star with a string of terrible roles or fading slowly into painful obscurity, Schoeffling preserved the purity of Jake Ryan by removing himself entirely as an actor. The character will never be tainted by tabloid scandals or tragic divorces, and the world will never have to see Jake Ryan shilling products in commercials. Schoeffling disappeared into another life and left his greatest role encased in the hallowed grounds of nostalgia. And so Jake Ryan remains the Holy Grail of cinematic crushes. Like that high school flame whom you can never find on Facebook, his absence stokes the fire of our collective fascination to legendary levels. He’s the ultimate, a shining myth that inspires lifelong searches through high school hallways and trails of wood shavings. To find him, however, would be to shatter the ideal, so perhaps it’s best to let Jake Ryan remain safely ensconced in the realm of fantasy. But if anyone wants to take a road trip to Newfoundland, call me. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Spike Jonze, JACKASS: How One Man Can Make Beautiful Movies And Stupid TV Shows
DEVIN FARACI Badass Digest Editor in Chief @devincf Read more at badassdigest.com

Spike Jonze had been out drinking. He was in Chicago to shoot a music video for the band Wax; the band is forgotten but the video -- a man on fire running slow motion in a single shot down a block, trying to catch a bus -- is indelible. That night in Chicago he was in the back of a cab with Dan Field, a skateboarding friend of his, when he got it in his head that he wanted to jump out of the moving taxi. Field tried to stop him, but Jonze opened the door and -- at 30mph -- flew out. He bounced down the street, smashing his head on the pavement. When Field ran back to Jonze he found his friend laughing, but the director was bleeding pretty good. This isn’t one of those stories that explains a turning point in Jonze’s life. It’s a story that explains Spike Jonze. To filmgoers he’s a wry, ironic arthouse darling. But to his friends he’s still the mischievous skate punk who came up outside of Baltimore. “Deep in the back of his head,” Field told NEW YORK MAGAZINE back in 1999, when BEING JOHN MALKOVICH was being released, “Spike wants to be a stuntman.” That’s a big part of what made Spike Jonze a perfect fit for JACKASS, and Jonze is a big part of what defines JACKASS. To the outsider JACKASS is a bro show, a frat boy bit of stupidity and excess. It would be easy to believe that if Jonze -- the guy whose new film, HER, is one of the most beautiful examinations of love and loneliness I have ever seen -- wasn’t one of the founding producers. Sure, it’s a show of stupidity and excess (and

let’s not forget cheap gross out gags), but it’s not frat. In fact when a VICE interviewer called JACKASS a celebration of fratboy culture, Spike bristled. “We all came out of skateboarding, which was the polar opposite of that,” he explained. “Most of us guys were anti-frat.” 1980s skateboarding culture defined Jonze, and gave him his career. Growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, young Adam Spiegel found himself often alone. He gravitated to Rockville BMX, where he got the nickname that would become his professional identity. The worlds of BMX and skateboarding were closely entwined, and Jonze fell in love. Skateboarders had a weird go of it in the ‘80s. While athletic, they didn’t engage in the kind of competition that defined high school sports. They were chased away from the railings and staircases that offered them great trick opportunities, and over time skateboarding was criminalized in many municipalities. What had begun as street surfing in Los Angeles had turned into an underground counterculture closely aligned with punk rock and rebel attitudes. “In the late ’80s and early ’90s, no one cared about skateboarders,” Jonze told MAXIM. “There was no Internet, no other way to communicate, so everyone just made their own videos, and that’s how skateboarding communicated with itself.” Armed with VHS cameras they filmed each other doing insane

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

stunts, and those tapes would be traded around a nationwide network of skaters. Jonze cut his teeth there, eventually working as a photographer for FREESTYLIN’ MAGAZINE, and his pictures got a lot of attention. In 1992 he shot his first music video, for Sonic Youth’s “100%,” which featured flannel-clad slackers and black and white footage of the kind of skaters Jonze knew so well. The crossover was complete, and in the next few years Jonze would become one of the greatest music video directors in the history of the medium (his 1994 “Sabotage” video being one of the high points of the form) and a successful commercial director as well before making the leap to features in 1999. But Jonze stayed close with his old friends, including a guy named Jeff Tremaine. “When I was 12 I heard about this kid ‘Heffy’ who was a BMX dirt-jumper,” Jonze told VICE. “He was like the local legend. I met him one day at the mall where we’d all hang out. He had big tuck wheels -- went big, landed really hard. We went riding and built ramps a lot together, and ended up going to the same high school.” As Jonze found himself in the alternative rock world, Tremaine was working as the editor of BIG BROTHER, a seminal skateboarding magazine. It was enormous in the street skating world, and it mixed pictorials and articles about skateboarding with funny, edgy pieces like a how-to guide to suicide and instructions for making fake IDs. It was to BIG BROTHER that an out-of-work actor named PJ Clapp pitched an article where he would be pepper sprayed, tased and eventually shot (while wearing a bulletproof vest); other magazines had turned it down out of fear of legal repercussions should something go wrong. BIG BROTHER ate it up. It should be noted that PJ Clapp went by the name Johnny Knoxville. The video of Knoxville getting assaulted became a viral sensation the old-fashioned way -- tape trading. Tremaine knew they had something big on their hands, so he roped in Jonze for his expertise. The trio shopped a vague idea for a stunt-related TV show and almost got a recurring segment on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE before they opted to go where they might have more creative control: MTV. What makes JACKASS unique, what makes it more than just dumb guys doing dumb things, is what made the early skate videos special. Watching those old videos in the 1980s you didn’t just get into the tricks being executed, you truly became fans of the

guys on the boards. There was a lot of mugging for the camera and screwing around and a certain fun to be had in wiping out, and it made stars of guys like Mark Gonzalez, named the most influential skater of all time in 2011. Tremaine and Jonze smartly found a group of guys (recruited from BIG BROTHER as well as from the CAMP KILL YOURSELF crew back east) who audiences wanted to hang out with.

Almost all of the JACKASS guys came from the world of skating, and they brought with them the outsider sensibilities of that culture. They’re not jocks, and they’re not hateful. They’re party guys with way too much energy and low impulse control. Skating culture is a creative one, with a huge openness to art and offbeat music. They’re knuckleheads, not meatheads, and there’s a world of difference between the two. There’s a weird sweetness to a lot of the JACKASS stuff. The sketches are never about hurting or humiliating innocents -- the jokes are always on the guys in the crew. The hidden camera stuff is always about capturing reactions to Knoxville and friends doing something stupid or embarrassing, not trying to make innocent bystanders look bad. That feels like a Spike Jonze influence to me. If you want to understand how the guy who directed something as delicately wonderful as HER could also be involved in a TV show and film series where a man snorts wasabi until he pukes, just look at the opening of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Max, full of energy and mischief, chases the cat down the stairs, growling. In his room he has created an elaborate and gorgeous model world -- a true work of art -- but outside of that room he has unfocused energy that gets him into trouble. Max might grow up to one day hurl himself out of a moving taxi, and to find new Wild Things to surround him. He might even help get them a TV show. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Life Imitating Art: Terry Gilliam And BRAZIL
GREG MACLENNAN Alamo Drafthouse Programmer/Lead Video Editor @alamogreg Read more at badassdigest.com

“Bad sportsmanship. A ruthless minority of people seems to have forgotten certain good old-fashioned virtues. They just can’t stand seeing the other fellow win,” Mr. Helppman in BRAZIL. It’s a tale as old as time: life imitating art, art imitating life, and Terry Gilliam remaining creatively at odds with a movie studio. Gilliam is a creative terrorist who will stop at nothing for what he believes in, and, frankly, when the results are some of the greatest fantasy films to ever be put to celluloid, it’s hard to argue with his methods. If you devoted your life to something that was going to be unleashed upon millions of people with your name attached to it, you should have every right to fight to the death for the vision in which you believe. The odds are never in the favor of the creative mind when it comes to studio pictures. Today we live in a world of special editions and directors’ cuts, but, for Gilliam, that wasn’t a reality, and even if it was, I doubt it would be enough. He’s a creative genius first and foremost and a businessman second, and if you find yourself at odds with what he believes in, he will punch your mother and leave you for dead in an alley soaking in your own filth. BRAZIL is the story of Sam Lowry, a low-level bureaucrat who stands up to the needlessly convoluted system of inefficiency and endless paperwork in a near-future dystopia. Sam’s a dreamer in a world full of dreary boredom. Those dreams are what ultimately led Gilliam to create one of the best films of all time and, by happenstance, engage in a studio battle for the ages. It’s 1985 and Gilliam is sitting in the projection booth of the Hitchcock Theater in L.A. for an executive test screening of his latest film, the Orwellian sci-fi/ fantasy BRAZIL.

Hot off the success of his 1981 classic TIME BANDITS, Gilliam has become quite the commodity for making an expensive-looking film with crossover appeal to audiences of all kinds on a tight budget. If it weren’t for TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL probably would never have gotten off the ground. And, here he is after nine months of production and six months of editing, spilling his blood, sweat and tears at 24 frames-per-second to a roomful of people who hold the keys to his future. “When we had what I thought was the final cut and were very happy with it, the film was released in Europe (via international distributor 20th Century Fox). We had fantastic reviews from the French critics in particular, which gave us confidence that we had made an interesting film,” Gilliam has said. But “interesting” doesn’t always translate to box office success stateside, and Gilliam needed to impress Universal Pictures, the studio that owned the domestic rights to the film, in order to release it in the U.S. This is where he stood, in a dark projection room as the final ten minutes of his opus unfolded. “I saw the back of those necks, and that’s when I knew we were in big trouble. Every muscle was knotted, and there was such hatred written on the back of those heads.” It was at this screening that studio head Sid Sheinberg said, “We’re going to have to sell this film as ‘the film of the decade!’” Some of the production team took this as a compliment, but Gilliam knew it meant that the studio was going to need to hard-sell what they deemed to be an artistic disaster. Universal said that they wouldn’t release the film, and Sheinberg suggested Gilliam alter his dark, twisted dystopian satire. “It made people think about the society

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

that they lived in, and a lot of people don’t want to do that,” Gilliam says. But he stood his ground. “I said, ‘Unfortunately, this is the story we set out to make. People like Robert De Niro and Jonathan Pryce agreed to be in this movie because of the story that we’re telling, and we don’t change the story for the sake of a larger audience.’” Sheinberg originally asked Gilliam to let him be “the friend who tortures you,” naively believing he and Gilliam could work out a new cut together. But Gilliam would have none of it, and Universal and Sheinberg placed an embargo on Gilliam releasing his cut of the film while they went hard to work on a version of their own. Their hope was to create a cut that was marketable to mass appeal, which would later become known as the “Love Conquers All” version. Months pass, and the movie is still going nowhere. Gilliam is getting frustrated and sends the following letter to Mr. Sheinberg: “Dear Sid: Once upon a time you told me that you were not the one that put me in the chair at the end of BRAZIL. I’m afraid that this is no longer true -- unable as I am to think of anyone else who is directly responsible for my current condition. Your later offer to be the friend who becomes a torturer has more than come true. I am not sure you are aware of just how much pain you are inflicting, but I don’t believe ‘responsibility to the company’ in any way absolves you from crimes against even this small branch of humanity. As long as my name is on the film, what is done to it is done to me -- there is no way of separating these two entities. I feel every cut, especially the ones that sever the balls. And I plead, whether they are done in the name of legitimate and responsible experiments or personal curiosity, if you really wish to make your version of BRAZIL, then put your name on it. Then you can do what you like. ‘Sid Sheinberg’s BRAZIL’ has a nice ring to it. But, until that time, I shall continue to decline. Please let me know how much longer must I endure before the bleeding stops. Deterioratingly yours, Terry” Ultimately this letter falls on deaf ears, and Gilliam is forced to come up with more creative, anarchist tactics to capture the studio’s attention. Two months later, he takes out a full-page ad in VARIETY, leaving the page completely blank with nothing but a minimalist border and small, plain text reading, “Dear Sid Sheinberg -- when are you going to release my film Brazil? Terry Gilliam.”
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

This grabbed the attention of the press, and a buzz started to build for a film on an indefinite hold. This got Gilliam and De Niro to appear on GOOD MORNING, AMERICA, where Gilliam officially takes the gloves off and lets Sheinberg know he’s going for the throat. Maria Shriver says, “I hear you’re having a problem with the studio.” To which Gilliam responds, “I don’t have a problem with the studio. I have a problem with one man, Sid Sheinberg, and he looks like this,” as he pulls out an 8x10 of Sheinberg for all of America to see. The underground movement had been given the face of their enemy, and that enemy was Sid Sheinberg. Gilliam was ruthless in his attack, and no amount of bureaucracy was going to obstruct him from sharing his film with the world. And so it began. Rumors circulated of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (and Gilliam himself ) holding screenings in private homes and cinemas. People were finally seeing his original 142-minute cut of the film, and they were liking it. Then, in the fall of 1985, Universal was dusting off their top hats and long coats as they prepared to toast their movie of the season, OUT OF AFRICA, the $37 million epic starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. At the black-tie New York premiere of the film with all the stars and executives in attendance, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced their awards for the year. The same day as Universal’s prestige picture was about to be the talk of the town, BRAZIL was awarded Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director... without ever being officially released.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abandoning their retooled version, Universal quickly grabbed Gilliam’s cut off the shelf and rushed it into a couple of theaters in New York and L.A. without so much as a poster to promote it. Over that holiday release, those couple of theaters posted the largest pertheater averages of any film that season. The little movie that knotted up the necks of studio executives was now on its way to a full release and two Oscar nominations. While far from a box-office success, Gilliam had won his fight. He didn’t change the system, but he managed to put a crack in it and, in the meantime, piss all over the bureaucratic system he so masterfully satirized in his greatest personal and cinematic achievement. The “Love Conquers All” version still exists and was even broadcast on television a few times, but, rest assured, it’s low-level thinking for the dumbest audience possible and should be avoided at all costs. “Getting the film released was the only important thing. It didn’t matter how it was released as long as it was out there for the public to find it in their own good time. That is what we call an obsession, and we won.” - Terry Gilliam 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2014

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful