“The Brainwashing of My Dad” Opening Theatrically in U.S. on March 18 at The Cinema Village in New York and Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles
Award-Winning Documentary will also Open Day-and-Date on Major VOD Platforms!
February 15, 2016 (Los Angeles, CA) – Gravitas Ventures, JSenko Productions, and Cinco Dedos Peliculas announced US release dates today for Jen Senko’s timely new feature documentary, THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD, which puts a spotlight on the right-wing media phenomenon in the United States today.
In 2015, Michael Moore invited THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD to screen an early cut at his prestigious Traverse City Film Festival, which became the surprise hit of the festival. On March 5, 2016, the film will have its world premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA followed by screenings at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival prior to its US theatrical premiere on March 18 at The Cinema Village in New York and Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles. The film will then roll out to additional cities for special screenings in Madison WI, Kansas City MO, Vancouver BC, Columbus OH, and Albuquerque NM, to name just a few.
The film will also open day-and-date with a wide VOD release on iTunes and other major VOD and EST platforms through Gravitas Ventures.
Right-wing cable news and "conservative" talk radio attract older Americans like graying moths to an angry flame. But why would someone who was either apolitical or a Democrat in younger days become addicted to conservative talk shows in their twilight years? Filmmaker Jen Senko wondered how her WWII veteran and Kennedy Democrat father had been transformed into a Fox News fanatic, suddenly and inexplicably railing against minorities, homosexuals, poor people, and Democrats. Using her dad as an entertaining example, Senko pulls back the curtain to expose the tools and tricks of the wizards behind the right-wing media phenomenon. And in discovering what happened to him, Senko reveals the all-too-chilling bigger picture of what’s happening behind-the-scenes to influence our national discourse.
"Gravitas is excited to be collaborating with Jen Senko and the filmmaking team to spread the film's message into 100 million homes across North America," said Michael Lange, Acquisitions Manager for Gravitas.
"Getting your film seen is one of the most challenging aspects of independent filmmaking. Gravitas has made it so easy to get my film on to iTunes and all the top VOD platforms. I’m so thankful that Gravitas saw the importance of my film. They've been incredible partners in helping us get the film out as quickly as possible to have the biggest impact in this election year,” said Jen Senko, the film’s writer and director.
THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD is written, produced, and directed by JEN SENKO, narrated by SENKO and MATTHEW MODINE, produced by MODINE and ADAM RACKOFF, and features animation by Academy Award nominee BILL PLYMPTON. The film is executive produced by RYAN SMITH and JODIE EVANS.
GRAVITAS VENTURES is a leading all rights distributor of independent cinema. Founded in 2006, Gravitas connects independent filmmakers and producers with distribution opportunities across the globe. Working with more than 500 content partners, Gravitas Ventures has distributed thousands of films into over 100 million homes. Their most recent releases include Colin Hanks' ALL THINGS MUST PASS, BEING EVIL, from Academy Award® winning director Daniel Junge and producer Johnny Knoxville, BLEEDING HEART starring Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet, BACKSTREET BOYS: SHOW ‘EM WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF, and BARNEY THOMPSON starring Robert Carlyle and Emma Thompson. For more information, please visit gravitasventures.com and follow @GravitasVOD on Twitter and @gravitasventures on Instagram.Perkins.
Official Website: http://www.thebrainwashingofmydad.com
ShortsHD to Release MERRY XMAS starring Dick Van Dyke, Valerie Harper, Glenne Headly, and Matthew Modine on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video, and Verizon
Los Angeles, CA – December 2015 – The award-winning comedy short film, MERRY XMAS, recently closed a deal with Shorts International, parent company of ShortsHD to release the festival favorite on a variety of digital platforms this holiday season.The all-star cast includes Dick Van Dyke, Valerie Harper, Glenne Headly, and Matthew Modine. The short film was directed by Boman Modine from a screenplay by Boman and Matthew Modine and produced by Joe d’Angerio, Matthew Modine, and Adam Rackoff for Cinco Dedos Peliculas LLC.
MERRY XMAS tells the story of a mischievous father (Van Dyke) who calls his very busy kids (Modine and Headly) to tell them that, after 55 years of marriage, he and their mom (Harper) are getting divorced. Horrified by the news, the children prepare to fly home to stop the divorce and save their parents’ marriage.
“Short movies are a unique film genre. You've got to tell your story so quickly. It's exciting,” said Boman Modine, the film’s director. “After my last film, HYPERION, an emotional story about Cystic Fibrosis, I wanted to create something fun and hopeful. I hope our little movie will make people smile and chuckle.”
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and was selected to air on the Tribeca Presents channel on United Airlines beginning December 1. The film is available on all video-equipped United flights (close to 700 aircraft) throughout the holiday season. The short was also selected to participate in the Starbucks Digital Network during the Seattle International Film Festival in May and won the award for Best Short Pilot at the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles in June. The film has screened at over 20 prestigious film festivals since its premiere in April.
Follow the film on Twitter @MerryXmasMovie
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the film’s Co-Producer, Adam Rackoff: email@example.com.
For ShortsHD Contact Theo Dumont firstname.lastname@example.org
EXCLUSIVE: Christmas in April? Why not — if it’s got Dick Van Dyke and Valerie Harper? Here’s a sneak peek at their new short film Merry Xmas, which is set to unwrap, er, unspool at the Tribeca Film Festival next month. Glenne Headly and Matthew Modine co-star in director Boman Modine’s comic look at how the holidays can be murder. Expect danger! romance! tragedy! and … junks. Joe D’Angerio and Matthew Modine produced the short. Have a look, but beware the “Jingle Bell Rock” in the background — it might get stuck in your head until you hear it again at Target in mid-October.
Matthew Modine and Bret Easton Ellis discuss naturalism in film, making Full Metal Jacket with Stanley Kubrick, turning down Top Gun, and the relationship between directors and their actors.
The following is a conversation between Paste film writer Brent Simon and Paste tech writer Nicholas Quah on the Full Metal Jacket Diary iPad app.
January 29, 2014 - Los Angeles, CA – Celebrated actor and award-winning filmmaker Matthew Modine has launched a campaign on Slated.com to finance his new feature film, The Rocking Horsemen. The story follows five teenage boys through high school and their struggle to create a band in the budding days of rock and roll music. Modine has already enlisted the talents of an incredible roster of young Hollywood actors and industry veterans.
"A lot of people mistake crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo as investment opportunities. They're not. They allow artists and inventors to procure money through donations in exchange for ‘things.’ Slated, because of the American Jobs Act, is a platform which brings everyday people the opportunity of investing in film and participating in its success. I love the idea that folks from outside Hollywood will now have the chance to say to their friends, ‘Hey, I helped get that film made!’” said Modine.
"The Slated team is excited to be working with filmmakers from every stage of the business. Having an established director and talented actor like Matthew Modine join us on our site is a great endorsement for Slated," said Stephan Paternot, co-founder of Slated.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Matthew on the The Rocking Horsemen. Our film incorporates many of the themes I love in cinema – like music in the 1960’s, a great style, and a coming-of-age storyline. I’ve always loved the choices Matthew took as an actor, now as a writer/director he falls in line with other accomplished actor/directors like Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Sean Penn, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Redford. Matthew has learned from the best and brings a history of knowledge and vision from all that walked with him along the way,” said Orian Williams, the film's producer.
About the Film
In the summer of 1962, sixteen-year-old Candoo Yancy has a dream – to play a crowd-roaring, rock and roll riff on an electric guitar. The problem is, Candoo doesn’t own an electric guitar and doesn’t have a band to play with. This all changes when he assembles a group of friends and makes the neighborhood’s first rock and roll band: THE ROCKING HORSEMEN. They have high hopes and are driven by a shared fear of what the future holds. When the chance to play their High School graduation arises, the stage is set for the band to realize their dream. During a decade brimming with expectations, one teenager will remind us what it was like to be young. When everything seemed possible and rock and roll music was changing the world.
Slated is designed to facilitate high-value introductions between financiers, curated projects, and the professional film industry. From sales agents to distributors, from entertainment attorneys to name cast and crew, a Slated membership (free) offers career exposure to a verified community of entertainment professionals.
To invest in The Rocking Horsemen, visit www.slated.com.
For interview inquiries and additional information, please contact Adam Rackoff at email@example.com.
If you're in London on Thursday, February 6, stop by the Apple Store on Regent Street to meet Matthew Modine in person. He'll be discussing the making of his Full Metal Jacket Diary with Empire Magazine's Chris Hewitt. See below for the details.
Meet the Developer: Matthew Modine, Full Metal Jacket Diary
Join actor/author/developer Matthew Modine ( Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises, Memphis Belle ) as he discusses the making of his award-winning iPad app, Full Metal Jacket Diary. Covering the two-year period of filming in the UK, Modine was encouraged by director Stanley Kubrick to keep a diary of his experiences, the result is an intimate, unique, and insightful look behind-the-scenes. He'll preview the app, discuss working with Kubrick, and take questions from the audience too. Arrive early as seating is limited. Register before arrival.
Thursday, 6 February, 7:00 p.m.
December 17, 2013 - The Accolade Competition has awarded Matthew Modine and producer Adam Rackoff the prestigious Best Mobile Media Programming “Award of Merit” for their Full Metal Jacket Diary iPad app. This follows the groundbreaking app-umentary’s “Best App” award at the 2013 New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles and selection as "Best of 2012" by Kirkus Book Reviews. The app was also selected for Entertainment Weekly's prestigious "Must List."
The Accolade recognizes film, television, videography, and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Entries are judged by highly qualified professionals in the film and television industry. Information about The Accolade and a list of recent winners can be found at http://www.accoladecompetition.org.
"In 1985, Stanley Kubrick encouraged me to take photos and keep a journal while playing the lead role of Pvt. Joker on the set of Full Metal Jacket. In 2005, I published a limited edition book of my photos and diary. This FMJ Diary app is based on that book; enriched and re-imagined as an interactive, audio-visual experience," said Modine.
“These awards belong to everyone that helped create the Full Metal Jacket Diary iPad app; most notably our designer, Jason Parry, programmer Taeil Goh, imaging artist Sam Matamoros, sound editor Cristina Rackoff, sound designer/mixer Dan Timmons, and composer Juano Lippi,” said Adam Rackoff, the app’s producer.
In winning an Accolade, Matthew Modine and Adam Rackoff join the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award. Thomas Baker, Ph.D., who chairs The Accolade, had this to say about the latest winners, “The Accolade is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world. It helps set the standard for craft and creativity.”
Follow Full Metal Jacket Diary on Twitter @FMJDiary. Follow Matthew Modine @MatthewModine and Adam Rackoff @AdamRackoff.
For media opportunities and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full Metal Jacket and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.
SOLMont Events, the organizers of the upcoming 9th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival taking place August 15-22 at the TCL Chinese Theatres, are announcing that Matthew Modine will be the recipient of the 2013 Indie Maverick Award during its opening night celebration. Past honorees include Paul Haggis, David Lynch, Eli Roth, and last year, Joe Carnahan. As part of the celebration, Modine will showcase his purposefully provocative short film, JESUS WAS A COMMIE on opening night.
In addition, Modine will speak with the festival’s filmmakers during the theatrical special screening of ShortsHD’s presentation of THE SHORT FILMS OF MATTHEW MODINE, a collection of Modine’s short films spanning two decades that will close the festival on Thursday, August 22 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available now for both opening night and the closing program. The Short Films of Matthew Modine includes: When I Was a Boy (1993), Smoking (1995) Ecce Pirate (1996), To Kill An American (2005), I Think I Thought (2007), and Jesus Was A Commie. His shorts range in genre – ironic comedy, drama, historic adventure, and documentary narrative.
HollyShorts opening night will be hosted by Amy Paffrath (Hollywood Minute) and Alicia Malone (Fandango). Modine’s honoring completes a star-studded evening. At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 15, the festival will unspool alumni David Rodriguez’s feature film LAST I HEARD, which stars Paul Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Renee Props, Andrea Nittoli, and Lev Gorn. Immediately following the feature film screening, the fest will have it’s 7:30 p.m. shorts showcase which includes Chadwick Boseman’s (42) drama short HEAVEN, Dan Carrillo Levy’s ZERO HOUR starring Camilla Belle, Jaime Camil, written by Guillermo Arriaga. Thomas Jane and Director Phil Joanou will present PUNISHER: DIRTY LAUNDRY, Michael J. Weithorn will showcase his superhero short film THE SIDEKICK starring Rob Benedict, Ron Livingston, and Lizzy Caplan. Josh Levy will present his award-winning short comedy THE IMMIGRANT starring Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Deborah Theaker Deadlee, Michael Cera, Margaret Cho, and Will Forte.
Matthew was named as “one of the best, most adaptable film actors of his generation” by legendary NY Times film critic Vincent Canby. He is known for starring in many acclaimed films including last summer’s blockbuster THE DARK KNIGHT RISES directed by Christopher Nolan. He can next be seen as former Apple CEO John Sculley in JOBS opposite Ashton Kutcher in the titular role (opening August 16th).
“Matthew Modine is a true Indie Film Maverick with a passion for short form content and we’re honored to present him with the 2013 HollyShorts Indie Maverick Award,” said Daniel Sol, festival co-founder and co-director. “We can’t wait for our filmmakers and attendees to check out the theatrical presentation of his collection of shorts, it’s a really great showcase.”
Modine has been nominated for three Golden Globes and collected one for Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. Matthew was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award (Equinox) and twice nominated for Emmy Awards (And the Band Played On and What the Deaf Man Heard) He has worked with many of the film industry’s most acclaimed directors including Oliver Stone, Sir Alan Parker, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, Alan J. Pakula, John Schlesinger, Tony Richardson, Robert Falls, Sir Peter Hall, Abel Ferrara, Spike Lee, Tom DiCillo, Mike Figgis, Jonathan Demme, John Sayles, and Christopher Nolan. Modine is well remembered for the title character in Alan Parker’s Birdy, which won the Cannes Film Festival’s Gran Prix Award and as Private Joker in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. His short films have premiered at festivals the world over, including Sundance, Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films, AFI, and the Tribeca Film Festival.
NEW YORK – June 27, 2013 – Film Annex, an online film distribution and financing company, has partnered with award-winning actor Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, And the Band Played On, The Dark Knight Rises, Jobs) to release several of his short films. With more than three decades of experience as an actor, Matthew has appeared in over 70 feature, cable, and television films. Film Annex has agreed to present an exclusive re-launch of his award-winning short, Jesus Was A Commie. Moreover, a Film Annex channel dedicated to Modine will feature exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, and original materials that his films are based on. The channel will also debut many of his previous short films including I Think I Thought and To Kill An American, as well as videos from his award-winning Full Metal Jacket Diary iPad application.
Film Annex’s Creative Director, Eren Gulfidan, reached out to Modine and his team after watching Jesus Was A Commie earlier this year. “I thought the film was one-of-a-kind, and I wanted as many people as possible to see it. Interviewing Matthew about the inspiration behind the film was eye-opening, and I’m excited to share that with our audience as well.” Modine’s films will be featured on Eren’s Picks, a spotlight section on Film Annex, which provides filmmakers with more exposure and more revenue.
About the collaboration, Matthew Modine said: "I'm thrilled to be working with Film Annex; an innovative platform for independent filmmakers to share their work online. Francesco [Rulli] and Eren [Gulfidan] have inroads to global markets and audiences specifically interested in short films. This re-release of Jesus Was a Commie and my other short films will expand their visibility to new audiences. Film Annex is unique because their selections are curated and feature only the best short films and videos."
"We released Jesus Was a Commie on YouTube for a limited time, but it's not the best site for an avant-garde short film to find an audience," added Adam Rackoff, the film's producer. "The goal of this film has always been to start a conversation and Film Annex is the perfect platform to do that.”
With this partnership, Film Annex’s goal is to reward Modine and his team with an ongoing revenue stream and a worldwide interest in his films. Film Annex also intends to introduce Modine to audiences around the world as a successful writer-director in addition to his established acting career. More of Modine’s short films will be added to his Film Annex channel throughout the summer.
About Film Annex
Film Annex is an online film distribution and financing platform with 50 million monthly viewers. The company rewards filmmakers via a unique revenue share model based on a scoring system called the BuzzScore. The BuzzScore measures a user’s influence and ability to engage his audience with social media tools. A meeting point for filmmakers, film festivals, film enthusiasts, companies, and organizations, Film Annex educates and entertains audiences by making meaningful, diverse, and high-quality films available to a global audience. Fore more information, visit www.filmannex.com.
About Matthew Modine
MATTHEW MODINE has been called "one of the best, most adaptable film actors of his generation" by legendary New York Times film critic Vincent Canby. Modine has worked with many of the film industry’s most acclaimed directors including Christopher Nolan, Oliver Stone, Sir Alan Parker, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, Alan J. Pakula, John Schlesinger, Tony Richardson, Abel Ferrara, Spike Lee, and Jonathan Demme, to name but a few. Modine's most recent films include The Dark Knight Rises, Girl in Progress, Family Weekend, and the upcoming Jobs.
Matthew has been writing and directing films for over two decades. His latest, Jesus Was a Commie, is an avant garde dialectical discussion about many of the prominent issues facing modern society. The film won 5 film festival awards including the Founders Prize for Best Short Film at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival. In 2011, Modine formed the production company Cinco Dedos Peliculas (CDP) with Adam Rackoff. Under this banner, the duo executive produced the award-winning The Flying House for Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton and the upcoming Last Days of Coney Island for legendary filmmaker Ralph Bakshi. CDP is currently in pre-production on the stop-motion animated short, The Bag Man and the feature film, Walk Like a Man.
Matthew's new mini-series about the end of the world releases on Blu-ray Disc on August 13. Pre-order your copy of CAT. 8 today!
ShortsHD, The Short Movie Channel and distributor of Oscar nominated shorts, will make available for pre-order a collection of six of actor-filmmaker Matthew Modine's short films on iTunes in 54 countries as of Wednesday, downloadable June 4. Three of the six shorts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, but have never been commercially released. ITunes will release "The Short Films of Matthew Modine" collection the same way they do features.
Modine ("Full Metal Jacket," "Short Cuts"), who has created a wide range of shorts in various genres over the last decade, was given the 2013 ShortsHD Visionary Director award. He likes making shorts, he says, because the medium "frees a filmmaker to experiment with new ideas, stories, and cinematic techniques," and he hopes that people who see the shorts will "share and discuss the content and ideas found within my films."
The actor was most recently seen in Christopher Nolan’s "The Dark Knight Rises," and plays former Apple CEO John Scully in the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic "jOBS" opposite Ashton Kutcher. The ShortsHD "Short Films of Matthew Modine" on iTunes include a selection of films that have played at global festivals, the Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films, and the Tribeca Film Festival. His latest, the controversial "Jesus Was a Commie" (2011), won five film festival prizes including the Founders Prize for Best Short Film at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival. Three shorts from the group played at Sundance: "When I Was A Boy" (co-director, Todd Field, 1993),"Smoking" (written and narrated by David Sedaris, 1995) and "Ecce Pirate" (1996). Also in the collection are "To Kill An American" (2005) and "I Think I Thought" (2007). More details on the shorts are below.
WHEN I WAS A BOY (1993, B&W, 5 min.)
Written, edited, and produced by Matthew Modine
Directed by Matthew Modine and Todd Field
Some boys grow up to be men and some things never change. This is the first short film co-directed by Matthew Modine and Todd Field (In The Bedroom, Little Children) for their production company, Mercury Film.
SMOKING (1995, Color, 14 min.)
Produced and directed by Matthew Modine
Written and narrated by David Sedaris
Matthew Modine directed this short film based on the diary of writer/humorist David Sedaris (originally produced for National Public Radio by Ira Glass). The story follows a man trying to enjoy his smoking habit in a world that no longer tolerates it. The film humorlessly examines freedoms of behavior and personal choice.
ECCE PIRATE (1996, B&W, 21 min.)
Written, photographed, and directed By Matthew Modine
A young boys life is changed when he's kidnapped by sea pirates. A prisoner on board their ship, he learns to accept that his life will never be the same. As he grows older and wiser he becomes ECCE PIRATE, king of all he chooses to reign!
TO KILL AN AMERICAN (2005, Color, 4 min.)
Written and directed by Matthew Modine
There are people in the world that don't like Americans. There are people in the world that want to kill Americans. This film is designed to help those would be killers identify an American. So they know exactly what an American is.
I THINK I THOUGHT (2007, Color, 7 min.)
"Hey, I think if you think you're thinking too much, you probably are!"
Joe is a thinker in a world that doesn't tolerate analytical thinking. His wife, boss, and friends threaten to divorce, fire, and abandon him if he doesn't stop thinking so much. Luckily, Joe discovers "Thinkers Anonymous" where he learns that "we need those special people from television news and especially our government to tell us how to think. They know what's best for us, and the world." Matthew Modine wrote, co-produced, directed, and stars in this sardonically humorous short film co-produced and shot by Adam McClelland and edited by Terence Ziegler.
JESUS WAS A COMMIE (2011, Color, 15 min.)
Written, co-directed, and starring Matthew Modine, this avant-garde story follows "John Doe" as he examines history and science and whether Jesus might have been a utopian-communist. The film is co-directed and edited by Terence Ziegler and produced by Adam Rackoff.
From Imperial Beach Patch:
While playing the role of a Marine in 1968 Vietnam named Private Joker, director Stanley Kubrick asked Matthew Modine to keep a journal to document his experience during the creation of the 1987 film many consider to be one of the best movies about war of all time.
Full Metal Jacket Diary, an interactive iPad app version of the diary, has been chosen as an official selection of the New Media Film Festival, according to the event's organizers. Adam Rackoff is the app's producer
The 4th Annual New Media Film Festival will take place June 11-12 in Los Angeles and will include webispodes, short films, music videos, apps and other non-traditional media.
Modine grew up in Imperial Beach and San Diego's South Bay.
Click here to see photos of Modine with the Mar Vista High School Thespian Troupe.
Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, played by R. Lee Ermey, also has connections to San Diego. Ermey spent part of his service as a Marine as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, according to his biography.
The app was released last summer and funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign.
"Every time I start to feel like I understand Joker I realize how little I know about him," Modine said in part of the diary. "Trying to understand Joker is like trying to understand the Vietnam War."
Along with journal excerpts and high-quality photos, the app features more than four hours of narration by Modine that explores a range of subjects including the film's characters, the Vietnam War and how Kubrick and others created a Vietnam landscape in England where the film was shot.
POSTED BY BARKING CARNIVAL | APRIL 25TH, 2011 AT 11:59 PM
In 1985, a film called Vision Quest (based on the novel of the same name) performed a double leg takedown on coming of age sports movies. It got into my head when I first saw it and it never left. The movie still holds up 25+ years later, its realism and understatement in stark relief to today’s imperative for exaggerated stakes and stylized action.
It’s a minority view: it made a modest 13 million dollars in theaters, rates a 6 out of 10 on IMDB, and sits at a smooth 58% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s generally dismissed by critics as a harmless piece of 1980s formula. It isn’t. The passage of time has only served to highlight the uniqueness of this film.
It’s About Sports, But It’s Not About Sports
The plot is straightforward: a high school wrestler named Louden Swain, raised by a single father after the family lost their farm, decides to cut two weight classes to take on the baddest wrestler in the state. His resolve is tested by Linda Fiorentino-induced priapism and a nitrogen imbalance caused by his starvation diet.
Great sports movies (and books) manage to simultaneously have nothing to do with sport and everything to do with sport. As in the central message of a wrestling movie expressed by a Victorian poet:
That Louden Swain, obsessive jock, is also contemplative and highly intelligent is the films first pivot away from convention.
While wrestling is only a vehicle for the hero’s quest for self, that vehicle is respected: the wrestling is real, there is no cinematic flourish, and the depiction of the ancient sport reveals the accompanying age-old questions that mirror the human condition: am I good enough? Am I strong enough? Do I have the courage? Am I going to be humiliated in front of everyone? Why not take the easy road?
A champion grappler called Plato tried to make sense of the same eternal questions.
But he did it Greek and gay.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes in the film, as Louden attempts to scout his undefeated rival, Shute:
That’s a great slice of film making. He settles in, recorder in hand, Shute utterly obliterates the opponent; the cheering crowd obscures everything until the reveal: Louden’s aghast WTF expression as he struggles to make sense of what he just saw. He never said a word into the recorder after his intro. The scene ends with his head buried in his hands to the opening chords of Lunatic Fringe.
Speaking of soundtracks…
Soundtrack Of Ruminative Pining
It’s a sports movie. It’s an 80s movie. We’ve got to talk soundtrack.
Vision Quest features the first cinematic glimpse of Madonna singing Crazy 4 U pre-faux English accent; Red Rider’s haunting Lunatic Fringe; Journey’s Only The Young which serves the purpose of all Journey songs and lightly buttered popcorn; and my favorite -Change by John Waite, a masterpiece of 80′s pop motivational angst.
Let it wash over you, reader. Let it carry you to a simpler time.
By the way, you know that Change is a winning pop song when you hear the opening guitar licks and lyrics that begin with “People talking…”
“People talking” are the opening lyrics for 61% of the pop songs written between 1979-1986. People were always talking in the 1980s. Lots of word out on the street. Scuttlebutt abounded. Back then you could just pull up to any group of kids and ask, “You people talking?” Then they’d tell you about the goings on of your girlfriend. Then you could go and confront your girl and say, “People talking.” And she’d own up to her betrayals immediately. You’d ride out of that one stoplight town in your T-bird, fueled only by dreams.
That’s how it all worked before texting.
Describing a movie’s basic archetypal arc as unoriginal is the most banal of criticisms. There are few truly original stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and The Bible weren’t breaking all that much new ground in their day and no one has done much since. Focus on execution and originality of character. A good sports movie is like the Lombardi Power Sweep – you know what’s coming, but if the script and acting work in concert, the chains are going to move. Vision Quest has originality because the characters are developed. And for what it doesn’t try to do.
Refreshing Absence of Rape Woman/Kill Dog
Today’s go-to audience manipulation device is what I like to call Rape Woman/Kill Dog. Or, if you prefer, the RoethlisVick method. It’s my umbrella term for all cheap cinematic emotional manipulation meant to establish a character or group of people as bad with little skill or caloric expenditure and it’s descriptive of the most likely vehicle for doing so.
Movies like to establish the villainy of the antagonist early on with two popular devices: the killing of the hero’s golden retriever and some variety of sexual assault on the hero’s love interest – actual or threatened: “After I’m done with him, it’s just me and you.” One possible manipulation of this convention would be to switch the two acts around, but to date this has only been explored in German cinema. Molesting the heroes pet is, if you think about it, serious psychological scoreboard.
Did it have to be a service dog? Have you no decency, sir?
Other favored forms of RWKD are elder abuse, taunting the disabled, slapping a woman extra hard both sides, having a Dick Cheney-like vibe, and littering. Littering is the most inflammatory.
The RWKD trend didn’t start in the last decade, but the acceleration of its use has been marked in any film with Vin Deisel. What better way to set an audience against a rival than 20 seconds of screen time showing the villain advancing menacingly on a labradoodle/girlfriend followed by fade to black and the off-camera sound of a dog’s barking ending abruptly or a bonnet ripping?
Vision Quest refreshingly ignores this convention. Primarily by not having a villain. Take Shute, the rival. View the story from his perspective:
He hears word (peeeeople talking!) that a very good wrestler two weight classes above his is dramatically cutting weight to take him on, this wrestler stalks him at his matches, calls him out while he’s carrying a telephone pole up some football bleachers, and generally makes it known to everyone in their small town that his singular life focus is to destroy him. This Swain lunatic gets constant nose bleeds, hangs out with a fake Indian, and sprints everywhere in a cellophane jogging suit. Shute reacts by having a moderately tense face off with him in a hallway and then wrestles him fairly. He gets beaten. After the only loss of his high school career, he walks off the mat.
I submit that today’s overwrought film making would have had things go down differently. Louden’s unemployed Dad would have been fired by Shute’s father, prompting him to drive off of a Spokane dam, Shute and three friends would beat up Louden in slow motion using karate-wrestling while wearing skeleton masks after the father’s funeral, molest Linda Fiorentino, then run over Louden’s Bernese Mountain Dog with a back hoe after putting cayenne pepper in his wrestling singlet. In the match itself, Shute would blind Louden with a gunpowder mix exhaled from his mouth like The Great Kabuki shortly after Shute’s coach slashes Swain’s Achilles tendon under a bathroom stall during his pre-match piss. When Louden pins Shute, Shute attempts a sneaky attack post-fight, halted only by Linda Fiorentino hitting him with a folding chair while saying,” Take a seat.”
Adults Are Not The Enemy
Refreshingly, every adult male in the movie has Louden’s best interests at heart. Every. Single. One. His Dad, his cool English teacher mentor, his coach, the alcoholic hotel cook. To whatever degree that they do briefly act as obstacles to Louden’s ambitions, if at all, it is expressed in genuine concern for his well-being or to serve as a caution that his quest for glory also affects those around him.
Please contrast this to the conventions of the last two decades: the bumbling idiot sitcom Dad, the hard-driving evil coach, the soulless corporatist parents trapped in the American consumerist lie, the serially abusive Dad, mother, coach, brother, oboist. All a necessary backdrop for pure-hearted teens fighting to escape the clutches of oppressive scheming adults. Just go watch American Beauty. You’ll get the drift.
Speaking of adult themes…
There was a time when women were considered attractive without the aid of compounds from the periodic table of elements injected into their bodies and their eye make up wasn’t applied with a sharpie. They did things like wander around the house in their panties and a button down shirt. None of them were remotely interested in joining a rock climbing gym.
This movie has a young Linda Fiorentino. With fantastic big hair.
If you’ve bought none of my other arguments, this movie demands your respect on that basis alone.
Six Minutes Of Glory
Louden isn’t trying to save the park, stop a chemical spill, expose government corruption, or win prize money to pay for his mother’s kidney transplant. He isn’t wrestling a racist, a polluter, al Queda cells, or a Marxist pederast. He’s pushing himself for glory. Good old fashioned, selfish glory. He tests his limits, grows a bit as a person, inspires others briefly, but few lessons are learned, the stakes are small and personal, and the world keeps on spinning round.
iTunes recently posted newly remastered versions of BIRDY, VISION QUEST, and MEMPHIS BELLE in HD! These films aren't available on Blu-ray! If you haven't seen these classics, now's your chance! They haven't looked this good since the '80s! Check 'em out and let me know what you think!