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"Filmmakers like Gilliam keep coming to the Canadian talent trough for child actors because our kids, by all accounts, tend to be easy to direct, manage, and mould.
October 2, 2005 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Sarah Polley, the little girl in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, finds out that another little Canadian girl is about to star in another Terry Gilliam film, and writes--and warns--about her experiences. Gilliam responds.
posted by amberglow (93 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was fascinating, and didn't go in the direction I expected it to go. Thank you, amberglow.
posted by JeremyT at 8:52 PM on October 2, 2005


Yeah, that ended way nicer than I thought it would.
posted by item at 8:53 PM on October 2, 2005


I was just reading about Ms. Polley about a week ago. I really admire much of Gilliam's wok, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen being right up there. In no way do I wish to minimize what Polley has said about her impressions of the shoot, but I also wonder if it is fair to publicly come out of the blue with this story after having given no indications about it previously. AS far as the casting of the girl in Tideland, my impression that funding for the movie depended on casting Canadian talent in that role. TG had another actress in mind but was unable to use her because she was American.

I am really looking forward to Tideland
posted by edgeways at 8:59 PM on October 2, 2005


The link to Tideland
posted by edgeways at 9:02 PM on October 2, 2005


I feel that Polley gave a fair and open account of her experiences and there was nothing wrong in how she presented it. Surprising? Yes, very much so, but I don't know of anyone that actually chooses what they are traumatised by - do you?
posted by crocos at 9:04 PM on October 2, 2005


I'm by no means a Gilliam fan. For the most part he seems like an over rated hack--and all accounts I've heard of Tideland have been negative. The most positive I've heard has been "... well... it was interesting." I probably won't see it as, like Egoyan, Cronenberg, and Burton (all of who I think of as hacks), I've given Gilliam enough "chances" (for lack of a better term) and each time I get talked into another chance I regret it.

That said, I did like the article. Polley is pretty interesting, I think. She's one of a very short list of actors I'd actually like to meet. I hope she starts getting offered some more challenging roles as I believe there hasn't really been anything to come her way that really made her go the distance. She reminds me of the Toronto-based stage actor Tara Rosling, who I wish would get some film roles. The two would be very interesting playing off one another.

Thanks for the link, amberglow. I wouldn't have read this otherwise.
posted by dobbs at 9:10 PM on October 2, 2005


A very interesting read, amberglow. It makes me wonder how Craig Warnock, the little boy who starred in Gilliam's Time Bandits, felt about working with Terry. I think Gilliam's work is brilliant and uses a child's perspective very effectively.
posted by aardvarkratnik at 9:11 PM on October 2, 2005


I bet Craig had a hard time too...Gilliam's comment about thinking of Sarah as a 30-year-old was telling, i thought.
posted by amberglow at 9:16 PM on October 2, 2005


How do we judge our effects on people if those effects are kept buried for so long? Polley went on from Munchausen to build a career in acting, so the movie didn't scare here away from the field. I guess my reaction is mixed, I feel sorry that she had such a hard time, but I wish she had spoken about it sooner. From what I read the previous week, it seems that she went on to become a determined and strong woman, and so she managed to overcome the adversity. Good for her.
posted by edgeways at 9:17 PM on October 2, 2005


Nice link. Reminds me of the Twilight Zone deaths.
posted by bardic at 9:36 PM on October 2, 2005


If anyone needs chiding (and I don't think anyone does, particularly), it'd be that woman's parents.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:45 PM on October 2, 2005


bardic, I also thought of the TZ deaths. Excellent book on that tragedy.
posted by dobbs at 9:45 PM on October 2, 2005


Gilliam's response sounds a lot like some professor's I have had. He clearly wants to respect what Polley is saying, meanwhile he is also covering his ass, and he doesn't really seem to 'get it'. Communication can be a pretty difficult thing to achieve...
posted by Chuckles at 10:05 PM on October 2, 2005


I suspect much (if not all) of her trauma in the film is related to being a child. I used to be scared of certain rides at the amusement park. I knew they were safe, everyone told me they were safe, I'd watch people safely ride them, and yet at 10 years old a part of me just said "no way, just frickin' look at it. That's scary as hell and might kill you."

Today, the only limiting factor in such things is phobias and nauseousness. Not so when I was a kid.

So while much of her trauma is probably imagined, it is no less real trauma. It's like being forced to ride really scary rides at the amusement park at a very young age. No amount of convincing can take away the very real fear. Add to the mix that she actually went to the hospital once, and that she was the kind of kid to internalize this stuff, and I can see her being very changed by this.

Which gets to my point: you're giving a child actor what amounts to a real job at a very young age. That's going to change them. I am not really surprised at how few child actors are able to really make a career of it, and the number of them that end up hooked on drugs or the like.
posted by teece at 10:09 PM on October 2, 2005


Polley went on from Munchausen to build a career in acting, so the movie didn't scare here away from the field.

Sarah was already firmly in her profession before she made the Munchausen film, having started years earlier in the theatre, so she had quite a bit of experience to compare the Gilliam set against. Plus she's one of the most deeply honest people you could ever hope to meet, so when she shares a personal experience it's well worth taking under consideration.
posted by zarah at 10:15 PM on October 2, 2005


dobbs: I'm curious as to your definition of "hack." For me, hack has always meant a hired gun with no real authorial/directorial voice of their own. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 1&2, Red Dragon) is a good example, in my book.

But Gilliam? Burton? Cronenberg? Do you just not like their work? That's fine, of course. Gilliam, for every good film he's done (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) has made at least one turd (Fear & Loathing). Burton has gotten increasingly dull as he's aged. But both of those guys have a unique directorial style and a certain set of concerns they continue to explore. Those qualities and being "hacks" are mutually exclusive.

And Cronenberg? He's one of the few filmmakers around I'd feel comfortable making an auteur case for. You may not like his movies, but you have to admit he has a unique body of work.

Again: what is your definition of the word "hack?" I only make a deal about it because I've been seeing it tossed around indiscriminately.
posted by brundlefly at 10:15 PM on October 2, 2005


dobbs is having trouble getting his foot in the door, so his use of the word hack has to be taken with a grain of bitter salt.
posted by zarah at 10:23 PM on October 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


Really interesting stuff - thanks amberglow...
posted by benzo8 at 10:44 PM on October 2, 2005


Very interesting and I really liked having some of the interaction between her and Gilliam.

And FWIW, I absolutely loved Baron Munchausen.
posted by fenriq at 10:45 PM on October 2, 2005


nice find amberglow.

zarah - Plus she's one of the most deeply honest people you could ever hope to meet, so when she shares a personal experience it's well worth taking under consideration.

just curious... do you know her personally?
posted by pruner at 10:51 PM on October 2, 2005


Y'know, it's terrible that this poor girl had to go through so much, especially for a film that is generally considered to be "crappy" and "Gilliam's weakest."
posted by afroblanca at 11:04 PM on October 2, 2005


just curious... do you know her personally?

I don't know if zarah knows her, but in Canada, she's a fairly big celebrity, and is always on TV, in Canadian movies, and well covered in the press.
posted by loquax at 11:14 PM on October 2, 2005


Oh, she's all worried and stuff that a Canadian actress might be traumatized by the shoot but could care less if it had been an American actress.

Why does Sarah Polley hate America?
posted by zardoz at 11:21 PM on October 2, 2005


Filmmaking is really hard work, especially on such a grand scale. I can totally understand how Gilliam failed to see the impact the film was having on the girl; he probably thought that if she seemed ok, she was ok and there was no need to do anything about it. I've had actors that seemed the strongest and most assured call me up and tell me their feelings were in reality quite different, that they were actually having a lot of problems. If they hadn't told me directly, I would have never known.
posted by Poagao at 11:26 PM on October 2, 2005


brundlefly, my definition of hack comes down to choices. To me, those directors all make easy choice in their filmmaking. Their work rarely has a basement and, in my opinion, very rarely needs to be revisited. The films do not change over time and, in my opinion, films that do not seem different with repeat viewings are films rarely worth a single viewing. There are exceptions in each of their cases (except, in my opinion, Egoyan), such as Cronenberg's Spider and maybe Videodrome (his best film, to me) Gilliam's Brazil--but they seem to be exceptions that prove the rule.

Cronenberg's last film is a perfect example. History of Violence has no basement, no subtext, no subtletly, makes very easy choices for character and story, and has no need to be rewatched. There are some who'd say that if I'm looking for subtlety in a Cronenberg film than I'm looking in the wrong place but, hey, we'll have to agree to disagree. All thru History of Violence he had opportunities to take the film to a deeper level while maintaining the entertainment value that the film had. He made nothing of those opportunities and ended up with a very forgettable film with lacklustre performances, cliche plot points, an incredibly dreadful score... Others of course will disagree with me. However, the film contained not a single surprising event (every single plot twist was guessable prior to happening)--and were anyone to tell me they found any element surprising, I'd think them not too swift (or not too well versed in the basics of storytelling). There were simple things he could have done to the story to immediately make them resonate more (like making the son a bully rather than a picked-on kid) but he didn't. The places he did verge from the original story (the sex scenes) stuck out like a sore thumb.

He, like Burton, appeals to the lowest common denominator. This isn't to say their films can't be entertaining or enjoyable but are they really that different from Ratner? I don't think so.

Not liking those filmmaker's films isn't why I call them hacks. I don't like them *because* they are hacks.

There are other filmmakers I don't like (Andrew Bergman, Michael Bay, Tony Scott, Roger Spottiswoode, Joel Schumacher, Taylor Hackford...) but for the most part I don't consider them talented enough to be hacks. (Though I've referred to Schumacher this way many times.)

To me, what makes Cronenberg, Gilliam, and the others I mentioned hacks is that they take great premesis and consistently make average films out of them (Burton is the guiltiest of this in the last 30 years, imo) by making simple choices for story and plot.

Cronenberg's been called an auteur more often then a hack, of course, because he does make films with very interesting premises. But to me, the biggest "yardstick" for measuring an auteur is if you can/can't imagine anyone else making film X and doing it better. For instance, it's near impossible to imagine Kane done by anyone but Welles, Funny Games by anyone but Haneke, 400 Blows by anyone but Truffaut, Weekend by anyone but Godard, Thin Red Line by anyone but Malick, Dogville by anyone but von Trier... etc. (Even if you don't like any of these films, they're stamped with that filmmaker's "voice"). But The Sweet Hereafter? Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Not hard to imagine. And 12 Monkeys? Though I like the film, can I imagine anyone doing it better? Sure. Chris Marker did it better three decades earlier. History of Violence? Sure. Just about any competant director could have made as compelling and thought-provoking a film (which is to say, not very compelling or thought provoking at all)--and many people could have made it better.

Of course, your own definitions/opinions will differ. But you asked... :)

dobbs is having trouble getting his foot in the door, so his use of the word hack has to be taken with a grain of bitter salt.

zarah, I haven't a clue who you are and, for certain, you don't know what you're talking about. "Getting my foot in the door"? WTF? With the exception of a few screenwriting contests (in which I've placed just fine, thanks very much), I've made *zero* attempt to get my foot in any filmmaking door here or south of the border. Meaning you're talking out of your ass.

There are *plenty* of contemporary filmmakers who I consider auteurs (Haneke, David Gordon Green, David Fincher, PT Anderson, the Dardennes, Ross McElwee, Jon Jost, Mary Harron, Kiarostami, Takeshi Kitano, Chan-wook Park, von Trier, etc etc etc)--they just happen to not be Gilliam.
posted by dobbs at 11:41 PM on October 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


from dictionary.com:

HACK:
1. One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling.
2. A writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.

gilliam might easily be considered a lot of things, but "hack" is simply not one of them. he is far more maverick than "hireling" (see "lost in la mancha"). and his work is anything but "routine" or "commercial". in fact, he's had a hell of a time getting his films funded due to the fact that he actually has vision outside the norm, which tends to make his art unprofitable. so call him what you like (even "bad" if you like), but he's not a hack.
posted by muppetboy at 11:42 PM on October 2, 2005


brazil is stunning and it's hard to imagine that anyone else could have made it.
posted by muppetboy at 11:47 PM on October 2, 2005


not to mention all the monty python stuff, which was hardly derivative or commercial...
posted by muppetboy at 11:52 PM on October 2, 2005


I can not imagine why Sarah Polley decided this was worth taking public. It was rather icky reading such private communications. WTF did she have to gain by publishing it?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:07 AM on October 3, 2005


Yeah, others are correct, it seems to me dobbs. Hack is being used inappropriately by you. You think Gilliam is a bad flimmaker, which is fine and dandy. But he is not a hack.

Of course, your usage is becoming fairly common, so it's a mute (ha, I'm witty) point, so who cares.

But this is all just pointless derail.
posted by teece at 12:11 AM on October 3, 2005


dobbs, you lost yr argument when you listed David G. Green as an auteur while mentioning Terry Malik in the same post.
posted by item at 12:24 AM on October 3, 2005


Come to think of it, you lost it way before that point. My mistake.
posted by item at 12:27 AM on October 3, 2005 [1 favorite]


The Film Snob's debate technique/conversation stopper:

"Why does {insert mainstream film title/director} get so much attention while {insert possibly good film but so esoteric and obscure your opponent will have to admit he/she hasn't seen it} never gets the attention it deserves?
posted by zardoz at 12:36 AM on October 3, 2005


I've made *zero* attempt to get my foot in any filmmaking door here or south of the border.

Hmmm, I guess it was some other bitter Canadian complaining about such things, or you just don't remember your own commenting history. Odd though, that someone would write screenplays for fun, and not with any designs on having them produced.

just curious... do you know her personally?

My family has known her family since the early 80's, some of us have worked with her too. I guess I can't be less vague than that, without using our real names, sorry :(
posted by zarah at 12:54 AM on October 3, 2005


whoa, Fear and Loathing is NOT hackery! Holy mother of christ!
posted by punkbitch at 1:02 AM on October 3, 2005


I can not imagine why Sarah Polley decided this was worth taking public. It was rather icky reading such private communications. WTF did she have to gain by publishing it?

Wouldn't it make sense to remind everyone, not just Gilliam, about child actors still being children?
posted by lazy-ville at 1:06 AM on October 3, 2005


I can not imagine why Sarah Polley decided this was worth taking public. It was rather icky reading such private communications. WTF did she have to gain by publishing it?
posted by five fresh fish


I agree, it was kind of creepy. I'm guessing that she wants people to watch the making of this film closely, with regard to the young actress. That would make her letter to Gilliam not as therapeutic as it seems.
posted by recurve at 1:21 AM on October 3, 2005


I agree, it was kind of creepy. I'm guessing that she wants people to watch the making of this film closely, with regard to the young actress. That would make her letter to Gilliam not as therapeutic as it seems.

Except the postscript at the end seems to imply that the movie has already finished filming. Does she have a movie coming out sometime soon?

I've always found Sarah Polley comes across as a bit of a pompous ass. With all of her activism and pretty much any of her press, she gives off this whole "I am so much better than you" vibe which may or may not be how she actually is, but if it isn't then her publicist really needs to have a chat with her. When she was here in town for the film festival this year, her publicist started telling press that she "reserves the right to refuse interviews with certain publications" which I thought was pretty hilarious. Hello? You're Sarah Polley, not Julia friggin Roberts here. What's with the primadonna act?
posted by antifuse at 1:43 AM on October 3, 2005


....What the wonderful chicken said.
posted by reflecked at 1:46 AM on October 3, 2005


I'll agree with those that see this exchange, and the fact that it was made public as a pretty logical extension of who Sarah Polley is. As mentioned, she has a history of speaking out about issues that she believes in... going public with it makes it an encouragement to anyone who is working with children in films.

That said, an interesting (at least to me) aside. I met Ms. Polley when I was able to spend a couple of weeks on the set while they were filming the "Dawn of the Dead" remake... she came across as a pretty down to earth, sincere individual... I didn't get the "pompous ass" sense that reflecked noted.... Anyway... Dawn was a fairly violent movie, and there was a young girl in the very beginning who was a zombie victim and required a lot of frightening makeup on her face... they made a point during the filming of never letting her see her face in a mirror in order to not frighten her....

and...good link, thanks
posted by HuronBob at 2:41 AM on October 3, 2005


I don't know Sarah Polley other than she's a young actor who made "Guinevere" a real pleasure to watch, but shoot, why shouldn't she speak up and say that being a working child can be more or less terrifying? Bully for her for telling Gilliam just how and why she's concerned for his next young player.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:19 AM on October 3, 2005


Wow, and I used to be so jelous of her for landing that part too. The (end result) film looked like it would have been mad fun to shoot.
posted by dabitch at 3:24 AM on October 3, 2005


Hmmm.
antifuse's statement included the "pompous ass" line you attributed to me, HuronBob. heh.. Not my style at all.
posted by reflecked at 3:40 AM on October 3, 2005


Why does Sarah Polley hate America?

Doesn't everybody -- including many Americans? :-)
posted by neek at 4:25 AM on October 3, 2005


reflecked...oops, sorry, I actually scrolled up to make sure I got it right... that's what I get for posting at 5:41 am... bad me~!
posted by HuronBob at 4:34 AM on October 3, 2005


What's brilliant about her letter is that she's not trying to blame anyone, only looking out for someone else. To the extent she does hold anyone responsible, it's her parents and that's completely appropriate. Although she lets them off the hook somewhat when she alludes to the fact that they may have been swayed by the glamour of it all (and who wouldn't be?)

The only unfair thing here is if she didn't get Gilliam's permission before publishing both sides of their correspondence.

Excellent post.
posted by zanni at 4:37 AM on October 3, 2005


I wonder about people saying she should have spoken up then. Kids can't speak up at the time. How can you even process the experience enough to start to speak up, especially if you're actually starring in a big-budget movie? I can't imagine the pressure she was under then, and the battle between being terrified and scared, and being thrilled and excited by the whole thing.

She spoke now to try to help that other kid, knowing that the kid wouldn't be able to--at all. I applaud her, but also wish her parents had been more watchful and caring on the set (and more troublemakers on her behalf).

For the first time, i think i more fully understand why so many child stars grow up messed up, and think Polley may have helped more than just that newer girl.
posted by amberglow at 5:10 AM on October 3, 2005


The link was fascinating. Thanks, amberglow.
posted by grouse at 5:27 AM on October 3, 2005


I'm with punkbitch. Fear and Loathing is, I think, a pretty good adaptation of the novel. I don't think that it is Gilliam's greatest work - that would probably have to be either Brazil or 12 Monkeys, and I can see why many wouldn't care for it, but I don't think that it deserves to be written off so easily.

Also, John Neville was fantastic as Munchausen.
posted by Tullius at 5:40 AM on October 3, 2005


Oh, yes - I forgot to add: What a nice exchange between the two. No hostility, and a seemingly earnest attempt by each to understand where the other was coming from. Thanks for the link, amberglow.
posted by Tullius at 5:42 AM on October 3, 2005 [1 favorite]


When she was here in town for the film festival this year, her publicist started telling press that she "reserves the right to refuse interviews with certain publications" which I thought was pretty hilarious. Hello? You're Sarah Polley, not Julia friggin Roberts here.

I don't find that unreasonable at all. I'm pretty sure even I have the right to refuse interviews with certain publications and I'm most assuredly not Julia Roberts. Or was it the way that her publicist conveyed this information that upsets you?

And thanks for the link.
posted by ODiV at 5:48 AM on October 3, 2005


Same article is on Polley's webpage. (she looks a little like Amanda Congdon)

Thanks for the post, amberglow. Otherwise I might not have learned that Will Self's Cock & Bull was being made into a film. As strange as the book is, I am surprised Gilliam isn't directing it.
posted by terrapin at 5:51 AM on October 3, 2005


Oops. Sorry, that is a fan site, not an official one.
posted by terrapin at 6:04 AM on October 3, 2005


Excellent link, amberglow. Thank you for posting it!
posted by zarq at 6:31 AM on October 3, 2005


Gilliam's "Adventures of the Brothers Grimm" was very well done. I don't think it suffered like the adaption of Munchausen. He definitely had a lot of good talent in the film. I am looking forward to Tideland. While Gilliam is not at the level of Jeunet, he is pretty damned close in the darkly imaginitive use of film.
posted by JJ86 at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2005


When she was here in town for the film festival this year, her publicist started telling press that she "reserves the right to refuse interviews with certain publications" which I thought was pretty hilarious. Hello? You're Sarah Polley, not Julia friggin Roberts here.

Was there a reason given for that? Because standing up for your principles by refusing to interview with certain publications when you're Julia Roberts and every publication in the English speaking world is beating down your door is not taking much of a stand. Doing the same when you're Sarah Polley and you could use the press to help your career is a rather gutsier move.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:56 AM on October 3, 2005


Egoyan, a hack? 'The Sweet Hereafter' not stamped with his 'voice?' C'mon...there is a definite 'voice' to 'Erotica,' 'Felicia's Journey,' and 'The Adjuster' that you're obviously just missing.

But I suppose after reading that you consider Gilliam a 'hack,' I shouldn't be surprised. Not that I care, as long as these two great filmmakers keep doing what they do without trying please audiences like you.
posted by NationalKato at 7:43 AM on October 3, 2005


One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling.

From Merriam-Webster:

Hack: to cut or shape by or as if by crude or ruthless strokes.

Yeah, I'm taking liberties with the definition, but that's the root of what I'm talking about.

dobbs, you lost yr argument

Lost? Argument? I stated an opinion.

Odd though, that someone would write screenplays for fun, and not with any designs on having them produced.

I never said I didn't have designs on getting them produced. I said I haven't tried to get them produced. That's not the same thing. When I think I'm ready, I'll submit them. That hardly makes me bitter.

Gilliam...

I remember when The Fisher King won a prize at the Toronto Film Festival and Gilliam's speech consisted of "Thanks for justifying my sell out." Joking or not, I think that sums him up pretty good.

The Film Snob's debate technique/conversation stopper:...

Sorry, did someone use that technique?

Not that I care, as long as these two great filmmakers keep doing what they do without trying please audiences like you.

I completely agree with you. They shouldn't try to please me and there are tons of people who love their films. I'm just not one of them, which, as you state, is fine.

And you're right. I'm wrong about Egoyan. He definitely has a stamp/voice. I shouldn't confuse my dislike for his films with the films themselves.
posted by dobbs at 8:00 AM on October 3, 2005


While Gilliam is not at the level of Jeunet:

I know that Jeunet has a high regard for TG (as said in an interview with Jeunet).

I agree that Jeunet can be great, but two words - Alien: Resurrection. And while I like his last movie quite a bit I wouldn't call it "darkly imaginative" (nor, was Amélie for that matter).

But, as much of this thread is turning out to be, it is a matter of opinion
posted by edgeways at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2005


Sara Polley does a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the Tragically Hip's 'Courage' on the soundtrack to the movie the Sweet Hereafter - which in itself is a hauntingly beautiful movie.
posted by any major dude at 8:53 AM on October 3, 2005


"Hack: to cut or shape by or as if by crude or ruthless strokes.

Yeah, I'm taking liberties with the definition, but that's the root of what I'm talking about."

Sure, if by "taking liberties" you mean "ignoring". The definition you quoted above is used to describe what a machete does in the jungle. As you were using it, the definition I posted is the accepted one and what everyone but you believes you meant.
posted by muppetboy at 9:09 AM on October 3, 2005


Could we move on from the hack bit? it isn't that germane to anything else talked about here. Please?
posted by edgeways at 9:11 AM on October 3, 2005


Was there a reason given for that? Because standing up for your principles by refusing to interview with certain publications when you're Julia Roberts and every publication in the English speaking world is beating down your door is not taking much of a stand. Doing the same when you're Sarah Polley and you could use the press to help your career is a rather gutsier move.

So far as I know, no reason was given. And I don't know if she actually refused any interviews or not. All I know is that every reporter was told that she reserved the right to refuse to talk to them if she felt like it. This may have just been a goof on the part of the publicity company that was doing her organizational work, but if so, they really flubbed it. I'm thinking that the more appropriate approach would have been to refuse interviews with those people she actually wanted to snub, rather than alienating ALL press by telling them that if she felt like it, she could cancel her interview with them.
posted by antifuse at 9:11 AM on October 3, 2005


This was an awesome post Amberglow (kind made me tear up a bit and I don't know why). Munchausen has long been one of my favorite films.
posted by tkchrist at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2005


Ooh, having to go in cold water and being put close to controlled explosions. And all for the miserable reward of being immortalised in a Terry Gilliam film.

Excuse me while my heart entirely fails to bleed. When I was a lad in Grimsby we used to go in cold water (the river Humber - now that's cold water) for fun. As for explosions... well, I wouldn't call the ones we made with ingredients filched from the school chemistry lab controlled, exactly, but we loved 'em anyway.

Obviously Canadian kids are big soft weeds and British kids are well 'ard.
posted by Decani at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2005


Yeah, American kids are 'ard too. I spent 6 days a week all summer stacking hay bales from 6am to 6pm under the scorching eastern Montana sun when I was a kid. This might not strike you as difficult, except that I was severely allergic to hay, had asthma and broke out whenever I touched the stuff. There were things like that back as far as I can remember. So I pretty much fail to connect with any special trauma that Polley suffered that's beyond the kind of thing that every kid goes through.
posted by muppetboy at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2005


Kick ass.

Wow. My immediate reaction was “hollywood = heartless, inhuman, mean, bad” crossed wires with “Gilliam = warm, fuzzy, human” it’s nice to see that one was validated over the other.
Some people you can get an excellent sense of from their work.
(I adore most of his work; of course Brothers Grimm, not so much)
Gilliam, whatever your taste is for him, is a tangibly humane entity as opposed to someone who seeks fame or fortune. You get a real sense of what is truly important in that exchange. And really, so much of his work inbued with that moral, I’m surprised I could have thought otherwise.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2005


I think the last two points are valid, except for the nationality tint to them. Adversity, to a degree, is what makes up able to deal with stupid adult things.
posted by edgeways at 10:33 AM on October 3, 2005


i think the nationality tint was joking.
posted by muppetboy at 10:45 AM on October 3, 2005


yeah, most likely.
posted by edgeways at 12:53 PM on October 3, 2005


A wonderful but VERY sad French film about a mother's death from a 4 year old's perspective is Ponette, and the four year old starring actress, Victoire Thivisol won the Best Actress honors at the 1996 Venice Film Festival for her performance.

In the credits, however, are prominently featured several child psychologists who treated and monitored the well-being of the children throughout the movie. Particularly for young children, whose ability to differentiate between pretend and reality is limited, I think this was a very valuable service to provide, and the practice might be well copied by other directors who care about their actors.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:05 PM on October 3, 2005


David Fincher (that overrated hack) also made an Alien sequel.

Jeunet's was better.

i like the definition of a hack as one who makes easy choices. i'm worrying that through though (in the trough, cough cough).

How do you know what choices are easy? don't know. i know i get annoyed when a director keeps making the same choices.

Burton.
posted by Miles Long at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2005


dobbs: We'll have to agree to disagree on Cronenberg,* and to a lesser extent Gilliam. However, I still have to call foul on your definition of hack. You seem to say it's not just that you don't like them (the aforementioned filmmakers)... but that you dislike them in a very specific way. Namely, you felt they dropped the ball on interesting premises.

It's seems to me you should clearly state that, instead of saying "hack." Also, in your response, you misused the phrase, "exception that proves the rule." Just sayin'.

/annoying language preachiness

*Interesting that you find Spider to be among his strongest work. I had the exact opposite reaction, placing it among his weakest (although certainly above eXistenZ).
posted by brundlefly at 1:50 PM on October 3, 2005


I thought the letter was personal and a bit icky too. What was the point of it again?

why shouldn't she speak up and say that being a working child can be more or less terrifying?

Because that's not what she said. She said that working as a child actor with Terry Gilliam was terrifying. I'm actually not a big Gilliam fan (outside of the awesome Brazil), but I think the issue should have been handled outside of the public eye.

The only unfair thing here is if she didn't get Gilliam's permission before publishing both sides of their correspondence.

Well, duh. With his permission, it's certainly kosher, but I just didn't get it. Yeah, stage parents are crap. Yeah, kids shouldn't be treated as adults, (nor should they ever work full-time). Duh.

Anyway... Dawn was a fairly violent movie, and there was a young girl in the very beginning who was a zombie victim and required a lot of frightening makeup on her face...

Oh man, that was the best part of that whole fricking movie. Got me all excited and whatnot. Great opening. I should have left soon after ...
posted by mrgrimm at 2:29 PM on October 3, 2005


Could we move on from the hack bit? it isn't that germane to anything else talked about here. Please?

I'm surprised that almost worked!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:30 PM on October 3, 2005


Terry Gilliam has a vivid visual imagination, and the ability to translate that to the screen. Good in a moviemaker.

I had such a movie-crush on Sarah Polley that at I was mocked by my friends whenever a movie would come out with "my little sugar maple" in it. (I hadn't had it so bad since a prepubescent crush on Christine "Moose" McGlade.) It didn't register that she was in B.Munchausen until now. On screen, she is smart and talented and is pretty. (See "My Life Without Me". You WILL cry.) Something you'd look for in an actress, even a child. She seems especially appropriate for child acting and a part like this, because she comes off as sensible and no-nonsense without being too serious or hard. I'd have cast her for a child confronted with...let's call it "too much imagination".

Being a child actor must be hard. Especially later in life.

I think that maybe, if the caption is true, that people go to teh Canada for child actors because:

1) Canadian "stage parents" HAVE to be less insane than American ones.
2) Kids on Canadian TV shows have to ACT, not just be chirpy and sell trendy clothes and soda. (see DeGrassi vs. Saved by the Bell?)
3) Little children should be English. I have this bias because all the best (okay, my favorite) children's stories are/have English children in them. What's cuter; "Ma/Mom" or "Mummy"? (They should, however, sing in French. Sounds better.) I suppose Canadians are a compromise that satisfies everyone. Except, perhaps, former child actors. But it's just one of those things in movies that seem to work, like English actors making the best Romans and Nazis. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but for some reason it seems to work that way.

Also, Canadians are nice. Be nice to them.
posted by bartleby at 3:12 PM on October 3, 2005


brundlefly, I sent you an email as my comments were too out of place in the thread.
posted by dobbs at 5:05 PM on October 3, 2005


Well, I think Sarah Polley is just lovely and she has always struck me as a very well spoken young Canadian lady when I've heard her on the CBC and I thought the exchange was very sweet and well worth reading, for all the reasons listed above (pro and con). Thanks, amberglow.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:39 PM on October 3, 2005


David Fincher (that overrated hack) also made an Alien sequel.

Jeunet's was better.


Egad! That's like saying syphillis is better than the clap. Alien Cubed got points for style, but was slow, dreary and unexciting. Fincher has done much better work.

And as for Jeunet's Alien 4--horrible. Seriously, watch it again. "Hack" is best applied to that particular...film.
posted by zardoz at 6:04 PM on October 3, 2005


(I hadn't had it so bad since a prepubescent crush on Christine "Moose" McGlade.)

And I always thought I was the only one!

(or is this just the introduction to the opposite sketches?)
posted by afroblanca at 6:22 PM on October 3, 2005


Suck it up and get back in the tank, Polley. Sheesh, these Canadian indy film types are sensitive.
posted by dsquid at 8:31 PM on October 3, 2005


Man, points for style is all Fincher ever gets. And i don't know how many wobbly,gritty closeups of dripping slime i can stand.

maybe i should watch them back to back, then we'd get the real deal, but i told you before, i liked alien 4. It was no Aliens of course, but i thought it had an original spin on the story and interesting characters. i've seen really bad movies, and that wasn't a blip.

all opinion of course, just like you.
posted by Miles Long at 8:55 PM on October 3, 2005


(I hadn't had it so bad since a prepubescent crush on Christine "Moose" McGlade.)

And I always thought I was the only one!

(or is this just the introduction to the opposite sketches?)

Man, points for style is all Fincher ever gets. And i don't know how many wobbly,gritty closeups of dripping slime i can stand.


You can't do that on MeFi! without getting green slime dumped on your head! Oh and I was all prepared to talk about the AD Department and Logistics of child actors 30 years ago versus today. I was going to discuss neuroscience and the process by which a mind develops, but this last bit just brought up a Defining Experience in my own life and I could not resist Moose!

Besides all the hack talk by people who have not made a single movie much less a body of work as extensive as any of the artists whose names have been dropped like an anvil here is quite trite. The only sure-fire formula for producing great art is to produce a vast amount of bad art. There will be good art that comes out of you, then there will be great art and even once or twice you will touch genius.

I just love when people call directors, actors, musicians, writers, etc. hacks. Even when they are also a director, actor, musician or especially a writer. What the usage of this term really tells about the person who hurl it is that they have deep seeded jealousy for someone else's success and an equally deep seeded fear of failure. Stop spending destructive energy calling someone a hack and put it into creative effort, go make a movie, write a book, record an album, paint a picture.
posted by N8k99 at 11:31 PM on October 3, 2005


N8k99, your post is ignorant nonsense. If I have "deep seated jealousy for someone else's success" why have I praised many times other people's films and successes here on MeFi? Why have I recommended hundreds of artists (directors, actors, screenwriters, musicians, painters, cinematographers, editors, photographers, poets, sculptors) to other Mefites? Tell me, is it only when people disparage artists you appreciate that they are burdened with this complex or are you simply talking out of your ass? Are you saying that criticism of anything is misplaced and misguided? Everything should be praised, should it?

The only sure-fire formula for producing great art is to produce a vast amount of bad art.

Hate to break it to you but creating vast amounts of bad art is not a "sure-fire" way to produce great art. If you believe that, you're fooling yourself or deluded from believing your mom's comments on your own work. All artists create bad art at some point; thinking that anyone who can do it consistently is on a "sure-fire" track to "good art" (whatever that is) is preposterous.

I assume that since you're dispensing advice for the artists of Mefi that you spend plenty of time creating your own works. If that's the case, here's my piece of advice to you:

Get used to the fact that some people will not like what you create, no matter what others think of it. Some of these people might even express their thoughts on your work in a place where others will read them. Some of these people may be more familiar with your work than those who praise it. Some of these people may go out of their way to acquaint themselves with your work so that they can have an informed opinion. And some of them will be right. Accept that or you are doomed.

Stop spending destructive energy calling someone a hack

Yes, don't examine other artists' bodies of work for what makes them succeed or fail. Don't study artists of the past to help learn your own craft. And for GOD'S SAKE don't express your opinion on the internet!
posted by dobbs at 9:27 AM on October 4, 2005


While I don't agree with the rest of N8k99's post, I rather like the statement that good art comes from bad art. It reminds me of the engineering effort that it took to build rockets and later the space program - it was said that each new rocket design required 65,000 errors or failures in what was at the time a fundamentally trial and error process before it would actually fly consistently. I know it's not a perfect analogy, but art seems to be a completely trial and error process as well, at least in terms of the audience's reception to it. Make enough mistakes (and learn from them) and eventually you'll hit on something successful.
posted by loquax at 9:34 AM on October 4, 2005


loquax, good art can come from bad art. But "sure-fire"? Sorry, but that's bullocks.

And no, your analogy isn't perfect as it doesn't take into account the countless people creating things, poorly, who never make something worth a damn. Those folks far out number the ones who do, we just never hear of them.
posted by dobbs at 9:41 AM on October 4, 2005


I agree it's certainly not sure fire, but as for the people consistently creating poor (as in unpopular) art, maybe they just give up too soon? Still, I'm not disagreeing with you, I just liked the engineering parallel, for what it's worth.
posted by loquax at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2005


So when does Hitler come into this dicussion?
posted by muppetboy at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2005


Hitler? What a hack!
posted by skoosh at 11:23 AM on October 4, 2005


And there we have it.
posted by muppetboy at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2005


EOT
posted by muppetboy at 1:49 PM on October 4, 2005


actually, i've always found this young lady to be fairly pompous. if i hear one more time from HER in a publication, just how smart she is, i'll probably throw up. actually, now that i think about it, she's probably no different than an average obnoxious teenager who thinks they know everything and has to tell everyone this, except she gets a public soapbox. now this is not to say that sometimes she doesn't have something good or interesting to say, or that her work is isn't sometimes good and interesting. it's just that she is a little tiresome sometimes. maybe she'll look back later, as most of us have, and think: "oh my god, what was i thinking when i said that?". yeah, maybe.
posted by TrinityB5 at 3:12 PM on October 4, 2005


dobbs >>> "Polley is pretty interesting, I think. She's one of a very short list of actors I'd actually like to meet."

antifuse >>> "I've always found Sarah Polley comes across as a bit of a pompous ass. With all of her activism and pretty much any of her press, she gives off this whole 'I am so much better than you' vibe which may or may not be how she actually is, but if it isn't then her publicist really needs to have a chat with her."

I went to high school with her. Not that she was around much, of course. But I do remember sitting backstage with her during a one-act play festival (she was dating one of the directors), and talking with her a lot, plus assorted random meetings over the next year or so. She was a mixture of both: very very smart and interesting, and deeply full of herself. No idea what she's like now, but from what I've heard from time to time is that it's very much the same. She is a very genuine person, if that helps.


terrapin >>> "Thanks for the post, amberglow. Otherwise I might not have learned that Will Self's Cock & Bull was being made into a film. As strange as the book is, I am surprised Gilliam isn't directing it."

Seriously? That's going to be one twisted fucking movie. Excellent.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:06 AM on October 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


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