Walking Dead Producer Loves Tom Waits, Bob Dylan

TomWaitsMuleVatiations

Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead featured the return of Emily Kinney’s striking singing voice. While sitting in the prison, her character Beth temporarily lifts everyone’s incredibly dark mood by singing a gripping, a cappella version of Tom Waits’ “Hold On.” Which means that before the zombie apocalypse, Beth must have owned a copy of 1999′s Mule Variations. The episode concludes with Waits’ recorded version of the song.

In an interview with EW, executive producer Robert Kirkman revealed the peculiar listening habits of Walking Dead producer Glen Mazarra. It turns out Rob Zombie is not on his playlist.

Who’s the Tom Waits fan?
I think everyone in the production is a Tom Waits fan. But I would say the biggest fan among us is probably Glen Mazzara. That guy only listens to Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.

 

‘My Father and the Man in Black’ Documentary – Review

Fade to black: Scene from the quietly explosive My Father and the Man in Black. Photo: Courtesy New Chapter Productions

You Don’t Know the Real Johnny Cash
On the man who carried Cash
Village Voice

“It wasn’t the drugs and arrests and no-shows that broke Saul and Johnny up,” says Jonathan Holiff, the son of Saul Holiff, the manager of Johnny Cash in the 1960s and early ’70s, a time that included the prison LPs, the jail stays, and Cash’s reawakened fundamentalism. “It was an ideological battle that really tore the relationship apart.”

If you thought Walk the Line was as accurate about Johnny Cash’s life as Valley of the Dolls was about Judy Garland’s (and as unintentionally funny), you might want to pile your hair into a pompadour and catch My Father and the Man in Black. In this riveting, excoriating documentary (opening October 7 at the Quad Cinema) director Jonathan Holiff re-creates the relationship between Cash and manager Saul Holiff, Jonathan’s driven, distant dad, who committed suicide in 2005. This agonizing story, which mixes various film stocks, recorded phone calls between Cash and Saul, and some filmed re-creations, gets all the nasty Cash stuff right. The drugs, the divorces, even—gulp—hints of anti-Semitism. But despite its official story, the doc is really about Jonathan’s tortured relationship with his frosty dad. And how, in death, father and son achieved a reconciliation they couldn’t find while both were living.

In his quietly explosive film, Holiff limns two stories. Yet they reflect each other, like a pair of mercilessly honest mirrors. There is the tale of a father “who didn’t love or respect me.” And there’s the narrative of Saul—a Canadian Jew—and Johnny making it to the top together and then breaking up their partnership.

The story comes courtesy of a storage locker that Saul kept, full of his taped Cash musings, phone conversations, and letters, which gave his troubled son some insight into his dead-eyed progenitor. Holiff’s movie is poetic. But unlike Biography Channel bullshit, this is “no hagiography.” No Johnny Cash’s America, with spuds like Al Gore pontificating about a man they didn’t know. Here, Cash comes across as weak, crazy, strung out, funny, philandering, and freaking authentic.

“What started this movie was people calling after Walk the Line,” Holiff says. “They said, ‘Managers don’t quit superstars; ‘they get fired!’ But Saul did. It was ideological, not just religious. For instance, Saul refused to go to the White House with Johnny because he was anti-American and anti-Nixon.” More troubling is the rift that ultimately sundered the partnership: Saul couldn’t accept Jesus as his personal savior, as Cash famously did. In the film, we hear phone recordings of Cash pressing Saul about his perceived lack of dedication to a movie and album project in which Cash travels Israel and retells the Gospels.

I asked Holiff, if, as the film suggests, Cash was anti-Semitic.

“It was naive anti-Semitism. The only Jews these guys ever met were at some trading post in some small town in Arkansas. It was really just being a good ol’ boy. If Saul was just a money-hungry Jew, why did he quit Johnny when he was making a fortune?”

Perhaps the most riveting part of the film is a long phone conversation between Johnny and Saul about Cash’s biopic about the life of Jesus that was released in 1971. It’s as tense as a scene from Fail-Safe. Cash wants to do the movie. Saul tells him he will offend the Muslims and Jews in his fan base. And that “too many people tell you what you want to hear.” It might be the very moment that breaks up this odd couple.

Mark Stielper, the Cash historian selected by the star’s family, found himself moved by Holiff’s film. “I was there when Jonathan started on that journey. It was a torturous road,” he says. “He was searching for himself. Or for his father and himself. This is a story of a father and a son. The Cash connection is the hook. But it is a very profound story. I found it heart wrenching, and yet Jonathan took great pains not to make it heart wrenching. He tried to make it dispassionate.”

The re-creations of early Johnny, shot by Rene Ohashi, are vibrantly choreographed. Here’s the pilled-up Cash, onstage in socks, ever the wildass rockabilly cat. But it’s the emotion of Holiff’s forging a bond in death with a father he didn’t have in life that gives the movie its heart. Saul Holiff, ultimately, was a broken man. One who made his son sign contracts at home, stopped talking to him, slipped letters under the boy’s door.

The younger Holiff, who was an agent himself, didn’t learn the business just to show his father he could be “more successful than you ever could be.” He’s also using his knowledge to market the film shrewdly.

“We’re using no distributor on purpose,” he emphasized. “We hope our success on the film-festival circuit will translate into a better deal than if we went hat in hand to XYZ distribution. I wanted to bring the film to market myself!”

I asked Holiff if this excavation into his father’s life, reading his letters, listening to his phone calls, was a catharsis. Or is that just something that happens in movies? “It was extremely cathartic,” he says. “I did forgive my father and reconcile with his memory. Having said that, I’m a realist. There are no fairy-tale endings.”

In his own polite, Canadian way, Holiff ended our conversation with a hard-won moral.

“There was nothing special about my childhood,” he says. “I got to make this movie mostly because there’s a star attached. But I tell everyone, if you haven’t reconciled with that parent of yours, do it now. Because you won’t find a storage locker with 60 hours of audio diaries like I did. If I hadn’t found that locker, I’d probably be dead by now. After Saul killed himself and didn’t leave a note, I expected that any day a letter would arrive saying he loved me. I never got Saul’s love when he was alive. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to get it now that he was dead. After Saul’s suicide, I was planning my own exit. This movie saved my life.”

My Father and the Man in Black premiered at the Quad on October 7. It will also be playing at the Tucson Music and Film Festival on October 13.

MY FATHER AND THE MAN IN BLACK – Official Trailer

My Father And The Man In Black | Q&A with Jonathan Holiff about his new Johnny Cash documentary

Production Companies: Intentionally Left Blank, New Chapter Productions
Director-Screenwriter: Jonathan Holiff
Producers: Jonathan Holiff, Tanya Lyn Nazarec, Jennifer Phillips
Executive producer: Jeff Paikin
Production designer: Adam Weir
Music: Michael Timmins
Costume designer: Robyn Rosenberg
Editors: Rob Ruzic, Nick Harauz
No rating, 89 minut

River Phoenix the last 24 hrs – Documentary

River Phoenix last 24 hrs – Documentary

Using archive footage, dramatic reenactment and interviews, this DVD details the last hours of River Phoenix’s life and the events that led to his tragic death in
the city of Los Angeles.

This compelling documentary series unlocks the psychological flaws and events that result in the tragic deaths of famed notorious and the iconic. Every episode maps out the final 24 hours of a different famous person’s life. The series weaves the star’s back-story with events from their last day, which lays bare the threads of fate that led inextricably from childhood to the moment of death. These are no ordinary biographies. They’re psychological detective stories attempting to uncover the mystery of why the celebrity died.

Academy-award nominee for Best Supporting Actor, River Phoenix’s work encompassed 24 films and television appearances, including the science fiction adventure film Explorers, the coming-of-age film Stand By Me, the action sequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the independent adult drama My Own Private Idaho. He appeared in diverse roles, making his first notable appearance in the 1986 film Stand by Me, a hugely popular coming-of-age film based on a novella by Stephen King.

Phoenix made a transition into more adult-oriented roles with Running on Empty (1988), playing the son of fugitive parents in a well-received performance that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination, and My Own Private Idaho (1991), playing a gay hustler in search of his estranged mother. For his performance in the latter, Phoenix garnered enormous praise and won a Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival, along with Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics. He was listed by John Willis as one of twelve promising new actors of 1986.

Although Phoenix’s movie career was generating most of the income for his family, it has been stated by close friends and relatives that his true passion was music. Phoenix was a singer, song writer and an accomplished guitarist. He had begun teaching himself guitar at the age of five and had stated in an interview for E! in 1988 that his family’s move to L.A. when he was nine was made so that he and his sister “… could become recording artists. I fell into commercials for financial reasons and acting became an attractive concept …”

Prior to securing an acting agent, Phoenix and his siblings had attempted to forge a career in music by playing cover songs on the streets of the Westwood district of LA. Phoenix disliked the idea of being a solo artist and relished collaboration; therefore he focused on putting together a band. Aleka’s Attic were formed in 1987 and the line up included his sister Rain. Phoenix was committed to gaining credibility by his own merit and so he maintained that the band would not use his name when securing performances that were not benefits for charitable organizations. Phoenix’s first release was “Across the Way”, co-written with band mate Josh McKay, which was released in 1989 on a benefit album for PETA titled Tame Yourself.

In 1991 River wrote and recorded a spoken word piece called “Curi Curi” for Milton Nascimento’s album TXAI. Also in 1991 the Aleka’s Attic track “Too Many Colors” was lent to the soundtrack of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho a film which included Phoenix in a starring role. In 1996 the Aleka’s Attic track “Note to a Friend” was released on the 1996 benefit album In Defense of Animals; Volume II and featured Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass.

Phoenix had collaborated with friend John Frusciante after his first departure from Red Hot Chili Peppers and the songs “Height Down” and “Well I’ve Been” were released on Frusciante’s second solo album Smile from the Streets You Hold in 1997. The title track may also be an ode to Phoenix. Phoenix was an investor in the original House of Blues (founded by his good friend and Sneakers co-star Dan Aykroyd) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which opened its doors to the public after serving a group of homeless people on Thanksgiving Day 1992.

Phoenix was a dedicated animal rights, environmental and political activist. He was a prominent spokesperson for PETA and won their Humanitarian award in 1992 for his fund-raising efforts. Also in 1990, for Earth Day, Phoenix wrote an environmental awareness essay targeted at his young fan base, which was printed in Seventeen magazine. He financially aided a slew of environmental and humanitarian organizations and bought 800 acres (320 ha) of endangered rainforest in Costa Rica.

At war with his own dark demons, on October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure on the sidewalk outside the West Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room. He was 23 yrs-old at the time of his death. Prior to his death, Phoenix had been in the middle of filming the currently unreleased Dark Blood (1993).

In 24 hours his darkness consumed him and he was dead. Using archive footage, dramatic reenactment and interviews with his closest friends, companions, this documentary details the last hours of River Phoenix’s life and the gripping events that led to his tragic death in L.A.

R.I.P. Sweet Soul

Related post: Actor & Musician River Phoenix’s Final Film ‘Dark Blood’ Gets September Premiere