24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Red State

Around Town: Ernie Kovacs, Joe Dante and 'Thelma & Louise'

August 25, 2011 |  6:00 am


A tribute to a late comic genius, a 20th anniversary of an Oscar-winning hit, and appearances from directors Joe Dante and Ron Shelton are among the cinematic highlights this weekend.

"In Kovacsland: Tribute to Ernie Kovacs," Saturday evening at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, examines the work of the the innovative comic, who died in a car crash in 1962. During the 1950s and early '60s, Kovacs transformed TV comedy with his surreal camera tricks and crazy characters such as Percy Dovetonsils and the Nairobi Trio. Among those discussing Kovacs are Jeff Garlin, Harry Shearer and George and Jolene Brand Schlatter.

Over at the Cinematheque's Aero Theatre, director Joe Dante will discuss his work Thursday evening in between screenings of his films 1989's "The 'Burbs" and 1993's "Matinee." And on Friday, writer-director Ron Shelton will appear at the screenings of two of his sports comedies starring Kevin Costner: 1988's baseball romance "Bull Durham" and 1996's golf-featured "Tin Cup." http://www.americancinematheque.com

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Kevin Smith brings 'Red State' to L.A.

April 10, 2011 | 12:26 pm

Thefather "I know how hard it is to be a Kevin Smith fan." From the stage of the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday night, Kevin Smith was addressing what seemed to be a room full of nothing but Kevin Smith fans after the local premiere of his new film, "Red State." 

The event capped off the first stage of a release strategy launched at the Sundance Film Festival in January. In some ways, it was a night in which it was never easier or better to be a Kevin Smith fan, as there was an upbeat, people's-gathering vibe to the whole evening. (This was the opposite, say, of the angry public beheading at the live show in Detroit by Charlie Sheen.)

Rather than sell the film to a conventional U.S. distributor, Smith is putting out the film on his own, hoping to cut out any middlemen and the need for an expensive marketing budget. And he's counting on the loyalty and patronage of his fans to make that plan work. As he said from the stage Saturday night, what with the 15-city premium-priced tour wrapping up with this L.A. stop and the sale of the DVD, VOD and foreign rights, "Red State" already will have made back its $4-million production budget before it reaches theaters in the fall.

Though Smith downplayed "Red State" as being in any way "a statement movie," he also acknowledged that it was "about two big subjects, Christianity and being an American." Smith -- who is known for dialogue-driven comedies such as "Clerks," "Chasing Amy" and the religion-themed "Dogma" -- has been describing "Red State" as a horror film, perhaps savvily trading one audience-friendly genre for another. The film's story involves a small, aggressively anti-gay religious congregation that through a series of events enters into a bloody armed standoff with a cadre of ATF agents at a remote compound.

ThevirginThe film certainly played well to the room, as there were derisive catcalls during an on-screen sermon denouncing homosexuality, screams of shock at some unforeseen twists and wild cheering as the villains got theirs. Smith said that, of the previous stops on the "Red State" tour, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C., had been "bloodthirsty" in their cheering -- but he said the Los Angeles crowd had topped both those cities.  

All told, Smith spent nearly 2 1/2 hours onstage Saturday night, first with a pre-screening introduction and then a marathon post-movie Q&A session that was longer than the film itself. After about an hour onstage following the movie, Smith brought out 10 members of the film's cast, including Michael Angarano, Kerry Bishé, Melissa Leo and Michael Parks. The questions from the audience, asked by people who had been lined up since before the cast was introduced, continued to be essentially only for Smith. He was, as it turned out, the one the Smith faithful had shown up for, just as the director had been saying in interviews building up to the screening.

The final question of the evening came from someone who introduced himself as an aspiring filmmaker and asked, "How do I get my stuff seen, how do I get a fair distribution deal somewhere?"

"I don't know," Smith shot back. "I don't have one for this."

-- Mark Olsen

Poster images: The Harvey Boys / coopersdell.com

Sundance 2011: Kevin Smith takes 'Red State' into his own hands

January 23, 2011 |  9:59 pm


Seventeen years after his “Clerks” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, Kevin Smith returned to Park City, Utah, with “Red State” — but he won’t be leaving town with a distributor for his new work.

Ever the showman, Smith had announced before the festival that he would auction off the film’s rights in the lobby of the Eccles Theater like an antique desk being hawked at Sotheby’s. But soon after the film played to a good but not great reaction in its world premiere, Smith ditched the idea of a public sale and announced to the audience (after auctioning the film to himself for $20) that he would release the film on his own in October. "The fans are the ones who got us to make this film, and they're going to be the ones who help us get it seen," Smith said.

In an introduction filled with obscene jokes, Smith briefly talked about the demonstrations staged outside the theater, and held up several of his favorite counter-protest placards.

The film is largely focused on the congregation of a hate-spewing preacher (played by Michael Parks) who kidnaps and murders people he believes are homosexual. The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which is equally homophobic (“God Hates Fags” is a favorite poster) but hasn’t yet killed anyone, sent some of its supporters to picket the film, and the resulting counter-picket turned the Eccles parking lot into a free-speech carnival.

There wasn’t quite as much fun inside the theater.

Smith warned the audience that the movie, which also stars Melissa Leo and John Goodman, wasn’t humorous like his “Chasing Amy” or “Dogma,” and he spoke the truth. The film starts with the abduction of three young boys, who are to be sacrificed for their libidinous transgressions. Parks’ preacher is clearly shaped in the mold of Westboro’s Fred Phelps, but then Smith takes the story to Waco, Texas — not physically, but metaphorically as the church starts to resemble David Koresh’s apocalyptic, armed-to-the-teeth Branch Davidians. There’s a lot of gun violence, an apparent rapture, and even some anti-fascist preaching (when it comes to America, it will either be wrapped in a flag or on the cross, the film says).

“Red State” might have been a difficult sale for any distributor. Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax Films distributed “Clerks” and several of Smith’s other works, waited for Smith in the Eccles lobby, to see if the auction would in fact happen. When Smith announced his self-distribution news inside the theater, Weinstein and a few other buyers left the Eccles, and piled into their SUVs to go see other movies. By that time, the protesters were long gone.

— John Horn

Photo: Director Kevin Smith (center) stages a counter-protest against picketers demonstrating against his film 'Red State' at its premiere, held at the Eccles Theater at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival on Sunday. Credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images


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