Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Silver City

The other night I was fortunate enough to attend a preview screening of the new John Sayles movie, Silver City, in Santa Fe. Overall, I felt that the film was strong. It is probably not up to the greatest of Sayles movies, Lone Star and Matewan, but nonetheless I believe it is his best work since Men With Guns. I don't want to give away too much about the movie but the main plot is that a W-like character named Dickie Pillager is running for governor of Colorado (Chris Cooper) while filming a campaign commercial where he is fishing and he catches a dead body. His Karl Rove-like campaign manager (Richard Dreyfuss) hires a private investigator to see if anyone planted the body to embarrass Dickie. Thus in classic Sayles fashion you have a political drama and a mystery as the private investigator played by Danny Huston investigates how the body ended up in the lake.

In some ways Dickie Pillager is the weaker part of the movie. While the comparisons to Bush are amusing they don't really add all that much to the mystery side of the picture which is far stronger. However, it is nice to see an anti-Bush movie (for ultimately that's what much of this is) acutally be a good movie. Which leads me to another point. Why the rush for people on the left to see Farenheit-911. You mean Bush is an idiot? I had no idea. Who knew? While the right is certainly as guilty of this as the left, it is difficult for me to understand what must be a human desire to have their beliefs affirmed. I mean I would far rather have my beliefs affirmed by Michael Moore than Bill O'Reilly but it still seems unnecessary. Is Farenheit-911 a great movie for undecided or Republican voters? Absoultely. If it changes 1 vote it was worth making. And perhaps that's why Moore made the movie. But I would far rather see something that instead of just affirming what I already believe actually presents material from a new standpoint, such as The Corporation, than just a rehashing of things I already know, i.e. Outfoxed (What!! Fox "News" supports the Republican Party!! Amazing. Why had I never heard this news before. It seems so fair and balanced to me.) In this case, while the depiction of the Bush-like character may not be relevatory, at least its encased in some good art.

As usual, Sayles gets a lot from his actors. I particularly liked Maria Bello's character and Chris Cooper did a great job sounding stupid without resorting to a southern or Texas accent. Dreyfuss was fine as Karl Rove. Incidentally, Dreyfuss has made something of a career in playing mildly fictional portrayls of Republicans--see his Bob Dole in The American President and I believe he also played Al Haig in the TV movie on Reagan's shooting.

One of the nice things about this movie was that Sayles avoided the rut that he had been after Lone Star where he would present sociological issues in the same way as he did in Lone Star, but not as well. Limbo was Lone Star Frigid while Sunshine State was too often Lone Star Humid. Here he gets into some very important issues without having a character whose job it is to present these issues to the viewers.

As interesting as the movie itself was the event. Santa Fe is such an attraction for New Yorkers and Californians that it can have events like this. Tom Tomorrow presented a slideshow of some of his comics before the movie (if you ever wondered what he looks like, he's tall and awkward which maybe is why I like him). Then Steve Earle and Kris Kristofferson played some songs. Seeing Steve Earle was great. Now that he's lost weight he doesn't look like a leftist Chris Farley. But seeing Kris was a real treat. He rarely plays anymore and he's getting older and I never thought I'd get to see him. I was especially happy because he played my favorite song of his, Shipwrecked in the Eighties, about Vietnam vets. I don't know if that's his best song--it's not easy to say that something is a better song than Help Me Make It Through The Night or Me And Bobby McGee--but it's my favorite.

Plus many of the celebrity Santa Fe residents came out for the event, including Ali McGraw and the legendary American actor Judge Reinhold, though unfortunately I didn't actually see him. Also the superb Terry Allen was there--I'm sure few of you reading this have heard of him but I give my highest recommendation to his cosmically odd but wonderful country albums Juarez and Lubbock (On Everything). Buy these albums!! But what was really weird was seeing David Byrne come over into our aisle. It was kind of surreal. I've heard he is singing arias these days in his concerts. I don't know what David Byrne singing an aria would sound like exactly, but I know it wouldn't be boring.