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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

Check out my new column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME LIVE DVD - REVIEW

rocknrollOne of the things that hits you about the midway point when watching this set is that this has to be one of the greatest live “Best Of” compilations ever put to DVD. The luminaries of rock and roll that appear within this presentation is enough to make it a worthwhile purchase for yourself but certainly is something that ought to be considered a solid gift for anyone who appreciates a wide spectrum of music.

The interesting thing that’s also included is a nice sampling of acceptance speeches. I realize this may not be a real selling point to some but, to me, it’s interesting to hear where many of these artists drew their own inspiration as they went down their path of greatness. It wasn’t always great for these musicians so it’s a delight to get some moments that don’t involve a musical instrument. These people are worth more than their instruments and it allows us a little glimpse into their humanity. And the inductions ought not to be missed, either. To hear Axl Rose inducting Elton John is a moment of oddness that certainly works and there is a moment when Bono inducts the late Bob Marley that should put to rest any criticisms about the man’s sense of his on ego.

And the performances, what people are really here to see, however, are a mixed bunch. I think, and this completely understandable, that those performing are not performing entire shows. These are not concerts but Grammy-style showcases of their hits, so to speak. That said, you have the usual things like audio levels being sometimes wonky, the age of those on the stage sometimes indicate why some don’t go on the road as much anymore, but it all can be attributed to the way concerts go. It sometimes can take a couple songs for artists to get their rhythm and this is no exception. You get one shot here to make the case why you deserve to be there in the first place and sometimes it doesn’t work out that well. However, there are some standout performances by Eddie Vedder and The Doors, Metallica comes correct for their selection, and I was just enamored with James Brown. The latter of which never knew the meaning of the word offstage.

This set really defines the state of popular music in the late 20th century. While the content extends into the 2000’s what you have here is a compendium of acts that all have contributed to the successes of those who have come after them. You may not think that an act that was going strong in the 1970’s has anything to do with the meteoric rise of any rock band coming through the ranks nowadays but it is the organic osmosis of rock and roll that you can see on these discs that show how many connecting threads there are in this industry. No where else is the appropriation and the inspiration of the things we admire from our own rock stars more on display than right here.  This is a vivid document of those people who we’ve paid hundreds of dollars to see live, we’ve bought their records, their shirts, and nowhere else will you find a more appropriate gift for the music lover in your life.

A product description:

On October 20, 2009, Time Life commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame with an unprecedented, comprehensive collection of performances compiled from a quarter century of induction celebrations. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live DVD collection boasts 125 remarkable performances by the most influential and significant figures in rock music history, as well as the speeches, toasts and roasts by which these members of rock royalty salute each others’ accomplishments. History is made when legendary artists such as Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen and Bono, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Tom Petty, take the stage for once-in-a-lifetime collaborations. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live DVD set includes nine DVDs, eight of these featuring an assortment of performances spanning more than two decades of ceremonies, as well as induction and acceptance speeches, and never-before-seen backstage and rehearsal footage. A ninth DVD features The Concert For The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, a star-studded concert event which opened the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum inCleveland in 1995. Never before available, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live DVD set is an unparalleled rock ‘n’ roll experience - over 24 hours of rare and exclusive performances and footage – and a must-own for every music fan.

On October 20, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live 9-DVD set will be available for purchase exclusively online for $119.96 via the DVD web site RockHallDVDs.com or TimeLife.com.

Each year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors rock music’s pioneering figures during prestigious, black-tie ceremonies. Rock’s biggest stars induct their biggest influences and contemporaries, with heartfelt, wise and witty speeches. Over the years, Paul McCartney has inducted John Lennon, Paul Simon has inducted Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler has inducted AC/DC, Elton John has inducted The Beach Boys, and in turn, Elton John was inducted by Axl Rose. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live DVD includes a staggering 52 of these tributes, all complete and unedited. But, it’s during the live performance part of the ceremony when rock history is really made.

With egos set aside, the artists take the stage and deliver once-in-a-lifetime performances, often with a truly mind-blowing combination of talent, such as Mick Jagger performing with Bruce Springsteen, REM with Eddie Vedder, The Band with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck with Jimmy Page. As Robbie Robertson once commented, “It’s an opportunity to see musical combinations we may never see again as long as we live,” Case in point, 1988’s ceremony featured a jaw-dropping performance of The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Mick Jagger and Billy Joel. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live DVD set includes 125 of these musically historic performances, from Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry rockin’ “Roll Over Beethoven” at the inaugural ceremony in 1986, to Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Flea, and Metallica’s rendition of “The Train Kept A-Rollin’” at this year’s ceremony in April. As a bonus, a ninth DVD contains the 1995 Concert For The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame featuring an all-star line-up including John Mellencamp, Bon Jovi, Lou Reed, Soul Asylum, The Allman Brothers, Sheryl Crow, The Kinks, Ann and Nancy Wilson, John Fogerty, James Brown and Al Green.

Online Exclusive Collection includes:

* 9 DVDs in deluxe collector’s packaging
* 125 one-of-a-kind live performances
* 54 complete Hall of Fame induction speeches
* “The Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” commemorating the opening of the museum in Cleveland in 1995 featuring performances by John Mellencamp, Eric Burdon and Bon Jovi, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed and Soul Asylum, The Allman Brothers and Sheryl Crow, The Kinks, Ann and Nancy Wilson, John Fogerty, James Brown, and Al Green.
* 9-plus hours of never-before-seen backstage and rehearsal footage.
* 9 essays from award winning music journalists and historians Rob Bowman, Holly George-Warren, Michael Hill, Dave Marsh, Charlie McCardell and Andy Schwartz

PERFORMANCES BY:

AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers, The Band, Jeff Beck, Bee Gees, Chuck Berry, Blondie, Bon Jovi, Ruth Brown, Jackson Browne, Lindsey Buckingham, Eric Burdon, Jerry Butler, Solomon Burke, The Byrds, Johnny Cash, Chubby Checker, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Cream, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sheryl Crow, Bo Diddley, The Doors, Melissa Etheridge, Flea, Fleetwood Mac, John Fogerty, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Green Day, Dave Grohl, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Dhani Harrison, Taylor Hawkins, Isaac Hayes, Don Henley, John Lee Hooker, Bruce Hornsby, The Isley Brothers, Etta James, Mick Jagger, Jefferson Airplane, Billy Joel, Kid Rock, B.B. King, Ben E. King, The Kinks, Jonny Lang, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Jeff Lynne, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Mamas & The Papas, Martha & the Vandellas, Dave Mason, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Stevie Nicks, The O’Jays, Roy Orbison, Jimmy Page, Parliament-Funkadelic, Joe Perry, Tom Petty, Wilson Pickett, The Pretenders, Prince, Queen, Bonnie Raitt, The Rascals, R.E.M., Lou Reed, The Righteous Brothers, Robbie Robertson, The Ronettes, Axl Rose, Santana, Percy Sledge, Soul Asylum, Bruce Springsteen, The Staple Singers, Patti Smith, Booker T. & the MG’s, James Taylor, Traffic, Tina Turner, U2, The Who, Ann & Nancy Wilson, Steve Winwood, Ron Wood, ZZ Top

MONTY PYTHON: THE OTHER BRITISH INVASION DVD - REVIEW

montypython_otherbritishinvMy introduction to sketch comedy came with the discovery of The Kids in the Hall.

I was ravenous for every new season that came out. I bought dozens of VHS tapes in order to possess every episode as they aired. I traded with other people in order to get the original HBO airings, to watch the pilot episode, to get my hands on the Brain Candy workprint after the film came out. I learned how to use Internet newsgroups in 1994 in order to connect with other likeminded yahoos. I was borderline freaky when it came to pouring over all the minutiae with this show.

Then I discovered Monty Python.

A precursor to all those who came after them I was primed, so to speak, to understand what made Python so sharp at their game. They understood that you could be bizarre, that you could take things too far and, most certainly, that you could inject a little bit of cerebral humor into the mix. Thankfully, this documentary bookends the comedic series nicely as A&E Video put together a 2 DVD set that explores the performers behind the sketches.

To me, this is a rewarding experience in that finding out what everyone brought with them to the troupe before they were Monty Python is fascinating. Using interviews from those still around, Graham Chapman is still included for those wondering, the documentary gets these guys reflecting on their jobs prior to connecting as a whole. What’s interesting is the use of existing footage of the various television incarnations these members did before Python in that you can see the elements that just seemed to be mixed properly after they decided to join into a cohesive group, like a human Voltron that couldn’t exist on any one part. These men were destined to be together and the documentary gives you that look behind what went in making this all happen.

The other disc that’s included here explores life after the series has started to take a foothold in England and it’s just as fascinating as the first. Maybe I’m easily amused by shiny spoons but charting the moments that helped Monty Python breakthrough to American audiences is an exercise in happenstance, good timing, and for anyone who has been a casual fan who doesn’t already know the history it is a nice way to see how a show became a phenomenon. Monty Python still lives on in the cultural comedic landscape for those who appreciate what they did and after seeing these two documentaries it’s not hard to see how it all happened.

A product description:

CELEBRATE THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WORLD’S FUNNIEST COMEDY TROUPE WITH A 2-DVD SET FEATURING TWO NEVER-AIRED DOCUMENTARIES

As hard as it is to imagine, there was a world before Monty Python. And just like any other great historical epoch — the Jurassic Period, the Age of Chivalry, The Dawn of Disco — scholars have invested hundreds of hours examining the Rise of Python: that brief shining moment before the world knew how brilliant buffoonery could be. Watch, laugh and learn in THE RISE OF MONTY PYTHON: THE OTHER BRITISH INVASION

“Before the Flying Circus” features rare vintage footage and interviews trace the pre-Monty Python influences that honed the wit of the future Pythons and shaped their destinies as the world’s most innovative comedy partnership. “Monty Python Conquers America” is the story of the OTHER British invasion - the funny one. Monty Python’s astonishing American success was due as much to the passion of well-placed fans as it was to a string of absurdly lucky breaks. Being really, REALLY funny helped some, too. Featuring interviews with the Pythons, Hank Azaria, Jimmy Fallon, David Hyde Pierce, and others.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN - GIVEAWAY

battlestar-galactica-the-plan-dvdI love being able to give these kinds of things out.

I had a casual interest in this series when it was out but I do understand the ravenous nature with which people express their high praise for this program. It seems well written, the effects look pretty nice, and I couldn’t care less that the program has ended.

Well, my loss is your gain because I have five copies of the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN to give away. In order for you to win a copy all I need you to do is  shoot me an e-mail at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and tell me the name of those robot things with the red eye that bobs back and forth like Kit from Knight Rider.

It’s just that easy.

Product Description:

Edward James Olmos directs this feature-length drama that retells the story of the Peabody-winning series–from the perspective of the Cylons. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN finds man’s creations plotting to destroy their makers, but their genocidal scheme leaves survivors. Now, two Cylons must try to eliminate the remnants of humanity, while Adama (Olmos) and his fleet struggle to survive. From the nuclear devastation that began the miniseries to Sharon’s (Grace Park) attempt to kill her commander, all the show’s biggest moments are seen from the enemy’s point of view. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN also stars Tricia Helfer, Michael Hogan, Dean Stockwell, Michael Trucco, and Aaron Douglas.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE PLAN - BONUS FEATURES
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan on Blu-ray Hi-Def and DVD takes viewers deeper into the acclaimed space drama with exclusive bonus features, including:

* EXCLUSIVE TO Blu-ray Hi-Def:
o BD-LIVE: Access the BD-Live Center through your Internet-connected player to download more exclusive content, the latest trailers and more!
+ MY SCENES: Bookmark your favorite scenes from the movie.
+ BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TRIVIA: All-new trivia game.

* BONUS FEATURES (BLU-RAY HI-DEF and DVD):
o DELETED SCENES
o FROM ADMIRAL TO DIRECTOR: EDWARD JAMES OLMOS AND THE PLAN - A day-in-the-life with director and actor Edward James Olmos, as he tackles the most ambitious Battlestar Galactica production to date.
o THE CYLONS OF THE PLAN - Features interviews with the actors who play the film’s key Cylons, including Dean Stockwell, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Michael Trucco, Rick Worthy and Michael Bennett.
o THE CYLON ATTACK - This featurette takes viewers behind the scenes for the planning and execution of one of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan’s major action sequences.
o BEHIND THE PLAN - An in-depth look at some stunning visual effects and the role post-production plays in bringing the world of Battlestar Galactica to life.
o FILMMAKER COMMENTARY

This Is It - Review

this-is-it-posterI was surprised by how much I liked this film.

Putting aside any thoughts or opinions about the man behind the moves, there is a concert film here that actually succeeds on its ability to show how a major production gets from conception to opening night in a way that’s interesting as a document for what was never to be. There is a misnomer that this is a partial documentary as the movie has been completely sanitized of any real peeks into the life of music’s greatest recluses and, further, any mention or hint of Michael Jackson’s demise is nowhere to be seen. The mere fact alone that there was a conscious choice on the movie’s director, Kenny Ortega, more on him in a little bit, to not make this some kind of part of the film’s narrative not only makes the film’s supposition that this is a portrait of an entertainer who deserves one last performance without delving into the after effects of his death false but it’s a an appalling cheat.

One of the delights, however, in watching this film is not just watching Jackson, who simply displays an effortless capacity to orchestrate a multimillion dollar concert venture and his musical acumen could not be better documented in its raw form, but in those who surround him in this film. The dancers, vocalists, musicians, all of those who are ever so briefly interviewed not only feel that being selected by Jackson to be a part of the show to be a magnanimous moment in their artistic lives but their capacity to exude a fresh interpretation of Jackson’s old catalog is the real wonderment here. The choreography is a sheer delight to witness as the marriage between high energy dancing and 21st century technology that was going to be used in order to truly make this a spectacle is worthy enough of a viewing on a big screen in order to try and see the scope of what was planned. One of the things I did mention, that this is really a greatest hits of Michael’s catalog, is something that gave me pause. While I found the musical cues here to evoke a time when Michael Jackson was synonymous with pure pop greatness, long before his image was torn down by a series of scandals, lawsuits, rumors, and bizarre behavior, and it truly transports a causal fan back to when these songs meant something more.

One moment in particular stands out as a truly synergistic distillation of artistic vision and reinterpretation. It’s for the song Thriller and we see how the show’s creative brain trust filmed new footage on a sound stage in front of a green screen, in 3-D no less, while the logistical execution of how you would get an arena full of concertgoers to don the glasses required to make huge spiders and svelte dancing zombies come to life on a huge video screen is never explained, and the mix of archival footage of Michael working out the moves and actions of himself and the dancers. It’s the production element that’s the second real wow factor for this movie. The costuming, the precise reproduction of Michael’s signature hits, the ever so slight ways in which Michael needs to change something, and the sycophantic efforts of Kenny Ortega pepper this movie with a realism that no doubt would be gone from any portrait made about this concert should it have it to opening night. And, to the point of Kenny Ortega, the movie has the unintended consequence of making the director of this film appear to be the exact reason why Michael ultimately meets the demise he does. The “Whatever you want, Michael” lines that are uttered by Ortega shed about the only light we’ll get as to why Michael’s insistence about having his own physician, paid through the show’s overall budget, was allowed to happen.

The collaborative process is certainly more gentile here if you were to compare this to other more vehement and exacting performers like Madonna in Truth or Dare but Michael does get what Michael wants but we’re not quite sure what all that meant in this regard. The ways in which elements of the show’s production are showcased in a manner that display people’s fear, intimidation, whatever it is that keeps people from being themselves, in moments when they’re looking for approval of the former King of Pop. A video clip, a choreographed move, a musical cue, in so many ways this is a film about how one man can wield so much influence over the lives of so many. He did get what he wanted but there are those who were complicit in the way the film ultimately ends.

And that’s the real disappointment in a movie that tries very much to be as sterile about the world around Michael Jackson. Everyone is so busy creating a false world around him, keeping Michael in a perpetual bubble where denials do not exist, that this movie leaves you with the same experience as a fantastic concert that is aimed to those who want a greatest hits adventure: it’s what the audience wants, it’s what they were going to get, but there isn’t a shred of resonance to be felt long after the final curtain call. This is a self-contained experience that ought to be seen if for no other reason than to see what this could have done for the battle scarred musician who will no longer have people letting him get whatever he wants. This is really it.

BLACK DYNAMITE: MICHAEL JAI WHITE/SCOTT SANDERS- Interview

The idea was so outrageous that it just had to work.

When writer/director Scott Sanders and writer/actor Michael Jai White came together to make a movie that took the blaxploitation genre and twisted it just slightly. Slightly enough that the irony just drips off the intentionally washed out screen that gathers the best and beloved elements of the genre in order to send it up. The reason it works is that it is done out of a place of love and admiration. Sanders and White didn’t get on board to do this film in order to defile the movies that spawned such hits as Shaft and Super Fly.

The things that helped bring movies out of sound stages, the technoligical advancements that assisted movie makers to take the cameras to the street, liberated a whole generation of artists who saw that they could make films in the neighborhoods and areas which no doubt were overlooked within the Hollywood system.

Black Dynamite is a movie that does have something to say and is much more than its clever premise of a man who is out to clean up the streets of his neighborhood. Both Sanders and White took some time out  of their schedules to talk about the movie and why it deserves some theatrical love.

black_dynamite_ver31BLACK DYNAMITE is now playing…

CHRISTOPHER STIPP:  I’ve heard tons about this movie.  I’ve seen trailers.  I’ve seen clips.  Outrageous.  And I realize that there is more to this movie than the outrageousness.  Can you talk a little about why your chose the period in which the movie is set, how it hearkens back to the 70’s era black film and why you said, “Let’s turn this on its head and make it funny?”

SCOTT SANDERS: I think it initially started with Mike being a big fan of the movies and he did a photo shoot of himself as the character and he just had the idea in his head and I had approached him about another movie and he showed me these pictures as the character and it all just seemed so obvious because Mike is – that’s the picture!  That is from the original photo shoot.  This is what he originally showed me.  And already it was a movie.  It looked like a movie right there.

MICHAEL JAI WHITE: That picture has survived the whole process.  I rented that costume from a costume house and incidentally that very same costume in the film.

SANDERS: And now it’s a tattoo at Comi-Con.

(Laughs)

SANDERS: And yes, it just seemed like the obvious thing to do.  The best idea is where you see all the elements come together to make something that would be really fun.  It’s something that has never been done before.  Like, nobody said we’re going to make a blaxploitation movie set in the 70’s, years and years afterwards, knowing how the world has changed in 2009.

WHITE: And it’s really fun when people discover, contemporary actors, in these roles and it’s great to see in almost every scene we introduce somebody.  People are looking forward to it and there are some actors that had folks really happy to see them in the film.

CS:  Can you talk about the casting process?  You guys came up with the idea to do the script and you obviously wanted to avoid this being a one note joke. How did you get other people excited about the project as you were in order to get this to be the best story it could be?

SANDERS: A lot of them were friends of Mike’s and I think once you set the context, the people will come.  Once the days are set and they know it’s going to happen and they get to like - we had a big scene that was a pimp council.  Mike would say, “Hey, we’re doing a 1970’s film, doing a pimp council, want to come?”  It was like, “Yeah, sure.”

WHITE:  Some of the people are kicking themselves right now because they couldn’t make it.  Macy Gray was trapped, stuck, in the airport.  There were a number of people planning on making it – Wesley Snipes was going to play one of the characters as well.  He was a big fan of the movie.  He kicks himself for not being in that council.  We have cameos from people like you wouldn’t expect.

CS:  Can you talk a little about the whole production of it?  When I see it in the trailer, the clips, the music, the fog, the wa-wa-wa of the guitar, how hard was it to put all the elements together in order to do it the right way?

SANDERS: We were just talking about this.  It’s the clarity of assignment and hiring people who know what their assignment is.  Not only know their assignment but revel in that assignment.  The person who did the music for instance, Adrian Younge, who was with us from the beginning when we made our first trailer just to raise the money, is a friend of mine who also edited the movie and that’s what he was doing before Black Dynamite came around.  He was just sitting around in his garage making crazy, funk music with sitars and stuff.  It’s almost like his whole life was just waiting for Black Dynamite to come along.

(Laughs)

WHITE: Exactly.  Byron Minns, who happens to be one of my close friends who also was one of the writers on the movie, he had the most extensive knowledge of blaxploitation films than anyone I’ve ever met.  He could just off the top of his head just quote, just monologue, of these movies and I had to catch up with his knowledge and really cram to learn.  He remembers them all.  He’s an encyclopedia of those movies.  He’s a writer and he’s the co-lead.  He plays Bullhorn.  So it’s like there was just this real special connection with all of us.

black-dynamite-white-sanders-tribeca-50cropCS:  Growing up, did you have a special affinity for these movies? These actors?

WHITE: Absolutely, I feel like it was such a special time.  The 70’s was like the birth of the first black action hero, which was Jim Brown.  Jim Brown, who incidentally is like a surrogate father to me, when I first saw him in these movies I wanted to grow up and be like that guy and there is just something that resonates with him, the mental and physical strength in this guy it’s just, it’s a pervasive thing all over the world that you want to have representation of an alpha male.

It’s what exists in most movies and you want to live vicariously through that dominate character and he was very much someone I idolized and it was a voice to black people at that time that didn’t exist before.  It was in the middle of the black power movement, black is beautiful, and peace and love, and all of that combined, it was an amazing time and so to introduce that to a younger audience I feel, especially in a time like this where I think socially has taken a back step, gangster culture and all that, it’s not so much let’s stick together and be brothers and hold tight and together, oppression, it’s a different voice now.  I wanted to do that for another age group – another generation.

CS:  When you were going to make this film, did you have anything stand in your way to make this happen in terms of financing of people either saying we’ve done that before?  How did you get other people who were in the positions of power to help make it happen?

SANDERS: We were very fortunate.  We made a trailer and gave it to our friend and producer, Jon Steingart, who was a producer on our first film and based on that trailer he said, “OK, we can do this.”  So we didn’t really have to write a script.

(Laughs)

And that’s how it got made.  We were very fortunate that a producer who could see what we were trying to do..

WHITE: And truthfully, this hadn’t been done before.  I’m Gonna Git You Sucka was not set in the 70’s.  It was a contemporary thing – kind of a hybrid.  So this was something that absolutely we went back and did lovingly accurate portrayal of a 70’s movie.

CS:  Right, with the quick close-ups.

WHITE: Yeah, captured the style, the look, the feel and the spirit of that.

CS:  Was it hard to do it?  This was obviously not a big budget but to make a period piece, was it difficult to make sure your cars on the street were Lincolns and what have you?

SANDERS: Yes, we did it with the spirit of those movies.  We used a lot of stock footage and made sure the camera wasn’t pointed in the wrong direction.

(Laughs)

But it happened.  Those are the kinds of errors we had to take right out.  There is a scene where we had to be ultra careful, where Black Dynamite walks into a pool hall and a couple of SUV’s run by and said, well, we can’t use that take.  You know.  Or we didn’t blow out the windows enough but we wanted to see outdoors.  I think just knowing that’s in your head we had to piece it all together.

black_dynamiteWHITE: We were really critical on that. We both felt like you cannot let the contemporary world slip through in any way in this movie.  And that’s also with the acting.  Sometimes some of the actors who are actually comedians may 10-1 go for the joke in fact to really do it right, these people were not kidding, they were dead serious.  They came from a spirit of revolution and they were changing the world at that time.  It’s quite funny when you look at it now.

SANDERS: But that’s the joke.  That’s the whole thing.  So the joke is when you play it straight.  It’s not when you go wacka-wacka here’s the joke.

CS:  Right.  I’m thinking about the scene with Cedric Yarbrough, from Reno 911, and you’re right. I was looking for a punch line and it didn’t come.  Very straight.  Did you know that going into it this was how these characters were going be?

WHITE: Definitely.  The other movies that we sometimes get connected with, it’s not that at all.  They are clearly making a joke.  It’s made as a joke.  There is clear physical and deliberate jokes.

SANDERS: There is a scene, and I’m really proud of this scene, in the movie, we drift so far away from jokes, when you see the scene, the whole scene is a joke but we don’t play it as a joke at all.  The scene where Black Dynamite goes into the hospital and Gloria, his love interest is there and they are talking about this 7 year old with heroin.  Now I think that’s funny because 7 year-olds don’t really have that much of a problem being on heroin.  It’s just not a real problem.  But they are talking about it super serious.  Sally was the queen of playing stuff straight, like tears in her eyes and Mike said, “wait a second, I’ve got to do this” because we had a whole way of doing it before and he even softened his voice, said she made him look like an asshole and they are playing this so ridiculous that you forget what the scene is about.

(Laughs)

WHITE: There is a flashback, we have really bad exploitation dialogue, of where my mom is on her death bed and she says, “Black Dynamite I really want you to look after your brother and make sure he doesn’t end up on drugs or dead.”  I mean how absurd is it to call your child Black Dynamite?  It was treated like his name was Harvey.

SANDERS: And an honest tear comes out of her eyes.

(Laughs)

WHITE: She’s playing it so straight like her child is named Black Dynamite.  Even writing that, because at first the name was Super Bad, but that name got taken and Scott came up with the name Black Dynamite and the one thing that made me go, “You know what, that is a good name because I thought of that scene and how ridiculous it would be for a mother to call her child Black Dynamite?”  You gotta go, “Where in the hell does that come from?”

(Laughs)

So when it comes to seeing the scene, it’s always pretty funny because it’s ridiculous and she does it so serious that it goes over people’s heads.

CS:  Do people miss it?

WHITE: Yeah, they will miss how ridiculous some of these things are.  There is one militant who is doing such a bad acting job that he reads the stage direction and it goes over people’s heads.

He turns startled and says, “The militant turns startled, where did you come from?”  And then my character is thinking that the director is going to yell cut.  This is a movie within a movie.  And later on I say I want to speak to the man in charge and he says sarcastically, “I am the man in charge.”

(Laughs)

blackdynamitefreescreeningWHITE: So, it slips by and it’s so appreciated when people get it because it’s just delivered in such a way, they take it serious.  So when people back up more and look at it another time there will be more times for them to enjoy it and catch on.

CS:  Interesting note: I was reminded of today that a movie is made three times.  Once on the page, once when you shoot it and once when you edit it.  How is that evolution from page, to shooting to editing, and were there any surprises for you as this film evolved?

SANDERS: I think it evolves all three times.

WHITE: Exactly.

SANDERS: You set out when you write it down how you think it should go and then we made serious adjustments when we were shooting and then in the editing, we cut out 10 minutes out of the movie, a straight 10 minutes.

CS:  Really?

SANDERS: Yeah and then we had to tie that together and that really helped and it’s good because we all got together and looked at this movie and said, “We need to do this, need to do that.”  We’d think about it and at the end of the day we always did the right thing.

WHITE: Absolutely.

SANDERS: And that’s the great process about making the movie.  It’s a constant stream of battles.  You just can’t know everything going into a movie but you have to try and land there as much as you can.

WHITE: I think it exceeded what my plans were.  Some things were such an education.  I love learning and some of the things that we set out, if we were just betting people, the stuff that we would have thought would be the funniest and have the biggest response we would be wrong.  There’s a few moments that I figured would be laughs but the biggest laugh I never knew would come there.

SANDERS:  But a lot of it is whatever it was that made you deliver the line that way.

WHITE: It’s organic.

SANDERS: It’s just organic to whatever the moment is.

WHITE: Yes, like I don’t know, depending on what the situation is, I take in the surroundings of wherever I am.  That becomes part of the scene; therefore, it changes everything I’m doing.

mjwCS:  What kind of surprises?  I’m almost thinking when writing of this film there might have been a few moments like thinking if this is too over the top, is this too overt, need to pull it back a little.  What things were you changing on the fly?

SANDERS: I think the main thing we worked on was making it fast and furious and doing our thing and making sure the length, the feel and the tone, making sure the people were into it the whole period of the movie.  That was the biggest challenge because we had tons of material that we could pull from here and there.  Especially in the context of blaxploitation movie – especially with the connotation with our rip on it – like the whole point of is the plot is weird and awkward – part of the movie is watching the process of filmmaking and watching how it works because that’s what it is.  You are seeing all the scenes and everything on the film.

Just the one thing that we did opposite of what they did in blaxploitation was really pay attention to the pace given the audience of today.  Because in regular blaxploitation movies, the movies in the 70’s in general, people walked to their cars, they get in, they turn the handle, they go to the bathroom, they turn the door, there’s lots of dead time.

WHITE: One thing that I think, in this moment, I realized, and I don’t think I’ve ever voiced this before, I think I realized one thing about this movie and we learned this as we’ve been watching, one thing that makes it different in our brand of humor, is this is a movie that the humor is in listening.  We got the visceral stuff.  We got the actual sight gags and stuff like that.  I’ve always been influenced by Monty Python.  Where there humor was something you hear in nuances.  An audience that listens really gets the nuances.  Sometimes I think the difference is that it’s presented in such a way where people think it’s just the whole sight thing.  We have that and we’re dealing on different levels but the primary level about this movie is the nuances.  And that’s something that’s delivered in the dialogue and in little nuances in the performances.  That’s by and far the things we are heralded about more than anything else.

There are movies that I’m sure you don’t have to think.  Some people go in with the dumb down button and they are going to miss a lot if they think it’s a dumb down movie.  It’s absolutely not.  And that’s a surprise that a lot of people have.

CS:  That’s a bold choice to do it that way.  Because like you said, today’s audiences like to be whacked over the head with their comedy – like I said, overt, it needs to be obvious, all these things.

WHITE: You have these movies like Napoleon Dynamite.  You go in there and you are listening.  You have Borat and go in there listening even though there is this visceral stuff as well.  But sometimes when you say blaxploitation people might thing that you don’t have to listen.  I think sometimes people are surprised that it’s something that has a contribution to the dialogue in it and it’s one of those things that people have pools with the one lines and people try to figure out what is going to be the most quoted one liner.

CS:  Really?

WHITE: Oh by far, we get quotes all the time.  It’s amazingly quoted for such a new movie.

CS:  Speak about that.  What’s the process been like, what’s the experience been like for you to have made this film on something that was pretty goofy/funny but now it’s starting to connect with a lot of people?

WHITE: It’s great for me.  People responding to something I’m writing is far more rewarding than even my acting.  Sometimes we’re playing roles that are not very difficult for me to play.  Let’s face it.  Sometimes I’m playing a bad ass tough guy, contemporarily or whatever, it’s not too hard.  I enjoy being a bad man but come on.  I can do that with 103 degree fever.  It’s really not too difficult.  But to play comedy.  To write it and have an idea and have it come out of my head and I get the response that I want, has nothing to do with being physically gifted.  I can’t control that.  I can control very little of what I actually look like.  It’s a DNA thing.  As far as what’s going on inside, that’s different.  It means a lot more to me.

SANDERS: To have people – going all over the world – and to have people like the movie – we just got back from the Czech Republic and had 1300 people at our premiere.

CS:  Chech Republic?

SANDERS: Yeah.

WHITE: Yea, all the seats were filled and then they let in 100 people and there were still people outside waiting to get in.  They sat in the aisles.  And ended up with a standing ovation.

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