Bay Area blowjob

I went to a first-time-anywhere screening last night of Gary Leva‘s Fog City Mavericks — a tribute to big-name Bay Area filmmakers (George Lucas, Carroll Ballard, Francis Coppola, Chris Columbus, Clint Eastwood, John Lasseter, Phil Kaufman, Walter Murch, Sofia Coppola, Saul Zaentz, Brad Bird) and how they all broke away from Hollywood roughly 30 or 40 years ago (or became regionally self-created) and became anti-establishment, quasi-bohemian regional filmmakers, and therefore an inspiration to all independent-minded filmmakers everywhere. Guys who followed their vision, made money, did it their own way, developed their own kwan.


Blurry George Lucas, John Lasseter (r.) joshing with each other at pre-party for Fog City Mavericks

The story that Reva tells is true — these guys really did establish their own film- making shangri-la in the ’60s, ’70s and early to mid ’80s. But it’s willfully incom- plete. The fact is that the romance and vitality of the Bay Area film scene began to dissipate in the mid to late ’80s, and that with the exception of the success of Pixar, the juices — economic, regional, spiritual — aren’t flowing like they used to. And Reva’s film doesn’t begin to acknowledge this.

Fog City Mavericks, which will show up on Starz down the road, is affectionate but dishonest — a public-relations advertisement instead of a portrait with any feel- ing for depth or shadows or texture or drama. Not to sound overly harsh, but it’s basically a one-dimensional Bay Area blowjob.

The narration, voiced by Peter Coyote, is tritely written and absolutely rancid with cliches. My eyes were rolling; my sighs were constant and probably irritating to the person in the next seat.

Everyone profiled in this film (including the extremely maverick-minded Sofia Coppola) is depicted as brave, pure of heart, tenacious, gifted, full of spirit and belief in themselves — all of them pretty darn wonderful.

A doc reflecting such heavy doses of regional pride without any balancing colors or considerations would be pooh-poohed off the screen in any other city. A tough Manhattan crowd would eat this film (and its director) alive.


Fog City Mavericks (including Robin Williams, standing roughly at the center) on stage of S.F.’s Castro theatre — Sunday, 4.29.07, 7:55 pm

It’s a shame that Fog City Mavericks is such a self-fellating piece of work because, as the notes say, cinema was arguably invented in San Francisco, and that “the spirit of cutting-edge innovation that characterizes the work of Bay Area filmmakers is part and parcel of the maverick approach that drives San Francisco’s creative output, from the literature of the Beats to the technological revolutions of Silicon Valley.” Reva’s film purportedly “examines the way that the DNA of San Francisco affects and reflects the lives and work of its artists,” blah, blah.

That’s a decent idea, but to make a good doc about a culture you have to talk to at least some people who aren’t invested in the local economy. Then you have to be willing to be hard and real. You have to mix the gritty with the triumphant, the ups and the downs, the slumps and the highs….you have to forget about what will make the locals feel good and concentrate on the damn truth of it all. Some other filmmaker should take another shot at this subject some day. It’s a good story and full of great material — it just needs to be properly rendered.

44 thoughts on “Bay Area blowjob

  1. Hey Jeff I was there last night too! I just about froze standing in line outside the theater.I was so glad when they finally let us in. It was the first time I was ever in that theater and it is a beauty. I don’t live in SF.. was just there for a 3 day weekend and a good friend got me tickets.My favorite part of the night was when they all came up on stage! great moment! as for the film… I think your reaction to the movie is very much my reaction. I must confess I was falling asleep near the end and would have left but I wanted to stay for the Q and A. I know this was a hometown crowd and so what ever digs were made against Hollywood were met with cheers but I must say that got a tad old for me. I know Hollywood is full of greed and corruption blah blah blah but you know some pretty damn good movies have been made there too. The crowd acted like only good things happened in San Francisco and just crap came out of Hollywood. That really annoyed me. I mean this was not a sporting event.. you know San Francisco vs. Hollywood but it felt like it. The movie could have been made by the chamber of commmerce. Like you say… it is a worthy topic. Maybe someday someone will do it justice. The most exciting part of the night for me was when I went to a deli across the street and saw footage of the freeway melting..that was sure crazy! we drove by it today and it just looks like a bomb went off. I am sure Arnold will get it fixed pretty fast!! yeah sure.

  2. This reminds me of the documentary about the 60s drag/hippie/druggie troupe The Cockettes… they all congratulate themselves on how brilliant and daring they were and then you see a clip of one of their shows and it’s like The Carol Burnett Show with dirty words and no script, a total self-indulgent mess. There’s two minutes of John Waters in it and you realize how completely they lacked the desperation and raw-nerve edge that’s in his early work and makes it so compelling– San Francisco’s just too pretty and forgiving to make great art in, you have to live somewhere that keeps the screws to you, like Baltimore or Berlin.

    In this case, these guys made some good films, then they all wound up owning ranches and wineries and piddling around all day. Nice life if you can have it but meanwhile the real action is happening somewhere else if you can make your payrolls without even making movies more than once a decade.

  3. I like the fact that they include Eastwood as a Bay area film maker (he was born in S.F.) even though he is as Hollywood as they come. In fact the only important Bay area filmmaker is Coppola—Lucas has single handedly ground the movie business in mediocrity. Chris Columbus, Walter Murch (Return to Oz anyone?)Give me a break I’ll take fucking Hollywood to almost anything the Bay area has produced.

  4. This reminds me of the documentary about the 60s drag/hippie/druggie troupe The Cockettes… they all congratulate themselves on how brilliant and daring they were and then you see a clip of one of their shows and it’s like The Carol Burnett Show with dirty words and no script, a total self-indulgent mess. There’s two minutes of John Waters in it and you realize how completely they lacked the desperation and raw-nerve edge that’s in his early work and makes it so compelling– San Francisco’s just too pretty and forgiving to make great art in, you have to live somewhere that keeps the screws to you, like Baltimore or Berlin.

    In this case, these guys made some good films, then they all wound up owning ranches and wineries and piddling around all day. Nice life if you can have it but meanwhile the real action is happening somewhere else if you can make your payrolls without even making movies more than once a decade.

  5. SHR – I am reading “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” and he raves about RETURN TO OZ, so I’m trying to find it (on DVD?).

  6. Piling on to the San Fran slam:

    San Francisco filmmaking is a lot like San Francisco itself. Both began as world-changing, unexpected innovations started by relative outsiders. Both became wealthy, bloated and self-important, inhospitable to the poor and struggling (ironically, the same group that helped give it its current arty and politically progressive rep), with no real connection left to their innovative grassroots past (save manufactured attempts at ‘recapturing’ it…and then marketing it as such — like, say, Coppola’s new film).

    To me, they’re both reminiscent of the aesthetic and artistic differences between the Disneyland that Walt Disney created in the 50′s (visionary/inspired), and the Disneyland that now exists (a filthy, fucking cash cow).

  7. “San Francisco’s just too pretty and forgiving to make great art in”

    tell that to ginsberg, kerouac, ferlinghetti, etc.

    i’m a bay area boy and the filmmaking there is UNDERGROUND. for you hollywood babies, that means miramax isn’t involved and you won’t see the filmmakers on jimmy kimmel.

    craig baldwin, for example, is one of the greatest experimental filmmakers in the world, honored everywhere and a true sf denizen. his films are accessible and brilliant — check him out.

    now lay off my lady by the bay!

  8. “San Francisco’s just too pretty and forgiving to make great art in”

    tell that to ginsberg, kerouac, ferlinghetti, etc.

    Um..they wrote all their good stuff in NYC, except for Ferlenghetti, who is slightly better than Rod McKuen. And Kerouac and Ginsberg…On the Road and Howl…that’s the best you can do?

    When you call a film experimental it means the experiment failed.

    Look at the San Francisco sound of the 60s. Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Steve Miller Band. Let’s compare that motley crew to Los Angeles during the same time period: The Byrds, Love, The Doors, Spirit, Buffalo Springfield….LA wins!!!!!!!

    I remember when I lived in the Bay Area. Every time I turned on the tv I was bombarded with Bullit, The Streets of San Francisco, or some local news station-produced show on sourdough bread.

    San Franciscans self-fellate so much that they give themselves gonnoreah of the throat.

  9. Bruce Conner, Bruce Baillie, Larry Jordan, George Kuchar, Robert Nelson, Scott Bartlett, Jordan Belson, and James Broughton are some of the true film mavericks emerging and prospering in the Bay Area the last half-century. A movie about them–now that would be interesting (though, alas, not very commercial).

  10. this does sound more like a product of the San Fran Film Commission.

    was their talk of the greatest film made in San Francisco: Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine?

  11. “When you call a film experimental it means the experiment failed.”

    tell that to craig baldwin or those mentioned by archiveguy. they’ve all failed their way into

    history.

  12. The only one I’ve heard of is Kuchar. I’ve also heard of Randy Moffitt, Dan Driessen, John Montefusco, and Ed Halicki.

  13. Wow, we’re all so fed up with the world we’re reduced to pinning down San Francisco and taking a big dump on her chest.

    Sad times indeed. What happened to the good old days when we’d just kick around Cleveland? (they don’t call it a Cleveland Steamer for nothing)

  14. ah, y’all in los angeles are just jealous of sf because there’s oxygen, clean air, more than five trees and people aren’t ashamed to walk.

    oh, and no paris hilton billboards. nyahh.

  15. “San Francisco’s just too pretty and forgiving to make great art in”

    tell that to ginsberg, kerouac, ferlinghetti, etc.

    Um..they wrote all their good stuff in NYC, except for Ferlenghetti, who is slightly better than Rod McKuen. And Kerouac and Ginsberg…On the Road and Howl…that’s the best you can do?

    When you call a film experimental it means the experiment failed.

    Look at the San Francisco sound of the 60s. Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Steve Miller Band. Let’s compare that motley crew to Los Angeles during the same time period: The Byrds, Love, The Doors, Spirit, Buffalo Springfield….LA wins!!!!!!!

    I remember when I lived in the Bay Area. Every time I turned on the tv I was bombarded with Bullit, The Streets of San Francisco, or some local news station-produced show on sourdough bread.

    San Franciscans self-fellate so much that they give themselves gonnoreah of the throat.

  16. Christian and cj — as I’ve known for some time, you guys are okay (I’ll overlook recent remarks about Anna Nicole Smith and Duran Duran. Nobody’s perfect).

    There nothing forgiving about the Tenderloin. Plenty of wine, but no vinyards.

    Just remember : the more you drive, the less intelligent you are. And in L.A., EVERYBODY drives.

  17. The only one I’ve heard of is Kuchar. I’ve also heard of Randy Moffitt, Dan Driessen, John Montefusco, and Ed Halicki.

  18. Wow, we’re all so fed up with the world we’re reduced to pinning down San Francisco and taking a big dump on her chest.

    Sad times indeed. What happened to the good old days when we’d just kick around Cleveland? (they don’t call it a Cleveland Steamer for nothing)

  19. “Walter Murch (Return to Oz anyone?)”

    I haven’t seen RETURN TO OZ (though anything with Fairuza Balk is worth a look), but Murch certainly is a brilliant sound editor and regular editor. Anyone with THE CONVERSATION, APOCALYPSE NOW, and THE GODFATHER PART II on their resume, to name but a few, shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

  20. This just in — The Los Angeles city counsel has voted 13-1 to adopt as the city’s offical motto: “Cheaper Than Frisco Plus 100% Less Willie Brown”. Tom LaBonge abstained and Wendy Gruel voted instead for “4 Words: Drive Thru Plastic Surgery”

  21. Wells, if you’re gonna run the guy’s work down at least have the decency to get his name right.

    You ID him correctly at the beginning of the story as Gary Leva, then you refer to him as “Reva” later and at multiple times.

    Sloppy.

  22. btw, pixar is located in the bay area and there’s a reason why they’re the only studio american animation with heart and soul.

    on the flip side, the city closes at about 10:30 pm.

  23. The amazing thing about Pixar is that it has kept itself from being swallowed and completely destroyed by Disney. If Oren Aviv had his way, they’d just be cranking out Toy Story sequels.

  24. This just in — The Los Angeles city counsel has voted 13-1 to adopt as the city’s offical motto: “Cheaper Than Frisco Plus 100% Less Willie Brown”. Tom LaBonge abstained and Wendy Gruel voted instead for “4 Words: Drive Thru Plastic Surgery”

  25. The amazing thing about Pixar is that it has kept itself from being swallowed and completely destroyed by Disney. If Oren Aviv had his way, they’d just be cranking out Toy Story sequels.

  26. Wow, they all broke away 30 or 40 years ago? Lasseter and Bird were quite the precocious teenagers (who still spent time at Disney), same for Columbus. Sofia Coppola was quite the forward thinking infant.

    As much as I love Eastwood and hate Columbus, what exactly is “anti-establishment, quasi-bohemian” about them?

  27. and today a new report comes out again confirming what all of us angelenos know and love:

    LOS ANGELES (AP) – Los Angeles can continue being the butt of smog jokes now that it has once again topped the American Lung Association’s bad air list of most polluted cities in America.

    The association found that the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside metropolitan area had the worst air based on 2003 through 2005 figures.

    The Pittsburgh area was ranked as the nation’s second most polluted metropolitan area followed by Bakersfield, Calif., Birmingham, Ala., Detroit and Cleveland. Visalia, Calif., Cincinnati, Indianapolis and St. Louis rounded out the top 10.

  28. “a one-dimensional blowjob.” Now that is something to consider. To try to imagine. To experience. Hmmmmm….. Why am I not FEELING anything here? Or is that the point? Anyway, this is an interesting bit of description. As to the comment about Lucas and Bird not being “mavericks,” well, they were once upon a time. To an extent. Few are as much a maverick as David Lynch. But like most of us with maverick tendencies, we get ingested by the mainstream, due at least partially to our desire for this. And then the maverick sleeps. Or dies.

  29. In this case, these guys made some good films, then they all wound up owning ranches and wineries and piddling around all day. Nice life if you can have it but meanwhile the real action is happening somewhere else if you can make your payrolls without even making movies more than once a decade.

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  30. Plans for the skywriting were announced ahead of time , with Beck encouraging witnesses to email her photos. She was inspired by the “Surrender Dorothy” skywritten message in “The Wizard of Oz.” MTS Konverter “It’s obviously a very open-ended and consequently puzzling sort of project,” she said of Sunday’s event. “I can see why it would leave people with questions.” “I wanted a narrative trajectory towards something optimistic at the end, which was the last message, ‘Now Open,’” she said of the work. MTS Konverter Mac

  31. Substantially, the article is really the best on this laudable topic. I concur in your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates. Just saying thank you will not just be enough, for the wonderful lucidity in your writing.

    Any way I only wonder what is to be in the company of Lucas in that place at that moment :)

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