This week:
The Kid Stays in the Picture

Filthy says:
"It's pretty fucking good."

Three things separate man from the animals: our ability to make and use power tools, our capability to reason except when we're drunk, and our understanding that assholes can still have redeeming qualities. Once my dogs get it in their minds that someone's an asshole, it's almost impossible to change them. They'd rather chew your damn leg off than let you explain why you forgot to feed them for four days. As a higher life form, I figured out that even the biggest jerks probably have something to contribute to society. For example, there is this guy Gus in my court-mandated Alcoholic's Anonymous meetings. (Don't worry, the joke's on Jefferson County because I haven't really stopped drinking--I just say I have because it makes them feel good). Whenever I get up to talk at the meetings, Gus makes really loud farting noises for as long as I'm standing. Asshole, right?

Well, yes and no. Gus also volunteers with retards and teaches them calligraphy. Yeah, they eat a lot of the ink, but the kids love it. They were responsible for the invitations to the Arvada Mayor's Ball that everyone thought looked so pretty they hardly noticed the spelling. He even took a vanful of them to the Special Olympics, and I hear every kid he took won a medal. That's a damn impressive record. So, I accept his farting noises graciously, simply saying "That wasn't me" every time. He's an asshole, but he isn't irredeemable.

Robert Evans, legendary movie producer and once the head of Paramount Pictures, is an asshole and he isn't irredeemable. He's got an ego the size of Ecuador, bad hair, ugly glasses and the kind of ambition that grinds up underlings and flattens more decent people than a steamroller at a Peter, Paul and Mary concert. And yet, he's so unabashedly Hollywood. After 35 years he still can't resist dropping names and taking credit makes him an anachronism. Unlike today's stars, he believes in movie stars as opposed to "actors," and he isn't afraid to toot his own horn. Today's celebrities never brag directly; they have stables of publicity hacks do it for them while they sit back and pretend to be humble.

It's not the kind of endearment that makes you want to eat lunch with him, because he probably doesn't ever shut up about himself. He tells a good story, though, no matter how unreliable a storyteller he is. The Kid Stays in the Picture is his revisionist history of how Hollywood works. It's nominally a documentary, but not necessarily a wholly truthful one. Evans narrates his rise from New York businessman to the most powerful grassfucker in Hollywood. He describes his inevitable collapse and how he has managed to "stay in the picture."

As Evans tells it, he was just a nobody businessman discovered lounging by a swimming pool and turned into a movie star, pretty much without even trying. He says it's because of his good looks and I can't figure that. His face looks like pinched little eyes, nose and mouth on a broad greasy canvas. Evans turns out to be a shitty actor, starring in crap like psycho-thriller The Fiend Who Walked the West and as a bullfighter in The Sun Also Rises where Hemingway and Ava Gardner wanted him off the movie. Evans turned his attention to producing, acquiring the rights to stories and eventually weaseling his way into the head of production job at Paramount.

Paramount was ninth at the box office when Evans took over, and through a string of hits including Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and The Getaway, they rose to first. Evans doesn't really have any trouble taking all of the credit. Along the way, he describes all of the battles, real and imagined, that he wins along the way.

Eventually, Evans got tired of running the studio because he didn't get enough credit or money for the movies. He started his own production company, which went on to make some great movies like Chinatown and Marathon Man, but mostly crap like Popeye, Sliver, Jade and The Phantom. Along the way, his career was halted by a major cocaine bust that resulted in him ratting out others and having to produce a godawful series of anti-drug specials called "Believe in Yourself" where people like Paul Newman, Lauren Tewes and Bob Hope sang "Just Say No" type songs with a bunch of phony fucking kids. Fuck, if anything would make me want to overdose and vomit blood, it's that kind of shit. He also was institutionalized and linked to the murder of a wannabe money man for one of his films.

What makes The Kid Stays in the Picture fascinating is not what Evans says, but how he says it. He's madly in love with himself. The movie works alright as a history of his time in Hollywood, but it works beautifully as a study of an egomaniac, and that's because it's in his own words. In this way, it's a great study of what kind of pricks get ahead in Hollywood. Yeah, Evans probably could spot a good project and shape it well, but his best skill is self-promotion. And that's what drives Hollywood. The ability to be noisy and omnipresent is what allows talentless hacks like Chris Kattan and writer Marc Lawrence (Forces of Nature, Miss Congeniality) "stay in the picture." After all, every successful jerk in Hollywood has to believe in hype or else he wouldn't be able to believe in himself.

Every story about love or movies is pared down by Evans until he is the central star with a cast of thousands adoring or begrudgingly admiring him. When a great movie gets made, it's because of him. When a movie turns out crappy, then he brings in other characters to lay the blame on. He had a serious coke problem, but it was the fault of a starlet he was boning. When he got busted for trying to buy a massive quantity of pharmaceutical-grade coke, he explains it as a brief lapse in judgment. He doesn't even try to justify why he would need a distributor-like amount of cocaine. He talks of his undying love for Ali McGraw, but doesn't even mention any of his other four wives, including Catherine Oxenbourg to whom we was married for all of ten days. He brags about his skills in shaping The Godfather, but he really doesn't have much to say about his genius in the making of Urban Cowboy.

The movie just looks fantastic, too. Much of it is made of still photographs, but Directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen bring them to life by pulling the key figures out. Cigarettes smolder, backgrounds go blurry as the stars rise into sharp contrast. The background music is not only coordinated with the time of Evans life, but also perfectly matched tot he story without overwhelming. Combine that with an unrestrained asshole like Evans and it makes for one of the snappiest documentaries I've seen.

It's good shit, good enough for those of you afraid of the dryness of documentaries to seek out. Four Fingers for The Kid Stays in the Picture.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Richard Zacks - Pirate Hunter

Listening to
Ted Hawkin - The Next Hundred Years again

Boys Don't Cry

Jeff Craig of the elusive 60 Second Preview

Heartbreak Hospital is "humor and honesty! a bcross between Soapdish and Nurse Betty!"

Simone is "a landmark event! The technology is mind-boggling!"


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