Thanks for joining us at “The Francis” last weekend for our “Drive-In Friday: First Time Directors & Actors Night.” Tonight, we continue the theme of that night with four movies about those movies — well, two of them, anyway. And the last two feature Nicolas Cage — and we all know about The Cage’s unorthodox project choices. It’s why we are and always will be, his “bitch” (shameless plug: check out our “Nic Cage Bitch” love fest).
So let’s hook up the speakers, lite the coils, and pop the Orange Crushes as we roll Dolemite Is My Name, The Room, Adaptation, and Shadow of the Vampire.
Movie 1: Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
For my previous installment of Drive-In Friday, we started off with Rudy Ray Moore’s feature film debut, Dolemite.
Say what you will about Moore’s celluloid “break” into the movie business, but his $100,000 investment grossed $12 million during the film’s initial release and, for what it’s worth, gave him the film career he always wanted. And he’d go on to repeat the success with his follow up films The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw, and Disco Godfather.
Eddie Murphy, who would eventually become friends with Moore, had long wanted to bring a bio-flick on the ghetto renaissance man to the big screen. And Craig Brewer, who made his mark at Sundance with 2005’s Hustle & Flow, was able to honor a man that, as Snoop Dogg (who appears the film) and Ice T rightfully pointed out, is the “Godfather of today’s rap music.”
The nominations and awards for this Netflix production are too numerous to mention, but the fact that the National Board of Review and Time magazine choose this as one of the “Ten Best Films of the Year” tells you that this film — even if you’re not familiar with Moore’s oeuvre and his Dolemite persona — is worth your time. That and the fact the film was Oscar nominated for “Best Motion Picture” and Murphy for “Best Actor.”
And Dolemite Is My Name leads us to our next film on the schedule, which is, essentially, the blaxploitation-homage version of The Disaster Artist.
You can stream Dolemite Is My Name on Netflix-by-subscription.
Movie 2: The Disaster Artist (2017)
When Tim Burton released Ed Wood, his 1994 bio-flick homage to the man dubbed the world’s worst filmmaker, it opened up a whole new audience to a man that many heard of, but never made the effort to see his movies. And James Franco’s The Disaster Artist inspired the many who heard of The Room, but never saw it, to see it. Today, 20 years after its release, Tommy Wiseau’s passion project is the 21st century version of 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show — and still plays in theatres around the world.
While the ineptitudes of Wood, Moore, and Wiseau are grossly evident, there’s no denying their passion and determination. Tim Burton and Eddie Murphy saw it in their subjects. And James Franco saw that same spark in Tommy Wiseau. So he optioned The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero’s 2003 best-selling chronicle of his friendship with Wiseau and their making of The Room.
The nominations and awards for the film are too many to mention, but the fact that it’s Oscar nominated for “Best Adapted Screenplay” may — even if you don’t know or have any interest in Tommy Wiseau — pique your interest to watch what is, a really good movie. Bravo, Mr. Franco!
You can stream The Disaster Artist across all digital PPV and VOD platforms, along with a free-with-ads stream on FShareTV.
Movie 3: Adaptation (2002)
Did you hear the one where Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, and Nicolas Cage walked into a bar? Can you name a director, writer, and actor more unorthodox? Didn’t think so.
Look at Jonze’s resume: He blew us away with the meta-fest that is Being John Malkovich, Human Nature (which everyone hated, except me, natch), and gave us, count ’em, four Jackass movies — five, if you count the critically reviled Bad Grandpa (yes, which I liked . . . in a Freddy Got Fingered kinda way). Of course, Kaufman was the scribe behind Being John Malkovich and Human Nature, along with the even weirder (again, I pick the most-film inept chicks) Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (“Why did Jim Carrey do this?” she shrieked). And Cage? We be his “bitch,” remember?
This is freak-fest is pure meta. The screenplay is based both on Susan Orlean’s 1998 non-fiction best seller The Orchid Theif and Charlie Kaufman’s failed screenwriting assignment to adapt the book into a screenplay. Kaufman found the real life tale of the 1994 arrest of South Florida orchid poacher John Laroche “unadaptable,” so he wrote an exaggerated version that incorporated himself — and a fictional twin brother (both played by Cage) — into the screenplay. And the meta gets weirder: John Cusack, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, and Spike Jonze (along with his cinematographer, Lance Acord) from Being John Malkovich re-create scenes as themselves on the set of Being John Malkovich.
Kaufman thought the screenplay would ruin his career. It ended up sweeping the Oscars and the Golden Globes with multiple nominations and awards. And Nicolas Cage? He made us his bitch with this film . . . and the next film-within-a-film freakfest on tonight’s program: as a producer.
You can watch Adaptation as a free-with-ads stream on Crackle.
Movie 4. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Long before “meta” became 21st century digital filmmaking de rigueur, there was this film-within-a-film account of German filmmaker F.W Murnau’s unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stroker’s Dracula.
While the vampire Count Orlok of Murnau’s 1922 silent masterpiece, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, was portrayed by German actor Max Schreck, the film plays up Schreck’s unorthodox Method Acting techniques. (By the way, Nicolas Cage produced this: and we all know his unorthodox methods to get into character.) Schreck would only appear amongst the cast and crew in makeup, would only be filmed at night, and would never break character on set. All which led the crew and actors under Murnau’s (John Malkovich) direction to believe Schreck is a real vampire.
No surprise: Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Schreck as Orlok was nominated for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar.
And the meta on this gets even freakier — if you watch this alongside Werner Herzog’s Klaus Kinski-starring remake of Murnau’s film, 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. Then Kinski took it one step further: he played the character one more time in the 1988 Italian-made Nosferatu in Venice, which co-stars Donald Pleasence and Christopher Plummer.
I’ve binged all four of these “Nosferatu” films back-to-back several times over the years — and it does screw with your mind. And it’s a chick repellent. And all four films come highly recommended, chicks be damned. (One day, I’ll meet a woman who can embrace silent film and Double K.)
You can stream Shadow of the Vampire on Shudder.