‘Sissy Spacek made her first stage appearance at age six, singing and dancing in a local talent show. After attending Quitman High School, where she was crowned homecoming queen, Spacek moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of a singing career in 1967, at the age of 17. In New York, she lived with her cousin, the actor Rip Torn (Spacek’s father was Torn’s uncle) and his wife, the actress Geraldine Page. In 1968, using the name “Rainbo,” Spacek recorded a single, “John, You’ve Gone Too Far This Time,” teasing John Lennon for appearing nude on an album cover with his wife, Yoko Ono. Sales of her music sputtered, however, and “Rainbo” was dropped from her record label.
‘Spacek subsequently decided to switch her focus to acting, enrolling at the famed Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. After appearing as an extra in Women in Revolt (1970), a film produced at Andy Warhol’s factory, she made her bona fide film debut as a teenager abducted by a white slavery ring in the Lee Marvin thriller Prime Cut (1972). Spacek played another troubled adolescent character in 1973’s Badlands, attracting attention for her role as the girlfriend of a serial killer, played by Martin Sheen. It was while working on the film that Spacek met her future husband, the production designer Jack Fisk. The couple married in 1974, and Fisk helped Spacek land her breakthrough role in Brian De Palma’s teen horror classic Carrie (1976). (Fisk worked as art director on the film.) As an emotionally disturbed, telekinetically gifted teenage girl with a fanatically religious mother (Piper Laurie), real-life prom queen Spacek struck a heartwrenching, terrifying chord with critics and audiences alike, earning her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and instant cult status.
‘After beginning to prove her versatility as an actress in such films as Robert Altman’s Three Women (1977), costarring Shelley Duvall and Janice Rule, and Heart Beat (1979), costarring Nick Nolte, Spacek showcased her considerable gifts in the 1980 biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter, about country singer Loretta Lynn. In addition to portraying Lynn from age 13 to her forties, Spacek insisted on singing all of Lynn’s songs herself, instead of lipsynching. The performance earned her universal critical praise, including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
‘On the heels of Coal Miner’s Daughter, Spacek eschewed high profile projects to star in her husband’s directorial debut, Raggedy Man (1981), playing a divorced mother who has a dangerous relationship with a sailor, played by Eric Roberts. With her next two notable projects, the political drama Missing (1982), costarring Jack Lemmon, and The River (1984), costarring Mel Gibson, Spacek scored two more Oscar nods as Best Actress. In 1986, she portrayed a suicidal woman in ‘night Mother, costarring Anne Bancroft, and received her fifth Best Actress nomination, for her performance as the most eccentric of three sisters in Crimes of the Heart, costarring Jessica Lange.
‘Both Spacek and Fisk then took a lengthy break from filmmaking, retreating to their Virginia farm, Beau Val, to spend time with their two daughters, Schuyler (now an actress who appeared in the 2002 comedy Orange County) and Madison. She began to take acting jobs only intermittently after that, returning to the screen in the civil rights drama The Long Walk Home, costarring Whoopi Goldberg, in 1990. The following year, she played the wife of Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison in the controversial Oliver Stone film JFK. A number of highbrow television projects followed, including the HBO features A Private Matter (1994) and If These Walls Could Talk (1996) and the TNT movie The Good Old Boys (1995), costarring and directed by her Coal Miner’s Daughter costar Tommy Lee Jones, earning her first Emmy nomination for the last role. She reteamed with another former costar, Carrie’s Piper Laurie, in the 1995 film version of Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp.
‘In 1997, Spacek turned in a strong supporting performance in the dark drama Affliction, costarring Nick Nolte. In a rare comedic performance, she played the matriarch of a family who spends 30 years living below ground in a bomb shelter in the little-seen Blast From the Past (1999). That same year, she appeared in David Lynch’s The Straight Story, playing a woman whose father (Richard Farnsworth) travels a great distance on a lawnmower to visit his estranged brother.
‘In 2001, Spacek garnered some of the best reviews of her career, numerous critical accolades (including a Golden Globe Award), and her sixth career Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the independent feature In the Bedroom, costarring Tom Wilkinson. Playing a Maine couple whose teenage son is killed by the estranged husband of his older girlfriend (played by Marisa Tomei), Spacek and Wilkinson turned in two of the most talked-about performances of the year, and the film earned five total Oscar nods, including Best Picture.’ — collaged
Sissy Spacek @ IMDb
‘Sissy Spacek: ‘I was fearless’’
‘Sissy Spacek: ‘I like to be scared”
‘Sissy Spacek Acts Her Age’
‘Sissy Spacek’s Subversive Innocence’
Sissy Spacek @ Interview Magazine
“IT WAS A SCARY THING BUT I JUST WENT FOR IT”
‘How Sissy Spacek altered appearance for “Carrie”‘
‘Sissy Spacek’s Long Walk Home’
‘Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Sissy Spacek’
‘Sissy Spacek, 65, avoids sun, steaks to stay young’
Sissy Spacek @ The Criterion Collection
‘Object Lessons: A Conversation with Christian Patterson’
‘CARRIE (1976) CULT STYLE WITH SISSY SPACEK’
‘Inappropriate Beauty Muse: Sissy Spacek In Badlands’
Sissy Spacek Wins Best Actress: 1981 Oscars
Sissy Spacek – In Character: Actors Acting
Sissy Spacek and Jack Fisk discuss ‘Badlands’
Sissy Spacek Twirling Queen
Sissy Spacek ‘Brath’
You’ve had an amazing life and it’s not a surprise you’d write a book about it, but what took you so long to write a book and what got you started on it?
Sissy Spacek: ‘Cause I was busy living it. (laughs) I come from a long line of storytellers, and there’s a long tradition of oral history in my family, so these stories, many of them were passed down and I wanted to make sure to get it down on paper while I can still remember so vividly.
Even in the intro when you were talking about that scene from Badlands, and I started thinking about Terrence Malick’s latest movie The Tree of Life and it was such a personal movie for him and then I read about your childhood, and I thought you and Terence must have had an immediate bond.
Spacek: That’s how we connected. Those shared experiences that we had, our childhood, growing up in the same state, “the same neck of the woods” as they say, really bound us together. And I was so moved while I was watching Tree of Life … the DDT truck, even the little boy sneaking into the neighbor’s house – I had done all those things. Running down trails.
My life was more suburban growing up in New England before moving to New York City, so reading about your smalltown Southern lifestyle was facinating. It’s interesting that you’ve gone back to the South with a lot of the movies you’ve done recently. You seem to be drawn back to that part of your life quite a bit.
Spacek: Yeah, it’s a comfort to me. It was important for me that my children have kind of a free-spirited childhood like that as well, so that was one of the reasons we went to Virginia.
How long were you in New York for? Because it doesn’t seem like that long.
Spacek: I was here for about five or six years. Five and a half probably. (laughs)
But you’ve been back here many times over the years.
Spacek: You know, New York gets under your skin, and I think once you’ve fallen in love with New York, you take that with you. I love New York. I still love it and come back often, and I never really felt like I left and I think you see that in the book. I write about Texas, New York, California and Virginia and they’re all important places in my repertoire. California, too, we were there, oh, about twelve or thirteen years, but when you work in film, those are just places. Those are mainstays, so I have roots there, but Virginia and Texas are just refuges for me.
What happened to all the songs you wrote? I read that you did a lot of writing in those days.
Spacek: They’re floating out there. You know, I wrote one with Michael Ritchie. When I first met him, he said, “Wow, so you’re a songwriter,” and I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well can you just write a song about anything?” and I said, “Yeah.” He looked over and he had ordered a drink and there was a maraschino cherry in it. “Anything? What about maraschino cherries?” I said, “Sure,” and he said, “Let’s write one.” This was my audition when I met him, so we wrote the “maraschino Red Blues,” which is one of my favorite songs that I ever wrote.
It takes a lot of talents to be able to write songs like that, which is why I was so surprised you didn’t pursue it.
Spacek: My daughter is far more talented than me in the songwriting department, far more.
Your ability to sing eventually led to Coal Miner’s Daughter in which you sang.
Spacek: That was the greatest thing ever, that I got to combine the two things I loved most – music and movies.
That movie is very timely now beacuse Levon Helm just passed away, and many people may not remember that he had a key role in that movie.
Spacek: He was so great in it. He had never acted before, but he knew that man, he knew that character from the inside out. It was crazy. He’d say, “No I don’t think he’d do that, I think he’d do this” and he was always right. Tommy Lee Jones suggested Levon, and then Levon suggested Phyllis Boyens. Her father Nimrod Workman, they were both really reknowne
d mountain singers, and those three added so much authenticity to the film, and it gave us mountain clout. They knew how it should be, and they really grounded it. It would have been a different movie without them, and Phyllis and her father Nimrod and Levon are all gone.
I’ve interviewed Michael Apted a number of times over the years.
Spacek: Isn’t he amazing?
Absolutely. Having interviewed him and knowing him and his more recent movies, I just can’t picture him directing Coal Miner’s Daughter, because he’s so British.
Spacek: You know what, though? We were so lucky to get him. I was screening films–musical biopics–just to see what had been done and how they did it, and the common denominator between all those biopics was that the ones that were the best, the actors did their own singing and most of it was live. It just took the slickness away, it humanized it, and one fim we saw was Payday that Rip Torn did that was just a great performance, and then we saw of course The Buddy Holly Story, which was just great. That was live music, too, and then we screened a film called Stardust which Michael did, and not only did we love it, but there was such a grittiness and such a realistic quality to it that we decided that we should meet with Michael, and the thing I think was so briliant about Michael directing Coal Miner’s Daughter is that he didn’t have those preconceived country clichés–he just didn’t have them–and he came from a coal mining area in England, so he saw all of that with fresh eyes, so we were able to stay away from all those country clichés. Also, the way he sets up a shot and the way he shoots and the way he directs, I learned so much from him, and also the cinematographer, Ralf D. Bode–he’s passed away–but incredible. The two of them would just come in and we’d all talk about the scene, and then he’d make suggestions and he’d let the actors play the scene. Then he and Bode would watch the scene and they’d walk around and they would design the shot around the way the scene naturally played, rather than trying to fit the scene into a certain preconceived idea.
David Cronenberg does that, too. I remember that was something I was really surprised to discover the first time I interviewed him.
Spacek: Cronenberg does it? It’s brilliant, beacuse sometimes an actor feels like, “You know, I need to go over there. I feel like I need to move on this line,” but you don’t know why, and it’s just an instinctual thing, and he would let us do that, and then so many other things come out of the moment that you don’t expect, because you’re in a comfortable, natural environment. You’re not thinking, “I have to stop here because I have to go over there now. I have to figure out how I’m going to get over there.” That’s part of his brilliance, Michael Apted.
I wonder if Michael still shoots his movies that way.
Spacek: I’m sure he does. It’s very difficult when you don’t get to (work that way). There’s certainly other ways of being directed, but that’s just exciting.
Carrie is still one of my favorite movies of yours. I was watching “Live with Kelly” yesterday when you were talking about it and the movie’s still very timely and it still works.
Spacek: Thank you, Brian De Palma. People go, “Oh my God, that was so scary” but realy, it was scary like “Boo!” At the end when the arm comes out, but there’s so much humor in it. It was just one of those serendipitous things with everybody that worked on that, everbody that Brian brought together, brought something to it. He had a real handle on it and he knew what he wanted. Now, he does a lot of storyboarding, Brian, and what I loved about the way he works is that he would let me do anything I wanted within a parameter. He’d set up the shot a certain way and I’d say, “Can I do this?” “Yeah.” So he knew what he needed, knew what he wanted and beyond that, we had an amazing freedom. Probably for me, Carrie had one of the most scenes, the scene in the kitchen where Piper Laurie is struck with all those kitchen utensils. It’s so scary, it’s so horrifying, but it’s ridiculous. I love it, I just love that, and that was back in the old days when they came OUT on wires and then they reversed the film, but boy….
Reading your book has really made me want to rewatch a lot of those movies, especially when you talk about Badlands and other movies that were really very low budget. I talk to a lot of people making indie films where it was all hands on deck.
Spacek: Everybody does everything. There’s no “This is my department. I can’t crossover.”
It’s amazing to hear that all of these classic movies were made in that way.
Spacek: The beauty of that is that it doesn’t cost that much money and nobody cares, because there’s not a lot of risk, so you really get the creative process, because there isn’t much money and you have to be more creative. There’s not as many rules, and it’s really a wonderful way to work, and that’s how we did things in the ’70s. Of course, it’s sometimes nice to have a motor home, it’s nice to have a caterer. (laughs)
I’m really amazed by the amount of people you’ve kept in your life from your early days making movies, including David Lynch, which doesn’t seem very common these days.
Spacek: I think the movie business, you meet people and you work intensely with them and you have these relationships – there’s an intimacy to it and a familiarity to the relationship because you’re having to let go of all your barriers so you can let people in and work with them. That’s a really beautiful thing but then you go off to work on other films an they go off, and that’s why all these events, like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards… when there’s a commercial, everybody’s getting up and running over to see the people that they worked with over the years, so there is great camaraderie, but people have children, but you know how when you get to be an adult, it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach, and you’re them man with all the plates in the air. But David (Lynch) was my husband Jack’s best friend since high school 9th grade, so their friendship was beyond just working. I’ve made a lot of friends in the movie business and before. I’m still friends with all the roommates that I had, who I’m all seeing this week.
What’s next for you? I know you had a movie that just at Tribeca (Deadfall), which I haven’t seen yet.
Spacek: I haven’t seen it either. You know, this took me a year plus the rest of my early part of my life. (laughs) It took me my whole life to write this book. So I took time off to do that, so I don’t know what I’m doing next. I have films that are different stages in development, but nothing really that I know I’m going to do next or have a start date. I think I’m actually going to relax over the summer and hold the fort down. Jack is making some films with Terry Malick …
A lot of films I hear.
Spacek: I’m always excited. He works a lot with Terry, of course, and with Paul Thomas Anderson and with David, so that’s always great, but I don’t have my production designer at home. (Laughs)
18 of Sissy Spacek’s 60 films
Paul Morrissey Women in Revolt (1971)
‘Sissy Spacek is Czech, from a Czechoslovakian town in Texas which I had never heard of. And I couldn’t believe it when she said she’d been an extra in the “crowd” scene in our movie Women in Revolt — the bar scene that we shot in Paul Morrissey’s basement on East 6th Street — and she said she was also in the background singing on that Lonesome Cowboys theme song that Bob Goldstein wrote and Eric Emerson sang! She folded her legs up under her on the chairs. She has beautiful skin.’ — Andy Warhol
Michael Ritchie Prime Cut (1972)
‘Prime Cut is proof that the ‘70s is American cinema’s greatest decade. It isn’t a good film, but it’s thematically and stylistically similar to the decade’s best offerings, which makes it far more interesting than anything Hollywood has produced since. Once Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Graduate (1967) hit theaters, American cinema was reborn, and filmmakers released one daring film after another until Steven Spielberg and George Lucas introduced Hollywood to the concept of the summer blockbuster. Some ‘70s films, like Chinatown (1974) and Taxi Driver (1976), are well-known classics, whereas others, like Prime Cut, are flawed experiments that are too intriguing to be dismissed outright. The lesser American films of the ‘70s are more worthwhile than today’s accomplished films because filmmakers back then took more risks.’ — Pop Matters
Terrence Malick Badlands (1973)
‘Terrence Malick based his peerlessly poetic debut on the real-life story of Charles Starkweather, a teenage James Dean wannabe who fled across the midwest on a killing spree, his 14-year-old girlfriend in tow. But the film couldn’t be further from a pulpy true-crime tale, or a hip New Wave homage like Bonnie and Clyde. It’s a true original: eloquent about the intersection of crime, romanticism and myth-making in America, and highly innovative in its use of colour, editing and voice-over. Martin Sheen, who was cast as the Starkweather surrogate, Kit, believed Badlands was the best script he had ever read. “Still is,” he says. “It was mesmerising. It disarmed you. It was a period piece, and yet of all time. It was extremely American, it caught the spirit of the people, of the culture, in a way that was immediately identifiable.” Sissy Spacek played Holly, the baton-twirling schoolgirl who elopes with Kit after he kills her father (Warren Oates).’ — The Guardian
The first four minutes
Brian De Palma Carrie (1976)
‘When Sissy Spacek was preparing for her character, she isolated herself from the rest of the ensemble, decorated her dressing room with heavy religious iconography and studied Gustave Doré’s illustrated Bible. She studied “the body language of people being stoned for their sins,” starting or ending every scene in one of those positions.’ — IMDb
Alan Rudolph Welcome to L.A. (1976)
‘You can’t help but compare it to the other big L.A. Statement Movies–Altman’s SHORT CUTS, and P.T. Anderson’s MAGNOLIA. I like Rudolph’s way better than either of those: it’s gentler, humbler, more observant, truer. Limiting himself to a dozen or so L.A. habitues, Rudolph starts with one funny, correct move: no movie people. The dances of disconnection, attempted connection, failed connection, and–stunning!–connection accomplished are as tender and as finely, thinly observed as Rudolph has ever pulled off. So many beautiful moments here: the best comes when Keith Carradine, as a dupe of his sleepy-stud character from NASHVILLE, breaks up a romance to go on a healing mission with a half-crazy housewife (Geraldine Chaplin). When his philandering with her rescues her marriage during a tense phone call in his apartment, Carradine’s face spreads with gladness and relief. The rightness and the unexpectedness of the moment is fantastic. Even more than the goofy, enjoyably romantic CHOOSE ME, this is the one where Rudolph got it all right. And no other movie captures L.A.’s peculiar loneliness like this one: he doesn’t hype anything or play to the tourist mentality–something that could not always be said for his mentor, and the movie’s producer, Robert Altman.’ — Matthew Wilder
Robert Altman 3 Women (1977)
‘3 Women is among the least seen and most exquisite of Altman’s early films and one in which he took a particular pride, though he’d previously ventured into the realm of the fabulous, the fantastic and the oneiric with Brewster McCloud (1970) and Images (1972). The inspiration came from Ingmar Bergman’s dream movie Persona (1966), and from a dream of Altman’s own that had the shape of a film. Two women – Sissy Spacek as the childlike Pinky Rose and Shelley Duvall as the confident, trend-following Millie – mysteriously exchange identities while working as unskilled physiotherapists at a cheerless geriatric centre at Desert Springs (actually filmed in Palm Springs) near Los Angeles and sharing an anonymous room at the Purple Sage, a two-storey hotel beside a swimming pool. Both are from Texas and in some respects complementary. Pinky is shy and withdrawn and admires Millie for her poise. “You are the most perfect person I ever met,” she says without a trace of insincerity. Millie, on the other hand, is oblivious to the world around her, influenced only by fashion, the media, advertising and popular taste and believes that everyone she meets admires her style and grace. In fact she’s a garrulous egotist whom everyone despises as an embarrassing bore.’ — The Guardian
Michael Apted Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
‘When Loretta Lynn was getting ready to turn her 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, into a feature film, the Kentucky-born entertainer began telling anyone who would listen that young actress Sissy Spacek was her pick to play the title role in the film. Spacek, whose scary-as-hell turn in the 1976 horror film, Carrie, earned her an Oscar nomination, was spotted by Lynn in a photograph — minus the pig’s blood — after which the outspoken singer told Tonight Show host Johnny Carson that Spacek would be playing her. The actress, however, wasn’t sold. On her way to tell Lynn she was taking another film role, Spacek suddenly heard “Coal Miner’s Daughter” on the car radio and needed no further convincing.’ — Rolling Stone
Sissy Spacek Loretta Lynn interviews
Costa-Gavras Missing (1982)
‘Missing is political filmmaker extraordinaire Costa-Gavras’s compelling, controversial dramatization of the search for American filmmaker and journalist Charles Horman, who mysteriously disappeared during the 1973 coup in Chile. Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek give magnetic, emotionally commanding performances as Charles’s father and wife, who are led by U.S. embassy and consulate officials through a series of bureaucratic dead-ends before eventually uncovering the terrifying facts about Charles’s fate and disillusioning truths about their government. Written and directed with clarity and conscience, the Academy Award–winning Missing is a testament to Costa-Gavras’s daring.’ — The Criterion Collection
Mark Rydell The River (1984)
‘The farmers in this film have their own unique challenge – the farm is next to a river that tends to overflow – but The River also has a lot in common with the earlier films, including two crucial scenes that are astonishingly similar to ones in “Country.” It is some kind of cosmic bad joke on the makers of The River, who worked hard and earnestly on what is essentially a good film, that it comes third in the parade. The movie contains a heartfelt performance by Sissy Spacek as the farm wife; an adequate performance by Mel Gibson as her husband, and a scene-stealing performance by Scott Glenn as the local financier who wants to buy up all the land in the valley, dam the river, and generate some jobs with cheap hydro-electric power. (The crucial flaw in the movie’s plot is that Glenn’s ideas, which are supposed to make him the bad guy, sound like simple common sense.)’ — Roger Ebert
Tom Moore ‘night, Mother (1986)
‘Most of us do our best to avoid depression, but Sissy Spacek struggled long and hard to achieve that dispiriting emotional state. “I dredged up every demon that I’ve ever known, or come close to,” she said, almost shuddering as she recalled the experience. . . . It was cathartic for me, emotionally. I felt cleansed afterward. But it’s not a state of mind that I would wish on anyone.” No, Spacek isn’t a masochist, and, no, she wasn’t discussing a session of psychotherapy. The actress was talking about the preparation she did for her role in ‘night, Mother, a movie about suicide that was scheduled to be released Friday in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, and that had its world premiere Sept. 5 during Toronto’s Festival of Festivals. In ‘night, Mother, Spacek plays Jessie, a woman who’s simply so tired of her unhappy life that she decides to end it. Based on Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, the film is basically a dialogue between Jessie and her mother (Anne Bancroft) set during an evening that Jessie hopes will be her last on earth.’ — Orlando Sentinel
Oliver Stone JFK (1991)
‘If it’s an Oliver Stone film, it must be bombastic, sentimental, clunky, and controversial. With the exception of “clunky,” JFK is all of the above. It is also riveting, earnest, dishonest, moving, irritating, paranoid, and, more frequently than one might expect, outright brilliant. In sum, Oliver Stone’s 1991 political thriller about a determined district attorney’s investigation of the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy is a slick piece of propaganda that mostly works both dramatically and cinematically. If only some of the facts hadn’t gotten trampled on the way to film illustriousness. With the exception of John Williams’ overemphatic score – Oliver Stone films need anything but overemphasis – JFK’s technical and artistic details are put in place to extraordinary effect. Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia’s editing and Robert Richardson’s cinematography seamlessly mix 1960s documentary footage (both in black and white and in color) with scenes shot in the early 1990s.’ — altfg.com
Paul Schrader Affliction (1997)
‘Affliction is about how a father’s meanness and violence and alcoholism can afflict a son, who may in turn spew it on those around him — those who try to help him, or love him, or stop him from hating. It’s also about how Wade decides to sue his ex-wife for custody of their daughter, and about a hunting death in the snow, and about the moment in a man’s life when it’s impossible to run any faster from demons. The big picture, in the end, is that Affliction — a beautiful bummer, a magnificent feel-bad movie — is American filmmaking of a most rewarding order. With it, Schrader makes a leap from a history of confused productions — Cat People, The Comfort of Strangers — to a new clarity of directorial vision. And in it, Nolte, digging deep within, pulls out the meatiest performance of his career. His once-pretty face now ravaged, his once-blond hair now dark and cut like a New England planting field, his body a map of lumps and knots, Nolte owns Wade Whitehouse. Come March, I’d be happy if he owned an Oscar for his pains, too.’ — EW
behind the scenes
David Lynch The Straight Story (1999)
‘For many who only know David Lynch for Twin Peaks and his more surreal film work, The Straight Story is simply considered “that one Disney/G-rated Lynch movie”. A shock to many at the time of its announcement, many considered it strange that a director known for making lurid, bizarre, and often disturbing films would make something as tame as a G-rated Disney film (halfway false considering the film was independently produced and Disney merely acted as distributor after its successful Cannes debut). It almost turned into a punchline. A Lynch movie without depravity, nightmarish imagery, and shocking scenes? How deliciously absurd, am I right? Even Lynch himself found The Straight Story to be totally distinct from his previous works. It’s the only film of his in which he gave no contribution to writing the screenplay (which was written by John E. Roach and Lynch’s frequent collaborator Mary Sweeney, who also produced and edited this film and many other Lynch works), and Lynch shot the film in an interesting manner: every single scene was filmed in chronological order, and on-location in the actual route that Alvin Straight took, whose 300-mile journey on a lawn mower was the true story that served as the basis for the film. Richard Farnsworth, who plays Straight, even agreed to shoot the film in spite of suffering from prostate cancer. When we see him struggling to stand back up on his two canes, we are seeing Farnsworth in pain, and that passion managed to pay off with an Oscar nomination for his role. Lynch said in an interview with Empire that it was actually his “most experimental film” (Granted, that interview was conducted before the making of Inland Empire).’ — Movie Mezzanine
Todd Field In the Bedroom (2001)
‘In the Bedroom is the first film directed by Todd Field, an actor (Eyes Wide Shut, The Haunting), and is one of the best-directed films this year. It’s based on a story by the late Andre Dubus, the Massachusetts-based writer who died in 1999, and who worked with Field on the adaptation before his death. It works with indirection; the events on the screen are markers for secret events in the hearts of the characters, and the deepest insight is revealed, in a way, only in the last shot. Every performance has perfect tone. And Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson. They know exactly what they’re doing, they understand their characters down to the ground, they are masters of the hidden struggle beneath the surface. Spacek plays a reasonable and civil wife and mother who has painful issues of her own; there is a scene where she slaps someone, and it is the most violent and shocking moment in a violent film. Wilkinson lives through his son more than he admits, and there is a scene where he surprises Frank and Natalie alone together, and finds a kind of quiet relish in their embarrassment. When Matt and Ruth lash out at each other, when the harsh accusations are said aloud, we are shocked but not surprised; these hard notes were undertones in their civilized behavior toward each other. Not all marriages can survive hard times.’ — Roger Ebert
Hideo Nakata The Ring Two (2005)
‘One problem with sequels is that in many cases, the director of the sequel is not the same person who directed the original. In this case, director Hideo Nakata’s directing style is noticeably different from that of Gore Verbinski, who directed The Ring. That’s always a big risk, because audiences come to expect a certain style and flow from the original movie. If they’re not there in the sequel, it could backfire. While The Ring was scary and suspenseful, The Ring Two tends to move very slowly and methodically. There are a few genuinely scary scenes, but for the most part it’s kind of boring. The acting was decent overall. Naomi Watts does a good job, as always. David Dorfman, who plays Rachel’s son Aidan, came across as dull and wooden at first, but then I had to remind myself that he had to play two different characters — the regular kid and the kid who was possessed by Samara. In that sense, I thought he did a very good job because I was never in doubt as to when something wacky was happening with him. There are cameos from Elizabeth Perkins, Sissy Spacek and Gary Cole. The cameos by Spacek and Perkins fit into the story quite well, but Cole’s cameo was a pointless waste of his talents.’ — Screen Rant
Courtney Solomon An American Haunting (2005)
‘This movie is like that fellow in the logic puzzle who can only tell lies—if you see something onscreen, then you can be certain it’s not true, from the number of kids the Bells have (four in the movie, nine in real life) to whatever is going on in the background (kids playing soccer—soccer balls appeared in the United States after 1850). The movie portrays 19th-century American life anachronistically, as if the Bells were just some funky retro-dressing folks who lived in the O.C., and not members of a gruelingly isolated community whose inhabitants were regarded as little better than pagans caught up in the first waves of the Second Great Awakening. Religion is casually mentioned in An American Haunting, but mostly in a “By the power of Jesus Christ, I compel you to leave this house,” kind of way. It’s never acknowledged that the Bell family were also attending regular revival meetings at their local church, where congregants would be possessed by the Holy Spirit and find themselves compelled to fall on all fours, bark, dance wildly, and experience seizures.’ — Slate
Aaron Schneider Get Low (2009)
‘Get Low is a debut feature by Aaron Schneider, a cinematographer who also acted as editor. It is confidently made, with a spare rhythm and good control of tone. It plays like a drama with a comic heart, rather than the other way around. Duvall is an executive producer, which probably ensured that it got made. His performance here is flawless, with gruff American grace. Felix is plain-spoken when he says anything at all, and he has the kind of dry wit Mark Twain would have recognised. When someone dares to pass the big ”no damn trespassing” sign at the gate, Felix says: ”Hard life if you can’t read”. Get Low is a handmade kind of film. Its ambitions are modest, but fully attained. I rarely use the words ”go see it”, but I hope a lot of people do. Let’s prove the bastards wrong.’ — collaged
Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek & Co. talk GET LOW
Rian Johnson LCD Soundsystem: Oh Baby (2018)
‘LCD Soundsystem’s music video for American Dream single “Oh Baby” is a six-minute mini-drama directed by sci-fi auteur Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and starring Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn, that takes on the big questions about life, death and DIY teleportation. If there were Oscars for music videos, this one would be hotly debated as a potential Best Picture nominee, only to be shut out in the end for reasons no one can clearly articulate.’ — Rolling Stone
the entire video
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Very glad to finally get to read your ‘OSofW’ piece. Everyone, The wise and knowledge-packed Mr. Ehrenstein has tackled Orson Welles’s posthumously finished ‘The Other Side of the Wind’, which David does not like one little bit, here. Please make that a marker in your weekend. ** Steve Erickson, Thank you, Steve. Interesting about the Greggory interview. Prudishness is so refreshing these days, or maybe that’s just me. Diam, ha ha, wow. She’s sort of like French rap’s Debbie Gibson. Very glad your mom is doing better. Yeah, at that age, small things aren’t necessarily so small. Scary. Whew. It’s true, that Gordon/Mekas film sounds miserable. What a self-indulgent — masquerading as ‘communing’ –approach. Really a shame. There’s a new Coens film? Huh. Everyone, Steve reviews the new Coen Brothers’ film THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS here. ** Keloton, Kelaton sounds like Ketamine’s less racy older brother. I can drink coffee until 8 pm now, but not a second later. I guess French people buy milk but I’ve never seen anyone do it. Wow, you know your shit. Thanks. I use words like a guy from LA, which I guess means loosely but molecularly. Everyone I’ve ever known who aspired to be a beach bum either turned into a cult religious fanatic or got fatally stabbed in a bar fight, so … be careful. With that story too, it sounds like. Have a breaking news kind of weekend. ** Sypha, Ah, context, hm, okay. I’m happy to hear you’re putting pen to paper again, and new stories is certainly a sufficient result. ** Tosh Berman, Thank you kindly, Tosh! Gosh, I don’t mean to flatter myself, but that’s very interesting about the relationship to your dad’s work, and I dare say I see what you mean, which is something new to ponder in the gif work, so thank you so much! No, I haven’t heard the new The Good, The Bad & The Queen songs, but you can bet I’ll get right on that, video first. Much appreciated all around. ** Dominik, Hi, D! Thanks a lot about the gif piece! I’m pretty good. The TV script is advancing day by day. It’s a ton of brain frying work, and way too slow, but it’s happening, and it has pretty much occupied my week. Yes, due to the just aforementioned work, I haven’t dipped into Dragula yet, but I’m going to try to treat the weekend like weekends are supposed to be treated by workers, and take at least a bit of break to do so. I’m glad your troublesome foot is just a memory now, but of course that sucks about how clingy your sickness is being. Usually coughing is sickness’s end phase, isn’t it? For me, it usually is. I hope you get to totally max out the open-endedness of your weekend as planned. That’s funny you mention that Melissa Broder book because I just pulled it off a distant stack and put it on the stack next to my computer for a read. You’re reading it? You like it? See you on Monday! ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks, Ben. Yeah, more playful makes sense. I was partly trying to especially test playfulness’s mettle. So I’m happy you caught that. Sure, I think it’s useful to try to work in the conventional way when writing a story. It’s a good way to find out what you find useful therein and what seems unnecessary re: your own ends. That sounds like a percolating story idea to me. ** Kyler, Thanks, Kyler. Yeah, drinking coffee at Cafe Flore reminds me of my innocent days when I thought the Left Bank of Paris was still the center of the world as opposed to its distant grand-grand-grandchild and a place you only really visit when meeting tourist friends who are too cool for the Eiffel Tower. Look forward to Tuesday then! Man, get your sleep. My ramblings can’t compete. ** Bill, Hi, B. Thanks a lot. Yeah, more stillness. It’s so much about the rhythm and dynamics, and the more I realise that, the more the whiteness becomes malleable. Or something. Yeah, those fires, holy shit. Malibu is getting roasted too. Yes, Zac and I will be in SF for the screening, and there’ll be an LA one around the same time, so it’s kind of a mini-West Coast PGL tour. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, Corey. Thank you. Yeah, a central issue/challenge with the gifs is fighting and/or manipulating or erasing or super-heightening their inherent cutenesses and comedy. Gifs are born comedians. That’s a very interest challenge. Agent meeting is this afternoon. Should be okay. But we have some, mm, issues to resolve, so we’ll see. Congrats on the clean. My apartment is kind of mostly, usually clean by default because I don’t have much stuff. I don’t like buying things. But my desk is like a hair-trigger paper-based avalanche in the Alps, and every day I try to psych myself into being who you became when you tackled your space. Enjoy all that silence while it lasts. It’s some kind of holiday here today, some military/historical thing that has drawn gigantic human piece of shit Trump to Paris, and there’ll be protests, and I live within very loud shouting distance from where the ceremonies are taking place, so it’ll be a noisy holiday. ** Right. Someone asked me to restore Sissy Spacek Day. I know that because I wrote the words ‘restore Spacek day’ in my notes, and I only do that on request, but I can’t for the life of me remember who asked. If you’re out there, apologies for the forgetfulness and you’re welcome. See you on Monday.