Friday, July 4, 2008

An Evening with the Bobcat

Goldthwait at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival

"When cornered about it, I usually cite Ed Wood
as my biggest inspiration as a filmmaker."
-- Bobcat Goldthwait to indieWIRE (2006)

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Though I caught a screening of Hal Asby's 1970 debut, The Landlord, last
November, when I found out that actor/director Bobcat Goldthwait (Jimmy
Kimmel Live
) would be introducing it at the Northwest Film Forum on Tues-
day, 7/1, I knew I had to go. (At the time, I wrote, "Ashby's first film proves
he was a natural" and that "it's painfully, almost surrealistically funny.")

The NWFF brought the movie back as opener to their Ashby retrospective, Commingling Seventies. And if you missed it, you're out of luck. The Landlord
remains unavailable on DVD, and that's a shame, as it's among Ashby's best.

"My fine alcoholic clown movie."
So, how did the NWFF snag Goldthwait's services? First of all, he's in town
directing his third film, World's Greatest Dad, with Robin Williams. Since the
latter cameos in Goldthwait's debut, Shakes the Clown, I suspect they've been
friends for awhile (apparently, one "Marty Fromage" played Mime Jerry).
Before the 9:30pm screening, executive director Michael Seiwerath noted that
his cinematheque has screened the 1992 cult comedy three or four times now.
(And it's worth noting that Blammo! The Surly, Drunken Clown introduced at least
one of those screenings.) Why is the film such an enduring NWFF favorite? As Seiwerath deadpanned, "It's so damned good and so damned funny."
At the Grey Gallery reception beforehand, I asked Goldthwait, resplendent in
jeans and captain's hat, about his connection to The Landlord. To my surprise, he confessed that he had never seen it. Apparently, his line producer, Jennifer Roth (Bad Lieutenant, The Squid and the Whale), heard him compare World's Greatest Dad
to Harold and Maude (in terms of the darkly comedic tone rather than the plotline).
Roth, also president of the NWFF board, asked her client if he'd like to introduce
an Ashby film. He agreed, and a benefit was born. (Fifty dollars purchased two drinks, conversation with Goldthwait, a film ticket, and reserved seating).
Since the comedian hadn't seen The Landlord, I told him I was curious to hear what
he had to say about it. "Me, too!" he laughed. However, he confirmed an affection for the late director, adding that he has a certain fondness for 1981's rarely-screen-
ed Second-Hand Hearts with Robert Blake and Barbara Harris, and that he admires some of Blake's other independent-minded work, like 1973's Electra Glide in Blue.
Another Blake classic: "We've met before, haven't we?"
At the screening, Goldthwait explained that we wouldn't be getting a diatribe from "some pretentious film jackass-fortunately for you, I've never seen The Landlord."
(That got a laugh from the crowd.) But he did talk about Ashby, saying that he related to the filmmaker's empathy for "outsiders that are put upon by this world."
He also talked about his current project, describing it as "a movie where a kid dies during auto-erotic asphixiation." The boy's father (Williams) doesn't want the world to know how his son died, so he writes a note and passes off the death as a suicide.
The note becomes such a hit that he decides to pass off more of his own writings
as the work of his son. In the process the boy becomes popular in a way he never was in life. As Goldthwait summarized, "It's Cyrano de Bergerac...with a dead kid."
Hmmm, that kid sounds like an "outsider" who was "put upon by this world," so Goldthwait's seemingly tenuous tie to this event makes a strange kind of sense.
Incidentally, the cocktail party attracted the following filmmaking entities,
making for an especially lively evening: journalist/screenwriter Charles Mud-
ede (Police Beat, Zoo), critic/script supervisor Andy Spletzer (Police Beat, Brand
Upon the Brain!
), director David Russo (The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle), producer Peggy Case (Zoo, Little Dizzle), screenwriter Steven Schardt, and actor/
entertainment attorney Lance Rosen (Walking to Werner, Brand Upon the Brain!).
Bud Cort in Harold and Maude
Hal Asby's Commingling Seventies continues at the Northwest Film Forum
through 8/20. Harold and Maude (1971) screens next, 7/8-9 at 7:30 and 9:30pm. Author Darryl Ponicsan (The Last Detail) introduces the 7:30pm screening of Ashby's 1973 adaptation on 7/15. The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine. For more information, please click here or call 206-329-2629. Images from indieWIRE, MSN Movies, the NWFF, and Wikipedia.


  1. Wow, I didn't realize World's Greatest Dad had such a dark premise. Sounds almost like a Todd Solondz film! Look forward to hearing more about it.

  2. There's a whole genre of inspirational literature written, or supposedly written, by gravely ill children, often published posthumously. I've always found it fascinating, because it's critic-proof. "Oh, so you hate the book by the dead kid, huh? What kind of monster are you?" But, on the other hand, I'm not sure who would actually want to read these books, despite the countless Today Show appearances of the parents of these kids. I'm really excited about the film.

  3. I enjoy telling people that Robin Williams has signed on to a movie called "World's Greatest Dad"... and then watching their presumed-treacle"nduced grimaces turn into zealous smirks as I explain what the movie is actually about...