Thursday, December 26, 2019

"If You Just Love Movies Enough, You Can Make a Good One," Says Quentin Tarantino in Tara Wood's Documentary QT8: The First Eight

Reservoir Dogs / Live Entertainment/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT
(Tara Wood, USA, 2019, 103 minutes) 

Instead of dancing around Quentin Tarantino's connection to disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Tara Wood uses it to frame her documentary. There's no getting around it: Weinstein, by way of Miramax and The Weinstein Company, released Tarantino's first eight films. He and his brother, Bob, had nothing to do with Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, which marks a new era for the filmmaker, though we aren't likely to get a QT8 II: The Next Eight, since Tarantino has claimed that he plans to retire after film #10, whatever it is and whenever it may materialize (all I know is that it won't be a Star Trek entry, since he's extricated himself from that particular commitment).

Former roommate Scott Spiegel (Evil Dead II) remembers meeting Tarantino in his video-store days. Spiegel thought he was "an overzealous geek"--with the talent to back it up. He came to that conclusion after reading the screenplays for True Romance (Tony Scott) and Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone). Though Tarantino wanted to direct, studios weren't interested in handing the reins to an untested kid when these established gents were willing to step in, though producer Stacey Sher says that Tarantino would've shot True Romance in non-linear fashion, as he famously did in Pulp Fiction, and that--26-year-old spoiler alert--Christian Slater's Clarence wouldn't have survived the climactic gun battle.

True Romance crew feat. Baby Brad / Warner Bros
Filmmaker Eli Roth (Hostel), who appeared in Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds--as the infamous Bear Jew--marvels at the fact that Tarantino writes out his scripts in long hand with different colored pens (he has no interest whatsoever in computers). Let's face it: these are the kinds of things we want to hear about Tarantino, i.e. that he's been talking a blue streak since day one, like his loquacious leads, and that he's old school, like his vinyl-and-cassette-loving characters.

Using the residuals from his gig as an Elvis impersonator on The Golden Girls ("Sophia's Wedding"), Tarantino was able to scratch up the funds to shoot Reservoir Dogs. As far as I'm concerned, that's an origin story to rival anything in Marvel or DC comics. That said, he didn't have the budget to provide his actors with the black suits they needed to make the imposing impression that has come to characterize the film, so they had to provide their own. According to Michael Madsen, who played Mr. Blonde, the production supplied them with ties. From those humble beginnings, Tarantino's debut went on to play Cannes, and a career was born.

Wood proceeds through Tarantino's next seven films, organized by three chapters: The Revolution (1992 and 1994), Badass Women and Genre Play (1997, 2003-2004, and 2007), and Justice (2009, 2012, and 2015).

Forster and Tarantino in 2007 / Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
Wood, who co-directed 21 Years: Richard Linklater, has been down this road before, but with a very different filmmaker. QT8 represents her solo debut (worth noting: she had to wrest it away from Weinstein). If her approach is largely uncritical, I'm okay with that. If you enjoy Tarantino's work, it's an opportunity to go behind the scenes with Christoph Waltz, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoë Bell, Bruce Dern, Jamie Foxx, Lucy Liu, Kurt Russell, Diane Kruger, and the late Robert Forster, all of whom have worthwhile things to say. Forster, for one, credits Tarantino for giving him his career back. When he told the director he didn't think the studio would let them hire such a down-on-his-luck actor, Tarantino replied. "They let me hire who I want." Says Jackson, "Of all those films, Jackie Brown is sort of like the best one, for me, just because of the cinematic beauty and gentleness of that particular story."

It's a swell lineup, but I still would've liked to hear from Harvey Keitel, whose participation helped to make Reservoir Dogs possible, and Uma Thurman, who may feel she's said her piece. Though she claims she'd work with Tarantino again, in 2018, she told The New York Times he endangered her during the making of Kill Bill by having her do a stunt that went wrong, causing permanent injuries. Wood recounts the incident, and there's mention of a cover-up on Weinstein's part, but no explanation as to what that means. About Thurman's very physical role, stunt double Bell notes, "Uma worked her ass off… She was in pain a lot of the time."

Thurman as The Bride in Kill Bill / The Weinstein Company















Austin Chronicle editor and co-founder Louis Black also praises the music in Tarantino's films, an essential element in their success, but he doesn't name Mary Ramos, the music supervisor who has worked on all eight films. It's an unfortunate oversight, but then Wood chose not to interview Tarantino (or maybe he preferred to let others speak for him). I'm pretty sure he would have given his longtime colleague her due.

Fortunately, Wood does make sure to credit Sally Menke, the Thelma Schoonmaker to Tarantino's Scorsese, though she neglects to say when and how she died: of heat-related causes in 2010. Django Unchained, which saw release two years later, represents the last film she edited.

Further, there's talk about race, something Tarantino has tackled through films in which people of color don't just take the lead—they triumph over their (mostly white) oppressors. Tarantino's use of the "n" word, however, complicates his attempts to uplift marginalized people. He and Spike Lee have been sparring about it for over 20 years, and it's an issue that will never go away, not when the word appears, repeatedly, in several films. If Foxx and Jackson, who has worked with Lee, don't have a problem with it--"Spike Lee’s that guy," Foxx quips, going on to characterize him as a "get off my lawn"-type--that doesn't mean it isn't a problem. Nor does it mean Tarantino is a racist, but it's a cruel, ugly, dehumanizing word. Putting it in the mouths of bad guys doesn't change that fact. Even in the context of the exploitation-style films he makes, it's tone-deaf at best.

Jamie Foxx is Django Unchained / The Weinstein Company
For all that Wood incorporates in the documentary, including a discussion of Tarantino's strong women characters, there's no mention of his foot fetish, though she does include the Death Proof sequence in which Kurt Russell licks Rosario Dawson's feet while she's snoozing. And...I suppose that's more than enough.

Just as the documentary opens with Reservoir Dogs, it ends with The Hateful Eight, in which Tarantino reunited again with Tim Roth and Michael Madsen (both also appear in OUATIH). As for Weinstein, his relationship with Tarantino unraveled after The New Yorker and The New York Times published revelations about his career-long history of sexual harassment. All the while, the director made Weinstein money. In turn, Weinstein offered him creative freedom. Stacey Sher confirms that Tarantino based Kurt Russell's bounty hunter in The Hateful Eight on Weinstein. In the end, and this isn't exactly a spoiler: Jennifer Jason Leigh's outlaw, Daisy, shoots him dead. It doesn't change the fact that Weinstein's name will always be associated with these films, but as Oedipal endings go: it's perfect.



QT8: The First Eight is available to rent or buy (no streaming) from Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube, and Google Play.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Unstoppable Force of Adam Sandler in Josh and Benny Safdie's Uncut Gems

Sandler looking downright Mephistophelian / A24
UNCUT GEMS 
(Josh and Bennie Safdie, USA, 2019, 135 minutes)

Adam Sandler never stops moving in Josh and Bennie Safdie's vertiginous Diamond District thriller, Uncut Gems. From start to finish, Sandler's gem merchant, Howard Ratner, is barely keeping his shit together. If he lets down his guard for even a second, he could lose a fortune, and a lot of people depend on him: his family, his employees, his girlfriend (who is an employee), and his customers, especially Boston Celtic forward Kevin Garnett (who plays an especially demanding, obsessive version of himself).

Before introducing Howard, the Safdies begin with a 2010, Exorcist-inspired prologue in which two Ethiopian miners excavate a chunk of rock studded with black opals. Since one of their colleagues suffered a grievous injury in the process, it's clear that this is a literal blood opal. As one worker raises it up to the light, cinematographer Darius Khondji (Funny Games) zooms in on what looks like a starry sky in miniature. From there, he dives into the stone, leading to 2001-like special effects that light up the screen to Daniel Lopatin's magical-whoosh of a score. The interior of the opal gives way to a certain glossy body cavity, which reveals itself as Howard's colon. After his colonoscopy concludes, the film begins in earnest. The year is 2012.

Garnett, Stanfield, and Sandler admire the rock / A24
From there, the Safdies introduce the major players in short order, starting with the girlfriend (the amazing Julia Fox, matching Sandler measure for measure) who would rather party than work, the regular customers, like Demany (Lakeith Stanfield), who serves as Howard's unofficial PR flack, and the thugs pressuring him pay his debt to their loan shark boss, Arno (a chilling, dead-eyed Eric Bogosian). Howard, it turns out, is a gambling addict, who doesn't know when to quit.

When Kevin visits his store, Howard sees a chance to make a dent in his debt, but what the towering athlete wants more than a diamond-encrusted Furby pendant is the opal-studded rock from the prologue. It took Howard 17 months to track it down after he saw it on a History Channel special about Ethiopia's Jewish tribe. "They say you can see the whole universe in opals. That's how fucking old they are," he exclaims. When Kevin refuses to leave without the rock, which Howard had intended to sell at auction, he lets him hang on to it in exchange for his clover-bedecked championship ring, which he promptly pawns, so he can increase his bet on that night's Celtics vs 76ers game. Kevin is convinced the rock will bring him luck, but it will prove to be unlucky in ways that none of its guardians can anticipate.

Once the Safdies, who wrote the script with co-editor Ronald Bronstein (Heaven Knows What, Good Time), have set the wheels of the plot in motion, it's up to Howard to figure out how to make it out of this mess alive. If he creates every problem that arises--"You did this to yourself," his exasperated brother-in-law, Arno, sighs--Sandler makes Howard just likable enough that you want to take this ride with him. Though Uncut Gems isn't exactly a comedy, the dialogue is consistently colorful, if not cuttingly funny, which makes the relentless pace easier to take. The same goes for Lopatin's score, which differs from his more drone-oriented work in Good Time. In this case, he adds a wistful, flute-infused motif that alternates with a gentle, whistled reverie, recalling the smeary character pieces of the 1970s--The Panic in Needle Park, Scarecrow--that clearly served as an influence.

Julia as Julia bets it all on Howard / A24
When Kevin fails to return Howard's rock on time for the auction, he cajoles Demany into driving him to Philadelphia to collect it, even though his whole family, including estranged wife Dinah (Idina Menzel, miles away from Frozen and Wicked) is expecting him to join them for his sullen teen daughter's play. In Howard's world, the domestic obligations don't stop as he ping-pongs between his house in Long Island and his apartment in Manhattan. When Howard admits he fucked up their marriage, Dinah counters with a less ambiguous assessment: "You are a fuck-up." If Menzel's character comes off as a bitch, you know she's right, just as you know the Safdies love this guy anyway. He has a lot of their father in him, a man they fictionalized with a similar degree of affection and frustration in 2009's Daddy Longlegs (it's too bad Bronstein appears to have left acting behind, because his performance in that film couldn't be better). In his Times of Israel interview with the brothers, Jordan Hoffman notes that they "modeled him after associates of their father."

As the film hurtles towards its conclusion, Howard suffers one indignity after another from the loss of his clothes to the bloody nose featured on the film's arresting B&W poster. Just when it seems as if things can't get worse, a light appears at the end of the tunnel. Maybe, just maybe, he can pull out of this nosedive into death and destruction. One way or the other, the final 10 minutes will completely wreck your nerves. The first time I watched the film, I felt pummeled by the pace and the cacophony of yelling and pounding. The second time around, I was able to more fully appreciate the editing as the Safdies cut between Howard in his shop trying to keep the beasts at bay, Julia tasked with a very tricky maneuver, and the opal-powered Celtics game which will determine the fortunes of most everyone in Howard's orbit. The way they bring these stories home is nothing short of masterful.

"Well, we all fall in love, but we disregard the danger" / A24
Equally masterful is Adam Sandler, building on his work in PT Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and Noah Baumbach's under-seen--or at least underappreciated--Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017). Because I know him best from these finely-wrought films, rather than his mainstream comedies, I'm not surprised he can act; I'm just surprised to see him give a white-knuckle, Roy Scheider-in-Scorcerer-level performance. Except funnier.

Though it opens in Seattle on Christmas Eve (and halfway through Hanukkah), Uncut Gems is a Jewish movie. That's not just my take on it; the Safdies have only encouraged the impression by the gemological-meets-pornographic title and by setting the action during Pesach. It seems perfect, really, that Sandler, performer of one of the best known Hanukkah songs--will now be associated with a Passover classic. Or that's my hope for this film, which takes a critical, yet sympathetic look at a seriously flawed, but not completely un-redeemable human being. An uncut gem indeed.


Uncut Gems opens at SIFF Cinema Egyptian on Dec 24. The annual Fiddler on the Roof Sing-Aong plays the next day at SIFF Cinema Uptown with Chinese food and live klezmer music. For more information, click here.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Marching Band Member Goes Missing in Jennifer Reeder's Musical Teen Noir Knives and Skin

The marching band member who goes missing
KNIVES AND SKIN 
(Jennifer Reeder, USA, 2019, 111 minutes)

I love a good musical teen noir, and Jennifer Reeder's Knives and Skin is a…not-bad musical teen noir. Her followup to 2017's Signature Move begins with a knife-wielding mother wondering where her 15-year-old daughter has gone. Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley), a drum major, has gone to a secluded riverbank to get busy with Andy (Ty Olwin), a varsity football player. Andy has a girlfriend, but these two have made out before. At the last minute, Carolyn decides she isn't feeling it, so Andy pushes her away and drives off with her hat and glasses--but not before she scratches him on the forehead.

The next day, Carolyn's band mates wonder where's she's gone. The last we saw of her, she was very much alive, but bleeding, while Andy still has a "C" mark on his face, though he doesn't tell anyone how he got it.

Much as with Laura Palmer and the town of Twin Peaks, Carolyn's disappearance haunts the sleepy Midwestern town of Big River (Reeder shot the film in Chicago). Her single mother, Lisa (Marika Engelhardt), the high school choir teacher, seems dazed, but then, she seemed dazed on the night of the disappearance when she was skulking around their house with a knife. In one of my favorite scenes, Lisa, while wearing Caroline's green sequin-covered dress, leads the choir in a lovely, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares-like version of the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed."

Ireon Roach, Grace Smith, and Kayla Carter
As we get to know the other parents, we find that they're pretty weird, too. Andy's seamstress mother, Lynn Kitzmiller (Audrey Francis), who wears the same over-sized, lion-face t-shirt daily, spends most of her time snoozing on a tin foil-covered pillow. It isn't clear what's eating her, but it looks a lot like depression. Her husband, Dan (Tim Hopper), lost his job, but he hasn't had the heart--or the courage--to tell her. As for Sheriff Doug Darlington (James Vincent Meredith), his wife, Renee (Kate Arrington), is pregnant and he's more annoyed than excited about it; everybody thinks the baby belongs to Dan with whom she's been having an affair. They're both right and wrong about the kid. The Kitzmiller and Darlington daughters were among Carolyn's best friends, although, unlike Laura Palmer, no one was especially thrilled about her. Like many teen girls, she could be careless and cruel. 

Life goes on. Renee continues to see Dan, who dresses up like a clown when they get together, and Lisa, whose makeup becomes increasingly smeared, continues to wear her daughter's clothes, from poufy party dresses to heart-patterned angora sweaters. Then one day, Carolyn's friends receive a text from her. It doesn't mean she sent it, in which case someone used her phone, but it's unclear who would do such a thing.

Things only get stranger from there as a t-shirt talks back to its owner, a student sells her mother's used underwear to a teacher, and a different teacher, a substitute, put the moves on the same student. Beyond the comparisons to Twin Peaks, Knives and Skin evokes other not-quite-horror films in which surrealism comes to the suburbs, like Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko and Gregg Araki's Kaboom, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

None of this is played with a wink. For all I know, Reeder may find some of it as silly as audiences are likely to, but the deadpan vibe and Nick Zinner's dreamy score suggest otherwise. The supernatural aspect, meanwhile, doesn't spring from mystical elements--with the exception of a wound that won't heal--as much as the diegetic music that comments on the action as if the participants all decided, in unison, to sing. It happens at the choir practice with the Go-Go's song and continues with Modern English's "Melt With You," Naked Eyes' "Promises, Promises," and other numbers, all of which come from the 1980s, possibly an acknowledgment that Knives and Skin wouldn't exist without the precedent set by David Lynch with Blue Velvet in 1986 before he expanded on similar ideas with Twin Peaks four years later.

Reeder eventually provides the resolution to Carolyn's disappearance. She had dropped clues along the way, so it doesn't come from out of nowhere, but it works. If the weirdest stuff in the film falls the flattest, like a couple of food-throwing scenes, I found the end unexpectedly touching. Turns out the filmmaker had one more 1980s-oriented magic trick up her sleeve.



Knives and Skin is available to stream through iTunes and Google

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Everything's Got 'Em: On the Point of Harry Nilsson's Animated Feature The Point!

THE POINT!
(Fred Wolf, 1971, USA, 74 minutes)

Two years before the publication of William Goldman's The Princess Bride, in which a father tells his son a bedtime story that takes up the bulk of the book, singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson used a similar format for his own bedtime story, The Point!

Fourteen years later, Goldman's adaptation of his book would form the basis for the big-screen version with which most people are probably familiar. And Rob Reiner's film isn't bad, but as is often the case: the book is deeper, darker, and more fulfilling. Nilsson's narrative feature, however, lived on the small screen before it took shape in other formats, including a stage musical (with Monkees Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz) and a home-video release.

For this hand-crafted project, Nilsson did everything he possibly could. He hired a screenwriter (Norm Lenzer) to adapt his idea, a director and animator (Fred Wolf) to bring it to life, a producer (George Tipton) to conduct and arrange his songs, and a narrator to tell the tale; Dustin Hoffman, post-Midnight Cowboy, for the TV broadcast and his close friend, Ringo Starr, for the version that appears on most video releases, including the 50th anniversary Blu-ray MVD will be releasing next year (Nilsson won a Grammy for Midnight Cowboy's Tipton-produced theme, "Everybody's Talkin'"). It's Nilsson, however, who narrates the album version with which I grew up, and I believe it's definitive. Starr has an engaging style, but his narration can be a little drowsy, whereas Nilsson's has more pep.



The Nilsson who came up with the story, which hasn't lost one iota of resonance over the years--hippy-dippy trappings aside--is the same Nilsson who grew up without a father, wrote songs about fatherlessness, like "1941" and "Daddy's Song," and would go on to father seven children, none of whom would experience the same degree of abandonment--though it's fair to say that his youngest children saw more of him than his oldest son, Zak.

In the film, Oblio (voiced by The Brady Bunch's Mike Lookinland) begins life in a medievalesque town full of points. As Nilsson's song would have it, "Everything's Got 'Em"--except for Oblio, the sole round-headed citizen. As the narrator notes, "He had no point. He had no point at all." Always a fan of wordplay, Nilsson extracts as much meaning from the word "point" as any human conceivably could. Anyone who's ever felt different from the rest, for whatever reason, can see themselves in Oblio, not least because he's a regular kid. He's polite, he's well mannered; he's just pointless.

In order to help him fit in, his mother makes Oblio a pointed cap. His head remains perfectly spherical, but now he looks more like everybody else, though I don't think it's completely accidental that the other kids look like what we would now call poop emojis. Instead of befriending any of his orange peers, Oblio finds a soul mate in the blue-hued "greatest dog in the world," which leads to "Me and My Arrow," a sublime, two-minute pop song in which Nilsson describes a friendship in the first person, just as he did in his Tipton-produced theme for ABC's The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, while simultaneously expressing adult fears of abandonment in lines like, "And in the morning when I wake up, she may be telling me goodbye." It's a completely unexpected detour in a song that seemed designed expressly for children and animal lovers, but that was Nilsson's modus operandi in a nutshell: to subvert pop-song expectations at every turn.



With Arrow's assistance, Oblio becomes a formidable player of Triangle Toss, the town's boomerang-like game, but just as the other kids are warming up to him, he beats the Count's purple-hued, sore loser of a son. The Count can't have the town see its future ruler as a failure, so he convinces the King, not exactly the brightest bulb, to banish Oblio to the Pointless Forest.

The Count is a Dr. Seuss-grade villain to rival the green guy in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which preceded The Point! to TV by five years. Whether Wolf, best known for his work on The Flintstones, took inspiration from Dr. Seuss, I couldn't say, but there's a similar sensibility at work in terms of the quasi-surrealistic look of the thing. Other possible inspirations include George Dunning's animation for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968) and Terry Gilliam's animated collages for Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974). Considering that Nilsson was friendly with members of both groups, it's unlikely that the similarities are wholly coincidental.

If it wasn't clear that The Point! is a parable about prejudice, one villager at the tribunal spells it out when she tells another, "If we let one of Oblio's kind stay, before long the whole village will be crawling…" She doesn't finish her sentence, and nor does she need to. Oblio stands for anyone who doesn't look, speak, or act the same as the majority of their community.



As Oblio and Arrow, found guilty of criminal conspiracy, enter the forest, Nilsson's Rube Goldberg ballad, "Think About Your Troubles" soundtracks their departure. The second-person song begins with you at the breakfast table, thinking about your troubles. You shed a tear that lands in your teacup, which ends up in the river, where it travels to the ocean to get eaten by fishes that are swallowed by a whale "who grew so old, he decomposed!" The cycle begins again as the body merges with the ocean, which flows into the river, which comes out of the tap, and ends up in your teacup.

Oblio, on the other hand, has no time to think about his troubles. He's just hoping to make it through the Pointless Forest in one piece, the first of his kind to accomplish the feat. To his surprise, it's full of points, although as the Pointless Man cautions, "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all." Oblio also encounters a swarm of bees and the Rock Man, who utters the best lines to a bass-driven bebop beat, "You see what you want to see," "You hear what you want to hear," "You don't have to have a point to have a point," and my favorite, "You been goofin’ with the bees?"

Just when it seems as if Oblio and Arrow won't meet any women along their travels, they come across the Fat Sisters, three tomato-shaped ladies who live to giggle and groove. Wolf has drawn them in such a way that they appear to lack clothes, and yet he's kept things G-rated by depicting them in a smeary, smudged manner as they bounce around like beach balls. "I really don't understand this," Oblio admits, ultimately deciding that understanding isn't necessary. The Fat Sisters exist simply to inspire joy and merriment.

The Pointless Man as depicted in the illustrated booklet.  
They next meet up with the Leaf Man, a malapropism-spouting businessman obsessed with leaf production. Frankly, he's a bit of as bore. It's possible that his conception sprang from the bankers and record company accountants Nilsson met during his career, but he's the least interesting character by far.

After an encounter with a prehistoric bird who takes Oblio and Arrow on a trip through the sky before bringing them down to Earth, hatching an egg, and then flying off with her chick, the two weary travelers decide to take a nap. Before, they drift off into unconsciousness, Oblio comes to a realization: what's in your head is more important than whether there's a point on top of it. With that, Nilsson croons "Are You Sleeping?," which picks up where "Me and My Arrow" left off as he continues to wonder whether a relationship, possibly his marriage to Zak's mother, will last. "And in the morning when I wake up, she may be telling me goodbye," he says with one breath. With another, he assures her that, "I'll be there by your side."

It's that unique combination of the expectedly childlike, the surprisingly adult, and the just-plain weird that makes The Point! work as well for me now as it did in grade school when I'd play the album over and over again, flipping the pages of the illustrated booklet all the while. In fact, I didn't watch the movie for the first time until this year (it's streaming on Fandor). If I've always felt as if I'd seen it, it's simply because I've memorized every line and image from the booklet and every lyric from the album.

There may be better children's films, but there are few that are more personal and less condescending to young people. And if there's a better soundtrack to spring from this genre, I've yet to hear it. As a song cycle, The Point! stands alongside Nilsson's finest albums, like Nilsson Schmilsson, to the extent that it loses nothing when un-tethered from the film. They're simply great songs about finding your place in the world.

In William Goldman's Princess Bride, there are two sets of fathers and sons; the father who read Goldman the original book--but "only the good parts"--before bed, and Goldman's son, Jason, who rejects it as boring (in Rob Reiner's movie, Peter Falk and Fred Savage play a version of the first pair). In truth, The Princess Bride was wholly the author's invention. His father, an alcoholic who killed himself while Goldman was in high school, never read him any such book, and nor did Goldman track down a rare copy for Jason, because Jason doesn't exist; Goldman and his wife had two daughters.

Through The Point!, Nilsson, the boy who grew up without a father, got to live out his fantasy of having one who was there for him, just as The Princess Bride allowed Goldman, the boy who lost his father, to live out his fantasy of having one who was happier and healthier. In Alyn Shipton's 2013 biography, Harry Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter, Fred Wolf says he's "unsure that the story is deliberately autobiographical." In 1970, when Nilsson was working on the project, just a year after he'd had his first son, he may not have seen it that way, but in hindsight: it sure looks like it.



The Princess Bride Quote-Along, part of SIFF's annual Holiday Favorites series, plays SIFF Film Center Dec 6, 7, and 8. For more information, click here. MVD releases The Point! Ultimate Edition on February 20, 2020.