Tag Archives: Peter Bogdonavich

Willie or Won’t She?

Willie and Me

by George Wolf

Greta is a young girl in Germany who loves her some Wille Nelson. Her unstable mother does not agree.

“Turn it off or I’ll punch you in the face!” Not a lot of gray area there.

But her devotion to the Red Headed Stranger endures into adulthood, when Greta (Eva Haßmann, who also writes and directs her first feature) feels compelled to travel to America and attend Willie’s “farewell” concert in Las Vegas.

So after selling the Porsche behind her husband’s back and setting their kitchen on fire (accidentally?), Greta just can’t wait to get on the road (again).

Flying first into L.A, Greta finds the city pretty welcoming, starting with the helpful hotel desk clerk who sails often on whiskey river (Peter Bogdanovich, in his final screen appearance). A local Elvis impersonator named Nick (Blaine Gray) also takes an interest in Greta’s welfare, stirring echoes of how an entire city instantly rolled over for Elizabeth Berkeley’s character in Showgirls.

But rather than serving up pretentious camp, Haßmann embraces the utter silliness of Greta’s quest. There are snake bites, blow up dolls, stolen cars, pre-teen con artists and more trying to derail Greta’s journey, but she just keeps plowing ahead with the certainty of the Blues Brothers’ “mission from God.”

It’s not really that funny, and the production values can be shaky, but there’s a quirky charm here, thanks mainly to a commitment from Haßmann that mirrors her character. She even writes and performs a song with Willie himself, who handles double duty with a cameo as a mysterious man in black.

It adds up to a madcap slice of Napoleon Dynamite-esque Americana that’s just as likely to leave you scratching your head as laughing out loud. There’s little chance Willie and Me will be always on your mind, but at just 87 minutes, it’s a whimsical tribute to an icon that won’t feel like a waste of time.

Fall Down and Geek Out

The Great Buster

by Brandon Thomas

Physical comedy is as important to the history of cinema as the cameras themselves. Charlie Chaplin, The 3 Stooges, Jim Carrey and the cast of Jackass all kept the time-honored tradition of taking a blow for the sake of a laugh. Even everyday folk got into the act by sending their accident-filled home movies to TV’s America’s Funniest Home Videos.

For many fans, historians and critics, Buster Keaton was the best of them all.

Keaton started in the biz by performing alongside his parents in their traveling vaudevillian show. His adept ability to sell a pratfall like no one else made their act enormously popular. A fortuitous meeting with Fatty Arbuckle introduced Buster to the art of filmmaking, and by the time Keaton reached his mid-30s, he’d directed, starred in and produced multiple feature and short films.

With The Great Buster, director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) delivers an absolute love letter to Keaton and his career. The film not only touches on Keaton’s highs in the 1920s, but also on his low points when he lost all creative and financial control of his projects. Alcoholism, infidelity, divorce and family estrangement all plagued Keaton during the downturn in his career.

Bogdanovich wisely spends most of the time discussing and reveling over Keaton’s work. Bogdanovich himself narrates the film, and his adoration of Keaton is evident in his voice as he touches on everything from Keaton’s masterworks in the 1920s to his commercial work in the 1960s. Filmmakers and actors such as Mel Brooks, James Karen, Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Knoxville also share how their affinity for Keaton helped shape their careers.

The film really takes hold when the more “film geek” elements are at play. Specific scenes and/or gags from Keaton’s work are broken down, analyzed and fawned over by Bogdanovich and fellow filmmakers. The film even backtracks to spend the last third pouring over the classics that Buster created in the 20s, leading right up to the invention of talkies.

Like recent documentaries De Palma and Milius, the love and affection for the subject and their creations is all over The Great Buster. Bogdanovich has crafted a precise and professional movie, but, more importantly, he’s infused the film with respect and admiration.