Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Impossibly Funky: Interview With Mike White
I was recently contacted by Mike White regarding his new book. It's a collection of articles, reviews and more from a Detroit fanzine entitled 'Cashiers du Cinemart'. The 'zine covered the spectrum of wild movies and even about the more familiar fare of the day. This new, updated compilation looks to be an interesting read especially for fans of all cinematic styles. Below is an interview I did with Mike White regarding his book, his genre interests and other film related subjects. After the interview there are links to Mike's 'Impossibly Funky' blog and website. There, you'll find what's inside the book as well as purchasing. And now for the interview--
Venoms5: Tell us the genesis and history of Cashiers du Cinemart.
Mike White: I did the 'zine from '94 to about '07 or '08. I guess I officially threw in the towel in '08 after I got to looking at my bank account, credit card bills, and the boxes of 'zines in my garage. I used to have really good distribution but as the mom & pop stores and Tower Records went out of business... The 'zine started off as something I did on a typewriter with a xerox machine (and postage meter) courtesy of my job where I worked some crazy hours. I eventually graduated to desktop publishing and a real printer. I wrote the bulk of the stuff in the 'zine, but had some reliable contributors and made some damn good friends through the 'zine, including Rich Osmond from St. Louis. He did a couple issues of a 'zine called "Teenage Rampage" and eventually gave that up and became a regular contributor to "Cashiers du Cinemart." The meat of the 'zine was reviews of movies, interviews, and feature articles about various authors, unproduced screenplays, or other things that met my fancy.
V5: I've seen a number of fanzines, horror mainly, but what set Cashiers du Cinemart apart from the rest of the pack?
MW: Your question points to a large difference between CdC and other fanzines. I wasn't into one genre or another. To be frank, horror is one of my weaker genres. When people used to come in to the video store where I worked and asked me for recommendations for a good horror movie I was often clueless. I like good, creepy movies and would point folks to Polanski's REPULSION (1965) or Lynch's ERASERHEAD (1976); often to my customers' chagrin. What I tried to do with CdC was to highlight films that really blew my mind--no matter what genre they may be in. I always pictured some kid, very much like me, in some Podunk town picking up my zine and sharing the experience of a movie they'd never think to hunt down.
V5: I "worked" in a video store as well, but was too young to get paid, so I just got tons of posters and things. Did you ever get to keep any of those great standee's and other movie tie ins?
MW: I didn't pick up much when I was working at the video store but I did grab a few things when I worked at a movie theater. I think my greatest treasure had to be the big banner advertisement for COOL AS ICE (1991). For years my high school chums and I had made fun of Vanilla Ice so anything related to his freshman film venture was pure gold.
V5: If I were to have walked into your video store and requested something off the beaten path, what would you recommend me and why?
MW: Back then I'd have made sure that you had your background in the classics and would have recommended something like Edgar G. Ulmer's DETOUR (1945) or, if you seemed more like a fan of something later, Bob Rafelson HEAD (1968).
V5: The 1970's was such a dangerously creative decade filled with a lot of great movies, do you ever see that era duplicating itself in this CGI infested time period?
MW: I'm sure we'll look back at this era some day with kindness. The '70s had their spate of great cinema coming from the major studios, the '80s had a run of amazing B-movies that flourished thanks to VHS, and the '90s had some great indie cinema. I'm not sure yet what the '00s will offer us when the dust clears--apart from way too many zombie films--but it's my job to find the marbles in the oatmeal. Yes, CGI can be and often is abused. I still don't understand how a movie like Jurassic Park in 1993 can have better special effects than movies produced in recent years. I think it was the mix of CG, models, and smart filmmaking. Just because you can make CGI blood or fire doesn't mean you should.
V5: What genre appeals to you most and why?
MW: Going through my mental video store, I'd have to say that classic film noirs are some of my favorite films if only for their ability to tell stories on multiple levels. I always enjoy movies made when the Hays Code was fully enforced to see how filmmakers subverted the system.
V5: What would you say was your favorite actor and movie?
MW: That's a tough one. I often go with the nostalgic answer; movies that made me happiest as a kid (STAR WARS '77). Or there are movies that I love to just throw in the DVD player and enjoy (FIGHT CLUB '99, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST '68). I think I'm going to kill two birds and say that my favorite movie and actor coincide with THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER (1962) and Timothy Carey. Since this one isn't out on DVD yet, each time I see it is a special occasion.
V5: Do you have any special memories of catching some of these films in the theater, or drive in?
MW: I've got a memory like Swiss cheese but, for some reason, I can almost always recall where I was when I saw a particular film. My favorite theater while growing up was a little shithole place in my home town called 'The Showboat'. I saw a lot of crappy movies there that I remember fondly like ICE PIRATES (1984) and HEART BEEPS (1981). I also caught some classics there like POLTERGEIST (1982) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981). As the years went on, the theater got worse and worse... and the movies seemed to match it. This is where I saw *BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED (1987), DIRTY DANCING (1987), and THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988).
V5: Can you give us a brief snippet behind this early version of STAR WARS?
MW: Sure thing. I haven't seen it so I can only go on the report I read back in the Star Wars Insider. And, knowing Lucas, we'll never see this version. I'm dreading what changes he's going to make to the original trilogy for the impending Blu-Ray release. Anyway, the early cut of it was more in line with AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) in the quasi-documentary style when it came to showing life on Tattooine. Apparently this section of the film changed the most from the earliest cuts. Even until the 11th hour, I imagine that the 'Biggs Darklighter' scenes and brief appearance of a girl at Han Solo's table in the cantina were still included.
V5: While we're on the subject of STAR WARS, what is your opinion of the HOLIDAY SPECIAL and, if even in the realm of possibility, would you love for that to be a stand alone, or even as an extra on the upcoming set?
MW: For posterity, the special should be preserved. I mean, it was the world's first look at Boba Fett! Yeah, I could have done without the Jefferson Starship stuff but it's still a great relic from bygone days.
V5: Since he's a part of this collected work, what is your opinion of Quentin Tarantino, the filmmaker, as well as his pictures so far?
MW: I think Tarantino is a terrific screenwriter. When I read his stuff I can picture it in my head like a finished film. In fact, when I saw PULP FICTION (1994) for the first time it seemed like I'd seen it all before since I'd read the script a few months earlier. He doesn't go overboard with screen directions but, still, I can picture every close-up, every cut, every process shot. He's got a great talent for that. As a director, I don't admire him as much. He seems to be stuck on a few themes and ideas that have begun to draw unneeded attention to them. I mean, the foot thing is just ridiculous. I've seen fetish films that are more subtle. Also, the whole splintered timeline; I wasn't that big of a fan of JACKIE BROWN (1997) but when he started doing multiple POVs via various timelines in the third act, I checked out. He also needs to get a composer. While I could handle him using '70s songs in RESERVOIR DOGS (1992), the recontextualizing of Morricone and other composers seems to be paying them a disservice. I digress. I still love RESERVOIR DOGS but what he's done since then hasn't really lit a fire in my brain.
V5: What do you think of his pilfering of past exploitation classics? Rip off, or homage?
MW: I liked that brief time when Tarantino had his 'Rolling Thunder' distribution going on and was bringing back movies that he was taking a lot from. It was great to see SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975) on the big screen. But, since then, he's not been doing his part on a national scale to give back to the movies from which he's taken so much. I imagine that his work with the New Beverly Theater is good, but not everyone lives on the West Coast. What's almost worse than Tarantino's rip offs are the directors that subsequently rip off Tarantino so that you're getting second generation garbage with all originality just drained right out.
V5: If your book is a success, what are your plans? Do you plan to carry on where your fanzine left off?
MW: I've got a sequel in the works. It's a collection of movie reviews I did for a few local Detroit places--online and off--as well as some articles I wrote that have been published by Paracinema magazine and a few that have never seen the light of day. I'm not disciplined enough to blog about movies as much as I should (maybe that's why the Online Film Critics Society won't have me) but putting finger to keyboard is something that I'll not stop doing anytime soon.
V5: In typical 70's trashy trailer fashion, describe just what the audience can expect from 'Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection'.
MW: Lookout Jack! Cashiers du Cinemart is Back! The magazine you once knew and loved is back... with a vengeance. And no one is safe. They're tearing up the road in a high-octane, lust-fueled quest for revenge and movie reviews. Don't take a chance that you're next and pick up Impossibly Funky today....
V5: Thanks, Mike. Best of luck to you on your book and your other ventures!
MW: Thanks so much! It's been a blast!
Here is the link to the blog regarding the book:
IMPOSSIBLE FUNKY BLOG
Here is the link to the website itself that contains more information on the book as well as reviews from filmmaker Greydon Clark and Gerald Peary of the Boston Phoenix:
UNTIL NEXT TIME....