In the New York Times, Sharon Waxman pays a visit to Tom Laughlin, the creator (and actor) behind 70s cult action figure Billy Jack ("Just a person who protects children and other living things," as the tagline to the 1971 movie went).
Back then, it was bigotry against Native Americans, trouble with the nuclear power industry and big bad government that made this screen hero explode in karate-fueled rage. At the time, the unlikely combination of rugged-loner heroics – all in defense of society’s downtrodden and forgotten – and rough-edged filmmaking sparked a pop culture and box-office phenomenon.
Laughlin and his wife, co-star and co-writer Delores Taylor, raised money for the original film from individual investors, and, unable to secure a distributor, rented the theater spaces and collected the box-office profits themselves (according to the article, Laughlin hired Mormons to work the ticket booths because he figured they could be trusted with the money). "Billy Jack" took in $32.5 million, and now Laughlin and Taylor are raising money for a new Billy Jack film that will take on drugs, the religious right, and the current war.
Over at the LA Times, Martin Miller profiles Scott Neeson, a former high-up in the international marketing arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment who left Hollywood to help Cambodian street children. The funny part (and by that we mean sad) is the industry’s reaction:
News of Neeson’s career move created something of a stir inside Hollywood. The single man with no children is having a midlife crisis, the rumor mill speculated. Or he was pushed out of his job at Fox and/or Sony. Or he’s just playing some angle for a triumphant return. Or he’s gone nuts.
And, back at the New York Times, Lewis Beale uses the IFC Center‘s plans for a Midnight Movie series as a launching point to dwell on what makes a "midnight movie" these days:
What was once culturally transgressive – sexually, thematically, aesthetically – has now been made mainstream, he said, by filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, whose "Kill Bill" would have been a perfect midnight movie if it had been made in 1975.
The current biggest midnight movie is "The Goonies," a sad testament to how nostalgia has replaced the sheer offensiveness we’d prefer. And anyway, we’d take "Labyrinth" over "The Goonies" any night. Ah, David Bowie: The cheekbones! The contact juggling clearly being done by someone else! The eyeshadow! The odd undercurrents of sadism!