Lazlo Kovacs makes himself at home in the Pacific Northwest by improvising a regionally appropriate camera mount inside a production vehicle for Five Easy Pieces. Taken in Eugene, this photo is by cameraman Ron Vidor.
Q: What are you doing, Anne?
A: My goal is to write about Oregon film history, film by film. Oregon Movies A to Z has been up, in some fashion, since October 2008.
Q: That’s not what it looks like! You’re writing about all kinds of stuff.
A: I also write – not comprehensively at all – about current film events. I go back and blog about older films when I discover one I missed when I was going through that particular year. But chronological progress is still taking place, if you look for it. The forward thrust of my walk through film history is there in the blog, although it is obscured with distractions and digressions.
Right now I am moving through 1993, an unusual, and unusually trying, year. I was warned about it by the panel of fellow critics who spoke at the Oregon Sesquicentennial Film Festival in 2009. They were openly skeptical of my ability to maintain interest in Oregon film, which to them meant films shot in Oregon. I dismissed their concern – I knew they were not factoring in the great films Oregon filmmakers (and actors and writers) had made outside the state boundaries. It was only when David Walker specifically mentioned “1993″ and they all turned, with one motion, David Walker, Shawn Levy, Ted Mahar and Aaron Mesh, to look at me, that I began to have some grasp of what I would have to endure.
I thought my film loving peers were underestimating me when they expressed concern over my headlong flight into a wall of deeply unenjoyable cinema.
A: So how do you identify an Oregon film?
Q: Here’s the rules. I am creating a chronological record of Oregon film history. I define “Oregon film” to include films made in Oregon, and also to include films featuring the work of Oregon artists – directors, actors, writers, you name it – regardless of their location. I try to pair each film with a companion post, either about the director or about the Oregon artist who caused the film to qualify as an Oregon film.
A rule of thumb: I write this history chronologically. Right now I am still in 1993.
Another rule of thumb: I use the year IMDB lists as the year of the film. Oregon Film Commission lists the films by the year of shooting. I list them by year of release.
Handy Guide to Nomenclature:
I denominate as Oregon films all films which qualify under the expanded definition detailed above.
I denominate as an Oregon director an artist who was born/born and raised/raised in Oregon or one who has made Oregon his/her home as an adult.
I denominate as Oregon filmmakers directors who came here to make films. My logic: how can we call One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest an Oregon film, and not call Milos Forman an Oregon filmmaker? So, in the spirit of inclusion, on Oregon Movies, A to Z, he is one.
But he isn’t an Oregon director.
This distinction is useful because Oregon does happen to have produced an unusual number of internationally recognized directors.
Q: How do you choose which films to write about?
A: Its true. I can’t write about all Oregon films. I choose the films I write about based on the following criteria.
2. Fame, of the film itself or of one of its principals
3. Whether I feel like it
This year, the third Oregon Movies, A to Z has been in existence, saw a tremendous rise in the numbers and the visibility of Oregon film. An almost freakish number of Oregon filmmakers came to national attention, pretty much all at the same time. Eight at Sundance, one at New Directors, one at Tribecca, one at Anthology Film Archives, two picked up for distribution by Oscilloscope. Then there was Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia, which she co-produced. That’s in addition to Gus Van Sant at Cannes with Restless, Bill Plympton making the Oscar short list with The Cow Who Wanted To Be A Hamburger, and Chris Eyre’s A Year At Mooring.
In the contest for best reviews this year, there is a running tie between Cold Weather and Meek’s Cutoff, with Cold Weather slightly ahead. Meek’s Cutoff fans are dazed by the unexpected nature of the film they saw, while Cold Weather’s fans applaud Aaron Katz’ ability to integrate a recognizable genre and still maintain his distinctive style.
Throughout all of this, I remained focused on writing primarily about Oregon film history, not Oregon’s wildly prolific current scene. The current explosion, of course, has everything to do with the past. Gus Van Sant was not born under a cinematic cabbage. Neither was Aaron Katz, Matt McCormick, James Westby or Vanessa Renwick.
Q: What is ahead for Oregon Movies, A to Z?
A: That giant sucking sound you heard last year was Oregon Movies, A to Z being pressed into service to cover the news of film premieres, film awards, breaking news of Oregon directors going into production. Nature abhors a vaccum! I post about current events because it fills a need, and allows me to link to previous posts which illuminate a connection to Oregon film history.
Q: So if you don’t always like these movies you’re watching, and writing about, why are you doing this?
3. I am making sense, slowly but surely, of one of the great mysteries of life in Oregon, namely, what do we do here which has helped us create such wonderful directors?
Thank you, Katherine Wilson, for the behind the scenes shot of Lazlo Kovacs preparing to shoot more of Five Easy Pieces.