Treasure Island

I’ll be the judge of that.


How to be a better failure.  
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Reported on 11th of October, 2016

Well shit.

My actual film, the only one I got to make, is playing seventeen years later at the Roxie (October 16th, 2016 8:30p, for those of you reading this whenever now is), and I’m going to review it. No, not because I need to prove my objectivity when I trash the overpraised shit of the likes of Away or Hell or High Water. Nevermind, you already know I’m objective. I just told you.

Treasure Island

28 January 1999 @ The Park City Library Center


$17.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

§  §  §

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My motives for writing this seventeen years on are both convoluted and mundane. I started a twitter account under @illseeanything, and haven’t touched it in six months. When I opened it, the account was kindly followed by a few friends, including the lovely and talented Mr. Lance Baker, who played one of the leads in Treasure Island. 40% chance of ‘Hi Lance!’ The idea: what a way to find out about the screening! That he can’t come to!

In theory and in practice, I could fucking well just email him and let him know, but why not start my twitting that way? Having gone through the various url shrinky-dinks and picture crops and character limiting to 140 characters (not in the bailiwick of someone who says ‘wheelhouse’), I can finally complain that social media is too hard. I joined twitter in the first place to put up a ticket stub a day, starting with National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers, and ending with The Hippopotamus. Like all impossible tasks, I will endlessly fantasize about how cool it would be to do it, thereby never having to.

Social media is easy!

And you still don't believe me. Anyone can call out a naked emperor, what should concern you is that you don't even believe it when the emperor is waving his cock in your face. 

At some point, I have to start, so: Treasure Island was a unambiguously wonderful experience, even given the heart-wrenching aftermath. As what cannot in any way be called a career withered in the years after, I was devastated I would never get to make more movies, and finally redeemed because I wouldn’t have to.

And there’s lots of gossip to be shared on the making of, but buy or steal a copy of the DVD, and listen to the commentary. As the object (the literal personification of the objective), I will only talk about the movie:

I wish we had made a great movie, and God knows we tried. But we accomplished the second best: a spectacular failure. I’ve said this before, possibly in one of the first one of these I ever wrote: the list of enjoyment goes:

1) Great movies

2) Spectacular failures

3) Terrible movies

4) Good movies

I promised not to talk about the making of the film, so now I will. Treasure Island was not based so much on the story of The Man Who Never Was as it was on Roger Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary. This meant it was my job to avoid cliché, even at the expense of confusing the audience. The film is transparently obtuse, willfully turning its back on the audience. Without actual credibility, this is less like Mr. Miles Davis and more like Mr. Shia LaBœuf. We imagine ourselves with a trumpet mute, but it’s just a kazoo. Which I’m better at than Shia LaBœuf.

I’d like to say that this was a subconscious form of career suicide, (brief, though possibly long aside here. I’ve been saying ‘I’, unlike what I usually do of course, say ‘I’ that is, in the context of who is responsible for the film. This is in the sense of the writing of the script, for which I take all blame. What this film taught me is the humility of The Author Theory.

Treasure Island is an odd little dude, and if any film can be called the product of one person, this is the film. Being there, I can tell you, this was absolutely not the product of one person.

There’s no way there would be even the slightest hint of emotion without the actors, who found stuff in my dialog that wasn’t there. I’m using them as an example, because they’re a group, and I won’t have to name everyone who was awesome and saved my ass.

But we just organize our grand blame theories like this ex post facto. I know that the auteur theory is bullshit (I believe it was in another article where I said…quoting Mr. William Goldman:

‘I remember the moment I was first told about the existence of the auteur theory. I listened and listened as the explanation went on, and all I could think was this: “What’s the punch line?”)

and I know this because I was on the set and after too. The director doesn’t make the film.

And yet…you still don’t believe me. Anyone can call out a naked emperor; what should concern you is that you don’t even believe it when the emperor is waving his cock in your face. And with that image, let us finish the parenthetical that I managed to keep to five paragraphs and an inset quote. Previously on I’ll See Anything, ‘I’d like to say this was a subconscious form of career suicide,’)

but I see the width and breath now. I’m aware of my total ignorance as to how the machine works, what fails and succeeds and why. I basically like two kinds of movies: surreal and action. Probably should have made an action movie, but I didn’t.

One of my more indicative moments: watching Ms. Juila Ormond walk out of the first screening. Formative.

One of my more indicative moments: watching Ms. Juila Ormond walk out of the first screening. Humiliating in the best way imaginable.

But even given that, I failed in getting the surreal genre right. As regards the flaws, I failed to take the advice of my future self. You can’t ignore the rules of genre – the audience needs something to react against. We need context, and I did not provide it. The film would simply be better if the audience knew what was going on. Not only more fun, but the idea I was trying to put across – the difference between how we order the world and how it is – could have sunk nicely in.

But if it’s a failure, it is a spectacular, and singular, one. I am genuinely proud to say (and this is everybody’s credit) there ain’t a lot of movies like it.

It has at the very least the quality of intention. It is the movie it was supposed to be. And the writing, with all the influence of Ms. Winnie Holzman and Mr. David Milch (that’s right, I liked TV before you do. I also hate it before you know that you should. Now. You should hate it now. It sucks now. If I wasn’t being clear), is not half-bad. ‘She thinks that I am a phantom’, hidden as it is among simultaneous typewriter words, is a turn of phrase of which I will always be proud. It’s hardly near the level of a Husbands and Wives Mr. Woody Allen, but there’s a surprising number of secrets leaking out in the pauses and overlaps.

I know this because I had to read the script over again to see what the hell happened. And I’m pleased what a film it was. It is not a play, so much dialog takes place, and interferes, with either the image or the sound or another piece of dialog. As fantasies play over memories and bodies talk like Charlie Chan, it couldn’t be anything but a movie. This is depressingly rare.

Finally, I’m dying to see how the blackface scene goes over in 2016. Aren’t you? Hey, I recommended The Lobster and What We Do in the Shadows and was right about those. See it at the Roxie. Call me out. If anyone on earth deserves it, it’s the man who wanted to fail.

The Take

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Losses!
Doing losses first is a bit of favoritism. But it’s for the aesthetics. Anyway, I was bummed that Ms. Rachel Singer’s red make-up didn’t show through with the rose filters we were using. We did color makeup for a black and white film. This is because it wasn’t confusing enough.
$2.00
I wish the current Scott could make it again.
$1.00
I wish the current Scott was stupid enough to try.
$2.00
Total Losses
$5.00
Profits!
Black and white full frontal male nudity! Counts as boobies, of which, weirdly, there are none.
$3.00
To explain the unmerited award of the Scott, the film was shown, to a very small crowd, at the Egyptian in 2005. Like all conscientious film types, I sat down to make sure the sound was okay, etc. After twenty minutes, I wanted to see the rest of it. I’m aware that I’m my biggest fan; the pixel of this letter of this word of this sentence is proof. But there are some that can’t even watch their own stuff. Given how much I hate everything, I figure this counts.
$7.00
That being said, I really have seen it, not counting the editing suite, enough to merit:
$12.00
Total Profits
$22.00

$17.00

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