Cranky Hanke and the Prince of Sleaze

Last Wednesday, Xpress promised to give you a little more from Ken “Cranky” Hanke’s one-on-one interview with director John Waters. For those of you who just can’t get enough from this master of artsy, trashy cinema, the (mostly) complete text of the interview is below.

John Waters: I’m glad I’m coming [to Asheville] — everyone in Provincetown talks about Asheville. I actually know people in Provincetown who say they want to leave Provincetown and come live there, and I have a very good friend, Chan Wilroy, who’s been in all my movies and always talks about how much he likes it there, so I’m really looking forward to coming.

Ken Hanke: You know, we were going to ask you to come to Asheville for the Asheville Film Festival — or Don Mancini was. Don’s been here the past two years and is coming back this year.

JW: Great! I love Don. He’s great. I had so much fun being in his movie (Seed of Chucky).

KH: Oh, Don is wonderful. We hooked up originally because I gave a good review to Seed of Chucky.

JW: As you should have!

KH: As anybody should have.

JW: But you know, the best line in any of the Chucky movies is in the one before (Bride of Chucky) where Jennifer (Tilly) says, “Did you use a rubber?” and he says, “I am rubber.” There is no better line.

KH: Now I’ve simply gotta ask you — I don’t know if you’re aware of the fact that the UNCA series you’re coming for is called their “Distinguished Speaker Series.”

JW: Well, I understand that. I’m distinguished in filth.

KH: That’s one way of looking at it, but when you started out did you ever think you’d be part of a “Distinguished Speaker Series?”

JW: Weirdly enough, I learned a long time ago a dirty little secret — my movies did the best in the best educated and the richest neighborhoods and the worst in real exploitation theaters.

KH: You know, that doesn’t surprise me.

JW: Well, it’s because it involves irony, and people that were the real audiences for exploitation, sexploitation, blacksploitation didn’t think they were funny. And I thought they were great. I respected them, but I was at the same time seeing Ingmar Bergman movies, which are exploitive in their own way.

KH: In their own right, yes. I think the first time I encountered anything of yours was at a porno house that was having a midnight show of Ken Russell’s The Devils — and they had a trailer for Female Trouble.

JW: Well, I got my first break in national distribution with Mondo Trasho and Multple Maniacs with something called the Art Theatre Guild, which was a porn chain, but they had something called “Underground Cinema 12” that was run by a guy named Mike Getz, and every Saturday at midnight in a lot of mid-America towns they had an underground movie show to — I guess — make them respectable, and they were packed. It paid a dollar a minute so I got $90 a week which then was a lot.

KH: No, that wasn’t bad money for then.

JW: No. It saved my life. I mean that’s how I paid back my father for those movies really. I’ve always been a friend of porn, I guess, even though to watch it these days, heterosexual porn is really a snuff movie because they don’t use protection. To me it’s like making a snuff movie. I’m against that.

KH: Did you have anything to do with the selection of movies for the retrospective that they’re doing to lead up to your apperance?

JW: Tell me what they are.

KH: Polyester, Hairspray, Cry-Baby and Serial Mom.

JW: No, but I like it. To me, you can pick any one of my movies — I don’t care if it’s Hairspray orA Dirty Shame — and in a way, they’re the same. They have the same sense of humor. Some are a little more extreme, but Hairspray is the most devious movie I ever made.

KH: Oh, yes.

JW: And America didn’t get what I was up to.

KH: Oh, I know, it’s a PG-rated movie and it’s just absolutely as subversive as you can get. It’s probably — oddly enough for someone who considers himself pretty hardcore about these things — my favorite of your films.

JW: Thank you. To me, my favorite is — well, the joke is that they’re all children of mine, but they have learning disabilities. I think Gus van Sant and I talked about this, that you always pick the one that didn’t do so well. You feel like it’s a neglected child. Although to me they’re all the same. They’re John Waters movies. It’s a different time in my life, it’s a different time of what I thought was funny. Each one of them is a genre of film that I satirize. I’m working on a children’s movie now that I’m trying do because I’ve never made a children’s movie. I’ve done a musical, I’ve done a dance movie, I’ve done a crime biopic, I’ve done a showbiz biopic, I’ve done a fairy tale, I’ve done a sexploitation movie — each time it has to be a genre, because that’s the kind of filmmaking I like. I was glad to be in the Chucky movie and I wanna be in Final Destination 4.

KH: Is there going to be a Final Destination 4?

JW: I hope!

KH: This keeps raising the question how many Final destinations can there be?

JW: Well, there can be many. I sometimes like very last sequel — like when every bit of originality has been beaten out of it — like I think the last Airport movie was my favorite — the one where Charo said, “You misconscrue me.” That was a wonderful line that people have forgotten. They had dialogue then.

KH: I was a little disappointed — and a lot of people have been — “There having a John Waters festival and they’re not showing Pink Flamingos?”

JW: Everyone’s seen that!

KH: I know, but I kinda wanted Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble, I think in part because I wanted to see if I could get “I blew Richard Speck” past my editor.

JW: Did you see Richard Speck at the end when he was in jail? He got a sex operation in jail! Didn’t you ever see that footage of him with full Russ Meyer tits? And they were real! Somehow he got hormones. No one though Richard Speck was even gay — maybe he wasn’t gay, but he had big breasts. He was snorting cocaine. Didn’t you ever see that footage? It was on all the news. It caused quite some trouble before he died in prison. And that rant — particularly when Divine says that about Juan Corona — many people have forgotten that — and the one they really forget is Leslie Bacon, who was mistakenly accused of conspiring to blow up the Capitol. And she really didn’t do it and they let her off, but I heard she was really mad when she heard that she was mentioned, but that when she saw the movie she laughed. I don’t know if that’s true. People really don’t remember Leslie Bacon and I’d like to know where she is. But I think Divine says, “I framed Leslie Bacon.” And she says, “I bought the gun that Bremer used to shoot Wallace,” and Bremer’s getting out of jail this week. Thirty years ago he was sentenced and he served all his time — and he is getting out. And he invented the genre — he wrote The Assassin’s Diary — which was the first book ever of that genre of writing a journal when you’re a mad man, and for some reason he had…why do they all have Catcher in the Rye? I don’t understand that. They all have that book and it’s not about an assassin. I don’t get it.

KH: I don’t get it at all.

JW: I read it. It didn’t make me want to shoot an official. Catholic school made me want to shoot an official.

KH: That’s more understandable, I think.

JW: But I never understood what the link was with Catcher in the Rye and lone gunmen.

KH: Everybody does seem to have this book.

JW: Lee Harvey Oswald. I think the guy who shot John Lennon had it.

KH: Yeah. Mark David Chapman. There’s something in this book that you and I aren’t getting, which is probably a good thing.

JW: Yeah, yeah it is.

KH: I gotta also ask you, how do you feel about the Adam Shankman film of the musical Hairspray.

JW: I think he did a great job. They kept my spirit in it. They made a big budget Hollywood movie that reinvented my movie and the musical, and they had to do that to make it work. Some of the other musicals that didn’t do that, didn’t work. You couldn’t just shoot the play. And they had little things in there like the pregnant women drinking and smoking, and little kids with their seatbelts unfastened — little touches that I felt were really honoring me, so I had fun. And I got to be the only dirty thing in a PG movie.

KH: The thing that kind of threw me was that at 117 minutes it definitely goes way beyond your dictate that a movie should be no more than 90 minutes long.

JW: Well, it didn’t seem long to me.

KH: No, it didn’t seem long.

JW: But you know, they had lots of money. But then I had lots of money on that movie, too. I had $2.7 million. The most I’d ever had before was $300,000, so to me when we made Hairspray, it was a huge budget. People say it was so cheap, but it wasn’t cheap. It was a lot for us then — especially for an independent film.

KH: How do you feel about yourself as a filmmaker these days? I remember you once referred to one of your earlier movies as “too arty and too f***ed up.” I get the sense that you like your movies in a kind of rough-edged state, but they’ve gotten slicker over the years.

JW: Well, they have to to get made. I don’t want to have faux primitive, you know. People say, “But don’t you miss the days of having no money?” God, no! I did that. Do I want to have to go to the bathroom in the woods and not eat? No! I like having a trailer and all that. But at the same time all my movies cost under like $7 million. That is tiny compared to what an average Hollywood film costs. And I have a whole unit and I have movie stars in them. It’s not like we’re jumping in the car and running like we used to. I don’t want to do that. I did that and I think that’s going backwards. I think you reinvent yourself. You keep going and you make it so young people will come to see it — and that is still the only crossover that I am interested in. If I was still trying to make Pink Flamingos and top that, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be working.

KH: Oh, I understand that, but really there are some great things in these slicker films. The “Please, Mr. Jailer” number in Cry-Baby, that’s just a magnificent piece of filmmaking.

JW: Thank you. That’s because, well, I taught in prison. I was in prison a lot and I still have friends in prison. I like visiting prison. I taught in prison. I miss that. So I understand why prison is such an intense, weird thing because some people when they’re on the outside they’re really evil and can’t do it, but when they’re inside in this state of control, they can be very good friends. They can be funny and smart — they’re just dangerous. And I find that intriguing in a way. I was afraid of the guards, not the prisoners. I’m not saying all prison guards are bad, some of them are good. But if you have a long sentence and you try to make some kind of life for yourself in jail, you can do some things — you can paint, you can write. You can have relationships with people as friends. You can have support groups. The problem is that when you get out that it’s almost impossible for you to fit in anymore. There’s no place for you to go. There’s no real entry place to go. People say that they’re there to be punished, but they’re going to get out and they’re going to rob you, so basically why wouldn’t it be better to have some tax money so we educate them or do something in jail so they don’t rob us when they get out?

KH: You know, a lot of modern filmmakers — and I know you’ve been around for 30-odd years, but I still consider you a modern filmmaker …

JW: Thank you.

KH: … are pretty obvious as concerns films and specific things that you can see quotations of things that have influenced them. I don’t really get that with your movies. Is there a filmmaker or a movie in particular that’s influenced you? Am I just missing something?

JW: Well, that was the weird thing. I grew up wanting to be a Walt Disney villain, then at the same time I was taking LSD and going to Bergman movies, and then going out with a bunch of kids and going to the drive-in and seeing Herschell Gordon Lewis movies, and then being very excited and sneaking to New York and seeing underground movies. I think I put all them together and they were very different influuences and tried to turn it a sense of humor from the whole thing.

KH: Do you have any favorite films of filmmakers?

JW: Well, today I certainly like Todd Haynes, like Todd Solondz really a lot. I like Francois Ozon. I had a TV show called John Waters presents Movies that Will Corrupt You where I showed movies I couldn’t believe I was allowed to show on television. I usually like the real arty stuff. I’m not big on the big Hollywwood movies. I mean I like some of them, but my passion is always with the little weird movie. I loved David Lynch’s last movie.

KH: I think that makes you, me and not too many other people.

JW: I know, but I liked it. I liked Grindhouse. I think it’s my favorite movie of the year and I think it’s a terrible shame that it didn’t work.

KH: I don’t know why it didn’t work either.

JW: Because kids don’t know what double features are. I liked Brand Upon the Brain, which was Guy Maddin’s opera. I liked Crazy Love, that documentary about the guy who threw acid in his face. I’m a big fan of Jeff Garlin’s new movie that I saw at Sundance, but it’s coming out this week, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. It’s really good. It’s really funny. I liked Longford, that Showtime movie about Myra Hanley. The Simpsons Movie, I liked.

KH: That was kinda my next question, which was what do you go to see these days when you go to see movies.

JW: I go to see a lot. I don’t watch videos. I never watch DVDs. I see ‘em in the movies or I never see ‘em. I mean I watch some things on TV, because I’m in the Academy and they send me stuff that way. What’s great about DVDs and Netflix now is you can live anywhere in the world and see every art movie you could possibly want to see. When I grew up you had to move.

KH: Oh, I know. I remember driving 60 or 70 miles to see a movie. It was common then.

JW: Oh, yeah, yeah it was. We used to have to go to Washington or drive to New York because it wasn’t playing anywhere nearer, but nowadays you can live anywhere in the world and Netflix will deliver it to your door eventually. It’s made it much more democratic.

KH: But remember the excitement of getting the Friday morning paper and seeing if something really neat was playing at a rep house or a college — and that’s gone.

JW: Well, the reason is they can’t get prints anymore. There’s no 16mm.

KH: You should look in my basement! My collecting days go back that far, But seriously, we’ve run into a problem with the film festival here of not being able to get 35mm prints of older titles. A couple years ago we wanted 35s of the Ken Russell pictures we were showing and while we could find them…

JW: They can’t be shown on platters.

KH: Exactly. And no one is set up for any other kind of projection.

JW: It’s true. We have great prints of every one of my movies, but the distributors won’t let them show on platters — and that’s all there is, and pretty soon there won’t be platters!

KH: Yeah, I know. Last year we were luckier and were able to get the Jennifer Tilly films on 35mm. Of course, Seed of Chucky was easy.

JW: Well, it’s not that old, but you know what they do now — say with the new Hairspray where there are 3,000 prints, when it’s over they burn ‘em all, except for about four. All of them do that because it costs a fortune to put ‘em somewhere. I understand it, but it’s hard enough to find a theater, much less a theater that has the equipment for an archival print.

KH: This year we’ve got Tess Harper and we’re really hoping to find a 35mm 3-D print of Amityville 3-D, but that’s 20-odd years old.

JW: Go online and you can find anything. It could be a pirate print.

KH: Oh, I know and I know people who are good at turning up prints when distributors say they don’t have one.

JW: Exactly. That’s what you need — a good pirate! And the studios don’t do anything because sometimes they’re amazed there’s a print, too — and they need them for DVD sales. Sometimes they can’t make the DVD till they find that print.

KH: Oh, I know. I remember back in the laserdisc days when I was involved with the special edition of Crimes of Passion and they searched all over the place to find the original elements and they finally found them at Orion — and Orion had never had anything to do with the film!

JW: It’s the same with my films. They get sold. If the company goes out of business, then somebody else buys them and it gets complicated, because they’re in vaults.

KH: And if you do find it, you don’t know what shape it’s going to be in and you end up having to go with a DVD anyway, but DVD projection’s getting better all the time.

JW: At least if it’s on DVD, it’s pretty much there.

KH: You’re right, and you can get just about anything. Now, the problem is getting people to watch them!

JW: Well, when I was young anything that caused controversy, people ran to. Now they stay away!

KH: Yeah, I don’t understand that, but …

JW: Well, it’s a very different thing. Pretty soon the moviegoing experience is going to be online. The next underground sensation is somehow going to be online.

KH: As it stands now, we’ve got one theater in town where everything is digital. The movies come in on hard-drives.

JW: How does it look?

KH: Oh, it looks great — as long as everything’s working — and of course the great thing is that the movies look just as good the day they leave as the day they arrive. They don’t pick up dirt or scratches.

JW: Didn’t you love in Grindhouse all the fake scratches and everything?

KH: Oh, yeah, it was wonderful.

JW: I do think that’s the best movie of the year — at least for me. I think it was a great art movie and that was a problem.

KH: That confused people. And I don’t think they’ve decided yet if they’re going to bring it out on DVD as one movie or two movies or …

JW: It just worked so well to me. It seemed the perfect high-concept piece. But you had to be of a certain age to get it.

KH: You had to be in the whole mindset. I think a lot of people were baffled by it and put off by the running time.

JW: When I saw it half the audience left at the trailers — they thought they were real trailers!

KH: I’m surprised that people thought those trailers were real, but then I’m frequently surprised by what people think is real.

JW: But they were great. I wish they were. I wanna see Thanksgiving.

KH: Do you have a film of yours that you think is underrated?

JW: I would never say that, because, as I said, to me they’re all kind of the same. You can watch any of them. I had a lot of trouble with Dirty Shame because of the rating. That was something I never thought could really hurt me, but it did.

KH: Well, it hurt in more ways than you might think, because it was the attached trailer with Harold and Kumar and in some cases it was cut off because the theater chain has a policy against advertising NC-17.

JW: It was a green band trailer — first time that’s ever happened with an NC-17! Technically that could be shown with a G-rated movie. The worst is not in the movie theaters. The worst is because of Netflix — and I like Netflix. There are no more, or very few independent video shops. It’s all these chains — and the chains won’t carry unrated or NC-17 films! Even in the neighborhood where we shot A Dirty Shame, no one could get the version. That’s where it really hurt at the box office.

KH: That’s one area where Asheville has an edge. We have two independent stores — actually three, I guess.

JW: You’re lucky! Support ‘em! And go to whatever movies you plan to see the night it opens! That’s important, too, because by Saturday they’ve already figured out mathematically how much it’s going to gross over the whole world.

KH: I know, which I think is very stupid.

JW: What’s scary is that they’re right!

KH: I know they’re right, but I think they bring it on themselves when they they do this because it becomes, “Oh, that didn’t do well, I’m not bothering to see it.”

JW: Well, now what happens is everybody in every country in the world looks and sees and then they don’t even release it in their country. It used to be you could have a hit in Japan that wasn’t a hit here, but not anymore.

KH: I know. I think in some ways we know too much.

JW: Well, it comes faster and faster and no one is ever off work — including me.

KH: I know that one!

JW: Are you going to come to my appearance? If you come, say hi.

KH: I am planning on coming. And don’t be surprised, I’m probably going to have Don Mancini try to convince you to be a guest at next year’s film festival.

JW: Well, I will certainly listen.

John Waters speaks at UNCA Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 general admission/$10 for students. Advance tickets highly recommended due to high demand. Info: 232-5000.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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75 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke and the Prince of Sleaze

  1. Ken Hanke

    No, Jason, that’s a different man, I think.

    By the bye, it occurs to me that some folks might not understand the exchange about showing movies on platters and archival or vault prints. So in case anyone is confused, movies come on 2000 foot reels that run about 20 minutes. In general release, those prints arrive at the theaters in that form, but are assembled on a platter as one complete movie. In so doing the leaders are cut off the beginnings and ends of the reels and the movie is spliced together. Distributors won’t allow that with an archival print. It has to be shown from the reels. That requires a reel change ever 20 minutes — and it also requires a two projector set-up, which is the way all movies used to be shown. (That’s what those marks — they call them “cigarette burns” in FIGHT CLUB, though I’ve never heard anyone call them that in real life — at the ends of reels are for. The first marks tell you you have 10 seconds till the end of the reel, the second marks tell you you have three seconds. The second projector is set up on that no. 10 on the countdown leader and you start it at the first set of marks, then you switch to the second projector on the second set of marks.) The problem with this is that no local venue — very few venues at all — have a two projector set-up anymore. As a result, in Asheville we can’t run archival prints.

  2. Nam Vet

    John Waters makes rotten movies. Why some see them is beyond me. I have seen the movie “Pink Flamingos”. It is a disgusting movie, to say the least. In it, a cross dresser actually eats “scat”. That is bowel movement is normal discourse. That is sick. John Waters is a weird person who makes sick movies. Period.

  3. Is it just me, or is anyone else getting the feeling that Nam Vet is yanking our collective chain?

    Nam Vet: Are you a gimmick poster, or are you for real?

  4. Orbit DVD

    He should check out my stores, then he would have more to yank Steve.


  5. Ken Hanke

    Well, if Nam Vet is for real, he seems to be basing the somewhat sweeping statement about how Waters makes “rotten movies” solely on one film made 35 years ago — not to mention on one aspect (and hardly the most outrageous one) of that film.

  6. Hanke: Yeah, the bit with the furniture licking and incestuous oral sex kinda stands out a little more to my mind. Or that weird scene at the cookout with the pantsless guy showing his … talent.

  7. Ken Hanke

    The more I think about the post in question, the more I think it’s actually drawn from lines in the film and is a kind of homage.

    In any case, the John Waters appearance at UNCA — which I saw along with a whole lot of other people, including our own Justin Souther and the Fine Arts’ manager Neal Reed — would, I believe, come under the heading of an unqualified success. Waters held the audience in rapt and frequently hysterical attention as he proved himself every bit as much the Raconteur of Raunch as he is the undisputed Prince of Puke and Master of Bad Taste. Spinning wild tales of his past and his filmmaking experiences, offering sharp insight into matters political, sociological and even religious, he never let up. It was fun, funny and, like the best of his film work, liberating and thought-provoking. He also demonstrated something I’d long suspected — and something I pretty much knew after our phone interview — that he’s really one helluva nice guy. After the show, he spent about an hour signing autographs on everything from DVDs to…yes, pink lawn flamingos. (If you saw the show, you’ll know that these are hardly the most outre things he’s ever been asked to sign.) And I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to bring a flamingo of my own.

  8. Nam Vet

    Ken, I didn’t care for Hairspray either. So I will re-state my opinion here. The two movies I have seen by Waters were ROTTEN. And that is why I haven’t seen any others. Any one who makes a movie like “Pink Flamingos” is one sick person, whether they made it 35 years ago, or last year. That isn’t art. “Gone With The Wind” is art.

  9. I’m glad it was Steve writing that. The last thing I’d want to see is Nam Vet’s chain getting a Yankey from Hanke.

  10. My guess is Nam Vet doesn’t know if he is yanking chain or not, but my guess is that he has never actually seen a Waters pic, but has the “scat scene” from Pink Flamingo’s firmly committed to memory…and perhaps a few life-sized wall posters of Divine hiding in the closet as well?

  11. Ken Hanke

    I’m trying to figure out who claimed PINK FLAMINGOS was art. I’d call it a gesture. I doubt I would call it art. I’d call HAIRSPRAY art. I wouldn’t call GWTW art — the pinnacle of ultra-slick corporate filmmaking, yeah, but I wouldn’t call it art.

  12. ohforshame

    nam vet you need to go with the flow man. lighten upo and enjoy life. eat a little scat- who knows, you might like it.

  13. Nam Vet

    Au contraire ohforshame, I need not change. I am my own person. I find it curious that Steve thinks I am “jerking chain” because I have a contrary comment here? What do you expect, for everyone to be in agreement? I stand by my comments about Waters. And Ken, I find it curious that you criticize “Gone With The Wind” as not being art, yet praise Waters’ “Hairspray” as art? It isn’t art any more than a lot of the crap that poses as “modern art” is art in the painting world. “Gone With The Wind” is art. It may not ruffle traditional American values like “Hairspray” does, but it is art nonetheless. Art has lasting value. No one will be talking about “Hairspray” 50 years from now. But they will be talking about “Gone With The Wind”. Perhaps as a yankee transplant you don’t appreciate a story about the South. :) Ken, that said, I do enjoy your reviews. I just disagree on Waters.

  14. So Nam Vet what, exactly, qualifies “Gone with the Wind” as Art? If “lasting value” (whatever value means) is all that qualifies something as Art, do you also include plastic bags, soda cans, and various other pieces of garbage what will be with us for at least 300 years as Art? Perhaps even global warming and radiation is Art?

    Modern Art is sooo 1950, we are post-modern now.

  15. Nam Vet: I don’t think you’re “jerking chain” because you hold a contrary view. I have an altogether different reason for thinking this, which boils down to free time spent lurking under bridges, waiting for errant goats to pass by overhead.

  16. tommy

    nam vet,

    are you real, or just a bad characiature of an ignorant redneck?

    cuz if it’s the latter, then you are spot-on!


  17. Ken Hanke

    First of all, I supposed I should shed my apparent carpetbagger cred, since I was born in Concord, NC, lived in Kannapolis till I was almost 6, moved to Florida (though still spent my summers in NC for a few years), and then came to Asheville in 2000. So I’m not exactly a “yankee transplant,” though I guess a case could be made that Florida isn’t really the south.

    Now…I don’t actually consider not calling a thing “art” is a criticism. “Art,” in fact, is not necessarily a term of quality. There’s good art and bad art. (I’m sure we could go around on this for some time.) But for a thing to be called “art” — for me at least — it needs to at least possess a single unifying vision, and that’s the one thing GWTW does not have. It’s a largely impersonal corporate work. Hell, chunks of it are directed by different people. It’s a very enjoyable entertainment. It’s big, glossy, and a fine example of the studio-crafted film at the height of that era of film. HAIRSPRAY, on the other hand, is clearly an expression of a single person. Will it be talked about 50 years from now? Well, it’s still being talked about almost 20 years after its release. Now, quick — without looking it up — what won Best Picture for 1988? I have no idea, but I remember HAIRSPRAY from that year. Will GWTW still be talked about 50 years from now? Probably, because it’s a landmark film. I can name you far better movies as old and older that are largely forgotten by society at large, so I’m not even sure that being talked about is a barometer of quality. The films of people like Josef von Sternberg, Rouben Mamoulian and Ernst Lubitsch are less well known today than GWTW — at least so far as the general public is concerned — but their work has had a more lasting impact. Many things of lasting value are not that commonly known outside of museums. GWTW is more of a pop culture artifact and so is better known — though how many people younger than I am have actually seen it is another matter.

    I don’t, by the way, insist that art be transgressive, though I think it probably ought to be one way or another. But thinking about HAIRSPRAY, I have to pause and wonder what aspect of “traditional American values” it ruffles that didn’t need ruffling. What are its targets? Racism, sexism, class distinction, mean-spiritedness, closed-mindedness and conformity. These simply do not strike me personally as “traditional American values” that are worth cherishing.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I might add that I appreciate the fact that Nam Vet enjoys my reviews — and I don’t expect anyone to agree with me all the time. There are times when I don’t agree with myself after the passage of time.

  19. Nam Vet

    LOL on the last comment Ken. But I don’t see why you consider GWTW a “corporate” production. Are you one of those people who are “anit-corporate”? Yet you enjoy film, cars, computers and all the other modern conveniences that would not be possible without the “corporate” world? GWTW is art. It lasts. It inspires. It moves. It has transcendental quality…which to me is the main ingredient any work must possess to be called art. The two Waters production I mentioned are but entertainment, and in my opinion, entertainment that appeals to our baser instincts.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I don’t like the corporate mindset, which is a completely separate issue than being “anti-corporate.” GWTW has that mindset. It is the product of that mindset. When Selznick hired a director, did he go for one who would give him a complete “vision?” No. The most impressive of the directors was George Cukor, who was fired and replaced by Victor Fleming — a competent studio craftsman, whose work showed no hint of personality. When he suffered a bout of “exhaustion,” Sam Wood — pretty much a studio hack — came in. Selznick himself directed some scenes as did production designer William Cameron Menzies. With that kind of assembly-line parentage, it’s a wonder the movie’s even coherent.

    As for the rest, you’re looking for an universal agreement in a subjecive situation. In other words, you say it lasts, which is undeniable, but then you go on to say that it inspires, moves and has transcendental quality. That’s completely subjective. It doesn’t inspire or move me, nor do I find it transcendental. For me, it’s big, overlong, glossy entertainment that romanticizes a complex era out of all proportion. But at bottom, it’s a 4 hour soap opera about a couple of people with really lousy timing.

    Again, I’m unclear how HAIRSPRAY — which denounces bigotry, racism, sexism, conformity, etc. — can be said to appeal to our “baser instincts.”

  21. ohforshame

    Any luck getting Waters to come for next year’s film festival?

  22. Ken Hanke

    Well, I spoke to him about it in passing after his appearance and I know he’s at least open to the prospect, but it’s a little early yet.

  23. Nam Vet

    Geez, are we so hardup for “name” recognition at next year’s film festival that we have to ask such a weird B movie guy as Waters? Let us invite REAL film people. How about asking Clint Eastwood?

  24. Ken Hanke

    You must realize by now that not everyone shares your view of John Waters.

  25. Justin Souther

    I like the idea of getting Clint Eastwood, but only if he brings along Clyde the orangutan.

  26. Ken Hanke

    That might pose a Grove Park problem — ask anyone who had to deal with the issue of Barry Sandler’s dog, Harvey, back in 2005. Then again, no one ever asked about their orangutan policy.

  27. JustinSouther

    I’m willing to bet they won’t allow orangutan’s to bring their pets either.

  28. Nam Vet

    Clint Eastwood has acted in and directed some very good movies, not just the fluff entertainment stuff like “Any Which Way But Loose”. Films like “Bird” and “Unforgiven” and “Bridges of Madison County”. Besides, it would be cool to have a masculine actor here for a change.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Since I’m the last person in the world to object to the addition of simian value, I have no complaints.

  30. Nam Vet

    There are masculine actors. Lee Marvin. Clint Eastwood. George C Scott. Just to name a few. Sounds like Steve’s selection was put up here just to be contrary. :) Of course perhaps some still want to be the product of feminist nut-busting. Personally, I think us guys ought to be proud of our masculinity. And good old fashioned movies will never go out of style with me.

  31. Nam Vet

    Geez Ken. The “butch” factor? No wonder you like Pink Flamingos.

  32. Ken Hanke

    For the record, my remark was in reference to Steve’s post. Nam Vet’s comment had not appeared at the time I posted it.

  33. Nam Vet: “Sounds like Steve’s selection was put up here just to be contrary.”

    It all depends on how you look at it. I didn’t think Lee Marvin or Clint Eastwood were particularly “masculine” when they were singing and dancing and living an alternative, wife-sharing lifestyle in “Paint Your Wagon.”

    But Rock Hudson was butch enough to star in any number of war movies and westerns that my WWII-vet grandfather liked, and Chamberlain held his own in “Shogun” against Toshiro Mifune — way more tough than Eastwood ever was. (Then again, Eastwood’s career-making “Man with no name” character was a blatant and lesser ripoff of Mifune’s character in “Yojimbo,” so how could he not be?) And Takei was Sulu, for crying out loud!

  34. Ken Hanke

    And Chamberlain was certainly manly enough to keep my mother glued to the TV for that interminable THORN BIRDS thing — and even after learning the “awful truth” about him, she still wanted his autograph when he wrote the foreword for my book on Ken Russell.

    All, this to one side, I will be the first person to be mightily impressed if Nam Vet can arrange for Lee Marvin or George C. Scott to come to the film festival.

  35. Nam Vet

    LOL, I’d be very impressed too if I could raise those two from the grave. I mentioned their names only to point to masculine actors. As for the assertions that Richard Chamberlain had masculine roles…well that is in the eye of the beholder. He has always had a rather effeminate look about him. While I am not homophobic, I do think old-fashioned masculinity should be celebrated. Evidently the younger generation coming up, guys like Steve, have been brainwashed by the feminist movement to the point that they see us all as unisexed, mixing both masculine and feminine to the point where the lines are blurred. I say, viva la difference.

  36. chuck

    Nam Vet: Actually, it was “Butch Quotient”

    Just catching on, eh?

  37. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know for sure, Nam Vet, but I suspect that few, if indeed any, folks see you as “unisexed, mixing both masculine and feminine to the point where the lines are blurred.”

  38. Nam Vet

    Ken, I was speaking to those who mention gay actors like Rock Hudson and Richard Chamberlain…and talk of “butch” quotients. A man is a man. Or a man is something else. Femme,butch, are unisex-gay terms. Men don’t talk about their masculinity in such terms.

    Back on subject. I like traditional American movies. Love comedy in particular. I’m not much into the weird side, as Waters seems so enamored with. Fat crossdressers eating crap and having “unusual” sex is not my idea of a good movie.

  39. Nam Vet: “Evidently the younger generation coming up, guys like Steve …”

    So, it’s really “masculine” to like “Gone With the Wind” to the point of obsession? Get real, dude. It’s the original chick flick.

  40. Ken Hanke

    Nam Vet, do you feel quite qualified to speak for all men when you say, “Men don’t talk about their masculinity in such terms”? Don’t you think that’s rather sweeping? And if the men you refer to don’t use such terms, what terms do they use? Anyway, you’re the one who brought up this whole masculinity issue in the first place. No one else seemed worried about the topic. In fact, to go back to that whole idea that it’d be nice to have a masculine actor as a guest…well, let’s see, we’ve had one filmmaker (Ken Russell), one actress (Jennifer Tilly), another actress this year (Tess Harper), and two actors — Pat Hingle and Rance Howard. So do you mean to imply that Messrs. Hingle and Howard are not masculine?

    Also, Steve does indeed raise a valid point. I hadn’t paused to think about it, but most of the guys I know who are wild about GWTW aren’t all that macho. Not to be contrary for its own sake, but what exactly are “traditional American movies?” What might be traditional in 1937 isn’t the same as what was traditional in 1977 and what was traditional in 1977 isn’t the same thing in 2007.

  41. You know, maybe we should get some manly actors up in here.

    Like Wesley Snipes (“Blade”), Patrick Swayze (“Road House”), Terence Stamp (“The Limey” and General Zod from “Superman II”), Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from “The Matrix,” V from “V for Vendetta”) or Guy Pearce (“Memento” and “L.A. Confidential”). You know, real badass dudes.

    Oh, wait, that’ll never work. They’ve all played drag queens (“To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” and “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”), thus “mixing both masculine and feminine to the point where the lines are blurred.” Rats.

    At least there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Wait, he played a guy who manages to get pregnant in “Junior” … not exactly masculine.

    I know! Al Pacino is way tough. I mean, have you seen “Serpico”? Of course, he did play a cop who explores his homosexual side in order to catch a serial killer in “Cruising” and a gay bank robber in “Dog Day Afternoon.” I guess he won’t work after all.

    I hate to say it, Nam Vet, but we’re running out of manly actors here.

    Maybe we should stop worrying so much about how manly these performers are, and start judging them in terms of … I don’t know … talent?

  42. Ken Hanke

    Not to be picky, Steve, but actually Terence Stamp plays a transsexual in PRISCILLA.

  43. Nam Vet

    Ken, I have been around for 59 years. I have lived the traditional role of “man”. Military. Combat. Sports. Police volunteer. I am giving my observations. So I believe I am credible on this subject.

    Steve, I am only making a point of the “masculine” as a counterpoint to your “butch” and unisex comments. I am comfortable enough in my sexuality to admire excellent movies like GWTW. I do like romance. I have a heart and I love to be in love…with women. A person can be “butch” and romantic at the same time without being a “metrosexual”. Stop with the stereotypes dude…you counter your own stances.

    I love the movies. I in particular love the classics. Call me old fashioned, but that’s what I like.

  44. butting in

    I would say that, by “Traditional American Movies”, what Mr. Vet is referring to is the notion that there is a mythical American Culture (either past or present) that represent the supposed innocence and unambiguity of the mythical Traditional American Culture. You know, the mythical perfect world that was American Culture previous to women’s rights, gay rights, former-slave rights, indigenous rights and other non-white-guy rights.
    The mythical world of 1950’s nostalgia, when it was easy to be a ‘manly man’ because nobody questioned the perfect power of the supposed patriarchy.

    It’s a fairly common sentiment among people of the Vietnam Veteran era. That the world was perfect previous to “revisionist history” and the like. Similar to that great television series Mad Men.

    I suppose Mr Vet. is using GWTW because, whether factually accurate or not, it claims to portray a more simple, easily explained ‘time’ in our culture. Unlike something gross and ‘revisionist’ like a Waters’ film

  45. Nam Vet: “Steve, I am only making a point of the “masculine” as a counterpoint to your “butch” and unisex comments.”

    Actually, I’ve been counterpointing your arguments from the start, just to see where you’d go with it. It’s really been quite revealing.

    It’s like you’re desperate to tell everyone on this board that you are, in no uncertain terms, definitely straight and definitely manly. Yet, you’ve done this on a blog post about John Waters, who you claim to hate because he makes movies that don’t fit this same gender stereotype. In the process, you’ve utterly derailed the actual discussion so that you could make a few very important points about yourself.

    These seem to be: You don’t like John Waters because “weird person who makes sick movies” that you just so happen to have seen; you like to watch movies with masculine men being manly in them; you also like “Gone With The Wind”; you love romance (but with WOMEN!!!); and you are definitely not a metrosexual.

    Very interesting.

  46. Ken Hanke

    Nam Vet — I’m not debating or disputing your role as a manly man in a man’s world. I’m questioning your authority to speak for anyone other than yourself. Previously, you were espousing this: “A man is a man. Or a man is something else. Femme,butch, are unisex-gay terms. Men don’t talk about their masculinity in such terms.” Ignoring the fact that I’m guessing a man who fails your litmus test for what a man is falls into the (brrr) “something else” category, I’m saying that your presumption to speak for all men is…well, presumptuous. Unless, of course, you mean all men who think like you. You’re only six years older than I am, so the difference is not that great — though I concede that my friends born in the 40s tend to seem much older than the few years that separate us would indicate — yet I doubt that we hold very similar views on most things. (I can’t even say if we’d see eye to eye on “classic” film, since the only title you’ve cited is GWTW.) Our backgrounds and experience are undeniably different. I never had much use for sports, was never in the armed forces (the draft ended the year I turned 18), and the closest I’ve come to combat was with my college girlfriend who had a propensity to throw things. I would, however, consider myself a man, and you don’t speak for me.

    PS — I find it very amusing that you tell Steve to “stop with the stereotypes.”

    Butting In: I’m pretty much Vietnam generation, and neither I, nor most of my friends who are contemporary with that era buy into the 1950s as some golden age, but rather as a repressive era that I, at least, was glad to see the end of. (Note: yes, I was 6 when it 50s officially ended, but it lingered well into the 60s.) After years of being dragged to Lana Turner soapers and vapid Doris Day comedies, I was ripe for the genial, authority-questioning anarchy of Dick Lester’s A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. That, by the way, was the same reason that so many of my generation formed an attachment to 1930s movies and comedians — they have a similar vibe.

    Steve: what I find most especially curious about all this is the apparent need for a person using a screen name to establish his manly bonafides. The point escapes me.

  47. Nam Vet

    Steve, I don’t “hate” John Waters. I just think the two movies of his I’ve seen were not good movies. And especially Pink Flamingos which is sick sick sick.

    Ken I do not believe I said I was speaking for all men. Of course I can only speak for myself.

    Butting in thinks classic films portray a “perfect” America? Huh? You need to see more movies from the 1930s and 1940s. “Citizen Kane”, for instance, paints a black picture of a man crazed in his quest to always make more money, gain more power, and screw over anyone in his way. It’s sad that his memory of his childhood sled “rosebud” was all the pleasure he could muster later in life. That is just one example. And as far as the warts that America has, I don’t deny there are some. But there are also more good things about this country than bad. Some from your camp, the whining camp, only look for the warts and overlook the good. The fact of the matter is the last few generations to come along have not known adversity like my father’s generation did. We are going the way of the Roman Empire because of people spoiled by years of peace and prosperity and no contrast to the Great Depression or WWII. Stop the whining and look for the good in this country. There is plenty to be found.

  48. I think what Nam vet is really trying to say is: The Bums will always lose! and perhaps to do like your parents did, and get a job sir. I mean you don’t go around dressed like this on a week day!

  49. Ken Hanke

    At last! A voice of reason! Comparatively perhaps..

    And, Jason, I don’t think I’ve ever said you were “too juvenile.” I’m sure I’ve expressed other sentiments, but never that.

    And, Mr. Vet, I agree that there is a lot that’s good in this country. My suspicion, however, is that you and I would not agree about what it is.

    But at the risk of further digression, I am compelled to ask if you have any favorites of classic film that do not appear on every 50 Best Movies list on earth?

  50. Orbit DVD

    I would venture to guess that Mr. Vet is a huge fan of BABY DOLL.


  51. Nam Vet

    LOL, why Ken do you want me to stretch and try to find a weird flick from way back? How about “Freaks”. That film was probably a template for Waters. There is a reason the same films are on the top 50 of all time. Because they are GOOD. :) And the good things about this country: freedom and opportunity.

  52. Ken Hanke

    Actually, no, I don’t want you to find a “weird” movie from way back. I wanted to find out if you liked anything that wasn’t 100% certified as a classic — you know, something out of the standard rep. I can find all manner of odder films than FREAKS, in any case. (Are you calling FREAKS a classic, by the way?) And there’s another reason why the same films are on the top 50 of all time: familiarity. The funny thing is that this sort of peculiar stability only seems to exist with Hollywood midcult offerings (KANE is an exception of sorts). The 50 “greatest” foreign films are in a good deal more flux. I don’t really think that Sergei Eisenstein’s POTEMKIN is any worse (or better) now than it was when I was in school, but back then it was always in the top 5; now it’s lucky to be in the top 25. My guess is that it all has to do with a greater degree of re-evaluation than takes place with Hollywood counterpart. (Not that Hollywood movies aren’t re-evaluated from time to time. Forty years ago it was a given that TOP HAT and A NIGHT AT THE OPERA were rated as the pinnacle of Astaire and Rogers and the Marx Bros. respectively. Now, you’re more likely to find that SWING TIME and DUCK SOUP hold those positions.)

    Saying “freedom and opportunity” is all very well, but without some specificity they mean little — unless, of course, you claim that the freedom and opportunity that allows John Waters to make PINK FLAMINGOS are part of those good things, too.

  53. chuck

    I am so enjoyng seeing Mr Vet being consistently schooled by the Honorable Mr. Henke.


  54. Nam Vet

    OF COURSE WATER’S has the right to make a sick sleazy film like Pink Flamingos. We have the freedom here to say and do most anything we want. Water’s has the right to be a weird “artist” and I have the right to think he is an idiot for making a sick film like Pink Flamingos. That’s what is great about this country. Now as contrast, if you live in Cuba and criticize the government, you get picked up in the middle of the night and put in jail…if you are lucky. Hey in this country we even tolerate anti-American whiners who don’t know how good they have it here. America is a great country. God bless America!

  55. Ken Hanke

    Good heavens, how impassioned. I wonder, though, if our definitions of “anti-American” are the same. I somehow doubt it. All the same, I think I’ll let it pass.

  56. Nam Vet

    Ken, what do you think of the ending for 3:10 To Yuma? I really enjoyed the movie but I am puzzled by the ending where Crowe shoots all his comrades. As brutal as they were, at least they seemed to have loyalty to each other.

  57. Ken Hanke

    Well, at least one of them — the Ben Foster character — is certainly loyal (to the extent of being pretty obviously in love with Crowe), but also clearly psychotic and a possible liability. That’s more or less the reason put forth by Crowe in interviews. Personally, my take is that it has much to do with the fact that Crowe’s character has played this game with his captors — especially Bale — by a set of rules of his own making. By those rules, Bale won, so the gang was out of line in their actions — especially since those actions go against Crowe’s orders.

    If we’re going to discuss this, it might be best to take it over to the review of 3:10 TO YUMA over on the movie page.

  58. QUOTE: “Ken, what do you think of the ending for 3:10 To Yuma? I really enjoyed the movie but I am puzzled by the ending where Crowe shoots all his comrades.”

    REPLY: No need to watch that one since I now know the ending. Thanks for spoiling!

  59. brebro

    Great interview Mr. Hanke, thanks.

    As for who to invite next, hey, I’m a fan of both John Waters AND Clint Eastwood (but I would never get Pink Flamingoes mixed up with Pink Cadillac ).

  60. Ken Hanke

    Thank you. It helps when you’ve got a great subject who really likes to talk, and that I certainly had with John Waters.

    I suppose we might ask both. It could be amusing.

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