A CLASSY BROAD: “Done. Next!”

Marcia Nasatir in A CLASSY BROAD

The delightful bio-doc A Classy Broad chronicles the amazingly resilient life of Marcia Nasatir, the first woman production vice-president at a major Hollywood studio.   Nasatir is now 91 years old and still pitching movies.

Nasatir has lived a singular life.  I won’t spoil her hometown, but it’s not a place that is known for producing Jewish Hollywood execs.  As a young single mom in New York, she started at the bottom of the publishing trade, and climbed to a position selling the movie rights of literary properties.  She moved to representing authors as an agent, which resulted in the motion pictures Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Chinatown.  

Nasatir burst through the glass ceiling as a studio exec at UA, where she greenlit One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, Carrie and Apocalypse Now!  Dumped by the other suits, she became an independent producer and brought The Big Chill to the screen after it had been rejected by seventeen other companies.

Nasatir’s legacy is a huge chunk of Hollywood’s auteur era of the late 1960s through the early 1980s.  The “classy” in the movie title references an episode where she got fired when the moguls thought her movie taste was too elevated to make money for the studio.

Nasatir demonstrated enormous confidence for a woman of her era, and is the very paragon of resilience.  She met every challenge with her two-word slogan (and epitaph-to-be): “Done. Next!”

A Classy Broad screens three times at the SFJFF:

  • Cinearts (Palo Alto), Saturday, July 22 3:50 PM
  • Castro (San Francisco), Sunday, July 23 1:35 PM
  • Albany Twin (Albany), Sunday, August 6 12:15 PM

The SFJFF runs from July 20 through August 6 at theaters in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Albany, San Rafael and Oakland. You can peruse the entire program and buy tickets and passes at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

THE GO-GO BOYS: THE INSIDE STORY OF CANNON FILMS: an improbable, wild ride

The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films
The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films

The two Israeli filmmakers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had a very wild ride, and the documentary The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films is their improbable story.  Golan began as a director of Israeli films and his cousin Globus (twelve years younger) became his partner; Golan was the idea man and hands-on producer and Globus secured the financing and handled the business deals.  Together, they produced over 150 movies.

In the early 1960s, they were very successful in Israel, producing many Israeli hits, including the Oscar-nominated Sallah, which won the Golden Globe.  Ambitious, they moved to Hollywood and set up shop with a Roger Cormanesque business model – make lots of cheap exploitation movies.  They hurtled to the top of the action movie genre with movies like Death Wish II, American Ninja and The Delta Force.  Along the way, they introduced us to movie ninjas, Claude Van Dam and Chuck Norris.  The Cannon Group’s signature was the simple revenge story, adorned by naked breasts and vivid explosions.  Soon the Cannon Group was making more movies each year than all the Hollywood major studios combined.

What happened? As Icarus, the ever-aspirational Golan began to seek more mainstream credibility by producing art films and big-budget Hollywood fare.  Cannon paid Sylvester Stallone twice his usual fee to star in their arm wrestling movie Over the Top.  Generally, when a company abandons its tried and true business model…Well, you can guess what happened.

I saw The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.  It doesn’t yet have an US theatrical release date, but I’ll try to let you all know when it’s in theaters or available on DVD or streaming.  Be sure to keep watching The Go-Go Boys right through the ending credits.

DVD/Stream of the Week: LIVING IN OBLIVION

Peter Dinklage and Steve Buscemi in LIVING IN OBLIVION
Peter Dinklage and Steve Buscemi in LIVING IN OBLIVION

The hilarious 1995 comedy Living in Oblivion follows a grossly under-resourced indie movie director (Steve Buscemi), who must  somehow finish his low-budge/no-budget art film despite being surrounded by zanies.  He’s got a neurotic female lead (Catherine Keener), a preening and slumming A-list star named Chad Palomino (James Le Gros) and an elderly actress who can’t remember her lines (Rica Martens).  His stubborn and sullen cinematographer (Dermot Mulroney) is bedding the First Assistant Director (Danielle von Zerneck), who has an agenda of her own.  With this outfit, everything that CAN go wrong…

Living in Oblivion is filled with lines like “I can’t act. I can just do shower scenes in Richard Gere movies for the rest of my life!” and “Hey! That’s my eye patch and I don’t want anyone else wearing it. It’s insanitary.”

But the pièce de résistance is the feature debut of Peter Dinklage, 8 years before his breakout role in The Station Agent and 16 years before becoming a star in Game of Thrones.   He plays an tiny actor with a gargantuan chip on his shoulder:   “Why does my character have to be a dwarf?” and “I don’t even have dreams with dwarves in them. The only place I’ve seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this!”.

Director Tom Dicillo, having been Jim Jarmusch’s cinematographer, was no stranger to indie filmmaking.  After Living in Oblivion, Danielle von Zerneck moved on to a producing career.

Living in Oblivion is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Xbox Video.