Art Imitates Life
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 94 14:02:08 PST
Subject: Art Imitates Life
Forwarded-by: bostic@vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: jim@Tadpole.COM (Jim Thompson)
From: Matt Zoller Seitz, movie critic for the San Antonio Current
CULT BOMBS (In Waco, the Final Battle is over film rights)
ART IMITATES LIFE. Truth is stranger than fiction. Give me that
old-time religion. Whichever homily you choose. David Koresh is hot.
According to the April issue of Spy magazine, 50 different production
companies, representing both television and movie interests, are
haggling with various witnesses and participants and lawyers in Waco
for the rights to tell their part of the seemingly never-ending story.
Depending on how jaded television has left you, you can either be
appalled by this vulturelike pursuit of human misery or rub your hands
together gleefully, anticipating a docudrama onslaught that would put
last fall's Amy Fisher triplecast to shame. Here, then, are the
Current's --- oh, hell, why not call them PROPHESIES --- of who will
play who in which film version.
Title: Blood on the Prairie: The Koresh Story
Spin: Grace through suffering; everyone has warts.
Koresh: David Soul
God: Ed Asner
Others: Sensitive doctor (Jane Seymour); sensitive ATF agent (David Birney);
the president (Bruce Boxleitner).
Plot: "Guyana Tragedy" revisited, only with a rewritten happy ending;
the weary, frustrated Koresh, surrounded by corpses and besieged by
tanks and choppers, launches into a radio anecdote about how he's been
traumatized and unable to connect with anybody ever since his puppy
died when he was five. The aloof, gorgeous doctor who Koresh allowed
inside the compound (Jane Seymour) finally falls for him. So does
everyone else. Runs five consecutive nights. Great '60s score.
Sample dialog: "Can everyone please mellow out for a second?"
Oscar Moment: None
Denouement: ATF agent Birney delivers long monologue to classroom full of
Waco schoolchildren on the need for religious tolerance.
Main selling point: Seymour. Also, Jean Stapleton's cameo as Koresh's
DIRECTED BY OLIVER STONE
Title: The Hand of God
Spin: Koresh is the misunderstood, brilliant, persecuted hero. Film is
told entirely through his eyes.
Koresh: James Woods
God: Donald Sutherland
Others: Plenty, but they're not important.
Plot: A gifted, ahead-of-his-time mystic named David Koresh (a.k.a. the
J-man) battles the oppressive forces of the ATF, the Waco cops, the
CIA, the FBI, the Cubans, and the New York Times, in between mystic
conversations with the Almighty. Stone films the whole movie from
Koresh's point of view and forces you into sympathizing with him. By
the end, the combination of graphic, slow-motion violence and wild
hallucinations --- hawks in flight, Nam flashbacks, Forrest Whitaker in
a rugby uniform --- is so overwhelming that theater ushers are
instructed by Stone to hand out earplugs and blindfolds to audience
members. Great '60s score. Woods wins much-needed PR points by going
blond for the part.
Sample dialog: "I am the lizard king. Ride the snake. Let justice be done
though the heavens fall."
Oscar Moment: Woods' combination free-verse poem and Revelations reading.
Denouement: Voice-over by Koresh: "Grandma, I guess in the end we didn't
really fight the enemy --- we fought ourselves."
Main selling point: Stone charges conspiracy, claims HE'S Jesus.
DIRECTED BY WOODY ALLEN
Title: Darkness and Sunlight
Spin: Koresh is WASP, he-man ideal; Allen's attempt at an old-fashioned
Koresh: William Hurt
God: Ingmar Bergman
Others: ATF agents (John Cusack, Tim Robbins, F. Murray Abraham, Anthony
Hopkins, Madonna); Marshall MacLuhan as himself; Woody Allen as
Plot: Fielding Singer (Allen), a nebbishy Jewish director making a
documentary about Waco sewer rats, accidentally enters the compound.
At first, Koresh (Hurt) and his followers (the Sheens, the Baldwins,
the Carradines, and the Quaids) terrify Singer with their burly,
whitebread manliness, but eventually learn to appreciate their guest's
sense of humor, especially his "Masada" jokes. Singer is eventually
killed and dumped over the wall for making passes at Koresh's youngest
daughter, but Allen's final, ghostly, into-the-camera monologue ends
things on an appropriately wry note. Great big-band score especially
"Sing Sing Sing" during the big shootout, in which Singer gets plugged
in the toe and does a hilarious little dance.
Sample dialog: "What I wouldn't give for a large catapult!" "Hey, how old
Oscar Moment: Koresh playing backgammon with Satan.
Denouement: See above.
Main selling point: Mia dies onscreen.
DIRECTED BY JOHN HUGHES
Title: Home Alone 3: Lost in Waco
Koresh: Tim Curry
God: John Candy
Others: Kevin MacAllister (Macaulay Culkin); his family; bumbling police
chief (Gordon Jump); ATF agents (Martin Short, Judge Reinhold)
Plot: En route to a vacation in Mexico City, little Kevin boards the
wrong plane, lands in Waco, and through a series of misadventures, ends
up in Koresh's compound. Koresh: "I will bring the world down in
flames, because I am the savior." Kevin: "I don't THINK so!" Mayhem
ensues. The critics are divided. Some love the slapstick
ultraviolence (including Kevin lobbing grenades at meddling ATF agents
with a giant homemade slingshot, and a great gag involving acid), but
parent's groups decry it. Great updated '60s score. Candy's toga is
Sample dialog: "Yesss!"
Oscar Moment: The flamethrower scene (for Best Sound Effects); Kevin
healing the town's old blind man (John Gielgud).
Denouement: Warm. Kevin reunited with family. Koresh loses skin.
Main selling point: Mac, who now has facial hair.
A DISNEY FILM
Title: The Waco Kid
Spin: Koresh is a poor boy craving attention and love; has animal pals.
Koresh: Animated generic ingenue-dreamer; voice by Michael J. Fox
God: Smiling cloud; voice by Steve Martin
Others: Skeeter, Koresh's trusty pet armadillo (Jack Lemmon); Bowser, the
wise owl who advises caution (David Ogden Stiers); Cal, the talking .50
caliber machine gun (Denis Leary); Becky Sue, the beautiful young
ATF agent (Jodie Foster). Plot: The usual hip schmaltz, with a
toe-tapping '60s-style Broadway score by Alan Menken and Tim Rice,
odd fundamentalist overtones, and an assortment of celebrity voices,
including Burt Reynolds as ATF strategist "Roof" Stratten (a paunchy
St. Bernard with a hairpiece) and Denis Leary as Cal, who smokes
filterless "Llamas" (a Disney first). The climactic near-apocalypse
earns comparisons to "Fantasia". Martin finally wins an Oscar,
mostly on the basis of his energetic musical number, "Smite 'em!"
Sample dialog: "Way to go, GOD!" "Awesome!"
Oscar Moment: The songs: "Come on in, boys!" "Why Me, Lord?" "Tanks for the
Memories." Computer animated dancing bullets.
Denouement: Marriage montage, final waltz. ATF agents come back to life.
Main selling point: Adult-oriented animation, with slapstick for the kids.
Also, first Disney cartoon to provide specific date of the apocalypse.
© 1994 Peter Langston