FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Joseph L. Mankiewicz |||
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, and was very successful at every kind of film, from Shakespeare to western, drama to musical, epics to two-character pictures, and regardless of the genre, he was known as a witty dialogist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director.

The 1950 Oscar for Best Picture and Screenplay brought Mankiewicz wide recognition as a writer and a director, with his sardonic look at show business glamour and the empty lives behind it. This well orchestrated cast of brilliant and catty character actors is built around veteran actress Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as her understudy desperate for stardom.

One of Mankiewicz’ more intimate films, this highly regarded and major artistic achievement is a spirited romantic comedy set in England of the 1880’s about a widow who moves into a haunted seashore house and resists the attempts of a sea captain specter to scare her away. This is a pleasing and poignant romance that is equally satisfying as a good old ghost story.

Mankiewicz wrote and directed this witty dissection of matrimony that has three women review the ups and downs of their marriages (with all its romance, fears and foibles) after receiving a letter telling them that one of their husbands has been unfaithful. Once again Mankiewicz deftly utilizes the skills of a well-chosen ensemble, which includes a young Kirk Douglas at his dreamiest.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Mark Tapio Kines and Sharky Baby

By DarkSavant

May 1st, 2001

Our resident curmudgeon has finally pulled himself out of his funk and gotten back to the job of verbally harassing the timid and the weak. Tonight's victim is Mark Tapio Kines, director of "Foreign Correspondents."

As with any Dark Savant communiqué, parental discretion is advised.


On this evening, as the drugs begin to take hold, as my anus screams, parched from the emergency dump courtesy of a Denny's overload, as my brain melts from the fried circuits, lack of sleep, and stress from a new job, and as my ears and sensory ovulations are embroiled with the hypnotic fury of a brilliant new Tool album (yeah motherf*cka!), I welcome you back to my mind.

I apologize for taking such a long time to resume my duties here, but I had personal and psychic reasons for doing as such. I?m sure you all missed me, all two of you. But I'm back, back in black, and ready to roll... a doobie.

This week, indie filmmaker Mark Tapio Kines steps into my 3rd degree, preparing to field venomous cum-darts surrounding his latest projects.

DS: Why don't you begin by telling us just who the hell you are and why you're worthy of wasting my time?

MTK: You always start with the hard ones, don't you? My name is Mark Tapio Kines. I'm an indie writer/director currently with one feature ("Foreign Correspondents") under his belt, and trying to get the next one ("Sharky Baby") off the ground. I make a living as art director for Paramount Pictures' online division. Which means I do most of the graphics for, er, startrek.com. Here I must state that I am not, nor have I ever been, a "Star Trek" aficionado. It's only a coincidence that Wil "Wesley Crusher" Wheaton starred in my first film. I raised a large chunk of my first feature's budget over a web site I made for it. Back in 1999, when it seemed that anything Web-related was a sure-fire goldmine, this accomplishment got me a lot of press and made me a poster boy for the so-called Internet/Hollywood Convergence, which never happened and probably won't ever happen.

DS: Oh man, that just opened up the floodgates. First, who did you fuck to get that art director gig, and second, why are you being defensive/derogatory about "Star Trek?" You wanna fucking die?

MTK: Hey, I love working on startrek.com. I have no problems with going up to a beautiful woman at a party and telling her that (though only after I've made it very clear that I'm first and foremost a filmmaker). I simply don't want to be misrepresented to the public as somebody who is heavily into the show. I know that there are some people out there who may associate the "Star Trek" phenomenon with, well, PEOPLE LACKING IN THE SOCIAL GRACES DEPARTMENT, shall we say. As far as the job is concerned, I earned it fair and square. I've been designing entertainment-related web sites ever since 1995. My first site was for the Kevin Costner masterpiece "Waterworld." But my finest hour was definitely the "12 Monkeys" site. But we weren't really talking about my career as a web designer, were we?

DS: Of course we were talking about your career as a web designer, this is all about YOU baby, as I'm sure my readers are bored with my stories of cat crucifixion and chaining hookers to the radiator of my Pinto. We're also talking about your blatant racist prejudice against the socially-inept; don't fear, you're not the first 'in-the-closet-Trekophobe' I've ever met, either. Anyhow, you got back in my good graces since "12 Monkeys" is my fave flick. What are some of your favorite non-porno movies, and hell, do you have a particular film that inspired you to get in the biz?

MTK: Glad you dig "12 Monkeys;" I can't understand why anybody couldn't. (Though I've met some - heartless jerks.) I can name hundreds of movies right off the bat that I would call my "all-time favorites," but let's keep it to the ones whose titles I can remember at the moment: "Blowup," "Badlands," "Strangers on a Train," "Raise the Red Lantern," "The Third Man," "Blue Velvet," "After Life," "The Conversation," "The Innocents," "Star Wars" (the untampered-with version), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (ditto), "In the Mood for Love," "Baghdad Cafe," "The Night of the Hunter," "Fargo," "Sans Soleil," "Nights of Cabiria," "Brazil," "Heavenly Creatures," "The Elephant Man," "Vertigo"... I reckon that'll do for now. Oh, and "Air Bud." No particular film inspired me to be a filmmaker, though I'll have to say that, "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters" coming out when I was 7, they were the first films that woke me up to the idea that there are people behind the camera.

DS: "Air Bud"?? I hope you're not referring to the Disney flick and that this statement is, in fact, code for something that happens on the 20th minute of the 16th hour of the day. If not, then I'll ponder on what you else were smoking when you said it. Tell me about this little indie flick of yours, "Foreign Correspondents."

MTK: Another hard question. It's a feature, a romantic drama that I wrote in 1996, directed in 1997, finished in early 1999, and am only just now getting distributed to (parts of) the world. It's two separate stories about pen pals, using two separate casts in two separate areas of California. It stars Melanie Lynskey, Wil Wheaton, Corin Nemec, and a lot of other talented people. If those names are unfamiliar to anybody, I cheerfully invite them to look them up on the IMDB. The movie was shot on 35mm with a half-million dollar budget, which I raised piecemeal through friends, loans from family, my own savings, and the kind strangers who chanced upon my web site and decided to help out. After all this time, I still have no "in" with Hollywood. Even though I collect a paycheck from Paramount. I'm pretty happy with it, but seeing as how it's been 4 years since we shot, I'm quite ready to move on. People with satellite dishes can watch it on a Showtime channel called "Showtime Next," and you can also see it if you live in Turkey or Greece. I'm hoping for a video release soon, but at this writing I just don't know.

DS: (rolling another phat blunt) Okay, okay, okay, hold on, back the train up. I want your honest opinion on yourself: is this film any good? I want you to justify this shit to me. With all due respect, even with a talented director and a strong script, how can anyone keep a film starring Corin Nemic and Wil Wheaton from sucking?

MTK: You're lucky I'm in a good mood, otherwise I'd be raking your head over a cheese grater about now. First of all, I will defend to the death Corin Nemec's talents. He's an amazing actor. Actually, you're the first person to even associate suckage with his name. (And before you bring it up, Wil did good work too. It's just that Corin put in EXCELLENT work.) {Editors Note: I tried to watch Parker Lewis many years ago. I will add my membership into the "Corin Nemec Sucks" club.} As for the film itself, I give it 3 stars. It won't make my own 10 Best list, but of course it's impossible to get an objective answer from me. I will forever know all the tiny imperfections that nobody else will ever be aware of, and when I think about them, I just want to crawl into a hole.That said, some scenes are really moving, they still impress me. The music is fantastic. The cinematography is fine. It's well-cast. Editing is tight. I'm not thrilled with the sound work, but if you aren't listening for flaws, you wouldn't notice. Also, because it's two separate stories, that was my way of ensuring that an audience member will like at least HALF the film. And often that is the response: most (myself included) prefer the second story. But at every screening, I'll meet those who are huge fans of the first story. In fact, when the film played at a festival in Chicago, two of the three newspaper critics that reviewed it much preferred that first story. (The third critic enjoyed them both.) So you can never tell what people are going to like. "Titanic," for example: WHY?

DS: "Titanic," eh? Leonardo DiCaprio is soooo fine... oh, uh, anyhow, let's backtrack s'more. You say you raised a cool half mil from friends, loans, credit cards, pimps, whatever. Can you describe your financing in more detail and talk about how your investment structure worked? How did your investors, if applicable, end up fairing?

MTK: There's not much to the investment structure: based on the amount you invested, you were contracted to "own" a proportionate amount of the film. Say you put in $5,000. That's 1% of the budget, so you'd get 1% of the gross. Fair and simple. My producer and I didn't want to make it too complicated for people. How did they end up faring? At this moment, I can't give you a solid answer, as we're still waiting to hear whether the film is going to have a video release. If it happens, then we'll possibly break even, maybe even make a profit. If it doesn't, I'll have to go into hiding.

DS: Sounds simple enough, but that's the problem. Let's make it complicated so our readers can learn (see what we go through to help others??) Let's say Investor 'X' invests $5,000, or 1% of the proposed budget. What happens if you increase the budget; say you need finishing funds for whatever reason, including going over-budget and/or running out of cash, what then? Does the Investor's percentage of the pie decrease?

MTK: See, the idea behind making a film is that you have it all budgeted out BEFORE you ask for any money, and you STICK to that budget. Maybe James Cameron can get away with going way over budget, but I can't.

DS: Bwahahahaha, but what if Corin Nemic broke his penis or something during a pivotal love scene? Better yet, what if you were guaranteed a good distribution deal if you added in some explosions but the distributor wouldn't pay for it? Better STILL, what if a frog had a glass ass? Point being, there are a hundred ways to need more dough... what happens to the investor's take at that point? Remember, if the film doesn't get made, they get nothing.

MTK: That's why there's a clause saying that the producer will make best efforts to get the film done, but the investor agrees that his investment is entirely AT RISK. I think they even put the words AT RISK in all uppercase, just like that. Also there's this thing called "insurance" which you must take out in case an actor breaks his penis. I should point out that, in the case of Foreign Correspondents, most investors came on AFTER we shot everything, when it was much more likely that there would be a finished film. I suppose if my film wound up costing a million dollars, then all the investors who came on board when it was still $500K would get twice their money's worth. Then my producer and I would divvy up the remaining percentage points amongst any new investors. (It's a good idea to hold on to some points at the beginning, in case you need to give them away later on.) We could talk about "what-if" scenarios until we're blue in the face. Simply put, our budget didn't explode after filming, so we didn't have to worry about it. I advise most indie filmmakers to be organized enough to say the same.

DS: That's great advice. Moving right along, I have some questions for you as a director. A director can do nothing or everything, such as sitting back and letting department heads run the show, or being a micromanager and controlling every aspect from camera blocking to dildo design. When you are on the set, what are the primary functions that you demand to be involved with?

MTK: If you're working with professional people, you can just trust them to do their job and leave them alone. That was the case with the "ForCor" crew, so I didn't have to step in very often. Only when somebody overlooked a detail, or I had a little idea pop up that would make the scene better, or everybody was just going the totally wrong direction (hey it happens every once in a while) and needed to be steered back.I was very much involved, though. I storyboarded the whole movie beforehand, which saved lots of time and stress, as I could just show everybody what the shot was supposed to look like and that communicated what I wanted very well. Also, I wrote the script so it could be filmed in a lot of familiar locations (my father's house, my old apartment, etc.) The bulk of the director's job is all in pre- and post-production, as far as I'm concerned. When you're shooting it's more like, "Did everybody remember what we talked about 2 weeks ago during all our meetings and rehearsals and such?" than it is, "Hmmm, where shall my incredible vision lead us today?"

DS: If you could die in any manner, regardless of cost, laws of physics or potential damage to others, the coolest fucking manner possible to your warped mind, what would it be, why, and if you could take just one person with you, who?

MTK: I would go to the wedding of somebody I truly hated and blow my brains out right at the moment of "I do." I can't imagine ruining somebody else's life any better than that. And if I could take one person with me, I would definitely take this guy who was hired as an associate producer on my film and turned out to be a pathological liar. Haven't even heard from him in 4 years, but I'd drag him to the wedding with me and make sure that bullet went clean through my head and into his.

DS: That brings up an interesting point.I've heard countless stories of liars and completely unreliable people, usually at the very top. Would you say that there are a lot of true bullshit artists out there in the production world?

MTK: Well, the myth of "overnight success" definitely attracts a lot of people to this business who don't have a firm grip on reality. The people at the top are just jerks, people who will go to any length to get what they want, but they aren't pathological liars. THOSE people are at the bottom. I met one lady in craft services who insisted that she had a good friend - "one of the Kennedys" - who was given 200 million dollars by Steven Spielberg to invest in whatever films she wanted, and she was going to talk to her about investing in my film. The next day, she told me she was going to have lunch with Spielberg himself, and that HE was going to invest in my film!

DS: Here's one I always toss to indie filmmakers. A lot of indie guys have a strong distaste for the union system in the US. SAG, for example, requires a ridiculous bond to ensure that its actors are paid on time. The seven heads of the IATSE beast state that if, say, someone picks up a nail on the floor, that work has been taken away from the carpenters/grips and the production company, along with the guilty nail-remover, will be fined heavily. As a result, sometimes the crew will wait for hours -- on the clock -- for someone to pick up that nail. Needless to say, for a small film, this can be a budget-killer.What's your take on the union system, and why do you (or do you not) support them?

MTK: As a low-budget filmmaker, you don't have to go union. Certainly you're not expected to hire IATSE or Teamsters for your crew. I didn't. But if you want to have recognizable actors, you have to use SAG talent, and that means you have to deal with SAG staff - some of the meanest, most uncooperative people alive. I support unions in general. They're here to prevent workers from being exploited. The show biz unions, of course, have had little to do for the last few decades but pad their contracts with more perks. They still need to exist - studios would screw everybody otherwise - but I'd rather put my support behind, say, a Janitor's strike than an Actor's strike. Everybody wants to be a movie star. Nobody wants to clean toilets.

DS: Okay baby, tell me all about "Sharky Baby." Where the hell did you get that freakin' title, every time I say it I get this strange, Satanic song in my head...

MTK: This is how the Internet has affected my life: The original title of the project was just "Sharky," but the URL "sharky.com" was taken. I didn't want to register anything lame like "sharkythemovie.com," so I just thought, "Hmm, Sharky Baby, it has a nice ring to it - and the domain name is available!" I think this is the first time in history that a URL has dictated the title of a film. As the story is about a geeky college freshman who becomes a loan shark (among other things), the "shark" origin is pretty clear.I'm really happy with the script; everybody who's read it loves it, which is pretty amazing because all my other scripts have had their non-fans. Also amazing because it's a comedy, and it's very easy to trash a comedy. I keep waiting for somebody to tear it apart, but thus far it's been thumbs-up all the way. I entered it in that "Project Greenlight" contest and got enough positive reviews to make it to the Top 250 of the 7000 scripts that were entered. I guess the "director's intro video" I had to send to the Project Greenlight guys must have sucked, because I didn't make it into the Top 30. Darn.

DS: Ever use a casting couch? Ever been used on a production couch? Ever walked in on two of your stars palming each other in strange ways?

MTK: My lawyer has suggested that I not answer any of these questions.

DS: If you could make any film, regardless of budget or story controversy or any other means of holding you back, what would it be and why?

MTK: I would love to make a film about Mary Mallon, aka "Typhoid Mary," the first known healthy carrier of typhoid, who quite possibly killed a lot of people and was quarantined in a tiny cabin for years. There's a lot of fascinating stuff about this person, and it would be a great role for an actress, but as the events took place 100 years ago in New York, it would require quite a budget. Not a "Titanic" size-budget, but a hell of a lot more than "ForCor" cost. At least I've registered typhoidmary.com.

DS: One last question for you, Mark, and then I'll let you go home to your beloved harem of Popples and Wesley Crusher action figures. Why the 'Tapio'? Are you too good for the name Mark Kines alone? Or does 'Tapio' have some evil, twisted meaning that we really don't want to know about, like the name of the top-secret new Pfizer drug that gets prepubescent boys to succumb to homoerotic tendencies?

MTK: Okay, long story short: Tapio is Finnish - it's my original last name. My mom remarried when I was 5 and I took on my stepfather's name "Kines." These days, I should just drop the "Kines" altogether, since my stepfather's been dead for several years and my mom's remarried, so it's totally pointless to keep it, and besides, it annoys my dad. But I'm too lazy to bother with the legal hassles of changing my name. Tapio is the god of the forest in Finnish folklore, by the way. He has nothing to do with tapioca pudding.

DS: Syurrrrrrrre, Mister Anderson. It seems you've been living two lyyves. Hehe, thanks for stopping by, and good luck to you in whatever your future endeavors (burger-flipping *COUGH*) might be.

Folks, be sure to check out Mark's websites, including forcor.com and sharkybaby.com! And stop by startrek.com too and bitch about how poor the graphic design looks. Tell em Dark Savant sent you. Tell em to bring back Chewbacca. Peace out to all yall, and tune in next time when I interview Alf about his pederastical relationship with Haley Joel Osment.