All it takes is a quick perusal of your local newsstand to realize how dumb celebrity is and how we as a race have almost ruined that one thing that’s supposed to be the coolest and most enviable thing we regular folks can aspire to be. Who doesn’t want to be rich or famous, or at least a little of one? It’s not the American Dream, it’s The Dream. Sadly, so many of the people that get the ink are the ones who are the least interesting or real. Or worse yet, they’re famous for something cheap. Or for being a freak.
Here at CHUD.com we would like to shine a light on folks out there who are doing it right. Some of them aren’t even people who we’re a fan of the output of but self-made individuals who have earned the respect in their own right. You may not agree or you may find a new few favorite folks. Either way, I look forward to your take on it. This list is in no particular order.
The Celebrity: John Sayles.
What He’s Best Known For: Making real blue collar American independent movies like Matewan, The Return of the Secaucus Seven, and City of Hope. Launching the careers of Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, and Mary McDonnell. Having a hand in vital B-Movies of yore thanks to Roger Corman. Having flirtations with the mainstream that still challenge in films like Lone Star, The Secret of Roan Inish, and Eight Men Out.
The Catalyst for His Success: His risk in making The Return of the Secaucus Seven, a film that raised eyebrows and inspired movies like The Big Chill. It’s been preserved by the Library of Congress, a very prestigious honor. His deeply researched, diverse work. The manner in which he covers important and controversial topics with grace and intellectualism that is fresh rather than intimidating.
Career Low Points: He’s made some lesser films but even those are more heartfelt, genuine, and passionately conceived than most films we’re accustomed to having in theaters.
Why He’s Here:
Lone Star, Eight Men Out, City of Hope, and his contributions as a screenwriter of so many fun films like The Howling, Piranha, and Alligator (and the intended Close Encounters sequel Night Skies) should be enough. City of Hope is a near masterpiece that has never made it to DVD. It’s a sprawling epic story of corruption that should have registered as one of the best films of the 1990’s. Instead it’s a movie that people who know defend ferociously but few others know about. Seek it out, if you can find the damn thing.
But Sayles is an accomplished author as well. Union Dues won him several awards, Los Gusanos is apparently fantastic, and his Sayles on Sayles film book is a must own.
And he acts. Well. Very well.
And he is content to do script doctor work to pay the bills and help allow him to make his movies his way. Sometimes in English, and sometimes not. When I think of American filmmakers to mark as national treasures, he may not the sexiest but he’s right near the top of the list.
And it’s never easy. His latest movie Amigo is struggling to find distribution. It’s been done for some time, stars the always great Chris Cooper and Garret Dillahunt, and covers something incendiary (The Phillipine-American War). It’s typical Sayles, clawing tooth and nail for the sake of a story well told.