May 27, 2010

Indie Films

Michael Caine with a Maine accent? What were they thinking?


Message to Gov. Baldacci: In interviewing Maine filmmakers for this column, the overriding theme is the need for Maine to introduce a tax-incentive program (like Massachusetts has) to entice more film production in our state. It’d be good for our economy, for our profile and for tourism.



Thursday: “A Chemical Reaction.” This award-winning Canadian documentary about one town’s successful battle to ban the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and a Q&A with producer and organic lawn-care advocate Paul Tukey, will cause you to glance askance at your yard during your next picnic.



The 2nd annual Bangor-based arts festival is a great place for makers of local narrative, documentary and short films to show off their stuff.

The final deadline for submissions is June 7, and the festival takes place from Aug. 6-14.

And one other reason.

Accent rehabilitation.

Overwhelmingly, when a movie is set in Maine, otherwise diligent professional actors sound like they’ve had to learn a foreign language phonetically. A flood of Maine-filmed movies might just prevent these aural abominations from ever happening again:

“PET SEMATARY” – In this misbegotten Stephen King adaptation, good old Fred Gwynne chews his down-home Maine accent in his massive jaws like a particularly challenging hunk of Laffy Taffy. (However, unlike the efforts of the rest of the cast, his incompetence is sort of endearing.)

“STORM OF THE CENTURY” – Stephen King time again, and after getting off to a particularly wince-worthy start (a “local” asking the butcher for something called “pwowk chawps” sticks out), star Tim Daly struggles mightily (but futilely) against the word “stawm,” but it’s veteran character man Jeffrey DeMunn who comes off worse. To be fair, he’s doomed to play the sort of officious, motor-mouthed jerk that King traditionally allots his corniest “real Mainer” lines to. (And sacrilege though it may be, can I just say that King’s hokey, jargon-y rendition of Mainers is doing our state absolutely no favors? No one talks like that, Steve.)

“THE CIDER HOUSE RULES” – It really wasn’t fair to ask Michael Caine to try this; Caine’s Cockney is so integral to him that I’m always afraid the effort is going to give him a stroke. Just add a throwaway line explaining how a London doctor ended up running a Maine orphanage and forget it.

“FORBIDDEN CHOICES” – (Laughably retitled film version of Carolyn Chute’s “The Beans of Egypt, Maine.”) Like Caine’s, Rutger Hauer’s accent is so ingrained that hiring him to graft an upcountry lumberjack’s on top of it is a recipe for disaster (and high comedy).

“GRAVEYARD SHIFT” – Saving the best for last, shovel-faced tough guy Stephen Macht delivers both the single worst Maine accent in movie history and, apart from Brad Dourif’s typically-overqualified genre performance, the only entertainment value in this, yet another Stephen King-derived abomination. Macht seems like the sort of guy who’d do conscientious research at the Ice House before filming. Unfortunately, I think he was still drunk.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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