4 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, February 17, 1994
Documentary filmmaker more
Lights, camera, action! With the
Academy Awards coniing up, The
Daily looks inside Tinseltown and the
film industry in a two-part series. Our
first is on Sue Marx, an Oscar win-
ning documentary filmmaker who
proves thatfilm isn't all about glitzy
stars and cellular phones. Daily film.
staffer Michael Barnes recently had
an opportunity to talk with her.
Daily: How did you get started?
Sue Marx: Well, I started as a still
photographer in the '60s and '70s. In
the late '60s, I did a documentary
style show focusing on Black people
living and working in Detroit. We did
"Profiles in Black" as a film series
that went on for some nine years and
won a lot of awards. That went on for
a long time until I got thoroughly
bored and decided it was time to move
on. I had taken a couple of classes in
film at Wayne and decided I wanted
to make a film of my own. I wrote a
grant to the Arts Foundation and did a
film about an artist, a portrait of a clay
potter. And that was a very successful
eight-minute film. It won a ton of
awards and I knew that's what I was
going to be doing. I started my own
company, wrote more grants and did
some more films. One of the films I
wrote a grant for was "Young at Heart"
which then landed an Oscar.
D: Have there been any documen-
taries which have influenced your
SM: No. I am not a film buff by a
long shot. My work is very personal.
I don't take the issue of crime in
America and do those kind of hard
news documentaries. I like to get into
the spirit of people in my films. I have
always felt that real people tell the
stories better then narrators.
D: Could you tell us about
"Young at Heart" and the inspiration
SM: Along the way, everyone of
us has to do something we feel really
good about. After, my mother died ...
I could see my father's spirit was
getting broken down. I felt that my
dad had a lot of living left to do. At
that time, he was 80-something. I
convinced him to go on a painting
tour that I had heard about in En-
gland. He met another woman on that
trip, another artist that was widowed.
They became very good friends, very
close. When they came back from the
trip, we heard they were seeing each
other. I could see life in two people
that were very lonely. It was such a
sweet story and I thought of turning
this into a little film.
D: Could you tell us about your
affiliation with the Academy Awards?
SM: I am now a voting member of
the Academy. I was sponsored by
Larry Kasdan and Jeff Daniels. It's
fun. We receive cassettes and screens
for Academy award nominations.
D: Your choice for best picture?
SM: You select your top five. My
list was "Schindler's List," "Phila-
delphia," "The Remains of the Day,"
"The Piano" and "Strictly Ballroom."
D: Is the Academy biased at all?
SM: They will let you win if you're
small and it seems like the higher
profile documentaries are never nomi-
nated. There have been countless
documentaries that should have, but
because they were in wide release,
like "Road Scholar," they don't. I
think it is a black eye for the Acad-
emy. It's biased. This year, Spielberg
has done wonders and a lot of people
think he should have got it for "The
Color Purple." It's hard to tell if it's a
popularity contest. They're (the Acad-
emy) an interesting breed and I think
if they had their way, they would get
rid of documentaries all together.
SM: When I was out there last
year...I was able to have a conversa-
tion with Robert Rehme, who is head
of the Academy, about the issue of
documentaries. They wanted to drop
the "short doc" this year which would
only lead up to dropping the feature
length "doc." His feeling is because
documentaries are not seen in wide
release, they don't belong in the Acad-
D: What is your number one prob-
lem as a filmmaker?
SM: Budgets. We don't run out of
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voting member of the Academy.
Academy Award winner Sue Marx is now a
ideas. It's also writing grants. Grant
writing takes a lot of time away from
creativity and from actually making
D: Your advice to young film-
SM; Learn to write grants and
proposals. It comes down to how well
you can translate your vision to get
someone who is totally non-creative,
a check writer, to give you money to
fulfill your dream.
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By CHRIS LEPLEY
Kiwi fruits come from New
Zealand, right? Barring those little
green furry things I'd be hard-pressed
to come up with something else worth-
while that we've gotten from that isle
(at least they haven't given us Yahoo
Serious orCrocodile Dundee, though,
unlike their continental neighbor,
Australia). But in my eyes, New
Zealand has redeemed itself with the
release of what has to be the best
zombie movie made in years, "Dead
Yes, even better than the
Technicolor remake of "Night of the
Living Dead" a few years ago, "Dead
Alive" is a hilarious and incredibly
disgusting homage to the classic zom-
bie tradition. It stars a host of un-
knowns (well, they might be known
in N.Z., but in America that kind of
fame rarely counts) who fight the
zombies with cheerful glee and are
never at a loss for a witty remark
during the dispatching.
There always has to be a reason
for zombies. The dead can't just pop
back up without some explanation, or
the audience will revolt, and suspen-
sion of disbelief will be lost. In "Dead
Alive" this is solved with the inven-
tion of a peculiar little animal named
the Sumatran Rat Monkey. Whoever
is bitten by this nasty little thing starts
rotting until they die... but they don't
stay dead very long, thank God.
Our hero is Lionel (Timothy
Balme), a mild-mannered, little man
who lives with his overprotective
Mum (Elizabeth Moody) and is try-
ing to juggle household chores and
his relationship with the beautiful lo-
cal girl Paquita (Diana Pefialver).
When mum is bitten by the dreaded
Sumatran Rat Monkey during a trip to
the zoo, all zombie hell commences
to break loose.
A few hours later and mum is
oozing pus and goop everywhere, and
after a long day of rotting, she passes
away, coming back to life seconds
laterto rip NurseMactavish's (Brenda
Kendall) head from her shoulders (it
flips over backwards, giving us op-
portunities for the patented 'nurse-
head cam' which features upside-
down point-of-view shots of the ac-
tion). Lionel locks mum and the now-
zombified nurse into the basement
and rushes off to the veterinarian for
whichheinjects The Sheer gr
up the zombies'e
noses to put effeCts is wh
ossness of the
at makes this
and the nurse
get a little
Zombie mum zombifies the hooli-
gans, setting the stage for the entrance
of by far the most entertaining char-
acter in the film. Forget those wimpy
priests in "The Exorcist" who hide
behind holy water and rosaries. Fa-
therMcGruder (Stuart Devenile) uses
his fists to "kick ass for the Lord," and
kick ass he does until he too suc-
cumbs to the zombies.
Now Lionel has four zombies in
his basement, and they're soon joined
by a baby zombie after Father
them to sleep. a classic...
L i o n e I
drugs his mum into submission long
enough to get her buried, but he has to
go back to the graveyard late at night
to administer another dose. As he is
digging her up, he is attacked by a
group of hooligans, one of whom de-
cides to relieve himself on mum's
grave."That's my mum you're pissin'
on," Lionel says, right before mum
takes her revenge on the hapless hoo-
ligan and his offending organ.
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Uncle Les (Ian
Watkin) finds out about it and black-
mails Lionel into giving him the house.
Les then has a huge bash, and as you
can guess, there're zombies aplenty
after the party-goers meet the deni-
zens of the basement. All is soon
solved, however, after the party-goers
meet Lionel's little friend, the
This film is not for the squeamish.
The prosthetics designers and 'gore
effects specialists' are listed in the
front credits of the film, and they
deserve it because they obviously got
overworked during this production.
By all means DO NOT rent the rated
version of the film. The sheer gross-
ness of the effects is what makes this
a classic, and without them, it's just a
semi-funny foreign film.
It's in the humor and the wacky
characterizations that "Dead Alive"
rises above the rest of its oft-abused
genre. Father McGruder and Uncle
Les fight zombies with manic glee,
while Lionel just bumbles around in
his button-down sweaters with
zombified intestines crawling up his
pants-leg. The romantic ending where
Lionel escapes from his zombified
mother's womb to be reunited with
Paquita makes this just the perfect
date film. Bring a bucket, and don't
eat spaghetti before you see it.
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