YES! Weekly’s ten best movies with Triad ties…

by Jordan Green

Critical Condition, 1987

This comedy of errors featuring one of America’s most wicked satirists began the Triad’s run as a contender for location shooting. High Point got the film thanks in large part to the recent completion of Jake Froelich’s new film studio and the fact that the city had a vacant hospital. Pryor plays con artist Eddie Lenahan-cum-physician Dr. Kevin Slattery. If that’s not enough enticement, the movie also casts Panamanian salsero Ruben Blades. You can imagine the fun.

George Washington, 2000

Written and directed by David Gordon Green, an Arkansas-born auteur who graduated from Winston-Salem’s NC School of the Arts in 1998, George Washington won many fans for its vivid cinematography, which took advantage of Winston-Salem’s 7th Street and an abandoned industrial site near Interstate 40 to provide a setting for the movie’s coming-of-age story.

Junebug, 2005

Shot in Winston-Salem and the surrounding countryside in the summer of 2004, Junebug originated as play written by a local named Angus MacLachlan two decades earlier. It wears its Southern accents on its sleeve, which helps drive the film’s dynamic of family tension between an abandoned wife/gallery owner and her eccentric in-laws. Painter David Wark, played by Frank Hoyt Taylor, is the initial reason for the gallery owner’s foray into the South. Our staff writer Amy Kingsley wrote that he “emerges as the disruptive force ready to fracture the family over loyalties to work or kin. In his first moments on screen, the actor delivers a stream of incoherent babble occasionally interrupted by brilliant pronouncements.”

Life Is Not A Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story (television), 2006

We feel somewhat slighted that Fantasia pulled up stakes and left the Triad after her phenomenal success two years ago with “American Idol”; we could use more astute in-house critics like her shining the spotlight on her hometown High Point’s substandard schools and rough economic transition from furniture center to who-knows-what. So we tip our hats to her for the Aug. 19 cable television premiere of her auto-biopic on Lifetime. Life is not a fairy tale. Even when your name comes from the Princess Line of fine crystal and gifts.

Two Soldiers (short), 2003

Based on a William Faulkner short story originally published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1942, Aaron Schneider’s directorial debut about the personal upheaval experienced by two brothers in Mississippi at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack was filmed around Winston-Salem. Schneider decided to make it a short film, spending a miniscule $200,000, so it could remain a labor of love. And he won an Academy Award for it. “Aaron felt this was an area he could shoot the film in and add authenticity,” producer Andrew Sacks told the Screen Actors Guild. “The film takes place in rural Mississippi, 1941, which we didn’t feel like we could find in LA. Everything we wanted was there, the recruitment center and the farm.” Now, that’s love.

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, 1992

A Liverpudlian horror writer who attended the same schools as John Lennon, Clive Barker had been the object of cultish devotion for many years. When he launched the Hellraiser cinematic franchise, it cemented his mainstream appeal. Hell On Earth was shot at Market Square in downtown High Point. The synopsis conveys a sense of the fanciful terror in Barker’s tale: “TV reporter Joey Summerskill is on assignment at a local hospital when a bloodied teenaged boy is rushed into the emergency room. As Joey watches the writhing boy is literally torn apart by chains impaling his body. Fleeing the carnage, Joey follows the victim’s girlfriend to a downtown nightclub, the Boiler Room. In the apartment above the Boiler Room rests the owner’s newly purchased sculpture: a pillar etched with distorted figures and faces.”

He Got Game, 1998

Featuring a stellar lineup of Denzel Washington, Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, Ned Beatty, John Turturro and lead actor Ray Allen as high school player Jesus Shuttlesworth, this is considered director Spike Lee’s definitive statement on basketball, but it’s also about many other things, including father-son relationships. It’s a chronicle of corruption in college-level sports recruiting -‘ sordid stuff apparently. And it was cause for the reunion of rap group Public Enemy 10 years after It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Righteous.

Cabin Fever, 2002

The first full-length feature by director Eli Roth, this campy horror movie featuring a group of teenagers embarking on an ill-advised camping trip was shot at Raven Knob Boy Scout Camp and Priddy’s General Store in Surry County, along with the Davidson County hospital and locations in Davie and Randolph counties. It features local actor Robert Harris as the crusty storeowner. And it’s one of Piedmont Triad Film Commission Director Rebecca Clark’s favorite Triad movies. “There’s sex; there’s violence; there’s gore,” she says. “I think those are things that are very near and dear to Eli’s heart. He’s a fun and talented guy.”

Lolita, 1997

With Chinqua-Penn Plantation temporarily closed for renovation after its recent purchase by Mocksville’s Calvin Phelps from NC State University, would-be tourists might consider renting Lolita, the 1997 adaptation of the literary work by Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov, parts of which were shot inside the home of Thomas Jefferson and Beatric Schoellkopf Penn. That is, only if you can handle the extreme creepiness of Jeremy Irons uttering: “She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo’… Lee’… Ta.”

Mr. Destiny, 1990

A favorite of one of our marketing executives, Mike Hall, this picture uses the old RJ Reynolds headquarters as a set piece for a corporate morality tale (although if you assumed the target was Big Tobacco, you would be wrong) and the metaphysical folly of wanting to be someone else. “When your life really does change you get all the perks, and you find out it’s not really what you want,” Halls says, explaining the movie’s appeal. James Belushi as the protagonist. Michael Caine as the bartender/angel. Cameos of Ernie Shore Field and Horne’s Garage. Gotta love it.