LLAMA DROPPINGS - VOLUME 2
by Hans ten Cate
Thursday, 20 May 1999

Here is another installment of "Llama Droppings" - bits of news other people have flushed down the loo, and which somehow ended up here at the Daily Llama. If you have any interesting Python news items of your own and would like to share them with other fans, please write us. If you're interested in keeping up with the year's events, be sure and also visit the 1999 Pythonology, right here at the Daily Llama!

MONTY PYTHON SPEAKS!... TO VANITY FAIR

David Morgan's book Monty Python Speaks! comes out later this month but it has already made an appreciable appearance on the pages of Vanity Fair (June 1999 edition). The eight-page magazine spread, as the book, features highlights from interviews conducted by David Morgan with the members of Monty Python and their former colleagues.

David Morgan was kind to send the Daily Llama an update about the UK edition (and a striking cover image) being published by 4th Estate.

In the book, members of Monty Python recount their monumental comedic collaboration and their brilliant career in television, film and other media. The Pythons offer in their own words a unique, first-hand look at the creative process in all its glory, while providing the most revealing story yet of the most successful comedy group in television and film history. Joining the Pythons are some of the chief co-conspirators from the Flying Circus days including the BBC's Barry Took, director Ian MacNaughton, producer John Goldstone, actress Carol Cleveland, the late Graham Chapman's companion David Sherlock, and the legendary Douglas Adams.

Illustrated with rare backstage photographs (some never before published), Monty Python Speaks! is an incomparable first-person look into a beloved collective mind: the Pythons' meeting, their shared humor, their clashes, and their struggles to maintain artistic control over their work. The book is also listed in the Monty Python Bibliography here at the Daily Llama.

David Morgan is also web-author of Wide Angle/Closeup - The Terry Gilliam Files.

JOHN CLEESE MAKES SPLASH AT SOFTWARE CONFERENCE

John Cleese speaks at Solutions '99

John Cleese spoke recently at Solutions '99, a software user's conference hosted by Hyperion Solutions Corporation. The three-day event, which opened April 26 at one of the Disney resort hotels in Orlando, Florida, was attended by a record-breaking audience of 3,500 waiting to hear from software-developer Hyperion and guest speakers.

Cleese, who from time to time lectures (for a fee) on corporate productivity and management issues, was part of the first day's General Session. He delivered a speech he sometimes does called "Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind," based on Guy Claxton's book of the same name, on the perils of quick thinking and the benefits of slow thinking.

"When it comes to innovation," Cleese said in his address, "Hare-Brain thinking can solve problems... But when we try to be genuinely creative, to perceive the bigger picture, to see the future first, we need to go much wider than Hare-Brain thinking. We now need to start thinking outside the box."

Of course, Cleese's speeches are never without large doses of humour laced throughout... "Which leaves just one final question really," Cleese said in closing, "Why should a company like Hyperion be so philanthropic as to pay me very generously to share my personal problems with you? I have a hunch (laughter from audience)... I have a hunch that I'm missing the bigger picture. Thank you."

BURN HOLLYWOOD BURN SWEEPS RAZZIES

Burn Hollywood Burn: An Alan Smithee Film received a record five Golden Raspberry Awards this year on March 20. The Golden Raspberries, or Razzies as they are commonly known in Hollywood, were announced the day before the Academy Awards and recognized the worst in film for 1998. Although our very own Eric Idle had the (mis)fortune to be a part of this project, he was not the unenviable cause of the film's failure and did not receive a Razzie nomination.

In case any of you missed it (and most of you probably did, as the studios pulled the film out of circulation barely a week after the film's debut), the film concerns a director named Alan Smithee (played by Idle) who has shot an action film called Trio. He's so dissatisfied with it that he decides to disassociate himself from the project -- but, since his name is precisely the same as the official Director's Guild of America pseudonym used for directors who take their names off films, there's no way to take his name off. So he kidnaps the negative and threatens to burn it.

The irony of this film is that Joe Eszterhas, already a Razzie-winning screenwriter for Showgirls, himself seized control of Burn Hollywood Burn from its director Arthur Hiller following a disastrous preview showing. Hiller had his name removed from the film, leaving An Alan Smithee Film to be directed by Alan Smithee!

Despite the deliciously coincidental scandal, the film was roundly trashed by film critics from coast-to-coast as well as by Golden Raspberry Awards Foundation members. The film won a total five Razzies (a record), including Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay (the aptly named The Joe Eszterhas Dis-Honorarial Worst Screenplay Award went to Joe Eszterhas).

Eric Idle attempts to save Burn Hollywood Burn as Alan Smithee
  • Worst Picture - An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn! (Hollywood Pictures) Produced by Ben Myron
  • Worst Supporting Actor- Joe Ezterhas (As Himself) Burn, Hollywood, Burn!
  • The Joe Eszterhas Dis-Honorarial Worst Screenplay Award - An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn! Written by Joe Eszterhas
  • Worst New Star (Another TIE!) - Joe Ezsterhas (As Himself) An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn and Jerry Springer, Ringmaster (Artisan Entertainment)
  • Worst "Original" Song - "I Wanna Be Mike Ovitz!" from Burn, Hollywood, Burn! Written by Joe Eszterhas and Gary G. Wiz

A light-hearted spoof of award shows in general (and the Oscars in particular) the Razzies were created in 1980 by John Wilson, the author of Everything I Know I Learned At The Movies. This year's Razzie "Winners" were determined by ballots mailed to about 475 Foundation members (film professionals, journalists and movie fans) throughout 36 U.S. states and several foreign countries. The Razzie Award itself, a golf-ball sized plastic raspberry atop a reel of Super-8 film which has been spray-painted gold, has a current inflation-adjusted street value of about $7.29.

TERRY JONES DIRECTS IMAX FILM, STARRING CLEESE!

Terry Jones has created a new IMAX-format short film for the opening of the new British Film Institute's IMAX cinema in London's South Bank. The cinema, which opened 1 May 1999, is a 482-seat, state-of-the-art, large-format cinema boasting the UK's largest cinema screen. IMAX is a Canadian large-format film technology featuring some of the world's largest best-quality film.

Terry Jones' and John Cleese's opening IMAX piece aims to show off the virtues of IMAX in general and the BFI IMAX in particular. It starts with a large black screen and total silence. Suddenly, an argument breaks out in the projection room between John Cleese and Terry Jones (broadcast over the rear speakers). We hear Cleese walking round the side of the cinema, and then see him emerge on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Cleese extols the virtues of a large format screen and explains in numerous metaphors how big the IMAX screen actually is, walking from right to left and taking a lift up to the top as he does so (and suddenly falling off when he gets to the top).

A scantily-clad woman then hands him a bomb in order to demonstrate the power of the IMAX sound system, which explodes and blows him out of the BFI IMAX and several thousand miles up in the air - an effect which fills, for the first time, the entire IMAX screen. Once he's reached a height sufficient to see the entire planet (surprising a passing space station), he falls back to earth, through the roof of the IMAX cinema and hits the floor, somewhat the worse for wear.

Jones mentioned that BFI had first asked Gilliam to make the opening composition, but Gilliam was too busy with other projects. It was nice that BFI had settled on a Pythonesque version of the film, asking Jones and Cleese to provide their talents instead.

The £20-million BFI London IMAX Cinema features the UK's biggest cinema screen, soaring more than 20 meters high - nearly the height of five double-decker buses - and stretching more than 26 metres wide; an 11,600-watt digital surround-sound system; and an IMAX projection system.

The British Film Institute (BFI) is an organization dedicated to promoting greater understanding and appreciation of, and access to, film and moving image culture in the United Kingdom. BFI's IMAX theater is located in London's South Bank.

Thanks go to Phil Stubbs (phil@dreams.u-net.com) for passing along information about the Terry Jones/John Cleese IMAX film. Please visit his very wonderful Terry Gilliam Fanzine at http://www.smart.co.uk/dreams/

MONTY PYTHON NEWSLETTER SAY NO MORE BEGINS DISTRIBUTION

This past March, two young Python fans debuted the Monty Python fanzine "SaY No MoRe." The 16-page publication is available on a subscription basis and features news and trivia about the Pythons as well games and other Python-related miscellany. The very engaging newsletter borrows liberally from other Python sources on the web, including the Daily Llama, but adds just enough original material to make this publication a jolly good read.

The authors, Sandy (pythonnerd@aol.com) and Erin (eep78@aol.com), have tried to revive the printed Python newsletter concept which Sheila Gibson ("It's") and Kim Howard Johnson ("The Complate Monty Python") had developed into such a success in the 1980s.

For the first issue, the writers took an informal poll on America Online, asking 100 Monty Python fans the question "Who's Your Favorite Python Member?" The results poured in and the first Monty Python popularity contest was won by omnipresent John Cleese (26%), followed closely by omniprescient Eric Idle (24%). Both Terrys finished last, no doubt a result of their largely behind-the-camera (read: less visible) roles these days.

To obtain copies of "SaY No MoRe," they can be purchased for about $4 to $6 per copy by check, money order, or cash (US funds only). For further subscription information visit the SaY No MoRe website: http://members.aol.com/pythonnerd/bizcard/index.htm.

JOHN CLEESE DOCUMENTARY LOSES AT BAFTAS

The winners of the 1999 British Academy Television Awards were announced at a star-studded ceremony on Sunday 9th May at the Grosvenor House Hotel. The annual awards, presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), are the United Kingdom's equivalent of the U.S. Academy Awards and recognize the best in film and television programming.

In the category for "Originality," recognizing original programming, John Cleese's documentary "Born to be Wild" stood proudly among three other nominees. The full list of nominees in the category for Originality were:

  • Born To Be Wild: Operation Lemur with John Cleese (BBC1)
  • Channel 5 News (Channel 5)
  • The Human Body (BBC1)
  • King Of Chaos (Channel 4)
John Cleese's documentary was, no doubt, inspired by his work on the film Fierce Creatures and his subsequent association with conservation groups like that of Gerald Durrell. The documentary reports how the survival of lemurs is threatened by the gradual destruction of their habitat. John Cleese introduces us to the life of these cheerful creatures, how they live and what their problems are. John Cleese's mission is saving the lemurs to prevent their disappearance from the earth. Operation Lemur with John Cleese was a production of Tigress Productions for the BBC series "In The Wild..."

Sadly, Born to be Wild did not take home a BAFTA award. Instead, "The Human Body" swept that and several other categories, including Best Factual Series.

The BAFTA Television Awards recognise and reward excellence in British Television. The first television awards were presented in 1954 but were merged into one Awards ceremony incorporating both Film and Television in 1969. In 1999, for the second year running the ceremony was again separated, with Film and Television having their own set of awards.