Articles

Write Up In the Huffington Post

David Tereshchuk wrote a phenomenal piece on our screening at SXSW for the Huffington Post. We’ve posted it here below….

One Armed Man Is a Triumph in Its Medium, If Overlooked

We came from all over the world to this three-sided, multimedia party known as the South By South West festivals, celebrating film, music and internet culture. But death cast a pall over its later days.

The first fatalities to occur in SXSW’s 27-year history — two dead plus 23 people injured after a possibly drunk or drug-addled driver plowed into a festival crowd — came after the Interactive segment finished, but as the film division stoically continued until yesterday and the music events still went on until today.

Most of the film awards were announced at the weekend, on the whole going to well-deserved examples of that medium, from documentaries through narrative dramas to inventive animations.

But in my view one supremely well-made short dramatic film ended up somewhat overlooked formally — though it received fulsome praise from leading industry lights such as director Gus Van Sant (“a great piece of work, I want everyone to see it”), actor/director Ed Harris (“Acted superbly, shot beautifully, and directed with confidence and subtlety”), and actor/screenwriter Matt Damon (“a stellar piece of work”).

2014-03-17-1armedman.jpgMaybe — I hazard to guess —One Armed Man, a directorial debut by Tim Guinee, was just a little too grim for attendees to vote for en masse in the suddenly deflated mood of Austin. (An additional sad grimness might also derive from the fact that this intense depiction lasting 27 minutes of a horrific death — set in 1920s Texas — was executive produced by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the movie is now respectfully and lovingly dedicated).

It is pretty much an actors’ film, probably no surprise since director Guinee is best known as an actor himself. He’s become familiar on TV for his roles in episodic thrillers like NBC’s Revolution and Showtime’s Homeland (where he plays a CIA operational supervisor, displaying tightly concentrated but calm competence, leavened with all the professional, even anxious wariness that would be necessary).

His One Armed Man is based on a Horton Foote one-act play – again something that’s not especially surprising since Guinee is also known for having married a daughter of the Texan (well, also American, international and universal) dramatist. That’s not the actress, Hallie Foote, but the writer, Daisy Foote.

The compelling drive of the film concerns the unshakable insistence of a young man (played in spooky unhinged fashion by John Magaro, pictured above) who has recently had his arm ripped off by a cotton gin. And that machinery’s inescapable noise repeatedly invades our senses as we watch him press his case with the business-owner (played by Charles Haid). His case — horribly unanswerable — is that the boss should give him back his arm.

“I’ve a strong sense that self-justification may well be just about the worst sin there is,” Guinee told me as we spoke in one of Austin’s few quiet nooks during “South-By.” And it’s certainly true that the owner, referred to throughout by his initials C.W., spends much of his fraught encounter with the injured man trying to justify himself — while also pontificating about the virtues of American business.

“Horton gets compared a lot to Chekhov, and with good reason — mainly for his enormous subtlety with sub-text,” Guinee reflected. “I’ve acted in several of Horton’s pieces on stage and on film, and once you think you’ve understood the meaning of a character’s lines, you’ll then uncover a whole new layer, and then even more.”

The drama’s denouement, almost inevitable in its explosion of violence, nevertheless left the Austin audience stunned and — more than a touch — ethically wrongfooted.

One of “The Rules” in this medium full of rules (mostly proclaimed, of course, only to be broken) is, the director ruefully recalled being told: “If you’re gonna make a short, do NOT make a period short.” Guinee has in fact paid meticulous attention to the artifacts and the mood of an American rural industry on the verge of the Great Depression’s catastrophe … and at the same time his small movie speaks loudly to our modern world and our moral debasements with a powerful timelessness.

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Articles

Write Up from Akron Beacon Journal

From the Akron Beacon Journal

Magaro stars in Cleveland fest film

Actor-director Tim Guinee remembers the stress of getting his short film One Armed Man up and running. It was not just that this was his screen directing debut. Money was tight; the actors would get no more than union scale, and friends and colleagues would offer helping hands with costumes and other elements.

He was also worried about Stow-Munroe Falls High School graduate John Magaro who was lined up for a major role, but Guinee was afraid Magaro would bolt if a bigger role in a movie or TV came along.

While the short film had some impressive names attached — Philip Seymour Hoffman was an executive producer, and the words are from the great Horton Foote — it was still a small piece. And not long before, Magaro had gotten strong notices in New York City for his work in the play Good Television, and he had starred in the big-screen film Not Fade Away.

Guinee’s casting director, David Caparelliotis, said not to worry: Magaro was in, regardless of what else was waved in front of him. Guinee could not be happier.

“John is astounding,” Guinee said in a recent phone chat. While Caparelliotis had recommended Magaro after working with him on Good Television, Guinee had not seen him in performance.

“His part was the one part in the thing where we had open casting calls, and I felt like he just blew the roof off the place,” Guinee said. “Nobody else was anywhere close to doing what he did. He’s an extraordinary young actor. I think he’s like the new Al Pacino.”

Magaro, 31, did not think about the attraction of bigger, more commercial work,

“I’ve always said that I want to work on things that I care about, and scripts that resonate for me personally,” he said in a separate phone interview. “This, first of all, it’s Horton Foote, so you know it’s solid material. And then when I read it, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.

“It’s a short film. There’s not much that comes out of doing a short film except the experience and the fun of being a part of it. But I knew that I wanted to play this character, and it could challenge me in a way I hadn’t been challenged before. So when you get those opportunities, you have to jump at them.”

One Armed Man will show at the Cleveland International Film Festival in short-film programs at noon Tuesday and 4:35 p.m. Wednesday in Tower City Cinemas. Based on a one-act play by Foote (Tender Mercies, the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird), it focuses on the conflict between two men in 1920s Texas.

Cotton-gin operator C.W. Rowe (Charles Haid) is getting daily visits from a worker named Ned (Magaro) who lost an arm in a gin accident. While the businessman keeps avoiding Ned — offering him money through an assistant — the workman wants a meeting where he can directly make his daily request: Give me back my arm. Inevitably, the two face each other — the self-confident, I-know-best rich man up against the poor fella with the determination (and the voice) of a buzzing fly that will not be shooed away.

The voice specifically puts Magaro in a different place than previous roles. Part whine, part snarl, it gets into your head as much as it does into Rowe’s.

“The voice was suggested by Tim,” Magaro said in an email follow-up to our first chat. “Ned is east Texas and poor. He works and lives in places where the ‘well to do’ … will never really be found. Because of that Ned doesn’t just have a typical Texas dialect.  It’s something you might find more in the bayous. So that dialect was originally intended by Horton Foote and Tim wanted it for the film.”

Guinee is a close observer of Foote’s work, and of Foote himself. The writer is the father of Guinee’s wife, Daisy, and Guinee has acted in productions of works by Foote (who died in 2009). Guinee even played Ned in a stage version of One Armed Man.

“It obviously struck some kind of deep chord emotionally for me,” Guinee said, He sees it as a piece rich in issues — violence, and self-justification, and the disparity between CEOs and factory workers — all of which still matter today. The tightness of the story — set almost entirely in Rowe’s office — also made it more manageable for a first-time director.

Not that Guinee came across as a rookie to Magaro.

“I really enjoy working with actor-directors,” he said. “I’ve worked with a few. It makes an actor’s job easier to have a director who gets what you’re doing. There are certainly other directors who can do that. But I feel like maybe with actors who have been doing it a long time, sometimes they transition into the director’s role a little easier. And I certainly feel like Tim transitioned into the director’s role very nicely.”

Hoffman was helpful with notes and suggestions, especially during post-production, and his death in February is still being felt. Magaro, though he did not get to meet Hoffman, called him “a tremendous actor.” Guinee said, “As a friend and collaborator, I miss Phil terribly and feel his loss profoundly.”

One Armed Man keeps going. It has been shown at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, “which was really nice because it’s a Texas film, and Tim is from there,” Magaro said. “It got a nice notice in the Huffington Post. But (Cleveland) will be its second screening, and then it might play some other festivals. So it’s nice that it’s getting close to my home turf.”

Magaro followed up the shooting of One Armed Man in the summer of 2013 with a theater workshop, an independent film called Don’t Worry Baby and then a little something called Unbroken.

“I don’t have much to say about that yet,” he said, “but that’s expected to come out at Christmas.”

Other people, though, will have plenty to say about it. The film is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-seller and directed by Angelina Jolie. But by Christmas, Magaro may be off making another independent movie or a short, continuing his movement among “things that I care about.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.