Thursday, March 08, 2007


The Leap: Indie filmmakers Mark and Michael Polish make a successful jump to studio movies with ‘The Astronaut Farmer’

Filmmaking brothers Mark and Michael Polish (L-R Michael Polish, Mark Polish and cameraman M. David Mullen on location)knew nothing of working with a production designer when they left behind the independent film world for the Warner Bros. family adventure “The Astronaut Farmer.” What makes the Brothers Polish’s leap into studio moviemaking, complete with a treasure chest of technical resources, so successful is how they blend their quirky sense of storytelling with child-friendly fantasy and feel-good sentimentality.
Billy Bob Thornton stars as Charles Farmer, a former Air Force pilot who has dedicated his life to building a rocket at his Texas farm and piloting it into space. Finally, he’s found an eccentric character equal to his own oddball personality. Virginia Madsen brims with easygoing charm as his wife Audie. Tim Blake Nelson is aw-shucks brilliant as a small-town lawyer helping Farmer fight against government officials who want to prevent his rocket flight.
Michael Polish makes the larger leap since he’s the one in the director’s chair, although Mark Polish is in front of the camera as one of the FBI Agents watching Farmer.
“The Astronaut Farmer” is as beautiful to watch as earlier Polish brothers films, their 1999 debut drama “Twin Falls Idaho” and subsequent films “Jackpot” and “Northfork.” More importantly, their thumb prints, their distinct way of looking at the world and telling stories, remains intact.
The Polish brothers are authors of the book “The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking,” a manifesto for self-produced moviemaking. But their next production is the sci-fi drama “I.D.,” another big-budget studio movie. Looks like they may need to write a new chapter to their book, explaining how one can remain creatively independent within the studio system without being Martin Scorsese or Clint Eastwood.

I was a little disappointed with the Astronaut Farmer, but I still have a lot of time for the Polish brothers ... all their movies do indeed have a unique look, so I hope they can hold onto that as their budgets get bigger and bigger
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