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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 24, 2005

Father's death changes writer-director

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Best known for his comedic chops, kama'aina writer-director Chris Palzis is in the midst of perhaps his most serious and heartfelt project to date.

Palzis, who wrote, directed and produced the film "Bad Trip" (just released on DVD), has made a career mining inspiration from everyday life — usually with humorous results. But his artistic response to the recent death of his father, Peter, is taking Palzis in a different direction.

Peter Palzis died of pancreatic cancer last October at the age of 67. "It happened very quickly," Chris Palzis said. "And it shook me to my utter core.

"My first seven scripts were very light comedies, almost slapstick," he said. "But when my dad passed away, I switched gears. It made me step back and reflect. I want to contribute something besides laughter. I want to write a piece that is more substantive, something that says more."

Palzis, whose sister is actress Kelly Preston, is working on a screenplay based on his father's experience. Regardless of how commercially viable the project may or may not be, he says he's committed to bringing it to the screen.

"It's a warm piece," he says. "I think it can be commercially successful."

But Palzis has more immediate tasks at hand. In addition to promoting the release of the "Bad Trip" DVD, he's also developing a new feature project with Lion's Gate Films tentatively titled "One Night Stand." The film is a comedy about a woman who has a one-nighter with a famous actor and becomes a lovelorn stalker.

Palzis, who grew up in Kaimuki and graduated from Punahou, has worked in various capacities on 20 major studio productions, including "As Good As It Gets," "Jerry Maguire" and "Primary Colors." He's also produced and directed a number of short films and music videos.

Palzis has gained attention as much for his creative business approach as his filmmaking.

He self-financed the Coolio and Krayzie Bone music video "I Don't Wanna Die," which served as a prequel for "Bad Trip." The video eventually helped Palzis land a distribution deal for "Bad Trip" through Lion's Gate.

Palzis shot another video with Coolio ("Ghetto Square Dance"), which will be released this summer.

Palzis, who lives in Playa del Rey, Calif., says he still has difficulty reconciling his career with his love for Hawai'i.

"The big challenge is this business rips you away from Hawai'i," he says.

HIFF summer Fun

The Hawaii International Film Festival's 25th birthday party continues tomorrow with a trio of films at the Hawai'i Theatre Center.

The HIFF Summer Saturday kicks off at 12:30 p.m. with the French psychological drama "The Beat That My Heart Skipped." Based on James Toback's cult favorite "Fingers," the film tells the story of a petty criminal who seeks redemption through the piano.

The second film, screening at 3:30 p.m., is "Mughal-E-Azam," a 1960 Bollywood extravaganza based on the legendary love between Prince Salim, son of the Mughal emperor Akbar, and a dancer named Anarkali.

The event wraps with the South Korean feel-good film "Marathon" at 7:30 p.m. The film, which is doing runaway business at the Korean box office, follows the exploits of an autistic distance runner and his washed-up coach.

Pick of the Week

Light on dialogue and long on emotional restraint, Haruki Murakami's short story "Tony Taki-tani" would seem to be an unlikely choice for the big screen.

But in the hands of Jun Ichikawa, the prolific Japanese director known for his quiet, meticulously constructed and precisely executed scenes, the story is given a visual life that mimics the spare eloquence of the prose.

The film opens today at Signature's Dole Cannery Stadium 18.

The title character is a lonely, emotionally neglected son of a jazz musician who grows up to be a lonely, emotionally stunted illustrator of technical drawings. His life changes when he falls in love and marries a woman who, he later learns, is addicted to designer clothes.

When tragedy strikes, Tony Takitani is returned, now fully conscious, to the airless void that used to be his life.

While not exactly the feel-good flick of the summer, "Tony Taki-tani" is nonetheless well worth the viewing.

On a side note, it's no coincidence Murakami's character bears the same name as the former state legislator from Maui.

As reported by The Advertiser's Timothy Hurley, Murakami bought a secondhand "Tony Taki-tani" campaign T-shirt during a visit to Maui several years ago.

While the film character is not in any way based on the real Taki-tani, Murakami has said that thoughts evoked by the name on the shirt spurred him to write the story.

Foul call

Is someone trying to break up the perfect game pitched by the indie documentary "Up for Grabs?"

The film, co-produced by former Honolulu resident Michael Lindenberger, chronicles the strange public standoff that ensued when two baseball fans each claimed rights to Barry Bonds' record-setting 73rd home run ball in 2001.

Since its release last year, "Up for Grabs" has screened to uniformly glowing reviews at festivals across the country, including last year's Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival. That is, until the film rolled through San Francisco last month.

In a widely circulated e-mail, Lindenberger cried foul at a spate of negative reviews posted on the "Yahoo Movies" site during the film's final weekend.

"How positively the film has been received in general makes us wonder if foul play could be involved," Lindenberger wrote. "The fact that all of these reviews occurred over a single weekend and the way they were written makes this look like an organized effort."

Could it be a conspiracy by people sympathetic to Alex Popov, the litigant who comes off looking like a publicity-hungry opportunist in the film? Or are folks in the Bay Area, where the legal drama played out, simply a tough audience?

Lindenberger is convinced it's a coordinated attack, but he told The Advertiser he'd prefer not to speculate about the origin.

Still, he said, "the type of smear campaign that we're dealing with can really devastate an indie film like 'Up for Grabs' that relies so heavily on word-of-mouth."

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2461.