by Anthony King
When I hear that someone close to me is violently opposed to human rights or chooses the selfish route instead of what's good for society as a whole, I have no problem cutting them out of my life. We have history? So long. We share DNA? Farewell. We were inseparable as children and practically grew up together? Auf widersehen. Goodbye. I'm a cold-hearted sonofabitch, I know. But when I hear an artist whose work I love is violently opposed to human rights or chooses the selfish route instead of what's good for society as a whole, things differ a tad from my previous stance. While I have no problem publicly referring to that person as trash and calling them out, if I have history with their work, and particularly a history of fond memories, I will continue to watch and, for the most part, enjoy their work. It's a tricky road on a slippery slope we navigate constantly. There isn't an easy answer, if there is one at all. Harkening back to my cold heart, though, I can compartmentalize and separate easily; sometimes to my own detriment.
As President and CEO of Sadvember, Split Image is a genre-bending, heart-wrenching depression chamber of a family drama. Michael O'Keefe is standout college gymnast Danny Stetson. Raised in affluence, Danny's childhood and family life seems cold and sterile with Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Ashley as his parents. One day on campus a beautiful young woman catches Danny's eye and invites him to a movie night at the community center where she works. The beautiful young woman? Karen Allen as Rebecca. (Side note: I would do whatever Karen Allen asked of me, including but not limited to joining a cult.) Rebecca invites Danny to a weekend retreat at a place called “Homeland” where we meet our Jim Jones: Kirklander, played by Peter Fonda. Over the course of the weekend, Danny drops all skepticism of “Homeland”, gets the worst haircut you've ever seen, changes his name to Joshua, and leaves behind his old life. Mom and Dad are concerned and hire Charles Pratt (Woods) to kidnap Danny/Joshua to undo the brainwashing done by Kirklander and Homeland.
Split Image deserves an entire podcast discussion because it's rich in so many ways: themes, performances, techniques. But lo, I'm here hardly skimming the surface and apologizing for my affinity for James woods. And I leave with this question on my mind: between this, Gymkata, Never Too Young to Die, and a few others, what was our fascination with gymnastics in film during the '80s?