Horton Hears a "Wha?"

Turns out Entertainment Weekly, not High Times, is a co-sponsor of the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards handed out each March to unofficially herald the opening of the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. Still, during Friday night's shindig at the Austin Studios, some of us couldn't help but wonder what was in the goody bags by the time Peter Fonda and Matthew McConaughey (honoring the Weedmaster General himself, Woody Harrelson) got done with their incoherent, dawdling speeches, some time around Tuesday at 3:12 p.m. Awright, awright awready, Matt--put yer shirt on and get to the point. Or at least light it already.

"Someone should send these assholes to Public Speaking 101," grumbled Tender Merciesco-star and former Dallasite Tess Harper, around the time Farrah Fawcett was onstage calling her folks on a cell phone. "Mommy? Daddy? I'm on stage? The audience is out there."No, Ms. Fawcett, you are.

Harper had come to the site of the former airport to pay homage to Horton Foote, the former Dallasite who'd written Tender Mercies, for which Robert Duvall won a best actor Oscar. (Duvall was in attendance, honoring the man who'd written five films in which he's appeared.) You understand the Foote note--he's got a Pulitzer and an Oscar and a body of work bigger than Andre the Giant. The least you can do is give him a gold-plated film canister, which is the Hall of Fame's door prize.

Yet, for some reason, the Film Society honored the 1969 Easy Rider. The night's emcee, former Governor Ann Richards explained, hey, "part of it was filmed in Texas." Fact is, it was writtenby a Texan: Alvarado-born, Dallas-bred Terry Southern, who also penned the screenplays for, among others, The Cincinnati Kid and Dr. Strangelove. But Fonda, in a frightening, never-ending speech that suggested he was 9 cents into a dime bag, neglected to mention Southern. He mentioned his other connections to Texas: He's married to the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Davy Crockett, shot four movies in Texas (bet he couldn't name 'em Friday night) and...uh...where's the meat loaf? But Fonda neglected, once more, to give credit to Southern, who wrote a majority of the script, then gave it to Fonda and Dennis Hopper in a gesture of good faith and good will, thinking they would one day pay him back for his kindness. Maybe Fonda just rolled his stash in the thank-you note and smoked the sucker.

Then again, the Southern dis is just par for the one-hole course: The Film Society inducted this year Tobe Hooper (director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacreand Poltergeist) and Farrah Fawcett (some movies, a TV show, a poster) and Dooley Wilson (piano-playing Sam in Casablanca). It honored Harrelson for his work on the environment (by smoking it up one ounce at a time). It honored the late Eagle Pennell, a maker of fine experimental films in the '70s and '80s. But it's yet to induct into its ranks Southern, which is like keeping Willie Mays out of the Cooperstown. Maybe Texas Monthlyeditor Evan Smith, a co-director, will consider it--unless McConaughey's available for a Lifetime Achievement Award, in which case...Hey, I'd raise a stink about this, but where are the free drinks in that?

Personal highlight, if I may: Owen Wilson, with whom I took driver's-ed in 1984, wondered why I picked on him in my Shanghai Knightsreview.

"You said I deliver every line of dialogue like I just took a bong hit," he said, sounding like he'd just taken a bong hit.

"I kid because I love," I said, dripping sweat. "Actually, you raised the bar with your first movie. I wish you'd stop crawling under it."

I don't think he heard the last part, though. He was busy talking to Peter Fonda, who mistook him for Dennis Hopper.

 
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