Wizard of Odd
Arlington-based filmmaker Frank Mosley remembers the first movie he ever acted in. It wasn’t directed by him. His father ran the camcorder for a one-boy version of The Wizard of Oz in which the 4-year-old Mosley played all of the major movie parts. His dad also guest-starred as the soldier who announces to the cast: “She’s dead, the witch is dead.”
Cute as that scenario was, it bred an aggressive desire in Mosley to conceive and capture his stories on camera. By the age of nine, he was shooting with a digital camera, making increasingly elaborate horror movies in his backyard featuring school friends and his cousin Megan. The great monsters of Universal Studios, as created by Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, were his obsession then, as befitting a kid who wanted to grow up to be a paranormal investigator and an archeologist. After all of those hours young Frank spent recording mock-serious action in the frame of his own camera, however, it finally dawned on him: This was what he wanted to do with his adult life.
“I think directing movies came out of a desire to act,” the 25-year-old Mosley said. “You want to capture your performance and show it to your friends. But pretty soon I realized there was no need to study archaeology or ghost hunting. I could make movies about those things myself.”
As he grew older, Mosley turned his attention to naturalistic character studies with dark undercurrents. He shot his guerilla-style movies with increasing concentration and care throughout high school and a stint at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he majored in English literature and minored in film. UTA has an unsung film department, he said, one that gave him unfettered access to professional equipment for shooting and editing. The result is a canon of six shorts and one upcoming feature film, all edited on his home Mac and produced under the banner Third Man Productions. His startlingly rich themes of paradox, deception, and displacement are enhanced by fluent, inspired technical chops.
“I have a storehouse of favorite scenes from different movies in my mind,” he said, noting that his reigning influences at the moment include Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Cache) and indie godfather John Cassavetes. “I draw from those as I need to.”
Mosley knows how to edit scenes to stir a maximum amount of tension and sadness from otherwise mundane or even dopey situations. Starting with extensive rehearsals full of goal-driven improvisation, he nudges professional and nonprofessional local actors alike (including his mother and grandmother) to give tight performances that don’t bear the ragged improv scars of self-consciousness and self-indulgence. Theater is another passion, along with the ways dialogue can inflict violence (Albee and Mamet) or be saturated with a melancholy menace (Pinter). Leave, shot in one day, concerns the brief return of a U.S. soldier from Iraq to his home and includes uncomfortable reunions with the recruit’s brother, mother, and best friend. You don’t realize until the film’s over that Mosley has let the loved ones tell this soldier’s backstory in scraps of conversation; the protagonist maintains an aching near-silence throughout. Lion’s Den, also filmed on the quick, is a piercing study of machismo devouring itself. Here, a wild conversation about sexual conquests among male buddies goes awry when it’s discovered why one of them has taken so long in the bathroom. The stagebound Little Boy has a stylized Cold War sheen reminiscent of Todd Haynes’ fetishistic visuals in Poison and Far from Heaven. Full of anxious close-ups, paranoid cuts, and dramatic contrasts of light, it concerns a nuclear scientist who accepts a pivotal role on the atomic bomb development team on the day of his son’s birth. A chilling montage of images comparing creation and destruction follow in the man’s guilty, storm-tossed mind.
It’s all remarkably assured and cleanly executed, maybe the more impressive because Mosley is a multi-tasker — not only as writer-director but also as an effective supporting actor in several of the movies.
In addition to having his work screened at Fort Worth’s Fearless Film Festival, Mosley was a finalist for Narrative Short (for Leave) in the 2008 Mid-Valley Video Festival in Salem, Ore. Little Boy won Best Director and Best Film at the 2007 Dark Horse Film Festival in Denton. Another short, Balls in the Icebox, was screened at the Dallas Museum of Art while Mosley was in college.
He’s currently finishing Hold, his first feature film and the first script from his longtime collaborator, Robbie Storey, who stars in the film as a husband who becomes unhinged after his wife is sexually assaulted. Mosley and Storey are editing the movie and mixing the audio on a Mac program. This time, the film festival net they’re casting is wide and ambitious. Deadlines permitting, the duo plans to submit the film to both Sundance and Cannes, perhaps the two biggest film festivals in the world.
“We’re trying to be realistic and optimistic at the same time,” Mosley said. “I don’t know that my first feature will get a screening at Sundance, but I don’t think Steven Soderbergh expected sex, lies, and videotape to change his life, either.”
For more info, go to www.frankmosley.com. - Jimmy Folwer
The remarkable art collection of Fort Worth’s A.C. “Ace” Cook has been exhibited at museums in Tyler and San Angelo in the past year but has finally made its way back home to North Texas. And now might be the time to go to the University of North Texas and check out these paintings by the state’s early artists. Cook, who is battling cancer, is planning to sell his collection of several hundred paintings. He has “had them all over the United States, and [the paintings] love it — they love to perform,” he has said. But beating cancer had become Cook’s priority, and he’s decided it’s time to let someone else control the collection that took him a quarter-century to compile.
“When you’re in a death match, you don’t have time to get involved,” he told Fort Worth Weekly last summer, shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “I don’t have time to worry about small shit. I have to worry about living and getting the most out of it.”
He is seeking a buyer who will keep the collection together and on public display, but there is no certainty that will happen.
Cook began acquiring his storied assortment of paintings by early Texas artists, known as The Hock Shop Collection, when he was a Fort Worth pawnshop owner. He later sold his business to Cash America, bought a defunct uniform business in the Stockyards, and sank hundreds of thousands of dollars into redecorating that building into The Bull Ring, an ice cream and beer parlor that doubles as an art museum. Cook’s personal collection rivals those found in many art museums and includes major works by the state’s most celebrated painters, as well as lesser-known works by minority artists. – Jeff Prince