Then I Was An Extra In A Friend’s Movie

Hi Blogosphere! I’ve missed you! Sorry I’ve been such a slacker of late. I had a situation or two arise that I had to put to rest before I could take the time to write. It’s not you. It’s me. No, really, it’s me. I mean, I’ve got like a thousand emails in one inbox I have to weed through. Really. But! That doesn’t mean I couldn’t take a little time to make my cinematic debut, does it?

George and I are friends with Jessica and Steve, a couple of local independent filmmakers. Jess produces, Steve writes and directs, and BONUS! They’re a lovely couple. A few years ago they put out a horror movie called The Feed, which got a pretty significant amount of recognition at various film festivals. Now they’re making another movie, called Old Baby, which seems to be less straight horror and more creeptastic brain twister.  When they sent out the alert that they needed extras on X weekend, I was completely psyched to do it. Help friends? Be in a movie? Hell yeah!

Until I realized that was the weekend we would be out of town, at an Ohio State football game, with family. No going back on that. Que sera sera, right? *cue the sad trombone*

Happily, one fortuitous evening I bumped into Jess at one of our watering holes. I truly am sorry, I said, that we couldn’t be part of your all-extras-weekend extravaganza. It sounded like a lot of fun. “Well,” she said to me, “you’ve got one more chance.” Seems they were looking for people to do an overnight shoot. They were having a hard time finding extras, since they weren’t anticipating being done until at least 2AM and the filming was taking place about an hour west of home. But you know, George and I have incredibly flexible schedules, so we thought…hell yeah!

We were told to show up in kind of grungy clothes and/or pajamas since the scene we were filming was all about a late night at a no-tell motel. As an extra, I certainly wasn’t given a script but from what I understand, this film is about people living on the outskirts of society, and focuses on one person with a dark secret. I don’t want to slip and give spoilers, so that’s all I’m saying. When I got there Jess said, “Remember, no one here gets to be pretty.”  Fine. Heavy black eyeliner and blue eye shadow it is!

Baby, I'm a star.

Baby, I’m a star.

We all realize that “blue eye shadow” is code for “she’s a steaming hot mess”, right?

Oh! And here’s George, looking as scruffy as he can get…I did instruct him not to shave, so there’s that…but you know, his hair refused to stay mussed.

Mr. Good-Natured genetically rejects being too sloppy.

Mr. Good-Natured genetically rejects being too sloppy.

Seriously. SO. MUCH. FUN.

The extras were wrangled into the green room–a very nice green room, I might add, which was part of the caretaker’s apartment built on to said motel–where we got ready…and waited. We waited in green face masks and leopard-print robes, in work boots, in shirts pulled up and knotted under the breast.

Extras-wrangler Emily looks on as we wait.

Extras-wrangler Emily looks on as we wait. Some day, I’ll fill you all in on her masterful doughnut.

If you’ve never heard anything about the process of movie-making, bear in mind that it’s not all about the glamour. The common wisdom (which I had been aware of before showing up, and was thoughtfully reminded of by Jess) is that in film, you hurry up and wait. Bring a book. Grab your laptop. The woman in curlers brought knitting. And you’d think that sitting around…waiting…would be kind of meh. But here’s the thing: I was in a room full of really nice people. Everybody was nice. All the extras. The crew. The actors. Nobody was there to have a bad time. And when there were breaks in the filming, we got to wander around this motel, which was kind of retro-dated and so long, so very very long, it seemed like the hallway stretched on forever. With the spare lighting it was totally right for a creepy bit of intriguing, cinematic mindfuckery that this movie seems to be.

OH MY GOD THERE WAS NO ONE IN MY CAMERA...oh, wait. That's George.

OH MY GOD THERE WAS NO ONE IN MY CAMERA’S LENS…oh, wait. That’s George.

Check out the retro paneling!

I think my parents had this in the TV room in 1975.

I think my parents had this exact paneling in the TV room. Then my mother went a little nuts with some dark stain. Suddenly our entire house smelled of stain for a month and was dark walnut brown. That was interesting. And I digress.

Here’s the main motel room set, serendipitously set in Room 13. (Yay for fate! That’s the actual room number, in the room that worked best for shooting purposes.)

What? Like we don't all have high-tech movie swag on our cozy chairs?

What? Like we don’t all have a high-tech movie rig on our cozy chairs?

And here’s the front walkway, where the humble beginnings of my future meteoric ascension to the cinematic firmament takes place.

20140917_220355

Fact: I kind of love that little wooden bench.

Can’t you just smell my impending stardom? No? Sniff harder.

Anyway. We had a BLAST. Would we do it again? You bet, in a heartbeat. I can’t wait to see it. And I can’t wait for the next one. Jess and Steve, sign me up!

In case you missed it: 

Old Baby Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OldBabyMovie

Old Baby Go Fund Me page: http://www.gofundme.com/oldbabymovie

And the motel is for sale! If you want to own an honest-to-God movie set: http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/15824148/1530-Woodward-Ave-Lock-Haven-PA/ It’s in a beautiful location snuggled into one of the valleys of the Appalachians

Good for hunters and you outsidesy types.

Good for hunters and you outsidesy mountain hikey types.

What can I say? This is how we do in central PA.

See you at the movies, y’all! XOXO

How Typecasting Begins: Snowpiercer

Last night I went to see the movie Snowpiercer, and for those who never heard of it, let me sum up: post-environmental-apocalypse survivors are on a Train of the Future that’s been designed by a train genius, runs on a globally connected rail system and is powered by a perpetual-motion engine. Passengers are socially stratified. Those at the front of the train live in ease and luxury; those at the rear of the train live in squalor. The back of the train finally decides that enough abuse and degradation is enough, and they stage a revolution. Chaos and bloodshed ensues.

With me so far? Great. So. Here’s how I watched this movie:

Yay! Captain America and the Shit Pie Lady join forces with Billy Elliot and an intensely weathered Elephant Man to fight social injustice! I won’t tell you what part Truman’s creator plays, because I don’t want to be a spoiler. Tilda Swinton plays a post-modern Mouth of Sauron but you know…she’s just so good she can’t be typecast.

All you actors out there: fall down on your knees in gratitude that I am not a casting director.

And go see Snowpiercer if it’s playing anywhere near you. Sometimes the logic is a little shaky, but MAN is it ever an adrenaline rush! Plus Chris Evans. 🙂

Here’s the trailer.

Someone Call Terry Gilliam, STAT!

This happened on my Facebook page the other day. To preface: I had just read that Oliver Stone is planning to direct a movie about Edward Snowden. Even better, as part of the source material for his script, Stone has optioned a fictionalized novel about Snowden, written by Snowden’s lawyer in Russia. Because that makes sense. It would certainly help guarantee that, true to form as an Oliver Stone vehicle, this upcoming film will be blissfully unencumbered by things like reason, or facts.

I’ll grant him Platoon. He had one good movie, but Oliver Stone is generally…paranoid and ham-fisted, neither of which are traits I enjoy seeing on their own. Together?  Hoooo-weeeee! And I digress.

So I posted this on my Facebook page and then…well…read on.

 

A convergence of Garys. Plus, a bonus no-share smackdown by my mother. Go, Mom-O-Rama!

A convergence of Garys. Plus, a bonus no-share smackdown by my mother. Go, Mom-O-Rama!

Call. Terry GilliamNOWWWWWWWWWW.

I’m picturing Baron Munchausen meets Time Bandits, and Edward Snowden will land in Russia in a flying pirate ship. Oliver Stone will HAVE TO be played by Eddie Izzard in full drag.

Tout est parfait! Picture from whatculture.com

Tout est parfait!
Picture from whatculture.com

I got’cher close-up riiiiiiiiiiight heeeeeeeeere, Mr. Stone.

Terry Gilliam, I look forward to hearing from your people very soon.

p.s. My friends rule.

1984 Rebooted as Romance, and No, I’m Not Kidding

George Orwell‘s dystopian tale of the ultimate in Big Government, 1984, is apparently receiving a reboot.  Currently called Equals, this movie is set to star Nicholas Hoult (a/k/a Marcus from About A Boy, a/k/a Jennifer Lawrence’s main squeeze) as Winston Smith and the perpetually grim Kristen Stewart as Julia.

And it will be a romance.

A ROMANCE.

“I’m terrified of it,” says Kristen Stewart and I’ve gotta say, K-Stew…that makes two of us.  Because here’s the thing:

NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.   ///big gulp of air/// NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

I mean…yes, there is sex in the book between Winston and Julia, and it’s a pivotal part of the plot, for sure.  But even in my most jaded times, I’ve never confused dingy, bleak, anti-Big-Brother-fueled hate-fucks, that lead to the ultimate in betrayals, as “romance”.  Sure, maybe they have moments of feeling tender toward one another, but when Big Brother finally catches on to their trysting, they both start checking bus schedules to figure out which one they’re throwing the other under.

I imagine it’s going to be like this:

julia cat 1

winston cat 1

winston cat 3

julia cat 3

julia cat 2

winston cat 2

*sigh*

See, the thing is, there are plenty of dystopian novels that focus on unlikely romances to work with, and that’s fine, I’m not saying it can’t or wouldn’t ever happen, and I don’t object to it as a storyline.  But the authors of these other works didn’t call them: 1984 2.0 or 1984: Reckoning or Winston (hearts) Julia: A Tale of Light in the Darkness.  No.  Because that’s not Winston and Julia’s story.  These other authors created their own stories.  They didn’t co-opt someone else’s under the guise of a “reboot”.  Because that?  Is cheating.

So I, of course, expect it to be dreadful, and I admit I’m clearly already prejudiced against it.  Though I will say this: I’m tickled by the idea of legions of Twilight fans downloading 1984 into their Kindles so they can get ready for K-Stew’s new movie.  Because in the real 1984, there’s not one sparkle to be found.

Bonus! A game of #romantic1984 started on Twitter once this was announced.  Thus far, here is my favorite Tweet.

https://twitter.com/lavietidhar/status/423393806885867520

And that, friends, is the problem with the romance of 1984, in a nutshell.

I can’t wait for the musical.

So Long, Girly-Crushy Thoughts of Ethan Hawke

I confess, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Ethan Hawke.  He’s a good actor, generally tries to be thoughtful in the roles he chooses (I will always stand behind A Midnight Clear), and for a while became the embodiment of the proto-emo, Gen-X existential angster, gloomily gazing into the void for all of us and finding it meh.  I suspect he is impossible to be around but since his potentially giant celebrity ego doesn’t impact my life even a little I kind of don’t care.  Other than in a perfunctory, “I’ve read a few things about Ethan Hawke over the course of my life and now I feel equipped to wildly speculate in public about him” sort of way.  Know what I mean?

Because really, I’ve kind of crushed on him a little, for a long time.  Who’s an adorable, tortured intellectual artist?  You are.  Yes you are.  Yes, yes, you are.

When Ethan Hawke first came on the scene in Dead Poets Society he was…actually, the word I’ve often thought of for him at that time was moist. Soft. Sensitive. Doe-eyed. Continually on the verge of tears, and he seemed to look vaguely like someone was always running up to him and rubbing lip gloss on him.

See?  Moist.

See? Moist.
Image from personalitycafe.com

He’s still round in the above picture, still baby-faced, but it didn’t take very long until he got all streamlined and square-jawed, though still a little glossy.

So maybe my taste can run toward the vanilla.

Proof: my taste occasionally runs toward the completely harmless.
Image from cineplex.com

Finally!  He got a some edge in Training Day.

Well, helloooo, Mr. Goatee man.

Well, helloooo, Mr. Goatee man.
Image from brightlightsfilm.com

And has spent the last ten years becoming increasingly square-jawed and craggy.

Rap name: Vanilla Crag.

Rap name: Vanilla Crag.
Image from zimbio.com

Craggy, and handsome.

Until now.

I just watched The Purge .

As far as the movie goes, it wasn’t what I expected.  On one hand it was better than I had anticipated, and the pacing of the film was nice and tight so it kept you moving through it like it was a roller coaster.  On the other hand, Ethan Hawke’s protagonist family was entirely unlikable (though Lena Headey is always interesting) and the premise was kind of preposterous.  One night, for twelve hours, all violence is legal (with a slender few exceptions) so society can “unleash the beast” and get all their pent-up violence out of their systems.  Then they’re…nice to each other?…for the next 364.  Theoretically.  From a practical standpoint this seems implausible; the strategy alone behind a post-Purge Night cleanup seems nightmarish, never mind…everything else about it.  And they give no backstory as to who the “New Founding Fathers” are or how they came to power, or the origins of Purge Night (what was up with those blue flowers?).  Nothing.  It was dissatisfying; I wanted info.  In terms of social commentary the film had some interesting stuff to say, particularly regarding the one person targeted by a group of people out on the hunt.  But that’s another blog for another day.  My verdict about the movie is: It won’t change your life, but it wasn’t a waste of an hour and twenty five minutes. If you’re so inclined, check it out.

More importantly (for the purposes of this blog, of course), is…oh, Ethan Hawke.

Even if he’s not your favorite actor, on some level you’ve got to acknowledge he’s kind of handsome.  Only…

(…it’s so disturbing…)

Now?  He kind of looks like Bill Lumbergh, the dreadful, selfish, micromanaging, cartoonish boss from Office Space.  Don’t believe me?

Fine.

Hawke on the left, Lumbergh on the right.

Yeahhh, if you could not kill my family on the one night of the year when violence is legal, that’d be great.

Hawke is on the left, Lumbergh is on the right.*

It’s a game-changing mashup for me.

Shhh…shhhh…did you hear that?  That sound you heard is the ferocious crack of my girly crush shattering into a million pieces.  Yes, I know he’s acting and yes, I know he’s not really Bill Lumbergh Jr., let me make that clear.  But what’s been seen cannot be unseen and for me, the juxtaposition is just too much to handle. Ethan Hawke has managed to regress from semi-crushable likely-poseur-quasi-edgy actor-guy to caricatured troll.  Though I still stand behind A Midnight Clear.  If you haven’t done so already, put that on your must-see list.

And because I’ve gone and talked about Office Space, here is hands-down my favorite scene in that film, which has nothing to do with Bill Lumbergh and everything to do with hating stifling office jobs.  Language!  DO NOT PLAY THIS AROUND SMALL CHILDREN, or adults who easily offend.  Enjoy.

*Image of Ethan Hawke from moviemansguide.com; Image of Bill Lumbergh from haszysz.net.  Frightening separated at birth comparison by me.

My Workout Tonight

I did a core workout tonight.  Mind you, I’ve done core workouts before.  Plenty.  But this was all new material.  New songs, new moves.

New ways to punish me for the sins of my (apparently dreadful, terrible, awful) past lives.

First it felt like this…

…and then it was like…

…and my instructor started going…

…and then my will to live surfaced and I got all…

...even though, deep in my heart, I know I actually was more like…

napoleon-dynamite_l

Skills.
Photo from newnostalgia.wordpress.com

And all in the space of 30 minutes.

Brutal.

Vote for Pedro!

Charleton Heston: Proclamation of Hest-Fest

WHEREAS Charleton Heston is one of the greatest movie actors of the 20th century,

and

WHEREAS Charleton Heston’s movies have become deeply ingrained into the global cinematic experience,

and

WHEREAS there are very few men who can rock a leather tunic

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Image from dailymail.co.uk

A velvet jacket and white poufy shirt with a massive ruffled lace jabot

Image from lileks.com

Image from lileks.com

A princely side braid

Image from fark.com

Image from fark.com
(Who’s a saucy minx?)

Biblical hair (from the same movie, no less)

Image from classicmoviestills.com

Image from classicmoviestills.com

A neckerchief

Image from bnnreports.com

Image from bnnreports.com

And a loincloth, some chest hair and a choke collar

Image from brusimm.com

Image from brusimm.com

all within the span of one storied career,

and

WHEREAS in the 30 seconds of screen time Charleton Heston has  in Wayne’s World 2, he steals the entire movie from Mike Myers,

and

WHEREAS Charleton Heston’s career as sci-fi’s greatest testosterone-dripping manly icon should not be overshadowed by newer and flashier movies (because let’s face it, people…James Franco is no Charleton Heston),

and

WHEREAS Charleton Heston movies go great with beer, pizza, and a roomful of friends,

and

WHEREAS I had a lot of fun discussing Charleton Heston films with a fellow blogger/Heston movie enthusiast over at meangoblin.com, and we both thought this would be a groovy thing to do,

IT IS RESOLVED that April 30th shall henceforth be proclaimed throughout all the lands as Charleton Heston Day. HEST FEST, as the day shall be known, will be a day of film, pizza, beer, friends, and the celebration of a legendary cinematic career.   It will be a day where the world will look at Charleton Heston’s career and ponder the immortal question: Why did they often choose such strangely effete clothing for him, and how did he manage to make it manly anyway?

Oh, Moses, Moses. You stubborn, splendid, adorable fool.

Let’s make this happen, people.  HEST FEST 1, April 30, 2014.  We’ve got a year to make this global.  We can do it.

Soylent Green fans, I know your first question is: but what do you really serve your guests?  That, friends, is entirely up to you.

HBO’s “Phil Spector” Movie: Fail

By now (I admittedly assume), many of you have at the very least heard that HBO has made a movie called Phil Spector.  If you’ve been reading my blog at all you’ll also know that I was at some point legitimately interested in this movie, until they bewigged Al Pacino (who plays Phil Spector) so profoundly that he ended up bearing a striking resemblance to Bea Arthur.

And then came Phi-i-il!

It was on.  I watched it.  And it?  Was. Terrible. Though it was terrible in a weird way.

I mean, the acting is actually quite good.  Jeffrey Tambor, as always, turns in a solid supporting performance.  Helen Mirren is hard to not admire and Pacino has “googley-eyed, crazed, self-absorbed and possibly violent narcissist” down cold, though I’ve never quite forgiven him for casting Winona Ryder as Lady Anne in Looking for Richard.  But I digress.  So no, it’s not the acting. It’s everything else.

David Mamet produced, wrote, and directed this movie.  I kind of have a love/hate relationship with David Mamet.  On the one hand, he and I are worlds apart in our personal philosophy and politics, and I’m fairly sure that if I were to spend any time with him I’d end up wanting to staple things to his face.  On the other hand, his films include The Untouchables and Glengarry Glen Ross, both of which I will be grateful for forever.  I’m not completely dead-set against his filmmaking, as a rule, though to be fair the movies he’s done that I like are 20+ years old.

But.

Phil Spector has its own agenda.  According to the production team (including, of course, Mamet), it is an allegory, which means it’s “…a device in which characters or events in a literary, visual, or musical art form represent or symbolize ideas and concepts.”  Allegory is a powerful tool that has generated significant social commentary.  Pink Floyd’s The Wall is an allegory.  So is The Matrix, and Animal Farm, and The Planet of the Apes, and The Lord of the Flies.  To name but a few.  There is, however, a common thread that runs through all these stories: they’re made up.  We haven’t REALLY landed on an ape planet, there isn’t REALLY a musician named Pink telling us that we don’t need no education, and we aren’t REALLY batteries inside a giant computer program (that we know of).

Allegories can, of course, have a factual basis or inspiration; Animal Farm, for example, was an allegory about the rise of Stalinism. But it’s not set in the Kremlin, featuring people instead of animals, with a mustachioed tyrant named Joseph in charge. p.s. That’s why, as an allegory, it works.

In an attempt to prove the movie Phil Spector is an existential allegory, HBO has included a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie that reads (verbatim):

This is a work of fiction. It’s not “based on a true story.” It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.

They could have put the same kind of disclaimer at the beginning of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with equal validity. Look!

This is a work of fiction. It’s not “based on a true story”. It is a drama inspired by an actual person who occupied the American presidency, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the events of that person’s early life or his path to the presidency.

And that’s what pisses me off.  David Mamet, I’ll say it here.  You, sir, are a dirty, dirty liar.

It’s not based on a true story except that its storytelling employs:

  • Actual people (Phil Spector, lawyer Linda Kenney Baden, dead person Lana Clarkson)
  • An actual event (the murder of Lana Clarkson and subsequent trial of Phil Spector)
  • Actual witness testimony (i.e., the experts called in to testify, showing taped testimony from ex-wife Ronnie Spector as she recounted his history of violence with her)
  • Actual evidence that supported Spector’s claim (the lack of blood spatter on his coat)
  • Actual evidence the defense disputed (i.e., the chauffeur’s testimony, disputed because “he doesn’t understand English”)

And so on.  It’s not “based on a true story” except when it is.

So there we are, watching a movie about a guy that we know exists concerning an event that we know happened.  And the sets and costuming look right and the evidence is confusing and trying to get past Phil Spector’s (sorry, I mean Al Pacino’s, since this isn’t a movie about Phil Spector, amirite?) massive array of wigs is exhausting…  David Mamet is a smart guy.  If, and I mean only if, Mamet & Co. had written the same movie, with the same characters and the same script, and called it Schnil Schnector, then I wouldn’t care about it even a little.  I mean, there’s a perfectly fine, allegorical film about the perils of rock-stardom called The Rose that everyone knows is actually mostly about Janis Joplin but isn’t because the writers didn’t use that name.  But calling the movie something else wouldn’t allow him (or HBO) to capitalize on the public interest in a lurid trial.  Thus, he calls it Phil Spector and incorporates real evidence and creates the illusion of reality, while his bullshit disclaimer asks us all to ignore the man behind the curtain. It’s disingenuous (to put it kindly) for him to suggest that people wouldn’t see his movie as a biopic/docudrama.

The woman–the dead person–whose brains ended up on Phil Spector’s floor (for real) is barely a factor in this movie, and only then as a suicidally depressed failed actress with a streak of kink (they suggest she wanted the gun for foreplay).  They don’t mention that her blood was found on the staircase (don’t think she was doing much walking after the bullet severed her spine) or that it looked like Spector made a drunken attempt to clean up evidence (there was a diaper used to mop up her blood in the garbage can of a nearby bathroom) or that the gun that killed her was found in her left hand, even though she was a righty.  They don’t mention that she had her purse on her shoulder, which sounds less like “I’m going to kill myself” and more like, “I’m outta here!” Surely if I can access this sort of information from a cursory cruise through the internet, David Mamet’s research team could, as well.

One reviewer said this “allegory” was written to tell the story of the idealized, rational American (personified in the movie by lawyer Linda Kenney Baden) who takes the time to review evidence before making a decision.  I wonder if that reviewer will ever appreciate the irony that–even allegorically–there is no rational decision making when you’ve only got half the evidence, which is at most all this movie presents.  Their claim, using the Spector case as a basis, is that successful men are all targets for haters who want The Patriarchy taken down.  If what the Idiot Left wants to do is take down successful men, then why (God in Heaven, why?) is Donald Trump still freely roaming the world, generating money at will?

It’s not that I object to someone having a different opinion than I do.  I acknowledge that my opinion about Phil Spector’s guilt or innocence is based on what I kind-of know about this case + his alleged reputation for abuse.  I don’t know what I would have thought if I sat on his jury.  But twelve people who were presented with the entirety of the evidence found him guilty. Twisting Phil Spector’s already twisted, tragic story so that it is beholden to Mamet’s personal agenda is evidence only of Mamet’s self-aggrandizing stance as a beleaguered “Successful Man” still nursing a grudge from the flack he caught over Oleanna. Phil Spector, the real person, whose contributions to the world of rock & roll were groundbreaking, deserves more than to be a pawn for David Mamet’s personal crusades. Lana Clarkson, the dead woman at the center of this all, also did not die so she could be Mamet’s whipping post. What David Mamet does in Phil Spector is a disservice to the public discourse, to all the people whose lives have been directly impacted by this case, and the concept of “allegory”.  What I object to, in this movie, is Mamet’s shitty storytelling.

So Long, Roger Ebert, and Thanks.

By now, we have all learned about–and, I hope, mourned–the passing of Roger Ebert.  The first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, he was also a keen-eyed social critic and a lot of fun to follow on Twitter.  Ebert’s life has already been eulogized here and here and here and…if you hit Google, you’ll find plenty more.  That is a conversation to which I cannot add.

But I can say thank you.  He was funny and thoughtful and eloquent and could write like a total motherfucker (I really need to sit down and study his style).  He once said about movies, “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”  Cool.  Which is why I need to thank him, not just for his work as a film critic, but how he went about co-writing one of the greatest camp/cult classics ever spawned from human minds, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

It is not a sequel, indeed.

Actually that’s true, it’s not a sequel.  It has nothing to do with the book or movie Valley of the Dolls.  Written by Jacqueline Susann, the original Valley was a (theoretically) serious, soapy peek behind the showbiz curtains to a world full of chemical dependency.  It’s kind of a melodramatic nightmare, complete with swelling organ music and tight close-ups of tear-stained actresses having drug-addled fits, but it was crazy-successful.  Apparently, Fox initially asked Ms. Susann to write a sequel and then gave her script the finger, turning it over to Russ Meyer (king of the low-budget sexploitation flick) and his good friend, Roger Ebert.  Why they did that?  No one knows, and years later even Ebert admitted it was kind of a miracle.  It couldn’t be a “sequel” because Jacqueline Susann sued 20th Century Fox over the Meyer/Ebert work, claiming it was so tawdry she didn’t want there to be any connection between her work and theirs.

Whatever, lady.  Get over yourself.  Their film was better.

It is a murderous, violent, drug-addled flick filled with boobies and eyelashes and self-important people.  And it is hilarious.  Ebert said that in the six weeks it took to write the movie, he and Meyer spent their time laughing maniacally.  Part of the reason this film works so well, though, is that Meyer directed his cast as though it was a serious script.  It’s the same reason the character Lina Lamont works so well in Singin’ in the Rain; Jean Hagen knew Lina was someone who would take herself seriously and so playing her straight would create the comedy.  This is what Meyer banked on, and the clash of straight performance and WTF dialogue and situation makes us watch BVD with our head tilted a full 90 degrees, as though we are the dog confused by the ceiling fan.  As an added bonus, Meyer and Ebert gave the world an impressive list of  memorable lines, most notably “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!”, decades before Austin Powers ever uttered it.

(These clips?  Probably not safe for work or small children.  Consider yourself warned.)

Or this, uttered by the soon-to-be-future-ex-Mrs. Russ Meyer, Edy Williams.

And God knows I need to drive across the country with a map superimposed over my face, singing about “The Gentle People”.

BVD gave the world Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell.  Fast forward to 2003 and it becomes strangely, creepishly prescient that the walking freak show-drug swilling-gun (and, eventually, sword!) slinging-murderous record producer was modeled after Phil Spector.

Only perhaps without the bizarre pyramid-shaped breast buds.

I promise, people, if I find a video clip where Z-Man utters the immortal line, “Ere this night does wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!” I will without a moment’s hesitation post it.  Because really, folks.  Roger Ebert wrote that.  You hear someone say that, you know that shit’s about to get real.

That’s what BVD is, and that’s what makes it a great movie.  It may be dated and cartoonish and bear the marks of rampant substance abuse, but it does so completely unapologetically.  That’s how this movie presents itself.  The dialogue is often ridiculous and the plot is absurd, the camera work is pure camp.  And this movie is all that, joyously.  It’s one of the best movie experiences I’ve ever had.

So farewell, Roger Ebert and thanks for the crazy ride.  You will be missed.

Image from pophangover.com

Fake Spoiler Alert! Forrest Gump and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Deet da deet deet deet deet da deet deet…

This just in.

The fake entertainment news world was rocked today when it was discovered that Forrest Gump, beloved American cinema icon, has been spying for the Chinese for the last 19 years.  Their relationship, forged during Gump’s goodwill ping-pong tour, has called into question the security of countless members of the US clandestine services worldwide.  Said one top official who requested anonymity, “When he showed his ass to President Johnson, I thought it was just another example of his hokey, simplistic perspective.  I had no idea he was symbolically telling the president that he could stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

Gump, who fled the country before authorities could catch up with him, is believed to be hiding out in the Tian Shan mountain range, along the section that borders China and Kyrgyzstan.  It is rumored that Gump took the role of informant because the Chinese government offered him a complete medical insurance plan, including both eyeglasses and dental.

My name is Forrest Gump.  You can call me Comrade Gump.

My name is Forrest Gump. You can call me Comrade Gump.

And in a surprising development, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire executive producer Nina Jacobson announced that Jennifer Lawrence, who portrayed main character Katniss Everdeen in the first movie of the The Hunger Games franchise, has been released from her contract, effective immediately.  All Lawrence’s scenes are being re-filmed or re-edited to accommodate Lawrence’s exit.

The production team did not believe Lawrence had the emotional muscle to handle Katniss’s devastating return to the arena in an unprecedented second entry as a tribute.  Says Jacobson, “As a member of a close, tight-knit family, Jennifer has led a relatively stable life and has never had to explore the themes of profound betrayal and bloodthirsty competition that Katniss faces in Catching Fire.  Unfortunately for our filming purposes, Jennifer doesn’t have a place dark enough to go to in order to capture the inherent brutality–violation, even–that Katniss experiences as she re-enters the Arena.  We wish her all the best.”

The celebrity selected to replace Lawrence is Alana Thompson, also known to reality TV fans as “Honey Boo Boo“.  Johnson explains, “Honey Boo Boo, first featured on the show Toddlers and Tiaras and then spun off into her own series, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, is the embodiment of a survivor.  A veteran of the blasted, predatory hellscapes of both reality TV and the child beauty pageant circuit, Honey Boo Boo has entered the Darkness in ways only whispered about in unholy times.  She has shown not only that she can navigate her way through shark-infested waters, but that she can eat the sharks as well.  We’re very excited for the opportunity to work with this bright young star.”

Principle re-filming with Ms. Thompson has already begun, as Lionsgate Films still targets a November 2013 release.

May the odds be ever in MY favor, y'all!

May the odds be ever in MY favor, y’all!

And that’s all the time we have today for Fake Spoilers!  See you next time.

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