Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 55 - Over the Top

dir. Menahem Golan


Roger is back, and he begins this episode with a discussion of his Stallone fetish. Then we discuss his arm-wrestling opus Over the Top. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Breaking Bad - "Hazard Pay"


When we were first introduced to Mike, he was cleaning up a mess left behind by Walt: namely, the asphyxiation-by-vomit death of Jesse's girlfriend. After Walt callously let her die, it was up to Mike to clean up any evidence of drugs, any pieces of information that would link the clueless Jesse to any wrongdoing. Where Walt saw an easy (and fucking evil) way to separate Jesse from his drug-addict girlfriend, Mike saw nothing but unintended consequences: drug evidence, jail time, and what have you. But, of course, even the thorough Mike couldn't account for the fact that her air-traffic-controller dad would, in a dazed fit of depression, allow two planes to collide. But still, Mike tried to clean up what he could.

Although in subsequent seasons Mike went into enforcer mode, with Season 5, he has become again the clean-up guy: the guy who tries to account for everything, thinking two steps ahead of the authorities, so that he can wipe any evidence of wrong-doing.

One of the things I love about Breaking Bad—indeed, one of things that elevates it above the typical crime show—is the way it deals with the aftermath of violence, the aftermath of crime. And we witnessed the aftermath of violence yet again this week with Mike the cleaner's attempts to ensure that none of Gus' former employees will flip. Seeing as the Fed's RICO'd their hazard pay, Mike must do the right thing and compensate their families. He must keep them quiet. Stuff Walt has no time for.

In a way, the deluded Walt almost acts as a surrogate for the typical crime show viewer. He doesn't understand why we have to deal with such frivolous issues as Hazard Pay and Legacy Costs for incarcerated members of Fring's empire. Fring was taken care of, the old lab was destroyed—end of story. The pragmatic Mike, on the other hand—like the intelligent Breaking Bad writers—must, by necessity, take everything into account. Everything has consequences.

Walt, like any deluded, ego-mad drug-dealer wants to fashion himself on Scarface. He—oh yeah, I should probably point out that we actually saw a clip from Scarface this week. I'm still not sure how I feel about this scene. It seemed a little too on the nose. On the other hand, I loved the visual of the family (including baby in Walt's lap) watching De Palma's classic. I always wondered if Walt would say the phrase, "Say hello to my little friend." Now we got to see him and his son say it. Yes, he is descending further into the dark side.

Speaking of which, it was almost eerie how quickly and effortlessly Walt came up with the lie to tell Marie about Skyler's breakdown. In earlier seasons, the guilt-ridden Walt would um and ah his way through bullshit excuses to account for his wrongdoing. With this scene, he was more than ready to give a lie about the cause of Skyler's distress (a lie, incidentally, that belittled Skyler and elevated Walt). Yes, technically nothing he said about Ted Beneke was untrue; but we all know that it isn't the reason for Skyler's breakdown. But then again, does Walt realize it. Or has he really deluded himself this much.

And speaking of Walt's delusions, I can't be alone in thinking that cooking in fumigation tents is a really bad fucking idea. Yes, Walt had some good reasons—hiding in plain sight being among them—but there are far too many negatives. With each new house comes more risk: greater chance of exposure, of new people seeing them enter and leave the house. Yes, most folks will think that the meth smell is just pesticides, but how long before they cook in a tent next to the home of a DEA agent, or any kind of authority who knows the smell of a meth house. Walt won't think of these risks because all he wants is to best Fring.

Random Notes:

I love Mike's annoyance with Huell's breathing.

Saul is never gonna stop pimping that laser tag place.

Badger and skinny Pete! Also, damn, skinny Pete has some magic fingers.

I know it was the result of a breakdown, but I still loved seeing Skyler tell Marie to shut up.

How did you take the scene where Walt introduced himself to Brock? I'm still trying decide whether he actually felt guilt for poisoning the kid. Even if he did, though, I still found it extremely creepy.

Similarly, I still don't know how to take the scene in which Walt told Jesse he trusted him enough to tell his girlfriend everything. There are signs of a growing bond with Jesse (he loved th kid's idea for transporting equipment), but something smells fishy here. I don't know how much I can trust Walt about anything.

Random Quotes:

"Yes, he handles the business. And I handle him."

"Stacking the benji's til the rubber band pops."

"You need a name for them? You call them yes, sir and no, sir."

"We'll kill 'em dead. It's a guarantee."

"Marie, I'm begging you. Keep this to yourself. I don't want anyone to think less of her. Or me."

"Everyone dies in this movie."

"Listen, Walter, just because you shot Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James."

"Maybe he flew too close to the sun—got his throat cut."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jack Nicholson on The Shining

Nicholson fondly recalls working with Stanley Kubrick. Of course Nicholson can recall Kubrick fondly; he wasn't the one getting harangued by the tyrannical director. Poor Shelley Duvall. You can watch the video here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Louie - "Daddy's Girlfriend, Part 2"


I've noticed a trend with my Louie recaps. Every week I watch the new episode before work, and quickly jot my thoughts as to its meaning and significance. Then, I check out the reviews on other sites and realize that I'm wildly off the mark as to my interpretation. Maybe it's because I rush these or maybe it's because I over-think them as a way to over-compensate for rushing them, or maybe something else. Whatever it is, just know that I don't pretend to be some sort of authority on the show. I'm just writing about the show as I see it. That being said...

Holy crap, Tape Recorder is all kinds of fucking damaged. Yes, damn near everyone in the Louie universe is damaged, but this is a pretty exceptional case. Indeed, Parker Posey's character—which, what a ridiculously good performance—almost seemed to me a comment on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl type, as seen in such annoyingly twee romantic comedy/dramas as Garden State and damn near any Cameron Crowe movie. In these movies the eccentric, carefree spirit that is the MPDG pulls the depressive, boring male protagonist out of the doldrums by forcing him to be adventurous. The MPDG acts as a catalyst for the growth of the male lead (that sounded dirtier than I meant it).

In real life, of course, the MPDG type is kind of a hassle, kind of annoying, and all kinds of scary. And Posey pulled it off wonderfully. There are warning signs right from the get-go, when she drags Louie into a young bar and orders two jagers for herself (uh oh), only to be refused by the bartender who doesn't want another scene. And so she takes Louie for a walk because New York is such a wonderful town to walk in, don't you think? And who wouldn't want to do that for a date; who needs alcohol? You like walking? Don't just agree with me. I hate people who just agree. Let's argue. Hey, did I mention I had cancer when I was fifteeen? Hey, a vintage shop—let's go in.

Uh oh.

Yes, I would imagine Louie realized rather early on that this date was a bad idea but he decided to stick with it, anyway, because, as I mentioned before, Louie is a passive character. It's much easier to just go with the flow. Then again, even when Louie tried to put an end to the night, his efforts proved fruitless. After Tape Recorder dragged Louie into a random building, she told him to climb the stairs with her to the top.

[These stairs]


When Louie rightfully complained that there was no reason to climb so many goddamn stairs—him being all old and out of shape and all—Tape Recorder went demon drill sergeant on him. It's a thin fucking line between eccentric and full-on psychotic.

Daddy's Girlfriend Part 2 ends, as so many episodes do, on an ambiguous note. The two go to the roof of the building, Tape Recorder sits casually on the ledge, and Louie is rightfully scared for her safety. She says the only reason he is scared is that he might think of jumping; she wouldn't. After a while, a look of dsadness washes over her face and they leave the rooftop. This brief moment is one of the few times this damaged woman had a moment of self-reflection. What was she thinking? I don't know; but it's obvious that her erratic behavior was a way to mask some deep pain.

Random Notes:

I love seeing Louie in places where he seems out of place. With "Night Out" it was the loud, crowded club. With "Niece" it was the crowded indie rock club. And last night it was the crowded hipster bar. Perhaps it's because I feel uncomfortable in crowded places, but these scenes always resonate with me.

I love how fast and loose this episode played with geography. Tape Recorder's bookstore is on 7th Avenue in Park Slope. The pool hall she and Louie pass is on Houston Street in Manhattan. That's a long walk. Then again, it wouldn't be that surprising if she forced him to go on such a journey. (And yes, before anyone points it out, I realize that just because a scene was filmed at a specific location, it doesn't mean that it's supposed to take place in that neighborhood. I just wanted to point it out.)

Despite all the lunacy of the date, I was pretty charmed by the scene in which they helped out the homeless man. Of course, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. I also loved the scene where they were orgasming over all the wonderful food. I'm also a sucker for that kind of thing.

That glitter Tarzan look was pretty funny on Louie.

Random Quotes:

"That's a lot to take on: someone else's cum fantasies."

"Yes, you're fat, and I have no tits. Let's be honest."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 54 - Back to the Future and the Superman Movies

dir. Robert Zemeckis


My brother John and I discuss memories of watching Back to the Future. And then we talk about a lot of other stuff. You can listen to the episode here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

After the Cameras Stopped: Field of Dreams (1989)

dir. Phil Alden Robinson


The Story: Totally not crazy Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears voices and sees visions instructing him to fell his profitable corn field and replace it with a baseball diamond. And then he tells his wife Annie (Amy Madigan) that the man living inside his brain instructed him to destroy their livelihood. Instead of reacting with, "Oh, yeah, no, yeah, yeah, that's a great idea. We should totally forego the ass-load of cash we're getting in government subsidies, so that you can have playtime with your head-voice people. You're right; a baseball diamond is totally better than eating and mortgage payments. And you know what, while we're building that ball field, I'm gonna take you to a great new bar where you can watch the games in the meantime..."



...his wife agrees to his plan. They build the ball field. The ghosts of old ball players play ball. Other stuff happens. Ray plays ball with his dead dad's ghost. Cars line the highway to come watch the ghosts.

What Happened After the Cameras Stopped: People from all over the region make it to the ball-field to watch the spectacle. Thousands are packed around the Kinsella farm, waiting for the game of catch to end so they finally see all the ghosts playing baseball (which, by the way, the only thing more boring than baseball is old-timey baseball. People might as well be excited about auto racing involving old-timey non-fast moving cars). And when everyone is assembled the ghosts kill everyone. Because they're ghosts; that's what ghosts do.

Also, none of that happened, because ghosts aren't real. And also, Ray's crazy. Remember? Didn't you read what the story was about?

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: This Property Is Condemned

dir. Sydney Pollack


"Wish Me a Rainbow"



Mary Badham version

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 53 - The Omega Man

dir. Boris Sagal


My brother John and I begin a discussion of The Omega Man, get bored by it, and then talk about other things. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Breaking Bad - "Madrigal"


Right from the beginning, Vince Gilligan made it clear that his intention with Breaking Bad was to transform—as he said it—Mr. Chips into Scarface. He wanted to turn the hero into the villain. And I will admit, I was slightly skeptical, at first, that he could pull it off. No matter how evil Walt became, we would still identify with him for two reasons: He's the main character (after all, we still, in an odd way, rooted for Tony Soprano to avoid capture by the Feds every week); and we began the show identifying with the soft, mild-mannered, underdog version of Walter—we wouldn't forget that.

At this point, however, not only am I convinced that Gilligan is pulling off this feat, I am also starting to root against Walt. I am scared of him. He's gained too much power; he's performed too many evil deeds; most importantly, he believes his own myth, his own bullshit.

And, interestingly, last night's episode was an illustration of the extent to which Walter, regardless of his own megalomaniacal self-myth-making, is so often at the mercy of chance and the choices of others. It just so happens that these outside forces are working in Walt's favor, further inflating his ego.

Take for instance, the business with the Germans. When Gus' connection to the German company Madrigal kills himself, Madrigal decides to cooperate with the DEA, so as to clean house. This terrifies the other corrupt German in the company. She asks Mike to to take out any connections to her; and he reassures her that they are stand-up guys. He chose them because they wouldn't fold. She doesn't believe him, and hires Chris, another employee to do the job. Mike has to take him out, after Chris has taken out Chou (poor Chou).

Now he has to take out the German woman, because she's too much of a liability. But he doesn't do it; he doesn't disappear her. You see, Mike, despite his other flaws, has a soft spot for children: He takes to heart the German woman's plea that her daughter not think she abandoned her. So he makes use of her. He uses her methylamene connection as an excuse to keep her alive. Shit, this means that he has to agree to Walt's request to partner up. He's back in the game, at Walt's side this time.

In Walt's mind, of course, not knowing the events that led to this, Mike is under his control; Mike has bent to Walt's will. Triumphant, Walt returns to bed with his wife, in one of the creepiest scenes to date. I am continually terrified for Skyler. Watching Walt caress his terrified wife was almost too much to bear: it was more harsh than any scene of physical violence this show has offered. Note the way, that in this episode, Walt's head is almost never in frame during his scenes with Skyler. He's a stranger now, bereft of familiarity or even identity; he's a terrifying force invading her home.

Of course, not everything is left to chance. In another of Breaking Bad's many tragedies, Walt continues his abusive, emotionally manipulative relationship with Jesse. "I don't know what's wrong with me, Mr. White. I don't know how I could be so stupid," Jesse cries to Walt when he realizes (he thinks) that he almost killed Walt over a misunderstanding. Note Jesse's position: crouched on the floor, crying; as Walter towers above. He is an evil father figure bending the pliable Jesse to his will. He has pulled the kid back in the game.

None of this can end well.

Random notes:

I love the continued use of great movie clips in this show. Fittingly, Mike is watching The Caine Mutiny, a movie in which a group of shipmates mutiny against Humphrey Bogart's insane, tyrannical command. Someone's gonna be rebelling against Walt for sure. I am reminded of last season's use of The Bridge on the River Kwai's "What have I done" scene. Actually, in a way, Tio's killing of Gus could be a corollary to Alec Guiness' bridge building in Kwai. Not that Tio would say "what have I done" over his inadvertent power boost to Walt. Because Tio is dead. But still.

I love how Mike is initially in charge of the police interrogation. Check out this quote: "Forget your handcuffs? I'm confused: am I under arrest or am I not? You wanna state that for the camera?" Wow, three questions in one statement; who's interrogating who?

Also, check out Mike's quote to Walt: "You are a time bomb." I've noticed a bit of bomb imagery, in regards to Walt, this season. When Walt placed the bacon on his plate to form a 52 in the opening scene of last week's episode, I initially thought he was making a mushroom cloud. When I realized that it was a 52, I felt stupid for my mistake. Now I'm not so sure the mushroom cloud imagery wasn't deliberate.

Random Quotes:

"If Gus can manage it, then so can we."

"You're alive. As far as I'm concerned, that's the Irish sweepstakes."

"You know, it gets easier. I promise you that—what you're feeling right now. About Ted. Everything."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Patton Oswalt Interviews Darren Ewing

This is so damn cool. But forgive me for posting such an old clip, one I'm sure many of you have already seen (but hey, this was the first time I'd seen it). So, from what I can gather, Patton Oswalt was at Sundance doing promotion for an upcoming movie (Big Fan, I'm assuming), and he got interviewed by Darren "Oh my God!" Ewing of Troll 2 fame. When informed of this, the giddy Patton turned the tables and started interviewing Darren about Troll 2. This is truly a delightful little clip.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New The Master Trailer

dir. Paul Thomas Anderson


Watch it now.

Louie - "Daddy's Girlfriend, Part 1"

[This looks like a still from a horror film]

Before I get into anything, I just wanna address the elephant in the room: the criticism directed at Louis CK for both his supposed defending of Daniel Tosh and a recent Daily Show appearance in which he said that comedy and feminism are natural enemies. I don't wanna get into all of my feelings on the Tosh issue because I don't have enough time right now to get into a nuanced analysis of my specific thoughts regarding this dust-up—if you must know, however, I happen to like dark humor and I think no subject should be off limits (preferably if the jokes are intelligent), but I can also empathize with people who think otherwise.

Instead I will address one issue: Louis' comment about the antagonism between feminism and comedy. His comment here felt a tad odd to me because I have always considered him something of a feminist. Feminism, as I understand it, boils down to a desire for equality of opportunities for the sexes; and I can't really find anything in Louis' comedy that would lead me to believe he disagreed with this aim. Yes, he has used rape jokes and misogynistic language in his act, but it has usually been for the purpose of poking holes in our chauvinistic culture.

But on to last night's episode, "Daddy's Girlfriend, Part 1."

After Louie's daughters pester him to get a girlfriend (mommy has a new boyfriend, and he's really funny) he goes on the prowl. What does he do? He goes to creepy town in the form of scoping out the teachers at his daughter's school. In Louie's mind, he is just having beautiful fantasies about potential girlfriends. But just take a step back and imagine how that looks from the outside: A paunchy, bald, middle-aged man is leering, during class time, at elementary school teachers.

And when this doesn't pan out Louie becomes fixated on a charming bookstore employee played by Parker Posey. And so he asks her out...in the most stunningly awkward manner possible. I would post the whole thing, but it's so damn long; so here are some great parts:

"OK, you know, um...this kind of thing is so awkward and horrible, and from your end, it’s...OK, I’m gonna come out and tell you, I’m asking you out. And please don’t answer yet, because I know you have a no queued up in your head...I know that being a woman in New York must be hard because it’s basically disappointing maybe that you try to be nice to men as human beings, and then they respond by just torpedoing towards your vagina. I want you to know that I’m aware that you’re young and beautiful and I’m not either of those things..."

Yes, this is a great bit of awkward rambling in which the self-loathing Louie can't ask a girl out without first telling her that she shouldn't go out with him, but it is also an acknowledgement by Louis of the difficulties that come with being a woman in the city (or anywhere). It is damn near impossible to form a friendship with a man because few man want just that. In a way, this acts as a nice corollary to last week's episode.

[Here's another screenshot that looks horror filmish.]


I realize that I've only skimmed the surface of a very rich episode, and my apologies for not delving further into all of the great stuff here—the welcome appearance by Maria Bamford, the hilarious reality show parody, and everything else—but I just didn't have time. I'd love to have a discussion of everything else in this episode in the comments section, however, so please mention everything I missed.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

After the Cameras Stopped: Commando (1985)

dir. Mark L. Lester



The Story: Badassery.

[Pictured: Badassery.]


What Happened After the Cameras Stopped: Arnold went to jail for killing all those people. (See also: every other action movie ever made.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story (2010)

dir. Kevin Tostado


Remember that time your friend called you and asked, "Hey, wanna play Monopoly?"

"Yeah, sure. At your place?"

Your friend hesitated before answering, "Actually...you remember my friend Hank?"

"Aggro Hank? Yeah, that guy's mental. What of him?"

"Well..."

"No, no. I am not playing Monopoly at his place. That's not even a possibility."

"Just hear me out. He's better now. Really. He's not so serious like he used to be."

"Really? Hank? You mean the same Hank who told his grandma she caused her husband's death when she beat him at checkers? That Hank? He's not so serious anymore?"

"Listen, he's better."

"What kind of meds is he on?"

"Very good ones. Listen, if you don't have a good time, I'll buy you drinks next weekend."

Against your better judgement, you acquiesced, "Fine. But seriously, if this doesn't go well, you owe me the fuck out of some beer."

"Hey, no worries there; I got you. But c'mon, it'll be fun."

When you arrived at Hank's place, two sixes of Coors: Tap the Rockies © in tow, the seemingly calm Hank feigned camaraderie, "Oh, beer. Wow, that's a lot. You shouldn't have brought all that."

"Eh, it's not much. There's five of us. I'll probably have to go on another beer run, actually."

"Well, Erin and Jim brought some too. It's probably too much. Hopefully everyone can focus on the game."

Not a good sign. As you brushed past Hank, into the house, you replied, "Whatever; it's just Monopoly."

And Hank forced out a chuckle in response, "You're right. Yeah, let's have some fun."

You and your friends kept drinking and chatting. It had been a while since you all saw each other; it was nice to catch up. But Hank kept trying to get the game started, so you finally sat down in front of the board. Hank tried to instill order before the game even began, "OK, I think we should all roll to see who chooses tokens first, and in what order"—before you grabbed the dog and made it hump the car.

"Oh shit, he's cuming. Look, he got the car pregnant and it gave birth to"—you pulled out your car keys and tossed them onto the board—"this new token." All the drunk people laughed.

"How the fuck does a dog fucking a car make keys?" asked Jim.

"It just does. That's what happens. Biology, motherfucker. Hey, we should play for each other's keys."

Hank feigned remarkable, but clearly tension-filled, calm, "Well, technically, I think we should only be playing for—I mean, with Parker Brothers-sanctioned pieces."

Your friend tried to diffuse the situation, "Yeah, let's do what Hank said; we'll roll for the regular pieces." You eyed your friend suspiciously; and he gave you a 'I know he's annoying, but it's easier this way' look.

The game began.

[Artist's rendition of you and your friends playing Monopoly. Hank is struggling to have a good time.]


And everything was turning up Millhouse. You couldn't believe your luck. Before even passing Go for the first time, you landed on Free Parking. "Fuck yeah. $500, bitches."

Being the first faux pas in the game, Hank tried to hold back his displeasure, before interjecting, "Actually, you can't...you don't get money for landing on Free Parking. That's a common misconception. It's just a neutral space."

"Well this is house rules, bitch. I'ma get me my $500. Make it rain, banker. I want that shit in twenties."

To which the banker, Erin, grabbed a stack of twenties and began counting—her drunken mind losing count, "Four-hundred...where was I? Fuck it, this stack looks big enough."

As the game went on, as alcohol flowed more freely, everything became more chaotic; Hank became less and less able to conceal his inner meltdown. Jim, sensing imminent defeat, had a giggle fit, "Uh oh guys, I sense an act of God coming up. Oh no. I forgot to mention that this specific game is taking place during that freak East Coast earthquake we had a few years ago. I feel a trembling."

Jim started shaking the table slightly, to the annoyance of Hank, "Hey, stop that; stop that. You're gonna mess up the game."

"Uh oh, it's getting worse, guys. It's tearing right through Atlantic City. It's not stopping." And then Jim jerked the board, tossing the houses, hotels, and other game pieces off the table. Everyone laughed.

Except Hank. "What the fuck! what the fuck!"

You finally had enough of his shit, "What the fuck, you. Relax, Hank."

Hank punched a wall, knocking through it. You all jumped. Your friend tried to play peacemaker, "Jesus, calm down, Hank. It's cool; we're just having fun."

"No, you, it's cool, you. No, Jesus, you calm down, you. You calm down. You think this is a game? you think this is a fucking game?"

And you replied, "Yeah, it's Monopoly."

"Out! Out! Get the fuck out! Now!"

This movie is about that person.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Georgy Girl (1966)

dir. Silvio Narizzano


"Georgy Girl" - The Seekers

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011)

dir. Jon Foy


[Sorry for the lack of a podcast today. Schedules were fucked. There'll be a new episode next week, though.]

I have a love/hate relationship with the kind of documentary Resurrect Dead represents. As you know from my podcast on The King of Kong, I am fascinated by stories of obsessed, driven individuals, no matter their specific interests. I guess, given that I happen to have a particularly obsessive personality (devoted to writing and movie-watching), I can understand the mind-set. I feel like I’m watching compatriots. That being said, sometimes the interests of the people in such documentaries completely fucking baffle me.

Such as the the Toynbee Tiles, the obsession of artist Justin Duerr. Embedded in the streets of numerous big cities are tiles with a variation of this message:

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN MOVIE 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER


If you live somewhere between the US and South America, chances are you’ve walked by at least one of these tiles. I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever seen any here in New York, but apparently we’ve got a bunch. If I ever have seen one, I imagine my reaction was something along the lines of, ‘huh, that combination of words doesn’t make sense. Whatev—hey, watch where you’re fucking going. I’m walking here. You wanna go? Bring it the fuck on.’ After which I promptly forgot about the tile.

More bizarre than the random assemblage of words on the tiles, however, is the fact that these things are embedded with tar on busy streets. Even at the goddamn entrance of the Holland Tunnel.

[What the Christ?]


Not to imply that this is mostly a New York thing, though. In fact, the majority of these tiles are found on the streets of Philadelphia ®. Which brings us back to Philadelphia resident Justin, the premier researcher on all things Toynbee. An obsessive by nature, Justin became, well, obsessed with these things after his first sighting. And so he devoted much of his life to discovering who made these; what they mean; how they were installed in such crazy locations; and how the guy was never caught.

Yes, everyone loves a good mystery, but these tiles are clearly either purposeful, Dadaist nonsense or the incoherent ramblings of a schizophrenic. Either way, meanings mean jack shit here. It seems a bit odd that anyone would devote so much time to this mystery. This road leads to either a pretentious outsider artist or a sad, mentally unstable shut-in. In other words, not much mystery; also, who cares? Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least slightly curious as to the thought process that lead an individual to string this particular set of words together and then present the incoherent message to the world.

[When you investigate this kind of mystery, you're gonna come across some foil hats.]


Pitched somewhere between an Errol Morris character study and an Unsolved Mysteries episode, Resurrect Dead is never not entertaining. The movie teases out information at a regular enough rate that it's impossible not to get caught up in the untangling of the mystery. No, no, fight it; fight it. Don’t get interested in the story. The proper response to this shit is, who gives a shit. It's like trying to discover the mystery of why and how a homeless person has been pooping in people's walls. Actually, that's a mystery I'd be interested in.

But alas, I couldn't fight it. I had to know. I got interested. Mostly, I guess, I had to know why Justin had to know. This dedicated, talented artist had to know the answer to this mystery for no other reason than that he had to know. Maybe there's no point to most of our obsessions. Maybe all obsessively creative individuals are just tilting at windmills. Week after week, I watch movies and write about them for an under-read blog. What do I get out of it? Well...it's fun. But also...well, there has to be more meaning to what I do. What I'm doing isn't pointless. Right? Right? It's not as pointless as researching street tiles, right? Right?

...

I need a drink.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Breaking Bad: "Live Free or Die"


[As with my Louie recaps, I am going to quickly write these Breaking Bad episode reviews in the little time I have in the morning before going to work; so the write-ups won't be as in-depth as I'd like, but please comment on anything I may have missed. I'd love to have a discussion on it.]

Fucking magnets, how do they work? Really fucking well, bitch.

Yes, Breaking Bad is finally back, and with the first episode of the fifth season comes something of an annoyance for me. As you know, I am a huge fan of this show. In fact, Breaking Bad and Louie are my two favorite shows currently running. So, understandably, most of these episode reviews will be glowing to the point of sycophancy. Knowing that, I thought a good way to counter all the future Breaking Bad dick-sucking, would be to state right away a fault with the season premiere.

I found it a bit far-fetched that Jesse would have to give Mr. White the idea about the magnets. I'm nowhere near the intelligence level of Walter White, but as soon as Gus Fring's laptop and security footage were mentioned, my immediate thought was, "Ok, they'll use magnets to wipe the hard drive. That's a no-brainer." And yet, science-nerd-turned-evil-genius Walter's smart-man brain didn't immediately go there. Really? The junk man can pontificate on string theory and God Particles (which, great timing there), but Walt can't realize, "magnets and electronics no do get along." When it comes to this show, I'm willing to suspend disbelief about a lot of things—e.g. Gus "half-head" Fring walking and adjusting his tie—but not Walter's intelligence. But, still, a minor quibble about an otherwise great episode.

One of the things I love about Breaking Bad is the way each season starts up right where the previous left off. Just as the viewer is never given a break from the tense, thrilling plots, so the characters are never given a chance to breathe. Nothing lets up here. And so, it was at first jarring to see a bearded, non-bald Walter in the cold open. Maybe it's a flashback, I thought. No, this is clearly Heisenberg and not mild-mannered Walter White. Wow, a lot of time has passed. And, oh shit, fuck yeah, Jim Beaver's back. Weapons sale. Oh, shit is on.

As we soon realize, much as in the vein of season 2's cryptic cold-opens, this opening scene is a flash-forward. Walt is buying Rambo weaponry for some sort of future stand-off. This season will be intense. But, of course, because Breaking Bad seldom goes where we think it will, this episode was remarkably bloodless. In fact, it is one of the least violent episodes to date.

And yet, Walter has rarely been as terrifying. I really felt for Skyler in this episode. For one, we know what Walter has done to get to this point; if he can poison a child, who knows what else he's capable of (of course, there's not much worse than poisoning a child, but still). Also, with his new-found confidence, has come an evil-genius ego. Walter always thought himself the smartest man in the room, always wanted to be in command, always thought himself deserving of power; now he's got the body-count to back it up. He is clearly over the edge. To drive the point home, walking ego that is Walter White raises a toast to himself in the mirror. If no one else can see fit to congratulate his cunning, he certainly can. Clearly, there's no turning back.

Also, unrelated to anything, but however Breaking Bad ends, no matter who dies, I want see a spin-off that consists of nothing but Walter and Mike arguing with each other. Also, fuck Ted Beneke. Also, Bill Burr better have some scenes this season. Also, now that the bad guys did something as sciencey as use a huge elctro-magnet to wipe the hard drive in the evidence room, how long before Hank puts two and two together and connects Walter to these shenanigans? Also, can I watch the next episode right now?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nude on the Moon (1961)

dir. Raymond Phelan and Doris Wishman


[And here’s another one of my Netflix Experiment reviews. For those who haven’t read recent entries on the subject, I am no longer checking my Netflix queue—just accepting what gets sent my way. Basically, it means I’m finally getting around to watching the hundreds of flicks I put on my list ages ago but put off watching.]

Women are nude and they're on the moon.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Louie - "Miami"


Holy shit, at the risk of hyperbole, "Miami" is one of the best Louie episode to date. First and foremost, before I get into the meat of the episode, I just gotta say that Louis the filmmaker has truly arrived. In a recent AV Club interview Louis stated that he really wanted to justify the third season; he wanted to pull out all the stops, and make this the best season to date. He is culturally savvy enough to realize the fickleness of the public. If you offer only equally good, it's never good enough. To sustain attention, growth is necessary. So far, success.

I mean, what was the beginning section of "Miami" if not the best French New Wave film that was never released? Mostly an impressionistic series of images representing most that shame-filled Louis hates about Miami, this sequence was largely built in the editing room (not to take anything away from the beautiful shots, of course. Also, Louis is certainly getting his money's worth out of new editor hire Susan E. Morse). We catch glimpses of Louie in the airport; then at the beach; then back at the hotel room, passing out to a burger; then back at the beach, among the other pot-bellied middle-age men: all locations blending together to the point that it is hard sometimes to see where one ends and the other begins.

(You'll forgive me if some of the details are fuzzy, as my Louie review routine consists of watching the episode before going to work and then quickly penning my thoughts.)

I love that Louis teases with damn near every scene, holding back before we get too much information. This section serves no narrative purpose, only tonal. Indeed, even the stand-up routine is cut short. After the set-up—Louie hates balloons, apparently—we are quickly whisked away to another scene. But, as I said, this section serves to set a tone, and an impression of the toned, buff Miami that Louie has a distaste for. And then these perceptions are dismantled.

Mostly, "Miami" was about misconceptions. Louie is shocked and delighted to discover that the real Miami—the one not dominated by entitled, vapid, toned supermodel types—is actually quite wonderful. When lifeguard Ramon takes Louie on a tour of his Miami—

But let me back-track by way of another misconception earlier in the episode. When all the hot young people have left the beach for the day, Louis and the other out-of-shape older men claim the beach; and Louie goes for a swim. And then Louie sees a resort employee packing away the beach chair on which Louie placed his wallet and keys and whatnot, so he screams out to the guy; which Ramon the lifeguard mistakes for a cry for help. He rescues Louie, who is ashamed that Ramon thought he was drowning. Not that he lets that shame prevent him from hanging out with Ramon. And so is built a friendship based on false assumptions.

During a conversation after Louie's show, the comedian asks the Cuban lifeguard if he came to America on a raft, which Ramon takes as an insult. But Louie quickly apologizes, realizing he was just making a stupid assumption. And Ramon, likewise, is shocked to discover that the white-as-fuck Louie is actually Mexican. Mexico does not, in fact, consist of one homogeneous racial group. Misconceptions everywhere up in here.

And, as I said before, Louie is pleasantly surprised that Ramon's Miami is actually quite wonderful. He had no idea that once you escape from the disgusting resort areas, and hang out with the folks who live in the "real" Miami, a good time is actually possible in this city. (That line about the folks in the high-rises being out of touch and lonely felt a tad too on the nose, however.) And so, Louie decides to stay a few extra days and hang out with his new friend. And, for the biggest misconception of all, Ramon assumes that Louie is coming on to him.

I loved the way this scene was handled. It actually reminded me of the silent break-up from the premiere episode. Ramon states what he thinks is Louie's true intention, and Louie attempts to correct his assumption—without either man actually ever stating anything. Yes, it is a brilliant piece of writing, but it also speaks to the pointless, self-imposed barrier us stright men frequently construct to protect us from the wonderful experiences that might have the side-effect of possibly implying gayness (and, of course, in the stand-up routine that follows, Louie makes explicit this theme. It also reminded me, incidentally, of a similar, hilarious routine from Bill Burr.)

Indeed, Ramon and Louis can't even say gay. It has that much power that two open-minded men who support gay rights can't even say the word, lest it accidentally imply gayness. In an episode built on misconceptions, an episode in which each man lets slide the various false assumptions hurled his way, this is the one that makes them uncomfortable; this is the one puts a wall between the two men. And it's a damn shame.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Trailer Time: Back to the Future (1985)

dir. Robert Zemeckis


This teaser for Back to the Future created a bit of a conundrum for me: do I love it because it's so well done, or do I love it because I am just so obssessed with Back to the Future. Honestly, it's really hard for me to approach anything BttF-related with anything remotely resembling objectivity. It is, without a doubt, the one movie I've seen more than any other. It's such an integral part of my childhood, in fact, that it and actual childhood memories are one and the same. I love this movie that much.

Of course, that ain't to say my siblings and I haven't dissected this movie, and all of its plot-holes and fucked-up-edness, to within an inch of its life. When you're as familiar with a movie as I am with this, you can't help but notice shit. And I would have already written an in-depth piece on the fucked up shit lurking beneath the surface of this flick if Cracked hadn't already beat me to it—multiple, multiple, multiple, times.

So yeah, this teaser, containing all of the gets-me-hard BttF imagery—Nikes, Delorean, mirror-ed sunglasses, Michael J. Fox—is rad as fuck. But hell if I know if it's good.

[The teaser:]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fists Punching Faces Double Feature: Knuckle (2011) and Goon (2011)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence. While I don't generally write double feature pieces—in fact, this Dorish Wishman piece is the only one I had ever previously posted—I couldn't review Knuckle and Goon separately. I randomly watched the two of them this week, little realizing beforehand how much they would complement each other.

Knuckle (2011)
dir. Ian Palmer


A few itinerant Irish families have been feuding each other since before the history of ever. Because people. And they’ve been “settling” their beefs with occasional bare-knuckle boxing matches...which have further fueled the flames of hatred among the younger members of the families, who, in turn, have challenged each other as soon as they have become old enough to beat each other to nothing. Repeat. Forever. Because people.

[Basically, it’s Appalachia—minus the southern accents, NASCAR t-shirts, and Confederate fl—]


[Jesus. In Ireland too? Is that like the world-wide symbol for white trash? Actually, between that flag, the Che tattoo, Jesus tattoo, and celtic tattoo, I think this dude just really likes cliched, overused symbols—fuck any of their individual meanings.]


Director Ian Palmer, having accidentally discovered this world of feuding families, realized the potential important documentary at his fingertips, and so filmed a bunch of fights for damn near two decades; stopping after becoming disgusted with humanity and himself (I’m speculating here), when he witnessed two grandpas beating hell out of each other. So he called it quits; he swore never to film another fight. But then he did film one more fight.

Watching Knuckle, I couldn't help but be reminded of Muzafer Sherif's Robbers Cave Study. For those unfamiliar (which, what lame-o doesn’t know about Muzafer Sherif and his studies), a group of identical white, middleclass suburban boys were sent to an experimentation camp where they were randomly separated into two groups, isolated from each other, and made to fight (figuratively) for prizes. (Because disappearing your children into the welcoming arms of shady scientists for use as guinea pigs was something parents did back in the day, apparently.) Although the children in each group were identical, they began to develop racist attitudes toward the children of the opposing group: each side attributed negative character aspects to the people of the other group.

Only when the groups were forced to work together toward a common goal did their prejudices drop. Now that they interacted with each other, and helped each other, they could see that their previous prejudices were all wrong. People had to become familiar with others, before they realized, “hey, we’re all pretty much the same.”

["I like you. You're one of the good ones."]


Yeah, the whole no longer competing over the same resources played a pretty big part as well. It was the main take-away from the study, after all. Still, I’m gonna stick with my getting-to-know-each-other assessment, because—as I’ve said numerous times before—I’m smarter than scientists.

The opposing families in Knuckle, as you may have guessed, are seldom in contact with each other...except when fists meet faces. And so, never are they able to get to know each other, to talk things out; instead, their resentments continue to build, as isolation breeds contempt. The bloody battles only make the hatred stronger, promising a never-ending cycle of violence. It’s no wonder this shit will never end. If these two identical families can't see how much they have in common, how can...

Fuck.

You wanna get depressed about humanity? Just step right up and grab a front-row seat for Knuckle.

Goon (2011)
dir. Michael Dowse


Damn, I needed a pick-me up after that Knuckle shit. What else did Netflix have? Sweet, the violent hockey movie Goon. That would make me feel better. And it did.

Coming on the heels of Knuckle, one thing that instantly struck me about Goon—which is also a truism, by the way, of any violent movie released within the past lots of years—was the absurdly unrealistic fight sounds. I guess I'm just kinda sheltered, and so don't have to witness fistfights firsthand on a daily basis, but I had no idea how wrong movies had been getting this shit.

Watch this funny clip from Goon:


Now watch this fight clip from Knuckle and tell me what you notice about it (Obvious warning: Really violent footage):

You hear those punching sounds?

What punching sounds?

Exactly.

I have become so accustomed to the booming, bone-crunching sound effects from most violent movies, that I was kind of shocked that the actual sound of punching is more like a soft, muffled thud. I guess that's one of the reasons I could find a movie like Goon so fun, so entertaining: the fights are so over-the-top as to be unrealistic. The extremeness of the violence ends up acting as a distancing effect. Like a Three Stooges short, this exists nowhere near the realm of reality.

Of course, it is also the case that Goon is just a super-entertaining film. I initially became interested in it when I heard so many comparisons to Slap Shotmy favorite sports movie of all time. And the comparisons are understandable, if not completely apt. What Slap Shot offered was a glimpse into the workaday world of low-level minor league hockey players stuck in a depressed rust belt city. Yes, it's gleefully violent and profane, but it also presents real, fully formed characters who struggle to eke out a living. Slap Shot also functions as a (fictionalized) documentation of a people's struggle to deal with impending obsolescence in a changing economy.

What Goon offers is a loving tribute to profane, downer seventies sports films, of which Slap Shot represents the pinnacle. As Alan Moore once said, in regard to the slew of imitations released in the wake of his successful Watchmen, "I've seen a lot of things over the past 15 years that have been a bizarre echo of somebody else's bad mood. It's not even their bad mood, it's mine."

But that's not to say I didn't like Goon. Far from it. As homages go, it's hard to beat Goon. Yes, as opposed to Slap Shot, the folks in this film are more caricature than character; yes, the tone is more hyper-real than real; yes, the comedy is slightly more broad than intimately character-based; no, Goon is not the equal of Slap Shot. But what it is is funny as fuck.

Dave's Rating (for both movies):

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: The Happy Ending (1969)

dir. Richard Brooks


"What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" - Michael Dees

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 52 - A Face In the Crowd and Hot Shots Part Deux

dir. Jim Abrahams


My brother John and I briefly discuss the brilliant Elia Kazan movie A Face In the Crowd and then we debate Hot Shots Part Deux. If you want to hear me say the phrase "Rain Man woman realizes that blonde woman was a bad guy," you should listen to this episode. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Year I Made Contact: 1980

This entry is part of The Movie Waffler's "Year I Made Contact" blogathon. Basically, here's just an alphabetized, non-ranked list of my ten favorite movies from my birth year—1980.

The Apple
dir. Menahem Golan


It's a natural, natural, natural desire to love the hell out of this movie.


Dressed to Kill
dir. Brian De Palma


It's not my favorite De Palma movie, but it is a De Palma movie, so you knew it had to end up on here.


The Elephant Man
dir. David Lynch


The one movie that can consistently turn me into a quivering pile of Jell-O.


Inferno
dir. Dario Argento


Did you like Suspiria, but get annoyed by the lack of narrative logic and cohesion? This movie probably isn't for you.


The Ninth Configuration
dir. William Peter Blatty


Just look at that poster and tell me with a straight face you don't wanna drop everything you're doing right now and watch this movie.


Out of the Blue
dir. Dennis Hopper


The best movie Dennis Hopper directed.


Raging Bull
dir. Martin Scorsese


Another feel-good movie from 1980.


The Shining
dir. Stanley Kubrick


The movie that forever instilled in me a deep-seated fear/hatred of the abominations unto God that are twins. (see also: Twins)


Urban Cowboy
dir. James Bridges


John Travolta plays the ultimate macho douchebag in this movie...except for the other guy in this movie who's worse than him.


Used Cars
dir. Robert Zemeckis


Two words: Kurt Russell. 'Nuff said.


The nearly made its: The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, The Stunt Man, and Superman II.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

R.I.P. Ernest Borgnine

Man, this is such a bummer. I was such a huge fan of Borgnine, not just as an actor but as a person. As you probably know from the number of times I've mentioned it, Emperor of the North contained my favorite Borgnine performance. If you haven't seen it, watch it immediately. Here's a little interview I found in which Borgnine discusses Emperor of the North.



[Emperor of the North trailer:]

Smearing My Love on the Blogosphere (Week of Jul 2)

Great blog stuff this week.

Jessica at The Velvet Cafe wrote a thoughtful piece on film.

At tdylf a great review of one of my favorite Altman movies.

At Self-Styled Siren a great tribute to Andy Griffith.

From Kid In The Front Row a piece on Barry, Luther, Otis and Marvin.

From Man, I Love Films a post on female directors.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Louie - "Telling Jokes/Set Up"


I can't believe I've waited this long to profess my love for the acting powerhouse that is Melissa Leo. Obviously, damn near everyone is familiar with her work in The Fighter, but she's been banging away at the acting gig for years, turning in stellar performances in a string of forgotten and/or undersold movies and TV shows. In a way, it's almost shocking that it took this long for her to make an appearance on Louie, since her career proves such a perfect corollary to that of Louis CK. They have the same work ethic: just keep attacking the art, keep getting better, never stop working, and eventually people will have no choice but to pay attention.

And her performance in the second segment of "Telling Jokes/Set Up" was, as usual, nothing short of stunning. She and Louis get roped into a blind date dinner at the house of comedian Allan Havey. It's awkward. Everyone knows it's awkward. When Leo and Louis head outside for a smoke, they commiserate over the awkwardness of it all; they can't understand why a married couple would try to suck other people into the misery that is married life. And then they head to a bar together—to the excitement of Allan Havey's wife.

But before I get to the rest of this story, I think now is a good time to mention the first segment of the episode, "Telling Jokes." In this seemingly minor piece, Louis listens to his daughters tell knock-knock jokes, which segues into a stand-up routine on the nature of his youngest daughter's jokes. She, untrained in the ways of comedy, will tell jokes that come out of left field. Seemingly pointless, they will travel in the most unexpected directions. Louis, having worked as a professional comedian for twenty-five years, is so well versed in the ways of joke-telling that he knows the punchline to any joke as soon as it's set up—except for his daughter's jokes. And that's why he loves them.

Sometimes the most inspired pieces of art can come about unintentionally. I think that's why I love so-called bad movies so much. The people who make them are so inept, so ignorant as to the ways of "good" movies, that their mistakes are frequently awe-inspiring. Good directors rarely fuck up in such inspired, unexpected ways. I think it's this mentality that Louis brings to his TV show. In the best episodes ("Bully") we are never quite sure where the hell the stories are headed. We are so used to the rhythms of conventional story-telling that when Louis bucks these conventions it's genuinely surprising. During the best moments on Louie, I never know where the hell the story is gonna go.

Which brings us back to the Melissa Leo story. After a few drinks at a local bar, she and Louis really hit it off—their mutual distaste for marriage proving a particular bonding point. When they decide to call it a night, Melissa gives Louis a ride in her truck...and then she parks behind a building and blows him. Louis lets her. When she asks him to eat her pussy in return, he refuses; he didn't realize that the blow-job was meant to be reciprocated. She feels insulted and calls Louis selfish. And here's where things get weird.

Leo bets Louis that she'll get him to "strap on the feedbag," at which point she calls his masculinity into question. Louis is defensive, but still won't give in. And then she gets joyfully violent, shattering the passenger-side window with Louis' head. The overpowered Louis relents; he goes downtown. And then they happily decide to see each other again. This scene is everything: funny, awkward, tense, and scary...simultaneously. Most importantly, it's unexpected. I truly didn't know what the hell would happen, which kept me on edge.

But it still all makes sense. That Louis would agree to see Leo again after such a bizarre night speaks to his character's go-with-the-flow passivity. Is it really all that different from his silent breakup with Gaby Hoffman last week? Well, this night didn't go as he'd expected, but overall it was pretty good—he got a blowjob. He'll keep going with this thing until it no longer goes.

Refuse Any Image That Could Have a Rational Meaning

After reading tdylf's piece on Bunuel yesterday, I was reminded how much I love this surrealist director. So I thought I'd post this short snippet in which Bunuel discussed the writing of Un Chien Andalou.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dueling Trailers: The Fly (1958 and 1986)

Here's another dueling trailer post. As mentioned before, I do not discuss the movies themselves in these entries, merely the way they're advertised. Anyway, with that in mind, here are the trailers to both versions of The Fly.

The Fly (1958)
dir. Kurt Neumann


"The Fly is on its way. Watch out for it. It's far beyond anything your mind could ever conceive."*
-Vincent Price's trailer narration

OK, let's face facts, regardless of your feelings toward this, the original version of The Fly, it's got Cronenberg's version beat in the trailer department. In fact, this might be one of my favorite trailers I've ever posted on the blog. So much awesome. Of course, it kinda had to be.

"Shit, our fly effects look like shit. How are gonna—what I mean to say is, we gotta play up how scary this is, but ain't nothing scary about that shit. Quick, what can we...what do we got in this movie we can exploit?"

At this point, Vincent Price walked into the room. "Why, hello."

The director, with a devilish grin, responded to the producer, "That's our trailer."

"Of course, why do we need to show anything from the movie, when Vincent is scary enough?"

"Boys, I'm right here; I can hear you."

"Then it's agreed. Just before the trailer is about to reveal the cheap effects, we'll cut to Vincent giving a monologue, then some scary sounds from the movie, then some more Vincent."

"Yes, as little fly and as much Vincent as possible."

*Unless your mind can conceive cheap rubber mask effects.

[The trailer:]


The Fly (1958)
dir. David Cronenberg


"There is a limit, even to the imagination. Where our greatest creations meet our deepest fears. You are about to go beyond that limit."
-Trailer Narrator

OK, this bit of trailer narration just smacks of douchiness. Whether intentional or not, it hearkens to Vincent Price's trailer narration quoted above. The difference: this trailer showcases all the wonderful fly effects from Cronenberg's version of the movie—as if to say, "hey, remember how the original movie promised to go beyond anything your mind could conceive? Well, this movie actually does."

Yes, by damn near every measure, Cronenberg's remake is a better movie than the original. But do you have to rub it in? You're hurting the original movie's feelings. That being said, the advertising team got a little too cocky this time around; they knew they didn't have to do much to pimp the movie. Hence, this standard eighties, gravelly-narrated, plot-rundown, special effects-showcase trailer.

[The trailer:]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Maniac (1980)

dir. William Lustig


[This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club.]

Few things give a better indication as to the quality of a movie's writing than its scenes of pointless, shooting the shit chit-chat. Take, for example, this exchange between two hookers in William Lustig's sleazy slasher picture Maniac.

"You know, this last guy wanted the ultimate. You should'a seen what his idea of the ultimate was. I mean, I thought I'd seen them all, but this guy had something that was a new one, even on me. So, um, how you doing tonight kid? You look a little down."

"I need one more trick to make my rent."

"Hmm, I know how that is."

When I first saw this movie, I thought this exchange an underwritten attempt to mimic actual conversation without being specific enough to sound real. Why would Hooker 1 not mention what was in the ultimate and then what sorts of acts (e.g. water sports, Cleveland steamers, plate jobs, double fisting, etc.) went beyond the typical ultimate. When you fuck for a living, you're not gonna be coy about the details when discussing your occupation with another person who similarly fucks for a living.

But then I thought about it a little more. This could actually be a cleverly written exchange—almost a subversion of office talk between coworkers with little in common other than occupation. These two bored employees, just counting the hours until they can go home, are stuck with each other on break, and passing the time as best they can. I still don't know which of my impressions of this exchange is more accurate, but given the rest of the movie, I'll grant screenwriter, and star, Joe Spinell the benefit of the doubt.

Spinell, for those not in the know, was one of the most interesting character actors of the seventies. Appearing in the first two Godfather films, the first two Rocky films, and Taxi Driver, Spinell managed to take part in some of the most important films of the decade without ever becoming a household name. The man had the chops; he just needed a star vehicle. So he wrote it himself.

[A face only a mother could...my apologies for posting a picture of Spinell's face.]

I've always found it slightly odd, but mostly cool, that this talented actor, when devising a potential breakout role, decided to traffic in the burgeoning slasher genre, a genre which most critics reviled. If he wanted respect, this was probably not the best way to achieve it. And yet, this movie was designed specifically to show off his range. Given that Spinell's psychotic character goes through every emotion known to (crazy) man, he almost seemed to scream to critics, "notice me." To which they replied:

"Ew."

Unfortunately for Spinell, most people know Maniac not for his outstanding performance but the top-notch gore and expertly crafted effects, courtesy of Tom Savini. (By the way, I dig the fact that Savini's best effect—shotgun-induced head explosion—was used to kill himself on screen.) Although I usually love to elaborate on the gore work in these movies, there's not much more I can say here other than awesome job.

Honestly, I approach this movie more from a fascination with the grimy, crime-ridden, no-man's land that was much of New York in the late seventies and early eighties, than from a love of slasher pictures (though I do love these movies). It's much the same reason I love New York punk, and the no wave documentary Blank City. Although a sleazy slasher picture like Maniac might not get the respect of its New York peers, it is every bit as genuine a response to New York city living as the so-called important stuff.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating: