Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Friday, August 31, 2012

Louie - "Late Show Part 1"

One of the many accolades Louie justly receives is that it offers a window into the workaday world of stand up comedy. Many TV shows and films have attempted to document the life of the comic, but few have so unflinchingly exposed the angst, heartbreak, and uncertainty inherent to this particular job. And while I don’t disagree with this assessment, I think the show a bit more universal that that. Indeed, the particular frustrations of the comic are felt by damn near anyone in the creative field.

And so, though the specific worries of Louie (teaching comedy at a community college to support his kids) are inherent to stand up comedy, the feeling is a bit more universal: all creative types want to be relevant. And it’s that feeling this show, at its best moments, captures so well. We creative types enter whatever particular field happens to be of interest to us because we were drawn to it at a young age. We took in the masterful work of folks who were brilliant executors of their craft, and we decided, “Hey, I wanna do that shit.” And then we spent years honing our skills, banging away until we felt confident, until we finally felt, “You know what, I got the hang of this; I found my voice, and I know how to do this shit real good. I’m not yet as good as my idols, but I’m continuing to improve, and I’ll always have their work as a benchmark—I might not ever match their output, but I’ll always get closer.” But then what?

Now comes the hard part: getting people to give a shit about what we do. Though we may get personal satisfaction from a job well done, if no one’s lining up for it, it means fuck all. Satisfaction don’t pay the bills. But, more than that, on a very personal level, we would like to think that we might be good enough, relevant enough, that some young kid just becoming acquainted with pop culture learns of our material and becomes inspired. We would like to be good enough to create a whole new generation of [fill in the artistic endeavor blank]. If we can’t do that, then what worth was any of it?

And yet, in the hilarious stand up routine at show’s open, Louis shows that this is a particularly first world problem to have. While a kid in Afghanistan may discover one morning that his uncle no longer has a head, an American agonizes over deciding among nearly identical Blu-ray players before choosing the best one. And so, though we creative types may agonize over our relevance, what does it matter in the long run? It’s a made-up problem of our own choosing. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to have a problem, this is one you want to have.

Random Notes:

Bill Burr was on the Improv’s Marquee at show’s open. I wonder if this is a sign that he might appear on the show in one of the remaining episodes. Oh, if only. If he did show up it would mean that he made appearances on my two favorite current TV shows: Louie and Breaking Bad. If only.

I will never stop finding the sight of child agent Doug dispensing career advice to middle-aged Louie amusing.

I found it odd at first that Louie would worry about getting bumped on the Tonight Show—or that the possibility of him getting bumped even existed—then I remembered this isn’t Louis, but Louie. I sometimes speculate where one begins and the other ends, but it seems that this episode may have been a snapshot of Louis just as he was really taking off.

I know that Louis CK is probably more well known to the country at this point for his appearances on Leno, but I still found it curious that Louie’s sudden meteoric rise came from a viral clip of his appearance on Leno; when, as you know, it was actually an appearance on Conan (his “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” routine) that really turned Louis into a household name. And that’s not to mention that Louis was a writer for Conan back when that show first started. I wonder if there’s bad blood between the two guys?

I loved that Louis skipped right from Louie walking out onto the Tonight Show stage to Louie waking up the next day. I’m almost certain this was an homage to The King of Comedy.

I know that the revelation that Louie pulls in $80,000 a year is meant to show that he is making a merely adequate living, but my only thought was, damn, I’d love to pull in $80,000 a year for the rest of my life. That’s some good money.

Holy shit, Garry Marshall was damn good in this role.

And, yeah, this was a wonderful episode, one of the best of the season so far.

Random Quotes:

“Only in America do we have this luxury: we get to decide when they find in Afghanistan don’t—they find out; they find out.”

“They’re all the same machines. They’re all made from the same Asian suffering. There’s no difference.”

“Don’t even have time to jerk off.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“I think five years ago you probably peaked, and now you’re waiting around, wondering if something’s gonna happen before it gets embarrassing. Am I right?”

“In ten years you’re gonna be teaching comedy at a community college to support your kids and falling asleep to the Late Show with Jerry Seinfeld. A circling failure in a rapidly decaying orbit.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Silver Bullet (1985)

dir. Daniel Attias

It doesn't get said often enough, but drunks sure know how to entertain. And I ain't talking about your just-released-from-prison uncle choosing your grandmother's funeral as the best time to test his fart-lighting abilities. No, I'm referring specifically to creative types, people whose gin-soaked brains translate the booze thoughts into bizarre, sometimes surreal art: be it the alcohol-induced otherworldly crime fiction of Jim Thompson or the creative construction of carnival rides by perpetually bombed carnies.

["So I's telling the kids, 'I got a riddle for ya,' I says, 'what's the difference between my lungs and my veins? Both are filled with black tar.' And then one of 'em says, 'that's not a difference.' But yeah, three of 'em were crushed by them ride animals."]

One thing I learned when I used to drink was that alcohol allowed my writing to go places it normally would never think of going (sure, my writing is sentient). Yes, most of it was shit, but every now and then a genius nugget would pop through. It was almost worth wading through the shitty writing just for those short bursts of uninhibited creativity. Of course, I never got the hang of drunk writing; I would fall asleep too soon after drinking. So, I admire the hell out of any writer who can produce during perpetual decades-long benders.

I don't know, maybe it's because my now sober self just gets a hell of a contact high from this shit, but I love to see the traces of alcoholism in drunken output. And it's always obvious when a writer novels under the influence: because writers always bring a little of themselves to their work, their writing will inevitably betray elements of their personal lives. So, whether they intend it or not, their stories give us front-row seats to their dependencies. And with few other writers was this truer than Stephen King.

[Pictured: Booze—encased in Stephen King.]

More specifically, few other writers were more blunt about their addictions than King. Whereas a writer such as Jim Thompson would frequently go the surreal route, Stephen King just filled his stories with drunken degenerates. (Of course, Thompson also populated his stories with drunks, and King's stories—existing in the horror genre, as they did—frequently traveled to bizarre land.)

So, with this in mind, when I decided to check out the Stephen King-penned werewolf movie Silver Bullet, I knew I was gonna be in for a treat. And, lord, it did not disappoint.

[Stephen King's inspiration. Yeah, I'm saying the guy liked to drink.]

I'm still trying to decide if Silver Bullet's frequent forays into silly territory were intentional or just incompetence spiced with a dash of drunken lunacy. Regardless of the cause, however, this might be the most entertaining flick I've seen all year. You want a taste? Here are sample bits of dialogue from the picture:

"It's your oven, but it ain't my bun you got baking."

"Suicides go to hell—especially if they're pregnant. And I don't even care."

"Damn cripples—always end up on welfare. Oughta electrocute 'em all."

But I should probably tell you a little bit about the movie itself. Filmed in 1985, Silver Bullet takes place in the ye olde long-forgotten era of the late seventies. And we know this because the teenage heroine of the picture, Jane, is now looking back on those days-gone-by and narrating the movie from the present. So why was a middle-aged sounding woman hired to narrate events that took place less than a decade prior? Also, why did the director tell her to recite her horror movie lines as if she was narrating Little Women?

But, anyway, trouble shows up when an old drunk meets a werewolf and the werewolf does this to the drunk's head.

[Not pictured: body.]

But everyone in town assumes it was just because he was drunk. As old Jane says in the narration, "You see, Arnie Western was a chronic drunk, and what happened seemed like an accident." Yeah, drunks do this all the time. Just walking along, minding their own business, being all drunk and stuff, and, wouldn't you know it, they accidentally cut off their own heads.

So no one takes notice...until the werewolf strikes again, killing a pregnant woman who was about to take her own life (see quote above). And when the obviously animal-mauled body is discovered, everyone in town thinks a human must have caused the massacre. Of course. Tempers flare at the local bar, before Lawrence Tierney calms things down with his justice bat.

[This bat.]

[Lawrence Tierney was not told that cameras were rolling...nor that he was in a movie.]

Elsewhere in the movie, Jane's brother Marty (Corey Haim) bonds with degenrate Uncle Gary Busey.

["You mind if I polish off the Wild Turkey kid? Were you gonna have any?"]

["Can you pour me another glass, kid? You can't do that over the phone?"]

[OK, we get it, Busey likes to drink.]

Stuff happens. More werewolf murders. Then Marty meets the werewolf and does this to it.

["Kid, I don't know if you realized it, but fireworks don't feel good."]

So Marty and Jane search for a newly one-eyed citizen, and then Jane happens to find...

[Cue dramatic music]

So Marty sends him a letter.

[My mistake, this is actually one of the letters George Lucas received after the release of the newest Indiana Jones movie.]

And he reads it.

[That is the third most badass werewolf priest I've seen this week.]

But no one will believe Marty and Jane's story. The priest tries to do away with Marty...

[This scene of a priest stalking a handicapped boy is creepy for reasons you wouldn't expect.]

...chasing him toward an abandoned bridge.

[Also, haunted and possessed. Also, don't go on this bridge.]

Marty escapes. And, finally, the kids are able to convince Gary Busey, so he gets a silver bullet made for them.

["Hey, we're holding the name of the movie."]

Watching Silver Bullet, I realized—as I so often do, when watching trashy horror flicks—that I had seen pieces of this movie on TV when I was a kid. Back then I remember being scared of Busey, as any kid should; and I didn't pick up on any of the humor. I was mostly underwhelmed by the intended horror and creeped out by the hero Busey. I didn't much care for it. I've mentioned many times before that revisiting cherished childhood movies frequently leads to disappointment; Silver Bullet has shown me that revisiting movies I didn't previously like can lead to super happy good times.

With that I leave you with some things I learned from Silver Bullet:

  • If someone is trying to stop a lynch mob, it's because he is in fact a werewolf. He must be lynched.
  • If the town priest suddenly loses an eye, no one in town will ask him why he is suddenly missing an eye.
  • Drunks will always save the day.

Dave's Rating:

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: A Certain Smile (1958)

dir. Jean Negulesco

"A Certain Smile" - Johnny Mathis

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 62 - God Bless America

dir. Bobcat Goldthwait

Roger and I discuss Todd Akin's recent comments before we review Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America. Also, we talk about how much we love Bobcat Goldthwait. Because Bobcat Goldthwait is awesome. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Breaking Bad - "Say My Name"

Oh my God. Breaking Bad is never short on "Oh my God" moments and last night—actually, before we get into that, I just want to bring up a few other things.

It's the end of an era at Breaking Bad. Walt and Jesse are splittsville. And now Walt's got a new man, new guy Todd (fuck new guy Todd). This was an episode in which I thought about being careful what you wish for. For such a long time I've been hoping that Jesse would finally see through Walt's manipulative shenanigans and kick his sorry ass to the curb. And now Jesse has finally done it, parted with Walt—even foregoing his five million dollars. So part of me was thrilled, but then I realized, "shit, this might be the end of Jesse on the show."

And not only that, for a replacement, we'll have to deal with new guy Todd (fuck new guy Todd). Even Walt felt a tinge of sadness as he suited up before training the new guy. And now we're starting the cycle again. Walt, master manipulator that he is, goes into father/teacher mode with new guy Todd, letting him know that he is a subordinate. Ordinarily, I'd be upset that Walt is bringing another kid under his manipulative power, but this is child murderer Todd we're talking about. Fuck that guy.

But, as you know, we had a much sadder parting on this episode: Walt's murder of Mike. I never thought I’d be upset to see a cold-blooded murdering gangster get offed, but this is one of the saddest deaths the show has presented. And it was made all the sadder when Walt realized he didn't have to kill Mike; he had another way of discovering the names of the nine guys. How? Who knows (probably Lydia); tune in next week to find out.

If I had any complaints with this episode, it was that I didn't understand why Mike would continue to trust Walt: be it in setting up the new distribution deal at the beginning, or in bringing him his go bag at the end. Still, this was a mighty powerful episode in a season full of them.

(My apologies for the brevity of this write-up. I woke up late and didn't have time to write a proper review. I'll make most of my points in the notes section below. Also, please, I'd love to discuss the episode in the comments.)

Random Notes:

I wonder if it's more than a coincidence that the title of this episode, "Say My Name," is also the title of a Destiny's Child song about a jealous lover worried that her boyfriend is seeing someone in the side. Walt, as you know, is more than a little jealous of the pull that Mike has with Jesse. Check out Walt's creepy peeping stare at Jesse and Mike as the two say goodbye.

Only Breaking Bad could make a scene in a safe deposit vault so exciting.

I love Saul’s drawer full of cell phones. What a goddamn crooked lawyer.

Note the parallels to Fring's call to Hank at the end of "One Minute" when Walt calls up Mike to warn him of the impending DEA bust. Walt is the new man in charge, the all-knowing eye in the sky who can warn of impending danger.

This is the first time I can remember that we've seen Mike break his cool. When the cops arrive at the park, he looks genuinely scared. And then with the final meet with Walt, Mike finally blows his top, screaming at the ego-machine.

Even at the doorstep of death, Walt can't let Mike have peace.

Random Quotes:

"Your play, Walter. Your on your own."

"So, it’s grade school T-ball vs. the Yankees."

"You all know who I am. Say my name."
"You’re goddamn right."

"Kid, just look out for yourself."

"Why not, you deserve it. You’re every bit as good as me."

"Being the best at something is a very rare thing. You don’t just throw that away."

"You and I have done things that are just as bad."

"We’re already going there, but I’m not gonna lie down until I get there."

"You want it just as much as I want it, and it’s not wrong to want it."

"Whatever, man, you won’t pay me; I don’t care. It’s on you."

"Listen and apply yourself. If you do that, you might just have a fighting chance here."

"We can talk money once I get this right."

"Yeah, I can’t just up and leave town like you, Mike. I’ve got a family; I’ve got people who depend on me."

"Shut up, Walt. Let me die in peace."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad

OK, it looks like Saturday has become my "post an interview" day. And I'm fine with that. I constantly watch interviews on youtube, so why not share with you some of the best ones I happen to stumble across. Today, check out this great interview with Vince Gilligan on the writing process for Breaking bad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Louie - "Looking for Liz/Lilly Changes"

Louie sure meets a lot of crazy women, huh. To be more specific, Louie meets a lot of crazy women portrayed by nineties indie darlings. And last night Chloe Sevigny's crack PI/public masturbator attempted to help Louie track down Parker Posey's less-than-sane Liz from the "Daddy's Girlfriend" episodes. Though the unhinged Liz may have scared him, Louie can't shake her; she has invaded his dreams. He no longer wants a normal girl. So he gets another non-normal girl to help him find the previous non-normal girl.

I've read more than a few complaints that all the female characters on Louie are crazy. A valid complaint; but I think the real point in the show is that these are the kinds of women Louie seeks out. They're just much more exciting. So, though it's not normal to get a sexual thrill from the stalking of another individual, masturbating in a coffee shop sure makes for an interesting day out.

But then again, the second segment in this episode could add legitimacy to those critiques. It portrays Louie's attempts to deal with his changing daughter. Previously a happy-go-lucky kid, Lilly has now become moody, refusing to talk to her dad. She is becoming an adolescent; she is becoming irrational. Then she disappears; younger daughter Jane thinks she left the building; Louie calls the cops; and it turns out she was in the closet with headphones all along.

I think this second segment was mostly just a depiction of the annoyances involved in raising children. In a nutshell, kids just become assholes during adolescence. But, as I said, coming as this segment does, after the previous crazy-woman segment, it seems that Louie is making another point as well. (Of course, a point could also be made that this segment was about Louie's failings as a parent: ignoring Jane when she tried to interrupt his shit; failing to look in the closet for his daughter, failing to call his wife to let her know that her daughter was missing.)

I don't know, maybe I'm uninspired this morning, but it was a real struggle to come up with much to write about "Looking for Liz/Lilly Changes." Overall the episode felt slight. I can't say I didn't enjoy it; but standing in the shadows, as it does, in the masterful two-parter "Daddy's Girlfriend," I was just underwhelmed.

Random Notes:

Great stand-up routine in the opening. As with Louie, I look forward to nothing more than good shits and good sleep.

I'll never tire of seeing Louie give his kids the finger.

Awesome, the neighbors from the fart episode.

Random Quotes:

“Yeah, I’m looking for Liz. She works here.”
“Not anymore. She quit. Anything else?”

“She changed how I feel about everything. In one night.”

“Just so you know, I’m married, so please don’t come by the store or anything.”

“I don’t wanna say anything for you to listen to.”

“Wait, you called us but you didn’t call the mother.?”

“Now you’re gonna put this on her.”

“There’s no way I’m digging in blindly into the Egyptian hepatitis and severed toes so that you can have a seatbelt. You gotta put on your own mask before helping the others.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winning Streak Blogathon: The Coen Brothers (1984-1998)

Damn, this was really fucking hard. Damned if I could make a reasonable decision on this one. Uh, I know no matter what I pick, I'm gonna regret the decision as soon as this posts.

Oh, I should probably tell you guys what's going on here. This is my entry in The Movie Waffler's Winning Streak Blogathon. Basically, I have to give you my favorite string of great movies from a director of my choosing. Now this doesn't mean my favorite movies from my favorite director, but rather the longest uninterrupted stream of greatness from a particular director. That means, for instance, though Scorsese is one of my favorite filmmakers, I couldn't include him because a few of his streaks were interrupted by duds (I'm looking at you, New York, New York).

So, all that being said, I chose:

[No, not you, the guys on your sides.]

Yep, the Coen brothers. Going through all my choices it was really hard to find another that matched the rewatchable string of brilliance these guys created their first seven times out. Here's the streak:

Blood Simple (1984)

One of the greatest debuts in film history.

Raising Arizona (1987)

Few other films have ever caused me to laugh so hard.

Miller's Crossing (1990)

Gains with each viewing.

Barton Fink (1991)

Dark brilliance.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Alright, I know I'll probably get some shit for including this movie, but I think it more than holds up against the other films in this list. An updating of Capra's "every-man finds success" comedies, this film also bears the unmistakable dark, twisted stamp of the Coens. Also, fuck you if you don't like it.

Fargo (1996)

You betcha.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

[Insert ubiquitous Lebowski reference here.]

Honorable mention: Howard Hawks. It was really hard not making Hawks the focus of my piece. If I had, this would have been the string of films I'd have included:

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
His Girl Friday (1940)
Sergeant York (1941)
Ball of Fire (1941)
Air Force (1943)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Red River (1948)

Now this would have been a perfect choice for multiple reasons. 1) At nine films, it's the longest streak I could find from any director. 2) Hawks was a man who traveled through various genres (western, screwball comedy, noir, war, musical) with greater ease than nearly any other director; and this streak contains entries from all but his musicals. 3) Not only was this a great streak, but these films, arguably, represent the best output of Hawks' career.

So why didn't I make this a Hawks list? I still haven't seen Only Angels Have Wings. Everything about this movie says I'd love it, but, still, I can't judge it without having seen it. A pity.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Cinderella Liberty (1973)

dir. Mark Rydell

"Nice to Be Around" - Maureen McGovern

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 60 - Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn

dir. Charles Band

Roger Snead, Pete McDonough and I try to make sense of the bizarre Mad Max/Star Wars knockoff Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn—a movie featuring neither metal storms nor the destruction of Jared Syn. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Initiation (1984)

dir. Larry Stewart

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

Remember two weeks ago when I complained of the blah nature of Wes Craven’s by-the-book slasher picture Deadly Blessing? Well, you would think I'd have similar complaints about the rote The Initiation. It does, after all, revel in all the trappings of early-to-mid eighties slasher pictures.

Scantily clad/nude coeds: check

[I really hope leering Tom Selleck posters were the norm in eighties dorms.]

Rad flashback/dream sequence imagery meant to explain the subsequent murders/obfuscate the identity of actual killer: check

[Ubiquitous eighties blue light: check]

Creepy disfigured man with an axe to grind/red herring meant to distract us from the identity of the real killer offing scantily clad/nude coeds: check

[Where's my Mask movie?]

Crazy people: check

[We got cages of 'em up in this bitch.]

Slacking night watchman who gets done in by killer because he's all, like, not paying attention and stuff: check

[OK, here's a movie cliche I never got: the night watchman looking at porn when he should be working. Now I'm not saying I don't get the not-working part. Anyone who has ever had a boring job full of not being supervised knows that slacking off is inevitable. It's just that I've never looked at porn when I wasn't masturbating. I don't see the point. It's like drinking non-alcoholic beer—an act whose only purpose is to give your liver blue balls. Why be a tease to yourself. If you're gonna do something, fucking do it. No need for your hand to be coy with your dick.]

Awesome 'staches: check

[You better believe that's a check.]

Fashions that would make Dov Charney cum: check

["Are you sure these are the shortest shorts wardrobe had available?"]

["Should I steal these sweet skates and roll the fuck out of here? Would that be too much of an eighties cliche?"]

[Fuck it.]

A theme party in which everyone shows up in wacky costumes: check

[Pictured: Giant dick.]

["I can't wait for us to go have sex with our girlfriends. Hey, did you see that giant penis? Can I see your penis?"]

Handsome boyfriend of female lead: check

["What's that, mirror? You say a handsome man wants to say hi?"]

[Pictured: Boyfriend more interested in scotch than girlfriend. Not pictured: the fact that she started dating her psychology professor after he gained her trust through hypnosis, and the dredging of painful childhood memories. Also pictured: healthy relationship.]

Constantly irritated character whose face is frozen in a permanent "Oh, you figured out that her dreams are actually repressed memories and now you're all like, 'Oh, I just discovered something groundbreaking,' when I was the one who figured that shit out first and told you about it multiple times; but now you're making like it's your brilliant discovery" sneer: check

[Sure, I'll pretend this is a cliche.]

[Yeah, I have no idea who she's looking at here. Grip?]

Taunting of heroine by killer: check

["Sweet, the killer knows my name."]

Plot twist in which the evil twin of the heroine is revealed as the killer: check

[Spoiler: check]

Final freeze frame of heroine set to the musical accompaniment of a sweet, sexy sax tune: check

[Not pictured: What the fuck?]

But still, I found the movie much more enjoyable than Deadly Blessing.

Dave's Rating: