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Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
7:56 pm - Delirious Revisited

Last August, Deb and I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of director Tom DiCillo's Delirious. I wrote about the film the next day (which, if you check out the comments, generated a response from DiCillo himself). In subsequent weeks, due to lousy distribution (think Katrina-relief-effort lousy) and despite a rave review from Roger Ebert, Delirious came and went, lasting only a month in New York, a week in Los Angeles, and appearing on less than two-dozen screens in the entire U.S.


Last week Delirious was released on DVD. I encourage you to run out and buy, rent, or steal a copy immediately. You won't be disappointed (especially if you're a fan of the great character-study films of the Seventies). Rewatching the film today, I was once again blown away. Not only does it boast fantastic performances (by Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Gina Gershon, to name the obvious few), it's also a stunning piece of cinema.

Fortunately, the DVD transfer captures the movie's rich colors; scenes like the one where the Pitt character, walking through the streets of New York and realizing he's in love, are nothing short of visual poetry. Plus, there's a great commentary track by DiCillo, who has crafted a film, despite all third-party efforts to the contrary, worth remembering.

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Thursday, March 27th, 2008
1:24 pm - What the Hell?

This morning, in The New York Sun, there's an article about how Manhattan's Anthology Film Archives (according to its website, "the first museum devoted to film as an art form") is reviving the early movies of Albert Brooks; specifically, his first two features, the wonderful and exquisite Real Life and Modern Love (the former, made in 1979, an extremely prescient commentary on reality television, the latter taking neurotic romanticism to heights even Woody Allen never dreamed possible).

Regarding Brooks's third movie, Lost in America, the article mentions that "'there's no print of it anywhere.' An apparent victim of indifference on the part of Warner Bros., which owns the film, Lost in America has fallen through the distribution cracks."

No print of it anywhere?! It's not unusual in this day of film restoration awareness (thanks to the efforts of directors like Martin Scorsese) to hear how 90 percent of American silent movies have been lost, as well as half of all the films made in the U.S. before 1950. But we're talking about a movie that was made in 1985, for Chrissake! As well, Lost in America took in more at the box office than Brooks's first two films combined. And nobody thought to preserve a single print?

I don't know about you, but that really grinds my gears.

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Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
3:14 pm - Cancel the Bigger Boat

Roy Scheider died earlier this week. Damn. He was one of those actors who was often much better than the material he was given (a curse that followed him from his first screen credit: TV's The Edge of Night).

But all that's moot, because he appeared in one of the most entertaining films ever made (Jaws, where he ad-libbed the line "You're gonna need a bigger boat"), one of the most exciting (his reaction shots behind Gene Hackman lent humanity to the often cold and heartless French Connection), one of the most overlooked (William Friedkin's difficult and uncompromising Sorcerer), and two of the most daring (David Cronenberg's version of Naked Lunch and his narration for Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters). Most importantly, he starred in (and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for) Bob Fosse's brilliant All that Jazz, which is just flat-out one of the best movies ever made.

Roy Scheider was a classic example of one of those actors, like Bogart, who always, regardless of circumstance, rose to the occasion; so that, in those those few-and-far-between instances when the occasions rose to him, he was ready.

He is already missed.

current mood: rejuvenated

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Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
11:00 am - Delirious

I've got this camera click, click, clickin' in my head.
"I'm Not Angry"

Although it doesn't appear until the end credits, Elvis Costello's classic 1977 spitfire anthem serves as one of the best movie theme songs—theme in every sense of the word—of recent years. Jealousy, voyeurism, paranoia, acceptance, rejection, denial, the potential for violence, the recognition that it's all so damn unfunny that it becomes funny—Costello's song has it all, and so does the fine film to which it's now been wed.

Director and writer Tom DiCillo's Delirious, which had a special screening last night in Manhattan at the Angelika, works effectively on so many different levels that it gives new meaning to the term cross-genre. At once a comedic and dramatic Midnight Cowboyish character study of downtrodden friendship, it's also a love story, a meditation on fame (those who have it vs. those who want it), and a potential stalker flick. Despite its vastly disparate characters, shifts in tone, and wildly divergent plot lines, the movie hangs together remarkably well. Its debts to Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver aside, Delirious is the best movie about wanting to be famous since that other great Scorsese paean to obsessive behavior, 1983's The King of Comedy. (Both Scorsese films starred Robert De Niro, who receives mention several times in Delirious.)

"Sometimes I see too much," says Steve Buscemi's Les Gallantine (even his name is a worthy successor to Rupert Pupkin and Travis Bickle) to Michael Pitt's Toby Grace. What he doesn't see is how his chosen profession—that of paparazzi—with each click of his shutter takes something away from his subjects. He proudly displays on his apartment wall two long-range photos of Elvis Costello (who effectively appears as himself in the movie) as if they were big-game trophies.

Following last night's screening, Tom DiCillo spoke about the making of Delirious, which he spent the last six years bringing to fruition. He couldn't say enough good things about his star Steve Buscemi, who delivers what might well be the best performance of his career (right up there with his starring role in DiCillo's 1995 indie classic, Living in Oblivion).

One thing DiCillo couldn't stress enough about his new film and whether or not it succeeds: "Tell your friends about it." Indeed, in a movie marketplace where big-name films boast advertising budgets larger than what it cost DiCillo to make his movie (he had to reduce his budget from five million dollars down to three million), word of mouth is more important than ever.

DiCillo told The New York Times last week: "'Look at the movies people are watching.... They’re about nothing. You invest nothing.'"

Not so with Delirious.

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Saturday, July 14th, 2007
10:06 am - Shopsin's

I learned about Shopsin's last year when I visited Evergreen Video to interview owner Steve Feltes for my book about Paul Nelson. Deciding we'd eat while we talked, we walked across the street to Shopsin's, at 54 Carmine Street in the West Village, where we were presented with menus the length of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novella (there are supposedly over 900 dishes listed).

On the way over, Steve told me that the restaurant's proprietor, Kenny Shopsin, was somewhat legendary for yelling at — and even tossing out — his customers. He also mentioned that someone had made a documentary about Shopsin.

Now that film from 2004, I Like Killing Flies, is out on DVD (I watched it online yesterday via Netflix). Lo and behold, Kenny Shopsin is indeed a veritable Soup Nazi (his refusal to seat parties of five or more is only one of his endearing predilections), albeit one with a fouler mouth and a more philosophical bent. Imagine a cross between a kinder, gentler Charles Bukowski and perverse, dyspeptic Mortimer J. Adler — then stick a spatula in one hand and a flyswatter in the other, and voilà! you have Kenny Shopsin.

Director Matt Mahurin's documentary is about as bare bones as you can get, and the pace is rambling and frenetic at the same time; all of which serves his subject well. And, indeed, Shopsin likes killing flies, which functions not only as a metaphor for how he treats his customers but also for the United States' terrorist problem and for the human condition as a whole.

The day I was there, Shopsin was on his best behavior, occasionally emerging from the kitchen to sit down and visit with a customer, and the food was great (reminding me of one of my favorite restaurants from Salt Lake City, Over the Counter). And, perhaps because it was late in the year, there were no flies.

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Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
4:54 pm - Last Days

Director Gus Van Sant's fictionalized take on Kurt Cobain's suicide is similar in tone and execution (pun unintended) to Elephant, his fictionalized take on Columbine; which is to say, the film is virtually devoid of dramatic narrative, offers little if any understanding of its characters or their motives, and, though its art-film pretensions insist otherwise, ultimately exploits the hell out of its subject matter. Which would be okay if either film were at least entertaining, but, given their source materials, they're not because that would be, well, exploitative. Both movies are basically punchlines we already know to jokes that were unfunny to begin with.

Anybody can point a camera at someone pulling a trigger; making us understand why and allowing us to experience the sense of loss that comes from pulling the trigger, that's a different matter. There's more I'd like to say about Last Days, but, honestly, the movie already robbed 97 minutes of my life. I'll be damned if I'm going to surrender any more to it.

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Thursday, April 26th, 2007
10:22 am - Gun Crazy

I'm not sure how this one escaped me for so many years. Directed in 1949 by Joseph H. Lewis from a screenplay by MacKinlay Kantor (based on his 1940 Saturday Evening Post short story) and blacklisted Dalton Trumbo masquerading as Millard Kaufman, Gun Crazy reset the standard for film noir and paved the way for the attractive, sympathetic -- albeit sometimes psychotic -- antiheroes that showed up two decades later in movies like Bonnie and Clyde (whose real-life characters inspired Gun Crazy's lovin' couple on the run) and The Getaway.

Cinematically, the film's often expressionistic; its startling and (then) innovative use of extended "backseat driver" takes, shot from within the getaway car, and get the viewer caught up not only in the characters' predicament but the sexual excitement their larceny generates. And Russell Harlan's black-and-white cinematography is right up there with his work on Red River, The Thing from Another World, and Blackboard Jungle.

Not again until Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway would the screen see crooks as charismatic as Peggy Cummins and John Dall. Director Lewis told critic Danny Peary in 1981: "I told John, 'Your cock's never been so hard,' and I told Peggy, 'You're a female dog in heat, and you want him. But don't let him have it in a hurry. Keep him waiting.' That's exactly how I talked to them and I turned them loose. I didn't have to give them more directions."

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Monday, April 23rd, 2007
11:42 am - Everything Is an Afterthought

I recently sold my first book. In conjunction, I've established another LiveJournal to report on the project's progress, occasionally provide links about, and writings by, its subject, the journalist and critic Paul Nelson, and share snippets of information or parts of interviews that may or may not be covered further in the final product.

In addition to being a critic and screenwriter, Nelson co-wrote the fine book: 701 Toughest Movie Trivia Questions of All Time (about which Martin Scorsese said, "Some of the sections were so tough I could only guess at the answers, but the book taught me a lot I was happy to learn").

The new journal shares the book's working title, Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Just follow the link.

Anybody interested in learning more about this brilliant writer, whose own life proved just as mysterious and fascinating as the artists' about whom he wrote, is welcome to join. As well, tracking the process of how a book goes from sale to publication should prove interesting. I'm rather curious about that part myself...

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11:42 am - Year of the Dog


For his directorial debut, Mike White chose to make a movie (based on his own original screenplay) that's a treatise about loneliness and people who have love but can't find a place to put it. Like many of the characters in White's previous scripts (to name a notable few: Chuck and Buck, School of Rock, Orange County, three episodes of Freaks and Geeks, and one of my all-time favorite films, The Good Girl), Year of the Dog's Peggy (played by Molly Shannon) doesn't quite have a sense of herself; her strong feelings and opinions locate her a little outside of the mainstream. The thing is, the people in the orbit of her life who don't get her, whose eyebrows and judgment she raises, are no less idiosyncratic.

Following the surprising but inevitable course that Peggy's life takes, Shannon is excellent, as is the rest of the cast, with the ever-dependable John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Pais particularly outstanding.

As exemplified by a user comment at IMDb, the film is far from the chick flick that its plot and advertising suggests: " I thought I was going to see a funny movie. I came home feeling suicidal. If I wanted to see a pathetic over-40 woman who has bad dates and lives alone with the pets she dotes on too much, I woulda stayed home and stared in the mirror!" Year of the Dog -- the chick flick from hell?

Regardless, by movie's end, as in all of White's work, he manages to humanize his offbeat characters so that we, too, can understand and perhaps even identify with them -- if we hadn't already all along.

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Friday, March 30th, 2007
8:50 am - We Don't Live Here Anymore

"Too sad," Mark Ruffalo's character says toward the end of this film from 2004, succinctly summing up the preceding hour and a half of marital warfare. Arguably, director John J. Curran's greatest accomplishment is managing to end the movie, which is sometimes almost too painful to watch, on a hopeful note without resorting to maudlin platitudes or a song by Sarah McLachlan. 

Woody Allen's Husband and Wives without the laughs, Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage without the subtitles, and Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut without the masks, We Don't Live Here Anymore boasts terrific performances from Ruffalo (fine in this year's Zodiac), Laura Dern, Peter Krause, and co-producer Naomi Watts.

Larry Gross's screenplay, based on Andre Dubus's novella We Don't Live Here Anymore and short story "Adultery," guides -- but doesn't drag -- the viewer through a psychic minefield fraught with every imaginable method of harm we humans can inflict upon one another without actually drawing blood.

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Sunday, October 22nd, 2006
12:19 pm - Pauline Kael, Reviews A-Z


Some lunatic has put online all 2,846 of Pauline Kael's capsule reviews from her fine compendium, 5001 Nights at the Movies. While I don't advocate the unauthorized hijacking of anybody's copyrighted works (the site's been out there for a while now, so who knows whether or not it's been sanctioned), it's indeed handy having these insightful cinematic kernels available at one's fingertips. (Which is to say, it saves me the arduous task of getting up off my butt and taking the book itself off the shelf.) Such is the insidiousness of the Internet.

On paper or in cyberspace, one thing these reviews reveal is that Kael was at her best writing in the long form. Reduced to the amount of space usually permitted in Entertainment Weekly, often lost are the insights, the snap of her words, and the sense of enjoyment that shone through her writing. Kael, like Paul Nelson, was as much a stylist as she was a critic, in some cases rendering the reviews she wrote better than the films she was writing about.

current mood: spirited

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Tuesday, October 10th, 2006
2:57 pm - The Abominable Snowman


While it certainly wouldn't qualify for Paul Schrader's canon of great films (or anybody else's, for that matter, including mine), whenever I happen across this 1957 movie (sometimes calling itself The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas) when it airs on Turner Classic Movies, I inevitably watch until the end. Director Val Guest treats screenwriter Nigel Kneale's intelligent script so matter-of-factly that parts of the movie achieve a documentary feel (helped along, admittedly, by the wealth of stock footage of the Himalayan mountain range and avalanches). 

I remember staying up late one night to watch this, for the first time, as a child, and being absolutely mesmerized by Peter Cushing's long-awaited face-to-face encounter with the Yeti. The effect remains the same for me today: menace mixing with mystery as the unbelievably tall beings step from the shadow into the light, finally revealing the eyes of the Yeti. Those age-old eyes. 

current mood: forging ahead

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Saturday, October 7th, 2006
1:38 pm - The Rules of the Game


"You see, in this world there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons."

I've known that quote well for many years, thanks to the writings of Paul Nelson (who referenced it often), just as I've known that the man responsible for originally uttering those words was Jean Renoir. But until last week, when I watched his fine film The Rules of the Game for the first time in over twenty years, I didn't know (or I'd forgotten) that the quote emanated therein. Spoken by the pivotal character Octave, played by Renoir himself, hearing the words spoken aloud, in French, was a surprise and a revelation.

(In writing a biography of Paul Nelson and collecting his best writings into book form, and trying to understand how someone so talented and so loved came to an end that few of his old friends could comprehend -- living a life that was solitary at best, lonely at worst, while no longer writing for publication -- I've been tempted to rely on Renoir's words to explain and excuse what happened. Thus far that strikes me as too easy; but then, I've more than once used Renoir's quote to explain my own actions.)

In the September/October 2006 issue of Film Comment, director Paul Schrader writes an ambitious, lengthy (the longest article the magazine has published in its 42 years), erudite, and sometimes impenetrable piece entitled "The Film Canon" (the introduction to which may currently be found online). Supposedly sans favoritism and "taste, personal and popular," based on "those movies that artistically defined film history," he cites The Rules of the Game as the number one greatest film of all time.

According to Schrader: "For me the artist without whom there could not be a film canon is Jean Renoir, and the film without which a canon is inconceivable is The Rules of the Game."

It is no doubt a great film: funny and poignant and heartbreaking and, ultimately, very moral (thus satisfying Schrader's dictum that "no work that fails to strike moral chords can be canonical"). But even if it were not, if it were only a so-so movie that happened to contain Renoir's memorable quote, which spoke to me last week as if it were Paul Nelson trying to help me understand, there'd be a place in my heart for The Rules of the Game.

current mood: unfocused

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Thursday, November 17th, 2005
11:51 am - Movie Premiere @ the Pioneer Theatre, Nov. 23.

Hey there! If you are interested in checking out a fun whacky flick that I did, why not come down to the PIONEER THEATRE for a few laughs. It's a sketch film with a variety of looney characters all of which are acted by me.

Here are the details:
Name of Film: A Most Particularly Peculiar Bank Heist
Date: Wednesday, Nov 23rd.
Time: 7:00 PM
Address: 155 East 3rd street (between Ave A and B)
Phone: (212) 591-0434
Web: http://www.twoboots.com/pioneer

Will our favorite zany characters pull off this daring bank heist? Or will they succumb to the evil designs of the Russian Mafia Super? Or fall into the clutches of the insane Ox Malford? Watch this bizarre adventure unravel as director, creator and actress Ms. Divine brings each cartoon character to life in this one-lady sketch film.

For more information, check out my website: www.msdivine.net. Thanks and hope to see you there!

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Saturday, August 20th, 2005
3:03 pm - Since We're Trying To Wake This Community Up....

Over a year ago I saw an amazing short film. The most amazing thing I ever saw, so naturally I promptly forgot what it was called and who directed it. Well, after a year of searching, I finally rediscovered what it was and who made it.

Moznosti Dialogu (Dimension s of Dialogue in English) by Jan Svankmajer. It is a stunning animated short using stop motion. It's cut into three sections, "Eternal Dialogue", "Passionate Dialogue", and "Exhausting Dialogue".

The first uses cutlery and vegetables shaped as humans. The cutlery man eat the vegetable man and mas chaos ensues until cutlery reforms. It regurjitates the vegetables (now smaller) who reform and devour the cutlery man. It continues on similarly like that. This is probably my favorite Dialogue.

The second uses clay shaped as people. Not claymation people, but fine sculpture people. They interact with eachother. I can't really give much more on this one without ruining it completely.

The third and last dialogue uses clay heads that offer up every day utensils from their mouths. Again, not much more can be said on it.

Moznosti Dialogu doesn't have any verbal dialogue in it, strangely enough. The entire film is action and music, nothing more. It was made in the early 1980's and most deffinately is a political surrealist short. Under communism, art, particularly filmmaking, was censored and repressed. However, clever artists slipped their messages speaking out again Stalinism in to their art in ways that wouldn't be expected, ways that it couldn't it censored. This 12 minute film is prime example. It speaks its message clearly using allegory and unexpected happenings.

I highly recommend it. It can be found on the VHS Alchemist of the Surreal and the DVD Collected Shorts of Jan Svankmajer.

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Friday, August 19th, 2005
11:54 pm

ok so has anyone in this-or anyone who still reads posts from this community since apperently its been abandonded or something-seen Me, and You, and Everyone we Know yet?? id been dying to see it but the indie. theatres in my city arent playing it anymore and i want some reviews from real people! if anyone's seen it, how was it please??

current mood: content

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2:01 am - indie films are money.

hello all.
my name is ivana.
i love movies.
i look forward to being a part of this community!

have a nice night everyone!

current mood: tired

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Monday, September 20th, 2004
2:47 pm - Humorous anecdotes of past Scientists

Recently I came across an educational movie that was filmed in the seventies called "The city that waits to die" It's a very overly melodramatic and strangely filmed movie that fills me with laughter almost equal to the "Why you shouldn't trust communist" propaganda movies of the fifties. Has anyone else come across this? I know it's not exactly high cinema, but it's entertaining (especially the part about using low yield nuclear weapons underground to "prevent" earthquakes) Recently i've been told I should watch an older Russian movie called man with a movie camera, comments on it from anyone? i'm told the camera work is excellent, especially for its time, though I haven't been able to snag a copy yet. Oh, and hi! i'm Matt, i'm new here.


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Friday, August 6th, 2004
11:44 am - Hi

I just wanted to let you know about a new community...film_reviews where you can let others know about films you've enjoyed/hated/whatever..

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