The Opposite of Sex [1998)

It was a very good year…

1998.

Unlike the year experienced in this film by Martin Donovan’s character.

And, perhaps, unlike the year 2020 which we are all currently living through.

Spoiler:  Christina Ricci does not get nude in this film.

Carry on!

We start in Louisiana and come to Indiana, Los Angeles, Canada, and back to Indiana again.

This film deals with a lot of things.

Being a widow(er), for one.

Being gay.

Particularly, being gay in a conservative locale.

But at the heart of this film is a very strange series of lies and poor decisions.

But there are also some good decisions interspersed.

Mainly, there is a shitload of chaos.

And most of it is caused by Christina Ricci’s character Dedee Truitt.

Or sex.

Sex is a unifying principle here.

The stupidity of sex.

How sex can lead to a whole concatenation of events which were unintended.

In a strange way, this film is a cautionary tale.

But our narrator (Ricci) couldn’t give two fucks about ethics for most of this movie.

The whole tone of this film is sarcastic.

Sardonic.

If you like your comedy dark, you might like this.

But it’s not a particularly funny movie.

It’s watchable.

And, one might say, good.

Not great.

Lyle Lovett plays on an archetype perhaps established by Sheriff Harry Truman in Twin Peaks.

The resemblance of gesture and demeanor are remarkable.

Lisa Kudrow does a nice job here.

Her character is annoying as fuck.

And she pulls off that personality deftly.

But the real star is Martin Donovan as Bill.

His acting exceeds that of all the other players.

Really, to my eyes, this film revolves more around him than it does around Ricci’s hellbent character.

And so this film is not bad.

It is a little disappointing.

It is a little half-baked.

Half-assed.

Boring.

Even amidst all the chaos, it feels hackneyed here and there.

In the end, it was worth watching.

But just barely.

 

-PD

Lost River [2014)

There’s something very weird going on in Hollywood.

And it has been going on for a long time.

You can look for yourself in Kenneth Anger’s books.

Strange stories about Clara Bow.

The first “It” girl.

From the film of the same name.

And how she kept her skin so soft (ostensibly).

But the range of weirdness in Hollywood seems to move along a continuum.

There are levels.

Not unlike Freemasonry.

Or Scientology.

The hedonism of Henry Miller would be a very low level.

But what we are dealing with here, in this film, is an allusion to a higher level.

Really, the highest level.

There really isn’t a more mot juste for this phenomenon than Satanism.

And, perhaps, even that word does not fully describe what is at issue.

If one was hard-pressed to boil it down–to refine it further, perhaps “evil” would be the essential element.

Recently, the internet collective known only as QAnon “dropped” a crumb of information regarding an establishment in Los Angeles known as the Cannibal Club.

You can find all Q drops here.

The drop in question is #3917 from April 8th of this month.

Here is the website to which Q linked.

It indeed follows the train of thought I delineated above.

You will see the Henry Miller quote (an author I deeply admire).

But then you will see a perversion far beyond (to my knowledge) anything Henry Miller ever wrote about.

What you see on the Cannibal Club website appears to be a restaurant which serves human flesh.

However, with a bit of research, I came to the conclusion that this particular institution (as it is presented) is likely fake.

Why?

The names of the principals all come back empty.  None of them have a digital footprint that I can find.  Sophie Lafitte.  Elspeth Blake.  Hero Conners.  Raven Chan.

The photo of Cannibal Club’s proprietress, Elspeth Blake, was first cached as a stock photo in 2012.

The photo of Raven Chan also was first cached (before it was used on the Cannibal Club website) as a stock photo.  Both photos appear to have originated on the website istockphoto.com .  They are generic pictures.

The Cannibal Club website went live with content in 2009.  Neither the menu, nor the “events” have changed.

My conclusion was that this was a joke made by demented, artsy liberals in order to seed panic in America’s conservative population.

That was my hypothesis:  it is almost certainly a sick joke.

But here’s the rub…

Things like this very well may exist.

Indeed, they probably do.

And thereby we come to the film Lost River.

It came out a mere two years before Trump was elected.

Before Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sex crimes and sent to prison (where, last I heard, he had coronavirus).

Before jet-setter Jeffrey Epstein “hung himself” in a Manhattan jail cell.

You know, Epstein…the guy who flew Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey to Africa.

All this was before Kevin Spacey had numerous sex crime charges brought against him.

And two of his accusers recently dropped dead (over the past year) bringing both cases to a halt.

Lost River.

I appreciate the style.

Very heavy on the David Lynch (with a modicum of Harmony Korine thrown in).

The focus on “place” is very similar to the technique David Lynch and Mark Frost used to ground the town of Twin Peaks in the TV series of the same name.

Evil.

In the woods.

Underwater.

Underground.

And in secret clubs.

Director Ryan Gosling did a pretty good job with this film.

We will forgive him for lifting the ambiance of that Orbison scene from Mulholland Dr. to repurpose it in his Lost River blood-and-guts cabaret.

Because the reason I watched this film at all was for Christina Hendricks.

She has the potential to join a modern pantheon which, at this time, includes only Thora Birch and Kat Dennings.

Though we are never told this in the film, it is set in Detroit.

And that makes sense.

Deserted neighborhoods with crumbling houses.

But it could be anywhere in America if China’s economic warfare (COVID-19) is not soon countered.

Matt Smith does a good job as Bully:  the embodiment of serial-killer animalism.

The thug.

The gangster.

The cartel head.

Extreme cruelty.

Sadistic.

Gosling did a great job location scouting for the zoo scene.

The abandoned zoo.

Very much like the film Hanna and its scenes in the abandoned Spreepark of East Berlin.

Ben Mendelsohn is a fucker.

Such a prick.

But smart.

He’s not an animal like Bully, though he has rage inside him.

He is more of a predator.

And he is much more powerful.

His character, Dave, is a banker.

And Dave tells us, during the course of the film, that he sets up a little “club” in each of the towns he goes to.

Seems Dave gets moved around a lot.

Comes in.

Fires people.

Gets the books on a firmer footing.

And moves on to the next town where he can oblige the poor and demented with a bit of blood lust with his clubs.

Lots of blood.

Lots of lust.

Dave overlaps nicely onto the persona of Harvey Weinstein.

Christina Hendricks is immediately propositioned by the bank manager.

Dave is a thoroughly-unscrupulous scumbag.

Hendricks just wants to hang on to her home…dilapidated though it may be.

Saoirse Ronan does a nice job in a relatively-minor role here.

She glitters occasionally…as she plays her Casio on her bed with sparkly finger polish.

Whispering out a little song.

Or as she tucks in her pet rat for the night.

But it is not the ginger Ronan we are used to.

Her hair is black.

To fit with the landscape.

And to let Hendricks (also a redhead) stand out as the star.

Saoirse is the “girl next door”…literally.

In the tradition of American Beauty.

By this method we can trace Gosling’s influences.

The overarching one is David Lynch.

This film is creepy.

Plenty creepy.

Much of the creepiness comes from the casting.

It really is an amalgam of Lynch’s freaks with Harmony Korine’s amateurs.

There is the grief of the mute grandmother.

Caught in a loop of family films.

Mourning her late-husband who died tragically.

It is sad.

It happens.

The inability to talk for some time after a shock.

Extreme PTSD.

The family films are sad.

Watching how they used to be.

The way they were.

And the grandmother still a widow…with a fishnet veil for mourning.

There is some rubbish in this movie.

Kind of how the second season of Twin Peaks went off the rails.

Eva Mendes is good here.

And scary.

In the basement is something very Ex Machina (also 2014).

And even more so John Cale’s Vintage Violence.

Shells.

Mortal coils.

Simulation.

Apparently, customers can come down and “murder” real people in these shells.

The shells are of a hard, clear plastic.

And formfitting.

The shells supposedly prevent any real bodily harm.

But we never really see them in action.

Iain De Caestecker is pretty good here.

There is a realness in the urgency of his running.

Gosling’s editing crystalizes this.

Running for love.

Panic.

Running to save.

To set off running.

Unprepared for how long the journey really is.

Something special here.

Good vs. evil.

To give.

Charity.

To be selfish.

To ignore the needs of others.

To follow the voice of God.

To follow the instruction of the Holy Spirit.

To be humble before God.

To fear God.

To feel evil all around.

When it comes, and when it goes.

But the most quizzical scene is when Christina Hendricks cuts her own face off (in simulation, of course) in exactly the way we have heard about in the infamous, rumored Frazzledrip video.

In 2014.

Two years before such a thing came to light.

What a strange coincidence.

Let us synthesize more.

Could there be clubs (in L.A., for instance) where children have their faces cut off (for real) in front of an audience of sickos?

Further question, how does Hollywood (in L.A.) have the “imagination” to write these sorts of scenes?

Sure, there’s the old French film Eyes Without a Face.

But that was cosmetic.

It wasn’t for the thrill of spectators.

It was a medical procedure gone wrong.

Gory as it was, it was to SAVE the face of his daughter that the misguided doctor went on a hunt for faces.

Here, the faces are potlatched (apparently).

Or eaten.

But again, this is just a “cabaret”, we are told.

We see behind the scenes.

“Fake blood”.

So where is the truth in these “jokes”?

What kinds of personalities find humor in this?

John Podesta famously jokes about cannibalism in Time magazine and elsewhere.

He jokes about the cannibalistic Donner party.

He had cannibal art hanging on his office wall (a loan from his art-collector-brother Tony Podesta).

Strange fixation, that.

Very creepy.

Verging on Silence of the Lambs.

Ed Gein.

Dahmer.

Really vile stuff.

This is an interesting movie.

Gosling has talent as a director.

He should make more films.

This was his debut.

He has directed nothing sense.

My only quibble is this:  Christina Hendricks was so misused here.

Saoirse Ronan was almost equally misused.

Gosling needs to watch more Godard.

More Hitchcock.

You don’t cast Grace Kelly only to have her wear the same sweater for the whole film.

But it’s also Hendricks’ fault.

She has talent.

But she must embrace who she is.

She is not a good enough actor to be a puritan.

 

-PD

Blondie’s New York [2014)

Man…

So much I could say about this one.

But it’s one of the few times where I can say, “I worked with that person.”

Clem Burke.

Probably wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire.

Now.

Because I’m a Trump supporter.

But he was the best drummer I was ever in the same room with.

And drumming was the longest “career” I ever had.

I’ve played drums since I was a kid.

All of them.

The set.

“Traps” 🙂

Orchestral snare drum.

Marimba.

The whole 4-mallet thing.

Jazz vibraphone.

But when I worked with Clem, I was a bass player.

That day.

That year.

For awhile.

It was the bass that took me to England.

To Scotland.

And to Spain.

And it was the bass that first took me to Los Angeles.

But this is about Blondie.

The band.

And what a band!

Based on my own experiences just mentioned, I can attest to the extremely high musicianship of Clem Burke.

And watching this relatively-short documentary (an hour) convinces me of just how special each of the band members were/are.

But perhaps my favorite part is seeing Mike Chapman work.

The record producer.

What a talent!

It was my dream to be a record producer.

Didn’t really work out 🙂

Tough business.

Maybe you fuck up.

Or maybe no one helps you.

Or maybe you get one chance.  And only one chance.

But that’s ok.

Because life goes on.

Marilyn Monroe aged.

Lou Reed sang about it on the Velvets’ “New Age”.

And Godard wrote about it.

The aging of Marilyn Monroe must have been a traumatic phenomenon for the first generation of movie goers.

The first generation with that color reality.

And with the television buttress.

And Marilyn…

Even Elton John, a homosexual man, was in love with Marilyn…in a sort of way.

“Candle in the Wind”

Which brings us to Debbie Harry.

The former cocktail waitress from Max’s Kansas City.

Chickpeas and lobster.

Park Avenue South.

And brings us to the album Parallel Lines.

This documentary is almost strictly about that album.

About Blondie’s breakthrough into the mainstream.

Yeah, they were punk…

Had the street cred.

But they transcended.

Mostly due to musicianship.

A bit like the Talking Heads.

The other bands were hopelessly arty.

Of this scene.

My favorite, Suicide.

[R.I.P. Alan Vega]

I met Alan once.

Changed my life.

But Suicide never really had a hit.

[Nooo…you don’t say?!?]

Yeah.

The name.

Whoa mama!

But that was punk.

And my whole mission is a bit of a punk mission.

Pauly Deathwish.

Uh huh.

Not a name I came up with.

But given to me.

I remember that day.

And the personages.

But my mission is also a bit like the mission of Greil Marcus.

And Lipstick Traces.

Now I’d just prefer to read Debord.

Or read Len Bracken on the Situationists.

But Greil tries (valiantly!) to pull it all together.

And I’m a bit like that kind of wanker.

Just hoping to SOUND like I know it all.

And someday have Harvard written on my spine.

But we’ve hardly discussed Blondie.

Or this excellent little film.

Which is currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S.

Again Kino Lorber’s marketing team (?) seems to be absent behind this release.

There’s no Wikipedia page.

And the iMDB page lists the title of this made-for-TV-affair as Blondie’s New York and the Making of Parallel Lines.

Ok, so it’s not Citizen Kane.

But it’s well worth watching!

Directed by Alan Ravenscroft.

He does a fine job here.

It really is a magical story.

Punk.

New York City.

CBGB-OMFUG.

The Fugs! 🙂

New York, a magical place.

Hell, even mayor Ed Koch is in this.

And he’s much easier to stomach than Bill Clinton.

I don’t care…liberal, conservative…whatever.

Just don’t be a dick!

And if you’re a dick, have the schtick down!!

Like Trump.

He has the schtick down.

He’s learned to lie.

In his many years.

“The babies, the beautiful babies…the innocent babies”…

There were no babies, my friends.

There was no chemical attack.

That footage was in the can for some time.

But it’s a white lie in the world of geopolitics.

It’s like telling your kids that Santa Claus delivered the presents.

There’s no way to explain, “I’ve gotta bomb Syria to make an impression on China.  And the bombing has to happen almost simultaneously with dinner…at Mar-a-Lago.”

And McMaster must be lying too.

That’s ok.

Just don’t make a habit of it.

Because then you’re CIA.

And that’s a dark road.

To get wrapped up in lies.

But the white lies are synthetic terror where nobody dies.

Even the Russian/Syrian body count.

Likely false.

Especially the “four kids” detail.

Pithy.

Icy.

The Democrats are really (I mean it, unfortunately) exceptionally dumb.

They only sense the general outline of the conspiracy.

Russia’s faux indignation.

But they don’t understand that their infantile foreign policy made such machinations necessary.

Blondie 🙂

And Quintilian.

See the documentary.

Forget about North Korea for a moment.

By all means, don’t watch inferior propaganda.

The Propaganda Game?

Great film.

Songs from the North?

Cinematic equivalent of toilet paper.

The Cinémathèque Française knew the value of propaganda films.

Henri Langlois.

Back when they were educating “the five” (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rivette, and Rohmer).

And Godard understood the importance of “good”, well-crafted, persuasive propaganda.

As Jacques Ellul wrote in 1962, “Ineffective propaganda is no propaganda.”

In other words, it has no business calling itself propaganda.

It’s less-than-worthless.

But kick back with some Machiavelli.

And The Art of the Deal.

And remember the unholy marriage of art and commerce that is and was Blondie.

-PD

Mateo [2014)

Here is a perfect film.

After awhile, you wonder whether such will ever appear again.

To call Mattew (Mateo) Stoneman a white “mariachi” singer is somewhat misleading.

But that’s the gist of it.

The premise.

Of this documentary.

No, this isn’t the Columbian drama Mateo from about the same year.

This is Mateo, the priceless documentary directed by Aaron Naar.

Why perfect?

Why priceless?

Because it is true.

I can attest.

To the life of the musician.

Somewhere…I must have been dreaming…while watching.

But the life of a musician is really not even worth two dollars.

I know.

I know the life of a rubbish-filled room.

Sleeping on some pillows.

Or a mattress on the floor.

Bedbug man comes to spray.

Doesn’t know where to start.

I know the life of playing crap gigs.

All for the big payoff.

To leave a legacy.

I know.

Mr. Stoneman (Mateo) references Scorsese.

That’s rich.  And right.

Talking to the filmmaker.

Do we ever see him?

The man with the movie camera?

I don’t know.

But he more-or-less makes himself invisible in this pungent story.

We get Los Angeles.

Where I should be.

But I chose another path.

And yet, Mateo chose the right one.

For him.

Follow the music.

Not the money.

Follow your heart.

Play and write and sing until your heart gives out.

Until the apple juice and Subway sandwiches finally kill you.

Bukowski described it as dog food.

The life of a writer.

Or musician.

Alpo.

Post office.

But what Mateo does is scrimp and save.

Because he’s addicted to recording.

Or rather, he’s making his masterpiece.

A $350,000 album.

Self-funded.

No record label.

Fuck ’em.

This guy, Mateo, has cojones.

A white man in a brown man’s genre.

But he’s all love.

Love for the music.

And the kicker is Cuba.

Yes, dear friends…

Much of our action happens in Havana.

Over and over and over again…Mateo travels to Cuba.

To record.

It’s real.

Quantegy GP9 tape.

2″

I may be useless to most of the world, but I get this.

Reel after reel after reel.

And so it is mambo.

But so soft and subtle.

Like the bossa nova of 60s Brazil.

But Mateo succeeds in his aspiration.

And so his voice is feathery-light…like Billie Holiday on Lady in Satin.

Because Mateo Stoneman had to pay his dues.

Prison.

A thief.

Almost like François Villon.

Stealing to make music.

To afford to record.

I’ve been there.

Pawned all my best shit.

To make a record.

Nobody heard.

Or cared about.

But finally for me it came down to family.

And we get some of that too.

Matthew (Mateo) Stoneman.

From New Hampshire.

We wonder about Ernest Stoneman.

Virginia.

And we get Ernest Hemingway.

20 years in Cuba.

“Who was he?,” asks the novia.

Dead guy.

Shot himself.

Up in Ketchum.

Next to where Ezra Pound, his champion, was from.

Hailey.

These are the savant details which Stoneman, Mateo can rattle off concerning music.

And I can do the same.

But I had to diversify.

So from cornering the market in shit, I spread my tentacles into manure.

A bit too pithy a metaphor.

But just so you know.

The life of a musician.

One minute up.

Touring Japan.  Or Sweden.

Signing autographs.

Wads of money in your pocket.

Next minute down.

Catching hell from the two-bit valets.

Having to pull out the LA Times.

Look.

This is me, motherfucker.

…it ain’t easy.

Sticking to your guns.

Your dreams.

Through extreme poverty.

Duress.

But Mateo shows you what it takes.

Dream big.

You might be autistic.

You might have crippling anxiety.

You might have existential episodes…depression…woozy disorientation.

“What the fuck am I doing?!?”

So do the best of them/us.

And so if I am counted “in that number”…of saints…like Mateo…then I am happy that I have lived my life bravely and to the last drop of blood and courage.

Ars gratia artis.

But for real!

-PD

Night on Earth [1991)

I’ve run out of witticisms.

Snappy beginnings.

Which is a shame.  Because I really want you to know about this film.

If you don’t already.

This is called quantum writing.

It is the sentence fragment equivalent of liberal ellipses.

So tired.

The cities.

Los Angeles.

It is the first episode.  Vignettes.

Seemed like a throwaway scene years ago.

Now.  So prescient.  Then.

So pertinent.  Germane.

She’s not really interested in becoming a movie star.

People selling kidneys to get a real casting agent and she’s not interested…

Beautiful.

New York.

Lost in the world.

Pulling immigrants with the magnetism of illustrious decades.

East Germany.  Dresden.  Near Czechoslovakia.  1991.

My neighborhood.  When I can pause for a moment and appreciate the diversity.

America.  Amer-ica.

Paris.

Francophone magnet.

Another scene which ages well.

When I saw this I hadn’t been to France.

Hadn’t been to New York or L.A.

And you appreciate more.  When you’ve been.

The loving portrayal.  The in-between shots.

Maybe it’s the garbage can at Pink’s Hot Dogs.

A green trash bag.  Liner.  Someone sweeping up.

We’re blind to so many details.

And so Jim Jarmusch went and put ’em in a film.

They’re there.

The details.

Tom Waits soundtracking like Charles Ives with an accordion.

Why?

Why is it sad?

It should be funny.  And sad.

It depends.

It depends on your life.

If you’ve ever had a brush with the entertainment industry, then that first scene might get you.

Might punch you right in the gut.

Not interested.

And the point is that as one girl throws it all away (from a perspective) a bloke on the east coast is just trying to get a cab.

Look.

I’ve got money.

It’s winter.

And home is Brooklyn.

It’s painful cold.

And as one family is dysfunctional in its uniquely Tolstoyvian way, another has no family at all.

None.

None left.

It was too cold to shave today.

Save the money.

Money is not important to me.  I’m a clown.  I just need the money.  But it’s not important to me.

And there’s your artist.

A mechanic works the art of grease.

A clown suffers in the tumult.

Please.  Come in.  Welcome to my taxi.  It is very important to me.

Long night.  On Earth.

You hear about Africa every year.  Annually.  On average.

A famine.  A plague.  An outstanding war.  Out standing in the rain.

We never know just how it feels to live in Nigeria.

It is furthest from our thoughts.

And then we are reminded.  That Africa exists.

The continent.  Does not exert itself.

Comes down to capital.  LLC.  Land labor capital.

To LKM.  labor Kapital material.

A lot has changed since Adam Smith.

Land disappeared.

And what makes the U.S. unique compared to Hong Kong or Tokyo?  Land.

Room to sprawl.  Endlessly.

But I digress.  As a matter of course.

In the course of one speck of matter (Earth) running rings around the Sun.

Our sun.  Not up yet.

The hour of the wolf.

Brings us to Rome.  Ingmar not Ingrid.

It is comic blast #2.

We survived the sadness with laughter.  In New York.

And now we book a room at the Hotel Genius.  [Hotel Imbecile was full-up.]

Thank God for Charlie Parker!

I confess.

I was looking forward to this humor for days.  I knew the ending.

But I didn’t know my own age.  In the mirror of cinema.

But, dear friends, all good things must end (and bad things must start).

“They say the darkest hour/Is right before the dawn.”

That’s the hour of the wolf.

And instead of Max von Sydow we get Matti Pellonpää.

With his Grinderman mustache.

Walrus.  Circles the statue.  In front of parliament?

Helsinki.  Like a sinkhole.  Cold.  Hell sinky.

It is the end of the earth.  And I only have my memories of being drunk in Kiruna.  Sweden.  Never made it further east.

And for a moment he just sits behind the wheel and stares off into space.

After it’s all over.  As if he can see the ice-trails of orbits.

We travel the spaceways.

Every humble step of our lives.

From bakery to grain field.

But mostly streets.

Taxis.  The poetry of snaking asphalt.

Sing the songs of the pavement.

Every passenger a sad story.

Every driver a priest.

-PD

Mulholland Dr. [2001)

How not to start a symphony.  With a rest.  #5 (7)j j-j o ^ (7)j j-j o

Beethoven started with a pause.  A pause, in this case, is unheard.  Felt.

No hay banda.

Il y a n’est pas d’orchestre.

I wish I was more confident in my French memory.

The Spanish is simpler.

[silencio]

It could be Roberto Benigni in La vita è bella reeling off a priceless punchline.

[silencio]

It could be John Cage forcing us to listen in 4’33”.

Painfully good.  A perfect film.  Mulholland Drive.  Dr. Mulholland.

I’ve either gained you or lost you by this point.

Dr. Benway.

You will excuse the word virus at work.

Perhaps the word bacteria predates Burroughs.

Always a cut-up in class.

And those classy suits.

It’s a talent to be weird, though Charles Mingus would argue otherwise.

A talent to be simple.

You have to stay with me like Lord Buckley or Lester Bangs.

I got yer Oxford comma right here.

, and don’t I know it!

She takes Hayworth’s name from Gilda.

Rita.

Laura Elena Harring.  Laura Harring if you’re into the whole brevity thing.  Concision of expression.  Bthvn.

If you really wanna impress the familia, it’s Laura Elena Martínez Herring.  Miss USA 1985.  Just missed 1984.

Or well, Wilbur…

Mr. Ed.  Paging Mr….

Herring.  Pink.  She is a living Modigliani onscreen for a brief moment on a couch.  A stippled nipple in deep focus.

But this is not her film.  She is a MacGuffin in heels.

No.  This is Naomi Watts’ film.  Boy is it ever!

But let us pop this balloon before it goes all Vivre sa vie on us.

Is this the best Amer-ican film ever made?  Probably.

Dog Star Man has a steep mountain to climb without a soundtrack to blow Sisyphus to his zenith.

F for Fake is to American cinema what Histoire(s) du cinema is to the French pantheon.

The only real challenger, then, might be Gummo.

But let us return to Maestro Lynch.  David Lynch.  Montana Dave.  The Cowboy…

This is, to reiterate, a perfect film.  Such creations do not come along often.

As such, we should savor each morsel of finesse embodied in this feast for eyes and mind.

And don’t forget the ears.  Badalamenti.  Badda bing, badda boom.

What would Chico Marx have made of this film???

Who cares…  It’s Chico stuffed into a dough ball suitcase with $50k and Groucho and Harpo mashed up

with even a good portion of Zeppo as Little Mr. Sunshine in Naomi Watts’ first character Betty Elms.

Nightmare on Elms’ street.

Mulholland Dr.

Great minds think alike.  Cannes premier of this film May 16, 2001.  Radiohead’s Amnesiac album?  June 5, 2001.

Rita.  Camille.  Diane Selwyn.

Kryptos.  Jim Sanborn.  Mengenlehreuhr.

Set theory.

(0,2,3,5)  Le Sacre du printemps.

Spitting espresso into a napkin, strikes fear in the hearts of the most hardened capitalists.

Fear.

The Flower That Drank the Moon.  Not a real film.

The Big Sleep.  She.  H. Rider Haggard.  Angel-A.

Finnegans, upon waking, diapasoned Wachet auf.

Just call me Death.  Everyone else does.

We don’t stop here.

We push on.  Like Gene Wilder on a magical fucking river of chocolate.

You can’t split the existential atom any further.  Kubrick tried in 2001.  And now Lynch had arrived at the same year.

If you open a MacGuffin, you will find nothing.

I have a bag full of money and I can’t remember my name.  That is Hollywood.

This is the girl.

And the gun.

24x per second.

Truth before the big lie even sprouted wings.  L’Effroyable imposture.  Vérités et Mensonges.

It’s like the old Edison tone tests.  Hit the lights.  Who’s playing?  The phonograph or the violinist?

Like looking at L.A. through Roy Orbison’s glasses.  A blur…a haze.

No one has split the literary atom any further than Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

[…]

Those three little dots.

The rhythm of speech.  From Modest Mussorgsky to Harry Partch.

Boris Godunov was lousy so we had to shave his armpits.

We would have never gotten to know each other so well, Boris and I.  Henry.  Mr. Bones.

Yeah, I keep on sloggin’ and get diminishing marginal returns.

Just a fancy way of saying less and less.  Nothing (more or less).

And then nothing turns itself inside out.

Naomi Watts goes from gee swell to Valerie Solanas.

The key.  CERN.  When they rev it up.

What does it open?

Möbius (stripped bare by his bachelorettes), even

[The Large Hadron Collider]

Mimesis.  Die a Jesus.

Greatest goal in life?

To achieve immortality and then die.

J. Hoberman.  J. Mascis.  J. Spaceman.

Putrefaction is merely Der Untergang des Abendlandes.  The decline of the evening lands.

Rises east, sets The West.

Civility.

L’Usine de rêves.

That killer blonde that we all want.  From Kim Novak to Daniel Craig.

Monty Montgomery.  Hope you only see him once more.

Good v. Bad, 410 U.S. 113 (2001)

The abortion of Newtonian physics.

Twice.

Thrice.

Michael J. Anderson as Larry Silverstein.

We don’t stop here.

This is the girl.

Maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.

And we watched the building collapse.

That would be the shadow government.

An accident is a terrible event—notice the location of the accident.

Who gives a key, and why?

-PD

Suburban Gothic [2014)

Dear devoted fans [chuckles heard offstage],

I am still alive.  Battling a serious case of MBA.  And, as such, I was duped into watching what turned out to be one of the finest films I have seen in awhile.

But how did I stumble across this little gem in the first place?  For that I must thank the inimitable Kat Dennings.  [More about her as we go on.]

Let us first, however, start with Matthew Gray Gubler.  As someone who watches very little TV, I was unaware of this rising star in the acting world.  Gubler plays Raymond:  a newly-minted MBA who can’t even lock down an entry-level job.  His character grew on me…from, at first, an American Apparel model come to life…to a lovable outcast with impeccable comic timing.

Circling back, I was curious how Gubler’s 21st-century archetype (the unemployable MBA) would fare in this comedy.  As I found out, Suburban Gothic is actually a film of great depth masquerading as a campy horror send-up.

It’s really remarkable, but this film actually does speak for me in some strange way.  Perhaps it was because I was listening to The Dead Milkmen this morning. [Watch the film and you’ll understand why.]

Yes, Raymond’s town is a “depressing shithole” to borrow Enid Coleslaw’s pithy diction from Zwigoff’s Ghost World.  And the ghosts here are real–literal.  But what most impresses me about Richard Bates Jr. (who needs a Wikipedia page) as a director is that he manages to evoke the crappiest reaches of America…from the bombed-out city center of Albany, New York to the harrowing motel highwayside of Roanoke, Virginia…from the strip malls of San Antonio to…well, you get the picture.

It’s one of those films…like Ghost World.  It’s Anywhere, U.S.A.  [Well, almost anywhere.]  It’s the fake vomit-inducing magic of Orlando.  It’s the sprawl of Los Angeles.  It’s that suicidal ennui which Arcade Fire so deftly encapsulated on their album The Suburbs.

Pariahs of the American south will especially appreciate the wonderful redneck evocation of Raymond’s high-school-football-coaching father (played magnificently by Ray Wise).  Yeah…

This film hits a lot of themes.  People change.  Fat kids get thin.  Sensitive souls can’t shake the wimp label.  Some places are especially difficult for creative types to endure.

And so if your life consists of frequenting your local Starbucks on the edge of a super-freeway (I certainly don’t know anyone like that…wait?  Nope, no one like that around here.  This very minute.  Right here.), then you just might find Kat Dennings to be especially on-point as the salty crowbar-toting Becca.  This film is more about Gubler’s character, but Dennings is indispensable to this moral play.

And what’s the moral?  The moral is this:  no matter how much you know about demand and supply curves (supply and demand to us lowly folk) there is always a more important line to shift outwards.  It’s more micro than microeconomics.  It is, in a word, empathy.  Respect for the dead.  Paranormal.  And, most of all, conscience.  It is that latter word which sticks in my head…falling from the lips of Godard (forever in my mind) in his whispered Swiss French.

Conscience.

Sure, this film makes Poltergeist look like Citizen Kane, but one senses from the opening credits that such is largely intentional.  No big budget here, and yet…this film is frightening and laugh-out-loud.  And like a good Simpsons episode, it is more touching than anything Hallmark rolls out of their platitude factory.

John Waters makes quite a fine cameo, but the lion’s share of credit goes to Gubler and Dennings and their auteur-in-the-making Richard Bates Jr.  Really a worthwhile flick!  Thank you.

-PD

激突!殺人拳 [1974)

[THE STREET FIGHTER (1974)]

Cinema lets us enter a new world.  When we get off that ferry with Bruce Lee and his uncle in The Big Boss, we are entering the world of Hong Kong fighting.  There’s something about that green suitcase which Uncle Lu totes along the gangplank which makes the whole thing believable.  That cheap green suitcase.  It is sad somehow.  A day’s change of clothes, perhaps.  There is something so humble about the mise-en-scène to indicate that we are not in Kansas anymore.

Our eyebrows raise as the opening credits roll on this excellent Sonny Chiba flick.  Japan!  The wah-wah guitar beckons us into a world which no longer exists–a place in history.  But we are fortunate that Sonny Chiba lives!  He is 76 years old. What an impression he makes in The Street Fighter!

It is not completely clear early in this film what is going on.  In fact, there are several times when the storytelling becomes a bit convoluted.  Don’t misunderstand:  this isn’t a complex film.  But somehow, the storytelling is very…different.

We remember Christian Slater at the beginning of True Romance when he unsuccessfully tried to pick up a girl at a bar…

Girl:  You want to take me to a kung fu movie?!?

Slater:  Three…kung fu movies.

Yes.  I’ve taken a couple of jabs at Tarantino on my site.  Perhaps I’ve been too harsh.  I mean, maybe Quentin has it all figured out.  No doubt the masters like Godard were initially impelled and instructed by the likes of B-movies, gangster films, pulp…from Nicholas Ray to Samuel Fuller.  Silly me…I thought QT grew up in Knoxville, but that isn’t quite right.  That said, his upbringing sounds about as shitty as I imagined…just transposed to various urban sprawl appendages of Los Angeles.

And so, from “one inch punch” to “oxygen coma punch” we dovetail into Chiba’s oeuvre.

Nothing about the beginning of this film foreshadows the touching moment late in the film when Ratnose (Chiba’s sidekick) finally gets his friend’s attention.  This subplot between Terry Tsurugi and Ratnose is really remarkable…almost a Clouseau/Cato dynamic early on, which proceeds into a harrowing/endearing funnel of climax.

Yeah, Slater was right:  Chiba is a rough customer.  He’s hard to like.  You have to stick with it.  Slowly, his unique morality comes to the surface.  Tsurugi is a damaged character, but the hardships he has experienced make him one of the toughest people on the planet.

Interestingly, Tsurugi’s rampages are in the context of big oil.  Though it was 1974, we feel a palpable thrill as he deals with the dealers.  It is still relevant.  Consider this recent story, for instance:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/03/20/wall-street-journal-reporter-david-birds-body-found-in-a-n-j-river/

Likewise, Chiba plays the role of an anti-mafia loner.  In other words, this guy’s not afraid of anyone.  Pretty powerful stuff!

Although Tsurugi doesn’t really have a way with women, his “beast” mode wins over the beauty Sarai (Yutaka Nakajima).  Chiba is all action–very few words.

And if you think Bruce Lee makes strange sounds in his fights, Chiba takes the cake…perpetually clearing his sinuses while trying to self-induce a heart attack (or so it sounds).  It is mondo bizarre!

Shigehiro Ozawa manages to make this a particularly artful film at times…especially the fight between Chiba and Masafumi Suzuki.  The focus on fists bears a striking resemblance to the famous “gun” shot from Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

The Street Fighter diverges from Bruce Lee movies in that Chiba gets his ass kicked pretty severely throughout this movie.  I suppose there is a proto-Rocky element here:  Chiba is the guy who can roll with the punches.

Another couple of nods to Lee occur at the beginning and then much later in the film.  Milton Ishibashi is made fun of by the prison guards who say something like “he must think he’s Bruce Lee.”  More importantly, we later learn that Chiba’s character is half Japanese (hi Jad Fair). His father had tried to combine “Chinese boxing” and karate.  This reminds us of Way of the Dragon…where the restaurant employees mock Lee’s “Chinese boxing” in sneering tones (until they see what it can do).

I won’t give away the bizarre ending, but suffice it to say that Junjo (Ishibashi) will be singing “Kumbaya” like Ned Gerblansky from here on out (if at all).  Who’s ready for some pie?

-PD

Tomorrow Never Dies [1997)

“We won’t be signing off until the world ends. We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event . . . we’ll play ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ before we sign off.”  Ted Turner.  1980.  Launch of CNN.

Ah, but let’s back up to 1973 when Rupert Murdoch bought the San Antonio Express-News.  Somehow this Aussie weaseled into the U.S. market with that acquisition (in my home town) and now his empire has spawned the most virulent threat to the world:  Fox News.

The news ticker began on 9/11/01 over at Fox and has continued till the present time.  Let me demonstrate:  fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fearfearfearfearfearfearfearfear ISIS ISIS ISIS ISIS ISIS ISIS ISISISISISISISISISISISISIISISIS Iran Iran Iran Iran Iran Iran IranIranIranIranIranIranIranIran.

Well, one of these two men (Turner and Murdoch) said something wise back in 2006.  “They’re a sovereign state. We have 28,000. Why can’t they have 10? We don’t say anything about Israel — they’ve got 100 of them approximately — or India or Pakistan or Russia.”  [–Ted Turner]  Now that’s a statement I can get behind.

But let’s be honest:  the perceived enemy of Fox News on the national landscape (Democrats) have had their chance.  Obama lost my confidence when he failed to truly investigate 9/11.  Not only that, he “killed” bin Laden:  thereby solidifying the false narrative which has passed by our eyes each day like that doomsday ticker at the bottom of the screen.

And so we dig deeper:

Georgia Guidestones.  1980.  “..until the world ends. We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event.”  Hmmm.  1980.  Population reduction.  Let’s see:  7 billion – 500 million= 6.5 billion.  Ok, so the Georgia Guidestones would seem to be advocating the death of about 92% of humanity.  So, let’s see:  there’s the 1%…and then the 7% they decide get to come along for the ride.

Wendi Deng.  Deng Wenge.  Wenge…hmmm.  Mao!  Cultural Revolution.  1966-1976.  Purge.  Violent class struggle.  Youths of the Red Guards.  Of course Deng was born in 1968 so her name might be kinda akin to Deng Endlösung or Deng Kristallnacht had she been born in late-1930s Germany.  Back to Mao…how many were fatally purged?  30,000?  100,000?  400,000?  750,000?  1.5 million?  3 million?

MBA.  Yale.  Los Angeles.  News Corp.  Hong Kong.  Rupert.  Tony Blair.  Hmmm…

Well, in any case:  Happy Birthday to Mr. Murdoch who turns 84 years young tomorrow.  Hi Rupert!

Tomorrow never dies.

Spottiswoode.  48 Hrs.  Walter Hill.

Holly Palance.  Jeremy Prokosch.  I always thought it was Jeremiah.

And my jeremiads…

Divorced 1997.  Check.  The omen…

Bruce Feirstein.  He dreamt up this outlandish (hardly) plot.  Political commentator on Fox News.  Vanity Fair contributor (say hi to Tosches for me).  Film producer in China.  Hmmm…

Ah, but the kicker is changing light bulbs on Newark Airport runways:  Feirstein’s high school job.  That really takes the cake.

Flight 93.  Cell phone calls from 40,700 feet in 2001 (NPR, June 17, 2004).  I’ve always hated NPR, but they make the case that much simpler.  In the words of astute observers:  strictly impossible.

The dialog in Tomorrow Never Dies is actually pretty good, but what can compare to the anonymous writing prowess found in such phrases as, “Hey! Hey! Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.”  I mean, really:  that is some heady scriptwriting to give to a non-SAG actor like “Ziad Jarrah” or whichever of the fictitious bogeyman was purported to be speaking at the time.

Ah, but we are supposed to think of Robert Maxwell says Feirstein.  Yet, just like in Godard’s Made in U.S.A., we run into Donald E. Westlake.  Hmmm…

Significantly, villain Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) is made to utter the phrase “new world order.”  Indeed.

Opening the same day as Titanic.  Let’s see:  groundbreaking for The Pentagon?  September 11, 1941.  The CIA’s overthrow of Salvador Allende and his assassination?  September 11, 1973.

I am urged to see these as coincidences.

And Henry Gupta?  Are we to think of A.Q. Khan who was born in Bhopal?  And Enron?

Ah yes:  1974.  ISI.

“We have 28,000. Why can’t they have 10? We don’t say anything about Israel — they’ve got 100 of them approximately.”

I wish I had a Murdoch quote to balance this out.  I don’t think his 2006 fundraising for Hillary Clinton or his New York Post support for Obama would have quite the same effect, but it’s worth noting.  “Yeah. He is a rock star. It’s fantastic. I love what he is saying about education. I don’t think he will win Florida… but he will win in Ohio and the election. I am anxious to meet him. I want to see if he will walk the walk.”  [Rupert Murdoch on whether he had anything to do with the Post’s pro-Obama push in 2008]

Rothschild.  Waterloo.  Niall Ferguson makes a valiant effort to rehabilitate Nathan, but is it true?  It seems there are at least some scruples at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

We’ve heard the concept…playing both sides against one another.  Indeed, funding both sides.  Hedging.  Divide and conquer.

It’s very important that the “right” weapons be found.  High stakes.  Fighting the Soviets.  Afghanistan.  Charlie Wilson’s War.  Maybe call this guy in Israel.  Fake it till you make it.  Make it to fake it.  Make it fake.

And so the James Bond franchise presciently taught the world about false flags back in 1997, but was anyone listening?

-PD

I Could Never Be Your Woman [2007)

We get older.  It’s hard.  Our lives didn’t turn out like fairytales.  And yet, we push on.  We live.  We work.  We study.  We survive.  Oh, how much it can mean…a kind word.  A moment extra taken to be gentle.  Humble.  Respectful.  Thankful.

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I threw on this film.  I’ve sought out Saoirse Ronan films because I have been so impressed with her acting in Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Suffice it to say, some of her lesser-known films…I never would have watched otherwise.  But it’s good.  It’s good to exit the genres and areas with which we are most comfortable.

Some of these newer films…there is a trepidation which precedes the viewing.  I wonder if I can make it past the first 10 or 15 minutes.  Let me say quite plainly:  this is a pretty damn good film.

Credit director and writer Amy Heckerling with tapping into a vein of stories which need to be told.  Likewise, Michelle Pfeiffer was just the right choice to express the marginalized stories which come to the forefront in this film.  Paul Rudd is a shockingly-good support here.

You want marginalized?  Well, this film went straight to DVD in the U.S.  That’s an insult.  I don’t care what the market research said:  that was a mistake.  Film history will vindicate these pictures which were treated thusly.

Over the hill…  40.  Women have it hard.  And so do dudes like Adam Pearl (Paul Rudd).  Teenage girls have it particularly hard.  Saoirse really does a masterful job of delineating a tough role.

I will admit:  this film made me tearful on several occasions.  Jon Lovitz…yeah, that’s the ticket.  Fred Willard…spot on.  But no, neither of those two.  It’s that look on Pfeiffer’s face when Rudd first reads in an audition.  It’s the right look.  Taking pride in your craft as a dramatist…even if you’ve been reduced to producing prepubescent pablum.

I’ve been in that chair.  A lifetime’s work for one or two lines that might be remembered by history.  I’ve been on that date.  I live that life every day.  Age.  And I’ve been the nerd.  Whoa have I been the nerd!

I’ve never lied about my age, but I know the industries where that becomes commonplace.  No, I’ve never gotten that whole lying thing down very well.  Yeah…me and Napoleon Dynamite would be best friends.  I guess that makes me Pedro…

Ah, but belief…  You can hear it in Bob Dylan’s new album Shadows in the Night.  We never stop believing.  We can’t.  We’d better not.  And Tracey Ullman is in our ear with the bad news…

You are right to be paranoid.  In general, the world is set up to get you down.  Globalizing…hah!  Perhaps generalizing?  Past aggressive.  Passed aggressive.  We hear the phrase and we assimilate into our patois.  The phrases don’t come with user’s manuals.

It’s a set-up.  I hyphenate when I please–when I’m damned good and ready.

And so I cry that I was human.  But most of all we cry for ourselves.  When the bottom falls out of your little corner of the entertainment industry.  This isn’t Los Angeles.

Yeah, I can relate.  With all of it.  Trying on pants.  Damn it.

Some people think they have me all figured out.  But mostly, they don’t think.  About me:

I don’t have a demo.  I have finished films.  Call Harry Smith from beyond the grave.  He’ll vouch for me.

Beware of the fake.  I just want to put food on the table.  The only thing that can’t be faked nowadays is food on the table.

Fuck it.  Gimme GMO.  My high horse rode off long ago.  Soft kill the shit outta me.  You’ll never know the sadness of the streets.

And for that you are poorer.  Consider it like a fine wine…or a classic foreign film.  Oops, sorry:  no corkscrew and no subtitles.

The Fonz reads Sartre…laughing.  Eat your heart out David Lynch.

You should have given him another chance.  You’re so responsible.  You threw away a heroic love.

I stayed as true as I could.  And now nobody calls.  My emails go unanswered.

Yes, the time stamp gives it away.  The BBC was 20 minutes early.  WTC 7.

Suck away.  I have moved on.  No, I’m not happy.

When Hal Blaine hits the floor tom and snare after the intro…like the world comes to a violent halt:  “Wouldn’t it be nice…”

We get older.  Mother Nature calls it creative destruction…maybe.  When the shit hits the tiara.

-PD