Thursday, September 25, 2014

Only now does it occur to me... PRETTY WOMAN

Only now does it occur to me... that PRETTY WOMAN is a remake of... CROCODILE DUNDEE!

Okay, so here goes:  wealthy, New York professional (exec Richard Gere in PRETTY WOMAN, reporter Linda Kozlowski in CROCODILE DUNDEE) who works a job they existentially-but-not-yet-consciously dislike thanks to a controlling father (Gere's dad left him the company-buying business in PRETTY WOMAN, Kozlowski's dad owns Newsday in DUNDEE) travels a great distance (L.A. in PRETTY WOMAN, Australia in DUNDEE) to meet a charming-yet-seedy underdog (back alley hooker Julia Roberts in PRETTY WOMAN, outback madman Paul Hogan in DUNDEE) whose services they hire out for a sum ($3,000 in PRETTY WOMAN, $2,500 in DUNDEE), and after a week of awkward interactions with elitist yuppies, they fall in love, nearly break up due to a misunderstanding, and then get back together, cemented by a grand romantic gesture on the part of the New York professional.



#3.  While put up in a fancy hotel by the New York professional, the charming-yet-seedy underdogs both see fit to watch reruns of I LOVE LUCY.


#2.  Then, the charming-yet-seedy underdog takes a luxurious bubble bath, and sings aloud, only to be discovered by their New York professional who finds the behavior to be extraordinarily endearing.

#1.  Finally, and most incredibly, both films present a pair of friendly streetwalkers who
 (nevermind that it's a bit part in DUNDEE and our main characters in PRETTY WOMAN)

lead us to an alleyway confrontation with low-level pimps

I really want you to take note of the skateboard switchblade.... which might I add is not a knife, because THAT is a knife.

that ends with our hero being rescued by his black chaffeur/sidekick.

Reginald VelJohnson in DUNDEE.

 R. Darrell Hunter in PRETTY WOMAN.

That's what I call pretty fuckin' specific.  Therefore, I believe my case is closed, and from this point forward, instead of referring to PRETTY WOMAN as "the benchmark for romantic comedy," "the Julie Roberts hooker movie," or "obligatory date night viewing," we can now refer to it by its proper title:  "the American remake of CROCODILE DUNDEE."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Trimming Your Human" in the Blue Monday Review

My latest short story (a melancholy science fiction piece entitled "Trimming Your Human") may be found in Issue #3 of the Blue Monday Review, a literary journal dedicated to the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut.  It is available for purchase in print and ebook editions.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Only now does it occur to me... EDTV

Only now does it occur to me...  that in the 90s, they totally made a prequel to TRUE DETECTIVE.

It features Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as two men with a volatile love-hate relationship who spend a great deal of time speaking in front of video cameras; furthermore, Harrelson plays a philanderer, and McConaughey ends up sleeping with Harrelson's girlfriend.  Now whaddya think about that?  Methinks Nic Pizzolatto was taking notes!

Half-kidding aside, this film sorta feels like THE TRUMAN SHOW reimagined as a corporate 90s romantic comedy, but it has a few inspired casting choices– including Martin Landau as McConaughey's stepdad, Adam Goldberg (in what feels like a DAZED AND CONFUSED crossover) as his old pal, and Dennis Hopper as his long lost biological dad.

Perhaps this can be metaphorically applied to TRUE DETECTIVE:  Landau is the Gothic window dressing, but Hopper is the true, secret, Lynchian father figure?

And Clint Howard's in there, too, because this is a Ron Howard movie and it just wouldn't be right otherwise.

I must also give special mention to McConaughey's Houston Oilers-beer-cozy-necklace:

which is pretty wonderful, but, to be clear, I am not recommending this movie.  Carry on.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Evening of Uncanny Cinema, September 17th

On September 17th at 8:00 p.m. at the Wild Project (195 E. 3rd Street, Manhattan), I and downtown luminary Eric Schmalenberger have curated "An Evening of Uncanny Cinema," featuring "surreal short films and macabre video art, from cutting-edge New York filmmakers… dark humor, radio hour recreations, bizarre medical misshapes, time travel, champagne, and loads of surprises await."

The evening will feature a few of my films (The Everlasting Vintage, Makin' a Martini, Escape from Staten Island), and those of other brilliant filmmakers, including Rob Roth (Junkie Doctors), Todd Downing & Joe Frank ("Eleanor" from Estranged); Cale Hughes, Robyn Nielsen, Shaun Seneviratne, & Ryan Garretson (Seek Harbor); and Brett Glass & Grier Dill (Brood X).  Tickets are $10 and are available online, or at the door the day of the show.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Only now does it occur to me... BOYZ IN THE HOOD

Only now does it occur to me... that John Singleton loosely patterns BOYZ IN THE HOOD's prologue and epilogue after the seminal Stephen King adaptation STAND BY ME, and at one point even includes a direct reference, with four young boys walking along railroad tracks to see a dead body.
Of course, the walk to find a dead body in 1984 South Central is considerably shorter than in 1959 Castle Rock, and Singleton draws a bit of tragic poetry from the comparison. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Film Review: CORVETTE SUMMER (1978, Matthew Robbins)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Tag-line: "Mark Hamill who you loved in STAR WARS... Annie Potts who you'll never forget!"
Best One-liner:  "I DIDN'T WANT NO COKES!"

In a familiar, darkened alleyway:

–"What are we lookin' at here?"
–"Ugh.  Teenybopper trash.  A watered-down coming of age tale.  Luke Skywalker, reduced to an unwitting shill for Tiger Beat magazine.  No, thank you."

Note: disco ball font.

"Have you seen the movie?"
–"I don't need to see it, cause I already know what it is."
"Do you?  Do you really?"
–"I'm sure you're going to tell me, so why don't you just go ahead and get it over with."
"Here goes:  it might have seemed like fluff at the time, but CORVETTE SUMMER is a teen sex/car comedy packed with surprisingly potent life lessons.  It's got an off-the-chain young Mark Hamill performance that skates wildly between Brando-esque Angry Young Man and Lorenzo Lamas-esque unintentional hilarity."
–"'Potent life lessons?'  Surely you jest."
"Well it's the story of a D-average high school student (Hamill) whose only passion in life is cars.  He devotes his senior year to the auto shop, building and perfecting a candy apple red metal flake Corvette Stingray glitter-flame Dragon Wagon!"

–"That's a mouthful.  And holy cow, wouldja look at that thing!"
"Exactly.  You've seen Luke Skywalker tool around in a landspeeder before, but I'm guessing you've never seen anything like this!"
–"You may have won me over.  I could probably watch that car for 105 minutes."
"Just you wait.  Events take a turn for the dramatic when Danny Bonaduce takes it out to a fast food joint to grab some Cokes and it's stolen."

"He just went out for some Cokes in a top hat and left the car unattended on the side of the road, even though there was a drive-thru.  It could happen to anybody."
–"How does Hamill take it?"
"Not well.  He starts getting that crazy, conflicted look in his eye, like Al Pacino does in THE GODFATHER right before he guns down Sterling Hayden and the other guy in that Italian restaurant.

Then he lets the beast out:

and leaps onto Bonaduce!  Cokes go flying everywhere!  It's brutal.  A well-deserved beat-down ensues."

–"That looks intense!"
"It is.  Now he's got nothin' to live for except that car.  And like Pee-Wee Herman in PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, he begins to hunt down the vehicle-of-his-affections with dogged and unwavering intensity.

'ATTICA!  ATTICA!!'  (Whoops, wrong movie.)

It's something to behold.  I mean, sure, he spends parts of the movie lookin' like a prettyboy and blowing his own wind-tousled hair with the aid of an air compressor:

but the other half of the time he's giving crazy-eye like the best of 'em, like Bolo Yeung in BLOODSPORT or Mel Gibson in LETHAL WEAPON or Brion James in almost anything.  I'll come back to this.

Anyway, he tracks the car all the way to Vegas and, broke and busted, has a chance encounter with career gambler Dick Miller who gives him his 'lucky $2 bill.'

Dick Miller's only in this thing for a few minutes, but he plays it with crusty élan, like a man who'd gamble on anything if he was bored enough.  He could definitely be a character in Altman's CALIFORNIA SPLIT or anything by Bukowski.
So after getting a head-start on the car hunt, Hamill embarks on a series of shitty jobs to support himself and has a romance with aspirant van-based hooker Annie Potts."

"Yeah.  She's got this amazing, sleazy-chic disco van with a waterbed in the back, where she says things like 'how do you like that ocean motion' and can be found after hours making cocktails in her mouth.

Sips of Sunny-D alternated with sips of a bottom-shelf vodka whose name you can't pronounce= the only kind of Screwdriver you're gonna get in the back of Annie Potts' sleazy-chic disco van.

Eventually, Hamill loses his virginity, resulting in mania:

and dazed melancholy:

–"Luke Skywalker gettin' laid.  Ohhh yah."
"Shut it.  So he's working at a shitty car wash with THE THING's T.K. Carter:

when he sees none other than Brion James (most widely known for telling Harrison Ford 'Wake up, time to die' in BLADE RUNNER)

driving his beloved, stolen Stingray.  After cruelly taunting him with the line 'Bye-bye little buddy,' James peels out, leaving Hamill fuming."
–"What's a poor Hamill to do?"
"This is where it gets amazing.  He hides behind a mailbox and ambushes an unassuming cyclist:

forcing a collision that easily could have resulted in paralysis for either party:

Then he steals the poor sap's bike and takes after Brion James."
–"What chance does a bicycle have against a Stingray?"
"Not much at all.  That is, unless the cyclist is using The Force."

–"You gotta be shittin' me."
"Indeed I am not.  And this happens only partway through the film.  I don't want to give too much away, but there's totally a portion of the movie when Luke– I mean Mark Hamill– turns to The Dark Side."

–"Wow, that's exactly what a 'Dark Jedi in a Shopping Montage' should look like."
"Yeah, and I haven't even touched on Dark Side Hamill objectifying Annie Potts when her character's at her most vulnerable."

–"Now you're starting to ruin my childhood, pal!"
"Well, in closing I'll say this: CORVETTE SUMMER isn't your typical teen sex comedy, not by a long shot.  Hamill's character has an absentee father (and even his surrogate father figure betrays him), a possible prostitute mother (further complicating his relationship with sex worker Potts) who doesn't care a whit about him, and his 'whacky summer' is beset by shitty jobs, grifter schemes, apathy, violence, and injustice. Potts' character is at one point beaten by potential johns, and throughout undergoes the ups and downs of being valued as a human being and then as a sexual commodity.  It's a true blue-collar teen movie, which is to say, it's about a crooked world full of disappointment, crushing disappointment."
–"Now I'm just depressed."
"Well, there's a lot of fun stuff in there, too.  CORVETTE SUMMER refuses to be defined by a single mood or sensation.  Not unlike real life."
–"Deep, man."

–Sean Gill

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Film Review: CANNONBALL! aka CARQUAKE (1976, Paul Bartel)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Tag-line: "The annual Trans-American outlaw road race– a cross-country demolition derby without rules!"
Notable Cast or Crew:  David Carradine (DEATH RACE 2000, CIRCLE OF IRON), Robert Carradine (REVENGE OF THE NERDS, BODY BAGS), Mary Woronov (ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, DEATH RACE 2000), Paul Bartel (EATING RAOUL, THE USUAL SUSPECTS), Dick Miller (GREMLINS, THE TERMINATOR), Gerrit Graham (USED CARS, THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE), Veronica Hamel (HILL STREET BLUES, HERE COME THE MUNSTERS), Bill McKinney (DELIVERANCE, EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE), Joe Dante (director of EERIE, INDIANA, GREMLINS), James Keach (Stacy's brother, FM, THE LONG RIDERS), Carl Gottlieb (writer of JAWS and THE JERK), Stanley Bennett Clay (ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, CLEOPATRA JONES), Louis Moritz (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, NEW YEAR'S EVIL).  Written by Bartel and Don Simpson (co-producer of THE ROCK, BAD BOYS, TOP GUN, FLASHDANCE).  Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE SIXTH SENSE).
Best One-liner:  In lieu of a one-liner, just imagine a car exploding.

After the success of DEATH RACE 2000, Roger Corman and New World Pictures wanted another car picture out of auteur/performer Paul Bartel, and so he submitted to them a project that would have been completely wonderful and astounding called... "FRANKENCAR."

Corman wouldn't spring for it, though, wanting something a little cheaper and more mainstream, especially in comparison to DEATH RACE 2000, whereupon men and women in cars that looked like dragons and cattle and gatling guns ran over pedestrians for sport.  Corman wanted a standard cross-country racing movie, and Bartel, deep in depression, feared he would be pigeonholed as an action director.  Despite it all, he grudgingly delivered his "car movie."

I put off watching CANNONBALL! for years, having heard mostly bad things and not wanting to tarnish my memories of DEATH RACE 2000.  However, having just seen it, I am happy to report that CANNONBALL! is great.  The material has been adequately Bartel-ized; it's dark, hilarious, insane, and it ends with a senseless pileup of cascading explosions that truly must be seen to be believed.

 Due to the final scenes alone, CANNONBALL! may very well have more per capita explosions than most Michael Bay movies, truly earning its alternate title of "CARQUAKE."  It's a fun, dumb, fast-paced time, and here are my nine favorite things about it:

#1.  The cross-country race/tournament aspect.  A forerunner to CANNONBALL RUN in title and content, I've always enjoyed movies that feature a motley crew of characters competing against each other for some zany prize.  Maybe it just reminds me of BLOODSPORT.  Would that make this not a kumite, but a carmite?

#2.  David Carradine.  In DEATH RACE 2000, they put him in a gimp costume and called him "Frankenstein."

That was pretty good.  Here, they tough him up by slipping him in moccasins and a salmon pink hoodie, with a bandana tied around his neck like an ascot.   
"Huh?" you ask.  "Hush up and just go with it," I say.

#3.  Robert Carradine.

The moral center of our film, pre-'REVENGE,' nerdy Carradine is likable and fun, hanging out with his girlfriend Belinda Balaski (a likable Joe Dante crony who's been in over a dozen of his films).  They're the classic "nice guys finish last" underdog team.

#4.  Mary Woronov.

It ain't a Bartel flick without Woronov!  In the past, I've referred to the two of them as the "demented 70s and 80s versions of Tracey and Hepburn."  She filmed all her scenes in one day and was reportedly miserable doing so (she didn't know how to drive a car, so they only used cutaways), but as the leader of a trio of waitresses who are tooling around in a van, she provides the proper spunk and bitchiness that this film needs.

I especially appreciate that she's busting shit up and driving through prefabricated homes... before the race even begins!


#5.  The bizarre Yokel-mobile.  Here goes: one single car in the race plays home to Gerrit Graham ("Beef" from PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE) who's a successful country western star appropriately plucking an acoustic guitar throughout;

Judy Canova, notorious Old Hollywood yodeler and comedienne (this was her final film role); and Bill McKinney (Ned Beatty's rapist in DELIVERANCE!)

who is the central villain of the piece, a hateful asshole-type who is a hateful asshole merely for the sake of being a hateful asshole.  (Character motivation be damned!)

#6.  James Keach (Stacy's brother).

Here he delivers a ludicrous, one-note performance as a pipe-chomping German driver named Wolfe Messer who is always saying subtle German-y things like "YOU DUMMKOPF!"

#7.  Dick Miller.

Fulfilling the "it's technically not a movie from 70s if Dick Miller's not in it" rule, Dick Miller appears as Carradine's desperate gambler brother.  He gives a solid, typically Miller-ish performance, and I especially applaud the balls of casting him as Carradine's brother in a movie that already features Carradine's real-life half-brother.

#8.  Paul Bartel.

He casts himself as a priggish, turtleneck-addicted criminal kingpin who communicates to his cronies from behind a piano, singing fake Cole Porter.  Sounds about right.

#9.  A surprise appearance by Martin Scorsese and Sylvester Stallone as mobster associates of Bartel's character, who (very) briefly appear in a brief hangout session, eating KFC.


Four stars.

–Sean Gill