Saturday, July 14, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... BRING IT ON

Only now does it occur to me... that early '00s cheerleader classic BRING IT ON contains an extended homage to Bob Fosse's 1979 masterpiece ALL THAT JAZZ.

Midway through the film, after the rich girls of Rancho Carne High School realize that their marvelous cheerleading moves have been purloined from East Compton, the team––which includes Kirsten Dunst and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER's Eliza Dushku––realizes that they need fresh creative inspiration, and assemble the funds to hire an outside choreographer: the legendary "Sparky Polastri" ( played by Ian Roberts). He makes a dramatic entrance to the seminal Eurotrashy '90s hit, "Get Ready For This," by 2 Unlimited,

and there's something familiar about his knee-high boots,

 all-black attire,

abusive attitude,

neatly-trimmed half-goatee,

 and copious use of jazz hands

(which, to be fair, he calls "spirit fingers"),

which clued me in that that Sparky is intended to be a stand-in for ALL THAT JAZZ's "Joe Gideon," the 'warts-and-all' autobiographical portrait of Bob Fosse.

However, the thing that really puts it over the edge is when Sparky begins downing handfuls of Dexedrine,

just as Roy Scheider does so notoriously (and frequently) throughout ALL THAT JAZZ.

Ultimately, Sparky reveals himself to be a false messiah, though his routine is used once in competition, and it is something of a joy to see two dozen uniformed cheerleaders doing avant-garde Fosse moves on ESPN2.

Later, when the team must move beyond Sparky's shadow and explore their own creativity, they turn to martial arts, mime, and an actual Fosse film (SWEET CHARITY) to fuel their artistic vision.

(Naturally, I approve of all of this––and if you've not yet seen it, I cannot recommend ALL THAT JAZZ enough: it's one of my all-time favorite films.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE

Only now does it occur to me... that the 1997 supernatural courtroom thriller THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE is not merely a vehicle for Keanu Reeves to give voice to one of the worst Southern accents ever uttered,

nor is it simply a platform for Charlize Theron to allow her eyes to glaze over and pretend she's actually in ROSEMARY'S BABY,

nor is it merely a canvas for the best-worst pixelated hellscape that overtaxed '90s computer processors could provide,
More like THE GARDEN OF CGI-BLIGHTS, amirite? 

nor is it purely a delivery system for Al Pacino to scream hoo-ah (or something) while he transforms into a shirtless demon via a special effect that wouldn't have passed muster on ANGEL:

nor is it solely an offering of proof that Satan takes the subway:

no, though this amazingly dumb motion picture is indeed all of these things, there is still more. Like AMERICAN PSYCHO before it, THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE is also a repository of jarring Donald Trump references.

When minor villain and multiple-murdering billionaire Craig T. Nelson (essentially his character from ACTION JACKSON) appears on screen, his gaudy, gilded apartment seemed quite familiar to me:

At first I pegged it as a studio reproduction, but some quick research immediately confirmed that is indeed Donald Trump's apartment. People are saying, that when one comes to see any publicity is good publicity, one might loan out their personal quarters to a film where Satan himself reigns over a New York of moneyed minions,

and where the inhabitant of said gold-plated quarters is portrayed as an unrepentant psychopath who surrounds himself with legal counsel in place of a moral code. But one does not offer something for nothing: publicity begets publicity, and perhaps there was a synergy at play with regard to Trump crony Don King's cameo:

But screen-time for a friend fails to satisfy the ego, doesn't it? And so we enter a scene depicting a gathering of New York Republicans (though it's worth noting that Trump was a lapsed Republican and registered independent at the time––and would go on to register as a Democrat in 2001 before finally resettling with the Republicans in 2009),

Bizarrely, on the far right is then-sitting Republican Senator Al D'Amato, who seems shockingly on board with his cameo's implication that he's a Satanist.

where a gaggle of bon vivants speculate on the whereabouts of Donald Trump:

saying that he's probably tied up with a business emergency with Mort Zuckerman, owner of the New York Daily News and frequent Trump media foil.

We know that Trump has a history of insisting on cameo appearances in films where his properties are featured, so one can assume that he likely insisted upon this reference to himself. And it's also worth mentioning that it's not only a reference to his business acumen, but also a veiled attack on one of his enemies in the press.

Reading between the lines, people might even speculate on other elements that Trump may have insisted upon. For instance, it's unnecessarily clarified that Craig T. Nelson's character is a billionaire, not a mere multi-millionaire. Since we know that Trump's wealth may very well be the locus of his insecurities, it's not so hard to imagine that he would want audiences to know that only a true billionaire could possibly afford to live in his apartment. This brings me to a final question: if Trump projected his insecurities onto a character who lives in his apartment and wished to 'correct' that character to match his personal image, why didn't he interfere to make the character ultimately innocent of the crimes (or at least less of a blundering sociopath)? Or did that thought not even cross his mind?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... MUPPETS FROM SPACE

Only now does it occur to me... that F. Murray Abraham, playing the Biblical Noah, once barred Gonzo from entering the ark,

damned him to death by drowning,

and then gave him a tiny umbrella to rub salt in the wound.

This is a wonderful fusion of the kind of miserable bastardry we expect from a typical F. Murray Abraham performance and the light-handed pleasure of a Muppet movie: the result is truly a commendable tableau of Delightful Dickery. 

If you've ever seen a Muppet movie, you know that the human cameos are a well-curated highlight: look no further than Danny Trejo playing himself as a prisoner in a Siberian gulag. In MUPPETS FROM SPACE, some of the prominent appearances include David Arquette as a mad scientist who, warden-like, sends his lab rats to 'The Maze' when they break the rules:

One might even say that he imbues the role with a Steven Weber panache.
Pat Hingle (BATMAN, NORMA RAE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE) as a no-nonsense general:

Ray Liotta as a security guard who falls victim to Miss Piggy's love potion:
 (A comic Liotta performance is always welcome––see also: his JUST SHOOT ME episodes, as a Christmas-obsessed version of himself)

Kathy Griffin as another security guard who falls prey to Animal's charms:

Hulk Hogan doing some bizarre promotional bit relating to his rebranding as "Hollywood Hogan":

It's no GREMLINS 2

Andie MacDowell as a local newscaster who battles Piggy for the spotlight:

Perhaps she is still "Rita" from GROUNDHOG DAY?

and, as if to prove that it's 1999, Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson as their characters from DAWSON'S CREEK.
I obviously approve of all of this, even the DAWSON'S CREEK nonsense. I could see MUPPETS FROM SPACE––a post-Henson Muppet movie which received middling press and underperformed at the box office––eventually securing something like a cult following.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My latest short story, "For Want of a Better Word," is featured in the new issue of The Cincinnati Review as the winner of their ninth annual Robert and Adele Schiff Award in Prose. Fiction Editor Michael Griffith writes, "Sean Gill’s excellent 'For Want of a Better Word' begins with a clever premise—a lab assistant inventing words for an experiment in artificial intelligence—and then does ingenious things with tone and timespan to make that premise far more than merely clever. The result is a surprising, touching, funny, and bittersweet story about the ways being smart can help us, and the ways it can’t." The entire issue (which includes fiction by Steve Almond, Jameelah Lang, and George Singleton, among others) is available for purchase in print here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

"Little Green Men" in The Saturday Evening Post

I have a new short story about boys who play at war called "Little Green Men" that has been published in The Saturday Evening Post.

Founded in 1821, The Saturday Evening Post has published authors such as Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert A. Heinlein, Sinclair Lewis, Dorothy Parker, Edgar Allan Poe, J.D. Salinger, Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Monday, May 21, 2018

"You Can't Superglue Your Way Out of This One" in The Carolina Quarterly

My latest short story "You Can't Superglue Your Way Out of This One" (about two couples, an excruciating dinner, and a pet tortoise) has been published in the Summer 2018 (Vol. 67, No. 2) issue of The Carolina Quarterly. The issue is available for purchase in print here.

One of America's oldest literary journals, The Carolina Quarterly is published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has featured work by writers such as Raymond Carver, Anthony Burgess, Don DeLillo, and Caitlin Horrocks.