Friday, September 29, 2006


I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Tom Sutpen has one of the most fascinating blogs around with If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats, and this weekend’s must-see TV comes directly from this great site. It’s a 26-minute film entitled Meetin’ WA, the chronicle of a conversation between Jean-Luc Godard and Woody Allen. Here’s Tom:

”At once sublime and witty, the 26 minutes of Meetin' WA consist of an interview Jean-Luc Godard conducted in 1986 with Woody Allen, the director of What's Up, Tigerlily and Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (and soon to be featured in the final moments of Godard's abortive Cannon Pictures' King Lear). The chat itself is amiable enough; certainly avoiding any conceivable adversarial notes; but this, along with the New York setting (giving Allen the home field advantage as it were) does nothing to prevent a visible anxiety from growing on the part of the filmmaker as the interview goes on.

It's as if it dawned on Allen, right in the middle of everything, that this tape could be . . . used . . . in some way he would not be able to control, that he was talking to a man who long ago demonstrated that he would never be bound to a standard not his own.”

(Thanks to David Hudson and GreenCine Daily for the tip.)


I almost forgot— I didn’t want to let the weekend arrive without trumpeting the bit of information-gathering Andy Horbal has going on right now at his blog No More Marriages. Andy wants to know your vote for The Best American Fiction Film of the Last 25 Years.

A glance through Andy's comments column reveals a wealth of worthy nominees (as well as some I might question!) and, of course, plenty of interesting and varied discussion about said nominees. I was reminded to post a link to Andy’s poll, which I’d been meaning to do all week (honest, Andy!), when I popped over to see what Jim Emerson was up to and saw not only his link to Andy, but also what Jim’s choice was. My vote, as well as Jim's, as it turns out, went to Miller's Crossing. Here’s to an excellent choice for the Best American Fiction Film of the Last 25 Years, Mr. Emerson, and that ain’t no high hat!

Cast your vote in Andy’s survey today!


(Image courtesy of Charles Bruss. Click on image to enlarge.)

MORE ASTONISHING than your most fevered imaginings!

MORE FRIGHTENING than any nightmare known to man!

BOLDER and FUNNIER than any the boldest, funniest movie you’ve ever seen!

A WILD and ROLLICKING RIDE through the American pop culture landscape!

Can your HEART stand the SHOCKING FACTS of…


Gather 'round, folks! There's plenty of room for everybody! For, you see, now every Friday I'll be posting a clunky, funky, or otherwise fascinating trailer (usually courtesy of YouTube or another one of those fascinating Web sites that we suddenly can remember ever being able to survive without), along with a choice selection from the vast collection of vintage drive-in newspaper ads of Charles Bruss, who operates Wisconsin Drive-in Theaters: An Evening Under The Stars, a Web site dedicated to drive-ins past and present in Mr. Bruss's home state. The site right now only features ads that appeared in various newspapers throughout the Dairy State, but Mr. Bruss tells me that he's close to finishing compiling, scanning and posting hundreds more ads, cut directly from newspapers (no muddy-looking dupes made off of microfilm here), collected from all over the country. Mr. Bruss has kindly offered his collection to SLIFR and we will be picking and choosing some of the highlights of what he has to offer, some originating from as far back as the mid '40s, to share with you. Mr. Bruss extends an invitation to everyone who enjoys what we'll be showing off here to visit his Web site, enjoy all the cool links and let him know you stopped in by signing his guest book. Thank you, Mr. Bruss, for sharing your great collection with SLIFR. I hope someday to find the boxes full of ads I clipped as a teenager from the Portland Oregonian and other area newspapers and offer them for you to use.

But enough introduction. Let us forego the sizzle for the steak and get right on with it.

(Image courtesy of Charles Bruss. Click image to enlarge.)

The first ad is a beaut, from around 1969 I'd guess, by the features listed. One of the interesting things to note is how the titles and genres seem so inappropriately mismatched. This is not necessarily a random decision by the film programmer, however. According to a book given to me by the owner of my hometown drive-in entitlied The Encyclopedia of Exploitation (which I'm guessing dates from around the early '50s-- and I have to guess, because I don't have the book at hand here where I'm writing), it was thought to be a far more appealing strategy for roping in as many viewers as possible by offering an abundant number of films (two is good, three is great, four is heaven) and letting those genres and tones and subjects crash together like gongs-- all the better to ensure that everybody was going to find at least one movie in the bunch they'd want to see, and ensuring variety for those who wanted to stay for the whole program. (The writer of The Encyclopedia of Exploitation, a book written for theater owners, didn't seem to hold much stock in the more imaginative approach toward booking films that shared thematic or genre relationships.)

And if you take a close look at the names of the companies that distributed all three of today's features, you'll notice that there is only one. And that was, and still is, as much of a deciding factor in determining double features at today's drive-ins as anything-- coupling films from the same studio, a strategy upon which many studios insist, often takes precedence over variety or a good, complimentary double feature. (This very night in Los Angeles, if you wanted to see jackass number two at one of the area drive-ins, you could see it on a double bill with Beerfest, which makes all the sense in the world from a match-made-in-heaven standpoint, or you could see it with second feature World Trade Center, presumably buzzkill of the highest order, but a double feature that also presumably was dictated by the fact that both movies are Paramount releases.)

Also worth noting is the prestige factor. All three movies above-- True Grit, Goodbye, Columbus and The Sterile Cuckoo-- were top-drawer studio fare, each of them nominated of Oscars in one category or the other, and among the triple feature a couple of actual wins were sported (as hinted at by the cut-and-paste presence of the Little Golden Man). A lot of people think that showing first-run films at the drive-in is a modern phenomenon and that most ozoners from the '80s on back were consigned to B-movie fare only, but as you can see that's not exactly the case. (One last note: I love the hodgepodge style of these local ads-- found art if there ever was such a thing-- and there are many more examples of that found art laying in wait for exposure here in the coming weeks.)

And now, to complete today's inaugural festivities, let's move on to the audiovisual portion of our program, a little something from that B-movie side of the drive-in experience that'll satisfy your taste for cheese, Wisconsin or otherwise:

So that's it, the first installment of THE SLIFR DRIVE-IN TRAILER PARK. Hopefully I've somehow whetted your appetite to head out to a drive-in and experience a movie under the firmament yourself, or at least tweaked your nostalgia for thumbing through the movie pages of 40 years ago or so. Coincidentally enough, the Southern California Drive-in Movie Society is headed out to the Vineland Drive-in in City of Industry this Saturday night with a ton of new and exciting things to talk about and show off. Founding member and friend Sal Gomez has been working like a dedicated fiend all summer and into the fall, and one of the results is the new Web site that he got off the ground late this past summer. Sal has been a major guiding force for the group, coordinating Huell Howser's TV program on the Mission Tiki earlier this year, and he's really stepped up and kept the vision of the society alive when some of us (me) haven't been as available as we'd like to be. So come on out, say hi to Sal, Juan Gonzalez, the Vineland's fine and dedicated manager/projectionist, me, Kathy Beyers, Warren Meyers, Lanna Pian, Chris Utley and everyone who will be celebrating not the end of the drive-in season, but the beginning of the FALL/WINTER drive-in season, this Saturday night, September 30, at the Vineland Drive-in in City of Industry!

See you there, and see you next week for another edition of The SLIFR Drive-in Trailer Park.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


(This consideration of Brian De Palma’s latest film, The Black Dahlia, discusses the film under the assumption that readers will already be familiar with the plot twists and turns of the movie. Therefore, a SPOILER WARNING is in full effect.)

Brian De Palma’s film of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, a fictionalized account of the notorious and ghastly murder of would-be starlet Elizabeth Short that has, for 60 years, haunted Hollywood and gone unsolved, is positioned to become the year’s most polarizing movie, and not just for the general movie-going public, most of whom seem either dissatisfied with it as a film upon seeing it or, if box office numbers can indicate anything, indifferent to it being in the marketplace at all. No, where The Black Dahlia seems to be most divisive is among the legion of film critics and fans who have taken to De Palma in a most personal way, who have gone to great lengths and endured many arguments in championing him as a singular film artist over the 40-some years he has been directing movies. For some, De Palma’s new film is a key work, one artist’s fundamental understanding of another artist (Ellroy) who is often tarred with the same accusations of being a misogynist, a misanthropist, a harsh and unfeeling style-over-substance provocateur. The Black Dahlia is also important, for these viewers, as an emotional and intellectual summing-up, a complete rethinking of De Palma’s motives, his aesthetic, his entire rationale as a filmmaker. For others, the movie is a failure of narrative and the director’s ability to imbue style with meaning, to use it creatively as a truly expressive element of his idiosyncratic approach to narrative cinema. Those in this camp who are familiar with the book have also leveled charges that De Palma’s movie is fundamentally a failure of adaptation, one that telescopes the background and motivations of the main characters in the book to an almost abstract level, draining them of any possibility of existing as compelling individuals in an artistic framework for whom the audience could feel any emotional connection.

The best place to track the respectful back and forth of ideas about the merits (or lack thereof) of De Palma’s film is in the comments thread under Matt Zoller Seitz’s poetic, impassioned and evocative review, perhaps the most perceptive defense of the movie in essay form there may be floating out there right now. Matt’s assessment of how he perceives that the film works and how De Palma subtly changes the meaning of some of his familiar stylistic devices is eye-opening—for example, Matt convincingly tracks the transformation of De Palma’s signature point-of-view shot as no longer representative of a detached, God-like stance, but instead, as employed in the sequence in which Short’s body is first discovered, an embodiment of the interior conflict and grief at the center of the lead character, played by Josh Hartnett, who will soon become obsessed with Short and her past. The connection between De Palma’s style, often used by his detractors as a club to beat the director over the head with accusations of empty gimmickry over “substance,” and the film’s subject matter-- a man trying to discover and maintain his moral compass in the foreground of a corrupt social system that continually causes the ground under his feet to shift like quicksand-- is fruitfully extrapolated here to suggest how The Black Dahlia puts the lie to one of the most familiar of charges against De Palma:

”Most striking of all is De Palma’s use of composition and camera movement to suggest the right moral response to savagery. In two scenes involving Short’s corpse—its discovery by the L.A.P.D. and a subsequent coroner’s report—Zsigmond gracefully cranes down from a loftily detached position (a God’s eye view) to a subjective one (Short’s P.O.V., looking up at the men scrutinizing her ravaged body). In the space of seconds, we go from objectifying Short to feeling for her—the hero’s moral evolution in microcosm. That any attentive viewer could sit through this film—or its spiritual sister, Casualties of War-- and still think De Palma hates women is inconceivable.”

Matt’s analysis of De Palma’s methodology, his work as a film artist, and his attempts to use The Black Dahlia as an occasion to reframe his career and perform a major work of film criticism directed at his own prodigious output, is almost overwhelming in its thoroughness and its ability to track clearly through some fairly knotty aesthetic terrain. And it’s convincing too, something that can’t be claimed for the bet-hedging tangle of reactionary compare-and-contrast rhetoric that comprises Armond White’s review, a piece which typically implies that any disagreement, even with a quite reserved endorsement that boils down to “they can’t all be home runs,” is proof of the viewer’s compromised integrity or lack of perception.

At the same time, Matt is no bully, and he concedes that his position on the film is in the extreme minority. But this is not his way of shrugging and saying, “Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I’m right;” he never shies away from the obvious fact that there is room for disagreement, for not seeing the complexities that he does in precisely the way that he sees them, while unflaggingly standing up for his vision of the film. His non-antagonistic stance creates an atmosphere where disagreements can be freely aired, and aired they are. The most vocal dissenter so far is probably That Little Round-headed Boy, whose enthusiasm for De Palma on his eponymous blog has been well noted in the blogosphere of late. (Most recently, he even defended Scarface.) TLRHB’s objections are largely rooted in what he sees as missteps in De Palma and screenwriter Josh Friedman’s adaptation of Ellroy’s complex novel, particularly the decision to have Josh Hartnett’s Bucky coolly dispatch Swank’s spider woman at the end of the film, rather than let her rot in the fetid, corrupt lifestyle perpetuated by her family. But his complaints also extend to the casting. He finds Scarlet Johanssen’s performance, as the icy blonde noir dame with a mysterious past who forms the third point of the platonic triangle who also includes Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart’s obsessed detectives, stiff and too obviously, self-consciously iconic, but feels she finally thaws and comes to work as something more than an aestheticized object. And TLRHB has more profound reservations about Swank, who he feels comes off as a horror film variation on Evelyn Mulwray right out of the gate and never escapes the shallow vampirism at the heart of the character’s concept.

However, he’s bullish on Hartnett as an empathetic protagonist, even though the actor has come in for a lion’s share of criticism regarding his blankness and/or inability to carry off the emotional demands of the role. TLRHB also finds that De Palma adds an unexpected frisson to Short’s audition footage by casting himself as her demeaning, off-screen director, and he has very kind words for Fiona Shaw, perhaps the film’s most obvious lightning rod in terms of gauging whether or not De Palma knew what he was doing with the film’s most tonally jarring set piece-- Hartnett’s introduction to Swank’s corrupt, inbred (metaphorically, if not literally) family over which Shaw holds a ghastly form of court, a fetid, comic microcosm of the ghoulish, moneyed upper classes fouling the roots of the image-based Hollywood picture-making machinery.

TLRHB ends by questioning whether the depth that Matt perceives in the film can be attributed to what Matt brought to the film himself, as a sensitive critic and one well familiar with the psychological complexities of the characters as rendered in Ellroy’s language, complexities that TLRHB insists are not readily apparent on screen. And he also offers a poser which has gone unaddressed by any of the thread’s participants so far: “If Hollywood would actually let De Palma be De Palma, do you think this really would have been his choice of film to make? And are we just overlooking that in praising what he was forced to make to keep working?” Given De Palma’s difficulties in getting his most recent pet project, a thriller known as Toyer, off the ground, and given that the director’s next announced project is a prequel to one of his biggest hits, The Untouchables: Capone Rising, it’s a question worth posing. Yet TLRHB himself provides a sort of response when he suggests that, even though he remains disappointed by The Black Dahlia, he’ll gladly pay to see it again if it contributes to the movie making enough money to allow the director to create another Femme Fatale.

So, after all this debate over De Palma’s latest film, which comes after weeks of anticipation and revisiting of the director’s filmography on this site as well as many others, on which side of the fence do I find myself? I stayed away from reading any reviews of The Black Dahlia, including Matt’s (especially Matt’s), until I’d had a chance to experience and digest the movie on my own. (It’s virtually impossible, however, if you wait till almost a week after a major film is released, to remain completely unaware of its general critical reception, and I had posted links to both pans and raves on this site the day before the film came out.) It’s been several days since I’ve seen it and I feel that digestion is still in progress, helped along by all the comments I’ve read since having my own initial reaction. The problem for me is that I’m not finding, as I customarily do with De Palma, that there’s all that much to digest. The Black Dahlia seems to me an intelligently mounted misfire, one that fails to make its central metaphor, the bisected body of an already degraded and humiliated starlet, who might just as easy have been ground up and spat in two halves from the gaping maw of the Hollywood machine, resonate with the kind of force that might have carried the movie to lofty, expressive heights.

What’s fascinating to me in reading a review like Matt’s, as a self-avowed, but not uncritical or all-forgiving, member of the De Palma camp, is the degree to which it is utterly convincing—that is, a compelling, understandable, no-bullshit analysis of the film from his distinct point of view-- while being so divorced from my own experience and conclusions. Where Matt locates zeal and energy in the formal aspects of The Black Dahlia that proceed on to artistically engorge the film for him and flush it with meaning, I saw a film that lacked exactly the urgency that he and others have found to be so abundant in it. To my heart and mind, The Black Dahlia, despite its considerable craft and obvious serious of intent, feels listless, indifferent, and disconnected from the film noir tropes, character conflicts, and even the meticulously reconstructed 1940s-era Los Angeles (shot entirely on sets in Bulgaria) it so tantalizingly recreates. And I think it is possible to recognize that in The Black Dahlia De Palma could very well be trying, at age 66, to reframe the strategies and conclusions of his entire career. He made a similar summation when he employed the technique he honed so brilliantly in Sisters, Carrie and Dressed to Kill to inform the personal paranoia and political outrage at the heart of Blow Out. The difference is that in Blow Out the result was an appreciable heightening of De Palma’s abilities to express his personal concerns in filmmaking about and within the thriller form. The Black Dahlia may involve a process of discovery for De Palma, one which may yet result in another major work that couldn’t have existed without the conscious reevaluation that Matt claims the director is engaging in here. But the film itself has the meandering feel of an artist in search of meaning, rather than one who has discovered it and is putting it to new and exciting use.

The narration, read by Harnett’s Bucky, is very helpful in keeping the viewer oriented within the machinations and narrative switchbacks which undoubtedly find their origin in Ellroy. But the actors never find a way to transcend their stylized appearances and become more than just film noir archetypes, which is the fault of the performers for essentially either not being right for their roles, or the director’s in not being able to tease out the dimensions in their acting that would make his purpose take root in their work and flower artistically on the screen. I can think and read all day and all night about the interior conflict of Bucky’s frustrating attempts to gain a moral understanding that he can live with while being surrounded by so many forces bent on stripping it away, and about De Palma’s strategies to visualize this interior conflict within his formal style, but if all this doesn’t, on some profound level, read on the lead actor’s face or in his movements, his inflections, or in the soul that’s bared on screen, then the movie remains all surface intent and very minor in its successful transformation of that artistic purpose. Unfortunately, Hartnett remains for me a shell of a performer—he goes through the motions well enough to convince the viewer that he’s seen all the key movies, and he’s got enough superficial skill to remain watchable, but when I hear comparisons of what he does in The Black Dahlia to the empathy John Travolta was able to achieve in Blow Out, or what Michael J. Fox communicated in Casualties of War, the lack of responsiveness in Hartnett’s eyes, his boyish, unlived-in face and curiously flat line readings, it makes me feel like there’s a doppelganger film unspooling out there and that’s the one that everyone who loves this movie has seen.

Bucky’s partner, in police work as well as moral decay, is Lee Blanchard, played by Aaron Eckhart, and it’s the first time Eckhart’s natural garrulousness as a performer has not helped him a whit onscreen. Blanchard, who turns out to be central to the movie’s mystery and who knows far more about corruption than even Bucky knows, is the character that must carry the external narrative weight of the obsession with Elizabeth Short that Bucky deals with internally. But at least in the version of Josh Friedman’s script that ended up on screen, Blanchard’s background is so sketchy that the psychological impetus for all of Eckhart’s teeth-gnashing and twisting on the hook the murder has impaled him on remains clouded, and the actor ends up looking foolish. His writhing didn’t inspire the kind of morbid curiosity in this viewer to wondering what was going on, only to speculate that there was something going on that wasn’t being successfully communicated. When Lee’s motivation for his obsession, the horrible death of a sibling, is revealed in a rather offhand manner by his girlfriend, played by the close-to-ossified Scarlet Johannsen (who does very little in this movie that doesn’t seem offhand), the possibility for further empathy with Lee and his torment has been effectively scuttled and one more possibility for Short’s murder to meaningfully inform the movie’s main character concerns falls by the wayside.

Johanssen’s character, Kay, barely exists as anything more than a graphic touchstone to an earlier era anyway. Much has been made of the fact that Hartnett and Johanssen simply seem too young and untarnished to embody the young but world-weary Hollywood denizens on display in De Palma’s (and Ellroy’s) corroded universe. But that would be far less of a concern, for me anyway, if they had more to do than stand around and look world-weary. At least Hartnett is allowed to move through Vilmos Zsigmond’s meticulously crafted frames with a modicum of physical grace, and he is at the center of De Palma’s one show-stopping action set piece (more on that later). Johanssen, on the other hand, is on board for what she brings to the table via her lush sexiness and her ability to carry off a ‘40s coiffure. Her performance can be boiled down to the attributes of the golden, attainable, yet tarnished angel, the idealized hope which Bucky projects onto Short and sees slowly corrode away while watching those audition films, and finally a stag film starring Short which drives home for him the horrors she endured on the road to her loss of innocence and ultimate violation. (Mia Kirshner, it must be said, is extraordinary in this movie, creating a veil of mystery about Short that is all her own, and she made me profoundly wish that De Palma had scuttled all this lifeless dramaturgy and crafted a movie that really was about the Black Dahlia.) Johanssen’s blonde bombshell exists essentially for what she represents to Bucky, purity stained by evil but wholly redeemable, and the shallow concept turns out to be a deadly role for the actress. There are times she barely seems ambulatory within the lush Panavision confines De Palma traps her in—it may be only a slight exaggeration to report that she spends half the movie posed with her left arm cocked at an angle, unmoving, sporting a cigarette lighter and little notion of what to do with her free appendage, as if she’s auditioning for instant icon status in a movie fashion magazine, Veronica Lake cast in Zsigmond amber. By the time Kay is offered to Bucky in a halo of golden light as the reward for having survived the evil plotting of those behind the Dahlia’s murder, she resembles nothing less than that embodiment of twinkling Aryan inspiration played by Glenn Close who popped up in the stands occasionally to offer inspiration to Robert Redford in the execrable adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s baseball novel The Natural.

As the movie’s one truly deadly femme fatale, Madeleine Linscott, a luscious gargoyle born of frivolous entitlement and utter boredom, Hilary Swank at least squeezes some juice out of her character before the movie goes completely off the rails. Swank seems as initially miscast as Hartnett and Johanssen—she’s never exactly been the go-to girl when looking for seductive, insinuating feminine rage. She’s introduced to the movie sauntering through a lesbian bar already in full spider-woman mode—the bar features a full-on girl-on-girl production number (vocals courtesy of a tuxedo-clad K.D. Lang) that initially looks like a gender-reversed revival of “The French Mistake” from Blazing Saddles and registers barely a hiccup on a titillation meter, as does all of the glossed-over sex to come later between Bucky and Linscott, who represents the dark side of the Dahlia that Bucky actually can reach out and touch. (The movie’s erotic fizzle stands in distinct contrast to the decadent sensual appeal of Dressed to Kill or Femme Fatale.) Which isn’t to say that Swank isn’t game; she imbues Madeleine (whose name deliberately evokes Kim Novak in Vertigo) with a dangerous, attractive, slightly perverse vibe (which will flower fully when we meet her family) that makes for a pretty good defense against those who have knocked on her casting based on her perceived inability to forefront her sexuality and ground it in character. Alternately appealing and appalling, Swank’s Madeleine has also, of course, some of the brute, androgynous vitality of Ann Savage in Detour, or Audrey Totter, or even Gene Tierney in the luscious Technicolor melodrama Leave Her to Heaven, where she presides over the drowning of a crippled boy who she believes is taking too much of her husband’s attention away from her. Unfortunately, Swank’s Madeleine is drawn more along the cruder lines of Savage’s portrayal of irrational evil (adding an undeniable erotic pull that Savage could probably never muster) than those of Tierney’s irresistible, ambivalent selfishness and immature longing—neither the concept of the character nor the actress’s performance has enough shading to make Madeleine a living, breathing person apart from the shadows of the designed-to-the-teeth noir landscapes in which she resides. She’s already as fatale as they come from that first entrance, so it’s no surprise when she ends up at the core of the movie’s (and, I assume, the book’s) obligatory attempt to provide some closure for audiences who, it is presumed, won’t want to leave the theater being reminded that the case remains unsolved in real life.

What is surprising though, after the movie’s overly determined pace and pall of self-importance begin sapping The Black Dahlia of its narrative energy, is that De Palma still has one trick up his sleeve that made me pine for the kind of movie he might have made had he followed a different set of instincts. The movie spikes to life during the scene in which Bucky is introduced to Madeleine’s moneyed family—Daddy is a liquored-up Old Hollywood scumbag who became rich by selling off miles and miles of shoddy housing to Hollywood developers, Mother is a drunkenly repressed and thoroughly hostile gargoyle whose icy gaze seems dangerously turned both inward and outward at the same time, and Little Sister exudes fresh-scrubbed innocence as she quietly sketches during dinner, only to later reveal, amidst girlish giggles, her drawing of Bucky mounting Madeleine from behind, all harsh angles, entangled limbs melting into one another, full of rage. De Palma introduces the ghastly scene with what Matt Seitz accurately describes as one of the director’s great tracking shots, seen entirely from Bucky’s point of view as he follows Madeleine through the foyer, unable to ignore some of the ghastly decor of the Linscott house, to the scene’s dinner centerpiece. Matt observes that this horrifically comic interlude achieves the satiric tone De Palma shot for and missed in The Bonfire of the Vanities, but I also thought of Hi, Mom!, which was shot through with the kind of wickedly absurd humor that pays off with such goose-bump cackles here. (It’s often forgotten how funny De Palma’s films are, and that his work routinely has much more of a satiric thrust than seems is ever much noted.) In fact, the unnerving gallows humor of the sequence, and Fiona Shaw’s fearless performance as Mrs. Linscott, a madwoman traipsing through a mental minefield who has yet to reveal the true depths of her madness in particular, had me hoping that De Palma would shuffle off the suffocating weight that enveloped the first third of the film and take us in a far more unexpected, disorienting direction. Unfortunately, the lure of spinning Ellroy’s hard-boiled detective fiction in a relatively straightforward manner proves irresistible to the director, who may be trying to find ways to expand his artistry by engaging in Ellroy’s speculative narrative, but who also forgets how to translate that search into fully engaging filmmaking, and by forgetting ends up, if the by-rote manner in which the movie concludes is any indication, disinterested in his own processes.

Both Ellroy’s book and De Palma’s movie exist in and, in the case of the film anyway, are products of an engagement with a culture, in its popular, sociological and psychological contexts, that puts an almost neurotic premium on closure. It’s not the conjecture about who killed Elizabeth Short that I object to, however, as much as it is the indifference with which it has been staged. When the big reveal happens at the end and Madeleine’s mother is unveiled as Short’s killer, with an assist from the silent, scarred gardener (played by De Palma veteran William Finley) who is also her secret lover, Shaw’s fearlessness seems to leap over into authentic madness, and her Grand Guignol gesticulating so redefines over-the-top that even Ken Russell might find her big moment slightly embarrassing. But the percolating sense of absurdity that underscored her only other moment, during the dinner scene, is overwhelmed by the muted self-seriousness that has scuttled the rest of the film’s drive, as well as its general effectiveness as drama, to the degree that I became indifferent to whatever was happening, high-pitched and screeching, or low-pitched and interior, so much so that the film’s big narrative moment comes across more as atonal flailing than a demonstration of moral horror.

One thing I never expected or demanded from any work of fiction dealing with the Black Dahlia mystery is that the crime be solved, and from the moment I heard of Ellroy’s book, I hoped and presumed that it would find a way to make the creeping malaise of which Short’s murder was but a symptom seep into the bones of his story—in fact, I was quite surprised to find out that Ellroy had delivered not an artfully rendered account of the murder and it’s subsequent investigation, but a politically conscious fiction built around that investigation. This is, of course, the framework that De Palma builds for his Ellroy adaptation as well, and it seems hardly fair to criticize the movie for also not being that work of speculative nonfiction. But what De Palma has come up in realizing Ellroy seems so fundamentally unsatisfying that it’s hard for me not to think of how much more interesting a historically focused documentary dealing with the case facts, as well as what the Dahlia’s sad, vaporous spirit still means in the greater context of Hollywood’s template of corruption, might have been. This desire of mine was only heightened by Kirshner’s and De Palma’s success in dramatizing those painful audition films. The desperation of Short and the cat-and-mouse sadism of the director—voiced by De Palma—as seen in those sequences are palpable and powerful, and De Palma’s willingness to implicate himself, and the audience, as well as the cravenness of the movie industry in dealing out Short’s fate is nothing less than stunning. However much they are meant to reflect and inform the larger story, the threads spun here shame the tissue-thin theatrics of the rest of the movie.

In fact, it’s hard for me to shake the notion that the effect the movie as a whole has is to reduce an already humiliated, debased and violated woman to the level of a metaphor that doesn’t succeed in expanding the meaning of the complex, yet relatively bloodless story that has been constructed around it. Obviously, I don’t believe that it was Ellroy’s intent or De Palma’s to trivialize the murder of Elizabeth Short—the empathy they create for her in such a relatively short amount of time is remarkable, and De Palma’s style is suitably employed to ensure that we never think of this poor, mutilated woman as anything less than a human being. But in De Palma’s movie the moral quandary suffered by relatively shallow characters that don’t hold up under the weight of the ideas under which they were conceived is given the emphasis of importance. Consequently, the true horror of what happened to the woman who posthumously came to be known as the Black Dahlia comes uncomfortably close to being marginalized. It’s a bitter aftertaste that I didn’t expect coming from the man who was able to tear my heart out with the degree of empathy he created for Carrie White, Dressed to Kill’s Kate Miller, Blow Out’s Jack and Sally, and the Vietnamese girl at the black heart of Casualties of War.

There’s also a bit of subtext to the debate among De Palma-philes over the merits of The Black Dahlia that I think is worth mentioning. I’m a bit resistant to comments I’ve read over the weekend regarding the new De Palma film, ones not exclusively found on Matt’s blog, by the way, that imply that to not get with the program and see The Black Dahlia as exactly a triumphant success or a key film in the De Palma canon is tantamount to pooh-poohing the director’s desire to expand his art. Or worse, to deny the power of the film is to insist that he keep repeating the same themes and cinematic techniques over and over again in pursuit of that special, recognizable De Palma excitement so that we might all keep having our giddy, fan boy fun, and too bad for him for wanting to expand his horizons and perversely dash our crude expectations. (Andrew Bemis, at Cinevistaramascope, even posits the notion, adapted from Chuck Klosterman, that De Palma, a cinematic genius, is “Advanced,” meaning that 99% of us just aren’t capable to getting what the director is up to with The Black Dahlia. Perhaps, then, this theory could be employed to explain why De Palma’s The Bonfire of the Vanities is the best movie of the ‘90s.) If anyone could get away with taking perverse pleasure in leaving the general audience behind, along with some fierce acolytes, I would expect it would be De Palma. But I would also expect to feel some of that pleasure myself, the thrill of a director discovering new avenues of expression that truly mean something to him. The Black Dahlia doesn’t seem like work for hire—I don’t think De Palma is capable of hack work. It does feel like the work of a man who hasn’t quite figured out how to realize those desires to take his filmmaking in a different direction. Ironically, the signature De Palma set piece in The Black Dahlia, a murder that takes place on a vertiginous, three-level staircase, has a musty, indifferent feel to it, as if even the director knows he’s gone to this well once too often, and that he’s doing the sequence because, well, what would a Brian De Palma movie be without it? Matt himself even left a comment that expressed concern that The Black Dahlia is being judged in relation to what we expect from De Palma, and that such judgments seem unfair. But when the director undertakes another sequence like this staircase murder, essentially giving the audience what he imagines they want, judging De Palma in relation to his past doesn’t seem unfair because by staging this scene in the manner he does, De Palma invites the comparison himself.

I was lucky enough to see Carrie and Dressed to Kill on a double feature at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater last Friday night, one night after experiencingThe Black Dahlia. I am willing to acknowledge that many of De Palma’s films don’t look the same five or 10 or 20 years after their release, so I’m definitely open to revisiting The Black Dahlia sometime in the future, maybe even the very near future, apart from all the initial grumbling and even the enthusiasm, to take a fresh look. (Every De Palma film I’ve seen, I’ve seen at least twice, with the exception of Wise Guys and Home Movies, and each time, for whatever reason, it’s been a good idea.)

And if The Black Dahlia looks anywhere near as good 20 years from now as these two films do today, at 30 and 26 years old, respectively, then I’ll humbly eat my felt fedora. I was absolutely unprepared for how viscerally exciting it would be to see these particular films, each of which I’ve seen at least 10-15 times, on the big screen once again. Carrie remains a brilliant shriek of hormonal hellfire, and it’s shot through with the excitement of a young filmmaker strengthening his own voice even as his draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock and others. Much has been said about the movie’s climactic prom sequence, from the initial conversations at Tommy and Carrie’s table, to the ballot box stuffing, to the couple’s agonizingly drawn-out approach to the stage, to the drenching of pig’s blood which draws the movie’s themes of unbridled menstrual, pubescent horrors tight around the viewer’s neck, to the apocalyptic catharsis of Carrie’s final explosion. Less has been noted, especially lately, about how the preceding hour seems only like a horror film when Carrie’s mother Margaret (Piper Laurie, unreservedly spectacular) is visiting the abuses of her religious fervor, which is hopelessly (and subconsciously) tangled up in the woman’s fear and repression of sex, upon her daughter. Otherwise, it’s a funny (sometimes uncomfortably so), sharp, and assuredly unsettling take on the kind of teen film that was all the rage in the drive-ins of the day, exploitation classics like The Van and The Pom Pom Girls, a movie blissfully unafraid of the kinds of tonal changes that would strike fear into the hearts of less fundamentally audacious directors. Also, while I was knotted up in my seat Friday night in the moment directly after the daughter has been stabbed by her mother, and just before Carrie returns the favor by visiting an orgasmic crucifixion via telekinetically compelled kitchen implements upon Mrs. White, it struck me that there may never have been a character on screen for which I’ve had quite as much mainline empathy as I do for Carrie. She stares up at a woman barely recognizable as her mother, disbelieving and horrified as the lunatic approaches, a look of blissful dementia swimming across her face as she makes the signs of the cross above Carrie with a butcher knife, and my heart nearly irreparably breaks. Carrie is classic De Palma, undiluted.

As is Dressed to Kill, which for me was the biggest surprise of the night. I’ve always loved this movie, but over the course of the 26 years since its release I don’t think I’ve ever found it to be a pitch-perfect experience. Until last Friday night, that is. Dressed to Kill seemed like such an undiluted 100 minutes of pure cinematic pleasure on that big screen (in a print that, if it wasn’t new, was in remarkable condition) that I almost felt like I’d never seen it before—given concessions to styles prevalent in 1980, when the movie was released, Dressed to Kill still looks as pristine and clear as if it was made this year. Every shot is designed to the hilt to maximize the pleasure De Palma gets from making a movie, a pleasure which is marvelously transmitted to the audience, and the movie clicks and whirs and glides like the biggest, most giddy clockwork toy you’ve ever seen. And that’s pretty amusing in and of itself, given its sensationally funny (you’re absolutely right, TLRHB!) take on our most lurid, often subconscious fears of the consequences of getting what we want—sex, attention, transformation— and then watching those desires spiral off into horrific, unexpected, but not, as many critics of the film continue to insist, morally mandated consequences. De Palma’s control of this material is awe-inspiring, and every element seems right—I could barely control my glee over seeing that spectacularly sustained museum sequence, the virtual wordlessness of which extends for almost a half hour, right up until the fateful elevator ride. What’s most memorable to me about that sequence, apart from the gut-wrenching horror of watching such a sympathetic character as Angie Dickinson’s Kate Miller dispatched so cruelly, are the individual moments-- like the killer holding out the razor toward Kate (the camera), all out of focus except for that extended, gleaming blade; or Nancy Allen glimpsing that same killer in the elevator mirror, and that insinuating, erotically charged, diffuse, slow-motion close-close-close-up of Allen gazing up, not entirely computing what it is she’s seeing. I came away from the Bing Theater Friday night thinking of Dressed to Kill as a genuinely perfect creation, and I was reminded once again about the difference that seeing a movie as thrilling as this one on a gigantic screen can make, and giving yourself over to the vision of a master director working at the top of his form.

And before I go, has there been enough credit given to Pino Donnagio over the past 30 years? This wonderful film composer, who has suffered accusations of picking Bernard Hermann’s carcass in much the same manner that De Palma has always been dogged by accusations of unabashedly stealing from Hitchcock, composed the scores for both of these films, and I don’t think his contributions to their success can possibly be overstated. As excited as I was to see De Palma’s films on the big screen, I was just as excited to hear once again Donaggio’s brilliant score for Dressed to Kill on a sound system big enough that the stabbing violins and undulating undercurrents of the cellos and horns could properly resonate in my mind as well as in my chest cavity. I almost went crazy with pleasure anticipating that moment near the end of Dressed to Kill when Allen emerges from “the powder room” back into Dr. Elliot’s office, the flashes of lightning revealing Elliot now dressed as Bobbie, approaching her, in that gorgeous slow-motion, from the shadows behind. How wonderful to luxuriate once again in how much more terrifying the whole sequence is made by the contrapuntal spasms of horns and strings timed to explode with the cut to Allen staring toward the office window, agonizingly unaware of the presence just over and behind her right shoulder. Thank you, Mr. Donaggio.

I truly hope it’s not another 20 years before I get to see Dressed to Kill, or Carrie, on the big screen again. But if it is, I’ll always have Friday night to keep me motivated to not miss them when the opportunity comes around again, and to keep my hopes alive that whatever direction Brian De Palma takes as a filmmaker he can once again deliver a film, in whatever genre, guided by whatever formal dedications, that is as fully realized and unreservedly successful on an artistic level as either of these two.

Friday, September 22, 2006


The release today of Steven Zaillan’s much-ballyhooed remake of All the King’s Men, starring Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and a constellation’s worth of supporting cast members, is supposed to signal the official kick-off of the fall movie season, one which ostensibly contains all the studio’s big adult-oriented, Oscar-friendly fare backloaded into the end-of-the-year and Christmas seasons in the hopes of catching the attention of that little golden man. But the negative reviews coming in for All the King’s Men suggest that we’ve got a lot way to go before anybody’s going to start calling odds the Best Picture race.

Coincidentally, another movie opens today that has not even a decimal point’s chance of attracting Oscar attention. And yet it’s probably even more hotly anticipated than All the King’s Men, most definitely among a different demographic than is expected to dutifully trudge to see big studio Oscar bait. But a certain percentage of us older folks too, who really oughta know better, are giddy with aniticipation as well, we who cannot resist the clarion call of a well-executed prank, like an prowling electric razor randomly attacking the backs of unsuspecting heads, a rental-car destruction derby, or a man taking a dump in a display toilet bowl at a local hardware store. Those were highlights from jackass: the movie. God only knows what jackass number two holds in store.

And the reviews are pouring in. Nathan Lee in the New York Times calls it “some of the most fearless, liberated and cathartic comedy in modern movies,” while Stephanie Zacharek in Salon says,

“You not only can't believe what you're seeing but really don't want to be seeing it. Yet I couldn't look away, and neither could anyone else in the audience I saw the movie with. We hooted and hollered at the screen, captured by a single involuntary impulse… If there has to be a key to jackass number two -- other than the pleasure of laughing at crass, rude, wholly inappropriate humor -- maybe that's it: The movie unites us by turning us into a club of people who may at times do stupid things, but who staunchly draw the line at doing anything this stupid.”

Yet Jessica Reaves, in the Los Angeles Times, whose entire review could be summed up by “Eeew! Gross!” begs to differ: “The majority of people (and, based on the commercial success of the previous jackass movie, there will be many) who see this movie will be fans of the television series. They will, therefore, likely be far less horrified and, one assumes, less judgmental than a movie reviewer who is still wondering when she might be able to once again stomach solid food.”

But can jackass number two match or surpass the brilliant opening and ending sequences that bookended the first film? There must be something wrong with me, because I’m unreasonably excited to find out. But I won’t make the same mistake I did when I saw the first one—I will bring my asthma inhaler along this time. Because as I recall I swerved dangerously close to my own kind of laughing death in the theater during part one and, unlike, Johnny, Steve-o, Wee-Man, Bam and the rest of the gang, I wasn’t getting paid to flirt with the reaper. To repeat Mel Brooks’ line that Zacharek uses to open her review, "Tragedy is if I cut my finger. Comedy is if you fall in a hole and die." I look forward to 95 minutes of comedy this weekend, and if I survive, I will report back.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Yesterday I got a note from a friend of mine who works in postproduction which directed me to information regarding a short film screening this weekend in Los Angeles to qualify for Academy Award eligibility. The film, entitled The Showdown, was directed by Antonio and Fulvio Sestito, and one look at the poster should make it clear why my friend thought it might be something in which I would be interested.

According to the “director’s statement” on the film’s Web site, “The Showdown brings together two aspects that are uniquely American-- baseball and the old West. It is a short action/drama film about the confrontation between a pitcher and batter in the bottom of the ninth inning of a one-run baseball game, juxtaposed against a deadly duel between two gunfighters in the Old West. This is a story about duels and duality, about loss and redemption, and how history can repeat itself...”

The movie screens at the Fine Arts Theater on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills on Friday, September 22 at 7:15 and 8:00 p.m., Saturday, September 23 at 5:30 and 6:15 p.m., and Sunday, September 24 at 4:45 and 5:30 p.m.

Click here to watch the trailer, or you can find out more at the movie’s My Space site.

The Sestitos are making themselves available at each of the six screenings, and I hope to make it over the hill to one of them and talk to the brothers in person. For anybody who has watched a duel between, say, Greg Maddux and Albert Pujols and heard Ennio Morricone’s haunting Man-With-No-Name themes in their head at the same time, The Showdown might be a match perfectly made for the dusty, tumbleweed-strewn streets and sprawling infields of the wide screen.

SVEN NYKVIST 1922-2006

Master cinematographer Sven Nykist, who famously shot films for Ingmar Bergman (The Virgin Spring, Persona, The Serpent’s Egg, Fanny and Alexander), but who also lent his sensitivity and inspiration to films as varied as Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby, Dino De Laurentiis’ remake of Hurricane, Bob Rafelson’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, Nora Ephron’s Mixed Nuts and Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, has passed away. You can read Edward Copeland’s appreciation here, which includes a link to the obituary printed in the Los Angeles Times. Nykvist, who shot over 100 films and won Oscars for his work on Fanny and Alexander and Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, was 83 years old.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Thanks to Anne Thompson for passing along Ambrose Heron’s sharp, even-tempered defense of movie bloggers, posed as a response to an article by Rachel Cooke that trots out increasingly familiar generalizations about “daft bloggers” vs. “eminent critics.” Of course there are lots of bloggers out there who use the forum as an excuse to pop off and crack wise and gush indiscriminately about whatever is their current obsession. They are easy to spot and wear out their welcome quickly. However, I will echo Anne’s statement that there is an increasingly wide range of smart movie bloggers out there too, and I'd like to suggest that it’s just as easy to follow them and determine whether they’re worth reading or not as it is to judge an established critic by his standards, observations and skill with language. Anne refers to her sidebar as evidence of this claim, and I will do the same. Thanks to Ambrose, Anne and all the residents of both our sidebars for the excellent work you do writing intelligently about film.


Congratulations to the New York Mets, who clinched the National League East tonight and finally shook off that tomahawk-chopping monkey off their backs. But thanks to some historic antics at Chavez Ravine tonight courtesy of Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, Marlon Anderson, Kenny Lofton (way to draw a walk, Kenny!) and, of course, Nomar "Walk-Off" Garciaparra, I'm flying high on the anything's-possible kind of thrill that only baseball can deliver and holding out hope for a rematch of that 1988 Mets-Dodgers NLCS. It can't possibly get any better than this, can it?

UPDATE 9/21/06: Well, two losses to the Pirates and a surging Philly team later, it certainly could get better, and it could get worse. With 10 games to go, here's some fine mojo for you Dodger fans (and fans of games of the century-type stuff) who might have missed it or who just can't stop reliving it.

Part 1:

Part 2:


As one who appreciates Mike Judge’s animated work (Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill) as well as his cult hit live-action feature comedy Office Space, I’d spent the better part of a year reading about his upcoming new picture, usually referred to as “Untitled Mike Judge Comedy.” So when I came home after a Labor Day weekend vacation to discover, in the fine print of the local theater chain listings, that Judge’s movie, which now had a title-- Idiocracy-- had been “released” without any fanfare, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the movie was being unceremoniously dumped in a handful of markets and left for some studio exec’s self-fulfilling prophecy to officially declare it dead.

Plenty has been written in the last week about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of that decision by its studio, Twentieth-Century Fox, and whether there’s some conspiracy afoot to quash Judge’s vision. But as writer Joel Stein observed in his article for Time magazine entitled “Dude, Where’s My Film?”, it may be as simple as the marketing department realizing it had been flummoxed by the “Is it stupid or is it smart?” conundrum that the movie spins for itself. According to Stein, “The biggest sin a director can commit isn't making a bad movie, it's making one that doesn't make a good ad.” And to watch Fox scramble away from Judge, a filmmaker who has, to paraphrase one Chico Escuela, been very, very good for them, it’s hard not to agree.

And really, what’s news about the cold feet of movie studios? Just about everyone in Hollywood short of Steven Spielberg is only as good as his last movie, and despite the fact that Office Space blossomed from a theatrical weed into a DVD cult orchid, Fox may have figured that that the name “Mike Judge” wasn’t going to transform another likely cult oddity into Talledega Nights, box office-wise. Which begs the question, what did the Fox folks think Judge was cooking up here? Stein reports that “every ad and trailer the studio put together for it tested atrociously,” and Ross Ruediger, who heads up The Rued Morgue and has followed the movie’s rocky path to semi-release, told me in an e-mail that he suspects an official trailer was never cut and shown in theaters, a development seemingly confirmed by the absence of a link to a trailer under the movie’s listing on IMDb or on any of the usual Internet outlets.

Yet the fate of Idiocracy is hardly the result of a conspiracy. Instead, it’s just the most recent illustration of Hollywood’s make-or-break mentality, where the nether-region between mammoth culture-strangling hit and milquetoast box-office nonentity has been all but erased. If the powers that be can’t figure out a way to at least raise the theatrical profile of a low-budget comedy with this many bodily-function belly laughs, which also just happens to be way smarter than the a-ver-age fare, in order to pave the way for a profitable DVD afterlife, then Judge’s genuinely dystopian, choke-on-your-laughter vision of a dumbed-down society may be a whole lot closer to being realized than we might like to think.

But then, that’s Judge’s point. It’s not exactly a new strategy for satirists and social commentators to use the science fiction genre to posit a future that deals with, or illustrates the result of, the problems in a society that are happening right now. And Judge’s premise, borne of a satiric approach to the fallacies of eugenics, leaves plenty of rope for humanity to hang itself, presuming it can figure out how to properly tie the noose. The groundwork for Idiocracy is laid in a hilarious parody of authoritarian educational films that exposes the roots of humanity’s slippery slide toward pea-brain-osity in the frigidity of intellectuals (or at least their yuppie subset) and the unchecked rutting of the uneducated poor. Smart folks are too selfish to procreate, while Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae can’t keep their genitalia to themselves. Sounds simple enough, right? But by the time the movie really gets going Judge has laid culpability for the crumbling mental capacity of society at the feet of lawmakers, corporations and opportunistic politicians too. And let’s not forget the military—insofar as they represent by definition the aggressive arm of any government, Judge certainly hasn’t. A low-level army base slacker (Luke Wilson) and a randomly selected hooker (Maya Rudolph) are selected to participate in a military experiment, headed by an officer with more than just a little taste for the pimpin’ lifestyle—that’s how the hooker gets roped in. The experiment is designed to monitor physical changes in cryogenically frozen subjects over a period of a year. But when the officer’s illegal activities end up getting him imprisoned and the base bulldozed, Wilson and Rudolph are left on ice not for a year but for 500. The pair, barely three digits in the IQ department between them to start with, awaken to a world so battered and worn down by an abased pop culture, relentless corporate corruption and political ineffectuality that they are, by acidly ironic default, the smartest people on the planet.

The movie alternately cruises happily on its concept and lurches through the dead spots that are part and parcel for any movie comedy searching to knock the comedy ball out of the park with every joke, observation or bit of performance. And it goes officially soggy when Wilson’s adventures take him out of the depths of ignominy after a botched prison escape and into the White House, where the president, a champion WWF-type wrestler, charges him with fixing all the country’s problems with his prodigious intellect, and threatens death if he fails to do so. But Idiocracy’s tendency to democratize stupidity is its saving grace— everybody is an equal-opportunity doofus, even our hero, who can’t believe his own level of condescension towards the denizens of this dumb society largely because he knows in his heart that he isn’t all that bright either. For a movie that stirs some genuine feelings of despair out of its grungy comic-satiric premise, it isn’t satisfied to sit on its hands while the citizenry of this pit of a burg come off like numb-nuts Mad TV versions of the zombies in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Judge displays some genuine empathy for these hopeless dopes, and perhaps it’s his attitude towards these folks—ambivalence mixed with appreciation for their neutralized potential as human beings—that sparks the heart of this movie while at the same time it confuses its audience (and its studio backers) as to just how to see them, as victims or perpetuators of the movie’s central problem.

Of course, Fox might insist, that’s the problem in trying to figure out how to market Idiocracy too. Is a movie with this many top-echelon low-brow bits and gross-out gags part of the solution, as far as satire resolves to “solve” anything, or is it part of the trouble? Inasmuch as it seems to confuse studio bigwigs, does it also inure audiences, particularly those couch-potato types who now stand as the movie’s best chance at achieving some level of stature as a home video hit, to the kind of comedy that relies more on verbal wit and subtle references than jokes about recognizable coffee franchises that, in Judge’s future, double as hand-job parlors? Well, when you see Idiocracy on DVD, which will be your only option after this Thursday, when the 30 or so screens its still playing on nationwide are given over to the likes of Jackass Number Two (yet more id/ego hand-wringing on my part?!), perhaps you’ll be too busy noticing how Luke Wilson has never been quite so good, or so confident onscreen, as he seems in this role to ponder such imponderables, or at least let them get in the way of this fella's way with a grin or a disbelieving sidelong glance.

Or perhaps you’ll recognize that Maya Rudolph is as impudently sexy and sharp for Judge as she was impatiently, insistently funny for Robert Altman in A Prairie Home Companion and not worry so much about whether Judge’s concept is bolstered or watered-down by its reasonably sunny conclusion. Perhaps you’ll get a profound tickle out of the hastily assembled CGI effects (courtesy of Judge compadre Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios) which trade wit for visual verisimilitude and add much to Idiocracy’s hilarious, caked-on drabness, a sharp rejoinder (born of budgetary constraints as much as artistic choice, to be sure) to the kind of overdesigned dystopian amusement parks that have cluttered American and European science fiction cinema in the 25 years since the release of Blade Runner. Perhaps you’ll wonder why, if you can possibly stop giggling long enough to even consider it, Judge stock player Stephen Root shows up presiding over a trial looking a whole lot like the X-Men’s Wolverine, but with twirling eyes that simultaneously see more (in the form of dancing zoo animals, perhaps) and less than we do. (Those twirling eyes muddy up a version of Root’s patented dementia to a uncomfortable degree.)

Or perhaps, rather than worry too much about whether Judge’s comic sci-fi postulating straddles the fence between low-brow guffaws and highfalutin satirical exploration, you’ll revel in the performance of Dax Shepard, who plays the dazed, nasally impeded and none-too-talented defense lawyer who goes by the name Frito and ends up trying to guide Wilson and Rudolph to a time machine that he insists is located just the other side of a city-sized CostCo. Shepard is, amazingly, both dead-eyed and wildly alive in his screen presence, and he has some of the finest droopy-lidded visual retorts to the array of confusion that everyday life represents to him, usually accompanied by a truncated grunt, that I could ever imagine. Shepard is introduced to the film when his apartment, a futuristic trash pit where he sits pacified, sucking on some unidentified mucousy liquid snack and watching his favorite TV show, the hugely popular Ow! My Balls!, is inadvertently invaded when Wilson’s cryo-pod crashes through a flimsy wall. Wilson makes his way out of the apartment and away from the understandably hostile Frito after a brief scene, and I remember thinking, “Okay, good, that’s enough of that one-note character. Let’s move on.” But Shepard’s triumph as a performer is that he sucks you into Frito’s stunned, indignant resistance to having his placid existence stirred up. He creates a kind of dizzy empathy for his character’s adenoidal non-response to the movie’s escalating lunacy, always relying on a natural, almost lilting sense of timing and sensitivity to his fellow performers. This performance should be looked at very closely by those actors of his generation who want to see how a brilliant comic performance is crafted, or who perhaps want to someday attempt one themselves. Shepard’s Frito is to Idiocracy what David Herman’s Michael Bolton was to Office Space-- a comic id chorus and a welcome point of identification for an audience that wants to transgress the white-bread behavior of the movie’s ostensible “hero.” Shepard’s performance, however, goes beyond the obvious level of probing Frito’s dull wit for cheap laughs toward a more precise and empathetic encapsulation of the underachievement, as well as the possibilities, of this fucked-up future, a kind of transcendence that, for all of Bolton’s hilarious wigger taste in hardcore rap (and simultaneous fear of a black panhandler, not to mention a black planet), Herman never quite achieved.

The dumping of Idiocracy by Fox hardly classifies as a cultural crime. But it is a little dumbfounding to witness a big studio go all pie-eyed and goofy over the prospect of marketing what seems like, if not, well, a no-brainer, then at least hardly the advertising Everest it was made out to be. I missed the Los Angeles Times Calendar section the morning the movie came out, so I can’t say what appeared in that section, but I know that I never saw a subsequent ad in that paper or any other in a market where Idiocracy was playing. And even as I stood two feet away from the movie’s apparently hastily designed one-sheet before entering the 35-seat cinema in the Beverly Center where my wife and I saw the movie last week, I had a hard time grasping exactly what the concept of the artwork or the thrust of the advertising campaign was.

As we came out of the cinema, me, my mile-wide grin and my wife (she liked it too), I realized that by the time I would be able to sit down and write a review of Idiocracy, the movie would be, for all intents and purposes, gone with the wind. (As of this writing, Judge’s movie is playing in exactly six movie theaters in Los Angeles.) I only hope that some sort of grass-roots glomming onto this movie takes place the way it did in the wake of Office Space’s less-than-torrential theatrical run. (At least Office Space was granted a theatrical run, with TV ads and everything.) The point is not that Idiocracy is one of those movies that must, simply must be seen on the big screen to appreciate its graphic acuity and breathtaking beauty-- this movie doesn’t even have the zip Panavision brought to the otherwise routine-looking Blazing Saddles, which Pauline Kael dismissed as visually clunky, dirty 1974-era TV writ large. No, the point is that we Americans, fond as we are of the lewd, hilarious and much-smarter-than-advertised comedies of the Farrelly Brothers, Kevin Smith, and of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, never got a chance to reject or accept Judge’s latest for ourselves. Idiocracy is a smart movie about the erosion of intelligence in America, and the world, and in an era where spoon-feeding audiences and voters and congregations predigested content for their own good is S.O.P., it deserves an audience. It’s as simple as that.

Monday, September 18, 2006


There’s much to write about, and I’m hoping to get to a lot of it tonight, which means plenty of new stuff just around the corner. But until then, here I sit at work eking out a living, and since this came floating across my desk I feel powerless to do anything else but share it. Here’s to crinkling up the corners of a Monday frown with the limitless powers of the cinema, augmented, of course, by the wart of horror!

(Thanks for the tip, Thom McG!)

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Won’t it be fun to watch this sequence within the hallowed walls of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art?

Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia opens in theaters tomorrow and has been drawing everything from Keith Uhlich's intelligent rave, to Armond White’s unusually tempered enthusiasm, to Manohla Dargis' semi-respectful pass, to an outright pan from David Edelstein, who has not been shy about his appreciation of the director’s past work, especially Casualties of War, a movie Dargis describes as "lugubrious."


(UPDATE 9/15 8:45 a.m. Matt Zoller Seitz has checked in with his review over at The House Next Door. I haven't read it yet, as Matt indicates in the first paragraph that it is dense with spoilers. But judging from the comments already posted in its wake, and the length of the review, as well as the tone I was able to glean from briefly glancing through it, it seems Matt is a whole lot more impressed with the film than have been reviewers like Edelstein, Manohla Dargis and, yes, even Mr. White. If Matt's previous writing is any indication, and it damn well should be, this, alongside the Keith Uhlich review linked above, looks like it might be the most complex and intelligent positive assessment the film is likely to get. I look forward to sitting down with this review after I've seen The Black Dahlia.

In the comments section of his post, Matt also links to a piece on that he characterizes as "the latest bulletin from the Department of You-Gotta-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me." Indeed. The piece, by Michael Ventre, is entitled "Brian De Palma is Simply a Gun for Hire," and it adds a bunch of new canards to an already tiresome litany of complaints about the director. For example, I really like Carlito's Way, but this is a bit much:

"Carlito's Way... probably brought De Palma more respect among cinephiles."

Or how about this to give some context as to just how much the author understands the real world, let alone the processes of a film artist:

"The two primary tasks of a director are to get the script in shape, and then cast the movie well. After that a trained chimpanzee could at least deliver a workmanlike rough cut."

There are many more nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned about De Palma from this astonishing bit of reportage, but these were two of my favorites. What are some of yours?


And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, there’s something else to be excited about as De Palma’s latest begins unreeling everywhere this weekend: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art begins screenings tomorrow, lasting through September 30, of many of De Palma’s previous films under the banner “The Stylish Thrillers of Brian De Palma.” Scott Foundas, in the L.A.Weekly, takes that umbrella title to task while recognizing the exceptional opportunity this series is for film fans and De Palma acolytes alike to see the director’s work on the big (usually Panavision) screen where it belongs.

Here’s what LACMA has on tap through the end of the month:

Friday, September 15: Sisters 7:30 p.m.
Phantom of the Paradise 9:45 p.m.

Saturday, September 16: Scarface 7:30 p.m.

Friday, September 23: Carrie 7:30 p.m.
Dressed to Kill 9:20 p.m.

Saturday, September 24: Blow Out 7:30 p.m.
The Untouchables 9:30

Coming Very Soon to An Excellent Blog Near You: THE ROBERT ALDRICH BLOG-A-THON

Robert Aldrich, alongside Samuel Fuller, personified the film director as two-fisted spinner of dark tales perched just this side of pitch-black misanthropy, a clear-eyed, yet just as often hysterical observer of violence who was often brilliant at the task of conjuring the virile, hostile charge of men in chaotic conflict, and later the various gradations of psychological tension in women, into a series of brutal, bilious and superb films noir, films which themselves sometimes crept into the arena of art.

After several years as a studio production clerk, script clerk and assistant to the likes of Edward Dmytyrk, William Wellman, Abraham Polonsky, Joseph Losey and Charles Chaplin, he made his inauspicious debut with The Big Leaguer in 1953, a mediocre drama starring Edward G. Robinson as a baseball manager shepherding would-be ballplayers through a baseball tryout camp. (The movie remains of interest today less to Aldrich admirers than to Dodger fans who are afforded rare glimpses of Brooklyn bums Carl Hubbell and Al Campanis in a setting other than mid-game on the baseball diamond.)
Then came the first string of movies that would later typify the words “A Robert Aldrich Film”—the westerns Apache (with Burt Lancaster) and Vera Cruz (Lancaster and Gary Cooper), both released in 1954; the film noir classics Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife, both from 1955; and the vividly realistic WWII actioner Attack!, from 1956, starring Jack Palance and Eddie Albert. (The atypical romance Autumn Leaves, with Vera Miles and Cliff Robertson, for which Aldrich won Best Director at the West Berlin Film Festival, was also released in 1956.)

Aldrich began the ‘60s helming the big budget Italian production of Sodom and Gomorrah (1961; codirected by Sergio Leone), my favorite entry in the biblical epic genre. But he cemented his commercial success with the gothic psychodrama of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), which pitted Bette Davis in full-on hag mode as a demented former child star playing twisted cat-and-rat games with her sweet-tempered paraplegic sister, played against type by Joan Crawford. (Aldrich would revisit the ghastly template of Baby Jane in 1965 with Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, this time pitting Davis against a deceptively sinister Olivia De Havilland.) James Stewart and The Flight of the Phoenix would follow in 1966, paving the way, both in box-office receipts and directorial sensibility, for Aldrich’s biggest hit, the WWII action classic The Dirty Dozen in 1967. The director closed out the decade with two insider looks at the Hollywood machine-- The Legend of Lylah Clare and The Killing of Sister George (1968). Both were hit-and-miss in terms of quality, and neither managed to come close to the phenomenal success of The Dirty Dozen.

The first half of the ‘70s proved to be a fertile period for Aldrich as well. He turned out another WWII thriller with an all-star cast, Too Late the Hero starring Michael Caine, Cliff Robertson, Henry Fonda, Ian Bannen and Denholm Elliot, and the crude, wacky and nihilistic gangster epic The Grissom Gang, with Kim Darby, Scott Wilson, Tony Musante and Connie Stevens, in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Then it was time for Aldrich to revisit two of the tough action icons with whom he had had previous successes. Burt Lancaster reteamed with the director for the brutal, thrilling western Ulzana’s Raid (1972), and the following year Aldrich reunited with Dirty Dozen squad leader Lee Marvin, joined also by Ernest Borgnine and Keith Carradine, for what may be Aldrich’s masterpiece, Emperor of the North Pole (1973). Two outings with Burt Reynolds would follow—the popular hit The Longest Yard (1974) and the cult drama Hustle (1975), which saw Reynolds costar with upscale beauty Catherine Deneuve in what might be, along with Kiss Me Deadly, Aldrich’s bleakest noir. In 1977 the director helmed his last critical hit, the electrifying adaptation of Walter Wager’s novel Viper Three, retitled Twilight Last Gleaming. Lancaster returns again, heading another typical Aldrich all-star cast which included Melvyn Douglas, Paul Winfield, Richard Widmark, Joseph Cotton and Charles Durning. That same year he had a hit with his critically reviled adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh’s The Choirboys, though his final two films-- The Frisco Kid starring Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford in a misguided comedy-western, and …All the Marbles featuring Peter Falk navigating the world of female wrestling-- have to be considered disappointments when placed up against the vitality of what might be thought of as a representative Robert Aldrich film.

But why the attention paid to Robert Aldrich? There is no centennial birthday to be celebrated in 2006—the director, who died in 1983, would have been 88 this year—and there is no corresponding retrospective of his work underway in any major city that I know of. Most of his films are now available on DVD, however, and that’s reason enough for me to announce this first official call for a Robert Aldrich Blog-a-Thon to convene just over a month from now, on Monday, October 16.

I invite you to post pieces on any Aldrich-related subject you so choose, be it a single film, a series of films, a performance, thoughts on the director’s styles, anything at all. If you can let me know as far ahead of time as possible that you will be posting an Aldrich-themed article for the Blog-a-Thon on that day, it would be extremely helpful to me in gathering all the appropriate links and turning SLIFR into an blog-a-thon hub for the day, Aldrich Central Station for the dissemination and sharing of all the great pieces that will undoubtedly become available on October 16. And if you’re a reader without a blog to call your own and would like to contribute a piece anyway, please feel free to contact me and I will post your work on Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

I look forward to hearing from all the potential contributors, but most of all I look forward to reading what you have to say about this punchy, antiestablishment director and his ragged, pulsating films.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I’m trying to race out the door toward a little road trip with my wife and two girls, but before I do I wanted to give a shout-out to some of the outstanding writing I’m going to be taking along to read and reread on my journey. With work like this available, it’s no wonder I and a lot of other folks I know, are getting so much more out of writing found on some of excellent blogs and other online sources instead of, or at least in addition to, the usual outlets. Let’s raise a glass to a Labor Day Weekend marked by no labor and extra-long, relaxing days in which to kick back and soak up some of the superb posts that make up the SLIFR Labor Day Weekend Reading List.

(Once again, I'm sorry for Blogger's refusal to provide a picture-posting service that actually works on any computer other than the one at my office. When I come back next week I'll post the pics I had planned to include with this reading list. My apologies for the lack of cool illustrations. Hopefully the links will help you to forget...)

FLASH! JUST ADDED, September 3, 10:55 a.m.:

Andy Horbal at No More Marriages has a fascinating discussion going on under his post "Italics", an attempt to create some sort of standardization of the use of all those cool little tools like italics, bold, quotation marks and create a betterr standard of readability for film blogs.

But, as usual, that's not all that's going on at Andy's excellent blog. He rounds up the latest batch of online considerations of the current state of film criticism and the shape it may or may not be taking in the light of print alternatives like Scanners, Thee House Next Door, Girish, Hell on Frisco Bay and other film-devoted Web sites.

And Andy has saved a wonderful present for all of us "Internets," courtesy of our friend Walter at Quiet Bubble. Here's Walter:

"Emily Gordon at Emdashes–a supercool blog about the New Yorker that anyone interested in the magazine’s past, present, and future should be reading–has uncovered a whopper: about 3000 short film reviews by master critic Pauline Kael, online, freely accessible. Go, now."

Take a guess as to what just got added to my sidebar! Thanks, Emily, Walter and Andy!

Happy Labor Day, indeed!


Matt Seitz has got what amounts to a virtual publishing house running at full speed over at The House Next Door these days, and he’s shining the spotlight on some excellent writers and their work in addition to his own. And what’s refreshing about the group he’s gathered together is, they’re all emerging with their own distinctive voices—they’re not just trying to ape Matt or second-guess what his tastes might be. Some of the great stuff available right now includes Dan Jardine’s nod to that touchstone TV movie that seems to have scared the shit out of just about everyone who watched the ABC Movie of the Week in the mid ‘70s—Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror, the third episode of which starred Karen Black vs. a very scary doll of death.

The House Next Door also points the way toward Edward Copeland’s rousing appreciation of a frequently dismissed (if it’s remembered at all) horror sequel, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part Two. Ed stole my thunder a bit here—I had (and still do have) plans to unveil and discuss this little treasure in September. But it’s hard to be annoyed when someone who writes as well as Edward does gets there first. I’ll be linking to this one again when my own piece appears.

Finally, but by no means least importantly, Aaron Aradillas premieres at the House with part one of his appropriately epic study of polarizing firebrand director Oliver Stone. The first part of this long, detailed and provocative study goes up through The Doors and includes some choice words on one of my favorite Stone films, Talk Radio. I can’t wait to read Aradillas on Nixon, which I think is one of the most radical studio movies ever released, when part two shows up soon. (Don’t worry. I’ll let you know!)


Jim Emerson, or as I like to think of him, the Hardest Working Man in Film Criticism, continues to provide proof as to why his blog Scanners is perhaps the best site around for discussion, observation and worthwhile fellowship with fellow film fans right now. This Seattle-based writer doesn’t shy away from commenting on the “real” world too, and we often discover, along with him, the ways in which film informs and intersects with that real world through some really insightful writing. I’m thinking particularly of recent pieces on bogus reportage on the influence of bloggers, the capture and subsequent release of the self-appointed murderer of Jon-Benet Ramsey, 9-11, the Movie and the return of The Scream. Jim also checks in today on the return of another icon of madness, Griffin Mill, aka The Player.

As if all that weren’t bounty enough, the Opening Shots series is sporting a new wrinkle. There’s a new poll that you can take to vote for your favorite opening shot of all time. Of those listed, I’m voting for Nights of Cabiria, but I could be talked into a vote for Touch of Evil, I guess… And Jim continues posting brilliant Opening Shots submissions, including juicy and sublime considerations of Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night from “nonpracticing film critic” and co-founder and artistic director of the Lake Placid Film Forum, Kathleen Carroll; Mike Calia on Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs; Andrew Wright on Paul Schrader’s Cat People; Schuyler Chapman on Repo Man; and Jim himself with two excellent submissions that have got me scrambling for the “add” button on my Netflix queue—Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, with Fearless my favorite Peter Weir movie, and one I haven’t seen in years, and Gary Sherman’s Raw Meat, a grisly horror film from the early ‘70s about which I must confess complete ignorance:

“They don't grind 'em out like Raw Meat anymore. I don't know if horror movies will ever seem as seedy as they did in the first half of the 1970s, when even the emulsion itself seemed to carry dread and disease. In this British horror-thriller, released in the UK as Death Line and directed by Gary Sherman (Dead & Buried), there's Something in the Underground. Yes, there's a through-line to The Descent here. And Guillermo Del Toro (Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth) considers it one of his favorites.”

When Jim says something like this about a movie called Raw Meat, just how long do you think I can resist?

Speaking of The Descent, for those of us who are still haunted by Neil Marshall’s subterranean nightmare, Jim continues his prodigious spelunking of this new horror classic and comes up with much more on the movie’s powerful imagery. If it isn’t obvious that you should be checking Scanners daily, it should be—and the way Jim has been turning out great material lately, you should be checking it out more than once a day.


The fine folks at Cinematical, always on the front lines with the latest rumors, Hollywood bluster and well-considered opinions and thoughts on film, check in with news of Peter Jackson’s latest (I know at least one film fan who’s not gonna be happy about this), as well as a sharp and sassy review of Kirby Dick’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated. If it’s not yet, Cinematical is another site that really should be a daily stop on your Bookmarks tab.


Twitch has a new trailer for the new Korean monster film The Host that’s ready to unspool for you and give you nightmares. It’s yet another preview for a movie that viewers have actual reason to believe might be as good as advertised. If it does, and if Pan’s Labyrinth delivers as promised, you can throw The Host and The Descent in alongside and start thinking of 2006 as one of the best years for the horror/fantasy/science fiction genre in many a moon.


Over at the deliriously obsessive site DVD Beaver, where they’re currently doing digital back flips over Criterion’s new three-disc edition of Seven Samurai, there’s a spectacular page entitled ”The Femme Fatales of Film Noir”, featuring beautiful chiaroscuro shots of the likes of Gloria Grahame, Anna Mae Wong, Gene Tierney and a deadly bevy of other noir beauties. The shots come courtesy of Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans, a virtual treasure trove of beautiful high-resolution head shots and publicity poses from the studio vaults. Dr. Macro also features keen links to a rich series of film noir posters, full-length MGM shorts and lots more. It’s the kind of place a movie fan could get lost in, and when it happens to you it’s my guess that you won’t mind one bit.


One of the film blogs I’ve been keeping my eye on lately is Andrew Bemis’s Cinevistaramascope. (What a great title!) Andrew writes in a loose, unpretentious style that speaks well to his smart, thoughtful approach to movies. He keeps us up to date on everything he watches on a weekly basis (films rated one to 10), he goes to drive-ins, he often writes about movies I love, and he features great pictures to augment his posts in a very eye-pleasing and uncluttered way. Why wouldn’t I love Cinevistaramascope? I think you will too.

The other is The Ongoing Cinematic Education of Steven Carlson, in which Steven posts short, succinct reviews of current releases and whatever else strikes him—films recently seen on DVD as well, I suspect, as stuff from the archives of his mind which might not yet be available digitally. Steve posts reviews the way I wish I could—with no eye toward the marketplace, necessarily, but also with consistency and reliability. He’s another sharp writer with a very good sense of humor and a good bullshit detector, especially when it comes to pretense (his own as well as that of filmmakers)—he recently held a contest to see who could guess which rave review he wrote while completely drunk. And he even takes requests!

Kim Gordon is back on the beat at Sunset Gun with a couple of keen pieces, one on Hollywood’s obsession with true crime, and the other filled with choices observations about Elizabeth Taylor, Riot on Sunset Strip and one of Roman Polanski’s most dismissed movies. And if everything your mom and dad warned you about watching too many horror movies needs confirmation, take a look at this pic and see what happens when Kim sits down to watch the Peter Fonda-Warren Oates scare-chase thriller Race with the Devil.

And just to wrap things up, I want to point the way to some excellent new posts from some old friends on the blogger highway. Michael Guillen’s The Evening Class is an excellent forum for both Michael’s keen, often poetic observations about film and his intuitive skills as an interviewer of filmmakers, some independent and some of a decidedly independent bent who are working inside or on the edges of the Hollywood system. One of the latter is idiosyncratic director Michel Gondry, who sits down for a spirited conversation with Michael about his methods, his influences, his new movie The Science of Sleep and, most importantly for Michael, the director’s dreams.

As regular readers of SLIFR hopefully know by now, one of my favorite blogs is also one that regularly drives me green with envy, Brian Darr’s Hell On Frisco Bay. And Brian is busy stoking the fires of the green-eyed monster again, making me wish I could take the red-eye to San Francisco every weekend (and certainly not to watch the Giants.) He’s got his detailed account of the fall film scene in Frisco up and running, and it’s a must-read, not only to get yourself upset that you’re not in the bay Area, but also take notes on about interesting upcoming titles that may be coming to a theater (or a video store) near you soon, if you’re lucky.

And last, but far from least, Girish Shambu posts a list of the movies he’s most interested in taking in at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival. As usual for Girish’s site, not only do you get the blogmeister’s unique, personal commentary, but that of the cream-of-the-crop of fellow bloggers who routinely chime in and make his comments column a bustling community of voices that would make Robert Altman stand up and salute. Girish’s achievement in the blogosphere would be towering even if he shut the comments spigot completely off. But he doesn’t, and as a result every post on his site, like this latest one, has the potential to turn into a respectful, good-natured, but serious roundtable exchange of ideas, with Girish as participant and sharp-eyed emcee. We should all be thankful for this film blog oasis.


Have a great weekend! I've gone fishin'. Be back next week!