Tuesday, January 19, 2016


1 - SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy) - For triggering me and setting me free; for nailing big city-small town Boston; for reportage, writing and cast 
2 - UNCLE JOHN (Steven Piet) - For both bleakness and incandescence, downright Shakespearean; for the gift of John (Ashton) and being a bona fide heartbreaker 
3 - BLACKHAT (Michael Mann) - For bravely cutting through pretense and expectation; for strong women, swoon-inducing scenes of adult intimacy, quotable dialogue and brief but bravura, exquisitely designed, intensely visceral, ground-zero-level bursts of violence; for a provocative, ferocious, insurgent attempt to invigorate the medium; see also #4 
4 - MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller) - For fire and blood and chrome; for redemption and resurrection; for women empowered, Junkie XL and hope; see also #3 
5 - LOVE AND MERCY (Bill Pohlad) - For illustrating the frustrating and gorgeous madness of process and the process of frustrating and gorgeous madness 
6 - STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (F. Gary Gray) - For history 
7 - THE DEAD LANDS (Toa Fraser) - For mysticism, cannibalism, knockout New Zealand vistas and a Michael Mann-ish score; for being the best film since Sayles' 1996 LONE STAR about an individual's personal quest forever altering global history 
8 - IT FOLLOWS (David Robert Mitchell) - For earnestly reenvisioning Carpenter and Craven, and for Detroit kids 
UNFRIENDED (Levan Gabriadze) - For slyly and subversively deconstructing the 'found footage' film, and for being socially relevant besides 
9 - EX MACHINA (Alex Garland) - For Kubrickian cerebral pulp, gender politics, and grrl robot power 
10 - SPY (Paul Feig) - For being the anti-ENTOURAGE in its proactive progressiveness 

Honorable Mention: 
Christopher (son of Michael) Landon's THE SCOUT'S GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, for being unpretentious retro fun (even despite zombie rape gag) 

MAGGIE (Henry Hobson) - For being ridiculously amateurish in both its filmmaking and self-conscious faux-pretentiousness; those interested would do better to rewatch Cronenberg's THE FLY - the film MAGGIE's makers think we're too young or too dumb to remember. 

Just a Darling

Lowbrow enough to include a closeup of an eye stabbing, highbrow enough to reference Godard, Lewis Jackson's 1980 YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! - the original title of CHRISTMAS EVIL (which I originally viewed on VHS as TERROR IN TOYLAND) - works as sophisticated satire, serious character study, coal-black comedy, vigilante film, slasher, early 80s New York time capsule, and superhero origin story. A cross between HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, it's in my All-Time Top Ten, and perhaps the film I've seen most times in my life. It also contains one of the most committed performances ever put to celluloid (by Brandon Maggart, aka Fiona Apple, Sr.), as well as one of cinema's greatest parting shots (see too Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS, the original TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3 and Mann's HEAT).

Be good


That moment where she laughs off both Loomis's warnings and the tears in her eyes before going to that barn party...yeah. Clearly a survivor. Or that stunning, quiet-but-loaded character moment wherein she tosses the teddy bear she'd been clutching to crawl ever so slowly towards the mirror - towards herself...what, who does she see? And, far as I can tell, she lives on, as Michael only stabs her shoulder, and that white sheet's not over her face (listen, you stay in denial about the oxymoron that is 'gun control', I'll keep this girl alive and with a bright future as a high school guidance counselor cum uber-successful therapist and author).

She's shrill and obnoxious until a crisis arises and she saves your ass. I love Tina. She's my wallpaper. 

Tina knows

Tina will save your arrogant hide 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bleak Beauty

Note: click on highlighted words for the expansive experience.
The first mainstream American film to fire bullet holes through the fabled myth of Giuliani's 'cleaned-up, crime-less New York' (spanning '95 to 9/11), Scott Frank's A Walk Among the Tombstones is also a bona fide spellbinder.

Neeson is Scudder is The City - tall, gaunt, scarred but still dignified, lumbering forward amongst taller, oft-dilapidated buildings (the titular tombstones), many of which will soon fall.

Indeed, the picture's pre-millennium-set policier-cum-noir-cum-horror-film surface is scale compared to broader insinuations of a world populace in perpetual peril from the most unspeakable evil (in the form of 'random' violence).

Like the seminal, subversive homegrown films of the Vietnam era (Night of the Living Dead, Last House On the Left), it starkly suggests we are never safe, anywhere, at any time, gentrification or no.

Here hope lies in a refugee's stolen moments of grace - the sound of rain on the rooftop of an empty library at night, a decent diner meal, an AA fellowship meeting, a purposeful case solved.

Or a good movie.

Surveying the sickness.

 Little Red Riding Hood.

 Watery graveyard, mirroring one of our endless female victim's'. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nights are too long for a single man...

Desperate, dogged and undistilled, Giorgio Moroder and Joe Esposito's 1983 Solitary Men sounds like Trussardi Uomo, cigarette smoke, sweat-stained Armani linens, lambent, candy-color fluorescents, cocaine and cunt - it's hedonistic electro-noir, an audiophile's neon speedball; a relentless, uncontrived, underrated, underheard, seminal masterpiece released in the same twelve-month period Moroder scored DePalma's Scarface, Schrader's Cat People and Lyne's Flashdance (*), and collaborated with Nina Hagen on the spunky fluke Fearless (in whose liner notes the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are credited as 'Inspiration')

Title track's an anthem, a pleading, private lamentation delivered with Southern Baptist zeal - both Esposito and synth testifying; Joe confessing regret and longing, synth responding in judgement like a hellfire preacher. So deceptively, persistently intense it would be stressful if it weren't so lush.

It also contains the best of Moroder's career-spanning covers of The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin and the operatic, swoon-inducing Lady, Lady (shared on the original Flashdance LP release).

A meditation on the hurricane underbelly of a selfish sophisticate's semi-saved soul, Don Draper would've loved it - though he would never have admitted so.

 * Arranger/keyboardist Sylvester Levay and composer/drummer Keith Forsey would go on to score Stallone's Cobra and Hughes' The Breakfast Club, respectively, whilst bassist/guitarist Richie Zito is the auteur behind your favorite 80s hair band hits. 

Never sleep by myself / Cuz nights are too long / For a single man / 
No connections, no ties / Hello and goodbye / That's the way I am / 
I can't satisfy your dream / Don't you hang your heart on me / 
I love you hard, I love you long / Leave before you know I've gone...  

The evening heat / On the city street / The light a shade of sleazy blue /
Sick and tired of thinking / Did some serious drinking / Rang numbers that I thought I knew /
A silky white blouse / Full of promise to rouse / The motor that controls my soul / 
Laced with private perfume / She made me an offer / An offer too good to refuse (just couldn't refuse)...

For further historical and badass cred. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Note: click on highlighted words for more info.

Beantown back in the day, groups of moneyed white kids of college age would stand on sidewalks in places like Harvard Square, beg passerby for change 'for a new Maserati' or 'for bullets, so I can kill myself, cuz I'm depressed'. I could only surmise this was a new and strange form of performance art which both baffled and infuriated me at the time (being an embryonic PR straight out Da Bronx), and I said to a particularly aggressive and insouciant gang once, 'You should try that in Harlem, see how long you last'. Those 'kids', no doubt, are lawyers, politicians (redundant?), corporate execs now. And perhaps ex-TV actors turned film auteurs.

By all accounts (which include techie folks I've both overheard and spoken to directly), Zach Braff is a mensch. To this eye, he was thoughtful writer/performer, bona fide blue blood celeb 'for the people', jokester, fellow OCD sufferer. But he obviously didn't, doesn't, and probably never will realize the implications of this offense.

It belied a lack of commitment, imagination, artistic character, appreciation for his clearly devoted fans, respect for his filmmaking peers. 

I've artist friends literally sell their bodies - on streets and in labs - to fund projects. Mr. Braff believed in his piece so much, he should've invested his Oz the Great and Powerful paycheck, mortgaged one of his homes, sold his share of a bar, called in favors to close friends, colleagues, associates (which include Natalie Portman, Heather Graham and Mandy Moore), perhaps pooled Scrubs residuals with bff Faison.

Mr. Braff doesn't strike me as a greedy, manipulative dude, just a lazy, ignorant one - a Capitalist believes himself an Artist. 

The argument that his fleece possibly brought attention to and promoted crowd funding sites is irrelevant - the average Joe will not donate dough towards a New York street story or a doc on human trafficking, but to her or his favourite TV and/or movie star or glamorous famous-for-being-famous celeb (same way over four million people voted Schwarzenegger in as Governor of California a decade ago - an unprecedented electoral landslide). 

It's not about us commoners thinking Mr. Braff was able to reach into his L.L. Beans and pull out two mil (though he had no qualms about paying at least that to procure and remodel a 'legendary' second home for himself and supermodel Taylor Bagley in New York City - see here). Or his disregard for those starving, hungry artists lack both his monetary means and inside connections. But the possible ripple effect of this kind of white collar panhandling. Crowd funding sites jacking up their percentage fees and/or nixing 'little' projects based on the popularity of those involved (via social media data mining). Tween millionaires Kickstarting stars on Hollywood Boulevard. Brian Grazer on RocketHub for Ron Howard's latest. Spielberg on Indiegogo for Indiana Jones 5 (6?). 

For the record, I am not envious of Zach Braff (I'm a far bolder writer, director, and performer, for one). Speaking personally, however, this is indeed incomprehensible. For moi, the work is everything. I live in a bunker two steps below hovel. I have no things, other than some boxes of DVDs. But unlike Mr. Braff, I did not grow up with things. Again, for me, the work is THE thing. I've sold blood and cum and aforementioned DVDs to facilitate the work - short films, Off Broadway readings, photography equipment, time, space. However, our experiences and how we relate to the work isn't what this is about. With perspective: this was a smooth sell robbery, a Wall Street trader asking a blind man in a wheelchair for cash from his can to procure a caramel macchiato. 

And ultimately, it was a wholly unnecessary act - with powerhouse producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Erin Brockovich, Get Shorty) in tow, it would've taken decidedly less than the three days it took on Kickstarter to make his two-plus mil.

That said, he did not hold guns to 'investor' heads. We are all enablers of the celebrity mindset and culture. 

Alas, the facts are moot. As is my meager opinion. The world turns. The film will be made. It will garner acclaim. Investors will be pleased. Zachary Braff will reign supreme. And if not, well, he'll bounce back.

I wish him only continued success.  

Zach Braff is a Genius. 

Zach Braff is a Winner. 

Zach Braff is just like us. 

Zach Braff is Badass. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gene, You Ignorant Slut...

Note: click on highlighted words for more info.

SiskelEbert was my lifeline as a kid. And, on occasion, as an adult (via YouTube). Few 'celebrity' passings affected me as deeply as Gene Siskel's. Until now. 

Roger Ebert's intelligence, wit and humanity will be sorely missed. 

The balcony is closed, and the aisle seats are now yours to argue in (with both vitriol and affection) for all time. 

Siskel and Ebert and The Movies and The Asshole. (@2:20)

An unfortunate aberration... (see also: 

Bette Midler and James Caan as lizards. (Part 2 here)