Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The White Elephant Blogathon: Number One with a Bullet

Hey, gang!

Yes, I like to imagine there's a gang of you who check this blog every few months to see if I've posted anything, and this fiscal quarter, you're in luck!

Just like last year (scroll way, way down -- oh wait, that was my last post on this blog, so it's right below this one!) I was cajoled by Facebook wag Philip Tatler IV into participating in something called the White Elephant Blogathon. The way it works, some doofus, probably a film blogger, selects some offbeat piece of readily available cinematic detritus and puts it in the pot, Philip "randomly" assigns each film to a different film critic/doofus, and we end up with this. I am actually honored to be among the fine writers invited to participate the past two years. Last year, I was assigned Can't Stop the Music, and if there was ever a film that matched that We-Called-Him-Bruce Jenner-starring effort in its quintessential 1980s-ness, it's the film I was assigned this year, Number One with a Bullet.

How 1980s is the 1987 buddy cop action comedy? I've compiled a list, because it's easier than writing:

-Stars Billy Dee Williams
-Stars Robert Carradine
-They play detective partners who bend the rules to get the job done.
-Was originally supposed to star Jim Belushi, er, ahem, "James Belushi"  in Carradine's role. James settled for a screenwriting credit.
-Produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan for Cannon Films
-Co-stars Valerie Bertinelli
-Co-stars an aging Peter Graves
-Co-stars the eternally youthful Doris Roberts
-Jesus, that quintessentially 1980s synth & heavy metal guitar score by Alf Clausen, who also scored the TV shows Moonlighting and Alf
-Detective Hazeltine (Williams) moonlights as a jazz trumpeter
-Features a scene at a mud-wrestling establishment
-Features two actors, Jon Gries and Mykelti Williamson, whose careers I did not become aware of until later

Full disclosure, I had never heard of this film before it was assigned to me, and while watching it, I assumed it was a quickie ripoff of Lethal Weapon, what with Williams' more level-headed Hazeltine (a lot more suave than Danny Glover's Murtaugh) offset by Carradine's dangerously off-balance Barzak (a more fun version Mel Gibson's suicidal Riggs). It was only when I looked on IMDB after watching it that I realized Number One was actually released earlier in 1987 than Lethal Weapon. So it's not a Lethal Weapon ripoff, presumably. Just a zeitgeist type thing, I guess.

Last year when I did this, I wasn't particularly thrilled to review Can't Stop the Music, but I did find a decent amount of interesting trivia about the movie from various online sources. That helped spice things up. Number One seems to be pretty much a forgotten film, and aside from its questionable provenance (i.e. Cannon), I'm not sure why that's the case. I'm pretty sure I'll remember it forever now, for better or worse.

The mechanics of the haphazard, worked-over detective plot seem pretty inconsequential, though. They are renegade cops, always causing as much trouble for their beleaguered chief (Graves) as they do for the criminals. Barzak, whom they call "Berserk" on the streets, is mentally unstable, and is convinced that the mayor's best buddy, millionaire businessman DeCosta (Barry Sattels) is the kingpin behind the local trade in black tar and China white, which I believe means heroin. Barzak stakes out DeCosta's house nightly, which we learn caused the dissolution of his marriage to Teresa (Bertinelli), with whom he's still in love. Barzak and Hazeltine are assigned to protect a hitman-turned-witness, which they do badly. They eventually track down the man responsible, Pogue (Michael Goodwin) whom they also allow to be murdered by DeCosta before he can give them any information. After allowing a few more potential witnesses to be murdered, they realize there's a mole within the department.

None of that effectively expresses the movie's entertainment value. The action is spatially coherent, in the now-outdated style of the day, and -- including a helicopter-prop plane chase and a car/truck chase and shootout amid some heavy construction equipment -- looks pretty good for what was probably a modest budget.

But if you're going to watch the film, you're going to watch it for ridiculous character details and would-be witty banter. The plot exists mainly as a way for these two absurd characters to reflexively riff on cop movie and TV show tropes. Much is made of the efficacy of shouting "Freeze!" at suspects, for example. The movie isn't as slick as Lethal Weapon, but its attempts at humor hit the mark more often, and when they miss, at least they miss broadly.

You may be coming to the conclusion that I actually kind of liked this movie, and that's accurate. While Carradine and Williams have never had the kind of career success one might have expected based on the size of their biggest hits, they are good actors, particularly Carradine.

Director Jack Smight also once seemed destined for bigger things. directing Paul Newman in Harper back in 1966, for example. His 1970 James Caan-starring adaptation of John Updike's Rabbit, Run was considered a massive flop, which probably set his career back some. When he returned to feature film work in the late '70s, it was on less high end stuff like Airport '75, Fast Break starring Gabe Kaplan, and one of my many childhood favorite post-apocalyptic movies, Damnation Alley. This project fits in with those, more than those earlier, hoity-toity literary adaptations.

Carradine has had an interesting career, Perhaps he'll always be remembered as Lewis from Revenge of the Nerds, but cinephiles appreciate his work in films like Walter Hill's The Long Riders and Sam Fuller's The Big Red One. People who understand his range know that playing the tough, ruthless, mentally unstable Barzak was not such a stretch for him, though I imagine it was a challenge to make the character feel as full-fleshed as Carradine does. We may never understand his strained, awkward relationship with his nagging mother (Roberts), his stalker-y but still neglectful passion for his way too patient ex-wife Teresa, or his insane nearly unspoken ardor for Hazeltine, but perhaps most importantly, we believe what he proclaims about himself: He fucking loves being a cop.

I was tempted to nickname this movie Jazzbo and Cockblocker, because Barzak's m.o. is to interrupt Hazeltine when he's working his game on the ladies -- which naturally includes plenty of jazz trumpeting -- and blow the deal for him. At one point, Barzak actually calls Hazeltine's date on the bar phone pretending to be Hazeltine's gay lover. She returns to their table long enough to shout "You faggot!" at Hazeltine before storming off. It is a pretty startling moment, watching in 2015, but it does jibe with how I remember the '80s. Hazeltine gets back at him by calling his mom to tell her when Barzak will be in town, and by insulting his guitar-playing and singing. (Barzak sometimes brings an acoustic guitar along to accompany interrogations.)

Of course, Barzak's sexuality is further called into question by his questionable decision to stake out a drug buy at a church fair while in drag, reading a copy of something called The Sensuous Woman to further sell the transparent ruse. I was surprised and confused by this police tactic, and seriously befuddled when one of the drug buyers shows up in drag, too, for no reason I could discern. except for that it leads to a comic chase that winds up at the most desultory bingo game ever captured on film, where the priest calling the game pleads with Barzak and his quarry, (perhaps inaccurately) identified in the credits as "Transvestite" (John Durbin), "Ladies, please! This is a house of God!" The crook responds by grabbing the priest and threatening to shoot him. Barzak then does this remarkably Riggs-like thing where he convinces "Transvestite" that he's the one cop so crazy he might shoot everyone in the church if the situation doesn't de-escalate fast, and the bad guy lays down his weapon with a convincingly bemused chuckle. For Barzak's part, hey, he fucking loves being a cop!

It all made a bit more sense when I saw that -- along with Belushi, of course, and Gail Morgan Hickman, who also worked on The Enforcer (Clint Eastwood), Murphy's Law (Charles Bronson), and The Big Score (Fred Williamson) -- two Saturday Night Live writers, Andrew Kurtzman and Rob Riley, were credited on the script. It has a kind of loose, semi-improvised comedy vibe to it, without ever lapsing into outright parody or farce.

I can forgive the movie's political incorrectness, including its cavalier attitude regarding the rights of suspected criminals, because it's a product of its time. Or maybe just because I enjoy Carradine's offbeat performance and find it all fairly benign, silly, and amusing. I like to think of Golan-Globus worrying about what they would call the sequel if the movie was a hit. I'm not angry at whatever eccentric individual picked this title, is what I'm saying. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The White Elephant Blogathon: Can't Stop Won't Stop

It lives!

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Hi, everyone. Because Facebook wag Philip Tatler IV invited me to participate in this year's edition of the White Elephant Blogathon, here is my review of Nancy Walker's Can't Stop the Music, produced and co-written by Grease's Alan Carr, and starring Steve Guttenberg, 1976 Olympic Gold Medal winner and future reality TV oddball Bruce Jenner, Oscar nominee Valerie Perrine, and of course, the film's raison d'etre, the Village People. Released d of the disco era, the movie was a huge commercial flop, and, along with Richard Greenwald's Xanadu (also released in 1980) one of the inspirations for the creation of the Razzie Awards.

Walker was best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern's mom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff, Rhoda. She directed a few episodes of the latter series, but this was her only foray into feature films. Xanadu director Greenwald, on the other hand, went on to a successful career in Hollywood.

Now let's take a short break and confront the fact that I have no idea how to review this movie. If the point of the White Elephant Blogathon is to stymie your fellow critics, I lose and you win, chooser of Can't Stop the Music. It's not that the movie isn't interesting, in its way. For a film that aims for such relentless euphoria, it's a dismal failure, and not just by the traditional metrics by which we measure such things. In effect, the effort to turn them into movie stars destroyed the Village People. Victor Willis, co-founder of the group with Jacques Morali (not to be confused with Jack Morell, the disco dreamer Guttenberg plays in the film), and co-writer of many of their biggest hits (including "Macho Man," "In the Navy," and "Y.M.C.A.," the song which accounts for the idiotic movie's one genuine highlight) was heterosexual, and wanted audiences to know it, so he demanded that Phylicia Ayers-Allen, his girlfriend at the time, and the future Clair Huxtable, be cast as his girlfriend in the movie. Willis ended up leaving the group while the movie was in development, and they never had another hit.

I suppose I could tell you about my own personal connection to Can't Stop the Music, but the truth is I don't have one. I was a very repressed adolescent when the film was released. I was in the midst of discovering new wave and punk. My sad and lonely disco phase was ending. There must have been other kids on Long Island who listened to disco in the late 1970s. I never met them. I never met anyone. The cool kids liked Van Halen and Aerosmith, slightly cooler kids might have liked Led Zeppelin or Skynyrd. It all seemed debauched and ugly to me. No one listened to the music I liked: Loudon Wainwright, Harry Nilsson, my parents' copies of the Original Cast Recordings of Jesus Christ Superstar and Sweeney Todd, Broadway shows I'd never seen. But for a while, escaping the daily torment of junior high school, of being beaten up, robbed, called a faggot and a pussy on a daily basis, to me meant getting home, turning on the TV or the radio for the Mets (it gets better, right around 1984) or turning on AM radio and listening to disco and R&B. Sitting on a stool in the kitchen by myself, eating peanut butter and jelly and listening to Chic, Raydio, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind and Fire, that fucking Blue Magic song, and the Bee Gees.

But not the Village People. It's not that their music wasn't fun and catchy. It was. But it was also dumb. Plus, its gayness was front and center in a way that gave me the heebie-jeebies as a teen, as, I guess I should point out, any inkling of sexuality in popular music, of any variety did at the time. For example, now I can appreciate that Walter Egan song, "Magnet and Steel," but back in 1978 it gave me the creeps. That line in that Steve Forbert song about "bring me southern kisses from your room"? I was pretty sure I knew what he meant. Yuck.

Also, back then, music was almost entirely a solitary pursuit for me, but movies were decidedly not. The only thing more humiliating to me than having to ask my parents to take me to see the movies I wanted to see (and subsequently sitting with them and watching, say, Paul Schrader's Blue Collar) would have been going alone. And as I had no friends back then, and my parents were not interested in disco, it was unlikely that I'd see this movie.
But gayness also had something to do with it. Every day, my peers would make mean-spirited assertions about my sexuality and as uncertain and frightened about all that as I was, I knew from the way they said it that it was something I did not ever want to be. In a sense, gay panic prevented me from going to see Can't Stop the Music, which is maybe a shame, because back then I might have enjoyed hating it.

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These days, I can't muster any genuine contempt for its ineptitude; the best I can do is puzzlement. Look at that opening credit sequence, as Jack, having just quit his job in a huff, joyfully rollerskates through the streets of Manhattan -- through the city of his future -- with his newfound sense of freedom. I watch that opening credits sequence, and the song is about New York, and Guttenberg is ecstatic, and all I want to see is what New York City really looked like in 1980. But Walker decides to split the screen in three, as though she was Brian DePalma or something, and it spoils the view. So I'm left with questions. Why do the shirts of those three young women spell out "San Francisco?"

How does that Construction Worker (David Hodo) work in the sewer wearing mirrored shades?

I don't really have any more questions, and then the plot kicks in and I have to try to say funny things about it. This is a mug's game. I mean, there's campy fun to be had here, I suppose, but it gets to be heavy slogging over the course of its two-hours-plus runtime, and there really isn't anything particularly interesting about bad sitcom level gag-writing and mugging. Beyond nostalgia for a time when you could greet your female friends on the street by slapping them on the ass, and asking if they were "fattening up for the Miss Piggy lookalike contest," its odd little quirks are the only thing that hold your interest. Maybe it helps if you're high, as I'm guessing the great character actor Jack Weston was when he filmed his small role as a sleazy club owner with notably bloodshot eyes. Or maybe that was just after too many takes of that shot where Perrine hip-checks him in the head.

Jack (Guttenberg) housesits for Samantha (Perrine), a retired supermodel, who hears one of his songs, and tells him she'll use her music biz connections (mainly fast-talking ex-boyfriend Steve (Paul Sand)) to find him a record deal. But it turns out that Jack can't sing, so he has to hire singers. He eventually settles on a Construction Worker (Hodo), a Cowboy (Hodo -- oops, no sorry, I was thinking of Game of Thrones; I meant Randy Jones), a G.I. (Alex Briley), a Police Officer (Ray Simpson, who replaced Willis), a Leatherman (Glenn Hughes, whose facial hair is a highlight of the movie),  and Sam's upstairs neighbor Felipe (Felipe Rose), who wears a Native American headdress and occasionally makes Michael Winslow-like siren noises. (Rose's father was reportedly Lakota Sioux, so I guess that explains the getup.)

Ron White (Jenner) is a tax lawyer, new in town, and while delivering a cake to Sam (?), he's mugged by an elderly woman (Paula Trueman, who co-starred with Guttenberg on the short-lived sitcom Billy, but is probably better known by you types for her role in The Outlaw Josey Wales) who fakes getting hit by a moped, because apparently that's more effective than simply walking up to people with her gun and taking their shit. This is the first of the film's many eccentric older woman characters. Is the movie's apparent obsession with scornful father and nurturing mother figures a question of gay stereotyping, or does it mark director Walker's efforts to get her peers some screen time? Do I care? And is the answer to that question insultingly obvious?

In any case, we have Tammy Grimes as Sydney Channing, Sam's snooty, overbearing former boss, who's determined to lure her back to modeling, June Havoc as Jack's overbearing, son-worshipping but notably not Jewish mother, who, when the boy's dream of stardom looks like it might fail, saves the day with kreplach, and Barbara Rush trying to class up the joint as White's overbearing, WASPish, but surprisingly with-it midwestern mom. Marilyn Sokol plays Sydney's indiscriminately boy-crazy assistant Lulu, and Sandra Bernhard probably studied this performance in preparation for playing Masha in The King of Comedy. Sure, Sokol's a mugging machine, but if everyone in the film played to the cheap seats with that kind of manic energy, at least it wouldn't ever get dull.

Make no mistake. Everyone overacts. Sitcom pros Sokol and Sand are a little better at selling the material than most of them. Jenner, as the straight-laced heterosexual love interest (I should say, the only love interest) just comes off as lost and desperate, but really, I mean..

How many actors, gay or straight, could pull off that outfit?

Guttenberg was just a couple of years away from the role in Diner that would make the rest of his career a disappointment. He's exuberant and manic, and it gets old right around the time he takes off his rollerskates. Perrine does what she can, but in the end, she's saddled with being the straight man to this motley crew. The Village People themselves, most of whom aren't given much to do in the way of acting, remain the stars of the show despite all the nonsense going on around them. They're each fun and appealing in inverse proportion to how many lines of dialogue they have.

Since it runs two hours and it's about a disco group, you'd expect plenty of musical numbers, and you'd think that's where the movie would really shine. No, no, no. There are only a handful of musical numbers, one featuring The Ritchie Family, another Jacques Morali creation. Not showing any bias, Walker uses the same upskirt camera angles to shoot them that she uses with Felipe.

And it's probably not completely fair to judge how competently these numbers are shot, because the version showing on Netflix has been cropped down to TV dimensions, when the movie was originally shot at 2.35:1. So while it has the look of a cheap TV commercial, and some of Walker's visual effects choices are certainly questionable…

The bottom line is, there isn't enough disco in this movie. Notable numbers include a botched demo where the boys "comically" screw up Lulu's crap choreography, and a final stage number to the title track that features too many lackadaisical images of the band shot from the cheap seats.

There's one exception, though. There's one musical number that gives the audience everything it wants from a Village People movie. I'm not going to bother trying to explain how they shoehorn it into the plot, but eventually the gang ends up at the local Y. From the moment that horn fanfare begins (you know, the one you're hearing in your head right now), the energy level picks up, and from there it's embarrassing references to past hits...
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enjoyably idiotic spin choreography...

And perhaps most importantly, gratuitous soapy full-frontal male nudity (in a PG-rated movie, no less)...

With inexplicably gratuitous equal time for Perrine…

And that's easily the highlight of Can't Stop the Music. For a brief, shining moment, it acknowledges that the Village People and their songs are extremely gay. It celebrates that fact. The unconvincing rags-to-riches story and the weak hetero romance, neither of which have much to do with the group, are finally cast aside in favor of the fetishistic ogling of male flesh in various states of undress. More scenes like this might not have made the movie a hit, critical or otherwise, but it might have made this misbegotten thing feel like it had a reason, other than miscalculated financial interests, to exist.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where You Been?

I've been sick?

Okay, it's lame to leave my blog lying fallow like this for so long. Even if no one reads it. There are a few recent posts on other sites that link to here, so I might as well send you back where you came from? Anyway, here are some things I've posted over the past, er, decade:

Here's my Best of 2008 at Charlotte Viewpoint. Here's my Review of Steven Soderbergh’s CHE and my 2009 Best of Tribeca from the same site.

And here's my Best of the Decade list.

And my Best of 2009 from the All Movie Guide blog.

I'll be back soon to write um, addenda to those last two, and maybe I'll write something about David Cronenberg's SHIVERS, too, the last movie I watched, and a great one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Trends in Independent Cinema

You've all heard about "mumblecore" and mumblecore (no quotation marks) and mumble-core and the mumble-corps (good one, J. Hoberman), but here is some up-and-coming stuff you might want to be the first on your block to talk about.

: This is just like mumblecore, but with obese people.

Jumble-core: Antisocial young folks compete to finish puzzles in the daily paper.

Mumbly-core: Romantically fumbling twentysomethings inadvertently cut off each other's fingers.

Fumble-core: Post-collegiate pals ill-advisedly join a fantasy football league.

Grundel-core: It's insane, this guy's taint. Probably the next step for Joe Swanberg.

Grendel-core: Ill-at-ease part-time grad students try to impress each other by discussing Beowulf.

Dumbo-core: Socially inept young adults sit around and talk about which Brooklyn neighborhoods they would live in if only they could afford it.

Rumble-core: Rival gangs of white middle-class twentysomethings clash on the street. Voices are raised.

Stempel-core: Overeducated vicenarians cheat on a nationally televised game show.

Core-core: At the cusp of a delayed adulthood, affluent caucasian kids (and one Asian) sit around eating apples.

Bumble-core: Like mumblecore, but with more buzz.

Is this thing on?


Well, whatever you want to call it, I've only seen what's available on video. I want to make it down to the IFC Center while they are having their "New Talkies" series, especially for Hannah Takes the Stairs and Quiet City, but finishing my MA and finding a job are a higher priority the next couple weeks. (Hmmn. I sound like one of "them.") I adore the two Bujalski films. (I think I mentioned them somewhere else on this blog.) I'm less thrilled with Kissing on the Mouth and The Puffy Chair, but I do dig all the naturalism and I am eager to see more of it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dick Cheney comes clean about Iraq

I got this video from moveon.org:

So you knew all this 13 years ago? Can we stop calling outright boldfaced lies "mistakes" or "errors in judgment?"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gay Man Women-Haters' Club

A sensitive type like me goes into a film like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry expecting to find fault. I was prepared to find the type of gay stereotypes portrayed here by David Spade (mercifully briefly) and Nick Swardson. I was unsurprised when the gruff, macho, angry firefighter played by Ving Rhames turned into a Chaka Khan-singing, mincing exhibitionist after coming out of the closet. I was only a little bit surprised that Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) never found themselves in a situation where it was necessary to demonstrate any physical affection for one another. I mean, that would be gross, right? I’m not exactly shocked that the film tries to have it both ways, mocking gays throughout and then preaching a message of tolerance at the end.

I was surprised by some things, though, and not pleasantly. I haven’t read anything about the crude way the film objectifies women, and there are even some critics who don’t see fit to mention the key role that Rob Schneider plays in the film. I think I’ve figured out the social hierarchy the film presents, so let me break it down for you.

-Straight men (except the ones who devote their lives to homophobia, as opposed to practicing it casually like our heroes, and except Steve Buscemi, for some reason)
-Gay men (ridiculous, but mostly in an amusing way. What can you do?)
-White women (The pretty ones are vapid sex objects. The unattractive ones (Rachel Dratch, Mary Pat Gleason) are ridiculous for wanting to be sex objects. Sometimes one is so damn hot that they transcend mere sex object status and become one’s primary sex object.)
-Asian women (sex objects)
-Asian men (of such low status that even Rob Schneider needs the addition of a funny wig and huge Coke bottle glasses to convey just how ludicrous they are)

Now, as critics, maybe we’re not paying attention. Maybe we’re scouring the film so conscientiously for signs of homophobia that we don’t notice the way women are portrayed. But in hindsight, the film is more repugnant in its treatment of women than in its (still somewhat troublesome) portrayal of gay men.

First off, we have the twins, Darla and Donna (portrayed by Rebecca and Jessica O’Donahue). Outer borough types, and easily duped by Chuck (apparently, despite the fact that he’s played by Adam Sandler, some kind of amazing lothario), who cheats on one with the other, and then uses their competitive nature to trick them into kissing each other for the amusement of his firefighter pals.

Then there are the Hooters girls. These women are apparently a stable of women that Chuck keeps around. For some reason, they are all Asian. They are giggling, squealing morons, not much smarter than household pets. Chuck shows Larry (Kevin James) how he can trick them all into bending over for his scopophilic pleasure.

Then there’s “Doctor Honey,” called such because when the hospitalized Chuck calls her “honey,” she corrects him, demanding to be addressed as “Doctor.” Finally, a woman with some self-esteem, who is not charmed by Chuck’s good looks (?) and his boorish manner. I did think to myself, I admit, that she looked more like a porn star than a doctor, and later realized that she is played by Chandra West, who actually plays a porn star on the HBO series, John from Cincinnati. So that may explain my confusion on that point. In any case, Dr. Honey stands up to Chuck’s piggishness in the hospital, and the next time we see her, she’s dressed up in fetish gear, in Chuck’s bedroom with the Hooters girls. So, haw haw, stupid women thinking that they will ever be respected or treated as equals when it’s guys like Chuck who really know how to treat them. I was less than amused. Was there a way to treat Dr. Honey’s apparent self-respect as something other than a cheap joke? I guess the important thing was to establish that Chuck is a pimp.

And then there’s Alex, the lawyer played by the smokin’ hot Jessica Biel. Biel is undeniably attractive and a likeable presence, but she hasn’t shown such great judgment to date in choosing her roles. Because Chuck is pretending to be gay when he meets Alex, she doesn’t get to experience the full impact of his charm. He surreptitiously ogles her; she mistakes him for a nice guy. Their relationship never really progresses much beyond that point. Even while pretending to be gay, Chuck’s masculine charm is apparently so overwhelming that she finds herself attracted to him. He adores her, but it’s never clear that this attraction is substantially different from that he feels for his twins and his Hooters girls. She’s just hotter than they are.

Meanwhile, that Rob Schneider character had me wondering what Guy Aoki is doing these days. (And if you haven’t seen Jesus is Magic, you should.) I mean, Mickey Rooney’s clownish “yellow-face’ performance as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is offensive, but at least the film’s many defenders can point out that it was made over forty years ago. Hasn’t our culture progressed past this type of thing yet? How does Rob Schneider get on his high horse about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism and then turn around and play a degrading role like this? It makes me wonder how firm he is in his commitment never to work for Gibson. Heh.

There are a few laughs in the film, and there are bit parts from people far too talented for this like the aforementioned Rhames, along with Rob Corddry and Robert Smigel, but in the end, it was more depressing than entertaining.

Edit: In surfing the internets during my "research" for this story, I found out that Rob Schneider's mother is actually Filipino, so maybe that makes his portrayal of a Japanese man less offensive somehow? Anyone?

Here are some photos of him, as a baby, as a Mexican, and as a hot chick. You decide.

One more thing I had to add here: Dan Ackroyd might, and Sandler might, but NYC firefighters, in general, do not love Rudy Giuliani, nor should they. Nor should anyone who actually lived or worked here during his mad reign. He's as venal and opportunistic and dishonest as they come, and he'd make a fine successor to GWB, but I thought we were sick of that crap.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Did you order a pizza?"

-My favorite line from William Friedkin's Bug, which I saw earlier tonight at the Museum of the Moving Image, and liked quite a bit. I can't understand how the normally astute Stephanie Zacharek found the film so unbearably self-serious. While an intense and not altogether enjoyable experience, I thought the film was darkly funny. That whole exchange where Peter (Michael Shannon) emphatically asks Agnes (Ashley Judd), "What don't you know?" was amusing in a dreadful, doomed way, as I think was intended.

Also, I was unfairly dismissive of Rise: Blood Hunter. There were a couple of moments, between Avid-farts, that amused/surprised me, along with the relative heartlessness of the lead character. Still...