Monday, January 18, 2010

Accents Have to Make Sense

I have a love/hate relationship with the TV show 24. I keep giving it another chance, and it keeps letting me down. But hey, this season's in New York! So I've gotta see what that's all about.

But let me just say a word or two about accents as a dramatic choice.

I'm sure most of you have seen Schindler's List. The Nazis speak English with a German accent; the Poles speak English with a Polish accent. I remember when the movie came out, it took me some time getting used to that. I couldn't help but wonder why all of these people were speaking English with accents. But look, I get it: I mean, Spielberg wanted to get asses in seats too. So it's not like he was going to have all of the actors speaking German or Polish. He was already asking a lot of us by making us sit through a black and white movie.

Anyway, after a while, I slipped into the overall atmosphere of the film, and the accents were all a part of it. I got over my initial hangup and went with it.

In other movies or TV shows, there are characters for whom English isn't a first language. Let's take the current season of 24, a whole two episodes in. The president of an unnamed Islamic republic speaks to the US president in his accented English. But then when the foreign president speaks to his chief of staff, in this case his brother, they still speak English. I would think it might be a lot easier and, dare I say, more realistic if they spoke in their native tongue to each other.

But okay, it's TV. And let's face it: the typical viewer of 24 is lazy and meatheaded. So I get why they have the characters speak in accented English to each other. Fine. I can go with that too.

Then there are times that accents are used dramatically and it flies in the face of any sort of logic. This use of accents by writers or producers or directors or whomever makes this choice is stupid and dishonest.

Remember Die Hard? I think Die Hard is a total blast. Alan Rickman's performance of Hans Gruber as the German baddie is just terrific. Alan speaks the entire movie in a German accent. Except for one pivotal scene in which he comes face to face with Bruce Willis's John McClane. Pretending to be someone else, Hans Gruber puts on a perfect American accent. If this guy can speak English without an accent, why on earth does he have a German accent normally? It doesn't make sense, and it's a ridiculous flaw in an otherwise totally great movie.

They pulled that shit again in the first two episodes of 24. There's a bad guy speaking with a Russian accent throughout most of the first couple of hours. Then he meets up with a friend in Queens. (Queens!) And suddenly he's speaking in an American accent (with a hint of Queens even). But when he reveals himself to his "friends" as the baddie he really is, he goes back to the Russian accent. If he can speak perfectly fine English, why the fuck wouldn't he always speak perfectly fine English? It doesn't make any fucking sense! And it's stupid.

Dear Hollywood Accents Committee,
Stop being stupid.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Now THAT is a Baseball Fan

As if I needed another reason to like Donald Sutherland (Keifer would be enough!), the Bats Blog on the New York Times website featured a story that gave me much pleasure.

The blog post by Tyler Kepner is discussing how the Montreal Expos, which hasn't been a team in Major League Baseball since 2004, is starting to jump back into the news, as former Expos greats get elected to the Hall of Fame: first Gary Carter and now Andre Dawson. Tyler tags on a nice anecdote at the end of his post.

Donald Sutherland was a big Montreal Expos fan, and would attend games quite frequently, especially back in the late 70s and early 80s, when they weren't a joke team. If his agent needed to get a hold of Donald in the middle of the game, rather than call his cell phone, still more than a decade from being available, his agent would call the front office, which would post a message on the scoreboard at the dome. "Donald, call your agent."

During a particularly tense game, Donald's agent called, needing an answer about a particular project. The game was too important, and Donald hung up on him. Once the game seemed safely won, Donald, feeling relieved, called back his agent and said, "I don't care what the deal is. I'll do the movie."

The movie was Robert Redford's Ordinary People, a movie only slightly less depressing than the demise of the Montreal Expos.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Someone Make the Movie

I'm not going to pretend that I understand what's going on in Dubai in terms of debt and economic collapse, or what its relation is to the world's economy.

What I do know is that I'm picturing this Las Vegas of the Middle East, another strange desert creation out of nothing, as a ghost town. Like Will Smith in an empty New York City before those weird aliens show up or Cillian Murphy in an empty London before those weird zombies show up, I want to see some too-attractive actor (or hell, it's the Middle East, so let's add a gender complication and make it a too-attractive actress) wandering around the former lavishness of a desolate Dubai, wondering where the hell all the rich people (and the underclass that serves them) are at.

And then the desert weasels show up.

Someone get Jerry Bruckheimer on the horn!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vegas: A Shill

Those of you that don't have jobs during the traditional workday hours (that would be approximately 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, B&E readers, which is so well known that it was the entire basis for a movie, a song, and now a musical!) should check out Vegas: Based on a True Story at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film was co-written by a friend of mine, and there are two screenings to go, on Thursday and Friday. I saw Sunday's late show, and I've never seen anything quite so literally dirty. We're talking dirt. Lots of dirt. It's really a sight to behold.

Go behold it. It's also in competition at the Festival, so after you behold it, rate it high.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Digital Detox - Round 3 to... Hey! It's Bela Fleck!

Rest of the evenings and mornings were totally fine without the TV and internet. Those guys are a bunch of jerks.

But of course it's Saturday, and I'm blogging, so I guess I just ended my Digital Detox, especially since a few minutes ago I tried in vain to find out when the Mets ticket office opens out at New Shea.

So, where was I?

Right, the rest of the Digital Detox. Well, the missus totally bailed on me. I came home late from work one evening to America's Next Top Model on TV. I tell you what: even three seconds of Tyra Banks is no way to break a Digital Detox!

Anyway, we ate dinner with the TV off, but then the missus wanted to see which of those skinny bitties was getting chucked off the show. So I listened to music in the bedroom and read my book.

Right, so my book... I haven't actually read any fiction in quite some time. I've found it difficult to sit down and get absorbed into fiction. It's like my brain can't focus long enough. Or maybe it's just that when I've been trying I've been reading total crap.

So what do I pick up to read? Underworld by Don DeLillo. This thing is like 12,000 pages long. I'm also loving it. It's great getting lost in fiction again. But I'll be reading that for the next seven or eight years. So that's nice.

But yesterday, via The Nation on Facebook (see, the Digital Detox was really just more digital toxicity while at work), I got the missus and me some free tickets to Throw Down Your Heart, a swell little documentary about Bela Fleck's journey tracing the roots of the banjo back to Africa and playing a whole lot of swell music with amazing musicians there.

The best little bit was that Bela (and his brother the documentary director) did a Q&A after, and then Bela played a live tune for us all. I think this Bela Fleck character knows a thing or two about the banjo.

Those little free things in New York can really remind you why it's awesome here.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Good Night, Horton

A fond farewell goes to Horton Foote, who died yesterday at 92. Playwright and screenwriter, the man expressed with a simple elegance.

He won two well-deserved screenwriting Oscars. The first was for his adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. And as great as that film turned out, it's the spare yet powerful emotion built into his script for Tender Mercies that I tend to look to when I need a little touch of minimalist beauty. Every time I've watched it, I can't help asking, "How in the hell does something so simple work so well?"

Some of his plays are pretty good, too.

Thank you for writing, Horton Foote.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Am Not a Number! I Am a FREE MAN!

I never read comic books, never did any gaming, and was never obsessed with the books of J.R.R. Tolkien. So when I need to remind myself that I am deep down a total geek, I reach toward the complete collection of The Prisoner on DVD, which yes, I own.

Oh, it's geeky. And it's tasty.

The Prisoner was the brainchild of Patrick McGoohan. It was, in some ways, the surreal sequel to his previous TV series Secret Agent (called Danger Man in the UK), which was a rather straightforward spy show. The Prisoner begins with a brilliant opening sequence in which a secret agent resigns forcefully, packs for a trip, gets gassed, and wakes up in The Village. He is henceforth known only as Number 6 and goes head-to-head with a new Number 2 each week. While Number 2 tries to find out why Number 6 resigned, Number 6 is trying to figure out who Number 1 is and simultaneously attempting to escape.

And that summary is tip of the iceberg for the wackiness that ensues.

Patrick McGoohan died today. But The Prisoner is some kind of geektastic legacy. It's being remade, of course, starring Jim Cavazaliezelvaliel (the dude who played the title role - Passion - in The Passion of the Christ a few years back) and Ian McKellen (who is apparently determined to be associated with as many uber-geek brands as possible). Part of me is like, "Oh for fuck's sake, leave well enough alone." The other part of me can't wait to check it out.

Either way, I'm sad to see Patrick McGoohan go, even though he only rarely came out of retirement. The less geeky among you might remember him as Longshanks, the English king who wanted to kill off and breed out the Scots in Braveheart.

I never thought I'd drop two Mel Gibson movie names in one post. Patrick McGoohan can really surprise you that way.

Be seeing you.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

A Day for Thanks

Ah, Thanksgiving...

After less than twenty minutes of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the missus and I opted to get the hell out of the apartment and go see the morning screening of Quantum of Solace. We chose it over Four Christmases mostly because we felt that James Bond really deserves to be seen on the big screen.

It was, like most James Bond films, good enough. We left feeling satisfied. And it was essentially a private screening, since we were the only people in the theater (until about three-quarters of the way through it, when a solitary dude third-acted it).

We went out for our Thanksgiving meal. Once we knew it was just going to be the two of us, we sure didn't want to make any kind of major effort and create a giant mess in our kitchen. So we went to Telepan, near Lincoln Center. It was delicious. I also ate the first real dessert I've had in nearly a month, so I savored the shit out of it. Their pumpkin bread pudding in whiskey sauce with pumpkin ice cream was particularly good. Now I'm off sugar again until Christmas. (Ma, I hope you've got grand plans for dessert at Christmas.)

Fully stuffed, we opted against going out for movie #2 and instead came home to watch one of those Netflix movies that lingers in your home for far too long. In this case, it was Young @ Heart, the documentary about old people singing rock music. See it. If you get through Fred's rendition of Coldplay's "Fix You" without crying, you've got no soul.

Yes, B&E readers, it was a lovely day with the lovely missus, who I remain ever thankful for.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Mr. Met's Darth Vader Moment

Star Wars geeks will recall the moment in Empire Strikes Back when General Veers is about to receive his orders from Darth Vader. An egg-shaped womb is opening up, and Veers catches a glimpse of Vader's disturbingly scarred head as the black helmet is put in place.

My seven-year-old self was terrified and nauseated by this disturbing reveal. It marked me, I tell you.

So imagine my shock and horror to witness the same thing in reverse on my beloved Mr. Met after the final presidential debate.

Someone took his head right off! Right on camera! He walked away like everything was fine, but man, that's gotta hurt.

I relived the General Veers/Darth Vader moment when I was already at my most vulnerable: after a presidential debate. I haven't been the same since.

As a point of interest, General Veers was portrayed by the actor Julian Glover. Julian was also a James Bond baddie in For Your Eyes Only, the bad guy who drinks from the wrong grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the voice of the giant spider in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I don't know if any other actors can say they've been a part of all of those franchises. Certainly none that also taught me Shakespeare during my junior year abroad in college.

How many of you saw that name-drop coming? Woo-HOO!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Case I Wish I'd Sat On

It was probably more than ten years ago that I served jury duty in Manhattan's criminal courts. The case featured an alleged drug dealer and quantities of cocaine we weren't able to hear about yet. I got as far as sitting in the jury box, answering the list of questions for the prosecution and defense attorneys.

I was eventually dismissed for what I assumed was one of two reasons:

1) The defense attorney didn't like me because I had an uncle who headed up a SWAT team.

2) The prosecutor didn't like me because I went to an exceptionally liberal, soft-on-crime sort of college.

The judge in the case was a fella by the name of Edwin Torres. He spent the Q&A portion of jury selection pacing behind his desk. I liked him a lot. He was no nonsense, funny, and totally badass.

When the lawyers attempted to ask us questions that spoke in circles around some delicate issues, they were tartly translated by Judge Torres.

Regarding the prosecutor's question: "What he's asking in his roundabout way is whether or not you hate cops. Correct?"

Regarding the defense attorney's question: "He wants to know if you're racist. Is that right?"

Both lawyers meekly responded, "Yes, thank you, your honor."

After I was dismissed from the jury box, I learned that Judge Torres was also the author of Carlito's Way. Busy judge. And again, total badass.

So it was with pleasure that I saw this little feature in the New York Times, discussing now-retired Judge Torres's latest screenplay.

Man, I really wish I'd sat on that jury. That guy is amazing.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Always Liked That Rose of Sharon

Some of you have probably heard about these baby white tigers abandoned by their mother only to be adopted by a golden retriever. It's a very popular story in the world of Yahoo! News today.

Those of you who haven't yet read the article can do so here, but the short of it is that these baby white tigers were abandoned by their mother only to be adopted by a golden retriever. You could also read the first paragraph above for my initial summary, which will read a lot like the summary in this paragraph.

Anyway, I liked this story because it happened in Kansas. The dogs there are more accepting than dogs in the rest of the country.

Also, it sort of reminded me of Rose of Sharon (or "Rosasharn" as the Joads call her) in Grapes of Wrath. Except, of course, instead of a sick, old man suckling on the teat of a mother with a stillborn during the Great Depression, it's a few white tigers suckling on the teats of a golden retriever who'd just weened her puppies during right now.

I wonder why that scene didn't make it into the classic John Ford film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, starring Henry Fonda. I mean the sick, old guy and Rosh of Sharon, not the tigers and dog. After all, the tigers and dog scenario not only doesn't appear in the book, but it also didn't happen until right now.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

She Must Have Seen August Rush

Generally speaking, I don't have all that much interest in the celebrity gossip. Political gossip, on the other hand...

Even so, I couldn't help but notice that Robin Williams' wife filed for divorce after 19 years of marriage.

The missus made me sit through that August Rush movie this past weekend, and I suspect Robin's wife simply (and finally) reached her limit: "I sat through Death to Smoochy, Man of the Year, and RV. Your demands on this marriage are just too fucking much already. I'm totally gonna McCain you."

Yes, B&E readers. I enjoy a cheap shot once in a while.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stupidy Stupid Stupidhead Stupidcock

Today Michael Eisner demonstrated his completely--completely--unbiased point-of-view on the Writer's Guild strike:
This is a stupid strike. It's a waste of their time. [The studios] have nothing to give. They don't know what to give.
Well, look here Stupid Stupidhead. I think the writers want to get paid when their material appears online or on other electronic media. You can't pretend not to make money from those television episodes that appear on your websites.

I know you must be amazed, Mr. Stupid Eisnerhead, but writers want to get paid for their work.

The studios have money to give. They know to give money. Who's stupid?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Striking Writers

As some of you may have heard (or will notice during your Daily Show reruns this evening), members of the Writer's Guild went on strike today. I'm a writer (although I'm not a member of the Writer's Guild), and I'm staunchly pro-union. So yes, I support the striking writers wholeheartedly. Go get what you deserve, writers.

By the way, this is the first in a series of Hollywood-related contract endings, so the negotiations with the Writer's Guild will largely determine how things turn out with, for example, the Screen Actor's Guild as well.

This is appropriate. You see, first the writers create the story. Then everyone else interprets it.


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Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's Bloody Brigadoon!

So the missus and I are flipping channels, enjoying the late evening Saturday television options (East Enders on WLIW is a particular joy).

Channel 13 breaks out the classic films on Saturday nights, and tonight they hit us with Brigadoon. Oh, Brigadoon. Where have you been my entire marriage?

The missus has the look of incredulity plastered on her face and finds the "Scottish" accents to be incomprehensible. Every Scottish stereotype comes out in the first ten minutes (except for the heavy drinking and haggis eating), and watching such a film with the missus is utter bliss. She's even complaining about the quality of the music.

Yes, dear, sweet Brigadoon. You are a triple threat of Scottish offensiveness -- bad accents, bad stereotypes, and bad music. And there's nothing I love more than watching the missus get all fired over attacks on her Scottish roots. Especially when I'm not the one getting her fired up.

Man, it's brilliant. They're not even trying to do proper Scottish accents. The Hollywood studio system really cut the corners on the dialect coaches.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

19th Century Love - A Short Break in the Action - Live Blog!

We have a commitment now and must leave our apartment. Seeing as we've yet to watch any of the several versions of Pride & Prejudice we've got in our home, I have a feeling this will continue. I'm pretty sure there's a Sense & Sensibility lying around somewhere, too.


19th Century Love - Mansfield Park - Live Blog!

The missus claims that the best love scenes in this one are between the heroine and the scoundrel.

Frances O'Connor as Fanny (which means vagina in British English and butt in American English) and some unrecognizable actor as the scoundrel. Fanny says yes to Scoundrel in this scene. Scoundrel can't believe it! She's saying yes! The sun shines behind their heads as they spin and hug.

Then Fanny has second thoughts. Scoundrel brings her flowers and sings and Fanny rejects him. Frances O'Connor should get more work. Scoundrel freaks out on her because Fanny can't trust that he's left behind his scoundrel ways. Turns out he hasn't.

Fanny walks in on Scoundrel banging some married woman. Well, now, THAT's not very 19th century of them. Scandal ensues.

Turns out that Fanny and her cousin Edmund are supposed to be together. Cousins married back in the 19th century. Edmund confesses his love finally, and she thinks he means in the familial sense. No, Fanny. "Like a hero loves a heroine." "Like a junkie loves his heroin."



19th Century Love - Persuasion - Live Blog!

Amanda Root as Anne and Ciaran Hinds as Frederick Wentworth star in this little Jane Austen ditty.

Ciaran teases poor Amanda. I have no idea what the hell is going on out of context.

It sounds like Ciaran is using someone else's story to demonstrate his love. The missus is now fast-forwarding. Apparently, the real scene needed set-up.

Anne is running after Captain Wentworth, trying to get him to stay to listen to a love song. Wentworth doesn't get what she's telling him and leaves.

We've skipped ahead again.

To a giant horse. And Anne. Some dude is rambling on between our two star-crossed lovers. Oh, the hat's come off. HE'S TOUCHED HER PINKY! IT'S ON! He hasn't forgotten her! She hasn't forgotten him! There's a circus in the background as they kiss! That's right! It's a fucking circus, this Jane Austen love! No circus can stand in the way of their circus love!

And a final moment to enjoy... Wentworth announces he wants to marry Anne. No one understands why. Except, of course, our circus lovers. They understand. It's circus love.


19th Century Love - Jane Eyre - Live Blog!

The missus is on a costume drama love story kick. I told her I would sit through her favorite scenes if she let me blog about it.

And we're off!

Jane Eyre - This British miniseries recently aired on PBS and is available on DVD. Rochester is giving Jane 10 pounds in wages and the subtext is nothing but steamy goodness they cannot act upon. While saying goodbye, Rochester asks her not to go, and he looks at her with a combination of lust and sadness that really touches the missus. The performances are good, and now the missus has announced this isn't the love scene I'm supposed to write about.

Jane Eyre Take Two - This love scene is for real now. Maggie Smith's son plays Rochester. The missus thinks he's hot. In this scene he's sending Jane away from Thornfield because he's supposed to be married. The scene is a two shot. They don't look at each other because men and women didn't do that in the 19th century in Britain. Still, Jane's freaking out a bit, all weepy because Rochester treated her like an equal. Oh, the class obstacles! Must he think that she's got no heart because she's lower class? But Rochester is not heartless. He loves her! Oh, he loves her! Marry him, Jane, you idiot! Believe him! For the love of Christ, believe Rochester, nay, Edward! Oh, sweet Jesus, she does it! She will marry him!

Of course, there are scenes to come that makes it all impossible until it's inevitable. So now I must sit through Jane's return to Thornfield, when Rochester is a blind burn victim, sitting in his ruined house. Cranky bastard.

Rochester does some bitching about his mad dog, Pilot. But there's Jane. Sweet, sweet Jane, delivering water. He can sense something different. As soon as she speaks, he knows. Oh, God, does he know! And he calls her a witch. Wait. Really? A witch. Oh, he doesn't think she's real. He's so vulnerable, this Rochester, Maggie's son.

And finally, another two shot, as she describes the river he can't see. Rochester gets all jealous of some other dude, and Jane plays it up. They play all sorts of games. I'd hate their relationship. Where's the directness? Why toy with each other? Oh, these repressed 19th Century Brits. Blind Rochester finally gets direct: "I want a wife." I think maybe he means Jane. And suddenly, they're making out on the grass and Rochester's grabbed her ass! Seriously! He grabbed her ass!

Then there's a wedding painting being prepared and Jane's bossing everyone around.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Passion For The Blood

On my way to work the other day, I passed a bus that was still promoting the Christmas-appropriate movie, The Nativity Story. Naturally, this got me thinking about Christians.

Through letter-writing campaigns, right-wing media mouthpieces, and the like, Christians put a lot of pressure on liberal Hollywood to make more entertainments that are "family friendly" and "pro-Christian." One would think that The Nativity Story really fits the bill. It's a faithful presentation of the birth of Jesus. For those of you who may not know, it is Jesus Christ (or more simply, The Christ) that gives Christianity its name.

According to my extensive research (at, The Nativity Story brought in a whopping $45,629,831. With its production budget of $35,000,000, one has to assume that New Line was hoping it would perform better than that.

Then there's Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ. With its production budget of $30,000,000, it brought in a walloping $611,899,420. One has to assume that Newmarket was pleased enough to hand out some healthy bonuses at the end of 2004.

Families with children of all ages could enjoy The Nativity Story with its family-friendly PG rating. The Passion Of The Christ was handed an adults-oriented R rating.

The two movies portray two of the three most significant events of Christianity - Jesus' birth and death. Christians still need to wait for a new movie to show the resurrection of Jesus.

So what gives, Christians? Why so keen on the death of Jesus, and not so much on the birth?

Could it be the blood lust of the right-wing?

Naaaaah... Couldn't be.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Only Amazin' Thing Is That I Slept At All

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
I try to be understanding during the playoffs, even when the Mets are involved, so when the missus suggested we see a movie last night, I agreed. It was an early-ish, after-work screening, so I could still get back in time to see most of the Mets game.

We saw The Departed, and it was by far the best Scorcese film I've seen in the last decade. Very intense. Yes, film snobs. I know it's based on a Hong Kong movie called Infernal Affairs. But Infernal Affairs doesn't have Marky Mark in it. And Marky Mark plays one of the best badass cop motherfuckers in the history of cinema. It's a supporting role, but a juicy one, and Marky Mark handles it as well as he used to handle his pectoral muscles during his Marky Mark days.

But I left the multiplex feeling very stressed out. My solution? Watching the rest of the Mets game. The Mets were already losing 3-2, and they were listless. After the Cardinals made it 4-2, the Mets almost got something going in the 8th inning, but when they failed to deliver, I got too annoyed and angry to watch the 9th. It was one of those games I could tell would have no surprises. Which pissed me off.

So I went to bed and read my book for a while. Anytime I read a trade paperback, the pretentious side of me doesn't want to share the title. It must be a crappy book if it's in trade paperback form. But fuck that. It's Perfume by Peter Suskind. And it's about an scent-obsessed mass murderer.

There was no respite from the stress, dear B&E readers. Movies, baseball, and books are all relaxing activities for this bald man, but alas, it was not to be last night.

(I had to use flickr to get this thing posted. Something wrong with blogger. So I thought you'd all enjoy seeing the dachshund again. Ain't he cute?)

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Thursday, May 04, 2006


Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
I went to the New York premiere of MI-3 last night, and it was not what I expected. At all.

MI-5 is one of my favorite shows ever, and since this is a prequel, obviously two years before the original takes place, I don't think it was too much to ask that they at least get the stars of the BBC series. Where was Matthew MacFadyen? Where was the dreamiest of all dreams, Keeley Hawes? Michael Ogunkwockomovich? Nowhere to be found. In fact, the role of Danny was being played by a different bald black man, one a lot thicker in the middle than Michael Ogunksgoughshele and with a lesser sense of style.

So, OK, maybe you can rationalize that all those characters were too junior to be in the prequel. Maybe they were still getting their "spook" training or whatever, and that's fine, I guess, but I still expect to see a young Peter Firth and a hot Jenny Agutter lurking about. Nothing.

Instead, they got this total unknown. Tom Something-or-Other, and he was running around like a lunatic chasing some guy that looked like Truman Capote, only with a normal voice. But what was most disturbing was that they didn't even try to do the British accents. It was like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood all over again.

It made for a muddled, confusing film. I mean, what the hell are these American blokes doing in the British secret service, anyway? Very disappointing. When it comes time to do MI-1, MI-2, and MI-4, I hope they'll be a little more faithful to the source material.

Stupid Hollywood.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Scottish Lore on the Silver Screen

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
Nessie's ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille. Closer. Closer. Whoops, too close. Ah, well, you were a crazy right-wing freak anyway, weren't you, Mr. DeMille?

Hey! A movie about the Loch Ness Monster! Based on The Water Horse by the dude that wrote Babe. And they're even gonna shoot it, for three glorious weeks, in Scotland. The rest of the time, New Zealand will serve as Scotland's body double, as it did for Middle Earth and Narnia. New Zealand gets picked to be body double so often because it has such a nice ass.

In related news, poll results off to the side of The Scotsman's article about the film announces that 87% of respondents believe in Nessie. I've always accepted the myth as such: a load of shit. But the funny thing is, if you spend any time around Loch Ness, you begin to believe it. My father-in-law, for example, has seen Nessie twice in his life. The man doesn't lie, and I'm not about to call him a nutter.


Monday, February 06, 2006

I Love a Good Ed Koch Sighting

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
I'd like to give a prolonged shout-out to Deb, congratulating her on the opening of her film The Tollbooth on Friday. Everyone in New York: go see the film at the Quad, this week, if possible. Nice work, Deb!

And in a further testament to her moxie, I'd like to congratulate Deb on getting New York's most colorful former mayor, Ed Koch, to attend Friday's opening. The missus and I got there early, as did Ed, and we had a lovely time watching him catch some z's in the lobby waiting for entry. We also sat in his row and can testify that he remained awake during the film itself.

There was one other star sighting as well (in addition to the cast of The Tollbooth, I mean). A few places behind Ed and me in line, a dude was excited to see Chris Elliot in attendance. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was just me.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Tollbooth - A Shill

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
I love shilling for friends, and this is one I'm particularly fond of...

Debra Kirschner, a woman in my writer's group wrote, directed, and produced a little cinematic ditty called The Tollbooth. It opens this weekend in New York at the resolutely independent Quad Cinema on 13th Street in Manhattan.

Deb was working on this script when I joined my writer's group eight-plus years ago, so this is a project I've gotten to see all the way from creation through to distribution.

And she got it all done herself. Sure, there were collaborators (I guess actors are somewhat important) and all those other people who blah blah blah thank the academy blah blah blah, but Deb's got bootstraps. Bootstraps galore. Not to mention moxie. Moxie's a good word for Deb. In fact, moxie's a good word in general. Moxie. Moxie moxie moxie moxie moxie moxie...

But I digress...

Through several drafts, fundraising, casting, shooting, editing, numerous festivals, and all that other crap (including, finally, a distribution deal), Deb's enthusiasm for the project never waned. Naturally, there were discouraging times, during which most of us would've thrown in the towel out of fear of turning out like Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. But not Deb. She just wouldn't stop until the job was done.

And just so you all can resent her further, she's also gotten a couple drafts done on a new script. Remember that thing about moxie? Yeah, that's Deb.

So go to The Quad if you live in New York (I fear everyone else may need to wait until the DVD release). The turn-out this weekend will help determine how long it sticks around.

Check out the trailer and read more about the film, the cast, and all the rest at the official Tollbooth website, and give props to Debra Kirschner for her mad skills.

And did I mention the moxie?


Monday, January 30, 2006

The Most Dangerous Threat in Iraq?

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
The serious injury to one-half of ABC's new nightly news anchor team, and the cameraman responsible for making his eyes look so blue, shows us once again how dangerous and random the violence is in this war zone the chickenhawks have created. I've said it before and god knows I'll say it again, but let's bring our troops home. How is that not supporting them?

But there's a new enemy rearing its ugly head in this mess we call the Iraq War... the turkey. The UN has confirmed the Middle East's first bird flu death.

The turkeys in Iraq (I mean the literal ones now) sort of remind me of King Edward the Whatever in that scene from Braveheart. After the bloody hand-to-hand combat begins in one of the later battle scenes, Patrick MacGoohan (as Edward) calls once again for the archers to let loose.

A foppish English officer nervously says, "But, Sire, we'll hit our men."

"We'll hit them, too," he says with evil glee, knowing he's got more men overall than the Scots. Then William Wallace gets hit in the upper torso with an arrow before chasing after the masked-armored dude who turns out to be Robert the Bruce. William gets disemboweled and screams, "FREEEEEDOM!"

I'm glad I didn't know what a wackadoo Mel Gibson was when I saw that movie the first time.

Anyway, the turkeys in Iraq, like King Edward the Whatever, kill indiscriminately.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Saving Face on DVD - A Shill

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
Those of you in places that didn't benefit from a theatrical release of my friend Alice's film (or otherwise missed it in theaters) will be pleased to learn that Saving Face is now available on DVD.

There's a director's commentary, deleted scenes, and a couple of featurettes, so buy it from Amazon or put it at the top of your Netflix queue today. It will please you.


Friday, August 19, 2005

And Now For a Documentary I Have Seen

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
blondandeffective's comment on the previous posting demonstrates the dangers of writing about something you haven't seen or read. The recording of Timmy's mauling exists, but moviegoers don't get to hear it. So I guess I can understand why some are afraid of copycat crimes. I mean, if you can't actually hear the mauling, how bad can hanging out with bears be? Right? Hello? Jesus, people are stupid.

Anyway, now I present my thoughts on "The Aristocrats," which I went to see this afternoon. It's been a long time since I saw a movie in the afternoon. It's a good way to see a movie. But that's not my only thought about it.

For those of you who don't know, "The Aristocrats" gets its title from the punchline of a joke. It's an old joke, with a great deal of room for riffing. The artistry, and the offense, lies in the riff. During the course of the movie, you hear the joke over fifty times told by many comedians, each version more offensive and/or scatological than the last. Some versions are so filthy, the entire AMC movie theater chain is refusing to screen it. Because of words. And that's pretty stupid.

But the film is smart. Really smart. It analyzes, dissects, and deconstructs the joke to a degree that would be envied by any powerhouse academic institution. Among the deconstructions and analyses the joke is told -- stupid versions, funny versions, first person versions, screaming versions, incestuous versions, shit-covered versions, turn-you-on-your-head versions, pregnant versions, physical comedy versions, and one incredibly well-timed version that many say might be the best telling of all time.

And did I mention how much I love going to see a movie in the afternoon?


Another Documentary I Haven't Seen

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
This will be my week for commenting on movies and books I haven't actually seen or read. Today's topic: "Grizzly Man."

The documentary, by Wernor Herzog, explores the life of Timothy Treadwell, an eccentric jackass who thought he could live among the grizzlies in Alaska. Eventually, inevitably, he (and his girlfriend) got eaten by a bear.

There is, apparently, some concern that seeing the documentary will cause people to copycat Timothy Treadwell. Bear experts wish that Herzog had put more focus on the dangers of living with grizzlies.

And yet, by all accounts, there's a good five-or-six-minute sequence in the film in which the doctor who performed the autopsy on Timmy's mangled body explains in some detail precisely what happened. Plus, as luck would have it, Timmy (who had filmed over 100 hours of himself playing with the cuddly beasts) had his camera on during the attack that killed him. Being unprepared for the end, he'd left the lens cap on the camera, but the sound survived. So in conjunction with the storytelling doctor, you hear the attack in all its gory glory.

Anyone who wants to copycat Timothy Treadwell after hearing him (and let's not forget his girlfriend) get mauled to death... well, survival of the fittest, baby. And the fittest don't go to Alaska to hang out with bears.

That's two current documentaries featuring the power of Darwinism, neither of which I've seen, but both of which I plan to.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Management vs. Talent

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
It sure is hard to feel sorry for multigazillionaires.

Peter Jackson is suing New Line Cinema because he feels he got screwed in the millions upon millions of dollars he made on "Lord of the Rings."

And I must say, the man's got a point.

New Line, part of the TimeWarner conglomerate, sold the rights to publishing, merchandising, and all those other movie-related revenue streams to subsidiaries at cut-rate prices. So TimeWarner's bottom line didn't suffer while the overall gross of the film (what Pete's salary is based on) went down.

Ah, creative accounting in a deregulated media age.

One legal representative from New Line said, "...there's a certain piggishness involved here. New Line already gave him enough money to rebuild Baghdad, but it's still not enough for him."

Hold on a sec. Is that a massive corporation implying that an individual is greedy? Hobbit, please...


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Famous and Infamous

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
Times theater critic Christopher Isherwood takes an enormous bite of humble pie and admits that he was perhaps unfair to Elizabeth Berkley. About a year ago, she called him to complain, not because the play she was in got panned by him, but because in another small print item, he referred to her as the star of "Showgirls."

Elizabeth was, of course, the star of that notoriously bad film, but he admitted that she was correct in suggesting that to refer to her solely as the star of "Showgirls" was damaging to her career, one she has painstakingly attempted to put back together. After all, good actors are often in bad movies. I doubt, for example, that Dustin Hoffman's epitaph will refer to him the star of "Ishtar." But while Dustin's clunker came after he'd had a chance to establish himself, Elizabeth's was a first film. Bad luck. And we may never know if she's got real talent, largely perhaps due to the constant reminder in the press of that first turd.

Isherwood goes on to say that her performance in the revival of Hurly Burly is great, made even greater when put up against the other powerhouse performances in David Rabe's play.

I admire Christopher calling himself to task, something few critics are willing or able to do. And I admire Elizabeth's chutzpah in getting on the horn to a critic to register her complaint.

But I hope it's OK with Elizabeth if I continue to refer to her as "the woman who once watched me make out with Jennifer Beals."


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Film Critics Should Be Required to Like Films

I think this is something that's come up before in the comments section of another posting, but there are a few film critics in New York that I'm fairly convinced don't actually like movies. The one I'm finding most infuriating these days is New York Times critic Manohla Dargis. (And actually, I think Manohla lives in L.A. but since she writes for the NY Times, I'll call her a New York critic.)

Manohla is a relatively new addition to the team of film critics at the Times, having replaced Elvis Mitchell. Elvis wrote reviews that were occasionally obtuse and often strange, but I sort of appreciated that about him. Manohla is more about being mean. If she doesn't like something, she tears it apart in the harshest tones possible without a great deal of real insight. At least when A.O. Scott gets bitchy, I feel there's an intelligent point being made underneath the bitchiness. And when Manohla likes something, it's very hard to tell. I thought her review of the recent "Fever Pitch" was a pan, until the movie ended up on her "recommended" list. So she liked it, but apparently didn't want to admit it.

Here are the first two sentences of her review of the new "Batman" movie:

'Near the big-bang finish of "Batman Begins," the title avenger, played by the charismatic young British actor Christian Bale, scoops up a damsel in distress, played by Katie Holmes, and spirits her away to his lair. Watching this scene, it was hard not to think how nice it would have been if Batman had instead dispatched the infernally perky actress, whose recent off-screen antics have threatened to eclipse this unexpectedly good movie.'

She ends with "good movie," and the review is mostly a rave, but why does she have to focus on how annoying Katie Holmes has been (and yes, I agree that the Tom/Katie crap has been irritating)? Why does the film have to be an "unexpectedly good movie"? Why not just a "good movie"? The director Christopher Nolan has made good movies before ("Memento," anyone?), so why were her expectations so low?

Manohla loves to hate movies. And she resents the movies she likes.

I want to hold you, Manohla. I want you to know that it's OK to surrender yourself over to visual storytelling. Your feelings are valid when you watch even the most mediocre romantic comedy. You're allowed to enjoy the thrill of spectacle. It's alright to be moved by a simple story that goes deep. And it's OK, too, not to like some movies. There's no reason to let these bad films get to you so much. The filmmakers haven't made the movie to piss you off personally. But film can be fun, Manohla. You must have known this at some point. Why else would you end up working in film? I implore you, Manohla. Please, re-open yourself to the film medium.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tom "Pleasure" Cruise

Now that the New York Times says so, in its "fair-minded" and "objective" way, can we once and for all acknowledge that Tom Cruise is wackadoo?

I wonder how attractive he'll be to Katie "There's No Place Like" Holmes once he's successfully committed career suicide.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More About Saving Face

Yes, the missus and I did get to see Alice's film last night upon our return. We were pleased not only by the film itself, but also by the plethora of good press Alice and the movie are getting. Keep fingers crossed that the film gets rolled out to many more markets throughout our great nation. I know some folks in Kansas that would like it a lot.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Reminder: Saving Face

Anyone in New York or LA over Memorial Day weekend should carve out a little time to catch Alice Wu's independent film Saving Face. Click here for the trailer. See also my entry for May 11 for more detail. The film totally rules, as does Alice herself. I'll be returning on Memorial Day and with or without jetlag will be seeing it that evening, getting my cash into the weekend numbers. Go Alice!


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mike vs. Ashton

I'm listening to this interview with Richard Roper (as in "Ebert & Roper"), and he just stated in unequivocal terms that Mike Ditka shows more talent and range in Kicking and Screaming than Ashton Kutcher does in any of his movies.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Saving Face - May 27

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
I hope you'll forgive a promotional entry. My badass friend Alice has a film she wrote and directed coming out May 27. Opening weekend (in this case Memorial Day weekend along with several blockbusters) is the key for small films with no marketing budgets like Saving Face. If the per-screen attendance average is good in New York, LA, and San Fran, then it'll get rolled out to other markets. It's a great movie. Alice's words follow and say more about the film itself, but to the few readers of, I say this... It's got hot Asian girl-on-girl action. Apparently, even the straight girls think it's sexy.


Hi there.

It is with great pleasure that I write to you about my film SAVING FACE soon to be released by Sony Classics in theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in coming weeks. [NY/LA on MAY 27, SF Bay Area: JUNE 3]

If I am lucky, you have heard of the film. For those who haven't, you can read any number of write-ups about the film on the web, such as here and here.

or view the trailer at the website:

We've been an audience favorite at festivals from Sundance to Toronto to San Francisco and on. There have been comparisons to The Wedding Banquet, Bend It Like Beckham, My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- it has been touted as a smart romantic comedy for everyone.

Which is kind of funny and weird. When I wrote SAVING FACE years ago, it was just this story I wrote for myself; it's kind of shocking that something which seemed so specific and personal at the time has now connected with audiences of such wildly different demographics. But in the five years it took to make the film, it's taken a small army of believers: a lot of people's hearts have gone into this film. I think that's what's gotten us here.

The thing about independent films like mine -- even ones that manage to land a great distributor like Sony Classics -- is that we roll out with very little marketing budget. Furthermore, SAVING FACE opens on weekends traditionally reserved for summer blockbusters with lots of ad-spend. How well our film does on opening weekends helps determine how many more cities we open, and how long we stay in theaters. As is typical with smaller independent films, we rely almost exclusively on word-of-mouth. So you're not going to see trailers of my film on the TV or billboards on the freeway, but if you got this email, then someone you know believes in the film.

I am writing in the hopes that you'll be willing to join us. If you are game, show up on opening weekend (info below). I promise high entertainment and that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being part of something new and grassroots, and hopefully the inspiration to chase after your own specific and personal dreams. You never know.

Thank you,

Alice Wu

Here are the dates/locations:

NEW YORK: opens the weekend of MAY 27 at the ANGELIKA (in Soho) and the AMC 25 (on 42nd Street)

LOS ANGELES: opens the weekend of MAY 27 at the SUNSET LAEMMLE 5, the WESTSIDE PAVILION, PLAYHOUSE (Pasadena), TOWN CENTER (Encino), and the SOUTH COAST VILLAGE (Costa Mesa)

SF BAY AREA: opens the weekend of JUNE 3 at the Landmark EMBARCADERO, the UA STONESTOWN Twin, the Landmark SHATTUCK (Berkeley), PALO ALTO SQUARE, CENTURY 5 (Pleasant Hill), SANTANA ROW (San Jose) and MARIN/SAUSALITO


Monday, February 28, 2005

77th annual oscar celebration

Originally uploaded by dangunderman.
hollywood royalty blah blah in full force last night for the blah blah annual oscar cele-blah blah. blah blah red carpet blah blah blah. chris rock kicked off the blah blah with a blah blah blah blah blah. blah blah cream-of-the-crop blah blah, recognizing the best blah blah of the past blah blah. "the aviator" got off to a blah blah blah, but the blah belonged to "million dollar baby," which won blah, blah, blah, and blah blah. blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. blah blah.