Paris is Burning, and six more movies



Dec. 15, 2022

Today at the movies — bad parenting in a small town, good gangstering in a big city, a bleak lesbo horror, a baseball tragedy, a rock'n'roll fantasy, making art and finding a home in a world that despises you, and something so awful I clicked it off before it got awful.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
King of New York (1990)
Out of the Blue (1980)
Paris is Burning (1990)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
Symptoms (1974)
The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

Best of show, absolutely, is Paris is Burning.

The big disappointment: Out of the Blue.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

All the boys at my school simply loved this movie, and I got sick of hearing how great it was, especially since there was no way to see it back then, unless it came on TV. Which it never did, so tonight is the first time I've seen it.

It's a baseball movie and a buddy movie and a tearjerker, because one of the baseball buddies has a fatal disease and isn't long for this team or any other.

The buddies are Henry Wiggen (Michael Moriarty), the team's star pitcher and a smart guy who once wrote a book, and Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro), Henry's favored catcher and best friend in the world, who's never read a book and probably lacks the needed brains. Their friendship feels authentic, and Vincent Gardenia is terrific as the team's manager.

This might be Moriarty's best performance, and it was De Niro's big break, and Danny Aiello's first movie. The kids at school were right that it's a great movie, but wrong when they said (many times) that it's a true story. It's based on a novel, which was actually the second novel in a four-book series.

I'm not sure there's ever been a ball club as filled with G-rated good guys as this movie's New York Mammoths, but that's a small complaint. Bang the Drum Slowly tells a small, personal story against the backdrop of old-time big league ball, and it does it very well.

Weirdly, but probably only for me, the movie's repeated musical motif is "The Streets of Laredo," which Google tells me is a well-known American country/western song. Not sure I'd heard it before, but it shares the same tune or it's mighty similar to a very familiar hymn from my childhood church, "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing." More than a little bewildered was I, half expecting the movie to build toward an altar call. Thankfully, there's no come-to-Jesus moment here.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

King of New York (1990)

Abel Ferrara made the very good Ms 45 and the original Bad Lieutenant, and the disappointing Body Snatchers and New Rose Hotel. If you catch him on a good day he's brilliant, and it you catch him on the wrong day you're going to see a bad movie.

This was written by Nicholas St. John, who wrote most of Ferrera's movies during his good era. It stars Christopher Walken, and that's what nudged me into watching it.

It's a gangster movie, with Walken as mega-mobster Frank White, fresh from five years in prison, and in a hurry to take over as 'King of New York' — the city's top crime lord.

It's an ordinary genre story, but Walken is Walken, which means the words dance from his lips, and he's stylishly terrifying and dangerous.

A few scenes are classic, like when Walken crashes the poker game, or when he's menaced by hoodlums on the subway, tosses one of them a snap full of cash, and says, "Come by the Plaza Hotel, I've got work for you. Ask for Frank White."

The film has lots of gratuitous nudity, which I can tolerate, and also early rap music, which I don't tolerate so well. 

David Caruso has a key supporting role as an oh-so-tough cop. Caruso has only played two characters in his acting career: oh-so-tough cop, and oh-so-tough bad guy, and he's oh-so-unbelievable at either, but the movie gets over the mistake of casting him. Wesley Snipes plays another cop, and seems like a cop. Imagine that. Lawrence Fishburne is an intentionally obnoxious baddie, and he's delightful. 

"Nobody rides for free, motherfucker!" 

There's a lot of bullet ballet here, something I've lost all interest in — busy gunfights with guns blasting in every direction, people's chests and heads exploding, movie-blood all over the walls, etc. Seeing all those lives, even fictional lives, ended only for the entertainment value of a streak of red sliding down a wall has no appeal for me, but your mileage may vary.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Out of the Blue (1980) 

Dennis Hopper was a very good actor, and he directed Easy Rider (1969) and Colors (1988), so he was a very good moviemaker, too. After his death, Chloe Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne chipped in for the restoration of this film, also directed by Hopper. It's a great restoration — it looks and sounds like a brand new shitty movie.

Hopper plays Don, no last name, a truck driver who dotes on his daughter, Cebe. She's played by Linda Manz, the child actor who was unforgettable as a Depression-era waif in Days of Heaven

In the opening scene, Don is driving Cebe to school in his big rig, and they're talking and laughing and Don's drinking whiskey, and he plows his truck into a school bus. The bus looks about half full of kids, but we're never told how many died. My low estimate is half a dozen, with the rest merely maimed for life.

Don is sentenced to only five years in prison, which seems more lenient than you'd expect for a drunk driving wreck with at least several child fatalities.

Cebe gets wild in his absence, what with her mom being a junkie and all, but things might get better when Dad's released from prison, right?

Nope. Don and his family haven't moved away — they still live in the same community where he killed those kids, but there's only one local man who's angry that Don is out of prison and back in town. Everyone else lets dead kids and bygones be bygones. 

Don is not allowed to drive a truck again, but still drives his car with a beer in his hand, and now he works at the county dump, operating heavy machinery with a bottle of whiskey in his jacket.

Under pressure from that one and only guy in town who doesn't like him because Don killed his son, Don's boss at the county dump fires him. Don's response is to bulldoze the boss's office, accompanied by heroic music suggesting it's the triumph of the little guy. "Don't fuck with me, brother, don't fuck with me," says Don.

When he's inexplicably not arrested for this, Don grabs a lug wrench and brains the man who'd complained about his return to town. There are no consequences for this either; no investigation, no arrest. Maybe his victim is dead; he isn't seen or mentioned again in the movie.

Out of the Blue is also focused on Cebe, Don's daughter, and should've been much more focused on her. As in Days of Heaven, Linda Manz owns every scene she's in, and she's holding the movie's big plot twist, which director Hopper clumsily makes obvious even before ramming the school bus in the first scene.

Court-appointed psychologist Raymond Burr might be able to help Cebe, if only he could remember her name — he keeps calling her Cindy, but the movie doesn't notice.

The restoration's opening crawl tells us that Hopper had been hired only as an actor, but the producers didn't like the early footage, fired the writer/director, and Hopper volunteered to take over. He rewrote the script over a weekend, and there is a hint of something worthwhile in the story. It needed more than a weekend's rewrite, though, and everything's buried under Hopper's surprisingly bad writing, direction, and acting.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Paris is Burning (1990)

With few exceptions, most of the people in this marvelous drag documentary are black, male, and gay, and one of them explains:

"My dad used to say, You have three strikes against you in this world. Every black man has two — just that they're black and male, but you're black and male and gay. You're going to have a hard fucking time. And he said, If you're going to do this you're going to have to be stronger than you ever imagined."

This is the true story of some black gay men who are stronger than you can imagine. Filmed at New York's legendary "Paris is Burning" secret drag balls between 1985-87, it includes commentary from several participants at the secret balls.

These events were held secretly for two reasons — obviously, cops could raid the place and arrest everyone for crossdressing, but also, a lot of these ladies' accessories were stolen. If you're an effeminate-looking black man in that era, you're not likely to find a decent job in the straight white world. A few participants brag that for a particular purse or pair of shoes, "I even have the receipt."

In addition to the expected vogueing and floor show competitions between men wearing women's clothes, there's a different kind of drag you might be unaware of. The balls included competitive categories for men dressed in military uniforms, and men dressed as businessmen, because discrimination made those 'looks' impossible dreams as well, achieved only at the balls.

Most of these kids and young adults lived in shared houses, becoming family to each other. "A house is a gay street gang," one of the house mothers explains. "Now, where street gangs get their reward from street-fighting, a gay house street-fights at a ball, and you street-fight at a ball by walking in the categories."

This is what people adrift do in the big city: they find others who are adrift, and anchor each other. "This is a new meaning of 'family''," says someone in the film, and you don't have to be black, male, or gay to understand it.

The mainstream popularity of drag began shortly after these secret balls, in part because of the warm critical reception for this film. So here's a movie that changed the world, and amazingly, it was made by Jennie Livingston, a white woman who'd never made a movie before, and who's made very few after. She's said in interviews, she loved the balls, had a camera, so why not make a movie?

The first dozen times I saw Paris is Burning was at the old Strand Theater in San Francisco. They always booked old and weird movies in double- and triple-features, playing for one day only, but there were two movies the theater booked so frequently — several times monthly — I wondered if they actually owned the prints. One of them was Paris is Burning. They other was Ms 45, which is quite a different film.

No matter how often Paris is Burning played at the Strand, and no matter what the co-features were, it reliably drew crowds and invariably ended with applause in the theater. I saw it at the Strand co-featured with science fiction, with comedies, with two James Bond movies, and at least once with Ms 45.

Even when I'd already seen it several times, I never missed Paris is Burning. If there's a heart in your Grinchy soul, it's a movie you have to see. And by all means, bring the kids. It's not rated G, but there's never been a more family-friendly film.

Everyone on the screen has been adopted into a family, and most live with their self-chosen not-Brady Bunch, sharing a made-up surname — the Chanel family, the House of Ninja, the House of Xtravaganza. If you live in the House of Xtravaganza, that's your family, and that means everything, since most of these people had been kicked out of their biological families.

In the first few seconds of the film, before a word is spoken, a headline scrolls on an newspaper building's electronic readerboard: "White supremacist church begins national conference." Just an ordinary headline, but that's the oppressively white and straight world where these people try to exist, then and now. Gotta have the balls, and gotta have each other.

Oh, this is a joyous movie. I've seen it a dozen times, and still can't watch it without crying, but it's a happy cry.

Verdict: BIG YES. 

As with most do-it-yourself movies, there's a long list of thank-yous in the closing credits. Somehow it's not surprising to see Werner Herzog's name.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

Edgar Wright seems incapable of making a bad movie: Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, The World's End, Baby Driver, The Sparks Brothers, and here's Scott Pilgrim.

It's shallow and loud, but also heartwarming and hilarious, and I will never again hear the pompous musical flourish for Universal Pictures without smiling.

Scott (Michael Cera) is a nervous young nerd in a band called Sex Bob-omb, with his friends Stephen Stills (but not that Stephen Stills) and Young Neil, along with their drummer Kim, who was long ago Scott's girlfriend. He's still depressed from being dumped by a different girlfriend, she who cannot be named, but now he's dating a high school girl, Knives, which is a scandal because he's 22. 

Scott is more attracted to Ramona, though, so he really should break up with Knives, and while he's figuring out how to do that, Sex Bob-omb is in a battle of the bands. Oh, and Scott can't score Ramona until he's fought and defeated each of her seven evil exes.

From there it's a stylized stroll through early-adult angst and romance, with fantasy toppings and video game exclamation points. This is a rock'n'roll movie, with lots of loud music from two generations behind me, but I still liked most of it.

I have now seen Scott Pilgrim vs the World three times; when it first came out, again a few years later, and tonight with a Salisbury steak TV dinner. Enjoyed it each time, but it's complicated even while being thimble-deep, and it's exhausting, and moves faster than I can keep up, all with laughs.

Also, push-back welcome, but Scott Pilgrim is kind of an ass.

Hell of an all-star cast, most of whom weren't (or were barely) stars when the movie was made — Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman.

Beautiful comic-bookesque cinematography by Bill Pope. Written and directed by Wright, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley, which I've never read but ought to but, oh well.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Symptoms (1974)

Helen, recovering from a breakdown, lives in a garish rural mansion, and invites her girlfriend Annie to stay with her there. The groundskeeper is an odd fellow, but Helen and Anne are weird as well.

Symptoms is probably not for you if you need slam-bang action or quick-order frights. It's very atmospheric, generally gloomy instead of scary, and plays like a mystery instead of a horror, but it does have some jolts toward the end. Best savored when you're in the right mood for something a bit unusual.

It's from noted Spanish movie-maker José Ramón Larraz, the first of his that I've seen, but it's in English.

Stars Angela Pleasence, daughter of Donald, who's similar to her dad in screen presence and style. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

A clearly deranged woman thinks her child-molesting father was the greatest dad in the world. He was lost at sea, she says, but others say there's a darker version of events she's not willing to admit. She has some kind of strong sexual kink that's tending toward violence, and right now — twenty minutes into the film — she's using a razor blade to cut up the man she's tied to her bed. 

I'm not sure what's going on here, but I've decided to let it go on without me.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Coming soon: 

• 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
• Death to Smoochy (2002)
• Ernest Borgnine On the Bus (1997)
• Foxfur (2012)
• Personal Services (1986)
• Rancho Deluxe (1975)
• Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   



  1. Paris is Burning, you nailed it, is one of the happiest sad movies or saddest happy movies ever, but mostly one of the happiest happy movies. It is absolutely beautiful and one of my favorites.

    1. Thanks, but I never know what to say to someone who agrees with me. Tell me when I'm full of shit and we can talk about it, though.

    2. You can agree with me too, because Paris is Burning is one of my top ten movies ever. I never met any of the people in it but I have seen it so many times they're like old friends.

      You are mistaken about David Caruso, though. That boy is a hunk.

    3. I agree with you too, except about David Caruso. Pure poseur.

  2. Thanks for the review of Bang the Drum Slowly. A melodrama that actually works is a rara avis and, as you said, this film works. Even though it's a little stiffly directed, I enjoyed it on third and fourth watch as much as the first, and, as you know, I'm not a film guy. You would have sworn that Michael Moriarty was going to be a great actor making great films. Turned out he wasn't and he didn't. But BTDS is, in my view, a near-great film. And De Niro was so good I had no idea he'd turn into an American treasure. I was under the impression he was a dumb catcher.

    The tune that drove you into a religious fervor is one that I know as The Cowboy's Lament, later (circa 1910) stolen with a name change to The Streets of Laredo to avoid copyright problems. The Cowboy's Lament is derived from The Unfortunate Rake, a 19th century (or earlier) broadside with a virtually identical tune and similar lyrics. The semi-official characterization of the tune is "traditional".

    I have heard, and even "sung" We Gather Together. The melodies are similar. There are only a few songs -- the rest are variations on a theme. Religious songwriters (particularly christians) are notorious for outright thievery of melodies. They stay out of court by either calling the melodies "traditional" or by pleading piety.

    Thanks again for the review.


    1. I should note in honor of my late parents who were big fans of the Smothers Brothers that the Brothers recorded an abbreviated version of The Cowboy's Lament. I'll type the lyrics by memory.

      As I walked out in the streets of Laredo,
      As I walked out in Laredo one day,
      I spied a young cowboy dressed in white linen,
      Dressed in white linen as cold as the clay.

      "I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy,"
      "I see by your outfit you are a cowboy too,"
      "We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys,
      If you get an outfit you can be a cowboy too."


    2. I read yesterday that the Smos Bros are still alive and touring, so I guess sometimes good guys do OK. Ticket prices are a bit beyond my means, though.

      Mr Moriarty is also alive and working, another wonder, but nope, he never became the big star he should've been. MM was a regular in the fine films of Larry Cohen, and I do recommend his brilliant performance in Q the Winged Serpent. It's about a flying snake of unusual size.

    3. Out of pure curiosity, what is the USUAL size of a flying snake? I need to stock the correct sized tennis racket for self-defense. Thanks in advance.


    4. Four feet or so, says here.

    5. Sounds like I'm going to need more than a tennis racket. It's low on the list of things I worry about when I'm out limping around, but it wasn't on the list at all until you brought it to my attention. Thankfully, I always look up when I walk and never down. My phone stays in my fanny pack, well protected from flying snakes.


    6. Not many flying snakes in Washington. They're all in Washington DC.


  3. They could have been wealthy by coloring inside the lines and not pissing their network off. Dick had to declare bankruptcy in the last several years. But they continued to act on the peculiar notion that their show was their show, and if they wanted to be the first network show to feature Pete Seeger since he'd been banned from television twenty-five years earlier, it was their decision to make. That and dozens of other "outrageous acts" cost them a very remunerative job. They stood up to arbitrary authority and held their ground. They're still paying for it, and I've heard no regrets from them. It's one reason my parents admired them and one reason I still admire my parents.


    1. The last comment was in response to a comment from Doug about four comments back. The Googs strike again.


    2. I remember the show from my kidhood, liked it and laughed, but didn't know it was 'controversial' nor that they were fired until years later.

      Mostly I became a fan after they'd been cancelled, because I discovered an album of their music. Not even sure whose album it was. It couldn't possibly have been my parents, so I'm suspecting it was my brother-in-law's. He was kind of a folk-song hippie.

      Played the hell out of that album.

      Enormous respect from me for what they did. When you're big-time and successful it's mighty rare for anyone to flip the bird to the source of the money.

      Respect for your parents too.

      Maybe even mine, some days.

    3. I must have been 12 or 13 when I first heard the Smothers Brothers. My parents bought all their albums. We used to sit around the living room listening to them and laughing together. There's not much in the world that parents and their kids can genuinely laugh at together. Half a dozen years later, about the time I was getting radicalized, the Brothers got the TV show. I certainly knew about blacklisting and McCarthyism by then, and I watched the boys battle it out with CBS.

      As an old man, there's something reassuring about knowing that the Smothers Brothers are still out there, heading for another joint.


    4. In their 80s and still touring. Can't vouch that they're still funny, but it would be a big surprise if they're not.

      My dad had all the Alan Sherman albums, which I loved and listened to with him. I would love to laugh with my dad again, and I remember those albums as the loudest laughs.

      Maybe he was the Smos Bros fan before me? Seems unlikely, though. Were they obviously of the left even in their pre-TV albums? If so, I just can't imagine my pop listening and liking them.

      I am *still* 12 or 13.

    5. I don't think in the beginning the Smothers Brothers were political at all. They published nine albums of comedy and straight folk before they got their show, and I don't remember any politics in any of them. I think CBS radicalized them by objecting to almost every guest they invited on their show. Their show started in 1967, which was also the first year of widespread protests about Vietnam. The 1968 Democratic Convention police riot in Chicago got the country lining up on two sides. Honestly, I think the Smothers were more pissed off at CBS than they were the military/industrial complex. They got fired in 1969.

      So you were pretty young when they had their show and very young when they were dropping albums.

      The history game is one where everybody loses. The Smothers were obviously folk singers as well as comedians, and the folk movement was dying by 1965/66. Folk/Rock continued for another five years, but they obviously weren't folk rockers. They had accumulated a million fans in six years, but their time was almost up when they got their show. Styles change, and the rate of change increases with time.

      But the show wasn't about their music; ultimately, the show became about the show and the incredible writing team they put together, some of the best minds of that generation. They had the hippest music guests ever imagined on TV, and they feared nobody. Inviting Pete Seeger really was the end of their relationship with CBS; it went downhill from there.

      It's pretty sad. They were and are genuinely caring, talented people who just wanted to entertain audiences and make a living. They just flew a little too close to the sun.


    6. Interesting perspective, that it was CBS that radicalized them. Hadn't heard that before and I love it.

      Is it a sad story, though? We needed the Smothers, and they were there. They got canned, yeah, but I've always thought of them as the winners in that showdown. Getting fired added to their allure, and a couple of years of network TV money would leave me set for life.

      For me they were always about the comedy, and an unexpected bonus was that they made nice music. Crappy sound on this, but "Whenst Goest Thou, Fair Maiden" is still brilliant.

      Pete Seeger had been blacklisted, right? And CBS wanted him still blacklisted.

      That's just so crazy, because Pete Seeger *is* Americana. Blacklisted Americana. Nothing scary about the man, not in a sane era or for sane people. Ah, but when has either been America...

      Odd twist in the tale is, the Smos Bros got a new show (on CBS of all places) a few decades later. It wasn't as good and didn't last as long, because the original was a quantum event and you're only allowed one.

    7. I think it is a sad story for the most part. The Brothers put up a good fight and didn't back down, but CBS, a powerful corporation won out over free speech and the millions of fans of the show. The show continuously criticized the United States' participation in Vietnam, and CBS executives, in conjunction with the Johnson and Nixon administrations fought against criticism and won. (Interestingly, when Walter Cronkite opined from Vietnam in early 1968 that the United States should negotiate their way out of a war they couldn't win, and the generals had been lying to the American people about progress in Vietnam, CBS stood mute. Cronkite had the broad support of the American people and the Smothers Brothers were just entertainers. In any case the censorship and ultimate cancellation of the show was a blow against free speech, and a curtailment of anybody's right to disagree with their government is a curtailment of EVERYBODY'S right to do the same.


    8. I salute the Smos Bros, and need more Smos on my playlist. I would quibble, though, that the CBS things wasn't really about free speech. CBS was and still is run by closed-minded pricks who always serve power, but nobody has a First Amendment right to a TV show.

    9. The supreme court (lower case intentional) has ruled since the 1930s and reaffirmed in the 1950s that the public airways exist for the public good. The FCC reissues station licenses allegedly based on whether a broadcaster has fulfilled his responsibility to act for the "public good". I'm not a lawyer but I don't think CBS was using the airways (not much cable in the 1960s) for the public good when they stopped Tom and Dick from telecasting. Obviously there are guardrails. They weren't cursing, they weren't displaying nudity, they weren't doing anything that "decent" people abhor.

      Since I rarely argue before the sc I argued here. CBS pissed away all the good will that Walter Cronkite bought for them. William Paley and the rest of the CBS board would rot in hell were there a hell.

      This case isn't entirely about free speech, but I wouldn't ignore the part that is. Corporate greed certainly doesn't come under the rubric of "public good" even though the sc has said it does when it comes to broadcasting.

      And heaven knows what the convoluted cable system has done to the "public airways".


    10. . . . and of course you're right: it wasn't about free speech: it was about power. I'll be a "power to the people" guy until they cart me away, but I'm not entirely naive. Power exists to extend itself in all directions.


    11. Something's horrendously wrong when giant corporations can use the air -- public airways -- to make many billions of dollars with no real requirement for public service, and paying nothing for the access.

      I believe there's a vague minimum of news and information required, which the networks fulfill with half an hour of BS News daily. It's nothing, really, in the sea of garbage they create, and it's mostly news- and info-free anyway.

      When I'm elected God, let's rejigger everything about television, and don't allow 'commercial' television at all.

  4. I grew up in the '90s when Hopper was making a comeback and there was a ton of hagiography being made about him, that he was a misunderstood artist, a poet, a painter, etc. I read that John Wayne had saved his career by casting him in a few of his movies when nobody else would touch him. I can't imagine Hopper ever doing that: all reports I saw were of a guy who was mean, really mean, both in personality and in spirit. He lied until he died to cheat Terry Southern out of a writing credit for Easy Rider, blamed Don Johnson for fucking up the convoluted plot of The Hot Spot and that kind of makes me question the lore behind "Out of the Blue." It's not that he's a bad guy (though he certainly seems like he was), but he seemed to have a gift for fucking over his collaborators on film in weird power plays. It kind of makes sense, basically an entire generation watched Brando do that and thought, that's how a tortured artist behaves: you sabotage it, blow it up, try to take control, etc.

    1. Actually, I'm pretty sure the story of how Hopper got the director's chair for Out of the Blue is hogwash. If he wanted to direct, he could've easily engineered the guy's firing, and probably did.

      The only movie he *wrote* that's any good is Easy Rider, and it seems likely he didn't write that, so everything he wrote was shit.

      Everybody should expect anyone rich or famous to be a prick. I'm taking your observations to heart as further evidence of that fundamental truth.

      Me, I'm usually satisfied just fucking myself over, and the occasional asswipe who deserves it.

    2. It's Reigning Claudes, HallelujahDecember 20, 2022 at 4:49 PM

      Hopper was a pigfuck, but most successful people in the "arts" always are. These are of course the same people who foist hypocritical morality on the rest of us while doing as they please. (This is why I don't believe for a minute that any celebrity or news source cares about social justice or class issues to the extent that it doesn't benefit their own lives.) John Lennon was notoriously physically violent (but hey give "peace" a chance.)

      One of my favorite Elvis Costello lines:

      Was it a millionaire
      Who said Imagine no possessions
      A poor little schoolboy
      Who said we don't need no lessons?)

      My favorite Hopper film is The Last Movie. There's a doc about Hopper made during the same period called American Dreamer which is good, and it pretty clearly indicates Hopper was a prick.

      But, I often like pigfucks and pricks, what can I say?

    3. Claude Reigns Started SmallDecember 20, 2022 at 8:19 PM

      Also, as Easy Rider was brought up - never been a fan, and like better a similar (but also very different) film called Electra Glide in Blue, recommended.

    4. I'm adding both of these, The Last Movie and Electra Glide in Blue, to my list.

      Also wondering about Easy Rider. It's been decades since I've seen it, and all I remember is liking it but hating the ending. I'll skip the rewatch on that one.

    5. I find Easy Rider tedious except when Nicholson is on screen. The remainder (the majority) is hippie flag-waving and simple-minded psychedelia. it wasn't subversive then or now. The biker stuff was done better by dozens of other films, as was the drug stuff.

      If Southern did indeed write it, he should be ashamed - it's completely formless and pointless and shares none of the disciplined structure and vicious satire of his best novels or other film work.

    6. I think I give a wide latitude to films like Easy Rider — Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg's "Persona" is another example of one that's kind of better as an idea than something to sit through and, idk, "enjoy." Like a documentary about the making of Easy Rider or Persona is going to be much more interesting than the films themselves.

      I know why they're supposed to be important. There are a lot of moments that are just cringeworthy though and feel like you're watching a student film.

    7. Persona — that's new to me and I'll check it out.

      You two have me thinking maybe it would be fun to re-watch Easy
      and slam it if it deserves it...

    8. The Cammell/Roeg film is Performance. Persona is a Bergman flick.

      I agree with Granville about Performance; Cammell and (ESPECIALLY) Roeg made other, better films. Heck, Roeg made four or five masterpieces on his own.

      Performance doesn't really do anything that hadn't already been done much better by Bergman, Bunuel, Lynch, Zulawski, Peter Watkins (Privilege) and others.

      Persona is a masterpiece, the "ne plus ultra" of art films.

    9. Thanks for clearing up Persona/Performance. I've never seen either, and soon I'll be seeing both.

    10. Sorry! That is absolutely right, it's Performance not Persona.

      There was a documentary about him called The Ultimate Performance made back when IFC was still the "Independent Film Channel." I have to admit I saw it before I saw anything including Performance, and was significantly underwhelmed when I finally did. The documentary is on youtube, it's clearly made by people that love him so it's not exactly a critical view of a person who only directed, I think, four movies in his whole life. One of those was purely a mercenary project (Demon Seed, though I quite like it a lot, more than most reviews I've read), another was taken away from him. There's a whole part of his life that was only going to come out when strangers wrote about him. It'd make for an interesting movie actually but I'm sure it'd be another one that would never be made.

    11. Cammell made only four movies, and it earned him a documentary? Maybe I need to immerse myself in some Cammell...

    12. Oh yeah. He was for years the most fascinating man in Hollywood that nobody knew about. A guy with hundreds of projects and weird scripts about transgressive subjects. Aleister Crowley, Marlon Brando, Kenneth Anger and Mick Jagger are just a few characters in Cammell's life.

      Just one biographical bit that I read about in passages of other people's biographies: Brando was always coming up with big projects that he'd abandon seemingly on a whim, and for a long time Cammell was his collaborator / victim on them. Brando would want to make a movie, but then after a few months of location scouting and writing scripts, he'd say it should be a novel first, and then a movie. So Cammell would start writing the novel and then Brando would lose interest altogether and just stop returning his calls. I think this book was the total sum of their collaboration: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/marlon-brando/fan-tan.htm

      I think that went on for the better part of 10 years or so. Their relationship only faltered when Cammell (then in his 40s) began having what Wikipedians deem an "affair" with the 14 year old sister of Brando's photographer / sometimes girlfriend. Brando was disgusted and cut off all contact with him... until she turned 18 and Cammell married her. Brando welcomed him back into the fold, making new plans with Cammell that never amounted to anything. She was still with him when he died, still married and at least the last time anyone inquired was still devoted to him and what she thought was his genius.

      The Donald Cammell story is very weird indeed. But like I said I don't think it will ever be made lol

    13. Ah, Kenneth Anger, one of my all time heroes.

    14. Well, this story makes Marlon Brando seem like a dick, and I'm sure he was a dick of course.

    15. I'd be open to any Kenneth Anger recommendations.

      IMDB says that his first short was Who Has Been Rocking My Dreamboat, made in 1941 and seven minutes long.

      I've found and downloaded a seven-minute film by that title, but it has no copyright and no credits, and it doesn't look like something that would've been possible to make in 1941.

      Which is a pity. I kinda liked it.

    16. Here are the big ones:


      He's a notorious liar (claims to have made dozens of films as a child, evasive about his age, parentage, etc. so it's best to stick with the titles on wiki that have their own linked pages:


    17. Brando was a nut. The stories about him working with a young Kubrick on One-Eyed Jacks are pretty funny.

      That's an excellent film, by the way, one of the great examples of people who only directed one film and made it count, e.g., Carnival of Souls, Honeymoon Killers, Night of the Hunter, World's Greatest Sinner, Limite (1931), Dementia (1955), The House is Black, Pink Narcissus, Electra Glide in Blue, Wanda, etc.

    18. I saw One-Eyed Jacks when it first came out, and thought it was boring, but I was boring then too so maybe it was me.

      Most of the films from your list of one-hit wonders are unknown to me, which I'll rectify.

      Also, if Google's publishing software can be believed (big if) your earlier comment about Kenneth Anger and his lies was the 5,000th comment posted to this blog. Whoopie-ding-dong, as the kids say these days.

  5. Ditto the Brando stories from The Island of Dr. Moreau. He's alternately the hero and the villain, like when he cuts Val Kilmer's ego down to size for the latter's mistreatment of the crew... then manages to mistreat the crew just by being Brando and making them wait in the sun all day while he eats donuts in his trailer and argues about peacock feathers.

    Another documentary that is better than the film it is about (though no one has ever claimed Moreau was good) is "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau." Stanley is of course someone else with a very sparse filmography, which began to grow again with short films and an adaptation of Lovecraft's "Color Out of Space."

    1. Uh-oh. I saw the 1970s Island of Doc Moreau when it first came out, and I liked it.

      But all I've heard about either Brando pr Kilmer is that they're big asswipes. It comes with the money and fame.

    2. I think that was the one with Burt Lancaster as Moreau? I've heard about it (and it's mentioned in the documentary about the '90s one) but I haven't seen it. In the stills he looked pretty much like how I imagined Moreau from HG Wells' story.

      I saw something the other day, a research paper that suggests that people who have enough money that they no longer struggle for survival experience an atrophy in some part of their brain. Too much money literally causes brain damage. But I'm still partial to the theory they're just fucking assholes.

    3. Claude "Sayer of the Law" ReignsDecember 27, 2022 at 9:11 AM

      1932's Island of Lost Souls is still the best Dr. Moreau adaptation. Genuinely creepy and disturbing film.

    4. The 1970s Moreau stars Lancaster, says Wikipedia, and I liked it, says my memory, so I guess I hadn't yet developed my Lancaster allergy.

      On some level, people are nice to each other out of fear, meaning, you don't call a stranger an asshole because he might deck you if you do. Get enough money to build yourself a wall and hire security, and all such ordinary fear is gone. Presto, millionaires become assholes.

      That's part of it, anyway, but I think they start becoming assholes at about $100,000.

      I may have never seen the 1932 version. Let's solve that problem.


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