1996 Raleigh Rock Comedy "Bandwagon" Now Streaming On Netflix Instant

John Schultz’s 1996 directorial debut BANDWAGON has never been released on DVD, but it’s available now streaming on Netflix Instant.

This is great news as its a hilarious indie mostly locally shot, and features a strong soundtrack with songs by Greg Kendall.

The film focuses on a fictional band just starting out named Circus Monkey – an endearing quartet of indie underdogs played by Lee Holmes, Kevin Corrigan, Steve Parlavecchio, and Matthew Hennessey.

N.C. native Schultz (formerly the drummer for the Connells) enlisted his old band mate lead singer Doug MacMillan to play the band’s zen-like manager Linus Tate.

Many area locations can be seen throughout the film including the Brewery, the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, andthere’s a climatic concert set at the Rialto Theatre.Holmes is the protagonist, an earnest withdrawn guitarist/songwriter who seems to use the name Ann in every song he writes – “So Long (Ann)”, “Ann It Goes”, and the incredibly catchy “It Couldn’t Be Ann” among them.

Holmes meets drummer Hennessey who is working as a clerk at School Kids Records, and before you know it they soon recruit bassist Parlavecchio and lead guitarist Corrigan to join their band.

Corrigan is for sure the most recognizable actor in BANDWAGON as he’s gone on to be in many films and television series including PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, Freaks And Geeks, Community, and UNSTOPPABLE.

The bulk of the film concerns the band taking to the road in a old beat-up van with manager MacMillan in tow.

Circus Monkey’s scrappy misadventures involving a gun, bar brawls, and the object of Holmes’ affection – Ann (Lisa Keller) keep the film rolling from beat to beat.

Despite some stiff acting, BANDWAGON is a thoroughly enjoyable musical comedy that is really nice to see again – I long ago lost my VHS copy of the film so I was thrilled to find out from a friend that it is available via Netflix Instant.

Indie comedy fans as well as rock fans of all kinds should eat it up too.

More later…

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Blu Ray/DVD Review: CATFISH

I missed this film, referred to by some as “the other Facebook movie”, when it played in Raleigh last fall, but just caught it as it’s out now on Blu ray, DVD, and available via Amazon Video On Demand. Netflix subscribers will have to wait until next week (February 1st) to rent it because of that damn studio delay deal.

CATFISH (Dirs. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2010)

There’s a little bit of controversy about this film’s validity, but the film makers who appear as themselves swear that it’s all real.

On the surface it’s a documentary about New York photographer Nev Schulman spending months messaging through texts, Facebook posts, and phone-calls a 19 year old girl he met online.

Nev’s brother Ariel and friend Henry Joost film with tiny hand held cameras the odd, and frankly creepy, relationship which started with a 8 year old mailing a painting she did of a photograph of Nev’s that was printed in the New York Sun.

Nev friends the young girl whose name is Abby on Facebook, then also adds her mother Angela, her father Vince, and sister Megan who all live in Michigan.

Megan, as evidenced by her many photos on her Facebook page, is a pretty blonde and Nev is quite taken with her, that is, until he finds out that an MP3 she sent him if her playing guitar and singing wasn’t her – it was taken from a Youtube clip.

Other claims that Megan made don’t stand up to much scrutiny so the troubled trio decide to fly to Michigan and confront the mysterious teenager and her family.

This is where the story description has to end because to go on would spoil the film’s supposed big twist – the promotional tagline even says: “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is.”

It would even be a Spoiler! to tell you what the film’s title means so I won’t do that either.

It’s more out of respect for potential viewers of this film than for the film itself that I won’t give it away. CATFISH is fairly involving as it builds to the reveal, but it really doesn’t amount to much once it gets there.

It doesn’t have insights into what’s really hidden behind a Facebook profile or what the addiction of connectivity is doing to society, it pretty much only has whining strivers thinking a pathetic situation deserves documentation.

In one of the key scenes the puzzled protagonists approach Megan’s mother’s house. Mark Motherbaugh’s soundtrack music, mostly effective in other places in the film, gets maddening with the same ominous piano key note being hit over and over. It’s an annoying scene that sums up the manipulative methods at play.

If CATFISH is 100% real then it’s much ado about nothing; if it’s scripted and pre-arranged then it’s, well, kinda stupid. These guys aren’t completely without compassion, but their film feels as about as cheap as it looks.

Special features: Only a 25 minute Q & A with the film makers.

More later…

All This And Hamlet 2 – Several New Release DVD Reviews

It’s time to clean out my notebook and post a number of new release DVDs. Enjoy!

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Dir. Marina Zenovich, 2008)

In an early 80’s television interview Roman Polanski, over wine in a ritzy restaurant, casually responds to a question about liking young girls: “Here you come to a concrete case for which I have been behind bars and that’s what you want to talk about”. So begins this documentary examination of one of the most notorious court battles in American history. For those who don’t know, (which I can’t imagine) in 1977 Polanski was charged with statuary rape, among other things, and after a year of wriggling through rigorous red tape he fled the country never to return. If he does attempt to come back he’ll be immediately arrested despite being forgiven by the girl in question (Samantha Geimer) and her mother years ago. Most folks know those basics but what this film lays out is all the particular twists and turns that resulted in the legendary director’s exile and it’s a fascinating and well crafted study that plays at times like a tight legal thriller.

Over 30 years later this is still an ongoing case as just today it was reported that Polanski lost a dismissal bid by the Los Angeles County court system. As we see in tons of TV news footage and vintage photographs, Polanski is small in stature usually sporting a bemused expression under his Beatle-esque mop top. His work though was never small in stature – the classics CHINATOWN, ROSEMARY’S BABY, and his Oscar win for THE PIANIST confirm this. He was roundly criticized by the press after the tragic death of his wife Sharon Tate for appearing to not be in enough mourning for their liking so when this incident broke they had a ferocious field day. This is good news for the film makers here because they never seem to be at a loss for the proper accompanying shot or sound bite to tell the story. Polanski only speaks from footage and interviews from the period but lawyers, press, colleagues, and most interestingly Geimer provide much insight into the complications and frustrations involved.
The film takes its title from a quote from French producer Andrew Braunsberg: “In France he’s desired and in America he’s wanted.” That defines the culture difference that court reporter Richard Brenneman explained best: “The European reporters looked on Polanski as a tragic brilliant historic figure…the American press tended to look at him as this malignant twisted dwarf with this dark vision.” The film only falters when it utilizes scenes from Polanski’s movies to illustrate certain points – it really isn’t necessary to have a clip of Mia Farrow dialing a phone from ROSEMARY’S BABY when somebody talks about getting an urgent call. As the film progresses however, these bits of his filmography are filtered in more effectively and arguably the flavor of his fine (for the most part) work should have a place in this portrait. As intriguing and informative as a documentary can get, this is vital viewing and not just for film buffs though obviously that’s who it’ll most appeal too.
HAMLET 2 (Dir. Andrew Fleming)

Poor Steve Coogan. Like his fellow brilliant Brit blokes Simon Pegg and Ricky Gervais he’s finding it hard to carve out a niche in the American comedy movie marketplace dominated by Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, and the ever present Apatow academy. This didn’t make much of a dent when it came out late last summer but it didn’t matter because Coogan was concurrently rubbing elbows with some of that comic crowd in TROPIC THUNDER (albeit briefly before blowing up). For his starring role in this wannabe indie quirkfest he sure gives a go of it as a high school drama teacher with delusions of grandeur in Tucson Arizona (“where dreams go to die” he laments). When he finds out that the drama program will be cut he stages the improbable sequel of the title in an odd attempt to save it. He cites teacher inspirational movie fare like DANGEROUS MINDS and MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS when trying to connect to his class but there’s very little that’s poetic about his soon to be dead society.

With Catherine Keener as his unsatisfied sarcastic spouse it’s like SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK but with the artistic existential angst replaced with hit and very miss one-liners! Well, not really – I just couldn’t resist the reference. There are a number of genuine laughs throughout but they don’t stack up into anything resembling classic comedy. It’s too broad, only occasionally cutting, and Coogan is so over the top with his character that his antics would make Jim Carrey cringe. The Keener subplot involving a live-in David Arquette (who I keep mistaking for Ryan Gosling) should have been excised completely and the supposed show stopping song “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” frankly isn’t that funny either. Still any movie that has an over eager Amy Poehler assisting Coogan in chewing the scenery and Elizabeth Shue playing herself isn’t a complete waste of time. If only it was named HAMLET 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO – then maybe we’d really have something here.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Dir. David Feloni, 2008)


I guess because I grew up on the original trilogy I feel obligated to see every movie under the STAR WARS banner. Despite the fact I hated the prequels, dislike the video game style of the animation I saw in awful trailers, and all the terrible reviews (it’s at 19% at RottenTomatoes.com) I still put this in my Netflix queue when it dropped on DVD. I know this bloated pilot for the Cartoon Network series is intended to be for children but I watched most of it with my Brother’s 3 kids last Christmas and when I said “hey, it’s 6:00 – should we keep watching or switch to a Simpsons rerun?” They all screamed “Simpsons!” My sentiment exactly for this is a stone cold bore from its opening intergalactic newsreel replacing the sacred scroll to its stock celebratory ending. Somewhere in between there is bland battle after battle with lasers, explosions, close call escapes, and scores of other action that I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for.

Plot you ask? I know you didn’t ask but it’s about Jabba the Hut’s son (who for some odd reason seems based on Truman Capote) being kidnapped and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by James Arnold Taylor and Matt Lanter) being called upon to save him to preserve the Republic or some such. Sounds riveting, right? A new annoying character to the misguided mix is added – Ashley Eckstein as Jedi trainee/weird orange freak Ahsoka Tano. She brings her own brand of obnoxious banter as she calls Anakin “Sky Guy” while she bounces through the confusing tangled terrain of this sci-fi crapfest. The voices of prequel veterans Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee fail to spark the STAR WARS spirit and even a late third act cameo by C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) can’t save this animated abomination. George Lucas should be more ashamed by this than for The Star Wars Holiday Special. Don’t worry I’m not going to claim my childhood was raped but damn, it did cower in the corner for a bit after enduring this.

X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE (Dir. Chris Carter, 2008)


“I’m done chasing monsters in the dark” says former agent now full time Doctor Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and apparently so is X-Files creator/writer/director Chris Carter because this is strangley stripped of the supernatural elements that were the bread and butter of the TV show and the 1998 movie (X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE). There’s no cigarette smoking man , no lone gunmen, and most surprisingly – no aliens. In other words everything that was cool about the X-Files is absent. A bearded Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is yet again needed by the FBI after years of being hunted by them. He’s reluctant at first to help them with the case of several missing women, one of them an agent, but of course he shaves while Anderson dons her best 90’s professional pant suits and they rev up the old trusty X-Files mystery machine van onto a road into the wilderness chasing adventures while blaring Mark Snow’s immortal theme song on their vehicle’s sound system. Okay, I made part of that up because I was so disinterested in what really happened.

It all begs the question – why bring back Duchovny, Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner for a plot that’s just one step removed from an Ashley Judd/Morgan Freeman formula thriller? It doesn’t make sense to just drop tidbits about the not-so superduo’s child and Mulder’s long lost sister instead into diving head first into what fans want and deserve – that is, to actually be X-Files. The first film was creepy fun, this is just creepy. Real life subjects like Duchovny’s addiction to internet porn and the case of Anderson’s missing career * would be more compelling than this. Carter said that if this movie was successful there would be a third film that would deal with aliens and all the conspiracy stuff that this severely lacked. Well, the film bombed but I still hope he’ll make a third one solely to serve as an apology. I wanted to believe that this film didn’t suck but alas, it’s as bad as its title.

* I know that’s a cheap shot. She’s actually been in a few recent notable movies such as THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND and TRISTHAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY with Steve Coogan incidentally.
Okay, so that makes one excellent documentary, a fair only fitfully funny comedy, and 2 franchise failures. Hope my next batch of Netflix envelopes will be much better.

More later…

The Film Babble Blog Top Ten Movies Of 2008

Like last year, I held off making this post earlier because there were several contenders I hadn’t seen yet. It seems my area is the last to get certain movies in current circulation. Also, I still haven’t seen a number of movies I see making other ‘Top Ten’ lists including WALTZ FOR BASHIR, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and FROZEN RIVER among many others that are filling my NetFlix queue right now. Of course, nobody could see every movie in the running so now is as good a time as any to list my favorites. So here’s my Top Ten:


1. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (Dir. Charlie Kaufman)


st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } It got snubbed by the Academy and many critics dissed on Kaufman’s epic tragicomic (as Wikipedia calls it) but I loved every sad sordid symbolic second. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the literally crumbing playwright Cayden Cotard builds sets inside of sets inside a ginormous warehouse recreating New York with New Yorkers and the actors that play them – including him. Joining him is maybe the best female ensemble cast ever assembled for such a movie – Catherine Keener, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Michelle Williams, and the great Diane Wiest. Maybe it was just too cerebral and complex to catch on but I believe time will lay waste to much of the competition while this beyond meta-masterpiece will still stand strong. My original review is right here.

2. WALL-E (Dir. Andrew Stanton)


Such a dark dystopian premise for such a cute heartwarming movie that plays beautifully like sci-fi Chaplin. Wall-E (I’m sure you well know but I’ll tell you again anyway) is a garbage compacting robot left behind on Earth hundreds of years from now who falls in love with a search probe (who by design looks like a large iPod) sent by the Buy N Large Corporation. It doesn’t sound like the sort of stuff that would make one swoon but Pixar yet again proves they can do anything from making rats lovable (and here that extends to cockroaches) to making us believe robots can love. An animated instant classic as my original review proclaimed.

3. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } (Dir. Danny Boyle)


There’s been an odd mini comment war on my original review of this delightful yet edgy Mumbai success story, which goes to show that this was one of the most talked about and vital movies of the year. It’s an amazing spectacle from start to finish with protagonist taking us through his hard knock life by way of a glittery game show – the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. As the comments on my post suggest, some folks couldnt get past the violence or what they thought was an inaccurate cultural depiction but dammit, I thought it was a stone cold blast! I’ll bet (again literally) it’ll win Best Picture at the Oscars.

4. FROST/NIXON (Dir. Ron Howard) Nice to see Opie Cunningham take a break from the dumb DaVinci Codage and revisit his old 70’s stomping ground to take on everybody’s favorite nemesis – Nixon. These were definitely not Happy Days though for the impeached President (played magnificently by Frank Langella) making a $huge$ deal for a series of TV interviews with the slickly ambitious David Frost (Michael Sheen) while in self-imposed exile in California. As riveting as a round in the ring with “The Ram” (see next entry) this showdown scores on every front with ace casting (in addition to the leads – Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall,and Oliver Platt mull about entertainingly), a great screenplay by Peter Morgan (THE QUEEN), and Howard’s best direction in ages. My original review? Oh yeah, it’s here.


5. THE WRESTLER (Dir. Darren Aronofsky) Yeah, it’s true – Mickey Rourke is back and I’ll be surprised as Hell if he doesn’t take

home the gold come February because nobody else literally went to the mat like this! Call it a comeback for Randy “The Ram” Robinson who may be washed up and working at a supermarket estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) while pinning for a stripper (Marisa Tomei) but he’s overdue for redemption even if it means he’s going down for the count. This character is going down in cinema history for sure – read my original review for more gushing about this gritty gutsy grabber of a movie.


6. THE FALL (Dir. Tarsem Singh)


This fantastical visually splendorific film is all the more impressive because it contains no CGI. It’s a colorful joyful ride through fairy tale conventions which, crazily enough, orginates from a tale told in the 1930’s by a injured stuntman (Lee Pace) as a bargaining tool to get a young girl (Catinca Untaru) to break in to their hospital’s sanctuary to steal morphine for him. It’s vivid and emotional in all the right places with folks appearing WIZARD OF OZ style both in real life and the fantasy scenerios. Again you can read my praising review here.


7. THE DARK KNIGHT (Dir. Chris Nolan)


The more you think about it, the more flawed this film is. Batman’s (Christian Bale) exaggerated gravelly voice, ersatz plot elements like ‘hey, what happened to the folks at the skyscraper party after Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhall) was rescued by the caped crusader?’, and the unnecessary Hong Kong subplot (ThePlaylist jabbed some of these complaints funnily enough here). All may rub movie logical minds wrong but what did work here is arguably as good as movies can get. Heath Ledger’s amazing performance as the demented Joker was precision defined while the Gotham grandeur frighteningly filled every frame. Read me clumsily reach for more operatic poetry here.

8. IRON MAN (Dir. Jon Favreau)


Another superhero movie sure, but with Robert Downey Jr. in the metallic title role, Gwyneth Paltrow as the love interest, and Jeff Bridges as his adversary, it’s one Hell of a superhero movie! Downey Jr. is both intense and funny as Tony Stark and the streamlined shiny production surrounding him is perfectly provided by Favreau. Yep, a class action movie as I reported last summer here.


9. THE VISITOR (Dir. Thomas McCarthy) I was elated that Richard Jenkins was nominated for a best actor award for this fine understated Indie movie that many ignored late last Spring (Mind you – I dont think hell win). As a displaced professor who finds 2 illegal immigrants (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Jekesai Gurira) living in his New York apartment and forms an unfortunately brief friendship, Jenkins finds a graceful ingratiating tone and a note that will resonate long after a single viewing. Yep, more here.


10. VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (Dir. Woody Allen)

More than just a fine return to form, the Woodman gives us a lush and lavish look at the loony intertwined coupling that the ladies of the title encounter on their trip abroad. Javier Bardem woos Scarlet Johansen, Rebecca Hall, and what Allen has before called a “Kamikaze woman” – wife Penélope Cruz (she may yet woo the Academy). Were all woo-ed in the end – well, at least I was. Read all about it here.

Spillover:


Again, the ones that didn’t quite make the Top Ten grade but were still good, sometimes great flicks – click on the title for my original review.


PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (Dir. David Gordon Green) A great Apatow-appoved comedy that like the next few titles got the Spillover shaft by my silly blog.


FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (Dir. Nicholas Stoller)


TROPIC THUNDER (Dir. Ben Stiller)


MAN ON WIRE (Dir. James Marsh) Great intense doc in which even the re-creations make for great cinema.


4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS


GRAN TORINO (Dir. Clint Eastwood) It got strangely shut out come award season (which is strange because the Academy loves Clint) but its a strong addition to the Eastwood canon.


SHINE A LIGHT (Dir. Martin Scorsese)


One of the worlds greatest directors filming one of the world’s greatest bands – maybe Im just biased because I was blown away by the movie at an IMAX theater last Spring but I still think itll hold up as one of the best concert films ever in years to come.


W. (Dir. Oliver Stone)

BURN AFTER READING (Dirs. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, 2008) Trivial throw-away Coen Brothers fare still makes for great movie-time in my book – or on my blog that is.


MILK (Dir. Gus Vant Sant) Biopicalicious!


More later…

 

10 Repeated Lines That Define Their Respective TV Series

Though this blog is called “Film” Babble Blog I’ve written about TV shows from time to time because the worlds obviously overlap (Simpsons, SNL, X-Files, etc.). Since this season many folks will be giving and receiving multi-disc box sets of popular programs (most likely of one or more of those listed below), I thought it would be fun to sum up 10 series by repeated lines, both comical and ominous, and sometimes said by more than one character. Oh yeah – these are all from the last 10 years because you know, shows like Seinfeld (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”), Friends (“We were on a break!”), back to ancient Happy Days (“Sit on it!”) reruns and other Nick At Night fare have been pretty covered already on the internets. So here goes:

1. “I’ve made a huge mistake”Arrested Development (2003-2006) This is said by nearly every character in nearly every episode. The stated self realization coming usually in a moment of panicked frenzy defines the rampant disfunction on heavy display. There are a few other choice lines like: There are a few other choice lines like Maebe’s “Marry me”, Michael Bluth’s (Jason Bateman) disapproval of George Michael’s (Michael Cera) plain girlfriend Ann – “Her?”, and my personal pick – Gob’s (Will Arnett) mouthy cover-up of a failed magic trick: “Where did the lighter fluid come from?!!?”

2. “This is the business we’ve chosen.”The Sopranos (1999-2007) Actually this is a quote from THE GODFATHER: PART II. It is repeated in a few variations (“the life we’ve chosen”) by Tony Soprano (James Gandofini) and numerous other mobster buddies and foes. They all worship Coppola’s gangster classics so the quote is both a reference and affirmation of the crew’s code. Honorable mention goes to “all due respect” which is an episode title *. I had originally thought of Tonys (and others) angry “this is how you fuckin’ repay me? line but couldnt find as many examples.


* Also a title of an episode of The Wire funnily enough.


3. “It’s a gift…and a curse.”Monk (2002-present) In the “memorable quotes” section of the IMDb’s entry on this obsessive compulsive disorder detective show every quote is a repeated line including: “Here’s what happened”, “You’ll thank me later”, and “Unless I’m wrong, which, you know, I’m not…” All of which are pretty representative, don’t you think?


4. “You of all people should know that.”Six Feet Under (2000-2005) This line usually spoken by Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) comes in handy when admonishing somebody’s misguided attitude even if it comes off as holier than thou itself. It can also be used as a grounding reminder as when guest star Mena Suvari tells Claire (Lauren Ambrose) “None of us may be here tomorrow. I mean, you of all people should know that.”

5. “And just like that…”Sex In The City (1998-2004) As newspaper sex columnist (bet in todays ecomony that’s not a job that’s very secure) Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker in voice-over often uses this short-cut to describe an abrupt change as in: “And just like that she was a woman again”. It’s even used in the movie released last summer (yes, I saw the damn movie!).


6. “Everybody lies.”House M.D. (2004-present) Pretty much says it all for Dr. Gregory House’s (Hugh Laurie) world view and the show’s thematic thrust, huh? Like Monk there are a handful of repeated lines: “You need a lawyer”, “We’re missing something”, and the odd but handy prognosis: “It’s not Lupus.”


7. “Pretty good. Pret-ty pret-ty pret-ty good.”Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present) Larry David is rarely doing “pret-ty good” in the farcical follies that make up his hilarious HBO hand-held camera comedy and when he is it’s as extremely short-lived experience but the line persists nevertheless. “Hey, let me ask you something” is also often said but it doesn’t bring the voice of David to mind like the “pret-ty good” line. His long suffering wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) has her own repeated query: “Why would you do that?” That question seems to be asked every episode as well.

8. “So, this is how it ends.”Dexter (2006-present) Since this show was just renewed for 2 more seasons the ending isn’t coming anytime soon for blood splatter analyst/serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), but with the myriad of close calls and sticky situations he gets trapped in, it’s sure to make more appearances in his voice-over inner monologues. Possible Spoiler! – It was spoken out loud by one of his victims in season 1, Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) incidentally.


9. “That’s what *she* said!”The Office (2005-present) Yeah, this joke has been around way before this American adaptation of the British work place sitcom made it Michael Scott’s (Steve Carrell) go-to tag-on comeback, but you’ve got to admit that now it is both owned by the show and it says everything you need to know about its delusional lead character.


10. “Ya happy now, bitch?”The Wire (2002-present) I’m only just a recent convert to this gripping gritty cop drama but I’ve come to the understanding this line which was in the first episode of season 1 is Detective Bunk Moreland’s (Wendell Pierce) crusty catch phrase always said to partner James McNulty (Dominic West). Seems to show up on every message board as many fans’ favorite lines so I’m sure as I make my way through the DVDs I’ll soon see why.


Well, that’s that. A lot of shows don’t have definitive repeated lines – unless I missed it my favorite show of the last year, Mad Men, hasn’t had any catch phrases yet and may not as the show moves forward through the 60’s. Anyway, it’s the holidays and I got a Freaks And Geeks DVD boxset as well as more The Wire discs from Netflix a-callin’ me.


So as Krusty the Clown would say: “So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip Top Tet, and a solemn, eventful Ramadan.”

More later…

Paul Newman R.I.P. (1925-2008)

One of the most solid actors to walk the planet in the last century has just left us. I suspect many of my fellow film bloggers out there are too young to truly know the depths of his work so I would suggest filling NetFlix queues with Newmans finest. Undisputed classics such as THE HUSTLER, HUD, COOL HAND LUKE, and Sydney Lumet s THE VERDICT are highly recommended. As are his fun period piece buddy films with Robert Redford – BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and THE STING.

Extracurricular work would include Sydney Pollack s ABSENCE OF MALICE, NOBODY’S FOOL, and MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE. Honestly you can’t go wrong with a Paul Newman movie – even BLAZE and THE TOWERING INFERNO have their merits. He worked with many of the great directors – Alfred Hitchcock on TORN CURTAIN, Robert Altman on BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, Martin Scorsese on THE COLOR OF MONEY (which Newman won the Best Actor Oscar for) and even the Coen Brothers on the unjustly underrated THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (pictured at the top of this post).

His comical side has been overlooked in many of the obits I ve read the last day or so but his appearances on Letterman over the years have been hilarious self-effacing affairs – check out this clip on youtube. Its fitting that his last role was the voice of a 1951 Hudson Hornet Automobile named Doc Hudson in Pixars CARS. Nice that the wee ones will get an intro to Mr. Newman there.

So put some Newmans Own popcorn in the microwave, fire up the DVD player and pay proper tribute to the man.

More Later…

What’s Up With Woody? Case In Point – CASSANDRA’S DREAM

It used to be that a new Woody Allen movie opening was an event. In the summer of 1989 the North Carolina Museum Of Art in Raleigh had a Woody Allen film festival. Every Friday night a different Woody Allen film was shown in chronological order and I went to nearly every one (I missed HANNAH AND HER SISTERS but had seen it already if I remember correctly). It was timed to lead up to the release of CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS that fall. Throughout the 90s Woody Allen movies played at many theaters in the Triangle area, mostly arthouses but some multiplex action too, so it was a bit of a sobering slap to have his latest film be the first one in my lifetime to not play in my hometown of Chapel Hill. I grew up with Allens films – my parents told me that they took me to see SLEEPER at the Plaza theater (now an empty lot) when I was four years old but I dont remember the experience. Of course not, right? Ive seen the movie many times since then so it really doesnt matter. Despite the declining quality of his recent work Im pulling for the Woodman – I believe he can still pull a great movie out of his ass one day. Sorry to say this one, newly released on DVD, aint it:

CASSANDRA’S DREAM (Dir. Woody Allen, 2007)

There is a scene early on in Woody Allens 38th film as director in which the protagonists (Ewan MacGregor and Colin Farrell) in the middle of a discussion in a garage leave the shot while the camera stays still. While the dialogue of their tense talk is still audible they exit into a back room for a few moments then reappear with no breaks; no cuts. It is notable because it is one of the only times, apart from the standard white on black opening credits that is, that this British brothers gone bad thriller feels like an actual Woody Allen movie. As it goes on with the questionable character of their Uncle played by Tom Wilkinson, fresh from his crazily sane (or sanity-driven insanity) turn in MICHAEL CLAYTON, showing up with a out to the brothers financial worries, a few unmistakable Woody Allen themes pop up – jealousy and greed to be exact. A murder movie in the mold of Allens last hit MATCH POINT is the order of the day but since I was in the minority that was unfavorable to that first foray into British societal class crime, I am even less forgiving to this unmoving neo-noir creeper caper.

Comparisons are inevitable to BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD, Sydney Lumet’s thriller also involving corrupt money-mad brothers doomed to fail in matters of finance and family; but this can’t really be considered a copy-cat because production of it was well underway years before that film was forged and it certainly doesn’t have anything in common with its narrative structure. Still it doesn’t bode well that that fine film would so definitively overshadow Allen’s incredibly self-conscious effort to make such an uncharacteristic and cold morality play as this. MacGregor and Farrell put in solid performances that show signs of rehearsing and multiple-take re-focusing but the material they have to work with feels like it came from pages of a first draft with the repetition fat uncut.

Wilkinson energizes the few sweaty desperate scenes he’s in but he acts as if he has secrets he’s not willing to share with the brothers, the audience, and even the movie. The female characters don’t make much of a mark either – as gorgeous as Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins, and Ashley Madekwe are they are just decorations on a boy’s club class project. CASSANDRA’S DREAM, named after a boat the brothers name after a race winning dog at the tracks that doesn’t really have much of a consequence to the movie’s themes, is unfortunately another movie misstep for Woody Allen. In trying to make a movie so unlike any other from his canon he ended up with a film so indistinct that it is instantly forgettable.

Whew! Next Time I’ll Tell you what I really think. This August comes yet another Woody Allen film – VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA which as a Spanish murder movie (that’s just going by the trailer) doesn’t look like a very characteristic work either. The oft repeated line from STARDUST MEMORIES (and real life) was that of his movies folks prefered “the early funny ones” well I’m going to start calling all his filmography before the last decade – “the early good ones”. So for the blogosphere film geek record here’s my list of my top 10 favorites of the early good ones:

Film Babble Blog’s Top 10 Woody Allen Films

1. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989) As the title pretty much states this is a serious drama with a comic subplot. Martin Landau plays a wealthy ophthalmologist whose massive guilt over murdering his mistress (Angelica Huston) puts him in existential turmoil. In the subplot Woody Allen plays a struggling documentary film maker in a bad marriage who pines for a PBS producer (Mia Farrow) while he has to do a fluff piece portrait of a man he despises – a corporate TV bigwig played by a perfectly smarmy Alan Alda. A top notch screenplay filled with great lines like: “Comedy is tragedy plus time” and “Show business is, is dog-eat-dog. It’s worse than dog-eat-dog. It’s dog-doesn’t-return-other-dog’s-phone-calls.”

2. MANHATTAN (1979) Shot in widescreen black and white with a Gershwin score and again a magnificent script this a rich rewarding movie over and over. Relationships, digs at shallow popular culture, pithy party repartee, heart breaking partings, and so on – Allen captures New York in the “Me Decade” like nobody else could. The great cast (Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemmingway, Meryl Streep) all inhabit the material beautifully. Of course again, there are the great one-liners: “My analyst warned me, but you were so beautiful I got another analyst.”

3. ANNIE HALL (1977) Allen’s most popular movie (it won the Best Picture Oscar) is an obvious but crucial choice because it signified a new direction and style after years of silly (but still terrific) comedies. Diane Keaton (who won Best Actress) as the title character and Woody as, well, Woody (actually his comedian character’s name is Alvy Singer) do their crazy chemistry thing over an almost surreal mix of 4th wall breakage, childhood memory revisionism, overlapping comic dialogue, and even animation. “If life was only like this!”Allen says directly to the camera at one hilarious point and yes, I often wish it was.

4. HUSBANDS AND WIVES (1992) Hard to separate this from the real-life break-up of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow but this take on Bergman’s SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE has a lot more going for it than what is now dated gossip. The late great Sydney Pollack, in what is definitely his best performance, and Judy Davis announce their divorce to Allen and Farrow, before their planned dinner out together mind you, and the two couples struggle through crises caught on a shaky cam with odd cuts and a docudrama style. Juliette Lewis as a writing student of Allen says: “Life doesn’t imitate art – it imitates bad TV”; in this film though, art does a pretty good impression of awkward desperate living.

5. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) Smack dab in the middle of the Reagan era and Woody’s Mia Farrow era as well, this is another sweet blend of comedy and drama. A large cracking cast including Diane Wiest, Barbara Hershey, Michael Caine (who won an Oscar for it), Sam Waterson, and Carrie Fisher keep the proceedings lively but Allen on the verge of suicide and getting rejuvenated by a chance midnight moviehouse showing of the Marx Brothers’ DUCK SOUP is why this movie makes the list.

6. THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985) At the movie theater I work at part time one of my co-workers, who has worked at theaters for over 20 years, often remarks that this is his favorite Woody Allen film. Fitting for a projectionist to love a movie that largely takes place in an old 30’s movie palace. One of Allen’s best premises, a character (Jeff Daniels) in the movie within a movie of the title walks off the screen and into the real world of the depression because he falls in love with a woman (Mia Farrow) in the audience. Farrow sighs: “I just met a wonderful new man. He’s fictional but you can’t have everything.”

7. ZELIG (1983) Looking a lot like I am stuck on 80’s Woody Allen, huh? A mockumentary (I don’t care if Christopher Guest hates the term) about a human chameleon played by Allen who can change his form or ethnicity depending on the company he keeps. Through the movie magic of editing and insertion Zelig finds himself rubbing shoulders with key players in early 20th century history – Hitler, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, and James Cagney are among those who convincingly appear in archival footage. Forget the forgery that was FORREST GUMP, and relish ZELIG.

8. LOVE AND DEATH (1975)Woody’s War and Peace! Much headier than the comedies that made his name this was the most ambitious of his early career – an epic period piece with battle scenes and much Foreign film influence but the silliness and rapid-fire jokes ranks this as one of his all time funniest films. Another great pairing with Diane Keaton and yes, another great script. One of many hilarious one-liners: “There are worse things in life than death. If you’ve ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman, you know what I’m talking about.”

9. DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (1997) The last great Woody Allen movie IMHO. It is different terrain with vulgarity, profanity, and depravity and that’s just what comes out of scorned lover Judy Davis’s mouth! Woody Allen plays Harry Block, rumored to be based on author Philip Roth, who takes everyone’s suffering and turns it into literary gold, as his ex-wife says. His creations catch up with him and he takes a look back at his parasitic existence with help from a large cast featuring Robin Williams, Billy Crystal (as the Devil!), Richard Benjamin, Demi Moore, Tobey McQuire, and a clever cameo by Mariel Hemmingway. Maybe the most acerbic and divisive film of Allen’s career.

10. TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN (1969) I have a soft spot for this one because it is the first Woody Allen movie I remember seeing as a kid on television. Maybe one of the first mockumentaries it tells the story of Virgil, a petty thief who goes from heist to the slammer again and again. Essentially a series of sketches filled with patented one-liners and sight gags, it remains one of my favorites of his early funny ones because of the sheer amount of material that works. I saw it again recently on TCM and it still holds up. Virgil on meeting his wife (Janet Margolin) for the first time: “After fifteen minutes I wanted to marry her, and after half an hour I completely gave up the idea of stealing her purse.”

Okay! Now, there are a number of other Woody Allen films I love and recommend as well (like BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, RADIO DAYS, and SLEEPER) but that’s my top ten. Maybe this’ll encourage some young novice film geek to put some of the Woodman’s work in their NetFlix queue.

More later…

R.I.P. Sydney Pollack (1934-2008)

“I don’t value a film I’ve enjoyed making. If it’s good, it’s damned hard work.” – Sydney Pollack

Earlier this evening I was working my part-time job at the Varsity theater here in downtown Chapel Hill and overheard a few folks in the lobby talking about OUT OF AFRICA for some reason. I almost said “Best Picture Winner, 1985” in a silent space between their comments about how much they loved it. I caught myself because well, I wasn’t really a part of their conversation and I didn’t want to broadcast my film geekery to total strangers for no real reason. And maybe because I’d never seen the movie. That’s right, I’ve never seen OUT OF AFRICA. Spouting out trivia, especially a uninvited comment, about a movie I’ve never seen just seemed to be such an uncool move (and still does) so I’m glad I kept my mouth shut.

So, it was a bit of a shock to get home and find out from a fellow blogger that the director of said film Sydney Pollack, who has had his hand in over 40 movies as either director, actor, or producer (or all three), has shuffled off this mortal coil at age 73. Now, I’ve seen his movies all my life but can’t honestly say he’s one of my favorite directors ever. In fact in a post from last year – “Clooney Is The New Redford & 5 Pivotal Sydney Pollack Parts” I wrote that “I like Sydney Pollack as an actor more than I do as a director”. I still stand by that statement but have enjoyed a few of his films as director including THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR *, TOOTSIE, and ABSENCE OF MALICE. The news of his death hasn’t fully spread yet – the IMDb hasn’t even reported it yet but then this is a holiday. I’m sure tomorrow the mainstream media and the film bloggosphere will be filled with Pollack tributes. I’m looking forward to the appraisals from film folks better qualified in terms of Pollack than me and the reactions from his colleagues in the days to come. Well, I’m going to go put OUT OF AFRICA in my NetFlix queue and maybe add his last film which I had been curious about before – the documentary SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY (2005). Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

*By the way, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975), which incidentely is my favorite Pollack film, is on TCM at 1:30 AM tomorrow night. Do yourself a favor and DVR it if you haven’t seen it.

R.I.P. Sydney Pollack

More Later…

New DVD Diatribes For A Dreary Rainy Day

Yep, a few NetFlix envelopes torn open and their contents digested on a cloudy drizzly May day goes somethin’ like this:

MY KID COULD PAINT THAT (Dir. Amir Bar-Lev, 2007) Is Marla Olmstead just a regular 4 year old who likes to paint or is she a artistic genius on the scale of the great masters? Bar-Lev’s documentary filmed a few years back follows the Olmsteads – a family from Binghampton, NY whose youngest daughter’s abstract canvasses cause a sensation in the art world. Her paintings are sold for thousands attracting media attention and then controversy. A 60 Minutes piece claims that Marla’s father (Mark Olmstead) actually coached the work out of her or actually produced the paintings himself. This is where the narrative arc becomes “a story about a story” as Elizabeth Cohen (the columnist who first broke the original story of Marla as child prodigy) says. Parents Mark and Laura Olmstead are outraged at the accusation that they are exploiting their child and attempt to prove that Marla is the sole author of her work by filming her with a hidden camera. The plot thickens even more as filmmaker Bar-Lev has growing doubts and voices them, at first alone to his camera in the car driving from the Olmstead home then directly to the parents in an extremely uncomfortable but still compelling scene in their living room.

The cleverly named MY KID COULD PAINT THAT is one of the best of the current crop of documentaries and one that leaves you guessing about what really went down much like CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS or the more recent THE KING OF KONG. Having been introduced to these folk through these visual essays, whether or not they are balanced portraits, we can follow up through the further internet coverage and make our own conclusions. In Marla’s unique case we are shown many of her paintings and much footage of her at work. Her father Mark does seem to have a controlling influence and her work when filmed on her own appears to be different by style and method to the previous examples. Mark Olmstead also seems overly defensive and makes some ‘digging a hole’ type comments like: “I don’t want this documentary to be about 60 Minutes although everybody wants to talk about 60 Minutes but I’m not! Because I don’t talk about it ever until you guys are around!” Still, as Bar-Lev sensitively stresses through-out the film Marla and her family seem like nice people who got caught up in the craziness of modern art marketing and manipulation. It’s hard not to have sympathy for their situation but if the attacks on the arts authorship have truth to them it’s pretty damning nonetheless. Mother Linda at a frustrated moment says “documentary gold” right before tearfully walking off camera – she says it extremely sarcastically but it may be the most truthful remark made in this movie. When Marla comes of age it will be interesting to hear what she says about her parents and painting dominated childhood – a prospect that I’m sure Bar-Lev is looking forward to.

CONSPIRACY (Dir. Adam Marcus, 2008) I’ve been working on a book about conspiracy movies for some time so I feel obligated to see every such related movie so it’s obvious why this made my NetFlix queue. A quasi-remake of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK this awful unimaginatively titled film features a chunky Val Kilmer acting as wooden as possible returning from Iraq to seek out a fellow soldier friend from the war. He travels to a town in the South West which is being re-built as a corporate-run old timey tourist trap by an evil millionaire played by the slimily charming Gary Cole. Kilmer, suffering from constant over dramatic Iraq flashbacks, finds that his friend is missing and everybody is mum on the subject and of course that Cole wants him out of town. One cowboy hatted cliché even says: “ Throw in local hottie Jennifer Esposito, a Keystone cluster of corrupt cops, the most predictable shoot-outs this side of YOUNG GUNS II and the result is craptacular.

Cole, an under-rated actor (TALLADEGA NIGHTS, OFFICE SPACE, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE), is the only one who seems to be having fun with his hackneyed character. His smirking scene stealing makes me think that they should have handled this material satirically. Kilmer can do comedy too, as his performances in TOP SECRET, THE REAL McCOY and even in his overblown impression of Jim Morrison in THE DOORS (well, I laughed) attest so really I wish they had gone that route. Instead all we have is this predictable retread through the leftover plot devices of the before mentioned BAD DAY… mixed with the lowbrow aesthetics of the WALKING TALL series and severely sucky remake. As a lover of both good and bad conspiracy themed movies I couldn’t even make counting the clichés a fun game with this being just downright dreadful and well deserving of its Direct-To-DVD status.

I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH (Dir. Jeff Garlin, 2006)

Garlin’s debut as triple threat leading man, writer, and director is somewhat slight but like Garlin himself – it’s a lovable schlub of a movie. Best known as Larry David’s manager Jeff Green on Curb Your Enthusiasm Garlin has a long list of credits in comedy and casts lots of longtime buddies from his Second City days and sitcom background in this film. Garlin plays a guy not unlike himself – had he never left Chicago and lived with his mother (Mina Kolb – an original Second City Player). He hears about a remake of the classic Ernest Borgnine movie MARTY, a film he’s convinced he’s perfect for, and pines for an audition. He meets a quirky ice-cream parlour clerk played by comedienne Sarah Silverman and he pines for her too. Then there’s Bonnie Hunt as a “chubby chaser” school teacher (as Amy Sedaris labels her in a nice cameo) who actually may be a more sensible choice for Garlin. That’s about it for what we’ve got here plotwise but Garlin makes it a breezy affable affair at an economical 80 minutes with a nice helping of heart.

I’m glad that I watched MARTY (Dir. Sydney Lumet, 1956) for the first time not long ago. I think it’s the definitive good, not great, movie to win the Best Picture Academy Award. Garlin’s I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH references MARTY so often that it posits itself as a companion piece. It indeed would make a good double feature. If you want to make it a triple feature throw in John Candy in ONLY THE LONELY (1991) – another film about a frustrated fat man that owes something to Ernest Borgnine’s turn. I, like many, can relate to Garlin’s struggles with his weight, love-life, and crumbling career. The tone and timing with so many recognizable comedy folk including Dan Castelletta (Homer Simpson!), Tim Kazurinsky (SNL in the 80’s), and Richard Kind (Mad About You, Spin City), all hitting their marks is right on the money – and I mean the low budget money. Jeff Garlin says on the commentary that he feels he made a good, not great movie. He’s right – like the movie he’s giving props to (MARTY of course) it is good and while it would never get an Oscar I’m sure it’ll gain a lot of fans. Now I’m gonna go check out if I have any cheese…

More later…

A Birthday Tribute To Orson Welles With 10 Welles Wannabes

“I’m not very fond of movies. I don’t go to them much.” – Orson Welles

Tomorrow is Orson Welles’ birthday (May 6th, 1915). Since he died of a heart attack hunched over his typewriter in Los Angeles in 1985 his legend has grown immensely. The accolade “cinematic genius” as well as sayings like “larger than life” feel like they were coined for him. CITIZEN KANE still tops critics’ lists, including mine, of the greatest movies ever and the rest of his fascinating filmography (what’s available, that is) is both passionately studied by scholars and enjoyed by movie-lovers by the millions. Along with his birthday there are also a few notable anniversaries this year to pay tribute to – the classic thriller TOUCH OF EVIL turned 50 a few weeks back (it was released on April 23rd, 1958), his magnificent MACBETH hits 60 (Oct 1st, 1948), and this Halloween will be the 70th anniversary of the famous War Of The Worlds broadcast (Oct. 31st, 1938) that put Welles’s name on the media map.


Since, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I thought it would be fun to look at Orson Welles as played by others. Many films and television shows – both live action and animated, have had actors portray the mighty moviemaker. IMDb even lists a separate page: Orson Welles (Character). Some of course pull off the impression better than others but they are all amusing attempts to capture the offbeat charm of one of the most well known figures of the 20th Century. So let’s take a look at the men who would be KANE:


10 Orson Welles Wannabes

1. & 2. Maurice LaMarche & Vincent D’Onofrio – Why am I listing 1 & 2 together? Because LaMarche and D’Onofrio have both played Welles more than once and one time they played him together! LaMarche, a gifted mimic, has provided his pitch perfect approximation of Welles’ voice to The Simpsons, The Critic, and his character of the Brain on the cult favorite cartoon Pinky And The Brain is heavily based on Welles. D’Onofrio who has a striking resemblence to Welles also played him in the short film FIVE MINUTES, MR. WELLES but in Tim Burton’s 1994 tribute to the twisted filmmaker ED WOOD, D’Onofrio appears with LaMarche’s voice dubbed in – that’s right it took two people to play Orson Welles. Tempting to make a fat joke here but I’ll let it go. Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) spies Welles sitting at a table in a bar nursing a cocktail, smoking a cigar, and working on pages of a screenplay.

Wood introduces himself to Welles and shares his movie production frustrations with Welles who sympathizes offering: “I’m supposed to do a thriller at Universal, but they want Charlton Heston to play a Mexican. It’s a good line but highly inaccurate – Heston insisted on Welles directing the project which was TOUCH OF EVIL but this doesn’t marr the scene. Wood’s meeting with Welles is relevatory to the aspiring director – the light of inspiration that glows in his face when Welles tells him: “Ed, visions are worth fighting for, why spend your life making somebody else’s dreams? is a nice touching effect. Burton pulls off a bit of movie magic – for a brief instance we have Welles back and it’s the young robust Welles not the bloated wine swigging caricature that most people think of when his name is dropped. Watch the scene on YouTube.

3. Angus Macfadyen in CRADLE WILL ROCK (1999) Far from as convincing as D’Onofrio & LaMarche, MacFadyen does have plenty of Welles’s theatrical flair as he moves like a storm through Tim Robbins’ romantised re-creation of the world of the theater in 1930’s New York. Based on the true story of a troubled production for the Federal Theater Project, Welles with the aid of John Houseman (more accurately portrayed by Cary Elwes) he fights to get the play of the title staged. Macfadyen does at key moments have the right Wellesian swagger though as Roger Ebert, a huge Welles scholar himself, wrote “Welles comes across as an obnoxious and often drunken genius in a performance by Macfadyen that doesn’t look or sound much like the familiar original.” Very true and also Macfadyen is too Scottish for the part too. Still though in the context of Robbins’ fine film he somehow makes his Welles work.

4. Liev Schreiber in RKO 281. This a bit of stretch but a tasty one. This telefilm made for HBO tells the story of the making and aftermath of CITIZEN KANE. Schreiber is in way over his head for the role and the facts are fumbled with ferociously. Still, the talented Schrieber does a fair impression of Welles speaking voice though only when imitating his soft spoken tones. RKO 281 (named after KANE‘s studio issued working title) is so littered with annoying inaccuracies and cheesy cliches that Welles expert (and longtime friend) Peter Bogdanovich said that it “was poorly acted by just about everybody” and that It had about as much connection to the Orson Welles I knew as the man in the moon. Ouch! Okay, let’s move on…

5. John Candy on Second City TV (1976-1979) – Of course the obvious reason that Candy was cast as the later day Welles in many SCTV sketches is his ginormous girth. He didn’t really look like him facially and his voice doesn’t quite sound like him but the material was funny and Candy could definitely bring the battered bombast. Check out this clip of Candy as Welles in a bit based on a tape of Welles recording a British frozen-peas audio advertisement (which you can listen to here).

6. Eric Purcell in MALICE IN WONDERLAND – I haven’t seen this TV movie from 1985 about the gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper played respectively by Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Alexander. Obviously I can’t judge Purcell’s performance – nor can I find any info about it online but I’m including it here because the film has Tim Robbins as Joseph Cotten! Maybe it’s just me but that sounds like pretty juicy casting. Anybody out there seen it?

7. Danny Huston in FADE TO BLACK (2006) – Another I haven’t seen but did locate the trailer. Judging from the preview Huston doesn’t really seem to have the Welles vibe going. That’s only based on 1 minute 46 seconds of footage mind you. From one of only a few reviews that are online of this British production set in Rome, Xan Brooks of the Guardian U.K. writes: The role of one great director falls to Danny Huston, the son of another, who comes weaving through the action with his theatrical bearing and disreputable air, a cigar between his teeth and his pockets rattling with slimming pills; every inch the faded Hollywood idol. Sounds like it may be worth a viewing – that is if it were available on NetFlix.

8. Paul Shenar in THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA – I saw this TV movie years ago and I do recall that Shenar did a pretty decent job of mimicing the master. He should also get props for being the first actor on film to play Welles. Dramatising the historic War Of The Worlds broadcast inside and out this sadly isn’t available on DVD but I hear that it pops up on TV from time to time. That’s good ’cause I’d love to see it again.

9. Christian McKay in the upcoming ME AND ORSON WELLES – Richard Linklater’s next film (set for 2009) like CRADLE WILL ROCK depicts the theatrics both onstage and off of Orson’s literally go-for-broke 1930’s lifestyle. McKay has portrayed Welles on stage and the word is that he has got the delusion of grandeur goods. Of McKay’s performance in the Broadway production of “Rosebud: The Lives Of Orson Welles” The Daily Telegraph wrote: “Christian McKay plays this celluloid colossus to perfection… anticipating the many facets of Welles’ personality that then sparkle through the show… The stories are so fantastical and various that Rosebud would mesmerise someone unacquainted with his work as much as a film buff. The arc of his career, from overachieving wunderkind to an overweight clown who endorsed frozen peas in television commercials, has the simplicity of classical tragedy and makes for compelling theatre.” Since Linklater is one of my favorite current directors and Orson is a ongoing obsession for me I’ll be really looking forward to this one.

10. Jean Guérin in HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994) – It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie and to be honest I don’t remember Guérin as Welles in it. He makes the list because he also played Welles in LA VENGEANCE DE LA FEMME EN NOIR (1997) – another film I haven’t seen and can find very little info on. Sigh.

There you go – 10 Orson Welles impersonators. It should be noted that Linklater’s film isn’t the only Orson related activity on the horizon. Reportedly Peter Bogdanovich is looking to finish work on one of Welles last films – THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. The excellent site Wellesnet has this insightful article about the project.

That’s all for now – Happy Birthday Welles wherever you are! Such a great if compromised career – from Martians to the Muppets! Hope you’re grandly laughing it up at the great moviehouse in the sky.

More later…