Speaking of movies that I had no business watching as a kid…infamous sex pervert Roman Polanski’s Frantic is another forgotten gem.
I saw it around the same time as Paris, Texas and it came on HBO after school. I also watched it for the same reasons as Paris, Texas (thought I’d see some titties, but only saw side boob and Harrison Ford’s pubic hair).
I’m not a huge fan of Polanski, but he can manage to maintain your attention although nothing is happening on screen. The first 30 minutes are just Ford and his wife at a hotel in Paris. Then Ford takes a shower and his wife goes is missing.
This is one my favorite sub genres: an everyday man has to traverse an unusual circumstance, in this case exploring the seedy underbelly of Paris in order to save the day.
I wouldn’t say the film was entirely successful. The ending was kinda underwhelming. But I enjoyed the hazy cinematography mixed with Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack. And the this might be Ford’s finest hour as he plays the perfect fish-out-of-water Everyman.
I usually talk shit about the French, but they know how to do noir.
Here we are! The conclusion to Pennies For The Dead.
I’m sorry that you’ve read this far 😔
I instantly wasted 5 bullets.
Sadly, I had to borrow a weapon from Pete. And let me tell you: it ain’t easy killing demons with a pocket knife.
In the midst of the mayhem, I lost track of Jezebel. “She escaped to the roof!” Pete yelled while decapitating a goblin.
I sprinted up the stairs to the very top of this 666-storied building. I was out of breath when I reached the roof. Jezebel was waiting.
“Your pathetic little weapon will do nothing to me,” she said.
“That’s not the first time I’ve heard that,” I replied.
Above the roof, Jezebel was opening a portal to Earth where all the spirits of this evil domain could trespass. I was running out of time. So I rushed Jezebel with the knife.
As I leapt towards her heart, she blocked my movement, knocking loose the pocket knife.
I was on the ground. Powerless. Jezebel laughed. “What a weakling,” she said as she put her pitchfork up to my neck.
“If you kill me,” I asked Jezebel, “where am I gonna go? I’m already in hell!”
“If you think it’s bad here, wait till I send you to Bridgeport!”
I closed my eyes in preparation for eternity. Then thunderbolts rained down on Jezebel. While Joe unleashed his unholy powers from the staff, Pete went absolute apeshit on Jezebel with his machete. This severely damaged her powers, thus closing the portal.
With her powers nearly drained, Jezebel stood at the edge of the roof. “Halt!” I yelled before Joe could make the final kill shot. “Jezebel still possesses Sheila’s body.”
I looked deep into Jezebel’s eyes. I could still see Sheila. “Sheila,” I pleaded, “I know that we never had sex because of my undiagnosed ED. I know that I’d often disappear into the bathroom and leave you with the bill. I know that I’d also clog the toilet and blame it on the cat,” I said, “but I also know that I love you and you should probably attend AA.”
Right then, Jezebel began to spastically writhe on the ground. The evil spirit departed Sheila’s body, and there alone stood a defeated Jezebel.
With one bullet left, I pulled out the .38. “Back to where you belong Satan: Massachusetts.”
I pulled the trigger.
The flash from the barrel echoed throughout Hell. In a puff of smoke went Jezebel.
I couldn’t believe it.
“Is she gone for good?” I asked Joe.
He looked out to the horizon. “We defeated her for the time being,” Joe said. “But the devil is never really gone. Where Jezebel resides now is in a hell of her own making, a place so unfathomable that God himself wouldn’t dare set foot. So Norway probably.”
I walked over to an unconscious Sheila. I kneeled down to awaken her. “What happened?” she asked.
“Just a temporary demonic possession. Nothing to worry about,” I said.
Sheila stood up and looked down to the sprawling city below. “Where are we?”
“Try me, asswipe!” she replied. Then I pumped a few bullets into her chest.
“Alright, so I guess you’re Jezebel,” I said. “Where’s Pete?”
“His soul resides in HELL for all eternity!!!!”
“Good, he’s a Boston sports fan,” I said, “he needs to know how that feels.”
“You will join him soon enough!”
“Sorry sister, I already live in Ohio.”
I pulled the trigger again but I already emptied the revolver. I threw the gun at her and started running down the hallway while screaming for my life.
I hid in the closet under the staircase. Of course, it didn’t take long for her to find me. Using her demonic powers, Jezebel began to eat my soul. I started praying. “God, I regret everything,” I said.
Then God responded. Thunderbolts began raining down on Jezebel from some unseen force and she retreated into the shadows. I was still alive.
I crawled out from the closet. In front of me stood a wizard-like figure dressed in white robes and holding a staff.
“Thank you Jesus,” I said.
“I’m not Jesus,” the figure replied. “I’m Joe Morris.”
I stood up. “Joe Morris? Shouldn’t you be 120 years old?”
“119 to be precise.”
Then Pete ran down the hallway. “Ty! I’m still alive!” he said.
“I thought you went to hell,” I replied.
“I did. It ain’t such a bad place. I got to meet Dave Cowens.”
“He’s still alive dumbass.”
“Are you sure? By the way, did you piss your pants?”
“I did. It’s a side effect of my elavil prescription. Where did Jezebel go?”
“She went back to hell to lick her wounds,” Joe Morris said. “We must go to the cellar, return to hell, and make sure she never returns.”
“Fuck that,” I said. “This ain’t my problem. I’ll just collect the money from Dorthy and be on my merry way.”
Right then, a possessed Dorthy flew down from the ceiling and attacked me. While I fought her off, Joe Morris released more thunderbolts from his staff. Finally, she flew off of me and began writhing on the ground before whatever cursed spirit that possessed her left her body. Dorthy was dead.
“Mother!” Pete screamed.
“She hasn’t been your mother for a long time,” Joe said.
I took a moment to gather myself.
“Alright,” I said, “I need to change my pants before we go to the cellar,”
I quietly hoped that Pete lived a lonely, miserable life. He never mentioned anything about a spouse. His mother was barely cognizant of his existence. Honestly, he seemed to be a stupid sack of shit and nobody would have missed him.
But I didn’t want anyone reporting his disappearance. What would I have told the police? That he was sucked into some black hole in the middle of the woods?
I had to find Pete. And finding Pete probably led to solving the mystery of Joe Morris’ death.
Actually, I could have walked away from this entire thing and no one would have been the wiser. But I knew the spirits were listening in. I had to get to the bottom of this thing before they got to me.
I picked up the spirit box. “Listen here, damn you,” I said, “I know you can hear me. I want some answers! Where’s Pete? Who’s Jezebel?!”
The spirit box began scanning through the channels before spitting out “suck.my.penis.”
That’s it, I thought. I reloaded the .38 and went back to the Morris Estate.
It was 12:30am. I pounded on Dorthy’s door. “Is it the milk man?” I heard her ask. “Come in!”
I opened the door and there was Dorthy playing Trivial Pursuit alone. “Damn it Dorthy!” I said, “I need answers! Who’s Jezebel?!”
“Jezebel? She’s been dead for 20 years.”
“Records say she died in 1951. Stop jackin me around!” I pulled out the .38. I meant business.
The candles around the aged mansion began to flicker. Random objects started to move: books flipped open, mirrors were rattling, the record player was blasting Lionel Richie’s ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’. Dorthy meanwhile went into a trance. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she backed up into the shadows.
I turned on the spirit box. “Alright Jezebel! I know you’re on to me,” I said. “Talk to me! Let’s settle this thing!”
Suddenly the doors flew open. A woman floated into the room. Her eyes were as dark as night.
I lifted the .38.
But it was Sheila.
“Sheila, you’re drunk,” I said. “Go home!”
“I am not Sheila,” the demonic voice said. “I am Jezebel!”
Before his James Bond got blown to shit on some rooftop on a Japanese island in No Time To Die (sPoIlEr AlErT!), Daniel Craig was in what is perhaps the greatest British film ever made: Layer Cake.
While every actor (except Tom Hardy) acts their ass off and every line of dialogue is an absolute banger, the film is perhaps best known as a turning point in film history: introducing the world to Daniel Craig’s god-like body.
Daniel Craig was blessed with being able to make whatever he’s wearing look like it was tailored specifically for him. He spends much of the film wearing the same plain gray raglan t-shirt with Levi’s…an outfit that probably costs $50 total, but it looks like he’s modeling Brioni.
I couldn’t pull off that look. I tried.
Another thing Craig succeeds at is showing his “sex” gaze:
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m happily married now because I mastered that gaze. Now personally, I like to use the Sean Connery method of tilting my head forward, arching an eyebrow, and smiling with my eyes. But every man has to master the “sex” gaze, to knock em dead with one look, if they want to be successful with the ladies (or the fellas).
That haircut is pretty good too. It’s definitely a 60’s style throwback, echoing the aforementioned Sean Connery and his toupee during his James Bond tenure. Unfortunately I’m a balding man, have been since I was 13, so I was never able to pull off that style. But because I’m balding, I’m sort of an expert at spotting hair plugs. And Craig, in my humble opinion, probably has hair plugs. That being said, I’d pay good money to find out who his specialist is.
Another thing on Craig’s style is that pimpin purplish/maroon jacket he wears to start the film:
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: no man has ever looked as good on film as Daniel Craig did in Layer Cake.
“We get it, you’re in love with Daniel Craig. But what about the film?”
On the Mount Rushmore of cokeheads, Paul Schrader is between Dennis Hopper and Phil Specter (along with Stevie Nicks of course). Which is why I was excited to see Light Sleeper available to watch on Amazon Prime.
It’s definitely not a perfect film. Willem Dafoe plays an aging drug delivery boy employed by Susan Sarandon who runs into an ex flame which leads him to shoot up a hotel room (we’ve all been there). It’s a movie that should have been fleshed out more. The climax (the shooting up of a hotel room) didn’t quite pay off, and the sudden romantic interest between Sarandon and Dafoe in the end was odd, but there’s a lot of other things going for the film.
The sanitation strike, which played in the background and was often juxtaposed against the high class NYC lifestyle, was a nice touch. But the desperation of Dafoe’s character is absolutely heartbreaking.
I get what that’s about.
Dafoe is aimless. He wanted to be an actor, model, musician, and writer. His best years were spent strung out on drugs. Now he’s 40 and lacks focus.
Subtlety, Sarandon is in a similar position. She plays the boss but she knows the gravy train is about to leave the station. She thinks she’s some NYC hotshot, but by looking at her shitty apartment, she’s probably on the outside looking in.
Now that I type that out, suddenly Dafoe and Sarandon’s abrupt romantic interest becomes apparent: they’re both losers and now they have to settle for each other.
The soundtrack is incredible, for both good and bad reasons. The music itself is great. Where it goes off the rails is the damn singing. The visuals are powerful enough that you don’t need to be told how Dafoe’s character is feeling. Anybody could have written those lyrics. For example (in the style mimicking Bruce Springsteen):
I am walking down the street at night
I run into my ex girlfriend
We get into a little fight
I feel so sad that I just might
Stalk her at her mom’s funeral
Then she gets sad as well
Then we reconnect and start to kiss
She complementsmy erection
Then she tells me that she’s sopping wet
So we fuck all night then tells me to leave
Then I find out she’s back on drugs
Then she jumps out a window to her death
So I buy a gun from Puerto Rican man
Then I ride in limo with Susan Sarandon
Then I shoot up a hotel room
(Lyrics by Michael Been)
Despite all of that, this is a nice forgotten gem from the mind of Paul Schrader.
For whatever reasons, I’ve recently went through a David Fincher binge. And it occurred to me: I’m not a fan of his work.
That being said, The Game and Panic Room are his two best movies. Alien 3 is probably better than you remember. Se7en is alright.
Everything else is overrated. This includes Fight Club.
But The Game surprised me. It reminded me of one of my other favorite films: Roman Polanski’s Frantic. It’s hard to pull off these kinds of movies…watching a character descend into madness while information about what’s actually going on slowly leaks out.
Honestly, The Game doesn’t completely pull it off. Fincher’s visual style and Michael Douglas’s performance carry the film. But to completely enjoy it, one must ignore large plot holes and read more into subtext than what was probably intended (I assume).
I thought that Douglas’ character was suffering from the same madness that his father had and the ending indicated that “the game” was still being played. But I have the suspicion that this open ended interpretation bails out the script. In other words, Fincher’s direction saves the day.
As for everything else on Fincher’s resume, he seems to suffer from the same problem that Ridley Scott has: all style and the substance is overstated.