light sleeper

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 complements my 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.

sudden impact yur ass!

We should all be thankful that we still have Clint Eastwood. The man’s been working for close to 70 years. He’s an absolute legend.

The Hollywood GOAT?

Seriously, think about that. He’s an accomplished actor AND director. It’s a career that will never be topped. Ever.

Many have tried, notably Sylvester Stallone, but it’s just not possible. (To be fair to Stallone though, Eastwood was in much more competent hands earlier in his career between Sergio Leone and Don Siegel).

This being said, Eastwood isn’t the most innovative director. In fact, when he does make a great film, it’s as though he accidentally did so. His two universally acclaimed films, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, are mostly great because of their scripts (same with The Outlaw Josey Wales). Gran Torino appears to be a film with a lasting cultural impact, and while I wouldn’t say it had an outstanding script or direction, the movie works because of Eastwood’s personality, not because of anything he did behind the camera. But I’d say that Eastwood is to filmmaking what Steve Kerr is to the NBA…he’s extraordinarily competent.

Of course, when you go through a stretch where you’re making a movie ever 20 minutes, it’s hard to maintain quality.

Sudden Impact is one of the million Eastwood movies that gets lost in the shuffle. With a story from pioneering independent filmmaker and Arkansas legend Chuck B Pierce, this Dirty Harry sequel has our favorite 44 Magnum carrying San Francisco investigator being more dirty than usual. Eastwood’s then-wife Sandra Locke costars as woman exacting revenge against men who raped her 10 years earlier. I’d say that this is the best Dirty Harry sequel. Nay, this sequel is better than Dirty Harry, a film that defined raw 70s cop dramas.

What makes Sudden Impact so memorable is not the plot, I don’t remember if there was one, or character development or any of that bullshit. No, what makes this film great is watching Eastwood stumble from one scene to the next just absolutely beating the shit out of and shooting everyone. EVERYONE. To top it off, he runs around with a farting bulldog. He also kills a guy by just giving him a heart attack for fucks sake. Eastwood is just a straight up asshole, more so than usual for Dirty Harry. It’s probably that greatest Cannon film not produced by Cannon.

The film feels as though Eastwood didn’t want to return to the role and the only way they could convince him is if they allowed him to direct. And it payed off. Some of the best films made from this period were done when no one gave a shit. But Eastwood’s direction gave this entry an added edge, which is probably why Sudden Impact feels so different from the other Dirty Harry films.

While we still have him, I wish Eastwood would do ONE MORE Dirty Harry film. It’s what we need now more than ever: a 90 year old bastard just blasting the fuck out of bad guys with a 44 Magnum.

Do it Clint!

earthquake with charlton Heston

Los Angeles in the 1970s was a magical time. Actors quit caring about their physique. Producers were blasting cocaine into their brains. George Kennedy was a star. It’s a time that’s never been topped and it never will be.

Out of this era came Earthquake (1974) starring Charlton Heston and a bunch of actors in need of a paycheck (and co-written by Mario Puzo).

As disaster films go, there’s a long buildup to the “disaster”: Heston is bangin Genevieve Bujold, George Kennedy is an absolute asshole, Walter Matthau is a pimp drunk, and so on. It’s all standard stuff. Then comes the 4 hour earthquake where cardboard houses crumble and the people of LA forget how to handle such an event as they fall several stories out of high rises to their violent deaths. It’s delightful.

My only complaint about this sequence is that they didn’t do enough with Richard Roundtree’s part as a daredevil. It would have been pimp if he CRUSHED that obstacle course on his motorbike while buildings crumbled and people died all around him. Oh well.

Honestly, there’s a few good matte paintings here and there. But the standout is Marjoe Gortner’s performance as the sexually confused grocer/wannabe karate instructor/National Guardsman. It’s a performance that was ahead of its time.

The ending is good too: the city is in ruins and none of the personal drama gets resolved (of course, I was barely paying attention at this point).

I think this film provides a good insight into an era where Hollywood quit giving a shit, just as long as everyone made a fuck ton of money.

xXX: Revenge of Xander Berkeley

xXx is a film that came out 10 years too late. Bruce Willis would have fucking CRUSHED the role of Xander Cage.

Think about it: what if it xXx was directed by Renny Harlin or John McTiernan. Now those guys understand what action schlock is all about.

I don’t know why xXx sucks so much. Is it the script? The direction? Is it it’s leading actor?

Vin Diesel is proof that just because you look the part, doesn’t mean that you can play the part. Honestly, he is quietly one of the worst action stars I’ve ever seen. And it’s difficult to pinpoint why that is.

Is it because he’s not traditionally “good looking”? There are plenty of action stars that aren’t considered “good looking.”

Is it because he can’t act? To be a Hollywood leading man, having the ability to “act” is surprisingly low on the must-have list.

Is it because he doesn’t have a sense of humor? I think there’s something to this. I mean, Vin Diesel does have a sense of humor, but the joke is always on someone else and never on the absurdity of his character or the situation he’s in.

Being the butt of a joke is for other characters. Not for him.

Some action stars can get away with this. Steven Seagal for example. But the thing is that Seagal lacks the awareness to understand that he is the joke. Diesel is too smart for that.

So in xXx, Diesel comes across as a fucking asshole that I’m constantly rooting against.

Fuck this movie

lawrence! merry christmas 😀

Damn it! I wish someone hadn’t stolen my copy of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

It’s my favorite holiday movie!

Seriously though, it’s probably my favorite POW film. The first time you watch it, it’s kinda underwhelming. Certainly not the kind of thing you’d expect from the director of In the Realm of the Senses.

But it’s actually one of the rare films that get better the more you watch it.

David Bowie plays a British soldier, Jack Celliers, who is taken captive by the Japanese during WWII. The camp commander, played by Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, becomes obsessed with him. Bowie and Sakamoto, not known for their acting, actually carry the film quite well.

Meanwhile, Tom Conti’s Col. Lawrence and Takeshi Kitano’s Sgt. Hara have a contentious yet mutually admirable relationship.

The emotional highlight of the film is when Lawrence and Celliers get locked up and scheduled for execution. The two confide in each other some of their regrets. We’re shown flashbacks of Celliers high class upbringing and his relationship with his younger brother. Lucky for them, it’s Christmas. Sgt. Hara gets drunk and grants the two of them a reprieve.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” Hara says.

At the conclusion of the film, the shoe’s on the other foot. Hara is a POW yet Lawrence is unable to prevent his execution.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is unusual for a war film in that rather than focusing on death and carnage, it explores human relationships, understanding, love, and regret.

I just wish whoever borrowed my copy would return it 😢

That would make my fuckin Christmas!

100 Girls: was that—a movie?

Kids forget, but there was a time before 9/11.

No one’s proud of it. But it happened.

Evidence for such a decade is the 2000 film 100 Girls. It’s hard to believe they used to make movies like that.

The plot’s pretty simple: some dude in college loses his virginity in an elevator like it’s some big deal. Then he spends the rest of the movie looking for this mystery girl in a dormitory.

His roommate also has a fucked up penis.

If this was a typical boner comedy, it probably would have been standard background noise.

You see, discussions on the differences between men and women used to be “interesting” to people. Not to me though. I thought girls were just boys with vaginas and left it at that. I would know because I’ve definitely seen a vagina. But 20 years ago, people didn’t know that.

So there were things like The Man Show, Kevin Smith films, American Pie, etc. The difference is though, occasionally those things would be funny.

100 Girls attempts to elevate the formula. And the moral of the story is this:

“Girls have boobs. But did you they also have personality? What a revelation!”

*Cue Bowling For Soup.

So be thankful that you live in a time of terrorism, pandemics, catastrophic climate change, massive wealth inequality, and dying democracies.

At least it isn’t the 90’s.

killing james bond

Yo! Respect to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson for killing off perhaps the most important character in film history (spoilers! 🤷‍♂️) Don’t believe that James Bond isn’t the most important? Well without this franchise, we probably wouldn’t have the modern action blockbuster. He was the model for the postmodern, morally questionable hero…before Han Solo, before Indiana Jones, before John McClain. James Bond was doing that shit before everyone.

And now he’s dead.

That takes balls.

I say fuck the fanboys. As Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer said when he was told that he couldn’t kill Spock (paraphrase): “of course you can, as long as you do it well.”

Did they do it well? Don’t know. No Time To Die hasn’t been released in the States yet (they probably didn’t). But I will respect any filmmaker that takes chances.

Audiences be damned.

So where does the franchise go from here? The answer is obvious: HBO Max (or Apple TV, or Netflix, or Amazon Prime, etc). The James Bond Expanded Universe on television is the next logical step.

“But nobody cares about that universe without James Bond

Perhaps. But the good thing about this universe is that the timeline does not matter. Seriously. Does Goldeneye happen before or after the events of Live and Let Die? Does it matter? Is Ralph Fiennes’ M the same as Bernard Lee’s? Does THAT matter?

You see, nothing in the James Bond timeline matters. With the exception of the Daniel Craig films, each film and each actor sort of takes place in its own timeline.

So in this James Bond extended universe, James Bond is still alive because why not?

So is James Bond the main character in this new series? If yes, then the series writes itself.

But if the producers made this dramatic move in No Time To Die just so they can free themselves to explore this universe, here’s my pitch (since Barbara and Michael aren’t taking my calls):

Series name: 00

Characters: Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomi Harris as Eve Moneypenney, Rory Kinnear as Tanner

New characters:

001: (Male, 50-60yrs) An old Irish bastard. Hard hitter, hard drinker. Has been a 00 longer than anyone. Was actually a family man at some point against the wishes of Her Majesty’s Service, but naturally fucked it up. Has been wanting to reconnect with his son for years, but his son wants nothing to do with him.

002: (Male, 40s) Borderline autistic, has no close personal relationships. But make no mistake: this mother fucker can kill. Not much is known about his background.

003: (Female, 20s) the newest member of the service. She was one of the first women to get into the SAS before joining MI6. Fresh off of her first mission, she appears to be experiencing a degree of PTSD. 001 takes her under his wing and treats her as a surrogate daughter to make up for his deficiencies as a father.

004: (Male, 20-early 30s) a total cad. Along with James Bond, he often stays in trouble with M. Not liked by many in M16. A snarky, fratish type.

005: (Female, 40-50s) a seasoned veteran of MI6. There’s no situation she can’t handle masterfully. Often a part of M’s “A-Team”, she gets dispatched on the more difficult missions. The perfect female counterpart of James Bond, an expert seductress.

Recurring characters:

006: Alec Trevelyan (Male, 30-50)-James Bond’s best friend in the service. However, he holds a secret grudge against the British government. Will later be “betrayed” by 007.

007: James Bond (Male, 30-50)- The GOAT.

The Story:

M is ripping one of his agents a new asshole. It’s 001. He’s too old, M says. He’s a drunk and they already have enough alcoholics on the force (James Bond). But there’s still one more mission for 001.

“Don’t cock it up,” says M.

It’s not a difficult mission, but he’s getting a partner: 003. 001 resents this but follows orders. He banters with Moneypenny and goes to Q to gather his equipment. But instead of the flirty charm of 007, he’s cantankerous and crusty. He understands none of the technology that Q gives him.

001 and 003 go through the usual formula: they go undercover, enjoy the finer things in life, go to bed with numerous individuals, and cause plenty of property damage. And they do it with their own spin and charm. However, the mustache-twirling villain has a much bigger plot under his sleeve, one which has international implications.

With the plot spread globally, the mission comes under the direction of Tanner. We are introduced to the other 00 agents and their individual missions in different parts of the world.

But when things start to get real, M has no other choice but to bring in the big guns: 006 and 007. This culminates in 007s supposed “betrayal“ of 006, and while Bond temporarily plays the hero, 001 and 003 overcome their differences to save the day.

The mission is interwoven with the personal drama of 001 and 003.

Bond once said that 00s often have short life expectancies. 001 is aware that he faces death at every turn; the next mission could be his last. And he has been on too many missions. His demise in the season finale will serve as a reminder to 003: death is never an option.

a shot at the title V: the final round

The dailies started rolling in.

Kathrine and I screened the raw, unedited cut with Dick Earnhardt, CEO of Trainwreck Productions. After the 14 hour version was finished, silence fell over the room.

“Sir, I can explain,” Kathrine said.

“Kathy, please leave the room,” Mr. Earnhardt said.

She pushed her chair away from the table and left in frustration. I sat there eating my crackers.

“Pretty good shit, huh?” I said.

Mr. Earnhardt stood up and paced across the room. He took one shot of whisky. Then another. He sat back down at the table facing me.

“I’ve spent $900 million on this production,” he said. “I’ve given you every possible resource, every possible opportunity to see your vision realized.”

Mr. Earnhardt paused.

“Bob Oglesby was a great man. He’s a legend in this town. He believed in you and your talents. He thought that you were going to save this industry,” he continued.

“Damn,” I said as I munched.

“And Kathy has done everything she can to fuck that up,” Dick concluded.

I dropped my crackers.

“Really?” I asked.

“Son, this is my last hoorah. I’ve made so much money that I could bankrupt this county, and have. I’ve banged every prostitute, male and female, from here to Denver. I’ve done every drug that can be taken. I was popping viagra before it was cool to do so. I haven’t done an honest day’s work in 20 years and hope to never do so again. In short: I do not give a shit.”

“So, what are you telling me?” I asked.

“The board wants me out, they say Kathy is the future. This is her production, but I’m in control of the money. So I am giving you a blank check to complete this film in the way you see fit,” Dick stated.

I sat back in my chair.

“In that case, I need $200 million.”

a shot at the title IV: shooting blanks

When Kathrine arrived on set, she was pissed.

“Why are there elves, knights, zombies, elephants, strippers, piñatas, ghosts, conquistadors, clowns, aliens, hot air balloons, ninjas, and Mel Gibson here? What happened to the Nazi storm troopers and decaying dead bodies? I thought that this was a film about the atrocities of World War II?” she asked.

“We wrote another draft,” I said. “It’s now a fantasy film set in the Middle Ages. I thought Dillon told you.”

“That’s it!” she replied. “I’m pulling the plug on this project.”

“But you already spent $430 million on advertising costs alone. The studio will be pissed.”

“James, you listen here,” Kathrine continued. “Do not go behind my back again. I will put you back on the streets.”

She stormed off. I walked up to Pee-Wee.

“What’s on the schedule for today Pee-Wee?” I asked.

“Today we’re shooting the scene where the hero and villain are jousting to save the princess…with their penises.”

So I grabbed a coffee before I started the morning meeting with the cast and crew. Dillon showed up strung out and agitated.

“I got to talk to you about the script,” he told me.

“What’s up?”

“When the princess says ‘you saved me’, the hero has to blast ropes all over her right then, or else he’s just blowing his wad too soon.”

“Dillon,” I said. “We talked about this. The hero has to blast ropes all over the villain. That’s how he defeats him. Or else the script just doesn’t make sense!”

“Well I can’t direct this film if you’re not giving me the creative freedom to do my job?”

“So are you walking?”

“I’m walking.”

And just like that, Dillon was out of the picture. The cast and crew stood around, waiting for direction.

I looked over to the two male leads.

“Welp, Bill (Shatner) and Chris (Pratt),” (But not THOSE Bill Shatner and Chris Pratt). “Whip them dicks out! We’re behind schedule!”

a shot at the title

So I was crying in a corner, just minding my own business when the FedEx guy delivered a letter.

“Have a good day sir,” he said.

“Fuck off”

I opened the letter. It was from Bob Oglesby, Head of Productions at Trainwreck Studios. It read:

Dear Mr. Less

We read your screenplay ‘The Virtues of Drinking Bleach’ and have a few notes. Please reach out to your agent Pablo Dunbar to set up a meeting. We are having trouble reaching him.

Best Regards,

Bill

So I finished crying and called Pablo. When he answered the phone, I heard some screaming followed by gunshots. Then silence.

“This is Pablo,” he said.

“Hey! Bob Oglesby has been trying to reach you. Where the hell have you been?”

“Sorry I’ve been in Thailand on the set of the new Paul Schrader film. I’ll reach out to Bob soon.”

That week, Pablo and me drove out to Burbank. When we arrived at the studio, the doors were locked. Out of the third story window, Bob yelled: “Sorry, I’m the only one here. Everyone has COVID.”

Bob threw down a rope and we climbed up. Then he offered us a Bloody Mary.

“No thanks,” I said. “I just got my one month chip.”

Bob shrugged and downed the drink himself.

“Now boys,” Bob said as he sat down behind his desk. “Let’s get down to brass tacks. We all want to make money. A fuck ton of money. And the only way to do that is to give the audience what they want. And they want sex. They want violence. They want full on sexual penetration. They want erect penises. They want sopping wet vaginas. They want tits. They want ass. They want to see EVERYTHING.

Unfortunately we can’t give that to them. We have to abide by what they call ‘rules’. Plus we have to consider the Chinese market. So we looked at your screenplay and said that this is the next best thing. Therefore, after all the sexual harassment lawsuits are settled, we are fully prepared to give this thing the green light. What do you boys think about that?”

Pablo and me looked at each other.

“Sounds good?”

“Good,” Bob said. “But we have a few notes for you. First, gay sex. There’s a lot of it.”

“I assure you that it’s all in service to the plot,” I replied.

“Oh yes, I noticed,” Bob said. “What I mean is that I want more of it.”

“For the film?”

“Yes”

“So you want more gay sex in a martial arts film set in outer space?”

“Yes”

“Anything else?” I asked.

Bob stood up from his desk and looked out the window. “Boys,” he said, “Hollywood is dying. Too many kids on YouTube drinking cat piss for a laugh. Too much internet pornography. Too much competition from the streaming services. The days of good storytelling, of compelling performances, of sweeping scores, of looking at the silver screen in awe and wonder…they are coming to a close.”

Bob paused and looked me in the eye.

“I’m counting on you to save my job,” he said.

I looked over to Pablo, then back at Bob.

“In that case,” I said. “I’ll have that Bloody Mary.”