“Layer Cake”: Britain’s finest hour

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:

Sorry, this is the best screenshot I could find.

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?”

Oh yeah, the film’s good too.

another shot at the Title (part iv)

“Are you sure you don’t want to do another take?” Christian (Bale) asked.

“Nope, one is enough,” I said.

Jimmy Del Greco spoke up. “Chris is right,” he said. “You need to do more takes. At the rate we’re going to be seven months ahead of schedule.”

“Hey Jimmy,” I replied, “the donuts are over there. Why don’t you manage the crew while I handle the directing, okay?”

“Do another fucking take,” Kat interrupted. “We’re already $3 billion over budget. We built sets, you rewrote the script, tore the sets down, and now we’re in Bidwell Park with a one-man cast, no sets , and a minimal crew. We could’ve shot this thing for $1 million! Let’s get our money’s worth out of this thing!”

“Kat,” I replied, “you’re the money person, I’m the artist. I know what I’m doing, mmmk? Trust the process.”

Pee-Wee the Production Assistant came running up to me. “Dallas San Antonio Houston is here to see you sir,” he said.

“Thank you Pee-Wee. You’re the only one that listens around here.”

I excused myself to the production trailer. Dallas was pacing back and forth. “What the hell is going on?” he asked.

“Relax Dallas,” I said. “Take a seat.”

I offered him a glass of brandy, which he declined. I drank both glasses myself.

Dallas was livid. “Why is a 350lb Christian Bale running around naked in Bidwell Park?” he asked. “This was supposed to be a courtroom drama. My magnum opus! You completely re-wrote the script!”

“So I took some creative liberties with the script,” I replied. “I might’ve changed it from a courtroom drama into a man-against-nature story a la The Naked Prey. But ask yourself this: what’s the difference between a story about truth and justice and a story about one man’s survival in the woods while his cock flops around? They’re the same thing thematically! It’s still your script.”

“I think you’re trying to abuse the system for your own gain.”

“Dallas, I have more money than I know what to do with. I own governments that I didn’t even know about. Did you know that the EU is investigating me for extorting the Russian government? Can you believe that shit? So what’s $2.5 billion to me?”

“I’ll go to the Guild about this.”

“Listen to me. You don’t want to do that. If you do, that will delay the release and a lot of people’s money and careers are dependent on the success of this film. I’ll tell you what, I’ll cut you a check for $500,000,000 right here. Or how about Trinidad and Tobago? I’m not offering you a trip there, I’m offering you the country of Trinidad and Tobago.”

“You’re disgusting. You think you can bribe me out of this?”

“Yes”

Before Dallas could respond, Pee-Wee ran into the trailer. “Christian (Bale) collapsed!” he yelled. “Call an ambulance!”

another shot at the title (part iiI)

This Tastes Like Ass is obviously a modern classic,” said Bryce Howard Dallas Antonio, the screenwriter, “but I think it lacks the nuances of some of the earlier postmodern classics from David Lynch and Martin Scorsese.”

Dallas showed up to the pre-production meetings wearing a tweed jacket, a derby, and a walking cane. I wanted to smash that cane right onto his dick.

Sets were going up. I had enough on my plate. But Dallas insisted on following me around.

“Do you like David Lean?” he asked.

“Yeah, he was hott.”

“What’s your biggest influence?”

“I don’t know. Alcohol?”

I was signing papers left and right. I was too busy to listen to this shit. After Dallas called Smokey and the Bandit the most overrated movie of the 70s, I grabbed him by the jacket.

“Listen here shitwad,” I said, “you’re right out of film school. You know who I am? Google my name. I may have diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and a venereal disease that doesn’t have a name, but I can still kick your ass. So listen to my advice grasshopper, watch your ass!”

The executive in charge of production, Jimmy Greco, saw what was happening and rushed out of his office. He waddled his fat, Jerry Stiller-lookin ass right up to my face. “You can’t touch the screenwriter!” he screamed. “That’s against WGA rules!”

He then straightened out Dallas’ jacket and ran a hand through his hair. Afterwards, he pointed his finger at me. “Listen here buster,” Jimmy said, “if you pull a stunt like that again, I’ll have your ass!”

“Oh you want my ass?” I replied. I dropped my pants. “You want my cock too?” I turned around and started twirling my penis.

“You’re a fool,” Jimmy said.

“I’M the fool? The only fool here is that idiot screenwriter!”

Jimmy escorted Dallas away. The cast and crew stood around gawking.

“Everyone back to work!” I yelled and pulled up my pants.

I took out a cigarette and walked up to Pablo. “Take it easy, James,” he said.

I lit up the cigarette. “How did the contract negotiations go?” I asked.

“Great!” Pablo replied. “You’ll be pleased to know that you’ll move up the billionaire’s list.”

“I’m a billionaire?”

“James, you’re one of the richest men in the world. You have real estate holdings all across the globe. You even own the deed to the Kremlin for fuck’s sake!”

“Isn’t that a bar in Tallahassee?”

***

I was having brunch with Brett Ratner when Kat slapped down a newspaper. The article read “NOTORIOUS FILM DIRECTOR EXPOSES PENIS…AND ASS…TO CAST AND CREW.”

I looked up to Kat and she began speaking in a monotonous, scripted voice. “The board wanted me to tell you that if you do that again, they will remove you from the project. Please be more considerate of the crew,” she said.

She never made eye contact.

“Kat,” I replied, “as you know, I run my sets a little differently. Besides, per our agreement, I was allowed to change the script so that the entire jury would be nude throughout production. Bare cock will be all over the set. What difference does one more make?”

“This is the position of the board and the production team,” she said, still refusing to make eye contact.

I shrugged. “Very well, will that be all?”

“That is all,” Kat replied and began walking away. Then she stopped. “There is one other thing…”

She turned around and looked me in the eye.

“We are already running over budget,” she continued. “We are having trouble securing funds from the European market. Would you be considerate enough to loan $900,000,000 to help cover pre-production costs?”

I thought for a moment.

“Sure I’d be happy to give you nearly a billion dollars,” I said. “But in return, I want to make more changes to the script.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Another shot at the title (part ii)

Pablo and I made the journey to Trainwreck Studios in Burbank. What a god-forsaken place. I swore to myself that I would never return.

“We’re here to see Kathleen Kennedy,” Pablo told the receptionist.

“And you are?”

“I’m Pablo Dunbar, the agent of James…”

The receptionist’s eyes widened when she saw my face. “You mean, James…”

“Yes, THAT James,” I interjected. “Tell Kat we’re here so that we can get this over with.”

“I thought you were retired…” she began to say as she stumbled through her words. “Anyway, she’s waiting for you. Fourth floor. The only way up there is through the air ducts. Elevator’s broken.”

So we climbed up the ducts into Kathleen’s office. “Damn it Kat,” I said, “when are you going to get that fucking elevator fixed?”

She turned around and was wearing sunglasses. She appeared to be somber over something.

“Hello James,” she said.

“Hello Kat.”

“Can I offer you gentlemen a glass of scotch?”

“I’ll take the bottle please.”

Kat sat down behind her desk and began to shuffle through some paperwork. Pablo and I plopped down in the leather chairs.

“So, what did you think of Antonio’s script?” she asked.

“To be honest Kat,” I said, “it needs some work. Too much talk. Film is a visual medium. ‘Show, don’t tell’ as they say. If I can do a second draft and clean up the dialogue…”

“James,” Kat interrupted, “Fart in a Windstorm is a court drama, there’s going to be a lot of dialogue. Besides, I already promised Antonio that he would get final say in the script.”

“Fine, whatever. But I need to put my stamp on it if this is going to be a film by James…”

“Look, I get what you’re saying,” Kat said. “But in agreement with the writer’s guild, he must get sole screenwriting credit. That’s going to put a limit on what you can do.”

I just stared at her.

“You don’t want to relinquish creative control to me,” I said. Out of my periphery, I could see Pablo getting uncomfortable.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Kat replied, “the studio is willing to put $1.5 billion into this project ONLY if YOU are signed on to direct. Once when this meeting is made public, Hollywood will be in a tizzy over the return of its most famous director.”

“Kat, you know I can’t make a small scale courtroom drama for anything less than $2 billion.”

She learned forward on her desk as she began rubbing her temples. She appeared as though she was about to be sick. I took a big gulp from the bottle of scotch.

“What’s with the sunglasses?” I asked her. “Did you have eye surgery? Did your husband beat you?”

Kat removed the glasses, revealing her puffy red eyes and makeup smeared from crying.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” I said.

“We haven’t had a hit since This Taste Like Ass,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “The board wants me out. I’ve become the laughingstock of this town.”

“It’s no fun when the rabbit has the gun, eh?”

“James,” Pablo said. “Mrs. Kennedy, James and I are both in agreement that this script is doable. Sure, there are problems that need ironing out, but we are committed to making this work. Right James?”

I just shrugged.

“Really?” Kat said.

“Absolutely, the gang’s back together. Let’s have a drink on it!”

We all stood up and Pablo forced a group hug. Kat’s spirits seemed to have been lifted slightly.

As we were climbing back down the air ducts, I grabbed Pablo by the ankle. “You better not fuck me out of this contract like you did last time!” I told him.

TO BE CONTINUED

Another shot at the title (part I)

“Get the fuck out of my house,” I told Pablo.

“At least read the script!” he replied.

“Pablo, I have everything I want. I’m happily married to a Vietnamese hooker I met in Van Nuys. I’ve got a son and a house in the hills. I’ve got more money than god thanks to This Taste Like Ass. I’m done with Hollywood. Fuck Kathleen, fuck the studios. I’m retired.”

Pablo shook his head and looked down at his beer. “You know what they say about you?” he asked. “They say you’re a one-hit wonder. That you got lucky with This Tastes Like Ass, and lightening doesn’t strike twice.”

“And they’re right!” I replied.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Pablo said. “I remember when I first read your script years ago. I said ‘this guy is going places’ and I thought it was a privilege to represent you.”

He stood up and looked at my three Oscars mounted proudly behind a glass case. “When we first met, you told me that the worst fate someone could have in this town is to have a career like Michael Cimino,” Pablo continued. Then he turned around and looked me in the eye. “Do what Cimino couldn’t do. Prove Hollywood wrong: make another great film.”

I looked away. “Like I said: I’m retired,” I replied.

Pablo stood up straight and laid the script down on the coffee table. “I’ll leave this here with you,” he said then showed himself out the door.

I picked up the script.

Like a Fart in a Windstorm by Dallas Austin Antonio,” it read.

***

Later that night, my son put on a film streaming on Amazonian Prime. I don’t remember what it was called. “Big Gay Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” or something. I was too drunk to care.

But my blood began to boil during the sex scenes. The action was not much better. Finally I had enough and in a drunken rage, I slammed my foot into the TV.

“What the fuck is this shit?!” I yelled.

“Dad you’re drunk! Go to bed!” my son, Slick Rick, said.

“Fuck you asshole! My creativity built this house! I own Hollywood! Back in my day, we showed rock hard cock, full frontal nudity, and absurdly graphic violence! Not this pussy shit! No tits, no penis? Why is there a plot? We never cared about that crap! What happened to kids these days!?Hollywood just ain’t the same anymore Slick Rick, I’m tellin ya.”

“Dad, you need to get a hobby,” he replied.

I sat down next to Rick and patted him on the knee. “You’re a good son,” I said. “Now go help your mother.”

I then wrapped my bottle of Evan Williams in a paper bag and began wondering the streets Laurel Canyon.

The next morning, when I woke up in my neighbor’s backyard, I began to ponder Pablo’s words. I took out my cellphone and called him up.

“James, where the hell have you been?” he said. “Your wife’s been frantically calling me, wondering if I knew where you were!”

“Nevermind that,” I replied. “Get me a meeting with Kathleen Kennedy (not THAT Kathleen Kennedy, the other one).”

“So you read the script?” Pablo asked.

“Yes, I took your advice. We’re back in business.”

TO BE CONTINUED

“blue thunder” and “backtrack” (aka Catchfire”)

I watched two movies back-to-back (unintentionally) that had helicopter chases.

The first was Blue Thunder, staring the greatest leading man of all time…Roy Scheider. It is also the greatest movie that Paul Verhoeven never made.

No disrespect to the highly competent John Badham, but Verhoeven would have crushed the shit out of this material. The film takes place in 1980s LA and is about a police pilot and Vietnam vet, played by Scheider, who gets introduced to a military-style helicopter that the city wants to use for patrol. The villain is Malcolm McDowell, a British man that somehow became a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, who for some contrived reason wants to kill Scheider. The fascistic overtones are right up Verhoeven’s alley, and even some of the story beats would be echoed in Robocop four years later.

But the movie looks incredible. John A. Alonzo is really an unsung hero in the field of cinematography. The handheld work is really ahead of its time, and masterfully done. After watching the first scene of Scheider walking out to his helicopter, I was shocked that this came out in 1983. It’s a natural look that even films today have trouble emulating.

And that final helicopter chase was incredible. All of the concerns that Scheider’s character had regarding public safety goes out the window once when he gets hunted by fighter jets and Malcolm McDowell. Chicken factories and buildings get blown up while debris falls on the people below. Meanwhile, Candy Clark drives like a bat out of hell down the streets of LA. As far as 80s action movies go, I’m not saying that it’s up there with the Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven, and John McTiernan classics, but it is very good. In fact, I would say it was a prototype for subsequent 80s flicks.

The other film was less of a banger but no less interesting (for various reasons). It was Dennis Hopper’s Backtrack (or Catchfire, idk). There are apparently two versions: theatrical cut and a directors cut. I guess I watched the director’s cut.

Hopper himself was apparently dissatisfied with the original version and had his “directed by” credit given to Alan Smithee. Honestly, he should have taken his name off the director’s cut as well.

What’s it about? Not sure.

I think Jodie Foster accidentally sees a mob hit by Joe Pesci and Pesci tries to track her down by hiring Hopper and Hopper falls in love with her (and she with him).

Now I’ll say this because I’ve said enough about dude’s bodies in this blog and it’s time women get their due: Jodie Foster is fiiiiiiiiiiiine as hell in this movie. You could say that I was “sexually attracted” to her. It made me uncomfortable (in my pants specifically). I could understand why Hopper didn’t want to kill her.

But the problem with this movie (one of many) is that Dennis Hopper is, I’m sorry to say, not fit for the role. Hopper is at least 25 years older than Foster. There’s nothing romantic about their scenes together. They’re downright creepy. It’s a role that someone like Nicholas Cage, Mickey Rourke, or Sean Penn could have aced at that time.

That being said, Hopper REALLY makes some decisions in this movie, both in front of and behind the camera. To be honest, I don’t even know what he’s trying to do. Is that accent New York or Cajun? Does he know his lines or is he just making shit up? Now no one on God’s green earth could have saved this screenplay, but Hopper’s visual flair and strange acting decisions steal the show…almost to the point where you forget that heavy hitters like Joe Pesci and Vincent Price are also in the movie.

RIP Dennis Hopper and Roy Scheider 😔

😎Midsommar 😎

I like to talk about movies that people usually know but have somewhat forgotten about.

That being said, Midsommar is relatively recent and probably still discussed.

Oh well 🤷‍♂️

I’m not really a horror fan, so I haven’t seen Hereditary, Ari Aster’s other film. But Midsommar caught my attention because someone mentioned that it was a horror film that lacked any of the tropes found in such movies.

People aren’t as big of a fan of Midsommar as they are of Hereditary. Was Hereditary really that good?

Many have said that the subtext of this movie is dissolution of the relationship between the two leads. If that was the case, then I hardly noticed (or cared). For me, what was terrifying about the movie was how it kinda reminded me of Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom, albeit far more emotionally engaging. In fact, if Midsommer is a “horror” film, then Salo is as well.

But Aster uses the “horror” elements wisely. Much of the film is actually pleasant to look at: pleasant locations, pleasant faces. Naturally, this pleasantness is used to lower your guard.

Except for one dream sequence, all of the horror takes place during the day. The most noted example is the suicide scene with the two elderly people. If you watch a lot of movies, you’ve definitely seen gorier shit, but this one hits different. It’s a beautiful scene juxtaposed against two old people getting their faces smashed in. Additionally, for the two groups present for this ritual, one finds the scene beautiful while the other is utterly horrified.

And it happens relatively late in the film, long after you get adapted to the tone. Usually horror films do something like that early, just to tell the audience what it’s capable of.

Many have discussed why this movie is terrifying, and none of it works as an explanation for me. The most common is “it’s an American perspective on a foreign culture and how we find them terrifying “ blah blah blah. That never once occurred to me. What I found terrifying is the passiveness of the characters and the bullshit myths that the cult had to justify itself.

And the film does call bullshit on it (some guy argued that the film has a neutral take on the cult, which is partly why some find it scary. But that’s definitely not true).

Case in point is in the euthanasia scene, after the old man jumps off the cliff, breaks his leg, and lays there in pain. After the scene, the male lead tries to justify it by saying something like the “community might find our methods of elderly care barbaric”, but that old man met a truly barbaric end (his face later gets smashed in). I’d take a nursing home any day of the week.

The other example is at the end when the temple gets set on fire. Two members of the cult volunteer for the burning and are given a drug so that they won’t feel the pain of burning. However, one guy watches his friend, the last image he’ll ever see, scream in horror as he burns alive! All the drugs and nonsense clearly did him no good.

So to me, this film was kinda a commentary on the cult mindset and how people can be persuaded to do unusual things in the name of nonsense (and a lot of drugs). OR how people use these rituals to mask truly horrific things. That explains Florence Pugh’s smile at the end: she was an emotionally unbalanced person that’s suddenly found her place.

To me, the most terrifying thing was the brief moment when the male lead opens his eyes and sees a smiling face telling him that he is drugged, can’t move, can’t talk, and that’s that. Bye!

But what this film also does effectively is give you a solid sense of geography. You get used to the nice setting and that’s when bad things start happening. It plays out like a dream that suddenly turns into a helpless nightmare. Just as in a dream, the actors don’t know what’s going on but they play along nonetheless.

Ideology works the same way.