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Hanging with the new flesh ("We Live in Public")


“Your reality is already half video hallucination. If you’re not careful, it will become total hallucination. You’ll have to learn to live in a very strange new world.” – Media philosopher Brian O’Blivion in David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome” (1983)

So far, the bulk of gifted documentarian Ondi Timoner’s work has dealt with the forces that persuade human beings to give up some par of themselves, whether it be in pursuit of creative growth, God, or fame. Her latest film, takes that as far as it can possibly go. Unlike her remarkable “DiG!,” about the cultish neo-psychedelic rock band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, or “Join Us,” about an actual religious cult, this time the cult is not just a few fanatics, it’s you and me.

I first praised the Sundance Grand Jury prize-winning “We Live in Public,” opening Friday at L.A.’s Nuart Theater (with special Q&As Friday and Saturday nights), back in June when I saw it at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The screening was capped off with the then somewhat surprising appearance by the documentary’s antihero, Internet entrepreneur and self-styled conceptual artist Josh Harris. Having returned from an idyll in Ethiopia, he said that his next project was something he called “the Wired City” and that, in his view, a typical human’s life in the future is going to be something like the present day existence of “a Purdue chicken.” He also said he hadn’t seen the movie and wasn’t sure when he would.


"Homicide" — (Bullz-Eye DVD Review)


David Mamet’s third film starts out exactly like the Mamet cop movie you think you want to see – a detailed, literate, and darkly funny police procedural. But what begins like a sort of dry run for the classic ‘90s TV series, “Homicide: Life on the Street,” right down to its Baltimore locations, becomes a somber examination of the meaning of being Jewish in modern America and, more broadly, the dangers of excessive identity politics. Indeed, the warning the film delivers about the dangerous side of ethnic identity is so stark that it’s easy to wonder whether the Mamet of today – a stridently outspoken observant Jew and a self-outed conservative – wouldn’t have written a different story entirely.

“Homicide” stars the man I still consider the ultimate Mamet actor, Joe Mantegna, as Bobby Gold, a homicide detective who specializes in negotiating with suspects. We later learn, however, that the specialty might not have been entirely by choice because Officer Gold has something to prove. Being Jewish, he’s had to deal with an assumption that he is a soft and unphysical nebbish, so proving his toughness by being “first in the door” is a must and being assumed to have the gift of gab is almost a plus. (Almost everyone in a Mamet production has that gift, in any case.) Moreover, perhaps because he’s had to deal with a fair amount of abuse his whole life because of his identity, he seems to have internalized the bigotry and become a real-life version of a frequent mythological figure in intra-Jewish political battles – the “self-hating Jew.”



A bit of prime Mamet which means, of course, verbally entirely NSFW.

Now, time for a cooling walk.

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day

And also the Beatles reissue and, what the heck, Rosh Hoshannah (Jewish New Year), too.

RIP Henry Gibson


Growing up in L.A., sometimes you share a more personal connection with notable actors that you almost forget and then, at odd times, you remember them. For example, I just remembered that Henry Gibson used the same West L.A. veteranarian as my family did growing up. Also, the “dead” child from his great “Fund for the Dead” bit from Kentucky Fried Movie was an acquaintance of mine at Venice High.

Anyhow, I really am sorry that he passed on relatively young at age 73 — and in a week with so many passings he might not get his full due. Nevertheless, I’ve got a more detailed remembrance of the great Mr. Gibson up over at Premium Hollywood, including the few online clips I could find.

RIP Larry Gelbart

large_LarryGelbart photo web

An important chunk of entertainment history left us yesterday with the death of Larry Gelbart at 81. Gelbart was gifted both working alone and as a collaborator with other writers. It probably helped that relatively early in his career he labored alongside Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Neil Simon on comedian Sid Caesar’s classic early variety shows. In the sixties he graduated to Broadway and the movies. With Burt Shevelove, he cowrote the book for the Broadway musical/Zero Mostel vehicle, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (later filmed by Richard Lester) and the hard to find all-star cult British comedy, “The Wrong Box.” A Chicago-born graduate of L.A.’s Fairfax High (right across the street from Cantor’s Deli), he lived in England for a time, working with another nice Jewish boy named Marty Feldman at the height of his English television fame.

He became much better known in the seventies as the primary writer during the early, funnier and more politically pointed days on the television version of “M*A*S*H.” I get to write about him because he made a mark in movies that’s too important to ignore, writing several good ones, and some not so good. He’ll probably be most commonly remembered for his work on “Oh, God” with George Burns in the title role, and what is probably Dustin Hoffman’s best performance in “Tootsie,” which is something of a comedy classic. He also co-wrote with Sheldon Keller the vastly underrated and all but impossible to see spoof of early Hollywood (specifically Warner Brothers) films, “Movie, Movie,” directed by Stanley Donen and starring George C. Scott, Eli Wallach, Trish van Devere, and Barry Bostwick. (A likely model for “Grindhouse,” in that it was also a double-feature complete with fake trailers.) It more than made up for the regrettable but profitable “Blame it On Rio,” written by Gelbart and also directed by Donen, which starred Michael Caine, Joseph Bologna and an extremely young Demi Moore.

In the nineties, he divided his time between Broadway plays like “City of Angels,” a musical spoof of classic hard-boiled detective novels, and pointed TV movies like “Barbarians at the Gate” — a tongue in cheek version of a nonfiction book about the buyout of Nabisco — and 1992’s “Mastergate,” an unbelievably witty parody of the hearings that invariably follow major Washington scandals.

Mr. Gelbart never stopped writing until almost the end, and was easily one of the most respected and beloved writers in all of show business. 81 isn’t exactly young, but we could’ve used a few more years of his presence. It’s a sad weekend for the world of funny.

Below, a great moment from “Tootsie.”

[This posted appeared originally at “Premium Hollywood.”]

RIP Army Archerd


He might have seemed as much of a permanent Hollywood fixture as the Chinese Theater or Musso & Frank, but columnist Army Archerd, for decades the writer of the “Just for Variety” column, past away yesterday from cancer at the age of 87. Growing up in Los Angeles with a permanent eye fixed on the movies, I was nevertheless rarely a regular Variety reader except when I was lucky enough to be working someplace with a subscription, but Archerd’s importance was obvious.

He was a fairly far cry from the muckraking and abrasive Nikki Finke and a much further cry from the punishing, often vindictive, gossip/entertainment columnists of the past like the mean-spirited but powerful Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper. Indeed, I had kind of forgotten that the younger Archerd had fought the Hollywood blacklist. Winchell and Hopper had done very much the opposite.

When Archerd broke a personal story about a celebrity it wasn’t to try and “destroy” them and, in the most famous instance, it was a social good — though not everyone thought so at the time. For those who can’t remember the news that aging onetime superstar Rock Hudson had AIDS, it’s hard to explain the importance of the event. It was the first time many had even heard of the disease, which was already devastating the lives of untold numbers of people. Even in L.A., where Hudson’s sexual preference was an open secret even outside the show business world, the news raised the awareness of the quickly spreading disease far beyond the confines of the gay community, where it was already a devastating fact of life. Outside of Hollywood, it was also maybe the moment where “middle America” became aware that some of their favorite performers were not heterosexual.

For me, however, however, Archerd was always the pleasant, calm guy I grew up watching at the Oscars or at the Hollywood Christmas Parade. I was never a regular reader of his column, but he was just always there. I don’t know what to say except that I half expect those cement footprints in front of the theater Sid Grauman built might go away, too. Nikki Finke and, of course, Variety have excellent obituaries up.

Also, see Finke’s comments. Starting off with one by actor/activist Mike Farrell (“MASH”), it’s a pretty moving tribute.

(Originally posted at Premium Hollywood.)

An entirely shameless post

In which I shamelessly plug the new exploitarama from my long time friend and cohort, Cody Jarrett. “Sugar Boxx” a women-in-prison low-budget extravaganza of sex, mayhem and other tried and true filmic values premieres tomorrow night, September 5th, at midnight at the Sunset 5 Theatres on the eastern edge of West Hollywood. Those lucky enough to be in attendance will be treated to sexy nudity, a great score (by The Millionaire of Combustible Edison and Steven Adler, formerly of Guns ‘n Roses), gratuitous violence, nudielicious sex, a line of hilarious-yet-pithy dialogue 40% written by me as well as brief flashes…of me (in a nonspeaking role!), nudity, Russ Meyer superstars Tura Satana and Kitten Natividad and the smoking-hot stars of tomorrow (and reality TV), foul language, a little violence, and some more or less nude lesbian sex.

You can see just a hint of that below:

The show is likely to be crowded with famed cast members (including me!) and may well sell out, so buying your tickets early is a good thing. You may still be able to do so here. And, if you can’t make it — acceptable excuses include living thousands of miles from greater Los Angeles — the absolute least you can do is to check out the Sugar Boxx Facebook page as well as the fabulous official website which will no doubt help keep you informed as to various means of viewing this soon-to-be-enormous masterwork.

"Gigantic" — (Bullz-Eye DVD Review)


Even as someone who has a soft spot for offbeat indie comedies, I would nevertheless seriously consider instituting a perpetual moratorium on the use of the word “quirky” to describe that kind of movie. The only problem is then we’d have no other word to use in reference to something like “Gigantic.”

This is the story of the emotional life of Brian (Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood” and “Little Miss Sunshine”), a low-key salesman of very expensive beds whose only real ambition is to adopt a Chinese baby. It’s a laudable but unusual goal for a young man, and he’d seem like a pretty stable guy were it not for the occasional apparently random violent attacks waged by an angry homeless man (the suddenly omnipresent Zach Galifianakis). It’s tempting to think that the encounters are imaginary, but the injuries seem real enough.


An important message for the community

For more information on fighting hard drugs among our nation’s preschoolers and first graders, see the FSITO website.


Now, before you decide to come after me for giving free publicity to really sketchy charities, be aware that this is a nice bit of viral marketing for the upcoming seventies blaxsploitation spoof, “Black Dynamite,” which I was fortunate to see at the Los Angeles Film Festival two months back. From cowriter/director Scott Sanders and cowriter star Michael Jai White (“Spawn”), it’s easily the funniest and best made comedy genre homage in a very long time, and its marketing isn’t bad either. The movie’s official site is worth a look, too.


(Also posted at Premium Hollywood.)

RIP Ellie Greenwich

One of the most significant of the great Brill Building songwriters has passed on at age 68. On many of her most famous songs Phil Spector’s production style may have got the attention, but he would have had nothing to produce without songs like this.