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"BLAXPLOITATION AND INDIE-FILM UNITE!"

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 06:13 (A review of Hollywood Shuffle)

by Dane Youssef


Movies in general are so formulaic that even most independent films are pretty routine and by-the-numbers.

Maybe that's why "Hollywood Shuffle" feels so refreshing, like a much-needed change of pace. Most indies are made almost entirely by hand---one man writing, directing, producing (hey, they need every single spare cent they can get their grubby hands on) and this one is no exception.

Townsend wears all the indie hats here… and he wears them proudly.

This is the film that introduced the world to Robert Townsend. Well, that was it's whole purpose. Like "The Brother McMullen," this star-vehicle was written and directed by Townsend about his dream to make it as a professional actor, trying to break into Hollywood, while at the same time, trying to over-come the cruel limitations mainstream Hollywood has set up for black people who want to act... and actors, in general.

Whereas the '70's was the birth decade of the blaxploitation, so many of them were just cheap, cheesy, corny knock-offs of popular white films. Blaxploitation got more blacks into films, but the films themselves weren't really about anything. "Hollywood Shuffle" is a Blaxploitation film that really has something to say... that has an agenda.

There is so much burning talent, so many struggling entertainers wanting to make something of themselves, that Hollywood can afford to treat the auditioning talent the same way a really strong cleanser treats germs.

Townsend's efforts to make this movie are inspiring--he borrowed every dollar he could, asked for movie footage that was left on the cutting-room floor, called in every favor he could, threw everything he had and more to get this one made.

To tell his story, get his foot in the door... and at the same time, tell a story about what this kind of life is like. For those with talent who dare to dream big.

The great Keenan Ivory Wayans and John Witherspoon have bit players as people who work at a hog stand in the neighborhood who don't ask for much out of life... and don't get it. They're the kind of cynics who believe, "You're a fool for following your dreams."

When you near the end of your journey in this world, you really fully understand the meaning of the old phrase, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Townsend interlocks a variety of skits with this all-too autobiographical tale, all of which are pretty funny and inspiring. You have to admire the way that Townsend wants to put out some legitimate roles for black actors to play and black actors to idolize. But most of his skits go on too long after the point has been made and there are quite a few moments that feel like someone (Townsend obviously) should have punched up. Townsend is a far better actor than he is a writer/director.

Perhaps because he is only a filmmaker by necessity for this one. He's more interested in using this to make up of all those dream roles he never got to play and showing his chops as an actor than really making a great movie.

There's a scene where he makes fun of "Siskel & Ebert"--before everyone started doing it. Almost all the skits (where Townsend is fantasizing his dream roles as an actor) go on way too long, probably because Townsend is far less concerned with how funny the skits/movie is and more interested in using this movie to play all the dream roles he never got to before.

Every single actor is perfectly cast, especially Townsend himself. It's great to see him playing all these roles you know he's always dreamed of doing (he plays them while his character actually IS day-dreaming).

The movie captures the struggle of the out-of-work actor just right. We see lines and lines of actors warming-up, rehearsing their roles, going into the audition... all to hear, "Thank you, next!" But some blessed, precious few are picked.

But those that are black are given racially-biased drivel to perform. Ethnic caricatures that shame and set back their race. Brothers and sisters who talk like stock characters from the slave era, wearing redneck farm clothes, picking cotton, eating chicken and getting stinking drunk. Townsend tirades many black archetypes, most of which went out of style around the same time as black-face. Lil' Bobby obviously wants to say something about the way the brothers and sisters are treated in the biz. There are some moments here you'll roar with laughter at, as well as put a lump in your throat and a strange feeling of hope and pride.

Like many other breakthrough films, especially independents, "Hollywood Shuffle" was another arrival of a fresh new talent. It happens as often as the rise and setting of the suns, but here is a film where it feels a little more special… because Townsend was really about something. You can see it here, not only in some of his satirist scenes, but some of the quieter moments where real drama in brewing and dreams are at stake.

We see where Townsend is asking himself if he's good enough, if he face the whole world (which is how it is when you're struggling to make it as an entertainer… or in life) and when life-long happiness is at stake. It almost hurts. And at the end of it all, when we wonder for Townsend's character, Bobby's sake… what will become of him? And then we realize we already know. We just found out.

It's like looking in the sky at the stars like you always do… and then there's a brand-new star shining in the night sky, standing out just a little bit bigger than the others. Haven't seen that one before. Hey, is that a new one? Couldn't be, could it? I don't remember… there are so many. Another star is born.

Or made.


by Dane Youssef


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"BLAXPLOITATION AND INDIE-FILM UNITE!"

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 06:09 (A review of Hollywood Shuffle)

by Dane Youssef


Movies in general are so formulaic that even most independent films are pretty routine and by-the-numbers.

Maybe that's why "Hollywood Shuffle" feels so refreshing, like a much-needed change of pace. Most indies are made almost entirely by hand---one man writing, directing, producing (hey, they need every single spare cent they can get their grubby hands on) and this one is no exception.

Townsend wears all the indie hats here… and he wears them proudly.

This is the film that introduced the world to Robert Townsend. Well, that was it's whole purpose. Like "The Brother McMullen," this star-vehicle was written and directed by Townsend about his dream to make it as a professional actor, trying to break into Hollywood, while at the same time, trying to over-come the cruel limitations mainstream Hollywood has set up for black people who want to act... and actors, in general.

Whereas the '70's was the birth decade of the blaxploitation, so many of them were just cheap, cheesy, corny knock-offs of popular white films. Blaxploitation got more blacks into films, but the films themselves weren't really about anything. "Hollywood Shuffle" is a Blaxploitation film that really has something to say... that has an agenda.

There is so much burning talent, so many struggling entertainers wanting to make something of themselves, that Hollywood can afford to treat the auditioning talent the same way a really strong cleanser treats germs.

Townsend's efforts to make this movie are inspiring--he borrowed every dollar he could, asked for movie footage that was left on the cutting-room floor, called in every favor he could, threw everything he had and more to get this one made.

To tell his story, get his foot in the door... and at the same time, tell a story about what this kind of life is like. For those with talent who dare to dream big.

The great Keenan Ivory Wayans and John Witherspoon have bit players as people who work at a hog stand in the neighborhood who don't ask for much out of life... and don't get it. They're the kind of cynics who believe, "You're a fool for following your dreams."

When you near the end of your journey in this world, you really fully understand the meaning of the old phrase, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Townsend interlocks a variety of skits with this all-too autobiographical tale, all of which are pretty funny and inspiring. You have to admire the way that Townsend wants to put out some legitimate roles for black actors to play and black actors to idolize. But most of his skits go on too long after the point has been made and there are quite a few moments that feel like someone (Townsend obviously) should have punched up. Townsend is a far better actor than he is a writer/director.

Perhaps because he is only a filmmaker by necessity for this one. He's more interested in using this to make up of all those dream roles he never got to play and showing his chops as an actor than really making a great movie.

There's a scene where he makes fun of "Siskel & Ebert"--before everyone started doing it. Almost all the skits (where Townsend is fantasizing his dream roles as an actor) go on way too long, probably because Townsend is far less concerned with how funny the skits/movie is and more interested in using this movie to play all the dream roles he never got to before.

Every single actor is perfectly cast, especially Townsend himself. It's great to see him playing all these roles you know he's always dreamed of doing (he plays them while his character actually IS day-dreaming).

The movie captures the struggle of the out-of-work actor just right. We see lines and lines of actors warming-up, rehearsing their roles, going into the audition... all to hear, "Thank you, next!" But some blessed, precious few are picked.

But those that are black are given racially-biased drivel to perform. Ethnic caricatures that shame and set back their race. Brothers and sisters who talk like stock characters from the slave era, wearing redneck farm clothes, picking cotton, eating chicken and getting stinking drunk. Townsend tirades many black archetypes, most of which went out of style around the same time as black-face. Lil' Bobby obviously wants to say something about the way the brothers and sisters are treated in the biz. There are some moments here you'll roar with laughter at, as well as put a lump in your throat and a strange feeling of hope and pride.

Like many other breakthrough films, especially independents, "Hollywood Shuffle" was another arrival of a fresh new talent. It happens as often as the rise and setting of the suns, but here is a film where it feels a little more special… because Townsend was really about something. You can see it here, not only in some of his satirist scenes, but some of the quieter moments where real drama in brewing and dreams are at stake.

We see where Townsend is asking himself if he's good enough, if he face the whole world (which is how it is when you're struggling to make it as an entertainer… or in life) and when life-long happiness is at stake. It almost hurts. And at the end of it all, when we wonder for Townsend's character, Bobby's sake… what will become of him? And then we realize we already know. We just found out.

It's like looking in the sky at the stars like you always do… and then there's a brand-new star shining in the night sky, standing out just a little bit bigger than the others. Haven't seen that one before. Hey, is that a new one? Couldn't be, could it? I don't remember… there are so many. Another star is born.

Or made.


by Dane Youssef


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"AN ART FILM... WITH NOTHING TO SAY"

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 06:08 (A review of The Brown Bunny)

by Dane Youssef


"THE BROWN BUNNY" plays out like an Andy Warhol-inspired exercise that was warped into a vanity project. It's like a home movie on a family road trip where nothing is really going on and whoever has the camera is just killing time out of near-torturous boredom.


Some moments are quietly effective and inspire little musings in our heads. But far too much feels like something little that a brown bunny left behind... that's also brown.


Either the bunny or Gallo. He serves as writer, director, producer, composer and cinematographer. I think there's more, but I just don't have time.


The film stars Gallo as Bud Clay, a professional motorcycle racer going on one big long odyssey on the road to his old haunts to rediscover himself.


He will uncover a lot of things along the way, particularly that he is trapped inside a movie that just plain isn't very good.


Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" is a self-indulgent exercise in futility. Although Gallo may consider this a compliment, I mean the making of the film itself, not this hero's story. So masturbatory, I actually wished I was blind before I was even 1/4 of the way through.

But it could have been. If Gallo had cut more of the scenes (and I don't just mean a few), put some music down on the soundtrack, shown more of the beautiful outdoor landscapes... and less of the interior of the car, Gallo himself just sitting there, preening. Striking a model-like pose in long, long, unbroken shots that feel endless. There's no internal monolouge voice-over. We're just staring at this guy for what feels like hours on end.


Like they're a half-hour long. Gallo is a strikingly good-looking European man, but not nearly so that we can watch him for that long without getting itchy and restless.


You kind of wish the filmmaker (and there's only one--Gallo himself) had conjured up more music and put it on the soundtrack. Some more music might have helped pump up a lot stillborn scenes.


My description of the the first 3/4's of the film torturous boredom doesn't even begin to do it justice. Gallo keeps the entire "Brown Bunny" moving at the pace of moss growing on a tree or rock.


There's a lot of flat, still dialouge with a lot of dramatic pauses (in a pathetic attempt to pump it up), the acting isn't much (except for Gallo and Sevigny) and the long, unbroken static shots with Gallo is staring off into the distance (which there are more than TOO MUCH of) inspired me to itch so much, I thought I came down with a horrible rash.

Hell, at one point, I actually wanted to throw things right at the screen. No lie, it actually came to mind--I would rather see some of the lowest points of "Howard The Duck" than look at Gallo's god dammed face for three more seconds. Yes, that's how bad it got.


I know that the cut of the movie that was screened at Cannes (the film was not finished yet, but Gallo was pushed into releasing it) was indefinitely worse. But although I think that much of the editing was for the better (from what I've heard, it was vital), Gallo still needed to cut a few more scenes out of the movie and lay some more music here and there.


Despite talent on Gallo's part and some ambition to tell a worthwhile story, "Brown Bunny" moves at the pace of moss growing, no one throughout the film as a character is particularly intriguing or well-developed, not even Gallo's own character (the exception is Chloe Sevigny) and there are too many slow spot where we're just waiting for something, anything to happen.


We don't have any idea exactly what Bud is thinking most of the time (or God help us, Gallo even). Maybe we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves. Perhaps Gallo wants our minds to speculate and wander. Is he leaving the thoughts of this odyssey up to our imagination? Or did he just not think this one through.


I was often bored and shifting back-and-forth in my seat, all throughout (except for the ending). I thought the movie needed more scenes of dialouge, more moments where Bud and those he encounters on his journey interact.


Also, much of the dialouge throughout every scene throughout the film was written is so badly recorded, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I had to turn on the SUBTITLES just to understand what the hell they were saying.


I'm capable of appreciating a deep, slow-paced movie. But this one isn't just slow, it's d.o.a.


Many European filmmakers know how to make a slow movie work like a chess match or a staring contest, so that even when nothing is happening, it FEELS like Hell itself is breaking loose. Gallo obviously hasn't mastered that himself. He should have seen more of their work and studied it before putting "The Brown Bunny" into effect.


The late, great Stanley Kubrick himself defined and cornered the market on quietly brooding, suspenseful films. I would suggest Gallo pop in some of HIS movies in if he ever wants to make another movie in this vein.


But Gallo himself has admitted he is no filmmaker--or artist. In any sense of the word. He is a hustler. A Midnight Cowboy of sorts. He has acted, modeled, directed, wrote, painted... have I painted enough of a picture myself?


He is a man of innumerable talents. But he has no major. He hawks his skills to whatever at any given moment. He may not be a household name, but those that do know his name... look at him as something a little more than mortal.


Ted Curson, Jackson C. Frank, Vincent Gallo are credited for the musical score. At least Gallo admitted he needed some outside help there.


Reformed supermodel Cheryl Diggs doesn't really provide anything else but filler to kill the static. Hey, maybe she serves a vital purpose after all.


Chloe Sevigny ("Kids" and "Trees Lounge") is such a good actress and has such a touching character, it's a damn crime against cinema she doesn't have more scenes. She should have been such a more sustantial part of the film. She is a part of the fourth act where the comatose "Brown Bunny" almost bursts to life.


At the end of it all, there is the smallest ray of hope. Not just for Gallo's character, but for Gallo. And us. And his film. And what of that brown bunny that sits in the cage? That holds the film's prominent title? What of it? What's it's story?


I would have loved to see this world through it's eyes. What would it have to say? Do you wonder... ?


--For A Better Movie in the name of Vincent Gallo, Dane Youssef


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"AN ART FILM... WITH NOTHING TO SAY"

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 06:07 (A review of Brown Bunny-Premium Edition)

by Dane Youssef


"THE BROWN BUNNY" plays out like an Andy Warhol-inspired exercise that was warped into a vanity project. It's like a home movie on a family road trip where nothing is really going on and whoever has the camera is just killing time out of near-terminal boredom.


Some moments are quietly effective and inspire little musings in our heads. But far too much feels like something little that a brown bunny left behind... that's also brown.


Either the bunny or Gallo. He serves as writer, director, producer, composer and cinematographer. I think there's more, but I just don't have time.


The film stars Gallo as Bud Clay, a professional motorcycle racer going on one big long odyssey on the road to his old haunts to rediscover himself.


He will uncover a lot of things along the way, particularly that he is trapped inside a movie that just plain isn't very good.


Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" is a self-indulgent exercise in futility. Although Gallo may consider this a compliment, I mean the making of the film itself, not this hero's story. So masturbatory, I actually wished I was blind before I was even 1/4 of the way through.


But it could have been. If Gallo had cut more of the scenes (and I don't just mean a few), put some music down on the soundtrack, shown more of the beautiful outdoor landscapes... and less of the interior of the car, Gallo himself just sitting there, preening. Striking a model-like pose in long, long, unbroken shots that feel endless. There's no internal monolouge voice-over. We're just staring at this guy for what feels like hours on end.


Like they're a half-hour long. Gallo is a strikingly good-looking European man, but not nearly so that we can watch him for that long without getting itchy and restless.


You kind of wish the filmmaker (and there's only one--Gallo himself) had conjured up more music and put it on the soundtrack. Some more music might have helped pump up a lot stillborn scenes.


My description of the the first 3/4's of the film torturous boredom doesn't even begin to do it justice. Gallo keeps the entire "Brown Bunny" moving at the pace of moss growing on a tree or rock.


There's a lot of flat, still dialouge with a lot of dramatic pauses (in a pathetic attempt to pump it up), the acting isn't much (except for Gallo and Sevigny) and the long, unbroken static shots with Gallo is staring off into the distance (which there are more than TOO MUCH of) inspired me to itch so much, I thought I came down with a horrible rash.


Hell, at one point, I actually wanted to throw things right at the screen. No lie, it actually came to mind--I would rather see some of the lowest points of "Howard The Duck" than look at Gallo's god dammed face for three more seconds. Yes, that's how bad it got.


I know that the cut of the movie that was screened at Cannes (the film was not finished yet, but Gallo was pushed into releasing it) was indefinitely worse. But although I think that much of the editing was for the better (from what I've heard, it was vital), Gallo still needed to cut a few more scenes out of the movie and lay some more music here and there.


Despite talent on Gallo's part and some ambition to tell a worthwhile story, "Brown Bunny" moves at the pace of moss growing, no one throughout the film as a character is particularly intriguing or well-developed, not even Gallo's own character (the exception is Chloe Sevigny) and there are too many slow spot where we're just waiting for something, anything to happen.


We don't have any idea exactly what Bud is thinking most of the time (or God help us, Gallo even). Maybe we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves. Perhaps Gallo wants our minds to speculate and wander. Is he leaving the thoughts of this odyssey up to our imagination? Or did he just not think this one through.


I was often bored and shifting back-and-forth in my seat, all throughout (except for the ending). I thought the movie needed more scenes of dialouge, more moments where Bud and those he encounters on his journey interact.


Also, much of the dialouge throughout every scene throughout the film was written is so badly recorded, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I had to turn on the SUBTITLES just to understand what the hell they were saying.


I'm capable of appreciating a deep, slow-paced movie. But this one isn't just slow, it's d.o.a.


Many European filmmakers know how to make a slow movie work like a chess match or a staring contest, so that even when nothing is happening, it FEELS like Hell itself is breaking loose. Gallo obviously hasn't mastered that himself. He should have seen more of their work and studied it before putting "The Brown Bunny" into effect.


The late, great Stanley Kubrick himself defined and cornered the market on quietly brooding, suspenseful films. I would suggest Gallo pop in some of HIS movies in if he ever wants to make another movie in this vein.


But Gallo himself has admitted he is no filmmaker--or artist. In any sense of the word. He is a hustler. A Midnight Cowboy of sorts. He has acted, modeled, directed, wrote, painted... have I painted enough of a picture myself?


He is a man of innumerable talents. But he has no major. He hawks his skills to whatever at any given moment. He may not be a household name, but those that do know his name... look at him as something a little more than mortal.


Ted Curson, Jackson C. Frank, Vincent Gallo are credited for the musical score. At least Gallo admitted he needed some outside help there.


Reformed supermodel Cheryl Diggs doesn't really provide anything else but filler to kill the static. Hey, maybe she serves a vital purpose after all.


Chloe Sevigny ("Kids" and "Trees Lounge") is such a good actress and has such a touching character, it's a damn crime against cinema she doesn't have more scenes. She should have been such a more sustantial part of the film. She is a part of the fourth act where the comatose "Brown Bunny" almost bursts to life.


At the end of it all, there is the smallest ray of hope. Not just for Gallo's character, but for Gallo. And us. And his film. And what of that brown bunny that sits in the cage? That holds the film's prominent title? What of it? What's it's story?


I would have loved to see this world through it's eyes. What would it have to say? Do you wonder... ?



--Still With Some Love and Respect For One Vincent Gallo, Dane Youssef



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"AN ART FILM... WITH NOTHING TO SAY"

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 06:04 (A review of The Brown Bunny)

by Dane Youssef


"THE BROWN BUNNY" plays out like an Andy Warhol-inspired exercise that was warped into a vanity project. It's like a home movie on a family road trip where nothing is really going on and whoever has the camera is just killing time out of boredom

Some moments are quietly effective and inspire little musings in our heads. But far too much feels like something little that a brown bunny left behind... that's also brown.

Either the bunny or Gallo. He serves as writer, director, producer, composer and cinematographer. I think there's more, but I just don't have time.

The film stars Gallo as Bud Clay, a professional motorcycle racer going on one big long odyssey on the road to his old haunts to rediscover himself.

He will uncover a lot of things along the way, particularly that he is trapped inside a movie that just plain isn't very good.

Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" is a self-indulgent exercise in futility. Although Gallo may consider this a compliment, I mean the making of the film itself, not this hero's story. So masturbatory, I actually wished I was blind before I was even 1/4 of the way through.

But it could have been. If Gallo had cut more of the scenes (and I don't just mean a few), put some music down on the soundtrack, shown more of the beautiful outdoor landscapes... and less of the interior of the car, Gallo himself just sitting there, preening. Striking a model-like pose in long, long, unbroken shots that feel endless. There's no internal monolouge voice-over. We're just staring at this guy for what feels like hours on end.

Like they're a half-hour long. Gallo is a strikingly good-looking European man, but not nearly so that we can watch him for that long without getting itchy and restless.

You kind of wish the filmmaker (and there's only one--Gallo himself) had conjured up more music and put it on the soundtrack. Some more music might have helped pump up a lot stillborn scenes.

My description of the the first 3/4's of the film torturous boredom doesn't even begin to do it justice. Gallo keeps the entire "Brown Bunny" moving at the pace of moss growing on a tree or rock.

There's a lot of flat, still dialouge with a lot of dramatic pauses (in a pathetic attempt to pump it up), the acting isn't much (except for Gallo and Sevigny) and the long, unbroken static shots with Gallo is staring off into the distance (which there are more than TOO MUCH of) inspired me to itch so much, I thought I came down with a horrible rash.

Hell, at one point, I actually wanted to throw things right at the screen. No lie, it actually came to mind--I would rather see some of the lowest points of "Howard The Duck" than look at Gallo's god dammed face for three more seconds.

Yes, that's how bad it got.

I know that the cut of the movie that was screened at Cannes (the film was not finished yet, but Gallo was pushed into releasing it) was indefinitely worse. But although I think that much of the editing was for the better (from what I've heard, it was vital), Gallo still needed to cut a few more scenes out of the movie and lay some more music here and there.

Despite talent on Gallo's part and some ambition to tell a worthwhile story, "Brown Bunny" moves at the pace of moss growing, no one throughout the film as a character is particularly intriguing or well-developed, not even Gallo's own character (the exception is Chloe Sevigny) and there are too many slow spot where we're just waiting for something, anything to happen.

We don't have any idea exactly what Bud is thinking most of the time (or God help us, Gallo even). Maybe we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves. Perhaps Gallo wants our minds to speculate and wander. Is he leaving the thoughts of this odyssey up to our imagination? Or did he just not think this one through.

I was often bored and shifting back-and-forth in my seat, all throughout (except for the ending). I thought the movie needed more scenes of dialouge, more moments where Bud and those he encounters on his journey interact.

Also, much of the dialouge throughout every scene throughout the film was written is so badly recorded, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I had to turn on the SUBTITLES just to understand what the hell they were saying.

I'm capable of appreciating a deep, slow-paced movie. But this one isn't just slow, it's d.o.a.

Many European filmmakers know how to make a slow movie work like a chess match or a staring contest, so that even when nothing is happening, it FEELS like Hell itself is breaking loose. Gallo obviously hasn't mastered that himself. He should have seen more of their work and studied it before putting "The Brown Bunny" into effect.

The late, great Stanley Kubrick himself defined and cornered the market on quietly brooding, suspenseful films. I would suggest Gallo pop in some of HIS movies in if he ever wants to make another movie in this vein.

But Gallo himself has admitted he is no filmmaker--or artist. In any sense of the word. He is a hustler. A Midnight Cowboy of sorts. He has acted, modeled, directed, wrote, painted... have I painted enough of a picture myself?

He is a man of innumerable talents. But he has no major. He hawks his skills to whatever at any given moment. He may not be a household name, but those that do know his name... look at him as something a little more than mortal.

Ted Curson, Jackson C. Frank, Vincent Gallo are credited for the musical score. At least Gallo admitted he needed some outside help there.

Reformed supermodel Cheryl Diggs doesn't really provide anything else but filler to kill the static. Hey, maybe she serves a vital purpose after all.

Chloe Sevigny ("Kids" and "Trees Lounge") is such a good actress and has such a touching character, it's a damn crime against cinema she doesn't have more scenes. She should have been such a more sustantial part of the film. She is a part of the fourth act where the comatose "Brown Bunny" almost bursts to life.

At the end of it all, there is the smallest ray of hope. Not just for Gallo's character, but for Gallo. And us. And his film. And what of that brown bunny that sits in the cage? That holds the film's prominent title? What of it? What's it's story?

I would have loved to see this world through it's eyes. What would it have to say? Do you wonder... ?


by Dane Youssef


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"AN ART FILM... WITH NOTHING TO SAY"

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 06:02 (A review of The Brown Bunny (2003))

by Dane Youssef


"THE BROWN BUNNY" plays out like an Andy Warhol-inspired exercise that was warped into a vanity project. It's like a home movie on a family road trip where nothing is really going on and whoever has the camera is just killing time out of boredom

Some moments are quietly effective and inspire little musings in our heads. But far too much feels like something little that a brown bunny left behind... that's also brown.

Either the bunny or Gallo. He serves as writer, director, producer, composer and cinematographer. I think there's more, but I just don't have time.

The film stars Gallo as Bud Clay, a professional motorcycle racer going on one big long odyssey on the road to his old haunts to rediscover himself.

He will uncover a lot of things along the way, particularly that he is trapped inside a movie that just plain isn't very good.

Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" is a self-indulgent exercise in futility. Although Gallo may consider this a compliment, I mean the making of the film itself, not this hero's story. So masturbatory, I actually wished I was blind before I was even 1/4 of the way through.

But it could have been. If Gallo had cut more of the scenes (and I don't just mean a few), put some music down on the soundtrack, shown more of the beautiful outdoor landscapes... and less of the interior of the car, Gallo himself just sitting there, preening. Striking a model-like pose in long, long, unbroken shots that feel endless. There's no internal monolouge voice-over. We're just staring at this guy for what feels like hours on end.

Like they're a half-hour long. Gallo is a strikingly good-looking European man, but not nearly so that we can watch him for that long without getting itchy and restless.

You kind of wish the filmmaker (and there's only one--Gallo himself) had conjured up more music and put it on the soundtrack. Some more music might have helped pump up a lot stillborn scenes.

My description of the the first 3/4's of the film torturous boredom doesn't even begin to do it justice. Gallo keeps the entire "Brown Bunny" moving at the pace of moss growing on a tree or rock.

There's a lot of flat, still dialouge with a lot of dramatic pauses (in a pathetic attempt to pump it up), the acting isn't much (except for Gallo and Sevigny) and the long, unbroken static shots with Gallo is staring off into the distance (which there are more than TOO MUCH of) inspired me to itch so much, I thought I came down with a horrible rash.

Hell, at one point, I actually wanted to throw things right at the screen. No lie, it actually came to mind--I would rather see some of the lowest points of "Howard The Duck" than look at Gallo's god dammed face for three more seconds.

Yes, that's how bad it got.

I know that the cut of the movie that was screened at Cannes (the film was not finished yet, but Gallo was pushed into releasing it) was indefinitely worse. But although I think that much of the editing was for the better (from what I've heard, it was vital), Gallo still needed to cut a few more scenes out of the movie and lay some more music here and there.

Despite talent on Gallo's part and some ambition to tell a worthwhile story, "Brown Bunny" moves at the pace of moss growing, no one throughout the film as a character is particularly intriguing or well-developed, not even Gallo's own character (the exception is Chloe Sevigny) and there are too many slow spot where we're just waiting for something, anything to happen.

We don't have any idea exactly what Bud is thinking most of the time (or God help us, Gallo even). Maybe we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves. Perhaps Gallo wants our minds to speculate and wander. Is he leaving the thoughts of this odyssey up to our imagination? Or did he just not think this one through.

I was often bored and shifting back-and-forth in my seat, all throughout (except for the ending). I thought the movie needed more scenes of dialouge, more moments where Bud and those he encounters on his journey interact.

Also, much of the dialouge throughout every scene throughout the film was written is so badly recorded, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I had to turn on the SUBTITLES just to understand what the hell they were saying.

I'm capable of appreciating a deep, slow-paced movie. But this one isn't just slow, it's d.o.a.

Many European filmmakers know how to make a slow movie work like a chess match or a staring contest, so that even when nothing is happening, it FEELS like Hell itself is breaking loose. Gallo obviously hasn't mastered that himself. He should have seen more of their work and studied it before putting "The Brown Bunny" into effect.

The late, great Stanley Kubrick himself defined and cornered the market on quietly brooding, suspenseful films. I would suggest Gallo pop in some of HIS movies in if he ever wants to make another movie in this vein.

But Gallo himself has admitted he is no filmmaker--or artist. In any sense of the word. He is a hustler. A Midnight Cowboy of sorts. He has acted, modeled, directed, wrote, painted... have I painted enough of a picture myself?

He is a man of innumerable talents. But he has no major. He hawks his skills to whatever at any given moment. He may not be a household name, but those that do know his name... look at him as something a little more than mortal.

Ted Curson, Jackson C. Frank, Vincent Gallo are credited for the musical score. At least Gallo admitted he needed some outside help there.

Reformed supermodel Cheryl Diggs doesn't really provide anything else but filler to kill the static. Hey, maybe she serves a vital purpose after all.

Chloe Sevigny ("Kids" and "Trees Lounge") is such a good actress and has such a touching character, it's a damn crime against cinema she doesn't have more scenes. She should have been such a more sustantial part of the film. She is a part of the fourth act where the comatose "Brown Bunny" almost bursts to life.

At the end of it all, there is the smallest ray of hope. Not just for Gallo's character, but for Gallo. And us. And his film. And what of that brown bunny that sits in the cage? That holds the film's prominent title? What of it? What's it's story?

I would have loved to see this world through it's eyes. What would it have to say? Do you wonder... ?


by Dane Youssef


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"THE PURSUIT OF... BUT NEVER THE ACTUAL..."

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 05:56 (A review of Happiness )

by Dane Youssef


This is yet another "daring and provocative" little "taboo-breaking film" from writer/director Todd Solondz ("Welcome To The Dollhouse," "Happiness," "Fear, Anxiety & Depression," Schatt's Last Shot"), so anyone who picks t his one up should know what to expect. In fact, dollars to diamonds, you wouldn't even think about picking this one up unless you were a fan.

Like fellow contraversal filmmaker Neil LaBute, he likes to shed a great deal of light on the uglier, loathsome, unsavory side of humanity. Is he trying to illuminate us all by showing us the dark matter of our society? How our cold and evil nature may be our downfall? And all the damage it's doing? Or is Solondz more infactuated by these all-too realistic monsters and villains he puts up there on the screen?

Is this weird little man enamored by his loathsome creations? Is he celebrating this callous side of the human race or satirizing it? Normally, he leaves that to us, but althroughout "Storytelling," he seems to be trying to set the record straight.

For those who saw his heavily acclaimed (by critics and audiences alike) "Welcome To The Dollhouse" a movie about the hell almighty on earth that is junior high school.

I was not one of the film's many admirers.

Yes, I felt like just about everybody else that the film did have some poginant truths, but... I pretty much already knew them all. It all felt kinda redundant. I was in high school at the time and every scene I was watching, I thought, "Yeah, no s-- t" and "God, these people are a------s and idiots."

I mean, I know it's supposed to be a satire, but I felt too much like I was watching what I already knew and thought and what has been said too many times before. Solondz was preaching to the wrong choir there.

His next fim, "Happiness" about three sisters and their lives... and how adulthood is more or less as mentally unbalanced as junior high school. About three sisters and how their lives aren't as well-adjusted as they seem. The seemingly ideal perfect sister is dry, secretly dull and lives such a sterile life that when an obscene phone caller calls her... she starts stalking him.

The best line in the movie "Happiness"... that almost encapsulates the entire film:

Helen Jordan: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you."

Joy Jordan: "But I'm not laughing."

The film is about two different forms of storytelling: Two seperate chapters, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction."

"Fiction" is a surprisingly short one. It's about the creative writing process, and it takes place in a creative writing class. Many of the main characters are all writing short stories, most of which are autobiographical.

A woman who has writing aspirations and her cerebal-palsy girlfriend with the same. Her name is Vi, and she breaks up with her boyfriend after his obviously autobiographical story is panned horribly by the school teacher who dismisses it first very crudely and then gets more elaborate.

He especially takes some kind of pleasure in attacking the title: "The Rawness of Truth."

It's the kind of story that leaves you thinking, "Wow, is that in dire need of a rewrite."

Pretty much the whole class warms up to it... except for the star pupil/teacher's pet... and the teacher himself, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author of a novel entitled, "A Sunday Lynching."

Marcus (Vi's boyfriend) is furious with her for not giving it to him straight. Marcus' "Rawness" is about how Vi gave him confidence and made him feel, as he puts it in his story... "completely cerebal."

Vi, stricken, gets hammered, lights up and...

The professor has a poetic line about the writing process that rings incredibly true: "Whenever you write... it all becomes fiction."

After the first story ("Fiction") in the film ends, you can't get but the feeling that although something horrible and tragic has happened, perhaps it was nessicary. And after they take it all in, let in all sink in, lick their wounds, let some time pass... maybe they'll be ready to take the next step.

"Non-Fiction" is about most likely Solondz experience as director and the whole documentary experience. Often at times, those documentarians seem to be roasting and attacking their subjects with great anger and fury... but are they just trying to get heat for their film... or is that how they really see it?

Who knows? Many artists are former victims, grown children with bad experiences and hell-bent on vengeance. "Non-Fiction" revolves around the exploits of a documentarian filmmaker and his desire to make a documentary about teenagers and what they're feeling now.

Have things changed much? Drugs... suicidal feelings... self-loathing... loathing of the world around them... of the way society treats them, pressures them, conforms them and disposes of them... how do teenagers put up with it? What's ahead? Mark Webber is Scooby Livingston, a depressed and moody teenager who's completely lost and like many teenagers, his all-purpose requests to every queston is "I don't know," "I really don't care" and "Whatever."

He always seems deep in thought and in need of answers. He has big goal aspirations... but no idea whatsoever as how to attain them. When asked how he plans to attain his dreams of stardom, he answers: "I don't know, see if I have any connections... whatever..." After a meet-strange with a documentarian named Toby, both seem to think the other may be exactly what they're looking for and maybe their seemingly unobtainable dreams might have a chance of coming true after all.

The family is not enthusiastic about the whole thing... especially the father who doesn't want the family's dirty laundry to be aired out. But after some hard questions and earnest promises, he agrees.

No family wants to be exploited... and this family certainly would provide more than enough of such material. I think the boy represents Solondz as a young teenager (Solondz himself is also a vegetarian) and of course, Giamatti as Toby is Solondz as a filmmaker (Solondz dresses up Giamatti to look exactly like him).

There's pressure all around from every angle and sadly, no way out in sight. College doesn't sound appealing and there has to be a place for Scooby. Since Scooby grew up to be Solondz himself (we can only assume), there must be hope.

But I think Scooby represents all teenagers. He reflects not our generation, but that paticular case, that type. That unfortunate type.

God, how many teens are there out there EXACTLY like Scooby? Actually, I think he represents the teens who are more depressed, desolate and lost. The ones who are always feeling lost... swimming against the tides, always feeling trapped with a feeling of hopelessness.

If you've ever seen a Solondz movie, you really do know what to expect.

Like all of his other efforts, this is about how ugliness and unsettling rage lives in middle class suburbia. You can't watch this movie, see and hear some of these people and not think of someone you know or have met or seen randomly on the street.

Solondz is from Suburbia, New Jersey and is talking about what's going on there.

I like how he talks about things that most movies and people in real life shy away from. He wants to critisize, satirize and get you to ask yourself...

"How many people are really like this? And... is there hope for us? How many of these people exist... and more importantly, are they in our neghiborhood? Not many... hopefully."

Like all of Solondz films, people will either be mesmerized by it or despise it, but it's a movie that many should see.

Perhaps a movie for cynical teenagers and aspiring storytellers. Just know what you're getting into.

Hey, when's the next one coming out? When's your next flick coming out already, Todd?

I'm getting antsy.


by Dane Youssef


SPECIAL NOTE: For all you big Solondz fans out there (we're a cult more than anything else), check out my biography on writer/director Todd Solondz at IMDb and FILMSPOT.


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"THE PURSUIT OF... BUT NEVER THE ACTUAL... "

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 05:55 (A review of Happiness (1998))

by Dane Youssef


This is yet another "daring and provocative" little "taboo-breaking film" from writer/director Todd Solondz ("Welcome To The Dollhouse," "Happiness," "Fear, Anxiety & Depression," Schatt's Last Shot"), so anyone who picks t his one up should know what to expect. In fact, dollars to diamonds, you wouldn't even think about picking this one up unless you were a fan.


Like fellow contraversal filmmaker Neil LaBute, he likes to shed a great deal of light on the uglier, loathsome, unsavory side of humanity. Is he trying to illuminate us all by showing us the dark matter of our society? How our cold and evil nature may be our downfall? And all the damage it's doing? Or is Solondz more infactuated by these all-too realistic monsters and villains he puts up there on the screen?


Is this weird little man enamored by his loathsome creations? Is he celebrating this callous side of the human race or satirizing it? Normally, he leaves that to us, but althroughout "Storytelling," he seems to be trying to set the record straight.


For those who saw his heavily acclaimed (by critics and audiences alike) "Welcome To The Dollhouse" a movie about the hell almighty on earth that is junior high school.


I was not one of the film's many admirers.


Yes, I felt like just about everybody else that the film did have some poginant truths, but... I pretty much already knew them all. It all felt kinda redundant. I was in high school at the time and every scene I was watching, I thought, "Yeah, no shit" and "God, these people are ass-holes and idiots."


I mean, I know it's supposed to be a satire, but I felt too much like I was watching what I already knew and thought and what has been said too many times before. Solondz was preaching to the wrong choir there.


His next fim, "Happiness" about three sisters and their lives... and how adulthood is more or less as mentally unbalanced as junior high school. About three sisters and how their lives aren't as well-adjusted as they seem. The seemingly ideal perfect sister is dry, secretly dull and lives such a sterile life that when an obscene phone caller calls her... she starts stalking him.


The best line in the movie "Happiness"... that almost encapsulates the entire film:

Helen Jordan: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you."

Joy Jordan: "But I'm not laughing."



The film is about two different forms of storytelling: Two seperate chapters, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction."


"Fiction" is a surprisingly short one. It's about the creative writing process, and it takes place in a creative writing class. Many of the main characters are all writing short stories, most of which are autobiographical.


A woman who has writing aspirations and her cerebal-palsy girlfriend with the same. Her name is Vi, and she breaks up with her boyfriend after his obviously autobiographical story is panned horribly by the school teacher who dismisses it first very crudely and then gets more elaborate.


He especially takes some kind of pleasure in attacking the title: "The Rawness of Truth."


It's the kind of story that leaves you thinking, "Wow, is that in dire need of a rewrite."


Pretty much the whole class warms up to it... except for the star pupil/teacher's pet... and the teacher himself, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author of a novel entitled, "A Sunday Lynching."


Marcus (Vi's boyfriend) is furious with her for not giving it to him straight. Marcus' "Rawness" is about how Vi gave him confidence and made him feel, as he puts it in his story... "completely cerebal."


Vi, stricken, gets hammered, lights up and...


The professor has a poetic line about the writing process that rings incredibly true: "Whenever you write... it all becomes fiction."


After the first story ("Fiction") in the film ends, you can't get but the feeling that although something horrible and tragic has happened, perhaps it was necessary. And after they take it all in, let in all sink in, lick their wounds, let some time pass... maybe they'll be ready to take the next step.


"Non-Fiction" is about most likely Solondz experience as director and the whole documentary experience. Often at times, those documentarians seem to be roasting and attacking their subjects with great anger and fury... but are they just trying to get heat for their film... or is that how they really see it?


Who knows? Many artists are former victims, grown children with bad experiences and hell-bent on vengeance. "Non-Fiction" revolves around the exploits of a documentarian filmmaker and his desire to make a documentary about teenagers and what they're feeling now.


Have things changed much? Drugs... suicidal feelings... self-loathing... loathing of the world around them... of the way society treats them, pressures them, conforms them and disposes of them... how do teenagers put up with it? What's ahead? Mark Webber is Scooby Livingston, a depressed and moody teenager who's completely lost and like many teenagers, his all-purpose requests to every queston is "I don't know," "I really don't care" and "Whatever."


He always seems deep in thought and in need of answers. He has big goal aspirations... but no idea whatsoever as how to attain them. When asked how he plans to attain his dreams of stardom, he answers: "I don't know, see if I have any connections... whatever..." After a meet-strange with a documentarian named Toby, both seem to think the other may be exactly what they're looking for and maybe their seemingly unobtainable dreams might have a chance of coming true after all.


The family is not enthusiastic about the whole thing... especially the father who doesn't want the family's dirty laundry to be aired out. But after some hard questions and earnest promises, he agrees.


No family wants to be exploited... and this family certainly would provide more than enough of such material. I think the boy represents Solondz as a young teenager (Solondz himself is also a vegetarian) and of course, Giamatti as Toby is Solondz as a filmmaker (Solondz dresses up Giamatti to look exactly like him).


There's pressure all around from every angle and sadly, no way out in sight. College doesn't sound appealing and there has to be a place for Scooby. Since Scooby grew up to be Solondz himself (we can only assume), there must be hope.


But I think Scooby represents all teenagers. He reflects not our generation, but that paticular case, that type. That unfortunate type.


God, how many teens are there out there EXACTLY like Scooby? Actually, I think he represents the teens who are more depressed, desolate and lost. The ones who are always feeling lost... swimming against the tides, always feeling trapped with a feeling of hopelessness.


If you've ever seen a Solondz movie, you really do know what to expect.

Like all of his other efforts, this is about how ugliness and unsettling rage lives in middle class suburbia. You can't watch this movie, see and hear some of these people and not think of someone you know or have met or seen randomly on the street.


Solondz is from Suburbia, New Jersey and is talking about what's going on there.


I like how he talks about things that most movies and people in real life shy away from. He wants to critisize, satirize and get you to ask yourself...


"How many people are really like this? And... is there hope for us? How many of these people exist... and more importantly, are they in our neghiborhood? Not many... hopefully."


Like all of Solondz films, people will either be mesmerized by it or despise it, but it's a movie that many should see.


Perhaps a movie for cynical teenagers and aspiring storytellers. Just know what you're getting into.


Hey, when's the next one coming out? When's your next flick coming out already, Todd? I'm getting antsy.


--For The Endless Pursuit of...You Know, Dane Youssef


SPECIAL NOTE: For all you big Solondz fans out there (we're a cult more than anything else), check out my biography on writer/director Todd Solondz at IMDb and FILMSPOT.



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SPACEY HOSTS A SLOW DAY AT THE ACTOR'S WORKSHOP

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 05:49 (A review of Albino Alligator [Region 2])

by Dane Youssef


A gang of crooks. The perfect plan. It all goes wrong. They're in trouble. The police are outside. They're cornered. What are they gonna do now?


Sound familiar?


"Albino Alligator" is one of those movies that seems like it's trying to be a combination of the acting workshop, the "indie" film and the theater.


It's the kind of things that actors love--it's kind of like a workshop or a play because it mostly consists of tight focusing on the actors acting... acting angry, tense, scared, conversing, scheming, planning--giving the performers a lot of free range to really ham it all up.


A trio of crooks, one leader, one goon, one brother, come up with a big heist scheme... and a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. To top things off, there's a bit of a "fender-bender" and one of the crooks in flung through the back of the windshield.

The cops are on their tail and they stumble into a bar named poetically (and leadenly) "Dino's Last Chance."


Spacey, as a director, tries to keep the focus on the actors' performances and delivery of dialouge. He pans over to a bright passion-red cigarette ad of a smoking and smoldering Bogart. And he keeps all the violence off-screen, really.


I think that was a mistake. Focusing on the intensity and gruesome violent scenes would have given the movie some edge.


The problem with the movie is that it moves too slow and suffers from miscasting in almost every role. Matt Dillon ("Drugstore Cowboy" and "Wild Things") seems too young and too idealistic to be the leader of this gang.


Gary Sinese seems to brooding and deep in thought to be a spineless tag-along with these guys and Joe Mantaga is effective as the traditional routine foul-swearing mad-dog police lieutenant who's all thumbs, but he isn't given anything to really do here.


William Fischter is the only actor who is believable in his role as a brainless grunt who just wants to spill blood.


And the crooks are in a tense situation where they either go to jail or they try to think of some way out of this.

Spacey lacks the ability to create a lot of tension and keep it going. The characters are mostly chatting away, trying to think of a plan... and they're to calm and too articulate. There's even a scene where the crooks are playing pool with a whole swarm of armed cops right outside, ready to strike. At one point, one of the crooks even call the police who are right outside the bar. Oh brother. Oh bother.


These cops are going to either blow them away or going to lock them up. Shouldn't the holed-up crooks be a little scared, a little uneasy? Meanwhile, all the real action is happening inside.


Someone whips out a gun, a baseball bat, which leads to an ugly confrontation off-screen and there's one more casualty that happens that's... well, kinda sad. But...


Faye Dunaway also should have spent more time with a dialect coach, improving on her New Orleans accent. And Skeet Ullrich is fine in a small part.


A cop listening in reaches for a pack of matches at the absolute worst time is a nice look. And so is a scene where someone goes right through the rear windshield.


The dialouge is obviously trying to go for a David Mamet approach and it's as profane, but never as realistic or as insightful.


The movie feels like too much of what it really is... a really low-budget movie with an actor behind the camera for the first time directing other actors from a script that's "not bad, but needs a few more re-writes." Spacey shows he's not a terrible director, but he lacks a sort of feel for "shaping a movie" and it feels like he's just filming actors act.


These actors are all talented and could work with the material, but they all feel out of place. As I said before, the movie really suffers from miscasting.


I don't mean that the wrong actors were cast. I think they found just the right cast, but placed them in all the wrong roles. I think switching some of the roles would've helped immensely.


Having veteran mob actor Joe Mantagna play the leader of the pack, Gary Sinese as the angry police lieutenant outside on his bullhorn giving orders and barking at his troops, keeping Fischter in his "bloodthirsty goon" part and Matt Dillion as the sacrificial lamb. That would have been a big improvement.


When some actors direct, it works. They can even win Oscars for it. But a lot of the time, when actors direct, they have a tendency to just focus on the performances. Just shoot the actors acting.

Sometimes it works... but they need a good showcase for it. An excuse for it.

Hostage situations are all pretty much the same in real life just like coming-of-age stories so it's only natural that movies about them will go from point A to point B as well.


There are a few really great entries into this genre.' Spacey himself appeared in a similar movie about hostage situations: "The Negotiator."


This certainly won't become a cult classic, let alone one of AFI's 100. Still, it does have a few nice moments and personal touches, but in the end, it's instantly forgettable and the kind of movie that would play best on regular TV. It's just not worth going out of your way to see.


I give this one a 3 out of 10. Better luck next time, Space.


I heard his "Beyond The Sea" was a better effort...


Maybe it is true. You need to fail before you succeed.


--For Independent Filmmakers Everywhere, Dane Youssef


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SPACEY HOSTS A SLOW DAY AT THE ACTOR'S WORKSHOP

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 2 September 2009 05:48 (A review of Albino Alligator [1996])

by Dane Youssef


A gang of crooks. The perfect plan. It all goes wrong. They're in trouble. The police are outside. They're cornered. What are they gonna do now?


Sound familiar?


"Albino Alligator" is one of those movies that seems like it's trying to be a combination of the acting workshop, the "indie" film and the theater.


It's the kind of things that actors love--it's kind of like a workshop or a play because it mostly consists of tight focusing on the actors acting... acting angry, tense, scared, conversing, scheming, planning--giving the performers a lot of free range to really ham it all up.


A trio of crooks, one leader, one goon, one brother, come up with a big heist scheme... and a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. To top things off, there's a bit of a "fender-bender" and one of the crooks in flung through the back of the windshield.

The cops are on their tail and they stumble into a bar named poetically (and leadenly) "Dino's Last Chance."


Spacey, as a director, tries to keep the focus on the actors' performances and delivery of dialouge. He pans over to a bright passion-red cigarette ad of a smoking and smoldering Bogart. And he keeps all the violence off-screen, really.


I think that was a mistake. Focusing on the intensity and gruesome violent scenes would have given the movie some edge.


The problem with the movie is that it moves too slow and suffers from miscasting in almost every role. Matt Dillon ("Drugstore Cowboy" and "Wild Things") seems too young and too idealistic to be the leader of this gang.


Gary Sinese seems to brooding and deep in thought to be a spineless tag-along with these guys and Joe Mantaga is effective as the traditional routine foul-swearing mad-dog police lieutenant who's all thumbs, but he isn't given anything to really do here.


William Fischter is the only actor who is believable in his role as a brainless grunt who just wants to spill blood.


And the crooks are in a tense situation where they either go to jail or they try to think of some way out of this.


Spacey lacks the ability to create a lot of tension and keep it going. The characters are mostly chatting away, trying to think of a plan... and they're to calm and too articulate. There's even a scene where the crooks are playing pool with a whole swarm of armed cops right outside, ready to strike. At one point, one of the crooks even call the police who are right outside the bar. Oh brother. Oh bother.


These cops are going to either blow them away or going to lock them up. Shouldn't the holed-up crooks be a little scared, a little uneasy? Meanwhile, all the real action is happening inside.


Someone whips out a gun, a baseball bat, which leads to an ugly confrontation off-screen and there's one more casualty that happens that's... well, kinda sad. But...


Faye Dunaway also should have spent more time with a dialect coach, improving on her New Orleans accent. And Skeet Ullrich is fine in a small part.


A cop listening in reaches for a pack of matches at the absolute worst time is a nice look. And so is a scene where someone goes right through the rear windshield.


The dialouge is obviously trying to go for a David Mamet approach and it's as profane, but never as realistic or as insightful.


The movie feels like too much of what it really is... a really low-budget movie with an actor behind the camera for the first time directing other actors from a script that's "not bad, but needs a few more re-writes." Spacey shows he's not a terrible director, but he lacks a sort of feel for "shaping a movie" and it feels like he's just filming actors act.


These actors are all talented and could work with the material, but they all feel out of place. As I said before, the movie really suffers from miscasting.


I don't mean that the wrong actors were cast. I think they found just the right cast, but placed them in all the wrong roles. I think switching some of the roles would've helped immensely.


Having veteran mob actor Joe Mantagna play the leader of the pack, Gary Sinese as the angry police lieutenant outside on his bullhorn giving orders and barking at his troops, keeping Fischter in his "bloodthirsty goon" part and Matt Dillion as the sacrificial lamb. That would have been a big improvement.


When some actors direct, it works. They can even win Oscars for it. But a lot of the time, when actors direct, they have a tendency to just focus on the performances. Just shoot the actors acting.


Sometimes it works... but they need a good showcase for it. An excuse for it.


Hostage situations are all pretty much the same in real life just like coming-of-age stories so it's only natural that movies about them will go from point A to point B as well.


There are a few really great entries into this genre.' Spacey himself appeared in a similar movie about hostage situations: "The Negotiator."


This certainly won't become a cult classic, let alone one of AFI's 100. Still, it does have a few nice moments and personal touches, but in the end, it's instantly forgettable and the kind of movie that would play best on regular TV. It's just not worth going out of your way to see.


I give this one a 3 out of 10. Better luck next time, Space.

I heard his "Beyond The Sea" was a better effort... Maybe it's true. You need to fail before you succeed.


--For Independent Filmmakers Everywhere, Dane Youssef


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