“Much Ado About Nothing,” a retrospective of the movie “Diner” by S.L. Price, Vanity Fair March 2012

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2012/03/diner-201203

A really smart retrospective of Barry Levinson’s 1982 classic film “Diner,” by writer S.L. Price. Not only did the film launch the careers of Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern, Steve Guttenberg, and Tim Daly, Price argues that “Diner” was one of the major influences on pop culture in the past 30 years. Think about it: Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity,” the pop and junk culture dialogues in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre, “Seinfeld,” and Judd Apatow’s “bromance” genre can all be traced back to “Diner.” All I can say is “Damn, wish I had thought of that!” Nice shooting, Mr. Price.

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The Oral History of Freaks and Geeks, Vanity Fair, January 2013

www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/01/freaks-and-geeks-oral-history?mbid=social_mobile_email

The best TV show about teenagers of all time (and arguably one of the best TV shows about any subject, ever), “Freaks and Geeks” is one of those shows that continues to amaze, even after it was yanked after one season in 2000. If you’ve never seen it, the entire series is available on Netflix Instant and is a must-see. It’s one of the truest and painfully funny things you’ll ever watch. At the link above is a terrific and lengthy oral history of the show from the January 2013 issue of “Vanity Fair.” If you’re a fan of the show, or are fascinated by the severe ups and downs of the creative process in the entertainment industry, check it out.

“Sock it to Me Santa” – Bob Seger and the Last Heard

This is a raucous holiday favorite by an early Bob Seger.  It’s a little derivative of Mitch Ryder and James Brown, but still a lot of fun.

I’m signing off for the holidays.  But check back every once in a while …  You never know when Dave may get strange during the next week and a half.  Please take care and have a terrific and safe holiday and New Year!

Patton Oswalt on “Christmas Shoes”

Hands down, the funniest evisceration of holiday sanctimony … EVER!!  If you’re a fan of “Christmas Shoes,” please don’t watch this.  Please know that my intent is not to demean anyone who loves this song.  After all, I’m a huge fan of “Love Actually,” which many people despise for the same reasons I despise this song.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have our form of holiday sanctimony that we love.   But seriously folks, “Christmas Shoes” is really f–king awful and Oswalt gives it the treatment it deserves.  Not safe for work or little ones.

“Alex Chilton” – The Replacements

The Replacements’ loving tribute to power pop pioneer Alex Chilton.  Chilton had many hits as a teenager as a member of the Box Tops and was later a pivotal member of Big Star, one of the best bands of the early 1970s.

Many alt-rock legends loved Chilton.  My favorite story involves the Butthole Surfers.  From Michael Azerrad’s wonderful history of American 1980s alt-rock, “Our Band Could Be Your Life,” Azerrad related that one night, Surfers lead singer Gibby Haynes was having one of his usual, violent, acid-drenched freakouts backstage at a gig in Holland.  Allegedly, Haynes was completely naked and having multiple altercations with the security of the gig, to the point where 10 people had to hold him down.  As Haynes was freaking out back stage, a man asked if he could borrow a guitar.  Haynes lit into him, yelling “BORROW A GUITAR??!! WELL, WHO THE F–K ARE YOU??!!” itching for an fight.  The man calmly said “I’m Alex Chilton.”  Haynes immediately calmed down, opened all the guitar cases one by one, and said “Take anything you want.”  That, my friends, is what we call the power of ethos.

“After Hours” (1985) dir. Martin Scorsese

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In honor of the crappy day I had today (which included having two endorsed checks fly away in the wind from the drive-in teller window … never to be seen again, dealing with downpours while not being able to get my driver’s side window raised), I’m tipping my hat to Martin Scorsese’s brilliantly dark and demented 1985 comedy “After Hours” which deals with one man’s similarly sh–ty series of events over a 12-hour period. I’ve booked an appointment with my therapist, Jack Daniels, tonight.

“Brewster McCloud” (1970) dir. Robert Altman

Like the Coen Brothers’ 1998 classic “The Big Lebowski,”  Robert Altman’s “Brewster McCloud” is one of those films where you feel the filmmaker had a million different weird ideas that they always wanted to put into a film, but were inhibited due to budgetary, narrative, or time constraints.  When said filmmaker achieves some success and they can do anything they want, they throw all these weird ideas into one sort-of “f–k you” film, knowing they’ll never get another chance to be this far out again.

Like “Lebowski,” when you first see “McCloud,” at best, you may chuckle a little bit, but wonder how it all fits together.  At worst, you’ll roll your eyes and groan at the self-indulgence.  But if you give it a chance and watch it again … and again … the film will grow on you … big time.  And then you’ll really start to groove on the weird humor and characters.

In this case, “Brewster McCloud” was Altman’s first film after the blockbuster success of “M*A*S*H”.  I remember seeing this in a film class I took as an undergraduate and my friends and I left the auditorium scratching our heads and wondering “What the f–k was that?”  However, it was so twisted, weird, and funny, that I rented it on VHS when I came home on break and would pick it up over the years when I couldn’t find anything else to watch.   Watching it again recently, it actually seems ballsier and less politically correct than I remember many years ago.  This is a wonderfully rude, nasty, misanthropic comedy with probably the most tasteless final joke / line in a film … ever.  Seriously, it’s literally the last line in the film after the credits and it will either make you groan in disgust or laugh hysterically.   Dave says check it out.

As a bonus, check out screenwriter Larry Karaszewski’s (“The People v. Larry Flynt,” “Ed Wood”) commentary on the film from Trailers from Hell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntcM7Plwha0

“Bad Lieutenant” (1992) dir. Abel Ferrara

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“Bad Lieutenant” was one of the best films of the 1990s and a film that continues to fascinate and provide food for thought as the years go on. The plot seems simple (and deceptively Conservative): a corrupt cop (masterfully played by Harvey Keitel) with various addictions: gambling, drugs, sex … reaches a major crisis point, finds Jesus, and understands the true nature of Christianity. The problem (at least of for Christian Conservatives) is that Keitel’s journey is an NC-17 rated charter to Hell, with graphic sex, nudity, violence, and drug use. Keitel’s character’s hallucination / breakdown in front of Jesus, as well as his subsequent giving some crack-smoking rapists $30,000 and a bus ticket out of town, really made me understand the concept of Grace. This will likely offend most people who call themselves Christians, but it also makes me understand what Christianity is about in a way that never made sense to me before. Admittedly, it’s not enough to make me run back to church, but it’s still pretty powerful … and a great testament to Ferrara as a filmmaker and potential (albeit wacked-out) theologian.

The attached red-band trailer is admittedly awful, but it’s at least consistent with most art-house trailers. The film is way better than this trailer would make you believe.

I remember seeing this film on a sleety, gray, miserable day in February 1993 in downtown Washington DC.  The theater I went to see it in (the Janus 3) was pretty run-down.  It wasn’t what I would call a grindhouse, but definitely a venue that had seen better days.  In retrospect, it was the perfect setting to see this f–ked up masterpiece.

This was one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films of the 1990s.