“In Dreams” – Roy Orbison (as used in “Blue Velvet” (1986) dir. David Lynch)


Here’s the infamous scene where Dean Stockwell’s whacked-out Ben character lip-syncs to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” while Dennis Hopper’s equally insane Frank Booth looks on in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.” Stockwell allegedly came up with Ben’s “look” by reading Lynch’s script and imagining what kind of person Frank would consistently praise as being “suave.” I love the way that the otherwise aggro Frank gets very emotional while watching Ben’s performance and then about 1:14 in, abruptly starts having a psychotic break. Two brilliantly weird performances in a masterpiece of a film. I’ll watch this scene 1,000 more times than have to endure one more scene of some movie character singing Motown tunes into a hairbrush.  And would someone please send me that smoking jacket that Ben wears?

“Basquiat” (1996) dir. Julian Schnabel


One of the best films about an artist’s life I’ve ever seen, as well as being one of the coolest films I’ve ever seen about any subject, “Basquiat” is a biopic chronicling the fast times and short life of legendary 1980s postmodernist/neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat created some brilliant (and highly commercial) art and also ran with a lot of famous people (Andy Warhol, Madonna, Keith Haring) back in the day. However, personal demons and drug abuse wound up getting the better of him and Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988.

Jeffrey Wright does a terrific job in the lead role as Basquiat and leads an all-star cast that includes David Bowie as Andy Warhol, Gary Oldman playing a character based on director/artist Julian Schnabel, Michael Wincott as critic Rene Ricard, Dennis Hopper as art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, and Christopher Walken, Courtney Love, Claire Forlani, Benicio Del Toro, Tatum O’Neal in supporting roles.

“Basquiat” also boasts one of the coolest soundtracks of any film, featuring the Pogues, Public Image Ltd., Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Charlie Parker, Melle Mel, the Modern Lovers, and Peggy Lee among others.

This was director Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut, a career that has led to great films such as “Before Night Falls,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and “Lou Reed’s Berlin.”

Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper in “River’s Edge” (1987) dir. Tim Hunter


If there was ever a better argument for pot legalization than this scene from the creepy 1987 cult movie “River’s Edge,” I have yet to see it. This is probably the scariest … and  funniest … variation of the “buying pot from the weird older guy” scenario that many of you may or may not have experienced in your wayward youth. By the way, that’s Keanu Reeves in the background.

“Out of the Blue” (1980) dir. Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper had an interesting, but extremely spotty career as a filmmaker.  His biggest hit was the 1969 cultural zeitgeist “Easy Rider.”  But in my opinion, the best film that Hopper had any involvement with (aside from “Blue Velvet,” “True Romance” and “Apocalypse Now”) was 1980s “Out of the Blue.”  Hopper was originally hired on just to act, but when the first-time director wasn’t delivering the goods during the first couple of weeks in production, Hopper rewrote the script and took over as director.

“Blue” is an ultra-bleak look at the collateral damage that alcoholism and drug abuse can have on a family.  The lead character CeBe, brilliantly played by Linda Manz, is a lonely 14-year old girl with a chip on her shoulder and an obsession with Elvis and punk rock.  Her father, played by Hopper, has been in prison for killing multiple children on a school bus in a drunk driving accident five years prior.  Her mother, played by Sharon Farrell, is a waitress and heroin addict.  Hopper’s character gets out of prison and for a brief moment, it looks like CeBe will finally have the normal life she has craved.  But it’s not to be and the film gets increasingly dark and bleak, leading to a really horrific ending.

Needless to say, “Out of the Blue” is not a film you’d want to watch in a foul or depressed mood.  It is THE definition of a “feel-bad” movie.  However, the movie is brilliantly directed by Hopper, who really conveys the desolation of these characters and the world they inhabit.  And the performances by Manz, Hopper, Farrell, and Don Gordon are all frighteningly real.  Especially Manz.  She plays a very angry character, an anger that masks a desperation for a normal family.  The hopeful look in her eyes when she thinks things are going to work out is heartbreaking.  “Blue” was in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and Manz was talked about as a strong contender for the Best Actress prize that year (she lost to Anouk Aimee).

The trailer above gives a very strong flavor of what this movie is about. However, it’s definitely not safe for work given the subject matter.