Friday, April 18, 2008

Camera Obscura: "Tennesse" Opens; Coolest Movie Star Ever; Most Unwatchable Movies; and Sartre, Nebraska

Last Spring, independent filmmakers and music star Mariah Carey came to Tennessee to film a movie called, duh, "Tennessee." Scenes were shot in Nashville, McMinnville, and Dunlap. The movie premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival next weekend.

The story follows two brothers who travel from the Southwest to Tennessee in search of their estranged father and they are joined on the journey by Carey, who plays a waitress with dreams of a singing career in Nashville. Director Aaron Woodley says the film is a very personal and intimate story of the fleeting time we all inhabit, and found the script to be an excellent tale of the tentative nature of life.


The coolest person ever on film? Many think that person is Jean Gabin. Yeah, who??

He first found great success "The Grand Illusion" and then in "Pepe Le Moko" (which was also the source of inspiration for the Warner Bros. cartoon character Pepe Le Pew).

A two-volume(!!) biography of the actor has just been published, "World's Coolest Movie Star", and it contains exhaustive info on his 95 films, many which have never been made available in the U.S. I suppose you have to be French to be cool.

I like both of his most famous films, yes, but come on, as far as French cool goes it's Jean Paul Belmondo. American movie cool? Hard to beat James Dean and his three (and only three) movies. But cool is also the kingdom of Steve McQueen - jumping motorcycles over barb-wire fences while fleeing Nazis, digging the cool jazz sounds as a Mustang-driving policeman, or my favorite is when he keeps yelling "punch it baby!!" to his driver, Ali McGraw, while escaping the cops in "The Getaway".

I have to give props to Jack Nicholson for always wearing sunglasses in public, indoors or out, day or night. But his cool factor fell fast and hard with "The Bucket List". Then there's Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, and honorable mention for Tim Matheson - the one and only Jonny Quest and Eric Stratton in "Animal House." Plus he was Van Wilder's dad.


What movie is the toughest to actually watch and endure to the end? (Yes, you might suggest any previous Mariah Carey movie.) In all my film-going experience the only movie which ever caused me to hurl a god-awful concession stand cheeseburger at the screen was "Xanadu".

A list of the Top Ten Difficult But Awesome movies is offered here, and there are some sound choices, like "The Isle", a Korean film about love and mutilation, and two films by Takashi Miike, "Audition" and "Ichi: The Killer". (Most people would say all of Miike's movies are nearly impossible to endure.)

Back in the day, some friends and I would frequently gather to watch movies and one game we played was Who Can Watch This Movie?

They weren't really meant to be "awesome" film experiences. One of my choices was "Bloodsucking Freaks", a movie I've yet to watch without hitting the fast forward button, a sign in my mind of good mental health. It's vile.

"A Clockwork Orange" would be on some lists, but it is an awesome piece of work and still able to disturb nearly 40 years after it was made. A more recent effort to catalog the awful nature of teenager-dom is on the above list, "Elephant" by Gus Van Zandt.

But after all is said and done .... the only movie that made be throw a cheeseburger at the screen - "Xanadu". I mean, just look at that image - it's as if she was asking me to throw it!

The most-watched and most talked about video of the week and the month is one-time playwright Tricia Walsh-Smith ranting about her divorce settlement. Go here to see it if you wish. She hauls out her Tarot deck and also grills her hubby's assistant over the phone about his Viagra. I had to hold back on the urge to throw a cheeseburger at the video.


Three reasons I am considering watching "Zombie Strippers" ---- the title, the fact the script is an adaptation of Eugene Ionesco's surreal comedy "Rhinoceros" and that it is set in a town called Sartre, Nebraska.


  1. You're high. Xanadu is freaking awesome. Or, wait. Maybe you are not the aforementioned and that's why you don't love it.

  2. actually i was pretty drunk when i saw it way back in the day. maybe i should have been on more powerful intoxicants.

    it's just that my arm hurled that cheeseburger at the screen in a near-reflex.

    i also feel somewhat vindicated that it prompted a famouse one-word review: "Xana-don't", and was the source of inspiration for the annual Razzie Awards.

  3. "famouse"? needs more coffee ...