Friday, August 26, 2005

TOO WONG FOO...A Romp On The Wild Side

"Ready or comes mama!"

Sure enough, right before our very eyes, two especially
testosterone-laden Hollywood actors transform themselves into
certifiable New York drag queens in Director Beeban Kidron's
flashy "Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar".

None other than Wesley Snipes (who achieved well-deserved
international stardom for his dynamic performance in the high
action drama, "Passenger 57") and Patrick Swayze (the "Dirty
Dancing" hunk) play, respectively, Noxeema Jackson and Vida
Boheme in this frolicking road picture replete with delicious
dialogue and a pulsing soundtrack throughout.

Talk about high concept. And the transformation is remarkable,
indeed. Good enough for Noxeema and Vida to tie for top honors
in a highly competitive Drag Queen Pageant ("Nobody here tonight
is winning Miss Congenialty," notes Noxeema). And good enough
for an uncredited Robin Williams to be smitten at the sight
of them. "I feel like a compass pointing due North!" he giggles.

Top prize is a trip to the City of Angels for the national
finals, and Vida decides they should cash in their plane tickets
for a 1967 Cadillac and invite Chi Chi (John Leguizamo in a
remarkable gender-hopping role modeled after Rosie Perez) to
come along. Noxeema is horrified, "She might be a Sandinista
or something", but Vida prevails and the threesome hit the open road.

All goes relatively well until a red-neck Sheriff (played with
comical glee by the appropriately portly Chris Penn) makes a
move on the voluptuous Vida and discovers the hidden truth.
One punch later and Vida is back behind the wheel of the Caddy,
her traveling companions in tow. Unfortunately, the Caddy breaks
down and until a part can be shipped they are marooned in a
broken-down small town that makes Cotopaxi, Colorado look
cosmopolitan. The dreary hotel room and the dreary lives of the local
inhabitants, especially the down-trodden women, just won't do,
and so Vida et al initiate "Operation Decorator Storm", and the
make-over begins.

Engaging moments abound as Snyderville and its populace
rediscover a sense of self-esteem. One-by-one long-repressed dreams
are remembered and pursued and the cumultive effect is a heart
warming scene of the entire town dancing in the streets to the
beat of Johnny Mathis singing "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."
As Vida notes, "Sometimes all it takes is a fairy!"

Costume designer Marlene Stewart deserves special mention for
concocting an outrageous array of audacious clothes. Supporting
actors Arliss Howard, Blythe Danner and the always-solid
Stockard Channing earn individual kudos as well.

The marquee-unfriendly title comes from an autographed photo
of the statuesque Julie Newmar ("The only catwoman!" declares
Vida -- and I wholeheartedly agree) which hung on the wall of a
Chinese restaurant. Credit Douglas Carter Beane for a sassy,
hip screenplay chock-full of marvelous little details and
rife with references such as Moms Mabley, Sally Struthers, Tex
Avery, Emma Peel and Mary Jo Kopechne. If these names
mean anything to you, then "To Wong Foo, Thanks For
Everything, Julie Newmar" is probably your cup of tea.

It is with some irony that I first saw "To Wong Foo, Thanks
For Everything, Julie Newmar" when it was playing at the
Majestic Theater in Crested Butte, Colorado during the opening
weekend of the Third Combined Colorado Hunting Season. Just
as little Snyderville was being visited by three irrepresible drag
queens on the screen, our small burg was playing host to a different
kind of cross dresser -- the ubiquitous, red-necked, all-American
deer hunter.

Gold lamy vs. green camouflage. Pink feather boas vs. day-glow
orange gimme caps. Bloomingdale's vs. L. L. Bean. And yes,
Hum Jobs vs. Hummers.

Do clothes really make the man?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

SIN CITY: Castrations Never Looked So Dreamy

God damn it to Hell... SIN CITY is a movie that I absolutely love. SIN CITY is a movie I absolutely hate. What's a reviewer to do?

Let's start with the good stuff --

This incredible digital feature is unlike anything you have seen before. I can not emphasize enough the stunning beauty of what is stylistically one of the most incredible black&white features since Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1927). Robert Rodriguez captures perfectly the "look" of Frank Miller's graphic novels (think "comic books" on steroids) that this film is based upon and from a visual and technical point of view, SIN CITY may prove to be a landmark production in cinema history. Time will tell...

On the other hand, the underlying story (actually what we have are four different stories ineffectively merged into a fairly non-cohesive whole) is, in a word, a mess. I cannot deny that the titillating depravity, the lurid edginess and the savage sadism which literally explodes off the screen is presented in rapid fire and truly visceral fashion. Clearly SIN CITY is a place to avoid visiting. But with all of the non-stop action and mayhem (the bad guy getting sliced into a "Pez dispenser" notwithstanding), SIN CITY is all style over substance. The narrative peters out quickly, failing to muster even a modicum of continuing suspense or interest. Clocking in at two hours and four minutes, it is the running time that is the biggest "sin" in this city.

Observation Number 1 -- The character "Yelow Bastard", played by Nick Stahl, sure reminds me of the goofy guy doing the Fiesta Texas ads. Makes me think twice about going there...

Observation Number 2 -- Mickey Rourke is truly phenominal as "Marv", the damn-near-impossible-to-kill street fighter with a penchant for band aids. For my money, the entire film could have relegated itself to his "story" and thus come in at a respectable one hour and forty minutes. This is a classic example of what often happens when the same person serves in the capacity of both the Director and the Editor. Scissors, anyone???

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Baseball's All-Time Greatest

Maybe it is just me, but I don't think baseball is near as much fun as it used to be. Far too many players today are totally despicable (Barry Bonds, for example) or they are obvious steroid users (Mark McGwire AND Sammy Sosa -- trust me on this) or they are a little bit of both (Rafael Palmeiro). How I harken for the good old times when guys played the game for the love of it -- and no one in the history of baseball ever did so with more heart and with more willingness to do whatever was needed to help the team than Cookie Rojas. Need a stolen base? Cookie is your guy. Need to advance the runner? Yep, Cookie could do that with the best of them. Need an occasional home run? Cookie came through more than most remember. Need to turn a key double play? Cookie was the pivot player you wanted on your team.

Perhaps the least known "Shrine" in America is the one dedicated to Cookie Rojas. It is located at 6001 Creekwood Pass in Spring Branch, Texas. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005


The Bob Award is given to the one entry at the Crested Butte Reel Fest which "pushes the envelope" the farthest. This year the award will be given to Grant Davis, a highly talented high school senior in Philadelphia whose short film is appropriately titled CATTLE MOVIE. It is unique, it is entertaining, it is going to be a huge hit on the film festival circuit and it cost less than one hundred bucks to make.

Of the six previous Bob Award winners, three were student filmmakers and two of these are now completing their first 35mm feature. Todd Rohal is in the final phases of post production on THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE. You can learn more about this extraordinary project at -- it is quintessential Rohal which means "you ain't seen nothin' like this before." Eduardo's film is CURANDERO and it is slated for a September 9th release by Miramax Films. His Bob Award-winning short was DAUGHTER, screened at Crested Butte in 2002; it remains the most disturbing short film I've ever seen, anywhere, anytime.

The 8th Annual Crested Butte Reel Fest runs from August 10-15. It will once again feature some of the best short films from around the world. Why not come and see for yourself?

Sunday, August 7, 2005


THE DUKES OF HAZZARD starts off slower than a Winn-Dixie check-out line in Chattahoochee and proceeds to go nowhere fast. I counted an absolute maximum total of two, yes two, mildly amusing scenes in one hundred and six minutes of screen time -- one is when Luke and Bo are in the holding cell in Atlanta and the second is when Willie Nelson emerges from the "smoke shack". That's mighty slim pickings; a bucket of Church's chicken necks offers more to savor. Throw in one amusing cameo with Rip Taylor during the end credits and you still have less bang for the buck than a non-sale item at Cabela's.

It is way too early to prognosticate the winner of the next Oscar or Emmy, but I can say without hesitation that THE DUKES OF HAZZARD is the forerunner for the first-ever Schaivo -- an award given to the most lifeless, brain dead movie of the year.

Saturday, August 6, 2005


The next time Turner Classic Movies airs THE FIGHTING 69th I urge you to tune in. This excellent film was originally released in 1940, and it tells the tale of the famed New York Irish 69th Regiment and its beloved Chaplain, Father Francis P. Duffy, played perfectly by Pat O'Brien. Other real-life members of this historic Army unit in WWI were "Wild Bill" Donovon (George Brent) who was accorded the Congressional Medal of Honor and Joyce Kilmer (Jeffrey Lynn), the poet whose most well-known poem was THE TREE -- "Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree."

Joining O'Brien, Brent and Lynn is an all-star cast featuring Warner Brothers Stock Veteran Company actors like Frank McHugh, Dennis Morgan and Alan Hale. The star of THE FIGHTING 69th, however, is James Cagney who plays the fictional character Jerry Plunkett, a smartass, street punk from Brooklyn who, surprisingly, becomes a coward when he is finally face-to-face with the horrors of battle. In the end, Plunkett does somewhat redeem himself, but it is a testament to Cagney that we find ourselves drawn to what is undoubtedly one of the all-time great silver screen antiheroes.

Given the nature of this blog I am sure you are wondering why I am writing about this "oldie but goodie." THE FIGHTING 69th, after all, is but one of many patriotic films produced during the Second World War that were designed to glorify the bravery of our troops and to reassure us of the need to stand united, one and all, against what was the most terrifying enemy our nation had ever faced. And that, my friends, is exactly why I am writing about this wonderful film right here, right now -- because it is time for the Hollywood mongoloids (I mean moguls) to take a lesson from the past and to again release positive, uplifting films that depict the bravery of our troops and the historic resolve of our citizenry against any outside threat we face, whether it be from Hitler's Germany, Tojo's Japan, Bin Laden's Afghanistan or wherever...

Instead, these retread retards are giving us a steady diet of ballyhooed baloney that are nothing more than pathetic remakes of films and TV shows from the past -- and none of these have come close to capturing the magic of the originals. BEWITCHED, THE HONEYMOONERS, STARSKY & HUTCH, THE BAD NEWS BEARS, not one, but two CHARLIE'S ANGELS, and the list goes on and on.

I close by making the following statement, in part a tribute to Joyce Kilmer who died on the battlefield in France in 1918. It is intended to be read by each and every current studio exec:

"I think I shall never see
A film worth a shit from thee."

Tuesday, August 2, 2005


THE NOTEBOOK is an exceptional film, clearly one of the better movies produced within the past few years. Among the many things that makes this movie remarkable is that they very rarely make movies like this anymore -- by "they" I mean Hollywood, independents, anyone and everyone now that the sequel/prequel/retread craze is in full swing. Let me also add that when Hollywood (especially) attempts a project that is steeped in personal, heartfelt human emotions they usually screw it up beyond comprehension.

An example of what I mean is WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, the equivalent of a technicolor pap smear that ranks among the worst movies of all time. Another dud was FORREST GUMP -- the big budget Tom Hanks hanky panky that was so annoyingly retarded in its execution I personally feel everyone responsible should be executed. Both of these diabetic duds were pretentious beyond belief, and so it was with considerable reservation that I rented this filmed adaptation of the best selling book by Nicholas Sparks. I expected Hollywood's equivalence of a "Big Chief" Notebook, or worse. I was very pleasantly surprised; not since the days of Douglas Sirk has an unabashed "weepy" been so beautifully crafted.

Under the skillful direction of Nick Cassavetes, John's son, and with a practically perfect cast, THE NOTEBOOK succeeds in every aspect. Rachel McAdams is brilliant beyond belief as the young Allie Hamilton. Her electric performance sizzles thoughout -- this gal is destined for stardom. And if you happen to be a Gena Davis fan, then God help you. Ms. McAdams' energetic performance will leave you secreting from every orifice of your body. Opposite her is Ryan Gosling, an actor I had not seen before but whose steady, winning performance insures a long career ahead as well. Ryan's skillfully nuanced portrayal of the young Noah is a perfect counterpart to the vivacious Allie -- these young actors capture an on-screen chemistry that is something to behold. Of course, Gena Rowlands (Nick's mom in real life) is excellent, as always, as is James Garner, an actor whose entire body of work remains both solid and underappreciated. Throw in Joan Allen and Sam Shepard and you have a film that is as well cast from top to bottom as MATEWAN -- and I don't say that lightly.

Special mention also must be given to Cinematographer Robert Fraisse, whose beautiful camera work provides a striking, saturated "look" that is both rich and appropriate for this idealized story of love, of love lost and of love refound in stunningly scenic South Carolina.

On your list of films to rent in the days ahead I urge you to pencil in THE NOTEBOOK...and be sure to have a full box of Kleenex handy. If you are like me, you'll feel as dehydrated as an Egyptian mummy when the closing credits appear.