Deep Cuts: “Naked Lunch” – 1991. Dir. David Cronenberg

With Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands and Roy Scheider

“What do you mean – “it’s a literary high?””

“It’s a Kafka high, you feel like a bug.”


Bill Lee (Peter Weller) is an exterminator whose “bug powder” also acts as a hallucinogenic drug that is becoming extremely rare and in demand. Lee’s wife Joan (Judy Davis) has become addicted, and has been skimming Lee’s bug powder from him, causing him to get in trouble at work, and causing his work to report him to the police. Lee gets arrested and he’s left in an interrogation room with a bug that begins to talk to him, the bug tells Lee that he’s a secret agent and a writer, and that he needs to get to “Interzone”.

I am a big fan of David Cronenberg, and due to the fact that Barnes and Noble was doing their 50% off Criterion Collection sale, I picked up “Naked Lunch” and watched last night. As a body of work, I think that Cronenberg has made very good films, and I think he’s a very good auteur – but as for “Naked Lunch”, it’s Cronenberg’s masterpiece.

This comes from the “unfilmable” novel by William S. Burroughs, and much of what takes place in the film took place in Burrough’s life. There is a scene early on in the film, where Lee tells his wife it’s time for the old William Tell trick. Joan puts a glass on top of her head, and Lee pulls out a pistol to shoot the glass off. Lee pulls the trigger and shoots Joan in the forehead – this event happened to Burroughs’ while he was living in Mexico and he fled to the United States – in the film Lee fleas to “Interzone”.

This film is built around paranoia and mystery, it’s very incoherent with its flow and intention and the film is the perfect metaphor about the writing process. As Lee dives further into the underground world of drugs and being a secret agent Cronenberg builds the paranoia which at times feel sort of Polanski-esq.

I’ve always felt that Cronenberg’s themes to his films is a central character that has to lead a dual life (whether he wants too or not), and from that dual life comes a lot of repercussions and struggles. In “Naked Lunch” Bill Lee deals with the dual life of first being an exterminator and second being this secret agent/writer.

Peter Weller is amazing in this film. I’ve always liked him since “Robocop”, and his stint on this season of “Dexter” displays the range he has as an actor. He brings this Humphrey Bogart style domineer and perspective to the role of Bill Lee. This is a character that we’ve seen before, but Weller puts his own unique style and brand on it. Weller is slowly making his way to becoming one of my favorite actors.

Roy Scheider (who I heart) plays Dr. Benway who Bill Lee goes to for help for his addiction to bug powder. Scheider has limited screen time but he is incredibly precise and effective in his small roll that should have earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

The film is a remarkable homage to pulp fiction. The set décor, consumes and especially the music are all musings of a film noir, and that era of film. The film feels a lot like “Chinatown” because it’s a merging of film and neo noir. As to where many feel that “Chinatown” is a perfect film, I feel that “Naked Lunch” is a perfect film.

Exterminate all rational thought.

Rating: 10/10

Man-crush Extravoganza!!!

I’m not ashamed to admit this at all. I have man-crushes – we all do (those of us who are men), and the ones that don’t admit it must have some deep seeded homosexual tendencies. Look, just because you have a man-crush, doesn’t make you any less of a man, and I’ll argue depending on who your man crushes are makes you even more of a man. Let us count down. Just because these men get me wet, doesn’t mean I’d have sex with them – or does it?

10) Rock Hudson

Yes Rock Hudson was gay. BUT!!! The roles he played, especially in the Douglas Sirk films and his role in “Giant” shoes us what a man should be. He is the embodiment of the archetypal man who influenced a generation of men into a mold of strength, honor and integrity. His role in “Far From Heaven” remains to be one of the finest performances that I’ll always resort back to when I want to see a man on screen. When I see performances like Til Schwigger’s in “Inglorious Basterds” I correlate his performance in that film, to the performances of Rock Hudson’s in the 1950’s.

9) Ken Watanabe

I had to get a little international here, didn’t I? The guy was sweet as the phony Ra’s Al Ghul and pretty nifty in “The Last Samurai” and broke my heart in “Letters from Iwo Jima” but when I saw “Inception” I just saw this man with an incredible moral compass of honor. Perhaps it’s the American stereotype of the Japanese at its finest, but I loved his character and I think he did the finest job in the film. The guy is just hott (yes, with two T’s, at least I didn’t say cool and spell it “kool”).

8) Billy Dee Williams

The “Old Smoothie” stole my heart in “The Empire Strikes Back” and in “Nighthawks” I feared him. On one side we have the slick jerri curled man in all blue with a cape that makes me scream at Carrie Fisher to at least make out with him (I know she was in love with Han Solo – but gaaarrrrsssshhhh!) or at least give him a little wink. In “Nighthawks” he played the partner of Stallone and was on the edge. He screamed fuck a lot and pointed his gun at the bad guys with an eerie state of bloodlust in his eyes. He had the crazy eye for sure, way before Steve Zissou.

7) Matthew Goode

Okay, I understand that Ozymandias is supposed to be slightly homoerotic since his character is eluded to being gay (there is a slight, slight, slight reference in the movie – when Nigh Owl II is on his computer, there is a folder titled “Boys” and there is also the scene in the opening credits where he’s at Studio 54 and is hanging out with the Village People and goes to shake Ziggy Stardust’s hand. And he pals around with Andy Warhol and Truman Copote). He plays Colin Firth’s departed lover in “A Single Man” but what really, really, really did it is when Castor posted his review for “Leap Year” (which I haven’t seen) and he put up an image of Matthew Goode and I couldn’t help but stare into his eyes.

6) Harvey Keitel

Yes I’m man enough to admit I’ve seen Harvey Keitel’s penis. Those of you who are brave enough to endure “Bad Lieutenant” (the original NC-17 version) not only got to see Keitel’s penis, but also him freebasing crack, shaking down drug dealers and jerking off while making two teenage girls simulate a blow job. That’s pretty rough stuff. Where my love for Keitel originated was not “Bad Lieutenant” – that movie makes me sick to my stomach – but when I first saw “Reservoir Dogs”. Mr. White is such a one dimensional character that we’ve seen before yet you really, really, really like him. He smokes, carries and big gun and talks a lot of shit that he can back up.

5) Roy Scheider

I do love him in “Jaws”; he’s got some cool lines. He’s pretty sweet in “The Punisher” as the patriarch Frank Castle, Sr. and pretty badass in “52 Pick-Up”. As Buddy Russo in “The French Connection” he’s so young and so awesome, and in “Marathon Man” a part of my cries every time he walks into Dustin Hoffman’s apartment bleeding and dies in Hoffman’s arms. What sealed the deal was Joe Gideon in “All That Jazz”. He is the fucking man! Whereas Hudson played the honorable man, Scheider plays the stereotypical womanizer, drinker and pill popper who wears his life down to a nub where he didn’t just walk the line, he held the line down and beat it to a pulp. Joe Gideon is one of those characters that once I’ve seen him, I’ll never forget him. He’s so memorable, and he’s such a piece of shit – but you do truly love him and you want him to survive – even though he hurts everyone around him, deep down inside of him, when you can pry his ego away and you catch a glimpse of his heart, you’ll see that Joe Gideon has a heart of gold.

4) James Ven Der Beek

I’ve never seen an episode of “Dawson’s Creek” in my life. I saw “Varsity Blues” when I was in High School and thought it was pathetic. Wasn’t there some movie called “Texas Rangers” that was like the shitty cousin of “Young Guns”? Never saw that either. So you might be asking yourself, how could I possibly have a crush on Dawson without actually ever seeing “Dawson’s Creek” (he was Dawson right?)? It’s a rather simple explanation. Are you ready? Is the suspense built up enough? Are you sure? “Rules of Attraction” where he played the emotional vampire Sean Bateman (yes – that Bateman), the motorcycle riding, unshaven, evil stare giving, jerking off to broadband speed internet porn, guitar playing, womanizing but can’t cum when he’s sober, lying, drug dealing AWESOMENESS (I don’t like the word “awesome” but in this case, Sean Bateman to me does inspire awe).

3) Warren Beatty

You walked into the party

Like you were walking onto a yacht

Your hair strategically dipped below one eye

Your scarf was apricot

You had one eye in the mirror

As you watched yourself gavotte

And all the girl’s dreamed that they’d be your partner

They’d be your partner, and

You’re so vain

You probably think this song is about you

You’re so vain

I’ll bet you think this song is about you

Don’t you, Don’t you?

You had me several years ago

When I was still quiet naïve

Well, you said we made such a pretty pair

And that you would never leave,

But you gave away the things you loved

And one of them was me *

*I realize that Carly Simon came out and said who the song was about, and sadly it wasn’t about Warren Beatty – but to me, whenever I hear this song, I can only envision Warren Beatty strutting around and not giving a fuck because he knows, he’s the man.

2) Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)

I’m sitting at Dorsia with Evelyn Williams, she’s on one or more psychiatric drugs. I’m not too sure what it was tonight, but whatever it was transformed here into this dormant state where she’s almost crawled into the fetal position in the plush chair she resides in. I sit to handsome to move. My mind wanders past the patheticness of all the empty faces that sit around us and I think of earlier in the afternoon. I went to Tower Records on the boardwalk after my squash match and late lunch with Timothy Bryce to obtain the new Talking Heads album. While in the store, the Liberal Arts majors’ home from Camden scurried around the store, in search of Duran Duran’s “Rio”. While there, in the same row of compact discs was this guy. His ears were perfect, they sat straight and flat on the side of his head. He had sideburns that were out of vogue but yet he wore them with this arrogance that you would find in Burt Reynolds. He uses aftershave with too much alcohol; his skin makes him look older than he is. He masked his overweight frame with an extra large Lacoste polo shirt. It was pink and hung below his belt where I could almost, just almost, make out a Marlboro belt buckle. He smokes. Disgusting. I thought nothing of him at first, though I kept glancing over at him. He was holding “Fore!” by Huey Lewis and the News in his hand and his Ray-Bans mirrored that of Huey’s. He likes Huey Lewis and the News. While mainstream pop had taken over the radio waves, polluting this country, polluting the foundation of our moral values and while this encroaches on our way of life, Huey Lewis is the bedrock of contemporary rock and roll proving to us, with each album, that we to can achieve the American Dream.

He’s someone that Luis Caruthers would stop and talk to.

“Hey, you’re Julian right?” he says as he interrupts me mid thought. Julian?

“No I am not,” I say with a cold tone.

“It’s Frankie. Frankie Mengarelli.”

“You are mistaken,” I start to feel a panic rush over me. The caged animal inside of me begins to scream. I start to sweat, my forehead feels wet, and my feet are becoming uncomfortable in my shoes. My hand holding the Talking Heads compact disc begins to slightly tremble, I hold my breath.

“Hey man, are you alright?” he says, with a deep and gritty voice that makes him sound almost like a Robert Mitchum/Lee Marvin hybrid. My hand begins to tremble a little more, this time it’s more apparent. I look up at him, helpless and weak. My mouth opens slightly but no words come out. I am filled with rage and distain, and I can barely utter out in a desperate plea:

“I need to return some videotapes.”

I am not alone.

1) Scott Glenn

Dawn has come; the sunlight has snuck its way past the tattered blinds that hang lazily on the window. The only sound in the room is of the ceiling fan that turns at a strategic pace. The clock to the left of me clicks with each second that passes. I lost count somewhere between midnight and now. The sheet that he allowed me to keep on my body has now imbedded itself into me. I can no longer sweat anymore. My mouth hasn’t had saliva in it for what feels like days. I’m worn out, done over – I feel like Courtney Love. In the ashtray on the desk adjacent from me, but between the bathroom lays an unfiltered Chesterfield. The smoke dances between the beams of light that shows me salvation. The door is cracked to the bathroom. He is in there, he sounds like a sound trying not make a sound. Fear is no longer an option, only the will to live is slightly inside of me. As he walks (closer to the bathroom door) his boots make an echoing sound that not only pierce my ears, but cover me with nothing less than a cold, numb feeling. He made me watch him do 2500 pushups (at one time). The bathroom door is open. I close my eyes as tight as they’ll go. The boots sound louder, louder, louder. If the Incredible Hulk was stomping down a corridor that had great acoustics – this is what it would sound like. The hulking boot steps stop. I keep my eyes closed for what feels like an eternity. I slowly, just slowly, open my eyes. I see his tight rock washed blue jeans. They’re Wranglers – no Lee – no, I was right the first time, Wranglers. As I look up, his fine tuned body I see the scratch marks on his chest, his neck. I finally make eye contact with him. With those cold, truthful eyes, he doesn’t have a scowl, or a grimace – he wears a look that can only be described as “don’t fuck with me”. He reaches for his worn out cowboy hat, and rests it upon his head without breaking his gaze at me. He put that fucking hat on his head perfectly on the first try. He bends his waist slightly towards the bed as I scuddle my feet up closer to me. He doesn’t flinch; still staring at me he grabs his perfectly white wife beater shirt and leans back into a perfectly straight stance. He holds the shirt in his right hand, and brings it across his body and wipes the blood off of his busted knuckle on his left hand (yes he’s left handed). He finishes wiping the blood off, and then slowly tosses the shirt onto me like it’s a used condom. He takes a step towards the door turning his back to me. He opens the door and turns before he exits. As he tips his hat to me and with the same expression on his face, all he says is this:

“I love you Bumpkin.”

Deep Cuts: “52 Pick-Up” – 1986. Dir. John Frankenheimer.

“52 Pick-Up” – 1986. Dir. John Frankenheimer. With Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Kelly Preston, Vanity, Clarence Williams III and John Glover.

“There’s something about your face that makes me want to slap the shit out of it.” – Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider)

“52 Pick-Up” follows the short couple of days in which Harry Mitchell’s (Roy Scheider) life is turned upside down. Harry, who is a very successful businessman, finds himself in a wicked blackmail scheme. His mistress is kidnapped (played by Kelly Preston) and the kidnappers threaten to kill her unless Harry comes up with the sum of $105,000. What keeps Harry from going to the police? Well, I’ll tell you: his wife (Ann-Margret) has just been persuaded to run for city councilwoman (or some other high profile big city elected position).

Harry tries to keep this matter in house, only discussing it with his friend and lawyer. Harry ends up leaving the “ringer” in the disclosed location for the kidnappers for them only to find a bag with no money and a message that reads: “Get fucked!” I have to admit, that made me really chuckle. This is your average 1980’s thriller. It consists of a cool walking “hero” who is portrayed by the wonderful Roy Scheider, and the film consists of much T & A since the kidnappers are a part of the adult entertainment industry.

The film is extremely entertaining as we watch Scheider begin to turn the table on the kidnappers and he starts to foil their plot. The end of the film will leave you saying: “oh come on!” but it’s still a fun film. It doesn’t have any deep subtext, or metaphoric undertone – it’s just a fun action/thriller flick plain and simple. If you like Roy Scheider, you’ll like “52 Pick-Up”.

Roy Scheider as Harry Mitchell in "52 Pick-Up". Cigarettes $.94 a pack? HOT!

What makes this film above average for the genre is the excellent casting of Roy Scheider and the always wonderful character actors John Glover and Clarence Williams III. Glover and Williams portray two of the kidnappers and they are so marvelous in the way that they create these seedy yet insanely interesting characters. We know very little about them, but we’re shown quite a bit. I found myself more interested Glover and Williams than I did with Scheider’s character.

The second factor that makes this film above average is the fact is that it’s directed by the great John Frankenheimer. This is nowhere near one of his best films, but it is one of the highlights of the second half of his career. What makes this story so rich and intriguing is the fact that it’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel (which he also penned the screenplay). Leonard has a way of finding his way through cliché riddled stories and making them rich and full of vibrant characters (“Rum Punch” – from what “Jackie Brown” is based upon, “Hombre”, “3:10 to Yuma” and “Get Shorty”). His works are so easily adaptable because they read as if they are a film. Leonard has such a unique voice and character quality that he stands alone when it comes to adapted fiction to film. If you are a fan of Elmore Leonard works or a fan of Roy Schieder – you should check this one out.

Review: 7/10

Punisher Triple Feature!

“The Punisher” – 1989. Dir. Mark Goldblatt. With Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Jeroen Krabbe.

The first of “The Punisher” films came out in the wave of the first “Batman” film, it was made before it was hip to make them. This isn’t a great film, but it is a lot of fun. The opening credits show much homage to comics, and how they are laid out and designed. This is basically a revenge film where Frank Castle (Lundgren with an awesome jet black “die” job [get the pun?!]) is out to kill all the mobsters in New York, to avenge the car bombing intended for him that killed his family. Louis Gossett, Jr. plays Castle’s former partner, who is the only cop in America convinced Frank Castle is the infamous Punisher! The dialogue is campy, and a lot of the action and supporting characters are over the top. Jeroen Krabbe plays the Mafia kingpin who comes from overseas to salvage what’s left the “family”. Krabble gives a great performance as always. What I found so interesting about the film is there is a character named Lady Tanaka who is the boss of the American Yakuza. She’s a strong independent woman who strong arms the mafia and tries to take control of their operations. This character screamed O-Ren Ishii from the Kill Bill saga. I wondered if this character was a slight template for Tarantino’s character. Probably not, but it’s cool to think about. All in all this is a film worthy of attention from comic book fans and action film fans.

Review: 7/10

“The Punisher” – 2004. Dir. Jonathan Hensleigh. With Thomas Jane, John Travolta, Will Patton, and Roy Scheider.

This is a film that I thought was going to be lame and trashy. It isn’t. The film has a similar set-up as the first, but with much more depth, more character development and much more talent. Thomas Jane plays Castle this time around, and his dye job is more acceptable and believable. The film centers on Castle’s retirement. His last case to wrap up before retires is posing as a Russian gun runner who is selling weapons to the son of Howard Saint (John Travolta). The gun deal goes wrong and ends with the death of Saint’s son. Castle thinking his life in undercover law enforcement is over, retreats to the gulf for a long overdue family reunion where the patriarch of the Castle family lives, played excellently by Roy Scheider. Scheider’s small role in the film adds to the backbone of Jane’s character; showing the hard bark that Old Man Castle displays gives credibility to Frank Castle’s blood lust. While on vacation, Saint’s right hand man Quentin Glass (Will Patton) finds out the true identity of the Russian gun runner, and where he’s at. Saint orders Glass to lead a herd of baddies dressed in black to kill Castle – and his entire family – upon the request of his wife. John Travolta is surprisingly excellent; he gives his character a charming ruthlessness. Will Patton turns the best performance in the film. He gives the subtle and mystical performance of a very willing and capable man. Patton gives this character more depth than the character actually needs. Patton has always been one of my favorite character actors, turning up in small films and big films, always giving a solid performance. What makes this film work is the fact it isn’t overly stylized like most comic book films are. This film follows my Super Hero film template, of casting a relatively unknown or a star that isn’t as bankable, and bringing in “the heavy” with John Travolta and Roy Scheider. The cast isn’t packed with names (aside from what’s left of Travolta and Scheider’s), but all the performances are solid, leaving you wanting to watch it again.

Review: 8/10

“Punisher: War Zone” – 2008. Dir. Lexi Alexander. With Ray Stevenson, Julie Benz, Dominick West, and Wayne Knight.

This was a film that was supposed to continue the franchise with Thomas Jane playing Frank Castle. Jane left the project due to a disagreement with the studio over the route the character would take, along with the script and the new production team. This film captures the essence of comic book violence, much like “Sin City”. It’s very over the top and campy. A friend of mine is a gigantic comic book enthusiast, who was extremely excited about this version of The Punisher. This film is trite and lame, and you can’t help but feel the villain, Jigsaw (played by Dominick West) is the shitty cousin of The Joker from “The Dark Knight”. Stevenson can be good in limited roles where he’s not the lead, and in this film he’s mediocre at best. A lot of people were excited that a woman was directing this! It’s much like the press revolving around “The Hurt Locker”, a woman directing a war film. Who cares? Do you think Bigelow is appreciative of all the gender based talk around her directing the film (although she plays it well and loves the attention)? What a badass chick to direct a “Punisher” film! The bottom line is it wouldn’t have mattered who directed this film. It’s garbage.

Review: 5/10

Expanded Review: “All That Jazz” – 1979 Dir. Bob Fosse

“To be on the wire is life – the rest – is waiting.”

I find “All That Jazz” utterly remarkable. The film is the biggest example of self-indulgence I have ever seen in a film, and it screams brilliance. The premises of the film came as a near death experience to director and co-writer Bob Fosse. Bob Fosse spent the his early career as a dancer on stage and screen, but due to his receding hairline he was forced to stay backstage, and became an acclaimed choreographer and stage director. In 1972 Fosse did something that in retrospect is nearly unthinkable, his film “Cabaret” was nominated for the major awards at the annual Academy Awards, and he won best director over Francis Ford Coppola for “The Godfather”, and Joel Grey won best supporting actor over, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan. “Cabaret” also won best actress for Liza Manelli, best cinematography, best art direction-set decoration, best sound, best editing, and best original score. So all in all the film won eight Oscars, five more then “The Godfather” – isn’t that remarkable? Fosse then followed that up with “Lenny” starring Dustin Hoffman as the legendary stand-up comic Lenny Bruce (Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor and Fosse was once again nominated across the board). During the post-production of “Lenny” and the pre-production of Fosse’s Broadway production of “Chicago” he had a near fatal heart attack. It was during this time that, “All That Jazz” was born.

It's Showtime, folks!

“All That Jazz” is the story of Joe Gideon: a pill popping, chain smoking, workaholic and sexaholic played marvelously by Roy Scheider (who passed away last year). We find Gideon in the midst of editing his new film, “The Stand-Up” (“Lenny”), and beginning tryouts, rehearsals, and pre-production for his new Broadway play (it’s untitled, but the musical number Gideon “re-arranges” is much like the cell block number from “Chicago”). In what little spare time Gideon has between the studio breathing down his neck about how long overdue “The Stand-Up” is, and the production team of the Broadway musical overbearing him with new musical numbers, how he has to stay within the budget – Gideon finds time for his wife, and their young daughter, his mistress, and a new girl he chose for the new Broadway play just so he could have sex with her. While we are watching this complex story unravel Fosse brilliantly crosscuts the story with Joe Gideon literally flirting with The Angel of Death played by Jessica Lange. While plot arcs unfold we are taken to this mystical place where Gideon is the most honest, as he talks to Lange about his life, and how he’s screwed up certain aspects of it. Death has never looked so beautiful, as Jessica Lange smiles, and flirts with Gideon.

The film’s opening ranks up with some of the greatest opening scenes in film history (“Kill Bill Volume 1”, “Goodfellas”, and “The Wild Bunch” – just to name a few). Gideon is walking a tight rope and says in a voice over, “To be on the wire is life – the rest is waiting.” Lange compliments Gideon on the line, saying it’s very “theatrical” and asked if he came up with it.

Gideon's mistress telling him, "I just wish you weren't so generous with your cock!"

Gideon says he wishes he did. The next scene is a quick cutting mash up of Gideon’s morning routine that is re-shot over the period of the film. It begins with a cassette tape being put into a tape deck and a classical song beings to play. Gideon then applies Visen into his eyes, drops two Alkazelser in a glass of water, takes a shower, applies more Visen and looks at himself in the mirror and says with a smug and smooth tone, “It’s Showtime folks!” – but as the film progress and the more wear and grinding that gets put on Gideon, the “It’s Showtime, folks!” become less enthusiastic, and less soothing and reaches a point where he can barely muster the words.

What makes this film brilliant and amazing is that it works on every possible front it can. The direction is unbelievably tight and masterfully commanded by Bob Fosse, the editing by Alan Heim (which he won an Oscar for) is flawless and has trumped my personal examples of perfect editing in “The Graduate” and “Ed Wood”. The script is so unbelievably compelling and so full of detail and perfection that it amazes me when I read excerpts from it. But what really is very remarkable about the film is Roy Scheider. I’ve always had a fondness for Scheider since I was young and saw him in “Jaws”, his role in “The French Connection” and “The Punisher” are the only other roles I have thought he was solid in. Scheider spent most of his career as a character actor and never really made it as a leading man, but as Joe Gideon he gives one of the best performances I have ever seen on scene, and that ranks him up there with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and William Hurt. Scheider becomes transparent, and you are truly watching Joe Gideon, not the actor Roy Scheider playing Gideon – but Gideon himself. Think about how in 1979 all the other bankable stars and actors there were to play this self obsessed, womanizing man of Godlike talent: Warren Beatty, Michael Douglass, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Richard Gere – those are just a few actors who I think could have played Gideon – but none of them would have been as effective as Scheider

Joe Gideon and Bob Fosse

The other element that makes this film great is Bob Fosse. This film had to have been a slap in the face to most people in his life. The actor who plays Dennis Newman (supposed to be Dustin Hoffman), the actor in “The Stand-Up” (“Lenny”) was the original actor who played Lenny Bruce on the Broadway play (which Fosse directed). The studio made Fosse get a name for the title role, and they gave him Dustin Hoffman. The Dustin Hoffman-esq character in the movie is degrading and thinks he knows absolutely everything about anything. It’s obvious from this portrayal that Fosse had nothing then contempt and utter dislike for Hoffman, and his ego. The stage and screen actress Ann Reinking who plays his mistress Kate in the film, dated Dustin Hoffman prior to filming (isn’t Fosse just the man!?) The direction of “All That Jazz” has got to be one of the greatest examples of a director not caring what his audience thinks, or even understands. We’re taken on this journey by Fosse to explore his life changing heart attack, and his fantasy of death. Fosse made this movie for himself, and no one else. That’s what makes it perfect.

"I think I'm gonna die!"

The film builds itself up to an earth shattering climax that is the biggest tour-de-force of an ending I have ever had the pleasure of watching. My heart was racing the entire time. The climax slowly starts to build with Gideon’s wife, mistress and daughter performing their own musical numbers to Gideon as he lays in his hospital bed, while a healthy Gideon is directing everything. Where the film really makes your heart race is Gideon’s command performance that lasts for the last 20 minutes of the film. It is a great song, and an amazing display of talent by Scheider that he never utilized before that, or since. What solidified the greatest of the ending for me was the subtle stationary dolly shot of Scheider as the second to last shot of the film (the ending actually inspired the best dream I have ever had).

The film was nominated in all major categories, and was up against “Apocalypse Now”, “Breaking Away”, “Kramer vs Kramer” and “Norma Rae”. The films was overshadowed and engulfed by “Kramer”. I could almost imagine the contempt the Academy had for Fosse for making a film such as this. How much they resented him for making it so perfect and so self indulgent. I recently watched “Kramer vs Kramer” because it beat “All That Jazz” in mainly every category. It’s a good film, but it’s mediocre compared to “Jazz” and I want to believe they gave Best Actor to Dustin Hoffman for “Kramer” instead of Scheider for “Jazz” as a fuck you to Fosse for making such an egotistical film.

“All That Jazz” remains to be a truly original film. It stands alone, and it holds up excellent to repeat viewings. This is one very rare cinematic treasure that not too many have encountered, especially from my generation and that’s a shame – it truly is. This film will always stand as both Fosse and Scheider’s masterpiece and is not only one of the best films from the 1970’s, but one of the best films I have EVER seen. After viewing this film for a tenth time in a week and a half I have re-evaluated my rating system, and makes me hold films up to the standards that Bob Fosse has put on me, all I can say is thank you Bob Fosse.

Review: 10/10