Friday, February 6, 2009

A Formula For Morbid Success

Every now and then, a new film project is announced that screams "Matt Barone will fucking love this!" as if from the top of a mountain, holding a megaphone, hooked into a kick-ass speaker/sound system, yelled by ten Eliza Dushku clones dressed in skimpy two-piecers.

Case in point: "Oscar nominee Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny and Udo Kier have signed on to Werner Herzog and David Lynch's first collaboration, the psychological horror tale My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done....Herzog is directing the film which will commence principal photography in the California locale of Coronado Island in March. Eric Bassett is producing and Lynch serves as executive producer. Lynch regular Grace Zabriskie also stars.....The story is loosely based on events surrounding a San Diego man who acted out a Sophocles play in his mind and murdered his mother with a sword....'I always wanted to make a horror film, but not with bloody axes and chain-saws," Herzog said, adding: "An anonymous fear should rather creep up at you.'"

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done = strangely-awesome title

Sure, his contribution here will be little more than "mostly hands-off producer," but who cares. Nobody working in Hollywood can make a film that pisses me off, fascinates me, leaves me feverishly questioning why I like it so much, and blows my mind out the water like David Lynch. So, he earns "picture included" rights here.

Let's see here: David Lynch is involved; it's a horror film directed by a highly-acclaimed and proven-great filmmaker; stars creepy-character-actor-extraordinaire Michael Shannon (who has always struck me as a dude tailor-made to be in a David Lynch film); and the plot is deliciously dark and devoid of any possible happy places.

If this comes out and doesn't make it to my year-end best-of list, no matter what year it hits, I'll be more surprised and speechless than Katie Couric was while interviewing Lil "I Can't Be Media Trained" Wayne.

***Just 'cause I've got Lynch films on the brain now, let's enjoy some of the man's work, shall we? From first and last.....

Scene from Eraserhead (1977):

One of the many scenes/images from 2006's Inland Empire that had my mind scrambling while seated in the IFC Theater; what a bizarre, unsettling, unforgettable experience that was:

Don't even bothering asking "What the hell is going on?" for either one. It's futile. You don't "fully comprehend" a Lynch flick, you "submissively experience" it.

News of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done spotted (earlier today) over at: Screen Daily

Land of the Lost-Excitement

Not that there was much "excitement" to begin with, anyway.

Of course I'm going to see this, and with the bar set as underground as I'll have it, it could very well turn out to be good times. Right now, though, this looks shit-sandwich-like.

I love dinosaurs and creatures with open arms, and, despite having yet to see many actual episodes, the old Land of the Lost television show seems like something I'd be into. Danny McBride is on my good side, too, and Anna Friel is an eye-soother. But overall, this looks way too much like Will Ferrell doing his usual Will Ferrell thing, only with more CGI and people wearing Sleestak costumes. Step Brothers aside, the days of that being really-funny are long gone, my friends.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why isn't Eliza Dushku a bigger star, again? Anybody have a sufficient answer?

Bringing things back to "sexy".....

The marketing dilemma: Trying to find an effective way to promote Fox's new sci-fi-ish show Dollhouse, a delayed-in-Detox-fashion new series from fanboy television fave Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel; Firefly and its accompanying feature film, Serenity). The folks at the Fox network haven't seemed too enthused about the product Whedon has delivered thus far, hitting the show with push-backs worse than Rihanna's forehead. But Dollhouse is finally ready to premiere on February 13 (I believe), so it's really time to get the word out and about.

But how? Ding! Realize that the star of your show is the almighty Eliza Dushku, and release these new promo shots that display her strongest "chops." May not result in big ratings, or even a long shelf-life for Dollhouse, but to hell if I care right now.


Obviously, I'm totally tuning in now, or at least setting the DVR. Meaning, the new promo tricks have worked like gangbusters. What a sheep I am.

This goodness (and more of it) spotted over at: Egotastic

Note to The Ram: This is not a good look.

The last thing I'd ever consider myself, or want people to think I'm attempting to emulate, is a "fashion head." If you've ever seen how I dress myself in the morning, you'd concur. I'm no slob, but I do keep it simple as grade school arithmetic.

When a celeb that I've regularly included on this blog/site steps out of his hotel room in what can only be considered "style WTF," however, I can't help but notice. Today, such a poorly-garbed talent is Mickey Rourke, in this disaster:


Sheesh. Like some deformed bastard child birthed by a VR Trooper costume and a Motocross uniform, if clothes could procreate.

The man is still an unparalleled actor, and his life-story is compelling like none other. Now, just imagine the secondary quotes his mirrors could divulge. Those that are still in one piece, of course.

***Okay, don't think I'll ever do another "comment on somebody's fashion" post again. Just didn't feel comfy.

Pics spotted over at (where more pics can be seen): The Superficial

God-awful, times four

This was inevitable, I guess. Watchmen fever is in full swing, I understand, but explain me this: what's the point of introducing Watchmen character Halloween costumes nearly eleven months away from the holiday, one month before the film even comes out? Insult to injury alert: not only are these premature---they're absolutely horrible. The kinds of costumes that immediately cause drunk lookers-on in Halloween-open-bars to heckle and harass, and all the Sexy Nurse and Sexy French Maid chicks to turn both their upper and lower cheeks away. Maybe the Silk Spectre-dressed girls will be attracted, but even that's a Stretch Armstrong.

Though, part of me knows I'd totally consider wearing the Rorschach one. To shame. He's the one with the beige trenchcoat, hat, and white/black-shifting mask. A drunk me would so approach drunk and hot girls on some "Hrrrrm, baby. I can make you say hrrrrmm." You'll get this Hrrm business once you see the movie, assuming it just zoomed above the forehead.

--In order of disgraceful appearance: Nite Owl, Rorschach, Ozymandias, The Comedian

Don't judge Watchmen foolishly off of these. In both the original text and this new new film, the characters look five million times cooler.

Topless Robot's hilarious-but-ironically-honest headline says it all: "Seriously Stop It, or Alan Moore's Going To Kill Somebody"; Alan Moore wrote the Watchmen graphic novel, and is notoriously against film versions and merchandising bastardizations of his work. Hates the notion of this upcoming film. Is most likely loading an AK-47 in anticipation of the first little trick-or-treater who'll knock on his door dressed in that abysmal Comedian costume. Parents, steer clear of the Moore residence. Please.

Costumes first spotted over at the brilliantly-named: Topless Robot

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just watched Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.....

....and now I'm totally crushin' on
Kat Dennings

....while also feeling something special for
Ari Graynor

On the whole, pretty cool little film. Wasn't laughing out loud much, but I was pleasantly entertained and charmed throughout. Michael Cera's whole uncomfortably-sweet routine is getting a bit old, lucky for him he had Ms. Dennings and her adorableness to save the day. And I'd hit the bar with Ms. Graynor any day, and then even whip up a turkey sandwich for her.


Since Cera is in both, I'm justifying I initially deemed "lazy and cliche": comparisons to Juno. That being said, I think I'm preferring Nick & Norah over Juno. Yeah, I totally am. Cera's "Nick" is from Hoboken, too, so its inevitable, really.

No worries, Ellen Page. We'll always have Hard Candy.

DVR Catch-up -- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

[Of course the tone here wasn't going to stay all "beautiful female celebs and Family Guy-level funny" for long. Let's be levelheaded, now.]


Learning that Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is "based upon real events" feels like one of the bigger "no shit" revelations in recent memory. This one seriously feels like you've got front-row seats for wanton death and casual depravity, quasi-documentary style in the vein of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I'd heard about its true-life aesthetic in the past, but forgot. Just finished watching it for the first time (seriously tardy with this one), and the amount of disgust and voluntary-filth I'm still feeling demanded further investigation. Come to recall, its based upon the confessions of Henry Lee Lucas, a "serial killer" hall-of-famer who reportedly offed around 600 people between 1975 and 1983, supposedly one per week.

Watching the film, though, you'd think the "Henry" played here by Michael Rooker was in fact the actual Mr. Lee Lucas, because what we have is a shot-mostly-straightforward voyeur-special on the man's everyday life. When he's bored or even the least bit riled up, he turns spontaneously homicidal; when at his grungy digs, where he lives with Otis, a friend he met back in prison, we watch his awkward, budding love affair with Otis' kinda-fugly sister, Becky. Just so happens that we're jumping into Henry's life as a climactic turning point is in his card (it is a movie, remember).

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is simply an no-questions-asked look into a methodical mass murderer's world, a slasher film that replaces the masked assailant and all-Maxim-model-looking victims with people you'd see walking down the street on your way to grab a cup of coffee. Far from impressive folks, and in this case truly despicable ones. But the film is all the more gruesome and clawing for such basics. Simplicity is the calling card. Even when director John McNaughton (who went on to direct the infamous Neve Campbell/Denise Richards skinamax gem Wild Things) drops the flick's horror moments, we hardly ever see any actual "murder." The few times that we do, the brutality feels real, but the film is at its most effective when opting to show patient views of Henry's kill-aftermath(s). A slow camera-whirl around the bloodied, ravaged body, punctuated by the sounds of screams and struggle, plus an off-center score that sounds like an ear's descent into some other dimension, one where the audio is the central note heard in the dizzying "Where is La Tenia?" club sequence from the awesome Irreversible.

The film's opening nicely sets up this "I'm only going to show you the end, not the middle" approach of Naughton's. Check the first four minutes, for visual aid:

And, for contrast's sake, this is what it feels like when Henry (with Otis, who, after witnessing Henry's out-of-nowhere double murder of prostitutes, catches the homicide fever) does his dirty work for us to actually see:

Can't say I blame Henry in this case, though; that salesman was a real douche.

From top to bottom, this is definitely a movie that practically requires a shower (or at least a nice splashing of water on the face) once the pretty-brilliant final shot (which wants to be somewhat ambiguous, but it's obvious that we're seeing the post-game of a central character's life, at least to me) comes along. Not a film I'd rush back to watch again and again, but definitely a great example of how horror can be at its most disturbing when grounded in reality, not overboard fantasy.

There's one sequence, in particular, that had my eyes wide open and sensibilities under self-interrogation in ways I've rarely felt in my many years of shock cinema exposure: all seen through a camcorder Henry is holding, we watch Otis disrobe a housewife while her husband lies bloody and bag-over-head-and-arms-tied-behind-back on the floor, a la A Clockwork Orange. But then, their teenage comes home, walking in on his parents' final seconds, and the way the son is dispatched of (thanks to snapping sound effects that sound way too real) is so heartless, so sudden, that the already-difficult scene is elevated to terrifying heights.

And that, my friends, is what horror should be. Relax and take notes.

Here's some more mid-week sexy.....

.....just to keep this blog's balance in check. It's only right.

Scarlett Johansson, walking the red carpet at the premiere of this new date-movie-to-the-max He's Just Not That Into You, which I laughably want to see, for inexplicable reasons. A perfect date movie.....that's my hook! Doesn't seem as tool-like if I buy two tickets, rather than one.


I may pledge allegiance to the likes of Olivia Thirlby and others routinely, but don't get it misconstrued: Scar Jo (as the pop culture hipsters refer to her) has Hollywood in her va-va-voom vice-grip. Yet another reason why Ryan Reynolds makes jealous ones envy (tell me he doesn't, dudes?). I sweat Megan Fox like the rest of them (though not as hardcore as most), but the truth is, Johansson has her bodied. There's a visual for you.

Tons more alternate shots of this untouchable looker once you click this: The Superficial

Welcome her back....

There's a rumor floating around that Amerie has signed with Def Jam, and has a new album on the horizon. I'll believe it when I receive the press release email; for not, anyway, this is much better news.

Miss Amerie (who, if you know me well enough, is a top five, dead or alive in the sex appeal department, on top of being one of the most unfairly neglected and better-than-you-think R&B ladies in memory) has a new photo shoot out. And while it's not her best yet, it's still leaps and bounds beyond any recent Sasha Fierce ish, or whichever other "divas" you prefer. Truth hurts. Remember her, actually? I had a thing for that Aftermath one-hitter-quitter, in an older-woman-fetish way.


Gorgeous, undoubtedly. In some alternate universe, I'd propose to this woman, and she'd actually say "Yes." But then my old chicken ("Woowwww! Yeaaaahh! Hey baaaaby, wake up. Come and dance with me!") would sound, and I'd be sans she.


Pics spotted over at: The Life Files

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

As they say, "For the laughs"

Just visited my own blog (the Internet's equivalent of instant-messaging yourself when you're bored) to watch that Offspring trailer again, and I realized something: tonally, Barone's World could use some laughs lately. As far as the topics covered. I mean, damn---flesh-eating, feral kiddies; the smuggling of illegal immigrants in hopes of overcoming poverty; a new basement-dirty hip-hop song; and other less-than-peppy subject matter.

How about some chuckles, then? And when it comes to busting guts, one Stewart Gilligan Griffin is always clutch. So now, a random assortment of the kid's greatest hits:

Let's take it away from simply-Stewie to Peter-rific, now:

"Surfin' Bird"....a song that has long left me giggling, ever since I first heard Pee-Wee Herman sing it in Frankie and Annette's slept-on '80s cheese Back to the Beach.

Offspring trailer, looking good

Try to look past the no-name actors and overall "totally independent" feel here, because this one is an adaptation of a downright sick, awesome, nasty, very-well-done novel by one of my favorite authors, Jack Ketchum. The book, also titled Offspring, is a recommended-read not only for horror chums but for anyone who appreciates strong, fearless storytelling. Actually a sequel to Ketchum's Off Season, but for legal-rights reasons an Off Season movie can't be a go, so we're jumping right in with Offspring, instead. All good.


It's a perfect book to turn into a film minus star power and plus uncensored grit, so I'm pretty excited. Give it a peek---if you're anything like me, you'll like what you see.

As of now, there is no set release date, but hopefully it'll be out by the end of the year.


Fun fact: The CSI dude who says "They ripped her heart out" is Jack Ketchum himself.

Early contender for Best Song of '09???

Yeah, I'm biased as fuck in this case. Wanna fight about it?

Raekwon w/ Ghostface Killah & Method Man - "Wu Ooh"

Unfortunate song title aside, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Give me 13, 14 more tracks like this on Cuban Linx 2, and watch me toss gas-faces to all those who hate on Wu-Tang.

"My family live in the Hills/ They call us Bin Ladens"......"I'm what these kids is killin' to be/ But I don't want my children to be"

Amber Heard goes crazy....for me (not really, but let me dream, dammit)

Now here's a match made in the heaven-of-my-eyes: John Carpenter (one of my favorite directors of all time) is set to make his return to horror filmmaking with a supernatural flick, The Ward, starring my current blonde-chick-fix, Amber Heard.


The Ward's plot is described as "a young woman fighting off a malicious ghost when she becomes trapped in a mental hospital." Which sounds generic as hell, but in Carpenter's hands, it could be something special. Think about it....this is the guy who turned "escaped mental patient stalks babysitters on Halloween" into a sublime piece of cinema (Halloween), and "vengeful pirate ghosts seek vengeance on a waterside town" into one of the creepiest flicks I've ever seen (his original The Fog, not that piece-of-dung remake with the tool from Smallville, DeRay Davis' "Black-male-supporting-character cliche on steroids" and Maggie Grace's vapid acting skills).

Carpenter hasn't made a good genre flick since, shit, 1998, when Vampires hit, and thankfully didn't totally bite ***pats self on back***. Nothing stellar, but the James Woods-starring bloodsucker show had its charms. So the man has been sitting back, looking for the right material to bring his awesome side back (I can hope). Here's his thoughts on The Ward's script: "the kind of script that I've been looking for: a complex, visceral story, full of suspense and scares." Again, sounds generic, but Carpenter doing "complex, visceral" feels about right.

And then there's Amber Heard, a ten-spot with I'm more appreciative of for her looks than her chops. She was a commanding lead in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, though, so hopefully The Ward is a platform for her to show and prove.


If she fails and the performance is a mess, on top of the movie sucking and painfully proving that Carpenter has gone the way of Dario Argento (i.e., a stale master), at least I'll have some pupil treats before me. It's happened many times before in my horror flicks---see Jessica Alba in The Eye, for starters.

And now, a scene from All the Boys Love Mandy Lane that, umm, implies for itself.

Finger-lickin' good. Sorry for just saying that.

News of The Ward first spotted over at: Empire

Monday, February 2, 2009

Check The Script -- Frozen River (2008)

The mission that I've cast upon myself: see every single Academy Award-nominated film before this year's looming Oscar telecast, which is rapidly inching my way. Even if I don't meet this goal, I'm already impressed with just how many of the celebrated flick I have experience to date. Still, plenty remain. And, for clarification's sake, I'm talking every single film called out by the Academy, not just the Best Picture nominess; even if a film has only one nomination and it's for, say, Cinematography, I still must see.

A daunting assignment, absolutely. Especially when you consider the varying degrees of current-release-status at hand. While most of the movies are in theaters now, timed conveniently close to the February 22nd airing, many others are a bit tougher to conquer. First, you have the Best Foreign film entries, most of which are actually playing in limited release somewhere around Manhattan, but finding the time to see them all is intimidating as hell. Not to mention, hugely frustrating, since I had the free opportunity to see each at some point months back in early media screenings, courtesy of job-perkage, but unfortunately I opted not to for some now-regrettable reason.

Secondly, there are several flicks presently found in availability-limbo, meaning their current status is nestled between "no longer in theaters" and "not yet on DVD." For these such flicks, though, I've devised one brilliant scheme: track down the script somewhere online, read through it, and at least get familiar with the flick that way. Of course, sticking to the script (pun not intended, but fitting) means that, unless the film is only nominated in one of the two Best Screenplay categories, I won't be able to see a nominated performance, or cinematography, or whatever. But fuck it---me beg, me not allowed to choose. Besides, I'm able to breeze through good screenplays with time-saving ease, so I'll still have time to watch such mind-stimulating televisial feasts as For the Love of Ray J and I Love Money 2. Why pay for a lobotomy these days, anyway?


First up is first-time writer/director Courtney Hunt's script for Frozen River, a two-time nominee (Best Actress, Melissa Leo; Best Original Screenplay, Courtney Hunt). I first head about this one almost a year ago to the day, after it had wow-ed the heads at the Sundance Film Festival before going on to blow the pen-caps off critics in subsequent festivals, then receiving a miniscule release. It's the story of a struggling, financially-stricken, trailer-living, 38-year-old mother of two, Ray Eddy (played by nominee Leo). Unable to provide for her five and fifteen year old kids, she is at hope's end. But then she, by chance, meets a 20-year-old Mohawk Indian girl named Lila Little Littlewolf, with whom she begins smuggling illegal immigrants as a money-making means.


I expected this Academy-hailed script to be a winner, sure, but I never expected to finish it under an hour. At 107 pages long, Frozen River doesn't look like something I'd bang out in one simple sitting, but that's exactly what it turned out to be. Hunt sets up the Ray Eddy character so well that every moment after about page 10 hits hard, translating her anguish and desparation. The necessity of money and what one will do to acquire it is the name of the theme-game here, and, told through the points-of-view of two meager, unbecoming yet deeply-loving mothers, it registers like a charm. I really need to see how this plays out in film form, now; the tonal shifts from "bleak crime thriller" to "heartbreaking domestic drama" bob and weave together with real smoothness, and the Eddy children characters are given enough backbone and layering to become more than just "sympathetic child plot-movers."

Charging ahead with one powerful scene after another, Frozen River's script reaches an unstoppable-read pitch a little past midway, in a sequence that involves a cold-weather-suffering infant baby and a smuggling job gone wrong. The scene's oh-shit! revelation hit me with more force than some of the best horror-movie-jump-scares out there. I can only imagine what my response would have been had I seen it unfold on a big screen rather on a laptop screen in typed-out prose. Same goes for a later car chase involving two young Chinese prostitutes and a nearly-blown-off forehead.

It's the level of script that I'd imagine any screenwriter (whether professionally experienced or virginal aspiring types) could salute. Very little flash, scarce amounts of showboating. Just smalltime characters doing naturalistic things to overcome everyday turmoil. It should come as no shock that Frozen River was made independently, because, aside from the unknown cast (though, vet character actress Melissa Leo should see her stock rise now) and the un-proven filmmaker behind it, this doesn't strike me as a script that a major film studio would read and think, "We must make this! Toss this Courtney Hunt woman large sums of cash, pronto!" Instead, I'm pretty sure the post-reading reaction went something like this: "This sure is a great screenplay, but we'd never make a penny back if we funded this. Toss it back into the pile."

Courtney Hunt

Bless that old independent filmmaking spirit, then. Frozen River is strong stuff, and I'm anxiously awaiting the day when my Netflix Queue places it atop the crowd.

The next Academy-is-stroking-it-these-days screenplay I'm going to tackle is Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky. Hopefully tomorrow night. Supposed to be a crowd-pleasing feel-good-er. These days, I'll never say no to one of those.

50 Cent once again proves his dominance.....Christian Bale spazzes

Normally, I wouldn't even pay something like this enough time-of-day to discuss it in Barone's World (that's not me being pretentious, by the way; it's just the name of this blog site, 'tis all). But this atom-bomb of a chess move that 50 Cent has hit Rick Ross with deserves as much recognition as possible. It's just that unbelievable, and further proof that, thanks to the almighty Internet, there are no rules of any kind left out here.

For those who are unaware and do actually care, Rick Ross initially went at 50 a couple weeks ago in a new record called "Mafia Music," prompting 50 to respond with "Officer Ricky," named after Ross' pre-rap career as a corrections officer. This out-of-bounds-but-brilliant video is 50's latest (and greatest) strike.




Here's another celebrity-soundbite totally worth posting. It's Christian Bale flipping his shit on some poor Director of Photography who messed up a shot while filming Terminator Salvation. Bale's fury is like that damn Energizer keeps going, and going, and going. Seriously, it's pretty astonishing just how long he drags this rant on for:

TMZ's audio of that bitch-fit (now) heard 'round the world

Somebody get the man some Bat-Tranquilizers.

UPDATE: How about this, A "Christian Bale Tirade (Remix)" made in a matter of hours. Amazing, this Internet shit is boundless:

And, for old time's favorite piece of Bale-centric web junk, ever:

The Christian Bale/Kermit the Frog Split Screen Experiment

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Netflix Fix -- The Brood (1979)


Going to approach this post-Netflix-Fix-watching post a bit differently than usual, mainly because I'm dead-exhausted and need some shut-eye. But this one was a really good flick, and deserves some recognition. So rather than discuss the plot and what points made it work, and which areas could use improvement(s), I'm simply calling out one specific scene that's the goodness.

Quick plot summary, though, to give the scene some vital context: Frank Carveth is a loving father of five-year-old Candice; Candice's mother, Nola Carveth, is a nutball who lives in a secluded psychiatry complex where she is undergoing some radical new treatment at the hands of controversial Dr. Raglan. This treatment, a facing-of-personal-demons hypnosis, has heightened Nola's inner rage, spawning a woodshed's worth of deformed "children" all from her subconscious; monstrous-looking dwarves who kill all of those she feels anger toward at the moment, without her even knowing. Miniature slashers cut from that old-lady-dwarf from Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, looking like shrunken Beasts (from Beauty & the Beast) in the faces. Mugs not even a mother could appreciate.


All sounds a bit complex, bizarre. But then again, it's an early David Cronenberg flick, "written and directed by." Cronenberg pretty much cornered the market on his own unique subgenres of horror: how the mistreatment and misunderstanding of one's own body and flesh can prove hazardous. The decaying of flesh, a person's body betraying them in usually-gory yet beautifully-staged-and-shot ways. See: Shivers; The Fly; Scanners.

This particular scene from The Brood, though, isn't an example of this "body does you bad" conceit. It's nothing more than an exhibition of Cronenberg's razor pacing skills and fearlessness. Murder in a packed kindergarten classroom? Now that takes some balls.

Great stuff right there. The Brood is highly recommended. Psychologically involving, and wildly inventive.

Up next in my Netflix Queue is another Cronenberg effort....The Dead Zone, with Christopher Walken, based on Stephen King's book. A flick I've seen many scenes from but have yet to sit down with from start to finish, properly. That'll soon change.

Apocalypse Now: My Own Redux

Cinemax, in a wonderful bit of programming, is airing Apocalypse Now Redux, the extended cut of Francis Ford Coppola's flawless 1979 Vietnam War epic. It's a top three film of all time, entering the top two on any given day, flip-flopping with A Clockwork Orange for the reigning-champ slot. All three-and-a-half hours, impossible to turn off once its begun, impressive in infinite ways during every single frame.


The first time I saw Apocalypse Now was in its "redux" form. Super late to the game, and I'm somewhat ashamed to say that the only reason I saw it at that time (early into the Fall semester of my sophomore year at college, late-2001) was because the film class I was taking required me to do so. Professor Brady (a great man, who just so happened to be a large, dead ringer for Col. Sanders...."Something must be wrong with his madula oblangada!"), aware that Redux was playing for a limited time in a Dolby Surround Sound theater in the heart of Times Square, made seeing Apocalypse Now Redux our weekly homework assignment.

So I went with my friend/classmate Alex on an especially-frigid October evening, the wind blowing and howling into freezing bursts of face-punishing air. We bought our tickets, filed into the theater. Noticed that we made up the theater's entire population, a cool Two In Attendance. Of course, we sat many-a-seat away from each other, completely ignorant to the head-smashing experience that was about to rear its profound head. The movie started, the sounds blaring in crisp-force that would've made an IMAX screen jealous. And as the film progressed, I found myself lost in a seriously-warped mindstate. Obviously, I'm way too much of a spring chicken to have any clue as to what being in Vietnam felt like, but it's nearly impossible to not feel a certain "I'm actually there" sensation while watching Apocalypse Now, especially while seated in a dark, lonely cinema.

Coppola should forever be held atop a shrine for the feats he accomplished. Visually, every scene in the film feels brutally authentic, honest. Acting-wise, there's not a one even-teetering-on-mediocre performance in the lot, from the topliners (Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne) down to the nameless soldier who when asked by Sheen's "Captain Willard," "Hey, who's in charge here?" devastatingly responds in a panic: "Ain't you!?"


I won't delve too deeply into the technical astonishments of the film here, mainly because the film holds a much more personal meaning to me. There couldn't have been a better time for me to have seen Apocalypse Now for the first time than that nippy October night back in '01. Take a second to think back to what had just gone down at that time: 9/11. Being a New York City college student, the mood of fear, paranoia, an uncertainty sparked by those Twin Towers attacks held us all in a vice-grip for months. The strongest of fears I felt at that time was the potential "Army draft" that was ready to be reinstated. I love this country, sure, but fuck no; no way I wanted to go fight in any war, let alone one in enigmatic Iraq. How savage is the fighting over there? What good would my dying in combat really do over there? Am I strong enough to withstand the mental tug-of-wars and destruction-in-daily-plain-view?

Endless questions, zero answers. But then, I saw Apocalypse Now, right at the peak of my own nervous self-inquisitions. I saw what could be myself in teenage "Mr. Clean" (played by a young Laurence Fishburne, in his first major film role I believe), specifically during his death scene; as he's listening to a recording made by his mother back in the Bronx, updating him on all of his family's doings and declaring their undying love and support for him, ready for him to come back home after having "avoided those bullets." The boat is lit up with gunfire, and Clean is hit, dying instantly. We see his bloodied corpse sprawled out in the middle of the boat, as the recording keeps playing. I imagined my own mom's voice, telling me how Zoey was getting so big, and that my cousins ask about me on a ritualistic basis: "When is Matt coming back home?" And how she, while thinking about me and looking at pictures of yours truly alongise my pops, would have no clue that I was in fact lying dead inside some tank in the Iraqi slums.

In a movie overflowing with haunting images and surreal realities of a time past, Mr. Clean's death is the one that has since stuck in my head. I often play Clean's final moments back within my thoughts, despite not having seen Apocalypse Now in a couple of years (until today, that is; I own it on DVD, but haven't revisited in quite some time). It's a mental stain, but not a "stain" in that "fuck, I just spilled fruit punch on my sofa, and now it'll never come off" way; it's a "stain" in that the scene is permanent while being totally welcome, acknowledged as something important.

By the time the already-cerebral masterpiece reaches the dark jungles of Cambodia where once-celebrated-Army-titan-and-now-insane-war-criminal Col. Kurtz (played with controlled lunacy by the great Marlon Brando), I'm so lost in a trance that the sights of Dennis Hopper's drug-riddled, "Renfield"-ish madman and the real-as-sin animal slaughter hit like illegal punches after the bell has rung. The film is a reinterpretation of the classic story "Hearts of Darkness," a tale about a sane man who loses his marbles while amidst a primitive, savage society, realizing that his more-advanced ways could be seen as almighty, and proceeds to act as a sort of God for the primitives. That's exactly what has happened to Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, and it's scary to think just how tasty sudden-power can be. So delish that it could shatter a man's sanity, make him forget about his loved ones and any code of ethics he once cherished.


Apocalypse Now....easily the most eye-opening, mentally-lasting film I've ever had the privilege of seeing in a theater. Really, I haven't scratched the surface on the many things I take out of this film, every time I sit down with it. But regardless of my given mood, the death of wee-lad Mr. Clean is the most unavoidably tattoo-ed.

I wanted to end this with a brilliant quote from the flick, but didn't want to go with the obvious ones: "The horror....the horror" or, "I love the smell of Napalm in the smells like victory." So, I've opted for:

"You see, there are two of you: the one who kills, and the one who loves."