Friday, January 15, 2016

David Bowie

It’s hard to find words for the monumental loss the world has experienced with the passing of David Bowie. I never get emotional about celebrity deaths, but this is different. I still can’t believe how this even happened; he was supposed to live forever. I keep hoping that it’s all a ruse. Perhaps he faked his death like in VELVET GOLDMINE. I just don’t want to accept it to be true. There has never been an artist like Bowie and there will never be another. He changed the shape of music and influenced so many. People say these things all the time when a celebrity dies, but in this case it couldn't be more true. Growing up in the 1980s, Bowie’s music was so prominent. His videos were everywhere. His songs were infectious and I was completely mesmerized by his clothes. As I got older I came to understand all the personas of this beautiful alien. I’ve been thinking of just how much he’s been a part of my life. I cannot recall a time before Bowie, and I really don’t want to consider a time after Bowie. I thought I’d share some of my favorite Bowie moments.

I certainly love his performances as Warhol in BASQUIAT and as Pontius Pilate in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. He's great in LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER. However, my favorite Bowie acting performance is as Agent Phillip Jeffries in FIRE WALK WITH ME. Even the details surrounding his character were such a vague mystery. Jeffries disappears for two years and then suddenly appears in the Philadelphia FBI offices spouting bizarre ramblings about the inhabitants of the Black Lodge. Then just as quickly as he appeared, he’s gone again. This performance in FIRE WALK WITH ME added a charm to David Lynch’s saga we never knew we needed. “He was here, but where did he go?”

I used to say many years ago that I wanted “Under Pressure” to be played at my funeral
. I always imagined a grandiose montage of people looking very somber as the coffin is lowered down right at the climax of the song. The thought never occurred to me that David Bowie’s funeral would come before my own. I now imagine Bowie and Freddy Mercury singing this song together someplace far, far way.

Speaking of interesting duets, remember the Mick Jagger collaboration? “Dancing in the Street” was initially intended to raise funds for Live Aid. It was very successful at the time, but has since become a bit of a joke probably due to the outrageous music video. Regardless, I absolutely love it. Yes the video is incredibly ridiculous and self-indulgent, but so were the entire 1980s. The pair raised even more questions about the relationship between Bowie & Jagger. I love how they were always so coy about it. Maybe it was the coke, but I really enjoyed this fun and lively side of Bowie.

ALMOST FAMOUS is in my top 5 all-time films. David Bowie was originally intended to have a role in the films as a publicist. However, the role was cut from the final script. He still makes a sort of cameo (he's also on the soundtrack) during the Cleveland scene at Swingo’s Hotel. You’ll also recognize comedian Nick Swardson as the rabid fan who freaks out at a mere glimpse of him. It’s great to see the Bowie fandom portrayed in the 1970s.

I absolutely HATE Christmas music with a fiery passion. Anyone who’s ever had to work retail during the holidays knows that Christmas music becomes the bane of your existence. I still cringe at the thought of hearing “Last Christmas” by Wham! or Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” On the other hand, I don’t mind Bowie’s duet with Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy.” Bowie did the duet on Bing Crosby’s 1977 holiday special. He allegedly only made the appearance to appease his mother who was a big fan of Crosby. No matter what, it’s still a beautiful rendition of a shitty song.

I always wondered if Bowie would write his own memoirs. It seems like everyone is getting around to it these days (Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith). There are countless unauthorized Bowie biographies out there. I’ve read a few. I even read Angie Bowie’s autobiography many years ago. I would certainly take anything an embittered ex-wife says with a grain of salt. The book ended up being the basis of what became of the film VELVET GOLDMINE. I love this film even if it’s incredibly exaggerated. It paints an exciting portrait of the legend.

My all-time favorite Bowie song is “Golden Years.” According to Angie Bowie, David called her from tour and played the song over the phone for. I’m not sure how accurate that account is, but it sure adds some context to the lyrics. Initially, the song was written for Elvis Presley, but he rejected it. What a huge mistake. Bowie's performance on Soul Train is so iconic. As one of the first white artists on the show, he was allegedly so nervous about the appearance that he got incredibly drunk yet never skips a beat. Bowie’s soul era is definitely one of my favorite time periods in his catalog. He just brought so much panache and grandeur to the genre.

One of my favorite film montages (besides ROCKY IV) is from INGLOROUS BASTERDS. At the beginning of Chapter 5, we see Shosanna preparing herself for the film premiere of NATION’S PRIDE as David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” plays. When I saw this for the first time in the theater, it just sent chills up my spine. It’s probably one of my favorite scenes in film history. It’s just so brilliant and fateful at the same time. It’s just perfect.

Obviously we won’t be reading his memoirs now. It’s just as well, we should honor the mystery. After all, a magician should never reveal his secrets. I know I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said. It’s just so heartbreaking to think about. David Bowie created a safe and exquisite place for people who were different. He made it cool to be yourself. He taught us that instead of being ordinary, you could be extraordinary. We are extremely fortunate to have been given one last album as a goodbye letter from an phenomenal being. David Bowie will be remembered for so many things from an amazing musician, fashion icon, actor, animal lover, and all around performer. Let’s also remember that while we mourn a hero, someone else is mourning a husband and father. Goodbye sweet prince; the world feels a lot less magical now.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Most Anticipated Films of 2016

There’s so many great films coming out in 2016, it was really difficult to choose just ten. Like many of you I’m looking forward to watching THE LOBSTER, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, and TRUE CRIMES. I really have no interest in most of the never-ending sequels to any modernly successful big studio film coming out this year. However, I am excited to see a couple superhero films like X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2016:


“Taking place in a Manhattan apartment building, Max's life as a favorite pet is turned upside down, when his owner brings home a sloppy mongrel named Duke. They have to put their quarrels behind when they find out that an adorable white bunny named Snowball is building an army of abandoned pets determined to take revenge on all happy-owned pets and their owners.”

I’m a total sucker for movies centered around dogs, especially if there’s a pug. This film actually looks enjoyable and I even caught Ross chuckle a bit during the trailer. It’s made by the people who created DESPICABLE ME/MINIONS. I can’t say I’ve seen anything in that franchise, but with voice acting by Steve Coogan and Louis C.K. there’s a big chance for potential. Sometimes you have to watch silly movies.


“A screenwriter living in LA tries to make sense of the strange events occurring around him.”
“An examination of the birth and death of the known universe.”
“Two intersecting love triangles. Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.”
Terence Malick was really cooking after THE TREE OF LIFE; he had several films in pre-production immediately following the release. He quietly put out TO THE WONDER which was received with lukewarm reviews. I personally felt like it was a lengthy, big production fragrance add starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko. It certainly lacked the substance that comes with all of Malick’s previous films. However, I am incredibly hopeful for his upcoming releases which are (so far) slated for 2016. It seems like VOYAGE OF TIME is an extension of the first half of THE TREE OF LIFE. You either loved or hated the whole chapter on the big bang theory in THE TREE OF LIFE. I felt like it created a beautiful precedent for his most personal film yet. I’m excited to see how he applies his stunning visual expression to the universe. Ryan Gosling (Hey Girl) stated that there was no script used while filming the untitled project. It was also filmed back to back with KNIGHTS OF CUP here in Austin. It will be interesting to see how our famed music scene is portrayed. Basically, I’m excited to see anything from Terence Malick. At this point, he’s on a roll compared to when he was releasing only one film every decade.


“A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

I’ll be honest; I’ve been thoroughly disappointed with current horror films. Even much lauded films like GOODNIGHT MOMMY and IT FOLLOWS fell very short for me. I feel like there’s no creativity or fervor put into recent horror films which really breaks my heart since this is my absolute favorite film genre. I’ve always been fascinated by the whole witch hysteria and this is certainly a refreshing topic to tackle. Writer/director Robert Eggers has worked on several short films, but this appears to be his first feature film. THE WITCH did well at Sundance and has received positive reviews from notable sources. It's actually rated R which is a big relief. Nothing pisses me off more than a horror film that's rated PG/PG-13. Could this mean redemption for American horror? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

“A private eye investigates the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles and uncovers a conspiracy.”

Director Shane Black has had great success with screenwriting, but he’s probably most know for directing IRON MAN 3 which I enjoyed most out of the trilogy. He also wrote my favorite adolescent film, MONSTER SQUAD. The film has a pretty diverse cast staring Hey Girl, Russell Crowe, and Kim Basinger. From watching the trailer, I get a PTA - INHERENT VICE (which I loved) vibe from it. It also seems like Russell Crowe is revising his beloved character from LA CONFIDENTIAL (also starring Kim Basinger). This film looks fun, witty, and entertaining. Let’s hope it is.


“A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line.”
The Coen brothers never disappoint. Even their less favorable films like BURN AFTER READING and A SERIOUS MAN are still amusing and well made. They have singlehandedly perfected the fumbled crime plot. The cast of HAIL CEASAR consists of frequent Coen players like Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Josh Brolin, and Frances McDormand. As long as the Coens continue to put out smart, whimsical scripts, I will continue to eat it up.


“When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.”
Nicolas Winding Refn is one of my favorite newer film directors. He makes such striking films that rely heavily on mood and atmosphere. He also chooses strong actors who can make his scripts come alive. Refn’s last film, ONLY GOD FORGIVES was one of my favorite films of 2013. It was incredibly startling with gorgeous colors and very little dialogue. This was definitely one of Hey Girl’s finest roles yet. I get a feeling that NEON DEMON is a throwback to classic 1980s Brian De Palma. I would love to see the 1980s steamy thriller genre come back.


“A scientist blames the head of a large company to cause an ecological disaster in South America. But when a volcano begins to present eruption signs, they must unite to avoid a disaster, despite their ideological differences.”
There are so many things I love about this film and it’s not even out yet. I love ALL of Werner Herzog’s films and documentaries. I especially love Gael Garcia Bernal and Michael Shannon. Herzog is no stranger to environmental catastrophes and anomalies. Just look what he did with LESSONS OF DARKNESS. I love that Herzog always plays by his own rules. His films are direct and to the point with striking visuals. It will be interesting to see how he applies his uncommon style to a volcano disaster film.


“A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.”
Derek Cianfrance is an incredibly talented director who really captures the vulnerability of his characters. His last film THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES was my favorite film of 2012. Before that he made BLUE VALENTINE which was an eloquent examination of a romantic relationship from start to finish. His films are sensitive and emotional. The film is based on a novel by M.L. Stedman. I’m really interested to see the chemistry between Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander who subsequently became a couple during filming. I’m also interested to see how he utilizes the gorgeous backdrop of New Zealand. I look forward to many more films from Cianfrance.


“A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers.”
Jeff Nichols makes gritty, impassioned films mostly set in the South. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL will be his first foray into the sci-fi realm. As with many Jeff Nichols films, Michael Shannon will star. This relationship is shaping up to be the new Scorsese/DiCaprio duo and I really like it. Michael Shannon is certainly one of the most underrated actors around and Jeff Nichols’ film are always well received. Nichols is going to do big things and I think MIDNIGHT SPECIAL will bring him the attention he deserves.


“A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.”
Initially, this film was touted as a sequel to DAZED AND CONFUSED. It follows the same timeline, but not the same characters for obvious reasons. (Batfleck may have been a little too busy to reprise his O’Bannion role.) As someone who grew up in the 80s, I have such an affinity for anything set in that time period. Just ask Ross how much I laughed out loud in the theater during HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. Nobody does nostalgia like Linklater. He’s perfected and applied the concept to nearly all his films. I love that he cast all unknown actors and I can’t wait to see what the soundtrack is like. Linklater utilizes music like Cameron Crowe, and it really brings the scenes together. It’s also exciting to see how Austin in the 1980s will be portrayed. Linklater always goes back and forth between making serious dramas to fun comedies and he’s relatively successful with both genres. DAZED AND CONFUSED is such an iconic and cult film for my generation. I think it definitely ushered in that whole 70s revival we saw in the 1990s. Perhaps EVERYBODY WANTS SOME will do the same for this generation. Either way, I can’t wait to see it.

Please note all synopsizes are courtesy of

There it is friends, my most anticipated films for 2016. I hope everyone is having a great start to the New Year and I look forward to hearing what else is out there to watch. What are you looking forward to seeing in 2016?