Bad Cinema: The First Nudie Musical (Dir: Bruce Kimmell and Mark Haggard, 1976)

“Where are you gonna get people who can screw AND carry a tune?”

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While marking time at scAMDA on my way to (presumed) stardom, I used to stroll the aisles of Tower Records, giving myself a free education on the history of cinema. One evening, with 30 bucks burning a hole in my camo cut-offs, I came across a film with a most interesting title: The First Nudie Musical. As a self-professed shit kicker, equally obsessed with Sondheim and Sodomy, this almost seemed too good to be true. Thankfully, it wasn’t. The First Nudie Musical is an amazing piece of camp (and not a bad musical at that…).

Harry Schetcher (Stephen Nathan) is in dire straights. His father’s once prosperous film studio is headed towards certain bankruptcy. Over the past few years, he and his team (led by a pre-Laverne & Shirley Cindy Williams) have done everything – including pornography – to keep it afloat. But time is running out. He gets his investors to agree to one last project that is certain to pack ’em in the aisles: a porno musical. With just two weeks to put it all together, there isn’t a moment to spare. Not only must the performers be able to…perform…but they also have to sing and dance! As if that weren’t enough, one of the producers has foisted his virginal nephew on them as the director and their leading lady is pulling the Diva card from the jump. Will they save the studio? Of course they will. This is a musical after all. But oh what fun along the way!

Yes. Those are dancing dildos.

Yes. Those are dancing dildos.

What may surprise you most is that the music is…actually really good. There’s the eponymous opening toe-tapper, complete with a bevy of kick-lining nude chorines; the ingenue torch song “The Lights and the Smiles”; fun little vaudeville style interstitials like “Orgasm”; and my favorite, “Honey, What’cha Doin’ Tonight?” a “Big Spender” type knock off that will make its way onto my inevitable cover album of musical theatre tunes. (Incidentally, why is THIS not an Off-Broadway musical?!)

The First Nudie Musical, audacious title and all, reportedly got really good reviews (although contemporary online reviews are scarce and not glowing…) and has become a cult classic. If you like South Park, Family Guy, or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you would appreciate this tongue in cheek farce.

***KARDASHIAN***

*You can download the movie here.

Faggot on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Swallowing anger like a vitamin
Strengthening this disconnect
Taking a breath and counting to ten
no longer has any effect
If it ever did
I would bid my last drink
For a moment of calm and peace
But it’s all bullshit
So I take another hit
And for an hour the voices cease.

For an hour I’m free
to just be the me
that the others would worship
if they only could see.
But blocking His path are
The Legion of Shame
The vicious
The cruel
even the meek and the lame.
The Mother, the Father
The Boys in Bowties
The failure
the fear
the hope and the lies.
They pull and they prod and they pinch and they bite
I try to push through but it’s a hell of a fight.

Afraid to face me
so I blame you.
It’s easier that way
Living askew.
So I dive ass first
in a world of servitude
begging that it will change my
Attitude.

But the world goes on
and I’m somewhere in between
never knowing how to act
without feeling so mean.
“Just think happy thoughts” –
Well, here’s one for you:
Go fuck yourself.
And your Mamma too.
If it were that simple,
don’t you think that I’d do it?
Instead of strangling this bitch who keeps telling me
to screw it.
“Screw all the dreams, and the art, and the fame
Just get to work on forgetting your name.”

So tonight, you win,
you ruthless cunt
Tomorrow I’ll smile
and put on a brave front.
but inside I’ll be screaming
wishing I would drown

Just a faggot on the verge
of a nervous breakdown.

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Bad Cinema: Diana (Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2013)

“You hang on to the idea of love. Because you are so good at giving love.”

To begin: a note of positivity.

When trying to do a biopic of a famous person – especially one of Diana’s reach, stature, and “importance” – most filmmakers would attempt to go the cradle to the grave route, glossing over everything in a cliff-noted manner to show the large spectrum of their life in the hopes of accessing their “humanity.” But what ends up happening is that there is so much ground to cover on the road to humanizing the legend that the human is what gets left behind and we are merely left with the legend, learning nothing but facts we could have found on Wikipedia.

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Diana focuses solely on the last two years of her life and specifically her relationship with Hasnat Kahn, the man she dated before the infamous Dodi Fayed. The film at least attempts to give us an insight into one of the most famous women of the 20th Century by filling every scene with her heavily coiffed presence and painting Hasnat as her great romance that the world just won’t let her love. But, I’m afraid, it fails to make us give two bloody shakes about her “horrible” life.

If by humanizing Diana – the People’s Princess, practically a saint, an Eva Peron, murmured in the same breath as Mother Theresa – it means that we take a somewhat mythological angel and make her into a spoiled, whiny woman, then yes, Diana is humanized. But I still don’t feel after two long, excruciating hours that I know anything more about her than I already did, which was very little. Other than she likes to wander the halls of hospitals in search of people she can help. And that, surprise!, she can’t cook. (In one of the script’s more embarrassing moments, she actually confesses that she doesn’t think hamburgers can be made at home…and then orders out…).

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Diana is a wandering path through the forest of her philanthropy and her romance with Hasnat (played by Naveen Andrews). She is put upon, photographed, and scrutinized when all she wants is to be left alone!

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And while the real Diana seemed smart, yet naive, and very fascinating in her normality, the film (and unfortunately Watts’ portrayal) paints her as dull and listless. And not only bored, but boring. By trying to humanize her so much, the film strips her of what made her legendary.

The British press eviscerated the film calling it a “a special class of awful,” and claiming that “16 years after that terrible day in 1997, Diana has died another awful death.” I would have to agree. It has the lush cinematography and grand music of a beautiful romance, but what dreadfully lacks are a sense of purpose, timing, and point of view. This fly on the wall has died after a long buzz around bullshit. Naomi Watts’ performance is as good as it probably could have been given the abysmal script. Which isn’t saying much. It’s baffling that a figure this iconic was relegated to a script this bad.

Avoid at all costs and watch The Queen instead.

***RIP VAN WINKLE***

Good Cinema: Outrageous Fortune (Dir: Arthur Hiller, 1987)

“You’re an actress. Bullshit him.”
“I don’t use my training to tell lies to people.”
“Then what do you use it for?”

When I write about films for this column (and its sister column, Bad Cinema), I like to spend a substantial amount of time with the movie and its universe, reading up on its significance, perusing what other critics had to say about it, or watching it multiple times, with director’s commentary if possible. For example, when I was writing about Vamp, I listened to Grace Jones on repeat; when writing about THX 1138, I made sure to watch George Lucas’ student films to gain perspective; and when writing about Sextette, I delved breast first into Mae West, reading her autobiography and fast forwarding through her terrible filmography.

Outrageous Fortune, however, is a film I have seen innumerable times, one of those childhood stalwarts, like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, that I could quote from memory. Yet, strangely, I do not own it. (Or PTA…yet mediocre BS like Igby Goes Down and the Ernest Goes To…Box Set line my shelves. Figure that one out…). Last night, I made a special trip to Amoeba, the giant media store on Sunset that seems to have everything in search of this gem, but it was nowhere to be found! Not even in the $1 bin! I even scoured the row of VHS tapes. You know you are desperate for Outrageous Fortune when you are scouring the row of VHS tapes… I could have rented it for $2.99 from YouTube or ordered it from Amazon in a Bette Midler 3 Pack for $14.98 (which I still may do and am kind of embarrassed I didn’t…), but for now, I am going from memory.

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OK, Outrageous Fortune is a buddy road movie starring Bette Midler and Shelley Long. That’s all I really need to say. What? You aren’t pulling your hair out in pursuit of its digital presence? Hmmm…OK.

Shelley plays Lauren, a stuck-up bitch who thinks she knows everything (so Diane Chambers…), yet works in a dime store; Bette plays Sandy, a hustler, promising sexual favors for information. They are both actresses at the end of their roads. Their paths cross when Sandy busts in to an audition looking for “one phone in this whole fucking town that works.” Lauren is beyond insulted that this woman, this thing, would dare interrupt her VPS exercises. And not only that! Since she’s there, she’s gonna audition too. Well, Lauren loses it:

“You do not audition for a man of Korzenowski’s reputation without the classic presentation: that’s Shaw, Ibsen, Shakespeare. I’m doing ‘Ophelia’s Mad Scene.’ I’m not waltzing in here off the street thinking, (with thick Brooklyn accent) ‘Gee, I think I wanna be an actress.'”

Sandy/Bette’s signature response: “You know what I bet? I bet you haven’t been laid in about a year.”

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Well, they both get in. After class and back at work, amidst Lauren’s utter frustration (“He let her in! And on scholarship too! I just bet I know what she did for an audition…”), Michael (Peter Coyote) strolls in asking for a pumpkin costume. One of his kids (he’s a teacher) has a learning disability and he thinks “it would give him such a boost if he had the best damn costume in the pageant.” Well, they don’t have any vegetables so Lauren, blinded by his beauty, decides to make him one. They end up in bed.

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Next day at class, she’s flying high. “My, my, my. THAT kind of evening, huh?” “Well, not the kind you’re used to. No money changed hands.” Later that day, we learn that Bette…is ALSO sleeping with Michael! Just wait until they find out their beloved is sleeping with the enemy! They’ll kill him!

Turns out they don’t have to. Michael blows up in a flower shop explosion. The women are devastated until they… well, just watch.

Knowing that Michael is at large, the two join forces to track him down and find out once and for all: who’s it gonna be!?

Long and Midler play off of each other perfectly (despite their onscreen struggles), elaborating on their well established personalities and finding new notes of brashness and sympathy, respectively. Their characters use their acting training to get tangled (and untangled) from drug dealers…

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…airline officials (I used to act out this scene ad nauseum…)…

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…whore house madams…

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…and the KGB.

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All in the pursuit of love. And of course, in the grand tradition of the buddy comedy, they become best friends.

Oh, yeah. George Carlin is in it too.

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And that guy from The Golden Girls who plays Gil Kessler.

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Check out my other Good Cinema reviews here.