Saturday, November 29, 2014


This past Monday I was at a screening of Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music with my friend Mtume Gant when he got a text from Newlyweeds director Shaka King about reading for the role of "Buggin' Out" in some kind of special intimate reading of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing at The Lincoln Center. As it turned out, Shaka & Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler, in conjunction with the activist organization; Blackout For Human Rights, were organizing/curating a free screenplay reading of Lee's original script as a way to raise awareness towards some recent high profile humans rights violations caused by public servants/police officers (the choking death of Eric Garner, the shooting of both Oscar Grant & Mike Brown, etc) and to counter the madness of "Black Friday".

On a side note - this Black Friday nonsense is not a good look for Americans. I'll be the first to admit that I can't stand when other countries criticize America/Americans (unless your Canadian or Icelandic, you really have no right to criticize what any country does even if your current track record is OK at the moment. Just sayin'...)
But no other country acts as ridiculous as we do when it comes to consumerism. It's gotten to the point where all the craziness associated with Black Friday (riots, fights, deaths, lining up outside a store in the cold weather at 12am to get a good price on a TV or a blender) has reached the news in other countries, and they're laughing at us. I was in Paris a few years ago and some of my Parisian friends were inquiring about Black Friday with these smirks on their faces almost as if they were saying; "you dummies".
...strangely enough, everyone who attended this reading of Do The Right Thing (myself included) did have to wait outside in the cold for a while in order to get in. But the event was free and more than worth it. Not to sound dramatic but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for both cinephiles & socially conscious folk that are fed up with what's going on in the world today (especially in the U.S.)

And in my opinion, it's much better to wait 90 minutes out in the cold for something like this instead of waiting for a flat screen TV that'll break in a few years...

The intimate reading of DTRT last night was many things. It was yet another deserved (and possibly the most unique) celebration of the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee's film (I'm privileged to have personally attended two of three 25th anniversary events for DTRT here in NYC); it was a mini reunion in that some of the original cast members (John Turturro, Frankie Faizon & Joie Lee) were able to come together again, and, as I already noted, it was an appropriately timed event with all that's been going on concerning police brutality & gun violence in America these days.

Throughout this special raw, lively, rehearsal-like reading of Spike Lee's original script, there were photos & images of recent protests concerning everyone from Oscar Grant up to Mike Brown projected on a large screen behind the actors.

Last night was also a bit of a torch passing on Lee's part as the reading was co-curated/directed by two of the few young/up & coming American filmmakers of color working today (Coogler & King). In fact, many of the actors they've worked with were featured in the reading playing various roles (Michael B. Jordan, Trae Harris, Tone Tank, Melanie Diaz, etc). 
Although Spike Lee couldn't be in attendance, he sent along a personal message/dedication for Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis & Danny Aiello Jr.

At this point, I'm sure most people reading this have seen Spike Lee's groundbreaking film. And even if you haven't seen it, I'm sure you've seen it referenced everywhere in mainstream pop culture in the last 25 years from outlets ranging from The Simpsons & SNL to the films of Kevin Smith. But this scripted version of Do The Right Thing had a few slight differences from the movie version - certain lines were changed and/or removed, some scenes were added, and the famous climactic riot at the end had a slightly different outcome. 
The roles of Mookie (Spike Lee) & Tina (Rosie Perez) were played by Michael B. Jordan & Melanie Diaz, respectfully. Turturro & Joie Lee portrayed the roles of Sal (Danny Aiello Sr.) & Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee). Mtume Gant & comedian Godfrey read for the roles of Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) & Mister Señior Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), while a slew of other actors (Gbenga Akinnagbe, Trae Harris, Tone Tank, etc) wore multiple hats portraying various roles throughout the screening (original cast member Frankie Faizon was the only actor to reprise his original role).

For a cold reading (some of the actors who participated in this event never even met prior to it), this thing went off incredibly smooth and the (privileged) audience fully enjoyed themselves. It was almost like getting an inside look at the pre-production/rehearsal/workshopping process that goes in to filmmaking & acting.
As a person of color/cinephile/film critic/somewhat socially conscious person I couldn't think of a better way to spend a post-thanksgiving evening (I'm not even sure if the reading was even filmed which makes this even more special in this viral/instant world we live in)

Friday, November 21, 2014


Movies like Chef come along every once in a while to balance out all the serious shit I watch & enjoy each year. In 2011 some of my favorite films were Faust, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, Shame & Drive. Even the comedies and other seemingly “lighthearted” movies that I loved that year were centered around issues like suicide (Monsieur Lahzar), mass-murder (God Bless America) and deceased loved ones (Alps). Because I was consumed with so much dark content that year, I took to Midnight In Paris to lighten up the mood. In 2012, 21 Jump Street & Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie served as the counter to Post Tenebras Lux & Amour. Last year, the comedic elements in films like Newlyweeds & Frances Ha balanced out Bruno Dumont’s depressing double feature of Camille Claudel 1915 & Hors Satan (Newlyweeds & Frances Ha also got me to kinda like New York City again for a short period of time, but that eventually wore off). Besides Boyhood, most of my personal favorite films from this year so far are rather drab or have tons of violent murders. Both Stranger By The Lake & Li’l Quinquin are about serial killers, Night Moves focuses on terrorism (a more unconventional side of terrorism, but still…terrorism is terrorism) and Timbuktu is just downright depressing (there’s a scene of a woman getting stoned to death). See what I mean? I need a (TRULY) lighthearted movie like Chef to keep me grounded.
Chef is definitely lighthearted, but it isn’t mindlessly lighthearted. A big part of the story deals with the (POSITIVE) relationship between a father & son. That’s still not very common these days (I do recognize & appreciate Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke’s attempt at showing a more complicated side of fatherhood in films like Before Sunset & Boyhood, but positive fathers are still scarce in modern film).

In Chef everything falls perfectly in to place for John Faverau in an incredibly unrealistic way. But dammit, why not?! Why shouldn’t John Faverau get with BOTH Scarlett Johansson & Sofia Vergara by the end of the film? Why shouldn’t his food truck business turn out successful and bring him tons of money? If the films of Bruno Dumont & Michael Haneke are allowed to exist with all the praise they get (well…I guess Dumont’s films aren’t always praised, but still…), why can’t the opposite exist? Sorry but if suicide, murder & depression can exist within the same 100 minute movie, then so can success, riches & hooking up with attractive women. There’s a ying and a yang to everything.
phones, mobile devices and other various forms of social media play a major part in Chef

In Chef, John Faverau stars as “Carl Casper” - a talented chef at a hot new restaurant who ends up butting heads with his boss (played by Dustin Hoffman) over what kind of food to serve. After a hurtful review from a big time food critic and a public meltdown that gets videotaped and blasted all over social media, Carl steps out, with the help of his former co-worker (played by John Leguizamo), his son, and funding from his rich ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), to start a food truck business that quickly becomes a success. Along the way there are a few bumps in the road (mostly having to do with the relationship between Carl and his son) but for the most part everything kind of just works out. Seriously, that’s pretty much the whole movie.
I’m sure a feminist or someone with plenty of time on their hands to over-analyze things (something I’m guilty of doing from time to time) could easily break Chef down as the ultimate male fantasy if they wanted to. Seriously tho, how convenient is it that the protagonist not only hooks up with two of Hollywood's most attractive actresses, but is also able to get a ton of money & support from his ex-wife without any strings attached?

But for me Chef was just a non-threatening good time that put a smile on my face. Shit, the only other movie that made me laugh/smile that much this year was Nightcrawler, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to enjoy that movie the way I did.

My only gripe with Chef is the shot that John Faverau tries to throw at critics & bloggers. Even though the villainous critic (played by Oliver Platt) who goes after Carl in Chef is a food critic, it’s more than obvious he represents all the movie critics & bloggers out there today. We do live in the age of internet trolling and a lot of movie critics/bloggers these days are more hurtful & immature, but it’s embarrassingly transparent when filmmakers try to take jabs at the one-note evil critic character. No filmmaker has yet to TRULY make fun of or call out critics in any kind of original way (we get it, famous people – you all think critics & bloggers are fat pimply deflecting losers that live in their mom’s basement. Ouch). But if you make bad movies (like a lot of filmmakers who attack critics are guilty of doing), don’t get mad when someone criticizes your work (that's not the case with Faverau btw. I'm just speaking in general).

This all reminds me of the story Kevin Smith tells in one of his one-man show/Q&A's about how George Clooney and his friends egged the house of a critic who gave Clooney's directorial debut (Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind) a bad review back in 2002...

Two things about this...

1. Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind really isn't that good. It's not awful, but its certainly forgettable (be honest, before reading this, when's the last time you even thought about that movie?)

2. You really have that much time on your hands, George Clooney? Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind still made money  yet you're mad that you got a negative review? 8 times outta 10 your presence in a film alone will trump any negative review. Grow up...

Remember that scene in M. Nigh Shayamalan’s Lady In The Water when the unfriendly movie critic character (played by Bob Balaban) gets killed by that monster? It’s like, of course fucking M. Night Shayamalan would do some shit like that. I know critics have been unkind to his post-Unbreakable filmogpgraphy, but still – his movies aren’t that good (certainly not as bad as some people make them out to be, but still - not very good).

As you can see, the whole filmmakers vs. critics/bloggers thing is much bigger than John Faverau, so I gave him a pass with Chef (he actually makes peace with the antagonistic critic by the end of the movie).

I honestly have yet to personally come across anyone who disliked this movie (my fiancée Sharon and PINNLAND EMPIRE contributor Rob Cotto are among the folks who gave it rave reviews) and that counts for something. Don't be surprised if this movie pops up in more categories than one next month when I give my end of the year review...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I know a lot of people out there don’t like Nicholas Winding Refn’s movies (I am NOT one of those people because I think his movies are awesome), but his influence on mainstream cinema (Nightcrawler, Need For Speed, John Wick, etc) is undeniable yet everyone seems to act like that’s not the case.

Sure the plots to the afformentioned films are different than Only God Forgives & Drive, but when it comes to tone, atmosphere, art direction, lighting, the representation of Los Angeles, use of color, etc., it’s more than obvious.

I also know that Refn didn’t just find his style all on his own. He’s clearly a mixture of Mann, Tarantino, Scorsese, the 1980’s and a few others, but filmmakers today are still drawing directly from his style more than anything else. While certain things arent exactly identical (some things are), just take a step back, look at these examples (the positioning of Gosling & Gyllenhall standing in front of their cars, the colors used on the poster art, etc) and just admit that I’m right…

Monday, November 17, 2014


Lists used to be a regular thing here at PINNLAND EMPIRE, but for whatever reason I gave them a rest in favor of writing longer articles that most of you probably don't even finish reading once you start. It recently hit me that although its way too early to start deciding what the defining movies of the decade are, there's already quite a few isolated moments from the last 4+ years that are either so visually striking, prolific, heartbreaking, frightening, hilarious or a combination of everything that they deserve to be mentioned.

So, as part of a new ongoing series, we're going to list my personal favorite movie moments of the decade so far.
I put an emphasis on the word; "personal" because its just that. My own personal opinion. This list in no way speaks for anyone else. And please keep in mind that this is ongoing (as you're checking this eighth installment I'll already be putting the final touches on part ten). So if you don't see something listed that you feel should be, give it some time. It may show up eventually. There's no order or hierarchy in what gets listed either.

FYI...two of the seven films represented in this installment are currently streaming on Netflix instant and three are easy to come by on DVD & Blu-Ray just about anywhere (I'm not sure about the availability of the other two)

Here's part eight, enjoy...

Had this ended any differently I think it would have put a negative stench on the whole film. As the story progresses you start to forget that the protagonist (pictured above) is fueled by sadness more than anything else. Early on when he gets the news that his wife was murdered he falls in to a momentary depression, but it quickly goes away and he’s consumed by anger & rage and goes in to super revenge mode for the next two hours. Anger & rage are typical motivators in any revenge film. But the sadness that’s beneath all that isn’t always explored because the leading actors (usually men) associated with good revenge films are stoic/tough guys like Lee Marvin (Point Blank), Charles Bronson (Death Wish), Bruce Lee (Enter The Dragon), Fred Williamson (Hell Up In Harlem), etc. Lee Byung-hun (the lead actor in I Saw The Devil) is no exception to this rule (he’s obviously not on the same iconic status as folks like Bronson & Marvin, but the character he plays in I Saw The Devil would kick any of their asses). Through the majority of the film he’s pretty much a cold-blooded emotionless ass-beating machine. But in the final moments of the film we finally see his vulnerable side. After all the torturing, fighting & killing, he comes to realization that none of it made him feel any better, it won’t bring his wife back and he’s left with nothing.

In my opinion, Will Forte is currently the funniest human being on the planet. And I say this as someone who really didn’t watch him on SNL or enjoy McCgruber. For me, Forte’s show-stealing scenes in Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie can be enjoyed by anyone with a sense of humor, whether you like Tim & Eric’s style of comedy or not…

Bully was tough to watch at times because I just wanted someone to step in and stop some of the actual bullying that went on in this documentary. But this is one scene where I'm glad no one stepped in to do anything because it exposed the cluelessness of some of the adults/authority figures in this movie. Following a school fight (which was really just one student finally standing up to another student who'd been picking on him for quite some time and nothing was done about it) a teacher pulls the bullied student aside (in the striped shirt pictured above) and gives him a rather naive/pointless advice and he pretty much gives her a reality check on what it's really like to be bullied and feel desperate.

This movie really had no business being this good. I rented it on a whim because a few people whose opinions I trust gave it glowing reviews. The P.O.V./handheld genre has been played out for years. Seriously – have you ever browsed the horror films that are streaming on Netflix? It feels like half the movies are cheap imitations of either The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity (which aren’t very good movies to begin with). But Chronicle (which actually isn’t even a horror movie) put a slight twist on the genre. Instead of one perspective, we get many different perspectives through the course of the film (camera phones, security cameras, news cameras, etc), especially in the epic climatic battle in the end, which owes quite a bit to Akria

I still enjoy Room 237 just as much as when I saw it the first time. Except now, two years later, I enjoy it for very different reasons. I’m embarrassed to say that the first time I watched this documentary I got caught up in the hype surrounding some of the conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining. Nowadays I watch Room 237 as pure entertaining. However the one theory that still kinda holds up and creeps me out a little is the one surrounding the Bill Watson character and how he represents the spirit of the dead Native Americans buried underneath the overlook hotel. Just look at him (pictured above). There’s a haunting cryptic quality to his face that I never picked up on until I saw Room 237.

There’s a million ways to over-analyze this scene. It’s a dream sequence from an art house movie about a man coming to grips with his dying wife. What couldn’t be said about it? I just honestly love the imagery of the hand covering George’s mouth…

Here’s a scene (about 15-20 minutes long I believe) that doesn’t necessarily make you question marriage, but it definitely gives you anxiety about it. On one hand you just want this argument to end, but on the other hand you appreciate it because it feels like a real argument you’ve had, or may potentially have at some point with your significant other.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Jodorowsky’s Dune certainly deserves all the praise it’s been getting. It’s a fun documentary about an ambitious project that could have been groundbreaking had everything fallen perfectly in to place. For years the story behind Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempt at making Dune was nothing more than a short trivia blurb on imdb to most folks. In Jodorowsky's Dune, director Frank Pavich finally delves in to the real story behind "the greatest movie never made"...

Given my fascination with cinematic influences, stolen ideas & borrowed imagery, this is the perfect movie for PINNLAND EMPIRE. As the film points out, some of the conceptual ideas that came from Jodorowsky's unfinished vision of Dune (in terms of artwork, set design & costume design) clearly found their way in to other sci-fi films over the years...

Jodorowsky's Dune / Masters Of The Universe
Jodorowsky's Dune / Flash Gordon

I also had no idea that Dan O’Bannon & HR Geiger met and collaborated on Dune with Alejandro Jodorowsky prior to working on Alien together, which explains a lot... 

Geiger's conceptual artwork for Jodorowsky's version of Dune / the iconic alien (also created by Geiger) with the signature phallic tongue 
early artwork for Dune / Prometheus
Dune / Prometheus

It should also be noted that in the book Cronenberg Interviews, David Cronenberg calls out Dan O’Bannon for stealing the Alien chest burst scene from his earlier film Shivers

Shivers / Alien

Jodorowsky’s vision obviously never came to life outside of his graphic novel “The Incal” which ended up using elements from the original Dune artwork…

artwork from Jodorowsky's Dune / Artwork from The Incal

Jodorowsky’s own movies ended up influencing The Incal as well...

Artwork from The Incal / Holy Mountain

I don’t really have too many issues with Jodorowsky’s Dune (outside of how many times one of the many interviewees in the documentary says something along the lines of; “if this movie had been made…OMG…it would have been the greatest movie ever and it would have changed the game”). If anything, I have a problem with fans of this doc who automatically assume Jodorowsky's version of Dune would have been this game changer. There’s no guarantee it would have been this amazing masterpiece yet everyone seems to think otherwise. Sure, when you look at Jodorowsky's vision of Dune laid out on paper, it sounds amazing. Beautiful drawings & artwork; Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali & David Caradine were all supposed to co-star; Dan O’Bannon (who later went on to write Alien) was writing the script; H.R. Geiger (who went on to create the alien designs for the Alien franchise) was going to handle the art direction, and Pink Floyd & Tangerine Dream were going to do the score. When you have a bunch of random talented people working together on one project you can’t help but hope that the outcome will be amazing. But it's never guaranteed. Look at David Lynch’s Dune. As my Pink Smoke friends noted recently, that version is also just as amazing on paper – The young maverick behind Eraserhead & Elephant Man was going to direct (Lynch); Sting was set to co-star as the villain; Toto was going to do the score, etc. 
But we all know how that version of Dune turned out. 
I appreciate the fact that this documentary didn’t spend too much time beating a dead horse. We all know how unfavorable Lynch’s Dune is (although there is a small cult following). Besides one segment in the last half of the film, Jodorowsky’s Dune never really goes too deep in too David Lynch’s version. Instead, the documentary follows Alejandro’s pre-production process all the way up to the plug being pulled on the entire project.

And before we move on, let’s keep it real for a minute…

David Lynch's Dune

David Lynch is a much better filmmaker than Alejandro Jordowosky. I hate to get competitive, but c’mon now…if Lynch, who is a much better filmmaker, couldn’t pull of Dune, what makes you all so convinced Alejandro Jodorowsky could have done it? I don’t mean to sound so harsh and I’m not being bias either (it’s no mystery I’m a big David Lynch Fan). I actually like some of Jodorowsky’s work (especially Sante Sangre). But I’ll put Eraserhead & Elephant Man up against El Topo & Holy Mountain any day of the week. 

It's also a HUGE leap going from something like Holy Mountain to adapting Dune. You all can honestly watch El Topo & Holy Mountain and think the man responsible for those films could have pulled off Dune?

And correct me if I’m wrong but, at no point in the documentary is it even confirmed that the studio that initially agreed to do Jodorowsky s version of Dune gave him the free range that he may have thought he had in pre-production. At a certain point Alejandro’s ideas come off like an eccentric playful little kid in an arts & crafts class full of energy & ideas that wanted to do too much.
Let’s also not forget this all took place during the mid 70’s. Look where special effects were at the time (in order for Dune to work it would have had to rely heavily on special effects). Jodorowsky & Geiger’s beautiful concept art might not have translated that well to live action form. 
Some filmmakers have put projects on hold for DECADES due to restrictions concerning special effects. Terrence Malick originally planned to do an earlier version of what we now know as Tree Of Life in the late 70’s but he was ultimately convinced that he couldn’t pull off the creation scenes & dinosaur scenes because the proper technology didn’t exist yet. And even in 2011 when the movie finally got made, the (dated) dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993) were more effective than the dinosaurs that ultimately ended up in Tree Of Life.

The story of Dune not being made isn’t all that unique either. Jodorowsky’s Dune could have easily been Kubrick’s Napoleon, Alex Cox’s Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas or Cronenberg’s Total Recall. There are also a million lesser known ambitious projects that were supposed to have been made but for one reason or another never happened.

Take Breakfast Of Champions...

In the late 70’s Robert Altman was supposed to adapt Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions with Peter Falk & Alice Cooper set to co-star. The project obviously never came to life and many years later Vonnegut's story was poorly adapted by Alan Rudolph with an all-star cast of misplaced actors (Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Omar Epps, Barbara Hershey, Lucas Haas, etc etc). Again – doesn’t that sound like Jodorowsky’s Dune on some level? A maverick filmmaker (Altman), adapting a book from a famous writer (Vonnegut) with a famous musician set to co-star (Cooper)? There was a period when Terry Gilliam was supposed to adapt The Watchmen (I recently learned that Paul Greengrass was also attached to The Watchmen at one point as well); David Lynch was supposed to make a surreal comedy with Steve Martin & Martin Short; Terrence Malick was attached to Che, etc. I can go on & on. Plenty of awesome sounding film projects get a green light (or semi-green light) and sometimes make it to pre-production then eventually get shut down.

No matter what issues I may have surrounding this documentary, it’s a still a must-see (especially for movie lovers) and will more than likely end up in my “frustrating but rewarding” category at the end of the year. If you’re a fan of science fiction and Room 237Jodorowsky’s Dune is definitely a movie for you.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Norman Mailer, cars, shit (like…actual fecal matter) and sexual taboos (specifically anal sex) are the four common themes in Matthew Barney’s latest 6 hour cinematic opera River Fundament - a film that could have easily been renamed “River Of Shit” as it not only deals with actual shit, but is also a huge messy turd of a movie. These days I usually don’t take the time out to dedicate an entire review towards a movie I dislike, but I actually take (...took?) Matthew Barney serious as a filmmaker when so many others don't (to most people he’s an experimental artist/sculptor). I’ve enjoyed all his previous films (especially Drawing Restraint 9) but River Of Fundament just didn’t cut it. As I sat in the BAM harvey theater watching this, I was reminded of the first (and only) time that I saw Crispin Glover’s equally messy/shitty What Is It (a film with talking snails and questionably exploited lead actors who all had downsyndrome). Forget the work of Terrence Malick. Stuff like River Of Fundament and What Is It? are the kinds of pretentious films that come off like “art house” parodies (side note - I actually liked Crispin Glover's follow up movie It's Fine, Everything Is Fine).

Listen, I appreciate abstract art. I don’t want some snooty MOMA member to come across this review and think I don’t know what I’m talking about. As someone who studied architecture (and works in that field today), I’m able to understand & appreciate the models & experimentation in Matthew Barney's work as I also had to do an extensive amount of abstract model making in my architectural studies). River Of Fundament continues his experimentation with the same shapes & models from his pervious films...
The Cremaster Cycle
Drawing Restraint 9

In River Of Fundament Barney took his signature oval design and drastically altered it this time around...

Barney's artwork from River Of Fundament

But at the end of the day I’d much rather see the images & sculptures from RoF in an art installation rather than in the form of a 6+ hour movie that started to drag 30-45 minutes out the gate...

River Of Fundament is essentially an abstract love letter/dedication to the life & work of author Norman Mailer (a friend of Barney’s who appeared in one of his earlier films). The movie is made up of a mixture of random operatic vignettes that focus on the aforementioned themes (Mailer’s writings, cars, shit & anal sex) combined with scenes of a fictional party/get-together made up of Norman Mailer’s close personal friends (Elaine Stritch), random celebrities (Paul Giamatti, Maggie Gyllenhall, James Toback, Larry Holmes) and various admirers. 
Stritch, Toback, Holmes & Gyllenhall all play realistic versions of themselves while Paul Giamatti plays an incredibly off-the wall version of himself. Matthew Barney has never worked with any known/recognizable people in his 17 years of filmmaking (with the exception of Bjork & Mailer) so I was surprised at all the recognizable faces in River Of Findament. Perhaps this will be his break out film and he’ll appeal to a slightly wider audience I thought. I was genuinely shocked at all the folks who showed up to the sold out screening I attended. But those thoughts of Barney "crossing over" soon went out the window the more this movie went on. “Highlights” from River Of Fundament include; a human-like shit monster that rises out of a toilet (reminiscent of that scene in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, except I think Barney expected his audience to take his shit monster scene seriously); a quick scene where Paul Giamatti’s (prosthetic) penis suddenly grows about four feet long (seriously); a profanity-laced opera score and multiple up-close scenes of unsimualted anal sex (in one of the scenes one of the “receivers” proceeds to shit herself, for real, following the intercourse). See what I mean? Doesn't that all sound like someone poking fun at experimental/art house cinema?

All the imagery is quite unique...

but after about an hour that wears off and it doesn’t make up for the remaining 5 hours. 

River Of Fundament actually made me question if I even like Matthew Barney’s older films. I mean, on the surface they all look very similar so if I dislike one why would I like his others, right?
After a few days of some serious soul searching (bad or not, RoF does stay with you long after it's over) I’ve come to the conclusion that I do genuinely like his older stuff, but the fact that this movie was so problematic that it made me question his entire body of work really says something.

The hype surrounding RoF proved my theory on Kanye West being aware of and “heavily influenced” by Matthew Barney as I spotted West at the screening I attended (read my very old, equally irritated review of West’s Runaway which brings his influences in to question). 
A lot of my detractors tried to argue with me that Kanye West probably has no idea who Matthew Barney is...

My screening of River Of Fundament had two intermissions and I swear to god after the first break almost half the audience didn’t come back. I hadn’t seen an audience clear out that quick since Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers played at the 2009 NYFF. 
I have a few personal movie-watching accomplishments that I’m proud of like; sitting through Soderbergh’s 4-1/2 hour Che twice in one week, watching Inland Empire 10 times in the theater, recently making it all the way through Andrei Rublev without a bathroom break, etc. Sitting through River Of Fundament from start to finish is up there no matter how bad I thought it was. I paid $30 for my ticket. I wanted my money's worth.

It almost feels pointless to write about this given almost none of you will ever see RoF outside of some random Moma screening that may or may not even happen (Barney doesn’t release his films in theatures for mass consumption). I’m also going to go ahead and assume most of you reading this could care less about his films all together and would have no desire to see River Of Fundament even if the opportunity presented itself.

On some level, this off-the wall cinematic tribute makes sense for a guy like Norman Mailer. Why make some generic documentary about his life? At least Matthew Barney tried to do something different. As a filmmaker himself, Norman Mailer was almost like the Matthew Barney of his time in the world of cinema - an artist known mostly for one thing (in Mailer’s case it was writing) that also worked in film from time to time making experimental/non-conventional movies for a small underground following. No matter how much I personally disliked River Of Fundament, I feel like Norman Mailer would have appreciated this which is what matters the most at the end of the day I guess.


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