GQ Hits Sundance, Day 4

Tuesday  January 20, 2009

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GQ senior editor mickey rapkin reports from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

*****

There’s a breakout star at every Sundance, an actress who appears out of nowhere, fully formed with a mess of films about to unspool. Actresses like Parker Posey, Zooey Deschanel, and Kristen Stewart. This year, the name on everyone’s lips is Carey Mulligan.

Carey, 23, has two films at the festival. In The Greatest, she plays a pregnant teen dealing with the sudden death of her boyfriend. (The film doesn’t have a distributor yet, but I spotted Harvey Weinstein—dressed in Mom jeans!—having breakfast with director Shana Feste this morning, so perhaps Scissorhands is sharpening his blade.) And then in An Education (written by Nick Hornby), she stars as a British high school student contemplating Oxford, or a life with her sorta sleazy new boyfriend (Peter Sarsgaard). Carey made her Broadway debut in The Seagull last year, and will be seen in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies this summer. A distribution deal for An Education is expected this evening, we hear. Carey Mulligan, welcome to Hollywood.

Speaking of deals, much of the Sundance markeplace has been on hold, while distributors waited for the first screening of I Love You Phillip Morris. The eagerly anticipated film stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as prison inmates in love. Considering that Ewan McGregor is famous for full-frontal nudity (see Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine, The Pillow Book, Young Adam…), it’s funny that he actually keeps his pants on in the gay movie. A friend of mine dubbed this one a homo Raising Arizona, and that’s about right. It’ll sell, but it doesn’t feel like the crossover hit some were expecting.

I was more impressed by Big Fan, the directorial debut of Robert Siegel (who wrote The Wrestler). The film stars the very funny Patton Oswalt who plays it straight here as an overgrown Giants fan still living at home on Staten Island. Big Fan is a stripped-down treatise on loneliness, and how sports radio and endless gridiron debates and merchandise and tailgate trips can fill a terrible void. We knew Patton could make us laugh. We didn’t know he could make us cry.

But the biggest surprise today (even more so than running into Ian Ziering from the original 90210) comes courtesy of Chris Rock. Not long ago, the comedian’s three-year-old daughter asked him, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” When a tyke is concerned about her nappy hair, something is amiss. For the documentary Good Hair, Rock set out on a quest deep into the belly of the black hair industry. You know, the trade shows in Atlanta. The weave business in India. (Human hair is one of India’s top exports.) The black market dealings. Yes, the black market for human hair. Rock interviews a shady exporter who explains how they get the hair. Example: Men will go into movie theaters and snip the ponytails off unsuspecting women. Rock’s response: “So you see I Am Legend and walk out I Am Bald?”

There’s more. Al Sharpton admits that James Brown took him for his first hair relaxer. Actress Raven-Symone is planning her own weave line. And rapper/actor Ice-T gets pissed when a lady with a weave won’t let him run his fingers through it. He compares it to fake breasts. “I don’t care if they’re fake. I still wanna squeeze ‘em.” And scene.

By the way, Paris Hilton is here. There’s a rumor going around that she got arrested at a hotel party last night. Apparently it’s not true. Hotel staff just told her she couldn’t smoke pot there.

At least that’s the rumor.

GQ Hits Sundance, Day 3

Monday  January 19, 2009

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GQ senior editor mickey rapkin reports from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

*****

There's a rumor going around Sundance. Maybe not a rumor, but a prediction, really. Ready for this? The outspoken comedian Mo'Nique is going to get a best supporting Oscar nomination next year for Push, Lee Daniels's adaptation of the Sapphire novel. I have not seen this film. (The double bill of Mariah Carey and Mo'Nique did not, at first glance, scream GQ.) But I have been urged to check the film out by two friends with very different tastes. And I will.

In the meantime, a Mo'Nique Oscar nomination (!) isn't even the strangest thing I heard today. Early this afternoon I met with Eliza Dushku, the start of Joss Whedon's upcoming Fox show Dollhouse. She's at Sundance supporting director Ondi Timoner, who made the documentary We Live in Public. Dushku will produce a feature film about Robert Mapplethorpe, with Timoner behind the camera. The actress grew up in the Mormon church (who knew) and guess who her bishop was? Mitt Romney. Dushku admitted that, as a kid, she had a crush on the one-time presidential hopeful. And even named her Ken doll after him. True story.

Other contenders for bizarre Sundance stories:

1. Rapper 50 Cent performed at a party for Vitamin Water last night—with back-up vocals from Jim Carrey.

2. Ewan McGregor hit the swag suites, walking off with a bunch of SpongeBob SquarePants gear.

3. Kevin Sorbo—late of Hercules—received the VIP treatment, pushing past a line of shivering partygoers and being ushered directly into a party on Main Street. Kevin Sorbo is huge in Park City!

But back to the movies.

Early this morning I caught the HBO/Greg Barker documentary Sergio, the story of the U.N.'s Sergio Vieira de Mello, once the top envoy in Iraq. The film—a companion piece to Samantha Powers's book, Chasing the Flame—is beautifully done. Which means it will inevitably be remade into an inferior feature film. (The producing team, we hear, has been talking to Brett Ratner, informally, about the gig.) Anyway, when it happens, we've got a casting suggestion: Penelope Cruz must play Sergio's girlfriend. The resemblance is eerie.

This afternoon I saw The Carter, a documentary about Lil Wayne. The filmmakers had a ton of access, following the rapper to Amsterdam, his native New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, and many other spots in the months up until (and through) the release of his latest album, The Carter 3. Lil Wayne doesn't hold back. But what sticks out for me is the comments made by Lil Wayne's manager and childhood friend—a guy who won't ride on the tour bus with the rapper because he doesn't like to see the guy fucked up on weed and cough syrup. It's a crutch, he insists, and it's not who Wayne really is. To hear a member of the guy's own entourage express concern for his well-being was illuminating.

Other films: I saw Charlyne Yi's meta doc about love, Paper Hearts, co-starring her own off-screen boyfriend Michael Cera. The movie is sweet, bordering on twee. But if you like Cera's awkward charms and Yi's infectious laugh, you'll go with it—provided it finds a distributor. Word is the film would sell faster if the producers would drop the too-high asking price.

Last: I caught 500 Days of Summer, which Fox Searchlight will release in July. It's a romantic comedy—starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt—that manages to be whimsical without being irritating. And it's the only film at Sundance featuring a Hall & Oates-scored choreographed dance. More on this one soon.

Tomorrow I'll check out John Krasinski's eagerly-awaited adaptation of David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Unfilmable no more? We shall see!

Hey Kevin Sorbo, enjoy the William Morris party tonight. I'm hitting the sheets.

GQ Hits Sundance, Day 2

Sunday  January 18, 2009

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GQ senior editor mickey rapkin reports from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

*****

Hoop Dreams premiered at Sundance in 1994, and became the festival's first documentary to cross over to mass market. In the process, its success exposed a dirty little secret about the festival: The best films on view in Park City are stranger than fiction.

That is certainly true this year. Exhibit A: James Toback's documentary Tyson, which recasts the troubled boxer as a product of his surroundings. Iron Mike himself was in attendance (dressed in a tuxedo`) and he received a deafening round of applause before the screening even began. I have to admit I felt uncomfortable cheering for a convicted rapist (go figure). But Toback presents a compelling case that this man should be celebrated.

The first surprise: Tyson is funny. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, he and his friends would rob drug dealers, among other people. Eventually, Tyson was sent up to juvie. "It was like a class reunion," Tyson says in the film. Other revelations: He says he never hit Robin Givens. Toback includes a clip of Tyson and Givens being interviewed by Barbara Walters. Givens claims Tyson (then her husband) was manic depressive, and abusive. Tyson says she made it all up, and he wasn't brave enough to speak up and say so. They were simply too young to get married, he says. The weirdest part: the couple would sit in bed at night and watch reports of their divorce proceedings on television. In short: It's an intimate look at a compelling character. And I couldn't look away.

I caught The September Issue today, R.J. Cutler's doc about Anna Wintour and Vogue (our corporate cousin!). Apparently she's less brutish than Tyson, despite what you may have heard. And she knew better than to wear formalwear to the screening. I thought I'd laugh more during this one, but perhaps it hit too close to home. I will say this: It was a trip to see Andre Leon Talley playing tennis with a Louis Vuitton towel draped around his neck, later shouting about the "famine of beauty" during fashion week. Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour director and noted womanizer) was at the screening, FYI. And he was overheard joking, loudly, that he should probably "sit next to the girl I came with." Film news: Someone associated with the Sundance documentary Sergio—about the U.N.'s answer to James Bond, Sergio Vieira de Mell—wants Ratner to direct a feature film re-make. Team Sergio was overheard pushing Ratner to attend Sunday's screening.

Other drama: Kenneth Cole was nearly rejected from the premiere of The Greatest—a tearjerker starring Pierce Brosnan as a father dealing with his teenage son's untimely death. It took the intervention of a kind soul, who explained to the usher that Kenneth Cole is a Sundance sponsor, for the designer to gain entry.

Stranger things are happening in Park City. A friend tells me that two men fainted at the Friday evening screening of Grace, a movie about a woman carrying a stillborn fetus to term. Other oddities: Sundance is the only place where white people go crazy for Mo'Nique. (She got the effing Brad and Angelina treatment on Main Street today, for reals.)

One last doc today: It Might Get Loud, a slow-burn, cool-ass film about the electric guitar, featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. Nothing much happens. They sit around. They talk about their first guitars. They jam. And it makes you feel stupid for playing "Guitar Hero" instead of picking up an actual axe. At the post-screening Q&A, Jack White (who flew in for the day) talked about the two-day film shoot. "They're pretty good guitar players," he said of Page and Edge. "It was a chance to go back to school again."

If the documentaries are the best things here, it makes the star-studded genre flicks seem out of place. I saw Brooklyn's Finest at 9 a.m. this morning. Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, and Richard Gere (playing against type as a lonely cop) co-star. And director Antoine Fuqua has delivered another solid cop story. I was tempted to say the film (too big, too commercial) didn’t belong at Sundance, a festival built on discoveries. But that wouldn't be entirely fair. Wesley Snipes has a supporting role in Brooklyn's Finest. It's been so long since we've seen Blade in anything smart, it felt like a ressurection (or an exorcism?). And isn't that worth celebrating?

Tomorrow I see Paper Hearts (starring Michael Cera and real-life girlfriend Charlyne Yi), 500 Days of Summer, and The Carter—a documentary about Lil Wayne. Which, if it's good, I will toast with Wayne's signature Robitussen cocktail. Bottoms up.

GQ Hits Sundance

Saturday  January 17, 2009

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GQ senior editor mickey rapkin reports from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah

*****

The pre-festival buzz on Sundance was, not surprisingly, dominated by talk of the flailing economy. There'd be no bidding wars, studio executives insisted, no $10 million sales for anything called Hamlet 2. Even worse: there'd be no gifting suites! You know, those awkward rooms where celebrities and people who at least look kinda famous get free cashmere sweaters and sometimes even major appliances. (Yeah, we're calling you out William H. Macy! Two years ago you went home with a washer and dryer! Aaron Eckhart told us!)

Well, it's too early in the festival to talk distribution deals. But on the (frozen) surface of things, nothing appears to have changed. Park City's Main Street is riddled with pop-up suites (the Hollywood Life house! the MySpace Cafe!) where very expensive jeans are being handed out to stars and star-equivalents. Drunk tourists are still on the prowl for free booze and Paris Hilton sightings. Relax. As far as we know, she skipped this year. (We won't always have Paris!) Though Mike Tyson—a different kind of freak show—is here, celebrating the U.S. premiere of a documentary about his life. (I'm seeing it tomorrow and will report back. Early word: It's damn good.)

Yes, I almost forgot, there are movies at Sundance. This week I'll catch I Love You Phillip Morris, which no one has seen yet everyone is calling "Jim Carrey's gay movie." Other hot titles: Brooklyn's Finest from director Antoine Fuqua, The Greatest, starring Pierce Brosnan, and The Carter, a documentary about Lil Wayne.

My scorecard: I flew in today and somehow still managed to see four films. Thriller in Manila (which I hear will be re-named Thrilla in Manila when it airs on HBO in April) is a revisionist look at the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight. Ali was a punk, the film argues. He borrowed money from Frazier, his one-time friend, and then turned his back on the man. Ali made the feud personal and public, calling Frazier an "Uncle Tom," one of the worst things a black man can call another black man.

The documentary recounts that final fight between two legends, featuring interviews with Frazier and the men who were ringside. There are revelations (all these years later!) which I won't spoil here. And there's some good juice. Like, Ali brought his girlfriend to Manila. Fun, except when his wife back home saw the girl on TV, she hopped on the first plane over. But more importantly: This film is worth its weight in gold for a final shot of Frazier, all 70 some-odd years old, watching the Manila fight footage here for the very first time. Frazier holds his gaze steady, staring at the TV screen, willing the outcome to be different. This is a story about how a few seconds can change the course of one man's life. And it's heartbreaking to watch.

Elsewhere today: Duncan Jones's Moon, a psychological thriller about a man who spends three years living on a space station with no one to talk to but the ship's computer (voiced by the super-creepy Kevin Spacey). Fun fact about director Duncan Jones: his father is David Bowie. I'm sitting down with Duncan on Sunday for a GQ Radio chat. Check back later for that conversation.

Also tonight I caught Toe to Toe, about two high school female lacrosse players (one rich, one not). Meh.

The real surprise: Humpday. This one falls into that annoyingly-named category of movies someone started calling "mumblecore." It's that genre of movie where nothing really happens and people talk like we talk (which is to say with lots of umms and non-sequiturs and funny ha ha lines, but nothing quippy). Anyway, Humpday plays like a deranged buddy comedy, this one about two straight male friends who consider making a gay porn together, and may go through with it, simply because neither wants to be the one to wimp out. It's sort of Zack and Mark Make a Porno. But with jokes about Dionysus and a budget close to what you spent on lunch today. Look for a small distribution company to pick this one up. It played very well in the press room tonight.

I'm delirious and need to get some sleep. Still, I fear I have let you down by not supplying any good celebrity sightings. And so I will end with this story:

Between screenings tonight, I tried to hit the MySpace Diner for a bite. I approached the door. A publicist opened it a crack (at Sundance, even diners have publicists). She looked me up and down, and muttered one word: "No."

Rejected from a diner? Yup. I inched closer to the glass of this very exclusive eatery. The place was empty, save for one table. Who was seated at that table? Ashton Kutcher.

Ah, Sundance. See you on the slopes, Kooch.

Lil Wayne: The Uncut Q&A

Tuesday  January 13, 2009

Devin Friedman takes a journey into the mind of the most prolific man in music

Wayne

Photograph by Terry Richardson

From the outside, it seems like you’ve had a pretty incredible year this year. Kind of a breakthrough year. Does it feel that way to you?
Of course it was the biggest year of my life. Obviously. The VMAs were the biggest moment. That was the craziest, because I didn’t expect to do none of those things. Didn’t even contemplate once taking an award home. That was just over the mountain.

The payoff was sweet, of course, but the whole year has been mostly consumed with hard work. Everything that everyone see and notice, those things happen one day, one week, those things happen whenever. But I work every single day. I work every single hour. That’s what my year has been like. Work.

What about your album?
That was good. But there’s more to be done. People got to understand there’s no peak on record selling, there’s no limit, so you never reach your goal, you’re never satisfied.

And I expected to sell that much. Because I worked that goddamn hard. And it sounded that goddamn good. And that much better than everyone else’s.

So one of those working days, what’s it like? Your typical day.
A typical day for me? (To his road manager) Can I have a lighter? (Lights a blunt.) I get up, and if I’m not on the road or doing something like a photo shoot, I’m in the studio. I get up and eat breakfast, I have a great chef. The homies usually come over. We eat breakfast and shit.

My chef makes the same thing every day, just the full breakfast, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, sometimes waffles, fruit. Make sure that there’s everything you’re supposed to get.

You ever think about what happens when your record doesn’t open on top? Like where do you think you’ll be in ten years?
Nowhere. I don’t. That’s stupid. If anyone sees themselves in ten years they’re lying to themselves first, so you know they’re lying to you.

[A Lakers highlight comes on the flat-screen in the kitchen of his bus] Lakers my team. Cuz they got this creature on their team that’s unexplainably great, by name of Kobe Bryant. That’s just, just unreal. Until they don’t have him, I don’t understand why anyone else even play basketball.

[Then a LeBron highlight comes on the television] LeBron’s great, he gonna be better, because he’s younger, of course. That’s not even talent with LeBron, that’s magic. He may as well go on and tell everyone that he 35 years old, get it over with. He plays like a total man. He ain’t from Akron, he from Jupiter somewhere. Playing like that.

Speaking of Jupiter, you say on your records that you’re a Martian. What’s that mean?
Just out there, you know. Don’t like to think like everybody else, don’t like to try to think like everybody else, don’t like to do nothing everybody else think I’m gone do, don’t like to say nothing everybody else think I’m gone say.

I’m a Martian. I like to be different. And what’s more different than a Martian.

Seems at some point artists have to make the decision about whether they should be different or popular.
Not at all. It’s easy to be me.

That’s your first tattoo, right there, right?
My first tattoo is this tattoo right here, in memory of rabbit, it’s up to me. That’s my dad. He passed when I was 14, so I got it when I was 14.

How’d he die?
He got shot.

What were the circumstances of shooting?
Circumstances? Oh, right. None of nobody else’s business.

How did that affect you, you think?
I’m human. Affected me like it would affect anybody else I would imagine.

You close with your mom?
Very.

Where she living now?
None of your business.

Like what city?
None of your business. [laughing]

Okay. I guess we won’t talk about your family. What have you been up to this week?
I just came from L.A. I was doing a few things in L.A., closing a few deals out there. Did the commercial with LeBron. Other than that, I really been relaxing. I got a big tour coming up, so I’m trying to fall back until then. Come up with ideas for how that should go.

How do you keep track of ideas?
The good thing about that is that, thank God, I’m actually infatuated and in love with what I do, therefore I am what I do. So I never have to forget because I never have to remember, I just am. I don’t need to write stuff down.

What about your songs. You never write them down?
I just say it. Say it when it gets in my head, the beat. Whatever comes in my mind at that moment.

So it’s always spontaneous?
Of course. I believe anything other than that—then why go buy it? Then you could do it, she could do it.

I couldn’t do it even if I wrote it down.
But you could read what’s on the paper, right? So basically anybody that could read could recite it. That takes something away from it. But if I walk up to a guy and say “Rap for me,” he’s going to say something. His characteristics or whatever. I’m going to get what I love about him, just from his presence. That’s why you never saw me rap no TV shows. Other rappers be having to rap after an interview. So can you spit something for us? They never ask me to do that because the interview is so compelling that they actually got Lil Wayne.

I always tell somebody that’s why I am good, that’s why I’m okay, because I’m being me, I’m doing me. Now the day I gotta write stuff down—no one can believe what’s written down. Perfect example: If I was a bum and I told you I had a mansion around the corner and three Bentleys and twenty-eight bitches in my house butt naked waiting for me, you wouldn’t believe me. I’d say you stink, say Get out my face, give him $100, and say Get the fuck.

But if there was a book that said, there was this bum with a mansion with twenty bitches in it, you’ll try to use it and put it toward real life. That’s why I don’t write nothing down. That’s why I don’t believe the Bible, nothing that’s written, because nothing that’s written is to be believed.

So you don’t believe in books? Seems like you do a little bit of reading. Your raps have references to all sorts of stuff.
Well. There is one I read and get information from. The damn dictionary. Yeah, when we be in the studio fussing over a word—no, it don’t mean that it mean this! Go to the Internet, Google that shit. That’s like a normal thing to do around here. Dictionary comes up as one of those little things on my computer.

Other than that, I was smart, so I went to a good school. So that shit stick with me. And we actually joke around here all day. And we joke very intelligent. I tell my dudes all the time, niggas don’t understand, we joke, but our jokes are intelligent. But I owe a lot to my education system. They helped a whole lot, made sure I knew what I was doing. Shout out to Lafayette Elementary in Holly Grove, New Orleans. McMain Middle. Abramson was the high school. I can’t shout out Abramson, because y’all know you ain’t teach me a goddamn thing over there. Lord have mercy. When I tell you it was a dumb school, whew, Lord have mercy. I went to that school two weeks out the year, ask me what I made. Flying As.

It’s shut down now, because when the hurricane came—you probably have to check with the president or something, because they didn’t never put it on CNN or nothing—but my school was supposed to be shelter? And everybody died.

How many people died?
I don’t know. Close to 200 something people. They don’t say that, so I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that.

Hey, I know you just did a movie about post-Katrina New Orleans with Forest Whitaker. How was he?
Intense. And serious. And if I ever thought I was slipping on what I’m doing around here? I would remember those experiences of being around him. He looks at you once, speaks to you once, he’s not ever going to make eye contact with you again.

Did he direct the movie?
Nah. I don’t remember what his name is, but his first name is Tim [Story].

You ever thought about writing a movie?
I have. And I always think I’m be trippin’. Like, you think you’re too good. Shut your stupid ass up, you can’t write no movie. I always sit down and be like, I’m gonna write me a movie. Then about five minutes later I be like: You really think you’re a little genius, don’t you. Like, slow the fuck down. Slow all the way down. Continue making songs, brother.

But I got this scary idea I been thinking about lately. I love scary movies. So I’m like, Shit, why not. Just the most scariest normalest shit. I think that’s the most scariest. That it’s so normal that it could actually happen.

What’s your favorite horror movie?
The Sixth Sense. I went to school for psychology so I like all that crazy shit. Make you think. Make you pissed off. First time I saw it I was so pissed off. Like, Why the fuck I ain’t know this the whole time! I’m that type of dude. How you not know that! That’s why it’s my favorite movie. That and the one with the little girl. Hide and Seek. With Robert De Niro. And what’s that little girl name? Darcy? Dakota? Dakota Fanning.

I can’t watch Dakota Fanning. Something about her that bugs me.

That shit is amazing, though, man. You gotta watch it. They got this scene in Hide and Seek that we argue about to this day. Dakota Fanning has a twin, and don’t nobody ever notice that part. I’m like, dude, she has a twin, in the movie! A sick twin. That’s why the neighbors are so crazy about her! Because they are the parents of the sick twin! And she died! She was an orphan! I get goose bumps even thinking about it. Whoever thought of that is crazy.

Little girls are always creepy in a scary movie. You ever see The Shining?
I never saw that. Wait is that the one with Jack Nicholson? Yeah, I saw that. You know what other movie is good that I just saw? The Eye. Jessica Alba! Man. I had Cortez call her people and say I would be very interested in taking her out. That shit works sometimes!

I saw another good movie, a documentary about a drug dealer named Rayful Edmond. He was just like me. Intelligent, but hood. Smart, knew his shit to every penny. His drive. That’s what got him to where he’s at. He always said if he earned a million dollars he’d quit. He earned a million dollars in a second but he couldn’t quit. His drive kept him going. Totally unlike your average dealer. Hood but smart as a motherfucker.

Seems like you spend lots of time watching movies.
Love it. Loved The Butterfly Effect. Usually Ashton is an asshole, so when he get scared it’s real scary. I watched Quarantine. And the person I was watching it with complained about it being a bootleg. But she can go out tomorrow and watch it in a theater. I can’t. I’m me, can’t go in no theater. So until that DVD get released, I love watching a bootleg.

I met Chucky, the little 12-year-old you signed to your label. Do you feel like since you’ve been through that—being a kid on the road, recording—you know how to lead him through that?
I feel it helps out a lot. But I made a lot of mistakes coming up.

Like what?
That’s the thing about mistakes, you don’t dwell on them.

It is interesting to know—
Yeah, for me. It’s interesting for me. So I can capitalize on my mistakes and make the best next move. It’s not interesting for the world unless you’re writing a book or something. And you know how I feel about books.

Have you always been so prolific?
If you ask my boss, Baby, he would tell you I’ve always been prolific, always tried to do too much with my words, and they always would tell me, bring it down. Because that didn’t fit their formula.

What you mean trying to do too much?
Trying to rap too much, trying to show my talents. Instead of walking to the store, running to the store full speed. Yeah, you know, running track and jumping hurdles when there were no hurdles on the track, showing them I could run backwards when I shouldn’t.

So you had to learn to pace it.
No I learned that on my own. It just had to be their way. Basically, it was like, to me, back then, it was just like a basketball player, he plays within the team when he plays professionally, but you may see him on the court in the park doing some shit that you’ll never ever see in a game. That how it was with me. When it was time to sing with the guys, I knew exactly what to say and do. But when it was time for someone to hear me rap, then you was going to get something different. It helped me differentiate one style from another from a young age. And at the age of 11, that’s creative.

I had a theory about you. You’ve created a set of conditions that let you operate at your creative height. So that all your creative doors are open. And you need to maintain all of it so you’re in your zone.
You’re right. You’re right. I have a term for it. Outwork the bullshit. Outwork the bullshit. That means nothing can rattle you when your conditions are set.

And the way you set those conditions is by working this damn hard. Outwork the bullshit means someone could tell me, hey, the world just ended on the left side of the Pacific Ocean. [laughs] Okay, well, I’m out-working the bullshit. A better example, things that people say about me in magazines, things that people say about me, other artists, things that people can’t figure out why the hell haven’t you responded or why don’t you get mad? Why aren’t you mad that people picking on you ’bout what you drink or what you smoke or what you going to court for, who you with, why doesn’t that bother you? Because he’s out working and becoming better while we’re worrying about that shit.

What conditions do you work best under? Time of day? Who’s around you? Where are you?
I work at any time of day because I when I wake up I have a studio at home. So what I do is I may prerecord me, then I go into the real studio later on, at midnight. The session start at nine, but I usually don’t get in there until about midnight. But when I do get in there, it’s on. I’m going be in there until, if I don’t have any engagements to get into the next day or that night, which I never have, then I’m going be in there until the next day. I don’t mean five in the morning, I mean elevenish, 12 p.m. Get home about 1 or 2 p.m., breakfast be ready, that’s when I eat breakfast at that time. Go to sleep about 5 p.m. Wake up at about 10 p.m. Dinner be ready. Eat dinner and I’m at the studio at about twelve.

I’ve heard you never fly unless you have to.
I hate flying.

Why?
I like the bus. I like to smoke, which you can’t do all the time on a plane.

Not if you fly commercial.
I don’t fly commercial. And I actually smoke on every flight I’ve ever been on but I don’t want them to fuck with me. [speaking for the imaginary people listening] YOU. KNOW. HOW. YOU. CAN’T. SMOKE. ON THE PLANE! Plus I just like the bus. It’s more comfortable. It’s like my home. I grew up on this motherfucker. I live it. I am this.

You say work is the most important thing. Is that our first priority?
My first priority is my family. I am human. But my whole family knows what my priority is. Family is always first. But this is under nothing else, except God.

Are you religious?
Yeah, to a certain extent.

How so?
I pray every night and day. That’s about it.

Who do you pray to?
Whoever’s listening.

So it’s nondenominational.
I don’t put no title on it. Cuz bling-bling is in the dictionary. And that word you just named is in the dictionary, too. So I don’t like to put titles on things. Bootylicious is in the dictionary, too.

Bootylicious?
Yeah. We made it the same year, bling-bling and bootylicious.

What’s the definition of bootylicious?
I really don’t know. Oh, I do! Very curvaceous body.

When did you start rapping?
When I was 8. Eight years of age. Why, I do not know. But I got a deal at 11, so I must have been okay. Must have been meant to be done.

When I was 8, we used to play Apollo, in the hood, with the hottest chick. Her name was Kiki Shepherd. And whoever win get to be with her. She really liked me, the whole time. So I really don’t know if I was good, or if she just wanted to be with me. Sometimes when other niggas’ cousins come and play football—fast niggas from the country? She be feeling them. So certain holidays I ain’t win. It was all good, though.

So you were good?
At 8 years old, I really liked to write raps. When it was time to go inside and write raps, that was a real fetish for me at that time. I would contemplate that as I was playing outside. I can’t fucking wait to go inside and write a rap. I had ideas in my head.

That’s when I knew I was crazy, but it’s cool.

So it wasn’t about being successful and then forcing yourself to write raps?
No. This shit, I had to force it to leave me the fuck alone. I don’t know why.

If you stopped feeling that way, would you be okay not doing it?
Yeah, I’d be very okay, in fact.

What would you do?
Spend my money. I’d need a whole nother life for that.

How much money you got?
I just checked my bank account it said I have like $100 left. I just need a dollar to pay a toll, so that’s ninety-nine. But I’m a put that dollar back.

Have you ever told the full story of the shooting when you were younger? When you shot yourself in the chest?
Uh-uh. No.

Is that something you feel comfortable talking about?
No. I don’t talk about the past.

How are people to know what your story is if there’s no past in it?
I told you, I don’t dwell on mistakes. I did say that, so let’s move to something else.

What are you going to do for your birthday coming up?
I got a show in the Bahamas. So we might just chill out there for a couple of days and see what that’s like. I been there plenty of times, but they got a new hotel.

Are you a vacation guy?
No, I’m not a big vacationer. Not a big vacation guy. Why? Because I work so damn hard. I did take a few vacations recently and I loved them. So I might become one.

What do you like to do on vacation?
Chill. Go to a villa or some shit. Cool out. Smoke. Catch the view. That’s all.

You bring people with you when you go on vacation?
My dudes, yeah. My homies.

Who’s in the core group?
I usually be with a couple of my artists at all times, so they can just take it in.

What are you teaching them by doing that?
Just to enjoy what we do. Our job isn’t to work in a bank or be a lawyer, our job is to be rappers and this is the life of a rapper, so enjoy it. Even if it’s not you that got us here, enjoy it. Because I was brought up under Juvenile and B.G., and when it wasn’t our turn, they were living it up, and they didn’t live not one moment without us. That’s just how I was taught.

Other than that I roll with my assistants. Because I need like eighty-five assistants at all times. Nah, I got three perfect assistants. My homies, my artists, and my assistants, that’s how I roll.

Josh, your engineer, told me that you got a new lip post?
I got it like a month ago.

Any reason you did it?
It be chillin’. Got a shop on the corner of where my condo at, my crib, they got a little spot at the corner. I was like, I’m going to get one of those.

What about that eyebrow piercing?
I just got that yesterday. I got this in L.A.

You’re a quick decision-maker.
Yeah. I would say that. Study long, study wrong.

I was just talking to your video producer and he told me about shooting the Milli video. He told me you said, ‘I want to shoot it tomorrow.’ And he said, ‘I can’t tomorrow maybe I could do the day after.’ You said, ‘Fine, day after, what do you want to do?’ He said he needed to think about it and you so: ‘No, tell me right now what you want to do.’ That’s where the idea for that video came from.
I write all the treatments to all my videos. Jeff (the producer) gives me the freedom of saying and doing what the fuck I want. If I say we go right we go right, if he say we go left we go left. We got a good understanding. He been working with me since I been a kid.

He said you’re the only person he wants to work with on this stuff.
He said that? He’s been doing this shit a long time, so for him to even be doing this shit now is amazing.

His point was that you just do think. You don’t think about it and write it all down and worry about it, you execute. True?
Yeah. I told you, it’s me being me. It’s my video we shooting here, we ain’t shooting nobody else’s. This video is my video, so if you even look at it twice, you’re looking at it for me, and this camera gonna catch me being me.

Now you gotta imagine, if I was David Blaine or some shit, I’m quite sure when that camera come on, they’re going to want me to do magic every single time. You know what I mean? But my job is to rap, and I be Lil Wayne. I don’t know if you been on other video sets, but it’s hard to see that artist become whatever they not, because a lot of the people behind those cameras don’t know who the fuck you are. So they be actually looking at they damn self saying, “What the fuck am I on this set for? What do I do that everybody like so much for them to shoot this motherfucking video?”

But for me, I try to impress in every single thing I do, in this fuckin’ interview, in my photo, anything, I try to do good, not try to do the best but good, therefore when you accomplish any piece of that, that’s what makes the video. That’s why he said I do things because all I have to do is me, he’s just calling it things because he’s not me. So to him I’m doing different things. Wow, he just did this. But I’m just being me, I don’t even know what I did, can you show me? So that’s how it goes.

I like to think that you create your own world. Your video producer calls it Wayne’s World, of course. But if you actually had your own country, your own planet, what would it be like?
First of all, I already know, men would be able to marry however many women they want. School would not be optional. It would mandatory. Because I do not like unintelligent people; it’s a pet peeve. If you dumb, you not around me, so that says a lot about the people you see around me, because I hate dumb people. Other than that, did I mention the men would be able to marry, ain’t no limit on that. And you don’t have to do no ceremony to get married. You’d have to do something, but not the proper ceremony we go through today. I’ll think of some cool shit you’ll have to do. I do some realistic shit, so that night before you get married, you got that bachelor party, she got that bachelorette party, and that morning—don’t you feel different than next morning? Like, fuck, I don’t really know if I want to get married, man. Like, if you can go through it and make it to some certain spot the church or whatever that next day, you married. Because something made you go through it.

So, like, if you still want to go through it the next morning, if you just say yes and show up, you’re done.
You know how I know about this? Because I went through that shit myself. [laughs] Sitting in front of the church, like nigga, I don’t know. Can you see how fast we can drive outta here?

Tez [Cortez, his manager and childhood friend], he was like, “Wayne, you know if you want to go? We gone.” I was like, “Where we gone go?” “Out the fucking country.”

And divorce? Now divorce? On my planet, you got to go through that. That’s a great discipline thing. I believe that’s one of the great things we have in America. Prenups, and all the divorce and all the consequences of marriage, that’s the ultimate question before you do it. What you gonna do about prenups, what you gonna do about faithful, what you gonna do about if she cheat on you? All those questions are the ultimate questions about whether you want to get married. Because I know I had to answer all those questions before I got married.

You did the full thing, the tuxedo,
Awwwww yeah. My daughter marched the aisle with the flowers and all that. Yes. It went down.

Would you ever do it again.
[cough] No. [cough] Fuck no! I don’t know blood, I don’t know. Because I told you I like scary movies. That was very scary.

What would be legal or illegal on planet Wayne?
Weed about to be legal everywhere. I would make it that there’s no such thing ever as crack. Nor heroin. I don’t feel that. It kill my city that’s why I say that.

And violence? Instead of going to jail, you just evaporate from my world just like that. I don’t know where you go, but you gone. You know where you go? Back to earth! Picture that. Back to earth. That’s what it’s like being with me.

Especially ladies! You knoooow. After me, it’s back to earth. Just go one back to earth.

Is your bus as close as you can get to that world?
Yeah because you can get married however many times you want on this motherfucker!

What music you been listening to?
I only listen to me. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m just analyzing. Critical. Seeing what I like what I don’t like. Say what I should have said. What I could say next time, what I should have said, things like that.

I’ve been playing the drum set. Pete Weiss. Pete Wentz. Whatever. That dude from Fall Out Boy? He gave me a bass guitar, so I’m playing bass on my new song. I been trying things. Electric guitar. I learned how to play “Shoot Me Down.” You can learn it, they show you how to do the chords.

And you’ve been producing?
Yeah. I love it. It’s like, who can tell you what? You made your own song, and for you to play it back for someone and they like it, that’s the ultimate feeling that you were made for this. Because I’ve never made beats, so I play it for them and then at the end I say, I made that beat. That’s a great feeling.

How much of Tha Carter III did you have to rewrite because material got leaked?
None. They already had a lot of it. I record so many songs they had so much material.

How many songs you record in your life?
Christ, over a million.

Seriously?
Quite sure. I been recording since I was 11. That’s the difference. Not writing, but recording and rapping for people. Baby and them had me in the studio since I was 11. My first album came out when I was 12. Over a million, yeah.

I wrote this song for Michael Phelps, when we did SNL together. Gave him a whole iPod with unreleased music. He was a good friend. Never leaked it. I never got an all hip-hop blast: Lil Wayne has a new song. He never put it out. But this I want you to put in there. Shit was lyrical. I went in there and just sung it. To know that I don’t write. This sound like someone sat and wrote it down in his tablet for days.

Part of what helps me is I have a vision. Like with this here, I see myself like Bruce Springsteen, pulling people up on stage to sing. Pulling a girl up on stage. I would be writing it and picturing her.

Do you rap about the outside world or is it a little window into what’s inside of your head?
I feel that it’s, what you just said, a window, my window on those things on the outside world. All my raps come from that window, not some come from here and some come from there, they all come from that window. And that window is me. It all comes from me. I don’t put no categories on it, it’s not hip-hop, it’s not gangsta rap, it’s not R&B, it’s not reggae, it’s not reggaeton, it’s Wayne. Because Wayne do all those fucking things. That’s why it be easier not to put no categories on it, and just call it Wayne, because if you do I be taking home awards for every fuckin thing.

But I don’t want no more awards after the awards I got this year I’m just flabber— just astounded. The only award I want right now is good, warm, juicy, warm…chocolate-chip cookies. Love them. Straight love them! [laughs]

You have your bus and your have your chauffeur. Do you ever drive?
I haven’t driven, sat behind the driving wheel of a car, in four years.

You don’t enjoy driving?
I have a chauffeur. That’s why. My car is big, so I probably fuck it up if I tried to drive it. I got some big-ass cars.

You like cars?
Mmm, no. I’m not one of those guys that’s big on cars. I got nice-ass cars, though. If I told my line you’d think I’m into them. I just get ’em, because I need something to ride. This bus was a gift for me for the tour I went on with Chris Brown. I got new buses coming within a week or so.

How do you respond when people try to put a schedule on you?
What do you mean? A schedule to meet some kind of engagement? That’s okay. I try my best to meet it. The only thing you can’t do, you can’t stop me. That’s what you can’t do. That’s the people who have problems.

But other people, like friends and girls, when they want things like—can I get a day off. No. I don’t stop. That’s what’s the hardest for them to understand. You can’t stop my recording. You can’t stop my performing.

I can imagine that’d be a problem for girlfriends.
I hope it is. Because if is then it’s a good problem because it means I’m that much of a worker. Yeah. It’s a great problem.

Other people got other problems. Like he got too many girls, or he got too many of this, or he lies. My problem is I work too damn much. I love my job.

You’re married to your job.
Married to the money.

This Q&A was condensed from two separate interviews.


Banned in the UK: An Exclusive Account

Tuesday  January 13, 2009

Russell Brand on the impending death of print media, a London paper’s desperate attempt to create a newsworthy fuss, and the whole, hilarious, unsavory story of the furor he caused at the BBC.

Brand

Photograph by Martin Schoeller

As Russell Brand was saying in GQ (February 2009) before he was interrupted:

“I think what’s actually happened is print media is becoming obsolete, and this is like the floundering corpse of a dying media. It is just twitching. Because young people, my audience, don’t give a fuck about what happened.... I do take responsibility, and I feel like it was hugely blown out of proportion, but the demographic that the show is aimed at just thought—” Brand snorts, “ ‘What are you on about?’ They just didn’t register it. It didn’t enter their world of reference. How it’s most listened to, that show, is as a podcast.”

On “Russell Brand,” the weekly BBC radio show that caused all the fuss, the occasional record was played, but for most of the two hours, it involved Brand pontificating about himself and his experiences. He calls it “a shambolic diary of what I was doing”. When guests appeared they were generally encouraged to focus their conversation on the host’s area of greatest interest: himself. Much of the show hinged around the dynamic between Brand and his laconic friend and writing partner, Matt Morgan. “At its best,” Brand reflects, “it was my Don Quixote being punctured by Matt Morgan’s Sancho Panza. Me, pompous and resplendent and verbose and grandiose, and Matt going ‘Fuck off, you walk round your house in toddler’s pants.’ ” The result was generally entertaining, and sometimes hilarious. Until it went wrong.

The week before it all went wrong, Brand’s co-host was a British comedian and friend David Baddiel. Baddiel mentioned on air that one time, when he had gone round to Brand’s house, Brand had been entertaining some women who performed under the name the Satanic Sluts. (The kind of private performance they were giving chez Brand was clearly implied.) Baddiel related that one of the women mentioned being the granddaughter of the actor Andrew Sachs, best known as the hapless, abused Spanish waiter, Manuel, in John Cleese’s seventies sitcom, Fawlty Towers. (Perhaps ironically, given subsequent events, Brand had been obsessed by Fawlty Towers as a child: “Other than Morrissey and the Smiths, and Elvis a bit, comedy was music to me. That was the thing I obsessively went off and listened to in my room. That’s what I identified with.”)

Spurred by the Baddiel anecdote, Sachs was booked to be interviewed on the phone for the next week’s show. The intention never seems to have been that Sachs would be confronted with this family information; His appearance as a guest, appropriate in itself, might perhaps offer an extra frisson for regular listeners.

The week it actually did all go wrong, Brand’s studio guest was British TV talk show host Jonathan Ross. (Jonathan Ross hosts a Conan O’Brien–style talk show on BBC TV, but that hardly conveys his importance or ubiquity in the British media. His salary, from the publicly funded BBC, is reported to be around $10 million, and resentment over this sum played a substantial part in what followed.) These guests were billed as “co-hosts”—for the previous few weeks listeners had been told that Matt Morgan was on holiday, but it subsequently became clear that he had left the program. (The agreed explanation at the time seemed to be that Morgan wanted to stay in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, but it is clear that his and Brand’s relationship has substantially changed. He was nowhere to be seen during the filming of Brand’s Comedy Central specials. “People have to accept what I’m like to be around me, and I could see why that would be difficult. Someone as talented as he is, he needs, he wants his own oxygen,” says Brand, who adds, “I love him so much.” It would often be suggested afterward that what happened would not have happened if Morgan had been there. “I think that’s probably true,” says Brand.

During the show in question, the trouble starts when Sachs doesn’t answer the phone for his interview, and Brand and Ross decide to leave him a message on air. Brand is weaving a web of innuendo when Ross simply blurts out, “He fucked your granddaughter.” From then on, they plunge into the void. “As Matt very astutely pointed out,” says Brand, “ ‘I know when you made that phone call, I know that in your mind you were making that phone call to a man in a white jacket holding a silver tray, “Qué?” No sense of “he’s a granddad now and in his house.” ’ ” They call back Sachs three more times, with each message making things worse. The show itself—widely available on the usual parts of the Internet—is one of the great comedy train wrecks, both awful and nonetheless hilarious in its sustained, accelerating wrongness. Here are some key moments, edited for length:

First Message
Ross: He fucked your granddaughter!
Brand: Andrew Sachs, I did not do nothing with Georgina [Baillie].… Oh no, I revealed I know her name! Oh no, it’s a disaster! Abort, abort! Put the phone down, put the phone down, code red, code red! [in Manuel’s accent] I’m sorry, Mr. Fawlty, I’m sorry.
Ross: If he is like most people of a certain age, he has probably got a picture of his grandchildren when they were young and innocent right by the phone. So while he is listening to the message he is looking at a picture of her when she was about nine on a swing.…
Brand: She was on a swing when I met her.

Second message
Sachs’s answer machine message: Sorry I can’t answer at the moment…
Brand: …I am too busy thinking about killing myself.… Andrew, this is Russell Brand. I am so sorry about the last message—it was part of the radio show, it was a mistake.… The truth is—look, Andrew, I am phoning you to ask if I can marry—that’s right, marry—your granddaughter Georgina. The granddaughter. We are going to have a Fawlty Towers–themed wedding.
Ross: Now you’ve spoiled it!
Brand: No! I made it better. I’m sorry, I’ll do anything. I wore a condom. Put the phone down! Oh, what’s going to happen? Look, I’ve got a mental illness. Do you think that made it better?

Third message (and surrounding conversation)
Brand: We’ve got to stop upsetting Manuel. This time, Jonathan, I’m convinced we can make it better.
Ross: Let’s just sing to him.
Brand: I’ll make up something as I go along… [sings]
I’d like to apologize for these terrible attacks, Andrew Sachs
I’d like to show contrition to the max, Andrew Sachs
I’d like to create world peace, between the yellow, white, and blacks
Andrew Sachs, Andrew Sachs.
I said some things I didn’t have oughta
Like I had sex with your granddaughter.
But it was consensual
And she wasn’t menstrual.
It was consensual lovely sex.
It was full of respect
I sent her a text…

Ross: I feel it’s made it worse, you’ve trivialized the whole terrible incident.

Fourth message (and surrounding conversation)
Brand: You’re not doing the lyrics.
Ross: I want to do the song this time.
Brand: You’ll balls it up. And I can’t do backing—it’s not in my nature.
Ross: But you talked about his granddaughter’s menstruation.… Let’s both put on striped T-shirts, break into his house...
Brand: Yes!
Ross: ...merely to delete the answer—
Brand: Answerphone message!
Ross: Let’s see what happens. What could go wrong?
Brand: Nothing. Literally, nothing could go wrong as we smash our way into Andrew Sachs’s house.
Ross: No. No, we break in like cat burglars tonight when he’s in bed.
Brand: Yes, while he sleeps.
Ross: ...and go up to the pillow to kiss him to say sorry.
Brand: Kiss him up and down his body apologizing, drench him in gin.
Ross: Masturbate him to say sorry. Make him feel better.
Brand: So sorry, Andrew Sachs, this will make up for it. Go on finish it, into the palm of my hand. Good girl for uncle daddy, good girl for uncle daddy.

The fuss grew slowly. There were only a couple of complaints over the next few days, and Brand says these were more about him teasing Ross about his speech impediment. Then a British newspaper, the Mail On Sunday, began making inquiries. In response to these queries, on the following week’s show, Brand launched into a sustained attack on the newspaper for its support of Hitler leading up to the Second World War. He also offered an on-air apology to Andrew Sachs, though its sincerity was slightly undermined by the replaying of his improvised song and by his insistence that “it was funny.”

Only after the Mail On Sunday’s front-page article—bbc obscene phone calls to actor, 78—did the furor erupt. For a sometimes sensible nation, Britain has a tendency to get carried away at moments like this. Almost 50,000 complaints were ultimately received, and even the prime minister (whom Brand had met the week before) felt obliged to denounce what had been done. Brand resigned, Ross was suspended, and two senior figures at the BBC had to resign, ostensibly for failing to prevent the offending material from being broadcast. (Responsibility for what was broadcast was complicated, and widened, by the fact that the show was prerecorded. In fact—unbelievably, given what was broadcast—some editing had taken place, primarily to remove more details of Brand’s encounters with Baillie. “Just the configuration,” says Brand, “and the numbers.”)

The storm grew and grew. Filmed one morning besieged by media outside his home, Brand said little as he went from his front door to a waiting car other than repeat “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna” over and over, a clip given prominence on that evening’s news broadcasts. “I remembered that every time you say that it’s spreading positivity,” Brand explains. “It was at a point where people were saying, ‘You can’t say anything now, Russell.’ I just couldn’t not say anything, so I just thought I’d say something positive and difficult to analyze.”

Brand’s position now is that main apology he owes (and which he made privately the following week) is to the man he called “lovely beautiful brilliant Andrew Sachs.” “Of course it was wrong, I apologized for it… Now, what about all that fucking madness? The phenomenon.… Nobody’s responding to the actual event, I think.”

He doesn’t seem too bothered at having to resign. “I thought, ‘Alright, I do literally only do that radio show because it’s a laugh. Yeah, it was money—I don’t care about that. I got loads of money now. If you don’t want me to do it, I won’t do it no more.’ ” But he is annoyed at the way what he did has been misrepresented: “What’s reported is [he mimes picking up phone] ‘Andrew, I fucked your granddaughter.’ [mimes putting down phone] That’s not funny; it’s not kind.… What irritates me is the reduction of it.” What took place, whatever its shortcomings, did so incrementally, driven by comedy rather than cruelty. “I’m more offended by people saying it’s not funny than by anything else that’s happened. The reason it was funny is because it is so wrong and rude—such an incredibly rude thing to do. That’s what was funny. People have got to be able to see, I hope, the distinction—of course it’s really rude to have done that, and that’s why I resigned and all of that stuff—but because it’s such a terrible thing to do, that’s what’s funny.”


Thursday  January 01, 2009

Kelly's Heroes (1970)

KellysHeroes1

Impossible Odds
If German Tiger tanks can't stop Clint and his men, well, there's always the stupidity of their own army.

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
In addition to Telly, Clint's partners in crime include Don Rickles (as the aptly named Sgt. Crapgame). Need we say more?

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Clint's title character has been busted from lieutenant to private, and the actor plays the role as if he's been demoted, too.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
A tanned, wifebeater-clad Telly is at his bombastic best here as Master Sgt. Big Joe, blazing away at Germans with a submachine-gun on his hip and a Lucky on his lips.

Dubious Operational Authenticity
In a real rarity for a WW2 film made in the '60s, the Sherman tanks are real Shermans — the coolness of which is, alas, completely discounted by putting Sutherland's incongruous proto-hippie character, Sgt. Odball, at the controls.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
Negative. The rare MOASM flick without a faking-out-the-Nazis scene.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
The only good thing about Sutherland's Sgt. Oddball is the reaction he elicits from Clint and Telly.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
Not a lot of action by MOASM standards, but in a nod to Clint's spaghetti-Western roots, he and two other GIs do have a standoff with a Tiger tank.

Thursday  January 01, 2009

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Whereeaglesdare

Impossible Odds
Impossible? What's so crazy about Richard Burton, armed only with an ice ax, duking it out with two Nazis atop a cable car over a dizzyingly deep Alpine gorge in the middle of a nighttime snowstorm?

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
No misfits, but bonus points for the Anglo-American character of the operation.

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Dick and Clint split the machismo 50/50: Cold-as-ice Burton gets the hot chick and the climatic cable-car dustup, while a squinty Eastwood liberally thins the Aryan herd with 9mm submachine-gun rounds and TNT.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
This film suffers from a painful lack of Telly-ness, but to compensate, there's a campily sinister, bottle-blond Gestapo officer, SS-Sturmbannfuehrer von Hapen (Derren Nesbit).

Dubious Operational Authenticity
The only known MOASM film featuring a snowplow as a weapon.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
During an O-klub run-in with a curious Nazi, Burton actually goes so far as to suggest he's the brother of SS overlord Heinrich Himmler. That'll shut 'em up.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
Burton, a Brit, and Eastwood, a Yank, don't trust one another—which would be enough for ordinary movies—but in an excessively tortured twist, some German double-agency nonsense is thrown into the mix.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
89 German KIAs, according to a YouTube mashup of death scenes from the film (hilarious viewing—search YouTube for "where eagles dare nazi death count"). Certainly, Krauts practically compete to be mowed down by Clint (who at one point blazes away with a maschinepistole in each hand), and the team's curious little time bombs appear to wreak more destruction than a squadron of B-17s.

Thursday  January 01, 2009

Von Ryan's Express (1965)

Von_ryans

Impossible Odds
WTF? Our heroes are already prisoners of the Nazis—so why not kill the guards, commandeer a train, and lead their would-be captors on a cross-country locomotive chase?

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
You don't get to pick your team on a prison train. Suffice it to say, however, that most of them are Brits; there's also an Italian deserter with an eyepatch.

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Frank is no Lee Marvin: Frank is Frank. And that's totally cool.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
Sorry. The big, swarthy, Mediterranean role here is filled by Italian POW commandant Adolfo Celi (later "Emilio Largo" the Bond flick "Thunderball"). But Telly's absence is at least partly offset by the presence of the flinty Trevor Howard, star of virtually every English WW2 movie ever made.

Dubious Operational Authenticity
POW camp guards all run away one night. Oh, wait, this is set in Italy.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
Check. Nervous British parson poses as Nazi train commander.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
After Frank's Ryan pulls rank and countermands a British escape attempt during the first reel, the Limeys dub him "von Ryan." In the second reel, natch, he earns back their undying respect.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
Our guys come under more fire from their own bombers than from the Jerries, but late in the film, they do successfully take on an entire Nazi troop train in the Alps.

Thursday  January 01, 2009

Sahara (1943)

Picture 4

Impossible Odds
Not so impossible, initially, but then Bogey makes the noble but potentially suicidal decision to slow the German advance by staging an Alamo-like defense of a desert oasis coveted by a horde of thirsty, well-armed Nazis.

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
A film ahead of its time: In addition to his all-American tank crew, Bogey picks up a collection of wandering Brits who include an Irishman, a South African, and a black Sudanese NCO, as well as a Free French corporal, a sympathetic Italian POW, and an aggressively Aryan downed Luftwaffe flier. (Spoiler alert: The Nazi ultimately gets his just desserts—choked to death by a mouthful of sand—at the hands of the Sudanese sergeant.)

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Bogey, as Master Sgt. Joe Gunn, is not as hard-bitten as Lee Marvin—he can't for example, leave the Italian POW behind to die of thirst, as Lee undoubtedly could—but, still, he's Bogey.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
No Telly figure here, but props for cool under fire to the Gallic corporal, Frenchie (Louis Mercier), and the Sudanese, Master Sgt. Tambul (Rex Ingram, most famous for his 1939 turn as the slave Jim, opposite Mickey Rooney's Huck Finn).

Dubious Operational Authenticity
Quite the contrary: The unsung star of this film is Lulubelle, Bogey's M3 Lee tank, an armored vehicle at the forefront of the Anglo-American campaign in North Africa until replaced by the heavier and more famous M4 Sherman.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
No need—Bogey's crew shoots down and then captures an authentic (and, naturally, duplicitous) German, who causes our heroes plenty of trouble.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
Shockingly little—indeed, the British medical officer picked up by the tank crew chivalrously cedes the authority of rank to the enlisted Bogey.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
Satisfactorily high, especially after the Afrika Korps' first assault on the Bogey-held oasis: Wave after wave of parched Wehrmacht soldats crumple before the Lulubelle's 75mm and 37mm guns, as well as Bogey's Thompson.

Thursday  January 01, 2009

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Dirtydozen

Impossible Odds
So insane that only guys facing years at hard labor, life behind bars, or a death sentence would "volunteer" — and only in exchange for pardons…if they survive.

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
The multiracial murderers, rapists, and thieves who comprise the title 12 include a Jethro Clampett type with a temper (Clint Walker), a black guy wrongly convicted by a bigoted court (football legend Jim Brown), a token Mexican (Trini Lopez), and a sprinkling of assorted antisocials (among them a brilliantly anti-authoritarian John Cassavetes and a supremely doofus-y Donald Sutherland).

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
A hard-as-nails disciplinarian able to whip the biggest guy in the outfit with a couple of groovy judo chops, Marvin's Major Reisman is the quintessence of American badassitude in uniform.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
As a psychopathic Southerner (Telly?!) who hates blacks, women, officers, and, fortunately, Germans, Savalas's Maggott adds an element of sadistic menace not ordinarily found among the good guys in WW2 films.

Dubious Operational Authenticity
Unlike movies about real battles, MOASM flicks thrive on whimsy — such as casting a scenery-chewing Ernest Borgnine as the general responsible for Marvin's mission. Remember "McHale's Navy"!

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
MOASM convention requires at least one good guy to speak fluent German and to engage in at least one tense masquerading-as-an-enemy-officer scene. Here, both Marvin and Bronson blithely stroll into a German offiziers' club and pass themselves off, poorly, as Wehrmacht soldaten.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
A slip-up during training by just one of these bad apples will send the whole barrel back to prison or the gallows, which creates a satisfying opportunity for Charles Bronson (yes!) to open a can of whoop-ass on the weasely Cassavetes.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
In one brief, chilling moment near the end of the film, our heroes pour gasoline down the ventilation shafts of air-raid shelters into which the Germans and their floozies have fled…then toss in hand grenades. Gulp.

Thursday  January 01, 2009

Quel Maldetto Treno Blindato (a.k.a. Inglorious Basterds) (1976)

Quel

Impossible Odds
U.S. soldiers in transit to a military prison escape their guards and strike out for neutral Switzerland. To get there, they'll first have to help the French Underground by stealing the top-secret guidance system for a German V-2 rocket from an armored train. Got that?

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
Includes a thief/forger, a coward/deserter, and an insubordinate playboy.

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
This crew is dirtier than the Dozen: They actually frag their Lee Marvin.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
Fred Williamson fills the second lead position as Pvt. Canfield, the cigar-chomping enlisted man. (Williamson was bumped up to the lead role when the film was re-edited as a blaxploitation cash-in video titled "G.I. Bro.")

Dubious Operational Authenticity
In the Italian version of WW2, a slingshot is a deadly weapon, the self-destruct mechanism on a V-2 can be disabled with a pencil, and a hole in a gas tank can be repaired with chewing gum.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
As required, two members of the squad speak German—one of whom learned it from his "governess" (and he's supposed to be Yank?).

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
Some initial racial tension between two of the convicts is forgotten once the mission/caper begins.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
Krauts taken out regularly and with great panache (after getting tagged by a potato-masher grenade, one unlucky Nazi is pulled up to meet his Maker by a visible wire). Tommy guns spray from hips in every third scene. Pound for pound, the most action of the bunch. (And did we mention the gratuitous topless frauleins? Jawohl!)

Thursday  January 01, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

Eaglehaslanded

Impossible Odds
Not completely suicidal given (a) the Skorzeny precedent and (b) the fact that Allied resistance is led, initally, by an utterly hapless Larry Hagman.

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
With one notable exception*, the German squad is predictably Teutonic in its makeup, though not in its sympathies: The unit was assigned its suicide mission as punishment for previously protecting a Jewish girl from the SS on the Eastern Front. (* Notable exception: The Germans are materially aided by a tweed-sporting, Brit-hating, whisky-loving Irish Republican spy played by Donald Sutherland.)

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Michael Caine's German paratroop colonel, Kurt Steiner, is enjoyable and even theoretically admirable (he's no Nazi, after all, but, rather, the "good German" of post-war revisionism). Alas, Herr Oberst Steiner is no Lee Marvin.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
Robert Duval, who portrays Caine's tactical overseer back in der Vaterland, has the smoking-Nazi thing down cold. And he looks great in leather.

Dubious Operational Authenticity
Donald Pleasance as Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler—talk about doppelgaengers! Ach du lieber!

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
The Germans' entire mission is predicated upon convincing English locals that the Krauts are really Free Polish troops on a training exercise in the English countryside. Things unravel when a good-hearted Nazi rescues a village girl from danger and, in the process, exposes the German feldgrau uniform under his green Allied tunic.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
No inter-squad treachery but plenty of treason—in the form of a smoking-hot local (Jenny Agutter) who aids the Germans after falling for devilish Devlin and a creepy Englishwoman (Jean Marsh) who's actually a German sleeper agent.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
It's suicide, all right, for Caine and his Huns. Fortunately, Allied losses are relatively light after Treat Williams takes over for the cartoonishly inept (as soldier and actor) Hagman. Other casualties include Churchill's body double. Do yourself a favor: Rent "Went Well The Day?"

Thursday  January 01, 2009

The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Gunsofnavarone

Impossible Odds
Arguably, not completely suicidal. While the cliffs in the film are 400 feet high, U.S. Army Rangers did, in fact, successfully scale 200-foot bluffs under withering German fire during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
Let's see: A reluctant leader (Peck, as an ex-mountainclimber with a shattered psyche), an ally with revenge on his mind (Quinn), a sapper with scruples (Niven), a tragic beauty with a chip on her shoulder (Gia Scala), and a soldier (James Darren) along for no other apparent reason than he looks good on screen. Check!

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Peck is the anti-Lee Marvin. He shouts only once in the film—fortunately, it's at Niven's pantywaist explosives expert.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
Telly's absence from a WW2 film set in the Greek islands is an ironic shame, but Quinn more than compensates as a crazy Greek Army colonel who hates Nazis only slightly more than he hates Gregory Peck.

Dubious Operational Authenticity
At the climax of the film (spoiler alert!), an entire mountain blows its top—with the dynamite carried by only one man. Oh, yeah.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
Check. Peck warns a captured SS officer, "Careful, I speak German," though from the moviegoer's standpoint, Navarone is a magical island where Nazis speak Oxford English.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
The double-crossing Greek partisan chippie who cozies up to Peck with stories of German torture (Scala) is betrayed when she is discovered not to have Nazi whip scars on her back. Oops!

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
Hooray for the good guys! Peck & Co. sacrifice only one of their clan—a very low body count among friendlies for a MOASM movie (these are suicide missions, after all)—while the Nazis lose not only scores of troops but, also, a sophisticated fortress and two cannons the size of redwoods.

Thursday  January 01, 2009

Play Dirty (1968)

Play_dirty

Impossible Odds
British Desert Rats go behind enemy lines in North Africa to destroy a Jerry oil depot. Suicidal enough on its face—but our heroes turn out to be expendable decoys for a "real" commando mission.

A Squad of Oddballs and Misfits
A satisfactorily motley crew: The squad's leader, Capt. Douglas (Michael Caine), is a British Petroleum exec who's new in uniform and has never seen combat; his tactical expert is recruited out of prison; his soldiers attempt to rape a prisoner; and his local guides take drugs and strip battlefield corpses of watches and wallets.

The Presence of Lee Marvin (Or a Lee Marvin-like Character)
Caine is no Lee Marvin, but his squad does contain Nigel Davenport, as Capt. Leech, a cynical mercenary whose advice to Caine on surviving desert warfare provides the title (and ethos) of the film.

The Presence of Telly Savalas (Or a Telly Savalas-like Character)
No Savalas per se, but the Greek quota is ably filled by Takis Emmanouel, who saves Capt. Douglas' life by defusing a German booby trap at a critical moment.

Dubious Operational Authenticity
Positively quotidian: There are actually scenes of fixing flat tires on jeeps.

Heroes Masquerade at Some Point as Nazis
Douglas despises Leech and tells him flat-out that he doesn't trust the mercenary. Leech returns the loathing…but stands to make ₤2,000 (in 1945 Sterling, of course) if he brings the oil exec back alive. Decisions, decisions.

Intra-squad Tension/Treason
Hews comfortably to the conventions of the genre: One of Caine's squad speaks German and the rest creditably pass themselves off as Nazi mutes.

High Axis-to-Allies Body-Count Ratio
Tommies do overrun and destroy an Afrika Korps fuel depot—but Douglas' squad, alas, has nothing to do with it.