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PCR #346. (Vol. 7, No. 45) This edition is for the week of November 6--12, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Not a lot this week but, as Spencer Tracy once said, "what's there is cherce." Shall we begin?

La Floridiana Lite  by Will Moriaty
"Babel"  by Mike Smith
2006 Holiday Movie Preview  by Mike Smith
Get Miff'd!....Concert Review: THE CULT  by Andy Lalino
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Part Two  by Drew Reiber
Happy Birthday....Bond Is Back....And There Was Much Rejoicing....In Texas, "Doing A Great Job" Means "You're Fired!"....I H8 You!...What??...But Can He Bite The Head Off A Bat?...Passing On....My Favorite Films, Part 45: "All That Jazz"  by Mike Smith
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Please join me in wishing Roy Scheider a very happy 74th birthday! Roy recently completed the narration of the "Jaws" fan documentary, "The Shark Is Still Working" and is in much better health than this time last year. In honor or Mr. Scheider, this week's Favorite Film is "All That Jazz."

This week I attended an early screening of "Casino Royale." Incredible! Possibly the best Bond ever. Look for my four-star review next week.

Congrats to everyone who was elected to office this past week (and I think we know who I'm talking to).

Just days after saying Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were "doing great jobs", President Bush sent Rumsfeld packing as Secretary of Defense, apparently putting the blame for the Republican Party losing control of the House and Senate squarely on the war in Iraq and the way it's being handled. Sadly, Dick Cheney was elected, not appointed, and will have to resign on his own.

Apparently Kevin Federline got word that his marriage was over when Britney Spears text messaged him on his cell phone. Now that's class. Maybe in a few months K-FED can hook up with Heather Mills and they can both be the answer to the joke, "What has no talent and three legs?"

Not since Samuel L. Jackson frowned noticeably when he lost the Oscar to Martin Landau has a "non winner" at an award ceremony been so picked on. This week at the Country Music Association Awards, singer Faith Hill was caught yelling "What?" in disbelief and throwing up her hands when Carrie Underwood was named Female Vocalist of the Year. Good for you, Faith. You just did a perfect impression of me when "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" beat "Jaws" for Best Picture. Actually, I wish more people would show their true feelings when they lose. Nobody believes the "I'm so glad you won and I didn't" smile you give. You're not that good an actor. Follow instead in the footsteps of Burt Reynolds, whose toupee' almost flew off when Robin Williams beat him on Oscar night!

Christopher Walken is scheduled to appear as Ozzy Osbourne in a film to be based on the Motley Crue autobiography "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band." The band reveals in the book that, while on tour with Ozzy he snorted a line of live ants and took LSD every day for a year. Val Kilmer is in talks to play David Lee Roth.

Leonard Schraeder
, a screenwriter who earned an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of "Kiss of the Spider Woman," died this week from heart failure. He was 62. Raised in Michigan by strict Calvanist parents, Schraeder did not see his first film until he was in college. His other scripts include "Blue Collar," "Old Boyfriends" and "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters." His brother, Paul, is also a screenwriter. Among his films are "Taxi Driver" and "Hardcore." Schraeder based George C. Scott's character in "Hardcore" on his father.
As I was preparing the Rant I learned that CBS newsman Ed Bradley had died of leukemia at the age of 65. A radio disc jockey early in his career, Bradley joined CBS as a reporter in 1973. He joined the show, "60 Minutes" 25 years ago. Bradley's leukemia was thought to be in remission and he most recently appeared on the show with an excellent story about the Duke University lacrosse team rape case. However, Bradley took a turn for the worse shortly after the show aired.

(After Mike's Rant arrived and before it could get posted, news came in about the death of movie legend Jack Palance at the age of 87. Mike will no doubt have comments on this, including an in-depth look at this man's career in next week's Rant. --Nolan)

Starring: Roy Scheider, Ann Reinking, Leland Palmer and Jessica Lange
Directed by: Bob Fosse

FIRST SEEN: Plaza Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri
FAVORITE LINE: "I don't get married again because I can't find anyone I dislike enough to inflict that kind of torture on."

  • Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Music, Original Song Score and It's Adaptation. Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Roy Scheider), Cinematography and Original Screenplay (Bob Fosse and Robert Alan Aurthur)
  • BAFTA Awards for Best Cinematography and Film Editing. BAFTA nomination for Best Actor (Scheider), Costume Design, Art Direction and Sound.
  • Cannes Film Festival - The Golden Palm (tied with "Kagemusha")
  • Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy - Roy Scheider

    There are certain film performances that stand out in my memory. These are the ones you look at years later and think to yourself, "Wow!" An almost perfect melding of actor and character, where you think as hard as you can and realize that no one else could have played the part. Think Bogart in "Casablanca." Gable in "Gone With The Wind." Do you really think Ronald Reagan could have pulled off Rick? Sure, he may have done a credible job, but would you really believe that Ingrid Bergman would have given Reagan a second thought? How about Gary Cooper as Rhett Butler. Talk about not giving a damn. Now consider Richard Dreyfuss as Joe Gideon. Exactly. When Dreyfuss walked off the set of "All That Jazz" during rehearsals, he made a phone call and told the man on the other end, "I've just pulled a Roy Scheider." As the man on the other end WAS Roy Scheider, he knew exactly what he meant. Citing "creative differences," Scheider himself had left the production of "The Deer Hunter." Whether it was fate or just damn good luck, Scheider soon met with director Bob Fosse and the role of Joe Gideon was his.

    Loosely based on the life of its director, "All That Jazz" gave audiences an inside look at show business that they had never seen before. From its opening "cattle call" audition sequence to the inner workings of conceiving a Broadway show, the film gave audiences a peek at the magic behind the scenes. Aside from Scheider as Fosse, the characters were based on many other real life personalities. Palmer's Audrey was based on Fosse's former wife and frequent star Gwen Verdon. Cliff Gorman as the star of the film, "The Standup," is actually playing Dustin Hoffman, who starred in Fosse's film, "Lenny." Gorman created the role of Lenny Bruce on Broadway. Ann Reinking is pretty much playing herself though, even though she was Fosse's girlfriend in real life, she had to audition several times before the part was hers.

    But the star is Scheider. I've got to admit right here that even though I was running his fan club I had no idea what to expect when I entered the theatre. When the film came to an end with Roy and Ben Vereen in a huge musical production I was in awe. Roy sings! Roy dances! I would compare it to the James Cagney fans who went to see "Yankee Doodle Dandy." As I noted above, Roy was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. A few weeks before the ceremony I conducted an interview with him for the fan club. He told me that Dustin Hoffman would win because he had "paid his dues." He was right. On Oscar night Roy was on stage in New York, appearing in "Betrayal." Often when I make my Oscar picks I consider whether the other actors in the category could have played the other roles. Of the men nominated that night (Roy, Hoffman, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino and Peter Sellers), any of them could have played Ted Kramer (Hoffman's character) well. But I honestly don't think the other four could have pulled off Joe Gideon.

    Once again I'm joined this week by a guest writer. Please welcome back Greg Van Cott.

    ALL THAT JAZZ  (1979)
    Reviewed by Greg Van Cott

    Bob Fosse could be quite possibly the last true musical showman for Broadway and the cinema. This argument is no doubt at its strongest when viewing his second to last picture he did as a director, All That Jazz. It is a film where not only dance, music, and drama come together like a wildly vibrant kaleidoscope of light and movement, but it functions extraordinarily well as a touching and potent swan song for an entertainer’s life. People always say a man’s life can not be summed up in a matter of words or in one movie. However, a man like Bob Fosse somehow put the best and worst of himself in an incredibly cinematic autobiography that not only celebrates his accomplishments, but exposed and satirized the elements of him he most regretted. This is why he is a great showman and artist. He is very well aware of the ups and downs of life and puts them to dance, his true passion. Of course, I needn’t go on forever about how amazing Fosse’s choreography is in this film. Unlike many film directors coming from the stage, Fosse utilizes the cinematic form and all its clever eccentricities to its fullest potential and does not restrict his canvas and compositions to merely the stage. It has been argued that Rob Marshall’s Chicago (2002) based on Fosse’s musical finds itself trapped behind its proscenium arch various times where as this would never be the case for Fosse’s own films.

    This film is what we call a justified musical. That means the music and dance in the film is generally set up to play out as if an audience always existed and was present nearby in its reality. So every dance number is usually seen being rehearsed and performed in front of some character that more than likely had something to do with its creation. Therefore like in reality, it’s merely showing characters working dance numbers and songs whereas traditional musicals such as West Side Story and Singin’ In the Rain take it upon themselves to deliver musical numbers in either a dreamlike scenario or in a normal dialogue/monologue put to a tune. That of course doesn’t mean that All That Jazz’s numbers are not dreamlike—quite the reverse. Quite a few are presented in this way, but there still is an audience watching. And like those audiences, we too feel like we’re a part of the on screen action.

    Roy Scheider, fresh from his worthy reprise and sharp continued characterization of Chief Martin Brody from Jaws 2 (actor Keith Gordon from the film makes an appearance as young Joe Gideon), creates one of his greatest performances in the role of Bob Fosse’s alter-ego, Joe Gideon. On a side note, it is prudent to note that actor Richard Dreyfuss was the original actor to play this part until some event during rehearsals caused his departure. His co-star from the original Jaws then took over, which would seem like an unlikely choice coming from mostly law enforcement roles as seen in The French Connection (1971), Marathon Man (1976) and others already mentioned, and Dreyfuss had already proved his showmanship skills with his Oscar winning role in The Goodbye Girl (1977). Proving once again his dynamic as an actor, Scheider successfully reflects his director’s personality and flaws into an extremely charismatic, passionate, though self-destructive, sympathetic, womanizing entertainer and perfectionist. It certainly must have been an incredibly helpful experience to have the subject of your performance always present on the set to direct you on how to be like him. On the other hand, still thinking of this from an actor’s perspective, it very well could have been a totally nerve wracking experience for Scheider; fearing your performance would insult your director if you made a wrong choice in a particular scene. However, like the segments where Bob “Joe Gideon” Fosse is working on a cut that depicts Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Lenny Bruce in the docudrama, Lenny (from 1974—Fosse’s previous film), it is all a matter of shaping the characterization into something telling and clear.

    In fact, clarity is one of this film’s most amazing achievements accomplished through Alan Heim’s masterful Oscar-winning editing (he makes his cameo as the mustached editor of the dramatized screenings of Lenny, a.k.a. "The Standup"). Biographies, or in this case autobiographies, have a tendency to become too deep and intertwined in its own complexity. This often makes any events in one’s life appear convoluted no matter. This is no surprise considering a simple, clear, linear life as seen in movies can be considered quite disinteresting if one were to live the events of the movie. This is not the case for this film. Fosse creates a very interesting and more importantly, unpredictable, story structure laced with Heim’s "slight of hand" editing that makes the dance numbers appear like action sequences. Cutting back and forth between scenes of theatricality/fantasy where Gideon speaks to “Angelique,” the Angel of Death (played by Jessica Lange showing off her gorgeous natural beauty of that particular time) who functions as the film’s conscience and psychoanalyst, and then back to the film’s main reality where Gideon is working on a musical, we get to see some major juxtapositions. Gideon is far more honest and direct with his feelings with Angelique than he is ever with his ex-wife, current girlfriend, and his own daughter. In the spirit of Jean Cocteau’s surreal films like Orpheus (1950), we see our hero’s true heart and feelings when he is dreaming, but then only see the curtains and façade of him when he is in the real world.

    Probably some of the most memorable sequences in the film are the routine montages of Gideon “preparing” himself for the day. Starting from eyedrops to showering, to Alka-Seltzer chugging, to pill-popping, and ending usually with his motivational expression, “It’s showtime, folks!,” we indicate with this series of images exactly who Gideon is with very little words. As the film progresses and Gideon begins to disintegrate due to heart problems, the routine also becomes more desperate and forced; leaving the audience with the last montage ending with a massive cough while he gags, “It’s showtime, folks.” It is this process that perfectly adds to Gideon’s descent without any drawn out exposition. As visualists say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and this is a fantastic example. This idea would later be repeated by director Darren Aronofsky for his film, Pi (1998).

    The potency of every single moment certainly speaks for Roy Scheider’s performance complementing Bob Fosse’s careful emphasis on the necessary visuals to the drama and his script (co-written by Robert Alan Aurthur). All of these elements come together brilliantly, and the shear simplicity of it speaks volumes in this example: The dancer, Victoria, emotionally collapses during rehearsal fearing she is not a good enough dancer. Gideon talks to her very calmly without really looking at her and simply says, “I can’t make you a great dancer. I don’t even know if I can make you a good dancer. But if you keep trying and don’t quit, I know I can make you a better dancer.” We cut to Victoria now working extremely hard; following directions. When the choreographed routine is over, Gideon approaches, in the midst of coughing, and simply says to her, “Better.” A great example of how any line and scene and shot can take on an important meaning when simplified to all that is necessary. Other great examples of the drama can be seen in the relationships between the characters. Gideon’s tender relationship with his precocious, pre-teen daughter (young Erzsebet Foldi already showing her own amazing talents as a dancer) shows the character’s most vulnerable side. This relationship was completely based on Fosse’s relationship with his own daughter, Nicole Providence Fosse. He would attempt to hide his unhealthy habits from her despite how much she wanted to know and already understood of her Daddy’s dirty, little secrets. The little actress is incredibly intelligent with her scenes and shows a strong commitment not usually seen with child actors. Another fantastic example is the feverish chemistry between him and his ex-wife, Audrey (played by Leland Palmer). They constantly tap dance around each other (not a pun because Fosse is clever enough to not make the metaphor literal) as well as help each other when the other is in trouble. Palmer does a very good job with this role playing a supportive, yet at times impatient, working partner to Gideon. Best example is when she tells her ex-husband, “I think it’s the best work you’ve ever done… you son of a bitch.” Another excellent example in the writing is during Gideon and Audrey’s talk about his lover from Philadelphia (one of his many unfaithful acts during their marriage) where she proceeds to ask him if he remembered her name. Gideon eventually gives up stating in disbelief, “I can’t remember her name.” She replies, “Dorothy. Dorothy!” Gideon’s response: “Who cares? I can’t remember her name.” Gideon obviously isn’t shocked about not getting the name right. He is more shocked that he simply can’t remember her name despite how important she was to him.

    Of course, it would be a crime to not mention Ann Reinking’s portrayal of basically herself. Her alter-ego, Kate Jagger, goes through everything describable between her and Bob Fosse. Not only is her performance undoubtedly honest, but her ability as a dancer, like Fosse’s passion, speaks the loudest. The three main female characters are filled with fantastic dancers, but Reinking seems to always come off the most memorable. This probably was due to the fact that she was simply being herself, and in such a case, giving it your all is truly all of you. John Lithgow (whom Scheider would work with in person in Peter Hyam’s sequel, 2010, to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Max Wright (from Alf and Ghostwriter) make memorable appearances as absurd showmen. All That Jazz in terms of its show business indeed has one of the most offbeat forms of lyricism I have seen in a musical. Not too many musicals before that had lyrics that in anyway resemble: “You gotta lay off the booze, Joe! X the amphetamines! You gotta stop screwing around, Daddy!”

    This film is a satire of not only Fosse’s life and exploits, but indeed a satire of the Struggling Artist/Everyman versus The Producers (that may be an intended pun, but in no way a jab at Mel Brooks), the difficulties in being a film director (“Do you suppose Stanley Kubrick ever gets depressed?” asks Gideon), and Fosse’s own near-death experience after having a severe heart attack. Here, Fosse kills his own mirror image, but ensures us that the point is not the death but the memory. We are constantly reminded by the reels of “The Standup” (Lenny Bruce’s material) that death comes in various stages, but it is ultimately concluded with a degree of acceptance. Fosse shows his acceptance and understanding of this throughout the third act where we see Gideon’s own double direct musical numbers while he lays in a hospital bed, all wired up and unable to speak. We get to then see Gideon reach up toward fluorescent lights as if reaching to the heavens to “negotiate” and parlay for his survival. In the end though, Fosse shows us what we really want to do when we die. Climaxing with a fantastic rendition of "Bye Bye, Love" where Scheider actually gets to sing, Joe Gideon gets a chance to say goodbye to all his loved ones and then rise on an elevated platform into the catwalk. I certainly find it a comfort that when I go, Jessica Lange will be waiting for me. The shot is magically enhanced by putting Scheider on the camera’s dolly to create the appearance of him floating. This method would be recycled various times by Spike Lee in his films. When we cut back to reality, Gideon is being zipped up in a body bag. The satire is concluded optimistically and humorously (unless you’re totally depressed by this point) to the music of Ethel Merman’s version of "There’s No Business Like Show Business". There certainly is no other like it.

    Like his Academy award-winning Cabaret (1972) from which he won a Best Director Oscar and his Emmy award-winning Liza with a ‘Z’ of that same year, All That Jazz would go on to be nominated for several (nine) Academy awards. Roy Scheider was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in one of the most heated and competitive award races in Academy history going up against other greats like Peter Sellers for Being There, Dustin Hoffman for Kramer vs. Kramer, Jack Lemmon for The China Syndrome, and Al Pacino for …And Justice for All. The Oscar would eventually go to Dustin Hoffman. All That Jazz would also go on to be nominated for Best Picture against Kramer vs. Kramer (the winner), Apocalypse Now, Norma Rae, and Breaking Away. Despite not winning in the top categories, one thing is absolutely certain. That despite Fosse directing only five other films (Sweet Charity of 1969, Cabaret, Liza with a ‘Z,’ Lenny, and Star 80 of 1983), he has made not only an indisputable impression in the field of dance, but also in the world of cinema. All That Jazz might possibly be his greatest work as an artist. Fosse would later die of another heart attack in 1987, but his legend lives on with his work. And like him, may we all die singing on the stage, waving goodbye to our loved ones, and going out on top.

    Next week we'll try to understand what the fuck's so funny about Joe Pesci when I take a look at "Goodfellas".

    Well, that's it. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.