Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)

This entry contains spoilers, but seriously: is there anyone reading this who hasn't seen the movie?

"I wanna be normal, I wanna start to try me, a whole person, before it's too late."

-Carrie White

Although I wrote in an earlier post that I've been more than a little reluctant to cover the universally agreed-upon Great Horror Films from the 1970s, since they've been talked about to death, I think the time has come for me to stop being such a weenie and offer you a few entries on some of the established milestone horror films from the '70s; those films that are invariably on most, if not all, Top 10 Horror Movies of All Time lists. Besides, it's not like I haven't written about classic horror films from the '70s before.

My first entry in this quasi-category for this new batch of horror film assessments is Brian De Palma's 1976 adaptation of Stephen King's first published novel, Carrie, which is considered by many (including by King himself) to be one of the best adaptations of the author's work. De Palma's film is simultaneously realistic and baroque in portraying the high school caste system. (The latter of which isn't really in King's novel. The story in the book is told in retrospect, often in court transcripts, eyewitness testimonies, and news stories, giving the story more a police report/case study feel. That's not a criticism, lest you think I'm disparaging the novel.)

Carrie is a very simple and straightforward story about a very withdrawn, socially inept and unpopular high school girl who has the ability to move things with her mind. She's mocked and hated by many of the other girls in school and emotionally stunted by her religious fanatic of a mother, who believes she has been tainted by the devil.

The movie opens with Carrie White in the shower after gym class, and getting her period. Since she's unaware about women's menstrual cycles, she panics and thinks she's dying. The rest of the girls taunt the hysterical loser. (Even Miss Collins, the one teacher genuinely sympathetic towards Carrie, can't deal with her histrionics, and slaps her to calm her down.)

The makers of Carrie also reveal how easy it is for even the "nice kids" to get caught up in mob mentality. When we're first introduced to Sue Snell, who's actually a kind-hearted character, she's joining her schoolmates in mocking Carrie and cruelly tossing towels and tampons at her in the shower room. Sure, she regrets her behavior later, but at the time, it doesn't even occur to her to go against the grain and try to help her classmate (De Palma doesn't show any shots of Sue looking reluctant to join in the mockery; he shows her diving right in).

After this incident, Sue and another girl, Chris Hargensen, use their boyfriends to deal with the aftermath. Sue wants to help, so she asks her boyfriend, Tommy, to take Carrie to prom. Chris wants revenge, so she gets her boyfriend, Billy, to humiliate her at said prom.

Although Carrie reasonably suspects that Tommy's request to take her to the prom is part of a scheme to make fun of her, she eventually believes him, and reluctantly accepts his invitation.

I always have a problem with pretty actresses playing nerds or geeks in movies, the casting of Sissy Spacek as Carrie works perfectly, perhaps because she isn't a typical nerd or geek. Spacek, though very pretty in this film, still conveys a painful awkwardness that makes it clear that no one would be caught dead hanging out with, let alone dating, her. Her mousy manner, her stringy hair always covering her face, only to occasionally be pulled back to reveal her innocent-bordering-on-psychotic bulging Kewpie doll eyes. In fact, the movie takes great pains to point out that she is in fact quite easy on the eyes, but that her demeanor and personality (as well as social status) prevents her from being remotely attractive to the boys in school.

(Though this really is a device used in films in later years, Carrie mercifully doesn't use the hatefully clichéd and lazy, "Girl Gets Jaw-Dropping Makeover Based More Or Less Solely On Getting New Hairstyle And Removing Glasses" device.)

Watching the movie again, I forgot that, in the scene where Carrie and Tommy dance (with the camera spinning around them faster and faster until the viewer gets motion sickness), Tommy kisses her, which really opens a whole can of worms for the three characters (Carrie, Sue and Tommy). Originally, Tommy takes Carrie out at the request of his girlfriend. He's clearly a bit chagrined and amused by this task, until this scene. He's not just kissing Carrie to make her feel better about herself. I wondered if this weren't a film about a telekinetic girl, would a whole new story have followed this trajectory? Would Tommy tell Sue about the kiss? Would he then stop interacting with Carrie after the prom, or would he develop feelings for her and break up with Sue? And if so, how would Sue react? I would imagine not too well: after all, Sue's trying to do something nice for Carrie, and in turn, Carrie steals her boyfriend.

Of course, there's no opportunity for this can of worms to be dealt with. Chris gets her revenge by rigging the prom king & queen election so that Tommy & Carrie win, then dumping a bucket of pig blood on Carrie when she's up on the stage with her bouquet of roses and tiara, reminding the school that she's the outcast of the social order, not the prom queen. The bucket then falls on Tommy's head, knocking him unconscious.

Then, all hell breaks loose.

Unfortunately for Chris and virtually everyone else in the school, Chris' revenge scheme works. Carrie, pushed too far, unleashes her telekinetic fury on the bulk of the school, killing and maiming many, many people (including Chris and Billy later).

When she goes home, her mother, vindicated in her assertion that everyone was going to laugh at her if she went to the dance, tries to kill her daughter. Carrie uses her powers to impale her mother with as many kitchen utensils as possible, killing her.

Consumed by rage, humiliation and physical pain (her mother has stabbed her, after all), Carrie brings the house crashing down on her and her mother with her mind. She is buried in the rubble and killed.

It would be incredibly vulgar and tasteless, not to mention dunderheaded and inaccurate, to suggest that King and De Palma "predicted Columbine." They didn't "predict" anything. What they did was tap into that hurt and rage that many alienated and outcast teens stuck at the bottom of high school's social pecking order feel.

Revisiting this film (and skimming through the novel again), I found the prom scene almost unbearable, knowing how it would all turn out. You have this outcast who's finally coming out of her shell (and looking absolutely beautiful) and developing the inklings of something resembling self-esteem and confidence, only to have it come crashing down horribly in the blink of an eye. It's crushing and to see that her mother's nasty predictions all come true (and Mrs. White really isn't a character you want to be right).

(I was almost tempted to cover my eyes at the shot where the pig blood is dumped on an elated Carrie, but I didn't. I came here to do the job, and do the job right.)

The scenes I found the most horrific were the ones grounded in reality (I mean, sure, I jump when Sue has the dream about Carrie's hand coming up from the ground to grab her, and wince when De Palma cranks the soundtrack for those other obligatory "boo" moments): when Carrie freaks the fuck out in the shower in the opening, when she pleads with her mother to comfort and love her (to no avail), seeing hope and happiness register on Carrie's face through the course of preparing for and attending the prom with the knowledge that Chris will succeed in taking that all away, forever.

Ultimately, Carrie is a tragedy about an outcast girl who just wants to be normal before it's too late, and is very close to fulfilling her very simple and not-terribly-ambitious goal, yet fails.

And that's horrific.

Glad he's out of high school,

James "Not So Nostalgic" Comtois

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Episode One of Entrenched

Well, folks. For those interested in coming to the next Saloon on October 10 and either missed the first episode or need a refresher, here's the video for the first episode of Entrenched:

Entrenched: Episode One
By James Comtois
Directed by Patrick Shearer

Featuring Bryan Enk & Ben VandenBoom

Video by Pete Boisvert

Turning the Battle Ranch into a DeLorean,

James "Heavy" Comtois

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How This Week Seems To Be Shaping Up

Our first reading of the scripts for The Blood Brothers Present...The New Guignol went quite well last night, with many people in the room making audible noises of unease and disgust. The cast and crew definitely have their work cut out for them with this lineup of shows by Mr. Danny Bowes, Mr. Mac Rogers and Yours Truly. It's definitely going to be an evening chock-full of gore, nudie-time, viscera and overall stomach-turning horror. I can't wait.

I've selected the horror films that I plan to write about during October, and have put them all on the top of my Netflix queue for re-watching. I've seen the movies on the list (which I won't yet divulge) a number of times, but it's always good to sneak in another viewing with fresh eyes before publicly nattering on about them for 1,000 words or so. Plus, it's October, and I like watching horror films, so, 'tis the season, and all that noise.

This upcoming weekend, while the rest of the gang rehearses for the new Blood Brothers show, a smaller yet no less intrepid band of theatricians (that's a real word, right?) begins rehearsals for Episode Two of Entrenched for the Saturday Night Saloon.

And that seems to be how this week is shaping up for me. I'll offer more blatherings later.

Tearing Tommy Wiseau apart,

James "Lisa" Comtois

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bailin' You Out and Pumpin' You Up

Hey, gang. I hope the weekend treated you well and that your friends managed to bail you out of the Drunk Tank in time for you to show up to work.

Ah, Mondays.

Tonight is our first reading of the scripts for The Blood Brothers Present…The New Guignol with the entire cast, which I'm pretty pumped up to hear. I think we got a damn fine lineup of scripts, actors and directors for this round of scawynes, and am excited to get this party started.

Before then, we've still got this in store for everyone in a couple of weeks.

Watching the first series of episodes was such fun, I have a sneaking suspicion this next batch will also be pretty righteous. We've got the delightful and multi-talented Mr. Adam Swiderski helming the second episode of Entrenched, which further chronicles the trials and tribulations of Private Paul Bryan and Private Edward Benjamin (played by Bryan Enk and Ben VandenBoom, respectively) as they try to escape the war-torn trenches of France.

In addition, before we get to either The Saturday Night Saloon and the next Blood Brothers show, as has often been the case with gearing up for the annual horror anthology (though let's face it, I've been doing them whenever I damn well please), in October, I’ll be writing a few more entries on horror films that I find noteworthy.

Until then, enjoy your Monday, and try to clean the dried hooker vomit off the corner of your mouth. Your boss may start to suspect something's up.

Footloose and pants-free,

James "Easy-Breezy" Comtois

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Friday, September 25, 2009


What is it about scenes in plays that take place at high school dances with '80s ballads that always get me? I think it's because when done right, they display a perfect mixture of tongue-in-cheek corniness, nostalgia, and painful earnestness. MilkMilkLemonade is the second play I've seen by Joshua Conkel that's used this device (the other one being his brilliant The Chalk Boy). Both were effective on me.

As you've no doubt caught from its title (don't pretend you don't get the reference, let's not play that game), MilkMilkLemonade, directed by Isaac Butler, revels in being immature, but still manages to have flashes of poignancy throughout.

In MilkMilkLemonade, Emory is an effeminate young boy who lives on a chicken farm in the middle of nowhere (not too far from a place called Mall Town, U.S.A.) with his emphysemic Nanna (who carries around an oxygen tank and cigarette at all times). Emory likes to play with dolls (much to Nanna's chagrin) and his best friend, a chicken named Linda. He dreams of winning an America's Got Talent/Star Search-like reality show and getting enough money to turn the chicken farm into a vegan co-op. (Yes, I realize I have just dated myself by referring to Star Search. What can I say? The dream sequences of the show reminded me of Ed McMahon's show.)

Nanna wants Emory to spend less time acting so girly and more time playing with the aggressive and rage-filled young pyromaniac Elliot. Although Emory tells Nanna that Elliot is a mean bully, and he certainly seems that way, the two of them do indeed like to play with each other, but in a way Nanna most certainly wouldn't approve of.

Meanwhile, Linda dreams of being an Andrew Dice Clay-like standup comic, Emory tries to prevent Linda from going in Nanna's chicken-slicing machine, and Elliot reveals his intense desire of dressing up in a tux and going to prom. (Hey, people and need their dreams. So do chickens.)

All of this is conveyed through the look and feel of a children's play, complete with a cardboard set and super self-conscious narrator who tries to be as "neutral" (or "boring") as possible, except for the times when she needs to play an evil conjoined twin or a spider with an attitude.

I suppose I should spend some time trying to explain how all of these elements add up, or talk about sexual preferences or gender identity, but I will not be a spoilsport. Much of the fun with the play is watching Conkel, Butler and the cast explore their ideas through much silliness and touch upon some genuine pathos in all the preposterousness. And MilkMilkLemonade is certainly a great deal of fun.

Conkel and Butler are a good fit together. They keep the show light and breezy, moving along at a fast clip (the show's only about 70 minutes long). Even though it's very childlike (and sometimes deliberately childish), it's never cloying or too proud of itself.

This cast is amazing. As the Lady in a Leotard, Nikole Beckwith effortlessly flips from being the host/narrator so nervous she looks like she's about to throw up on her shoes to Elliot's aforementioned invisible evil twin to the bitchy spider. Michael Cyril Creighton, playing Emory's Nanna, looks, moves, and sounds eerily like an old woman. Jennifer Harder is incredibly funny and surprisingly sympathetic as Linda the chicken. She's great at conveying her emotions and character arc even when the bulk of her dialogue is clucked (with Beckwith translating). Andy Phelan convincingly plays Emory as a naïve sweetheart you immediately care about. And finally, Jess Barbagallo is astounding as Elliot. I had to keep reminding myself that an adult woman, not an angst-ridden 12 year-old boy, was in fact playing Elliot.

MilkMilkLemonade is very funny. It's very silly. It's very sweet. Just like a cheesy '80s love song, it's simultaneously touching, bittersweet, and absurd.

MilkMilkLemonade, playing at UNDER St. Marks on 94 St. Mark's Place, closes Saturday, September 23. Tickets are apparently sold out, but show up early to be put on the waiting list.

Playing house with Tennessee Williams,

James "Confused Young Boy" Comtois

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Blood Brothers Present…The New Guignol Cast!

Well, ladies unt germs, after three days of auditions and two days of deliberation, the cast for The Blood Brothers Present…The New Guignol has been assembled. So without further ado (read: dicking around), here’s the information for Nosedive’s latest installment of our annual horror anthology series:

The Cast:
Ryan Andes - Becky Byers - Rebecca Comtois - Jessi Gotta
Stephen Heskett - Robert Leeds - Marsha Martinez
Ben VandenBoom - Cotton Wright

The Writers:
Danny Bowes – James Comtois (Yours Truly) – Mac Rogers

The Directors:
Pete Boisvert – Rebecca Comtois – Stephanie Cox-Williams
Abe Goldfarb – Matt Johnston – Patrick Shearer

The Location:
The Brick Theatre, 575 Metropolitan Avenue
(between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street in Brooklyn)

The Times:
October 28 – 31 (Wednesday through Saturday), 8 p.m.

More information is on its way.

Tomorrow, I hope to write up a few words about the delightful MilkMilkLemonade, which I saw this past weekend.

Rounding the corner,

James "Maturity Incarnate" Comtois


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

IT Awards, Casting, Readings

Sorry again that you had to witness yesterday's unpleasantness, dear readers. I know most of you turn to this site for top-shelf tomfoolery, derivative dick- and fart-based humor, and the best examples of shameless self-promotion, so Monday's post may have come as something of a surprise. However, as I'm sure most of you know, it was something that needed to be done.

At any rate, as Nathan Rabin once famously wrote, enough foolishness. Onto more foolishness.

I realize the timing for my crankiness is odd, considering there's much for me to blather about, including the 5th Annual New York Innovative Theatre Awards, the impending reading of The Little One with the crew at Nosedive Central, the finalized cast and crew for the impending Blood Brothers show and my assessment of MilkMilkLemonade.

Plus, let's not forget the dick- and fart-based humor.

You'd think I didn't have time to spare. Well, you're right: I don't. So on with the show.

I accompanied Miss Johnna Adams to the NYIT Awards last night, and want to extend my congratulations to everyone who won and all the nominees. I was obviously bummed that many of my Angel Eaters and Universal Robots peeps did not win, but considering (I'm almost embarrassed to admit) I hadn't seen many of the shows that many of the night's winners worked on (with the exception of The Reckoning of Kit and Little Boots, which made my Top 10 list last year), I am in no position to cry foul (not that I would).

After the festivities, Matt Freeman pointed something out to me I found interesting. "Even though we knew a lot of the nominees, and are part of this community, the fact that we didn't know a lot of the winners shows how much of a bubble we're still in."

This is very true. I definitely feel pretty integrated in the New York indie theatre scene, and there were a great many number of people I saw in the sold out New World Stages theatre (where the event was held), but there's still a great deal of work happening in the scene that I'm quite ignorant of.

Hey. New York's a big town. There's a whole lotta theatre going on.

Plus, I'm getting to know more folks on the scene each year. For example, I had a lovely time talking with Derek Ahonen at the post-awards show party, writer and director of The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, easily one of the best plays I saw this year. And his company, The Amoralists, is a company that wasn't on my radar a year ago, but now very much is.

So again, congratulations, everybody. The evening was fun.

Tomorrow I'll be announcing the cast for The Blood Brothers Present...The New Guignol, Nosedive Central's fourth annual horror anthology show. And with a little luck, on Thursday, my write-up of MilkMillkLemonade should be posted.

Walking into a bar with a rabbi and a fart,

James "Schmutzic Scribe" Comtois

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Monday, September 21, 2009

To the Blogger Living Under the Bridge

(To the majority of my readers: I'm not wild about doing this sort of thing, but it seems I should address an issue sooner rather than later so we can move on with our lives. Bear with me, folks.)

Dear Thomas Garvey:

Once again, Tom, you remind everyone the downside of giving a public voice to any hateful idiot with an Internet connection. For someone who has expressed dismay about the impending death of print media, you do love to exploit unfettered electronic publishing.

Tom, I know I'm stating the excruciatingly self-evident when I write that you have proven yourself to be a despicable coward, fraud, and troll. At this late in the day, there's no way you can possibly deny this, not even to yourself. You are too transparent.

How can you respond to reader's comments with, "please shove that stupid comment up your ass - which, judging from the photo, is your best feature" (then refuse to apologize or allow her to respond), imply later that you are a "mature adult?" How can you claim to be a liberal and champion of high culture then take your entire online strategy from the FOX News playbook? How can you publicly challenge someone's review of a production you have not seen and expect to be taken remotely seriously?

Perhaps you don't know what I mean when I label you a troll. Perhaps you think I merely give that label to anyone who goes against the grain. Not so. Here's the M.O. of a typical Internet troll: posing as a member of the community, the troll makes a provocative statement or asks a provocative question in a blog's comments section. He (or she, though it looks as though most Internet trolls are male) then waits for someone to take the bait. When someone takes the bait and responds to the provocative statement, the troll attacks him or her as viciously as possible. When the discussion has been derailed and made about whether or not the poster is a troll, the troll declares victory.

This is your M.O. to a T, Tom. Please don't embarrass yourself by trying to argue otherwise.

Note that I have no objection to, say, your dislike of a particular director's work, or your finding flaws with the data for a graduate student's study. That's fine. I'm not interested in arguing with you. That would be, as Representative Barney Frank said, "like trying to argue with a dining room table." The differing of viewpoints is not the issue here.

The issue here is that the subjects you write about (both on your blog and through your comments on others') are red herrings. It's clear, Tom, that your goal isn't to discuss these issues or to expose problems in the blogging world, but to start flame wars, engage in ad hominem attacks (even at those who extend you undeserved courtesy and try to engage with you in a civil manner, to no avail) and lob invective, no doubt to generate more traffic to your site.

Fellow colleagues and bloggers have emailed you and received no response, while I emailed you, and received a predictable non-response: "Please don't email me again." I suppose when you're responded to in an environment where you can't get off on, you don't have much fight in you.

I wonder how, after acting so trollish on the public sphere, yet so craven when confronted in the private sphere, you can even pretend at this stage of the game that you're a brave champion of ethics and frank discourse? As a matter of fact, I wonder how you can act indignant over your hateful questions and comments toward others being either ignored or met with justifiable hostility when you evade answering direct questions from others (in both the private and public spheres)?

Okay, this is all a little disingenuous. I don't really wonder that hard. I know how: you do so because you can hide behind the Internet. You don't have to hold yourself accountable. Again, you are the cautionary tale and unfortunate byproduct of semi-anonymous electronic communication: a perfect example of the Penny Arcade comic.

You also live in Boston, a town far from several other bloggers. I wonder how much bravado and vitriol you'd display if you lived in New York, where you'd eventually have to face many -- if not most -- of us sooner or later. I'm guessing not much. Judging from your cowardice via private correspondence and your clichéd behavior, I'm reasonably certain that said bravado exists because you never have to face the people you're attacking. If you did, I suspect you wouldn't have the courage to own up to or repeat your disgusting conduct. (It's quite telling that one of the only bloggers you respond to with a modicum of civility is also from Boston.)

I find the blatant hypocrisy troublesome. You're someone who is clearly acting in an unethical fashion yet likes to accuse people of acting in an unethical fashion. You've been trying to identify yourself as a solution to the problem, but in reality you are a symptom.

Now I realize you may try to pull some nonsense claiming that by calling you out I'm either feeling threatened or against free speech. In the case of the former, trust me, this is not the case. I hope to have a face-to-face discussion with you in the not-too-distant future. In the case of the latter, you, Tom, are the one who is against free speech. As humor columnist David Wong wrote: "the troll's goal is to shut down speech, to either fill the channel with noise until no one can talk to each other, or to get everyone talking about him instead of the subject at hand. He's a guy in a coffee shop screaming nonsense over a bullhorn."

Yes, I realize I just quoted an article from a humor site that specializes in dick jokes and the awesomeness of superhero movies. I guess I'm just not highbrow like you. To be fair, I never claimed I was.

What's also upsetting is that you've cited a job as critic for The Boston Globe as part of your CV, which means clearly you're an adult (The Globe, to my knowledge, doesn't hire minors). Are you at all aware that the way you conduct yourself is shameful and inexcusable for someone your age? Not publicly, of course. I don't expect you to display any sense of self-realization on your blog or others'. But perhaps when you're alone and away from your computer. Do you lack that inner voice that most sensible adults (and even sensible children) have that suggests you may not be on the right track?

I do hope, for your sake, you gain a moment of clarity: that all of this deplorable behavior does no one, especially you, any good.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

A cranky scold,

James "Unimpressed" Comtois

Updated Postscript: A week and a half after this was posted, he offered his response, if you can even call it that, in the comments section. I can’t say I stand corrected.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jimmy's Summer Movie Roundup

I know some people are lamenting the impending passage from summer to fall (technically, we've still got a few days before it's officially autumn, but the weather tells another story), mostly because the days of going to the beach and/or Splish-Splash are at an end.

I, of course, see summer in a very different way than most folks.

See, while some people see the lazy, hazy days of summer as days on the beach and in the sun, I see them as a means to spend as much time as possible in dark, windowless, air conditioned rooms, filling my face and covering my front with greasy and fattening food-like products.

In other words, for me, summer is all about the summer movies.

Not that I'm only about shitty mindless blockbusters (although I am about those as well, even though I regrettably* missed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). I'm about going to the movies in the summertime, cramming artificially buttered popcorn in my face, and about going to as many of these fucking things as possible.

So, in the spirit of Mr. Freeman's movie roundups, I bring you, in chronological order, are the movies I saw in theatres this summer and my brief assessment of them.

Bear in mind these aren't really reviews. Since I had a pretty long list of movies I wanted to see, I made a point to go see movies that had more than a fighting chance of me enjoying them, so yes, the majority of these are of the "thumb's up" variety, albeit for different reasons.

Star Trek. Kind of the ultimate summer blockbuster that actually delivers on what it promises to offer, wasn't it? I saw this one twice, with it still holding up as super fun the second time round. The simultaneous reboot/prequel to the venerable (and until now, stillborn) franchise rocked, plain and simple.

Terminator: Salvation. The crew that I went to go see this with enjoyed it while it was on. I mean, giant robots chased humans and blew things up in the process, so it delivered on that end. But a couple hours later, after Abe Goldfarb and I wandered around Manhattan and landed on a park bench in Tompkins Square Park, it dawned on us that we had forgotten we had seen it. That's right. That shit evaporated from our minds about 120-130 minutes after viewing it, if not sooner. So if you invite me over and suggest we watch T4, I'll most likely go, "Great! Sure!" A warning, though: if you do this, and you feel the same way about the movie as me, we could end up finishing the movie, then wind up talking, then see the case on the coffee table, then suggest we pop it in, having forgotten we had seen it. We could be trapped in your apartment for weeks on end, watching T4 on an endless loop like with James Incandenza's addictive experimental film. (Updated postscript: I had originally listed the subtitle as Rise of the Machines, but my friend Matt Wexler pointed out that that was the title of the third Terminator film. I'm Seriously Not Kidding when I say that shit evaporates from your brain.)

The Girlfriend Experience. As I recall, this is a movie I admired more than I actively enjoyed. It has an interesting premise (following a call girl, played by real life porn star Sasha Grey, who specializes in offering her clients girlfriendy privileges, such as makout sessions on the couch, going to the movies and talking about the movie over dinner afterwards, and sleeping over), but director Steven Soderbergh's fracturing of the story's timeline didn't work for me the way it did for his movie, The Limey.

Up. God damn, I love me some Pixar movies. And that opening prologue? Masterful filmmaking. Who woulda thunk that a children's movie could convey so much story and pathos in such a short period of time (and without and dialogue) when so many so-called serious adult films can't come even close? People who've been watching these Pixar movies, that's who thunk it.

Drag Me To Hell. Sam Raimi makes us almost forgive and forget about Spider-Man 3 with his ostensible Evil Dead 4. Exactly what I look for in deliberately trashy schlock filmmaking.

The Hangover. Yeah, it was funny. I laughed. Didn't find it nearly as funny as my sister or Nosedive vet Marc Landers, who had apparently wet themselves (I'm hoping figuratively, though we're dealing with Nosedive, so you never know) when they saw it the week before me. I guess I liked Old School, also directed by Todd Phillips, more.

Moon. Okay, here we get into less blockbuster fare (The Girlfriend Experience is considered a typical big budget blockbuster, right?) and more into 2001-style introspective thought-provoking science fiction. More or less a one-man show with Sam Rockwell acting opposite Sam Rockwell (with a HAL-like computer voiced by Kevin Spacey, who only registers "emotion" through comical emoticons), I didn't find this to be a Great Movie (in Title Case), but a really, really good movie that delivered on what I was expecting.

Bruno. It made me laugh. It's pretty damn shocking. Does it succeed as satire? Not really. Although I think Borat is a better movie, I still wonder if this had been released first I would prefer Bruno to Borat (I also wonder this because I saw Borat not really knowing what was staged and what was "real" until weeks later; with Bruno, I watched every scene wondering how staged it was). On one hand, you've got that naked fight scene. On the other, a dancing penis with a screaming urethra. Hmmm...may be too close to call.

Tokyo Gore Police. My first foreign horror film entry, although not exactly horror, neither is my second one. But one features zombies and the other features vampires so the description will just have to do for now. I had seen this before on DVD, but a bunch of us went to a late night screening of this at the IFC Center as part of the Asian Film Fest. I was worried I wasn't going to be able to make it through to the end, since I was ready to crash out, but once the heroine's enemy attacks her with a bunch of severed hands with their middle fingers extended, I found my second wind. Not so much a movie-going experience as a surreal and zany sleep-deprived night of silliness (since the event featured several short films as well as seeing the film's director show up in front of the crowd and get darts thrown at his ass. I'm not kidding).

Funny People. The third film directed by Judd Apatow (and by my count, the five thousandth one he's either produced and/or written). An overlong mess, but featuring flashes of utter brilliance. It's clearly his most personal film, and there is some wonderful insight to the isolating mechanisms inherent to fame and fortune. I'd be curious to see a 90 minute version of this.

In A Lonely Place. My Film Forum revival entry. I actually ran into the delightful Crystal Skillman and her husband at a showing of this less-discussed Humphrey Bogart film (helmed by Rebel Without a Cause director Nicholas Ray). It was hyped as film noir and, by technical definition, it is: yes, there is a murder, although it's tangential to the story, but it's a "noir" in that it's about ordinary people displaying acts of extraordinary evil. But really, it's about a doomed relationship that you want to work despite all odds and logic. It was fun watching this on the big screen, and weird to be stuffing my face with sugar-covered popcorn (instead of artificial butter grease).

Thirst. My second foreign horror film entry. A vampire film by Chan-wook Park, director of Oldboy. Like I was going to miss this! There's some stunning imagery in this (such as the scene when a couple embraces while hallucinating their recent murder victim sandwiched between them), and although it's a bit slow going and not particularly scary, it is a haunting and meditative take on the vampire mythology.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Okay. I've read all the books, and until seeing this latest movie in the franchise, had only seen one other film from the series (the third one). Kinda whatever on this one, but it filled my completely non-film-related criteria: while in Chicago, I spent a day wandering all over downtown. After about four hours of walking in the hot sun, I was ready to be cool and sitting. My hotel was several miles away. I just wanted an air conditioned room with a comfortable chair where I could relax and recharge for a couple of hours. I finally found a movie theatre. Harry Potter was the one movie that was about to play when I got there. It filled the criteria. The movie itself? Feh. Did it satisfy what I was looking for in a movie at that time (AC, comfy chair)? Absolutely.

Inglorious Basterds. I've already written about this twice now. You know what I think about this. It's the only other movie I saw twice in the theatre this summer. I loved it. I'm a QT fan. This is not news.

District 9. Lives up to the hype. Oddly enough, even though I haven't seen Transformers 2 (although I've seen the first one am familiar with Michael Bay's smooth, clean directorial style; you know, with long, stationary shots where the audience is clear to the chracters' spatial relation to one another?), I wondered why Transformers 2 got so much box office love when the climactic scene from District 9 is a.) in a similar vein, and b.) clearly 1,000 times better? Can we expect to see Christopher the "prawn" return to earth for District 10 in three years' time? I think so. I'll be there.

The Hurt Locker. This too, was really, really good. I just saw this one. I'm hoping to write about Kathryn Bigelow's propaganda-free war film/suspense film about a team of bomb diffusers in the Iraq War in greater detail at a later date, but for now I'll just say oh yeah. Really well made. Really tense. Great characters and characterizations. And also (at the risk of sounding redundant) great acting.

So there you have it. Yes, I missed a ton of summer movies besides Transformers (many people warned me to stay away from Wolverine and I had no interest in seeing G.I. Joe). But hey. 16 movies (really 18, since I saw Star Trek and Inglourious Basterds twice) in the theatre over a period of about 14 weeks. This also isn't including the 26 or so plays and the who the living fuck knows how many DVDs I saw during this period. I'd call that a well-wasted summer!

Spending most of his free time in darkened rooms,

James "Bottom Feeder" Comtois

*Not really. Having seen the suckfest that was the first Transformers on opening day, I'm pretty damn glad I missed this one.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Brokenhearteds

Note: as was the case with my entry on Viral, I won't be labeling this entry on The Brokenhearteds as a proper review, due to a possible conflict of interest (Pete Boisvert, my partner-in-crime over at Nosedive Central, served as director). Still, I wanted to write some words on the show, which I saw last Friday.

The Brokenhearteds is a political thriller, something incredibly rare for a stage play. Although it's a work of fiction where the terrorist attacks on September 11 didn't take place and deals with a fictitious President, it plays with our memories of 9/11 and the contentious Presidential election of 2004, but really to carry the story along and set the stakes rather than to exploit or to engage in leftist grandstanding.

That it carries out and follows through its promise to the audience is one of the reasons why the show is so successful. The Brokenhearteds wants to tell a story, and a very good and interesting story at that, not serve as a rant against our previous President or his Administration. Writer Temar Underwood and director Pete Boisvert, along with the ensemble cast, build tension, suspense and intrigue, and allow the audience to get to know and care about all the main characters.

The play takes place during the months leading up to a contentious Presidential election where Peter Graves (Mike Mihm), a journalist who writes the news blog for AM New York, meets up with Ezra Wesley (Temar), an old college friend who now works as an aide to the incumbent President. Although Peter thinks Ezra just wants to catch up and chat, it turns out Ezra wants to leak insider information about a Bin Laden-like terrorist to Peter in order to cripple, if not destroy, the President's chances at re-election. Although Ezra is a devout Republican, he feels that his boss has corrupted the ideals of his party, and apparently wants to engage in governmental sabotage.

Since he's a hungry journalist, Peter, using the terrorist Mu'Awiyah Fareed (Jon Hoche) as a source, runs with this information and posts a story on it. The story then breaks, and breaks big, resulting in major consequences for all of the characters.

Meanwhile, Peter is involved in a love triangle with Halle (Andrea Marie Smith), a singer-songwriter who's seeing Peter behind the back of her current (ex?) boyfriend, Milan (Paco Tolson), a Carlos Mencia-like (though not nearly as rich or famous) standup comic. Milan, who uses his standup routine one night to vent his frustrations about Halle (and I must say that it's a truly fascinating and odd experience to watch a funny actor deftly play an unfunny comedian bombing in a club), wants to marry her. Hallie doesn't, because she now loves Peter. She thinks.

There are reveals, betrayals (both personal and political), plot twists, a three-part interview with God, and intensely violent sequences (none of which I will reveal), until the fates of all of these characters come to a head.

The members of the cast, most of whom are regular actors with the Vampire Cowboys, are of course great. You know what I think of them. Mike Mihm is compelling and convincing as Peter. I was also really happy to see Paco, whom I've seen in many comedic roles, convey serious pathos in his main role, as well as be hysterical in smaller roles (most members of the cast play smaller ensemble parts in addition to their principle roles, some of these smaller roles, such as Temar as a newspaper editor and Jon as an apoplectic White House staffer, are very funny). And Andrea is very sympathetic and heartbreaking as the conflicted and later terrified Halle (who, by the time the second act comes along, no doubt misses the time when needing to break up with Milan was her biggest problem).

Pete keeps things moving along quickly and keeping things tight and engaging, directing the show almost as if it were a movie (Temar could actually adapt his script into a screenplay, which isn't to say it doesn't work as a stage play; it most certainly does).

Now, I'll bring up my minor quibbles, one with the script and one with the direction. There are some parts where the script could be cut by about 15 minutes or so (it's about 135 minutes, with one intermission), and although Pete does use the wings of the space well, they're not ideal for people sitting in the front row (as I did), as they take place a solid 90-degrees from where you're positioned in the house. But these genuinely are minor quibbles: the show held my attention and interest for the duration of the running time. And as for the scenes that take place on the wings? Well, now you know not to sit in the front row.

And yes, these are minor quibbles. Just like all good political thrillers, there are heroes, villains, patsies and victims, although sometimes these labels are murky and deceptive until the end. The Brokenhearteds is an intriguing and morally ambiguous play that fictionalizes recent past events and, rather than overtly politicize them, gives them the Robert Ludlum treatment.

The Brokenhearteds runs through September 26 at the Wings Theatre on 154 Christopher Street. Buy your tickets here.

Never trusting a politician,

James "Ambitious Blogger" Comtois

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Pete Boisvert, the co-founder and co-artistic director of Nosedive Productions, is a year older today. Go give 'im his spanking.

Happy birthday, ya big lug.

Jumping out of a cake,

James "Wrong Kinda Present" Comtois

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jordana Interviews Mac By Way of Leonard

Over at The Clyde Fitch Report, Viral director Jordana Williams interviews Viral author Mac Rogers. Check it the fuck out.

Then, if you haven't seen their show, check it the living hell out, too.

Cruising Viral's creative team,

James "Oh, Wait, That's Actually Kinda Fucked Up, So Scratch That" Comtois

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Week Ahead

The first round of episodes from the third season of The Saturday Night Saloon has come and gone and was, as always, a blast. I really enjoyed all the other shows in the series and am pumped to continue presenting our World War I time travel serial, Entrenched. Pete taped the show so, with some luck, it should be posted online in the not-too-distant future.

I always thoroughly enjoy myself at these Saloons. For me, they simultaneously serve as summer camp reunions, vacation and boot camp, as well as a running reminder of why I dig and do theatre. I love seeing how folks (as well as figuring out ourselves how to) "MacGuyver it up" with limited resources, time and space to put on a series of very fun shows over the course of five months.

Plus, I think learning how to write episodic plays in a short period of time has helped improve my writing. At least, I think it has. I dunno. I may be the worst person to judge this. But anyway, writing these serials has made story structure less difficult for me when writing Nosedive's mainstage shows.

So yeah: a whole lot of fun. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.

However, with preparations and rehearsals for the second episode of Entrenched still being a few weeks away, that means onto other stuff to keep us folks over at Nosedive Central occupied in the meantime.

Currently, we're amid auditions for The Blood Brothers Present...The New Guignol. The directors auditioned the first batch last night, and are prepping for round two tonight (with callbacks for tomorrow). Currently, I'm finishing up the second draft of The Little One so the crew can read it aloud next week, which will help me figure out how to shape up the script for its third draft.

Later this week I also hope to write some of my thoughts on The Brokenhearteds, which I saw and enjoyed on Friday.

Wikki wikki waaaah,

James "Sentient Spore" Comtois

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Saturday, September 12, 2009


Nosedive Productions

in association with

The Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company



A five-part WWI/Time Travel serial play by James Comtois

Two men fight in the trenches.

One died earlier that day.

The other won’t be born for another 55 years.

Directed by Patrick Shearer

Bryan Enk & Ben VandenBoom

As part of the Vampire Cowboys' Saturday Night Saloon.

Also featuring

by Dustin Chinn
(Member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab)
directed by RJ Tolan
(Co-Artistic Director of Youngblood)

by Mac Rogers
(Universal Robots; Viral; Hail Satan)
directed by Jordana Williams
(Member of Gideon Productions)

by Crystal Skillman
(The Telling Trilogy; 4 Edges; Birthday)
directed by John Hurley
(Artistic Director of Impeteous Theatre Group)

by Brent Cox
(The Dog & Pony Show)
directed by Padraic Lillis
(Member of LAByrinth Theater Company)

written & directed by Jeff Lewonczyk
(Babylon, Babylon; Macbeth without Words)

Saturday, September 12
at 8 p.m. at the Battle Ranch
405 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn



Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Roundup

Well, as Nathan Rabin once famously wrote, enough foolishness. Onto more foolishness. We had our third and final proper rehearsal (not counting tomorrow's 30 minute tech) for episode one of Entrenched, Nosedive's entry in Vampire Cowboys' Saturday Night Saloon last night and I'm now pretty pumped for people to see this, and am also primed to see the other serials tomorrow. I'm confident in writing that it's going to be a pretty kick-ass evening. You should go.

Having said that, I am sorry to be missing the first bill of one-minute plays from the 3rd Annual One-Minute Play Festival tomorrow, especially since it features the lovely statuesque blonde of my dreams, Miss Gyda Arber directing one of my pieces for the first time ("The Two Matts"). Lemme know how it goes, Gigi!

The Saturday bill features uber-short plays from Ashlin Halfnight, Emily Conbere, Bixby Elliot, John Devore, Michael John Garces, Jakob Holder, Jessica Litwak, Matt Olmos, Saviana Stanescu, Kyle Jarrow, Ken Urban, David Zellnik, Lanna Joffrey, Megan Mostyn-Brown, Liz Meriwether, Mat Smart, Mac Rogers, Andrea Thome, Matt Freeman, James Comtois (that's me, that's me!), Anton Dudley, Christine Evans, Robert Kerr, Callie Kimball, Sam Forman, Rajiv Joseph, Padraic Lillis, Trav SD and others.

There's also a Sunday lineup, featuring such authors as Callie Kimball, Clay Mcleod Chapman, Dave Anzuelo, Bixby Elliot, Kris Diaz, Christine Evans, Jeff Lewonczyk, J Julian Christopher, Courtney Brook Lauria, Adam Szymkowicz, Migdalia Cruz, Chiori Miyagawa, Ian Cohen, more Anton Dudley, Michael John Garces, Matt Olmos, Saviana Stanescu, Crystal Skillman, Liz Meriwether, more Matt Freeman, Matt Schatz, Caridad Svich, August Schulenburg, Chris Harcum, Daniel Talbott and more Trav SD.

So yes. A whole slew of super-short plays will be playing at the HERE Arts Center this Sautrday and Sunday. This shit will sell out. So get your tickets here.

Tonight, I'll be seeing The Brokenhearteds. They opened last night, and Pete said it went quite well. I'm definitely looking forward to it. You can hear the cast and crew talk about it with Martin Denton in a new nytheatrecast. Listen to it, then buy your tickets.

This of course means that my weekend is pretty all filled up, so unfortunately, I'll have to wait until next week to see this, which I hear also had a successful opening last night. But hey. You can't use my excuse, because, well, you're obviously not me. So if you're free this weekend, see one of these shows.

So that's what seems to be going on from my end, folks. You should do well checking out one or more of these things if you're in the New York area.

Have a good weekend folks. Hope to see many of you soon.

Going back to 1917,

James "Anachronizer" Comtois

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Things You Can Do To Feel Happy (A Truly Shameless Post)

Feeling down? Of course you are. Look at yourself and the world around you. There's not a lot out there to be chipper about.

Well, that's not entirely true. As shitty as this world and your life has become, there are two things you can do to turn that suicidal depression into one big gooey sack of happy.

The first thing you can do is donate to my theatre company, Nosedive Productions. Our next show is an anthology of horror plays. Those blood effects and simulated viscera don't pay for themselves, you know. Plus, as I've been nattering about at length on this site, the next full-length play will be about vampires. That's not exactly a subject you can convey effectively on the cheap, either.

So donate. It doesn't even have to be that much. Seriously, we here at Nosedive Central are cheap (and frankly, easy) dates. And we will love you.

The second thing you can do is go to the Saturday Night Saloon at the Battle Ranch this Saturday, see the pilot episodes of six rocktacular serial plays (including one by Yours Truly) for free, and drink very cheaply.

So. To recap. Donate to Nosedive. Go to the Saloon. Forget about the shit sandwich that is existence for a short period of time.

Seriously, I should get a medal or some shit.

Curing depression without prescribing pills,

James "Dishonorary Doctor Feelgood" Comtois

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Characters That Suck

While working on my rewrites for The Little One (which I'm hoping to finish the latest round of by next week, God willing), I came across this article by Grady Hendrix wrote back in late July over at

Now, obviously, I don't really want to harp on this too much: I've already promised that the vampires in my play don't twinkle or sparkle and that the overabundance of vampire fodder in popular culture made me reluctant to write this (at least, for the time being). And I don't really want to imply that I wrote The Little One to specifically counter the neutered take on what used to be prime nightmare fuel for youngsters.

(I will admit that I thoroughly enjoy watching True Blood, even though it, too, features a lot of vampires acting morose and drinking synthetic blood rather than viciously digging their fangs in frightened and unwilling victims. Perhaps this is why I appreciate Alexander Skarsgard's portrayal of the savage, manipulative, human-hating Eric so much.)

Yes, I got interested in writing this because I think vampires are interesting fodder for fiction, and have been a bit annoyed that vampires have become well-behaved model citizens. So yes, perhaps I wrote this script because I didn't want to wait around indefinitely for someone else to tell this story. But I didn't write this to "take vampires back" from the, "metaphor as teen angst/emo navel-gazing" purgatory they've been recently stuck in (I am, after all, a self-producing playwright; not exactly a driving force in the landscape of popular culture).

I think it'd be a bit of a stretch to classify The Little One as horror. I mean, it could be: there's certainly copious amounts of blood and gore, and there are several scenes designed to be tense and unnerving. For people who are squeamish about violence, then yes, this could be considered horror. But since the story is told from the point of view of the vampires, not the humans, this may mitigate much of the show's scare factor.

My goal was (is) to make the main characters interesting, sympathetic and (in their own way) likable, but periodically remind the readers/viewers that if they were to hypothetically meet any of these characters, they'd be running for their lives, crying and screaming.

Well, enough. I should probably stop blathering too much on a script that's still undergoing rewrites, hasn't been read aloud and won't be staged for at the very least seven months. But hey, it's on my mind (for obvious reasons) and I found that article. So I figured I'd share.


James "Vamping Dandy" Comtois

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Second Assessment of Inglourious Basterds With Many, Many Spoilers

As I had written earlier on this site, I had intended to go see Quentin Tarantin's latest, Inglourious Basterds. Since I have, there are a couple more things I wanted to bring up. This entry has a bunch of spoilers, from minor to major, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, and have still managed to stay in the dark about plot points and details then read no further.

Having now seen Inglourious Basterds for a second time, I still assert that it is an excellent showcase for Quentin Tarantino's strengths and gifts (as well as flaws) as a filmmaker: seemingly inconsequential fun popcorn entertainment with undertones of genuine substance and pathos. I think, like with all of his movies thus far (even the seemingly trifling Death Proof), his World War II/Spaghetti Western mashup will continue to be enjoyable several years down the road.

Tarantino works in pastiche - borrowing equally from genre pictures, foreign "high art" films, D-grade sleazeploitation flicks and music videos - yet his movies gel in a coherent fashion and have his unmistakable stamp. I suspect part of this is simply because Tarantino loves movies. Highbrow or lowbrow, it doesn't really matter. It's clear that he wants to take the audience for a ride, and make their trip to the movie house worth it.

If you'll allow me a brief personal tangent, I also think this is why I've enjoyed his films. For the longest time, going to the movies was in and of itself a fun pastime for me. It never really mattered if the movie sucked, just the experience of seeing a movie on the big screen in a large, darkened auditorium surrounded by horrifically unhealthy junk food made the outing worthwhile. That of course changed as I grew older, though it took a while longer than you'd expect (although I was aware that sometimes I'd be sitting through shitty movies, and although my friends and I had walked out of a movie once [Cool World] when I was 15, it wasn't until I was about 21, 22 before I first actively regretted making the decision to go see a movie).

For me, Tarantino's films definitely invigorate that (perhaps naïve) pure enjoyment with "going to the movies" I used to have (Grindhouse in particular seemed almost like it was made specifically for me). I realize not everyone agrees with me or shares with me this partially uncritical enjoyment of going to the movie theatre. That's fine. If you find his work excessive and self-indulgent, this movie won't sway you. It's two and a half hours long. It's excessive. It's violent. It's talky. But this is what I look for in a Tarantino film. (End personal tangent.)

What I'm really surprised with is how Inglourious Basterds is simultaneously gonzo and off the wall as well as muted and restrained. The bulk of the film consists of conversations (most of them not in English, mind you). I think those that just think Tarantino's films are excuses in wall-to-wall gratuitous violence seem to completely - willfully? - ignore his love for dialogue and storytelling: his ability to switch narrative gears so the viewer is in suspense and in the dark as to what will happen next.

Ultimately, upon my first viewing of Basterds, I found its emotional charge from its impact: from its taught set pieces of extended dialogue that build tension to an almost unbearable degree.

I was talking with Mr. Abe Goldfarb about the movie (we went to see it together the night before opening), and we discovered that we had polar opposite emotional reactions to Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. For Abe, he found that Pulp's emotional charge largely came from its impact, rather than from its characters, whereas he found himself very connected to the characters in Basterds. I felt the reverse.

For example, in Pulp, for me, it's crucial - crucial - that Butch (Bruce Willis) gets out of his story alive and in one piece. In Basterds, as much as I enjoyed Brad Pitt's performance as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, I was never "worried" for Aldo in any sense of the term.

The Basterds themselves aren't particularly well-rounded, well-developed, or individually even interesting characters. They're fun, yes. They're well acted, sure. But, let's be honest: they're really just plot devices/comic foils/sources of the Nazi-torturing.

So, no. It took me the second viewing (yes, I'm slow) to really get that Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent) is the real heart and emotional center of the movie. Re-watching the film, I found it crushing knowing that she wouldn't live to see the closing credits (yet comforted in knowing she'd be successful in her plan to kill the Nazis in the theatre).

Some have said that her relationship with her projectionist (Marcel, played by Jacky Ido) is underdeveloped. Not so. Their love for each other is very clear, and isn't overplayed. It's beautifully understated (how can anyone accuse Tarantino of being unsubtle or unrestrained?) yet very clear.

In terms of a serious mediation on Jewish revenge on Nazis, Inglourious Basterds doesn't deliver. But I don't think it's trying to. The Nazis in this movie are more akin to the archetypical villains from Raiders of the Lost Ark: they're the well-dressed sneering and cunning villains we all hiss at and root for their demise. In terms of an exploration of the seductive nature of Revenge (capital R), then yes, it most certainly does deliver.

As Isaac Butler pointed out, it's offering a revenge wish-fulfillment fantasy against the most notorious villains in the world (in both history and pulp filmmaking): showing us a large movie theatre full of Nazis cheering on a movie where someone slaughters Jews, then having us in the movie house cheering on the slaughtering of all the Nazi higher-ups, including Hitler himself.

I still stand by my initial assessment, although I didn't have as much of a problem with the scene in this basement tavern in Nadine (not like I had a huge problem with it to begin with). Do I still think Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino's best film since Pulp Fiction? Having just re-watched Jackie Brown again this weekend, it's tough to say whether or not Basterds or Jackie is his second best film.

But you know what? Who cares? Did anyone come here to read my hierarchical list of his six films (I'm counting Kill Bill as one film and not counting Four Rooms)? Of course not. Suffice it to say, it's good, and one of his best, with Pulp Fiction still being his masterwork.

Loving highbrow junk,

James "Cacasseur" Comtois

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Episode One of Entrenched This Saturday!

Nosedive Productions

in association with

The Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company



A five-part WWI/Time Travel serial play by James Comtois

Two men fight in the trenches.

One died earlier that day.

The other won’t be born for another 55 years.

Directed by Patrick Shearer

Bryan Enk & Ben VandenBoom

As part of the Vampire Cowboys' Saturday Night Saloon.

Saturday, September 12
at 8 p.m. at the Battle Ranch
405 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Plugs Before The Weekend

I'm currently a little cranky that I’ve finished all my work at my day job for the day, yet my company has recently abandoned its policy of letting us out early the day before three-day weekends. Balls. Just...balls.

I of course complain about this as if I've got a bunch of fun activities lined up for my Friday night. Sadly, that is not the case. [Insert Heavy Sigh Here.]


Anyway, I'm continuing to work on revisions for The Little One, and wanted to thank everyone who's read it so far for their incredibly helpful comments and feedback. I think I know exactly where I want to steer the second draft.

Also, since it's coming up pretty damn soon, I figure now would be a good time to plug this upcoming bit of awesome sauce:

For its eighth season, Vampire Cowboys brings back its extremely popular series, THE SATURDAY NIGHT SALOON, a monthly party at THE BATTLE RANCH featuring brand new genre-bending serialized plays by NYC's hottest indie theatre artists. The shows hit every second Saturday night of the month from September thru January. The Saloon is always free, the all-you-can-drink beer (or until we run out) is always only a mere five dollars, and the shows are always inventive. Why drink at a bar when you can party it up at the Saloon?

The Third Season of THE SATURDAY NIGHT SALOON Begins September 12


Season 3 includes six all-new exciting serialized plays by:

Dustin Chinn - James Comtois - Brent Cox
Jeff Lewonczyk - Mac Rogers - Crystal Skillman

405 Johnson Avenue, 2nd Floor
(2.5 blocks from Morgon stop off L train)
Click here for a map.

September 12, 2009
October 10, 2009
November 14, 2009
December 12, 2009
Januray 9, 2010

Produced by Lex Friedman, Robert Ross Parker, Daniel Rech

Until then, have a good weekend, folks. I'll catch y'all later.

Wasting copious amounts of time at work,

James "Public Masturbator" Comtois

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Vampires That Don't Twinkle

I've begun tweaking and futzing with the rough of The Little One, my vampire play. Although it still needs work, and I'll continue to work on it for the next few months, at least it may not be the horrific embarrassment I had originally convinced myself it was. But then again, who knows? Maybe it still is (and will be). Only time will tell.

I'm certainly aware of this reasonable attitude towards the glut of vampire fare hitting pop culture right now, and am also certainly aware that staging a play about vampires has to overcome a lot of hurdles. "Vampire fatigue," if you will.

I think I've written something that breaks away from the Anne Rice/Twilight/True Blood molds. In other words, The Little One isn't about teenage lust. Nor are the vampires in this play sensitive emo twits. They don't twinkle in the sunlight. They don't romance, date, have sex with, or otherwise have any sort of interaction with humans (apart from using them as a source of sustenance).

They're Fucking Vampires.

Does that mean it doesn't have flaws or clichés (or will be flawless and free of clichés after I complete my multiple revisions)? Of course not. I've written a story in a sub-genre that's been done to death and that's currently being mined and plundered ad nauseum. Do I think it will be worth an audience's time and attention once we stage it? I think so, because otherwise I wouldn't have written it.

Although The Little One is hardly an "old school" vampire story, I do think I may have written it as an attempt at telling a vampire story where the subjects aren't "namby-pamby wimps," as James Berardinelli succinctly puts it.

Covering himself in glitter,

James "Pretty Vampire Fan" Comtois

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Good News For/From The Brick

Congratulations to the Brick Theater for not only securing another five-year lease extension from the landlord (through June 30, 2015), but also for winning the NYIT Caffe Cino Award "for an Off-Off Broadway theatre company that consistently produces outstanding work!"

Considering real estate for theatre in the city is becoming an increasingly rare and shrinking commodity, the former is great news for the theatre scene. Winning the award also rocks the werewolf's ass.

And yes, since the Brick wound up being Nosedive's home for its 2009 season, I'm doubly proud. Congratulations, guys. I'll see you soon.

Happy for his home not very far away from home,

James "Bricklayer" Comtois

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Incredibly Biased Fall Preview

With September now upon us and the weather starting to get a little more brisk, it appears as though fall is quickly approaching. So, with the Fringe wrapped up (not counting the Encore Series), I guess now's the time to offer my incredibly biased fall preview, pointing out some upcoming shows (many by homies) that appear to be worth your time and attention:

Effie Jean in Tahiti. Blue Coyote Theater Group is presenting a show you should bring the kids to. Seriously. David Johnston and Stephen Speights have created a musical about a princess, an old man of the sea, an island, and a plot for freedom. Gary Shrader directs. Opens September 3 at the Access Theater on 380 Broadway. Tickets can be bought here.

MilkMilkLemonade. Isaac Butler directs Joshua Conkel's new play about gay children, a parasitic twin, an antagonistic grandmother, a depressed chicken and our growing bodies. Unlike Effie Jean, though deliberately designed to appear like a children's show, for the love of God, do not bring the kids. Opens September 10 at Under St. Marks on 94 St. Marks Place. Tickets can be bought here.

The Brokenhearteds. Nosedive co-anchor Pete Boisvert directs Vampire Cowboys vet Temar Underwood's debut play concerning an author of a daily political blog, a presidential aide with volatile insider information, and a complicated love triangle. The political thriller features several regulars from the Cowboys' shows, including Underwood, Jon Hoche, Paco Tolson, Cowboys regular/Infectious Opportunity alum Andrea Marie Smith and Mike Mihm. Preview performance is on September 10, officially opening on September 11 at The Wings Theatre on 154 Christopher Street. Tickets can be bought here.

One Minute Play Festival. Shstrng Prodctns presents the third annual One Minute Play Festival, which features works from several playwrights (including Matthew Freeman, Mac Rogers, Jeff Lewonczyk, Crystal Skillman, Adam Szymkowicz, August Schulenburg and Yours Truly [hey, I told you this shit was biased]) proving brevity = wit. Opens September 12 at HERE Arts Center on 145 Sixth Ave. Tickets can be bought here.

The Lesser Seductions of History. Heather Cohn directs Flux Theatre Ensemble artistic director August Schulenburg's new play written specifically for the actors of the Ensemble, which follows 10 characters through each year of the 1960's. Waitaminute, guys. Are we gonna [ulp] learn something with this new show? Ah, I'm just joshin. I'm really looking forward to this, especially since I'll forever be trying to make up for egregiously missing Riding the Bull. Opens November 6 at the Cherry Pit on 155 Bank Street. Tickets on sale soon.

So there you have it. Those are a few shows coming up to usher in the cooler weather and shorter days. If you've got a show that's coming up this fall that you're proud of (and annoyed with me for not plugging), absolutely feel free to plug them in the comments section below.

Looking forward,

James "Plugging Machine" Comtois

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Extensions and Transfers

Well, okay, enough of this tender, Getting To Know Your Comtois malarkey. I've still got a window of time before we start working on Entrenched for the Vampire Cowboys' Saturday Night Saloon and we start work on The Blood Brothers Present...The New Guignol, at which time Jamespeak resumes being a relentless self-promotionacopia.

So, I guess I should take this brief period of time to natter on a bit about some non-personal, non-plugging theatre stuff. Hey, why not?

I need to extend many congratulations to the cast and crew of Viral, which not only got extended (seriously, if you missed it the first time around, consider this your chance at redemption: and especially don't be the douchebag who missed Universal Robots and Viral twice), but just won a FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Play. Seriously, Mac. Where do you store this growing collection of Fringe awards? You guys must have built an annex to Gideon Central.

Congratufuckinglations, guys. This is great news and well deserved.

You can find more information on the extended dates and get tickets here.

Another very enjoyable yet completely different show that's getting a well deserved extension is Piper McKenzie's production of Trav S.D.'s musical, Willy Nilly: A Musical Exploitation of the Most Far-Out Cult Murders of the Psychedelic Era, which will now be playing at a new venue (The Actors' Playhouse).

Willy Nilly, directed by Jeff Lewonczyk, is quite fun — it's description of being "Charles Manson meets Mad Magazine" is apt — AND (I really cannot stress this enough) features lots of naked pretty people, dudes and chicks alike, including the lovely and unclad co-artistic director of Piper McKenzie, Hope Cartelli. That's right. I ogled the director's wife. What? Hope's got nice knockers.

But enough about my leering at friends and colleagues; let's move on to other things that are unapologetically trashy and silly, such as Willy Nilly itself. Basically, it's a fictionalized musical account of Charles Manson's failed attempt to start a music career and successful attempt at forming a murderous cult. It evokes the psychedelic and campy aesthetic of the '60s without making me want to go on a berserk dick-punching spree. (What is it about hippies that make me want to indiscriminately punch people in the junk? Probably all that "Peace and Love" crap they always blather on about. Fucking hippies.)

The songs are good and amusing. The live band (The Four Hoarses) rocks. The cast (which, in addition to Ms. Cartelli and Mr. S.D., features Becky Byers, Maggie Cino, Michael Criscuolo, Betsy Head, Daryl Lathon, Rich Lovejoy, Mateo Moreno, Avery Pearson, Esther Silberstein, Adam Swiderski and Elizabeth Hope Williams) kicks ass. I laughed loudly many times. It also features the author in drag (though, damn, Trav, you sure do make one ugly-ass woman).

And did I mention it features boobies, wieners and butts? Well, it does. (Seriously, stop looking at me like that.)

So, really: what more could you want?

The same link applies: you can find out more information on the extended dates and get tickets here.

And, in non-Fringe extended news, but once again proving my theory that Boobies, Wieners And Butts = High Quality Theatre (okay, I really should stop at some point), it looks as though one of the best shows I've seen this year, the Amoralists' delightful and engrossing The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side is moving to Off-Broadway!

This show has been playing like gangbusters for months at PS 122 and due to an insatiable demand is moving over to Theatre 80 St. Marks (at 80 St. Marks Place, the former home of The Pearl Theatre Company) from September 10 through October 5. I gushed about the show here. Congratulations to writer-director Derek Ahonen, the cast and the crew.

You can find out more information here.

So for folks who say that there's no good theatre in New York, here are three upcoming shows proving you way the hell wrong. If you haven't seen these shows, it's not too late. Go see them and show them the love.

But not in a hippie sorta way. 'Cuz seriously, fuck hippies.

Beating up pacifists,

James "Get a Haircut!" Comtois

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