‘Her tiny frame is folded into a chair. Her slender fingers massage an empty cigarette holder. And her enormous eyes are widening in horror.
‘”I have to have my left side facing the camera,” Carol Kane pleads in an untamed lilt. “I don’t want a total profile, either. Let’s just take the picture and get it done, okay?”
‘Why would an actress who has spent 20 of her 33 years in “the show business” — gliding from stage to screen to TV and leaving a trail of hookers, immigrants, a dizzy maid, a terrorized baby sitter, a pair of Emmys and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in her wake — care about which side faces the camera?
‘”‘Cause it looks better,” she giggles, offering an explanation understandable to no other human on the planet.
‘Well, maybe one other. “Strange animals, these actors,” chuckles her father, architect Michael Kane. She doesn’t have a publicist, but dad is at her side for protection. “Doesn’t like to have her picture took,” he beams.
‘Kane was born in Cleveland, then moved to Paris with her jazz musician mother and architect father when she was 8 years old. After a brief stay in Haiti, the family settled in New York.
‘”I went to see a play in Children’s Theatre when I was like 7 and decided that’s what I wanted to be,” Kane says, “and I think I’ve pretty much had blinders on since then.” She attended Manhattan’s Children’s Professional School and toured with Tammy Grimes in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” when she was 14.
‘”I didn’t have any friends who weren’t acting when I was little,” she says without a trace of wistfulness. “I lived at the theater. It takes your time in a fanatical way, and you just sort of have to be with people who understand that that’s the way your time’s going to be used.”
‘But she admits that she “never felt young when I was 16. I never felt young at all, in fact. I feel younger now in a lot of ways.”
‘At 17, Kane was one of six actors cast in Mike Nichols’ “Carnal Knowledge.” She played Art Garfunkel’s 18-year-old “love teacher,” who shed silent tears at the sight of Jack Nicholson’s frightening biographical slide show. Heady stuff for a teen-ager, but Kane shrugs it off.
‘”I had a real sense when I did that movie of being home,” she says. “I felt that I was supposed to be where I was at that time, and that may sound, I don’t know what that sounds like, but that was the sense I had, I felt good about myself and very at home.”
‘A starring role in “Wedding in White” followed, and a brief appearance in “The Last Detail.” Then, in 1975, came “Hester Street” and the first taste of recognition.
‘Kane auditioned for the role of Gitl, the naive but determined Jewish immigrant who tries to adapt to her husband’s ways when she joins him in turn-of-the-century New York. In fact, she auditioned six times for the role, four times in English and twice in Yiddish.
‘”I didn’t speak Yiddish,” she says. “In fact, each of us who were under very serious consideration worked with a coach that director Joan Micklin Silver provided and phonetically got certain scenes together.
‘”As I get older I start to look back at the field that I’ve crossed and realize that it was a mine field,” she laughs. “I mean, if someone had told me, ‘Well, yes, you get to do this movie ‘Hester Street,’ but first you have to audition six times and you’ll be up against 38 other girls’ — well, then I just would have said, ‘I’m not up for that.’ ”
‘Silver, of course, would have been more than a little dismayed. “I love Carol madly,” she raves. “She’s one of these actresses who just fills her role. I saw her in the Canadian film ‘Wedding in White’ and thought she was Canadian. She was physically nothing like the character of Gitl, but once she started playing it you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing it.”
‘The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed, and at 22, Kane (along with Janet Gaynor) was the youngest woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. No small feat for a film shot in a Lower East Side studio on a budget of $375,000. But Kane insists that she never got carried away with such trappings of “success.”
‘”You have a limouseeene the day of the awards,” she says, “but when I was at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and this is true, I mean it seems like a good situation comedy or something, but I was living at the Beverly Hills Hotel doing publicity and once a week I would go from there down to the unemployment office. I was flat broke — I couldn’t afford my dress.” Futher evidence of her level-headedness abounds. Daddy — “just the repulsively proud father” — promises that “Carol’s always been a lovely lady.” Silver recalls a celebratory pre-awards lunch when Kane said she “hoped we wouldn’t lose that feeling if we didn’t get the award.” And when Rona Barrett asked Kane what she thought her chances of winning were, Kane replied, “All I’ve got pulling for me are two Jews from Cleveland.”‘ — Trustman Senger
Carol Kane @ IMDb
Carol Kane Remembers Gene Wilder: “He Lived a Quiet Life”
Carol Kane is ready to tackle her political ambitions
“Carol Kane dead 2017” : Actress killed by internet death hoax
Carol Kane, On Her Good Side
Role Recall: Carol Kane Looks Back on ‘Taxi,’ ‘The Princess Bride,’ and More
Carol Kane gets serious about ‘Clutter’
The HeyUGuys Interview – Carol Kane looks back on Dog Day Afternoon
Podcast: Carol Kane interviewed on Bullseye
Carol Kane flags down the apartment of the century
Carol Kane on Women Directors and Aging in Hollywood
Carol Kane’s talents are trapped in a play about Bette Davis that’s like ‘Dolores Claiborne’ on barbiturates
Carol Kane on Letterman, 6/18/87
Carol Kane – Rawhide (The Lemon Sisters)
Carol Kane 1974 Dr. Pepper Commercial
TAXI STAR (Latka’s Girlfriend Simpka) Carol Kane
AVC: For your first on-camera role, it’s difficult to tell which came first: Carnal Knowledge or Desperate Characters.
CK: I had done a lot of extra work before that in different movies shot in Manhattan—that’s where I grew up—but Carnal Knowledge was my first role. And, of course, that was the greatest privilege of my life, to walk into a room and find Mike Nichols and Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel and Jules Feiffer. That’s how I met them all. I was flown to Vancouver where they were shooting already, and I was told then that if Mike thought I was right for the role, I would stay and shoot it, and if I wasn’t, I’d be turning around and going back to the city. But I met Mike, and he brought me in to where they were showing the rushes from the day before, and Jack and Art and Jules were there, and imagine that, you know? I’m 17 or 18 years old! It was probably the greatest moment of my life!
AVC: How did you find your way into acting in the first place?
CK: Oh, it’s the most boring, typical story. I was a little girl, and my mom took me to see a children’s theater play, and I just instantly fell in love with the notion of being up there and using my imagination and becoming someone else. See? [Laughs.] I think it’s a pretty typical tale. But it’s true!
CK: I had lunch not that long ago with Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman, who was in that movie with me, and we remain friends. That was just a wild script, a wild experience. And for me it was so funny because playing a little cheerleader was so far afield for me. But it’s a fun movie. I think it was originally called Thursday The 12th.
AVC: That would’ve been a great triple bill with Friday The 13th and Richard Benjamin’s Saturday The 14th.
CK: [Stunned.] Seriously? I didn’t know that! Well, one of my favorite movies that I got to be in was directed by Richard Benjamin!
Racing With The Moon (1984)—“Annie The Hooker”
CK: That was with Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage, two young, brilliant actors. And Elizabeth McGovern! She was so great in that.
AVC: And your character name, at least according to IMDb, was “Annie The Hooker.”
CK: Yes, there you go. I mean, I don’t think they called me “Annie The Hooker.” [Laughs.] But, yes, that was me.
AVC: Actors often talk about preferring directors who have been on the other side of the camera. Richard Benjamin more than qualifies.
CK: Oh, completely. You know, I think a lot of my really favorite directors that I’ve worked with, they have a gift of sort of trusting in the people they’ve hired. They hire people they trust, and they make those people feel that they trust in them. I think that brings out the best in actors. You’re not facing someone with grave doubts. You know you’re facing someone who believes you can do it, and I think that enables you to do it. [Laughs.] And Richard certainly was in that camp of hiring who he believed in and then supporting them. He’s very creative. And someone else I think those directors have in common is that they have a lot of trouble not laughing during the takes, because they actually enjoy what they’re doing and what they’re seeing. And that’s fantastic.
The Last Detail (1973)—“Young Whore”
CK: You know, something that’s really different nowadays—which talking about directing makes me think of—and something that’s a little hard for actors, I think, is that they have this thing now that’s everywhere all the time. It’s called video village, and it’s so that when you shoot a movie or a TV show, suddenly the director isn’t there with you on the set they used to be. They’re off in the area where there’s a video monitor, and the script supervisor, the director, the producers, the writer, everyone’s off there when you’re doing the scene. It used to be that they were on the set with you, by the camera, so you were all rowing the boat together. [Laughs.] But now they’re off in this place where they yell things toward the set, and you can sort of hear, but sometimes you can’t, and you definitely can’t see each other’s faces. Like in, say, The Last Detail: It’s me and Randy Quaid in the bed, and Hal Ashby was over in the corner by the camera, just laughing or talking to you, but you were all working as one in that way. Now there’s a bit of a distance—not only physically, but also creatively—when they’re in the other room.
AVC: And you also worked in the field of prostitution in The Last Detail.
CK: I guess I did. [Laughs.] And I was working with Jack Nicholson again, and with Randy and Hal. It was just a great, great experience.
The Princess Bride (1987)—“Valerie”
Addams Family Values (1993)—“Granny”
CK: Oh, now Addams Family Values, that was a particularly tough thing to do, those characters that require prosthetics to that extent. I have a lot of problems with the glue, and I’m kind of allergic to it all. [Laughs] But I’ll tell you, Danny De Vito gave me the greatest piece of advice, because he had just played The Penguin (in Batman Returns), and that was four hours of makeup as Granny, and Valerie in The Princess Bride was even more! But Danny said that when he had his Penguin makeup done, he rigged a TV set across from the mirror so that he could watch movies while he was getting his face put on. He said, “You can watch two movies every morning!” And that was a lifesaver for me, because to sit there for that length of time, getting all glued up, and you’re disappearing as time goes by, and your face is becoming something rubber. It’s not an easy process! I really admire people on, like, Star Trek, who are doing that for season after season. I find it very difficult.
Playing Granny, I had to wear a magnificent five-pound wig, and the brilliant Tina Aldrich helped me out a lot because first of all, the costumes were so magnificent and so detailed and right for the period they were supposed to be from. But also, because they had so much trouble with the glue, she and the makeup artist teamed up and helped me out by rigging up a system where the collars of my dresses—the high, high collars—could be secured to the neck prosthetics, so that the prosthetic didn’t have to go all the way down my neck, and I didn’t have to feel totally strangled. [Laughs.]
AVC: You and Billy Crystal had great chemistry together in The Princess Bride, even if you were both buried under makeup.
CK: [Laughs.] Thank you so much! Although I did want to say, speaking of chemistry and great people, that it was rippling through Addams Family Values. It was great to work with Raul [Julia] and Anjelica [Huston], who I’d known—both of them—since we were very young, Raul from the theater and Anjelica just through our lives together. So it wasn’t all torture. [Laughs.] Just the prosthetics.
With Billy, it was just so much fun! And he’s a genius, as we all know. He and I got to kind of talk about our back story together and improvise a few things before we shot it. And then Billy, of course, just improvised all through the scene when we shot. Which was amazing. And Rob [Reiner] is definitely a laugher. He’s an off-camera laugher. [Laughs.] And everybody in the scene, really, had trouble with that. Especially Cary Elwes, who was supposed to be mostly dead, so he couldn’t laugh. It was really one of those challenges to keep a straight face.
AVC: You mentioned the improv aspect. How are you when it comes to improv? Do you tend to be pretty fast on your feet? Not every actor is.
CK: Well, I’m not an improviser, as in someone who’s spent time doing that with another group of actors, like the Second City people or the Saturday Night Live people. But I certainly feel that I can do it, and I enjoy doing it within a scene. I love doing it within a scene that’s been written. I’ve never just improvised a whole scene. But, like, the thing about the chocolate pills? “You shouldn’t go swimming for at least… what?” “An hour.” “A good hour.” We both improvised that. You know, I have fun with it. But as I say, I’ve never been part of a troupe of improvisers.
Scrooged (1988)—“Ghost Of Christmas Present”
CK: Again, too much fun! [Laughs.] I have been forced to have way too much fun in my life! I mean, I got to fly around and act with Bill Murray! It’s a dream! And Dick Donner gave me a tremendous amount of support and freedom. And J. Michael Riva, who designed the sets, he was the one that convinced Dick Donner that I shouldn’t have a ballet double, that I should do my own ballet dance in the beginning. Because he came to watch me do it in rehearsal, and I thought I was doing such a good job. But it was so bad. [Laughs.] And it made him laugh so hard to see me trying to be good! He said to Dick, “We have to use her. She’s doing it.” Which I thought was because I was pretty good. But no, it’s because I was horrible!
AVC: When we talked to Joel Murray for this feature, he was on the set that day, and he said, “it was fun watching Carol Kane almost take his nose off with a toaster repeatedly. It was frightening how close she came—time after time after time—to killing him.”
CK: Oh, my gosh. How fascinating! Well, I did the best I could, let me put it that way. [Laughs.] I love Billy’s face. I wouldn’t hurt it!
22 of Carol Kane’s 143 roles
Mike Nichols Carnal Knowledge (1971)
‘Carnal Knowledge is about sex. No, actually, that’s not entirely right. Carnal Knowledge is really about sex without relationships, and sex without eroticism—these are the subjects of Jules Feiffer’s screenplay, and all that the four main characters, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, and Ann-Margret, ever interact over. In 1971, when the newly liberated cinema was reveling in idyllic coital and near-coital interludes, Carnal Knowledge was an incredibly daring, prophetic, successful and controversial film, no mean feat when one considers that both A Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs were in release that same year. Those movies stirred widespread debate about violence, but Mike Nichols hit closer to home with Carnal Knowledge. It upset people about their lives, loves, and lovers—women hated it and Carnal Knowledge made men more defensive about sexuality than any movie in memory.The movie’s success was reminiscent of Nichols’ The Graduate, on a more sophisticated level. Indeed, Carnal Knowledge owed something to the earlier film—Jules Feiffer’s script seemed to draw from a single, haunting nuance of The Graduate’s final scene: Ben and Elaine, united and riding off together, their expressions suffused with agonizing loneliness and doubt. If The Graduate encapsulated the sexual ethos of the 1960s, Carnal Knowledge was a film for the 1970s, the rude awakening following sexual awakening.In place of Ben Braddock, Carnal Knowledge gives us Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and Sandy (Art Garfunkel), two Amherst students from the 1940s, whose sexual exploits and ineptitudes mask deeper problems: Jonathan’s inability to relate to women as anything other than sex objects, and Sandy’s incapability of relating to women on anything other than an intellectual level. Into their midst comes Susan (Candice Bergen), a coed who fulfills their limited but ferocious sexual needs and eventually marries Sandy. Twenty years go by, and Sandy is divorced, while Jonathan marries Bobbie (Ann-Margret), an actress whose sole attraction for him is physical. Ultimately, Sandy is left with a teenaged companion (Carol Kane) with whom he can barely communicate, while Jonathan finds solace in reviewing his conquests in between trysts with a prostitute (Rita Moreno), finally arriving at a self-deriding conclusion about life and love: “Maybe schmuckdom is what you need to stay young and open.” Nichols’ treatment of the script is stagey, but also extremely cinematic.’ — Bruce Eder
Hal Ashby The Last Detail (1973)
‘The Last Detail is unsentimental and spiked with a disconcertingly bleak sense of humor; it’s ultimately about two worker bees who elect to cover their own asses rather than stick their neck out for a potential systematic casualty. The film has an engagingly profane, scruffy looseness, a hallmark of Hal Ashby and screenwriter Robert Towne’s careers, that undermines the conventions of the narrative. Every major scene goes on longer than one expects, and often to considerable effect. Moments that find the three men sitting in a cheap hotel room talking pussy and drinking themselves into oblivion are initially funny, but they go on long enough to reveal, without fuss, the loneliness and quiet despair that often fuels such encounters. And an interlude between Meadows and a whore (Carol Kane) is unforgettable—one of American cinema’s great tender scenes of sexual disillusionment.’ — Slant Magazine
Sidney Lumet Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
‘”Dog Day Afternoon” runs a little longer than the average feature, and you think maybe they could have cut an opening montage of life in New York. But no. These shots, stolen from reality, establish a bedrock for the film. It’s “naturalistic,” says the director, Sidney Lumet. I think he means it has the pace and feel of everyday life. When you begin with the story of a man who sticks up a bank to finance his lover’s sex change, when you have a situation that has attracted hundreds of cops and millions of TV viewers, you run the risk of making a side show. “Dog Day Afternoon” never makes that mistake. The characters are all believable, sympathetic, convincing. We care for them. In a film about cops and robbers, there are no bad guys. Just people trying to get through a summer afternoon that has taken a strange turn. It’s an actor’s picture. Lumet and his editor, Dede Allen, take the time to allow the actors to live within the characters; we forget we’re watching performances. Although the movie contains tragedy and the potential for greater tragedy, it is also tremendously funny. But Frank Pierson’s Oscar-winning screenplay never pauses for a laugh; the laughter grows organically out of people and situations. You can believe that even with hostages taken and firearms being waved around, such elements of human comedy would nevertheless arise.’ — Roger Ebert
Woody Allen Annie Hall (1977)
‘In the world of Woody Allen fims, Annie Hall features the most convincing delusions about love. Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) seem to make each other happy for quite some time, until they each become unhappy and merely try to convince the other things are still fine. We are told that Alvy is good for Annie, that she wouldn’t have had the courage to become a singer without his help, that she wouldn’t have learned to stand up for herself without his urging her to go to a therapist. We are shown that Annie is good for Alvy, because he gets to have sex with Diane Keaton, because he has a companion who will go along to anything he finds interesting, because he can say awful things and she will mostly just smile and maybe snap something back that’s not as mean. Wait, this is a romantic comedy? In many ways, Annie Hall is an art film that plays like a crowd pleaser. Allen’s self-deprecating jokes, the public displays of thematic affection (books on death, the doofus in the movie line going on about unity of form and structure, the short statements of intention and summary at the beginning and end), and the all-around likeability of Keaton’s Annie make Allen’s use of long, deep shots, his manipulation of time and space, his breaking of the fourth wall go down easy with people who have barely heard of Bergman or Fellini. I would guess that’s the reason he won the Academy Award, because he snared voters from multiple camps (and because nobody had any idea that Star Wars would become so influential on the rest of film history).’ — Steve Pick, Pop Matters
Gene Wilder The World’s Greatest Lover (1977)
‘Gene Wilder’s new movie, “The World’s Greatest Lover,” his second venture as star, director and writer, is not very clever at all. Quite the antithesis. Wilder demonstrated more finesse and awareness of how to exploit the strong points in his comic “sherlock Holmes” personality. The prevailing tone of “Lover” is shrill wretched excess, in both slap-stick and sentimental passages. It’s closer to the sort of thing Marty Feldman did in “The Last Remake of Beau Geste” and that one might have expected in Wilder’s first feature, when he was coming straight from a collaboration with Mel Brooks .Wilder stiffs his new movie with smut filched from the Brooks cupboard. He also exercises his tongue, eyes and facial muscles so frenetically that he begins to resemble Feldman.’ — WaPo
Karen Arthur The Mafu Cage (1978)
‘I’ve watched the 1977 Karen Arthur movie The Mafu Cage about a half dozen times since it was reissued on DVD late last year, and I still don’t know what the fuck a Mafu is. I believe it is the name Carol Kane’s Cissy character gives to all of the creatures she keeps in a cage in her house and eventually murders because she doesn’t like being touched. These creatures are usually apes but sometimes humans. Oh, and she doesn’t always dislike being touched: she actually enjoys being touched by her sister, who she has sex with, except when she does that, she does most of the touching. This movie is so fucking weird!’ — four four.typepad
Fred Walton When a Stranger Calls (1979)
‘Perhaps the single most influential piece of media about movies that I saw growing up was an episode of the original Siskel/Ebert review show “Sneak Previews.” It was about the horror movies of the late 70s, and the point of the episode was pretty much to say modern horror, in the form of the slasher movie, was morally reprehensible and misogynist. Of all the scenes they showed – including a chunk of the climax of Halloween, with Jamie Lee Curtis hiding from Michael Myers in a closet which I later created an homage to in my first feature, The Pact – the most powerful clip I witnessed was from the opening of When A Stranger Calls (1979). This was, of course, the now-famous set piece where babysitter Carol Kane is repeatedly called on her land line by a mysterious voice that says “Have you checked the children?” until the cops ring her up to say they’ve traced the call, and – “it’s coming from inside the house!” The show cut out of the clip after Kane hears the line and went back to Ebert, who dismissed film as garbage. Still, I had never been so frightened by something; this seemed like the scariest movie ever. It was years before I was able to see the whole film, when I was old enough to rent it on tape (and watch it on a VCR I had saved up the money to buy, ironically, by babysitting). What was revealed to me was that after When A Stranger Calls’ frightening prologue, the film turned into a character study of a tormented psychopath, hunted by a depressed ex-cop, played by Charles Durning. At age 16 I didn’t find any of this interesting. I was hungry for something else, something more visceral or unusual that could excite me. And so I moved on.’ — Devin Faraci
the entire film
Catherine Binet Les jeux de la Comtesse Dolingen de Gratz (1981)
‘This complex and puzzling French drama walks the fine wavering line between the fictional and the very real as it tells the tale of a strangely erotic event in the life of a little girl and the musings of a schizophrenic woman. Also involved is an enigmatic spouse who prepares a surprise for a burglar.’ — Sandra Brennan
Richard Foreman Strong Medicine (1981)
‘Here is the entire film adaptation of Richard Foreman’s Strong Medicine. The New York Times review claims the film format, in contrast to seeing it in theater, depreciates the value of the work. I haven’t seen the play performed under the lights, but critic Vincent Canby seems unable to make the modal shift necessary to appreciate how the work succeeds on film. Where he finds the camera diminishes the apparently naturalistic tendencies of the play, I see an added dimension of voyeurism into the mind of a somewhat paranoid-narcissist, Rhoda, who, if we’re to impose a somewhat feminist critique on her character, we might say that she is being driven insane by her husband and male society. Dangerous to do that, though, because absurdity trumps social criticism in Strong Medicine. Canby writes, “The camera is not kind to this sort of theatrical enterprise. The chorus of middle-aged, middle-class harpies, who repeatedly cry out ”Jesus Christ, my feet hurt,” evoke not an elevated kind of lunacy but appear to be, under the camera’s close scrutiny, simply a group of actresses behaving peculiarly. It’s difficult to respond to Rhoda’s high anxieties, because one is always conscious of the placement of the performers, their relation to the camera, their makeup, their carefully choreographed movements and a number of notso-startling juxtapositions of bizarre images and sounds. Something obviously is going on in Mr. Foreman’s mind, but the film stands like an invisible shield between the event and the audience.” To the contrary, the camera is anything but invisible, as Rhoda and several other characters address it directly on multiple occasions throughout this hysterical nightmare.’ — DECAYKE
the entire film
Alfred Sole Pandemonium (1982)
‘Slasher movies are the target of this PG-rated horror spoof influenced as much by AIRPLANE! as FRIDAY THE 13TH. It isn’t all that scary or funny, but it has its moments of wit and cleverness, and the eclectic cast, including comedy stars then and soon to be famous, makes it worth seeing once. Two decades after the cheerleading squad at her school were skewered on a javelin by a killer who was never caught, unpopular girl Candy Azzara (FATSO) opens a cheerleading camp on campus. More murders ensue, while Mountie Tommy Smothers (SILVER BEARS) and his deputy Paul Reubens (PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE) look for a pair of escaped killers. The jokes credited to writers Jaime Klein and Richard Whitley (ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) come fast and furious. Some are real dogs, some are cute, a few are extremely funny, just as you’d expect. Some might have worked better if directed by someone experienced in comedy, which Alfred Sole (ALICE, SWEET ALICE) was not.’ — Marty McKee
Danford B. Greene The Secret Diary of Sigmund Freud (1984)
‘Supposedly focusing on the life of Sigmund Freud by means of a fictional secret diary, this attempt at satirizing the man from his childhood through his first forays into psychoanalysis is weak on laughter, especially since it is difficult to tell whether a scene is serious or not. Freud (Bud Cort) is portrayed as being too nauseated by blood and physical anatomy to make it through medical school, and because he misunderstands what practicing medicine is all about, he accidentally starts psychoanalyzing his patients. His Ultimate Patient (Dick Shawn) provides him with the theories that would make him famous. Presented as a series of nearly disconnected vignettes, this story about the relationships between Freud and a nurse (Carol Kane), and his mother (Caroll Baker) and a doctor, are meant to be funny, but are not quite.’ — Rotten Tomatoes
Elaine May Ishtar (1987)
‘Ishtar has been described as a hat tip to the old Hope and Crosby Paramount Road To… pictures from the 1940’s. They weren’t funny either, but at least they had the good sense to be shot on a set and let their actors wink at the audience. Ishtar is shot on location by Vittorio Storaro and pitched to the viewer as an actual plot, not a series of jokes. The location shooting was costly, especially when (rumor has it) the director flew in steamrollers to flatten the desert where she was shooting. Ishtar cost $55 million dollars to make, which wouldn’t turn a head nowadays, but the percentage of cost it recouped would send those same heads into Exorcist mode.’ — Odie Henderson
Rob Reiner The Princess Bride (1987)
‘In case there is someone left who has never seen it, the 1987 fantasy film follows the swashbuckling adventures of the farmhand-cum-pirate Westley (Cary Elwes) and his true love, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). Along the way they encounter all sorts of unforgettable characters like revenge-driven swordsman, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), gentle giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and loquacious gang boss Vizzini (Wallace Shawn). But it is Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max, onscreen for less than five minutes, who has become one of the favorite characters of all. It should also be noted that Max’s scenes would not have been half as memorable and funny were it not for actress Carol Kane who played opposite Crystal as his shrieking harridan of a wife, Valerie. Nearly unrecognizable under her prosthetics, Kane held her own against Crystal’s onslaught. In a movie brimming with catchphrases (“as you wish,” “you killed my father, prepare to die,” etc.), the real miracle behind Miracle Max is that he is remembered at all.’ — Eric Grundhauser
Richard Donner Scrooged (1988)
‘Carol Kane’s ghost of Christmas present is an adorable, volatile version of what Glinda the Good Witch on adderall would be like. Her teaching specialty involves aggressive acts to help Frank understand the countless errors in his ways.Sometimes you have to SLAP people in the face to get their attention! “The bitch hit me with a toaster!“ There’s a heartwarming scene when the ghost of Christmas present takes Frank to his secretary’s house who lives a frugal existence as a single mother. Grace’s long hours endured at IBM are at Frank’s expense (IF I HAVE TO WORK LATE, YOU HAVE TO WORK LATE!) has caused her to be home less for her family. Grace’s son Calvin, the tiny Tim of the film, who has been mute since witnessing the murder of his father five years prior, strikes a chord with Frank who promises to give Grace a raise.’ — Courtney Young
Franco Amurri Flashback (1990)
‘About 30 minutes before it’s over, “Flashback” begins to go to pieces, like someone who has overdosed on carrot juice and organic marzipan. The movie becomes woozy and sort of distraught. Until then, it’s an engaging comedy about the confrontation of a superannuated flower child of the 1960’s and a 26-year-old representative of the clean-shaven, cholesterol-conscious, fiercely conservative 1980’s. “Flashback” comes out of nowhere, being the first American film by Franco Amurri, an Italian director who began as one of Federico Fellini’s assistants on “City of Women.”‘ — Vincent Canby
Bud Cort Ted & Venus (1991)
‘Touchingly, Bud Cort, whose directorial debut this was, dedicated it to three of the main creative forces who accompanied him in his Harold and Maude breakthrough role, and in some ways Ted and Venus could be seen as the flipside to that film, with its ageing anti-hero besotted with a younger woman who in this case does not share his enthusiasm. Cort also co-scripted with Paul Ciotti, and this low budget effort strikes a strange chord, unsure of whether it is a period drama (it’s set in 1974), a lovelorn comedy or an all out stalker thriller.’ — The Spinning Image
Alexandre Rockwell In the Soup (1992)
‘A semi-autobiographical black comedy from writer-director Alexandre Rockwell, IN THE SOUP is a wry and biting yarn highlighted by a cast of quirky characters and an outlandish and twisting plot line. The film would have been better served by eliminating a few of the ideas which may have worked in the screenplay but don’t in the final print. The sequence with the ape and the midget, while sardonic enough in tone and a slap at gangster films, seems silly and out of place. The dramatic ending also has been seen before in other shapes and forms and could have been strengthened. Overall though, IN THE SOUP is consistently winning and uniquely eccentric.’ — Profanity
Gus Van Sant Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)
‘Gus Van Sant recut Even Cowgirls Get the Blues at his own expense after audiences were less than enthusiastic at the Venice and Toronto film festivals last fall, and he has certainly improved his loving adaptation of the book. The running time is more or less the same, but the pacing is better and the story line much easier to follow, and the added narration by Robbins himself gives the whole thing a more amiable flow. As one of the few people who felt more sympathetic than not to the original version, I still have to confess that Van Sant’s fourth feature remains a notch or so below his first (Mala Noche), his second (Drugstore Cowboy), and his third (My Own Private Idaho). But a lesser work by Gus Van Sant is still immensely superior to a major work by roughly 90 percent of the directors working in Hollywood at the moment, so there’s nothing at all disgraceful about what he’s done — and a lot that’s funny and entertaining. Yet how you respond will probably have as much to do with how you feel about the material he’s chosen as with what he’s done with it.’ — Jonathan Rosenbaum
Barry Sonnenfeld Addams Family Values (1993)
‘It’s a nasty, funny, mock-misanthropic show done in a grandiosely overscaled style that suggests a crack TV commercial crew trying to imitate the horror movies of James Whale, the spook-cartoons of Tim Burton and the elegant comedies of, say, Ernst Lubitsch. Addams’ sardonic magazine cartoons-with their tongue-in-skull-cheek vision of an upscale family of witches, Frankenstein monsters, vampiresses, evil bald little men and maniac children all settled down in a quaintly haunted house somewhere in New England suburbia-had their own dry, wry, high style. Playfully macabre, they suggested that the blood-freezing beasties of the ’30s Universal horror movies would, if they lived together, have typical “family” problems. Graveyard etiquette. Cauldron cookery. Vulture control. Disembodied hands romping like puppies.’ — Michael Wilmington
Steve Buscemi Trees Lounge (1996)
‘You only get to say it once so here it is: Trees Lounge is the best film about drinking I have ever seen. I’m not alone in my alcoholism or in my fondness for the film. The dean of American film critics, Roger Ebert, himself a recovering alcoholic, called Steve Buscemi’s directorial debut “the most accurate portrait of the daily saloon drinker I have ever seen.” The plot is simple: Tommy is an unemployed auto mechanic who has been recently fired for stealing money from his boss. He spends his days and nights at Trees Lounge, drinking and repeating jokes and trying to pick up women using nefarious tactics. When he can afford it, which is not often, he snorts blow. He tells himself and anyone who will listen that he could stop drinking, if ____. He doesn’t give himself many reasons to stop drinking over the course of the movie, but he does provide myriad reasons to continue. He drinks to be with his friends. He drinks to lower his inhibitions and meet women. He drinks to remember and he drinks to forget.’ — Danny Lindsay
Cindy Sherman Office Killer (1997)
‘Office Killer, by first-time director and photographer Cindy Sherman, impresses more than perhaps it should, thanks mostly to its ingenious blend of high power dramatics, macabre humor, and a new twist or two on a time-worn formula. What compensates for the basic amateurishness of this movie is a brilliant performance by Carol Kane as the deranged Dorine Douglas and several harrowingly suspenseful murder sequences that leave audiences grabbing for their seats. Add an atypical ending, avoiding the easy cliché of the tagged-on-moral-to-the-story, and you have the characteristics of a fresh outlook on the much-exploited slasher/thriller genre, familiar to audiences since Hitchcock’s days, but this time with a woman performing the killings. The comic touches add a dimension of irony and paradox to the revolting sights of random slaughter and decomposing bodies, intensifying an awareness of madness loosened upon innocent bystanders.’ — Senses of Cinema
Darren Stein Jawbreaker (1999)
‘Three of the most popular girls at Reagan High accidentally kill the prom queen with a jawbreaker when a kidnapping goes horribly wrong.’ — IMDb
p.s. Hey. Early tomorrow morning I’m taking a train to the city of Grenoble where I’ll be working with Gisele Vienne on her/our new dance piece ‘Crowd’ for a couple of days, so there won’t be a p.s. tomorrow. I should be able to do the p.s. on Saturday, so I’ll see you again then. ** Armando, Hi. Oh, I seem to have missed it yesterday. Weird timing issue, I guess. Glad you dug the giant insects thing. You’re not a Lynch fan then, I see. Well, you know I love ‘Knight of Cups’, and I do think that people who think it’s bad simply don’t get it. I like ‘Towering Inferno’ okay. I don’t think it holds a candle to the Korean skyscraper disaster movie ‘The Tower’ though, not that judging things by comparisons valid. Hm, I don’t know why ‘Recollections … ‘ is my fave R-G, or I would probably have to think for a while about why. ‘Your second favorite McCarthy and Pynchon???’: You mean what are second favorite novels by them? If so, uh, ‘Child of God’ and, mm, maybe ‘Mason and Dixon’. ‘In Their Arms’ is great, yeah. I did read ‘Blue Nights, yes. Haven’t read the new one, no. Man, I hope you feel better about writing and about everything. Michael’s good, busy with art and his new kiddo. Haven’t seen ‘The Childhood Of A Leader’ yet. I’m mostly interested in the Walker score and how it’s used. Uh, I’ll have to think about the favorite Westerns question. Nothing quickly springs to mind. You take care too, A! ** H, Hi. I think we might finish the editing today, but I’m not absolutely sure about that. I’d like to read ‘Park’ again. It’s my second favorite Sollers. I can only read literature in English, so, no, I haven’t read the Duvert before. ** Dooflow, Hi there, Dooflow! Always a true pleasure to see you! I don’t think we’ve discussed Pynchon of late. Wonderful idea, though. Cool, my two favorite Pynchons are ‘Against the Day’ and ‘Mason and Dixon’ too. High five! ** Bernard, Hey, B. Oh, shit, you’re about to leave! I’m not sure if I’ll get to see you since I train early tomorrow morning to Grenoble, get back in Paris in the early afternoon on Sunday. Will you be gone by then? Shit. I’ll text you from the editing room today. Nice if no surprise ultimately about Chrystel and you. Yes! Oh, that’s the ‘Drumming’ thing with choreography by Keersmaker, isn’t it? Choreographing to ‘Drumming’ seems like an awfully extraneous idea, but, when Keersmaker is ‘on’, she’s quite great, and I’ll be very curious to hear how it is. Chat with you a little later. ** David Ehrenstein, I thought about that too. ** Steevee, Hi, Hm, well, everything in film refers to something real, even Winnie the Pooh. I guess I think the fact that filmmakers whose work explores the sex/violence axis with some degree of explicitness are held to a different standard than filmmakers whose work depicts war or other difficult things is absurd. Back in the ‘Frisk’ days, guys would write to me or come up to me to ask where they could snuff films or get child porn, which was weird, but I never for one second thought my work was responsible for that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people fantasizing objectionably together, but, obviously, the slave posts, etc. I wish I could have seen the Grandrieux dialogue you describe. I think work finds its audience naturally. I’ve always been very grateful that my stuff never blew up like Bret’s work, and especially ‘American Psycho’, did, but then I think he, and especially his publisher, were angling for the largest possible audience. I don’t know that I’m ‘sanguine’ about that, and I didn’t say depictions of things bear no resemblance to real things. I just wish people were more thoughtful about the difference between things and their resemblance and about the differences between different kinds and levels of resemblance. ** Dóra Grőber, I looked at some pics of Szentendre, and it does look quite beautiful. And it’s very cool to have a mental image now of where you are. Exciting, exciting about your writing and proofing and your super-tenable excitement! The two people we showed the film to really loved it and totally understood it, so Zac and I are very happy. They had a few tiny editing questions, so we’re going to watch the film again this morning and see if we agree or not. Our producer suddenly decided that he wants one more person to see the film before he signs off on it, and we’re a bit irritated by that, but one more person is going to watch it in the next day or so. My day was pretty good what with the great feedback. We did a little fiddling with the edit. Then we met up with Golden Fur to work on our performance/music collaboration. I haven’t been sleeping that great the last couple of nights for some reason, so I just zoned out and crashed after that. But it was quite a good day. How was yours? ** Schoolboyerrors, Hey, hey, hey, D! Thanks, man. Yeah, I think Zac and I will have most of August off, but I don’t know what I’ll do with the time yet. Probably work on the other projects that I’m in the middle of. Yes, see you in SF if not before! Bunches of love, Dennis. ** Alistair, Thanks, A! Yeah, we’re super happy about the film. It seems like you are and will be using your off time quite beautifully, very cool. I want to watch those docs you mentioned. Hm, I’ll look for them. Say hi to Tim for me, and love to you! ** Misanthrope, Me too. It’s true for me too that the people I’ve met and become friends with after knowing them first on the blog have been as excellent as imagined. Interesting. Bon day! ** S., You too. I’m almost totally a mystery to myself too, it’s weird. New story, superb! I want to see ‘John Wick 2’. I missed it. Stay awesome! ** Okay. Today I decided to devote a day to the kind of wondrous character actor Carol Kane, and I hope you end up feeling glad that I did. As stated above, you’ll get a post with no p.s. tomorrow, but almost for sure a p.s.-plus on Saturday. Take care until then.