Wednesday, June 25, 2008


(Recent Photograph of Dubai City Skyline)

Dubai City -- the fastest growing metropolis on earth, with reportedly 1/5 of the world's construction cranes currently at work in a minuscule area consisting of only 35 square kilometers in size.

Dubai City -- the most obvious symbol of the unfathomable growth of Arab wealth in today's new world order. Pretty amazing, and, at the same time, pretty damn frustrating.

Needtovent briefly wondered if there exists anywhere in the Western world a location where both the standard of living and the feeling of unbridled optimism is keeping pace.

Not a chance.

Want proof? We still don't have a single, solitary building crane at the World Trade Center site which remains a defeated and desolate scar on the Big Apple landscape. Like much of the Big Easy, both are symbols of unacceptable American apathy awaiting a real commitment to rebuild. To restore. To revitalize.

It's pathetic.

And while all of the blame needs to go no further than to our elected officials and, indeed, to our own lack of individual resolve, one cannot help but secretly wish the photo above wasn't that of early morning fog...

...but that of Mustard Gas.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AFI's 10 TOP 10

The Boy Scouts do it. Oh yes they do -- don't you dare try to deny it as this "activity" is one of several indelible memories I still carry with me from my indentured years serving as one of America's Brown Shirts.

Apparently, the Duke Lacrosse team does it as well -- one silver spoonful at a time.

And then there's Hollywood -- where it is done bigger, better, far more often and without the need of a campfire or a crack-laden whore. What's more, Hollywood folks do it publicly as adults -- it's pretty damn shameful, even by standards.

I'm talking, of course, about the time honored tradition of "The Circle Jerk."

The most recent in a long line of American Film Institute "Specials" is just the latest "Circle Jerk" to air on national television. AFI's 10 Top 10 is perhaps the most pathetic in a series of shows by Executive Producers Frederick S. Pierce and Dann Netter and Directed by Gary Smith -- the Tri-Lateral Commissioners of Petty Self-Aggrandizement. Unfortunately, these AFI "Top Ten" and "Top 100" broadcasts have been a yearly staple of insider hype and hoopla since 1998.

I say enough already...

The 2008 edition is the eleventh in the series, and it, too, is more pretentious than a Phil Jackson press conference. Ten genres were selected, comprising Animation, Fantasy, Gangster, Science Fiction, Westerns, Sports, Mystery, Romantic Comedy, Courtroom Drama and Epic. Seems funny that War films were somehow overlooked, same with Action/Adventure, Horror, Musicals, Film Noir, and, especially shortsighted and grievous, the total lack of any films outside of the established American studio system -- although I admit I'm a bit confused by the inclusion of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE which was far more of a U.K. production than a U.S. one.

Consider this: Just one year ago the AFI announced the "The Greatest Movies Of All Time" during it's 10th Anniversary Program. Number 1 on this list was CITIZEN KANE. Number 2 was CASABLANCA, followed by SUNSET BOULEVARD at Number 3.

Guess what -- none of these three appeared in this year's AFI's 10 Top 10. None. How can that be? Three seemingly endless hours and CITIZEN KANE, last year's "Greatest Movie Of All Time," is not even mentioned? Also missing were #20 ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, #26 DR. STRANGELOVE, #29 MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and #30 THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE. To quote Vizzini from THE PRINCESS BRIDE: Inconceivable!

Clearly nothing more than a "good ol' boy" network of epic proportions, the AFI is the only cinematic organization I can think of that is more shallow than a Kosovo grave.


Monday, June 16, 2008



This film's subject matter is about as depraved and decadent as any in motion picture screen history. This naturally makes TEETH something we at Needtovent couldn't wait to see and comment upon. Be advised, however, that we fully understand that a certain segment of society should not read any further. Consider yourself warned...

(There is simply no explanation why this long-shot of a nuclear power plant appears forty-seven times in this movie...)

Not since the Comet Kohoutek has there been such disappointment. A motion picture based upon the multi-cultural, age-old folklore myth of vagina dentata has to be the best "high concept" idea since SNAKES ON A PLANE. (For those of you in the dark, dentata is Latin for "teeth"). As a filmmaker myself, I have to admit that the minute I heard a movie was being made with this as its underlying premise I found the idea growing on me faster than a Serbian nose hair.

After all, how hard can this be -- just get a can or two of cocktail wieners, some Heinz 57 and a throbbing music score and you have a certifiable, can't miss, cinematic cult classic. Admittedly the title could be better -- Needtovent's very own Jerry L. Nelson suggested PENIS FLYTRAP as an example -- but such a small detail surely would not harm the box office bonanza awaiting Writer/Director Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of Roy, the prolific painter who pioneered "pop art."

Heck, I can even envision the pitch Mitch made to the producers -- it had to go something along the lines of "JAWS meets CHATTERBOX." For those of you unfamiliar with CHATTERBOX, this was a most enjoyable little indy flick released in 1977 that featured a talking cunt -- and I ain't referring to Roseanne Barr. If you haven't seen CHATTERBOX, please do your best to do so -- it is arguably one of the most memorable talkies since THE JAZZ SINGER.

The same cannot be said for TEETH, quite possibly the worst first-date movie ever -- and for more reasons than the obvious.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this failed film is a screenplay that is so limp the entire world's supply of salt peter had to factor in. Part black comedy, part surrealism, part B-grade horror, part allegory, this campy, quasi-feminist fable has more parts than a space shuttle. And like the Columbia, these parts are disasterously scattered beyond recognition.

Jess Weixler is quite good as a rather cute, angst-ridden high school girl confronting her own sexuality, winning the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2007 for what Mr. Redford called "a juicy and jaw-dropping performance." She's by far the best thing in the movie. Unfortunately, one of Needtovent's all-time favorite thespians, Lenny Von Dohlen, is wasted as the father. The same can be said for all of the other actors, including John Hensley, of NIP/TUCK fame, who gets both -- nipped and tucked -- in a sullen portrayal of Jess' lascivious step-brother. So do two other "dicks" and one overly aggressive OB/GYN, although in his case it is four fingers and not Mr. Red Top that hits the floor.

When the end credits mercifully appear they proudly proclaim that "No men were harmed in the making of this film." The same cannot be said for seven of Hormel's finest.

"I think it was the sausage."
(George A. Hormel)

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Review by Jerry L. Nelson

Not since Christmas when I was ten years old have I been filled with as much much glee…as much excitement as any young boy from South Central Texas can be when he is anticipating getting his very own .22 caliber rifle. I would be the master of the family farm. There would not be a rabbit safe from Dead Eye Dick. I would bring down droves of doves on the wing. Had there been a moose in my yard, it, too, would have fallen prey to my hunting prowess. I watched my father carry in a long, slender, wrapped package and place it under the tree some days before the big event. Ralphie had nothing on me for this was to be my best Christmas ever. Alas, the only thing that rained downed from the skies were the tears of my disappointment, for the package I so hoped would be mine went, instead, to my mother. What on earth did she want with a .22? Well, it turned out to be a knitting machine. My mother loved to knit and my father thought he was doing her a favor in getting her the latest design on the market to speed her along. Oh brother, did he blow it, big time. You see, my mother liked to knit for the sheer pleasure of the act itself…needles click-clacking away. Any by-product in the form of sweaters, socks, mittens and scarves that emerged as a result of her pleasurable relaxation was looked on by her as a plus…and believe me, we had our share of pluses. There is still one hanging in my closet today, nearly fifty years later. That knitting machine sat in a closet for nearly thirty years, used only once until sold at a garage sale where the knitter netted maybe twenty dollars. Sorry Pops, you would have done better had you bought me the .22 I hoped for. But I digress.

Once again, I was filled with anticipation…glee…excitement; for I was in Bulverde, Texas and was about to dine at a restaurant cheffed by a real CIA graduate. Chef/Owner Scott Dunlap and his lovely companion, Mia Phouvanh, are the proprietors of the Vintage Wine and Coffee Bar located at 2295-3 Bulverde Road about one mile west of U. S. 281. Chef Scott has been the owner of the Vintage, a local landmark, for some months now and by this point should have turned the menu into his signature. I felt like Herbert Lom in “Return of the Pink Panther”. I was beginning to twitch with giddiness. What delights awaited me and Friend? What refinement was lurking just beneath the napkins? Oh, would the residents of the area no longer be forced to drive all the way into San Antonio to get something more than chicken fried steak.

Friend and I got there early, not wanting to miss out on one second of dining ecstasy. Mai greeted us warmly as we entered. The interior is a mix of styles from the South American Coffee sacks that hang from the rafters to walls spotted with photos of stars and starlets from years, no, make that generations past…and it works. Add to this the rustic tub chairs at many of the tables and you settle in comfortably where you are served by a very friendly “Charity”. She is bright and full of smiles for the evening, even when you can’t make up your mind.

Friend and I opted for a small cheese tray for two as an appetizer with added sausage ($15 with the sausage, $12 without.) Let me go on record right now…this is deception at its worst. This tray could easily feed four or five. The cheeses, gruyere, blue, goat with pine nuts and parsley and a brie were very pleasant…the accompanying grapes and olives added to the flavor explosion. There was plenty to go around. The only drawback is the bread he chooses to serve. For this offering, a crusty bagget would be better received…but, overall, very nice. Add to the cheese tray a very nice Sauvignon Blanc for me and a Cotes du’ Rhone for Friend and we were off to a great start. Decision time. What were we going to have for the entrée?

I spotted the special on the chalk board as we entered earlier…a three cheese tortellini with chicken and smoked duck in a basil cream sauce plus dessert for $22…a fair deal. Friend was hankerin’ for some chicken and selected the grilled chicken breast with roasted veggies ($18), a dish that is becoming rather standard in restaurants these days…still a good choice. But first I had to have a bowl of the Broccoli Cream soup. Now it was explained to me by Charity this was not the thick, creamy style but more on the broth side in regard to viscosity. It was a hit. Just the right “soupiness” and the flavor was spot on although the texture of the broccoli just crossed the line regarding mushiness. Friend had the house salad dressed with Balsamic and commented on the “rightness” of the dressing job…not something every place gets right. This one did.

We should have stopped right there.

I was told, after asking, the Vintage does not make their own tortellini, rather “someone else” makes it for them. This should have been a clue. I could do as well with the dried product available at the local market. Perhaps that’s where he got it, or from his food service company. The “three” cheeses did nothing for the flavor and the pasta texture was overly tough, as was his mushroom ravioli tried on a previous visit. That one, Mai informed me, was made on site. (You may think it not fair to impart my opinion on the ravioli since we didn’t have it this visit but it simply was not good when I did order it and I feel the need to pass it on). Chicken chunks are chicken chunks and were acceptable. The smoked duck reminded me of nothing more than smoked ham and had the same texture…as well as being very dry. On the entire, this dish reminded me of a very average Pasta Carbanara with not enough of the Basil Cream sauce…a major disappointment by one from the CIA. I could have had a better dish from Johnny Carino’s.

Friend’s grilled chicken was nothing more than “griddled” chicken…the kind you get when you pound a breast out to insure even cooking and then place a heavy weight on it so it doesn’t curl while on the griddle…not a grill mark in sight, plus it was dry, not moist as he was assured it would be, one of the reasons Friend ordered it. George Foreman could have done a better job. He did like the four snow peas that came with it, though…but that’s about it.

Time for dessert. I’m a key lime pie kind of guy and this offering did not disappoint. In fact, the filling was almost translucent in it’s nature and even Friend liked the “pucker” quotient. He was disappointed in what heating it a bit did to the graham crust…made it a bit soggy. I didn’t mind.

As I mentioned earlier, the price for my special was supposed to be $22 which included dessert. As it was, the items were separated out and I was charged individually for the entrée and the dessert…a difference of only one dollar more, but when an establishment lets little things like this get under the radar, what can the paying public expect when it comes to the more important issues?

On total for the evening, it can best be described as a “wash”. The major disappointment was that a graduate of the CIA has not yet really put his mark on his restaurant. The décor is left over from the previous owner and some of the menu items seem to be carryovers. The wine list is very good and the place does have a following among the locals. Scott came out front and greeted several tables as old friends. He never stopped by our table. It reminds me of that Christmas so long ago…enough good things to offset the disappointments…but that one great thing anticipated was just not there. Here’s hoping he finds that special something. I’m tired of driving to SA.

P.S. Dory, you’re next. I promise.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Talk about a grim, uncompromising assessment of humanity's place in the cruel circus of life. If it wasn't for Tyrone Power personally shepherding this disturbing project from start to finish it is safe to say that NIGHTMARE ALLEY, based on the gritty novel by William Lindsay Graham, would never have been made.

Fresh off his performance in THE RAZOR'S EDGE, Power was determined to undertake another role that would elevate his career from merely being thought of as the equivalent of cinematic eye candy. Power believed that he could deliver the performance of a lifetime portraying Stanton Carlisle, a simple down-and-out carnival miscreant who reaches the heights of respectable, tuxedo-attired, big-city showmanship, only to plunge back to the lowest depths of carney life. In this reviewer's opinion he succeeds. For the record, it is well documented that before tragically dying at the age of 45 Power felt the same way.

The three women in his life, Joan Blondell, the Tarot card reader who is as "reliable as a two-dollar coronet," Coleen Gray, the innocent, loving girlfriend/wife, and Helen Walker, the manipulative psychologist who out-cons the con man, collectively take Stanton Carlisle, and the audience, full circle. Notice I said "the audience" -- and it isn't just the on-screen audience that is being elaborately conned, it is the off-screen audience, you and me, that is being conned as well, in what can only be described as a subtle, but brilliantly conceived undercurrent that lies within this moody, malignant, magnificent melodrama.

Originally underpromoted by a nervous studio (Twentieth Century-Fox) and then "lost" for over 50 years due to a legal dispute regarding the ownership rights to the production, NIGHTMARE ALLEY has since acquired something of a cult following. This is due, in part, to two surprising thematic elements which elevate the compelling, neatly symmetrical fatalistic viewpoint which fans of film noir embrace. One is the film's attitude toward psychology as being nothing more than an elaborate scam, more sophisticated, perhaps, but no less manipulative than carnival showmanship. Prior to NIGHTMARE ALLEY, films, at least American films, treated the field of psychology with reverence. Just as cynical is the portrayal of religion, with what can only be called an insidious comparison between devout faith and misplaced credulity, between solemn sermonizing and a charasmatic's charlatanism.

And then there is the ending...

Carney #1: "How can a guy sink so low?"
Carney #2: "He reached too high."

Is there a more poetic, ironic, heart-rendering and devestating denouement in cinema history? One would be hard pressed to find one, the closest in recent times perhaps being found in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. (The very last line spoken -- "I'm finished..." -- chills to the bone.)

In the final analysis, it is a testament to Tyrone Power and the power of film that NIGHTMARE ALLEY remains a must-see over 60 years after it was originally released. Could there be something of an inner geek in us all?

Monday, June 02, 2008


In À rebours you will find these fevered imaginings about an image of Salome in a Moreau painting:

"No longer was she merely the dancing-girl who extorts a cry of lust and concupiscence from an old man by the lascivious contortions of her body; who breaks the will, masters the mind of a King by the spectacle of her quivering bosoms, heaving belly and tossing thighs; she was now revealed in a sense as the symbolic incarnation of world-old Vice, the goddess of immortal Hysteria, the Curse of Beauty supreme above all other beauties by the cataleptic spasm that stirs her flesh and steels her muscles - a monstrous Beast of the Apocalypse, indifferent, irresponsible, insensible, poisoning."

Ah yes, pretty poison -- and I'm not talking about the 1968 film starring Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins.

In case you are not familiar with À rebours, (translated into English as AGAINST THE GRAIN or AGAINST NATURE), it is a fairly famous novel written by Joris-Karl Huysmans that was first published in 1884. In fact, it is widely believed that this is the "poisonous French novel" that leads to the downfall of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde's THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

"Pretty poison" -- what's good enough for good old Dorian is good enough for me.

Which brings me to the recently released INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Surprisingly, super-star director Steven Spielberg missed an excellent opportunity to introduce a new, alluring, enduring femme fatale. At 5' 8 1/2," and with measurements reported to be 33-23-33, Cate Blanchett (as Agent Irina Spalko) certainly has the physical assets. Too bad they are totally hidden beneath the Cold War Ruskie fatigues she is forced to wear. What a waist (pun intended). In what is otherwise an extremely well-crafted motion picture blessed with first-rate art direction and production values, I simply find it disappointing that Agent Spalko, a ruthless, renegade Russian revanchist revolutionary won't be joining the ranks of the ravishing, rapacious reprobates immortalized on the silver screen.

For the record, Steven, I am referring to "mis-leading ladies" like:

Angelina Jolie's Captain Franky Cook. There's no exposed flesh here either, but the 5' 8" Jolie's 36C-27-36 frame couldn't look better. And as I said in my review for SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, seeing her with an eye-patch allows me to scratch off #67 on my "Things I Really Want To See Jolie Do Before I Die List." Dreams do come true.

And let's not forget the terrific "Teutonic Titwillow," Dyanne Thorne, as ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS. Like Ms. Jolie, Dyanne trained with Lee Strasberg where she (and her wardrobe mistress) obviously learned how to best show off her 37D-22-35 measurements. All that and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religion to boot.

Herr Spielberg, these are just two examples of what I am talking about; there are literally dozens more that come to mind. But I gotta run now, it's time for my daily spanking...