Tag Archives: Movies

The Ghost of My Dead Film Career

The Ghost of My Dead Film Career

Amargosa graveyard

What, with it being Halloween and all, I figured it was time for a little visit to the dark side. I mean the scary, ghostlike dark side, not the whole excessive body hair thing I usually dive into.

Like the time my sister and I came home from school and heard our dog, Sugar, whining. So we searched the house for her, thinking she got locked in a closet or something only to find out our parents had put Sugar to sleep earlier in the day. True story.

Or like the time I was making out in a parked car with my boyfriend and we heard a scratching on the car roof. We thought it was a tree limb but it turned out to be the disembodied arm of a murder victim whose fingernails were scratching the car.  Not a true story.

But this one is actually one of the true ones.

I’ve mentioned before the unfortunate decision I made years ago in going to the desert to film a movie with a lunatic.

There is a  special horror in being on the crew of a really bad movie. Some of you may have experienced this torture before and can attest to the exceptional pain and suffering involved.

We were filming in Death Valley Junction, CA which is an outcropping of mostly abandoned buildings in the middle of the desert with approximately 20 “living” inhabitants.  The only real attraction here, other than being the hottest place on earth, is the Amargosa Hotel and Opera House.

By the way, Amargosa comes from the Spanish word “bitter” (amargo). Don’t you love it when things line up so perfectly!

It was built in 1923 and was home to borate miners who worked for the Borax company for many years. It was abandoned eventually and almost disappeared into the graveyard of that desert but was saved by an eccentric dancer, Marta Becket, in the late ‘60s.

The hotel is famous not only for it’s Gloria Swanson-esque owner but because it is believed to be extremely haunted.

Some of the stories are of miners who lived in a section of the hotel, now abandoned, who haunt the halls of the area called “spooky hollow”.

Spooky Hollow

Spooky Hollow. Also looks a lot like the hallway in my first apartment.

Others are of a known hanging that occurred in one room that is now haunted by the unfortunate ghost of the man who died there.

And yet another story is that there is often the sound of a child crying when no children are in the hotel.

It’s owner is both a ballerina and an artist and covered every room and hallway in her unique 3-D style of art that only adds to the overall freakiness.

Sure, nothing creepy here….STOP LOOKING AT ME!

Fake headboard. Real air conditioner.

This fake armoire was in my room.

This room had a fake boa you could wear while listening to fake old timey music on your fake gramophone.

You can imagine my joy to find out we were staying in this haunted hotel during the shoot from hell. But really, I should not have expected anything else.

After a long, hot and dirty day of shooting we all checked into our rooms, showered, and hunkered down. I would guess I was asleep for an hour or two when I heard knocking on the door to my room.

I got up, opened it and there was no one there.

Assuming the dickhead sound guy who was staying in the room next to me was high and fucking with me, I cursed and went back to bed. I was just falling back to sleep when the knocking started again. Now I was pissed off and went to the door ready to tear his head off.

But again, no one was there. I looked down the hall in both directions and there was no one to be seen. At about the same time the sound guy next door clumsily unlocked and opened his door and stuck his sleepy head out.

“What the fuck. What do you want?” He said to me groggily. He had heard it as well but it was obvious he hadn’t done it.

Needless to say I did not get much sleep that night. It seemed every time I started to fall asleep I’d hear footsteps in the hallway, whispers or the knocking.

The next day most of the crew reported a similar night. One person said she decided to leave the light on in her bathroom but when she woke up in the middle of the night the light had been turned off.

All of this, of course, is totally explainable in some form or another. But, given the number of times guests tend to check out in the middle of the night, it does give you pause.

I was more than happy to be done with that shoot for many reasons. I was happy to hightail it back to civilization and away from the undead. And the ghosts were scary too.

And, I was ready to take a break from making crappy films. Maybe one day that break will be over….

Scenes From a Coffice

Scenes From a Coffice

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

Disheveled woman dressed in yoga pants and hoodie enters ramshackle coffee shop. It’s a slow-motion scene, reminiscent of a Scorsese film, as the Rolling Stones “Paint It Black” plays in the background.

I see them all looking at me slack-jawed, the citizenry of the Coffice. They watch as I find my favorite table next to a power strip and slowly, slowly reach into my computer bag. There is a collective gasp as they are all blinded by the sexy, shiny new MacBook Pro I unveil.

Oh, I know they have all been mocking me with my archaic and filthy old Toshiba. Undoubtedly taking bets behind my back on which super virus will be unleashed by my sticky keyboard.

But no, not today. Today I stun them with my firepower.

Put your single soy cappuccino away, little barista. You think you know me? You don’t know me. Give me a double espresso with a Jack Daniels back today, small purveyor of the bean.

Behold! On this magical contraption, I will become a famous writer – a national treasure the likes of which has not been seen since….uuummmm…..I suppose I should read more.

Yeah, so I got a new computer. And I have a bit of a hard on for it too.

I’ve been tied to the PC world for what feels like an eternity so getting to join the hip, young world of THE APPLE (said with reverb) is a better means of aging denial than getting a tattoo or a piercing….or hormone replacements.

Lest this turn into some Apple commercial (though, call me if anyone wants to do that) let me enlighten you on my insecurity about EVER being uncool.

I’ve always thought that I was a very cutting edge and hip person. My guess is that most people who are decidedly NOT cool think the same thing about themselves. So, trust me, I know I may well fall into this category.

Working in a Coffice is where you see the coolest people IN THE WORLD. They are unshaven, unwashed, hopped up on “the bean” but are working their stubby little fingers to the bone to do something spectacular.

If they didn’t believe this, they’d be sitting in an office cubicle with much better hygiene.

They are artists, entrepreneurs, writers, developers, and drug dealers who are working outside the system, thereby flipping off “the man”. I love these people down to the tips of their dreadlocks and feel like I am always trying to be worthy of their acceptance.

Let’s paint the scene of a REAL Coffice.

A true Coffice is an old gas station with a small Guatemalan in the back room roasting beans.

The baristas are only slightly higher than their clientele and can also give you a tattoo in the back by the bathrooms on their breaks.

The manager spins vinyl at local raves on weekends. (They still have raves, right? Is that what the youngsters are calling them?)

So, rest assured, if you are at any coffee shop that has anything better than a spray painted piece of plywood as its sign, you are not really at a Coffice (always capitalized, by the way).

Coffices push me to create some new idea, thought, sentence, whatever. Thereby, rendering me immortal.

That, and it always seems to provide the perfect soundtrack to my life.

INT. COFFEE SHOP –  LATER THAT DAY

Disheveled woman packs up her creative magic box as the spell is broken and, amidst many jump shots of admiring eyes, leaves to the sounds of  “Stuck In the Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel.

FADE TO BLACK

To: God; Re: Anne Hathaway in Batman

To: God; Re: Anne Hathaway in Batman

To: God.Almighty@heaven.com

CC: Buddha@nliten.com, Shiva@rencarn8.com

BCC: Mephistopheles@newscorp.com,  Mel.Gibson@hell.com

Subject:  Oversight in creation – please make me Anne Hathaway

Hi God,

I know you are fairly booked up but wanted to see if we could find some time on our schedules to discuss a rather large oversight on your part.

I don’t want to point fingers or anything, I know we are all a team (some more functional members than others) but why did you see it fit to give all the good DNA to Anne Hathaway? After seeing The Dark Knight (by the way, THANK YOU for Joseph Gordon-Levitt) I could not help but notice the imbalance.

I’d hope you are not one to play favorites but wanted to just point out some areas for improvement. I have added a graphic for reference.

Anne Hathaway has legs up to her earlobes. I’m not even sure it’s possible to have legs that long but why not throw a few inches my way? Seems like she has more than is technically needed by a human.

Additionally, she does not appear to have a flaw on her skin…anywhere…at all. Perhaps you created her as a reference to the word “milky”. I do understand that it’s helpful to be able to point to specifics with adjectives but why reserve “ruddy” or “blotchy” for me?

Does she really need such big eyes and lips? Also, seems like these things could have been more evenly distributed amongst your flock.

I was going to add in her fabulous silky hair but I realized after she shaved her head for Les Miserable, it wasn’t even all that necessary. Though, one more thing she did get more than her fair share of.

If this seems like an unreasonable request, I am open to spit-balling a few other ideas. I’d be open to, say, a Kate Beckinsale or Penelope Cruz approach. Heck, if you were open to Tina Fey, I think we could make that happen.

Feel free to forward this to any other deities I may have missed who have signing power.

Oh, and thanks again for the “dying for our sins” project. Sorry that isn’t going as well as you had hoped but I really appreciate the effort.

Best regards,

Irene Barnett
General Manager, Sarcasm and Self-Deprecation (SSD) Division

Movie Review: Magic Mike (The Power of The Pectoral)

Movie Review: Magic Mike (The Power of The Pectoral)

I am your patron saint of protection from horrible pop culture. Bow before me.

The number of crappy books and shitty movies I will put myself through just so you don’t have to! You should all buy me a trophy or a medal or a new blender.

Once again, the mighty power of the horny middle-aged woman has reared her shiny, dyed head. They could rule the world if they took a break from the bodice-rippers and put down their Chardonnay long enough to join forces.

Several of these horny middle-aged women (herein referred to as HMAW) happen to be friends of mine and wanted me to join them to see Magic Mike. You know, the one about the best friends just working for a living in a skanky male strip club. Kind of like a nasty Laverne and Shirley.

HMAW: “But, Roger Ebert gave it two thumbs up!”

Me: “Didn’t he have a stroke or something?”

HMAW: “And, it’s directed by Steven Soderbergh. He did Traffic and is an Oscar-winner!”

Me: “Does he have kids in private school then? Why would he do a movie about strippers?”

HMAW: “Really, Irene, why wouldn’t you want to watch hot, naked men? The question is what is wrong with you?”

Me: <long pause> “Fair enough. OK.”

Anyhoo, I went because the pull of being snarky about bad entertainment is just too strong.

First thing I noticed was the clientele. It was a sea of mom jeans with a smattering of long-suffering husbands. I have no idea what the argument may have been to get a husband to this movie but I would have liked to have been a fly on that wall. Or, of course, the husbands are gay. That would actually explain everything.

So, let’s start out with the good bits, shall we?

Hot. Naked. Young. Men. Well, most of them were. There was one Mickey Roarke look-alike (not 9 1/2 Weeks Mickey Roarke but The Wrestler Mickey Roarke) that I found disturbing and uncomfortable. And, I think whoever that actor was also felt disturbed and uncomfortable. The rest, however, were young, tight and exceptionally well-oiled.

I did, however, find myself thinking that I’d kill my kids if they ever did something like this. So, while I may not wear mom jeans on the outside, I clearly have some on inside my head.

Ummmm, I think that was it for the good bits.

OK, now for the bad bits.

It was dumb.  You could have muted this entire movie and known exactly what was happening and how it would end. In fact, bring your noise cancelling headphones, eat your Dots and just watch.

The story is as old as the bible. Gorgeous single guy with lots of chutzpah who just wants to make it in the world who has multiple sexual encounters with multiple women but really cares and has a heart of gold that gets him in trouble until a nice grounded girl comes along who believes in him and clearly doesn’t seem to care about the multiple venereal diseases that she has now exposed herself to.

Pretty sure that is exactly what happened in the book of Job.

Matthew McConaughey.  I know I am inviting the wrath of all women out there with this one. I can feel the collective stink eye right now. Go ahead, start putting your hate mail together, I am expecting it. But, he does nothing for me. And, in this movie, he was so ridiculous and such an asshole that I had a hard time watching him.

If you have other-worldly abs hanging off a douchebag, is it still hot? Probably but I feel compelled to ask the question.

Men gyrating and groin-thrusting at lightning speed. I know what it’s supposed to simulate and I don’t know that it would be all that pleasant. Slow it down, Sparky. I am not a construction site and you are not a jackhammer.

It’s impressive how they don’t appear to throw out their backs when doing this, I totally give them that. And, actually, (SPOILER ALERT!) my favorite part of the movie is when one of them actually does throw out their back.

But, men are not built for this kind of movement. They are stiff and utilitarian and that’s how they should be.

Call me old fashioned but I don’t want my men prancing about with jazz hands.

I’ve been to a male strip club before and I never got dry humped.  Should I take that personally? Maybe I’m just all sour grapes on this because I feel slighted. In this movie the women in the crowd were being whipped around like rag dolls, getting felt up and ground upon. My mind ping ponged between “Law suit! Law suit!” and “Purell! Purell!” the entire time.

There you have it, good citizens of the blogosphere. I can’t necessarily say you should not see it. I just feel it is my public duty to make you aware of what you are seeing….which is a whole lot of shiny, pretty men.

And there ain’t nuthin’ bad about that.

A Word About Vampires

A Word About Vampires

When I was little, Barnabas Collins rocked my world. I would run home from Catholic school and gladly dive from the divine light of our savior, Jesus Christ, to the dark underworld of vampires.

It was my favorite half hour in the universe. Dark Shadows was this weird acid-trip of a gothic soap opera that featured the tormented Barnabas Collins, the tortured and impassioned vampire and a pioneer for the piecey bang look.  It was scary and romantic and probably the worst show on television.

There is a huge cult following to this day and I know there will be a mob of angry fanboys with torches on my front lawn any minute now….(not to overstate the obvious delusions I have that anyone outside my best friends and family actually read this blog).

But, truly, I defy you to follow the Escher-like maze of a storyline. There were actors playing multiple roles, timelines that jumped from present to past to parallel universes to living to dead and back again.

I was a 6-year-old Goth and a tip o’ the hat to my mother for supporting my addiction. I’m sure it molded my love of The Cure. Picture, if you will, Robert Smith in a Brownie uniform.

So, imagine my sunken-eyed delight when I heard that Tim Burton was making a movie of my beloved Collinwood. And, with the singular Johnny Depp as well. Be still my bloodless heart!

(I wonder if Johnny Depp just sits in front of his mirror saying “You, my man, are freakin’ amazing. Is there nothing you can’t do?” I know I would do exactly that if I were Johnny Depp. Aren’t you glad I’m not?)

Now, I haven’t seen the movie yet but I do have an innate distrust of taking my beloved 60’s and 70’s TV childhood and slapping lipstick and a push-up bra on it. We never let anything age gracefully, do we?

It certainly didn’t do the Beverly Hillbillies Movie any favors. What? You didn’t see it? Point made.

See, one of the best parts of Dark Shadows was how absurdly bad it was. I’m not sure they could really capture the art of a boom hitting an actor in the head, the craft services dude eating a donut just to the left of the grand staircase, or the fly that continually lands on Josette’s nose as she pleads with Barnabas. Even a child knew they were witnessing something terrible and brilliant all at the same time.

But, because the FLIPPIN’ AWESOME Johnny Depp is in it and the FREAKIN’ BRILLIANT Tim Burton is at the helm, I will give it a chance. They are the two-headed idiot savants of creativity so if they can’t pull it off, who can? Maybe no one. In which case, perhaps we should leave bad enough alone.

Screw You Hunger Games (or, Why I’m a Filthy Hypocrite)

Screw You Hunger Games (or, Why I’m a Filthy Hypocrite)

I think I’m better than pop culture and yet I have a Rain Man ability to absorb its useless content and even take pride in spewing it out at dinner parties like an annoying tic.

I don’t, as a rule, watch reality TV because I’ve had my fill of seeing people at their worst from years of hitting the Nordstrom half-yearly sale.

I don’t understand the whole Twilight thing so I tried reading a page of it and proceeded to throw it across the room. Then peed on it and started it on fire.

I never read any of the Harry Potters because, well, I’m not 10.

But, for some reason, I occasionally get sucked into the stinking maw of some show, book or movie that holds little or no redeeming value. I don’t even really like reading or watching this stuff, but I simply don’t have the strength to fight it. I know it’s bad for me but I’m a moth to the flame. I’m guessing it’s some sort of substitute for the drug, sex and alcohol abuse that I left behind years ago (strike that last one and get me a drink).

  • I did get sucked into American Idol, especially the first seasons (who am I kidding, I just started to ween off it last season). There, I said it. Spit on me, call me names. I’ve done the same to myself. The demise of that show has forced a modicum of dignity back into my life.
  • The Hunger Games. Fuck you, Katniss Everdeen and your sassy braid for making me wish I were a slave to an evil totalitarian society and that my parents had coughed up archery lessons (yet another misstep in my upbringing).
  • Now, I’ll drag my husband into the muck with me. When we had tiny, mewling, puking, premature twins, we got hooked on both Cheaters and The Anna Nicole Smith Show. I will blame this on program timing since they were on during a scheduled feeding and we had to space out on something. I will also say that nothing made our lives feel just a little less desperate than to watch others walk in front of the train. I am not a better person than that.
  • I used to watch Melrose Place….the original one because, yes, I’m old. Get over it. And I went to high school with Lisa Rinna (go Black Tornadoes).

My saving grace is Downton Abby….or is it? Isn’t it really just Dallas-on-the-Thames? You stick a bustle and an accent on it and suddenly its culture. Don’t forget, these are the same people who gave us Benny Hill.

So, I thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to go through the cultural equivalent of self-flagellation. I feel a little cleaner now as I watch the second Hunger Games book download to my iPad.

Glitterati in the Mist

Glitterati in the Mist

 

This story is the stuff of legend among my peers. They’ve heard it many times and I hate to repeat it but also feel it belongs in the annals of history as one of my more humiliating moments.

A friend of mine, who is clearly better connect than I am,  was able to get us into the Elton John post-Oscar party one year. Turns out there is also a party within a party for the select few who are closest to him. We actually had to be on TWO lists held by snotty people with clipboards.

I had not really been out of the house much over the two years or so before this event as I had been held hostage by small twin boys and had experienced something akin to Stockholm syndrome. So, my social skills were lacking unless you needed your diaper changed or some barf cleaned up. These skills had been perfected back in college and came in handy now that I had these two terrorists in my life.

When we arrived we had to walk the paparazzi plank past no less than 50 cameras with the longest lenses I’ve ever seen. Even with all the primping, exfoliating and waxing (twice) I did, not a flashbulb went off. In fact, the disappointment on their faces was just awkward. I’d be paying with ingrown hairs for weeks, you bastards.

We had to be very careful when roaming amongst these special colorful animals. We had to assume the somewhat bored vestige of our fellow partygoers. One spark of giddy recognition and we’d be left to wander the unfriendly night of West Hollywood. You must philosophically squat amongst them, mimicking their actions like Dian Fossey in an evening gown.

Once inside, I was introduced to Sir Elton and was very graciously hugged and kissed… on the mouth. This took me aback, as you may expect. I chalked it up to being gay and European. I find both do things with more panache.

Being surrounded by so many famous people is too much for the normal person to bear, let alone me. I was profoundly uncomfortable and did what any self-respecting human would do – I got good and liquored up. My blood alcohol level and 4-inch heels were a lethal combination. Keep in mind that most of these people are either on their way to rehab or have just gotten out so the sight of me swaying in the wind on my stilts may have made them a bit skittish.

Like all really great ideas when one is tanked, I decided I needed to let Sir know exactly how much I loved him when I was in Junior High and what Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy meant to me. I had been sitting on a low chair just a few feet from him and as I went to get up my dress got caught under one of my heels. This sent me tumbling directly toward Sir and, to break my fall I grabbed for the nearest thing, which happened to be his orange-colored head. A beefy hand caught me a mere centimeter before I would have tumbled fully into Sir’s lap. Sir squealed and gave me a look of such horror you’d think I was bathed in blood. He was promptly herded back to his pack by his wranglers.

Suddenly there was a buzz in the crowd. The herd began to get skittish again. I noticed a very small man in a very bright red suit. An alpha had just arrived. I can’t type his name, it was formerly one thing but now is a symbol that my computer keyboard cannot duplicate…though an elaborate calligraphy set might. He took up residence in a corner in classic defensive position so he could see his enemies approach.

Luckily, his entrance had taken any attention away from me and the intervention I’m sure they were all planning. So much for blending in and studying these creatures in their habitat. I found my colleagues and regrouped.

Now that my cover had been blown, we left and went back to the real world where I had an appropriately undignified end to the evening as I spent it on the soothingly cool tile floor of my friend’s bathroom.

OMG I’m on IMDb

OMG I’m on IMDb

Every now and then I feel compelled to do a Google search on myself. Mostly I want to see if there is another Irene Barnett out there with a more interesting life – there is a nephrologist in Los Angeles who looks to have a much better life than I do. (What the hell is a nephrologist anyway? I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with banging dead people.)

As it happens, the other day when I did this, I came up on IMDb as an “actress”. The first entry was a weird movie I worked on many many years ago with a crazed lunatic of a filmmaker. I bought his “workshop” and flew to Las Vegas with a bunch of other suckers to learn how to be a guerilla filmmaker in the likeness of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. This experience really deserves its own post as I was literally stuck in the middle of Death Valley with a Mormon, a born-again Christian, a stoned sound guy and a crazy ballerina who looked like Gloria Swanson – all at a haunted hotel. I shit you not. If we all walked into a bar it would be a set up for a good joke.

The other entry was much more interesting – evidently I was “East End Girl #1” (that’s right, suck it East End Girl #2) in a TV mini-series called Shoulder to Shoulder in 1974. Evidently, this series dramatized the lives of the Pankhurst women and their role in the Suffragette Movement.  Yeah, I don’t know what any of that means either. Since I was pre-pubescent in 1974 and would most likely have remembered doing a TV mini-series. I wonder if that was the nephrologist working her way through med school.

Whoever played East End Girl #1 must be pissed that I’m getting her credit. But no more pissed than East End Girl #2 who, undoubtedly, had a life strife with disappointment and failure. While I, on the other hand, ride high on my fame and fortune. Suck it East End Girl #1.