art by Caldwell Easley
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For a movie that I didn’t even know existed until about 2pm yesterday afternoon, Nothing Lasts Forever has quickly won a place in my heart. The only feature film to date by Tom Schiller, an Emmy-award winning writer who made numerous short comic films for Saturday Night Live and documentaries on a variety of subjects, Nothing Lasts Forever is one strange / quirky little movie that manages to pull off one of the most difficult challenges for a film maker: Shoot a contemporary film that looks like a classic Hollywood production.
I’m not saying Nothing Lasts Forever is a perfect film; far from it. But when it works it works oh-so-well and its loopy story of a musical fraud turned wannabe artist who gets recruited by an empire of hobos who secretly run New York City to fly to the moon on a bus and bring love to the lunar colony dominated by colonialist consumers just ain’t the kinda thing you see every day at the mega-plex.
The film near seamlessly mixes contemporary footage with stock shots from classic Hollywood films . The story never quite jells, shifting gears abruptly and jumping from premise to premise, but Zach Galligan and an astonishing supporting cast — includes Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Imogene Coca, and Calvert DeForest (Larry “Bud” Melman on David Letterman’s old show) among others — keep the story rolling with fresh, funny characterizations.
Add to that a never ending stream of often subtle sight gags and Nothing Lasts Forever should easily keep any old and / or oddball film lover interested.
And just where can you see this jem?
As the Vick’s people would say:
Aye, there’s the rub…
For reasons not entirely clear, the original distributor never made much of an effort to show the film in the US: Apparently just a handful of test screenings then the film was yanked and seemingly forgotten.
It has fared better in Europe, but even there is is considered a cult item.
Part of the problem may be legal (entanglements with various rights holder re stock footage in the film) but more likely it’s just that this film is so far afield of anything done by mainstream Hollywood that one can’t feign surprise to learn no major distributor in the US wants to handle it.
Luckily, however, there is YouTube, and if you hie thyself over there,
you can catch Nothing Lasts Forever in all its delirious black + white glory.
How long it’ll stay up, I dunno. But currently it’s your only chance to see one of the quirkiest film made in the last 30 years.
 Oh, that old story…
 Since most of the exteriors were shot in Manhattan, and since much of Manhattan hasn’t changed in the last century, the melding is quite good.
I get all sloppy sentimental (but not about Nazis!)
after the jump so I’m front loading the link & pictures
then will bore you to tears on the other side.
You have been warned.
My picks for the 10 funniest comic strips published/put on the Web in 2013.
#1 – Must be funny. (There were a lot of touching/poignant/inspiring/awesome strips this year but only the funny ones made the cut.)
#2 – Must be fresh. (Otherwise this list would consist of Peanuts re-runs.)
#3 – Must be family friendly. (Anything over the edge got cut even if it made me laugh.)
#4 – Must be fathomable. (i.e., punchlines that were the pay off of lengthy continuities, long-running gags, or required esoteric knowledge of the strip in question also got cut.)
Honorable Mention: Least I Could Do
Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza’s Least I Can Do is a sharply written, flawlessly drawn, often hilarious webcomic about Rayne Summers, one of the most charming sociopaths on record. As it is a living embodiment of the term “NSFW” (though incredibly without using explicit images or obscenities), it’s also pretty much permanently excluded from competition (though the Sunday strips focus on Rayne in his childhood and as such are family friendly in a raucous Calvin And Hobbes sorta way). Sohmer and deSouza occasionally interrupt their main story with brief so-called true-life accounts of their (mis)adventures at various comic cons. One such strip finally gets them into the finalists’ circle. Welcome, boys.
Honorable Mention: Pooch Cafe
Pooch Café vacillates between competently amusing and wickedly brilliant. Here Paul Gilligan takes a risk with a wordy set-up and gets his well-earned laugh.
Honorable Mention: Willy ‘n’ Ethel
Joe Martin always lands somewhere in the top ten, frequently with each of his strips making an appearance.
Honorable Mention: Zits
Jeff Scott and Jerry Borgman never fail to perfectly capture the tension between modern teens and their parents. You never see Archie and Jughead doing this!
Runner Up: Pearls Before Swine
Well, that got weird in a hurry.
Runner Up: Cats With Hands
Runner Up: One Big Happy
Third Place: Heavenly Nostrils
Dana Simpson is methodically and hilariously engaging in complex magical world building with Heavenly Nostrils, but does so in such a perfectly understated way that the average reader isn’t aware of it. Here is one such perfectly executed understatement.
Second Place: Gil
One of the most common complaints leveled against modern (i.e., post-Peanuts) comic strips is their purported lack of draftsmanship. Norm Feuti shows he can stand up to the best of the old grandmasters with this well drawn, utterly charming, and ultimately character driven summer time Sunday strip.
Grand Prize Winner: Mr. Boffo
Anybody can parody Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks; Joe Martin goes for a meta-gag on the painting itself.
It’s A Wonderful White Christmas Carol Story On 34th Street instantly springs to mind whenever somebody says “Christmas Movie” but here are a few you should give thought to as alternative programming for the season
Hell’s Heroes is the first sound version of The Three Godfathers, most famously filmed in 1948 with John Wayne. Based on the novel by Peter B. Kyne, Three Godfathers has been filmed officially six times (2 silent versions, 3 talkies, 1 TV movie) and unofficially more than can be counted (see below). Hell’s Heroes is my favorite take on the tale, a story of three doomed desperadoes who sacrifice themselves to bring an infant to safety across the trackless desert. It pops up occasionally on TCM so tell your DVD-R to look for it.
So how in the world does a novel set in the American West translate into an animated feature set in 21st century Tokyo? Very well, thank you. The time and setting and characters have changed but it remains essentially the same story: The desperate, the doomed, and the damned prove their humanity by saving an infant on Christmas Eve. Highly recommended.
Oh, yeah, like you didn’t see this one coming…
The only James Bond movie with a song about Christmas trees.
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
You’re thinking “Buzz has finally lost his pea-pickin’ mind. A story about a petty criminal drug addict trying to score a fix is his idea of a Christmas story?!?!?”
As a failed veep candidate would say: ”Hew betcha.” ’Cuz The Junky’s Christmas is William S. Burrough’s meditation on the act of compassion even when it runs contrary to one’s own self-interest. It’s the story of a jonesin’ user who has the choice of feeding his addiction or helping a total stranger who needs his fix even more than he does. Read the original short story, then watch the marvelous animated puppet film.
No, this is the film where I finally lose my pea-pickin’ mind. Christmas On Mars is an indie sci-fi feature by the Oklahoma alt rock band, The Flaming Lips. It’s a clever, well made, intelligent, thoughtful, and ultimately uplifting tale of human colonists on Mars just trying to get through their daily routines without collapsing into despair and depression.
You see that Parental Advisory on the disc cover?
PAY ATTENTION TO THAT!
I recommend Christmas On Mars highly, but if you are among my many friends who are easily offended (and remember, if I think something might be a little iffy you can guess how far on beyond zebra it must be) take heed: The aliens are modeled on something that’s incredibly NSFW. Santa Claus Conquers The Martians this ain’t…
In a lifetime of seeking out odd movies, few have come odder than this. If you’re a fan of low brow bawdy English musical hall comedy, offbeat low budget films, and/or a sci-fi completist have we got a movie for you!
Bees In Paradise is a 1944 quote quickie produced while England was still in the thick of WWII (though eventual victory was in sight). It mines the old trope of an idyllic society of females but does so with a decidedly contemporary twist: Though World War Two is never mentioned directly, it’s clear from the dialog that the women in the story have in direct response to the conflict raging around them deliberately rejected the war-like patriarchy of the Western world and set up on a remote island a new civilization deliberately patterned after a beehive. Males are kept (off camera) as workers and breeders; they have two months of mating time with a female in order to produce offspring and then they’re either executed or set adrift in a canoe!
Into the middle of this crash lands a civilian bomber ferry crew. There is, of course, rivalry among the females for the four men, a lot of songs, silly vaudeville routines, musical numbers, and the obligatory English male comedian in drag. What’s surprising is the straight forward discussion of gender politics, socio-economic systems, and women’s right to sexual self-determination.
Singin’ In The Rain this aint.
It also ain’t very entertaining. Oh, you have no idea how much I wish I could like this movie, even a little, but it just never ever jells on screen. Individual bits and routines bring an occasional smile (two comics try emulating a bit of Road To… movie business and when it fails moan that it always worked for Hope & Crosby!) but there’s just nobody in the movie to arouse any empathy with, the songs are clever and competent instead of actually entertaining, and the production itself looks rather threadbare (though they got excellent use out of sets left over from The Thief Of Baghdad).
I think it would be stretching things quite a bit to say that Bees In Paradise was an influence on Abbott & Costello Go To Mars or Queen Of Outer Space or even Invasion Of The Bee Girls, but it clearly got there first and did the most with the core idea. To that we tip our sci-fi propeller beanies.
The movie was directed and co-written by Val Guest, who later went on to write and/or direct such B-movie classics as the first Quatermass films, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth; he was also part of the delirious, glorious mess that was the first film version of Casino Royale. What interest Bees In Paradise has for film buffs is that it’s a decidedly offbeat take on English morale during the middle of WWII, using a sci-fi setting ala Twilight Zone to examine a more serious issue, in this case the rapid change in gender roles and expectations brought about by the war.
 England restricted the number of foreign films that could be shown in the UK by requiring a certain percentage of home grown product for all films shown. In order to get the more popular Hollywood features, UK distributors often booked cheap, inexpensive British made films to raise the number of allowable imports. These were called “quota quickies” and were the equivalent of American B-movies (double features in the US would have an A feature and a B feature, so called because of their placement on the billing, but revenues for the double feature would be divided evenly between the two; US distributors would run low budget exploitation films along with higher priced major studio fare and receive a kickback from the low budget film maker).
 Pilots and air crew unfit for military service due to disabilities or age often were hired to fly military aircraft from their point of construction to their theater of service, thus freeing military pilots for combat duty.
 Meanwhile, as Guest was churning out this movie in merrie olde Englande, across the channel Marcel Carne was making his epic masterpiece Les Enfants Du Paradis right under the noses of the Nazis.
I never went to college — I don’t believe in college for writers. The thing is very dangerous. I believe too many professors are too opinionated and too snobbish and too intellectual, and the intellect is a great danger to creativity … because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth — who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter — you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway. — Ray Bradbury