VICE and the Criterion Collection Presents: Martin Scorsese on the Films of Roberto Rossellini
In the late 40s, Ingrid Bergman was the coolest, hottest, and most talented lady around Hollywood. She saw some Italian neo-realist films by Roberto Rossellini, wrote him a letter, starred in a number of his movies, and proceeded to have a scandalous affair and marriage with him. In each film, Bergman experiences some sort of deep existential crises in the midst of political and social upheaval. Since every major player who worked on those films is dead, Martin Scorsese (who was heavily influenced by the films) gives us the 4-1-1 on the three movies in this short doc and it’s fucking fascinating.
Some Genius Is Kickstarting a ‘Breaking Bad’ Sequel Starring Val Kilmer and Slash
Did you recently waste money on an ironic Kickstarter campaign to make potato salad? Well, first, Paypal used the money you apparently can’t wait to get rid of. Secondly, fuck irony. There are people out there with actual, worthwhile goals that need help funding.
For instance, a Van Nuys–based producer’s bold project to make a Breaking Bad sequel series starring Val Kilmer and Slash as the cops who recovered Walter White’s body. No, he doesn’t have the rights to Breaking Bad, nor has he received a commitment from Kilmer or Slash. But when Lawrence Shepherd saw the series finale, in which two cops drag Walter White’s body away, he knew that he was the guy to tell those cops’ story. All the other pieces will fall into place.
It’s a pipe dream, sure. (Not least because only $143 of the $500,000 goal has been raised.) But, still! What’s the value of life without dreams? Who gives a shit about the second season of True Detective when there’s the (remote) possibility of Val Kilmer and Slash tracking down a not-dead Walter White?
We called up first-time producer Lawrence Shepherd to learn more about his Breaking Badspinoff, which he’s calling Anastasia.
VICE: The show has an intriguing premise, to say the least. Where’d the idea come from? Lawrence Shepherd: For the last six years or so, I was getting very critical of the writing on shows. Then I saw one of the last episodes of Breaking Bad—remember when Jesse came into Walter White’s house with the gasoline can and he was going to burn it down?
Yeah. There was a sequence when Jesse looks down the hallway, and the two doors were closed. I thought, Junior’s in there. Junior’s in there with the baby, he’s going to come out, wrestle with Jesse, and something’s going to happen. Junior’s the only one who hasn’t broke bad in the whole show. It didn’t happen, and I was a little disappointed.
I like the way Breaking Bad ended, but I think they could have done better. That’s when I just started writing.
Seems like you’d have to worry about copyright issues… Of course. You have to watch the uniqueness. Remember the last episode, the machine gun rotating back and forth in the Cadillac? Very unique. I can’t use it. The dead guy in the recliner chair going up and down? Very unique, couldn’t use it.
But other than that, nothing there is copyright or trademark available. A guy dead on the floor? My God, that’s been done a bazillion times. Police responding to an issue? It’s been done a bazillion times.
We’re not going to be confrontative with Sony and Vince Gilligan if they say no. We are filming the pilot independent of Breaking Bad, so if they do say no, we’re ready to go with our own show.
A Visit to the Little Shop Where Hollywood Buys Its Dead Bodies
On the face of it, Dapper Cadaver looks like any other windowless storefront underneath the landing pattern of Burbank Airport, just outside LA. Its sign advertises “Props Rentals, Sales, Halloween,” and something called “Casualty Simulation.” Google Maps helpfully tags it “Death Related,” and “Horror Movie,” in case that’s what you’re shopping for.
If it’s not Halloween, the people regularly shopping for “Casualty Simulation” are the prop masters of your favorite movies and TV shows. Sure, as a high-paid art director, you could make your own corpses from scratch, and many do. But when there’s a shop that offers medically realistic dead bodies, not just of humans, but of all creatures great and small, you may as well go retail.
Law and Order is a frequent shopper, as were Breaking Bad and Dexter. Think Game of Thrones' top shelf gore is too classy to be store-bought? Think again. The severed heads of certain major GOT characters were custom orders.
I am writing you, dear reader, from a dark place. A cavernous hole. A nightmarish hellscape. I write you having just watched a tape of last night’s Guy’s Choice Awards. I woke up at 8 AM in order to do so, which means I started the day operating at a loss. And it only got worse. I fear the horrors I witnessed during the jail sentence-esque two-hour broadcast have caused me to permanently lose sentience. I now know, however, that I don’t require sentience. Because I have tits.
This summer’s fiction issue is themed around movies—”Hollywood,” Clancy Martin says. We shared an intuition that a lot of the most interesting writing being done today is being done for movies and TV. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that we watch a lot of movies. So we made a long list of our favorite movies and looked up the writers who worked on them, and we harassed them and their agents and their publicists for months. We started with a really long pitch letter, but we learned that in LA it’s proper etiquette to write three-word-long emails. We tried to romance them by inviting them to dinner at the Chateau Marmont. An interesting thing about the writers in this issue—David Mamet, Michel Gondry, Louis Mellis, Alec Sokolow, John Romano, Merrill Markoe, Kevin McEnroe—is that none of them gave a damn about what we could pay. In fact not one of them even brought it up. So maybe one lesson of this issue is, if you want to be a writer and not have to scramble for every dollar, the old maxim holds true: Go to LA.
But back to movies. Here’s what we like about movies: They have stories. They are entertaining. The dialogue is simple. We were watching Searching for Bobby Fisher last night at the hotel in Chennai. William H. Macy says, “It’s just a game.” He’s the father of a seven-year-old chess player talking to another father, and we know that what he means is, “I’d like to rip your head off and s**t down your throat.” Similarly, just a few nights ago we were watching The Shining, and the actor who plays the manager of the Overlook Hotel describes the murders to Jack Nicholson during the job interview. He says, “I can’t believe it happened here, but it did,” and all three of the men in the room somehow already understand that it’s going to happen again. Because of the genius of actors and directors, there’s so much you can do—as a writer—with a line of dialogue that you just can’t do in other forms of writing. But all this is covered in an interview with Robert McKee—Alec Sokolow (Toy Story) makes McKee work through his theories, and Tony Camin, possibly stoned, asks McKee the tough questions, e.g., “Wasn’t Who Framed Roger Rabbit the third in the trilogy ofChinatown?” There are also a few pages of Nabokov’s screenplay version of Lolita with notes in his hand, masterfully introduced by Blake Bailey, and a story by Thomas Gebremedhin that evokes Santa Monica like no other fiction we’ve read (and ought to be a movie).
Pick up a free copy of our fiction issue anywhere VICE is distributed, but those go quickly, so subscribe to make sure you get a copy every month. You can do that here. If you’ve got yourself an iPad, download our free app for even more pictures, extended video footage, and special extras.
Rewatching Nicolas Cage’s Windtalkers Is a Terrible Way to Memorialize the Last Navajo Code Talker
On June 4, former Marine Chester Nez, the last of the Navajo radio operators of World War II, died at 93. The announcement came from Judith Schiess Avila, his biographer, who worked on Nez’s book, Code Talker. Despite coming at a sad time, I hope the PR she got in the past few days boosted sales of what I hear is a pretty good book (I haven’t read it), because the only piece of media we journalists have had any interest in now that the last code talker is dead, is Windtalkers, a 2002 box office flop featuring Nicolas Cage.
No, Cage doesn’t play one of the Navajos. That would be racist. Instead, he plays one of those white protagonists in a movie about a minority group at war. Like Matthew Broderick in Glory, or Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Cage’s white face theoretically makes the whole thing much more palatable than one of the actual Navajo faces, like this one, which belongs to Nez.
Press coverage considers the film one of Nez’s accolades. The Washington Post puts it in a paragraph with his military honors, saying Nez “was honored a generation later, receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001. ‘Windtalkers,’ a 2002 film starring Nicolas Cage, was based on the code talkers’ story.”
My suspicion is that they, like most of America, gave Windtalkers a miss. It was not a hit, so it’s weird that it’s our reference point for this moment in American History. It’s like memorializing the author Edgar Rice Burroughs by talking about John Carter.
The entertainment and media industries don’t consider a Native American story to be a smart move if you want to make money. Some anonymous people I know who represent talent confided in me that when something having to do with Native Americans gets submitted, they’re vary wary, or they just skip it outright. No one wants to spend their entertainment dollar on anything having to do with Native Americans. Apparently Dances with Wolves was a fluke.
David Mamet wrote the screenplays for American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Wag the Dog, among many others. We’re honored to feature his writing in this year’s Fiction Issue.
It was near morning. Margaret and Mel sat, alone, on the couch.
“The weekend the power went out at the Bel Air may have been the most restful of my life,” Mel said.
“As you grow old, various things fade—appetite, I find, increases; but I think this places me in one of two camps.”
“What is the other?” Margaret said.
“They grow thin, as they age,” Mel said. “But both, I believe, find a diminishment of sexuality. Perhaps the thin, though, less. I don’t know. You would know, how would you know, you’re half my age.”
Happy Tenth Birthday, ‘Mean Girls.’ You Taught Me So Much
Maybe it’s exactly the wrong time to admit this, given that today’s the film’s tenth anniversary, but the 14-year-old me totally did not “get” Mean Girls. It was less stylized than Clueless, less sophisticated than Heathers, and 100 times less cool than Cruel Intentions. Mean Girls showed up late to the party with its monogrammed tote bag, and expected everybody to quote it to death. And quite a lot of the time, they did. In hindsight—or more importantly, after watching it with a full-blown, adult-sized hangover—it’s a different story. But at the time it felt like something relatively unremarkable, with the bonus addition of Lindsay Lohan and huge budget.
Before Mean Girls, everyone I knew was happy buying into and lusting after the impossibleCruel Intentions idea that you needed a crucifix full of cocaine to be cool. Then along came the Plastics, who merely required you to not be wearing track pants. I don’t know about you, but my teen self felt let down. Buffy in a school uniform seducing her step-brother was a whole lot more exciting than a bunch of girls wearing Tiffany’s necklaces and Maybelline products. We knew these people already; we went to school with them. Their moms had Mini Coopers with personalized number plates, and they were shitty people. Add that to the fact that Thirteen had come out the previous year—the film made me want to skip out on all the boring high school stuff to take hallucinogens and have my best friend punch me repeatedly in the face—and you can start to see why Mean Girls failed to capture my imagination.
The Church of Scientology Had Their Own Teen Pop Band (and They Were Amazing)
For 20 years, the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Center in Hollywood, California, had its own all-singing, all-dancing children’s pop group called Kids on Stage for a Better World.
The group existed with a revolving cast of members from 1992 to 2012. Obviously their videos are quite old now, and I’m not their target demographic, so it’s difficult for me to judge whether or not they were on-trend at the time—but like all things created by a religion and aimed at young people, they appear to be almost overwhelmingly uncool.
The group’s matching outfits, choreographed dance routines, and wholesome rap breakdowns seem to be the work of adults trying to emulate inoffensive, family-friendly (i.e., boring) kids’ stuff like High School Musical and the Mickey Mouse Club.
About 90 percent of the group’s lyrics relate to how they are (A) young and (B) going to be the leaders of the future. The remaining 10 percent is made up of references to Scientology. The band also filmed a couple of episodes of a series based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard.