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“Nothing Lasts Forever,” yet this Bill Murray movie persists.

“Nothing Lasts Forever,” yet this Bill Murray movie persists. (photo)

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“This is a historic moment for me because in this very theater years ago, I saw ‘Ben Hur’ and was scared to death when they went into the leper thing in the cave,” said Tom Schiller at a rare screening of his lone feature “Nothing Lasts Forever” at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. “So this is my revenge by showing my feature film that has been suppressed for 27 years.”

Teased recently in Karina Longworth’s L.A. Weekly piece as “the Bill Murray film you’ve never seen,” Schiller’s 1984 quasi-comedy about “a guy who wants to be an artist, but he doesn’t know what kind” has been getting a revival of late, first rediscovered in 2004 when Murray insisted the rare film be included in a retrospective of his work at the BAMcinématek in New York, and subsequently serving as the Opening Night Film at last year’s Olympia Film Festival and a recent play at the 92YTribeca “Not Coming to a Theater Near You” series in March in addition to Michael Streeter’s book “Nothing Lost Forever.” The Olympia Film Fest date is particularly ironic, given that it was a bad test screening in the Pacific Northwest that doomed “Nothing Lasts Forever” to a release directly to the airwaves of late night television in Europe when MGM, still reeling from “Heaven’s Gate” and other debacles of the early ’80s, decided against releasing the film theatrically.

As the American Cinematheque moderator Grant Moninger noted during the film’s post-screening Q&A, Schiller’s film resembles the work of Guy Maddin, heavily using stock footage to imagine a New York run like a police state by the Port Authority with an underground sanctum where ticker tape falls from the sky representing the souls living above. (The worlds are differentiated by black-and-white for the Big Apple and color for the rest.) A pre-“Gremlins” Zach Galligan is caught between the two worlds when after being revealed as a fraudulent pianist in Europe, he is called upon by the New York underground to travel to the moon for some “spiritual work” and to find his soulmate (Lauren Tom). Although “Nothing Lasts Forever” isn’t traditional in any sense, Murray plays what would be described as the film’s villain, the testy lunar bus attendant whose job it is to serve Lunartinis and encourage the largely senior citizen passengers to shop freely at the “Moon-O-Rama Carousel of Consumer Values” on a moon that resembles Hawaii far more than the one Neil Armstrong landed on. (Fellow “SNL”-er Dan Aykroyd pops up in a cameo and Schiller revealed John Belushi had been originally tapped to play one of the underground dweller gods before he died in 1982.)

When asked at the Egyptian screening how the film got made, Schiller responded, “I don’t exactly know” before explaining how Lorne Michaels had a development deal at MGM and out of several projects Michaels considered, he picked the one from Schiller, who had been directing idiosyncratic shorts like “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Java Junkie” for the NBC show during the late ’70s and early ’80s. “I think they thought it was low budget or something to get off the hook of their contract, but I had total freedom. No one was watching hardly and I got to make a personal film with a studio crew.” As it turned out, two members of that studio crew would later become Oscar winners — Howard Shore, who composed just his second score for the film, and “Alice in Wonderland” costume designer Colleen Atwood, who is credited as a production designer on “Nothing.”

Clearly, MGM didn’t know what to do with “Nothing Lasts Forever,” which derives its self-reflective humor from a bewildered Eddie Fisher (as himself) asking, “How the hell did I wind up singing on a bus to the moon?” and one of Galligan’s art groupie sexual conquests squealing “Oh my God… it’s ‘Potempkin!'” upon climaxing as she sees the Eisenstein film in the background. According to Schiller, the film was accepted not once, but twice into the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight after Schiller smuggled a print of the film to the powers that be, but MGM passed.

“I got a phone call and they said, [in a French accent] “you have created a masterpiece! You will be a sensation at Cannes!” So I met [the Cannes director] at the Algonquin Hotel, where he gets me champagne and my head is swimming because all I wanted to do was be a great foreign-appreciated American filmmaker,” Schiller recalled half-jokingly. “So I immediately call the president of MGM and say, ‘They want us at Cannes.’ And he said, “Baby, you could get killed at Cannes.” I said, give me the name of a film that was killed at Cannes. He said, “Baby, I could give the names of 50 that were killed on your desk by tomorrow.’ I never got the names of 50 and I never got to Cannes.”

Though Schiller insisted he likes the film’s cult status, he also alluded to the “murmurs” of an eventual DVD release, possibly through the Warner Archives label, and when asked if he’ll ever make another film, said, “I’m reading stuff. Yeah, maybe. Why not?”

[Photo: “Nothing Lasts Forever,” MGM, 1984]

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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