“Suddenly…”: Seven different salutes to the Odessa Steps scene.

“Suddenly…”: Seven different salutes to the Odessa Steps scene. (photo)

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Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film “The Battleship Potemkin” boasts the double-edged distinction of containing a sequence so famous — the “Odessa Steps,” part of the very ABCs of film history — that people who’ve never seen the movie are intimately familiar with it, the same way everyone’s seen a rocket launch into the moon’s eye-socket even if they don’t know it’s a Méliès short.

The steps sequence, which you can watch, with the Pet Shop Boys’ new soundtrack, here, is famous for its effectiveness, its pioneering use of montage, its striking violence, and of course, its bit with the baby carriage. And because of this, it’s been ripped off, homaged, parodied and appropriated in dozens of ways. Here are seven of the best examples of the way it’s trickled down into the culture.

06142010_untouchables.jpg“The Untouchables” (1987)

Brian De Palma is as diametrically opposite a filmmaker from Eisenstein as you could imagine. No fast editing or montage for him — he favors the long, cool gaze, preferably in slow motion. The most cynical movie of his career (and, for some reason, one of his rare hits), “The Untouchables” contemplates Kevin Costner’s preening Prohibition agent Eliot Ness as he chases down bootlegger and crime king Al Capone (Robert De Niro). The big shoot-out, set in Chicago’s Union Station, does two things. It allows De Palma to destroy montage theory (filming it in elegant slow-mo as opposed to with fast, dynamic cutting) and it lets him taunt the audience. “Okay,” he seems to be saying; “worried about that baby? Fine. The baby can live. Everyone else will get shot though. Happy now?” The cuts to the blond-haired urchin seal the deal.

06142010_vaccuum.jpg“Brazil” (1985)

There are plenty of good reasons for Terry Gilliam to parody “Potemkin” with a vacuum cleaner in place of a baby carriage. It plays nicely into “Brazil”‘s skewed hierarchical world, where the mundane has been elevated into the sublime and ducts are the highest architectural embellishment. In the film’s satiric rendering, the death of a loud, annoying house-cleaning accessory is as tragic as the snuffing out of an infant. But according to Gilliam on the commentary track, “this is what happens when I get bored” during shooting — he claims his elaborate shot parodies were made up to kill time. Gilliam’s compared the over-designed frames and sight gags of his work as being in part inspired by Mad magazine’s old trick of including cartoon gags in the margins of unrelated pages. His invocation of “Potemkin” is intended in the same spirit. (Skip to about 7:30 in the video below.)

06142010_partner.jpg“Partner” (1968)

In Bernardo Bertolucci’s third film, characters say things like “Advertising is a servant of fascism” and mean it. Loosely inspired by Dostoyevsky’s “The Double,” “Partner” stars Pierre Clementi as two doppelgangers, both of whom happen to be assholes. The revolutionary rhetoric leads to one of the film’s more amusing bits. Clementi and his theater students stand on a staircase, put an explosive in a baby carriage and push it down the stairs. When it doesn’t go off (presumably some kind of metaphor), they run around releasing red colored smoke into the air while making noises that sound a lot like a six-year-old imitating an airplane. While I couldn’t track down a video of that bit on YouTube, I did turn up this sequence, which contains the strangest song you’ll hear this week:

06142010_bullets.jpg“When Nature Calls” (1985)

Troma release “When Nature Calls” is a movie that, to get to a mere 75 minute runtime, had to be padded at the front with three faux-trailers, beating “Grindhouse” to the punch decades early. One of those is “Baby Bullets,” about a gangster baby. It’s ridiculous, but contains a “Potemkin” sight gag that’s inventive — the carriage goes down the stairs, but it’s actually a small car, with the baby whizzing past everyone, including the glasses woman. The rest is forgettable — much better is the full-length trailer for the whole film, which includes excerpts from “Raging Bullshit” (I’m sure you can guess what that’s a spoof of), a dead-on visit to the “Asylum for the Terminally Jerry Lewis” and a cameo from G. Gordon Liddy.

06142010_critic.jpg“The Critic” (1994-95)

This one’s brief but worthwhile: a down in the dumps Jay Sherman — his show canceled, his life purposeless (well, more so than usual) — decides to revisit his film school days and screen his student short. We’re invited to snigger at all the tropes of the unwatchably pretentious art film, which include salutes to the “Potemkin” baby carriage as well as “The Seventh Seal” (the title “L’artiste est Morte” is a dead giveaway), before Jay calls himself “Prometheus Sherman” and hangs himself. As far as art school parodies go, it’s as wan as “Art School Confidential” (it’s shooting fish in a barrel, and no one really does this), though the Kool-Aid jug morphing into a mushroom cloud is a nice touch. Jay, of course, is honest with himself: “I know,” he shrugs. “It stinks.” (Skip to 1:28 if you’re in a hurry.)

06142010_catastrophe.jpg“Une Catastrophe” (2008)

In his book “The Great War and Modern Memory,” Paul Fussell proposes that the essential mindset of the 20th century is to live in perpetual wartime, used to the fact that there’s never global peace. Jean-Luc Godard would probably agree — the opening “Inferno” montage from 2003’s “Notre Musique” posits as much. If you don’t have ten minutes to spare (or the patience to give Godard ten minutes) on that clip, here’s the just-over-a-minute short “Une Catastrophe,” whittled down from the same material, and reappropriating “Potemkin.”

06142010_naked.jpg“Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994)

By the time Leslie Nielsen’s no-brow “Naked Gun” franchise got around to parodying “The Untouchables” (back in the day when you could assume audiences remembered a movie from seven years ago — now our rapid-response parodies are a lot faster, and generally poorer for it), “Potemkin” didn’t really have anything to do with it. Instead, we get sight gags, the most inspired of which is O.J. Simpson doing a touchdown dance with a baby (three months later would come the murders and the white SUV and the trials, retroactively changing the tone of the movie). The parody doesn’t so much mock De Palma’s ponderousness as simply raise the absurdity quotient until it achieve comedy, two degrees removed from the sequence that started things.

[Photos: “Battleship Potemkin,” Kino, 1925; “The Untouchables,” Paramount, 1987; “Brazil,” Universal, 1985; “Partner,” New Yorker Films, 1968; “When Nature Calls,” Troma, 1985; “The Critic,” Sony Pictures Television, 1994-95; “Une Catastrophe,” Viennale, 2008; “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” Paramount, 1994]

Gigi Does It Ep6

Get Freaky With Gigi

5 Ways Gigi Can Help You Become a Better Lover

Gigi limbers up for love tonight at 10:30 PT/ET.

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Coming down off this weekend’s Pixy Stix sugar high? Well, rather than raid your grandkids’ candy sacks for some stray Charleston Chews, tune in to tonight’s all new Gigi Does It at 10:30P ET/PT for enough sweet sass to send you into a diabetic coma. But before you fire up the ol’ Life Alert, here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s episode that will also improve your moves in the boudoir.

1. Relive your crazy Halloween.

Sure, you’ve already rung in All Hallows’ Eve with some petty vandalism and your best Taylor Swift getup. But it’s never too late to break out the spooky ghoul costume and do like Gigi and put that TP in the trees to good, practical use.

2. Try something new in the bedroom.

Every healthy relationship ought to include some variety in the intimacy department, which is why it’s always smart to brush up on what those wild kids are doing in the bedroom these days. (If you’re confused with any of the terms, consult your male nurse.)

3. Limber up.

Physical therapists advise against sitting or lying down for extended periods of time, so take a moment to stretch out those quads and hammies with Gigi – regardless of how many “good legs” you have.

4. Browse the Web with a friend.

Surfing the ‘net with a pal can be fun. Just watch out for those nasty pop-up ads.

5. Watch the video that is too hot for Facebook.

Deemed “Too Hot for Facebook,” this Gigi clip removes the bleeps and blurs for a raw, NSFW look at the foul-mouthed granny in action.

at arrivals for PORTLANDIA Second Season Premiere on IFC, The American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY January 5, 2012. Photo By: Eric Reichbaum/Everett Collection

Carrie Loves Madonna?

5 Things We Learned About Carrie Brownstein From Her Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Q&A

Get the scoop on Carrie's live book release event.

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Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl is out on shelves both physical and digital, and the book tour kicked off with a Q&A session for fans at the metal bar Saint Vitus in Brooklyn. Questlove from The Roots and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon joined the Portlandia star on stage to moderate a conversation before a huddled crowd holding their plastic cups filled with draft IPA. “It’s familiar to both of us,” Brownstein joked. “There’s no bathroom backstage…it’s very humbling.”

From Madonna to Portlandia, check out some highlights from the Brownstein-Questlove extravaganza.

1. Carrie and Questlove Are Now BFFs

Portlandia pregnant

After the Portlandia funny gal read a passage from the book, which follows her life in music with the band Sleater-Kinney, Questlove remarked how surprised he was to hear he would be accompanying her for this event. “I don’t know if growing up we’d be best friends, but I know that we’re the same person,” he said. As proof that they would totally be Bffs, Brownstein continued to say how the first thing they bonded over backstage was the TV series The Affair, which she said is so unrealistic because both stars are British. “Half of The Wire is British,” Questlove said.

2. She Has a Major Madonna Obsession

Carrie call me

Some of the topics discussed were Brownstein’s band experience, absorbing feminism through punk rock, taping pictures of Dennis Quaid and Mel Gibson to her wall, and — more impactful — her obsession with Madonna. “I remember sitting on my bed and crying because I’d never be friends with Madonna,” she said of her 10-year-old self. Brownstein still hasn’t met her, though Questlove only hesitated a moment before bragging about how the “Material Girl” is “kinda” his manager. Guess we know what to get Carrie for her birthday.

3. She Went Incognito at Traffic Class

Portlandia driving

You know that traffic class you have to take after you get a ticket? No? Well, Brownstein does, because she had to take one. Not only that, but she took it just after the season 2 premiere of Portlandia. As she said, this wasn’t even season 1 when most people didn’t know her name. She was quite recognizable at this point, so to ward off unwanted attention at driver’s ed she tried to disguise herself as best she could.

4. Music Is Her Lifeline

Portlandia cat nap

Things got a bit real when Questlove asked Brownstein whether she would be okay with the possibility of her acting career overshadowing her musical endeavors. He likened the subject to how most people recognize him as “Jimmy Fallon’s drummer” instead of everything else he does with The Roots or his writing. The short answer is yes. She said she wouldn’t do anything creative — music or otherwise — if she didn’t want her named associated with it. That said, music has and always will be her “lifeline.”

5. Shocker! She’s Not a Ben Carson Fan

Portlandia what are you

Things got even more real when a fan asked a question about politics. Brownstein said that the fact that Ben Carson, and many other presidential candidates, came out against abortion and Planned Parenthood is “madness” and also shared her thoughts on racism and police brutality. She also noted “a collective voice of dissent” and “people starting to be more connected,” especially on social media. To lighten the mood, Carrie then joked, “Let’s have another clothing question.”

For more Carrie quotes, check out her Tumblr Q&A and our live-tweet of the Brooklyn event.

The Fan Everett Collection

It's Not Crazy, It's Sports

8 Extreme Sports Fans from the Movies

Cheer on Uncle Chubbys on an all-new Benders Thursday at 10P on IFC.

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There have been countless movies about sports heroes over the years. But every so often those of us whose court is on the couch regretting how many chicken wings we ate on game day get the spotlight. The Benders guys love hockey, but these passionate sports fans from the movies take their team loyalty to some pretty extreme places.

8. Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella (Costner) is such a fan of baseball, he listens to voices in his head and builds a field in his backyard. Thankfully they never made a sequel called “Field of Screams” where the voices tell Ray to murder his family.

7. Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern, Celtic Pride

Aykroyd and Stern play Boston fans who kidnap an opposing team’s player in this Judd Apatow scripted comedy. Much like Tom Brady, they never admit to their crime.

6. Robert De Niro, The Fan

Gil Renard (De Niro) loved the San Francisco Giants so much, he actually kidnapped player Bobby Rayburn’s (Wesley Snipes) son. Couldn’t he have just painted his body orange and black and called it a day?

5. The Fans in Major League

The fans stayed dedicated to the Indians even in tough times, which is pretty admirable since the team consisted of a womanizer, an ex-con and a voodoo practitioner.

4. Patton Oswalt, Big Fan

Patton Oswalt is borderline mental in his NY Giants fandom here, which, if you look at their offense this year, you’d have to be.

3. Robert De Niro (again), Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

De Niro’s character has lost it all betting on the Eagles over the years. Nobody tell him about Draft Kings, okay?

2. Toro the Bull, Space Jam

It’s not tough to root for a team consisting of Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny AND Bill Murray, but Toro didn’t just cheer from the sidelines. When push came to shove, he put his horns where the Monstars’ sun don’t shine, and helped turn the tide of the game.

1. Susan Sarandon, Bull Durham

Talk about going the extra mile. Mentor, lover and fan, Annie Savoy (Sarandon) is second only to the jock strap as the ultimate athletic supporter.

Ghostbusters II

Lost Belushi Roles

10 Roles John Belushi Almost Played

Catch Ghostbusters II Thursday, November 12th starting at 5P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo credit: Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection.

Before his untimely death in 1982, few in Hollywood could match the sheer comedic force of John Belushi. For a brief moment in 1978, he had the number one album (The Blue Brothers’ Briefcase Full of Blues), the number one show in late night television (SNL), and the number one movie in theaters (Animal House). Drugs and the vagaries of Hollywood didn’t allow Belushi to remain on top for long, but at the time of his death, he had several projects in the pipeline. Before you catch the Ghostbusters movies (a franchise literally haunted by the ghost of Belushi) on IFC, check out a few projects that could’ve been different had they featured Belushi’s singular talent.

10. Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman

Columbia Pictures

Ghostbusters had a long, complicated road to the big screen. When Dan Aykroyd first developed the project, he envisioned it as a follow-up to The Blues Brothers about a team of time traveling ghost hunters in the distant future. But then, just as the project started moving forward, its supposed star died of a drug overdose.

From day one, Belushi was envisioned as Peter Venkman, the smooth talking ladies man/paranormal investigator, but his death threw the project into a tailspin. Richard Pryor was briefly considered for the lead role, before it fell into Bill Murray’s lap. It’s near sacrilege to picture Ghostbusters without Murray’s unique persona steering the ship, but it’s fun to imagine what Belushi would’ve brought to the comedy classic. Aykroyd and director Ivan Reitman have always said that lovable ghoul Slimer is basically a tribute to Belushi in slimy, spectral form.

9. Moon Over Miami (aka American Hustle), Shelly Slutsky

Columbia Pictures

Shortly before Belushi’s death, famed French auteur Louis Malle began developing a script based on the FBI Abscam story, a sting operation in the 1970s that led to the arrest of numerous politicians. If that sounds familiar, it’s because filmmaker David O. Russell mined the same true story in 2013 for his Oscar favorite American Hustle.

Moon Over Miami, as the project was known at the time, would’ve allowed both Malle and Belushi to step outside their comfort zone, creating more of a sharp satire than a flat out comedy or drama. Belushi would’ve played Shelly Slutsky, a slobbish conman similar to the role Christian Bale played in American Hustle. Belushi’s partner in crime, Dan Aykroyd, was also being eyed for the role of Otis Presby, otherwise known as Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent on the edge. If all the pieces had come together, this movie had the potential to be a major turning point for the creative partnership of Belushi and Aykroyd. Playwright John Guare, who penned the script, would stage the screenplay years later, but this version of the story would never make it to the big screen.

8. Fatty Arbuckle biopic

Keystone Studios

Belushi was the first of many larger than life comedic actors to explore the possibility of playing the legendary silent film star, who all but invented the idea of the chubby comedian on the big screen. The story of Arbuckle’s rise and tragic fall at the dawn of Hollywood could’ve provided Belushi with a chance to be funny, while also exploring the inherent darkness of being the “fat guy who falls down.”

7. Animal House 2, John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky


Animal House had the biggest box office ever for a comedy when it came out, so it’s no surprise a sequel was immediately put into development. The story would have followed Bluto, Otter and the boys reuniting during the Summer of Love, but Belushi resisted, for fear of being typecast, and the project never came together. Belushi’s passing thankfully spared moviegoers from what would no doubt have been a lesser sequel to a comedy classic.

6. Noble Rot, Johnny Glorioso

Buena Vista Television

This dark comedy about a dysfunctional family of winemakers was a passion project for Belushi, who co-wrote the script with fellow SNL writer/performer Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello. Alas, his death would leave the project in limbo, and we would never get to see what a movie co-written by and starring Belushi would’ve looked like.

5. Nothing Lasts Forever, Cameo

This odd outing, that never saw a theatrical release, came from the mind of SNL‘s resident filmmaker Tom Schiller. After years of churning out shorts for the late night show — like the Belushi classic Don’t Look Back in Anger and La Dolce Gilda — Schiller made a movie that truly defies description.

Set in an alternate universe New York City, where everything has the feel of a 1930s musical, the Lorne Michaels-produced film features cameos from SNL favorites Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray. Rumor has it Belushi was supposed to cameo, but sadly died six weeks before filming.

4. Spies Like Us, Emmett Fitz-Hume

This cold war comedy is a relic of its time. Not the funniest movie on anyone’s filmography, it’s still good for a few laughs. Belushi was slated to play Emmett Fitz-Hume, the role that eventually went to Chevy Chase. Considering Belushi was reportedly no fan of his former SNL cohort, that casting just seems like adding insult to injury.

3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Dr. Gonzo

A big screen take on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi makes so much sense, it’s a wonder it never came together. Aykroyd’s odd, clipped intensity as Raoul Duke, alongside Belushi’s unhinged, swarthy madness as Dr. Gonzo, is pitch perfect casting. Sadly, the project evaporated with Belushi’s passing and the novel floated around Hollywood for another decade before Terry Gilliam finally made his adaptation.

2. Gangs of New York, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting

Martin Scorsese’s passion project was in development for so long, Belushi was the first choice to play the role that Daniel Day-Lewis later made famous. While the film that Scorsese eventually made has its merits, it surely would’ve provided a drastically different type of part for Belushi to dig into. Even more amazing is the fact that Aykroyd was being considered for the part of Amsterdam Vallon at the time. If only we lived in a world where the The Blues Brothers duked it out in period garb in a Scorsese film.

1. Three Amigos, Ned Nederlander

Yet another in the long line of supposed Aykroyd/Belushi projects that were in development post-Blues Brothers, Belushi was set to play Ned Nederlander before he passed away. Martin Short was brought in as a replacement, giving a wonderful performance, but one that would seem to be the polar opposite of what Belushi would’ve done with the material.

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