Viva Las Nowhere, aka Dead Simple (2000) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
comments in white
Poor ol' Daniel Stern plays a loveable loser who owns a motel in the dead geographic center of the USA. Not a bad gimmick. Only one problem. That precise spot isn't on a road.
When I was working in Hungary, I was reviewing some prospective gas station locations with the local management in Budapest, and they took me to a site right on the Danube. Even though we were right on top of it, it took us about a half hour to find the spot after we parked the car, and when we found it, it was an empty field. A guy was walking his dog between the stumps, and a couple was holding hands on our site as they walked along the Danube. Nicest site you've ever seen to build an office. It could even have made a nice homesite, except it was too industrial.
In my usual unsubtle way, I said. "I know that you don't always agree with my cultural preconditioning that insists a gas station should be on two roads, but I'm pretty sure you ought to shoot for a minimum of one."
One of the Hungarian guys padded over to the edge of the lot, scratched his feet in the snow, and revealed some asphalt.
"Look, this is a road!"
I looked up the road, down the road. It was two in the afternoon and there were no tire tracks in the snow. Neither footprints nor hoofprints, for that matter. I changed my rule.
"OK, not just a road by the strict definition of pavement, but a road in the broader sense that cars use it. It generally isn't enough for a gas station to be accessible to cars. It has to be somewhere where cars actually go."
I could see there was training yet to be done.
|I don't know much about
the motel business, but I guess that rule would apply there as well.
So Dan has a useless motel with no guests, a shrewish bible-thumpin' wife, and a dream to be a country songwriter. It seems that he might get his chance when a great country diva stumbles across his path, seems to fall for him, and agrees to be his partner in a nightclub which they plan to build on the property.
|The plan doesn't work out
as planned, much of it having to do with the fact that the singer is a
bad person with devious motives, her manager is even a worse person
with greedier motives, and the film has more body count than
It's a funny movie, a black comedy which keeps fooling you. Just when it seems to settle into a predictable path, it goes off in a completely new direction, and you can't tell where it might go next - until you think you have it, then it fools you again. In addition to the eccentric plot, it features some good performances, some country music, Jimmy Caan (Sonny Corleone sings!), and a unique visual style. They found the most god-awful desolate looking spot on earth to film this movie, and the director made great use of the tacky motel in the middle of vast stretches of nothingness.
The movie was actually filmed around Calgary in a tight 29 day schedule, and it snowed 23 of those days, even though there is no snow in the film, and no reason for it to be there. In the interview linked below, the director talked about the travails of filming actors who were sunning themselves in bathing suits in freezing temperatures, their greatest acting feat being to pretend they were warm, while the crew sat by, ready to rush in with heaters and blankets as soon as they heard the direction to "cut!"
Crazy stuff. Fun little movie, well worth the rental if you like black comedies.
|Tuna's comments in
Dead Simple (2000) is
a marvelous black comedy filmed in Alberta, Canada, starring Daniel
Stern as a henpecked motel owner/country singer wanabee. James Caan
plays a despicable singer/scoundrel. Lacey Kohl is Caan's wife, who
passes out on stage during a performance, prompting Caan to dump
Stern finds Kohl and takes her home. Kohl smells money to be made, kills Stern's obnoxious wife, and buries her in the flower bed. Many others are planted before the film is over. The film features lots of country music. It had no theatrical release, and premiered at the Seattle film festival. I enjoyed it beginning to end. It teaches no great truth, but entertained me thoroughly. What more can you ask of a comedy?
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