Viva Las Nowhere, aka Dead Simple (2000) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoopy's 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. 


Carrie Schiffler shows her breasts in a lengthy scene with Caan 

Lacey Kohl shows her buns, and lots of cleavage throughout her appearance, as well as a breast-flash in the bathtub.

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 Apocalypse Now.

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.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • special on "the making of"

Tuna's comments in yellow

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
her alongside the road, and pick up Carrie Schiffler, another performer. 

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? 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.8, but that is based on only 6 votes  
  • With their dollars ... no theatrical release
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. This is a funny and stylish film, even though you never heard of it.

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