This Day in Death

8.29.16: Gene Wilder – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 2:31 pm September 6, 2016

GENE_WILDERMan, John Cena always looks so weird when they have to put him a suit.


Gene Wilder, star of such beloved comedies as Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, has passed away at the age of 83 due to complications related to Alzheimer’s. And now you all see what a lifetime of this comedy stuff will get you. Personally I’ve been ramping down the humor around here for some time in order to wean you guys off the stuff. Don’t worry; Stick with me and soon the most amusement you’ll be able to tolerate is nodding politely to Spalding Gray monologues before getting a good night’s rest.

Wilder made perhaps his most lasting impact as the titular star of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a film about a small-business owner who, apparently not giving any kind of a shit about the sanitary requirements of manufacturing consumables, let a bunch of filthy kids run roughshod through his candy factory with their sticky fingers just a-grabbin’ at everything within reach. They were literally swimming around in it at one point, that’s just gross. Unless the real villain of the film turns out to be Typhoid fever you’re just sending a bad message.

Notably, when velour hat enthusiast Tim Burton rebooted the film in 2005 to a somewhat more controversial reception, Wilder himself called it an “insult” and didn’t care for its darker tone. Far be it from me to jump to Burton’s crushed-velvet-ensconced aid, but if you wanna talk cynical Hollywood cash grabs it’s worth noting that Wilder’s film only got funding in exchange for the rights to create actual molar-raping, diabetes-baiting candy as a synergistic tie to the film. Say what you will about modern cinema, but at least nowadays we can go to the movies without anyone trying to convince us that gobs of sugar will fill the dull ache in our mortal souls. Nope, now science has proven that that can only be accomplished by the luxurious yet bold engineering of a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. That’s Mercedes-Benz: The Best or Nothing!

Mr. Wilder’s rule for comedy was simple: Don’t try to make it funny; try to make it real. “I’m an actor, not a clown,” he said more than once.

With his haunted blue eyes and an empathy born of his own history of psychic distress, he aspired to touch audiences much as Charlie Chaplin had. The Chaplin film “City Lights,” he said, had “made the biggest impression on me as an actor; it was funny, then sad, then both at the same time.”

Hey, did you guys know Wilder was once married to fellow yukchucker Gilda Radner? As a public service announcement, I have to say I highly advise against that kind of thing. You don’t want to marry someone in the same profession as you; It just gets competitive and will likely speed up your already-assured divorce, and you really gotta stick together at least long enough to get on their insurance and have some stuff checked out. See, if you want a strong marriage, what you really need is a mate that does something complementary to what you do without it being too similar. Like let’s say you’re a professional bank robber. Well, see if you can’t find yourself a sleepy security guard to marry. Doomsday prepper? Meet Sam’s Club floor manager. Veterinary tech for an at-capacity animal shelter? Bam! Chef at a fledgling South Korean bistro. Hey, I know it’s not always pretty, but building a stronger society isn’t about aesthetics. It’s like I’ve been saying for years: It’s time to take love out of marriage. And out of our schools, too, come to think of it. When I send my hypothetical children to a public facility I don’t want them coming back with all sorts of twisted ideas about this “compassion” stuff in their heads. It’s against nature, it is!


Source: The NY Times

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8.30.15: Wes Craven – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 2:54 pm September 8, 2015

WES_CRAVENYou know, that Freddy Krueger thought he was a pretty tough customer, but let’s see him slash anyone up out in a rainstorm. Those blades would rust right the hell up, and then what, you’re gonna kill me with Tetanus? Joke’s on you, pal: I probably already needed a shot anyway, what with all of these stray dogs I keep getting into fights with.


Well, Halloween may be on its way, but if you’ve got a Craven’ for more horror flicks from slasher maestro Wes Craven, you’re gonna be disappointed. Because he’s dead. I tried to soften the landing with that pun up there, feel free to message my LinkedIn profile to let me know how I did!

Craven was best known as the creator of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, which featured prop comic/lawncare enthusiast/occasional sadistic murderer Freddy Krueger terrorizing dense suburban kids in their dreams. On a personal note, I’m not ashamed to admit I never quite got over my childhood fear of Freddy. Imagine how terrifying he would be in real life! I mean, who wants to talk to a white guy in a fedora? You know he’s just gonna tell you he wears it ironically, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still wearing it and it still looks stupid, and you just know if you call him out on it suddenly you’re the asshole. Not to mention that hipster sweater he’s always got on. I’m getting chills just thinking about him cornering me at a party to tell me about the idea he had for a combination bike shop/microbrewery. At least Jason was into hockey, that’s kinda cool. I’d way rather be murdered by him. Yeah, that’d be sweet.

“For three years I was unable to sell [A Nightmare of Elm Street]. I basically went broke,” he told CNN years later. “So when the film got made and was a financial success, my career went from the basement through the roof. It was a wonderful feeling.”

While struggling during the early days of his filmmaking career, Craven supposedly directed porn, although that was under a pseudonym for some reason. What was he so ashamed about? It’s not like porn and horror films are all that different: You throw together a story revolving around some creepy dude looking for a busty teenager who doesn’t do much more than scream, slide a tight 80s’ synth-rock soundtrack underneath, and start cranking out the sequel before the lights even cool down. The only major difference is that Hollywood film sets are notoriously drug-free. Those people have a sacred trust with the viewing public, and they don’t take that lightly.


Source: CNN

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6.30.14: Director Paul Mazursky – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:41 pm July 7, 2014

PAUL_MAZURSKYA still from Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a film where a foursome doesn’t lead to divorce or anyone crying at a 24-hour Arby’s. See? I told you guys that kinda thing can work. All it takes is some clearly established boundaries, lots of trust, and two completely loveless marriages.


Potentially DTF writer and director Paul Mazursky passed away last week at the age of 84. Tapping into the sexual zeitgeist of the 70s, Mazursky’s work can arguably be seen as the spiritual forebearer of such modern-day entries into the “Random Fucking as Metaphor for Freedom or Whatever” genre as Spring Breakers, The Canyons and my personal in-the-works screenplay, U Up? (SPOILER ALERT: She was up.)

Mazursky made his writing and directorial debut with 1969’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a movie about two progressive couples dabbling in partner-swapping, presumably with a subplot about a truly reckless overuse of ampersands. Look, I don’t care what filmmakers wanna do in the privacy of their own homes, but when you put it on a poster for everyone to see then to hell with your artistic intentions, you be responsible and use commas. Believe me, I don’t like putting them in any more than you do, but things get pretty run-on sentencey around here in the heat of the moment sometimes. If Hollywood isn’t teaching our kids about proper conjunction usage, where are they gonna learn it from? Man, that got heavy-handed.

The film critic Richard Corliss wrote in New Times in 1978 that Mr. Mazursky had “created a body of work unmatched in contemporary American cinema for its originality and cohesiveness.”

He was, Mr. Corliss said, “likely to be remembered as the filmmaker of the ’70s. No screenwriter has probed so deep under the pampered skin of this fascinating, maligned decade; no director has so successfully mined it for home-truth human revelations.”

Sure, but that’s easy. The 1970s were recent enough that anyone who lived through them without Quaaluding their memories into oblivion could probably cobble together something vaguely profound about the era. The real juice is in films about the sexual decadence and cultural shifts of the 1870s. Think about it: You had Lewis H. Morgan publishing Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, which, hoo boy, I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you, set off a shitstorm in re: his “central theses about social evolution, primitive promiscuity, and group marriage.” That was… interesting, I bet. Also, I think they’re already making an adaptation of the story of how Thomas Edison accidentally sent a phonographic cylinder recording of himself reciting a poem about his taint to President Grant. That looks like it’s gonna be pretty good.


Source: The NY Times

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3.1.14: French Director Alain Resnais – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 10:31 pm March 3, 2014

ALAIN_RESNAISWow. Wearing glasses in the 60s was a bitch. Where would you even get a lanyard for that thing?


French experimental film director Alain Resnais is 1.) dead, and 2.) a string of words that just made my target demo close this tab. So thanks for sticking around, pretentious movie snobs and maybe David Cronenberg. Scanners was dope.

Resnais directed such classics that you’re totally gonna watch as soon as you get some “stuff” out of the way as Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Oh, that last one sounds fun. His films often dealt with memory, and the idea that forgetting is a virtue one can use to create a better future, which is probably the real reason I never remembered to pick my girlfriend up from the hospital last week. In that light, maybe I’m the one who deserved to carve “asshole” onto the hood of her car now.

“If one does not forget, one can neither live nor function,” Mr. Resnais told an interviewer in 1966. “The problem arose for me when I was making ‘Nuit et Brouillard.’ It was not a question of making yet another war memorial, but of thinking of the present and the future. Forgetting ought to be constructive.”

If you’re curious about Resnais’ work and would like to watch some of his classics on Netflix, well, you can’t. I mean, they have his 2012 film You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, the title of which actually seems to be Netflix’s response whenever you try to watch anything that isn’t Orange is the New Black, sub-Mencia comedy specials, or an ill-advised Arrested Development revival. But that’s it. Have you considered watching House of Cards again instead? Because, according to Netflix, you’re sure to enjoy that Netflix original series. And if you don’t believe me, just look at this quote from their VP of Content Selection and Public Relations:

Come on, quit being such an art fag all the time.

Netflix: Because if Citizen Kane is so great, why couldn’t they afford color?

Source: The Washington Post

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2.24.14: Harold Ramis – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 3:57 am February 26, 2014

HAROLD_RAMISLong admired as one of the nicest people in the industry, Ramis was even kind enough to put both Jack Black and Michael Cera in the same terrible movie just so that we could avoid both of them at once. That’s a real timesaver!


Harold Ramis, director of such classic comedies as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Stripes and more, has died at the age of 69. Ramis was a Chicago native, and fans of his in the Windy City are probably feeling rocked harder than a car going over a recently-formed pothole on the Edens because for fuck’s sake Chicago I’m not made of suspension systems. Look, I paid for your scam parking stickers and your scam parking meters and your scam traffic cameras with the dangerously-short yellow lights that are just begging to cause a pile-up. I generally even shut up about your street sweeping scam that you don’t put up notifications about until the middle of the goddamn night before, making sure I always get those awesome tickets that attach right to my window with that kind of glue that won’t wash off for months just so you can get a little bit more dickishness in there under the wire. The least you could do is fill in a little tar to keep me from falling to Mongolia via one of your ever-increasing collection of mammoth sinkholes. I know you’re busy with your packed schedule of political corruption and pissing off the Greek god Boreas to ensure that the winter doesn’t end til fucking July, but the sooner you lend a hand to the thousands of clinically insane people locked into a four-hour commute (on your highway system that, nearest I can tell, was designed by some sort of congestion-fueled space demon that’s never seen a road before) the sooner we can all get back to the glorious luxury of residing in your thousand-dollar-a-nanosecond cost of living distopia. You know what, whatever. Just fuck it, and fuck your pointless silver bean and fuck your stupid Ditka mustaches and fuck the nine people the Yellow Line exists for.

And so, that’s probably how film buffs in Chicago are feeling right now.

With his round glasses lending a professorial air, Ramis would become the calm center of storms brewed by fellow actors, playing the bushy-haired, low-key wisecracker to Bill Murray’s troublemaker in “Stripes” and being the most scientific-minded “Ghostbuster.”

You know, in the movie, the Ghostbusters were considered kind of a joke at first, but it’s worth noting that they were way more successful than those Ghost Hunters idiots. At least the ‘Busters caught a few things, and those guys were just fictional characters. The ghost hunters are real people who have yet to actually catch a ghost in 200 episodes. When you’ve never once been able to do the thing that’s right there in your job title it’s time to call up a temp agency or something. If I hired a building contractor to build me a house, and he agreed to build me said house, but then, instead of a house, he built me a jet ski, and then I gave him 200 more chances to build my house, and he just kept building me jet skis, he’s no longer a contractor. He’s just fired.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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10.25.13: Stuntman and Director Hal Needham – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:22 am November 5, 2013

HAL_NEEDHAMAnd to think that dog had a B.F.A. from Juilliard. Sure, maybe an M.F.A. would’ve opened a few more doors, but when you consider that he only lived 11 years it’s downright miraculous.


Legendary Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham, the man with the passion for crashin’, the Michael Caine of the shoulder sprain, the Eric Schmidt of falling onto shit, has died at the age of 82. Well, not to sound callous, but what did you expect? An 82-year old shouldn’t be performing stunts in the first damn place. Just let today’s young idiots do it, they’re practically invincible anyway. What with their Monster energy drinks and their parkour and their pumpable sneakers those kids are just about superheroes now, pass the torch already.

Needham helped design a number of devices aimed at making stunts both safer and more spectacular, including a pressure-plate gizmo that could hurl an actor into the air as a car seemed to hit him or an explosion went off nearby. In 1986, he and collaborator William L. Frederick received the academy’s Scientific and Engineering Award for developing the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, an invention used for more efficient shooting of action sequences.

Despite contributing his own technological innovations to filmmaking, Needham remained a staunch opponent of the rise of CG special effects up until his death. It’s arguably a little hypocritical, and I have to imagine that he would’ve changed his tune had he been following the Transformers franchise. I mean, in some scenes you can kinda tell Megan Fox isn’t a real person, but how the other actors pretend they’re not just talking to a dude in a green suit is pretty impressive. It’s Andy Serkis’ best work, if you ask me.

Needham would go on to direct such films as Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, and Stroker Ace, the only film that shares its name with its own porn parody.


Source: The LA Times

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5.18.13: Russian Director Aleksei Balabanov – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 10:29 pm May 28, 2013

ALEKSEI_BALABANOV“The title kinda sounds like someone saying ‘boner’ with a Boston accent, so I liked it pretty good.” -Leonard Maltin (quoted from memory)


Grizzly Russian film director Aleksei Balabanov is dead today due to complications related to being a grizzly Russian film director. It seems like it catches up with all of them eventually.

I have to admit, it’d be really hard to talk about his films without having actually, you know… seen any of them. It’d be like reviewing unicorn porn or bathing daily, it’s just something I have no frame of reference for. So I could either spend a couple of hours doing some research, or I could just drop in a block quote and then go watch videos of dogs saying “I love you” on command. Maybe if Balabanov’s movies had a few more affectionate puppies and a little less existential dread this wouldn’t be such an easy decision for me. Just sayin.

In 16 films, Mr. Balabanov offered a world of hit men, shamelessly corrupt officials and corpses upon corpses in a cinematic pastiche reminiscent of the work of Quentin Tarantino in artistic achievement and exuberantly brash taste. In his 2005 film, “Blind Man’s Bluff,” a pair of hit men steal five kilos of heroin from their boss during Russia’s “Wild West” 1990s, when anything-goes-capitalism was sweeping away Communism. They then exchange their leather jackets for dark suits and jobs in the Kremlin bureaucracy.

For those considering a vacation/forced expatriation, Russia falls into that sweet spot of places that are total hellholes, but are still better than all those weird Middle Eastern countries that are cool with dating 12-year olds. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Oh, and they eat cold tomato soup for, like, every single meal. Really! It’s blood red hue and icy temperature are even represented in the colors of their flag. It’s pretty messed up. I dunno, I wouldn’t go. I heard Lee Harvey Oswald used to live there, if that makes any difference for you.


Source: The NY Times

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1.7.13: David R. Ellis, Director of ‘Snakes on a Plane’ and ‘Final Destination’ – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:29 pm January 8, 2013

DAVID_R_ELLISEllis, seen here during his brief tenure as a G.I. Joe villain.


David R. Ellis, the director of Final Destination and Snakes on a Plane, is dead today at the age of 60. This is mostly notable because it turns out that Final Destination and Snakes on a Plane did, in fact, have a director and were not simply the result of strapping some Go Pros onto the backs of a couple of receis monkeys and lettings things sort themselves out. Alright, sorry. I’m just bitter because Ellis torpedoed Kenan Thompson’s budding film career. Dammit, after Good Burger that kid has paid his dues! At some point doing “What’s Up with That?” every week is just gonna get sad.

Ellis’ directing credits include Shark Night 3D, The Final Destination, Cellular and Final Destination 2. He also worked on such films as Misery, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Waterworld. Ellis began his Hollywood career as an actor in the 1970s before moving into stunts and directing.

Well, if you were playing Six Degrees of Waterworld, there’s your in. And I haven’t seen Shark Night 3D yet, but it scoring 16% on the Tomatometer can mean only one thing: We, as Americans, still have not gotten over our prejudices against sharks. Honestly, I thought we were a little more progressive than that. Hell, the fact that only 2% of Hollywood is openly Selachimorphic is frankly kinda sickening. They’re just people, like you and me.


Source: USA Today

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8.19.12: ‘Top Gun,’ ‘True Romance’ Director Tony Scott – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:05 am August 22, 2012

 Will Smith raps a song that shares its title with the film or GTFO.


Director Tony Scott is dead today after jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. Scott is best know for holy shit did I just say he jumped off a bridge? Hey Block Quote, can we run that back?

Director Tony Scott is dead today after jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles.

Yeah, that definitely looks like something I’d write. Case closed, I guess. Of course, I didn’t list any reason at all for Scott’s suicide, so lets take a look at what the LA Times says. One of these days I’m gonna have a long talk with me about my lack of follow-through on these things. A long, metaphysical talk.

Investigators probing the death of “Top Gun” director Tony Scott said they still don’t know why he plunged from the Vincent Thomas Bridge on Sunday.

Law enforcement sources said several notes Scott left do not mention any health problems or offer solid clues about why he jumped. It’s possible, the source said, that authorities might never make a clear determination of motive.

Or maybe it was because he had brain cancer. Or maybe he didn’t. Or maybe you’re allowed to just put any random shit on the internet as long as you’re paid up with Go Daddy. Otherwise Danica Patrick comes to your house and pretends like she’s gonna make out with your girlfriend but instead she just breaks your legs and steals your wallet. I hate those commercials.

Scott was known for his kinetic, high-energy action scenes in films like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, True Romance, Days of Thunder and Crimson Tide. But all of that was just the lead-up to his 2009 masterpiece; convincing John Travolta that audiences would find him intimidating if he dressed up like the biker from the Village People.

Seriously, Travolta went to the set of The Taking of Pelham 123 every day, got into costume, and everyone just held their tongues and he totally bought it. Hell, I bet the neck tattoo was his own idea. “Hey Tony, everybody knows there’s nothing scarier than a pudgy old man in a leather jacket, but what if I had some ink on my neck, like I’m in Blink 182 or somethin’? All I worry about is, would that be *too* scary, you know? Would people, like, be afraid to bring their kids and stuff?”

Source: LA Times

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