It’s Steve Buscemi’s Birthday—Let’s Get Weird

One day in my sophomore year of college, I walked into my Contemporary American Cinema class at IFC Center and there was Steve Buscemi just chillin’ with my professor. I froze a bit—seeing him out of context was an odd thing at 9 AM on Tuesday, and is anyone ever fully prepared to just bump into the wonder that is the lovably wonky smile and buggering eyes of Steve Buscemi? He wasn’t doing anything particularly weird—just hanging out in a sweater before going off to pre-production Boardwalk Empire rehearsal. He had stopped by my class to screen and talk about his 2007 intimate drama Interview, which he wrote, directed, and starred in opposite Sienna Miller. And although nowadays he’s mainly known for his role as the anti-hero political/gangster Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire—for which he has won multiple Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe—it’s his early film roles that truly exemplify the talented but always weird Buscemi we love so much.

And as today is his 55th birthday, what better way to celebrate his career chock-full of cult favorites than to look back on his best roles—spanning from his work with Jim Jarmusch in the late ’80s, Tarantino and the Coens in the ’90s, and the other goodies in between and after. Enjoy.

Charlie the Barber in Mystery Train (1989)

Told through a series of vignettes all centered around one hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, JIm Maramusch’s 1989 ode to the spirit of Elvis Presley, featured Buscemi in the small but memorable role as Charlie the Barber in the final story of the film, “Lost in Space,” for which he was nominated for an Indepedent Spirit Award.

Mr. Pink in Resevoir Dogs (1992)

In 1992 Quentin Tarantino made his directorial debut with Reservoir Dogs, shooting his career forward and garnering him an obsessive fan base. And in the role of Mr. Pink, Buscemi was embedded as a violent and bizarro cult icon for movies to come. The role also won him his first an Independent Spirit Award.

Buddy Holly in Pulp Ficton (1994)

After Reservoir Dogs, of course Buscemi would make a cameo in Tarantino’s next and most acclaimed film, 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Unless you’re paying close attention you might not catch him, but he’s surely there as Buddy Holly in the iconic Jack Rabbit Slim’s Restaurant scene.

Carl Showalter in Fargo (1996)

As the star of Joel and Ethan Cohen’s Fargo, Buscemi got to sink his wonky teeth into the character of desperate criminal, Carl Showalter. The zany 1996 crime drama wasn’t only a career hit for Buscemi but also won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Donny Kerabetsos in The Big Lebowski (1998)

Reuniting with the Coen Brothers again, Buscemi hopped onboard the cult favorite The Big Lebowski. In the 1996 comedy, he plays the timid bowling buddy Donny  Kerabetsos opposite the beloved Jeff Bridges and John Goodman.

Dave Veltri in The Wedding Singer (1998)

It’s been years since I’ve seen the ’80s-set Adam Sandler comedy The Wedding Singer, but when I look back on it, the first thing I think of is Buscemi drunk in a teal suit. His role as Dave Teltri is strange and ridiculous with that Buscemi creep factor you know and love.

Homeless Guy in Big Daddy (1999)

Reuniting with Sandler in the 1999 comedy Big Daddy, Buscemi makes an appearance as a homeless man. Enough said.

Seymour in Ghost World (2001)

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Ghost World tells the story of two teenage outsiders, one of which becomes involved with a misanthropic older man, Seymour. Played by Buscemi with the right mix of humor and sadness, the role got him a Golden Globe nomination and won him a second Independent Spirit Award.

Michael Pitt is the New Face of Prada

Do not adjust your screens. The gentleman pouting in Prada to the left is indeed Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt, and he is the face of the Italian fashion house’s Spring/Summer 2012 campaign. According to Fashionista, Prada asked him to be the face of Miu Miu back in 2005, but he turned it down because he didn’t like what it would possibly do to his image. Now his image is as a damaged, aspiring gangster who wears slick suits and sports the best haircut on TV. In other words, it’s perfect for Prada.

The campaign, shot by David Sims, is inspired by the ’50s-era Hollywood men, and features Pitt posing in four Prada looks doing ’50s-era Hollywood man things, like wistfully strumming a guitar, putting up dukes, and the aforementioned pouting.

As for the actual SS12 menswear being offered, looks are Prada-perfect, per usual. Standouts include the retro print short-sleeved button-up, the geometric scarves, and the floral-print trousers. See the complete campaign here.

‘Boardwalk Empire’ Introduces Its Most Promising New Villain In Ages

Well, in the antihero-focused years of TV since The Sopranos, “villain” is a relative term—one supposes we could redefine it as “someone who promises to thwart the seedy dealings of the main character and appears to operate in an even more coldblooded fashion”—but nevertheless, we were surprised when Jeffrey Wright’s Dr. Valentin Narcisse didn’t show up in the season premiere of Boardwalk Empire, and our anticipation only mounted from there.

The second episode, “Resignation,” showed us that Dr. Narcisse would be part of the lingering fallout from the previous episode’s extravagant neck-stabbing—though all in all, it’s almost as if he’s just used the incident as leverage to get his foot in the door of Nucky Thompson’s Atlantic City criminal empire. His icy sophistication is a lovely change of pace from the entertaining but rather one-note sociopath Gyp Rosetti, who was the homicidal thug threatening the status quo last time around: the show may have just found its Professor Moriarty.
Quoting scripture as if sitting in holy judgment of all the peasants below himself (he twice referred to himself as a “king” with no irony whatsoever; another frightened character quaveringly remarks that “he owns a piece of everybody”), the Trinidadian, Harlem-based doctor of divinity burns at a different, mysterious temperature against the rest of the cast, but his bloodlust easily matches theirs, and he seems to be a racial purist as well—he invokes the imagery of a lynching before having a white woman killed in part for seducing a black man. With motivations like these, why bother predicting what’ll happen next week? Just sit back and let the carnage unfold.   

‘Boardwalk Empire’ Teases With New Season 4 Trailer

With Game of Thrones off the air and the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad shrouded in mystery (at least since that stolen script was recovered), it’s time to get a taste of that other masterpiece of 21st Century premium cable ultra-violence: Boardwalk Empire.

The show’s massive boardwalk set was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, so it may come as little surprise that most of what we’re seeing first of season four is indoors: in the clubs, speakeasies, and smoke-filled back rooms that define the Prohibition era. When last we left Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson, he had vanquished his rival Gyp Rosetti in a street war, but at great personal cost. It doesn’t appear as though Margaret, his now estranged wife, played by the endlessly great Kelly Macdonald, will come crawling back anytime soon.

What we do know is that WWI vet and fan favorite Richard Harrow will continue to be the ultimate stick-up artist; Nucky may be forging ties with a doctor of divinity who controls Harlem (Jeffrey Wright) and will have to deal with a wealthy businessman (Ron Livingston) who gets close to the mother of the protégé he murdered in season two. 

Whenever I get overwhelmed with all the stuff I’m juggling in life, I just think to myself: at least I’m not an HBO character. Those guys just can’t catch a break.

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Kneel Before Zod in New ‘Man of Steel’ Trailer

Superhero movies live and die by their antagonists. The Dark Knight haunted with its amoral, deranged evil in Heath Ledger’s Joker. Jack Nicholson’s equally creepy but decidedly goofier and more charming Joker enraptured audiences decades before. The Avengers’ Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, may be more popular than his brother Thor, and has inspired countless works of fan fiction from his enthusiastic admirers. And now, Michael Shannon, best known for playing dark and intense characters on Boardwalk Empire, in Revolutionary Road and a somewhat terrifying interpretation of the infamous Delta Gamma letter, has a chance to join this pantheon of excellent comic-book-movie rials as General Zod in the upcoming Man of Steel

It’s not exactly accurate to call this interpretation of General Zod a "villain," and both Shannon and director Zack Snyder have said otherwise. Zod is just trying to do what’s right for his home planet of Krypton and will stop at nothing to do what he thinks is best. That doesn’t mean he’s any less ruthless or destructive in his tactics, of course, given the film’s most recent trailer. In it, Shannon, as Zod, demands Earth hand over Superman in 24 hours, or he will begin unleashing holy terrors on the place. “Your world has sheltered one of my citizens. He will look like you, but he is not one of you,” he warns. “To those of you who know of his location, the fate of your planet rests in your hands." Then there are some explosions, and at one point Superman (Henry Cavill) looks like he’s getting buried under a hill of skulls. That does not seem pleasant at all. Watch the trailer below. 

Michael Shannon Reads The Now-Infamous Delta Gamma Letter

So late last week, in the middle of an otherwise grim and terrible news week, there was one weird, darkly funny moment that provided a brief escapist reprieve. I’m talking, of course, about the rather strongly worded leaked letter a member of Delta Gamma Sorority at the University of Maryland wrote to her sisters demanding they be less awkward in interactions with their Greek Week partners. The letter ended up on Gawker, likely introduced a certain vulgar rhyming phrase to quite a few unsuspecting readers and instantly gave the chapter and the writer Internet notoriety.

And, as often happens, dramatic readings of this beautiful trainwreck followed, some on YouTube and others in the privacy of living rooms all over the country. (Some of you may have discovered its particularly wondrous quality when reading it in a bad Katherine Hepburn voice, and by “some of you” I mean “me.”) FunnyOrDie employed Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon, known for his intense roles in intense things like Revolutionary Road and Boardwalk Empire, to do a dramatic reading of the letter. And it is indeed pretty intense. Watch below if you need a little catharsis to get through today.

Martin Scorsese Making ‘Gangs of New York’ Into a TV Series, Because Why Not?

Television programs based on movies are usually hit-or-miss (actually, usually miss—for every M*A*S*H* there are a thousand My Big Fat Greek Lives), but if Martin Scorsese thinks he’s got an idea here, it may be worth listening. Gangs of New York was hyped like crazy before and upon its release but fell short of expectations during award season. It’s not his best movie by any means, not his most memorable, and maybe not even the best fodder for a TV show. But with the diverse history and dramatic tensions of mid-19th-century New York City, Scorsese saw an opportunity to revisit the world of Amsterdam Vallon and Bill the Butcher, and he’s working with Miramax and GK Films to make Gangs a TV series. As he writes

“This time and era of America’s history and heritage is rich with characters and stories that we could not fully explore in a two-hour film. A television series allows us the time and creative freedom to bring this colorful world, and all the implications it had and still does on our society, to life.”
The show, according to the Deadline report linked above, would focus on the advent of organized crime in America, not just in New York, of course, but in other major story-rich and scandal-rich cities like Chicago and New Orleans and Atlantic Ci—oh wait, he already did that one with Boardwalk Empire. Obviously, this show would be best as a varying-location ensemble sitcom, in the style of Seinfeld. Can you imagine this scene with a little slap-bass action behind it? 

‘Gangster Squad’ Is the Most January Movie Ever

Any seasoned cinephile is familiar with the January Movie: something genre-driven, with a kind of gray or bluish tint, that wouldn’t even register were it not released in the dead of winter, when we’ve already seen everything good but still don’t want to sit around the living room making conversation. Gangster Squad, I am pleased to report, takes this underwhelming formula to new heights lows middles.

First up, of course, you’ve got A-list talent wandering around doing laughable noir voices—Josh Brolin is a notch below Michael Shannon’s Boardwalk Empire growl, and Ryan Gosling landed near Al Pacino’s high-pitched Godfather. The ultraviolence is a Dashiell Hammett novel rendered as Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. Oh, and never have so many dudes fired WWII-era machine guns at people five feet away and missed entirely.

It’s Sean Penn who should be really pissed, though: easily the most impotent bad-guy super-mobster in half a century. The Terminator-like good guys (seriously, one of them is Robert Patrick, who played the T-1000) basically destroy his empire throughout the movie as he rages helplessly in a mansion and never comes close to exacting any adequate revenge. Plus, terrible makeup. And it looks like they ran out of money in the final fight scene, so it’s just a bunch of dark, grainy footage that Michael Mann may have cut from Public Enemies? All it was missing, really, was a labored nod to Chinatown. Just kidding! That’s in there, too. 

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Prohibition Was Repealed 79 Years Ago Yesterday

Raise a glass, you goddamn drunk. It’s thanks to prodigious Boardwalk Empire-style violence in the bootlegging world that teetotalers like Rockefeller reversed their support for the law that said you couldn’t. In the thirteen years prior to 1933, the distillation, serving, and imbibing of booze were tragically illegal in these United States. So apologies in advance, but if you’re not sipping lovely brown Kentucky bourbon at this very moment, you may be arrested for treason.

Okay, it doesn’t have to be bourbon. It just has to be something brewed in this country to count (meaning Budweiser is out; catch the next slow boat to Belgium, pal). Acceptable drinks would be: something microbrewed on Cape Cod, trendy designer small-batch gin, California sparkling wine, or actually-still-illegal moonshine that makes you lose your sense of smell for a few days, no big deal. Canadian Club is permitted for its historic smuggleability.

If possible, drinks should be consumed in public, at a bar or in full view of a police officer. Don’t be fazed when he tries to write you a ticket. Just patiently explain that Prohibition has been off the books nearly a century at this point, so there’s no need for legal penalties. You’ve got the freedom to drink whatever and stumble wherever and throw up on whomever you like—make sure he knows it.

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