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More Alexandre Rockwell: In The Soup, Pete smalls is Dead, Little Feet

How not to rely on the mob as a means of financing

Little Feet: the children of Alexandre Rockwell.
Little Feet: the children of Alexandre Rockwell.

As promised in last week’s review of Alexandre Rockwell’s Sweet Thing, a few words on its prequel, Little Feet. But first, let’s present two of the director’s previous films. In the Soup and Pete Smalls is Dead, a pair of primers on how not to rely on the mob as a means of financing art.

In The Soup (1992)

Rockwell’s fourth film not only put him on the map, it introduced audiences to the running stock company that has helped to make his films such a delight to behold. Aldolpho Rollo (Steve Buscemi) has written a 500-page script that, in his mind, is the greatest ever written. Potential investors can’t get past page four. Adolpho longs to see his name splashed across a 100-foot screen, but until that time comes, he will have to settle for painting his name in large letters inside abandoned buildings. With his landlords beating down the door and mom’s rent check late in the mail, Aldolpho puts his incoherent blockbuster up for sale. Who would green light such a project? How about a gangster undergoing a midlife artistic crisis? Or so Joe (Seymour Cassel) says. He’s not interested in Aldolpho as an artistic investment. What Joe really wants is an unwitting second story man, a part our hero is all too well-suited to play. Joe convinces his partner that the proceeds from the Porsche they’re about to steal will go to finance the film. He exerts a powerful amount of influence over his protege’s life, from little things like teaching him how to dance and tie a bowtie, to hooking him up with with Angela (Jennifer Beals, then married to the director), the waitress of his dreams with whom Aldolpho shares a wall. And as a producer, Joe makes a terrific landlord deflector. As time goes on, it dawns on Aldolpho that rather than telling his own story, he’s become the star of Joe’s. Joe likens a moon-eyed Aldolpho to Don Knotts, while his likely corollary is Bugs Bunny. Using his cigar in place of a carrot, Joe is not only capable of brushing off every affront with a wisecrack, but also, when it comes to Aldolpho, moving in for a kiss more times than Bugs putting the make on Elmer. With: Will Patton as “Skippy,” Carol Kane, Jim Jarmusch, Stanley Tucci, Sam “No Relation” Rockwell, Debi Mazar, and Sully Boyar, unforgettable as the old man with Alzheimer’s the boys encounter while breaking and entering. (Now streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Pete smalls is Dead (2010)

A cast of supporting players worth worshipping bestir this snowballing mystery, which cascades gleefully from clue to clue as it attracts an avalanche of rumbustious characters along the way. The result? A heady combination of amateur crime-solving and screwball comedy misadventure. They were a trio of friends divided by time and space. A once promising screenwriter, K.C. Munk (Peter Dinklage) currently presides over a New York laundry. He’s also into the mob for ten large, and they’ve kidnapped a dog named Buddha to kill if Munk doesn’t clear his debt. More bad news: he knew something was afoul the moment he felt Jack’s (Mark Boone Junior) slovely presence on the other end of the phone. (Munk describes Jack as “a human mood ring about to go purple.”) He wasn’t surprised to learn of their friends passing so much as he was by Jack’s offer to pay off his debt — if only he’ll fly to L.A. to help bury the titular stiff (Tim Roth). Munk knew Jack was lying, but what would you do if it was your dog? DOUBLE SPOILERS AHEAD: with regard to the title, no he’s not. The crime subplot between Munk and Smalls follows Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye with one twist. Rather than Marlowe’s pursuit of Marty Augustine ending with a bullet doing the talking, Munk closes by professing love for his old friend. This is Peter Dinklage at his best, a performance so assuredly anchored amidst the floating lunacy as to convince us that what we’re watching could very well be fact-based. In closing, any film that offers the observation “Shemp did some pretty good work” is one to be eternally cherished. With: Steve Buscemi, Seymour Cassel, Rosie Perez, Lena Headly, Carol Kane, Michael Lerner, David Proval, Theresa Wayman, Lana Rockwell, and a team of Panda-suited pizza delivery boys carrying their pies as if they were schoolbooks. (Available on DVD from Image Entertainment.)

Little Feet (2013)

Lana (Rockwell) and Nico (Rockwell) turn the death of a goldfish into a learning experience about how to work through the recent passing of their mother. Rather than overly sentimentalizing the moment, the siblings decide to give their surviving pet fish a new lease on life by transferring it from a bowl in Echo Park to the L. A. river. If only it were that easy to repair their dad, a man damaged to the point where he can barely crawl out of the bottle long enough to put on his Panda suit and go to work. In what appears to be a nightly ritual, Lana spends the minutes after she puts dad to bed soaking his smokes and diluting his pint with water. Joining them on their daylong adventure is a worm-eating neighbor kid who enjoys masquerading as a robot in a refrigerator box. There are moments straight out of the Our Gang comedies: the kids use a steam iron to heat sandwiches and dangle a hot dog on a string so their pooch will pull the cart faster. For Rockwell, a child’s point-of-view means more than simply lowering the camera to the ground. We experience every moment of this film just as a child would.

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San Diego in books - UCSD, Market Street, mobs in San Diego

Wesley Marx, Wade Miller, Mike Royko, Eric Higgs, David Darlington, Michael Franzese and Dary Matera, Robert Purtill
Little Feet: the children of Alexandre Rockwell.
Little Feet: the children of Alexandre Rockwell.

As promised in last week’s review of Alexandre Rockwell’s Sweet Thing, a few words on its prequel, Little Feet. But first, let’s present two of the director’s previous films. In the Soup and Pete Smalls is Dead, a pair of primers on how not to rely on the mob as a means of financing art.

In The Soup (1992)

Rockwell’s fourth film not only put him on the map, it introduced audiences to the running stock company that has helped to make his films such a delight to behold. Aldolpho Rollo (Steve Buscemi) has written a 500-page script that, in his mind, is the greatest ever written. Potential investors can’t get past page four. Adolpho longs to see his name splashed across a 100-foot screen, but until that time comes, he will have to settle for painting his name in large letters inside abandoned buildings. With his landlords beating down the door and mom’s rent check late in the mail, Aldolpho puts his incoherent blockbuster up for sale. Who would green light such a project? How about a gangster undergoing a midlife artistic crisis? Or so Joe (Seymour Cassel) says. He’s not interested in Aldolpho as an artistic investment. What Joe really wants is an unwitting second story man, a part our hero is all too well-suited to play. Joe convinces his partner that the proceeds from the Porsche they’re about to steal will go to finance the film. He exerts a powerful amount of influence over his protege’s life, from little things like teaching him how to dance and tie a bowtie, to hooking him up with with Angela (Jennifer Beals, then married to the director), the waitress of his dreams with whom Aldolpho shares a wall. And as a producer, Joe makes a terrific landlord deflector. As time goes on, it dawns on Aldolpho that rather than telling his own story, he’s become the star of Joe’s. Joe likens a moon-eyed Aldolpho to Don Knotts, while his likely corollary is Bugs Bunny. Using his cigar in place of a carrot, Joe is not only capable of brushing off every affront with a wisecrack, but also, when it comes to Aldolpho, moving in for a kiss more times than Bugs putting the make on Elmer. With: Will Patton as “Skippy,” Carol Kane, Jim Jarmusch, Stanley Tucci, Sam “No Relation” Rockwell, Debi Mazar, and Sully Boyar, unforgettable as the old man with Alzheimer’s the boys encounter while breaking and entering. (Now streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Pete smalls is Dead (2010)

A cast of supporting players worth worshipping bestir this snowballing mystery, which cascades gleefully from clue to clue as it attracts an avalanche of rumbustious characters along the way. The result? A heady combination of amateur crime-solving and screwball comedy misadventure. They were a trio of friends divided by time and space. A once promising screenwriter, K.C. Munk (Peter Dinklage) currently presides over a New York laundry. He’s also into the mob for ten large, and they’ve kidnapped a dog named Buddha to kill if Munk doesn’t clear his debt. More bad news: he knew something was afoul the moment he felt Jack’s (Mark Boone Junior) slovely presence on the other end of the phone. (Munk describes Jack as “a human mood ring about to go purple.”) He wasn’t surprised to learn of their friends passing so much as he was by Jack’s offer to pay off his debt — if only he’ll fly to L.A. to help bury the titular stiff (Tim Roth). Munk knew Jack was lying, but what would you do if it was your dog? DOUBLE SPOILERS AHEAD: with regard to the title, no he’s not. The crime subplot between Munk and Smalls follows Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye with one twist. Rather than Marlowe’s pursuit of Marty Augustine ending with a bullet doing the talking, Munk closes by professing love for his old friend. This is Peter Dinklage at his best, a performance so assuredly anchored amidst the floating lunacy as to convince us that what we’re watching could very well be fact-based. In closing, any film that offers the observation “Shemp did some pretty good work” is one to be eternally cherished. With: Steve Buscemi, Seymour Cassel, Rosie Perez, Lena Headly, Carol Kane, Michael Lerner, David Proval, Theresa Wayman, Lana Rockwell, and a team of Panda-suited pizza delivery boys carrying their pies as if they were schoolbooks. (Available on DVD from Image Entertainment.)

Little Feet (2013)

Lana (Rockwell) and Nico (Rockwell) turn the death of a goldfish into a learning experience about how to work through the recent passing of their mother. Rather than overly sentimentalizing the moment, the siblings decide to give their surviving pet fish a new lease on life by transferring it from a bowl in Echo Park to the L. A. river. If only it were that easy to repair their dad, a man damaged to the point where he can barely crawl out of the bottle long enough to put on his Panda suit and go to work. In what appears to be a nightly ritual, Lana spends the minutes after she puts dad to bed soaking his smokes and diluting his pint with water. Joining them on their daylong adventure is a worm-eating neighbor kid who enjoys masquerading as a robot in a refrigerator box. There are moments straight out of the Our Gang comedies: the kids use a steam iron to heat sandwiches and dangle a hot dog on a string so their pooch will pull the cart faster. For Rockwell, a child’s point-of-view means more than simply lowering the camera to the ground. We experience every moment of this film just as a child would.

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