Scenes That I Love: Adam Driver Has Read The Script in The Dead Don’t Die

Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die is a film that has definitely grown on me. When I first watched it, I thought it was intriguing but perhaps a bit too cutesy and enamored with itself. However, I’ve subsequently come to realize that, actually, Jarmusch finds just the perfect tone for his look at our zombie-saturated culture.

In the scenes below, Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny, and the wonderful Adam Driver all deal with the inevitability of doom that comes with being a character in a zombie film.


4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Bill Murray Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a happy 70th birthday to everyone’s favorite actor, Bill Murray!

That means, of course, that it’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Ghostbusters (1984, dir by Ivan Reitman)

Rushmore (1998, dir by Wes Anderson)

Lost In Translation (2003, dir by Sofia Coppola)

The Dead Don’t Die (2019, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Music Video of the Day: It’s Alright With Me, performed by Tom Waits (1990, directed by Jim Jarmusch)

Tom Waits recorded this version of Cole Porter’s It’s Alright With Me for Red Hot + Blue, a compilation album that was put together to benefit the Red Hot Organization, a non-profit organization that raises money for AIDS relief and education.

Probably the best known of the songs to come off of Red Hot + Blue was U2’s version of Night and Day.  However, Waits also brought his own unique style to Porter’s lyrics.  This video was directed by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who has also featured Waits in several of his films.


4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Lance Henriksen Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, Lance Henriksen is 80 years old!  In honor of this day, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dog Day Afternoon (1975, dir by Sidney Lumet)

Near Dark (1987, dir by Kathryn Bigelow)

Dead Man (1995, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Mom and Dad (2017, dir by Brian Taylor)

4 Shots From 4 Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise, The Limits Of Control, Only Lovers Left Alive

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Happy birthday, Jim Jarmusch!

4 Shots From 4 Jim Jarmusch Films

Permanent Vacation (1980, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Stranger Than Paradise (1984, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

The Limits of Control (2009, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Music Video Of The Day: The Lady Don’t Mind by Talking Heads (1986, directed by Jim Jarmusch)

Today is Jim Jarmusch’s birthday.  Jarmusch, who is one of the godfathers of American independent film, is 67 years old.

As a director, Jarmusch frequently casts musicians in his films.  From John Lurie, who appeared in Jarmuch’s first films (Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise) to the members of the Wu-Tang Clan and Tom Waits, Jarmusch has always shown an appreciation for musicians as actors.  It’s not surprising that, along with feature films, Jarmusch has also directed his share of music videos.  Jarmusch has done videos for everyone from Neil Young to Tom Waits but, according to his entry at the imdb, his first music video was for Talking Heads’s The Lady Don’t Mind.

The Lady Don’t Mind was the first single from Talking Heads’s sixth studio album, the best-selling Little Creatures.  This video came out two years after Jarmusch’s second film, Stranger Than Paradise.

Enjoy and happy birthday, Jim Jarmusch!

Playing Catch-Up With The Films Of 2019: The Dead Don’t Die (by Jim Jarmusch)

Uh-oh, the dead are rising again.

Seriously, I’ve lost track of how many zombie films I’ve seen over the past ten years.  This last decade was the decade when zombies went mainstream and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.  Zombies have become so overexposed that they’re no longer as scary as they once were.  I mean, there’s even PG-rated zombie movies now!  How the Hell did that happen?  Everyone’s getting in on the act.

There were a brief flurry of excitement when Jim Jarmusch announced that his next film would be a zombie film.  Myself, I was a bit skeptical and the release of a terrible trailer didn’t really help matters.  The fact that the film was full of recognizable names also made me uneasy.  Would this be an actual zombie film or would it just be a bunch of actors slumming in the genre?  The film opened the Cannes Film Festival and received mixed reviews.  By the time it opened in the United States, it seemed as if everyone had forgotten about The Dead Don’t Die.  It was widely chalked up as being one of Jim Jarmusch’s rare misfires, like The Limits of Control.

Last month, I finally watched The Dead Don’t Die and you know what?  It’s a flawed film and yes, there are times when it even becomes an annoying film.  That said, I still kind of liked it.

In The Dead Don’t Die, the Earth’s rotation has been altered, the result of polar fracking.  No one seems to be particularly concerned about it.  Instead, they’re just kind of annoyed by the fact that the sun is now staying up in the sky a bit longer than usual.  Cell phones and watches stop working.  House pets abandon and occasionally attack their owners.  In the rural town of Centerville, the dead rise from their graves and start to eat people.  Whether or not that’s connected to the Earth’s rotation is anyone’s guess.  (I like to think that the whole thing about the Earth’s rotation being altered was Jarmusch’s homage to Night of the Living Dead‘s suggestion that the zombies were the result of space radiation.)

We meet the inhabitant of Centerville.  Zelda (Tilda Swinton) is the enigmatic mortician.  Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) is the horror movie expert.  Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) is the red-hatted farmer who hates everyone.  Zoe (Selena Gomez) is the traveler who is staying at the run-down motel with two friends.  Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) is the police chief who wants to save everyone but Farmer Miller.  Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Mindy (Chloe Sevigny) are police officers.  They’re all in the middle of a zombie apocalypse but very few of them seem to really be that surprised by any of it.

Throughout the film, we hear Sturgill Simpson singing a wonderful song called The Dead Don’t Die.  Cliff demands to know why the song is always one the radio.  Ronnie replies that it’s the “theme song.”  Ronnie, we discover, has an answer for almost everything.  He explains that he knows what’s going to happen because he’s the only one that “Jim” allowed to read the entire script.  Cliff isn’t happy about that.

That’s the type of film that The Dead Don’t Die is.  It’s an elaborate in-joke, a zombie movie about people who know that they’re in a zombie movie but who are too detached to actually use that information to their advantage.  The script has been written so they have no choice but to do what the script says regardless of whether it makes them happy or not.  It’s a clever conceit, though a bit of a thin one to build a 103-minute movie around.

As I said, the film can occasionally be an endurance test.  Everyone is so deadpan that you actually find yourself getting angry at them.  But, whenever you’re on the verge of giving up, there will be a clever line that will draw you back in or the theme song will start playing again.  Bill Murray and Adam Driver are fun to watch and Driver reminds us that he’s actually a good comedic actor.  (In the year of Marriage Story and Rise of Skywalker, that can be easy to forget.)

It’s a flawed film and definitely not one of Jim Jarmusch’s best.  At the same time, though, The Dead Don’t Die is not as bad as you may have heard.

Here’s The New Red Band Trailer For The Dead Don’t Die

I know that I should probably be more excited about The Dead Don’t Die, the upcoming zombie comedy film from Jim Jarmusch.

I mean, after all, Jim Jarmusch has made some brilliant films and I enjoyed his take on vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive.  Add to that, the film is full of wonderful actors, people like Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and Tilda Swinton.  And yet, for whatever reason, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for The Dead Don’t Die.  Everything that I’ve seen about it so far just seems to add up to one big “meh.”

Maybe it’s just the fact that there’s seems to be a new zombie movie every week.  Seriously, zombies were a lot more interesting before they went mainstream.

Anyway, The Dead Don’t Die opened the Cannes Film Festival yesterday and the response so far has been rather lukewarm, if respectful of the fact that the film was directed by a very important filmmaker.  Reading the reviews, you get the feeling that it’s a film that the reviewers wanted to like more than they actually did.

To coincide with the Cannes premiere, here’s a new redband trailer!  You can watch it below.  Maybe it’ll leave you with a bit more enthusiasm than it does me.

The Dead Don’t Die comes to theaters on June 14th.

4 Shots From 4 Robby Müller Films: Paris, Texas, Dead Man, Breaking The Waves, 24 Hour Party People

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

RIP, the great cinematography Robby Müller .

4 Shots From 4 Robby Müller Films

Paris, Texas (1984, dir by Wim Wenders)

Dead Man (1995, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Breaking the Waves (1996, dir by Lars Von Trier)

24 Hour Party People (2002, dir by Michael Winterbottom)

Sundance Film Review: Stranger Than Paradise (dir by Jim Jarmusch)

The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Utah so, for this week, I’m reviewing films that either premiered, won awards at, or otherwise made a splash at Sundance!  Today, I take a look at 1984’s Stranger Than Paradise, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival.

‘You know it’s funny. You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same.’

— Eddie in Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Stranger Than Paradise tells the story of three friends.

Willie (John Lurie) lives in a small apartment in New York City’s Lower East Side.  He likes to go to the movies.  He likes to watch TV.  He likes to gamble, putting bets on horses and cheating at poker.  He was apparently born in Hungary, though he doesn’t speak with an accent and, whenever he has to deal with a relative, he always tells them, “Speak English.”  When his best friend asks him about why he never mentioned that he was Hungarian, Willie replies that he’s just as American as anyone.

Eva (Eszter Balint) is Willie’s cousin.  She’s travels to America from Budapest.  The plan is for her to live with her Aunt Lotte (Cecillia Stark) in Cleveland but, because Lotte is in the hospital, she begins her life in America by spending ten days in Willie’s cramped apartment.  Eva enjoys the music of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  When she’s walking to Willie’s apartment, I Put A Spell On You blares from the large tape player that she always carries with her.

And then there’s Eddie (Richard Edson).  Eddie may not be too smart but he’s always smiling and easy-going.  Unlike the somewhat churlish Willie, Eddie always seems to be enjoying himself.  When Eddie first meets Eva, most viewers will probably expect them to eventually become a couple.  That doesn’t happen, of course.  That’s not the type of film that this is.

The first thing you notice about Stranger Than Paradise is the look of the film.  As one might expect from a film that reportedly had a budget of $10,000, the film looks cheap but there’s a beauty in that cheapness.  The harsh black-and-white magnifies every detail of the film’s locations.  When we watch Eva walking through New York City, the street may look desolate but it’s an exquisite desolation.

Directing his second film, Jim Jarmusch shoots nearly the entire film in single long takes and refuses to indulge in any of the usual tricks that movies often use to force an audience to identify with its main characters.  The camera rarely moves and every scene ends with a blackout.  It’s a technique that casts the audience as observers.  Willie, Eva, and Eddie may all be outsiders but, while watching the film, so is the audience.  Willie, Eva, and Eddie win us over because of the charm of the actors playing them and the deadpan humor of their dialogue but, at the same time, the film never lets us forget that we’re merely watching their lives unfold.

The humor in Stranger Than Paradise comes less from what these characters do and more from what they don’t do.  When Eva arrives in New York, Willie never offers to show her around.  There’s no trip to Broadway or the Statue of Liberty or anything else that we, as an audience, have been conditioned to expect whenever a stranger comes to New York for the first time.  Instead, Willie and Eva sit in Willie’s apartment and watch TV.  When Eddie asks Eva if she wants to join him and Willie at the movies, Willie tells Eva to stay in the apartment and not go outside.  Eva eventually wins Willie over by shoplifting dinner.

During the film’s second act, Willie and Eddie decided to visit Eva in Cleveland, despite not being sure where Cleveland is.  They ask one random guy standing on a street corner how to get there.  “I’m waiting for a bus,” the guy snarls back.  Later, as they drive drown a highway, Eddie asks Willie if they’re in Ohio yet.  “I think we’re in Pennsylvania,” Willie replies.  When they finally do get to Ohio, it turns out to be a frozen wasteland.  After meeting up with Eva, Willie and Eddie spend most of their vacation watching TV with Lotte.  Eventually, they visit Lake Erie.  It’s frozen but Eva, Willie, and Eddie still dutifully stand at the railing and stare down at it while a freezing wind howls around them.

Eventually, all three of them end up in Florida.  Instead of visiting Walt Disney World or Miami, they end up sitting in a cheap motel room.  Eva goes to the beach, which — when shot in black-and-white — looks just as desolate as Ohio in winter.  Eventually, all three of them stumble into money but that’s just a set up for the film’s final joke…

It’s a deliberately slow-moving film but it’s never less than watchable.  Lurie, Edson, and Balint all give such wonderfully deadpan performances that they’re a joy to watch even when they aren’t actually doing anything.  Stranger Than Paradise was Jim Jarmusch’s second film and also one of the first independent American films to receive widespread attention and acclaim.  (The National Society of Film Critics named it the best film of the year.)  34 years after it was first released, the film is an idiosyncratic joy to behold and definitely one that needs to watched by anyone who loves cinema.

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple
  2. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  3. Circle of Power
  4. Old Enough
  5. Blue Caprice
  6. The Big Sick
  7. Alpha Dog