Scenes that I Love: The Iguanas On The Coffee Tables From Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans


If you’re in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, please be sure to keep an eye out for the iguanas.

Ever since Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was first released, people have debated the symbolism of the iguanas on the coffee table.  Are they just a sign that Nicolas Cage’s bad lieutenant is totally high or do they have a deeper meaning?  Myself, I’m not even going to try to guess.  All I know is that the lieutenant eventually came to appreciate their presence.

Film Review: Queen of the Desert (dir by Werner Herzog)


Last night, I finally saw the latest Werner Herzog film to be released in the United States, Queen of the Desert.

Queen of the Desert has actually been around … well, I was going to say forever but actually, I first started to hear about it in 2014.  It premiered (to less-than-enthusiastic reviews) at the Berlin International Film Festival in February of 2015 and was released in Germany later that same year.  Originally, it was going to get a wide release in America but then IFC acquired the distribution rights and ended up sitting on it for two years.  (During that time, Herzog went on to direct another film, Salt and Fire.)  Only last month did Queen of the Desert finally get a very limited theatrical and VOD release here in the United States.

Despite all of the bad things that I had heard, I was still looking forward to seeing Queen of the Desert.  Why not?  Werner Herzog is one of my favorite directors.  The star of Queen of the Desert, Nicole Kidman, is one of my favorite actresses.  Of course, there was also the Franco factor.  I knew that Queen of the Desert featured James Franco in a small role and, if you’ve been reading this site for a while, y’all know how I feel about James Franco.

Having now watched it, I can say that Queen of the Desert is not the disaster that so many have been insisting.  That doesn’t mean that it’s a great film or even a good film.  It’s a very middle-of-the-road film, one that is too well-made to really be a disaster but, at the same time, is never as memorable as it should be.

Queen of the Desert tells the story of Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), who abandoned a safely comfortable but restrictive life in turn-of-the-century Britain so that she could explore the world.  In the film, Gertrude falls in love twice and, following the unhappy (and tragic) conclusions of those affairs, she always returns to the Middle East, where surviving the harshness of the desert and exploring the ruins of past civilizations brings her peace and gives her life a greater meaning.

That’s a theme that should be familiar to anyone who has watched any of Herzog’s documentaries or feature films.  The problem is that, as told in this film, there’s no real spark to the story or to Gertrude as a character.  Herzog’s best work has often dealt with people driven to the point of madness by their obsessions.  Think about Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.  Think about Timothy Treadwell, obsessively living with the grizzlies until one them ate him in Grizzly Man.  Consider the introverted eccentrics who explored The Cave of Forgotten Dreams or even Christian Bale’s refusal to allow himself to be broken in the POW film, Rescue Dawn.  Think about Klaus Kinski in just about every film he ever made with Herzog.  For that matter, just think about Werner Herzog himself is Les Blank’s documentary, The Burden of Dreams.  Nicole Kidman would seem like an ideal choice for Gertrude and she does a good job with the role but, as written, Gertrude never has that touch of madness.  Unlike Aguirre, she’s not looking to conquer nature.  Unlike Fitzcarraldo, she’s not trying to bring “civilization” to the isolated spot in the world.  Unlike Timothy Treadwell, she’s not even trying to literally become one with nature.  Instead, she’s just someone who deals with heartache by going on a trip.  I do that every time I spend the weekend up at Lake Texoma.

(The real-life Gertrude Bell died, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, of an overdose of sleeping pills.  Whether it was suicide or an accidental overdose is not known.  In the film, the circumstances of her death — which seem very Herzogian, to be honest — are glossed over by an end title card that simply informs us that she died in 1926.)

As I said earlier, Queen of the Desert is disappointing but it’s not terrible.  Visually, it’s quite stunning and the scenes of the sand blowing in the desert are often a hundred times more interesting than the film’s storyline.  Whenever Herzog is letting his camera focus on the desert or glide over the ruins of an ancient palace, you can understand why Herzog wanted to make this film.  But, unfortunately, the film keeps returning to a story that’s about as middling as an old soap opera.

Nicole Kidman does a good job as Gertrude but she runs into the same problem that she ran into with Grace of Monaco.  She’s stuck with a script that repeatedly tells us that the lead character is fascinating without ever really giving her a chance to prove it.  (Before I get any angry comments, I know that Grace Kelly was fascinating and I’m sure that Gertrude Bell was too.  I’m merely talking about the way that they were portrayed in their biopics.)  As the men in her life, James Franco and Robert Pattinson are both ideal but Damian Lewis is a bit on the dull side.

All in all, this is not one of Werner Herzog’s best but, with all that said, I’ll still follow him anywhere that he chooses to go.

Here’s The Trailer for Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert!


Spider-Man was not the only trailer to drop today!

We’ve also got the new trailer for Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert!  Queen of the Desert has gotten mixed reviews from those who have seen it but you know what?  Werner Herzog can do no wrong.  Suck it, toadsuckers.

You can view this film for yourself on April 7th.  I will.

Never Nominated: 16 Directors Who Have Never Received An Oscar Nomination


It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone who deserves an Oscar gets one.  For instance, Alfred Hitchcock received five nominations for best director but never won once.

That said, at least Hitchcock was nominated!  Some of our greatest directors have never even been nominated!  This list below is hardly exclusive but still, these 16 directors have somehow never been nominated.  Ten of them could still be nominated in the future.  Sadly, for six, the opportunity has forever passed.

  1. Dario Argento

Sadly, Dario Argento will probably never be nominated for best director.  None of his films — even the early, acclaimed work — were typical Oscar films.  But, consider this: Argento is one of the most influential directors of all time.  Regardless of what might be said about some of Argento’s more recent films, his earlier films are classics of their genre.  Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebrae — his work on any of these films would have been worthy of a nomination.

2. Andrea Arnold

This British director is responsible for two of the best films of the past ten years — Fish Tank and American Honey.  She deserved a nomination for both of them (and a win for American Honey).  Hopefully, she will be recognized in the future.

3. Tim Burton

I’m not the world’s biggest Tim Burton fan but he has a fan base that will follow him almost anywhere.  It seems like every year, we hear that Burton has finally made the film that will win him some Oscar recognition.  Remember Big Eyes?  As I said, I’m not a huge Burton fan but, if I was to nominate him, it would probably be for his work on Sweeney Todd.

4. John Carpenter

Carpenter deserved all sorts of nominations for his work in the 70s and the 80s.  Being the rebel that he is, Carpenter will probably never get the Oscar recognition that he deserves.  (He did win an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short.)

5. David Cronenberg

It’s hard to believe that this Canadian director has never been nominated.  While it’s obvious that the Academy would never recognize Cronenberg’s earlier work (even if he did deserve some recognition for that exploding head in Scanners), it still seems like he’s destined to be nominated eventually.

6. Terry Gilliam

Much like Tim Burton, Gilliam sadly seems to be destined to be one of those directors who will have to be content with a devoted fan base.  Sadly, as of late, Gilliam’s become better known for the film projects that were canceled than the ones that were actually produced.  I would have nominated him for Brazil.

7. Werner Herzog

How has Werner Herzog gone his entire career without receiving at least one nomination for Best Director!?  I would nominate him for the chance to hear the acceptance speech alone.

8. Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan is another director who I’m shocked to realize has never been nominated.  He certainly deserved a nomination for Inception.  Maybe, just maybe, he’ll finally get some recognition for Dunkirk.

9. Lars Von Trier

With his controversial aesthetic and his talent for offending the masses, Lars Von Trier will never be nominated, no matter how much he might deserve it.

10. Joe Wright

Personally, I think that Joe Wright is responsible for two of the best films of the past ten years, Hanna and Anna Karenina.  Unfortunately, both were left out of their respective best picture races.  Even when Atonement was nominated for best picture, Wright did not receive a corresponding nomination.  Fortunately, with Darkest Hour, Wright will have another chance this year.

Best Director Joe Wright

And here are six directors who are no longer with us.  Sadly, these six will never have a chance to receive their first Oscar nomination:

  1. Mario Bava

Much like Dario Argento, there was never really any chance that the Academy would actually honor Mario Bava.  That’s a shame because Bava truly was one of the greatest directors of all time.  Check out Black Sabbath and Shock for proof.

2. Stanley Donen

It’s hard to believe that Donen wasn’t even nominated for Singin’ In The Rain.

3. John Frankenheimer 

It’s also hard to believe that Frankenheimer never received a nomination.  While he directed his share of bad films, he also directed Seven Days in May, The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds, and Ronin.

4. John Hughes

Not even for The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!  Hughes may have been snubbed by the Academy but his films practically invented an entire genre.

5. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

This directing team was a major influence on Martin Scorsese.  Black Narcissus remains one of the most visually stunning films of all time.  The Red Shoes was nominated for best picture but Powell/Pressburger were snubbed.

6. Nicholas Ray

Everyone knows that Ray directed Rebel Without a Cause.  Personally, I think his work on Bigger than Life was even more worthy of a nomination.

Happy Birthday, Werner Herzog!


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Happy birthday, Werner Herzog!  That’s right — one of the greatest and most visionary directors of all time is 71 years old today.

Now, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, then you know that I love trailers.  In honor of Herzog’s birthday, here are 6 trailers from Werner Herzog:

Here is Herzog’s latest (and some would say, most powerful) documentary — an anti-texting PSA:

As a bonus, here’s Les Blank’s 1980 documentary, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.