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3. Find a new ethnic group. Half the stud heroes in action films have a surname beginning with Mc-, but there aren't many films about Irish Americans. Really Irish ones, with the guilt and the corned beef and the weekly Mass and the guilt. Edward Burns--writer, director and co-star of The Brothers McMullen--means to fill that gap with this frail fable of three Long Island siblings (Burns, Jack Mulcahy, Mike McGlone) and their romantic angst. They talk, soulfully. They fret, winsomely. They annoy, a lot.
The Brothers McMullen might be the bad movie Nick Reve is trying not to make. The acting is mostly stodgy, especially by the family trio. Burns' dialogue reeks of the page; it's cluttered with more adjectives than a D+ student paper. And when the specter of clunky writing isn't hanging over the actors, the shadow of a boom mike is.
4. For Pete's sake, have fun! Paul Rudnick lives to be giddy . Court jester of the Plague Years, the gay playwright-essayist has brought his romantic comedy about aids (you'll have to take our word for it) pretty successfully to the screen. Jeffrey faces its antsy audience head on: when two men kiss, we see a shot of two movie-house couples, the guys gagging, the girls enthralled. Under Christopher Ashley's direction, Steven Weber is beguiling as a '90s Candide. He gets suave support from Patrick Stewart and a scene stolen from under him by Nathan Lane.
5. Everybody light up! In indie films every character, it seems, puffs on a cigarette--as a tribute to the tortured heroes of film noir, a gesture of offhand rebellion, a sacrament of elegance and fatalism. There's an entire movie--quite a bad one, full of unwontedly tortured acting and a wildly wrong camera style--called Smoke. That in turn spawned a companion film, the much better Blue in the Face, to be released in the fall. Both revel in the outlaw ecstasies of tobacco.
In Michael Almereyda's Nadja, smoking is one of the few pleasures a vampire can take without harm. The Dracula family has come to New York City, and Nadja (Elina Lowensohn) is a kind of Lydia Languish of the undead, striking fashionable poses as she plants her teeth in a few sweet necks. With her bleached face, impossibly high forehead and black hood, Lowensohn looks like Death in The Seventh Seal, only cuter.
Though this film's Van Helsing (lank, loopy Peter Fonda) sleeps inside a grand piano, Nadja is a fairly close reading of the Stoker tale. What distinguishes it is its serenely mannerist glamour. Almereyda shot parts in glorious "Pixelvision"--with a toy camera that gives the most garish images the patina of a dreamscape. Nadja is beyond a midnight movie; it's a late late show for the artistic couch potato.
6. When in doubt, do it again. A few years ago, Robert Rodriguez made the tamale western El Mariachi for an impossibly low $7,000. Now he has made a sequel--for 1,000 times the budget, which is still nothing to Hollywood accountants. This time it's called Desperado. The avenging guitarist is played by actual movie star Antonio Banderas, but he's still a reluctant gunaholic. ("Bless me, Father," he confesses, "for I have killed quite a few men.") Salma Hayek, a Tex-Mex houri with soulful eyes and bosoms till Tuesday, is the sex interest. And Living in Oblivion's Buscemi drops by to give Desperado the Indie Seal of Approval.