Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Danny Awards!

When I posted about aborted projects, I forgot The Danny Awards. They were to be Danman's answer to the Oscars, complete with clips of the nominated films, shots of my actors crossing their fingers and looking tense, and, of course, bloated and tearful acceptance speeches. (See the original handwritten list of nominees here!) It was pretty much impossible to pull off without editing equipment, so the idea died.

Tonight, I bring it back to life. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to...


Who's that good-looking fella in the tux? Why, it's me, your host!

It's my privilege to finally be able to honor the very best of the very worst. The four awards I'll be presenting tonight are:
  • Most-Deaths Award (aka "The Corn Syrup Award")
  • Danman MVP (aka "The I-Was-Just-Always-There Award")
  • Best Worst Actor
  • Best Worst Film
No extended opening musical number here. These actors have waited long enough for their overdue recognition--so let's get this show started!

It took me a long time--a very long time, you have no idea what I've gone through--to tally up every death scene in Danman Productions. When I finished scorekeeping, I discovered a shocking three-way dead heat between myself, Joe, and Jami, with eight deaths each. So who deserves the award?

Not me. I often killed myself off early so that I could spend my time running the camera (witness my hasty demise in such films as Night of the Living Dead and The Blob). And Joe? As my most persistent leading man, Joe's death-count was but a statistical residue.

Therefore, the award goes to... Jami!

With an atypical amount of enthusiasm from the director (and pints of my sticky blood substitute), Jami got strangled, stabbed, and shot (repeatedly). Plus, he complained about it a lot, something you'll see in the mockumentary Sex, Drugs, and Film: The Rise and Fall of Danman Productions - Part I. Jami, for your trouble, please accept this award. Now get over it!

Who really put in the man-hours? Over the past year, I've dutifully tagged every blog entry with the names of the featured actors. Once you add them all up, you realize three things:

1) I was in everything. Well, no duh.
2) Joe was in almost everything. Again: duh.
3) Julie was in just as many movies as Joe.

What? Say again? Is it possible we have a dark-horse contender for MVP? Well, let me just open the envelope and see... Why, yes, the winner is Julie!

Why does she look so crafty? It's because she knows something you don't know. Who do you think was running the camera all those times I was on-screen? Oh, sure, sometimes it was Jami or Joe, but more often than not it was Julie. Maybe she didn't get the glory, but Danman Productions couldn't have "succeeded" without her. Congratulations, Julie.

Let's pretend--just for a moment--that we were talking about actual acting ability. In that case, it would be a horse race between Shad and Matt N. Those two had chops, and I tip my hat to both of them. Good show, gents.

But the Danman audience isn't interested in chops. They crave bad accents, inappropriate laughter, and that deer-in-the-headlights gaze you can't learn with a lifetime of lessons--it's a gift you have to be born with. This is one award whose winner was long ago foretold.

I present to you, ladies and gents, Joe. [Thunderous standing ovation.]

Joe was as bad in the first film as he was in the last. Despite starring in over 30 Danman Productions, Joe's skills never advanced--and that's why we love him. It didn't matter if he was portraying an abusive father, a psychotic priest, or Dracula, he never knew what emotion to play and could never, under any circumstances, stop laughing. Thanks to him, we're still laughing all these years later.

You try winnowing down Danman Productions to five worsts. It ain't easy. Obviously, if we were talking "Best Best Film," there's no question--The Godfathers: Part Two puts everything else to shame (although there is an underground contingent that insists The Bastard Chicken Clock from Hell is my Citizen Kane).

After months of tortured consideration, the nominees for "Best Worst Film" are...

The Blob...

Breakdown: The Eugene Brinkmeister Story...



...and Night of the Living Dead.

And the Danny goes to...Yes! Yes! I knew it! The Blob!

You can watch the entire thing above. And you should. Though not ambitious in any way, shape, or form, this 9-minute ditty is the zenith of everything that makes Danman Productions great: the catastrophically dismal pairing of Joe and Ben, matchbox cars being pulled by string, model houses being attacked by garbage bags... need I go on?

A final hearty congratulations to tonight's winners. I'll see you at the afterparty, where I fully expect to get beaten up.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

The Godfathers: Part Two

At long last, here it is. The final Danman Production.

(Watch or embed the full YouTube playlist.)

Originally, this epic sequel clocked in at 2 hours and 40 minutes. Neither you, I, nor the internet had any interest in uploading that much crap, much less watching it. So I decided to recreate the so-called “Director’s Cut” that vanished circa 1998. By simply tightening, trimming, and reordering, I have eliminated 90 minutes.

You read that right. The version here is 70 minutes long and it breaks my heart. When I set out to shoot a feature-length film at the age of 18, this was how it was supposed to look. When I screened it for my stupefied friends, this was the movie I saw. It’s been 16 years, but The Godfathers: Part Two is finally done.

Although the first 30 minutes are too concerned with which gangsters are on which team, the rest of it is somewhat of a revelation. The torture scene, the seduction scene, the Russian Roulette scene, that blood-soaked finale—I’ll just say it. The kid behind the camera was starting to get it.

But it was too late: college had arrived. Like most of my friends, I packed my bags and a day later found myself sitting alone in an unfamiliar dorm room. I could sense it in the frat-house screams coming from across the street and the laughter booming through the wall: I was no longer the big fish. I was something much, much smaller.

The Godfathers: Part Two was my attempt to hold on. If I could keep Danman Productions together, then I still had a tether on my old life. I organized the script around which friends I had access to at college and which friends I could meet back in my hometown on holidays and weekends. It was massively complicated and I threw myself into it. The more elaborate the task, the less time I had to recognize that something big was ending.

The shoot concluded over Christmas break of 1993, during which my new college pal (and begrudging co-star) Tony hauled his ass to Fairfield to film the climax in Ben’s garage during one of the coldest winters in Iowa history. When I yelled “cut” after the final shot, everyone shouted in relief and ran for their coats and cars. And that was that. Danman Productions was finished.

Even tyrannical teenage directors have to let go, and eventually I did. Sure, there were college movies, but they were largely humorless affairs that stir within me almost none of the joy of Danman Productions. After graduation I became a legit filmmaker and author, but as much fondness as I have for my films and books, sitting in my house and partaking of them is not my idea of a good time. Watching Danman Productions, though—well, it’s been 16 years and I’m still not sick of it.

Back then, these movies allowed me to revel in my friendships by just hitting “rewind.” I dare say they are even more important to me now. Today my former superstars are spread all across the country, making a living in so many different ways it makes my head spin. Some of us are still close; others I’ve lost all touch with. But when I watch these movies it feels like I could call up any one of them and five minutes later we’ll be cruising around the square, windows rolled down.

I did add one thing to The Godfathers: Part Two. As an homage to the best friends I ever had, I created special end credits to replace the illegible originals. If you find yourself tearing up a little at the final fade out, you’re not alone. This is dedicated to the tireless cast and crew of Danman Productions. This may not be the movie I originally made, but it's the one I had in my heart.

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