Review: ‘Gotham’ Pilot Episode

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This week, the premiere of the “Batman show that doesn’t have Batman” debuted. The prequel show, “Gotham” takes us on the origin of everyone seemingly related to Batman. It focuses on a young Jim Gordon, who has risen up to the rank of detective in the crime-ridden city known as Gotham. Hence the name of the show.

Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) is faced with a moral dilemma in the Series Premiere of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 22 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Also pictured: Robin Lord Taylor. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

The opening scene shows us a young Selina Kyle (Catwoman in the future) prowling over buildings in a cat-like fashion, performing petty crime when she stumbles across the now told for the umpteenth time murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Which many have remembered from the Tim Burton vehicle in the 80s, and done once again in Chris Nolan’s “Batman Begins.” Though this time, the assassin will seem to have a bigger role in the Batman world than Joe Cool did in “Batman Begins.” Also, I hope it’s not a young Joker thing that made Burton’s “Batman” kind of lame.

We follow Gordon as he’s being schooled on the unspoken rules the police force deal with in seedy Gotham City by Detective Harvey Bullock. Especially when dealing with Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney. Here, Gordon quickly learns the unspoken rules can make or break a detective.

While I did enjoy the pilot (I’m a huge Batman fan) there were issues that really bothered me. Just the not-so subtle moments like when Oswald Cobblepot gets made fun of for looking like a penguin. “Don’t CALL me penguin!” the future super-criminal The Penguin screams. Also, Edward Nygma with the riddles was hammed up too much. It seems introducing future criminals needs no subtlety, since we see a young red haired girl named Ivy (which would have been enough for most people) being surrounded by plants.Though it was kind of done right with the comedian in Mooney’s establishment. Because it alludes to The Joker, but from what I read, they plan on sprinkling that kind of thing throughout with different actors so we the viewer, much like the Joker character himself in the books, are not quite sure who really is the young Clown Prince of Crime.

It wasn’t the greatest pilot, but I see a lot of potential with this. I am interested in seeing where this will be heading.


* Selina Kyle doesn’t say one word in the whole episode.

* Oswald Cobblepot right out of the gate is a homicidal maniac. Also, he is Mooney’s punching bag.

* While I love the Nolan trilogy, it was nice seeing Gotham not looking like Chicago.

* I’m glad this utilized Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” most interesting character, the city itself.

Here is a supercut of Bruce Wayne’s parents meeting their grisly end.

The New Aphex Twin Album Is Really Good

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Usually, writing about an album is very easy. It’s easy to critique lyrics, musicianship and production. That’s where this gets sort of difficult. Reviewing an Aphex Twin (or any other electronic music album) gets tricky. Because you pretty much have pure production to talk about. And that can be a pretty boring and/or difficult thing to do.

But rest assure, “Syro” is really good. Granted, if you enjoy electronic music.

It is an interesting album, fairly laid back, but it has a lot going on. The beats are funky, the sounds burp and bubble out seamlessly at times, jarring at others, and it’s sonically interesting to hear different things going on beyond the bass and beats. At times, it sounds like an old 8-bit NES or Atari is breaking down and pushing sounds out of a broken TV.

What “Syro” does is create a world with sounds. A beautiful world at that. This is not music you would want to hear in a club, or casually in your car. “Syro” demands your time to pay attention. And it is worth it.

I will not even attempt to do a track-by-track analysis, because that would not really make sense here and typing out titles would be a nightmare.

Here is the track list:

1. “minipops 67 [120.2]” (source field mix) 4:47

2. “XMAS_EVET10 [120]” (thanaton3 mix) 10:31
3. “produk 29 [101]” 5:03
4. “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” 4:28
5. “180db_ [130]” 3:11
6. “CIRCLONT6A [141.98]” (syrobonkus mix) 6:00
7. “fz pseudotimestretch+e+3 [138.85]” 0:58
8. “CIRCLONT14 [152.97]” (shrymoming mix) 7:21
9. “syro u473t8+e [141.98]” (piezoluminescence mix) 6:32
10. “PAPAT4 [155]” (pineal mix) 4:18
11. “s950tx16wasr10 [163.97]” (earth portal mix) 6:01
12. “aisatsana [102]”

Yeah, that would not be fun to do.

But the album plays like what EDM would sound like if Frank Zappa made it. Awesome.

And the vocal samples sprinkled through out feel like something straight out a David Lynch movie, warped and creepy.

The tracks bleed into one another, creating a seamless musical narrative that certainly shouldn’t feel seamless. The texture is rich and I think I will have to give it quite a few more listens. The best way I can explain it is that it is a complicated and calming (and at times, no so calming) record to my ears.

Some College Is Offering A ‘Breaking Bad’ Course

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Earlier this week, a college announced it’s intentions to capitalize on people’s addiction to “Breaking Bad” by cleverly seducing them with a college course (which may or may not have a 96.2 percent purity) focusing on the classic AMC show.

Mercyhurst University, located in Erie, Penn. will figuratively don a college credit hazmat suit and cook up a syllabus to convince people that paying money to discuss a TV show in a classroom setting will feed their “Breaking Bad” addiction.

According to Mercyhurst’s website: “When it comes to audacious, complex, badass characters, Shakespeare reigns supreme. Or does he? Kenneth Schiff, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Mercyhurst, used to think so. Mercutio, Lady Macbeth, Richard III, Henry V – they were a gnarly bunch. But along came Walter White, who took badass to a whole new level….” a college website states, even bringing their inner Gustavo Fring by using the term “badass” to prove they mean business and are professionals.

It continues: “Certainly Schiff, who watched all 62 episodes, didn’t expect to be so ‘blown away’ by this television genre, which is why when the opportunity arose to share his enthusiasm in the Mercyhurst classroom, he jumped. He joins associate professor of criminal justice, Tina Fryling, J.D., and chemistry/biochemistry department chair Clint Jones, Ph.D., in teaching what arguably is the hottest course on the Mercyhurst campus this fall: an interdisciplinary offering called ‘Breaking Down Breaking Bad.’ And it’s just for freshmen – 75 in all.”

It goes on the describe how the operation is set up, divvying up the market into three different turfs: “Schiff examines the Emmy Award-winning series as a work of narrative art; Fryling dissects the criminal justice thread throughout; and Jones teaches the science piece. They take turns doing lectures and then each takes a group for weekly break-out sessions.”

So there you go. Mercyhurst is finally going to break bad.

Kanye West Keeps It Awkward

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Kanye West is many things. A rapper. Producer. An expert at uncomfortable interviews with Jimmy Kimmel. Now he can add to his resume of crazy that he is a person who stops a concert to make sure the people who are not standing for one of his songs, because they have a condition that physically does not allow them to stand, are truly unable to stand. (Warning, he uses some adult language).

That story was truly weird, and I got an awkward chuckle out of it. Mistakes happen, even to someone like Kanye who feels when he makes mistakes, it’s other people’s fault.

And that began his next incident. On Monday, he gave a pretty bizarre speech in regard to his weird mistake. Once again, this was not Kanye’s mistake according to Kanye, but everyone’s favorite punching bag, the media. 

“What I want you to do is I want you to run the video everyone’s talkin’ about where I so-called screamed at somebody and everything,” Kanye told his audience in what I like to imagine was in a hushed tone, but probably was not. “I want you to run that, right, since this is such big media-press-news and everything that obviously they trying to demonize me for. It’s like, ‘Welcome to today’s news, ladies and gentlemen.’ We’ve got Americans getting killed on TV, kids getting killed every weekend in Chicago, unarmed people getting killed by police officers…”

To which I would agree, if I was reading about him questioning someone in a wheelchair about their ability to stand, and sending a bodyguard to make sure, on normal news outlets. But I was reading about it on Pitchfork, AV Club and HuffPost Entertainment, which last time I checked, were media outlets focusing on entertainment and not, you know, hard news.

Even his wife/reality TV “celebrity” Kim Kardashian weighed in, oblivious to why people were poking fun at her husband.

“What an amazing Australian tour! Its frustrating that something so awesome could be clouded by lies in the media. Kanye never asked anyone in a wheel chair to stand up & the audience videos show that. He asked for everyone to stand up & dance UNLESS they were in a wheel chair.” Kardashian wrote, unbeknownst that the issue was the concert was stopped to make sure the alleged disabled people were, in fact, unable to stand and how incredibly weird that is.

Also, I find it pretty obnoxious that any performer would hold a show hostage in an attempt to force people to stand during one of their songs. I stand at shows when I feel like it. I paid my money, so it should be my choice whether I should stand.

Either way, this marks another incredible chapter in Kanye West keeping it awkward.

Stay Out Of My Music Library, U2

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This week Apple gave the world a preview of some of their flashy, expensive doo-hickeys. They also, much to the surprise of many, placed U2′s new album in some iTunes subscribers’ library. Whether they wanted it or not. Depending how their account is set up.

Now, I’m not against a band and a company giving away new music for free. But the way Apple and U2 went about giving it away has left a bad taste in my mouth. Because I don’t want anyone besides myself adding music to my library. Granted, I haven’t checked my iTunes account in about 6 years (I prefer not listening to mp3s). But when I open it up, I do not want a U2 album suddenly in my collection

Maybe it’s because I have a strong dislike of U2, most of that aimed at Bono. He’s pretty smug for a person who makes mediocre music. It’s not right. In fact, their popularity has puzzled me most of my life. They are not very good. Never have been. I find the band pretty bland. Henry Rollins hit the nail on the head when he said The Edge has basically milked the same guitar riff for decades now. And when someone whose known for singing/screaming along with three-chord punk rock songs in his underwear with Black Flag thinks your repetitive, then you should branch out a little more.

So, when a band I already do not like weasels their way into my music collection, I have a problem. It’s pretty rude and presumptuous to assume people want your record, let alone have it sneak into their collection unbeknownst.

It should just have been an option to download for free. That, I would not have had a problem with. People should not have to adjust their accounts in the off chance Bono wants to push an album on them. Apple also should not decide for the consumer what music they should have in their library. That is just obnoxious.

Album Revisit: Replacements’ ‘Tim’

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This is an installment of a series of blogs where I revisit some classic albums that I  love, used to love or has made an impact on pop culture whether I am familiar with it or not. You can also make suggestions on a classic album, and I may give a whirl and review it. 

This week marked the first time in about 28 years that the legendary Minneapolis punk band, The Replacements, performed on NBC. The last time they performed, obviously a little inebriated , “Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels banned them from performing again on his show.  Why? Because they did what a lot of they were known for back then, getting drunk and putting shows. People who I’ve spoken to who have seen these shows often claim they were amazing, but a quick Youtube check on these shows tell me otherwise. But, to each their own. 

Well, even though Michaels is part of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” it looks like his ban was lifted Tuesday night when the Mats (the fans’ nickname for the group) performed on the show, a much more sober Mats than the ones from the 80s.

That got me thinking about my favorite Mats album, “Tim.” It was the second in the trilogy of great Mats albums, beginning with “Let It Be” and ending with “Pleased To Meet Me.” This was the era when they were growing out of the garage punk age and before Paul Westerberg just began making solo albums and calling them Replacements albums (I’m looking at you “All Shook Down”).

The Replacements were one of those bands who, if they had come out a decade later, would have been up there with Nirvana and Peal Jam. But The Replacements, in my opinion, laid out the blue print for what would become 90s grunge. You can especially hear their influence in Nirvana’s material.

“Tim” is really they’re most solid album. I know a lot of people stand by “Let It Be,” which is really close in terms of song quality and performances. I mean, “Unsatisfied” is one of my all time favorite songs. But I still think “Tim” has that album beat.

Produced by the late Tommy Ramone, whose production actually was just awful, “Tim” is an album with a really strong songlist that suffers mostly from its production quality. It was also their first major label release. The drums sound like wet cardboard and it sounds flat. Not that the production makes it unlistenable, but it certainly doesn’t help the songs in any way.

What “Tim” accomplishes is combining the punk angst with melodic songs all mixed together. The first two tracks, “Hold My Life” and “I’ll Buy” is a great example of this. Then you get to “Waitress In The Sky” which is basically nice little pop song with nice tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

That is followed by the incredibly depressing but beautiful “Swinging Party” and  the song that sums up my love of the Mats, “Bastards Of Young.” The latter was the song they performed on SNL that got them banned.

The album closes with what can only be considered the perfect depressing dive bar song, “Here Comes A Regular.” It’s not a very optimistic song, but then again, I can’t think of any optimistic songs from the Mats.

This would also be the last album with original guitarist Bob Stinson. His drinking and clashing with singer and songwriter Paul Westerberg would cause him to be let go. He passed away in 1995.

But the Mats are back (minus Slim Dunlap, who replaced Bob Stinson, and Chris Mars). Based on their performance on the “Tonight Show” and from what I’ve seen of their live shows since reuniting in 2012, they seems to be in much better shape than all those years ago.

“Tim” remains my favorite of their albums. Just a really great collection of songs and performances. I enjoy it as much as when I first heard it.

I Watched ‘The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story’

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It’s never been a secret that I have a strange obsession with “Saved By The Bell.” I once wrote a 50-inch long blog about my thoughts on the show. Remember, this show came out when I was 9 or 10 years old. I was the program’s demographic. Why I occasionally watch it still is because it’s a part of my childhood that brings back some positive memories. And it’s cheesy as well.

Well, this week unveiled the horrible, made for TV movie about the program and I loved it. Because it was so bad.

But going in, I knew it was not going to be good. I thought it was supposedly loosely based on Dustin “Screech” Diamond’s so-called tell-all memoir from his days on the show (he serves as a executive producer).  Why I watched was to see how much of the scandalous material the movie would use, which his book made sound like almost a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, but with a TV show about high school. His book was not a hit among his former co-stars either. To be fair, Diamond has stated it was mostly ghost written and he didn’t read it before it came out. In other words, he put out a product that made his cast mates look horrible with his name on it, without even reading it. I later found out the contents of the book were tossed and this movie was based on fresh interviews. With, I’m guessing, Dustin Diamond.

Anyway, the made-for-TV movie did not use that material. It contains nothing you couldn’t have gotten from a “E! True Hollywood Story.” For all the hype up for this awful show that I thought was great, the scandalous stuff was pretty benign. The actors playing Zack and Lisa dated. They were all horrible actors going in. Critics hated it. They drank. Ect.

What was interesting was how the story is being told through Diamond’s eyes. They even bring back Zack freezing time with his “Time Out,” only to have Screech tell him this is his story. And they pretty much made Diamond look like a selfish brat throughout that everyone seemed to just put up with. 

For instance, they are rehearsing the infamous Zack-Jessie drug confession scene. And as the cast looks on amazed at how dramatic this scene is, Diamond makes some sort of joke. The cast gives him some evil glares to which he responds “It’s caffeine pills, not heroin!” To which further exposed just how unaware he was of those around him. He didn’t get it was the performance (which truthfully was just as bad as the original) that amazed these people. Because they are decent human beings and not Screech.

He even punches out a fan who makes fun of his fictional character. He tries to fight Mario Lopez (who played A.C. Slater) after Lopez does more push-ups than Diamond in one scene. He befriends an extra, who gets him into booze and drugs and then blackmails him into getting a bigger role on the show. He gets drunk at a meet-and-greet for fans. And at no point do you feel any sympathy for him. Watching it, whenever he fell on his face, it felt like he deserved it.  Again, Diamond was an executive producer on this. Why would he go out of his way to look even worse?

The movie did have a decent soundtrack, though inexplicably it was mostly hip-hop from the early 90s. The show was not known for hip-hop, so this really kind of threw me off.  I guess it was better than generic instrumental music or playing Zack Attack’s “Friends Forever” throughout the whole thing.

It is a bad movie, but very entertaining. Because, when you think about it, how could anyone make a good “Saved By The Bell” made-for-TV movie?

But it did have a moment when a young Dustin Diamond over hears NBC president Brandon Tartikoff thinking about giving a show called “Seinfeld” a shot. So, there’s that.

Bob Dylan Really Wants You To Hear Everything He’s Recorded

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He’s at it again. Hibbing, Minn. native and bum singer Robert “Bob” Dylan is once again releasing a huge volume of recorded material in the off chance someone might care to hear it. It’s the eleventh volume of his notorious “Bootleg Series,” a collection of songs that sound kind of different from what you may have heard before on other releases from this generally unknown singer/songwriter.

This release continues Bob Dylan’s need for someone to hear his music.

This time, Dylan desperately wants someone to  remember and maybe listen to the double album of material he recorded with a little known band from Canada whose unoriginal tendencies caused them to call themselves “The Band.” It was called “The Basement Tapes.” Now Dylan is releasing more of that stuff.

He’s releasing a 6-disc set that includes 138 tracks worth of that material. And it’s called “The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11.” So hold onto your hats, folks! You can finally experience roughly seven to nine hours of unreleased material of Dylan and The Band mucking around in a studio. Because Dylan wants people to hear it all. It’s been his attempt at throwing everything against the wall to see if it sticks since the first installment of the series was released in 1991. Roughly into his third desperate decade to get noticed for his music.

The somewhat reclusive singer has for years put out albums, some to critical acclaim. Who can forget such classics as “Down In The Groove” and “Empire Burlesque?” But aside from these classics, Dylan decided that some of his more unknown work (notably, his work from 1963-1966 has relatively been known to only record store employees, recluses and rare vinyl collectors) needed to be heard.

Bob Dylan during the height of his fame. “Empire Burlesque” is one of Dylan’s most popular albums.

So, he began putting out the “Bootleg Series” to re-introduce his lesser known work.

But, as of late, his series has been hitting his more well known and loved work. Last year, he released the voluminous “Another Self Portrait” that expanded with more unreleased material from his most loved and popular album, “Self Portrait.”

Because, after bringing some notice to his rare works in only nine other separate multi-disc collections, he is now forging on to release more of his popular material, because it is Dylan’s vision to have every note, fart and take of everything he’s ever done be released. And that someone out there will listen to it. And that some day, he will finally be known by more than a handful of music fans.

So people, please throw this man a bone. He’s trying so hard to let you know he has recorded more than 30 albums, and could you just give the man a break and listen to one? I’m sure he would appreciate it.



Album Revisit: The Misfits’ ‘Static Age’

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This is an installment of a series of blogs where I revisit some classic albums that I  love, used to love or has made an impact on pop culture whether I am familiar with it or not. You can also make suggestions on a classic album, and I may give a whirl and review it. 

I love the Misfits.Well, to be exact, Glenn Danzig’s Misfits. Though their material can often be hit and miss. This is one of those rare bands I enjoy that really did not have a definitive album until more than a decade after they broke up. It’s not just because they are punk, “London Calling” for the Clash and “Fresh Fruit For The Rotting Vegetables” for the Dead Kennedys are examples of old school punk bands having a defining album. Even Black Flag, whom are sometimes lumped in with the Misfits, had “Damaged.” But that changed in 1996. 

This was suppose to be their debut album. They had recorded some tracks as a Joy Division sounding band before Danzig decided to go in another direction. But with “Static Age,” they were raw, angry, it was everything that punk rock was at the time. The lyrics hinted at angst, despair and science fiction-horror movie themes — the latter being what the tended to gravitate toward after they recorded this — that, because they were fairly general, have aged fairly well over the years. That can’t be said for a lot of punk bands at that time, because they sang a lot of the politics at the time. They recorded 17 songs. It probably would have been a solid underground classic.

But it was shelved at the time. With Danzig, they would record two full-length albums, “Walk Among Us” and “Earth A.D.” The former was still in vein of melodic punk, horror movies and space aliens eating brains. The latter would be one of the first hardcore punk albums that would go on to influence heavy metal bands to come like Metallica, Guns N Roses and Megadeth.

In the mid-90s, my friends and I started getting into Danzig. His solo albums, at the time, where pretty popular. He was on MTV with videos for “Mother” and “Dirty Black Summer.” You have to remember, up until 1996 the Misfits were not easily found in record stores, even the two releases mentioned above. There were poor quality bootlegs of the tracks. Metallica covered “Last Caress” and “Green Hell.”

But that was it. At least where I lived.

So, when “Static Age” was released (a little after it was included on their box set, which remained ridiculously expensive for years and years) it was pretty awesome. I loved it. Others did not. You have to remember, our exposure to Danzig was him making Black Sabbath-like metal. Now here is his first album, and he’s a scrawny punk rocker, not the weight lifter guy. 

Now, I’m listening to it as a 33 year old, not a 14 year old for this blog. It remains good. But not as good as when I first came across it.

It opens with four strong tracks. “Static Age,” “TV Casualty,” “Some Kinda Hate” and “Last Caress (which I won’t link because the lyrics are pretty awful, but you can find it on YouTube yourself if interested).”  Catchy, gloomy and sounds fairly different than what was to come — but the germ of that is in there.

There are some other songs I like, one being my favorite Misfits song, “Hybrid Moments.” Also, the only Danzig-era video (besides that incredibly grainy and kind of disgusting “Braineaters” that floats around the web.

So, as I listen to this album, my enthusiasm for it has drained. I will say this: Out of the many New York/New Jersey punk bands that came out at the time, this album is at least listenable and at times enjoyable.

While I would probably not rank this in a top 100 favorite album of all time, (the Misfits album that would make the list would be the awesome, but pulled and now forever unreleased except on YouTube “12 Hits From Hell” )  but it still makes for a good listen when I’m in the mood for aggressive punk rock that has melody in it.

It is their definitive album, though. These are the tracks that built the band up, despite them being difficult to get for a decade. The post-Danzig albums are decent (correction, the Michael Graves ones. Jerry Only cannot carry a tune to save his life). And like many bands of that era, they spent years in legal battles over rights.

I will advise that this isn’t for people who object to offensive language. The lyrics utilize horror themes, add in punk rock music, it’s not for those who don’t like that sort of thing.

If you do enjoy punk rock, I saw give it a listen.

RIP Robin Williams

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The news of Robin Williams death struck a chord in me. When someone dies, it’s sad. But when someone takes their own life, as it looks Mr. Williams did, it is tragic.

When a famous person dies, it always seems to be old age or an overdose. But it is worse when it is a suicide. Suicides are baffling. It makes you wonder how someone could get so down psychologically that the only reprieve they can see for themselves is death. In 2006, my best friend took his own life. It was a very difficult thing for me to grasp, and to this day I still struggle with dealing with it. I never really talk about it, and writing just these few sentences about it is uncomfortable. Depression, unlike other illnesses, can hide fairly easy from the people around the person suffering from it. It leaves a trail of questions that will never be answered. Like “why?”…   

I’m in one of those age groups where just about every point in my life, Robin Williams was a part of in some way. Growing up in the 80s, I would watch re-runs of “Mork & Mindy.” I was at the right age for when “Hook” “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” came out. When I started enjoying surrealistic art and movies, “What Dream May Come” was in the theaters. He rightfully won an Academy Award in 1997 for his role in “Goodwill Hunting.” And when I really started getting into stand-up comedy, his specials were always great. Him,  George Carlin and Richard Pryor were the first stand-up specials I remember watching as a young man.

And who can deny his excellent performance in “Death To Smoochy?” That is one of my favorite films of all time.

I didn’t enjoy every movie he made. But I always admired how much he put into his projects. Especially when he was promoting them. He always seemed like he was going at 110 percent. His energy was truly amazing (and given his history with drugs, some of his specials in the late 70s were, at times, almost too fast to follow).

I really liked it when he played darker roles. He was great in Christopher Nolan’s “Insomnia.” And I stopped using camera film after “One Hour Photo” because even the remote possibility that someone as deranged as his character existing in the real world and developing my film was too much. Because he was so convincing in that role. It was great and spooky at the same time.

His last stand-up special, “Weapons of Self Destruction” is also great. I listened to it today, and he was on fire. His delivery, wit and energy had not dulled over the years.

Yes, he was a true icon to comedy. He made millions of people laugh. And the gift of making others happy, but not himself, is truly sad. He will be missed.