Friday, November 19, 2010



Giving It Up


by Dane Youssef

Now, I am really not a fan of the "romantic-comedy genre." At all. Not remotely. Not even a little. I'm really no Rogers when it comes to "rom-coms." I can't remember

Writer/director Christopher Kublan's independent romantic comedy (a rariety in the indie field) "Giving It Up" is a movie which is scarce in the indie field. A romantic comedy, rumored to be the worst, sloppiest, unentertaining and most formulaic of the entire genre.

Originally titled "Casanova Falling" before it's DVD release, it was later re-christened "Giving It Up" when it was released in 2003, I'm not sure why. Because that's the name of the song that plays it one scene. I assume the distributors thought it made for a more alluring title.

But very surprisingly, "Giving It Up" is a smarter, more-thinking person's romantic comedy. A movie that seems to have filtered out the obnoxious slapstick, trite plot points, dumb characters, monotone dialouge and Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan's routines.

Oh, there are quite a few clichés' in this movie, all right. The playboy who's tired of the game and wants to settle down and develop as a person, the bookish love interest who has no patience for his antics, the sexist supporting characters, the geeky best friend, the unobtainable finally obtained... only to realize that...

And although it sounds like the storyline from "What Women Want" (which also featured Feuerstein), no two movies could possibly be more polar opposite.

But "Giving It Up" is more than that. It doesn't rely entirely on that as so many other rom-coms do.

"GIU" is a well-played, thoughtfully-written, smartly conceived look at men, women and their views on sex and relationships.

In "Giving It Up," a New York advertising executive who specializes in selling sex to sell products is living the "almost ideal existence." He has devoted his life to attracting the opposite sex.

And it seems to be working. He has a new stranger in his bed every night. He's making fat cheddar. His hard-nosed, sexist boss (Dabney Coleman "9 to 5," "Tootsie," "Recess: School's Out" and "You've Got Mail") loves him. His apartment is lavish and full of cosmetics to polish his vessel and keep it clean. And his superhuman libido fuels his creative fires.

Enter his new boss, Elizabeth, who has heard of him and his reputation. She's smart and genuinely attractive. And quite down to earth. Ralph (Mark Feuerstein "Woman on Top" and "What Women Want"), the playboy in question is instantly smitten with her. But she's heard the word on the street and smiles, giving him the brush off.

Ralph is obsessed. He wants her. He can have every woman except the one he truly wants. Ain't it always the way? Ralph's less-lucky-in-love buddy, Peter (Ben Weber-- "Twister" and TV's "Sex in the City") asks Ralph why? Why does he want to give up the life? Apparently, Ralphie boy feels empty. He decides to "give it all up."

He's the falling Casanova. He tries to go celibate. He meets up with Elizabeth and informs her of his newfound desire to live a life with something besides sex and even tries to win her over with his outside sex-interests. Like his joy for Billy Wilder's Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn classic "Love in the Afternoon."

Kublan's script is smart in a "Sex in the City"-type of way. Full of realistic conversations between men and women about dating, relationships, sex and their own views and look at it all.

The cast is particularly strong for an independent film. Feuerstein is a real charmer, Weber and James Lesure (From "For Your Love") are convincing and likable as his best friends. Ari Larter as the foul and lecherous super-supermodel Amber is also good for a few laughs. Amy Redford is really 100% believable as a smart, intelligent, confident (and beautiful) businesswoman who hates her self a bit for falling for this falling Casanova.

See it alone for the near Oscar-worthy performance of the magnificent Dabney Coleman, more hard-nosed, sexist and snarling than ever.

It's worth falling for.

--Keeping It Up, Dane Youssef




by Dane Youssef

“Sideways” is one of those movies that seems to be made entirely for the scholarly and intellectual. The artsy, deep, hip and high-brow. Films about those people going through a turning point in their lives. Mid-life crisis’s and the like. And ones like this in paticular always seem to reap critical praise, a crowd of feverent fans and prestigious award nominations.

"Sideways" has one of those cool quirky titles that sounds really hip and grabs your attention. You know, it'll be an edgy movie. Like "Entourage," "Purgatory," "Angel Eyes" and the like. Something about "Sideways" says it's going to be different. Smarter. Sharper. In a word, better.

But unlike the title for the Johnny Depp-Winona Ryder vehicle "Finding Neverland," this one doesn't pretty much reveal the whole movie in with it's title. "Sideways" is about something--more than just moving in a different direction.

"Sideways" uses wine and wine country as a backdrop, yes, but the movie is about more than just the symbolism of wine and it's drinkers. It's essentially about people who are connected and realize how hard, brief and fragile life itself is and pursue happiness by any means necessary. And they're so true and worthy of it, we want them to find it and thus, assure we will find it ourselves.

It has the mixed feeling of life.

It’s stars, Miles Richmond and Jack Lopate have been buddy-buddy since their college dorm years. And have always been (and will be) total polar opposites. Miles is just a sad-sack neurotic nebbish with a bundle of neuroses that seem unwilling to disappear no matter how much therapy or medication he can get his hands on. His book won't get sold, his ex-wife is remarried (not that Miles was happy with her), he seems to be closer to death than life and he hasn't made an iota of the impact he wanted to.

Jack’s a less-than-successful actor who's most respected credit was a short-lived role on a soap opera years ago. Now his more recent stuff is the voice-over who mumbles the warning for the side effects from non-prescription meds near the end of the commercial. Jack is living an ideal life otherwise and Miles has seen better days. In fact, he's borderline suicidal--taking plenty of meds and alcohol himself, usually all at once. Jack is about to get married. He wants to go out to local wine country and bring Miles with him, and hopefully out of his funk.

Miles thinks and feels too much. He's been borderline suicidal for a while now and it's only getting worse. He was unhappy during his marriage which led to him giving his wife the perfect reason to end.

Jack is a self-satisfied animal who enjoys giving in to his baser animal instincts. Jack doesn't give so much as a damn about wine that's "just right." He only wants a drink. And the movie illustrates how that's exactly who he is. A total tomcat who enjoys being "on the edge" and flirting with danger, he sort of enjoys toeing the line. The most outrageous thing about Jack is he often gets off lighter than he should. We all root for Miles and idolize Jack.

Maybe a trip out to wine country is just what Miles needs. We all know some big things are about to happen over the course of this one week.

One of Miles' true passions that does bring him happiness in wine. The right wine. And with great wine, you have to know what you're talking about. You treat it as an art, as yourself. It's not like any other drug. It becomes a way of like, not only as art and a way of life, but as a way of who you are.

Paul Giamatti is simply an actor who never ceases to amaze me. From his breakthrough role as the anal-retentive watchdog station manager in "Private Parts" (he was one of the bigger surprises in that movie. The fact that he was passed over for an Oscar nod for this one (as well as "American Splendor" and "Cinderella Man") borderlines on criminal. On felony.

Thomas Hayden Church, who was pretty much just vaguely remembered for his stock idiot character Lowell, the mechanic on the one of the world's most generic sit-com, "Wings" simply rivets here. He’s eons ahead of Lowell and “Wings.”

As Jack, he has the charm of a stud who's about to peak, but doesn't realize and doesn't care. A serial philanderer, he is literally willing to cheat on his fiancée without second thought or guilt right before the wedding. He has a womanizer charm that doesn't seem lecherous or arrogant. We don't mind him cheating. In fact, we encourage it. Let's see where his libido might lead him. To pleasure, now, yes. But we all know it'll lead him into a hornet's nest eventually. And we're anxious to see how.

When the arrive at their destination, two women come into the picture. A waitress, Maya (Virgina Madsen) and a hostess, (Sandra Oh) come into the picture. We know they’re the ones who are going to put everything into play.

Sandra Oh, writer-director Payne's then-wife, moves us in a big way as one of the wine hostess who falls for Jack and his animal way. They wind up having a fast relationship and one of the most surprising moments comes when Miles realizes how fast their relationship is going. We know Jack is sticking his pride and joy into a hornet's nest and we want him to, because we know he'll have a blast and we'll do the same just watching. She isn't just a hottie, she has a wild spirit we'd all want to get into.

And Virgina Madsen (“The Rainmaker”) plays the kind of angel from above here on Earth, walking as a mortal that Miles seems to have been praying for. And when she's on screen, we all feel that Miles may be finally saved. And is there a chance someone like her will rush down at save us when we really need it?

The film owes a lot to the works of Albert Brooks of Woody Allen, where the most effective comedy and drama comes the ordinary plight of the human condition. It's the kind of movie where you keep thinking, "Yeah, this is life. This is so exactly true to life... right down to every last detail."

Co-writer-director Alexander Payne ("Election" and "About Schmidt") along with co-writer Rex Pickett have fashioned their screenplay in a natural true-to-life way all about the fascination of human nature. The ways of ordinary life--laughter, anger, frustration and brain candy--all translate to a cathartic experience for it's little characters as well as it' audience. Composer Rolfe Kent gives "Sideways" a light, loose jazzy score. Sometimes rocking. Not unlike the works of Ryan Shore. And Payne not only directs beautifully and passionately, but manages to get the right feel in every frame. We even identify with his slapstick scenes.

Like most of the population who saw "Sideways," I was relieved to see that the screenplay managed to walk off with nearly every honor for writing there was: The Oscar, the British Academy Award, the Golden Globe, the Independent Spirit Award, the New York Film Critic Circle Award. And it's cast got it's props as well. Speaking as someone who saw this movie as well as others that came out for '04, yeah.

One of those rare and precious years where the Academy actually got it right.

NOTE: This review is dedicated in loving memory to my grandfather, Arthur Benzie. He had a lot of Miles in him. A schoolteacher with a passion for the written word--especially the well-written word. Life was harder than for him than most and he always seemed frustrated that society was doing it's best to become intellectually sterile and eager to turn back mankind's long evolutionary process as quickly as possible.

It all got to him in a big way. Like Miles, he had a deep passion, an insight. For the highbrow and the savory. The man always appreciated a good drink.

And needed it more than he really should have.

--To "Sideways," Dane Youssef



Nationality: Scottish-Arab

Hair: Brown

Height: 6'1"

Eyes: Hazel Green

Body Type: Slender, whippet thin.

Sign: Virgo

Career: Actor, writer, advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, comedian, filmmaker, performer, stand-up comic, singer, dancer and artist.

Hobbies: Bicycling, Dance, Music (listening), Video Games, Writing a Book

Author of numerous celebrity biographies, reviews for film and television, as well as posts on YouTube under the name "Dane Youssef."

Was an advertising cartoonist for the School Store of the Children's Learning Center of Alameda, Intern for TCI Cablevision of Alameda (now Comcast) Danced with the Alameda School of Dance (as soloist, performed in four ballets and the College of Alameda, performed numerous ballet recitals. Is now working as a freelance writer, performer, artist, cartoonist, spokesman and consultant, etc.

Honors: President's Education Award, 2001, for Outstanding Academic Achievement, Voted Junior Prince of the Graduating Class of at his school (2001) and the offical represenitive to City Hall of the Alameda High English class, numerous certificates and honors from the Children's Learning Center. Graduate of the Children's Learning Center and Alameda High School, both class of 2001, commendations from religious rehabilitation services.

HIGHLIGHTS: Boyish, slender and overly-energenic, Dane Youssef is an odd, "colorful" type. The sort of entertainer that never picks a major. He enjoys versatility. Acting, singing, writing, drawing, filmmaking and others. He is apparently mulit-talented.

Apparently, but that's a simple misconception. Actually, he's just equally mediocre and pedestrian at different endeavors. And he has absolutely no attention span, so he is unable to focus on a single trade.

He is an outwardly spoken autistic--- a victim of Tourette Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive-Complusive Disorder. That last one, his superiors say, comes in very handy for perfectionism in the field.

A scouting executive for PREACH, Teamwork & Events discovered at the school they both attended during Dude's much younger years. This executive was impressed by his firey energy, Chaplin-like mannerisms and ability to make people laugh and really talk.

Unfortunetly, unlike everyone else, the exectuive was heavily put-off by Dane's raw open sewer mouth and third-grade sense of humor and so PREACH, TWAE wisely decided to seek recruits elsewhere.

The school requested Dane to direct a Christmas play one year because nobody else wanted the job. He wound up doing the writing himself with the head teacher of his classroom. A play directly for the school which would be aired on Cable Access. It wasn't well-written or well-directed. But, like a lot of things that were weak, boring, dull and idiotic, it still managed to get on TV.

Dane had his first taste of "publication" and wanted more.

But if you believe Darwin's theory, eventually Dane evolved and his lack of taste matured (Somewhat, I guess, but you'd have the ask the poor people trapped in the organization who are forced to work with him. Poor pathetic b*****ds). They met up at a mall years later and wound up discussing recruiting Youssef into the illustrious ranks of PREACH.

Well, here's proof of God, folks.

Dane himself says "is all about basically talents--performing talents--of all shapes and sizes coming together to create something special. Stand-up, singing, music, dance--anything that works onstage, That's what PREACH is all about. Finding fresh raw talent right off the streets and bringing it into the public eye and making their dreams to life."

Dane goes on to say, "What we at PREACH are really trying to market and perform is our vision. A dream. One we all share---fresh, off-beat people who march to the beat of their own drummer. Who come together and want to build this future in the entertainment industry. PREACH is about being constantly innovative. Experimenting and building, coming up with new ideas and trying them out.

Not just trying to be new and shocking. Novelty wears off, you know. Shock-'artists' like Tom Green and others do stuff that's just gross and provokative... and that's interesting for a few moments. It's like a car crash, morbid fascination. But it wears off. After a while you eventually realize, what you see is what you get.

And you wants so much more. It's only human nature. To hold onto the penis and s**t jokes is to cease to grow. To cease to evolve. To cease to improve. And we at PREACH are trying to get a little farther away from that.

True art always stands the test of time. We just want to see what we can do. And do it. Someone's got to change the whole world and the effects of history. I'm proud to be a part of all this."

Dane goes on to say a lot more, but we wisely tuned it out. I mean, really, who honestly cares?

Dane did not lend his desire to be a published writer to the little-read Alameda High Newsletter, nor did he lend his "day-player" acting ability to the drama club. "I regret it with every fiber of my being. It would have been just so damn great to be able to do my stuff without being such a damn outlaw. I fought teachers, other kids, authority figures... if I could go back in time and do it right, I would. But I can't. And I kick myself for it."

Being recruited into proves that there's a God. And he was willing to throw Dane a crumb.

Dane's biggest honors from the "hallowed halls" (that's right, that's written in quotation marks) of the school is being voted Junior Prince of Alameda High School, class of 2001. He was also a receipcent of Oustanding Achievement Awards from CLC for "Creativity," "Creative Writing," "Class Leadership" and "Most Likely To Succeed."

Poor, poor pathetic, deluded bastard. No one ever had the heart to tell him they pass those things out to everyone who went to that school with every full tank of gas. Every remedial serial freak who went to that school got one. Even the kid who ate his own scabs before they healed. Poor, poor deluded Dane.

Oh, well. Let the deluded little d**k dream, I mean, what else has he got?

In the summer of 2002, his dear sweet kitty passed away of cancer. Youssef made a movie about the cat's life before he passed away, which was aired several time on cable access television.

His hobbies are his very life, so his life is his hobby. He takes classical and modern ballet, bike-riding, exploring, learning money management. He helps out at home, walking the dog and finding all these ways to make his cat happy and screwing around on the internet.

He also occassionally writes celebrity bios and movie reviews. His birthday is September 17. He's a Virgo.

Guess what that stands for? No one's surprised.


  • Was an avid drinker of "flavored beers" (wine coolers), but had to quit due to a history of alcoholism in his family.
  • Although despises the TV show "Friends," is an avid fan of the short-lived spin-off "Joey."
  • Has done stand-up and MC'ing at local Karaoke competitions.
  • Favorite shows are "South Park," "Married... With Children," "Beavis & Butt-Head," "Duckman," "American Dad," "Will & Grace" and "Malcolm in the Middle."
  • Has an extensive vintage toy collection.
  • Believes marajuana should be legalized in certain parts of the US.
  • Favorite movies are "American Beauty," "Mystery Science Theatre 3000," "Crumb," "The Blair Witch Project" and "Blue Velvet."
  • Main Vice: Jägerbombers and '80's rock.
  • Believes that John Leguizamo is the most underrated Hispanic working talent. Believes Jennifer Lopez is the most overrated.
  • Favorite actor is Jim Carrey. Favorite actress is Neve Campbell. Favorite performer is Andy Kaufman.
  • Favorite ballet dancers are Mikhail Baryshnikov, Peter Martins, Natasha Makarova, Alexander Godunov and Gelsey Kirkland.
  • Has no favorite filmmaker due to his eclectic taste.
  • Has very eclectic tastes and enjoys great music of all kinds: Classical, alternative rock, heavy metal, jazz and old school rap.
  • Is a fan of the band KISS, particularly Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Even has an entire shelf consisting of KISS-based mechandise.
  • Went off his "no pork" diet after losing his Muslim faith due to along stream of misfortune (a long losing streak) and crippling depression.
  • Enjoys the art of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
  • Is militantly opposed to smoking. Is allergic to smoke and will not permit anyone to smoke near him and will actually hold his breath and run away from anyone who smokes in his vicinity. Believes they should outlaw smoking and get smokers to chew instead.
  • Hosted karaoke competitions at the Pop-Inn, The 400 Club, The 23 Club, The Rainbow Room and The Caribbean City.
  • Favorite children's book author is Roald Dahl and compares him to Dickens.
  • Loves the work of David Bowie.
  • Was considering being a professional criminal.
  • To get in shape, takes classical and modern ballet, Pilates, biking and walking.
  • Has a large red raised scar on his calf from a bike accident.
  • Is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
  • Has Tourette syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder and is dyslexic. Also suffers from colitis.
  • Credits self-help legend Tony Robbins as his savior.
  • Is of Scottish-Muslim decent.
  • Attempted suicide on numerous occasions.
  • Has never smoked or done illegal drugs.
  • Loves the work of cartoonists Bill Watterson, Aaron McGrundler and R. Crumb.
  • Is an outspoken fan of Mike's Hard Berry Lemonade, J&B Coolers and Smirnoff Ice.
  • His birth was announced in the paper.
  • Has the form letter from Bill Clinton he recieved after writing to protest the slaughter of National Redwood Forests laminated and framed.
  • Framed many of the honors he got from his schools.
  • He has written celebrity bios and movie reviews, most of which have been posted already on the internet.
  • Was a class clown in high school, as well as the effete best friend of the popular girls.


"Ballet is everything. It is an art, a sport, an exercise, a form of therapy. It is even a lifestyle if you love it."

"There's just something about 'Two In A Half Men.' It's so boring. So calculated. So generic. So safe. So of course, it's immensely popular. It's not the kind of show anyone can grow to love. It's the type the whole world watches."

"The worst thing you can do to something real, original, honest and edgy is to make it mainstream."

"The Nazi party... that was some party!"

"What is ballet, really? It's everything, really. It's a form of exercise, a body sculpting. It's as an athletic sport as football. Only the players all work together to create something together instead of trying to stop the others efforts. It's an out-of-body, ESP spiritual experience. It's an art form. It's a happening. It's an event. It's everything and anything at once. Ballet is even therapeutic because it gets a lot of excess energy, thought and worry off your mind and body and replaces it with a pleasantly released serene feeling. Like climaxing or releasing stress. Many misconstrue that you need to be rich, posh, snobby, female, intellectual, upper-crust and thin as a wafer to get it. That's just narrow-minded stereotyping idiocy. All ballet really requires is that while you're doing it (every minute you're doing it), you to give everything about yourself every moment."

"There are cultures that believe that the camera can steal your soul. In a way, that's true. When you act in the theatre, on-stage in front of a live audience, the script, the scene, the dialouge, your image, your performance... it all melts together... it all intertwines... all it all floats into the air. Everyone breathes it in. It's all one contained moment. But when you act on film, be it TV, movie or otherwise... anyway captured on film... The camera steals your performance. Your voice, your image, your emoting... it entraps it on film and takes it away. Like trapping a bug in a glass bottle. Your performance doesn't belong to you anymore. It's theirs now. They can do whatever they want with it."

"I have the ideal legs for ballet. I have 'dancer's legs'! As for flexibility, I'm more rubbery than Gumby and his bastard cousin Stretch Armstrong… Everything else, yeeesh. Well...You do the math."

"If it wasn't for sex, men and women wouldn't have any use for one another. Except for friendly conversation. Sex is the one thing that forces people to come together. That and loneliness. We need each other to keep society connected and running. Would it not for sex, we all would have disconnected from on another (especially the different sexes), the system would have broken apart eons ago."

"The sight of the empty dance studio early in the morning... no one is around... it's a little drafty, but a little warm at the same time... a pair of worn, battered, beaten ballet slippers on the hardwood floor... the old, weathered, but still hard and durable barre' on the wall... the dust floating through the air by the sunlight at the window.... it's all so d***ed beautiful, you know. It makes it all worth it." (on ballet)

"Always carry a loaded weapon. To school, to church, to your wedding, your honeymoon. Even to family reunions."!/Dane_Youssef