Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Small Time Crooks

By Mike Everleth ⋅ May 19, 2000

I can’t say I’ve ever participated in any “get-rich-quick” schemes. I think I’ve only played the lottery once, when I was visiting my folks in Florida and the jackpot was some ridiculously high sum. I didn’t win.

And I did subscribe to Writer’s Digest many years ago for a chance to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I didn’t win that either, and I never subscribed to another magazine through them again and stopped my WD subscription when I realized the magazine kinda sucked. My patience with that magazine ran out when the cover of one issue read: “Learn how to write for SEINFELD!” The advice inside was then simply, “Watch the show, learn who the characters are, write a spec script and send that to the producers.” Well, duh!! Thanks for the tip, jerk-o.

However, I do have to say that I’ve undertaken most of my creative endeavors in hopes of them making me a lot of loot somewhere down the line.

Unfortunately, though, I’m almost 31-years-old and I’ve never really made any money with my writing. With maybe two exceptions:

1) When I was in high school I sold a couple copies of my Redemption Squad mini-comic. That project bombed tho’ and I sold probably only 4 copies total of the entire 3 self-published issue run.

2) A couple years ago, my uncle got me hooked up with this weird old guy who wanted somebody to write a great, feel-good, inspiring movie script. He wasn’t in the business or anything. He was just some rich old dude who thought that if he got somebody to write him a good script he could sell it to Sherry Lansing, who at the time was the head of Paramount Studios. At first, the way he spoke I thought maybe he knew Sherry through some distant business contact, but then I realized he had only read about her in a magazine and I guess he liked that she had produced a movie about racism against Jews called SCHOOL TIES (which happens to be a very good movie).

Every other weekend for a month or two, I had to drive an hour up to this guy’s house in a retirement center. He would tell me stories about his life and then he would take me to lunch at Friendly’s. Then, I’d go home and try to write a synopsis for a script based on the stories.

But he was never satisfied with what I had written and I became increasingly confused about what he wanted. Did he want a script based on his life or an original story? I never knew and I eventually wrote him a letter saying I couldn’t work with him anymore. He did pay me, though. He gave me maybe 20 bucks per visit. And I got the free lunch. But between gas, tolls, paper and typewriter ribbon, I probably lost money in the deal.

Anyway, I think at this point in time I don’t need to be “rich”, but it would be nice to make a couple bucks at this writing thing. My main problem always having been I don’t know how to hustle myself too well. I’ll figure it out one of these days.

One of the nice things about SMALL TIME CROOKS was it was good to see Woody Allen’s female co-star be closer to his age than they usually have been in the past. It was much less creepy watching him smooch Tracey Ullman than Mira Sorvino or even Helena Bonham Carter (both in MIGHTY APHRODITE).

That’s one thing that drives me nuts in Hollywood movies, teaming up old guys with hot, young girls. A couple months ago at work, I was discussing the movie TRUE CRIME, which I had just watched on cable, with some co-workers. In the film, Clint Eastwood, whom I like but he’s a wrinkly old man now, is supposed to be married to some 20-year-old piece of ass. I mentioned to my friends that that bothered me and I thought it was a distasteful trend in a lot of recent films. One co-worker replied, “Yeah, but who wants to see an 80-year-old woman on film.” The other co-worker concurred. I guess that’s why they keep teaming young chicks with wrinkly old guys in movies. Maybe I’m not the intended audience for these things.

Well, Woody Allen dumped Mia Farrow for Soon Yi Previn, so you know where he’s coming from. So, that’s why it was pretty odd for there not to be any hot, young chicks in SMALL TIME CROOKS. All it had were Tracey Ullman, whom I normally can’t stand but she was very good in this, and Elaine May, giving a brilliant performance as Tracey’s mentally incompetent cousin.