"Best Movie EVER? Forever And EVER!?!"

By John Saleeby
March 16, 2004

"From before the beginning, Young Fella. And now, after the end." - Mister Bernstein

Is "Citizen Kane"* really The Best Movie Ever Made? Uh . . . maybe, I dunno. Try telling kids today that "Citizen Kane" is The Best Movie Ever Made and they'll go out to their car to get the tire iron out of the trunk so they can bash your skull open before you tell 'em "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is The Best Album Ever Made. Learn From My Mistake - Don't ever talk to kids about The Best Ballet Ever Choreographed no matter what ballet you happen to choose. Not that I can blame kids for not getting "Citizen Kane." Not only is it in black and white but the black parts don't even make silly jokes about how the white parts dance. Hey, whatever movie you think is The Best Movie Ever Made is up to you. Me, I pick "The Man With The X Ray Eyes" and that's my choice. You pick "Pretty Woman" and I'll be right back in a minute - I gotta check something in my car.

*Original title - "An Icebox Full Of Eyeballs"  

You really have to see "Citizen Kane" on The Big Screen to appreciate it. You can watch it on television but that's like seeing Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and all those dancers trying to perform "The Producers" on top of a twenty four inch box instead of on the Broadway stage. I saw "Citizen Kane" on TV once and Orson Welles fell off of the screen and my cat caught him. But that's okay, when I watched "Jaws" the shark jumped out and got the cat. There's a scene in "Citizen Kane" where Orson Welles opens up an envelope and pulls out A Very Significant Document and, when you see it on TV, you go "Oh, I remember that. Oh, yeah. What a thing to send a guy in an envelope." But when you see it up there on The Big Screen you couldn't be more startled if that Document's head spun around three hundred and sixty degrees, puked split pea soup, and masturbated with a crucifix. What a movie!

Looking at "Citizen Kane" today it is hard to believe that OrsonWelles was only twenty four years old when he made it. No, it's not unbelievable that such a young guy could have created something so brilliant - Tommy Stinson was only fourteen when The Replacements recorded "Sorry, Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash"  I mean it's unbelievable that such a young guy could be such a great big fat slob and still be a movie star! A quarter century after "Citizen Kane" Welles was more known to the public as The Fattest Man In The Land than for any movie he ever directed. I suspect that, like a lot of lardos, Welles ate a lot to compensate for frustration with other facets of life. Many fat guys eat all the time cause they can't get laid whereas Welles ate all the time because he couldn't get studio executives to finance his movies. So, before you resort to the Atkins Diet, write a movie script, send it off to Hollywood, and then you can just starve to death waiting for somebody to get back to you.

Corny people carry on about how "Citizen Kane" is so important because of how its sets have ceilings and everything in every shot is in perfect focus. Were people really walking out of movie theaters in The Old Days saying stuff like "What a piece of crap! An hour and a half long and NOT ONE SINGLE CEILING! Not one! And if everything in the foreground was in focus everything in the background was out of focus! Just once I'd like to get to see a ceiling in a movie or a shot where EVERYTHING IN THE BACKGROUND IS IN FOCUS AND EVERYTHING IN THE FOREGROUND IS IN FOCUS!! JUST ONCE, GODDAMMIT!! JUST ONCE!!!"? In Russia or Germany, maybe. None of that stuff has anything to do with what makes "Citizen Kane" a good movie. I've seen enough Godzilla movies to know that the only reason to show a ceiling in a movie is to have it cave in and kill everybody. When I first saw "Citizen Kane" I spent the whole time waiting for Godzilla to cave the ceiling in and I missed all that great stuff about "Rosebud". "What? It's over? Well, what the heck was THAT all about?" I'm sure most people find all the Razzmatazz in this movie pretty annoying. "I don't know how to run a newspaper, I just try everything I can think of." Kane says as a young newspaper publisher and Welles obviously felt the same as a director. Forget the ceilings - Why all the goddam DOORS? I haven't had so many doors slammed in my face since I tried to get into Harvard.

Another example of "Citizen Kane"s insistence on grabbing you by the throat and slapping you around until you break down crying "Okay! Okay! It's the Best Movie Ever Made! It's the Best Movie Ever Made! Whatever you say! Whatever you say!" is the music by composer Bernard Herrmann who later wrote the music for "Psycho" and "Taxi Driver". The music in those films reflected the madness of their characters while with "Citizen Kane" Herrmann seems determined to drive the audience into an eye rolling teeth gnashing frenzy. Were Norman Bates and Travis Bickle exposed to this movie at an impressionable age? If "Citizen Kane" had been a hit America would have been on the warpath with or without Pearl Harbor. But what do I know about music? I'm still waiting for Kip Winger's symphony to come out.   

But enough o' this belly achin' - Here's something you can say about "Citizen Kane" that you sure can't say about "Psycho," "King Kong," or "The Godfather" - It's FUNNY! I guess if you can't make a movie with serial killers, dinosaurs, or mobsters you've got to at least deliver a few good laffs to get folks to show up.  But for all this talk about ceilings and everything being in focus you never hear anybody talking about "Citizen Kane" being so funny. One reason for that is "Citizen Kane" came out at a time when a motion picture that made an audience laugh wasn't all that unusual. Orson Welles made this movie back in the days when Laurel And Hardy, The Marx Brothers, W.C  Fields were still in business. If a movie as rib tickling as "Citizen Kane" were to come out today - when if Cedric The Entertainer isn't in a movie that damn Owen Wilson is -  it would be a massive international success.  Why don't "Citizen Kane" get more respect for its humorous comicalisticology? After all these years people are so intimidated by the atmosphere of academic respectability that surrounds "Citizen Kane" they feel obliged to take it veryveryvery seriously and forget how much they've laughed at it even if they haven't been put off by all that Roger Ebert nonsense long enough to check it out. Well, no wonder I never thought Charlie Chaplin was all that hot!  But there's this funny little Mister Bernstein dude running all over the place in "Citizen Kane" and damned if he isn't one of the funniest little dudes I've ever seen in my life! He's played by Everett Sloan and I bet after he died Mister Bernstein was reincarnated into Pikachu from "Pokeman" or Meatwad on "Aqua Teen Hunger Squad" - Yes, he is that funny. But - Danger Danger! - Mister Bernstein is Jewish, so I'm sure somewhere there are fifteen hundred pages of dipshit scripture about how he's an anti-Semitic stereotype. Okay, I'll be quiet and listen to you for a while (Saleeby yells "Psych!" and darts out the door). 

From Where Hath All This Wackiness Sprung Forth?  Orson Welles was a lot of things - Mostly a lot of Orson Welles - but "Funny" wasn't one of them. He was the sort of person who told a joke and people thought it was "wry". I tell a joke and people ask me "why". "Citizen Kane" is funny because of Herman Mankiewicz who co wrote the script with Welles.


One night Herman Mankiewicz was at a very exclusive Hollywood dinner party. Herman was sitting at a table full of Tinseltown's most glamorous stars and, as usual, drinking very heavily. Everything was going well until, right in the middle of the meal, Herman opened his mouth and proceeded to vomit all over the table right there in front of everybody. Once the cries of shock and terror subsided, Herman wiped his mouth, looked around, and said "Don't worry, the white wine came up with the fish."

I told my Dad this story and he didn't speak to me for a good three weeks. Try it yourself next time The Old Man is getting on your nerves - It Works!

Aside from "Citizen Kane" Mankiewicz is mostly known for producing the best Marx Brothers movies "Monkey Business", "Horsefeathers", and "Duck Soup" - One hell of a bigger accomplishment than  a radio spook show about invaders from Mars based on a book by some dead Englishman, if you ask me. The Prevailing Attitude is that Herman Mankiewicz was just some drunken old wise ass who knocked out two hundred and fifty pages of "Raw Material" which El Maestro Orson Welles then sculpted into a Mighty Masterpiece like Jesus Christ feeding The Multitudes with half a loaf of Wonder Bread and some tuna fish. We're supposed to believe that Orson Welles was so great he could have made The Best Movie Of All Time out of the tag attached to his mattress but Herman Mankiewicz is so insignificant that nobody can mention him without talking about his brother Joe who made that Great Super Big Deal Masterpiece "All About Eve". Or maybe it was his sister Eve who made "All About Joe", I dunno - Who gives a crap what his brother did? If his brother was Lemmy from Motorhead I might get excited about it enough to put my mouth up to an electric fan and talk like a Martian but, otherwise, leave me alone - I gotta go pick up that dead cat out of the parking lot before the Little Black Kids see it and get upset. Oh boy, don't get me started on Orson Welles and Herman Mankiewicz. But, hey, it's a refreshing break from carrying on about Elvis Presley and all those black blues singers he stole everything from, right? Uh oh, I knew it was a mistake bringing that up! Okay, I'll be quiet and listen to you for a while (Saleeby yells "Psych!" and tries to dart out the door but Rosie O'Donnell's big ass is in the way. Shit!). 

Yeah, "Citizen Kane" is one mighty fine movie. So good that here at Acid Logic we're working on a remake of it, kinda like Gus Van Zandt did a remake of "Psycho" a few years ago. Everybody really hated that movie, but we're gonna jazz up our "Citizen Kane" with a little "Psycho" just to mess with everybody - Especially Gus Van Zandt who should just stick to playing guitar for Bruce Springsteen. Here's a little Preview . .

"Citizen Bates"

Norman Foster Bates, the eccentric multimillionaire recluse who amassed a huge fortune with his chain of motels, taxidermy shops, and wig factories, has died. A Journalist is sent to discover the meaning of Bates' Final Word ' "Mother". After interviewing those intimate with Bates through out his life and career the Journalist meets up with some other reporters at The Bates House where the enormous collection of objects and curiosities Bates stored up during his lifetime has been warehoused.

"He sure liked to collect things, didn't he?"

"Anything and everything!"

"You put al this stuff together, what would it spell?"

"'Norman Foster Bates'?"

"Or 'Mother'?"

"If you could find out what 'Mother' meant I bet it would explain everything!"

"No, I don't think so. No, Mister Bates was a man who got everything he wanted and lost it. Maybe 'Mother' was something he couldn't get or lost. Anyway, it wouldn't explain anything. I don't think a word could explain a man's life. I guess 'Mother' was a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. A missing piece."

The reporters get depressed and leave as workers begin to dispose of the huge piles of junk.   The camera hovers above the tangled clutter of odds and ends and then slowly moves in so we can identify several objects seen earlier in the film, closer and closer until the final piece of Norman's property seen is the mummified corpse of a little old lady propped up in a rocking chair. Before we are really sure exactly what we are looking at, a worker grabs the rocking chair with the corpse, and thoughtlessly tosses it into an incinerator. The camera moves in so close to the furnace that we seem to actually be inside with the little old ladies' rotten body as it is consumed by the flames.

Dissolve to the exterior of the Bates House seen through the front gate topped with a wrought iron 'B' as black poisonous smoke rises from the chimney and up into the starless sky.

A giant gorilla comes in and smashes the shit of everything.



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