Tag Archives: Emory Cohen


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Big Gold Brick is currently available for VOD rental.

DIRECTED BY: Brian Petsos

FEATURING: , , , Lucy Hale,

PLOT: After smashing his car into a suicidal scribe, the driver hires the writer as his biographer.

COMMENTS: This film left me with a weight in my heart. A weight of approximately 313 pounds per cubic foot, when it had aspirations of four times that. To the science-y types amongst you, this clumsy metaphor will come across as modestly clever, albeit markedly pertinent. Big Gold Brick, a recent addition to the Hipster-Com-Core genre (“too”-clever, “too”-stylized mysterious-esque films), has the veneer of a shiny new bauble to be melted down and enjoyed: a cryptical client, ironic soundtrack, eccentrics over every shoulder, and a splintered protagonist. It is only around the half-way juncture that Brian Petsos’ feature debut lets slip that it’s faking it—because its key element is missing.

Samuel is, for reasons of various legitimacy, on the cusp of suicide. His first instincts, kicking into furious gear in an opening montage of heavy drinking and light mess-making, spur him to abandon his apartment (owing five months back rent, no less; that West Coast Sam ain’t got nothin’ on this guy), and travel by bus to “Rockchester,” carrying nothing but his typewriter and his crumpled suicide note. From the station, Samuel walks into on-coming traffic in time for Floyd (Andy Garcia) to aspirate some tasty frozen custard while driving his Cadillac. For surly Sam, a crash, a hospital stay, some possible brain damage, and an offer of a writing gig; for Floyd, the shaggy-dog-story-teller in this shaggy-dog movie, a chance for some validation after a life of near-misses.

“Near miss.” Now that would have been an efficient way to describe Big Gold Brick. But seeing as Petsos takes the long way around, I return the favor. The fact of the matter is, it almost works, largely because of the secondary lead. Andy Garcia’s turn as an ex-military “plastics, lenses, and lasers” scientist is both quirky and endearing. Floyd is a delight, as are the bizarre sequences sloshed around with tasteful abandon. Some are mundanely surreal, as when Floyd is talking with the brain specialist at the hospital. The good doctor lights a cigarette, prompting Floyd to inquire, “Can you smoke here?,” to which the doctor takes a puff and nonchalantly replies, “No, you can’t.” Others are sudden, literal, bursts: Floyd (and an unlucky co-worker) discover that the gun actually does function, despite suspicions otherwise.

Megan Fox makes the most of it in her turn as sex-vixen lawyer wife. Lucy Hale is believably spiky and fragile as the cocaine-pixie-dream-girl. And Oscar Isaac lovingly chomps through every Austrian-accented, hyper-limping, bearded corporate crime lord moment as Anselm Vogelweide. The improbable wash nearly carries the film, except, unfortunately, for another casting choice. The lead. I know from Lords of Chaos that Emory Cohen can be very convincing. But surrounded by this cast of weirdos, his bumbling mannerisms and unconvincing narration fall flatter than a pancake on a sheet of drywall.

Big Gold Brick‘s current abysmal rating of 3.4 on IMDb is undeserved. Except, of course, if one bears in mind what this might have been.


“…begins as a tragedy before veering into a wild, outrageously funny and unashamedly bizarre ride… a bold, wildly entertaining and provocative trip down the rabbit hole. It deserves to become a cult classic in the vein of Donnie Darko.”–Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru (contemporaneous)




DIRECTED BY: Jonas Åkerlund

FEATURING: Rory Culkin, , Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, Jon Øigarden, Valter Skarsgård

PLOT: The founder of True Norwegian Black Metal, Euronymous, narrates his rise and fall from beyond the grave in a tale of music, church burning, metal, and marketing.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Lords of Chaos is a well-crafted biopic/docudrama about some very weird people. Graphic suicide and murder notwithstanding, this is an eminently mainstream, straightforward piece of high-quality cinema. Fans of True Norwegian Black Metal will want to upgrade this from a “recommended” to a “” rating.

COMMENTS: Norway: the land of Ski Queen cheese, smiling people in bright sweaters, and True Norwegian Black Metal. For the last of those three things, you can thank “Euronymous” (née Øystein Aarseth), founder of the band Mayhem and, if Lords of Chaos is to be believed, something of a marketing genius. Jonas Åkerlund, no stranger to the metal scene of the late ’80s, brings the dramatic tale of Euronymous’ journey from upper-middle-class rocker bad-boy to tragic murder victim to an English-speaking audience in this docudrama. With a sure touch and an unlikely sense of humor, Åkerlund spins a formidable yarn about some troubled lads spiraling out of control.

From his omnipotent afterlife perch, Øystein (Rory Culkin) narrates his early roots—appropriately subterranean in his parents’ basement. Graduating quickly from the status of inept musicians riding around in their parents Volvos, the metal group Mayhem enjoys a series of lucky breaks accompanied by implied Faustian bargains. They find a frontman, Death (an eerie Jack Kilmer), who rockets them to sub-fame before blasting his brains out. Death’s replacement is even darker: an impressionable, awkward young man named Christian (Emory Cohen), who changes his name to Varg after he buys into the whole death-cult-Satanist-nihilist shtick that Øystein has fabricated. Varg starts burning down churches, and the other band members’ moral fabric disintegrates as a horrible contest of one-upmanship rips them apart. As his vision of commercial glory begins to unravel, Øystein is forced to come to terms with the beast he’s created.

While many films directed by Music Video People obviously show their signature markings, Jonas Åkerlund stays his hand stylistically. His story is about the people behind the image, not a love letter to the presumed madness and evil of True Norwegian Black Metal. On the occasions that he does indulge in his fast-dreamy editing, the effect is that much more striking: Øystein’s recurring daydreams/nightmares of traveling through the woods, looking for his first friend and leading man are unsettling and touching. The music, most of it performed by the (non-Norwegian, non-metal) band Sigur Rós, alternately haunts and pummels. And the acting transforms these aspiring metal caricatures into realistic portraits of young outcasts.

Which brings me to Rory Culkin. Yes, he is from the same brood as the famous (to some of us older types) Macaulay Culkin, but in Lords of Chaos he seems to be channeling a young (carried in no small part by his eyes and his near-constant, “What the Hell is wrong with you people?” tone of voice). Culkin carries this picture. His joyful cynicism is underscored as his post-death montage wraps up, “No. Fuck. Stop this sentimental shit.” Though he may call himself “Euronymous”, Øystein remains Øystein: a cheeky, ambitious nerd with a flair for publicity. Lords of Chaos rubs elbows with the countless musical biopics that have streamed forth from the movie industry since time immemorial. It’s one of the few, though, to capture melodrama, mundanity, and hilarity so capably and with such strong disregard for nostalgia.


“Despite Åkerlund’s refusal to lionize these immature kids, ‘Lords of Chaos’ is tremendous fun. Caveat: one must be able to handle severed pig heads, cat torture, and casual Nazism.” –Amy Nicholson, Variety