Post-Empire Strikes Back


In essence, the idea is to alter the structure of the text while still keeping the same context and meaning. It is important to retain the markdown formatting as well.

I believed I had an understanding of The Canyons.

Last winter, I read Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. It was a combination of a memoir, horror, and a touching story about fathers and sons.

The main character in the book, who is also the author of Less Than Zero and American Psycho, was writing a new novel called Teenage Pussy, which was described as containing “endless episodes of girls storming out of rooms in high-rise condos and the transcripts of cell phone conversations fraught with tension and camera crews following the main characters around as well as six or seven overdoses”.

It was also stated that it would make Sodomania look like A Bug’s Life. Upon hearing this description, my first thoughts were oh and wow and I was eager to place a rush order on Amazon.

To my disappointment, however, Teenage Pussy was not available on any online marketplace.

In 2013, The Canyons featured Lindsay Lohan as one of the characters.

A few months later, I encountered an article in the New York Times titled “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie.”

This story chronicled the struggles of the young actress in attempting to shoot a “erotic thriller,” “L.A. neo-noir,” “psychosexual drama,” and “cinema for the post-theatrical age,” which was written by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, and starring Lohan along with porn star James Deen.

The financing of the movie needed to be done in a peculiar way, which I only had a vague understanding of and seemed to be depending on Kickstarter.

As I went through the article, I became increasingly excited and was confident that this film ( The Canyons ) was the same as that book ( Teenage Pussy ).

Rather than imitating art, art was about to consume itself before putting on art’s remains as an ostentatious costume.


Secondly, it is important to consider the implications of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

One way to be sure of avoiding plagiarism is to rephrase the material and restructure the words, so that the original context and meaning is retained.

Bret Easton Ellis is known as the master of modern literature.

He often makes references to his other books in such a subtle and obsessive way that he may be doing it for his own amusement.

His minor characters often appear in multiple books. For example, Sean Bateman from The Rules of Attraction is mentioned as having an older brother, Patrick, who is then the main character in Ellis’s next work.

Similar to this, Victor Johnson from The Rules of Attraction is moved to the center of the story in Glamorama and is even given a new name, Victor Ward.

This hints at Ellis’s unique way of giving his characters bigger roles. It begs the question, what do these characters have to do to get these major roles?

If any writer was to have a casting couch for his fictional characters, it would be Ellis.

The reason why Ellis is seen as such a troublemaker on Twitter is his habit of starting confrontations with different groups of people.

He’s taken shots at Kathryn Bigelow, calling her no more than a “mildly interesting filmmaker” due to her being a “very hot woman.”

He’s also put dents in the halo of David Foster Wallace, and labeled the casting of Matt Bomer as the lead in Fifty Shades of Grey “absolutely ludicrous,” as the role supposedly requires someone who is “genuinely into women.”

Despite the backlash this has caused, Ellis doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. He knows he’s stirring the pot and he’s not one to complain about the response he gets.

For instance, when he recently made controversial comments about Wallace, he was called “jealous,” “a has-been,” “a dumb motherfucker,” and more.

However, he simply brushed off the criticism.

I think his refusal to give in or apologize is an admirable trait. After everything that happened with the Bigelow comments and the controversy getting out of hand, he did offer an apology in the Daily Beast.

However, it was more of a “It is what it is” than an apology.

When GLAAD uninvited him to the media awards and asked him not to tweet about it, he tweeted about it, and then wrote a piece for Out magazine to discuss the organization’s lack of humor and its fascist tendencies, which he termed “The Gay Gatekeepers.”

Ellis’ novels are vibrant, brave and gutsy, even if you don’t appreciate them.

When American Psycho was released, not only was it boycotted by the National Organization for Women, but Ellis even received death threats. His books stand out from the crowd and thus are often misinterpreted, with reviews that are far from pleasant.

Michiko Kakutani is one example of this.


It seemed to me that Ellis was creating The Canyons as a way to have some fun, writing a script for a film adaptation of a novel that his fictional character had never finished (Bret Easton Ellis in Lunar Park had writer’s block).

Of course, he didn’t admit it. His previous project Bait, a revenge film about class struggle and bloodthirsty sharks, failed to get the necessary funding.

Ellis and Paul Schrader decided they had had enough of executives who thought they were also artists and movies made by committee, so they decided to finance the project themselves.

As Schrader said to Ellis, “What you do isn’t that expensive. Beautiful people, nice rooms, bad things, and sharp talk.

How expensive is that?” Ellis then got to work, saying, “I began to basically construct a Paul Schrader script.”

I suspected that, even though he was keeping a low profile and acting humble as the writer, an instrument of the director’s vision, he was actually the driving force behind The Canyons.

This endeavor was incredibly perverse, and in a very distinctive Elysian fashion. This notion of post-Empire, which Ellis created with the help of Gore Vidal, is difficult to explain, but it can be thought of as the contrast between Madonna and Lady Gaga.

In other words, post-Empire art is made with the remnants of the Empire, like a Dumpster diver.

In the same vein, Clay, the protagonist of Imperial Bedrooms, is asked if he knows the joke about the Polish actress, the punchline of which is that she came to Hollywood and slept with the writer.

The Canyons is the epitome of following these specific instructions. Not one person connected to the film is well-regarded, this includes Ellis, a widely known American author who has never won a prominent literary award.

Schrader has taken part in a handful of movies with celebrated status, such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, yet his work has not been officially endorsed by the Academy.

The movie stars James Deen, an It Boy in the porn industry, in the lead role.

Such an original casting was made possible due to the unique way the movie was funded – via Kickstarter, where people could bid on cameos, novel critiques, and even mementos given to the directors by major celebrities (including the money clip Robert De Niro gave Schrader during the making of Taxi Driver).

Deen was chosen by Ellis himself, who two years ago had tweeted his vision of him playing Christian. Deen replied with a single word, “party,” and the rest is history.

Schrader had to be convinced that the X-rated Critics Organization’s Unsung Swordsman of the Year, with experience in over 4000 adult movies, was the right actor for the job.

Ellis has called Deen his muse and said that when he wrote the script, he had only one person in mind.

The Times article reported that after Ellis got his way with Deen, he wanted to refuse the casting of Lindsay Lohan.

Schrader and Pope, however, had to convince him to consider her. I thought to myself that Ellis was manipulating the situation and that it had worked out.

Lohan is a former Disney star who now gives off the vibe of someone from Vivid. Despite her seemingly destructive lifestyle, she carries an air of not being ashamed and has a similar attitude to Charlie Sheen, who Ellis wrote about in 2011 for Newsweek.

It’s clear that Ellis was never going to turn down Lohan.

What was the motivation behind his decision to collaborate with Paul Schrader on such an overtly sexual project? Schrader was the director of Hardcore, which Pauline Kael harshly criticized for its “frigid sensationalism.”

She went on to declare in her review in the February 19, 1979 issue of the New Yorker that Schrader was “sexually inept” and “pathologically unsuited” to tell a story that revolved around erotic obsession and degradation.

I could scarcely believe that someone as well-versed in pop-culture as Ellis would be unaware of Pauline Kael’s review when he worked with Schrader; he had even previously quoted her in a tweet: “Hollywood is the only place where you can die of encouragement.”

So, unless Ellis aimed to deliberately go against the Andy Warhol motto of getting it “exactly wrong,” which I personally assumed he was doing, Schrader seemed to be an intentionally poor choice for the subject matter.

The tagline for The Canyons — “It’s not The Hills…” — alluded to the popular MTV reality show and was likely put there by Ellis.

He was blurring the line between the show and his own writing by using Clay from Imperial Bedrooms as a stand-in character, and by using a fallen movie star and an adult one.

He was also making the point that movies themselves are passé, so why not turn the movie into a reality show?

Lohan’s life is already one, with the paparazzi following her around and her most mundane activities making headlines: “LINDSAY LOHAN DUCKS UNDER A TABLE,” “DID LILO COP A FUDGIE THE WHALE?,” and “LINDSAY LOHAN SPOTTED SMOKING ON BALCONY OF MALIBU REHAB FACILITY.”

The Canyons already contains explicit scenes and a foursome, so it is in the realm of soft-core. For many reasons, porn would be a draw for Ellis. It is a post-Empire phenomenon, which has an edgy and honest vibe to it.

It is Hollywood without the facade of high-mindedness and artistry. Porn performers do not pretend to be actors; they are there to fulfill a fantasy.

Porn movies show what mainstream movies are subtly about: exploitation, voyeurism, commercialism, and sex for pleasure and money. The rumors about what actors and actresses have to do to get a role in Hollywood are what porn stars do for parts.

The porn industry is unabashedly sleazy, and loves to make fun of its twin brother, which is equally seedy but pretends to be respectable.

This is seen in parodies such as Forrest Hump, Schindler’s Fist, Drilling Miss Daisy, and The Curious Case of Benjamin’s Butthole.

You can get three movies in one with The Canyons: the original film, a reality version, and a pornographic parody. All for the same price.

Fourth Point:

I was apparently wrong when I said I had The Canyons ‘ number. Although there were certain aspects that I had an understanding of.

For instance, Ellis was very well-versed in Pauline Kael’s work.

During my visit to his West Hollywood apartment I noticed he did not only have the author’s most well-known books, such as For Keeps: Thirty Years at the Movies and 5001 Nights at the Movies, but her other books as well.

When it came to Lindsay Lohan, I had been wrong: Ellis had indeed resisted her casting at first. When I quizzed him on it, his reply was something of a shock: “I wanted to keep her out for the same cause that Paul shunned James [Deen].

I thought it would be counter-productive. Besides, I had a fondness for Tara [the character Lohan plays], so I was very protective of her.”

This answer was unexpected in two ways: its sincerity, and its gentle nature. (He had kind feelings for Tara! A woman who was a sort of celebrity and an obvious gold digger!)

Surprisingly, it was not the person I had thought who had come up with the “It’s not The Hills…” slogan, even though he admitted he had “checked out every episode, some seasons twice.” This turned out to be Schrader’s work.

As a Dutch Calvinist family, Schrader had not seen his first movie until he was eighteen and his biggest influences were the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress.

However, he is an avid follower of the drama within The Hills, from Lauren Conrad and Lo and Audrina, to Brody and Justin-Bobby, and of course, Speidi.

In regards to Schrader, I simply didn’t understand him. My fixation with Pauline Kael is the cause of it, as it has been an emotional bond since I was young, existing only in my mind.

Schrader and Pauline had a close relationship since his college days. She had been like a mother figure, convincing him to become a film critic rather than a minister and helping him get into UCLA film school as well as a job at the Los Angeles Free Press.

However, she was not so keen when he attempted to write screenplays and even less so when he decided to direct them.

Pauline had a great reason not to assess Paul Schrader’s debut film, Blue Collar (1978), since he had once slept on her couch, but she did so anyway.

She began her evaluation with a harsh comment, saying it was “one of the most dogged pictures ever produced” and “the ultimate overdue term paper.”

She then proceeded to criticize his “nighttime fatalism,” “jukebox Marxism,” and for “impos[ing] his personal depression [!] on characters who, in dramatic terms, haven’t earned it.”

Finally, she delivered a stinging conclusion: “People can be impressed by a movie this low in entertainment value; they can assume that it’s thinking of higher things.

But chances are that when Paul Schrader gets his bearings as a director he’ll put his manipulative cynicism to more sparkling uses.” Pauline was even holding back with her critique!

Schrader’s next feature, Hardcore, was the movie that Pauline used to give him a piece of her mind.

Regardless of how subpar and dissatisfying the movie might have been, it is difficult to think that he was being treated fairly. Pauline had no interest in being objective; she referred to it as “saphead objectivity”.

Her writing wasn’t a review, it was far harsher than that. She wrote in a cool and logical way, breaking down the film’s style, sensibility, and execution in a succinct and straightforward manner.

However, within her icy exterior was a passionate and exciting energy. One could almost hear her panting. Pauline was feminizing Schrader and then telling him that he was even a failure at being a girl.

It was an analysis that was so severe it could cause one to be both depressed and impotent. Who else had the guts to write something like that?

By providing a summary of my past experiences with Pauline and Schrader, I’m illustrating why I had not seen American Gigolo. In other words, I’m essentially saying “blah blah blah” – I had not seen it.

I saw the movie the day before I was to meet with Schrader. When the credits rolled, I was completely awestruck.

The movie had been brilliant, of course, but now I saw what Ellis was doing by teaming up with Schrader. It was not a strange or strange combination as I had first believed.

Rather, it was a perfect fit. The two were soulmates, and their sensibilities were similar if not identical.

American Gigolo and Imperial Bedrooms share a similar plot structure. Julian Kaye, a high-end escort with costly desires, falls in love with a senator’s wife and nearly turns into the scapegoat in a murder case. However, the film is not actually about this.

The movie is more about setting a mood of suspense and apprehension, about dressing up to either kill or be killed, and about Los Angeles as a place that looks like a fairytale but feels like a horror story.

Both Schrader’s movie and Ellis’s books contain a hetero-dominant layer on the surface while being ambiguously inclined towards homosexuality underneath.

Furthermore, the emotional and poignant elements of the works are surprising considering they are so preoccupied with appearances. Victor Ward’s declaration, “The better you look, the more you see,” in “Glamorama is a thesis that the book’s composition does not entirely support.

Ellis’s protagonists, who may come off as egotistical, are really trying to keep people out as a result of their fear and lack of connection with other people, making them appear spiritually desolate when in fact they are in a spiritual dilemma.

Richard Gere’s appearance in American Gigolo was eye-opening to Ellis, as he commented that he had “never seen a man photographed like that before” in a movie.

This movie led to the creation of Less Than Zero, which even included a male prostitute character named Julian. Ellis acknowledged the similarities between his own sensibility and Schrader’s, but quickly joked that he was not “so Calvinistic.”

His words made me chuckle as I nodded in agreement, understanding the underlying message.

Reflection has led to the conclusion that Ellis is an irreverent and ironic writer, and even though his work is secular in nature, there is an intensity to it that can be described as almost religious.

His books often contain a need for spiritual purification that is expressed through physical violence, similar to the climax of Taxi Driver.

This is particularly visible in American Psycho, where an investment banker releases his inner feelings through a bloodbath after pressure has built up inside him.

This theme can also be seen in Glamorama, Lunar Park, and Imperial Bedrooms; all of which feature isolated protagonists.

The first five words of Ellis’s first book, “People are afraid to merge,” can be used as a summary for the rest of his books, as he often moves towards a state of solitude and asceticism.


This is the fifth point to be considered when attempting to avoid plagiarism.

It is important to restructure the text in a way that does not change the original context or semantic meaning. Markdown formatting should be preserved.

What is the verdict on the movie? Critics are not fans, calling it “dispiriting and unpleasurable” (New York Times), “cornering the market on lethargy” (Los Angeles Times) and “as much fun as Chernobyl” (New Republic).

However, despite these reviews, I found it quite enjoyable. It is a classic noir, with all the tropes one would expect: the Woman With a Past, the Sexy But Dangerous Boyfriend, the Sweet, Lunkheaded True Love; a triangle with sharp angles; a frame-up and two kinds of behavior.

In short, it is trash, but good trash, and never tries to be anything else.

The underlying concept of The Canyons is a thought-provoking one. This film is highly conscious of the fact that the movie industry has one foot in the grave.

The opening and closing credits are set against the backdrop of disused, shabby suburban cinemas; the protagonists, who are employed in the making of a low-budget slasher movie, are not driven by a passion for the art of directors such as Ozu, Renoir, and Welles, but instead seek fame, money, or sexual partners, or just something to do in a break from the gym and the mall.

The movie is full of lines like, “I guess [movies are] just not my thing anymore.”

Essentially, The Canyons is a movie about individuals who make, work in, and would do anything to be in the film industry, but don’t really care about movies.

The acting in The Canyons is strong despite a strange makeup job on Lindsay Lohan, who transitions between smoldering and scared convincingly.

James Deen is convincing as a tricky villain with an unresolved relationship with his father. Gus Van Sant, who had foreshadowed the celebrity culture with his 1995 movie To Die For, makes a chilling cameo as Deen’s therapist.

Lastly, Nolan Funk looks great shirtless as the male ingenue.

The overall look of the movie is commendable, especially given the meager budget.

Paul Schrader’s visual style is both minimalistic and rich at the same time. The film was not memorable, yet I was never restless or bored while watching it. Bret Ellis’s opinion to me was this: “I have nothing negative to say about it.

It has improved as Paul has been editing it. I can understand why some people expected a more polished and energetic output from a Paul Schrader and Bret Ellis movie, and I can understand why they would be let down.” This is my sentiment on the matter.

I’m not sure how beneficial or detrimental the reaction to The Canyons has been for Ellis. It must have been harder on Schrader.

From my conversation with him, it seemed he thought the film was up to his usual standards. However, Ellis himself was aware the process of making the movie was the real focus. He made this clear in an interview with Aesthete magazine.

Consequently, the movie itself is secondary, which is why the criticism doesn’t really matter.

To quote Bret Easton Ellis (the character, not the person) from Lunar Park: “Deal with it, rock ‘n’ roll”.

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