In 10 Words or Less
Manic monologue from a more innocent time
Solo performances are one of the greatest, most pure forms of art available to performers. It's not stand-up and it's not acting. It is funny though, and it tends to take place on a stage. It is unadulterated opinion and emotion, and in the hands of the best, like the late Spaulding Gray, Henry Rollins and Eric Bogosian, it is everything entertainment should be. "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" is an excellent example of such a performance pinnacle. This show, developed several years ago in New York City, is a crazed examination of religion, personal fulfillment and those who would like to take advantage of people looking for religion and personal fulfillment.
Bogosian, best known to many as the man behind Oliver Stone's Talk Radio, stalks the stage like a madman, wide-eyed, sweating and loud, spewing forth his thoughts on celebrity and how it illustrates the misplaced priorities Americans hold. The monologue is extremely active, and entertaining, as Bogosian slips in and out of character, each with a story to tell. Some are more universal than others, but there's something of value in each bit. Like Gray's "Gray's Anatomy," this show looks great, but unlike Gray's monologue, this show is done in front of a live audience. Despite their presence, Bogosian plays to the camera, helping make the show more engrossing for the home audience. The theater experience doesn't often translate to home video, but this one succeeded.
Only released now in 2004, this show is no longer performed live. A text crawl at the beginning of the show explains the subject matter and places it into a context that helps the viewer better understand where Bogosian is coming from. Whether he's talking about self-help gurus or airport people, he's in top form throughout the performance, showing himself to be one of the hardest working men in the business, even if it does come off as effortless thanks to his talent.
IFC and Docurama present 75-minutes of Bogosian's stage show in full-frame on one DVD. The menus, including scene selections and an extensive catalog of Docurama's DVDs, including selected trailers, are static, with no music. A selection of special features is included as well. There are no subtitles and no audio options.
Shot in full-frame, the picture looks a bit harsh, as most footage shot on video looks. There's a bright look to Bogosian, as he stands agains a very dark backdrop, and the entire show has a cold color palette. Unless there was film footage of this show, this is probably as good as it gets. The audio is simple 2.0 Dolby Digital, with Bogosian's voice feeding to the center speaker.
The main bonus feature is a sit-down interview with Bogosian. Edited to include title cards and remove dead space, the 12-minute chat covers his creative process, the unique structure of "Wake Up..." and his inspiration. Here, away from the stage, he's much more relaxed, and as a result he gives an informative interview. This is a must for any Bogosian fan. Text biographies for Bogosian and the crew give you even more to know about the show.
The remaining two extras are promos for Docurama, the company behind this DVD. A text info screen preceeds an in-depth catalog of the firm's DVD releases, including nine trailers for selected titles. This section is pretty interesting for any documentary fan.
The Bottom Line
Possessing a manic energy and sharp wit, Bogosian is certain to split an unknowing audience, sending half for the doors and half into belly laughs with his caustic style and bombastic delivery. With Spaulding Gray no longer among us, having a man like Bogosian around, who can entertain with just a story, is a privilege. This DVD allows you to preserve the opportunity, and is a good rental for fans of truth tellers and observational comics (something Bogosian is not.)
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.