Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight (1975) Poster

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So help me, I like this bloody thing
madsagittarian26 August 2006
After having comparatively mainstream success with PUTNEY SWOPE, POUND and GREASER'S PALACE, it is somewhat ironic (and somehow poetic) that Bob Downey made a picture that is a return to the underground: with a narrative that almost defies description, and that it had only been screened a handful of times before disappearing.

This is a collage film in the most obtuse sense of the word... half-baked sketches and unfinished story ideas are chopped up further, mixed in with each other, so as to make even less narrative sense than they already do! In a few minutes of screen time, we see a restaurant skit, people asking for directions to "Jive", a guy on a roof talking to God, people on a park bench, and then we will refer back to more snippets of these scenes, in whatever order. For the most part, this film (presumably) exists as a valentine to Elsie Downey, who, as in her previous film for her husband (CHAFED ELBOWS) plays several characters. Downey's voice rhapsodizes his love for her in the opening credits, in his own brand of wild beat poetry, and throughout Elsie (or, L.C.) is a woman for all men, as a frequent motif is her constantly being chatted up by two-bit hustlers.

Yet when you think that this movie is completely incomprehensible, one begins to see a thread of logic here. A line uttered at the end of one scene has a response to it in the next segment which for all we know, could have been shot years and miles away.

Plus, this film crassly reminds you of how artificial the movie world on screen really is, with a kitchen posing as a restaurant (with piped-in crowd noise), a half-finished spaceship set (which also has a janitor... more than the Enterprise had), and people in paper wigs coming out from the hair dryer. Perhaps the most pivotal moment on screen occurs when characters storm the editing room, much to the surprise of the editor crouched over the Moviola and shout: "Haven't you made up your mind yet?"

Thus, one realizes what perhaps Downey is up to... he is trying to create a jazz improvisation with fragments of film, where each scene is a phrase, and thus tries to make endless "call and response" variations with them.

Amidst this picture's few screenings, it was also titled TWO TONS OF TURQUOISE TO TAOS, which refers to a throwaway line in a throwaway scene with some guys (who have seen way too many Leo Gorcey movies) in a pseudo-gangster plot. Similarly, MOMENT TO MOMENT also refers to a throwaway line in the opening of the movie, but it perhaps makes the most sense in describing this movie. All of these moments from different times are cut together, to simulate the appearance that they are all happening simultaneously... without beginning and without end.

But of all things, MOMENT TO MOMENT ends up being quite a moving experience... it is a return to Downey's roots, and a deeply personal movie. With a beautiful score by David Sanborn, it is a shout for artistic freedom (no matter how demented the artist's vision is), done with an uncompromising structure, made years after such a thing was fashionable. As with all of Downey's films, this certainly isn't for everyone, but if one hangs in there with it a bit, one begins to see the beauty and logic underneath.
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Disastrouos one-woman show, with helpers
lor_10 May 2011
Robert Downey (Sr.) misstepped with MOMENT TO MOMENT, something of a love letter to his wife, who stars in 22, count 'em 22, different roles. Previous (and sympathetic) IMDb reviewer likened it to jazz improvisation on film, but it struck me instead as what discographers refer to as a series of "rejected takes". In the studio, they usually call it a day, scrap the session and start over at a later date, but Downey slapped his material together and called it a movie.

Completely infra dig, with endless philosophical doggerel as word gags and a cast that demands some hipster to identify the obscure but familiar faces. The only one I could pick out on my own was Seymour Cassel, who in two fleeting appearances is completely wasted. Example: old guy says to Seymour "I have a brain tumor"; long pause, then Seymour replies: "It's all in your head".

To be unkind, this mess of a film plays as a series of black out sketches, not of the quality of Monty Python, SCTV or Saturday Night Live but rather reminding me more of Laugh-in or Hee-Haw. When Steve Martin remarked that "comedy isn't pretty", he was surely referring to Downey's work.

I watched it without knowing who the auteur was, but early on the only film that came to mind was GREASER'S PALACE, a movie I greatly enjoyed when last seen over 35 years ago. Yes, it's the same Downey, but his shredded editing here is a bummer.

If each sketch, even the real clunkers, had been permitted to play itself out to the end I might have enjoyed the film. But instead Downey keeps cross-cutting, giving us just snippets of either stillborn or obviously headed nowhere playlets, all of which star Mrs. Downey. The effect is cumulatively like a bad trip -just when you thought we were through with a bad idea it comes back to haunt you later on.

An early scene has a character remarking "We live moment to moment", hence the title, while later on Elsie Downey as Olga keeps badgering a guy about a secret mission to deliver "two tons of turquoise to Taos tonight", the alternate title. Sometimes the homilies ALMOST work: e.g., "When a ritual becomes habitual, it's time to quit".

This sort of doggerel and endless jive talk is wearying -the kind of crap one finds in vanity productions that, to this day, really knock 'em dead at the friends & family screening event, but are never heard of again. They've been put on a pedestal as "independent cinema", but anyone who's ever interviewed a film lab owner (part of my old Variety job) knows they're a dime a dozen and mainly suitable for landfill.

Mrs. Downey, trying to look sexy in a bikini and at one point removing two sets of panties to (almost) give us a split-beaver shot, wore me out early on with her hammy antics and amateurish attempt at accents. I lived through the heyday of "Performance Art" in NYC, with the shows of Penny Arcade and so many others, and Elsie is merely embarrassing. To build an entire movie around her limited repertoire was vanity squared.

The reflexive scene of three filmmakers arguing in the editing room is typically asinine. They're watching a scene concerning "3 dykes in a sauna" and the old guy Gregory keeps insisting that they view "the rape scene". We then see cops interviewing Mrs. Greene (Mrs. Downey of course), a rape victim and they keep showing her mug shots of "rapers" in the area. This may be irreverent fodder for comedy, but Mr. Downey, where are the laughs? To parody the old beatnik stereotype, I imagine this movie could elicit bobble-head-like knowing nods from a hipster audience, silently murmuring "right on" at each in-joke, but no audible laughter.

Perhaps the telling scene (Art Linson alert) has Elsie wearing an eye-patch snorting cocaine, cueing the worst sequence of a bunch of people laughing insanely as they snort. Yet another movie made under the influence (my apologies to my favorite indie filmmaker, Cassavetes).

There's no ending, just a montage of random highlights' footage as hack saxophonist David Sanborn wails and a chorus chants.

Film opens with a lengthy "made possible by" credit list citing many famous critters, including Hal Ashby, James Buckley, Shep Gordon, Norman Lear, Jack Nicholson, Max Palevsky, Joseph Papp, Bud Smith, Haskell Wexler and Bud Yorkin. Unfortunately, the result was not ready for prime time in the '70s, and plays even dumber in 2011.
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framptonhollis6 January 2017
So far, only two others have reviewed this experimental cluster-f*ck of nonsense and surrealism, and they have both written reviews that are practically essay length. I respect them highly, because I cannot imagine doing so for this particular film, because, frankly, it just left me speechless. I have not been left speechless because this film is "so good" or "so bad", but because it is "so WEIRD"!

Do not get me wrong, I absolutely adore weird. "Eraserhead" is my favorite film of all time, and David Lynch is easily my favorite filmmaker-and the main reason that I even bought the eclipse series DVD set of some of Downey Sr.'s films was because they looked SO WEIRD.

However, there is a difference between something that is simply weird and something that is absolute nonsense. I believe that this film falls into the latter category, but I thought it was okay despite this claim. In the midst of this chaotic avant garde mess, there are moments of magic and hilarity. There are some great lines of dialogue and hilarious surreal skits throughout, but there are also plenty of sections that make so little sense that they aren't funny or interesting, they're just random and boring.

I do respect this film for being much more playful than pretentious. A film as bizarre and experimental as this may sometimes just come across as a failed attempt to make an artistic masterpiece, however this really isn't the case with this film. This film knows it doesn't make any sense, and sort of celebrates that with humor and silliness. Downey Sr. did not at all seem to intend the making of a great art film, he just wanted to have fun and play with the very idea and structure of cinema itself. I respect him deeply for making his most experimental film so silly and slightly self aware.

If you are interested, this film is mildly recommended. There's definitely plenty of funny things in it, but it does get ridiculously tedious and painfully random at times-so enter this film with caution.
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A Plotless Skit Show
Michael_Elliott17 September 2018
Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight (1975)

** (out of 4)

Normally I'd start off my review with a plot description but there's really no plot here to talk about. This film from Robert Downey basically features a bunch of small skits that have no connection to one another unless the director himself knows something that he decided not to put in the actual film.

I'm going to guess that the majority of people have watched these Downey films from the box set that Criterion released and the one thing all of the films have in common is the fact that they contain very little plot. That's certainly true here, although I'd argue that there's not a single plot to be found and in fact many people have labeled this a movie with no start or end.

For the most part I found the film to be mildly entertaining because the director at least made the film flow rather well. The 54-minute running time actually goes by pretty quickly but at the same time I honestly didn't laugh at anything. Whenever you're watching a comedy and you don't laugh then there's certainly a problem. The performances are good but there's just not enough here to really make this a good picture.
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Living in the Moment
sol-26 March 2017
'Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight' - sometimes known as 'Moment to Moment' - the shorter title is very fitting here as this Robert Downey Sr. experimental movie plays out as a series of unfinished skits rather than any sort of cohesive narrative. The longer title refers to a wordplay sketch in which a character's efforts to get someone to transport "turquoise" (paint?) is hampered by the fact that everyone thinks she means "turkeys". While all of the skits come off as highly random here and not strongly related to one another, they are linked by the same lead actress (Downey's wife, Elsie) playing a different role in each of the twenty plus segments. Some of the supporting players also reappear but the film first and foremost feels like Robert Downey Sr. showcasing to the world how versatile his wife can be in front of the camera. Highlights include a sketch in which Elsie satisfies a boyfriend (or is it her husband?) who claims that he is "still hungry" after already being given something to eat, and a pseudo documentary sketch with the same aesthetics as Arthur Lipsett's '21-87' and some morbid humour. The vast majority of skits are unfortunately unfunny and come off as if they have been truncated with the punchline cut out. And yet, it is often fascinating to see just what sort of very different character Elsie will play next. This is not a particularly polished film and it certainly pales against 'Putney Swope' and the director's vastly underrated 'Up the Academy', but it is a film with a fair bit of interest about it beyond the curious title(s).
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