The Gods of Times Square

1999 documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A look at religious zealots and street preachers along the sleazy 42nd Street around the time a Disney Store is put in.

This documents a very specific time and place, and it really couldn't be more fascinating. I like documentaries where somebody's just letting a camera roll to capture whatever's captured, and this works best when it does that. A whole sanctuary full of general oddballery here. There's a preacher rapping about "roasting on your roaster while you're toasting on your toaster while you're coasting on your coaster" because "God's gonna treat you like a butterball turkey." Shots of street performers, a woman with two pairs of sunglasses, lots of Calvin Klein advertisements, and strip joint facades interrupt interview snippets with some positively creepy folk, most who seem anywhere between slightly and extraordinarily unhinged. Militant black guys call for a war with whites, and director Richard Sandler and his testicles argues with one of them. There's a guy who claims to be Jesus returned as a grunge musician who is going to first marry Madonna and later get into international affairs. There's a soulful guy who throws in the old "to the break of dawn" rap cliche. There's somebody calling for "faggots hung from lightposts throughout the city" after the faggot Olympics. Mickey Mouse as the Antichrist (I knew it!), Mom and Pop hot dog joint sadness, recurring folk filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a funky montage, filled with characters with eclectic spiritual beliefs. Some of these people even have conflicting religious beliefs within themselves, including the director who claims to be both Buddhist and Jewish at different points. Speaking of him--there are times when I'm bugged by his voice. When he speaks, things get a little frustrating and unfocused, and I thought there were a few times when he was condescending. One other thing that annoyed me was this belligerent fellow who later said he was a substitute teacher. He was so completely rude that I wondered if he was for real. No way a person's going to really act like that. Still, a fascinating document that will very likely make a believer out of you.

Recommended by Matt.


Matt Snell said...

I think you've got it about right! Directorial quirks aside, this kind of movie make me imagine I could make a classic if I just had the guts to point a camera at weird stuff.

By the way, I'm enjoying the amenities at your fine Minneapolis airport right now. If I thought the customs guy would let me nip out for a couple hours, I'd stop by for a visit. I see you've got plenty of snow. Rebecca and I are on way to Japan for the holidays!

Shane said...

Have a great time in Japan!

You would have been looking for me in Minneapolis for a long time, Matt. Not because I'm a really good hider or anything (although I am!), but because that's the wrong -apolis. I'm in Indianapolis.

richard sandler said...

that's "roasting on your roaster,"
not "resting."

richard sandler said...

.....and please change it.


Shane said...


I enjoyed your movie.

richard sandler said...

thanks, i'm glad you liked it...
if you have the 2nd
disc you can hear the preacher
reprising "roasting on your roaster,"
this time just for me, but still in public,
in the subway.