Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll Be Better Tomorrow (2005) Poster

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You gotta fight for your write...
mokkaha26 September 2005
I had read "Last Exit to Brooklyn" and had seen the film of "Requiem For A Dream" so I was familiar with Hubert Selby Jr., in fact a fan. Being a writer myself, I'm an obvious audience for this film and therefore a critical one as well.

I was astonished by the information this film concisely conveyed about 'Cubby' Selby's life and work, especially what made him write and how he got his eccentric aesthetic. The information comes at us in an entertaining and loving fashion via a "Rogues Gallery" of noted literary figures and filmmakers and a skillful narration by Robert Downey Jr.

I have not seen a film, narrative or documentary, that explores the writers craft and experience as intimately as this film does. I really like Hubert Selby Jr. and I feel I truly know something about the man and the artist now. I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who writes or creates art of any type or has ever aspired to do so.
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Insightful Glimpse Into A Difficult But Sagacious Literary Life
superdomerapist15 November 2005
For those who've never heard of Selby, this film is a perfectly-pitched introduction to his life and writings. For those already familiar with Selby's astonishing literary creations -- LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN primary among them, of course -- HUBERT SELBY JR.: IT/LL BE BETTER TOMORROW provides a long-overdue insight into the man himself, painting a vivid and sensitive portrait of an individual attempting to live an artist's life in the latter half of the twentieth century. It sure ain't an easy row to hoe, but Selby's uncompromising approach to the challenge, coupled with the extraordinary humanity and kindness he exhibits, goes a long way toward explaining the genius at the heart of his art. There's a particularly moving segment depicting Selby doing his laundry (in the coin-operated room of his apartment building designed for that purpose) that dramatically reveals some of the tortuous physical sacrifices he was forced to undergo during his lifetime -- sacrifices that have been transmuted, by the alchemy of his literary gifts, into some of the most compellingly honest writing in the history of American literature. Highly recommended.
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Insightful look into the life of a literary outlaw
ikigasan26 August 2005
Hubert Selby Jr. It'll Be Better Tomorrow is a fascinating film. How could an author of such overwhelming influence have become so overlooked for so long. Controversy and drugs derailed this genius but when you hear those he influenced tell it, it was the mainstream that passed him by not the artists. Selby's battles with TB, heroin, and everything else belie the spiritual giant he seems to have become. Lou Reed tells how 'Last Exit To Brooklyn' spun his world, Lou Reed goes on to spin the world of music, the impact is profound. Writing when books could still be banned 'England banned Last Exit', Selby triumphed and didn't bow. Amazing film, well crafted and concise, a great look into the soul of the artist.
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The measure of a man....
djemerging21 November 2005
Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll be Better Tomorrow touched me, taught me, revealed to me a man through the eyes of those who knew him, maybe loved him, but were most certainly enriched by him. The portrait they paint is not always pretty, often tragic, but the soul of the man shines throughout.

Cubby's story is not a triumph, but it is exceedingly human and real. An exploration of the adversities that we all face, to greater and lesser degree, how they can bring us to swamp-crawling despair of self-destruction, yet be redeemed by the pure and simple will to overcome. Cubby persevered, and in that found glory over his darkness and demons. The devils still remain, but Cubby found the way to harness them, to drive them, not be driven by them.

Art should be like a stone, thrown in a pond, creating ripples reaching further and further outward, disturbing, disrupting the placid quiet. This film shows Cubby as a boulder among pebbles.
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wonderful film
barrydorsey23 June 2006
I saw this wonderful film last night at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I have often wished I had met Cubby Selby in person - the directors, Kenneth Shiffrin and Michael W. Dean, did more than deliver a film - they create an outlet for us all to spend a moment with this unsung artist.

The insight this movie gives into the world of Cubby Selby is pretty astonishing. I certainly wasn't expecting to be handed keys to his creative process while simultaneously being uplifted by the journey of this absolute spiritual being who was unapologetically human.

Cause for both tears and laughter... this film will touch your heart.
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A Moving Tribute to an Important Artist.
Scott-201912 September 2007
Hubert Selby is the author of "Last Exit to Brooklyn" and "Requiem for a Dream". Michael W. Dean and Kenneth Shiffrin have done a great service by shedding illumination on the history of this author and the importance of his work.

Dean and Shiffrin create a documentary that allows Hubert Selby's story to unfold in heart- breaking and fascinating detail, using a combination of interviews, historical footage, and video of Hubert Selby himself during the final period of his life.

The author is shown in an emaciated state, struggling for breath, near death. It seems both ironic and remarkable, then, that the film is able to present Hubert Selby as a true survivor. Selby survived childhood tuberculosis, (according to the film, he was the only one in his hospital ward who DID survive). He survived a stint in the military. He survived heroin addiction. He survived mental illness. He survived an obscenity trial for his writing. At age 40, he found himself alive, sober, and impoverished. At the end of his life, at age 75, he found himself in the position of a revered author, influence, and inspiration to several generations of creative individuals. He had gone from being the subject of a witch-hunt to the subject of academia. He himself had become a university professor, teaching almost until the time of his death.

The film is narrated in a low-key manner by Robert Downey Jr, who may have found something to relate to in Selby's personal struggles.

Selby emerges as a true genius; bending, modifying, and creating his own systems of language to more appropriately and precisely express himself. It's satisfying and just to have his life and work documented by this thoughtful and well-crafted film, at the time of his passing. I hope "HUBERT SELBY JR: IT/LL BE BETTER TOMORROW" serves as a catalyst to create further interest in this fascinating artist.
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Praise for Kenneth Shiffrin and Michael W. Dean's work
jsfuncity4 January 2008
This film is a soulful, compassionate, funny, inspiring fly-on-the-wall look right into the heart and soul of one of the great, unsung minds of American letters. One of those movies where you come out wanting to run home and get right to work making the world a better, smarter place. Kenneth Shiffrin and Michael W. Dean show their love for their subject with great passion and understanding and uncanny skill in this impressive, no-budget directorial effort. We need more of this kind of insightful, passionate film-making in today's take the money and dumb-em- down, shoot-em-up medium.

-- Jonathan Shaw (Author of 'Savage Grace' and 'Scabvendor: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist')
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An informative AND entertaining doc
collette1718 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Hubert Selby Jr.: It/ll be Better Tomorrow is a simple and profound explication on an oft-overlooked literary genius who, by challenging norms and conventions in his writing and in his life, helped to shape a bold new era of American literature.

While more than a few talking heads populate the documentary, the tone is casual, relaxed and most importantly—honest. This is an honest narrative that doesn't mince words about some of the less impressive aspects of Selby's life. One of the great perks the documentary offers is insight into why we have not heard more about this important literary figure, answered by some of his most beloved friends, fellow writers, actors and colleagues. Through a visual montage of archival footage, It/ll Be Better Tomorrow also provides interviews with the late Selby himself, and we learn of his personal and artistic struggles through Selby's own candid, often startling, but always eloquent, words.

The film is skillfully edited and moves at an enjoyable pace, allowing time to absorb the nuances of Selby's signature grammatical and syntactical style. Robert Downy Jr.'s narration augments the personal interviews and archival footage perfectly, creating one of the most informative and entertaining documentary films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing.
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Lowlife outsiders and their wannabe acolytes
mhantholz5 July 2010
Hubert Selby was one of those tiresome flash-in-the-pan enthusiasms that infected the 1960s, when anti-social lowlife/outsider/under-achiever marginal types became the rage---for the fifteen minutes it took for it to wear out its welcome.

My mother was the exec for library services at Grove Press in the late 1960s so this book, and others like it ("Naked Lunch", "Cain's Book", etc.) were around the house. I read "Last Exit To Brooklyn" and found it terminally boring---its "appeal" was readily apparent: small-time pathological nonentities consumed with negativity destroying themselves, described in morbidly clinical detail. Yuck.

Selby's claim to fame as the King Of The 1960s Hipster Dung-heap was that he poured it on like a manic-obsessive autodidact junkie, which is what he was, and what the hipsters gobbled up---he furnished a proctologist's view of life. They're all here: the junkies, drunks, whores, perverts, psychos, all in the language of the gutter, the bullpen, the dopehouse.


"Last Exit To Brooklyn" is an ugly book about ugly losers doing ugly things. No insight, no challenge-revelation-transformation, nothing that characterizes *real* literature that stands the test of time. Authors of the previous dispensation used lowlifes as *counterpoint*---think Faulkner, Chekhov, Hemingway, Anderson et al. Marginal lowlife-outsiders are inherently uninteresting because they've got nothing to declare but their pathologies.

Boring BORING B-O-R-R-R-I-N-G.

Selby stood in apostolic succession to Malcolm Cowley, another one-book drunk, who wrote "Under The Volcano"-- -a tedious panorama of chronic inebriation. Boring at the sub-atomic level.

This is what passed for "cool" back then, and now, at the dawn of the new century, lowlife-outsider types are back in fashion, so it's inevitable that the sludge of the 1960s-70s would be resurrected, like zombies in a cheap horror flick. It's a wish-fulfillment fantasy for posturing chasers of "cool" who never missed a meal and always slept in their own beds.

"Last Exit" and "Naked Lunch" had/has its biggest appeal for suburban undergraduates, (and perpetual adolescents who never outgrow their teenage fixations) consumed with self-loathing who have a twisted emotional need to immerse themselves in the cesspool of semi-pornographic urban filth like "Last Exit", "Taxi Driver", John Waters movies, Robert Mapplethorpe photos, etc.

People who actually come from neighborhoods like the one in "Last Exit" don't read books like "Last Exit". Why would they? It's not only loathsome and disgusting, it's dishonest writing at the most basic level---it furnishes a wish-fulfillment fantasy for spoiled college types, and perpetual adolescents in "the arts" (*hawk-ptoo*).

The inside of this Selby's head is fully revealed in the next book he wrote, called "The Room". If you liked "Last Exit" you'll really get the hots for "The Room". It's the apotheosis of all that Selby was. But with that book, he was basically "written out"---he had nothing more to say, nothing anyone would pay to hear---his fans of the 1960s had grown up, and moved on.

Now Selby is back, for another fifteen minutes. This numbing "documentary" about a Johnny-one-note "author" whose brief success was due solely to fashion, *not* merit (he's a terrible writer, like most self-taught scribblers) trots out all the inevitable '60s relics---Amiri Baraka, John Calder, Lou Reed, Gilbert Sorrentino, Ellen Burstyn as well as present-day porn-addicts Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jared Leto, Henry Rollins, Marlon Wayans, John Turturro, the usual suspects. Half of the aforementioned are communists, junkies, atheists and perverts themselves, and several have significant police records,which figures. This sorry cast all subscribe to the '60s mantra that to be "art" it's got to be SICK AND DIRTY.

Uh, r-r-right. Moving right along...

It's emblematic of these coprophagics that they stridently call junk like "Last Exit" "art", as if that's the get-out-of-jail-free pass for their morbid obsessions.

This is the slimy bottom of the stinkiest dumpster you ever saw, and there will always be a market for it. If that sounds good to you, by all means, dive right in.
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