Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mom... can I keep it?

I will call him Gooby. He will live in my pool.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Damn you Milholland... DAMN YOU...

You had to go and make me cry the big man tears.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

No... Friday the 13th didn't get me... much...

Collage and life have put a big halt on the previous crazy pace of output from me. In the spirit of Romero the next chapter in my zombie rant series is going to be put on hold for a while. Also on the way are thoughts on the very kickass Le Samourai and the very... well... hostile film, Hostel. More opossums and a few shrews as a poor man's substitute are also sure to follow!

So... yeah... I ain't dead... just... mostly dead...


P.S. Hello, my name is Neosamurai85... and I'm a recovering linkaholic.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Feeling Lucky?

Friday the 13th was never a bad time for me growing up. It was actually a holiday I looked forward to, because I knew some station would be running a horror movie marathon of Friday the 13th flicks late into the night and some other station would probably counter it with some other horror movie because they could not get their spear guns, axes, machetes, and other mittens on the those 80's parables against young premarital sex. These were good times. Staying up late after the parents had gone to bed to watch the movies that I had looked at the boxes of so many times at the movie rental and been denied. On a good night I'd get paralyzed with fear until the sun came up. I miss that feeling. These days you can only get it when there is something bad happening. Being scared used to be fun. Even if it was the darker meat on the rotisserie chicken of my imagination, there was always something nice about that feeling of magic. That belief that boogiemen existed, and dragons were but a broomstick away from being slain while I wore a towel for a cape. It was also the thrill that you weren't supposed to watch something. That someone had told me I was too young to watch it. Yet, could anyone at 18 or 20 feel the wonder and terror that I did at 9? Movies don't make you hide under the covers when you're old enough to watch them. At least they don't make me.

Awhile back I picked up The Crystal Lake Box Set, which contains all of the original 8 films that Paramount Pictures produced, and indeed Mr. King... "the thrill is gone!" Now they are all just stupid slasher films... arguably the lowest rung on the ladder of horror sub-genres. In fairness the Fist is still quite good and the sequels are scattered with moments for prospectors to sift through. Perhaps I'll pay attention to the calendar and write up a break down of all of them next time around. For now I'm just basking in some twisted nostalgia. Some people look back fondly at all the horrible junk food they enjoyed as kids... I look back at the horrible movies... and how much fun they were.


Web Comics Are Getting BIG!

For about a year and a half now I've been trying to preach the gospel to friends and the online geek world that as we run out of movies to remake (and remake again) and TV shows, books, plays and graphic novels/comics to adapt for the big screen, that the new territory to be charted is going to be web comics... and now that I have a blog of my own, to hell with them! Uh, the webnews sites that is... not my firends... I still like those people. :)

Well, I believe the first steps towards Andy Serkis' Oscar-winning (and physically crippling) performance as Choo Choo Bare were made when Elsie Hooper creator Robert D. Krzykowski began work on adapting his comic into a major motion picture. He has been working on it for a few years now and is still in the early pre-production stages. Last I checked he is still working through drafts of the script to get it right. I'll try and report more on this as it progresses.

Another big step for web comics in general got quite a bit of online press when R.K. Milholland was able to raise enough money to quite his job and work on comics exclusively for a year.

He also scored the first official live action film adaptation thanks to some of his fans.

More near the end of last year, he also discovered that his fan base for his main comic Something Positive was a tad larger than he thought:

"This site gets an average of 124,000 unique visitors a week apparently - and 318,000 unique visitors a month."

So all that's nothing new... but two days ago this broke just barely under my radar.

Least I Could Do (the funniest sexist thing since Leisure Suit Larry 2... other than perhaps the great Glen Quagmire) has announced a pilot episode in the works. It will be professionally done and used to try and snag a station for a full on animated series. Also the pilot will be avaleble for free at leasticoulddo.com!

Though this has Spike TV written all over it... may they drift into the loving arms of Adult Swim where they belong. Seriously, I strive a lot towards the ideals of feminism, and even I find it hilarious. It's just got that twinkle in its eye that will make fans of the great Al Lowe smile.

So things are happening in web comic land. I think this is great since it really opens the doors for independent artists out there to find their readers without the constraints of geography or... The Man! So I've got to ask... what next? Will some bastard spawn of David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky come along and make Paper Eleven into this next generation's Eraserhead or Tetsuo: The Iron Man? I sure hope so!


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Behold... a childhood wet dream come true...

The Devastator Rubber Band Gun #A1125

Oh my god...

This is just...

Well... This is just sexy on stilts! This is the sexiest thing I've seen since Joe's Mac and Cheese pic. I mean the fact that I come upon this tonight, after having a strange urge all day to play Doom 2 in between black and white French films... an urge that I satisfied immensely I might add... is just... It's like some horoscope telling me I need to get in touch with my chainsaw wielding sock monkey loving inner child!

To hell with ya fancy ballzooka! We going Amish all up in this bitch!

Say "sock monkey" ten times fast!

Mwahaha! Ah ha-ha AH ha, ha, ha... hOk I'm done.

Damn opossums...


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

George Romero did not "invent" the zombie genre.

Note: Since this is part two of a sort of trilogy of Zombie articles that I'm writing, I'm going to ease up on the linking of films and people I have already covered this go around.

Though many Romero fans have for years given him credit as the creator of the zombie genre, this movement really geared up when trying to sell the latest installment of his series, Land of The Dead. In a sense it was true. The zombie revival consisted entirely of films influenced by his work. Many even reused concepts from his films besides the basic zombie rules. 28 Days Later may not have been a "true zombie film" seeing as it dealt with an epidemic of a disease that caused savage rage and not the undead, but Romero used a similar theme in his follow up to Night of The Living Dead, The Crazies (1973). Also, 28 Days borrowed greatly from the original dead trilogy. Best example being the tensions at the military base and the captured zombie that they feed. These feel like the screenwriter must have left Day of the Dead on in the background while writing. Even the train wreck House of the Dead tried to buy itself fan-cred by featuring a Randy exposition to give praise to the "Holy Trinity." The least Romero-based zombie movie of the new wave is Undead. The mild success of that movie was not because of quality, but because of zombie fans support for the independent underdog, and an exceptional level of originality in concept that was missing from its peers. Still even Undead bows to its roots with headshots to kill zombies among other more subtle nods.

Still, Romero did not invent the genre. Zombie movies predate his by decades. Among the essential classics are White Zombie (1932), I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Romero's Night of the Living Dead was only made in 1968. These earlier zombie films commonly dealt with more traditional zombies, as in those made by the practice of voodoo. (Plan 9 being an exception with its alien involvement, which may have been an influence on Undead.) It should also be pointed out that Romero's original never used the word "zombie." He has pointed out himself that had set out to make a film about a kind of undead ghouls. It was not until the indirect sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978), that the Z word got dropped. Night offered no definite explanation for why the dead were rising, and Romero had intended more possible explanations besides the mysterious comet tail's radiation. Dawn of the Dead was the first time voodoo was a suggested possibility in his series.

Along with many previous films existing there is the fact that Night was not particularly original in some respects. He has cited the vampire classic I Am Legend as a major influence, but I have never (perhaps for good reason) heard any comment made about the far too under-appreciated adaptation of the novel starring Vincent Price, The Last Man on Earth (1964). Though this film is supposed to be about vampires, they bare a strong resemblance to Romero's brand of zombies. For one, they are a mass epidemic started by air-born virus. Before it eventually takes over civilization, the bodies of the infected are incinerated. All the classic vampire weapons (garlic, crucifixes, mirrors, sunlight and stakes) are used, but the trade make lumbering of Romero's zombies is totally there. The scenes of them pounding against the walls of the house, trying to get to the narrator (Price) are the most obvious element borrowed by Romero. Even the twist ending evokes similar reactions.


At the end of Last Man on Earth we discover that the vampires have actually made a kind of organized underground civilization and that the narrator is considered a savage butcher for hunting them. Incidentally, we discover that the reason has survived the plague is because he is immune. Unfortunately he is killed before you can cure them. At the end of Night of the Living Dead, the only survivor of the original group (a black man in the 60s) is seen through a window by a zombie hunting party and shot dead, mistaken for one of them. As the credits rise we see photos of the undead being burned and meat hooks that evoke a question of humanity that is further questioned throughout the series. In his latest sequel, Land of the Dead goes so far as to suggest that maybe we are the problem, not them.


Throughout the late 50s into the 60s there was a growing movement towards films where the monster was not a single beast but masses of people or humanoid vessels under the control of a force. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) used this theme best to convey a feeling of alienation. The protagonist is pursued as an outsider, a rebel, by the legions of zombie like pod people. This use of horror as a medium for subtle cultural satire is very present in Night and is often looked at as Romero's calling card that separates him from the other zombie filmmakers, the idea that you can visually express a feeling that will resonate with the audience without making a grand statement. When that feeling is a fear or anxiety, you're dealing with the essence of great horror. His masterpiece of this form was Dawn, with its masses of zombies ambling around in a super mall. His style of substance over cheap scares has best been mirrored recently with the homage Shaun of the Dead and more seriously in the French film They Came Back.

I mean no disrespect to Romero with all of this, nor do I mean to lessen his importance as a figure in horror and the zombie sub-genre. He is hands-down the most important zombie filmmaker out there. His early films had substance that is seldom seen in similar exploitative horror. He is the most imitated director of the sub-genre. Rare is the zombie film that does not steal from him. The only pure film I can think of is West Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) (Craven's most underrated if not best film), which returned to the roots of zombie horror in Haiti and looked at the actual art of voodoo zombification as Wade Davis described it in his book of the same name.

I feel the best way to look at Romero's role is to compare him to George Waggner and Curt Siodmak, the director and writer of The Wolf Man (1941). There were many films about werewolves made prior to the Lon Chaney Jr. lead classic, but it was this film that set the rules that are now household knowledge. The Wolf Man was the film to stress silver as the way to kill a werewolf, to make presence of gypsies such a common theme. It is the film that has most shaped the genre over the years and been borrowed from, but it's not the first. Romero has done the same thing, he has made the classic zombie film. Nothing before had perhaps been so dark and violent in the genre as when we first saw the little girl in Night of the Living Dead stabbing her mother with a spade and the ghouls devouring the remains of two victims pulled from a car accident. He pushed the gore to European levels, and shaped the zombie into a man-eater that spreads its plague by bite and can only be killed by trauma to the brain.

I feel it is a disservice to underrate a great filmmaker, but also, I feel it is a great disservice to overrate one and that that disservice is actually to the filmmaker.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ok, maybe it's not so bad...

Three months ago I saw the website for the new Caligari film. Up to that point I had been very curious, since this is perhaps one of my top ten favorite horror movies of all time. When I saw the site I was left with the impression that they were pulling a Survivor's Cut. I was outraged. When I ranted about it in my last article, I was running mostly off that old rage.

But now, I can't find that website for the film and everywhere I go describes it as a new film and not just added scenes to "improve" the old one. As I pointed out before, they used the backgrounds from the original and shot the actors in green screen. That seems pretty lazy to me. It also reeks of potential Sky Captain cheese.

Anyway, since I can't find anything to back my previous accusations and complaints, I hereby retract them. Sorry.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Wow... They sure do love beating undead horses!

So I was pretty tired and trying to get my last article done when I came across these...

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis

Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave

Just... wow... that is some kind of monkey raping rodent poo in your fruit cellar dwelling grandma's linen drawer level of crazy there. Oh, and they were both released in 2005!

I mean... I could ponder if they simply didn't learn from House of the Dead that nobody likes raver zombies... but... wow...

The same thing has happened with the Hellraiser series. These really crappy straight to rental sequels that have little to nothing to do with the classics. I think the last Hellraiser used a FeardotCom's concept... so you know that had to be good.

DVDs and the subsequent downloading movement has been a real double edged sword for horror. On one hand they have made it easy to distribute old obscure classics that fans used to only be able to see if their cousin in Texas made them a VHS copy of his that was recorded over his little sister's She-Ra tapes. It also makes it a lot easier for independent filmmakers to make their art accessible. I just wish they would leave stuff like this alone. In the end, I guess it's worth it... cause now I own a nice copy of Carnival of Souls and Cabinet of Doctor Caligari!

Speaking of which... that brings up another pet peeve of mine.

There seems to be a little movement of late to take old horror classics and, not remake them... but actually alter the original with new footage! And some people are looking at this as an improvement!

The big two that have come to my attention are the 30th Aniversery Night of the Living Dead: Survivor's Cut, and this ultimate act of blasphemy... a revisioning of Cabinet of Doctor Caligari!

For those not familiar with the silent classic, Cabinet is considered the first cult horror film. It is also considered the first intelligent horror film. Those twist endings in M. Night films and Fight Club that everyone used to go on and on about... yeah, the Germans were doing that in the 1920s!

Look, I'm very sketchy about remakes. I love some but hate most. Still, if you want to make a homage to one of your favorite horror films. Go ahead! Make it! Doing so tends to open up a market to re-release (often with nice remastering jobs and goodies) the original, exposing it to a new generation. JUST DON'T GO BACK AND BUTCHER THE CLASSIC! It sickens me that when I go on IMDB to look up Night of the Living Dead it shows Dean Lachiusa name next to George A. Romero's as if he actually co-directed the classic. No, what Dean Lachiusa did was cut out whole scenes and replace them with stuff he shot, add color to parts and imply that he could do a better job then Romero. That's in my book is plain old disrespect. No two ways about it.

I've got to go clean up some fried banana now.


Return of the Night of the Living Zombi?

I really thought when I started this blog that there would be much more ranting about horror movies. I imagine there will be as time progresses. Who knows, maybe even something non-film related might be down the road. Anyway, here's a step in that direction.

For the most part I think we have come to the end or at least past the peek of the zombie revival. Perhaps that is not fair to say since there are sequels in various stages of production for House of the Dead and 28 Days Later. Also Tobe Hooper, of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame, has a new film called Mortuary hitting very select theaters January 13. I should probably mention as well that Romero is working on another Dead film, but since he has almost as hard a time making a movie as Terry Gilliam, I tend to not keep my hopes up until the film has actually wrapped and is halfway through editing. Still, after seeing Undead, one can't help but feel that at least the first wave hit it's watermark.

During the revival many old fans of the zombie genre got to relish in seeing a breath of fresh air from the teen slasher wave that Wes Craven's Scream unleashed on us. There is a zombie movie being made somewhere in the world every minute, but how often can you get a decent one? They were not all perfect by any means, but most of these big zombie flicks were certainly better than what your little brother who discovered Suicide Girls and corn syrup was cooking up. It was a nice time to be an Undead Head. For the new blood though, I imagine it was tricky. For example: Shaun of the Dead was a very loose parody of a film made in the 70's that was a sequel to a film made in the late 60's, and it came out at the same time that that film from the 70's was also being remade and the third sequel in that original series was also on its way. That's almost as much homework as you have to do to be cool in your local punk scene. (Though not enough to like, totally be anything but a poser...)

As beginners try to go back and see all the roots of the genre, or at least all the films related to "The Holy Trinity," they find out it only gets more confusing. Between remakes, spin-offs, and similar titles, it's not strange even for the average horror buff to get lost. So, here's an attempt to clear this mess up for anyone trying to sink their teeth into the Living Dead films.

Romero's Holy Trinity
Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1878) and Day of the Dead (1985)

These are the three major films of the genre. They are a loose trilogy written and directed by George A. Romero. Many of the major rules and image of zombies were first defined in this series. For this reason a lot of people credit Romero for inventing the zombie genre. I disagree with this claim but will save that for another entry. Either way, any horror geek worth their salt has seen all three... or at least the first two. Land of the Dead (2005) was the fourth film in his series, though many fans have choose to look at it as seperate film. This is mostly due to it not living up to the last three in their eyes.

There have been remakes to Night (1990) and Dawn (2004) and some talk of remaking Day. Sometimes there is confusion between the original Night and its remake due to both usually featuring Romero's name on the cover. Romero produced the Night remake; it was directed by his friend and occasional effects man (he did the make-up and gore effects for Dawn and Day) Tom Savini. Additional confusion might also occur for people looking for the black and white classic, do to the colorized versions of the original that was released a while back. I recommend seeing the original in black and white one. (Oh, and you might want to avoid Dean Lachiusa's bastard edition known as Survivor's Cut LIKE A PILE OF DEAD BIRDS!) Colorizing classics is right up there with clubbing baby seals. Only baby seal clubbing can be funny and colorization cannot.

Dawn of the Dead 2?: The Zombie Flesh-Eaters Series.

When Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy it was entitled Zombi. Wanting to cash in on the film's success, an Italian zombie film (that's script had been completed prior to Dawn's release) directed by Lucio Fulci was entitled Zombi 2 (1979). Beyond the title there is little similarity between the two films. The notable similarity being that in Zombi 2 the zombies were created by voodoo, and the famous line from Dawn, "when there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth" comes from one of the main characters quoting his uncle, a voodoo priest. Though this is a weak comparison to make since real zombies originate from voodoo... it's like saying two werewolf movies are related because both use full moons. Zombi 2 does follow Romero's rules established in Night. Another recent addition to the confusion (and a nice nod to the fans I might add) is that at the end of the Dawn of the Dead remake there is a homage made to Zombi 2, linking the two series once again.

Zombi 2 is one of the all time classics of Italian horror and its Zombie sub-genre. It's infamous for its gore and immortalized by the Shark vs. Zombie scene. The film has spawned several sequels that have continued the off order of numbers. Zombi 3 was only co-directed by Lucio before leaving the series. He would make another undead film, City of the Living Dead, but it bore no relation to the Zombi series. In trying to keep up with the order of the Zombi films beyond Zombi 3... good luck. Even I can't really sort out that bag of three-headed snakes!

Night of the Living Dead 2?: The Return of the Living Dead Series.

The concept behind this film (written and directed by Dan O'Bannon) was that the film Night of the Living Dead was based on an actual event. George Romero was inspired by a top-secret military experiment that went wrong. Return rewrites Romero's rules, twisting the significance of brains from being the only way (by destroying them... "shoot 'em in the head!") to kill a zombie, into that which the zombies hunger for. As far as I can tell from conversations with other horror geeks, Return of the Living Dead was the first to have brain-eating zombies. Later sequels (there are four that exist so far) ceased to refer to Romero's classic.

It's also become popular to try and cash in on the Romero classics by titling third-rate zombie films "____ of the Living Dead." Though these may or may not imply some relation, they are not official entrees into Romero's mythology.

Ok, I hope that helps anyone lost. I'm feeling a bit of a zombie groove so I imagine there will be at least two more zombie articles not far down the road.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Damn Fellini wannabes...

I recently saw two films of the semi-autobiographical genre best established by Fellini's 8 1/2. One of these films was a painful train wreck that I wanted to be good but could barely even make it through, the other was an hour and a half of me laughing about as hard as most movies can hope to make me laugh.

Let's get the pain over with first.

Dario Argento has established himself as one of the all time greats of Italian horror. Suspira stands up their with The Mask of Satan (a.k.a. Black Sunday) and Zombi 2 (often called Zombi in the states) as one of the most well know by Americans. He is considered by some (I have not seen enough to have a set opinion) the master of the Giallo genre. He married Daria Nicolodi, who is a respectable actor. His father Salvatore Argento was a film producer who made many of his films until he died in 1987. I've left a few names out, but the point is: the Argento family has been pretty big in the Italian movie industry.

So it wasn't like Dario and Daria's daughters Fiore and Asia Argento had any pressure on them or anything... nope... none at all. No built-in fan base with preconceived expectations here.

Asia got a lot of attention from Americans (who weren't already fans of her dad) with her role in XXX opposite Vin Diesel. She really does strike me as a talented actress and I sincerely look forward to seeing her in Sofia Coppola's upcoming film Marie-Antoinette...

...but Scarlet Diva, Aisa's directorial debut, is a film I really can't give much love to. I want to. God I really do, but it's an amateurish mess! The film tell the story of Anna, the "saddest girl in the world," as she aspires to become a director and give up acting in the apparently cruel and thankless Italian film industry all while longing for the lead of an Australian rock band that she had a one night stand with. Drug problems, various ghosts of her dead brother, cruel mother, and the abusive/sadomasochistic relationship her best friend is having are all scattered about the film for Anna to tackle along the way.

The film starts out weakened by the poor acting of the extras and too-cheap camcorder look. It is dangerous to overlook casting small roles like this. Big budget Hollywood crews with cinematographers and top-notch sound editors can do a lot to hide poorly executed one-liner roles. This is mostly done by distracting the viewer away from them. If you don't have those luxuries, than you need to pay attention to the details. A digital camera will show every one of them with highlighter and neon signs. To make matters worse, these short roles are often those of fans (notable the dinner scene) and interviewers that harass her. This is really dangerous territory to muck up. Even Fellini can't escape the pretentious nature of the genre. If you make a film about yourself... you'll be damn lucky if all you end up doing is looking self-absorbed. If it weren't for the jarringly explicit sexual introduction, a lot of the opening would have evoked memories of my masochistic (only explanation I can fathom in retrospect) viewings of... well... anything Kelly Osborn did on Mtv.

(I know... Ouch...)

On the DVD Asia explains that the overall story is largely autobiographical, but that it had to be made more extreme and that that is largely where the blur between fact and fiction in it lies. I've got to disagree with her there. My second problem with this film is just how abusive it is to the viewer. I lost count of how many people try to rape Anna. I think there were four times (one implied while she was unconscious from a drug overdose) but it all becomes a blur. It's kind of like the last fifth of the film Demonlover... only the abuse is stretched out for nearly half the running time! I just got to a point where all the overdosing, rape and surrealist nightmares (when I complain about too many surrealist nightmares... that's a bad sign...) were too much. I really wanted the film to slow down and breathe. This was almost like watching an adaptation of Hubert Shelby Jr.'s story The Queen is Dead from his novel Last Exit To Brooklyn. It's not that I can't take hardcore brutal films. I've defended Irreversible many a time in my life as being one of the most powerful and moving films I've ever seen... (I was pretty outraged when a review board in Australia tried to ban it.) Oh, and I've read lots of Hubert Shelby Jr. I rest my case. The problem is that Scarlet Diva almost hides behind the abuse. The Violin in Psycho is a classic element of suspense, but imagine how suspenseful a film that seems to play that constantly would be? Asia seems to just wallow in saying LOOK AT ME! I'M A WHORE! I'll take a ride with a film through hell and back... just please make sure there's a payoff. Theses kinds of films are the worse to copout on, and I felt the ending to this did it in a real big way.

Now, there were interesting scenes in this. As I said, I did want to like this film. The moments where we are granted stillness left me wanting more. Give us more time where she is alone in her apartment doing mundane things like shaving her armpits. Give us more conversations with her gay friend who's thinking of giving up acting to be a gigolo. Drop some of the crazy sexual encounters like the lesbian on the couch scene. There is a good film in there somewhere. The nightmares were all solid ideas simply executed in to haphazard a fashion. If at any time a little money should have been splurged it should have been there. If there wasn't any money, than she should have utilized what she had to work with better. Nothing can ruin a gorilla film faster than ambition beyond means.

I have yet to see any other directing efforts by Asia Argento, but with time I will try to. That's the best compliment I can give this, She didn't totally scare me off from giving her another chance. One of the biggest reasons I'm ripping this film a new one is because she is so talented. She can do so much better and I just hope she learned a lot from this. I'm not sure I can take more than one more let down this big. Still, the DVD is worth looking into if you are a fan interested in learning more about her. The audio commentary and interviews are extensive and overshadow the film astronomically.

And now for the bliss...

Woody Allen's Stardust Memories has been on my to see list for a long, long time. It's probably one of his more divided films. I admit it's not his best work (light-years from his worst though) but it might actually be my favorite next to Annie Hall.

First off, this is Woody's 8 1/2. It is vastly inferior in so many respect's to Fellini's classic, and there is no getting around that. Where Stardust triumphs is not in subtle layers of bottomless depth, but in dense machine gun surface level stimuli. You can watch it over and over not so much to find deeper meaning but to catch different things that flew past you. This is Annie Hall with ADHD and then some.

I love this movie. Few films have ever come so close to me loving EVERY SINGLE SCENE as this has. Some are really beautifully shot, some are really funny, and others just tug the right strings in me. It's a scattered box of twisted smiles. My sister and her husbanded found the film horribly depressing... so I think it's probably worth mentioning that I found Eraserhead to be very funny. My sense of humor can be very twisted at times. I saw this shortly after taking Existentialism in collage. I think that helped a lot. Some of the jokes are hard to appreciate if you've not had that kind of experience, especially the one about his final exam.

As I already said, this film lacks a lot of depth in areas that have left others dissatisfied. The women of his love life are not as fleshed out or alive as those in Annie Hall and Manhattan were before it, but why should they be? Relationships between two people aren't exactly the focal point of this film. This film does not take place in reality. (There are aliens in hot air balloons for crying out loud!) We are looking through the tunnel vision of a character on the verge of breakdown. These are memories warped by one man's Rashomon effect. With the exception of his friend Tony's (played by Tony Roberts) opinion of his former love Dorrie, we get little to no outside perspective we can trust as unexaggerated. These women are enigmas because he never understood them, and in for the most part could hardly be expected to. Each is articulated to the extent of their purpose of their archetypes, and all three actors (Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper and Marie-Christine Barrault) perform their tasks wonderfully. That's all that should be expected of them. This is a film about Woody - I mean his character Sandy Bates - and only about him. Though it lacks his hypochondriac shtick, this is Woody at his most neurotic with no stops pulled. He's grappling with all the things that seem to weigh him down in life, from expectations as a filmmaker, relationships and family to just getting from one place to another with his shitty car and incompetent driver. A lot is left unresolved in such a way that you could say he probably was trying to juggle so many balls (or make so many women levitate I guess) that he simply for got to wrap a few up... if any of them. Though I see the flaw in leaving so much, I would have felt just as dissatisfied had this really come together as a neat package at the end. It would take too much away from the overshadowing problem he tries to reason for bother at all when all efforts in life are pointless.

Please refrain from the Seinfeld jokes, but in a very deceptive way Stardust Memories is a film about nothing. That often confuses people into thinking that it's... well... a film about nothing! Stardust is not a meaningless film though. It's just very blunt with what it has to say. Woody is an atheist. For years now he has tried to tackle the dilemmas that for him come with that view. He sees no grand reward or eternal afterlife. You live and then you die... and with time there will be no trace that you ever existed, so why bother? Most people don't like a film with that kind of question. They get angry when someone tells them that life is at best about those little moments of joy where you forget existence. No one wants a film about that! They want "all you need is love!" Still, it seems to be sincerely what Woody felt making the film. It was what he had to say. Take it or leave it, but don't say that he didn't say anything. In a lot of ways this was his first film to address that issue fiercely without patching everything up with a kiss or joke at the end. It looks like that's what's going to happen... but then he reveals that that's just the Hollywood ending. We are left with him standing alone in the theater after everyone has left. He's the lonely magician without any answers. I think he's still pushing that rock to this day.

When I try and think of American filmmakers that for better or worse brought modernism/post-modernism to the film medium, Woody reigns supreme. You look at films by directors like David Fincher, Quentin Terentino, Darren Aronofsky and Spike Jones... the influence is obvious. With Annie Hall Woody said it was ok to do whatever you wanted in and with a film. This is one of his most personal and experimental films of that spirit. He might not always conclude with the most rose-tinted view of the world, but if you are looking for some optimistic message in his work then I'd suggest this. Keep on trucking, even if the only outlook life throws at you is not cheery. Now at 70 years old, he seems to be still doing just that.


Somewhere in the world... a singer songwriter from Texas is very, very happy.

(Ok, the link works now.)

And I'm happy for him.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Number nine... number nine... turn me off dead film... number nine...

This one took some time to write. Every time I started I found I'd just keep repeating myself over and over rambling my way through it. Actually, some of the earlier drafts of this felt a lot like the movie in that respect. I still think this could use work, but the effort lacks fuel. So here is a mess about a mess.

You know I've got to say Roger Ebert more or less hit the nail on the head with his review of 9 Songs. The film really is more interesting to write and talk about than to actually watch. It's kind of like Izo in some respects, though I think I'd actually argue that that film was somehow less monotonous. (If you've seen Izo, then regardless of whether you liked it or hated it, you are well aware that it's depiction of eternal conflict is... rather testing.) 9 Songs is a handful of great ideas that are simply never fully realized. The film lacked a real script (pretty sure there wasn't one at all actually), which, in respect to the experimental intentions, the spontaneity of improvisation and authenticity of the actors performing real sex, deeply hurt the film.

I'd almost say this should have been an erotic novel, where the themes could have been explored better, but then the experience of the nine songs would have been lost. That seems like a small loss when one considers how underutilized the concert footage was. There simply wasn't enough to bridge the sex scene and the rock concerts. Under the gorilla filming conditions it would have probably been impossible to really have any dialog at the shows, but there is just so much your left wanting.

This is a film I think would be very interesting to have watched without previously reading a plot synopsis. I wonder how much I would have been able to figure out just from the images. The lengths to make sure we realize this film is not about love, but the inevitable breakdown of a relationship built completely around sexual attraction, are perhaps too great. The distance we are held from the characters is not my real peeve though. It's the distance between the ideas of the sex, the music, and the icy Antarctic that get me. The narration borders on redundant with the glaciologist's analogies between the Antarctic and relationships, but the concert footage never had that one line, one visual moment that really gave one a sealed and signed feeling of what was being done there. The whole thing felt like it could just as easily have been a con. Though if it is a con it's not hiding a porno... or at least a very good one. And in there lies the sad truth about 9 Songs. This is a very, very graphically sexual film that fails to work well on any level, even a debased one... unless perhaps you're fourteen or something.

There is a good film in this, all the ingredients are right. The acting isn't BAD. The camera work is great at times. Even the concert footage that Ebert rails on, I found very effective in making one feel there.
(Though the sound was just a little too grainy at times...) Had they shot this like a concert movie it would have taken us away from Matt and Lisa's experience at the concert, which was the point of the whole thing. The ideas are all solid for making an intelligent erotic film... but the director didn't mix the batter and totally burned the cake. And that's pretty frustrating to me. If you ask your actors to perform real sex for a film, you better damn well make a movie that will reward that level of commitment. Rarely is hardcore nudity or sex not poison for an actor's career, and to me it felt like this was nearly all for nothing.

Perhaps with multiple viewings this film might win me over with the magic of subtleties, but I just don't think I have the patience or interest to give it that. If you're looking for an intelligent erotic film of this nature, check out the love letter to film that is The Dreamers... or even the flawed film The Center of The World. Both were far more rewarding for me than this.

In the end, the biggest thing I got out of 9 Songs was that I really need to check out some Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. That band rocked!


I'm really sorry that it's so hard to be a pimp... really...

Ok, so I have not seen Hustle & Flow yet, and no I'm not going to review it or anything until I do... but that's assuming that I do see it.

I just got to get this off my chest.

I understand that a lot of people think this was one of the best films of 2005. I understand that it is not some big glorification of pimps. I also have seen the documentary American Pimp if that has any relevance in all this. I understand as a film geek I probably should check it out, but I've really not been interested.

Now this is the bit that bugs me. Every time the film gets brought up in some chat room or review or whatever, they try and spoon-feed me the same reason to see it: the film shows how HARD it really is to be a pimp.

You see... I get that though. That's not my problem. I understand that it ain't all, BLING, BLING WITH PUSSY ON TAP BABY OH YEAH! I'm not the most ignorant guy in the county. I get that it's hard. My problem is simply that I really don't care about pimps! I understand how easy it is to over simplify them, but I really don't care. That's why I have yet to see the film. And until more reviews address that, they just ain't selling me to cough up five-fifty to rent it.

I will probably see it eventually. Mostly due to the fact that I hear the acting is something that deserves more attention than it's getting and because I can't help but be monkey in a yellow hat curious about Craig Brewer's next film that's sure to stir a hell of a lot of controversy.


So uh... what year is it man?

If I catch myself saying it's 1996 one more time, I'm throwing myself to the leeches! Or at least making a note to date more... there's a bad joke in there somewhere... and I'm not touching it.

So I guess I ought to blog my new years resolution(s). Well, I guess mine would have to be don't suck at Spanish 202 (or anything else in collage) and make music a more active part of my life. By "more active" I mean sing more. Either form a band or get out there with musicians. There is too much writing and shelving, and I'd like to change that. It's time to smudge some air!

So... yeah...

Hope y'all had a nice New Years. I mostly just played pool and devoured pizza, but all things considered I'd say it was pretty good.