Monday, May 31, 2010

LOST Series Finale

Alright, so I had enough time to soak in the after effects of the finale. I've read many interpretations, arguments and discourses on the finale, so here are my thoughts:

Lost was NEVER a show that gave black and white answers. When it did give out answers there would be fans complaining that the answer wasn't good enough. An example of this would be the meaning behind the numbers. I understand the people who argue about parts of the show's mythology that ended up going nowhere. However, the finale worked for me. The more that I thought about it, the more debates I've heard, I still like the idea that a show can end and people can still have lengthy discourses on the meaning behind the ending. This is one of the key things Lost was about anyway. To simply close the book and go down a checklist of questions, yes you are going to be satisfied that answers have been delivered. But what further conversation can be had after that?

Lost from the very beginning was about the characters. The island was the big MacGuffin. The island is the excuse of "we'll keep watching it week to week otherwise it's a soap opera." You could strip the show entirely of it's mystery elements and what you have is a soap opera. You don't have the hook to reel viewers in each week, speculating on message boards.

Another gift of this show was the top notch acting. Terry O'Quinn, Michael Emerson, Matthew Fox, Henry Ian Cusick, etc. Then you have the film quality of the show. It pisses me off to no end when all I hear about people bitch constantly about this show when it was miles ahead of just about every show on network television at the time.

I commend the writers for creating such a vast and expansive world that shook the boundaries of television. The show was giving people a psychology test whether they liked it or not. It's telling you about who you are and what you need in your life. Some people need those types of answers. Other people are content without them. It can't be everything for everybody but there is something in there for everybody.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper RIP (1936-2010)

Whether it was playing Frank Booth or Billy the Kid or just a mad photojournalist from Apocalypse Now, Hopper clearly disregarded the limits. A true rebel.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tetsuo: Iron Man (1989)

Tetsuo is a bizarre fever dream soaked in grotesque imagery. A nightmarish industrial world where man and machine meld into one and metaphors for human sexuality coil themselves around the viewer through the mix of brooding atmoshpere and sped up editing. Shinya Tsukamoto's cyberpunk vision is one that would find itself safely categorized into a nightmare David Cronenberg just woke up from.

The film revolves around the transformation of people into hybrids of flesh and metal. Cronenberg and David Lynch's Eraserhead are two clear influences that pop up when people talk about this film. Other influences include Jan Svankmajer and and the artist H.R. Giger. But it's Tsukamoto ability to take those influences and push them into hyperdrive. The film shows all signs of pure filmmaking talent. Another thing that popped into my head was the band Nine Inch Nails. Particularly their Broken album. I wonder if Trent Reznor was influenced by the nightmarish visions of Tetsuo. Being that he's providing a song for the end credits of Tsukamoto's third entry into the Tetsuo series, I would not be surprised.

Tetsuo is an overwhelming audio visual experience. An industrial nightmare drenched in dark atmosphere that showcases a true artist at work. 9/10

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Small Gauge Trauma

"Short films, at their best represent cinema distilled to its purest form, unhindered by constraints of commercial demands, minimum times or even the need to please an audience. They allow their makers a degree of freedom that is difficult if not impossible to attain in feature-length work. As vehicles for raw expression, one would expect that short films would be cherished and celebrated lovers of the Seventh Art. And they are...sort of." Mitch Davis

While feature films are widely available for mass consumption, short films usually only make their rounds on the festival circuit and once they do they are lost in obscurity. If a particular filmmaker enters the mainstream like a Tim Burton or a Steven Soderbergh their short films will sometimes be included as supplements on their DVDs. This isn't the case for filmmakers struggling to make a name for themselves.

With that in mind, Small Gauge Trauma is an excellent compilation of what is out there. Hand picked by Fantasia Film Festival programmer Mitch Davis and spanning the years from 1997 to 2004, these shorts represent filmmakers disregarding the limits of cinema and pushing it to new artistic heights. There are a variety of genres represented from 8 different countries and presented in a varying number of formats.

Dir: Paco Plaza
Format: 35 mm
Country: Spain
Year: 1998

For those afraid of old people, this one is for you. Eerie atmoshpereic short about the macabre events that take place in an old person's home. It's very subdued and has expertly photographed imagery while classical movies plays over it. 8/10

Dir: Dennison Romalho
Format: 35mm
Country: Brazil
Year: 2004

Ramalho manages to create more horror in 21 minutes than most mainstream horror films can hope to acheieve in 90 minutes. It centers around Macumba voodoo and the black arts. Probably the strangest fact behind the movie is that it was scripted by an actual Macumba priest which only adds to its genuine sense of unsease. 10/10

Dir.: Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani
Format: Still Photography/Digital
Country: Belgium
Year: 2001

This reminded me alot of the Italian giallos of the 70's. It incorporates the giallo elements into an S & M tinged feverdream. We are presented with a combination of still photographed images and digital photogtaphy. A horrific melding of sensuality and cruelty. One of the shots is reminiscent of the French horror film Inside. 8/10

Dir: Benoit Boucher
Format: 16mm
Country: Canada
Year: 2001
In the age of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, cartoon shows have broken lots of taboos and experimented. This is a short that would find it's home on that channel when the kids are asleep. An acid trip involving two people who accidentally shoot a war veteran neighbor's dog Fluffy to pieces. 7/10

Dir: Salvador Sanz
Format: Digital
Country: Argentina
Year: 2004

An animated vision of the apocalypse. A superstar pop group who turn out to be gorgons. Not too different from superstar popstars we have now come to think of it. 8/10

Dir: Miguel Angel Vivas
Format: 35mm
Country: Portugal
Year: 2004

The most expensive short ever produced in Portugal. This is a great zombie filled feast of carnage. 9/10

Dir: Guillaume Fortin
Format: 16mm
Country: Canada
Year: 2002

A man sits in a room and splices together super 8 filmstrips. On the other side of the coin, an overdosed junkie has flashes of memories of her life. The concept behind this short was brilliant as I am a sucker for anything involving memories. 9/10

Dir: Tomoya Sato
Format: 16mm
Country: Japan
Year: 2000

Lil'ya, the title character, documents the suicide of people on her digital camcorder. Expertly done through gruesome imagery, the short has had a difficult time getting seen on the festival circuit. But for those that have seen it can agree that it scars. As Mitch Davis said in the booklet for this DVD "this film will haunt your memories long after the obituaries fade." 8/10

Dir: Tenkwaku Naniwa
Format: Video
Country: Japan
Year: 1997

An absurd 30 second video from Japanese artist Tenkwaku Naniwa. Short but sweet. 5/10

Dir: Diego Abad
Format: 35mm
Country: Spain
Year: 2002

The funniest short on the disc. I commend it for being a musical that laces sex, drugs and ashtray shaped haircuts together in a bizarre cocktail. 7/10

Dir: Robert Morgan
Format: 35mm
Country: UK
Year: 2003

Stop motion animation at its most bizarre but also its most brilliant. The seperation of conjoined twins causes one of them to try to join themselves together again. If short filmmakers were more recognized, Robert Morgan would be just as celebreated as David Lynch or David Cronenberg.
This is not only the best short on this DVD, it's one of the best shorts I've seen period. I cannot praise Robert Morgan's work enough. 10/10

Dir: Philip John
Format: 35mm
Country: UK
Year: 2001

This has a very Twilight Zone-esque feel to it. Concise story that doesn't overstay its welcome and packs a haunting final image.

Dir: Sam Walker
Format: 35mm
Country: UK
Year: 2004

This short takes place at an industrial abattoir. A blood stained worked systematically hacks up his victims without emotion. A grim depiction of desensitization.

For anyone who wants to look into short films, this is the best place to start. There are hardly any weak entries on this DVD and the ones that are, still have something unique to offer.

Synapse Films put out this DVD release and it is available on their website,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Movies Don't Interrupt You So Don't Interrupt Them

Just last weekend, I was at a screening of Iron Man 2 at Loews Theatres in Crestwood, IL. Two people in their 50's that sat behind me and would not stop talking. One would think they would be mature enough not to talk during a film but these people were absolutely ridiculous. The words "I'm gonna get laid" were said in the film and the woman in the audience said "Uh-Oh". Grow up please. It's an occurence that has happened to me all too often and I have had enough. Talking in movie theatres is a big pet peeve of mine and I'm sure it is for anyone else who goes to the movies to actually watch the film as opposed to use it as an excuse to talk to their friends.

Then there's the person who has to have his insights heard because he thinks he is one step ahead of the film he is watching. This might come as a surprise to those people, but the audience around you does not care what your insights are.


It doesn't fail to amuse me that we as a society still have not grown up to point of respecting the people around us. Beyond people just talking, it's the cellphones that they whip out on numerous occasions to text their friend what they are seeing on screen at the moment or what film they are watching. In this day and age you can use your cell phone anywhere you want. Just DON'T use it in the movie theater! I can understand if the phone rings on accident. If it does, then just grab it and mute it and talk to the person after the movie is over.

I watched lots of R rated movies at the age of 8. This was because I saw these film at home. I turned out just fine. But when I see a parent bring a toddler to an R rated film I can't help but feel unease. Another thing that is completely over my head is how a person can bring a baby to a film. I haven't have kids yet, but if I did, I certainly wouldn't bring them to see a film like Watchmen or Inglourious Basterds. There is no valid reason to bring a baby to see those films. Not only are you being irresponsible as a parent, you obviously do not care how much graphic violence and nudity your kid sees at such a young age.

There has to be a line drawn somewhere. If you take a kid to see Requiem For A Dream or Antichrist you should be shamed publicly. You are a terrible parent if you take your kids to see these movies.

Beyond the film's rating being PG or R, a baby in the theater can be just plain annoying. Whenever I see the stroller or carriage being brought into the movie I instantly tense up and hope the parents don't sit anywhere in proximity by me. If a baby begins screaming in the theater, a parent should do what they should have done in the first place: go home and rent a movie instead.


In an age where people are getting stabbed and shot for talking in theaters I find it hard to even turn around and tell the people talking behind me to "Please stop talking." It all depends on the person you are saying this to. If you decide to say "Stop talking please" or "can you keep your baby quiet" to the wrong person, chances are you will be taken out of the theater on a stretcher. You may also have the case where the person says "You can't tell me what to do! I paid my ticket I can do what I want!" You want to fight rudeness with kindness. Saying "Shut the fuck up" will only invoke a hostile response.

If you see a teen couple making out, try staring at them intently like a creep. See how they respond. It's a non evasive way to diffuse the situation. Throw in a couple gasps.

But in all seriousness, even when you ask an usher about a man talking, the usher can sometimes be useless. Ushers in theaters need to be trained and paid like bouncers. If you have a bad moviegoing experience, I think it would be good to have theatre management at least give you a free movie pass in the future.

Humanity is a jungle. People think they can do whatever they want in a movie theatre. From the stories that I've heard, it doesn't even matter if you are a manager. You will still be cussed out for telling a father to hush his child during a movie.

When it all comes down to it, the thing missing at the movie theater the most is common courtesy. Not just to the audience but to the people who busted their asses to bring the film you are watching to you. When a film ends there are usually 5 minutes of credits. It goes to show how many people worked on the film you are watching and sacrifices they made to make it. It's bad enough paying $10 for a film. We now have to sit in a theatre and hope that there are no obnoxious people around us.

For those who read this blog I would like to hear some of your movie going experiences and how you were affected by situations like this.

New Discovery: Love Exposure

I usually don't post films I discover and haven't seen yet, but after reading about this film and seeing the trailer I just had to this time. It's a film from Sion Sono whose only work I have seen is Suicide Club. As far as I know, the only available DVD copy is a UK Region 2 release so if I do decide to purchase it I will have to watch it on my PC.

Here's the plot synopsis: Having grown up in a devout Christian family, Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) has always been a well-behaved kid. After his mother dies, his priest father is seduced by a woman who breaks his heart, causing him to torment Yu by forcing him to confess his sins on a daily basis. Of course, being a fairly normal kid, Yu has no legitimate sins to confess. To appease his increasingly demanding father, Yu is determined to become a true sinner, eventually training to become an expert at sneak upskirt photography. Pornography being the one sin no priest can overlook, Yu gets the attention he’s been so desperately seeking from his dad.

One day while hanging out with his fellow sinner pals—but dressed like Sasori as punishment for being on the losing end of a bet—Yu meets a beautiful girl named Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima). Their first meeting is a glorious one, beginning with an all-out street brawl and ending with a kiss. There are only two problems: she thinks he’s a woman and a devious cult leader named Aya (Sakura Ando) is carefully manipulating both of their lives.

From the reviews I've read, the film is a 4-hour hurricane of adoration and hysteria, poetry and perversion, humour and horror that juggles contrasting styles
and tones like nothing you've ever seen.

Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America (1997)

Douglas Buck deconstructs suburban ideals in three short films. Mitch Davis, founder of the Fantasia film festival, once wrote of this trilogy: "This is the sort of filmmaking the world needs more of- uncompromising honest works designed not to entertain an audience but to destroy them." In that sense these films work brilliantly. The grainy 16mm shots make them feel all the more raw.

The most notorious of these shorts is Cutting Moments. It revolves around a emotionally detached man and his wife. They have a son, Joey, who can be found in the front lawn placing his Power Rangers in sexual positions. The short is tightly constructed and there's some foreshadowing that takes places when we see the father clipping the hedges with hedge trimmers. There is one scene that takes place at a dinner table that defines the relationship between the man and his wife at this point. The wife reaches for a slice of bread, as does the husband. Their hands touch and the husband reacts by pulling his hand away, carving into his steak and taking a slice of bread later. No dialogue is used. In fact there is few uses of dialogue here which makes the atmosphere all the more palpable. The wife looks back at her wedding photo saying to herself "My God what have I done?" Things get to the point where brutal violence envelopes the couple and in a bizarre case of irony, they finally find an emotional connection. It contains some of the most gruesome imagery this horror fan has ever seen. Tom Savini does effects on this and he clearly shows
his skill as a makeup FX artist. Buck does in 25 minutes what most filmmakers strive for in 2 hours.

Home looks at the disintegration of the male psyche. The characters of Home are emotional vacuums. Powerless and derelict. "What have I done wrong?" the main character asks himself. It is a question that is directed at the audience in context of what we are being presented on screen in its startling final moments.

Prologue deals with a story spread over an entire town. A woman comes back home having lost both of her hands. Hooks are now in place of them. Along with this, we are introduced to a man and his elderly wife. An act of violence occurs and it shows how they are connected by it.

Family Portraits is a collection of shorts that chronicles suburban unrest that few filmmakers can pull off. You are able to understand where a particular character is in their live in a single scene without having any dialogue. In all, Douglas Buck is a true auteur. He knows how to shake up the viewer in 30 minutes or less and that is not an easy feat. I look forward to seeing how he can expand his vision in feature length form.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ronny James Dio (1942-2010)

"So live for today, tomorrow never comes" (Dio-Die Young)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Coming Attractions

A human centipede, a man going near a cat with hedgetrimmers, horrific meldings of sex & violence and trash humping...if this is what's in store for us in this year alone I can't even fathom what the rest of the bizarre films that will be released this decade.





Friday, May 7, 2010

A Serious Man (2009)

The book of Job centers around a man who suffers torments bestowed upon him by God as a test. The Coen Brothers 14th film centers around another Job like character. This time his name is Larry Gopnik. Larry is a university professor who is about to be granted tenure. His son is coming closer to having his bar mitzvah. Things take a turn for a worse and in true Coen Brothers fashion, they snowball into disaster.

First, his wife tells him that she wants a divorce and that she has been seeing his best friend Sy Abelman, played with pompous charm by Fred Melamad. At the university, a South Korean student gives Larry an envelope filled with money as an attempt to bribe Larry in order to give him a passing grade.

His son Danny's life isn't any easier. He faces a bully who he owes money to. His daughter Sarah is too self-involved to help. His brother has to drain a cyst on his neck and is a bigger wreck than Larry is. Things outside the Gopnik household are not so pleasant either. He a neighbor who is encrochaing on his property and another one, Mrs. Samsky, who sunbathes in the nude. Much to Gopnik's temptation.

As everything is slowly crumbling around Larry he questions the meaning of it all. The heart of the film is based around 3 rabbis. Larry goes to each to ask what does it all mean. Has Hashem cursed him? What has he done wrong to receive such torment?
One visit to a rabbi leads him to hearing a story about a goy's teeth. What he discovers is that it is not always easy to figure out what God is trying to tell us.

The setting is a suburb in Minnesota during 1967. A time where F troop played on the TV and Jefferson Airplane could be heard through the radio. The Coens grew up in this area and this could be considered their most personal film. Like the Coens best works (No Country For Old Men and Fargo) we are faced with themes about the lack of goodness in humanity.

Some might look at such a synopsis of a story and wonder why one would bother with such a morbid piece of suffering. But it’s the Coen Brothers incredibly artistic and delicate approach to the story that really involves the audience into this downward spiral that is uniquely comical as it is realistically depressing. This balance between comedy and tragedy is so well put together that the film moves at a sensible and enjoyable pace that doesn’t alienate nor push the audience away.

One clue to the whole theme of the film can be found in the middle. Gopnik is teaching his students the Uncertainty Principle. It's the only thing that Larry is certain of. A Serious Man is as dark a comedy the Coens have made. The interpretations of the ending of the film are many and they depend on your outlook in life. It will leave some scratching their head and others really moved. It is a film that not only speaks to the troubled Larry Gopnik but to all who suffer hard times. It is a critique on the quest for answers on why bad things happen to good people. When sometimes all we can is just accept the mystery.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs is a French film released in 2008 by Pascale Laugier and picked up for distribution by the Weinstein Company. The French don't screw around when it comes to horror. Gallons of gore and bleak views on the human condition. This film in particular rides on the last wave of French horror and offers up distressing tone shifts, unexpected turns and a powerful narrative.

The plot synopsis is going to be short because it's hard to describe it without giving away the film. The film is broken down into three plotlines. The first plot thread deals with a girl who was tortured. She ends up going to an orphanage and making a friend. Fairly linear so far. The film then takes a left turn and we are introduced to a family seated at a table talking about what is going on in their lives. Then, the doorbell rings. After that, everything goes to hell. The last plot thread is for you find out. The key to a good viewing of Martyrs is this: the less you know the more effective the impact will be.

Director Pascale Laugnier brings out really good performances out of the actors. He also knows how to play with audience expectation. Right when you think you know where the film is going it takes a sharp turn into the unexpected. The gore and brutality the film has to offer is important in telling this type of story. It uses it to make a more intellectual statement than films that use it to shock its audiences.

The last act in particular and the concept around it is as disturbing as the visuals we are presented with. Martyrs will get under your skin and shake you to your core.
It's one of those rare film that transcends the genre it is apart of.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Platinum Dunes is a company known for remaking horror films. We all know this. It is also a company known for being bashed left and right for their remakes. The problem with the remakes is that they are forgettable. They fail to capture the atmosphere of what made the original so great. A Nightmare On Elm Street falls into this category and while it's got decent direction it's lack of originality on what could have been a brilliant re-imagining falls flat.

The concept of the original Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the best in horror cinema: a man that invades your dreams, hunts you down and takes you out. It's the ultimate version of the boogeyman under the bed. Another concept that is born out of that is your parents not believing you are being attacked in your dreams cause let's be honest, who would? Add to that the back story of the parents chasing down a child murderer named Freddy Kreuger, burning him alive in a boiler room and you have a great concept for a horror film.

The failure of the remake lay in its lack of originality and deviation from the ideas that the original Nightmare presented. Director Samuel Bayer has worked on nothing but music videos previous to this film and he doesn't bring much to the film in terms of creativity. You have the classic scenes all remade here: Tina being dragged across the walls, Freddy making an imprint through the walls, the glove popping out of the soapy bathtub while Nancy is sleeping. This film even manages to screw some of those scenes up. The imprint in the wall was terrifying in the original, here its completely overdone.

The characters here are just bland. I will say Jackie Earle Haley pulls off a good Kreuger. Another big component the film uses is the worst kind of scare a horror film can use: the jump scare. It's effective in the first couple scenes of the film but after a while it just gets annoying. A question one reviewer has raised is interesting: If there's a video of yourself getting killed, how would you upload it? Do we upload videos from the grave now?

The movie introduces the idea of micronaps. It basically uses it as an excuse for more jump scares. You know the character is having a micronap because it uses a visual cue. There was such an opportunity to run with this concept. The fact that it hits its spots on mediocre levels is just not good enough.

Hopefully in another 20 years, there will be another filmmaker out there who will realize the full potential of the concept of A Nightmare On Elm Street and make a film just as scary, or maybe even scarier than the original. Until then, stick with the original film.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May (2002)

In the realm of indie horror flicks, there are ALOT of stinkers and a few winners. May is one of those winners. Directed by Lucky Kee, May follows the story of a girl named...May who has a lazy eye. She wore a patch for this growing up but became a loner whose only friend was a doll that was given to her for her birthday. She moves to L.A. and winds up working at a vet. She becomes attracted to a filmmaker played by Jeremy Sisto. The relationship begins to sour quickly. May winds up starts blaming her oddball quirks on her doll. She then befriends an alluring lesbian colleague played by Anna Faris, but even that crumbles apart.

The lack of connection May feels throughout the movie is really effective. In essence, it's a character study that plays along the lines of Roman Polanski's Repulsion. In that film we see Catherine Deneuve's descent into madness. Here we see May's descent, but it pushes the lines much further.

Angela Bettis gives an amazing performance as May. We feel her cracking more and more throughout the film and it comes across well. Anna Faris is really fun as her colleague. Jeremy Sisto of Six Feet Under fame turns in a nice performance as well. What's also impressive is that May is Lucky McKee's first film. Here is a director with a big future ahead of him. He has made a couple of episodes for the Masters of Horror series that were pretty interesting entries.

The film is haunting, quirky and downright twisted. It's one of those films that's going to be remembered down the road. For those looking for good indie horror, check out May. You will be quite impressed.