Saturday, December 31, 2011

Breaking Red

Top 100 Grab Bag

VISION

88. Raising Arizona


The 'jump out of your seat' moment of Blood Simple, in terms of style, occurs when Dan Hedaya grabs Frances McDormand and takes her out of her house. Suddenly we are give a Raimi-esque shot the rushes toward them. It's a wickedly clever stylistic choice by a pair of assured filmmakers. Then along comes this movie Raising Arizona. Crawlin' on its hands and legs in a wild, goofy aloofness. Only to have H.I. McDunnough pull it back to a sentimental embrace.


I've never really seen a film where the style the filmmaker is using is just as wacky as the subject matter. As knee slap funny this movie can get, the soul of it lay in its closing monologue by McDunnough. Dreaming of a future that seemed just out of reach. From a career of endings that range from a tornado, a bird falling into an ocean, to a sheriff learning to accept the ways of the new, this always felt like the one that was the most heartfelt from these filmmakers.

SOUND

74. Dead Can Dance- Within the Realm of A Dying Sun (1987)

After seeing The Insider and hearing Lisa Gerrard's haunting voice draping it in a blanket of warmth and arcane beauty, I was convinced that I needed to explore more of her music. Then I saw Baraka. A film whose use of Host of Seraphim was utterly gorgeous.

This album in particular showcases Lisa Gerard and Brandon Perry channeling world music and filter it through dark, neo classical tones. As a result we are left with an album that soulfully emits sounds that are bathed in an esoteric aura.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Things & Ideas


"How can you put out a meaningful drama when every fifteen minutes proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper? No dramatic art form should be dictated and controlled by men whose training and instincts are cut from an entirely different cloth. The fact remains that these so called gentlemen sell consumer goods, not an art form." Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone. A show that has always held an important place for me. I'd always remember the marathons on Sci-Fi channel around this time of the year. So in honor of that & in honor of Mr. Serling's 87th birthday, I decided to create a special list to some of my favorite episodes.

TZ is the kind of show that permeates the culture. Long before Laura Palmer and even longer before a smoke monster, viewers tuned into to see different kind of mystery unravel. Only these mysteries were packaged within a 30 minute timeframe. Given that amount of time, the self contained stories lent itself to the imagination. I'm willing to believe that Lynch took a gander at the show and dug the hell out. Damon Lindelof of Lost is among the shows ardent supporters.

Stepping back, the inspiration the series had on movies can be both good (Jacob's Ladder) and bad (The Box). Which in itself is an example of why the writing team of Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Buck Houghton and George Clayton Johnson performed best when given a small amount of time to flesh out their scripts.

One of the key strengths beyond the writing was being endowed with an astounding cast (Buster Keaton, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jack Klugman, Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, Charles Bronson, etc.) They brought with it a sense of nostalgia for that time. These cats have been around the block movie wise.

Peaking in excellence with the 2nd season, the show had its share of forgettable episodes. (Does anyone really care for The Hunt?) The hour long shows for the fourth season indicate that beyond the occasional misses of previous seasons (The Gift, Young Man's Fancy, The Lateness of the Hour, etc.), the show was losing steam. By the time the fifth season rolled around, the misses were becoming more and more apparent. It eventually concluded it's run in 1964. Serling would go onto Night Gallery while the show's legacy would go onto spawn a mass of imitators.

There's a futility in creating an anthology show dealing with the supernatural and science fiction in the wake of Twilight Zone. The only show that came close was ironically a show created around the same time period, The Outer Limits. Yet there's still something Zone has that the rest lack. The willingness to take us out of our mundane lives and help us understand ourselves a little bit better.


20. Nightmare At 20,000 Feet
Just what the hell was that thing on the wing of the airplane? We'll never know. A prime example of how some of the most terrifying aspects of the show lay in the unexplained.

19. The Midnight Sun
A real scorcher. The kind of scorcher that would make Do the Right Thing's Mookie give a double take.

18. Five Characters In Search of An Exit
One of the episodes that took place in one location and made the best of it through dialogue with five characters looking for a way out.

17. One For the Angels
A heartwarming episode as it is heartbreaking.

16. Where Is Everybody?
The pilot that paved the way for what several episodes that preceeded would share- the themes of isolation and loneliness.

15. The Silence
A bet that has seriously damaging repercussions on the two main characters. One physically the other in terms of honor & integrity.

14. Night Call
At first a terrifying call from a telephone to an old woman. Only to turn into a heartbreaking moment for Gladys Cooper. A potent mix of terror and tragedy.

13. A Stop At Willoughy
Serling taps into a universal desire. Who wouldn't want to escape to a place where you don't have to meet demands or have pressures put upon you?

12. The Howling Man
The transformation scene in this episode always stuck with me.

11. The Obsolete Man
Burgess Meredith is a part of a world where aging has become forbidden. One of the handful of episodes they could have actually made a good movie out of. Oh wait, they made a shitty one instead called In Time. Woops.

10. Shadow Play
A Charles Beaumont penned episode that explores the nature of reality via a man being locked in a time continuum. Imagine if Groundhog Day was played as a nightmare instead of for laughs.

9. The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street
Paranoia run rampant. Rationality gets thrown out the window all due to the fact that a couple lights flicker on and off.

8. To Serve Man
Don't ya love double meanings?

7. Time Enough At Last
If a nuclear blast ever occurs, I'm taping my glasses to my head.

6. And When the Sky Was Opened
Thinking about being in the situation of those pilots still induces anxiety in me when I watch this one. Imagine if you knew you were about to be erased from existence and there was nothing you could do about it. Truly frightening.

5. A Game of Pool
Crackling dialogue between Klugman and Winters highlight this tale about the ramifications of winning and losing. Add to that a good amount of tension and you got a classic.

4. It's A Good Life

A small town imprisoned in fear of a little boy. In Serling's world, even little kids are capable of ruling people under their thumb.

3. Walking Distance
To the casual fan, TZ is a sci-fi show packaged with a nifty twist at the end. To the die hard, this show and its creator Rod Serling, defined a culture and laced some of its best episodes with commentary on the human condition. This episode proves that sentiment. Bernard Hermann's score seals the deal.

2. Eye of the Beholder
Effective lighting and camera work highlight this episode about deformity and the meaning of real beauty.

1. The Invaders
This to me defines what Twilight Zone was all about. If I were to show someone an episode of the show who has never seen one, this would be it. Invaders combines two themes and utilizes them to their full potential- isolation and fear.

A list on Lost .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidaze



You know when you buy an album and a band puts the songs in some fuckin' order and they want you to listen to them in that order. Do you hate that? Are you tired of having people tell you what to listen to or when to listen to it? Well, your problems have been answered. Now you too can have all your favorite hits on one convenient mixtape.

Between the Reels kicks off its monthly mixtape machine with its first edition. No specific theme. No rhyme or reason. Just a hodge podge package ranging from death metal to soul.

Track listing is as follows:


Kavinsky- Nightcall
Kim Carnes- Bette Davis Eyes
Simon & Garfunkel- I Am A Rock
Ricky Nelson- Lonesome Town
College- Real Hero
Moby- Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
Pulp Fiction- Personality Goes A Long Way
Pixies- Wave of Mutilation
Tool- Aenema
Death- Symbolic
Wu Tang Clan- Da Mystery of Chessboxin'
Otis Redding- Mr. Pitiful
Bill Hicks- Artistic Roll Call
The Rolling Stones- I Am Waiting
Tom Waits- Martha
The Flaming Lips- Waiting For Superman
My Bloody Valentine- Sometimes
Fantomas- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Bill Hicks- The Elite
The Association- Never My Love
Hoagy Carmichael- Stardust

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Life of the Mind

Cookies full of arsenic

One of the trends of 50's cinema was studios releasing films they thought would recapture the glory days of 1930s cinema. Ironically, a number of outstanding movies started to arise from that period of 'go for broke' that bucked this very trend. Movies that were seeped in genre material. Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly and Alexander MacKendrick's Sweet Smell of Success in particular. The former a Mickey Spillane noir with a slow burn. The latter being a film with its feet entrenched in a securely rigid structure and its head in a whirlwind of knife cutting dialogue. What sets this apart from its other contemporaries of that decade however, is the biting cynicism. This along with the urban location of New York instead of studio backdrops. It is this stage where we get to watch characters with their feet in the quicksand of lies and filth. Spewing forth barbed dialogue from the screenplay by Clifford Odetts and Ernst Lehman that would make David Mamet blush.

Enjoying the ride

In the realm of comedy stand up, there are the greats: Bruce. Pryor. Carlin. Louie CK. While the 90's saw some of Carlin's best and blisteringly relevant material, another comedian with a knack for infusing social commentary into his stand up took to the mic. Bill Hicks' shtick was always going against the status quo. A free spirit that never backed away from bringing up the ludicrous contradictions that we prescribe to. Rant In E Minor is required listening, folks.



The man up in this beast

Throughout the 80's and 90's, Denzel Washington typified the American hero. The man who would stand up for Andrew Beckett. The man who would go to bat for Ferris Bueller during the attack on Fort Wagner. Something happened after this. The gloves came off and the so called hero was now filling Scott Glenn's chest full of buckshot. While directors are usually a go to field when it comes to perking my ears up, a select core group of actors can invigorate me to want to see what they'll do next. & in 2001, I finally got to see one of my favorite 'do-gooders' play the bad guy. Unfortunately, this was also the last time I really dug one of his performances.



Donner, party of one


Cannibalism is one of the many morbid curiosities and fascinations that I hold. For some reason or another that I can't quite articulate, it has seeped into other interests I have. I'd like to believe that it is because the very nature of cannibalism emphasizes an extreme act of aggression upon a fellow human being. Something I do not condone. But still find all the more interesting in terms of extreme behavior. Curiously, Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Cannibal Holocaust are among my favorite films. Serial killers being another fascination I hold. But let's not stray too far. Events like the Donner Party Crossing are a prime example as to what I'm getting at here. Ric Burns American Experience documentary does a more than capable job of giving a comprehensive overview of the tragedy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

From the Vault: Dark Side of the Moon



Author's Note: The following is a review I wrote on March 26, 2005 for an album that has had an immense impact on the course of my music education. It was written for a series of album discussions I kicked off on a site called the Mike Portnoy Forum. I have rarely visited the site since 2010.

Some albums have that effect on you. One of discovery and revelation. Dark Side is that album for many people. Floyd begged the question in 1975 as to which one is Pink. Roger Waters has always been the side of the fence I landed on. This album is proof of that.

Enjoy.

"We all fight small battles between the positive and the negative in our everyday lives, and I'm obsessed with truth and how the futile scramble for material things obscures our path to a more fufilling existence. That's what Dark Side of the Moon is about. And despite the rather depressing ending with Brain Damage and Eclipse, there is an allowance that all things are possible, that the potential is in our hands."
-Roger Waters

THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP...
The first time I heard progressive rock was through Dark Side of the Moon in March of 2000. I remember buying the album and putting it in my discman and turning off the lights in my room. From the opening of Speak to Me, to the guitar solo in Time and to the climactic Eclipse, I was carried away by the music. It was the first time I had heard an album like that. The experimentation and keyboards intrigued me and led me to buy their other masterpieces. Shortly thereafter, I became addicted to Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and other prog bands of that era. What I love so much about the Floyd and what sets them apart from all other bands, is that sweeping conceptual feeling that you get when you sit down and listen to their albums. That heartbeat on the album signaled a new found music for me and I've never looked back since. I view it more as a single composition than a collection of songs because of the thematic concept that flows throughout the album. There isn't a note out of place. Every song compliments the next while at the same time playing an integral part of the whole. It is as perfect as you can possibly get.

LIVE PERFORMANCES
DSOTM made its live premiere at the Brighton Dome on January 20, 1972 under the name Eclipse. It's first performance used different track order than the one on the CD: I. Intro, II. Breathe, III. Instrumental Jam, IV. Time, V. Any Colour You Like, VI. The Mortality Sequence, and VII. Money. The Eclipse finale was yet to be written during that period. DSOTM made its first official live performance (this time in the same order as found on the CD) at the Rainbow Theatre in London on February 17, 1972.

RECORDING SESSIONS
Recorded at the same studio the Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, DSOTM showcases unprecedented production value. Alan Parsons did a phenomenal job on the record. You can hear every nuance of Mason/Waters/Wright/Gilmour. What always intrigued me about this album is the continuous flow. This was made during a time where you had to flip the record over to hear Side B. It was as if Pink Floyd themeselves envisioned a future where that would no longer need to happen. It was way ahead of its time not only in sonic breadth and concept, but in song structure as well. On March 23, 1973 the album would be released to the public.

A LANDMARK ACHIEVEMENT
In order to understand the impact of the album you must understand what was going on at the time of its creation. David Bowie dawned his Ziggy Stardust persona and glam rock was at the forefront of popular music. Yes released Close to the Edge in '72 and that hit the Billboard at #3. There was an artistic edge that was prominent of the music that was being produced during this period. Then along comes an album that talks about what it is like to live the everyday life and its enduring hardships, and changes everything. It was a triumphant period for the genre of progressive rock.

A SIMPLE PRISM
Storm Thorgesen's Prism cover is one of the most recognizable symbols in rock music. When he gave the band a choice of several designs, the band chose the prism over all the others. Some of the best albums are ones that have no words printed on the front: Led Zeppelin IV, KC's In the Court of the Crimson King, Gabriel's Passion, Abbey Road, etc. I really like that Storm left the cover as just a prism in the middle with a spectrum. It gives the album more of a mystique.

REMASTERING
"The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consumate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost."
- Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
The 30th anniversary Hybrid SACD Edition really brings out the subtle nuances you haven't heard on the original record. This mix synchronized the original tapes together and created a pristine sound. I have yet to listen to the quadrophonic mix and am really interested in hearing how that mix differs from the one found on the original LP.

The lyrics of Dark Side of the Moon are based around universal themes that encompass our everyday lives. Things that we take for granted: money and time, and inhumanities of modern life: madness, death and war. The primary theme that runs throughout the album is life. The sonic experimentation throughout the album is prevelant through the use of VCS3 machines and synthesizers and add to the harmonious keyboards. Gilmour's and Waters' guitar and bass performances are the strongest up to this point and Gilmour shows what a gifted guitar player he is during his solo in 'Time'. Nick Mason, as in most Floyd albums, creates subtle rhythms in his drum work, giving space for the music to breathe. Which leads us into our first song...


SPEAK TO ME/BREATHE

"Been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been
working with bands so long. I think crikey..."
Sound/Word- This is a great way to start the album off. It begins with a heartbeatwhich represents the beginning of life. The sound samples from 'Money', 'Brain Damage', and 'Great Gig In the Sky' enter one by one and represent the things that a person's life must overcome and endure in order to exist in the world. Alan Parsons shows his genius studio producing through the multilayered effects that quickly segue into Gilmour's soft guitar line. I think of this track as the album's collage. When you hear the lyrics "Dig that hole, forget the sun", it is open to interpretation. The sun is a prime symbol of the album and represents truth and all that is good in life. "Balanced on the biggest wave, you race towards an early grave"

ON THE RUN

"Leave for today, gone tomorrow. Ha ha ha!"

Originally titled the Travel Section and created from a guitar and keyboard improvisation. Definitely the most sonically experimental track on the album. The techniques involved in recording this track involved the VCS3 being fed a series of notes and speeding it up. You can hear a female announcer announcing flights at an airport which goes well with the message of the song. Toward the end of the song, there's the sound of a plane crashing. In concert, a Spitfire model airplane was used to crash from one side of the arena to the other and create an explosion. Did I mention how amazing PF's live concerts are?! An interesting note about the '72 performance of this track is that it went under the name 'The Travel Sequence'. My interpretation of this song is that we are on the run from our own inevitable fate. Time brings us closer to this. Which is our next song on the album.

TIME

Sound- The clocks and alarm bells in the beginning are effective in correlation to the theme of the song- alerting people as to how quickly life can slip away. The middle section features one of Gilmour's best guitar solos and is a nice bridge to the final section. The solo's very blues-influenced but at the same time very ethereal. In an era of Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, Gilmour makes his presence known with this amazing guitar solo. The themes of 'Breathe' are reprised in the 3rd section of the song.The reprise ties in very well with the 1st section lyrics and is about the later years of one's life and that they should "lay their bones beside the fire" and take it easy.

Word- Roger Waters' best lyrical contribution to the band. The lyrics ring true for every generation and dwell on the fact that time is the one thing we wish we had more of as we grow older. It is my personal favorite off the album mostly because I can relate to it the most. There are many things that I've passed up in my life that I wish I had a second chance at doing. And as I grow older, time goes faster. I look at some of the threads on this forum: one more record store closed, Tower Records gone, etc. and it is a reminder of how much we should cherish those memories in our lives. We all have a limited lifespan and it is up to us to make the most out it. This track to me encompasses the whole philosophy of how time is the one thing that people strive to have more of and we should cherish every moment of it.

THE GREAT GIG IN THE SKY

"And I am not frightened of dying any time will do I don't mind. Why should I be
frightened of dying? There's no reason for it. Gotta go sometime."

Originally titled The Mortality Sequence. Listen to the vocals of Claire Torry. Her voice permeates every square inch of this wonderful song that echoes the crashing waves seen in video during their live performance. The chord progression of this song is beautiful. This track is all Wright's and showcases his gentle piano touches. There are very spiritual overtones in this track as well. Claire Torry sued the band for royalties to the song in 2002 and lost the case. This is a very hard song to nail down in terms of replicating Claire Torry's vocal performance. When Theresa Thomason performed the DT cover version at the Hammersmith, she not only nailed it, she hammered, stamped it and sent it home to Old Pink. The unexpected pitch bend at the end of this song is similar to the end of DT's The Answer Lies Within.

MONEY

Sound- The poster child for the 7/4 time signature. And surprisingly the biggest hit off the album. Roger Waters bass sounds very good on this track. It is the first appearance of the saxophonist Dick Parry, who the Floyd would use on their next album, Wish You Were Here. Gilmour's guitar solo begins and the song goes to 7/4 time. After this it goes back to 4/4 and it becomes a full out rocker. It is reminiscent of a section in DT's Beyond This Life (6:27- 6:55).

Word- This song applies so much to the corporate side of the music business. We live in a world where the dollar is what people would rather be after than creating a piece of art. A big irony is that it became the Floyd's first commercial hit while having lyrics that deal with materialism and money being "the root of all evil today." They also show the vinyl on a manufacturing conveyer belt. Pink Floyd released the song as a single and it was their first US Top Forty hit at #13.

"I was definitely in the right. That geezer was cruising for a bruising"


US AND THEM

Sound- Wright opens this song up with funeral procession-like piano. The majority of the song is particular mellow. The echoes "Me, me me and you, you, you" are subtle nuances that strengthen Gilmour's delivery of the lyrics. During the Gilmour parts, Dick Parry plays some nice laid back saxophone parts that add to the beauty and mood of the song. To me the most effective aspects of this song is when it escalates into the harmonized backing vocals being played along with the saxophone parts by Dick Parry. The 'saxophone outburst' solo at 5:44 is particularly noteworthy. Nick Mason's drumwork suits the mood beautifully. It is clear that his strengths lie in not what he does but what he doesn't do.

Word- Originally written by Richard Wright as an instrumental and to be used in the film Zabriskie Point. The scene that is was to be used in was a UCLA riot scene. It was originally titled The Violent Sequence This song deals with how people want to categorize themselves into groups. From the enemies of a war, a different race or even the homeless. Roger Waters provides lyrics that dwell on how destructive we can be and whether the human race is capable of being human. It is noted for being a song that ties in with the death of Waters' father during WWII and the impact it left on his life. This is most likely why he chose war as the center of the theme is this song. This event would later influence sections of The Wall and fully manifest itself in a good portion of The Final Cut.

"Forward he cried, from the rear and the front rank died And the General sat and the lines on the map moves from side to side."

ANY COLOUR YOU LIKE

Sound- The second track that uses a VCS3 synthesizer. It is completely guitar and keyboards. The composition shares the same beat as Breathe and in musical terms is a second reprise of the beat in the beginning of the album. This is the transition into madness and it shows because of the psychadelic nature of the music that harks back to their times with Syd Barrett. DT did a really good job covering this song at the Hammersmith.

BRAIN DAMAGE

"And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon."

Madness is the key theme in the song. The primary influence of the track was Syd Barrett (R.I.P.) and his decline into madness. I love the playful insanity to this tune. The video that plays in concerts to this song shows various leaders (Bush, Arafat, and Stalin) and correlate with the first verse of the song with the lunatic being on the newspaper. The harmonizations on this track are beautiful. The lyric "the lunatic is on the grass" was written for a song during the Meddle sessions. That song was called Dark Side of the Moon! There's another lyric here I mentioned in italics under the title 'Brain Damage'. That is very much about Syd and how he went on to write new material after his duration with the Floyd. This song with Eclipse never fail to deliver the overpowering emotion that comes with each listen. If I had 5 minutes to live, I would listen to this song along with the next one.

"I can't think of anything to say...hahahaha... I think it's marvelous....hehehe..."
Thump, thump, thump, thump...

ECLIPSE

...BOOM! The climax.
This song sums up everything about the album. It recalls the themes of Breathe. The symbolic nature of the sun, the moon, time, and the heartbeat representing the cycle of life. What makes this album timeless is that it addresses the human experience and how madness, war, greed, and conflict tear us apart from the realization that we are but mere fragments in a larger part of life. The sun (symbol of goodness) is eclipsed by the moon. The album ends just as it begins, only this time the heartbeat stops which signifies death. The album is really much about life. It really is an amazing moment and one of the best album closers of all time.

"...and everything under the sun is in tune but the sun is eclipsed by the moon."


CONCLUSION
Dark Side of the Moon was an album that catapulted the Floyd to stardom and in Mike Portnoy's words "changed album-oriented rock" when it was released. I don't think even Pink Floyd can comprehend the kind of album that they created. In the music world, most popular albums are given a label, make the billboard charts and end up being forgotten. That's not the case with this gem. Albums like this one are rarely made: one that is innovative in sonic experimentation and lyrics but at the same time pummeling the listener with overwhelming emotion. As a result, it has touched millions around the world and is one of the biggest artistic statements of the last 50 years. It has an enduring legacy that is kept alive by both fans that are in it for the long run and fans that are newcomers to the band. It's universal message that although obstacles get in the way, we have the potential to overcome them. It is an album that will speak volumes to generations for years to come and showed that the genre of progressive rock was more than capable of captivating the heart, challenging the mind and moving the soul.


"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What I've been watching


"I am always reluctant to single out some particular feature of the work of a major filmmaker because it tends inevitably to simplify and reduce the work. But in this book of screenplays by Krzysztof Kieslowski and his co-author, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, it should not be out of place to observe that they have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what's really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart."
Stanley Kubrick
January 1991


There's always been a tug and pull of sorts with my love of film. On one spectrum there's Toolbox Murders & Point Break. On the other end there's the filmmaker we're talking about now. Frank Zappa once said: "A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it isn't open." This is a view I have adopted into both film and music for quite some time. The only problem I have is the growing state of gray haired film criticism. On one corner you have someone declaring that Apatow is the king of the modern comedy. The next corner you have another person listing off 20 obscure foreign films and blasting American cinema. Even though it didn't have much to offer last year. Now there's a delicious dilemma for ya. I'm not trying to be prude, but I have more respect for the person who owns a copy of Cannibal Ferox and Nashville than a person who solely collects horror or the person who solely collects 'cinematic art'. Snacks and vegetables can both be on the menu.

Which brings us to today's article.

Flashback to 2003 when I was browsing the net and I came across an article written by one Roger Ebert. An article in which he name dropped Kubrick. But what was so interesting was not what was said about Kubrick so much as what Kubrick had said about another filmmaker. The film was The Decalogue and the Kubrick quotation was that it was the only masterpiece he could name in his lifetime.

There's a certain fascination on what films left an indelible impression on filmmakers' minds. For Lynch it was seeing Sunset Boulevard. For PT Anderson it was Network. You get a sense of the throughline that connects the themes and characters in those directors' respective works. Or at the very least, using bits and pieces as inspiration.

Getting hit with Kieslowski was alot like discovering Hitchcock as a kid. Like Hitch, it wasn't the plots that drew me in. It was the visual aspect. The vivid colors. The haunting scores in Decalogue, Three Colors & Double Life of Veronique. Enhancing the mood and atmosphere that exist within the framework of each story. Ambiguity can sometimes be used to a haphazard extent. Kieslowski uses it to create emotional jigsaw puzzles. Reveling in the unexplained but never to the point of becoming overwrought.

I'd write more on the films individually, but let's be honest. No amount of words can make up for the beauty within these works of art. For the uninitiated, start with Three Colors. Criterion has recently put out a fantastic blu ray/DVD set containing all three films.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Last Piece of the Puzzle




"Looking up at those stars in the sky. Those white clouds have turned to black"
-Norah Jones, "Black"

Don't those lyrics ring true. If the sky wasn't black enough this season, we'd think a friggin' solar eclipse occurred.

From that moment the camera zooms in onto a Lily of the Valley back to the moment Gus Fring makes his fateful walk to that nursing home, something happens in Breaking Bad that turns it into one of the true heavyweights of the art form. A 'flash-bang-wow' that changes our expression faster than Gus's when he finds out it is him finally on the 'hot seat'. Subconsciously, we kinda knew the moment would come sooner or later. The astounding attribute given to Season 4 is an emphatic bow given to the traditional villian. & willingly, the final puzzle pieces will come into play for the final season. As Walt White tells Jesse in End Times, it is him who is the last piece of the puzzle. This meaning alot more than being a cog in the wheel of Gus's plan.

Breaking Bad has already entrenched its feet firmly into non traditional storyelling. Don't try to stay ahead of it, cause you'll only lose your footing. The push and pull of family commitment vs. work has been a staple of storytelling. In terms of the long form, its most contemporary partner is The Sopranos. A show that paints a portrait of the modern family and its own head of the family circling down an existential drain. Breaking Bad, while not as ambitious as shows like Sopranos & The Wire takes a cue from the family vs. work type of story. Only to take that device and make it more complex.

The crystal meth drug trade in the universe of the show extends well beyond New Mexico. Yet its intimate and limited scope of characters complement the very subject it is dealing with. Another atrribute to be pointed out is that this is a show that, for the most part, is done in real time. A characteristic that only emphasizes the points driven home to us from the very beginning. When the camera zooms out of a gun barrel aimed directly at us. Not too different from another gun going off held by one Jesse Pinkman at the end of Season Three.

There are many disquieting sounds and static shots surrounding the show. A pair of pants flying through the air kicks things off. A pink bear with an eye missing. A pizza on a garage roof. A ringing bell that disrupts Walt & Jesse's plan to poison Tuco. By these shots alone, one would deduct that the world of these characters has spun out of control. The world of Walt & Jesse is woven together by false accusations, hollow truths and hard goodbyes. Everything lingers on a plan. Like pieces on a chessboard.

Drug trade aside, the triumph of the show lay in its character arcs of Walt & Jesse. Throughout the second season, Walt was cornered by Skylar into bearing the truth or continue spinning his web of lies. Now that the cat's out of the bag, the pressures Walt once faced from keeping his secret became pointed in the direction of one Gustavo Fring. A man driven by an unquenchable thirst for success. His detriment being the refusal to accept anything less than a 96% purity level and an even higher level of control amongst his employees.

On another plane, there is Jesse. His arc going from careless methhead to the one we are rooting for. This can best be explained by these important episodes that I predict will be cornerstones in the blueprint for Season Five's storyline.

Phoenix/ABQ: These last two episodes of Season Two are crucial to the series. Walt spilling the beans to Jesse about Jane's death is a nuclear device kept in reserve. Suffice it to say, Walt should be expecting alot more than a flask thrown at him if the truth about Jane does get out.

Fly: To make the transmission even more 'fuzzy', it is the episode Fly that pronounces an undercurrent of regret/sadness that Walt harbors. Effectively tapped to the point of tipping the scale. Or in this case, the ladder Jesse's standing on. It's not what was said in that episode but what wasn't said.

All this came to a clusterfuck that paradoxically resolved one issue and began another. Face Off is the episode that crystallized what Walt said earlier on: He is the danger.

& on top of this whole mess, Walt's intentions to get into the game the first place have got lost in the chaos of trying to maintain his own sanity. Walt has cast himself into his own private hell. With a road paved with Lillies of the Valley.



Other curious sidenotes: That same bell that once foiled Walt & Jesse's plan to poison Tuco has now finally worked in favor of Walt's plan. Turning Gus' face into one not too dissimilar from a half burnt prop on Gale's shelf. Or for that matter, a half burnt teddy bear floatin' in Walt's very own pool. All the more fitting that a 'floating object' in a pool would fit into the scene of Gus' own personal vendetta against Don Salamanca. Take take a cue from another blogger, there are events and people that are all becoming cyclical. Ourobouros is you will.

To this day, I'll never understand why people long for movies about TV shows like this. Season Four as a whole reminds me, as it should several others, of what the format of long form storytelling should be. Ironic isn't it, that some of the best writing and character presentation is coming from the small screen as opposed to the big screen.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Strange...what Love does


11/11/11. Somebody out there was thinking a bomb would fall from the sky. In 1964 that fear of a bomb falling was not too far out there.

Satire, that is, sufficiently accomplished satire, can be the stuff of comic legend. A large part is of course the subject you are skewering over an open fire. Well, in '64 the fire was a kindlin'. & it's heat could be felt all the way from Russia. The Cuban Missile Crisis had just been averted. Nuclear deterrance became a hot topic.

There's something about the time period that always draws sheer fascination from me. The whole absurdity of the duck and cover routine was ripe enough for satire. But moreso is the fear born out of a generation who had just coped with the repressed air of safety during the 50's. An era where the nuclear family didn't have to be a double entendre and M.A.D. was associated with Alfred E. Newman instead of Mutually Assured Destruction. It took a a director to not only muster up enough courage to tackle the situation head on, but with sheer wit and ingenuity.

Strangelove is located somewhere between mad satire and cautionary fable. In a genre filled with many films tripping over their feet and falling backwards, this one has the tact to look into our faces and shout blast off. The concept of being a button away from worldwide nuclear disaster is nightmarish enough. Everything is crystallized when Strangelove gets up and shouts "I can walk!" Only for it to be all for nothing and gone in a flash. I don't think we'll ever get back to satire this daring. This devastatingly clever.

Kubrick would ride that little nuclear warhead all the way down to its target. Where we would meet him again one sunny day in 1968.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A trip to the boondocks


I chose to sharpen the knives for a film that has repeatedly, in the past week, been brought up to me as 'a good movie'. The standard response to a Boondock fan is that it is redundant of Pulp Fiction. Which, at its core is a mineral that is still being mined to this day with the likes of Smokin' Aces.

It took a director to plunge the adrenaline shot into cinema for a new look on the crime genre. Needless to say, it was fuckin' trippy what transpired afterward. In its wake, hundreds of screenwriters tried to mimic its formula. Dressing characters up in a suit with shades. Or having two Irish hitmen spout religous diatribe while their rivals meet the business end of a pistol.

The heart of Pulp Fiction lay in not what we've seen in movies a hundred times before but what we haven't seen. The stuff that would get left on a cutting room floor. The kind of scenes that would have two hitmen go on a dialogue about toes before they enter. It's also the kind of scenes where the comfortable silences are suddenly punctured by a shot to the face. The violence is fast and quick. The wit twice as fast. There's no Dafoe running around in drag re-enacting a 'firefight'.
The plot of two religous hitmen declaring their own brand of vengeance turns out to be, as one reviewer so eloquently noted, a serial killer movie. Not a vigilante movie.

A fan of Boondock Saints should be familiar with its director Troy Duffy. In that sense they should also be familiar with Overnight. Here is the story of a man who became bartender to movie director. Though his oversized ego would destroy his career. Someone handed a huge opportunity and flushes it down the toilet.

The problem with the film as it stands? Saints feels like it was written by a bartender who has seen his share of movies. As opposed to a former video store clerk who already wrote two scripts called True Romance and Reservoir Dogs. & if I ever needed proof to that, the man would 'come back' with an an even worse offender: Boondock Saints: All Saints Day. To quote Duffy "As for my film career, get used to it. Cause it ain't going anywhere. Period."

Overall Grade: D

Monday, October 31, 2011

all out war



Now they got this big airgun that shoots a bolt into their skull and then retracts it.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30 Pt. 2: Jacob's Ladder


Radio Isn't Dead posed the question at the beginning of the month. What scares you?
I think one of the scariest traits a horror film can possess is the sheer sense of unknowing. The bizarre or unexplained. No need for dull exposition. Eraserhead is a film that will always give me the creeps. But it really defies genre. Jacob's Ladder oozes that exacting fear inherint in all of us. It's also a picture that modern films have been bitin' from for a long, long time.

What starts out as a Vietnam film soon escalates into a nightmare induced fever dream. Brimming with surreal atmosphere and hellish surroundings. Few films are able to create a nightmarish world perfectly. See the aforementiomed Eraserhead for proof. Even fewer are able to inject deeper meaning into that world. Jacob's Ladder is an extremely rare breed that is not only profoundly terrifying but intelligent and heartbreaking. A film whose demons kicks you in the dirt repeatedly. Only to let you finally see the light once it's all said and done. Top 30 worthy.

A+

October 30 Pt. 1: Jaws


Summer of '75 saw the birth of the blockbuster. It arrived alright. With teeth ready to sink its bite into an unsuspecting crowd. Right down to the iconic poster tihs film simmers with nostalgic glory. Seeing a director like Spielberg take on material like this is something that I'm starting to miss. His last genre efforts, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull & War of the Worlds show that 'magic' he loves to talk about disappearing. Regressing in tone and texture rather than progressing. He showed off his directing chops with Duel. Jaws takes everything he learned previously and amps it up to 11.

People often accuse of Spielbergo's movies being sugarcoated. This is certainly true of the Kick the Can segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Hook & several parts of Temple of Doom. Around that time he was all about kids. The magic and wonder of childhood. It's a far step from seeing little Alex being attacked by a shark in '75. I don't know if he'll ever get back to this point. Jaws also contains one of my favorite monologues. Belonging to Robert Shaw of course. It's a feverish, sweat inducing story that counterposes a merrily singing Shaw, Dreguss and Scheider. A+

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 29 Pt. 2: Videodrome


Cronenberg has always been interested in the human body. What gets under our skin. Both literally and metaphorically. His recent efforts like A History of Violence internalize the horror. When Stephen McHattie's face is hanging off, it makes the impact of the scene that much more potent. It's the ideas and story that are now at the forefront more than ever. That's not to say his past work hasn't had interesting concepts. It's just now they are much more subdued in presentation. But when they hit you, they hit you until you're lying on the ground with your nose punched through your skull.

The Brood was a restrained movie when all was said and done. Scanners was, for the most part, restrained. Videodrome on the other hand doesn't hold back. Only this time, instead of traditional graphic violence, its all organic. Rick Baker's practical effects hold up to this day. Look no further than the cancer gun scene.
Concept wise, it's obviously a middle finger to those who lashed out at his early work. A criticism I've seen thrown at the film is its bewildering plot. Videodrome is essentially Canada's answer to some of the Italian horror films of the late 70's and early 80's. It's much more about an intense and unforgettable experience. One that would bridge the gap between an exploding head and Jeff Goldblum spewing fly blood from his fingertips.

Long live the new flesh.

A+

October 29 Pt. 1: Frenzy


Frenzy to me represents what might have been had Hitchcock lived on and directed future films. Unfortunately he passed in 1980. Hitch's second to last film is quite possibly his nastiest. The trademark dark humor and masterful suspense is there in spades. Yet there is also a natural progression of some of his darkest material since Psycho. Unofrtunately that doesn't necessarily mean it's a progression of that quality. I've always wondered what types of films would ole' Hitch be makin' had he lived during the 80's. Frenzy is an indication of a delightfully grimmer side.

A-/B+

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28 Pt. 2: Night of the Living Dead


At the age of 6, a midnight feature came on that started out with a car on its way to a graveyard set to an eerie score. Night of the Living Dead the title card read. With grim foreboding I layed me eyes upon. In the next hour and a half, I would go through the ringer. Maybe I was too young to get the social commentary that was in the film. The fact that this came out in '68, a year of assassinations and protest. What always stayed with me though was Judy going up those stairs and seeing that corpse at the top of them. Karen Cooper picking up a garden trowel and going after her mother. The fact that it ended on such a downbeat note. Harp on Romero all ya want. The man formed a legacy after these films. & if it wasn't for his first three dead films, I'd be starving for something to wet my appetite. Beatin' on a car window with a brick, trying to get inside for some fresh meat. I just wish the meat of his last two zombie films felt fresh. Instead, it feels like leftovers.

I've always maintained that while Night was his masterpiece, Dawn was the one with the best balance. Day on the other hand veers into such nihilism and is shamefully dismissed because of it. I personally hold major digs for the film and actually in some ways prefer it over Dawn. Though that story has pretty much been told...

A+

October 28: Santa Sangre




Surrealism and horror. A theme I'll be covering this whole weekend. But what better way to kick it off with Jodorowsky's hell bent side show Santa Sangre. I'm cracking open the door a lil' bit to reveal a pick culled from my personal top 100.

The director known for more or less kicking off the midnight movie scene with El Topo and redifining cinematic art with Holy Mountain finally used tunnel vision to channel some truly creative work. It's not as sporadic and chaotic as Holy Mountain. Which is arguably his Inland Empire. The quest isn't quite El Topo either. It's really Jodorowsky setting the horror genre on fire and dancing around like a wild Indian watching it burn ever so slowly into an ember. Jodorowsky also occupies a territory with fellow surrealist Lynch. His films don't quite fit into a genre. Who can really classify Inland Empire or Lost Highway anyway. The story for Santa Sangre plays out as a horror film. The extra toppings of surrealism and mad circus mayhem are funneled through a filter and comes out as a poem full of blood red colors and hallucinations. A disorienting experience. But that's what you'd expect as the end of the mayhem from a movie like this. Right?

A+

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

From the Crypt


5 years old. Some of my friends weren't even allowed to watch Looney Tunes. Yet, here I am. Being graced with the cover of a horror themed comic book. Tales From the Crypt. Issue #5. That cover both haunts and comforts me to this day. Knowing how it all started from there. With each page turned, I delved further into the macabre and mischievious. It did what several comedy/horror genre movies have been doing or trying to do. Bringing levity to the horror situation. Yet surprisingly, it wasn't quite Abbott and Costello. It's intentions were a few shades darker.

The boogeyman under the bed and the monster in the closet are no longer scary when you turn them on an evil doer. They are strangely comforting. Revenge has been a factor in storytelling for as long as storytelling has been around. But never has it been done with such gleefully tongue in rotting cheek humor. & that was the formula EC essentially created. If not created then perfected. It's this very formula that has been nearly impossible to duplicate. In both spin off books and movies.

This is why I hold a movie like Creepshow near and dear. Romero and King get it. They understand the material and paint each scene with care. Conversely, this is why a film like Zombieland fails miserably. It's not about some faggotty hipster trying to score with the girl next door. It's about Henry luring Wilma into a laboratory for a special surprise.

Graham Ingels, Johnny Craig and Jack Kamen would become heroes. Their artwork and writing being something I'd always look forward to as my collection grew like the grass on Jordy Verrill's house. Then there was ole' Cryptkeeper. The (g)host with the most. His ghastly presence becoming a nasty treat when Tales From the Crypt would become a TV series. Getting home after school and popping a tape in the VCR to record episodes off the television became a ritual. The episode Television Terror would end up becoming a favorite. & it only made it cooler that some of the names who would executive produce the show and even direct some of the episodes happen to be Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner and Walter Hill. Not to mention the plethora of stars ranging from Schwarznegger to Brad Pitt to Kirk Douglas.

I'm rambling now because I seriously could go on for hours about my love for these "books of juvenile delinquency." I'll always have William Gaines to thank for creating the EC brand. My gateway drug into horror. Sometimes you love something so much it becomes a part of your soul. That's what EC comics were to me as a youngster and in many ways still are.

And that's the story dear reader! Tune in next time for another gruesome installment.

October 24: Deep Red


If anyone were knew to the giallo genre, Deep Red would be the first film I'd show them. It's got the essential components: brutal (yet reserved) kills, a sleak killer and an awesome soundtrack. It was around this time giallos were in their peak before they devolved into straight up slash 'em flicks. Look no further than a film like Fulci's New York Ripper to see what I'm talking about.
Argento's direction is at a peak here.
A

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24 Pt. 2: Who Can Kill A Child?



This film has been on my radar for quite a while. I got the chance to finally sit down and watch it a few months ago. The title alone says it all. This one is not for the faint of heart. The basic premise is two vacationers travel off to an island inhabited and ruled by kids. The stock footage in the first 8 minutes is disturbing enough and it obviously is trying to drive a point home. A scene like this basically segregates a film like this into obscurity.

Imagine the "evil kids" subgenre film but taking it to the extreme. The filmmaking here is pure 70's grit. No boundaries. It doesn't revel in the gore and is played very matter of fact. It's a rare one.

B/B-

October 24 Pt. 1: Scream



As time goes by, the appeal of the Scream movies seem more perplexing. In the past decade of "homages" and "tributes" to the genre, only a handful have successfully passed. The problem here is that the bad ones poke fun at what they are actually trying to be while the good ones actually are what they attempt to be. If you think about it, today's countless attempts at trying to recreate an exploitation film (something almost impossible to do anyway) are strikingly similiar to the spawned brethren of a bastard child named Scream. Which was birthed from an ugly spore of hip dialogue and survival kit for the slasher movie.

Craven does inject some good moments here and there. The opening scene for example. I like slasher movies though. I don't need a cast of hot and hip stars to tell me the rules. Trying too hard could never be exemplified better than the Scream franchise and all of its Kevin Williamson spawns that followed.

C-

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23 Pt. 2: The Mummy

Of the Universal Monsters movies, I consider Frankenstein my favorite. But It'll Dark Be Soon already covered those bases. The one film I always thought had so much potential and didn't quite live up to it all was The Mummy. Granted, the Universal Monsters vibe is in full force here. Yet upon the first couple viewings, there was still something that could be improved upon. Egyptian mythology offers a treasure trove of grotesque imagery that could be used with startling results. Yes, I'm talking remake. & I as much as I hate to say it, this is a film that, when put in the right hands, could offer up a grotesque interpretation of the material.

As '99 rolled around and they eventually did remake it, I was given Indiana Jones with mummies instead of anything remotely satisfying. Horror films have been cursed with the "R" word for quite some time. Some good (The Thing '82, The Fly, The Blob) while most others awful. There's still a bountiful amount of material to be mined here and given the right director and screenwriter, it could go down as a reinterpretation that actually elevates the material rather than completely squander it all with a brainless Brendan Fraser.

B

October 23 Pt. 1: Dead Alive

Around 2009 I wondered if I should ever bother with a Peter Jackson film again. Lord of the Rings, for all the grandiose special effects, ended up leaving a bitter aftertaste. Then The Lovely Bones came out and it cemented that wondering with a big NO. Strange enough, the first PJ film I laid my eyes upon was The Frighteners. An adequate spook-n-surprise story with an (at the time) more-than-adequate produced named Robert Zemeckis attached. It would only come as more of a surprise when around the time I was anticipating a soon to be lackluster seige of Return of the King that I would learn upon his early works.

I think it speaks volumes when someone who once so lovingly created a scene of a bunch of intestines chasing a man is now creating a scene of a girl wandering in the "in between". I'm pretty sure there's a "I'll never top myself after this" feeling when you create a film like Dead Alive. But that's just the thing. All of his films, with the exception of Frighteners, have a large scope if not in concept/theme, then in set pieces.

Dead Alive was the answer to the likes of Evil Dead. "Top this Raimi" might have well been the tagline for the picture. Undead baby, kung fu preacher, an overbearing mother and the zombie massacre to end them all. It still stands as Jackson's most creative effort. We all secretly want to see more blood in the zombie film that's playing. Dead Alive finally quenched that bloodthirst.

A-

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 22 Pt. 2: The Beyond


Italian films of the 70's and 80's are almost an acquired taste. You either get it or you don't. Suspiria is not beloved for its storyline. It's beloved because of the style Argento uses. It's all about image and sound and how the two are used to give the film that gothic vibe. Fulci takes nightmare logic one step further. Just watching the likes of Zombie or City of the Living Dead you come away with several great scenes. The splinter in the eye, the zombie taking a chunk out of a woman's neck, , etc. Well that's just it. The images of Fulci's films are the things you go to when you put on a Fulci film. Not so much the story.

Gianetto De Rossi's effects, Sergio Salveti's camerawork and the returning collaboration with Fabrio Frizzi's score are all factors to be dealt with. It harkens back to what Haxan promised in 1924. It's the stuff of nightmares. Gory crucifixions, sulphuric acid meltdowns, chain whippings, tarantuals and what Fulci film can be complete without the eyeball impalements?

It also contains the best exploding head shot captured on film. So there.

A+

October 22 Pt. 1: Freaks

Freaks Some may argue as to whether this is even a horror film at all. To that I ask, what line must be drawn where one considers it a full on horror or just a thriller with horrific elements? Friedkin considers Exorcist a psychological thriller. Some critics even consider The Shining to be a psychological thriller. People are afraid to own up to and embrace the genre. Se7en and Silence of the Lambs I've seen on multiple lists of both horror and thrillers. Whatever the case may be, all of these films contain unforgettable scenes of dread. Freaks is an early example of this.

Tod Browning proved he was a force to be reckoned with when Dracula was released. But his best film is Freaks. The "normal peple" actually come off as self centered and egotistical. While the sideshow performers are quite likeable. The fact that they used actual circus performers was a feat in itself. Hell, it even has a member of the Lollipop Guild in it! This film would never get a greenlight from a studio today. A

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18: C.H.U.D.




When it comes to horror, I've always preferred mine raw. Most of my top faves are from the 70's. The decade that was home to chainsaw weilding maniacs and demonically possessed children. More I think of it though, the more it hits me that a particular decade can't really be pinpointed as favorite concerning horror. The 70's, as great a decade as it was (& it easily is my favorite decade of film in general) wasn't nearly as prolific as the 80's in pumping out genre films. Yesterday we hit upon what could easily be classified as a 70's grindhouse film but with the trapping of a 80's slasher picture. Today we're hitting territory of the 80's B-film.

Subjectively speaking, one man's trash is another one's treasure. I'm not saying this film comes off as trash. Far from it in fact. C.H.U.D. takes a plot that could find it's home in a 50's midnight horror feature and dresses it up with 80's clothing. The result is an entertaining genre exercise. Besides, it's got John Heard, Daniel Stern and a cameo from John fucking Goodman!

B

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17: Pieces


Ever since Jason donned a hockey mask, slasher films have been about two basic needs: boobs n' gore. So, with those two ingredients in mind, directors have been concocting their own little creations and plugging in the basic formula. That's not to say the formula is at all stale. You know what you're going to get when you sit down to watch something like The Burning. What you don't really expect though is to what degree you are going to get it. With this in mind, Pieces succeeds. It 'outslashes' the Friday the 13th series. Even if its rooted in bizarre plot mechanics and grindhouse schlock. Without a memorable villian though, the dish we are served ends up a little dry. B/B-

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16: The Innocents


A black screen with only that haunting theme playing for the opening minutes of the film. Monochromatic terror doesn't get much better than this folks. The Innocents is a story based on Henry James' novel Turn of the Screw. It's been filmed several times before but no interpretation comes close to matching the eerie foreboding that Jack Clayton captures here. Granted, it's dialogue heavy. But! there still are moments that are genuinely terrifying.

If anything, The Innocents is a prime example of how to use lighting and shadows to create scares. Ones that are done right. Freddie Francis knew what he was doing. Lynch must have seen it since he would employ him for a little ole' picture in 1980 called The Elephant Man.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15 Pt. 2: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie


Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

a.k.a. The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue a.k.a. Don't Open the Window.

The first film to really show zombies attacking in daylight. The bulk of horror films back in the early 70's and really up until that point had nighttime settings. After so many of them though, things do get desensitizing. It's not until you see the monster in the daylight in full color that things get a little surreal. A trait another horror film would share from that same year but I'll save that for later in the month.

The story at times lacks in logic and tries to bat a hand in exposition. Don't let that keep you away from this hidden gem. The plot allows the important aspects of the film to be pushed to the fore. Grau's direction keeps things interesting and gives you everything you could want in a zombie. The English countryside is photographed with incredible atmosphere. You'd be tricked into almost thinking this was a film from Britian when it's really Italian.

Everyone knows Night, Dawn & Day of the Dead. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is that hidden gem that's always waiting in the wings for its next victim.

B+/A-

October 15 Pt. 1: Basket Case




A co-worker recommended I watch this one. So it's only fitting I squeeze it into the marathon. This one took me by surprise. I'd never heard the name Frank Henenlotter before, but my ears were at attention when it was over. Henenlotter's films are essentially exploitation with the extra juice. Basket Case, Brain Damage (which I have yet to see) & Frankenhooker are films you'd expect to be playing across the street from a grungy grindhouse cinema.


Before we asked the question "What's in the box" this film had us asking "what's in the basket?". Now be forewarned, Henenlotter injects a fair amount of cheese. As expected from these types of genre movies. Yet where it would detract in other cases, it actually adds to his sensibilities. He wouldn't quite perfect it until he got to Frankenhooker, but what we are given here is a gory, straight outta EC comics plot.



B-








Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 13: Alien




Scott's filmography is a tricky beast. Black Hawk Down had some memorable scenes. Yet it never geled cohesively & I was stuck with vapid excess as an afterthought. Speaking of excess...Hannibal?! & don'tget me started with Gladiator. It doesn't seem Scott will ever get back on the right track. Blade Runner though. That's a film I do dig in all its neon synth glory. Even that doesn't come close to approaching what he accomplished in '79.




Alien is about a multitude of things- isolation, fear, mutiny. All in an enclosed space. It's the ultimate solution to the haunted house concept. Why not just leave the house? Well, in space you're shit outta luck. & apparently no one can hear you scream either. Above all else, the concept and design of Alien are two things that always left an impression. It is after all, about getting violated. Having a creature rape your face, impregnate you and then have an alien come rucketing out your chest. Much like the feeling Scott's recent films have left me in. I guess that's what's so terrifying about the movie to begin with.






As long as were on this topic of the Alien franchise I will state a strong opinion. People alway single out Alien 3 as the worst in the series. They love Aliens but when Fincher went dark and abandoned all hope right at the outset, it got under people's skin. If there ever needed to be a reminder it is this: people die in Alien movies. The concept alone is terrifying enough. & I don't think we need to rehash this when Se7en silenced the naysayers of ole' Finch.






But I'm digressing. Alien has always had a soft spot in my heart and a hard spot in Kane's stomach.






A+



Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 10: The Host



The drive in creature feature. A staple of 50's cinema. So why not go the extra step and inject family drama and black comedy. Why not even slap a new coat of wax on the monster while were at it. Voila. We have Bong Jon Hoo's The Host. A director who is 3 for 3 in my book in terms of straight up cinematic gold. In that 50's tradition, this is the creature feature I always wanted from American cinema but never really got. Don't get me wrong. The 50's "drive in classics" are fun. But The Host offers so much more than the scares or faux scares of that genre. The characters are genuine in their decisions and actions. It doesn't fall prey to being self concious. It embraces its genre and goes one step further with it. A place where many horror films these days fear to tread.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 9 Pt. 2: 28 Days Later







The debate will rage on: fast or slow zombies. Another debate will continue: Is 28 Days Later a zombie film. One debate won't continue though and that is whether or not it is a good horror film. It dishes out everything you;d want: high intensity suspense, gore and an astounding score. Usually when bitten by a zombie, the effect actually takes time. 28 Days plays it out that if you get so much as a drop of blood on you, the change is almost instantaneous. Something never quite mined from the undead/infected genre, or at least not as successfully until 2002.


It could have been a perfect movie had it not been for some of the all too influenced Day of the Dead ending. That being said, it's easily Boyle's best work since Trainspotting. It's works like these that are proof that the genre of horror isn't entirely dead and the end is certainly not fucking nigh.

A-/B+

Day 9 Pt. 1: Spider Baby







"Jack Hill is unknown for one main reason: poor self promotion. He was in the same film class as Francis Ford Coppola and it's fairly obvious as to why Francis made it big and people scratch their heads when you bring up the name Jack Hill."


Sid Haig made it clear about Jack Hill when I heard him speak at Flashback Weekend in September. It was there he spoke of with great fondness a film called Spider Baby. The chance he had to work with a legend. The wolf man himself, Lon Chaney Jr. Spider Baby has that 50s/60s "spook house" tone that I just love. It doesn't pull alot of punches either. We're treated to a severed ear in the opening moments. & that credit sequence is just foaming with evil vibes. Also, before Haig belonged to a family of psychpaths & serial killers, he belonged to another family of psychopaths & cannibals. Think of a demented ancestry between the Firefly clan and the Merrye family and you'd be on similiar wavelengths.


I don't mean to speak ill of Francis at all. Always been a huge fan. Hill on the other hand is someone who has been versatile within the exploitation genre. Introducing us to those Switchblade Sisters and giving us Pam Grier in Coffy. A director like Hill is alot like that underground band you knew about in high school that never quite made it big. It's always interesting to hear what rebellious albums they crank out next.


B+

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 8: The Prowler



The Prowler is one of the countless slasher films that came out in the dawn of Friday the 13th's release. While the film does suffer from the slasher stereotype of "fuck plot. tits and gore all the way", it still is one of the more memorable slasher flicks of the 80's. Tom Savini even did some of the more memorable gore FX for this film. Both him & the director Joseph Zito would team up again on the fourth installment of Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter.



Despite the illogical plot of the picture and the fact that it's pretty easy to guess who the killer in army fatigues actually is, the film still can hold its own. One that many 80's horror fans will love.


C



Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 6: Cannibal Holocaust




"Why is this in your collection?"


It's usually a question reserved for the likes of what one would dub "a guilty pleasure". I have gotten to the point where I have no guilt for what I like. Then there's a flip side to that coin.


"Why is this in your collection?"


Same question. Only this time they're asking it not for the sake of your taste in film. But for your sanity. For those wondering where I fall in the ballpark, see the above paragraph for the answer. I guess it boils down to this: curiosity. Many of us, some to a small extent, others to a larger degree, have a fascination with the macabre. What drew me into these types of movies is that very thing. It's an andrenaline rush. Are they going to go that far? Oh yes, they just did. So as someone who had their fill of Romero zombie films, the best of Carpenter and all the other classics, I was ready for something different. Something that took horror to that next level. I had already seen tone and suspense mastered with Psycho & Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now it was time to go to Italy and see what those fiendish filmmakers were up to.


There's always those first time viewings that get embedded into your memory. You never forget it. Cannibal Holocaust hit me like a Mac truck going 75 mph. The opening credits & Riz Ortolani's haunting score set everything up. Probably even more powerful than Ortolani's main theme is the piece of music played at one of the most infamous moments of the film. The girl on the pike. How the HELL did they pull that off? Having the knowledge of how Ruggero Deodato actually did it still can't diminsh the power of it. Cause a film like this, no matter how many times you see it, harks back to that first time sitting down in front of the TV. Popping it in the DVD player. Feeling like you just went to hell and back after those credits roll.


Cannibal Holocaust like many of my favorite movies is an experience. Horror just picks up the darker reflections of society anyway. This is one of those films that takes you the darkest recesses of mankind. Stares at you with unflinching malice and dares you to watch further. "You think you can handle this scene? Well wait till you see what's in store for you next."

It makes my top 100 because of that very reason. It's an experience. The kind that has been rarely equalled in horror & more importantly extreme horror.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 5: It





The eater of worlds. King's novel is something I have yet to tackle & given enough time, will. Tommy Lee Wallace has dabbled in this playground before. Sure enough, Halloween: Season of the Witch had children in danger. The strength of the film lie in the dilemma it presents: only children can see Pennywise. & it works in the first half. Wallace takes the formula for Season of the Witch and injects that same sort of dread here. Only this time it's not some Silver Shamrock commercial. It's a razor sharped teeth clown that feeds on fear.





The problem? The second half. Oh that second half. Nostalgia is fun. When it's brought into a horror movie it could sway it good or bad. What's wrong here is with the chemistry and potency of the actors. The kids in the first episode all had their little quirks, or cliches even. Regardless, another high point that diminishes some of the weaker ones is Tim Curry as Pennywise. What I love so much about King's concept is that there really is no concrete thing that is used as 'the scare factor'. Every kid has their own little fear that is manifested upon them. Now how cool is that?
B-

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 4: Inside



The first two entries of 31 Days had light hearted elements in them. Now we're going straight to the jugular. The French have had a penchant for extreme violence in their latest entries into the horror genre. Instead of the machete they give us the concrete saw. With Inside, it is a multitude of weapons. The cold dead gaze of a crazed Beatrice Dalle being For my money, it the most succesful in developing overwhelming tension. Both Martyrs & High Tension had sharp left turns when they approached their third act. The former going to the point of changing the concept (a ballsy move rarely seen in horror) of the movie entirely.


When dealing with Inside, it's straight up tension until those last heart pounding minutes. Now I won't spoil it for you. But you'll know exactly when it comes. It's a constant one upmanship in terms of gore and grue that offers us the flip side of the coin to the zany antics Peter Jackson gave us in Dead Alive.






Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 3: Haxan



Speedy McFlash's latest entry into 31 Days is the gothic Rosemary's Baby. So I thought it'd only be fitting to go all the way back to the 20's to a movie brewing with gothic and literary references. I've always held a serious attraction to silent horror. It gets away with many things the talkies cannot. For one, they are intensely atmospheric. & to go off on a slight tangent, that type of atmosphere has been rarely captured anymore. Only Eraserhead comes close (sorry Guy Maddin, I know ya tried with Brand Upon the Brain). Haxan constantly pokes at us with a three pronged pitchfork. It's fiendish cries and devilish gaze transfixing. Benjamin Christensen's lighting cues and staging help paint a darkened world of witchcraft, torture, and possessed nuns.

If film is indeed a visual medium revolving around light and movement, the silent pictures of old are in a class unto themselves. Just watching one of these makes you wish things would almost simplify in cinema. I love the Tarantino & Mamets of the world, filling the earholes with that oh-so wonderful dialogue. But isn't it just as wonderful, if not moreso, to sit back and get engulfed in the visuals the medium has to offer?


Christensen gave Haxan a tonality of surrealism. Denying us cues from when the film jumps from reality to another. Prefiguring the genres of demonic possession that the likes of Friedkin brought us with The Exorcist. It's one of those early sparks that started the hellfire and brimstone kindling.


If you have a fascination with the grotesque, the macabre or mysticism, you owe it to yourself to watch this.

A

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2: Street Trash



You go to Texas Chainsaw Massacre to feel the grimy, sweaty Summer heat. You go to Eraserhead to get enveloped by a dark brooding atmosphere. So what do feel when you pop in Street Trash? Trashy. That's what. The title delivers. The film flies by in its running time. Due to its way of linking five main characters and four plots. I mean seriously, how many movies do you see that contain the plots of:

1) a crooked cop action movie
2) a comedy about hobos
3) a drama about a Vietnam vet
4) and a love story between a homeless man and a junkyard secretary
& to add icing to the cake, throw in a little body horror with melting drunks.


Street Trash offers up a giant plate of offensive humor. We're talking the kind John Waters and Lloyd Kaufman would be jealous of. No apologies. No refunds accepted. It's foul, innapropriate and also happens to be funny as all hell. A cult classic in the tradition of Larry Cohen's The Stuff. So raise a glass of Tenafly Viper & check it out.
B+

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 1: Night of the Demons









Linnea Quigley. In the nude. With makeup all over her face. Not intrigued yet? Well, this movie just may not be for you. This movie had me with its opening titles. 80's music and synthesizers have always been criticized as dated, cheesy and stomach churning. That criticism is pretty much buried here. The opening music encapsulates what is to come- a big ole' bag of fun. The kind of fun you'd have in a haunted house with a bunch of friends.

By all intenstive purposes, this could have easily been written off as another B- horror movie from the 80's. The typical group of 80's kids going to a haunted house for a schlockfest. & it more or less plays on those conventions. Yet there's still something more to it. Even in today's state of horror, you don't get this level of ghoulish glee. A horror film that just doesn't hold back and delivers the goods.




NOTD is one of those movies that they just don't make anymore. It's hard to pull off horror that is fun. That's one of the charms of 80's style horror. The fun factor is sorely missing from the genre these days. I'm all for the scares and terror. But how often do you come across a chilling dance scene from Amelia Kinkade that comes out of nowhere. B -

Did I mention Linnea Quigley?