Friday, September 30, 2011

31 Days of Horror

It's almost time kids. The clock is ticking. Be in front of your TV sets for the horror-thon. & remember the big giveaway at 9.

Yes, boils and ghouls. It's that time of the year again. Halloween is upon us. So I thought I'd pitch in. The idea was inspired by It'll Be Dark Soon. It's something I've been doing the past two months of October as well but haven't blogged about it. So in honor of what is probably my favorite month, I'll be covering 31 horror movies ranging from popular titles to obscure ones. From recent fright flicks to the silent classics. A wide variety is guaranteed.

In addition to this, there will be some features on different subgenres, the state of horror today and general nostalgia for a genre of film that is near n' dear. While work may delay a couple entries, there's a good chance I'll be doing two a day to keep up.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Top 100 Grab Bag #57: Battle Royale

When it comes to the concept of a horror film, or any film for that matter, there's usually lines and boundaries that are inherent in the structure of the script. What is taboo and what is accepted. The thing about Asian cinema is just how much the directors take on those taboos and obliterate them. Sometimes creating an entire film to doing that very purpose (the Guinea Pig series, the All Night Long films, Tetsuo: Iron Man) or infusing it into a genre film backed by masterful storytelling-- Park Chan Wok's Vengeance trilogy, Kim Ji Woo's I Saw the Devil, Takashi Miike's countless genre films, etc. Yes, the violence is intense. But the vision is wholly uncompromising. & in that respect, elevates the level of intensity and drive of the characters.

The notion of a civil unrest and a nation terrorized by its youth has been done before on smaller scale. Narciso Ibanez Serrador's Who Can Kill A Child is a prime example. But what Royale has in spades that so many faux B movie knockoffs of the present don't is the conviction to stay true to its concept. The astounding thing about Battle Royale is that the entire concept & plot is taboo to begin with. It's the Lord of the Flies taken to the next level. One of those films that could not possibly be remade on American shores. Koushon Takami's graphic novel has become a cult classic and rightfully so. It rigorously goes over the multitude of scenarios that can be possible when faced with this dilemma.

One must take into account- these are actual teenage actors playing these roles. Putting even more bite into the synopsis. Here is a film that fully embraces its controversial concept and rides it out to the very end.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The scorpion and the frog

A film that is polarizing audiences into the either love it or hate it camp. It is all the more fitting that Drive plays with opposites. Uncomfortable silence and abrasive rage. Nicolas Winding Refn is no stranger to the crime genre. Hitting the streets with the gritty Pusher trilogy then hitting the slammer with Bronson.

Slow motion violence can be traced back all the way to the man who made it 'cool'- Sam Peckinpah. Since then, a number of directors have infused it into their style and went for the drawn out as opposed to the Scorsese 1-2-BANG YOU'RE DEAD school of violence. This film demonstrates both at just the moment it calls for. Take for instance, the hotel scene. Given that a number of moments in the film show the Driver reacting to something happening off screen, it gives way for that type of audience inclination at what will happen next. He knows what's going to happen and seconds later we catch up.

Now I bring this up only because a criticism of the film has been it's overstylized slow motion. This isn't used as a gimmick ala Zack Snyder. I try replaying that scene in standard, pun viciously intended, speed. & it doesn't have nearly as much impact. On that token, putting the pawn shop heist in slow motion would have completely squandered the tension built up for that scene.

A major reason why Drive works so well is because of the choices dictated by Refn. What to do and what NOT to do. He knows how to build a scene

The aesthetic of Drive has been compared to that of 80's films such as To Live and Die In LA but with an even harsher, unflinching edge that accentuates the violence ever more so. Stylish. Sleak. Sophisticated. That's what the reviews are saying. If there ever was a more nail on the head remark it is that- stylish. It clearly wears it's 80's influences on its sleave.

At least a half a dozen scenes are seared into my memory. Drive is a film that will keep you under its spell long after you leave the theatere.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ten Favorite TV Shows Pt. 6: Six Feet Under

Favorite character: Nate Fisher
Favorite episodes: A Private Life, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, I'm Sorry I'm Lost, Untitled, Everyone's Waiting

A series that deals with death in a profoundly moving way. Injecting a good number of Twin Peaks influenced dream scenes throughout. This only elevates the material and gives it a darker edge. Especially as the series progresses. Alan Ball's writing prose is certainly relevant in this case. As the series has countless moments of dark humor

The best one can hope for in a series finale is a conclusion that is wholly satisfying and original. One that caps off the series in the particular aesthetic or subject matter that series touches upon. In that regard, Six Feet Under has probably the most satisfying ending to any series I've seen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Top 100 Grab Bag- #14- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

I was once asked by a good friend "how could you like Zodiac more than Shawshank Redemption?" Since my digs are purely subjective and exist on the basis of wanting to watch the film multiple times, then it should come out the other end as honest. In both choice & ranking. Regardless of how high it charts an some list the AFI or imdb made or how many oscars it won.

Ranking has always been the difficult task of any list. I'm sure anyone who has made one knows what I'm talking about. It's not that I dislike the film at #100 because it ranks there. The way I look at it, these are 100 A+ students. The smartest, liveliest, wittiest kids in the class. Always ahead of the game.

So in that regard, I will be choosing all 100 entries at random. That's right. Random. & today we'll be visiting a little ole' mental institution.

#14- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Cuckoo's Nest takes on the form of what one would expect from a prison movie. You have the rebellious lead. The villian in Nurse Ratched. It's a 100% anti-establishment picture that the audience of the 70's dug so much along with those golden boys at the Academy.

Sure, films like Cool Hand Luke & The Great Escape had that tasty morsel of rebellion that had us cinemagoers chomping at the bit for that breathtaking escape scene. & while I hold huge digs for both films, one can see the inherant reblliousness of a baseball tossin' Captain Hiltz in the natural born world shaker Lucas Jackson. Characters like that exist to throw the establishment off its kilter. & do they do it ever so cool too. Even that tall glass of water, Andy Dufrasne exists to do so.

OFOTCN excels over the others because of its attention to secondary (& even tertiary) characters. Bill Bibbitt, the Chief, Tabor, Charlie Cheswick, even . It's the little moments. Billy dancing with Candy. Mac thinking to himself after the party he throws in the place. If there ever were a case to be made as to how important character actors are, then this is one of the films to show someone.

You see, the greatness of Cuckoo's Nest, Cool Hand Luke & even Great Escape lay in not having some character escape a correctional facility, POW camp or mental institution. It lay in presenting a world through thorough characterizations the that makes us innocent folk want to break in. If only for the duration of two hours. Now isn't that pe-culiar.

Friday, September 2, 2011