So I told you I'd be announcing something. Starting tomorrow we begin our 31 Days Of Horror Things That Don't Suck Spectacular!
That's right thirty one days, thirty one horror movies, thirty one semi clever essay's about them!
OK look I know that in the annals of things that have been done to death on the internet, 31 Days Of Horror Film Festivals are right up there with, porn and pictures of animals doing things animals don't normally do, in terms of originality. But what can I say, I can't help but feel that it'd be a waste of a blog not to. So for the next thirty one days I'm taking you through 31 days of horror films. And you're going to like it.
Tomorrow: Day #1 Werewolves, Slim Pickens, and "A Piece Of My Mind" Oh MY!
I had many reservations going into The Forbidden Kingdom. The idea of Jackie Chan and Jet Li in a movie together? Awesome. Them being in a kid’s movie whose main character was a white kid from Boston? Not so awesome. Not to mention the fact that Jet and Jackie have hardly been on their A game the last couple of years. Jet has had some cool films, with Fearless (AKA China Must Be STRONG!!!) Hero, and Unleashed, but his American films have been disastrous where he’s made the likes of War which might literally be the worst movie. And Jackie, oh Jackie, the less said about The Tuxedo, The Messenger, and the sore known as The Rush Hour franchise, the better.
But lo and behold The Forbidden Kingdom, is not bad, it is infact quiet good. It’s unquestionably the best American film either has been in. This is of course kind of like saying it features the world’s tallest midget but hey, I’ll take what I can get. First off this is a movie about Jet Li and Jackie Chan featuring some white kid from Boston not vica-versa. And the kid himself, despite some idiocy and whining that seems part and parcel for teenage protagonists in modern movies, is fairly likable, a kid raised on Shaw Brothers and Ronny Yu, and though they may bitch, I believe that most Kung Fu fans who see this movie will see more of themselves in him then they might care to admit. The movie itself is actually pretty ideal for young fans, who’ve seen a few American Kung Fu flicks on TNT and want to start digging a bit deeper. Hell even the freaking credits show more respect for Kung Fu then most American flicks show in their runtime.
The film’s film literacy is impressive as it more or less runs the Gamut of what Kung Fu has to offer, from the basic bone crunching hand to hand style of the Shaws and Sonny Chiba, to the extravagant wire work of Zhang Yimou and The Bride With White Hair, to the occasionally bizarre flights of fantasty provided by the likes of Chinese Ghost Story, it’s all here for the taking. It also understands it’s stars better then any American film either has ever been in, channeling Jackie’s puckish anarchy that’s too often just written off as buffoonery, and using Jet Li’s playful side which his American films have studiously ignored. Finally and most importantly, the movie doesn’t drop the ball with what the Audience’s came to see, the Jet Li Vs. Jackie smack down.
Had this been shot twenty or even ten years ago it probably would have been one of the all time great fights. As is it’s still a ten minute, expertly choreographed extravaganza, that manages to serve as both a kickass fight, and a commentary on the two actor’s personas and fighting style. The fight starts with some straight up Kung Fu and Jet Li always the traditionalist dominates, but as the fight progresses Jackie starts fighting on his terms, bringing the improvisational loose style that has always defined his kung fu. The fight continues to build and build, from almost playful sparring, to balls out Fists Of Fury. And even bitter Kung Fu fans who don’t want to watch the movie on general principle (and believe me I know quite a few) owe it to themselves to rent the movie for that scene. This is the kind of Kung Fu that American fans of the Genre always claim to want. A Film that loves and respects Kung Fu and understands what makes these stories and characters work. Vote with your dollars and show it some support, or I’ll see you in line for Romeo Must Die 2: The Romeoing.
So many much more talented writers have already taken their turns eulogizing the great man. I don't know what more I can add.
Just that Paul was the best. It's that simple, his style his presence marks him as one of the last movie stars that where men rather then twitchy little boys. (Can you imagine Tobey Maguire as Cool Hand Luke, Fuck can you imagine him as Harper?).
But even among these men Newman was unique. He was cool, but never unapproachable ala Mitchum and Bogart. Bigger then life, and all too human. Mean as a snake, but with a generous heart. Truly one of a kind.
Newman never compromised himself, he never lost it, and just as importantly the material never lost him, even the most beloved icon's resume is littered with a few clunkers at the end of the line. Newman was fantastic in Cars for the love of Christ.
A true original died today and the world is poorer for it.
For The Record; John Krakeur has thus written one book about a bunch of people climbing up Mount Everest and dying, one book about a young idealist going off to Alaska and dying, and finally one book in which a couple idiots from a Mormon splinter group, kill their sister in law and niece.
And people tell me that I need Zoloft.
All kidding aside Krakeur makes this a gripping read, exploring the fascinating grey area between faith and madness.
...Listening To Come On Pilgrim
"One two three/ She's a real left winger 'cause she been down south/ And held peasants in her arms/ She said "I could tell you a story that could make you cry"/ "What about you?"/ I said "Me too"/ "I could tell you a story that will make you cry" /And she sighed "Aaahh"/ I said "I wanna be a singer like Lou Reed"/ "I like Lou Reed" she said sticking her tongue in my ear/ "Let's go, let's sit, let's talk"/ "Politics go so good with beer"/ "And while we're at it baby, why don't you tell me one of your biggest fears?"/ I said "Losing my penis to a whore with disease"/ "Just kidding" I said "Losing my life to a whore with disease"/ I said "Please... I'm a humble guy with a healthy desire"/ "Don't give me no shit because..."/
I've been tired "
I love The Pixies in a big big way, their particular blend of Punk, Surf Rock, and Sheer Stream of Conscience Madness (see above) is often imitated never duplicated. But I've never been a huge fan of their debut, that is of course, until I suddenly became incapable of turning it off. Something just clicked and I realized what I should have long ago. Simply put this album is pretty fucking awesome.
So that means one day I might like Trompe De La Monde... but I'm not exactly holding my breath.
... Watching Nick And Nora's Infinite Playlist
Advance Screening, yada, yada. Short version, it doesn't suck. It's awfully cutesy, and if you never thought a subplot about a gay nightclub where everyone dresses up in relgious garb and fucks could seem downright wholesome, well then you don't know the way this movie Giulliani's any hint of danger away from New York City. No one's playing "I'm Tired" In This Movie.
That said, complaining about life looking good in a piece of teen bubblegum like this, is... well I'm too tired to think of a metaphor right now, but it's pretty damn pointless.
Still it's a sweet movie, Michael Cera hasn't lost his appeal yet, the city looks beautiful (seriously you'll be seeing this movie in montage clips for awhile), and it would take a heart even grinchier then my own to not be a little touched by a love story with such puppy dog earnestness.
And that's been it for the last couple of days. Later: MORE!!!.....
So after making an ass out of myself I thought I'd go for something easy and uncontreversial. Like undermining one of the most beloved genre authors of all time.
I've got a confession to make, I'm not an Elmore Leonard fan.
Look I'm Mr. Hardboiled, and as Elmore Leonard is more or less responsible for modern American crime fiction, revolutionized the use of dialogue in pulp fiction, writes cracker jack plots, vibrant characters, and by some accounts smells like cinnamon. By all rights I should be shining the man's shoes.
But something is just always off for me in his books and it always manages to ruin them for me.
Killshot's a perfect example, on the surface it's a great plot. An innocent couple gets caught up in an extortion scheme orchestrated by two hardened killers. Hijinks ensue.
The problem was that I never believed for a second that the more experienced of the two wouldn't fill his young inept partner full of sky with seconds of meeting eachother, let alone embark on a job with him, or stick with him when the job went south. And while Killshot hums along quite well in it's first half, it unceremoniously goes dead, about halfway through, and doesn't revive until the tense, but rushed last fifteen pages.
There are things to recommend it, Bird's a pretty fascinating character, and it's cool to see a crime novel with a feminist bent, but on the whole, like with most Leonard it just didn't add up for me.
Oh God, I don't know why I do it. Click on those little links to insipid MSN, stories when I check out my hotmail. I know that the moment I do I'll be hit in the face with a big ol' pile of stupid. But damn it I can't help it. For just one moment my brain snaps and I go "Hmm... what moronic, poorly thought out statements will be presented as pure fact this time?" Still even if the title reads "Ten Things Specifically Designed To Piss You Off." I'm most likely going to click it. And even if that was the title, I doubt it could do a better job then this little number.
Part of me would like to think that this is some amazing bit of Andy Kaufmanesque satire. But no. I truly doubt that. It's shit like this that gives populism a bad name. Lord knows that I get as annoyed as anyone by the critical group think that sometimes takes over. But this dear God it refutes, the very idea of caring about movies.
I'm not going to go through this line by line, for fear that I might actually lose my Goddamn Mind, but I will offer a brief rebuttal.
Here it goes:
"Dear Sweet Jesus I hate you people.
God Forbid someone cares about movies.
There is a special place in movie hell being reserved for you."
But as Truffaunt said, (or is that too high faultin for you ass hats) "The best way to criticize is a film is to make another film." Therefore I'll criticize that little piece of soul destroyer, with this.
EDIT: So it's quite possible I just made an ass out myself and it was a terrific bit of Anti Comedy (According to Jim Ermerson). I'm very tempted to remove this post but let it not be said I cannot take my lumps.
Next post I'm going to tell you all how horrible it is that John Swift wants us to eat Irish Babies.
One of the nice things about Living in LA is the assortment of people wishing to sell you Asian imports of American Movies. When walking past one stand, my eyes happened across Crimewave. And after promptly flipping right the fuck out I happily purchased it from the somewhat stunned proprietor. I have a feeling it had been there for awhile.
Two important points.
1) I love Sam Raimi like fat people love chocolate. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the man changed the course of my life, and he remains one of the coolest human beings I’ve ever met.
2) Crimewave is the only Sam Raimi I haven’t seen (or owned for that matter). This is for good reason, the director hates it, it was barely released in The US, and has never come out on Video or DVD. The fact that both the Coens and Raimi where involved in this project and it still doesn’t have a cult following doesn’t exactly bode well. (It has to be said though, that half of the fun of this movie is spotting gags that the Coen’s and Raimi would reuse from this movie assuming that no one would ever see it. Personally I caught a few from Spiderman, one from Darkman, and one from Barton Fink)
Thanks to these less than auspicious I was expecting to put it on the shelf next to The Quick And The Dead and For Love Of The Game (yes I do actually own both of those). But to my surprise and delight, Crime Wave (Or the XYZ Murders, as Hong Kong apparently chose to preserve it’s orginal title) isn’t just not bad. It’s actually half good. It goes next to Spiderman 3 and The Gift for movies that are fine, but definitely second tier Sam Raimi (Yes I actually do like both of those, remember fat people, chocolate).
Now don’t get me wrong, Crime Wave has it’s problems priniciple among them the lead who has the inevitable task of acting in a roll tailored by the Coens for Bruce Campbell and spends the entire movie not being in on the joke. (Campbell on the other hand, is freaking glorious in his role of Renaldo The Heel).
But the joke is pretty damn good. The film’s plot and deadpan corny dialogue owes a bit more to the Coen’s then Raimi, a man on his way to the gas chamber professes his innocence, and leads his listener’s on a wild tale of sadism and circumstance. But Crimewave’s anarchic spirit really belongs to Raimi. The Film is directed like a Three Stooges short by Tex Avery. Filled with cartoonish caricatures, outlandish sight gags, a score right out of Termite Terrace and a truly unhinged sense of style. When a movie starts out with a car packed with Nuns ala clowns in a car, racing through the streets, and is immediately followed by Bruce Campbell’s cigarette smoke turning into a stripper, you truly know anything goes.
The cartoon vibe is best exemplified by the two thuggish hitmen responsible for the title Crimewave. These two actually seem to realize they’re living in a cartoon and act accordingly. Smacking eachother around, and literally bouncing off the walls, electrifying wire rim glasses with a nonchalance that suggests they are faithful subscriber’s to the Acme catalogue.
If there’s a flaw in the movie (and if it’s a flaw) it’s that the film is less about it’s story then it’s about Sam Raimi trying to cram as much crazy shit into his movie as he can. Nary a scene let alone a shot, goes by without some manner of insane gag, or non chalant bit of ultra violence happening. It’s like Raimi’s testing just how much he can get away with. And it’s a joy to watch.
"Leatherface you bitchhog you ruined my Sonny Bono Wig."
Tobe Hooper followed up his incredibly awesome Texas Chain Saw Massacre, with a whole lot of nothing. He made the damn near incompetent Eaten Alive, followed with gigs as a TV Movie Director, and hand puppet for Steven Spielberg. After a decade of this Hooper decided to return to his seminal franchise and made a movie that neither the studio, the fans, the critics, or most right thinking Americans ever expected to see.
To be fair the original Texas Chain SawMassacre (that’s right two words, the excremental remake is the one that combined it) is truly a thing of beauty and is probably one of the five greatest horror movies ever made. With it’s mix of pure ferocious terror, existential horror, artful yet nearly documentary style, nothing quite like it has ever shambled into theaters. It’s less like watching a horror movie, than it is finding a disturbing home movie in your creepy uncle’s attic as you clean it out after he died. And if you haven’t seen it then you really, really need to stop reading this post right now, locate your nearest copy and watch it immediately (Ed’s Note- He’s kidding please don’t stop reading this post). So when Hooper came out with something so utterly and completely different, well let’s just say people weren’t happy. Imagine if you will that the Coen’s made a sequel to No Country For Old Men, where Anton Chigurh spends all his time reading to sick children in the hospital and perhaps you’ll get the idea of the outrage that greeted this movie.
But time has been kind to this film (Note: this is probably the only time that sentence has been used in conjunction with Tobe Hooper. Savor it.) And the change of tone now simply makes sense as the only choice Hooper could have made. Like I said the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is such a unique film that it looks like it was brought to life through a process closer to alchemy then standard low budget filmmaking (ala Evil Dead, or Blair Witch). Hooper was smart to not attempt to catch lightning in a bottle twice and what he came up with in it’s stead is pretty damn good.
Hooper Transforms his pack of gibbering Red Neck Cannibals, into nightmare visions of Reagan’s America, turning the Sawyer clan into entrepreneurs and transforming cannibalism from the ultimate taboointo an understandable way to make the best chili possible with the lowest overhead, bringing new meaning to the phrase “cutthroat capitalism”. It may be goofy but it’s also apt.
Bill Mosely well known to Rob Zombie fans, and Dennis Hopper are welcome editions to the cast, and both bring on the crazy to the best of their considerable abilities to do so.
And if the film is more cartoonish then it’s predecessor, such as when the dead hitchhiker from the first one is used as a chainsaw wielding puppet, that doesn’t keep it from having some genuinely terrifying scenes, such as its infamous record vault sequence. Unlike the zombie like placidity of a Michael Myers or Jason, there’s a real sense that The Sawyer’s LIKE what they do, which can get beyond disturbing (another thing my boy Rob took from the movie). Yet oddly enough despite all the serial killer shenanigans, the movie fills one with the odd desire to visit Texas, something the original has never been accused of.Much like Death Proof it’s a film as much about atmosphere as it is about psychos, and like Death Proof the atmosphere is portrays, one of Shiner Boch, cool record stores and radio stations, interesting architecture, and murals of Daniel Boone filled with human intenstines is an oddly appealing one. Like the movie itself it might not be for everyone, but it’s got a certain appeal.
When trolling through the back issue's of David Kehr's excellent DVD column, I found this comment about Dreyer's Vampyr, that more or less sums up what I look for in film.
"Worse, it was a genre
picture from an avant-garde filmmaker: too obscure for the general public, too sensational for those who sought a refined artistic experience." -David
Though I'm not sure the man meant it as a complement it struck a chord with me. Filmmaker's have an odd desire to pigeonhole themselves. Either as artists or entertainers, ignoring the fact that the strength of film, is that it allows a picture to seamlessly combine the two. As of course the best films always do.
In short I want, the art film that isn't afraid of vitality and the entertainment that's not afraid to be esoteric and intelligent.
Such films are rare and looking for them can be thankless work. Recently I've been feeling a bit like the old grizzled prospector whose been panning for gold in the same damn creek for thirty years, and has found just that precious little amount to keep him going.
I'm recently getting off a period where for the first time my love of film was, well it was never anywhere approaching gone, but it was definitely fatigued. But I'm back I've had a shift. I'm ready to start hunting again.