Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Jesus, I'm exhausted. I'm subbing for an ESL class in South Central this week, so every day I work 8 hours (while working up a lesson plan with every spare moment I get at work), take a short lunch so I can leave 15 minutes early, drive through downtown and arrive at school just in time to teach for 3 hours. And we're flying to Georgia next Tuesday, so as soon as this is done, I'll be getting ready for that trip.

This Friday and Saturday at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood: Movies & the Beats Part I - Venice Beach, Hollywood, New York & Beyond! Friday night it's Night Tide (1961): Director Curtis Harrington’s debut indie feature is a masterpiece, a haunted, poetic hymn to the dark world of the fly-by-night carnival, lonely midways at dawn and the siren call of eon’s-old passion spawned by the devils of the deep blue sea. In a fond nod to Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s CAT PEOPLE, at-loose-ends sailor Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper) falls in love with sideshow mermaid, Mora (Linda Lawson) who may just somehow be related to the real thing. Shot in and around Santa Monica and Venice Beach in the beat culture’s heyday, the film continues to exert a strong spell, and is brimming with the heady atmosphere of bygone coffee houses, poet hipsters, languid jazz and bongos on the shore. With Luana Anders, Gavin Muir. This will be accompanied by two short documentary films shot in Venice Beach during the height of the beat movement and an hour-long slide show covering the Beat scene across L.A. in the late 50's and early 60's.

Saturday night, it's a double feature of the rare film noir The Beat Generation (1959) and the indie The Connection (1962). Both sound interesting, neither is on DVD. I can't make it to the Friday show (I'll be at Highland Perk), and I'm not sure I'll be there Saturday either.

If you're not going to see Night Tide, come out to Highland Perk for some comedy. Should be a blast.

Here's an amazing piece of music: a funk group from Belize covering the theme from The Godfather with Morricone-esque horns and funky beats. This would fit in quite nicely on the Kill Bill soundtrack.

Bill Maher was on fire last Friday. Here's his New Rules rant regarding Valerie Plame:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Comedy Comes to Highland Park!

Starting next Friday (March 30), we've got a standup show going at Highland Perk. It's a HUGE space that's been beautifully renovated near the eastern end of the awesome taco strip known as York Boulevard. It's every Friday night at 8:00, admission is free, and they have delicious coffee, Mexican hot chocolate, baked goodies and other treats, and will very soon have beer and wine. Nice review of the place here. Bobbie will be the MC, and there will be a gaggle of hilarious comcis supporting her. Come on out!

In other news, Hot Fuzztival is already sold out! Dude, it would be so cool to see a Hot Fuzz/Hard Boiled/Point Break triple feature with Edgar, Simon and Nick all in the house? Hardly matters, since I'll be out of town anyway...

I went back to the New Beverly Wendesday for Brotherhood of Death and Johnny Tough. Brotherhood of Death is pretty fun. Black guys go to 'Nam, join the special forces, come back to the South where the Klan starts fucking with them...BIG MISTAKE. It's not anywhere close to the great film that Harry Knowles makes it out to be, but it's a good time. It probably would have been better with a full house. The crowd was not very lively. The second feature, Johnny Tough, was actually very good. Not so much a blaxploitation flick as a black indie film from the 70's. Beaks calls it a restaging of The 400 Blows, which I guess is pretty accurate.

Over the weekend we managed to get the whole family to go out to see Zodiac, which is probably my favorite David Fincher movie now. I mean, it's probably more to do with the screenplay and all the great actors, including a lot of comic actors doing straight roles, which was fun. A good, unconventional police procedural that really makes you feel how someone could get obsessed with a case. It's like when you have a crossword almost done except for one word, and you just can't think about anything else, you just HAVE to know what that ONE FUCKING WORD is!

Performance is really good. It's a very disorienting, weird film, in similar ways to Myra Breckenridge, which came out the same year, only made by someone who seemed to know what they were doing. But I do see the two films as having similar intentions. Great music, too.

And I watched the Jimi at Monterey/Shake! Otis Redding at Monterey DVD. Otis is pretty great, and obviously Hendrix is just mind-blowing. I'd never seen the whole Hendrix performance from start to finish before. There's some bits of an interview with Pete Townsend who expresses that he (and presumably Clapton, Page and Jeff Beck as well) was feeling some frustration at the time that Jimi was stealing their act and doing it better than they could have. It's interesting, because...well, I don't know for sure what kind of music Hendrix was playing in NYC in '66, but I imagine he was reaching for something, but wasn't quite sure what, then when he came to England, he probably went to see The Who, The Yardbirds and Cream, and realized "Oh, this is it," but then immediately took it to the next level. At which point, the British guys probably heard him and said, "oh, that's it!" In other words, they were all building on each other's work, but I guess it was frustrating because they hadn't made it in America yet, and were still breaking through in England, and here's this guy doing the NEXT level of their stuff before anyone has heard them...yeah, I can see how that would be frustrating.

You know, I think that last paragraph reads like a bunch of babble.

Anyway, Dennis Cozzello has a new movie quiz up, Professor Irwin Corey's Foremostly Authoritative Spring Break Movie Quiz. This one's taking me a long time to finish, but go give it a try. It's fun!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tideland (Terry Gilliam, 2006)

Maybe reading so many negative reactions to this film before seeing it resulted in adjusted expectations that made me more open to enjoying the movie, but I really believe this is a much better film than it is getting credit for being. Granted, it's not one of Gilliam's best films, but it fits nicely into his body of work, and it's certainly preferable to the mess he produced doing hack work on The Bros. Grimm (even it's detractors seem to agree with that).

Gilliam's film covers very similar territory to Pan's Labyrinth. Like that film, it's the story of a young girl in a dirstressing situation using fantasy to process what she sees, and like that film, it employs existing fantasy tropes (primarily from Alice in Wonderland). Even the images for the posters seem similar (well, kind--girl in dress, old tree).

But unlike Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth, the protagonist, Jeliza Rose, isn't seeking an alternate reality to the harsh world around her. She's trying to make sense of what's going on, with no adults around to explain things. She doesn't understand what's happening around her, and we see the world through her naive eyes (at least, that seems to be Gilliam's intention).

Pan's story is more appealing, because it is easier to understand: a girl is trapped in a miserable situation, and she escapes to a fantasy world which helps her deal with her reality. Tideland is a little more messy. It's a difficult film to explain: a girl's parents die out in the country, she doesn't seem to realize that her father is dead, and goes on with her life, trying to explain what's happening around her through what little she already knows about the world. While the fantasy world is very real to Ofelia, it is seperate from her day-to-day reality. Jeliza Rose hasn't learned the difference between reality and make-believe, so her fantasy world and reality are all mixed together as she tries to understand her new situation. It's a very interesting idea.
Now, there's no question that this is an unpleasant movie. Jodelle Ferland is a good little actor, but she's not good enough to not be annoying in scenes where she talks in the voices of her various dolls for 5 minutes or more at a time. And the situations in the film are just...icky. The film it most reminds me of, in fact, is The Reflecting Skin, which has a similarly disturbing feel of decay, and even a similar look (I just looked it up to see if it was photographed by the same guy, and found out Viggo Mortensen was in it! I had no idea...).
The DVD also comes with a great documentary filmed for Canadian TV that's as entertaining a portrait of Gilliam as I've ever watched. Gilliam says that since the highly visual style of his earlier films has come into vogue, he's decided to go the other way with this one, and just make something quick and chaotic and actor-focused. Although I like this film, I kinda don't want that to happen--the visual style is what I love the most about his movies. But if it means more Gilliam films getting made (let's face it, it takes money to make a movie that looks like Brazil or Fear and Loathing), then I guess I'm OK with that.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. XX

(found here)

I set up a account, so if you're interested in what I've been browsing, you can just check it out, and I don't have to make these posts about what I've been browsing, which makes this post rather ironic, since that's what I'm going to do.

The boys at Cartoon Brew have set up Cartoon Brew Films, a site for quality, downloadable cartoons. Not free, but at $2 a pop it's more than reasonable. (For free 'toons, there's always ReFrederator.)

Exciting album shares this week:

Dean Elliot - Zounds! What Sounds! One of the greatest kooky albums ever made!

The Eat - God Punishes The Eat 7". Slightly less rare than the "Communist Radio"/"Catholic Love" single, but a classic Florida punk record.

I've been saying for a while that they ought to release the James Brown concert from Zaire that you see footage of in When We Were Kings on DVD. Obviously, they have the footage, so why not? Still not available, but here's the audio of the concert, and it's a killer. They open with "Payback," and Maceo does a great Coltrane-esque horn jam on "It's a Man's Man's Man's Man's World." And the band and backup singers perform a bit of The O'Jays' "Money" in the encore.
I've been listening to the Florida Rocks Again podcast. They play old 60's records (garage rock and stuff) from Florida, and songs about Florida, and they use the Butthole Surfers' "Movin' to Florida" as their opening music, which is cool. Seems the only way to subscribe to it is to subscribe to the Garage Punk feed, but I guess that's not such a bad thing.
I have a bunch of stuff I want to write about, including Terry Gilliam's Tideland, which is a much better film than anyone seems to realize, but I just don't have time. In particular, some political stuff, which I really don't have time to write, so here's a quick rundown of stuff I think you should read:
Glen Greenwald gives what I consider a pretty accurate description of the conservative "cult of contrived masculinity." Here's an example of this cult in action. And this...jeez, if you wrote this as satire, nobody would buy it.
I'm planning on catching the Sunday matinee of Brotherhood of Death (and possibly stay for the second feature of Johnny Tough) at the New Beverly. Anyone wants to join me, drop me a line.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Coconut Monkeyrocket - Wtih Birds!

I've been too busy to do much posting, but I want to get the word out that the first official CD release by the amazing sampledelic project Coconut Monkeyrocket (aka Jason Emmett, the most talented former member of The Psychedelicatessen) is out, and it rocks like crazy. Imagine the music and sound effects of every Warner Bros. cartoon stirred up in a blender, set to a rackety dance beat and augmented with soothing vocal choruses off of old lounge records. There's some incredibly dense layering of samples on these tunes. You can hear tracks from the album at CocoMoro's website and myspace page, although I think there's even better stuff on the CD. Plus, you get a beautiful pair of Jason Emmett digital paintings on the CD cover. And it's just $10! DIRT CHEAP!

You can also download CMR's contribution to the compilation The Politics Of Photosynthesis: A Tribute To Stereolab (a freaked-out "Moogie Wonderland") from iTunes. I can't figure out how to link to an iTunes item, so just go here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Report from the Grindhouse Fest

"If there's one place I like to go to see my movies, [the Magic Johnson Theater is] the place. A lot of people are into the ArcLight, but I don't like the rules. I don't like the fact that you have to sit in assigned seating. That's the European approach, and I despise that stuff. They're trying to turn movies into opera. That's garbage. And you can't come in late? Hey, my audience is 15 minutes late for everything."

-Quentin Tarantino in the L.A. Times

I've seen The Mack several times, and I knew that The Chinese Mack included footage of a real, vicious dogfight, so I decided to wait for the second double feature of Quentin's grindhouse festival. I was planning on going out there Wednesday and calling in sick Thursday, but my dog ended up having surgery Wednesday, and I didn't want to leave her alone that night. She kept me awake most of the night with some kind of wheezy cough (probably a reaction to anaesthesia), so I ended up calling in sick anyway, slept most of the day, then got a Sworkuccino and headed out to The New Beverly, arriving ridiculously early. The 7:30 program didn't start until almost 8, so if you're planning on heading out there, be prepared for a long night. I finally ducked out around a quarter to midnight, and it was still going strong. (I might as well have stayed, since I couldn't sleep for shit on the caffeine I had ingested. I'm pretty exhausted right now.)

Quentin wasn't there (he had apparantly been there the night before. He may be more available for the April screenings, after he's done editing Grindhouse), but he sent along some notes for The Guy to read before the show (which eventually resulted in someone in the crowd yelling out "Just show the fucking movie!"). Then the show started with trailers for upcoming events. The Van looks like just about the quintessential 70's teen comedy. Chinese Hercules does indeed star that huge guy from Enter the Dragon and Big Trouble in Little China, and looks pretty hilarious. There were also trailers for both of Sunday's features, The Town That Dreaded Sundown and Rolling Thunder (really well-done trailer: just shows all the build-up, none of the climactic slaughter). Then, the first half of the Italian Crime Double Feature: Machine Gun McCain.

It's a pretty cool gangster movie set mostly in Vegas and Frisco. John Cassavettes plays a total badass, which is kind of a weird bit of casting, but he's pretty convincing. It's so great to see a movie with a big crowd that's really into it. You end up laughing and applauding at things that, if you were at home, you would just say "that's a good line," or maybe not even notice at all. Nice funky Morricone score--at one point, it sounded a lot like Miles Davis' "Spanish Key."

Another round of trailers before the second feature, including Italian crime flicks, Las Vegas heist movies, and a few that didn't seem to be either. It started out with Johnny Cool, which was a pretty insane trailer. Produced by Peter Lawford, featuring Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr. (with eyepatch), starring Henry Silva and Elizabeth Montgomery. There was also some kind of Buddy Crime Comedy with Roger Moore and Stacy Keach (!). I know there was one more that really impressed me, but I can't remember what.

The second feature, Wipeout! (with the exclamation point), is fucking insane. Just out of it's god damn mind. Henry Silva is a mob hitman who goes around killing people with a grenade launcher. Like, shooting people in the head with it. There's some absolutely offensive shit revolving around the kidnapped nymphomaniac daughter of a mafioso. There's the Italian penchant for making big gestures with your hands taken to EXTREMES. The crowd was just howling over this whole thing. You really had no idea what was going to happen next, because what had happened already was so ridiculous to begin with! God only knows how it may have ended--hopefully, I'll be able to find out some day. Another great score, too. Lots of distorted guitar and such.

The L.A. Times article is kinda neat, because it focuses a lot on Quentin's love of L.A., but it just annoys me that they make it out to be some kind of "bad movie festival." The title is "Tarantino's Grindhouse Festival celebrates cinematic cheese." First of all, I wouldn't use the word "cheesy" to describe these kinds of films, although maybe that's just my personal definition. But I don't even think describing them as "deliriously bad films" is correct. OK, some of them are bad, but I we don't like them because they're "so bad they're good." They're just fun, often crazy, movies. But whatever, it's the L.A. Times. Be sure and check the slideshow sidebar where Quentin talks about his favorite places in L.A. That's where the above quote about the Magic Johnson theater can be found. And also this note about his favorite pancake house: "The best breakfast places are in the beachside towns, and you know it's a good place if they close after lunch. A great breakfast place is closed before dinner. Uncle Bill's is a great place. In the script for 'Reservoir Dogs,' the first scene takes place there. We didn't shoot there, though; it was small inside. But that's where the script said they were." Interestingly, the place where it was actually shot--Pat and Lorraines, about 2 blocks from my house--is also closed by dinner time. I was pretty annoyed when I moved here by all the places that looked like great all-night coffeeshops (especially Cindy's on Colorado) that are closed by 8pm!

Also, Mr. Beaks has pledged to review each film at the festival. One so far.

And now, a brief look at the upcoming flicks:

The Van, Summer Camp and Pickup Summer all look like fun 70's sex comedys (OK, this stuff you could call "cheesey."} If I didn't have such a busy weekend, I might go try to catch a couple of them on Saturday.

Rolling Thunder is pretty kick-ass. Written by Paul Schraeder, a script about mentally damaged 'Nam vets who can't adjust to civillian life, much like Taxi Driver, but Rolling Thunder is more pulpy. The Town That Dreaded Sundown is apparantly a true story serial killer movie. I remember seeind ads for it as a kid. For some reason, this movie is always linked in my mind with In a Small Town in Texas, which I guess I remember seeing ads for from about the same time.

Brotherhood of Death was reviewed on AICN when it played the QT Fest in Austin. This is the big must-see of the fest for me.

I'm also definitely going to catch Ralph Bakshi's blaxploitation cartoon Coonskin. I saw it long ago, but I really need to see it again. Not sure if I'll stay for Shame of the Jungle, which looks pretty dumb. I've seen Tunnelvision a few times. I believe they showed it on USA Nightflight back in the day. It's similar to Kentucky Fried Movie or The Groove Tube, with skits united by the idea of a TV station that can show sex, violence, drug use, etc. I loved it when I first saw it (when I was maybe 16 at most, still thought Stripes was one of the funniest movies ever made and thought Fridays was equal to SNL), didn't think as much of it a few years later, but it definitely had a few laughs in it.

Don't know anything about Pretty Maids All in a Row, but Dennis C. seems to think highly of it. Revenge of the Cheerleaders is on the Cheerleaders DVD set I own, and it's pretty insane, lots of hot cheerleaders, cool soundtrack, David Hasselhoff, disco dance numbers, etc.

Never heard of Supermanchu, but with a title like that, how could it miss?

I was interested in seeing Blood Spattered Bride (possibly an influence on Kill Bill?), but I'm afraid I'll be skipping it as it's programmed opposite The Egyptian's Beatnik night.

I'll be out of town the first week or two of April, so I'll miss the amazing-looking The Female Bunch and Super Women, not to mention the premeire of Grindhouse. The following weekend will be insanely busy for me: unless I can catch Grindhouse while I'm in GA, I'll have to catch up on that, and see Hot Fuzz, for sure. I'd like to go see Hot Summer in Barefoot County (a childhood memory for Bobbie), and I DEFINITELY HAVE to see The Muthers.

OK, what else...The Swinging Cheerleaders is also on the Cheerleaders DVD. It's a Jack Hill joint, so it's quality (the only of the three cheerleader movies to make any attempt at being a real movie), but not his best work.

Grave of the Vampire has a screenplay by Sopranos creator David Chase, so that might be worth checking out. It's paired with Jailbait Babysitter, another one that seems like you couldn't go wrong with the title.

I think Zane was telling me once about The Real Bruce Lee--the one that says "we absolutely guarantee footage of the real Bruce Lee!"--it ends up being about 30 seconds of home movies of Bruce Lee when he was 6 or something. That's all I really know.

Also, check out these neat-o images from the not-gonna-happen Kill Bill comic!

One more thing I'm going to shoehorn into this post, sorta tangentially related, AICN is doing a retrospective series on the movies of 1982 ("The Best Genre Year Ever!"), and the first installment, Nordling reminiscing about E.T., is really fantastic. Made me cry--and I'm not even that big an E.T. fan (I'm a couple years older, so I guess I was about at that age where seeing a "kids movie" was stigmatized, which is funny since I was considering Heavy Metal and The Sword and the Sorceror to be mature cinema, I guess). I never really thought about the fact that all these movies they talk about came out the same year, I just remembered they were all movies I saw on HBO when I was in my early teens. Anyway, good stuff.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

10 Years of Slayage!!!

Wow, according to the booklet in my Buffy Season 1 DVD, it was 10 years ago today (well, yesterday...I'm a little slow on this) that Buffy the Vampire Slayer premeired on The WB. It's not so weird that it was 10 years ago--that seems about right--but that means that less than three years ago, it was still on the air (and less than two years ago, the spin-off, Angel, was still on)!

I guess the real anniversary should be counted from the movie (which is confusing in itself. What was that, 1992? It looks so 80's). But the movie was a big disapointment. I was sure that, with a title like that, it couldn't miss, and with Paul Ruebens making his first signifigant screen appearance since The Incident, it would have to be great. About the only thing really memorable about the movie turned out to be Ruebens' death scene. But then, half a decade later, the character re-emerged.

I vaguely recall Bobbie watching the pilot shortly before we moved out here. I had no interest in it. There were already cheesy cable shows based on Highlander, RoboCop, La Femme Nikita and other cheesy movies, and they all seemed to be pretty bad (although I know at least one person who swears by Nikita). This was a movie that wasn't even any good in the first place. But Bobbie ended up watching the reruns that summer, and I slowly got sucked in. And then it won me over with the episode Out of Mind, Out of Sight, probably the most teen angst-y episode of the whole angsty teen series, and a really clever story. So when the second season started, I was already thinking of it as at least a guilty pleasure.

The second season starts off OK, but really gets going in the third episode, when Spike and Drusilla, the punk rebel vampires, show up in town, and it just goes uphill from there. After the big event halfway through the season, there was nothing guilty about it. And season three was even better.

I actually like the fourth season a lot. The central story arc isn't as interesting as the previous seasons, but there are so many minor storylines that I love, that I find it infinitely rewatchable. The fifth season, perhaps the most emotionally satisfying of all, starts with Buffy suddenly having a kid sister, and actually manages to make this ridiculous idea work. Season six takes the characters into some dark, dark places, and divided the fans, but I mostly liked it, except that they really made Spike into an annoying character. It started out as a great idea--exploring the whole "bad boy" complex, and why a woman would get into an unhealthy relationship with a shady character, but they couldn't resist giving Spike a heart of gold, which negated the whole premise, as far as I was concerned.

Excepting my continuing problems with Spike, and a few obvious but unavoidable problems caused by Amber Benson not returning to the show, I like the first two-thirds of season seven, but it really goes off the rails near the end. You can tell that Joss had a bunch of ideas that he wanted to include, and didn't have the sense to get rid of the ones that didn't work, most notably the secondary villain Caleb, who really serves no purpose at all, and breaks the great tension that was going with the series' scariest villain, The First. Whedon had a great thing going, with no ass to kick, moving the whole story out of the comfort zone, and up to that point it was definitely the scariest season, but he seemed to lose his nerve, which is all the more frustrating when you look at the risks that had paid off in seasons 4-6. And that whole business with the old wiccan lady in the temple...what the fuck was that about? But in the end, the final episode is so good that I can let it go (and rewatching it, I realize that they really should have run the last two episodes on one night. Seriously).

Anyway, here's a toast to my favorite TV show, a show that I probably love more than it deserves. I love the mash-up of kung fu, horror, mythological fantasy and teen angst (all my favorite things!), but I love it even more served up with a self-reflexive sense of humor that constantly deflates the genre archetypes. I love the rapid fire, too-witty dialogue, the kick ass women, the geekily consistent continuity, the comic book structure (which has since become a staple of genre TV), the characters that become so familiar that you start having dreams about them. And it's the source for at least two or three of my biggest celebrity crushes (Gellar isn't one of them, but she does look pretty fly in the early episodes, wearing that irresistable boots-and-miniskirt combo, and apparantly a Wonderbra). And yo, yo, yo, "Season 8" hits comic stores in 10 days!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Him? (Updated)

I had a copy of The Golden Turkey Awards when I was in high school, and it was a fun little book that did its part to turn me on to the works of depraved filmmakers like Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Edward D. Wood, Jr. Which is ironic since one of the two brothers who wrote the book, Michael Medved, is now basically "the conservative Christian film critic," and, as you can imagine, one of my least favorite figures in the media. Of all the crazy films listed in the book, the one that most intrigued me was Him, a gay porn film based on the life of Jesus. This was about the time that I was getting into John Waters movies, and this insanely offensive concept really appealed to me. I wanted to see the film badly, but never came across it.

The twist to this story was a disclaimer on the first page:

A Challenge To The Reader: Over 425 actual films are described in this book, but one is a complete hoax. Can you find it?

My friends and I tried to figure out which movie was the phony, and Him was of course one of the prime candidates. I argued that, while that certainly seemed like the least likely to actually exist, it didn't really seem like the authors' sense of humor. Knowing what I now know about Medved, it seems much more like something he would come up with. Besides, I really wanted to believe this film existed. The other probable suspect was a nominee in the "Worst Monster" category called something like The Creeping Terror, accompanied by a photo of a woman peaking out from under a rug, which implied that the monster was someone crawling around with a rug over their body.

Him has come up today, on Andrew Sullivan's blog. I think it may be the first time I've heard any mention of it since. Sullivan also links to this entry (from which I copied the "hoax" quote above), examining whether Him is a hoax or not. The evidence for its existence is scarce, but I lean toward The Creeping Terror being the real hoax.

UPDATE: For the last two days, for whatever reason, I had been unable to access the original article that prompted Sullivan's post. I have it now, and it obviously involves a great deal of research and scholarship, so please go read Phil Hall's Top 10 Lost Films list on Filmthreat. Him is actually not even the most tantalizing film on the list--he also discusses (heads up, Charlie!) the first werewolf movie, and a Japanese remake of King Kong from the late 30's which he refers to as "the first kaiju film." At the bottom of the list are links to previous installments, which will prove equally fascinating.