Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Friday, September 30, 2011

"It's the 90s"

Thank you, folks at Everything is Terrible, for compiling the below embedded video. I'd kind of forgotten that back in the day (damn I feel old—the nineties already has "back in the day" status) movie and TV characters would use the phrase "it's the 90s" as a catch-all, meaning basically: "Hey, we're living in exciting/crazy modern times with the technology and whatnot. People are liberated; anything goes" or just, you know, "get with the times." Luckily for humanity, "it's the aughts" and "it's the teens" never caught on; and this phrase was allowed to die a quick painless death.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freddy Krueger Will Help Put Your Sales Through the Roof

Many is the time that I've fantasized about working as a writer in a previous time. Up until now, I thought my top writing fantasy was to work under the tutelage of Roger Corman back in the fifties, churning out five or so screenplays a week—you know, whatever needed to get filmed that weekend. I've now realized, however, that my true fantasy calling is to go back in time to the eighties and write copy for media-retailer promo videos. Oh how rarely, I get to exercise the shame-free, salesman part of my brain. If only I could go back and write just one of these videos.

Of course, as fun as it would be, such an endeavor would be a fool's errand. You see, there'd be no point in trying because I could never top the video (hosted by Freddy Krueger) made for A Nightmare on Elm street 3: Dream Warriors. Sample line (sadly, not spoken by Krueger but by the narrator): "Don't get caught sleeping. Wake up your profit picture with the feverishly anticipated video release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors." Yes, Robert England's character was a monster who killed kids in their sleep, but his shameless hucksterism here just feels dirty. Oh yeah, and really unintentionally funny. That too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Shirtless Ping Pong Edition

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry I propose Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Shirtless Ping Pong Edition. As with many previous entries, this one does not follow the rules put forth by yours truly. Instead of mashing up two lesser known films, I've decided to use one marketable title. This entry, as you will see, is a different beast entirely. Rather than remake Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I will re-release the original picture with the technology-enhanced upgrades that director GeorgeRoy Hill always wanted to include in the picture.

Background on the Butch and Sundance upgrade: Back when Hill shot his Western masterpiece, he had a much bolder vision for the film. Unfortunately, technology at the time, primitive as it was, rendered his initial plan for a modern-day framing device impossible. You see, all the action in the film was to be but the crazed imaginings of Paul Newman's character—a man who, as it turns out is a world-class shirtless Ping Pong-ist. The end of the film was originally to cut from the now-famed freeze frame of Butch and Sundance running into a hail of bullets, directly to a heated table-tennis match that Newman and Redford were losing to two Chinese champs. After snapping back from his Western-themed daydream, Newman was to make a winning shot, thus saving the world from Communism.

When Hill helmed this film, however, it was unthinkable to even contemplate presenting, simultaneously: two shirtless men, a ping-pong game...and the inside of a room. The technology required seemed eons away. It has turned out, however, that eons ain't nearly as long as once thought. Thanks to astronomical advances in CGI, Hill's pipe-dream will soon become a reality.

Andy Serkis will spend the better part of a year observing Ping Pong-ists in their natural habitat: mimicking their every move, studying what it is that makes a Ping Pong-er a Ping Pong-er—the essence of their being. With this knowledge, he will travel to Industrial Light & Magic, slap on one of them thar CGI suits and perform—nay, inhabit the Ping Pong player. After filming of Serkis is complete, the effects experts will examine Serkis' actions and then enter the information into a computer model which will then create two new, artificially-rendered Ping Pong beings. Then they'll just slap Newman and Redford's heads on the digital creations, and voila, you got yourselves a real movie.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Shirtless Ping Pong Edition: Check out those abs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When Sequels Go Right: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

dir. Joe Dante

A small green puppet gets sucked into a paper-shredder; green slime oozes beneath. The based-on-the-already-cartoonish-Ted-Turner-and-Donald-Trump caricature of an 80s businessman standing above, frantically yanks his tie from the voracious, metallic maw of the insatiable machine so that he will not too meet this gruesome end.

While watching this scene, the nervous older sister of my friend looked over to the twelve-year-old me and asked, "Are you sure your parents are ok with you watching this kind of movie?"

"Nah, it's fine. As long as there's nothing naked and stuff, I can watch it."

Rewatching Gremlins 2: The New Batch for the first time since that first time at my friend's house when I was a young'un, I am astounded that such a cartoon of a movie caused the older sister of my friend (tasked with watching us while his parents were out) to fret that I was being exposed to an adult-type of movie. Indeed, Gremlins 2 is nothing less than a live-action Looney Tunes short stretched to feature length. If anyone needed convincing that Joe Dante in his prime was the horror-tainted second-coming of Frank Tashlin, they need only watch this masterful sequel.

So assured was Dante of the place his film would hold in the canon, that he opened Gremlins 2 with a pre-credits Bugs and Daffy routine. I suppose you could say Dante did nothing more than take the good-natured, anarchic irreverence of the first movie and crank it to 11, but in the world of The Gremlins, more is always most certainly more.

For this sequel Dante moved all the action from the Capra-esque small-town of Kingston Falls to the big city: NYC. Likewise he shifted the aim of his satirical weaponry away from too-good-to-be-true small-town wholesomeness to 80's big-city greed and business culture. Billy (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates), the couple from the first film, have moved to the city and found employment in the gleaming office building of one Daniel Clamp (John Glover)—that businessman I mentioned all those paragraphs ago.

These two aren't the only holdovers from the first film, however. In an (perhaps purposefully) awkwardly scripted early scene Billy and Kate express their joy that the Futtermans will be visiting New York. But, hey, you the audience may be asking, didn't they get killed in the first movie? Billy and Kate, just as shocked and surprised as you, explain to each other that, although hope seemed lost, the Futtermans did in fact survive the Gremlin massacre, thus allowing Dante mainstay—and all around awesome person—Dick Miller to make an appearance in this sequel.

(Basically, their conversation may as well have gone like this:

"Hey, remember that thing that happened six years ago, when Gremlins destroyed the town and we thought the Futtermans were dead but it turned out they weren't?"

"Yeah, we already talked about that, like six years ago. Why are you bringing it up now?"

"I don't know.")

Being the clever social satire that it is, Gremlins 2 is also so full of knowing self-referential humor and satirical take-downs of current cultural fads that a lengthy piece could be written—and I'm sure has been—that did nothing more than list said references. My favorite such moments:

- The actual Leonard Maltin gives a scathing review of the first Gremlins, only to get strangled with a film strip by the Gremlins waiting behind him.

- Gremlins destroy the Gremlins 2 film strip as it's rolling, and replace it with a 50's nudie cutie; prompting an angered mother to bring her child to the theater manager (the awesome Paul Bartel) and complain that this sequel is even worse than the first Gremlins.

- In a riff on Ted Turner's obsession at the time with colorizing classic movies, an announcer at the company's cable station mentions that its movie channel will be showing Casablanca: now in color and with a happy ending. (What a real-life twist that Turner's own channel TCM would end up being one of the last cable channels to showcase and fight for the preservation and restoration of classic films.)

- When Billy attempts to explain the rules of the Mogwais and Gremlins to a group of scientists in the building, the smart men nerd out and disect the mythology of the creatures—basically exposing the plot-holes in the Gremlins universe. (Surprisingly, however, none of them mention the biggest plot-hole: You can't feed a Mogwai after midnight; but no one ever said how long after a midnight you can start feeding a Mogwai again. Technically, anytime is after midnight.)

- In an echo of Kate's recitiation of a traumatic Christmas event from the first film, she begins to mention a traumatic Lincoln's-birthday experience only to be cut off.

The 'burbs is still my favorite Dante movie, but after a rewatching, Gremlins 2 comes a close second.

Dave's Rating:

Friday, September 23, 2011

"It relieved my headaches better"

As you know from my post on Monday, I went on a Breaking Bad binge this past week. To be exact, I plowed through every episode that's aired over the course of a few sleepless nights. Holy shit-snacks, what an amazing show. I plan on reviewing this show at great length after the completion of the fourth season (possibly on my upcoming podcast—yes the podcast is still gonna happen...relatively soon, I hope). In the meantime, I leave you with this ad from 1996 in which Bryan Cranston extols the virtues of a drug that will make your head feel great...bitch.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Welcome to the Future

I could watch these old Siskel & Ebert interviews all day. In this Letterman appearance from 1991, the folks discuss such newfangled state-of-the-art technologies as VCR Plus and Laserdisc.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You're Welcome Hollywood: Last Exit to Sesame Street

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry I propose Last Exit to Sesame Street: a remake/mash-up of the movie-adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr's shocking-depiction-of-the-seedy-underbelly-of-50's-Brooklyn novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, and Sesame Street.

The Plot: Netflix recently added Breaking Bad to its streaming service; so, instead of doing any writing, I've been watching this show non-stop for the last few days. I swear I'm not addicted, though. I can stop anytime I want.

Last Exit to Sesame Street: Alright, I'm just gonna watch the beginning of this next episode of Breaking Bad. I swear I'll stop right after the first scene, though, and then do some writing. I don't have a problem.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Movie Trailers That Exist: Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970)

dir. Freddie Francis

You don't get a full feeling for it while watching this trailer, but if eww could be bottled, it would be disgusted by this movie. Honestly, content-wise, it's not much worse than most stuff out there; but—filmed as it was in the grainy, smeared-with-mud film-stock that was de rigeur for seventies exploitation—the dark British satire Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly holds extra power to unsettle. OK, I'll just admit it: The British freak me out. (Side note: Before people send me letters, the British do not freak me out.) I honestly don't know why I haven't reviewed this movie yet.

[The trailer:]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Man of Few Words

...and many (well, two) fists. Check out this neat little promo film made during the making of Charles Bronson's film St. Ives.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Louie: "Eddie"

As you well realize, this is a movie blog, not a TV blog. As much as I'd like to, I don't do TV write-ups—too time consuming. Nevertheless, when a TV episode comes along that I feel compelled to write about, I will damn well write about it. Such was the case with the Doug Stanhope-guest starring episode of Louie: "Eddie." Now I know most of you (well, that is, the few of you who watch Louie, and then the even fewer of you who follow my blog) are probably thinking, "didn't that episode already air a while ago? Why are you writing about it now?" To answer your question: I'm a poor motherfucker who can't afford cable, and so I wait until Louie episodes become available on Hulu before watching them. So there, you condescending motherfuckers. I'll thank you to keep your judgments to yourselves.

Anywho, all this is a roundabout way of saying, holy shit-snacks, this episode of Louie was an amazing piece of art. Seriously, as with most episodes, this was better than the majority films out there. I suck this show's dick in front of my friends so often that I'm loath to review it on the blog but I had to make an exception here.

I'm gonna assume, if you're reading this post, you've already seen the episode, so I'll forego a detailed plot description. (If you haven't seen this episode, go watch it now before reading further.) In a nutshell, Eddie (Doug Stanhope), an old comic pal of Louis, meets up with the now successful comedian, and gets all caught up in a night of drinking and nostalgin' before mentioning to Louis that he plans on committing suicide. Although Louis attempts to talk Eddie out of it, he realizes that the only way to help someone is if that person actually wants help. He ends the conversation with a sincere comment that he hopes Eddie, the comic he had long forgotten about and eclipsed professionally, not kill himself. "Eddie" leaves on an ambiguous, realistic note that most movies or shows dealing with the subject would not dare tread.

Of course, this episode was more than just a suicide conversation. It was also a meditation on aging, a heartfelt member of that genre I'm a sucker for: the wistful passage-of-time story. And this episode was full of poignant-through-counterpointing-the-present flashbacks. Eddie, as we see in the flashbacks was a bit of a mentor to Louis, who, after Louis started gaining success, grew bitter and resentful. A painful tale of the end of a friendship.

My own flashback: As I've brought up before, I used to be involved in a comedy group. Although we never had success, it was a fun and informative experience. More than anything, it taught me to write at a fevered pace, never fearing to throw away what I may have considered gold. There were a few reasons for the pace and volume at which I produced. Firstly, there were so many members in the group that, in order to get noticed, it was necessary to continually pump shit out.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, our biweekly engagement at Pete's Candy Store required us to constantly produce material. No matter what we had or how ill-prepared, we put on a show every other week, goddammit. However, despite the mountain of material, given that we had a two hour slot, we could still never fill the running time. That's where the guests came in.

We usually invited other comedy groups to perform before us but occasionally we would snag stand-ups. One night, we got us a genuine veteran. A real pro. (Unfortunately, I was such a hardcore drunk at that time in my life that I don't remember her name. I do remember, however, that Doug Stanhope was one of her favorite working comedians.)

As was always the case, we had us no more than five audience members—in addition to us that is. Nevertheless, she put on a killer show, giving it her all. This was a hard night for her, as we would find out. It was less than a week after comedian Richard Jeni, a friend of hers, killed himself.

It goes without saying that I felt bad for her: Not only did she have to perform past grief, but she had to do it in front of a paltry crowd. But this is the life of a stand-up. Sometimes you're playing theaters for sold-out crowds; and sometimes you've got nothing more than a few random drunks to lob jokes at. Such is the job. Hopefully, you can get through it as unscathed as possible.

As we drank with the comedian after the show, I really came to realize what a wannabe stand-up I've always been. (Honestly, even to this day, even though I'm too old to start this shit, I still think about trying open-mics.) Sure, most people, after hearing about the hardships of life on the road that comedians face—much less the suicidal depths to which many frustrated comics plunge—would be discouraged from any thought of even attempting this kind of life; but I was enthralled. Mostly, at the time, I dug the thought of securing a job that encouraged my love of alcoholism.

But, of course, as close as I came (I wrote up a few lengthy, though uninspired, stand-up routines) I never went through with it. As much as I romanticized it, I guess I just didn't have the guts for it. Fuck that; I'll stick with unsuccessful writing, I thought. Of course, part of me always wonders what would have been.

Back to Louie: Where was I? Oh yeah, this episode was real good.

(Side note: I would apologize for writing a review that wound up being mostly about me, but I think, if you've followed my blog long enough, you are aware that I turn everything back to me. I'm a self-involved motherfucker. I can't help it.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: The Road to Wonderland

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry, I propose The Road to Wonderland: a remake/mash-up of the movie-adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's depressing novel The Road, and the Disney cartoon Alice in Wonderland.

(Full disclosure: I haven't seen Alice in Wonderland since I was a kid, and I've never seen the movie-adaptation of The Road. I did read McCarthy's novel a few years ago, however—and I've got the emotional scars to prove it. As with most entries in this series, this post will likely bear little resemblance to the above-mentioned movies.

Oh, yeah, by the way, before anyone points it out, yes, I am damn well aware that versions of Alice in Wonderland get made all the time, and that they will continue to get made all the time. Hell, it's probably one of the most adapted properties out there. Even though I didn't do any research on the subject—and really, it would have been so easy to figure out—I'm gonna go ahead and say that Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are the most adapted books of all time. Of all time.

So now you're probably asking why I chose this piece of fiction for this entry in "You're Welcome, Hollywood," a feature that seeks to adapt and combine two movies that most modern audiences have either never heard of or no longer care about. Well, the reason I chose The Road and Alice in Wonderland for this feature— hell, I have no reason. Honestly, there's never much reason for much of this shit I do up in this piece. No thought, no research, no preparation goes into "You're Welcome, Hollywood" posts. I get a monkey to throw darts at a board containing numerous movie titles, and—

Nah, for realsies, here's my creative process: I sit in front of a blank screen for hours struggling to come up with a poster. After much pointless doodling, I eventually construct an image that I think could serve as a passable movie poster. It is then that I channel my inner Roger Corman and come up with an idea based on that poster. This feature, being what it is, I try to think of an idea combining two previous movies Hollywood would be reluctant to revisit. When I produced this particular poster, however, the two stories that immediately leaped to mind were The Road and Alice in Wonderland. And so, since I don't allow myself to put any thought into these efforts, just pure gut-reaction instinct, I went with these two properties.

That's it. End of story.

Wow, this aside proved less an explanation than an unpaved, circuitous road to nowhere. Thanks for reading.)

The Story: The child clings to his father's outstretched hand. Now is the fourth year of their journey along the road. To stop is to die; to continue to forestall the inevitable. Continue they must.


Catlike reflexes from the man and the child of the man as their eyes chase the sound. A white blur races through the forest.

"Dad, did you see that?"

It can't be, thinks the father.

The child chases the blur and the man chases the child and the blur grows faint. The dying globe beneath the petrified forest trampled over by the child's feet continues its pointless revolution.

When upon the blur, the child has thrown himself, falls he deep into a hole, a rabbit hole, dark and dank. A thump as the child bumps his head. He will never know how long he was out.

The child awakens to a wondrous sight: a tea party attended by all manner of kooky characters. The child, being the guest of honor, is the first to eat. And eat he does to his heart's content. Never before and never again would he taste such delights. This food, this savory food satisfies but never fills. The child can eat forever.

A pain soon in the child's abdomen as if—

A Cheshire cat cat lifts the boy, holding securely his midsection. Why does he grab so tightly, thinks the boy. Never has he experienced such pain. Like hunger but—

Speaking in the father's voice, the cat commands, "It's time to leave."

"But I'm so hungry."

"Soon, we'll find food soon."

"Let's go back to the tea party. Plenty of food there."

"That food serves no purpose.

"When will we be home?"

Thud. Again falls the startled child to the ground. Quick glances from side to side, as the child now realizes the cat is disappeared—the smiling mouth all that remains. The child gazes pleadingly with the suspended smile, soon turned into a frown, as it utters its last words before too disappearing.

"I'm sorry."

The Road to Wonderland: Free hugs when you buy a ticket to this movie.

(Side note: This is probably the longest I've gone in a post without fart jokes.)

[Watch The Road trailer on youtube]

[Watch the Alice in Wonderland (1951) trailer on youtube]

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Screw the Box Office"

As you all know from reading my blog (you read all my posts, don't you? Don't you?), The Graduate is a movie of much importance to me. So, I was pretty excited when I found this old interview Dustin Hoffman did for CBC after The Graduate was released. In addition to being one of the greatest actors of the New Hollywood, Hoffman has always been one charming fella. He knows how to give good interview. (Side note: Damn, he was my age now when he did this interview. Maybe, I'm not so old.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Movies I'm Anticipating: Drive (2011)

dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

Though I've only seen one of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's filmsValhalla Rising (more like Boner Rising, amirite?)I am an unabashed fanboy. I will watch anything he's had a hand in. (Now that I found out that Bronson is available on Netflix Streaming, you can bet your sweet bippy that shit is gonna get all kinds of watched by me this weekend.) So, when my writing partner told me about Refn's upcoming heist film Drive, I got super excited. I say the following without having seen the film, but Drive looks like it has the potential to be a downer, existential seventies road film as filtered through an eighties, action movie lens. In other words: boner city.

[The trailer:]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Modernized Trailers

When it comes to viral videos, as with most in things in life, I am woefully behind the times. So, when I found a bunch of fan-made modernized trailers of older movies on youtube, I got excited that I could share some new shit with you. Then I looked at the dates these were posted and saw that these were all at least a year old. Dammit, here I thought I made an awesome new discovery, only to realize this is all already old news to everyone out there. Apparently I'm your annoying older relative who forwards inappropriate jokes that were already considered hackneyed by the time you were not even born yet. (I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong and this whole modernized-trailers-for-older-movies trend wasn't the huge phenomenon I now assume it was.) Regardless, I really dug these so I thought I'd post them a few choice nugs anyway (my apologies for the use of that phrase..also, don't judge me. Or go ahead and judge me; it's up to you).

[Dressed to Kill (1980)]

[The House on Sorority Row (1983)]

Go to youtube for the Blade Runner and Tron modernized trailers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You're Welcome, Hollywood: I Drink Your Love Actually

[Intro: Ain't nothing original anymore. But that ain't news. Movie-wise, all we get anymore are sequels, remakes, adaptations, and fanboy-pandering genre mash-ups. Your Tree of Life's and Black Swan's still get released, to be sure, but it's damn hard to get a picture made nowadays what ain't pre-sold. Like most movie addicts, I've bemoaned this trend toward predictability for quite some time. I've realized, however, that I've been going at it all wrong. I shouldn't try to fight an unstoppable tidal wave; I'll just get all drowneded and shit. Nay, I should embrace our decline—embrace it in my own way.

Hence this weekly series in which I present you with a remake/mash-up idea combining two movies that most modern movie-goers have either never heard of or no longer care about. That's right; each week, I attempt to sell a pre-sold movie that ain't pre-sold at all.]

For this week's entry, I propose I Drink Your Love Actually: a Dario Argento-produced remake/mash-up of the seventies exploitation flick I Drink Your Blood, and the early aughts rom-com Love Actually. (Full disclosure: Although I'm a fan of I Drink Your Blood, I still haven't seen Love Actually. So, yeah, the plot I came up with for this fake remake/mash-up will likely not resemble Love Actually. Then again, most entries in this series bear little resemblance to the films they purportedly remake.)

The Story: Eight different interconnected, inter-cut stories set in Cleveland, Ohio during a tumultuous Arbor Day:

Story 1: Ron and Tammy Philips, a middle-aged couple stuck in a rut of a marriage, prepare their home for their annual Arbor Day celebration. Friends and relatives from across the country will soon be here to visit, to celebrate, to laugh, to cry, to enjoy, to experience all that life has to the soul-deadened Casa de Philips.

What the soon-to-arrive guests don't know, and what the Philips plan to tell them, is that the couple is in the final stage of a divorce. Now that their son is about to graduate from college (finally) and finally out of the house (double finally), the last tie binding them to their pointless marriage has been cut. This Arbor Day party is to be their growing-apart party, and happier they couldn't be.

Story 2: Donny Donaldson, a coworker of Tammy's (from story 1) at an insurance agency in downtown Cleveland, regretfully cannot attend the gala shindig the Philips have in store. He is in a mad dash to catch a flight to San Francisco, current home to his old college friends Dan and Phil. This is the tenth anniversary of their last Arbor Day before graduation, you see, and they made a pact to each other those many years prior that they would meet on this day to go streaking across the Golden Gate bridge. They also agreed that, should anyone fail to show up or fail to disrobe, the trio would be friends no more.

While rushing to the airport, Donny is pulled over by Tanya the cop. In a rush to get through the standard ticket-issuing nonsense, Donny gets all extra dickish. He and Tanya start an argument, and it isn't long before she hauls him in. During the cop-car ride to the station, the argument between the two grows flirtatious. They have so much in common; they were made for each other. Oh what happenstance. Tanya gives Donny a choice: go with her to the town tree-planting ceremony or get a, like, really big ticket. This means, of course, that Donny has an even tougher choice to make: alienate his best friends or lose a chance at love.

Story 3: Rick and Jesse—friends of Donny, Dan and Phil (from story 2)—are newlyweds just moved to Cleveland. Although Rick is happy for Jesse and the killer job she just landed, he resents that he had to move away from his friends in San Diego. Jesse, although somewhat sympathetic to Rick's concerns, has always been a vagabond, and doesn't understand why he can't think of their move as an adventure. The two take a long walk through the city, venting their frustrations. Rick has an epiphany: It turns out his fear of traveling began when he was but 13 and a traveling salesman kidnapped his entire family. Oh yeah, he forgot about that. Jesse, then re—

Holy shit, a business man just robbed a homeless man. Right in front of Rick and Jesse. They put aside their squabble and rush to the aid of the homeless man. They then spend the rest of the day with him, listening to his story: his heartbreaking tale of loss, his estrangement from his wife twenty years prior. Jesse has epiphany. But she ain't too sure how Rick's to feel about it. But it's now or never. She'll have to let Rick have the final say in this decision.

Rick must now decide whether he and Jesse should go to the town tree-planting ceremony, or take the homeless man on a cross-country road trip to reunite him with his lost love. Can Rick use this opportunity to overcome his fear of traveling? Can Rick and Jesse form an even greater bond during the possible road trip? Will the homeless man's estranged wife take him back? Could an Arbor Day miracle be in the works?

Story 4: George and Martha—parents of Ron (from story 1)—have been married for sixty years. They are happy. No dramatic arc here. Nothing happens in this story...nothing, that is, except, oh yeah, in the middle of the movie George and Martha have a seemingly-endless, hardcore, pornographic sex scene—climaxing with Martha squirting in George's mouth (my apologies for your inability to unread that).

Story 5: Sexless sexagenarian HR manager Cindy—mother of Tanya (from story 2)—is a few days from retirement. Although her two daughters have both said that they would be happy for if she found new love, she knows that they would detest the thought of another replacing their father, dead these past fifteen years.

At a Hard Rock Cafe going-away/Arbor-Day lunch party, Cindy becomes enamored of Mike the waiter. Could it be love at first sight? No it can't; that only happens in the— he just handed her his number. But what would her daughters say? Oh but he's so much younger? Should she take him to the Arbor Day tree planting ceremony? Oh the questions, the possibilities, the butterflies in the stomach. Cindy hasn't felt that in— wow, she can't even remember. Wait, she promised her younger daughter Rita she'd meet her boyfriend's parents at their Arbor Day party today. What to do? What to do?

Story 6: Harry—lifelong friend of Tammy (from story 1)—has got a fever. And the only prescription for this fever: less OCD. Although his long-suffering boyfriend Eric has put up with Harry's idiosyncrasies for five years, he needs a change. Were it only the OCD, mind you, Eric could probably cope; but that ain't all it. That ain't all it at all. You see, Harry is one boring, accountant motherfucker. And despite Harry's best intentions, sex has been vanilla like a motherfucker lately.

Eric has just the cure for their rut, however: a threesome. Eric's been seeing a young man on the side for a few months, and he hopes to spring the news on the usually reserved Harry in the form of inviting the new young man into their relationship for a polyamorous type situation. He's decided to announce his intentions at Ron and Tammy's Arbor Day party.

Story 7: Jane—a lonely, knitting store (Ripping Yarns) employee—rushes around the store, keeping up with the annual Arbor Day rush. After bumping into handsome young man Rob, Jane's horn-rimmed glasses fly from her face. As the two bend down to pick up the glasses, they accidentally bump heads...and giggle. So it's quick obligatory apologies before Rob picks up and hands over the glasses. He can't help but notice the tattoo on Jane's forearm:

"Edith Head. Nice."

"Yeah, I like her style."

"Yeah, she's alright."

Jane, normally one to scoff at such cheesy holiday attempts to unite the townfolk, quickly asks, "You going to the tree planting tonight?"

"I don't know. I'm doing something with my folks, but maybe."

Rita, Rob's girlfriend—and younger daughter of Cindy (from story 5)—anxiously pulls Rob aside, "I couldn't find anything here. We're going to Yarn Barn."


Jane deflates. A girlfriend. It figures. There's no defying the chemistry she had with Rob, though. He knew who Edith Head was. They shared a moment. Should she go to the Arbor Day celebration for the remote chance of finding love or should she see Mike the waiter (from story 5) the loserish man who has made no secret of his feelings for her and who has already invited her to dinner that night?

Story 8: Rob (from story 7), as it turns out, is Ron and Tammy's son (from story 1). He is also, as it turns out, the young man having an affair with Eric (from story 6). He has decided that he can't live in secrecy anymore. He has to tell Rita. He has to expand the relationship. Not only that, because he is home to visit his parents this Arbor Day, he wants to share the news with his family.

After all the folks have arrived at the party, however, the power goes out. Left with no other choice, seeing as they can't watch the event on TV, all in attendance decide to venture to the tree-planting ceremony. No one has been able yet to reveal their news. Should they do so in public? Oh, what to do?

The stories converge: 10 minutes before the end of the movie—right as all the storylines are about to converge and climax—Satanic hippies roll into town, are fed rabies-injected meat pies by a local young'un, and then go ape-shit and kill everyone.

The End.

I Drink Your Love Actually: Bet you didn't see that coming.

[Watch the NSFW Double-feature trailer for I Drink your Blood and I Eat Your Skin on youtube]

[Watch the Love Actually trailer on youtube]

Friday, September 2, 2011

George Lucas and the Case for the Embarrassing Yearbook Photo

[My favorite band when I was 18.]

As most of you are no doubt well aware, George Lucas is continuing his war on the past. Yes, just in time for a new Blu-ray release of the original Star Wars trilogy, it has been announced that Lucas has further "improved" the original movies, tweaking them to include such fantastic newness as...ugh, I can't do this anymore. This is just depressing. I've given up hope that Lucas will ever stop fucking with his shit. I say all this, incidentally, as one who never succumbed to Star Wars fanboyism. Sure, I find the original trilogy entertaining, but I've never taken it to the next level with these movies. Hell, I doubt I've seen any of them more than three or four times. Horror's always been more my speed. But I digress.

I may be somewhat simplistic here, but I believe that movies have two functions: as pieces of art and historic artifacts—time capsules of, not only the particular periods in which they were made, but also of the obsessions and artistic desires of their creators during those specific eras. When artists continually rework previous works, the function of these films becomes rather nebulous; no longer time capsules, they now exist in an ever-changing continuous present, subject to the whims of their creators' current tastes. A piece of history is lost.

[This seemed like the coolest occupation when I was 12.]

As I said before, my complaint here isn't specifically directed at Lucas, it's more general. Honestly, my first big disappointment—artists-tweaking-previous-work-wise—came when the Coen brothers reworked Blood Simple for the DVD release back in 2001. Granted, they didn't change much; they mostly tightened the editing, cutting the film by three minutes. But with this new version of the film, the Coens were editing the movie with the knowledge and experience they accumulated by 2001, not as they would have when fresh-faced director young'uns in the early eighties. (Incidentally, seeing as Blood Simple stands as one of the greatest debuts in film history, an attempt to tweak the film so as to make it even better seems a bit greedy, in my opinion.) But that's denying, not only the original film, but also the artistic growth process. One of the greatest joys of plowing through a filmmaker's oeuvre, is watching the evolution of the artist. If directors continually change previous films to fit their current techniques, the movies no longer offer insights into the growth of the artists.

All that being said, I can understand the desire to go back and "correct" past mistakes. Considering what personal expressions movies are for the folks who create them, they tend to act as yearbook photos: snapshots of who the artists were at particular times in their lives. But as much as we may want to airbrush old yearbook photos—remove the soulpatch and the "Hootie & the Blowfish" t-shirt—those pics are who we were. And that's just too bad. Our past selves will always embarrass us. That's how it's supposed to work. But we do evolve over time. I'm sure we all have shit in our history we'd like to lie about, to alter. To deny the past, however; to try to fix it all is a fool's errand. So I say, keep the past as it is, warts and all, no matter how embarrassing it may be.

[The number of times I had sex before the age of 26.]

Granted, I say all this as someone who's never had a movie made. Honestly, if any of the screenplays I wrote in my early twenties saw the light of day, I would puke with embarrassment upon seeing them. (I guess it's a good thing I've never sold any screenplays; but, just in case you're wondering, my writing partner and I do have some new screenplays that I swear are like totally not puke-inducing, and about which I'm sure we'll never change our opinions.) Still, I do write this blog. Yes, it's a bit more disposable a medium than film, but it's still somewhere in the realm of creative expression. I'm sure my opinions on some of the films I've reviewed here have changed, but I would never go back and tweak those old reviews to accommodate my current tastes. Whatever I wrote is what I wrote...for that particular time. Why? Because my reaction to each of those movies was true to my feelings at the time. To change that is to deny the past.

In closing, I leave you with one of the closing lines in George Lucas' testimony to Congress in 1988, arguing against the film-crime of copyright holders colorizing and otherwise altering older films: "Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself."

Thursday, September 1, 2011