Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Soldier (1972)

“I felt whatever was in the best interest of my country was what was best, and that’s how I was raised to believe.”

“If they’re running, they’re VC. If they’re standing still, they’re well-disciplined VC. Shoot ‘em anyhow.”

“And sometimes when I talk about it, you know, I laugh all the time, you know, because I don’t want people to think that I’m not a man; and it’s kind of uh—the way I’ve been brought up; again, you know, you’re supposed to be a man and men are hard and they don’t have feelings and stuff.”
-Vietnam Vets featured in Winter Soldier

It’s rather appropriate that I’m reviewing the Vietnam documentary Winter Soldier, the same week as the gung ho action picture Cyborg—not that Cyborg, specifically, acts as a companion piece to this document of the Winter Soldier Investigations; but the Van Damme movie was part of a larger trend toward national amnesia in the eighties, reversing the artistic strides made in the New Hollywood of the sixties and seventies. The experimental, revisionist Westerns and war films of the sixties and seventies sought to upend the traditional American cinematic ideal: heroic Americans with God on their side civilizing the savage others—whether they be foreigners or Native Americans.

Eighties films, on the other hand, wanted to reassure us, “Everything’s jimdandy: we’re the good guys again; the Other sucks. The Other isn’t human. Everything is black and white. No moral complexity up in this bitch.” In essence, these movies were saying, the real crime of the Vietnam era was that our country lost its pride. If we could just go back to the good old days where we were the good guys, everything would be fine again.

It’s telling, however, that even at the height of the counter-culture, the documentary Winter Soldier was so incendiary, so problematic to the status quo, that it was effectively buried after its release in 1972. Consisting solely of the oral history—as well as a few heart-rending photos of atrocities—of disaffected Vietnam Vets, Winter Soldier chronicles some of the most gut-wrenching atrocities committed by American soldiers during the war.

Reading some of the Netflix comments on this movie, I found quite a few people condemning this film as anti-American, stating that the Viet-Cong committed crimes just as brutal as those recounted in Winter Soldier. I don’t doubt this; but these critics seem to be missing the point: because of the nature of this documentary, yes, it focuses solely on the crimes committed in the name of America; but it also acts as an indictment of war generally, regardless of the nations involved.

What Winter Soldier really shows is the dehumanizing effect that war and jingoism can have on any individual. A Winter Soldier film could be made about any war, featuring the combatants from any country. When every citizen is ingrained with the belief that God is on the side of his country, that the enemies are not real people; and then thrust into a kill-or-be-killed scenario, is it any wonder that these crimes happen?

Dave's Rating:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 108 - More Porn Store Stories

Roger tops himself with this selection of stories from his years behind the counter of a South Carolina porn store. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cyborg (1989)

dir. Albert Pyun

Was it a conspiracy or just a huge practical joke perpetrated by the heads of all the major studios that lead to a proliferation of pre-verbal (Stallone) and unintelligibly accented (Schwarzenegger) action stars in the eighties? Action producers seemed to be saying, “You simpletons are so uninterested in nuance and intelligently scripted scenarios that you’ll eat this action shit up no matter how it’s presented. Your Pavlovian brains are so solely focused on the food pellet that is bone-crunching brawls and massive shoot-outs that incomprehensible dialogue won’t even register. As long as we wave the shiny shit in front of your eyes you’ll clap like seals.” And to prove their point they made stars of the aforementioned speech-impaired types, creating films in which all dialogue was rendered superfluous.

Indeed, these testosterone-fueled pictures were not so much action films—or at least those of the 50’s-70’s, as typified by the works of Robert Aldrich, Don Seigel, and Sam Peckinpah—than avant garde pieces of pop art that also functioned as comments on/celebrations of gay erotica: space and time were fragmented; quick-cut oily close-ups of the muscle-bound appendages of the films’ male subjects functioned as substitutes for story. The moral consequence of gunning down countless human beings was not an issue because characters were not people in these stories: they were merely the background art in the violent ballet of choreographed carnage that was the eighties actioner. Plus, you got to see Arnie flex his pecs. Abstract celebrations of the human form triumphed all else in these films—which existed somewhere in the space between Busby Berkeley musicals and the work of Leni Riefenstahl. Who the fuck needs dialogue for that?

So where does this bring me in relation to the Jean Claude Van Damme-starring Albert Pyun masterpiece Cyborg? Just off the off-ramp but nowhere near the heart of the city. Indeed, it’s perhaps unfair to include Van Damme in the “no good talk” actor group; though he was accented to be sure, the muscles from Brussels certainly reached nowhere near Ahnuld levels of inscrutability. Nevertheless, he was part of an unmistakable trend that does lead one to wonder: just how much of a coincidence was the rise to stardom of so many cavemen? Sumpin tells me conspiracies was afoot, I tells ya.

Of course, I say all this with love. As much as I love to rib the eighties action picture, I always revert to my twelve-year-old self when watching one of these. And with Cyborg it was no different. Taking place in a futuristic dystopia, Van Damme is one of the few survivors of—ah, who gives a shit about the plot? You don’t give a shit about that. Does Van Damme fight good and stuff? Yep. Does he do the splits? Yep. Are there superfluous Van Damme ass shots? You better believe yep. Then, that’s all you need to know. Here’s just some pics from the movie.

[You can tell it’s the future because the bad guy’s future-glasses are mirrored.]

[“Can I get the ‘Casey Affleck in Drowning Mona’ wig? Not available? Well, how about—what if you just put some straw on my head? D’ya think I might—it might make me look like Brad Pitt.”

“Yeah but you’re already Van Damme.”

“It’s not good enough. It’s never good e-e-e...” Van Damme runs off crying.]

[“I’m so glad they finally fixed up that Wasteland road sign. Last time I was ‘round these parts I got stranded in Charleston for three days before I realized it wasn’t the Wasteland. I can’t tell the difference.”]

[I feel like Pyun was going for some sort of iconic metaphor with this image but I’m just not getting it.]

[“Will someone please tell me what this metaphor is?! I just don’t get it?!” (By the way, yeah, there’s an unbelievable amount of screaming in this movie.)]

[Yeah, this guy does this for like thirty minutes straight. And then Van Damme kills him. That’s the movie.]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, January 25, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 107 - David Lee Roth Is Better Than You

Roger and I discuss the relative merits of David Lee Roth and Steely Dan. Also, David Lee Roth is better than you. You can listen to the episode here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)

dir. Jeff Burr

That Vincent Price wasn’t asked to narrate every movie from the fifties until his death is a crime every movie producer should be held accountable for. Yeah, I love the guy. It’s a testament to the guy’s screen presence/touched-by-the-gods voice-box that even the most run-of-the-mill movie turd was aromatic because of his association. Take From a Whisper to a Scream, the mid-eighties Creepshow-inspired horror anthology. No, the movie ain’t dire, and is saved by a few memorable moments, but were it not for Vincent Price’s turn as the framing device storyteller (sadly, he doesn’t narrate the stories), I likely would have dozed off, remembering naught from this picture.

As with all anthology films, From a Whisper to a Scream is a mixed bag. And unfortunately, as you can guess, the misses outnumber the hits. But that single hit sure is a doozy—and almost bizarre enough to justify the entire picture. Though all of the shorts traffic in the tragic irony and/or shitty-people-getting-done-in-by-their-character-flaws mishigas typical to the horror anthology, only one is ballsy enough to get truly crazy. Unsurprisingly, this is also the most unsettling of the bunch.

What I’m saying, Clu Gulager fucks a corpse and then gets offed by the demon offspring. So there’s that. Also, Vincent Price. Stay for Vincent Price.

Dave's Rating:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Arnold Says Big Words

Ok, you may have noticed my reviews of late have been somewhat more concise than you're used to, and there's sometimes been a lag between your posting of comments and my approving them. Worry not, I'm not neglecting the blog; I do care very much about your comments. Please keep them coming. Unfortunately (well, fortunately for me), I've been super busy with other writing projects and so have not been able to put the same amount of hours into the blog that I previously have. Now, although it's been somewhat stressful, this is definitely the good kind of busy, the busy I live for.

But I'm definitely not abandoning this blog. I'm continuing to write stuff every day for it, and I promise I will post your comments as well as respond to them. Your comments are what keep me going. And this blog is like a drug for me: if I were to go even a day without posting shit, I'd get the shakes something fierce.

Anyway, this is a whole roundabout way of saying: given how much writing I'm doing right now, and how in need of inspiration I am, I've been scouring the internet for creative inspiration. Which is how I found this mashup of Arnold saying big words. By which I mean my writing partner Roger sent me a link to it. You will now know joy.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Junior (1994)

dir. Ivan Reitman

"Look What Love Has Done" - Patty Smyth

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 106 - Sticks of Death

dir. Ave C. Caparas

Roger and I review Sticks of Death, a movie about stick-hittin'. We also discuss the deadly underground karaoke culture of the Philippines. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

dir. Wes Craven

If you’ve kept tabs on my horror writin’s you know that I’m none too fond of Wes Craven. Yes, the man made a couple of stone cold masterpieces (The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street) as well as a deeply influential film (The Last House on the Left) that, though it’s not my cup of tea, I can appreciate as a zeitgeisty reaction to the horrors of its day. (Note: I still haven’t seen The People Under the Stairs, a movie whose premise I find intriguing, so I might add it to the list of outstanding Craven movies if it lives up to what I hope it might be.)

Needless to say, I was definitely intrigued by The Serpent and the Rainbow, Craven’s attempt to latch his horror sensibilities onto an overtly political film. Yes, this is dicey territory with an abysmal success rate; but I always appreciate any artist who moves outside of his comfort zone. So, I went into The Serpent Rainbow open-minded. And, truth be told, I went along for the ride, initially.

Bill Pullman stars as a medical researcher whose quest for lifesaving medicine leads him to poverty-stricken, dictator-ruled Haiti, where he hopes to score some primo Voodoo zombification powder. Shit gets you fucked up—by killing you and then reanimating you, putting you under the control of a voodoo master. Pullman hopes he can study this powder, gleaning some actual, you know, good uses from it. Problem is, Pullman runs afoul of Duvalier’s head goon who, wouldn’t you know it, happen to be an adept voodoo shaman. Pullman gets his mind fucked proper, disappearing into the abyss. Sweet, expose of a brutal dictator’s control over his poverty-stricken country by way of a horror set-up that happens to utilize one of Craven’s strong suits: depiction of supernatural, borderline-surreal, nightmare horror. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Craven suffered an aneurysm (I’m speculating) before filming the WWF-by-way-of-Ghostbusters finale. Where much of the preceding events took the form of psychological horror—shit getting weirder as Pullman loses his grip, the line between fantasy and reality fading—the finale went totally batshit. And I ain’t taking about the kind of inspired batshittery of Cronenberg’s Videodrome. No, this finale is so run-of-the-mill awful that it nearly negates the preceding ninety minutes. Indeed, it would not have felt out of place in Freddie vs. Jason (or, as I like to call it: If Film Could Poop). Why Craven couldn’t have stuck to his guns, going full-tilt crazy, I don’t know. He drove close to the edge but then got scared, pulled the car away from the cliff and stuck that shit in reverse, driving over the corpse of inspired filmmaking. Maybe Craven was so afraid of losing a potential hit that he just had to throw up as much conventional over the finale as possible: “don’t worry, folks, I got ghost attacks and zombie fights up in this bitch.” The Serpent and the Rainbow has much to recommend it but, as with much of Craven’s oeuvre, it comes with enormous caveats.

Dave's Rating:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Krush Groove (1985)

dir. Michael Schultz

I defy anyone to find a more infectious group of films than the hip hop how-tos of the eighties. Watching a shitload of these movies recently, it’s amazing to me that anyone during rap’s nascent years ever found this art-form dangerous. I had to go back and re-listen to some NWA to remind myself that this shit did in fact get pretty real by the end of the decade. But early- to mid-eighties rap: it’s just so damn cuddly, so innocuous, so...just so damn fun. Maybe it’s the primitive beats laid over eighties rhymes, but even when these songs address serious subjects, they seem more informative than confrontational. Or maybe it’s because the nihilism of gangsta rap had yet to gain a foothold and inform all the music of the subsequent decade.

Regardless, eighties rap isn’t scary; but you’d never know that watching some of these old films. In film after film, out-of-touch old-timers had to be placated, told that rap wasn’t as dangerous as it seemed. Maybe it's just that rap was scary because it was new. The old guard just couldn’t adapt: “music is guitar, bass, drums, singing, and white guys with eye-liner and long, flowing Farrah Fawcet hair; not turntables, speak-rhyming and not white guys with eye-liner and long, flowing Farrah Fawcet hair.” Which explains why so many of the early hip hop movies (Style Wars, Wild Style, Beat Street) made pains to explain just what this newfangled hip hop culture was. Young kids sprayed graffiti on buildings and subways because they wanted to express themselves artistically on the biggest, most widely seen canvases; not because they wanted to murder your families. Young kids laid cardboard on the sidewalk and spun on their heads because they wanted to express themselves through dance; not because they wanted to murder your families. And the songs said, “He spins the records, I do the rhyming; we aren’t here to murder your families.” Gangsta rap said: “We’re gonna murder your families.”

Coming at the end of the “what’s this newfangled thing I’ve heard about called rap” phase of the form’s evolution, Krush Groove eschews most of the earlier films’ instructional qualities. Produced by Russell Simmons, Krush Groove, in fact, functions mostly as a showcase for the music producer’s stable of talent: Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Sheila E., LL Cool J, and The Fat Boys all make appearances. And like all of these movies, the flimsy plot functions as window dressing from which to hang all of the electric performances. And ain’t a goddamn thing wrong with that.

Dave's Rating:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Lock the Gates!"

Holy...well, deja vu's not the right term. What's it called when you so associate a sample of something with its new context that when you finally see or hear it in the original context your brain explodes—or at least fills in the gap, inserting the rest of the recontextualized art you're so used to hearing follow the brief sampled snippet? Well, what ever it is, I just experienced it watching this clip from Almost Famous featuring Marc Maron.

I saw this movie way back when it came out, before Maron's podcast, and way before I'd ever heard of the guy, so his "Lock the Gates!" line didn't really register with me at the time. It wasn't something I remembered from the movie. After listening to Maron's podcast for so many months now, hearing that sample used in his theme song, I just assumed it was something from an early episode. Anyway, this is a whole roundabout way of saying, watch this clip and be prepared to have your mind blown.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Navajo Joe (1966)

dir. Sergio Corbucci

"Navajo Joe" - Ennio Morricone

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 104 - Navajo Joe

dir. Sergio Corbucci

Roger and I rate the performance of Burt Reynolds' wig in our discussion of the Sergio Corbucci Western Navajo Joe. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Blue Valentine (2010)

dir. Derek Cianfrance

“Do not tell me I’ve changed. You’re just raising your standards.”
-The National

First of all, I wanna give a shout out, by way of an apology, to my roommate...and all of my neighbors: I didn’t mean to cry so loud; hope I didn’t wake everyone. But hey, watching a tear-jerker at ungodly o’clock in the morning, it’s not like I wasn’t aware of the risks. I knew what I was getting into. Therefore, I rescind my apology. (Yeah, I don’t understand the logic of this either.) But anyway, let me be the first to tell you about this brilliant new movie Blue Valentine. Also, I’ve heard tell of a rocking new group by the name of the White Stripes. Let me make a bold prediction: these folks are going places.

And so I’m reminded yet again of the perils of movie blogging. I ain’t a professional; I don’t get paid to do this. I have to work a full time job, so I only do the blogging in my spare time. Therefore, not only do I not get into free press screenings, I also have to schedule my movie-watchin’ around my real job—the place that, you know, pays me. So catching new movies is something I just don’t get around to doing as often as I’d like. I’m lucky if I make it to the theater three or four times a year.

Which is one of the reasons, for so long, I devoted most of my reviewin’ space to older, mostly trash, flicks. One, I just really dig watching and writing about those movies; and two, with old trash, it don’t matter if I’ve missed the sell-by date: that shit didn’t smell fresh when it hit the shelves. (I say this with love, by the way—the way you’d tease a loved one. A perusal of my previous trash reviews will show you I’ve got nothing but love for these old flicks.)

But ever since I started podcasting with Roger (and other awesome guests), I’ve kind of moved the trash love to the talkin’ part of my website and away from the writin’ part. Seeing as I wanted to diversify my shit, I started moving more and more into written pieces about newer movies—mostly documentaries up to now; but really anything newish that Netflix has added to its streaming service. Hell, I’ll admit it, I can be something of a click whore: reviews of newer movies means more people click on my site and read my shit. But, also, my move into reviews of newer serious movies was a result of genuinely wanting to branch out. Maybe I can be just as insightful about serious movies as I am about The Devil’s Rain.

Which brings me to my current conundrum: whether or not to write a piece on Blue Valentine. Yes, I loved the movie, and yes I’d highly recommend it; but hundreds of reviewers beat me to the punch a few years ago, sussing out all there is to dissect about this brutally honest depiction of the deterioration of a relationship. And it’s not like enough time has passed that I can approach the movie from the “ways in which Blue Valentine conforms, confronts, or critiques the zeitgeist of its era” type of analysis—its era is still our era. It’s stuck in a reviewin’ no-man’s land: too old to be current, not old enough to qualify as a time capsule. Yeah, maybe I should just stick to trash.

Dave's Rating:

Friday, January 11, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 103 - Sexy Time with Coke-Fueled Movies

dir. Martin Scorsese

Roger and I cover a whole vast array of topics (William Castle, geriatric movies, and coke-fueled movies) on today's fun episode. More importantly, I speak with a sexy-because-of-a-cold Barry White voice. You can listen to the episode here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Tingler (1959)

dir. William Castle

I wanna dig up William Castle’s corpse and make sweet sweet love to it. He may be my favorite person ever. I know that’s a phrase I bandy about enough to rob it all of meaning but I’m totally serious this time—for reals. I swear, I won’t say this about any other person again...except for Rudy Ray Moore...and Paul Erdos...and John Waters...and Joan Rivers. But that’s it.

Except for Robert Mitchum.

On a recent podcast I commented that the screening of Django Unchained I attended felt electric; there was an indescribable communal energy in the air. Yes, I’ve been to fun movies before where the giddiness of the crowd was palpable, but this was something else entirely. Perhaps, it’s because the subject matter is powerful, or Tarantino’s skills so great, or some combination of the two; but I never saw a revenge movie in a theater in which the revenge scenes felt so cathartic. We fed off the movie’s and each other’s energy and cheered on as Django did away with so many racist, slave-owning honkies. It was magical; and it’s this kind of experience I crave when going to the theater. It is, as far as I’m concerned—even more than actual film projection—the single greatest reason to keep alive the tradition of movie-going, to get out of the goddamn house and watch a movie with others. And few other directors better understood the joys of communal movie-going than William Castle.

And yeah, like I said, Castle’s my current flavor of the week; but, honestly, he’s a guy I’ve always loved. Even before I ever saw a single one of his films, I dug the guy’s master-showman shtick. Here’s a director who never saw a story gimmick or cheap audience-interactive device he couldn’t exploit. And with the Vincent Price (my favorite person ever—I swear that’s the last one) vehicle The Tingler, Castle concocted his greatest gimmick: vibrators placed under movie seats, set to go off strategically just as a dreaded tingler (the organism that lives on all our spinal cords and stiffens our bodies when we’re afraid unless we scream and kill it, natch) escaped into a movie theater within the movie and attacked various movie-goers within the movie.

So, obviously my only complaint with The Tingler: I had to watch this movie alone, in my bedroom, surrounded by no screaming theater-goers, and no tingler under my seat. Fuck. That. Noise. But it’s a credit to Castle’s intuitive sense of showmanship, that his movie still holds up, still entertains, despite the lack of appropriate live-screening accoutrements and live-screening hive mind energy. I dug the all-or-nothing energy Vincent Price brought to this ludicrous plot, spouting off the medical mumbo jumbo dialogue with the focused purposeful intensity of an A-lister in a prestigious medical drama about an important breakthrough in medicine.

And during the escaped-tingler scene, in which the screen goes black and Vincent Price warns us that a tingler (Jesus, spellcheck, for fuck’s sake, stop changing tingler to tingle) has escaped into the theater, and we must all scream with all our might to defeat it—goddamn that was fun.

Dave's Rating:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

John Waters Hearts William Castle

Ok, so I'm on a bit of a William Castle kick right now (review of The Tingler coming out tomorrow), as I was pretty happy to find this old MTV clip featuring John Waters discussing Castle. The section with Waters is rather brief, but this clip is a great blast from MTV past.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: The Tender Trap (1955)

dir. Charles Walters

"(Love Is) The Tender Trap" - Frank Sinatra

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 102 - A Force of One

dir. Paul Aaron

Roger and I discuss A Force of One. But mostly, we try, yet again, to wrap our heads around the enigma that is Chuck Norris' ill-gotten stardom. You can listen to the episode here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bunuel's Golden Years: Why the Exception Proves Tarantino's Adage on Aging

On a recent Hollywood Reporter roundtable discussion, Quentin Tarantino stated that he planned to retire from filmmaking before he lost his mojo. Most directors—or artists, in general, for that matter—start to decline around the age of sixty, he reasoned, so why not go out on top. Too often are the earlier great works of formerly brilliant filmmakers retroactively devalued once the Depends-clad old-timers start churning out inferior work. Now, as Tarantino himself admitted, as with any adage, you can always find exceptions; but a few brilliant AARP-member directors do not negate the rule: when you’re young you’ve got it, but then the world changes what it is, and now what’s it seems weird and scary to you and you’ve got no time for it; you’ll stick with the it you know and...and where’s the pudding? They promised pudding. Please face my chair toward the sun.

So why is it that artists decline? There are a multitude of reasons, and I think an exception to Tarantino’s rule of declining talent is illustrative of the dilemma facing the doomed-to-irrelevancy aging artist. Luis Bunuel has long been one of my favorite directors; and perhaps the greatest reason for my admiration is that not only did he never decline, he in fact got better with age, helming his best work after the age of sixty. Indeed, the string of eleven films he directed from The Young One (at the age of 60) to his final picture That Obscure Object of Desire (at the age of 77) ranks as one of the greatest winning streaks by any filmmaker. To understand why Bunuel was able to maintain an artistic erection well into his golden years, an understanding of his previous work is in order.

In 1929, at the age of 29, Bunuel—along with collaborator Salvador Dali—made a bold statement of artistic purpose with his debut Un Chien Andalou. Indeed, few other debuts have been as audacious, as groundbreaking as this silent short. A surrealist socialist atheist, Bunuel wanted to upend all Bourgeois notions of plot, sentimentality, and meaning. As his rule while filming stated: “No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” And though his wasn’t the first surrealist experiment in filmmaking, it was certainly the loudest; Bunuel made a mark. Unfortunately, after only two more shorts (L’Age d’Or and Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan), Bunuel got sidetracked by the Spanish Civil War. He remained in Spain for most of the war, but when the Fascists came to power Bunuel fled to America in search of work. What he got was bupkis. So, he went to Mexico to cool his heels for a while.

(I should note, in advance, that I have only seen a fraction of Bunuel’s Mexican output; but the few I’ve seen (Susana, A Woman Without Love) are rather unremarkable—at least compared to his later output.)

In 1947, Bunuel directed Gran Casino his first film in a decade and a half, and a commercial flop. The rusty director then went back to polishing his skills as a gun-for-hire on numerous Mexican Melodramas. Sure, he was able to add some surrealist touches to these pictures, but there was no denying that his was not the definitive voice on these movies. That is not to say that Bunuel churned out nothing but crap while exiled in Mexico. Indeed, I would rank Los Olvidados among his best pictures. Of course, as opposed to the majority of his Mexican work-for-hire films, Bunuel was a granted a degree of freedom with this picture. But despite occasional freedom, Bunuel was clearly operating at a disadvantage in Mexico.

It wasn’t until he branched out, getting international funding, that Bunuel was able to work on pet projects. And then the floodgates burst. Bunuel had been artistically edging for decades, and when he was finally able to direct his passion projects, he spent the next seventeen years cuming on art-house audiences. And given that he spent the previous ten or so years churning out Mexican studio pictures, he was able to burnish his filmmaking skills to a brilliant sheen. It was the best of both worlds: he advanced as a filmmaker without wasting the practice years on his personal stuff. By the time he was able to tell his stories, he had the chops to do so in the most accomplished manner possible.

Which brings me to one of the biggest reason artists decline: they run out of shit to say. No matter how insightful, how fresh, how novel an artist when he bursts onto the scene, eventually he starts to repeat himself. We, the audience, begin to anticipate his next moves. Bunuel, restrained for so long, was only really able to let loose his fuck-the-system artistic/political sensibilities in the sixties, an era that happily coincided with the ascendancy of these values in new-wave filmmaking. So, not only did his work not bear the mark of past-his-prime sensibilities/old age repeatism, it was remarkably au courant. The world caught up to Bunuel. (Of course, none of Bunuel’s later output ever matched the artistic punch in the nuts that was his debut, but once you’ve made a movie that opens with eyeball-slicing, you’re only setting yourself up for decline.)

But, all that being said, I still can’t understand why Tarantino, or any artist, would want to quit at 60. I can’t understand how anyone artistically inclined could just say, “Alright, that’s enough art for me. I’ll just sit on the porch and whittle some.” Granted, I’m not a filmmaker (though I’d sure as hell like to be), but I love to write. And yeah, I don’t doubt that as I get older I’ll continue on my path toward obsolescence; I’ll continue to lose touch with the sensibilities of the generations that follow me; I’ll continue to act as a voice for no one other than myself; but I’ll never lose the urge to write. It’s the fucking reason I’m giddy every night before going to bed: I know I’ll be able to write the next morning. I don’t care if I’m reduced to crayon scribbling during my pamper years; there’s no way in fuck I’m giving this up.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"He Was Younger, He Was Thinner"

As if you needed any more reason to love Sam Jackson, check out this interview with the man, starting fourteen minutes in.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Queen of Versailles (2012)

dir. Lauren Greenfield

I entered The Queen of Versailles with extreme trepidation. [Insert joke about this being something that was said by some person.] It being one of the most lauded films of the year, I was keenly aware of the subject of this doc: filmed before and during the financial crisis, The Queen of Versailles chronicles the “hardships” endured by time-share mogul members of the 1%, David and Jackie Siegel, as they struggle to live within their ungodly means. (Incidentally, you’ll remember David Siegel as the asshole who threatened to fire his employees if they didn’t vote for his preferred candidate in the last presidential election.) These poor bastards have it so rough they might even have to (gasp) sell off their unfinished 90,000 square foot mini-palace, and instead live in a mansion half that size.

Why would the Siegels have to make the ultimate sacrifice and forego the super-mansion that is every American’s birthright, you ask. Well, as David responded when asked whether he was still a billionaire: “it’s touch and go right now.” I hope you’ll be proud of me that I refrained from hurling the closest available object at my screen after hearing this asshole use life-and-death terminology to describe the precarious position of vacillating between ungodly, disgusting wealth and mere mega-wealth. But I maintained composure; I followed this shit through to the bitter end.

And to director Lauren Greenfield’s credit, she never passes judgment on these obliviously rapacious people. Indeed, The Queen of Versailles functions more as a sociological document chronicling the collective thought process that led to the financial collapse. The Siegels, for years, lived beyond their means because they wanted never to feel not rich; they always wanted more. Money was going to be cheap forever; their time-share business would always get an influx of subprime loan cash, because they would always be able to con people into buying time-shares they didn’t need with money they didn’t have, and the banks would continue doling out the cash. Those conned by the time-share company wanted to feel wealthy as well, after all.

The Queen of Versailles gives us access, a slight understanding of the thought process of the 1%, people for whom material gain is an end in and of itself, aptly illustrated by the young cousin that the Siegel’s have adopted. Raised in extreme poverty, this girl was shocked at how unreal life was with the Siegels. She was an outsider looking in; she could appreciate just how good she had it now. But over the years she admitted that being super-rich just seemed normal and more and more was now the ultimate goal. After all, how can you keep a girl on a dirt floor basement after she's been chauffeured to McDonald's in a limo.

I generally only do this for my TV show reviews, but, The Queen of Versailles being the kind of anger-inducing film it is (for me, anyway), I thought I’d treat you to some of the ramblings I jotted down while witnessing The Siegel’s plight:

I never understood the appeal of acquiring a trophy wife. As David says at one point: “It’s like having another child.”

It’s so unsettling watching the strained muscles beneath Jackie’s plastic face attempt to mimic what we humans would refer to as smiling.

Wow, David, so your parents lost all their money in Vegas because they wanted to maintain the illusion of wealth, and now you want to honor their memory by building a time-share resort in Vegas in which you’ll bilk unsuspecting folks out of money they don’t have, thus ensuring their future bankruptcy, so they can also maintain the illusion of wealth–as a tribute to your grandparents. Cognitive dissonance much?

Oh dear God, they have to fly commercial now and not on a private jet. Fuck you, Tiny Tim; these people know what real suffering is.

Jesus Christ, David, how many young’uns did your seed spawn? Get a fucking vasectomy already.

What an insane carbon footprint these assholes must be leaving.

Arghhisdchristdnuwfuckkedrrr [unintelligible impotent rage]

Dave's Rating: Here’s yet another movie I’ve no idea how to rate.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

KL5-FILM Podcast Episode 100 - Django Unchained

dir. Quentin Tarantino

On today's episode Roger and I rave about Tarantino's newest film Django Unchained. Also, I tell D. W. Griffith's ghost to suck both my nutsacks. You can listen to the episode here.

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: Breakin' (1984)

dir. Joel Silberg

"Breakin'... There's No Stopping Us" - Ollie and Jerry

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)

dir. Sam Firstenberg

When last we dropped in on the Breakin’ crew, Turbo, Special K, and Ozone were living the dream. Special K convinced the irritable-because-he-secretly-he-loved-Special-K-but-was-afraid-that-she-actually-harbored-feelings-for-her-agent-when-in-fact-although-it-did-seem-like-said-agent-actually-had-something-of-a-crush-on-her-what-she-wanted-was-for-the-TKO-crew-and-by-extension- all-maligned-underground-movements-broadly-and-breakdancing-specifically-to-gain-deserved-artistic-respectability-and-so-was-spending-more-time-with-her-agent-in-order-to-score-the-crew-a-break Turbo to trust that her agent knew what was best for them; the crew tried out for a Broadway show; and not only did they get hired, but the entire show was rewritten to take advantage of their talents, becoming an homage to street dancing.

Now, within the span of less than a year, the crew has inexplicably split, becoming estranged, seemingly as if they have been cut off from each other for decades. Special K, no longer the hot young thing on Broadway, is relegated to background duty on a Chorus line, counting off the days until retirement. Turbo and Ozone can no longer get work, so they now devote all their time to running the local community center, Miracles. Which is in danger of being shut down, bulldozed, and transformed into a giant shopping center by an avaricious developer. That is, unless the gang can reunite and give those developers what for, the only way they know how—with dancin’, lots and lots of dancing.

Also, everyone dances now: cops, firefighters, everyone, everyone in the world; they all dance. That’s what life is now—all dancing all the time. So, not only have decades seemingly passed within the past six months (with nary a person showing any signs of aging, no less), everyone has been transported to a fantastical dancing universe where no laws of our reality apply.

So yeah, I hope you’ll buy a ticket for the upcoming film I’m working on: Breaking 1 1/2: Time-Warp Boogaloo, a movie in which I examine the sci-fi goings-on that went on between the two Breakin’ movies.

Dave's Rating: