A Report from Busyland

You know what? It actually does chafe my lazy ass when I don’t weigh in here for a while. Really, it does. Though that amounts to the posterior of a rat when I don’t have the time to do a halfway decent job of it; I suppose if I didn’t care about things like spelling and general grammar it would be a lot easier. Speaking of spelling and grammar:

Most of my free time is taken up by being paid to slam words together. I’m currently working on three separate projects, of which only one is a sure thing, but that sure thing is paying me actual money. Money is good, I like money. I’m fairly certain that not stressing over getting the bills paid has put an extra month or two on the back end of my lifespan.

SAY HELLO TO MY LEETLE FRIENDS!

SAY HELLO TO MY LEETLE FRIENDS!

Money also helps in the other current fun struggle of my life, my recent diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. That is not going as swimmingly as I would like, but pfft! What does? It doesn’t take a pack of scientists to point out to you that Eating Right is expensive, which makes no goddamn sense to me, but that only means that it fits in well with the rest of the world at large. I started with unregulated sugars near the three hundred mark, and now generally clock in under 200. I need to exercise more, but A) gyms are also expensive, and B) we are currently experiencing one King Hell heat wave, which renders the outdoor exercise idea kinda risky. Twenty years ago, I would get up at 4am to get in five miles before the sun came up and tried to obliterate the city. I was also twenty years younger then.

Besides trying to coax creativity out of a brain trapped in a system with changing blood chemistry, I find that the other thing cutting into my movie-watching time is the twice-daily blood test. Most of my movie-watching got done in the evening, after dinner. I now have to wait 30 minutes after din-din to do the evening stick, and I haven’t gotten good enough at it to perform the ritual in my easy chair. I need a desk or table to hold everything at the ready, glucometer, lancet, alcohol pad. Doing otherwise really tempts the Blood Gods and I wind up wasting a test strip, which even bought at a discount cost 25 cents a pop. What I’ve gotten really good at is cursing, though many would opine I already had a fair mastery of that art.

As I’m writing prose, I’m also reading more. I’m pleased to announce that so far, Richard Kadrey’s Kill City Blues may be his best yet. But I feel that I’m stealing time away even for that.

Enough. I watched some stuff.

BurdenOfDreams_poster01Ever since Fitzcarraldo, I had wanted to see Les Blank’s documentary on its making, Burden of Dreams, which, unlike a lot of Blank’s work, is fortunately available on a Criterion disc. Given Herzog’s penchant for absolute, even dangerous realism – that is damn well a real boat being hauled up that incline – it is no surprise that the actual filming was a massive clusterfuck on the level of Apocalypse Now.

But the surprising thing is – and Herzog acknowledges this in the supplementary material – is that Blank produces a documentary that is not so much a retelling of the filmmaking process, but of the life around the process, how it affects and possibly even changes people. The film junkie in me is kind of disappointed, but Herzog admires and respects the result, so I probably should, too.

My son & I went to see Pacific Rim, and we had a whole lot of fun. I am bemused that a whole generation of kids are going to know the word kaiju and have no idea who Godzilla is, or worse, think he’s a giant iguana. Maybe next year’s movie will change that.

Yes, I know a lot of people diss Pacific Rim. I don’t care. Haven’t you figured that out yet?

And speaking of not caring: it was about that time that Sharknado hit. It certainly lit up Twitter, though that didn’t seem to convert into ratings numbers; nevertheless, it was rebroadcast the next week, got a theatrical booking, and the sequel is on the way.

Sharknado_posterI don’t have cable (too expensive for something I wouldn’t use). This did not stop people from chiding me over my lack of opinion and bloviating about Sharknado. They were disappointed in me. Where was my bad movie moxie? When was I going to watch it? Huh? Huh?

Well, since I am apparently some sort of dancing monkey, I found a way to see it. The movie achieves Maximum Stupid in the first three minutes and spends the rest of the movie trying to match it. It comes close many times. This really is the sort of thing I would have gone on and on about for 2000 words back in the day, but you know what? There are lots of people already doing that for Sharknado. I see despairing posts from other critics about how they’re tired of spectacle, how Man of Steel‘s fight scenes put them to sleep, waaaaah. That’s how I am with stupidity. Especially willful stupidity. Make no mistake, that’s what this is; once they had that title, they ran with it. I appreciate that. However…

I had Wild Strawberries and The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp waiting on me upstairs, but there I was, succumbing to peer pressure and watching Sharknado. This dancing monkey didn’t even get some coins in his tin cup.

So after spending most of its running time wondering where the title character was and saying things like, “Wow, you can firebomb a tornado out of existence from a helicopter?”, I shot the world the finger and watched Onibaba.

full.onibaba-mexicanlobby-21292__11538.1374517744.1280.1280Onibaba had been on my radar for a long, time, since my teen years when it cropped up in a book about horror movies. So it finally got scooped up in one of those Barnes & Noble Criterion sales.

Based on a Buddhist fable, it’s the tale of two Japanese women in the (I think) period of constant civil war preceding the Tokugawa era. They are a mother and her daughter-in-law; the son went off to war and while they wait for him to come back and work the farm, they make ends meet by waylaying defeated samurai seeking to hide in the sea of reeds surrounding their hut. The samurai’s bodies are tossed down a  deep hole and their armor and weapons traded to the local black marketeer for grain.

The son’s friend returns with news of the son’s death, and so begins the unraveling of the relationship between the two women. The friend makes a play for the recently widowed daughter-in-law, and she returns his interest. Mom is worried that she’ll be left to fend for herself, and is also dealing with not a small amount of sexual frustration herself.

onibaba2While the two young’uns are out dallying, Mom has to take out a samurai wearing a demon mask all by herself, and gets an idea. Once she takes the mask off his corpse – revealing a hideously disfigured face – she uses the mask to scare the daughter away from her nighttime visits to her stud. Since I found this in a book of horror movies, we can be pretty sure that this is going to backfire in some terrible manner.

Onibaba is definite slow-burn material; director Kaneto Shindo (who passed away only last year, and was also responsible for Kuroneko, another Criterion offering) serves up great vistas of tall reeds swaying in the wind like a vertical ocean, its turbulence obscuring and drowning his characters. It’s astounding how erotically charged the relationships become, how the daughter blossoms under the interloper’s attentions. This is another movie that, although made in 1964, when even Roger Corman was making color movies, could not have been produced in any medium but black and white. The characters, though far from smart, are drawn with such craft that their survivalist cunning was more than a tonic for Sharknado.

2 Comments

  1. […] and daughter who get by looting the bodies of dead samurai (which brings uncomfortable thoughts of Onibaba to mind). Both women fall for the wild Takezo, especially when he lays the smack down on a bunch of […]

  2. […] Shindo has a remarkably varied filmography, but he is likely best known in the states for Onibaba, another tale of ghostly skullduggery during this tumultuous era. Shindo’s family was […]


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