Let’s Anti-Party

Hey, I see you out there, checking if I’ve updated lately. Honestly! I have checked, and I feel badly about not putting something up here. I’ve been working on a piece about the two Suspirias, and it’s proving one of those bits of writing I’m slogging through. Right now I’m just going to say that I liked the remake/reboot/whatever and there, I’ve probably insured that I’ll never finish it.

Man, February. This month is rough.

Facebook may be a miserable cesspool, but there is one thing it does, via “Your Memories” – it serves as a snapshot of where you were one, two, five, ten years ago. At least, depending on how much you share/overshare. Turns out for the past several years the week of Valentines Day always tries to kill me; besides my day job, there’s always at least one nighttime City Meeting to attend to, three shows (grab those Valentine dollars whilst you may) and other miscellaneous shoots. Something about this time of year makes people want to schedule events that require reportage. I shouldn’t complain, our entire crew -including the Engineer! – was out shooting Saturday, and my co-worker Pebbles (not her real name) was kind enough to take over one of the City Meetings from me. So it was only one City Meeting, four shoots, three stories edited and three nighttime shows for me with associated load in, set-up, tear down and load out.

This shit is a young person’s game, and honestly, this year the load worried me. I usually preface such weeks with a Tweet that says “Just in case this week kills me, remember I love you,” but this time I meant it. But, you know, one day at a time it wasn’t too bad. Dragging myself out of bed Saturday morning to go to the 10:00am shoot was the mightiest summoning of will power I’ve had to perform in quite some time, and christ only knows what that footage looks like. Then, the stories from the Friday shoot and the Sunday shoot have already been edited and okayed, so the odds seem in my favor on that score.

GIMME!!!!

As you know, my job changed back in October (largely for the better), and I am glad to report that my new health insurance kicked in at the beginning of this month, which means yay! I’m medicated again! We’ll see how much difference this makes, whether I will actually be able to watch a movie again or finish that furshlugginer Suspiria review. I’m actually posting on social media again, and hey look, you’re reading something that dribbled from my brain.

Usually in these little pauses in my movie consumption I fasten onto one of my older loves, reading or gaming. Neither of those are lighting a particular fuse this year, but what is keeping my brain afloat is something I’ve been largely ignoring the last, oh let’s say decade or two: music. At the age of 60 I re-discovered Internet Radio (back in the day Dave and I ran a Live365 station that was meant to underscore gameplay in City of Heroes. Ah, those were the days). Dude, there are stations out there that play trance music 24/7. Yes, yes, there are others that play different genres, but go talk about them on your own blog.

I’m wondering if this current passion is kindled because it’s puts me back in a younger mindspace: the mid-70s, when I was starting to pay closer attention to music right about the time that FM radio was beginning to take off. Those long nights spent listening to AOR stations and wondering just what I was listening to, and hoping desperately the DJ would tell me. (Long distance telephone calls cost money in those days, so calls into Houston radio stations were right out. I was living in the shadow of Texas A&M at the time, and the only two FM stations played easy listening music and country) Research was mainly limited to talking with like-minded friends (not many; my music was “too weird”) and Creem magazine. But mainly those off-kilter off-hours DJs in the days before programming analysts and corporate radio.

So many genres! Including… BIBLE?!

So here I am again, hearing the bit of music that really grabs me and wondering “What is that? How can I hear it again?” After Hours FM has a forum which posts playlists, and some of the sets do still have DJs doing the song announcement bit, meaning I’ve bought six songs in the past week (Russian stations like Anima Amoris are not so forthcoming)(Proofreader me points out that Anima’s actual site tells you what track is currently playing, unlike AH. Спасибо, Ivan!). This portion of the passion (with the brew that is true) takes me back to the late 80s, where there were some weekends when I just had to have new music, and would walk a mile or so from my fourplex hovel in Montrose to the Sound Exchange, a wondrous repository of all kinds of music. Both the fourplex and the store have been developed into oblivion, but at least The Sound Exchange still exists, they just found an equally boho neighborhood for a new location. I am going to be forever embittered by the gentrification of Montrose. But now we’re back to the Old Man phase of life, with me shaking my cane at high-rises where my little apartment and favorite dive bar used to live.

Am I back? Is better living through chemistry finally going to allow me to finish that damned Suspiria entry and even watch movies again?

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the little Monkey Dog who would sleep in my lap during movies the past year decided to run away and never come back (guess she’s peeing on someone else’s sofa right now), so drag me up another double shot of antidepressants, cue up some Goa music and kung fu, and I might be able to watch something tonight. I have a rare 24 hours between clocking out and tomorrow’s show with nothing on my calendar. I’d say let’s party, but I am not a partier. Let’s anti-party. Yes, that’s it, let’s anti-party.

Best Laid Plans

Well, that was certainly a week. But tonight I’ll finally be able to start watching that list of Good Movies!

(checks mailbox)

Oh God damn it.

The Year Comes for Us

December was kind of weird.

Despite managing to post some reviews from a truncated project, and a Crapfest recap, I was largely off movies for the month. That’s not unusual; Hubrisween – or any similar movie challenge – usually leaves me with a hangover. So I engaged in some other braincell-killing pursuits, until I could bear to watch a movie again. Which is good, because I’m trying to gear up for another challenge in March, one that will ease me none-too-gently back into the world of Movies I Should Have Been Watching. I do really enjoy wallowing in the Cinema of Diminished Expectations, but there are so bloody many conversations I cannot take part in because I was watching Sausage Party instead of A Quiet Place.

Let’s do the non-movie stuff first.

I couldn’t afford a new laptop, but I still needed a portable computing solution, so I got a refurbished Chromebook instead, and I love it (of course, I love it because I’m not using it for its intended purpose). It does everything my phone does, with a larger screen and keyboard. My phone had started to be a transistor radio to me months ago, when I started using Amazon Music to sing me to sleep (their phone app has a sleep timer). I started to explore music podcasts for the same thing, since most podcast apps have a similar timer, or simply stop after an episode finishes. My favorite in this period was Trance Paradise, hosted by Euphoric Nation (yes, I am 61 years old and listen to a lot of Trance). That led me to the Internet radio station After Hours. Now, I sighed, if only I could find a podcast or radio station for my other love, late 60s – early 70s psychedelic rock. Exploring apps on my Chromebook, I find one that has links for Trance stations… and another for largely more electronia, but had the occasional oldies station, so say hello to my other new love, Psychedelicized Radio.

Which is all to the good, as I like music playing while I work, but it wasn’t using the potential of the Chromebook to its fullest. Then, by golly, enter Whizical Digital Imaging and their app, Kaleider. It’s an image-mirroring program that can produce some stunning, moving kaleidoscope images, and though I can find nothing that says it’s triggered by music (it has its own music player) the shifting of the images in time with either of those music stations is often more than can be chalked up to happenstance. This provides an experience that’s closer to meditation than anything I’ve managed in years. If I had this toy back in my heavy acid-dropping days, I would never have come down. I’m reminded of some parts of Ernie Kovacs’ TV show that were simply recordings of classical music with kaleidoscope images. In black and white. This is better.

For instance…

It’s also been fun tracking down images of old black light posters to feed into the program. I briefly considered trying to make a video of Kaleider in unison with some music, but then I realized the reaction would be something along the lines of “Oh, you stoned fool,” and went back to playing Gems of War (something else the Chromebook can do, and my dumpster-diver PC could not).

But what’s this? Christmas, and a number of Amazon gift cards? Hello, suddenly affordable replacement PC! It’s not magnificent, but a very definite step up. (I still can’t play No Man’s Sky, which is something I’ve wanted to do for three goddam years, but hey) What I can do is run Plex, which suddenly put the sneakernet in my house out of business. I had been jealous of my pal Dave’s home networking, and now I don’t have to be! Movies stream like magic to my TV! I feel like I’m finally living in the year 2000!

So. Movies. Let’s do the rare theatrical outings first.

Aquaman: I loved it. The further the DCEU gets from the Snyderverse, the better. As my son Max exclaimed, “There was actual color in this movie!” Strong cast, good director, and the sort of visual overload I once moaned that you could only get from Chinese movies. My major takeaway from The Expendables was “My God, Dolph Lundgren actually learned how to act!” and he is great in Aquaman! I have never been so happy to reassess my opinion of an actor. I’m also impressed that the DCEU hasn’t tried to movie-up their costuming as Marvel did. That didn’t work out so well with Deathstroke in the post-credit scene in Justice League, but damned if they didn’t make the gold-and-green for Aquaman look good. Amber Heard had already proven she could pull off the classic green Mera look. Hell, I didn’t even mind the minor rewrites of Justice League to make the timeline in this movie work.

I know, I know, you’re sick of superhero movies. You’re where I was with slasher movies, romcoms and 80s movies reboots. They’ll fade into the past soon enough. In the meantime, let me have my fun.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: I’m torn. I really, really loved the first one and its videogame-centric worldview. This is a sequel that did everything a sequel should: took our established heroes, gave them new challenges and vistas to explore. The satire is much wider here, but still pretty geeky. Overall, I liked it a lot, I think: the take on the Disney Princesses is pretty funny, and I liked that the animators cared enough that when they’re mucking around the Marvel part of Disney, they included a Stan Lee avatar. I’ll need to watch it again when it hits home video. Also, the post-credit scene was perfectly timed to answer a question that occurred to me.

Speaking of home video…

My local movie resale shop has a deal where if you buy 3, you get the 4th one free, and that is how I went home with Sausage Party (the others were It Follows, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Black Cauldron, if that matters). This is the R-rated version. I understand there is an unrated, unexpurgated version out there, and holy shit, am I not interested. The R-rated version pretty much took me to the limits of where I was willing to go. The world-building was fairly okay; the supermarket as a place where food waits for “Gods” – people – to come and take them to the promised land, and those that sit on the shelf too long are gathered by the “Dark Lord” and taken to the hell of the trash can. You probably already know about the overtly sexual relationship between hot dogs and buns, but you are not ready for the oversexed nature of all food. From there we fall into too-easy racial stereotypes as ethnic foods enter into the story, the discovery that the “Gods” are monsters who will eat our main characters and the eventual war between the two, climaxing – quite literally – in a food orgy, which is at least inclusive of all possible gender combos, and has one impossible act. The question that is going to linger with you is why?

Well, I may have given up on Pixels after five minutes, but I’ve seen Sausage Party all the way through.

Not sure what that proves.

“Complete and unexpurgated” had caught me by nasty surprise recently, too, as I had a copy of the extremely strange Italian movie Nude for Satan that claimed to be this. I had gotten really tired of the “Die Hard is a Christmas movie” thing (jesus, people, I was making that joke years ago), posted “Oh, so I suppose you’re going to tell me Nude for Satan isn’t a Christmas movie” and slapped that thing into the player, thinking this was likely a prime candidate for Crapfest. What I didn’t know was that there was a Dutch version of the movie into which some wily entrepreneur had spliced actual hardcore porn footage. There are few things like being entertainingly puzzled by a demented Italian flick and when your protagonist opens a door and reacts in shock, you are slapped across the face by several minutes of well-lit, enthusiastic fellatio. On Christmas Eve, no less. This would happen over and over again, with only a minimal attempt to actually connect it to the movie surrounding it (and often not even that bare – *snicker* – minimum), rendering the plot even more confusing. Something about Satan trying to switch our two stars with versions of themselves from the past, and lecherous giant spiders and oh yes, more porn.

Obviously the only way to follow that up was by finally watching Venom (please do not inquire about this train of thought). I’m okay with Tom Hardy finally getting his superhero movie, but I’ve never been a Spider-Man fan, nor of any of his morning zoo crew. It’s pretty standard stuff, with crusading reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) finding out that Earth-Sony’s version of a not-stupid Elon Musk (Riz Ahmed) has managed to bring back some alien symbiotes via his own private space program. The symbiotes have to bind with a compatible host to survive in our atmosphere, and most people aren’t strong enough to survive the binding. Brock is, and is soon talking to himself and turning into a whole bunch of shapes as Venom (and biting off a couple of heads). The upshot is that a more powerful symbiote, Riot, has taken over Ahmed, and wants to bring all its symbiote buddies back to Earth to eat us. Venom wants to stop this, which is a character turn that feels entirely unearned, but we agree to let art wash over us. Venom made a ton of money at the cinemas, and I’m not sure why; I don’t regret ceding 90 minutes of my life to it, but it’s not something I’m going to grab people and say “Hey! Watch this!”

Last watch of the year was something I had meant to get to for a while, unsuccessfully: The Night Comes for UsTimo Tjahjanto’s action follow-up to Headshot (preceded by the equally Netflix-produced horror movie May the Devil Take You). Ito (Joe Haslam) is one of the Six Seas, Triad drug lords in charge of keeping the trade efficient and problem-free. When a few members of a village skim the Triad’s profits, Ito and his crew are sent to massacre the entire village as a lesson to others. Ito, however, hits Kill Critical Mass, and instead of letting his men finish off the lone surviving 6 year-old girl, kills them instead, and that is where the problems begin.

Ito’s attempt to leave the country with the girl and start a new life gets very complicated when the other Six Seas want the girl dead to complete their message, and Ito six feet under as well. To do this they call in his childhood buddy Arian (Iko Uwais), as well as the female assassins The Five Lotus Petals. What that really means, though, is this movie is basically one long fight scene, and is already infamous for its brutality. That’s it. Theoretically the movie’s about the different paths Ito and Arian’s lives have taken, but it’s really just a Macguffin surrounded by fight scenes. It’s fun to see Uwais play on his reputation as a good guy.  Julie Estelle (the formidable Hammer Girl of The Raid 2) is on hand as The Operator, an impressively deadly lady whose job is to exterminate the Six Seas. At the end, The Operator, five of the Six Seas and at least two of the Five Lotus Petals are still alive. That’s a sequel I would watch.

You might want to bring plastic sheeting to a viewing, though. Pretend it’s a Gallagher concert.

New Year’s Eve was spent talking myself out of watching The Emoji Movie, on the faulty theory that then 2019 couldn’t possibly do anything worse to me, but I finally decided it was best not to tempt the bastard. Now I suppose I should start thinking about teeing up those movies of (harrumph) quality I was talking about.

Right after The Emoji Movie.

 

 

 

 

The Hubrisween Hangover

Told ya I was going to be scarce, didn’t I?

Oh, I had plans, I tell you what. Hubrisween going off like clockwork filled me with so much hope and optimism, you would have thought it was Christmas already. In fact, the Christmas present I should buy myself is a T-shirt with the word HUBRIS in big block letters and a large arrow pointing up at my grossly inflated head. Because I had planned a wondrous thing: another movie challenge which would result in my watching and reviewing 25 offbeat Christmas movies in 25 days.

I blame this on my own personal demon, a tiny Vic Diaz dressed in red that perches on my shoulder and tells me to do things like eat entire pies in one sitting and set outlandish, ruinous movie challenges for myself. If I carry that metaphor a little further, though, it would mean that the opposing angel figure would be a barely-dressed Michelle Bauer, and how the hell I could ignore that is beyond me, so forget I said anything.

This is kind of American Christmas personified, huh.

Any rational person would have said, “Hey, idiot – it’s the Holidays,” but as we know, rationality has little to do with my world. If you follow me on any other social media, you know that after eight years of scraping by on part-time work, I finally went full-time. That means a four-person staff went down to two doing the work of four. Again, that accursed rational person would point out that this meant less time for watching and kvetching about movies. Thanksgiving arrived, I had every bit of two and a half reviews written, and my body said, “Oh, a couple of days off? Good, I’ve been saving this up.” And thus began the loss of a week I do not remember at all. It is not possible to completely cough up a lung, but I surely tried. Still trying, as I type this up. Just not as frequently.

The Victorians had an… um… interesting… idea of what made an ideal Christmas card.

Luckily for the world, my old comrades at The Daily Grindhouse have independently decided to do the same thing (the Christmas movies, not the coughing up of body parts), so keep checking up on them for all your questionable Christmas needs. I’m actually relieved that I don’t have to watch some of the flicks I dug up, but some sound so bizarre I have to check them out. I’d made a vow that there would only be one Psycho Santa movie (and of course that’s one of the few I managed to watch), and I was going to re-watch a few old favorites I’d not seen in a while. But forget about it, Jake, you got too much real world work to do.

I’ll see you around, I hope I hope I hope.

“FUCK YOU! IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

 

 

Greetings, New Followers

I know you’re out there. We always pick up a few new followers during the Hubrisween event, so welcome. Also, I hope you were not fooled by that event into thinking that we always update daily. We generally try to do that once a week, and we generally fail at that.

We are also not sure when we started speaking of ourselves employing the royal “we”.

It was probably about the time I accidentally published this on Halloween day. Hooray for being pulled in multiple directions!

Anyway.

If you look at the little calendar widget to the right, you’ll see that October was pretty solid, but the months leading up to it were… spotty. Truthfully, watching and reviewing 26 movies is time-consuming, and I had been banking reviews for October since July. And I was still writing up Zoombies on Day 30. Every other time I’ve done this, I wound up hating movies for a couple of weeks, which is when you get a post about solitaire games or fidget spinners.

Get to writing, boy. Your cookies depend on it.

This time is different, for some reason. Well, the reason is actually obvious, and that reason is my brain is drying up with age, because I am going to try to do it again next month. With only a month to throw this together, it’s probably going to get smaller in scope as December 1 approaches, but barring untoward circumstances, something will be happening here. The baby Jesus only knows what that might be.

Anyway.

There are only two things you should know about me, going forward.

You are never going to convince me that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a good movie.

You are never going to convince me that The Last Jedi is a bad movie.

If you’re able to live with that, again, welcome. We’ll try to have some fun.

 

Hail to the Bandit, Baby

So there I was, tooling around, stacking up my reviews in advance of Hubrisween… and then Burt Reynolds up and died.

Whenever a famous person goes to their reward, I don’t usually do the “Well, I guess I know what I’m watching tonight” thing. The one exception I can think of was watching Head the night Davy Jones passed away, but then I don’t need much of an excuse to watch Head again. For some reason the passing of Reynolds was different. Maybe it was because I was approaching horror movie overload:

Remember, most recently watched is at the left. This is the obstacle I hit.

I wasn’t a big Reynolds fan. I didn’t dislike him, it’s just that, by and large, he decided to make movies that didn’t much appeal to me. When I did watch one, I was okay with the time spent. He was immensely likable and smooth in delivery. He was very good at what he did. But I watched him more in Dan August than I did on the big screen. Nonetheless, that was a legend passing, and I did have this $5 DVD of Smokey and the Bandit sitting around in its original shrinkwrap against just such an emergency.

And no, I had never seen it before. I have this snob reaction to popular movies, and man, saying Smokey and the Bandit was popular in 1977 is like saying Star Wars might have been popular around the same time (Smokey was #2 at the box office that year. guess what was first).  Oddly, I had no problems watching Star Wars multiple times…

Anyway, now I can say I’ve seen it. It was, as I expected, largely harmless redneck fun.

  • In case you passed over watching it as much as I did, Burt is the Bandit of the title, a trucking legend who, along with his partner Snowman (Jerry Reed) agrees to a challenge made by rich douchebags Big and Little Enos (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams), to run 400 cases of Coors Beer from Texarkana to Georgia in 48 hours for their big party.
  • It was impossible to get Coors east of the Mississippi at this time, as it wasn’t pasteurized and had to be refrigerated constantly. Therefore, this was considered bootlegging.
  • As a lifelong Texan, I am amazed at this mythic quality attributed to Coors. It was available in Texas by the time I hit drinking age -18 in 1976 – and it was worshiped like a heathen idol. Eh.
  • Anyway, the plan is for Snowman to drive the truck with the beer way over the speed limit, and Bandit in a Trans-Am to run interference.
  • It is safe to say that Pontiac had a very good year thanks to this movie. My friend Scott points out that my opinion of the ubiquitous Trans-Ams on campus was “I want to either own them or blow them up.” I replied that was my attitude on a lot of things.
  • For the record, it still is.
  • On the way, Bandit picks up a literal runaway bride (Sally Fields), who will be his love interest for the rest of the movie and its sequel (and several years in reality).
  • I’d like to say that this viewing made me fall in love with Sally Fields all over again, but that would be a lie. I never fell out of love with her. She is just so goshdang adorable.

  • This pickup will also put him in direct conflict with Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), whose idiot son (Mike Henry) was the groom in the wedding Sally is running away from. Yes, this is the Smokey of the title.
  • They have adventures. There are many car crashes.
  • Besides Pontiac, makers of Citizen’s Band radios probably had a very good year.
  • God, remember CB radios? Never mind, you’re all children.
  • I wish Jackie Gleason had actually been given something funny to do. Richard Boone was up for the role, but Reynolds wanted someone who could actually be funny, and not quite such a drunk.
  • I have bad news for him about that. Gleason was a comedy genius, but whenever he asked his assistant to bring him a “hamburger”, he meant a glass of vodka.
  • This is director Hal Needham’s first movie – before this he had been a well-respected stunt guy (and this shows in his movies). This one of the least episodic of his flicks, but it’s still… pretty episodic.

Generally speaking, as mentioned above, I didn’t begrudge Smokey and the Bandit the time I spent on it. I probably resent the flood of truckers-as-modern-cowboys movies that followed more, like High-Ballin’ and Convoy. And The Villain. I will never stop resenting The Villain. Thank God Needham returned to car crash movies for most of his directing career (*cough* Megaforce *cough cough*).

Recovering from a Burt hangover

I’m more interested in how this derailed my planned movie watching for a while. As you can see below, I tried to jumpstart the Hubrisween train with Eaten Alive, which is a good documentary about Italian cannibal movies (Umberto Lenzi’s claiming to invent the genre is almost as entertaining as his claims in the similar documentary Yellow Fever that his giallo flicks are the best of all time), but obviously that didn’t take. Hence, Bikini Drive-in, which my Crapfest compatriots hardly suspect will be dropped on them at our next gathering (don’t tell them). That seemed to satisfy whatever beast had been awakened by the rural drive-in charms of Smokey, and I’ve got back into my questionable groove.

I hope whatever way you chose to give tribute to Reynolds’ career was as painless and somewhat nostalgic as mine.

Hubrisween is coming, so gird whatever version of loins you may possess.

There is Some Progress

Well, as you probably noticed from the last post, work is progressing on this year’s Hubrisween marathon. Progressing very well, in fact. Progressing so well that I briefly considered adding the more popular (and populated) Letterboxd event Hooptober (led by the redoubtable @Cinemonster, since there was the possibility of some overlap between the two lists…

And then I slapped myself back to sanity again. Because that would have been sheer madness. Hooptober does appeal to me, because it has a certain puzzle aspect to it. Here’s this year’s requirements:

That might have been fun – it was certainly fun coming up with a possible list that covered all those, but the overlap wasn’t big enough to make it feasible. There were a lot of movies on it I had intended to watch for some time, but I’ll have to find another way to force myself to find the time to watch them. Cinemonster’s full list is here if you’re on Letterboxd and so inclined.

The reason my Hubrisween stuff is going so swimmingly is twofold: first, I always try to write more on the lean side for marathons. I still find myself willing to go the blather route on some flicks, but overall I try to keep it brief. Add to that when I like a movie, I clam up even more. The discovery phase of a movie is very important to me, and it’s truly delightful when a movie surprises me, whether it’s by conceits or concepts or approaches or acting or imagery, so much so that I’ve started avoiding my beloved movie trailers (I had already been giving most production press a miss). I want you to have the same experience when I find a movie I like. And so far, I have liked almost every single movie I’ve watched.

Gosh, I wonder what movie it was that I hated?

In the interest of transparency, I should mention that’s only nine movies out of 26. Okay, so I only really liked six of those. Two were a “meh” and one I violently disliked. So a bit of truth-stretching is being engaged in here. But I’m ahead of my personal schedule, so much so that I’m taking tonight off because I scored a copy of the new Detective Dee movie, The Four Heavenly Kings, and I’m just

This is probably me and the rest of the movies on my list

going to soak in that. Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed having structure applied to my blogging, so much so that, although I wasn’t stupid enough to do Hooptober, I’m looking at doing another marathon in December, and even considering bringing back March Movie Madness.

Yes, I really am that stupid.