The Joys of Crazytown

Which is where I am, right now. I’ll try to send you a postcard.


Yeah, it's a real place. Go There, it's fun.

Yeah, it’s a real place. Go There, it’s fun.

My Day Job – well, Day as far as 19.5 hours a week go, because after that, you know, I’d be eligible for benefits – is, as usual, short-handed (gosh, I wonder why), so scramble is the operative word. Three shoots this week, somehow found time to edit one and a half stories. Fortunately, I do love this job. Just wish there were more of it.

I still work the other two part-time jobs.

I have a writing contract that is in the final stretch, and it still has a lot of work to be done.

I promised I would watch 100 specific movies this year.

Something has to give.

What that something is… is regular updates on this blog.

We’ve been here before. We’ll probably be here again. Until, against all odds, I become independently wealthy, this will probably be an occurrence frequently revisited.

I’ve tried to avoid writing about these 100 movies, but find I can’t, so I’m doing shorter reviews over at Letterboxd. Those reviews are linked on this page, so if you suddenly find you have a burning need to find out what I thought about Boss Nigger, that will be over there.

Regretfully, that means my in-depth article contrasting 8 1/2 with Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Souls will never be written. Do yourself a favor and program that double feature for yourself. There is a delightful amount of synergy there.

Things won’t be quiet here for long. Next month is October, and you know what that means:

Hubrisween 3 Black

Yes, that means you are going to get sick of me next month. And this time, there are more blogs taking part than last year, so you aren’t going to lack for horror movie reviews.

And speaking of blogathons, you have this to look forward to in November:

Criterion Banner FINAL

Yep, there’s a lot of blogs writing about the Criterion Collection and its movies on the Collection’s 30th anniversary, and honestly, I wasn’t going to take part, because as I mentioned earlier: my plate is very full and I really don’t need another run to the buffet table. Then I saw what movies had already been claimed, and it was a long list, and my eye wandered down it, and I discovered that no one had staked out my favorite movie of all time. Dammit.

So in November I am going to be writing about The Seven Samurai. This is in equal part awesome and terrifying. Writing about movies I like is always more difficult than heaping scorn on a movie that disappointed me; I want people to watch the movies that make me happy, so I don’t like to give away too much.

But this is an important movie to me. I’ve never written about it at length before. I haven’t had my yearly re-watch of it yet. So I’m going to try to forget the increased audience this event is going to bring in, and try to do it honor. And that will take time.

Wish me luck. I’ll see you around.

Light at the End

So it looks like I blew my 500th post last time by telling y’all I wasn’t going to be around much this month. So much for arbitrary milestones, que sera sera. I think – maybe – the worst is past now. Possibly.

6623950883_e01f3719c5_zAs I write this, rains from the remnants of Hurricane Odile are hammering Texas, and I keep expecting the lights or Internet to go out. We have it a bit easier in the Houston area than further into the interior, but it’s serious enough that a whole bunch of scheduled things are now questionable. It would probably be best if I stayed home tonight and got some work done, but I really need to go to the opening night of a show my wife has been working on for the past month.

By and large, though, it seems that my days of being triple-booked are over for the moment, which is good; yesterday put me back on the cane for a while (and the weather ain’t helpin’ my rheumatiz, by jingo!). I am behind in my writing – oh, when am I not? – and I look forward to Sunday, when, gloriously absolutely nothing is scheduled. Well, I’ll need to buy groceries, but that’s at my leisure.

I did do something novel last Sunday – I read for a small part in a indie movie being filmed here. I haven’t heard anything yet, but there are three days in October I am currently keeping open. More bulletins as they occur, but I’m pretty sanguine about this. Like my wife’s show – which I read for, but was not cast – if I get it, fine, it’s something new and different in my life. If not… well, it would have complicated things anyway, right? Of course, when you measure three days of shooting against a month of rehearsal and then another month (at least) of performances, you are talking vastly different levels of complexity.

I still have two more City meetings to run sound for in the next two weeks, then we’re into the new fiscal year and I’ll be back to my regular work load there. So I’m not saying I’m back here with any confidence, mind you, but things are looking a bit better in that respect.

Now I’m going to go see if I’m flooded in.

Some Filler

This will be quick (I hope), because I’m tired, tense and not a little angry. None of these are good by themselves, and in concert, they feed on each other relentlessly. I also have quite a bit to do.

These Three Horsemen of Negativity are headed up by their leader, also known as Freelance Work. Or to be precise, the freelancer’s plight – completing one’s work in a timely manner, whereas the payment for same is, shall we say, lackadaisical.

I'm either stressed out or getting scanned. Getting scanned would be preferable.

I’m either stressed out or getting scanned. Getting scanned would be preferable.

“Our Accounts Payable person takes July off.” Thankfully, that sentence was not followed with, “Is that a problem?” because I would have had to answer that. The bigger paycheck which is causing bigger stress… well, I can take the tack that every day I don’t find it in my mailbox, it is made more probable that it will be there the next day, right? It is one of the vagaries of the postal system that if I send a card to my mother (or vice versa) who lives 100 miles away, it gets there the next day, which is pretty remarkable, when you get right down to it. But if I am mailed a paycheck from downtown Houston, which is 15 miles away, it takes a week or more to get to me. That is a completely different form of remarkable.

I try to impress upon myself that the bills that were due are paid. We aren’t starving. We have a roof over our head. I have enough money to pick up my blood pressure medication tomorrow. It could be worse. It’s been worse.

Still. Tired. Tense. Angry.

I’m entering into one of those lop-sided hell weeks full of city meetings. Have a writing deadline, No shows this weekend, a financial hit that makes that missing paycheck from downtown even more important. That does, however, mean the freedom to have a Crapfest this weekend, which will soothe some hurts. Likely won’t get to write about it until next Wednesday, though.

Last Saturday, I hit critical mass. There was just too much hateful stupidity being thrust at me from all directions, and it was time to walk away from social media. @rstevens, the creator of Diesel Sweeties, one of the most consistently smart webcomics out there, put it best on Tuesday:

Go to that URL. Buy his stuff.

Go to that URL. Buy his stuff.

And let me tell you: going to Netflix and watching old episodes of Forensic Files is not going to help you get rid of that gloomy “What the fuck is wrong with people?” feeling. Quite the opposite. Protip, and all that.

And sweet Jesus, it’s an election year.It’s only going to get far, far worse. I’m either going to be a saint or a sot by the end of the year, and I know which one sounds more worthwhile.

guardians-galaxy-movie-trailer-humorOh, yeah, you probably want to hear about movies. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. It was good. I only gave it four stars out of five, but it was fun, and left plenty of room for the sequel that was announced like the day before it freaking opened. The only real flaw, past an overly familiar storyline, was, once more, fight scenes where I could only assume what was going on. On the extras for The Raid 2, Gareth Huw Evans, who is one of the best action directors now living, refers to that as “hearing a good fight scene, not seeing it”.

Past that, it has fun. It has a hero who is “not 100% a dick” – and in fact, has a tremendous amount of heart. What I wasn’t expecting was the movie itself to have so much heart. Almost all our title characters are dealing with grief in one form or another, and they find out they don’t have to deal with it alone. That’s a good message. I will endorse it.

The fact that stuff goes boom a lot is a definite bonus.

So see you next week folks. I’ll try to be a lot snarkier, if not happier.


No New Normal

busy-calendarThanks to my piecemeal work, there usually arrives each month a Hell Week, when everything happens at once, and I have absolutely no free time. This past week has been that week for July. Tonight will be my first and only evening off, and the question is will I catch up on work in other areas or just relax, by which I mean possibly watch a movie.

July hasn’t been a great month. July is never a great month. It’s the first month you realize you’re really working for the electric company. We’ve already heard me gripe and moan about the Independence Day festivities, and this year’s was a corker, with a storm cell blowing up an hour before the parade start, causing all video equipment to quickly be bundled inside; there was still a parade (although one float had been destroyed by the storm) and I was one of the lucky few to be manning a hastily set-up camera.

But hell, I got a free T-shirt.

After a week of private shows and city meetings, today’s entry on the extra side of the ledger is a writer’s meeting, which is good, because it means my contract goes off hiatus and I can stop calculating gallons of gas versus eating lunch, but it also has a dark side because, yep, even less free time. But I can stop fretting over the bills for a brief while.

Periods like this always create an urge that itches away in a unscratchable portion of your brain, a feeling that something has to change, but the feeling comes with no real idea how to accomplish that change. I’m not going to walk away from my Day Job, only found almost by accident after a year of unemployment. It may only be part-time, but it’s work I enjoy in a field that is not terribly friendly to a person my age. Given all my other responsibilities, including the about-to-be-reactivated writing contract, seeking another part-time job was not feasible. That left Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes and precious few other options.


Notice what’s missing?

Another area of desired change is my methodology for watching movies, and, again, no real idea how to effect that change in current circumstances. Last year, I did a couple of movie-watching challenges (and one this year), and I find it takes a terrible toll on me: I seem to want to take a day or so after watching a movie to consider it, to glean what I have taken away from the experience. That’s the part I have no idea how to change, but if I do not… well, there is no way in the world I am going to get to watch every movie I want anyway. Treating each movie like a pebble that has to be thrown in a rock polisher for several days to be fully appreciated is just cutting that available time down even more.

So yeah, the only solution I see is to become suddenly, undeservedly wealthy and spend the rest of my days doing nothing but watching those movies. And then having the rest of those days cut short by congestive heart failure because I’m doing nothing but sitting in my easy chair watching movies.

So that’s a less than ideal solution. (Though I’d be lying if I said it didn’t appeal to me on a certain level)

There is also the killjoy section of my brain (which is quite highly developed, it seems) that points out this is rationalization on my part, to make up for not having time to watch all the movies I like. (“Hey, remember when you watched The Red Shoes and The Searchers the same day? You weren’t whining then.”) I’ve had evenings free when I did not watch a movie, but killed time on Facebook or watching murder investigation shows on Netflix. Those nights rankle when I am too busy to watch a movie; they feel like squandered time and wasted opportunities, but downtime is so necessary.

So, in the final analysis, one does what one always does, I suppose. Muddle through, hope for the best, and remember that surely there was some freaking reason you bought that four-hour cut of Heaven’s Gate.


As usual, I feel the need to step outside the English language to express, in only one word, my life in the last few weeks: Oy.

Let’s see if I can use that to inspire succinctness in the remainder of this post. Brevity is going to be necessary. I’m in the midst of a writing contract, first off, and funny thing: when people pay you to write, they expect you to write. This particular project is taking such a grindingly slow, meticulous approach that I feel like I’m constructing the story molecule by molecule. It is such an antithesis of the way I usually work that I find myself sullen and depressed at the prospect of going into the file again. I generally produce work like Frankenstein’s Monster, birthed whole and gloriously misshapen, with additional surgery to make it more perfect (perhaps Moreau would have been a better simile). This is more like writing a novel the way a stalactite is formed.

So when writing becomes work and not a form of expression, all forms of it suffer, like this blog. I still love watching movies, though. My pal Dave once put it to me that all I have to do is play the movie and then write while it’s going on, but I can not do that. Like I said, I love watching movies. That means I only watch them when they can have my full and undivided attention. Those opportunities have become few and far between, what with building the stalactite, the show I do twice (and sometimes more often) a week, and my duties at the Municipal Channel and city meetings. I also like to throw my family a bit of attention every now and then, you know?

Cripes, don’t even talk to me about podcasts. My commute is ten minutes. No time.

So of course I got sick last week, and absolutely lost two days. Not kidding there. I have vague memories of walking to the bathroom and nearly not making it back to bed before collapsing again, but not much more.

I’ve been watching movies, though, when there was absolutely no way I could do anything else on any of these things without something breaking (likely me). I fully intend on writing about them (why waste that suffering?). It will happen.

And a nice, new poster, too!

And a nice, new poster, too!

In the meantime, there is one thing that mystifies me, and bears examination: it’s the taste of my fellow B-movie fanatics. I personally champion some incredibly disposable titles, but as we recall, I was moaning about The Visitor last time, and in the intervening time Drafthouse Films has come up with a 35mm print that is playing to some acclaim as an undiscovered masterpiece.

As you probably noticed, I didn’t feel that way. I felt it was crap. And not even lovable crap.

The first inclination is to doubt your own taste. Did the people whose raves I’m reading see something I didn’t? Has my own tour through the higher echelons of film blunted my taste for the absurd, for the cinema of lowered expectations? Good Christ, am I growing up or something?

The second inclination is to doubt everybody else’s taste, but that’s pretty short-lived as you hit on the probable reason for the gulf between the two schools of opinion: the people posting good reviews did so after watching one of Drafthouse’s presentations. In short, they saw it with an audience.

I have very fond memories of The Apple, mainly because my first viewing was at B-Fest, with a crowd buzzed on caffeine and high on their own creativity. That was a fabulous experience, and yet, I am positive that watching the very same movie, by myself, all alone, would be nothing less than a season in hell.

So, watching my Code Red DVD of The Visitor (which, like the Drafthouse version, is uncut) was possibly doomed to failure. I might have been more attuned to its *ahem* charms had I been in a hooting, hollering assembly… but I also think there’s still no way in hell I would ever consider it a good movie.

So bear with me. I’m still going to tell you about a bunch of movies I don’t consider to be good, either.


Radio Silence

I’m sure you weren’t concerned about my current silence – Jesus, there is certainly more than enough very real stuff to worry about this week – but here I am, anyway.

I’m having another of those incredibly busy two week periods. Three, count ’em three shows this week. Three, count ’em three writing projects, all of which presume they are the most important things on Earth. Special remote broadcast next week as the School Board candidates duke it out. So exciting.

toobusyStill dealing with a bit of burnout after the March Movie Madness and Crapfest. I’ve watched one movie since Hercules, Samson & Ulysses, some episodic TV, and spot-checked my Blu-ray of Django Unchained (having already seen it in the theater). After a 2012 fairly bereft of paying work, I’m not going to complain too loudly about suddenly being busy.

Hopefully back in the latter part of next week. If not, as I said, you’ve got plenty to occupy your time until I do manage to return.

Keep your head down. Courage.