Sunday, September 30, 2018

The disappointed optimist






I have friends and coworkers who will bring up a movie and then tell me what Rotten Tomatoes has given it, as if I care. I'm far too nice to tell them that I don't give two shakes of a lamb's tail what Rotten Tomatoes has to say about a movie I want to watch. I have no use for that stupid critical barometer because I want to know as little as possible about a movie -- aside from what I already know that got me interested in the first place.

Also, I really don't care what other people think about a new movie that I want to see. At most, I'll search out a couple reviews from critics I respect, but it'll be after I see the movie. So I don't waste my time with Rotten Tomatoes. Get out of my face with that garbage.

So I was on the Rotten Tomatoes website one day when I noticed a feature there called Five Favorite Films where whoever was promoting a movie on the site would give his or her list of, yup, you guessed it, their five favorite films. They had Amy Adams there promoting a film, and of the very few people in Hollywood that I can stand, number one with a polite bullet on that short list is the lovely and talented actress known here as The Adorable Amy Adams. Regular readers of the blog have known about my admiration of Ms. Adams for years, and new listeners of this podcast have known about it as of about five seconds ago.

As for her five favorite films, The Adorable Amy Adams gave the following: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Vertigo, The Shawshank Redemption, and the 1998 family film Paulie directed by John Roberts. 




In the interview, Adams admitted that Paulie stood out like a sore thumb on that list but she wanted to be honest and include a film that she's watched many times. She also brought up Paulie in another more recent interview on Leonard Maltin's podcast "Maltin on Movies"; in that interview, both Maltin and his co-host Jessie Maltin gave Ms. Adams plenty of praise for her performances in her new films Arrival and Nocturnal Animals and they were sure Oscar was going to finally -- finally! -- give her her long overdue gold, Best Actress-style. Which of course, did not happen because Emma Stone won that year for La La Land.

But I don't blame Emma Stone; she did a great job and I guess all pale redheads look the same to the racist Oscars. No, I blame the Academy for instead giving Our Amy's nomination slot to the much-ignored Meryl Streep, finally giving that criminally underrated starlet some much-needed awards attention for some movie called Florence Foster Jenkins about an old lady who can't sing and it's funny funny funny oh ho ho she can't sing! It's com-e-dy!

While I had already seen the other films she mentioned on the list, I hadn't seen Paulie, and so I put it on my watchlist along with the thousand other movies I'm sure I'll get around to as soon as I win the lottery and then I can just stay home all day & night catching up to these movies and not have to worry about how I'm going to pay my rent.

Oh, it would be beautiful too, I would just sit there and watch movies and eat and watch movies and eat and occasionally use the bathroom and if there's company coming over, I guess I could take a shower. Then I can become one of those fat hogs who are too big to leave the house, then my body will give and I'll die and my fat 800-pound corpse will be somebody else's problem. Ha ha ha, kiss my fat dead ass, you skinny necrophiliacs -- and don't forget, I want to be buried, so good luck recruiting six pallbearers with both the strength and disregard for the concept of hernias.

So I was reminded to watch Paulie when I saw my friend Cathie mention it on her Twitter timeline, and so I tossed away the movie I had intended to watch that night -- take a hike, The Rules of the Game -- and here we are.

The film begins with Tony Shalhoub as Misha, a Russian immigrant in the United States, beginning his new job as a night janitor at the kind of research laboratory where animals of all species are kept in cages that I'm sure in no way affects their well-being and therefore ensures that any research done to them is 100-percent accurate. I'm just saying, if you want to know what shoving an electric prod up a monkey's ass will do to the monkey for the purposes of research, maybe you want to get a monkey who's been living a comfortable life in something remotely resembling the monkey's natural environment.

Because if you take a monkey that's been living in a small cage in a strange room and shove an electric prod up its ass, I'm guessing at that point the monkey has already given up on life and is all like "eh, my life has been shit ever since they took me away from my family in the jungle, my confusion and fear of this new place has faded, and now I'm just resigned to this hellish existence of having different shampoos applied to my fur and being injected with various experimental vaccines until I'm embraced by sweet, sweet death and the rest of my eternity is in a black void because animals don't get to go to Heaven or Hell because apparently only humans have souls. What's another twelve inches up my ass?"

No monkeys get electric-prodded up the ass in this film, by the way. I'm just saying. And for the record, animals do have souls and they all go to Heaven. All of them. They're too pure to ever end up in Hell. Fight me on this and I'll make it so that you find out personally whether you're going to Heaven or Hell.

Anyway, a couple of nights into the job, Misha is by himself and he's busy Good Will Hunting the floors when he hears somebody singing from the basement. He goes downstairs to this dark dungeon and finds out that the singing is coming from a conure (or parakeet or parrot, if you want to be that way) who is all by himself in a cage that is chained with a padlock, as if it were resided by some kind of psycho Hannibal Lecter of birds.

Soon he finds out why the caged bird sings -- courtesy of the bird himself, whose name is Paulie and he not only sings but he can talk, and I don't mean the standard bird talk where they're just mimicking what they hear, this bird is capable of having conversations and can even be a real smartass at times, or maybe that's just a side effect of having Jay Mohr provide Paulie's voice.

As Paulie proceeds to tell Misha his story, the film flashes back to when he was born and given to a little girl named Marie, played by Hallie Eisenberg, best known for a series of Pepsi commercials that ran in the late 90s. Everything is great between Marie and Paulie; they enjoy each other's company and Paulie even helps her with her stutter as they both teach each other words and how to pronounce them.

The film never explains why Paulie has the gift of speech, or if they did, I missed it. He just can. The best I can come up with is that the power of pure unadulterated love can make the miraculous happen. Yeah, sure, whatever. Tell that to Nadia Sandoval. I loved her so much, that if you were to harness the positive energy I gave, you'd be able to power rockets with it -- and yet all the e-mails and the letters and the songs in the world couldn't convince her that I was the one. I even held up a boombox in front of her house like my man John Cusack in Say Anything but then a Chinese dude came out and he told me that not only did she move to Paris five years ago, but she also makes a six-figure salary and is married and has two kids and there's no way I can compete with that, not unless I get a big raise at El Pollo Loco or Taco Bell or whatever taco truck I'm working at, like, right now.

I told him I couldn't get a raise and that not only was that statement about me working in a Mexican fast food establishment racist, it was also the truth. Then I asked him if he wanted to go out for coffee and he told me that he was gay but not desperate. Or at least that's what I think he said, I mean, he had both the Chinese accent and a homosexual lisp, so excuse me for not having the best ear in the world to be able decipher Gaysian.

Speaking of speaking, I told you that Paulie not only talks, but he can carry a tune. He and Marie even share a song together, the Randy Newman classic "Marie". If you've never heard it, it's a beautifully depressing tune about some neglectful asshole who doesn't have the balls to express his deepest heartfelt emotions to the woman he loves unless he drinks enough liquid courage to do so.





What this has to do with the love between a girl and her bird, I don't know. I never saw Paulie sip on bird-booze from a bird-flask nor did he ever ignore her. If anything, he couldn't let her out of his sight, he loved her so much.

That leaves another disturbing possibility when you consider that the song was taught to Marie by her mother. So maybe the mom's a drunk, like one of those secret boozer housewives that used to run rampant back in the day, because there was only so much one can do to keep from going mad staying home all day because they hadn't yet invented the Internet or youth soccer organizations. There's only so many dishes you can wash, and there's only so many loads of laundry to launder, and there's only so many pot roasts to make. Soon you're gonna want more than just your common everyday Benzos to help you deal, you're gonna want to wash those down with some white wine. And then some more white wine.

Eventually nothing matters in your numbed state anymore except for your little girl Marie. But even then, you know she's not gonna stay little forever. Marie will eventually grow up. And then what? I'll tell you then what -- you keep drinking and you keep pilling, because the more you do, the easier it'll be to push the thought of the inevitable to a far off foggy place in the back of your mind.

Or maybe they just sing the song because the girl's name is Marie.

We soon find out that mom, Marie, and even Paulie have totally legitimate reasons to hit the bottle; one day, the father comes home and that's when we find out that we have a goddamn Great Santini on our hands with this military motherfucker. Marie goes up to him and this piece of shit actually tells her to shake hands with him first, then eventually they'll work up to kisses later. That left me immediately asking two questions: What the fuck? and Why the fuck?

Dad apparently was gone for a long time, because upon his return he's upset that Marie still stutters. He can't handle that, and after Mom puts Marie to bed, she then has to go downstairs and catch an ear-beating from him about Marie's uncured speech impediment, as if that was an issue he set his wife to fix while he was out killing commies for his country. Poor Marie might have a stutter, but she's not deaf, she has to hear all of this and the poor girl can only escape by dressing Paulie up as her fairy godmother and hoping he/she will grant her the ability to speak without stuttering, and it breaks my heart, man.

I don't care how many yellow or brown throats you slit in the name of Freedom, don't be like that with your daughter. Don't be a distant fuck. All right, look, ladies & gentlemen, if you're gonna have kids, please don't. But if you still are, at least be good to those little fucks once they're born. When I see shit like this in movies and especially in real life, it makes me thank God/Allah/Yahweh/Xenu/whoever-the-fuck for blessing me with the parents I ended up being life-saddled with.

I still remember this one time, way back in the day that I stopped at a friend's house and I listened to the way his mom was saying some fucked-up passive aggressive shit to him about what a fuckin' loser he was in her eyes. No wonder he had an underage drinking problem and seemed increasingly depressed with each passing day. I swear I wanted to run home to mommy and daddy and give them a big hug and apologize for whatever fuckin' bullshit I might've bitched about that morning. I can't handle seeing that shit, especially if its happening to the little girl from the Pepsi commercials. The fuck did she do? She never bothered me, she's not her brother Jesse.

By the way, this movie was made in 1998 but I bet you if this were made today, you'd have "patriots" losing their shit about how this military dad was represented. God forbid if this dude wasn't portrayed as a beautiful saint with red, white, and blue wings and an erect penis in the shape of the Holy Cross. I can see those diddle-faced twats on "Fox and Friends" bitching the live long day about how terrible it is that liberal Hollywood is making Our Boys looks like assholes.

Oh my god! Can you believe this? They're disrespecting our troops in this talking parrot movie! Of course what else would you expect from Hollyweird!
 -- wait, what? -- another school shooting? Yeah, whatever, anyway, for our last story of the day, America haters are now saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas! Can you believe that? We've made three God's Not Dead movies and they still don't get it! 

Anyway, this piece of work father buys a cat and is somehow surprised that Paulie and the cat mix about as well as oil and water, and he has the gall and the balls to be upset by that. Next thing you know, Lieutenant Fuckface over here puts Paulie in a cage and takes him away to God-knows-where despite Marie's crying and pleading for Paulie to come back to her.

What follows is a kind of bird version of Au Hasard Balthazar, in that we follow Paulie as he goes from owner to owner across the country -- that is, if Balthazar the donkey talked and actually participated in the lives of his owners instead of being an overall passive lunk who observed things and let things happen to him.

Nah, Paulie doesn't go out like that, he takes action -- he talks, he sings, he kinda dances, and the only time people get the better of him is when he's overpowered or as in one unsettling scene, he gets his wings clipped while he's screaming in pain and I'm like "this is for kids?!"

Yes, it is for kids -- there's an unnecessary fart joke that comes out of nowhere to prove that. It feels like something that was added in post-production at the last minute because the studio got all cowardly about sending out a family film that didn't satisfy every quotient including the scatological dollar.

Among the people he encounters on his travels: Jay Mohr in the flesh as a douchebag, Buddy Hackett as a pawn shop owner, Gena Rowlands as a widow, Cheech Marin as part of the problem in this great country, Jay Mohr again as a douchebag, and Bruce Davison as -- holy shit, Bruce Davison? I just talked about you in the last blog entry, the one about Crazy/Beautiful! Welcome back, bro!

So how are you doing, Bruce? You're playing the head of the research facility where Paulie ends up? That's cool. Are you as understanding and compassionate as the guy you played in Crazy/Beautiful? No. Ah man, fuck you then. Nah, you're cool with me Bruce, you were in Willard, bro. Remember that, when you were dealing with all those rats? And then they made a sequel without you and Michael Jackson sang a song about one of the rats? Now here you are dealing with birds, and unfortunately they didn't get Michael Jackson to sing a song about Paulie. That's kind of a missed opportunity, don't you think?

But that's OK because  -- talk to you later, Bruce -- that's OK because they do have Cheech Marin sing "Cancion del Mariachi" from the film Desperado, which I thought was a great choice because it meant the filmmakers didn't have to rack their brains too long while trying to look for a good Latin song for Cheech and Paulie to perform. That movie was probably playing on television in the background while they were having a script conference -- it would've been a dead heat between that song and "Babalu" by Desi Arnaz, if it weren't for that stupid intern accidentally changing the channel before "I Love Lucy" came on.

So let me talk about the Cheech stuff; he plays Ignacio (which they pronounce Anglo-style), the owner/operator of a taco truck that specializes in burritos. He and Paulie meet in East L.A. and become friendly business partners in performing song & dance routines for the patrons. I'm watching this and going, OK, this is cool -- Cheech is just a good dude running a business, nothing too unusual or stereotypical about him aside from the fact that he's played by Cheech. So I'm watching and I'm digging this, and then later it comes out that he's an illegal alien. Because of course he is.

At one point, somebody tries to fuck him over by falsely reporting to the cops that his business is unsanitary and that he's serving alcohol to minors -- hey, I wonder if he sold any to my friend with the shitty mom? You'd think that should be enough. But no, they had to add the most important detail that he's here without papers, and have that be the true part of the bogus police report.

Fine. Be that way, movie. At least Ignacio came off as a nice guy. I guess I should be grateful for that.

Speaking of nice immigrants, Misha the janitor is a really nice guy as well. Once he gets over the shock of meeting a talking parrot, he makes for a very patient and understanding person for Paulie to talk with. Everybody in this movie gives really good performances, including the 14 or so birds they used to portray Paulie before they threw them into an incinerator or wherever you put out of work birds. But Tony Shalhoub stands out in particular with his exceptional work here, especially during a monologue he gives Paulie about the regret he has for not talking to a girl from his past with whom he had fallen in love.

I want to give the writer of this film, Laurie Craig, extra points for the connection between Misha's inability to tell a woman he loved her and Randy Newman's song "Marie", which if you remember what I said a few years earlier during this blog entry, is about being unable to tell someone you love them. Except of course, in the Marie song, that problem was solved via the miracle of alcohol, while apparently Misha is the one Russian on planet Earth who doesn't drink. Let that be a lesson for you sober straight edge motherfuckers.

There are other examples throughout the film of characters who have hesitated in doing something they wanted to do, and how the passage of time ultimately fucked them in the ass for not going through with it:

Misha didn't speak up to the woman he loved, and so she went on to marry his best friend.

Paulie was afraid to fly, which led to an accident that resulted in his separation from Marie.

Gena Rowlands' character gave up on her dream of going to the Grand Canyon after the death of her husband, and ended up spending the rest of her golden years going nowhere.

Ignacio never fixed his pesky naturalization issues and is now back in the old country teaching OTMs how to say "Waas Sappening".

And Marie's mom hesitated in tying her piece of shit husband to a bed before setting that motherfucker on fire.

I was surprised by how Paulie was able to sneak in such serious internal struggles in a goofy family movie about a talking parrot. Yeah, I know, you're right -- it's a stretch. Speaking of stretching, you should really limber up before you go fuck yourself.

Amy Adams has said that this movie makes her cry, and my friend Cathie on Twitter warned me that I would get teary-eyed while watching it. While I enjoyed the film and was touched by certain moments, I did all right in the Man Up department and was ready to call out both The Triple A and Cathie because not a single tear was shed -- and then the ending happened. Upon watching the final revelation that hammered home the film's running theme, my balls faded away as I gradually turned into Matthew McConaughey during those couple of scenes in Interstellar when everything was not alright alright alright.

Paulie is a sweet-natured film with the occasional laugh and a couple of tearjerker moments. It is truly a movie that the entire family can enjoy; the kids will like it and the adults won't feel like hostages while watching it with them. And it's good enough for grown-up solitary shut-ins like myself. It's a nice movie. It put a smile on my face. And it makes such precious sense that who I perceive to be The Adorable Amy Adams would call Paulie one of her favorite films.

I'm happy that I finally saw the movie, but if there's one thing that disappointed me about Paulie is that it failed to wipe away the memory of my old neighbor who had gotten a parrot of his own and took to having it perched on his shoulder. Everyday, I would arrive home after work and run to my door before the newly retired gentleman across the street noticed me. Because if he did, he would call me over for a little chit chat, which would mean I would have to talk to him and try my best to ignore that the man's shoulder was always caked with bird shit. He had to know what he had going on there, he had just had to! And yet he did nothing about it, which meant that he didn't care and he was consciously or subconsciously getting off on being nice to me in behavior while being incredibly hostile towards me in appearance.

In conclusion, I'm glad I called the cops on his drug-dealing son. That's what the little fucker gets for not giving me a discount.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Relax. They left a long time ago.


Podcast version for people on the go:



The past few months I've been in the process of digitizing my DVD collection because I like the idea of taking of all my easily available movies to a distant hard-to-reach location. That way, if I want to see one of these movies, my only choice is to try to access them on an incredibly finicky storage format that is not at all known to crash depending on what day it happens to be.

While going through my movies, I came across a DVD for a film I hadn't seen in quite a while, and by merely holding the box, I had taken a bite out of Proust's Madeleine, whisking me back to the year 2001 -- a  year I look back on fondly.

A year of fun.

A year of love.

A year of hope.

A year of dreams.

Yup, 2001 was a particularly awesome year bursting with nothing but great times.

Well, uh, except for the other thing.

But let's just, uh, forget about that one unfortunate event for a moment and focus on the --

WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT DO YOU MEAN FORGET, MOTHERFUCKER?! YOU WANNA FORGET WHAT HAPPENED? HUH? DO YOU? YOU GODDAMN FUCKIN COMMIE SOCIALIST TERRORIST FEMINIST SJW DINDU NUFFIN LOVING KNEELING FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM FAGGOT CUCK FUCK?! WELL YOU GO AHEAD AND FORGET. GO AHEAD, IT'S A FREE COUNTRY. A COUNTRY MADE FREE BY AMERICAN SOLDIERS WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES SO YOU CAN HAVE YOUR PRECIOUS FREEDOM AND SO THEY CAN GET THEIR COLLEGE EDUCATION PAID FOR. BUT THERE'S ONE THING YOU CAN'T FORGET. ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT LOOK, YOU SEE THIS? YOU SEE THAT? YOU SEE THAT? DO I DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU AGAIN? YOU SEE THAT? YOU SEE THESE COLORS? THESE THREE COLORS OVER HERE? LOOK AT 'EM. I SAID LOOK AT EM. YOU SEE THIS? DO YOU SEE THIS? I SAID DO YOU SEE THESE COLORS? YOU DO? GOOD. CUZ LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT THESE HERE COLORS. SOMETHING I BET THOSE LIBTARD PROFESSORS IN THAT FANCY COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF YOURS DIDN'T TEACH YOU. THESE COLORS? THESE THREE COLORS? LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT THESE COLORS. 

THESE COLORS? 


THEY DON'T RUN. 

YOU GOT THAT? THEY DON'T RUN.  

DON'T MESS -- DON'T MESS WITH THAT. 

NOW YOU GO AND TAKE THAT BACK TO HOLLYWEIRD COMMIE MEXI-CALIFORNIA AND DON'T YOU FUCKIN' FORGET IT. 

I sure won't, sir. Perhaps "forget" was the wrong word. What I meant was, let's not dwell on that, let's not make that the topic of this particular blog entry/episode. I'm just trying to set up my ramblings about a movie.

I'm just saying -- what I'm trying to say -- is that I remember that time -- most of that time -- being a particularly free-flowing fountain of fun for me and my fellow fellows. It was during those wonderfully irresponsible limbos between high school, college, and the real world, when those of us who had jobs used our paychecks towards financing our weekends -- weekends that weren't necessarily relegated to Friday and Saturday. And yet, despite the parties and the drinking and the drugs, my fondest pastimes involved none of those. The experiences I remember the most involved seeing movies or hearing live music or going to museums.

Oh, and banging chicks.

Now if we must go back to the September-sized elephant in the 2001 room -- one can almost look at what happened on that fateful day as a cold hard slap of Reality to remind the rest of us lucky enough to continue our existence that everything is finite.

So enjoy the good times while they last, motherfuckers.

I have no idea what I'm trying to say with all of this or if I'm even trying to say anything with all of this. I think I'm just trying to put you in the same frame of mind that I was when I found this DVD of a movie that was released in the summer of that awesome/horrible year: Nostalgia. It hit hard and refreshed my memory of the first time I saw this movie.

It was a warm July evening when my friend and I went to a classmate's apartment with hopes of convincing her to appear in a short film that we were making for a student project because she was taking acting classes, but more importantly, she was attractive. After walking up three flights of stairs, we arrived at her place and were greeted by the scent of long-extinguished marijuana and the sight of this lovely-looking woman and her skater boy minions gathered around a 27-inch Philips CRT television set watching amateur video of long-haired, cap-wearing White boys trying to land various tricks on skateboards with a success ratio of 30-percent.

The girl -- who we'll call Avril -- noticed that I was particularly winded and I immediately gave a chuckle, and with the little breath I had to spare I said something incredibly witty and on point like "You sure have a lot of stairs."

Avril smirked and responded with "Looks like somebody has to hit the gym" and I'm sure her skater boy minions would've high-fived her and each other, were they not already entranced by Jonny D-Boy Deez pulling off a sick Sigma flip on the television.

(Avril didn't end up in the film.) 

Preemptively defeated, my friend and I decided to end the evening by taking in a movie. We stopped at a local AMC theatre and decided on the film starring that cute snaggletoothed chick from Bring it On, co-starring some dude who was a friend of a friend from high school, and directed by Cougar from Top Gun.



Originally titled At Seventeen before being changed to something more stylish, Crazy/Beautiful stars Kirsten Dunst as Nicole Oakley, a teenager who goes to a very nice high school and lives in a very nice house in the very nice L.A. coastal region known as the Pacific Palisades. Financially, she has zero problems. Emotionally, the bitch got issues. Her mother died a few years back and it seems like the only way Nicole can deal is by getting wasted -- whenever, wherever.

Meanwhile, there's Mexican-American Carlos Nunez played by Jay Hernandez and he's from the brown side of the tracks aka the barrio. He lives among mi hard working gente who wake up early every morning to go to work even though your average Hispano-hater would call them lazy. And yet at the same time they'll complain about these people stealing jobs. Well, which is it, you indecisive fucks? Are these dirty wetbacks lazy or working? Because they can't be both. Pick one reason to hate and stick with it, you fucking cunts.

Anyway, Carlos also wakes up early, except in his case it's not to be a lazy beaner working an eighteen hour day in this country made great again. He wakes up at five in the morning so he can catch a bus that takes him to the same high school Nicole attends. See, the thing with mi hermano Carlos is that he has aspirations. He has dreams. He wants to attend Annapolis and he wants to become a Navy pilot. And that means busting his ass harder than your average student -- not unlike how immigrants to this country, legal or illegal, tend to put more effort in comparison to people who were born here.

I like how a sequence early in the film reflects this, in a way, sorta, kinda. I mean, Carlos is a born American but I'm gonna go ahead and still use this as a metaphor because I need something to talk about. What I'm saying is that at the beginning of the film, you see Carlos going through his way-too-early-in-the-morning-for-a-teenager routine. You can tell that he doesn't waste a second to lolly-gag; his mom wakes him up, he gets dressed, he eats a fast breakfast, and then takes off in the pale blue early morning light for what looks like a long walk to a bus stop for what is clearly going to be a long commute to school. 

Then we cut to Nicole's bedroom to see how the other half gets ready for school. Now we're at a much more reasonable morning hour and the sun is as out as a homosexual in the Castro, but Nicole is still in bed, wide awake. Like Carlos, a Latina is there to make sure she's up. Unlike Carlos, the Latina is her housekeeper. Wearing the wrinkled shirt and drawstring pants ensemble she was sleeping in, Nicole eventually gets up and shuffles herself over to the kitchen where she then serves herself a bowl of cereal with a Paxil chaser before sitting down to enjoy the cartoon "Ed, Edd N Eddy". She then gets picked up by her best friend Maddy, and off she goes to school -- in the same clothes that she slept in. I'm assuming she took a shower the night before, but that still doesn't excuse going to school in dirty clothes, especially a girl in her income bracket.

But hey, that's America for you. Regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity: the privileged are really all just a bunch of dirty White girls.

And Nicole is most definitely a dirty White girl. The overhead shot that establishes the filthy bedroom she sleeps in -- it's just a mess with clothes and various rich girl knick knacks filling the place up and there's mud tracked in on the floor. Who knows how long that's been there. Clearly, Nicole's bedroom is the one room the maid is not allowed in. And yet I bet you it's Carlos who will more likely be called "dirty" by someone because he's a Brown and people are fucking assholes. 

But that's OK, because I'm an asshole too and I'm going to continue to demonstrate that by bringing up just how fucking greasy Nicole looks with her oily skin and unwashed hair. I think that's the point though, because later in the film, there's a part where she's at a quinceañera and as she passes by a couple of guests, you can hear them refer to her as sucia which is Spanish for dirty. 

By the way, I remember someone in the movie theater say out loud "man, she's greasy" and my friend and I tried our best not to laugh. Afterward, we wondered if that person was referring to Nicole's shiny skin or the fact that her character had just finished scarfing down tacos. Maybe she hadn't wiped her mouth completely.

The film underwent reshoots -- more on those later -- but you can tell which scenes were reshot because Dunst not only looks a lot cleaner and fresh-faced in them, but her hair is styled differently and it's clearly dyed red despite the attempts to light her in a way that you wouldn't be able to tell. But you can still tell, you can still tell that she just walked in from shooting the first Spider-Man where she was Mary Jane Watson, a character who probably showered and changed clothes more often than Nicole. 

All right,  so I mentioned Nicole being at a quinceañera earlier and you're wondering how she ended up there. See, this is a love story and so Nicole and Carlos end up hooking up -- and all that that entails. They first meet at the beach where Carlos and his homies are chilling out and she's there doing community service by picking up trash, because drinking and driving is against the law and you should never do it unless you know for sure that you won't get caught.

I remember when I once had to do community service; I wasn't driving drunk or anything like that, I got caught by a red light camera at 3 in the morning. Being unemployed and broke, I took the option to work off my fine. By the way, you still have to pay to do community service. One way or the other, they're getting some money out of your criminal ass.

So I was given fifty hours to work off, and I ended up doing those hours folding clothes at a local Goodwill, but after nearly murdering the bitch-whore manager and her pig fuck assistant manager, I was then transferred to a church where I picked up trash and cleaned tables. Unlike the Goodwill store, they let me listen to my iPod while I worked and they would give me double, sometimes even triple hours credit for a day's work and so I was able to fulfill my fifty hours rather quickly. It was a Catholic church, so for all I know, they were banging altar boys two at a time, but because they were super chill and nice to me, I didn't give a fuck.

So anyway, yeah, they hook up, and what's interesting is that despite Carlos being from the poorer streets of East L.A. and Nicole actually being a resident of Pacific Palisades, he appears to be more of a well-oiled cog in the social machine of this high school than she is. Whereas Carlos is a straight-A student and star athlete on the football team, Nicole is more the type to ditch class just so she can drink and get high in the school parking lot with her equally dirty hippie druggy friends.

In her defense, Nicole isn't a total useless layabout. She's an intelligent girl and really into photography, specifically making scrapbook art using her pictures. When she's not getting wasted, you can find Nicole developing her photographs in the darkroom at school. You can also find her making out with Carlos in the darkroom at school.

So yeah, they're both ethnic and social opposites, and as Paula Abdul and her lover MC Skat Kat told us long ago: opposites attract. You have Carlos who has been toeing the line and following the rules for most of his life and you have Nicole who doesn't seem to give a shit about anything resembling Responsibility, and I guess they each want what the other has -- his dick and her vagina.

Maddy understands why her friend is into Carlos -- "Break me off some of that shit!" she says -- but Carlos' friends and family don't get it one bit. At home, his mother and brother are friendly to Nicole but they're also clearly wary of this guera who seems too wild a force for Carlos to reckon with. At school, his football teammates are befuddled as to why he would blow off an after-game party with them just so he can hang out with a couple of drunk damaged goods like Nicole and Maddy instead. They're probably thinking, why the interest in the skanks when there will be cleaner higher quality trim at the party?

I get it. I mean, Nicole and Maddy are already drunk and therefore halfway there. These other girls at the party, I mean they're clean and all, but they are gonna make you work for that shit, and if I just played four quarters of good old American football, I'm gonna be too tired to have to make with the charm when I shouldn't even be going through all that rigamarole. Fuck, I'm a goddamn football star! You and the rest of the potentials should all be lining up for this fuckin' chorizo, and if I make it into the NFL then maybe -- maybe -- I'll take one of you with me, and as soon as I start making the big bucks, you can buy yourself all the stuff you want while I go bang some broad behind your back at whatever hotel I happen to be staying at after a game. And if you think I'm being a pig about this, shit, you go right on ahead and bang Paco the pool boy, Terrence the trainer, and Danny the Dietician if that's what you want to do. That's your prerogative. If I'm cheating on you, you can cheat on me, because I believe in equality! 

The one person who really doesn't want Carlos to go out with Nicole is her congressman father, Tom, played by Bruce Davison. But it's not for the reason you would think because you've seen movies before. It's not because of Carlos' social standing or his being a goddamn Messican. In fact, as Nicole points out earlier, her father is such a fuckin' libtard social justice warrior who will show off pictures of himself with Jimmy Carter and Father Greg Boyle whenever possible, he probably wouldn't be able to contain his boner upon finding out his daughter is banging raza.

I appreciate the sentiment, Tom, but you can't be happy just because your daughter is fucking any brown dude, because what if she ends up banging Hector the cholo who just got out of Chino?

"Why Hector, it sounds like you and my daughter are quite the couple now."

"That's right, puto, Nicole's wit me now, ese. Chee don't belong to you, mang. Chee's my hina, now."


That wouldn't be so nice, now, would it, Tom?

Thankfully, Tom can unclench his sphincter because Carlos is one of the good ones. And that's why Tom wants Carlos to stay far away. See, Tom doesn't want Carlos to go near his daughter because he knows Carlos is headed for a bright future, and that hanging out with his dark cloud of a rebellious daughter will only fuck all of that up for him. It's actually a very heartbreaking scene when Tom tells Carlos this, and Davison's performance during it is excellent; here's a father who you can tell has aged considerably in the past few years as a result of trying to put back the pieces of his broken daughter, and now he's resigned to hoping that she merely keeps the damage to herself. 

It's not just Bruce Davison putting in quality work here in the acting department; Kirsten Dunst is legitimately fucking great in this movie, and I would put her performance here right up there with some of her other acclaimed roles like The Virgin Suicides and Melancholia. (Man, she sure likes playing depressed.) And all I knew about Jay Hernandez before this film was that he was on one of those wannabe Saturday morning "Saved by the Bell" fraud perpetrators on NBC called "Hang Time" and that a friend of a friend went to high school with him -- which practically makes me and him fuckin' related, bro. But he knocks it out the park here too.

I understand Hernandez is going to be the new Magnum P.I. on CBS, which I don't know how to feel about. On the one hand, it's great to see him get a big role like that, but on the other hand, there's only one Thomas Magnum and his name is Tom Motherfuckin' Selleck. On the one hand, his ethnicity is gonna be more fuel for the kneejerk types who love to bitch about what they perceive to be everything becoming P.C., including the casting on the reboots of their beloved favorite shows. But on the other hand, fuck those guys in their secretly bigoted mouths with their fathers' openly racist cocks.

Eh, what do I care. Shit's probably gonna get cancelled after two weeks, anyway.

When my friend and I went to see this movie back in the awesome/horrible year of 2001, we were just looking to kill a couple hours watching what appeared to be a throwaway teen flick. By the end, we were surprised by how good it turned out to be. Crazy/Beautiful was more mature compared to its contemporaries, which were mostly goofy comedies. OK, yeah, I know Ghost World came out that same summer but that film is in a class of its own, and if I'm gonna be real with you, I feel like that one is not so much a film for teens as its really a film about teens but for adults. But this one felt more like an actual teen film that took its target audience seriously.

Even the style of the film was different from other teen films of the time, with a kind of moody blue-ish look to some scenes and a harsh hyper-real lighting to others; the cinematography was done by Shane Hurlbut, a man who has worked on many Hollywood films and television shows but you will know him best as the subject of Christian Bale's wrath on the set of Terminator Salvation. I can only assume Kirsten Dunst did not threaten to trash Hurlbut's lights on this movie.

Some of the songs used in the film led to me buying the soundtrack -- and by "buying the soundtrack", I mean I downloaded it illegally on one of those Napster wannabe sites. One of the songs on it is called "Shattered" by Remy Zero (remember them?), but to be honest that song worked much better in the 1998 film Suicide Kings starring Christopher Walken. But there were a couple that were far more fitting and evocative, and they sounded like they wouldn't sound out of place on some cool public radio music show like Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW -- which is why I wasn't too surprised when they did pop up on that radio station: "To Be Free" by Emiliana Torrini, and "I Want to Believe You", a collaboration between singer/songwriter Lori Carson and the film's composer -- former member of Tangerine Dream, Paul Haslinger. There's also another one I really like called "Who Am I" by Lily Frost (no relation to Kid Frost). It's such a chick song, but I don't give a shit. I like chick songs and I like chick movies, bros, come at me.

Crazy/Beautiful is very well-acted and directed from a sensitively written screenplay that treats everybody in the movie like human beings -- even Carlos' douchebag teammate who introduced the pejorative "browntown" into my lexicon. He's a douche, all right, but I've known douches like that douche. All that plus the stylish music and atmospheric visuals turn this teenage love story into a genuine mood piece.

Having said all that, I also feel that the film has some serious flaws. Yes, it's better than most films of its type that were released back then. But it doesn't ditch all the pitfalls of the genre either. Most of the problems are relegated to the final act of the film, where you can tell that the studio wanted everything to wrap up quickly and in a neat little bow. But there are also scenes that pop up during the rest of the film that feel as if the studio had been asleep for most of the production until they finally woke up and freaked out over what was being made: a serious teen drama that respected the intelligence of the people watching it. And they certainly couldn't let that happen.

There are a couple scenes -- one of them an obvious reshoot featuring a red-haired Dunst -- that damn near make me cringe from watching the characters as they practically spell out and draw on a map what they're going through. Without spoiling anything, there's one scene where you can see everything you need to know about what a character is feeling just by looking at the actor's incredibly emotive face. Then in the very next scene, you have that same character practically explaining for the people in the cheap seats what just happened.

There are also way too many montages for my taste. Unless your name is Rocky IV, cool it with the montages, people. Having said that, there's one montage that features Maddy trying to cheer up a morose Nicole by playing her a song on the guitar, and that always makes me laugh even though I don't think I'm supposed to laugh.

Anyway, a lot of my suspicions about the film were confirmed in the DVD audio commentary by director John Stockwell and Kirsten Dunst; during production, the studio informed the filmmakers that Crazy/Beautiful had to be released with a PG-13. This meant scenes were changed and/or shot differently than originally intended in order to ensure that the film would receive the family friendly rating. But even that didn't save them, because after the film was shot, it turned out that the film was still considered too strong for the rating and so then they had to edit stuff out. Mostly, what ended up being taken out was Nicole's propensity for strong drink and illicit substances. But also removed was dialogue considered too strong for PG-13 ears and some sweet sweet physical blending of brown and white flesh aka fuckin'.

Reportedly, Stockwell's cut was over thirty minutes longer and featured the stuff that was deemed too much for the average teen who was probably no stranger to alien concepts like drinking beer and pulling out. It's too bad this wasn't a Miramax or Dimension film because that would mean they would've released that cut on DVD after the Weinsteins -- oy vey! what a shanda! -- left that company, the way they finally released the director's cuts of Bad Santa and Copland as a final fuck you to those departing asshole creepers.

So now I'm just left with the option of breaking into John Stockwell's house and stealing what I'm guessing is the only available copy of the director's cut, and I bet you it's on VHS. I'll go in prepared; if suddenly the lights turn on and I'm facing down John Stockwell in his underwear, aiming a Glock 22 .40 caliber and he asks me just what in the fuck am I doing in his house at 3 in the goddamn morning, I'll pull out a Sharpie and my DVD of My Science Project and tell him "I just came to get your autograph, my man!"

Even with studio interference, the final cut of Crazy/Beautiful is still a much better movie than it has any right to be, and it's too bad the filmmakers weren't allowed to see the true vision of the picture all the way through. But what are you gonna do? It was the early 2000s, the beginning of the end for this type of big studio movie and the only choices left would've been to hop in a time machine with the screenplay and jump forward fifteen years in the future where it would've gotten some love as a lower-budgeted R-rated indie that premiered on VOD, or take that time machine back to 1980 back when studios would've been like "Teenagers drinking and drugging and fucking and using the F-word? Sure! Here's a million bucks, have at it!" and it would've starred Jodie Foster and Danny De La Paz.

But I'm gonna be even more real with you and admit that maybe, maybe the movie is good but it isn't that good. Maybe in the same way that re-watching this movie in 2018 took me down Nostalgia Road, watching Crazy/Beautiful for the first time in 2001 took me back to an entirely different lifetime that was a mere two years earlier: I'm talking about high school when I was dealing with my own Nicole experiences.

I don't mean that she was fucked up on drugs, booze, and mommy issues. I'm just saying that in high school I dated out of Browntown a couple times and that was kind of a big deal. I mean, today that means nothing to me. If I like a girl, and her standards are lowered and she likes me, race and ethnicity and nationality don't figure into it -- at least not until it's time to visit her parents. But that's another story -- a story that ends with: I never get myself far enough into a relationship to visit any girl's parents. Fuck that shit. I don't need some asshole playing the passive aggressive Are You Worthy Of My Daughter game, or worse, if they're not a Brown, the How Different Are Your People From My People game with special guests Well-Meaning Liberal Mom, Distrustful Conservative Dad, and Asshole Brother & His Equally Asshole Friend.

Anyway, watching Crazy/Beautiful back in 2001 brought back those high school memories. There were a couple things that kind of cut a little deeper than I was expecting, like the part where Nicole puts her pale arm next to Carlos' tanned arm and says "Look how good our skin looks next to each other." I actually had a girl of the porcelain persuasion do that to me. She didn't say anything, she just put her arm against mine and I guess she loved the contrast? I'm not sure. All I know is that I then showed her what a smooth motherfucker I was by immediately complaining about how thin my wrists were -- and still are, by the way. I don't know what to do. I've been doing wrist curls, knuckle pushups, to say nothing of constant masturbation. And still, my middle finger and thumb can practically touch each other if I wrap my hand around my wrist. The fuck, man.

There's also a part where Nicole and Maddy insist that Carlos order from the taco truck in Spanish for them, because they like the sound of that language, and that's happened to me a couple times with the non-Spanish speakers I dated back then. They'd want to hear me speak Spanish, particularly in food ordering situations. I don't remember if any of the wait staff rolled their eyes at my dates, the way the lady in the taco truck in this film did to Nicole and Maddy, though.

And you wanna hear the most Twilight Zone part of this whole deal? The Anglo girls I dated back in high school were named Nicole and Kirsten.

What am I saying? Movies are subjective. And if a movie can create Inception-style multi-level waves of nostalgia that causes the viewer to feel nostalgia for the movie that made him or her feel nostalgia, then that's a top notch mind & emotional fuck of a cinema experience, right there. Even with the lame narration, one-too-many montages, and that cringe-worthy final shot, even with all those flaws, Crazy/Beautiful is that good -- to me. Because it's ultimately about how movies make you feel, right? Many movies bring back memories, and this is just one of them.

By the way, big ups to my sister for naming my niece Nicole, effectively ruining that name for me. But what was I supposed to say? Don't name your daughter after a girl I had a semester long relationship with in high school who certainly doesn't remember me but I sure as heckfire remember her because my heart is cursed with goddamn Marilu Henner's disease? Chale

Friday, December 1, 2017

Very late but worth the -- no, not really.


Podcast version for those with no time to read:





It was the evening of October 28th in this foul year of our Lord, 2017, and the weather in Santa Monica was finally feeling something resembling "autumnal". The marquee over the entrance to the Aero Theatre said that this was the 12th Annual Dusk Till Dawn Horrorthon and I thought Wow, I don't even know how many of these I've attended by this point -- which is really my loss, because the Horrorthon is always a good time.

Not that I always 100-percent felt that way. If you read my earlier blog entries on previous Horrorthons, you'll find that it took me a few years to get the stick out of my ass about the full freak flag flaunting at these fine festivities -- the screaming host, the audience members wearing costumes, the call-and-response gags between the screen and the audience during the on-screen interstitials, the on-stage theatrics featuring characters with names like Corn Gorn, Abraham LinkedIn, and Wizard Policeman -- but I can now assure you that a combination of age mellowing me out as well as an overwhelmingly apocalyptic sense of the outside world has taught me to enjoy myself whenever and wherever, making this particular exit cavity stick free.

Stick.


Once we were all inside and ready for the 12 or so hours of horror films both goofy and non-goofy -- intentional and unintentional -- the evening began with our host, Mr. Grant Moninger, running up on stage, mic in hand, welcoming us the same way he's welcomed us in past Horrorthons: with explosive energy expelled at the audience as if he had too much in him and had to make room for even more building up within him that also had to come out violently. Of course, it riled us all up and so we responded in kind with cheers and hoots and hollers -- maybe not at him but at something, that's for sure.

The marathon began with the now-traditional use of the 1980s television series T.J. Hooker, starring William Shatner, where we watched portions of an episode while fake credits featuring the names of  Horrorthon attendees popped up on-screen. Following that were the first round of interstitials that would play between films throughout the night, beginning with some of the old favorites such as the Corn Gorn prayer song, the "Alan" marmot, the Red Roof Inn commercial, both versions of Dennis Parker's song "Like an Eagle", the Energizer commercial, and Brent, among others. There were some new ones too, such as the takeoff/recreation of old advertisements for 1-900 or 976 numbers that featured the song "Library" from the album "Floral Shoppe" by Macintosh Plus; the music is from the Vaporwave genre, and I think they came up with the name "Vaporwave" because "White People Appropriating The 'Chopped & Screwed' Genre From Black People" was too long.

This year, Telly Savalas was introduced into the Horrorthon cast of characters; we watched on-stage as the Bride of Corn Gorn ran off with the bald-headed actor (portrayed by a volunteer wearing a Telly Savalas mask), and we also watched the real Mr. Savalas on the big screen in a couple of clips. The first was from some 70s television program -- which had a distinctly European feel to it -- where our man Telly stood before a black void, smoking a cigarette and wearing a black velvet jacket with matching shirt that was unbuttoned to expose both his manly chest and various gold necklaces, as he performed his spoken word cover of the song "If" by the group Bread.

The second Telly clip was from an Australian television series called "The Extraordinary", one of those shows where people tell stories about their experiences with the paranormal, otherworldly, and yes, extraordinary. Celebrity guest Savalas told a story from his younger days -- accompanied by a cheesy reenactment -- where he found himself stranded in the middle of the night on a highway in an automobile with no gas, even though he had just come from a date and you would think he'd make sure he had more than enough gas to cover any possible detours, I mean, who knows how fun this date could've ended up, you have to be prepared for such possibilities.

So Telly's walking down the road, gas can in hand, when a Cadillac pulls up and a creepy high-pitched Good Samaritan offers him a ride to the nearest filling station. The man offers to lend Savalas' broke ass some money to pay for the gas, and again, I have to chide Mr. Savalas for not thinking ahead, because he clearly only had enough money to cover the date -- barely, at that, and I'm sorry, but if you can barely afford something, that really means you cannot afford it.

That goes for dates, that goes for car purchases, that goes for buying a house, buying clothes, all of that. Trust me, lady and gentleman, always give yourself financial breathing room before going in on any kind of purchase: it'll keep the repo man away, it'll keep your inbox clear of Past Due notices, and most importantly, it'll keep you from catching a late night lift from some creepy high-pitched Good Samaritan -- who turned out to be a ghost, by the way, there's the ending to that story.



The first film of the evening was An American Werewolf in London, from 1981, written and directed by master decapitator John Landis. Oh, I kid the head chopper -- I used to be hard on the poor guy about that snafu on the set of the Twilight Zone movie that ended three lives and ruined countless others, but now that it's coming out how frighteningly rape-tastic Hollywood is, I find his crimes are now rather innocent in comparison. Dude pulled the Fuck It card as far as safety was concerned, but who hasn't thrown caution to the wind when it involved somebody else's life? It's not like he grabbed Vic Morrow by the pussy and he certainly didn't fuck those little kids -- well, not sexually, anyway.

David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are two young dudes out backpacking in England's countryside, and for a couple of guys talking about chicks they want to bang, they're actually kinda likable, all things considered. I bet you if they were to make the same movie today, they'd be douchebros right out of an Eli Roth film. Anyway, they end up veering off the road and out comes el hombre lobo to massacre one of them, leaving the Dr. Pepper guy barely breathing.

The rest of the film involves David recovering from his wounds in London, where he hits it off with his nurse, followed by just straight up hitting it. The nurse is played by Jenny Agutter, and if you've seen her in Walkabout or Logan's Run, you'd want her as your nurse too. I'm not into the domination thing -- on either end -- but that part where Agutter is trying to get Makin' It over here to eat his food at the hospital and she says "Shall I be forced to feed you, David?", ay dios mio. I started feeling really weird in a good way and when she says after that, "Will I have to take such drastic action again, David?", I don't know why, but I felt like she was talking to me and my response was YESSSS YES YOU DO NURSE JENNY AGUTTER FORCE ME TO EAT.

I'm just kidding, you never have force me to eat. I eat everything, man. Anyway, David turns into a werewolf.

I first saw this in 2004 and hadn't seen it since, but my opinion remains the same: when John Landis was on, he was ON, and this might be my favorite of his films. Landis balances horror, comedy, drama, and sex with Jenny Agutter in a shower all so effortlessly. Lots of credit of course goes to Rick Baker and his terrific effects work; the sequence where David goes through his excruciating transformation from man to werewolf still stuns, and by the end of it, when you see the shot of the full moon while hearing David do the Altered Beast howl, the audience broke out into applause.



The second film was the 1991's Popcorn, directed by Mark Herrier (who was replacing original director Alan Ormsby). Jill Schoelen stars as Maggie, a film student studying at a college in the Central Coast of California -- or at least that's what I assumed based on the look of the locations, so imagine my delightful surprise when I found out the entire film was shot in Jamaica.

Maggie and her fellow film students -- played by Profile from Heartbreak Ridge, Ellen Sue from A League of their Own, and the dyslexic girl from Summer School who was trying to get her driver's license, among others -- come up with the idea to raise money for the film department by throwing an all-night horrorthon at an old theater that is set to be wrecking ball'd in a few weeks. When the idea is brought up, the words "all-night horrorthon" are actually used, so of course all of us in the Aero cheered wildly upon hearing that.

You don't get much movie geek chat during the film class scenes, which in 1991 would probably consist of debating who was the better director: Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe they'd go on about guys like Lucas and Spielberg too. Had the film been made a few years later it would be Quentin Tarantino, or it would be like the film class scene in Scream 2 but less insufferable. You make Popcorn today at this very moment, you probably couldn't get them to shut the fuck up about Edgar Wright and Baby Driver.

While cleaning up the place to make it all presentable for the people who are going to spill popcorn, soda, and god knows what else all over the place on movie night, the students and their professor discover an old film that contains a legitimately freaky short called "Possessor", made by a cult leader who went on to pull a Shosanna Dreyfus by setting fire to the theater playing "Possessor". So maybe that has something to do with the murders that occur later on during the Horrorthon, right?

I remember seeing the television ads for this film back in '91; it was sold as a straight-up horror film worthy of being included with Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, I mean they actually mention those films in the ads; I dismissed it as some wannabe slasher that clearly wasn't going to be as good as those films. When I finally caught it on HBO a year later -- where it played back-to-back with the Tom Savini remake of Night of the Living Dead -- I was surprised by how much I liked it. I was also surprised by the tone; Popcorn qualifies as a slasher, but not a particularly bloody or brutal one. It's a much lighter -- even comedic -- film compared to the one that was advertised.

The films-within-the-film that play during the horrorthon are the biggest source of humor in Popcorn; they are all from the 50s and 60s and include William Castle-style gimmicks; the first is about a giant mosquito, which means a fake giant mosquito flies over the audience; the second is about an prison escapee going on a rampage with his new power to kill with electric shocks, so of course there are shock buzzers placed under the theater seats; and the third is a dubbed Japanese movie about a killer gas (?) which plays while nasty odors get pumped in through the air vents of the auditorium.

I liked it even more during this second go-round; watching it with an audience at an actual all-night horror movie marathon added to the fun and I recommend it as part of your own all-nighter playlist. Or maybe as part of a double feature with Joe Dante's Matinee, which also involves William Castle-esque gimmickry.



Speaking of William Castle gimmickry, our third film of the night was an actual William Castle joint: 1959's The Tingler, directed by Castle and starring Vincent Price. The film begins with a prologue where Castle tells the audience how there's nothing wrong with screaming if the fear gets to be too much, because sometimes screaming might save your life. See, in the world of The Tingler, we all have a centipede living on our spine, rent-free, never so much as taking out the trash every once in a while and god forbid it remembers to replace an empty toilet paper roll with a new one.

I mean, really, what kind of fucking asshole doesn't replace the toilet paper? I don't get it. It takes two seconds to take the empty roll out and put a new one in. This is why I prefer the company of myself -- I wash dishes as soon as I'm done using them and I replace the toilet paper roll. Whenever I see an empty toilet paper roll, I can only assume that the lazy motherfucker who used the toilet last is walking around with a shitty ass because he or she prefers to stay dirty down there rather than put up a fresh roll so they can finish the job properly. Anyway, motherfuck a Tingler.

A Tingler lives on your spine and when you get scared it grows like my anger towards people who don't replace toilet paper rolls. It grows and grows and if you don't scream or stop being scared, the Tingler grows stronger and eventually crushes your spine, the way I would crush the spine of some motherless fuck who won't replace the goddamn toilet paper roll.

Price makes friends with the owner/manager of a silent movie theater, who like every other man in this film wears a suit to work. Even the middle-aged employee working the ticket booth is wearing a suit. Go to your average revival movie house today and if you see an employee wearing a suit at work, he's probably wearing it with a day-glo tie over a t-shirt displaying a rainbow or a unicorn, and he's probably sexually harassing the female volunteers. Anyway, that dude has a deaf-mute wife who figures into the plot, and his movie theater figures into the climax in a clever way that involves both the on-screen audience and those of us watching this in an actual movie theater.

This was lots of fun; even the non-Tingler stuff is a hoot, like the scenes between Price and his unpleasant wife where everything they say to each other is dripping in Fuck You. Or the scene where Price takes acid as a way to work up his fear to test his inner Tingler, giving a play-by-play into one of those old-school dictation machines the entire time. That reminded me of the time I recorded myself on a microcassette recorder after I took shrooms. I ended up composing some weird Bobby McFerrin-esque tune with gibberish lyrics. Then I lost the tape.

I got a kick out of how everybody in this movie operates on various levels of Asshole; Price can be short with people who ask simple questions, his wife's a bitch, the deaf-mute woman refuses to shake hands with people, and Price's partner leaves a poor dog in the car with the windows rolled up and because it's the 1950s nobody cares.

This was originally released with a Castle-designed gimmick called "Percepto" with seats in the theater that would give out a vibrating buzz in order to freak the audience out into thinking that the Tingler was doing its thing on them. The screening at the Aero didn't have that setup, so instead they had volunteers walk up and down the aisles whipping out these long furry snake-like vibrators onto our laps. At least I hope that's what it was, and not a bunch of well-endowed pervs having their way with us.

Anyway, get a bidet. They're awesome.



The fourth film was the 1988 masterpiece Hack-o-Lantern (aka Halloween Night), directed by Jag Mundhra, a name that should be familiar to anyone who has watched more than his or her fair share of late-night Skinemax in the 90s; with titles like Night Eyes, Last Call, Sexual Malice, and Improper Conduct under his belt, Mr. Mundhra gets my eternal respect for riding in like a knight in shining armor wielding the legendary Shannon Tweed sword to slay the dragon that is Teenage Horniness.

The movie puts the name of actor Hy Pyke before the title, causing most of the audience to react like "Are we supposed to know who this guy is?" It wasn't until later that I found out Pyke appeared in Blade Runner, which I guess made him the default name actor for this low-budget production where he plays a piece-of-shit farmer type who once raped his daughter on her wedding day and then later went on to murder her husband.

He's also a Satan worshiper who often makes the sign of the horns with his hands, and every time he did, most of us in the audience would cheer because like him, we are all fans of Ronnie James Dio. I applaud the filmmakers for casting a guy who looks like a beer-swilling hayseed because I have a feeling that's what your average Devil worshiper looks like, not some sinister-yet-distinguished-looking gentleman like Christopher Lee.

Anyway, this grandpa now dotes on his daughter's kid (who for all we know might actually be his, the fuck) and while some grandfathers teach their grandkids how to fish or why ethnic people can't be trusted, this one is getting the little boy all up in the Devil business. Years later, the kid grows up to become Gregory Scott Cummins aka Mac's Dad from "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" aka The Devil in Snoop Dogg's "Murder Was The Case" video and I believe this marks the third time I've seen him pop up at one of these horror movie marathons. He was in Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge at the marathon at the Cinefamily, he was in Blood Games at the New Bev all-nighter, and now here he is in this movie at the Aero.

Anyway, his character's got a pretty sweet life going; living in his mom's basement with movie posters and neon beer signs on the wall, wearing his black shirt with the sleeves cut off, sporting a pair of shades, smokin' cigs, working out on his weight bench while wearing a Rambo-style headband. All that's missing are some sweet nunchucks to practice some Bruce Lee moves with. I could see hanging out with him, spotting each other while we do bench presses, watching horror movies, smoking some of his weed (which is fuckin' schwag but it's free), and listening to fuckin' Slayer, man!

He has also has a hot 80s-style platinum blonde who doesn't believe in pants to speed off with in his bitchin' Pontiac Fiero. Unfortunately, he can't have sex with her because his grandfather insists that he has to remain pure in order to perform some Satanic ritual on Halloween night. So in the meantime, Mac's Dad has to release his pent-up I Wanna Fuck energy in other ways, like beating up his sister's boyfriend on some Tony Montana-shit, or worshiping the dark lord in his closet where he keeps a Helga Pataki shrine to Lucifer, or listening to that evil rock music on his Walkman, which causes him to have dreams about being in a rad band playing a guitar that turns into a pitchfork which is then shoved into his neck by an evil devil woman who also happens to be the only African-American in this otherwise lily White cast.

There are murders with decent levels of blood and gore, lots of scary rituals involving the Satanists giving props to their horned master, and most disturbing of all, a scene where a random character at a Halloween party makes a few casual comments, but rather than moving on, he keeps talking and that's when I realized that this guy is doing an honest-to-goodness stand-up comedy set! He goes on to make fun of strippers, asks why nude pictorials in adult magazines include bios, and acts out the plight of a turkey before Thanksgiving.

This movie is goofy as hell. It's also that special kind of bad, that Samurai Cop or Dangerous Men kind of bad that can only be achieved by having a foreigner with a shaky grasp of his or her second language in charge of the proceedings -- which makes me wonder if there are American filmmakers in other countries making terrible movies that people in those countries like to goof on.



Between films, as per usual, the volunteers at the Aero began serving out the free eats and drinks; pizza from Little Caesars, Monster Energy drinks, wraps, sandwiches, Rice Krispie Treats, candy, Hostess cakes, coffee. As in past Horrorthons, Grant threw and tossed various Blu-rays and DVDs and candy at audience members. With each year, there seems to be a larger crowd of people gathering near the front of the stage to catch movies or gather the ones that land on the ground -- and with special edition Blu-rays of John Carpenter's The Thing and Society up for grabs, I don't blame them. By the end of the night, it was mostly bargain multi-movie packs for public domain titles that were left -- plus a lot of Vicente Fernandez joints. I ended up with a DVD triple pack of Valentin Trujillo flicks; and if you don't know about him, then you don't fuckin' know, bro.

Two of those movies in my triple pack turned out to be among my brother-in-law's favorite films, so Happy Birthday to him, I guess. And Happy Birthday to my niece, who ended up with the Corn Gorn shirt I purchased in the lobby, which despite being labeled as X-Large, fit me like an O.J. Simpson glove. So my advice to any Horrorthon-ers who want to buy a shirt next year is to take that thing to the restroom and try it on before going home -- not that going to the restroom was an option for a few hours that night.

To the best of my knowledge, a water main broke or a major clog backed something up, and the upstairs restrooms had to be closed for a while -- another reason I was glad to have held off of eating that day. Eventually, plumbers were called in and the restrooms were reopened but the stairs leading to them were wet and sticky and it had made it's way down to the carpet of the Aero's lobby, leaving behind the unmistakable smell of water that should've remained in pipes.

On our way out for some fresh air between films, my friend guesstimated the high price for the overnight plumbing job; he also said that the carpet would have to be shampooed as well, adding more to the bill. I asked him how long something like that would take and he said it would take a while -- there's also the amount of time needed for the carpet to dry to consider. I told him that the Aero had a screening of the classic horror film The Haunting scheduled the following evening and his response was a look that I could only interpret as "Good luck with that".


The fifth film of the night was the 1989 Wes Craven picture Shocker, starring Peter "You gotta join the Army, motherfucker" Berg as Jonathan, a college jock who gets mixed up with a serial killing television repairman played by Mitch Pileggi because they have some kind of psychic connection and what-not. This murderer has a thing for taking out whole families and he's so full of rage, this dude, he's not like some creepy calm type of psycho, he's seething and pissed off about who knows what. And he kills the shit out of them! He's just so mad! Angry all the time! He's like me, only I haven't started to kill people yet, but give me time. And your address.

During the opening credits sequence we watch inserts of a television set being repaired with various tools by a muttering, grumbling Pileggi -- so of course it's the angriest muttering and grumbling, and it's a pretty good sequence and I think a big part of it is the title song performed over it by a band called The Dudes of Wrath that's comprised of guys from KISS, Whitesnake, Motley Crüe, and Van Halen. There's also a cover of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by Megadeth on the soundtrack, which you might want to look up the music video for because it's hilariously obvious that that lead singer & guitarist Dave Mustaine is so high on smack he can barely stand,so they never show him play guitar and sing at the same time, it's always in separate shots, and even then he's never in sync.

Anyway, the movie. I found myself feeling so sorry for Peter Berg's character for the multiple wringers he gets put through early on; I apologize for getting all spoilery here but the movie IS nearly 30 years old so here goes -- he loses his entire family save for one foster dad to angry murder-happy Pileggi, and shortly after they're buried, Pileggi leaves Berg's oh-so-pretty girlfriend dead in a bathtub of her own blood. Berg really plays the hell out of his despair, breaking into tears and rage at these situations, so when they finally catch the killer and Berg demands to his police lieutenant father that he be seated front row to the motherfucker's execution, I was like "Fuck yeah, son, you earned it! Watch that motherfucker fry like bacon, record the goddamn thing so you can watch it over and over again!" -- and I'm against the death penalty!

I feel OK spoiling this much of the film because this is really only a third of the entire story and where it ends up going after this left me incredibly amused and surprised at Craven's audacity. I heard of Shocker over the years but never bothered watching it, because I was under the impression that it wasn't one of Craven's better films -- the funny thing is, had I watched it back then as a kid, I probably would've felt that my impression was correct, and the culprit would've been the running time. You see, Shocker is nearly two hours long and half of it doesn't feel like a horror film at all but rather a very dark crime drama with a light touch of the paranormal -- or should I say, "extraordinary"? And little kid me would've been like "Hey, I thought this was supposed to be Freddy Krueger all over again!"

But as a patient adult who recently purchased Tarkovsky's Stalker on Blu-ray, I was able to enjoy this and go "Oh, this IS Freddy Krueger all over again, only this time we get the prequel to how he became the Freddy Krueger we all know and love for the first 45 minutes or so". Once Pileggi's character reaches his full horror villain potential, the movie gets downright nutty in where it goes. It really feels like the part of Craven's brain that would stop to question him on whether an idea made sense or not was on vacation while he was writing this script, and I really appreciate that because it makes for a fun movie that had me laughing and clapping at times -- actually, to be specific, it makes for a fun second half of the movie in which I laughed and clapped, because to be honest, that first half about Pileggi making Berg's life hell got a little too grim at times for my liking at four-in-the-morning and I was even considering stepping out for some fresh air.

By the way, I was so entranced by Peter Berg's girlfriend in the film that I looked her up like a goddamn Internet stalker. Her name is Camille Cooper and she no longer acts; she became a citizen lobbyist in the 90s and got the Commonwealth of Virginia to include women and African-Americans in their school textbooks, and has since gone on to become the Director of Government Affairs for PROTECT, "a national bipartisan pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority at the national, state, and local levels". And now I'm probably on some kind of list for looking her up.



From one attempt to create a new Freddy Krueger-style franchise, we went to another attempt to create a Freddy Krueger-style franchise with the sixth film of the marathon, the 1994 cyber-horror Brainscan, written by Andrew Kevin Walker of Se7en fame and directed by John Flynn of Rolling Thunder and Out for Justice legend. It stars Edward Furlong as Michael, this kid who I think is supposed to be a kind of withdrawn anti-social type except he has at least one friend and he has a horror movie club at his high school, which means one actual friend and a handful of acquaintances to me, and it sure as hell takes more than a modicum of effort to set up a goddamn club.

I don't remember there being anything like a horror movie club at my high school, at least not some kind of official deal that you could actually go to on campus. Shit, I wasn't able to find people my age who were into movies the same way I was into them, the best I could do was find a guy who was really into Sailor Moon. He would listen to the soundtracks of that series in his car, and he had posters of those anime chicks all over his room; there was one looming over his bed, so that was cool, knowing what he jerked off to.

And we all know what Michael is jerking off to: his video recordings from his peeping tom sessions of the girl next door played by Amy Hargreaves, an actress who was in her early 20s but she's supposed to be like 16 or 17 here which makes it weird to see these brief shots of her topless here -- and now that I think about it, wasn't Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High supposed to be underage too, as was every other actress in a teen comedy or teen horror film in the 80s?

See, but that was OK for me when I saw those movies because *I* was underage, and when I first saw Brainscan on cable, I was still underage. But now, I'm an adult and I'm watching another adult show me her titties and we're supposed to be all tee-hee-hee about it because she's pretending to be a fuckin' kid. It's kinda why the whole schoolgirl thing bothers me -- and by bothers me, I mean makes me rock hard because I'm a man and the sooner the women of this planet turn Amazon and murder everything with a penis, the better.

Then it'll just be women preying on women.

Anyway, I'm like fuck this Michael, he's living the life, as far as I'm concerned. Sure, his mom died in a horrible accident and his father is never around, but he's still living the life. Wait until you see his room; his situation is like homeboy from Hack-o-Lantern except his room is in the attic, and it's one of those huge attics like that spoiled fuck Kevin McCallister had in Home Alone. This place is big enough to be the main set of a sitcom, that's how big it is. He's got the stereo, he's got the widescreen television -- which for 1994 is really bleeding edge -- and it's all hooked up to his voice-activated computer with the Internet hooked in and everything. You don't see him ever going online to chat or face off against Zero Cool and Acid Burn, though. I think he just sticks to computer games.

The Internet was some slow dial-up shit back then, you couldn't download games the way we can now. Shit, back then it took me seven months to download Ini Kamoze's "Here Comes the Hotstepper" MP3, that shit was played out on the radio by the time I got the complete song, so who knows how long a fuckin' game would take. No, you needed a CD-ROM if you wanted in on some sweet computer game action -- which is what happens here when Furlong's buddy tips him off to a new game advertised on Fangoria. So he gets the CD-ROM and jacks in -- or whatever was the cool term back in '94 -- to this new experimental game called "Brainscan" which gets into the player's brain and scans it, I guess. Whatever the case, the player is sent on kill missions that require breaking into a house, finding a murder weapon, and taking out a chosen victim. So this movie kinda sorta predicted open-world assassination games like the "Hitman" and "Assassin's Creed" series.

Unlike those games, Brainscan does not result in shitty film adaptations but rather in the horrifying aftermath of the killings; after Michael takes out some dude in the game, he finds out that some dude in his neighborhood was killed in the exact same way. He immediately freaks out and tries to jack out, but that's when the mascot of the game enters the real world to fuck with Michael's shit big time. His name is Trickster and he's played by T. Ryder Smith, a stage actor who has a really good write-up about his Brainscan experience on his website.

As with most of John Flynn's filmography, this is a movie that is way better than it has any right to be. I liked the film when I first saw it back in '94 and I really liked it this second go-round; it's got a tiny little bit of a teeny-bopper Videodrome vibe going on with the main character's obsession to find the ultimate experience becoming way more than he bargained for. Or maybe I just got that vibe because it was filmed in Canada. Either way, it's a well-made film and it's early 90s as fuck -- which for me, is a big, big plus but for others could be a hindrance. But it's a hindrance that I feel the film manages to work with by telling an involving story and featuring good performances by everybody who isn't Edward Furlong, who is adequate at best. (Sorry, Edward.)



Unlike the previous six films which were all presented in 35mm, this seventh and final film of the Horrorthon was presented via DCP and I wouldn't be surprised if a 35mm print no longer exists, or ever existed, for the shot-in-16mm Death Bed: The Bed that Eats. Written and directed by George Barry, Death Bed began production in 1972 and was completed in 1977, just in time to show that Star Wars movie a thing or two about how to blow the minds of the audience.

The film mostly takes place in the basement of an old abandoned mansion where the titular bed resides, suffering from a chronic case of the munchies, with only the trapped spirit of an early 20th century artist chilling out behind a painting on the wall to keep it company. The artist narrates the film while occasionally making disdainful comments to the bed, which it deserves because the bed's an asshole.

The bed waits for any unfortunate schmucks who enter the basement for whatever reason -- in the case of the opening sequence, it's a couple looking for a place where they can fuck and eat fried chicken -- and once they get on the bed, yellow foamy liquid rises to the surface and suddenly the bed becomes a swimming pool of oblivion as they fall in and are eaten or digested or whatever it is the bed does to them because sometimes you hear chomping, sometimes you don't hear anything. I like that the bed is susceptible to indigestion and has to take Pepto Bismol, and at one point, the bed gets a bleeding ulcer. This helps to humanize the demonic man-eating bed.

The movie is broken up into several acts with cute title cards like "Breakfast", "Lunch", and "Dinner". We watch various people become food for the bed in between flashbacks to previous meals over the past few decades and it's all done in a goofy manner -- except for the parts where it's not being goofy and is being deadly serious instead. Because for every wacky scene of the dad from "Boy Meets World" sticking his hands in the bed and then pulling them out as skeleton hands, there's a sadistic moment of the bed using its powers to slowly saw into a sleeping woman's throat with her necklace. But the constant changing and blending of tones actually worked here and rather than being jarring, it created this unsettling sense of overwhelming creepiness with dashes of perversion -- like maybe the guy who made this is not all right psychologically and/or mentally.

I mean that as a compliment, by the way.

Based on what I heard about this film over the years, I went into Death Bed: The Bed that Eats assuming it was going to be a really shitty failure in the "so bad it's good" category, but I feel this is too strange and unique to be dismissed that way. It doesn't feel like weird for weird's sake, it feels like it comes from a sincere place and it's a genuine exhibition of George Barry's bonkers sensibility. It definitely suffers from the pitfalls of a first-time filmmaker working from a super low-budget; of its many flaws, I feel its biggest one is that even at 77 minutes the movie overstays its welcome. But that only left me wishing Barry was given a shot at making another movie with a bigger budget so we can really see him rock and roll.

Doesn't look like that'll happen, though. After completion, the film failed to secure distribution and languished in obscurity; Barry didn't even know there was a cult following until nearly 30 years later after finding out about his film making the bootleg circuit. I don't know how old Barry is but it looks like he gave the movie game a shot, it didn't work out for him and he's since moved on, which is too bad. Who knows what weirdo shit the guy could've been giving us for decades had Death Bed: The Bed that Eats been given a chance back in the 70s?



And so ended another Horrorthon at the Aero Theatre, sometime around 9 in the morning; of the remaining survivors, some got up and made their way out to the lobby, others walked towards the screen to plunder the leftover loot inside the cardboard boxes left on the stage, while my buddy and I surveyed the damage in the auditorium. So much trash was left between the rows of seats and throughout the aisles -- because apparently garbage cans don't exist -- plus the extra dirty business with the plumbing problems earlier that night, left me not envying the clean-up crew one bit.



We then left to have our traditional post-movie-marathon breakfast; this time we went to Milo & Olive on Wilshire and had their breakfast pizza which I highly recommend -- just ask them to add an extra egg to it, if you're like me and want more protein and calories. It's got some kick to it as well, so be sure to have something to drink to cool down. Then I went home and took a nap. When I got up later that day, I checked my Facebook and saw a post from the Aero Theatre. It said that the screening of The Haunting had been cancelled. So much for luck.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Another country heard from


Just an FYI for you all:

Beginning with my most recent ramblings (the Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight posting), for those who prefer to listen to my ramblings while you're in your car, working around the house, or out selling crack rock to feed your baby daughter, there will now be a podcast version as well.

You can stream or download here on the blog or you can go to the Exiled from Contentment page over at Podbean. The podcast is also available on iTunes.

This was an idea I had been playing with for a while now, and I actually went as far as recording the Crypt episode in mid-October. Then I listened to it, found it to be hot garbage, and changed my mind about this whole podcast deal.

Then a few days ago, I received an email informing me that my free month at Podbean was over and my credit card would be charged -- which probably had something to do with all the wine I drank that night giving me the courage to open an account with a podcast hosting service and going through with this stupid idea in the first place.

At that point, it's easier to just go through with this rather than try to fight that credit card charge.

Anyway, that's why my Demon Knight episode came out in November, and I'm talking about Halloween as if it hadn't already come and gone. Or how I mention something about how "I'm sure someone will ruin October 31st for the rest of us" as if I wasn't aware that one of God's creations decided to rent a Home Depot truck and take it for a hell ride through Manhattan that day.

So it looks like I'm in this game now, at least until next October, when my year is up and I either re-up with the fine folks at Podbean or I finally throw in the podcasting towel for good.

I figure to do at least two of these a month to justify the whole caper. I'll try to up my postings, but maybe I'll also take the opportunity to revisit some old postings and do podcast versions of those as well.

You want my opinion? Stick with the written version if you can. Better to hear it in the mind-voice of your choice rather than my lame-ass vocals. But I'd rather you get some of this EFC action one way or the other, rather than not at all. I mean, hell, this Crypt episode is about 20 minutes long and I'm sure there will be episodes shorter than that, and the longer ones, shit, I'm guessing 30-40 minutes tops. (I hope.) This ain't no three hour party, I'm all alone here. I'M IN THE DARK HERE!

You can listen to my bullshit while you download a better podcast, and that's a pretty good deal, if you ask me.

In conclusion, this was a terrible idea.