Monday, April 10, 2017

Oh, and Assassin's Creed ain't shit, either

My schedule has been/continues to be a real motherfucker and when Terrence Malick's new entry in the annals of cinema and the anals of your movie-watching ass Song to Song came out, it wasn't as easy to find time to watch it.

The days of a Malick joint hitting the local neighborhood cineplex are either on hold or long gone because after The New World in '05, I had to make the drive to an Arclight or a Laemmle to see what he was up to, and even then, these last three films (counting this one) have only had two-week runs. It's like the distributors are admitting out loud "this shit ain't gonna make money, let's just put it out there long enough for award consideration and for the sad people such as the Exiled from Contentment guy who are still on Malick's balls to be able to see it".

Oh hey, real quick: He made a fuckin' IMAX movie a few months ago, Voyage of Time, and for the record, I loved it but I feel I need to see all three versions of it before I even begin spouting my bullshit about it on the blog. I ended up catching the 45-minute IMAX version that had no narration and was presented in a weird super-ultra-widescreen aspect ratio that Malick preferred because homeboy's wacky like that. It took me longer to drive to a theater playing it than it was to watch it. My commitment is that deep.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, by the time I had time to see this one, the closest theater still playing it was about 40 miles away from me -- at least with this one I wouldn't have that same driving/watching time imbalance as with Voyage -- and they only had one showtime at 12:30pm. It was playing at a theater smack-dab in the middle of a college, so I had to deal with walking among young people full of hope and energy, which just made me want to punch all of them in the face.

I sat on the far left of the back row and on the far right was an old couple and to the best of my ever-decreasing hearing I could make out the dude saying something like "I like this theater, they have closhbuthawthawbulaw" and the lady curtly responded with "The seats are uncomfortable" and so her point was made: YOU AIN'T NEVER GONNA GET TO SAY ANYTHING WITHOUT ME SLAPPING IT DOWN. TILL DEATH DO US PART, BITCH.

To be real with you, I was both hyped and apprehensive about this particular film. I mean, I love Terrence Malick, and if you don't believe me, ladies and gentlemen of the jury I present to you:

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Exhibit E
Exhibit F

This time there was something about this film -- the subject matter! -- that was kind of making me pause and move forward and pause and move forward, kinda like hitting the Slow Motion option on your NES Advantage or other super controller for your 8-bit system. That was some bullshit, wasn't it? It wasn't real slow motion, it just kept pausing the game or bringing up the menu. Did anybody ever really get any use out of that shit? I'm asking for a friend. (Just kidding, I have no friends.)

As with most films, I know little to none about them going in aside from the very basic premise, who directed it, and maybe the actors in it. In the case of Song to Song, I knew it was Malick doing his thing in Austin, Texas about musicians, and I don't know man. I like music and all but I'm not sure I'm a big fan of musicians. Shit, I'm not the biggest fan of artists in general even though I love art -- figure that shit out. But musicians? Ugh. I've worked with some in the past and we're just different species, but to be fair, I feel that way about most people I work with regardless of what they do. I don't like them. But that's OK because you know who I dislike most of all? Me.

I swear, if I were a Highlander, I'd kill myself so many fucking times because I'm that fond of myself. At the very least it would be an awesome way to relieve myself of the awkwardness of being, that's for sure.

So.

I went in with trepidation, and it turned out that I had nothing to fear because in this film, Malick does not really focus on the wankery involved in creating tunes, it really is just a background to what he is really interested in -- what he's always been interested in -- how we deal with our existence.

And a couple of paragraphs ago you found out how I deal with mine.

But how does pretty boy Ryan Gosling handle his? I don't know, you'd have to ask him. But as for the character he plays, BV, he seems to handle it in Gosling-esque ways by being kind of a goofball while trying to get his music career going. I like his musician character more in this film than the musician he plays in La La Land, because in this movie BV isn't trying to explain jazz to a lady while standing five feet away from a jazz band mid-performance who are probably wishing he would either shut the fuck up and let them play uninterrupted or just fucking die. He hooks up with a big time music producer, Cook, played by Michael Fassbender, who handles his existence in very Fassbender-esque ways by banging everything with a pulse.

My understanding is that despite (or maybe in spite of) writing a script, Malick pretty much tosses it away and just gives a few basic instructions -- if that -- to his actors and then has three-time-consecutive-Oscar-winning Mexican cinematographic wonder Emmanuel Mi Hermano The Muthafuckin' Chivo Lubezki Raza Cabron! run around filming them for as long as there is digital memory space available in the camera. And even then I'm sure there's some memory cards being constantly swapped for fresh ones.

What we see is what they came up with (Correction: what we see is the edited two-hour-plus result of miles and miles of footage; the original cut ran eight hours!) and mostly I feel what they come up with is as close to exposing the real them in the guise of being the character. It's some good shit, man -- both this process and the whiskey I'm currently drinking.

Anyway, things start off well -- Gosling and Fassbender are getting along, with the latter showing off his nice crib to the former and then saying some jerky shit like "I don't like it". Motherfucker. I'm looking at this awesome house and dreaming right there in the cinema about getting a place like that, but this guy is like EHHH I'VE LIVED IN BETTER and already I want to punch him in the throat on some Denzel/Liam shit.

During one sequence, Cook takes BV on his private jet to Mexico where they do the White Tourist thing by getting drunk and singing and rolling around on the ground, taking their shirts off while the locals continue playing la guitarra because they're so used to this kind of behavior from the Whites, they just want El Presidente to build that pared because the U.S. doesn't send us their best, they send us a bunch of cheap gueros who just want to get drunk and see a donkey show -- which was invented by some lonely guera who couldn't get a black dude and she just had to find a footlong one way or the other.

I guess it wouldn't be a surprise to tell you that somewhere along the way BV learns to regret letting Cook own the copyright on his work, because people are stupid enough to assume that the guy who promises to get you a house like his, or a closet full of suits just like the ones he wears, a guy who will jet you to Mexico and back for fun, is 100-percent trustworthy in business manners. And that's before Love gets in the way in the form of another aspiring musician named Faye played by Rooney Mara.

Ms. Mara is in town and she gets by with various odd jobs, including dogwalking and housesitting. At one point I thought she worked a gig as one of those sushi girls, but I guess these gamine types all look the same to me. She eventually gets a job with that asshole Fassbender, and from there hooks up with Gosling and then we get the usual Malik-ian scenes of walking around and frolicking and touching and looking at each other; it's like Malick took away most if not all things in a room or location that they could use to occupy their time with and instead instructed them to play with each other, like grown-up kids.

And maybe that's the idea; that when people are truly able to exist in a state of love with each other, only then can we actually become the pure and innocent creatures that God created us to be, before some apple-slinging asshole snake told us otherwise. The bitch of it is that these blissful moments are just that: Moments. And the snakes forever exist and don't have to be literal, they just have to be the things Life throws at us.

Like one example of a snake could be Fassbender's giant cock slithering its way into this A and B conversation of Love between our two, like "Hey, I want me some of that Rooney Mara action" and that's when things get complicated -- or should I say, more complicated because there's also Malick pulling his whole playing-with-the-concept-of-a-timeline tricks again, leaving me in the audience to go "Oh wait, so he's back with her -- oh no, this was before that happened -- oh wait why is this person still alive -- oh wait it's metaphorical --" before remembering that with a T-Mal joint it's just best to treat it like MST3K and really just relax.

By the way, speaking of "still alive", this motherfucker Malick kills off a character here and it fucking crushed me for what felt like twenty minutes, the sadistic fuck. I didn't even know this person's name -- by the way, I didn't know any of the character's names until I looked it up on IMDB because nobody ever calls each other by them, probably Malick's way of saying Fuck It They're Playing Themselves -- but I spent enough time with this person and watched this person change for the worse. I wanted the best for this character. I fucking cared for this character! It still pisses me off!

Anyway, yeah we follow these three along with a couple others -- Cate Blanchett! Holly Hunter! -- and then there's Natalie Portman as a waitress who has the pleasure of serving this unshaven fuck Fassbender and she falls for his bullshit despite having told him that she's busy and could get in trouble with her boss. She's all giggling and smiley but I bet you if I tried to pull that Fassbender shit with her, I'd end up being written about on fucking Jezebel or something. So many feminists would have a hard-on for me until someone else becomes Asshole Penis Of The Week and I'm left forgotten and crying about the attention I'm not getting anymore.

No sir, the best I could do with a waitress is get a smiley face on the check, maybe even a heart. Which I would then interpret as a sign that she loves me and there I go, beating off at home later that day imagining the life I could've had with her, if I had the balls to actually talk to her. But no, I pussied out and while I'm wiping the jizz off my blanket -- the fourth time this week! -- she's getting taken to Plow Town by Michael Fucking Fassbender.

As far as the music stuff in the movie, none of it really stood out for me. Despite there being many scenes taking place in and around concerts, music didn't feel that important a contribution to the film. It could've easily taken place at a food festival, really. It could've been about chefs. Ugh, no I take that back, because you know fuckin' Guy Fieri would show up and then I'd have to kill the world for allowing such a thing.

There are appearances by some real life musicians like Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten (who for once isn't pulling that sad "I'm still an angry young lad" shit, siddown ya old bloated fuck). Oh and Anthony Kiedis pretends to beat up punk-ass Fassbender, which I guess I can pretend to applaud. And at one point we are treated to the sight of Val Kilmer on stage, losing his shit as he chainsaws a speaker, chops off his long hair with a knife, then throws what he claims to be uranium from his mom at the audience, before being escorted off the premises.

There are also non-appearances by Benicio Del Toro, Christian Bale, Arcade Fire, and Angela Bettis, who all had roles but were cut out of the movie. As I've said before in a previous Malick rambling, the list of people who were cut out of a Terrence Malick movie is just as impressive -- if not more impressive -- than the ones who made it.

(Oh shit, I mentioned Cate Blanchett earlier which means I have to make my mandatory "Cate Blanchett held open a door for me once" statement. Well, she did. Yeah, yeah, I know -- for her, it was Tuesday.)

I'm fucking around here with my ramblings on this movie, but the truth of the matter -- the brass tacks, as it were -- is that Song to Song was just as much an intensely introspective experience for me as every other Malick film since The Thin Red Line, and as such, it left me exhausted and in borderline tears sometimes. Some of it had to do with the relationship stuff, certain actions and lines felt too goddamn real and true in the worst way -- which just goes to show how naked these actors were in playing these parts, exposing probably a little more than they expected in these marathon filming sessions. And in addition to the death of a character knocking me off balance, there was also a scene between a character and an ailing father and you probably already know how I feel about THAT.

There's also a scene with a lady with what appeared to be acne scars on her face, and she just finished banging that fuckin' asshole Fassbender and sweet Natalie Portman in a three-way, and I think she was paid for it. Which I guess makes her an escort. Anyway, she starts talking about how she lost the man in her life to that piece-of-shit Death and how it left her psychically adrift, and how she's still kind of adrift but she feels that God has a plan for her -- as he does for all of us, I hope, if He exists, I hope -- and this must be part of the plan and OH MAN the shakiness in her voice felt too goddamn real for me. I felt I was watching a "real" person sharing something incredibly personal with all four of us in the audience and it made me tear up and I wanted to give her a hug before asking her what kind of action I could get for fifty bucks.

I know what kind of action I can get from a twelve dollar movie ticket, though; hot Bérenice Marlohe from Skyfall shows up as a hot French lady who hooks up with Rooney Mara and here is another reason Terrence Malick is one of my favorite filmmakers EVAAAAR -- he gives us One Perfect Shot where the two ladies are passionately kissing each other on the left side of the frame right in front of us, while on the right side of the frame in the background is Marlohe's slightly out-of-focus dog who is basically frozen with his face all like OH YEAH and the only thing missing was for this dog to have on a pair of sunglasses so he can tilt them downwards while peeking his eyes above the frame, followed by the soundtrack cueing up "Oh Yeah" by Yello.

Listen, I've already gone on in other Malick ramblings about his style with the wide-angled ever-roving camera and the heavy use of inner monologue and the elliptical editing style and how the whole thing feels less like a story and more of a peek into someone's fragmented memories -- or shit, even their final thoughts before leaving this world -- or holy shit, God hitting the "shuffle" command on his iTunes playlist labeled "Human Beings". I've said it then and I'm saying it now. It's that same style and thankfully Malick has succeeded in whatever the fuck it is he was trying to do. All I know is that it feels like I get it.

Anybody could've taken the premise of following the love lives of three people in the Austin, Texas music scene and made more or less the same movie. Malick uses it as a jumping off point into something deeper. Or wankery. Your mileage may vary -- just make sure your mileage is as far the fuck away from me as possible.

At this point -- seven films in before this one -- if you're familiar with Malick and he just isn't your jam, then you should know by now to stay as far away from this film as if it had all of the Ebola waiting to creep into your open-wounds. To complain about Malick's filmmaking now would be like suddenly going "You know what, I regret voting for him".

On the other hand, if you were a fan of his work and have seen Song to Song and this was the one that made you get off the Terrence Malick train, it's understandable. You have my respect for making it this far. Now all I need you to do is ignore the tears rolling down my cheeks as I tell you to turn around and face the other way and close your eyes while I put the .22 to the back of your head. It will be quick, I promise.

But to the rest of you, you lucky few who are still on board with my man and haven't had a complaint yet? I say Welcome, brothers and sisters. And fuck Michael Fassbender.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Oh I almost forgot -- Giorgio Moroder did the themes for the film but I wish he did the whole score because was he getting into some mad synth-ing, baby!


Walter Hill is my dude, and if you've read this blog for a long time, you already know this. But in case you didn't, well, Walter Hill is my dude.

And so, you bet I was going to make it to the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica for the Los Angeles premiere of his latest film, The Assignment, not to be confused with the 1997 film The Assignment, which only shares the similarities of having a nutty premise and being good times. Mr. Hill would be in attendance for a Q&A following the film. (I found out later that Michael Mann was also there but left before the Q&A. The presence of both manly man filmmakers in such close proximity would explain why my voice is now deeper, there's more hair on my chest and my testicles appeared to have gotten bigger.)

As for the film: Masculine/feminine actress Michelle Rodriguez is perfectly cast as femme-y macho hitman Frank Kitchen, who one day wakes up to find herself plus tits and minus penis because one of his marks was the brother of a brilliant-but-mad doctor played by Sigourney Weaver. At this point in my life, I think I'd be fine giving up the dong if it meant I would wake up looking like Michelle Rodriguez. It's not like I've been using said D to its full potential. Besides, I already have the tits, so it's like I'm halfway there.

It's very much a Walter Hill joint in that it's a fast and simple tale, a painting told in broad strokes of primary colors. It doesn't try to pass itself off as anything more than purely B-movie. There are occasional uses of comic book framing similar to what Hill did to his director's cut of The Warriors, which didn't bother me at all, because this is a brand new movie with an established style rather than a classic that we all loved just the way it was. It also shares a similarity with his other works by featuring a hero who speaks in few words going up against a villain who speaks in many words (who much like Bruce Dern's character in The Driver, just wants to let others know how smart she is.)

Rodriguez acquits herself well in the role. Her portrayal of Frank Kitchen isn't so much a stoic badass as more of a person who prefers to keep his distance in all endeavors due to...what? I don't know. Hill has never been one to give a shit about someone's backstory, preferring to let the actions of the character speak for themselves. And it works here.

When Kitchen picks up a girl for some late-night banging, his post-coital dismissal of her is less of a "love 'em and leave 'em" type of vibe and more like someone who's been hurt before and prefers not to let that happen ever again. There's a hint of vulnerability to everything Rodriguez does in the film, but just a hint. I mean, Kitchen still is quick with the steel and not one to cross.

And yet, that's what Sigourney Weaver's character does. And man, as much as I liked Rodriguez in this film, it's Weaver's performance that I was most impressed with. She's nuts, this lady (her character, I mean -- I wouldn't know about Ms. Weaver's mental stability) but it's not a raving loon kind of crazy, or even a creepy Hannibal Lector kind of crazy.

For the most part, she speaks in a rational manner that would lull you into thinking she's fine, then you would ask her about the many homeless people she experimented on and she would respond in a calm and rational manner what basically amounts to "Well of course, why wouldn't I use homeless people to perform my horrific experiments on?" and her tone might change a bit to annoyance because you're so stupid and your small brain would never be able to comprehend the greatness she hopes to achieve. She's not chewing up the scenery, but you just fucking know Weaver is having a ball playing this character.

In comparison to other Walter Hill movies, The Assignment isn't a slam-bang actioner like Extreme Prejudice or a stylish neo-noir like The Driver; this felt to me more like a 90-minute version of one of Hill's "Tales from the Crypt" episodes, albeit one with a shootout every once in a while. If you're not familiar with his directorial contributions to that series, they weren't really horror hikes but instead a swim in the waters of Lurid and Pulpy As Fuck. So imagine my delightful surprise when Hill said during the post-film Q&A that his approach to this film was to make a "king-sized Tales from the Crypt episode". Me and Walter Hill are in sync, brother!

Speaking of that Q&A, it started off fine with the interviewer having a reasonable discussion with Hill, then the dreaded words "let's open it up to the audience for questions" were spoken and therefore caused my usual Pavlovian response of clenching shut both my eyelids and asshole.

An elderly gentleman started by asking why Hill didn't allow Weaver's garrulous character to complete a quote from Aristotle's Poetics, to which Hill responded "You're complaining that she didn't talk enough in the movie?" and then the elderly man asked Walter Hill -- who had earlier discussed reading EC Comics as child -- if he was familiar with the old EC Comics and then he asked Walter Hill -- who had produced the "Tales from the Crypt" HBO series and said ten minutes ago that he had basically made a feature-length Crypt episode with The Assignment -- if he was familiar with a series of comic books called "Tales from the Crypt" and I was too busy digging through the carpet and concrete below me with my fingernails to remember if Hill even answered him.

Hill also told a story about how he went to Michelle Rodriguez shortly before filming began and said something like "In case you haven't noticed, you're Latina. So maybe we should change the name of Frank Kitchen to something Latino" and her response was something like "No, why would I do that? Of course his name isn't really Frank Kitchen, he's always in disguise and uses a false name. It would make it easier for cops to find me if they knew I was Latino" and Hill laughed as he told us that he felt humiliated -- here was the writer/director being schooled on his own creation by the actor. But basically his point was that he doesn't like to do too much discussion about the characters with the actors, feeling that if the actor does his or her job right they would know the character better than anybody else.

Later, Hill discussed the controversy about the film being seen as transphobic. He first cleared the air by saying that things have definitely changed since he was young, and that we are living in an increasingly gender-fluid society, which he feels is a good thing. Hill went on to say that this wasn't meant to be a transphobic film; for one, Frank Kitchen isn't trans -- he identifies as male throughout the entire film, regardless of the forced genital reassignment surgery given to him. This is also why they didn't cast a trans actor, even though that was considered earlier in production -- well, that and the simple issue of the financier who would only invest money in the film if a name actor starred in the project.

I have to agree with Hill; the film doesn't treat being turned into a woman as the A Fate Worse Than Death. Hell, even Mad Scientist Weaver says in the film that she didn't mean it to be some kind of absolute punishment, but more of a second chance for Kitchen to start over by removing him from the "macho prison" she believed he was living in. In response, Rodriguez's vengeance mantra is simply a matter of: I Didn't Ask For This, You Forced It On Me, Now You're Going To Pay.

The worst of it is when Kitchen wakes up and finds himself sans johnson; he screams and smashes some stuff, which I completely understand. I mean, unless you're me, you'd probably freak out too if you woke up with the complete opposite of the usual genital situation you've been accustomed to all your life. And that's about it for the freak-out stuff; there's no monologues that follow about being cursed to live as a female from now on. At most, there's a scene where Kitchen visits a surgeon and asks about the possibility of getting the procedure reversed, and a moment where he bitches about having to sit down to pee.

So I don't feel the film is transphobic, but then again, I'm not transgender, so what do I know? I don't like my non-Latino brothers and sisters to assume they know how I feel, so I sure as shit ain't gonna do it to my alt-gender peeps out in that cold, hard world.

What I do know for sure is that this was a good-not-great entry in the Walter Hill canon for me -- one that is mostly surface but what an entertaining surface! -- and that I'm gonna run for the hills the next time a moderator asks for questions from the audience.

In conclusion, The Assignment (2016) would make a good double feature with The Assignment (1997).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Smokes and Red Bull and Cherry Coke and Cronuts

It was a Friday night, not my preferred night for a movie all-nighter because, you know, work and all that that entails: a long night preceded by a long day, making it harder to get through both. But hey, that's when they scheduled it and if I really had a problem with it I wouldn't have bought the ticket -- which is why I didn't buy a ticket. But then I was given one by a friendly party who had to cancel at the next-to-last minute. Hooray for girlfriends who cancel on friends!

Ticket to what, you ask? The Dario Argento All Nighter at the New Beverly Cinema: six of the Italian horror maestro's films, the titles remaining secret to the audience until they are projected onto the screen.

It was a packed house, and because we got there later than my preferred arrival time, I ended up sitting between two individuals -- in front and behind me -- who were Down With The Sickness based on their all-night non-stop wet phlegm-hacking coughs (one would later use his empty cup to dispense of his inner slime wads). It made for an even more tense night than expected because I didn't have Emergen-C or a face mask with me. I was unarmed and afraid, having already gone through The Sickness a couple weeks earlier. And now I was stuck between these two jokers. Would I be Down again?

I don't know what the refund policy is with the New Bev and/or Brown Paper Tickets (who sold the online-only tickets to this event), but assuming it's Too Late Jack, I would still think that when it comes to being sick on Show Day, perhaps it's better to go Needs Of The Many over Needs Of The Few -- in this case, the few who felt it was more important to share The HIV with the rest of the audience, rather than just stay home. Throughout the night, my mind would suddenly make unwelcome detours into the scene from Outbreak where one of the infected coughs up Death Germs in a movie theater.

There were foreign posters on the wall and lobby cards in the, uh, lobby for Argento's films throughout the night and the selection would circulate; where a poster for The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was placed early in the evening, there would be lobby cards for Tenebrae later. These were supplied by a gentleman I only heard referred to as "Rich" during the introduction. There was also a laserdisc jacket for the Dario Argento's World of Horror documentary placed near the door to the ticket booth, but I don't know who that belonged to.

Speaking of which, around 7:30pm, Phil Blankenship came up front with a lady whose name I don't know, but she was wearing a cap and had been working the concession stand earlier. Because I was sitting between Dolby Stereo Cough-Cough, the best I could make out was that the films and trailers were selected by both Phil and New Bev owner Quentin Tarantino, and the lady then said something about Phil being "humble" in what I assume was him downplaying his contribution to the evening.

Phil then told us that anything we liked were his choices, to which we laughed and perhaps some of us (one of us) wondered how much of that was a joke and how much of that was how he really felt about Mr. T's choices; later he mentioned the $4 coffee cups being sold that were good for all-night refills, adding that "you're going to want to stay caffeinated for some of these". He then asked us not to be inconsiderate with the chatting and phone-using; he felt that those actions were "lame" and not something the "cool" audience would/should do.

The lady then told us that the prints were mostly 35mm but at least one was a 16mm print, then quoted/paraphrased Quentin by saying that some of these prints had been "enjoyed immensely a lot of times by a lot of audiences" which I believe was her way of saying that these weren't exactly going to be sparkling DCPs -- which is fine by me, that's part of the fun of watching old prints.



The night's entertainment began with trailers for two Westerns co-written by Argento; The Five Man Army (starring Peter Graves) and Once Upon a Time in the West (not starring Peter Graves). Then the first movie of the evening: 1970's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (or as it was called in this print, The Phantom of Terror).

Uncle Pete from The Pope of Greenwich Village plays an American in Rome who witnesses a woman inside an art gallery getting a little of the ol' in-out knife-style, and tries to save her by getting stuck between two glass doors because that's gonna help, I'm sure. He finds an old man staring at the two of them impassively, which is either Argento's way of heightening the horror by adding helplessness via neutral observation, or it's just the first of many examples throughout the night that Mr. Argento isn't really that interested in acting as much as he is interested in camera and editing.

But c'mon, honey, I say to myself -- nobody watches a Dario Argento flick for the great acting. They go to get creeped out and see black-gloved mystery peeps stalking and killing women, as in the case of this film. And also to see everyone else give non-reactions to otherwise crazy stuff. I mean, maybe in the Argento-verse, your reaction to having a hatchet miss you by thismuch in the middle of morning fog would be to just shrug it off and casually mention it to your hot girlfriend later on before going in on some Netflix And Chill Minus The Netflix, but not in my 'verse; for one, I don't even have a girlfriend, let alone a hot one -- and yet I've had people try to chop my head off many times.

So yeah, there's a serial killer taking pictures of potential victims, followed by fulfilling their potential with a little stabby slash slash. Uncle Pete, like most early Argento film protagonists, becomes obsessed with solving this case despite there being qualified individuals known as Detectives who do this sort of thing for a living. Along the way, Uncle Pete runs into fruity antique dealers and stuttering pimps, the latter of which made me wonder if R. Kelly had seen this film before; his last run of "Trapped in the Closet" featured a stuttering pimp named Lucius played by Mr. Kelly in an attempt to become like the Eddie Murphy of R&B singers who like to pee on underage girls.

This seems to be considered one of Argento's best, which is interesting because this is also one of his tamest; it's not a particularly gory film, at least not this print, but I don't remember this movie ever having much in the blood department to begin with. And while the movie has plenty of well-composed shots (by Vittorio Storaro), save for one trick, Dario hadn't started dosing his cameras yet. But it is very Argento in that it's a good movie.



Before the second film, we saw an old Pepsi Challenge ad, followed by trailers for Last Stop on the Night Train (aka Night Train Murders and like 20 other titles) and Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (aka Blazing Magnum and like 30 other titles), then it was 1971's The Cat O' Nine Tails, starring Karl Malden and James Franciscus.

The reddish print looked like it might've been the 16mm one mentioned earlier, and when Ennio Morricone's score played, it sounded like the Maestro was trying something new by having his music performed by the Royal Underwater Orchestra. But then the movie stopped playing and everything went dark, and suddenly we were all sitting in a black void filled with the sounds of OHHHH! and AHHHH! and WHAAAA?

Then a voice entered the void, telling us that they were going to fix the problem with the sound. A minute later, the film came back on and everything now sounded non-gargley. The film appeared to have a narrower aspect ratio than 2.35:1, like on some Hateful Eight shit, or maybe it was just my eyes. Hell, at least I can see, unlike Malden's character who lost his sight years ago. Now he has to do the sunglasses and cane combo, his only companion a little girl because I guess it's cheaper than a seeing eye dog.

I guess Argento wasn't having the American-in-Italy thing with this one; instead, our Yank protagonists are named Carlo Giordani and Franco Arno, giving us something not unlike an Arnold Schwarzenegger character, who despite his heavy Austrian accent was playing guys named John Kimble and Ben Richards. Anyway, Franco overhears some dude talking in his car about blackmail, and a couple days later his seeing eye girl reads to him from the newspaper that the same dude did a header onto a oncoming train -- which is pretty awesome, I have to admit; there's a slow-mo close-up as the front of the train straight-on BOOOOOOSHs this poor man's head, followed by a wide shot of his dummy body going all spinny spin down the platform while his Italian loafers go flying off his feet. In real life, that would horrify me, but in a movie that shit is comedy, bro.

Franco goes to the reporter covering this, Carlo, and soon they are both doing the detective thing and it involves shady shadiness at some medical institute. In between them looking at photos and breaking into crypts, you get a couple strangulations and a slashing. Again, like the previous film, this one doesn't really get too bloody, but there's quite a bit of drool during one killing, if that's what you're looking for to cover the bodily fluid angle.

Another thing I noticed appears to be Dario's fascination with alternative lifestyles, namely trans and gays or both. In Crystal Plumage, there's a scene where a police lineup is made up of "perverts" but among them is a transvestite named Ursula Andress. The lead detective then yells out something like "I told you, Ursula belongs with the transvestites, not the perverts" which I'd like to think was kind of a progressive judgment call from Argento, kinda like he's saying "Just because this dude identifies as a woman doesn't mean she's a pervert" but who knows, he could be all Italian macho about them, like "Eyyyy it's-a just-a another category of-a sick-a people!"

And in this film, one of the characters turns out to be gay, and considering this was made in 1971, his representation could've been a lot worse. Even the gay bar he hangs out in isn't some kind of Cruising-style fist-tacular, it's just a bunch of dudes hanging out listening to sad trumpet music with slightly happier piano accompaniment. The worst you get is some dude with a few too many buttons left unbuttoned on his shirt, exposing his hairy chest. Nothing against that, I mean, I'd wear my shirts like that too were it not for the obvious farmer's tan I'd expose, making me look like a White dude who got a head transplant from some Mexican that nobody will ever miss BECAUSE HERE IN TRUMP COUNTRY WE GRAB FRESH BEANERS BY THE PUSSY, FAGGOT

This one is less of a thriller and more of a straight-up mystery and it's well made and all, but I gotta be honest with you, lady and gentleman, this was my first time watching Cat O' Nine Tails and it got a little tiring for me. It's nearly two hours long and for extended stretches -- like 90 percent of the film -- I forgot I was watching a Dario Argento film. You could've replaced his director credit with Massimo Dallamano or maybe even Alberto De Martino and you could've convinced me it was one of their movies. It's my understanding that this is Argento's least favorite film of his, and I'm not going to argue that with him -- but I haven't seen Dracula 3D either, so maybe I would?

It has its moments (especially in the last half hour or so -- also there's an insert of a pocket watch that looks damn near like the insert of the pocket watch in Pulp Fiction, just wanted to point that out), but occasionally I was tempted to rest my eyes and let my ears pick up the slack (I did naaaaht, though). Was it the movie's fault? Or maybe it was the effects of a long day getting to me at that point? I don't know but what I do know is that the third film of the night felt like getting a bump of some of Bolivian's finest following the warm glass of milk that was this film.



And what was, in fact, the third film, the one that played after the trailers for Twisted Nerve and Blow-Up? Why, it was the 1975 joint Deep Red (better Italian title: Profondo Rosso), which upon the title being revealed had the audience applauding up a storm, the loudest yet. Maybe they were just happy that we didn't get another early work like Four Flies on Grey Velvet or worse, his non-horror non-giallo joint, The Five Days of Milan -- because let's be real, I can totally see Quentin doing something like that, regardless of what time it was or how tired we were.

The film stars David Hemmings as a pianist who witnesses his psychic neighbor getting terminated with extreme psychic-hating prejudice by a hatchet-loving killer, so obviously he becomes obsessed with figuring out Who and Why because that's how Argento protagonists do in these joints. He's joined by a reporter played by Daria Nicolodi, and the only thing more awesome than her character is the interactions between her character and Hemmings'sesesss.

There's a scene that had quite a few women in the audience cheering, as well as men who would love the touch of a female (like me), where Nicolodi responds to Hemmings' skepticism over women's strength with an arm wrestling challenge. I loved that scene, and I remember there being a few more like that in the full uncut version that runs over two hours, but what we watched that night was the "export version" which is about 20 minutes shorter.

As much as I like those extra scenes between them in the longer version and as much as I'd love to imagine that in an alternate universe there exists a series of films with their characters solving mysteries, I actually prefer this shorter version and I'm glad that's the one we watched that night. It moves like a freight train carrying boxcars of plot, whereas the longer cut has more of a hangout vibe to it -- and we certainly had enough hanging out with the previous two films.

So I guess around this time began the real life couple-ship of Nicolodi and Argento, because from here on, she would show up in his films or co-write them, but whatever the case I'm thinking that it can't be a coincidence that once Daria came on the scene, Dario upped his freak-out game in his movies. It shows, man, it shows, not just in the storytelling getting more and more out there but his filmmaking was also going up some notches. Deep Red is when he really started going "You know what? I'm not dollying and crane-ing this camera enough, I mean, they have wheels and levers and shit for these things, I might as well start using them!" It could also be a budget thing, but I also think something about this lady brought something out of this man.

He also dropped Ennio Morricone for Goblin or The Goblins or whatever the fuck name they go by, and the music scores in this film and his following ones became less traditional and more Fucking Awesome. The coughing gentleman in front of me and his uninfected friend started rocking out to some of the tunes at this point, bobbing their heads to the point that I almost expected home-cough to raise his hands and go "YASSS DIS MY JAAAM!"

By the way, I'm not dissing Morricone here. Don't get it twisted, friend, he's my favorite composer and he did good work in the previous films. But Goblin and Argento go together like transgenders and fucked-up characters in Dario Argento flicks.

Yeah, he continues the trans tradition here, with a minor character popping up wearing makeup and a girly bathrobe and an Adams Apple, and had the Internet existed back then they would probably be breaking Dario's balls about this stuff the way we break Tarantino's balls about his thing for bare feet -- or we'd give Argento shit for his thing for drooling victims because I think there are two cases of that in this movie. Maybe it was his way of making stuff more violent without boring us on the red stuff. Maybe this was Argento's drool period or something.

The kill game gets upped here as well, because the blood really starts to flow and now the killer is doling out death with a hatchet, hot water, and corners of tables and shelves. There are also other creative kills involving otherwise innocent everyday things that are only an unfortunate schmuck away from getting caught up in it and dying the hard way. There's also a freaky doll that pops up at one point, and I felt bad for the few people sitting near the front who got temporary vision impairment when a guy decided to pick that moment to return to his seat, meaning they were treated to a far more frightening sight -- his big ass in their faces.

This was the halfway point, and those who stuck around (nearly everybody) after this third film got a sweet treat courtesy of some sweet treats from a bakery or donut shop or something, I can't remember the place. Doughnuts, ham & cheese croissants, and cronuts were brought to the stage and anybody who wanted one got one. In the end, there were still croissants available for anyone who wanted them. I usually stay away from them during all-nighters to keep from sugar-crashing, but I was in What The Hell mode and grabbed a cronut.



Trailers for the Argento-edited European print of Dawn of the Dead (known to these universal health care-having motherfuckers as Zombie: Dawn of the Dead) and the U.S. edit of The Beyond (titled 7 Doors of Death) came up next. The trailer for the latter gives away nearly every character's fate and included praise blurbs from Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel that were made humorous by the announcer replacing some of the on-screen quotes with different words and mispronouncing the names. After that we had the fourth film, Suspiria -- which drew even louder applause than the previous film.

At this point, Argento was well into dipping his quills into the crazy ink, and I bet you it was co-writer Nicolodi who was hooking him up with said ink. There's a lot of Just Because in this movie, starting with the narration that begins over the opening credits pretty much telling you everything about the main character's trip to Germany except what they served on the flight, and then it just trails off, fading away and never returning for the rest of them film just because. I mean most of this film is going to leave you begging for that narrator to return to help you understand Why anything happens, but Dario Argento has no time for your needs -- unless your need is to get fully owned by Pure Goddamn Cinema.

So you have the lovely Jessica Harper -- all wide-eyed innocence -- headed for a ballet school, and the poor girl already has to deal with assholes as early as the arrival gate at the airport. Taxi cabs are just whizzing past her in the hard rain, and when she finally gets a driver he pulls that shit Euros do to filthy Muricans by pretending they have a comprehension problem with your simplest request. But my girl Harper, she's smart -- she has the name of the school written down on a piece of paper which she plasters onto the glass divider all like HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES? and now he has no choice but to take her there.

See, this is why Uber is fucking your shit up, cabbies.

I have to give credit to Harper's character for immediately feeling uneasy upon unpacking once she's at the school. Everybody is acting strange or doing that really asshole move of what I call "passive-aggressive friendly antagonism", but I think she kinda shrugs it off at first because she figures "Hey, this is Germany" and that's how the Deutschlanders get down. At least she doesn't try to tell a joke, like I did there once -- ONCE -- because there leads the path to heartbreak and embarrassment. Humor? No. Beer? Hell yes.

But things are even weirder than she should accept, because she hasn't even spent one full day there and she's already getting the vapors during practice and passing out. That was either because some lady flashed her a glowing triangle blade thingy five minutes earlier (that scene looks beautiful, by the way) and that put her whole system on tilt, or because she's wearing borrowed ballet shoes and they're probably two sizes too small for her. Cuts off the blood circulation, I think. Or maybe she's like me and finds the idea of wearing someone else's worn dancing shoes kinda gross. Fuck that shit, you give me that as my only choice and I'm hittin' the floor sans footwear like my man John McClane.

Immediately, the town doctor is telling her she has to eat bland and down red wine every meal because red wine is good for the blood. Red wine is good for everything, bro. I feel I'm letting myself down by not having a glass or two everyday.

I'm not going to go too much into plot because there isn't that much plot, to be real with you. Also, what there is is best discovered on your own. Then again, the soundtrack is literally telling you with voices going WITCH WITCH WITCH, so there's your road map, honey. I'll just bring up a couple things that stood out that aren't intense violent kill scenes (honestly, I think Argento literally and figuratively shot his wad with the murders during the first 15 minutes).

Some poor servant at the school has some big white chompers on him; turns out they're fakes he got after gingivitis had their way with his former gum partners. He's so proud of them and I would be too, if I were Gary Busey. You know what? That wasn't nice, and I shouldn't judge. Considering that my own sugar-to-brushing ratio is wrongly one-sided, and the upcoming dental work I'm having done, I'm sure I will eventually eat those words with teeth bigger than either of those guys.

Also, Udo Kier shows up looking young (which he was) and sounding American (which he's not) and that was cool to see.

What was kind of not cool was that the print of Suspiria we watched was the edited R-rated cut. It didn't really hurt the film though, it's missing a couple shots here and there and that kind of threw me off to not see what I had seen before. And sometimes the sound/music would suddenly skip as a result of the trims, which kinda added to the off-feeling of this nightmarish film. So that's kind of the unintentional bonus of such edits -- or I just know how to make some bomb-ass lemonade out of these lemons.

And besides -- the print was beautiful! I'm sure you already know the story of how this was one of the last films printed (not shot) using the three-strip Technicolor process, really making the colors pop on this movie -- which combined with the already color-saturated lighting and production design makes for the tastiest kind of candy overkill. But if you didn't know, I just told you. It also sounded as intense as it looked, with the volume turned all the way up to wake up even the sleepiest in the audience -- or at least drown out the sounds of the snoring (which if there was, I didn't hear at all. At least not where I was, sitting in the eye of the germ storm.)



Following the break, they showed us trailers for Dressed to Kill and Inferno (the Argento film, not the Forrest Gump & Jyn Erso buddy film). I had only seen Inferno once, and I had forgotten there was a scene involving someone getting attacked by cats and it made the audience laugh. It reminded me of a similar scene in an SCTV sketch that involved John Candy getting cat-tacked, and I wonder if the SCTV guys saw this movie or if it was just a coincidence (given the film and SCTV were around at the same time).

The fifth film immediately had the audience do the boisterous applause cheer thing because the first thing we saw was the title printed on a book: Tenebrae (or Tenebre, depending on which of the Berenstein/Berenstain alternate universes you live in). This was the second time I watched Tenebrae on the big screen; the first time was right here at the New Beverly Cinema during the third All Night Horror Show, back in 2010. I'm going to take the easy way out and kill myself post an excerpt from that blog post (which you can read in its entirety here, if you want):

In a rare departure for Argento, this film features scenes of people dying harsh deaths at the hands of a killer wearing black leather gloves; someone is killing people in Italy and sending letters to mystery writer Peter Neal (who's there promoting his new book), informing him that he will be the last to go, because they're all filthy slimy perverts and he's the corruptor or some shit like that. But never mind that, let's talk about the best character in the entire movie -- let's talk about that awesome fuckin' Doberman.

There's a scene where this cute jailbait chick (I can say that because I'm sure the actress was above legal age -- I hope, otherwise Chris Hansen's gonna walk in and ask me to take a seat over there) is walking home and she gets a little too close to a fence. RAWR RAWR RAWR goes the guard dog Doberman, and rather than keep walking, Cute Jailbait Girl picks up a stick and starts banging it against the fence. What the fuck, Lolita? That dog is just telling you to stay away, fool ('cause love rules, at the do-oo-og shack) and you gotta get all indignant on homedog? He's just doing the job he was hired to do; he's a blue collar dog trying to put Alpo on his litter's table. Oh, you sure showed him.

Well, this dog, he's not having it, he jumps the fence and runs after her -- what's up now, bitch? At one point, she climbs over a tall fence and you figure that's the end of the line for the Doberman. Nah man, this dog, he walks up to the fence, looks it over, does the calculations in his dog brain, backs up a couple yards, runs and fuckin' parkours that goddamn fence. This dog rules. Even when she hides inside the killer's Underground Room of Murder Planning, that dog still manages to find a way to get to a window(!) to show her that he hasn't given up. The Doberman can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, remorse, or fear and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are bitten numerous times. That's what he does, that's all he does!

The actor who plays Peter Neal had this slightly George Takei-esque way of pronunciation that I'm going to probably mimic for the next few days in everyday life. What else, oh yeah, pretty much all the women in this film are attractive in a They Probably Don't Shave kinda way, even this flashback sequence chick who's pretty hot for having a dick and balls in real life. The title more or less translates as Darkness, so naturally Argento had his cinematographer blast everything with bright light, thinking he was trying out some daring shit but ultimately giving the proceedings a look reminiscent of low-budget Mexican genre films.

The camerawork is still aces, though, especially that There's-No-Reason-To-Do-It-This-Way-Except-That-It's-So-Fucking-Cool shot where the camera starts at one end of a house, goes over the roof, then ends up on the other side; Johnny La Rue would've killed for that kind of crane shot. This is one of my favorite Argento flicks, the print looked great (it came from Australia) and I'm pretty sure nothing was missing since this wasn't the U.S. "Unsane" edit of the movie.

I'm going to add a couple new things here. I'm still going on with my Argento-fascinated-by-alternative-lifestyles deal, so here we go; at one point in the film, an interviewer brings up how Neal's latest book displays a point-of-view on how "deviant behavior" affects our lives, pointing out that one of the "deviants" is gay, which Neal immediately responds with something to the effect of "the character is gay, but he's portrayed as being perfectly happy" and that it doesn't make him a deviant.

It's like Argento is saying that sometimes how we perceive art doesn't mean that's how the artist intended it to be perceived. We bring our own beliefs and baggage to it, and yet we'll condemn the artist for something he or she never thought. So, one can see an Argento film and the women being killed in them as being the product of a misogynistic mind, or one sees the appearance of a gay character in his films as being some kind of judgment call on that particular lifestyle. Doesn't necessarily mean that, though.

Kinda like how I'm seeing all these trans and gay people pop up in his films and I'm thinking more like, maybe he's just intrigued by it. Or maybe he's disgusted by it. Or maybe he's turned on by it. Who knows but the man himself (and maybe his loved ones)? I don't know what I'm talking about anymore, I've been writing this all night, I have to get ready for work in an hour, and I'm so goddamn tired. I just want to post this today before the 20th, otherwise if I finish then, that means by the time I get to the bar it's going to be packed with decent human beings getting fucked up and burying their faith in their fellow man or woman, sitting on my favorite seat and drinking up all the Maker's Mark. Then where am I supposed to sit? What am I supposed to drink? Which girl am I going to drunkenly wink at before the inevitable drink-in-face? FUCK THAT SHIT ESE. I'll finish today.



After one final break, the lights came down and we saw trailers for Demons (co-written and produced by Argento) and Two Evil Eyes (directed by Argento and George A. Romero), then I decided to make a run for the restroom because the Red Bull I drank during Tenebrae was fuckin' done with me, but as I left, I recognized the Swiss countryside and 1.66:1 aspect ratio as belonging to Phenomena -- except the title card said Creepers, meaning this was the shorter U.S. cut. When I returned, the lights were back on and the screen was blank, so I'm guessing there was a technical issue. A few seconds later, the light went down and the movie came up and everything was A-OK again.

Like Tenebrae, I had seen this at the New Beverly before at the very first All Night Horror Show back in 2008. Unfortunately for lazy me, I didn't have a blog yet back then, so I didn't ramble about this movie or that evening. I'll just have to ramble about the flick here.

Some girl is killed in the first five minutes, and she's played by Dario Argento's daughter Fiore, because Dario is on some Stuart Gordon shit by killing off loved ones in his films, I guess. Then Jennifer Connelly steps in, she's the star, and wow, man, wow. I'm not gonna get all pervy because she was underage at the time, so I'll just imagine that if a girl who looked like her went to my junior high school, I would definitely ask her out in my imagination while saying nothing to her in reality because being rejected sucks.

Jennifer Connelly plays Jennifer Corvino, a movie star's daughter who is a new student at a Swiss boarding school, and the knives and claws are out for our girl because these other girls are some low self-esteem-having motherfuckers who are threatened by this beautiful newcomer. When it comes out that she's a sleepwalker and a bug-lover (not in *that* way, you ass, she thinks of bugs the way I think of dogs and cats -- they are more deserving of love than most humans), I was surprised Dario didn't have the girls drool over this new tender spot in her soul to flick at.

By the way, that second thing of hers, the bug thing, it appears that the bugs love her back; they won't sting or bite her and even a firefly will help her walk through a dark forest.

My most Corvino-esque moment in my youth was when I was in the first grade and during recess, some of my fellow students were gathered around the sandbox, where they had trapped a few ladybugs and were stabbing them with sticks. (Of course, they were all boys.) They were laughing and MWAHAHAHA-ing the way most of Argento's villains laugh and MWAHA, and it really brought me down. But even back then I knew not to protest because they would then do to me what these fucking asshole Swiss boarding school students do to precious Jennifer (she's so precious); incessantly mock her in the manner that only the heartless young (a redundancy, I know) can.

Thankfully, Precious Jennifer finds a friend in a wheelchair'd Donald Pleasence, and luckily he's an entomologist, so they can both geek out about insects. There's definitely a kind of grandfatherly vibe coming from him, and I liked watching their scenes together. I've only seen the longer Phenomena cut once back in '99, so I can't remember if there were more scenes between them, but the Creepers cut did leave me wanting more of that. Hell, I would've been fine with a movie that was just about their friendship.

But this is Dario Argento we're talking here, baby! And if the way these films were programmed that night tells us anything, it's that home-paisan has been getting nuttier and nuttier over the years with his stories. No way is he going to start dialing it down to something like a movie about two friends who bond over insects, no fucking way! No way Jose.

Instead, there's someone or something out there, man, out there in the forest, and whatever it is, it sure loves getting head from schoolgirls -- which is to say, he murders them and leaves behind their severed heads. Wait. Actually, my attempt at telling one of the hackiest R-rated jokes ever in the history of hacky R-rated jokes makes no sense at all. He takes the bodies, he ain't getting head. He doesn't want it.

Shit, maybe the Germans were right not to laugh.

I've heard that this is Argento's favorite of his films; I'd have to watch the longer cut again to confirm, but what I remember from that one and what I do remember from the Creepers cut definitely makes it one of my favorites. My only quibble would be this: I like heavy metal and I like Dario Argento movies, but I was never a big fan of the both of them combined, which he does here and in Opera.

It's a slow burner but by the end, Phenomena/Creepers goes completely off its rocker and if you're not digging it, then you're not digging vida, my friend. When this played at the first All Night Horror Show, it was the first film of the night and the audience loved it. They were particularly big on Inga The Chimpanzee With A Prolapsed Anus, for reasons I won't give away, but yeah, her scenes were real crowd-pleasers. It played just as well with this audience too, who were a little more muted and slow to respond in comparison, probably because it was already around six in the morning and everybody was tired, but by the last ten minutes, everybody was up and jacked up by the cine-meth supplied by the film's climax.




By 7:30 am, we had reached the end of the Dario Argento All Nighter.



Those of us who made it to the end (quite a few, actually) were rewarded with this coffee mug:




My girlfriend-less buddy and I then went to Little Dom's in Los Feliz to try out their breakfast pizza, because I saw it on a rerun of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on the Cooking Channel. You know the Cooking Channel, right? If there's an actor you haven't seen in a while, he or she is probably hosting a show on that channel. Because suddenly everybody is a fucking chef now.