Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dances with Jailbait

Hey, was Step Up 3D shot with 3D cameras or post-converted? And do 3D movies look better on 3D TV's? I ask because I went to Fry's last Friday and went to one of the 3D demo setups and that movie looked very impressive for some bullshit about a bunch of spastic good-looking young bastards who are going to change the world (not to mention the minds of those who Simply Don't Understand) through the power of Dance. Ah, whatever -- I didn't come to watch in 3D what I can see in Real Life at any water fountain/bench area in the middle of any shopping center (no, I don't have change), I came to buy a movie I wanted to watch.

Yeah man, I managed to snag a copy of the extended cut of Terrence Malick's The New World at Fry's for about $5, but that probably has to do with the plain & simple fact that nobody was buying them the first time around when that shit was selling for $20, and even at $5 no one's buying it. The public has made it very clear to Mr. Malick -- Step Up or shut up.

Colin Farrell plays John Smith (the guy from the cartoon Pocahontas), and some Native American actress with a name too complicated to remember, she plays Pocahontas (only they never call her Pocahontas, they don't call her anything, and if they did, I certainly didn't hear it). He's part of a whole group of these British dudes who come the titular New World and notice a bunch of "naturals" already living nearby, so they're like Oh yeah, I guess we have to deal with this nuisance if we're gonna settle here.

Actually, that's not quite exactly the deal; Christopher Plummer is the leader of this voyage, Captain Newport (because he loves smoking those menthols) and he's kind of decent about the whole deal. He tells his men not to rock the boat (figuratively; they've since disembarked) with the natives, because it's not cool to be a dick, and besides, they might have to trade for food and supplies and you just don't bite the hand that could potentially feed you.

Captain Pall Mall also rescinds the execution order for Smith to hang (for kinda being a mutinous motherfucker), and the scene basically goes like this:

Captain Pack o' Smokes: Did you learn your lesson? 

Smith: Yes.

Captain Pack o' Smokes: Good. Now don't you go doing that again, you crazy kid. 

There's this other dude named Wingfield, played by David Thewlis, and he's just a fuckin' hater and he's always talking shit about Smith. Newport has Smith lead a team of men to go see some of these Native Americans and see about working out some kind of hook-up on supplies (it didn't take long for these Brits to Bogart their whole stash), and then Wingfield jumps in with his badly-disguised bitch-fit. Apparently Wingfield must've watched Dances with Wolves too many times, because he thinks Smith is going to form some kind of alliance with the Naturals and use his knowledge of the Brits' strengths and weaknesses to take the whole settlement down.

Anyway, Smith gets taken by the natives and is just about to get his scalp handed to him when in comes Pocahontas to convince them otherwise. What follows is a tale about Smith getting friendly with the natives, while getting really friendly with Pocahontas, all told through the magical lightly hallucinogenic-glazed lens of one Mr. Terrence Muthafuckin' Malick.

Smith is into Pocahontas, and why not, she's cute in a natural (read: rarely bathes) kinda way. After I first saw this movie, I went home and looked her up on the Internet. While typing her name up, I thought to myself "She's cute, she's got a nice body", then I found her IMDB entry and read on her bio that she was born in 1990 and since this movie was shot in 2004-2005 that would mean -- OH MY GOD, NO! OH PLEASE GOD, NO! OH MY GOD, HERE THEY COME! THEY'RE COMING IN THROUGH THE WINDOWS LIKE IN TERRY GILLIAM'S BRAZIL! WHY AM I MAKING MOVIE REFERENCES RIGHT NOW? OH NO, PLEASE DON'T ASK ME TO SIT DOWN RIGHT OVER THERE, CHRIS HANSEN, I DIDN'T KNOW, HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW, I MEAN SHE'S HOOKING UP WITH COLIN FARRELL AND YOU'D FIGURED SHE, I MEAN, YOU WOULD THINK, I MEAN, THEY WOULD NEVER HIRE, UH, I, UH...


Speaking of this chick who almost got me thrown in jail, a friend of a friend attended a screening of this film with Ms. Under 18 in attendance for a Q&A after, and after the whole deal, he went outside and saw her trying to get something from the Dippin' Dots machine. He said that she displayed a remarkable patience as she repeatedly put the dollar in, just to have it spat back out at her. I think that patience might have something to do with having spent a long time playing a character in a setting where there was no running water, no electricity, no microwaves and no Hot Pockets. You had to put in work to eat; you had to plant crops, grow crops, do all the crop-related things just to get some food in the belly. Back then, fishing was a necessity, not a sport to do with your drunk friends. You also had to grow some balls and hunt a fuckin' animal every once in a while. Anyway, she eventually got the Dippin' Dots, my friend said. I can only imagine that those Dippin' Dots tasted great, considering how hard she had to work at getting them.

When this film was first released in L.A. and Nueva York back in late 2005, it was 150-minutes long and for some unknown reason, I didn't immediately go. I guess I had other things to do, and besides, it's not like the movie's going anywhere anytime soon, right?

Holy shit, I should've held a mirror up to my douchebag face the moment I found out that Malick had the movie pulled so he could re-edit it; I was fine putting my trust in the director here, assuming he's cutting a better version of the movie that reflects his ultimate vision -- but now I felt assed out of watching a cut of the movie that will most likely never be seen again. It's like Kubrick re-editing 19 minutes out of 2001: A Space Odyssey after the premiere; on the one hand, he probably improved that masterpiece, but on the other, the rest of us are left wondering just what was in those 19 minutes.

Anyway, when the movie was re-released in early 2006, it was not just cut by 15 minutes but it also had some stuff that wasn't in the previous version, as well as having some stuff moved around. I eventually saw this 135-minute version of The New World twice; once in theaters and then a few months later on DVD. I dug it both times and while it didn't match The Thin Red Line (his best work so far, in my opinion -- keep in mind I haven't seen The Tree of Life yet), it was still pretty goddamn good (about even with Days of Heaven, I'd say) and just another shining example of why Terrence Malick is one of a select few who in my humble opinion, Own The Fuck Out Of The Cinematic Arts.

This group I just created in my head, this group of Filmmakers Who Own The Fuck Out Of The Cinematic Arts, is different than a group of who I think the best filmmakers are. There's a difference. I'm not talking about filmmakers who are great at what they do, no, I'm talking about filmmakers who are not only great, but who also never made a bad film. I'm talking about motherfuckers who never slipped, who always knocked it the fuck out every time they stepped up at bat. This, of course, is a personal opinion, because I know there are plenty of people who don't like The New World or The Thin Red Line. Not me, though, I loved those movies and I love Terrence Malick films and I even love you, hater of all things I love.

So let's see: Spielberg? Sorry, son -- the guy made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (oy!) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (OY!!!), and even though he certainly directed the shit out of those flicks, I left the cinema damn near tears at how disappointing they were. Cinema has owned him a couple times, unfortunately, saying "Nice try, kid -- but not this time."

Kubrick? Well, it took that big boy a couple of movies of crawling before he cinematically walked. You watch Killer's Kiss and you see a young talent who's gonna really kick some cinematic ass soon, but that's about it.

Coppola? He's directed some of The Greatest Movies Ever Made, sure, but one can only defend Jack for so long before looking ridiculous, and a man in my position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous!

How about Scorsese? Well, I haven't seen all of his films (gasp! terror! righteous indignation!), so the jury of one that is Me is still out on that guy. I'm not too hopeful though, because I watched New York, New York and did something with that movie I've never done with any other film EVER -- I stopped watching it. I tapped out about an hour in. I've sat through Cannibal Holocaust and Irreversible and came out both times bright-eyed & bushy-tailed, but that film fuckin' defeated me, daring me to continue watching what should've been called Asshole Time or something equally unpleasant.

One day I will return to New York, New York and sit through that entire goddamn film, even if I have to Clockwork Orange my fuckin' eyeballs to finish it. (Alternate version of the last sentence for Dario Argento fans: One day I will return to New York, New York and sit through that entire goddamn film, even if I have to Opera my fuckin' eyeballs to finish it.) Because if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.

I guess, as of now, because I don't want to continue with this, I guess I'd say that Quentin Tarantino and Terrence Malick are the only guys who not only came out with their dicks swinging the first time out, but have managed to maintain the motion of said organs after all these years. This, again, is merely my opinion; the other filmmakers I mentioned are still bad motherfuckers. But when it comes to a spotless record of Consistent Excellence, the top 3 guys are Malick, Tarantino, and whoever directed all of those Ernest movies, except for the one he didn't direct -- that one was a fuckin' travesty.

So while the 150-minute cut is nowhere to be seen (unless you live in Italy), we thankfully now have an extended 172-minute cut, and that's what I watched a couple of nights ago. The sticker on the box says it's 30 minutes of new footage, while the description on the back of the box says it's 20 minutes of new footage. Meanwhile, I'm comparing it to the 135-minute version I saw, so to me, I don't know, it appears to be about 37 minutes of new shit. Or is it 36? I'm not sure. Maybe 38. I'm probably wrong because when it comes to math, I'm like the Highlander franchise -- I make things worse with each attempt to get better and I should really stop trying.

The cool/weird thing about this version is that nothing really stood out in this version, it felt like I was getting more of a good thing without really knowing where the "more" part begins and end. Usually, with the extended versions of Dances with Wolves or Aliens, you can tell what new shit they added, but not with this movie. Yet it doesn't feel longer, the flow is right on -- actually, the flow is improved, so at least I was able to notice that. How the fuck does Malick do that? What's with this fuckin' sorcerer, he who is able to conjure 20-40 new minutes of phantom material without flint or tinder? Maybe I just don't remember as much from my last viewing back in 2006. Maybe I'm just a fucking dumbass.

My guess is that the majority of the new stuff serves mostly as extensions of existing footage. There are certainly more lovely shots of nature in this version, so I think he just fattened up sequences with more stuff to cut to and maybe in some cases he just extended the In and Out points on the ol' Avid. But again, because this guy is a fuckin' master magician, none of the new stuff causes the old stuff to feel like it's overstaying its welcome. In fact, I'm like Hey, you're welcome to overstay, bro.

Maybe it's because a Malick joint isn't about propelling the plot forward; his flicks are about the journey, not the destination, and in this case, homeboy took the scenic route with the extended cut. I mean, if you were to tell me that there's going to be an extended 4-hour version of Muthafuckin' Fast Fuckin' Five, my first reaction would be Fuck Yeah, but then I'd have a second thought about that. What that movie has going for it is speed; it's got the right ratio of action beats to character grooves, and unless the new footage consists of more cars smashing into each other and more people getting riddled with PG-13 bullets, I'd have to pass. I don't think I want to see more shots of assed-out Vin Diesel drinking Brahma beer, feeling sorry for himself. I don't think I want to see more shots of The Rock sweating like Barry White on a hot August afternoon. And I certainly don't want to see more shots of Paul Walker doing whatever the fuck Paul Walker was doing.

But I do want to see more beautiful shots of poetry, which is why I'm down with this particular extended cut. Terrence Malick is all about chilling out and letting the atmosphere envelop your ass like one of those fuckin' blanket-winged monster things from The Beastmaster, and more of that atmosphere is a good thing. One thing I certainly did notice was that this longer version now has title cards every once in a while, like chapters in a book. You know who else uses chapter cards in his films? Fuckin-A, right, he does, because these FWOTFOOTCA's, you know how they do.

I also noticed that the asshole douchebag cunt character of Wingfield has a couple more noticeable moments for him to do his thing, which makes the end of his character arc feel even more justified. You like how I did that, the way I spoiled something in so many words without actually saying it straight out? C'mon man, don't be angry with me -- if I was to really spoil something for you in a Malick joint, I'd describe how he frames and lights a shot of an animal or something.

Yeah, I know -- Malick doesn't do all of this stuff himself, so I'm giving props to Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, the ace Mexican cinematographer. From what I understand, little-to-no additional lighting was used during this production, it was mostly just natural lighting coming from God's gaffer. This is a good thing, because Christian Bale is also in this movie, and shooting with natural lighting meant he had no fuckin' lights to trash, which was probably a relief to Lubezki because lights are expensive.

Like I said, Lubezski is a Mexican from Mexico and some of you might be like Whaaa? Come on, not all world-class directors-of-photography come from Italy and China, you know? They also come from Mexico, like Guillermo Navarro and Gabriel Beristain. Yeah, I know Beristain moved to England, but are you gonna blame him? I mean, I love mi gente and I'm deeply proud of our culture, but c'mon -- it *is* Mexico. One day, someone non-corrupt is really going to bring that place back to its old glory, and that'll be the same day when a cure for Cancer is found, a Republican will tell a Democrat (or vice versa) "I completely agree with you and we should work together on solving this issue", and people refer to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the past tense. Because I am nothing if not optimistic on all things Human.

I bet you there's a couple of American-born cinematographers out there who look at mi gente kicking ass behind the camera and they seethe, man, they fuckin' seethe in anger at these fuckin' Mexicans who probably swam across the Rio Grande with a satchel of clothes slung over one shoulder and a 16mm Bolex over the other: These fuckin' beaners, man, they come to my country illegally and take all the cinematography jobs and us hard-working Americans have to pay for it when we spend our hard-earned American dollars at the ticket booth and ask for two tickets for the 7:20 showing of Children of Men.

These angry American cinematographers (who I would wager have the kind of complexion that keeps them from properly tanning in the sun without peeling), they don't understand that my Mexican brothers are simply taking the jobs that Americans won't take. We're too proud to accept a job lighting a movie for David Mamet or Michael Mann. These guys, though, they're willing to work for scraps, and by scraps, I mean Oscar nominations and the occasional win.

Listen, if you liked The New World, you'll like the extended cut because it's more of the beautiful same (not to mention more of the great-sounding same), and if you didn't like it, then you certainly won't like the extended cut. Personally, I think this is the only way this movie should be seen, this is the one I'll go to for a rewatch. If you've never seen it before, I don't know, I'm very tempted to recommend this version for your first time. You don't need the Cliff Notes cut, you shouldn't even ask for it, man up and go Extended. But perhaps you shouldn't listen to me, because I'm more than a little partial to this guy's work, I mean, it's obvious that I'm Gay-tham for Malick.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Next to the message boards at Yahoo News, there is no other horrifically ugly (and accurate) example of Humanity At Work than the message boards on the IMDB.

Living a lifestyle that is easier on your emotional psyche also has its drawbacks, as in, you don't have as much money to burn on obscene ticket prices, like the $15 required to buy a ticket for a midnight screening of The Tree of Life at the Arclight. I was like damn, if only I hadn't quit that job I hated to pursue other ventures, then I can be like "Fifteen dollars? Why sure! One for The Tree of Life, please!" So I didn't go to see Terrence Malick's new flick, but that was cool, because it gave me the opportunity to watch one his last joints again, The Thin Red Line

You know how the narration in Days of Heaven has a rambling, inarticulate feel to it? (Come to think of it, this blog has a rambling, inarticulate feel, so this shit probably reads a lot better if you imagine it being read in Linda Manz' voice). And you know how said rambling narration contrasts with the on-screen beauty of the shots created by Malick and Nestor Almendros? Well, I like to think that there's something similar going on in this movie, only Malick inverted it or flip-flopped it or whatever you think sounds better. 

What I mean is that you have all these soldiers from different walks of life, and when it comes to the way they communicate with their fellow brothers-in-arms, some are more articulate than others, and others more talkative than some, and then you got those who don't talk much at all. Yet, their inner monologues are all similarly poetic at times, and I guess you can be an asshole and say it's because they're all written by the same poet filmmaker, but then why wouldn't he have them all talk the same way either? I like to think it's because it's not so much their inner monologue, some talking to themselves kinda shit we're listening to, it's something way deeper and more awesome -- we're listening to their fuckin' souls talking here. If souls can talk, they'd sound like this. 

We all have shit we want to say, and within ourselves it sounds as pure a statement as one could ever make, and yet somehow we can never communicate it out of our fuckin' mouths the way we'd like to; our brains and egos are holding us back from really saying the shit we wanna say in the way we wanna say it. Let me put it to you this way; I think most of us have music within us, we're whistling or humming shit, but not all of us know how to play a musical instrument, so we have to settle for whistling or humming that shit. 

That's how I see it, anyway, I think we all have some Serious Shit in our hearts that we're capable of saying -- because we sure as shit are capable of feeling it -- but not all of us are Aces in the Articulation department, so instead you struggle to say it the best way you can, or you just shut the fuck up and say nothing, or you just keep it to yourself and mock the rest who try. Anyway, Malick's tapping into that shit, not by letting us hear what's going through these motherfucker's heads, but what's going through that Divine Spark you hear about every once in a while. Yeah, I know I'm speaking for myself here. The rest of you assholes are all William F. Buckley, Jr. in this motherfucker, I know. 

Fuck 3D, this movie was shot in fuckin' God-Vision; it's like we're able to tap into God's fuckin' DVR while he goes through it late one night (God couldn't sleep, so he figured he'd make himself a sandwich and watch a little of The Ultimate Flatscreen), and he was going through the DVR playlist and decided to click on "Guadalcanal 1942-1943" to watch how his creation was doing during that time. He's like "Oh yeah, I remember my trees and beaches looking like that back then, oh and here are my birds and crocodiles chilling out. Oh, and here's the black sheep in my family -- Man -- up to their usual bullshit with that Free Will I gave those dumbasses". 

That's why you have all those cutaways to stuff like mist flowing through leaves and lizards kicking back on a tree during heavy battle sequences -- in addition to serving as a contrast between nature's beauty and man's ugliness, those cutaways give us the opportunity to watch what God's watching, and that motherfucker is watching everything and everyone, and you're probably like "Everyone?" and now I gotta go Stansfield on your ass and clarify "EEEEVVVVEEEERRRRYYYYOOOONNNNEEEE!" 

Speaking of Stansfield, the motherfucker who played him, Gary Oldman, I think he was supposed to be in this movie. A lot of people were supposed to be in this movie, but they got cut out. Mickey Rourke, Jason Patric, Viggo Mortensen, Bill Pullman -- fuck, you can make a pretty badass movie with the leftover scraps. To paraphrase some Tarantino interview, the only list more prestigious than the list of actors who survived the final cut of The Thin Red Line is the list of actors who didn't. It sucks to not be seen in the movie anymore, I'm sure, but I figure they at least have awesome Terrence Malick stories they can tell their grandchildren, and then the grandchildren would respond with "Who's Terrence Malick?" Martin Sheen was also cut out, but that guy already has a performance immortalized in a Terrence Malick joint and got to work with the guy twice already, so I'm not crying for him. 

I'd love to see the fabled six-hour cut, though. I want to see what the deleted actors did in that version, I want to hear Billy Bob Thornton's original narration, and I'd love to see how Adrien Brody's character came off in that version. Apparently, he was like the main character in the long cut; think about that, you're an unknown actor and you not only get a role in Terrence Malick's next film, you get a choice lead role! If he only knew that Malick was a fiend for reinventing movies in the editing room; in the end, his character only has about two lines of dialogue and one of them is off-screen. It's pretty funny how his role transformed, though -- even though he was drastically reduced, he's still a major presence in the film throughout. He's almost like that girl in Schindler's List, the one in red, only his character stands out because he's the scared-looking guy who pops up everywhere but never says a word. Like Sheen, I'm not crying for him, he got a fuckin' Oscar a few years later AND macked on Halle Berry. Fuck that guy.

Jesus Christ, is he a good actor. I'm talking about Jesus Christ from The Passion of The Christ, he's really good here. I think this was his first big movie and it's easily his best work. A part like this could be overplayed in the wrong hands and come off really fuckin' fake -- less talented actors would over-Jesus the performance. But given that Malick actually hired the Son of God to play Private Witt, all he had to do was tell Jesus to bring it down a tad. As a result, you have a character who can calm a dying motherfucker down without being too angelic about it. 

This guy Witt, he watched his mother die and he watched her accept that shit like it ain't no thang -- just advancing to the next level, I guess -- and it's rocked his world proper. Now, his deal is to reach that point where you're no longer afraid of death -- that doesn't mean you should put yourself out there and welcome it, that's suicide, son -- but when the time comes that it's obvious that your number's up and it's Time To Go, then just smile at that motherfucker Death, look that life-taking motherfucker straight in the eye and say Let's Do This. Take the joy out of that asshole's already shitty job. 

That Spicoli-playing motherfucker Sean Penn, he's always got a bug up his ass about something, and in this movie, he's got a Jesus-sized bug up his ass about Pvt. Witt's attitude. This guy's a fuckin' hater, man, he can't be like Hey Man, Congrats On The Whole Accepting Death Thing, no, he's always trying to convince Witt that it's foolish to have that attitude because when you die, that's fuckin' it, man. Fuck risking your ass for someone else's, because if you get got, there's no reward other than total fuckin' blackness forever. FOR-EV-ER. 

Then halfway through the movie, you start to wonder, who is Penn really trying to convince? It's after you see Penn's character occasionally exhibit a Witt-like spark, that you realize this motherfucker should be spitting all of this bullshit he's been spitting to a fuckin' mirror, not my man Witt. He'd love to be like Witt, but he can't fully accept it, so out comes the booze and the tough-talk. Sorry to call Sean Penn a bitch, but the lady doth protest too much, methinks. 

Whoever thinks this movie is anti-war is probably the kind of motherfucker who polishes his gun collection every day and talks mad shit but would douse his fuckin' drawers if he ever had to point that shit at something that wasn't a paper target with Osama's face on it. This shit isn't anti-war or pro-war, it just Is War, man. Malick's not trying to make any statement other than how hard it is to figure us human beings out. I guess you can say Kubrick was doing the same thing with Full Metal Jacket, but it's obvious that there's a negative worldview to everything going on in that movie, it's like he's saying it's in our nature to be pieces-of-shit to our fellow man. Malick is saying that, yeah, it's in our nature, sure, but so is love and compassion, and life is a daily battle to keep the darker side of your soul from winning out over the lighter parts -- it's just that war makes it so much harder not to keep that shit at bay. Because watching your friend slowly die from wounds received by the enemy makes it soooo fuckin' easy to want to bash a fuckin' Japs head in and pull his teeth out with pliers, rather than simply taking him prisoner. 

During one violent charge at the enemy, you can see one Japanese soldier huddled over his fallen buddy, and he's wielding a knife, keeping any approaching Americans away. Goddamn, can you imagine the story between those two, the fuckin' 3-hour movie that transpired between those two characters? These guys might have been lifelong friends, or they became friends during the war, or shit, maybe it was like one of those buddy movies where they hated each other at first, then grew to love each other as brothers -- and then one of them gets shot. 

I saw this in the movie theater, back in January or February of '99 and it was an odd experience because you can sense the packed crowd at this neighborhood multiplex grow more and more impatient as each minute passed. I can't blame them, they weren't prepared. I mean, you look at that poster, you see all the famous names and you see the soldier with a rifle and you figure This Shit Is Gonna Rock, right? You have to understand, Saving Private Ryan rocked motherfuckers worlds six or seven months prior, so lots of people figured it was gonna be All-Star American Asskicking vol. 2 in this motherfucker. But instead they got a Terrence Malick picture and you Just Fucking Know most people didn't know or cared to know what the fuck a Terrence Malick was. 

They didn't know what to make of all those shots of nature or of all of that fruity narration asking about What Is This Evil Where Does It Come From, and what's with the lack of Payback Time moments where we see a Jap's head getting blasted open by a BAR for sniping my friend (he was gonna get married to his sweetheart as soon as the war was over, goddammit!)? Where's the overall feeling of America Fuck Yeah? Shit, George Clooney is in this fuckin' movie, and I can only imagine all the Dr. Ross/Seth Gecko fans getting pissed when they realized The Peacemaker wasn't showing up until the end, and only for a couple of minutes, at that. I don't think the uninterrupted hour or so of non-stop Awesome Ownage was going to make it up for them either, I think the movie lost them by the time the soldiers arrive on the beach and not a single round was fired in the process. 

I'm planning to watch the extended version of The New World soon, then I plan to finally get around to watching The Tree of Life (at a cheaper price than fifteen-fuckin-dollars), but as far as his first three films go, The Thin Red Line is definitely my favorite. Even if his latest isn't as good, fuck man, he's already made 3 great films, one better than the other. He has nothing to prove other than you don't need weed to get your senses owned by a Terrence Malick joint -- and he already proved that shit with movie #1, so there.

In conclusion, any movie that features Nick Nolte going Nicolas Cage on Casey Jones while shit's exploding in the background is a masterpiece in my book. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do I really need to mention how weird/awesome Christopher Walken is in this movie? Of course not -- so I won't.

BILOXI BLUES -- originally posted on Tumblr, 5/25/11

I remember eating with my family at Hometown Buffet once, back in 1995, and some time after that I asked my parents why there hadn't been any return visits to that establishment, and they were like “uh, yeah, we won’t do that again”, which I didn’t understand because while it didn’t knock me out or make a great impression on me, I remember liking the food. Flash-forward to 2011, and now I’m an adult and Goddamn it, I’m going to have a meal at Hometown Buffet because I want to. So I went to my local HB and a while later after eating my fill, guess what?

Uh, yeah, I won’t do that again.

The food isn’t bad, all it needs is a little salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard – which also happens to be a line in the film Biloxi Blues, regarding the food they served at the Army chow hall. I love that line, it’s quite possibly the best way to describe any meal that is less than flavorful. Speaking of which, I remembered when I went to see Julie & Julia in the theater and when the scene came up where Amy Adams’ husband takes out a salt shaker and sprinkles liberal amounts all over his serving of the boeuf bourguignon Adams made, I could tell who the foodies in the audience were because they were the ones who gasped when he did that shit.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about that particularly wonderful film that managed to combine two things that I love (food and Amy Adams), I’m talking about Biloxi Blues.

I’ve seen this film countless times growing up, thanks to HBO, and as a result, I remember it fondly and it’s in that special category of films, the category of I’ll Watch The Whole Thing If I Come Across It On Cable.

I don’t recall ever laughing out loud at this movie in the past, but then again, I’m unfortunately a difficult person to make laugh and therefore I give the appearance of Daria at the movie theater, but I guess I’m more of a laughing-on-the-inside type. I wish I could be like the guys in Biloxi Blues who are just about pissing/shitting themselves in laughter while watching an Abbott & Costello short. Doesn’t mean Biloxi Blues isn’t funny, because it is, I guess it was more of a chuckle type of comedy for me. Who says they all have to be knee-slappers? At least I chuckled a lot during this.

Maybe I just like how pleasant the whole movie feels, which is interesting because most of it consists of the characters being put through very uncomfortable situations — long forced marches through the hot (Africa hot!) swamps and dirt roads of Biloxi, Mississippi, constant punishments consisting of push-ups (which START at 100!), hourly opportunities for humiliation, and then of course, there’s the food.

Perhaps it’s not supposed to be the most realistic, since what this movie (and the play it’s based on) really is, is some rose-colored lenses kinda shit, looking fondly at the past. I mean, at the end of the movie Eugene Jerome pretty much sums it up, saying that at the time he was going through it, he hated Basic Training and wasn’t too crazy about the people there, but now he loves (read: misses) every damn one of them. To be honest, that hit me harder than Richard Dreyfuss’ final written lines about never again having friends like the ones he had when he was a boy, in the film Stand by Me, the one based on a short story by that Green Goblin-looking motherfucker and directed by that one fat fucker (no, the other one).

“Because I was young” says Eugene, when explaining part of the reason why he loved that part of his life in retrospect. Goddamn, don’t I know the feeling. I’m surprised by the shit I look back on and even more surprised that I get a tad wistful about it, something I never thought I’d feel during the time I was going through it. I’m trying not to feel this way, I’m trying to appreciate my time now because I know that as old as I feel (I go through the Renewal process during the fiery ritual of Carousel in less than a couple of months), I’m still pretty damn young in the scheme of things. There are people 10 years older than me who wish they were my age, but the bitch of it is that I feel the same way about kids 10 years younger than me. I don’t know what to do about it, but if there is a God, and if I somehow manage to hustle my way to the pearly gates at the end of my life, well, that motherfucker has a LOT to answer for when I get to him.

Stuff that was merely amusing as a kid, plays a lot better with the hindsight of Having Gone Through It, like the scene where Eugene loses his virginity to a prostitute. I remember the awkwardness of the deflowering process (nice romantic language there, chief) during My First Time, and having paid for it once, I also remember the awkwardness of getting it on with a woman who pretends to be all into you (the girlfriend experience) but basically sees you as another ready-to-assemble widget on the assembly line, so to speak.

I wasn’t in the military, so I can’t really relate to that experience, the closest thing I can come up with as far as relating to the experience of bonding with a group of guys who I never knew and probably never would’ve bothered knowing, was when I was assigned to bunk in the same room with a bunch of them at camp. Yeah, I’m talking about going to camp — in my case, it was what I derisively call Martial Arts Camp because I can’t remember the official name for it. Back when I studied taekwondo during my pre-teen years, our entire school would to the woods every summer for about two weeks to enjoy nature and to hang out with other martial arts schools. I don’t know if they still do that, but it would be cool if they did, because it was lots of fun and you made lots of friends — friends you never kept in contact with afterwards, of course.

You know, there was a time where I seriously considered joining the military; I’d had done the research and visited the recruiter and all of that. I even got in prime shape. Then something happened: I got a job. Suddenly, the idea of serving my country didn’t sound nearly as appealing as getting a nice-sized paycheck. Patriotism is strongest in the very poor and very rich, I’ve learned. Some time after that, 9/11 happened; I did the math and realized that I would’ve been out of Basic and among the first shipped to Iraq. I had also realized that I was never really ready for military life, despite how I felt otherwise.

I wanted the discipline, the knowledge, the exercise, hell, even the shitty food, but most importantly, I wanted to come out knowing I had What It Takes to be a soldier in the Army. But I guess I also wanted to get through it without having to make the Ultimate Sacrifice. Hell, it’s not even so much that I was afraid of dying (that’s something I’ve unfortunately not only made peace with, but even welcomed the idea of during the darkest moments of my life so far), or that I was afraid of coming back missing a leg or something (medical science is pretty goddamn amazing for not accomplishing jack shit with Cancer, MS, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, the common cold, etc). What I was really afraid of, was coming back from war with less than 100% in the emotional/psychological department. Now THAT, that scared/scares the shit out of me.

I guess what I really wanted was the Eugene Jerome experience: everything but the whole going-to-war thing.

Anyway, it had been at least 10 years since I saw Biloxi Blues in its entirety, and it was just as Good Times watching it a few hours ago. It holds up, thank God, since many fondly remembered childhood re-watches rarely do, and it’s even funnier now, which was a surprise. Seriously, I laughed out loud a couple of times. The DVD I watched was also the first time I got to see this flick in its original 2:35.1 aspect ratio; my many HBO/Encore viewings had always been in 4:3, which wasn’t that bad since the movie was shot in Super 35, but it was cool to see the original theatrical compositions — sure, I miss being able to see Park Overall’s entire leg as she lounges back in bed, waiting for Eugene to man up, but that’s such a minor damn-near-nonexistent quibble, and such is the give-and-take of that troublesome format, anyway.

It’s also the first time I really took notice of the long takes Mike Nichols used in this movie; it’s not done in a show-offy way, I just think maybe Nichols likes using long takes, and besides, shooting that way kind of lends itself to the material’s roots on the stage. Yet the movie rarely feels like a “filmed play”, which is an easy pitfall when you’re adapting this kind of shit (props to that Jaws-shooting motherfucker Bill Butler as well). I particularly enjoyed one scene between Matthew Broderick’s Eugene Jerome and Penelope Ann Miller’s Daisy Flanagan; they meet, chat, have a slow dance to Pat Suzuki’s cover of “How High The Moon”, and say goodbye — all in a few minutes, all in one long shot that manages to be awesome without ever yelling to the audience just how fucking awesome it is. This is the loveliest Ms. Miller has ever looked in a movie, by the way, she looks exactly like what a fond memory of a first love would look like.

Plus, some dude gets in trouble for blowing another dude, so there’s that too, if you’re looking for it.

It’s not Full Metal Jacket, nor is it supposed to be. It’s Neil Simon fondly looking back at a time in his life that he wasn’t so happy with while it was happening. Come to think of it, that’s life in general — you never fully appreciate certain moments of your life until they’ve passed; it’s like that Joni Mitchell song (or the Janet Jackson song featuring Joni Mitchell, if you’re too young for the original) whose name I can’t remember. But to be fair, you need the benefit of hindsight to ever truly appreciate something, anyway, because it’s only after the fact that you know how something played out. Kinda like a movie; some movies play better the second time around because the suspense and agita that comes with wondering How The Fuck Will This End is no longer affecting you, now you can just take in the performances, writing and scenery. Written like a true asshole.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, I think you should. It’s not a great movie, but it’s one I really enjoyed over the years and maybe a movie doesn’t have to be filled with cinematic virtuosity and painfully human portrayals of characters to be great — maybe it just has to be the kind of movie that makes you feel good while watching it, and this one is.

Listen, going back to how I started this entry: I’m not completely dissing Hometown Buffet or the people who like eating there, if anything I envy those who enjoy the place. One positive thing I can say about it is that you can eat, then take a break and let the food digest while you – I don’t know, I’m just creating an example here – write some ramblings on your laptop about a movie you recently watched that you intend to post later. Then, after you feel like you can continue, you put away the laptop and continue eating the underwhelming food. Because you have no shame, hypocrisy is like oxygen to you, and your maw is always open, always demanding for more foodstuffs to be jammed down your gullet, you fat fuck.

Days of running around unwashed and shooting people or screwing over Sam Shepard

BADLANDS/DAYS OF HEAVEN -- originally posted on Tumblr, 5/25/11
What a fucking treat to know that the new Terrence Malick joint is already hitting theaters shortly after winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes; usually you have to read all the written fellatio online or in newspapers and then wait at least six months before the fuckin’ movie hits theaters Stateside. But The Tree of Life comes out in about a couple days, and I decided to use this as an excuse to revisit his previous films — which is great because I’m always looking for an excuse to watch a Malick film again. It’s safe to say he’s one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.

I had a double feature earlier this early morning of the first two joints in his oeuvre; the showtime was unintentional, it just worked out that way. But watching them that late at night/early in the morning is a cool way to watch a Malick flick because afterwards you can step outside and take a walk while the sun is slowly rising and the grass & leaves have that morning dew on them and you’re still under the fuckin’ Terrence Malick Nature Spell, that shit is 10x more of an experience. 
Your receptors to that kind of shit are really open after watching one his films; like the pupils of your eyes opening wide from being in a dark room, right before you suddenly step out into some bright light, then you’re like AIIIIEEE in a good way. Fully owned by your surroundings (without the use of weed!), you walk down the nearly empty streets, taking in blue-tinted morning, and then stop at the awesome donut shop that has fresh & hot donuts at this time and inhale them because you love the idea of dropping dead of fat-related illness before 40.

You know, there was a time long ago when I considered Badlands a good-but-not-great movie, one that showed Malick’s potential that would go fully/better explored in future films. That was also the time when I had suffered from severe breathing problems as a result of having my head fully implanted up my ass. I say this because watching this film again after a six-year gap from the last time I watched it, I’m now declaring that this motherfucker Malick had it going the fuck on from the start. From the fucking first frame of film, he had it. I guess his is what most would call an “assured debut”, and by “most”, I mean me.

Perfect casting man, that’s what Badlands has; Martin Sheen is great as this James Dean-looking dude, he exudes enough of that cool/dangerous vibe about him that it makes sense why a bored teenage girl would think of him as dreamy. And I liked how casual he makes it look when he kills someone, but he’s not some MWAHAHA psycho, either. I don’t think he necessarily enjoys it, it’s more like something he feels he has to do because there’s no other way around it — and yet, it comes so easy to him.

Like, I think he hates it when he shoots someone and then realizes they’re still alive because it means he now has to choose to finish the victim off or not. He picks the latter and waits for them to die of their wounds, or in the case of that one couple in the shed, he doesn’t even check, he’d rather assume he got them and takes off. I don’t think it’s some kind of psycho enjoyment deal, I think he can only commit to the deed as far as shooting them and then hoping they’re dead because the last thing he wants to do is shoot them again. What a fuckin’ weirdo.

Sissy Spacek, to my knowledge, was only hot in one movie — Prime Cut — and that was it, after that, she had more of the attractive vibe to her without actually being attractive, if that makes sense (and it doesn’t). She’s great, she looks the part and she manages to make it come across that while she’s not dumb, most of her narration shows how dim and/or eager-to-believe she is to accept Sheen’s justifications for the things he does. If she ever objects to any of this, she certainly isn’t showing/telling, at least not in some showy This Is Wrong kind-of-way. Sometimes it’s best just to walk away and let the other guy make up his mind.

Malick himself shows up as some dude who gets assed out of visiting the rich dude Sheen & Spacek are currently holding hostage. Supposedly someone else was gonna play the part and he didn’t show up, so my man T.M. played that shit. Nowadays he’s all fuckin’ sensitive about having his picture taken, but he didn’t seem to mind acting in his first movie. Maybe he figured that was good enough; he was about 30 or so when he made that movie, and that’s as good as he was ever going to look, so maybe he doesn’t mind having that as his reference. Except there’s also that picture of him that was taken of him on the set of The Thin Red Line with this Well How About That? look on his face, and now I see that there are some recent pics at a couple award ceremonies. I don’t know where I’m going with this now, so I’ll move on.

He’s kind of an enigma, this dude; on the one hand, you have actors on his last couple films go on about what a fucking master he is at his craft, and how wonderful it was to watch him work, and on the other, you read about how he wasn’t the most actor-friendly on Days of Heaven and you’re wondering Just What In The Fuck Am I Supposed To Believe Here?

Maybe both stories are true, maybe he was more about visuals with his ‘78 joint and during his 20-year hiatus, he learned how to rock a thespian’s world while trying to shoot a pretty picture. There’s a pretty awesome book called “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls”, and that Jewfro-wearing motherfucker Peter Biskind writes about how Malick shot miles and miles of footage, went overbudget, then took about two years to find the movie in editing. Luckily the film ended up a masterpiece, because otherwise I don’t think we’d hear from that motherfucker ever again.

It’s like with Michael Cimino; granted he spent tons more cash and time making Heaven’s Gate, but if that film ended up being a box-office success and award-winner, his maddening style of shooting would’ve been justified. But it wasn’t, so now people bring up the examples of how he filmed and edited that shit as What Not To Do.

I mean, David Fincher shoots about as much footage as Michael Cimino did and no one is bitching/warning others about his method. But then again, Fincher stays on budget, that probably saved him right there. Same with the late Stanley Kubrick (as opposed to the alive-and-well Stanley Kubrick who’s living next door to me, playing his fuckin’ Steely Dan albums way too fuckin’ loud); his movie shoots lasted longer than most Italian governments but because he used a small crew and had it down to a science, his budgets were no bigger than your average Hollywood film.

Biskind also wrote something that I’m not quite ready to believe (that tends to happen with a lot of the shit Biskind writes), about how once Malick was sitting down and brought himself up by grabbing onto producer Edward R. Pressman’s ear and pulling from it. Holy shit, if that’s true, then Malick isn’t quite the peaceful, introspective nature-lover that his movies lead you to believe he is. Besides, doesn’t it take about seven pounds of pressure to pull a motherfucker’s ear off? Malick’s a big dude and the most recent photo of Pressman shows him with both ears intact. Maybe Malick was just holding it to freak Pressman out while he stood up, like Look What I Can Fuckin’ Do To Your Ear If I Wanted To.

Richard Gere is in this and if I gave a shit about him, I’d continue, so instead let me talk a bit about Brooke Adams. Again, typically perfect casting in a Malick joint. She’s very pretty but she also has an air of the street about her; she looks like she came from hard times, whereas most actresses who try to play like they’re slumming it look like princesses playing make-believe and I don’t buy ‘em. You know she’s married to Tony Shalhoub? I didn’t, but good work, Monk.

Sam Shepard is in this movie too, and watching him on the beautiful Criterion Blu-ray, I think here he looks like a guy who probably had a one-night-stand menage with Jim Carrey’s mom and Denis Leary’s mom, then after he shot his load and they were like “Call us?”, he was all “See ya later, sluts — I have plays to write because the stage, she waits for no man!”

I guess the narration in Days of Heaven wasn’t originally part of the movie, that was some shit Malick came up with while trying to figure out how to edit the motherfucker. I really like it, it has such a rambling, stream-of-consciouness feel and plus Linda Manz has a serious fuckin’ low-class city accent, it’s hilarious. The unrehearsed/unprepared-sounding narration also makes a fantastic contrast to the expertly-composed/beautifully-lit visuals.

To be honest, the story isn’t as important to me in these joints and I don’t think they are to Malick, either. Otherwise, I’d be able to hear the fuckin’ dialogue clearly, over the ultra-crisp sounds of the breeze passing through the wheat fields, or the tweeting of birds or the running of a stream. Even Ennio Muthafuckin’ Morricone’s beautiful music has to take a backseat to The Sounds of Nature. Compared to all of that, the dialogue is very mumbly and low — Malick’s all like Mumblecore THIS, You Motherfuckers.

Or maybe it’s not so much that Malick doesn’t care about story — fuck that, he cares a lot about story — it’s that he doesn’t particularly care about the blah blah blah coming out the actor’s mouths. The characters talk because you have to give the actors something to say, that way they don’t bitch and complain, but the visuals tell you everything you need to know about what’s going. That’s why what little dialogue there is, is pretty cut down to the bone.

Terrence Malick joints really do need to be seen on the biggest screen you can find; I think the reason why I probably liked Badlands a whole lot more this time is that I was watching it from my projector (which I didn’t have, the last time I saw Badlands). Man, the projector is one of the best investments I ever made (back when I had that kind of cash to throw away) and I highly recommend getting one if you can. You don’t even have to get a top of the line one, at least I don’t think so, just get one that is bright and displays a big image.

Granted, I’ve never been anal about line-resolution and stuff like that — the older rig I have only goes to 720p, and I’m sure your average contributor to Home Theater Magazine would scoff at my setup and the highest praise he’d give it is “quaint”, but that’s OK, I’m happy with it and maybe one day I’ll have the cash to upgrade to some 1080p shit. 
Besides, I’d never invite some Home Theater Magazine asshole over to my crib, I don’t need his shit, not unless I can kick him in the balls after and film him go OWWWWEEEEEEOWWWWEEEEEEEEEOWWWWUUUUURRRRROWWW (people only say “My nuts!” or “My balls!” in Steven Seagal movies) and then I can upload it on YouTube and then maybe it’ll show up on Tosh.O and Daniel Tosh can say something hilariously mean about it because all comedians are sad and have low self-esteem and need to hurt other people’s feelings in the name of Comedy when you get right down to it.

Coffee enemas and soul-sucking aliens

CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES -- originally posted on Tumblr, 5/18/11

Believe it or not, time has been kind to this movie. Not that I’ve seen it before; I bought this along with 61 other used DVD’s at a Blockbuster Video going-out-of-business sale last year, and I’m finally seeing it now.

What I mean about time being kind is that there are a couple of jokes in this movie that might have been amusing to the audience during it’s original theatrical run, but now, ten years later — JESUS CHRIST, IT’S BEEN TEN YEARS ALREADY?! — these bits play pretty goddamn hilarious and/or fucked-up.

I mean, there’s a scene where Mick “Crocodile” Dundee is at a Hollywood party and a crowd has gathered around him as he tells crazy stories about his friend Mel Gibson. Only he’s talking about Malcolm “Mal” Gibson, some guy from the outback he knew back in the day, not the movie star. I think back in 2001, the joke was supposed to be Ha Ha Ha, how funny that one of our most-loved movie stars is being confused with a guy that constantly gets in trouble with the cops (Mick complains about having had to bail him out of jail twice). But now in 2011, now that Mel Gibson is better known as a drunk-driving, anti-Semitic, alleged wife-beater/recorded blow job-demander, it really plays differently.

The crowd of wannabes and gonna-bes and currently-ares react to Mick’s stories with a mix of shock and laughter, they’re getting a huge kick out of this crocodile hunter telling tales out of school, but I think if this movie was made today, the crowd would’ve just reacted like “Meh, what else is new?”

What am I saying? That scene would’ve never been shot if this movie was made in 2011, they’d probably change it to them thinking he was talking about Hugh Jackman or that guy from Avatar.

Another joke that probably plays funnier now (unfortunately) than it did ten years ago was the scene where Mick is driving on the freeway but suddenly stops because his son claims to see a dog in the road. This causes a huge traffic jam, followed by a miscommunication between Mick and the frustrated drivers that leads to cops and news helicopters showing up because everyone else thinks there’s a bomb situation.

After 9/11, anything bomb-related obviously has to be grounds for a filmmaker to Go There when it comes to terrorist humor (see: Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), but in the spring of 2001, things were different in the good ol’ USA — candy bars cost a nickel, people weren’t in so much of a hurry, and terrorist bombings came from good ‘ol White Americans, not some savage who wants to score with 70 inexperienced girls.

There’s a school teacher in this movie, she’s attractive and lonely, and that pissed me off because it brought back memories of the attractive schoolteachers I had in junior high — when puberty and new feelings were thrust upon me like a stripper to a rapper with expensive gold chains. In retrospect, I should’ve made a move. I mean, what’s the worst that could’ve happened? She says no? She calls my parents? Shit, my dad would’ve probably taken me aside once we got home and give me a high-five, then afterwards he would’ve gone somewhere private by himself and cry tears of joy that his son wasn’t nearly as fruity as he appeared.

Speaking of The Gay, there’s a scene where Mick and his buddy Jacko go out on the town; they stop at Wendy’s for a meal and then look for a bar to have a few pitchers. Naturally, they end up at a Western-themed gay bar which they promptly exit from. Take a guess at what song was playing during that scene, I’ll give you a hint: it’s the song co-written by Paul Shaffer that they always play to signify some gay/comedy shit is about to happen. If I ever make a movie with a scene like that, I’m gonna bring back “El Bimbo” aka The Blue Oyster Bar theme from Police Academy. Mick and his bud refer to the gays as “poofters”, yet half a minute later, they get mugged by a group of hoods who call them “fools” even though it’s obvious the actors are saying “faggots” but the shit was dubbed over for whatever reason.

I actually liked this more than Crocodile Dundee II, because it continues with the genial feel of the original, rather than suddenly putting on an earring and leather pants, trying to convince you it’s Hard now, like the sequel. The first one was a nice & friendly movie, but the second one had motherfuckers getting machine-gunned and sniper’d, and even though I liked it, it just didn’t feel right; it’s like talking to Henry Winkler for an hour and because he’s Henry Winkler, you’re totally charmed by what a nice guy he is. You share this with Henry and he stands back a bit, looking a tad offended. Then he pulls a knife on you and you’re like “Oh Henry, you’re so cute when you’re trying to be scary” and he’s like “No, I’m serious, I’m going to cut you” and you’re like “Whatever, dude” and suddenly he jabs you in the arm, giving you a small cut and you’re like “What the FUCK, Henry Winkler?”

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles eventually gets into some gangster shit, and sure enough, it’s the weakest shit in the movie. But the rest of the stuff, the stuff involving, uh, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, is amusing and not nearly as lame as I thought it would be. It’s mid-level sitcom humor, and the climax feels like you’re watching the climax to the most hardcore nonexistent multi-part episode of Family Matters or Step by Step ever made; you keep expecting to hear a laugh track and whoops and hollers from the audience as Mick dispatches a bad guy with a papier-mache cow, just like they would had it been Urkel or Cody who had done that shit.

The movie looks and feels like a TV-movie sequel to a big-budget theatrical film — it doesn’t help that this was shot in flat 1:85.1 aspect ratio rather than the anamorphic 2:35.1 ratio that the last two films were shot in. But for what it is, it’s a decent time-killer. With some minor trims, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play on ABC Family or PAX or ION or whatever the fuck that channel is called. I spent about $1 on the DVD and 94 minutes on watching it, which sounds about right.

Oh yeah, one more thing: Paul Rodriguez is in this movie which reminded me of the time my mother met him at a 7-11 during a road trip. Of course, when she saw him, she said “A Million To Juan!” as opposed to his given name. According to my mom, Mr. Rodriguez was very nice to her. A couple years later, I found her watching television in the den, and Paul Rodriguez was being interviewed on some interview show; she said that by looking at his eyes, she could tell the man was a pot-smoker. You can tell that anyone is a pot-smoker by looking at their eyes, she told me. I nodded in agreement and then went back into my room to continue smoking a bowl.

LIFEFORCE -- originally posted on Tumblr, 5/18/11

Lifeforce gets more insane with each viewing; the first time I saw this flick, I was 8 years old and I was just kinda like Whuuh? and the second time I saw it was back in ‘00 and I was like Whaaa? and now I just finished watching it for the third time and I’m all like Whaaat da fuuuck?

I’m pretty sure the opening narration (on the international cut) was done by an unbilled John Larroquette, much like his uncredited voice work on Tobe Hooper’s first film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Anyway, I dug the narration because I’m not sure it’s even necessary and the main purpose seems to be so the audience wouldn’t ask why nobody on the Space Shuttle Churchill is floating in zero-gravity even though they’re in fuckin’ space.

Yeah man, it starts out in space where this combo crew of Americans (fuck yeah) and Brits (quite all right) are going to check out Halley’s Comet because that’s what people were all about in 1985. I was like 4 or 5 when I heard about Halley’s Comet and I wanted to see that shit, so my parents actually took me to Griffith Observatory to attend a comet viewing around 4 or 5 in the morning, except the weather decided to fuck us all by clouding that shit up something awful. The people in charge cancelled the viewing which was a bummer but at least we found a really good donut place afterwards.

So, the leader of the astronauts is played by Steve Railsback and I wonder if this was the only time he was ever given the lead in a big budget spectacle like this; I’m guessing this movie and The Stunt Man were the only ones. He and the other astronauts discover a large 150-mile-long skinny umbrella-looking thing with dessicated monster bats inside, oh, and three very naked humanoids.

The shit just gets crazier after that; the main humanoid (who’s name is Space Girl, according to the credits) walks around naked, hypnotizing her poor victims with her pretty face, beautiful body, and more importantly, her great breasts. Then she sucks the life energy out of them (the victims, not her breasts) and the circle of soul-sucking begins. You find out later that these Space Vampires learn everything about their prey before starting the whole Lifeforce game, and I guess if we were a more evolved species, she’d have to charm us with a great personality, but no, just a nice pair of tit-tays will do.

Space Girl also has two fellow Space Vampires, these two naked guys and that’s where the horror begins, if you ask me. Who wants to see that shit? Certainly not a couple guards at the Space Research Centre, where the humanoids were placed under surveillance (in their see-through coffins, no less!). The two guys, they wake up and explode out of the coffins, and then stare at the two Brit guards. These guards, they look ‘em over, see these handsome naked men in great shape, already they’re threatened. Then the two naked guys start walking towards them and being Real Heterosexual Men (with the homophobic baggage that comes with that designation), the guards then proceed to ventilate these guys with machine guns. It’s like “I’m not fuckin’ gay!”, they have to kill these fruits before they catch up to the guards and, I don’t know, turn them into gays as well. I’m reminded of that scene in that one episode of The Simpsons — one of their Halloween specials — when Homer kills the zombie Ned Flanders and then you find out that Homer didn’t even know Ned was a zombie.

This isn’t an insult, I love the look of the movie and I’m not sure if the shit was intentional, but while this movie was made in 1985, the color scheme, lighting and shot compositions really made it feel like I was watching some unreleased sci-fi/horror joint that had been sitting on the vault since 1967. Even the acting is awesome in that British sort-of-way, it’s like no matter how fucking out there and ridiculous the settings and dialogue, these guys are giving it the utmost importance, like it was fuckin’ Shakespeare. They’re wrong, however, this shit ain’t Shakespeare — it’s fuckin’ way better than Shakespeare. I don’t remember seeing Viola and Maria in Twelfth Night have blood shoot out of their orifices and then have that blood form into Orsino, who then screams before collapsing back into a puddle of blood. I must have been in the bathroom during that part of the play.

I’ve only seen Poltergeist once, and I was really young, so I barely remember it. I’m going to have to see it again, because right now, I’m pretty sure Lifeforce might be my favorite Tobe Hooper movie. I know he made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but that’s kinda got a Schindler’s List thing going for me in that there’s no denying that it’s a masterpiece, but I’m not sure I want to sit through all that pain/anguish/tension again. Shit man, maybe Spielberg secretly directed that one too.

As it is, Lifeforce is just too much fuckin’ fun. I think it’s genuinely Good Times, and I don’t know how serious this shit’s supposed to be taken, but I suspect it’s not supposed to be. There are people who were upset that MST3k chose This Island Earth as the flick they were going to roast for the feature-film version of their awesome show. Not because there were better choices out there, no, because This Island Earth is actually a pretty decent movie, they say. They have to calm the fuck down and get over that shit, because decent movie or not, there’s enough there to have fun with. I feel the same way about Lifeforce; I really like this movie but I’d sure love to have seen what Joel/Mike and the bots could have done with it.

Anyway, if Reservoir Dogs was Quentin Tarantino’s unofficial Parker movie, then Lifeforce is an unofficial Quatermass movie and that’s probably a big fuckin’ reason why this shit rules your school and the school next to it.

Yeah, I'm free Tuesday to drive Joe Mantegna around

LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL -- originally posted on Tumblr, 5/14/11

So I just finished watching the long version of Leon; I thought the long version was the director’s cut, but it turns out that the shorter version that came out back in ‘94 as The Professional is the director’s cut. I guess it was widely assumed that Luc Besson got raked over the coals by the Hollywood suits over bad test screenings, but that wasn’t the case, he only had to cut one scene and that was due to the audience’s nervous laughter during said scene — and I think that was his choice, he wasn’t even forced to cut it.

The scene involved Natalie Portman’s character straight out asking Jean Reno’s character to deflower her. She was like, 11 or 12, so yeah, I could see why most people in the audience couldn’t stop tittering and/or squirming. The sad thing is that I Just Fucking Know there were at least a few guys in that crowd who were probably trying to contain their erections.

What makes that scene even more uncomfortable to watch is that when Leon refuses, his explanation is that it’s because the last time he had a girlfriend he was 19 and he wouldn’t make “a good lover” for Mathilda. The fact that he’s an adult (Reno was 44-45 during production of Leon) and that it’s wrong to fuck 12-year-old girls never enters into this argument.

But I’m not going to judge Besson and I’m not going to cry Moral Outrage over that shit, instead I’m going to give him points for having the fuckin’ stinky French balls to write a scene like that, send it to producers and financiers, having those script pages sent out to casting directors, having those same script pages be sent to parents of potential Mathildas, and then shooting those script pages in a set full of mostly well-adjusted adults and one child. That’s balls, son.

And the balls get even bigger because based on what I’ve read up on the guy in the past, Besson evidently likes ‘em young enough to scream when they have their first period a la Vada Sultenfuss in My Girl. Again, I can’t really judge because over in France, the age of consent is 15 and I’m just being very much an American with our 18-year-old age of consent (in most states, anyway). You have to put into consideration our cultural differences; what we’ll accept over here, they wouldn’t accept over there and vice versa (starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage).

I mean, I’m sure one day I’ll be in the same room with Luc Besson and he’ll notice the firearm I have holstered at the small of my back (because I have a concealed carry permit, of course) and he’ll look at me all disgusted-like, declaring out loud “Theeez fuck-ing Amer-i-cans!” right before he turns to whatever 9-year-old piece of ass he’s currently dating and sticks his Roquefort-coated tongue down her bubble-gum-flavored throat. Then his Pequignet watch will beep and he’ll suddenly go “Sacre bleu! We’re late for your appointment at the pediatrician!” because Luc Besson speaks English like a horrible stereotype of a Frenchie.

Anyway, I saw The Professional twice back in November 1994 (opening weekend and then the following weekend), then I rented/dubbed the pan-and-scan VHS in May 1995, then I rented/dubbed the widescreen laserdisc sometime in 1996, and then never again until this version I finished watching a half-hour ago. I prefer this extended version and even though it’s something like 20 minutes longer, I think the pacing is improved, if that makes any sense. It’s a strange film, this Leon, and the longer version just adds more of that odd feel to it and that’s a plus for me.

Aside from the Please Fuck Me Jean Reno scene, there’s another fucked-up scene that takes place in a fancy restaurant, where our May-December couple is having a celebratory dinner (they just did some hits) and Mathilda is drinking champagne and I guess champagne isn’t considered alcohol in New York, either that or they paid enough to make the wait staff look the other way. Mathilda crawls over to Leon and tries to kiss him and he’s feeling all awkward (in the pants) about it and he makes her stop. Then she downs a whole flute of the bubbly and immediately goes into insane laughter for what felt like an entire minute. It’s like Natalie Portman was asked to personify the tone of the movie for this scene and that’s the result.

Speaking of Ms. Portman, I didn’t remember how fucking good she was in this movie. I mean, really! She’s really fucking good and she was 11 at the time! It’s scary how talented this kid was from the very beginning, I don’t think she ever had a shaky performance in her youth. I can only think of Jodie Foster as someone else who was that good from the beginning; they also both went on to graduate from Ivy League schools, so I guess it’s just a matter of time before Portman starts directing too-smart-for-their-own-good movies that nobody goes to see. You go, Natalie.

Shit, I just remember that the age of consent of my people in Mexico is like 12 in some areas. Fuck. I shouldn’t have talked so much shit about Besson, then. It’s too bad I’m not some disenfranchised White, otherwise I can just say something like “I knew it! That’s why we have to close the borders and keep those savages out of our beautiful county, where we can fuck 16-year-olds because we live in Alabama!” Because they all live in Alabama.

Then they’ll find out that the age of consent in Hawaii is 14 and connect that with President Obama being born in Hawaii, and that’s how the Birther movement will die: they’ll find a better way to motherfuck that Kenyan motherfucker, until that guy is no longer in office and they have a new motherfucker to cry foul over — unless it’s one of their guys, then they’ll cry foul over how their motherfucker is getting motherfucked by the motherfuckers on the other side. Politics is all motherfuckery and I won’t stand by it, and I won’t partake. I’d rather spend my time watching movies and eating Pretzel M&M’s because I’m a Pretzel M&M eating motherfucker.

UNDERWORLD (1996) -- originally posted on Tumblr, 5/14/11
Underworld is available on DVD, but I couldn’t find it on Netflix or any of my local video stores. Those who know about Underworld might scratch their heads in confusion as to WHY I’d want to see this movie, and that’s because they know that this movie was written by Larry Bishop and directed by Roger Christian. Bishop was famous for acting in a bunch of awesome biker movies in the 60’s and 70’s but is currently infamous for writing/directing the critically-trashed films Mad Dog Time and Hell Ride, while Roger Christian is currently in movie jail for directing Battlefield Earth (Christian was briefly released to direct a film called Bandido for writer/star Carlos Gallardo from El Mariachi but after screening the final product, he was promptly thrown back in for violating the conditions of his parole).

Anyway, I found the movie at a VHS sale, bought it, and put it away for eventual viewing. Then it suddenly popped up on Netflix Instant, meaning I wasted a dollar that could’ve gone to some lazy guy pretending to be homeless on the street, playing on my sympathy.

Like Mad Dog Time and Hell Ride, Underworld takes place in a weird alternate universe where cops don’t exist and people are trapped in the hell of constantly looking/acting/talking cool in between killing each other. Actually, Mad Dog Time is the only film in the Bishop trilogy that acknowledges this by having the narrator tell the audience that the movie takes place in a Bizarro Earth, I’m just assuming the other movies do as well.

Personally, I have my own pet theory that I just made up; I think this alternate universe, the Bishop universe, is actually some kind of purgatory where the characters who get killed in every gangster movie you ever saw ends up after they die. Shit man, maybe it’s even Hell, because even the ones who come out on top never seem to be enjoying themselves. Maybe they know it’s all going to start over again, the same ol’ talk-talk-talk, bang-bang-bang. Either that or they’re too cool to be having fun.

So Denis Leary stars as this gangster named Johnny Crown, and he’s driving around town in a limo, making stops at various gangster hideouts and fronts, and machine-gunning the shit out of any hood that happens to be there. It’s a Father’s Day massacre, because all the killing is taking place on Father’s Day and because Crown is on a revenge trip in the name of his currently brain-dead father (the guys getting got were responsible).

Along the way, he picks up this dude named Frank Gavilan (played by Joe Mantegna), and I guess they were childhood friends but Gavilan acts like he doesn’t know him, for some reason I can’t quite remember because I was dead tired and high. Everyone in this movie has really fakey-sounding names and everyone else comments on everyone else having really fakey-sounding names and it turns out it’s because everyone in this movie has a fake name, that’s why they’re so fakey-sounding.

Unlike the other two films, I wasn’t digging Underworld as much as I dug the other two. Maybe it was because of low expectations, but I genuinely liked Mad Dog Time and Hell Ride was OK; I got a kick out of Bishop’s overly-self-conscious cool theatrics and his weirdo sense-of-humor. But Underworld kind of wore out it’s welcome after about 30 minutes or so. It starts off well, with this cool soundtrack playing over shots of motherfuckers getting owned by machine gun fire intercut with hot chicks stripping. Plus, it’s pretty fuckin’ bloody and I hope whoever created the squibs for this movie got a nice bonus or something.

But then you find out that Leary’s character has a degree in psychotherapy (he was in prison for 7 years, and that’s what he did with his time), and you realize that he’s on this therapy kick in addition to his revenge kick. The rest of the movie is Leary psychobabbling Mantegna in a limo, occasionally making a quick stop to kill someone or to drop Mantegna off at a hotel so he can get some ass from Annabella Sciorra — and somehow that gets kind of dull after a while.

I think the problem is that the movie takes place during one night, in a period of a few hours, and yet Bishop couldn’t come up with enough stuff to fill up a feature-length screenplay, so instead he just has this shit get all Möbius strip on us, constantly repeating a never-ending cycle of Leary & Mantegna in the limo, Mantegna in the hotel with Sciorra, Leary kills someone or talks with someone, Leary & Mantegna in the limo, Mantegna in the hotel with Sciorra, Leary kills someone or talks with someone, etc, etc.

There is the occasional cutaway to a group of guys in a bar, and these guys don’t talk to each other, instead they just stare each other down and then shoot a glass or bottle with one of their guns. There’s a stripper doing her thing during all of this, she doesn’t seem fazed by it, and neither does the bartender, and neither did I, come to think of it. It was kinda cool that one of the shooters was James “Principal Strickland from Back to the Future” Tolkan, but even that WTF shit gets kind of old after a while.

Yeah, Roger Christian is the director but I still consider this a total Larry Bishop joint because in addition to writing it, he also acts in it (playing one of the guys Leary wants to take out — on occasion, the movie cuts to his character doing what I felt was a slow-motion version of what James Caan did near the end of Thief) and feels exactly like Bishop’s other films; the music, the performances, the lethargic-on-purpose pace, the otherworldly ambiance. The only thing that feels like Christian may have had something to do with is the look of the film; the guy won an Oscar for the art direction on Star Wars (Lucas then hired him as 2nd unit director on The Phantom Menace which makes sense in a sad way) and he worked on Alien as well, so that’s his specialty I guess, because even Battlefield Earth looked cool every once in a while.

Because I’m down with the Larry Bishop weirdness (an acquired taste, I’m sure), it wasn’t so much the dialogue and events of the story that I had issues with, it was that somewhere along the way I just started getting tired of it. This could’ve probably made an interesting 45-minute short film, but at 90 minutes you just want this guest to leave already, which I guess makes it the cinematic equivalent of me, because I’m a master of not knowing that I should leave already.

I don’t condone this practice, because I think movies should have your complete attention if you’re watching them, but Underworld is the kind of movie that you can have on and occasionally look at while you’re on the Internet or cleaning your place up or something, and you wouldn’t miss a fucking thing.

Straying like Kobe & Tiger and flip-flopping like Kerry

So I knew about Tumblr but I was happy with Blogger, and then found out that one of my ramblings was being re-posted by someone on the Tumblr, so I took a closer look at it. It seemed pretty cool, so I decided to give it a try for a while with shorter ramblings on every movie watched.

About a week-and-a-half later, the trial run is over. It's a cool site, but overall, it felt really odd to write for two different blogs at two different places. Better to just stay with the one I started with and post both my short and long ramblings here. No need to add extra work for me (and those who read my ramblings) by posting some of these wastes of time somewhere else.

Because I think Tumblr works best for non-text postings, I'll still use Tumblr for non-rambling nonsense, like screenshots of dogs peeking over logs, and links to my ramblings here will still be posted on Tumblr because there's nothing wrong with spreading the word in other ways. There's also nothing wrong with a little bump-and-grind.

Anyway, if you're on Tumblr -- here's my page, if that kind of thing matters to you. Also, Cathie Horlick, Phil Blankenship and Ellen Cobb have Tumblrs and I highly recommend you should go tumble with them or whatever the correct term for following someone on The Tumblr is. I'm going to repost my Tumblr ramblings here, so in case any of this seems way too familiar to you in the next couple of days, do not despair, you are not having crazy synapses and stroking out, I am merely being a jerk about this whole thing. Good day, sir and ma'am.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The long and winding road (that leads to the Mark Goodson screening room)

Over at the AFI, alumnus Brian Udovich and other people who I can't remember host screenings of cool movies; they call it Reel Grit Sundays and they've been doing this for (I think) four years so far. They decided to have a marathon of six films the other day, as a way to countdown to/celebrate reaching film #100; each film would be introduced by former alumni, each coming from a different category in the filmmaking arts and we wouldn't be told the name of the film until the guest speaker intro'd it. The Reel Grit Six Shooter, they were calling it. Badass Digest and the Alamo Drafthouse were also involved (the latter supplied most of the prints). I had the gas money to go, so I went.

I arrived around 9:30 am (the marathon was scheduled to start at 10) and was happy to notice Phil Blankenship (late of the New Beverly Cinema, on-time of Amoeba Music) and film/comic geek extraordinaire Cathie Horlick waiting around as well. By the way, it was Cathie's enthusiastic movie blog that inspired me to create my own, so blame her for the horrific waste of Internet space that is Exiled from Contentment.

The Mark Goodson screening room was where it was all happening; the sign outside said it had 135-seating capacity but it felt smaller, this intimate theater. There was something kind of cool about that, it felt like an extended private party -- which is what it was, I guess -- and when the Reel Grit guys talked about how this all started as a movie night they would have at home, the medium-sized space added to that feeling of being part of a large group of friends gathered to watch movies, and I'm the creepy guy in the corner, not talking to anyone. 

A man carried a large film reel canister marked "Django's Coffin", and at first I thought this guy was screwing up the whole deal, giving up the name of one of the secret movies (I assumed it was one of the many fake Django movies released after the success of the Sergio Corbucci/Franco Nero joint), but I was wrong; the film canister was for accepting donations, since this Reel Grit business all comes out of their own pockets (among the many things they pay for: union projectionists, which I thought they didn't exist anymore, I figured that trade was lost to the minimum-wagers, based on the kids I see manning the projectors at the local multiplex nowadays). 

I smoke weed, so I'm probably getting most of this wrong but the main host was Brian Udovich and he (as well as the other members of Reel Grit) had on a Reel Grit t-shirt, the logo being a six-shooter cylinder. There was a brief AFI film montage that consisted of scenes from awesome movies with the names of the alumni responsible under them, along with the class year, and I assume this was to make non-students get all I Want To Go To There while reminding current students This Is Why You Came To Here. Udovich then welcomed us and talked about how Reel Grit got started and what led to this marathon. He also said that while there would be various people arriving throughout the day, they would be missing out, because they -- unlike us -- would not get the full proper experience of this marathon.

The first presenter came up; his name's Howard Smith and this motherfucker edited films for James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow and James Foley, among others. He knows what the fuck is up, he can handle anything you can throw at him (and in the case of James Cameron, he probably had to). The film he picked was River's Edge, which he edited for director Tim Hunter (who supplied the print); originally, he couldn't work on the film because he was already working on something else, so instead Hunter went with someone else. Well, when Someone Else got too pregnant to continue, Smith was available and he finished cutting the rest of the movie. Seriously ladies, stop it with the getting knocked up, let homeboy pull out in time. 

He talked about how the actress playing the dead girl in the movie kept completely still, never moving even though the location was very cold and uncomfortable, and yet, many people at screenings would swear seeing her move. Smith and Hunter would watch the film and study it closely, and not once did they ever spot any kind of movement from her. Even today, the IMDB goof section claims the dead girl moves, but Smith compared it to staring at one of those large dioramas at a museum, where you swear the fake buffalo's ear moved or the waxed Native American has a tear rolling down his cheek.

He brought up how Hunter considers this a black comedy (as in the Coen Brothers, not Tyler Perry), and it sounded like Smith agreed with him to a point; he also thought it was interesting that there were many screenings where the audience laughed from beginning to end while there were others that were stone silent. It would be interesting to see how this particular audience would take it, he said.

I saw River's Edge once when I was a kid, because the equation of cable + insomnia + parents are heavy sleepers = WIN. Back then, I liked it but took the whole thing deadly serious. At the AFI however, that shit was straight-up hilarious – particularly whenever Crispin Glover was on-screen. Half the time, he said his lines while posing with his arm out like he was about to tell Biff to get his damn hands off her. I don't know if Hunter was using the dark comedy line as some kind of proto-Wiseau defense or if he really meant it, but I would bet it's the latter, because this film does in fact feel at times like a Coen Brothers screenplay directed by late-80's Penelope Spheeris. It helps/doesn't help that the music goes into very dramatic DUN DUN DUN territory while some funny shit is happening on-screen.

It starts very fuckin' serious, though; some kid (more on this fucker later) is busy throwing his little sister's beloved doll off a bridge into a river when he hears someone howling. Turns out the howler is some guy who strangled his girlfriend a while ago and is now currently smoking a roach next to her naked corpse. Maybe it's because Smith more-or-less challenged us to find the flaws in Dead Girl's performance, but this chick is scary good and she doesn't even need CSI's quick cuts or Law & Order's moving camera to hide any giveaways, there are long shots devoted to her and she never fuckin' moves or twitches.

The killer is played by Daniel Roebuck, and in real-life he's a really likable horror geek. His character in River's Edge, on the other hand, is very unnerving; he's mostly passive but there's always that hidden threat of this guy possibly blowing at any second, and every time he's hanging with someone, I feared for the other person because I figured it would only take a wrong word for this motherfucker to want to wrap his hands around that person's throat (which is what happened to his girlfriend).

Smith said that this was Keanu Reeves' first American movie and I think the dude is pretty good in it, but then again, I'm kind of a Keanu apologist, so what do I know. He's like the one guy in the stunningly apathetic crowd of friends who's bothered enough by what Roebuck did to do something about it (granted, it takes him a while to get around to it, but maybe he needed some time to let the situation settle in). His home life is a beauty; he gets caught smoking pot by his mom and she's pissed because she thinks he's smoking her stash, and his stepfather (or wannabe stepfather) is played by that Steve Perry-looking motherfucker who played Corey Haim's “pop” in the Fast Getaway diptych.

Keanu has a younger brother, played by this creepy kid who was in Near Dark and Class of 1999; I don't know what it is about this kid, but he creeps me out, man. But in River's Edge, my slight fear of this little bastard was replaced by seething rage at this fuckin' piece-of-shit. Don't give me that “he's just a kid” shit either, fuck this guy, he threw his poor innocent little sister's doll into the river and brags about it, then later on, he desecrates the makeshift grave she made for it. 

The little sister is the only one in the family who doesn't seem completely fucked up, but I fear it's only a matter of time before she ends up being a total shit, hanging out with the wrong crowd, ditching class, drinking beer, wanting to sex up her hippie teacher and next thing you know, now she's in River's Edge 2: Money Never Sleeps and it's gonna be HER strangled naked body that some other fat asshole is smoking pot over. Anyway, a pre-teen with bruises and a bloody nose isn't supposed to make you go FUCK YES but it did when I saw it happen to Little Asshole Brother. The only thing he's got going for him is his mute lackey/friend who carries around nunchucks and sleeps under a Bruce Lee poster. That kid's awesome, and according to Smith, he only got paid as an extra, rather than as an actor. Welcome to Hollywood, son.

Anyway, between Crispin Glover's acting, the This Is Serious Goddammit music, some of the dialogue, and last but not least Dennis Hopper being Dennis Hopper, I'd say this movie was 70 percent laughs, 20 percent depressing, and 10 percent...I don't know what. Maybe the 10 percent is for Ione Skye, because Ione Skye is a swell chick. Either way, it's 100 percent Good Times. It'll probably take me a while to come down from this, but I think Mr. Glover's mannerisms have infected me and I'll probably be acting/talking like him for a while, because it's just one of those performances – and he's just one of those actors. He knows how to kick, too.

After the movie, the Reel Grit crew came up on stage eating hot dogs, followed by screenwriter Jacob Forman, and after making a joke about how we were about to watch Steven Soderbergh's personal un-subtitled print of the entire 5-hour cut of Che, he made his intro short and sweet (his refusal to let Udovich talk about his upcoming projects made it even shorter – so basically his intro should've been "Ladies & gentlemen, let's have a nice round of applause for Working Screenwriter!"), telling us our 2nd film of the day was Prime Cut, starring Muthafuckin' Lee Marvin and Gene Muthafuckin' Hackman.

Now, I've seen this film before, at one of Nicky Katt's movie marathon nights at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre and I dug it. In fact, click here if you want to read about that night. I'll keep this part brief, since I've already rambled about it before. The crowd really dug this oddball flick; I think it's the weird little touches and detours that make this film what it is. The film definitely has its fair share of badass moments and lines, but it appears to be just as interested in devoting time to off-kilter moments like Lee Marvin being more-or-less forced by an old lady to drink milk poured from a dispenser that looks like a cow (the milk shoots out from one of the udders) or a scene where Hackman's character (running both a meat-packing plant and a drug/white-slavery ring) starts to wrestle with his brother (named Weenie) in the same room where his accountants are trying to do their job, pretending that two adults are not acting like asses a few feet away from them. 

Following Prime Cut, we had a lunch break. There were two lunch trucks waiting outside; one was for Thai street food and the other was a nacho truck. These gourmet food trucks are great because they find new ways to overly-complicate the simplest foods. The food trucks were supposed to be "thematically related" to the films we had just watched, but I couldn't make the connection. Later, I overheard one of the guys involved admitting that there was a mix-up and the trucks that were supposed to show up for dinner showed up for lunch, and vice versa. 

The presenter for our 3rd film of the day was AFI dean Robert Mandel, the director of such films as F/X (“My name's Leo, and we need to talk”), School Ties (“Cowaaaaards!”), and 1996's The Substitute (“Knock that nigga out, my nigga!”). His film pick was 3 Days of the Condor, which was a very influential film for him as a director. He talked about Robert Redford's acting, particularly his strengths in interrogation scenes – but not the kind that take place in a small room between cops and criminals or something like that, he meant more like the kind of scene where a guy catches up to another guy and demands to know Just What The Fuck Is Going On. He also had things to say about how awesome Max Von Sydow was, which was kind of endearing to me, the idea that Mandel felt the need to tell us this because c'mon, it's Max Von Sydow, we know that motherfucker's awesome in everything – that's why they cut him out of the theatrical cut of The Wolfman, they couldn't have him fucking up the underwhelming tone of that movie.

That Sundance Film Festival-creating motherfucker Robert Redford plays this dude who works at the American Literary Historical Society, but fuck that shit, it's all a front for the CIA. Redford's job is to read the fuck out of everything, single out anything that's cool and/or weird, then send that shit out to the big boys upstairs so they can do something with it. One day, he goes out to pick up lunch but when he returns, all his co-workers are dead, probably because that bad Max Von Sydow and a couple of typical postal workers were in that joint blasting the shit out of everyone -- the old lady secretary, the old man security guard, the old boss with the wig (in death, all secrets are revealed). Then I guess they got tired of beating the Grim Reaper to the punch with the oldies, so then they go upstairs to kill some of that young stuff -- the Asian chick, some douchebag guy, and some other douchebag guy who was using the bathroom (motherfucker went out like Vincent Vega, sprawled out on the fuckin' bathtub).

Half of the movie is Redford in paranoid mode – one of my favorite shots is a cutaway to some lady with a baby carriage, who for all we know could be packing a sawed-off in there – and he ends up taking a random New Yorker at gunpoint (played by piss-throwing champion Faye Dunaway) and forces her along for the ride. You know, you watch these movies and you wonder: is this frightened lady eventually going to fall in love with her gun-wielding captor? Because you never fucking know, right? Right.

I'm gonna do that one day, I'm gonna take an airsoft pistol and look for a hot chick and put it up against her side and tell her to act natural. This is a test, you see. Then she's going to krav maga my stupid ass and bust out the taser gun and zero that shit in straight to my balls (or as I like to call them, Wasted Potential), then as she runs off, screaming for the cops, I'm going to be on the ground, bleeding, broken, and with swollen traumatized testicles (at least more swollen/traumatized than usual) and I'm going to wonder if maybe, just maybe, all movies are lies. 

Mandel talked about how both films came out of a time when America (fuck yeah) was soooo not trusting the government (Tricky Dick and Watergate were in full effect). It made me think how nice it would've been to live in a world where you could watch something like 3 Days of the Condor and go “Hey, remember the time when shit was really bad and we didn't trust our government and we were all so fuckin' cynical?” but unfortunately, shit didn't work out that way. 

SPOILERS if you haven't seen this shit, but there's a particularly chilling part where Cliff Robertson (he's the guy with the hair that looks like a toupee but probably isn't) talks about how Americans would never ask the government to pull some rank shit just to keep our engines running and our heaters working, not so much because of moral reasons, but because we expect our government to do those things without our having to ask them. It's like, we want our steaks but we don't want to know about the cows being butchered, hell, we don't even want to know that they came from cows (we'll delude ourselves into thinking that they came from the magical steak fairy), so just serve it to us on our plates and hurry up, 'cause we're hungry.  

John Houseman is in this movie too, playing John Houseman; this motherfucker is always acting like he can't believe you have the fucking audacity (that's French for “balls”) to try to pass the bullshit you're serving him as The Truth -- even when he's busy scribbling on a notepad -- but he's gonna let you make an ass of yourself anyway. Damn, I miss John Houseman, I didn't even fully appreciate him when I was a kid, back then he was just the driving instructor from The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad.

Anyway, this was a solid flick and watching a pristine print projected in 35mm is quite the experience compared to seeing this shit letterboxed on a 4:3 TV set, and when I first saw this movie back in 2003 (on said 4:3 set), there was something familiar about the end credits music. Eventually, it dawned on me – I heard part of this tune before, during the previous summer, in a song by R&B singer Amerie called "Why Don't We Fall In Love". I remember hearing that song on the radio so much during the summer of 2002 that I'll forever associate it (and a handful of other songs) with that particularly happy time in my life – what's that line in the original Ocean's Eleven? Something like “Old times are only good when you've had them”? Fuckin' A, Dino. Check out both songs by clicking on this shit (which I found by Googling “amerie why don't we fall in love dave grusin”). Anyway, according to this movie, the government is shady and all black people should know how to break into cars, so don't bother frontin'.  

Another five-minute break, then cinematographer Amelia Vincent came up to intro the 4th movie. She's won awards and accolades for her work on films like Eve's Bayou, Hustle and Flow, and Black Snake Moan, and her choice for the marathon was At Close Range, starring Sean Penn and Christopher Walken, and directed by James Foley. "Like father. Like son. Like hell." was the tagline for this film, and Ms. Vincent called it the best movie poster tagline ever. The director of photography was Juan Ruiz Anchia, and Vincent talked about how his lighting was such a revelation to her in comparison to the over-saturated, romantic lighting of guys like Nestor Almendros – she was quick to clear up that she wasn't dissing the Academy Award-winning d.p. of Days of Heaven, she was just basically saying that his style of lighting was becoming very much the style at the time, and as a result, overused.

I could be wrong, but I swear she was also one of the presenters who had originally wanted to pick River's Edge, but she had to go with her second choice because Howard Smith (who also edited At Close Range) beat them to the punch. I say that because she kept mentioning River's Edge along with At Close Range, talking about how both came out in 1986 and both involved troubled youths. She's right; River's Edge involved high school students while the kids in At Close Range appear to be in the 18-20 range, but both are stories about wayward youths getting involved in serious shit. Also, both films feature scenes where underage kids try to buy booze at the liquor store and are met with roadblocks, but then find forceful ways around it.

Both films also feature characters who openly smoke weed at home – what the fuck, man? The closest I ever came to pulling that shit, I had to do it in my room with a towel covering the bottom of the door, Febreze or incense, a sploof, chewing gum and Visine. I also had to lock the door, which sucked because really, what other reason do you have to lock your bedroom door at your parents house aside from jerking off? Well, yeah, I guess I could have had a girl in there, but this is me we're talking about, let's be real. Meanwhile these motherfuckers are smoking joints on the living room couch, giggling their asses off watching television and the worst they get is their mom's boyfriend bitching about having to get up early for work the next day.

Eventually, Penn finds himself needing another place to stay, so he hits up his real daddy, played by Walken. Turns out that Walken makes his living doing criminal shit, breaking into places with his crew, breaking into safes or jacking tractors (this takes place in cow country). At first, Penn's kinda tripping out on his dad and his friends, but not getting involved. Then he meets Mary Stuart Masterson (she's the one who isn't Jennifer Jason Leigh) and because they're young and horny and bored, they fall in love and soon money becomes an issue, so guess who's begging to be a part of Daddy's business? 

Look, I know I'm not dropping a major revelation here by saying that Christopher Walken's the man, but goddamn, this guy can fuckin' act. In this film, he manages to be charming, funny, cocky, mean, scary, hate-worthy -- all while acting like Christopher Walken. It's like the part was already written so well, that any actor worth his salt could knock it out of the park, but Walken is not only a great actor, he's also Christopher Walken. What I mean is that Walken adds so much extra awesomeness to the role, with his mannerisms and very particular way of speaking -- it's like getting the best pommes frites ever and then adding truffle oil to them. I'm sensing a pattern forming -- I guess because it always comes down to food for us fatties, we love food analogies like a fat kid loves cake. Speaking of food and Christopher Walken, I'm sure you've seen this clip already. 

As far as other actors in this film; a shockingly in-good-shape Christopher Penn plays Sean's brother in the film, and Crispin Glover had made such an impression on us during River's Edge, that when we saw him show up in this movie, it was like seeing an old friend. His name was applauded and every time he appeared, we couldn't help but laugh. Kiefer Sutherland is here, and this must have been before The Lost Boys because his presence is barely felt or noticed -- the mute nunchucker from River's Edge had made more of an impression. I didn't even recognize Edward R. Murrow as one of Walken's crew, shit, I barely recognized Tracey Walter in the crew, come to think of it. Stephen Geoffreys is in this movie too, and I get kind of sad thinking about this Tony-award winning actor who then went on to do gay porn a few years later. 

Unless it was something he was into. Like, maybe having sex with hot guys and getting paid for it sounded like an awesome gig to him and he was all like To Hell With Acting. In that case, right on, do your thing. I mean, if some guy came up to me and told me that there's a new category of porn that involves fat, out-of-shape ugly bastards with tiny dicks and zero lasting-power banging hot chicks and that I was perfect for it, you know what? I might take that gig if it pays enough. Sure, there might be some hesitation, but then the talent agent would tell me that there are people who pay big bucks for guys with fat hairy guts who constantly apologize while having sex and I'd finally relent. Dignity left my life a long fuckin' time ago, so why not? Anyway, I do not judge Mr. Geoffreys, I only hope that he was happy during that period of his life, and if he was happy, then I'm happy and so are the gay fans (and straight enemies) of Stephen Geoffreys, the ones who've always fantasized about seeing him suck a cock. 

This was the first time I'd seen At Close Range. The print (courtesy of Mr. Blankenship) looked great, and it's a good thing Ms. Vincent was playing up the film's cinematography instead of the sound, because there was something up with the projector or the print that caused a buzzing sound that Udovich compared to an electric razor disrupting the film. It wasn't that distracting (for the most part), but the lights were brought up twice and the film was stopped while the union projectionist did what he could. After the film, I heard a couple people say that the buzzing actually made the film feel more tense. 

Not that it needed any help being tense, because in addition to being beautifully shot (there's a great scene between Chris Penn and Walken that opens with their faces being slowly revealed with what I'm assuming was the use of a dimmer switch) and strongly acted, this movie also puts the fuckin' hurt on you slowly, and what seemed a wicked kind of fun in a dark kind-of-way, just becomes unbearably tough to watch near the end. I don't know how much of the true story this film was based on is reflected in the final product, but even if it's only half-true, shit, that's already too much. It's also tense because the film's score threatens to segue to a subpar Madonna song, but thankfully, it waits until the end credits to finally make good on its threat. 

Shit, I have to wrap this up. 

It was dinner time and two new food trucks showed up; one served Italian beef/Polish sausage sandwiches, and the other served I don't know what, I wasn't hungry either way. After, it was time for the 5th film of the night, Jacob's Ladder, which was introduced by production designer Todd Cherniawsky. This guy worked on Avatar, Sucker Punch, and Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland, so he doesn't have to justify himself to you or me or anyone. Anyway, he talked about artists like Bosch and David Cronenberg being very influential on him, and he basically talked about how awesome this movie was. He also pronounced director Adrian Lyne's name as Adrian "Lynn", so either he's wrong or everyone else is. 

Unfortunately, the ending has probably been spoiled for you because the movie's about 21 years old (JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!) and critics usually reference this movie in more current films that have similar endings or they mention the short story written about 100 years before the film, and how that had the same ending as this film. But whether you know the ending or not, it's still a real head-fucker of a movie, filled with images that are at the very least, really fucking unsettling and at the most, the cinematic equivalent to that guy Bushwick Bill beat the shit out of in that song "Mind Playin Tricks On Me" -- the nigga you'll be seeing in your sleep. 

Adding to the What The Fuck-ery of this joint is that in addition to seeing familiar faces like Tim Robbins, Danny Aiello, Mr. Soul Glo (or E.R., if you prefer), Pruitt Taylor Vince with his shaky eyeballs, and Ving Rhames, you also have actors whose appearance now carry an unfortunate comedic weight. I mean, there's a scene where Robbins looks at a photo of his deceased son and he gets all emotional -- except the boy in the photo is Macaulay Culkin, so rather than feel for Robbins' character, the audience burst into laughter because it's fuckin' Home Alone in this bitch! How was Adrian Lyne supposed to know that in a few months following Jacob's Ladder's release, that little cute kid was about to star in a comedy box-office juggernaut? 

Then later in the film, Robbins and his former Vietnam pals go to see a lawyer and the motherfucker's played by George Fuckin' Costanza! This movie is so nuts, that when Lewis Black shows up in a brief part as a doctor, you realize that his is the most down-to-earth perfomance in Jacob's Ladder. Oh, before I forget -- God bless Elizabeth Pena for being so goddamn naked throughout this movie, hell, even when she's wearing clothes she has that naked aura about her. She's just so Wow in this movie, it's not even funny. 

Anyway, I enjoyed Jacob's Ladder even more the second time around. My only issue with it is that after seeing the deleted scenes on the DVD, I watch the film now thinking it'd work even better had Lyne kept those parts in (I'm talking about the extended climax). It might have made the movie a little too over-the-top, but c'mon, I think Lyne should've stopped worring about going too far around the time he shot the scene where some demon shoves his tail through a woman and we see it come out through her mouth. Also, I hate the final title card before the end credits, I don't know why the fuck the movie suddenly felt the need to Teach Us Something with what reads like the kind of conspiracy theory bullshit that probably sealed the deal for Tim Robbins to get involved, fuckin' America-hater. Love it or leave it, buddy. Better dead than red. The South will rise again. 

A raffle was held for all those who contributed to Django's Coffin, and the winner got a poster for the marathon, autographed by all six presenters. Then producer Stuart Cornfeld (The Elephant Man, Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, and apparently every Ben Stiller movie) came up to the stage to introduce the 6th and final film of the night. He had a very convivial way about him, and for all I know he might be a pit bull when doing the producing thing, but he didn't come off that way at all with us. He was mentored by Mel Brooks and Brooks seems like a pretty cool guy in a business sorely lacking in them, so maybe it rubbed off on his protege. 

Like Amelia Vincent, Mr. Cornfeld had also picked River's Edge but after being told about Howard Smith being the early bird catching that particular worm, he picked The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (Joel Robinson's favorite movie!), but was then told that the only print available was unwatchable, so for his third choice he picked The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk (aka The Legend aka Fong Sai Yuk) starring Jet Li.

Cornfeld talked how funny he thought this film was, and not just funny in a Foreigners Have A Different Sense-Of-Humor kind-of-way, he thought this movie was just plain hilarious. He thought Jet Li gave a great comedic performance in between ass-kickings, and if the combo of "Jet Li" and "great comedic performance" sounds weird to you, then you just proved Cornfeld's other point, which is that it's a damn shame that Hollywood hasn't found a way to take advantage of Li's potential in making with the funny. Here in the States, he's more of a serious, scowling motherfucker and I guess he just hasn't found his Rush Hour yet, even though his part in The Expendables comes the closest.

Sorry, Legend of Fong Sai Yuk, you're a really fun movie, Engrish subtitles and all, and I'd love to write about how your fight scenes are both jaw-dropping and fucking hilarious. I'd love to ramble about how after making the audience laugh and applaud for two thirds of the film, you had the fucking balls to introduce some straight-up drama into the proceedings.

And yet -- you managed to not make it feel jarring, you transitioned that shit smoothly. It felt like you were telling us that laughing is good and all, but there are some serious stakes involved, some life and death shit., and sometimes a motherfucker has to get serious on you. Then after making us (and by us, I mean me) damn near tear up at a couple of genuinely tender moments, you commenced with the one-two combo of kicking ass and making us laugh again. I'd love to write about all of that, and maybe even spend a couple paragraphs writing about your success as a Fun Time At The Movies, I really would. I'd also love to write about how we all applauded loudly when the end credits came up, but I've written so much already about the previous films, I just can't. Sorry, Legend of Fong Sai Yuk -- you get assed the fuck out in this blog entry.

13 hours later, the Reel Grit Six Shooter came to an end. Udovich told us about the next Reel Grit screening (I Saw The Devil), then thanked us for coming and for being hardcore, which felt good and would've even felt better, were it not for the knowledge that a select group of people go to Austin, Texas every year in December to sit through 24 hours of movies. But then I remembered reading an online article from a woman who had attended one of those events; she had documented her experience using a timeline; one of the entries came about halfway through the event, in the middle of the night, and it simply read something like "It's getting awfully farty in here", and then I didn't feel so jealous anymore.