Friday, October 31, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flicks 32 & 32.5: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN & HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Met up with a fellow 'thon runner Wednesday night to knock off a very satisfying double feature of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, a sort of Swedish 400 BLOWS with a vampire next door, and HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, a pretty amazing parable of what it's like to live happily.

Like MY GIRL, except Swedish, and with vampires...
trailer | website

I really wish I could say that with more authority, but I hafta fess up that I've never seen MY GIRL, but I imagine that it could've been very much like this. Only, y'know, without the bloodsucking May-1900-December-2000 relationship.

* It's late and I'm fading. I'll try to revisit RIGHT ONE soon and punch up the "review." Bottom line: SEE IT! It's frickin clever, sweet, chilling, and gorgeous. Also, best big screen housecat action since SLEEPWALKERS! =)

That title pretty much says it all. =)
trailer | website

It's a super-sweet film I highly recommend. Poppy is the titular character, a lovely pixie of a British lass who I kept thinking would make an ultimate companion for The Doctor. A brighter, shinier, Donna Noble, y'know? Anyhow, she's a sweetheart of a woman, always ready with a smile, a joke, a compliment, or the lighter side of whatever challenge she or a friend is facing. Unsinkable and unflappable. We basically get to follow her in her days as a grade school teacher, 30-year-old driving school pupil, silver-lining-seeking member of a girls-night-out gang with strong whipsmart repartee, and oldest sister of three. Some of her encounters are troubling and dark, but as much as possible, she approaches and engages people with the sunniest of sides. It's so appealing, and, frankly, damn impressive. In the face of sad, dysfunctionally aggravating, menacing, and surreal situations, she always manages to put on the Happy. Remarkable. In tone, mood, and even music, it reminded me of French Tati films, as well as LITTLE FUGITIVE, and Ozu's GOOD MORNING. If those references don't do anything for you... How to describe it? It's like experiencing two hours of one of those Sesame Street segments where they take the camera out on the streets of Manhattan and look for the letters of the alphabet everywhere in the environment. I know that sounds nuts, but that really is what it's like. Y'know, with some added bits of muppet drama, like maybe Big Bird walking thru every once in a while, looking for Snuffleupagus, asking if we've seen him, but of course, we can't say, even though Snuffy's just across the street at the hot dog vendor, or there, waiting to go into the museum, or hey, now he's on the big screen in Times Square. Like that, and doesn't that sound like fun? Well, it should, cuz it is. =)

Keep on keepin on~

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Watch-A-Thon: spread the wealth around...

I want your money (for the Brattle). I really do. But, cocky bastard that I am, with the finish line in sight, I decided to do a little looking around at the pack. And who do I see? A few fellow Brattle nuts, familiar strangers, people with whom I have undoubtedly shared many films but not really gotten to know. The thing is, I'm guessing that they have way more dignity than I when it comes to pushing their dirty little movie habit on every friend, acquaintance, client, vendor, stranger, or arresting officer.

Lucky for me and the Brattle, I'm short on dignity. At least, y'know, when it comes to sitting at a keyboard and zapping people w electrons seeking moviegoing spotters and boosting this or that film and the Brattle's programming. Of course, we're also very fortunate that my friends are long on patience and generosity. That, or motivation to shut me up. =)

I don't know who all visits these deposits of blogorrhea here at wuzzon, but if you're here for the first time, or the dozenth (only the Space Pope knows why), and don't actually know me in "the real world," given the content of most of my rambling, I'd guess that you're at least an irregular moviegoer, and possibly a full-on film fanatic, like myself and my fellow 'thon runners. Maybe even a Brattle patron, once or twice in a while. If that's at all the case, please consider supporting the Brattle by sponsoring one of my fellow runners. So far as I can tell, three of them are also availing themselves of firstgiving's capabilities, so those are the only ones I can push at you here.

As Obama says, it's better for everyone when we spread the wealth around.

(Besides, I can "afford" to refer you to other runners just now, as I happen to know that my parents are gonna drop some guilt money on my firstgiving page before the finish line. =)

Keep on spreadin on~

Watch-A-Thon 2008: only days remain!

Greetings, programs!

The Watch-A-Thon finish line is fast approaching (this Saturday, November 1), so I'm harassing you once again, this time to alert you that you're running out of time to be fashionably late with your tax-deductible support for this cool little moviehouse~

You can support my fundraising run with a flat donation at my firstgiving page...

...or choose to pledge a contribution per movie watched. If you'd like to do that, contact me via email (or comment) and let me know how much you'd like to pledge. Be warned, tho—this week I passed the 30-movie mark, so you'll want to modify your cyphering accordingly.

For an irregular record of the movie carnage wrought in my wake, check out my October blog postings.

And feel free to get in touch to ask me about any of the movies I've seen. I couldn't motivate to write a post about each and every one. Here are some quick takes on several that I didn't haven't yet written up/posted but highly recommend...

RELIGULOUS is something EVERYONE should see with a friend or twelve, even if you think it'll annoy or offend you. On the one hand, it's a hilarious mock-you-mentary in a BORAT-does-religion-instead-of-America way. On the other, Bill Maher has put together a kind of non-believer recruitment film, and it's totally built to start some really great discussions once the film's over. I'd be up for another screening if you're looking for a spotter.

FLASH OF GENIUS is a great David vs. Ford Goliath story, and altho it's based on a true story that unfolded in the early 70s, its tone seems remarkably resonant with society today. Kinnear is pretty wonderful as the professor-turned-inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who has his American Dream turned into a nightmare by big business.

NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST for some sweet, if unlikely, teenage one-crazy-night comical romance and musical connection. George Michael Bluth hits another coolest-nice-guy-ever role out of the park.

ASHES OF TIME. An ex-killer turned middleman-to-killers works year-round out of his desert outpost. As the seasons turn, he encounters an eccentric collection of clients and killers, almost all with tragic romantic pasts. Classic Wong Kar Wai (CHUNGKING EXPRESS, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE) fare in its weaving of relationships, broken, forbidden, and quirkily ideal. What makes this different from his other films is the period setting and the martial arts. Not conventional HK screen action, but well-choreographed and Wong Kar Wai/Christopher Doyle stylized in treatment and editing. This is the second time I've seen it (the first was on video), and the action sequences struck me as very Frank Miller's ninja melees (a la DAREDEVIL) brought to life. It's beautiful stuff.

QUARANTINE is a ton of ghastly fun! Frankly, it's what Romero's recent DIARY OF THE DEAD *should* have been. A great live-on-the-scene-camcorder-POV style spam-in-a-cabin horror flick, except that this cabin isn't in some remote woods. It's an apartment building in Los Angeles, where the tenants find themselves trapped with an unknown entity or agent that turns each of them, one after the other, into cannibalistic killers. Joy!

BODY OF LIES is more Ridley Scott excellence at telling tight, taut, focused stories that feature drama and intense action that complement one another and move move move a story populated by an excellent cast of good and bad and who-knows guys. Leo plays a CIA agent on the ground in the Middle East, accomplished at navigating the society and culture, and looking to turn enemies and terrorist threats into intel assets. His operator back in the states, played by Crowe, believes he knows better how to work the system from afar. When Leo gets in with the head of Jordanian intelligence, Crowe's heavy-handedness and results-oriented shortsightedness threatens to ruin the potentially valuable relationship. Wacky keyhole satellite surveillance fun ensues.

Again, check out my October posts for a list of most of the movies I've seen, along with some more detailed rambles about films I haven't mentioned above. And please consider dropping a few bucks in support of my movie madness via my firstgiving page. I mean, don't you feel safer with me sitting in a movie theater, pacified by the pretty pictures, rather than, y'know, OUT THERE, somewhere, loose, doing who-knows-what? Yeah, me, too. =)

If you're thinking about casing the operation before investing, the Brattle is playing the highly quirky and highly entertaining election documentary FRONTRUNNERS thru Thursday evening, and then switches over to IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN for a special 5.30 Halloween screening, followed by the Friday night premiere kick-off of a long weekend of the Flaming Lips's psychadelic alien rock experience, CHRISTMAS ON MARS! Check this stuff out! =)

Thanks for your time and consideration, and triple-thanks to those of you who have chosen to enable my habit and support the cool little theater that I've made my home away from the office. You can see their illustrious names up in electrons on—I forget if I've mentioned this to you yet?—my firstgiving page. =)

Keep on keepin on~

Monday, October 27, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flicks 28 & 29: W. & FRONTRUNNERS

Thursday and Friday found me taking in two movies with political figures as their subjects. On Thursday, with visiting ambassador from New Jersey, Mike, it was W, Oliver Stone's cinematic take on the man we know as still-President George W. Bush, and on Friday, with my sister as spotter, it was FRONTRUNNERS—a documentary on the personalities, politicking, and campaign strategery involved in the presidential election... of the student body at Stuyvesant High in NYC in 2006. I gotta say, FRONTRUNNERS ends up being more about politics than W.

Light on story and controversy, big on characters and a certain point of view (no surprise there, right?).
trailer | website

I honestly didn't get a lot out of this film. The overall take on the prez presented in it is one which I think must have crossed most people's minds if driven to ponder the man's motivations since arriving at the White House. It's not so much a story as it is a diagram or outline, highlighting telling moments in W's life. It's about the man, not his office, and despite, or even because (frightening) of his mistakes, aka decisions, it paints that man, George, Jr., in a rather sympathetic light. But you know, good lighting can only take you so far. Perhaps it will age well, tho. When history out-and-out condemns the man for his mistakes, the sympathy that Stone's scenes-from-a-life garners might be more powerful.

For a more compelling and enjoyable, and completely fictional, but deja vu-inducing, story with great performances, look up SILVER CITY on Netflix.

This film jumps back and forth between moments in his first term as prez and events in his younger years. In the past, we get glimpses of his remarkable charm and way with people, his realization that he's a link in the chain of the American dynasty of Bushes, but apparently a weak one, an indulgence in a drinking habit that grows into a bigger and bigger problem, and the apparent salvation from it, and the calling he hears, when he is born again in JC's name. In the "present" of his first term we meet his close aids and friends, an impressive thespian menagerie, I must say. I did not pay attention to the casting before going into this movie, but if someone had given me the list of players and parts, I would have had a lot of trouble seeing it work in my head. I hafta say, tho, everyone is remarkably, freakishly, even, well cast. As unlikely as it seems when you measure Brolin and George, Jr. up side-by-side, Brolin totally sells his good ol' boy Bush performance throughout the film. The weakest performance may have been Richard Dreyfuss as Darth Cheney. I had the most trouble seeing him disappear into this role compared to the rest.

The portrayals of Rove and Rice are... well, uncanny, and kinda scary.

There are several fictionalized meetings we are allowed to sit in on, and these are probably the most engaging parts of the film. One of the strongest themes that arises from these, sadly, is a sort of "fall of Colin Powell," following his struggle to be a responsible citizen and advisor as well as a good soldier. The other theme that emerges, at least in my mind, is how much any big decision-making is part of an already existing agenda. It's just a matter of waiting for some facts, or pseudo-facts, to line up with some certain manipulated personalities, one of which might possibly be the President's.

I mentioned above that the film paints a very particular picture of Bush, in regards to his motivations and influences. I can't think of any way to talk around that idea, so I'm just gonna go ahead and spill, so if you'd rather be "surprised" in the theater, skip on from here to the FRONTRUNNERS ramble...

Basically, it's about his father, it's about his Godly calling, and it's about falling in with a bad crowd. In the film, we get to see how the approval of his father drives him to attempt great things, but how the expectations of his father perhaps lead him to be resigned to his fate of repeated screw-ups. His early opportunities, and the one early "success" that we're shown, actually end up being facilitated by his father and his influence. George, Sr. is not shy about holding brother Jeb up as a chosen, favored son, compared to the shiftless good ol' boy George, Jr., quicker with his drink than with his ambition. His last name might as well be Costanza.

When we see W come to God, he's apparently a true believer. His belief gives him the strength to beat the demon in the bottle. He also takes this belief and approaches his father about running his Presidential campaign with an eye for appealing to the religious right. George, Sr. is not comfortable with wearing the cross for political gain, but does declare that if that's what the people are looking for his son is who they should be talking to.

It's a bit chilling to me when we see George, Jr. insist on closing staff meetings, particularly "star chamber" ones—in which they discuss sketchy intel, bypassing the UN, and war—with a prayer.

Given the remarkable cast and performances, I really would've liked to have seen more about the other players in his adult and political life, Jeffrey Wright's Powell, that freaky Rove, Scott Glenn's Rumsfeld, Bruce McGill's Tenet, even Rob Corddry's (!) Fleischer. The movie doesn't indulge me, tho, and I suppose that's fair. The film is about its title subject, and not meant to be a website or flowchart of the White House. More's the pity.

What to tell you? It won't change your vote. It will boost your admiration for Brolin's talents. It makes a decent complementary film to RELIGULOUS. Wait for the DVD or see it at a matinee.

"It's high school!" Meet some interesting kids in an entertaining documentary on politics.
trailer | website | Brattle listing

I'm fading, so I'm gonna hafta keep this short. FRONTRUNNERS is a charming documentary following the four eccentric candidates—along with their running mates, friends, and faculty—campaigning for the position of student body president at Stuyvesant high school in New York City. You'll meet Mike, the self-assured (or is that cocky?—you'll hafta ask his veep) and experienced student body CFO. There's Alex, the jock, running on a non-existent platform with something of a whispering campaign. Then you've got Hannah, an over-achieving (but hey, this is Stuyvesant—isn't everyone?) cheerleader and accomplished thespian. And finally, George, the pseudo-philosophizing political machinesmith and student body chief of staff. Who will YOU vote for?

It's a pretty fun slice of high school (circa 2006) featuring some kids and candidates with real character. A great bizarro world of an escape from this countdown week of 24 hour news cycling "real world" election politics. It's playing in very limited release and currently on screen in the Boston area in its premiere run exclusively at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square thru Thursday night. Check it out if you can!

Keep on keepin on~

Friday, October 24, 2008

Watch-A-Thon 2008: final leg!

Hello, my oh-so-fetching and fascinating
[ ] friend
[ ] family member
[ ] MiceSpace pal
[ ] FBriend
[ ] teammate
[ ] acquaintance
[ ] friend-of-a-friend whose email address I pilfered from a mass mailing...

Brian here, again. How fare you? My, my! I must say, you are looking quite robust and fit! As ever, really. An uncanny resemblance to the ideal immortalized in classical Greek sculpture. Only, you know, with better hair. Oh, before you say a word, I must ask that you let me speak my mind, lest I be completely swept up and away by your charm and charisma, which, as impossible as it may seem, surpass your appearance in power and appeal.

I feel I must let you know that I am now on the last leg/week of my 2008 Brattle Theater fundraiser Movie Watch-A-Thon run. Being the thoughtful and well-informed friend and citizen that you are, I'm quite certain you're aware of my progress, but I hope you understand that in my position, I could not take the chance of not updating you. I mean no insult.

I know that you have no doubt been biding your time, taking in the lay of the land, accounting for political, economic, and cultural factors, always conscious of how your very influential support can best be timed and applied for maximum good. I myself am an unskilled amateur at such calculus, but have the gut feeling that that optimum moment is approaching, and will fall sometime this coming week.

How will you choose to support the theater and my run, I wonder? There is the straightforward option to make a one-time donation. But, do not forget that you can pledge an amount per movie, as well. Although, I must "warn" you that as of this week, I have just passed the 25-movie mark, and there is still a week of 'thonning remaining, so, if you choose to pledge, adjust your math accordingly.

You can make your donation via my firstgiving page.

It can be grueling, it's true—SO much bum-planting and popcorn-consuming—but I persevere, knowing that it's for such a good cause! Certainly the run is made easier if your work hours and sleep requirements can be pushed to the extreme degree that mine can. It also happens to be convenient that I'm not in demand at m/any social engagements and society affairs, as you are. However, if you discover a movie-sized gap in your upcoming itinerary—perhaps a serendipitous scheduling conflict with the Pope, or that Bono fellow?—my offer stands—I will gladly treat you to a film at my favorite little cinema anytime that we can manage it. Do let me know. The election documentary FRONTRUNNERS begins its week-long run tonight, Friday, 10/24.


Brattle calendar.

Thanks very much for your time and consideration!

Keep on keepin on~

p.s. C'mon, Obama's got enough dough now, right? And besides, *this* is tax deductible!

p.p.s. To those incredibly super-hot PEOPLE magazine's sexiest individuals who have already contributed, thank you again for your generous support! Also, please disregard this message.

p.p.p.s. Please pass this message on to anyone you think would be into supporting this wonderful independent cinema (and keeping me off the streets)—thanks!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

inflatable bag monsters!

They kinda remind me of Miyazaki creatures. =)

Thanks to Jessie for scouting them out.

Keep on keepin on~

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


A holodeck program of a dysfunctional family wedding celebration (w safety protocols disabled).
trailer | website

Drug addict and raw nerve pincher Kym checks herself out of rehab in time to participate in her sister Rachel's wedding. Sequestered away from her family for months, her reunion with them leads to everyone falling into apparently well-worn paths of aggravating and button-pushing behavior that only family can inflict upon one another. Good times!

Over the course of three days leading up to the wedding, we're introduced to Kym and Rachel's divorced parents, the ghost of a younger brother, Rachel's musical husband-to-be, Sidney, and his family, and the best friends-turned-maid of honor and best man. Encounters between all of the above reveal to us bits and pieces of the sisters' history and relationships with the rest of their family.

In content, sadly, most of what we learn is pretty miserable, but laced with a few powerful select moments of catharsis, connection, and hope. While I honestly don't remember the details of the narrative of the movie, THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY came to mind as a similarly flavored movie experience—massive dysfunction on parade with a stellar cast.

In execution, the portrayal of the extended and extending family and their interrelationships is painfully good. The film's shot in what I guess people call "documentary style," from handheld cameras. I think I've become so used to this style that I don't think of it as anything special any more and didn't think about the camera work while watching the film. The cameras move with and among the characters at an intimate scale, allowing you to be another wedding guest in celebration, or a fly on the wall in the uncomfortable thick of things, complementing the performances and enhancing the storytelling of the film. The miserable is made all the rougher, true, but the moments of revelation and joy are just a bit more touching.

Having groom Sidney be some kind of player in the musical world allows for the world of RACHEL GETS MARRIED to be scored by some very creative and talented musicians.

All the performances are solid, but I've gotta say that Anne Hathaway as the prickly Kym is amazing, bouncing from alienated outsider to attention seeker, from favored daughter to resentful suspect, from righteous victim to guilt-ridden screw-up... working thru so many levels of turmoil and conflict involving her addiction, her resulting crimes, her recovery, and her role in her family, on screen before your eyes. A true hot mess.

If you're looking for some family melodrama, a HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, but, y'know, without the laughs, or perhaps looking to experience the Kobayashi Maru of quirky weddings, definitely check this out.

"Straight, but not narrow!" A brilliantly crafted documentary on the battle for recognition of gay marriage in Massachusetts.
website | schedule
This doc is put together so frickin well! Definitely one-sided in its presentation of the issue of gay marriage (hint: pro), sure, but its construction—from interviews, "embedded" footage, and news coverage—of the story of the battle for its recognition in Massachusetts is frickin impressive.

The film builds a compelling metastory, and made me thankful that I'm as ignorant as I am of local politics. If I'd followed events more closely at the time, the unfolding narrative of the film would not have held as much suspense or as many surprises for me. =)

Interviews with gay and straight individuals, their families, lawyers, activists, and politicians on both sides of the issue do a remarkable job of presenting the argument for and against gay marriage, and raising awareness of the conflict as a 21st century civil rights issue. Speeches by state representatives point up comparisons with the civil rights struggle of the 60s in both negative and positive lights. The film covers approximately 36 months of legislation and campaigning in Massachusetts. Once same-sex marriages were made legal in the state in 2003, an amendment was proposed to define marriage in Massachusetts as being exclusively between a man and a woman. For the amendment to pass, or not, it would take two state constitutional conventions and a state election between them, and the film deftly follows the process from start to finish. Never before has the importance of the right to marry been made so clear to me, as well as the dangers inherent in the limitation of civil rights by constitutional amendment and popular vote.

The film is playing in limited release right now (see the website for cities and dates), so grab some friends and catch it if you can! Now playing in the Boston area at the Kendall Square cinema in Cambridge.

* October 22m 2008. Caught this comment from Ellen Degeneres off of Huffington Post today. She was discussing Palin's stance on gay marriage, that it should be banned in an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Degeneres has also opposed proposition 8 on the California ballot, which seeks to define marriage in the state as exclusively between a man and a woman...
DeGeneres also responded to critics of gay marriage by joking, "I don't know what people are scared of. Maybe they think that their children will be influenced. And I gotta say I was raised by two heterosexuals. I was surrounded by heterosexual, just everywhere I looked — heterosexuals. And they did not influence.... I mean I dabbled in high school, who didn't? Everyone dabbled, ya know?"
Keep on keepin on~

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Hot Seat" by Janet Perlman

This is so random. I saw a banner ad in my Huffington Post daily brief that read...

"HOT SEAT," a short film by Janet Perlman

Powered by Liberty Mutual
I love the work of brilliant animatrix Janet Perlman (even if she is Canadian), so I had to check it out. I was treated to a sweet and whimsical hip-hoppin' animated short demonstrating the insidious, destructive, rippling effect of irresponsible buck-passing. Go have your own looksee now, at "Hot Seat." =)

Then I found out that an earlier Perlman short is part of this Responsibility Project collection as well! Check out her wonderful "Dinner for Two"!

Keep on hoppin on~

Monday, October 20, 2008

Watch-A-Thon count so far...

Here's the list of movies I've seen so far on my 2008 Watch-A-Thon run. For the purposes of the 'thon count, films at the Brattle count as one point, and films at other venues count as half a point.

1.0. BLOOD FREAK. Wed, 10/1 @the Brattle.

2.0. WILD PUSSYCAT. Wed, 10/1 @the Brattle.

2.5. FLOW. Thu, 10/2 @Kendall.

3.5. ROLLING THUNDER. Fri, 10/3 @the Brattle.

4.5. DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE. Fri, 10/3 @the Brattle.

5.5. SEX DEMONS. Fri, 10/3 @the Brattle.

6.5. LITTLE FUGITIVE. Sat, 10/4 @the Brattle.

7.0. EAGLE EYE. Sat, 10/4 @Somerville Davis.

8.0. TEENAGE HITCHHIKERS. Sat, 10/4 @the Brattle.

9.0. TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN. Sat, 10/4 @the Brattle.

10.0. PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA. Sun, 10/5 @the Brattle.

11.0. A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS. Sun, 10/5 @the Brattle.

11.5. APPALOOSA. Sun, 10/5 @Somerville Davis.

12.5. SWEET SUGAR. Sun, 10/5 @the Brattle.

13.5. CHAINED HEAT. Sun, 10/5 @the Brattle.

14.0. RELIGULOUS. Mon, 10/6 @Kendall.

15.0. DARKER THAN AMBER. Tue, 10/7 @the Brattle.

16.0. TRUCK TURNER. Wed, 10/8 @the Brattle.

17.0. PSYCHO FROM TEXAS. Wed, 10/8 @the Brattle.

18.0. SNAKES. Wed, 10/8 @the Brattle.

19.0. RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP. Thu, 10/9 @the Brattle.

19.5. ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY. Thu, 10/9 @Kendall.

20.5. GOOD MORNING. Sat, 10/11 @the Brattle.

21.0. FLASH OF GENIUS. Mon, 10/13 @Kendall.

21.5. DAYS AND CLOUDS. Tue, 10/14 @Kendall.

22.0. CALL + RESPONSE. Wed, 10/15 @Kendall.

23.0. TWENTIETH CENTURY. Sat, 10/18 @the Brattle.

23.5. NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. Sat, 10/18 @Harvard Square.

24.5. TO BE OR NOT TO BE. Sun, 10/19 @the Brattle.

Keep on keepin on~

your favorite video games... IN CONCERT!

In its continuing efforts to show the world how artistic and culturally significant video games have become, Video Games Live will be performing its ground-breaking 2008 World Tour at the 3,600+ seat Wang Theatre at the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The event will take place on Friday, November 21st at 8PM.
Keep on beepin on~

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flick 20.5: Ozu's GOOD MORNING

Desperate Housewives and Little Rascals in Japan =)
Japanese trailer | Brattle listing | subtitled clip

Caught this 1959 film by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu as part of the Brattle's "Elements Of Cinema" program on Saturday morning. It was a wonderful two-hour time out from my Druncle Sam madness. =)

The movie is a total joy to watch. We get to follow the apparently quiet lives of a handful of families in a small suburban neighborhood. The fun is in the simple details. The boys win each other's admiration by proving their prowess at farting on command. The mothers spend their free time gossiping molehills into mountains. The fathers work, or don't work, and stumble home (sometimes someone else's) after a few drinks. Into this clockwork world, a couple of tiny wrenches are thrown, and we are treated to the wonderful malfunctioning results.

One of the women has misplaced or misspent the community's housing dues, collected from all the families, prompting the biddiest (is that a word?) of them to wonder aloud about the timing of a neighbor's purchase of a new washing machine. Not an accusation, of course, just an observation... made repeatedly... to every other neighbor who will listen.

At the same time, a pushy traveling salesman hits the neighborhood house by house, shamelessly browbeating the stay-at-home mothers and wives into buying his mundane wares. Only a wry grandmother has the wisdom to send him on his way. The wisdom and the knife, that is.

Also, two young brothers (the younger is just irresistibly and seriously cute—see the trailer!), decide to go on a silent treatment strike. When they plead for their parents to get them a television set (like their hip young neighbors have), and only get argument and rejection in response, they end up charging their parents, and adults in general, with saying things that mean nothing. They waste energy on so many empty words that fill up the air and the time, like "How are you?" "Nice weather," and "Good morning!" In protest of adults' nonsense, they vow to keep silent, until their televisional demand is met. This little thing, of course, leads to all kinds of sweet fun. At school, they refuse to read their lessons, which gets them into trouble. In the neighborhood, they refuse to return greetings from the neighboring housewives, who of course think that their mother has poisoned the children's minds against them. Well, obviously! And their silence becomes a topic of perhaps the first real conversation that their tutor and their aunt have ever had.

The two boys have an English tutor that they see regularly. He and the boys' aunt appear to be crushing pretty hard on one another, but neither says or does anything about it. When she comes by to pick up the boys one evening, after they've begun their strike, they talk about the boys' stand against useless words and describe how the boys don't know yet why "we adults" need those words. As a social lubrication, to allow people to connect, to acknowledge what they think and feel without actually saying the words for them. I'm not quite putting it as well as they did in their dialogue, but it made perfect sense, in a what-you-imagine-about-Japanese-society-from-its-portrayal-in-movies way, as well as an upright and proper British way, too. Although, when you think about it a little bit more, you kind of realize it's a pretty universal phenomenon.

At the end of the film, the tutor and the aunt encounter each other at a train station. They greet one another and then stand side by side. Their conversation turns from greetings to the weather to the shapes of clouds, completely inane, and if they didn't so obviously have feelings for one another, pointless and boring. But because of their unspoken connection, their exchanges are so very expressive.

Visually, the film is like a crisp autumn day. Colors are bright in that mid-20th century like-the-world-just-invented-color film way. Wardrobes are a mixture of 60s modern and traditional. The "desperate housewives" are scandalized by the young "beatnik" couple, new to the neighborhood, who spend most of their time at home in their pajamas and enjoy dancing down the street while scattin' up their own jazz beat.

The life of the neighborhood is captured in some beautiful exterior shots down alleys and streets, creating these almost Scooby-Doo scenes of the denizens passing from left to right and back along different paths in planes of varying distance from the camera. Many of these shots appear multiple times, at first establishing the regular beat of daily life in the community, and then pointing up the ripples of change that travel through it later.

The framing and movement of characters thru these shots are so striking. I really had a sense of the entire neighborhood being a mechanical or wind-up animatronic model.

The music is a wonderful voice and character of its own. Almost cartoony in its influence on the experience.

Apparently, this is one of Ozu's, if not his only, foray into comedy. That makes me a bit sad, as it is so frickin enjoyable! Still, I look forward to hunting down more of his films and seeing what kind of magic he coaxes out of drama and melodrama.

Keep on keepin on~

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dr. Uncle Sam's Evil League Of Evil audition...

Meet Druncle Sam! (ELE audition) from cabin boy.

For context (not that the above should surprise any of you as "how I spent my Saturday just cuz"), if you haven't already, watch the Evil Goodness that is DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-A-LONG BLOG, then check out the League's site for details on their talent search for evil.

I managed to cobble togther this application video in the eleventh hour. Literally. I am a frickin mess right now. Been working on this for way too long and not all that smartly. Sleep-deprived, caffeinated, dirty, and bleeding-gummed. Good times. I'm a bit concerned that Sam may not be considered purely evil enough, more like... chaotic neutral, y'know? I want to believe, tho, that the Thoroughbred of Sin will recognize the value of his powers and ambition, and also understand that while Druncle Sam may talk about doing good for "the people," his methods are very effectively and efficiently doing them evil.

Keep in mind one of Druncle's favorite battle cries: "This is for your own good!"


Thanks to my squared sister, Nerdcamp Jessie, Paris Jen, and brother-in-law for their encouragement and help, and Jean C for the righteous and serendipitous introduction of "druncle" to my vocabulary.

Click here to experience Druncle's story in song.

Frack. I wish I'd jumped on this sooner and with more time and resources. If you visit Vimeo, check out the videos tagged "Evil League Of Evil." There are some talented and dedicated evil-doers out there. =)

* Just found the "ELE Applications" album at Vimeo. Looks like Druncle Sam made the application deadline. The ELE notice said that October 11 was the last day to submit, but there was no mention of an cut-off time, a la midnight, and which time zone. So, I freaked a bit to get stuff in as close to midnight as possible. Blerg.

* October 13, 2008. Whoops. Just saw the description of that Vimeo album and it looks like a personal collection, not an official League collection. So no telling if the videos did or didn't make a midnight deadline. Nuts.

* October 14, 2008. Paranoid about having two submissions for the one drunken villain, I decisively decided to withdraw and privatize the Druncle Sam ELE application ballad, but re-posted it, tagged as an application video, as a sort of collateral piece, to be buffeted as the market forces see fit.

Keep on keepin on~

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Take on me" literal video

"Where the hell am I? What kind of hallway is this?!"

Thanks to Paris Jen for the pipe wrench fight. =)

Keep on takin' on~

Watch-A-Thon flicks 19 & 19.5: RIOT ON SUNSENT STRIP & ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY

Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica freak out!
trailer | Brattle listing | Alamo Drafthouse

This mixed up ripped-from-the-headlines tale of misunderstood youth is an amazing trip. In his intro to the flick, Lars explains that the creative talents involved in making this picture were grounded in older-school, prim and proper filmmaking. More HAPPY DAYS fare than WELCOME BACK, KOTTER... or at least, that's how I took it. These "square" talents decided to tackle the crazy lives and far out happenings of the youth of the 60s, producing a surreal mix of cartoony beatniks and lettermen looking to make the strip scene.

Regardless of how mixed up the kids are in any era, their oppressors are always the same, aren't they?—the adults. Apparently, in particular, the aging majority of the Sunset Strip chamber of commerce. They've got it in for the shiftless kids who have nothing better to do with their Friday and Saturday nights than jam up the streets and sidewalks in front of their antique shops and... umm... I don't know what else, actually.

Ubiquitous teenage health film narrator voice introduces us to four high school kids looking for a little weekend distraction. Three are regulars at Pandora's Box, a club on the strip. The fourth, Andrea, aka Andie, is a new addition, and hesitant to indulge in the excitement of the strip. At the Box, she's into the music, but says no to a spiked drink. When a fight breaks out, they hightail it out to avoid getting rounded up by the cops. They get nabbed anyway, tho, for being out past 10pm curfew. Down at the station house, we discover that Amy's reluctant to call her dad to pick her up. Why? Well, turns out that her dad is a police lieutenant, and as watch commander, has jurisdiction over the treatment of kids on the strip. He's got a good head and heart for it, playing the reasonable middleman and ref between the geezer businessmen and the kids hanging out on their sidewalks.

Oh, Pandora's Box features three pretty kickass young bands of the era. The Shandells, The Enemies, and the Chocolate Watchband. The Brattle invited the lead singer of the Watchband, David Aguilar, to join us for this screening, and before the show, Ned introduced Lars, who introduced David...
That's Aguilar in the center, flanked by Ned on the left and Lars Nilsen on the right. David did a pretty inspiring job of relating the music scene as it was back then, for him and his band, and ultimately brought the experiences of being in this perfect creative scenario with the Watchband, being asked to perform in this Hollywood film, and soon, after leaving music to move on and move forward... bringing all that together to point up the fact that yeah, it was a high point in his life, but a high point in his life at age 19, and that he's had many more high points, pinnacles, he called them, throughout his life. This movie IS a part of his good old days, but they're not the only good days he's had. It was a pretty decent and inspiring message to deliver, altho it crossed my mind that it might have been particularly for the benefit of friends and family in the audience.

It totally brought to mind my favorite (and honestly, only remembered) quote from M. BUTTERFLY... "There's no surer sign of failure in life than happiness in high school." =)

Oh, hey! Here's David Aguilar circa 1967, rockin on...
Wild, no? =) Anyhow, back to my run-on rambling story retelling...

Andie's resentful that her own father seems to want to take care of all these kids who should mean nothing to him, but has apparently disowned her, leaving her in the harrowing custody of her alcoholic mother. When her despair over her screwed up home life threatens to overwhelm her, for an escape, she agrees to hit the strip again with her new friends.

This visit to Pandora's Box goes a bit differently. There's the threat of another fight, but the kids manage to police themselves, and prevent a little tussle into turning into a full-on brawl. This time, tho, Andie and her friends hook up with a Hollywood punk and his entourage who invite them to her first freak-out. What, you might ask, is a freak-out? Turns out it's a home invasion that leads to an LSD-fueled rave. When Hollywood punk slips good girl Andie an acid mickey, it sends her on an wild artsy-strippery interpretive dance trip. Hollywood takes advantage of her state to, well, take advantage. And once he's done, four of his friends follow.

When the neighbors call the police on the freak-out party, Lieutenant Dad, as unofficial liaison to LA's youth, decides to answer the call himself with a few unis. Most of the partying kids scarper off, but the police detain Andie's girlfriend, who's still flying high, and discover Andie, coming down from her devastating and tortured trip. Dad briefly questions Andie and finds her to be full of bile where he's concerned, and hate for herself and her imposed loneliness. She pretty much blames him for her misery and apparently her multiple date rape.

Thanks to Andie's girlfriend's chattiness, the police quickly round up three of her attackers and bring them to the hospital for the victim to identify. Lt. Dad arrives at the hospital in time to overhear the punks griping and moaning about how ridiculous their being arrested is. "She's no better than any of the other girls..." That kind of he-man bullstuff, y'know? Well, pops can't take it anymore and levelheaded Watch Commander (rightly) loses his shit and beats down these snivelling date rapist Reggies. When his colleagues pull him off and talk him down, he finds that a reporter on the police beat has followed him and claims to be duty-bound to report everything, regardless of the circumstances. Lt. Dad is shocked by his own behavior, fearful of what he might have done if he'd had his gun (and I don't know why he didn't have it, actually). When Hollywood attempts to defend himself and his friends, with some crap along the lines of, "Hey, she wanted it," the police explain to him that it really doesn't matter, Andie's not old enough to consent. "Ever heard of jail bait?"

I gotta admit, that was a simple, but impressive detail to me. Totally and righteously sealed the jerks' fates. That, I like.

When an evening news report includes Lt. Dad's assault of the punks, the sunset strip irregulars rise up in protest, hitting the street to picket and march. When any other policeman would probably think self-preservation and stay behind his desk, Pops makes himself very visible on the strip, keeping an eye out for any troublemakers on either side of the protesting. He intercedes to hold back an overenthusiastic riot cop, winning himself some thanks from a leader of the "longhairs."

When he returns to the station after clearing the strip, he finds his daughter waiting for him. She'd seen his patrolling of the strip on the news and realized that she'd had him all wrong, explaining to him that she's feeling well enough now and ready to go home, home with Lt. Dad (screw the burdensome alcoholic gypsy mom).

Ubiquitous health film narrator returns to explain... The strip has been cleared of the willful youth, but where will they go next? That is the question. In the near future, half the people in the world will be under the age of twenty five, and all those young people will need a place to go... Where will it be? where will it be?

The end.

Y'know, this might be worthy of a decent remake. Maybe it could be scaled down to a smaller city and then moved into the present? FOOTLOOSE meets WALKING TALL? The freak-out could be a home invasion and mini-rave. Sensual-good-girl-gone-bad-gone-good-again Andie could be played by Scarlet Johanssen I think. And okay, here's the real reason I'd want to see this remade. Ray Aldo, who plays Lt. Dad, could be updated and replaced by THE SHIELD's Michael Chiklis! Man, I really would love to see him clobber those Joe College Nazi Fratboys who attacked his daughter. I mean, he'd rip off one of their arms and beat them all into bloddy pulps with it, y'know? Maybe just throw one out the window and into a spiney sculpture in the hospital courtyard.

Yeah, I have a pretty lame fantasy life, I know.

Anyhow, after the RIOTous experience, I finally got up the nerve to say "Thanks!" to Professor Lars Nilsen, who helped bring "Return To The Grindhouse" to the Brattle screen. I also bestowed upon him a WristStrong band, passing it several links up on the fame food chain.

If you're not familiar with Stephen Colbert's wrist and wrist violence awareness initiative, here are a couple of Colbert Report clips to fill you in...

In response to his becoming a victim of wrist violence in July 2007, Stephen Colbert launches his WristWatch campaign and the WristStrong bracelet...

"Awareness is like a virus, and celebrities are like Typhoid Marys..."

Stephen Colbert explains his "fame food chain" promotion strategy for raising wrist awareness...

"I can say that because I AM one!"
trailer | website

I raced over to the Kendall Square Cinema to catch the last Boston screening of this flick and enjoyed the last three quarters of it. It's mostly footage of the three comedians' stand up routines, which was very funny, but not as solid as I'd imagined. The off-stage documentary segments are not nearly as insightful or interesting as I'd hoped. Depth-wise, it felt like an HBO special, and frankly, given the concept of their show and this film, I feel like I was promised more than that.

Still, there were more than a couple of great laughs. The one that I'm thinking about now and still makes me chuckle...

You were caught doing 40 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone...

What? That's ridiculous, and this is racist! I am out of here!

*gunshots* Oh my god...

Umm... that probably doesn't read as funny as it sounds as part of his routine. =)

Also, it made for an interesting delayed complement to Bill Maher's RELIGULOUS on Monday night. Sort of an answer to Maher's impatience and bullheadedness with many of his Muslim interviewees. I wonder how he and these comedians would get along and humorously scat off of one another. My sister mentioned to me that RELIGULOUS, either in an excerpt, or by Maher himself in the movie, refers to ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY. Me, in my, frankly, impaired state, I can't recall that from either of my two screenings of RELIGULOUS.

I am done.

Oh wait, not quite. Thanks much to Amy H. for her kind on-the-spot Watch-A-Thon donation in response to my clunky solicitation. I want to hit people up live for support, but really, I'm just awful in person. I've been thinking of printing up my email and leaving it in places for random people, Brattle patrons, to pick up. Although, would anyone want to pick up a piece of paper with that much frickin ink on it?

Foo. Maybe I'll try that at the halfway mark.

Keep on keepin on~

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flicks 16 to 18: TRUCK TURNER, PSYCHO FROM TEXAS, & SNAKES

It's pretty late and I'm pretty beat. A cumulative beat, from a week of pretty relentless moviegoing. I'm expecting to lose a lot of "free" time in the second half of the month, so I'm attempting to heavily frontload my Watch-A-Thon progress. Between that and the allure of the "Return To The Grindhouse" programming at the Brattle, well, I haven't gotten a ton of sleep of late.

So, I'm gonna try and knock off some poor excuses of synopses with random commentary for each of the three gems I caught tonight. Beware that I will not be guarding against spoilers in these write-ups, but frankly, if you're into seeing any of these flicks, story will likely not be the most compelling reason. =)

"Anyone ask you what happened, you tell 'em you got hit by a truck... Mac Truck Turner!"
trailer | Brattle listing
Isaac Hayes plays the unbeatable bounty hunter Truck Turner. He and his partner Jerry are assigned to bring in LAs premier pimp, Gator. When he proves more than a little uncooperative, taking shots at both of them, Turner has to put him down, creating a power vacuum that every other big pimp in town wants to fill. Nichelle "Lt. Uhura" Nichols, gives an amazing performance as Dorinda, Mama to Gator's stable of bitches. In a ploy to preserve her control and her piece of the action, she challenges the rival pimps to kill Turner, offering them the whole of Gator's stable and herself as madame. The most ambitious of the parade of pimps is Harvard Blue, cold-bloodedly played by Yaphet Kotto. He aims to work everything so that he's the last pimp standing, and over Turner's bullet-riddled corpse. Of course, Turner isn't gonna go quietly. He fends and kills off multiple assassins, and ultimately faces down Blue himself, in a reckless cat-and-mouse gunfight in a hospital!

The dialogue is brilliant. Here are a few probably inaccurate recollections...

Turner busts in on one of the pimps (who sports a diamond studded eye patch) in his mansion home...
Turner: A pimp and all these whores, but I'M the one who's getting fucked!

Turner is hours late to pick up his girlfriend, just released from 30 days in jail for thieving...
Annie: You could've at least brought me flowers!
Turner: I've got some beer...~

When Dorinda offers her stable reward to the council of pimps...
Pimp: Dorinda, you're trying to piss standing up... A lot of people are gonna get wet...

A couple of story turns and action set-ups are slyly ingenious. One happens when Gator's on the run from Truck and Jerry. He ducks into a bar and throws $50 at everyone there to shut down the two punks who are chasing him. The brawl is messy, but ends with Turner and partner walking out and their would-be attackers standing at the bar with their pants around their ankles. Another takes place in a department store, after Turner learns that there's a price on his head, which puts his kleptomaniac girlfriend in mortal danger. In order to keep her safe, he sets her to take a fall as a shoplifter in the store. Cruel to be kind. That's Truck Turner!

The soundtrack, by Isaac Hayes, kicks some funky ass. I will hafta track down some Isaac Hayes soundtrack action.

FARGO & NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN wrapped in hicks and country fried.
Brattle listing
John King III plays Wheeler, the titular lead, a professional killer who's hired by the town's good ol' boy, Steve, to kidnap and ransom William Philips, a rich old retiree. Steve teams Wheeler up with a local sidekick named Slick, and the two of them manage to spirit away Mr. Philips without too much trouble.

"Yesterday Was A Long Time Ago..." That's the first line of every verse of a sad and wistful theme song that plays during every one of Wheeler's flashbacks to his childhood trauma of spying on his whoring mom getting it on with some traveling salesman John. And he doesn't, like, briefly peek. He is like, standing in the open doorway, mouth agape, then twisting, then aghast, watching, and long enough that he's seeing his mom and the guy change positions! Of course, for his improper behavior, he is punished, beat down by his moms, and and hard. No slaps, or backhand, cuz we're talking knocked down to the ground, opening him up to repeated kicks to the stomach. Yesterday was a long time ago, but unfortunately for everyone Wheeler meets, it's neurotically fresh in his memory.

Yeah, so, Wheeler's got some problems with women. Seems like every one he meets reminds him of his mother, and apparently, all he wants to do when he meets his mother is strip her, abuse her, and usually, kill her. Yeah, he's got issues. But then, he's NOT the well-adjusted fellow from Texas, is he?

The plot really is kinda FARGO, with a live action Hank Hill playing the ransom victim, and the trappings really are kinda NO COUNTRY, y'know, if Chigurrh was played by Larry, of Larry, Daryl, and Daryl from NEWHART instead of Javier Bardem. And you sorta distribute Bardem's haircut over Wheeler and Steve's heads. It's amazingly nuts.

When Wheeler leaves Slick in charge of their prisoner, Mr. Philips manages to slip away while Slick catches some drunken Zs. Unfortunately for Mr. P, Slick snaps out of it in time to spot him running and then give chase across some Texas mudflat and marshland. And when I say chase, I mean, like, a ridiculous, 40-some minute chase. On foot. Mr. P, aged retiree, bobbing and weaving thru the woods and slogging thru sucking mud, with Slick mostly just twenty, maybe thirty, paces behind him. And when he closes on his quarry, crying, "I gotchore ass now!" he's downed by some natural obstacle, or Mr. Philips manages to pull a fast one, like whacking him with a branch, and regain his lead. This extended chase scenario is nonsensically intercut with the random drama unfolding back in town, with the local police piecing it all together and bringing Steve in for questioning at just about the end of the chase, which finds Mr. P giving a statement down at the precinct and Slick most likely feeding the fishes.

When Steve spots his ransom victim waiting for him at the police station, he panics. Getting his hands on a policeman's firearm, he runs for it, leading us on another tiring, but at least less distant chase. This time a police officer stalking Steve in an ice factory. There are minutes spent on each of them cautiously traversing the same ten feet of factory floor. Long story short, the chase ends badly for fancy lad Steve.

Wheeler, meanwhile, has been cooling his heels in a deserted roadside bar, tormenting the girl bartender by having her "dance" to jukebox tunes, and then re-enact his mother's trauma-inducing behavior with an unconscious customer. This goes on about ten minutes too long before Wheeler departs. The local sheriff happens upon him on the side of the road. Wheeler has pulled over to replace a tire, the very tire that this sheriff warned him to replace earlier. Oh, did I mention that Wheeler assaulted the daughter of this sheriff while delivering ransom instructions? No? Whoops.

Well, the sheriff seizes the opportunity to introduce Wheeler to, as one Brattle patron put it, "due process in the state of Texas." Wheeler's end is delivered by three shotgun blasts and comes free with flashbacks from childhood trauma to the last 24 hours of violent crime.

Gotta say, this flick is chock full of dedicated talent. Sure, Wheeler takes himself way too seriously, and his monologues stretch on, beginning as odd, pushes on thru funny, and runs into just plain unpleasant and uncomfortable territory. Still, for most of his screen time, he's damn entertaining to watch. And Slick! He kinda rules. I'm not sure he knew there were cameras on him. He was like Wilfred Brimley in HARD TARGET, y'know? Just happened to be there and basically played himself. And himself happened to be a squirrelly third-rate hick for hire with a lot of enthusiasm for whatever job you put to him.

Don't you dare come between Snakey Bender and his snakes... or his Sousa marches!
Brattle listing
That's Lars Nilsen, of Austin's notorious Alamo Drafthouse theater, introducing SNAKES. He helped program the "Return To The Grindhouse" series I've been hitting for the past week. He gets the credit and the blame. =)

Allright I'm fading now, so I'm gonna rattle off some stuff that might be more for my remembrance than anything resembling a review or summary.

Crotchety old dude, Jim Snakey Bender, is this John Philip Sousa march-loving guy who's squatting on his friend's ranchland, raising hundreds of snakes. Every Wednesday he comes into town to meet up with the local grade school kids, who trap small animals for him to feed to his snakes. The local minister, Brother Joy—played by some dude I recognized from an 80s sitcom postman role, ALICE, I think—frowns on this, telling Snakey that he is somehow corrupting the children into murdering God's creations. Snakey argues back that his snakes are also created by God. Joy hits him with some remark about how serpents are of the devil.


Wednesdays are special cuz it's the one day a week that Snakey spends with his one friend, Burt, the guy who owns the ranch. Together they hang out at Burt's place and listen to Sousa marches on his suped up hi-fi system. They LOVE Sousa together.

Wednesday are also special cuz after marching w Burt, Snakey, along with his pet, Lucifer, pay local teacher Cynthia a visit. Cynthia has a thing for snakes, y'see.

Over the course of the story, one-by-one, everyone he knows in town ends up crossing Snakey. Brother Joy preaches against his snakey ways. Miss Cynthia, blackmailed by the brother and sister proprieters of the town market (the sissy half of the siblings is someone I *know* I've seen play the female warden in something or other. SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, maybe?), persuades her students to stop feeding his snakes, and she herself puts an end to his and Lucifer's naughty nocturnal visitations. Even Burt turns on him. Disowning his Sousa enthusiasm when his new young wife moves in.

And, one by one, Snakey makes each of them pay, in almost exactly the same way. That is, he draws them out to the ranch, manufactures a scenario which results in their death by snake, and then disposes of their bodies, along with their cars, at the top of a precarious cliff somewhere on the ranch property. And he is consistent. I mean, at the end of it all, when you look at the base of that cliff, you see a stack of crushed cars, a collection of his victims. And at the end of it all, we find that the police have arrived at explanations for each victim's disappearance that suggest noting suspicious at all. Who'd've thunk that old man Snakey would turn out to be a perfect murderous mastermind?

Good for old Snakey!

Random, I remember from the credits that Burt's young wife is played by a woman named Janet Wood, who shares the name with Jack Tripper's roommate on THREE'S COMPANY.

Gotta give it up for a notable performance here. The guy what played Snakey is like the Ian McKellan of southern fried cinema. A frickin master, who actually manages to sell his mania for marches, and his... whatever-it-is that he feels when watching Miss Cynthia engage in her snakey congress.

There were two great Brokeback moments tonight, scenes where if you just dropped in the love theme from MOUNTAIN, you'd change the tone and expectations completely. In PSYCHO, when Wheeler first meets Slick, Slick sorta scoots in beside him at a corner both in a bar. They get to talkin, and during their friendly convo, Slick slides in closer. In SNAKES, there are a couple exchanges between Snakey and Burt, his march-loving partner. But in particular, there's the one where Burt drives out to the ranch to explain to him how they can't be together in that way any more. He's married now, and a young wife needs a lot of attention. Their special Wednesday nights are a thing of the past.

Sad, that. Even without the music.

Keep on keepin on~

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Triple threat tonight! Isaac Hayes, hicksploitation, and SNAKES! @the Brattle grindhouse!

At 5.30, it's TRUCK TURNER, starring Isaac "Hello, Children" Hayes as the smooth-talking, short-tempered bounty hunter who takes on LA's prostitution underground. It's war between Turner and the most pimptastic pimps you ever saw, led by Yaphet Kotto's Harvard Blue. Blaxploitation at its blaxploitiest and pimpin'est, featuring a score by "Shaft" Hayes himself. Also stars Nichelle "Lt. Uhura" Nichols and Scatman Cruthers.

Check out the badasss trailer!

For the next two films, a double-feature (1 ticket for admission to both), I really have to direct you to read the Lars Nilson descriptions from the Brattle listings as I have no language to describe them myself.

At 7.30, it's PSYCHO FROM TEXAS. No, not Oliver Stone's W. It's a so-bad-it's-good (I hope!) example of the hicksploitation genre. No, no, W doesn't open until the 17th!

And, at 9.30, it's SNAKES! "A rural gothic snake-revenge movie that's oh so much more."

Today's Brattle listings.

Note that TRUCK TURNER plays one last time tomorrow (Thursday) evening as well.

Also, looking ahead to the weekend, "The Compleat LORD OF THE RINGS" program, featuring the director's cuts of all three LOTR movies, kicks off on Friday and runs thru Monday. Sunday features the entire trilogy in order! Check the Brattle schedule for showtimes.

Please support the Brattle theater (and my moviegoing malady =) !

Keep on keepin on~

Monday, October 06, 2008


The first two films of my Sunday were directed by Wayne Wang (I'd seen his JOY LUCK CLUB and CENTER OF THE WORLD, but nothing else that I knew of). They kicked off at 11am as part of the Brattle's Sunday "Eye Opener" series. Both films are beautiful in different ways. The stories deal with strangers in a strange land, Chinese characters—one a teenage girl, the other an aged father—as immigrants to the United States. The first, in PRINCESS OF NEBRASKA, is someone with whom it can be very difficult to sympathize at times, while the second, in A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS, is a most charming and lovable lead. I enjoyed both movies greatly, highly recommend them for beautifully crafted intimate moments, and they impressed me so much that I actually hit the Harvard Book Store after the screenings to pick up the collection of short stories that includes the two tales from which these films were adapted—A THOUSAND YEARS OF GOOD PRAYERS, by Yiyun Li.

A teenage girl faced with an adult decision...
Sasha arrives in San Francisco with an important decision to make. We're not told what it is, but over the next 48 hours or so, as she reconnects with old friends from Beijing and connects with new playmates in Chinatown's nightlife, such as it is, we piece together her situation—she's four months pregnant—but to be honest, do not learn very much about her.

She wears and sheds several personas, depending on where she is and who she's spending time with—a brief reunion with an old girlfriend, at home and at a dinner party with her pseudo-guardian, an Orientalist intellectual type, or getting a taste of the nightlife with her new "party girl" girlfriend—but details of her true character remain hidden. The most I can say about her with confidence is that she is very much a teenage girl, evident in her solo shopping habits, the contents and appearance of her scrapbook diary, her fixation on txt msging and her camera phone, and her petulant behavior.

Ivy explained that this movie is set to be distributed exclusively via youtube, which, given the beautiful widescreen picture and intimate, close-up, close-quarters cinematography, seems like a crime.

A sweet and lonely father-daughter relationship...
In a Seattle suburb, a young Chinese woman welcomes her father to her apartment home. He's arrived from China to visit with her and travel across America. He's never been a father who connected with and confided in his daughter. Apparently, that was more the mother's role. However, now widowed, he attempts to bridge the emotional chasm between them, but as we watch him explore his new surroundings, we see that he finds it easier to approach and interact with complete strangers than with his one and only child. Every attempt, with daughter, neighbor, or stranger, however, successful or not-so-much, is charming and sweet. In the end the two generations reach a kind of understanding, and along the way, both discover the truths behind misconceptions each had about the other.

Kickass western buddy cop flick!
trailer | website
I love just about every part of this new wave old west buddy cop film except for the casting of Renee Z as the provocative romantic interest who threatens to wreck their dozen-year-old partnership. I get her character, but I don't buy her as that character. She does the giddy bit nicely, and there are hints at her weaknesses, but chemistry-wise, it seems like the guys have to build that bridge almost completely from their sides to sell it.

Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson make for kickass lawmen for hire, masters of their craft whose economy with words is matched by their parsimony with ammunition. Frankly, their chemistry, as friends who trust one another with their lives, is hotter than any between Renee and either of them individually, each always ready with the backhanded (or simply handed) compliment for the other, and in conversation, one regularly, literally, finishes the sentences of the other. Brilliant dialogue throughout, and quick but satisfying bursts of gunplay.

A couple of things I want to remember...

After one eruption, Harris delivers a gem of a one-line observation that I shan't ruin here.

There are also some interesting touches of what I felt was bluesy music that, greedy me, I wanted to hear more of, but honestly, perhaps the touches were all that were needed. I mean, they were memorable, right?

When sentenced to cutting cane, Sugar raises it instead!
movie clip | Brattle listing
When Sugar is framed up for a drug charge, she's given the choice between jail or a work camp, cutting cane. Hey, her name is Sugar and she's gonna cut cane! What a coincidence! Well, once she gets there, she finds that the warden of this weird camp is a doctor who's devoted to ethnopharmacology, the study of the medicines of primitive cultures. He takes "volunteers" from the prisoners to use as test subjects in his fried, senseless experiments, sometimes dosing them with the herbs, and other times, locking them up with animals who have been dosed (see this kee-razy clip).

The plot is way thin (the doctor and his minions abuse their workers, Sugar uses her wiles to engineer a revolution and escape w her friends), and the movie kind of plays like HOGAN'S HEROES meets HEE-HAW with canefields instead of cornfields, about the same level of humor, worse music, a more diverse cast (but still sporting Daisy Dukes and cinched up tops), and some ridiculous fight scenes. Also, throw in some voodoo mojo that hints at demonic possession.

It was nice seeing the impressive figure of Phyllis Davis, who plays Sugar, on the big screen again. I remember her as the fashion designer and Sapphic recruiter from BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. =)

Linda Blair leads a women's prison revolution...
trailer | Brattle listing
I'd never seen this film before and I feel lucky to have caught it on the big screen and not compromising the experience by giving in to a video rental or happening upon an edited-for-TV version on Spike or something. It must be an archetypal 80s Women In Prison flick.

Found guilty of manslaughter, Linda Blair is sent to serve her time at a women's prison facility. The corrupt warden (Dean Wormer) is in cahootz (and competition, altho he doesn't know it) with his staff, and a faction of the prisoners themselves in running drugs, pornography, and prostitution both inside and outside the walls of the prison. When the competition for the illegal biz comes to a head, the prison population finds itself paying the price in violence, rape, and ultimately, murder. When one of her friends dies as a result, new fish Linda Blair takes it personally. She concocts a plan to launch a riot and raid the warden's office for blackmail leverage, to use on the warden and his goons to win the inmates fair treatment and safety. For her plan to succeed, she'll need to get the rival leaders of the prison gangs to work together. Wacky fun ensues.

Keep on keepin on~

Friday, October 03, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flick 2.5: FLOW

FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER—A maddening eye-opener of a documentary
trailer | site
This is a MUST SEE!

Reviewed by WIRED magazine as "the scariest movie at the Sundance Film Festival," FLOW traces the past, documents the present, and cautions on the future of fresh water rights, privatization, and scarcity. In its value as a natural resource, and as a result, in strategic power and influence, it's been called "the next oil," and we can see how dependence on and control of the supply of oil has tilted politics, the economy, and daily life right now, every day.

The film does an excellent job of surveying the state of water pollution and privatization in the 21st century, explaining how industrial interests have used their political power to influence regulation of waste and its disposal, allowing for the pollution and poisoning of the fresh water of not only those unlucky enough to live near factories or refineries, but those living thousands of miles away. Here are some threads/stories covered by the film, what I can recall, at least. Please pardon the vagueness, unremembered proper names, and absence of citations.

A Swedish company produces a particular fertilizer that when dissolved in water has been proven to cause the spontaneous switching of sex in amphibians, and may be connected to reduced sperm count in human males. Once these effects were documented, every country in the EU outlawed the use of the fertilizer. However, in closed door meetings with the EPA, the company managed to win the agency's approval, and the chemical continues to be in use today. The company continues to create and sell the toxic fertilizer to the United States, but it's not allowed to sell it in its own country.

In Michigan, Nestle built a water pumping and bottling facility that was removing fresh water from a source at a monstrous rate, reducing once rolling rivers and deep lakes to shallow creeks and mud flats, essentially stealing the flow of water from lands that thrived on it for millennia. Local farmers, business owners, and citizens came together to fight this theft, and after an extended legal battle, beat Nestle and shut down their pumping operation. When Nestle appealed the decision, they requested that they be allowed to resume pumping until the appeal was resolved. They were allowed. Ultimately, they original verdict was overturned, and the factory resumed pumping at full capacity. The Michigan citizens have appealed Nestle's appeal...

In a town in India, inhabitants faced down a similar challenge, presented by a Coca-Cola plant that was tainting their water and poisoning their environment. Although Coca-Cola denies any wrong-doing, even after attempting to play the benevolent enterprise by offering locals free fertilizer for their crops, touted as nutrition-rich by-products of processing, but actually toxic waste products, after two years of vocal protest, the townspeople succeeded in having the plant shut down.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Just mostly.

There are signs of hope, found in both tradition and technology. For some communities, a return to old ways may spell relief. Traditional irrigation and natural farming techniques can revitalize lands ravaged by the use of the water-thirsty chemicals of modern industrial farming. And ages-old strategies for trapping, storing, and rationing rain water are still sound.

Applied technology, such as a UV irradiator used to kill the bacteria in a community's tainted water source, can be implemented in simple and cheap ways, allowing even the poorest communities to become self-sufficient as far as a clean water supply is concerned. The benefits are quickly seen in health and savings. For instance, water that is safe to drink cuts down on disease and illness in both humans and their livestock, which cuts down on the cost of drugs to treat them.

Other cheap services and tech can be used to allow communities to own their own water supplies. Play pumps are groundwater pumps that are powered by merry-go-rounds! Children play on them, spinning the wheel, which provides the mechanical energy to draw the water out from underground and into pipes and storage. Charity:Water is a service that installs wells and pumps in remote locations inexpensively. Both of these are solutions to freeing poor and remote communities from the tyranny of corporate privatized water distributors.

So, there's some hope, but frankly, there's a whole lotta concerted Bad going on in the world when it comes to water. I just can't touch on everything here, but I hafta say that the IMF and World Bank are once again so the Evil here.

Sad to say, I ended up catching FLOW on the last night it played in Boston. Check the movie's website to see if it's coming to your area, and if it is, DO NOT MISS IT! Also click around the site to learn more, and consider changing your personal habits or getting involved in raising awareness or influencing policy and politics if you can. Before you can't.

* October 4, 2008. Note that I changed the title of this post from "Watch-A-Thon flick 3" to "Watch-A-Thon flick 2.5." By the rules of the Brattle WAT, films screened at the Brattle count as 1 movie, while those screened elsewhere count as half.

Keep on keepin on~

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flicks 1 & 2: BLOOD FREAK & WILD PUSSYCAT

My first two flicks off the starting line are part of the Brattle's "Return To The Grindhouse" series, running thru October 9. I highly recommend checking out the listings and seeing everything that doesn't completely turn your stomach! =)

Note that both films play again in this series, so check the schedule if you think yo might be into them.

BLOOD FREAK—He's not a man, he's a turkey-boo~
trailer | Brattle listing
The last time I saw this was in college, courtesy of my classic horror connoisseur roommate, Ross. It's just as fried as I remember it. =)

It's a cautionary tale about the dangers of sullying your body, the lord's temple, with the taint of drugs. At the same time, it's critical of scientists who choose to play god with man and poultry. Herschel, a drifter-biker working an Elvis look befriends a Bible freak named Angel. She introduces him to her sister Ana and her friends, all of whom like to party. A good Christian boy, he resists her repeated attempts to lure him to the dark side, but only for so long. Once he falls, he falls hard, becoming quickly addicted. Meanwhile, Angel's good Samaritan friend offers Herschel a handyman job on his poultry farm. At work he meets a pair of scientists who are working with some sort of experimental process to enhance the growth of their turkeys. They offer to hook him up with drugs in exchange for his help testing the product of their work. Soon after Herschel begins playing guinea pig, he is wracked with convulsions and ultimately transformed into a monster afflicted with his same addiction, but he can only satisfy it with the blood of other junkies! Wacky, low production and, umm... earnestly acted hijinks ensue!

Note that ROLLING THUNDER was originally scheduled to screen at 8pm tonight, but those reels hadn't arrived in time. As a result, there was more time than planned between the 8pm show and the 10pm WILD PUSSYCAT. This is how I spent some of that extra time. =)

THE WILD PUSSYCAT—When revenge is a sexy party...
Brattle listing
This is the older Greek cousin of American femme fatale vengeance flicks, it's not as harsh and graphic, but turns the melodrama up way high, playing like an EMMANUELLE version of SECRETARY meets I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. The vengeance, as well as the crime, in this flick have a distinctly sadomasochistic kink to it. Shot in black and white and scored with an excellent, if repetitive, blend of lounge and pop instrumentals, it's way—well—classier than I expected.

Upon her sister's death, Nadia arrives in town and quickly learns that her abusive gigolo of a boyfriend, Nick, basically drove her to kill herself. Nadia sets herself up as a mystery woman and seduces the unwitting but ever cocky Nick into her carefully planned psychosexual torture chamber. Her goal, to punish Nick by putting him thru the ego-dismantling grinder that he subjected her sister to. There's lots of kink but not so much in the way of explicit visuals. There is one scene of particularly violent treatment, but—call me a naive romantic—I hafta say, this would be an awesome date movie for the right super cool couple.

Re-reading the above, I find I'm doing a poor job of relating the goodness here, so I feel obliged to include a copy/paste of the Brattle's blurb for the movie...
Wild Pussycat
(1968) dir Dimis Dadiras w/Gisela Dali, Paul Dillon [88 min]

From Greece comes this amazing, kinky, violent psychosexual soap opera. When good girl Nadia investigates her sister's death she finds out that sadistic pimp Nick is behind it all so she straps on the leather and whips and beats him at his own game. Full of unspeakable perversions, dark secrets, serious chain-smoking, two-way mirrors, orgies and 40-weight sleaze. There's even an adorable pussycat, who purrs and licks her paws as the worst kinds of depravity unravel in front of her. A rare and compulsively entertaining treat that has wowed audiences since its rediscovery.

Rated R; Not Available on Video; Also screens Mon 10/6

One odd observation: I suspect the adorable pussycat is homophobic.

Keep on grindin on~