Thursday, June 26, 2008


It's true; the whole Acidemic thing got started because of Asia Argento. It was 2003 or so. We were in love with her from SCARLET DIVA onwards. Her sheer reckless bravery was the inspiration behind Acidemic. We wanted to make something worthy of her. She was set to do our cover story/interview and even sent us cool self-portrait photos. Then, we lost communication. It was around the time her HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS premiered at Cannes and got trashed by the critics (a lot of whom have since come around and praised it). We figured she just had to hole up somewhere and cut loose the inessential strings until the heat died down. Hell, we did that all the time ourselves.

And so, we decided print was too expensive and to go with the web after all. Anyway, what could we say in an interview? Asia already opened her guts and soul to us, and even more, in her work. She later read and said she liked my article analyzing SCARLET DIVA. I'm still atwitter and aflutter!

Now she's getting huge! She ROCKED Cannes this year with three or four films, including the upcoming Catherine Breillat film, THE LAST MISTRESS, her dad Dario's MOTHER OF TEARS, some new thing from Abel Ferrara, and BOARDING GATE by my new favorite du jour, Olivier Assyas (reviewed below).

Anyway, here are some of the photos she sent as options for the cover...self portraits and bad assedness! I have the cover somewhere around here... we used the top photo but only the left half so you only see the word "Die" --- Yes! Death and Sex are one in cinema and embodied perfectly in the mythical archetype of the blood goddess anima... an anima named Asia!

The Lists AFI Forgot: The Acidemic Top Ten

What makes an Acidemic film? Well, it's about FREEDOM! It's beyond duality, it means doing whatever you want - sticking it to the man if he gets in your way, but doing it with LOVE. What makes an artist free? Well it's about the doors of perception being wiped clean to see reality as it truly is, infinite (to paraphrase Aldous Huxley). That doesn't necessarily mean it's a drug film, because there's plenty of drug films just as inhibited and hung up as straight films. No, it means the makers of the film either encourage or allow a perspective free of the usual dubious moral hand-wringing and punishments for transgression against the patriarchy. Seriously, how many films pretend to be badass, and then turn it into a stern cautionary tale as the badass learns she can't have children because she fucked up her DNA, so she kills herself because a world without the pitter-patter of ugh.. you get the picture; or the antihero decides to give themselves up because "we blew it," or the fallen women (of color) throws herself in front of a bullet so her true (white) love can marry the boring socially acceptable (white) gal? Or what about the lesbian couple who have to get shot at the end, or else Jessica Stein picks some beige normal safety-first Clyde instead of her hot girlfriend, or it's aaalll a dream?

Here's 10 movies that are truly free, truly alive, truly... Acidemic! Take that, AFI with your moronic categories like Sports and courtroom.


1. Over the Edge (pictured above)
2. Heavenly Creatures
3. Dazed and Confused
4. Kids (right)
5. Spider Baby
6. Roch and Roll High School
7. The Butcher Boy
8. Thirteen
9. Bully
10. Rebel Without a Cause (until Dean turns narc)


1. The Holy Mountain
2. Performance
3. Head
4. Yellow Submarine
5. Pierrot Le Fou
6. Psych-Out
7. Breakfast of Champions
8. Persona
9. La Dolce Vita
10. Fight Club


1. Night of the Iguana
2. The Lost Weekend
3. Scarlet Diva
4. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
5. Leaving Las Vegas
6. Possession
7. International House
8. The Thin Man
9. Long Day's Journey Into Night
10. Bad Lieutenant

I might be forgetting something, but that's a good mix of the canonized, the eclectic and the popular, ala the AFI lists. I also made some lists over on Bright Lights After Dark!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Olivier Assayas - Super Genius: BOARDING GATE, DEMONLOVER

Thank god that at least there are a few Frenchmen, like Olivier Assayas, who get that life is beautiful even when (or especially when) it's drenched in blood. Assayas makes movies that move and feel like ambient techno music: glacial emotions and settings, rapid tempo stream of conscious flow editing and magnificent paranoid foley work cohere and swirl. As characters walk around crowded hallways there's a constant flow of parties, cash registers, and other sounds from every hole in the wall they pass, the kind of thing Orson Welles fought to keep in TOUCH OF EVIL but lost, the real noises of this crazy world. In attempting a futurist neo-realism, he shows us just how bizarre our lives have become. He makes it seem ironic that science fiction movies are built on sets when the real world is right now far more complex and cyber-delic than anything one singular human mind could e'er imagine. Assayas provides a link wherein even corporate work and air travel becomes sexual and dangerous, futuristic. He knows where to point the camera to make the familiar resonate into the uncanny, the everyday into the post-modern and sinister.

His latest, BOARDING GATE (2007), returns to the world of corporate espionage in catsuits that won him mixed reviews with DEMONLOVER (2002). Superstar Asia Argento is great here playing a cross between her strung-out exhibitionist more-or-less self in SCARLET DIVA and the role which helped make her an international sex symbol, the influential-but-little-seen cult film NEW ROSE HOTEL (1998).

Based on a short story by William Gibson and directed by Abel Ferrara, HOTEL was set in a dystopian future where international corporations had replaced government and everything from banking to boarding room negotiations were done via camera phones. It starred Christopher Walken and Willem DaFoe as two corporate spies-for-hire who recruit Asia's duplicitous and irresistible prostitute to seduce and betray a married Japanese researcher. They find Argento at a hip bar where the DJ is playing Cat Power in all murky cool Bozan Bajeli reds. Assayas clearly loves NEW ROSE HOTEL or parts of it. The son of Jacques Remy, Assayas has captures the child's eye view of jet set privilege, being shuffled through futuristic airport terminals and off to weird meetings and culture shock shopping malls without hardly knowing why or how soon you will get to rest and have a coke. Parents, nannies, porters, and a hostile but fascinating swirl of international commerce going on all around his eggshell mind.

Critics say that for all his innovations, but that's hardly relevant; if he riffs on other's work, it's cool because he steals only from the very best. Using the template of Godard's ALPHAVILLE (modern business architecture and practices as science fiction) and the sexy late night with unlimited mini-bar expense account decadence of Ferrara's HOTEL, he joins them together at the USB port where Argento's own SCARLET DIVA wanders in exile.

One thing Assayas does better than all the rest, Godard included, is transmitting the sense of emotionless futurism that comes from being drugged out on international flights: following the protracted hook-up and assassination of Michael Madsen comes a bravura montage of Asia (Argento) on an overnight flight to Hong Kong (the city), the television on the back of the seat hawking the tourist spots seem strange and alien in ways only Assayas can deliver. He also sjhows the weird intimacy that develops between passengers sleeping next to each other in a darkened cabin for hours and hours; Asia climbing over sleeping Chinese people to get back to her seat; waking up cuddled against the old man next to her and not feeling good or bad about it, how in this one situation, there's still such a thing as a communal slumber party of all ages and nationalities, Grabbing a bottle of water off the stewardess's tray at what seems like the dead of night, but then opening the window shade and the harsh white rays of the rising sun blast in like a laser.

If you have seen DEMONLOVER you remember the opening with the water on the plane and this leads to a sense of overall paranoia which Assayas clearly loves playing with, exploiting for our mutual benefit. Most of all he has an eye for Asia Argento, perhaps the perfect queen of the Assayas universe (which she helped birth, after all, via HOTEL). Maggie Cheung and Connie Nielsen could only do so much with their catsuits and slinky stares; Asia is this sort of person, this cat woman espionage agent: like Assayas she has a famous filmmaker dad (Dario) and a penchant for "stealing" shots at airports for maximum free sci fi affect. And just like her character in GATE, Argento lives the life of a jet setting debauched intellectual artist forever maneuvering her way through the tangled web of vice and male desire for her own exhibitionist fun and profit! It's who she is... in real life...

If such a thing still existed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Great Dads of the 1970s #10: Josh Brolin as Dr. Block in PLANET TERROR

I'll grant you that Brolin's character in this beautifully constructed gonzo gem from Robert Rodriguez (can I go out on a limb and say it's his best film, even if it's so gross I have to avert my eyes 1/10 of the time?) is in fact rather evil. Yes, he tries to kill his unfaithful wife even before he gets turned into a zombie, but damned if he ain't a good dad to his kid, Tony (played by Robert's son Rebel and named--presumably-- after Danny Torrance's finger in THE SHINING).

First off, there's the fact that daddy and mommy are doctors, who wake up at night to go to work! Pardon me, but I think that's just about the coolest thing in the world. Maybe it's just that I'm so sick to death of those tiresome scenes of domestic tranquility around the breakfast table--dad with briefcase and condescending pat on the head; mom in her apron chastising the kids for forgetting their mittens, etc.--that pass as 'character development' in so many bad, censor-approved films. Here that breakfast family dynamic is inverted and made as cozily sinister and exciting as getting ready for trick-or-treating. Also adding to the inverse, the dad sits down to cereal with Danny and notices instantly Danny's lost a tooth. "Hey what happened to your tooth?" he says, conspiratorially, cooly, interested but not 'worried', just one cool cat to another. Meanwhile, mom is pattering around like a nervous wreck, oblivious to them both, too busy double dealing on a cell phone AND a Blackberry.

Third, there's his line to his kid, his request Tony join him in the prayer/wish: "No dead bodies for daddy tonight." How cool is that? This one phrase lets the kid into dad's world as an ER doctor at the local hospital. Similar to the "give us a kiss" line in JAWS, it delineates just exactly how the kid serves to help the father deal with his big adult issues, i.e. by acting as an conduit back to (relative) innocence, albeit an innocence still able to face and be immersed to a degree in the macabre. The son becomes the touchstone of decency which enables dad to wade into the blood, vice and depravity of 1970s monster hunting, eating, and becoming. It's a quid-pro-quo as the son's innocence centers the father in his bloody quest, but the father in a sense centers the innocent son in the experience of death, destruction, and blood. Block treats him like an equal, like a young man deserving of respect and confidence but at the same time Block doesn't pass responsibility onto him or betray any emotional dissonance or anxiety that might traumatize or adversely affect him.

By contrast, Dakota, the near-hysterical anesthesiologist mom (Marley Shelton) is so terrified her husband will discover she's about to run off with her hot lesbian lover (Carmen Electra) she barely notices Tony at all. Naturally she wants to take Tony too but one can see the wretched life he'll have fleeing from locked motel to motel while Elektra and his mom get it on in the next room- - he'll be as neglected as Freddie Bartholomew in THREE ON A MATCH (1933).

Irregardless of Dakota, it's that Block's not afraid to mention dead bodies to his son, that he doesn't exclude him in that babying way overprotective parents of today might, that puts him squarely in the great dads pantheon. He even shares his suspicion over Dakota's lies with Tony: "Do we believe her?" Block calmly asks when mom lies about the text message she receives while preparing their nightly breakfast. "Nope," Tony flatly answers.

Dakota shows all her anxiety and fear to Tony, while dad Brolin never would; he's even respectful of Tony's action figures and their desire to "eat brains."

How can a man convey such a great and complex dad in such a short single scene? One word: BROLIN! He even starts the nigh at the hospital off right --in prime doctor mode--until discovering Carmen Electra dead under a sheet, wheeled in by paramedic Joe Bob Briggs. From then on he's a dickhead monster, but hey -- his wife proves her infidelity and lying ways, and then even blames Tony's death from self-inflicted gunshot wound on him later on in the night --and he was nowhere near them. That ain't right!

Have you heard Brolin is going to play George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's new biopic? The mind boggles, the stomach contracts, and the gall rises. I may have to avert my eyes, as I always do in Joe's VD slide examination scene.

Read a great interview with Brolin here.

Zombie Glamour

In channeling the cosmic zeitgeist into my paintings lately, they've all become zombie portraits (including the above, of Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong from SHANGHAI EXPRESS).

I've been working from film stills in an attempt to capture the idea of the "dissolving of memory" - how with movies you remember key scenes and then you see the movie years later and the scene turns out to be completely different! It's about seeing a young beautiful actress, then watching the making of documentary and seeing the withered stalk she's become... the hair and teeth gone, replaced by wig and dentures, the flesh decaying... the voice gone gravelly as she lurches forward to rend your living flesh and devour you screaming... until you too are aged and cannibalistic... meanwhile, the young image stays forever glowing on the silver screen....MOCKING YOU!

It's also about me being older and having written on film for long enough that I go back and reread some of my recollections on films I've seen and realize that even my memories of certain film scenes change over time... whoa!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bing Crosby's "When the Organ Played 'Oh Promise Me'"

First of all, there's the brilliant corniness of the song title. What the devil is this film about? Whatever the answer, it is PURE 30s ACIDEMIA! I especially dig the weird "womb-skull" hybrid at the end.

Thanks to C. Jerry Kutner over at Bright Lights After Dark for finding this on youtube. Read his thing on it here.
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