Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bigfootage (Blobsquatch)

More than most any other kind of dubious/authentic footage, the sightings of the Sasquatch are the stuff of goosey imagination. Allegedly purchased at a yard sale in 1977 or something, this blob that walks out of a field, turns around and walks back in is shrouded in groovy mist, with decomposing nitrates and blobs of Stan Brakhage-ish emulsion. As we strain in the fog to see the outline of what looks like Joe Pesci in a big overcoat, we realize it could be just about anything... including the legendary primate known as Bigfoot, but probably a lost farmer... with stubby arms!

Focusing on the "found footage" phenom in and of itself, I dig these little clips as they are part of an ongoing mystery that has plagued/blessed mankind since the dawn of time, when sleestacks once made merry on the minds of Chakas and time warped Aryan families from beyond the centuries (in Land of the Lost see photo at above right).

While some of us fringe dwellers consider alien tampering with prehistoric life forms all but proven empirically, there are still a few "logical" types for whom a 1970s TV show doesn't count as "proof" anymore than the strange similarities of Egyptian and Mayan pyramids (which would be unnoticeable without an airplane), even though it is more far-fetched to presume such things coincidental.

Watching with an open mind a piece of Rorschach footage like the above is to imagine all sorts of things, and that's part of the appeal. Of course I loved THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for the same reason; the way the paranoid mind needs to discern animal or human shapes in the bushes when under duress; we're hardwired to pick out hostile shapes in the shadows of leaves and vines, and when our circuits are frazzled, we see these shapes appear everywhere, we see the outline of a monster in the shadow of a bookcase or the laugh of an evil uncle in the fizz of a late night alka seltzer. In a society where we're determined to overdo and over-label every new exciting development until it's old and stale, we need indecipherable scripts and puzzling objects, things that actively resist interpretation. Without unexplainable demons in the night to be afraid of, our fear cannot find a screen on which to project and then it filters amorphously through the minutiae of your life, blackening all it touches.

The idea isn't to prove the existence of the Sasquatch with this video but to see what might be just a foggy picture of a lost dude through the eyes of a newborn spirit, one unmarked by the enslaving blinders of scientific deduction and rational language. When we can behold not just "blobsquatch" but all natural phenomena with the awe and reverent mystery they deserve then, my friends, we are not so much gullible as enlightened! Ask not for what the bell tolls, as Stan Brakhage well knew, the Bigfoot toe's for thee. Dog Star power activate!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Sorry READER: Following the Oscarbait Rules (RAUBER-ACHTUNG! )

Finally got to viddy Winslet hunching her shoulders like an iron hausfrau in that bourgeois omnibus THE READER, so without further ado: The Oscarbait Dozen, a handy checklist of things Oscar-hungry actors look for in their star vehicles:

1. Nudity/Sex: The most important thing to capture bourgeois attention
2. Guilt: The second most important thing, inevitably following sex and lasting much, much longer
3. Nazis: A hot topic only a uniform and chunk of archive footage away 
4. Reticence: Let all characters have trouble expressing their feelings, and make whole scenes drag on where you want to just jump out of your seat and scream "Just tell her already!"
5. Missed appointments: The former lovers must never see each other again; there can however be several near misses to drag the film's running time past the two hour mark, such as THE READER's torturous scenes of our gloomy little law student "almost" speaking up on behalf of his ex-lover, and "almost" coming to visit her in jail.
6. Old age make-up - story should span at least 20 years, allowing for the wearing of old age make-up and adaptation of different mannerisms on behalf of the would-be nominee.
7. Warm, natural Light - Every scene should reek of craftsmanship, at no time should we not see our characters bathed in unusual light, the way the prison window filters the sunlight onto Winslet's rheumy blue-silver eyes when she's an old woman, etc.
8. Sublimation - Ultimately the love must be sublimated -- into music, art, writing, or in the case of the READER, books on tape.
9. Absolution - The protagonist must seek absolution, usually by confronting some demonic stand-in.
10. Death - The best way to atone for your sins is to kill yourself, usually with a long note read in voiceover by the protagonist.
11. Period Detail - Even as scenes flounder with tongue-tied monosyllabic lawyers (was there ever really such a thing?!!) every aspect of set design, costuming, hair etc. should perfectly embody the time period.
12. Helicopter Score - Let no scene go by un-heightened by grandiose orchestral flourishes.

What is the moral of THE READER? If the SS had books on tape would they have been nicer? Did Auschwitz happen just because a few Nazis didn't know how to read? Any clear-thinking audience member will grasp within the first half hour the clues that Winslet's good German is illiterate and just like Isabelle Huppert in LA CEREMONIE, willing to kill to keep it a secret (or in Winslet's case confess to SS war crimes)- yet we're supposed to anguish over her illiteracy with our dumb young Aryan protagonist lawyer who just smokes and acts sullen rather than speaking up and then blames everyone else when things occur without him.

One can see where the book (which I haven't read) would undoubtedly delve deeper into issues that become mere lip service in the film: the way we have no way of knowing which of the events in our present will seem important in the future; the notion of responsibility to the past, etc. etc. But if anyone's to blame for fogging our window into the past its craftsmanship tripe like THE READER, wherein through solipsistic alchemy a memory of sexual awakening with an older woman can turn into a lifetime of personal/social-historic guilt, the icing on the bourgeois sex cake.

Just as Winslet accepts responsibility for the holocaust because she's too shy to admit she can't write, so too is Ralph Fiennes, (supposedly a lawyer) so sanctimonious he can't admit that sometimes sex can be just sex. So he had a good time once with this older woman, maybe loved her, but so what? Why is that more important than any other first heartache? Why can't she decide for herself if she'd rather keep her illiteracy a secret to the grave? Does not being able to read preclude you from being able to make your own life decisions, however seemingly immature?

When we begin to realize we don't have to waste our lives pining, we start to become adults. We learn to let go of obsession like a balloon letting go of its anchored string. The smart poets all know that just because a lost love appears rose-tinted through the glass of intervening years, and the pain is urgent and profound, doesn't mean it's worth wallowing in, worth wasting the 'now' for. Pine into your notebook on lonesome summer nights if you want, but don't delude yourself that it makes you a noble person. If anything it just shows you're still a teenager.

The ego, like the bourgeoisie itself, seems only capable of devotion when its object is safely contained in the past, in prison, on an opposite coast, or a gilded frame on the wall. It's fine if you prefer long distance relationships but when you expect our empathy over your situation you should bring something to the table other than your dime store martyr hand-wringing for "the one that got away." We've all been there, and in the end all you prove by your devotion is your lack of self control and that you've never gone to a therapist for longer than a few months... and should.

The most offensive part in the whole film, to me, is when Fiennes brings Winslet's little can of money over to the surviving Jewish writer victim (Lena Olin, the only logically behaved character in the film), her attitude is why the fuck should I care? Indeed, a sane person shouldn't care about these juvenile little gestures... and the horrors of the camp have obviously burned away her own girlish longing, or any trace of the naive self-righteousness still blazing through the saline murk of Fiennes's vacant eyes. He looks at Olin--his eyes welled full with puppy dog tears--and the camera, which has whizzed past everything else in rapid edits, finally decides to pull up a chair and let the scene drag and drag. Look! Fiennes' eyes are cloudy like Winslet's were a few scenes back! He stares at Olin as if she will buckle and give him the Holy Grail to stop him from throwing a tantrum. His silence in the scene presumes he thinks his teary blue eyes are speaking volumes... it's like he's daring you not to care. I for one am proud to join Lena Olin in accepting that dare.

The question is of course how are we supposed to feel about this scene? I haven't read the book like I say but I can't imagine there's not some opening towards feeling ambivalent about his behavior here, but after sixteen layers of craftsman play up the 'feels' of it all, there's no doubt the director is dragging the stare out to give the whole theater time to sob. If they had any minds of their own, they'd use it to wretch, and loudly march to the exit.

P.S. This is not an indictment of Winslet's excellent work--which raises mere Oscarbation into something more like real sex, I'm just once again attacking the subtextual implications of bourgeois-back patting / craftsmanship pictures and how they work to reduce, label and signify, burying what might have worked as tiny details--where we're allowed complex impressions--under so much perfect art direction, costume design, sound design, cinematography, acting, music composition, framing, and set decoration--that the tiniest little inhale/exhlale screams resounds triumphant as a grandiose celebration of--not just lungs, and oxygen--but of people, love, and everything that makes us human. I.e. the movies.... about reading.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Girl Men Fought Dragons For

The amazing time capsule Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) comes out this week in a new DVD release with an awful front cover (how can you have a dull front cover for a movie about Marianne Faithfull in hot leather? Apparently the DVD people found a way, below left).

But not to worry, you can have your mind blown by all sorts of beautiful pictures and text blurbs at Kim Lindbergs' amazing CINEBEATS: She has some good stuff on Jack Cardiff and the soundtrack as well Here is a very telling quote from Alain Delon on Marianne Faithfull:
"She is a happening all to herself. She is the type of girl men fought dragons for in mythology, the type that duels have been fought over."
Yes Mr. Delon, she's pretty awesome... even to the point--as Lindbergs notes--of later attacking you in her "Song for Nico" for your deadbeat treatment of your and Nico's son... via song!

With her flawless compositional eye, chthonic feminist drollery and ear for juicy dirt, Lindbergs is the perfect guide for this and all the other stops along the Girl on a Motorcycle magical mystery trip. So check CINEBEATS out here!

Monday, May 18, 2009


When someone can do a blog that's both "Adults Only" and mega-watt trash-art yet tasteful as in not "venom est"-type A, then you have to subscribe instantly. And that site would be the amazing Temple of Schlock.

The Maciste Brothers' site, Destructible Man, is bizarrely focused--but not to the exclusion of other things-- on the use of dummies in films. It shocks in the best possible way because the more the site delves into dummies being killed in film, the more your own life seems to slip into a twilight land of zombies and fleeting shadows of para-dimensional entities. Somewhere out there, we're the dummies, Mike. The dummy, man, it was us... all the time.

Each site manages to conjure that hard to duplicate experience of being a child and kind of afraid/fascinated by the newspaper ads for drive-ins and adult theaters back before video. The sizzle not the steak was how David Friedman famously put it. Now the kids all get steaks just by clicking a button, so just hearing about and seeing posters of the sizzle is no longer the giddy charge of spook show jouissance it used to be. And that's sad because as Lacan points out in his discussion of the objet petit a, the more grounded and happy individual is the one who realizes that it's the sizzle not the steak that matters in life, the sickly thrill of Xmas eve dies in the morning, so if you don't want to be sad simply never open your presents! The Macistes and Temple of Schlock are here to bring the sizzle back. In their hands movies are dangerous once more, even if the only ones who really get killed... are dummies. VIVA MACISTE! They are both also very good for celebrating noted 1970s cinematographer B-days and obits. Stick around and learn sompin bout pretty pitchers... of hot legged hussies in boots of Spanish leather and straight blonde hair.

Friday, May 15, 2009

SCANNERS amongst us

Someone tried to scan me today at a graduation party, so I thought back to that Cronenberg film from 1981 that looks like it's set in 1972. Then I found this review I wrote, from 2007. Coincidence?

Cronenberg cast Patrick McGoohan in SCANNERS as the Professor of mind melting, whose languid drawl makes one trust him implicitly. He slides around the room on the tranquil force of his measured speech. The wars of the world and word with Cronenberg are fought between corporations, and this back in the seventies, before the world was destroyed!  While snowy desolation roars outside the corporate HQ, inside the cozy offices, people nap on reception area couches. It's Canada, where the laws are looser, the drugs are better, peoples' minds are still rooted in the world of sideburns, medallions, turtlenecks and deep mellifluous actorly voices.

In America everyone's getting all uptight over who's gonna get that last line on the mirror. In Canada they're egoless, locked in lysergic staring contests that go on for years, and the styles of the 1970s settle in like bears for the 80's winter. But all the coziness does not come from home, it comes from the laboratory. Where America goes to the nightclub to hear Richard Belzer, the people of SCANNERS live at their corporation like hospital interns (Cronenberg's medical experience again) until they psychically meld into their jobs. Flesh and nervous systems become corporate walls and crude early versions of the internet. Back in the day before digital plasma screens, Cronenberg already suspects that blood flows through LAN cables.

Cronenberg keeps the exploding heads and gunfire and bursting blood vessels and injections and so forth occurring regularly enough that the parts where people are cordial to one another become oases, cozy little nooks. In keeping us constantly in dread over the vulnerabilities of the body, we become warm and cheerful when we see said bodies snug in sweaters and toasty in their drinks; our own telemorphically-connected bodies sigh in gratitude. Cronenberg’s films are humbling, the dread creates a sense of bodily awareness and if you're not in pain, you feel pleasure to be there.

Cronenberg's violence--however--guarantees you're staying awake. No outcome is certain except MACBETH-style mass slaughter. Mankind's bloody evolution is ultimately unstoppable and the pulpy, lurid grand schemes of the shadowy corporations are ultimately just another form of evolution, as if the fish had to be duped into growing legs and sucker-punched into breathing air. They are forced first, then they learn to like it, then they're addicted. Air junkies. The other fish won't even let them come home -- they're suspicious, they make air a schedule one narcotic. Now there's rows of experimental subjects gasping on the shore, their gills not quite yet lungs, while bearded scientist coelacanths read charts and mutate appendages. Long live die neu fish fleische!

Similar to the way a horoscope seems to directly address one’s situation, emotions, moods, Cronenberg’s scientists always meet their experiments at the personal level. Cronenberg would be an ideal president as he's all too aware of how no one can escape changing forever once they engage minds or bodies with another person, whether just reading their blog or going all the way and linking their bloodstreams via mutated worm-like stomach orifices. A president to remain pure has to live in a bubble and communicate only with through a voice descrambler. Even then the diseases of the corporations infiltrate and warp his mind, each letter of text packed with subliminal counter-meanings.

Without Cronenberg's clinical detachment, the operation would never succeed. Medically trained in real life, Cronenberg betrays a deeply felt ambivalence towards death; it's very Canadian after all, to make peace with the inevitable, it's called... I don't know... growing up? Achieving enlightenment? Or just seeing one too many dead bodies in med school? Any way you choose, America needs to learn how to do this. We still take every death as if a punch to the gut and every birth like the second coming. Dudes, it's a cycle, quit clogging the tube and let the old ladies die with dignity!

America shouldn't be blamed on a personal level for its faults either, though, and Canada via Cronenberg understands the importance of America's need for grandstanding and violent outbursts of self-righteous clownery. Once America’s dream was to be left alone to do its thing; but everyone needed our help to lick Hitler, so we got ourselves all tough and cop-like; after the second world war we were suddenly up in everybody’s grille all the time, trying to get all the nations rested and quiet so we can go back to the sleep of 1900s. Looking for an end to the noise so it can sleep again, that's America. Only everyone else knows the truth: There ain't no noise, America's punching the mirror like Travis Bickle on a meth jag. 

We're too close to see it, but we have this Ned Flanders-ish neighbor who does, and from the safety of his own back yard it's downright hilarious. Would he have it any other way? Hell, he needs our insanity to keep him from going mad with cabin fever. While we continually fuck shit up old Canada quietly looks on, shakes its head bemusedly, and gets back to shoveling out the driveway. A true Canadian, Cronenberg uses us as his model in an art class where the project is bloody medical exhibition pretzels, as if trying to pass some nightmare show and tell. A+!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ming and His Symbols

I finally caught up to the new DVD of this movie last night, what a difference from that old OOP Image/Universal disc; this one rocks and is highly recommended. Was there ever a better sci fi rock score than Queen's for FLASH? No.

Maybe it's because I've been reading William Bramley's The Gods of Eden, but I was blown away by the many Masonic references scattered throughout the Mongo militia and the resemblance of Ming's "tests" of the earth via storms and "hot hail" to see if we recognize a malevolent intelligence behind it, and so indicate we've become a threat and require extinction. Also, one must dig the similarly comic bookish concepts of space beyond our world being "entirely" different than our scientists imagine.

Basically Zarkov's rocket is spotted by Ming's henchmen who escort it through the "Imperial Ray" (a wormhole if ever there was one) to the psychedelic skies of Mongo. In the capable hands of British director Mike (GET CARTER) Hodges, all this is presented more or less straight, and the implications are left to our own imagination. When Princess Aura (Ornella Mutti) explains to Flash that Ming stays in power by fanning the flames of war, hatred and intolerance between the disparate races of his planet. It's got eerie echoes of Bramley's book, which postulates that our earth has been plagued with alien-sponsored secret societies (such as the Brotherhood of the Snake and the Freemasons) who work for the same ends, i.e. the constant "down-pressin'" of humanity via playing both sides against the other, sparking international incidents, etc.

The sad thing is, in all our centuries and centuries under the thumb of this invisible foe (whom the angels name Anunukai) we've had no Flash Gordon able to defeat Ming, or even find him. In fact, Ming has so fleeced our eyes that even reading this you probably think I am MAD!

Mad you say? I'm just summarizing the vast amount of conspiracy theory which I've read, and which makes as much sense as anything else on this crazy rock we choose to call Earth.

The real thing to look at is not whether these things I've summarized are true, but if you are having a hostile reaction to them, and if so, why? Why are you afraid to try "believing" in something that might not be true? It's like when someone is suddenly and angrily determined to convince everyone around them they don't have an eating problem. We never thought you did, honey... until now. On the other hand, if you are too quick to believe it, maybe it's NOT true, after all. Our reactions to these ideas are just as, if not more, interesting than the ideas themselves since after all science itself has proven that the objective universe is dependent upon subjective perception, not vice versa.

By the same token, if science really was open to finding answers to the unknowable it would actively investigate all these crackpot claims. Instead it circles the wagons like the Pope at a New Age expo. Anyone with half a brain must wonder about a school of thought whose experts blush and stammer and get hostile (or laugh dismissively) when the possibility or radical new paradigms are first mentioned. The Galileos of today aren't hung in papal prisons by science, just sneered at, belittled, laughed out of academia, and exiled to their basement laptops, replete with tin foil wall coverings to keep the alien thought waves out. Meanwhile sticky green fingers operate the pope and the oil barons like puppets! It's ΙΧΘΥΣ three days old, don't buy it!

How much of all this I actually believe or disbelieve is immaterial and so it should be for you. Science wants you to believe in it solely and not be open to new theories that leave empirical positivism in the dust. These new controversial theories can't be proven because they are based on subjectivity via an expanded consciousness. We can't prove them to the sneering skeptics anymore than we can teach a dog calculus. All the dog can do, slowly and over eons of conscious evolution, is to realize the tasty graphite marking on his master's homework actually mean something. A few of us have always believed--deep down past rational thinking--that there's math and language on the homework of our masters, while the other dogs sneer and laugh and argue that language can't exist since it can't be smelled. Or as Criswell puts it: "We once laughed at the horseless carriage, radio, the electric light, even television!" Our five senses are pretty paltry when it comes to the vastness of our universe (we don't after all, see the barrage of cell phone, radio, TV and wireless internet waves bombarding us constantly), even here now in front of you, beyond the CRT screen lies infinity if you could only remove your alien-encoded blinders. Who is pulling the horseless carriage!? You are! Take off the blinders and the horselessness vanishes, the carriage vanishes, the vortex of rage and delusion you call yourself vanishes, and what is left? Pure radiance, Flash. You saved your earth; have a nice day!

Whoa, I've really run off on a tangent. Excuse me while I wait for the Masonic agents to cart me off to re-grooving. Meanwhile do see Flash Gordon, keep your eye out for the masonic and pump the volume as high as your neighbors will allow for his majesty the Queens: FLASH! Ahhhhahhhhh, he'll save everyone of us!

Monday, May 04, 2009


POST - SCRIPT 11/26/16 - Just saw this again, and all the stuff I wrote before about Brechtian this or that, forget it... this movie rocks pure and simple. Time has been very kind to it. I guess it's all about expectations, and --especially with old JC--nice buzzes. 
Just saw this again for the tenth time and have to chime back in how much I love John Carpenter's GHOSTS OF MARS, even if it puts me on the outs with just about everybody... except Temple of Schlock. Look, it's a freakin' Hawksian semi-satirical amalgam of ASSUALT ON PRECINCT 13 and Nigel Kneale's QUATERMASS AND THE PIT!

No one got BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA either when if first came out. It's Brechtian! I have a Carpenter-autographed movie poster for it.

1. Natasha Henstridge - Melanie Ballard. If Snake Plissken were a cop - Henstridge would still be more cooler. Somehow she's nurturing and nihilistic at the same time. The only way anyone can be this good is to not even be aware of what they're doing... she's a schlock savant. (See: Death Driving Miss Henstridge: Deproductive Freedom and The Ghosts of Mars)

2. Matriarchal Lesbians Rule the Planet - The whole planet is basically gay with a few exceptions, such as Statham and Henstridge, creating an inverse of the sexual politics on Earth -- a great touch that's not even really fully explored, as Carpenter just doesn't have time. But I love it's there.

3. Ice Cube - He's really giving it his full attention here, with a great array of "game faces"- he looks like a little kid playing war AND he busts out his crackly soft vulnerable voice several times - "my brother and I been in a lot of battles." He's in the zone.

4. Jason Statham - I used to not be that into him and his Saxon bullet head, but TRANSPORTER 3 changed everything (see my praise of that movie on Bright Lights My Brian thinks Bomb-Like"). Now I love him. And anyway, how many guys would be cool enough to think of using psychedelics to "exorcise" invading Martian demons spirits? "This will fuck with anything that's in there." I cheer with glee every time.

5. A badass black train (pictured at left): it's a sci fi western TRAIN movie!

6. Red and black color scheme, Impact fonts, red rocks and black or red skies -- it feels like I created this movie in my dreams!

7. Hilarious stunts - The kind where every explosion is just an excuse for stuntmen to go flying through the air, waving their limbs and going "Yaaargh!"

8. Joanna Cassidy - the legendary Zora from BLADE RUNNER. "you think I'd be dancing in a place like this if I could afford a real snake?" (see my BL piece "What's yr Edition #?")

9. The Monsters themselves - a mix of "psych ward" neo-pagan hippie meth heads at a Grateful Dead show and the Kiss Army crossed with Humongous' posse in THE ROAD WARRIOR (Aka MAD MAX 2). Not scary or terribly original, but hilarious. Especailly Big Daddy Mars, a mix of Gene Simmons in full KISS regalia, Chaka, Marilyn Manson, and the Crow!

10. Balloon escape flashback!

I could go on and on, I didn't even mention the great thumb cut off scene, for example; instead, some of my favorite lines from the film and their accented words if relevant:
"This is a discovery hearing!" (head of the Mars Matriarchy to Melanie)

"I've got a mystical way with locks and mechanical objects." (Statham to Melanie)

"Maybe I'd sleep you with you if you were the last man on Earth, but we're not on Earth." (Melanie to Statham)

"I can't let you take the rookie." (Melanie to Desolation)

"I don't understand you at all, Desolation." (Melanie to Ice Cube)

"You think there's a difference between you and me? You just got the woman behind your bullshit. Look at you... You look high right now." (Cube to Melanie)

"That's a laffer: uses a fifty percent nitrous mix" (Statham, explaining - since its Mars people use breathers) 
"Yo, lady, we don't see no train."

"I swear to you, Williams, as soon as I get back I'm gonna tell them all about this fucked up planet." (Melanie to Cube)

"See you later, you big motherfucker!" (Cube to Big Daddy Mars, before blowing him up)
I didn't even mention Pam Grier as the lesbian police squad captain, or the awesome 1980s metal soundtrack (Carpenter jamming with members of Anthrax,) though I wish he'd gone more old school synth. But hey, a great sci-fi action horror comedy adventure film that's pro-drugs and rife with Hawksian by-play and existential 'so shoot me' ambivalence doesn't come along often. To get in the mood, you can also check out my 2004 article "Death Driving Miss Henstridge: Deproductive Freedom and The Ghosts of Mars" on the main Acidemic site.

And don't worry, this is a discovery hearing!
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