Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Monday, January 11, 2016

Best Erich Writing 2015

PERIOD - END OF REPORT: Sigh... it's been a rough year so forgive the claws, self-aggrandizing self-deprecating ragged scuttling sees and bees plusses reeling and writhing and tea trays in the sky and grim bahnhoff fahren auf der dumbkopf-- ness, ah Grand Hotel where nothing ever happens and we shall return, whomever I am. Aside from some pieces for Bright Lights Film Journal, and Art Decades, I've not panspermiated witticism hither and yon as in year's past. I just been here like a madman, so hard, bro. I'm here so hard. I'm here with a vengeance. y sin venganza tambien! Por que no ambos? Consider the HD Anamorphic widescreen as seen through a clarity-induced foglessness by mind-altering (prescribed) drugs, and unprescribed, and unmindscribed scribbled: I shall not wander that glorious stream of sights and sound. Let the tea trays land where they wilt. Unto thee, this pledge: Nichts mehr mit dem mich-krieg --all bandersnatches shunned and turtles dovetailed shall towards mockery's glam opposite gesture if not attain. BEGINNING...

Ferociously Her Iron Age Druid Bog Mummy Telekinetic Alcoholic Hottie Self: THE ETERNAL 

(April 15)
"One of the unique subtexts at work here is an undercurrent of pro-drunken anger - as still sick and suffering alcoholic Nora regularly has drinks taken out of her hands by Jim who says "none for us, we're quitting" and makes a big show of enjoying life without it. That kind of balderdash makes me want to retch. And I should know. The way the drinks pass her wide eyes by, or the way she works hard to seem deadpan when getting offered some Scotch down in the basement once Jim's upstairs with the ginger kid --it's the kind of stuff only drunks like myself would feel keenly. How nice that there's whole films and wings of Irish literature just for us! No matter how adept his Walken impression, or grace around the dance floor, Jim's refusing drinks on Nora's behalf stings like a slap, especially when he turns out to be sneaking sips on the side from a flask. Only Eugene O'Neill really ever wrote scenes that captured the way every offered drink, every vulnerable liquor bottle, chills the alcoholic's blood like a siren call, and every 'no thanks' on their sickly behalf like a gut punch they're not allowed to wince from. And only Hawks and Huston ever understood it well enough to capture it; only Hawks and Huston understood how cigarettes and drinks are the currency of cool loyalty, how they bring the world into focus as well as out of it. Almereyda doesn't have time to stretch out on these branches. There's no mariachi band playing the Death Song to steady her nerves like in Rio Bravo; no agony of being denied a desperately needed drink just for 'singing lousy' like in Key Largo. No time; the sub-plot just dries out. Plus, "Why be serious? That's for people in sad countries like Poland or Africa" notes the girl narrator. And anyway, the mummy catches on fire and bursts through the window and gets zapped by electric current just like Hawks' original The Thing and add the cigarettes (Harris is constantly lighting them and sticking them in his wife's mouth; the young girl does the same for the old woman, keeping one for herself-- a wee lass smokin'! Save your sermons, o nanny statesmen --this is Ireland!) and drinks (and drink awareness) and that's Hawks enough. We don't need soberin'. Not here. Not no how." (more)

(August 29)
"And when Hamlet comes down from the parapet he's alight like that annoying kid who comes back from Burning Man or the Rainbow Gathering with dreadlocks, a dour but smokin' hot activist girl's phone number, and the feeling he's been chosen to keep the world green. For one semester's stretch he doth berate unreceptive ears with facts gleaned from phone calls with his allegedly corporeal Greenpeace girlfriend. Mel's Hamlet, crying "like a whore" and unpacking his heart with words (and pamphlets) rather than direct and violent action (blowing up a factory), is the woeful midnight tantrum of a lad who realizes no amount of feeling-- poured into his angry young poetry slam soliloquy notebook even unto whiskey stained margin--will undo the catastrophic damage his already crumbling American white male legacy hath wrought upon the whales of the world. Even if he pounds his plodding pen to plastique it would explode no illusion beyond popping the proud bubble of his own inchoate solipsism." (MORE)

(Bright Lights 10/31)

"If nothing else remains of the Halloween experience once you’re too old for trick-or-treating or costumes, there are still the movies, and lists of what to watch abound. Well, no list is quite as eclectic as this one, which stretches back to 1929 and ahead to 2008, making stops for over-the-topExorcist rips, ‘70s paneling, Mexican legends, abandoned Norwegian ski lodges, Irish mansions, and California malls, and avoiding all the usual stops. It’s the list of weird and worthy lesser-seen treats for those game enough to seek them out. They are rich with meta refraction, strong female leads, little-to-no misogyny or sexual violence, and are cage-free, except for the cages we build for ourselves, she said, as the shape drew closer . . . the cage we use to keep things out . ." (FULL LIST)

"By 1970 we had already given up on the utopian ideal for a united and very hip America, one inflated to new heights by the California experiment. We thought universal Love, reefers and LSD would convert every last square to the One True Vibe. Instead: Altamont. Instead: 'free love' grubbers from the 'burbs. Instead: Manson decoding The White Album. Instead: cokehead troglodytes dropping by your intimate ego-dissolving LSD party at four AM, drinking all your bourbon and harassing the women, and you realizing you need your ego after all, because only your ego could get aggressive enough to kick them out, and all you can do instead is try, vainly, to formulate a coherent sentence without contradicting the love vibes you've vouchsafed. Instead: peaceful but filthy barefoot hippies clogging ever last public bathroom pore of the Haight and everyone being too cool to work or pay money, just presuming they'll be taken care of by the very social order they spit on. Instead: communes all slowly coming unglued as psychedelic unity and the blazing tribal consciousness that had emerged from the primitive inner rolodex for the first time in 1,000 years gave way to petty squabbles, malnourished infants of uncertain parentage, and tension over undone chores." (more)

(March 2nd)
"It's this terrain-based amnesia that makes THE TERROR and THE SHOOTING readable as parts one and two of a very strange textural existential genre meltdown Hellman trilogy (along with 1971's TWO-LANE BLACKTOP), a strange mirror to Antonioni's trilogy of BLOW-UP (1966), ZABRISKIE POINT (1970) and--also with Nicholson--THE PASSENGER (1975). In TERROR, the plot twists are layered back on themselves, then unwound back to separate fibers as if time's moving diagonally backwards; THE SHOOTING's movement is outwards, never back, never up or down, just out into the white blankness of the desert, until its far too late to turn around (or reach any outpost civilization); TWO-LANE BLACKTOP manages to keep in almost constant motion along America's back roads and highways without going farther than a few inches inward or outward. A marked step up in art house complexity from THE SHOOTING (which was itself a step up from TERROR), in TWO-LANE Oates is a GTO driver who sees each new hitchhiker as a chance to change his backstory; and the "Driver" and "Mechanic" have no backstory at all, but when the dust finally settles on 70s cinema, it will be TWO-LANE BLACKTOP that wins the pink slip. All else is vanity."

(Divinorum Psychonauticus)

Sun Ra doesn't actually, like a crazy street person, believe he's from Saturn, but he believes in the power of myth, of fiction, to recreate himself as a myth. The one time I saw him in 1989, singing at a Polish union hall in Syracuse, it was adorable as in this dinky dusty rattletrap lodge hall suddenly there are twirling dancers and all this pageantry (no fancy lights or anything), then Sun Ra comes up to the mic and in this sweet tiny voice starts singing "I am not from here," to "Space is the Place" or whatever his theme was, "I'm from out there," and in this dingy gray place where you'd expect to see, say, a Varsity awards dinner or some union lodge meeting, or an Elk club smoker, a rinky dink piano in the corner, etc. In the freezing hellish snow of Syracuse, those words took on great meaning - a denial, a refusal in a way, that is the heart of meditation, astral travel, music and art - a denial and refusal of the banal limitations of our own place in the time-space continuum, of being black of course, born in the South. Sometimes we love being here - other times, non. But the Exit door is never locked... space is the place - from which no traveler returns unchanged.... (More)

"Knowing what we know about eating disorders (and knowing she was kicked out of two boarding schools for being anorexic) makes it hard to revel in her alien beauty in the Alphaville-esque city wandering scenes, and/or the Warhol factory and YMCA pool party footage. She died mere weeks after her color footage was shot, and you can feel it. Hers is not the knowing sadness, the glimmer of a gorgeous new type of maturer beauty that we find in Marilyn's footage in the unfinished Something's Got to Give. Edie doesn't even fathom where she is, not that she cares, and watching her is like watching a psychic interacting with ghosts, half in this world and half in the past, but was there... ever even another half? Andy Warhol supplied some of that other half, but he supplied it with a vacuum. And who knows how many times the Andy she interacted with was only Andy's double, and Andy's relationship with Edie itself a double, a bizarro mirror to the gay artist-female muse/proxy/twins bond between Waldo Lydecker and Laura... or Joe Gillis and Norma Desmond, but who was who, by which I mean, their relationship was composed of celluloid, light, and shadow... and without a projector, it was just a spool. Swoop swoop, oh baby rock rock." (More)

"Even if feminism and PC sensitivity have killed The Sunset Boulevard model for everyone inside Hollywood, there are still Canadians like David Cronenberg and Frenchmen like Olivier Assayas, to keep the luridly self-reflexive spirit of Billy Wilder and Robert Aldrich alive. And they know a secret denied the average Hollywood hack: the 50s-70s 'horror hag' spirit need only be taken one meta-level further to resonate in our new century's junk TV-addicted consciousness afresh. So they bring us Julianne Moore and Juliette Binoche playing Gloria Swansons playing Norma Desmonds instead of just Norma Desmonds hoping to play Salome. Brian Oblivion would be so proud! Long live the new old flesh. (more)gm

(January 29)
A real sunflower beheld by someone with their imaginary-symbolic blinders on is merely a sunflower - identified against one's inner rolodex of flower names and then dismissed, its full elaborate mystery screened out since it's neither a source of fear (unless you're allergic) or desire (unless some sexy new lover gave it to you). But for someone without those blinders, like a yogi, Buddha, starving artist, tripper, child, or schizophrenic --that sunflower breathes and radiates light and is alive with the little yellow petals around the big stamen center like yellow flames. This radiant crown image is not a 'mere hallucination' though a less enlightened friend might dismiss your enthusiasm, saying "dude, it's just a sunflower, chill out." In fact it is that idea --that the real is completely contained within its symbolic component, that it is 'just' its label--that is the hallucination. The symbolic breaker for this less enlightened friend as overstayed its welcome, leaving the friend trapped in a morass of the purely symbolic-imaginary. The only time the friend can feel a glimmer of the 'real' beyond language is when they buy an expensive item or paint the bedroom a new color--thus forcing them to reset their symbolic GPS. And even then, the result is fleeting. These imaginary-symbolic-trapped folks paradoxically dismiss NDEs as just dying brain hallucinations, when the reverse is true. These same people are perhaps also most likely to consider "it's like a painting" the highest compliment they can give an outdoor vista. Or, if they behold some surreal carnage or high strangeness in the real, they note that "it's like something out of a movie" i.e. the more 'real' things get, i.e. outside their language's dismissive pincers, the more things get "like a movie."

(Divinorum Psychonauticus - March 4)

Imagine consciousness and 3D space time as a radio we got for Xmas. We've had it all our lives, and yet we don't even know that we can adjust the dial, change the channel to a different station from the one we're on, lets call it 'Hot 97 FM.' To the left and the right of the dial wait crazy radio stations that can take lifetimes to tune in, or can be found almost immediately on reception, only to be lost when we turn back to Hot 97 and then try to find them later. At the far end of one direction, we can tune into channels full of light and angels; god, loved ones who've departed, heaven. In the other direction, darkness and demons, in between, a million permutations. (more)

(May 6)

"There's a time to play Monopoly and a time to kick over the board and throw the play money in the air like we're motherfuckin' Scarface. Miami Blues (1990) is for that time. Those of us who love charismatic maniacs--especially when they're safely contained by distance, time, or screen--love this movie, for it has a great one. As hopelessly sane writers and artists we need the destructive playfulness that can only be found in certain rare 'awakened' megalomaniacs to spark our pens to life. Such a sparker is our Junior (Alec Baldwin). He is the expression of our id-unleashing dreams, a herald for the maniac renaissance of the early 90s: before Mr. Blonde, Mickey and Mallory Knox, Wendy Kroy, Hannibal Lecter, Tommy in Goodfellas, Harvey in Bad Lieutenant, Lisa in Girl, Interrupted... the was Junior. " (more)

And of course, Babes of Wrath, but I just wrote it last month, so it wouldn't be right to include it here.
(PS - I didn't know there was a Roller Derby team called that when I wrote the piece, but I'm glad - it's a great name)

1 comment:

  1. It's all great writing, but that horror post in particular gave me a lot of ideas. Much appreciated.


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