Friday, July 16, 2021

Shark Weeks and Triangle Weekends: An Acidemic Summer Reading List

 It's Shark Week on Discovery; and the ingeniously original "Sharkfest" on Nat-Geo (Streaming on Disney+!), in other words, more than ever, it's the right time to stay home in the AC, reaching to the slimy bottom of of your nigh-empty COVID excuse bucket to ward off pool and beach invites. By now you've gleaned summer is my least favorite season, I loathe the sticky heat (being half-Nordic). I am a big fan of doing the Huysmans A Rebors style beach trip, i.e. moving my easy chair so I can doze off with the afternoon sun hitting me square in the face through a (closed) window, coconut oil below my nose (to give the illusion of suntan lotion), eyes closed, the roar of the shark show surf swimming in my ears... the resultant sensory canvas all but gives me that sudden drop ghost feeling you get sometimes while dozing off after spending a long time frolicking in the surf, all with the AC blasting.  So you know the drill. I'm a big fan of the shark week and the shitty-CGI-hottie-scientist Syfy channel shark movies, which have been slyly crushing the Bechdel test right in front of the unwitting faces of 'the Man.' I could write everything I've written all over again, but instead, to make it easy for you, dear reader, I've rounded up a list of everything you need to surf.... safely limb-wise, but dangerously psyche-wise:

(Nov. 2013)

The point is, SHARKNADO comes along, and a Ferris wheel rolls into the side of a four story international style apartment building like it's no big deal. Charlton Heston might drag that Ferris wheel roll out to three hours, but this film rushes along past it. Sharks in the bar, sharks in the traffic jam; "It's like old faithful!" as water shoots up from the sewers. "We're gonna need faith to get through that" over a flooded dip under an overpass. A douchebag boyfriend of the sulky daughter says: "Even if it is the storm of the century, Beverly Hill's rescue services are second to none!" And then he looks out the window, sees a shark in the swimming pool and before he can react a wave crashes through into the living room and his head gets bit off. And there was much rejoicing. If you ever played the game as kids where you had to be halfway up the stairs or on a chair or couch to avoid getting eaten by a carpet shark then yes you are in bad movie heaven. If the leader of the survivors, Finn, is a typical bleeding heart idiot who has to stop to help everyone, even school buses that look empty. "This is your problem, Finn!" bemoans the weary ex-wife (Tara Reid) - and we kind of agree, but then Boom! Turns out --there's scared kids in there, and a TJ Miller-ish bus driver way out of his depth! You saved another busload from the shahks, Finn! (more) 

(August 16, 2014)

That Fin was an ex-lifeguard gave him an excuse for his chronic rescuing out west. His idiot desire to rescue his family before they knew they were in danger was offset with a Hawksian sense of real time and tidal surge momentum. We followed the incoming flood from his bar on the beachfront to the boardwalk, the parking lot, downtown, and inland and up into the Hills. A tangible rainy vibe was to be found in their impromptu getaway car; the windshield wipers and radio traffic delays, snarls and very LA dialogue about traffic ("I hate the 405") meshed perfectly with the conversation on where to go from there, creating a vibe familiar to anyone who's ever left a drunken party with a new maskeshift tribe piling into the car to head off to a second location.  We had John Heard as the comic relief, bashing sharks with his barstool; barmaid Nova (Cassandra Scerbo - above left) brandishing shotgun and shark scar backstory; wingman Jason Simmons helping with the heavy lifting and car rentals; Finn doing the posturing. Together they raced with the inward tide as it filled the streets and stalled highway traffic with sharks and flotsam, leading to exit ramp winch rescues, and various members of his party being eaten. 

In short, SHARKNADO had a lot of things going for it the sequel lacks. (full)

July 27, 2015
Subtextual pro-NRA ultra neoconservative Army recruitment tool or no, watching Tara Reid give birth while falling through Earth's atmosphere inside a giant flaming shark, Fin cutting a whole so the parachutes can get through, it's tough to stay mad at America. Reid's skin looks much better, by the way, than in previous episodes. And it's great to see Nova again, especially all militarized like that. I just hope the Syfy/Asylum brain trust wise up and give Nova her own local girl vs. shark series. She's that old animal flesh creeping back again, a thumb in the eye of the CGI Moreau! Second Amendment 4-Eva! (more)
(June 30, 2016)
It used to be just a hodgepodge of dull oceanographers tagging and mapping trans-oceanic migrations, puncture-aided by AIR JAWS, which was three or four great "strikes" of a whale-sized Great White breaching up and clomping down on a stack of seal-shaped tires, over and over, which is bound to be aggravating for the shark, wasting much energy (I always feel bad - were the sharks compensated for their effort? Were substantial fish subsidies paid from the stern?). But the whole week has been getting better every year, with shit aimed so close to me and stoners of a certain age group that it's like Discovery Channel has been reading our dinosaur minds or admiring the numbers on SHARKNADO. Every year there's more cool shit--including endless tie-in advertisements and cross-channel synergy-- aimed so precisely at my demographic that I feel like I'm getting high with all of America. Eli Roth hosts shark talk shows. Andy Samberg does weird trickster post-modern count-downs. SHARK CITY chronicles dishy encounters between a few residents of the local food chain in and around a sunken freighter. Mmy favorite so far: SHARKS OF THE SHADOWLAND and its trio of badass New Zealand government conservationist divers subjecting themselves to the ceaseless group attacks by weird-looking sharks called sevengills, all in the name of battling sea weed plagues!  (more)
(August 15, 2018)
Consider Angie Teodoro Dick as the wild neopagan she-shaman with the spear (above), leader of the rogue New Orleans voodoo style outpost, who deals with the advancing shark issue by a kind of savage STOMP!(TM) performance on the floating docks, drawing the sharks in so she and her warriors can stab them with old-timey whaling harpoons. The warrior's spirited growling and chanting and thumping goes on about three minutes too long, but the bad vibe created by their eventual senseless shark slaughter is interesting in context.. (more)
(August 2, 2019)
For reasons known only to them, Syfy isn't deluging us with their Asylum and Offshoot giant and mutant shark movies this summer. Maybe because they don't have a Deep Blue Sea 3- Blewing Deeper, or an Arctic Sharktadon vs. Lobsterdamus (the visionary lobster who predicts a scalding, buttery armageddon), or Sharknado 7 - Drowning Around. It doesn't matter, as no fan of this genre would remember having seen all their back catalogue, even if they had. And most are still either Syfy 'on demand' or Amazon Prime. So just play catch up and leave it to me to make the notes, together we'll remember everything worth remembering... which is nothing. Isn't it (finally) wonderful?..(cont)

(Sept. 18, 2019)
...if the Jennie the Mermaid element of the film was all done as some kind of Harvey-Walter Mitty style fantasy, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. I would have never watched it. Unless it's Sherlock Jr., I have no interest in movies about the cinematic dream lives of workaday schmucks. Instead, by revealing nothing whatsoever the Depths delivers the full mythic power of an actual dream, the kind spend the rest of our lives trying to get back to. The Bermuda Depths is one of the few films to ever tap fully into the true power of anima projection. The filmmakers know that if there was some big twist at the end, i.e. a mad scientist is behind it all and/or it's a scam (and the scammer would have got away with it if not for those rascally kids), or if the film relied on any rational or even metaphysical 'explanation' for the mysteries, it would be totally lame. But the way it's all filmed, the way the story goes down, it never loses its Jungian "on-the-one" beat, where the film itself is a dream from which there is no waking, only a renouncement of one layer of the dream, which may or may not be a transition to adulthood, for another. (more)

"Furthering the sunglasses and turquoise Florida ecstasy-dilated forward kinetic momentum of Spring Breakers, Korine keeps rolling even though he's too old to party with the club kids. They're exhausting, and so violent, so he's moved into the headspace of a grizzled old stoner, bopping down the Keys, click-clacking the words, and spreading poetry instead of violence. Unless you count poetry as violence, or think the occasional cold cocking a disabled person somehow immoral. Moondoggie (Matthew McConaughey) doesn't and if Harmony disagrees, he ain't 'breakin." He and the Doggie are sailing with the ocean wind at full speed and damned the too torpedoed to keep up with the headlong momentum of a poetic madman high on an everything that comes his way,  Swapping out Breakers' Saint Pete for the party-hearty Key West - a 24/7 raging town where everyone knows and loves the Moondog (no relation to the famous NYC street musician - except perhaps subliminally), the mood is strictly amniotic and delusional. Here's a guy famous--in Florida no less--for being a poet!" (full)

(re; UP FROM THE DEEP): Longtime Corman scriptwriter Charles B. Griffith directs with a nice leisurely (i.e. fairly inept) hand, figuring that if he follows the Jaws chalk marks while sneaking in hipster gags and soaking up the tropical charm (it's shot in the Philippines, but set in Hawaii), he can coast by without barely doing a thing at all. But his camera is so sloppily placed it seems like half the movie is going on in the background while the foreground lingers on a couple of tourist stereotypes shooting the shit (post-synced) at the lobby pamphlet rack. The action picks up once the death toll is so high that greedy hotel manager Forbes can no longer hissy fit it away so he ingeniously offers a cash prize for the monster's head, prompting a run on the Tiki lounge's decorative spears; visiting the gun counter at the local pawn shop. That's when it gets real Mad Magazine: a Japanese salaryman busts out a samurai sword, doing moves out on the rocks while two guys in full frogman suits walk backwards down the hotel stairs, and so on. It would almost come off like a savage satire of American second amendment zeal if it was filmed with a bit more panache. (more)

(on BLUE CRUSH) "The common critical response to the film at the time was that the awesome photography more than made up for the trite story and bland acting, but most (male) critics have a hard time accepting truly free girl characters. If you can look past the surface colloquialisms this is practically a Howard Hawks film for young women: overlapping dialogue, strong camaraderie, a good sense of continuity, issues of courage, maturity and professional nobility. Best of all, the issue of romance getting in the way of your dreams–yeah you heard me, ladies: romance getting in the way of your dream, instead of romance being your dreams-–is handled with care and ballsy skill." (more)

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