Thursday, March 31, 2011

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2010 - or, the year I made whom and to what degree I frankly have no idea

Social Network (dir-David Fincher)

Zombieland if the zombies were replaced with the internet {just as Adventureland is Zombieland with K-Stew (minus the vampires) instead of the zombies, if you follow}, or a internet-sploitation drama that, incredibly, isn’t shitty (I’m giving the evil eye to the Sandra Bullock/Dennis Miller vehicle The Net as I type that, for the record). As your substitute film professor, I have multiple gold stars to hand out to David Fincher, who somehow manages to make a compelling movie around a legal deposition, considering it’s not even a real trial, and especially considering movies revolving around even real trials are positively coma inducing (Anatomy of a Murder and 12 Angry Men notwithstanding).

Black Swan (dir-Darren Aronofsky)

Aronofsky synergizes
Repulsion-esque psychological horror with operatic nutty gothics, as cutie pie Natty Portman progresses from half blown ice queen to full blown nutbar. The film simultaneously aims for subtle and over the top (not the arm wrestling movie), and, while not smoothly integrated, it still achieves an unglamourous opera of the horrors of ballet, where both simple minutia (foot blisters) and more deep seeded horrors (freudian repression and the inability to love) collide in phantasmagoric chaos.

The Killer Inside Me (dir-Michael Winterbottom)

Erasing any doubt that Ben Affleck is the poor man’s Casy Affleck, the latter Affleck, fresh off his epic turncoat turn in
The Assassination of Jesse James, goes full blown psychopath (that's a nutbar that lacks empathy for others), true horror simmering beneath the surface, hidden behind the facade of a badge. Think of it as "Henry: Neo-noir Portrait of a Killer S & M Sheriff". Look for Kate Hudson as his erotically battered wife (she enjoys that sort of thing, although maybe she shouldn’t), showing once again that she might excel best in actual acting roles, rather than being shoehorned into some shoe shopping romcom vagina fest.

7. Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (dir-Manoel de Oliveira)

The purest cinematic expression yet of that elusive object of desire, where the human tragedy of the inherent distance between two people is rendered through simple visual poetry. Or, if you prefer, call it
Rear Window where the mystery is not a murder, but rather, the chasm between the fantasy of love and love's reality.

Ghost Writer (dir-Roman Polanski)

Roman Polanski with some good thriller material is fucking money in the bank, and here he indirectly reworks
The Ninth Gate, replacing Satan with the prime minister (if such a splitting of hairs can be made, natch). Genuine mystery and subtle political satire-fu ensues. You know, the powerful and the bourgeoisie are hiding something or whatever. That’s why they meet in bunkers.

Fish Tank (dir-Andrea Arnold)

Andrea Arnold goes into not-quite-full-blown Ken Loach mode, but adopts a genuinely female-ccentric point of view (look no further than 15-year-old Mia’s initial encounter with Michael Fassbender, his low cut jeans revealing sleek muscles and sleeker possibilities). Despite some familiar Loachian/neo-realist tropes, Katie Jarvis’ central performance transcends mere plot. Paraphrasing Andy Warhol, one's interest is maintained when such an interesting person is being photographed, her physical movements and mannerisms achieving a sort of Sporty Spice poetry that also doubles as a cover for a host of hidden insecurities.

. True Grit (dir-Coen Brothers)

A classical western infused with some patented Coen humor and
Blood Simple-esque violence of a messy sort (although I should’ve seen both of those coming). Hailee Steinfeld manages to go toe to toe with “The Dude” within a world ripped from America's genre past, before her parents were even born. As a result, she was awarded with a supporting actress nomination, despite being the centerpiece of every single fucking scene.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (dir-Werner Herzog)

Another doomed quest for yet another Herzogian eccentric, this time pitched as screwball existentialism. Consider it Herzog in a more playful and relaxed mode, while not sacrificing his great obsessions and trademark Werner-isms.

2. Blue Beard (dir-Catherine Breillat)

Two adorable little girls do their cutsie best to recant a feminist, Bresson-filtered version of the famous folk tale that builds to a brilliant horror fantastique collision between the inner psyche of a dark fable and the impressionable mind of a young innocent. The film also proves an effective counterbalance to the 1972 Richard Burton version, a mysoginist epic of retard camp (check that one out too if you can; it's fucking great).

1. Valhalla Rising (dir-Nicolas Winding Refn)

Fucking epic man. Like…whoa! I can feel it’s deepness in my toes! Boy…I’m getting hungry. Is the In and Out burger still on Radford? Oh wait, it's near Radford, isn't it? Shit. I give up.

Review here.

Honorable mentions, in no particular order:

A Prophet

The Runaways

The Fighter

Trash Humpers

Toy story 3

Let Me In

127 Hours

Enter the Void

How to Tra
in Your Dragon - speaking of which, for those that doubt the legitimacy of animated cinema (myself, for example, and maybe a few stodgy asshole film professors), check out the what the strong chick character (and object of the weak male hero's desires) is wearing! A fucking spiked leather mini-skirt with a belt made out of skulls? Sometimes I wish I was a chick, and I could wear something like that and head down to the renaissance fair and be knee deep in Thor-poon. Either way, it's friggin' awesome. Oh yeah, she also walks around carrying a battleaxe. Fucking genius.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

slumber party slaughter recap before I go to bed

In a world of decorum and human understanding, it takes balls to throw together a group of nubile young ladies in their nighties (or sometimes in a football jersey and panties, which is even hotter) and force them to combat the evils of a psycho killer hell bent on penetrating their supple flesh. Of course, I place an emphasis on the word "balls", being that we still reside in a patriarchal society where cocks rule the entertainment roost.

Here are several ripe examples that showcase this brave entertainment dynamic at work, assuming you think it's brave to go ahead and admit that babydolls and hacksaws get your primordial juices flowing.

Slumber Party Massacre
Slumber Party Massacre II
Slumber Party Massacre III
Sorority House Massacre
Sorority House Massacre II
The Last Slumber Party

P.S. I'm done. Really I am. I'm going to sleep, and fuck you if you have a problem with that. Nightie nightie nightmare, night dreams for those that night dare.

P.P.S. I'm losing my mind. BLAH!!!

THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY (1987) - indeed, it's the last of the slumber parties, having just been raped out of a beautiful dream

If Halloween is the blueprint for the slasher film, The Last Slumber Party is what happens when you photocopy that blueprint, photocopy that photocopy, and on and on, until the blueprint is a barely readable mess, mind bending in its abstract opacity. It is the nadir to Halloween’s zenith, an art form driven into the ground with such fierce abandonment as to demand begrudging respect, if not outright worship.

The “film” looks to be shot on 16mm and later edited on video, by a “cinematographer” who, incredibly, never manages a proper exposure throughout the entire film. This makes it look like the home movie that Christmas when grandma was given camera duties after getting totaled on egg nog. Also, certain insert shots look to be shot with a camcorder. I guess that’s what happens when you need to shoot 2nd unit and can only afford to rent one film camera. Flubbed lines are kept in the film, including one lengthy, shitty shot where three girls are walking. Our final girl, Chris, forgets her line, so she asks the other actress what her dialogue is. She says the line out loud, and Chris promptly repeats it and the scene continues. This would normally call for a second take in most movies, but the filmmakers wisely figured that, at this point, no one was going to give a shit. In fact, a happy accident is probably preferred to whatever horseshit was scripted to begin with.

Particularly annoying in the scripting department are the drunk mulletheads who keep jiving each other with facsimiles of “hey homo, grab me another beer!” I’d like to believe that this is meant as a critique of the male herd instinct, but maybe that’s just how real people talk. Chris also constantly chimes in on the manhood of the male characters, repeating facsimiles of “don’t be such a homo!”, ad nauseum.

So, basically, three girls are having a slumber party, and a killer surgeon is running around unconvincingly slitting people’s throats with a scalpel. Seven particular aspects shine through like beacons of hope, keeping it from the depths of being the fifth rate Slumber Party Massacre rip-off it’s clearly aiming for.

1. In particular, the twist ending, in which the following happens:

A. It was all a dream!

B. The killer surgeon is real, just like in the dream!

C. There is a second killer surgeon who appears and kills the first killer surgeon!

D. The final girl is harassed by her dead friend, just like in her dream!

E. She accidently kills an innocent victim in her understandably paranoiac state!

F. She kills the remaining killer surgeon (that would be surgeon number two) and survives!

G. The next morning, all of the bodies have disappeared from the house, and somebody has mopped up the blood with stunning thoroughness!

H. The lead girl’s father (a surgeon, but apparently not a killer??? maybe a red herring????) comes home, can’t find his daughter, and goes back to work, only to be killed by a third killer surgeon at the hospital!

I. The father’s body is magically transported from the hospital back to his house, and dumped in the swimming pool!

J. The daughter finds the body in the pool, and, all of a sudden, the killer surgeon (presumably the third one, but who the hell knows at this point) pops out of the water and slits her throat!

K. She wakes up and B. through J. was all a dream!

L. She utters the line “I just had a nightmare within a nightmare! I must be fucking crazy!!” (not exactly a twist, but I think it deserves its own slot regardless)!

M. The fourth killer surgeon appears, and this one appears to be “real” (I guess the other three were dream surgeons). Maybe it would be more accurate to say the real surgeon killer is the first one, and numbers 2-4 were the dream surgeons, but I’m not going back and changing it. Regardless…the slaughter continues!!!

N. The movie ends!!!

O. The credits start to roll!!!

P. During the credits, a metal song plays!!!

Q. The song is called “It’s Just a Nightmare”!!!

R. How apropos!!!

2. There is a Xanadu poster above a girl’s bed. She needs to hook up with the guy from the movie Deranged (1980) that sports a sleeveless Xanadu t-shirt. Oh wait, no, he’s gay. Never mind.

3. That metal song...and the other metal songs. Courtesy of Firstryke. Thanks boys.

4. The dance the girls do to a Firstryke song in which they hold each other’s shoulders and shake their heads in a confused yet deliberate manner.

5. Did I mention the band was called "Firstryke"?

6. Look how many fucking twists to the ending there are! Just look! A little ways up. Jesus H. Christ.

7. Oh yeah…it’s fucking spelled "Firstryke".

My brain hurts. Seriously. Fuck you people. I don't care anymore. I'm done.

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II (1990) - it's cleavers vs. cleavage and the result is Delta Delta deadly! (that's the actual tagline...swear to god)

Legendary cheesecake bard Jim Wynorski, despite following up a pretty straight forward Halloween rip-off, refuses to let go of his auterist stamp, maintaining a suffusion of genre camp and tits. This is further evidenced by the fact that SHM2 is mostly identical to another Jim Wynorski product, Hard to Die, which itself is billed as a rip-off of Die Hard, although it just feels like another Wynorski film like, say, Sorority House Massacre II. Hard to Die takes place in a high rise floor instead of a sorority house, and replaces stabbing implements with guns. Even the characters seem to be the same, although I don’t remember if they were wearing the same lingerie.

Robyn Harris, notable as being the only big breasted Hollywood exploitation starlet with a British accent, is seen complaining about being all cut up and stuff. We then flash backwards to a group of bombshells (also including genre superstar Melissa Moore) who have to transform some shit hole so-Cal house into a beer bong, panty raid haven of a sorority pad. Luckily for the audience, they have to stay the night despite the phone and electricity not being turned on. Melissa is confident the bottle of tequila she carries around will help them through any rough spots (my kind of gal). Curiously, there is a withered tree in the living room covered in Halloween store cob webs. Even more curious is the fact that some maniac killed his whole family at the same house five years earlier. The flannel clad, oversized retard neighbor comes over and tells the girls about the murders, using the Roger Corman pioneered strategy of using flashbacks to a film that has nothing to do with the film that they are being fitted into. It’s sort of like stock footage that lasts ten minutes long (in this case, the whole ending of Slumber Party Massacre).

The neighbor watches a clip of Corman’s Hollywood Boulevard and fingers through the various newspaper headlines of the killings (including an “Elvis Lives!” headline thrown in for good fun, or possibly pointing to a suspect). Two cops want to check out a call from the sorority house with no working phone, but are stymied by one of those typhoon-eque rain storms Los Angeles are famous for. One cop remembers the earlier murders, and mentions that “fingers were found in the sink, and scalps were found on the mantle”. He also mentions that the neighbor was a prime suspect. Uh oh.

Part of their investigation includes sitting in a strip club, where suicidal ex-porn star Savannah makes a “cameo”. They eventually interview a stripper, who apparently was present five years earlier in the Slumber Party Massacre stock footage. All of this is more important to the cops than visiting the house where a group of 32-year-old sorority girls are being murdered (the lead cop doesn’t finally show up until the next morning, just in time for the twist ending). Oh wait, I forgot…the rain. My bad.

Meanwhile, the girls investigate the creepy basement and find an ouija board. They do what any young buxom beauties would do; take showers (cleaning their breasts four or five times if needed), put on their nighties, chug some tequila, and try to contact the spirit of a psycho killer, amidst the crashing thunder and what not. The ouija pointer thing flies into the fireplace, creating a leaping fireball. This doesn’t concern the girls too much, and they hit the hay. The dark haired beauty in the see-through lingerie is miffed that her girlfriend starts boinking her man, so she grabs some tequila and decides to clear her head by investigating strange noises. She gets pierced by a hook, and this causes another strange disturbance which then requires further investigation, and so on and so forth. This includes a cool bit where one girl pops out from a bathtub filled with blood. Apparently, she was bathing in blood and fell asleep, like a lazy Countess Bathory or something. There is some twist ending supernatural bullshit, which I guess I should’ve seen coming considering the ouija fiasco from earlier.

So, while the first SHM was a dream based variation on Halloween, SHMII is simply a another variation on Wynorski-sploitation. No matter the genre or story idea, a true auteur always comes through with a genre of their own. Take, for example, Robert Bresson, one of the great French directors. Does he careen from the prison escape genre (A Man Escaped) to the sad animal genre (Au Hasard Balthazar)? No, he stays within the Bresson-sploitation genre, and the stories meet him on his own terms. It just so happens that the stories that seek out Mr. Wynorski usually involve buxom beauties wearing lingerie. I believe it was Ezra Pound that said "artists are the antennae of the human race", and Wynorski just happens to keep his big antennae erect at all times, just in case a signal comes sauntering by.

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986) - college sits at the crossroads of boredom and alcohol, while a Jungian ripoff of Halloween festers in a nearby ditch

With the title Sorority House Massacre, and it being another Corman production, you’d think they’d be ripping off Slumber Party Massacre, with maybe an innovative twist thrown in (like, instead of 18-year-old high school seniors showing their goodies before being slaughtered, we have 19-year-old college freshman). However, this is not the case. The filmmakers simply rip-off Halloween whole hog, with some admittedly cool dream sequences shoved in there, to please fans of movies that half-heartedly rip-off A Nightmare on Elm Street.

We open with final girl Beth, lying in a hospital, recanting a story within a framing device, a fable of Michael Myers-esque proportions, scored to a symphony of John Carpenter-isms. Beth is getting acquainted with her new sorority while a nutbagger at the local funny lodge is poised to escape and return to his home, which happens to be the previous incarnation of the sorority house (oops, I gave it away). Going to sleep in her new bed, a Police poster hangs above her head...

She starts dreaming of visions of the night, no longer a spirit in the material world. She approaches a mysterious house, and three little girls have a message in a bottle: get the shit outta dodge. She ignores their warning, because when the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around. She finds another four girls wearing chubby faced doll masks, sitting at a dinner table, perhaps symbolically positing that Beth should try and re-humanize herself. Well, apparently, everything she does is magic, as she telepathically causes blood to drip from the ceiling. Oh no, de do do do, de da da da, it’s actually coming from a bleeding bed upstairs. A bottle of marbles shatters on the floor in synchronicity, which I think symbolizes that you should never stand so close to me whilst being wrapped around someone’s finger, lest bringing on the night should drive you to tears.

Tea in the Sahara.

Well, Beth wakes up and is greeted by Sarah, her of the perky attitude and even perkier fruit print dress. Beth reveals that she has a scar from when she was young, but doesn't remember who or what caused it. She also has visions of a psycho sticking his knife through a mirror, and a school desk. Must be one of those foreshadowing deals. Beth also seems to be a bit aloof from the other girls, what with being all fucked up in the head and what not. They try to integrate her into normalcy by engaging in a dress-up montage, scored to tuneless sax solos and peeped upon by a Dee Snider poster. Seriously, I could sit through this montage if it ran for a full three hours. The eighties were truly the zenith of the “girls just want to have fun” montage we all know and love. I guess Cyndi Lauper took it with her when she fell out of favor with the gluttonous whore that is pop culture in general.

Back at the mental motel, the psycho crushes the skull of a male nurse, who is listening on his walkman to the same song that played during the montage in the previous scene, in some kind of brilliant post-modern cinematic overlap. Either that, or the nurse managed to snag a pre-release copy of the Sorority House Massacre soundtrack. Awesome. Meanwhile, the girls decide to get down to college business and do some drinking. They all talk about dream imagery, and specifically what Beth's dreams might signify, and resultantly provide exposition we already know. Across town, he psycho walks into a hardware store and steals a knife, just like in Halloween, but also stabs an employee, which totally doesn’t happen in Halloween. This might qualify as innovation, although Michael would have gladly stabbed an employee if the store wasn’t closed at the time.

Well, the girls set up a teepee sex and booze party, celebrating the gracious Native Americans, who let us permanently borrow their land for a giant national parade of tits and beer. Their respective boyfriends show up, except for Beth, who gets some blind party date. They all gather around the fireplace and talk about the stabber freak, who killed his mother, father, and little sisters in that very house, 13 years earlier. Beth decides to take a nap and sees the killer come into the room and stab the top bunk, further foreshadowing the obvious. Our killer finally shows up in a stolen station wagon (the same fucking vehicle that was used in Halloween) and goes to work, stabbing the shit out of anyone who dares attempts to start a collegiate lifestyle at the very abode where he killed his entire family for no reason. Comic relief comes in the form of a dude whose girlfriend gets hacked up while they’re getting it on in the teepee, and he spends the rest of the movie running around naked, monumentally nonplussed about the whole situation. In the end, our heroine vanquishes the villain and ends up in the hospital, recovering from her trauma and revving up for the sequel. Unfortunately for her, the killer jumps out from behind a curtain…but of course, it was all a dream. I guess I should’ve seen that coming. Jesus fucking Christ.

In a way, life is merely a dream, and dreams are merely little detours, or maybe glimpses into some alternate life. Or maybe, just maybe, a collection of expository passages in a horror film, peppered with blood dripping from the walls and creepy fucking kids. After all, it was Carl Jung himself that said “don’t ignore your subconscious, especially when it’s repeatedly stating the obvious”. Of course I'm paraphrasing. Great thinkers use fancy words, and fancy words cause the common man great headaches, and I'm just trying to help.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III (1990) - Maria Ford versus a driller killer, and the winner is...YOU! (assuming you're a degenerate male pig)

The movie begins with a drawn out volleyball game (incredibly, it isn’t stock footage), with some girl eventually getting drilled through the seat of her car. To distract us from the complicated mechanics of the plot, further padding ensues with a driving montage through Santa Monica and Venice. I have to say, it’s nice to see a Slumber Party/Sorority House Massacre movie finally embrace its so-Cal roots.

This particular party includes the semi-legendary Maria Ford in an amazing Motley Crue groupie wig. Of course, she immediately starts stripping to some borderline hair metal, which is exactly the kind of thing you would see on the Sunset Strip circa 1990 (or now, for that matter). These awesome shenanigans are, of course, interrupted by three schmucks in horror masks who show up unceremoniously, later accompanied by several more "male gazers". You may have noticed a recurring theme within the Slumber Party Massacre series, that when hot girls put on nighties and start pillow fights, men start showing up as if their penises were compasses, hoping to catch a glimpse or two of a wayward beaver.

Thankfully, one of the schmucks manages to convince a girl to go full rumpage while some righteous rawk plays in the background. Unfortunately, she happens to be shot with a ridiculous body double. Watch as her hair changes color and also goes from straight to curly when her tits pop on screen. She also takes a bath, but unfortunately, a mad killer tosses in a plugged-in vibrator, and her body double gets zapped by a dildo. The group find the body and call the cops, but they pull the old “you kids better quit crank calling us porkers, we have important donuts to attend to” bit. Two of the guys decide to head to a construction site to grab some weapons, but one of them turns on the other, proving himself to be a prime suspect. He also has a van that contains a traditional candlelit psycho altar, which makes things convenient, as you don’t have to drag bodies to wherever your altar located. Also, he shows up back at the house and starts killing everyone, further arousing suspicion.

At one point, the lovely Maria offers up her tits to avoid getting drilled through the head, even getting stripped down to her g-string as a peace offering of sorts. Unfortunately, the rouse proves unsuccessful, as the killer must not be the fan of films like Stripteaser and Naked Obsession that I am. However, the girls manage to knock him unconscious and craftily trap him in a volleyball net, intending to drag him to those worthless cops, who will probably let him hang out in a mental facility for a couple of years before he escapes (assuming they ever get off donut duty). Of course, he jumps up and attacks, in full undying killer mode, and, just like the first movie, the lead girl savagely kills him with his own drill. However, she sheds tears during this animalistic display of survival, as apparently chicks have feelings even when they are killing people. The motive for this carnage lies in a photograph resting in the killer’s shirt pocket, but, frankly, I wasn’t paying attention. I'm sure it all made perfect sense within a scholarly psychological framework.

The director keeps thing innovative by using an extra red herring, and also by having the killer revealed half way through the film, as opposed to ten minutes before the end. I tend to think that the director was not too interested in the story as it was, so she wanted to inject some "freshiness" into the proceedings. It turns out I was right, as she's interviewed in the awesome documentary Some Nudity Required, complaining about having to direct a slasher movie. She points out the various misogynistic qualities inherent in these films, that torturing a naked woman before cutting her in half is exploitative and demeaning, blah blah. At least these films provide opportunities to young female directors. Feminism is about equal opportunities for women, after all, and this includes the right to make a movie about naked women being penetrated with a power drill. I know this seems contradictory and back asswards, but such revolutionary forward thinking occasionally requires one to think outside of the box.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (1987) - a nightie nightmare on Elm Street, or the Bangles stripped down to their Freudian slips

A girl is dreaming about a shirtless football hero, but her idyllic fantasy is interrupted by rapid fire clips of Slumber Party Massacre 1 and 2. It’s rare that a Corman production uses stock footage from its own film, but I guess it had to happen sometime. The lead girl doesn’t make the connection, and drives off to class with her friend. They’re in an all-girl band together, and we get a taste of their music when they bust into a rendition of “Tokyo Convertible”, which is somehow a metaphor for love. They are getting together for a slumber party practice weekend, and hopefully lead girl Courtney will get over the horrors of Slumber Party Massacre part 1 (and getting recast). Her sister, who also survived the first film, unfortunately does not have the benefit of the mental cleansing that comes with being able to express yourself within a slumber party pop band that sounds like a tone deaf Bangles, and, henceforth, resides in a loony bin.

Courtney continues to have stock footage filled dreams, as she is still trying to overcome her trauma (and also the movie is post-Nightmare on Elm Street). Included in these visions is a sub-Freddy Krueger, sub-Andrew "Dice" Clay rock ‘n roll greaser, with a ridiculous heavy metal drill guitar (ridiculous because a rockabilly guy would never use such a guitar; I’m not even gonna comment on it having a drill on the end). Eventually these dreams spill into hallucinations, as she starts seeing exploding zits and evil rubber chickens and the like. Eventually, they even call the cops on account of these hallucinations, and officer Krueger (figures) does the usual asshole pork routine, and runs off to Denny’s with his “partner”.

Well, the party gets off to a slamming start when these “17-year-olds” party down with twenty bottles of champagne, just in time for Rock ‘n Roll High School to play on television. This leads not to a lesbian orgy, but rather, the next best thing; a dancing montage leading in to a strip pillow fight. Of course, two boys show up to sneak a peek and eventually get drilled. I’m pretty sure it was worth it. Eventually, the greaseball manifests in the “real” world, cracking wise into the camera and even breaking out into a breakdance musical routine (he also kills people). The constant novelty of the dream sequences for the first two-thirds of the movie means that no suspense is being built up, but leaving all the murders for the end is kinda cool, although the inexplicable antics of the killer tends to bring things to a halt. Of course, there is an unintelligible dream-within-a-dream twist ending, there to shock those in the audience who have long since discarded any desire to follow narrative logistics.

There must be some reason why a rockabilly killer is shoehorned into the movie, and the answer has suddenly dawned on me. Courtney’s band may not be the emotional outlet it appears to be. Have you ever listened to a Bangles record for cathartic reasons? I rest my case. The rockabilly asshole is the trauma of a shattered innocence coming home to roost. The lesson here is, if you’re gonna commit to an art form, just be honest with yourself. Don’t re-shovel some pabulum about Tokyo convertibles. So, when you see a Honda Civic, it’s usually a hardtop. Once in a while you see one that’s a convertible. Who gives a shit?

On second thought, watching that clip, I feel a little better about myself and my position in life. Granted, it's probably just a temporary salve, but I'll take what I can get. So, maybe the Bangles CAN be cathartic, but a tone deaf Bangles absolutely cannot. Here's another clip that is probably irrelevant:

Now I feel GREAT!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) - proving once again that sexy slumber parties are a futile medium for feminist ideals

The score begins with some “Night on Bald Mountain”-esque keyboard noodling, creating an atmosphere of imminent synthdoom. Some asshole paperboy interrupts a tranquil suburban morning by delivering a paper that contains the headline “Killer of Five Escapes!”. For the illiterates in the audience, a radio alert confirms that, indeed, there is a nutter run amok. Oh yeah, and the movie is called Slumber Party Massacre. I guess I really should have expected the worst from the get go.

Unlike myself, the citizens of whatever the fuck town this is seem pretty oblivious to these warning signs. Young Trish is a swell example. She’s nubile and carefree, rocking out to some pussified Jethro Tull nonsense and flashing her tits. She grabs a paper bag full of dolls and tosses them into a garbage can on her way to school, and a mysterious hand saves one of the unwanted Barbies from an unceremonious grave. Surely this represents Trish’s denouncement of her innocent girlhood, and her ascension to freewheelin’ teenage harlot, the kind that has no qualms about showing her tits to a vast theatre filled with strangers.

We’re now at an all-American high school, and two boys are hitting on the girl that repairs the phone lines, because, quite frankly, she has a pulse. She apparently "doesn’t need a man", and promptly gets drilled through the head by the killer. I guess she just needed a good “drilling” after all. Either that, or it’s free lobotomy day on campus. Meanwhile, they’re holding tryouts for the girl’s basketball team, which is an opportunity to observe some short shorts and truly piss poor ball handling. It also provides legitimate narrative basis for an awe inspiring shower scene, complete with a close up of Brinke Steven’s glorious ass. The girls soap up their keisters and mention that Trish is throwing a party, which a character later mentions will be replete with "Doritos, No Doz, and crystal meth”; a far cry from the usual warm, shitty beer you get with most high school parties. They also talk about whether or not their titties are growing because, let's face it, high school girls have their troubles like everyone else. Valerie the nerd is apparently not welcome to attend the festivities, as she is probably too busy reading books or whatever to worry about her cup size.

Here's a Helix video featuring Brinke and Traci Lords as well. There's actually a version of the video with nudity, albeit with some underage Traci nudity, so you may not want to bother tracking it down. Pervert. Oh, and I realize that the song is shitty. Thank you.

Later on, a girl is being stalked by someone, but it turns out to be her football player boyfriend, whom she flips over on his back. We learn he is not invited to the party because:
A. he is a boy
B. he gets tossed around by a girl like he’s a rag doll, so he must be a pretty shitty football player
C. quite frankly, he is lame

The ladies basketball coach heads home, but a drill suddenly protrudes from the door. Well, it's just another lady worker putting in a peephole this time. Looks like the male carpenter and electrician unions must be on strike. Trish also gets grabbed from behind and frightened by a "family friend", and coach gets another false scare when she opens the closet and a cat jumps out with frisky abandon. As if it wasn’t already clear, Slumber Party Massacre is the grand friggin’ champion of false scares. Everyone is sneaking up on each other, objects are always falling over, and every asshole cat and dog in the neighborhood is poised to pounce on any teenagers in the nearby vicinity.

Well, the girls show up to the slumber party with beer and weed, proclaiming "we're here for the orgy!". My kind of party. Incredibly, the party is being chaperoned by a family friend, but apparently only as a front to be able to get in on the action. While the party goes on, there are two sisters in the house next door, and the two horny schmucks from earlier, who hang outside and try to, god willing, catch a whiff of a nipple or two. Slumber party attendee Diane calls her boyfriend to talk about the vertical shuffle, while the other girls listen in on her conversation. Diane contends that "her first amendment rights have been violated", but, as we all know, the right to party trumps the right to free speech. The power then goes out, courtesy of the two nerdwads messing with the fusebox. Apparently, they think that when a bunch of high school girls in their nighties are left alone in the dark, they will have sex with each other. God I hope so.

Instead, they order some pizza, the bill coming to six bucks for a couple of pies. Christ that’s a deal. They open the door, and the pizza boy has been drilled through the eyes, so he promptly falls over. No wonder it’s so cheap, with service like that. Unfortunately, the killer cuts the phone line, so now the girls are without power or the ability to have some more phone sex. Coach and the neighbor girl check in on the party, and the remainder of the movie involves these characters walking around and investigating in the dark and occasionally getting some more drill action. The killer finally gets his comeuppance when they “castrate” his big drill and impale him with a machete. You’d think this display of female empowerment, the disabling of this phallic tyranny, would lead to an eruption of joy and a celebration of conquering spirit. Not really. The girls all sit around and cry about, boo hoo, their friends being dead. I guess it’s true, that females having feelings and shit.

Surprisingly, Slumber Party Massacre, a movie about young girls showcasing their mammary portions and/or getting slaughtered, is directed by a woman. Even more surprising, it’s written by feminist author Rita Mae Brown. You might have noticed a copy of her book Rubyfruit Jungle forced in as product placement. Apparently, she wrote a brilliant feminist satire, but it was rewritten by male pigs only interested in exploiting female flesh. Even in a film that culminates in a castration of the male intruder, there was no avoiding getting fucked in the ass by the patriarchal bottom line. Also, lead actress Robin Stille (who played older sister Valerie) later committed suicide, her last film role being the female lead in American Ninja 4. Maybe if she had starred in an intelligent female-centric manifesto, as opposed to a titty hack party, she might have gone on to bigger and better things, realizing her Hollywood dreams. Such is the cruel irony of chance, presented under the guise of fate. Or, shit happens and people die. Whichever you prefer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) - making film critics smack themselves in the head so you don't have to

Here's a trailer. I've written the review figuring you've either seen the movie or at least have a passing familiarity with the plot.

"Over time, has any film veered more toward kitsch than Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey of 1968? Now, seen in the actual 2001, it's less a visionary masterpiece than a crackpot Looney Tune, pretentious, abysmally slow, amateurishly acted and, above all, wrong".

TMNT, 2007): "…as a piece of film design, the movie is first-rate; on sheer aesthetics alone, it rivals Triumph of the Will for astonishments".
-Stephen Hunter, Washington Post

It is the near sighted and the disingenuous that base the worth of science fiction on how accurate it’s surface elements predict the future. If a film is only to be appreciated for it’s predictive powers, why even bother watching it at the time of it's release? Just wait for the corresponding future date in which the film is set and take notes of all the surface science facts you can gleam, checking off whether or not they correspond to current reality. In my review for
Metropolis, I joked that Orwell’s 1984, on the very short list of the most important novels ever written (important to the human race, that is), is to be dismissed because the cinematic images of clothing during the actual year of 1984 were colorful instead of gray and drab.

Well, most good science fiction is both about NOW and where things are headed, presented in the form of ideas. The literal minded might not get it, or the disingenuous might pretend to be utterly literal minded, but fiction is not necessarily meant to be taken literally. Sometimes these ideas are presented through metaphor or irony to highlight the idea itself, separate from the surface that surrounds it. Is it that much of a stretch to make the comparison between the telescreens in
1984 and the television set, whose programs and advertising mold the reality of the viewers? These connections don't always require a lot heavy lifting, mentally speaking.

One might assume Hunter's comparison between
TMNT and Triumph of the Will to be a bit of critical irony, an askew connection, if you will, pointing out that pop spectacle can be it’s own propaganda by means of diversion. However, reading the full review, this doesn’t appear to be the case. No, apparently empty spectacle is empty spectacle, whether starring the Third Reich or a team of turtles that kick people in the head. Anybody who claims to be digging deeper is a pretentious asshole, sitting alone in a tragically hip coffee shop wearing a tragic little beret.

I guess any discussion of
2001 begins with a discussion of the monolith. Well, it’s clear from the novel that the monolith was planted by an alien race in order to inspire higher intelligence within the apes, allowing them to evolve into the human race. Whether a gift from aliens or a gift of natural evolution, the monolith represents the higher forms of the human rational mind. This has enabled man to process information much like our modern supercomputers, leading to the creation of all manners of sophisticated technology.

This technological advancement hits a saturation point of sorts when the HAL9000 supercomputer attempts to murder the astronauts in order to protect itself. Technology has caught up with it's creators, with tragic results. The computer views it’s own survival as being more important than the lives of a couple of humans, a far cry from it's intended role as a tool to serve mankind. The acting of the two astronauts is underplayed to reflect humanity becoming more robotic as HAL becomes more human, worrying about self preservation and even singing a song. The acting is “amateurish” only if you take the narrow view that acting is only about a certain kind of emotional identification where you can grow to like someone, as if you're spending time with a virtual friend. This dynamic between man and machine is also a great example of Kubrickian irony, that of a computer becoming more human than it’s creators. Irony is present throughout for those willing to open their eyes. Witness the man made spaceships that dance through space as if in a ballet, yet remain cold, mechanical, and potentially destructive.

The higher intellectual functions, reasoning and complex language, is what separates man from ape. With this power, man has created these most beautiful and amazing structures, sophisticated tools to achieve goals once thought unattainable. However, losing sight of this amazing gift, the people in the film have become machines themselves, sort of inferior versions of HAL. The monolith could be viewed as a culture shock, a reminder of the miracle of humanity, and this failed space odyssey as an opening of the eye on unchecked technological growth. As Tyler Durden might say, the things you own end up owning you. Not that it’s okay to go around blowing stuff up, although it looks like heck of a lot of fun, explosions and ski masks and mayhem and shit.

The film inspires us to stand outside of technological progress, both in terms of being able to understand it’s mechanisms and effects, but also to stand in beauty and awe. Think of it as a technological opera intended for our human side. Yes, it’s “slow” if your scanning for plot information, connecting point A to B like a computer program, or "pretentious" if you're the kind of monkey that wishes everyone would just keep things simple. Or maybe you're just the kind of monkey that doesn't like the movie. That's fine. Speaking of which, I NEED one of those ape suits. You ever see those guys in chicken suits that stand in front of a restaurant, beckoning passersby to partake of the company poultry? I've always wanted to put on an ape suit and stand next to the chicken guy, holding a sign that shows a cartoon chicken with a line through it. One might assume that I intend this to be some sort of street art, showing the emptiness of certain types of protest, but really, I just think it's fucking funny. Of course, I could never afford one of the realistic suits used in the film, but I'd be perfectly happy with a ratty, ill fitting ape suit anyway. You know, I could probably find one on eBay right now, order it, get the two day priority shipping, and be getting into monkey trouble by the weekend. Fucking technology is awesome.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Movies I wanna see: STREETWALKIN' (1985)

Now that Melissa Leo has one of those Oscar things, we can look back to her first starring role in Streetwalkin'. The tag line is: "she dropped out of high school this morning...tonight she's a Times Square hooker". That's pretty much all I need to know folks. The tagline vaguely reminds me of the Angel series, another series of sleazy 80's schoolgirl hooker flicks. Also, Antonio Fargas plays a pimp in the movie. You gotta love an actor who absolutely, positively has never played a role that didn't involve hookers and a feather boa.

This was released on VHS in an uncut version and an R-rated version, but the unrated version is pretty scarce it seems, and I'm not interested in no R-rated hackjob. I could miss out on some Melissa Leo nudity, or maybe Antonio cutting some hooker's head off or something. You know, the "good stuff".