Beetlejuiced

September 13, 2006

Beetlejuice. Ahhhh, Beetlejuice. How well I recall the evening my parents, uncharacteristically savvy of pop culture, rented Beetlejuice for an evening of family entertainment, having heard it was supposed to be “really fun.”

How well I recall the experience of watching Beetlejuice for the first time, which was not unlike being dipped in a vat of boiling terror: The bannister that turns into a snake! The giant worms living outside the house! The terrifying facial contortions (literally!) of Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin! Worst of all: THE SHRIMP COCKTAIL THAT ATE PEOPLES’ FACES.

And this from a kid who LIVED for bizarre, sick shit. Harryhausen’s Medusa: beheaded, falling forward, gluey red junk pouring out of her stump of a neck? Loved it. Ghostbusters’ devil dogs attacking Sigourney Weaver from inside an easy chair? Bring it on! Watching the scene in The Dark Crystal where the emperor skeksis decomposes into little chunks, my aunt inquiring if I’m ok, if I’m a little scared by it–my response? “Oh, that happens all the time.”

What the hell was it about Beetlejuice then? Was it the fact that everything was like a sick funhouse, and I already had an overwhelming fear of clowns? Actually…that might be it. In fact, I think that’s exactly why Beetlejuice terrified me so: I knew it was supposed to be funny (like I know clowns are ‘supposed to be funny’) and I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was a god damned horror movie.

One more of life’s mysteries: solved.

Incomplete sentences: brought to you by Netflix

September 1, 2006

PCU

Totally functions as a piece of early-nineties nostalgia, still has some amazingly funny dialog. Will forever be cherished for introducing both “Don’t be that guy” and a proto-Ari Gold into the cultural lexicon.

No characterization whatsoever. During supposed ‘nice moment’ at end where the Piv gets back with his womyn, spend the entire scene actively not caring.

Makes one reflect on Animal House as actual good piece of screenwriting that it is. Movie is ALL ABOUT characters changing: Otter getting the shit kicked out of him, Pinto getting laid, Flounder sacrificing car, Bluto bagging Babs.

Realizing Animal House is good example, though counterintuitive, feels good. Validating. Like finding out the Deltas flossed regularly.

Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority: 2; Kate: 0

August 24, 2006

I wiped out on the stairs at Downtown Crossing today. It was one of those brilliantly clear moments experienced in slow motion: Death Cab for Cutie was wailing plaintively on my ipod, my usually beloved Reef sandals became more than fond of the edge of the top step, and suddenly, like an albatross unwillingly thrust into a moment of perfect grace, I fell up, bashed my knee on the tile, and skidded forward on my thigh and my arm until I was turned around enough to see the young lad behind me offering my sandal–the betrayer who had loved that step more than it loved my foot.

Had this been a Nora Ephron movie, we would have captivated each other with some pithy comments, decided we half-believed in fate, skipped work to go on a whirlwind tour of lovely Boston, and fallen in love by the time we got around to gorging on cannoli in the North End.

But this is life in Boston, and, according to Forbes, as a career girl, I’m MAN POISON, so all that happened was that I got my sandal back and a few kind inquiries into whether or not I was injured. (For the record, nothing was hurt; and not even my pride. This kind of thing happens too often for me to really care anymore.)

And I’m not normally one to grouse re: the dearth of romance in my life. Not that he was particularly cute, my sandal saviour. I’m just wondering why must I be saddled with the pratfall conventions of the romantic comedy but NONE OF THE ROMANCE?

Oh, right–I’m MAN POISON. Thank you, Forbes, for reminding me precisely why I have standards–and if you’re too thick to figure out what I mean, Mr. Noer, those standards include not dating guys who think like you.

Forbes: Giving Props to the Ladies Like it’s 1955

Wicker? I hardly know ‘er!

August 12, 2006

Here be spoilers, yarrrrgh!

Tonight at the Marquee: The Wicker Man

The Deets:
1973
Directed by Robin Hardy
Starring Christopher “Kicking Ass Since 1922” Lee, Britt “Perky Bubbies” Eklund, and a lot of Scottish locals

An uptight Christian Scot walks into a pagan ceremony…
Sgt. Howie, straightlaced to the point of exsanguination, travels to a remote island in the British Isles to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Unbeknownst to our stalwart man of the law, the locals are practicing neo-pagans. Naturally, ancient rites, choreographed musical numbers, and Christopher Lee in drag ensue.

Nice try, Howie, but NO DICE.
Yeah, The Wicker Man. Dude, this movie is effed. And it’s actually a really good movie, ‘really good’ in the sense that

a) I couldn’t look away,
b) everyone speaks in a lovely brogue,
c) there’s hella nakedness,
d) I’ve honestly never seen another movie like it, and
e) it reveals the eerie crossroads where Saruman meets Cher:

If I could turn back tiiiiime
I’m including it in the Marquee because watching this movie caused me literal pain. I’d already spoiled myself on the ending (curse me and my insatiable desire to KNOW EVERYTHING AHEAD OF TIME) and it still totally gave me the heebies. To the point where I’m thinking about it days later, mulling over what the movie has to say about faith and ritual and hypocrisy and religion and bioengineered produce and spontaneous folk singing and dead bunnies and breastfeeding in cemeteries.

And on top of the impact of the actual content of the film, it got me thinking about why people (myself included) like experiencing things that hurt us. Knowing the end, as I did–knowing that it’s really pretty horrible and upsetting–I thought: hey, that sounds like a GREAT movie to Netflix! Call it masochism as entertainment. It’s the same impluse I have for writing this post–processing it by passing it on, getting it out of my system and into someone else’s (hi, reader!). I’m dying to spoil this for you, but if you know anything about pagan ceremonies you might have a general idea of where the whole mess ends up.

Festive patchwork vest by Christopher & Banks: comfortable fashion for the classroom, the office, and the human sacrifice
To which I posit the question: why would anybody want to see that? Or, in a less gramatically correct but catchier Carrie Bradshaw way: why do we hurt the one we love, when the one we love is us?

The key point to note here is that we’re enjoying the pain of this movie via a movie. It’s safe. It’s on a screen, physically apart from us and unaware of our presence. It’s voyeurism, and in the particular case of The Wicker Man, it’s voyeurism into a fact of life that America’s Puritanical roots have spent centuries trying to quash: sex, like death, is an inextricable part of life. You can’t deny it, and, while an individual may abstain, a society will die if you don’t do it. In short: those pagans were on to something. I’m certainly not advocating a return to all aspects of the pagan lifestyle, because I doubt slaughtering a nice chubby piglet would make my crops more plentiful (wink wink). I’m just saying that it would be nice to live in a society that was more upset by the violence of Justin Timberlake ripping off Janet Jackson’s costume than it was by the physical presence of Ms. Jackson’s breast.

So the sex voyeurism is certainly a big part of the Wicker appeal. The discomfort Sgt. Howie feels when he stumbles across a bunch of couples bangin’ on the greensward is mirrored in the viewer: it’s shocking, but since it’s also fundamentally natural, the discomfort speaks to us. We enjoy the “deviant” sex and the horror (The Wicker Man is, however subtle and subtexty, a horror movie) because they come from an organic place. It’s like old home week for the Id.

But never discount the visceral thrill of seeing Christopher Lee in drag. Still wearing his watch. Seriously, can we trot that out again?

Do you belieeeeve in life after rites?
If you’re at all interested in the history of the British Isles, sex, folk music, sex, thrusty maypole dancing (by children!), sex, virgins, sex, barmaids who dance naked in their rooms and/or over fire pits, sex, and what a kid’s face looks like when you put a toad in her mouth, then this is the movie for you! Technically, Freud would probably say this is the movie for everyone.

Ahh, the halcyon days of youth: singing, smiling, and dancing around the giant penis

Utopia Schmutopia: Logan’s Run

July 13, 2006

Tonight at the Marquee: Logan’s Run
Guilty Parties: Michael York (aka Basil Exposition) and Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf in London‘s sexy nurse). Oh yes, and this:

Your first impression is correct: the hell?

Brought forth from the bowels of: 1976

Hit me with your best plot: Logan’s a cop in a futuristic, walled utopia of gamine youths clothed in flowing caftans, where life is an endless pursuit of happiness, sloth, and mad booty. BUT! When you hit 30, you are required to participate in a public ceremony creepily referred to as Carousel and best described as Cirque de Soliel on a Nyquil highball. As if gyrating mid-air in skull-head masks and white spandex isn’t embarassing enough, at the end of this ceremony, your body runs into a human-sized bug zapper and you die. (Excuse me, the polite term is “renew”.) It’s never actually explained why you have to die at 30 in Logan’s world, but I’m guessing it’s because the mysterious founders of this society couldn’t bear to see what the ravages of time had in store for this man:
I don’t have the heart to post the ‘after’ picture.

Long story short, Logan is given an assignment to infiltrate a group of Carousel resisters and destroy Sanctuary, a city outside the pleasure dome where you don’t have to die just because you no longer want to get totally wasted every night of the week, man. He embarks on an undercover “run” with Ms. Agutter, who thinks she’s helping him escape. Running, fleeing, pursuit,and booty ensue.

This movie isn’t bad.

It’s probably lame of me to start my supposed CSI: Rotten Movies blog with a movie that I can’t quantify as truly godawful, though don’t worry; it’s not exactly good either. On the surface, Logan’s Run is a bitchin’ ode to 70s science fiction, chock full of hexagons, portentiously blinking Christmas lights, and breasts. But, if I may be so bold, there’s much to be learned from this ’76 cult flick about what stinks in big studio Hollywood 30 years later.

If you see this man, please–ask him to bathe.

Because people want to remake this movie. Bryan Singer cooked up a story before moving on to his poetic ode to the lens flare (Superman Returns, obvies) and James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) is supposedly attached to direct. And after watching Logan’s Run for the first time, long having been intrigued by its premise and cult status, I can totally see why: all this flick needs is a spit and polish, some spiffy CGI, a few script holes plastered over (again–why do these people think they have to ‘renew’ at 30? Do they understand the concept of resource conservation in closed societies?), and it’s a tailor-made satire of Americawood’s deification of youth, cleverly disguised as a summer blockbuster.

Think of the possibilites! A movie entirely populated by pretty young people who wear gauze and constantly fornicate! And then–persecution! A chase movie! We can show some destroyed but recognizable ruins of our very own society, and God knows the people love recognizing things on screen! Get me Orlando Bloom and Jessica Alba, wrap ’em in Saran, we’ll land a budget larger than God!

No, people. No no no no no no no. Logan’s Run is not a movie that works, exactly, but it’s a movie that you can see trying to work, trying to get from point A to point B, instead of a lump of a movie willed into existence by an insane amount of coin–not unlike Logan’s pretty, vapid, unspoiled cattle that happily fling themselves into oblivion because the state tells them to. When did Hollywood stop making popular “event” movies about trying to wake people up, and start aggressively pursuing the polar opposite? (Vendetta notwithstanding–but I don’t think it’s exactly the start of a trend.) You’d think the backlash to the optimism of 70s Sci Fi would be cynicism a la Brazil, but now the popular movie masses are stuffed to the gills with opiates: loud, shiny, entertaining, and disposable. The hypocrisy of making an empty, pretty movie that basically says don’t be empty and pretty! is so pungent you get a contact high just thinking about it.

Because I fear a big-studio remake of Logan’s Run would entail blowing beaucoup bucks on the first two of my three suggestions and, if not completely ignoring the threadbare spots in the script, not exploring what makes the story worth remaking in the first place. We’d have a shinier, prettier, more entertaining, and probably stupider Logan–and it doesn’t get much stupider than this dude waving his arms and shouting, “YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIE!! YOU CAN LIIIIIIVE!”

“Seriously, guys! Look over here! I’ve got big news!”

Logan’s Run had a budget of $9 million (for perspective, the original Star Wars’ budget was $13 million and Supes is rumored around $300 million). Today, Logan looks like a bunch of geeks got together in their mom’s basement and shot the entire movie by moving the furniture around and occasionally waving a prism in front of the camera lens. But it sparked a cult following. People remember it. People want to remake it.

In 30 years, nobody will remake Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. And if they do, the sky will fall, the mountains will tumble, the zombie of Andy Warhol will rise from the grave to feast on the barely-living flesh of Bruckheimer, and we’ll all go live in a pleasure dome and never have to worry about crow’s feet. We’re halfway there already.

Check it, dude. They’re already lining up for Pirates 3.

Why I Watch Bad Movies, or: I think this blog finally has a damn point

June 23, 2006

I love bad movies.

And not just so-bad-they’re-good movies, like Evil Dead II (the granddaddy of awesome badness) or Dirty Dancing (yes, I know it is close to your heart; yes, it is close to mine as well; and both of us know deep down this is not because the movie represents a high point in American filmmaking).

If you look at my Netflix queue, you will understand what I mean when I talk about bad movies, for in the past months I have watched such cinematic tasties as: The Wiz. The Brothers Grimm. Death Becomes Her. And, as of last night, the Frank Oz remake of The Stepford Wives. All of these movies–and I can say this with absolute certainty, having seen them–are truly awful. When you watch truly awful movies, the part of your brain that usually registers movie-viewing happiness feels personally affronted, as if this movie was brought forth from the bowels of Hollywood specifically to cause you pain. Generally speaking, they are overstuffed, overthought, overwrought. Their screenplays don’t appear to have been written by people with brains, but rather monkeys by committee. More often then not, they have embarassingly high budgets. And the unkindest cut of all: usually these movies, at some point in development hell, had genuinely cool–or at least interesting–ideas.

J asked me once why I persisted in this particular form of masochism; what was it about my personality that insisted on consuming so much cinematic garbage? For, as a former critic and obsessive movie lover, I’m pretty well-versed in the critical mass. I should know better–I do know better–and yet I keep coming back for one reason: watching a bad movie is an object lesson in how stories go horribly, horribly wrong. And since stories are pretty much my most favorite thing in the world, I find it absolutely fascinating (and educational!) to examine the corpses of stories that die excruciating deaths. Think of it as the forensic science of storytelling: what can be learned from the mistakes of others? What can be illuminated about the human condition (and the rather pitiful state of big-studio Hollywood) by enduring–and actually thinking about–how a movie like The ‘Burbs, with only the slightest tweaking, could have become one of the funniest American dark comedies ever, instead of a mildly diverting Saturday Afternoon Movie on your local Fox affiliate?

Plus there’s also that whole philosophical theory about how human beings are totally obsessed with the revelation and arousal of disgust. (How else do you explain themoviespoiler.com?)

The point is: from now on, I will be blogging about movies. Specifically, bad ones: so-bad-they’re-good ones (because I believe in reclaiming irony), and so-bad-they’re-cautionary tales to the hopeful screenwriters, authors, and storytellers of the world.

That’s right. I am now officially providing a public service. And if I can bend blogger to my will, I will re-christen this blog (wait for it) “Marquee de Sade”.

I also love puns.

"It’s your blog, Kate–something’s gotta be done about your blog!"

April 21, 2006

Yes, I know. If for no other reason than to get that smug Maidenform woman farther down the page, so that, every time I load my own blog (which I do quite often, as it contains an incredibly convenient list of my daily must-read links, and clicking on a link is just SO much faster than typing a URL), I do not hear her homicidally perky little voice in the back of my head:

Smug Maindenform Woman: You’re going to be one of those people who blogs for exactly two months and then never touches it again.

Me (totally indignant): Nuh Uh. I’m just…busy.

SMW: So busy that you have, let’s see, how many sites that you “must read” every day?

Me (utterly indignant, but unable to keep shame out of voice): Whatever! I’m just, you know, not really…inspired.

SMW: Tut tut!

Me: What do I have to do to get you to shut up?

SMW: You’re doing it right now.

Me: You mean…this whole time, I’ve had the power to make you go away, and all I had to do was start blogging again?

SMW: Oh honey.

Me: Wipe that smug off your face. You’re the one who’s wearing a strapless bra. Sucker.

SMW: Oh, you miserable girl.

Ode on a Strapless Bra: The Oscar Recap

March 7, 2006


O! Strapless bra!
You are a creature of infinite complexity;
A banner, a bandeau, an ace bandage with molded cups.
You vex me.

Surely you were not invented by a sane person.
You flaunt your counter-intuitivity;
Girls grow to womanhood
thinking “beige”
is a synonym
for “invisible,”
when really, o strapless bra,
you should always be the color of the gown
that is too revealing
to be worn without you.

And you can be worn without straps;
with detachable straps;
as a halter;
with clear plastic straps that look distressingly like
Scotch Magic Tape
holding up my boobs;
yay verily;
you vex me.

But you are not all that vexes me.
To wit, o strapless bra:

I am vexed
that Heath Ledger
and Gary Oldman
have spliced their DNA.

I am vexed
that Duckface Lindley
did not leave her Creekside days
behind her,
though I did not expect her to,
and, really, nobody else did either.

I am exceedingly vexed
that a movie I
(admittedly)
did not see, but from all reports,
was a movie as
tempered
graceful
thoughtful
subtle
and multifaceted
as a machete to the groin
won Best Picture of 2005.
Though I will not be vexed for long;
I truly believe
Crash is 2005’s
How Green Was My Valley,
also known as
Best Picture of 1941
over fellow nominee
Citizen Kane.

I am vexed
that I did not wake up
beside George Clooney.
Or Jon Stewart.
Or both of them.
Sigh.

I am vexed that Charlize Theron
has lost control
of her eyesight
and her mind.

I am the opposite of vexed
for Philip Seymour Hoffman.
I am full of Upstate pride
because I firmly believe
more Oscar winners
ought to know and understand
the joy
of Wegmans.

I am vexed
that I do not personally know
Nick Park
and that he did not
make a tiny bowtie
for me to wear
because I totally, totally would have.

I am vexed that Dolly Parton
no longer looks like Dolly Parton
or should I say
Truvy Jones
who looked like a real woman
and not so much a dolly
though I have to give her props
because I doubt,
on an evening of nothing but strapless bras,
that she was wearing one.

The romantic in me

February 24, 2006

wants to hear Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” as one gigantic kiss-off to Simon Cowell/the cultural monolith that is American Idol.

She’s so movin’ on. But thanks to you, she gets what she wants indeed.

Jane Austen’s Insolence and Intoxication: The Pride and Prejudice Drinking Game

February 14, 2006

Like every good apartment of Bostonians, my roommates and I flagrantly disregarded logic and spent the day prior to being snowbound on Sunday holed up with crudite, pita chips, chai tea, and, thanks to KP, beer. Oh, and five hours’ worth of Colin Firth’s soul-flaying, cravat-wearing, damp/tousel-headed countenance.

And, again, like every good apartment of Bostonians, we were suddenly inspired to turn the occasion into an organized means of getting schnockered. Just as (I would like to believe) Jane Austen herself would have done, had she lived to see the glory of Colin Firth diving headfirst into a pond. So I present, in conjunction with the talents of my estimable roommates LJQ and ATO, the Pride and Prejudice drinking game.

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that any BBC miniseries, no matter how innately sublime, can be improved by the addition of copious spirits.

Imbibe whenever:

*Mrs. Bennet mentions her nerves and/or wears a ridiculous hat
*Sir Lucas says “Capital, capital!”
*Lydia Bennet does or says something wanton and/or slutty (including but not limited to: making a fool of herself over regimentals, rolling her eyes, eloping with cads)
*Mary Bennet does or says something priggish and/or stodgy (including but not limited to: playing the pianoforte and singing most egregiously, lusting from afar for Mr. Collins (you know she totally did))
*Jane Bennet wears a hooded cape
*An estate, piece of property, or entailment is mentioned
*Mr. Hurst is passed out in the background
*Mr. Bingley’s puppy-ish enthusiasm inspires you to make little barking and panting noises for comedic effect (this will occur with greater frequency as the blood alcohol content of drinking game participants rises)
*whenever anyone inquires after/thinks about Colin Firth in a wet shirt

and the two stipulations guaranteed to get one wholly smashed:
*every time someone mentions Lady Catherine de Bourgh
*every time Mr. Darcy looks intensely at Elizabeth Bennet but does not say anything

And now, a dramatic re-enactment of this drinking game’s maiden voyage:

::cue rollicking (yet restrained) piano music::


What a lovely fam–oh Mary. Mary Mary Mary. Would it kill you to smile, just this once, for your family’s totally anachronistic portrait? (drink)

And who’s this terribly attractive yet proud character, whose eyes are less eyes and more searing dark holes that can see into the remote dusty corners of my being? (drink)

Jeebs. Even when he’s looking askance, he’s still scorching the hindquarters of my soul with his cattle-branding gaze.

(drink) (drink)

SERIOUSLY. DUDE IS WATCHING ME.

(drink)

Lizzie: How utterly embar–haha! I mean, ha! Lovely shirt, isn’t it–I mean day! Hahaha, lovely wet shirt we’re having today!

(drink) (drink) (drink)

Oh my God, it’s not even funny HE CAN SEE MY THOUGHTS.

Fitzwilly D, duuuuude, it’s your, like, wedding. You are allowed
a) to look happy
b) to look at the lovely soon-to-be-ex-Miss Lizzie
c) to lay off the MOLTEN EYE BEAMS you use to contact random women through their television screens, like that ass-creepy girl in The Ring, though if the phone rings immediately after I finish watching (hic) this and I hear your clipped British voice saying “seven daaaaysss” or possibly “tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me”…um, I kind of lost my train of thought, but call me, cause that would effin’ RAWK. (drink)

(drink) (drink) (drink) (drink)

Jane…Oh Jane, I, like, totally love you. Love you love you love you, you are the best and the awesomest and we always have the best time together, you know I love you right? Ok, good. C’mere, I want a hug.

(drink)