Posts Tagged ‘Marquee de Sade’

Conveniently forgetting The Hollywood’s faults

December 19, 2006

Is it just me, or has fall been kind of spectacular in the movie department? The Departed. Borat. Casino Royale. Both Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth look grand, especially if you, like me, are a slut for Clive Owen, grotesquerie, and apocalyptic fairy tales.

The glut of goodness is particularly noticeable because the movie summer of 2005 was wretched. Sure, it came on the heels of 2006’s wham-bam-AWESOME, ma’am of Batman Begins and…um…so I can’t remember a single other movie that came out during the summer of 2005, but it seemed awesomer than 2006, cinematically speaking, which I now realize is probably because I was living in The Hollywood, and everything in The Hollywood just seems awesomer, and it is not until your plane is sailing high above Burbank that you realize the entire city is made up of cardboard castles on Botoxed clouds, and, despite this, you love it anyway.

I digress. I *do* remember seeing very bad movies this past summer, which is arguably worse than not remembering if I saw any movies at all. Superman Returns, for one, is a bad movie. It is, fanboys; I’m sorry. It just is. Pirates of the Caribbean? Slightly better, in that I recall being entertained (though not commensurate with the cost of my ticket), but the fact that it’s not a bad movie does not make it a good one. Cars was pretty but grossly unexceptional. Daily, I suppress the knowledge that, had I not spent actual money to see these three movies, that adorable pair of open-toed shoes crying piteously for me in Marshall’s may have been orphaned no longer.

But then The Hollywood spits out The Departed, and it’s wicked frickin’ good. And Borat, which, to be fair, surprised The Hollywood, though how anyone ever thought a movie with that much hairy male nudity was an unsafe bet is beyond me. And Casino Royale kicked ass. Like, really kicked ass–it lined the ass up, did a few practice kicks, took a moment for personal reflection, and punted the ass so far beyond the field goal it’s like the ass never existed.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will 2007 be another 1999 (a.k.a. the greatest year ever for movies, according to an old Entertainment Weekly that I remember totally agreeing with back in 1999)?

Don’t tease me, Mr. The Hollywood. A girl could get used to this.

HA! I remember another movie that came out during the summer of 2005: Star Wars! I legitimately forget the sub-title right now (Sith Happens, something like that?), but I think the almost-total lapse in memory from a kid who slept with a stuffed Ewok for the whole of 1984 is a fitting tribute to the final stages of Mr. Lucas’s revisionist career.

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Phenomenononon

December 6, 2006

OMG you guys, seriously: this movie is the cinematic equivalent of taking so much LSD you technically die and come back before your corpse has a chance to cool.

Phenomena
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasance
The pitch: A young insect-whisperer employs her crawly minions to solve a series of grisly girl-murders at a Swiss boarding school.

The dish: I’ve heard a lot about Dario Argento: father of Ahhhsia, definitive maestro of Italian psycho-sexual horror (i.e., lots of latent anxiety about pubescent girls in groups, lady parts, and sticky fluids), inspirado to everyone from Wes Craven to Kevin Williamson (and yes, I am aware that’s actually a rather narrow field). His Suspiria is supposed to be one of the trippiest pieces of horror head-trip ever. Color me interested, and by ‘interested,’ I mean: color me apprehensive but desperately intrigued, so I decide to check out a ‘lesser Argento,’ you know, just to get my feet wet.

Getting your feet wet in an Argento means falling into a cesspit of rotting human bodies. With your mouth open. Also, there’s a deformed child trying to kill you. But wait: you’re going to be saved by a horde of winged insects you control with your mysterious feminine wiles! And a chimpanzee!

You’ll like Phenomena if you’ve ever wanted to see Jennifer Connelly stare dead-eyed at a camera for interminable periods of time while Donald Pleasance waxes poetic about how she “excites” his bugs. I won’t lie: I cheered out loud several times during this movie, so apparently I’m a sicker bastard than previously assumed. (When the chimp shows up? He has a straight razor and it’s AMAZING.) There’s an irrepressible gonzo sensibility to the whole mess, but it is a mess–a hot, sticky mess of bugs and viscous substances.

But Jennifer’s hair is the prettiest hair I’ve ever seen in my entire life. No wonder the bugs are excited.

Fun fact! This film may or may not be tangentially responsible for one of the crackassier nightmares I’ve ever had: a trailer for a horror film about Jennifer Connelly infiltrating a coven of dark witches, where people are eaten by beige wall-to-wall carpet, titled Lancet Eyes. Feel free to be less disturbed by the concept of ‘lancet eyes’ than by the fact that I dream in trailers.

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.

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.

Elephant love hangover

January 27, 2006

It’s not even open to debate: the BEST SCENE EVER in Moulin Rouge (which is essentially an entire movie of BEST SCENES EVER) is what is referred to on the soundtrack as the “Elephant Love Medley.” Following the Occam’s Razor approach to naming soundtrack cuts, this is the scene where Ewan McGregor sings a medley of songs on top of a giant elephant.


Elephant goes here.

This is the BEST SCENE EVER for many reasons, most obviously because Ewan McGregor is channeling David Bowie, Phil Collins, and Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in practically the same breath. But I am also intrigued by the philosophical questions embedded in a phrase like “elephant love.” What IS elephant love? Is it the terrifying choreography of an intimate act between Earth’s largest land mammals? Is it the quiet bond that blooms between Dumbo and the little mouse in the red hat who get drunk together, believe in each other, fly through hoops of flame, and are, presumably, doomed to a long, hard lifetime of not being able to “quit each other”?

These are the questions that kept me up at night. And it wasn’t until I met a big ape that I truly learned what elephant love is all about.


Her last name isn’t ‘watts’ fer nothin’.

Elephant love is what is wrong with Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Because there is something wrong with the movie at a fundamental level, even though the most apt word to describe it is AWESOME; it inspires literal awe and even skirts the sublime. But for all the breathtaking imagery and pulse-pounding chases and aerial acrobatics, PJacks is asking a mighty slim story to bear far too much weight. Kong is simple, no matter how many cliche subplots are propping it up: destitute girl meets boy; troubling racial stereotypes sacrifice girl in act dripping with troubling racial metaphor to very impressive special effect/troubling racial metaphor; racial metaphor chases girl, is cut down by his own tragic flaw/troubling racial metaphor. It was PJack’s love for the source material that caused him to stick more bells, whistles, ridiculously prolonged chases, obvious dialog, and corny “Heart of Darkness” references than any movie–let alone one about a big gorilla with a soft spot for blondes–can stand.

This love was elephant love: love so enormous, you can’t see around it. You are standing so close to the elephant you love, all you can do is describe the terrain in great detail. It’s up to the people around you–the people not looking through elephant love-colored glasses–to inform you when the part of the elephant you are fixating on is, in fact, the elephant’s ass.

This is why we have editors, people.