All chili burgers are bastards

Posted in Angel, Blood Diner, Chopping Mall, douchebag, movie marathon, podcast, ramblings of a loser, Society, Sunshine and Noir, The Slumber Party Massacre, They Live with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2022 by efcontentment

“Because I’m a pussy” is one answer, I suppose.

Another answer could be “Because I’m afraid of catching COVID”.

But the one that feels the most true to me would have to be: Because I’m afraid of catching and then giving COVID to somebody else, specifically someone with an immune system best described as “lower-tiered”.

See, I do have faith that being vaxxed and boosted will keep my symptoms to a passable level of unpleasantness, were I — excuse me — when I catch Da Rona.

(By the way, it’s nice to know that I still have faith in something, right?)

Anyway, the question to the answer I gave at the top of this tirade is this: Why do I feel hesitant about attending — let alone buying a ticket to — the American Cinematheque’s Sunshine and Noir movie marathon at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, which at that moment — Saturday, May 14th, 10:19 am — was to begin in T-minus 1 hour and 41 minutes?

Having found an answer to that, another question followed: Should I stay or should I go?

A couple quick clicks, a shave, and a shower later, I became the answer, and I was on my way to the freeway. I slowed to a stop at the left turn lane of the intersection, with only a Honda Civic ahead of me. The arrow turned green, but the driver was too busy looking down at his cell phone. As a believer in honking the horn only as a last resort — for example, to tell someone “We’re about to crash!” or “I’m about to run you over!” — I flashed my lights. No dice.

He must’ve really been into whatever was on that phone, that must’ve been a really funny TikTok. After another polite Euro-style flash of the high beams, the light turned yellow, leaving me no choice but to give the inattentive driver a good ol’ ring from the Armenian Doorbell. Sure enough, that did the trick, and the man jolted up in his seat and made the turn. I followed, and as the arrow turned red, I stepped down on the gas, so as not to find myself blocking traffic.

As I entered the straightway, I was surprised by how fast I passed the Honda Civic. See, with the exception of an on-ramp or two, I haven’t really opened up and let loose with my now eight-month-old vehicle. Not that I was looking for that. While my car is known for having some extra pep in its step, it was ultimately more of an aesthetic choice for me. I’m a cruiser, not a racer, I just wanted a daily driver that made it clear to everybody else on the road that I have a mid-life crisis and a tiny penis.

But there I was, having placed a wee too much weight on the gas pedal, and I was zooming. It was a safe run, though, because other than the Honda that I just gapped, no other vehicles occupied this four-lane road, just mine. And it was then that I heard someone whisper from the reptilian, little-dicked part of my soul, and it whispered ”Go faster”.

I never fully understood Stephen King’s novel “Christine” until that moment. But it possesses you, causes you to think differently, act differently. At that moment, I gave in and upgraded from a standard-level douchebag to a Douchebag First Class. I became what I formerly detested — and I didn’t give a fuck. With even more weight on the pedal, I was now going 65 in a 35. I was overwhelmed by the sudden speed, but in a good way, and for the second time in my life, I felt like I was in a Fast & Furious movie.

(The first time, by the way, was about 20 years ago, when I was at a store in Echo Park ordering a tuna fish sandwich with no crust, and an aggravated gentleman strongly recommended that I take my business to Fatburger, which I thought was helpful, but then he called me a “faggot”, which I did not think was helpful.)

Yes, my brother and sister, I was definitely living my life during this quarter mile stretch, and I found myself growing more and more excited, more and more confident, more and more happy. Oddly enough, my penis was turtling itself within my crotch, but what am I gonna do, buy another car?

No, of course not. Instead, I was about to let out a most feminine yelp after glancing over to my rearview mirror. Because that’s when I noticed a small black & white dot that rapidly grew bigger and bigger until it became the form of a police cruiser.

I took my foot off the pedal, but I didn’t hit the brake; I felt that would’ve been too obvious. No, dummy, just slow down naturally and hope for the best. 65 went to 55, which was still much too fast here. But no lights yet, even though the cruiser got even closer.

And that’s when I saw it: A dialysis clinic up ahead. Just as I could make out the driver’s mirrored sunglasses and salt & pepper mustache in my rearview mirror, I made a hard left into the parking lot of the clinic and screeched into an empty spot — with the cruiser still behind me. I grabbed my N95 and my phone, got out of my car, and made a brisk fast-walk for the entrance of the clinic. I fumbled my mask over my face while pretending to talk on the phone, mumbling something about my poor mother or my poor sister or maybe the both of them, sprinkling in the word “dialysis” here and there, loud enough for the cop in the cruiser to hear me as he slowly passed by.

I stepped into the lobby, which thankfully was empty, thereby saving me the absolute guilt that would come with seeing the faces of the genuinely ill — people whose difficult situations I was effectively making a mockery of in order to save my stupid ass — and I looked back to see the cruiser exiting the parking lot, and getting back to prowling the streets, in search of something darker and more innocent to asphyxiate.

A few minutes later, I went back to my car and proceeded to drive to Santa Monica in a matter more befitting a safe Saturn owner, instead of a douchebag in a Dodge.

After finally finding a parking spot in this Permit Only neighborhood, I strolled down Montana Ave, enjoying the beautiful sunny day while overhearing such sidewalk cafe exchanges as “You need matcha”/”I don’t do matcha” before arriving at the Aero, where I showed proof of vaccination, my I.D., and my ticket. 

This was my first time back at the Aero since October 2019; the place looked the same except for some sanitizer dispensers here and there. All of the volunteers and staff were masked, while it was more of a 50/50 thing with the attendees.

It was a very good turnout, but it wasn’t a sold-out show either, and so there were plenty of options for me to sit. Before the show started, I took the opportunity to go outside and snap a couple shots of the marquee and the posters, because if you don’t take a picture of something, did it ever really happen? I snapped a few shots while overhearing a volunteer telling a curious passerby about today’s marathon: Six horror films from the 1980s that take place in and around Los Angeles. 

Unlike the annual Dusk-to-Dawn Horrorthon held at this establishment, “Sunshine and Noir”, which was co-presented by the film screening group Cinematic Void and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was not an all-nighter. Instead, this would begin at noon and end by midnight.

(By the way, the name “Sunshine and Noir”, is a reference to author Mike Davis, who has written about Los Angeles in various books, articles, and essays. In his book “City of Quartz”, Davis describes how depending on who you ask, the city is either beautiful or ugly, sunshine or noir.)

The show began with a short film consisting of clips from various L.A.-set horror films from the totally radical 80s, with Missing Persons’ “Walking in L.A.” on the soundtrack. Then, James Branscome from Cinematic Void stepped onto the stage and asked us how we were. We gave a polite round of applause, and then he accused us of not having had our coffee yet and made us give him a louder reaction. He must’ve thought it was Grant Moninger day. It ain’t Grant Moninger day is it? Nah man, it ain’t Grant Moninger day. So while everybody else cheered louder, I pretended he was Elia Kazan receiving his honorary Oscar and I was Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

Branscome then introduced a lady by the name of Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh, who was the curator for this event; she talked about growing up in Los Angeles during the 80s, and being entertained by the many horror films she watched on VHS during that period, while being more or less traumatized by the Night Stalker killings that occurred around that time. This combo of fictional and non-fictional slashing in the City of Angels created a “culture of fear” that set the tone for the rest of her life.

She’s not alone. I mean, I’m sure I’m around the same age as her, and I feel I had a similar personal upbringing with movies and the world around me — and I think she’s right in that many horror films of that era that took place in our grand metropolis, were also reflections of what all of us in L.A. — even the very young — were seeing, feeling, and more importantly, fearing.

I think the first and last movie of the marathon are more like accurate reflections, while the films in the middle were more like funhouse distortions, which is to say, they might be skewed but they’re working from something real. And that’s why I also agree with Mitchell-Rohrbaugh’s belief that “Los Angeles has never been more Los Angeles than in these films”.

She then talked about how horror is her favorite genre, and that watching a horror movie every day helped her get through this pandemic — not that it’s over, of course — and then she thanked us all for coming out to enjoy these films together, before calling out to the projectionist to “roll it”.

The first film was John Carpenter’s They Live, the 1988 action/sci-fi/documentary starring Roddy Piper as Nada, a drifter who arrives in Downtown Los Angeles, looking for work, only to discover that aliens are the reason why the gap between the haves and have-nots has become wider. It turns out E.T. is the CEO of a multi-galaxy conglomerate that is exploiting our planet and turning it into a third-world, uh, world.

With the help of technology that disguises their formaldehyde faces and allows subliminal messages everywhere, They not only live while we humans sleep, but they also make sure that we remain divided with distractions and disinformation. Some humans in power are well aware of this — because they were bought off — and the police are no help because, well, they’re the police, they’ve always been the jackboots on the side of the elite, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, regardless whether the elite get around in Rolls Royces or UFOs.

(Besides, it was never the cops’ job to protect people anyway, just to hold them back while some monster goes around shooting their kids for 45 minutes.)

Keith David co-stars as a fellow prole named Frank who’s just trying to make a living for his family in Detroit, and his character starts off trying to school Nada on how — to quote a character David played in another movie — “the poor are always being fucked over by the rich, always have, always will”. Nada, on the other hand, is neither cynic nor defeatist, he’s a believer in the American Dream and the concept of working hard in hopes of a better life.

Yet later in the film, after Nada has discovered the truth and is trying to share this info with Frank via a pair of sunglasses that allows the wearer to see the aliens hiding among us, Frank wants none of it. So badly does he not want to know, he actually puts up a fight with Nada that lasts so long that we in the audience couldn’t help but laugh each time it seemed as if the dustup had been settled, only to start up again. By the end, we broke out into applause after witnessing what I can confidently call one of the greatest fight scenes in all of cinema, not just because it’s an impressive bout of old school street fighting, but because it says so much about the two characters.

It’s like, despite all the shit we talk about how fucked everything is, most of us in this life want — no, we need — the blissful ignorance that comes with plausible deniability because it will make getting through this life less of a fucking chore, man. To threaten us with the truth is also a threat to said deniability, and we’ll be damned if we have to Actually Do Something About It, because that’s a road that leads to, well, I don’t know what it leads to but it sure as hell has no steady paycheck, no 4K television, no Netflix, no goose down pillow, no medical, no dental, no food on the table, no roof over our heads. Face me with the potential loss of all of that, and, well…I might have to beat your ass.

Look man, I lived half my life with Nada’s idealism but have gradually turned into Frank. I wouldn’t want to put on the glasses either. But you know what, if any of you fuckin you-foes are listening out there, I will allow you aliens to recruit me for some of that sweet sweet good life, now that I know — more than ever — how stacked the deck is against the rest of us. Like homeboy said, “might as well be on the winning team”, right?

I say: Fuck the losing team. They never say “Thank you” whenever I hold open the door for them, and they don’t know how to raise their fuckin’ mewling hellspawn, letting them run all over public places, screaming their fucking heads off. Yeah, fuck them, fuck them kids, and just me give my fuckin’ fancy teleportation watch.

Anyway, this is my favorite John Carpenter film, and if aliens ever came to our planet, and they were kind aliens, and they wanted to know all about humanity, I’d sit them down to a triple feature of this and Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and that’ll bring them up to speed as to why our species is so fucked, and so rather than trying to get all kumbaya with us, they should instead just nuke us from orbit. Because it’s the only way to be sure.

The second film was Brian Yuzna’s 1989 dark comedy Society, which focuses on Beverly Hills high school rich boy asshole Bill, who despite having it all thanks to mommy & daddy’s money, feels uneasy amongst his family and friends. He attends regular sessions with his therapist, but that doesn’t seem to help, because for every piece of advice the doc gives him to take it easy, there’s a super-awkward encounter where he walks into his parent’s bedroom and finds mom, dad, and sis all on the bed, dressed a tad too scantily and sitting a little too close to each other.

On the other hand, there are nice perks to this life, such as having sexy classmates gleefully spread their legs and exposing their crotch at him. Never mind that’s he trying to win a debate over the school’s dress code during this, it’s the thought that counts, really. 

As Bill is told later in the film, it’s really more about what you’re born into, rather than being brought into it — “it” being high society. You’re either part of it, and you’re living a privileged life with a bright future already planned out for you, or you’re one of the have-nots, and you’ll most likely be slowly devoured. I might mean that literally or figuratively, I don’t know.

OK fine, I do know. If you’ve ever heard about this movie, it’s because of its memorable “shunting” climax — and for very good reason. It’s a wonderfully grotesque orgy of sex, gluttony, and body horror, a kind of mix of Hieronymus Bosch and Salvador Dali come to nightmarish life by way of Luis Buñuel. Thanks to the excellent effects work by Screaming Mad George, bodies writhe and merge into each other, blending into each other, appendages going in and out of orifices, coated in so much icky gooey slime — or at least I hope it’s slime.

But the truth is, take away those final 20 minutes, and Society is just a bad movie. It has hints of being a genuinely satirical look at wealth and privilege, but only skirts the surface level. And maybe that was the intention of the screenplay, to just be a fun little nasty gross-out flick with just a wee mite of socio-economic commentary — which is why I’m laying the blame squarely on director Yuzna. Mostly everything is captured in a flat and listless — and frankly cheap looking — way. There’s a strange alien quality to the performances and the presentation, but only half of it feels intentional.

With little to no grasp of tone, he instead chose to set everything to a Weirdo setting of 11, which eliminates any potential for dread or mystery. It’s like, how can I give a shit about Bill’s quest to discover the truth about his family, when I’m too busy wondering what in the fuck is up with that lady who likes to eat hair? By the time the twist comes along, it’s merely the nuttiest of the nutty things. Yuzna did get much better at the job with his next film, Bride of Re-Animator, so I suppose it’s better that he swung and missed with this one rather than that one.

I feel that in stronger directorial hands, this could’ve been a cult classic worth its reputation. Instead, I can only recommend it if you’re gonna skip to those final 20 minutes, or watch the whole thing with an audience, like I did, because the crowd really did seem to dig it a hell of a lot more than I did, based on their audible reactions that grew louder and wilder as the film went on.

The third film was The Slumber Party Massacre, a 1982 slasher directed by Amy Holden Jones, working from a screenplay by acclaimed feminist author Rita Mae Brown. Set in and around the Venice neighborhood of L.A., the film opens with Trish, a high-schooler whose parents are going out for the weekend, and you know what that’s like, right? You get the house to yourself, and it’s party time, right?

That is, if you’re everybody but me. I don’t know what the fuck was wrong with me, I was a goody-two-shoes as a kid. My parents knew there was nothing to worry about whenever they left me home for the weekend, all I was gonna do was watch movies and eat pizza by myself. Granted, I didn’t have friends, but still. But even if I did, I would prefer, at most, to just have a small intimate get-together, like Trish does here. But unlike Trish’s slumber party, mine would not include beer and weed because I was still on some D.A.R.E. bullshit, I really believed in that Hugs Not Drugs bullshit.

Of course, as much as I would be totally fine watching a group of attractive women portraying teenagers giggle and goof around in their underwear for 76 minutes, the film has to live up to the “massacre” part of the title, and so we are then introduced to escaped psycho killer Russ Thorn. This dude is the real deal, he lives to kill; almost immediately he’s back at it, snatching an overly-attractive phone repairwoman into her van and using her power drill to metaphorically have sex with her. It’s a pretty effective sequence because it happens during the day, while there are people around, but apparently her van is one of those super special soundproofed models, because the guys outside sure as hell can’t hear her very loud screams.

I think this movie takes place in an alternate universe version of Venice where the drinking water is contaminated, causing severe hearing loss to the residents. There are many instances where you’d think someone would hear the loud drill, or the screams that follow, and yet, no they don’t.

By the way, while there is blood, this isn’t one of the gorier films of its type. You’d expect plenty of shots of drills penetrating flesh, but that’s not the case here. Jones instead takes the “what is imagined is worse than what is seen” approach, and what little gore there is, is used judiciously. This would be a problem if the movie sucked, but it doesn’t.

I think it’s because even with the brisk runtime, you get to know enough about these characters that they make an impression on you, and it’s mostly a positive one. No one is really a specific archetype in this film, save the killer and a couple of horny dudes who crash the slumber party. They’re a little more complicated than you’d expect for the usual Dead Meat types in these movies. Among them is Trish’s neighbor from across the street, Valerie, who declines an invitation to the party and stays to babysit her little sister Courtney instead. I liked watching the interactions between Valerie and Courtney, they felt genuine.

There’s also a nice sense of humor to the film, coming in at the right moments; my favorite involves a character being so hungry, she’s willing to take the pizza from a dead delivery guy. It’s over the top, and yet, I can see doing something like that, I mean, I’m probably gonna die anyway, and so long that there’s no blood or guts or anchovies on the pizza, I might as well enjoy a last meal.

A lot of it is fake scare city, and yeah, sometimes the characters do dumb things, but it felt like Jones knew that, she knew she wasn’t fooling anybody, and so she did the best job possible while working within the tropes and trappings of the genre. But the characters helped carry this a long way, and it is fairly suspenseful at times, I mean, it says a lot that I didn’t want any of the characters to die, and when they did, I was like a denied Swiper from “Dora the Explorer”: Oh man! And you bet your ass when it came time for the killer to get his, Jones doesn’t disappoint. It’s a good one, and in conclusion, I still watch movies and eat pizza by myself, it keeps me strong and feeling young.

Following the film, Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh returned to the stage to introduce her guests for a mid-marathon panel discussion: Slumber Party Massacre director Amy Holden Jones and They Live producer Sandy King Carpenter.

Jones talked about how she moved early in her career from editing to directing, even going so far as to film the first ten pages of the screenplay for Slumber Party Massacre on her own dime in order to convince Roger Corman that she was the right gal for the gig. Things got complicated when she was offered to edit E.T. The Extra Terrestrial at the same time; Jones felt that editing a film for Steven Spielberg made the most financial sense, especially since she recently had a baby. But to be given the opportunity to direct was one she always wanted, and it was an opportunity that was almost never given to a woman. So Jones made what she admitted to be an “insane decision”, and took the very risky chance at directing what very well could’ve been forgotten drive-in fodder.

Jones felt the original script needed work, and so she gave herself the extra task of rewriting it; despite that, she and almost everyone involved in the film didn’t have the highest hopes for what they would end up with. But upon viewing the film for the first time, the cast & crew were elated that the final outcome was pretty good!

She was surprised by some of the negative critical reaction, particularly from those who clutched their pearls that a woman could direct something that was perceived to be misogynistic. Jones disputed that by saying that the violence in the film was much harsher against the male victims, and tamer against the women, and besides, “…that’s the friggin’ genre, man.”

Like Jones, Sandy King Carpenter made her bones working for Roger Corman; she started in animation, then moved on to live-action because she felt it wasn’t good to sit in a dark room all day talking to herself. She and Jones then talked about how despite being cheap, Corman fostered a healthy collaborative attitude that resulted in all the people who’ve worked for him to still have fond memories to this day — something that, King added, cannot be said by people working at Blumhouse. Met with nervous laughter from the crowd, King casually responded “Trust me.”

At this point, third guest, actress Kelli Maroney had arrived — traffic was a bitch — and so Mitchell asked for her opinion on how the horror genre compares between the 80s and today; Maroney felt that it has gotten better and more respected, despite some self-conscious attempts at what is known as “elevated horror”, a term Maroney hates. She felt that back in the day, horror films were considered disreputable and they were what people worked on to pay their rent, but today, actors and filmmakers genuinely want to be involved in horror, because there’s a love for the genre.

Mitchell then asked the panel if there was ever a time in the business when any of them were scared to make a stand and “push back” but went ahead and did it anyway; Jones brought up being vocal about her disapproval of the casting of Woody Harrelson during pre-production on the 1993 film Indecent Proposal, for which she wrote the screenplay. She felt he wasn’t a strong enough lead to stand up against Robert Redford’s character. Later, she sat in and observed a focus group following a test screening of the film, along with Paramount studio head Sherry Lansing; when the moderator asked the group for things they didn’t like about the film, one of them responded by saying they didn’t know why Harrelson was in this movie. Upon seeing Jones’ chuffed reaction, Lansing replied “Grow the fuck up.”

King’s response to Mitchell’s question was that she wasn’t raised to be afraid of anything, and that she believes that a combination of being married to a feminist and simply not giving a fuck about what people think, makes it very easy for her to share her opinions. She also shared an anecdote about how once on the set of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, someone asked “Who exactly are you?” and she responded: “I fuck the director”. Upon seeing the man’s aghast reaction, she added “You’re gonna say it when I walk out of the room, so let’s just get past that.”

Maroney’s answer was that because she was lucky to have her first three projects directed by openly collaborative women, and so, the rude awakening came later when she found that her input wasn’t nearly as welcomed as it had been before. But she found that the best way to register any concerns or complaints was to bring them up in the form of a non-threatening question, asking the other party to explain something to her, and then taking it from there. Somewhere along the way, she felt it easier to make these stands once it became clear to her that as a lead actress, she felt a responsibility to make sure that others in the cast & crew felt safe and taken care of.

Maroney also brought up that she had very little problems in regards to more sleazy types trying to get fresh with her, and she feels that it was because of her wise-guy personality that made it not worth the effort. The way she saw it, they figured she would say something loud and embarrass them. King agreed, saying that her own take-no-shit attitude — plus not-so-veiled threats of bodily injury towards the aggressor — made it easy to dismiss such unwelcome advances. She also added that based on talking with younger women working in the business today, it seems like that this happens more often now than it did back then, because the guys doing this kind of shit nowadays are mostly entitled rich kids, whereas in her day, they were just morons.

The question about the future of the horror genre was brought up to the panel, and Jones felt that there was indeed a very bright future for horror, on account of there always being something out there to be afraid of, coupled with the fact that horror remains one of two very profitable types of movies that Hollywood will easily greenlight — the other being comic book movies.

She also brought up that more serious fare, such as dramas and character-oriented pieces, can be equally enjoyed in the cinema or at home, but watching a horror film in a theater with a crowd is an even more enjoyable and rewarding experience. King added that horror will always be around, because it is a genre that is most capable of telling universal and uncomfortable truths, whereas “important” films are mostly just preaching to the converted.

Maroney added that the cathartic benefits that come from watching a horror film more than guarantees that this is a genre that will always be popular, especially if the world we live in continues to give us reasons to be afraid, and considering what’s going on around us, society is probably more afraid than ever.

Mitchell-Rohrbaugh then opened it up for questions from the audience, which was my cue to get the fuck out of there, and I wasn’t alone, as I can hear the unmistakable chorus of CLUNKA CLUNKA CLUNKACLUNKACLUNKA from the suddenly unoccupied seats flapping back into place as those of us with no appetite for extreme cringe made a beeline for the exits to use the restrooms, get more snacks, fresh air, etc.

But I did come back in time to see the ladies get a nice and well deserved round of applause. These ladies were very entertaining, so open were they with their honest opinions and thoughts on the business, as well as particular movies (both Gandhi and The Power of the Dog were thrown some very amusing shade along the way). I really liked them, they all had a healthy amount of Don’t Give A Fuck flowing through their veins.

After a half-hour break for dinner — I just had coffee — the marathon continued with the fourth film, 1986’s Chopping Mall, a very tongue-in-cheek horror/sci-fi/slasher, directed by Jim Wynorski and starring none other than Ms. Kelli Maroney from the panel discussion. This one is about a group of teens and young adults or maybe they’re all teens who look like young adults or they’re young adults who look like teens, but c’mon, it’s the 80s, these actors are all probably mid-to-late 30s.

Anyway, they have the worst timing in the world, because decided to stay overnight at the shopping mall for a little fuck party, which also coincides with an electrical storm that causes the 3 robot security guards on the premises to malfunction and go full ED-209 on anybody still inside. Now these youngsters have to survive the night, as they’re locked in with these killbots until dawn.

The entire movie takes place in a shopping mall, and was shot at both the Sherman Oaks Galleria and the Beverly Center. The opening credits sequence is a montage of various mall activities, and it’s all very nostalgic for a kid like me who remembers when shopping malls were, you know, a thing; at one point, there’s a shot of a Licorice Pizza record store, which was greeted by applause from the audience, as was Barbara Crampton’s name in the credits, because she is the bee’s knees wearing the cat’s pajamas.

It’s interesting seeing Crampton play a Valley Girl type given to say stuff like “totally”, and to be honest, she’s a tad miscast. I know that sounds like sacrilege to say that about genre royalty, but I’m not saying she’s bad. She just seems too smart for the role, if that makes sense, she comes off too intelligent for what I felt was supposed to be more of a Dumb Wild Friend role. Of course, her IQ points drop dramatically once the robots start doing their thing, so maybe it was intentional, maybe the filmmakers were going for someone who was pretty With It until things get serious.

Maroney, on the other hand, plays a nice girl-next-door type who is later revealed to be like an ultra-capable chick whose talents get to shine because of this situation. She turns out to be a crack shot with a revolver, because her father was in the Marines — not unlike her MAC-10-wielding character in Night of the Comet, who also learned to shoot from her military father. Why the armed men in the film don’t give her a gun after this is revealed, I don’t know. Oh, wait I do know: Because they’re men. (Of course the answer was in the question, sorry about that.)

Maroney’s character is definitely who I would want to be paired with in a situation like this, whether we’re running from robots, zombies, multi-racial gang members. Because she can take care of herself, she can also take care of me, and she has zero problem making the first move in an intimate situation, and that’s something a scared and lazy fuck like me absolutely appreciates. But yeah, she’s awesome, she doesn’t let her emotions get the best of her, the way they get the best of half of these assholes who either run screaming towards their death or run screaming away from it, but either way they’re screaming and that just helps a robot get a better laser aim to explode their heads.

Oh yeah, there’s a pretty hilarious and well done head explosion here. It got a great reaction from the crowd both times — the second time being a very inspired replay during the closing credits.

This was actually the second time I watched this film with an audience; the last time was in 2010 at a Jim Wynorski triple feature at the New Beverly Cinemawhich I covered in my blog. Maroney was there for a Q&A, and I got a kick out of her garrulous nature, even if I was kind of a dick about it in the blog, likening the contrast between her and fellow guest Wynorski to a slightly tipsy-but-talkative wife and her more buttoned-up husband at a dinner party.

Anyway, it’s a fun and fast hide-and-seek thriller that does the job while not taking itself seriously. There are some cool cameos from awesome people like Dick Miller and Mary Woronov, and goofy references to other movies and filmmakers, because it’s that kind of movie. Despite the title, nobody gets chopped, there’s just that one head explosion as far as gore goes, but there’s plenty of nice ownage from the robots, as they electrocute, immolate, drop people from heights, etc. The only thing I didn’t like was an early scene of a fat man pigging out at a pizza place, because I never found watching someone shove plates of food in his face — while getting it all over his face and clothes — remotely in the vicinity of funny. It’s just gross. But ooh, dear reader, if I only knew what was in store for me in the next film.

The fifth film was the very offbeat, off-the-wall, and off-putting 1987 comedy Blood Diner, directed by Jackie Kong. Talk about a movie that hits the ground running and never stops, and so I will: The story begins with two little boys being visited by their uncle, who happens to be an escaped mental patient responsible for a series of brutal cannibalistic slayings. He bids farewell to them, steps outside to get shot to death by police, and then the opening credits begin. After that, we flash forward 20 years to health obsessed L.A., where the two brothers, Mike and George, own and operate a popular vegetarian restaurant, and I’m guessing the reason why people like the food there so much is because occasionally some human flesh finds it way into the recipes.

Turns out, the two brothers have adopted their late uncle’s wacky beliefs involving a blood cult and an ancient goddess named Sheetar. They have already successfully reanimated their uncle’s brain and eyeballs and placed them into a jar, where he further instructs them as to what is required to bring Sheetar back to rule the world: The body parts of various promiscuous women.

By the way, I’m pro-cannibal. I’ve talked about this before on social media, and to the people who used to be my friends before I told them this, but I’d have no problem eating a person if it was served to me right. Now, I’m not saying I’d eat all of the person, but if you give me a nice prime cut of human steak, hot off the grill, I’m digging in. I wouldn’t go in for, like, guts or entrails or brains, though. Just some butt roast or grilled breast would be enough. I’d be picky about the person, though; I wouldn’t eat a really skinny person or a really fat person. Also, they’d have to be attractive, because having a pretty or handsome face goes a long way towards me wanting to eat you.

See, I’m definitely a meat eater, but not all kinds of meat. I mean, I’ll eat pork, I’ll eat chicken, I’ll eat fish, and I can absolutely eat cows till the cows come home — so then I can eat them too — but I won’t eat cats and I won’t eat dogs. Because while I’m indifferent to cows, pigs, chicken, and fish, I love cats and I love dogs. But I sure as fuck hate people — and I can see getting the most pleasure from eating you motherfuckers. Mmmm, your cruel, selfish, narcissism would melt in my mouth as I chew away your pettiness, and your lack of empathy would go down so smooth with some red wine. Great, now I’m hungry.

That’s OK, I just have to think about this movie some more and my hunger will go away, because Blood Diner is one of those movies where everything in its universe is gross. Regardless of what a person is eating, human or vegetable, it’s all filmed — and eaten –in the most unflattering of ways. There’s an even worse version of a fat guy eating messily compared to the dude from Chopping Mall, and the film revisits him from time to time. Oh Christ, you watch him get the slop all over himself, he burps nonstop, and at one point, he projectile vomits his meal all over everybody else. Dear reader, this was the only time in the entire marathon where I actually cringed and had to look away — and remember, I watched Society earlier that day.

Speaking of which, I felt this movie had a much, much better handle at the kind of comedy it was trying to be, compared to Society. This is all-out, wacky-as-fuck, and offensive with its never-ending onslaught of gags, I mean, Jackie Kong is throwing out kitchen sink after kitchen sink, and if one doesn’t hit you, the next one will. Sure, there are much better horror comedies out there, but this one wasn’t bad, man, I actually laughed a few times.

The audience, on the other hand, laughed throughout, from beginning to end. There was one guy a couple rows ahead of me, he got so overwhelmed with laughter from a scene involving a potential victim defending herself with kung-fu, that even after the scene was over, he couldn’t stop laughing, and then he started wheezing and coughing, and that’s when my vision was blinded by the giant words COVIDCOVIDCOVIDCOVID and I had to close my eyes and will the words away, lest my night be ruined by unwelcome anxiety. The words did go away, I made sure that my mask remained snug over my nose and mouth, and continued watching the film.

I don’t know if this is a good movie, but it plays great. The crowd got pretty rowdy with this, and I’d say half of the laughs were about the movie being funny and half were about the incredibly high levels of WTF-ery to the proceedings. I mean, it’s the kind of movie where a ventriloquist and his dummy are being questioned by the authorities and it’s all played straight, it’s the kind of movie where a woman gets her head dunked into a deep fryer and comes out of it with an perfectly round fried ball where her head should be.

I’d probably like this even more had I seen this 20 years ago, because that’s when I was at the peak of my love for all things Troma, and this is possibly the best Troma movie that Troma never made. I do know I’d like this less if I had I seen it alone, and so I’m glad I saw it with a very appreciative crowd at the Aero.

The sixth and final film of the night was the 1984 thriller Angel, directed by Robert Vincent O’Neil. Set in and around Hollywood Boulevard, this story focuses on Molly, a teenage honor student with a most surprising after-school job; at night, Molly becomes “Angel”, and she walks the streets selling her body to various johns. Thankfully, the movie spares us the dirty deeds, and instead focuses on the interactions between Angel and her fellow workers of the night. Among them is a crossdresser named Mae, an old cowboy street performer named Kit Carson, and Crystal, who is not long for this world.

See, there’s also a real piece of damaged work prowling the streets, and he’s already racked up a few kills, all of them hookers. No sooner are we introduced to Crystal when this nameless killer picks her up and takes her to a motel room for some post-mortem loving. Yup, this serial killer is also a necrophile, and the film does way too good of a job giving us glimpses into his cracked psyche; as we watch the killer get Crystal’s body ready for sex, the soundtrack plays music that sounds more at home in a romantic story. So he’s one of these sickos who probably thinks this is a way to express genuine affection to these unfortunate women — whereas when I fuck a dead girl, there is no affection involved at all, it’s just about getting laid. But at least I’m not a hypocrite. 

Before Crystal’s demise, we are treated to a scene of her having a chat with a young street performer who clearly has a crush on her. It’s kinda sweet, and I’m watching this, thinking, “oh, so I guess there’s gonna be a subplot about these two becoming a couple?”, and well, it clearly doesn’t go that way. The next time you see the young man, he’s at the crime scene the morning after, utterly heartbroken while being questioned by a cop.

It’s these extended non-plot-related detours that result in Angel hitting harder than I expected, because it spends so much time with each of these characters, it feels like the filmmakers care about these people too, and so, I ended up caring about them as well. They don’t judge these characters, and neither should we. It’s not just Molly that I wanted to see make it out of this situation OK, it’s everyone — well, except for that fuckin’ killer, I wanted to see that motherfucker get his big time. And yet, the filmmakers even manage to extend but some touch of pity to this beast that killed women.

Poor Molly’s story isn’t fully revealed outright, it’s given to us piecemeal, as we watch Lieutenant Andrews of the LAPD get to know her more while investigating the murders. He’s clearly seen it all, and he knows how girls like Angel end up: either locked up, strung out, or dead. In his gruff tough-love way, he tries to convince her to get off the streets, but Molly/Angel is afflicted by the hardheadedness that comes with being a young person who thinks they already know everything.

When not watching her ply her trade up and down the boulevard, we watch her at private school, and I have to give it up to Molly, for her abilities to burn both ends of this candle. She works late, and is still able to get up early and catch the bus to school. We never see her do any drugs, so it can’t be that. We see her do her own homework and we see her study, so it’s not like she’s banging any teachers to help her pass like that chick from Malibu High did.

I guess she’s just really focused, and she’s really good with time management as well, because as we see in one scene, she turns down a nerd’s request for a date at school, which I think is more about not wanting to toss an extra ball into her juggling act. Hell, she could’ve just blown him and I’m sure he would’ve done all of her homework, give her answers to all of the tests, and she could’ve probably gotten him to do her laundry — even if that would mean losing the occasional pair of socks and undies, and having a good idea why they’re missing. But Molly has her principles, she would never entertain any of that, and I respect the hell out of her for it.

There were a couple scenes involving some scumbag jock at Molly’s school that left me just about ready to yell at the screen, because I hated this motherfucker soooo much, that flames…flames on the side of my face, anyway, I’m pretty sure if I had seen this at home, I would’ve yelled.

I’m on Team Molly. Not only am I on Team Molly, I’m on Team Molly’s Friends. I’m on the side of Molly’s friends, is what I’m saying, I liked her and I liked them too. I liked Mae, Kit, her landlady Solly. They’re played by Dick Shawn, Rory Calhoun, and Susan Tyrell. What a difference that giving a fuck about characters makes for me.

It’s the “giving a fuck” part that changes this from a sleazy exploitation joint, to a very gripping drama about these characters just trying to get by. Some of them seem content with their lives, and I found myself wondering if they really did feel that way or if they were deluding themselves. Molly/Angel is clearly deluding herself, because she thinks she has it figured out, but it’s more like she needs that delusion in order to have the strength to continue living this double life of hers.

Don’t get me wrong, Angel does the job as an exploitation joint, it delivers the thrills, especially whenever that nameless killer gets in the mix. There are a couple of genuinely exciting and suspenseful sequences, including one at a police station that goes shockingly out of control. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, especially during the climax, which had people in the audience break out into applause a couple times.

Donna Wilkes gives a very sympathetic performance as Molly, Cliff Gorman does a very solid 70s/80s-era cop turn as Lt. Andrews, and John Diehl is both scary and pathetic as the killer. There’s plenty of gritty early 80s Hollywood atmosphere, well shot by cinematographer Andrew Davis, who went on to direct 1993’s The Fugitive, which was really good but could’ve used a teenage hooker or two.

This was a great fucking movie, man, it really took me by surprise. I liked it so much, I think I might just forget about watching the three sequels that followed, because let’s be real, after this class act of a picture, there’s no place to go but down — not unlike Angel on a Friday night.

And so, the Sunshine and Noir 1980s L.A. Horror Marathon came to an end; I’m glad I went through with my last minute decision to attend, rather than let my anxiety get the better of me…this time, at least. I mean, here’s hoping COVID and Monkeypox don’t get together, fuck, and have a baby, because who knows how I’ll feel then, or if I’ll be feeling anything by then, shit, I’ll probably be dead by MonkeyVid-69 or whatever the fuck that shit’s gonna be.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself at the Aero; it was fun to watch some movies for the first time, rewatch some old favorites, and hell, it was worth sitting through Society again just to experience the final 20 minutes with an audience. With the exception of that movie, which was presented in a crisp digital print, the films were projected in 35mm; They Live looked and sounded the best, while Slumber Party Massacre had a reddish/pinkish tint at times, but otherwise looked good.

By the time Angel ended, it was a little past 11pm, and for the first time in a very long time, I stepped out of a movie marathon feeling just as awake as I did when I went in. It felt nice to know that I could go to bed that night and still enjoy the following Sunday as a full complete day, rather than sleep through most of it, as I usually do after an all-nighter.

I mean, I get the appeal of watching movies till the wee hours of the morning, because that’s pretty much all I’ve done most of my life. But as I get older, I’m also getting the appeal of having a good night’s sleep. Which is not to say that I’m anti-all-nighter now, I’m just even more pro-all-dayer.

Anyway, having only subsisted on a couple cups of coffee the entire day, I was starving; I figured I’d follow up a Los Angeles-based movie marathon with a Los Angeles-based meal, so I drove responsibly to the original Tommy’s burger stand on Beverly and Rampart near Downtown L.A. and ordered a triple chili cheeseburger, chili cheese fries, and a large Cherry Coke. It hit the spot, man. It was so good, and when I began to imagine the chili being made from people meat — specifically ground pork from the police officer that followed me that morning — it tasted even better.

The scenic route to Oblivion

Posted in come true, douchebag, film, podcast, top 13, Trick or Treat Radio, vicious fun, werewolves within with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2022 by efcontentment

 

NOTE: For those wondering why I posted an end-of-year list in April, that’s because this was supposed to be posted in January, but I had issues with the intro, which I felt was too dark. Normally, I don’t care about such things, but I didn’t want to start off the New Year with such a bad vibe. I prefer to save such gloom for June. So I ended up editing it down by 2/3, leaving it a relatively tame shadow of its former self — and it still seemed too bleak. So I shelved it. Well, cut to a few months later, 2022 is shaping up to be yet another mother, I stopped caring, and so here it is. I’ve since deleted the longer version, but I’m sure those thoughts will pop up here and there in future posts, that is, if there is a future. See, there you go, my mind is always good at brewing up awfully negative things like that. I’m optimistic like that.

 

It wasn’t always like this.

For the longest time I used to stay away from the kind of real death videos that kids can easily view on various Reddit forums. Meanwhile, god forbid your child wants to check out a graphic novel about the Holocaust at the school library. But yeah, I found them ghoulish and depressing, so I avoided them. But  during the first couple weeks of 2022, I discovered that they really help at stabilizing my mood.

And the less anxiety I have, the easier it is to accept that everything will not be all right, and that’s OK, because that’s just how it goes.

You see, I don’t get enjoyment out of them, I get…well, I get constant reminders as to why I shouldn’t just (REDACTED, FOR REAL, YOU’D NEED TO BUY ME A FEW DRINKS IF YOU EXPECT ME TO REALLY SPILL TEA ON MYSELF). I am reminded to appreciate the precious time I have conscious and above ground. I am reminded to search out and appreciate the beauty I can find in this ugly, ugly world, even in the mundane. I am reminded — as I watch a faceless man have his arms chopped off by cartel members, or watch a woman drown in an icy river to the screams of her young children — that things can always be worse.

And so, I’ll keep on truckin’; I’ll continue treating others as I wish to be treated, and in return, I’ll continue to be left wanting. But that’s OK, because one, it makes me feel better than everybody else, and two, I’ll be too busy being grateful for remaining a mere background extra in the scariest, most disturbing horror film ever made: Life on Planet Earth. 

And should I find myself upgraded to being a star or featured player in this horror film, let’s say I catch a brick in the face during my morning commute due to some little kid tossing one from the freeway overpass, and footage of my hollowed out face and sprawled out corpse makes it onto the Interwebs, where it will accompanied by humorous comments from the anonymous living, well, c’est la vie. It was nice while it lasted — up until that moment, of course. Cut to black. Roll credits. 

Moving on from the real horror show we’re living in to the fake ones we watch for entertainment, there’s a movie podcast I listen to, and it’s called Trick or Treat Radio and they mostly cover horror, but they also will do other genres like sci-fi or fantasy, to name a couple. They focus mostly on independent and lower-budgeted films, as they like to champion the little guy, but they’ll also review bigger movies here and there. They are also not held to current releases, and so they’ll occasionally cover films from the past; sometimes they can be a year old, sometimes they can be from decades ago. The show is currently hosted by three gentlemen who go by the monikers Johnny Wolfenstein, Ares God of War, and Michael Ravenshadow, and episodes usually run from two-and-a-half to three hours.

The show is broken into three parts; the first part is not unlike an old-school Howard Stern Show episode, with the hosts mostly bullshitting about their everyday lives while busting balls. The middle part is the bulk of the show, where they discuss that week’s film (or films), with each rating the film a Trick (which is bad) or a Treat (which is good). And then the last part has them winding down while reading emails and listening to voicemails. At the end of the year, they have a special episode where they each list their Top 13 films from all the movies they covered during the last 12 months. 

I really enjoy the show, and have even appeared a couple times as part of their Patreon takeover episodes where they invite patrons to program an episode and co-host. For 2021, I thought it would be fun to participate by watching along with the show. So week-by-week, I’d watch what they watched, write up my thoughts on each film, and post my thoughts on social media. Then I would listen to the episode and find out how my thoughts compared with theirs. I really enjoyed the experience; it was not unlike, say, being part of a book club — only they didn’t even know they were even in a book club.

I also compiled my own Top 13 list, and I certainly wasn’t going to keep it to myself, so I’m sharing it here with the rest of you. My criteria for the choices on my list were simple: If it was reviewed between January and December during that year, and it was new to me, it was eligible. I disqualified the Patreon takeover films, and the Monsterpiece Theatre viewings where Patreon listeners would get together with the hosts to do a special episode to discuss a particular movie. Anyway, here’s my Top 13 list of movies that were covered on the Trick or Treat Radio podcast in 2021:


13. THE MAID (2020, dir. Lee Thongkham): This Thai film is about a young woman named Joy, who starts a new job as a maid for a wealthy family, you know, the kind with a miserable husband, a miserable wife, and a little daughter who gets little to no attention. Along the way, Joy realizes that the previous maid might’ve quit for *very* understandable — and frightening — reasons.

During the first half, I found this movie to be OK, and I thought I knew where it was going, but then I was emotionally suckerpunched by a revelation at the midpoint. From that moment on, what started as a decent haunted house flick, turned into a different kind of genre — and it became a better and more entertaining experience for it, leading up to a 30-minute-long climax that got me so worked up, I actually started yelling at one of the characters just as my DoorDash order arrived. the poor girl thought I was calling *her* a fucking cunt, can you believe it?

12. BLOODY HELL (2020, dir. Alister Grierson): A dude named Rex decides to escape his terrible life in Boise, Idaho by taking a sudden random trip to Helsinki, Finland, only to find that he’s succeeded in jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. To say more would be spoiling the fun in discovering what happens to the poor schmuck.

The style of the film is very chaotic and frantic, but not in some annoying wannabe-kewl xxxtreme sort of way. It comes off very methodical and it works. The tone reminded me of something like READY OR NOT with Samara Weaving, in that it’s a dark comedy with plenty of laughs and blood. Also, I think lead actor Ben O’Toole is like Samara Weaving in that they’re both secret Australians. Actually, I think this entire movie is secretly Australian. It’s like they know we still haven’t forgiven them for Crocodile Dundee and so they feel they have to be sneaky about it.

11. SYNCHRONIC (2019, dir. Aaron Moorehead, Justin Benson): Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play paramedics in New Orleans, and they’re both trying to make heads or tails out of the rash of junkie overdoses on a new drug called — wait for it — Synchronic, the kind of narcotic that would feel right at home alongside cine-drugs like Nuke and Slo-Mo. 

This moody and stylish sci-fi flick is very intriguing and features great chemistry between the two leads. The film also pulls a neat trick in starting off as very serious, then turning into something more fun and at about the halfway point. It also ends at the perfect moment, a skill that even seasoned filmmakers often lack, so kudos to the relative newcomers behind this joint. I’d wish the two directors luck in the future endeavors, except they’re working on Marvel stuff for Disney Plus now, so fuck ’em.

10. THE NIGHT HOUSE (2020, dir. David Bruckner): Rebecca Hall plays Beth, a teacher grieving over the suicide of her husband. Soon, she begins to hear strange sounds and see odd sights, and they all are connected to his death. 

On the surface, this is an above-average mystery/ghost story that suffers from an overreliance on jump scares, but below the surface, this is an excellent drama about loss, the grief that follows, and the inability to deal with either. This is made even stronger by Hall’s excellent performance as Beth, a woman who puts up a tough sardonic front while trying to mask the pain she’s going through. Hall definitely deserved an Oscar nomination for her work here, which is why she didn’t get one. 

9. MALIGNANT (2021, dir. James Wan): A woman begins to have strange visions of people being brutally murdered, and soon finds out that not only are these murders real, but that she and the killer are somehow connected. Director James Wan gives in to his inner overly caffeinated 14-year-old self with this very entertaining mix of Dario Argento, Stephen King, 80s Italian horror flicks, and 90s American slasher movies.

Some might be put off by its gleeful, unapologetic wackiness, but yours truly was in Good Times City, population: Me. But c’mon Wan — why did you have to cast your wife in a supporting role?

Crikey! No mate, my Sheila’s very talented, mate, she co-produced the movie with me and, uh, koalas and Outback Steakhouse and shr–

Sure, Jimmy, I don’t know why you’re wasting your time jawing at me, when I know you’re already late for your weekly meeting at the Good Hollywood Husbands Club. Yeah, that’s right, I’ve seen you guys hanging out together: you, Rob Zombie, Judd Apatow, and David Mamet, all holding your wives’ purses. 

8. THE VIGIL (2019, dir. Keith Thomas): Yakov, a former member of the Orthodox Jewish religion, has been convinced by his mentor to be the Shomer for a recently deceased man. What that means is that he’s to sit vigil overnight, praying for the dearly departed, protecting him from evil. What follows is a long night full of evil spirits who don’t take No for an answer. 

Mostly set in one darkly lit room, this slow-burn old-school creeper can be at times borderline monotonous, but it’s done with purpose — and when those scares hit, they hit hard. It helps that I genuinely cared about the main character, so big props to Dave Davis as Yakov, who really does get run through the wringer — both physically and emotionally. This was originally placed at #10, but I was able to Jew it down to #8.

7. THE MEDIUM (2021, dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun): This one’s a fake documentary that follows a local shaman in Thailand; her name is Nim and when she was a young woman, she was possessed by a goddess, granting her the supernatural ability to heal people. But during a family visit, Nim begins to notice strange behavior from her niece that echoes the behavior she had pre-possession. Could this mean that the niece is next in line in the shaman business?

A canny riff on The ExorcistThe Blair Witch ProjectPoltergeist, and Paranormal Activity, this movie is not unlike what my ex-girlfriends have said about spending the night with me: Long, slow, increasingly disturbing, and when it was over I didn’t want to go through it again. 

6. CENSOR (2021, dir. Prano Bailey-Bond): Set in the United Kingdom during the 1980s “video nasty” period, this film focuses on Enid, whose government job is to watch horror films and then tell the filmmakers what parts to cut out in order to make their work safe for the general public. Her flavorless life gets an unwelcome spicing up when the news comes out that a man murdered his family, after watching a film that she had approved for release.

This very effective mix of mystery and psychological horror not only convincingly recreates the 1980s in its settings, but in its representations of the kind of lower-tiered horror films that were often censored or outright banned in the UK during that time. I think this would sit nicely alongside David Cronenberg’s Videodrome in that very narrow video store shelf labeled “mind-fucking flicks about about mind-fucking VHS tapes”.

5. SAINT MAUD (2019, dir. Rose Glass): Maud, a hyper-religious hospice nurse, takes the assignment of caring for Amanda, a terminally ill dance choreographer. As this short, sad, and scary character study continues, we find that Maud’s beliefs are less about faith and more of a fanatical certainty. 

The way this portrays the character of Maud, I’d place this in the sub-genre of “God’s Lonely Man”, although in this case it would be “God’s Lonely Woman”, as it puts to mind similarly-structured films like Taxi Driver and First Reformed. This was an A24 release, but I like to imagine an alternate universe where Troma got a hold of it, and changed the title to Jesus Freak Nurse or something. Anyway, it’s a great film and Morfydd Clark is stellar in the title role.

4. THE EMPTY MAN (2020, dir. David Prior): A widowed ex-cop named James is on the search for the missing daughter of a family friend. Along the way, he learns of the legend of “The Empty Man”; if you blow into an empty bottle on a bridge, he is summoned, and three days later, you are irreversibly and permanently fucked. Figuratively fucked, I mean, not literally. Anyway, guess what the fuck James ends up blowing?

This is a deliberately paced work of detective fiction with a strong supernatural bent and plenty of creepy atmosphere, reminiscent of something like the 1987 film Angel Heart or even 1973’s The Wicker Man (the non-bee, non-Cage one). It features a strong lead performance by James Badge Dale, and I was surprised to see Nietzsche-an and Schopenhauer-esque concepts and beliefs being thrown about. I did kind of groan upon seeing a high school named “Jacques Derrida High School”, but hey, I still appreciated the effort. 

3. VICIOUS FUN (2020, dir. Cory Calahan) 

and 

WEREWOLVES WITHIN (2021, dir. Josh Ruben): I’m cheating here and putting two movies in the same spot, but that’s because I feel they were both equally fun viewings and they’d make a cool horror-comedy double feature. 

Vicious Fun takes place in the 80s and follows Joel, a horror magazine writer, who accidentally ends up sitting in at a support group meeting for serial killers. This one is a borderline cartoon with just the right amount of blood and goofiness. It’s very funny, and it’s one of the few films I’ve watched during the pandemic that I wish I could’ve seen in a packed theater, because I think this would play great with an audience.

Werewolves Within is about the new forest ranger in town, Finn, and his attempts to keep everybody safe and sane during a rash of attacks that appear to be the work of a werewolf. Populated by wacky characters, who I found all so entertaining, this light-hearted movie could’ve forgotten about the werewolf and I still would’ve found this to be a very good time. It also features a very 90s-tastic bar that I wish existed in my neighborhood; I would’ve become a alcoholic for sure, but man, what better way to pickle your liver than to have Ace of Base blaring in your ears while you’re doing so. 

2. COME TRUE (2020, dir. Anthony Scott Burns): Teenage runaway Sarah takes part in a sleep study where her dreams will be recorded and studied. Sleep paralysis and visions of dark figures with glowing eyes ensue. 

This is less of a horror film and more of a mood piece, but man, what mood! It’s an incredibly stylish film with arresting use of sound and visuals; I loved the way this film looked with its very sharp angles, precise framing, and colored lighting, and the music by Electric Youth and Pilotpriest is retro synth heaven. There’s even great use of a song from the soundtrack to Michael Mann’s Manhunter, I mean, that’s the kind of movie we’re talking about.

This is also one of the few films I’ve seen that comes close to capturing the feel of a dream, specifically the kind of bad intangible dreams I’ve had, where I’m not sure what I had just slept through, but it left me feeling unsettled upon waking up — that’s how Come True felt to me. 

And now, for my number one Trick or Treat Radio film of 2021…

1. LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021, dir. Edgar Wright): Small town girl Eloise moves to big city London to study fashion design; she rents an old room that has clearly not been changed since the 1960s, which is fine with her because she’s obsessed with the 60s. Soon, she begins to have way too lucid dreams about a girl from that decade named Sandie, and so Eloise begins to experience Sandie’s life as she makes her way in the city as a nightclub singer. This all sounds pretty cool, except for the fact that Eloise’s late mother suffered from mental illness, and so there’s the possibility that these nocturnal visions she’s having are doing her some similar damage.

I’ll be honest, this one took a little while to grow on me, but once the plot kicked in, I was absolutely  committed to this excellent psychological thriller. Even though he’s best known for comic riffs on genre movies, Last Night in Soho is Edgar Wright’s most serious film to date, putting the screws to both the main character and the viewer, with only the occasional moment of humor to break the tension. 

Considering the director and this premise, I expected a visually exciting movie with plenty of cool 60s Britpop tunes on the soundtrack, and that’s what I got. But what surprised me was how much I cared for the characters of Eloise and Sandie; as written by Wright and Kristy Wilson-Cairns, and performed by Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, I found them painfully sympathetic and wanted them to come out OK at the end of their journeys. I plan to watch this again soon, but I feel this one ties with Hot Fuzz as my absolute favorite film from this director. 

 

Now, the Trick or Treat Radio boys also gave out their honorable mentions, so I’ll go ahead and give you my two honorable mentions. The first, just barely missed the list at #14: the 2021 film Titane by Julia Ducournau, and it’s an incredibly strange and original tale about a very odd duck who models at car shows (she’s a chick, not a duck, though). It starts out as one kind of movie and then turns into another, and my interest throughout was never less than 110-percent. It’s certainly not for everyone, with off-putting audaciousness involving body horror and the intentionally unlikable lead character, mixed in with dark comedy and genuinely emotional moments. But it definitely worked for me.

The second honorable mention wasn’t covered on the show, but it was recommended by former co-host Monster Zero, and that’s the 1981 film Evilspeak, directed by Eric Weston and starring Clint Howard in what is basically a male version of Carrie — except I think I prefer the climax of this film to Carrie‘s. We watch Howard’s put-upon nerd get the full bully treatment by his classmates, but thankfully, he’s able to get back at them with the power of the dark lord Satan, and when he does, it is b-e-a-utiful. During this particular time, it seems more and more that the real world is lacking in justice, as the assholes in society keep getting away with things scot-free. And so, if it takes an otherwise cheesy movie to feed my justice demon, so be it. 

Well, that covers my Top 13 of Trick or Treat Radio movies of 2021. And because one bad turn deserves another, here are the rest of the films covered that year on their podcast, placed in order from best to worst: 

14. Titane (2021)

15. The Last Broadcast (1998)

16. Spare Parts (2020)

17. Caveat (2020)

18. Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

19. Promising Young Woman (2020)

20. The Green Knight (2021)

21. Wolf Guy (1975)

22. Sons of Steel (1989)

23. Kandisha (2020)

24. The Advent Calendar (2021)

25. Army of the Dead (2021)

26. Hunted (2020)

27. The Boy Behind the Door (2020)

28. V/H/S/94 (2021)

29. The Deep House (2021)

30. Martyrs Lane (2021)

31. In the Earth (2021)

32. The Tunnel (2011)

33. Knocking (2021)

34. Sator (2019)

35. Antlers (2021)

36. The Banishing (2020)

37. Two Heads Creek (2019)

38. Raw Force (1982)

39. The Stylist (2020)

40. Jakob’s Wife (2021)

41. Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

42. Lucky (2020)

43. Son (2021)

44. The Queen of Black Magic (2019)

45. Fried Barry (2020)

46. Primal Rage (2017)

47. The Spine of Night (2021)

48. The Last Matinee (2020)

49. Black Friday (2021)

50. Sound of Violence (2021)

51. The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

52. Psycho Goreman (2020)

53. Demonic (2021)

54. Clapboard Jungle (2020)

55. Dachra (2018)

56. Skull: The Mask (2020)

57. Honeydew (2020) 

Well, there you have it. Here’s to another year of movies; I intend to watch along with Trick or Treat Radio during 2022 as well, but who knows what awaits all of us. And in that spirit, here’s to another year of uncertainty, and here’s to the foolish but sincere hope in the high unlikeliness that when we make it to the end of this horror movie, there will be a post-credits stinger. You know, something like The Avengers eating shawarma, but forever.

Zero percent APR or I start dropping bodies

Posted in film on November 22, 2021 by efcontentment

Click here for podcast version.

Car salesmen are creepy. Now, if you are a car salesman, please understand that I understand. You are someone who is just trying to make a living, and you probably have bills to pay, a family to support, tables in constant need of food to be placed upon. You are a human being, I know this. We are all human beings.

But all of you are fucking creepy.

Now, DMV employees are rude, TSA officers are assholes, and fast food workers are indifferent. But you car-selling motherfuckers are creepy. 

You’re creepy in the way cult members are creepy, or gym employees.

That’s just how it works. I don’t make the rules, I just do my best to keep my interactions with your type to an absolute minimum — as in, hopefully fuckin’ never. 

It’s why I dealt with private party sales for most of my life. There isn’t a need to be fake with one another in those situations, just one person looking to buy a car from another person, and you can be as real and honest with each other as you want.

But you go to a dealership, and they are overly fakeity fake fake with you, and I’m like “Dude, dial it the fuck down”. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in polite customer service, and I believe that whether you want to or not, if you’re an employee in a field that involves dealing with people, you put on a happy face. 

But car salesmen, they dial it up in such a patronizing manner, like borderline sarcastic. Because I know, man, to them you’re just another sucker, just another notch on the belt. To them, you are the bitch of the hour who will cough up the sweet commission that you were born on this planet to give them. They won’t even remember your name later that night at their weekly jerk-off session, where these wannabe Joe Girards get together at someone’s house and collectively beat-off to Glengarry Glen Ross or The Wolf of Wall Street, jizzing on the photo they took of you that morning when they shook your hand while handing you your keys to your new car — the same hand they jerk off with, by the way.

In return, I then have to up my normal everyday politeness to their exaggerated scumbag levels. Now we’re just fakes faking it up in the fake Olympics, and depending on how the sale goes, one of us will get the fake gold and the other will get the fake silver. And for some inexplicable reason, I find myself talking differently, using words I normally don’t use in response, like “Beautiful” or “Top notch”. The motherfucker’s telling me how on a beautiful day like this, I should take my new ride on to PCH and I responded with a Tom Cruise-style smile, saying “Oh yeah, nothing like cruising down Pacific Coast Highway with blue skies and not a care in the world, brother!” 

Huh? What the fuck? Why did I say that? Why can’t I just go “Yup”, or better yet, nod in the affirmative with a simple “Hm”, like the unemotional manly-man-man of few words that I wish I could be? 

No, instead here I am not being myself, and the worst part is that the salesman knows this, and I know that he knows, and he knows that I know, and that knowledge will only make his dick harder at tonight’s meeting. 

Now I say all of this to you, despite the fact that things worked out for me in the end — oh yeah, I bought a new car, by the way. I walked in that place with the swagger that only an 800+ credit score can provide, and got what I wanted on my terms. 

But it took forever and a day to get my way, and I know — I fucking know — that they already knew how this was going to play out. They were prepared to give it to me but they were gonna make me work, and these sleazy fake-ass fucks threw as many bumps, spikes, and roadblocks in the way, just to bolster the impression that I got one over on them. Hell, they were probably ready to knock a couple thousand more off the price, had I more stamina. 

Speaking of stamina, notice I’ve said “salesmen” this whole time, and not “salespeople” or “salesperson”. That’s because I’ve only dealt with men in these horrific trials. For all I know, female sellers of vehicles can be a whole other ballgame. I doubt it, though. They probably do the same shit, but because they have  vaginas and I have a penis, I’m sure I would have the opposite opinion. My 800+ credit score would be powerless against them. I’d probably love it — and if these ladies were to draw a heart or smiley face on the invoice, I’d probably love them.

Speaking of car salesmen, the Terrence Malick film A Hidden Life has absolutely nothing to do with them, which is one of the many things that works in the film’s favor.

 
This film is based on the true story of Franz and Fani Jägerstätter, an Austrian couple who live in the beautiful village of Radegund, where they spend their days working their balls off as farmers, and all that that entails. They have sheep, they have fields to plow, there’s plenty of wood to gather — sometimes in the snow. They have long hours, is what I’m getting at. What they don’t have is a Walmart, and so one had to work a loom to create the fabric necessary to make clothes, and one actually had to grow fruits and vegetables, because what the fuck is a Whole Foods? But these people, they enjoy it — because this is the early 1940s, and well, if that’s the only life you know, well, that’s the only life you know. 

But the Jägerstätters really do appear to have no issues with it, and in between their duties and chores, there is also plenty of time spent enjoying their lives together, and with their three young daughters. What I see, or at least what I see as Malick presents it, is a genuine honest-to-goodness life of contentment.  
 
Now maybe you noticed that I mentioned just a few seconds ago that this film takes place in the 1940s. In Austria. As in, the birthplace of one Adolf Bernadette Hitler.

Yup, World War II is in full effect and the Nazi party is always in need of new dudes to step up and defend the offensive regime trying to take over the world. That really wasn’t a problem early on for Franz, who had undergone his conscripted military training under the impression that, well, he’s not ever gonna be called up for service, right? 

Wrong

But I’m jumping ahead here. For a while, we watch as the Jägerstätters frolic through and around nature, as expected in one of these movies. Franz is played by August Diehl, and Fani is played by Valerie Pachner. Up until this film, Malick’s projects were cast with universally-known stars and up-and-comers, but I’m glad he didn’t go that way for this one.

Now, I was familiar with Diehl, having seen him as Major Hellstrom in Quentin Tarantino’s WW2 film Inglourious Basterds, while Pachner was a new face to me. But they might as well have both been new to me, so good are they at portraying these characters, there’s no trace of artifice or theatricality in their performances. It felt as I were watching real people, not actors. They’re fucking great, is what I’m saying.

So we watch as the Jägerstätters live, love, and laugh, but the looming specter of induction hangs over the couple, while little by little, the beautiful landscape surrounding our couple gets soiled by brown-shirted followers prowling the village, looking for donations to the cause. These strangers wear red, white, and black armbands featuring a bastardized symbol of peace. Even the town’s formerly level-headed mayor begins to parrot the same kind of hateful statements made by the monotesticled vegetarian helping to Make Germany Great Again. 

It’s bad enough for the Jägerstätters to watch as their fellow villagers take their masks off to reveal their true selves, but it’s worse for them to imagine what these same people will think if they were to find out that Franz isn’t too hot on the idea of doing his part for the Motherland. See, Franz and Fani are devout Catholics, so there’s the whole killing-is-a-sin thing that he’s not too hot about. But as more than one person tells him: OK, fine, you don’t want to go into battle? I get it. So go in as a conscientious objector, and do your service as a nurse or orderly at a hospital. 
 

Sounds like a simple solution, right? Except there’s more to it than just a simple matter of To Kill or Not To Kill, there are a couple little pesky problems that stand in the way of just going about his service the non-combatant way. First, all soldiers much take an oath and swear allegiance to Hitler; as far as Franz is concerned, that ain’t gonna happen, because his allegiance is to the Big Man Upstairs. Second, Franz has been wondering that maybe, just maybe, the Nazis are evil motherfuckers doing the Devil’s work — so why would he want to throw in with those assholes?
 
You know what’s another name for a village? Small town — and all that that entails, which is to say eventually everybody knows your business. It’s why I could never live in a small town, I’m a psychotically private person, and I’d hate to imagine a bunch of these local hens gossiping about every fuckin’ fart I let out. They say “no man is an island”, to which I respond: No fuckin’ duh. But one man can buy an island, and as soon as I make my fortune, I’m buying one and ridding the rest of you people of me.

But I digress; this village, Radegund, with all of its loose-lipped residents soon gets the word out on the street that Franz is not down with the cause. This is initially met with indifference, but then becomes creeping resentment, and not too long after that, outright hostility — most towards Franz, and some towards his family. 

I can see how some are offended by his refusal to serve, if they truly believe in what the Germans are fighting for. But I feel others are pissed for different reasons, like, maybe some kinda wish they had the balls to do the same, and maybe some are unsettled by someone daring to break the status quo. Because that’s a thing: People hating on others who break from the mold, who do not fall into line like easily led automatons. 

Man, you want to read some fucked-up shit? In this Foul Year of Our Lord 2021, there are people out there who feel persecuted because they refuse to get vaccinated and they don’t want to wear a mask when going to a public place. Some even have the audacity to compare their plight to those of the Jews during World War II, if I can somehow connect this digression to the movie I’m rambling about.

For the record, I am vaxxed and I have no problem wearing a mask. But I can see those people watching this film and thinking to themselves “Man, I know how that guy feels. Why won’t these people see that they are being just as harsh on us as the villagers were on poor Franz?” 

And now some of you might have the temerity to say something like “Uh, I don’t think those people are watching Terrence Malick films” and to that, I have to say, if you’re being serious, c’mon man. Because what makes this whole fuckin’ pandemic even scarier is that it’s not just the morons, there are plenty of otherwise intelligent people who do not see the point in getting vaxxed up and/or wearing a mask. They feel it’s overblown, or it’s part of some conspiracy, or they just feel that science can get it really fuckin’ wrong sometimes. If you see it from their perspective, people like you and me are the weirdos. 

I mean, shit, for all I know, Terrence Malick himself is out having drinks with Letitia Wright and Gina Carano and tossing babies out of windows with Eric Clapton while they all bemoan the obedient sheeple who are having poison willingly injected into their bodies because The Government told them to. I would like think he would know better, or maybe he does and I’m wrong.

Fuck, man. I fucking hate this digression. 

So anyway, “Different” is bad, no matter how you slice it. That’s not my opinion, I’m saying that’s what People say. That’s why some get bent out of shape about, I don’t know, people who don’t eat meat, or people who identify as a different gender. I think they see it as a challenge to The Way Things Should Be, because it’s too much work for them to go “Hey, maybe things aren’t as simple as we want them to be”. 

In World War II-era Austria, Franz Jägerstätter is definitely different. 

So yeah, Franz eventually gets called up for service. And upon arriving for his induction, when it comes time to say “I pledge allegiance to our one-nutted nut of a leader”, he says No Thank You, and then the military police say “Come right this way, sir”, and take him to prison with the rest of the traitors, captives, and mentally unwell. As expected, of all the residents, Franz gets the worst treatment, with the kind of physical and psychological abuse that we humans are just aching to dish out, if given the opportunity — as the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment proved to us back in, uh, 1971. 

But I think it’s more than just power-tripping sadism that the prison guards are getting off on, I think they share a similar hostility towards Franz that the villagers had towards him, and again, it stems from not being able to understand why and how Franz is able to march to the beat of a different drummer. How can he not simply go with the flow on a purely surface level — you know, wear the swastika, stick an arm out for the Führer, occasionally shoot a Hebe in the face — it’s not like he has to really mean any of it. As we find out later in the movie, some people find or make up a justification for taking part, even if they don’t agree with the war or its policies.

Later on, Franz is offered multiple opportunities to take the oath, and in exchange, all will be forgiven. He still refuses. Even his priest tells him something to the effect of “Dude, God doesn’t care what you say, or what you sign on an earthly piece of paper, He only cares about what you mean in your heart”. In other words, just sign the paper, and let these assholes think you’re all about this Charlie Chaplin-looking motherfucker, while remaining true to your Lord and Savior. 

Nope. He still won’t do it. And so he’s in for a fuckin’ ride, lady and gentleman. 

I’ve covered Terrence Malick’s films on this blog before, such as Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, and he is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers; the visual beauty of his work pulls me in, and his existential, philosophical, and outright spiritual themes hit me hard. Over the last few years, I’ve lost faith in humanity and I’ve lost faith in God — and it was nice knowing both while it lasted — but if anyone has ever come close to convincing me that maybe, just maybe, there is somewhere we go after we die, and that perhaps there is a higher power watching over us, it’s this motherfucker.

Because these stupid fuckin’ preaching-to-the-choir lowest-common-denominator products like the God’s Not Dead franchise or anything Kirk Cameron is involved in, they have the gall to call themselves Christian movies, but I feel what Malick puts out is the real deal because it’s never just, you know, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people” answered with “Well, He moves in mysterious ways and you should never question Him because He’s God and He loves you and by the way, don’t be gay” followed up with some shitty low-rent country song on the soundtrack. Our boy Terry, on the other hand, knows goddamn well that Faith is a completely different thing than Certainty. 
 
It’s why this film never answers the questions that Franz has about the pain he’s about to undergo, there’s never a moment or sign that there’s somebody up there to give him a wink and a nod to encourage him or give him a heads-up that all his suffering will pay off in the afterlife. If anything, there’s more evidence in this movie of there being no God, if one chooses to ignore half of what is being shown to the audience. Because as with most of his other films, Malick is contrasting the ugliness of humanity against the natural beauty of the world, like “Look! Look at the playground God has set up for us — and watch as we play in it for a while, only to eventually fuck it all up by our damn fool selves!”  

This is the first time in a long time that he hasn’t worked with master d.p. Emmanuel Lubezki, instead it’s his longtime cameraman Jörg Widmer in charge of the cinematography, and yet his visual style hasn’t skipped a beat. As with his previous films, most of the events are covered in wide angle handheld shots, under natural lighting. In this film it appears that the lenses employed are even wider than usual — some shots border on looking like they’ve been captured with a fisheye lens. But it still looks good, it enhances the hyper-real vibe he’s going for, and so long as he skirts the fine line between overwhelming deep focus and Wash Out’s point-of-view from Hot Shots!, I’ve no complaints. 

In the past, Malick’s approach was one of an artist discovering his film through the process of collaboration, rather than someone with a strict blueprint for the cast and crew to work from. The cast would often work without a screenplay, instead playing moments as if they were free-form jazz, with variations upon variations for each scene.

This extends to the editing process, where he has been known to not give his editors exact directions as to how a scene should be put together, but allowing them to put a scene together however they’d like. It’s been said by many filmmakers that one actually makes three films in the process of making one: The film that was written, the film that was shot, and the film that was edited together. Never has that adage been truer and more fitting than in reference to the works of Terrence Malick. 

His freewheeling visual manner, with an always roving camera following the characters, remains the same, only this time he is telling a linear story, rather than a stream-of-consciousness study of the soul.

While I believe part of this was due to wanting to change things up a little and not get stuck doing things the same old way, I also feel this approach was a respectful choice by Malick to tell this true life story about real life people without the risk of straying too far off the path. Maybe some filmmakers wouldn’t give a fuck about completely bastardizing some dude’s actual trials and tribulations, but not our boy Terry, he manages to stay true to the events while still telling the story very much in his inimitable fashion.

That means there are still plenty of parts where we watch characters go through their lives while we listen to their inner monologues (which in this film are passages from actual letters written between the Jägerstätters), and there are plenty of jump-cuts during scenes, as if Malick was giving us the greatest hits of this particular album — that is, if dialogue scenes were albums, and uh, you, uh, aw man you know what I mean, bro. 

I suppose I’m not spoiling anything by telling you what became of Franz Jägerstätter, because the shit happened back in the 1940s. He was declared a martyr by the Catholic Church in 2007, so I guess you can guess the end result of his refusal to fight for Team Nazi — and if you still can’t put zwei and zwei together, Franz was executed for the crime of not being a piece of shit. They guillotined the poor soul.

I’m not one to get visibly moved while watching a film. I don’t cry at movies, and I don’t really laugh out loud at them either — I’m like Daria Morgendorffer in the movie theater. But I do feel and I feel well, it’s just that I delay my emotions until I’m alone and then I express them — unless the emotion is rage, of course, that is an emotion I will gladly make public. And yet, when I first saw this film in a movie theater back in January 2020, I found myself trembling during the sequence leading up to Franz’s execution, and my eyes eventually got a little watery.

Part of it is that Malick has always had that effect on me, in addition to knowing exactly which philosophical buttons to push, he also has a way to build up a scene into a kind of crescendo of catharsis that I find exhilarating. Another part is just a reaction of pure empathy, as the sequence cuts between Franz being sent towards his final destination, while his wife back home reacts to the news that he won’t be coming back; on the soundtrack we hear Franz reading out his last letter to his loved ones, while Henryk Gorecki’s “Symphony No. 3” plays in the background. It was all very overwhelming to me. This entire film was very overwhelming to me, which is par for the course with this filmmaker, and so, I loved it, and by the end of 2020, A Hidden Life remained my favorite film of the year.

As I mentioned before, I first saw this in January of 2020, which meant I watched both on-screen and in real life, the citizens of a country giving in to their worst impulses and inclinations, due to the deranged ravings of a man in power who shared their ugly thoughts. Meanwhile, certain dark clouds from the East were beginning to spreading their contagious gloom Westward. And so this film also had the unintentional effect of helping to prepare my mind and warn my soul for the absolute shit show that was about to unfold from that point forward to, well, whenever the fuck this ends — that is, if it ever ends.

I’m not talking about COVID-19, I’m talking about the way we wonderful human beings are handling COVID-19, I’m talking about how when given the opportunity to roll up our sleeves, stand tall, and show the goddamn universe the best version of ourselves during a global emergency, we instead have become an even worse version of ourselves. Somehow, millions confused their childish “I don’t wanna” temper tantrums with a rebellious stance not seen since The American Revolution.

Hell, I suppose I should be grateful for this goddamn virus because it led to the ultimate confirmation I needed in my life: That people indeed fucking suck. Content with this knowledge, I no longer need to waste any energy or faith or tears on these people. No longer will anything regarding humanity ever surprise me, and the occasional exhibition of empathy, gratitude, and all around good manners will remain a freakish occurrence to me — or a miracle, the way I consider someone saying “Thank you” after I hold open a door for them a miracle. 
 
Or maybe I’m full of shit, and there’s still a pesky dot of light of faith in my heart that I can’t put out. Because if I had completely written off my fellow man, I wouldn’t have even bothered with those goddamn creepy car salesmen, I would’ve known better. I’d be riding a bike. 

Don’t let your aim ever stray

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2021 by efcontentment

Podcast version can also be downloaded here.

I was long overdue for a new wallet.

As I entered my local mega-chain retailer, I noticed a lady of the Hispanic persuasion at the customer service section. She looked to be in the hardest version of her late fifties, and she had a sizable assortment of pants and shirts on the counter. Behind the counter, were two employees; the male employee was translating what the lady said to the female employee, and all I caught was something about not having tags for the items. 

I continued my merry way, and picked up a wallet — one of those RFID-blocking jobs. Then I went to the self-checkout line, and I heard a commotion. It was the two employees politely-but-firmly telling the older lady that she could not take those shirts and pants back to the clothing department. She angrily shrugged them off and tried to make a beeline to her intended destination, but the male employee blocked her, and she tried to push the man out of the way. The female employee then got on a walkie-talkie and called for security, and I think she may have thought she was far enough from earshot or she just didn’t care, because I distinctly heard the employee refer to the lady as “this bitch”. 

The lady became increasingly unruly, her voice got louder, and this was now becoming A Scene. The security guard — all ninety-eight pounds of gangly shy teenager — arrived and politely-and-only-politely asked her to leave, or at least that’s what I could make out, over the lady’s much louder and angrier voice.  

I was only able to make out the occasional swear word from the lady’s mad invective, because despite being a Spanish-speaker myself, my Spanish is Mexican Spanish, which is to say, slow enough to be able to comprehend the fully-pronounced words being spoken. Her Spanish, on the other hand, was Non-Mexican Spanish aka Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Dominican, etc., a fast-paced onslaught of partially-completed dialogue which is where the stereotypical rat-a-tat-tat speech you hear in such funny movies come from.

There’s also a third kind of Spanish: Castilian, which is what you hear Gwyneth Paltrow speak impressively in interviews. It’s what they speak in Spain, but they speak it with a lisp. Imagine Ice T speaking Spanish, and that’s Castilian. 

Anyway, our Non-Mexican Spanish speaker was vocally motherfucking the employees, while slowly but surely inching closer to verboten clothing department. She, like everybody else, had her mask on, so I was grateful for that, but I kept expecting her to pull it off to do something stupid, like spit at people. Instead, she violently shoved the boy guard, nearly toppling him over a display stand containing discounted Blu-rays and DVDs.

Listen, I’m not really an anxious person, or at least, I only get anxiety when I have to go to parties or get-togethers or any other kind of otherwise friendly situation with friendly people. But as far as negative scenes go, I’m surprisingly chill. I’ve had firearms aimed at me by cops and non-cops alike — those are long stories for another time, preferably after you’ve bought me dinner — and I was either too calm and/or stupid to freak out about it. 

But this situation with the lady literally made my heart beat faster and harder with every passing second. I also began to sweat despite the excellent air-conditioning in the building. At that point, I just wanted to leave, and every cell in my being started to scream GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. But the lone stubborn cell located somewhere in my testicular area responded with “Nah, buy the wallet, then leave.” 

So I waited as the guy six feet ahead of me began to check out his various household products, all the while reasoning with my heart and my sweat glands to please — please! — keep it together for a couple more minutes. And that’s when I heard the unmistakable sound of the absolute worst thing for me to hear. It is the sound that had, has, and will drive me into Lovecraftian depths of insanity, if I hear it long enough. It is my vocal Kryptonite, this sound, and it makes me feel helpless, anguished, scared, and enraged all at once:

It was the sound of a crying baby.

A placid-looking Asian woman and her well-behaved daughter had just entered the store, pushing a baby cart containing a toddler who should know better. But the spoiled boy on the overworked cart was pitching the biggest of fits. 

I desperately scanned the vicinity for an available register elsewhere, and there certainly were some available, if one wanted to wait behind scores of other customers. I even thought about just leaving while tossing a random employee twice the amount of the wallet’s cost — after all, I’ve pulled similar moves at restaurants, leaving money on the table mid-meal because of inconsiderate parents bringing their screeching spawn — but I knew that would just cause more drama. 

Lady and gentleman, I had managed to make it for nearly a year-and-a-half of this goddamn pandemic without losing my shit, yet here I was, about to punch that clock. Because I don’t believe in God, I could not pray to Her. Because I don’t believe in people, I could not depend on anyone else doing the right thing. But I still believe in myself! And so, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, and I transported myself somewhere else — anywhere but that store.

I don’t know where I went, all I remember is that it was not unlike the darkness, quiet, and serenity I fantasize about taking myself everyday. It was nice. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder and I opened my eyes and my ears and the baby was still screaming and the lady was still angry. I turned around to see who the tapper was; a young Asian woman, holding a basket, smiling while motioning towards the now-available register.

So I stumbled over to checkout my item, and looked over to see the angry lady with the clothes, now being walked off the premises while screaming mashed-together way-too-fast Spanish, but I was able to make out the swear words, and she would end every sentence by pointing at each employee and screaming: “Corona-vee-ruuus! Corona-vee-ruuus!” They managed to get her out of the store, and as she angrily walked out with the clothes, she gave out one last gesture of defiance by slamming her fist twice against the front window. 

As soon as the register spat out my receipt, I grabbed that and ran out the store with my new wallet, while making sure I was going the opposite direction of wherever she was going. When I got home, I still felt kind of rattled, so I turned on the Roku and looked for something to watch, and that’s when I remembered: Oh my goodness! The Adorable Amy Adams had two films released on Netflix in the past year, and I’ve yet to watch them. Then it all made sense; the angry woman, the crying baby, the anxiety, the despair, all of that was the universe punishing me for ignoring our dear Triple A. 


Based on the memoirs of author/venture capitalist, J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy begins in 2011 with young Yale law student Vance burning the candle at both ends. In addition to doing the school thing, he’s working three jobs to make up for what financial aid won’t cover.

Money is definitely a big issue for the man, who in true modern-day American spirit, pays for things with multiple credit cards of varying limits and overextensions. It’s too bad I didn’t know him back then, otherwise I could’ve preached him the gospel of micropayments, but I’m sure he’d dismiss me on account of being a dirty ethnic and what do I know? 

Anyway, you’d think with his workload, Time is something of which Vance has little to no amount, and yet, he also has a girlfriend. I guess it wasn’t enough for this asshole to have his hands full, he just has to have them fuller, and just as he’s about to begin a week of interviews for a potential paid summer internship at one of the big law firms — RING RING goes the celly. It’s a call from his sister back home with the bad news that his mom has not only gone back to bootin’ up that damn heroin, the dumb bitch has gone and gotten herself OD’d.

And so Vance drives his fried baloney sandwich-lovin’ ass back home to Ohio in an attempt to get help for his absolute mess of a mother, and the film flashes back to Vance’s youth in 1997, a year that shall remain forever glorious because that was the year that Good Burger graced silver screens all across this great nation. Unfortunately, this movie never acknowledges the release of that film, but at one point they do play “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJs, so I’ll let it slide.

We watch as younger tubbier 1997 Vance lives with his mother Bev, played by The Adorable Amy Adams, but in the case of this film, I will have to refer to our Triple A as The Aggravating Amy Adams, because my word, what a goddamn trial! As we find out throughout the film, Bev wasn’t always a completely addled chore of a human being. Having graduated high school, she went on to have a respectable career as a nurse, but somewhere along the way she started sneaking away an extra pill or two from her patient’s prescriptions, and so on and so forth.

Faster than you can say Mommie Dearest, Bev displays magnificent feats of head-spinning manic-depression; she’ll start as a happy loving mom who will gleefully drive her son to go buy some baseball cards, then one wrong word about one of the latest in a long line of boyfriends later, she’ll stomp on the gas pedal and wonder aloud about just ending it for the both of them in the kind of fiery car wreck that would make Duane Hall jizz in his pants. 

I think it’s supposed to be frightening to watch, but as someone who hates kids — especially crying ones — I got a huge kick out of watching Amy Adams beat the shit of this child. She’s raining down thunder and calling him names and while I’m sure other viewers might be thinking “She’s a monster!”, I was like Go Amy Go! 

(By the way, the opening of the film features another adult punching another child, and that was also something I applauded during this film and will applaud in any other film.) 

Adams is pretty amped up throughout this movie, and that’s both a highlight and a lowlight. To clarify, I don’t think it’s Adams’ fault and I found it easy to find the truth in her portrayal of a boyfriend-hopping drug addict with emotional issues.

OK, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking “Well, of course you don’t think it’s her fault, it’s never your precious Amy Adams’ fault”. First off, get your fuckin’ head — get your fuckin’ head straight — she’s not my Amy Adams, she’s her own Amy Adams, thank you very much. And second, nobody’s perfect and everybody is fallible, even The Triple A.  

But I don’t think it’s a bad performance, it’s a lopsided one — and I don’t blame her so much as the filmmakers for that. See, the problem is that the movie doesn’t give us nearly enough of sober even-tempered Bev to compare & contrast with the drugged-out hotheaded Bev that we see, like, ninety percent of the time — and so, where are we to find any range, where are we to find the tragedy in what her character has become, if we don’t ever really get to see that much of the better angels of her nature?

When you look over at the comparatively subtle performance by Glenn Close as Vance’s grandmother Mamaw, I don’t think it’s a surprise that she ended up being nominated for an Academy Award while Adams wasn’t nominated at all. Of course, I use the word “subtle” for lack of a better one. Maybe “nuanced” would be a better one? Maybe not?

What I’m saying is that as Mamaw, Close plays a tough-but-fair granny with a cigarette practically fused to her hand. But she’s not just playing a one-note type, we get to see more of what makes her tick. For example, we find out that in her earlier years she ran away from a troubled home, only to have found herself in a brand-new version of the same thing.

On the other hand, we’re mostly told that Bev grew up observing some of this turmoil, and we’re told that she was particularly close to her father, despite the growing rift between the family. It would’ve been nice to actually see some of this, the way the film was eager to have us see Bev’s wild and crazy antics, giving us plenty of Effect but very little Cause.

I get that there’s only so much to get across in under two hours, so what I’m saying is maybe director Ron Howard and screenwriter Vanessa Taylor should’ve worked more on finding the right balance before committing anything to celluloid — ahem, I mean digital files.

It’s too bad because here and there we see hints of Howard and Taylor’s potential in making a very effective film; for example, the flashback format enhances the heartbreak because when we see a scene of Bev choosing to clean her act up, it only hurts more, because we know from the present day scenes that it didn’t work out that way for her. 

But overall I was left feeling as if I had watched an early rough cut for what could’ve been a really good movie. Instead, Hillbilly Elegy is kind of a mess that’s less a proper adaptation of the book and more like a haphazard dumping of all the book’s various threads into Thunderdome and forcing them all to fight each other for narrative supremacy: It’s a mother & daughter story, a mother & son story, it’s a fish out of water tale, a fish back in water tale, it’s a drama about dealing with an addict in the family, a comedy about cultural differences, and an overall lesson on how one must not fall into the same rut that previous generations fell into because of family trauma.  

Regarding that last part; I did feel that the running thread about characters being placed at the crossroads of doing the right thing, and sticking with family, right or wrong, was something Howard and Taylor did get 100-percent right.

Now I haven’t read the book and for all I know, it handles all the above-mentioned themes, topics, and plotlines a lot better. Not that I’ll ever find out, because I’m not gonna read that fuckin’ book. I mean, the only reason I watched this movie was because The Adorable Amy Adams starred in it. But I don’t give an inkling of an iota of a shit about J.D. Vance, and I know the ending already: He goes on to become an ardent chugger of Orange MAGA-cock. The End.

The second Amy Adams film I watched on Netflix is also an adaptation of a book by a morally questionable author, (and where she also plays an unstable character): The Woman in the Window, written by A.J. Finn — and I was about to do an entire bit about how that’s not even his real name, and what kind of cowardly douchebag would write under a pseudonym?

Uh…

While we’re talking similarities, I found myself way beyond flattered upon realizing that my favorite living actor is playing…me! I mean, look, Adams’ character, Anna, is a shut-in who keeps her human interactions to a minimum, preferring to plant herself on her comfy couch drinking and watching movies all day until she passes out. It’s like looking in a mirror, only not.

Obviously they changed many details, like the name, gender, and occupation — for the record, I am not a female child psychologist recently separated from her husband and child. I don’t live in a NYC brownstone, nor do I rent out the basement of my brownstone to some dude played by Kurt Russell’s son.

Speaking of that dude, there’s a scene between him and Adams that shows quite possibly the biggest difference between the movie’s version of me and the real me who is currently talking to you, and that is the way we celebrate my favorite holiday, Halloween. Let’s just say we wouldn’t see eye to eye on that issue.

Also, Anna suffers from genuine agoraphobia, whereas I am just insufferable. Anna’s attempts to step outside result in her getting overwhelmed by her phobia, whereas my attempts result in me getting overwhelmed by my hatred of humanity, then returning home to bitch about these people on various social media posts and blog/podcasts. 

By the way, my misanthropy is why I didn’t have as difficult a time as others during this pandemic, because as much as I enjoy going out to eat and going to movies, I enjoy not going out even more. If anything, the outside world completely showed me its whole ass during this past year-and-a-half, the outside world confirmed my worst suspicions about it, the outside world said “It’s OK to stay inside”. 

The plot begins a-brewin’ when Anna partakes in her other usual pastime: Being a fucking snoop, which is something that I would never do. But here she is, spying on her new neighbors across the street, played by Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore.

They have a son, played by somebody’s somebody, and he’s one of those shy awkward teens that make you either want to hug and tell them It’s OK, or you want to slap the shit out of them and order them to stand up straight and Speak Loud Enough So Everybody Can Hear You.

Anna gets friendly with the son, becomes wine buddies with the wife (who’s amusingly named Jane Russell, like the actress), and is the requisite minimum of polite with the husband.  But soon Anna finds herself in a Rear Window kinda situation, except in this case, it’s more like Front Window, because it appears that she spies with her little eyes the husband doing something really bad — maybe even permanent — to the wife. But good luck convincing everybody else, Anna. 

See, something happened in Anna’s recent past; it is the reason for her agoraphobia, the separation from her family, and the lovely prescription drugs that she washes down with vino. Anna is all kinds of all over the place, and even her shrink is kinda getting tired of her shit. The shrink, by the way, is played by Tracy Letts, best known for writing the plays “Bug” and “Killer Joe” and for writing the screenplay to this movie.
Director Joe Wright makes a pretty canny choice of having Anna’s everyday movie-watching consist of Alfred Hitchcock classics. Normally I’m against this sort of thing, because showing classic movies within your movie usually results in people wishing they were watching the classic instead. But I think it works here — regardless of how you feel about this movie — because it allows the viewer to consider the very real possibility that Anna is just seeing things.

Hell, I remember spending a three-day weekend at home fucked up on booze, weed, and shrooms, watching nothing but Shaw Brothers kung fu films all day and night. By Tuesday, I was convinced everybody around me had disgraced me and the Shaolin Temple. So why wouldn’t Anna think she’s in the middle of some real Hitchcockery?

Oh, that’s another difference between Me and Anna; you can straight up O.J. a bitch six feet in front of me, and as far I’m concerned, I didn’t see shit, I don’t know shit, I don’t want to know shit. I was busy tying my shoes the entire time, officer. But no, Anna’s calls the pigs over and digs herself an increasingly deeper hole with a She’s Imagining Things shovel. 

Now the movie is referencing Hitchcock, and it’s aping Hitchcock, but the end result actually felt more like Dario Argento. This felt kinda/sorta like an American giallo at times, with a wonderfully garish mix of colors and lighting, a pulpy plot that favors trash over class, and where emotion beats out logic — it just needed an extra on-screen murder or two or three. I don’t think it’s as good as early Argento joints like Deep Red or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage — this is an American distillation of an Italian genre, after all — but it’s still a fun watch, if watched in that context.

I understand the reviews for this are pretty terrible, and I kinda get it; with a prestige cast and crew of award-winners and nominees behind it, one might expect something a bit more hoity-toity, and this ain’t that. But I will not stand anybody who might have the audacity to say that Amy did not come to play.

She is excellent as Anna, and she manages to come off as both prickly and wounded — probably from being so prickly, she can’t help but hurt herself the most. She has a couple of certified emotional bangers late in the film; both are monologues, one given to a group of people, another to a camera, and either one would’ve made for a great Oscar clip in the category of Best Actress in a Fun Trashy American Sorta-Giallo. 

The film was delayed multiple times — much to my dismay — partially due to COVID-19 making a theatrical release not the most eligible option, and partially due to reshoots. I don’t know what came out of the reshoots, but if I had to guess, the climax of the film was one of the results, because it does feel the most out-of-place with the rest of the movie. I’ve nothing against the climax, but I wished the film would’ve slowly worked its way to that wildly different tone, rather than suddenly whiplashing the audience into it. 

Also, I wonder if the reshoots are the reason Jennifer Jason Leigh’s role seems so minor for someone so major; she doesn’t really get much to do with a role that could’ve been given to somebody cheaper for the same effect.

Actually, her role isn’t that much smaller from the rest of the supporting cast, who definitely live up to the “supporting” part, because this really is The Amy Adams Show. If Anna can’t leave her house, that means the movie doesn’t leave her house. She spends most of her time alone, and so the other characters are left to be occasional visitors or intruders. If I hadn’t known about the novel, I would’ve totally assumed that this was based on one of Tracy Letts’ plays, because this story could easily play out on a stage.

While the movie is expertly made and very well-acted, I couldn’t help but think that there was an even crazier and better version of this story begging to be told, just aching to let its freak flag fly, and I’m afraid Joe Wright was just a bit too buttoned up a filmmaker for the job. This needed someone like Brian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven or Julie Taymor — someone with a strong sense of the operatic, absurd, and theatrical. They also would’ve known how to make the climax and the rest of the film feel like one and the same.
Hell, why not give it to Argento himself? It could’ve been his best American work — or his worst movie ever, although I don’t know how the latter would be possible, unless he had Brian Tyree Henry’s character turn into a praying mantis somewhere along the way.

Minor complaints aside, I thought this nutty little ditty fit the bill, and it passes the test as actual entertainment and not simply an Amy Adams thirst watch, because I’m pretty sure I’d still dig this movie if it instead starred, uh, I don’t know, uh, maybe, uh someone like Isla Fisher, or Karen Gillan, or Jessica Chastain, or Emma Stone, or Christina Hendricks, or Bryce Dallas Howard — you know, any random actress would do. 

Well, it was nice while it lasted. I don’t mean the Amy Adams double feature, even though that was nice as well. I’m talking about my brief post-vaccinated return to the outside world. I got to eat in a couple of restaurants, went to see a couple movies in actual movie theaters. But I’m going back inside. Not because of a virus or its various variants, no way. My reason is something else, something that I feel was best expressed by one America’s last great poets of the late 20th century, Andrew Dice Clay, in his 1993 special No Apologies: “…’cause people are scumbags”. 

Touché.

Posted in douchebag, Femme Fatale, podcast, ramblings of a loser with tags , , , on March 19, 2021 by efcontentment


Click here to download the podcast version of this post.

I’m officially out of the movie rambling request business — or so I thought I was, until I remembered that I still had one request left, and it was from my friend Alec who asked if I would ramble about the 2002 Brian De Palma film Femme Fatale. I said “sure thing buddy”, because it would be a good one to go out on, and it was a film I had already seen and watched, having seen it twice on opening weekend in the Fall of 2002.

And as luck would have have it, the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Los Angeles was about to have a 35mm screening of the film, and I thought “perfect, just in time for my ramblings about the film”.

Except this was February 2020, and it was no longer Fear that was infectious, and what was Over There was now coming Over Here. Priorities changed fast, and I felt my time was better spent panic-stocking on food, water, and ammo, rather than jerking off about a movie for a friend. Wait, that didn’t sound right, I don’t mean I was literally jerking off for my friend, I mean — you know what, let’s just move on.

So, speaking from the relatively calmer waters of March 2021, I can say it’s been one hell of a year, even for those who weren’t personally affected by The Virus That Will Not Be Named, and while it’s certainly not over yet, at least…um, at least we can….um…

Ah, I know. At least I won’t have to shake anybody’s hand anymore. I was never a fan of handshakes to begin with, partially because of my existing germophobia, and because I hate having to squeeze the other person’s hand so hard, lest they think less of me. Silly me, I always thought you got to know somebody by how they treated people, and not by the strength of their grip.

Sometimes I’d get a person practically crushing my hand with their grip, and then I would have to respond by whipping out my dick to show him who’s boss. Which nine times out of ten, would mean they were boss. So I’m done with handshakes forever. From now on, it’s namaste & bowing and if you don’t like it, you can take that bigger cock of yours and go fuck yourself.

The film opens with Billy Wilder’s 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity playing on the tee-vee, and I always felt that showing a classic film within your film is a move as dicey as Andrew Clay, and more often than not, the unintentional result is that the viewer is reminded that there are better films out there that he or she could be spending their time on, rather than the film on which they’re currently wasting their time.

In the case of Femme Fatale, it works. Not that I feel they’re equals, because I don’t — sorry Bri, but I gotta go Team Wilder on this one. But what De Palma is doing by showing you a scene from that film is making it very clear to the viewer that he knows damn well that he’s not reinventing the wheel, but rather, doing his own spin on a genre. And by introducing the main character of his film watching that film, he’s planting some seeds that will sprout big time by the end of Femme Fatale — and based on the constant liquid motif that runs throughout this picture, De Palma is watering the hell out of those seeds. 

And who is this main character, anyway? Well, she’s Laure Ash, played by Rebecca Romijn, who is credited as Rebecca Romijn-Stamos on account of her being married to John Stamos at the time. She has since divorced Stamos and is currently married to Jerry O’Connell, and so she now goes by the name Rebecca Romijn-Fat Kid-From-Stand By Me.

So Laure is introduced watching Double Indemnity in her hotel room, but is then interrupted by a dude who turns out to be her partner in a heist they are about to pull off at the Cannes Film Festival located conveniently across the street. What follows is a fifteen-minute sequence that I feel fits very comfortably among De Palma’s best set pieces; it takes place during a movie premiere and involves Laure, her partners-in-crime Racine and Black Tie, and a model named Veronica who is wearing a gold and diamond number that, uh, I don’t know if it qualifies as a top or is just a piece of jewelry, but whatever it is, it leaves very little to the imagination as far as tits go. It’s like, I guess I’m left to imagine what her nipples look like? But aside from that, I can draw this chick from memory; it would be a stick figure with long hair…

(I never said I was Bazille.)

The movie being screened at this premiere is the 1999 film East/West, directed by Régis Wargnier and starring Sandrine Bonnaire, and I guess De Palma is a fan of this movie about Russian expats returning to Soviet Russia only to realize you really can’t ever go home again. Whatever the case, both Bonnaire and Wargnier appear as themselves in the film, and I like to imagine De Palma telling Wargnier about his idea to include him in this movie where he’s going to play a dude who is unknowingly cucked by a tall blonde.

See, Veronica is Wargnier’s date at the premiere, and Laure’s part in the plan involves seducing her away from the director, so they can have some We Time in the ladies room. And so, Wargnier’s left in the screening room, watching his film play to a captivated audience — but what’s the point when you don’t have a sexy broad sitting next to you to impress with such an experience? This poor man was depending on the thunderous applause to get this chick wet, thereby doing half of the work for him, and thereby making it easier to slip in the saucisse later that night.

Instead, he can only politely smile at his leading lady Bonnaire — who he either already banged during the making of his movie, or he fucked it up and got friend-zoned somewhere along the way — and he can only sit impatiently while both Veronica and Laure are in the restroom, dyking out harder than a couple of Tegan and Sara fans hopped up on Ecstasy. And while Veronica is caught up in the rapture of lady love, Laure slowly strips the diamond-encrusted coils away from the model, and drops them to the floor, while Black Tie waits in the next stall to swipe it all away.

It is all hypnotically shot by Luc Besson’s regular cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, and it’s lushly scored by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto — who is doing a little bit of swiping of his own with a track that sounds very much like Ravel’s Bolero. While there is dialogue spoken during this sequence, the visuals are strong enough that one could watch this with the sound off and understand it 100-percent, as with most of De Palma’s best sequences. One would understand the various actions and reactions by the perpetrators and victims of this heist, and one would definitely understand that both Romijn and the actress playing Veronica (Rie Rasmussen) are absolute goddamn smoke shows here. 

By the way, let’s get this straight: With the constant fetishistic lensing of women and their gyrating bodies and lovingly filmed lips against other female lips, this movie is male gaze as fuck. And as a pig with a penis, I have no problem with it whatsoever. But if you have a problem with it, well, there are plenty of places on the Internet to go pitch a fit and bitch about it — as for me, I’m just gonna sit back and laugh and thank God I’m a part of the patriarchy because this is a maaaann’s world!

Suffice it to say, things don’t go as planned, blood is spilled, and even worse, names are called. It ends with Laure skipping off with the diamonds, while a bleeding Black Tie informs his partner about this betrayal over the radio mic, telling him something in French that the subtitles translate as “The bitched double-crossed us”. 

Now, that’s not a typo on my part, that’s how it’s spelled in the subtitles: B-I-T-C-H-E-D. As in someone having complained in the past tense. 

I wondered if De Palma meant “bitch”, B-I-T-C-H, but there was a mistake with the subtitle people. But then I thought, really? I mean, De Palma comes off as someone who’d be a bit of an exacting perfectionist in his work. Would he allow such an obvious error to slip by? Hell, it didn’t so much “slip” as it fuckin’ did a Michigan J. Frog “Hello My Baby!” dance across the stage. I’ve seen it spelled this way in the 35mm prints I’ve watched, it’s spelled this way in the Region 1 DVD from Warner Brothers, and it’s spelled this way on the version I watched last weekend on HBO Max.

No, it can’t be a mistake, it must be intentional, I thought. And so I looked up other uses and definitions for “bitched”, and here’s what I found as the top definition on Urban Dictionary: 

Uh, so maybe it was a mistake.
 
A lot of Femme Fatale’s fun comes from not knowing where it’s going, and tripping out when it gets there. Granted, this film came out in 2002 and that’s enough for me to recite my standard sarcastic asshole routine about how I don’t want to spoil a film that is now old enough to vote. But this certainly wasn’t some blockbuster movie that took the world by storm that everybody quotes from, nor was it spoofed in one of the Scary Movies or one of those Seltzer/Friedberg pieces of shit — this movie bombed and was pretty much forgotten except by film geeks and maybe Mr. Skin types. 

So I won’t get into it in any further detail that could potentially spoil it. But the funny thing is, there is an alternate trailer for it that rather cleverly spoils the entire film if you pay super close attention; it plays nearly the entire film from beginning to end in very fast motion, occasionally stopping for a moment at regular speed, before speeding up again, and it goes all the way to the end credits. It’s one of my favorite movie trailers and you can find it online

Anyway, skipping some plot developments here and there, we jump ahead seven years, and the men Laure double-crossed are back on the search for her, and more importantly, the diamonds. We are then introduced to a photographer played by Antonio Banderas; his name is Nicolas Bardo (no relation to Brick), and he’s not so much out-of-work as he’s just not really looking for it. After a phone call from his manager (voiced by an uncredited John Stamos), he takes a quick-cash gig where all he has to do is take a photo of an ambassador’s wife. 

This leads to Bardo making the acquaintance of Laure Ash, who is trying to lay low in an airport hotel. Bardo, thinking himself quite the slickster, barges into her room, taking on the guise of a very effeminate man. Some may find this portrayal offensive, and these same people may also find themselves unable to comfortably sit down for the rest of their lives, on account of the excruciating pain emanating from their backsides. 

Wait, I’m afraid that didn’t come out right. I was trying to say that these people are butt-hurt, but not like something caused them to have a sore ass, such as an uncomfortable chair or a leatherman’s fist. And I’m certainly not making the connection that the kind of people that would have a literally hurt butt would be the ones to get offended. I mean I’m talking about overly sensitive types, that’s what I — oh my god, first I quoted the N-word, now I’m implying that the homos can’t take a joke, oh geez — PLEASE DON’T CANCEL ME. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Antonio Banderas worked with Pedro Almodóvar before Femme Fatale, and he’s continued to work with him after Femme Fatale. So I’m sure it’s all good. 

As Bardo, Banderas plays someone who has probably gone through life being crafty in both the literal and figurative sense: as a part-time paparazzo, he knows all the tricks in getting the perfect shot from those who’d rather not have their picture taken, and he also has this giant collage of photos on his apartment wall, forming one giant landscape of the view outside his window.

But soon Bardo finds himself in over his head, as it becomes increasingly clear that he is going up against someone craftier and who looks a lot better in a pair of panties. Or so I assume. For all I know, that sexy Spanish stallion might rock a French cut like nobody’s business. But until I actually see that — and god knows I’ve tried — I will have to give the advantage to Laure. 

The second half of the film becomes a Parisian journey for Bardo in and out of sterile hotel rooms, standard police stations, and seedy night spots. I’m not kidding about those seedy night spots, by the way. I mean, one of the patrons at a scuzzy bar full of drunken, horned-up Frenchmen is none other than Le Tenia from Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible — so you know it’s gotta be bad.  

Despite not being given any moments of what my friend Alec and I refer to as Pure Unadulterated Banderas (basically moments where he hams it up), Antonio Banderas is very well-cast and game for a role that requires no trace of ego, as his character finds himself increasingly humbled. A role like Bardo could be ruined by some actors who would try to maintain too much strength throughout, plus, going back to ego, there are more than a few scenes where it’s very clear that Rebecca Romijn has a good three or four inches of height on the dude.

I love that; because more often than not, Hollywood does that thing where they always have to make the shorter male actor appear to be as tall as his female co-star, or worse, taller. Because I guess the average moviegoer isn’t ready for that idea, that women can possibly be taller than men. So points to Banderas and De Palma for not giving a fuck about Romijn looking like she could easily cradle Banderas and rock him to sleep. And I say this as someone who pays women to rock him to sleep. Don’t kink-shame me.

Of course, the tall woman/short man visual helps to further sell the idea that Banderas’ character is outmatched compared to Laure Ash, but I feel that’s more of an unintentional bonus that was realized after the leads were cast in these roles. 

Banderas is great as the schmuck, and Romijn is very good as the titular femme, doing a fine job with either being conniving or just simply not giving a fuck. Although to be honest with you, I actually thought she did a better job at playing hurt or fragile. And it left me wanting to give her a hug — and not the kind of hug that I already want to give her, you know, a hug that allows me to perv out while feeling her body against mine while smelling her and all that, no. I mean, like a genuine hug of compassion and warmth. Or so I’ve been told about such hugs, if such hugs actually exist.

Not that it matters, because if I’m not doing handshakes, that means hugs are out the window as well. Because while you motherfuckers are trying to go back to normal, I’m prepped for the new normal: I’m talking Demolition Man for real, which I knew was coming. I didn’t go around saying “be well” all this time for shits & giggles, you know.

I am not as well-versed in Rebecca Romijn’s roles as an actor; most of what I’ve seen her in is from the late 90s and early 00s. I know her as Mystique from the X-Men movies, and I know her as The Bearded Lady from Dirty Work, and I know her from that Rollerball remake and the audio commentary she did on said Rollerball remake. But this rewatch reminded me to search out any other movies where she shows a more vulnerable side, because I think that’s what she does best. 

Something staring me in the face this whole time that I’m just noticing now is that Romijn’s current husband Jerry O’Connell was in De Palma’s previous film to this one, Mission to Mars. And at the time, Banderas was married to Melanie Griffith, who had worked with De Palma in both Body Double and The Bonfire of the Vanities. I don’t know what my point is other than some random trivia with which to pad out these ramblings. But I’m sure they all at some time or another have compared Working With Brian De Palma stories at some time or another, I’m sure.  

Anyway, this is all just a long way to say that I’ve always really liked the film. It never tops its opening set-piece, but that’s because it’s really the only set-piece, and it’s kind of a ballsy move by De Palma, as if he were saying “OK, normally this is what a movie leads to, but I’m just gonna go ahead and start with it, and then you’re still gonna stick around to see what happens next because I’m gonna rock your world in a different kind of way”; and he does.

That opening heist precedes a fun, sexy, and twisty joint, complete with the usual audacious De Palma touches here and there — both in the screenplay and in the way he presents these scenes. There’s split screen, slow motion, hypnotic camera movements, giddy splashes of blood, tits, and ass, Gregg Henry, and just the general overall feeling that De Palma is gleefully fucking with you — the viewer — the entire time. And you either go with it and enjoy the ride, or you feel strongly negative about the experience.

In other words, it’s 100 percent pure Brian De Palma, in the same way that films like Blow Out and Raising Cain are 100 percent pure De Palma. Movies like The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible, as awesome as they are, are more like 70-80 percent pure De Palma. 

Femme Fatale is also probably the last solid film — pure or otherwise — that De Palma has made, as of this Foul Year of Our Lord 2021. I remember liking his following film The Black Dahlia in 2006, but I also remember making a lot of excuses for it. Then came his 2007 found footage Iraq War movie Redacted, which wasn’t my cup of tea. Then I saw his 2019 film, Domino, which felt less like a real movie and more like the pilot for an internationally produced television series, the kind that plays in syndication on weekend afternoons. I’ve yet to see his 2012 film, Passion, and so I hope that when I finally get around to that one, it will feel more like the De Palma I know and love. If not, well, you can’t have everything, right? 

Well, I don’t have anything else to say, so instead I’d like to close out by catching up on some comments and e-mail from my fans. I mean, I haven’t posted a real rambling since December 2019, I’m sure I have some people out there who have wanted to stay in touch.

So here’s the first comment: It’s regarding my post on the film Righteous Kill, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Oh man, I posted that one back in 2009! Anyway, this comment was left on my WordPress site, which is the same as the Blogger site, it’s just a backup. Anyway, it’s from someone named “George” and he says: 

OK, cool. He’s clearly referencing the skater character in the film played by Rob Dyrdek, and he certainly was a moron, but I think he’s a few years too old to be considered a millennial. But I get where you’re coming from, George, and I appreciate the comment!

Next, I have a comment left on my Instagram, where I leave much shorter ramblings on movies, and you can find me there at “efcontentment“. And this comment is regarding my post on the Paul Thomas Anderson film Punch Drunk Love, starring Adam Sandler, and which came out the same year as Femme Fatale. 2002 was a good year for movies! Anyway, he says the following: 

Well, I don’t think Anderson was doing a review on Adam Sandler’s character, but more of a study, and I felt this was a very interesting study on an emotionally fragile human being who was able find a meaningful connection with a lady who was able to understand him. And what you call “personal life crap”, I call the intriguing drama that comes from Sandler’s day-to-day interactions with others as he tries not to get emotionally overwhelmed. Anyway, thanks for the comment, oh and I almost forgot, in regards to your opening question, the WTF podcast with Marc Maron has nothing to do with this blog — but I sure wish it did! 

And finally I have an e-mail sent to me by a “Jonathan Baker” and it’s titled “amyadamsismywaifu” and it says: 

And so I won’t. Anyway, thanks for reading — now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the bank! 

Not *too* bad.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2020 by efcontentment

This year for me has been about preparing for the worst during the first half, and then hunkering down and trying to distract myself from the worst during the second half. And while coming back to blog and podcast long-form style seems like the surest way to accomplish the latter, I find curling up into the fetal position and sleeping during every spare moment to be a lot easier. 

But I do intend to continue this in some manner, I really do. See, I have been posting mini-ramblings regularly on FacebookInstagram, and Letterboxd, and I’ve been thinking of intertwining them with the blog/podcast, if for no other reason than to stay in practice. Because I swear, every time I do a new episode, I have to learn the whole process all over again, having spent too much time between shows. I don’t know where I got this idea that every rambling has be a fuckin’ tome. If it’s short, it’s short, and if it’s long, it’s long — that’s what I tell the ladies and that’s what I’m telling you. 

We’ll see what happens. So long as things in the outside world remain shitty or get shittier, I’ll probably need something to occupy my mind between now and whenever I catch the ‘rona — or the ‘rona catches a loved one — and then I’ll either not want to do anything anymore, or I won’t be able to do anything anymore. 

And while I’m not back on my own podcast train yet, I did hop on to someone else’s for one night; I’ve been listening to the Trick or Treat Radio podcast for the past couple of years and really enjoy it. The program consists of four friends reviewing movies (generally horror and genre fare) and it’s lots of fun to listen to them discuss movies and get on each other’s nerves. Usually when a podcast starts up a Patreon, I book from the motherfucker, but not with these guys. In fact, I became a Patreon, uh, patron. 

As a member of the higher Patreon tier, I was invited to be a guest on the show and pick the films they were to review. Because I was able to pick any movie — not just relegated to the type of films they normally cover — and because I was genuinely interested to hear their opinions on this movie, I picked the 2017 Paul Thomas Anderson film Phantom Thread

For the second movie, I picked the 1984 Philip Yordan production Death Wish Club, which I have rambled about before on this blog years ago, under the title Gretta — one of many alternate titles for this film.  

You can listen or download the show by clicking this link. You can also watch me on the included YouTube archive of the live stream, if you feel the need to see me looking way too shiny — but be aware that due to tech issues on YouTube’s end, the three-hour podcast is a fifty-minute video with random skips along the way. (Naturally, seeing less of me makes it a better video.) 

Once the alcohol put my anxiety in a chokehold, I had a good time, and I’m sure I embarrassed myself enough during my ramblings to make it entertaining for others. I certainly insult many of you by calling you lazy bastards, but take comfort in knowing that as someone who has not posted a new blog/podcast entry in nearly a year, I am indeed the blackest pot among all you kettles. 

I also mistakingly confuse Peru for Uruguay somewhere during the show, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re just gonna have to go over and listen to the episode. See people, that’s called a teaser. 

I also suck at responding to e-mails.

Posted in Doctor Who: The Movie, douchebag, podcast, ramblings of a loser, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 14, 2019 by efcontentment

 

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this posting.

I’m a shitty friend when you get right down to it, specifically when friends request things of me, like, I don’t know, let’s just say, uh, ramblings about movies on this blog.

The way it goes is this: a friend will ask “Hey, I’d like to read you talk about this particular movie” and I’ll go “Sure thing, buddy” and my reaction should be “Holy cats, somebody actually reads this blog? I should show them my appreciation and get to work on this immediately!”

Instead, it’ll be about a year before I go, “Well, I guess I’ll blog about this movie now” and then I’ll watch the movie — which is the easiest part of the whole process — and right after the movie, I’ll sit down in front of the computer, open up the ol’ Blogger, stare at the blank white page on the screen for a few minutes, and then I’ll open up another window and spend the next few hours watching YouTube videos featuring cats or dogs or cats and dogs or videos about credit cards or videos about food reviews or videos about video game play-throughs and OK wait wait wait wait wait wait wait —

Don’t get me wrong. I know watching-other-people-play-video-games sounds kinda lame, but let me clarify myself — let me defend myself — and tell you that I don’t watch those stupid “Let’s Play” videos, you know, the ones where people talk through their play-through, as if I cared about what they have to say as they play? No way! I just want to see somebody beat a game I’ve had difficulty with in the past, just so I can see how to go about it if I were to play that game again.

As for the food review videos, I’m very selective; I don’t go in for those “mukbang” or gang bang or whatever they call those videos about people eating on camera. And I certainly don’t go in for any of those videos featuring stupid fat fucks making stupid fat fucking faces on the thumbnail next to a picture of a slice of pizza. I’m not gonna click on that thumbnail just to watch some stupid fat fuck shoving pizza in his face and go OMIGAAAWWWD THIS PIZZA BE SEX ON WHEELS DOWN MY TRRROAT, SON!

But while I’m in Unreasonable Hater mode, you know which YouTube videos I will never understand actually having an existence? The absolute worst kind? Reaction videos. These are the ones where someone or a group of someones will sit and watch a clip of a comedian or a movie trailer or something like that, and these are easy to spot because their thumbnails always consist of that person or persons sitting next to each other making some goofy-ass reaction face — maybe a couple with their hands up to their mouths while making the OMIGOD face, like people do in movies but never in real life — and usually on the lower right hand corner is the video to which they’re making said reactions.

Do you see what I’m doing here? Do you see? I’m procrastinating, I’m hesitating over here and that’s how I do when it comes to other people requesting things of me. It’s hard enough to sit my fat ass down to write about stuff I plan to write about, but it really comes down to the plain and simple fact that if I have a choice between spending my time talking about a movie I watched or using that time to just watch another movie? Well, sweetie, I don’t know how to tell you this — or actually, I do know: I’d rather use my time to watch more movies.

And by saying this, by confessing this — I realize that the true enemy is not my procrastination, it is not what I choose to do with my time, but it is time itself that is the bad guy. If I had more time to sit around and watch movies and eventually get around to doing something, that would be great. But instead time is what it is: the ultimate prison, where I’m held in this cage of hours, minutes, seconds, and the clock just keeps ticking ever so forward towards finality. I need more time! Then maybe I can fit in all the stuff I want to do.

But alas, time remains something linear and fleeting, for it is but a strict progression of cause to effect — it is not some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff in which I can hop back and forth and up and down and everywhere else. Because I’m not a Time Lord, and that lady and gentleman, is how you make a clumsy-ass segue.

Requested by my buddy Kris Wallace — at least I hope we’re still buddies — the 1996 made-for-television film Doctor Who: The Movie begins with a Time Lord known only as The Doctor, who is transporting the remains of The Master, who is an evil Time Lord and also the Big Bad of this entire series.

Maybe I should take it back a little bit, in case you’re too far from a phone to Google it; this is a show that’s been around since the 1960s and it’s about these beings known as Time Lords — they’re aliens or demi-gods or whatever, I don’t know — and they have the ability to do the hipping and the hopping around time and space. The series focuses on one particular Time Lord — that would be our boy The Doctor — going on many different adventures along with his Companion, which I guess is the proper English way to say “sidekick”.

They get around in a time & space craft called a TARDIS, which looks like a British police box because those were a common sight back during the show’s creation in the Jolly Old. Had the show been created today, he’d probably get around in a food truck.

Like James Bond, the Doctor has been played by various actors over the years, but unlike James Bond, they actually acknowledge the change by explaining that the Doctor has to regenerate into a new body whenever there’s too much mileage and wear & tear on the current one. Like the James Bond movies, the otherwise consistently released series took a hiatus between the late 80s and the mid-90s. Unlike the James Bond movies, the mid-90s return of Doctor Who resulted in another hiatus that ended up lasting nine years.

Also, unlike the James Bond movies, Doctor Who is a television series. I don’t know why I even compared the two when they are completely different things. Why did I do that? Because they’re both from the U.K.? That’s some embarrassing shit right there. That’s like welcoming your British friend to the United States with a boxed set of The Best of Benny Hill, assuming your Limey pal is gonna dig it because Hey, Benny Hill is from the U.K. too! And let’s go get some fish & chips too, because that’s what you people eat, right? That’s really fucking embarrassing and I apologize for that and so let’s move on.

So the film begins with The Doctor chilling out in his TARDIS, the remains of The Master stored in a box, but because the Master is literal slime, he (or it) manages to ooze out the box and fuck with the TARDIS so that it has to make an emergency landing on Earth — specifically San Francisco 1999 (as played by Vancouver 1996), where we are then introduced to some Asian-American bros having a shootout with other Asian-American bros. I assume they’re bros, because after shooting at some people, they all give each other high-fives.

The Doctor arrives, stepping out of his TARDIS just in time to get caught in the crossfire and take a couple slugs to the chest — that’s just the preferred way for Americans to greet visiting foreigners — and the sole surviving Asian-American bro on the scene, Chang Lee, gets him an ambulance.

Lee must’ve fallen out of bro-love with his bros, because despite his friends having just been killed in the shootout, he never even gives them a passing thought from this point forward. His priorities are on claiming The Doctor’s personal belongings from the hospital, which really, that’s just a shitty way to live your life, stealing the belongings from some dying Hobbit in an emergency room. Why does Lee not care about his dead friends? Who knows what had happened before we were introduced to his character? Maybe Lee’s bros had just admitted to running a train on his mom and they even had the photographed proof of it?

That would explain why this young man never goes home at all during the entire film, even though serious end-of-the-world stakes do get raised later. I don’t know about you, but even if I found out that my mom once let my closest friends give her the rotisserie chicken treatment — if I knew that all of existence was going to end tonight, I’d still want to stop by and say Goodbye to her. I just wouldn’t let her give me a kiss.

Anyway, The Doctor is taken to a hospital and he ends up dying in the emergency room, and this is where I tell you that up until this point, he’s been played by Sylvester McCoy, who was the Seventh incarnation of the Doctor in the television series. But after he goes tits up, the baton is passed to Doctor Number Eight, who is played by Paul McGann, who I thought was not only fine as the Doctor, I actually preferred him to McCoy, if for no other reason than that I prefer my Doctors to be less Bilbo Baggins and more Aragorn. His introduction has a very Resurrection of Christ feel to it; he steps out of the morgue, still wrapped in a sheet, with flowing shoulder length hair — but no Jesus beard — and the sight of this causes Young and Fat pre-Mad TV Will Sasso to pass out.

The Master, meanwhile, ends up possessing a paramedic played by Eric Roberts, and when you consider the fact that Eric Roberts really likes to work and will take on any job handed to him, including advertisements for motorcycle clubs and walk-in bathtubs, it’s not hard to imagine that maybe this paramedic is supposed to be the real Eric Roberts, making some extra dough between movies, commercials, television shows,  and music videos, by helping to save lives. This is made even more believable when Eric Roberts’ wife Eliza Roberts shows up later in the film in the role of Eric Roberts’ wife.

I’m not bagging on Eric Roberts, by the way. I’m just pointing out that it’s fairly obvious that if there’s a paycheck attached, he’ll take it. I think he’s awesome and based on his appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 film adaptation of Inherent Vice, he’s still got it. Now you can argue that his performance in this film might not fit what you define as the word “good”, but I dug, and you can tell he’s having a blast doing it — and typical of Mr. Roberts, he’s puts in 100-percent.

(UPDATE AFTER THE FACT DUE TO POOR RESEARCH: in 2019, Eric Roberts returned to the role of The Master for the Doctor Who audio story “Day of the Master”, also featuring Paul McGann as The Doctor.)

So The Doctor sets off to find Eric Roberts, who is now decked out in a leather jacket and sunglasses ensemble that made me wish I lived in an alternate universe where Eric Roberts played The Terminator. With the help of stupid gullible Lee, Roberts opens The Eye of Harmony, which I guess is to the TARDIS what the Flux Capacitor was to Doc Brown’s DeLorean. It also has the potential to mess with the fabric of time and space in the most severe manner possible.

Because this is all happening on New Year’s Eve, The Doctor has until the stroke of midnight to stop Eric Roberts before it all goes to shit, as I alluded to earlier while talking about my friends banging my mom. By the way, it hurt to even write about that, but sometimes you have to commit to the nasty shit that spills out of your head in an attempt to make these ramblings remotely entertaining. This is what I do for you and my hungry ego.

Because this film was intended to revive and continue the Doctor Who series, it was also made as a sort-of re-pilot in an effort to garner new fans — namely, the goddamn Yanks across the pond — and so as a convenient way to explain the going-ons to newbies while not boring the seasoned fans, the tellers behind this story give the newly regenerated Doctor amnesia. As the plot thickens, The Doctor realizes what his own deal and reason for being is, in turn helping Joe and Jane Murica, who are watching this at home on the Fox network realize Doctor Who’s whole deal and reason for being.

Oh, that Joe and Jane Murica, now that there is a couple made for each other. Love at first sight, it was — they both grew up in a small town with true American values, working for a living unlike these lazy goddamn millennials who expect to have everything handed to them, and now here they are, in the current year of 1996 as they sit back and eat freshly popped Pop Secret movie theater flavored microwave popcorn, watching this weird movie on the tee-vee about some guy from either England or Australia — it’s the same thing — and he’s chasing after Julia Roberts’ brother from Star 80, and hey, Jane, who’s the lady he’s with the whole time?

Well, Joe — that there is Doctor Grace Holloway, the cardiologist who figured something was up with this gunshot victim because his x-rays showed that he had two hearts, and her suspicions were confirmed after said gunshot victim came back to life. So now you have Doctor Holloway helping out The Doctor, which I guess makes her his new Companion.

But here’s my question, having only a passing knowledge of this television series: has the Doctor ever macked on one of his Companions before? Because that’s what happens here, he and she have themselves a little kissy smooch-smooch action and if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to shoot myself in the face for writing “kissy smooch-smooch action”.

Ladies, if you’re ever in the sad position of being my date and somewhere along the way I ask for a “little kissy smooch-smooch action”, you have every right to cancel my creepy ass on some old Louis C.K. shit, as if I had blocked the exit and asked you do that for me — not that I would ever have the balls to do something like that, cornering you and asking for a “little kissy smooch-smooch action”. Besides, it’s not like I’m in some position of power to help or hinder your career, I’m just me. So all a move like that would get me is a swift punch to the nose, and as I fall to the ground in a pathetic crumple, trying to stop the blood from gushing out my snout, you walk past me triumphantly to the strains of a Beyonce song, stepping out the door while calling me a “little-dick motherfucker”. And I just don’t need that kind of pain and humiliation in my life.

Not like Dr. Holloway is having any better luck on the dating circuit; early in the film, she gets paged during a night out with her boyfriend at the opera and has to leave to attend to her life-saving duties. This frustrates him and he ends up packing up his things from her place and walks out on her. This Val Kilmer’s stand-in-looking motherfucker is a real lame-ass; I mean, dude, you could’ve married that chick and eventually you would’ve had some of the sweet, sweet doctor cash coming your way.

Of course, that’s just what I think, and this is coming from a guy who would have no problem with my partner being the primary breadwinner in our relationship. The only time I’d have an issue with it would be knowing that every time we’d have a serious argument, she could always pull that card on me, and at any time she could be like “Then why don’t you go get a fucking job and stop leeching off of me, how about rather than writing those stupid ramblings about horror movie marathons, you go fucking get a job so I don’t have to support your lame ass. My father was right, I never should’ve dated outside of my race!”

Speaking of race, the two doctors race their way towards the film’s mid-90s television-budgeted computerized special effects extravaganza — aka the climax — but then a motorcycle cop gets in the way, stopping them, and so the Doctor pulls out a bag of jelly beans from his coat and offers it to the policeman in order to distract him. It’s a good thing the Doctor is as lily white as the cop; if the Doctor were a man of the darker persuasion and instead of Doctor Who it was Doctor Bho, I’d think there are about 41 ways — all of them the same — that it could’ve gone as soon as the Doctor reached for those jelly beans.

I’m going to go ahead and spoil a big part of this, so just skip ahead a paragraph or two, if it really makes a difference to you. But by the end of the film, a number of people have died during this adventure, including Lee and Doctor Holloway. After The Doctor defeats The Master, he then turns back time, and suddenly this golden mist comes out of the Eye of Harmony and goes into the dead bodies of Lee and Holloway and shazam! His friends are now alive again.

So wait a minute — what was that golden mist and why did it come out of the Eye? Was that mist supposed to be their souls? Is the Eye a gateway into the afterlife? Are Heaven and Hell just a big part of the whole timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly mess? Should I really just relax?

To add further confusion, The Doctor then sends them to the first day of the year 2000. So does that mean he only brought Lee and Holloway back, while all the other poor schmucks like the various security guards, the non-possessed version of Eric Roberts, and even Eric Roberts’ wife stay dead? That’s not fair, dude. Either change all of it or none of it, don’t just pick and choose what to fuck with — determining who gets to live and who has to die, I mean, who the fuck are you, Doctor Who? OK, enough of that.

So here’s the deal, folks. I am not what they call a “Whovian”, but I have seen a few episodes and like I said earlier, I have a passing knowledge of the program, at least enough to be able to sound like I know what I’m talking about, should I find myself in a conversation with real Whovians  — and I can always bullshit the rest. But what I’m about to say could possibly expose me as a fake to those people

— Doctor Who: The Movie doesn’t feel that much different from the series.

I can’t fault the film for not letting us get to know the characters beyond a basic surface level that is relevant to the plot at hand; had this Doctor Who reboot/continuation been picked up as a series, I’m sure they would’ve delved deeper into what makes the characters of Lee and Holloway tick — to say nothing of The Doctor himself. As for everything else, I don’t know what the general consensus among Whovians is when it comes to this movie, but I thought it was just fine. I mean, I’ve seen better episodes than this film, but they’re all about the same when comes to their overall entertainment value.

While I’m at it, let me piss off another group of hardcore fans of a popular science-fiction fantasy property: the Star Wars movies are all more or less equally good to me. I swear to you, I’m not trying to be a contrarian — if anything, it’s an opinion I’ve kept to myself up until now, because I’m not looking for a fight. I paid good money to see every one of those movies in the cinema and I always felt I got my money’s worth. Now please leave me alone, I don’t want trouble, just get out.

Anyway, I’m guessing one reason Doctor Who: The Movie might not be seen in as bright a light as everything else in the Who-verse — or whatever the hell you nerds call it —  is that the producers were not only intending to introduce Doctor Who to American audiences, but that it was also going to be an American-centric program (despite being shot in Canada) and the Brits could either love it or leave it and it wouldn’t mean a goddamn thing because what’s a little place like the United Kingdom compared to big bad America, right?

But, like soccer and the metric system, America rejected this television movie/backdoor pilot, because we had better things to watch on television like “Suddenly Susan”. But it did do well on the correct side of the pond, to which I’m sure these same producers then did a 180 and used the U.K. numbers as a selling point in a desperate attempt to have the show picked up. It wasn’t, and it took nearly a decade before it came back and stayed for good, currently featuring a female incarnation of The Doctor, which you know has to be pissing off somebody out there.

And that’s all well and good, I’m glad the show has a huge following and all, but when it comes to watching a time-traveling do-gooder on television, give me “Quantum Leap” any old day. That’s right, I said that shit: Quantum Leap, bitches! I lied about not wanting trouble — NOW FIGHT ME COWARDS

Comb your goddamn hair.

Posted in Body Snatchers, Cherry Falls, Demon Witch Child, Edge of the Axe, Quatermass and the Pit, The Mad Ghoul, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2019 by efcontentment

Click here to listen to the podcast version of these ramblings.

It was Saturday October 19th and I was at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles for the 2019 All-Night Horror Show and I was worried that all the good seats would be taken by the time I got in. But considering that tickets to this event sold out in mere seconds, I thought to myself “Hey, at least I have a ticket, good seat or not”.

I define a good seat as one with quick access to the aisle, that way I wouldn’t have to inconvenience my fellow moviegoers by doing the whole “excuse me pardon me sorry excuse me pardon me” thing all night every time I needed to go to the restroom to snort a line or two. Luckily, I found a good seat despite having a guy with bedhead sit in front of me, which meant that every once in a while he would sit up straight, his wayward strands sticking up through the bottom of the screen every which way but loose, resulting in me watching the films as if I were viewing them through a creepy cornfield — which kinda added to the whole Halloween vibe, he said while trying to make a positive out of the overwhelmingly negative.

The night began with an intro by host/programmers Brian Quinn and Phil Blankenship; they gave us a quick rundown of what to expect: six horror films — all secret surprise picks of which we would not know until they played — and as is the custom with the All-Night Horror Show, the movies would not be old or new favorites that are often seen around this time of year, they would all be films that were rarely screened in this neck of the woods, that is, if they were ever screened at all. Brian credited Phil for doing ninety percent of the work for the last couple All Nighters; Phil then said to us that if we loved any of the films shown tonight, they were his choices, if we hated any of the films, it was all Brian.

The lights went down, and we were treated to a Mighty Mouse cartoon called “The Witch’s Cat”, about a witch flying around town on a broomstick, looking for mice to feed to her cat, who is also along for the ride. They find a group of Halloween-celebrating mice, and the chase begins. Now it’s been nearly a month, so my memory is kinda hazy, but I think that at some point Mighty Mouse eventually came in to save the day.

Following that, we watched a trailer reel that included the films Meat Cleaver MassacreDeadly GamesHe Knows You’re AloneSilent Scream, and The Final Terror.

The first film turned out to be 1988’s Edge of the Axe directed by Joseph Braunstein, which is a funny way to spell Jose Ramon Larraz. Senor Braunstein helms this movie about a mask-wearing axe murderer going around axe-murdering all the ladies in a small woodsy town somewhere up there in the mountains — and good luck convincing the sheriff about these murders, by the way. He’s more concerned about keeping the pristine reputation of his town, so if, let’s say, a woman’s rotting corpse is discovered hanging upside down from the attic of a bar, well, that there is clean-cut case of suicide. Say, wasn’t that part-time hooker found dead near the train tracks with multiple wounds that look to have been done with an axe? Nope, that there is just another everyday case of someone walking onto the tracks and getting hit by a train.

But I can’t blame the sheriff. I can only blame the people who go along and enable his bullshit, like the owner of said bar and the conductor of said train and the deputy who picks up evidence with his bare hands before taking it to get dusted for fingerprints. Most of all, I blame the people who voted for this man to become sheriff in the first place. They should’ve seen this coming, but no, they liked him because to quote one of these assholes in an anecdote I just made up, “He speaks just like I speak”.

If you like giallo-ish movies that make little to no sense and feature laughable dialogue and performances, then give Edge of the Axe a try. It was a hit with the crowd, getting big reactions from scenes like the one where the hero’s love interest tries out his fancy computer — a computer that has the ability to speak in an echo-y voice that sounds like a bored narrator — and she types in a question. The hero asks her what question did she ask the computer, and she replies “I asked it if you were gay.”

A fair question to ask, because considering how shitty the women get treated in this film, all the men in this town must either be super gay or ultra hetero — that’s right, kids, here no penis resides in the middle.

The answer the computer gives to the love interest’s gay question, by the way, is “Data incomplete”, and that’s why I miss the 1980s. Because nowadays you don’t even have to ask your computer, it’s already volunteering those answers to you whether you want to know or not.

After a trailer reel that included Dracula: Prince of DarknessWhen Dinosaurs Ruled the EarthThe GorgonNight of the Blood MonsterFrankenstein Created WomanThe Mummy’s ShroudTwins of Evil, and Hands of the Ripper, the second film turned out to be a rare Technicolor print of the 1967 Hammer production, Quatermass and the Pit (or as it was known in the United States, Five Million Years to Earth), which takes place in the land of free healthcare and bad teeth and evidently worse public transportation, because a bunch of these Brits have to deal with the temporary closure of one of their subways.

You know how it is, it’s the same everywhere; every year these different city departments want to ensure they get the same (if not more) amount in their yearly budget, and if they haven’t spent it all, they won’t get it. So down they go, tearing up perfectly fine places while leaving the areas in need of fixing alone. Well, these clowns are in for a surprise, because they end up finding the skeletal remains of, get this, ape-men.

Yeah, right. I don’t know about you, I didn’t come from some ape. I came from the first two humans placed here on this planet by God — and their names were Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Yeah, that’s right, I heard about you. I asked the computer and it told me everything I needed to know.

You know who would probably agree with me? (About the ape-men, not your sexual preference.), Professor Quatermass, who is pretty sure these supposed ape-men are actually aliens from five million years ago, and he’s probably right on account of the giant metallic vessel they end up digging up. Gradually, weird and crazy stuff happens, and at one point — if this is a spoiler, then you have clearly discovered the time travel and you need to go back 52 years to when this movie was new — Martians get mixed up in the plot, and when you see them during a sequence that involves recording someone’s deeply hidden psychic thoughts, well, it’s not quite the video log from the Event Horizon. Based on some audience members reactions, I wasn’t alone in thinking, how, uh, quaint these Martians looked.

OK, fine, they look like grasshoppers. I don’t mean the drink, either, I mean like the insect Johnny 5’s stupid ass crushed before realizing he couldn’t reassemble it. Hey, I mentioned the drink just a sentence ago and speaking of drinks, there’s a part where one dude working at the pit starts losing his shit, and so this lady pulls a flask out of her bag to give this guy a shot of Calm The Hell Down. I want to party with this chick, who’s more down with the spirits than Quatermass, who prefers not to drink before noon; he sounds like a man who’s never had the pleasure of a 7am beer, if you ask me. Ah, there’s nothing like a 7am beer — except a 7am beer while taking a shower ohhhhh

I had never seen the BBC serial this all originated from, but I have seen the previous Quatermass films, The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass II: Electric Boogaloo, and I got a kick out of them.  They’re all so properly British while everything around them gets increasingly nutty. I liked this film the most, and if you like ultra-serious, deliberately paced sci-fi films with touches of horror here and there, you might dig this too. Or check out the 1985 Tobe Hooper movie Lifeforce, which I see as an unofficial Quatermass film that’s doped up on cocaine, mescaline, and Ecstasy.

Before the third film, we were treated to an episode of The Beatles television cartoon series from the 1960s, which included a story about a mad scientist who tries to force Paul to marry a vampire bat woman, and another story where the Fab Four are messing around in a wax museum. I didn’t even know The Beatles had a television series, and I wish I could tell you that it was good, but aside from the use of actual Beatles songs on the soundtrack, it was really nothing to scream about, not unless you were a teenage girl in the 60s who would scream for anything Beatles related.

That was followed by a trailer reel that included The Beast with Five FingersAttack of the Giant LeechesI Was A Teenage Werewolf, the original Little Shop of HorrorsThe Thing from Another World, and White Zombie.

After the trailers, we watched a short subject titled “Intimate Interviews”, about a lady by the name of Dorothy West — not to be confused with the Harlem Renaissance writer of the same name — who goes to interview Bela Lugosi in his back yard. They discuss his Hungarian background, his study of American slang, and other things, before Bela suddenly stares off at the middle distance and says “I’m coming”, which creeps Miss West out and she runs away.

We all had a good laugh with that one, before settling in for 1943’s The Mad Ghoul, about a college professor named Morris who in between teaching pre-med students and future Big Pharma types about chemicals and their chemistry, likes to do things like kill innocent monkeys with nerve gas. This asshole didn’t even come up with the recipe for this gassy concoction himself, he took it from the ancient Mayans — as opposed to the modern Mayans — who would use the gas to kill their sacrificial victims, before taking the sacrificial victims’ heart out as part of some dumb ritual that is supposed to appease their stupid gods.

So Morris ends up using the gas on his big strapping lad of a student, Ted, on account of the good doctor having a thing for Ted’s girlfriend, Isabel. The way it works is, he gassed this dude, effectively killing him. But then he juices him up with fluid from the hearts of the recently deceased, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make yourself a mindless zombie who will do your bidding. By day, Ted — more like Dead, am I right, people? — is pretty much in regular person mode, still trying to work things out with Isabel, and by night, he is the titular Mad Ghoul, going on a killing tour with Dr. Morris, who instructs him to murder various people in order to continue with his experiments.

When he’s in Mad Ghoul mode, Ted reminded me of the mind controlled assassins from the first Naked Gun film; I know they were referencing The Manchurian Candidate with that movie, but I wonder if maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t a little subconscious pull from this movie as well? Or did the filmmakers behind The Manchurian Candidate take from The Mad Ghoul? Or maybe they didn’t see The Mad Ghoul, but maybe Richard Condon, the author of the novel “The Manchurian Candidate”, maybe he saw this film and stole from it, in between stealing from the Robert Graves novel “I, Claudius”? Or maybe I should just move on?

So, you hear Isabel sing a couple times during the film, and it reminded me of how lame music used to be until they invented black people. Don’t get me wrong, her singing is pretty, I’m just saying it’s the kind of singing that goes well with mayonnaise and watercress, washed down with a weak cup of tea. Is this the time period certain people refer to as to when America was Great? If so, are these the same people who talk about “taco trucks on every corner” as if that were a bad thing? Because that would make sense, I mean, what I’m saying is, I can see those same people growing up in New Hampshire or wherever the fuck they all come from, these Dartmouth attending fucks — the men in plaid suits and straw boater hats, the women in tennis dresses and saddle shoes — and they’re all strolling down the streets snacking on toasted cheese sandwiches while snapping their fingers because everything is Mighty Fine?  Is that what we are supposed to want to come back to?

I don’t know, man. I don’t even like watercress.

While no unforgettable classic, The Mad Ghoul is an entertaining “programmer” — to use the parlance of the times — and it’s good times in a second-half-of-a-double feature sort-of-way, and if you’re the kind of person who has Turner Classic Movies on all day in the background, you’ll probably like this movie. I am that kind of person, and so I did.

During the intro to the next film, Phil told us that with only three movies left, we would be watching the three best Ghoulies films, he then told us, all kidding aside, that the film we were about to watch would also be first ever repertory screening, and that it took some legal wrangling in order to pull it off. We watched a trailer reel featuring Scream 2I Know What You Did Last SummerDisturbing BehaviorUrban Legends: Final Cut, and Don’t Say a Word, followed by a U.K. print of the fourth feature of the night: The 2000 film Cherry Falls, and this is where I give out a long sigh because this stars the late Brittany Murphy, who honestly should still be here with us being goofy and adorable and talented as hell and all that, but she isn’t, what are you gonna do? Well, for starters you can remember her by watching some of the better movies she was in, such as this one. Murphy plays Jody, your typical small town teenager living your typical teenager small town life, except things are getting decidedly non-typical when someone starts murdering her fellow typical teens for the sin of not sinning. What I mean is that this wacko is killing virgins.

It’s such an inspired premise; usually these slashers are about the punishment of deviants who lay down with the demons of drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex, but in this film, it’s the chaste who are getting chased and once the town sheriff played by Michael Biehn discovers this, he’s faced with quite the conundrum. I mean, how does one tell the entire town that a serial killer is targeting virgins, and if so, will you even get taken seriously, and if one is taken seriously, what then? Will this mean all the non-experienced are gonna running out the door in some kind of wanna-bang frenzy? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Personally, I think you’d have to tell everybody this, not just to save lives but because as someone who owns stock in both Durex and Trojan, I would appreciate all the extra money I would make off of all these kids. In fact, I think if I had the wherewithal to do this, I’d fund some tactical assassinations in small towns all over this great country of ours. You’d find the virgins through Reddit and 4Chan and trick them into thinking they’re gonna get some, then you’d give ’em all Colombian neckties, and spraypaint the word VIRGIN on their chests so there’d be no mistake. No one would miss those kids except their fellow miscreants and maybe their parents. And how the money would flow.

As the trailers that preceded this alluded to us, Cherry Falls is very much of-and-from the glut of teen slashers that came out post-Scream in the late 90s to early 2000s, but it’s also one of the better post-Scream-ers. It’s closer to that Wes Craven joint in tone, in that there’s just as many laughs as there are scares. But while it’s very much a smart-ass satire at times, there are also very strong and sincere dramatic moments that might catch you off guard; for me, it was specifically an exceptionally acted scene between Murphy and Candy Clark taking place in a library that reminded me: Oh yeah, this is from the director of Romper Stomper.

But by the time of the — ahem — climax, the film pulls out all the stops and based on the reactions from the audience, they were digging it as much as I was digging it. It certainly seemed to wake them up from what I could sense was a bit of slumber time with the last couple deliberately paced films. I realized how lucky we were to get to see Cherry Falls in a movie theater, considering that it didn’t even get a theatrical release in the United States, where instead it premiered in an edited-for-television version on the basic cable USA network; reportedly, it was a toxic combination of a change of distributors plus the United States Senate shining an unwanted post-Columbine spotlight on teen violence in movies that sinked it. That’s too bad, because I think among all the Scream wannabes out there making tidy profits, Cherry Falls coulda been a contender.

We were then told that there were free doughnuts outside the theater, and I decided not to partake as a way to demonstrate to myself that I did indeed have willpower and that I was indeed a man of strength. That, and I also didn’t want to risk the sugar crash that would make it tougher to get through the night. It was a noble experiment that resulted in failure, when after holding out for the entire break, I went ahead and grabbed a delicious old fashioned before the next trailer reel began.

Before the lights dimmed, we were told by Brian and Phil that the last two films would play back to back, with no intermission between them, as there had been between the previous films. They then thanked the projection staff for keeping things running smoothly, as well as the audience for keeping up with all the craziness of the evening. Then we watched old previews for the films Mark of the WitchThe Witch’s CurseSimon King of the Witches, and The Exorcist, so it wasn’t too hard to guess that the next movie was going to involve witches and devil shit.

Sure enough, the fifth film of the marathon, the 1975 Spanish production Demon Witch Child, also known as The Possessed or La Endemoniada, involved both subjects. Man, this movie does not mess around; it lets you know how hard it intends to play right from the very beginning, as we watch an old lady walk into a church and proceed to knock things over as if she were a common house cat, then she steals a chalice and walks over to a statue of the Archangel Michael slaying the Devil, where she leaves a candle next to the dark lord, as if he needed any more fire in his life.

See, this old lady is an evil Satan-worshipping witch who is getting all set up for a good ol’ human sacrifice for her master, and she makes no bones about her intentions. The witch gets taken in by the police, they give her the third degree because said human sacrifice is a local baby she kidnapped! They even bring in the baby’s mother to beg and plead for her son’s return, and the witch calls her a bitch, straight out telling her that it ain’t gonna happen, and that baby’s as dead as my faith in humanity. And while the witch’s faith in her master is strong, it’s evidently not stronger than sodium pentathol, and upon finding out that the cops are gonna dope her up with truth serum in order to get the boy’s location out of her, she exits stage right  — right out the window and falls to her bloody death.

This news does not go well with the deceased’s fellow witches at the coven; after the sacrificing the baby — I told you this movie doesn’t mess around — they end up giving the police chief’s daughter Susan a necklace that allows the spirit of the dead witch to possess her, leading Susan to raise proverbial havoc. First she starts off nice and slow by talking back to her family, then she moves on to playing some of The Exorcist’s greatest hits like levitating and swearing up a storm — she’s particularly fond of using pejorative terms for people your computer would identify as gay — then she moves up to expert level tricks like changing her appearance so instead of looking like the Spanish version of Young Briony Tallis from Atonement, she looks more like the ugly balding witch who resides within, before chopping a dude’s penis off and sending it to his lady in a container.

There are a lot of surprisingly harsh moments in this film, and they all sound shocking when described, but the movie goes about them in such a goofy low-rent manner, I mostly laughed through all of it. On top of that, the English dubbing is just as goofy and low rent, and for all I know, watching it in the original language could improve the overall film. But really, I don’t think it could improve it by that much. But the important thing is that it’s never boring, and that’s all you can ask for when watching anything, really. By this point in the marathon, there were quite a few snorers in the audience, so maybe it wasn’t as entertaining for them as it was for me.

By the way: if you’re predisposed to be snoring, how about you just leave? That’s assuming you’re by yourself at this marathon — if you have a friend with you, and he or she is awake, then I’m even angrier that they didn’t wake your loud ass up. I usually go to these things with a buddy who does snore, and I am so on top of that shit it’s not even funny. I’ll start with a nudge, then a shove, then I’ll punch you in the arm if that’s what it takes, because you are not going to intrude upon the audience’s enjoyment — or mine, for that matter. The rest of you solo snorers and snore-enablers, on the other hand, I’ll punch in the fucking face if I had the money and the clout to get away with it.

That’s why I have to give it up to the gentleman who sat a couple seats down from me; he started with that snoring during this film and despite being a stranger, I got up and nudged, then shoved him awake. He was up for a while, then he started nodding off — but he caught himself. So he then got up and left for the rest of the film for what I can only assume was some fresh air, coffee, or a bump, because he came back before the next film and was back to being bright eyed & bushy tailed. At least until he nodded off again and then just took off for good. As he should.

After a sci-fi remake trailer reel that included John Carpenter’s The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Jim Wynorski’s Not of This Earth, and Chuck Russell’s The Blob, the sixth and final film of the night turned out to be 1993’s Body Snatchers, the third adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel about humans being replaced with alien duplicates hatched from pods. This version of the story takes place in an Army base and focuses on teenage girl Marti (played by young adult Gabrielle Anwar), who along with her dad, her stepmom, and her half-brother, are new to the whole place.

While Dad’s out literally testing the waters on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, Marti’s doing the out-of-place youngster thing: not being cool with her stepmom (played by Meg Tilly), making friends with fellow teenage girl Jen and making googly eyes at dreamy helicopter pilot Tim, the entire time trying not to get too weirded out by the occasional odd sight and strange behavior among the soldiers. It’s already a creepy enough place knowing that Forest Whitaker is stumbling around the place.

The audience applauded quite a bit during the opening credits, because plenty of genre favorites were involved in the making of the film: among the screenwriters you have B-movie legends Larry Cohen, Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli, and frequent Abel Ferrara collaborator Nicolas St. John, which makes sense because Abel Ferrara directed this film. What doesn’t make sense is that Abel Ferrara directed this film.

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Ferrara, he is definitely someone I feel comfortable calling an auteur, because his films are very much in a class of their own and they always leave you wanting to take a shower after watching them. He’s probably best known for the 1992 film Bad Lieutenant and remains a legend in the independent filmmaking scene and so it’s very interesting that Warner Brothers hired the guy to make this mainstream horror movie for them. Based on accounts by Mr. Ferrara, it went about as well as expected, which is to say, not well at all. And in the end, it got thrown away by the studio and remains, in my opinion anyway, criminally underseen.

Of its many qualities, I feel the look of the film is one of them. The cinematographer was Bojan Bazelli, who had shot Ferrara’s previous films and this appears to have been their final collaboration, which is too bad because they made beautiful visual music together. It’s all creepy shadows mixed with shafts of lights coming in through window blinds or cracks in doors, and the widescreen compositions have this way of making me feel claustrophobic, where even wide open spaces leave one feeling like there’s nowhere to escape.

Which is the whole point, right? It’s like one pod person says to some humans attempting to escape: “Go where?” Body Snatchers has such an overwhelming sense of doom to it, where perhaps the aliens have a point and they’re not bullshitting when they tell you how screwed you are, because there’s nowhere to go because it’s happening everywhere, so why not just give up and let it happen, baby.

And the messed up part is, maybe they’re right? I mean, look at us. Really, look at us. We fight over everything. We fight over politics, we fight over parking spaces, we’re shooting each other at schools and stabbing each other for chicken sandwiches. Why not let the aliens take us over so we’ll all finally be one happy family! Well, minus the “happy” part, because these pod people don’t do emotions. But hey, I’m too emotional anyway, so let’s pod me up so I can be rid of these pesky feelings!

The film is deliberately paced (in other words, slow) and I can see that being tough on a sleepy audience around six in the morning. But that’s also kind of the fun part, trying not to fall asleep during a film where characters are warning others not to sleep, because that’s when the pod people take you over. It’s pretty much broken into two acts, with the first act being all creepy setup, then at the midpoint there’s a real banger of a scene featuring Meg Tilly’s character, and as that concluded, some of the audience couldn’t help but applaud because the scene is that good and Tilly knocks it right out the park! From that point on, the second act is quite the ride and it’s fun to watch what Ferrara is able to pull off with big studio money and big studio drugs.

I had seen this film once before on Cinemax back in ’94 or ’95, and I enjoyed it, but it was a lousy pan-and-scan transfer that really hurt the film, because a lot of the inherent creepiness of this movie comes from the way the shots are composed. Watching it in its full aspect ratio in a dark theatre during the transitional period between night and day, well, it really amped up the chills for me and it was like watching it for the first time, only better.

After the film, it was straight to a Disney cartoon short, “Trick or Treat”, starring Donald Duck as a miserable asshole who pranks his trick-or-treating nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, rather than give them candy. I get it — it’s a choice, right? It’s right there in the phrase, “trick or treat”. But who actually goes with the “trick” option? Miserable assholes, that’s who. Thankfully, there’s a witch who witnesses all of this and she decides to help the three little ducks out in doling out some much needed payback to that son-of-a-bitch.

Because nothing makes one feel more patriotic about the United States than watching a piece of shit named Donald get a well-deserved punishment, the marathon then concluded with a film of “The Star Spangled Banner” that included on-screen lyrics.

Then the lights came up, and another All-Night Horror Show had come to an end. Before stepping outside to the bright morning light, we were each given a special drink coaster for making it through the night. I grabbed yet another doughnut for the ride home, a glazed. It was now about seven on a Sunday morning, which meant that there was only one thing left for a God-fearing man such as myself to do on a Sunday morning.

It’s the only thing a God-fearing man could do on a Sunday morning, and the only thing a God-fearing man should do on a Sunday morning: I went home and slept.

An uncomfortable motif.

Posted in douchebag, mid90s, podcast, ramblings of a loser, Uncategorized with tags , , on May 10, 2019 by efcontentment

Click here for the podcast version of these ramblings!

It was the Spring of 2017 and there I was at the family reunion talking to my cousin, and he asks me if I’ve heard anything about this skateboarding movie that Jonah Hill was going to make. I only knew what he knew, which was that Jonah Hill was planning to make a skateboarding movie — and that it took place in the 1990s.

That got both of us interested; as a child of both the 80s and 90s, I looked forward to looking back. As for my cousin, he not only shared the time period experience but was part of the skateboarding scene back then as well.

My cousin asked me if I had any idea when the movie would come out; I told him that usually these things come out about a year, maybe a year-and-a-half after they’re announced — so I figured sometime in 2018.

Allow me to give you some background about me and my cousin. He’s a few years younger than me, and because we lived no more than ten minutes away from each other back in the 1980s, we grew up together. We hung out, played with action figures, graduated to video games, watched the WWE back when it was the WWF, and cheered on the latest Schwarzenegger and Stallone flicks. (My first viewings of The Karate KidBig Trouble in Little China, and Robocop were with him.)

Then he moved to Mexico in the early 90s, and from then on I’d only see him whenever I was visiting over there or he was visiting over here. We’d stay at each other’s places and catch up while taking in all the wonderful pop culture the glorious 90s had to offer us. As we got older, I saw him less and less because that’s what happens; I’d only see him at family functions or weddings or funerals or all that other fun stuff.

So back to 2017 — back to us talking about this Jonah Hill 1990s skateboarding movie. I can see how excited he was getting because of the subject matter and time period, and while I was only half interested, the half that I was interested in was a pretty big half. He knew this and I knew this, and so he said something like “It’d be cool to see it with you whenever it comes out” and I immediately jumped in with “So let’s do it. When it comes out, I’ll come down and see you and we’ll make a day of it.”

By this time, he and his family were now in San Diego, which from my Los Angeles County location is only a two hour drive. My cousin loved the idea and so I told him I’d hit him up the closer we got to the film’s release date, which was to be sometime in late 2018.

Now cut to early 2018, when my sister asked me if I had anything I wanted to say to my cousin for a special going-away message the rest of the family was putting together for him. It turned out that my cousin was moving out of San Diego, California and moving into San Antonio, Texas.

Which meant that he would go from being a two hour drive away to a twenty hour drive away.

After picking up the nearest pillow and screaming into it, I then wrote my cousin a message wishing him and his family all my best with San Antonio — and that I still planned on meeting up with him to see this goddamn movie called Mid90s.

A few months later — November 2018, to be exact, I flew to San Antonio. I checked into my hotel room, and yeah, I got a hotel room because I didn’t want to put my cousin out like that, plus he has kids and they’re young and I fuckin’ hate kids and I don’t want to be jerking off in the guest room while watching YouPorn and all of a sudden here comes my cousin’s six-year-old barging in catching me off guard just as I shoot and WHAP he gets nutted in the eye and great, now I’m a sex predator.

Fuck that shit, I like my privacy. I like to have a nice hotel room where I can comfortably walk around naked with the curtains open, just in case there’s a voyeuristic woman or man in the next building who’s looking for something to wish for.

Anyway, before unpacking I had DoorDash bring me a double cheeseburger and a Monterey Melt with an order of fries and an order of onion rings from Whataburger as a nightcap. The following day, I went to 2M Smokehouse BBQ where I had some incredible beef brisket and a side of “chicharoni macaroni” for breakfast, then I did the tourist thing by visiting The Alamo, got myself a hot towel shave and a haircut at a place where they served me Shiner Bock while I waited, and then I had dinner on a riverboat at Boudro’s over on the Riverwalk, where I had a lovely conversation with the only other single person on board, a woman who appeared to be in her 70s and who was there to watch her grandkids perform in a band for some function at the Alamo.

Somewhere during this conversation, I mentioned to her that I always wanted to eat on a riverboat on the Riverwalk ever since I saw Steve McQueen do it in the 1972 film The Getaway, and that’s where we both discovered we were both movie geeks. She was particularly fond of the works of Paul Schrader. I asked her if she had seen his latest film First Reformed.

She said she hadn’t. Neither had I.

And that’s when we locked eyes and I remembered earlier when she mentioned being divorced and I knew right then and there that we were only four glasses of wine between us from having a little May-December action in one of our hotel rooms later that night.

Having reached that ratio by the end of the meal, I waited for everybody else to exit the boat before hitting her with the big question: Would you like to join me for another drink or three? I hadn’t finished my proposition when I saw her slowly reach into her purse and pull out a whistle, to which I immediately said “Good evening, ma’am!” and stepped off the boat and walked straight to the Coyote Ugly Saloon next door. I ended up having a couple beers while watching girls stand on the bar while doing PG-13 dance routines and giving both men and women their version of “body shots” which consisted of one of the Coyote Ugly girls tying the lucky man’s hands behind his back while she put a shotglass of tequila into her mouth and tilt it so that the contents poured into the James Franco-in-Spring-Breakers lookalike’s mouth — again, that’s if the customer is a man.

For the female customers, the body shot consisted of the Coyote Ugly Girl bringing the lucky lady onto the bar, laying her down face up on said bar, and grinding her body against hers and somewhere along the way, the lady gets her drink and we’re all supposed to act like there isn’t a double standard going on and this is of course called “experimenting” because it’s OK for women to fuck around with other women all they want and it doesn’t mean they’re dykes but if I say something like “Hey, I have no problems sleeping with a transgender chick provided she doesn’t still have a dick — and if she does, OK fine, as long as it isn’t bigger than mine” NOOO, I’m the biggest homo this side of San Antonio!

You see, old single grandma on the riverboat? I wasn’t trying to sleep with you, you’re not customized with the proper add-ons! So put away the rape whistle, honey, and let’s get back to talking about that one movie where George C. Scott watches his daughter get banged in a porno!

The next day, I met up with my cousin at the AMC Rivercenter 11 and we spent a couple hours catching up, and then spent another ninety minutes watching the film we’d been talking about for the past couple years. So I guess I should talk a little about the film, huh?

Mid90s follows a young kid named Stevie somewhere in Southern California circa 1995 who has a typical lower middle class lifestyle, that is, if your lower middle class lifestyle included having a young single mother who has no problems discussing her love life in front of you, and having an older brother who regularly beats the ever-loving fuck out of you for sneaking into his room while he was out.

Me, I didn’t have to deal with that kind of bullshit back then, I realized way too late in retrospect that I had it really fucking good back then family-wise — my parents were straight arrows and the worst thing that ever happened between me and my sister was when we watched the Corey Haim and Corey Feldman movie Blown Away, which we thought would be good for a laugh but it turned out that the joke was on us when half of that movie consisted of watching fuckin’ Lucas over here bang Nicole Eggert over and over again, and I don’t know if my sister and I were trying to tough it out, figuring that watching The Lost Boy show Charles who really was In Charge would eventually give way to, you know, the fuckin’ story, but no, it didn’t.

Anyway, Stevie doesn’t have to watch Nicole Eggert get passed back and forth by the Coreys much like they used to pass needles and STDs to each other. Instead he takes his beatings, and one gets the sense that perhaps he feels he deserves it, because on occasion Stevie will do the self-harm thing with such lovely household items as a hair brush, the cord of a Super Nintendo controller, and his own fists. This is his life, he has to deal with it, he’s used to it, and maybe it’s because he doesn’t know any better, he just knows what he knows.

So one day, Stevie walks into the skate shop that had previously caught his eye and slowly ingratiates himself into the small tight-knit crew of skater boys that hang out there. It’s four guys and half are assholes and half are all right, which sounds about right. I’m glad they weren’t all assholes, because otherwise I’d have to say about skaters and this film what Quentin Tarantino said about surfers and the John Milius’ film Big Wednesday — that it’s a better movie than those assholes deserve.

But no, the few times I hung out with my cousin when he was with his skate-bros, half of them were decent dudes, while the other half I wanted nothing more than to see a fucking truck splatter them all over the pavement, followed by listening to the sweet screams of their worthless mothers wailing to their former sons/current street pizzas.

I can joke about that because I almost got hit by a truck when I was six years old. I was being a little fuck and I ran out of the house and into the street and a semi-truck almost Gage’d my ass. My mother nearly had a heart attack at the sight of this, but she recovered quickly enough to regain the power to inflect major damage on my hindquarters with her immortal chancla. Some of you fuckin’ hippies can call it child abuse if you want, but it was the only time my mother ever hit me and I feel I earned that beating, and you know what? I don’t run blindly into streets anymore.

Maybe Stevie could stand for some chancla action, rather than his usual brotherly beatdowns, because maybe that would’ve taught him not to scream at his mother to “shut the fuck up!” I shit you not, he actually does that, in one scene he goes off on her, repeatedly screaming that shit at his mom over and over again. That really is some white people shit, right there. I’ve never heard of any Hispanic or Black kids yelling at their moms like that, probably because those that did — if they ever did — never got more than two words into their tirade before every trace of their existence was immediately wiped off the face of the Earth by their moms.

I love my mom and I think she’s awesome, but I also respect the fact that inside that increasingly tiny old woman beats the heart of a lioness and I would never dream of screaming at her as if I were some spoiled ass white boy. You can point all the guns and knives in the world at me, but threaten me with telling my mom about something I did and I’ll drop to my knees faster than a 14-year-old boy auditioning for the next Bryan Singer production.

Stevie soon scores a skateboard of his own and discovers a new way to escape from the realities of his life via rolling down streets and sidewalks on a board that has a dinosaur saying “Cowabunga” on it. Rather than having movie night in the living room with his mom, Stevie enjoys the simple pleasures of finally pulling off a trick move at the end of a night full of failed attempts. This is an awesome new thing for the little dude, who is soon given the nickname “Sunburn”.

No longer alone or depending on the kindness of an abusive older sibling, Stevie has a second family to hang out with and now he also has access to cool things for little children like 40-ounce beers and cheap weed and older girls who are into you because you’re too young to ditch them for someone hotter later on.

About that last part, this girl — who looks Hispanic and I’m assuming is under 18 — ends up chatting Stevie up and eventually takes him to her room where she ends up kissing up on him. First off, I bet you that chick grew up to become one of those teachers you hear about on the news, the ones who hook up with one of their students, and me and my fellow men react with the same bullshit half-joking comments about how we wished we had a teacher bang us when we were kids because it would instill in us a confidence well beyond our years, and that this confidence would probably have made us into goddamn winners in life.

Second, this scene between Sunburn and the creeper chola feels kinda weird because she looks older than her age and he looks younger than his age, and it’s shot in a way that I didn’t find exploitative, but it does feel like you’re peeking into something that you shouldn’t be peeking into, like you’re hiding in the closet with Kyle MacLachlan’s character from Blue Velvet watching this scene go down.

Also, I had a bit of a debate with my cousin after the film about that scene, about whether it was some kind of weird wish fulfillment trip from Jonah Hill, like, maybe when he was that age he fantasized about some older chick preying upon his tubby little body, the way I fantasized about Mrs. Kennelly in my seventh grade science class telling me to stay after school so we can discuss what an impotent piece of shit her husband is, I don’t know. Or maybe that situation between Sunburn and the chick really happened, being that this is — well, I’m assuming, anyway — kinda autobiographical for Hill.

Whatever the case, the girl — and the other girls in the film — took me back to my junior high school days, or more specifically, my junior high school weekends. The way they were dressed and the way they wore their hair, wow, I was reminded of all the girls I was too chicken shit to talk to, as well as the ones that I managed to work up some balls to chat up but then fucked it up by being myself.

I would’ve been fine with the film being a time capsule dripping in Hey, Remember the 90s? if it were just that. But it’s not. Aside from the opening five minutes in which we’re inundated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bedsheets, Street Fighter II t-shirts, and CDs by “Tha Alkaholiks”Mid90s creates nostalgia in more of a matter-of-fact manner — much like watching an old VHS home movie from that time period where things don’t look too much different except every once in a while you’ll notice things about a person’s clothes or the way somebody’s living room looks like every lower middle class living room from back then.

What adds to this rather casual presentation is that the film is presented in the 4×3 — or 1.33:1 — aspect ratio, or in other words, it’s a square box with black bars on the left and right sides of the screen, because you see, kids, in the good old days, we watched television from a square box that was front heavy as fuck and took at least two people to carry around if it was a big size. Mid90s was also shot in Super 16mm, giving a nice grainy image with the occasional scratch here and there, which combined with the 4×3 aspect ratio makes the film look like an independent film I would’ve rented from Blockbuster Video or Hollywood Video back in the 90s.

So in that context — as an independent film from the 90s — what would I have thought if I had rented this at a video store back then? Pretty much the same way I feel now, minus the nostalgia parts. It’s an interesting character study of the kind of person who would devote his free time to increasing his chances of getting harassed by security guards, running from cops, and breaking bones. My only real complaint is that it feels too bare bones for this kind of film; I got the impression that there was probably a lot more footage shot for every scene but Hill and his editor knew it was best to get to the point of a scene and make said point as quick as possible. Now that definitely works with some scenes in the film, but there are other scenes that I felt definitely could’ve used some more breathing room. Nevertheless, Jonah Hill makes an impressive debut as a filmmaker here.

With the exception of Lucas Hedges who plays Stevie’s dickhead brother Ian, and Katherine Waterston as Stevie’s hot mom, the majority of the cast appear to be real life professional skaters rather than real life professional actors — although the kid who plays Stevie, Sunny Suljic, is both a pro-skateboarder and an actor — and these non-actors do pretty well just being themselves rather than shooting for the actorial stars — which works for a film like this where just playing things natural enhances the verisimilitude.

I have to give props to Hill and his music supervisor for the eclectic mix of tunes that pop up throughout the film; you want to talk about taking me back, well, it seemed like every other song in this movie gave me serious I Remember Way Back When type of feels, stuff from Wu-Tang ClanPixiesJeru The DamajaMorrissey, and The Pharcyde among others.

After the film, my cousin and I walked around Downtown while discussing the movie; he gave me some good background on certain things in the movie that had flown over my head, on account of not being familiar with the skating scene back then. He talked about how the filmmakers did a great job with such details as the kind of clothing the characters wore; he said that one character wore stuff from a certain skate company that you’d only see people with money wear, which makes sense considering that this character did in fact come from money. My cousin loved the movie, by the way — he ended up watching it twice.

I also ended up watching the film twice during its theatrical run, but not so much for the same reasons as my cousin. While I liked the film enough to watch it again, it was really more because my first viewing did not go as well as it should’ve. For one thing, I can hear whatever bullshit blockbuster playing next door booming its bass through the walls. But even worse, a couple of rows behind us sat a mother who brought along her kids who happily walked up and down the theater and stomped around on the row behind us and did that fucking annoying mumbling thing that these little snots do and the whole time nobody else — not my cousin, not the people in front of us, not the lady in her Air Force blues — seemed fazed or bothered by it. I was the only one and it was driving me mad. And when I brought it up with my cousin after the movie, he said he didn’t notice. What the fuck? Am I the asshole? Am I losing my mind? Or is this how movie audiences in San Antonio get down? I don’t fucking know, man!

But it’s OK because I ended up seeing it again a few days later back home practically for free (thanks AMC Stubs A-List!) and this screening was especially peachy because I was the only one in the theater. Which is really the best of both worlds for me, to see a movie in an empty theater because that’s where I am in life, that’s the fuckin’ misanthropic piece of shit I grew up to be. I wasn’t always like this, but you know, fuckin’ people, man. Maybe if I spent my youth watching less movie rentals at home alone and more time hanging out with asshole skaters more I’d have a different outlook by now. But I didn’t, so I don’t.

But I guess Jonah Hill did and that’s how this movie came about. I think. I mean, I don’t know how much of is based on his life, and I really don’t care — because it doesn’t matter and because I don’t give two shits about that creepy fuck.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that little detail — I fucking can’t stand Jonah Hill. He seems like he really is the characters he plays, or at least he is most convincing as an actor when he is playing fat scumbags, and I’m sure it’s a matter of time before it comes out in the news that he Cosbys chicks or something. I see him in The Wolf of Wall Street and I don’t see him playing a character, I feel I’m seeing the real him. I bet you this motherfucker has screamed at his mom to shut the fuck up too, and he’s probably graduated to yelling that shit to whatever desperate wannabe starlet is currently blowing her way up his casting couch. It wouldn’t be so bad were it not for him being in cast in movies that I want to see, because then he would be easily avoidable.

So think about the good laugh God is having at the fact that I dropped serious ducats to fly 1200 miles away from home just to see a movie written and directed by a probable piece of shit in an everyday multiplex occupied by rowdy roaming children who made sure I couldn’t even really enjoy the movie. Well, laugh all you want, ma’am, because in the end I got to hang out with my cousin and watch a movie with him, just like we did in the good old days — and that’s what really matters.

OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking after hearing my Jonah Hill rant. You’re probably thinking, “Ah, you’re just jealous because he’s rich and famous and working with people like Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino and he’s probably living an awesome life and you’re stuck in your dead-end existence and with each birthday you’re getting farther and further away from your dreams and let’s be real, your window of opportunity passed about ten years ago and you’re gonna probably die poor and miserable and full of regrets and bitterness, so all you can do now is talk shit about the goddamn winners in life while they continue to win and you remain stagnant in your pool of failure, you fucking pussy.”

ohmygod

The tin duck

Posted in A Christmas Carol (1999), douchebag, podcast, ramblings of a loser, Uncategorized with tags , , on December 29, 2018 by efcontentment

Click here to download the podcast version of these ramblings!

 

About a month ago, I was eating lunch in the park when this man who appeared to be in his sixties walked up to me with a notebook and a pen. I looked at him in his white button-down shirt and black pants and figured, oh great, what is this asshole gonna try to sell me.

The man was very apologetic and proceeded to give me this whole tale about how he needed to pay for a procedure he was going to have or already had, I don’t remember, because by that point I was too busy noticing that the man only had half a jaw and I’m guessing the procedure had something to do with that. I’m sure I also heard the word “cancer” somewhere during his spiel, but I couldn’t be too sure because I was too busy processing the overwhelming sight of a man with HALF A FUCKING JAW.

Now I don’t know if this was special effects, maybe it was. But it looked real. This guy was trying his best to talk and he did pretty well considering his condition. What he was asking for was a loan of any amount to help pay for the procedure. He needed something like $1500 and he already collected  about $1100. He showed me that he had the names and addresses of the people who loaned him money in his notebook, plus the amount they loaned him. It was a thick notebook and nearly all the pages had been filled out. He said he was going to make it his mission in life to pay everybody back as soon as he could.

For all I know this half-jawed gentleman was full of shit. I mean, he probably was, he probably got half his jaw shot off in a gang fight or something and now he was using this as a way to make some money off of people and he’ll probably then have one of his buddies break into these people’s houses and steal shit or kill them or rape them or all of the above.

But if there’s any possibility of his story checking out 100-percent, well, I’d rather err on the side of wanting to be helpful.

But there was something else — a nagging feeling somewhere within, and it always comes up when someone comes up to me and asks for help or charity of some kind. It’s a kind of fear, a fear of I don’t know what, maybe fear of some kind of karmic retribution or something. Maybe the person asking me is really a beautiful enchantress with the power to turn me into a beast or a gypsy with the power to curse me to keep losing weight until I’m nothing but skin and bones.

Or maybe I really am a sucker who wants to help. Whatever the case, I ended up giving him $20 but I didn’t give him my name or address. I told him there was no need to pay me back; he could pay me back by doing a kindness for somebody else who needed it. Also, I didn’t want to risk being home invaded by his friends.

Whether it was true or not, his story felt real enough and if it wasn’t, at least he put in some effort into the ruse, and that’s all I ask for. Just make the effort. Don’t just walk up and be like “Hey man, got some money?” This dude gave me a notebook, a story that worked on my emotions, and oh yeah, HALF A FUCKING JAW.

But I don’t think all the Greg Nicotero special effects makeup in the world could convince somebody like Ebenezer Scrooge to give any amount aside from the grand total of jack shit, based on how I saw him treat a couple of dudes taking up donations. But more on that a little later.

Well, thanks for the trailer, TNT, I guess nobody has to see this movie anymore, now that you’ve told the whole story. Don’t see any point in rambling about this. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!

I’m kidding. Most of us know the story already, so it’s really about the telling, right? There are many film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic A Christmas Carol, and in her second long-unfulfilled request, Karen from Florida has asked me to ramble about one of them. With her help, I narrowed it down to either the 1984 version starring George C. Scott or the 1999 version starring Patrick Stewart.

I ended up going with the Stewart film because I’d never seen it, and also because if I went with the Scott version, the entire time I’d just be making references to that scene in the film Hardcore where he watches a porno starring his daughter. Trust me, I can make lots of references to that. I suppose I could do the same with Stewart by making “Star Trek” references, so I’ll do my best to keep them to a minimum.

All right, so for those who came in late, I was saying earlier that the main character of this tale, Ebenezer Scrooge, is pretty harsh with a couple of dudes who are looking for donations to help supply food and warmth to the less fortunate in this cold and bleak 19th century London. They tell him how tough it is our there and that people can die from such poor conditions, and this piece of work responds with something like “Well, they should die as soon as possible, that way can stop suckling on the city’s titties.”

To be fair, these donation dudes kinda brought it onto themselves; when they visit Scrooge and give them the whole spiel about helping feed and shelter the poor and hungry, they end it by asking how much money he plans to give. That’s mighty presumptuous, guys. You can’t assume everybody is going to want to give, you gotta close it out by saying something like how appreciative you’d be and how helpful it would be if the person could donate any amount if possible. No matter what, you have to ask, just to be polite — kinda like the no-jaw dude who hit me up. He had no jaw and he still asked politely, he didn’t assume.

If I had to guess, I would say Scrooge is the kind of person who throws in the word “bootstraps” a lot. Usually, you can tell who is and isn’t a jerk is by whether or not they use the word “bootstraps” preceded by something like how a person should pick him or herself up by them. Not that I’m against working hard in an attempt to elevate yourself to a better station in life, I mean, I have no issues with the concept of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

It’s just that in my experience, the people who usually say that are people who didn’t actually have to do that. It’s usually those who were born into money or had more than a few other hands pulling their bootstraps for them. Now, I’m not saying that those who were born into privilege or were closer to achieving their goals should feel some kind of shame or guilt or should have to keep their mouths shut about how others should be working hard for what they want. I’m just saying there’s a way to say all of that without sounding and looking like an asshole.

Scrooge doesn’t say “bootstraps” but he does have a moment later on where he remarks on how a young girl already has a job, and he’s saying it like Wow, this girl is a real go-getter! and he doesn’t understand that this girl has no choice but to work because her family is dirt poor. Because there’s a big difference between getting a part-time job after school so you can buy sneakers, and having to get a full time job — forget school at this point — in order to help feed the rest of your family because your father’s employer is a lousy skinflint named Scrooge.

Yeah, Scrooge only has one employee at his money-lending firm, his clerk Bob Cratchit — played by his future antagonist in Logan, Richard E. Grant — and while it seems like this place does all right, you wouldn’t know it from how stingy he is when it comes to keeping the place warm; Cratchit wants to add a couple of measly chunks of coal to the fire and Scrooge is like, you better put some water on that damn shit — no, no, he says to just poke the current coals and keep what little fire there is barely burning.

It kills Scrooge to spend money, it just kills him that he has to give Cratchit a paid holiday on Christmas Day — and he has to say this poor old Bob, he can’t keep it to himself. Why do people do things like that? Let the poor guy enjoy his one paid day off, man.

On top of that, Scrooge has no use for Christmas. No, he’s not Jewish or a Jehovah’s Witness or Phoebe Cates in Gremlins, he’s just a miserable man; a group of Christmas carolers know better than to go sing in front of Scrooge’s place — except for one poor child who learns that to go sing to Scrooge is to invite a possible Singapore-style caning.

I love Christmas but I might be with Ebenezer when it comes to carolers. I figure back then carolers were like the flash mobs of their day, which is to say that it’s really more about themselves than in the people they’re purporting to be entertaining.

Anyway, Scrooge’s nephew Fred shows up all joyous and triumphant about the holiday and Scrooge doesn’t want to hear it, it’s like it irritates him that other people have hope and joy during this time of year. He apparently doesn’t know about the high suicide rate during this time, otherwise he’d probably dig Christmas a lot more.

I wondered why Scrooge was so cold towards his nephew, he seems to be upset that Fred is able to enjoy the holiday season despite not being as up on the monetary hustle as he’d like to be. Scrooge also seems to disapprove of Fred’s marriage. Like, why does it bother him so much that Fred is married? Does Scrooge have a bit of a thing for Fred, like some pervy forbidden taboo love between uncle and nephew, or is it more of a player hater kind of thing, because Scrooge messed up his chance at true love right around the same age that Fred found his? I’m thinking maybe the latter. But I won’t count out the former, because a very sick man like me loves the idea that Scrooge dreams of making his nephew cry uncle, if you know what I mean.

I mean he wants to bang his nephew, is what I mean.

Fred, by the way, is played by Dominic West, or as I prefer to call him, McNulty from the HBO series “The Wire”. Man, I’d been hearing about the show for years, and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally got around to seeing it, and you know what? It’s as good as everybody says it is. Although considering how things are going nowadays in this wonderful big blue world, I don’t think I will ever give a series as cynical and depressing and true to life like that one a rewatch ever again.

Speaking of depressing and true to life, you could’ve made a 19th century version of “The Wire” with this London setting. It’s very glum and there’s no chance of Christmas cheer in how things look, which I think is the idea — I mean, I think that’s the idea, you know, finding the ability to enjoy this time of year regardless of your surroundings. We see that in the way Bob Cratchit and his family are able to make the most of what little they have during their Christmas dinner, and how appreciative and happy for what they have, as meager as it is.

Then there’s a sequence where Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present watch as various people celebrate Christmas by singing “Silent Night”; the keepers of a lighthouse, the crew on a cargo ship, workers at a mining facility — not the most ideal of conditions to be in good cheer, and yet, they are able to have the Christmas spirit. Even if the conditions were better, these people are working on Christmas Eve, which has to be a little bit of a bummer — for those who celebrate the holiday anyway.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the whole Ghosts of Christmas deal. OK, for those who aren’t familiar with A Christmas Carol, what happens is that Scrooge gets visited by his old business partner Jacob Marley, which sounds all fine and dandy except for the fact that Jacob Marley has been dead for seven years. Marley tells Scrooge that the afterlife sucks because he’s forever tortured by his past actions — or more like his past inactions, because like Scrooge, Marley didn’t do shit for his fellow man and was just as much a tightwad as Ebenezer. Now he’s wearing heavy chains he can’t take off and walking around all morose and shit, being as much a drag as those heavy ass chains.

Scrooge tries to dismiss this as hallucinations brought on by indigestion or maybe someone dosed his stew, the same way somebody dosed James Cameron’s clam chowder on the set of Titanic in a possible attempt to Christmas Carol that Hollywood Scrooge. But Marley doesn’t let up, and he has some tricks to really get into the old man’s head that this is in fact The Real Deal.

Marley then gives Scrooge a peek into the lives of the dead, specifically those who like Jacob Marley, led selfish and uncaring lives. Now they have to spend the rest of forever watching the living who in need of help, and these sad specters are unable to do anything about it because they’re dead. Their opportunity to do something has passed. This is a lesson they’ve learned too late. But it’s not too late for Scrooge!

At least that’s the idea, and to help prevent Scrooge from getting fitted for his own chain ensemble, three ghosts will visit him: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Joel Grey, who looks like a pale transgender in mid-transition here. That’s not a knock against transgenders, by the way, I’ve met plenty of transgenders at functions and parties and they’ve all turned me down.

Anyway, GC Past shows Scrooge his, uh, past as a little Scrooge, taking him back to his old school — which Ebenezer seems pretty jazzed about. I don’t know, man, maybe you had a better time back then than I did. You take me back to my old school and I’d probably start going into convulsions before reaching towards the small of my back for a pistol that I’m not carrying. The fun ends for Scrooge, though, once he sees himself as a sad little boy all alone in class because his father is a piece of shit.

This is the second film in a row that I’ve rambled about featuring grown-up assholes who were raised that way by their asshole fathers. The first was both versions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast — which I guess makes this movie the third film in a row — and now this one. And both were requested by Karen from Florida. If you’re trying to tell me what I think you’re trying to tell me, well let me make it clear, ma’am: I wasn’t raised to be a douchebag, my father was great to me — as is my mother. No, ma’am, my high level achievements of being A-Prick-Number-One are a result of being a self made kind of shitheel. Now this could mean one of two things: the whole “bad father equals bad son” thing is bullshit, or maybe I, much like Michael Myers, was just born under a bad star.

I’m pure evil, is what I’m trying to tell you good people. It’s why I keep to myself. I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel. And you don’t want any of me. Unless you’re ready to give up the goods. And by goods, I mean sex and/or food, but not both at the same time.

GC Past then shows Scrooge an older younger version of himself, back when he was working for Mr. Fezziwig. Now that’s a cool boss, right there; Fezziwig is very cheerful — at least during his company’s Christmas party — and he insists that all employees who are still working to stop what they’re doing ’cause he’s about to ruin the image and the style that they’re used to: that is, if the image and style is of a Scrooge type who won’t take a break to enjoy life every once in a while. You see Fezziwig and his family getting down with their bad selves on the sing & dance floor, and even Ebenezer knows to have some fun because he hasn’t grown into old Scrooge yet.

Let me talk about office Christmas parties. I can do without those too. In fact, I have been doing without them for most of my work life, as well as any other social functions and gatherings at my places of employment. I’m polite to my co-workers and treat them with kindness and respect, but I don’t want to be reminded of work during my free time. It’s my time! It’s why I’ve turned down company softball games and work picnics and Christmas parties. I don’t want any of these assholes to see me drunk — hell, I don’t want anyone to see me drunk, and I certainly don’t want to see any of those assholes drunk, fuck those guys.

Old Scrooge gets to observe Young Scrooge fuck it up with the love of his life, but is it really his fault? I get where he’s coming from — he’s not ready to marry poor because he’s trying to make that fuckin’ money, bro. It’s like the great Tony Montana once said: First you make the money, then you get the power, and then you marry your sweetheart. Stewart is great in the film, but I really liked his performance during this scene, as he witnesses one of the biggest — perhaps the biggest mistake of his life — and starts talking back at his young self like some overly emotional housewife watching her “stories”.

After that, comes The Ghost of Christmas Present, who’s a big dude in a robe, looking like party animal from a frat house movie. He ends up showing Scrooge that whole deal with the various people having Christmas spirit, singing “Silent Night”, despite of or in spite of their situations, preceded by the whole Christmas dinner at the Cratchit crib, where the lovely family digs into their meal — Christmas goose with all the trimmings, followed by plum pudding. It all looks nice but it’s all too small for a family that big — which is what an overeater would say.

Because when you really look at the portions given to the Cratchit clan, that really is the ideal serving size. It’s how much we’re all supposed to eat — particularly we heavy Americans, who eat our food in way too large portions. Also, why so many kids? Great googily moogily, Bob, couldn’t you keep it in your pants a couple times here and there? You know what, I take that back, Bob — I can see why you and Mrs. Bob would do so much fucking. I mean you have to keep warm in that cold weather somehow.

Scrooge, this fuckin’ miser, he asks GC Present about the infirm Cratchit boy Tiny Tim, he wants to know if things will get better for him and GC Present responds with something like “I see an empty seat and a crutch without an owner….something something if the future doesn’t change, the child will die”. That line and the delivery of that line, left me thinking what a great public service announcement it would make, preferably played on digital over-the-air television.

Have you ever watched digital over-the-air television? I’m talking about those stations that have dashes between the numbers, the ones that show cool old programs and cool old game shows. They’re really cool but then come the commercial breaks and it’s always a horror show filled with injured old people, dead old people, mistreated animals, dead animals, and kids with cancer. So an ad for some kind of charity towards helping little gimpy kids would be great with that line about the empty chair and crutch.

GC Present then takes Scrooge over to Fred’s house where they’re all having a great time, friends and family alike. “It’s been so long” says Scrooge, regarding the old timey Christmas dinner party games being played. Man, it’s been so long for me as well. The last time I played a game at a Christmas party, it was 14 years ago and we played Jenga Truth or Dare.

It’s a good thing they didn’t have Jenga Truth or Dare back in Scrooge’s day, because one of the guests is this fuckin’ panty-sniffing creep named Topper, who should be thanking his lucky stars they hadn’t invented sex offender registries yet. Although considering how long ago this story takes place, they probably hadn’t invented the term “sex offender”, that was just how gentlemen rolled. You had to be Jack the Ripper to be considered doing something wrong to a lady back then. God, Topper made my skin crawl, talking to ladies about their “pretty little mouths” and making sure there’s mistletoe in the immediate vicinity of his most likely syphilitic johnson. Who knows what this bucket of unwanted sex would’ve done with something like Jenga Truth or Dare.

Following all that pervitude, Scrooge gets the ghost he fears the most: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, looking like a half-decent Halloween display outside one of those Halloween stores that only operates during September and October out of some recently closed business. The Ghost shows Ebenezer how his homies at the stock exchange will not really give much of a care about him after hearing news of his death. They’ll only attend the funeral if food is being served, which I kinda understand too, provided we’re talking about serving the food after the funeral. That would be weird to eat during the actual service.

It all bums Scrooge out, the way people react about his him going tits up. Some of the help from his house end up selling his silk shirts and bed curtains, and even the undertaker makes some money off of him. Nobody seems particularly bothered, save maybe Fred, but in most cases, people’s lives are improved, such as the couple who were in debt to Scrooge, but now that he’s merged with the infinite, they have time to save up and pay the new piper.

I think at this point, Scrooge would’ve been like “Fuck it, if these assholes are going to ditch my funeral and sell the fillings from my teeth, I might as well keep up the shitty attitude and really earn my postmortem disrespect!” but then of course, here comes Tiny Tim to gum up the works with his own death, and now Scrooge is super bummed. Then he catches the sight of his sad-ass tombstone and his cold-ass corpse in the coffin and for some reason he embraces his own corpse and off they go, swan-diving cheek-to-cheek into the black void like a couple of twin fruits.

But it was all a dream! Scrooge used to read Word Up magazine! And now he’s awake, back in the real world and he hasn’t missed Christmas! He’s so overjoyed at this, he tries to laugh but it’s such an alien reflex to him at this point, it takes him like half a minute of choke-filled attempts before he finally gets it right and laughs like a goddamn human being again. He then pays some street urchin to buy the biggest goose this side of Footloose and send it over to the Cratchit residence — but he makes sure that it’s done anonymously, so that Bob and company don’t know who the goose is from.

I like that, it shows real altruism, that move. Most people in Scrooge’s place would’ve made sure that Cratchit would know who got his goose, for the same reason I want the baristas at Starbucks to see me when I put a buck in the tip jar. Scrooge is so beyond that bullshit by this point, he doesn’t care and maybe it’ll have Cratchit believe it was some kind of Christmas miracle HAHAHAHAHAHA miracle.

Scrooge then goes to church because He is the reason for the season, you know. We gotta remember who put the Christ in Christmas, and that’s something you heathens don’t understand and will never understand unless you give yourself to the one true God. Instead, you try to make it secular for all the libtards who hate my Christ, love paying taxes, and want to take my guns away. Well to that third part, I quote my good boys from Gonzales, Texas: Come and take it.

The following day, Scrooge pulls one of those bullshit pranks where he acts like he’s pissed off at Bob for coming in late, and he talks all serious to him, until he pulls back the false dickhead facade and reveals himself to be the new and improved Scrooge by giving Cratchit a raise and allowing him to warm up the place with all the coal his heart desires. Then McNulty narrates over footage of the Cratchit family visiting Ebenezer — including Tiny Tim, who did not die — talking about how “ever afterwards, he knew how to keep Christmas well” and I start tearing up and getting choked up because that’s where I am in my life, I fuckin’ cry at everything, especially with stories like this, because the older I get and the more I experience in this life, the more these tales about people changing their negative ways to become better people increasingly feel like science fiction.

What they don’t show us is Scrooge visiting his supposed pals at the stock exchange, followed by giving them a solid thrashing with his cane for being fake people showing fake love to him, straight up to his face, straight up to his face. But I guess I’ll have to make that version myself, where I devote a good twenty minutes to Scrooge taking care of business with those stock exchange fucks by giving them a little stick time.

OK, well, I pretty much went through the whole movie but you already knew the story — so the question is: how does this 1999 adaptation of A Christmas Carol do in telling it?

Pretty damn well, I think. This has less of a Christmas-y feel to it compared to others, but I think in exchange for that, there’s a bit more of a, I don’t know — real tone to it? The setting is suitably bleak and a good part of that should be credited to the production designer, Roger Hall, who had previously worked on such classics as Chariots of Fire and Highlander II: The Quickening. One of those films won the Academy Award for Best Picture, by the way.

I haven’t read the Dickens story in nearly two decades, but based on what I remember of it, this adaptation is very close, including things like that “Silent Night” sequence, which I don’t remember ever being in other film versions of the Scrooge story.

The film was directed by David Jones, a stage director who went on to work on television shows like “Law & Order: SVU” and films like Jacknife starring Robert De Niro. He does a fine job telling the story, moving things along at a fine clip and getting good performances from his cast. Speaking of which, Patrick Stewart is solid as Ebenezer Scrooge, but I feel his doesn’t quite match up in comparison to previous Scrooges like Alastair Sim and George C. Scott. He doesn’t seem as particularly upset by the otherworldly sights he’s treated to, it’s a little too stiff upper lip compared to the way other Scrooges handle seeing ghosts and freaky mutated ghoulish children named Want and Ignorance and Tiny Tim. I think what he does best is show us the regret Scrooge feels over his past mistakes during the Ghost of Christmas Past sequence.

More than anything, I was left wishing I had seen one of Patrick Stewart’s one-man performances of A Christmas Carol, where he played over thirty characters without the use of props or costume changes. He’s performed the play on and off since the late 80s, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to do it again anytime soon, which is too bad because it sounds fascinating. I now kinda wish they filmed one of his shows rather than make yet another standard film version of the Dickens classic. But they did make another standard film version of the Dickens classic, but it’s a good one, so I’m not complaining. I can definitely see myself checking this one out again come next December.

OK, that’s it. I haven’t done a rundown like that in a while, where I pretty much just go through the movie from beginning to end, but I figure it’s no secret to most people how this story plays out, so why not.

Anyway, if you happen to be reading this during the holidays, have fun and be safe.

Also, this won’t mean anything to those who are listening to the podcast which is only a few episodes old at the time of this recording, but the day that I’m putting this out, December 25th, in this foul year of Our Lord 2018 also happens to be the tenth anniversary of the Exiled from Contentment blog, from where these ramblings come from. I can’t help but feel it’s all been a colossal waste of time. But hey, it beats sitting on my ass and doing nothing, right?

Don’t answer that.