Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Last Real Thing...
I really am a fricking relic...

I contemplated for a good long 10 minutes or so rather to include my feelings about evolution in this next topic I'm gonna talk about. But I'm gonna break them down into two basic issues. I think the ongoing obsession with body modifications, super heroes, growth hormone supplements, and bio-mechanics is the result of our removal of ourselves from the competition of the cycle of life. In this instant gratification day and age, everyone keeps hoping to wake up to be the next sleek and sexy super-powered X-man. Ignoring the fact that that isn't likely to happen, the other reason would be the widespread identity crises, complete insecurity, and ever sickening psyche of our world.

That last line is part of my topic, but that's the last I'm going to bother involving evolution in my discussion...though I'd really like to in a lot of ways....moving on.

I'm seriously afraid that if I don't marry soon, I'm never gonna find a girl who hasn't gone through a dozen cosmetic procedures, who's simultaneously on every diet plan and supplement, and who isn't riddled with tatoos and piercings.

As usual...Lemme explain. Starting in reverse order from above.

Tatoos and Piercings: Truth is, I don't necessarily have anything against them, but that comes with certain reservations. I'll confess that they aren't the first thing I find attractive, but it isn't as though I'm going to necessarily be filled with absolute revulsion either. It works like this...

Let's start with tats, shall we? My first question is: What's your reasoning for it or does it have any meaning? The answers to this usually falls into one of three categories, but there are four total.

The Fourth (and outside of my average dealings) group represents those who are just plain bad@$$ or of a hyper Lee Marvin kind of cool. They are usually of an older generation, need no reason for having them, and are extremely rare.

The First (and the one I can generally support): Not only does it usually have a reason or a meaning, the person can discuss it thoughtfully, and they tend to sport it almost or completely nonchalant. It'll never be a topic, and issue or a shield, unless you ask or provoke them.

The Second (the most common and tends to aggravate me): My or may not have a reason or meaning (often lame), possibly able to discuss but often full of pseudo intellectual/philosophical/religious bullsh!t, and tends to wear it as a total badge (level of in-your-face with it varies). Often these cases stem out of a fierce insecurity and lack of identity often due to unpopularity or plain plainess. These are the people who are convinced that you have to be convinced of how different, unique or weird, or bad@$$ they are by getting tatoos and piercings just like everyone else.

The Third (pehaps the most brainless and sickening): These are the people who got one because they were bored down at Venice Beach on vacation. They were drunk on spring break. They bought like it was a fashion accessory. It probably doesn't mean a thing, and they couldn't tell you anything about it except the story of getting it ("It hurt SOOO bad!"). Worst of all, these are the people that would pick a design off the f*cking wall in the parlor. Furthermore, they are clueless, in the case of tatoos, of the permanence of their choice. ("You know son, once I put He-Man on their, he ain't coming off.")

Continuing that rant tangent: Now it's all the tatoos on the lower back, but my favorite was the rings around the girls navels or the ones just below their navel and just above their pubes. My first question was always: "Do you plan on having kids someday?" I asked that knowing full well that they had never once considered the likelihood of the unholy stretching and disfigurement that tat would go through during pregnancy nor what it would look like afterward.

The problem between Groups Two & Three is that they tend to have no conception of the future and what it's going to be like still having something grafted to their skin. On the other hand Group One knows exactly what it is and what it's meant to be and Group Four couldn't care less. Groups Three is usually the ones who claim "they'll just have it removed," not knowing what a painful process that can be, and that it's not always perfect (red ink can't be removed for instance). It ain't perfume, hair dye, or stickers. It doesn't just come off.

In some ways, you could argue that this is a non-issue as I don't tend to find it attractive in the first place. But remember I've never ruled it out either...and unfortunately, too may times, you have to waste time talking to people to find out they're the kind of people you wouldn't want to waste time talking to. Luckily, I can do pretty well guessing from across a room...but still. Anyhow, I keep finding myself spotting more and more frivolous tats.

The peircing thing's kinda died down, but there for a while it was very hand in hand with tats. I never objected to it quite as much, but still like it when there was some thought behind it. Or when someone made their own jewelry. My only fear came from the creepy clickety-clacking this woman's genitals made on one of those HBO Real Sex things. Seriously. C-R-E-E-P-Y. Unfounded or not, I'd constantly be afraid of her shredding me or me causing her to shred herself. I can't even go into the weird penis stuff...but hey, do what you want.

Diets, Diet Stuff, and The Gym: Hey, let's start by saying that I'm all for being healthy and active. I do think that America needs to get off it's collective lazy lard-laden @$$ and start moving around some more. I like getting out, and healthier foods have come a long way in terms of variety and flavor (and the cost has come down some too). But....(and you knew one of these was coming right?)

I'm not dating, nor will I marry the f*cking gym. That's just a time and priorities issue. I'm not saying I won't workout or workout together with my other , it's just now how I intend to spend all my free time or all my free time with that other.

My objection to the various herbs, vitamins, minerals, and diet supplements stems more from the common and total ignorance of people with what they'll pay for and put in their mouth. I've read several great articles about the claims vs. the realities of many of these things. Most of this stuff is the modern equivalent that yo-yo's used to sell off of stagecoaches in the old west. (Like on eBay where I keep seeing ads for chemicals that'll "Help you lose 88lbs." with that specific number on it. Does everyone need to lose exactly that amount? Doesn't that just scream 'bullsh!t!' in giant six foot tall letters?) Anyhow, you better know what your talking about. I won't support a habit of cramming whatever "healthy" crap that comes along down anyone's throat.

Finally, there's the diets. Got nothing against them as long as they are realistic, and not completely restrictive of anything. I think that's unhealthy and unrealistic. Besides is shouldn't be about teaching rules that totally wipe anything out, it should be about teaching you self-control. Let's face it: "I won't eat carbs. I won't eat meat. I won't eat dairy. Etc." You might be a cheap date, but you sure as hell aren't any fun. I wanna girl who's willing to split some fricking ice cream or whatever...and not a kind with no fat or sugar that tastes like f*cking cardboard.

I don't wanna go into body type, because that's a whole other ball of wax. There's a million kinds and a million variations, and there's a lot of them that I like together. Again for me, it's not about extremes. Extremely thin, extremely muscular, and extremely fat can all be severely least to me. Don't lose heart though, there's a million websites and a million fellas that love each of those.

Cosmetic Surgery: Primarily what started this whole rant was an article on the quadrupling of the amount of teenage girls getting breast implants. That's so so so disgusting.

It's funny this is the main topic that got me thinking about this, and yet I'm too tired and basically annoyed by it to follow through.

It comes down to this: I think we were strung way off course when plastic/reconstructive surgery became cosmetic surgery.

If you go through a windshield face first and you've got no face, then you deserve everything modern medicine can do for you. If you've got severe deformities or scarring, then sure it's a good thing that you can be helped. There's other cases where it's warranted but you get the idea.

Throughout history teenagers have had warped sensibilities about their own bodies and the changes they're going through, but giving in to giving them some instant gratification change isn't the answer. Jesus, we just keep trading one deep seated insecurity for another. It's weak. It's decadent.

Also, this is another one where those going in for it don't realize that it's real surgery, and the effects are permanent. Not to mention that its superficial. Cosmetic surgery doesn't cover up the fact that you might be an awful, stupid person with a terrible personality to match. It might get you some happiness in the short-run, but it doesn't guarantee you'll never be sad again.

Again, it's all bullshit carnality.

I want to marry the person. Not a f*cking Barbie Doll.

Everyone thinks they should be the pretty people. Everyone thinks they should get to marry the pretty people. Didn't you ever look at your grandparents? I'm sure many of them were pretty people once upon a time, but what do they look like now. They worked it out because they worked it out and they loved each other, not because they expected to be a pair of married supermodels the rest of their lives.

Of course, in the end, it's not dangerous enough and it makes too much money for people to really call bullsh!t on it.

This goes for the fellas too...I mean for f*ck's sake: Pec Implants?


I'm not the prettiest fella in the world, but I wouldn't in a million years go under the knife to change it.

Parents don't help. They don't know how to parent, how to build their kid up. Kids get more and more stupid and superficial. They actually care what everyone else thinks. I don't care what they say. If their friends jumped off a bridge, you'd have millions and millions of dead children everywhere.

Ok. I'm depressed.

Anyhow, I'm thinking there are less and less girls out there who don't fall into any of this nonsense that scares and depresses me.

You're all sick.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"No...THE...Captain THE Yellow."
One and One-Half Hours in a Hotel Room

At some point, at some time I talked about a movie called Sharkskin Man & Peah Hip Girl. I'm sure I mentioned how it got compared a lot to Tarantino and his assorted knockoffs. I claimed that while I understood what they meant, I didn't see it that way at all.

Party 7 pretty much convicted me that they were least about Katsuhito Ishii being nothing but a knockoff.

Let's put it this way, if you've got five people in a hotel room and two other people watching them from an adjoining room, you better have a d@mned interesting movie to keep my finger off the fast forward button.

This movie delivered.

It was fun. Plain and simple. And that's all I ask lately.

Not brainless. I can't take that.

And not so painfully, dreadfully hip that it can't laugh at itself.

The Story: Low-level yakuza Miki holes up in a hotel room after stealing money from the mafia. First an ex-girlfriend finds him wanting to settle up a debt, then her current boyfriend comes looking for her, and finally Miki's best friend and fellow gang member arrives to whack him. All the proceedings are watched over from a hidden room by a young pervert and the hotel's owner Captain Banana.

The Review: Now the above doesn't tell you a whole lot. It's one of those things. If I start explaining one thing, I'll have to explain something else, and it'll just snowball from there.

I've written several more lines since a certain two words, and I'm sure that at least some of you are wondering: "Captain Banana?!?"

Well, that brings me to the best part of the movie...

Tadanobu Asano, whom I've mentioned my admiration for, has played a pretty steady stream of bad@$$es in the movies I've seen him in thus far. That includes the aformentioned Sharkskin Man role. Here we see him a little differently.

I've never seen in any film a quicker character establishment than featured in this film. Asano is a peeper, but not a garden variety pervert. To show you the extent of his madness, on the way to his dying father's bedside (from jail), he badly fakes a fall in order to look up a nurse's skirt. I couldn't believe it, and hence spent the next few minutes laughing about it.

Oh, yeah, Captain Banana.

Where to begin....? Well, he's bascially a super hero looking guy with a banana yellow helmet on with huge lips and robotic eyes. He's bizarre. He was Asano's dad's friend, and is a fellow pervert. At one point he tries to convince Asano that his dad played the part of Captain the Yellow. There's an accompanying suit, and I can't even begin to describe what it looks like when you see it in action.

There's a also a giant manga polar bear, but I won't get into that.

Of course Miki is played by worldwide indie film champion Masatoshi Nagase. Way back when he played the rockabilly Japanese fella with all the lighter tricks in Jarmusch's Mystery Train. The girl (there had to be one somewhere), Kana, is played by the beautiful Akemi Kobayashi. Akemi may have the biggest lips I've ever seen on any woman, much less a Japanese actress. Somehow, though, she's got one of those faces to pull it off.

The last thing I'm gonna comment on this movie is that the arrival of the 7th and final character in the movie is priceless and oh-so-over-the-top in the right way.

I know it's not much of a review.

My mind, as always, is forever roaming these days.

You can call it childish, but it's something many of the greats have gone after. How to see and do things like a child. Well, I want that again. I want to be able to watch stuff like I did when I was a kid.

It's not easy.

I give up for today.


Monday, June 28, 2004

Erratic...At Best
My joie de vivre gone and my mind is all over the d@mn place

I bought Barbarella this weekend.


I plunked down some cash and bought that movie.

Why on God's green Earth would I do that?

What was I thinking?

Well, if you've read the last couple of weeks worth of posts, I think you might be able to see the trend.

Is Barbarella a terrible movie? In effect, yes. (Though DeLaurentiis outdid this one 12 years later with Flash Gordon. The amazing thing is that they almost look like the same movie. Brilliant.)

So why buy it? I don't know. I just felt like it.

Haven't rewatched it yet, so I'm not sure what to say on the subject. So let's move on, because depending on your leanings, you might find me more at fault for my other purchase: Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine! (Exclamation mine; not part of the original title)

Two things this movie instantly made me think:

1) It was made in 1965, a year after a Fistful of Dollars and a year before Django. Basically this crazed piece of fluff was produced in the proper birth years of the spaghetti western.

2) It reminded me of an important factor missing from movies today: fun, both how to have it, and how to make it.

Is it a bad movie? More or less, yes.

Was it fun to watch? More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

The story: Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) has created a squadron of killer robot women who are sent out to seduce rich men and rob them of their fortunes. When Goldfoot's assistant, Igor, accidentally meets Robot #11 up with foolhardy secret agent Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon), an investigation begins into Goldfoot's fiendish plot.

The review: It's so d@mned hokey, but it's so charming. It's got some of the worst slapstick jokes ever filmed. It's got Frankie Avalon as a main character, and the silliest cameo by Annette Funicello.

And so innocent. It's an excuse to have a bunch of girls running around in gold bikinis, but Marx brother's movies from thirty years before had more sexual innuendo. The most hilarious part is that three of the Girl-bots were former Playboy playmates. They'd already shown their share of skin, but the bikini bottoms they were compared to today's endless parade of thongs look absolutely frumpy. (Don't get me wrong...still it's way.)

Then there's Vincent Price. Now I had always thought of Vincent as a touch hokey but not in a bad way. He was always fun. What made this so good was how much Vincent got to absolutely ham it up. I was laughing my half-mad @$$ off.

Some of it, even I couldn't forgive, but for the most part it was exactly what I wanted to watch. Why? Because it was fun. Plain fun. It was ridiculous and ran with it. It didn't apologize for what it was, it just had a good time.

This movie was fluff, but just about every movie today is fluff. The difference is that this movie didn't pretend to be more than fluff, and still had some artful qualities. Most movies today pretend to be art, and hide that they're just fluff. If you wanna point fingers I'd say it's the fault of Lucas/Speilberg for the invention of the blockbuster, and Scorcese/Coppola for the introduction to America of 'cinema as art.' Like everything else, those four are/were good...but all good things in Hollywood get swallowed up by sheer volume and hack jobs.

I also blame today's audience. The reason we all like reality TV is because we get to laugh at people we think are pathetic compared to us. At first it was Springer and talk-show circus, but again we've "legitimatized" it by filling it with pretty but stupid people. It's all mean. Why watch Avalon do a few silly pratfalls, when you can watch a parade of the pretty jack@$$es next door?

Well, I say at least Avalon had to perform, badly or not. He was trying to make me laugh. Reality TV, fake as it is, isn't trying to be pathetic as it is...and hence, had gotten me to the point of wanting to vomit...all the time.

I also watched Katsuhito Ishii's Party 7...

It's fun too. I think I'm on to something.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

"Whooaaah!...This chick is weird."
I'm coming into this very unprepared...

Dreaded Thursday.

Some part of me debates turning this into some sort of excuse to write some kind of story in here. But then again, I've seen some of the ones that do I'm not so sure that it's such a great idea. That's beside the fact that I would be deeply hurt and offended if I found that whatever I chalked up here soon became the next bestseller...for someone else.

It's also why I'm paranoid about putting artwork up. I don't want some other schmutz using for his site. Maybe I'm just a big sissy.

Of course, the text thing would just be a lift. Like plagiarizing a paper, you just change a few words and lines here and there. Course you still gotta be decent at it, to mask it very well. Chances are if you're lifting from a decent souce, you're not as good a writer, and you're going to get caught. That's simple enough. If you were good enough or bothered to try, then you wouldn't be copying and/or you wouldn't be a lazy-@$$.

Whoa, I better be careful, that almost got me onto a topic. Like the sad fact that you've actually gotta work for a living. It goes in line with my "NOT EVERYONE GETS TO BE FAMOUS" spiel. At the same time, nothing surprises me. Like the fact that I personally know two of the first guys arrested under the CAN-SPAM Act.

In that vein, maybe it's the movies' fault. The thing I always wonder is what makes them (ie. criminals) believe that they're not going to get caught eventually. Ok. Distinction. White collar criminals. In fact, only white collar criminals. Their kind of crime seems to always leave a paper trail a mile wide.

I'm willing to bet that plenty of people have held up a liquor store at some point and never been caught for it. There are of course people who've gone missing and no one's ever seen them again. That I get. I like to think they don't get away with it that often, but I can see where it's possible.

If there's money and product and more especially if there's paper, it's going to be found.

Not that I'm trying to build any better criminals out there.

Of course, it's like anything else. I wondering where the end is, but everytime there's a new security measure, then there's someone trying to crack it. I supoose it'll always be that way.

I know I've spoken with many friends of mine about this, but my personal favorite is still public relations people.

I will admit, from what I said above, that there are plenty of white collars who'll never be arrested for what they do, because they do whatever it is that they do perfectly legally.

For instance, I don't think that smokers should be able to sue the tobacco companies because they developed cancer. On the other hand, I don't think that the companies should get to lie to the public, hide behind money and lawyers, or be @$$holes about what they do (like all those documents they show in those ads and exposés and whatnot).

Same for oil companies. Nuclear power. The government. The car companies.

If you live near a nuke plant, you can't sue because you glow.

One of my favorites was a few years ago when some family crashed their Ford Bronco, and sued the Ford Motor Company. They claimed that Ford was at fault because their 1970's truck had not been updated to modern safety standards. They also had eight people riding in the truck at the time of the crash, which correct me if I'm F*CKING UNSAFE anyway. And updated to modern standards? If you were that worried, you shouldn't have been driving it in the first place...much less with EIGHT F*CKING PEOPLE riding in it. It was their fault across the board.

I never heard what happened, but I hope it was tossed out.

Now on the other hand, if it was a new Bronco, and Ford knowingly ignored some safety regulation, and there were say four people in the truck. Then I would want Ford to get its giant conglomerate corporation @$$ sued off.

Dammit, dammit. I'm ranting. And I didn't want to.

Oh. Public relations.

I still haven't figured out how people who work for a lot of these companies, knowing what they know, can sleep at night.

I kinda wish all the bad stuff would happen to them and their families, but only because they obviously don't care about the rest of the world since they go along with it. Sure you can argue that it's their money, their livelihood, and, in some cases with these companies, their safety. However, lemme put it this way: If everyone would give up on the Almight F*CKING Dollar, be men and women enough to be honest about what they do and make, then there'd be no need for the secrets, lies, and lawsuits.

Ok. Fair enough. I would've thought it was obvious.

Now, in the case of the government, there probably still is some stuff that the general populace isn't sane, intelligent or rational enough to handle. However, I still think that they too should cough up the goods on a lot of things...once again, some newspaper always gets a hold of it anyway.


I wanted to talk comics today, but was completely and utterly unable to come up with a topic from the past, present, or future. That and one of my favorite sites for research is down for some construction. Most of these things come from my own memory, but I like having a way to check facts. And then, when I'm really hard up for a topic, I just started coming until I find something I can yak about.

Also, I didn't buy any yesterday. I'm going tonight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Fate...The Final Frontier.
Didn't Devo say something about freedom of choice?

If you didn't think I knew what I was talking about yesterday, today isn't going to be much better.

How many of you out there believe in fate/destiny? Show of hands.

And how many believe in total freedom of choice/you are what you do? Show of hands.

How many believe in a higher power (God/Allah/Krishna/Space Aliens)?

How many read horoscopes?

How many take it seriously?

How many think it's bullsh!t?

And how many think it's bullsh!t but get a little freaked out when it seems true?

Numerologists? Chinese Horoscopes? While were on the subject, I Ching?

Now answer the question that came just before this one, but after the horoscope questions about thinking it's stupid, but occasionally true.

And how many combinations do any of you make of the above?

And how many acknowledge that all of it is just vague enough to apply to any number of infinite situations?

To me, fortunetelling is like anything else, it's playing percentages. There's a good enough chance that it's gonna be true for enough people that they'll try it again tomorrow.

But the fate stuff...hmmm..that's a little more difficult.

It was once predicted that I would end up all by myself at the end of my life. Along the way, it's been remarked that many people can't imagine me married or who would marry me (These are my good friends I might add.). For myself, I see that my track record isn't too good for any of a number or reasons. The reason I bring fate into is partially the first sentence of this paragraph and partially a trend I've noticed about myself: I have cosmically bad timing.

Things just don't pan out at the proper times when they're supposed to. Relationships especially fall prey to this. I'm not available, they're not available, and the moments passed by the time either party is. And I've moved around a lot. And I'm not always the easiest person to get along with.

There's that, and my total lack of faith in humanity...

Anyhow, I've begun to wonder about the truth of that prediction.

First a little about my feelings on Feng Shui. I'm not denying there may be some spiritual validity to it. I do, however, think that enlightenment is a gift only to those truly open to it or seeking it. I don't think Joe & Jill Yuppie who buy The Dummies Guide to Feng Shui are acheiving the same results. In those cases, I think it's merely a self-fulfilling prophecy: you find your life more organized because you organized it. Following this guide, your changing things for the results you want and seeing them because you changed it according to the guide. It's circular logic. Like diets, in many cases, I'm sure one household/office nirvana has been achieved, many revert right back to the way they used to live.

I often feel the same way about little predictions from horoscopes to fortune cookies. As the Mud Buddha in The Storm Riders said, people always except good fortunes and always reject the bad ones. If it's good, I think many people spend the day purposely or unconsciously living that out. If it's bad, you dismiss it as not possible. Of course, how often are they really all that bad. (The Onion horoscopes don't count...but they are funnier.)

Personally, I believe it's a matter of degree like everything else.

First of all, not everyone gets to be rich.

Not everyone gets to be famous.

Not everyone gets to be beautiful.

Very few out of the world population get all of the above.

Even less of those get to be exceptionally intelligent.

Even less of those ever do anything with it.

(On a side note: Have you ever thought that with the constant population rise in the world, it would increase the odd of us popping out Einstein's and Michelangelo's left and right? You ever considered why we don't? Personally I think it's because the higher population raises the average but drops the exceptional.)

Anyhow, my point is that you can't believe that destiny always leads to riches and fame. If anything American Idol should have proven that not everyone could or should be a singer. On the opposite note, The Simple Life proved that riches and fame don't buy class, culture, or intelligence. At the same time, I do think that if your recognize opportunities, you know yourself through and through, and with a little luck you can rise above the cards that fate seemingly has dealt you.

By saying that, I believe at the same time, arguably contradictory, in free choice. Within certain societal and physical limits, you can choose to do whatever you want. By virtue of that, just like I said you can get yourself onto a new and better course, I also think you can end up horribly derailed.

Ever notice how much talk becomes about 'paths'? You choose a path. He's on his path. That's the pass you picked. And so on.

Well, I see life as an incredibly intricate network of paths. Your network overlaps the networks of all the people you encounter. Every time you encounter someone, it's got the possibility to become a intersection of some importance. Along those paths are certain points that your bound to hit as long as you stay within certain paramaters. How you get there is determined by the choices you make.

Like I said, chances are you'll hit them. But you can eff up bad enough to fall into a whole diffent strata of choices.

Some people have argued, mainly in semantics, about how that can't work. To me, you were destined to do whatever because you chose for it to be that way. Ultimately, something I'll argue for most things in life, if you don't like it, too bad, you picked it to work that way. Other things happen outside of that, that I believe are just plain fate.

Then there's the matter of evils. Like real evils. Historical evils. Like could Hitler have chosen another path in life at some point, or was it inevitable that he would become what he became. The real ethical difficulty on a sort of cosmic scale is whether he can be blamed for all the evil if he never had any choice but to be what he was? It's still evil. It's still wrong. And no one wants to think of something like the Holocaust as being meant to happen, especially when no good comes out of it. It's tough, depending on what kind of eyes you use to look at the bigger and bigger picture. (And it's easy to forget the humanity of it all.)

Thrown in to that sort of mix is stuff like karma. I think that too is self fulfilling, and not necessarily cosmic. Typically you do good things, you feel better, and more people are willing to do nice things in return. The opposite is true as well. But think about it for a second. How many people do you know who try to be nothing but good, helpful, and cheerful and never get anything back? How many people are evil obnoxious idiots who never get it back either? Maybe it's all saved up for that next life, but you have to believe in reincarnation to buy that bit. (My problem with that is that whole thing about all souls having always existed throughout time...well, how does that work with more and more people on earth? What about twins? Do they split a sould like they share DNA?) Personally, I'd prefer to go through this nonsense just once.

(Side note: Satanism's got to be the silliest, and easily the most insecure. God doesn't love you, but the ultimate evil will? Besides, if Satan's so all powerfully evil, why is he gonna give a rat's @$$ what kind of run of the mill piddly evil stuff you can do on earth? Besides which , I don't believe in the traditional Satan either..oh wait you haven't read that part yet...Anyhow, I think for most 'satanist's, they're either poseurs or people who make more of an effort to prove what jack@$$es they are than joe average who's already doing a good job.)

By the way, if you ever get the chance, read a little of Frazer's The Golden Bough. That pretty much debunks most fo the wicca/magic/voodoo stuff. Just because it's old doesn't mean it's right. And with all the mediated crap out there nowadays it's probably just more steps further from what those earlier peoples were trying. For most, you'll find that kind of magic works about as often as it doesn't.

Ultimately there's a few things I can't and don't try to explain away. I always like exceptions to the rule...and just plain weird sh*t. Not to mention the fact that I've got the faith. I believe in God, but probably not in a sense your traditionally familiar with.

So back to my initial problem.

I guess the real question is, after reading this, could you sleep with someone who would systematically tear your beliefs apart like that?

Seriously, I can't tell if what I'm going through and what I'm feeling is a matter of fate/destiny or the result of a global society I feel like I no longer feel a part of because of my beliefs (ie. anti-materialism/moneygrubbing, belief in quality, belief in significance, a sense of honor and respect for myself, the world, and higher power). I've let go of many people over the past couple of years not because I thought they were necessarily bad or wrong, but because they didn't offer me anything further, nor I them. It has nothing to do with self-righteousness, but you could easily argue that based on my own reasoning that if I end up alone, it will be result of my choices.

We'll see where I am next year, maybe?


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

My Blue Fantasy-World Heaven
Things I'd rather be seeing and doing...

I told someone yesterday that I was delving farther into escapism, but that the worlds I wanted to escape into were gone before I was born.

Well that wasn't entirely true.

I don't want to live in any specific Greco-Roman empire historical world. I'd want to live in a Hercules Sword and Sandal historical world.

Obviously, the real old west was about pioneers, busting sod, and panning for gold, so even more obviously, I want to live in the Spaghetti Western world.

If I'm living today. I don't want to be in a joe average yakuza world. It's a Miike world all the way.

In worlds like that, let's face it, there'd never be a dull moment.

I can't imagine a single character in any of those movies, well at least none of the ones I liked, buying insurance. They wouldn't stand in line at the DMV. Good or bad, they don't fill out paperwork.

So it's not that they were over before I was born, they didn't exist in the first place. They were stories. Movie sets. Actors. Celluloid. You don't like to think of them that way, but that's what they were. When the day was over, Lee Van Cleef took off his western outfit, made some phone calls, took a shower, had some dinner, read his script, and went to bed. (Ok, and he probably had a drink or two.) Point is that he wasn't out kicking some @$$ all the time. He had other things to worry about.

That's what's funny. I know the difference, and I'm not on the verge of some psychotic break. I still know that even if I was nuts, it's still fantasy. Just like I'm aware that my favorite escapist materials are still just a book or a movie or a comic. Granted, if I were crazy, I wouldn't care...but, at least at this point I know the difference.

I sometimes wonder where everyone gets the idea that the world would be better if everyone were at peace with a roof over their hand, food in their mouths, and happy all the time.

Truth is....It'd be really Boring.

There's a two pronged answer to that.

One is idealistically. I'm sure I already mentioned in here somewhere about the constant critical derision about the Paradiso segment of The Divine Comedy. No matter how good a writer Dante was, he couldn't describe absolute beauty and perfection in a way that didn't eventually become... frankly, boring. If you wanna look at everything in it's really natural form, it's always opposite. War makes you appreciate peace. Sadness makes you value your happiness. And so on.

Second, there's a wonderful book called The Lathe of Heaven that describes pretty well the ridiculous lengths we would have to go to so that we could eliminate everything that pits us a against one another. I take it even farther: no race, no gender, no body types, no monetary values, and so on. Everyone would have to be exactly like everyone else to make it happen.

Luckily, barring clones, nature has insured that that won't happen.

Anyhow, back to the movies...

Quentin Tarantino in a sound quip said something to the effect that Thomas Edison's movie camera was good at capturing two things "Killing and Kissing." Well, I'd like my movie world to be more literary than that, but the effect is the same.

Even in that, I'd have dualism (and I'm sure I've mentioned this one before). I always like martial arts and samurai movies because the heroes are motivated by tradition, culture, and honor. Everything they do has a reason. Sometimes that reasoning is wrong, but everything is motivated. On the contrary, I love spaghetti westerns, where the heroes don't believe in anything at all.

But that goes along with how I believe the world should be...and it is...but it's still not like my fantasy world.

I have no idea where I'm going with this.

All I know is that there would be a whole lot less time-wasting real life crap to deal with.


Monday, June 21, 2004

Conflicted and Contemptful
Why I'll probably never make it in the movies.

It's happened to me a number of times.

Some movie comes along that I read is horrible. More correctly, they call it by epitaphs like a lofty failure, or a creative mess. Something like that.

Well, I like ideas, and I like crazy stuff. I really like to see people try something, and try something new.

Sometimes, I like it because I like it in spite of itself.

Sometimes, I like it because it is what it is or is genius...and I begin to wonder if anyone else got it.

As you may have guessed from that opening, this weekend I took in such a flick.

Director Jang Sun-Woo, to my mind, suceeds where all the critics accuse him of failing with The Resurrection of the Little Match Girl (2002). As for the initial Korean audience, I understand why they hated and ignored it. Everyone since then should have known better.

The Story: On-line gamer Joo finds himself in the midst of a battle for the love and attention of the aloof fairy tale character, the little match girl. Like all video games, this one has missions and levels, and Joo confronts new obstacles as the situation continually changes. Finally, he must rescue the little match girl from the evil System which controls and manipulates the universe the game takes place in.

The Review: I'm not saying the movie's perfect. It's got it's problems here and there. It's a little slow getting started. It loses it's main character for a little too long in the 2nd Act. Then there's two odd sort of difficulties with it which I had problems with at first, but didn't by the end of the movie...

At first, I was thinking that everyone except the main character seems a little underdeveloped (and of course the little match girl had almost no personality at all). Along those lines, I'm also thinking that the story is a little thin and suddenly has huge shifts. Then I realized....

Of course it does, it'a a fricking video game.

Like a video game, take something like Metal Gear, it's got a story that in some ways is paper thin, but everyone in the movie takes it as being gravely serious. As the audience though, you can't take it seriously, but because the actors do, if you ride with it, you'll stay grounded in that world. To me, it's the contempt for his audience, that got him in trouble. Reviews constantly make reference to The Matrix and if you think about it, the fans of that stuff take it way seriously. Fans of video games take it way seriously. If you step back and look at it though, how can you really?

(At least comics have something of a nearly 100 year long literary history to draw on. Nootch!)

As long as were on the subject, people say that it can't be a parody if it tries to replicate some of The Matrix's effects. Again, I think they're missing the point. In most cases, the effects and the fights are so over-the-top, or funny, or even (to me) intentionally bad. It all seems to be having fun again while still presenting itslef as though it wants to be taken seriously. It makes you go "whoa" and has you laughing at at the same time. One scene in particular is the back and forth of two characters with the signature liquid airwaves around bullets as they fire at one another. It looks good, but goes too far to seem deadly.

In fact, that again seems part of the commentary: none of the violence seems particularly painful or frightening (with a few exceptions). Background people get winged and they fall over dead. Main characters get shot full of lead and keep running and gunning. In this day of reality television and so on, people seem to crave a visceral blood and guts reality...but Jang seems to be reminding us that movie violence isn't real, and video games even less so. Again, I don't like to get too interpretive, but there's little hints throughout that say that everything here is intentional.

There's also of plenty of other things going on here like the new need for people to interface with their reality and dreams through already made mediums. At the same time, we see the mediated reward for becoming a violent personage (in some ways à la Natural Born Killers), but that violence comes through doing what many people wish they could do: shoot people for being rude or obnoxious. In fact the movie seems to be a two hour editorial, and if it has a failing, it's that it can't be tuned out completely. I say that because many of my favorite movies and books can divorce their commentary from the story depending on how you want to read it.

Like I said at the beginning though, I see where most people didn't like it. It probably wasn't the best idea to make a movie like this out of the biggest budget sci-fi flick to come out in Korea. Some critics said that Jang didn't know how to handle the budget. I don't think that's true, it's all up there on the screen and it looks great. I think it was just inappropriate to make a movie that was purely contemptuous of it's audience on that scale. There's plenty of movies that haven't been as obvious about insulting the idiots who like watching those kinds of movies.

Thinking about it, the ultimate example of subversion, which I loved, was the hero's weapon at the end of the film. Dubbed "The Mackerel" it's a 50's Buck Rogers looking ray gun, which although funny, looks anything but badass compared to all the other tech being hauled around in this flick. That and the gun doesn't have a trigger, and works on the hero's mental abilities and his emotions. Again it steals all the badass-ness out of it by turning it into the weapon-equivalent of fairy dust. I don't want to ruin everything, but I was howling when the gun truly lived up to it's name.

I should also mention that the film's opening credit sequence was pure genius. Excellent.

In the end, I do have problems because Jang's choices led to this movie's failure which may have led to the cessation of the making of sci-fi flicks in Korea, and there have been a few I liked so far. On the other hand, the only thing in the movie itself that I really objected to was the hero's best friend's hair. It was awful.

I want more reality in my day-to-day life and more fantasy in my media...sadly everything just keeps running completely opposite of that.


Friday, June 18, 2004

The Best Laid Plans of Miike and Men
A promising premise wasted...but no one to blame.

Tell me you wouldn't be the least bit curious about this one....I dare you.

(I'm gonna go ahead and qualify this by saying: "Well yes, if you've not been interested by one of the movies, books, comics or what-have-you that I've brought up here, then I understand that you won't be interested in this one either." Touché.)

A female karate champion's family is murdered by a chainsaw wieldingg maniac while she's away at a tournament.

She finds her path to revenge by rejoining her super-secret government agency to exact that revenge on the crime family that ordered it.

Her former partner decides that her best disguise is in a professional women's wrestling outfit.

Her name: Silver Jun.

Her enemy: An evil bondage queen/crimeboss, her goons, and a mysterious dart-throwing assassin.

Throw on top of that veritable b-movie smorgasbord that Silver Jun is played by curvaceous former Japanese swimsuit model Atsuko Sakuraba, and you got a surefire winner, right?

It's directed by Takashi Miike...Are you with me? Right?

Unfortunately, it just wasn't to be.

The above plot summary (and I'll explain why I don't say more later) was actually the second reason I bought this movie. The primary reason I bought it was that it was the earliest Miike movie available on DVD, and I wanted to see proto-Miike. Miike before Miike. Miike: straight-to-video shot-on-video. I wasn't expecting Audition/Ichii/Dead or Alive quality, but I wanted to see where the man came from.

That's exactly why I can't be too hard on the man or the movie.

It's there, it's all there. The Miike-ness (The lead villainess is instant gross-out). It just hadn't come into its own yet. It was more creative than most shlock out there, it just never pulled itself together. It fell into the pitfalls of oh so many B-movies, and movies with better premises than this have fallen victims to these beasts.

The first thing that you the audience have to understand before you get too harsh is there is one thing in common with all movies of this kind. I don't care if it's spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation, horror, or straight-to-video sleaze, they all have to make money. Money comes before acting, story, special effects, or any other aspect of movie-making. The people who pay for this stuff to get made expect their money back plus interest and muy pronto. It's only after the writers and directors make that money, have some success, and prove themselves that they get to pour on a little more finesse.

If it happens early on that they produce a quality product, there was a lot of luck involved.

Also, most audiences out there don't differentiate between low-budget movies. Kevin Smith's Clerks was most certainly a low-budget flick. In cases like that though the difference is that most of the money was his, or investors who invested in his script, idea, or vision. I don't wanna go into the crime element of Asian genre cinema movies, but most of these are given out like assignments. A script may exist with the proviso: Go make this. Or, they're told: Make a movie with guns and chicks that'll make money. As stated previously, it doesn't have a d@mned thing to do with art or vision. Further, who says these investors care what it is, or that they have any taste whatsoever.

Money, money, money. It makes the reels of the camera go round.

So anyway, Takashi Miike's Silver.

The reason I couldn't tell you anymore about the specifics of the plot is that I started fast forwarding about halfway through. Something you should know about me is that I don't like leaving anything unfinished, but sometimes my means to conclusion are harsh. I mean I could follow what was happening literally, but I couldn't explain the details. Trust me, you don't need anymore than what I gave you above.

I never thought I would say this about anyone, but for this one, Miike should have consulted American schlockmeister Andy Sedaris.

I've mentioned Sedaris here before. I've lost track, but at one point I had seen all his movies. They're priceless. All of them are about a team of special government agents (who are played by former Playboy playmates, American Gladiators, and so on) who get into one ridiculous story of crime and/or intrigue after another. In order to make them look international, they use these same locations in Texas and Hawaii. They don't always work, but usually Sedaris finds the perfect balance between goofy action, T&A, a story, and horrbile acting. The story may be wholly unbelievable or illogical, but it stays cohesive within its own universe.

(In other words, you can always count on a steamy group shower scene after a teammate is kidnapped, and that a shootout on dirtbikes through a Texas swamp will follow soon after. It doesn't seem to go in the right order, but they always follow the rules.)

That's what this movie needed. It needed to decide, or throwout any rules. (A lesson Miike did learn later. Look at the kitchen sink approach to Ichii the Killer, the Freudian yakuza insanity of Gozu, or just the finale of the first Dead or Alive.) Was this movie about T&A? Was it about crazed women's wrestling action? Was it about the revenge story and yakuza? What's with the dart-throwing dude, and why wasn't he a little more interactive than just showing up a couple of times before the finale?

(I should mention, that some of the major points this movie scored were in the fight out between Silver Jun and the dart-throwing guy. It looks like an old-fashioned shootout, but then he starts hurling darts and she keeps blocking them by throwing coins. I actually took it off fast forward for that. But seriously...)

Look at it this way:

You're making this movie. What would you do with it?

You've got a curvaceous beauty in Sakuraba. You can show her naked. Chances are your audience is watching this for that reason. Now she did get naked eventually, but it was a long time getting there. Lots of people have handled this in different ways. Russ Meyer practically painted the screen with beautiful buxom women. Even in the ones where none of them got naked, you could still come away feeling dirty. Usually with one girl, there was a lot of art to the tease and the reveal (This movie had too much of the wrong kind of teasing: kind of showing and then hiding.). Andy Sedaris delivers situation by situation, and no situation bars the possibility of anyone jumping into the hot tub. Sedaris also keeps the nudity varied between gratuitous nudity that has no story relevance (like the shower or skinnydipping in the lagoon) and scenes that have the various male and female characters getting it on. Notice I didn't include the hot tub scenes. No movies have ever had more exposition and character development with naked people in a hot tub than Andy Sedaris movies. The final is the most tasteless, eventually boring, but quickly effective is the get'em naked early and get'em naked often...or throw up as many other naked bodies as you can. So take your pick.

You're main character's gonna be wrestling. Well, the nudity is probably still a good idea somewhere, but your crowd for this kinda movie is a little different. You've got the wrestling fans and the catfight fans you can get with this concept. Other than some training, there was just one wrestling match (though Silver Jun spent much of the movie running around in her wrestling outfit). ONE match in a movie about a secret agent amongst wrestlers. I worked on a low-budget wrestling movie. It too had story problems, but one thing it got right was have them fight often and in lots of situations and settings. Also, it always helps to have a good wrestling villain for your hero to face. That person can be completely different from the revenge plot. Take Spider-man. He fights the Green Goblin, the Sandman, Doc Ock, etc. as Spider-man, but Peter Parker has Jonah Jameson and back in the day Flash Thompson to deal with.

You've got a gangster yakuza movie. Well this is another kind of violence, so it's not out of sync with a wrestling pictures. Yakuza movies are no stranger to nudity, though they do spend more time being totally male fueled. I'm sure this had to do with his market and the fact that it is Miike, but our dominatrix yakuza boss pretty much fails to delvier. She's not scary. She's not exceptionally violent (Look at what Miike does with Riki Takeuchi.). She's just creepy and gross. There's other fights with various thugs, but they usually involve Silver Jun with or without someone else stomping a bunch of nameless guys asses. Peter Jackson, who's chockful of B-movie sensibility, spelled it out well in the first Lord of the Rings movie by making that one orc a battlefield focal point. You gotta have someone on the ground that you can identify and that you can hate. Or as is all too often in Japanese movies or anime...a flatout bad@$$ bad guy. They almost had one with the dart-thrower, but like I said, he was just too absent and undeveloped.

There was a way to balance all of these, and in the 90 minutes they had it could've been done...or, well, done better. The elements were there, they just didn't gel. Because they didn't gel, there wasn't a neat cause-and-effect rollover of plot (even if totally illogical. Remember: Logic is not necessary for a B-movie to succeed.) Without the neat flow of the plot, and the jumbling of it's elements...I started fast forwarding.

Also...for a second, a brief a scene where Silver Jun is laying in a wrestling ring lit by a single light preparing for the final fight, I almost thought that Miike was gonna do a lift from Suzuki's Branded to Kill. No such luck.

The most important thing is always keep it new and moving. There have been plenty of people who've turned one industrial factory successfully into a barbaric industrial planet. The tube scene with Tom Skerritt in Alien only used a few yards of tube, but I believed it was miles of intergalactic ductwork. Then a brisk pace will often keep your audience moving along well enough that they won't spot plotholes until way later. Trust me, if you've got one too many of those during a slow movie, people stop watching, and start talking and laughing. Note, I didn't say confuse your audience. You can't just start hurling stuff willy-nilly and expect them to be enthralled. That's where having a good, likeable, or at least interesting cast is to your credit. If your hero is likeable, people will fear for his saftey no matter how unbelievable a situation he's gotten himself into. (Ever seen the shark repellent scene in the 60's Batman movie?)

As a side note, on the flipside, you gotta know what you're dealing with. The acting in this movie wasn't great, but it wasn't bad enough to be great either. One of the funniest and best alternatives is getting terrible actors who will deliver the most absurd dialogue as though they absolutely deadpan-seriously believe it. I can't even start with the number of 50's sci-fi and horror movies that are textbook cases of that phenomena.

Don't get me wrong, it's tough to find that formula. It's funny because it is formula. Plug in oddball or sleazeball elements, grind, produce, and screen. Weirdly enough, it just doesn't always work. But everyone who seen them do remember the ones that made it.

Granted, those become classics in their own right.

You film students out there can dismiss your B-movie brethren as trash. You can worship the Kurosawa's, Scorcese's, and Bergman's. I tell you, though, no one can teach you more about how to and how not to tell a story like schlock cinema. It's how you transcend that level of storytelling that makes it art again.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Then God Said to Cain..."Your Name Shall Be Klaus Kinski..."
Part of what I meant to say yesterday...

It's late in the day for me to be writing up one of these, so I'm taking the easy way out.

It's time to dish up some spaghetti (...and lots of bad puns).

After The Ruthless Four, I needed a pick up in the world of spaghetti. My crisp clean copy of Face to Face just wasn't quite enough. And I still had one I hadn't seen yet.

Antonio Margheriti, the man who would be responsible for science-fiction masterpiece Yor: The Hunter from the Future (be sure to read masterpiece with the proper amount of sarcasm, but don't think I don't like that movie), helmed the Klaus Kinski starring And God Said to Cain. This is one of the only times I can recall that Klaus ever played a non-ensemble heroic lead. Furthermore, like The Stranger's Gundown, the tone of this one was more horror than western.

Kinski plays Gary Hamilton who at the opening is released from prison. He returns to his hometown preparing to seek revenge on a wealthy rancher named Acombar. When Acombar learns of Hamilton's return he sends his squadron of goons to hunt him down. Using the dark and heavy storm blowing in and a network of caves under the town, Hamilton eliminates his hunters one by one. Eventually, Acombar's on seeks Kinski out and learns the truth behind the revenge before the final shootout.

To be honest with you, if I had one major complaint, it's that I never thought I was gonna learn why Kinski's ticked off. You get a hint here and a hint there, but everyone mainly talks around it. Well, that gets irritating after a while. "Yes he told me." "You know, but he must never learn." That sort of thing. When the explanation did finally come, it was in the middle of the climactic shootout. That's sort of distracting from the carnage.

Now, it didn't bother me, but those expecting more traditional western story, or even a more traditional spaghetti story will likely be letdown. As I said this is more horror, specifically slasher movie plotting. Now, it's not as gory of course, but Kinski's Hamilton is definitely the Jason Voorhees of western heroes. It's all about one guy wandering off from his buddies and being killed in creative ways. For instance, one of the signs Kinski gives that he's claimed another victim is by wringing the church bells. At one point the thugs think they've trapped Kinski wringing the bells, but when they bust into the belltower they find a buddy strung up whose dead weight is pulling the cord up and down.

Perhaps the films most effective scene is the final shootout between Acombar and Hamilton in a room full of mirrors. Much like the finale of Enter the Dragon years later, Acombar shoots out a lot of glass trying to find the elusive Hamilton. All the raging fire in the scene was also a nice touch. (Reminded me of the finale of Samurai Reincarnation with Sonny Chiba.)

Ok, granted, if you've seen the movie, you're already making fun of me for calling Kinski a heroic lead. Well, he is THE heroic lead, but he's not much of A heoric lead because of the intense creepy factor. But come on, this is a horror-western, Kinski is by far the best choice. I have one minor complaint which is that they picked the weirdest voice to dub Klaus. Granted it's always a little weird because I know what Klaus sounds like anyway, but this one is way off. Then again, my copy, though DVD, was from a videotape, and hence as the movie is dark throughout, some of the scenes were totally indecipherable.

In any event, I had a good time.

Don't know what's next for me in spaghetti land. I'm still trying to track down my last Sollima western, The Big Gundown, and I've not had a chance to swing by the rare video store by me to pick up Cemetery Without Crosses. Anyway, once I, of course...will be the first one to hear me blather about it.

Ok. I've got run.

Be good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

And God Said to Cain..."Buy This Movie!"
The other shtick...

Why is it that the first thing that every group that protests a movie bravely posits that it hasn't actually seen what it's protesting?


I mean I could come out and vehemntly deny the applicabilty of Einsteinian physics on the motions of the universe. Something along the line of "They're wrong, wrong, wrong..." But apart from only knowing of the existence of Einsteinian physics and maybe an inkling of what they say, I know nothing about them. It'd be an empty argument.

Once upon a time, books used to be released and read before they got banned. At least those censors could say "This book is objectionable because on page 120...well, just read what he does...and with a God, the humanity." So wrong or not, they had proof at their fingertips.

Now of course, apart from the occasional school textbook issue, no one seems to really care about the contents of books.

I hate to say it, but it makes sense. Nobody reads books, but everyone goes to see the movies. I go to a lot of movies to obviously, but I'm more like the annoying guy who can point out the historical innaccuracies since I read quite a bit as well. I'm probably most concerned about this new movie based on the life of Alexander the Great.

Anyhow, God forbid you should make a religious movie...uh, correction, a movie about Christianity. Ok, sure, people get strung up for making religious movies in other countries, but you could make the most blaphemous Islamic, Hindu, Voodoo, etc. movie in the world here in the States and no one would blink an eye.

I've said a number of times that I would've been burned as a heretic years ago for my beliefs. In the end, I'm of the opinion that you should see what someone has to say on the subject. If you don't like it, then dismiss it. And of course, I think you should let people decide for themselves what they think. In any event, if you have enemies, you should know your enemies, know where they're coming from and no what they think.

Of course what made me think about this had nothing to do with religion, but rather war and politics.

Why can't anyone understand the notion that you can love the troops and not support the war? I imagine that it's mostly Viet Nam's fault, with the dippy hippies spitting on soldier's returning home from the war. They were of course just as deluded. Like most folks, if the draft notice showed up, then you went regardless of your personal politics. In any event, I think times are a little different now. I can dislike the soldiers above a certain rank who are entangled in politics, but I can't hold that agains the grunts.

I don't want to see any of them die....and that includes the ones I don't like so much.

Besides, it's not that I don't agree that your average Iraqi wouldn't be better off with Saddam Hussein. I believe they will be better off. I just don't think that had much of anything to do with why this all got started. It was a convenient excuse.

I don't think it was all about oil either. Not all of it.

I think it was about Starbucks. The Gap. McDonald's. Outsourcing.

Seriously. Why did we let the Afghans fight their own war? Why did we leave pretty soon thereafter? We personally fought against Hussein's regime, and we're still hanging out there.

Bringing the two together, I should say that I don't know enough about the politics of President Bush to argue one way or the other. (Also, I should mention that I do think the president is often the victim of a lot interests who've been allowed to become too powerful.) But I was bothered when someone said they support President Bush because he prays. Well, most everyone I know would agree that Moses was a pretty devoutly religious guy, but after 40 years of leading his people around the desert, he wasn't allowed in the Promised Land because of bad decisions. Get my point?

I think it's also all about having another friendly foothold in the Middle East since the Saudis are kinda touch-and-go and Israel is the antithesis of stability.

Anyhow, in this media-drenched day and age, if you make a decision, especially something like going to war, for whatever reason, you can't expect that people aren't going to find out. Hell, any decision...think Moncia Lewinsky...

I'm sure I've mentioned my feeling on conspiracy theories. On one end, I don't think it's as bad or nefarious as many people think. On the other, I think there's some stuff going on in the world that would keep you from sleeping at night if you knew about it.

You ever noticed how every president ages like twenty years after being in office for a couple of nanoseconds? I think they know a lot of that stuff.

Ultimately, my point is the following. Don't try and ban or block dissenting views especially if they come from reasonably educated sources. And just as importantly, if you're going to argue against something the least you can do is make sure you know what you're talking about. Take care of your teeth. Don't believe the world is out to get you, because seven-eighths of it or so couldn't care less about you.

Unless of course, you're the only living being on earth, and the everything else is all a fabricated conspiracy against just you....It's highly improbable. But not impossible.

D@mmit, the title for this was actually in reference to a spaghetti western I watched. Guess I'll have to save it for another time.


Monday, June 14, 2004

Subjected to Short Films
Why your short film is gonna suck like all the others....Trust me.

Have you ever heard the expression "Opinions are like @$$holes, everyone's got one"?

Well, if you ever go into writing or movie-making, you'll find that the number of people with story ideas are about the same. You may think that that cliché about someone saying "I have a great idea for a movie, it's about...." is fake. While, they're not always that obvious about nor do they always phrase it that way, but you begin to recognize it when you hear it.

Truth is, most of these people should be stopped.

First of all, I want to know at what point did it become necessary for all directors to think that they were writers as well. In the world of shorts, I very rarely see a movie that was directed by someone who didn't have some credited part in the writing of it. From my own experiences with this stuff I've seen directors who couldn't put a story down on paper to save their lives, and I've seen writers whose visual skills extend no farther than the words to describe them.

Once upon a time there was a distinction between the two. Some directors can of course do both, as there are some writers who can. There are also plenty of directors who are just great at visualizing someone else's ideas. Give them a good story, and they'll show it to you in vibrant colors.

Ok, wait, I gotta change gears. I'm merging back into my realm of who should not be allowed to write. Briefly, I don't think anyone without writing experience (and by that I mean 3-4 scripts, a novel, or some other substantial body of written work) should be allowed to have much if any say in the creative process of a movie. I don't mind multiple writers taking a crack at something, but I think that producers, studio executives, and actors should keep out of it. However, in a case like Robert Shaw writing much of the U.S.S. Indianapolis speech in Jaws, it makes sense because he was already an accomplished playwright. See?

So back to short films.

First of all, short films are like most any other story in the respect that you should write what you know. I'd like to add a further proviso to that. You should also write what you understand. If you want to write a far out crazy story about a heist and a drug deal gone horribly wrong, I'm not saying go out and join a drug cartel to get some experience. Basically you have one of two paths: 1) write what you understand about it from the hundreds of movies you've already seen on the subject, or 2) research: books, interviews, documentaries, etc. Ultimately though, at just about every short film fest I've sat through, everyone seems to ignore the fact that they don't know or understand what they've chosen to talk about.

Well, that's unfair. A lot of times, they might know it and understand it, but have no other tools with which to communicate that subject. How's that?

Short films' next biggest mistake is would be category. There's usually two: comedy or high drama. Sure you get the occasional horror short, or what have you, but most times it's either "A" or "B".

Well, there's the problem.

Let's start with comedy. Why does everyone think that comedy is easy? How many genuinely funny people do you know? I mean, funny all the time, joke a minute, laugh till you throw up kind of folks. How many? Not too many huh. And sure, you can tell a joke, but could you tell half-an-hour worth of jokes? Do you have charisma? Do you have timing? Do you have an eye or an ear for it? In a film situation would you understand how and where to use a 'foil' or a 'straight man'? My guess is that you've said a lot of no's during this. So what would make you think you can do comedies? Truth is, even if you did know all that stuff, that still doesn't mean that you could or will be funny.

That's not to say you couldn't learn to direct it, but chances are you got no business writing it.

Then there's high drama. I've been subjected to far to many shorts about alcoholism, drug abuse, rape, child abuse, etc. The first problem is usually that it's highly unbelievable (ie. the writer having no idea what they're talking about, or more common, wildly unbelievable actors). The second is that their usually never enough time to help you to care about or understand the situation. The third is that if there is a resolution, it's too quick and too trite, and if there isn't, it's unsatisfying as a film. Anyhow, the basic problem is that anything that's not a public service announcement usually just doesn't play.

Notice, I didn't say anything about murder in there. I hold a special place for that garbage. I'm not talking about horror, or thrillers. I mean movies about mercy-killings or just poor misunderstood murder or muder because of any of the items listed above. Again, these are usually the victime of triteness, bad acting, and/or having no purpose.

(What's funny about a lot of these would be high dramas is that they would play better as exploitation cinema but they always go for for some pretentious poorly executed art piece.)

To me, the shorts that work best are those that play like a joke (but aren't necessarily comedy). They're a short quirky (but not necessarily funny) slice of time with a beginning, a middle, and a punchline. Like a good comedy sketch without necessarily any of the comedy. Not too silly/funny, and not to down and dark. I'd rattle off some examples, but in the realm of shorts, unless they're the outstanding few, we haven't seen the same stuff.

So you've written your little piece and it's a zinger. You've shot it with your non-actors, would-be actors, and maybe an actor or two that you actually did dig up. Now you've got to put it together....the next trouble phase.

Ok. Ok. I know somebody out there's gonna argue about the art of actually shooting the thing, and how many people suck at that. Well, that's true too. But then again, if the script is crap...well, what's the other famous saying? "You can't polish a turd." I would think that Hollywood movies have proven that just because something looks good doesn't mean anyone'll like it if it has no story. On the flip side, there's a good number of movies of questionable technical quality that still stand out because the ideas behind them are sound enough. So I agree, it should look good, but that's getting into a whole visual aestethic that would work better with pictures than words.

So back to editing...

Again, why do so many shorts' directors edit their own stuff, or involve themselves way too much? Editing is an artform all it's own, and unless you have a significant background in it...if you've found the right person... leave'em the hell alone. Sure you should get some input, but boy, it's iffy.

The best for instance is cutting around performance.

If you've got mostly non-actors, then they're not gonna have the kind of presence that you're gonna want to leave them lingering on screen. Hopefully you did a lot of takes, and you pick out the ones where they nailed it, or mostly nailed it. Then you just start cutting around it. Keep it tight. Again, I've seen so many of these things where someone was on, but they were left up on screen for to long. Proportionally, the longer they lingered, the more their believability dropped through the floor. At the same time, you've got to find the beat and the rhythm to keep the scene moving, and moving realistically. That's another editing failure, total lack of natural dialogue patterns without having the style to pull off Eraserhead.

The next questionable phase of short film post production hell is music. Since most people don't know any composers or bands, they tend to use source music (ie. the stuff in their car and on shelves in their house...CD's). All I'm gonna say about this is....Just because you really love a song, doesn't mean it belongs in your movie. That's usually for two reasons: 1) it's inappropriate and it steals away from what you've presented visually, or 2) it's obvious and overstates the point of what you've presented visually. So choose wisely. On the other hand, I've also found that those who do manage to wrangle a composer don't always fare well for the same reasons. Again, unless you have a musical background, if you hired this person, then you should probably trust them some. On the other hand, if you don't like it or don't think it fits...don't use it.

Important with music: get 2nd opinions. Lots of 'em. And not just your friends. Find somebody who knows something about movies or music.

Anyway, chances are, your still gonna fail...but I guess if you waste thousand of dollars and hours of your life on something your proud of...crap or was worth it.

Yeah right.

"Know thyself." That means your limits too.


Friday, June 11, 2004

George Hilton Failed Me Again
The end of the week wrap up...

I've already written this once, and then my browser crashed sucking it all away. So you'll forgive me if I abbreviate this a little.

So I did read long-awaited comic book, Witches, last night. The writing got off to a running start, although one character's dialogue was a touch overdone. Deodato's artwork ranged from impressive to adequate, but was quite strong for the most part. My only difficulty was with two of the three leading characters, of which I was only familiar with favorite Satana. Unfortunately she didn't show up until the last two pages. Further, this isn't the Satana I grew up with, but of course a leaner, meaner, hipper version. Well, we'll see, but I still prefer her with the horns on the sides of her head.

Originally I wasn't going to write much of a review of the spaghetti I watched last night. Then I ended up writing one. Now I'm gonna repeat that...more or less...well, for the second time: less.

The Ruthless Four (1968) d. Giorgio Capitani

Well, by now, I assume you read the title for today's article. So yes, this one had George Hilton in it. I've already mentioned how he's had a history of letting me down in spaghettis. It's not that his acting is so bad as he's just to wide-eyed and smiley to carry the weight of a spaghetti hero. The one time it worked for him was as Franco Nero's drunk brother in Lucio Fulci's Massacre Time. Nor does he have the menace of a spaghetti psycho either, which would be creepy if he had the friendly face but was pure evil. Spaghetti star Giuliano Gemma had a fresh boyish face, but usually had enough cocky arrogant swagger to back it up. To his credit, I can see where Hilton faired well in spaghetti western comedies, a sub-genre I more or less...despise.

The movie did however feature the always prestigious movie psycho action of Klaus Kinski. Capitani makes great and hilarious use of just having Kinski give a blathering Hilton his steely-eyed stare until he shuts up. On one hand, you would think that Kinski just had to be there to be creepy, but I swear I've seen the man over and over again and he always has such intense screen presence. It was alluded to in several reviews I read that Hilton's character and Kinski's were involved in some psycho-sexual relationship. Could be. That's where my primary problem with the movie begins, but first...

The story: Prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin) has finally struck gold after years of searching. After dispatching his double-crossing partner, Cooper slogs his way back to the closest town. He decides that his estranged son (Hilton) is the only one he can trust to help him with the gold. The son arrives with a blond gun-toting psycho (Kinski) in tow. After the son insists the gunslinger accomapny them, Cooper enlists the help of Mason (Gilbert Roland), a man who Cooper had been forced to betray to authorities years before. From there it becomes a game of who can trust who, and who'll get the drop on who first.

So back to that problem. The movie simply doesn't have quite enough story to keep the pacing up. By the end, I felt that a lot of the time spent watchig the characters make their way across desert vistas could've been spent building up more story and tension, like the mysterious relationship between Hilton and Kinski. The story starts well enough, and then starts to drag. The middle features a spectacular shootout, but then begins to drag again before the fiery finale. The finale itself is broken up into two climaxes. The second one is a letdown as it suddenly involves characters who we haven't seen since early on in the film.

The best bad@$$ moment comes during the shootout in the middle of the film. Stopping at a burned out mission, our quartet realizes that a band of outlaws lie in wait for them. After pretending not to have seen the bandits (a fun sequence on its own), they move into position and the firing begins. Great camera moves as characters run under a hail of enemy fire. Finally Kinski sneaks up on one outlaw stationed behind a broken down stagecoach. Klaus shoots the man's arm, disarming him and forcing him around. Slowly and sadistcially, Kinski shoots to either side of the man's head making him jump before plugging him between the eyes.

Whoa, that was still more than I intended to write about this. In the end this was a fairly solid but mediocre effort that would have done well to have just a little more development. To be fair, the relationship between Cooper and Mason gets a fair deal of screentime, and Gilbert Roland plays Mason with a sly coolness. Considering the ending (which I won't ruin), it almost would've made more sense to make a movie about these two and/or a movie about Kinski and Hilton. Besides Cooper and Mason, everything else needed at least some help.

So what I was going to do instead of saying much about The Ruthless Four was go over pseudo-spaghetti A Town Called Hell. Ok, you may not guess Martin Landau, but rest assured that a western starring Robert Shaw and Telly Savalas has to be bad@$$. And it is. I call it 'pseudo' because eventually American money, directors, and more stars briefly jumped on the bandwagon just before the spaghetti truly began to wane. Most of these efforts tend to be crap because as usual Americans missed the point. (I get insulted everytime someone calls Hang'em High a spaghetti western. Good theme song. Weak movie.) This one however stands up pretty well.

Call me a tease, but since I've had to write this twice, the one review went on too long, and I just plain don't feel like it....I'm not going to.

This weekend, it'll be all about And God Said to Cain, another spaghetti featuring my buddy Klaus.

Also, I'm hoping my crazy Japanese movies show up. Ahhh, the insanity continues.


Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Day After Comics Day
My promise to forge ahead in the face of super-adversity...

Yes, for those of you who don't know, Wednesday is the day that new comics hit shelves. This is of course barring Monday holidays. Comics ship on Mondays, and so if there is a holiday, the release is moved backed to Thursday.

In more boring shipping news, new releases of DVD's and CD's are released on Tuesdays, but are shipped the week before, usually arriving at a story by Friday. Hence they are unaffected by similar problems. Why am I telling you this...I don't know.

Obviously, if you've been reading this, then you know that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are big days for me. Then there's Thursday, formerly Thor's day, the day after Wednesday. Despite the historic origins of the name, it's not my favorite day. After all, if my highlights for the week are the goodies that come out on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday is one day blocking me from Friday and the weekend, why should I love Thursdays?

Now you could argue similar things about Monday, but I say it's not as bad. True nothing comes out on Mondays, and it is the day after weekend. However, it's a long way from Friday, and I've still got Tuesday to look forward to. Get it?

If you don't, I don't care.

Now I promised I'd talk about comics today. I ran into one snag. I did pick up a couple of books yesterday, but I didn't read either of them. Since I had finished Marcus Aurelius, I was anxious to start my new book and spent my time for reading thusly. Of course I say time for reading like there's an actual block for that in my schedule, truth is that it's usually the ten minutes for reading most people get every day. (I'm certainly hoping you don't need a compass and a road map to catch that one.) Sometimes, I get a little more time, and will stretch out on the couch or in bed with a book or whatever...but there is no "reading time."

Of course, sometimes I wish life was more like elementary school, and we had a reading time. Along similar lines, I've often opined that we should have a nap at work after lunch. Some have claimed that I'm merely copying siesta, but my vision includes the whole kindergarten treatment. I want the mats on the floor. I want the little milk or juice boxes. The whole bit. To me that's not siesta at all. Also, some have said they'd rather have a half hour or so off at the end of the day. I say no. We leave at the same time, but we get a little nap. Who's with me?

Oh yeah. Comics.

I recall that long ago, I had meant to list off the final B-List favorite series which I had amassed en toto. Well, the first two runs of it, after that it was all one-shots, mini-graphic novels, and short series. That series was Alien Legion.

Unfortunately, feeling lazy, I don't feel like looking up any research on the series. Also, though I've read them all, it's been some time. Currently they are sealed away in boxes like all my past comics.

Essentially I can say that it was the Dirty Dozen of space. A team created of a variety of personalities, some good and some bad, and in this case a variety of species as well. Imagine the Mos Eisley Cantina patrons as a space based military squadron...just without the funny looking band. ( I realize that I completely geek out by making that reference without saying what it's from...but if you don't know what it's from, then you've been asleep since about 1977.)

Anyhow, it was always a well-written and very well-drawn series from Marvel's Epic division.

In fact, a lot of my favorite comics came out of that label during that time period. Unfortunately, they've become very difficult to find, but in most cases the artists and writers were able to retain the rights to the things they created. So occasionally they show up as trade paperbacks.

As the Epic line didn't usually carry characters like Spider-Man or the X-men (ok, so Wolverine showed up in a series or two), then they all qualify as b-list. Also the artists and writers tended to be the weirder bunch to begin with or proved themselves to be. Generally speaking, these were concepts that weren't gonna hit mainstream, even ones with popular characters like the mini-series Havok and Woverine: Metldown.

A good for instance starting place would be Ted McKeever's two series for epic, Plastic Forks and Metropol. McKeever's very angular, simple, and often frightening style in these early books is definitely more down the alley of the art enthusiast. Also, his stories were by and large onthe side of the macabre and surreal. Still, well worth the price of admission.

Of course, to some degree, psychotic kitchen utensil stories were all the rage. A personal favorite of mine was Bill Sienkiewicz's Stray Toasters. I can't accurately think of a way to summarize this story. A detective is hired to investigate a series of bizarre murders which end up being the victims of a little boy's giant robot. The robot which was the kid's surrogate parent and featured a toaster for a head had the frighteningly cool name of 'Big Daddy'. The series feature some of Sienkiewicz's most beautiful artwork. If you've never seen it, it's a catch-all of multimedia that tends to be both beautiful and gruesome in the same piece.

Continuing with Sienkiewicz, another favorite Epic series did feature a more A-list super-hero gal: Elektra: Assassin. Again, Sienkiewicz's work is astounding, but this series featured A-list comic book writer Frank Miller. Frank and Elektra first started working together in Daredevil, and Frank's various runs on Daredevil rank up there amongst my favorites. Frank also crafted some of the best stories for characters i always found to be B-list, and who worked better off others, namely Elektra and the Punisher. Both of them are straight-up killers, and frankly that tends to rend the flesh of the super hero universe (on their own in solo efforts outside of the "marvel universe" they do better) and so they work best as supporting characters. This trend continued in this book, as Elektra's unwilling accomplice, Garrett, steals most of the focus of the show. Garrett is a hilariously fun and sloppy character, and much easier to relate to than the icey cool killer Elektra. This is one of those comics that for both art and story, I recommend to non-comics readers.

The final stand out series for me definitely held it's own in the surreal vein. The post-apocalyptic vampire story Blood: A Tale by Kent Williams and J.M. De Matteis was way over my head when I first picked it up as a pre-teen out of a dollar bin. What sold me was the incredibly ugly and beautiful artwork of Williams...and that age, the primarily naked female character. I'm not sure how many people would have found her rendering as enrapturing as I did, but it was there. Anyhow, again, I can't real encapsulate De Matteis's story which is more like the narration for a series of paintings that is occasionally spiked with chunks of plot. Primarily I recommend this book as just something fascinating to look at, though I can't deny that it's existence still relies heavily on the words. "And the sea turned to blood...and the blood gave up its secrets."

I did read quite a few of the books Epic printed based on Clive Barker's Hellraiser. Though the artwork often shined, rarely did the stories raise above S&M satanic junk. Then again, I always figured that if the Marquis de Sade, Anton La Vey, and Aleister Crowley who lived this stuff were such horrible writers then what chance do a bunch of comic book guys have working in spinning off the random evil psycho-sexual fantasy yarn. (Note: This is no poor reflection on Clive's work, which I've quite enjoyed over the years.)

Anyhow, Epic was a valiant attempt at taking comics into an adult world outside of the mainstream super hero vein. Admittedly, DC's Vertigo did much better a few years later, but I would argue that it was largely only because the groundwork had been laid by Epic and perhaps Heavy Metal. The irony to me in that was that I still see many of DC's heroes as relics compared to Marvel's. Though I love the design and concepts behind Superman, his goody-two shoes image fits in fairly uncomfortably in a Punisher/Wolverine world.

So that's my spiel on comics, my first in some time. If someone wants to donate large amounts of cash and/or if someone wants to write letters and letters to the comics companies asking them to improve their work, I'd be happy to buy more and hence talk about them more. As the trend seems to be how many Batman, Spider-Man, and X-books they can release, your gonna have to catch my commentary on them as it comes.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Exhibit G

Does anyone besides me find infinite amusement in the fact that Northwest Airlines' website address is ''? Every time I fly back to Detroit, which is a Northwest hub, I feel like I'm representin'.

It's these things that make life worth living.

Like the fact that there are Bacon flavored Doritos in Europe.

If you can't appreciate that, you got problems.

Earlier, I was debating keeping up the chain by writing a review of Tonino Valerii's spaghetti The Price of Power. It was an oddball take on the Kennedy assassination as retold in a western setting, and using the assassination of President James Garfield. Instead of being killed in a train station in New Jersey, Garfield is killed in Dallas by multiple gunmen as he rides down the street in carriage. I don't know if calling this is a stretch does it justice. Nonetheless, it was a well made film, full of intrigue, and a fun transplant of the 'conspiracy' against Kennedy. Like many political spaghettis, it gets a little ham-handed in the preachy department. In the end, Giuliano Gemma has yet to fail me as a western hero (even though everybody seems to have to take a minute to show his gymnastic prowess when it doesn't fit). Director Valerii does a helluva job juggling the action and intrigue, and this film features some wonderful shot composition (especially in what me and a friend of mine deemed Frankheimer shots...I'd explain...but you probably won't care).

Oh, so I was gonna write a full on review of it, then decided not to.

I also debated talking about Sergio Sollima's Face to Face which I watched most of on my new spectacularly clean DVD copy of last night. It's one of my all-time favorite spaghettis, but I've talked about it before. I've brought it up here, and I wrote a paper or two on it back in the day. I'm not in the mood to rehash. In any event, my favorite spaghetti list is dominated by Sergio's: Leone, Corbucci, and Sollima. I've only seen two of Sollima's three westerns, and the one I'm missing, The Big Gundown, seems to be all the other spaghetti-files' favorite. Face to Face also features one of my all-time favorite Morricone scores.

So what else is there...

I finished Marcus Aurelius's The Meditations. I don't know what to tell you about it that I didn't say in a post the other day (look for it below if you want, monkey people).

I suppose I could talk about the gross historical inaccuracies of Gladiator in dealing with Marcus and Commodus...but it's a movie, you should know it plays with the truth. See, this stuff doesn't bother me usually, because I already know what really happens. More than enough times though, I've seen people take things like this as gospel truths. It's what scares me about Alexander, Oliver Stone's new movie on Alexander the Great. To be honest, with Stone's past attempts at 'history', I'm a little shaky about this one.

On Diogenes of Sinope: "On a voyage to Aegina he was captured by pirates and sold as a slave in Crete to a Corinthian named Xeniades. Being asked his trade, he replied that he knew no trade but that of governing men, and that he wished to be sold to a man who needed a master."

That's awesome.

I'm not gonna talk about that though.

Today is comics' day, so I'll likely have some new stuff. As I don't have them yet, I have nothing to talk about.

I know, I need to talk about comics. It's been an awfully long time since the subject has come up.

Interestingly enough, I had just been talking about famed comic artists Mike Ploog and Jim Starlin to a friend of mine when I picked up the DVD of Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. Ploog of course did many of the still montage shots in the film, and Starlin designed and drew some of the characters. The DVD was in fact worth picking up, if only for Bakshi's commentary on the film. He claims that it's the only one that he'll be doing commentary for. I've read recently that his third fantasy effort (Lord of the Rings being 2nd), Fire and Ice, which he made with legendary illustrator Frank Frazetta, will also be on DVD soon. And yet, I still don't have Coonskin (aka. Street Fight). It's not fair.

I've got three more Japanese movies and a Korean movie on the way. I figured that I should warn you about them as you'll likely be hearing about them soon enough. One is by the director of Sharkskin Man... and features favorite Tadanobu Asano. I can't wait.

In a similar vein, rumor has reached my ear that Requiem for a Dream director Darren Aronofsky has intentions of remaking my beloved samurai favorite Lone Wolf and Cub. First of all, I've said it once, I'll say it again and again, I don't like white guys involved in my samurai movies. I've yet to see one that I could respect. Second, if you've followed Aronofsky's career at all, you know that he's got a veritable grocery list of movie he was supposed to do that vanished including Batman: Year One. Of course, every time I count on something like this falling through, that's the one that actually gets off the ground.

My problem is this: 1) I'm tired of remakes. so tired, very tired, exhausted drained, dying from remakes. This is especially true with movies that didn't need to be remade. 2) I've already covered my fear of Hollywood trying to reinvent foreign films. 3) It's just a cultural issue for me. Yes, he could probably do a great job making in cool and letting the blood and steel fly, but in the end, movies that are remade like this are usually missing what made them cool and enduring in the first place.

Anyhow. That is today's random string of thoughts.

Your move.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Switch Hitting for the Exploitation Cinema Team
From Master Italy to Master Japan...

I've pretty consciously avoided talking about Takashi Miike.

Now you take Seijun Suzuki, and there's a film buff's director who most people still haven't heard of.

Miike, on the other hand, is becoming akin to David Lynch. He's mostly for film buff/arthouse crowds but enough of the mainstream has seen something by him. This also leads to a lot of less than shining stars blathering about him endlessly on the internet.

It's one of those funny things about being able to separate movie people. Most of the folks I know who like the same stuff I do don't feel the need to overstate the painfully obvious. You don't watch a Russ Meyer flick, and then proceed to harp on and on about the fact that it's stars are women with big t!ts. Everyone on earth who has ever seen a Russ Meyer flick knows that Russ likes casting women with big chests.

Take Miike's Ichii the Killer. I've seen it. I enjoyed it. I don't need to read another half-baked review about what a "weird effed-up dark flick, man" it is. It's the perpetual restatement of the incredibly obvious. You can take a good long look at the video cover and figure that out. Besides, most things that advertise being unrated or uncut...well, they tend to have a reason for that which usually pertains too...that's right: Sex and Violence.

I don't recall a movie restoring any gratuitous money shots of fluffy bunnies that were too intense for audiences.

In a like way, though I enjoy Miike's work, there's taste lines to be drawn. It's similar to fans of Italian giallo and horror films. Some of these folks love the intense atmospheric moods, the thrilling suspense, and the weird beauty of it all. For them it's a time period or a style of film they enjoy. Then there's those who like them too much for the naked girls and the messy carnage. The former tend to be able to admit that these are often bad movies, but stylishly made. The latter tend to defend even the most blatantly crappy to the end. Not to mention the latter just tend to be creepy about it period.

Seriously, if Ichii or Audition was your number one favorite'd be creeping me out.

Back to Lynch. Miike and Lynch have similar aspects in terms of a psychological depth and propensity for sudden and brutal violence. The difference being that Lynch usually tends to stay steady and deliberate, and Miike tends to keep the thing constantly hyperkinetic and over-the-top. But even in their lighter moments, both always seemed to have something going on.

Their other similarity is reviews like this:

On Mulholland Drive: "they are all directed like they actually make sense, when they don't. He assumes the audience is following his film, when he knows they aren't." - From a source I'd rather not list...

Ahem. No. You (the writer) assume that. Also, I'm curious, who says it doesn't make sense?

Anyhow, we're verging onto a territory I loathe concerning film criticism: what things "mean" in movies. If you've ever worked on a movie as I have, you'll find that more often than not, most things don't mean a thing. That's not to say never, but part of the problem is the authorship of movies. Some directors take a lot control and are involved in writing, shooting, art, wardrobe, and editing, while others merely put actors through a scene. But that's enough on that.

The reason I brought up Miike was I saw one of his newer films this weekend. Whoa, fricking' needle-nose nelly.

The short name is Gozu. In case you were wondering...yes, it's David Lynch in a Miike a world. No David didn't work on it, but you can see the influence.

Low-level yakuza, Minami, is entrusted to take his beloved boss, Ozaki, to be diappeared in a small town following his bouts of extremely bizarre behavior. Minami accidentally completes his taks prematurely, but while stopping at a roadside diner, Ozaki's body disappears. Now Minami has to deal with some of the world's strangest townfolk in order to find his dead boss and complete his mission. Along the way, he meets a woman who claims to be the dead man, and who knows things only Ozaki would know. All of the heavily Freudian proceedings are of course leading to a crazed ending...Miike style.

The difference this time, between this film and say Audition, is that instead of leaving the psychology there to be read, he paints the walls with it. At no point should you not know what's going on if you haven't had at least one entry level course on psychology that at least touched on Freud. Instead of taking the movie as story, think of it as the literal acting out of those Freudian fantasies.

Ok, ok...that doesn't explain the guy with the ladel up his @$$... I just chalk that up to plain old Miike.

What makes the movie, to me, very effective is a similar thing to what makes up Lynch's effectiveness. Lynch's creepiness is the horror that can be found in common, safe, and often quaint places. It's the stuff of the horror underneath. Well, Miike's not that subtle. There's nothing comfortable about this smalltown, where the local rice vendor is about the only sane person. What makes this movie creepy is that it's all in the daylight. Most of your horror and thriller movies prey on the night and the dark. This movie's primarily in the sunshine in mostly familiar small town locales to anyone, but it seems like there's nowhere safe or sane for Minami to hide.

It's almost painfully obvious that Minami wants his boss Ozaki...but not quite in that way. It's a theme that's been dealt with before, like Purple Noon, but here it's definitely a little different. There's often some amount of envy to the alpha male in question, but also a certain degree of attraction. It's probably one of the most taboo subjects of male bonding even at the height of male bonding.

It's obviously taboo to Minami. What's the easiest way out of this? Make the man you love, when you don't love men, into a woman. Of course, when you cross the line, and give into that desire, woman or not, that's when the trouble starts. I won't give it all away, but if you saw the original Von Trier version of The Kingdom, you're not so much in for a surpise as a more graphic version of the same (à la "Here Comes...Udo!!").

In the end, I really really enjoyed this film. I like having the heebie-jeebies from time to time, and I really enjoy going "oh gross" while having a good laugh. It's fun. What's more, this sort of bizarre gross-out festival works best when it actually seems to mean something. And yet, Ichii the Killer is still the pinnacle to me of quality story, sheer excitement, levels of meaning, and utter disgustingness. The thing is that Miike lays it on so thick in these two movies in particular that it's hard to stay disturbed. I just start laughing.

On a side note, what I appreciate about movies like this is their alternate portrayal of filmed sexuality. I haven't seen a Miike movie yet where sexuality wasn't abberrant and disgusting. I'm sure that in real life there are people like the crime boss in this movie who get off by having a kitchen utensil stuck up there @$$. But if they expect anyone to take them seriously, if they've ever seen this guy, they've got another thing coming. There's not a single shed of glamor in any of it anywhere. The nicest sex scene probably came in Audition, but the carnage that resulted fueled the last half of the movie. It's much like the seduction scene in Ichii, where the seductress only ends up in getting herself split in half. It's extreme, but it also reminds you of the many levels of responsibility one must take for sex. Also, it reminds us of the squishy, fleshy, dirty carnal side of it as well.

I'm not suggesting that just anyone go out and rent Gozu, but if you're into thinking while being grossed out...well, you've found you a movie. (Oh, and good luck finding it. I don't believe that it's readily available and floating around out there, but I'm sure you can find someone who's got it.)

Remember, if you watch or read anything I recommend's forever at your own peril.