Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Blood's Thicker than Plot
At least George Hilton wasn't in it...

Whoo, boy!

I still haven't gotten One Damned Day at Dawn (though I'm betting Fred over at Luminous) won't let me down, but I did get my other Spaghetti Western in the mail, Mille Dollari sul Nero (aka. Blood at Sundown).

To be honest, I wasn't really in the mood to watch anything, but I owed a guy on eBay a feedback for this thing so I fired it up. An hour and forty minutes later, I was ready to tell him that his product was fine. I did, however, have some different feelings about the movie.

Ahh the danger of buying stuff blind.

We'll head this off with the title that' s on the DVD box. I always think that's fair.

Blood at Sundown (Mille Dollari sul Nero, 1966, d. Alberto Cardone)

The Story (near as I can figure): Johnny Liston returns after a 12 year jail sentence for a murder he didn't commit only to find his brother Sartana in control of the town, Johnny's girlfriend, and an army of outlaws. Sartana's brutality with the locals doesn't sit well with Johnny who begins a crusade to get the townsfolk to overthrow his brother.

The Review: Where to begin?

Well, at roughly an hour and forty minutes, this was a pretty long spaghetti. Usually only the most operatic stories (most of those being directed by the genre masters) run over an hour and a half. Now this one did, and yet the story never seemed to get thicker than a piece of paper. Seriously, it's only because I've seen enough of these things that I could just string it along for myself. Otherwise, this one belongs well in the realm of head scratchers.

And yet, unlike most movies like that, it's somehow watchable. I just don't know why...

Now, Anthony Steffen (nee Antonio De Teffe), who plays Johnny Liston, has often been accused, at least in his Spaghetti Western career, of doing a bad Clint Eastwoon impression. It's easy to see. Steffen squints a lot. He has a similar hard angular face with about the same amount of stubble. And he's a fairly tall and slender fella. In this one, he seems to do a fair job in not just being a knockoff, but then any "performance" he might have given was generally ruined by the terrible English dialogue that was dubbed in for him (and all the characters for that matter). Still, all in all, not a wholly unlikeable hero....well, we'll get back to that.

If Steffen is doing his best Clint, then Gianni Garko, who plays Sartana, has to be doing his best Klaus Kinski. Garko spends the whole movie wild-eyed with furrowed brow, and is rarely anything less than crazed for a moment. Now of course, Garko is perhaps most famous for his role as a different Sartana in the popular Giuliano Carnimeo western series. I imagine that in much the same way as any movie with Franco Nero became a Django movie, Garko became Sartana with this movie's English dub. Anyhow, this moodswinging psychopath is almost the absolute antithesis of the too calm and cool Sartana that Garko made famous. (Of course the only one I didn't like was the one with Hilton as Sartana. Quel surprise...)

Now, as individual characters, Johnny and Sartana stand up ok. They've each got at least one dimension, and are almost bordering on a second. But most of the plot revolves around their being brothers, and the one element they keep returning to is how they won't kill one another because they're brothers. Nothing, however, is really done to cement the relationship between them. They never act overly brotherly to one another. At the very least, if I came home and found my woman married to my brother, and my brother killing everyone in my hometown...and the fact that it's kinda obvious that Sartana committed the murder that got Johnny sent up in the first place...I'd probably have to take him out. But....

There is the mother character. Now it's established that part of why they won't just blow each other away is their mother. Now she pretends not care for Johnny, but she obviously does which we're shown in little hints. She does support Sartana because of his strength and power, but doesn't seem to exactly love him. Now she seems loony enough on her own, but eventually she recognizes Sartana's insanity and turns against him. This results in her existence as a roadblock between the brothers being eliminated, and the inevitable showdown is underway. Like so many things in the story, the mother appears to have a backstory that's never explored (we're never sure why she has such a huge chip on her shoulder against the town), and she's just not around enough to explain anymore as to why the brothers won't go after each other because of her.

The movie also has an array of subplots that again aren't explored. Johnny's tie to his girlfriend who is now Sartana's wife is never really explored. Jerry, Johnny's mute assistant, has a side story of sorts, but we learn the details too late...and they don't seem to make any sense. Oh...right, and it's never explained who this guy was that Johnny was accused of killing...and why so much of the story seems to revolve around it in one way or another.

Now the copy I got in the mail wasn't the clearest, but you could tell that the movie looked well shot. At the same time, though, particularly in fight scenes, there are all these strange close up jumpcuts. Many of the shots were well composed and quite moody. Of particular note is the dolly shot of the boy's mother stalking through the bullet strewn streets to stop Sartana's bloody rampage on the town. In fact the movie has a disjointed string of atmospheric moments, interesting aspects, or cool scenes. There just isn't anything to hold all of it together. Which results in an ending...that just have to see it all to understand...

Very high on the WTF factor.

I would say that it was like watching a train wreck...but it worked better than most movies that seem like that. It was just another one of those where you just wish that it could have all come together better. With what it has going for it, you just wish it could've been a solid cohesive movie: a gothic tale of two brothers torn between their blood and their mutual hatred held off by a witchly matriarch. Beautiful...or at least it could've been.

Certainly the gothic angle was played up better in Margheriti's And God Said to Cain (1970) or in the Steffen vehicle The Stranger's Gundown (aka Django the Bastard, 1969).

Not the worst I've seen by any means...but man...I just wanted it to work...


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Weather as reflected in mood

Ok, so this one's gonna be a li'l more personal than most.

This morning, Los Angeles was hit by something ressembling a massive rainstorm. Not quite a tsunami, but enough to eff up an already well-effed up city. It's been the kind of day that you hope they'll cancel school...but you're just not that lucky.

What's funny is that it seems like this stuff is just following me around, and to be honest it just kinda feels like I feel lately.

A few years ago, I started what was going to be my first novel. For a long time it did hold the record for the longest thing I had written. Then I managed to start and finish a handful of screenplays, and more recently have started and am nearly finished with what probably will be my first novel. Though I can't really stand it the few times I've reread it, I still contemplate finishing it. (If that makes any sense...)

Anyhow, the point was that that's what it was all about: the connection between the weather and my main character. It's just that there was no way to keep the whole concept from coming off cartoony. I didn't want it to seem too much like a guy with a raincloud literally over his head.

That's...ummm, whatyacallit....stoopid.

Nevertheless, like so many things in life, sometimes that's just how it feels. Like when you're really annoyed or in a bad mood but you're trying not to be, and all these little annoyances keep cropping up all day all at once. Stuff like your pencil breaking, the heel falling off your shoe, a tire going flat, etc. I'm not talking about the times when you're in a bad or depressed mood and you're enjoying it (face it, we've all had those). I mean when your tired of being in a bad mood or you're really looking for a reason to be happy, and you just can't make it.

That's kind of where I am.

When I drove from LA to central Texas for X-mas, it began to snow on me just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Snow. Southern New Mexico. Snow. The desert. Well, ok, it's not like all sand like-the-Sahara-desert desert, but it's close enough. It continued that way from Las Cruces through to the other side of El Paso, TX. I mean, it was beautiful. The contrast and all. But it was strange....though oddly fitting.

The whole time I was in Texas it was twenty degrees or below.

When I left, it got a whole lot warmer, but by the time I reached LA the rain was settling in. Yesterday, it sprinkled some. Last night came the gully washer. (Gully washer...that's from being in Texas. Frog Strangler is another favorite.) This morning, I guess the freeways and whatnot were all flooded out. LA is not known for having a good drainage system.

All of this somehow ties in to the heavy denim shirt I'm wearing today. It's a Wrangler shirt. Black. Has silver and black snap buttons. I wouldn't call it waterproof but it dried off pretty quick once I got to work. It's a real cowboy shirt.

What the hell am I doing wearing a black cowboy shirt?

I'm originally from Texas. Though I love the state (and I do), though I think it's responsible for my gentlemanly behavior and my can-do attitude, and though my family and my roots are there, I've sort of done everything in my power to run away from the cultural marks of it.

For instance, I've always shied away from country music. For the first eight years of my life, I heard almost nothing but country music. It took years before I could even really be in the same room with it, and then a few more before I could actually listen to it. Even now, the only stuff I can really take are the classics: Hank Sr., Patsy Cline, Willie, Johnny, and Merle to name a few. I absolutely can't do any of the hillbilly/redneck celebration music, and I sure can't listen to any of that modern country pop. About the only direct offshoot from country that I do like is rockabilly (or in some cases psychobilly).

In terms of fashion, I've always gone down a fairly conservatively casual line. Some people of course can pull off a southwestern or cowboy look and still be cool. Some people just look like hicks. Some people are hicks. I don't want to look like a hick, but something in this shirt called to me.

Now, already once today, I've been told that this is a cool shirt. Now, that's good.

I still can't reach in and figure out what pushed me to want it in the first place. With the bad mood I've been in nearly all year and all the bad weather that's accompanied it, I'm not sure why I'd make an out there choice like buying this Wrangler brand cowboy shirt. I guess it just makes some sort of sense. I've been wanting a change in order to improve my mood, and maybe this is a subconscious part of that change coming to fruition.

It's black. The shirt. And the sky is...well, dark.

It goes together.

I'm giving up before I get too far behind.


Monday, December 27, 2004

What was that? Oh...Sorry, I Forgot.
It's all about being neglectful

If you study human behavior long enough, you'll realize that there are certain behaviors are undeniable. Now of course, you can never generalize about people as a whole. After all, that's that nasty stereotyping stuff people are always telling you about (though much of that is rooted in the way your mind processes information). Any human reaction can be the result of thousands of factors over time and space coming together. Still, there are those things that you know...notice.

I don't remember if I ever went into my rant about communism and anarchy in here. It's possible I might have glazed over it before (like I'm about to do), or I might have gone full blown nuts on it at some point. I'm not sure. So here goes: There are many basic reasons why it won't work, at least not on a global scale. With communism, all it takes is one person to not go along or cheat a little bit or establish some sort of power structure outside the system, and the whole thing comes tumbling down.

Anarchy is a little different. Anarchy is rooted in self-rule, right? You make you're decisions, you set up your own rules to follow, you think entirely for yourself. So essentially, if there were only a few hundred people on earth, and they never encountered each other...then it would work...maybe. But why?

That sort of self rule requires you to think for yourself.

How many of you (show of hands) know someone who refuses, more or less, to think for themselves? To make their own decisions? How many would rather just have someone tell them what to do, where to go, etc.?

Man...that's a lot of hands.

It's how things work.

If everyone in ancient Macedonia had been a born leader, well, let's just say that Alexander the Great wouldn't have been all that impressive. And of course, had they all set out to conquer the known world at the same time, I'm not sure we'd even be here now. Although, it's something of the problem with so many things today: "Too many chefs in the kitchen."

Now that I sound all high-falutin', I must confess that that isn't what I wanted to talk about at all...but in a weird way, it's connected.

Why is it that in any relationship, in this case friends, why is it always incumbent on one person to really hold up the communication?


Like, if you don't write or call or set up the dinner or whatever doesn't get done.

Months could go by before you hear from that person or persons (and sometimes it's everyone you know practically and you've got to be the social coordinator with all of them).

The real test is to just not contact any of them...and see what happens.

The problem is that once it's been established as a pattern, it's more or less impossible to break.

I just wish I knew why that is.

If you wake up to realize that's how things are sometimes. It can be a sore surprise. If you do get tired of being the system operator, it can be a lonely place. And people can get well...neglectful.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Bunch of Jive Suckas
I didn't know what else to call it...

Unfortunately, no more Demofilo Fidani for today, if you'd like you can all raise a fist and exclaim: a) "Damn you, U.S. Postal Service!" or b) "Thank you, U.S. Postal Service!" It all depends on how you feel. Go with what feels natural.

So moving along.

What I'm wanting to understand here lately is why I'm occasionally being accused of being bitter. Well, granted if you read this, you might think I'm already hella bitter. Not true. Not true in the least. It's kind of one of those things in a comic book: sure, there can be a lot of anger or rage in there, but I keep it in check.

It's not even when I'm ranting that this comes up either.

Usually it's when I'm being calm, collected, thoughtful...and above all HONEST.

Granted, usually in these conversations it's all about opinion. Now hopefully some of that opinion is backed up by knowledge, fact, and experience. I try to stay as far away from left field as possible but sometimes one simply can't help. On average though, it's very level playing field speak.

Oh, another important detail: most every time, my side is without emotion or burning passion.

Let's face it: There never any sense in arguing with a person who is on a high horse, foaming at the mouth, or just plain hellbent on believing something however asinine it is. They aren't going to listen because frankly they don't want to hear. With some of these folks you can't even broach these subjects without them going from calm to rabid animals in a split second. In some cases it could be anything, not merely the commonplace issues of religion or politics.

Then there's the who hear what you're saying but will just bend over backwards to try and refute or defend their position. When the walls begin to crumble, they usually revert to most common method of arguing: bringing in total irrelevancies. Ex.: "Whoa, did someone do this to you? You sound really bitter."

Hmmmm. The last time this happened, I had someone who backed me up by saying I sounded anything but bitter.

I love the fact that people who are pro-anything these days are nearly as bad as everyone who is anti-anything. The most hilarious part is that no one is willing to discuss anything. Both sides will not abide anything that doesn't absolutely agree with whatever they are for or against. If someone in the middle brings up something that is a either pro to an anti or anti to a pro, they are immediately dismissed or the defensive walls come up on high.

(Of course the other thing people like this will often bring up is "You're not looking at the big picture." Well, big is a relative term. Personally I try to look at things globally and historically. Though the word "global" gets thrown around a lot these days, many folks are more and more isolationist to their immediate world though they'd like to force their view upon the world.)

I'm sure part of my problem, and one of the reasons I get labelled "bitter" when I'm just trying to be realistic or honest is because I'm a white male. White males have of course been placed into this group where either all idiotic or bitter or both...well, and any of a laundry list of other adjectives. The one phrase I refuse to use in this instance in terms of the looking down upon of white males is "reverse racism." How f*cking much more stupid can you get than "reverse racism"? Ummm, golly gee, there's no such thing: Racism is Racism no matter who it's directed at. I've been to quite a few parts of the country and dealt with lots of folks and I'm here to tell you: white males ain't the only racists out there by a damn long shot.

Now as a white male in this day and age I'm more subject to my next issue than most other folks, but it still gets around. Going back to my "pro-" and "anti-" groups ideology of "we're absolutely 110% right" (110% is another favorite stupid cliche.), if you say anything negative, with harmful intent or not, about any minority group, homosexual, or woman....--**POOF!!!** are immediately the most racist, homophobic mysoginist on earth. Unless you're with friendly's...then you're just bitter.

Even treated with humor these days, you can walk a real thin line between being ok, and being pure evil (whether you are pure evil or not). Perhaps the worst example is the reaction against Bill Cosby for his remarks at the NAACP. Now I won't say how much I agree or disagree with him...cause let's face it, you're all waiting with baited breath to see if I'll say something really stupid or offensive...but, here's one of America's most beloved icons being lambasted for speaking his honest opinion. Considering who it is, I'm willing to bet he gave it a lot of thought before he said it too. I don't think of the Cos as a hothead.

Another favorite was The Onion article on a Gay Pride parade that set back gay rights fifteen years. It was something that the more middle of the road gays I've met and talked to about gay issues have agreed with: "Middle America won't be won over by @$$less chaps." On the flipside though, I've found the whole gay marriage debate ridiculous. No one on the conservate or religious side wants to acknowledge that gays and lesbians aren't going anywhere. If they were here before Christ and they're still here 2,ooo years later...hmmm...shouldn't that be a hint and a half that they won't magically disappear. More importantly, one of the primary complaints, about gays in particular, is their promiscuity....but, you want to stop them from trying to make a formal bond as life partners to one another? Oh. Gee. That makes a whole lot of sense.

The funny thing is I'm supposed to be bitter right? But it takes me all of a nanosecond to objectively step outside of all of it and look at the issue with different eyes. Hopefully honest and fair eyes. Eyes that people in the issue can't seem to try on.

Now, women's issues (as I've all too briefly dealt with a dab of race issues, and a touch of homosexual issues), I don't have the time nor the energy to get into. At least when it comes to confronting these issues, I've got a larger brotherhood: all men. Trust me too, I get the "bitter" thing from this group more than any other. But I don't hate women or generally have any major beer with them. I think their greatest hurdle is trying to find a common thread that speaks for half of the world's population.

One thing, I'd like to leave you with as I walk away from here: TV fathers.

TV by and large is a reflection of the status quo of America. At one time Ward Cleaver and Fred MacMurray were the almost sagelike gods of the household. I'm not saying all fathers are, but that was their representation. Then came the generation of Al Bundy and Tim Allen. Suddenly, all fathers on TV are raving idiots. I think the 80's Cosby show was one of the last fair representation of fathers. So my question is: what happened? Aren't there men out there who a little smarter and better human beings than their idiotic TV counterparts? And why is that no longer strongly represented?

Then again, TV has never been a benchmark of raising the bar. It's goal is the lowest common denominator. Hasnt' that ever made you wonder where were headed as much as TV has become such a huge part of so many people's lives?

Cheers. Probably won't see you until after X-mas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

One Name: Miles Deem, (Ok, Two) aka. Demofilo Fidani
Just when you thought the budget couldn't get any lower... (yeah, it's spaghetti stuff...but it's gonna get artsy)

I was going to save this up, having just come back to my li'l corner of heaven here, but I then I couldn't think of what I was saving it up for.

Oh that's right, it's because it wasn't how I wanted to introduce him.

See I ordered a movie with the unbelievable title of Quel maledetto giorno d'inverno...Django e Sartana all'ultimo. (I'll let that sink in...and if you really wanna know what it're gonna have to go translate it yourself.) Unfortunately, though the box had that title and the disc inside had that title, when I popped it into the old DVD player what I got was Arrivano Django e Sartana...è la fine. An honest mistake. Could've happened to anyone.

Thing is, it all works out in the end, as both of these movies were created by the highly questionable and oddly fascinating Demofilo Fidani who, though he had many aliases, is somewhat more commonly known as Miles Deem. At least that was how I met him...well, the video store kind of way.

Back in the day when I couldn't find any known spaghetti westerns in a video store (beyond Leone) to save my life, I discovered that those cheap cheap cheap video companies would occasionally release them under a veritable tableaux of titles. Part of the trick was knowing the anglicized pseudonyms for the Italian directors and international stars. One of the first I found, which I never watched, was a Fistful of Death (aka. Giù la testa... hombre, 1971). Despite the listing of director 'Miles Deem' I never doubted for a moment what it was.

Thing was, in those days, though the internet existed, many specialty sites for movies were still often fledgling at best. Yes kids, once upon a time, the Internet Movie Database ( was not the massive digital tome it is today. (Then again, they still don't have all my credits listed.) Nor was there the plethora of B-movie review sites that dot the digital landscape. Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure where I did eventually find "Miles'" real name (it might have been in Thomas Weisser's The Good, The Bad, and The Violent: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography of 558 Eurowesterns and Their Personnel a book I could only find at the University of Texas Grad Library).

In any event, when I finally did come across the information I had so desperately been searching for (that's what we call poetic license, I probably periodically forgot while I was searching for those last couple of Jodorowsky's I hadn't seen or something like 'em), I found out that Fidani could be my kind of guy. Spaghetti Westerns were often anything but big budget. Most of that came from the creative instincts of the director, and an art department that could make a whole lot out of nothing. Add to that meager amount a sweeping Morricone or Bacalov score, and you started to have something. Fidani, however, was amazingly enough was a low budget filmmaker in a largely low budget genre. Well, let's just say....maybe....he got creative.

Unfortunately, so far, Sartana and Django's Showdown in the West (1970. Ok, I translated one for you) is the only Fidani I've gotten to see, but I have the feeling...I'm gonna watch 'em all. Now if any of you have seen one of his movies you may be asking yourself, "Good God man! Why?!" Well, I'll tell you.

First of all, it isn't just some geeked out obsession to see every Spaghetti Western, no matter how much I give that appearance. No, from everything I've read, Fidani seems to have one of those elusive "bad" movie qualities that I'm drawn to like a moth to flames. Lemme explain:

Now when you watch a Hitchcock or a Fellini or a Bergman, etc., you know who you're watching without fail. It's a stamp. When it's really great, you can make no mistake about the author and often anyone else is merely doing something "in the style of..." (but you'll never mistake it for the real thing). Style, setting, genre, certain actors all point to who it is. Sometimes it's more artsy, like a David Lynch, and sometimes it's more or a feeling or atmosphere, like a Stanley Kubrick.

Am I saying that Fidani belongs on this pantheon? No. But lemme continue:

On the flipside from the classic directors listed above are the low budget, from B to Z movies. There are generally three things that distinguish these movies or give them life beyond what you would think. The first is a well-crafted or memorable story told on a shoestring, and sometimes memorable because it had no money. The second are the movies that are just so far out there that they can be ahead of their time, drug-addled, extra creepy, have giant rubber monsters, or all of the above it. Even years later, people still tel you that they have to be seen to be believed. The third is the directorial stamp...but not in the good way necessarily above. I call it the Ed Wood effect (not because Ed is a favorite of mine, just that he's one of the better known).

There's no way not to know an Ed Wood movie when you see it. It isn't just that it's bad, or even that it's so bad. There's just something to it that screams "Ed!" Similarily, you know a Russ Meyer movie when you see one, and it isn't just that all the actresses have big boobs either. Russ's movies have a style and a feel to them. It's unmistakable (but the boobs are certainly a clue). Just like Doris Wishman: It's not all the naked girls that give it away as much as Doris's odd affection for jumpcuts and pointless shots of people's feet.

Are these movies bad? Well, yeah. Most are terrible. (Russ is probably the best as a director, and of course being a cameraman, his movies are well shot.) Nevertheless, they often feature such a signature style and often creative zeal for filmmaking that they can't merely be brushed aside.

From what little I've seen and most of what I've read, Fidani fits that description. They're terrible Spaghetti Westerns, but that doesn't mean there isn't something to them. For instance, in Showdown in the West, why does one gang consisting of all joe average white guy cowboys all go after Sartana and a gang consisting of all Mexican bandidos go after Django (I might have that backwards), even though they're all in the same gang. Then they recruit more gangs to help them: the white guys get more white guys, and the bandidos get more bandidos. Why the even split? It's just weird. Then the final showdown between Sartana and Black Burt Keller is a pretty well shot and choreographed fight scene...until you realize, where the hell is Django? He was fighting alongside Sartana all the way in....until he disappears just before the shootout.

That was the funny thing about it: a scene would go by and you don't think anything...then it ends, and you can't help but go, "Huh?"

Part of it seemed haphazard. Some of it seemed unintentional (unintentional in the sense of having no idea what he was doing). Then some of it seemed intentional, but was completely inexplicable.

Now, I've come across some material on Fidani on-line that the browser translated really badly, but it mentioned something about his being a medium and involved in some otherworldly studies. Assuming I'm reading that right, it would explain the somewhat oddly mystical quality of the piece. In some ways you could see these movies (or at least Showdown) as a poor man's El Topo...umm...with little or none of the depth. Better yet, it's like someone was filming a sort of dream sequence and a western was happening in front of it.

I'm still trying to figure out the weird but pointless Peckinpah-like scenes of people dying violent deaths in slow motion. It's not a stylistic choice throughout the film, it just happens a lot at the end...with faceless characters...It's like a high school level painting where a kid seems to have promise and good ideas but just doesn't have the conceptual or technical facilities to carry it off. And I guess he never did exactly cultivate those skills, but that didn't stop him from making quite a few more films.

The point ultimately is that I'll have to at least see the rest of his westerns to put a complete image together. This is just one I pulled off of one. Imagine the kind of goofy garbage I can generate if I've seen them all. Ultimately the allure is: what made these guys work? why did they do what they did? why was it so bad? could it have been better? is it at leas interesting?

Tough to tell. Tough to tell.

Spooky. Very spooky.

Ok. I've dilly-dallied for way too long. I'm out.


Monday, December 20, 2004

"Animals are Beasts, But Men....are Monsters..."
For the first time in too long...I'm talking movies...

It's been a stretch but I think I've got a second to say something. I was gonna continue kevitching about the holidays, but you know what? It's pointless. If you've got your holiday cheer, great. If you see it for the careless insanity that is, great. I've just had a crappy year in some ways...and this ain't helpin'.

But, let's talk cinema shall we?

I finally saw something I really enjoyed. For those of you who've read this garbage for some time, it'll come as no surprise. For those of you just joining us...well, sink or'll pick it up as you go along.

So, I've yet to get to see Alex De La Iglesia's tribute to the spaghetti western, 800 Balas, but I have caught Jan Kounen's adaptation of Moebius's western comic, Blueberry.

Blueberry (2004, d. Jan Kounen)

Plot: Marshal Mike Blueberry's been harboring some strong inner demons since an accident in his youth, but when mystical shootist Wally Blount emerges from a cabal attempting to get gold off of Indian land, Blueberry will have to face his own demons as well as those in the next world.

Review: I'm having a tough time figuring out where to start on this one.

For one thing, this movie has casting going for it. I've got this thing agains pretty boys in action movies, and I'll tell you Vincent Cassel doesn't fall in that category by a long shot. Cassel has a distinctive look. You know him when you see him, and you're not going to mistake him for anyone else. Added bonus...the guy can act (I recommend Kassovitz's La Haine or Gans' Le Pacte Des Loups.) Second up is Blueberry's nemeis, Wally played by Michael Madsen. Madsen to me is like Lee Van Cleef: sure he's almost always typecast as a villain...but he's just so damned good at it. Juliette Lewis, whom I've never felt one way or the other towards, put in a fairly strong performance as the love interest. Round it off with quality character actors like Colm Meany, Geoffrey Lewis, and Ernest Borgnine and you're set to go. However, this film also features a very different role for Eddie Izzard who's quite enjoyable as the double-crossing gold-hungering Prussian prospector. My only disappointment was Djimon Honsou...not because he was bad, but that we lose him far too quickly. I like Djimon's screen presence a lot, so I just wanted more.

The story rolls in an out like a dream or a series of memories. Like a good spaghetti western, it's got that moment you don't get to see and that'll be strung out until the last reel. All of this leads up to our confrontation on the astral plane. The film holds a very Native American philosophy at it's heart, and a primitive ideology that what happens in this life can continue to haunt us in the next. The traditional western shootout is instead traded for a metaphorical battle. Blueberry has to defeat Wally, but just shooting him won't stop the damage he can still bring about as part of a greater spiritual evil.

Kounen does make an interesting choice in having the camera almost constantly moving. It's fluid and smooth work, not handheld make-you-puke-after-an-hour cinema verite style. In any event, I felt it worked far more than in a handful of other movies that were shot that way. Also of course, it was great way of illustrating the dream-like nature of the story. Furthermore, it fed into the alsmost seamless transition to the CGI worlds that were created for the film. This movie featured CG the way I like CG. It's part of the story. It can have the wow of a special effect, but isn't constantly screaming "LOOK! We're being COOL!" The CG world's in this film have both an incredibly organic feel as well as finding reference in Native American artwork. Though the ending did run a little long, for me at least, it didn't disappoint.

(WARNING: If you're watching this alone in the middle of the night, you do risk the chance of bringing on that way spaced out feeling that 2001: A Space Odyssey induces.)

Now if that's enough to get you to rush out and see this movie, I should warn you: Columbia Home Video in their infinite wisdom released this in the U.S. under the title Renegade. I've yet to figure out what if anything it has to do with this movie. Why not just call it Western? At least that has something to do with the movie in a way.

Alright. I've done my duty. It's been a while, but it felt good.

Depending on what's in my mailbox today...there could be some spaghetti tomorrow.

I'm out.


Monday, December 13, 2004

The End to Another Great Day
The occasional value of unemployment reconsidered...

It's official. Today, I got a little bit older...and I started working again.

So I started blogging again. At least I'm going to try.

I've also figured out that most likely, my new job will eliminate my going home for the holidays. And no, I'm not a Santa's elf in some mall or something....In fact, wipe all trace of the phrase "holiday help" from your minds. I couldn't do it if I wanted to.

The truth is, I could never work in any real capacity in the service industry. Let's face it, if I were hawking java, the urine content of my coffee would be off the chart.

Then again, be honest: You may think that the people serving you in restaurants, bars, shops or what have you are rude, but have you really ever stepped back and looked at the other customers around you?

I spent years working in music stores, and after initially having to climb over the hurdle of how universally bad most people's taste is, I then had to work my around everything from common stupidity to belligerent rudeness. Working a X-mas was no exception. In fact it might be overdone to say it, but the more X-mas spirit gets in the air, the greater the @$$hole factor goes up worldwide.

Some might say: Well, why is that?

Simple: X-mas doesn't mean anything that it used to or that it was supposed to.

I won't even bother saying it's commercialized (other than the fact that I inadvertently said just that), because honestly, what holiday isn't? Valentine's Day used to mean getting some flowers, some chocolate, and a touching card. Now it's all ads for jumbo sized jewelry and camcorders and crap. Stuff you don't need. Stuff that doesn't mean anything.

In that respect, I'm not sorry to be missing X-mas.

But it's a thought I'll have to finish later.