Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cute Dogs & Cosplay in the Noonday Sun: The Films of October 2013 - FINALLY!

Oh my god, aren’t these dogs SO cute?!?!?
Yer a good doggie, yes, you are!
Scratch your belly, you like that, right, puppy?
Yes, you’re a goooooood dog!

Jeez, I want one!
French bulldogs or the pug-Chihuahua mix, the chug—all of them are so delightful—
and noble!
And wise! Like canine Yodas!

So what does this have to do with the Films of October 2013? Read on, read on….

This is a chug named Frankenstein and he is awesome
(photo courtesy: TK)
Not much really, except that I’m in a good mood (looking at goofy/cute doggie-woggies helps)—after months of dismal terror, all of which interfered with my writing schedule, some good luck seems to be coming my way—of course, all my hard work helped. Don’t want to talk about it too much, though, as part of my program of superstitious jinx-prevention.

But that hard work meant Peter was robbing Paul and my commitment to LERNER INTERNATIONAL suffered.
I wish it hadn’t been so, but there it is. Been trying to catch up a little lately, trying to get up to speed; hope you like it.

(Actually, much of my free time in the past few months—when I wasn’t hustle and working for the future—was spent in hanging out with human friends instead of cinematic ones; I needed real people! Also, there are movies that never get mentioned because I never finished watching them, and I never finished watching them because they were bad: either boring or poorly put together. So I’ve started about 100 movies, but only watched, like, fourteen…sort of…)

Frankenstein & friend (photo courtesy: TK)
Now, regarding the accompanying images:
Let us revel in the happy puppies—and then some other images scooped up in my bout of desk-clearing—as we plunge back into time, to October and when things were rotten…and our viewing habits were random and moody, the only reoccurring theme being a certain level of aggression and intensity in the works I liked—with of course the prerequisite amount (but never enough!) of horror or horror-related flicks towards the end of the month in celebration of Samhain…

I’m So Octover You 2013:
Yep, most of these are “short takes;” brief, snappy opinions dashed off—most of which expect you to be already familiar with synopsi or cast details, and so on. Look man, I’m way behind schedule and we gotta pick up the pace!
(As usual, listed in the order screened; all films seen from October 1 to 31st.)

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012; Sophie Fiennes, written by Slavoj Žižek) It helps if, like me, you’re already a fan of Žižek.
Not only an incredible clip show, but great philosophical discourse that, like many philosophy books, have passages that need to be read and reread to be understood; same thing here—especially with Žižek’s thick, syllabic accent.
Like fan fiction almost, as Žižek “rewrites” (rediscovers) these films. Using They Live, The Sound of Music (where “Climb Every Mountain” is the Abbess telling Maria to get hitched to a rich man whatever it takes), Titanic (the iceberg and killing Leonardo are necessary for Kate Winslet’s “true” love to last forever), Jaws, Last Temptation of Christ and many, many others.
The film is aided by a wonderful production design that recreates many famous film sets so Žižek can walk through them and pontificate.

Parks & Recreation Season Five (2012-2013; created by Greg Daniels & Michael Schur) The unexpected misadventures of the delightful Leslie Knope and her friends never ceases to delight me. Modern Capra-corn that is smart and civic-minded political satire, but playful and goofy as well. Kudos to Amy Poehler and company!

Used Cars (1980; Robert Zemeckis) When you see how incredibly rude, subversive, energetic and transgressive this satire of capitalism is, you have to wonder, “What the fuck happened to Robert Zemeckis?”

Skidoo (1968; Otto Preminger; written by Doran William Cannon) One of my favorite films, and one that gets foisted on friends whenever I get the chance to make new converts to the cult of Skidoo.
WHAT were they thinking when they made this? LOVE IT!
This movie is its own thing, man—if I find it hilarious, then Big Otto must’ve been doing something right.
The flick is far from perfect, but I think it’s earnest throughout, in all of its absurd and schizoid scene shifts, lamebrain humor, and hero-worshipping/neo-documentary footage of San Francisco hippies—with one of the most perversely upbeat and bizarre music scores ever (courtesy of the mighty Nilsson).
Preminger’s exile from the pantheon seriously needs to be reconsidered…

Gravity (2013; Alfonso Cuaron) is a wonderful hybrid: the best genuine “hard science” science-fiction film (as opposed to fantasy or Star Trek-like supertech that might as well be magic) that has been made in a long time, as well as the finest “Man Against Nature Fight For Survival” movie. It’s a nerve-wracking nail-biting thriller that often approaches the experimental in terms of visuals. Fantastic stuff that really should be seen in the theater.
More complete review forthcoming!

The Wannsee Conference (a.k.a. Die Wannseekonferenz; 1984; Heinz Schirk) Chilling and hypnotizing—like watching a nest of vipers slithering into your bedroom in the moonlight.
For the most part, the script is a transcription of the minutes of this infamous meeting, when Reinhard Heydrich, Eichmann and other top Nazi scum finally worked out The Final Solution to that pesky problem they claimed to have.
An incredible and upsetting film, that is very simply made (aided by a very fluid and mobile camera)—if you’re not familiar with Hannah Arendt’s “the Banality of Evil,” this film might make you want to attack your TV set. Available online HERE.

Tribes (1970; Joseph Sargent) Flawed but fascinating USMC boot camp flick that was originally a TV movie. In it, Darren McGavin’s hard-nosed but soulful D.I. butts heads with Jan-Michael Vincent’s Zen hippie. Lots of great boot camp stuff, much of which looks like it was shot on the sly, perhaps without permission? The training footage is often equal to Full Metal Jacket, The Boys in Company C, and Jack Webb’s The D.I.
But now JMV’s rebellion seems stupid and pointless. In the first place, why didn’t he register as a conscientious objector? JMV keeps asking for trouble, and it seems as if he has a very low learning curve.
Maybe I’m square, but JMV could’ve been a great leatherneck and a fine leader if he’d just gotten his head out of the clouds.
Be that as it may be, JMV’s eventual sacrifice (you knew this wasn’t going to end well) does rekindle a spark of rebellious freedom and life in McGavin, so there is a slight measure of hope.
Available online HERE, and recommended for fans of McGavin or of Boot Camp Movies.

Marvel Comics spy madness:
This is incredible cosplay of the
AIM trashcan-head.
The IPCRESS File (1965; Sidney J. Furie) is still more fresh, exciting and thought-provoking than most of its contemporaries and many of its current competition. Pitched as the “Anti-Bond,” a working-stiff/blue collar espionage agent, with a touch of classical spy cinema cynicism—think Graham Greene or even Joseph Conrad (or rather, Reed’s The Third Man and Hitchcock’s Sabotage).
IPCRESS is highly recommended, and would be an excellent companion piece to Gary Oldman’s set-in-the-1970s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Because it is grounded in class warfare, interdepartmental rivalries, and the paranoiac treachery inherent in spycraft (in other words, reality), The IPCRESS File isn’t as dated as the majority of its contemporaries set in Swingin’ London. It helps that lead Michael Caine is at the top of his game, fully inhabiting the sly and greedy, yet lackadaisical protagonist. He’s aided by director Furie’s deliberately skewed camerawork, Ken Adams’ sparse scenery emphasizing the drudgery of counterintelligence; but especially by some grueling neo-psychedelic brainwashing scenes.
BTW, the name of Michael Caine’s character is Harry Palmer (he’s unnamed in Len Deighton’s source novel). While no one has admitted it, I think the name is a sick joke: I mean, what do you get “hairy palms” from, right? Is this flick saying on a subtextual level that spy movies, and maybe all spying in general, is a “wank”?

Teen Prostitution Racket (1975; Carlo Lizzani) Meandering, schizoid and evil-minded, this film is three intertwined tales of lost virtue whose essential message is “Italian men are irredeemable pigs,” and if you’re a chick stupid enough to get involved with them, they will fuck you over both literally and figuratively.  
Only recommended for fans of quasi-documentary/feel-bad sleaze—but those dudes need to see this flick, it’s the height of bummer, borderline depressing really: the creation of an awful world of sexual Darwinism. Nasty, intense stuff.

The Lords of Salem (2012; Rob Zombie) Rob Zombie channels Alejandro Jodorowsky while putting his wife through hell (as the object of attention for a coven of reincarnated witches), and comes up with a very moody mindfuck of a horror movie—and that’s a compliment!
Zombie also gets points for keeping a preposition in his title; one of my pet peeves is how Hollywood is now so stupid that “The” is hardly ever in a title anymore.

The Diabolical Dr. Z (a.k.a Miss Muerto, 1966; Jesus Franco) Sure, I get why Jess Franco has a cult following—and the director provides many stylistic flourishes and bits of weirdness I enjoyed very much, but for the most part, this flick was a snoozer (I probably discovered Franco’s body of work too late in the game…). Stick to Eyes Without a Face, which this movie borrows heavily from.

Room 237 (2012; Rodney Ascher) Like a frivolous Adam Curtis or Craig Baldwin film, this examination of various crackpots and their theories about Big Stan K.’s incredible and excellent The Shining—David Cronenberg, shut up!
But some of these theories and postulations reach idiotic proportions and really needed a critical voice, or serious editing. These morons did not need so much screentime—weren’t there other Shining-conspiracy theorists the filmmakers could have found?
That said, technically Room 237 is nearly perfect, and above all, it’s one of the best clipshows a Kubrick fan like myself could find. But keep that in mind: this documentary is truly only for fans of thing Kubrickian.
But there is a shout-out to the Spectacle! Yee-ha!

Hombre (1967; Martin Ritt) Paul Newman is the coolest as a mean-spirited half-breed Apache in this well-crafted revisionist western. But the flick can’t be recommended due to its horrific and pointless downbeat ending.

Wizards (1976; Ralph Bakshi) Not a great flick, but a childhood fave—I remember seeing this in the old movie palace on Kings Highway, at the corner of Ocean Parkway: great theater! Saw Death Race 2000 there, too…
Bakshi’s Wizards is a cinematic approximation of a 1970s head shop—there’s a monstro-stoner aesthetic at work in this flick, especially the high-contrast/heavy-on-the-blacks color scheme of all the rotoscoped war footage—and the swiping of underground comix designs similar to R. Crumb and Vaughn Bode’s styles, as well as many others. Fun flick, but not essential.
Wizards can be watched HERE.

The President’s Last Bang (2005; written & directed by Im Sang-Soo) Wonderfully perverse black comedy—that’s also a damn true story!—set on the day and night in 1979 when the head of the Korean CIA assassinated the Korean President at a dinner party!
It isn’t necessary, but helps if you’re familiar with contemporary South Korean history: the assassinated president took over in a coup d’état in 1961.
But even if you’re not familiar with Korea’s recent past, The President’s Last Bang is a breathlessly paced thriller, with touches of sick humor, and some beautifully acted characterizations. All the frustration, madness, angst, fear, terror, sorrow, and even relief are all on the screen. Technically the film is perfect, with some wildly Scorsese-like fluid camerawork
BTW, The President’s Last Bang is not a title I particularly like, preferring the actual translation of the Korean title: “The People in Those Days.” That title just seems a tad more subtle and refined, perhaps even sardonic (if you stress “those”).

South of No North by Charles Bukowski—great collection of early Bukowski stories. Look, if you don’t know who Hank Chinaski/Charles Bukowski is now, there ain’t nothing I can do for you. These stories, from before Bukowski became an entertainment commodity, are grabbers, with a use and type of language/lingo that I love.

And that’s it! Hopefully, I’ll stay on schedule—thanks for sticking by LERNER INTERNATIONAL! When the Old Ones return, you will be eaten first!

Possibly some of the greatest cosplay ever!

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