April 16, 2012

A Game Of Stones


People are bagging in force on The Hunger Games’ directorial choices, specifically the drunken cameraman style of filming. Director Gary Ross has his public rationalizations, but there’s something more at play. I think Ross is trying (or acting unconsciously) to fuse different elements of dystopian science fiction — different threads that have nonetheless been woven together in the public consciousness because, hey, all science fiction is the same, right?

He’s abetted in large part by production designer Philip Messina (Steven Soderbergh’s chief designer since 2000) and cinematographer Tom Stern (bleaching out Clint Eastwood’s movies since 2002). I’d have to see it again to cite specific examples, but the disorienting shot choices and editing in the first Games skirmish, as contestants bludgeon each other to death over the goods in the Cornucopia, remind me of the kind of compositions we saw in a lot of 1960s and ’70s cinema — particularly the ones that involved handheld cameras and protagonists acting out against a bleak futuristic landscape.

The Saarinen architecture of the Cornucopia (above), site of The Hunger Games’ first, middle and final battles, evokes just such landscapes.

The film raises class questions of vast scope. The twelve subordinate Districts are poor, starving and exploited (yet Peeta has cakes to frost), sucked dry for coal and row crops, as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) outlines to Gamemaster Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley). From these resources, the ruling elite of the Capitol can power 200mph light rail, hoverships with no visible rotors or vents, and hardlight holography that can generate deadly fireballs and dog-boar-things. They genetically engineer killer LSD wasps and formulate antibacterial salves that destroy internal infection (despite being topically applied … nanotech?) and heal third-degree burns and severe lacerations overnight. All these things bespeak massive resources and engineering prowess, while the attention paid to outré grooming and haberdashery is a hallmark of wealth and leisure.

These class issues have their physical expression in the film’s urban design. Take the Capitol, an Albert Speer wet dream of centralized power and martial glory.

Such structures are for individual heroes to measure their own stature against, megaliths with unyielding surfaces that must nonetheless be climbed and conquered.

In SF films, architectural environments began with such soaring structures, visibly optimistic testaments to human achievement. On one track of cinema, this branch of utopian urbanism — call it the Enlightened City — persisted through the 1970s.

But a subsequent school of SF city design evolved in the 1960s and paralleled the Enlightened City. This latter branch was mostly seen in dystopian SF, which employed (in a critique of the form? or a nod to budgets? or both?) the Brutalist locations offered by contemporary business parks, office complexes and public plazas. These locations were not fanciful but inhabited by the viewers of these same movies. They evoked a time that was today, and yet not.

Between the Capitol and locations like the District 12 common plaza (below), The Hunger Games seeks to remarry these two schools of design.

There’s probably another whole post to be had about how Katniss begins her story living on her own terms (as best one can in an authoritarian state), but becomes absorbed by an imposed narrative as the Games progress. The warrior-girl with the bow must dress up pretty and profess to love a boy, all because the audience expects it — because that’s how the story ends — all to win a reality show.

Oh, pop culture, how you own us.

Cross-posted from Soul Smithy.

March 20, 2012

The Chatterley Effect

Spoilers? NSFW? I can't tell anymore.

I fell down a psychic wormhole recently while writing about Luis Buñuel's Belle De Jour (1967) for Film Freak Central. It was one of those chrono-synclastic infundibula that can convince a potheaded college student he's living out the theories of Carl Jung, or at least the lyrics of later Police songs from before Sting went Adult Contemporary. Fortunately for science, it's a long time since I was a potheaded college student, but since all time is now I'm gonna just roll with that vibe.

Belle De Jour is about Séverine, a moneyed Paris housewife whose sexual frigidity with her husband leads her to explore her fantasies of sexual submission in secret — as an afternoon prostitute in a fairly exclusive brothel. She also fantasizes at length about being abused, bound, raped, and otherwise sexually humiliated. Here's what I wrote for FFC, with select video scenes interspersed:

Belle De Jour occupies one of those strange synchronistic points of literature and history, which intrigues me almost as much as the film itself. The source novel, by Joseph Kessel, appeared in 1928, the same year as D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

The two novels bear striking similarities, or rather, reflect each other in striking ways. Constance Chatterley acts on sexual frustrations after her husband is paralyzed; Séverine's decision to act results in her husband becoming paralyzed. Prior to this, the young prostitute Mathilde (Maria Latour) says she entered the oldest profession because (like Constance) her beloved was injured and couldn't work; and Pierre contemplates an empty wheelchair with the air of a man whose grave has been trodden.

In Chatterley and Belle De Jour, there's a surrender of a high-class woman to a lower-class man (or, for Séverine, more than one). In each, there's a fetishization of nature, mud, ordure. (Most of Séverine's fantasy abasements take place outdoors.)

… In terms of sex as psychology, both Lawrence and Kessler's novels were preceded by Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, later the source for Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, which finds a man exploring sexual abandon in hopes of assuaging his marital conflict.

"Traumnovelle" means "dream story," and while there are no dream or fantasy segments in Kessler's Belle De Jour, Buñuel the great surrealist injected them into the screenplay he developed with Jean-Claude Carrière. All these literary and cinematic monuments were built in the shadow of Freud, of course, who tore down the sexual prisons of the past century. Séverine becomes, then, a Freudian adventuress, a lineage she shares with dear Constance Chatterley.

I went on in a later paragraph to mention Buñuel's producers on this project: "Robert and Raymond Hakim, past financiers of Jean Renoir and Claude Chabrol and, just prior to Belle de jour, Roger Vadim's La Ronde." A bit of judicious IMDbing, and who pops up as the source author of La Ronde? Arthur Schnitzler, that crazy Viennese (like Freud) who wrote the 1897 play Reigen on which it was based.

This was after I'd moved on to other ideas and thought I was done with Schnitzler entirely. Brrrrr.

Belle De Jour's parallels with Chatterley — published the same year, both proceeding from a woman's sexual dreads and desires, both involving an incapacitated male partner — led me to think about the other areas of film where the Chatterley effect came into play. Since pop culture and literary studies are often a process of working backwards, I first encountered the paradigm in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996).

Von Trier's delvings into sexuality are well-explored, much-admired and frequently reviled by now, but in 1996 he was a new force. New bride Bess McNeill, a Scottish lass who believes herself divinely inspired, is coaxed by her husband into sexual trysts with other men after he's paralyzed in an oil-rig accident. It's prurient interest on his part, a belief that by hearing her accounts of illicit sex he may continue to experience something like a carnal life with her. Bess, drunk with fleshly desire for her husband and directed by "the voice of God," believes this is a sacred duty. As in Chatterley, we have a man symbolically crippled with a wife who plunges into earthy, even violent sex. Only the motivations (and the upshot, with a spiritual reward for Bess' carnal martyrdom) are different.

Romance (1999) was director Catherine Breillat's breakthrough. It can be seen as a legacy of Belle de Jour, much more frank in its heroine's migration toward masochism — even pornographic, to the point of employing porn juggernaut Rocco Siffredi in a dramatic role.

The male motivator in Romance is crippled in a different way: Paul (Sagamore Stévenin), a beautiful male model, is sexually disinterested in his girlfriend Marie (Caroline Ducey), cruelly withholding himself from her. He claims to be uninterested, even repulsed, by the entire idea of sex, but that doesn't stop him from flaunting his gorgeous wares to nameless women in clubs while Marie watches, and in his worst moments even bragging of the desire he arouses.

“He dances because he wants to seduce. He seduces because he wants to conquer. He wants to conquer because he’s a man.”

(I don't know if Breillat intended this to mean anything in terms of character or symbolism, and I'm going to hell for bringing it up, but Stévenin also has a cinematically unimpressive penis. Most guys suffer by comparison with Siffredi, but the contrast is quite stark. Bless everyone involved in this movie for their willingness to share their bodies for art.)

Like Buñuel's Séverine, Marie indulges in at least one artfully directed flight of fantasy, especially after Paul impregnates her in an embarrassing, abbreviated tryst:

The experience of pregnancy in the medical system increases the disjunction she feels between sex and love, body and mind. This is most overtly represented when Breillat cuts from a close-up of a cumshot on a woman’s belly to a nurse squirting a similar-looking gel onto Marie’s belly for an ultrasound. ... The most outrageous and perhaps overly didactic representation of this is Marie’s fantasy of a hellish brothel where women’s top halves are indoors, treated to a pristine white heaven of chaste love and affection, while their bottom halves are outside, protruding from a red-lit hellish fortress where anonymous, dirty men fuck them without a care. This scene emphasizes that Marie’s struggle is widespread, and not only an individual problem. She is just one of many women here. — "Masochism in Michael Haneke’s La Pianiste & Catherine Breillat’s Romance," Jon Davies

Year ago I visited D.H. Lawrence's burial chapel, in northern New Mexico. The tubercular British artist bought a ranch near Taos in 1924, and lived there just two years before returning to Europe. He died in Italy in 1930, but his ashes are interred here, brought back the the United States by his widow. This writer, who tried so hard to interpret a woman's erotic mind, was branded a pornographer for it by everyone save E.M. Forster. But his "pornography" already walked abroad in the waking world, in Kessler, in Schnitzler. Now it's our cinema, and those carnal thoughts that overflowed onto the page en masse circa 1926 are ours, unashamed. Lady Chatterley lives, and loves.

(Cross-posted from Soul Smithy.)

March 06, 2012

The Man In The Box

SPOILER ALERT for the film Source Code, the Many Worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics, and fiction by Dalton Trumbo and Ambrose Bierce. Bet you wanna read this now, dontcha?

Colter Stevens is living proof. A living proof of several things, actually, when you really take apart Duncan Jones' film Source Code (2011, scr: Ben Ripley) and the protagonist's place in it. In proving these concepts, he inhabits several contradictory states at once. He has the freedom to go anywhere, yet he will never leave his prison.

Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens, shorn of memory, in metal pod of some kind. From here, he's repeatedly plunged back in time to inhabit the body of another man. He is told little by his remote handler Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), except that his consciousness is being hurled into an eight-minute window before a terrorist bomb destroys a Chicago-bound commuter train — a train that was, in his current reality, destroyed that same morning. He dies in the effort to prevent the blast, repeatedly, and each time is yanked back to his pod to try again.

No one will miss him. Reported KIA in a helicopter sortie over Afghanistan, Stevens is in fact a limbless lump of flesh in a sealed box, his internal organs held in place by a plastic sheath. His pod, emulating a pilot's cockpit, is just his psychological projection of space. His last glimmer of consciousness — call it his soul — is a tool in a project to change the recent past. In his box, unseen by the world, Colter Stevens is simultaneously alive and dead.

In his original thought experiment, Schrödinger imagined that a cat is locked in a box, along with a radioactive atom that is connected to a vial containing a deadly poison. If the atom decays, it causes the vial to smash and the cat to be killed. When the box is closed we do not know if the atom has decayed or not, which means that it can be in both the decayed state and the non-decayed state at the same time. Therefore, the cat is both dead and alive at the same time — which clearly does not happen in classical physics.

For injection into the past, Stevens' preserved psyche is wrapped into a spacetime field called the Source Code. The informational set that comprises his personality is shot back to the moments before the train's destruction. Essentially, he becomes a packet of data, overwriting the brain (soul?) of rail passenger Sean Fentress, who's doomed to die in the bombing.

In programming terms, "source code" is the raw commands for a piece of software, written in text language. Change any character of the text and you change the operation of the software. (Indeed, Goodwin sees Stevens' responses to her commands entirely as text on a screen.) The Source Code project is, in essence, rewriting informational space to put Colter Stevens in another man's body, several hours ago.

Space is the set of dimensions that allows motion to take place, but it also stores information via its configuration. ... Space that has information stored in it has some entropy. Since there is more information stored in some parts of space — for instance, in highly curved parts of space — then the entropy is not uniform. ... Looking specifically at a black hole, space is curved sharply around it — so sharply that, from the inside, it is closed off from the rest of the universe. As objects fall into the black hole, the event horizon expands (this is the spherical surface that, from the inside, is perceived as a closed surface). That sphere now has more surface area, and so can accommodate more information, all of which remains on the surface of the object.

In the transitions from his box to his hijacked body, Stevens frequently glimpses a huge, curved, reflective surface, gleaming in the sun like an alien craft. Its presence echos the General Relativity notion of spacetime, through which Stevens is whiplashing back and forth, as a curvature. It also reminds one of the "magic mirror" frequently encountered in Grant Morrison's graphic novel series The Invisibles — the physical manifestation of spacetime, through which enlightened operatives may travel or observe other points in their various continua.

Stevens is deeply cut off from the material world and his own physical self, relying on Goodwin's input to make sense of what's happening to him. As they work together — over the course of a single day — Goodwin grows more sympathetic to her subject's plight, becoming the only person in the Source Code program to treat Stevens as a human being, rather than an experiment or an implement. Maimed and only debatably alive, he can only act in the material here-and-now, and can only understand what he's become, through surreal interactions with his caregivers.

The door of the room jarred open and the nurse's footsteps came up to the bed. He began to tap out more frantically now. Here he was right on the brink of finding people of finding the world of finding a big part of life itself. Tap tap tap. He was waiting for her tap tap tap in response. A tap against his forehead or his chest. Even if she didn't know the code she could tap just to let him know she understood what he was doing. Then she could rush away for someone who could help her get what he was saying. SOS. SOS. SOS. Help. He felt the nurse standing there looking down at him trying to figure out what he was doing. The mere possibility that she didn't understand after all he had gone through before discovering it himself shocked him into such excitement and fear that he began to grunt again. He lay grunting and tapping grunting and tapping until the muscles in the back of his neck ached until his head ached until he felt that his chest would burst from his eagerness to shout out to explain to her what he was trying to do. And still he felt her standing motionless beside his bed looking down and wondering.

— Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (1939)

Because Stevens and Sean Fentress are essentially frozen in the moments before death — and because the Source Code intervention creates a potential for something like survival for both — another text rises to mind.

He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms.
Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge"

These trapped protagonists all spend time in alternate realities, whether psychological/spiritual in the case of Trumbo and Bierce's work, or (we are led to believe) physical in Stevens' misadventures. They are experiencing dimensions in which other ends are possible; Stevens is, in fact, creating those new dimensions by his actions on the train. In a dramatic sense, he is enacting Hugh Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics, in which subatomic behaviors are explained by parceling them out to parallel universes.

... The upshot of the Many Worlds theory is that this universal wave function describes a series of branching universes that make up what [physicist] David Deutsch calls the "multiverse," and that in these branching universes, there are beyond trillions of copies of you, of me, of Everett. There are branches in which Everett is still alive. There are branches in which we did things that we don't want to talk about, that we may have thought about but we never did. Well, guess what? I'm sorry to tell you, in Everett's theory, you actually did it, because everything that is physically possible happens in some branch of the multiverse.

None of this can be realized, though, so long as Stevens exists in a state of improbability — shut away, channeled, the truth of him unconfronted. Like Schrödinger's cat, Stevens' condition is only theoretical. Like the cat, his condition inspires compassion. Goodwin, the observer of these quantum events, is the determinant for whether Colter Stevens is alive or dead, and whether he will live or die again. She is the one who must open the box, if his unbearable half-life is to end.

The crucial plot questions of Source Code are teased apart at length — and diagrammed! — in an excellent piece by Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon, published the week of the film's release.

(Cross-posted from Soul Smithy.)

January 18, 2012

The Long Goodbye- Part 2

I'll confess, with no shortage of shame, that I had been putting this off for more than three months and am only writing it now because the Sundance Film Festival is starting tomorrow and some may be wondering why I won't be covering it. You see, I have retired from film writing; for Film Freak Central and a little less definitely for my personal website I Viddied it on the Screen. I had been going in this direction for a while, I fear. It’s too difficult for me to get up at five in the morning, work all day, and then come home to write. Furthermore, it became too difficult to justify spending my free time writing. This work is rewarding, but it is work and I guess that I reached the point where the payoff didn’t really warrant the effort. Most of the time, it’s a struggle knowing that my wife was in the other room watching television and instead of joining her I was on the Word Processor trying to sort through my feelings about THE BABYSITTERS.

I tried, but never could figure a way to balance work, family, and this. But the actual cataclysmic event was being accepted into a part-time Master’s program for social work. I’ve always seen film criticism as kind of a romantic dream job, not all that different from wanting to be an actor or director actually. Or a painter or novelist. Social work was kind of a synthesis between that romance, the social worker is at heart a kind of bohemian after all, and some kind of grounded pragmatism. No, it doesn’t really pay all that well, but it IS a real career. But social work really isn’t a compromise for me. All those years I covered Sundance, I came to realize that the people I was really jealous about weren’t paid film critics, but LCSWs. After only one semester, I’ve realized that this isn’t even just a career for me. It’s making feel... whole in a way that no other career ever could. When I die, I don’t know if I will look back on this life as being one of accomplishment. But I do know that I will be able to say that I was there when other people were at their worst , I was there when I was at my worst, and I never hid from any of it.

Maybe that was what I was trying to get at in writing about movies. I was trying to be honest and develop a real set of values that spoke truthfully of my own feelings and attitudes. And maybe I felt that I wasn’t getting anywhere because I was dealing with the shadow of reality instead of the reality itself. That’s just my best guess at this point. You could probably argue me down from it.

I feel pretty confident in saying that Korine and Morrissey have a more accurate understanding of poverty than DeSica or Rossellini. It’s not a tragedy, it’s a tragicomedy. To some extent, it’s a cartoon. There was one boy I worked with that I don’t think I will forget. He was a tall, skinny, “African-American” was lazy eyelids and big donkey teeth. He was always talking. He talked so much that you could see white stuff form in the corners of his mouth. He would ask female staff if they “had any black in them” and said that he was going to go into porn because you don’t need to be good looking you just need to be well-hung. When the patients were allowed to make their own pizza he asked for one with chicken wings. At one point he asked me if “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was based on a true story. I am not making any of this up. None of it. I occupied the same physical space as this person. Am I racist for noticing him? Obviously, he is not representative of all black people and obviously he is an outlier. But I tell you that he exists and I’m not going to pretend that he didn’t exist. I wonder though, maybe it’s not political correctness that keeps people from acknowledging his existence. Maybe most people aren’t very film literate and don’t understand the tradition that he comes from or they haven’t learned how to regard other people as abstractions. See, I don’t really know. I’m still working through this.

This really does feel like I’m breaking up. I have written about movies for almost half my life and it’s hard to think that I’m really giving it up. It’s been part of my life for so long and I don’t think that it will really ever fully get out of my system. These last three months I’ve felt the itch quite a few times, but I’ve notably never quite worked my way to scratching it. I think this is all for the best.

November 07, 2011


Watching Super 8 this morning, I grew nostalgic for those pre-film school days when I made movies with my weird friends the way other kids got a band together and jammed. But what it made me nostalgic for was mainly the idea of writing with an ambition--if not a skill--that wildly exceeded my resources and expertise. Really, Super 8 augmented a bittersweet feeling that came over me recently when I stumbled upon a relic that was the product of ingenuity and a fire in my belly that's only embers at this point.

I actually shot a few things on super8 as a kid, mostly glorified home movies, but it wasn't until my parents bought me my first video camera, in 1990, that the directing bug became incurable. That was the year of the Miller's Crossing/Goodfellas/The Godfather Part III hat-trick, and I wrote my own gangster movie--The Gentlemen--that dutifully ripped them all off. A brief summary of the production: the 19-page script we started with ballooned to about 60 pages by the time we were done; and we shot virtually every weekend and school holiday for two years straight.

Due to the genre we were working in, the creative demands weren't that extravagant. We realized early on that we could get away with painted-on facial hair--moustaches seemed essential in aging us up--because of the generally shitty picture quality. We wanted rain in one scene, just hitting the window, so my friend sent his sister outside on a November night to spray his bedroom window with a hose. It flooded his basement. Looked great, though. There was an easy solution to the many scenes that called for us to smoke: buy cigarettes and smoke them. At one point, we needed a City Hall stand-in. My friend's/the star's mother was an alderwoman, so the mayor gave us the keys to his office for the weekend. (Come Monday, he was not happy to find an ashtray full of cigarette butts and a script page littered with profanity--but hey, we had everything we needed by then.) And we somehow talked a gorgeous teenaged model into playing the female lead, who might as well have been called Helen of Troy.

But as time wore on, I started getting self-conscious about the guns. As we had cap guns and an effeminate little starter pistol filled with police-issue blanks (my two closest friends working on the production were sons of cops), the choice was a cool-looking gun with no muzzle flash or vice-versa. Enter Dave F., a guy I nicknamed Pockets because he had everything you could ever need somewhere on his person. A savant with power tools, Dave would assume the role of my fairy godmother on this and subsequent projects.

So I says to Pockets, I says, "These guns suck." He borrows a dummy gun we had on hand and proceeds to drill a hole through the hollow handle, thread a wire up through the barrel, and secure a charge fashioned from cherry bombs to the tip of it. He rigs the other end of the wire so that it can connect with the batteries we use for the camera; all someone has to do off screen is touch the contacts together while someone on screen pretends to pull the trigger, and voilà!: muzzle flash. It wasn't exactly practical (you couldn't really get more than one take out of it), but still.

I found one of the many guns he set up for this the other day. And before tossing it, I took pictures.

This gag inspired me to ask for the moon, by the way, and probably our most impressive achievement was a shot of a helicopter coming to pick up our main character. Dave built a model helicopter and motorized the propellers; in order to have it move without obstructing the blades, we suspended it upside-down on a makeshift zipline and turned the camera upside-down to match. For added realism, we shot it against a grey sky--I blew out the exposure (erasing the fishing line) and zoomed in from far away to flatten out the image.

Unfortunately, that scene was cut out of The Gentlemen and this helicopter footage now only exists on a Hi8 tape I can't access, or I'd put that fucker up on YouTube right now.

Anyone here have similar misadventures in Sweding to share?

October 30, 2011

Halloween Horror: Abominable, Adorable, Indelible

Nobody ever dresses up as Dr. Anton Phibes for Halloween, and I need an explanation of why that is. Underexposure? An allergy to camp? The death of the UHF groovy-movie marathon channels? Whatever, the man needs more respect. He demands it. Or he will set a plague of boils upon thee.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) is a great helping of late-period Vincent Price on a ham platter. It's also the rotten little B-horror treasure that foretold at least two mass mainstream successes. And it's a Halloween movie to its marrow, with masks, hooded robes, dark kitsch, deathly allure, and (tasteful '70s) gore. The Doctor of the title -- wealthy polymath, gifted musician, fiendish plotter of deathtraps and riddles -- is a dead man, burned to a crisp in a Swiss car accident as he rushed to the side of his dying wife. Alas, she too would die, despite a nine-person medical team's best efforts. As far as the not-so-dead Dr. Phibes is concerned, their best wasn't good enough; in fact, it was tantamount to murder.

From just this side of the grave, courtesy of the great Sam Arkoff's American International genre factory, Phibes reaches out to destroy those surgeons, syncing his murders with the Ten Biblical Plagues of Egypt. On screen, his victims are consumed by locusts, frozen into mansicles, bitten to death by bats, choked to death by mechanical frog masks, exsanguinated by hot ladies, and impaled with a brass unicorn.
No, I don't think that last bit was in the Bible either.

If you can't be arsed to hunt it down and watch it -- and I'm indebted to scholar and genre-film fan Dan Hassler-Forest for my DVD copy -- find an excellent scene-by-scene recap at The Bad Movie Report and a solid appreciation at Mark Bourne's Open The Pod Bay Doors, Hal. But if you've any appreciation at all of David Fincher's Seven or the Saw films, you're missing out on their progenitor. By his efforts, Phibes marks himself as the granddaddy of John Doe (the Seven Deadly Sins vs. the Hebrew plagues) and Jigsaw (psychologically significant deathtraps). Take that legacy for what it's worth ($327 million and $848 million respectively), but acknowledge that mainstream film culture has scraped the strata of schlock and polished the gems there to a new shine.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a camp carnival that must be seen to be believed. The antihero is a Phantom of the Opera given new life in a kind of mod Agatha Christie dreamscape, pursued by bumbling Scotland Yard detectives named Trout and Crow (Peter Jeffrey and Derek Godfrey) to absolutely no effect. Humor and horror, intertwined and balanced by
former "Avengers" director Robert Fuest, expertly acted by a seasoned star who never once opens his mouth to speak, surprise-guest-starring the great Joseph Cotten as the Final Girl, and speaking elegantly to matters of loss, death, madness, and the survival of love.

And please don't let that sequel fool you. Dr. Phibes never rose again. The last scene of this movie, with love and death fulfilled, is the last of the magnificent musician-mastermind. AIP is history; Vincent Price is gone. We may see his like again, but we'll nevermore meet Dr. Phibes himself.

October 24, 2011

Yeah, nice slogan, Harvey.

For those who haven't heard, I went and wrote a scene-by-scene analysis of a little film called The Dark Knight. Would you be interested in an in-depth thematic discussion backed up by thorough research and third-party quotations? In that case, The Faces of Gotham: Myth and Morality in The Dark Knight is available exclusively as an ebook, and can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for an all-too-affordable $7.49.

And don't forget--if you don't own a physical e-reader, both Amazon and B&N have free programs for download on the computer/phone/iMachine of your choice.

So give it a read! And hey, if you liked it, spread the word, and write a review on the book's storefront page, whydoncha.