June 05, 2006

The Trench

A slow week in between speaking engagements coupled with the opening of just one major film (the bleak The Break-Up) offers a lot of time for me to catch up on my DVD queue as well as screen six films for Denver’s Asian Film Festival. It’s something (the fest) that’s shaping up to be pretty special: a small program to be sure, but the place to be in this state’s capital the last three years or so for progressive cinema. The International Film Festival couldn’t/didn’t get Kim Ki-Duk’s Hwal, but the Asian Fest did, and if it’s not as great as Kim’s other films, it’s also being judged to a higher standard to begin with. My expectations are higher when I see a film by a favorite, even an admired, director. I never claimed to be objective. Who can?

The festival selections this year didn’t blow me away otherwise, but it’s got its heart and mind in the right place. The battle between art and commerce has been decided for years now – especially in the programming game – but the honesty with which this one’s been put together is heartening.

Watched and finally wrote a longish piece on David Lynch’s Eraserhead – every time I see the film reminding me of the first time I watched it a couple of decades ago, now, as a young pup not knowing what he was in for. For the longest time, my conversation about the film went hand-in-hand with The Evil Dead as pictures that affected me mysteriously. The refuge of youth was deriding the production values and the “stupidity” of the products – the reality of it was that they both kept me up at night, grabbing the sheets and sweating it out. Each time I’ve come back to the film (about once every couple of years), it’s been with a different eye and watching it this time with two kids, a mortgage, and a scary sleep debt, it finally clicked for me what it’s all about. Again. Amazing piece of work – and available in an excellent, finally widely available, DVD.

For leisure, watched Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s astonishing Pulse again after finding it at the markout bin of the local vid store for $3.99. If you haven’t seen it, it’s got a lot of thoughts in its head; finding good company in K. Kurosawa’s roster of brilliant, existential horror flicks. “J-horror” has become a devalued term lately with all the remakes and such, but look up Kurosawa’s stuff for a glimpse at what it means to be a culture where the worldview is so unremittingly nihilistic that Hello Kitty! is the only thing mutant cute enough to offer respite. A few images of the picture are indelible (SPOILER) the airplane going down behind a building, the cozy communion with the black streaks on the walls – the ludditism elevated to religion and why not? Technology hasn’t done the Japanese any favors. The ultimate suggestion of the film is that it hasn’t done any of us any favors. With films like these in the world, it does make one wonder what the hell one’s doing sitting in front of Cars and Da Vinci Code on a Saturday night. It’s scary, sure, but it’s scary because it’s smart – and more, it’s filmed with real tension and patience. This isn’t a picture that relies on jump scares: it’s a picture that relies on the placement of objects within the frame, the use of translucent scrims to cut off parts of the screen, the angle of cameras placed just so that a hallway receding into a near distance can be watched by the audience but not the characters.

Films that Polanski would make if he were young and Japanese.

Also watched Uwe Boll’s jaw-dropping Bloodrayne which comes packaged with the PC-version of the Bloodrayne 2 video game which I’m declining to play, having seen the film. I thought a long time about the obvious comparison of Boll with Ed Wood, but have decided that the critical difference is that at least Wood thought he was making great films.

Nanny McPhee is a surprise; a few more Tennessee Williams adaptations managed to stun (Richard Brooks deserves a serious critical revival – but Jose Quintero, not so much). Has there ever been a gayer non-gay film than The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone? That’s not a bad question to pose this week, come to think of it. Warren Beatty as an Italian gigolo reminds that there but for the grace of god goes George Hamilton. His turn in Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass that same year is seminal stuff for all its melodrama – I can’t wait to write about Mrs. Stone. Anybody have a good lead on a laserdisc for Mickey One, by the way?

Also watched Anthony Hopkins in Magic (prepping for it by watching the Von Stroheim-starring 1929 weirdo flick Gabbo the Great), and Jennifer Grey in the “Tales from the Crypt” remake of I Walked with a Zombie, Ritual. One’s surprisingly good. No fair peeking.

Bookmark Alex's review of
Irwin Allen's '70s disaster cycle
, by the way.

Here’s the screen capture – David H., your prize package has been delayed, but will be on its way by Tuesday: I promise it won't have been worth the wait:



Hot off the Presses (666):

Our Tennessee Tuesdays continues with John Huston's bazoom Night of the Iguana while we sort of mourn the death of F/X godfather Arthur Widmer, the inventor of among other things, the blue-screen process. I was sadder to learn of the passing of character actor
Paul Gleason
who, no matter all the roles he played throughout his career, will always be Principal Vernon for me.

Hot off the Presses (686):

Pixcars, get it? Yeah, me neither.

83 comments:

dave said...

Pulse is the only movie that scared me so much, I wanted to cry. It's one of my favourite movies, though I've only watched it two times since it came out. I'm afraid of watching it. (Spoiler) I think the genius of this movie lies in the fact that it's not literally the ghosts that scare you, but what they're representing: that not only in life you are alone, but that you will be alone after death, too. An idea so utterly depressing that you cannot even despair. It reminded me of one of my favourite poems, It was not death, for I stood up by Dickinson.

James Allen said...

I think I finally got one: Winter Kills.

George Nada said...

Speaking of horror, Rob Zombie has confirmed he's going to be making a 're-imaging' of Halloween. I'm really just not sure how to feel about it, I guess there could be some good news as more is revealed.

If he decided to go the way of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch I'd be well happy! It's a much better concept to have a different story focused around Halloween night for every film, rather than the Myers plot that has gone from nowhere to just plain crazy.

If it is a straight remake of Carpenter's classic though then there's some feelings of dread from me. He does however appear to have Carpenter's blessing:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=28735418&blogID=128778241&Mytoken=C7047AB3-E7D3-409B-AAAE20DF4FB1247D1437728406

Okay here's the real deal for those of you who are confused. As I said yesterday - I am not making Halloween 9. That series is done, complete, over.

But what I am doing is starting totally from from scratch. This the new HALLOWEEN. Call it a remake, an update, a reimaging or whatever, but one thing that for sure is this is a whole new start... a new begining with no connection to the other series. That is exactly why the project appeals to me. I can take it and run with it.

I talked to John Carpenter about this the other day and he said, "Go for it, Rob. Make it your own". And that's exactly what I intend to do.

B. Earnest said...

Is FFC publishing the Eraserhead review? Or where can we read it?

Kurt Halfyard said...

Damn, someone beat me to it. Yep, it's WINTERKILLS.

Anonymous said...

Okay, that's it. We're done. As soon as someone redoes The Exorcist, that's every single goddamn horror movie from the '70s remade. There's nothing left.

Anonymous said...

Walter, interesting to hear you link Evil Dead and Eraserhead because I've strangely thought of the films in the same way too. I guess both were pivotal films in my arc as a film fan, and they inspire a sense of ownership from the viewer. The way Bill referred to Taxi Driver in his brilliant review as flawed, but with a soul, and as a release for his teen angst hits the nail on the head for how I feel about Evil Dead and Eraserhead. Both profoundly scared me when they came out, but now that the shock has worn off a bit, I choose these films constantly to show to friends who've yet to see them. I've seen both quite a few times, under many different circumstances, and each time has been rewarding in the way few films have been. I saw both at an impressionable age, and they've been imprinted on the brain, I guess. Sorry about the tangent, but I can barely articulate what causes such pure movie love with me in those two films.

- Joe

Walter_Chaw said...

James - it is, indeed, the gonzo Winter Kills - the two dudes in the frame are Jeff Bridges and John Huston: no fair telling about their characters' relationship.

The Eraserhead review, after considerable cleaning up and possible revisions, will appear at FFC somewhere down the road.

Alex Jackson said...

Okay, that's it. We're done. As soon as someone redoes The Exorcist, that's every single goddamn horror movie from the '70s remade.

Der, unless somebody opts to remake Eraserhead.

Scott said...

I totally agree that Japanese horror flicks are freaky-deaky, astonishingly deep stuff, but I don't know if I'd agree that the culture as a whole is 'utterly nihilistic'.

I lived there for four years, and I think it has more to do with an acceptance that life is hard, and brutal, and tough, so get on with it. Westerners are taught that we can do whatever we want in life, and when it doesn't happen, we get depressed and cynical about the system.

There's very little cynicism in Japan; that doesn't mean that they're necessarily happy with their lot in life, no, but they understand that life is short, it sucks, and then you die. There's a phrase 'shikata ga nai', which essentially translates as: It can't be helped; that's the way it is.

So I think that their extraordinarily odd and violent films reflect a more deeper understanding of the unfairness of their social system and life in general. Nihilism, for me, implies a kind of willed decadence and despair; Japanese society, for me, hints at a 'quiet desperation', instead, that, in their art, sometimes escalates upwards to a scream, often a shriek.

James Allen said...

Yay!! I'll get my second one in another year or so.

Speaking of weird movies from the 70's (like Eraserhead) I just watched John Boorman's Zardoz for the first time this morning on one of my myriad of movie channels. I'm still not sure what the hell I saw. About all I could initially think is that Sean Connery had some balls to be in such a film after being James Bond. And also it makes Excalibur look conventional.

Anonymous said...

The Omen (2006) - stupidest film of the year. (Ok, the gruesome twosome Scary Movie 4 / Date Movie are stupider, but they're not quite as funny.)

theoldboy said...

You know, I heard that Bloodrayne 2 game was actually kinda good. It's not like Uwe Boll bases his movie off of the games he allegedly bases them off of. It's definitely not a good idea to base any opinions of the source material on an Uwe Boll adaptation. It's like criticizing the Mona Lista because you saw a printout of the Mona Lisa made with a broken 15-year old xerox machine that's been crumpled up and sliced into pieces and placed in a collage with equally crumpled pictures of dinosaurs, rocket ships, and particularly inexpressive porn starlets. Boll had the ambition (?) to make a period piece prequel as opposed to, you know, an actual movie like the game, which kind of makes me think that he thinks his movies are great art on their way to commercial success until they come out, and then he will acknowledge some flaws in his hilarious broken English interviews.

Can't wait for that Eraserhead article. I didn't see it until around six months ago. I don't think if it was remade it would be a horror remake, but that's because I am not one of those who considers it a horror film, as it's a bit too hilarious for me to suggest that it's just constant fear and dread. Probably the greatest comedy to ever have a climactic scene of a baby being stabbed to death.

Walter_Chaw said...

I don't presume that the game has any ties to the film - I'm just damaged goods now and wouldn't be able to play the game without replaying parts of the film and, seriously, would you wish that on anyone?

Dave Gibson said...

Speaking of "The Omen"...any observations/inside scoop on why this one seems to have simply been tossed out into the marketplace? Seems like a September/January roll-out rather than a summer extravaganza--mayhaps it's just not getting much play up here in Canuckville (We didn't even get "An American Haunting" here---what, Canadians don't like half-assed devil flicks?)

Eraserhead is one of those films that I can love one year and be bored silly by the next, It's not just a favourite film, It's a film I feel married to. After an unforgettable first viewing at my local rep--(on a bill with "Tales From the Gimli Hospital" and "The Shout"--aiyee, my classmates over at "Beverly Hills Cop 2" didn't know what they were missin') it's gnawed into my sub-conscious, erupting at odd times throughout my life. Most oddly, it seems infinitely more accessible than ever, after that first high-school viewing, I guess I can relate to soul-deadening factory jobs, poverty and lousy apartments more than I used to, go figure.

"In Heaven. Everything is Fine" To me, that's Life and the Movies distilled into one lyric, sung by a lady in a radiator.

Bill C said...

The only reason The Omen comes out today, Dave, is to capitalize on the release date (6/6/06). In fact, that's the only reason the film was greenlit--and I wish I was making that up, but both Fox and John Moore have said as much.

I just watched the original again today (it's out in a fancy new 2-disc set) and it's just wonderful. Liev Schreiber may be good enough for Naomi Watts (though I have my doubts), but he's no Gregory Peck. And Marco Beltrami is certainly no Jerry Goldsmith.

Eraserhead isn't going up until next week, by the by. Don't worry, it'll be worth the wait.

Anonymous said...

The only reason The Omen comes out today, Dave, is to capitalize on the release date (6/6/06). In fact, that's the only reason the film was greenlit--and I wish I was making that up, but both Fox and John Moore have said as much.

Spot on. It's actually a plot point in the stupid thing, that Damien was born yesterday and it was the DUN DUN DUN!!! 6th of the 6th of the 6th. The film itself tactlessly displays 9/11 and the Tsunami disasters alongside a carefully rewritten Revelations and then copies the original flick basically scene for scene, also patched together with long, boring scenes of exposition telling us things we knew an hour ago sandwiched between hilariously over the top death scenes in which people who know what's going on are maimed Final Destination style. Not the worst film of the year, but currently in the lead for stupidest.

rachel said...

I can't choose my favorite part of the original Omen: the scene that dispatches David Warner (maybe because I can see myself going that way?), or the one that sees him and Peck attacked by the ancestors of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Gregory Peck attacked by puppets is always awesome.

Alex Jackson said...

Can't wait for that Eraserhead article. I didn't see it until around six months ago. I don't think if it was remade it would be a horror remake, but that's because I am not one of those who considers it a horror film, as it's a bit too hilarious for me to suggest that it's just constant fear and dread. Probably the greatest comedy to ever have a climactic scene of a baby being stabbed to death.

Like a lot of people, Eraserhead was my gateway drug. Have to say, all that stuff particularly the radiator lady, scared the everliving piss out of me.

raphael said...

I was 16 when i first watched eraserhead,right after seeing the re release of the little mermaid,one of my favorite animation movies.Next day i woke up with fever and flu,in july,no less.It´s still the stranget thing i haver ever seen.i never saw it again and i think i lost the tape by lending it to someone and never claiming it back.Ranks high up there with Saló and Cannibal holocaust as a film i´m proud to have seen and wich fascinated me but i never ever wanna see again

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a review for Kairo, which was one of my favorite films released in the US last year, from you, Mr. Chaw. If I recall correctly, the only Kurosawa reviews I've seen by you were for Cure and Bright Future, neither of which were full-length. Which other films of his have you seen besides those and Kairo?

As an aside, kudos for your positive Bright Future review. You were one of the few critics I've seen who gave it much praise. I'm a big defender of the film, particularly the Japanese cut, which was 25 minutes longer than the cut shown at Cannes, most film festivals, and ultimately released on R1 DVD, unfortunately.

- Dennis

tmhoover said...

A Kiyoshi Kurosawa bit of trivia: when he was in Toronto showing Bright Future at the TIFF, the screening featured a Q&A, and someone actually asked "I noticed there were seven kids in the gang walking down the street at the end. Was that a tribute to Seven Samurai?" The translator said this to Kurosawa, he said something back to the translator, and the translator said to the crowd: "He thinks that's a stupid question."

Royal Warrant said...

70's horror left ... I'll pitch you a revision of "Private Parts" with Paris and Nicky Hilton as the sisters and Harvery Fierstein as Aunt Martha? On an ocean liner. OR how about a reimagining of "Tentacles" with Barbra Streisand, Robert Altman, and Ben Affleck to star.

Anonymous said...

I really wish that more Kurosawa films would hit the US shore, like that pair of DTV yakuza flicks. The Guard From the Underground was abysmal, sadly.

[re.tmhoover] Hah, good for him.

BTW, just earlier today, I read the article you wrote god-knows-when on Cure and Seven, TM. Good stuff, though I was surprised that you didn't touch on what is arguably Cure's most controversial scene, being of course the very end.

- Dennis

Alex Jackson said...

Come to think of it, I think I have a pretty good idea about how to remake I Spit on Your Grave for the 00s. That could use an update.

Speaking of which, they remade Hills have Eyes, but for one reason or another they've stayed away from Last House on the Left.

Aside from Exorcist, one more that I think is pretty much untouchable: Don't Look Now.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of which, they remade Hills have Eyes, but for one reason or another they've stayed away from Last House on the Left.

Chaos, man. Your favourite.

Alex Jackson said...

Chaos, man. Your favourite.

Ah yeah, completely forgot. Still hasn't been released on DVD.

James Allen said...

Come to think of it, I think I have a pretty good idea about how to remake I Spit on Your Grave for the 00s. That could use an update.

OK, Alex, you've piqued my interest. What's your idea? The only idea I can come up with is to revert the film back to its original title and call it Day of the Woman: 2006 (or whatever year it is). Not much of an idea, but there you are.

Other 70's horror that hasn't been un-mothballed yet: Susperia, The Parasite Murders (aka Shivers), The Legend of Hell House, It's Alive, The Brood, The Fury.

Joe f said...

Don't think we'll be seeing a remake of Ichii the Killer any time soon.

Bill C said...

Hate to ruin anybody's day here, but a remake of Suspiria is already in production.

Alex Jackson said...

OK, Alex, you've piqued my interest. What's your idea? The only idea I can come up with is to revert the film back to its original title and call it Day of the Woman: 2006 (or whatever year it is). Not much of an idea, but there you are.

Here's my pitch.

Gorgeous highly successful novelist with a post-grad education who writes novels for people of similar circumstances finds herself getting writer's block out in suburbia and decides to move out to the country for inspiration.

She arrives, walks into a store and politely condescends to the townspeople (i.e. this is a cute little town you have here); while nursing housewives, on their fourth baby since sixteen, stare at her with their deadened eyes and the town's hicks size her up for the butchering.

Deciding that this bitch needs to be taken down a few pegs, a group of locals decide to brutally gang rape her. Pump this up good from the original, you know give it the makeover that the 00 cinema has always laid over the stark minimalist look of the 70s, and like the original the scene should last a good 15 to 20 minutes. It should look like glossy "forced entry" pornography.

She's left for dead, but survives and finds herself changed from the experience. They wanted her to be passive, but instead she discovered the innate moral, social, and spiritual superiority afforded by her socioeconomic status. They raped her to show that they were better than she is. She will now have to rape them back to show that, no, she was, is, and always will be better than them. This socioeconomic superiority, it must be asserted over these chunks of human refuge.

Instead of just going after her rapists she goes after the whole town; knowing that the revenge has to be harsher than the original crime. She kills their wives, she kills their children, she burns down the town and piles their bodies onto one big stack. Gas stations, bars, grocery stores, restaurants, schools; they're all burned to the ground and their inhabitants systematically slaughtered. She becomes a one-woman Auschwitz.

And she has "only-in-the-movies" invincibility. I picture a scene where a police officer shoots at her as she quietly walks toward him and misses every time. As he pauses to reload she gets him with a headshot, not missing a beat.

Same thing I guess as the original, but you just underline the parts that need underlining and you give it a nice hard visceral punch missing from the original.

James Allen said...

Alex:

Wow. That's a hell of a revenge flick. Sort of along the lines of Kill Bill only here it could be called Kill Everybody.

Bill:

A new Suspiria? Well, that's one more off the list. Who's doing (directing) it?

O'JohnLandis said...

Holy fuck. Alex thinks the original I Spit on Your Grave lacked a visceral punch.

I'll grant you that the ending of Dogville, but you know, with a female terminator, would be pretty visceral, and you know, critical of the wealthy, or the poor, or something. But how about this:

Instead of relying on metaphor, rely on text. After her rape, rather than try to kill the rapists or the whole town, which would be difficult, she decides to kill the rapists' children at school, all at once. This would be much more realistic and stark. The deconstructionists could call this attack retroactive castration, as she would be killing the rapists' sexual products. But really, it's for plot. She wants to achieve maximum suffering the easiest way possible.

Obviously, the attack works. It could be a bomb, but a really nasty fire would probably be bleaker. How about she switches the line to the overhead sprinkler system with gasoline and starts a small fire? That's pretty much the most horrible thing I can imagine.

From there, the woman stays in town to watch the rapists' reactions as they find out their children have been brutally murdered. She hasn't decided whether she's going to admit to the killings as she watches the first notification. The parents start sobbing uncontrollably. The next two are a bit more subdued. However, when the last rapist--the leader and most sadistic--is notified, he doesn't even stop watching TV. His wife takes the news at the door and seems mildly annoyed while the husband just keeps watching TV, maybe a lottery drawing or game show. The rape victim, feeling completely ineffectual, leaves town.

The final, split-screen shot shows the brutal rapist and the brutal murderer living their completely different, but equally vacuous, lives. What does class matter if everyone is consumed by bloodlust and indifferent to suffering? The ending is the nihilistic version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You can't break the Whos' spirits if Whoville is Hell.

Big enough visceral punch? It's not hard to think of something worse than the original I Spit on Your Grave. It's harder to figure out why you'd want to.

-The other John Landis

tmhoover said...

Dennis: thanks for the kudos on my piece- one of my better ones, I think. But I'm a bit mystified: how do you think I didn't deal with the final scene?

cory m said...

NEWSFLASH

The screenwriter of Hidalgo is writing the remake of Seven Samurai. And it's going to star...wait for it...Zhang Ziyi.

I just rolled my eyes so hard I got a concussion.

Scott Weinberg said...

Fantastic Cars review, WC. A seriously great read ... and not just because we're in agreement this time. ;)

Ian Pugh said...

Kee-ripes, are you telling me that Pixar actually resorted to the Flintstones/Jetsons school of comedy? It wasn't funny forty years ago ("Dean Martian"?) it wasn't funny two years ago (with Shark Tale; "Cod Stewart" -- hang me now) and I doubt that it's that funny now.

Dave Gibson said...

Gag. I thought that the "Suspiria" remake had been shelved--guess that aint likely when “When a Stranger Calls” rakes it in. Hopefully, it will be re-titled "Witch School"
Before it gets to the theatres. “I Spit on Your Grave” is probably too sleazy even for a Hollywood remake. Its notoriety owes more to Eberts’ vitriolic review rather than its inherent quality (Still remember reading that one as an impressionable 11 year old—a “diseased”, “Vile bag of garbage”? Man! I gotta see that one) actually Ebert is probably the main reason anyone’s even seen it—a feat he couldn’t pull off for “Akeelah and the Bee” Heh. Heh. It’s probably one of the worst of the 70’s grind house flicks to achieve canonical status but no doubt the folks behind the vastly superior “Ms. 45” and “Baiser Moi” saw it so—I suppose, I can’t dismiss it entirely—but, I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to willingly see it again. Now, when are they going to remake “Six Pack” and “Condorman”?

Bill C said...

First off, Dean Martian--now that's comedy.

I'm not sure who's helming the Suspiria remake--that is, I've never heard of him. It's some AVID-generation brat. Maybe it did get shit-canned, but there's still an online petition to stop it.

John "Swimfan" Polson is still threatening to remake Straw Dogs.

Something's gotta give.

Ian Pugh said...

Kee-ripes again, Bill. Let me guess: American mathematician -- no wait, that's too brainy; let's say high school teacher -- David Sumner (Colin Farrell) and his also American wife Amy (Cameron Diaz) move to Britain -- no, no, even better, France -- and eventually team up to fight off abusive local villagers who storm his house to find a rapist/killer -- no wait, too harsh, we need a PG-13; let's say misunderstood bank robber -- and win, while falling in love all over again. Wait, is something supposed to happen to Cameron Diaz? We'll have to cut that out, nothing happens to Cameron Diaz.

By the by, perhaps this belongs in Alex's internet video thread, but Dave's mention of Akeelah and the Bee reminded me of this humorous little item. I think that those who have seen (and hated) Akeelah, along with a certain trailer for an upcoming film, will appreciate it. This despite the fact that it's actually part of a larger fad from a larger site. The whole place is full of Family Guyesque pop culture garbage, but there's some undeniable talent brewing there. If you can't see anything update your Flash players.

Bill C said...

You're like the Will Graham of movies, Ian. That feels like a scarily accurate profile of the hypothetical remake.

Maybe Cameron Diaz can be looked-at menacingly instead of raped. And her S.O. Justin Timberlake could sub for Farrell--it'd be like their very own Eyes Wide Shut. Dustin Hoffman could have an ironic cameo as a guy who warns of danger in them thar hills. And don't forget the hip-hop number over the closing credits, "Straw Dawgs."

Anonymous said...

tmhoover: I suppose you did, just not explicitly. I was thinking more about the final shot, and any possible implications it may have had.

Dennis

Walter_Chaw said...

I see the Straw Dawgs remake as an urban-ification starring Queen Latifah in the Dustin Hoffman role and Chris Tucker as his loud-mouthed husband, getting them in all sorts of trouble, in their new, all-white, upscale Hyde Park digs. When the crackers come calling, leave it up to Queen to set up the booty. . . I mean BOOBY. . . traps and we got a hybrid between Home Alone and a classic bit of gender dysfunction exploitation.

"Who you callin' dawg, DAWWWWG?"

Yeah, baby.

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter:

Uh, are you cynical?

Alex Jackson said...

“I Spit on Your Grave” is probably too sleazy even for a Hollywood remake. Its notoriety owes more to Eberts’ vitriolic review rather than its inherent quality (Still remember reading that one as an impressionable 11 year old—a “diseased”, “Vile bag of garbage”? Man! I gotta see that one) actually Ebert is probably the main reason anyone’s even seen it—a feat he couldn’t pull off for “Akeelah and the Bee” Heh. Heh. It’s probably one of the worst of the 70’s grind house flicks to achieve canonical status but no doubt the folks behind the vastly superior “Ms. 45” and “Baiser Moi” saw it so—I suppose, I can’t dismiss it entirely—but, I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to willingly see it again.

Haven't seen either Baise Moi or Ms. 45, but somehow that last line of I Spit on Your Grave (She says "suck it bitch" before killing her attacker, inferring that she has assumed his role and become the rapist) has always stuck to my ribs, turning a pretty bad movie into a pretty thorny post-feminist post-Dirty Harry critique of rape and revenge. Hard to shake off.

One of the reasons I'ld love to see the film remade is just to see Ebert's head explode. He refuses to comment much on the uber-grisly remakes of the 00s, I think that he wishes it would just go away. I would love to see what he does when confronted with a slick Nispel-esque remake of his least favorite film of all time.

Straw Dogs bored me silly the first and last time I saw it, but, as much as I hate to circle jerk, Walter's write-up was nothing sort of fantastic and is getting me to consider a rewatch/review in the semi-near future.

theoldboy said...

I just saw Bloodrayne. While the script was bad and the production values were awful, it was neither as consistently inept as House of the Dead, or as consistently boring (and inept) as Alone in the Dark. The extreme gore, gratuitous T&A, and grandiose orchestral score made the whole affair a bit entertaining in a trashy low-budget 80's swords-and-sorcery flick kind of way. It's bad, but it's no worse than a competent Sci-Fi Channel movie.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Cars was the worst move I've seen in a theater since Episode III. If nothing else it sucks because after all the kids in my screening were bored the whole time, they started clapping for the big "aw shucks I won but learned shit" moment in the end, and training kids to clap for a movie is even worse than training kids that laughing at guidos, sassy negresses, and hispanic gangbangers is OK.

cory m said...

Hopefully this will wash the bad taste of Cars out of everyone's mouth.

Directed by Brad Bird.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Saw Sky High. Wicked. Totally agree with Bill on this one. As a kid i loved Can't buy me love, the final scene with the baseball bat had a real impact on me. Of course now I know better, but this film was a funny self-depracating spin on the 80s high school dramas that never got over their own hypocritical bigotry. Plus of all the superhero movies these days, this one really pointed to the original comic book references which are done away with these days for the modern audience. I think the reason behind that is this common perception that somehow these references have become archaic and "we've come beyond them", which is absolutely untrue (disagree? compare the jaw sizes of Sean Hannity and Alan Comes). It's the whole McDonald's Syndrome, some things are brainfed from such an early age that by the time kids become adults, they are just accepted as the truth while they are just cultural propoganda. However, in the nudge-nudge-wink-wink way they are done in this film, they become charming which is what they used to be when still had our proverbial innocence.

Moving on to something completely different, how fucking wicked is Dreyer's Days of Wath? I'm blown away by every single thing this guy has done. Before this I didn't think I would ever like a B&W film but somehow by going back in time, Dreyer makes his films timeless. Gertrud is next.

Anonymous said...

Patton Oswalt!

Hiring a talented B-lister for your leading voice is better than hiring Owen Wilson, but still not better than hiring Billy West to do everything.

Anyway, looks good. At least there's people in this one.

I was seriously hoping that some guy would walk out near the end of Cars and all the cars would just suddenly fucking eat him. Cause that's the vibe I got from that movie.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Speaking of I spit on you Grave, I heard that David Gordon Green's rewrite of "Derailed" was inspired by it.

My favorite rape-revenge flick is Irreversible (other than Dogville, of course). Funny how most critics miss the irony in the fact that the wrong guy ends up getting killed at the end, or in the beginning i should say, which is also an irony most critics missed. Armand White is a jackass, but then again the only thing worse then a moron is one who is cocksure. And the only way to make him shut up is by agreeing with him, or stop reading him as in this case.

rachel said...

Hiring a talented B-lister for your leading voice is better than hiring Owen Wilson, but still not better than hiring Billy West to do everything.

Now, I haven't seen Cars, but I doubt its failure lies with Wilson, who actually has displayed a little skill at voice-acting. At least, he was pretty great on King of the Hill as a sex-starved virginity pledger.(Question: is Wilson only any good when he plays against type?) That is, he's no West, but he ain't no Halle Berry, either.


Plus of all the superhero movies these days, this one really pointed to the original comic book references which are done away with these days for the modern audience.


Really? Spiderman, The Hulk, Sin City ignore their comic book origins?

I would've liked Sky High much better if it had stayed the course of Josie and the Pussycats without dissolving into a well-acted episode of Power Rangers. What I mean: if it could've tempered its numbing predictability-- that is, our ability to flawlessly predict the film's second half-- with the absurd, or even some guilty pleasure like watching Carson Daly get the shit kicked outta him. (I mean, where's the part where Bruce Campbell does something cool?) Besides some puns, Michael Angarano's genuinely charming turn, and Kevin McDonald- automatically hilarious- there just wasn't enough... I felt it winking at me, but man if it didn't take the path of least resistance.

Chris said...

Sure, Cars is clumsy and unfocused and a possible harbinger of the collapse of Pixar's creative spirits with the Disney merger, but for now, at least, doesn't the film retain the same big heart that's been at the center of all their other movies? I can see the cracks, but the movie still had me weeping.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Really? Spiderman, The Hulk, Sin City ignore their comic book origins?

Absolutely. If they did, they would end up being cheesy and schmaltzy, which they weren't. Read the original Spiderman and Hulk comics, the movies were most certainly updated. I'm not reffereing to the plots, I'm talking about the way they are told. Sin City wasn't a comic book, it was a graphic novel. Completely different readership.

Alex Jackson said...

Really? Spiderman, The Hulk, Sin City ignore their comic book origins?

Absolutely. If they did, they would end up being cheesy and schmaltzy, which they weren't.


Spiderman successfully talked and walked like a comic book for me, and had an according amount of cheese and schmaltz.

But you're right. A lot of comics are unadaptable because film is literal format and comics are a more abstract one. Guy turns into a giant monster when he gets angry? Guy can stretch his body like rubber? I can accept it OK on the comic book page, but in a live action movie I get the giggles. I think that was what Hollow Man was getting at.

Cars? Looks dazzling, and I think that Armond White is batshit insane when he says it's an inferior film to Robots. I mean it's pretty sweet, and Britney Speares references are beneath it. The car puns and correlatives to the human world (i.e. Jay Limo) are kept at a minimum. But not much of a defense from me, it's really just minor Pixar. There isn't a lot going on here, a love letter to cars and driving is a stupid idea when gas is three dollars a gallon, I don't know what to say about the ethnic caricatures, I mean I don't think that they are necessarilly racist or particularly mean-spirited (I'm writing a reactionary review of Crash right now and my critical capacity is all focused on issues like this), but it probably would have been better if they just didn't try and go there. Monumentally better than Ice Age 2 also, which is getting worse and worse in the rear view.

Best rape revenge movie? Probably either Deliverance or it's unofficial reworking Mother's Day.

Seattle Jeff said...

Haven't seen Cars yet...but let's take a step back from saying this is a sign that Pixar has completely lost it...

You have to look at this statistically...just in the same way that Michael Jordan didn't score 63 points every game, Pixar is not going to come out with a classic every time out either. It's what you call variance...

The thing to hope for is that they're not going to be water downed no by being owned by Disney or that the dude who died was largely responsible for the quality of their prior films and that they'll never recover...

I guess what I'm saying is everyone gets a pass now and then...

which leads me to the question, has the pass run out on the Coen Brothers? I'm still recovering from The Ladykillers...

Bill C said...

Y'know, I kinda liked The Ladykillers, but the whole time I was watching it I was glad I wouldn't have to review it. Nevertheless, it does feel like the Coens on autopilot. The lack of Coen company regulars hurts it.

Just after they finished The Man Who Wasn't There, their mother died and 9/11 happened, and to be honest I think the one-two punch really did a number on them. They have a ton of things in development, like a straight-faced "Tarzan" movie (which I'd kill to see), another George Clooney comedy, and this fucking amazing adaptation of James Dickey's To the White Sea they wrote with David Webb Peoples that was at one point going to star Brad Pitt. (There's almost no dialogue in the script, it's basically their Cast Away.) I hope something comes to fruition soon, but personally I'm not holding my breath for another masterpiece.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I liked Ladykillers too. I do think it sort of started sinking under the weight of its own cleverness, but then again which Coen's film doesn't (Haven't seen Miller's Crossing). However, they always seem to infuse enough soul in their films to keep up the buoyancy. Hell, if not for anything else I will always love the Coens for making The Big Labowski their next film after Fargo oscar blitz. Just a giant fukc you to the academy and their best film to date, imo.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't you at the Seattle International Film Festival? It is huge. They are playing over 300 movies and it ends in a week!!!

Kurt Halfyard said...

Some one above said I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is too sleazy for a remake. How about Kinji Fukasaku's BATTLE ROYALE being lined up by New Line Cinema? I know they only optioned it, but still, the original had 14-15 year olds killing each other (at times quite gleefully). The movie was in love with its own exploitation (and a better movie for precisely that fact!). I'm sure things will be watered down if a film ever comes out of the optioning. Still, it is strange because (to the best of my knowledge) Columbine and other factors prevented this film from ever being screened in the US (I don't know if was officially banned, but it may as well have been). So you go ahead and remake it? I say that is a tad weird.

Alex Jackson said...

Still, it is strange because (to the best of my knowledge) Columbine and other factors prevented this film from ever being screened in the US (I don't know if was officially banned, but it may as well have been). So you go ahead and remake it? I say that is a tad weird.

Columbine was part of it, that was 2000 and the bodies hadn't quite finished cooling off. The bigger factor though was Fukasaku who refused to have it shown in the U.S. unless it had a really wide distribution. He wanted it to play in malls like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Fat chance right, Walter used to tell a story about how he saw signs posted in a local Denver theater warning people that Crouching Tiger had subtitles lest they be forced to read. Talk about overestimating American audiences.

Smaller distributors did offer to pick up Battle Royale and put it on the art house circuit, but Fukasaku refused.

Sad thing is, it's a really good fairly mainstream picture that would have fit pretty well in the mall format. It's kind of a Heathers re-imagined as an action movie. But despite its resonance with today's youth, it still strikes me as a pretty uniquely Japanese story.

Max B. said...

Maybe Spiderman and Hulk ignored their origins, but Sin City was word for word, shot for shot from the graphic novels. It might be the most faithful adaptation I've ever seen.

rachel said...

But despite its resonance with today's youth, it still strikes me as a pretty uniquely Japanese story.

Really? How come? If anything, it struck me as a very strange story for Japan to be telling, what with its declining birthrate. (A more logical narrative would have had the government order a bunch of senior ciitzens to kill each other.) Meanwhile it would make complete sense in the US where it would be a comment on either immigration-- (who earns the priveleged, highly-vaunted life of an American?) -- or for some future, post-Roe setting (pro-life... until the demographics need adjustment).

Of course, the filmmakers would have to decide whether the deathmatches were highly publicized or a government secret, a decision the original film never settles on.

Chad Evan said...

Yeah, Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers were both rather empty. Here's hoping their upcoming adaptation of McCarthy's No Country For Old Men will rejuvenate them.

Alex Jackson said...

But despite its resonance with today's youth, it still strikes me as a pretty uniquely Japanese story.

Really? How come? If anything, it struck me as a very strange story for Japan to be telling, what with its declining birthrate. (A more logical narrative would have had the government order a bunch of senior ciitzens to kill each other.) Meanwhile it would make complete sense in the US where it would be a comment on either immigration-- (who earns the priveleged, highly-vaunted life of an American?) -- or for some future, post-Roe setting (pro-life... until the demographics need adjustment).


I guess I was thinking of it more in terms of the Japanese school system; not just in the sense that how well you do in high school determines the rest of your life, not just in the sense that the killer schoolgirl is a rather uniquely Japanese icon, but also in that Japanese schools have a more unified concept of the classroom. Instead of the students going from classroom to classroom and the teachers staying put; the teachers go from classroom to classroom and the students stay put. The premise of the film seems to need some collectivist ethic to push against; if anything this all-for-one stuff isn't subversive enough for America.

The Captain said...

I just saw Day Watch on foreign DVD with (poor) English subtitles. Wow. As confusing and inane and contrived and horrible as Night Watch was, the sequel vomits all over it in an orgy of utter nonsense and overblown CG rubbish and action sequences that make no sense whatsoever, it's basically a parody of the first film and of itself. Find a car driving along the side of a building, a whipping fight that flips automobiles around a street like crickets, a head-on crash between two semitrailers that makes one go through the other which starts a war, etc etc - if it wasn't so insanely boring inbetween its sequences of complete chaos, it would almost be a masterpiece. If anyone can rent it on DVD, I'd recommend seeing it to fast forward to the "good" parts - you'll recognise them by their ridiculously over-the-top spectacle and total lack of sense. They're hilarious.

B. Earnest said...

There's substance in Ladykillers, about boys and their mamas, mainly dealing with what it means for a boy to violate his mother, I think, which is maybe a darker shadow than they were ready to face. There's some interweaving the old lady's archetypal Mother with the symbol of men forcibly tunneling in her Mississipi River alluvium toward a cash vault. Light Oedipus stuff (the maternal Mountain Girl, and watch for Tom Hanks's character parting the screen with his cane to prod at the silt in the old lady's "root cellar"). It's underdeveloped for sure, but it's in there.

The subtext of O Brother is there, but similarly noncommittal ... something to do with the New South, how rural culture is transformed by mass communication, the role of entertainment in politics ... again, too cursory to hold together.

Intolerable Cruelty left no impression on me whatsoever. I hardly remember watching it.

B. Earnest said...

I believe the Big Lebowski, by the way, is an extended metaphor for United States' Mid-East policy.

Rich said...

Whenever I hear talk of the Coen version of The Ladykillers I am always confused by the lack of mention of the Mackendrick original from the fifties. Am I alone in thinking that that version is pretty great? It's a hell of a lot more cohesive than the messy remake and does a better job with the mother/son themes b. earnest mentioned above. Oh, and it's way funnier, too, and has the benefit of not having a Wayan in it.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Anyone seen Werkmeister Harmonies ? What a spectacular film ! i think I'll probably be watching it many many times in future. It's a fucking masterpeice. Strongly elaborates on the idea of evil being a logical extrapolation of existential fog, literally in this case.

Chad Evan said...

b.earnest:
I've always thought O Brother was about Calvinism: predestination (the end of the story is foretold by the blind prophet at the beginning: a reference to Homer and/or an oracle, I know, but still;) and God's irresistable grace (Everett is "saved" at the end despite himself.) Faulkner wrote a great deal about Calvinism in the South, and I figure that's where the brothers got the idea.

B. Earnest said...

Yeah I can see how the movie rolls on a Calvinist arc, but it doesn't really say anything about Calvinism, does it? It's sort of surface-y. About the New South, though, you have the flooding of the valley for electrical power, literally wiping out the old-time homestead. You have the Republican Party (unnamed) gaining a foothold in the South on the platform of populism, and revealed as a cover for institutional racism. The appropriation of the Tommy Johnson myth suggests a lust for fame roused by the new record and radio industries. And I really like the image of the square-jawed farmer standing up on his plow with such a look on his face, perplexed curious dreamlike, when the truck drives by blaring music and politics. Broadcasting was a term to describe a method of sowing a field. So here is the old broadcasting meeting the new.

Chad Evan said...

b.earnest:
Yeah, it doesn't really say anything about Calvinism, but I don't really think it says anything about the New South, either; it uses both as a framework (I spoke to strongly earlier saying it was ABOUT Calvinism) to investigate what I think it's really about: the way the South is seen by the world, and particularly America, at large. It's definitely a sort of cartoon that traffics in stereotypes (not necessarilly a bad thing)and Calvinism and the New South are among the popular myths it trades in.

By the way, I don't think Homer Stokes was meant to be a Republican; it was only much later that they got any sort of popular support hereabouts (outside of a few pockets in the Appalachians.) Stokes and Pappy O'Daniel are both Democrats, albeit of different stripes (and if the story took place thirty years earlier I'd certainly assume Stokes was running under the aegis of the Populist party, but it was pretty near defunct by the '30s.

B. Earnest said...

You're probably right about the Republican thing. Here's a slightly interesting web site I found about populist politics in O Brother:
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma05/cline/obrother/free6/obrother5.htm

I don't think the New South is a myth, so much as a rose-colored headline for real mixed-bag changes in the South starting with rural electrification, radio, etc. That seems to me to be what the movie wants to be about, not only in backdrop but as commentary, based on all the stuff I mentioned above.

The cartoon view of the South from the outside world is tricky, because nothing in the movie suggests an outside view -- it feels very insular to me -- except its title which I guess quotes the Hollywood romanticizing of rural squalor in Sullivan's Travels. But in some way it seems to me to locate something genuinely Southern, I can't place what. Maybe in the affectionate pushing forward of the music, which is the ground beneath the feet of this movie (or its crutch), and which music when the movie came out was pretty far from popular embrace. Or maybe in the backhanded sort of respect the Coens give all their hayseed cartoons -- compared to, say, the Deliverance-style redneck rapists in Pulp Fiction, the redneck bear hunters in Ghost Dog who get their cultural come-uppance (and what was the point of that??), the cutesy condescending sketches in Junebug, or Tim Burton's baseless grotesque and rubber-gloved handling of Alabama in Big Fish.

Walter_Chaw said...

brief interlude:

Will get that new Trench up this evening - thanks for the patience and the fulsome conversation in this thread.

Surprised to hear, incidentally, that you found Junebug to be condescending, B.Earnest - could you elaborate?

B. Earnest said...

It's difficult to isolate, because it's built into the perspective of the movie, which is mainly that of Davidtz's character, from whose shoulder we watch throughout, and so to whose sensibility we're meant to link. As the audience for this movie, we're urban/suburban, educated, indie-film patrons, so she's our representative. We feel her discomfort, her empathy, her wonder, in this milieu, a sort of Southern domestic safari. We tune to her cues on how to react. Her character is not condescending, and we recognize this as a virtue. We understand by her poise and manner and openness and lack of prejudice that she is better than these people who are riddled with inferiority complexes, xenophobia, prejudice, poor educations and possibly poor aptitude for education. Here's the thing -- the Davidtz character's refusal to condescend to these clearly flawed characters allows the filmmakers/audience to congratulate ourselves for refusing with her to condescend.

There's a sense of tolerance in the movie that feels ... paternal? maternal?

I think it's encapsulated in the scene where Davidtz's character is trying to tutor her brother-in-law to write his English paper. He's sort of ridiculous in this scene, and we find comfort in that we're so empathetic toward him, when his flaws are so excruciatingly visible to us.

I'm sort of inflating the issue, because it's subtle. I wonder about the decision to tie the film to Davidtz's perspective, to make our avatar an alien in the environment. Why not take the POV of the prodigal son, who is both sides of the divide? I think the decision might suggest the filmmaker's need (emotional or artistic) to appeal to an urban/Northern audience, which maybe echoes the Southern inferiority issues of the family in the film, which is poignant in an extratextual way but does nothing for the movie itself. ...And links interestingly to the director's comment in your interview about biographical details giving currency to the Outsider artist.

Incidentally -- I'd like one good movie about the South that doesn't feature an inbred retard savant or isolated backwoods nutcase mystic, please.

Alex Jackson said...

Incidentally -- I'd like one good movie about the South that doesn't feature an inbred retard savant or isolated backwoods nutcase mystic, please.

Probably should have at least one for good measure, but the mystical south is one of my great vulnerbilities. I don't think I have any greater guilty pleasures than the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird; I could criticize the novel while standing on my head but that fucking movie is pure opium for me.

Ditto for Sling Blade, I had grown to think that that wasn't much of a movie but I saw it on Encore while channel surfing and ended up watching the whole damn thing just hypnotized.

Hated Junebug by the way, not for the paternalism (I think that it might be pretty sensitive along those lines, and I can't blame the filmmakers for not taking the position of somebody they don't understand) but more for the lack of filmmaking excitement. Seemed to me that they would be better off working in a different medium. Arguably the blocking makes the film image look two-dimensional because they want it to look like a mural; and it's lax because they want to demystify the south; but that just makes me more angry as it indicaites to me that the filmmakers are a bunch of smart asses who think themselves too good to produce a pleasurable cinematic experience.

B. Earnest said...

Isn't the director of Junebug from North Carolina? Or was it the screenwriter...? I might be confused.

The Dwight Yoakam scenes in Slingblade are as true and terrifying as anything I've ever seen in a movie. It turns pretty hokey toward the end, but I'm along for the ride.

If you're into the Southern gothic orientalism, you should really check out the recent documentary Searching For the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. It's got great music, if nothing else.

Bill C said...

Viva Sling Blade. I would also cite Eye of God as a movie that inherently respects the South, even if it doesn't have anything nice to say about human nature.

Chad Evan said...

Ditto Wrong-eyed Jesus: now there is a movie that didn't condescend to my grandparents, so to speak.

When I called the New South a myth, I didn't mean it wasn't true, I meant it as a narrative--the rosy headlines, as you put it, b.

I hazard that one of the things that may have struck you as genuine and non-condescending about O Brother is the dialect. I know some upper Midwesterners were a bit pissed about Fargo, but based on O Brother, it may have been because the brothers were dead on: these speech-patterns, while obviously broad, are spot on, and the broadness doesn't grate because the Coens get the little things right: for example, this is probably the only picture I can think of where the white characters pronounce can't as cain't. Now certainly all white Southerners don't do this, but ones with accents as thick as the ones typically found in a movie almost invariably do. And Clooney (who obviously had a leg up, being from Kentucky) responding to Pete's accusation "You stole from my kin!": "Who was fixin' to betray us." So real and precise; much more so to my ears, ironically, than Junebug. Sometimes the outside view is the clearest.

Anonymous said...

Uhh...

Bill C said...

FFC was down again. Now it's back up. More drama with our host. If you tried unsuccessfully to send us anything between 10pm last night and, well, now, please try again.

I think one of these days I'm going to stroke out at the keyboard, no pun intended.