Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Was a Teenage Terrorist

This was a decade before Columbine. Back before school shootings were really in vogue. Also, this was in a white bread suburb that was known for its lack of crime.

I do a lot of stupid things to which I don't give a lot of thought. One of my most famous boners had to be decorating one of my high school folders with a picture of the cheer leading team that I cut out of a local paper. I defaced it by erasing their eyes. Creepy, but not threatening. It was my addition of the caption, "Nazi Cheerleaders Must Die" that seemed to really upset the apple cart. This homage to Peter George's SURF NAZIS MUST DIE (1987) was taken as a threat against the paragons of pep.

Almost two decades later, I can definitely see where I might have been justifiably perceived as a bad apple and potential serial murderer rather than the disgruntled social misfit that I was. The funny part -- if there is a funny part to all of this -- is that I was completely clueless to the stir I had caused. I came in from going through marching band drills one morning to learn that my locker and books had been searched. An appointment with the principal (lovingly known as Knuckle Head) followed.

I was flabbergasted that anyone would think that little old me would be plotting to knock off the cheerleading squad. How else could my "artwork" be interpreted? These are the things that I think of now and just shake my head, thinking "What kind of clueless shit am I doing now that I'll shake my head about two decades in the future?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

(Huh Huh) I Got Wood (Huh Huh)

Following up on an earlier post...

Despite my recent resolution to cease buying new books until I make a dent in the hundred plus novels that are littering my basement, I simply had to order a few volumes from Ramble House Press's Edward D. Wood Jr. collection -- the Woodpile. I was worried about ordering through as I didn't know if this "print on demand boutique" would take a few weeks or a few months to fill my order. Forget all that, I placed my order on a Sunday and it was at my door on Thursday of that same week.

Fans of Wood's purple prose can rejoice as Ramble House is presenting them as double dose trade paperbacks. The two that I've read so far are good looking and logical groupings of Wood work. There are a few typos and strange line breaks but these may have been in the original works (along with Wood's STRANGE use of CAPITALIZATION, especially of terms like GAY).

Wood's books don't disappoint. He has no shame in sharing his fetishes (repeatedly). In Suburbian Nightmare (sic), a collection of Suburbia Confidential and Orgy of the Dead, the female characters in each (and some males) clad themselves in angora. Each story also shares a disreputable funeral home owner with a penchant for necrophilia (a precursor to Wood's later film work, NECROMANIA.

Suburban Confidential follows the well-worn pattern of porn presented as psychology. Through a series of "case studies," the reader's taken on several wild rides that each showcase a different lascivious activity from the aforementioned necrophilia to transvestism to swinging and so on.

Via Ramble House, I've finally been able to satiate my curiosity about Orgy of the Dead. A huge fan of Stephen C. Apostolof's film version of the Wood story, it was fascinating to see how much of Wood's book was recycled for the screen. The same framework of Bob and Shirley witnessing the ritual judgment of the dead is here, though the dead here aren't an endless procession of burlesque dancers. Rather, they tell sad stories of their lives -- usually of pasts filled with perversion that are meant to appeal to the reader's prurient interests.

Per the comments posted by one of my blog's few readers, my only complaint about the Woodpile books is the same that I have with most of Ramble House's catalog -- the cover art is borderline atrocious. Rather than being seen in public reading something that looked like a children's coloring book, I had to make a book cover to hide the regrettable illustration. Apart from this, this collection is spot on and a wonderful addition to the canon of overwrought fetish lit.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Too Much Heaven on their Minds

How fun... and gay... was it driving back from Chicago a few months back with my pal belting out the soundtrack to JCS?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Anniversary I Don't Like to Celebrate

November's coming and it's the second anniversary of getting screwed over by my former employer. It was November 2005 that a "fast one" was pulled and I managed to end up in the hole after a stock option fiasco. This always brings up hard feelings but, this time, I'm going to do something about it. As I wrote about in January, I'm in need of a lawyer to help with this-- especially as no one at my former company will even talk to me now without giving me the company's General Counsel and his phone number as an answer. Looks like I might have finally gotten one (or two) attorney's in the mix to help threaten and cajole my way to a resolution. It'll be frustrating as hell to go through the story of what a corporate cog I was in the past but, I'm hoping, it'll be worth it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Billy Nayer

You're sick, buddy!

Did I Mention That I Suck?

As usual, I thought that I was going to be much more dedicated to writing in the wake of putting out a new issue of Cashiers du Cinemart. To date, I haven't written neither jack nor squat. That said, the deadline for submitting completed articles to Cashiers du Cinemart has been extended.

  • Old Date: October 31, 2007
  • New Date: December 31, 2007

Articles most conform to our style guide.

Remember, we're always looking for illustrators to abuse and discourage!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Oi! Jacko Rules!

Been a long time since I've caught this commercial from Energizer. I feel that Jacko paved the way for a influx of Aussie talent like Yahoo Serious...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Killer Wore Cashmere: Redux

Way back in Cashiers du Cinemart #13 I penned a piece called "The Killer Wore Cashmere" about some of Edward D. Wood's literary efforts. Great news, more of the prurient prose of Wood has been released courtesy of Ramble House Books via the self-publishing site Lulu. Featuring over a score of tomes -- most of them boasting a pair of Wood works -- this is a treasure trove of trashy fiction; a cornucopia of carnal carnivals and torrid transvestite tales among other things.

I, for one, am placing an order for (at least) Suburbian Orgy (sic) so I can satisfy my curiosity about the book version of the classic ORGY OF THE DEAD. I long for more of Bob's stories about trees, or dogs, or daisies... Review to come!

By the way, I happened upon this recently -- something so obsessive that it has to be applauded, and certainly has been references by me quite a few times since discovery, a tribute to Criswell including a transcript of ORGY OF THE DEAD!

Ain't It Cool? By Harry Knowles

I often hear, "I didn't know you were a writer!" I quickly correct anyone who thinks this about me. "I'm not a writer. I'm more of a typist. I kind of put some words down on paper and hope that they form sentences."

I'm not a writer, and neither, it seems, is web scribe Harry Jay Knowles of the website I've never been a big fan of Harry's website due to his laborious "scene setting" efforts that attain John Grisham levels of annoying details: "Every review I've ever posted has probably at least paid lip service to the circumstances in which I saw the film: going there, who you're with, what it reminds you of, how it reconnects you with the continuum of your life. I just think that's endlessly relevant."

Despite this irksome style, I thought I'd give Harry's book, Ain't It Cool? (ISBN: 0752264974) a chance out of "car crash curiosity" -- it's one of the few books I've ever seen attain a solid "F" in Entertainment Weekly.

Clocking in at 318 pages, Ain't It Cool? is an excruciating exercise in self-love. The introduction alone us a harrowing journey into Harry's tenuous metaphors and inappropriate peppering of movie quotes. In this case it's an overabundance of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK lines. A few hundred pages later, Knowles appears to give other aspiring scribes advice in aping the Knowles style including these sagacious pointers: "If you're excavating the latest gleaming factoids from a desert of archeology, see yourself as Indiana Jones digging up the Well of the Souls, searching for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Or a three-quarter-ton dolly happens to be down on top of you? Make it the giant boulder from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. This isn't rocket science. It's free association and anyone can do it with a little practice. But it looks great when all of a sudden you do it in an interview." Obviously, Harry practices what he preaches. It's just a shame that he preaches such tripe.

Ain't It Cool? serves as another medium for Harry to use as a pulpit. Yet, it's also his confessional. It seems that Harry wants to come clean. He shares his twisted family history (TMI!) and shares his less-than-honest journalistic tactics. Harry describes how, after being carted to a Sundance screening of GODS AND MONSTERS, he "filed equally glowing reviews under seventeen different names, which I think went a long way toward convincing distributors that the film appealed to a broad cross-section of people." Harry doesn't claim that he was directly responsible but heavily implies that it was his influence that won the film a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. In another section, it's inferred that Harry's championing of James Cameron's TITANIC (a film he just won't shut up about) swept the Academy Awards as well.

There are a few "no duh" nuggets of insight in Harry's book ("traditional entertainment stories come from press releases," over-testing of films creates lowest common denominator entertainment) and one line even provided a belly laugh ("the late, lamented Film Threat Magazine") but the majority of Ain't It Cool? makes one's eyes bleed even when skimming through pages of self-congratulatory chiding of Hollywood and awestruck star-fucking. That it took Harry and not one but two (!) ghost writers to squeeze out this turd truly boggles the mind. If anything, at least co-authors Paul Cullum and Mark Ebner curtailed the excited punctuation from the "Impresario of Exclamation Points.

Addendum: I remember hearing an episode of "The Howard Stern Show" in which Howard grilled critic Roger Ebert about Harry's appearance on Ebert's television show. The question of Harry's odor came up and Ebert denied that Harry emitted any foulness. Curious about Harry's alleged aroma, I consulted a friend who had put up (and put up with) Harry at a Southern film festival. "Tell me," I demanded, "does Harry stink?" With a roll of her eyes and an exasperated sigh she confided, "None of the other people we hosted would even be in the same vehicle with him. Do you remember that episode of 'Seinfeld' with the stinky car? That's what my car was like after Harry had been in it." In other words, I think Roger Ebert was being nice.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Where goeth THE FALL?

In 2006 I saw a really breathtaking film at the Toronto International Film Festival, Tarsem Singh's THE FALL. This colorful remake of Zako Heskija's YO HO HO (1981), this isn't the best film in the world but I found it a might bit more engaging than Darren Aronofsky's THE FOUNTAIN and a vast improvement over Singh's previous work, THE CELL. Sadly, after its screenings at TIFF, THE FALL fell from the face of the Earth. (For my review, visit the Cashiers du Cinemart archives)

According to a June 26, 2007 article in The Los Angeles Times by Patrick Goldstein, THE FALL has yet to find a distributor and there's little hope for one in sight. This really floors me. Sure, THE FALL lacks star power and a modicum of commercial appeal but it was actually entertaining (so much so that I'd like to see it a second time), more than one can say about 90% of the claptrap that came out in 2007 -- The Year of the Threequel (a misnomer considering the "fourquels" of DIE HARD and SAW).

THE FALL isn't a "lost gem" but it's definitely something that shouldn't languish in limbo.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN (Stuart Rosenberg, 1973)

Sandwiched between Don Siegel’s CHARLEY VARRICK (1973) and Joseph Sargent’s THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE, TWO, THREE (1974), THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN is yet another Walter Matthau gem. Adapted by Thomas Rickman (HOOPER), the film is based on the book Den Skrattande Polisen by prolific Swedish husband and wife authors Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall. Their recurring character, Martin Beck, has been brought to the screen a dozen times. Additionally, he was the main character of a television series in Sweden. Despite his native popularity, Beck hasn’t made much of an impact on the United States. Apart from THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN, only one other Beck film was readily available in the U.S. on VHS—Bo Widerberg’s THE MAN ON THE ROOF (1976).

Inexplicably, in THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN Martin Beck’s name is “Jake Martin.” Apart from the name change, however, Martin is the same hang-dog cop of the Wahlöö and Sjöwall books. Martin’s kids don’t appreciate him. His wife (Shirley Ballard) doesn’t even notice when he’s out all night on a case (could be because he’s sleeping on the couch). His kind of burned-out detective was making a comeback in the ‘70s in films such as Arthur Penn’s NIGHT MOVES (1975), Robert Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE (1973), and Jeremy Kagan’s THE BIG FIX (1978).

The film begins with a massacre on a city bus in San Francisco. An unseen assailant boards and mows down the passengers with a machine gun. Among the victims is Dave Evans (Anthony Costello), Martin’s partner. Along with Martin, the other detectives on the case are a veritable who’s who of ‘70s stars such as Bruce Dern, Lou Gossett Jr., Val Avery, and Anthony Zerbe. As Martin’s new partner, Leo Larsen, Dern is particularly memorable. He’s a boorish cop who finishes his more offensive sentences with, “Know what I mean?”

Far removed from anything resembling a slick action film, THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN chronicles the nitty gritty of police work. We follow the investigation as Martin and his fellow detectives interview countless dead end leads, trying to connect anyone to the crime. Their journey takes them through the San Francisco underworld of pimps, hookers, strip clubs, Hell’s Angels, dopers, mad gunmen, hare krishnas, and other unsavory characters. Martin slowly unravels the mystery, tying it in to an old cold case—the murder of Teresa Camerero—that might also involve his partner’s girlfriend, Kay Butler (Cathy Lee Crosby in her feature film debut).

THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN over-flows with great character actors like Paul Koslo, Clifton James, and Gregory Sierra. This undervalued policier should have been the start of a long string of Matthau as Martin movies. Unfortunately, audiences would only have a few more chances to see Matthau in action before he was sucked back into the quagmire of Jack Lemon and/or Neil Simon films.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cheese Factor High

I've been helping a friend out with her website for the last couple nights. I had been giving her my unbridled critique for the last few months. I was shocked when her web designer put everything in popup windows the first time around and then "remedied" the situation by utilizing some janky framesets. I couldn't decide which hackneyed web technology I disliked more.

I managed to talk her into a revamp of her site, though she won't go for a whole lot of my suggestions. Mostly I've recoded the HTML to make it Standards compliant. Apart from that, I redid a few graphics with some cheeseball effects and made a photo gallery for her with Mootools, CSS, and PHP. Yet, one thing stands in my way...

Her site boasts and introductory animation that she's simply in love with. I've tried to steer her away from this but she's not having any of it. However, rather than subjecting users to a 2Meg (!) download on the intro page, I'm hoping to redo this Flash monstrosity with something dynamically-driven and, ideally, also code-based rather than Flash. I've been searching my usual haunts to try and find something similar without any luck. So, if there are any web folks in the house, any suggestions for a code-based cheesy floating photo "collage" would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, October 01, 2007

When Did I Get Old?

Fallout Boy, Dashboard Confessional, Timbaland -- I wouldn't know any of these performers/bands if they came knocking on my door. When the hell did I get so old?

I used to be into music. A lot. I used to spend a good deal of my free time haunting used record stores, flipping through bins until my fingers grew black with grime.

Not one to even know the difference between "Michigan" (University of Michigan) and "State" (Michigan State University) until I had to apply to them; I made my decision about which college to go to based on this simple premise -- MSU had a kick-ass college radio station while U of M had some killer record stores. The record stores won out.

Anyway, things changed for me right around the time I graduated from college. I was so dedicated to music that I divided my time between classes, work, and doing late night shifts at WCBN 88.3FM. Everything changed the first week of April 1994. The combination of leaving school and the stupid suicide of Kurdt Cobain seemed to end the chapter of my life where music was such a vital part of my life.

I knew that I had been long losing touch with what "the kids these days" were listening to but this didn't become painfully apparent until I gave the music of Richard Cheese a listen. I really got into his rendition of "Baby Got Back" from Tuxicity but what was this hilarious song "System of a Down" by Chop Suey?

That's when I knew I was old. I didn't know the difference between the name of the band and the name of the song. I was reminded of this story tonight when I was reading all about this album Dashboard Confessional by... well, you see where this is heading.

A Frequently Asked Question

Just how many movies a week do you watch?

That's the question I get quite often. When not attending film festivals, my average usually is about two or three. This weekend was a definite exception. In between doing some sundry shopping and putting the cover on the pool, Andrea and I managed to take in all of these starting Friday evening and ending last night:

  3. 3:10 TO YUMA (2007)
  4. 3:10 TO YUMA (1957)

That was definitely an exceptional weekend, and not the rule.

I really enjoyed the remake of 3:10 TO YUMA. A lot of the dialog was identical to the original but the characters, especially that of Dan Evans (Christian Bale), were more fleshed-out. Bale continues to impress me as one of the finest actors working today and Russell Crowe isn't a slouch either.