Thursday, May 21, 2009

The People Vs. George Lucas Blog

Even if my interview makes it to the cutting room floor, I'm still encouraging folks to keep up with The People Vs. George Lucas. The filmmakers have a new blog up which has some great posts. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Freebie & The Bean Now On DVD!

UPDATE!: Freebie & The Bean has been made available via the Warner Archives!

In what may be a regular feature of this site, it pains me to say that Richard Rush's FREEBIE & THE BEAN is still absent from DVD in the United States (and, as far as I can tell, everywhere else in the world as well). Reviewed in Cashiers du Cinemart #15 by Mike Thompson, this ultimate un-PC buddy cop film is one of my favorite films of the '70s as well as tops on my list of Richard Rush films. Rush, for those of you who may not know, is a wonderfully quirky director who helmed THE STUNT MAN, COLOR OF NIGHT, GETTING STRAIGHT, and a bevy of exploitation films in the 1970s (A MAN CALLED DAGGER, HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS, et cetera).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Maryland Film Festival Report

I'm just back from Baltimore and the eleventh annual Maryland Film Festival. I had a blast.

Thanks to Northwest Airline's limited flight schedule, I missed the opening night activities and made it into BWI at 8 AM for the first full day.

Modern Love is Automatic (Zach Clark, 2009)
Melodie Sisk gives a bravura performance as Lorraine Schultz, a nurse who just doesn't quite fit in with the world. She hides behind large sunglasses and a killer pastel wardrobe. After her cheating boyfriend ducks out of her life, Lorraine tries her hand at being a dominatrix; finding a stable of clients for sessions at a local hotel.

Modern Love delights as much for what it is as for what it isn't. Writer/director Zach Clark takes the narrative into some dangerous areas while managing to avoid pitfalls into which other stories have fallen. Just when you think that the film could fall apart or become a trite, generic exercise; Clark and his excellent cast steer things away from the brink. More Info

While BDSM isn't at the fore of Modern Love is Automatic, it's presence is such that it was recommended to me by someone who knew of my current research on fetishism in film. Likewise, I was joined by Lisa Vandever and Alan Levy of the Cinekink film festival.

That evening included the annual John Waters screening. This year's pick, Les chansons d'amour (AKA Love Songs) was a beautiful French polyamorous musical. There were some titters of laughter during the love song between Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet and Louis Garrel, though this had to be one of the most "mainstream" picks Waters has given us in a while (for better or for worse). I'm definitely glad I managed to finally see this film and see it presented on screen with a full audience.

Things were capped off wonderfully with my final screening of Friday, Craig Baldwin's Mock Up on Mu.

Mock Up on Mu (Craig Baldwin, 2008)
Something of a prequel to 1999's Spectres of the Spectrum, Baldwin explores the sinuous relationships of Marjorie Cameron, L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons, Alesteir Crowley, and the Lockheed Martin company. Setting the story in a fictional future while diving deeply into the past, Baldwin juxtaposes fact and fiction while layering his film with visuals that support his story.

Most remarkable about Mock Up was the way that Baldwin dissected scenes, troweling on segments from other films comprised of the same elements. That is, a scene between two actors in a car blossoms into a dozen similar scenes, cutting between the same shot reverse shot structure, transforming the actors into other players while maintaining a coherent storyline. In this way, Baldwin is salvaging found footage while calling attention to the plastic nature of storytelling. More Info

The screening of Mock Up was terrific but the Q&A afterwards was mind-blowing. Baldwin was in "mad genius" mode for a full forty-five minutes, explaining Mu, his relationship to the story, the reclamation of found footage, and myriad other topics. His presentation was hypnotic, making me think that Baldwin is the best film professor I never had.

Saturday began with the Maryland Film Festival's 3-D screening.

Inferno (Roy Ward Baker, 1953)
This strange hybrid of man-against-nature and crime films stars Robert Ryan as Donald Carson, a businessman who's spent his privileged life bullying others, maintaining his position at the top of an empire while crawling to the bottom of a bottle. His hot wife, Geraldine (Rhonda Fleming), has taken a shine to mining expert Joe Duncan (William Lundigan). After Carson breaks his leg in the desert, Joe and Geraldine run off to get help with the intention of covering their tracks and letting the hot sun take care of their mutual problem. Leave it to hard-headed Carson to fight to survive.

Apart from the striking setting and some interesting playing with various planes of vision, Baker doesn't play much with the 3-D in the film. There are only a few "trick" shots to dazzle the audience during the climax. Regardless, Inferno is enjoyable for Ryan's performance and the landscape.

Stingray Sam (Cory McAbee, 2009)
Cory McAbee met and exceeded the high hopes I had for this new outing. Set in the same universe as his American Astronaut, McAbee plays the titular character, a lounge singer on Mars enlisted by his former partner in crime, Quasar Kid (Billy Nayer Show bandmate Crugie) to save a little girl (Willa Vy McAbee) from the clutches of the first male birth, Fredward (Joshua Taylor). Comprised of six smaller chapters, Stingray Sam is a modern serial with each section being a self-contained unit with a cliffhanger ending... and a snappy song!

Stingray Sam is yet another brilliant effort from McAbee. The only bad thing is that the soundtrack and DVD aren't yet available. I can't wait to see this movie and hear these songs again! In the meantime, the opening track, "Mars", can be heard on the Goodbye California EP. More Info

Lightning Salad Moving Picture (Kenneth Price, 2008)
I was prepared to give Lightning Salad Moving Picture fifteen minutes and move on if it didn't hold my attention. I stayed through the entire film and loved it. Its anarchic story structure leaves the viewer guessing what strange situations the main characters, the Superkiiids (Cory Howard & Jonathan Guggenheim), will get into next.

The crux of the moving picture has the Superkiiids tasked by "Zemeckis" to make Back to the Future Part 4, lest the project fall into the hands of "Hanks". To say that the Superkiiids don't really make too many inroads with this projects is an understatement. But, they certainly have some wild adventures with Meankiiid, Futurekiiid, Princess, and some other fun folks along the way. Filled with surreal situations and some quotable non sequitur dialog, Lightning Salad Moving Picture was an unexpected delight. More Info

Teplitz: The Tyranny of Paradox (Sean Guinan, 2008)
This challenging, dreamlike work deals with the nature of dreams and the fluidity of reality. The story follows Paxton Teplitz (David Bendena) as he joins the Whalers, a group of metaphysical explorers who make forays into the Ravenswood "Ocean" -- a pocket of memories into which our dreams escape. Teplitz and his fellow Whalers wear painted faces and dated garb, reminiscent of a Terayama film. In the Ravenswood, Teplitz alls into a trap set by the demon Jeffrey -- casting him into an inane job at a video distribution center.

Slightly uneven in its pacing (the 9-to-5 segment is fun but goes on too long) and with some clunky dialog, the look and sheer audacity of the film make it an interesting experience in experimental narrative. More Info

Sunday didn't go as planned with breakfast taking longer than it should have. Regardless, I made it to "Tent City" in time for the panel on Film Criticism in the Digital Age. I didn't say much -- probably for the best.

Immokalee U.S.A. (Georg Koszulinski, 2008)
This powerful documentary explores the lives of migrant workers in Immokalee, Florida, showing some of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) methods employed to perpetuate a modern day system of indentured servitude. While set in Immokalee, the smaller story stands in for a larger whole -- a national issue that doesn't get the attention it deserves. More Info

Nollywood Babylon (Ben Addelman & Samir Mallal, 2009)
Lost in the shuffle of Poliwod and Not Quite Hollywood, Nollywood Babylon tells the tale of Nigerian cinema. From the colonial days to the present, Addelman and Mallal explore the national cinema's themes and distribution via insightful interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen's 167th film, Bent Arrow. The filmmakers do well to frame Nollywood Babylon with the charismatic Imasuen and to capture the poverty of the country, contrasting it to the elaborate, palatial churches that have taken over as money-making ventures. With the urban blight and money-grubbing churches, it was like looking at Detroit -- though the government of Lagos may be a little less corrupt. More Info

The day after the fest, Programming Manager Skizz Cyzyk along with Jen Talbert interviewed me for The People Versus George Lucas. The footage looks great -- even with me in it. I tried to capture the sheer mania that often grips me when discussing the foibles of George Lucas and the failure of "The Prequels" (and Return of the Jedi). Hopefully a second or two of it gets into the final film.

I also swung by Atomic Books to talk to Benn Ray about the status of the Cashiers du Cinemart book. Seems like all the lights are green for the October release. This means that I should be back in Charm City right around then for a book signing and possible MicroCineFest event! See you then, Baltimore!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Never In My Wildest Dreams

I've been spending the twilight hours of the last few days playing Guitar Hero: World Tour and marveling at the world. The biggest laugh that I get while doing this is when I queue up "Livin' on a Prayer" and start wailing away -- banging the drums or screeching the vocals.

I think back to the mid-'80s, hanging out after high school with my pals and watching MTV. Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet was all the rage and we were pretty happy to make fun of the folks who were into this music. I'd never have imagined that, twenty-some years later, I'd be in my living room pounding on some fake drums while being queued by flashing lights... all while "Livin' on a Prayer" blares out of my TV.

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I'm a little (?) OCD. I can't just enjoy Guitar Hero, I have to dig it fully. I'm looking forward to the newest incarnation of the game, "Guitar Hero: Smash Hits", a compilation of the first four GH games, retooled to allow multiple instrument play (a la Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour).

However, I'm slightly disappointed by the set lists being chosen for GH:SH. A look at their (all Flash) website reveals the titles included.

With the addition of microphone, bass, and drums to the instrument line-up, I question the choice of certain titles over others. Limiting myself to the same number of tunes, here's my dream set list:

Guitar Hero I (14)

  1. Ace of Spades
  2. Bark at the Moon *
  3. Cochise
  4. Frankenstein
  5. Higher Ground
  6. I Wanna Be Sedated
  7. Iron Man
  8. Killer Queen *
  9. More Than A Feeling *
  10. Thunderkiss 65 *
  11. Unsung
  12. Sharp Dressed Man
  13. You Got Another Thing Comin'
  14. Ziggy Stardust

Guitar Hero II (19)

  1. Woman *
  2. Killing In The Name *
  3. Heart-Shaped Box *
  4. Free Bird
  5. Carry On Wayward Son *
  6. Stop! *
  7. Mother *
  8. Surrender
  9. Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight
  10. Search and Destroy
  11. Rock This Town
  12. War Pigs
  13. Who Was in My Room Last Night?
  14. John the Fisherman
  15. Billion Dollar Babies
  16. Can't You Hear Me Knockin'
  17. Crazy on You
  18. Sweet Child o' Mine
  19. Strutter

Guitar Hero III (a paltry 8)

  1. Barracuda *
  2. Black Magic Woman
  3. Even Flow
  4. Cult of Personality *
  5. Hit Me With Your Best Shot *
  6. Holiday in Cambodia
  7. The Number of the Beast
  8. Sabotage

Guitar Hero 80s (a measly 6)

  1. Bang Your Head (Metal Health)
  2. Police Truck
  3. Lonely Is the Night
  4. I Wanna Rock *
  5. I Ran (So Far Away)
  6. Holy Diver

Bonus Songs
Time to get some of the downloadable songs into the mix proper along with songs that Rock Band "scooped" Guitar Hero with.

  • Rock of Ages
  • Photograph
  • Say It Ain't So
  • Suffragette City
  • Wave of Mutilation
  • Wanted Dead or Alive
  • In Bloom
  • Run to the Hills
  • Next to You
  • Ballroom Blitz (Sweet)
  • Creep
  • Detroit Rock City
  • Celebrity Skin
  • Blitzkrieg Bop
  • Are You Gonna Be My Girl

At times (the *'d tracks), GH and I agree. For the most part, however, I'm disappointed by the tracks on "Smash Hits" and hope that a sequel follows quickly.

With all of the above, I hope that these will be the original, uncut, studio versions. (Yes, even "Anarchy In The U.K.". I know that it's supposed to be Johnny Rotten singing on that track but it sounds like a cheap imitator.) In this list I eliminated instrumentals (the singer has to have something to do) and tried to include songs that featured some killer drum and bass parts.

Presumptuous? Yes. Bitchy? Without a doubt. But I just felt I had to give my two cents.

Totally Meta

Repost from Popcorn & Sticky Floors.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Cashiers du Cinemart Book: Table of Contents

Here's a rough swipe at the table of contents. Still pending. I made some notes about some of the changes included, though every piece has been proofed and edited for clarity and re-fact-checked. My proofreader, Lori Hubbard Higgins, did an amazing job combing through my abhorrent prose.

Introduction - By Herschell Gordon Lewis
Foreword - By Chris Gore

  • A Dynamite Double Feature - CdC favorite Rich Osmond looks at some explosive '70s cinema
  • Psycho Vixens - Rich Osmond examines two flicks about girls gone wild.
  • Tragically Obscure: John Paizs’s (The Big) Crime Wave - Combination of two articles about Paizs by Skizz Cyzyk from CdC 9 & 10
  • The Four and a Half Worlds of Parker - Updated piece (formerly "Three and a Half Worlds") which has been edited and expanded. Includes some insight from the creator of Parker, Donald Westlake
  • Madness in the 20th Century - This article about Charles Willeford has been updated and tightened up
  • The Serious Moonlight: The Cinematic World of David Goodis - Updated to include discussion of "Goodiscon" as well as expansion of the "Goodis on TV" section
  • The Dark Places of James Ellroy - Updated to include discussion of Street Kings and L.A. Sheriff's Homicide
  • The Cashiers du Cinemart Manifesto - So perfectly written, nothing could make it better
  • All The Good Guys and the Bad Guys that I've Been - One of my favorite pieces from Cashiers du Cinemart, this is an appreciation of Paul Williams by Leon Chase
  • The Prize is Your Life - I expanded this article to include several other "people hunting people" movies
  • Oedipal Ketchip - A terrific discussion of Shuji Terayama's films by Andrew Grant
  • The Highlander Returns! - Two rants from Mike Thompson about the wonder of the Highlander films. This was updated to include cuts of the films that have been made available since the early days of Cashiers du Cinemart
  • Double Impact: The Duplicity of Jean-Claude Van Damme - Brand new piece that has never been published
  • Lone Wolf & Cub - Edited and updated for clarity
  • Tale of the Tape - The whole epic story of Who Do You Think You're Fooling? and the controversy surrounding it. Updated and severely rewritten
  • Ironic Press Release - My facetious discussion of You're Still Not Fooling Anybody
  • Attention Enemy - Following up with the You're Still Not Fooling Anybody fun
  • Tarantino in a Can - A look at Tarantino's obsession with the bathroom in his early works
Star Wars:
  • The Lost Cut - Discussing the early version of Star Wars that will never see the light of day again
  • Jar Jar Done Gone - How The Phantom Menace put heat behind the Fan Editing movement
  • Triumph of the Whills - This piece now combines three different rants about the madness of King George Lucas
  • Star Wars Documentaries - "They Came, They Saw, They Sat"
  • 8mm - Mike Thompson compares what we saw to what Andrew Kevin Walker wrote
  • The Uncredible Hulk - Another great Thompson rant, updated to include the latest incarnation of Hulk and the Ang Lee version, too
  • Cat Woman - Thompson declaws this kitty
  • Digging up the Bones of Indy Jones - Severely rewritten and updated version of "Jonesing for the New Indy Film" from CdC 9 that traces the trajectory of Jones through several proposed sequels
  • Travis McGee & The Lonely Silver Screen - Combination of the CdC 14 and 15 articles
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes - Combining observations about the POTA remake from CdC 10 and 13
  • Superman: Grounded - Updated to include Superman: Doomsday and the reaction to Singer's reboot of Superman
  • The Metamorphoses of Alien III - Includes additional content
  • Gremlins - A thorough look at an early draft of this classic flick by Chris Cummins
Black Shampoo:
  • Interview: John Daniels - Edited and updated
  • Interview: Greydon Clark - Edited and updated
  • Interview: Tanya Boyd - Edited and updated
  • Interview: Skip E Lowe - Edited and updated
  • A Few Notes on Black Shampoo - Edited and updated
  • Can You Feel the Love? - Edited and updated
  • DVD release - Edited and updated
  • Interview: Gerald and Gary Lee - Brand new interview with the men who made the music for my favorite film
  • Crispin Glover - Brand new, never published
  • James Ellroy - Edited and updated
  • Guy Maddin - Updated / Additional Content
  • Monte Hellman - Edited and updated
  • Richard Crawford - Edited and updated
  • Taylor Negron - Edited and updated
  • Svengoolie - Edited and updated
  • Bruce Campbell - Edited and updated
  • Keith Gordon - Edited and updated
  • Dr. Demento - Edited and updated
  • Theater Work Story - Highly edited and rewritten
  • Fish out of Water - Andrea's reaction to the UPC in Bowling Green
  • Mike & Andrea go to Breakfast - Never before published tale of woe from Andrea White
  • Brendan Fraser + Monkey = Fun! - A new party game from Skizz Cyzyk

Stay tuned to the blog or the facebook for further updates as they come!