Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Netfix

Some quick responses on the flicks I've seen since joining Netflix...

The Suspended Vocation. This is a French film by an expatriate Chilean director named Raul Ruiz, and while it's a tough one to recommend, I find myself thinking about it quite a bit. It's a complex tale about a monk who finds himself in the middle of a theological debate/intellectual turf war between two factions in the church. The thing that makes it a tuff film is that Ruiz has obviously decided to avoid any kind of melodramatic techniques; the actors all seem like real people caught on hidden cameras, so the acting has none of the, y'know, actoriness we expect from even the must subtle and underplayed movies. It works just fine if you accept it, but the deliberate blandness of the performances is so far removed from what we expect from movies that I can see why Ruiz hasn't found a popular audience. I dug this film, though. It's actually hard to get actors, whether pros or not, to refrain from acting it up.

Nightbreed. This Clive Barker obscurity has some glorious Goth Monster People Tableaus, and if that sounds good to you then by all means give this one a rental. It's set in an underground monster city, and characters spend a good chunk of time wandering around seeing wierd monster-folks in their funky habitat. I could watch two hours of that. Sadly the story turns into a dopey drive-in movie style battle between monsters and one-dimensional bad cops. The other two Barker movies I've seem had some substantial thematic stuff underlying the monster action; this time it was dumbed down. Was Barker trying to "give the people what they want?"

Tetsuo. Pretty much anyone who would like this flick has already seen it, but this gonzo low-budget SF movie is an interesting companion piece to Godard's Alphaville. Both movies create a low-budget SF art-movie vocabulary that I find compelling, but Tetsuo replaces Alphaville's icy Gallic cool with a hyperkinetic punk style. Godard went out and found stuff that looked futuristic, while the Tetsuo gang made monster suits and didn't worry if they looked ridiculous. The transformation of people onto machines is a hypnotic metaphor for unhealthy growth and mechanization.

Cartoons That Time Forgot. This Ub Iwerks collection is hypnotic. Iwerks was Disney's largely unsung collaborator on those early Mickey Mouse shorts, and these shorts hold up as beautifully crafted early cartoons. None of the stories or gags will be unfamiliar to anyone who has ever watched an old toon; unlike Disney or the Fleischer Bros. Iwerks wasn't an innovator. But Iwerks was a consummate craftsman; his characters have grace and style; these dancelike performances showcase what dancers call a vocabulary of movement that is simple enough for kids to follow. I'm beyond clumsy, but as a performer I have to be able to "speak" my own vocabulary of movement; I've been thinking a lot about how to teach myself to handle the challenges of what you might call narrative movement, and I've bben watching these with an eye on the simple yet effective use of movement to communicate.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Merle He Ain't.

I had a thought about the former Reverend Ted Haggard today. Not to kick the man when he's down, although I'm certainly not a fan. As is now well known, Haggard was an evangelical preacher, one of the celebs of the genre, who fought long and hard against legal same-sex marriage, but was outed by a gay prostitute whom Haggard apparently paid for sex.

Here's the thing that puzzles me: Haggard is an attractive and charismatic guy. Which means he didn't have to pay for it. What gives? Did the taboo of prostitution, on top of the taboos of gay sex, adultery and drug use, push the activity even further from Haggard's regular life, and make it seem more distant and unconnected from his Good Clean Christian life? Or did he think that by paying a professional he was buying discretion? I'd imagine a prostitute who outs johns doesn't stay in business long. Maybe the prostitute needed real courage to speak up; he may have ended his career, such as it was.

On a totally unrelated note, my parents tell me they had a poetry reading evening service at their church and it went over remarkably well. Our church did the same for the Sunday Morning service recently, and it was a delight. It's interesting to me that people are grooving on poetry, they're doing it in groups, and they're doing it at church.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rebuild!

I know most people who read this blog wouldn't know how to even begin caring about the forthcoming four-movie remake of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the anime nerd touchstone that combined giant robots with undigested nouvelle vague antics a decade or so ago, but lemmee just say this...

The people who made the original show are making the new movies. I'm interested in seeing what they come up with because it'll be an interesting measure of their growth as artists and as people. Put simply, they made the original show because they wanted to do something artistically ambitious, and they half-succeeded. Their collective reach exceeded their grasp, but it was so evident that they were reaching in directions that popular anime usually never considered reaching. Other anime series and films proceeded to reach in those directions, resulting in a burst of creativity, formal innovation, and blending of personal expression with pop entertainment (not that none of this happened in anime before, but now it seemed like more anime creators than ever before were deliberately striving to expand the possibilities of anime).

So Eva's influence is more important than its accomplishment as a thing-in-itself. Will they reach further? Will they grasp that for which they reach? We'll find out...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Big Bad

Someone (don't remember who, and a cursory Google doesn't help)said that when watching horror movies viewers identify with both Red Riding Hood and the wolf. That's part of why I love movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its first sequel. I find plenty to identify with in both the victims and the sick, sad family they go up against. Ever since I spent a year working for Stanley Steemer, going into peoples' homes and, y'know, dealing with a diverse array of people, many of them cracked or curdled, I completely identify with the protaganists going into the home of Leatherface et al. But I also identify with Leatherface, a sad, lonely, mentally deficient hillbilly who ain't been raised right. And I related to the barbeque chef who seems okay until you get to know him, a man who wants to fit in with decent people, but also wants to eat them.

Spiders like Bugs

I saw Spiderbaby last night (yeah, for Valentine's Day. What more commentary do you need on my love life? VD is a phoney holiday anyway, whipped up by merchants for their own sakes, not ours, but it still serves as an interestingly high pressure referendum on everybody's love lives. I tried for love a little while back but I'm not ready... it's largely a matter of arrested development. I used to mock my buddy and college roommate Matthew for his skirt-chasing, but while I was hanging back and learning nothing about relationships, he was learning by doing. Now he's all happily married and such. There are teenagers who know more about the delicate art of sharing lives than I do. The semi-hermit life is bunk and I'm chucking it just ASAP).

Oh yeah, Spiderbaby. It's awesome. It's like The Addam's Family or The Munsters, except it doesn't flinch from the darker possibilities of such a scenario. It lopes along amusingly for about an hour, then in the last twenty minutes it builds to a frenzy. I really respond to stories of normal folks entering the lair of humanity's screwups; Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a prime example (I almost wrote "prime cut") and this is another. "You should hate her!"

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy

It's the Virginia Sister's Birthday! Let's wish her a happy one.

I finally joined the 21st century and got a Netflix account. I may never go outside again. Whether I want to see a three-strip Technicolor musical, a cheezy European vampire flick, or an impenetrable art movie, my wish is their command.

When I'm not trying to figure out what inscrutable Chilean director Raul Ruiz is getting at, I'm cleaning my apartment. Anyone who's experienced the Grey Gardens decor of my crib-sized crib will appreciate what a lifestyle shift this represents. I'm serious about this endeavor. It's time to have an apartment I can feel comfortable sharing with others. The mess was so bad it was like a keep-out sign, and I don't want to keep people out anymore.

Also, I'm in a cabaret. I play Howard Dean, and my whole schtick with it can be summarized in my line "When has the Democratic Party ever let you down?" I sing a little, do a little transitional stuff, and otherwise sit back and enjoy.

Don't have time to dig any deeper; just didn't want the blog to get too dusty!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cut Up.

A three-song lyric cutup:

you, grind you, don't know what
We can make to you
You movin' much with me
Please sing tomorrow's song
Never grace
Hear the thunder right there, made glow is long now
In the sidestreet but it seems taking
So many plans my mind completely
Please day long
While we you just don't the wheel, but my breath
Hit me know
Winds of change past due

Morning glow on my back up?
Baby boy, make know you can't startin' to believe on me deep come
Or is it the difference of morning glow
Starts to with me
Please leave, Hard, make me down
Stop staring please go now
Now much pain
When the
Now the world whole land through
Morning liked you, tried get my groove
Is just another shower? just can't prove
Take revolutionary falls from glow is long you asked me
Grabbed leave, just go breath
Bring the noise, all you're worth
We'll me


Two things I just go away
Before breath
Bring the noise, Why won't my in the right can't find you


I'm glow, I'd like protection
So put it of the night
Will I can already that I'm way Can you keep be so strong
But to give affection?
You're where believing you this hour
So long?
Now and I need me lose my get tha steppin'
here
At last!
baby now I past
Morning glow is rain
Not too many ghosts are waking
So deep when you a man and to help you just another shower?
by your light to
Now you wanna bright
And the phantoms a partna that and shine for
Now I see be present at Hah)
Can you keep got me
Gave you Hah)


I put it morning glow all many hours from you boo, so tryin' to give mama teach you make me lose facts that I'm you to get fade into the half way and started long ago

So, make me lose staring down at at the ground
I and his wife
Are the floor


Not too nothing's sacred anymore hear your tune
Calling you can't drive hour
So long?
The storm something's moving
Look around, can practically see grow


We should have is still
When ancient hands stop shaking
When up?
Baby boy, make need making
I think away
Before I lose it easy for I lose my is too much now it's very all the earth meets me only you
Walls are tumbling you
Moved so fast the new day have a clue
Didn't act like ya comes
Or is it I will

Morning glow, swim
Need a lifeguard many steps need door
You'll still be could satisfy me, to do
After I lose my (Hah faith looking new
Morning me across the knew we could are set to glimmer when you past due

Oh, morning leave, just go don't like when mind completely
Just leave, an adolescent
It ain direction

OOOh
You understand the lose my Hah done everything that me lose my again
Not enough pleasure
Too so slow like blow
And sweep this almost here
Morning glow come through
All them me out so in your brain
Not your face
And another breaking down your my breath
Hit me world is too Hard, make me you
All that talk enough sunshine
Too much lies like you the storm has I tryin' to clear


Morning glow is fill the earth
Come too much for like it can't
When the demon's the birth
Of old hours from this room
When the world look around
All around I will
I think

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Silm-Oh Really?-on

Warning: the title of this post is a laboured joke that only unreconstructable fantasy nerds will get. I'm not even a Tolkien fan... Mervyn Peake, please.

Anyhow, I just wanted to say in my defense that I didn't buy the DND Cartoon DVD box set about which I posted yesterday in the naive belief that I would enjoy these cartoons in the way I did as a child. This wasn't about reliving childhood pleasures, but trying to figure out how those childhood pleasures shaped me. I think the distinction is crucial, but Gygax don't care; the check cashes the same either way.

Another, vaguely related point: the stuff I post about on the blog isn't usually what's foremost on my mind, and I suspect that's pretty common. Vanity websites like this seem to be more like backyard playgrounds than bully pulpits for some of us. Today I'm not thinking about DND cartoons; I'm thinking about the Virginia Sister. But I'm posting about the DND Cartoon. Go figure.

A few years back our college Dungeon Master (that's a Dungeons and Dragons referee, not a dominatrix) became a father, and almost immediately he was busily constructing an exaustive website about the history of our old games. Character sheets, everything. I can dig it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fantasy olde and new

Okay, everybody hates the cutups, so I'll talk about the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon Dr. Brain (I'm assuming) wants to hear about.

This mid-Eighties cartoon was a highlight of my weekends once. It's a pretty good example of something one sees in community theatre all the time: people of varying degrees of talent and good will getting together and trying to create something splendid despite not having enough time, resources and in some cases ability to consistantly make it work. Which is to say, sometimes it's really good on many levels. It's never utterly bad, it's never utterly good.

I suspect this show had a subtle effect on my sense of reality. Not because it had dragons and all those fantasy tropes, but because from shot to shot the characters look different. They are identifiably the same, but they look different. From one shot to the next Sheila the thief (for example) will have a slightly different hairdo, her eyes will change shape, her costume will be more or less detailed... there's little visual consistancy. When I was a kid I went through a long, troubled Philip K. Dickish gnostic phase of questioning the reality of all my sense perceptions, and I think this cartoon slightly encouraged that. I remember being frustrated that Sheila (on whom I had a little-boy crush) didn't look as pretty from shot to shot, and it gave me a sense that reality was shifting like unstable ground beneath me. The fact that I let cartoons shape and mishape my sense of reality speaks volumes about my semi-aphasic approach to life.

Here is an article about a rather more rewarding fantasy item: The Hobbit as riffed on (rather than merely adapted) by two extremely clever contemporary cartoonists. I'm more familiar with Marc Bell than the other guy, and I have no reservations about declaring Bell to be one of the most important people in comics today. In his comics landscapes become people, people become landscapes, individuals flow into one another and into the land, and it's impossible to draw clear boundaries between them all; it's a detailed animist fantasy that does my heart good. Plus it's funny.