Thursday, July 11, 2013

This Time For Real: Is Superman Jesus Christ?

On my last post, I received a personal note, not posted, asking if I was ever going to approach the actual question: Is Superman Jesus Christ?

In the last post, I attempted to compare Man Of Steel with the film The Passion Of The Christ, thinking that was sufficient. Apparently not, and here I am trying to make sense of that which was previously ranted. I am fine with that, if I am not clear that is on me, the writer, not you, the reader.

For the record, though, that only goes so far. If I make every effort to be clear and fail, well… maybe it is me, maybe it is not.  So be it, world without end, selah.

Short answer: no. From this point on, “tl:dr” may apply. I have no intention of backing down, but some are pressed for time, the web is full of all manner of entertainment anomalies and this is but one of many. There is a finite amount of time in human existence, and frankly, yes, I understand that there are more important things to do; at least, in the lives of others. Film is my mad passion, and I am a total pop culture junky. So, as Heath said: Here we go…

Cultural icons, regardless of their initial intent and origin, have a subconscious impact. This is the point in which a character (we are all characters in our own story) becomes an archetype. I won’t go on about the archetype, see Jung and his acolyte Joseph Campbell. Be that as it may, these certain icons resonate; they have a lasting impact on the social mindset, the cultural subconscious. The Hero does indeed have a thousand faces. The point is to recall that the faces are similar but not the same.

The Hero Christ, then, aka Jesus of Nazareth, has a massive impact, the One True God brought to physical existence, the Word made flesh. That statement, even should one prefer to not agree with it for whatever personal religious or psychological reasons, is so loaded with memes and subtexts that there is literally no way to eliminate it from the discourse of the planet. Yes, there are others that are similar… and those echoes remain, too.

The Hero Kal-El, aka Clark Kent but known as Superman, has his own rather remarkable impact. A strange being from another planet lands here, on Earth, but more importantly, in the United States, a land made from immigrant influxes over the decades prior to his appearance in 1938. Similar to the Hero Christ, he is with us, among us but no matter how many differing ways we approach them, they are (quoting Peter Gabriel) Not One OF Us.

They are different. As such, they are often misunderstood (cf: their individual stories) and sometimes feared for a variety of reasons.

Christ is The Savior, the Way that is not the way (Tao Te Ching), the only hope of avoiding eternal damnation. Kal-El can act as a savior, but more in terms of a fireman or policeman; Just doing my job, folks. These things may appear to be the same, but are not: Christ is the Metaphysical Savior, the one on the other side of the current physical existence, the one that will intercede during the Final Judgment. Kal-El zooms in, saves your ass and zooms out. There is no Judgment, Final or otherwise, within the realm of the actions of Kal-El.

Both are, to be sure, possessed of remarkable talents, gifts and/or abilities that allow them to move within the mob and do some pretty cool things: water into wine, crush coal into a diamond, walk on water and fly unaided. These things, again, appear to be the same, but are not. The Hero Christ does these things to prepare for his Message, to underscore the circumstance of His existence. Kal-El is, frankly, just able to do things the rest of us cannot, and does them to help us, save us and sometimes just to show off (albeit usually for a charitable event of some kind). Both are without preening self-aggrandizement, but there is nothing showy about the Hero Christ; Everything is laden with meaning, rich in metaphor and worthy of contemplation for them that are so inclined. Kal-El… not so much, but interesting nonetheless; He is the Ultimate Boy Scout, after all, and doing good is its own reward.

Close, but not exact.

The Hero Christ is the Messiah, predicted from Ages Old and is to lead his followers, even unto Him becoming King Of Kings on a real, return to Earth after the End Days manner. The Hero Kal-El has had a number of interesting mutations/evolutions over the last 75 years, though, and in the last couple of decades his accident of birth and relocation has started to carry the notion of Kal-El serving as a form of leader. At this writing, the term “leader” would have to be adjusted, more to the understanding of the present author: He is a Guide.

Of all of the permutations of the character Kal-El, it is the notion of him being a “leader” that is most interesting. He is not a leader of any way, shape or form, at least not in the sense that, say, another Hero, Captain America, is a leader. The Hero Captain America is an actual military leader (his name is also his rank in the United States Army). He has seen combat, lead others into combat and has no problem in calling out orders. In some ways, Kal-El appears to be that way, but if a closer inspection is done on the stories in which he is part of a team/group effort, he will take point and take charge if no one else is willing to do so, but usually, in the overall scheme of things, he tends to be the moral center rather than the locus of strategic thought. The position of authority is often held by others, but as he is such a moral center his statements of blunt fact are often misunderstood as being commands.

Kal-El is an example, and he is aware of that. He has to live up to a standard that is virtually impossible to meet, but it is his unstated goal. He is to guide us, not lead us, a man who is not one of us, but invites us into his life, special and powerful, he accepts us and merely asks the same. Being a true Man’s Man (regardless of his odd accoutrements, bounding about in his jimmies), he is a form of the Hero John Wayne. Respect is given freely, a steadfast course is held regardless of circumstance but understanding that a course change may need to be made. Unlike the Hero John Wayne, Kal-El, like the Hero Christ, makes a permanent habit of turning the other cheek. Disrespect can be ignored… to a point. The Hero Christ becomes enraged and chases the lenders from the temple, Kal-El will stop those that harm others at almost any cost.

In Man Of Steel, Kal-El is forced, at the end, to make a moral choice. If he lives by his normal, high code, the story has to end one way, but the results are going to be catastrophic to every living creature and being on his adopted home planet. If he crosses an impossible line, one that cannot be forgotten or self-forgiven, the planet itself is no longer under threat, but the cost to him, the Hero Kal-El, would be catastrophic.

What does a Hero do when they are forced with the possibility of breaking their own moral code? This question is at the core of Man Of Steel, it is the foundation and basis of the need for the film, why we, as a viewing audience, need this film and need it now.

We live in a world that is, while we watch, literally and figuratively, collapsing. While it is true that current events are nothing with which we as a global community would be unfamiliar, there is, indeed, nothing new under the sun, but are seeing, possibly, for the first time in human history, as a global community, that which is at the end of every fork. The social structures from one area to another seem to be toppling, or at the best rotting from within. The religious upheaval, regardless of name, that is currently boiling over is unprecedented. (Pope Francis aka Pope Frank is becoming the Hero Peter, for example. I am shocked that at this point he has not come out doing a full on Michael Douglas impression: Greed, for lack of a better word, is STILL A MORTAL SIN! KNOCK IT OFF!!)

The Hero Kal-El, by the end of Man Of Steel has not become the Savior of all mankind. He did his job, and wants to go home, now, thank you, to do his other job, live a life and be ready if ever needed again. It is here that the differences between the Hero Kal-El and the Hero Bruce Wayne, known as Batman, are the most striking. Batman does patrols, occasionally works himself so hard that his loved ones worry about his health, mental and physical. Kal-El wants to live among us, be one of us and play his other, more mundane role of Average Human. He is not, and he knows it, but it is the part, the archetype that he wants most.

So, if you skipped to this point after seeing “tl:dr” then, no, Superman is NOT Jesus Christ. They just look similar enough to cause confusion between one and the other, because everything Superman lacks, Jesus Christ has in abundance.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jesus Christ and Superman: The Passion Of The Man Of Steel

Music is my passion; film is that maddening dominatrix that haunts my subconscious, tormenting unto yea the very end of days.

Reasons: Told at early age that the sounds emitted in vain attempts to join into a chorus that the action I performed could not be referred to as "singing" by rule of law in a five state area. Either I never told my parents, they weren't listening or maybe it was they that advised me of this, merely the first among many. (Literally: there was a posted ordinance for about a week. I was shunned.) Instruments were chosen but frankly that takes a lot of focus, which I had in abundance (if not totally useless because the filters eliminating useless effluvia of the mass psyche transmission devices), they were expensive, people expected results, dammit and there were none forthcoming.

I could play a radio. Parents got me an AM/FM transistor job, about nine inches square and two inches deep, bright blue it was, and made of the same heavy grade plastic used in a lot of cars. Could (and did) sustain high impacts without noticeable damage and continued with its basic function, infecting my mind on an hourly basis for several days at a time with every conceivable piece of music in the pop music ether. One hit wonders, massive operatic pieces, movie and Broadway hits, country and TV and novelty, sometimes even spoken word, and that not merely comedy.

The two most memorable of these spoken word recordings for me was, first,  The Americans by Canadian newsman Byron MacGregor, a smooth velvet voice reasonable as a quiet demand but powerful enough to bear some emotional impact. Hear my words, his voice said, feel the meaning. The words themselves were a Godsend to anyone that lived within the three county area of Wayne/Oakland/Macomb. It never approached pity, neither sent nor received, but a damned fine Thanks, Neighbor. Ranters of this era would do well to pay heed.

The second is often mislabeled as comedy, mostly due to the performer and, well, he was an inherently funny guy, this being Red Skelton's Pledge Of Allegiance by one Mr. Red Skelton, Hoosier state native and a huge childhood hero. (Many nights my Grandma McDonald and I would watch TV. Red was a never miss, we both loved him.)

Having said that..

Headline: Are Jesus Christ And Superman The Same Person?

No, seriously. This madness is so far beyond merely entertaining as to merit attention. Look, ma; the critics are frothing!

I would like, first, to address the three main argument within existing criticism of the film Man Of Steel.

The very first thing that immediately leapt out to me while reading the critical communities' reviews (professional and fan), was the first criticism with which I must strenuously take issue. There are critics and fanboys who gave the film an overall negative response, and the basis seemed to be consistently the same. Sadly, then, with so many of this mindset, if you believe, wrote or so mush as thought this, you and I have no to discuss. Ever.

"It sucks because, you know, Zack Snyder."

The above is in quotation marks as it is a direct quote. As this comment, and several alternate statements that match the above in one form or another, became a meme unto itself ([Whatever thing attached to topic of derision] + plus [derogatory] because you know [topic of derision]) and I am utterly offended at the inclusion of Mr. Snyder in such territory.

Seriously? Sadly, yes: some commenters have gone so far and stooped so low as to saying there is not one single work in Snyder's overall filmography that is worthy of positive attention. Emphasis added, or not, and here I have no intent to cite sources, the internet is itself common knowledge and connection enough for a simple copy and paste and search on Man Of Steel Zack Snyder reviews. Have at it, if you wish: go ahead, wander far and wee from these words before you, seek and search, then return and call me out should there be verifiable evidence somewhere in the universe that proves me wrong. I will wait.

(These words may not be here by the time you get back. The internet is a ticking clock waiting for its own alarm, then silence shall reign. Men will go mad, women panicked and children sacrificed, blood omens all.)

This mindless lock step comment/willful spreading of the meme has been applied to any artist of any value. It is, as mentioned, a meme. The problem is the long term effects of this meme, this mental infection from a word, notion or image. Once this foul slogan is attached to any artist, the artist can be reduced to a footnote in less than a decade, cf: career of Brendan Fraser, a superbly talented actor in drama and comedy, has a powerful presence and has had every film he has been in virtually reduced to nothingness.

Film, you see, is more than an mere art form. It is, indeed, communicating with lightning. The earliest incarnations of film (as it is called), was the Zoetrope, a spinning circular device, with a series of images drawn on the interior, with slotted holes equidistant one from the other. The device would be pushed and it would spin; at the exact correct speed, the images appeared to come to life. Inherent in the every iteration of every filmic art is the Flicker. The Flicker is the foundation, the great I AM of film editing. Now you see it, now, you don't. It is the Darkness we see but do not perceive that unites us.

Films are audience driven. As an art form, the best means of experiencing this form is in an acoustically perfect chamber on the largest possible screen and with a few hundred similarly minded people, all under the hope that this entertainment will be worthy.

The meme, then, suggests that the gathering will, prior to first viewing, be ready and willing to pan it unseen as garbage, because, you know, [whatever] sucks. The critical community as a whole has gone soft, soft in the belief in Film, out of touch with the Flicker In The Dark Chamber and terrified of the collective limited use of the written media in regards to self-expression. We are all, as once said, merely chained and can only see dancing shadows on the wall.

The current filmography of Zack Snyder is as follows:

The Dawn Of The Dead
Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole
Sucker Punch
Man Of Steel

Prior to the above, he did release a documentary short Playground and a video of Morrissey Oye Esteban!

His first feature length film, the remake of George A. Romero's The Dawn Of The Dead. That film was released in 2004.

Now: Picture it. You want to make movies for a living. You have a short documentary and a video out there. The studio says, hey, we want to hire you to make a movie... and here lies a momentary supposition. I have always suspected that the studio representative said something like the following:

:fade in:
Studio Executive: So, Mr. Zack Snyder. Right? Didn't mispronounce anything, right? (Grins and cocks head, waiting for the laugh and then) Good, may I call you Zack? Okay, Zack, let's get to brass tacks, the bottom line. The studio has taken an interest in you, and we'd like to try you out, doing a low budget remake of a low budget horror film. Think you would like to do that? No, wait: Sorry, whole deal is this, you shoot it on time and on budget, better if below budgets, and we'll sign you on for other projects, okay? Oh, and before you answer, the movie? The one we want from you?  Something called The Dawn Of The Dead, some kind of horror film from about 20-30 years ago, we have the rights cheap, the original director was some kind of Pennsylvania recluse name Romero? Name mean anything to you?

(The Studio Executive stops and stares unwaveringly, as if the coke spoon hit him in both eyes simultaneously, he does not blink, he does not move, he is actually looking for a response.)
:fade out:

Anyway, that is how I prefer to imagine it. His first film was a studio backed remake of one of the horror communities most sacred of cows, a massive dynamic nightmare that rocked our little world that carried echoes lo! even unto the next generation. One of the most revered directors that focused on the horror genre and made all of his films as low budget and local as possible.  Then, about at that time, the meme made its first ugly appearance in my life...

"The remake sucks because, you know, Romero hasn't made a good movie since the second living dead." The "second living dead" film being the one Snyder was to remake.

Now, no one as I recall made any serious effort to say that Romero's entire filmography sucked because, you know, Romero, but I always ignored that as I had the certain knowledge that there are enough die hard Romero fans as to cause a widespread Ethernet lynching should someone attempt to suggest such a thing. Flame attempts met handily with a tsunami of response: Oh, say thee, sirrah, nay. Nay. Back thine words with thine fists, arise! Damn You! Arise!!

But there was splash effect onto Snyder. Enough in the horror community came out with overly harsh terminology (because everyone reads Hate Criticism: I hated your movie. Hated it. Hated it. Hated it.) that some twinges were made via cerebellum tattoos and earworms. Now, again, for the record, hating a film on its own merits, fine. Discussing those merits or lack of same, fine.

Slamming it in advance of screening? Sad, lazy and frankly, a form of ignorance that is matched only by the arrogance of those attacking.

Snyder's career, which should have flourished from the start was hindered by a preconceptive meme. Seeds in the collective lawn, social crabgrass.

Leave the rest of his work aside for the moment, though. Is Superman Jesus Christ in this film, or not? 

See, that is the point of my review. The pairing of topics with which I am comfortable discussing at length, overall experience, understanding... you know: a review of a film.


No exceptions. The work must be examined for its own merits.

Having said that, then, the second point of contention that I have to respond, and these reviews are readily available on many good film review sites, both professional and fan base. That criticism?

There is a notable lack of content in all of his films and the characters are always too weak.

For Man Of Steel, then, as a film (while I feel a massive embolism a-borning), should first and foremost be openly compared to the last depiction of the life of Christ that was intended for a mass market was Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ.

To be most open minded, liberal if you must, let us look to the films, as film, each as to its most overriding story arc, character, images and sound. Content is not important here. Do these films compare?

Yes, and most favorably.

Gibson (see tirade above) did not get to see his intended work on the screen. His original intention was to release The Passion Of The Christ, using the original languages, Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin, and no subtitles.

None. Ever, anywhere: no subtitles.

The film was intended to be a calling out. Is there anyone here who has no familiarity with this story? Anyone? Anyone?

How does Man Of Steel compare?

Having seen both films, I feel it safe to say that if all of the dialogue in Man Of Steel be removed and replaced by a language not of this Earth, the two films have the same most basic impact. The structure is sound enough to tell the tale with no dialogue at all. We as a global human entity knew this story, Superman being one of the three most recognizable fictional characters on the planet; the film was released to mark Superman's 75th Anniversary. Born in 1938, just like my dad (he used to remind me of that, and now, I tell my kids), and Action #1 has a Jun-Jul on the cover, dad was born on Flag Day, June 14th....

...the same day Man Of Steel was released 75 years later. That leads to the annoying sidebar that follows.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! Okay, that was late, but I hope you recall that I did call you on your birthday. You weren't too steady on your feet after having been toasted, from the sounds of it, during The Epic Pub Crawl Of The Retired. Your exact words, as I recall, were something along the lines of everyone seemed to think you needed a toast, and you had been pretty well toasted before we spoke.

Love it. No, I am not being mean: LOVE IT! That's me da, see: off on an Epic Pub Crawl at 75 by God years, Hope I can do that... eventually. Pub crawl, that is: never did one. Would love it if it could be timed with a bunch of local acts in various places and we cab everywhere. Video everything. Vegas be damned, This Is My Life And Hang On. We write our own mythology in this family, and ours is mostly Comedy. End sidebar.

Back to the point at hand, though: the characters are ... not strong enough? Right, okay, we know them all, we all have points of admiration and points of eye rolling cringe induction. Not here, though. Each character is fleshed out and reduced in the script to the point of immediate recognition, then brought to breathing life by one of the best casts assembled for this kind of film. Seriously, is there a wrong moment in any of the performances? AND WHAT PERFORMANCES!! It is a "given" that a super hero/comic book movie is only as good as the villain, and somewhere God is smiling, the villain was Michael Shannon doing that intense Michael Shannon thing, bringing a life to Zod that has not been seen since Terrance Stamp in Superman II. Which, btw, is a massive amount of praise IMHO, I loved Stamp and I loved Shannon.

The response then, is: how much character development do we need for characters that have existed in the global collective sub and not so subconscious for three fourths of a century? Yes, there was a form of shorthand used, but seriously, again: did you not know these people? Were you not shocked and pleased to see that a Pulitizer Prize winning reporter behave like, you know, a reporter? Parents acting like parents on Earth, and like hard core political warriors on Krypton?

Third, and least of the three responses here, is the sense that there is something visually dull about the film, something intangible but very present that prevents the full emersion into the work itself.

This quibble on my part is a matter of taste, and would dearly love to hear an extended discussion from folks that knew the nuts and bolts mechanics, the Pay No Attention To Us Behind The Curtain folks that really know the actual physical process.

The print I saw was apparently fine, but hard to determine as a late coming group required my Scout Law training that I offer my seat to a lady (present), child or the infirmed (present). So, I was in the second row center, about 20 feet away from the screen (what is that? 6 metres?) making Laurence Fishburn (one of many, many reasons for me to see anything, period) appear to have a chin that stretched, according to my depth lack of perception, over most of the North American continent. Egad. Neck pain, cold... but still...

The closeness showed off a lot of grain. Some would find this distracting, thinking it something wrong with the actual visual image, when it is a matter of the film being shot via a chemical process involving light, silver and alchemy or a box that reported every existing 1 and 0 in the known universe. It was a film, not a digitally shot film, a film shot on film. Interesting choice for a story that frankly demands a certain largesse in terms of special effects. Snyder has no problem using digital camerawork, and that technology has served him well. The producer, Christopher Nolan, has a long public history of deriding the digital camera, refusing to make movies unless there is the alchemy present, the attempt to speak in lightning and keeping the Old Ways intact.

The effects, so often the most over and under praised focus of film as art, are in Man Of Steel special in the most awe inspiring meaning of the term "special." There are many visual moments in this film that are extensively and excessively massive that appear to actually be happening. You'll believe that a man can fly. You'll believe that a man can bend steel in his bare hands. This is, after all, bitch whine moan or complain, the story of a "strange being from another planet." At its core, at is very center, thematically and visually, this man is Not One Of Us. He is loved and reared among us. His planet was all dead, planet crumbled and Superman just kept moving on, forget Krypton and keep going."  (Crash Test Dummies, from "Spuerman's Song" on the album The Ghosts That Haunt Me.)

The main difference between The Passion Of The Christ and Man Of Steel is the answer to the question: What makes a Hero heroic? Both films have the same answer: nothing, for they are but men, if exceptional men, but men all the same. We can aspire to the greatness within, we can expect the scourge and the heroes among us will rise and lead the way. We can follow, get out of their way or make our own path.

Is Superman Jesus? Are they the same man? Regardless of the deliberate attempt by some to willfully have us think that, no they are not. They are two separate things, but they resonate, create a harmony. Does Superman kill, does Jesus stand as our Advocate during Judgment? These are two separate myths, the myths that give our lives emotional depth and satisfaction. We write our own myths in my family, and ours are mostly funny. Heroes can laugh, and can make us laugh, but their primary purpose is to inspire thought and excite to action.

The Ultimate Film Trio at this time, then, Comic Book Movie Genre, is, in order of viewing, as follows:

Captain America
Man Of Steel

Just reading those titles, you can feel the vibration: Superhero: The Movie Part I Unbreakable Part II Captain America Part III Man Of Steel.

Some things are right just because they are. This film is one of those things.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dark night, open road, Mellon Collie And The Infite Sadness: Or the night we met Lester Bangs

Picture it: Christmas; homestead, high school daughter, middle school son and elementary school son, the three and three only, apples of my eyes and lights of my heart. Gifts passed on, usually forgotten for the most part but many remain as Ultimate Bonding Moments. Bonding moments: the ever lasting effect of parent and child on both parties simultaneously; everybody grows in this moment.

My eldest was a bit of a Pumpkinhead. I guess that is what the Terminal Overload Fanatic Baseline would call themselves, like Deadheads to The Dead. Not a total over the cliff dive into Jonestown Kool-Aid level, but at least someone that picked up on something ephemeral, some vibrations that resonated deeper than others. I had that moment with the same band, the track Disarm from Siamese Dream. So, I was aware of them, but not as much as she was, but she was reared to understand that Goodness Abound Over Here, the passing of the sacred whisper amongst The Chosen Few, the Insiders With Backstage News, and mentioned them on occasions, with attention to some form of Allard Shorthand English that meant, high marks, interesting and you may find something you like.

ASH is the language we speak. All families have their own shorthand, brief comments that speak volumes about a shared experience allowing for a quantum leap in conversational logic and performance.

There was a rumble from the Pumpkinhead Underground of the soon to be leased follow up album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. I was aware of this. ASH speak daughter, "dad somethings coming." ASH speak father, "understood."

At the time, I was working for a small company involved in the design, production, manufacture and distribution for a series of products, of the primary components to make the stuff meant we worked in a warehouse full of nothing but chemicals. Wee tiny bottles for a literal pinch of this or fifty-five gallon drums for a metric fuckton of that. I did the shipping and receiving department, which being the sole employee guaranteed me with little to do and all day to do it during any slow down. So, being paid to be bored is not my style so I obsessively and compulsively made certain that it was spotless (easy than you'd think, mostly a sweep a week was enough) and as close to a huge Skinner Box Maze as possible. When three industrial strength shiny shelving arrived I was told to assemble it to be used exclusively for certain products. I got the dimensions and plotted out a place accessible, safe and simple that also fit into the Maze already in progress.

One never finishes building a maze, I found. Logistically it can be a nightmare unless you are of the mindset that then next factor must be in the original plans based on choices made. Something I learned in about a week: I was actually forced to sit down and re-read The Dramatic Imagination by Robert Edmond Jones.

About that book: it is the only book one needs to understand interior design.

Traffic patterns were the key. All I needed to redesign the maze was total of staff at maximum, and basic job title on occasion to fine tune something. Many of the staff used the company shipping for their own personal bulk mail; management knew about it, and for the most part made it understood it could be used for personal reasons by the staff with approval, which I never heard denied. Regardless: a shipment that needed to be in Chicago by 3:00 PM that day, and no one could make that same day delivery date, so off I went in the boss' Bronco, yippee ki yay, off to the south side of Chicago I went.

Radio. Heading into Chi, reading the signs, found a Rock 'n' Roll station, tuned in and added a soundtrack to a long drive DJ'd by a faceless voice somewhere out in the ether. Different era, different times: the DJ announced that while the Pumpkins next album was being prepared little or nothing was being discussed (including the title). There was, though, a single from that album, which I heard that moment and at least five more times before the end of the day.

Review: Bullet With Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins.

I-80/90 east bound, into the sun I drove, the hour difference in time making a suicidal Gumball Rally race scene into a more comfortable into and out of the City Second To None. DJ announced, new single. ASH: daughter comment. Yeah, okay: does this thing go to 11? Check bass and treble levels during DJ babble, all okay, traffic low, crank this mutha up and do it like we did it back in the Motor City: Kick out the jams, muthafuggahs!!!

And nearly drove off the road.

Billy Corgan, vocalist, performer and bass player; pretty much front man. "The world is a vampire." Just naked, out there. Then, before the heart and mind can connect, entire the thunder of a thousand souls stomping in rhythm because Kiss My Big White Irish Ass, there is no reason, there is no issue or event; just naked. Imagine if someone were to use the useless Great Boondoggle Of South Bend for a performance of the best marching bands in the area to choreograph this piece, a military dance moment that will bring Glee and be Pitch Perfect.

Then Billy, after "The world is a vampire" then "set to drain. Secret destroyers hold you up to the flames." The band and Billy are entering the center stage of my brain here. The production is freaking genius. Here, the term "freaking" is meant in the 60's vein, as in freaking out, or Freak Out! which was an LP by Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention. Over here this band is saying got a message for you. Might want to pay attention. ASH daughter, here I am, paying attention.

"And what do I get, for my pain? Betrayed desires *Billy sneaking in a sneer, then back to the Mister Serious artist voice* and a piece of the game. " The band, not in the background, but behind, standing (from the sounds of it) as if they were tired of that guy out there and wanted a good hearty Here I Rock moment of their own... except this is not any moment of contention within the band (like Fleetwood Mac during Rumours), this was a collection of musicians that wanted to play their instruments as if failing to due so would cause (or maybe prevent) Armageddon. Then Billy doing the nasal thing he does to annoy my generation (seriously, Dude? Have a couple of your own!) but not annoying; no, no, this sounded like... could it be, could it be happening as I am listening??

Yep. Kiss My Big White Irish, by Jesus and Glory Halleluiah, it is the Second Coming Of Iggy And The Stooges. Chi is not Detroit, but never did we question the music from there. They knew us and we knew them and during the decade of the sixties, no other region inspired more people to pick up an instrument and just blast it out. I was all over in Detroit tri-county megalopolis, and we all knew that yeah, we created Punk, shipped it out as rock 'n' roll singles and then waited for the explosion. John Sinclair, where are you? I got questions, dammit!

Then: "Even though I know - I suppose I'll show
All my cool and cold - like old Job."

Holy Crap, he brought out the Old Testament! Seriously? I heard that Bible reference and sat the hell up all "YES SIR! NO MA'AM!" Throughout, the band is Right There, approaching full boil, maximum r 'n' b, is that ... is that The WHO? No, ah... but yes. Yes! YES! YES!!!!"

The Who instead of The Stooges with Iggy instead of Pete or Roger. Then they howled. At once, unison harmonic imbalance The Watusi The Twist and sonuvabitch, someone from my daughter's generation (if only via the media as collective soundtrack) the entire band decided to grab my balls and hammer crush while demanding that I listen and if I dare, join in.

"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage."

Holy Mary Mother Of Jesus, tap the Elixir Keg and get out the Fatted Ambrosia, it is social orgasm time, the happy ecstatic release of collective instantaneous joy and rage and hate and pain and God Damn You Listen To Me I Am Pissed And I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore and fists in the arm and jumping.

Overall response for the TLDR pinheads: Wuz gud.

Flash forward. CD comes out, I buy it for my daughter. We go to Battle Creek for the Christensen (and other, unimportant social unworthies) Christmas Orgy.  This n that n tother thing, nothing film worthy for entertainment and torture. Wife gave me a wee CD player, two speakers and cigarette lighter plug. Cool, I like it, retro and current at the same time. Perfect to the vehicle, 1978 Dodge Aspen four door, maroon in color, standard 6 cylinder, dependable mostly as a reference for timelines. Barb got a present from her uncle Ralph, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, her second copy of the day. She glanced at me, we locked eyes, I made a bright smile and a nod. Non-verbal ASH; daughter smiled like she meant it and did, and thanked them because the album was on her wishlist for that year. She expressed what I perceived as an honest reenactment of her initial response. We both had to leave early, hopped into the Aspen and drove home. While I was plugging in the CD player for the first time, virgin use, she was getting out the CD. Asked: What do I do with the other copy? Answered: Keep it or this one, I'll take the other and I will buy you something else as well.

We played the discs.

When we got home, the second disc had finished. We were rather stunned at first, this was a massive, sprawling monster mess, gutbucket but slick production, no piece of the human condition unexamined in one form or another, a massive massive Grand Opus that vaulted past Masterpiece (conveying here the original sense, look, I am one of you... Yep, the kid fits!") into Moment Defining Entire Work Of An Album That Would Survive A Plane Crash! If the band had collectively died in a group masturbatory action that required the potential and eventual of death by asphyxiation, their place was secure. Here is one for the vaults, the Must Have, Must Share album that really needs more attention.

Oh. And the CD player just died. Stopped, shorted out, the magic grasshoppers chasing each other on a tiny wheel or however the hell these things work (a lot of the laser technology physics confused the hell of me!) but the damned thing just ceased to function. Blah. I said, as I recall, something like, Great, what do I tell your mom? It played a pair of discs one time and then failed.

Then my daughter said, "Rather poetic, though. Right?"

This is where we met Lester Bangs. Played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous, some of the old legends returned to me. I read Circus because it was a studio rag promoting whoever was The Next Big Thing or the latest from The Reigning Kings. Bangs wrote for Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine.

Boy Howdy. Okay? Boy Freaking HOWDY!

Bangs wrote with the mad passion of the lover possessed by a succubus, sweating and heaving in throes of ecstatic memory implant and forcing himself onward, ever onward, faster, harder, louder: "Detroit Michigan is the place to be!" Uncle Ted said that.

Bangs breathed fire, he ejaculated and he redefined the extant of how far someone can push their own boundaries, full on Man On A Soapbox Howling Into A Hurricane Holy Man, praise Jesus, glory, glory hallelujah.


Follow your bliss, if you seek balance. Move with gentle goodness, bring in all possible sources, never stopping for there is no end in this road if done properly.

If you are tired, weary and brokenhearted, though, broke down and heavy laden, well, that bliss is going to look different. That bliss has a requirement, to go, to seek and do, active in all ways, bringing forward the moment when all hearts beat as one, and the room is full of wild and happy souls, jumping and rejoicing in unison and harmony. And when you find this, this rock 'n' roll fantasy, and it removes the pain and brings its own gain then you must bring it to the table. Let everyone in on it, 'cuz when it is good it moves mountains!

March, if you feel the need. Gather and weep, laugh and heal. Whatever. Burst forth into song, find a way to make someone smile or laugh. Push aside the bounds enforced upon us all in the Global Skinner Box Corporation. Let it out, bring it out, and let the chips fall where they may.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

This, then, is the future

Greetings and hallucinations,

Please allow me to introduce myself: I am a man as any other, of no special talent or gift. I have but words, and words, especially in English, are often appropriated for desires not in the original intent.

Cosmic, for example; groovy, for another.

Be that as it may, please enter herein, and reply to the results of your own experiences.

The Movie Microfest

In a world wildly chasing its own hyperkinetic backside, information overload and an internet tsunami, the notion of tuning out and cocooning has its own long-term positive results.

The movies: no less than two, no more than three. There must be a reason for the films shown and their starting times.

The audience must always be taken into account. The more the merrier, so if Aunt Quimsbreath should arrive ever so fashionably unannounced or invited along with Father Bumgardner and the angelic Downs soul all at the same time, maybe not a good time for a horror fest.

At the very least, hold the chainsaws and Sheri Moon.

Make of that comment what you will, and I mean it in the sense of great respect and low intention of dealing with crazy angry people.

Anyway.... The time honored tradition of the Film Festival is near its end, I'm afraid. The only ones now are people trying to get them made, and the cost of attendance for optimum pleasure ruling out the majority of the populace of the United States. Once, though, there was The Film Festival. Several works would be pulled together for a public showing. Often, big blockbusters with a proven financial track record would be re-released, a habit made into a monetary addiction as if cash was heroin and meth combined could be instantly granted with just pulling out previous movies and tossing them out as perfected by W. Elias D.

Gone With The Wind and The Ten Commandments were very popular when they were first released, and at a certain time, they would be re-released. Best and fastest investments were on sure thing by the sure thing artist, with a company that did its own marketing and had its own distribution line.

Recently, the Cinemark chain is moving in this direction. I have had the unique pleasure of seeing Chinatown and Lawrence Of Arabia on grand, wide screen, digitally cleaned and sound checked. 

The real gripe I have is that there is desperate need for a large gathering of humans to be in the dark and entranced by the illusion of motion on screen before them.

This leads to something very similar to the mixtape community. Various folks from a wide/wildly interesting collections of backgrounds will go to a place and say, in essence or in simple exact words: Here is a list of songs I like in the order I like and I can explain it or not pending your personal level of tolerance for the Fanboy Tirade, similar to a Fillibuster and easier to stop.

Baseball bats work fine, I'm told. All I know is that something smacked me upside the head and morning came suddenly with a blinding headache.

Film festivals were ways for colleges and their students to make a little extra money and have some fun as well. Important Films Of Great Societal Import were shown (usually by the university film, theater or TV students) alongside works that were made to go BOO and move on.

The Microfest should be local. You, two other people, but only people that, at first, you know well. No less than two movies to be seen, no more than three. Must be cool, great, amazing, hip, hep, hot, chill, evil mean wicked bad and nasty. The good ones: The Good Shit. The OH HELL YEAH films.

Tonight, I sat up a Microfest. I will be in attendance, obviously, but none other. Maybe later...

Regardless, here are the first three films I will be showing at my wee fest:

The Conversation, the film Francis Ford Coppola made between the first two Godfather films. It stars Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Harrison Ford and Cindy Williams. Sheer brilliance, showing that FFC did indeed know his stuff. Literally, a masterpiece that inspired a second masterpiece bookending a third, totally different masterpiece. Tone, performances, story: this is not the Corleone Saga, it is stand alone and brilliant. (If the next film is a NO for you, then I would here suggest as an alternate film Enemy Of The State, which has an almost perfect storyline that suggests that it is an actual sequel to The Conversation, but isn't. Will Smith is really rather good, and Hackman shows up as Not The Same Character At All, Oh No Really.)

THX1138 by some guy named George Lucas. Fella showed a lot of promise, whatever became of him? And yes, for the record, I mean it. As a director, IMHO, Lucas directed two, and two only at this time, films that are even remotely worth a damn. THX1138, obviously, is one of those. This particular film, however, came in a gaudy dual disc packaging scheme, thinking that any Fan Of Old Lucas (or FOOLs) would have some kind of spasm, rush out in a mad panic suggesting personal best getting on Darwin's list. Which did not happen with me. Nope. When I walked into a shop that was selling off donated goods, finding it in near mint condition? Okay, then, I am as bad as any Star Wars Franchise Sorry Sell Outs, maybe worse because I am a snob besides.

Watching the original two picks, as indicated, allows for a coffee klatsch, wine tasting, whatever I just know I am sleeping on the floor here tonight kind of bull session. It is the use of sound, by the way, more than anything else, that makes me want to see them back-to-back. Also, early films by directors who apparently have lost their way and need to call their muses back. Miss you guys! (Oh, the only other watchable Lucas film? American Graffiti. What else?) Watching the alternate film, the theme is so perfectly interlaced between the films that it does look for all the world as a sequel, but with Will Smith as the lead, and Gene Hackman playing Harry Not Caul.

Falling Down. After THX1138. This combination allows for a totally different interpretation of THX and makes one of the rare Grand Slam films of Joel Schumacher. (8mm is my favorite.) Dehumanization, alienation and the worlds polar shift to 33 1/3ยบ off kilter, these two are warped, strange visions from a land far far away and in a reality most people have never considered.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Cabin In The Woods, Stanley Kubrick and the greatest horror film ever made

To begin: a critic writes reviews. To review, one must begin by being a purist; the word itself is based on "view" meaning "to look," and is modified by the prefix "re-" which indicates a repetition, in this case the word means "to look again." The critic is the one that looks again, and the greatest are looking again, more closely, rather than the vast majority of merely clever satirists telling the tale on the screen in print form. Often this sin is combined with operating a language under false pretenses, suggesting that the charming, sardonic and oh so clever writer could have made a better film.

The critic tells about how the work functions, delving into the nuts and bolts, the craftsman being separated from the master, and masters into artists.

On the strangest of occasion, popular taste somehow collides with art and the critics, aware that there is more than just another product onscreen, often are so disconnected with their higher calling that they forget to approach the work in the manner that it both deserves and, but more, important needs. To herald a work of art that just happens to be wildly entertaining and is digging its own place in the collective subconscious is a rare privilege. It is the reason that the critic is so vital, so important to the artist community that the casual indifference to the art of film as an art form that is still vital, still growing.

This brings us to The Cabin In The Woods.

This remarkable film has made a huge impact, but only in the specific genre community that exists to support the best the genre has to offer. It is the fan base that keeps this genre alive. The allegedly "critical community" has time and again failed to understand the great value of the societal underpinning for the need of Story and the place of Story in the greater community as a whole.

Deconstructing Cabin will be done later. What is of vital importance, the most important thing of all, is that it is not only a technical masterpiece but a powerful work of dramatic art that is so rich in text, subtext and context that it really should be called that which it is: The Best Film Of That Year. Bar none. Everything else needed to be compared to it, what it did, how it did it and why its importance is infinitely beyond the mere return on an investment.

The Cabin In The Woods is often mistaken for being a comedy. Truth will out, of course that mistake is easy to understand, but mostly because The Best Script Of That Year. Period. The dialog snaps, machine-gunning the plot forward so fast that any holes are considered mere collateral damage. The plot is structured so tightly it threatens to burst at every scene change yet manages to cling to a roller coaster swerve and proceed forward. The pacing is brilliant.

The Best Editing Of That Year is so evident in that, for the most part, it is subtle, almost invisible. When the story dictates a shift in motion and pace, the editing does not hammer at the eye, but acts as an immediate assist to the overall story.

The Best Sound Editing Of That Year is one to which most genre fans will not catch. Because the film takes place in several different places, but only really focuses on two separate scenes, shown in The Best Set Design Of That Year (or is that best visual design?). A granite bunker that holds a sense of Dr. Strangelove on one hand and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the other... and this is where Stanley Kubrick pops up for the first time.

At its core, at its most basic, The Cabin In The Woods is not only a grand good time for genre fans, but a deeper underpinning exists of a future technology that is for the most part current, only one notable exception. There is a sense of the supernatural, of course, and the film's title indicates a knowledge of other Urban vs. Rural mindset as well as a direct and open nod to The Evil Dead. This heavy plot lifting from Evil Dead is not a mere copy, but shows a deeper, Jungian understanding of what the genre is and does. This, and the previously mentioned Kubrick references, is a stronger, deeper occult (hidden) subtext.

The Cabin In The Woods, it is saying, is not the greatest horror film ever made. It is a loving tribute to the genre and its masters and mistresses, touching base if only for a brief moment on as manner of the great films by the greatest filmmakers ever.

It does not shy away from cultures other than its county of origin. In fact, it touches on as many different cultures and their greatest moments in the genre as possible.

This does take us back to Kubrick, because any film that pretended to focus on the great works by the greatest craftsman could not possibly exist in any way, shape or form without at least a nod to Kubrick.

It just isn't done, old boy. Never. Sorry.

So, seeing several nods to the two films mentioned before, that was interesting. After all, it is a horror film, in the genre and being a nod to the greatest ever, why pick a non-horror Kubrick? The Shining is the greatest horror film ever....


Maybe: I think not. But maybe.

In The Cabin, there is the brief scene of the technology that does not exist. Strangely, this has shown up in many other genres, the Wonka Glass Elevator and the Slatafartabarst underground tunnel. Here, though, we see the Magic Elevator, and each stop is like a station of the Unholy Cross. Even the cause of the story, where it veers off from its obvious choices, shows a mangled character holding a ball puzzle. (Nice shout out to Clive Barker and co.) From this brief moment, the hidden is revealed. (Mystery = that which is revealed. Let us now declare the Mystery (the revealed truth) of our Faith.) Mystery solved... and then a series of wild and inescapable events transpires... ending in a blood bath in the Kubrick clean halls....

Which is loaded with elevator doors... seeing the aftermath is like being in Kubrick's Overlook hotel, after the elevator doors flooded the halls with blood.

Okay. Major nod to Stanley. Cudos, again and again...

At 1:16:19, the last gory Kubrick elevator door opens. The bloodied (and congealing bloodied) doors part, and there is darkness. Slowly, from the darkness comes a trio of figures, one male and two female. They are well dressed, and all have a kind of Kabuki mask.

So... are we seeing The Shining being offered as the greatest horror ever made? Or is it more to the notion that a Satanic Ritual is afoot, which is what the basis of the story is, after all? Young Playthings is not really a horror film, and that was the first visual reference that came to mind, but as they slowly move from dark to light, into and out of focus, slowly... after the explosion of gore and violence, it is languid, sensual...

It is here, then that the point must be made: the reason we as a movie going populace often miss out on a Kubrick film, or one attempting to truly follow that master's path, is that we no longer know how to go back, to look again, to see past hype and generational enforcement of context.

Eyes Wide Shut is the greatest horror film ever made. If it had not been for the brilliant work of The Cabin In The Woods I would have missed that interpretation entirely and forever.

One last serious praise for The Best Film Of That Year The Cabin In The Woods. It appears to be comedic on the surface. The dialog, as mentioned, crackles with a vibrancy that belongs more in a screwball comedy, and the sharp retorts are indeed witty. Wit and humor are compensation means, and the more pronounced the paranoia and/or mental instability of the Joker, the more ill at ease the Joker actually is.

Seeing the Joker, the Stoner, The Midnight Toker facing down the living dead and hacking it to pieces while under the influence of Thompson Legend Levels Of Drugs would have defeated the purpose of the film. Watching the reaction of The Final Girl, her shock and repulsion, only to have the Joker, wide eyed and staring, quip, "Yeah I had to kill him with a trowel..." suggests that the funny isn't; the deeper distress and horror are still there. The difference is if one sees it with an audience, merely imagines one or is totally shut off from all others distractions and become immersed into The Best Screenplay Of That Year. Then the comedy is more harsh, a little too sharp to be just a throw away gag.

Stay tuned for the eventual review of Eyes Wide Shut.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Roger And Gene, together again

My love/hate relationship with the critic Roger Ebert is now at an end. He is finally free of the pain, free of the suffering. For that freedom, and nothing more, I am glad his life is over. None should have to deal with that for a moment, let alone struggle against it for as long as he did.

Be that as it may, my love of film has always been paramount. ( * oh... pun ... sorry *) Watching Gene and Roger commit acts of television and attempts at criticism was always entertaining, but Gene was My Boy, the One That Understood. Roger was the blustery one, the one that caused my eyes to roll so often that the mention of his name made the vision blur, a trained response, B. F. Skinner proven right. Again.

My first encounter with Roger was the printing of his criticism of Night Of The Living Dead, reprinted in Reader's Digest. Then, as now, that piece is totally misunderstood: Roger, disliking horror, leaned toward a slam, but not so much as the notion that parents would drop off the kids at a film that is, without debate, too adult for pre-teens, possibly too adult for most adults.

His review looked beyond the screen into the audience. He noted the absence of adults, the plethora of children and the grue and gore supplied 24 frames per second. I have often wondered if it was more the children being brutalized than the film itself that so turned him against my genre of preference. He really could not write anything positive about horror from that point on.

So be it: selah.

I did not encounter his writing again for several decades, but did see him on TV with Gene. There, on the PBS version (aka The Only One I Really Liked), the two did a special program on Films You Missed But Should Seek Out. During the course of that particular show the two went on at some length about a little film called Miracle Mile. As relentless a thriller as possible, the performances are sheer joy, the writing is taut, the imagery brilliant.

Already a fan of the show, it then became an institution at Chez Allard. Never to be missed.

When first I began to purchase DVD's, making the slow turn from tape to digital medium, one of the first three DVD's to make their way into my home was the brilliant Dark City. I had read nothing of the film, there seemed to be a media blackout, but the images in the trailer were stunning, and the director, Alex Proyas, had made The Crow, which I rather enjoyed.

On that disc, in the extras, was the original Ebert review. It was in the reading of that review that I developed a massive respect for the man and his talents, not merely because ( * ahem * ) I agreed with every word, which I did, but more, much more, was the constant echoing inside me... "Wish I had written that."

When he was good, he was the best we had. He now is gone, and our contradictory views of much that makes film an art is now no longer important.

Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Note in a bottle

Bouncing thoughts

James Allard
8:13 AM (0 minutes ago)

to Scot, Rick, Pete, Nancy, Jennifer, Dean, Doowad, Elijah, Al, Craig, Eliot, Funky, Todd, Ken, Texas, DJ, Kyle, RetroJoe, Susan, Starkiller
Of late, the man Kubrick has been nudging at my inner place.
"I hear you knocking..." "Can't you hear me knocking?" (Song lyrics, second from The Rolling Stones' song of the same title, my favorite of theirs in that it has a bizarre time signature shift half way through: the first from ... Nick Lowe? Maybe? "I hear you knocking..." is followed by "... but you can't come in."

I have often said that the paranoia of other humans is infinitely entertaining to me. Rabble babble madness creeps under the skin, however: paranoia is viral, very contagious and possibly lethal to the healthy working of the rational mind.
While an undergraduate, Timothy Leary was doing his internship in a psychiatric hospital, a repository for the truly mad, mad by the Romantic standards. Visions grand and hallowed invisible choirs were the marked signs. These 20th Century afflicted came bound, normally accompanied by their beloved family. While studying the Mad Jung, Leary encountered the Followers Of The Box, the interns worshiping at the altar of B. F. Skinner.
Skinner's Control Method, btw, was a required incoming freshman course, complete with laboratory torment of rodentia, at Western Michigan University. I had that course. I know Skinner, and the evil he brought from the depths of Hell itself. Subliminal seduction, when institutionalized, creates a populace fully prepared to surrender any liberty, any freedom simply for the everlasting quest for The Reward.
Back to the American Asylum in which we've left the soon to be (then defrocked) Good Doctor Tim, then...
Leary via Jung felt that the soul of man was expressed in the mind. The broken mind can, indeed, cause irreparable damage to the body, but first one had to make certain that the soul was not damaged. If the psyche (Greek for soul, not mind) was made right, then the patient can see how their mind has been broken and can apply that to a happy, healthy life. One day, as the tale is unwound 'round many a Lodge Fire, Doctor Tim overheard a Skinnerist discussing a certain amount of improvement in the most difficult cases. The Skinner Method was to withhold a certain quantity of food when the patient mentioned the Sights And Sounds Of The Ether Spheres, and eventually the Event Unseen became mentioned less and less. The Skinnerist is alleged to have said aloud in public, "If they let me cut off their rationals completely, I'd be able to reduce the number to zero." He was referring to the reduction of mentions of Unseen Events. Leary overheard this statement, and is said to have spoken thus:
"There is one time that was used as treatment, and that was by the Nazis."
Maybe. Maybe not. I prefer to not answer, as the answer may unintentionally incriminate myself.
Make of that as you will...
There is more to your philosophy, Horatio, than Heaven and Hell." -- WS (or someone else, it matters not)
So, have seen several documentaries about Kubrick of late, most from the extras on the DVD/Blu-ray. From there, thought, I caught wind of a project called Room 237, a collection of theories about the Actual True For Real Unquestioned Because I Posted It On The Internet And It Must Therefore Be True Deeper Philosophical Meaning And Making Of The Film The Shining.
That primed the pump.
2001: The Alchemy, a tale in four parts that explains it all for you!
Part the first: Birth Of Consciousness
Part the second: Chaos, Order, Control
Part the third: Loss
Part the Fourth: Awareness At Birth

I suspect that a properly made film of The Celestine Prophecy, a grand hoot of an adventure novel buried eyeball deep in all manner of esoteric philosophic and religious studies, would be better if it followed this indicated pattern. Mostly due to the fact that the book, in terms of its storyline, structure and meaning are in that four part pattern, and for lack of a better description, mirrors the themes as I identified them this fine, fine morning.
R.S.V.P.  Anything... thoughts? Songs? Stories?
For the love of Christ, somebody talk to me! I need the intellectual and spiritual stimulation each of you provide in your own unique manner.
Thank you.