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.