Friday, July 31, 2009

Humboldt County Theatres Are Run By Morons For Morons

I took my daughter to see the first showing of Aliens in the Attic today. We saw it at the Broadway Cinema (part of the Coming Attractions mini-Empire) here in Humboldt County. It's a nice theatre, but it seems to employ morons and attract the same thing.

The film, for what it is worth, was far better than I expected. That's not what this is about, though. This is about what happens when someone can't run a projector and other people feel the need to comment about it.

When the trailers started, the image wasn't centered correctly so you had two halves of the film playing at the top and bottom of the screen with a large black space in the middle. It was fairly obvious what had happened, and while the projectionist attempted to get it right he or she (most likely a he) was having a fuck all time doing it.

People were fairly quiet at first. Then they started. "I wonder what's happening?" "Do you think they know it's broke?" "Who keeps fixing it?" "Maybe it needs to warm up." I could live with those remarks, as dumb as they were. However, when the movie started and it still wasn't fixed, I heard something that made me want to stab.

The woman seated next to my daughter, commenting that the beginning of the film was still split on the screen, said to her friend, "They must have put in the widescreen version."

"Why?" the friend asked. I would've asked, "What the fuck kind of drugs are you on you half-wit?"

"Because when I accidentally get widescreen movies I get the same black bar, but because mine is a DVD it is at the bottom of the screen not the middle. Should we tell them they have the widescreen in for a fullscreen movie?"

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

This woman looked beyond child-bearing age, though I imagine at some point a child vomited forth from her drooling vagina. How anyone could let someone that dumb breed is not the scariest of thoughts, though. What terrified me was that she was still breathing because I doubt this was the first time something so profanely stupid fell from her gaped mouth.

If I had a knife ...

The film never got totally centered correctly. It was fine, but bad enough that I could see the mic in some shots. No biggie, though. As long as the woman two seats to my right didn't open up her trap again, I was fine. If she would, I would have to say something.

Luckily, for both of us, she didn't.

I can't have my daughter exposed to such nonsense. It ruins any kind of confidence she has in adults. It undermines her view of what a grown-up should and should not say. It takes her world and turns it upside down. Even she looked at me like the woman was off her nutter because my daughter, all of five years old, knows about widescreen. (We prefer our movies in widescreen in my home.)

Which all of this begs the question: Why would three women in their sixties and fifties come to a PG film for kids while not bringing any of their own with them? That's just weird, but maybe they wanted to see something they could understand and relate to on some level.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Something Witchy

The Manson Family. It's a film that is an acquired taste, and I know more people who hate it than like it. I'm not a huge fan of Manson and his followers, though I find the story fascinating. In the end, they're just hippies with a little more motivation. All things considered, though, I really like the film.

There is no narrative in the traditional sense of the word. What you watch is more of an experience (and may be best viewed on LSD). It's shot like a documentary (and has fooled people into believing they are watching actual footage of the family), and it has this almost anarchist glee about it. You can tell it's a labor of love and is definitely the product of vision and not committee. Thank God.

The above trailer doesn't actually do the film justice. To see it is to find out just how unexplainable it really is. There's a story set in the now and one set in the past. The one set in the past we all know (at least on some level or another), but the future one is pretty much just a device to tie it all together, and it shows how his followers have changed. (Most of the people I know now who are into Manson are not even close to hippies, who find the man most distasteful.) Now his followers are counter-culture miscreants that find more in common with punk and metal music than The Beatles.

My guess, and this is based on nothing more than a scant knowledge of the man, is that if Manson saw this he would like it. I've seen his interviews. He's either crazy or acting like it so he doesn't have to deal with the outside world. (As an aside, my ex-wife and I were once behind a caravan taking Manson to Pelican Bay. I joked that it was Manson and surmised busting him out in an elaborate car crash scheme. I didn't know it was him at the time, though, and good thing because I may have tried it. I later found out on the news that it was, indeed, him.) The Manson in this film comes across as nuts, but in a very workable way. The Manson we see now is just plain ol' nuts.

Once again a movie transcends form and leaves people either gaped mouth or scratching their heads. I've seen both reactions. I just happen to think it's a stylish bit of exploitation that never feels like exploitation. It also feels a bit forbidden.

Would you want anything less in a movie about Manson?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Horse Whisperer

If you've seen the film, the poster shown here either gives you chills or makes you say, "That documentary was not what I expected." That's a good thing.

By all definitions, Zoo would be a hard sell. A man dies after being screwed by a horse. The man was part of the U.S. government. He did this on a farm in Washington that catered to that sort of thing. This is a documentary about that man, only none of the real subjects are shown. After all, who appear on camera for this sort of thing? When you hear the description you can kind of only cringe ... except it's done almost poetically. It doesn't make excuses for it, but it also doesn't paint it to be the crime of the century.

I love documentaries. A good one can take even the most mundane subject and make it fascinating. They can be used as propaganda. They can call facts into question or mislead. When done right, they open your eyes to a world you either knew existed but didn't know much about or one you never knew was right under the surface. This film is probably going to be the latter for most of you.

I always knew people screwed animals or got screwed by them, but about a decade ago I was introduced to some people and publications that showed just how in-depth and organized that world truly is. Horses. Dogs. Monkeys. Dolphins. Zoophiles love every kind of animal imaginable, and the ones I dealt with seemed very respectable of their "lovers." (As an aside, I know of three people in Humboldt who have personally confessed to this sort of behavior. Two females. One male. Their counterparts? Two horses and a dog.) So while the documentary didn't show me a new aspect of society, it did shine a lot of light on the man who was fortunate enough to die doing what he loved.

The film's style is fascinating and worth watching for that alone. The subject matter is handled with nothing but respect. The story is nothing short of amazing. Yes, it is odd and definitely not something polite people talk about around the dinner table, but that is what makes it so important. These people exist. They work with you, serve your food, teach your kids, fill your cavities, date your son. Don't you think you should know more about them? See that maybe they aren't the deviant in a trenchcoat that you imagine.

Ignore it if you will, but I guarantee that if you watch it, it won't be anything like you expect.

Critical Success

Lately, as it tends to happen every few years, a few friends have stated that they think movie critics are pretentious and out of touch with what movie going audiences want to see. I've touched on this topic in my "Excess Hollywood" columns on Film Threat, but many of you may not have read those. As you can imagine, I disagree.

Yes, some critics are pretentious. Some doctors are bad. Some insurance salesmen rip you off. Some cops beat their wives. Every field has bad eggs, those who abuse power or get off on showing how smart they are. Being pretentious is not a requirement for the job, though.

Part of the misconception comes from the fact that critics and most movie going audiences are at odds with each other. Critics want to look at a film's place in cinema as art and entertainment. They want to see how it fits into film history, dissect it and see if it works by its own rules. They want to compare it to past films and see if it challenges the art form. General audiences want entertainment for the most part. General audiences made Kangaroo Jack a number one film.

When I talk to people about what they like in a film, I often get general answers. They point to "cool" special effects or one scene they really liked. They don't talk about the story, characters' values, its place in cinema or anything even remotely below the surface. They think explosions are cool, blood is awesome, and tits should be given Oscars. This is where the role of the critic steps in.

Film critics have to have a real passion for the art of cinema. They can't submit reviews that say, "This film rocked because the good guy kicked ass." It wouldn't fly. They have to do reviews that can be understood by both the mainstream audience who only wants blockbusters and the audience that demands a bit more from its viewing experience. A good critic will point out both the positive and negative in a film (or have to do a totally negative review in those circumstances where the film has nothing to offer). That's the role of the critic, and maybe that is why people don't like them.

Critics, because they see a lot of films (and believe me, that is not always as fun as it sounds), are less tolerant of scenes that have been done to death. They scorn those lines of dialogue they can see coming from a mile away. They loath standard endings. They, like any other moviegoer, want to be entertained and moved.

I've been accused of being pretentious. Often this is because I happen to like foreign films, which is a ridiculous charge. If anyone read my body of film critiques they would see that not only do I like some "high brow" foreign films, but also have a deep affection for exploitation films ... films the general audience often finds beneath it. To say I'm pretentious because I dare to take a film like Snow Dogs to task is beyond moronic. It's false. Flat out false. (And yes, while I have given that Cuba Gooding, Jr. epic a lot of flack, it doesn't make me some kind of film snob. I gave The Devil's Rejects all kinds of praise, too. That's pretty damn far from anything that can be considered high class.)

Critics of the critics can continue on their attacks. That's fine ... as long as they can justify them. When they can't, it's just pissing in the wind and puts them right on the same level of the pretentious critic they hate. Don't pay any attention to the critics if you think they are off base. That's your right. Just don't expect film lovers to take your opinion of a film seriously if all you can offer is, "It had a cool chase scene."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thanksgiving Is Coming

Eli Roth's Thanksgiving, which I have written about on this blog, is set to hit the silver screen. It may happen after his next flick, which will be PG-13. You can read about it here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Here There Be Asteroids

As I wrote on my other blog, 8 Bit Disasters, Asteroids is going to be a major motion picture. For those old enough to remember, this is an Atari arcade game of the most simplistic sort. It's a classic and there is no real storyline to it.

What this also is, is Hollywood thinking that video game fans will eat up almost anything remotely related to the entertainment form they love. I can only hope that's not true, as it will lead to sequels and even more fast food tie-ins.

This should not be a film. It should have never even been an idea. My guess is that a screenplay made the rounds that was your standard asteroids present a danger type thing, and someone got the grand idea to attach the video game title to it, not realizing that it just sank the picture. They eliminated part of the audience that would have seen the film had it not been named after a video game, and made video game fans like myself question the validity of doing such a film.

If there's a lesson to be learned here it is that Hollywood will stop at nothing to mine anything it thinks has even an ounce of gold. And if you know what asteroids are made of ...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Born On The Fourth Of July

I never saw the movie. The prospect of Tom Cruise in a wheelchair was quite appealing (still is, actually), but the idea of sitting through some heavy-handed Hollywood morality tale about Vietnam seems as beneficial as sitting through a drug treatment program run by Method Man. In other words, it's a joke.

Tomorrow is the fourth. Fireworks will burn their images into your corneas and I will think of Land of the Dead and how the zombies were hypnotized by the same fireworks exploding overhead. (Do you think George Romero was trying to say something?) You can call it freedom, but "freedom" is just another pretty word for consumerism in this country. You think you got freedom? Try asking a filmmaker about dealing with the MPAA. Try talking to adult filmmakers who always run the risk of prosecution no matter who is in the Oval Office.

And that's just for the movies. Let's not even get into the inherent sexism and racism of our predominant economic system.

So, yeah, Tom Cruise wheeling his bearded ass around while shouting the usual slogans never really appealed to me. I never bought into the myth. I like to think Maverick became Ron at some point, but I know that's not how it worked. Hollywood's version of a war protest is a fantasy that has little to do with real life. How can Hollywood even pretend to give lip service to that notion when it lets various arms of the government approve scripts in order to gain insight into their world? Talk about biting the hand that feeds ...

So on this Fourth of July, just say no to Hollywood and its fake morality. Instead, say yes to thinking for yourself and calling out hypocrisy when you see it.