Sunday, August 30, 2009

Crazy Nazi Killers Run Loose In France

Few things in life feel quite like taking down an enemy. And not just taking them down, but doing it with style and brutality. It's what separates us from the dolphins. Revenge. Now, suppose that enemy is a common enemy to the entire world? That feels even more satisfying. The Nazis fit that description. Pol Pot and company don't even give the world the same feelings as the Nazis. Knowing that, it's no surprise that Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds did so well at the box office. Who doesn't like to see Nazi's beat to death with baseball bats and scalped?

This is not Tarantino's best movie. It is, however, a cinematic delight. A wet dream ending in ejaculatory fire. There's only one problem: not enough Basterds.

Anyone going to see this is going to see the Basterds do their thing. You get to see a little of that, but nowhere near enough. Instead, viewers are immersed in a story that didn't have to be there. The actors on screen are captivating, and the music is familiar to Tarantino fans, so this isn't that big of a problem, but viewers want to see heads bashed in. They want their cultural revenge, and the film's climax just doesn't satisfy that urge.

I saw this film opening weekend at Eureka's Broadway Cinema. I sent out a text to all my friends (which apparently never went out as I learned after the show). The sound quality in both theatres showing it was atrocious. (Celebrity Watchdog George Anthony Watson questioned a cinema employee on this and was informed that the sound was that way because that's the way "QT" wanted it. No, dumbass, you minimum wagers can't run a theatre.) At the end of the show I heard something I hadn't heard in quite some time: clapping. People were satisfied despite the lack of basterding. (And for the critics who said this was "torture porn," a term I hate as it is lazy and thoroughly inaccurate, you were way off base. This was not that violent, though I wish it would've been. The violence, when it came, was memorable, however.) That was a good feeling. I think Tarantino would've been happy to hear that.

As of this weekend, the Bear Jew and the Jew Hunter have dropped to number two in the box office. I imagine that once the film hits DVD (with what I hope is a lot of the dropped scenes, as it was painfully obvious stuff was missing) it will be the number sale and rental of the week. Maybe a couple of weeks. There is Oscar buzz, too, which really doesn't mean shit, but it's nice to know someone is paying attention.

And all of this from a film where there was quite a bit of subtitles. That's usually a box office killer since people don't like to "read" their movies. It made no discernible difference here, and it added to the immersion.

Tarantino has said he will give up filmmaking when he turns sixty. That could obviously change, but if that is the case, this film will rank up there as one of his most accomplished. I don't know if any other director can make that claim about a movie that is thought of as so violent and in some cases "wrong." None. For that, Tarantino should be proud.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Those Wacky Asians

Start talking about extreme cinema, and eventually the path turns to Japan. You've got Living Hell, the Guinea Pig series, Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts, Audition ... need I go on? The French may do disturbing like no one's business, but the Japanese just take things one step further than anyone thought possible. Watch Mermaid in a Manhole and tell me different.

I believe the French do disturbing so well because that culture really understands the artistic power of film. Cinema is viewed as a form of art and is treated that way. When you are a filmmaker in a culture that holds the medium in which you work in such high regard, you have to passionately study what works. If you are making a horror film, you want it to be horrific. You need to know what works.

Japan is different.

Japanese culture is a lot like American culture in some respects. It is as repressive as it is extreme. When people are repressed, yet artistically free, you see those repressive aspects of society come out in the art. Japan has also looked to America for much of its film heritage. It should be no surprise then, that when a Japanese director decides to do a horror film (or full-on exploitation flick) that it takes the mainstays of the genre and ratchet them up a few notches. It's not enough that the mermaid oozes multi-colored pus. That pus is then used to paint pictures of her as she dies. It's not enough to torture someone with a stun gun. That gun has to be forced into a man's mouth and turned on over a filling.

When a society is repressed, the artistic spirit eventually comes out one way or another. In Japan you have graphic comics, vending machines dispensing soiled panties, and film. It seems hard to believe that a society that still operates on shame could do something Kichiku with its heads blown halfway off in gruesome detail, but it actually makes perfect sense. This is how that oppression from repression works its way out. The culture's fascination with American films guarantees they can pull it off. The only ironic thing is that the Japanese films aren't bigger here in America.

These theories also go a long way to explaining the Canadians ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as many of you know, was only screened for a handful of critics who could be relied upon by the studio to give a good review. As a film critic, I want to thank the studio for sparing many of my peers from having to watch what can only be considered dreck based simply on the trailer. This film is the reason I don't review mainstream cinema.

Back when I first started writing for Film Threat I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing the big studio pictures. I declined for several reasons, all of which continue to be true. The first reason was that I don't like many mainstream films. They do what they do fine (for the most part), but to quote Suicidal Tendencies, I want more. The second reason, and this is even more important, is that these films get enough press as it is, and if I'm reviewing something like G.I. Joe, I'm not reviewing The Dysfunctional Book Club (a film I just reviewed). My review of Iron Man ain't gonna matter one bit, but I may actually be able to get something like Hacks new viewers. (Which, by the way, is exactly what I did.)

Back to the Joes. When a studio doesn't screen a film for critics it should be a red flag to viewers (many of whom will see it anyway). This flag screams, "We have no confidence in this film!" That should tell potential viewers everything right there. If the studio has no confidence in a film, why should you spend your money on it? The answer is: You shouldn't. When a studio does such a thing I just wants to get the biggest opening weekend possible, without any negative reviews, and then hope the picture recoups money overseas and on DVD. It's a ploy that has too many variables to actually determine a success rate, but it is worth noting as to why it is used.

Many people, some of them my friends, will see this film regardless of the studio's confidence level in it. They'll complain it was crap, and I'll toss off a snide remark or two. Worse, they may be apologists for it saying the usual things. "The story sucked, but the effects were awesome." You know those lines. You've heard them before and may have even said them.

It's the Joes. People are going to see it. I just think it's ridiculous so many people are so eager to prove they are suckers.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

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Broadway Revisited

As you can see by the comment on the previous post, the Broadway theatre here in Eureka, California continues to have its problems. That doesn't bode well for about the three remaining movies I want to see this summer.