Sunday, May 22, 2011

Something Obscene for Your Viewing Pleasure

Fans of independent publishing know the names Barney Rosset, Grove Press and Evergreen Review.  Part pornography, part poetry, part politics, these publishing venues and the man behind them were at the forefront of the anti-censorship movement for some time before it all went to hell.  There were wiretaps, court cases, bombings, financial hardships and failed relationships along the way, but Rosset stood tall and tried to rise above.  He was a man with a mission, and that mission was to bring the works he enjoyed into the public eye. 

 Obscene is a documentary that takes Rosset from boyhood to AARP status, and it doesn't flinch from any of the less-than-savory aspects of the publisher's life.  While he may be canonized as the man who brought Samuel Beckett to the forefront, he'll also be remembered as the man who wouldn't take a Jewish wife and was vocal about it.

Grove and Evergreen Review brought names like Ginsberg, Burroughs, Che Guevara and others into the culture, often with a fight.  If it wasn't for Rosset, however, we most likely wouldn't have some of those creators' later works (and nor we would have all those Guevara shirts).  Rosset, who fought hypocrisy every step of the way, thought it was important to get these names and works out there, and he was right.  This documentary proves it.

Watching this film is an education in censorship, civil disobedience and the methods our government will use to suppress dissenting opinion.  It may open some eyes, or may just serve as  little more than preaching to the choir.  Either way it is a fascinating, important film that documents a time in history that can't be replicated today as anything and everything is just a click away and the art of dissent is now nothing more than fodder for YouTube.  It's nice to have a film, however, to remind us of how we got here, for better or worse, in the first place.

Mandatory Obscene FTC Disclaimer: I did receive this film free for review purposes.  Clicking on a link in it may get me a small commission, which I shall use to purchase pornography.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The House of the Devil

I do enjoy horror movies centering around real or supposed "Satanism."  Not the Satanism of the Church of Satan, which is fascinating in its own right, but the movie kind.  You know, seemingly "normal" people (often senior citizens) engaging in dark arts meant to bring about something evil through a ritual of some sort.  The movies pretty much follow the same pattern, but it's a pattern that works.

Enter the 2009 The House of the Devil.

This film looks like an '80s horror movie.  From hairstyles to cinematography, everything about it screams that it was made when Back to the Future was on everyone's mind.  It's an effect that feels both out of place and perfectly at home at the same time.  Even the plot feels like you've seen it before ... because you have.

A babysitter takes a job under strange circumstances at a strange house inhabited by strange people.  She then finds herself part of a Satanic (again, movie Satan) ritual during an eclipse.  The end has the usual "surprise" awaiting viewers.  It's the same plot that's been used before, but it feels kind different because there hasn't really been a movie like this in quite some time.  Granted, there have been other movies dealing with similar themes recently (The Last Exorcism, for example), but they all look modern.  Director/writer Ti West understands what people who grew up with horror movies in the '80s remember and love, and he faithfully reproduces it here.  It is unapologetic, too.  It doesn't make social commentary.  It isn't cynical.  It follows the formula to the proverbial "T," and that makes it work.

I saw this movie over a month ago and I keep revisiting it mentally.  Dissecting it; thinking about why it works so well.  I streamed it over Netflix and had some issues with lag here and there, but stuck with it, and am thoroughly glad I did.  While I usually like my films darker, I can appreciate exactly what West did here.  Rarely do you find a director who sets out to do something and pulls it off without a hitch.  Watch this, and if you don't think you're watching something from the '80s, well, you never watched a horror movie from that time period.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not receive this movie for free.  Click on a link will possibly earn me a commission.  Hiring babysitters will usually cause bloodshed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Hangover Part 2: More Hangy Overness

I put off watching The Hangover for a long time.  It looked utterly stupid, and the recommendations I was getting didn't help its case.  Then one night I caught a scene on cable (naked Asian guy jumping from the trunk of a car), and realized I was the one being a moron here.  I love naked Asian men!  This was a movie I had to see.

So I watched it ... several times.  And while it is not my favorite film comedy of all time (that title goes to Caddyshack), it ranks right up there, primarily due to Alan (Zack Galifianakis).  That character, who lives in his own little world, is perfect.  The odd things he says and the way he says them (the Jonas Brothers reference, the Wolfpack speech) make that character brilliant.  (Anyone who knows me should not be surprised by this.)

Sequels usually don't impress me much.  I will be giving this one a shot.  The Hangover Part 2, due out later this month, is going to do extremely well at the box office.  I'm glad Mel Gibson isn't in it.  (Between making Jesus porn, ranting against the Jews, calling women "Sugar Tits" and threatening women he screws, his star appeal is pretty much lost on me.  He's kind of become the Morton Downey, Jr. of the acting world.)  I'm very much looking forward to this one ... I just hope it doesn't disappoint, which it could, and since it was such a huge hit the potential for colossal disappointment looms over it like a pregnant storm cloud.

There are several ways this film could go wrong.  Seeing Ken Jeong back in it is, I would surmise, a bad sign.  (As much as I love naked Asian men, this needs other naked Asian men ... perhaps wrestling or something.)  If the character can return in a way that makes sense, I'm all for it.  Yes, it's a small world, but it ain't that small.  To just randomly run into this character again says, "Fans loved him the first time.  They'll love him this time, too, regardless of whether or not his appearance makes sense."  Revisiting the same storyline and gags from the first one (something very tempting to do in a comedy -- what worked once will work again) would also be a problem.

I'm reserving judgment, though.  I'll go see it.  It will get my money.  I will probably laugh.  If this gets fucked up, though, I won't be around for a third trip with the Wolfpack.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on one of my affiliate links could earn me a small commission, allowing me to buy drugs to dose my male friends and do fun stuff with them.