Six Impossible Things

You know, I have often thought that if I put my mind to it I could, like the White Queen, believe six impossible things before breakfast. But there is no part of me that believes for one instant that someone actually made The Human Centipede. And I don’t mean that like, “Can you believe they did that?!” No, I actually cannot force my brain to accept the information. I do not believe the movie exists. Watching the trailer has done very little to sway me on this.

Frustrated!

Monday and Tuesday nights, Will and I went to bed at 8:30. I’m not saying we fell asleep right away (wink, wink), but we caught up on some much-needed rest. Wednesday night (that’s last night, lest I confuse anyone) we stayed up late (like 10:30) watching Observe and Report.

Here is my review: hilarious, slightly mean-spirited, no fucking rape scene omg I am so horrendously offended that anyone thinks that was rape, did I mention hilarious?

So back to sleep. Apparently we are not allowed to fill our sleep deficit for more than 48 hours, because last night SUCKED. So unfair. Today I feel like absolute crap. Both children woke up at like 3:30 in the morning and took forever to get back to sleep. Poor Will has been up ever since–at least I got back to sleep, though my neck is at such an angle today that I’m not sure it did me any good.

OTHER COMPLAINTS:

  • My sister has encountered the legendary Southern California flakiness, just as she was thinking she might have a job.
  • I made Sam cry twice today and feel like a rotten parent.
  • I am all touched out and wish both children would leave me the hell alone, which makes me feel even worse.
  • DID I MENTION MY NECK?
  • Amazon has not yet delivered my copy of Freefall. UPS claim they attempted delivery yesterday, but they didn’t leave a slip. GOD I HATE UPS. If you ever have to send me anything, please use the post office. Our mail carrier is the best.

I am trying to make Grace’s Halloween costume. I changed my mind and instead of Supergirl she is going to be Robin to Sam’s Batman. It is so obvious that I had a real facepalm moment when I realized. So I’m using this tutorial to make the top and the pattern instructions made me feel like a real moron but I think I made it work. (I didn’t have a onesie handy that I could actually take apart, so I attempted to trace one just by manipulating it and that may have been dumb.) If I can find my black felt I will make the Robin symbol (I bought yellow and I even know where it is!) and then I can sew the top together. I’m making pants too, to stand in for tights, but I already know how to make pants.

THEN I have to finish Sam’s costume. My mom bought this cape for him (she got Grace one too, but I’m making her one for Robin). He needs a cowl (yikes) and black leggins (everyone sells black jeggings, so I’ll probably have to make these) and a new t-shirt (which I thought I could buy but it’s not looking good so I might have to make that too) and a UTILITY BELT which I am super excited to make but not really sure how I will manage. Oh, and I am going to make some Bat-arangs.

Halloween is NEXT month, right?

Art: Serials

Before I get to today’s topic, won’t you take a moment to read my most recent Prudent Pantry columns? Last week I gave out the recipe for the Best Cookies Ever™ and this week I have 8 Ways To Eat Your Veggies, a response to a New York Times article on Americans’ relationship with vegetables (in short: we don’t eat them). Please read both! I really love writing them.

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On Saturday at the Republic Pictures Anniversary Event, we saw two episodes of the Zorro serial. It was tremendous fun and also really terrible. It was unquestionably art (remember, art can be bad) while at the same time not art at all.

As far as I can tell, having seen and listened to a variety of serials from Commando Cody (watch the series here) to The Adventures of Sam Spade (listen to the radio show here*) to Flash Gordon (listen here), the idea was to crank the episodes out quickly and cheaply, with very little regard to pesky things like story. In that way, they are most assuredly not art.

*Will and I borrowed the Sam Spade series on cassette from the library eleven years ago. He used to call me Effie. I think he stopped after we rented The Thin Man and he started calling me Nora.

But I think you can make art by mistake. (And really, it may be that the intention was art, but the execution says otherwise.) There is something in the ridiculous formula–hero and girl in peril, huge climax they can’t possibly escape from, next episode starts with them far away from the peril and no explanation of their escape, rinse and repeat–and the silly special effects that makes the adventure serials of the past rather darling today. They would certainly be almost impossible to recreate.

George Lucas has tried twice, with Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and I think he came pretty close to succeeding with Indiana Jones. Of course the movies are not serialized, but the atmosphere is similar, especially in Temple of Doom. The over-the-top villains, pretty girls, high stakes, and fantastical McGuffins certainly fit the formula.

With the vast array of web series right now, I’m hopeful that someone is making an adventure series in the style of the old serials right now and I just haven’t found it yet.

Art: Republic Pictures

Today we went to the Republic Pictures 75th Anniversary Event, which was pretty cool.

Well, actually. It was not cool at all. It was about 100 degrees. We lasted just two hours, and that’s with about 45 minutes in the air conditioned screening room (watching Zorro serials).

I think the event would have been a gazillion times more enjoyable for Sam if the trick horses hadn’t been too overheated to perform. Between the heat and a touch of boredom, he was ready to go pretty quickly. If only there had been more set up indoors instead of in the direct sun! But they couldn’t have known it would be this hot when they were planning.

Anyway. The event made me think about the studio it honored, which made a lot of westerns.

The oaters are (in my humble opinion) a large part of the reason people think they hate westerns. They were formulaic and compared to modern (like, 1960s forward) movies they look pretty bad. But I do love them! They were art not only in and of themselves (which I understand is arguable) but most of all because of what came after. Westerns were the template for movies in general! Three cheers for the western!

I will probably write a bit more about this for 200 Westerns. (That poor website is so neglected. I wish we knew just what to do with it. I love the concept so much! But a girl can only focus on so many projects at one time.)

I also have some things to say about serials. Tomorrow, perhaps!

Art: Film vs. Movie

Hi there. It is I, your absentee host. Did you enjoy my husband’s guest post? Of course you did, he is witty and entertaining.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I stand on the film vs. movie, horror as art thing.

I think any motion picture (see how I used a different term?) can be art, which is the crux of what Will and Katherine (and the other commenters) were discussing. And of course, while some are art, many are not. It is a good discussion. But I dislike the distinction of film vs. movie, and frankly think it is (if those of you who use it will forgive me) horseshit.

Film is a medium. It is, literally, the material on which one takes a picture.

Movies are pictures that move.

And I’m rather of the opinion that calling movies “films” makes you sound pretentious.

The end.

[/curmudgeon]

Art: A Night in the Loathesome October

This is a guest post by my husband, Will Klein, a.k.a. oslowe.

October is coming, and fast. As long time readers might recall (and especially them of you who followed me over from Livejournal), with October comes the Trailers to horror movies. One of the great things about movie trailers is that they can be good, bad , and totally awesome– often without revealing the actual merits (beyond budget) of the movies they are selling.

Well, don’t worry, I’ll be chronicling them again next month–hopefully not missing a week or so like I did last year.

But I bring this up because of a terrific post over at my pal Miss Twist’s blog about “movies” and “film”, and the whole “art” of the medium.

I wanted to bring it up in regards to Horror Films.

People who know me well–or at cocktail parties where the subject comes up–tend to be aware of my disgruntled reaction every Halloween when a number of “Best of” and “top ten” type lists about horror movies appear, and for some reason Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining always ends up on them.

I do not think it is a terribly scary movie. A well made movie, most definitely. A “film” even–quite probably. But it’s constant inclusion on these lists has long been a real aggravator for me.

And now, thanks to Miss Twist, I think I get it.

There is a kneejerk ghettoization of Horror Movies–because so many of them are Cheap, Sleazy and without any Redeeming Values–and it is, mostly, deserved. But then, name me a genre of movies where most of the examples AREN’T less than art?

My beloved Western genre–tons, and I mean literal tons of sub-par pre 40’s oaters were produced. Most of the Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers movies–frankly, if you’ve seen two of them you’ve seen the formula.

Dozens–if not more–of craptastic cash-in shoot ’em up Spag Westerns that had “Django” or “Sartana” in the title had none of the artistic merit of Leone or Corbucci or Solima’s features.

There are Great adventure and action movies and films–and a lot of crap. Science Fiction is littered with the corpses of stinkers, both low budget and high.

And most movie lovers can probably name a movie or two–even a film or two–in just about any genre–including Romantic Comedies *shudder*.

But horror gets short shrift, because of the aforementioned ghetto “video nasty” vibe that most people have about them.

But there definitely are horror films out there. And not just Kubrick’s.

If I were to make a top ten list of horror “Films”, I don’t even know if The Shining would end up on it.

Bernard Rose’s Candyman would–to be sure. Adapted from a Clive Barker short story from the ground up, it is an elegant, haunting, scary ghost story. It is also a film that explores the reaches of storytelling, of myth-making, and of white flight, urban paranoia, and the racial divide of Chicago- that is a lot of heady shit for a movie that most people (especially those who didn’t see the damn thing) remember solely as “that Tony Todd is all sexy ghost-romance thing.”

I would argue in favor of Neil Jordan and Angela Carter’s The Company Of Wolves being a film–a flawed one, yes, but a visually gorgeous, elegiac look at (again) the powers of storytelling, dreams and nightmares, and just how scary sexual awakening can be for most young people. Oh yeah, and it has some awesome werewolf transformations (sorry, Courtney).

Robert Wise’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting Of Hill House” (an utterly terrifying piece of literature) is pretty damn amazing too. Who would have thunk that the director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music, and the future director of Star Trek: The Motion Picture had as wonderfully atmospheric and spooky a story as The Haunting in him? Pitch perfect casting, smart use of Jackson’s original prose (actually bettered in the opening and closing voiceover of Nelson Gidding’s screenplay), an incredible sound design attached to smart editing and great simple special effects used well–this is a damn fine “film,” and one of the best horror movies ever made.

Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is an undeniable work of art–a great, great film in almost every way possible. Dread inducing existential horror, amazing performances, fantastic location shooting… it’s just great.

Should Tod Browning’s Dracula make the list? I don’t think so- the first twenty minutes are spellbinding, but after that it becomes a stage bound potboiler.

Does The Bride of Frankenstein even count as horror, or is it science-fiction and comedy wrapped in some horror trimmings?

What about Polanski’s adaptation of Rosemary’s Baby, or Lucky McKee’s May?

Kaneto Shindo’s incredible Kuroneko still haunts me (more-so than his more well-known Onibaba, arguably the first two J-Horror films)–and what about Ringu? Is it “just” a Great horror movie, or is it a horror film?

Is it even possible for Takeshi Miike to make a film? If so, it might be Audition, or does it just resonate for a few scenes–is the overall movie as good as the high points?

I think arguments could be made to include Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though is it great because of it’s flaws or despite them?

A lot of time older movies end up on “top ten” lists because they are “classics,” and while I have tons of respect for classics (especially in that they influence what comes after) I don’t think anything deserves inclusion on an actual non-sop “Best EVER” list just because they were first, or are old.

What horror movies do you think transcend the genre to become more than just movies, to become art–to become “films”?

Just So You Know.

In the summer of 1996 I worked as a Production Assistant on an indie feature called Ties To Rachel, starring Adrian Pasdar. I knew who he was because the previous year I’d watched a movie called Near Dark.

I can’t remember when I found out that Near Dark was directed by Kathryn Bigelow (I don’t always pay attention to these things, so it could have been during the first viewing or it might not have been until I met Will), but I am pretty sure my reaction was thus: “Near Dark was directed by a WOMAN?”

But I do know that I’ve been queued up to kiss her with tongues ever since. So the rest of you? The line starts behind me.

While watching Leverage

Will: There’s an empty feeling in my stomach. I should have another piece of pizza.

Me: That’s not hunger. It’s the deep abiding man-love you feel for Elliot.

Will: Yes, I have the man-love. It’s like your girl crush on Parker.

Me: Don’t call it a crush. You cheapen it.

Tonight, Tonight

Will and I have been to the movies together twice since Sam was born. (That’s three and a half years.) Now, it’s not like we went out often before we had children. We’ve always been homebodies. But we didn’t leave Sam with anyone for more than an hour until he was 18 months old and Tim and Andrea put a gun to our heads and made us go out.

Sunday morning @novysan tweeted that Silverado was coming to the Aero theater in 70mm, with the director and writer. I’d purchased tickets within about five seconds and then IMed Andrea to see if they could watch the kids. (Yeah, I should have switched the order, but I was afraid it would sell out. Worst case scenario if they were busy: I could have gone with a friend. Will saw it in the theater in 1985 so I’d get dibs.) And they can!

So tonight I am dropping off Sam, who has spent loads of time away from me, and Grace, who has spent no time away from me except with her father, and going on a date with my husband to see our favorite movie.

Is it bad that I am not at all anxious about leaving my two month old, when I would never have even considered leaving Sam at her age?