Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2007 Askewed: PT.2

This was an extremely strong grouping of films, if I nitpicked a bit in these honestly it is only because I was struggling to say something other than just repeating “awesome” over and over again (which I could have easily done). Seriously looking at these it make me wonder if there is anyway I can have 2008 match up film wise to 2007.

This is a continuation of this list.

and now on with the really big shoe...I mean show!

Citizen Kane (1941)
Seriously, how epic is “Citizen Kane?” That was a rhetorical question, but if you answer was anything other than “pretty darned” we'll be disagreeing for the next few sentences.

I admit I was worried when I sat down to watch this one, so much hype, could it possibly live up? Surprisingly the answer was (of course) yes. For starters the film was beautifully shot (something I try to make myself pay closer attention to but only manage to get myself to succeed when it stands out as exceptional) and I thought it was paced perfectly. As a matter of fact that is one of the things that struck me. The film clocks in at about 2 hours but through some sort of mind bendingly awesome moon technology I came out of it feeling as if I had witnessed 3 hours worth of information. It was like getting bonus enjoyment! Also amazing to me was the fact that the ending of the movie, which at this point has to be the most universally spoiled ending the history of ever, held up quite well and maintained the power it was meant to have. Rosebud indeed!

Honorable mention goes to William Randolph Hearst, because he wouldn't want it.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
I don't know if it was that I was just coming away from a disappointing Jack Nicholson experience* or what but I really appreciated this one. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” is full of; substance, humor, drama, great acting, the list goes on. It's rare for a film to be able to so easily capture true highs and lows emotionally (and boy are the peaks high and the lows low!). Hopefully I'm not giving anything Earth shattering away here when I say that the ending, which is decidedly not a “Hollywood” style ending, fits in just perfectly.

Double honorable mentions here! #1 goes to "Chief" Bromden (Will Sampson), because sometimes it's not what you say but when you say it, or if you say it. #2 goes to Salem, Oregon just for being there.

*“Easy Rider” if you were wondering, and that is a completely different story of personal defeat for me to tell at a later time

Dr. Strangelove (1964)
First things first this film has one of my favorite extended titles Ever, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” It may seem like a mouthful at first but just let it sink in for a minute, you'll find that it actually is a fairly catchy easy to remember title for it's size, not to mention that it applies to the film, and dammit it's just freaking cool!

Before I go forward with this I have to admit something which may reveal something sad about me and the working of my brain. Though I thoroughly enjoy much of Stanley Kubrick's work it almost always takes me at least two viewings to “get it.” I can't explain exactly why, but for some reason my brain can't immediately digest the way that Kubrick told his stories. The only good part to come from my brains shortcomings is the built in double viewing I get to give to these films.

So on to Dr. Strangelove. Of all the Kubrick that I've seen thus far “Strangelove” is probably the one that sits closest to my comfort zone, comedy. More specifically black comedy with a little satire and just a dash shtick thrown in for flavor and behind it all the story does in fact have meaning. Hey the US Government deemed the movie culturally significant, who am I to argue?

Honorable mentions here obviously go to Peter Sellers for pulling off triple duty and inadvertently paving the way for the likes of Eddy Murphy....Oh who am I kidding Sellers would get the mention even if her was just doing the title role. I mean come on the way he portrayed Dr. Strangelove was just flippin' awesome!

Rear Window (1954)
Ahh Hitchcock, oh how I enjoy your work! That being said “Rear Window” wasn't my favorite of his works. It was decent enough, I'd watch it again of course. But didn't do it for me like some of the others. Of course that could just be the rebel in me talking, bucking the system and being argumentative with the critics. Still it did have it's moments and the tension was great (as it should be from a master like Hitchcock). I think I'll go out on a limb and say I preferred the Steward/Hitchcock combo of Vertigo a bit better than this.

That all sounds too negative, bottom line is “Rear Window” is a great movie. Its no accident that if you watch a lot of suspense movies that have been made between '54 and now that you'll see some stuff borrowed from here. For an example check out “Eyes of a Stranger.”

North by Northwest (1959)

Aha more Hitchcock! This one was completely my cup of tea. Eva Marie Saint is possibly my second favorite Hitchcock female lead (Tippi Hedren takes the #1 spot). Seriously though this is one movie where the tagline tells you almost everything you need to know “A 3000 MILE CHASE . . . That blazes a trail of TERROR to a gripping, spine-chilling climax !” Honestly, if you haven't seen “North by Northwest” do yourself a favor and give it a shot. The flick has everything. They call it an action thriller, but don't discount the romantic aspects, the sexiness, and oh yeah the spy stuff.

Honorable mention goes to the microfilm! I loves me some microfilm.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


What better way to crawl out of the "Doctor Who" and "Dexter" induced silence that has befallen this place than with a little bit of Family Guy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

CC Stand-Up Showdown

Do the right thing, support The Bammer.

Seriously you should do it. I'm fairly picky about my stand-up and I heartily recommend both of Maria's CD's as well as the above CC special and any and all things "Comedians of Comedy"

It goes without saying that I recommend seeing her live show if given the chance. I've heard that the recent-ish "CoC" show in Portland was awesome....I would have killed to have been there.

Now stop reading and start voting! Early and often and all that. Remember you are allowed to vote one a day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

FGFC: "Suspiria"

Ah yes here we are once again for the Final Girl Film Club a.k.a. the FGFC. I'm fashionably late for it again as a matter of fact. I have an excellent excuse though. You see I believe that all important things should be put off until the very last minute to ensure that you keep your ass on your toes while you are doing it. Any simp can do something when they have all the time in the world. The pressure of the approaching time line focuses, keeps ya sharp and fearful. So that was my plan, spend the final weekend before Monday preparing my thoughts. At least that was my plan until I got a call from a friend who had just snagged “Rock Band” for the weekend and my presence would be required as without me the rockage would be severely underpowered. Fear not though my abandon for responsibility didn't go unpunished, my lesson was learned by way of an errant drumstick to the face (Message received loud and clear!).

The plan was then changed to go hang out and rock out for the weekend and return home Monday morning to spend some time with the movie and Open Office. Sadly being a non driver I rely on the word of others for transportation, I have to make plans as I live in a place where even cabs won't go. Even sadlier (or sadder if you are boring) I know a lot of unreliable people who say they will show up at about noon but don't actually show up, with nary an explanation, until after 6.

So where was I? Oh yeah This time around the movie is “Suspiria” Let's roll!

...This is the part where I mention as usual I went into the movie knowing precious little about it etcetera etcetera...

The Abridged Story
So here is how it goes down.

A dancer,Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), goes to study at a dancing academy in Germany. Unfortunately the trip turns out to be full of the bad.

For starters as soon as Suzy arrives in Germany she is greeted by terrible weather. Not only that but she has a lot of trouble catching a cab, even when she does finally get one to stop the cabbie is kind of a slapass. I mean come on man, the words she said were the same ones you said. Why couldn't you understand?

As soon as Suzy arrives at the academy she sees another student at the door talking to someone and making a quite hasty retreat. Following that Suzy is denied entrance and must crawl back into the cash cab and head elsewhere for the night.

We find out that the retreating girl has a name! Pat Hingle (Eva Axén), we find out she was kicked out of school but she really doesn't give a damn. But really whether or not she gives a damn makes no never mind as soon enough she is greeted by some Scooby-Doo eyes from outside the window just before a hand reaches through the window and Pat is treated to the good old smash, slash, stab, an hang treatment. The friend that Pat was staying with isn't left out either though, she gets the falling stained glass window shrapnel treatment. That old chestnut!

The next morning, back at the academy Suzy arrives gets to meet the creepy Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), the even creepier Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett), and the creepiest of them all the young blonde nephew of Madame Blanc, Albert (Jacopo Mariani).

Suzy is informed that her room isn't ready yet, but arrangements have been made for her to temporarily board with another student, Olga (Barbara Magnolfi). Suzy gets to meet Olga in the locker room before class, she also gets to meet Sara (Stefania Casini) whom she strikes up a friendship with.

This takes us to the scariest thing in the entire film. Olga's walls, holy black and white flower explosions!

Suzy starts piecing together what she heard Pat saying as she left the building the night before, well two words of it at any rate (so far).

Now that Suzy's room at the academy is ready Suzy decides that she prefers the power of the flower and she wants to stay with Olga instead. Blanc doesn't seem thrilled, but what can she do? Oh I don't know, how about having a member of the staff cast a little spelly spell on Suzy, how about that!

Now Suzy isn't feeling very well (damn that black magic) but Miss Tanner isn't hearing any of that noise, she wants to see Suzy dance. So dance Suzy does, poorly, I give it like a 4. I had to take away points for that whole passing out and bleeding from the nose and mouth that happened at the end.

When Suzy wakes up she finds out that; Miss Tanner would really like it if she would drink some water, she lost a lot of blood which need replenishing, shots hurt, and Olga didn't like the idea of bunking with a leper. On the plus side Suzy's new special diet does include wine, lots of wine.

So yeah, maggots falling from the ceiling? Gross! I think so, the girls think so. Unfortunately it can't be fixed until the next morning. The answer? A Pajama Jammy Jam in the dance hall!

A strange snoring is emanating from behind Suzy and Sara. Sara has heard it before, it comes from...the Directress! Dun DunDunnnnn

The next night Sara is in Suzy's room talking about the teachers walking at night. Suzy realizes it doesn't sound like they are leaving the school, They are walking away from the front door, not towards it!

Like a fool Suzy goes to Madam Blanc to talk about Pat's disappearance and if she knows anything about the words “secret” and “irises” which are the words that she is remembering from the night that Pat was killed. Blanc knows nuthink! So in her never ending pursuit of answers Suzy talks with Sara (this time in the pool). Sara reveals that the person Pat was talking to as she left the building that night, Sara was also the voice on the intercom sending Suzy away.

Sara was planning on sharing the notes on the teachers that she got from Pat with Suzy that night until they were stolen. So instead of discussing the notes she woke Suzy up to tell her how they had been stolen. Suzy is acting like she is drugged up sleepy and thus she is unable to answer when Sara asks her if she knows about witches.

Sara hears a noise and flees the room. Running the halls she is unable to find a place to hide until she finds the steps up to the attic area. In the attic the yellow eyes make a reappearance and nearly get Sara until she locks herself in a room. The lock on the door isn't very effective so an alternate escape must be made, as luck would have it there is a window. Tough luck though, the ground under the window is covered with a ton of razor (or is it barbed?) wire. Even worse luck Sara doesn't notice this fact until after she jumps directly into the middle of it. In a fit of the worst luck ever Sara is not only writhing around in the sharp wires but now she finds herself stabbed!

Back to Suzy, now awake, she can't seem to find Sara. Miss Tanner informs her that Sara snuck off in the night. Suzy obviously worried calls a friend of Sara's, Dr. Frank Mandell (Udo Kier), they make plans to meet and discuss.

Frank has spoken with Sara's family and they have no news. We learn that not only was he Sara's friend but he also was her psychiatrist in the past. Lately Sara had been concerned about some strange notions that she had been told. Notions about Madame Marcus, the founder of the academy who was a suspected witch. As Frank doesn't believe in witches much he introduces Suzy to Prof. Milius who has studied them extensively. He can answer her questions.

Once prompted Prof. Milius discusses Helena Marcus which leads to a discussion of covens and how to take them out (whacking the head witch Soprano's style baybee!).

In her room Suzy sees the Scooby-eyes peeking so naturally she opens the window to investigate. Bad move, a crazy bat flies in and makes with the attack. That is until the bat starts flying low to the ground so Suzy can cover it with a blanket and use her stool to create some mashed bad soup on the floor.

Once again hearing the footsteps going in the wrong direction Suzy decides enough is enough, she is going to investigate. She finds her way into a carpeted room, which explains why she can't hear footsteps beyond that point. This is another room with no exits other than the door she entered through...or is it? On the wall she spies three painted flowers, irises in fact. Another flashback reveals that Pat actually said “Three irises turn the blue one,” and she does which reveals a secret door. Jinkies!

In the door is a long long hallway at the end of which Suzy finds a room in which; Miss Tanner, Madame Blanc, Albert, and many others were discussing her. “She must die die die” exclaims Madame Blanc who then prays to Helena Marcus to give her the power (not of Grayskull).

Suzy turns around behind a curtain and finds the bloodied and slightly mutilated body of Sara. She doesn't really have time to freak out though as this is enemy territory so she still needs to hide. A quick duck through a door provides some cover, briefly. It turns out she is in Helena's bedroom, she hears that strange snoring and sees someone in the bed behind a curtain (lots of curtains in this place). Naturally a bit nervous Suzy knocks a lamp over which wakes up Helena.

Good new, Helena has been waiting for Suzy. Bad news when Suzy opens up the curtains there is nobody in the bed. Worse news, an invisible Helena starts taunting and warning Suzy about a meeting with the dead coming up very soon. Good news, Sara is back! Bad news, she is a knife wielding zombie. Good news, Helena isn't 100% invisible anymore and thus is once again stabable! Bad news, now that Helena is dead (along with the entire coven) the building is tearing apart.

Suzy makes a run for it and escapes just in time and walks off to live a full long happy life. Unless of course the authorities don't accept her explanation for all the deaths and destruction...but that is just my theory.

Helena would have gotten away with it all! If it wasn't for those meddling kids.....

First things first, the movie is visually beautiful. Even the grotesque images were done in a way that you couldn't help but admire them (in a manner). Many of the scenes had a look as if they could have easily been images plucked from the pages of a graphic novel somewhere, brilliant uses of light and color. The movie literally made me wish that I had a bigger TV and a better setup just so I could do what I was seeing justice.

I thought the dubbing was done quite well and for the most part seamlessly. I always find this kind of thing interesting, how insanely difficult would it be to get a story told when many of the actors are speaking different languages and don't understand each other. They really have to know the script and the director really needs to keep on his/her toes!

At first I thought the pacing was going a little slower than it should but as the movie progressed it started feeling really right, for the most part. Where as early on it seems to be taking a slight bit more time than it needed to the ending, though good, flew by a little too quickly.

As I said, the ending was good. Its just, the showdown between Suzy and Helena went by so quickly that it almost became anticlimactic. The visuals were awesome though, the energy outlining Helena giving Suzy a target looked really good and the undead knife wielding Sara looked awesome! I feel sorry that she didn't get her chance to attempt to make with the stabby.

The main weak point again surrounds Helena. Or the lack of her. There is a very well thought out back story for her, unfortunately it is all brought up at once fairly late in the movie. There were a few hints and whispers early on but not enough for me, or at least not clear enough. A few more bits of her story should have been dropped throughout the early parts so that when Suzy finally does talk to Dr. Mandel and Prof. Milius and gets the whole story it is more of a putting together of things we know instead of a lot of new information to remember.

Final Thoughts
While I wouldn't call “Suspiria” perfection I would call it a very good movie and a great time. It is a little bit like watching insanity unfold, but in a good way. It held up extremely well to multiple viewings, especially the visuals.

“Suspiria” was a great introduction into this type of film and I can't wait to dive back in and see what else an be found!

In other news
People whose names start with an S are sssssnakessss ...Discuss.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

2007 Askewed: PT.1

I spent 2007 watching movies, a lot of movies. Mainly from the IMDB May 2004 top 100, the AFI's 100 Greatest Movies list, and some sort of crazy list of horror movies that randomly built up in my head. Some were great, some were...not quite so great, but for the most part it was a wise decision on my part.

The strange thing is as I look over the list of movies, I realize that by subjecting myself to so many quality films that my taste has matured somewhat..or at least evolved. Looking back just a few years at how I felt about some of the movies I have written about I nearly shudder. While I still do (and always will) enjoy a nice explosion laden, catch phrase slinging, bad guy stomping, I'm too old for this shit, action flick. I find that I have less time for them now that I know there is better stuff out there.....unless of course I just feel like seeing something get blowed up.

So I thought I'd play a little game with myself here. Small groups at a time I'm going to go down the two main lists, starting with IMDB and every movie that I've seen as a direct result of the list will get something between a short blurb or an insane rant.

Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
I was very surprised when I watched this one, I had seen so many small bits and pieces over the years that I didn't think I would like it as a whole but, as it turns out, it was fantastic! I'm not sure why I'm that surprised, Morgan Freeman has always been someone that I just enjoy watching. The real standout of the film though, and I think I've mentioned this before, is the whole sidestory of Brooks Hatlen's release and subsequent suicide. So emotionally charged and well done. Much respect to James Whitmore!

Schindler's List (1993)
This was NOT an easy movie to get through, and I think I've proven that I'm not that squeamish in the past. But this was a completely new style of intensity. In the end I'm glad I watched it, I can understand how some people can't bring themselves to watch it, but I'm glad I could. I doubt I'll be watching it again anytime soon, but I will recommend to people who haven't seen it to give it a shot if they think they can. The worth mentioning here isn't a person but a scene, the very last scene, talk about a powerful image. If you've seen it you know the one I mean!

Shichinin no samurai (1954)
Whats not to love? Action, humor, freakin' samurai's! Clearly I'm not the only one who enjoyed the movie it's been copied and borrowed from countless times. That includes two movies which are just re tellings of the full story, one set in the west and a lesser known one set in space. For my money the original here is the best (Sorry “Magnificent Seven” but it's true). Way to go Kurosawa!

On a side note, remind me never to start a quarrel with a samurai.

Casablanca (1942)
This could be one of those occasions where I buck the trend a little bit and disagree(slightly) with the crowd. I'm going to have to give this one another shot. I just couldn't get into the bulk of it. Yeah there were the classic moments that I was familiar with and those were good but I just really had a tough time latching onto the story. I'm not ready to say that I don't care for Casablanca yet, I'm always willing to give second chances, so hopefully I can do an update to this soon where I kick myself for my previous thoughts.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Natalie Raps!

My first video instead of content post of the new year, ain't I great?

Seriously though how did I miss this? Am I officially the last person in the world to see this?

Real stuff to come soon, I promise...As soon as I can make myself write something about "The Simpsons" without "Futurama" becoming the focus.