|DVRfest 2005 (11.09.05 - 11.10.05, 10 movies)|
|11.09.05||Series 7||Daniel Minahan||Today is the 1-year anniversary of starting this site. I've seen 462 movies in the past year... a little over 1.25 movies a day! That's a little scary but also pretty awesome. I guess full-on scary would be a sustained 2 movie a day habit, or even a 3 movie a day habit. If you ever see a yearly total of over 1000 on here, send me an email and tell me to go outside.|
So I want to sort of commemorate the occasion of actually sticking with something that I do almost every day for a year and I also have 10 movies on my DVR that need watching... my aim is to tackle a good 4-5 of them tonight. I am giving up Weird Wednesdays this week to have my own little mini-marathon of completely random movies that have been collecting digital dust on the hard drive.
First up was an hour-long bit TCM ran on Alfred Hitchcock, intercutting scenes from his most famous movies with interview footage where he tells of his methods of making good suspense. There wasn't much new here that I hadn't already seen in other similar programs but hearing Hitch talk is always entertaining and seeing the selected clips makes me want to revisit some of his movies (or catch up on the few that I haven't yet seen (hint hint)).
Next was Series 7 (AKA The Contenders), a movie that fell through the cracks for me because I always got the title mixed up with Session 9: a surprisingly creepy no-budget indie movie. This one is a satire of reality television that sort of blends Survivor and The Real World with The Running Man and Battle Royale. Five people are drawn by lottery and given guns then forced to hunt each other down until only one remains, who then gets to move on to the next season.
The movie's constructed like a marathon of television episodes, much like The Real World does, unwillingly sapping you in for an entire Saturday. So there's lots of nice touches that remind us of the TV nature of it all. It's a fun little movie... the shame is that it reminds me of better movies (OK, this is maybe better than the movie version of The Running Man, but the book kicks its ass)... Arrested Development's Will Arnett has a small part though, so rock on.
|11.09.05||The Bellboy||Jerry Lewis||Next up is the celebrated Jerry Lewis movie The Bellboy. Although I haven't seen a lot of his work, I never really liked him enough to look into him more. I will say that my respect for him and his body of work grew like 5 or 10 times after reading the extended interview with him in Bogdanovich's book Who The Hell's In It. Take this movie for instance, which I only really watched because Tarantino mentioned it in Four Rooms. He wrote it, produced it, directed it, and starred in it (both as himself and as Stanley the titular bellboy) all while also doing his nightly act at the hotel where this movie takes place. Not only that, but he did the entire thing in just a few months because he felt the movie he'd just finished with Frank Tashlin should come out in the winter instead of the summer and Paramount needed a Jerry Lewis movie to fill the slot. Pretty crazy but I guess Classics sometimes come from those kinds of circumstances. Lewis invented video assist too so... a certain amount of respect has to be given just for that.|
The movie really has no story or plotline of any kind. It's very close to sketch comedy almost, with just one gag after another and no real continuity between them. Some of them are funnier than others and yes I did chuckle at a few (most notable the bit he does with the ringing bank of phones). I still am not A-#1 Jerry Lewis Superfan but I can see why fans really love this movie.
|11.09.05||Maniac||William Lustig||A seminal slasher movie from 1980, Maniac goes inside the mind of a madman, letting us watch as he kills attractive women, scalps them, and nails their hair to mannequins for company. Star/writer Joe Spinell is very creepy in a NYC greaseball kind of way... like if Dennis Franz was a bit taller and liked to kill... This movie really has everything you can hope for in a 80s horror movie: Tom Savini effects, hot skinny girls in tight bad fashions, and lots of mindless killing. Unfortunately you also have to put up with near-constant "inner monologue" from the maniac, which is basically just whimpering and groaning. There are a few good gags here though, especially the end and Tom Savini's small part as Disco Boy getting his head blown up via shotgun blast through the windshield of his car.|
William Lustig, who would go on to do the Maniac Cop series (i guess he likes that name) has since started up Blue Underground... supplying freaks and mentally unbalanced with the movies we love on DVD since 2002. right on!
My self-imposed marathon continues after a short break to watch South Park.
|11.09.05||Topaz||Alfred Hitchcock||One of Hitch's movies that I haven't seen yet, Topaz impressed me as being kind of a departure. It's a straight-up spy movie! Not only that, but it's a historical fiction spy movie! telling a story behind the scenes of the cuban missile crisis. It's also really long for a Hitchcock film, something like two hours fifteen minutes and imdb says that even that was cut down and there's more footage on the DVD. It's also nearing the end of Hitch's life/career so it's feeling less and less like the classic Hitch movie from the 40s and 50s that I tend to associate with him. So I guess there are lots of things that kind of stand out with this film...|
Frederick Stafford's French accent comes and goes throughout the course of the film, and it's really odd to see John Vernon play Cuban in a Hitchcock film... I mean, he was in I'm Gonna Get You Sucka... and worked with Hitchcock. How is that possible? Anyway, maybe it's just because it was the last real spy film that I've seen but i was reminded of The Venetian Affair more than once while watching this. I guess, now that I think about it, spy stuff has always been close to Hitch's forte but it's usually just a wrapper for sequences that build suspense. Hitchcock films usually work like timepieces, filled with intricate gears and mechanisms all working together to create tension, but this movie is more like a Clancy novel without all the military detail or maybe even a Bond movie without the arrogance or novelty. It's more about political intrigue and plot than finding yourself holding your breath. That doesn't make it bad of course... I personally think those scenes kind of fractured Torn Curtain, which became less about a complete movie and more about the one death scene in particular. So cool, an interesting espionage flick to take me into the middle of the night.
|11.09.05||Madman||Joe Giannone||For the last movie of the night, what better choice could I make than Madman Marz, a movie I last saw at the end of Quentin's 80s horror all-nighter during his festival. Sure I'm nowhere near as delirious or altered now as I was then and I don't have the benefit of watching R. Kelly's Urban Opera beforehand but... hopefully after blazing through 4 movies tonight it will still be a fun capper.|
At the end of QT6, Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League told all of us that liked this movie to see it again because we'll find that it actually really sucks. Was he right? Um... for the most part yeah.
It does have its moments though. The whole first reel or so I think is actually pretty good. The movie starts with T.P. singing an ominous song around the campfire and it flashes on each of the characters, showing them later in the film when they're being terrorized by Marz for just a few frames. I think this is a cool way to set everything up and let the audience know what we're in for: a solid by-the-numbers slasher flick. There's also some incredibly cornball dialogue in addition to the T.P. belt buckle, the hot tub twirling waltz, and the philosophical rumination of the potential for evil in mankind that I may or may not have mentioned last time. Before Marz shows up and starts killing people, the movie is actually very entertaining for me.
I have to say though, this movie has what has to be the fastest introduction-to-death of a character ever. Poor Dippy. He's seen coming out of a door with a bottle in his hand, then it cuts to him asleep in a chair and one of the girls waking him up to tell him the bottle's empty, then it cuts to him walking into a building, presumably to get another bottle, and opening a door to have Marz gash out his throat with his burly feral woodsman Madman claws. Dippy is in the movie then out of the movie in less than two minutes. What's funny is that Dippy has the most acting experience of anyone in this film! Actually it's a bit eerie... the main girl was in Dawn of the Dead before this then Creepshow right after this but those are the only movies she's acted in, the guy who plays T.P. was never in anything else, and it's largely the same for the rest of the cast. I wonder if there's some sort of Madman Marz curse that kept anybody that was in it from working ever again. Look it up on IMDb and you will be surprised at how little everyone involved has done. Even the director. This was the only movie he ever wrote or directed. Spooky.
So it's late and half of the movies on my DVR are now officially watched. Be sure to check in tomorrow as I conclude this Two-Night event and watch five more movies of equal randomness!
|11.10.05||Family Plot||Alfred Hitchcock||To start off the second night in my All-DVR-Movies-Must-Go!!! Marathon, I chose Hitch's last movie, which I have never seen before. No one actually dies in this movie, which might be a Hitchcock first. Again, it's weird to see actors in a hitchcock movie that are still working today like William Devane and Ed Lauter. This movie is generally considered to be pretty weak in Hitch's ouvre... and yeah I mean compared to some of his others this is a pretty minor note in the symphony, but it still plays and still has a few fun moments so I don't think I could call it bad at all. Like Topaz, I think his post-Psycho work (with the exceptions of The Birds and Frenzy) are talked down because they start to pretty radically change up the formula that's worked for him for the past 20 years. I do think it's kinda true that he was like the last dinosaur toward the end and really lived a bit too long and the world had moved on without him... but you know... they're all still worth watching.|
|11.10.05||The Green Slime||Kinji Fukasaku||Next up is this Japanese sci-fi horror movie from the late 60s. I think this makes a good example of John Landis' reasoning for why movies suck nowadays. According to him, the big thing that happened in the late 70s was that a select group of directors somehow started making B-level movies with A-level budgets. The result is really a movie that you're not supposed to care much about but are sold the opposite because it cost so much to make.|
The premise of The Green Slime is that a meteor is heading toward Earth so a group of people have to go up there, land on the meteor, drill and place nuclear bombs on several locations, then blow it up before it can collide with Earth. Sound familiar? The difference is that this movie, with its low budget miniatures and crappy sets and B-grade actors, is good campy fun while Armageddon stretches out and becomes both bombastic action and sappy melodrama, spending the whole time going "look at how expensive this movie is... take us seriously!"
The other core difference of course is that this movie covers that whole subject in about a half hour, then becomes the Japan-made man-in-suit sci-fi fun that you'd expect from the title. It's interesting to note that this was put out in the same year as 2001... it for some reason reminds me of a double feature VHS tape I once rented with Night of the Living Dead and Reefer Madness. The two movies can really not be much different but somehow they are lumped together, either because of genre or because of some CHS distributor high on wacky tobacky.
So The Green Slime ended up being really a lot of fun. I saw some Alien in there, some Thing in there, some Blob of course (especially the awesome rock n roll theme song which plays at the beginning and end)... all mixed together with plenty of quasi-futuristic clothing and some yucky green goo which grows into one-eyed tentacled electro-shock monsters. Sweet!
Next up is something completely different.
|11.10.05||Hedwig and the Angry Inch||John Cameron Mitchell||What do you follow up Hitchcock and camp sci-fi with? Transgender Rock Opera of course! I guess that's really a genre with only two entries but still... why do the good ones have to be transgender? I always have to check my masculinity at the door, especially with Hedwig because, in the right outfit, John Cameron Mitchell looks too much like a girl. I don't like it. at least he didn't shave his pits. Speaking of... Michael Pitt really creeps me out. Everybody seems to like him but i totally don't. Ugh.|
This is also the second movie in my little marathon that the band Girls Against Boys has been a part of. Awesome! I have emerging patterns just like QT6 and FantasticFest! Maybe next year I should invite some friends over for the occasion of this site's anniversary and let other people in on the goodness that's going on right here right now. Of course then I'd have to put on more than my boxers to watch the movies... and worry about Pringles crumbs falling all over myself instead of being the kind of total slob that living alone lets you be. Nah, screw that.
Anyway, I had a really good time with this movie, tranny guilt aside. The music was really good and it was actually constructed and directed very well. In particular i loved the shot of young Hedwig jumpin gon his bed and rocking out to music on American radio. That kid is awesome! Also, John Cameron Mitchell has a great "what the hell is going on here" look... I'd like to see him (not dressed in drag) playing a straight man (no pun intended... unless you laughed) to some goofball like Ferrell or someone like that so we can see him give disapproving looks all the time. He did a little spot for IFC where he's at a stop light and some crazy living-in-a-movie woman drives up next to him and he acts creeped out by her living-in-a-movie-ness... He was really good in that.
So I'm winding down now... a quick trip for some late-night Wendy's and the penultimate film of the Blog/DVR fest is...
|11.10.05||On The Beach||Stanley Kramer||On The Beach is a story of a submarine captain and several others living in Melbourne, Australia waiting for the radioactive fallout from WWIII to reach them. I don't know if it's the first post-apocalyptic movie ever made but it's definitely the earliest that I've seen and also the best cast. Gregory Peck, Antohny Perkins, Fred Astaire (not dancing), and Ava Gardner are all in this, as is the stunningly beautiful Donna Anderson (who aside from this and Inherit the Wind never really did much acting of note)... all playing up this really A-list picture that just happens to be about the death of the human race. It's understandable, 1959 being the heart of nuclear fear, that the film is populated with preachy little monologues about humanity pushing the button and how we're all stupid to create such weapons we must never use... but just think about the idea of it... sitting down there in Australia, the last ones left, just waiting for the cloud. A glimmer of hope appears - maybe the rainfall and weather of nuclear winter has slowed or even stopped the drift of radioactive death. Let's send a submarine on a mission to test the waters and see how it looks. There's also a great mystery in this movie in the form of random morse code blips coming from San Diego. It's unintelligible but how does San Diego have power? Who's making these random blips? Will humanity carry on and survive or is all lost? It's a very gripping movie with wonderful performances and gorgeous black and white photography. Aside from some non-existent regional accents from the Hollywood stars, it's actually quite realistic in tone. I hadn't seen this in a long time and was glad to find that it's still as great as I remember.|
Now it's late and I should probably go to bed. There's only one movie left though! And I know it's just not going to be the same if i go to bed and watch it tomorrow during the day.
|11.10.05||Piranha||Joe Dante||PIRANHA!!! What guy didn't have some morbid fascination with these little critters as a boy? I mean, they're fish that eat and kill and a school of them can turn a cow into a skeleton in 8 seconds or whatever! Plus it's early Joe Dante, has a script from John Sayles, and features a few real heavyweights in bit roles: Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and Keenan Wynn (tons of stuff, including the voice of the Sergeant in that sex ed cartoon Disney made where syphilis and gonorrhea were army troops undergoing a briefing... anyone that's seen it knows what I mean)... unfortunately, a lot of scenes are straight Jaws knock-offs and the piranha deaths are always quick-cut snippets of fish shaking around next to skin and blood... I guess there's not really any better way to do it, especially on a budget, but there's one head-on shot of a piranha opening up for dinner that's cool... and come on, it's PIRANHA! The woman who plays the maid in Will and Grace got it via piranhas in a bathtub in this other awesome movie called Devil Times Five. Well worth checking out.|
So there you have it! Two nights of five movies each, 8 of which I'd never seen before. Looking back, all of them were good! OK maybe not all of them were good (Maniac, I'm looking at you), but I liked all of them, which is really cool! Overall this experience has been very fun... something I may well make a habit out of... but right now it's time for sleep.