Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Burton's "Genius" In The Rabbit Hole?

Is it Hayao Miyazaki's Alice in Wonderland or Tim Burton's? I'm confused. I just watched the Alice teaser trailer and I could have sworn that Cheshire cat is the same one piloting the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro.

Spirited Away pops up, too. Burton's interior stylings of a large palace (or perhaps it's a mansion) are pure Miyazaki, as is the way in which the location is shot and cut.

I have only ever loved one Burton movie and that is Ed Wood. Ed Wood is a fantastic film to me, a perfect film about a fascinating individual. The script got it to the finishing line, not Burton's flat direction.

The rest of his movies are overrated bores. Rudderless shit marketed as rolled gold to easily satisfied morons. He ruined Willy Wonka. He fucked Planet of the Apes. Sleepy Hollow was a snoozefest. I despised Beetlejuice, was rocked to sleep by Big Fish, and enjoyed Big Top Pee Wee once because I was off my collective face. My second viewing ended in -- that's right -- more sleep. Edward Scissorhands? Great idea for a half hour short subject. As a full length feature, it sucked giant elephant dicks.

Lucky for Burton, he has great production designers, cinematographers, and musicians propping up his miserably limited talent. Most of the world has bought into his "genius", a "genius" that managed to destroy Willy Wonka and Planet of the Apes. How could anybody let that happen? Didn't he see the train rushing towards the giant anvil on the tracks of those unmitigated disasters?

So what's his problem? Easy. He's a visual guy. He gets a boner creating pretty, expensive, sumptuous visuals. And that's where it ends.

Give him ten thousand bucks and he couldn't put on a finger puppet play.

The guy, who looks terribly eccentric (so he must brilliant!) has no sense of pace (see Batman, which he also turned into a bore), no ability to improve upon a story (how could he possibly let the writers of Planet of the Apes and Willy destroy proven premises?), and zero knowledge of dramatic structure (again, see Batman, Willy, and Mars Attacks).

I'm man enough to concede that Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was good (not great) because the source material was strong, as was Ed Wood's. Personally, I just loathe musicals and all that gratuitous, gaytard singing.

So, two good films in thirteen years from a bloke who has been given lots of opportunities and money and resources to get it right? That's impressive?

A strike rate like that is no indicator of genius. Thank Christ the prick isn't building space shuttles.

The better movies he is often credited with directing (Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline) weren't directed by him at all.

Will I see Alice in Wonderland?

Sure. Because I'm sick. And I'm a psychotic optimist. There is a slim chance that he'll pull a rabbit out of his hat (no pun intended) before the next thirteen year block expires. I won't hold my breath, though.

I'll see it mostly because I love the book, and I love little people. There will be little people in it, right? Just as there were in The Sinful Dwarf, Terror of Tiny Town, All Dwarves Started Small, The Tin Drum, and Freaks.

The film will be advertised like it's God and millions of idiots will confuse advertising saturation with universal canonization of its director, star, and content.

I'm much more excited about seeing Miyazaki's Ponyo when it opens in August. His batting average smashes Burton right out of the ball park. That's because he really is a "genius".

Ad Mat Massacre

Remember real movies? They weren't remakes, or comic book adaptations, or old TV shows given a facelift. They came from the heads of adults and they were original.

Elia Kazan's The Visitors was a 'What if?' scenario based on the true story of several soldiers who kidnapped and raped a Vietnamese woman. It formed the basis of Brian De Palma's Casualties of War.

In The Visitors, Sean Penn's character, Sgt. Tony Meserve, gets out of jail for his crime and decides to pay a visit to the home of PFC Eriksson (the character played by Michael J. Fox).

All names were changed in The Visitors, but the set-up was authentic.

The film is one of James Woods' first and finest roles.

It's slow and dark as fuck, but it's brilliant.

It is available on a Region 2 DVD only.

The Hunting Party ('71) was released in Australia when I was nine year's old. This ad mat didn't tell me much, so my interest in it was slight... until an "Uncle" (more a friend of the family) saw it, and sat at our kitchen table telling my parents how disgustingly violent it was. He went out of his way to condemn the film, even threatening to call the theatre chain and lodge a complaint.

I looked at the ad mat very differently after that.

It took me close to thirty years to finally see it uncut, and I loved it.

It is an impeccably made, brutal Western with killer performances from Oliver Reed (I love Ollie), Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, and the legendary L.Q. JOnes.

On top of that, the score by Riz (Cannibal Holocaust) Ortolani is a masterpiece.

What makes the film so excellent is the relationship that develops between Bergen and Reed, who has kidnapped and raped her.

Director Don Medford, who directed a lot of great TV such as The Invaders and The Twilight Zone, brings a sweeping cinematic electricity to the proceedings.

The violence, which is really well choreographed, is hard and brutal.

The MGM DVD is superb.

My original imdb review went as follows:

Occasionally bloody and nail-biting Western performed by a great cast -- Hackman, Reed, Bergen, Oakland and LQ Jones (one of Peckinpah's favourites). Hackman plays a rich, impotent brute whose wife (Bergen) is kidnapped by Reed. Substituting his limp penis with a long gun that can shoot eight hundred yards, Hackman and his wealthy buddies start hunting Reed and his band of horny miscreants at long range.

What's admirable here is the way director Medford handles both Bergen's developing relationship with Reed (shades of Stockholm Syndrome) and Hackman's gradual realization that he can't compete with the younger man on any level.

The score, by Riz Ortolani (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST), is sensational, and perfectly captures the sense of big trouble in a harsh land and the bloody inevitability of these men's lives.

Aside from the inclusion of some awful process shots on an exterior train scene, the film's technical credits are top notch and cinematographer Cecilio Paniagua's dusty vistas are powerfully evocative.

For me, the film's stand-out dramatic scene is Reed's "rape" of Bergen and its ambiguous aftermath.

Pretty damn good.

Not a lot to say about Trouble Man ('72) that hasn't already been said. It's a powerhouse blaxploitation classic.

I snuck into this and cowered in a dark corner for ninety minutes, terrified that somebody would catch me and throw me out. I could have waited eight years to see it instead and saved myself the angst.

The Rape After

Any film that is big on scabs, sores, scorched flesh, and tragic mutations is for me. The Rape After is no exception. With a title like that, you couldn't be faulted for expecting an orgy of angry vagina violence in the glorious I Spit On Your Grave tradition, but you would be wrong.

Meng Hua Ho and Moon-Tong Lau's '86 flick has more in common with Seeding of a Ghost, Boxer's Omen, and Shaw's Black Magic flicks than other Hong Kong obscuros like The Rapist, Bloody Beast, or Devil of Rape.

Admittedly, it's a more modestly budgeted effort than the Shaw films, and nobody turns in what you'd call a praiseworthy performance.

Still, it's well worth catching if scabs, sores, third degree burns, pus, and reanimated corpses rock your boat.

It's important to make it clear from the get-go that the plot makes little sense. In order for the film to justify its unrelenting onslaught of weirdness, the storyline chops and changes and does impossible somersaults that will leave you slack-jawed and reeling from the implausibilities.That aside, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had for the adventurous viewer.

Melvin Wong, a super-sleazy photographer, lives to bed as many gullible women as possible. Not surprisingly, one gets pregnant.

But being a card-carrying gentleman...

... Mr. Wong arranges for a late night abortion at a spooky house (as you do) for the unfortunate lass. The abortion goes haywire when the unborn asserts its right to life. All hell, naturally, breaks loose.

So does the semi-aborted baby with its umbilical cord in hand.

Still in character, Wong steals a rare statue from a spooky gallery, takes it home, and finds himself cursed.

The rest of the movie is a wild, gory ride that teaches us not to steal old statues of scary looking critters.

Although the opening sequence has little to do with the rest of the movie, it's a ripper.

A woman goes to visit a classroom of deformed, freaky, sore-infested children. The emphasis on scabs and sores in this scene is beyond affection. More a celebration of corrupted flesh.

One pus-faced freak is a relative -- not mine, unfortunately, hers! I was hoping to God that these very special characters, who look like extras from Horrors of Malformed Men, would play major roles in the film.

Unfortunately, they're only there for their good looks, not their infinite storyline potential.

Like other flicks of its moist, bloody ilk, the tone of this is hysterical and unrelenting. Old superstitions win out, of course...

... and every supernatural encounter is an excuse to show zombies, running ghosts, melting faces, monsters groping humans... and more sores and lesions.

For my money, any film that ends on a freeze frame like this one deserves respect.

Shuffle, don't walk, to see The Rape After. And bring a used condom.