Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tonally Vague Vagrant

There is some right and much wrong about Chris Walas's The Vagrant, a '92 example of dueling tones.

I suspect it's meant to be a black comedy, but it's not consistent. When it gets serious, it just feels stupid. When it tries for over-the-top, it undercuts its virtues with characters such as a straight cop played by Michael Ironside; he drops in now and then from another movie and acts according to the scriptwriter's demands.

A film that walked the tonal line with greater dexterity was John Avildsen's Neighbors, a long-time favorite of mine. That was a terrific black comedy that knew what it was (and wasn't), and did its mean-spirited best to deliver on that promise.

The Vagrant, from exec producer Mel Brooks, is about a slightly paranoid analyst (Bill Paxton) whose life is turned upside down by a hideous homeless man (Marshall Bell). When corpses begin turning up in the area, he's sure the vagrant is the murderer. The police aren't so sure. And therein lies the drama. Sort of.

The 'vagrant' (Bell) is a fine example of what can be done with latex and an eager make-up effects team. Every time he's on screen, he's disgusting, and his initial appearances are amusing and creepy. Clearly, he's not disgusting enough, though, because he's required to hiss and cackle non-stop to further underline his disgusting status. After a while, he's not funny, scary, or disgusting -- he's a joke! (in a bad way)

Paxton has fun with his role, and goes from corporate ladder climber to trailer park trash in a single bound. Never once did I feel director Walas had a handle on what type of film this was supposed to be. A black comedy is usually played straighter than straight; this isn't. A serious thriller attempts, at least, to get its logic in order; this certainly doesn't. Instead, it test drives every tone in the book and arrives no wiser for the journey.

Even the artwork screams for direction!

In March, '95, this short story by Douglas D. Armstrong appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine; a fairly serious piece, it focused on the main character's descent into madness with much greater consistency and strength.

Despite my misgivings about The Vagrant, I was still glad to spend a few hours in his company.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shocking and Sexy Ad Mat Attack!

Sometimes there is truth in advertising. When I first discovered the Asia I love, I could not have described it more aptly than the copy above. With the advent of the internet, Asia's exotic cultural treasures have become even more apparent.

I first encountered Shocking Asia when I was a night dubber of VHS videos in the mid-80's. Our biggest client was K-Tel Video, and, oh boy!, did K-Tel have some fan-tastic titles.

The moment I looked up from my tape checking and saw a wrestling dwarf sliding across a canvas on his forehead, I was hooked on this goodness. The film also featured a visit to a Japanese sex museum, victims of leprosy (a favorite disease of Mondo filmmakers), a sex change operation, and the piercings and stabbings of sacred flesh.

To make matters even juicier, the Shocking Asia score is bombastic and catchy, a rousing celebration of all that is weird and wonderful in our world.

Absolutely one of my favorite Mondo movies, and if you want to see even more of the same, pick up Shocking Asia 2. Both have just been released (together) in Australia on DVD.


Although titled Zombie in the U.S., it was titled Zombie Flesh Eaters in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Was that because zombies were less understood outside North America?

"What in the blazers is this Zombie flick about, mate?" went the conversation (perhaps).

"Got me buggered, mate. Wouldn't know."

"Then take a look at it, ya bludger. We're releasing it next week."

One day later:

"So, mate, did ya get a chance to take a gander at that Zombie picture?"

"Yeah, mate, I did. Not bad. Not bad at all."

"What was it about, mate?"

"Well, mate, these zombies eat human flesh. One even eats a bloody shark."

"Strewth! A shark?! Ya fuckin' kiddin'?!"

"No, mate. Takes a big bloody bite out of it while some bird's swimmin' around starkers."

"Fuck me drunk! Sounds like a bloody good show."

"Too right, mate. They'll be chunderin' in the aisles with this one."

"But we can't just call it Zombie."

"The Yanks called it that."

"Yeah, but the Septics are into that weird shit."

"So what are we gonna call it?"

"Fucked if I know."

"You can't call it that, Cobber."

"Shut up! Alright. How about we call it Zombie Flesh Eaters?"

"What for?"

"Because that's what they do, isn't it, dickhead?"

"Yeah."

"Then that's what we'll call it. We don't want punters getting confused."

"I suppose you're right."

"Of course I'm fuckin' right. I'm the boss!"

Employee looks defeated.

Boss nudges him.

"Hey, why the long face?"

"I don't know. I was gonna suggest Jaws 4 -- Zombie Casserole"

Boss thinks for a moment, then looks at Employee:

"You idiot."

They retire to the pub for a beer.

***

It was a masterful stroke adding Island of the Fishmen to the drive-in bill (I raved about this like a lunatic in a previous blog).

This is how I saw Zombie for the first time. Unfortunately, it was cut to smithereens, but that didn't stop me loving every magical minute of it, including, of course, the opening with the fat zombie (who, by the way, is interviewed on one of the special edition DVD's), and a cut version of the eye splintering.

Censorship of horror films in Australia was at plague levels in the 70's and 80's.

Even now, the government is trying to enact a Draconian censorship regime of "forbidden" internet sites.

Great film, average poster.

An odd Aussie film that attempted to capitalize on the success of War Games.

Draping a woman across a computer console seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess, because Michael Crichton's Looker did it.

Ultimately, rather undercooked genre piece, and would have been better if it borrowed from Demon Seed instead.

Mary Higgins Clark's effective suspense novel was reduced to cliches by Sean Cunningham. Not a terrible film, but not particularly successful, either, in achieving its goals. Rip Torn, however, is good as the killer, and the subterranean setting is atmospheric.

The Fan was based on a novel I liked of the same name. The film is boring.

Director/Producer Arthur Davis was an international sales agent who bought and sold films in Asia.

Nice to see Riz Ortolani getting first credit on the poster.

As many will remember, Riz composed the score for Mondo Cane, the film that kick-started the Mondo genre, and grandfathered Reality TV.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Inugamis



Easily one of the most striking film posters of the past forty years.

The Inugamis, from Kon Ichikawa, director of Princess of the Moon, Harp of Burma, Enjo, and Nobi (aka Fire on the Plain), was an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery.

Based on a best-selling novel by Seisha Yokomizo, it was produced by the book's publisher, Haruki Kadokawa, in 1977. Kadokawa used this first credit to create a production company.

Ichikawa, who is now 94, remade the film in 2006 with the same title and some of the same cast members. Although the original is slower, I prefer it to the remake. I urge you to track the original down and behold its brilliant direction and doom-saturated mood.

These two pieces of poster art for the remake make a perfect case for returning to the illustrated movie poster. Their impact is negligible compared to the aesthetic pull of of the original film's striking art.

Demonique

This mag, published by Fantaco Enterprises Inc, was not terribly well printed, but the content was great.

Now and then, I stumble across magazines that feel like I was consulted on the content. The sensibility is uncomfortably close to my own. This '83 issue ticked every box for me.

Excellent contents page. Superb layout.

Some art from the underrated, obscure shocker Blood and Lace ('71), and a very fine ad mat for Mansion of the Doomed ('76), an American Eyes Without A Face.
This "Obscurity of Humane Horror" article, which is a rebuff to comedienne/actress Carol Burnett's comment that horror films "Have no regard for human life or sensibility" crystallizes the thinking behind the magazine's editorial choices, and what excellent choices they are.

"There are horror films out there other than Friday the 13th, Rosemary's Baby, and Scanners," writes editor Barry Kaufman, "and it's only here that you'll read about many of them."

True to his word, Kaufman includes a review of House Out Frontiers (someone chopped the 'With' off), which, in fact, is House Without Frontiers (La Casa Sin Fronteras), a rare, obscure film from director Pedro Olea. I have wanted to see this film for years, having once seen Olea's quite amazing The Ancines Woods (El Bosque Del Lobo, '71)...

...a thoroughly amazing "werewolf" pic, based on a true story, set in the 19th century, that may have inspired Christopher Gans' Brotherhood of the Wolf.

English translation is 'The Forest of the Wolf'.

A Spanish DVD is available.

Prolific filmmaker Donald Farmer contributes an intelligent article on Salo, a film I admire for its audaciousness, but always find a little bit boring. I like individual pieces (the graphic pieces!), but the rest I have a hard time trudging through.

Blood and Lace review. Nobody's ever been able to figure out how the film earned such a mild rating (the equivalent of a PG).

Lemora - A Child's Tale of the Supernatural ('74) is one of my favorite films of all time. In his article, Kaufman argues that its blunt anti-Catholicism may have been one of the reasons why the film failed to connect with audiences at the time of its release. I'm not so sure I agree.

Do devout Catholics flock to see such films? Is an anti-Catholicism stance (in a horror film) potentially hurtful to a film's chances?

My feeling is Lemora didn't connect because it's such an unconventional horror film. Its languid, dream-like pacing, simmering eroticism, not--exactly-overt lesbianism, and refreshing climax, in which Evil wins, may not have satisfied the viewers expecting a neat little shocker with a neat, conservative conclusion. Who's to say? Moreso, the film just wasn't well distributed and advertised, so didn't stand a chance of catching on.

I totally adore it, and find it to be one of the most subversive mixtures of horror and sexuality ever committed to the screen.

This great still from Andy Milligan's Bloodythirsty Butchers adorns the back cover; unfortunately, the movie did not live up to the promise of its promotional imagery.

It was sad to see the demise of Demonique. Fortunately, it still lives on paper and inside the scans above.

RIP.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tiger's Wood Problem

The only person stupid enough to believe that sexual addiction therapy works is the the cuckold who has chosen to live in a state of denial.

What a damned joke!

Yes, Tiger Woods has entered sexual addiction therapy in Mississippi because Elin, his wife, has made it a condition of his returning to the marital bed.

This unfortunate woman, who should be taking some sensible advice, is so fixated on remaining with golf's Rocco Siffredi, she's willing to ignore the 18+ plus foreign holes he's driven his balls into over the course of their marriage.

It isn't Elin's fault that Tiger has pursued other options and openings. Elin isn't to blame for the Woodman's lies, deceptions, whoppers, and fairy tales, and she's not responsible for the holes he's played outside the golf course.

To a man with a Rocco Siffredi-sized sexual appetite, you have to ask: Why the fuck did you get married, dude? Are you nuts? Are you stupid?

Then, to further complicate matters, you went and had kids, too? Again: WHAT THE FUCK?!

Pal, you can have every bird you want. It's a buffet out there. You have the money, the power, and the pussy at your fingertips. Why complicate all that with marriage to a woman who's not cool with you swinging your woods and irons behind the clubhouse? A stop for drinks at the nineteenth is acceptable, but you've chipped your black balls into so many vaginal sand traps, anal bunkers, and Las Vegas rough, your scorecard needs a lateral extension.

Sex addiction therapy is a joke. It works for the shrinks who make millions from it, and the hopeful wives and girlfriends who crave the lie it tells, which is: The only thing he'll be banging from now on is you and his head (against the bathroom wall).

Seriously, if you want to fuck around, buddy (and there's nothing wrong with that!), it's best not to fuck with a woman's cranium. It's cruel and it's costly. She doesn't deserve it, the kids will despise you for it, and you don't need the aggravation that a life of lies, half-truths, and bold-faced bullshit entails.

For mine, the sexual addiction therapy gets off on the wrong footing from the get-go because men are not permitted to masturbate during the process.

Hello!?

Not permitted to masturbate?! You mean Tiger and Co. have to live with the distorted sense of reality that not masturbating, not releasing, creates in a man? Are these clowns fucking nuts? These experts are supposed to understand the way men think!

A no-masturbation clause will create a Tiger who will lie, cheat, bullshit, fabricate, and fantasize around the clock while getting distracted every time the window next door is blown slightly ajar.

For God's sakes, Mississippi Sex Therapists, as his unofficial adviser, I implore you to let the Woodman come!

A man is most honest immediately after coming because he's not distracted by his penis and its anarchic, anti-social, fuck-you-and-your family, I-Don't-Care-If-It-Costs-The-House ambitions. Isn't the point of therapy honesty? Well, there won't be an ounce of honesty when a raging boner is riding shotgun with the Woodman's best intentions.

To understand how Tiger really feels about his marriage, his wife, and his infidelity, stop the wanting, put an end to his insane, natural desire to want to slam his balls against the next pink sandtrap who struts through the therapy room door. Then, if you truly want to know how he really feels when he's not thinking about sex, get him between coming and his next erection, and suck the Truth (not semen) out of him. If you miss that opportunity, it's over. Sayonara, baby! You can take your bat and ball and go home.

Getting a guy like Tiger to stop fantasizing about other women will have as much success as getting him to switch teams for a week so he can bang Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach. It ain't gonna fuckin happen, folks. There may come a time when Tiger will cool his sexual heels, but no amount of "therapy" is going to facilitate that transition.

No one wants to admit it publicly, but fucking is great, insane, amazing, and men (and some women) enjoy (to put it mildly) a menu of strange and familiar. That's reality. Monogamy attempts to ignore that, and so does marriage, but it's the truth, and it's why so many marriages end in a heap of shattered, emotional pieces. There is no existing institution that accounts for the reality of human relations. So humans live in a permanent state of semi-denial, and for much of the time, manage to replace primitive cravings with proxies such as pornography, movies, video games, flirtations, sports, keg festivals, and masturbation.

A hundred therapists (say it: 'the rapists') will get filthy rich "rehabilitating" the Woodman, the injured wife will convince herself he's cured of an impossible-to-cure virus, and society will continue to sink under the weight of its straw institutions.

PGA does not mean Pussy Go Away; every golf widow knows that.

This might be the only solution to Tiger's so-called "problem";
he'd have to swim for trim.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The House of Horror Ruled!

The cover artist of (Hammer's) House of Horror #19 is Ramon Sola, and what a stunning piece of work he's produced; it's like a marriage of Boris (Vallejo) and Frazetta (Frank).

The original title of the mag was The House of Hammer. Its primary focus was Hammer Films. Each issue featured a comic adaptation of a Hammer film and a slew of fascinating articles.

When I picked up each issue at the newsagent, I'd flip straight to Tony Crawley's 'Media Macabre' section. Crawley could always be relied on for interesting items on upcoming fright fare from Europe, Britain, and the US.

I was also an avid Famous Monsters collector, but I never read FM for the articles; I liked the stills and 'Captain Company' ads. House of Hammer/House of Horror/Halls of Horror, like Cinefantastique, took the genre pretty seriously, and, also like Cinefantastique, gave equal time to obscure Euro treasures.

In this issue, the comic adaptation is John Gilling's The Reptile, released in '66 by Warner-Pathe in Britain and 20th Century-Fox in the U.S.

These three scans are a sampling of the love and detail afforded these adaptations.

Pre-VHS, this was the only way to "own" Hammer's little classic.

Artist was Brian Lewis, who'd painted a selection of covers for the mag.

This issue featured Part 2 of a Hammer history, focusing on the exciting years '57 and '58, which saw production of the great The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (with script by Nigel Kneale)...


and Val Guest's truly special The Camp on Blood Island, a WWII drama/actioner that became a huge box office hit -- probably because it depicted the Japanese military as such cold, vicious cunts.
.Love this rare poster art; the British DVD, unfortunately, did not use it, choosing instead to use a cheesy still.

Pre-home video, collecting truncated versions of your favorite films on Super-8 was a passion of many.

I remember visiting a friend of my father's one morning after church many years ago. I discovered a stash of Super-8's in his basement and was encouraged (by him) to check them out. For a period of two hours, I marveled at the sci-fi and horror titles he owned, finding dozens of new ones every time I cleared the ones I'd already seen.

At bottom left (above) is a very rare still from Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; the article suggests that a 35mm print could be had for around $175.

Most Super-8 versions of genre pics retailed for around $50.

This friend of my father's probably didn't count on me finding his collection of Color Climax Super-8's.

Featuring gloriously lurid covers with titles such as Teenage Sex, Hot For Cock, Fuck My Arse (English spelling), Danish Hard Core and Blue Climax, my Sunday morning, pre-church head was spinning. I'd never seen any hardcore in my life, so this was a mighty awakening, and not an awakening I regretted.

Only years later would I learn that Color Climax Corporation (CCC) was a pioneer in the world of hardcore material, not afraid or ashamed to describe itself as "The Biggest, The Best, and the Most Pornographic!"

It was a company that portrayed sex as fun.

Rear cover of House of Horror # 19 is this magical The Reptile poster. Looks very Jess Franco to me.

In '77, the same publishers launched Starburst, a mag more focused on science fiction in cinema and television. After the demise of Halls of Horror (which was its final title), Starburst did incorporate horror items also; the mag still survives.

It's sad to reflect on the possibility that paper magazines like House of Horror, Famous Monsters, and Fangoria may be tomorrow's dinosaurs.

Pornography is always an accurate indicator of where media is going; pornography usually gets there first. With a few exceptions, all the successful European hardcore magazines such as Color Climax and Private now exist only in on-line form. I fear the non-pornographic may soon follow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nature Goes Berserk

It's pretty well accepted that James Herbert started it all; I'm referring to the Nature Gone Berserk (NGB) genre. Of contemporary novelists, he was first with The Rats ('74). Guy N. Smith followed with his crabs (Night of the Crabs, '76), and writers such as Nick Sharman (The Cats), Joseph L. Gilmore (Rattlers), Mark Sonders (Blight) and many others made contributions, too. For mine, all were worth a look.

Pierce Nace, who I've written about already, dished up the ultimate NGB book, Eat Them Alive, in which giant, intelligent prey mantises snack on the entrails, breasts, eyeballs, and associated bits and pieces of humans unlucky enough to have pissed off the book's hero. This stands as one of my favorite books of all times for reasons you'd have to read this entire blog to understand.

Let's not forget that in 1904 H.G. Wells wrote Food of the Gods, a mostly ignored novel in which plants and beasts became large and angry after ingesting a strange, alien substance. The Wells novel is less an NGB work than the Bert I. Gordon film of the same name, but it introduced something fresh and wonderful, nevertheless, to a world craving adventure.

I don't know much about Gregory A. Douglas (real name: Eli Cantor), the author of The Nest, but I do know he's a damn good wordsmith. This New English Library original from 1982 was published in the US first by Zebra Books ('80); that edition sported a much better cover than the NEL effort.

These were the post-Rats years, and NGB tales were leaping off the shelves like giant rodents into strollers. Interestingly, the initial suspects behind the slaughter of a dog in The Nest are rats; one attack features a rather oversized specimen. But it soon becomes apparent that cockroaches -- cockroaches controlled by a strange intelligence -- are responsible for the slaughter on Yarkie, an island off Cape Cod.
Douglas writes well. And though the novel is fairly slow to develop, it's quality pulp that delivers on every count.

The attack sequences are graphic and realistic, as opposed to the attack sequences in Eat Them Alive which are ultra-graphic and ultra-unrealistic (God bless 'em!). Douglas's action/horror writing style comes fairly close to Herbert's in that he zeroes in on specific details of a character before letting the blood fly. A sequence detailing the bloody destruction of a bunch of school children (by cockroaches) is a hair-raising hoot, as is the conclusion in which The Nest is destroyed.

The dramatic set-up is straight from a 50's monster movie, and the lengthy scientific explanations for what is happening hark back to that period also. If I have any criticisms of this work, it's that there's too much science. Sometimes, just a little is more than enough.

Ultimately, The Nest is a winner, and I urge you to seek it out.

In '88, Terence H. Winkless filmed The Nest, and I'm happy to report that the solid source material prevented it from becoming a cheesy, stupid mess.

At seventeen years of age, I read James Montague's Worms. It initially disappointed me because it wasn't a Rats ripoff (I was a shameless gorehound back in those days and I asked for nothing but blood and sleaze). It then surprised me because it opened my eyes to a different form of horror writing. With the exception of Jessica Hamilton's extraordinary Elizabeth, I wasn't too familiar with narrators who were going progressively crazy. I was more at home with narrators like 'Harris' of The Rats, regular blokes with regular problems suddenly thrust into a world gone mad. Anyway, when I was done reading Worms, I was a better man for the experience.

Like the hero in Stephen Gregory's brilliant The Cormorant (see separate blog), the hero of Worms, 'Hildebrand', is shouldering a raft of personal problems, the heaviest of which is his ball-busting wife. Dreaming of making her worm food, he is spurred into action when she belittles him and makes it clear that he'll never get a penny of her inheritance.

When Hildebrand purchases a country mansion with the winnings from his murdered wife's will, his elation is short-lived. The town of Blaney, where he now lives, is cold, rainy, and miserable. Images of the poor sod's dead wife plague him, and sticky, fat-bodied worms are appearing all over the place. It's like they're coming to get him, Barbara.

Matters worsen when a nuclear reactor is built near the town. Although it's felt that the worms will react badly to its presence, they embrace the technology and reproduce accordingly until they're an enemy to be reckoned with. In a sense, Worms finds parallels with Jeff Lieberman's film of Squirm; the Squirm worms were also invigorated by a power source close to their moist, electricity-conducting breeding grounds. Montague does provide a supernatural reason for the behavior of the worms, but it's neither here nor there whether its legitimate.

What truly distinguishes Worms is its Lovecraftian hero, a troubled soul whose insatiable appetite for the dark side is matched only by the worms' appetite for flesh.

3-Day Feature

When opportunity like this knocks, I answer it with reason.
The project:
Four actors.
Three locations.
Minimal dialog.
Hey, I can do that.
Three days to shoot a 75 minute feature.
WHAT?
Yes, three days.
Four actors and three locations. That's very do-able. Minimal dialog? A little more difficult because if you don't have a lot of dialog scenes, you need to shoot a lot of stuff that takes a lot more time to shoot than dialog. Dialog scenes are great time fillers.
I'd never made a feature in three days before.
What the hell!?
Here's the first trailer:

KINDER PLAY from Mark Savage on Vimeo.



A purely creative filmmaking exercise, free of serious financial constraints and expectations, can be incredibly liberting, underlining why we create in the first place.

For me, the key component of success (beyond concept and performances) was striking locations. Although each was a two hour + drive, the visual rewards are obvious.

Camera used was Sony XD-CAM EX I.

Current Sins of Sinema

I didn't like The Book of Eli trailer much; did I need another post-apocalyptic tale set in a familiar looking world already well trodden by Sergio Martino's 2019: After the Fall of New York, I Am Legend, The Road Warrior, The Road, A Boy and His Dog (which the film references directly), and Ravagers (to name a few)?

It's unfair to judge a film by its trailer, right, even though we make decisions based on trailers all the time? It is unfair to filmmakers, but it's not always unfair to ourselves. With so much cinema out there, one has to be somewhat choosy sometimes. Despite that reasoning, I still chose to see this film.

I liked the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society very much, didn't care for Dead Presidents, was bored with From Hell, and really enjoyed their American Pimp doco; that's one you have to see.

The sincere The Book of Eli, with the ultra-sincere Denzel Washington, started to wash over me about half an hour in. It's been compared to The Road Warrior by critics who either didn't see The Road Warrior or didn't appreciate its many virtues. One major difference between George Miller's masterpiece and this is energy levels. The Road Warrior had energy to burn; Eli sits on its energy supply and never gets up.

It's not a terrible film and it's not without craft, but the desaturated look and cliched bursts of slow motion bury its assets. The action scenes are so self-consciously staged and stale, there's no sense of danger or peril. When a house in the desert is assaulted by gunfire, the camera creeps leisurely towards a spitting Gatling Gun and stops right in front of the exploding barrels, reminding us that this isn't real; if it was, the camera would be destroyed. The lack of freshness is evident in a lengthy fight scene that is lifted directly from Old Boy (I'm sure you know which scene); Washington takes on a gang of desert thugs in a tunnel, triggering fountains of CG blood. Owning up to some of its references, a character whistles Morricone (Once Upon A Time in the West), and a poster of A Boy and his Dog inexplicably hangs on the wall of a decrepit house.

On paper, this probably looked like a post-apocalyptic flick with an edge, that edge being The Book (The Bible) that Eli (Washington) is carrying and how the prospect of it falling into the wrong hands will spell doom for mankind. Well, there's not much Mankind left to doom here, and Eli just gets annoying after a while; he's such a smug cunt. Gary Oldman, playing a slightly toned down version of his 'Stansfield' character in Leon, is merely passable as the man who wants the book that Eli holds. There is an attempt to wedge a female (Mila Kunis) into the proceedings, but it is a contrived, desperate attempt, and it hurts the movie.

A couple of revelations pop up at the end, and one of them is rather ridiculous. The other is acceptable.

Ultimately, Washington's Eli is too much of a Nobody to command our attention. When Eastwood played Nobodies and Men With No Names, he always carried a dry sense of humor and unholstered it when necessary. Washinton's Eli carries no such weapon. He wears oh-so-meaningful sincerity around his neck, and it's dull.

This Jason Reitman film has been the mainstream cause celebre this year, and last night it won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, ousting The Hurt Locker, which was my pick.
Up in the Air
is a perfectly pleasant film with a perfectly predictable lead performance by George Clooney. I enjoyed the experience of watching it without enjoying anything beyond that. That's why I came away from it feeling nonplussed. I did, however, respect the way the writers chose to wrap things up. Although I saw a particular revelation coming, the concluding pieces of Clooney's character's journey felt natural.

Worth seeing.


Life is compromise. In that spirit, I accompanied my romantic other to this awful pile of shit. Meryl Streep plays a divorcee who was once married to a serial killer/rapist (Alec Baldwin). Baldwin is just out of jail for his life of crime, and decides to get back with Streep in order to get intimate and incestuous with his teenage daughter. Unfortunately for him, Streep is dating Steve Martin, a reformed drug trafficker who's secretly screwing the daughter (who has a killer heroin habit). Can't say I wasn't pleasantly surprised and invigorated by this plot. From a studio?

I must confess that only the first sentence in the above paragraph is true. The rest is where the movie could have headed, but it chose the boring route instead. In truth, the film is about a divorcee (Streep) who has an affair with her cheating (is there any other?) ex-husband (Baldwin). At the same time, Steve Martin (a boring architect with a plastic face) is trying to get into her pants. In fact, everybody is trying to get into Streep's pants in this flick. I'm not sure guys in the audience were quite as keen. We're supposed to find it entertaining that Streep see-saws between Martin and Baldwin and fucks Baldwin a lot while in the process of deciding. After a while, it became excruciating watching her.

The film runs way too long and populates its frames with annoying teenagers and spoilt twentysomethings so boring, I couldn't figure out why Streep didn't post-abort the lot of them.

Where are the more realistic movies where guys leave their wives because their wives are boring?

Recommended if you're undecided.

Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, which won a major prize at Cannes in 2009, is an intelligent, disturbing, slow paced drama about the genesis of evil (pre-World War I). Its small town setting is a microcosm for Germany, and each character represents a larger social and political group.

To avoid spoilers, the less I say about it the better. It is the first from Haneke since his Funny Games remake and it's it's totally involving, beautifully acted, and shot in stunning black and white.

Let it bleed all over you.