Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Exotic Influence of the Past

I have some powerful connections to these images. When I was visiting my eye doctor (the late and great Dr. Hugh Ryan) in the winter of '72, I spotted the above image on the wall of his waiting room. It took my ten year old breath away.

The woman depicted in this ravishing painting by the immortal J H Lynch did things to my body and mind that I have never fully recovered from. I was entranced by her dark, exotic beauty, and transported immediately to the shimmering, almost surreal locale.

I wore an eye patch over my right eye for many years because the sight in my left eye was close to zero. Eventually, the muscle developed and my left eye learned to stand on its own.

After my visit with the doctor, I returned to an empty waiting room and waited for my mother. Feeling lucky, I stepped onto a chair and began to remove this framed print from the wall. My blood raced as I stepped back down with it and headed for the door. A moment later, a hand landed on my shoulder. It was a chubby hand belonging to a fat woman. She was the doctor's temp, I guess. I'd never seen her face before.

"Where are you going with that?" she asked.

I stopped and stared at her fat face. "To wait for my mum."

This wasn't really an answer; it was a child's way of providing a response in lieu of an honest answer that would incriminate me.

"WHAT'S GOING ON?!" was the next thing I heard. It came from my mother's mouth and it was said with shock and anger.

I turned.

Fatty didn't say anything (not with words). She just looked at my mum, and that probably said enough.

"WELL?" said my mother.

I remained silent.

My mother stared at the beauty in the picture before gesturing back towards the lonesome picture hook on the wall behind her.

"Put it back," she said.

I complied.

And as I complied, the fat temp provided some commentary: "He didn't have any trouble seeing THAT with his bad eye, did he?"

"No," my mother sighed. "He certainly didn't."

I got over this incident eventually, but I resented the actions of Fatty for about thirty-five years. Probably explains why I'm not real keen on fat chicks. I blame them for separating me from my dark, ravishing beauty.

A year later, while in the 5th grade, I fell in love with a miniature version of this exotic creature; her name was Linda Higgs, and she was a dark-skinned, athletic vision of miniature womanhood who drank a can of RC Cola every day. It was almost as dark as her skin. And when she let me taste it, I was in heaven.

These striking images are scans from a beautiful book called Just Above The Mantlepiece - Mass Market Masterpieces (Booth-Clibborn Editions, Ltd.; 2000). Edited by Wayne Hemingway, it's a stunning compilation of pop art gems that appeared on public and private walls in the 60's, 70's and 80's.

I have vivid memories of stumbling on many of these images for the first time.

For example, when I was just eight years old, I was in love with the doe-eyed waif in the picture above. The picture hung on the wall of a neighbor's garage. I would constantly find reasons to visit this alcoholic neighbor just so I could see it again. It didn't bother me one bit that her eyes were much bigger than a real person's eyes. On the contrary, her sad, almost tragic demeanor brought out the humanitarian in me.

Another consequence of my obsession with this picture was that I developed a fetish for women in red tights. There are some things we never grow out of.

The superb and unique working style of Margaret Keane, who painted both of the pics above, has inspired and been preserved by artists such as Mark Ryden.


Pre-dating David Hamilton and his photographic portraits of youth was the artist Stephen Pearson.

These two examples of his work are minor masterpieces, and demonstrate an exceptional grasp of form and shadow. The eroticism is certainly palpable, but also elusive.

Although the artist for the painting of the crying boy (one of many in the book) is not specifically identified, this piece traveled the world and caused uproar in some parts.

Crying children pictures are not so common these days.

Crying children still are.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Mighty Maruo Returns

Fans of Suehiro Maruo and Edogawa Ranpo have reason to rejoice this quarter with the publication of Ranpo Panorama.

This is a stunning, glossy Japanese gift in which Suehiro interprets the works of Japanese literary giant Edogawa Ranpo.

Variations on twenty-six English characters can not adequately describe the magic, wonder, and romantic sensuality to be found within these pages.

The artist has excelled himself in this work, and it is easily his best since the publication of his groundbreaking 'Maruograph' volumes.

The book is available through US stores such as Kinokuniya for the paltry price of US$33, or through Amazon.co.jp

Like artists such as Toshio Saeki and Hideshi Hino, Maruo finds fresh flesh beneath the fascia that somehow holds us together. His art is a lifelong poem to passionate invention unhindered by fear and social pressure.

A massive bonus in this volume is the inclusion, care of Beam Comics, of Suehiro Maruo's unofficial sequel to Mr. Arshi's Amazing Freak Show.

Also based on a Ranpo story, "The Midget is Dancing" is a delightfully grotesque, beautiful, and subversive tale in which a midget finds true love after an act of dismemberment.

Do not hesitate to add this titanic volume to your literary ossuary of perversion.

From Enterbrain and Beam Comics (c) 2010

***

Scans above are not accurate representations of the actual art appearing in this book. Due to the difficulty of scanning bound pages, the scans are compromises intended to give you a taste only of the beauty to be found within Ranpo Panorama.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Praise of The Fox and the Child

If you're prepared to put Kate Winslet's redundant narration aside, you will enjoy Luc Jacquet's The Fox and the Child as much as I did.

In every other sense, this is a superb, beautifully produced movie about man's relationship with nature -- in this case, man is a young French girl, and nature is a female fox (a vixen).

Clearly, the intended audience for this film is children, so I'm not oblivious to why Kate Winslet is constantly articulating what we know our heroine is thinking. It's not that Kate doesn't do a good job; it's just that the adult inside me is less tolerant of pointless cinematic devices than the child.

Of course, in the French cut of the film, the little girl (voiced as an adult byAmbra Angiolini) now a mother, is relating the story to her son (Thomas Laliberte), who never appears in the English language version. Thus, the primary story is a narrated flashback of her childhood.

Set in a meadow not unlike the meadow of another French celebration of nature, Microcosmos, we are introduced to a young girl on school holidays who encounters an intense looking fox one day. Although the meeting is short, the fox, a very handsome creature, makes quite an impression on the lass. Before you can say transition, months go by, school holidays arrive, and the the young girl has become determined to forge a friendship with her clever, furry friend.

The beauty of The Fox and the Child is its simplicity and exquisite craft. Director Jacquet previously helmed March of the Penguins, an award winning documentary. In this follow-up outing, he has opted for a soft narrative feature, one designed to showcase the beauty of nature, but also the beauty of patience and tolerance. There is a message about love and possession that is deftly handled, and the film's climactic sequence is sure to ruffle most emotional feathers.

The technical credits (photography and music) are somewhat astonishing, as is the rich and vibrant sound mix. The meadow setting, through which we view the four seasons, feels like a world within a world. Actress Bertille Noel-Bruneau, a freck-faced redhead, makes for a feisty, stubborn little heroine, and is not hampered by overt cuteness.

I would place this comfortably on the shelf beside Fly Away Home, The Bear, Milo and Otis, The Silver Brumby, and Hachiko - A Dog's Story (a film I will write about at length shortly).

The French title, Le Renard et l'enfant, has a beautiful ring to it.

Blonde Ambition Special Edition

Video*X*Pix, the company that released the definitive DVD of Inside Annie Sprinkle last year, has returned with what can only be considered the definitive DVD of the Amero Brothers' Blonde Ambition, an astonishing porno musical that was originally released in the U.S. in 1981.

I saw it originally at a Detroit area porno palace after reading an extremely positive Hustler review. The mag had given the film its FULLY ERECT rating. In retrospect, I'm not so sure it deserved Hustler's highest accolade, which would usually be an indicator of a film's heat, but it did deserve high marks for its mind-boggling production values (for a porno pic) and filmmaking ambition.

Co-Director John Amero, who supplies a great commentary, cites Gentleman Prefer Blondes as an influence. The film was marketed to those who enjoyed that film AND Deep Throat. Quite a broad audience.

Only a handful of porno feature films have attempted what Blonde Ambition attempted. Bill Osco's Alice in Wonderland (whose DVD I worked on a couple of years ago) shared the Ameros' lofty goals, as did the watershed Opening of Misty Beethoven, Radley Metzger's carnal opus.

As wack material, Blonde Ambition isn't terribly erotic. The sex scenes are standard, though well shot, and the heat between the performers is negligible. The recently deceased Jamie Gillis makes an appearance as the director of a Gone With The Wind porno parody, but he doesn't participate in any sex scenes. According to his commentary, which is well worth a listen, he did spend some quality time beneath the hoop skirts of several actresses between takes.

Despite my reservations about its sex appeal, Blonde Ambition is well worth owning because it's an amazing relic of a time now lost. The film was shot by the notorious Roberta Findlay, whose own porno directing career was many degrees darker than what's on screen here. Director Amero even mentions that Findlay found it difficult working on a porno film where the sex was well lit and the overall tone was bright and fun. Her own porno flicks were dark, dismal excursions into sexual hell (bless her soul!), and couldn't have been more different than this.

R. Bolla, a porno stalwart now better known for his role in Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, has a considerable role in the film and receives a complimentary blow job, as does porno veteran Eric Edwards, an actor who'd appeared in other Amero flicks. Both men had off-Broadway credits prior to the making of this film.

Of special note here is cute Benny Hill Show actress Suzy Mandel, who appears in various hardcore sequences.

Thanks to John Amero's clever cutting of her scenes, her non-participation in the film's actual hardcore comes as a surprise. Contractually, she was not obliged to perform hardcore. Amero, on the other hand, was free to blend footage of her porno double as he saw fit.

There are interesting bits and pieces to look out for here. The name on top of a sign for Miracle Pictures, 'Ben Dover', refers to a character who makes a brief appearance. I can't help speculate that British porno director Ben Dover was inspired by this film when it played (in R-rated form) at London's Prince Charles Theatre near Leicester Square. The film was financed by a Swedish exhibitor of blue movies, Kjell Nilsson, for the paltry sum of $30K. It looks like half a million at least, and that's acknowledging favors extended to the production. Thankfully, it made its money back quickly, and was sold worldwide in three different versions.

Video*X*Pix's treatment of the film is a loving one. Although the commentaries are excellent, I wish they'd been recorded and mixed with more love. The British interviewer of John Amero (who sounds a lot like Severin Films' David Gregory, though it might not be) is difficult to hear at times, although he should be applauded for asking all the right questions. Ironically, the sound level on Amero is much too high. The Jamie Gillis "tribute" on the set's second disk is a compilation of scenes featuring Jamie from films such as William Lustig's Violation of Claudia and Chuck Vincent's Roommates.

A small booklet of liner notes and history of the production is also included, as is a film strip of frames from the movie.

Overall, this is an excellent package, and a fine celebration of talented filmmakers, real filmmakers, who cared about the genre they were working in.

It's a testament to their ambitions that Blonde Ambition has earned such prestige treatment thirty years after it was shot.

Violent Panic For Kitano

Very happy to read two extremely positive reviews of Takeshi Kitano's new yakuza film, Outrage, out of Cannes this morning.

The writers compared it to the director's best works such as Violent Cop and Sonatine. Personally, my favorite flick of his from this period is Hanna-B (aka 'Fireworks'), followed closely by Violent Cop and Sonatine, but I ain't gonna argue the point.

Recently, Kitano has been flying in other directions with works such as Achilles and the Tortoise (a film I liked quite a bit), Glory to the Filmmaker, and Takeshis' (I'm a fan of this also, with reservations) .

What rubbed me the right way in Variety's review of Outrage ('Autoreiji') was the referencing of Kinji Fukasaku's yakuza work.

In Maggie Lee's Hollywood Reporter review, she wrote:

'In fact, his representation of internecine gang rivalry and imploding power structure stands up to Kinji Fukasaku's seminal "Battle Without Honor" series in complexity and unsentimental attitude, with humor as mean and dry as a straight-up martini.'

Such referencing of one of my three favorite directors of all time has made me super-hot for this flick (not that I wasn't already).

I've been binging on Fukusaku's flicks for the last few months in an effort to catch up on everything I haven't seen. Fortunately, many more are becoming available in various shapes and forms from a litany of sources.

His Violent Panic - The Big Crash ('Boso Panniku: Daigekitotsu'; 76) really blew me away, and not for the reasons I imagined it would. The film has long been touted as featuring one of the most spectacular car chase sequences ever filmed in Japanese cinema. While the chase sequence is impressive, it is more like an extended car rally in the It's A Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild World vein. Fukasaku revisited the same type of scene himself in his '92 The Triple Cross and did it better.

Interestingly, Panic's opening stanza features a montage of bank robberies, also replicated in Triple Cross. There are several other similarities, too.

Car chases aside, the magic of Violent Panic can be found in its rich character mix and blending of melodrama, violence, unsentimental romance, and crime thriller elements. Fukasaku, whose last complete film was Battle Royale, thrived in the crime genre, and was able to make sense of seemingly disassociated elements within a particular story, finally knitting them together in a cinematic ball of dynamite.

Speaking of dynamite, crime flicks don't come much more incendiary than Fukasaku's blistering Hokuriku Proxy War, a '77 effort set in a predominantly snowbound area of Japan in which a yakuza torpedo, played with brute authority by Hiroki Matsukata, violently resists the outside influence of big city yakuza types. His war against them is stunning to behold.

Closing out recent viewings was the director's Outlaw Killers -- Three Mad Dog Brothers, a truly stunning tale of three violent, amoral miscreants who kill, steal, chop, stab and rape their way through one hundred minutes of flapping celluloid. Made in '72, the same year as the masterful Under the Flag of the Rising Sun and Street Mobster (Fukasaku was one busy fucker that year!), this frantic walk on the wild side is buoyed by a brutal turn from Bunta Sugawara, who plays a character not unlike Tetsuya Watari's psycho gangster 'Rikio Ishikawa' in Graveyard of Honor, and Fukasaku's in-your-face and at-your-balls direction that drops you in the middle of the carnage. Made just prior to the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, the energy levels, as usual, are through the roof.

With Takeshi Kitano's Outrage on the horizon, and Fukasaku being whispered in the same breath, it's good times for cinephiles.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Prunella, Sexting, and The Women Haters

A situation came up a couple of weekend's ago that brought some issues I often wrestle with to a head. An older married couple visited my gal and I and we watched some DVD's (Obecna Skola and Battle Royale). The wife looked through my DVD collection afterward and seemed troubled.

She asked me: "Do you hate women? You have so many movies in your collection featuring the degradation of women?"

She then smiled.

"You don't look like someone who hates women, Mark. You and Lynn (my girlfriend of three years) seem like a very happy couple. We both (her husband and her) like you very much and trust you completely. Is there something I'm not getting?"

This assumption -- that I hate women -- comes up often.

It is true that I own and am passionate about many movies, books, and works of art focusing on sexual violence, perversion, and extreme erotica. I have also made more than half a dozen feature length movies and many shorts, the majority of which feature some scenes of rape (men and women), torture, and general sexual deviancy.

I openly champion films such as I Spit on Your Grave, Assault - Jack The Ripper, White Rose Campus -- Then, Everybody Gets Raped, Straw Dogs, and the amazing Story of Prunella, an '82 hardcore masterpiece that most humans would be appalled by. I celebrate the works of Toshio Saeki, Stu Mead, and Suehiro Maruo. My optimism is kept aloft every week by the makers of Family Guy and South Park because these people challenge conventions inside the mainstream. That's a highwire act of awesome ability.

But regarding more extreme graphic content, people assume I'm not appalled by the content. There seems to be an underlying belief that I somehow condone the subject matter because I'm passionate about it.

I am a passionate person. I'm passionate about honest artistic expression. I happen to consider pornography an honest art form. I'm not referring to the producers or directors; I'm referring to the genre. Pornography dangles life in your face and makes you confront it. It is sometimes ugly and disturbing and gross and repulsive. The stuff that's least disturbing feels the the least honest.

Vivid Video is America's most popular producer of pornography. Personally, I don't find the Vivid view of sexuality to be an honest one. I'm sure Vivid doesn't, either. Vivid's vids are to sex what The Brady Bunch is to family. It's idealized. It makes people feel comfortable by slinging them crap. It wraps everything up in a neat package. Unlike reality. That's why it sells. People aren't too fond of reality.

I'm not big on neat packages. I never have been. I like raw, open sores. I like humanity spreadeagled. For some unexplained reason, the truth of anything releases the rot for me.

A common complaint after I screen a movie to the wrong person is: "Why do we need to see things like that?"

There are a dozen stock answers to the question, but the problem is really the person asking the question. They want the neat package. They want the lies. They want the denials, the pretense, the bullshit. No amount of truth will free them. Ever.

I like Truth. I don't care how much it stinks.

I really hate most Disney movies. They're utterly false. Filled with completely counterfeit notions of relationships, family, and human interaction. I'm sure even the executives at Disney know how untruthful their product is (relatively speaking, they are still living in the real world).

Ultimately, they're just business people. I don't blame them for wanting to make a buck. We all have to do that. I just find their product repellent. What I like is often called The Ugly Truth. But is Truth really Ugly? Does that mean lies are attractive? I've never found the Truth to be Ugly. I find it fascinating and liberating.

I'm fascinated by the deepest, darkest truth of the human spirit in art.

In an artistic sense, I have no use or time for people who dismiss art that appalls them. You know the type I'm talking about. The person who judges the work by its subject matter, not its execution.

Some art requires enormous courage. We live in an incredibly judgmental society in which the Hollywood mainstream represents the taste and critical reference point of the average human. No wonder anything more extreme or critical of the mainstream is naturally shunned. Hollywood, political correctness, and our education system have killed fascination. They've slaughtered curiosity. And when curiosity dies, knowledge will die with it.

Rarely do I meet other humans who are as curious about everything as I am. When I do, I want immediate intercourse with them The curiosity I possessed as a five year old is strong forty years later -- perhaps even stronger.

Do I hate women?

Of course not. Quite the opposite.

My mother is a woman. My sisters are women. My partners have all been women.

The fact is, men have issues with women that they don't have with other men because the nature of a man's relationship with a woman is entirely different.

Men are generally more frustrated by women because the relationship with them is more complex and comes with more expectations. With your buddies, you share and commiserate. With your partner, you share, commiserate, plan, grow, and negotiate changes within yourself in tandem with changes in them. You deal with a million years of different, gender-defining genetics, and you encounter complications simply arising from co-habitation.

All men hate women at times, just like all men hate the phone company at times, hate traffic at times, hate TV commercials, hate other men, and hate the ramifications of their own stupid decisions.

Quentin Tarantino has been brave enough to say it, and I'll say it, too: I love on-screen violence if it's done well. I love on-screen rape and brutality if it's done well. I love well choreographed car chases, fight scenes, martial arts duels, love scenes, and aesthetically powerful domestic violence (Once Were Warriors and Nil By Mouth spring to mind).

I saw Story of Prunella recently. It's easily one of the most powerful examples of true hardcore pornography I've ever seen. It must have been good because, even though I watched a friend's copy twice, I ordered it on-line for myself. The film features horrific rape, abuse, and general sociopathic behavior. Was it entertaining? Yes. To me, entertainment is that which holds my interest and stirs my psyche. Prunella most certainly did that with master pervert Phil Prince at the helm.

Bad women exploit, manipulate, and demean everybody around them. I hate those women. Equally, I guess I hate the men who allow them to do that. Weak men enable these monsters. They trade their self respect for a slippery hole. Ultimately, they get what they deserve.

Good women are upfront, forthright, independent, self-assured and comfortable with their sexual power (God knows they have it in spades!). Good men embrace this. I don't hate such people. On the contrary...

Is watching women being abused on screen an indicator of a man's hate for the gender? I don't think so. I'm not saying that some men don't hate all women. Plenty do. And they must have their reasons. But our interaction with art of any type is a complex, vicarious process. Do readers of Stephen King novels hate humans? Many humans die in King's stories after all. Are James North Patterson's readers people-haters? Considers the millions of murder-mystery fans out there -- are they all secret misanthropes? I doubt it.

Humans are fascinated by themselves. Why else is Big Brother such a hit!? Some humans are more fascinated by humans than others? My fascination begins where another's fascination ends. The length of human fascination and curiosity is infinite.

Sexual violence is particularly interesting cinematically because it possesses great power. Like smoking or dancing, it has a universal, sensual appeal. It impacts with primitive genetic memory and ignites our engines, delivering a vicarious buzz through which we experience highs and lows of fighting and fleeing. It's primal.

The truth of human behavior is we are animals restrained by a nurtured morality. Ours is an eternal struggle to find a harmonious haven between savagery and civility. Raw depictions of this struggle can only be helpful in understanding it. Unfortunately, rage at the object tends to override the investigative impulse. Again, the casualty is knowledge.

Society's refusal to embrace the truth about men and women (children or adults) can only end in chaos.

One present example of that chaos is the "sexting" epidemic that is currently sweeping the Westernized world. The mainstream press and its ignorant gate keepers are up in arms about this phenomenon, treating it like a disease of the year that has suddenly afflicted the youth.

Children as young as nine or ten are exchanging sexual messages via text and disseminating naked images of themselves. Some of these children are being charged with production and distribution of child pornography, an outrageous course of action that will do far more damage to them than the act of sexting itself.

In fact, sexting is what the world gets when it insists on being dishonest about the way things really are. Denial, as usual, has falsely inflated reality, giving birth to a strange hybrid through which the truth is now being channeled.

We are all sexual beings in different phases of development.

Alarmism about children of the same age exchanging messages and photos is a symptom of a society founded on gross ignorance, fear, and denial.

I had sexual feelings when I was eight years old. I expressed them with a girl my own age. I wasn't damaged by what I did. I wasn't traumatized. I was just developing at my own speed. It was an entirely pleasurable, innocent experience, and I remained innocent because nobody dirtied the water.

We live in a world where natural impulses have been demonized, where images that depict the truth are censored, and where simple displays of random sexuality are seen as harbingers of doom (Janet Jackson's so-called nip-slip, for example)

What we now have is the result of the world bullshit has made.

Do I hate women?

Of course not. Who has the time or energy for that?

I just don't have much love for the lies our TV's tell us.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why Cable TV Will Die



When sweet little Heather O'Rourke died, she left a good looking corpse.

Cable TV won't.

I don't like supermarkets. I don't like having to buy bacon and Spam and lard in order to get broccoli and oatmeal. That bothers me. It sucks. I'm not sure who thought of this concept, but they're a fiscal rapist of the first order.

Brothels bother me, too. It truly irks me that if you want to spend an hour with a pretty young lass of South American extraction, you are obligated, at the same time, to entertain a fat, sweaty, cake-eating mountain pig whose vagina went into hiding a decade ago. Even worse, you must pay the mountain pig regardless of whether you touched her or not.

Is this the world our forefathers built?

I'm speaking hypothetically, of course. Nobody would really force you to buy SPAM if you wanted oats. And nobody would compel you to lie down with a mountain of sweaty flesh, either, would they?

Actually, they would.

Who's THEY?

Cable TV.

You know the drill. If you want IFC (the Independent Film Channel), you must also take Lifetime Women, Jewelry Television, and ION Life. Oh, and they'll also oblige you to pay for NFL Network, too.

But I don't watch sport!

I don't care what you watch or don't watch, asshole. You're taking these extra channels and you're paying for them.

OK. I'd like CNN International, too.

Really, sir? Well, if you want that, please remove your pants and take BET, Fit TV, Basket Weavers Network, and another twenty-five loser channels that play infomercials between midnight and 7 am, too. Get dressed when we're done fucking you and leave your wallet by the door.

Why is there such fiscal injustice in this world?

Because the cable companies delight in bending you over and fucking you up the ass. No reach-around. No candlelit dinners. No compliments or foreplay. Just hard, dry, brutal penetration.

They make money by spreading the good channels across a variety of tiers. For every good channel, there are ten shitty channels. Your money pays for the good channels and the shitty ones. It doesn't matter whether you watch them or not. You simply pay and fuck you, Charlie!

Eventually, this will all come unstuck, and cable's dick will be removed from your ass.

The present structure is about five years behind the times. Mainstream business always is. It's populated by followers, not leaders.

Netflix is leading the charge against the cable rapists. You pick what you want. They send it to you. You send it back. They send your next choice. Simple.

Now, you can do this on-line. You flick through the on-screen menu. You choose what you want. They send it down the line to you. Easy.

The cost?

About a quarter of what cable charges.

With cable, you get what you're given. It's not unlike like the old days when there were half a dozen channels. You watched what was on. If you didn't like it, too bad.

The internet has changed the way we think about entertainment. We're become accustomed to searching for and finding what we want. The plateau has shifted one hundred and eighty degrees. For the most part, the TV networks are perceived as old hat. They are losing an entire generation of younger viewers who've been weened on the web -- a generation weened on choice.

There is still plenty of good programming on cable, of course. You just have to look between the televised "crack".

Even though I have close to 200 channels, I watch a handful only. These are A&E, The History Channel, National Geographic, Investigation Discovery, MSNBC, USA, AMC, Spike, CNN International, TCM (Turner Classic movies), IFC, Comedy Central, The Sundance Channel, and BBC America. I like HBO and Showtime for a couple of original series, but I have zero interest in their movies because I already see close to 300 movies a year at the cinema or on DVD from a variety of regions.

My point is I'm paying for 200 channels and watching a dozen or so.

With Netflix, you're paying for exactly what you watch. They're not raping anybody. That makes for smiley faces.

This is why cable TV (in its present form) will die.

Very few human beings enjoy being raped repeatedly. This may be news to the sociopathic corporations, but, trust me, an object inserted without invitation into the human body is not pleasant. For the rapist, it is a demonstration of power.

As it is for the rapists running these corporations.

Their power comes from the money they make. There is no other power for them.

Unless they begin a collective withdrawal of their corporate penises from their customers' rear ends, their power will go away. Their penises will no longer be capable of maintaining wood.

These companies have the resources and infrastructure to make changes. They may not have the will right now, but when revenues plummet, they will find it.

The Netflix model is the model of the future because it's about choice. Nobody is being dragged into a room and raped. A straight man isn't being forced to suck dick. A gay man isn't having his faced pressed to a vagina against his will. A stoner isn't being compelled to smoke a cigar or a huff a clove cigarette.

In its present form, cable TV will die.

The internet has made it abundantly clear that exciting entertainment niches exist. Cable TV is not serving these niches because it's geared towards the masses. But the masses have fractured, and what was once a mass is now a dozen niches. Do you ignore these niches when they still collectively comprise a mass, or do you go back to the drawing board and create new structures to extract revenue?

Smart companies do that.

I don't want to pay $100 to watch 15 channels. Today, I may pay $40 to watch 15 channels. And if I'll pay $40, you can bet I'm not alone.

Amongst my friends and colleagues, many are dropping cable. The costs are too high. The subsidization of shitty channels sucks. And there's Netflix, DVD's, and Blu-Ray, anyway. There are Netflix clones, too.

The economics of cable becoming more choice-oriented are clear. By adapting a pay-for-what-you-want-and-not-what-you-don't want approach, the corporations running cable will entice or attract back the millions of hold-outs who aren't repaired to bend over and take it fiscally in the butt.

Cable is officially a living corpse. Living corpses don't look so good and they smell like shit.

On this week's brilliant Family Guy, Brian ate Stewie's shit direct from the little monster's diaper. I'd put money on it that he wouldn't go near cable.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hot for Harry Brown


Harry Brown, a story about a "vigilante pensioner" (as one character puts it), is a damn dark little crime flick with strong characterization and stellar performances up and down the credit roll. Although it's been compared to Michael Winner's Death Wish, such a comparison shows little appreciation for its strengths.

The film is much stronger and grimmer than its marketing campaign suggests. In fact, it's tonally similar to aspects of Gasper Noe's I Stand Alone and Irreversible. That's probably why I warmed to it so quickly.

Yes, it's about a bloke done wrong who procures a gun and uses it to eliminate those whose actions have deemed them unworthy of hosting a beating heart. That bloke is Michael Caine. He has just lost his wife and best friend. The animals who patrol the estate where he lives have created a hell on earth for its residents. Caine must do things like avoid the local subway tunnel (the type of place where Monica Bellucci was raped in Irreversible) because these creatures inhabit it like dirty, psychopathic trolls. These miscreants think nothing of offing a frail elderly man or raping a woman passing by with her boyfriend.

Cinematographer Martin Ruhe and director Daniel Barber have created a work of dark, nasty, scary art. Helped considerably by Michael Caine, an actor of incredible authority, Harry Brown rises way above genre expectations. It is consistently gripping and fascinating, but isn't handicapped by ADD-ridden camera tricks and editing. It is paced exactly as Caine's character is paced. When shit happens, it happens as a direct outgrowth of Caine's mental process.

The film dedicates a little screen time to a powerful indictment of the sociopathic mind where various suspects in a murder are questioned by police. The camera cuts between the interviews as they deny wrongdoing and verbally assault the police. This sequence is intense and terribly disturbing for what it says about a culture and for what it doesn't need to say directly about the thanklessness of police work.

The outrage Harry Brown feels doesn't feel like the contrived outrage of Death Wish -- still a good film, nonetheless, but a textbook example of audience manipulation and rampant implausibility; Harry Brown's outrage feels like the pain of a friend.

This vigilante pensioner is a force of nature, and because we get to know him, his actions are both tragic and victorious.