Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fool's Views (5/3 – 5/16)

Howdy, folks!

This installment of Fool’s Views was made possible in part by United Airlines. Yes, the overabundance of current and classic civilian flicks on display came courtesy of the two 12-hour flights forth and back from Shanghai. In fact, if not for the Music Box Theatre’s genius midnight movie programming upon my return (and before the missus and I disembarked upon our two-week road trip through the southwestern U.S.), it might have been a completely horror-free FV. Now, there’s a scary thought.

Oh, and all the television? My buddy Tony, who hosted me for four days in Shanghai, insisted I get a little culture in my viewing diet. Hey, when in Shanghai…I guess you watch American television series.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Human Centipede (First Sequence), The (2009)
(1st viewing) d. Six, Tom
Presumably, many of the hardcore fans out there have already heard the jaw-dropping premise behind this new horror flick from the Netherlands. Roger Ebert felt it necessary to reveal the entire plot as a “public service announcement” to his readers in his historic “un-starred” review, but I do not feel this is necessary and in fact, if someone could see this film without knowing anything about it, it would deliver the true impact that director Six deserves. Some critics have dusted off the tired old “torture porn” label and lazily slapped it on, but Centipede goes beyond that, and the intellect and skill on display are worthy of more than an easy dismissal or categorization. Six serves up a truly disturbing set piece that would ordinarily act as the crime to which the antagonist aspires, and which he nearly achieves before the heroes make their daring escape. But instead, Six allows the heinous act to occur…as the end of his first act. We, along with the hapless victims, are then forced to live within this nightmarish scenario for another 45 minutes. It is from this that the true nature of horror emerges. This is no easy jump scare nor gross-out tactic. Six is after something far more dangerous, and it’s no wonder that he has people scrambling for adjectives (or the exits). The audience I saw it with sought escape through nervous laughter and catcalls at the screen, but it was clear they were attempting to avoid real contact with the subject matter. Those who are willing to sit and seriously commune with this brave new work will find something special, and though I can’t recommend this film to everyone, I do recommend it.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Gervasi, Sacha
Amazing, hilarious and moving documentary about the greatest metal band that never made it. To call it a real-life Spinal Tap would be fairly accurate, but it’s both funnier and more heartfelt because it’s true.

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) (2nd viewing) d. Edwards, Blake
Audrey Hepburn becomes a legend as Holly Golightly, but George Peppard turns in solid work right alongside her as a struggling writer “kept” by rich socialite Patricia Neal. Mickey Rooney’s wildly racist turn as their Japanese downstairs neighbor is a reminder of how Hollywood used to operate not so very long ago.

Invictus (2009) (1st viewing) d. Eastwood, Clint
Morgan Freeman inhabits the noble soul of Nelson Mandela as capably as we all knew he would, though Clint’s proficiently made drama lacks emotional and dramatic heft.

Odd Couple, The (1968) (2nd viewing) d. Saks, Gene
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were amazing actors on their own, each leaving an incredible body of work behind them. But together, they’re something of a miracle team – they paired off in seven other films together, but this one captured all their fussy/sloppy magic in a perfect 105-minute package. Screenplay by Neil Simon, based on his play.

Temple Grandin (2010) (1st viewing) d. Jackson, Mick
Clare Danes swings for the fences and comes out shining in this terrific bio-pic of autistic animal behavior pioneer Temple Grandin, her fearless performance well supported by supporting players David Strathairn, Julia Ormond, and Catherine O’Hara, as well as director Jackson’s marvelous visual representations of Grandin’s thought processes.

WALL-E (2008) (2nd viewing) d. Stanton, Andrew
The story of a brave little futuristic robot whose greatest desire is to hold hands with someone. Wall-E and Eve: A love story for all time. “It only takes a moment…”

World Trade Center (2006) (1st viewing) d. Stone, Oliver
Though it never achieves the emotional immediacy of Paul Greengrass’ United 93, Stone does manage to present an intimate story amidst the enormity of September 11, 2001. Nicolas Cage, against all odds, is actually bearable here – though I have to give most of the credit to the fact that he spends 75% of the movie pinned under rubble, unable to flaunt his excesses. “Restrained” is the correct term here – hats off to Stone for making it happen. Also, quick shout-out to Michael Shannon for his exemplary and complex work in a tricky role.

2010 Totals to date: 114 films, 86 1st time views, 60 horrors, 11 cinema

30 Rock – 1 episode
Community – 1 episode
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog – 3 episodes
Monty Python’s Flying Circus – 5 episodes (20 total for 2010)

Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut


  1. I haven't gotten around to seeing the documentary yet, but Anvil certainly wasn't the real-life equivalent of Bad News or Spinal Tap (though Tap did make it, but were hasbeens). I hope it's not one of those sneering "documentaries" because Anvil was a pretty successful band in the '80s. From 1981-2007 they have released 14 studio albums (not including Live, Best of's and Singles) and 1988's Pound for Pound got a nice big stateside push. While I'm sure there aren't too many kids in skinny-jeans with emo-haircuts who have heard of them, that doesn't take anything away from their past accomplishments. Greatest metal band ever? No. But definitely successful.

  2. I really want to see The Human Centipede with an audience, but I doubt I'll get the chance to. As I recall, Ebert similarly declined to award Pink Flamingos any stars, so I know not to be put off by such pronouncements.

    That said, here's what I watched during the comparable time period (first-time viewings marked with an asterisk):

    Death and the Compass* (Alex Cox, 1996)
    The Descent* (Neil Marshall, 2005)
    Better Off Undead* (John Pata, 2007)
    I Sell the Dead* (Glenn McQuaid, 2008)
    Grace* (Paul Solet, 2009)
    It Came from Kuchar* (Jennifer M. Kroot, 2009)
    Casino Jack and the United States of Money* (Alex Gibney, 2010)
    The Phantom of the Opera* (Rupert Julian, 1925)
    Magnificent Obsession* (John M. Stahl, 1935)
    The Man in the Iron Mask* (James Whale, 1939)
    Iron Man 2* (Jon Favreau, 2010)
    God Told Me To* (Larry Cohen, 1976)
    Tentacles* (Ovidio G. Assonitis, 1977)
    The War of the Robots (Alfonso Brescia, 1978)
    Galaxina* (William Sachs, 1980)
    Q (Larry Cohen, 1982)
    The Adventures of the Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (W.D. Richter, 1984)

  3. Honestly, Craig, you might be better off watching it on your own. The audience I was with was distracting to the point of being really, really annoying. Of course, that simply makes the fact that the film still managed to cast its spell all the more impressive.

    Tom: They definitely treat the band and its members with respect. More than anything, you really FEEL for these guys and are pulling for them all the way as they head back into the studio to try to realize their comeback. It's absolutely worth watching.