Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Photo Journal, no. 51 | (& a ramble)

Typically, I am so much better at updating my journal than this here blog.  But, the past couple weeks have not been typical.  We have, essentially, moved in a weekend.  Almost.  (Well, our newlywed bungalow is technically still ours for another month, and it is still full of the life equivalent of a junk drawer's contents.  I want to whisper to Wolfman, "lets just skip the rest," but I am responsible.  Sort of.)  The move did seem sudden, but then--hadn't we been saying we would move for months now?  And hadn't I put off doing the actual work?  How many nights did I say, "Okay, hun, tonight I'm packing up the bookshelves while we watch tv," only to... not do that. 

I feel out of sorts now.  Tired.  Achey, certainly (particularly my lower back and shoulders).  I haven't touched my journal in two weeks.  I've temporarily put my Year & a Day of study on hold.  I missed an esbat, and may very well miss the next one.  Though Wolfman rolled his eyes a bit at the amount of books I brought with us to our new home, I keep thinking I packed the wrong books away to be housed in our storage space. 

We only marked the equinox aloud while heaving a mattress on top of a van.  And I do so love autumn.  I love cool morning walks.  I'm excited about retrieving my box of sweaters and heavy plaid skirts.  I don't want this season to slip away while I organize and balance checkbooks and nap...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Olive Street Cinema, no. 7 | of suicide cults, stuntmen, and supernatural widows

La Vampire Nue (1970) - For those of you whose French is creaky, the translation of this film title is, indeed, The Nude Vampire, which should be explanation enough for how it is we came to watch this.  I have aspirations to become something of a Eurohorror/Eurosleaze aficionado, but as of now, this is the first and only Jean Rollin film I've ever seen, Rollin being known for films that are stylized and elegant, but also messy and tedious.  La Vampire Nue is those things, exactly.  There didn't seem to be much by the way of plot, and continuity and logic were not of the highest importance to Rollin.  Costumes, color, and movement, there was plenty of, in a fascinating array.  The movie was riddled with striking, highly sexualized, totally superfluous scenes--scenes which stretched for minutes, or tens of minutes, without adding anything to the plot.  Really, this felt like a collection of arthouse softcore vignettes.  And though this is classified as horror, the horror element is incredibly downplayed.  Very little blood appears in thie movie, and only three deaths, all of which are at the hands of humans.  In fact, the end seems to suggest that Rollin had some metaphor to convey: the vampire isn't a vampire, but a mutant, the highest evolution, and it is mankind who are the vampires.  Nonsense, mostly, but visually effective nonsense.  Also, I like my weeknight movies to be ones I don't have to pay close attention to, which is why I love this subgenre so much, I must admit. 3/5 stars.

via Crypt of the Sorcerer

Hot Rod (2007) - I am a fan of the Lonely Island.  I feel like it's important for me to inform you of that, as a sort of disclaimer, because now I'm about to say something that could be kind of controversial.  Funniest movie I've seen in years.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is the funniest movie made in the last decade.  This is more consistently funny than Anchorman (which is mostly solid) and Hangover (which doesn't hold up on a second viewing, imho).  It's not just that this is funny.  I'm particular about comedies, and though in every day life I am a laugh slut (I'll give it up for just about anything), when watching films and stand-up routines meant to make me laugh, I'm a tough sell.  What makes Hot Rod so perfect a comedy is that while playing with the same old tropes--slapstick, manboy embarrassing himself in front of the object of his desire--it also has so many unexpected jokes.  There were so many moments in this movie when I thought I knew where a joke was going, only to be blindsided by something so strange, so silly, so pleasantly surprising and new.  Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, and Danny McBride are each perfectly contained, in a way which doesn't allow for cheap laughs or caricatures.  These actors have been boiled down to the very essence of the sort of funny they can bring to the table, as are the periphery actors (Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane, Chris Parnell, Chester Tam).  I have only two complaints.  Will Arnett's part as the smarmy boyfriend is one I've seen a million times, and though Will Arnett does smarmy boyfriend well, it would've been nice to see him given something truly strange to do, to deviate from the stock character a bit (I'm thinking of his part as smarmy nemisis in 30 Rock).  And, lastly, Isla Fisher, (because she is a woman? because she is beautiful?) got stuck playing the straight character to all the silliness around her, which is such a terrible waste.  Isla Fisher is the only reason to watch Wedding Crashers, after all.  This is a funny actress, who doesn't mind doing ugly and crazy on screen.  It would've been nice if she, like Will Arnett, had been allowed to deviate a bit from the trope. 4/5 stars.

via Krystal NEFF

Dracula's Widow (1988) - Netflix sure is good at recommending some turds to we Wolfpeople.  (Can we blame Netflix, though, for not understanding the difference between B movies so-bad-they're-good and movies that are bad because they are boring and mediocre?  Perhaps the day a machine can tell the difference is a day I should fear, not look forward to.)  Written and directed by Nic Cage's brother, Christopher Coppola, this is the story of Raymond (Lenny von Dohlen--squirrely Harold of Twin Peaks), an eccentric waxworks creator in Hollywood.  Raymond receives an extra crate in a shipment of Dracula memorabilia for an upcoming exhibit, that extra crate being Vanessa (Sylvia Kristel of 70's softcore fame), the eponymous widow of Dracula.  As Raymond kicks back, creep-style, with a brandy snifter and a film reel showing Nosferatu (of course), Vanessa attacks him, telling him that now he belongs to her and feeding on him.  Raymond becomes a sort of Renfield slave, enthralled, terrified, repulsed, and giddy in turns.  I would be inclined to say that Lenny von Dohlen is a fair actor except that he portrayed all these same emotions, to the same degree, in almost the same order, in Twin Peaks.  Though Raymond is being made to witness Vanessa's slaughters and, in one scene, is relegated to feeding on a fish plucked raw from a creek, Raymond holds onto his humanity through his precious virginal girlfriend, Jenny, who still lives with her parents in a sort of baby doll bedroom and dresses like a school marm.  Though there is obviously a sexual element to Vanessa's hold over Raymond, it's not explored, which I think is a waste of casting an actress like Sylvia Kristel (and then dressing her, inexplicably, in an unflattering 80's power suit).  Coppola's focus, instead, is on the grotesque savagery of Vanessa.  This vampire is most certainly a monster, one who transforms into a creature (somewhat bat-like, and moreso later in the film when she fully transforms into a naked, stop-motion animated bat/human hybrid), which literally tears into its victims with elongated claws, leaving behind unrecognizable, pulpy messes.  This is, actually, my preferred version of vampire--the 30 Days of Night Vampire, who is animalistic and, undoubtedly, smells like rot.  (A note: it is possible for smell to be portrayed effective makeup and other effects; the effects in this movie are not quite at that standard but are decent enough.)  There's some nonsense about a hard-boiled cop and the gleeful grandson of Van Helsing; Coppola wanted this to feel like a film noir, but none of the narration amounts to much.  Really, this movie can be summed up in a series of cut-shots of body parts and a wimpering Raymond.  2/5 stars.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Photo Journal, no. 50 | (much belated) Meals Lately (so not actually "lately" at all)

Breakfast: toasted chicken & tomato sandwich with miracle whip.
Breakfast: BLT sandwich
Breakfast: kale & tomato salad with curried couscous
Breakfast: grapefruit & watermelon smoothie
Dessert: cream puff
Lunch: beans & tomato wedges
Breakfast: homemade zucchini bread with butter and a peach
Lunch (almost every single day): green pepper and cucumber with hummus, peach
Dinner from Spize Cafe: mint roll
Breakfast: liver pudding, avacado, peach, & coffee
Dessert: coconut coconut milk "ice cream" with semi-sweet chocolate chips & dehydrated blueberries
Breakfast: beans with tomato & avacado
Dinner: kale salad with hard-boiled egg and dried cranberries, almond milk
Dessert for breakfast from Buttercup Bakery: birthday tart
Lunch from Gypsy's Shiny Diner: BLT sandwich with tator tots
Dessert from Gypsy's Shiny Diner: lemon meringue pie
Breakfast: toasted English muffin with honey & butter, peach, figs from Grandma's yard, coffee
Wolfman dinner: grilled ham & cheese on an onion bun
Breakfast: unsweetened apple sauce with raisins and raw almond butter

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Olive Street Cinema, no. 6 | of aliens, vampire aliens, and murder

Super 8 (2011) - I knew this would be  the case.  I knew after viewing the trailer (I think before one of the Deathly Hallows movies?) that this was not going to be my thing.  But, Wolfman, moreso than me, is sometimes tricked into thinking children are cute.  (Whereas I tend to think of children much the way some superstitious people think of brownies or pixies or kobolds.)  The idea I'm trying to express with all this wordage is this: too many close-ups of children's faces.  This film suffers from far too many close-ups of precocious children's tear-stained faces.  I just.  Can't.  I felt as though I was being poked consistently thoughout the movie by some greasy movie exec saying, "How about that?  That's emotional, eh?  That's a real tear jerker, eh?"  Ugh, shut up, greasy exec; I'm trying to watch a fucking movie.  Unearned sentimentality: this movie has it.  Also, for a movie called "Super 8", the film making aspect of the plot wasn't utilized as much as it could've been.  While I'm just not that into precocious childrens' faces and emotional states, I wouldn't have minded watching more clips from their home-made movies.  These kids were, clearly, very clever and talented.  (Little Joe Lamb's zombie make-up effects were brilliant!)  But, I think the biggest problem with this film has nothing to do with the movie itself, but with another 2011 flick about children meeting face-to-face with alien entities: Attack the BlockAttack the Block was challenging and surprising, and just a little gorey, and very funny. (And please trust me when I say I am not one of those people who automatically assumes or claims something is better just because it's British; I very vocally prefer the US version of The Office to the UK version.)  Super 8, on the other hand, was simply a less-good E.T.  2.5 out of 5 stars.

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Not of This Earth (1988) - Roger Croman-produced (and a remake of his own 1957 Not of This Earth), this is perhaps best known, simply, for being the first "mainstream" movie made by Traci Lords following her debacle of a porn career.  The opening credits consist of creature and gore effects clips from previous Roger Corman movies which, to my mind, is the definition of fiscal responsibility.  (There is a reason this man never lost a dime on any of his 400+ flicks.)  The story of this film is one of a sci fi vampire (they sometimes crop up to varying degrees of success; "Vampires of Venice" anyone?), yet none of the investigating police ever actually said the word "exsanguinated," which would suggest that the script might be a clunky one.  Actually, I found it to be clever and funny (even cute at moments, like when the Birthday-singing stripper-gram girl shows up at the wrong house and laments, adorably, "I can't see anything without my glasses").  Roger Corman simply knows his audience--boobs appear on screen within two minutes of the movie starting, after all.  Traci Lords also appears topless while thoughtfully (much more thoughtfully than I ever have) toweling herself dry post-shower, which is the only nude scene she's ever done post-porn.  (She apparently has tried through her career to separate her film career from her porn career, which means perhaps her appearance in Zack and Miri Make a Porno indicates a tongue-in-cheek change of heart.)  By the way, if her role as Wanda Woodward in Cry-Baby wasn't an indication, Traci Lords is a very natural actress and charming to watch.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Theatre of Blood (1973) - Of Vincent Price's 107 completed films, he considered Theatre of Blood a personal favorite, and I can see why.  My wish of seeing Price do Shakespeare (in the hammiest, most robust of readings) was finally fulfilled as he played a sociopathic actor seeking revenge on the theatre critics guilty of writing bad reviews of his productions--killing each individual according to the deaths in the Shakespeare plays in his repetoire.  I love the aesthetic of certain 70's horror flicks--the camera angles and choice of surrounding characters and extras (in this case a gang of murdering hobos) is always drippingly gothic and macabre, while the music, sets, and wardrobe reek of evening soap operas.  And though I would say most horror flicks made before 1975 are SFNHF (Safe For Non-Horror Fans), some of the deaths in this film may not be for the easily squeamish (though the gore is kept to a minimum, excluding an awfully funny decapitation scene in which blood sprays about a sleeping chamber in dialogue-punctuating spurts).  In fact, Theatre of Blood may include one of (if not the) first murder-by-force-feeding scenes, which always make me a bit nauseated (see also: Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Se7en), and  to specify, a murder-by-force-feeding-victim's-beloved-poodles scene.  Pause a moment to let that sink in.  ... Okay, still with me?  The image I'd like to leave you with, though, is that of Vincent Price saying some version of "it's cool, baby" while wearing an afro wig.  Because that happens.  4 out of 5 stars.


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