FG Film Club: Food of the Gods

I've been following Final Girl's film club for months now, reading wonderful reviews of fantastic movies. I mean look at past film of the month entries; The Descent, The Exorcist, Prince of Darkness, Behind the Mask. It's like a veritable cornucopia of tasty horror practically guaranteed to please. I've been waiting, biding my time for the right moment to jump into this fray of horror classics and newly found gems. So what was the highlight of horror film culture that caused me to break my code of silence?

That's right, I decided to join the FGFC ranks the same month that a Bert I. Gordon flick is featured. Now, come on, give the guy a shot. After all he is the director of such classic fare as The Amazing Colossal Man and Earth vs. The Spider (which is right up there with Them! as one of my favorite giant bug movies.), so this couldn't be all bad. Right? RIGHT?

Actually, if we're being totally honest here, from a film making standpoint you could tear this thing open from groin to gullet. The dialog is laughable, apparently the special effects that make tiny things huge hadn't developed one iota in the 19 years between Amazing Colossal and Food of the Gods, and Ida Lupino manages to chew more scenery than the giant rats. (Zing!) Seriously, I am amazed that the amount of raw ham on this set didn't develop into an outbreak of trichinosis.

However, honestly again (we might as well be at this point, eh?), none of that matters in the slightest, about ten minutes into the film I was ready to turn it off and then and there declare it the best use of celluloid in the history of well...celluloid I guess. The sequence in question does make me wonder if ol' Bertie had some psycho-sexual issues to work out. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

It plays out like this, Marjoe Gortner's character, 'Football SuperStar' has just witnessed his good friend 'Plot Device' get all kind of killed 'cause he got stung by a wasp the size of a 10th grader. Turns out when mutant wasps sting your face, thats a bad, bad thing, you get swelled up real bad. Of course the locals are just goint to say that you fell off your horse anyway.

SuperStar, Football decides to run for help and winds up at the Pacific Northwests answer to the Texas Chainsaw house. Ida Lupino, playing 'Elderly Psycho Housewife' spys SuperStar coming up the drive and like any sane person seeing a fellow human in need, she hides behind the curtains. FSS decides to forgoe the usual route of knocking on the front door and heads directly into the barn. Logical, right? Here's where it gets weird, er, weirder I guess. Inside said barn are giant chickens, huge fucking hens folks, and a rampaging rooster on a roid rage. (The rooster is also large, I just couldn't figure out an 'r' word that meant big to go with my whole alliteration bit there.) The subversive sexual content comes in (sorry for the pun) when you realize that you are watching a scene wherein a star football man is mauled by a giant cock.

The Cock in Question

Fan-fucking-tastic. Here are some other even randomer thoughts I had whilst watching FOTG; Marjoe Gortner actually won the Best Name In The Universe Award 8 years running, Bert I. Gordon's name is comforting to see at the start of a movie, Ida Lupino really? that's odd, I hope the rats didn't mind being shocked too much, they must have had a deal with the local Vancouver Ferrymens Union (chapter 873), Marjoe Gortner doesn't actually look like a football player at all, I want a lady bacteriologist to as my zippy sidekick, no wait, I want a lady bacteriologist to love me like they love Marjoe Fucking Gorter (According to Stacie that is his official middle name).

To bring back a scoring convention of mine I give this one
7 giant rat testes out of 10.

Seriously though, read up on Marjoe Gortner, if even half of that shit is true I vote that the next biopic not be based on Stevie Ray Vaughn but on Marjoe Fucking Gortner.


Trickery Afoot!

As you may or may not know, I loooooovvvee horror movies, have since I was way too young to be watching them. See, my parents read to me every night when I was a wee lad and at one point I picked out a Zilpha Keatley Snyder book, this led to The Witch Saga, then to the Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark series. From there I was a goner, didn't stand a chance, horror had me dead to rights.

By the time I was in middle school I did what any good child of my generation should do, traded my library card in for a video store membership. (Video whositwhatnow?) Living in Indiana Children of the Corn was an early favorite. (If you don't get why, then you've never been to the Hoosier State.) I was made of pretty stern stuff back then, Evil Dead? No problem. The Funhouse? Bring it on! The Shining? Creepshow? Om nom nom nom. (That means I ate them up, if you're not from the internet.)

But still, I had my limits. If the box freaked me out sitting in the dusty, neon lit, linoleum tiled video store (no lie, the place was called The Tapeworm), I figured there was no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that I could make it through the damn thing all on my own. Enter, April Fool's Day
Now I know it doesn't look it but that box art creeped me out to no end. I'm guessing it had something to do with how happy everyone looks whilst some crazy bitch who could strangle them with her fucking hair toasts them all. Seriously, hair noose! Think about it folks. It was either the fact that she could kill you with her coif or the way that dress clung to her body, promising some hot, caucasian, preppy sex. Lets face it, as a 12 year old mid-western boy that WASP's ass was scarier than the butcher knife she was hiding behind it.

What ever it was, AFD was one I could never bring myself to rent, or to ask someone to rent for me, for that matter. Which leads me to today. Today, if you were to give me the keys to a time machine (really, your time machine needs a key? LAME!) I would travel back to 1990 and smack my 11 year old self in the back of the head. Apparently preppies and knives don't traumatize me the way they did way back when, because I watched this flick last night all by my lonesome. And you know what? Turns out AFD is a great, great, great, movie.

Well I was going to write a proper review of the movie but I'm close to using up all my brains for the day. So let me sum up my feelings, Final Girl hearts it, and now I do too. What's your friggin problem? Go check it out and then tell me my love is wrong.


This isn't an Adventure Story

Here is the trailer for Rian Johnson's sophomore feature. His debut, Brick, is one of my favorite films of the last 5 years, and that puts it among some heavy competition. It was lean and tough, showing Johnson to be an assured director. He was surprisingly mature, not resorting to tricks or gimmicks, even though the story he told could've quickly devolved into such shenanigans.

I have to say by this trailer it does kind of appear that he is biting the Anderson Style at least a little. But between Brick, and his openness with his fans, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The cast at least looks fantastic. At this point Mark Ruffalo is one of those guys I trust will deliver a good show, he seems to be game for pretty much anything. Adrien Brody generally turns in odd yet enjoyable performances. Rachel Weisz has already done a respectable con flick and she was in one of my favorite underrated movies The Fountain.

Here, to play us out, is Johnson's video for The Mountain Goats song, Woke Up New.


Calamity Jane

Contemplating writing this piece, I was trying to find my hook, my way into the world of this movie. Would I expound on my natural first reaction, the slight disgust at the contrived plot device of the woman who has to conform to get her man, or that she even needs a man in the first place? It's a common reaction from me, (I liked Sandy just fine before she donned those tight black pants and took up smoking.) But no, an over the top, PC thug reaction would just label me a stick in the mud.

Would I write about the lesbian undertones of (apparently) the only two women in Deadwood shacking up? While a fun proposition, it's not really worth much more digital ink than to point out that it does exist, (of course having said that someone else will probably make a brilliant piece out of it.)

No, I think I'll write about how the movie grew on me. I have to admit at first blush Doris Day's shtick is off putting. All furrowed brow and tomboyish pouting, she manages to chew scenery in a musical, and that takes a lot of work. Nope, this one was a bit of a hard sit at first for yours truly, but there was an a-ha moment about 16 minutes in. When desperate stage actor Francis poses as hotsy totsy songstress Frances to fool the crowd at the Golden Garter. Wild Bill's first reaction to seeing Francis in drag "She ain't very good lookin'" is charming enough, but when met with Calamity's rejoinder "That ain't all she ain't!" it sets the stage for a musical number that is goofy and more than a little disturbing. Those Deadwood men must have some screwed up standards. I mean, really, which one would you choose?


The men of Deadwood know what they want!

This scene sets the surprisingly odd tone for the rest of the film, which contains; identity theft, xenophobia, (implied) unwed intercourse, multiple counts of cross dressing. All that is before you get to hear Doris Day threaten to shoot someone in the face! So turns out it really is my kind of movie after all, although it could have used more dancing.

I did want to mention Howard Keel, who although I think he falls a little flat in this show, was wonderful a year later in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.


#8 The Monster Squad

Another revisit of a pre-critical era flick. Surprisingly the film holds up pretty well, the dialog is sharp and zingy even if the plotting is a little thin, and there are a few too many coincidences. Actually it's not that surprising considering it was written by Shane Black. He's also written two of my favorite christmas movies of all time. Once again my nostalgia for the flick will actually preclude my inclusion of an intelligent rating, but as I love doing them anyway:

87 Fictional Creature Testicles out of 10

#7 Mighty Aphrodite

Mostly silly entry from Allen. But I have to say I prefer a silly movie from him over most of the comedies that come out. Some highlights:

Lenny Weinrib: Achilles only had an Achilles heel, I have an entire Achilles body.

Linda: You didn't want a blowjob so the least I could do is get you a tie.

Linda: Okay, so I had one guy fucking me from behind and two guys dressed as cops in my mouth and all I could think was, "I like acting. I wanna study."

Kevin: I've had 16 fights and I won all of them but 12.

8 Pornographic Timepieces out of 10


#6 The Terminator

This movie predates any critical thought for me by several years, so it could really be terrible and I would never even know it. I love this movie. One thought: Why wasn't Michael Biehn a bigger star? He holds the movie together as the emotionally wounded soldier who was manipulated into his job.

95 Time Traveling Paradoxes out of 10

(I told you I couldn't think critically about this movie!)


#5 Once Upon a Time in the West

Maybe it's because Zodiac has been on my mind so much lately, but when I watched OUATITW I couldn't help but be reminded of Fincher's deliberately paced masterpiece from earlier this year. They are both grand epic movies that are more about how a handful of characters react to an unstoppable force (a phantom of a killer in Zodiac, the westward expansion of modern America in OUATITW). This led me to naturally compare the filmmakers themselves. Both have an unerring eye for cinematic detail. Reportedly Leone spent hours setting up the shot of water falling onto the gunmans hat in the opening sequence. Here's a quote from Fincher regarding his directing style

“If an actor is going to let the role come to them, they can’t resent the fact that I’m willing to wait as long as that takes. You know, the first day of production in San Francisco we shot 56 takes of Mark and Jake – and it’s the 56th take that’s in the movie”

Apart from their methods and styles both directors had a similar impact on their respective cinematic climates. Se7en is to the police procedural what Fistful of Dollars is to the western. Both made us look at their respective genres in new ways and reinvigorated them. Zodiac and OUATITW are both more mature revisits to that earlier genre that shows a patience and an even greater understanding of cinema. Also like Zodiac, OUATITW is a better film than the respective directors earlier efforts, but most likely will never receive the public admiration that it deserves.

Some personal highlights:

Henry Fonda as a bad guy.
Jason Robards as a bad ass.
Charles Bronson not playing a caricature of himself.

9 pair of pants (with both belt and suspenders) out of 10


Star Trek

I've never watched an episode of any iteration of Star Trek. I have watched the first movie (or more correctly Motion Picture), but haven't gotten into any of the mythos of the series (serii?) at all.

That being said, I got damn goosebumps watching the trailer for the upcoming J.J. Abrams version.

#4 Cloverfield

Ok, I skipped over a few movies I've watched in the past few weeks to comment on this one, but hey, it's opening weekend and I caught it at a midnight screening so I'm kind of stoked.

Normally I don't like seeing movies with a large audience. I'm one of those jerks who likes to pay attention to the movie rather than your inane conversation. Seriously, if you wanted to spend an hour and a half discussing what that bitch Jane said about the size of your thighs why didn't you go to a coffee house? They love loitering chatty types there. Sorry, I have anger issues. But last night was different. A near capacity audience who cheered when they saw the Bad Robot logo come up before the movie? Sign me up for that! This sounds like a group of folks I would like to drink some Kool-Aid with.

Case in point: The new Star Trek trailer that played before the flick was greeted with "ohh"s and "ahhh"s and general drooling. In response to this admittedly fanboyish reaction some meat-head shouted out "Fuckin nerds"...some giggling from the crowd. From across the auditorium came the retort "Yeah, so?"...clapping and hooting ensued. Slinging around (supposed) epithets like geek and nerd at a midnight showing of a monster movie might be sort of a pot, kettle, black issue.

All of which brings me to my point, if you have any interest in seeing this movie in the theater, try to catch it this weekend. It's great fun with a large group.

However I don't think this is a "must see on the big screen" type of movie. It would probably be better suited stylistically to a television, if not a computer screen. As a matter of fact he shakycam/first person method of film making employed would probably look right at home with a YouTube logo in the bottom right hand corner.

I'm going to postulate that the ideal viewing environment would be a house party or a movie night type gathering. Somewhere you can get the social interaction and also (probably) avoid getting motion sickness.

None of this actually speaks to the movie itself however. Picture Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project humping and making little baby movies and you'll be pretty close. I don't mean that in a bad way though. Unlike Blair Witch the characters are actually pretty likable, and the movie never cheats on the "found footage" conceit. Hud, the camera operator, barely knows how to work the equipment he is given. There are no cuts other than the camera being turned on and off. There is no explanation as to what the footage is other than the stern government warning seen at the beginning and the end.

The film also manages to comment on it's own presentation without being too cute or on the nose. During the party scene that practically starts off the movie we see other people walking around with camcorders, taking pictures with digital cameras and camera phones. We are forced to accept the gimmick of first person film making because in our modern "we are Big Brother" world it has become commonplace. At one point during the party this becomes obvious when Hud focuses his camera onto the screen of another camera that has a better angle of the action than he does.

The other moment that drives the fact of camera ubiquity home happens during one of the lulls in the first wave of destruction. Almost immediately after crawling out of their hiding places, the survivors pull out their camera phones and start taking pictures. This also seems to make a point of our post 9/11 reality, one where seeing the head of the Statue of Liberty come crashing down into a Midtown(?) street seems unlikely, but not out of the question.

The film is at least slightly scarier than it's PG-13 rating lets on,(apparently the MPAA doesn't have a check box for nihilism next to blood and boobs) and you probably should remember to bring your Dramamine. It might not hold up to repeated viewings but as a roller coaster it works pretty well. With that in mind, if you dig on thrill ride flicks, get thee to a mulitplex.

8 Creepy Lice Spider-Squids out of 10


#3 Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I love the music, I love the story line, I love the characters. But alas I didn't love the movie. I really really really liked it, but it didn't sweep me away. As evidence I present the fact that I've tried to write this post half a dozen times but still can't muster up enough oomph to actually write much about the movie. So just a couple quick highlights then:

1. The final shot of the film is perfect, as in, it could not be better.

II. Johnny Depp as an insane emo Bowie could not rock harder.

C. Slash, blood, slash, blood, it could not bleed bloodier.

Here's a song I like that has nothing to do with the movie, but it's distracted me pretty well from writing so,

Almost forgot the verdict!

7 Excised Songs out of 10

#2 Juno

I loved this movie, my wife Mari LOVED this movie. Which is rare and should probably be taken as a better indicator than my own endorsement.

If you're not into the subversive cute genre (Garden State, Gilmore Girls, Wes Anderson Flicks) you very well might not dig on this one so much. Especially the first few 10 minutes or so. I have to admit I was a little scared during the first couple scenes. When Juno tells a dog to "Shut your gob" I suddenly envisioned Juno as a knocked up, sassy Napoleon Dynamite. It almost seems as if the filmmakers front loaded the quirk to sort of mess with your precocious barometer. After the first 10 or 15 minutes the language and mannerisms just become natural and you are allowed to love all the characters. And you do, every one of them is presented in a sympathetic light (except maybe Bleeker's pseudo girlfriend with the stink eye), yes all of them, that includes both the yuppie adopters as well.

Not that this makes or breaks the film, but the soundtrack has been in regular rotation at the Ickes house since the day we saw the movie.

9 impregnated minors out of 10


#1 No Country For Old Men

Formalities first, go see this movie. All of you, because it's going to be all spoiler-y up in this here ma'fa, 'aight?

Let me get the fanboyishness out of the way first. This is a perfect film. There, I've said it.

I know that a lot of people are looking at it through the lens of being a "revisionist western", I think mainly because there were a couple other big ones this year and people love trends. I'm contemplating coming up with my own category for it, "rural noir". The only other film that fits this description (off the top of my head anyway) is Paul Newman's revisit of the Harper (Archer) character in "The Drowning Pool".

But at best the categories only describe the story and the style. The big game with this movie (and indeed most Coen Brothers flicks) is figuring out how to best read the movie. What are the hidden themes? What is the symbolic significance of X or Y? How do you infer a larger philosophical construct from the Coen oeuvre? Or on the flip side of the coin (which it just so happens is a quarter from 1958) is the possibility that the Coens are just fantastic stylists and any larger meanings that one may glean from their works are just reflections of the viewer. Let's forget this last and plunge ahead with the speculation!

Totally Unsubstantiated Theory Ahead
I've seen it debated (here and here) that Anton Chigurh may or may not be the main character in the movie. I think that the case could be made for any of the three male leads as the main character. But who the hero is, is I believe a separate discussion entirely. If you take out Ed Tom Bell from the running (he could be considered the Greek Chorus of the piece) that leaves us with Lewellyn Moss and the "hitman" Anton.

Consider our introduction to Moss, we see him taking aim at an antelope through the scope of a rifle, his physical remove from his target seeming to mirror his emotional state. He pulls the trigger, but only succeeds in wounding the animal. He begins tracking it, only to be distracted by another trail of blood that intersects the path of the antelope. Peering through the brush he finds that this trail comes from a wounded dog. Here he gives up his pursuit of the antelope and backtracks along the trail of the dog to find out how it got injured in the first place. By choosing to do so he essentially sentences both the antelope and the wounded dog to die slow painful deaths out in the desert. This also sets up a pattern of behavior that Moss repeats time and again in the movie. He thoughtlessly causes pain to others and refuses to take the responsibility for what he has done.

So if Moss's actions are morally questionable what are we to make of Chigurh's? He is seen taking an active role in far more deaths than Moss. However he does seem to feel the weight of his crimes, and seemingly tries to understand the people he is visiting death upon. (This is entirely based on the way he is played by Bardem, whose eyes seem so inquisitive right before he sends his victims to their great reward.) He is also the only character who is brought up in the film as having a set of ethics:

Llewelyn Moss: If I was cuttin' deals, why wouldn't I go deal with this guy Chigurh?

Carson Wells: No no. No. You don't understand. You can't make a deal with him. Even if you gave him the money he'd still kill you. He's a peculiar man. You could even say that he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that.

Now, it is true that no one in, or out of the film for that matter, actually understands or could enumerate the rules that Chigurh lives by, but he does have them, and he follows them strictly from what we can see. He does so in his quest for something larger than the 2 million dollars (we are led to believe at least). If the movie were framed a little differently I believe that Chigurh would be our hero, or the anti-hero at least. He actually brings to mind other characters from fictional America's epic cinematic mythology: The Man With No Name, Harmonica (Once Upon a Time In The West), Leon (The Professional), Travis Bickle. All of these men do terrible things, but we are asked to believe that to do them for a good reason. Chigurh could be merely The Man With No Name stripped of context. Maybe "revisionist western" isn't such a bad label after all.

10 ultimate badasses out of 10

So What Have You Been Up To?

Myself? Oh not much. Well, thats not entirely true, it could be quite a lot actually, I just don't want to talk about it too much, lest I jinx it. If you've talked to me IRL in the past few months you probably know about it already. If I haven't talked to you and you just can't wait, drop me a line and I'll probably fill you in. I just don't know if it's kosher to broadcast it yet.

Enough of that vagueness. Here's a specific for you, I will not be outdone by Mike. Since he has seen fit to post about every new film he watches this year, I've decided to blatantly rip off the idea. I'm actually planning on trying to write something about every film I see, whether I've seen it or not. No matter the source, (movies on tv are fair game) as long as I watched it on purpose. I'm not going to pressure myself into writing about Flubber just because it was on in the background and I was too busy playing on PokerStars to look for the remote. Also each movie gets own post, unless it was watched as part of an intentional double bill or marathon, conceived for the purpose of comparing and contrasting the works.

So in the spirit of completeness (and also because I have OCD) I will be doubling back to pick up the movies I checked out the first couple of weeks of 2008.