Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Obsessions: Authoritarian Kitsch" Online at ZYZZYVA

A new short essay of mine called "Authoritarian Kitsch" is available to read online at ZYZZYVA, as a part of their ongoing "Obsessions" series. It takes on some of my more complicated feelings regarding camp entertainment––and when it overlaps with fascist mythmaking.

ZYZZYVA is a San Francisco literary journal, founded in 1985, that has published work by writers such as Haruki Murakami, Amy Tan, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... THE BLACK CAT

Only now does it occur to me... that Lucio Fulci's THE BLACK CAT is one of the most compartmentalized films of all time, bizarre in its dissociation even for Fulci, an assemblage of isolated parts that come to approach abstract art. If you were to see individual clips out of context, your descriptions might resemble the fable of the blind men and the elephant.
A good 10% of THE BLACK CAT is roaming cat POV. This is to be expected, as it's an Italian horror movie from the 1980s called THE BLACK CAT. If Fulci had directed ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, at least 10% of it would have been bird POV.
But being as it's an Italian horror film with POV and black cats, obviously the cats are going to be doing some murdering. And so about 5% of the film is a disembodied cat paw being dragged across human flesh.
It's a feat of puppetry, the likes of which we would never see again at least until the appearance of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

This ain't CAT'S EYE, but about 15% of the movie is cat eyeball closeups. We don't really get the classic Fulci trauma-shot, but practically every cat attack is preceded by EXTREME CLOSEUP: HUMAN EYEBALLS, EXTREME CLOSEUP: CAT EYEBALL, EXTREME CLOSEUP: HUMAN EYEBALLS, EXTREME CLOSEUP: CAT EYEBALL, CLOSEUP: CAT FLUNG AT HUMAN EYEBALLS. You feel like you're watching one of the duels in a Sergio Leone film, except with cats instead of Clint Eastwood.
10% of the movie is "charming-but-spooky English small town" atmosphere. It feels a bit like STRAW DOGS or AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
 
The fog machines are working overtime, in other words.

Now for a downer: 25% of the movie is Mimsy Farmer, looking at things. Looking concerned.
 
Right now, she is concerned by Patrick Magee, pictured on the right.
 
Look, I have nothing against Mimsy Farmer, whether she's nuzzling with Lee Van Cleef in the Italian WILD GEESE rip-off CODE NAME: WILD GEESE or wiggin' out in Argento's FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET. I can never decide if she's unexceptionally inoffensive or inoffensively unexceptional. It's not her fault, though. She's given practically nothing to do and has a compelling set of eyebrows as a scene partner half the time. Which leads me to:

35% of this movie is Patrick Magee eyebrow action. 
 
You may remember him overdoing it in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. If that's the case, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
The eyebrows have been unleashed. Even the cat is powerless.
This is what puts it over the edge. I'm gonna be honest, without Patrick Magee, this would be a contender for Fulci's worst film. As is, it's in the bottom tier, but, can you say no to this face?
If we're going to split hairs, Fulci probably should have called this film THE WILD EYEBROW.
Also, outside of the last five minutes, THE BLACK CAT has nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe's story. Even the last five minutes are a stretch. If Fulci's THE BLACK CAT is an adaptation of Poe's "The Black Cat," then we might as well say that PLACES IN THE HEART is an adaptation of "The Tell-Tale Heart." But if you want another whacked-out Italian take on the same story with equal amount of cat POV and 100% more Harvey Keitel, I highly recommend Argento's segment of TWO EVIL EYES, which I have to believe is some kind of taunt directed at Fulci. 

And because I can't plug this enough, if psychotic cat attacks are your jam, you're doing yourself a disservice if you've not seen Ngai Kai Lam's THE CAT.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Forbidden Melodies from a Diminishing Octave" in So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

My latest short story, a science-fiction satire called "Forbidden Melodies from a Diminishing Octave," has just been published in the "Indiana Bicentennial" issue (Issue No. 5) of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and it is now available for purchase in print.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is located in Indianapolis, Indiana and is a leading champion in preserving Vonnegut's legacy, fighting censorship, and giving a voice to veteran artists and writers. I'm extremely proud to be a part of So It Goes, which has previously featured work by Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried), Etheridge Knight (Poems from Prison), Marge Piercy (He, She, and It), and comedian Lewis Black.