Thursday, December 13, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... BLADE: TRINITY

Only now does it occur to me... that while BLADE: TRINITY is primarily a vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to improvise proto-DEADPOOL one-liners

as Wesley Snipes offers stone-faced reactions (because he allegedly spent all of his time in his trailer and emerged only to shoot hasty reaction shots with stand-ins who were not spouting unscripted lines like "cock-juggling thundercunt");

and while it is likely the only time we will see Patton Oswalt play a 'Q'-style gadget-master;

and while it is far from the only time we will see James Remar standing around, looking bewildered, and waiting for his paycheck to clear;

and while it affords Natasha Lyonne the opportunity to issue an infodump of expository bullshit while looking stoned out of her mind;

it IS, however, the only time (thus far) you will see Parker Posey as a vampire archaeologist. A vampire archaeologist!

Diggin' up Dracula! I mean, that's objectively incredible.

Damn you, BLADE: TRINITY, for being so mediocre, and yet offering such a vision of what could have been. In this instance, "what could have been" is a movie exclusively starring Parker Posey as a vampire archaeologist. Kinda RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but she's more afraid of garlic than snakes or whatever.

Later, she dons a white-collar power suit, and struts around like she's the lead in a vampire-themed DEVIL WEARS PRADA.

This, too, is a movie I would champion.

In fact, maybe the problem with most movies is that they don't star Parker Posey as the vampire version of some existing archetype. Imagine any movie you can and then add "Vampire Parker Posey" to the mix. Just try it.

A new version of CITIZEN KANE. Improved by Vampire Parker Posey. She adds a hint of the Gothic and some snobbish wit to the second act. She tells Charles Foster Kane to "Wipe that face off your head, bitch!"

A retelling of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The monoliths were placed by Vampire Parker Posey so she could drink the blood of a few astronauts. Done.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. Remake it with Vampire Parker Posey as Vampire Norma Desmond. I would watch the hell out of that. So would you.

Anyway, I'm off to study some vampire archeology. Will wonders never cease?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... DUEL IN THE SUN

Only now does it occur to me.... that David O. Selznick really should never have been writing romantic dialogue.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Case closed. David, you are hereby sentenced to a lifetime of inspiring Paul Bartel and John Waters.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

R.I.P., Nicolas Roeg

I'm sorry to report the passing of one of the greats, Nicolas Roeg, at age 90.  Roeg's films, from DON'T LOOK NOW (one of the greatest melancholy horror films, hell, one of the greatest films of all time) to THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (featuring Bowie at his most enigmatic) to BAD TIMING (an atom bomb to the guts) to WALKABOUT to PERFORMANCE seemed simultaneously to define and to surpass the counterculture cinema world of the 1970s and beyond, in all of its jagged temporalities and wild, hallucinogenic complexities. Later works like THE WITCHES, INSIGNIFICANCE, his episode of THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES, and TRACK 29, reveal an aging filmmaker who, even apart from his ideal time and place and cultural zeitgeist was capable of crating memorable, artistic, and sometimes mind-blowing work. Even lesser projects like EUREKA and Cannon Films' CAST AWAY and FULL BODY MASSAGE experiment with form in ways most filmmakers would never dare.

He was an auteur whose bold, fracturous visual and editorial choices left quite a mark on me as a young man, both as a filmmaker and a burgeoning film critic. (One of my first bylines, in a student newspaper, was an absurdist rhapsody to two October re-releases of Roeg's work entitled "October? More like Roegtober!") Like other personal favorites like Ken Russell, Federico Fellini, and Richard Rush, his work was fully without inhibition, the rarest of qualities among artists, and even rarer still to be paired with actual talent.

We must also not forget his work as a cinematographer and camera operator, where he made notable contributions to films like Corman's THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Truffaut's FAHRENHEIT 451, Schlesinger's FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, Clive Donner's THE GUEST, Zinneman's THE SUNDOWNERS, Richard Lester's PETULIA, and Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. In some cases, he seemed, in doing so, to abscond from the premises with authorship of the film itself (I'd single out THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, for sure, and perhaps PETULIA as well).

In the end, he had one hell of a run, and I'm more than grateful for the work he left behind. R.I.P.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... POINT OF NO RETURN

Only now does it occur to me... that John Badham's lukewarm remake of LA FEMME NIKITA contains a romantic scene that was surely intended to be as iconic as the pasta slurping from THE LADY AND THE TRAMP or at least the food montage from 9 1/2 WEEKS––but instead, it lands about as well as the "Sexy V8" sequence from NINJA III: THE DOMINATION. To set the scene: as in LA FEMME NIKITA, Bridget Fonda plays a junkie turned assassin who's looking for a human connection. She makes one with "90s nice guy" Dermot Mulroney, who picks up one of her off-brand Chef Boyardee ravioli cans after she drops it in the grocery.

This, naturally, leads to a dinner, whereupon, like Constance Leonore Gielgud in TROLL 2, she decides that the best seduction tactic is to take the generic canned ravioli and feed it to Mulroney with her mouth.

I especially love the look of "discount marinara-sauce clown mouth" satisfaction afterward.

While on the whole it can't touch its progenitor NIKITA, there's a few things to like (or be fascinated by) here, like the muscular Hans Zimmer score with Enya-esque wailing; a bit part by Miguel Ferrer:

(who is essentially playing it as if Bob Morton survived ROBOCOP and took his job more seriously); Anne Bancroft as the mistress of "Assassin Charm School" (a role played by Jeanne Moreau in the original):
and finally, Harvey Keitel as the Terminator-esque badass The Cleaner,

a role perfected by Jean Reno in the original, but given an even more ominous (and overtly villainous) twist by Harvey Keitel, who is always welcome, no matter the context.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... KAMIKAZE 1989

Only now does it occur to me... that I would ever see German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder (BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN) running around in a leopard-print suit (well, lurching around, rather) and solving crimes as a hardboiled detective in somebody else's (Wolf Gremm's) queer cyberpunk thriller.

It bears mentioning that Fassbinder died at 37 of a drug overdose, little more than a month before this film was released (and at Wolf Gremm's apartment). One can tell watching this film that he is near death; he stumbles around in a daze, punctuated by episodes of rage and childlike impotence; generally, he's as corpulent and unhealthy-looking as Orson Welles in TOUCH OF EVIL.

It's been years since he could pull off the mesh-shirt/kimono combo

I have a lot of personally complicated feelings about Fassbinder and his death––in the sanitized, arthouse-fan-service version, he's a mad genius/enfant terrible who worked himself to death by making three to four feature films a year and who picked up a drug habit because it allowed him to make even more films. In this narrative, he's the living embodiment of the Lao Tzu quote about "the flame that burns twice as bright" burning half as long. In the version supported by those who knew him personally, he was more like something between a schoolyard bully, an angry toddler, and a cult leader, abusing the actors in his troupe and the people close to him with sadistic abandon. For me, this does not diminish the quality of his incredible films, but forces me to reckon with his personality whenever I engage with those films. It also makes me wonder if, here, at the end, his character invades the personal space of everyone around him because he is directed to, or if he is just being a dick.

Does he throw tantrums––like smashing the buttons on apartment buzzers––because it is a character trait of "Polizeileutnant Jansen," or a character trait of Fassbinder himself?

Seriously, like 10% of this movie is him furiously smashing buttons:

There's a rogue's gallery of Fassbinder regulars throughout, including Günther Kaufmann (WHITY, IN A YEAR WITH THIRTEEN MOONS) and Brigitte Mira (ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL, MOTHER KÜSTERS GOES TO HEAVEN):

and the whole thing functions mostly as an insane New-Wave fashion show (which is something I would never complain about):

Just another day at the office

Yep, that's Franco Nero 

Yep, that's a Superman phone

Yep, that's a modified football jersey on a futuristic housewife wearing New Wave swimwear

Yep, that guy is just carrying around a broken toilet

On the whole, it's as if BLADE RUNNER were a queer German art film channeling THE APPLE:

I'm pretty sure the nurse behind this man is wearing a giant BIM mark

except with a dreamy electronic score by Tangerine Dream's own Edgar Froese instead of sci-fi disco, but that's neither here nor there. Perhaps appropriately, the film ends with Fassbinder humping an image of Neil Armstrong and touching himself while listening to the audio of Nixon debriefing Armstrong after the moon landing.

This is literally how the movie ends, and it's Fassbinder's (unknowing?) ultimate farewell to the world of film.

Somehow, it seems appropriate: masturbatory, strange, histrionic, and sad.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... THE LIFT

Only now does it occur to me... that THE LIFT plays less like a horror movie and more like someone (director Dick Maas) lost a bet.

Allow me to explain: THE LIFT is the tale of an elevator repairman named Felix (Huub Stapel) who matches wits with a killer elevator. But mostly we follow him as he deals with his stagnant marriage, his annoying kids, and the doldrums of driving around a Dutch industrial wasteland in his sad elevator repair truck. Essentially it's 92 minutes of elevator maintenance and modern malaise and 3 minutes of elevator-related mayhem. I think JEANNE DIELMAN has a lower "action to stagnancy" ratio.

I mean, there's a subplot where Felix's wife is trying in vain to save enough bottlecaps to even submit to a "Win a Trip to Hawaii" contest.

One of the most excitingly shot scenes in the movie can be best described as "an Episode of Bowling Alley Melancholy."

It's almost too thrilling. Though I suppose the movie deserves extra points for gifting the world with the tagline "Take the Stairs, Take the Stairs. For God's Sake, Take the Stairs!!"

Essentially, THE LIFT presents itself as a cautionary tale about mankind growing too dependent on elevators, which seems like an odd fight to pick, given the wide range of other potentially disastrous modern technologies. The film acts as if riding an elevator is akin to inventing Skynet, cloning dinosaurs, or splitting the atom.

Hell, the building where the elevator murders take place is called "The Icarus." "You flew too close to the sun, elevator rider, you flew too close to the sun!"

Felix becomes so invested in solving the mystery of the killer elevator that his wife begins to suspect he's having an affair.

Later, he nearly does have an affair when a random elevator journalist shows up and starts hitting on him, probably because she's bored. I mean, she's an elevator journalist. Everybody in the movie is bored. Even the elevator is bored. The Dutch swingers that get trapped inside the elevator are so bored that they start having sex in the lift literally fifteen seconds after it gets stuck.

I'd hate to see 'em in line at the DMV

Technically, the elevator isn't working completely on its own. An evil corporation is involved as well, á la ROBOCOP. Though I'm pretty sure that their motivation is also boredom.


THE LIFT, ladies and gentlemen.

 (P.S.––it was remade by director Dick Maas in 2001 as 'THE SHAFT,' with Naomi Watts, Michael Ironside, Dan Hedaya, and Ron Perlman!)