Mr. Z's Plain Ol' Movie Reviews Again, Part 678

I missed last week because I went on a fool's errand to Jackson to look for an out-of-print book I got neurotically obsessed with, and the resultant lack of sleep totalled me out and robbed me of Sunday completely. The trip wasn't a total wash, though, because I scored a whole lot more Big Lots movies that might one day get reviewed in a post like this-here-'un.

Also finished two books this weekend that may get reviewed sometime; The Mill On The Floss by George Eliot (romances are far out of my standard thing but I'm trying to expand, and the strength of the writing left me far more impressed with this thing than I figured I'd be; some day I may actually read fucking Middlemarch!) and Come Closer by Sara Gran, which is a really great and creepy, atmospheric short horror novel. I had to order a copy from England because the American hardback is pretty expensive for a book you can read in just a couple of hours, but it's worth it and you should seek it out.

Now for the reviews:


Carriers (C, 2009) Four young adults try to escape a viral outbreak by hitting the road, but find little luck. The countryside’s been rendered almost empty by the incurable and highly-contagious pandemic, and the few people they do meet are desperate and can’t be trusted. Even the uninfected are dangerous because people are willing to kill for supplies or out of a fear of contagion, and everyone has to take desperate measures to survive. Simple, small-scale apocalyptic film does a good job of staying engaging and capturing a bleak atmosphere with just a few abandoned locations and minimal special effects.

House of the Devil (C, 2009) Brilliant retro-horror that looks like a 70’s grind house film, without appearing to make any effort to do so; it doesn’t try, it just does it. A college student is desperate for money to pay for a new apartment, so she inquires about a babysitting job she finds posted on a campus bulletin board. The job throws up red flags from the beginning due to weird behavior from the clients, and it gets even stranger when she arrives at the house and the creepy couple tell her that she won’t be looking after a child but an old lady. She wants to back out but they promise her that she probably won’t even see the old lady, and they offer her $400 because they’re very anxious to go watch a lunar eclipse. Once she’s left alone, she gets more hints that something’s wrong with the whole deal. The film skillfully sets up the situation and then smoothly winds up the tension without forcing it or giving in to the temptation of speeding things up, and the creepiness gradually turns into full-blown horror. More proof that big budgets aren’t necessary for great horror, and in fact often get in the way. Standout scarefest that deserves a wide audience. A few children who only like rollercoaster-ride movies have complained that this is boring, but for anyone who really likes the genre it’s a slow-burner; it builds and pays off and then hangs with you a while. Supposedly you can watch it online for free, but here's the trailer anyway.

House on Sorority Row, The (C, 1983) aka House of Evil, Seven Sisters. Some sorority girls (under the corruptive leadership of the always-wickedly-fetching Eileen Davidson) pull a prank on their mean ol’ house mother that goes wrong and ends up killing her. They don’t want to ruin their upcoming party so they hide the body in the skangy pool and go about their business. That trick didn’t work for the people who tried it in Diabolique and it doesn’t work for these girls, either, because soon the body’s missing and someone’s murdering the sisters with the old lady’s bird-headed cane. When I first saw this on cable back in the 80’s I didn’t think it stacked up well against other slasher films because, other than a head that ends up in a toilet, there’s not much gore. The lack of bowhead blood is still a weakness, but now that gore’s not my only criteria, this plays a lot better and manages to create some decent suspense and a few scares. Remade in 2009 as Sorority Row.

Whole thing online starting here.

Inglourious Basterds (C, 2009) Quentin Tarantino WWI film bears his usual over-the-top semi goofiness, with Brad Pitt playing the hillbilly leader of a squad of Jewish Americans who terrorize the Germans with their brutal tactics. They get involved in a plot to burn up much of the German high command while they’re attending the premiere of a propaganda film (a ridiculous thing that Quentin let Eli Roth direct in a rumored homonepotism deal; Eli also worked out a lot and plays “the Bear Jew“). The movie’s very good and would have been great if Quentin had any self-discipline or anyone had the balls to tell him “no”; as has become the norm, he gets too in love with his own dialogue and it spoils the alchemy with the pacing, changing too much gold to lead. The film’s also hampered by a great deal of subtitling, which would be fine if they hadn’t made them far too small and of a color that blends into the background, rendering a lot of the film an endurance test in eyestrain. Other than these drawbacks, and a total-fantasy ending that might piss you off if you demand accuracy to any degree, there’s a lot to like, including a sinisterly-suave “Jew Hunter” named Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz) whose every scene is intense as hell with no apparent effort made to force it (an example of when Tarrantino’s dialogue works perfectly). Pitt is broad-brushed and ludicrous, but is a lot of fun because of it. The plot’s good, but the promised action is very sporadic and spread thin to make more room for dialogue scenes; it’s a long game with a short highlight reel. The Basterds really get kind of a small role in the film and there’s more espionage than battle. Killing Nazis is great, so they could’ve spent more time doing it… but the action scenes that are there are very well-done, and Tarrantino isn’t shy about the gore. Definitely worth seeing, just not quite the ass-kicking machine than the marketing (and the title stole from Enzo Castellari’s film) promised.

Trailer here.

In The Folds of the Flesh (C, 1970) aka Nelle Pieghe Della Carne. I guess if you start out your movie with a Freud quote you can just do any ol’ thing and hope people will assume it’s symbolic and over their heads. The script for this Italian giallo must’ve been written in Rorschach blots, because any sense you can find in the plot will have to be imposed on it by the viewers. Some people staying at a villa randomly engage in murders, which barely seem to interest them, much less alarm each other. A guy strangles a German shepherd that digs up a skull, then a girl knifes a man and her friends dissolve the body in an acid bath. People have sex while listening to tapes of the sex they had the night before. A girl decapitates a guy with a sword because he pulls off her wig. They have a pet vulture, but an ex-con named Pascal (Fernando Sancho, who you’ll recognize if you watch Spaghetti Westerns at all) shoots it when he comes over to terrorize them and rape the girls. There are Nazi flashbacks and gun battles and psychedelic optical effects. More people show up and have flashbacks to their childhoods and people have weird revelations about who their parents are. Basically, everybody in the movie is completely crazy, and that’s why nothing can be expected to make any sense. After a while you just give up and watch the TV the way a dog probably does -- as just a bunch of moving images. It’s not boring, but it is nonsense. Revelations at the end try to clear up a few things, but the attempt is like charging Hell with a mouthful of spit.

Jennifer’s Body (C, 2009) Jennifer (Megan Fox) is the hottest girl in her small town of Devil’s Kettle, and she and her plainer best friend Needy (short for Anita) live normal high-school lives until Jennifer is sacrificed to Satan by a band (wimpy indie emo shit for a change, giving metal a break), who are stupid enough to mistake her for a virgin. The ritual doesn’t go well and Jennifer comes back to life with a demon inside her. And the demon gives her recuperative Wolverine-X-Man powers (and makes her even more beautiful) as long as she keeps eating boys. She has little trouble luring them to secluded locations so she can maul them like a lioness. Needy learns what’s going on and researches a way to stop her, but that’s not an easy thing to do. The movie has a surprisingly good first hour or so, including some impressively creepy scenes, but in the last half hour it veers a little further into the preposterous and gets a few too many horror-comedy elements, with Jennifer and Needy swapping hipster one-liners during their showdown. It’s not enough to ruin the movie or anything, but god I hate when they do shit like that. There’s a little social commentary buried in it to give it enough depth to keep it from being dismissed as just another junky horror film, and Diablo Cody’s quirky dialogue and the equally-quirky direction help give it some style (until they overplay their hand, anyway), so it’s better than I expected, and it isn’t just a “Megan Fox vehicle.” Not that there’d be anything wrong with that; she’s a beautiful idiot.

I wanted the other trailer (which had the immortal line "It smells like Thai food in here... have you guys been fucking?" ) but that seems to be gone...

Moontide (B&W, 1942) A hard-drinking, nomadic French sailor named Bobo (the funny-haired Jean Gabin) rescues suicidal Ida Lupino when she tries to drown herself in the ocean. The two fall in love and get married, but their bliss is complicated by Bobo’s parasitic friend Tiny, who wants to eliminate Lupino so he can keep Bobo under his control. Tiny tries to use a murder that Bobo thinks he committed during a drunken blackout against them, but when Lupino figures out the truth behind the killing, things get dangerous. Marketed on DVD as a film noir, but it’s much closer to a romance with a few noirish elements. It’s well-filmed, though, although set-bound enough to look a little surreal, and any movie with Ida Lupino is worth watching. Gabin puts in a great happy-go-lucky performance, even though he proved to be way too French to have much of a career in America. Claude Rains plays their never-sleeping friend, Nutsy. You have to admire the panche of the filmmakers for setting a romantic drama in a waterfront bait-shack.

Here's a scene. Christ, I love Ida Lupino... she's not the most beautiful woman ever, but she just seems super-cool...

Public Enemies (C, 2009) Quality gangster saga centering on the exploits of John Dillinger, who’s played with some restraint by Johnny Depp. Dillinger learns from big-time hold-up men in prison, and when he breaks out he and his gang apply military tactics and weapons to bank robbery, which soon makes Dillinger public enemy #1, and the target of top G-Man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Dillinger forms an attachment to a girl he meets and she’s eventually caught by the feds, which puts Dillinger in a difficult position because he has a code about not leaving any of his friends hanging. The focus of the movie slowly shifts from Dillinger to the law enforcement side of the equations, as he starts running out of options. He starts losing support of the crime syndicate as their attention shifts to more profitable and less violent organized crime, and guys like Dillinger become undesirable to them because he attracts unwanted attention and is enough of a menace to allow the feds to be granted new powers. Dillinger’s is an oft-filmed story, but this one’s giving a high-class treatment (without stiffing you on any gunfights; watching a guy riddle cars with a BAR kicks all the ass you could ever want) and is a standout among them. Stylish direction by Michael Mann.

The aforementioned Browning Automatic Rifle scene:

Rollercoaster (C, 1977) Often lumped in with the disaster film cycle, but it’s got more in common with Dirty Harry; it shares an actor (Harry Guardino, plus William Prince from The Gauntlet has a small part), has a Lalo Schifrin score, and a plot involving a clean-cut terrorist trying to blackmail society for money not to commit his crimes. A brilliant electronics/demolitions expert (Timothy Bottoms) is blowing up rollercoasters at amusement parks and outwitting all attempts to foil him. A safety inspector (George Segal, whose character‘s name is Harry - see, I‘m onto something here!), whose previous main problem was giving up cigarettes, tries to catch him, and even ends up playing bag-man-runaround like Clint had to do. Segal is smart, but Bottoms may be his match. Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda are on hand to yell at Segal a lot (seems his inability to go by the book causes friction with his superiors, just like… somebody else!), and there’s a lot of P.O. V. shots from the rollercoasters (which were probably really kick-ass in the theater since this was one of the few films released in “Sensurround,” i.e. extra speakers). No major surprises, but a pretty good and well-done suspense flick, with an especially good performance by Segal. Also look for a very young Helen Hunt in her first role, and a concert by forgotten pop band Sparks (it was originally supposed to be the Bay City Rollers, but luckily we were spared that horror).

Rundown (C, 2003) aka Welcome to the Jungle, Call of the Wild, Heldorado. BDAM (Big Dumb Action Movie) that helped established The Rock as the next big action hero (Arnold Schwarenegger even has a cameo, symbolically walking out as The Rock walks in), which he was before he traded it in early to be the next big Di$ney icon. The Rock is a reluctant Transporter type who’s sent into the Amazon jungle to find and retrieve the son of his mobster boss, only taking the mission because he needs money to open his own restaurant (so you can smell what The Rock is cooking). The son is an amateur archaeologist who’s after a famed Indian statuette called “the Gato.” Local crime lord Christopher Walken is using local natives to run his massive strip-mining operation, and a band of rebels is combating him to free all the people, and they, too, want this Gato idol. The struggle for this treasure results in lots of silly, comedic action, with The Rock being a (relatively) peace-loving fella who doesn’t like guns in order to keep the violence down to the money-making PG-13 sweet spot. This is the kind of action movie where a guy can tumble about two miles down the side of a mountain (ripping chunks out of trees that he hits), get attacked by vicious (and horny) monkeys, survive a massive cave-in, and go through numerous gunfights and fistfights in which he’s outnumbered ten to one and suffer no more damage than a superficial doesn’t-even-need-a-band-aid scratch to show for it. Entertaining and nonstop but it’s a cartoon made flesh.


Great Moments In Horrific Anticomedy #1: The Case of the Crying Grandma

Every once in a while something comes along that's so incredibly terrible or stupid that you have to wonder if it's really terrible and stupid, or if it's so stupid and terrible that it actually becomes a work of genius. I can think of at least three instances of this (note to self for possible future blog posts: Mad Dog Bonner's "Big Cup", and the works of William Furr), but the following is probably my all-time favorite, because I honestly don't know if this is the stupidest thing ever, or if it's a sneaky, subversive work of brilliance. I just know it appeared in the college newspaper of my alma mater and caused more controversy, to my knowledge, than any comic that ever appeared there (which isn't hard to do, really, since the comics there are notoriously pathetic, unfunny, and uncreative at best, or absolute "might appeal to stoners, who are always the easiest-and-stupidest audience in the world, other than perhaps the French" nonsense at worst).

Nobody was prepared for this thing. People had no clue what to think of it, and the people who followed it first thought it was the horribly-unfunny product of a sick mind, but as it went on some of them started thinking that it was brilliant and the funniest thing ever. I've seen people laugh so hard at these strips that they couldn't breathe and were in danger of pissing themselves. I've seen others become angry and upset and actually scared. Personally, I thought it was hilarious anticomedy, and pretty gutsy because the neglect and abuse of the elderly isn't exactly hee-hee-ha-ha material. I love dark material that can make you laugh even while you hate yourself for laughing, and this is definitely that.

People sent letters to the editor saying they didn't know what the artist was trying to say with this strip, and many said the strip made them feel so bad that they made a point of going to visit their grandmother... and I thought, "You think you don't get the point, but that just might be it!" But then again, maybe it wasn't.

The thing is, even in retrospect, I can't decide what the artist's motivation was. A fucked-up attempt to make a touching statement gone terribly wrong? Just sick, mean-spirited comedy? A weird attempt to implicate a completely-unsuspecting audience in some horrifying social experiment that tests the limits of what mankind is allowed to laugh at, and the guilt that comes with laughing at misery? Aburdist extentialism that's so incredibly NOT funny that it loops back around and becomes hilarious? We may never know. The whole thing's so goddamned WEIRD that you just can't pin down anything about it. I have no idea who Corey Bishop is, I don't know anyone who does, and that just adds to the mystique of this thing. And I don't think I even want to know for certain what he was trying to do here. That'd just ruin it.

To this day, the words "crying grandma" (which is the identical visual punchline - if punchline it can be called - of every joke/non-joke in the strip, except the finale) can make people who've seen these laugh until they wheeze. But I think it's an either-you-get-it-or-you-don't thing, because some people react to the strip with disgust and horror and want Corey taken into custody just for drawing such a thing.

I thought I'd have to scan 'em in, but to my great surprise it turns out they're already online and can be found here. So, without further overanalysis from me, I expose you to the weird thing known as... New Day in its entirety. You, at least, have been warned.


My Version of a Best Stuff Of The Year post

I’m short of ideas so I’ll just steal some of ya’ll’s and do a best-of-the-year post for a variety of areas. Except I’m indecisive so I can’t narrow things down to just one, so many of these will be multiple. Plus, my chronological-ness is always screwy and I don’t keep up with new stuff all that often, so nominees may be decades old… they’ll be eligible as thing-of-the-year if this was the year that I happened to encounter ‘em. Solipsism simplifies!

Book Of The Year
I’m gonna concur with KickerOfElves and nominate Cormac McArthy’s The Road for this one. That was a seriously bleak, stark, brilliant book, and even though it’s not technically a horror novel, it had a scene that gave me bigger chills than any horror novel I’ve read in a long time (the scene were the dad’s exploring a house and finds a basement full of chained-up people and looks out the back window and sees the owners of the house returning). This book probably comes to mind more often than anything else I've read this year. McCarthy’s Child of God is also a contender, given its literary approach to corpse-fuckin’. I just started Blood Meridian, and given that there's graphic eye-gouging in the first freakin' chapter, it'll probably show up on next year's list.

Other books that rated over 3 stars in my review book this year are Gun Work by David Schow (badass, violent noir that Robert Rodriguez should option for the screen), Here Comes A Candle by Frederic Brown (freaky, experimental crime novel/psychological suspense mindfuck), A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews (scuzzbucket portrait of life among the reddest of rednecks), A Dull Roar: How I Spent My Summer Deracination and A Preferred Blur: Reflections, Inspections, & Travel in All Directions by Henry Rollins (I always look forward to Henry’s books and can’t wait for A Mad Dash to come out this year), White Line Fever: An Autobiography by Lemmy Kilmister (was there ever any doubt this would be great?), The Terror by Dan Simmons (brilliant epic historical horror about an ill-fated expedition to the Arctic circle. Scenes from this one went through my head quite often while dealing with the brutally cold weather we’ve had this week), Sweeny Todd, Or, The String of Pearls by an anonymous author-or-authors (“penny dreadful” splatter nastiness, gotta love it), A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (not a big fan of the story, but the prose was great and was oddly the first beyond-short-story-length Dickens I've read. There will be more!), The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter (I have a weird fascination for WWI biplane dogfights, and this one described them so well that I could literally see and smell scenes from it; just a great, great book), The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (don’t start this one if you have anything else to do for a few months, it’s good, but fuck, buddy, it’s long), The Star Rover by Jack London (this might have the #1 slot if The Road didn’t edge it out; sent me off on a London kick), and Haiku by Andrew Vachss (a bit too unfocused to be his best work, but this tale of homeless people trying to scam a place for an obsessive friend’s paperback library is still powerful stuff). Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane is also worth your time and I'm lookin' forward to the movie.

I never write in books, but if I did, Andrew Vachss would be one of those guys I’d have to read with a highligher in my hand. He’s got too many good lines, he’s like the Buddha. So, instead, I keep a slip of paper in the back of the book and write page numbers on it. Since I’ve got it handy, I’ll share some of the quotes from Haiku.

“To the unknowing, their own lack of knowledge proves there are secrets. After many repetitions, the burden shifts on its axis. An inability to disprove even the most nonsensical claim proves its truth.” - p. 32

“Years of lessons and the most dutiful attention may result in an accomplished painter. But only forces we do not understand produce a Van Gough.
“All such gifts are delivered in two boxes, one inside the other. One is a grant; the other a demand. The larger box may be torn open, as if by an eager child handed a present. The smaller -- and far more precious -- box is locked. Its key is not provided; it can be located only through devotion, labor, and sacrifice.
“To be gifted is inborn. It is not earned. Not all those who are gifted are worthy of their gift. That test lies not within the locked box, but in the search for its key.” - p. 41

“A man may possess the tools to build a house, yet allow them to rust on the ground he sleeps on. You are what you do.” - p. 179

“When an adversary has the ability to inflict harm from a distance, that distance itself is an adversary. A rifle that is capable of delivering death at one hundred meters is useless if the target can place himself between the tip of its barrel and the marksman holding it.
“That is the essence of fear. Efforts to avoid it only magnify its power -- fear is an enemy that can be killed only at close range.” - p. 204

“Having no choice but one brings great comfort.” - p. 206

CD of the Year - Jeez, I dunno, I’m probably going to go with Lysergic Legacy by The Fuzztones, just because that’s what I’ve been listening to the most and with the most enthusiasm. And I’ve listened to so much stuff that it’s hard to remember what all I freaked on. I’m sure right after I post this I’ll go “How could I have forgotten THAT album?” and kick myself. I’ve also been digging A Taste of Honey by The Viletones (apparently I like bands that fit a “_____tones” pattern), which is some old '77 punk and sounds a lot like The Dead Boys, with all the snide snottiness that entails. Ya gotta respect the lack of pretense of any band who has a song called "Dog Style" that has a chorus of "She likes to fuck dog style," when I was expecting some kind of clever metaphor instead.

I also loved the new Slayer, World Painted Blood. This won't be popular, but what the hell, I'll admit it -- I also liked the new Metallica album, Death Magnetic, pretty well. It's not perfect, and I do bear grudges, but I give them credit for a good attempt at returning to form and hope they stay on this path. The music is solid; it's just that James can't write good lyrics anymore after he turned into Too Much Therapy Man. They verge on whiney-ass-titty-baby abstraction too much when they should be less introspective and about Hemmingway novels and Passover legends and Lovecraft and such instead, 'cuz, psssst, James, that's what you don't suck at. But, really, is this so bad, I ask you? Try for a minute to erase the hurt feelings of betrayal we all felt after the Black Album and those "load" things and be fair to it.

I say that's pretty solid stuff.

I haven't heard the new Katatonia, Night Is The New Day, yet - that crept up on me and I didn't know it was out, so I haven't gotten it in the mail yet, or I suspect it'd belong on this list. I've never heard anything from this band that wasn't jaw-dropping brilliant. Sampling the new stuff on YouTube it's pretty impressive:

Here's an old song of theirs that I liked so much that it inspired me to write an entire novel...

Anyway, I also liked the new Clutch, Strange Cousins from the West, a lot. They're reliable groovesmiths who aren't afraid to fuck up some time signatures all kinda crazy.

And their experiments with bluesiness are welcome:

The new Dax Riggs album, We Sing Only of Blood Or Love, also blew me away.

I've also been digging old stuff I discovered by The Dancing French Liberals of '48 (the hardcore band that the surviving members of The Gits formed), the re-formed Iron Cross and their new (to me) CD, Two Piece and A Bisquit -- the great vocals make that one some of the best oi I've heard in a while, brief as it is. Let me assume the persona of my favorite MaximumRockNRoll reviewer, Bruce Roehrs, for a second to tell ya about it:

Yes! You punks and skins are in luck! IRON CROSS is back to pummel you into a gelatinous mass with a new slab of working-class oi that will shrivel your ball sac so completely you'll be able to strike a match on it! You will feel the guitars plow a trench through your fucking skull as the bass and drums pound your ass like a spiteful stepchild! The bourgeoisie will crumble once and for all before blue-collar anthems like "Pride And Freedom"! Check out the lyrics to this hard-edged, uncompromising, confrontational song! "They can try to keep us down/ With promises of pain/ Let 'em know we got nothin' to lose/ And everything to gain/ Seen our brothers fall victim to/ The lies of the ruling class/ Look 'em in the eye, clench our fists, and say/ 'Shove it up your ass!' / Oi! Oi! Oi! You can never take our pride, no! / Always fight, we'll never hide, no!/ Pride and freedom are not for sale, no! / Try to beat us, you'll always fail!/ Seen our music nailed on a cross so we're takin' it to the street/ Take a punk band and then they butter 'em up/ And then they sell it on MTV/ We're still runnin' through your city streets with only one thing on our minds/ Destruction of the phonies and fakes, you and all your kind!" Those are some hard-edged truths for you punks and skins to accept! As you're trying to recover from that, they hit you with a brilliant ribcage-shattering cover of "Runnin' Riot" by CockSparrer! Fuck!! Then, mercifully, they'll soothe your bruised being with a beautiful, Nick-Cave-like ballad, "Ship of Sorrow," which may bring a tear to your swollen, blackened eye! Check out these touching lyrics: "I sailed oceans far between/ Where the birds will never sing/ And I longed for my fair maiden/ On her finger placed my ring/ But my ring was not silver/ Was not gold, but cast in ore/ Though my heart was rich in treasure/ She spurned me then, for I am poor/ She said, 'My love, you bring me pleasure/ My love, you please me well/ But I shall marry wealth and station/ Above your price I do sell/ Ya-da-dee di-ya-da-dee ya-da-dee-di-dee/ Now I sail on a ship of sorrow/ Searching for the light/ But her window's cold and empty/ And the storms grow fierce at night/ There's a place of burnin' sufferin'/ A place of wicked bleeding souls/ Who will burn with no redemption/ For forgiveness they have sold/ And I would gladly ease their suffering/ Take their burdens for my own/ To hold her again so gently, for just one night to call our own/ Ya-da-dee di-ya-da-dee, ya-da-dee-di-dee." Fuck! That is a masterpiece for you fucks! You lucky cretins need to seek out this fucking great EP at CDBaby before you are pummeled and have your gonads torn from your body and flung forth into the abyss with an oath! Order it and a truckload of holy-bejabbers-fuck will back up to the doorstep of your hovel and make a delivery of sweet-mammy-Jesus directly into your spasming colon! Until next month... see you fucks at the bar!

Sorry, I've always wanted to do that. I'm a huge Bruce Rohers fan, and it's been a compulsion I've had... believe me, it's tribute, not a mockery.

Song Of The Year - probably “Shylock” by 70’s Aussie stoner-rock band Buffalo, just because I geeked out so hard for the massive riff that drives this thing. Also, it’s one of the few songs where I’ve almost worn a clear spot in my car’s mix tape from replaying the guitar solo over and over again. Guitar solos rarely really hook me, with only a few rare exceptions (KickerOfElves’ own break that starts around 3 and a half minutes into in “Beneficial Neglect” being one of ‘em, so tip of the hat there; emotion just drips off that solo, I almost wept the first time I heard it), but this one, good lord, they are trying to hurt you, it's just pure beautiful ill-will and has that angry-dinosaur-trying-to-wallow-its-way-out-of-a-tar-pit howl that usually only Hendrix can pull off. It sounds like construction work. And that fucking riff is just the most massive, relentless, crushing thing since Black Sabbath‘s “Symptom of the Universe." It is big like a son-of-a, and it's played with some of the filthiest guitar tuning possible. And I love the way they traipse away from it a few times but then it always comes back in - sometimes a teasing piece at a time, like a threat -- like you thought it was gone but it got paroled and sought you out and now ya gotta deal with it again! One of those songs that makes me wish I’d learned guitar as a kid just so I could form a band that would cover it. Just an evil, back-alley knife-fight of a song that I never get tired of (obviously, since I won't shut up already).

Their other stuff is also good, so if you liked that, seek 'em out, especially the Volcanic Rock album. This song, "United Nations," from Only Want You For Your Body, is also vicious.

I also love this Black Keys song quite a bit and am clepping lines from it as opening quotes for a horror novel I'm writin'.

Concert DVD of the Year - Nashville Pussy, Live In Hollywood. I like this band, but I figured out that they get even better live and when you can see 'em. God damn but Ruyter Suys can play a frickin' gee-tar. And Karen Cuda ain't no slouch bassist, either.

Here's "Lazy Jesus." If you sing along, you're damned. If you dance, you're double-dog damned... especially if you're Baptist!

Also, the video has a segment where Lemmy from Motorhead interviews the band and he closes with the following dirty joke:

A man takes his wife to the doctor and says, "Doctor, something's wrong with my wife, I don't know what, but she's not acting right." The doctors take her and examine her and they come back to the man and tell him, "Well, we're not sure what's wrong with her, but we've narrowed it down to two possibilities: Alzheimer's, or really, really bad gonorrhea. So here's what we want you to do: take her home, but about a mile or two before you get to your house, stop the car and let her out. If she finds her way home, don't fuck her!

Worth the price of admission, right there.

Movie of the Year
- This is too big for me to even tackle. I'll probably go with Paranormal Activity just 'cuz I got the most excited about seeing it and wasn't disappointed. I also loved [REC] but I think I saw that over a year ago. Just last week I saw a brilliant, beautiful, slow-burning throwback-to-the-late-70's-style horror movie called House of the Devil, and that'll legitimately be on DVD in about a month and ya'll need to pick that up hell yeah baby.

I was also very grateful for the Sleepy Eyes of Death (Son of Black Mass) samurai films to start making their DVD debuts; I've been impressed with those. As far as Oscar-y "art" films go, The Wrestler is a solid piece of work. Eden Lake was pretty good in the extreme-horror category. And 1969's Book of Stone was one of my favorite previously-unheard-of very creepy discoveries, which desperately needs a legit DVD release, as does 1992's Ghostwatch. Let The Right One In is also a good 'un worthy of attention.

Worst film of the year? Maybe Automation Transfusion. What a piece of shit. Don't waste a dime on that. I also thought Martyrs was a profoundly overrated, pretentious, idiot-pandering, bullshit load of diaper-stuffing, but enough other people seem to love it that maybe you should make up your own mind about it, although it gets a big accck-ptui loogie from me.

Comedy CD of the Year
- Doug Stanhope's From Across The Street, with very-honorable-mentions to Greg Giraldo's brilliant "Good Day To Cross A River" and his new DVD, Midlife Vices, plus Patton Oswalt's CD/DVD My Weakness Is Strong. Much funny is to be found there.

Store of the Year - BigLots! DVDs for $3, baby! And not just shitty ones, either! Some of the things I've scored for $3 each this year have been 2001: A Space Odyssey, Superman Returns, whole seasons of The Flintstones and Huckleberry Hound, Roots miniseries-es, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Eating Raoul, Rock 'n' Roll High School, Private Parts, The Damned, Logan's Run, Poseidon Adventure, A Strangers Is Watching, The Hand... just too much cool stuff to even begin mentioning. I've driven all over the state scouring these stores (many thanks to those who go along with me to navigate, since I have the sense of direction of a toddler and would never find the city by myself, much less the store). Runner up: Hudson's Dirt Cheap, where you can find History Channel-type DVDs for as low as 59 cents... including whole season box sets of Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Deal and a half!

Fave Thing of the Year That I Got Obsessed With
- those Barnes & Noble classics collections. I'm just pissed that there aren't any more to seek out (at least, not reasonably-priced ones, since they're out of print). I'm gonna have to drive back to Jackson at some point and snag a leather-bound Sherlock Holmes collection... My other fave thing this year (which was probably partially last year, but my sense of time blurs, are those Wordsworth Edition collections of old Victorian horror stories. I'm eagerly awaiting the new ones of those, although our Amazon seems to have a hard time getting them. You may also put your trust in any title from Hard Case Crime - I have yet to read a bad book from them yet.

Fave Thing I Didn't Get Obsessed Enough With - my supposed horror-novel-in-progress Daisyland, which I've been "working on" for 6 months and only have 10,000 words done. I am a lazy and unproductive tit (long-winded blog posts notwithstanding) and possibly even silly-lookin'.

Ultimate Asshole of the Year: Glenn Beck. This turd is an irresponsible scumbag whose cynical spooking of the nation's herd of hapless idiots is probably eventually going to get somebody killed, and then he'll whine that he didn't mean any harm, he was just trying to play "rodeo clown." He's the kind of desperate-for-attention loser that everybody remembers from high school because he'd shit in his pants if you gave him seven dollars. I won't say this guy's fascist, but he's certainly fasc-er than most.

Can't think of anything else, so I guess that'll do 'er. Now, onward into the new decade, with a whole new bunch of mistakes to make! Banzai!

Dateline: Racism, U.S.A....

(Or, In the Words of Ritz Spokesman Andy Griffith, "Mmmm... Good Cracker!")

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama apologized on Saturday for saying that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid could seek and win office because Reid was "light skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect."

Reid is pictured here showing the number of close black friends he has...

(Oh, wait... my wife's telling me that I've somehow got all of this mixtup... I'll be back...)


He Was Art Clokey, Dammit!

The LA Times is reporting that the great Art Clokey died in his sleep Friday at his home in Los Osos, California at the age of 88.

Clokey, seen here torturing the genitals of his most famous son, was a brilliant + innovative stop-motion animator, whose work has delighted kids of all ages for years.

Clokey is survived by his children, Gumby and Pokey, and Davey and Goliath,

and his grandchildren, Moral Orel and...
...Eddie Murphy-Gumby, dammit!


My Song of the Year for 2009: "Elephants" by Them Crooked Vultures

First off, kudos to Igor's pick for the song of the year, which is mighty and righteous and heretofore unheard by me.

Second off, I want to play this game too. Thus my pick for 2009 song of the year, "Elephants" by Them Crooked Vultures. This here band is two-thirds scarequote-unscarequote supergroup - Josh Homme (Kyuss, QotSA, EoDM) + Dave Grohl (Scream, Probot, probably some others) - and one-third feisty newcomer by way of previously unknown commodity John Paul Jones. The album (which also surely has the cover art of the year - I mean, lookathatthing!) sounds to my ears like a less sludgy version of QotSA, which is actually very, very good even though I prize QotSA sludge above most other sounds. And while all the songs on this record are awesome, "Elephants" is just a goddamn showstopper - it took me weeks to finish listening to the whole album because once I heard this track it's all I wanted to hear. I could unleash a tsunami of adjectivism talking about what makes this song great, but fuck that - just listen to it.
Other recommendations (not necessarily from '09): Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and The Road; Doug Stanhope's new album From Across the Street, which crosses new thresholds of insightful depravity even for him; Will Ferrell's You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush; the Family Guy episode called "Big Man on Hippocampus," which premiered 1/3/10; and venison jerky, because it's delicious.


Clyde Frog and other such outdated educational stuff

This’ll be kinda quick ‘cuz I only have a few hours of precious vacation left and wanna go read instead of write, but I didn’t wanna start the new year off being totally shiftless, so here’s some token phoning-it-in stuff just to keep my hand in and I’ll do better as the year goes by (we can hope). I actually got less done in the past two weeks reading and movie-watching wise than I do on some weekends (partially due to increased levels of narcolepsy-like whateverthehell I am plagued with), but I got to hang out with some more favorite people who I hardly ever see and that’s always great, so no big regrets.

At one point I got to see the Muppet Museum in Jackson, which was pretty cool. I saw a real Kermit, a real Ernie & Bert, a real Rolf the Dog, and some other stuff… but the coolest thing wasn’t even one of Jim Henson’s creations: it was the actual-factual bona-fide Clyde Frog. Most of you know nothing of Clyde Frog. You think Clyde Frog is a South Park creation. No no no, au contraire mon freire, the South Park jagoffs could never could come up with anything as badass as Clyde Frog. Clyde Frog was a creation of Mississippi Educational Television, along with a bunch of other weird-ass shows I was raised on. Despite the wackiness of this programming, it's almost impossible to find anything related to these shows on the web. They are, I fear, a lot art.

Clyde Frog had two programs - About Safety and The Clyde Frog Show (which, if I recall, was mostly about good manners and stuff). Clyde was a headstrong, selfish kind of a frog (although not a total sociopath, as he did learn things, always the hard way) who would never listen to the rules of authority figures and would end up busting his head by standing on his bike's handlebars, or getting a bellyache from eating too much candy, or pissing off his friends and being left with no one to play with, that kind of thing. He was a muppet, as were his friends, and they made no bones about it - they didn't make a lot of effort to hide the sticks that moved their arms.

You can catch a glimpse of a few seconds of his show in this YouTube video, which is all the footage I can find of him:

Also at the museum I saw the actual R. B. Bug, which I also almost geeked out over. R. B. Bug was an animated puppet/grasshopper who was a reporter for a news channel, and he'd learn writing and editing skills in writing his awkward little stories, and then he'd fall asleep in front of the TV at the end of every show. He also had a "writing club" whose secret code word was "palabra jot." Amazingly, there's a few bits of that on YouTube... it apparently had a bigger following, even though Clyde Frog was much cooler/more obnoxious.

Then there was terminally-goofy guy, The Art Maker, who I think may have also been a local creation... my friends and I used to mock this show mercilessly even though we'd watch it every time it came on. I remember him teaching cartooning and thinking that "Funky Winkerbean" was popular with the kids. There's a bit of him on YouTube:

Other local shows included Pennywise (in which a pre-Good Times Bernadette Stannis taught kids how to handle our money, and there was also a recurring serial bit with puppets trapped on a far-away planet trying to establish a monetary system among freaky-lookin' aliens, who usually used "boogleberries" or something as money), Just Around The Corner (in which a pre-Who's The Boss Judith Light helped adults handle their household finances; this was in the form of a soap opera type show, where young blue-collar couples struggled to make ends meet). Early in the 70's there was a program (maybe local, maybe not) called InsideOut which I remember being pretty creepy due to the influence of 70's psychedelic weirdness in the opening titles. Amazingly there's a clip of the hallucinatory credits and even a full episode:

There was another similar show that I can't remember the name of, but it used to actually scare me; it had similar psychedelics, but the theme song was very severe, like ambulance sirens. It sounded like excerpts from Bloodrock's "D.O.A." (which is the most disturbing song ever. That show posed moral problems to kids and ended with a "what would you do?" situation rather than a solution. The only episode I remember had a really mean bully who was trying to beat up a kid and steal his schoolbooks on his way home after school, but then the kid hid in an abandoned house and the bully fell down and broke his leg while trying to chase him, and needed the good kid's help to get out. I'd've probably left his hateful ass there...

Then there was a funky-ass show called Vegetable Soup which I can't remember well, but I think it was about diversity. Look at that animation. I'm not sure these shows were aimed at kids as much as they were at acid-heads who were home all day. There were puppets on this, too, and YouTube seems to have a good bit of it.

(Looking at that, I found a clip a friend and I had been searching for - from Sesame Street. This clip has haunted us for decades! "A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter...")

There was also a very weird show in which blue-skinned aliens monitored the progress of one of their own on earth, as he learned to read maps and use geography to find his way around. I can't remember the name of the show, but it was freakin' odd. The alien guy had a big silver thermos thing he kept his map supplies in, and I think he had blond hair, combed in a standard 60's style. They looked human other than having dark blue skin.

Then there was a show called The Letter People which taught spelling and phonics and such. Every letter of the alphabet was represented by a horrific muppet who had some characteristic of his letter, such as "Mr. T with the Tall Teeth" or whatever. Bunches of that show is found here.

Then there was the weird, local show "About Science," in which a bland narrator accompanied by weird music would explain the chemical reactions a disembodied someone was creating on a laboratory tabletop. These shows were about five minutes long, I think. Much better was the non-local classic, Physics Demonstrations with Julius Sumner Miller, which I can still watch for hours, given the opportunity. It had a guy (who may have been the inspiration for "The Vulture" in Spiderman comics) getting infectiously-enthusiastic about physics experiments. You couldn't help but love this guy. Fortunately a lot of those are on YouTube. Here's one in which he destroys things with liquid nitrogen, using all the manic energy of a plate-spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show...:

All of this stuff needs to be on DVD. I'd buy it.

Song of the Year for 2009: Battleship by Valis

After careful consideration + numerous second-guesses, I have chosen my favorite song of the year for 2009; it's kind of a cheat, though, since it's actually a pair of songs together as a single track. The track is certainly reminiscent of classic Deep Purple/Black Sabbath proto-metal. Please click here or on the album cover below to enjoy the entire 11:24 of Battleship by Valis, the final (and bonus) track(s) from their most recent release, Dark Matters. The bonus song (Cocaine Woman) that kicks in after the psychedelic voicemail (roughly 6:40 into the track) absolutely fookin' rocks + is a great way to close out one of the best releases of 2009!
Give it a good coupla listens + lemme know what you think.
Got a better Song of the Year choice?
Fuck no, you don't!
If you think you do, though, post it... I'll give it a listen (+ then prob'ly explain to you why my pick is better)...

Valis features some former Screaming Trees along with other notable (and likely hairy... it's a powerful defense against cold + rain, and almost certainly the basis of the Bigfoot urban legends: some drunken campers saw Tad Doyle or another similar musician "getting back to nature," runnin' around nekkid in the forest with some recently-pickt, recently-digestd psychofungi and... taa-dah: Sasquatch! - oops, sorry for the digression...) musicians of the Pacific Northwest... their name comes from the title of a Philip K. Dick novel, likely spoken of here previously, which, at least in part was based on a quasi-mystical experience PKD had in 1974. More about PKD's apotheosis here, in a short interview with noteworthy author + PKD enthusiast Jonathan Lethem, whose most recent novel, Chronic City, is a damnd good read; one that resonated deeply with me. The characters are odd + quirky + spot-on realistic. Go read it. Yay for literacy!


Malvert Sometimes Pee Red!

Thanks to the internet, there's now a clip compilation of scenes from the fairly crappy 1981 horror-spoof Student Bodies, featuring The Stick - in his only known role - as former-teacher-turnd-brain-damaged school janitor + multiple-homicide suspect Malvert. Little is known about the actor known only as The Stick, but he's pretty darn memorable, even if the film isn't...

Quality comedic physicality + terribly-written dialogue! Watch it, damn you! Watch it right now!

And the film is filld with important knowledge, such as:
"Malvert sometimes pee red!"
"Malvert afford hookers!"
and the always-relevant
"Sex kills!"

New Year's Post (...Don't Brag or Boast!)

OK, maybe that WAS originally New YORK Post, but the sentiment remains the same, + I, like Ice Cube, strive to remain down with the PE... and not solely so that ev'ry single bitch'll wanna see me.

And now 2010 has arrived + Arthur C. Clarke has once again let me down from beyond the grave... ahh, delicious disappointment. Hopefully, the Mayans won't let me down in 2012! While I wait for the End of Days, I can check the remaining time available to us with this swell new Venture Brothers Wallclock that my son hookt me up with for Xmess. A damnd snazzy piece of room decor, I must say! Buy your own!

Happy New Year!