AN ART MOST VULGAR

a blog about movies. no scrubs allowed.

2013 Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge! PART 1

And here we have the first installment of this month’s feature! Will I make it to 100? Probably not, but maybe I’ll beat October’s score of 31 movies. Suspenseful, huh? Movies I’m seeing for the first time are marked with a *.

bill and coo poster

1. Bill and Coo * (1948) Genre: Birdsploitation

Are you unusually excited when someone says the words “tightrope-walking parakeet with an umbrella”? If so, you’ll love Bill and Coo. This is a movie cast entirely with birds wearing people clothes. It’s supposed to be a kids movie, but I’d be very surprised if any kid could watch it without falling into a drugged stupor. It’s really dull and really stupid.

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It’s the 2013 Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge!

drive_in_massacre_poster_01

Looking around on the DVD Talk forums the other day, I noticed that with April comes their 4th Annual Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge. What is it, you ask? Simple: a group of hardy souls attempt to watch 100 movies in a month, adhering to a set of required genres, actors, directors, and filmmaking cycles. The complete rules and genre requirements, written up by this year’s judge, forum user caligulathegod, can be found here.

Obviously, I love this kind of shit, so for the next month I’ll be posting regular updates on my progress. DO I ACTUALLY THINK I CAN MAKE IT TO 100 MOVIES? Well, considering my band is playing a music festival this month, I’ve been trying to get back into the drawing habit, and that whole “job” thing, I really doubt it. But it’s a nice excuse to plow through some terrible movies I have laying around.

I’m also going to try to focus on movies I haven’t seen before, preferably a few from exploitation genres I don’t have that much exposure to. This means I’ll be dipping into some Bond rip-offs, nudie cuties, blaxploitation, and Turkish cheapos that are a bit outside my usual habits.

So keep on the look-out for some monster updates in the near future.

Minimal thoughts about Oscar

In an effort to avoid polluting the internet with more babble about the 2013 Academy Awards than necessary, I’ve prepared a few short and sweet musings about Sunday’s gala, organized by topic. ENJOY!

LIFE OF PI is not a real movie.

As regular readers of this blog know, one of my most persistent paranoid fantasies involves a cabal of performance artists who orchestrate elaborate pranks of which I am the sole victim. So forgive me for thinking that Life of Pi is not an actual movie, but a satirical stunt designed to show how the Academy can be counted on to throw a few votes towards literally anything that features enough familiar buzzwords: Ang Lee! (Brokeback Mountain) Indians! (Slumdog Millionaire) Animals! (The Greatest Show on Earth? I’m stretching here.) When Lee accepted his Best Director award, I was half expecting him to peel off his face Scooby-Doo-style and reveal a grinning Sacha Baron Cohen underneath.

I haven’t seen any movies starring Jennifer Lawrence.

None of them.

UPDATE: I forgot I saw The Hunger Games.

Seth MacFarlane: auteur or asshole?

If I were a political blogger, I would say something about how it’s indicative of the deep cultural divisions in the USA that Seth MacFarlane can at once be a hugely successful celebrity with a devoted following and multiple highly-rated TV shows, and a constantly maligned hack whose work is so loathed that hating him is de rigueur. To prove my point, while watching the Oscar telecast with my girlfriend’s family, her brother guffawed loudly at every MacFarlane joke, even applauding occasionally (!), while my girlfriend (who makes it no secret that MacFarlane has a place of honor on what she daintily calls her Unfunny Piece of Shit List) could only scowl and shake her head in shame at how low our comedy standards have fallen.

All this aside, I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen it yet should watch this Family Guy pilot made in 1995. It’s not very funny any way you look at it, but what’s incredible is just how similar it is to any episode of any MacFarlane show you might watch today (and only partly because most of the jokes were recycled for early Family Guy episodes) and what’s more, it’s indistinguishable in tone and content from this year’s Oscar host segments. MacFarlane fought hard for years to get his very specific comedic vision made, working through rejection, failure, and cancellation. And no matter what your opinion of him is, he was able to take the dull, usually porridge-bland job of Oscar host and make it his own. Whether you prefer your Oscar ceremonies to be a four hour long episode of Family Guy or NOT is, ah, up to your own discretion.

The only Oscar commentary you need.

Of course, all my ramblings are moot. Just watch this:

Screening Log – Long Takes and Perfect Murders

Over the past month I’ve been sloooowly working my way through the Hitchcock filmography; my real goal was to fill in all the gaps in my knowledge (especially the silent films), but so far it’s mostly been a slew of old favorites.

Blackmail (1929)

Originally shot as a silent, Blackmail had a few dialogue scenes added in to become England’s first talkie.  Once you know this, it becomes GLARINGLY apparent which shoot different shots came from; for the most part, everything that looks good is from the silent version, while everything that seems cramped and awkward is from the reshoots.  Maybe the very fast-forwardable police procedural opening made a bit more sense in the silent version too, but I doubt it.

What’s most striking about the movie might be its seeming amorality, especially compared to Hitchcock’s later Hayes-code approved works.  The heroine goes out on her boyfriend (who himself comes across as a bit of a jerk) and winds up killing a would-be rapist.  The boyfriend, who’s also a police detective, finds out almost immediately and covers it up.  When a witness attempts to blackmail the two, the boyfriend frames him for the murder and chases him off the roof of the British Museum, where he falls to his death.  And the girl and the detective get away with it!

Of course, Blackmail isn’t quite as amoral as it seems.  Indeed, it’s obsessed with the murderess’ guilt, a theme Hitchcock would explore again and again.  And the ending, as the couple walk out of the police station, doesn’t really seem “happy.”  If anything, the girl seems more disturbed and guilt-ridden than before!  Odd movie.

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Screening Log – “This is groovy! I can’t believe we’re on the moon.”

If you’re absolutely bored some morning and want to be a little baffled, check out The X From Outer Space (1967), currently available in Criterion’s Eclipse Series 37: When Horror Came to Shochiku or streaming on Hulu.  Visibly cheaper than contemporaneous Godzilla films but not quite reaching the wonderfully surreal lows of the Gamera series, it’s a mildly entertaining big-monster-movie with a sci-fi kick.

The story concerns some astronauts who accidentally return from space with a monster egg.  See if you can guess where it goes from there.  Among them is the Token White Person most of the Japanese sci-fi flicks from around this time were required to have; here it’s Peggy Neal, who played basically the same role in the previous year’s Terror Beneath the Sea.  Which, by the way, is waaaay more deserving of your time than X.

The monster suit stuff is fine, but after a while the human story drags the film down with a lot of repetitive trips back and forth through outer space.  Some scenes appear to be humorous; anyway, I assume we’re meant to laugh when an astronaut’s ass is sucked through a hole in the ship’s hull, because otherwise… Well, it’s too mind-boggling to think about.

A Boy and His Cool Dog

Cool Dog (Danny Lerner, 2010)

I have seen into the abyss, and the abyss is Cool Dog.  As I watched this seemingly cheerful kids’ movie, it eventually occurred to me that it must be some sort of John Waters-esque anti-movie freakshow.  It HAS to be.  I’m not sure how any sane person could make a movie like this and not realize they were severely pushing the limits of surreal unpleasantness.

Being forced to wear headphones is but one of the many tortures forced upon the Cool Dog.

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