Sean T. Collins has written about comics and popular culture professionally since 2001 and on this very blog since 2003. He has written for Maxim, The Comics Journal, Stuff, Wizard, A&F Quarterly, Comic Book Resources, Giant, ToyFare, The Onion, The Comics Reporter and more. His comics have been published by Top Shelf, Partyka, and Family Style. He blogs here and at Robot 6.
Who would have anticipated the Barkerian horror Pac-Man would become if you flayed the little yellow chomper of his skin and exposed the skull and teeth beneath?
Seriously, is that not the kind of thing a Books of Blood character would gaze upon in speechless, insane awe just before it clambered up his body to snuff out his life? Almost makes you want to root for Blinky and the rest of the little ghosts.
Aside from movies and books and comics and albums, which to me don't really count because they're works of art with which I actively engage rather than objects to be appreciated, the one thing I collect (I realized about a month ago or so) is T-shirts, and I've been meaning to post about some of my favorites, for no other reason than I think they're neat. (Man, looking at these past few entries, it's been an eclectic few days around here, huh?)
I talk about the latest issues of Daredevil, New Avengers: Illuminati, Justice Society of America, Hellboy: Darkness Calls, and Wolverine in this week's Thursday Morning Quarterback at Wizard. (Although it's technically Friday Morning Quarterback this week.)
In a move that I'm sure will be totally helpful, some clowns in the UK are offering a $2 million bounty to anyone attending a rock festival in Loch Ness who comes up with proof that the monster exists. Break out the loony-detector van!
There's no other way to slice it so I might as well lead off by saying it: Hostel: Part II is nowhere near as good as the original.
This is not to say it's a poorly made movie. Just like the first one, it's frequently, nearly always in fact, gorgeous to look at. During the Q&A that followed the screening I attended yesterday, Eli Roth said that his years of experience as everything from a P.A. to an A.D. on movies with budgets ranging from $100,000 to $100,000,000 taught him how money is wasted on movies before he ever helmed one himself. "I think I know how to spend the money on-screen," he said, and he does, from that breathtaking ruined-factory shot to the torture props.
And there are occasional--occasional--moments of great wit and intelligence, the stuff from which the first movie was constructed. The cryptic warning offered by the apparently sole decent human being left in the Slovakian town where the torture-factory is located was a knowing callback to horror films past, a creepy bit of foreshadowing like the drunk at the cemetery in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or the old man who warns Ned Beatty "you don't know nothin'" in Deliverance. There's an equally enjoyable Aliens shout-out at the beginning, too.
Gems on the movie's own terms can be found as well. The fact that female members of the "hunting club" receive the bloodhound tattoo on their lower back, party-girl style, is a welcome example of the first film's keen eye for the downside of modern-day gender politics. A set piece involving competing bids for the privilege of torturing American women to death, shown in quick cuts between an ever-widening network of wealthy businessmen and women the world over, elicited audible "oh my God"s from the audience as it conveyed the sheer scope of the torture operation, and hammered home the "no one is innocent" message. When you figure out early on that two American-businessmen customers of the torture factory will be our main characters alongside the trio of turistas, it seems that, as an exploration of man's inhumanity to (wo)man to rival the first film, this one's off to a good start.
But it doesn't go much further than that, I'm afraid. In the Q&A, Roth said that his motto for making the movie was "the next level," a raison d'etre he said was best served by making the film more "operatic," more "cinematic." "I wanted to let people know that hey, it's only a movie." Well, mission accomplished. The incisive sadness and genuine horror of the first has been replaced by gialli-by-way-of-Studio-City revenge plots, stylized murder set pieces, and splatstick as a substitute for character-based story resolution.
Ultimately, the believability of the characters in the first Hostel made the film frightening--think the Dutch businessman's speech about the closet to his future victim, think the German's horror at hearing his victim speak his language, think the almost elegiac scene in the dive bar when Paxton tracks down the two women who'd made his friends disappear, finding them half-drunk and shrouded in smoke, their make-up and glamor stripped away. In place of that, we have Heather Matarazzo playing to the cheap seats as a nerd straight out of a Disney live-action comedy, the alpha-male American stereotype from the first film stretched out to an unmanageable length, and a final girl who all but instantly morphs into a the kind of two-dimensional victim-become-victimizer who makes with quips before she chops people's heads off. You know how the basic concept behind the ending of the first film was easily the toughest part of the whole movie to swallow, but the spoonful of sugar, in the form of razor-sharp performances and cinematography plus a psychologically desperate tone, made it work? This one's a horse pill of artifice with nothing to help you choke it down.
The Slovakian setting gets infused with unreality, too. The wink-wink return of the hostel's desk clerk, best known for his behind-the-scenes origin as a local production assistant and Star Wars fan club president who ended up with the role when the professional actor bailed, is lingered on for far too long; "it's only a movie" indeed. Meanwhile, the village festival, handsomely shot though it may be, appears to consist more of half-remembered costumes from The Wicker Man and mondo movies than any real research into local customs.
And the ending! The most shocking ending EVAR turns out to be a guy's dick getting cut off and fed to a dog, followed by a woman being decapitated and her head being used by little kids as a soccer ball. Shockingly, I'm not describing the end of the new Toxic Avenger sequel! Because that's exactly how these things are filmed, folks--as a laff, complete with those quick extreme close-up shots that are Troma's trademark. (Think an even goofier version of the ending of Death Proof.) I definitely laughed and cheered and clapped--the way the film's set up, it's impossible not to, as impossible as not feeling repulsed by the torture scenes. But the sensation wasn't any deeper a satisfaction than laughter from getting tickled. When I told Roth that I thought the comedy element might not have been a good thing and asked him why he went so over the top, he said "I wanted people to leave the theater feeling good." Well, I walked away from the computer screen feeling good the first time I saw that hilarious fake trailer he made for Thanksgiving. But I wanted more than the gore equivalent of a knee-slapper for the climax to the sequel to one of the most powerful films I've seen in years, you know? At least two other should-be-huge character-rooted moments of violence are marred by rimshot-shots as well. Why bother, man?
The funny thing is that there are two scenes that are not funny at all in this movie, two scenes among the most unpleasant I've ever watched: the Heather Matarazzo bloodbath sequence and, in what I'm sure will be the most controversial scene in the movie, the execution of a child. Roth said that the former created the most trouble for the movie with the MPAA because the look of terror and pain on Matarazzo's face was so convincing. "Would it be okay if she gave a bad performance?" he asked them. "Well, yeah, actually," they replied. "Then don't punish us for doing a good job!" he argued, and won. And they did do a good job, so good that you spend those minutes, watching a nude woman hanging upside down, crying and screaming for help, while her skin is cut to ribbons, kind of wondering what the fuck you're doing here. The giallo influence Roth was mainlining is particularly strong in that sequence--velvet fabrics, candlelight, decadent naked Eurobabe, scythes, the aestheticized abuse of women. If we're just going end with yuks, what's the point?
This goes double for the murder of children. Another questioner really put Roth on the defensive about this, to the point where he was saying, "I'm not exploiting children here--plenty of movies have shown kids getting killed before." But we're not talking about City of God (which he cited), nor the handful of Italo-horror flicks he also rattled off--we're talking about this movie, one that ends with a dick joke and a soccer game with a human head. "Awful shit really happens," Roth explained. "I wanted to take the audience to that place where they're completely horrified. I wanted the stunned silence." Hey, hold a gun to a kid's head and pull the trigger (offscreen, admittedly, but there's a lengthy run up as the killer presses the barrel against the faces of every kid in the pack, and you see the body with blood running from it afterwards), and you'll get that.
Last night's Hostel: Part II screening was sponsored by the Museum of the Moving Image. It was the kick-off for a month-long exhibition called "It's Only a Movie: Horror Films from the 1970s and Today". Not "to Today," mind you--"and Today." A quick look at the films selected and the descriptions offered thereof will clue you in as to why this choice was made: Sociopolitical commentary, specifically about Vietnam and/or Iraq (two wars that are, apparently, completely interchangeable) is the new rubric by which critics are judging the quality of horror films. This is obviously something I've discussed before, but I'm kind of stunned to see how rapidly the new CW has solidified, to the point where bien pensant cultural institutions are using it as an excuse to ignore fully two decades of work in the genre in favor of the fashionably allegorical.
It's not that I don't think this criticism is present in many of these films--of course it is, even if the filmmakers have now been well and duly trained, post-The American Nightmare, to cry My Lai, Kent State, and Abu Ghraib on cue. Nor is it that I think the criticism isn't justified. Nor is it that I think it's not an interesting avenue of exploration--you'd kind of have to be stupid to see Night of the Living Dead and not want to talk about, say, the Watts riots (or to see Hostel: Part II and not talk about the use of attack dogs in interrogations by American military personnel, for that matter).
A) It's reductive. Ten years ago, while studying horror films in college, I discovered that the only acceptable mode of discourse was rooted in issues of gender and sexuality. Again, that stuff is present, and pointed, and interesting. But that's not all there is.
B) It's incomplete. This is a fine and dandy way to "explain" the American brutal-horror cycles of the '70s and '00s, and close cousins of this theory involving the Red Scare and Weimar can "explain" '50s sci-fi and German expressionist horror flicks respectively. But what about '30s Universal pictures and '50s Hammer horror and '60s Hitchcock and '80s slashers and '90s meta-movies and The Sixth Sense and The Ring and, and, and? Who had Japan and Korea invaded when Ichii the Killer and Audition and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance were made?
B) It's pat. It gives filmmakers easy justification for what they're doing and critics an easy way to avoid actually engaging with what makes these films tick, for better and, as in the case of the actually-not-very-good The Host, for worse. As Jon Hastings has written, it also gives them a lame out for justifying their declasse appreciation for genre work.
C) It's safe. If all good horror movies are about bad American policies, then if you don't support those policies, you really have nothing to worry about. I mean, you can be scared of Those Brutes, but that's not all that difficult, is it? I don't like the idea that you can avoid being implicated in the horror simply by, say, voting for Barack Obama.
The audience member at Wednesday's screening/Q&A who put Eli Roth on the defensive about a particular scene in Hostel: Part II, as I mentioned in my review, turns out to be writer S.T. VanAirsdale of The Reeler. Here's his extremely negative take on the movie, and on Roth's work in general--including a complete transcript of his back and forth with Roth.
If you could remake an ’80s movie, what would it be?
You’d do it as a horror movie?
No, I’d just remake f---ing “Caddyshack II”! They really f---ed it up. It could have been amazing. I want to remake it, just f---ing start from scratch and pretend the other one never existed. That’s a franchise I’d really like to take a crack at.
I was watching a TiVo'd episode of MTV2's alterna/indie music video show Subterranean--sort of the heir to 120 Minutes--and came across this clip: "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice, an act signed to Ed Banger (Daft Punk's vanity label) and Vice Records. About 45 seconds into it, I said in a stunned voice, "This is like T-shirt porn!" This led me to be mocked savagely by my wife, but hey, I am who I am.
A lot of the designs sported here are a little too design-y for my taste, but there's plenty of great, simple, solid ideas in there too, and the basic concept is dazzling. Enjoy!
So I've been promoted at work to Online Managing Editor, helping to run WizardUniverse.com. Why do I bring this up? Because if you're reading this blog there's a very good chance you'll like the site, which frequently features extensive coverage of the kinds of movies and comics and TV shows I yak about here.
Here's a report on the recent Battlestar Galactica season four press event by our new West Coast Editor (and my old boss from my Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly days) Savas Abadsidis. Old-school Cylons and the sex organs of Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackhoff are involved.
And as always, I'm pontificating about the week's comics--specifically Detective Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight, New Warriors, Iron Man, Midnighter, Sock Monkey: The "Inches" Incident, Supergirl, and Superman--at Thursday Morning Quarterback.
My post called "Meet the new boss," on how the Museum of the Moving Image's current '70s/'00s horror film exhibition represents a new conventional wisdom that "good" horror films offer sociopolitical criticism (of America, for the most part) has attracted some interesting comments, most notably from "carolclover."
First of all, if "carolclover" is in fact THE Carol Clover of Men, Women and Chainsaws fame, it's a pleasure to have her visit my blog. (The reminds me of the time I was hanging around on the Comics Journal message board and wound up in a discussion with Scott Bukatman, and I said, "Wow, THE Scott Bukatman?" and Scott said "that's definitely the first time anyone's said THAT to me.")
I think you're the one who's taking the reductive view, if you're really looking at the museum's schedule for that series. What do Martin, Ichi the Killer, House by the Cemetery, It's Alive, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, High Tension, Rabid, Carrie, The Descent, for example, really have to do with either Iraq or Vietnam? It's a thematically wide-ranging and well-selected series of contemporary and 1970s horror (both particularly fecund periods for the genre).
I tried to be clear in my original post that while Iraq and Vietnam are the foremost targets of the horror-film-as-political-commentary set (for obvious reasons), I didn't mean they're the only targets; that was the point of bringing up Night of the Living Dead's resonance with issues of race. Also, I don't deny that the 1970s and today are fecund periods for the genre, though again I believe the omission of the intervening years speaks more to an absence of the kind of genre exemplars for which the curators were searching, and a perceived similarity between the films being made in those two time periods, than any kind of comment on the relative fecundity of those periods.
So. Regarding the politics of the Museum's festival, here's the introductory paragraph on the handout available at the Hostel 2: Part II screening:
Horror movies are currently enjoying a resurgence in production, popularity, and inventiveness unparalleled since the rise of th eindie horror movement in the 1970s. Today's Splat Pack directors--Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Alexandre Aja among them--draw direct inspiration from the earlier generation's masters, including John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and George A. Romero. Then and now, the best horror movies are transgressive and powerful, challenging taboos and offering social commentary while delving deeply into our darkest desires and fears.
And here are sample quotes from the write-ups for the individual films:
The American Nightmare: "examine[s] the 1970s horror renaissance against the backdrop of war and social turmoil."
A Clockwork Orange: "In Kubrick's sardonic view, Alex's sadism is more than equaled by the violence of the state."
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: "a rural Texas family of laid-off slaughterhouse workers who consume everything in their path" (consume!--ed.)
Panel discussion - "Considering Horror": panelists "examine the aesthetic, cultural, and political implications of contemporary and 1970s horror films." (The panelists include the Village Voice's Nathan Lee, perhaps the foremost "it's about Bush" film critic in the country, incidentally.)
The Hills Have Eyes: "Craven's innovative horror film is an attack on pollution and on middle-class American life."
The Hills Have Eyes (2006): "Aja's visually and thematically startling film expands the original's critique of 'nuclear' family."
The Host: "This hilarious and pointedly topical movie about a rampaging mutant lizard has many satirical targets, including American foreign policy and environmental recklessness."
It's Alive: "With his distinctive blend of iconoclastic humor, social satire, and genre mastery, maverick director Larry Cohen unleashes a domestic and environmental nightmare"
Bug: "A woman and her boyfriend, a Gulf War veteran convinced he has been purposely infested with infects, spiral into paranoia in an Oklahoma motel room."
Dawn of the Dead: "Snyder (300) remakes George A. Romero's satire of consumerism, with zombies surrounding a shopping mall in post-apocalypse surburbia"
Dead of Night: "A fallen Vietnam soldier returns as a zombie in this scathing satire by the late Bob Clark...one of the first movies to deal with the impact of Vietnam on the American psyche."
Homecoming: "Slain soldiers return from Iraq as zombies intent on voting republicans out of office in this bold and inventive satire. In The Village Voice, Dennis Lim hailed it as 'easily one of the most important political films of the Bush II era.'"
George A. Romero's Martin: "an unsettling study of post-adolescent alienation, religious fanaticism, and urban decay."
28 Weeks Later: "The U.S. military takes over the reconstruction of plague-ravaged England, then loses control of the country to a zombie-fueled insurgence...smartly satirical." (insurgence!--ed.)
The Last House on the Left: "Craven's Vietnam-era rape-and-revenge tale...pits the counterculture Stillo family against the bourgeois Collingwoods."
The festival also includes Hostel and (obviously) Hostel: Part II, as well as Carrie (which, DePalma-isms aside, is pretty clearly "about" American suburbia, gender politics, and religiosity). And it's surely no coincidence that the first film to be screened at the Museum itself is The American Nightmare--as all of the above indicate, that's the exhibition's thesis statement. Ichii, Final Destination 3, The House by the Cemetary, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage--it seems clear to me that these are the exceptions, not the rule. It also seems abundantly clear exactly what that rule is.
Several trailers for upcoming horror films of note have appeared online in the past few days.
First up is I Am Legend, the Will Smith-starring adaptation of Richard Matheson's post-vampire-apocalypse novella. It's actually rather interesting, or at least not annoying, which is what I thought it would be. Obviously showing how things got to the pass we're at when the novella begins is a big change, as is setting the thing in Manhattan, but neither is necessarily bad, just different. Still, casting Will Smith and spending the amount of money they must have spent on this thing to shoot in New York and close the Brooklyn Bridge and so on would indicate that this is supposed to be a blockbuster, which frequently (though not always) proves inimical to the values that make post-apocalyptic horror interesting in the first place. We'll see.
Next up is The Invasion, the latest incarnation of the thrice-remade sci-fi apocalyptic paranoia classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this time starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. The trailer feels like a misstep to me, showing way too much of the movie and centering on a bored-of-it-already child-in-peril plot. But I'm struck by how much what we see here is indebted to the fast-zombie horror school of 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead, an interesting road to go down for this property. The leads show a lot of promise, of course.
Finally, there's 30 Days of Night, based on the not actually very good graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith about vampires who besiege a small Alaskan town where the sun won't come out for another month. The idea behind the book was much better than the book itself, which is why I hold out some hope for the movie, though the trailer comes across as over-the-top and cheesy. Still, that's what most trailers tend to do, so who knows.
Scientists believe they've discovered the origin of déja vu. I always thought it had something to do with a short-term memory accidentally getting stored in the long-term memory bank, but rather it's a question of a part of your brain called the dentate gyrus not properly processing a new situation that resembles a similar situation that happened in the past, leading you to believe that this exact situation happened in the past. This creepy phenomeon happens to me a lot, so I'm a little disturbed that the sensation is associated with Alzheimer's. But sometimes I'm in the shower and I can't remember if I shampooed already or not, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.
A nice, straightforward Horror Roundtable this week: "Name your favorite horror movie." If you'd asked me that question on a different day you might have gotten a different answer, but I'm pleased with the answer I gave. Most interesting is how many participants were unable to pick a number one...
1. Paulie saying "You're a general, T!" to Tony when Tony discovers that Paulie had rescued a painted portrait of Tony with his late horse Pie-Oh-My and had Tony repainted into Napoleon.
2. The scene where a suburban family on a trip into the city gets carjacked by a couple of black guys when pulling out of the parking garage, and their dog runs away chasing the car, and the dad yells "Niggers!" and completely shocks his children, and then we cut to Tony smilingly eying a polaroid of the stolen SUV because it ended up in his crime family's hands.
3. AJ's suicide attempt, and Tony rescuing him and telling him "It's alright, baby. It's alright."
4. The ducks leaving the pool.
5. Tony asking Dr. Melfi if anything's wrong after her rape, and her saying "no."
6. Adriana begging "please" as she struggles to get away from Silvio when he pulls over in the woods to kill her, and Silvio saying "c'mere, you cunt."
7. Uncle Junior thinking Larry David and his manager on Curb Your Enthusiasm are he and Bobby Baccala.
8. The glow of the wildfire in the window as Moby's "When It's Cold I'd Like to Die" plays in the background as "Anthony Soprano" sits on his hotel bed during his coma hallucination sequence.
9. Artie Bucco.
10. Tony and Christopher repeating their reminiscence about the van full of wine they hijacked from the bikers, to diminishing returns.
11. The psychiatrist, never seen before or since, who tells Carmela to take the children and run, not walk, away from Tony immediately.
13. Bobby Baccala telling Uncle Junior, who's just decided not to support Richie Aprile's bid for power against Tony, "I'm in awe of you."
14. Meadow Soprano's dance in her underwear for Finn to Bill Laswell and William S. Burroughs's "Seven Souls."
15. Carmela's reaction when Tony's Russian mistress Irina calls and says "I'm the woman who used to fuck your husband."
16. The Father Phil storyline.
17. The Vito Spatafore storyline.
18. The use of the music of Andrea Boccelli during the Furio/Carmela storyline.
19. Johnny Sack discovering his wife Ginny binge eating, and his genuine devastation as he says "You lied to me!"
20. The quick cut from the old man who reacts to the Tony-ordered shoot-up of an old brownstone by saying "I told you that crack is some bad shit!"
21. The quick cut from Patsy Parisi reacting to Tony's big rousing speech about the need for solidarity in the face of Phil Leotardo and Johnny Sack's vendetta against Tony B. by saying "Thank you, very much."
22. The proto-mashup of "The Peter Gunn Theme" and "Every Breath You Take" as the FBI tries to bug Tony's basement.
23. The Kinks' "Living on a Thin Line."
24. Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon's "World Destruction."
25. Van Morrison's "Glad Tidings."
26. The Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile."
27. The word-by-word shots of the passages in the study Dr. Melfi's reading that explain how sociopaths con their therapists, particularly through their sympathy for babies and animals.
28. Vito Spatafore's interior monologue countdown to his lunch break as he tries to do an honest day's work on the farm.
29. The look on Tony B.'s dead face.
30. Adriana throwing up all over the table at the FBI office.
31. Burt Gervasi's terrier barking as Silvio kills him.
32. The hapless landscaper forced into indentured servitude along with his college-kid son thanks to the war between Paulie Walnuts and Feech LaManna.
33. Idiotic Little Carmine actually making the right decision pretty much every time he makes a decision.
34. The fact that Bobby Baccala and Johnny Sack evolved from bit parts into main characters.
35. Gloria Trillo gasping "Kill me! Kill me!"
36. "You shot me in the foot!" "It happens."
37. The loser in the band that Chris and Adriana are producing shitting all over the Beatles for being so predictable and boring.
38. Hesh dating African-American women exclusively.
39. Uncle Junior crying when Tony asks him if he ever loved him.
40. Finn falling asleep during the marathon argument with Meadow that ends with him proposing to her.
41. The ghostly silhouette of Livia at the Inn at the Oaks during Tony's coma-hallucination.
42. The name Kevin Finnerty.
43. Phil Leotardo coming out of the closet in Vito's hotel room.
44. The look on Feech's face on the bus back to prison.
45. The waiter who Chris and Paulie murder in the parking lot after stiffing him on the tip.
46. The motorcyclist who gets run over during the hit on Silvio and Patsy.
47. The kids crying during the hit on Bobby.
48. "Daddy, they shot me!"
49. Detective Markasian honking and yelling at the traffic on his way to commit suicide.
50. Detective Markasian putting his badge on just before he commits suicide.
51. Eugene Pontecorvo hanging himself.
52. Vito's son taking a shit in the shower.
53. Ralph Cifaretto yelling "I did nnnnnot! But so what?"
54. Agent Harris.
55. Bobby Baccala.
56. The homeless woman with the Daily News stuffed up her ass.
57. Tony curbing Coco.
58. Bobby telling the jury foreman that if he were to convict a man like Junior Soprano, he'd want to put a bullet in his head here, here, and here.
59. Matthew Bevilaqua/Drinkwater.
60. Phil Leotardo saying "No more, Butchie. No more."
61. JT Dolan telling Christopher "You're in the Mafia."
62. Johnny and Ginny Sack's obviously anorexic daughter exasperatedly demanding "Can this family talk about anything but food?"
63. Johnny crying as they drag him back to prison at his daughter's wedding.
64. Big Pussy asking Tony if it's alright to sit down before they kill him.
65. Uncle Junior's mistress sobbing and screaming "Corrado! Corrado!" after he hits her in the face with the pie and walks out on her.
66. Uncle Junior crying after he hits her in the face with the pie and walks out on her.
71. Finn looking over and seeing Vito pop up from blowing the security guard.
72. Furio's rampage in the massage parlor.
73. Kennedy and Heidi.
74. Sil, Bobby, and Tony shadowboxing when the music from Raging Bull starts playing in the restaurant where they're discussing going to war against Phil.
75. Bobby's death scene.
76. Paulie killing his mother's friend.
77. Adriana talking about how nice it is that Matush is sending money back to fund schools for boys in Pakistan.
78. Big Pussy bragging about going down on his Dominican mistress, and Tony asking "Hey Puss--did she really even exist?"
79. Tracee brining Tony baked goods while topless, with a smile full of braces.
80. All the malapropisms, from "my knight in white satin armor" to "irregardless" to "at the precipice of a crossroad" to "prostate with grief" to "mayham."
81. Janice's Rolling Stones tattoo.
82. The dream version of Detective Makasian sining "Three Times a Lady" to Annette Benning.
83. Tony beating the shit out of his driver just to show he's still got it.
84. The Scautino bust-out.
85. Big Pussy running over the cyclist as he attempts to tail another gangster on behalf of his FBI contacts.
86. The dream-fish Big Pussy telling Tony that his fellow fish are asleep.
87. Carmela's speech to comatose Tony in the hospital.
88. Tony punching through the wall during the big fight with Carmela.
89. "It's just that 'remember when' is the lowest form of conversation."
90. Dumping the asbestos in the middle of nowhere.
91. Livia smiling as they wheel her away from Tony.
92. The murder of naked Lorraine.
93. Tony having sex with Charmaine Bucco as Artie cheers them on in a dream.
94. The pervasive racism.
95. Tony B. zooming in on Carmela's ass as he videotapes their pool party.
96. "Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us to this."
97. The whole series from "University" onwards.
98. "In the end, you die in your own arms."
99. The opening credits.
100. The fact that we knew Tony's captain Ray Curto was wearing a wire for like two seasons, but because he wasn't a main character no one paid any attention to it and focused on Adriana instead, and then when they finally brought it up again he had a heart attack and died in the FBI agent's car.
101. Carmela's philistinism.
102. AJ giving the bike to the hoodlums outside Blanca's apartment.
103. AJ's therapist asking him why he's depressed, and him responding "How could anyone not be?"
104. "I get it! I get it!"
105. The look in Tony's eyes as he kills Christopher.
106. "Fucking D-girl!" "Hey! I am a vice-president!"
107. Johnny Boy Soprano's mistress singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to Tony.
108. Ralphie's "collegiate" look.
109. "You let him hold a gun to your head during sex?" "It's not like it's loaded."
110. Dr. Elliot Kupferberg.
111. "Fuck Ben Kingsley! Danny Baldwin just took him to acting school!"
113. Paulie asking Big Pussy in his dream "When my time comes, will I stand up?"
114. The handheld camera during "Chasing It."
115. The rocking of the boat during Tony and Paulie's fishing trip.
116. The Tindersticks' "Tiny Tears."
117. The episode that used a song from Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. II over the closing credits.
118. Ralphie running across the yard after his son gets shot in the head with the arrow.
119. Chris explaining his tardiness to a meeting: "Sorry, T--the highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive."
120. The fact that Frank Vincent was on the show.
121. Melfi reverse-Godfathering Tony by closing the door on him.
122. Bobby refusing to defrost his late wife's last meal.
123. Tony goading Janice to break her anger-management routine just because.
124. Ralphie's Gladiator obsession.
125. The art direction for the promo materials from Season Two onwards.
126. Calling the last episode "Made in America."
127. Playing that commercial with Abe Lincoln and the talking beaver in the mental ward where AJ is institutionalized.
128. Hesh's description of Livia: "Between her brain and her mouth, there was no interlocutor."
Oh, the movie never ends / It goes on and on and on and on
Among the myriad feelings I'm feeling today is a sense of total vindication of my unironic love for Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," one of the best rock songs ever, one of those songs so perfect that feels like it was beamed in from another plane of existence and merely channeled by the band that recorded it. I've said for years that it's the equal in intent, execution, and effect of "Transmission" by Joy Division, and people look at me like I'm crazy. No more, Butchie. No more.
I've decided not to bother with the "that sucked!" school of Sopranos final-episode criticism at all. I disagree so much--on the level of "well, you clearly were watching the show for reasons that were, if not objectively wrong, then at least 180 degrees apart from my own"--that there'd be no common ground to be found, and it would simply drive me crazy and lessen the enjoyment I got out of the series. And fuck that. I'm not looking for reasons not to enjoy the things I enjoy, nor do I read and participate in criticism to wage campaigns of attrition.
These are bad people. Evil people, really....We sympathize, however, not because they aren't bad people, but because we aren't bad people and bad as the bad people may be, they're still people and we, as good people, recognize a common thread of shared humanity between us. The fact that Tony Soprano isn't a cartoonish villain doesn't mean he's not a villain.
The news of the passing of venerable Suicide Girls interviewer-of-all-trades Daniel Robert Epstein at the young age of 31 is just stunning to me. I didn't know him at all, but he was a force of nature who racked up the best roster of interview subjects of pretty much any writer ever, and did a fine job with them to boot. It's strange how much the death of someone with whom you have no real connection can affect you in this Internet age, but my thoughts go out to his family and friends. I will definitely miss his work, and the role it played.
I'm talking about this week's installments of World War Hulk, New Avengers, Justice, The Amory Wars, B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls, Mystic Arcana, and The Trials of Shazam! at Wizard's Thursday Morning Quarterback.
Your vice is a locked room and now nobody has the key
Killing in Style, Sylvian L.'s marvelously sharp and stylish (ha, fittingly enough) giallo blog, is coming to an end. In fact, to hear Sylvian tell it, he'll actually be deleting the whole thing, not just quit posting. Go and explore while you still can.
According to a recent AOL interview with Korn lead singer Jonathan Davis, he's working on an opera entitled Oblivion with none other than Clive Barker. I've been wondering what was up with this project: Barker mentioned a potential collaboration with Davis to me waaay back in the spring of 2001, but that was pretty much the last I heard of it; I don't recall it being mentioned in any of the upcoming-project laundry lists that official Barker site Revelations puts together on a regular basis. I'll admit that this project is a lot less interesting to me now than it was six years ago considering Korn's output since then, but take it from this metal fan: Korn's first few records contain enough interesting ideas to make a Davis/Barker collab worth looking into. (Via Bloody Disgusting.)
I grabbed this spiffy Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely New X-Men-derived number from Mutant-America.com, purveyors of a variety of great comics-logo shirts that aren't available through more, er, official channels. (The licensed "Magneto was right" T-shirt has a gigantic grimacing Jim Lee Magnus set on a black background with a goofy badass font. No thanx.)
On his blog, the director of Hostel: Part II says this weekend will the last chance you have to see a new movie of his for the forseeable future; after that, his financially (and creatively -ed.) disappointing Hostel sequel will probably be out of theaters, and it will be a long time before Cell, Trailer Trash, or anything else he's been talking about will see the light of day. He blames much of the failure of the film on leaked bootlegs of a rough cut that surfaced before the release date, both for siphoning away the audience and leading to reviews of that rough cut by sundry online critics. (The possibility of inherent faults within the film itself is not acknowledged; "People love the movie," he says.) He also warns that with the failure of this movie, the future of R-rated horror as a viable genre with studios and theater chains is in doubt. Frankly, after actually seeingHostel: Part II, it's tough to get all that worked up over that prospect. (Via Bloody Disgusting.)
From "All Along the Watchtower" to "Don't Stop Believin'"?
It's nerd-guru blogging weekend, apparently: On his blog, Battlestar Galactica re-inventor Ron Moore waxes rhapsodic about the Sopranos finale, calling it "perfect" and saying "I wish I'd thought of it first." Not that I was worried before, but this gives me a lot of faith in BSG's final season, that's for sure. (Via Jim Treacher)
A propos of nothing, I want to point out this post by James Smith responding to my post on the artificiality of Alan Moore's writing; I've had the thing bookmarked for ages. James takes things in a number of directions, from pointing out that comparing Watchmen to a group-written enterprise like The Sopranos is an apples/oranges deal to suggesting that Moore's imposition of patterns on patternless life is what people do all the livelong day.
A complete, definitive Twin Peaks DVD set called "The Gold Box Edition"--including Season One, Season Two, and the pilot--is supposedly headed for shelves this October 30th. Rumor-riffic details can be found at TVShowsOnDVD.com (still no word on extras).
Simply reading or hearing the words "transcend the genre" is enough to make me turn away in disgust, so goddess bless Jon Hastings: He's devised a wonderful five-part taxonomy of "transcending the genre", in an attempt to figure out the what critics who use this phrase to describe horror or other déclassé genres actually mean. It's tempting to believe that TTG automatically equates to "I don't like horror movies but I like this horror movie so therefore it is not a horror movie" (Jon's TTG classification #1)--all the more so because that usually is what it equates to--but Jon elucidates some definitions that are actually useful and non-condescending. For example, a genre film that appeals to a wider audience than genre die-hards can be said, accurately and without pejorative connotations, to transcend the genre. Again, I don't tend to find that that's what mainstream critics who break out TTG are getting at, but still, Jon's post was a tremendous eye-opener for me.
A somewhat, shall we say, ambivalent relationship with food in general and meat in particular is expressed in this rather wonderful clip for "Sick Sick Sick" by Queens of the Stone Age, one of the best songs the band has yet produced.
According to health and law enforcement officials, there are several warning signs of the onset of Wayne Ray Thomas, including intense anxiety, shortness of breath, sweating, and a sudden loss of power to the victim's house.
Physical symptoms of a full-scale attack include involuntary constriction of the airway and sharp, stabbing pains in the left arm, right arm, throat, and back. In the advanced stages, afflicted persons suffer external bleeding, loss of motor function, organ failure, and intracranial hemorrhaging.
So far, those stricken by Wayne Ray Thomas have exhibited a 100 percent mortality rate.
The inaugural installment of the biweekly alternative comics interview column I'll be doing for WizardUniverse.com, I Can Has Comix?, is up. This week's guests: Los Bros Hernandez (aka Gilbert and Jaime), creators of Love and Rockets. Enjoy!
At the 2007 MoCCA Art Festival, the best alternative comics convention going. If you're in New York City, swing by and say hello to me at the Wizard table. And horror fans, be advised that Bill "Stray Toasters" Sienkiewicz and Charles "Black Hole" Burns will be there too!
Find out what I thought of this week's issues of Captain America, The Flash: Fastest Man Alive, The Incredible Hulk, Ex Machina, Heroes for Hire, Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Justice League of America, and Repo at this week's Thursday Morning Quarterback at Wizard.
Or something like that? That's the gist of this article, in which Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 executive producer Bennet Walsh says that Volume 3 would focus on the revenge of the characters maimed by the Bride in the first two, while a subsequent Volume 4 would continue the cycle with the daughters of the women involved (presumably the girls of Vernita Green and the Bride herself). Very interesting. (Via Bloody Disgusting.)
It occurred to me yesterday that a solid 50% of all the ongoing superhero/genre titles I really enjoy had new issues this week: Immortal Iron Fist, Invincible, The Walking Dead, Criminal, Daredevil, Hellboy, Green Lantern...I had a heck of a time doing this week's Thursday Morning Quarterback at Wizard for that very reason.
Purchased at Drea DeMatteo's store Filth*Mart in NYC, under the auspices of research for an interview I did with her for the Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly in 2003. Photo taken when I was full of beer and other things, May 7, 2005. I like a good trashy T-shirt.
Something that stuck with me once I’d finished the issue...was the way in which the Marvel Universe these days is all about fear...right now, any sense of wonder or awe has been replaced by a sense of terror and threat: We have Atlantis launching sleeper cell terrorist attacks, we have the Inhumans declaring war on humanity and wanting to take over the world, we have mutantkind facing extinction and infighting, America becoming a police state because superheroes might accidentally blow up a school full of kids, and by the way, your best friend or anyone you know might be an alien invader undercover. There’s an incredible and depressing lack of openness to “the other” in Marvel’s books, these days; nothing is seen as new or different or unusual in a good sense, because everything that isn’t “us” is a threat (as opposed to even being a potential threat). ...There used to be a time where it was awesome (in both senses of the world) that there was a race of superhumans living on the moon, instead of it being another band of people who want to kill us....Is it really post-9/11, post-Afghanistan invasion and post-Iraq civil war insularism informing what the Marvel writers are coming up with, or something else? And, either way, is there any way that optimism and, well, good fun could come back to these characters again?