Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Shadow O'er Markham

PhotobucketImage by Greg Quin

"Feeling the crunch of snow underneath our feet and the cool air in our lungs, we are tired after a long day in nature's arms and happy to see the glow of the chalet on the horizon. We walk hand in hand toward what has become Our Place. It's silly, but so are we. Silly romantics. I open the door and welcome the warmth that greets me. I turn my face toward the sky to thank Yog-Sothoth, for He has granted us another chowder of the day at Kelsey's. Praise His Infinite Darkness."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Showgirls WHAT?

Beyond any measure of reason, the trailer for Showgirls 2 is a thing that exists! And from that trailer I have deduced the following: the movie was directed by Marc Vorlander and many women will be naked in it. Further details are a little hazy. Is the movie called Showgirls 2 as per the domain name or Showgirls: The Return as per the graphic? Was it shot with a Handycam? Will any of it be in English or is it entirely pantomime? Only one thing is truly certain: this movie is a terrible, awesome idea.

Watch the trailer here. It is, of course, not at all safe for work. It also automatically plays full screen and seems to have no player controls. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dream Deceivers

On December 23, 1985, two friends in Reno, Nevada spent the day getting wasted and listening to their favourite band, Judas Priest. Not an unusual day for those boys or any of their peers, excepting the way in which it ended. That night, Ray Belknap and James Vance headed to a nearby church playground and took turns shooting themselves with a 12-gauge shotgun. Belknap was the first to pull the trigger and died instantly. Vance picked up the shotgun after witnessing his friend's death, placed it under his chin, and pulled the trigger as well. Vance, however, survived the direct blast to his head. More than four years later, James Vance, still severely disfigured and in tremendous chronic pain, would aid both his and Belknap's families in their lawsuit against Judas Priest. The band was accused of burying subliminal messages in their music which incited the boys to kill themselves. Specifically at issue in the lawsuit were any messages that might be contained within the track "Better By You, Better Than Me" from the Stained Glass album.

The trial was captured for the documentary Dream Deceivers: The Story of James Vance and Judas Priest by director David Van Taylor. The film features interviews with the band, the victims' families, and James Vance himself. It is not always easy to stomach, but it is always fascinating. I remember the period in which heavy metal idols were the villains du jour, and a viewer is initially inclined to sympathize with the parents of these victims, despite their misguided lawsuit. You can't really blame a family for searching for a reason to explain their child's suicide, right? However, the film quickly reveals those parents to merely be looking for a way to cast the public eye on anything other than their long-term abuse and dishonesty.

David Van Taylor went on to work on Michael Moore's TV Nation and co-direct the terrific documentary A Perfect Candidate with RJ Cutler. Thanks to the digital wonderland, the entire hour-long video is viewable online.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hensley x Hitchcock

Tim Hensley is a cartoonist living in LA who apparently shares a love for the seedier side of film. I found these "behind the scenes" tales of Alfred Hitchcock through the site Blog Flume, a blog about cartooning to which he contributes. Hensley has been printed in several anthologies, including several of the Mome volumes and David Greenberger's fantastic Duplex Planet. Click on the images to enlarge.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Malicious Damage

In 1979, artist Mike Coles began the Malicious Damage record label with English post-punk band Killing Joke to release their bizarrely dubby debut EP, Turn to Red. Coles is the man responsible for crafting the visual identity of Killing Joke. His work is right at home next to that of the Crass collages of Gee Vaucher (who I've talked about previously) and enjoys the same kind of complimentary relationship with the music that few artists achieve. The above image, from Killing Joke's self-titled 1980 album, is so iconic and so perfectly represents the band that it is almost impossible for it not to come to mind when listening to them. For me, those early, dirty songs sound like spray painting concrete walls in the dark.

Killing Joke was making proto-goth and industrial before those genres had names. Say what you will about what those things have morphed into, but pitch black tracks like "Unspeakable" and "The Wait" would still sound cutting edge if they were released today.

For more from the group, check out this 12 song bootleg, Live in Toronto, Canada (1982), available for download here. Killing Joke is set to release a new studio album with the original lineup in March. Fingers crossed.

Killing Joke live at the Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp, Belgium, 1981.

Dream of [Silent] Light

Last week, I went to see Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light at Cinematheque's Best of the Decade program. The film is as slow paced as it is astonishingly beautiful, the story of a Mennonite community in Mexico, where Johan (Cornelio Wall), a dutiful husband and father of seven, falls in love with Marianne (Maria Pankratz) even though he is married to Esther (Miriam Toews). The crew of non-actors (actually all real Mennonites from communities in Mexico and beyond) do some incredible work. There's a quiet stillness to the performances that transcends 'realism' and almost makes Silent Light seem like the world's most beautifully composed and thoughtfully filmed documentary.

For the past few weeks, I've been racing to "catch up" on films that might receive Oscar nominations so that I'd feel equipped to discuss the awards and make intelligent predictions. I've seen all ten Best Picture nominees (very rare for me - I usually average one out of five by the time the noms are announced). On the whole the exercise felt like the mental equivalent of eating five jumbo-sized bags of Doritos in one sitting. I felt bloated and gross, and Silent Light was the perfect antidote.

I've seen a couple of other Best of the Decade screenings since, and have at least five more to go, but I'm not sure any of them are likely to beat the therapeutic effects of Silent Light. Interestingly, a decade ago, when I attended the Cinematheque's Best of the 90s program, the balm-for-my-weary-soul winner was also a film with "light" in the title. Jason Anderson of EYE Weekly wrote recently:

"Ten years ago, my life was changed by a quince tree. I exaggerate, but not by much. Dream of Light — Victor Erice’s graceful film about a painter’s efforts to capture the sun-dappled beauty of a tree outside his home — was one of many movies that I discovered in the first months of 2000 by attending The Best of the Nineties at TIFF Cinematheque".

I feel exactly the same way about it - it was a revelation at the time, and remains one of the best films I've ever seen.

The two films, even though they have little in common in terms of plot or story, are not dissimilar. They're both about men wrestling with something quite ineffable - Johan's struggle to reconcile his love for his family and his love for Marianne is about as maddening, impossible and heartbreaking-yet-funny as painter Antonio López García's attempts to capture the light as it falls on his quince tree at a particular moment. As time passes, the quest itself begins to seem futile and a little ridiculous (see Garcia below, painting markings onto the tree and the fruits to remind him where everything hung before the quinces ripened and made the branches heavy). And yet, it's difficult not to feel a certain respect for anyone attempting the Quixotic task of forever capturing a fleeting ray of light, or, y'know, being true to two women at once.

Check out the rest of the Best of the Decade program over at the Cinematheque website.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Dark Times

This bad boy is gonna sweep! While this guy was ignored. . .

And so was this woman. . .

I understand that most of the Academy voters are, like, one hundred years old, but why do they hate movies?