Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fox Force Four

Four women dressed in punk-new wave fashion at Starwood disco in Los Angeles, Calif., 1980.

This image was originally published in the Los Angeles Times on September 21, 1980. The caption printed with the photo was, "The punk/new wave look shines at the Starwood disco. From left to right, Skipper Smith, Stephanie Smith, Danielle Myers and Maggie Murphy." Oh, where are you now, Danielle?

I stumbled upon the image while browsing through the Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920-1990 collection at the UCLA Library. It is a great collection of photographs, including a great deal of youth culture images, and has a very nice cataloguing of people, events, and issues. Hit the Browse Subjects link and get lost for a while. I will be spending a lot more time there, I'm sure. I must make a point of tracking down some of these LA Times scene reports the photos were culled from, as well.

But cmon, girls, put on some shoes. That floor is disgusting.

X's Exene Cervenka and John Doe performing at the Greek Theater, Calif., 1983. Printed in the LA Times, September 24, 1983.

Slam dancing during Black Flag concert at Mi Casita in Torrance, Calif., 1983. Printed in the LA Times, January 16, 1983.

Black Flag performing at Mi Casita in Torrance, Calif., 1983. Printed in the LA Times, January 16, 1983.

Frozen

Adam Green | 2010 | 94 min | US

I know Adam Green has some adoring fans and fierce detractors based on his breakthrough film, Hatchet, so let me say I am no fan of Hatchet. I felt that clunker sunk under the weight of its knowing winks. Just wanted to get that out in the open. Depending on your camp, that opinion may well improve my stock considerably or render the following review void. Now on with it.

Frozen is what some would call "high concept" and others would call "gimmicky." The one sentence pitch is: three friends find themselves trapped on a chairlift during a doomed ski trip after the hill shuts down. That's it. It is the kind of concept that requires smart dialogue, great sound design, excellent pacing, and remarkable performances to pull off. Luckily, Frozen delivers on all of these fronts. I know. I'm shocked too.

The truth is, Frozen had me scared, clenching my teeth, and racing through my own escape plans while I watched. Though I wouldn't call it an outright phobia, I am a touch sensitive when it comes to heights and Frozen perfectly captures the feeling of swaying in the cold breeze, far above hard packed snow. There was never a moment when I did not feel acutely aware of the danger of the situation.

The three core actors shoulder a lot of responsibility in this film. It could have easily fallen flat with a less able cast. Both male leads, Kevin Zegers and Shawn Ashmore, are recognizable by face if not by name, but it is Emma Bell who is the real discovery. Previously relegated to mostly television guest appearances, I assume we will be seeing much more of her after this film. Each actor is excellent at conveying the shifting dynamics of their relationships as their plight grows more dire.

To say much more about the plot or development would be to spoil the film, but I give it a hearty recommendation. If you have any sensitivity to heights or cool weather, Frozen is going to work you over, but the appeal is certainly broader than to phobics alone. This is precisely the kind of horror we need. In a landscape of played out sequels and retreads, Frozen is taut, original, and crawls under your skin. I hope it proves successful enough to make known that it is the kind of horror we deserve.

Frozen opens theatrically on February 5th.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Starstruck

Ira M. Resnick is founder of the Motion Picture Arts Gallery and has served the Film Society of Lincoln Center as both a board member and trustee. However, as far as I'm concerned, those credits are less important than his status as a first-rate collector nerd. Resnick has a collection of 2,000 vintage movie posters and 1,500 stills. Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood collects 250 posters and 40 stills from that stockpile, covering the best of Hollywood from 1912 to 1962. Interestingly, the book is as much about Resnick's odyssey as a collector as it is about cinema history. Starstruck discusses the process by which he acquired art beginning with his time studying at NYU Film School and offers tips to collectors, while also charting stars' and directors' careers, with images organized both thematically and chronologically. That kind of insight into the cinema buff and collector mindset is a fun idea and should be a refreshing break from the glut of classic poster reproduction books.

Starstuck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood (with a foreward by Martin Scorsese [who's name is spelled wrong on the publishers site!]!) is due to be published on February 15.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mr. Television

According to Hollywood legend, Milton Berle is the John Dillinger of show business. He tells of an incident that occurred in the Luxor Baths in New York, when a stranger said to him, "Hey, Berle, I hear you got a big one," and offered to bet $100 that his own organ was larger than the comedian's. Berle refused the bet, but was goaded by a friend to "just take out enough to win."

-Michael J. Toohey, The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TCAF 2010

This beautiful poster for the 2010 Toronto Comics Arts Festival is by Dan Clowes, who will also be this year's headlining guest. Very excited for this one! Full version of the poster after the jump.

Human Prey, Scene Two

I have been thinking about Human Prey an awful lot lately. Specifically, I have been worried about the horrible lack of HP material online. So I now present to you a photo essay recounting scene two, which, I'm sure if the picture had any degree of fame, would be among it's most famous scenes. It isn't the first act of violence in the movie, but I think this is the scene in which Shit Gets Real. For the doctor. . . and for us.



Paradise Circus

Massive Attack's first new single in a good long while is "Paradise Circus," and the accompanying video directed by Toby Dye is stunning. It is essentially a short documentary about actress Georgina Spelvin which features a Massive Attack soundtrack. Spelvin was one of the earliest actresses who could be called a porn star. Along with the surprise success of Behind the Green Door and Deep Throat, she helped usher in the era of porn chic when she starred in The Devil in Miss Jones in 1973. She appeared in over 70 pornographic films as well as several B and exploitation pictures following her retirement. In "Paradise Circus," Spelvin, now 73 years old, recounts her introduction to and interest in pornography. Dye intercuts recent close-up interviews with Spelvin and graphic clips of her hallmark films. Spelvin's descriptions are sometimes explicit and always interesting. The song itself is terrific as well, and highlights Hope Sandoval, who's voice I have definitely missed in the last several years.  Full video after the jump.

Re-Up

A trailer has been released for The Avon Barksdale Story and it looks to be a treat. The video is a recreation-heavy documentary about the life of Nathan Avon Barksdale, a notorious crime figure in Baltimore. Though the Avon Barksdale character featured in The Wire is a composite of several figures, Nathan was the primary inspiration.

Somehow, the makers of this doc managed to get actor Wood Harris from The Wire to appear in the documentary. And by "somehow" I mean "with a bag of money and a promise to only occupy two hours of his time." The Legends of the UnWired subtitle seems to hint at this being the start of a series, which is, uh, interesting. I do not expect much from this documentary in the way of craftsmanship, but the man himself has led a bizarre life and the chance to hear him recount it is tough to pass up. The DVD will be released by Koch Records and E1 this March, and straight up, I cannot wait to see this pile. I truly hope this video delivers even a portion of the "violent shenanigans" it promises.

And while we're at it, have you seen the teaser for David Simon's upcoming HBO miniseries Treme? Not much is known about the show set in post-Katrina New Orleans, but I will make this bold prediction now: it will rule.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Human Prey

James Tucker | 1995 | 72 min | US

Every few years a new title is declared the "Worst Movie Ever." For a while that movie was Plan 9 From Outer Space, then Troll 2 had a time in the sun, and now The Room seems to be the current popular choice for WME. But as anyone who truly delves into the depths of celluloid trash knows, those movies have nothing on the hundreds of no budget joints steadily being turned out by mercenary schlock merchants and painfully earnest filmmakers alike. This is the world from which Human Prey was born. According to an interview with director James Tucker, Human Prey was shot on Super VHS for $3000 over the course of five days. Oh, and the seventy-five page script was a first draft. Amazing.

After becoming the victim of a violent mugging, a Los Angeleno psychologist loses his grip on reality and begins hunting the criminal element of his city. This initially takes the form of revenge upon his muggers, but quickly degenerates into kidnapping hookers and killing black strangers who enjoy weightlifting. Finally, the psychologist drags whoever he can out to the California woods to hunt with a rifle while decked out in full Elmer Fudd getup. Surely, his vigilante spree will know no end. . . unless his prey can fashion some crude, but deadly-accurate arrows?

Though I do not want to give the impression that this plot is easily laid out for the lazy viewer. Oh no. All of this information is parsed out in nonsense scenes played by introduction-free characters. People come and go, as do sets, and it is assumed we are well enough acquainted with all of them that we do not require development or back story. Further, the film betrays a basic lack of understanding of psychology terminology, police procedure, and what hotel rooms look like.

That being said, I purchased this movie with nine others in a package called Action Arsenal and I intend to watch them all.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Twelve Inch Remixes

I am loving Cliff Chiang's recent twelve inch remix project. The freelance artist is probably best known for his work on several DC comics, including Batman, Human Target, and Green Arrow & Black Canary. This project came about as promotional artwork for a monthly party in New York City called Shazam! Chiang has re-worked four iconic album covers from the eighties into the world of these iconic comic characters. The are so cleanly done, not only evoking the proper mood for each piece, but also evoking the styles of the artists most closely associated with the characters, including Bill Sienkiewicz and George Perez.

The Batgirl and Elektra prints are available at the Khepri Comics online store for a very reasonable price. Chiang says he has a few more cover ideas rattling around in his head, so I expect we will see those shortly. Hopefully the Vampirella and Teen Titans prints will be made available soon, too. Best of all, the prints are actually 12.0 by 12.0 inches so that they can be fitted inside standard album frames. Well thought out, beautifully executed.



Monday, January 04, 2010

Too Late for a Best of the Decade List?

Well, I do not care. For the little anyone would pay attention to my list, I took my time debating what I would include. Just as Jeff did, I have listed my choices alphabetically rather than spending even more time attaching numeric value to each title. I didn't feel that this past year was great, but it comes at the end of a terrific decade for film. Look at all those great titles! And they came from all over the spectrum.

All The Real Girls
Anchorman
Cache
Children of Men
City of God
The Dark Knight
Descent
Hunger
Inland Empire
Marie Antoinette
Oldboy
Pan's Labyrinth
Primer
The Proposition
Taxidermia
There Will Be Blood
Traffic
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Wendy and Lucy
White Lightnin'


I had a handful more that were very close to making my list. Frownland and 25th Hour in particular were difficult to cut. No Mulholland Drive, either. Even though I love David Lynch I was very surprised to see that film pop up on so many critical Best lists. I urge everyone who remembers that movie as being terrific to revisit it. It is not.

CORRECTION: It was brought to my attention yesterday that Fight Club was a '99 film, so I have removed it. Traffic makes the list in its stead.