Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stuff and Things for July



1) Because individual "pages" do not really post on the main page, I have been posting lecture notes from my Fall 2012 course called The History of Zombie Films. They appear on Mondays and Wednesdays, and they can be accessed from the Essays/Lectures page linked at the top.

2) I am preparing to move at the end of the month and I am getting rid of a lot of things. I am still throwing stuff up on Ebay on the weekends, which is the only time I have to do that. Right now there are some DVDs, some vintage paperbacks, graphic novels, and comic books. The first Hack/Slash Omnibus, most of the first series of Crossed is up (I have not scanned the cover for #5...apparently I have a super rare cover variant), and I will be placing the issues of The Victorian Undead up this week or weekend (Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). My Ebay page is here.

Notes on Jennifer's Body (2009)...

Repost from 2010.

Dir. Karyn Kusama (written by Diablo Cody) || 2009 || USA


Preface, Part I:
I could go on about how Jennifer's Body was much maligned before and during it's release last fall, by both the horror community and its subsect, the feminist horror community, but frankly, I was too busy studying 16th century British plays last fall to pay attention to blogs, or go to the movies very often. I think I was only paying attention to womenandhollywood.com's coverage because I thought it would be interesting. Melissa Silverstein is a feminist film marketeer and critic who tends to promote and review films I would never see in my life if I can help it (Katherine Heigl romantic comedies, most modern romantic comedies). But she actually wrote a favorable review of the Jennifer's Body and was confused when the film didn't do well. I know enough to understand that Jennifer's Body was not a well-marketed movie. For more information on the plot of the movie, go to Final Girl. For more information on how off-base it was for the horror community to dismiss Jennifer's Body, go to And Now the Screaming Starts.

Preface, Part II:
I am titling this post "Notes on Jennifer's Body" because I really do not have the time or energy to write a proper review, essay, or treatise on this film. I'm just going over the more interesting aspects. I will likely be responding to the posts made by Stacie at Final Girl and C at And Now the Screaming Starts, so I am encouraging everyone to read those posts first, since I'm not going to go over the plot of the film too much.


With a bullet, number one, kill the family, save the son
I left a comment at And Now the Screaming Starts about how a satanic emo or indie band would not be entirely off-base if Diablo Cody knew much about the indie music scene. There are stories of a couple of indie bands whose singers have raped or assaulted women and have more or less gotten away with it. One band in particular, these stories came out about 15 years ago in blurbs in national music magazines, and this band finally became popular about 5 years ago, complete with an iconic music video (I am leaving enough information to piece things together, y'all). Considering how 90s-centric Juno kind of was, and the obvious tip-off of the title of the film coming from a Hole song, I'd be surprised if Cody didn't know. There is even a scene where Needy tries to tell a classmate about how Low Shoulder are a bunch of creeps who actually didn't help anyone at the bar when it burned down, and her classmate basically replies that Low Shoulder are saints. People get really defensive about their favorite bands, and "indie" and/or emo bands tend to carry the stereotype of either not being sexist (or portraying themselves as such) and/or basically being wimps to the point where no one ever thinks they could do anything wrong, especially physically harming someone (or again, portraying themselves as such, considering a lot of indie band singers sound like whiny eunuchs).

Low Shoulder's reason for wanting to be successful is like any other band's: they don't want to work in coffeeshops anymore. But what is funny about this is that when the singer tries to convince his bandmate that sacrificing Jennifer is the way to go, he asks "Do you want to work in a coffeeshop or be Maroon 5?" I'm not sure if this, combined with the fact that Adam Brody is doing an impersonation of Brandon Flowers from The Killers (in both looks and moves), is supposed to be some sort of commentary on the term "indie" being just another marketing ploy, since neither Maroon 5 or The Killers were ever considered indie. Hell, it was that way 20 years ago, and it wasn't too different in this past decade. The casting of Adam Brody as Low Shoulder's singer is either perfect stunt casting or unintentional genius, since it was both the actor and his character on The O.C. who caused some "indie" bands to become so popular in the 00s. He's actually spot-on and menacing as a douchebag in a band.

In a twist opposite of the recent stories of bands whose shows resulted in fires that killed people, Low Shoulder becomes successful instead of failures involved in years of litigation (it is never fully implied that they started the fire but they were at least expecting it to happen - the whole scene at the bar is weird, between Jennifer becoming increasingly hypnotized during the band's performance, and the singer just strolling out with a drink from the bar after the girls get out of the fire). However, in a sort of Tales from the Crypt-ian twist, their success is somewhat short-lived after Needy, now partially demonized herself after her final fight with Jennifer, is successful in her revenge in killing the coked-up band in their hotel room. If the movie had gone on past that however, we likely would have found out that Low Shoulder became even more successful, because that's the way things are. Famous people are typically more successful and nearly sainted in death more than they were in life.

Bitter you, bitter me
As Stacie at Final Girl mentioned, the subplot of Jennifer terrorizing the town Devil's Kettle and Needy to try to maintain some sort of relevancy arrives too late in the film for much to be done with it. This is not a typical high school film where Jennifer terrorizes the other students for not being popular or pretty. While Needy tells Jennifer in their first fight that she was always a terrible friend, the only evidence we see of it is in the beginning where Needy tries on outfit after outfit to fit Jennifer's definition of "cute, but not cute enough to make me look bad" before they go see Low Shoulder. The only other way that this can be linked to the issue of relevancy is if you take C's take on why this was not a film where a girl was using her sexuality (and therefore, not the unfeminist film some people were making it out to be) - Jennifer maybe seduces one out of her four known victims, tops. Almost all her victims are confused and shaken boys in some manner - one from surviving the bar fire, the second a guy mourning the death of his best friend in the fire, and the fourth was just emotionally conned by Jennifer, and is reluctant and confused. It is a possibility that Jennifer's main target of terror was Needy. While Jennifer and Needy have a severely co-dependent relationship, Needy does have a boyfriend, and one other friend from school, and Jennifer kills them both. Jennifer seems to have no other friends but Needy. It is only when Jennifer realizes that Needy has more power over her than she does over Needy, and that Needy may genuinely not love her anymore that Jennifer is ready to surrender and die.

This is how the ending of the film comes as a surprise. In a typical horror film, it would have ended at Jennifer's death. But with Needy's newfound confidence and demon powers, she goes and exacts revenge to the band that ruined her and her friends' lives. She takes charge, and is the only one to throughout the entire film. I thought I would have a huge misgiving about the film stating in the beginning where Needy was and the story being told via flashback, but it was handled better than I thought it would be.

In some ways with the late relevancy subplot, it feels tacked on as though it is some sort of cautionary tale about the two women who star in the film. Megan Fox is not a terrible actress, especially not in this film, and even if she says stupid things from time to time in interviews, I kind of have to respect anyone who made it out alive after starring in two films with the black hole of charisma that is Shia Leboeuf. But considering the only successful films she has been in are the Transformers films, there is a relevancy issue with her career. Amanda Seyfried keeps a significantly lower profile than Fox, and is considered the more respectable actress, so she makes it out of the film and her post-Jennifer's Body career intact.

And yeah, I liked the film.

ETA 03/04/10: It is also possible that Cody was making a dig at the success of the Juno soundtrack when the singer calmly explains to Jennifer that the only way for indie bands to become popular now "is if they're on some shitty soundtrack!" As I stated in my Juno review two years ago, I am not one for twee cutesy acoustic music, but it was bizarre seeing a local record store mark up the what was likely a normally $5 self-released or Plan-It-X Records-released Moldy Peaches CD with a xeroxed black-and-white cover to $10-14 during the time of the soundtrack's popularity.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Oscar Wilde, Jude Law's prettiness, and working on my English-Lit degree

Repost from 2010. I think people just like the Mean Girls meme.


While it's a Wilde-meets-Mean Girls LOL image thing, this isn't too far from the truth, if you've seen Wilde or have read Wilde's "De Profundis." Jude Law was kind of brilliant as Bosie, who was basically a beautiful man, but a godawful boyfriend. Considering how many Jude Law movies I've almost inadvertently taken in these past few months, it's the only role where his prettiness fit perfectly with the role, whereas with eXistenZ, it was really distracting, and not helping the fact that eXistenZ turned out to be the only Cronenberg movie I've ever hated.

This is perhaps my long-winded way of saying that for the next 2-8 weeks I'm going to be too busy writing papers on Oscar Wilde and other 19th century writers to blog much. Any posts will likely be short and/or video-based.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Call and Response: The Pussy Posse Bad Movie Edition

Repost from 2010.

Recently, the local blog for the James River Film Society had a post on the top 5 worst films directed by Christopher Nolan, with Inception being at the top of the list, although it was an un-numbered list. The author called Nolan "the most celebrated bad director since Ed Wood."

Now, Nolan is no Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau. He is a technically competent director. I would consider him more along the lines of a more subtle and less heavy-handed and narcissistic M. Night Shyamalan. Or a more lucid Michael Bay, but who has the ability to hire better actors (then proceed to waste them, like Cillian Murphy). But Inception is his worst film. While I think that The Prestige is a fun film, the rest of Nolan's films have never stuck with me for too long after I left the theater or turned off the TV. So I am not so sure that his stories are as compelling, smart, or deep as everyone makes them out to be. Inception at least has the honor of making me laugh, then a little angry afterward.

I guess all discussion for Inception must begin with a preface that yes, I understood the movie. I am not stupid and have been told that I can explain the plot (or more precisely what is going on) in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond better than most people, and The Beyond is a very strange film in terms of time and space. Inception had five layers of dreams with a big stupid action movie as its creamy center, with overwrought guilt as the peanuts. Too bad that the film tried to both embrace the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time giving it a structure, so that dreams have "architects", and when there is a team involved, there is a leader whose subconscious serves as mainframe of sorts. Otherwise, why would everyone dream an action movie? Why would only Ellen Page's character be concerned that their leader was unstable? Even as a newbie, she should have the right to say, "let's use a more stable team member so no one gets hurt." Contradiction, misplaced ambition, and discontinuity, thy name is Christopher Nolan.

Inception lost me almost at its opening scene. You cannot open a film with Leonardo DiCaprio being washed up onto a beach and not immediately think "a hundred years after the Titanic sunk, Jack finally washed up on the shores of...Japan?" Then Leo was nice enough to give his old friend Lukas Haas a brief role as an "architect" where he is kidnapped and never seen again. If "architects" are so disposable, why not fire Ellen Page as soon as she gets into the brain of Leo to find that he is one messed up dude? Do the inception-eers only have one client? What do they do when they are not battling Ken Watanabe? Does Leo just watch action movies? Because in the dream world, there is a whole lot of Bourne-like sequences going on, as well as the mountain scene that while some have called it a "Bond villain fortress", I call it something out of a xXx sequel. I think I would have liked the film a lot more if Vin Diesel inexplicably showed up on a snowmobile and high-fived everyone. This goes to show that perhaps they should have chosen a team member who likes comedies and British heritage films from the 1990s.

Then there is the overwrought and maudlin domestic drama that is Leo's subconscious. It is also where DiCaprio becomes a terrible actor. While I have not seen the original Solaris, I have seen the re-make by Steven Soderbergh, and I get the impression that if you're the wife of a well-meaning, but misguided guy in a somewhat dark sci-fi film, you will commit suicide. At least the Solaris re-make had some basis in reality, as the wife commits suicide because her husband disapproves of the abortion she had. Leo incepted his wife, she became mentally unstable as a result, and committed suicide. She haunts his subconscious because he feels guilty, as he should. The suicide is shown on film, and DiCaprio's reaction is some of the worst acting I have ever seen in a big budget film. If you cannot make me teary-eyed over the suicide of a family member or missing your children, you fail! Those are two of my top triggers.

I am not sure what could have saved Inception for me. It was not weird or ballsy enough for me to respect it in its failings. I know I was not expecting an action movie, although perhaps I should have, given that is what Nolan does now. It seems illogical to try to use the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time trying to make them logical or rein them in by using the concept of "architects". I think to make things worse, it reminded me in some ways of my favorite Phillip K. Dick novel, Ubik.

Can you find Leo strutting through this M.C. Escher piece? And Sad Keanu? The Leo Strut meme almost makes up for Inception. This one is a good hat tip to one of the two scenes I liked in Inception, where Ellen Page made the Paris dream city into a cube.




Also, my friend Erica made this Advice Phillip K. Dick meme awhile back:


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A couple of weeks ago, Movieline included Spider-Man 3 in their series Bad Movies We Love. Spider-Man 3 is also known as "the one where Spidey went emo". Which is true, as far as the haircut goes, and the fact that I am convinced that while Leonardo DiCaprio is starting to look like a grown-up now, Tobey Maguire will always look like a teenage boy. And it is also true that despite their image, emo boys can be insensitive jerks too, which is what Peter Parker becomes in Spider-Man 3. But I have always thought that if anything "emo Spidey" is just an homage to Ted Raimi, who is of course, the brother of Spider-Man 3's director, Sam Raimi, and who also appears in all three films as J. Jonah Jameson's assistant. Emo Spidey is an homage to Ted Raimi when he played Joxer on Xena: Warrior Princess. Joxer always thought that he was cooler and more heroic than he actually was. In other words, he was a dork, but a sweet guy. Joxer would totally think that these were some sweet dance moves, contrary to what the ladies on the street think:




Despite looking like a teenage boy, I'm not sure Tobey Maguire does dorky as well as Ted Raimi or even Jake Gyllenhaal.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

There is a Facebook page now.


Regular Wednesday posts will resume next week. holdontoyrgenre.com now has a Facebook page, although some bugs are still being worked out. You can find and "like" the page at:  http://www.facebook.com/holdontoyrgenre

All other social networking buttons are to the top right of the page. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

(Film) books, check 'em ouuuuuuuuut!

Repost from 2011, pre-grad school days. I re-read the two middle books at least twice during the course of my graduate education. The nitpicking may still stand, but I can discuss the theoretical issues with the two books pretty well when I want to.
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Here are some of the film books I was reading a month or so ago. Other than the Jonathan Lethem book, I felt the need to start out with some classics and basics

Feminist Film Theorists (Routeledge Critical Thinkers Series) - Shohini Chaudhuri
I think the number one thing I learned from this book is of the divide in early feminist film criticism that was American (sociological) versus British (psychological). And for the most part, this book puts forth the more psychological theorists. It's a minor fact, but it sort of explains why I do not absorb the psychological aspects too well. I was very close to minoring in sociology during various points in college as well. This book is mostly good as a starting point, but not much else.




Games of Terror: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and the Films of the Stalker Cycle - Vera Dika
This was released roughly a year before Carol Clover's Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover's book is more in-depth. Dika has some fleeting good ideas and it's not too bogged down with psychological theories; but it's a basic book that monotonously outlines the monotony of slasher/stalker films by discussing the plots of about a dozen films; in particular the Jamie Lee Curtis ouevre. Dika's jumping off point is Psycho, but from there she goes straight to Halloween, while only giving passing and brief references to Peeping Tom and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My problem with this book and Clover's book is that it skips over Black Christmas. I do not know the history of Black Christmas past what Wikipedia tells us, and it wasn't a film I remember seeing around often in video stores when I was a kid and teenager. Was Black Christmas that obscure? Did Dika ignore it because it was Canadian or because it had an experienced cast in John Saxon, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea; a post-Sisters, pre-Superman Margot Kidder, and a pre-SCTV Andrea Martin? Peeping Tom, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Black Christmas do not completely fit in the checklist of plot occurrences that Dika outlines for the films she discusses in this book, but neither does Psycho. By and large, The Burning seems to be more obscure than Black Christmas, yet that film receives a section in this book.

Other issues I had with this book: the frequent misspellings and typos. She misspells Steven Spielberg's name quite often. It was also hard to tell whether or not Dika was approaching these films from a feminist POV (and then a feminist POV as to whether or not slasher films can be feminist). And the way she used a Freudian binary system to declare characters as valued or devalued did not sit well with me. It's not a terrible book, but it has some issues that made me twitch.


Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film - Carol J. Clover
I have read this book twice now and in regards to the first book I reviewed in this post, I am perhaps still finding trouble absorbing most of the psychological criticism in this book. The only thing I feel as if I better absorbed this time around was the chapter on possession films and the chapter on the sort of meta horror films that concern viewing horror films (Peeping Tom, Demons). I did check out a lot of the films mentioned since having first read this book in 2006, like the oft-mentioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and I Spit on Your Grave. In fact, I checked out so many of these films that I could parse out some of Clover's mistakes (wrong dates, the implication that Motel Hell was inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 when Motel Hell was released six years before that sequel - also TCM2 is a terrible movie and I don't understand why anyone would want to write at length about it). I can't get too mad at Clover about them though, because for one thing, she's an expert in something like Nordic history. Film is not her primary academic interest, although the dates thing bugs me a bit because most VHS boxes back in the day did have dates on them, and it's not that hard to figure out dates from the roman numerals on copyrights at the end of films. And again, nary a word on Black Christmas, although at least Clover does cover Peeping Tom extensively. Also, for better or for worse, I can't shake off the fact that it is acknowledged by Clover herself in the Afterword that the writer of Slumber Party Massacre 3 changed the story significantly after reading the first chapter of her book, which was released in an academic journal in 1987; making for that film's ugly and brutal third act three years later.


Proof of my marginalia in Men, Women, and Chainsaws.




Deep Focus #1: A Novel Approach to Cinema: They Live - Jonathan Lethem

They Live is the first book in a new series of books published by Soft Skull press that allows fiction writers to discuss their favorite films. I haven't read any other books in the series yet, so I don't know if all the other writers take the same approach as Lethem. Lethem writes about John Carpenter's They Live on a almost shot-by-shot or scene-by-scene basis, each with a timecode reference. Some scenes receive only a paragraph of discussion, others receive up to four pages. It took me awhile to get used to this approach as I was sort of expecting something akin to the short books the British Film Institute publishes on films (although it is mostly film critics and academics who write those) that are long essays or treatises on a certain film. But after getting used to Lethem's approach, I found that he does have some interesting things to say about They Live, especially in connection to the art of Jenny Holzer and Shepard Fairey.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The GifGif Project at MIT



I have a weird fascination with animated gifs, something I may have spread to my classmates in grad school since two of them made animated gif Tumblrs for a spell. I presented on the topic of animated gif Tumblrs last year at a conference, on a session centered around the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. So I am excited about the GifGif project at MIT that is attempting to "map the emotional language of gifs" and create a way for people to explore and search for gifs based on emotions rather than tags (or perhaps even a certain show, film or video).

The emotions are pretty simple so far. The site is run on a voting system where visitors vote on which of the two gifs best expresses a particular emotion. When the site was first promoted a month or so ago, I voted on over a thousand gif pairs...because it was a slow day at work. It's an addictive and easy way to pass the time.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Slowly, possibly, maybe under re-construction.

To the likely two people who still check this blog: I am pondering a return to blogging. I am still sorting some things out. Content and presentation may be done a little differently, just as an experiment. I may slowly begin releasing the archives soon, but under some minor content curation. New writing will likely come later. If I feel the need to explain anything further, I will do it eventually.


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