dir: Giorgos Lanthimos
I used to have a friend who claimed that when he eventually had children he was going to teach them to sleep standing up. His plan was to give his unfortunate offspring the impression that this was how everybody slept, their own parents included. The payoff for this bizarre idea would come when the gullible little saps went to their first-ever sleepover, only to be inevitably confused and most likely terrified when all of their friends started laying down to go to sleep. It was a stupid idea conjured by a future bad father, but it was also completely hilarious and, if you’re willing to believe in the realistic possibilities of a film like Dogtooth, one that could be entirely feasible to pull off. The basic outline here is that two otherwise seemingly reasonable adults with the same bizarre outlook on child-rearing as my friend somehow met one another, fell in love and proceeded to pop out a few descendent test subjects. Confined for the entirety of their lives to what my uncultured ass can only assume to be a somewhat common upper-middle class home somewhere in Greece, the siblings are subject to a myriad of strange and often ingenious deceptions at the hands of their patriarchs. It is honestly impossible to efficiently explain the lifestyle depicted without referring to, and thus SPOILING, many specific scenes, but rest assured that the ridiculous nature of such a lifestyle makes for some seriously dark but nevertheless hilarious situations. There is never anything along the lines of an “explanation” given for the parents’ motives in raising children this way, other than their obvious desire to protect their progeny from the outside world and some vague intimations at an underlying sense of indignation towards the mundane oppression that is common life. But this is no pretentiously dickish Michael Haneke finger-wag at the world. Instead, Lanthimos has crafted a beautiful-to-look-at fable that may or may not be an indictment of modern society. Alternatingly comic, touching and tragic and peppered with small doses of surprising (but never cruel-spirited) violence, the film successfully tells a story that is both difficult to relate to and impossible to write off as mere fantasy. Plus if you’re a philistine, there are some pretty stellar tits.
Enter the Void (2009)
dir: Gaspar Noe
Gaspar Noe is a great filmmaker, regardless of what actual film critics, aggressive yet morally wishy-washy feminists, and naysaying collegiate sticks in the mud probably want you to believe (just like them). Dude can make a movie. Dude can tell a story about an ostensibly horrible middle-aged drunk who punches his pregnant mistress in the stomach, vows to murder a small handful of people who basically just rubbed him the wrong way, and fantasizes about boning his own autistic daughter and then killing her. And somehow, by the time it’s all over, you will sympathize with this character, feel sorry for him and possibly even aspire to be as uncompromising and determined, however misguidedly, as he is (I Stand Alone). Dude can also weave a gut-churning yarn about revenge gone wrong, featuring an infamously drawn-out rape scene and sudden acts of such brutal violence that unaware extras on the film set were reported to have started vomiting and just generally wigging out. But by the end of it all, you will feel like your entire shitty soul has just been forcibly cleansed by a seriously gifted tough-love style motherfucker (Irreversible). Obviously I’m a bit of a fan. So it only stands to reason that Noe could pull off this latest audacious experiment in audio-visual mindfuckery without a hitch. And in some ways he has. Enter the Void looks and sounds fantastic; the visuals are seriously nothing if not astounding. I’ve never smoked DMT myself, but friends who have were impressed by the accuracy of the film’s representation of the experience. I’ve also never died, but I have enough faith in the man and his knowledge of the Tibetan Book of the Dead to believe that he got that shit pretty spot-on as well. Technical achievement aside, however, this thing is a bit of an overblown mess. For starters, it’s too long. The plot, as it tenuously exists, is beyond muddy. The atrocious acting by the two generic American Apparel leads doesn’t help much, either. Perhaps a bit more editing could have saved the film from its own weaknesses, but as it stands—and don’t for a second believe that it doesn’t pain me to admit this—it is pretty much an extremely ambitious and undeniably dazzling failure. Props to Noe, though, for creating this beast based on an idea he had after eating a bunch of mushrooms. The last time I ate a bunch of mushrooms the only idea I came up with, while pissing in the woods and staring at my dick, was to start a band called My Dick on Mushrooms. For the sake of all that doesn’t suck, thank god I lack Noe’s stubborn ambition.
Santa Sangre (1989)
dir: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Most film nerds with even a passing interest in the surreal are most likely familiar with the legal curse that was cast upon Jodorowsky’s more well-known films El Topo and The Holy Mountain, essentially making them unavailable to new audiences for over three decades. Criminal indeed, but the less-publicized and much more baffling tragedy has always seemed to me to be the lack of a solid release for this, Jodorowsky’s slightly more straight-forward personal masterpiece. No longer, as a new DVD with (gasp!) some legitimate and quality special features has finally been released. Jodorowsky can be a polarizing artist. His themes tend to be somehow both vague and overbearingly heavy-handed, often weaving together so many political, cultural and spiritual reference points that it can be hard to fully grasp what the hell is even going on. Santa Sangre itself is certainly not devoid of his usual underlying themes (sexuality, familial turmoil, religious and political dissidence, the curse/gift of memory) and features just as much religious iconography and phallic imagery as you’ve come to expect from this Chilean weirdo. But its delivery is much more coherent, and thus genuinely enjoyable as a narrative feature. It’s easy to pick up on the obvious inspirations, most notably Hitchcock’s Psycho, but such simple comparisons are honestly pretty lazy, and do a disservice to Jodorowsky’s fractured and visually lush sense of storytelling. I seriously doubt that any other director could have crafted such a romantic portrait of young love and unwavering dedication amidst the nightmarish insanity of mental illness, mutilated genitals, monstrous father figures and the worst aspects of shallow humanity that are displayed here. Bonus: a musical waltz through the seedy streets of Mexico, with a handful of mentally handicapped youths and one amazingly sleazy guy-with-mustache, that may somehow serve as the most convincing sensory argument for doing cocaine in cinematic history. Jodorowsky just makes everything look so great that you almost wish your life was as fucked up and crazy as those of his characters. That’s a pretty remarkable feat, and can probably only be accomplished with this much aplomb by a guy who once famously claimed to have three testicles.
If you want to see one of the most honest films of 2010, look no further than The Fighter. In telling the true story of Irish boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), all parties involved in the making of this motion picture have done remarkable things. With preconceived notions regarding boxing pictures aside, The Fighter is a film that takes it’s cues from films of the past while still reinventing itself to give itself cinematic integrity. To avoid confusing anyone, I am not declaring this film to be the new Rocky, or Raging Bull. I think it deserves to be in a class of it’s own, much like that of Ward’s real-life struggles to become a champion.
Although it may be its Achilles heel, I hope more people decide to make trailers like they did for The Fighter. It’s unassuming and it doesn’t unveil too much of the drama that the film encounters. It still piques one’s interest, through acknowledging it’s well-versed cast and the past achievements of director David O. Russell. At the same time, it doesn’t want to have everything out there. It wants you to be shocked and surprised by what it is capable of revealing. Considering how long The Fighter has been out, and how much attention it’s received during award season, I think it’s fair to acknowledge some of these attributes at this point.
Blue Valentine (2010, dir. Derek Cianfrance)
Blue Valentine has been clouded with controversy since it’s unveiling. Several critics before me have heralded the film for it’s unflinching depiction of the dissolution of a marriage. The MPAA found one particular sequence so unsuitable that it compromised the film’s merits by giving it a dreaded NC-17 rating. Fortunately, the producers were able to defend Blue Valentine and achieve an R-rating. After so much hoopla regarding the film, I never knew when I would actually get a chance to sit down and see it. Thankfully, that day was today.
Antihero, a locally filmed, full-length feature, will be showing as a private screening at The Byrd Theatre on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 at 7 PM. Antihero is a Joseph Weindl film, starring Brian Gartland, Joe Carlson, Nicole Carter and Ryan Asher, featuring Nick Aliff and Dallas Tolentino, with original music from Ryan Corbitt and Trey Pollard. It follows the story of Pork Rind (Gartland), as he transforms from a loser-alcoholic-petty-thief to a loser-alcoholic-petty-thief-with-a-streak-for-heroism. Oh, and he's psychic. With his best-friend, Weezie (Carlson) by his side, and the help of nerdy friend Jhoanna (Asher), this rag-tag trio has the opportunity to help a new friend, Lainee (Carter) out of a pinch. Expect plenty of jokes about boobs and farts, and a rollicking climactic showdown with bad-guy drug-dealers DJ (Aliff) and Todd (Tolentino). Tickets to the private showing of Antihero at The Byrd Theatre are $5, and are available here.
I had the opportunity to converse with Antihero stars Brian Gartland and Joe Carlson over a few beers at The Camel. They gave me a bit more insight about the film itself, as well as discussing Richmond, community, and other random tangents.
Bob Griggs, aka Sailor Bob, may not be all that well-known amongst younger denizens of Richmond, but his children's television program was a local institution for nearly two decades, running on local television stations in various incarnations from 1959 until the mid-70s. The Sailor Bob Story is a documentary film that tells this story in great detail, a loving tribute to a man who's work influenced an entire generation of local children and adults. The documentary will be broadcast on WCVE-TV (PBS channel 23) in February, but this weekend, there will be a one-time theatrical premiere event at the Byrd Theatre.
The Sailor Bob Story was put together by VGO Productions, a local film production group, who mixed new interviews together with archival footage that Sailor Bob had saved for decades in order to create the finished documentary. The soundtrack to the film was created by a variety of local musicians, including Forrest Young (The Emergency Drummer), Charles Arthur (The New Belgians); Daniel Clarke (K.D. Lang, Modern Groove Syndicate); Stefan Demetriadis (No B.S. Brass); Chris Fuller; Randall Pharr (Professor of jazz at VCU); John Winn (Professor of jazz at VCU); and Frank Coleman (Composer of TSBS music & recording engineer for the project). Young describes the soundtrack as "a jazzy Vince Guaraldi Trio type thing that is the perfect back drop to Bob's story," citing the legendary jazz pianist and Charlie Brown Christmas composer. The film should be a treat for newcomers and longtime fans alike, and what better venue in which to experience it for the first time could there be than the Byrd Theatre? Be sure to come check it out.
A multi-day film fest happening at University Of Richmond is worth checking out. Information below.
Organized in collaboration with University Museums, FEEDBACK: Video by Artists is an exhibition and screening series that draws connections between historical and contemporary approaches to video.
The exhibition component of FEEDBACK features historical works that are representative of four common approaches toward independent media production during the 1970s: performance, documentary, appropriation, and narrative.
As video recording equipment became more readily available, artists began experimenting with video, using it to document artistic production, critique dominant forms of mass media, and introduce an electronic element to installation, sculpture, and performance-based art.
As technologies advanced, more artists created autonomous video art, which ultimately led to the development of aesthetics and criticism based upon video’s unique formal and theoretical elements.
The FEEDBACK screenings serve as an extension of the historical exhibition, highlighting the similarities and transformations between video in its nascent form and contemporary video art.
FEEDBACK also features lectures by Tom Sherman and Stephen Vitiello and videos produced by students from the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Canadian auteur Guy Maddin has a number of strange films under his belt and is widely acclaimed in alt-film circles. My introduction to his work was Careful, a film set in a mountain village where no one can speak louder than a whisper for fear of avalanche and everyone is sexually repressed. The movie was an interesting blend of early silent film sets, lighting and early European animation. Odd and visually impressive enough to catch my jaded attention.
Sissy Boy Slap Party is at surface level about grown men slapping each other but you can read deeper into that. Homo erotic themes, check! Young African men playing the drums, check! He tells them no slapping but yet they do it anyway! Again, Guy pushes multiple early film styles but adds a ton of hyper-quick edits that become a tidal wave of slapping, crying and whining. Worth checking out.
The documentary “Living for 32” is the inspirational true story of Colin Goddard, a survivor of the tragic Virginia Tech massacre that took place on April 16th, 2007.
The TAINT is an incredibly disturbing but funny film made locally by filmmakers Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson. When the water supply is "tainted" by the world's most powerful male performance enhancement drug, it transforms all men into raging, violent misogynists out to kill every woman they see. Phil O'Ginny, the only one not to drink the water, with the help of Misandra and drug creator Ludas must find a way to stop the madness before its too late. Got it? Anyway, the guys were nice enough to agree to a short interview.
It's true. A movie has been made about our local beloved moped gang and the film is an Official Selection in this years Sundance Film Festival. "Satan Since 2003" is a short film by Carlos Puga.
A few VCU film students need contributors to help finish their current projects. Metanoia is being created by a team of 3rd year film students and The Donor by a 4th year student as his thesis project. Check out the trailers and visit the links for more info.
Maria Bamford's appearance on The Late Late Show, December 17th. There's nothing I can say that would possibly do this justice. Just watch it.
Put together for a VCU senior class film, filmmakers Mike Prentace, Nehemiah Mekonnen and Wes Tazzar set out to capture the vast history of the National and the people who brought it back to life.
Our friend, the mysterious Mr. Lobo, is putting together another season of late night horror/cult/fun-time Cinema Insomnia and could use a kickstart. For all you RVA readers that grew up loving ELVIRA, bad vampire, giant insect, space alien and/or cheesy monster movies, you will love this stuff. Taking public domain movies and adding his trademark wit to the mix is what makes this checking out.
We want to produce 26 brand new full episodes of Cinema Insomnia for the 2011-2012 season as a Celebration the 10 year anniversary of the show. We produced this many shows in a season before so we know we can do it.
We will gather films, materials, and clearances for each episode, write all the shows, cast additional characters and book guests, rehearse the material, set up a studio with lights, camera, sound and schedule several shooting dates per week until all studio segments are done, travel to locations for additional material and interviews—import all the footage and edit the shows, deliver one show per week to my distributor for air on independent stations across the country starting Spring 2011 and eventually released by Apprehensive Films on DVD and other formats for home viewing.
The $10,000 raised will give us an extra $384 per episode to help pay cast and crew, and also help cover travel expenses, props, costumes, new video and audio gear and allow us to have a slicker package of new episodes for our 10 year celebration! - Mr. Lobo
Cinema Insomnia is a nationally syndicated American television series presented by horror host Mr. Lobo, who is among the most well known and active horror hosts of the 2000s.
Director Eric Miller has graced us with another amazing short film! His offbeat sense of directing & editing has brought forth a new genre Psychotronic.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery has succumbed to pressure from conservative politicians and the Catholic League and have removed David Wojnarowicz’s video ‘A Fire In My B
Crispin Hellion Glover is undoubtedly best known for his roles in classic 80s movies like Back To The Future and River's Edge. However, while he might seem like a marginal figure to those who see the world through the filter of a Hollywood lens, in truth Glover is a multi-talented artist who has spent the past three decades putting the majority of his energies into his independent projects. These projects range from producing and directing low-budget independent films to releasing albums to writing books, all of which reflect Glover's unique sensibility. His more recent work in big-budget Hollywood movies also reflects this sensibility to a great extent, as Glover typically portrays eccentric characters in his more recent film work. Among those roles are the title role in the 2003 remake of the 1971 film Willard, that of the Creepy Thin Man in the Charlie's Angels film series, and that of Grendel in Robert Zemeckis's 2007 adaptation of Beowulf.
In 2005, Glover released What is it?, a film he'd been working on for over a decade, financing it with the paychecks from his appearances in big-budget Hollywood films. What Is It? was a shocking experimental film dealing with taboo subjects such as racism and prejudice towards the handicapped and disabled. Most members of the cast have Down Syndrome, although the condition is not addressed during the film. In order to best present the film, and deal with the questions it was sure to raise, Glover chose to forego typical avenues of film distribution. Instead, he took the film on tour and presented it himself at independent theatres, accompanied by a question and answer session, as well as a slideshow presentation of several of his books entitled Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show. Glover's books are just as much works of visual art as writing; he constructs them by radically modifying books from the 19th Century that have become part of the public domain. He has published several through his production company, Volcanic Eruptions, but many more remain unpublished. Glover is currently touring with his 2007 sequel to What is it?, entitled It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. This film was written by and stars Steven C. Stewart, who also appeared in What is it? Glover produced the film and co-directed it with David Brothers.
His tour will bring him to Richmond's Byrd Theatre on Friday, December 3rd, in an appearance facilitated and sponsored by the James River Film Society. The event will start at 9:30 PM, and will consist of two programs: Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show Part 2, a one hour dramatic narration of eight different, profusely illustrated books; and a screening of It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (35 mm, 74 minutes). Tickets are $20 for each program and are available at Chop Suey Books and Video Fan.
Todd Raviotta got in contact with Mr. Glover over email to ask about his films, his books, and how he balances his work within and outside of the Hollywood studio system.
That's right, folks, tonight (Sunday--I still haven't gone to bed on Saturday night, but it's after midnight, so it counts), at Gallery 5 (200 W. Marshall St.), film critic Mike White will read selections from his new book, Impossibly Funky, a collection of writings from his film zine Cashiers Du Cinemart. James River Film Society will also show the cult-classic Monte Hellman film Cockfighter [Hellman is the director of Two Lane Blacktop; Cockfighter is based on the legendary pulp novel by Charles Willeford and stars Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton], as well as Mike White's documentary Who Do You Think You're Fooling?, which spotlights the too-close-for-comfort similarities between Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Hong Kong action film City On Fire (read more about that whole thing here).
This is a free show, and it's just unique and crazy enough that I feel like it deserves some last-minute hype, especially since I just found out about it myself. Go check it out! My weekend's been crazy busy, but maybe I'll see you there (if I'm not totally crashed out by then).
When: Sunday, November 21, 6:00 p.m.
Where: Gallery 5, 200 W. Marshall Street
What: Mike will read selections from his new book, Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection; Skizz Cyzyk and Bearcat will provide musical selections; James River Film Society will fire up the projectors with Monte Hellman’s film, COCKFIGHTER, and Mike White’s WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE FOOLING?, a full-motion montage highlighting the too-close-for-comfort similarities between Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film, RESERVOIR DOGS, and Ringo Lam’s 1989 Hong Kong movie, CITY ON FIRE.
Cost: Free and popcorn (donations encouraged); beer, wine and hot dogs for purchase!
Have you ever thought about stealing an 18-wheeler, stacking it full of dynamite, then parking it outside a pedestrian-filled shopping mall on a Sunday afternoon and using yourself as a human torch to light the world on fire? I mean, why not? You gave up your dream of tap dancing years ago to work inside that faded gray polycarbonate cube all day, hammering those finger nubs into a rusty nail laden keyboard, slowly sealing your own coffin shut stroke by stroke. Maybe instead of worrying yourself with how soon you'll come to meet your maker (he isn't who you think he is), you should focus your energy on other, more interesting subjects. The dream's gone so let's figure out how to turn your meaningless existence into something, well, less meaningless and maybe do something worthwhile for a change. You see that kid swingin' his schoolbag in the middle of the street so close to traffic? Turn the wheel a quarter-inch to the left, he swings again. Turn it to the right a centimeter and you just made your weekend. Doesn't that feel good? Sometimes the two-legged creatures on this plank just need a hand, a push in the right direction. And let me clarify that the right direction is 40 stories straight down into a pool of one of my favorite colors. Sucking souls through straws to ward off the insatiable craving caused by the empty hole of a life you created for yourself. I've been doing this as long as there's been a this and I'm here to tell you it's not your fault. It's their fault. So click your pen, stand up, and with gentle force place it into your neighbor's jugular (Google to find it's exact location first, you want it to be messy), and then come see me. We have a lot to talk about.
Johnny is a freelance writer and performer in the new film The Man Who Would Live, currently in the process of raising funds on Kickstarter.com. Show your support of the Richmond film community by visiting themanwhowouldlive.com and making a donation.