Saturday, January 16, 2010

Francis Bacon’s Starship Troopers (The 47th Minute Project Number Six!)

Touchdown! Yay team! Go 47!
Rock ’em to the east
Rock ’em to the west
Everybody knows

The 47th Minute Project is the best!
Gooooooooooooooooo Ivanlandia! Yay!
(and the crowd roars)

The Latest Installment of the 47th Minute Project

Enough editorializing!
Let’s start the next contest of
The 47th Minute Project

(The rules are simple—I post the 47 minute—and since video cycles at 30 frames-per-second, I try and catch the cycle at the beginning of when the DVD counter reads “47:00”—and you try and guess, posting in the comments section—and I apologize to everyone who tries to post and the weirdness of feuding software systems makes us just that more disconnected with each other, but what can I say? Bill Gates laughs at my pain while eating caviar on his private train):

If you can't identity the 47th Minute of this movie below…
I’m giving up.

Please leave your answers in the comments section below—

As for the last entry’s three different 47th minutes—

This was the 47th Minute of the movie
which I should have screened by
The National Film Board of Ivanlandia
just to have an opinion
because I did originally post this image in, what? June 2009? Jeez, that’s plenty of time.

But I haven’t screened H.O.T.S.
I’ve been busy, okay?
But I was willing to put up a pic,
for good Darius,
and besides,
I had to watch Don Siegel’s recently-released to DVD The Lineup instead.
There it is. I’m a loser.

Several people recognized this as the 47th minute of Sunset Blvd., absolutely one of the greatest films ever made; we will hear no criticism of the film (okay, maybe some, but you have to admit, the great stuff outshines any potential weaknesses the flick may have).

Our friend Toestubber once wrote of Sunset Blvd.:

Great music, one-of-a-kind cameos, shockingly great performances in the service of a brilliant, biting script.

The hardcore humanism in its complicated characters, to me, contradicts the misguided "camp" label that people often slap on this classic picture.

Modern fans of the mystery genre looking for an offbeat, dark, psychologically rich drama should definitely check it out.

If Old Hollywood had to die, it couldn't have asked for a more enduring tombstone.
Sunset Blvd. is as perfect as a movie can be.

One thing I noticed the last time I watched Sunset Boulevard I noticed something in Norma’s sunglasses…

Yes, Miss Desmond, it is time for your close-up…

Why, what have we here?
Look, there’s the crew! Hi, Mr. Wilder!
I think Kiss Me Stupid is great!
(Yes, I know: Kiss Me Stupid was made way after Sunset Blvd. So sue me.)

And this? Ahhhh, my ace in the hole:
I doubted anyone could guess it.

It is the 47th minute of Starship Troopers (1997)
—from “the meteor almost crashes into Carmen’s ship scene.”

About a nano-second earlier, her stunt double’s hand smashed the glass around the SHINY RED BUTTON to, you know, power up and save the ship.

My opinions of Starship Troopers is that it is a brilliant subtle joke, and that most people don’t get jokes unless they’re hit over the head or broadly winked at.

If the flick had ended with a reveal that the movie we’ve just watched was actually a movie being watched by another audience,
like a bunch of troopers at a PX,that this is a propaganda flick
that this is the movie Star Wars would have been if
had won the war (hot or cold)—
then I think mainstream critics might have gotten it.

But then the flick would be obvious.

Yes, I think that the gorehound’s delight/splatterpunk’s fever dream that is Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers is a subtle movie.

The movie is then the “degenerate” art that a society like the one in the film would probably disapprove of.

Speaking of which….

And when you watch Starship Troopers frame-by-frame, you often wind up with some of Francis Bacon’s paintings (see above).

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is a brilliant artist, and a master of the macabre.

I first learned about the late born-in-Ireland/worked-in-England painter through my obsession with Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Like a lot of other nerds, after seeing the 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece (screened at the Avalon Theatre on Kings Highway in Brooklyn),
I picked up
The Book of Alien: an incredible find for a young geek in 1980—
it was a beautifully organized “making of”/behind the scenes collection—
dealing mainly with production design
(lots of illos by Giger and Ron Cobb;
not so much about post-production or scoring),
and I really hope I still have it somewhere,
either in storage or at my mom’s place….

And speaking of Alien:
In early December, Dan O’Bannon died. Crap.

For those who don’t know, O’Bannon is credited as sole screenwriter of Alien, from a story he wrote with Ronald Shusett.

Reportedly, producers (and screenwriters themselves) Walter Hill (an Ivanlandia fave and a vastly underrated filmmaker) and David Giler extensively rewrote O’Bannon’s script (the “Ash is an android” subplot is one of Hill/Giler’s contributions, I’ve been told), but that WGA arbitration gave O’Bannon sole screenwriter credit.

This may be because Hill & Giler were trying to take sole writers credit, and stiff O’Bannon with a “story by” credit—
and while they really did revamp the first script, if you compare versions, much of O’Bannon’s original stuff is there.
I guess nobody wanted a three-way credit, like “Written by Dan O’Bannon, Walter Hill and David Giler.”

Since then, the late writer receives credits on all the subsequent films in the Alien franchise, usually a “based on characters created by.”

Whatever the writers’ credits hoo-hah Alien went through,
O’Bannon deserves heaps of credit for contributing to the American horror/sci-fi landscape, for not only Alien, but Dark Star and Return of the Living Dead
(and Lifeforce has its supporters, that’s for sure, it definitely has a cult following),
as well as Blue Thunder and several other flicks, which, while they may not be of the highest quality, are all entertaining.

And speaking of death:
If the flags weren’t at half-mast at Pomona College for alum, 1998 honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree recipient and brother of the Alpha Gamma Sigma fraternity Roy E. Disney, then they should have been.

While Ivanlandia may time and again mock the products of the Haus of Mouse, The National Film Board of Ivanlandia LOVES animation, and so did Roy.
He was a big supporter of the CalArts animation program, and he fought hard against the corporate bean counters in the 1980s to keep the studio’s animation wing alive.

So, getting back to Francis Bacon:

Some initial production designs for the monster from Alien were inspired/copied from some of Bacon’s paintings.
Or at least that’s what The Book of Alien said.

So then I searched out Bacon’s art.

I’m really kicking myself hard for missing the last summer’s Bacon show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But as I said, when you freeze-frame Starship Troopers, you get yourself a variety of potential Francis Bacon paintings.

I’ve picked a smattering of his paintings, and variety of framegrabs—personally, I like the way the shots off the TV screen are extra-grungy, like 16mm film footage blown up to 35mm—and mixed them up.

Compare and contrast.
Essays should be between 50 and 200 words.
Submit to comments section.

Three Studies for a Crucifixion, (1962)

Head VI (1949)

Painting (1946)

Head I (1947-48)

Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1962)

I still haven’t seen Starship Troopers 2—most people seem to hate it, but Friend Of Ivanlandia and Ambassador from Irish Bronx, Ed S., says there are some good qualities in it.
But we still haven’t seen it. And unless it’s on TV, we might not. We’re willing to watch it—if it’s put on a silver platter before us—
but not at the expense of other, probably better DVDs.

However, If you like the sick, cynical tone of the first Starship Troopers, you should like
Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008).

The tonal similarities are probably due to Starship Troopers (and RoboCop) co-screenwriter Ed Neumeier’s promotion to writer-director in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (ST3:M).

It’s a terrific and satirical B-movie/genre flick that really captures the crazy, resourceful and sometimes transgressive low-budget spirit of Roger Corman’s New World productions and Charles Band’s films from the 1980s.

Some of ST3:M’s effects aren’t up to snuff compared to the first film, and there isn’t enough gore (IMO), but the flick overflows with ideas – often controversial ones –
and that’s a rarity in today’s sci-fi action films.

The Federation is first shown using pop music to keep the populace fired up, and then finding that religion is even better for mind control.

Meanwhile, the flick goes the distance and finally presents Heinlein’s trooper suits as they were described in his novel (yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m a nerd): armed-to-the-teeth armored robotic exoskeletons—that, while the CGI may not be as up to snuff with something over-budgeted and pretentious like Avatar’s, still deliver the excitement and thrills.

There’s a new H.P. Lovecraft-inspired super-brain-bug that I found wonderful as a concept, and its effects were executed with as much aplomb as possible—I got it, and any movie-viewer who can still suspend disbelief (remember when everything on screen wasn’t more real than real?) will get it, too.
(That’s why I think ST3:M is similar to Corman and Band’s flicks: heavy on ideas and action, and brought together with dime-store ingenuity.)

And I’ll admit to a weird fascination with fembot/cyborg-love-doll Jolene Blalock and her pneumatic lips—yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m a nerd and I still live in my mom’s basement.
Fuck you.

Back to the movie:
If ST3:M was not some direct-to-DVD B-movie exploitation flick, it’s doubtful it would have been allowed to even broach the subject of religion in the movie’s fascistic future.

And I’m sure some folks are annoyed by the flick’s thinly veiled references to the Iraq War and the resulting protests at home, but ST3:M never states that the bugs are interested in peace and cohabitation:
they want us dead and won’t stop until it’s done.

In its (weird and sick) examination of what the Federation is doing about the bugs, ST3:M is more inventive and less shrill or preachy than most “serious dramas” about the Iraq conflict (with the exception of The Hurt Locker, which succeeds by not taking the controversial war head on).

ST3: M messes with your head!
And is therefore highly recommended.

And to the folks who would never bother renting ST3:M because it was a direct-to-DVD release, you’re idiots.

Direct-to-DVD is the contemporary equivalent of the drive-in, grindhouse or second-run movie theater. If you praise the flicks that used to appear at those venues, yet still pooh-pooh direct-to-DVD, you are a hypocrite.
Direct-to-DVD is often the only chance some flicks have to be seen.


  1. Well, Barbarella.

    O'Bannon was not only a monumentally great horror/SF writer, he was one of the only such genre writers to successfully inject comedy into his fantastic tales. (I mean, there are a lot of stinkeroo horror-comedies out there, but how many good ones? Very few. Return of the Living Dead is one.) Also, he was motherfuckin' Pinback in Dark Star. A legend.

    I just put that Trooper 3 disc in my netflix queue.


    yeah, Toestubbs turned me on to Dark Star back on Stanton Street. I should netflix it.

    and Toestubbs and i once saw Sunset Blvd at Theatre 80. it's one of those movies that's such a classic that people can't help but look for the flaws. y'know, 'nothing can be THAT good'. but it IS that good. (and then you wrote 'ace in the hole'. a sly reference to the cynical Wilder flick of the same name?)

    Besides its great characters and storyline, Sunset Blvd is one of those movies that creates a geographic space for the viewer to fall into. It's what i always want from a movie. It suggests a world outside the immediate story. Space outside the frame is important.

  3. I'm afraid we Irish are a little over-sensitive about this kind of thing, so I'm afraid I have to point out that although he spent most of his working life in London, Francis Bacon was Irish. He was born in a house on Baggot Street, close to Stephen's Green in Dublin, which you might remember from your visit (in 2001?)

  4. Right you are, Conzo, and the mistake has been corrected! Thank you for helping keep Ivanlandia away from the cultural imperialism of Airstrip One!