Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Miss Foreign Affairs Presents: The 36+ Movies of December 2011!

Films are mostly in the order that I saw them…

Teorema (1968); NO—If you told me Pasolini made this film with the sole purpose of getting star Terence Stamp in the sack, I’d believe you. Tame and meandering, the flick is a bit of a snooze, mainly because it’s so quaint.

The Message (1976); NO, but a fascinating film for trying to portray the rise of the Prophet Muhammed
(peace and blessing of God be upon him)
by the strict guidelines of Islam. That is, without showing him at all!
And if you’re not completely narrow-minded, you watch the film and realize, “Oh wow, just like Christians and Jews have their boring holiday movie epics, the Muslims have theirs, too.”
See? We can all get along!
A much better flick is director (and former Sam Peckinpah protégé) Mustapha Akkad’s later film Lion of the Desert—worth catching not only for its incredible battle scenes and one of Oliver Reed’s more subtler performances, but for its definite skew towards revolutionary Third World politics: Throw the Imperialist Colonizers into the sea! Lion of the Desert would be a good double feature with Gillo Pontecorvo’s Burn!

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941); YES—American Dadaism, at its finest, courtesy of W.C. Fields! Genius, sheer GENIUS, I tell you!

Mail Order Wife (2005); YES—from Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko, the team that also unleashed The Last Exorcism and The Virginity Hit. These guys are taking the fake documentary sub-genre (I don’t like the term “mockumentary”) and going someplace unique with it. I’ve enjoyed all three of their films, and really like the mindgames they spring. Full disclosure: I’m in the Gurland-produced/Botko-cinematographed documentary on Al Goldstein, Screwed (1997).

Red Angel (1966); YES— Reviewed HERE

Secret Honor (1984); YES—Nixon Agonistes!

Tyson (2009); YES—Iron Mike does have a soul!

I Worked for Stalin (1990); NO—bitter old commies lying about each other.

Mock Up on Mu (2009); NO—try as he might, collagist/filmmaker Craig Baldwin has not impressed me since the incredible and third-eye-opening Tribulation 99; but keep trying!

The Crawling Eye (1958); YES—Reviewed HERE

Path to War (2003); YES; I’m working my way through all of John Frankenheimer’s films, and this docudrama about LBJ going into Vietnam is pretty good, considering that it looks like Frankenheimer wasn’t given much of a budget. I loved Gary Sinise’s cameo/return as George Wallace, though.

Drunken Wutang (1984); YES; so this is the madness that inspired the band? Now I get it.

Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days (1989); YES; the nicest man in the world takes a trip around the place he's the nicest.

Manon (1949); YES—because even when I don’t like a Henri-Georges Clouzot film, like Diabolique, it is always worth watching, and I liked Manon: it’s a high-energy l’amour fou death-trip from the get-go, about an amoral sexpot and a hot-headed, love-stricken ex-Resistance fighter—I often wondered while watching the movie whether director Clouzot is actually laughing at these doomed lovebirds? (Or at least snickering?) Which also wouldn’t surprise me since some of Clouzot’s other flicks (like Le Corbeau or The Wages of Fear) are not exactly upbeat
No wonder Hitchcock was a fan!
And Manon is a flick that could NOT have been made in the US at the time: the lead’s stint in a bordello would not have been allowed.

The Brood (1979); YES—Reviewed HERE

The Beatniks (1960); NO—what the hell was Paul Frees thinking?!? Inept garbage written and directed by the God of the Voice-Overs—so bad it has to be seen to be believed…but you’ll be sorry—just like me. And the title is a lie—there are NO beatniks in this flick.

The Cell (2000); NO, although I did like the art direction and Vinnie DeeOh’s perf.

Rubber’s Lover (1996); NO, HELL NO: Annoying Tetsuo/cyberpunk noise. Maybe I missed something in the translation...

8 Mile (2002); YES—a hip-hop Rocky with Eminem playing himself: go Rabbit!

A Place in the Sun (1951); YES, yes, a thousand times YES! (And so, my George Stevens kick begins…)

Come Drink With Me (1966); YES, good old school Run Run Shaw sword fu—lots of fun.

Cube (1997); YES—although it honestly feels like a longer, missing episode of The Outer Limits, not that that’s a bad thing! And Nicole DeBoer is SO cute!

Breaking Bad: Season One (2008); YES—this show is the closest thing to a Donald Westlake novel on television; the show’s set-up (milquetoast genius chemistry teacher uses his mad skills to become a meth kingpin) is the missing third part to the themes started in his novels The Axemade into a great film by Costa-Gavras in 2005—and The Hook. I’m only halfway through the second season as I write this, and the terms “Westlakian” or “Westlake-like” (“Westlike”?) keep coming to mind. Great stuff.

Stake Land (2010); NO—Reviewed HERE

Bad Biology (2008); YES; Frank Henenlotter ALWAYS delivers.

Alternative Three (1977); YES—excellent combo of a fake documentary and Gerry Anderson’s UFO—perfect double-feature with Craig Baldwin’s Tribulation 99, or Apollo 18; watch it HERE

Futurama: Volume 6 (2011) YES

Fight for Your Life (1977); YES—especially for unrepentant exploitation/grindhouse/white trash insanity.

Breaking Bad: Season Two (2009); YES

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959); NO—George Stevens makes an Otto Preminger film, and not one of the good ones.

Exodus (2007); YES—Definitely NOT the Otto Preminger flick
If William “women are an alien species” Burroughs and Roman Polanski were hired to rewrite an Ed McBain book and set it in Shanghai, this would be it.

Shane (1952); YES—’cause it’s a CLASSIC! Seen before, but watched and enjoyed again as part of my George Stevens kick…I may skip Giant, though…

These Are the Damned (1960); YES—at first the flick seems all over the place, but then it comes together in a heartbreaking way, and I swear, I keep thinking about this movie long after I’ve seen it. This is the type of morally questioning/thought-provoking science fiction that’s so hard to come by—really worth a look—
Oliver Reed is deliciously feral as a vicious Teddy Boy with very incestuous feelings for his trampy sis—
Great soundtrack, too! One of the best seen in 2011!

The D.I. (1957); YES; Jack Webb’s love-letter to the USMC is bonkers—the right-wing flipside to Full Metal Jacket, but just as intense and mindbending—like an Earthbound, contemporary version of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers—it’s also incredibly funny with that psychotic rat-a-tat dialog Webb is known for. The D.I. is a must-see, and like Full Metal Jacket, incredibly quotable: “If brains were dynamite, you couldn't blow your nose!”

Apollo 18 (2011); YESwhat’s with all the hating? Sure, if I had had to pay real money to see it, I would’ve been annoyed by the film’s slow middle—but as a renter, this flick is great fun—like an Outer Limits episode, or a weird spin-off TV movie from a Gerry Anderson TV show.
I make no apologies for my enjoyment of genre flicks that use the “found footage/fake documentary” trick—
I even consider it a horror subgenre unto itself—and as the contemporary equivalent of the
epistolary horror story,
the diary or letters of a doomed man being swallowed by supernatural forces.
As such, I enjoyed Apollo 18’s combination of surveillance footage, electronic monitors, 16mm, 8mm and stock footage—all of it documenting a mission that was “doomed” from the get-go.
It doesn’t always make sense, but the flick is tense and weird on a low-budget, and I think its monsters were great:
And I don’t care if this is a spoiler, because it was my knowing that these unfortunate astronauts were going to run into MOON-CRAB-SPIDERS that made me want to see Apollo 18 even more.
Nasty silicon-based life forms that look like rocks when standing still—but when disturbed, they’re wretched and evil MOON-CRAB-SPIDERS that move really fast! Fun stuff all around.
(Hey, maybe the MOON-CRAB-SPIDERS are the watchdogs of the Selenites from The First Men in the Moon?)

Super (2010); YES—Excellent! Superheroes are psychopaths.
This is the movie that both Kick-Ass and Watchmen wanted to be, and then goes beyond that.
In this case, a man interprets his psychotic breakdown as a religious experience that tells him to be a superhero.
A moving modern fairy tale that effectively mixes gore, sick humor and pathos—there’s a happy ending, but you have to earn it.
While I didn’t love director James Gunn’s previous flick Slither, it has a HUGE cult following, and Super deserves the same. Gunn keeps getting better with each film, and it’s fun as a movie fan to find someone whose work is routinely interesting, growing and changing.
This film is also the first time I have ever really liked the actors Riann Wilson or Ellen Page: I thought they did great jobs playing flawed, weird kind-of real people.
Yeah, this is one of my favorites of the year.

Cobra (1986); NO—Stallone can’t write or act comedy, he shouldn’t even try.

Breaking Bad: Season Three (2010); YES; the first season was Westlakeian like The Ax; the second season was Westakeian like Dortmunder; the third season is starting to get like Richard Stark’s Parker—and I think that is great. Go Team Heisenberg!

Shorts—they’re shorts, so just fuckin’ watch them, okay?

Rosa (sexy cyber-killers in action)

Separation (kinky latex weirdness)


  1. So the dictator of Ivanlandia does not sanction the word 'mockumentary', but is OK with 'docudrama'. I imagine the Overlord takes exception with the word 'mockument', whereas 'docudrama', which i would prefer be hyphenated, has real roots. How does His Honor feel about the other common terms for these kinds of movies?


    George Stevens. I can think of three i've seen. Recently rewatched SHANE. I still like it but not as much as the first time. GIANT is my fave of the three. Shot in "Warnercolor", it feels like one of my beloved melodramas, although it's considered a drama. A PLACE IN THE SUN is great, but somehow Shelley Winters is too annoying even when she's supposed to be, which is almost all the time. Clift is superb, as always, but i was never a fan of Liz for some reason. For a similar, but lesser drama, i prefer LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN; it has just the right cheese factor!

    Lots more to comment on in this post, but i've run out of steam for now.

  2. Your belligerence is invigorating, Herr Mannix!

    I'll ignore much of what you've written, so's this doesn't take forever--I object to the term "mockumentary" being applied as a catch-all to describe any fiction film that uses the "documentary" format.
    Now, if the prefix "mock-" came from the UK-English, as in "mock turtle soup" (made with cow brains instead of turtles), or "fake," I think I would be fine with "mockumentary."
    But the expression grew out of the films of Christopher Guest, starting with This Is Spinal Tap. His movies were comedies and tended to "mock" (make fun of, disdain) their subjects. Honestly, I think his best film, Best In Show, succeeds because it is much more sweet-natured than Guest's other flicks.
    I realize people need their snappy little catchphrases--and to hell with logic or common sense!--but I don't see why I should blindly accept it when I disagree with it. And to your knee-jerk yelp of "Why don't you come up with one of your own?", I reply, what the hell do ya think I've been doing?!?
    As of now, "fake documentary" is the closest I've gotten, and like hell, if I'll start calling the genre "FaDo."

    As for "docudrama," as a word it sounds good, has gravitas, and is actually the briefest way possible to describe this style of film.

    WHEW! This fucking comment is longer than today's post! You better appreciate this, man. You're the only one reading it.

  3. "knee-jerk yelp of 'Why don't you come up with one of your own?' "

    uh, i didn't write that. i was having some fun fuckin' with it. and i'm never "knee-jerk", but i can be a jerk.

    i was more interested in the George Stevens part.