Monday, June 14, 2010

Bring Me the Head of Johnny Mnemonic!!!

As part of the White Elephant blogathon (for more information on that, please click here), I have been assigned
Johnny Mnemonic

It was a flick I’d seen before, when it was first released, annnnnnnnnnnd
didn’t really like.
But I was willing to see it again--perhaps it had improved with age?

No dice.

But then and now, the flick has one great scene
When K=nu loses his shit:

Listen. You listen to me. You see that city over there? THAT'S where I'm supposed to be. Not down here with the dogs, and the garbage, and the fucking last month's newspapers blowing back and forth. I've had it with them, I've had it with you, I've had it with ALL THIS - I want ROOM SERVICE! I want the club sandwich, I want the cold Mexican beer, I want a $10,000-a-night hooker! I want my shirts they do... at the Imperial Hotel... in Tokyo.

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Directed by Robert Longo
Screenplay by William Gibson, based on his short story
Cinematography: François Protat
Editing by Ronald Sanders
The rest of the cast & credits

Running time: 96 minutes (US); 107 minutes (Japan)--The Japanese version has more scenes of cast members Beat Takeshi and Dolph Lundgren, and I tried to watch these scenes on YouTube, but they bored me as much as the film did--
but I’m getting ahead of myself….

Since he got noticed as “Sci-Fi’s Next Big Thing,” William Gibson has had Hollywood sniffin’ around, and he even managed to score the gig of writing one draft of Alien3 and a couple of (mediocre) scripts for The X-Files, as well.

After several false starts with a variety of projects, some money was coughed up and it looked like a film of Gibson’s story "Johnny Mnemonic" would be made, from a script by Gibson.

Then another interesting detail emerged: first-time director NYC-based painter Robert Longo was picked to helm the flick, a verrrrrrrrrrrry interesting development.

There was a lot of hope (on my part at the time) that the flick—even if it wasn’t coherent—would be fascinating.

I figured on some sort of art-madness akin to Jodorowsky.

If the movie was I flop, I calculated counterinuitively, it would be like Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, brilliant insanity, giddy stupidity, balls-out crazy.

Boy, was I wrong!

The flick that I (and if box office is any indication, the rest of the world) wanted Johnny Moronic to be would not appear until four years later and be called The Matrix.

Johnny Phonetic is the zenith of mediocrity--
It isn’t bad enough or dumb enough or truly anything enough to generate any emotion.
Johnny Spumoni sort of sucks the air out of the room.
It’s ho-hum.

And just because Johnny has no memory doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have a personality--and letting Keanu enunciate all his lines as if he was Alfred Jarry doesn’t help.

But I am not going to blame Mr. Reeves take any of the blame for this movie.
He most certainly has turned in good performances in a variety of flicks, but no, he is not a Marlon Brando.
(And in KR’s overall defense, I think he’s taken much greater “chances” as an actor than, say, Leo DeCraprio.)

If Brando was in the hands of a lame-o director, he’d go off on his own tangent, sometimes leaving flicks with moments of brilliance then might not deserve (see Candy and The Formula).
If I may take a moment of your indulgence--
Regarding the film The Formula (1980):
Imperfect but fun, The Formula is a sleazy, B-movie conspiracy thriller (with an A-list cast) about oil companies ruling the world that was way too far ahead of its time for 1980--but absolutely perfect for today, especially if you imagine that Brando is playing Dick Cheney.

And there’s a Nazi strip club scene that will blow your mind!

Unlike Johnny Pneumonic, The Formula is certainly worth a look.

But back to the future (nyuck-nyuck!)

In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised Johnny Monotonic was a snooze.
I mean, I don’t like either Gibson’s or Longo’s work really:
Gibson’s stories and novels have never grabbed me the way other authors often lumped into the Cyberpunk genre do.
Fine and imaginative wordsmiths who have bizarre senses of humor--and incredible senses of pacing--
Gents like:
Rudy Rucker
K.W. Jeter
Neal Stephenson
Bruce Sterling.

And honestly, I find the style of Gibson’s original story [HERE] to be contrived and ostentatious.

Meanwhile, Longo’s paintings have never connected with me, either.

But all that is in retrospect:

As for the movie itself,
I’m not going to criticize the actual plot--
a frantic courier tries to stay one step ahead of assassins--
the fact the info is in his head is neither here nor there, it’s a McGuffin,
and a cool one I’ll admit
Mixing the underground music scene and Fassbinder’s regulars must have
seemed groovy on paper--
[The late great Rainer Werner Fassbinder gets mentioned for a distinct reason:
Longo is married to Fassbinder semi-regular Barbara Sukowa, who appears in Johnny Retrovirus as the boring deus ex machina, the ghost in the machine who not only sets things right, but turns out to be the mommy our hero had purposefully forgotten he had had!

Additionally, Longo uses Udo Kier (who has a magnificent death
scene in Johnny Mundotronic
--truly superb) of several Fassbinder flicks as well as practically every cult movie made]

But Longo should have tried to ART OUT more,
treat things less seriously
(this movie is leaden with seriousness; Johnny Neurotic takes itself too damn seriously; it should have been dubbed into German, then subtitled. I think people would have “got” it better that way)

The flick's very measured pace does not help—Longo needed to be more like a
Guy Hamilton, channeling an action-laden light touch.

Maybe Longo should have
set out to make the movie Fassbinder (RIP) would have made--
and used Johnny Mnemonic as a 21st century remake of The Third Generation!
The flick already has an anti-corporate bent, now stop treating those “Low-Teks” as if they were noble savages or something!

Or better yet, a remake of Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends, set in the cyberverse, where polymorphous pandrogyny is the norm, and the movie really become a mindfuck--with an orgy in Johnny’s head!
(And since by this point Keanu had already done My Own Private Idaho, he should be game.)
Okay, so you say I’m being too esoteric. Fine. Then why didn’t they do the most obvious thing with a plot like this and rip off Peckinpah’s awesome Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, but cyberspace-style?

Like: After Johnny’s head’s been cut off, the electronics wetwired into his brain enable him to still communicate--sort of like Commander Powell in Dark Star, frozen and dead, but his brain is wired and often can be heard wandering and muttering, as severed heads in cybernetic freezer buckets will do.

Then you get the various yakuza, mercenaries and loonies chasing after
Johnny’s head--while it gives a running commentary.
And you can’t shut him up because you always need him “on” to determine information quality or some other such nonsensical bit of plot manipulation.
Anything, as long as the wisecracks keep coming.

Meanwhile as the bodycount climbs with a blood-splattered game of “Who‘s Got the Head?”, Johnny’s running his own bit of manipulation,
playing one against the other, as he tries to get revenge on the
people who betrayed him.
Now THAT’s noir!

There was never any feeling Johnny Mnemonic was someone’s vision, no matter how misguided.
Never any real personality.
There’s just something so…flavorless about the movie.
The flick leaves me with a big “So What?”

The movie needed a rewrite by the likes of someone like Larry Cohen or John Carpenter (Ivanlandia’s go-to guys for fixing all things wrong in cinema); they would have jacked up the socio-exploitative elements (see They Live or The Stuff), as well as the anti-authoritarian violence.

I actually have a personal connection with this film—
my old roommate was in the band Cop Shoot Cop,
which was picked to provide a song for the soundtrack of Johnny Heterophobic--

The filmmakers contracted a bunch of bands,
mainly indie signees from Interscope back in the wave of post-Nirvana money,
and then only used a snippet or so of the song during the end credits.

Cop Shoot Cop’s song only got one minute--I timed it!--as the credits rolled.
Now, one minute during the end credits is nothing to sneeze at, I know,
and my friends were all well compensated,
but what struck me as odd was that Cop Shoot Cop’s song "3 AM Incident"
wasn’t used during one of the action scenes--
It’s certainly better than some of the cruddy power-pop used in the flick….

And THAT’S another reason Johnny Stupidsupersonic is so misguided.
The flick didn’t know what it wanted.

So, whatever happened to Robert Longo?
After the studio interference and poor performance at the box office,
did the bad experience of making Johnny Mnemonic sour him on making movies?
Why did he get involved in moviemaking anyway,
to compete with Julian Schnabel?

The images accompanying today’s post were all chosen because each, in its own way, is much better than anything that was in Johnny Metronomic.

Meanwhile, the majority of the images in today’s post were swiped from awesome sites (that everyone should bookmark) like:

Monster Brains
Lady, That’s My Skull
Diversions of the Groovy Kind
Booksteve’s Library
and plenty others I’m sure I've forgotten--

but especially the original artists and writers--

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tim McInture is God! (And Tim Carey ain't bad either)

One of the best scenes ever!
From James B. Harris' Fast-Walking.
Soon I'll write more about it, but I had to post this scene toot sweet!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mutant Hot Chix

Splice (2010)

Even with its tacked-on ending, I thought Splice was a pretty good flick:
the best late-1970s David Cronenberg horror flick made in the last 10 years,
effectively combining/making tribute to many of David C’s themes:
frozen exteriors, sterile and chilly interiors, weirdness concerning the human body, new forms of sexuality,
and pure gross-out gnarliness.

For me, Splice actually got quite transgressive (incest-bestiality?), and went beyond shocks and gore.
I really got into the flick’s sense of “ick.”

Yes, the ending does feel like it’s been “tampered with” by one or all of the four studios that produced the film, and when you see Splice (and you should; it’s worth an eventual rental just to have an opinion),
you’ll be able to tell exactly when the beancounters cleared their throats and said,
“Hey, Mr. Director, we have a suggestion….”

But the insane thing is that during the course of this clichéd, almost generic ending, the flick gets even sicker and leads to an ending that’s very queasy.

Adrien Brody is not one of my faves (he’s awful in Argento’s Giallo, a flick that was already bad), but he’s good in Splice as the shmuck who’ll fuck anything,
but Splice is really Sarah Polley’s show:
She’s great as the genetic wizard
with serious mommy issues, a convincing, complex and conflicted character.

Polley’s presence in a genre flick--
whether horror, like the Dawn of the Dead remake,
or westerns, like The Claim--
means the movie will address socio-economic themes as well,
And it’s this combination of gore,
gross-outs, scares, nudity, socially relevant themes, and the filmmakers giving 100%
that makes Splice a damn good exploitation flick.

And kids, Splice teaches important lessons,
Artificially created giant male penile-slugs are like Siamese fighting fish--
NEVER put them in a cage together!