Saturday, February 25, 2012

Some Fave (and some not so but at least intriguing) Posters & Why

But before the posters…
There’s money riding on tomorrow night’s Oscars, and that’s the extent of my interest.

I’ve seen Rango, the short film “Time Freak” (it’s funny), and Drive (Albert Brooks was cheated! And so was Refn and Gosling—if these things really mattered)—
and that’s it for me and the nominated flicks. And I don’t really want to see most of them anyway—
I could list movies nominated and bash them, but what’s the point?
Suffice to say, they don’t interest me.
I’d rather wander around aimlessly and find an interesting pile of rubble to sift through than see 90% of the flicks nominated.

I do want to see Bridesmaids, and have been meaning to—and jeez, the DVD’s been on the coffee-table for how long? Gotta get around to that—and I’ll probably like it, too.

Because special effects deity Douglas Trumbull contributed to The Tree of Life, I feel obligated to see it—but the presence of the loathsome Sean Penn (it’s not his politics, it’s him) in the film is problematic for me, and so prevents me from spending real money on the flick. When it’s at the library, I’ll finally get around to it….

The best thing about the Oscars, is that winning one sometimes gives someone the clout to make something kinda bonkers—or it used to.
But Mainstream Hollywood makes sure everyone is properly neutered and on their meds these days… which is why somebody like Nicholas Winding Refn ain’t being allowed near one of those golden dildos.

Let’s Look At Posters!

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; Stanley Kubrick)

Do I like the poster because it’s of my favorite film, or because it has intrinsic beauty unto itself?
This style of “space art” was very popular at the time, the Bob McCall school overtaking the Chelsea Bonestell school, as the “hip” NASA was taking us to the moon for reals.

While I understand Big Stanley K.’s decision to change posters mid-release—to the more psychedelic youth culture-oriented “Ultimate Trip” posters, which either featured the big solarized close-up of Bowman’s eye, or of the Star Child,
I still prefer this one; with this the “trippiness” is inherent, but subtle (space wheels? Pan Am in orbit? Huh?).
Lots of info, but not a clue of how COSMIC things are going to get.
Gotta watch this one again, toot sweet! An absolute autocratic Ivanlandia fave.

Terror From the Year 5000 (1958; Robert J. Gurney Jr.)

The title and
Albert Kallis’ poster art are the best things about this movie—I saw it when I was a kid and how bad it was has always stuck with me.
You can’t see it now anyway because it’s tied up in court because of the psychotic widow of AIP co-founder James Nicholson, but trust me: This atomic cat-vampire-woman from the future flick is a snoozer. (But a kinky remake of it might be nice…)

However I do like this poster’s lurid sci-fi madness: Catwoman, rockets, domed cities—and that grid behind it all: WTF?!? I like it all.

After the Fox (1966; Vittorio De Sica)

It’s a Frank Frazetta poster to an uneven, but wonderfully goofball, quasi-surrealist screwball comedy. (And Frazettta’s art is always double-plus-good!)

The crazy combo of forces (Peter Sellers/Neil Simon/Vittorio De Sica/very catchy theme song by The Hollies/score by Burt Bacharach/delightful animated opening sequence by James Bond credit-meister Maurice Binder/stone fox Britt Ekland/etc.—Wow, this is a gosh-darn swingin’ ’60s flick!) never quite gels—but moves so fast that something is bound to come along to amuse.

My favorite gag: The film critic at the police station who applauds the crooks’ movie. “It’s a masterpiece!”—before being dragged out by disgusted cops.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974; Sam Peckinpah)

Another one of the greatest films ever made. Nobody at United Artists knew how to sell Peckinpah’s masterpiece, and this poster is the proof.
Part of my love/hate for the poster is that it’s got too many words—but the words that are there are SO full of pugnacious bravado you have to admire then, as you shake your head sadly—did a drunk write this copy? Probably.

Burn! (1970; Gillo Pontecorvo)

Another flick United Artists didn’t know how to sell—but this poster is defo aimed at the drive-in/grindhouse crowd—it’s a poster more fitting for a Robert Aldrich movie (and that’s a good thing)—and it shows that the ad boys at UA had their thinking caps on: How do we get asses in the seats? Brando in an action flick!

This flick is probably my fave agitprop—there are better, sure, but there’s something about Brando’s performance in this; he’s really conflicted philosophically (as opposed to emotionally; his character is English, and repressed in all the right ways), and how it plays out through his actions and (often conflicting) words is fascinating.
Great ending, too: Revolutions never stop.
Would be a good double-feature with A Bullet For the General (1966; Damiano Damiani).

Cross of Iron (1977; Sam Peckinpah)

Awesome and bleak war movie—not imperfect, but a low-budget marvel: Peckinpah accomplished plenty with nothing. Of course, his WWII movie would be about the Krauts getting clobbered at the Russian Front!

As for the poster, how melodramatic! I almost am sorry this scene isn’t actually in the film itself.
The poster’s red/gray color scheme—and how the hand grasping the Iron Cross is twisted and exaggerated—reminds me of old propaganda posters—hopefully on purpose.

Destroy All Monsters (1968; Ishirō Honda)

You cannot deny this is probably one of the best movie titles ever.
And if you love giant monsters, seeing this is like the trek to Mecca for the faithful: you must do it at least once in your adult life.
Personally, I think DAM is a remake of 1965’s Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero with more monsters—
I think Monster Zero is a better movie, but I still love Destroy All Monsters.
The poster is an overloaded masterpiece where the AIP art department seems to have completely missed getting Godzilla’s caricature right! (I’m a big fan of the tiny B&W ad used in newspapers, too: it’s so dense!)
I’m lucky enough to have seen DAM on big screen with a new print (Thanks, Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center!), but damnnnnn! I would’ve loved to have seen this in one of the run-down Brooklyn movie palaces on Flatbush Avenue back in the day—I bet it was a hoot!

Speaking of hoots, I am partial to this Simpsons spoof of Destroy All Monsters (below)—I especially like the Simpsons women as the polite but malevolent Keelaks.

The Gauntlet (1977; Clint Eastwood)

Dude, it’s a Frank Frazetta painting of Clint Eastwood blasting shit up, with a pin-up worthy Sondra Locke hanging on!
Of course it’s great!

And I even like the movie: it’s stupid, but exciting in its over-the-top way—Eastwood is completely miscast as a drunk loser on the fast-track to nowhere (he should have switched roles with either co-star Pat Hingle or Bill McKinney (RIP), really), and Ms. Locke is an acquired taste (better in The Outlaw Josey Wales; although here I don’t mind her screeching and “acting” so much—she seems to be having fun, and looks good in laced-up hip-huggers—
can’t stand her in Sudden Impact, though—
because I know she’s filling in for Babs Streisand, for whom the role was initially developed—but I guess Eastwood knew working with/for Babs would be BS, so…he went with his then-mistress!),
but I’m a big fan of the whole B-movie feel to The Gauntlet—it’s another flick that does a lot with a limited budget; you can see the seams routinely, but Eastwood & Co. know their limitations, and deliver the goods—just like Eastwood’s character Ben Shockley at the end of the flick.

It’s an old story (“get the witness to court on time”), but with 1977-action movie mayhem—made to compete against Burt Reynolds, Charles Bronson and other “White Man Rampage” flicks of the day.

The movie also has one of my favorite lines from a movie, from when Eastwood confronts and plans to steal a motorcycle from some bikers:
“Why? Because I got this gun, this badge and the love of Jesus in my pretty green eyes, that’s why.”

BTW, I’m not sure where the second poster for The Gauntlet came from—I know it’s a DVD, but it couldn’t be the US, since the MPAA—in their infinite wisdom—have made it verboten to have a figure in a poster pointing a pistol or rifle directly at the viewer.
Whatevs, you old losers… I like the DVD poster, as well: there’s a certain mean bluntness to it.

Seconds (1966; John Frankenheimer)

Ignore the words in the poster; linger on the twisted terror of the image: What the hell is going on? Is that Rock Hudson? Is that a priest reading the Bible?
What the hell is going on?

Seconds is really an incredible movie, moving, but ultimately so sad and lonely—and a total bummer ending. Beautiful
Don’t read up on Seconds
Just see it if you haven’t.

The Astounding She Monster (1957; Ronald V. Ashcroft)

Never seen the movie. Don’t want to. I could never be as good as the poster (another Albert Kallis special).

Others, especially Mack Daddy Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog, have written about this poster at length.
And yes, that crazy amalgamation of 1950s tropes, including a goofball/retarded title—but especially the poster’s unbridled eroticism—makes it almost perfect.

The Parallax View (1974; Alan J. Pakula)

An Ivanlandia Top Ten Favorite Film—also one of the best movies ever made.
Some say Warren Beatty is miscast—that the lead should be more of an average-Joe shlub, but I disagree: It hammers home the movie’s scary message more—if superstud Warren Beatty can’t stop the scary assassination company, what can you do?

An incredible practically-perfect film, grim and bleak like a noose tightening—with a LSD nightmare vision of contemporary life in the form of the “Parallax Testing Film.” At a screening at the blessed Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center a long time ago, director Pakula was there for a Q&A and responded to my question about the origins of the “Parallax Testing Film” that he left an empty spot there and waited until after he was done with a rough cut.
Then he took as many magazines as he could and tore out images that he thought spoke of the American condition. Then he messed around with it.

Pakula’s untimely death was a loss for global intelligent cinema. I know I miss any of the work he could have kept on creating.

The poster might not be a big “sell”—it would illicit a “huh?” from some—but in terms of a perfect intertwining of themes, without having to use the star’s mug to push the film, the poster is magnificent. And it’s not just how you look at it, it’s how it’s presented.

They Live (1988; John Carpenter)

Said it before, I’ll say it again: had They Live ended at the 45 minute mark, after Nada uses the sunglasses to see life as it really is, the flick would have been perfect.
Not that I don’t still love the movie, but
I do think there’s a touch of “padding” here and there.
That said, I love this poster—made for a special screening of They Live at Seattle’s Central Cinema.
I like that this poster rips-off the unfortunately-too-famous rip-off “artist” Shepard Fairey and his rip-off of a TIME magazine photo (or something—he’s never created anything original), and that the poster also pokes fun at the Commander-in-Chief (whom I actually like and support).
All politicians are alien space ghouls; it’s just that some think long-term….

Wizards (1977; Ralph Bakshi)

William Stout’s illustration of Nekron 99 atop his mutant chicken-pony is pretty damn cool—stoner art worthy to hang next to your Roger Dean and Chris Foss posters.
And for a while, it did.
This poster had a decent two or three month run before a juggernaut named Star Wars fuckin’ steamrolled across this and everything else in the cinemas (and teenagers’ walls) that summer.

Most fantasy flicks and I tend to disagree—I’m neither a fan of The Princess Bride nor The Lord of the Rings trilogy, to name some popular fantasy flicks (on the flip-side, crazy rip-off garbage like Jack, the Giant Killer, I love!)—and while
Bakshi’s flick is hit-and-miss, every few years, I get the urge to catch up with it. Nowadays, I really like all the rotoscoped footage from Alexander Nevsky and WWII.

Zardoz (1974; John Boorman)

Unlike other posterz, I don’t love this for the image but for the copy: “Beyond 1984. Beyond 2001. Beyond Love. Beyond Death.”
<Sigh…> Ohhhh, that’s rich.

The copy is perfect for Boorman’z wonderfully inzane, borderline-pretentiouz, almozt abzurdizt mazh-up of everything he’z ever dreamed about. Literally! All the themez that have been in Boorman’z flickz (water az purifier; Merlin-like figurez; ztrong women; nature az healer; etc.) are all here. It’z like he waz zcared he waz never going to get another chance or something.
Az zuch, I think of it az a kizzing couzin to El Topo. Really, I do.

There are ztretches of Zardoz that are dreadful, but then you get zome cool madnezz like a giant floating head, or Charlotte Rampling being dangerouz and cold, or Zean Connery’z costume!

Zardoz: it may not be good, but it’s infectiouz.


Zombie Massacre by Rex Saxon (New English Library, 1973)

Swiped this image about a million years ago from the highly recommended site The Groovy Age of Horror.
Don’t know anything about the book.
Don’t care.
It could never be as good as the cover.
I do wonder if author Rex Saxon is any relation to Toestubber, though?

(below: how to make a “They Live” mask!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Movies, Maidens and Monsters (and pictures that comment subconsciously)

So what’s been watched since the last time we were talking about what we've been watching?
Let’s see….

Final Destination 5 (2011; Steven Quale) Almost impossible to criticize as long as the gore and Rube-Goldberg-style deaths keep coming fast and furious. FD2 is still my fave, though, but this is got a nice self-referential air that allows it to kinda mess with the formula—one guy gets all Zen,
“We’re all going to die, it’s just when, so relax and enjoy yourself.”
Another contemplates murdering someone as a sacrifice instead of themselves—
But the FD films really appeal to me on a philosophical level: they say, You Can’t Win. Death Wins, Death Always Wins.
And they use copious gore! Some of this shit is nasty! Love it!

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957; Nathan Juran; effects by Ray Harryhausen) Awesome old school stop-motion animation effects and a completely unique and sympathetic monster are almost ruined by the script’s idiotic dialog (jeez, this flick is practically racist to Italians!) and gaping logic holes (unfortunately. decent scripts have always been in short supply with Harryhausen’s flicks).
Fast-Forward until you get to stop-motion animation and you’ll be fine.

Song of the South (1946; Harve Foster & Wilfred Jackson, with the shadow of Walt Disney over the whole operation)
A pal who works at Walt Dizzy Animation tells me that it’s a certainty that the uncut Song of the South will NEVER be officially released by the company, so seeing it on YouTube is it.
The National Film Board of Ivanlandia only watched this for historical relevance—
and because who knows when the YouTube account will be pulled?

That said,
the film’s depiction of “Smilin’ Darkies” is kind of uncomfortable, and hangs a heavy pall over the whole proceedings.
Because stripped of any racial/racist options, the flick is a good tale for pre-adolescents: where an old man (sage or magician? Perhaps) teaches a young boy important life-lessons via fanciful talking animal stories. Well, sure, Joel Chandler Harris, author of the original Uncle Remus stories, was ripping off Aesop, so what can you do?
The animation is top-notch, Uncle Remus is lovable, and the flick’s theme song (“Zippidee-do-dah!”) is immortal.

But afterwards I felt like I needed to watch Bakshi’s underrated Coonskin to unwind—unfortunately, that’s not available.

So instead, I checked out…
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2010; Göran Hugo Olsson)
Incredible documentary about the rise and fall of the Black Power Movement, presented by outsiders (Swedes), and thus enabling the viewer to see how the rest of the world was responding to the nightmare violence (most of it started by police) running rampant in the streets of the US.
If you are interested in alternative views other than vomited out by the Big Propaganda Machine, or have any interest in the history of revolutionary movements, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a must-see.
A new Ivanlandia fave!

However, when you watch it (and it’s available at Nflix Streaming), keep your ears open at the 54 minute: As the footage of a 1970s-era Swedish newscaster unspools, listen—
Is that a fart? It also sounds like a balloon squealing when it leaks air. WTF? Is this the FBI still running a cointelpro against the Panthers?

Portions of The Fury (1978; Brian De Palma) I figured The Fury out: It’s De Palma’s sick joke—can he make the worst movie possible, but then at the very end, change everything and make the audience love him? It’s the ultimate abusive relationship! The Fury, indeed.

The flick is 70 minutes of awesome action/sci-fi hijinks absolutely ruined by some molasses-paced, over-coveraged—stop editing so much!, bloatedness. The movie can only be enjoyed in FF. Except—
Cassavettes going ka-boom. Nobody doesn’t love that. And if the flick did not have that moment, it would have been completely forgotten.
Sure, it’s De Palma doing the Carrie-hand one better, but Carrie is a good film overall. The Fury is not.

Day of the Triffids (1962; Steve Sekely, and Freddie Francis, uncredited) Not available on DVD currently, I caught this on YouTube—which had it letterboxed! I’d seen this movie plenty of times on TV as a kid, and liked it, but never widescreen. That was a novel sensation for me, and made me forgive the flick’s obvious plot holes, and inconsistencies.
Killer Plants! Everyone blind from weird meteor showers!
The movie has a decent doomsday vibe, although the streets are curiously empty.

But this is the flick M. Night Shamalamalamadingdong ripped off Signs for the “cure” to the invasion: salt water. But it makes more sense in a movie about dumb—if mobile and violent—plants, as opposed to saucer people, who should know better.

The Pit (1981; Lew Lehman) Great, uncomfortable, twisty, fucked-up fairy tale about an incredibly creepy, absolutely unsocialized adolescent boy, Jamie.
And as a creepy only-child myself, all I can say is, “There but for the grace of Cthuhlu, go I…”

The flick’s got a groovy/sleazy, sick ’70s vibe, that really jumps the rails around the 40 minute mark and plunges into Bonkersville.
Shot in that “flat” but very information-packed style I think of as “Ted Post-like,”
Jamie is hardly sympathetic—but no one else is, either. I think Toestubber would really like this flick.
Not perfect, but def a must-see.

South Pacific (1958; Joshua Logan) Listened to, really—and the songs are great! But, jeez, if I had to sit in a theater and watch this? I dunno…

Shut Up, Little Man: An Audio Misadventure (2011; Matthew Bate) If you were ever involved with tape trading prank calls and the like back in the day (early 1990s, I miss you!), you must see this. It could very well be a new fave, mainly because it addresses those uncomfortable moral questions—even if some aren’t answered to complete satisfaction…

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Jenifer (2006; Dario Argento) Decent adaption of the Bruce Jones’ comic, but hardly an Argento movie! This could have easily have been helmed by any variety of TV movie veterans—and heck, I bet a Buzz Kulik or Boris Sagal could’ve brought a lot more than Dario brung on this outing.
Honestly, for the most part, what I’ve seen from the “Masters of Horror” series hasn’t been impressive. I did enjoy John Carpenter’s entries, but Joe Dante’s “Homecoming,” I hated.

The Naked City (1948; Jules Dassin) Movies that show SO MUCH of old NYC get nothing but love from me—but if you’re not so easily swayed, this is a damn good police procedural, one that really sets a template still being followed today. I especially loved Barry Sullivan’s merry leprechaun of a detective. The B&W cinematography is incredible, and I cannot stress how important this film is as a time-capsule of post-WWII NYC. Beautiful film, deserves its reputation as a classic.

Freakonomics (2010; Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock) Cute adaptation of the book, and a decent intro to what the economists are talking about here. If you’re interested in the subject, worth a look.

The Land That Time Forgot (1975; Kevin Conner) Me heart big phony dinosaur puppets! Especially when augmented by miniature effects by the Ivanlandia fave, UK FX man Derek Meddings.

Fishing Under Water (2011; Juuso Mettälä) incredible short, shot under the frozen ice—and upside-down! Watch and wonder!