Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jason goes to Bad Movie Night to see STAR TREK: NEMESIS

My God that was awful. So awful, I have to leave the country to escape its stench. Hell, I might have to leave the hemisphere. Both the Northern and Western Hemispheres. That's it, I'm going to South Africa!

Running Time: 116 minutes
My Total Minutes: 187,749

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for Charlie Chaplin Days

You can see a little write-up about it in the respectable press.

Anyway, this past weekend the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum has been celebrating Charlie Chaplin, resident of Niles for a few months while he worked for the Essanay studio.

The museum store was packed. As one of my fellow volunteers said, I was as busy as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest. But it was fun, people had a good time, we had a few Chaplins show up (I worked Saturday, but the official look-alike contest was Sunday at 2 pm). I was too busy to even see the daytime shows of all the films Chaplin made in Niles/San Francisco (A NIGHT OUT, IN THE PARK, THE CHAMPION, A JITNEY ELOPEMENT, and THE TRAMP). But I could tell the crowds filing in and out between shows had a good time (and more importantly, they bought stuff).

I did manage to catch the documentary THE BOOT CAKE. Australian filmmaker Kathryn Millard found out about the Charlie Circle in Adipur, India. They adore Chaplin, and every year they celebrate his birthday. A few years ago, she traveled to India to celebrate with them, and they asked her to bring the cake--specifically, a cake in the shape of a boot, to celebrate the famous scene in THE GOLD RUSH. And she documented the whole thing, and it's pretty weird. At first, it's a trip to see all these Indians talking excitedly about Charlie, dressing up as Charlie, the doctor (and Charlie Circle founder) who prescribes Chaplin VCD's to his patients, etc. But pretty soon, the cultural differences disappear and these are just obsessed fans like any others anywhere else in the world (okay, the Charlie Doctor is pretty weird, and so is the impersonator in white face.) But damn, I wanna go and celebrate his birthday (April 16th) with them some year.

So then I got a little break while the museum/gift shop finally closed for a couple of hours so we could get dinner. I got a slice of pizza at Broncho Billy's, got a beer at the Florence, and was back for the Saturday night movies, which of course were all Charlie's. First, up a couple of shorts:

A BUSY DAY (1914): Charlie in his Keystone days, just before signing with Essanay. More importantly, Charlie in drag, playing a wife who chases her husband around. The weird thing is they never play up the fact that she's a man in drag, it's just some frenetic hi-jinks (which ends with "her" pushed off a pier and I assume drowning).

WORK (1915): Charlie made this while working for Essanay, but shortly after leaving Niles for Los Angeles. He's really starting to hit his stride here, as a put-upon assistant of a handyman hired to fix up a house. The hi-jinks start with his struggle just to get there (Charlie is the "horse" pulling a cart with his boss and all their equipment) and just gets hi-jinksier (higher-jinks?) when they get there and start destroying the house.

And then an intermission, and finally the feature, which is definitely a classic (and the first silent film I ever bought on home video)

THE GOLD RUSH (1925): Ya know, I'm not even gonna bother recapping the plot. Charlie's a prospector, wacky hi-jinks mixed with very human drama (besides eating his shoe, he gets his heart broken a bit). And it's every bit deserving of it's classic status.

One final note, the museum has recently come into possession of more films than we can store in our vault, and we desperately need money for a cold storage unit. So if you're inclined to want to help preserve silent film, you can go right here for more information and to donate to our cold storage fund.

Total Running Time: 216 minutes
My Total Minutes: 187,633

Jason watches SPLICE

And it might be good...or it might be perfect fodder for Bad Movie Night. Certainly there's a lot of cheesy moments to make fun of (and dammit, single organisms don't evolve, species do over several generations! A biologist would fucking know that!)

Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are husband-wife genetic splice-masters who've created these pulsating blob animals that are a great source of medicinal compounds. But they want to take it to the next level. For them, that means adding human DNA, for management that means productizing the drugs their critters create. So they do what all good scientists do--they create their monster in secret. And the little monster is frightening at first (if for nothing else, the fact that she outgrows her incubation tank in about a day), but Elsa starts to raise her as a daughter. Clive is against it, and is afraid they'll get caught. As the story goes on, the relationships change a lot, and the story is actually about the troubles of raising a child, especially a genetically manipulated freak that grows at an accelerated rate (for no discernible reason beyond the constraints of running time). Although [spoiler alert] it goes a bit overboard with the sex scenes.

If this movie is meant to be as deadly serious as the actors seem to think, it failed. But it'll be one of my guilty pleasures.

Running Time: 104 minutes
My Total Minutes: 187,417

Jason slips through a Vortex and lands in a beatnik world

Or rather, Will the Thrill of Thrillville took over the Vortex room last Thursday night to play a couple of beatnik flicks.

First up, A BUCKET OF BLOOD. Roger Corman's awesome send-up of the beatnik hipster art scene. Walter Paisley is a busboy at a beatnik cafe. He wants to be an artist--specifically a sculptor--but he can't make the clay do what he wants. Until one night, his cat stuck in the wall is driving him crazy, and he stabs it--through the wall--with a knife. And so to cover it up, he literally covers it up with clay, making a sculpture of a murdered cat (knife and all) that is an instant sensation. So he's just gotta make more, and that naturally leads to human figures.

Then THE BEAT GENERATION. There's a serial rapist--the aspirin kid--running around town. The cops are on his tail. Then I drink too many martinis and fall asleep. I...I hope the aspirin kid didn't get me.

Total Running Time: 161 minutes
My Total Minutes: 187,313

Jason watches George Romero's SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD

I'm enough of a fanboy that I don't think it's possible for me to really not like a George Romero movie. I even (kinda) joke that I understand cultural zeitgeist through Romero's DEAD films. The 60's (NIGHT were about race relations. The 70's (DAWN) were about consumerism. The 80's (DAY) were about military buildup. The 00's were about class warfare (LAND) and new media (DIARY). And I don't understand the 90's because Romero didn't make a DEAD movie. And unlike other fanboys who were disappointed in pretty much everything since DAWN, I still liked LAND and DIARY.

And although I liked a lot about SURVIVAL--mostly Romero's sense of humor--this is the first time that I didn't immediately feel he had captured something in the current zeitgeist. Some survivors escape to an island off the eastern seaboard, where two families live and feud. The patriarch of the O'Flynn's leads a "kill 'em all" group to cleanse the island of zombies. The patriarch of the Muldoons can't kill his kin, and searches for a cure--first step, get them to eat something that isn't human. So of course, the O'Flynn's and Muldoons fight. O'Flynn is kicked off the island, but posts a video on Youtube inviting people to join him. And although it's a trap, a crew of ex-military and other randoms makes it to the island, with O'Flynn, and mayhem ensues. But the feel is very much Hatfield/McCoy, and seems like such a throwback to earlier times that it doesn't feel like a movie about the 00's or 10's (it actually premiered last year). And there are many moments where it seemed like the outsiders were looking at the feud and thinking "what's this all about?" Much like I was.

However, I loved the ending, and as I said I like Romero's sense of humor and I can never not like a ____ OF THE DEAD film. It's just that this one is the least consequential.

Running Time: 90 minutes
My Total Minutes: 186,950