Thursday, June 30, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE NEON DEMON (2016)
This was exactly what I was hoping for. Elle Fanning, in a performance that proves she's very talented and I'm not just being forgiving, plays Jessie, a 16 year-old who starts modeling. Almost immediately, everyone she comes in contact with is fascinated by the unattainable quality of her natural beauty, and how exploitable it could be. An expressionistic sort of movie, almost like a giallo film, but not an overt horror film. I did need a little while afterwards to decompress. Stunning to look at (and to listen to; the score works incredibly well with the feeling director Nicolas Wending Refn is trying to create in the viewer), with its neon colors and its flashbulbs as everyone around Jessie tries to make her the thing they want her to be (and she sheds layers of societal misogyny to allow herself to be who she is). Refn clearly sees the beauty industry as something that consumes its own, and in The Neon Demon he deals in the weird hostility that beauty can create. I can't stop thinking about it. It's not for everyone, but I thought it was beautiful and strange. Jena Malone, as a make-up artist who supports Jessie, is pretty bold and fearless in the movie. An excellent, polarizing film, and finally a worthy successor to Refn's Drive. (Let's just move past Only God Forgives.) ****

SISTER (2012)
Interesting drama about a 12 year-old boy who lives near a ski resort in Canada. Living in poverty with his sister (Lea Seydoux), he heads up to the resort each day to steal skis and other equipment that he can re-sell to feed himself. He doesn't appear to go to school. His sister, who is obviously prostituting herself between jobs that she quits because they're boring, disappears for days at a time. It's a story about doing what you have to do to survive, and it's very compelling, but then something re-contextualizes everything and the real desperation of the boy's life is shown in relief. I was quite moved by it. ****

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Quick Statement on a Change in My Life

It goes like this: no matter who you are--friend, family member, casual acquaintance, frequent commenter, whomever--if you support Donald Trump for President of the United States, never speak to me again.

It's that simple.

If you support this bigot, this racist, this climate change denier, this advocate for the lax gun regulations that lead to regular massacres, you are not the kind of person I will listen to. You are not reasonable. And if you can overlook such things because of some other empty campaign promise, you're a coward.

I'm not one of those "Well, I have to keep peace with this racist or Islamophobe or homophobe or misogynist or gun evangelist because I'm related to him/her" kind of people. I'm sick of living in your world.

And if you want something that affects me even more personally, this is a guy who wants to repeal Obamacare, which is something that I need to live. If you think I don't have the right to live because I happen to be poor and handicapped, then why, oh, why would I ever need to talk to you? You don't respect me. Why bother trying to talk to someone who doesn't even respect that I should be alive?

No, fuck Trump. And if you support him, I don't want you in my life.

Winter Is Here

This montage of Game of Thrones set to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" serves as fantastic hype for tonight's season finale. Can't wait; this season has really been delivering. Nudity, violence, and spoilers for season 6.

Song of the Week: "Easy"

Randomly came across this cover of the old Commodores tune by Faith No More. Rough, but surprisingly soothing. Apparently they recorded this around '92 or '93 and would perform it in concert to spite heavy metal fans. I'm feeling easy like a sunny side up egg this morning, alone in quiet apartment with a light rain falling, so I'm just groovin' with this.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

BEACH PARTY (1963)
The first of AIP's series of movies with Frankie and Annette. I really enjoyed it. It's kind of like a Disney movie of the same time period, but funnier and aimed at horny teenagers. This is one of those movies, too, where the sex comedy is sort of filtered through the lens of the older generation, and Bob Cummings is funny as an anthropologist trying to make sense of the beach culture. It's just a really cute movie, very sure of itself. Looks good, too; the copy I saw on Turner Classic Movies had great colors. Also dug the Vincent Price cameo. ***

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gave Myself a Treat for a Change

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite sites on the internet is Dinosaur Dracula. It's the best nostalgia trip online, as far as I'm concerned, because the gent who runs it is near in age to me and we experienced the same time period firsthand, so he remembers all of the great pop culture of the 80s and 90s and still gets excited for it today without being one of those douchey Buzzfeed-addled 90s Kidz that infected Tumblr. (Yeah, you're not a 90s kid if you were born in 1997, anymore than I'm a 70s kid because I was born in 1976 because I remember nothing from the 70s, guys.)

Anyway, Dino Drac has gotten in on the monthly subscription game by offering a Fun Pack for $25 a month. Our financial situation being what it's been for the past several years, I honestly didn't even look at what came in each Pack. I had an idea--trading cards, little toys, a newsletter, etc. Great stuff if you love the site as much as I do. But I just couldn't afford it and, jealous and disappointed, I didn't want to make it worse for me by looking longingly at all of the stuff I'd never have. I think it's that thing where I want to be a part of the community, but I also don't want people whose sites I really adore and look up to to know what a dork I am, so I just admire from afar.

I've given up wanting things to the point where if you asked me what one thing I want even right now, I'd have no idea what to tell you.

But this time... well, we're doing a little better this year (and Becca's really killing it at conventions) and... well, I just couldn't resist. Once I was firmly convinced (by Becca) that we'd be fine if I spent twenty-five bucks this month, I had to take a chance on this month's Dinosaur Dracula Fun Pack.

I mean, there was an E.T. toy and my birthday's next month...

Well, it came yesterday, and I'm just so damn pleased with this thing.

Original art! Trading cards! Pogs! Trolls! A newsletter and a subscription-only story! Just all kinds of stuff that says thank you for being a fan and contributing a little to the upkeep of the site. It makes me feel so damn good. Jeez, I haven't opened a pack of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves trading cards since I was a freshman in high school. I still haven't opened these! I don't know if I want to just keep the pack the way it is.

(Side note: I need to write about this great soda shop called Rocket Fizz that we found in Geneva. They also have old trading cards, and the next time I go in, I'm going to just pull the trigger and buy a pack of Dick Tracy cards. Dick Tracy and Gremlins 2 were pretty much my entire summer of 1990.)

Two things made this for me. First, the E.T. figurine. These were made by LJN (who made my beloved Gizmo) in 1982. I remember seeing these on the rack at Toys 'R' Us back then. Because I was so terrified of E.T. for years that even the sight of him filled me with irrational panic, I was always aware of where everything E.T.-related was at all times, lest I get too close. 1982 was a hard summer in a lot of ways, people. (So of course it's my favorite movie now.)

At first, I was going to take E.T. out of the package. I mean, I'm not one of those guys who keeps every figure packaged for eternity. But... I don't know, the package is really nice, and there's no yellowing and the purples and blues are just kind of pleasing... Plus, Matt from Dino Drac went to so much trouble to make sure they stayed nice in transit, putting them in a bubble wrap sleeve with a cardboard back, that I felt a smidge guilty opening that sucker. So E.T. went on the wall.

There was a nice spot under my Muppet Show poster, with the piece of the WALL-E display and a Hot Wheels Millennium Falcon that was a gift from Jaquandor (and, to his surprise, the first Falcon I've ever had). These are just to my immediate left as I sit at the computer desk, above my scanner, so I see it all the time. These things inspire me.

So, because I wasn't paying much attention to the Fun Packs, I had no idea that there's also a specimen of some kind included with every one. And that's the second thing that made this for me: the specimen this month was a single piece of Batman cereal from 1989.

I've mentioned before that Ralston's tie-in cereal is, honestly, my favorite breakfast cereal of all time. I think that has as much to do with the fact that 1989 was one of the shittiest years of my life as it did with the way the cereal tasted. God, that was a terrible year for me; my parents' divorce was final, it was smack in the middle of junior high, we moved out of my childhood home, my cat ran away... But that was also the summer of Batman, Ghostbusters II, Star Trek V, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a ton of great NES games, the "Inferno" crossover in X-Men titles and Madonna's Like a Prayer album. I had distractions, man. That year was Wrestlemania V! The Mega Powers exploded!

(My parents got divorced and even the Mega Powers couldn't stay together. What was there to believe in?)

So, like most kids, I was about everything Batman, and the cereal was pretty much all I ate for breakfast for the next half-year. Even looking at that box makes my mouth water.

You know what bugs me? When people say it's just Cap'n Crunch. Take it from a long time Crunchberry fan, you're just being dismissive and wrong. Cap'n Crunch doesn't have that sweet honey flavor. (Of course, going by almost every contemporary review of someone attempting to eat packaged Batman cereal, neither does Batman cereal anymore. Everyone says it just tastes like the plastic now. I'll never have this stuff again...) They tasted a lot like Mr. T cereal, another great, but limited, cereal. If you can manage to find a box of Quisp (which is like eight bucks at Aldi), it's much more like Batman and Mr. T. Fuck Cap'n Crunch. He's not even in the real Navy.

Look, we all know that breakfast cereal is not a fulfilling meal, so you might as well have something delicious to tide you over for the 90 minutes you'll almost feel full before suffering two hours of hunger pains before lunch. And for me, it was Batman. That was one of the few things I could rely on my Mom actually doing in 1989, for whatever reason: getting me Batman cereal every time she went to the store.

And now I have a specimen forever, and that just makes me kind of content. Batman cereal is emblematic of one of the best things from a complicated and unhappy time. And I have a little reminder of that. It's amazing.

It's also Dino Drac Specimen #23, and it bums me out profoundly that I couldn't get the first 22. I don't even know what they are, and I'm very curious, but I also don't want to see what I missed out on.

I'm a complex manchild. There are layers, like an old Nintendo 64 platformer.

(Also, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out on Tuesday and I'm way too excited.)

Thanks for the Fun Pack, Matt! It touched something deep that I wasn't expecting.