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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Mechanical Candle's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, June 22nd, 2014
7:51 pm
ASSISTANCE NEEDED! Wedding Song Playlist!
ASSISTANCE NEEDED! Wedding Song Playlist!

Hey everyone, asking for a little help here.

As many of y'all likely know, my wedding is approaching at near lightspeed. I've done pretty good so far, but we've just gotten to the part where we put together the dance mix for the DJ.

As embarrassing as it is for a former AMV master of ceremonies, I'm sitting here with complete brain-blank. My music-muscles are years out of condition, and I barely listen to the radio any more. Online lists are way too generic. So I thought I'd give crowdsourcing a try.

I'm looking for suggestions! New, old, romantic, silly, lovey-dovey, inside jokes... things you think are just perfect for me and Kristy, or just me, or just Kristy. Songs you always thought were perfect for weddings, things you've heard before at weddings that worked well. I'll even take joke or troll suggestions.

And don't worry, it'll have to get through Kristy, who is much more level-headed about these things, so don't hesitate to offer anything that springs to mind. Calmer minds than mine will filter the response.

This is open to everybody! Friends, family, AMVers, people I only know through the internet, strangers... whoever! Offer as many as you like! (I could really use the help...)
Sunday, March 16th, 2014
4:02 pm
Hey all,

Many of y'all were kind enough to assist in the packing up of my place. I'm going through the details of getting the last bits into boxes at this point. If anyone would like to assist in getting all the pre-prepared boxes into the back of a 14-foot UHAUL, then you should know that the packing day is intended to be THIS TUESDAY.

I'll be fetching the truck in the morning-noon window and starting the slow packing process shortly thereafter. We aren't planning on driving out until the next morning, so don't feel any obligation, and for heaven's sake, don't take off work: we're planning on packing all day. Stop by if you like and if you've got an hour or two after work to lend a hand.

I genuinely hope that the process will be simple, but I've got a few awkwardly-shaped things that'll be good to have an extra hand or two of help.

Call if you like before you come over to see if we've finished up.
Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
12:02 am
"Here is the end... per-ish the wo'ld..."
"Well, same time next week, boys. We've got to get a winner one of these days."

Ladies and gents, it's finally happened. It started over 7 years ago (2/21/2008) immediately following my move to the new apartment, and now it's finishing immediately before my heading off into the sunset. A grand total of 250 movie nights and something approaching (I'll count it at some point) 500 individual films. We've laughed, we've cried, we've mocked Matt for repeatedly burning the popcorn, we've chased cereal moths and had Bailey announce arrivals, we've braved snowstorms and heatwaves, we've screamed in agony at the "blame Casey" nights, we've groaned at the thematic pairings or the absurd "secret themes." We've watched commentary tracks, badly translated foreign films, cartoons twisted by context, fled headlong from anything Matt called an "art flick," and come to understand the genius of Nicholas Cage.

And here we are. At the conclusion. What more can be said? We've even already accomplished the ourobouros tail-eating on night #249 with a lazy replay of the first movie night, albeit palindromized. Appropriately enough (since most of my place is packed already) there's just the sweeping up and stacking of chairs left. As the great modern prophet once said "the seats are all empty/let the roadies take the stage."

But there is time for just one last hurrah. Yes, movie night may continue, though in a greatly changed form ("ask me about Mattflix!"), but it will be a different thing, with a different name and a different numbering. Yes, it's time for one last party, one last movie pairing. So crack open those reserve bottles, scrape the barrel for the last of the popcorn, and for God's sake help me clear out the last of the beer, because As you have guessed by now.... this is the end.

The Period: The World's End (109 minutes, 2013) The Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz crew complete their "Cornetto" trilogy (a British ice-cream treat that they didn't intend to tie the trilogy together, but it just sort of happened) with this oddly divisive piece. Simon Pegg plays a stubbornly retro burnout forever trying to relive the glory days of his youth, and hatches a plan to draft the old gang (including an especially recalcitrant Nick Frost) into returning to their old stomping grounds to complete a legendary pub crawl they'd failed at while in school. Pegg accomplishes the surprising feat of being highly charismatic while almost entirely unlikeable. The film is poignant, as it's an examination of nostalgia both from the hopeless devotee and those with an absolute abhorrence for backward-looking, but despite excellent craft and some pretty good humor, it's gotten extremely mixed reviews... that I've noticed fall entirely along a particular (and unusual) age bracket. I think the audience members beyond a certain age (33 or so) can understand the pathetic joke that Pegg is portraying. The old man at the party wearing band shirts 15 years out of date. The guy who never got a life and moved on to adulthood. The sleazy con-artist convinced that the mid-to-late 20's is the only age worth being and stubbornly refuses to leave it behind. All of this in contrast to his friends who've moved on, accepted that their garage band will never have a world tour, that they won't hit it rich in Vegas, that they're actually happy settling down to a wife and a boring job and relaxing on the weekend, instead of drinking themselves into an adolescent blackout and waking up next to a really awful mistake. It's easy to understand why the younger audience members might think this was a lackluster outing... it's practically a direct refutation of their self-important age group and obsessive devotion to whatever pop culture is making the rounds. (I won't go any further into the flick, for fear of spoiling it as it was spoiled for me.)

The Question Mark: This is The End (107 minutes, 2013) Ensuring that we go out with the "good movie/bad movie" standard firmly entrenched, we will end with this supposedly comedic offering from the stoner faction of the unholy trinity of "comedic Seth" (Seth McFarland, Seth Rogan, Seth Green). The setup is pure genius; what if the rapture happened, and no one in Hollywood knew what was going on because they were all terrible people who didn't deserve to go to heaven? Unfortunately, this potential is largely wasted, as the film spends most of its currency on "the odd couple, times three" with intermittent stoner humor. The main cast essentially play themselves, a group of spoiled, self-important, unfunny comedians trapped in a house and gradually driving one another to distraction through petty, selfish, or obsessive behavior. It relies for its humor on the audience being familiar with, and caring about these celebrity (??) comedians and the long list of friends they drafted into cameos. Add in a large helping of "we're not gay, but we keep ending up in gay situations" and spice with masturbation & rape jokes and you have a microcosm of why all modern comedy sucks. True, it's not a total loss. There are good moments, a few funny jokes, and almost inexplicable direct references to The Mist and Rosemary's Baby. But above all, it has a really awesome ending that may actually redeem the whole work.

WARNING: I fully expect this week's movie night to devolve into an impromptu going away party. Please?
Friday, March 7th, 2014
12:20 am
Movie night #249
​Movies for this week: a return to the origin, the flicks from Movie night #1.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre & House of the Dead.

Summary to follow, if I find the time.
Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
9:27 pm
"The only person standing in your way is you."
This week's selections are all about that very particular breed of friend. The kind that irritates, that challenges. The kind that knows you well enough to really dig in where it hurts and goad you to achieve what you'd never think you could otherwise. The modern, hipster butchering of the English language would term these individuals "frenimes," but I really think the glib dismissal doesn't speak to the true intensity of the relationship. As has been said time and time again, "friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies." These are relationships that arise more out of mutual conflict... the confrontations that shake you out of your normal complacency and encourage you to make a real change. People fortunate enough to have a friend like this really should be greatful... in between the drunken fights and the caustic sniping. So, all preamble aside, let me introduce my friend. His name is Harvey...

Portman's Neurotic Obsession: Black Swan (2010, 108 minutes) A hallucinatory, beautiful film structured around the struggles of an up-and-coming ballet dancer, played by Natalie Portman, as she vacillates wildly between utter devotion to her craft, harried target of her mother's displaced ambition, and a obsession/hatred relationship with the studio's secondary star, played by Mila Kunis. From the description alone, one might be forgiven for expecting a straight-up drama, plodding dully over the white-people-problems of artificially esteemed high art, but there's just a touch of... vertigo here. A lingering impression of disorientation, a slight seaward cant of the story and the characters that begins an uncontrolled precessing outside the realm of normal drama. Portman's stress, devotion, and neurosis become uncomfortably intertwined with the awkward unfolding of a repressed sexuality, and her emotional confusion towards her rival, Kunis, begin manifesting as something a bit more... intense, a bit more... erotic, a bit more... unbalanced. Though a bit slow to start, the film heralds Darren Aranofsky's return to the realm of the truly mental and reveals a director better with the 'light touch' than in Requiem for a Dream, and better at shaping an entire graceful work than in Pi.

Jack's Sense of Entitlement: Fight Club (1999, 139 minutes) David Fincher, another director famous for head-trippery, best seen in his grotesque explosion of the police procedural into the realm of horror (Se7en), directs a book by Chuck Palahniuk, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Norton, a pathologically lonely insomniac claims adjuster entirely benumbed to the horror of modern life by the analytical manner in which his job forces him to evaluate human tragedy is shaken out of his complacency by a chance encounter with a complete philosophical anarchist (Pitt) during a cross country flight. Abandoning his previous life to throw in with this anarchist, Norman finds himself oddly freed from his neurosis and first-world concerns, and almost accidentally participates in the founding of an underground bare-knuckle fighting circuit with oddly cult-like membership of similarly benumbed modern men. Then things start to get out of hand. A film commonly misconstrued as a simplistic, chauvinistic assertion of male ego recovery through meaningless violence, a close analysis of the film reveals an almost total inversion of this assumption. While crude, confusing, and frequently disgusting and violent, the film sports a much deeper, nihilistic psychosis of a philosophy, reveling in the morass of self-conscious modern neurosis and gleefully dancing around the eventual implosion of any attempt to break free. Essentially a study on the collapse of pop psychology, disguised as a misanthropic self-help seminar.

WARNING: Will try to start on time, as the flicks are a little longer than usual.
10:34 am
Movie night # 248 FRIDAY
Movie night this week will be FRIDAY, as the flicks are a little longer than usual. This week will be Black Swan & Fight Club. Summaries to follow when I get away from the meeting here...
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
11:17 pm
"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the war room!"
So, we're coming down to the wire here. Only a few more movie nights to go. And it turns out that it's a lot easier to select movies when they aren't all boxed up and have to be hunted through by the index. A further handicap is making sure the pair are a reasonable length, since movie night has to be Thursday this week. And the dark-comedy-docudrama night was cancelled when I remembered why I'm never showing Man Bites Dog. Plus artsy flicks are reserved for next time. So, what am I to do? Perhaps it's time to get serious. Perhaps its time to contemplate that most malodorous invention of mankind. This is a horror night, right? So this week, (prompted in no small part by the discovery that the two movies are exactly next to each other in the alphabetical organization) we will devote to the greatest horror of all civilization. Nay, of all history, for it predates civilization. And anyone laughing will be shot, for, you see, War is serious business...

The Pavlovian Fascist: Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, 95 minutes) Stanley Kubric realizes that the film adaptation of a tense drama about international tensions leading to nuclear war is actually hilarious, and proceeds to direct Peter Sellers in three of his greatest roles ever. Ranking in the top 10 of enough "best of" lists to become actively boring, the late Gene Siskel's favorite film. In all seriousness, this may be the most beloved film I've ever screened at movie night, and there's very little I could write here that would properly add to its laurels. A dark, satirical comedy, it focuses on a single rouge general, paranoid about fluoridation in the water supply, attempting to initiate nuclear war with the Soviet Union by hijacking the failsafe system designed to assure mutual destruction. A laugh riot, right? Immensely popular even in the tense political wake of JFK's assassination (which event caused a delay in the release), it's generally considered to be one of the greatest satirical comedies ever made.

The Marxist Commune: Duck Soup (1933, 68 minutes) Confession time. My sense of humor derives entirely from episodes of MST3K, the old 'short attention span theater,' and the Marx brothers. This is my favorite comedy of all time. Referenced, imitated, homage-d, and flat out stolen on many occasions, this is the best of the 'brothers, all of the great without any of the tedium. (We even get away without any harp solos!) Appointed dictator of the nation of Freedonia, Groucho (as Rufus T. Firefly) is immediately embroiled in international intrigue with the neighboring nation of Sylvania, and must match wits with their master spies, Chico and Harpo. War, in all its farcical majesty, is inevitable.

WARNING: Haven't seen it in years. Worried about being disappointed.
Monday, February 10th, 2014
11:10 pm
MOVIE NIGHT: Thursday this week
Movie night is THURSDAY this week. Movies and summaries to follow.
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
7:51 pm
"He tied his own tendons!"

Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the theater has been locked and barricaded. You will note that the numerous armed guards in the balcony overwatching this week's screenings are heavily armed. I'm afraid recent far-seeing modifications to the constitution have determined that the best way to reduce crime, hunger, and carbon footprints is by reducing the movie-going public to a more manageable number. If you look under your seats, you will each find one of a number of items for use in self defense. (Those of you with no items must rely on your kung-fu.) I suggest that you all begin your proactive self-defense. If more than one of you is alive by the end of tonight's films, we'll just have to gas everyone. So sit back, and enjoy this week's pairing of Asian Thunderdomes.

The Explosive Collar: Battle Royale (2000, 122 minutes) When Koushun Takami's book was published, certain members of Japan's parliament attempted to get the film banned. When the film was released a year later, they tried to ban that as well. Predictably, both the book and the film were spectacular runaway hits. The final directoral work of the legendary Kinji Fukasaku (he is listed as the director of the sequel, but died very early in the process), on the surface this is a blood-soaked sadistic slaughterfest of amplified and caricatured high-school students kidnapped by the government and stranded on an island with instructions to kill one another until only one is left. Nastiness and high melodrama for its own sake. Scratch the surface, however, and you find a scathing indictment of Japanese culture, society, and government, the authorities in power forcing the younger generation to scratch and claw at one another like animals for advancement and survival. This attack on authority and tradition is a theme running throughout Fukasaku's work (arising from his youth in wartime Japan), especially in his efforts to demystify and deglamorize the Yakuza society in several violent and morbid gangster films. Casting actual teens as the students acted as a springboard for many young careers (even those a little too over-the-top), but the real standout performance here is the subdued and darkly comic work of the students' teacher, played by famously eclectic and prolific manzai comedian "Beat" Takeshi Kitano. Set in an alternate-history 1997, it's a considerably bleaker and a more pointed critique than the hyperbolized far-flung future of the similarly conceived Hunger Games.

The Intestinal Garrote: Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991, 91 minutes) Dead Alive is to Horror as Riki-Oh is to Kung-Fu. Need I say more? A Hong-Kong film based on a downright absurdly manly Gekiga manga by Masahiko Takajo, it's essentially HBO's "Oz" if Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star were locked up with them. Nominally set in a dystopian future where prisons have been privatized, leading to horrible conditions and gang-like structures among the prisoners, the film follows Ricky, the oddest Christ figure you've ever seen, from admission, through conflict with the boss prisoners, the guards... an odd ogre who wanders in, a psychopath with knitting needles, an assistant warden who keeps mints in his glass eye... a jail cell that fills with cement, the garbage compactors from Star Wars, you know, the usual. Spectacularly campy, deriving both from the film treatment and the essential camp in the original manga, this particular work is probably better known through the anime adaptation which made the rounds with almost as much regularity as Urotsukodoji. Colossally giant men square off, villains laugh evilly, manly tears are shed, tragic, ridiculous backstories are revealed, jaw-dropping gore is blunted by the low-budget makeup, honor is upheld, field surgeons are put to shame, and kung-fu punches through men, chains, concrete walls, steel bars, faces, and other fists. And the film's finale actually gives Dead Alive's lawnmower scene a run for its money.
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
4:17 pm
Movie night FRIDAY 2/7
This week's (tentative) flicks: Battle Royal & Ricky-Oh: The story of Ricky. Screening on FRIDAY, 'cause they're a little long.

Summaries to follow.
Thursday, January 30th, 2014
12:12 pm
OK everyone, from my ivory tower here in "home office day" it looks like the icy conditions are steadily lifting, and there's no more precipitation for tonight, so we are a "go" for Movie night. Got steady traffic through the neighborhood here, with no ice on the roads.

'Course, use your own discretion: if your neighborhood is still iced in or there's major blockage on your route, don't worry about making it. Stay safe and warm!
Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
11:53 pm
Movie night update: Seeing as how the weather for tomorrow is still looking uncertain for making the roads safe to travel, much less clear up the catastrophic traffic we've been afflicted with, it is a strong possibility that movie night will be postponed until Friday. I will update before noon tomorrow, but regardless, anyone who makes it over will be welcome whichever day they turn up.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
8:30 pm
"What kind of fiend are you?" "The kind that wins, my friend!"
Well, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that the weather this week will warm sufficiently to lift the current mandated panic here in the snowbound (2 inches) Atlanta, and we'll have movie night as scheduled. Watch this space for updates.

This week will be a contemplation of revenge. You see, after considerable thought, I've decided to blame all of you movie night attendees for my... uh.... nebulously terrible fate. Walking the land as I do, an undead, disfigured, insatiable consumer of the very worst films the world of horror has to offer can only be a result of my constant efforts to supply some meager fare, some entertaining pittance, for movie night every week. Naturally, this realization has condemned you all to a series of ironic, elaborately designed, and highly imaginative death-traps. As I have only the small apartment, I think you'll find that most of the death-traps center around a bear-trap in the popcorn bucket, but I make do with what I have. Nonetheless, I think you'll all find your fates suitably Abominable...

The Clockwork Musicians: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (94 minutes, 1971) With just short of 200 credits to his name, the fact that the virtuoso Vincent Price never developed a particular figure as "his" ("Lon Cheny's Wolfman" or "Bela Lugosi's Dracula") seems strange. His only real attempt (excepting Dr. Goldfoot which we would rather you forgot) would be in these, the profoundly odd pair of "Dr. Phibes" films. It essentially proposes a world in which there is a larger-than-life, high-vaudevillian evil mastermind bent on nasty, ironic, mechanical revenge against those who had wronged him, and there exists no competent good to oppose him. To describe Phibes as a "proto-Jigsaw" has some parallel, but is mostly just insulting. To compare the cartoonish kills and nasty comeuppance received by Phibes' targets to the straightforward moralizing of EC comics may coincidentally include a parallel to the arch gallows humor of a Crypt Keeper, but ignores the overwhelming Britishness of if all. The Phantom of the Opera would imply a manic insanity that isn't present, a Phantomas comparison would neglect the motive behind Phibes' evil. Moreover, any comparison would leave out the essential fun of the film: it's peppered with inside jokes and Price is hamming it up in one of the most essential camp performances of his life, having a riotous good time with it. Legend says that he kept ruining his makeup by bursting into laughter during takes. Which is all the more insane considering that Price had no lines, and doesn't speak until over 30 minutes into the film. (Figure that one out...) How camp is it? Price plays the titular character, a surgeon/concert organist, and is introduced while feverishly playing on a rising platform to the accompaniment of mechanical musicians. Price has to display an enormous range of emotion without ever moving his face. Acting the true moustache-twirling, Simon Bar-sinister menace that he is, Phibes sets about avenging himself against a series of surgeons in mid 1920's London. While I won't reveal the nature or motivation of his needlessly elaborate revenge (which would make Blofeld green with envy), let's just say it requires a fairly liberal reading of scripture and a series of cumbersome props. Pursued by only a righteous (but rather dull) do-gooder and a couple of bumbling police officers, the ending of the film still manages to surprise.

The Sexy Assistant: Dr. Phibes Rises Again (89 minutes, 1972) The second, and unfortunately final Dr. Phibes film unfortunately feels a bit of a shadow of the original. We have more ridiculous death-traps and Price again easily handling all the unique difficulties of this character, but significant budget cuts, late re-writes, and on-set clashes with his costar Robert Quarry all hamper the essential fun of the piece. We do, however, get a lot more of Vulnavia, Phibes' strange, sexy assistant. (Her return being almost as inexplicable as Phibes' own.) Taking advantage of the resurgence of interest in ancient Egypt (offering a parallel between the film's setting in the 30's and the film's release in the 70's), it centers on Phibes' obsessive search for a papyrus scroll containing a map to the secret of eternal life. Opposing him is the strangely obsessive Dr. Biederbeck, a character introduced with a hilarious bluntness in the first few minutes.

WARNING: Second film a little slow.
Monday, January 27th, 2014
9:18 pm
This week's flicks, The Abominable Dr. Phibes & Dr. Phibes Rises Again!

Summaries to follow.
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
10:53 pm
"Everybody Happy?"
Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the greatest Movie Night on earth! We've had man eating lions! We've had contortionists! We've had parades, fish people, carnivals, music, strong men, fat women, magicians, illusionists, and wild animals of every shape and size! Plants from outer space! We've even had a Hobo with a Shotgun and a display of Freaks! Is there anything under this great big top that we've overlooked?

Well, yes. Yes there is.

Let's not forget that king of all merrymakers... that figure who fills prank squirting flowers with acid and pops up to reassure that we all float down here. The ones who find magnets miraculous. The pallid face, the drunkard's bulbous red nose, weirdly applied war paint, and the garishly colored clothing of a flannel factory gone through a combine. That wide, red, soul eating grin. Hey everyone! Break out the greasepaint and your best oversized shoes! This week we're going to be Clowning Around...

The Seltzer Bottle: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988, 96 minutes) True "camp classics" are among the rarest breed of films you'll ever encounter. Those that don't try hard enough come off as films too lazy to be bothered to be serious. Try too hard, and they overreach into sly-winking-to-the-camera territory that just denigrates everyone... the actors by putting them in an admittedly trash piece, and the audience by bothering to pay money for it. Killer Klowns is the rare film that falls into the Goldilocks zone of being outrageously stupid without being insulting. Made forever famous for its seemingly infinite rotation on early HBO in the summers of 89-90, it purposefully apes the concept of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but putting everything in clown makeup. A series of hideous, rubbery, malicious clowns start making forays into town following the appearance of a mysterious Big Top just outside of city limits. Agressively low-budget and amateurish, the simple absurdity of every scene somehow works, and continuously drives home the point that you're watching a movie about clowns from outer space... and enjoying it. So who, exactly, is the joke here? Great fun, if a touch bloodless and nonsensical.

The Whipped Cream Pie: Stitches (2012, 87 minutes) An interesting thing happens when someone earnestly tries to update the 80's slasher, and does so without either ridiculing them or being too beholding to them. When done with a touch of skill, you discover how universally the formula still works. This derives from two things: the timelessness of the concept (wronged figure returns for revenge), and the timelessness of the setting (adolescence and high school still royally suck). Another in the recent rise of honestly amusing Irish horror films (Grabbers being another notable addition), it has everything you could ever want in a living-dead-clown-attack film. We have a secretive cabal of clown crypt keepers, we have a Leprechaun-like punny approach to the material, a menaced set of children-who-grew-apart, horny teens, house party, and a coulrophobic hero. The centerpiece, though, is genuine splatstick of the highest order. This film contains one of the greatest gore gags (emphasis on the joke) I've ever seen, and innumerable lesser additions. (I should note a startling, excessive inclusion of a Black Sheep/Feast moment that comes out of flippin' NOWHERE.) The film even includes the thing with the eggs. This isn't a horror film breaking new ground or inspiring deep introspection. It's about an undead clown. But it is damn funny.
1:45 pm
Flicks for Movie Night this week are Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Stitches. Summaries later today.
12:05 am
Movie night THURSDAY this week. Movie selection/summaries to follow.
Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
8:26 pm
"Communication with the Dead"
Wellp, miscalculated. Movie night is still Friday, but I got a call up in Nashville to tend to that day. Should I not make it back in time, I designate Casey to do his usual bang-up job of covering for me if he's available, and I'll join once I arrive. (Shouldn't come to that, though. It's just an introductory visit for the new area manager.)

This week we'll be revisiting some familiar territory, though we've only grazed it lightly of late, seeing it in combination with other concepts or odd environments. Gather everyone into the parlor, stoke up the fire to a roaring blaze, and gather close into the flickering light. Hand out the brandy snifters, and prepare a couple of mugs of 'flip. Ol' uncle Ebeneezer will be enthralling us with one of his famed Lonely Ghost Stories...

The Silent Figure: The Woman In Black (2012, 95 minutes) (I'd originally intended to show this with a little known flick called The Woman in White, but that's proved near impossible to track down.) While this film adaptation has only been around for a little over a year, the play upon which it's based is practically an institution. First premiering on London's West End in 1989, it's been running continuously ever since, becoming the second-longest non-musical run for a play in the city's history (behind, naturally, Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap). I was even told by a Londoner on the plane that it was a tradition at his school for the teachers to take the entire class out on a field trip to see the play. Which is all the more remarkable, as the play is set in the Victorian era, and involves only two actors. This film adaptation has only a slightly larger cast, but is still seen almost entirely through the solitary experiences of the widowed Arthur Kipps, played by Daniel Radcliffe. (...does this mean that Hermione didn't make it?) He arrives at an ancient, moor-bound manor to catalog the accounts left by the deceased owner, but his own grief seems to have stirred up a nasty local legend. A figure in black with a strange affinity for children... While the film was widely lambasted for a... less than tragic ending that is apparently not in keeping with the original play, I found it, at the least, an interesting and unexpected twist. Surprisingly nasty for a stage adaptation (though not nearly as bloody as Sweeny Todd so don't get your hopes up), this is a very well executed atmospheric piece.

The Weeping Angel: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012, 80 minutes) Another enormously short-staffed piece! Those who have been coming to movie night for a bit are likely to remember the short piece The Eyes of Edward James (which we may watch again, considering how short this week's flicks are). That oddly dreamlike, highly atmospheric piece was directed by one of the regular Canadian writers at RueMorgue Magazine, Rodrigo Gudino. This film represents his first feature attempt, and never let it be said he tried an easy subject. With a main cast of only two people (and one, the Vanessa Redgrave, present only in voiceover), we are treated to a haunting film about family, religion, and the influence of the dead upon the living. A man in his late 20's returns to the home of his estranged mother after her death, to find it overfilled to bursting with strange religious iconography... and possibly something else. Dealing weirdly with angel and candle magic ideas, the film's real star is its amazing sound design. Seamless integration of soundtrack, effects, and beautifully balanced atmosphere weigh more and more heavily on the audience as the film proceeds. Although I can't say that I appreciate the film's thesis, revealed in the movie's final moments, I won't deny the amazing craft that went into it.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
10:49 pm
Just a quick notice that movie night will be FRIDAY this week. Movie selection and summaries coming tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
8:39 pm
"Carlo You know, sometimes what you actually see and what you imagine...get mixed up in your memory"
Back in town and ready to roll. Be warned, the travel back from the great state of Lutefisk left me with a touch of the sore throat (which only really blossomed with the new year), so take under advisement. I will report if it gets any worse, but for the moment it's just a little raw and annoying.

I know I say this a lot, but with another year rolling around, I find myself falling further into deficit as far as movie watching and having clever comparisons/pairings turn up. That doesn't mean I'm out of flicks to show... not by a long shot... but it does mean that the cleverness of the pairings may taper off a bit. This week, for example, I just decided to try and cover a neglected master whom we've only touched upon once before with Suspiria. Yes, this week we're emptying the pantry... piling up the pasta, tomatoes, and lots of garlic. Then we're stepping back, and watching a True Italian Master at work.

The Cheeky Red: Profondo Rosso aka Deep Red (1975, 126 minutes) As we've noted before, the "giallo" film is a uniquely Italian genre best described as bloody, sadistic, voyeuristic thrillers, usually centered around a mystery serial killer. While essentially invented by Mario Bava (The Girl Who Knew Too Much), the most recognized giallo director is easily his student, Dario Argento, and Profondo Rosso, his masterpiece, is generally regarded as the best film ever made in the genre. (Argento even named his shop in Rome after it.) The film centers around an American Jazz musician living in Rome who happens to witness a spectacular and very bloody murder by an unseen assailant. From that point, his efforts to identify the killer (with the assistance of a plucky female journalist) drive the story forward, but the real attraction is in the craft of the flick. Suspense is expertly built, the framing and imagery grows increasingly surreal and absurdly violent. It even contains one of the most honestly freak-out-WTF-jump-out-of-my-chair moments I've seen on film since they opened that closet door in House. A genuinely puzzling mystery and probably the best employ of a memory device Argento used first way back in The Bird with Crystal Plumage: that of a scene observed, but not correctly interpreted.

NOTE: Very long. If we get started late, the second feature may be switched to something shorter.

The Bold Chianti: Opera (1987 107 minutes) Whereas Profondo Rosso is generally regarded as the best giallo ever made, Opera is considered to be the last good giallo Argento assembled. Perhaps a little indulgently, Argento plotted this film around a horror director attempting to break through into legitimate theater with an avante-garde production of Verdi's opera Macbeth. (Argento has complained about his inability to get people to see him as anything but a horror director. Fulci similarly confronted this in his own delirious manner with Cat in the Brain.) Centering around the opera's understudy after she takes over the lead role of Lady Macbeth, we againg have a muder mystery. Another unseen serial killer is on the loose, apparently a fan of the young diva, but weirdly obsessed with making the young woman witness the deaths (literally) of all her loved ones. Admittedly, the story frequently reaches to absurd lengths in order for the plot to work, but the film is well shot and the unveiling of the killer is one of the more spectacularly fun (if a bit silly) ones in recent memory.

WARNING FOR BOTH FILMS: Very Italian. In other words, not particularly progressive...
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