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Monthly Archives: August 2009

5 thoughts on District 9 and Inglourious Basterds

I’m never really sure what to say here about widely-seen and discussed movies. You’re a mouse-click away from more professionally-written articles than you could ever want to read about both these films. And while they’re both terrific films, I don’t really need to tell you to see them. I’d rather tell you to go see The Hurt Locker or (should your tastes go that way) Blood Freak. But here are some thoughts.

  1. The fact that both films are turning out to be very successful financially is, I think, a satisfying rejoinder to the arrogant, elitist view that mainstream audiences are too unsophisticated to want anything challenging in their summer movies. You have here an apartheid-themed movie set entirely in South Africa and a long, talky movie where most of the dialogue is in German and French. Neither will do Transformers 2 box office, but these movies are both going to make a lot of people a lot of money, and entertain people, to boot. And unlike Transformers, people are going to be talking about these movies ten years from now. The lesson is that with the right marketing, you can get away with all that as long as you aren’t boring.
  2. Inglourious Basterds is the work of a master at the peak of his abilities, and District 9, the work of an emerging talent, but both have a scrappy sureness and a mix of the cerebral and the visceral that I really enjoy. Though maybe it’s more accurate to say neither Tarantino or Blomkamp have any interest in distinguishing between the head and the gut in their filmmaking.
  3. Nazis and South African racists both make excellent villains, and both films give us a kind of alternate, fantasy take on events where historical evil can actually be appropriately punished. I’m not at all a bloodthirsty person, but I’ve been reading a lot of World War II history the past few years, and I could watch the climactic theatre scene of Basterds ten times in a row. The more I read about history the less sympathy I feel for the people who willingly stepped onto the wrong side of it.
  4. That said, Landa the Jew Hunter may be the single greatest character to ever appear in a Tarantino movie.
  5. canadian generic Misoprostol no prescription SPOILERS. I had been looking forward to both movies for a while, and trying not to learn too many details going in. This worked better for Basterds than District 9. I was actually a bit disappointed that the latter turned into such a typical action movie — maybe if I’d known, I’d have kept my expectations more modest. But Basterds continually went in new and unexpected directions. Tarantino has gone from a talented stylist and dialogue writer to the master of letting scenes unfold at their own pace, and without his crutch of pop-culture references (or the English language), you can see what a great storyteller he has become. I’ve not decided yet where Basterds fits into the Tarantino pantheon, but I look forward to watching it several more times to try to decide. District 9 mostly makes me eager to see what Neill Blomkamp does next.


Blood Freak (1972)

bfreak6Looking for something to wash out the bad taste of the Avatar trailer (it made Hitler sad)? Well, step right up and take a good, long gawk at Blood Freak. Most old exploitation flicks are pretty tedious, but every once in a great while, the psychotronic film geek’s prayers are answered with a film made with utter straight-faced earnestness while piling on layer after layer of WTF. My last such gift from the gods of greatbadfilmdom was the incredible Death Bed, and while the X-rated, grade-Z drive-in anti-classic Blood Freak isn’t quite the insane masterpiece that was, it’s pretty goddamn mindblowing in its own right.

The “plot” involves a biker Elvis lookalike with a vague European accent, who befriends a kindly Christian lady who takes him to a drug party (!). He gets seduced by her skanky sister, who is also Christian and also into drugs and who turns him onto the devil weed, which he becomes addicted to in about 17 seconds flat. Through a series of events that probably made sense to the director while he was coming down a spectacularly bad trip of his own, Euroelvis ends up eating some experimental turkey meat (!!) which turns him into a man with the head of a turkey!! Well, actually, it turns his head into a vaguely turkeyish lump of papier mache, but we know it’s supposed to be a turkey because he now can speak only in turkey gobbling (!!), and also, he now has an insatiable thirst for the blood of junkies (!!). You know, just like a real turkey. I’d try to describe more of the plot, but I think I’m running out of parenthesized exclamation points.

I know it sounds like this movie a spoof, but I swear, it is totally for-real. How do I know? Because it’s soooo fucking incompetent! Actors flub their lines and look at the camera, entire scenes are too dark or out of focus, and every 20 minutes, the leathery director himself shows up to chain smoke and explain whatever the hell his turkey-loathing brain has decided was going on in the scene we just saw. You can practically smell the bourbon and listerine on his breath.

All this, and I haven’t even touched on the turkeyman/skank love scene (she has a monologue about what their unfortunate children would look like), the ridiculous gore effects complete with looped stock screaming, or the heavy-handed Christian message, where everything works out all right in the end thanks to a whole lot of praying to Jesus. I have no idea how this movie got made, or who it was made for, but damn, am I glad it was. So I guess maybe it was made for me.


Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess

Wired has a fascinating look at Craigslist and how it got to be the weird, free site where I got my apartment.

a collection of humorously edited footage

Jandrew Edits, a bizarre and brilliant display of the fine art of editing. The Alf edits are particularly disturbing.

Thirst (2009)

thirst-nimg2On the surface, Thirst, the latest film from Park Chan-Wook (who did the brilliant Oldboy, the pretty great Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and the okay Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), is the story of a Korean priest who becomes a vampire. But what it’s really about is Park’s ongoing analysis of the corrosive effect sin has on the soul. Initially a bottomless well of compassion and morality in a world that needs it, the infected priest is soon drinking the blood of a bitter fellow priest and having hot vampire sex with an unhappily married woman. This leads to a cycle of increasingly immoral behaviour, with each step coming faster, steeper and easier.

As a thesis, that’s pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the movie jumps from idea to idea until it’s tonally all over the place. And while some of those tones are clear and sharp, a lot of them are pretty fucking leaden, with plot points added and abandoned and characters undergoing sudden unexplained personality changes.