In which I wander down nightmare lane to my very first horror movie, back when I was eleven, and all the ways it fucked me up wonderfully: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. Read more
So what can I tell you? I fucked this up, didn’t I. Everybody loves Mamo 324, except for me, and my reasons are entirely vain - I feel like there was an opportunity for me to interact with what Matty Price was saying, thinking, and confessing, that I didn’t get on top of in the moment of truth. Now, as per the usual with Mamo, the moment of truth is literally the - i.e. only - moment of truth. We don’t do retakes. We don’t edit (much). And we almost never talk about what we’re going to bring to the show before we bring it to the show, because that would rob the episode of its conversational nature - we want to respond to one another’s ideas in real time. So, I responded in real time to Matty Price’s ideas about how his dislike of horror movies was linked to a shame response triggered by his experiences being bullied as a child - and I sucked at it.Read more
I’ve been making movies for, what? About exactly 25 years? I must have started when I was 11 or 12, or earlier. It’s become increasingly clear to me in the last little while – in the most comforting, serene, wonderful of ways – that I may be done. What does “done” mean: it means only that for the majority of my life, a quarter of a century even, there was a persistent “pull” in the back of my mind telling me that I should be making a movie, which alternately inspired or tortured me with flights of creativity / a profound sense of failure as I went along. That “pull” seems to be gone.
A few things are clicking into place. The first is the absolute absence of ideas – I have none. There is nothing “in the basement,” as Rocky put it. Nothing kicking around in the back of my head on the (till now) ceaseless laundry list of things I’d like to put on tape someday. It’s not a lack of drive or ambition; there is nothing being suppressed or unexpressed here, which used to be half the problem. It’s just that there’s nothing waiting for me to work on it. I think maybe those things died with Who Remembers How It Ends? Not because that was any kind of final work of anything. It just happened to be the last one. (The title, at least, finally has a purpose.)
There’s an obvious catalyzing factor, too. I am transitioning, and have been for a while, from one phase of my life to another. It took a frustratingly long time to get here. I think I have been leaning towards this new lifestyle for a few years now, unable to move any further than “leaning,” for a variety of reasons beyond my direct control. Now, all of a sudden, the gate is wide open – and I see a possibility, a strong, bright, golden one. It excites me all up and down, but it has nothing to do with the thrilling pull inside me that used to slowly, one by one, tease movies out of my unconscious and into formless shapes that slowly became less formless over the months and years it took to commit something like them to tape, and show them to a crowd.
And it was always something like them, as I guess every content creator on the planet is well aware; nothing ever came out of my efforts that was anything more than, say, 15% similar to whatever pure energy it represented at its inception. That made the final products seem frustrating and rudimentary, like I was fumbling for a language I couldn’t speak, based only on the street signs of a foreign city I was visiting for the first time. I got to a point, a place in my ability to express myself in visual ideas, and got no further - and even allowing that everyone must feel this frustration to an extent, I also know for a fact that there are people who do get further. And I’ve been aware, and have been for a long time, that there was a line between me and the people who really oughta be doing this for a living. Before the pull went away, that awareness drove me crazy, made me feel awful about myself, made me feel like a Failure with a capital F that struck down right to the bottom of my soul. My inner 16-year-old self was screaming at me, all the time, and especially for the first five years of my thirties.
And then, thank goodness, thank the stars, thank all the good things under the bright brilliant sun, the pull went away - and it stopped.
That autumnal feeling that walked me through Sherwood Forest when I was a teenager, dreaming up shots for The Hunt or Fate of Dietrich; the pulse-quickening drive that propelled my feet independent of my body as I walked into the womens’ washroom at York University while inventing Light & Magic. Even whatever slow, eggshell-dry artistic certainty held strong enough to defiantly, if meekly, see Who Remembers? through to the end. Finally, that inexorable need - by which I was judging myself, rightly or wrongly, every day - became a need for something else, and altogether warmer, and more loving, and better.
I thought of something last week, while riffing with Rajo on Twitter, called The ABCs of Puberty, a better sequel to The ABCs of Death than the re-run ABCs of Death 2. I immediately called “C is for Cum Rag” – because I could write, and make, a hell of a 3-minute cum rag short, based on my own, real-life experience. I’ll tell you about it sometime. But for the purposes of this story, on the night in question, I felt a bit of something like that pull. And was then aware, just as quickly, that a) it was real, authentic pull, just like all the others, and yet b) I could put it away, and live the rest of my life without ever acting on it. Because other things make me happy now, and that old pull just passes through me, like a friendly, comforting old sigh.
Having never had a fuckbuddy, I don’t know how true-to-life Hollywood’s strange fuckbuddy double feature is (No Strings Attached / Friends With Benefits, which arrived within months of each other in 2011). I can say that Friends With Benefits comes within striking distance of being a pretty good rom-com, while No Strings Attached has a script so hacky and dull that it renders anything else about the movie that might have been working (lead performances, particularly) fairly useless. I do enjoy these random confluences of attempted zeitgeist, though, especially when both instances pretty much fail. Just like the two Die Hard at the White House movies this summer, no one wanted the Fuckbuddy movies back in ‘11. And why not, I ask? Fuckbuddies! In movie form! If this dents Hollywood’s enthusiasm for trying to slalom the romantic comedy mold around post-Facebook sexual games, I will be… well, not affected in the slightest, really, but surely someone could come up with a good movie about sexting - right? Couldn’t they? Nah.Read more
And then this thing happened. Whilst trolling the Netflix with the impossible girl a week or two ago, the best trifecta possibly ever in the history of early-autumn movies happened all at once: Martha Marcy May Marlene, followed by Mud, followed by Winter’s Bone. In a weak-ass, disspiriting year for the movies - hell, even Price has announced his retirement! - a few golden rays of cinema shot out, all chilly and Novemberish though their light may have been. And one of them was even from this year.Read more
When I was in high school and asked about my life’s ambitions, my answer would always be the same: “I want to be a hermit.” This was at least marginally Obi-Wan Kenobi related, because he is and always has been my hero, and at least partially also due to persistent dreams I had throughout my adolescent and university-aged life, where I would just wander into the desert, and find in it a peace and simplicity that was quite otherwise lacking in my (then) modern life.Read more
I don’t envy any TV series that had to run during these last few episodes of Breaking Bad, let alone on the same night and time; to say nothing of the damping effect upon the entire media that the BB coverage inevitably creates, it must also be discouraging to know that the “best show” honours are irrevocably spoken for, and that nothing you can do will make a dent.
So a funny thing happened a few weeks ago, which is that The Newsroom - Sorkin’s endlessly troubled, and troubling, vanity project for HBO - got really, really, really fucking good.Read more
Saturday, 6:50 p.m. - The Lightbox - Art is magnificent. It is uncanny. There is no accounting for its alchemies. “Please let me be your pretend boyfriend,” a nerdy man asks a yakuza princess in an uncharacteristically quiet scene at around the midpoint of Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, and I found myself wondering: how did all the threads in this film (of which there are a great many, all running parallel in the first half) pull and twang just so, to arrive at this scene’s tension?
I left Hell early on Friday night and went back on a whim on Saturday, and could not be more grateful I did. Like Meadow Mari before it, I do not know what that film is, but I know that it is magnificent, daffy, outrageous, brilliant, and made (seemingly) just for me. It rung every single one of my bells, and made me take it more seriously than it wants to be taken. All of those parallel threads in the first half - too many and too complex, I’d argue, for a midnight viewing - snap together with perfect lucidity when viewed wide awake, and the back half of that movie, once all the pieces are in place, is a goddamned masterpiece. Like, I actually left wondering if Why Don’t You Play In Hell? might be the best movie I’ve ever fucking SEEN. Art transforms: and that movie takes its component elements and transforms, transcends, and transports.
Sunday, 5:16 p.m. - the Queen and Beaver - Two films in a row, Cannibal and Paradise: Hope, had me questioning at midpoint what outcome I actually wanted in each case. Cannibal is about a cannibal who falls in love with a woman associated with one of his murders; what do I want, there, from that couple, besides for the cannibal to die in a fire? Paradise: Hope is about a 13-year-old girl at fat camp who falls in love with the camp doctor. Do I want our heroine’s romantic aspirations to play out? Neither film is bad, and both films ring with an unpleasant tension. They are both best described as “austere.” I will not need to see either again.
TIFF ‘13 winds to a close. I am at the Queen & Beaver for a hand-chopped burger and some pints with my friends, to round things off. This was the year, festival-wise, when we finally walked across the border from film to digital - I never saw a single print, the whole week long, though I understand there were in fact three at the festival. It was also the year, apropos of nothing when we walked across the border from pubic hair being the norm, to its absence being the norm, on all those splendid vulvae on all the splendid women who make “art film” its notorious, proverbial self the world over. This sphere has moved from analogue to digital, from “what I grew up with” to “what I will tell my disbelieving grandkids about,” in all its forms.
I left the final Midnight Madness last night after about 15 minutes, for the best of all possible reasons: there was a scene in a car of four men talking about how much the women in their lives irritated them. I had a joyful moment of total certainty in my opposing thoughts, and went home to mine.
Friday, 8:47 a.m. - Home - Reiterating my plea from last night, for an end to the “you haven’t seen ___________???!” that issues from the foaming mouths of film fans every time anyone near them mentions having missed a movie they consider even remotely canonical. It’s so reductive and stupid, and beyond that, why would any of us want to live in a world where all the remotely canonical films have already been seen?!”
I’m overdue a post, I think, on my favourite movies of TIFF, all-time - Symbol would be on that list, by a longshot, being my favourite Midnight Madness movie ever, which is not a small field of achievement in and of itself. Last night brought Hitoshi Matsumoto back to the Ryerson with R100, in which a befuddled single father is attacked relentlessly by S&M queens he has discreetly hired. It was a magnificence, in ways I’ll never be able to usefully describe. Suffice to say, when a group of miscellaneous people - after several scenes in which we cannot intuit their purpose - begin asking why the film is the way it is, I felt my brain slide sideways into helpless, happy mush, in which it stayed for the remainder; suffice further, upon the reveal shot of the man’s son, trussed up like a ham in bondage gear just off the main action, while a fat dominatrix called the Queen of Saliva dances around the father (and spits), I was a picture of joy.
Last night I saw REAL, which was *that movie,* the movie which Matty Price and I inevitably stumble into every single year at TIFF, going back to Bugmaster. Now, Bugmaster is one of my favourite screenings of all time, too, so I shouldn’t complain. *That movie* is inevitably a) Japanese, b) languid to the point of somnambulence, c) virtually nonsensical, and d) has us both shaking in barely-contained hysterics by the last ten minutes. Which REAL - with its last ten minutes featuring a rampaging pleisiosaur pursuing our heroes onto dry land and through a warehouse - achieved in abundance. It was possibly the greatest of all possible films, and probably the worst too; I add Kiyoshi Kurosawa to my “never again” directors, but not with the same venom as Kim Ki-Duk. Actually given my druthers I think I would like to only see films by Matsumoto from now on, and INSIST that some deranged American studio (Warner Brothers backed R100, apparently, so anything’s possible) pick up Symbol for distribution and blu-ray release, immediately. The blu-ray should come with pyjamas and a white-room baby dick. Goodnight.
Friday, 8:54 p.m. - Scotiabank 13 - I’m wrapped out of the Elgin, always a bittersweet signpost - on its own terms, because it’s my favourite venue of the festival; and because as soon as that last ticket is ripped, the end of the fest is well and truly upon us. The weather has snapped round overnight from a mad late-summer humidity to the first real bite of autumn, and all of a sudden I want nothing more than hoodies, pumpkin pie, and thick duvets for long sleeps and warm arms. Unforgiven, the last film I saw at Elgin, was exactly the type of movie I love seeing at that venue - big, romantic, transportative in its fantasy and gorgeous in its rendering. The film fires on all required thrusters, and Watanabe is superb.
We might be in more cynical times, or perhaps Kill Bill did more harm than we realize, because the audience was waiting to laugh gruesomely along with a samurai on a revenge-crazed killing spree, and reacted at odds with the inherent pathos of the film’s story. But I didn’t mind much. I was in my balcony, drinking my last drop. The remake also carries a slight, but noticeable, feminist enhancement - correlating the whores to the samurai against the villains of the town and the state; and creating a richer political context, and sense of defiance, from both the women and the peasantry.
A brisk, chilly walk across town with fresh air and a hot cup of coffee, and yes, life’s good.
Saturday, 3:45 p.m. - playing in hell - I walked out of Why Don’t You Play In Hell? last night after about twenty minutes; it was hitting me the wrong way for that hour of the night and I wanted to get home and get to bed. But I just got out of We Are The Best!, and with nothing to do on this bright Saturday afternoon till 7:00, I decided I’d rather watch movies than write - and so effected my fastest successful rush line experience ever (got in line; waited 4 seconds; a guy walked up and handed me a free ticket) and mounted the crow’s nest to try Hell again.
Last night - The Stag entertaining enough while still being wildly inconsistent in terms of tone and character; Andrew Scott was delicious, though, and his tearful a Capella lament in the middle of a campfire singalong brought the house down.
Today - We Are The Best! was, indeed, the best. The three lead girls are complete darlings and their friendship, as it evolves (and particularly in regard to their differing opinions on the existence of god) is wildly sweet. It’s not quite at the Sons of Norway level in terms of storytelling, but well beyond it on character and performance.
Thursday, 4:10 p.m. - meanwhile, at the office - I’ve been tracking the approach of Jodorowsky’s Dune for a long, long while… since before, I think, I’d ever read Dune. (I only got there 2 summers ago.) My first serious girlfriend’s lunatic father was a big fan of El Topo - it might have been the only movie he owned on DVD, or VHS back in those days - and being the Alien obsessive that I am (half of Alien's production team grew wholesale out of Dan O'Bannon's experience trying to make Dune with Jodorowsky in Paris in ’75), the whole notion of strip mining what many in JD call the greatest unmade film of all time was tantalizing in the extreme. Quite pleased that the final result is all I’d hoped, even escaping its major talking-heads construction once in a while to visualize, as much as possible, what in the hell Jodorowsky is talking about. (A powers-of-10 long take through the whole universe, which would have started the film, is divine.)
And Jodorowsky himself is such a hoot - a true madman, obviously, and his equation of filmmaking with raping a bride on her wedding night is disgusting in the extreme, but… well, like I said, he’s flat out fucking crazy, and his desire to, with Dune, make a film that is itself a prophet for a new generation (the first would-be blockbuster filmmaker ever to prioritize prophet over profit) is crazy, but it’s so endearingly wide-eyed that one can immediately see why his cadre of true believers formed so readily in the ’70s. His project is not wholly different from George Lucas’ intent with Star Wars, just exponentially larger (and unfeasible). It’s a fun thought experiment, conjuring an alternate reality where Dune, not Star Wars, inaugurated the blockbuster age, but did so with consciousness-expanding visuals and Lady Atreides being impregnated by a drop of blood in her vagina. Who fuckin’ knows how it all would have turned out - the mainstream is the mainstream, after all - but Jodorowsky’s Dune makes good sport of a naive, optimistic dream.
Somewhat dismayed by those harping on Keanu’s directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. I found it charmingly on-model. And I will never tire of watching Reeves kick people, even if this kicks are coming around a little slower than they were ten years ago.
Thursday, 9:40 p.m. - The Big Slice - The movie starts with a genuinely bravura sequence in which a drunken housewife hacks off her teenaged son’s penis - and eats it - to avenge herself upon her philandering husband. The movie is Kim Ki-Duk’s Moebius, and up till now I am all in - this is legitimately one of the two or three most amazing scenes I’ve seen thus far at TIFF ‘13. Pure cinematic storytelling - pictures and sounds - no one is speaking.
Twenty minutes later, the dickless boy is somewhat adopted by a street gang who have saved him from a pack of bullies who wanted a look at his non-Johnson. The street gang proceeds to gang-rape a local shopgirl that the dickless boy has a crush on. They take her in turns as she screams and cries, and then - the joke - they send the dickless boy in last. (They do not know that he is dickless.) The dickless boy proceeds to mime raping the shopgirl to satisfy the thugs. This is taken as comic, as sweet. The audience laughed appreciatively - look at the dickless boy not-raping the terrified, bloodied shopgirl! I gathered my things and left.
Is a boy getting his penis chopped off by his deranged mother worse, or at least equal to, a girl getting gang-raped to set up a joke where a dickless boy can’t rape her? I don’t know. I honestly have no idea any more. All I know is, I don’t want to deal with this shit any more.
Seriously, fuck Kim Ki-Duk. Fuck every single thing about him. The man made one of my favourite TIFF films of all time, 3-Iron, which I still hold as a mini-masterpiece. But if someone sets Kim on fire and throws him off a bridge, I’ll applaud. Till then, never again. Shame, shame, shame.