it 2017

i watched the new IT film at the duncan caprice movie theater last night. it was quite an experience so i wanted to write it down here to capture all my various thoughts on.

first, the theater. i’ve only been there once that i can remember in the last, ooooh, 15 or 20 years, and it was positively dead in there that last time i went. i think there were a dozen people that night. but last night — tuesday, aka cheap night — the place was PACKED. the line was almost around the block, like i remember from going to movies as a little kid. it was almost nice to see such a classic sight except for the fact that 99% of the people in line were duncan’s lowest mutants. what a collection of underbites, acne-faced and horny teens, skull sweaters, and all other manners of freaks.

the line moved notoriously slowly. when we arrived, we were just outside the door but it took a half hour for us to get in and get seated. there were only maybe 15 people ahead of us in line so they must have had their ‘B’ team on last night. among the staff was a skinny, 60-yr old, leather-faced, bandana-wearing biker/welder, and a baby-faced, early 20’s, 6’5″ overweight fella who wore surgical gloves with all of the fingertips cut off and was stressed to the tits, sweating like a pig. it seemed like this tubby gent was the one running the show. the young woman who served dana and i must have been brand new because she had no idea what she was doing, but she was very nice so i didn’t mind her at all.

the signs for the snacks were incredibly shitty. the stock popcorn and coke images were just slightly different on each sign, sometimes positioned poorly so one obscured the other. the generic candy bar on the sign had a wrapper that only said ‘chocolate.’ and these appeared to be professionally made signs, specially made for that particular sign holder. it was so lousy that we were incredulous.

the decor of the theater is amazing. nothing has changed since i was a kid. so many oranges and yellows and reds. painted bricks, gross carpeting. fantastic.

on to the movie: believe it or not, i liked it! it certainly wasn’t a great, substantial film like the exorcist or blade runner but i thought it was fun and entertaining. i was surprised by and liked all the gore, and finn wolfhard stole the show with his performance. i also liked how the local bad kid, henry, was made to appear more mentally unstable than in the original IT in 1990. that makes more sense with him being institutionalized in the ‘adult’ portion of the film. i liked some of the sound effects, and i liked how pennywise’s blood floated. that was a small detail but i thought it looked neat, kind of dream-like.

but what didn’t i like, you ask. well, let me tell you.

  • the new pennywise the clown. that was pathetic. i’m so sick of this ‘face down/eyes up/”this is my creepy look” aesthetic, and pairing it with a clown is just even more typical. the thing that made tim curry so great as pennywise was that he managed to be creepy without acting creepy. he spent a lot of time in the original just being a legit clown but somehow made that scary, and that was special. the shit i saw last night tried way too hard and failed miserably.
pennywise-stephen-king-780x438_rev1

if you look up pics of bill skarsgard’s pennywise, he has this STUPID FUCKING LOOK ON HIS FACE IN EVERY SINGLE PICTURE, EVEN THOUGH IT’S NOT SCARY AT ALL. besides that, what murderous person would make such a face, and why? it’s absurd.

  • period incorrect lingo. the film is supposed to be set in 1988 but early on, we hear the boys say “best…feeling…ever” while dumping their school books into the trash. but no one started using that lame, overdone line until well into the 2000’s. it’s a millennial thing, obv. the rest of the film was pretty accurate with it’s 80’s details but that one really pissed me off. what bothers me even more is that the film makers may have been aware of all this but used it anyway since it would allow the film to connect with a younger market. god damn it, how artless. i remember the stranger things tv show suffered from this very same problem.
  • mean parents. all the parents we were introduced to in the new IT were over-the-top mean, like so mean it was ridiculous. it was totally unbelievable and unnecessary. what was the point of that, to make all adults seem bad? why?
  • CGI special effects. not much needs to be said about this beyond the fact that despite many years and technological advances, CGI still looks like shit. if this movie really wanted to be a throwback, retro affair, it should have gone with old-fashioned special effects. you know, the shit that actually looks cool.
  • incidental music. i hate when films and tv shows insert popular songs to try to heighten a certain feeling in a scene. it’s a ham-fisted film technique. most notably in the new IT was the use of anthrax’s antisocial¬†during the rock fight and the cure’s 6 different ways during the bathroom cleanup. in the former, it’s supposed to increase the raucous roughness to the scene. in the latter, it’s supposed to increase the awkward feelings of childhood friendship and crushes. both were totally unnecessary, those scenes would have been better without the songs. i’m not so stupid that i need really loud music to help me figure out what i should be feeling during a scene.

i think that’s most of my thoughts on the new IT. however, i want to point out that despite all the gore, murder, violence, incest and child abuse, the movie is only rated 14A. i thought that was crazy. dana said out that if there were any tits in the flick, it would suddenly be rated R. i think he’s right, and i think that’s so fucked up. our culture has such a twisted, backwards relationship with sex to think it’s worse than a father abusing his daughter, or a son stabbing his dad in the neck — both of which we saw in IT last night. god, humans are stupid and fucked up.

but like i said earlier, i actually liked the film. if it only tim curry had reprised his role as pennywise — if we could basically have the 1990 pennywise in the 2017 film — i think the new IT could have been something special. oh well. at least it’s not a complete write-off, i suppose.

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no love

today i was thinking about why i like the exorcist so much. there are obviously a ton of good reasons — strong cast, excellent character development, amazing special effects, religious themes that resonate with me in a big way — but today i realized something else about it i hadn’t thought of before: no romantic subplot!

captain_howdy

except between me and captain howdy, of course.

i couldn’t believe i never noticed this before. i mean, romantic subplots are ubiquitous, and one of the things i hate most in film, TV, and books. nothing ruins a story for me quicker than a predictable, paint-by-numbers story arc: boy meets girl, they seem perfect together, a misunderstanding makes one doubt the other, the misunderstood one vindicates themselves, happily ever after. barf.

what’s even worse is that so many movies and TV shows actually focus largely on this kind of romantic subplot formula but use different story backgrounds so that they can market the show at a different audience. walking dead and true blood for horror fans, mad men for hipsters, breaking bad for skids, game of thrones and big bang theory for nerds…the list goes on. all these shows employ the same old “i thought i could trust you, tim..i thought you were different from the others. i guess i was wrong…” bullshit romantic melodrama, and it’s not just a small side story. that’s actually the focus of the show. the zombies, sword battles, and meth labs are actually the minor details in those shows. they just provide a seemingly unlikely stage where the romance can take place.

yup, everyone just wants to watch the same shitty love story over and over.

i’m veering way off topic onto one of my usual rants so let me rein it back in here. my point is that while most shows employ hackneyed romantic techniques not only for subplots but for primary plots, the exorcist doesn’t even contemplate romance at all. there is zero romance in it. it’s about other things: good, evil, faith, loss of faith. what a breath of fresh air.

but then i started thinking about some of my other favourite films, like the deer hunter, blade runner, the last temptation of christ, akira, the shining, princess mononoke, and apocalypse now, and i realized that there is very little romance in those too. and what romance there is, is far more complex and understated.

i’m not surprised that i prefer subtle, more interesting approaches to typical themes like romance but what i am surprised by is that i didn’t even notice until now that the greatest films of all time (in my opinion, anyway) would place so little emphasis on romance, if any at all.

that just reinforces my belief that romance for the sake of romance in art is just a cheap technique to sell shoddy products to disinterested audiences. i’m sure the same applies to every other medium, too.

people are so disappointing.

all that being said, i still really like love story from 1970. that was a touching flick.

love-story

it’s a guilty pleasure.

more annoying dream stories

jenn hates to hear about my dreams so here’s another one for the blog.

this morning i had a crazy nightmare. i don’t remember how it started but i remember being with two petite, very sexy women when i realized it was a lucid dream. i was like, “wicked,” and started having a threesome with them, basically just having them do typically sexy stuff. it was fantastic.

but all of a sudden, when i was mentally directing one to squeeze her beautiful, naked small breasts, something changed and she looked directly at me with a cold, robot-like stare and asked me where i was. it was an odd and unsettling question. i had a vague understanding that this was her way of saying, “i realize the you that is here is just an avatar and i don’t like your game. i want a meeting with the mind that is behind this facade.”

her eye contact was strange too. it wasn’t just her looking at me in the dream, it was like she was breaking the 4th wall of my dream and staring straight into my mind — she had figured out the situation and was looking behind the curtain at the puppet master. that was the most frightening part. she wasn’t fiery or angry but she was terrifyingly blank, just solely focused achieving her goal of taking control of the situation by any means necessary.

i was very scared by all of this. i was scared for my mind because it felt like some alien presence that i had created now wanted to put a hand mixer to my brain and completely destroy the thing that was enslaving her. i had never experienced any sort of mutiny of my dream subjects before, and here was such an intent one. and after things started so well, jeez.

around this time i heard some kind of a buzzing sound, which i assumed was my cell phone in the waking world. i had left it next to the bed, but i wasn’t sure if that was part of the dream or reality, and i didn’t like being unsure of something else on top of the mess i was already in.

i was surprised and scared by the woman’s rebellion but quickly remembered this was my dream and i could direct it to go any way i wanted. i decided to teach this insubordinate automaton a lesson and attempted to rend her and the other girl to ribbons of meat but was surprised once again when they refused to go quietly, fighting against my mental attack. instead of basically vaporizing like i wanted, they became a howling, twisting, amorphous mass of churning flesh that was struggling to retain their original shapes and compositions. they looked like something out of a cronenberg movie. i was alarmed less by the disgusting visual and more that despite the fact i wanted them gone, they were strong enough to resist me at all. i felt pain in my right foot at this point around and realized they were attempting to do the same thing to me as i was doing to them. i worried, “is this still just the dream? if they defeat me, do i just wake up like normal or will i lose my mind forever and become a vegetable?”

then without explanation, it was all over and i found myself in a peaceful black limbo. it seemed that i won the battle. how anticlimactic, i know, but that’s how it went. anyway, i contemplated what had just happened and was still uneasy about it. i decided to do something fun to lighten my mood, and wound up riding gently down a kind of slip n’ slide on my stomach through a lavish sci-fi pleasure dome resort that was full of pastel pink and blue lights. the night sky was littered with stars. i was still too bothered by the preceding events to fully enjoy the slip n’ slide fun and weird surroundings but it was amazing nonetheless.

i woke up from the dream, thought, “whoah, that was crazy. i need to remember this and write it down,” hence this post. then i remembered the buzzing sound from my dream. i checked my phone and sure enough, it had vibrated when i received a text message 10 minutes before i woke up. it turned out i was too late to join my friend michael for a dog walk but man, what a dream i had instead. it was like my own personal blade runner nightmare.

i like my mind.

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uuuggghhh. since i was a kid, this album cover has really bothered me but it seems to fit here.

ninja gaiden, ninja scroll, the police’s ‘ghost in the machine’, and their impact on my early 20’s.

i should be vacuuming right now but i couldn’t bring myself to stop listening to the the police’s ‘ghost in the machine’. i love it too much. so i thought i should write about it. i have a history with it.

when i was a kid, my mom lived in victoria. my brother andrew and i would go visit her every second weekend. we always had a great time and i have very fond memories of driving in her hyundia excel to mattick’s farm for mini golf, various swimming pools, parks to throw a baseball around, BMX bike tracks, frozen flooded farm fields to skate on, and the like. one of the tapes she had in that crappy import was a greatest hits collection of the police. i loved every song on that tape.

fast forward to the year 2000. i was still living with my dad and working part time at the salvation army. i have always been an over achiever. anyway, i had amassed a great many cool things while working at the SA. among these things was a fisher price record player with a built-in tiny speaker, my own TV, a strong 8-bit NES video game collection that included ninja gaiden, the police’s discography on vinyl, and a borrowed copy of ninja scroll on VHS.

now, for the uninitiated, ninja gaiden was a long, hard, dark game. i still haven’t beat it. the story centers around supernatural demonic forces, and not in a silly super mario happy kiddies video game kind of way. it’s more like a video game of an anime thriller film created for an adult audience.

first dark component, check.

ninja gaiden screenshot

next, i borrowed ninja scroll from my pal who worked at SA with me, sarah. it’s a disturbingly violent flick about a ninja for hire whose old arch nemesis has returned from the grave using (surprise!) supernatural demonic forces. i watched it and felt awful for about a week afterward due to the graphic, absurd violence. i liked it but was really affected by it. to this day, i still think about some of the brutality in the final battle and get bothered.

second dark component, check.

what ninja scroll is about, in a nutshell.

during the same period that i was getting deep into the dark asian worlds of ninja gaiden and ninja scroll, i was also getting deep into the police’s discography. i loved all the records but ‘ghost in the machine’ particularly resonated with me, and it meshed perfectly with the way ninja gaiden and ninja scroll were making me feel. the majority of ghost in the machine is straight up blade runner-ish, futuristic and bleak. somehow, even the happiest moments feel tense and foreboding. the album title is creepy. the production of the album has an otherworldly, weird vibe too: saxophones bleat out atonal screams, synthesizers sound suspiciously like space ships, andy summer’s guitar tone is airy and phantom-like. the artwork is nightmarish. the red digital characters on the cover are so stark on the plain black background. it feels like a computer preparing to kill its master, indifferent to human life. the inner sleeve shows circuit boards glowing red and flesh-like with the faces of andy, sting, and stewart blended in. it almost suggests some kind of cronenberg-style body horror, a frightening man/machine hybrid.

ghost in the machine cover

ghost in the machine sleeve artwork

and i love every song on the album. “why?” you ask. here’s why.

  • spirits in the material world – super interesting, sort of disorienting reggae feel during the verse. great, catchy chorus. eerie imagery, bleak view of the world.
  • every little thing… – beautiful. one of my fave police songs. i can’t put my finger on what makes this one so dark despite all the outward appearances of being a pleasant, upbeat love song but it’s in there. the snare fill near the end is a wicked climax.
  • invisible sun – i remember being scared of this one when i was a kid. “i face the day with head caved in” really freaked me out. i thought of a guy actually having massive head trauma but going on anyway, like “what’s wrong with this guy? he needs to go to hospital.” all of the drum parts are really interesting.
  • hungry for you – my least fave on the album but still succeeds in having a great, rock solid groove that makes me want to shake my ass.
  • demolition man – i have no idea what this song is supposed to be about but the slightly out of tune horns add a strange and disconcerting touch. meanwhile, stewart’s drumming is thrilling. i have a hard time finding the first beat in this song because it sounds to me like stewart is starting each drum phrase on the 3rd beat of the riff. it sounds off from the riff and the vocals, but the tail end of the riff drags over into the start of it so it’s tough to know for sure what’s what. it doesn’t matter though because the whole band just run with whatever feel they like and it gives it a really crazy, unique feel. the cool hi hat thing stewart keeps doing towards the end of the song totally blew my mind when first heard it. i was like “wtf is he doing? whoah, why is he still doing it? omg it keeps going, this is so neat”
  • too much information – really plays well into the nightmarish computer vibe of the album. groovy as all hell, yet again. stewart plays a very steady beat with little variation yet somehow, he makes it fucking exciting to listen to. i am convinced that he has an uncanny ability to communicate his sheer love of drumming through his playing so that no matter what he’s doing, whether it’s nuts or subdued or minimal or whatever else, it’s always full of pure joy. he’s my favourite musician of all time, hands down.
  • rehumanize yourself –¬† yet another dismal picture painted against a rollicking up-tempo reggae background. more super weird saxophone stuff going on in this one. i love that sting says ‘cunt’ in this song. how many pop artists have ever had the nuts to do that? sure, he’s a fucking asshole wank, but there is no denying that sting has done a few exceptionally cool things in his life.
  • one world (not three) – a dim take on a world in crisis set to perhaps the most ass-shakingly awesome reggae grooves ever created. stewart has a heyday in this one. over-the-top fills abound, and they are fantastic.
  • omegaman – i think andy summers wrote this one, and it’s a standout. it’s more rock than reggae. the lyrical imagery is more depressing blade runner/sci fi/dim future stuff. “the sky’s alive with turned-on television sets,” “i’m so tired, i’m so tired, i’m so tired”.
  • secret journey – i think this song really helped me connect the album to ninja gaiden and ninja scroll through its vague references to eastern mysticism. it sounds like the struggle of someone trapped in a very dark time. once again, the drumming is super interesting throughout.
  • darkness – written by copeland but hardly any drums in it. the most depressing track, for sure. “i wish i never woke up this morning/life was easy when it was boring.” the weird background sounds of random horns sounds like muddled confusion, and then there’s some sort of thunder/lightning type sounds that add to the ‘dark night of the soul’ feel.

thinking more about it now, i guess i associated the 80’s technology aspect of the album artwork to japan since they seemed to be the forerunner of the 80’s tech world. then the eastern vibe in the lyrics of secret journey fit the japanese angle well. from there, the tense, brooding tone of the rest of the album was enough of a link to make me to see the whole thing as an extension of that frightening, depressing eastern world i was already spending so much time contemplating.

i spent a lot of time in my room at my dad’s house, playing ninja gaiden, contemplating the violence of ninja scroll, and listening to ghost in the machine. i was profoundly affected by all of them. it was a strange time in my life. i was really immersed in the feelings associated with those things, like some kind of depression or affliction that was not my own but had still somehow made it inside of me. i guess it was the fact that all these things with similar aesthetic and emotional values happened to impact me at the same time, and by virtue of their similarities and timing, emotionally knocked me on my ass. it’s really quite amazing and beautiful that it all happened as it did, even if the result was largely a frightening, awful feeling, and it’s amazing that these things all managed to connect with a person on such an intense level. i hope people involved in creating ninja gaiden, ninja scroll, and ghost in the machine all read this post one day and think “fucking eh. mission accomplished.”

and that’s why i love ghost in the machine.