Friday, December 28, 2012

APPENDIX colon RIGHT BACK AT YA! More 'Favorite that's Not' questions from ZZC...

Below are my answers to my follow up questions inspired by the super-fun time survey / quiz offered by LERNER INTERNATIONAL ENTERPRISES here.

1) Favorite revenge movie that's not POINT BLANK, GET CARTER, or ROLLING THUNDER:

Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold, meaning the seeker of vengeance should remain calm, cool and collected as they carefully plan, and extract the most satisfying punishment possible. Revenge is also the impetus for so many spaghetti westerns, kung fu and other such action / exploitation films. It's probably one of mankind's most base instincts, right next to love. It's a formula contingent on catharsis. Certainly the slow boil of Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West is a masterpiece thesis on these concepts. 

But I'm going to proclaim what is sure to be an unexpected response as to one of my favorite revenge films. It is from a cold place, with a chillingly dry sense of humor, yet also exudes pathos that belies its characters' near-numbing nonchalance. In barely 70 minutes, Aki Kaurismäki's The Match Factory Girl (1990) tells the tale of a mousy female factory worker who leads a drab existence, is further wronged by life, and tries to get even. The fleeting moment of joy she enjoys when she wears a new dress and meets a mysterious man is soon shattered into tragedy. So what does she do? She quietly hatches a plan to avenge herself against the man that stole her last glimmer of hope. A large part of Kaurismäki's ouevere describes a certain temperament; characters bear a lackadaisical affect, perhaps partially due to living in a land that is sometimes almost without day, and sometimes almost without night, depending on the season. This is what comes across as particularly Finnish, the resignation towards one's fate in this climate. This attitude is reminiscent, conceptually at least, of the Japanese concept of mono no aware - 'to accept the passing of things.' Cold, as in 'a dish best served...' is a perfect way to describe a lot of Kaurismäki's work. And yet, his films derive much humor out of the desperate tedium his characters endure, surprisingly balanced with just the right amount of sentimentality (though some of his films are much more overtly predicated on playing our heart strings). Meet our heroine Iiris...

2) Favorite martial arts movie that doesn't star Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Lee, Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Donnie Yen, or Tonny Jaa (Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal films don't count):

My first response is a little tricky. I have claimed The Prodigal Son (1981) one of my favorite kung fu films for years. Yuan Biao is the star, though director Sammo Hung has a supporting role as a kung fu teacher. It's a great mixture of kung fu, comedy, and pastiche meets parody, the way it self-consciously comments on, and makes fun of the genre, while satisfying its tropes with glee. Yuan Biao, Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan were in a frighteningly rigorous Peking Opera school together where they honed their physical abilities and affinity for pranks that makes their movies so much fun. There were two kung fu flicks I caught late night on channel 5 (way back when they still showed such stuff) that instantly became perennial favorites. 5 Superfighters (1978) is one of the most stripped down, near existential Shaw Brothers fight flicks in my mind. A baddie goes from town to town ridding the land of what he calls 'bad kung fu.' This guy is evil. He just fights for the sake of fighting, much like Tatsuya Nakadai's amoral samurai in Sword of Doom (another favorite). It's also a revenge film, as he beats a kung fu master, whose serious loss of face causes his three young students to seek revenge, allowing for lots of training sequences and displays of different styles. It's a period piece, and the villain wears a cloak, so it's got that superhero / melodrama sort of feel. But basically it's lots and lots of kung fu.  Monkey Kung Fu (aka Stroke of Death) (1979) is a great kung fu comedy caper flick that gets off to an intriguing start with a small time thief learning the eponymous style from a mysterious old man in prison. It includes a great scene in a brothel, and is a generally rousing, funny adventure.

I really like The Loot (1980). With the twists and turns in its search for hidden treasure plot, it's like a spaghetti western transposed onto the kung fu paradigm. And great fighting!

Similar to how Tony Jaa and team revolutionized martial arts films with Ong Bak by showcasing a dynamic amalgam of Muay Thai and other styles, Welsh born director Gareth Evans, and star Iko Uwais brought us the exciting innovation of a fight film based around the Indonesian art of Silat in the surprisingly dramatic Merentau.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Thank goodness for Mexican beer. Cheap and goes down easy (insert offensive comment here). Lately my go to has been Tecate. I bought one at the super market that was 'edicion retro 60's.' But Tecate is pretty punk rock, because I can't find a picture of the 'retro' can design online, so let's just look at a random image associated with the popular brewery:

Wait, that's not a can of beer! Ivanlandia, take us away!
The supermarket in question had a rack of those ironic vintage exploitation movie cards and I noticed this one:

Yes, it's an all but forgotten sleazy film noir. Weird how this reminds me of Glen or Glenda:   


I dunno, maybe it's the hair? Certainly Beverly Michaels was 100% woman. A b-movie glamour doll, she was a perennial blonde bad girl, and occasional muse of Pickup director / star, b-movie auteur Hugo Haas. This tawdry-looking picture is still not officially available on home video, but looks like a good one. Have to track it down and report later.

Find anything on Craigslist.

Craigslist Joe is a personal experience with a social conscious doc, in the tradition of Michael Moore, and Morgan Spurlock. This guy Joe goes on a trip for like a month relying completely on Craigslist for transport and lodging. He even found his camera man on Craigslist. Probably found the damn awful music he used on Craigslist too, under middle-of-the-road-schmaltz. Amazing that he proves human beings can be generous and trustworthy, or at least within the sphere of a documentary. It's fairly amusing and the whole concept is somewhat inspiring. As you might imagine, there's a lot of new millennium hippie types, some freaks, some flakes, and then some pretty revealing stories (like the guy who came to the states as a refugee and now volunteers in a tutoring center for refugee children). Joe's activities when he's in each place he visits are pretty much all found on CL too, ranging form helping out a new age store owner, break dance lessons, cleaning house for a hoarder, etc. One guy nails it when he explains his morning ritual of searching Craigslist and the various categories he checks off (from 'platonic only' to 'commercial transport'). Streaming on Netflix. Just went to the film's site and Zach Galifinakis' name is above the title. Okay?

Hysteria, not hysteric enough.

Hysteria (1965) is a middling Psycho rip-off produced by Hammer Films, now available from the fountain of cinematic rediscovery that is Warner Archives. Despite an absurdly contrived story, Hysteria has a polished look, and some impressive framing and camera work, (thanks certainly to cinematographer turned director, Freddie Francis), that keeps it sorta interesting. Hammer did horror, noir, and these sort of thriller / mysteries that, via their flirtions with perversion, are sort of a missing link to the giallo genre.

In Italy, we are not afraid to be sleazy, like those posher than thou Brits!
This is pulpy, seedy fare, though in this case with a more sophisticated glossy veneer.

"Wish I was in Ivanlandia!"
But still, a woman gets punched out, a guy escapes from a jealous husband that's actually a money scam, and our protagonist is an arrogant American rascal in swinging London. That guy is Robert Webber, a character actor mostly, who also stars in Italian 60's crime flick The Hired Killer, which sounds more exciting. Gotta seek that one out.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Last night was a dream come true! Two hours of grindhouse trailers in 35mm at Nitehawk Cinema (at midnight), where they serves food and drinks (yes, alcohol). The first trailer was WORLD WAR OF KUNG FU, a 70's chop socky opus that features nudity by samurai sword, bad mustaches, kid fu, a supple Chinese woman kicking the ass of a grunting sumo wrestler (literally!), etc. It was revelatory how majestic even arm swinging old school kung fu fighting looks on the big screen. Brought me back!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cabin in the Woods

Finally saw this super meta horror-cum-satire. A breath of fresh air among all the remakes and 'found footage' flicks that populate the horror genre now, Cabin makes tongue in cheek, yet prescient commentary on our 'reality TV' and surveillance media culture. The good looking young people stalked in a scary dark house paradigm is combined with a great device that inverts the cliches (no spoilers here). They better not turn this into a franchise, especially since they built it up to such a perfect ending. An old lesson here: The corporate machine is destined for corruption and implosion. (Okay, that last part might not really make any sense, but I'm not gonna change it, at least not now). The soundtrack was okay, the incidental music was typical, but the story had me singing this:

Please read this astute and concise take on Cabin over at IVANLANDIA. And more about it at Ivanlandia's big brother, LERNER INTERNATIONAL ENTERPRISES.