Monday, September 29, 2008

New adventures - Empire’s Top 500 - I guess that wraps it up for God...

This is another one of those blogs that will be more catch-up than anything else. Apologies to the two of you who follow my exploits religiously.

If you read this blog, you undoubtedly read Amy's, so you know we've been flitting thither and yon over the past month. We took a trip to the wilds of Baltimore a few weeks ago to see April and JimmyO Burril in "Evita", something I wouldn't necessarily have done had they not been in it. I'm not a fan of Andrew Lloyd "Two-Chord" Webber. The majority of his shows seem to highlight two memorable numbers and present incidental music that sounds like mice running up and down piano keys. But JimmyO gave power and charisma to the lead character of "Che", and April strutted her stuff in the dance numbers, transporting me out of Webberland and into actual enjoyable live theater. For which, I was grateful.

Immediately following, we ran down to D.C. to check out the new touring Jim Henson's Muppets exhibit at the Smithsonian. The Muppets on display at this exhibit were the very ones we saw being prepared last year when we had the good fortune to visit the behind-the-scenes staging section of the Institution. And while the exhibit really is phenomenal—featuring not only the puppets but archived footage and nearly endless amounts of Henson's original artwork, storyboards, sketches and notes—I have to admit that not being able to actually touch these original Muppets (as I was able to in the staging room) was a tad disappointing. Still, I left the exhibit smiling and happy and not a little choked up by the whole experience.

When we fought our way back to our car through torrential rain, we discovered that we'd spent the afternoon wading through Hurricane Hannah. Taking the Metro into D.C., water came down around us in sheets and cascaded down the staircases to the underground. We had to ford veritable rivers to cross the parking lots and swam across the mall to the exhibition area, but at least we wore hats! We actually achieved maximum saturation on the way back, fortunately, so we weren't wandering around in the chilly exhibit area soaked and miserable. That it didn't occur to us that this was because of the hurricane is more a testament to our determination than our capacity for information. At least, I like to think so.

Back at the hotel, we met up with Steve (one of our three cinematographers from Demon Divas) and Tabatha (who plays "Becki" in same) for dinner and wound up watching part of a movie called Pirates, which happens to be a very slick, glamorous and expensive porno. Now, I'm not a fan of straight porn. Not out of any sensitivity or prudishness, but because I started my career not only writing book reviews for a magazine that was distributed exclusively to strip clubs but also worked as a publicist for a company that also subdistributed a lot of hard core porn over the internet. So my bias towards porn is born less out of sensibility and more out of overload. That combined with the unavoidable fact that, as a filmmaker, I'm highly critical of the lousy camerawork and lighting found in most porn. (Seriously, there is nothing funnier and less erotic than watching a hardcore porno in a room full of filmmakers—"There are double shadows on the wall!" – "Where is the camera mounted for that shot??" – "Dude! Mic placement!")

But Pirates is actually a lot of fun. There's an actual story and the two male leads seem ecstatic to have the opportunity to play pirates and swashbucklers. The hero actually struck me as playing a variation of Futurama's Zap Brannigan in his delivery and character. The women seem just as bored as ever, regardless of the slick setting and the pretty candlelight photography, but they weren't hired for their performances, obviously. It has the same structure as most porn movies, of course—dialogue, sex, change of scenery, change of partners, more sex, etc.—but they also intersperse the old standards with a little bit of swordplay and some CGI skeletons paying homage to Jason and the Argonauts! And the movie ends with a sea battle with the two CGI ships battling it out with cannon fire.

Oddly enough, the attempts at humor are actually funny and don't rely on—surprisingly—sex jokes. So I was impressed all around, at least with the story, the structure and the characters. The sex scenes, however, went on far too long—the whole movie is over two hours, for pete's sake!—and seemed to be not only vanilla but incredibly angry. Again, I'm not a connoisseur of modern pornography, so maybe angry toss-you-around hardcore is the norm these days, I'm not sure, but I found myself less aroused by these scenes and more concerned for the actresses' safety. The lesbian scenes especially were particularly brutal. Still, there's an R-rated version of the movie put out by MTI which moves a lot faster, so I'd actually recommend that version to the curious. The hardcore has been edited out, so the pacing seems a bit more choppy, but the wonderful performances remain intact.

A few weeks later, we made the trip to Buffalo to return to Rotten Jack's Creepshow. Last year's premiere event was one of our show highlights, just being a good time and an all-around good show, complete with guests, vendors and live bands. This year, the show was held in a larger venue, a nightclub in the heart of downtown Buffalo. Once inside, the show was another success—getting there was fun, however.

Amy and I got there early, dropped off our stock and went to our hotel to clean up and get ready, fighting construction the whole way. We picked up Debbie Rochon and stopped off for a bite to eat, thinking we'd take a different route to avoid the construction. An hour later, we were hopelessly lost—thanks to a G.P.S. that thought "Main Street" was the same place, no matter how many of them there were. When we finally arrived, found a place to park amid downtown construction and traffic, we were greeted at the front door of the venue by a surly bouncer on a control trip, checking I.D.s of two college-age girls. We smiled at him, told him we were guests and started for the door. He stopped us with, "Still need to check your I.D.s—stay right there!"

I don't like being ordered around. Particularly when I was asked to attend an event. But I waited—I also don't like to cause trouble for the people who invited me and were putting on the event. Tom and his wife, Cheryl, were very nice people and they had enough on their plates without worrying about their guests getting into fights with the venue workers. So I stopped and waited. He checked our I.D.s then demanded to check our bags. We had Amy's tote, Debbie's stock and a camera bag and he "needed" to see inside each one. Now, I have no trouble with policy. I do have trouble with assholes. He could have been nice about the whole thing, particularly when informed we were, again, guests of the show that was paying him to be there.

He told Amy she couldn't bring in her vodka and I couldn't bring in my flask. Fine. It was a bar. We didn't think about that when we'd brought it and we weren't parked too far away. I didn't mind taking the booze back to the car. However, Debbie was refused entrance with her coffee. And the bar didn't serve coffee. "We don't know what's in there!" he barked. Which made no sense to me. It's fucking coffee. Coffee is a requirement when you do shows like this. And, again, he wasn't nice about it and wasn't even particularly nice to Tom when he came out to see what the problem was.
So we waited outside. I'd returned our contraband to the car and Debbie finished her coffee. We turned back to the guy, opened our bags, "Can we get back to our lives now?" I asked. He didn't answer.

When we got inside, our table already had a line of people who remembered us from last year. A line formed in front of Debbie's table seconds after she stepped behind it. Other guests—Melantha Blackthorne, Rod Gudino from Rue Morgue, Greg Lambertson (Slime City) came over to greet us. Tom brought us drinks to get us going. Hell, I was even signing autographs before we'd even sat down. I was actually on the poster advertising the event. In fact, I'm so used to not being on the advertising that when someone gave me the poster to sign, I automatically began writing in the margin, not even noticing my handsome mug right there on the one-sheet!

Within an hour, we'd sold a goodly deal of our merchandise, chatted with people new and old (as in acquaintance, not age… specifically). Gunnar Hansen and Tony Moran were the main headliners, and their lines were seemingly endless. A good time was had all around. I really do like this show.

Hell, I even got my pound of flesh a few hours later when the surly bouncer came inside and skulked around a little sheepishly by the guest tables. Again, I usually make a point of talking with the employees of the venue and the volunteers of the show. It's just good manners. They take a lot of shit from customers and vendors that they don't deserve, so Amy and I like to make sure they know they're appreciated. But I couldn't bring myself to take the high road with this douschebag. He ambled by Melantha's table, sifting through some of her pictures. Melantha was with some fans, so she didn't pay him any attention. Amy and Debbie were away from the tables and I was just drunk enough that my Irish was up. The bouncer came over, saw me, and gave me a tough guy look. "How's it going for you?" he said. It wasn't a challenge and it wasn't a greeting. His body language was still trying to establish his boundaries. I grinned and looked him in the eye. "Great," I said. "Fuck off."

I expected something in return. An insult, a flex of muscle, something. All I got was surprise and a retreat. I felt like Ben in Night of the Living Dead dealing with Harry Cooper—'you go be boss outside, pal; I'll be boss right here.' He was gone in a second and I didn't see him again. I went over to the bar, bought another drink and left the bartender a $2 tip for a $4 drink. That's my definition of Darwinism in this business.
The next morning, we made like Hobbits and had two lovely breakfasts. The first was with Debbie before we saw her off to her flight. The next was with the lovely Gunnar Hansen as we caught up, not having seen him since the first Genghis Con. That was much fun.

The rest of the previous week has been spent trying to get the third anniversary issue of Sirens of Cinema to press and gearing up for Cinema Wasteland. This particular issue was a bear due to a lot of unforeseen circumstances and not a little bit on the difficulty of finding art to go with our tribute to the late Dave Stevens—but thankfully, his family and friends did come through for us and allowed us to put together a gorgeous centerpiece to memorialize him.

For now, though, I'm just counting down the days until Wasteland, the happiest place on Earth…

* * *

Found this on Edgar Wright's blog – Empire Magazine's top 500 Movies of all time.

I firmly believe that all top lists like this, particularly the AFM's annual "Top 100 Movies to Eat Dinner By" and somesuch are just designed to start fistfights, but this one was expansive enough that I was curious to check it out.

Not that I agree with everything on the list. (Seriously, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? It isn't even my top 500 movies of the year! Back to the Future II?) But, what the hell? I checked it out. I'm embarrassed to say that out of that 500, I've not seen 105 of them, mostly foreign films. It's shameful, truly. I've missed out on 20% of that list! Now, 35 of them are already on my Netflix list, another 10 are currently in my collection, but I just haven't gotten to them yet.

Still… I hate when I throw the gauntlet at myself…

** *

So I came across a letter to the editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette referring to the September 12 experiment that steered the first proton beam around a 17-mile underground loop that on the border of France and Switzerland in an attempt to recreate the Big Bang and, in an effect, the "Origins of the Universe". In the letter, the writer states:

"I would have been glad to give them the answer for free. 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' What else do they need to know?"

You are absolutely right, sir. Scientists should at no point attempt to answer questions for themselves. All research in any field should be henceforth abandoned because you solved all mysteries of the universe for us: God Did It.

So if you or a member of your family should—God Forbid—contract cancer, nothing should be done to treat it. Because God did it. He wants you or a loved one to have cancer. And to treat it or—God Forbid—cure it is, obviously, an affront to God.

Any attempts we make to find alternative energy, make peace with other nations, improve horticulture—or any culture—or make any technological advances in any way, shape or form are, of course, affronts to God. God needs no scientific validation. God needs no justification. God, for you, is the ultimate answer and, therefore, by extension, is everyone's ultimate answer. So stop asking. You know the answer. God did it. God willed it. God insists that it is so. So shut the fuck up, you Godless heathen scientists and your search for knowledge. And take your fucking evolution with you!

God forbid we ever attempt to take God out of the equation for just a moment and make the slightest attempt to use the brains that God gave us, Goddammit!