Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Screw You, 2009!

As we prepare to send 2009 back to the wretched depths of hell from whence it came, let's take a minute to put things into perspective.

As far as years go, 2009 was one long Trail of Tears for many of us. BUT, and this is an important conjunction, if you're reading this, you got through it. Maybe you picked up a few scars or lost a few limbs, but you're alive. In a Nietschean, Darwinian way, you survived. So in another twelve-plus hours, when we're watching that giant testicle descend toward the remains of Dick Clark and whatever the heck Ryan Seacrest is, let's take a deep breath just before "2!" and exhale a giant puff of relief at "1!"

And from all of us at Random Acts of Mike Watt and Movie Outlaw--okay, basically me--here's to a much, much better 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


As I may have mentioned ad nauseum, there’s a new book out on the market that I had a hand in. Europa’s Cry…An Angel’s Tale was a project brought to me by award-winning artist Michael Apice and I consider it to be one of the best things I’ve ever written.

I met Michael at the 2004 Pittsburgh Comicon. Like most of the big time artists I know, I was introduced to him by stunt-woman and model Jasi Lanier, who was working with the likes of Joe Jusko, Dave Nestler and Jeff Pittarelli at the time. Michael and his colleague, Romik Safarian, were a couple of good-natured Long Islanders with contagious accents and sick senses of humor. They were both putting on art demonstrations throughout the weekend and I got to watch, over a period of a few hours, Mike airbrush this gorgeous painting of an angel. As he and Jasi talked, he mentioned that he was looking for a writer to work on this very personal story he wanted to tell. He’d been through four or five different guys and while they were all talented, they weren’t interested in the story he wanted to tell. They kept wanting to take it into different directions, away from his concept. “One guy wanted to turn it into a cyberpunk story,” he said. “And that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

So Jasi grabbed me and dragged me over to his booth. At this point, both Amy and I were used to this behavior from Jasi. She’s a match-maker at heart. So many of the contacts we have in the industry directly resulted from Jasi intervention. Michael and I talked and continued to talk for the rest of the weekend. The story he wanted to tell was the story of an angel sent to Earth by God to “minister to the sick”—i.e., people fallen so far from the path to Heaven that this angel, Europa, was literally their last hope. “Not the people on Touched by an Angel, who are basically good but lost their way. I mean the people Jesus searched out—lepers, murderers, thieves, the ones who are basically damned already but can still be saved.”

At first I wasn’t initially interested. If you read my stuff regularly, you already know I consider myself a “Recovering Catholic” and an agnostic teetering on the brink of atheism. Sometimes that happens when you grow up in one faith and start studying others. Mike, however, was a hard-core, to-the-soul Christian.

But the story intrigued me because it wasn’t specifically a Christian story. Yes, he had the central conceit of angels and Archangels, God and Jesus, but at the heart, the Europa story was one of redemption—not only of human beings but for Europa herself. Like all great speculative stories, Europa, being not of this world, would be the perfect mirror for humanity. When I told Michael I wasn’t interested in writing bible stories for adults, he didn’t even bat an eye but basically repeated back to me the above. The idea wasn’t to make this preachy or even religious. The stories should be about faith, in a higher being and in our fellow men. Why are we here and what are we supposed to do? The core of all fiction, really. And through these ideas I realized I had a way to explore the nature of my own tentative faith.

I’m fairly well-versed in the bible and have studied bits of kabalistic gospels, not to mention The Divine Comedy (as both a literal and satirical poem), Milton’s Paradise Lost, a smattering of Geoffrey of Monmouth and a whole lot of Gaiman’s Sandman. Other things, too, started to swirl around in my head as I turned the story around. So much could be drawn from to enrich these stories so as to speak to readers of any faith. As long as you believe in the central conceit—“God” sent “an angel” to us in modern times—but stayed away from proselytizing as much as possible, we really could have something very, very special on our hands.

Through our conversations, and a few phone calls over the next few days, I had a basic idea of what he wanted and banged out a first draft in a couple of days. We decided to go for broke with the first story—Europa’s initial mission would be to try and save a pedophile.

Which meant I would have to get into the head of a type of person I found abhorrent on a personal level and try to understand him psychologically and emotionally. I couldn’t make him an abject villain, a hand-rubbing Fagin lurking in the shadows of an elementary school. How the hell would a reader relate to him then? Who would care if he were doomed to hell or not. The people I’ve met through the years who were pedophiles, you’d never know it by talking to them. That’s the primary terror as pedophiles don’t go around with flashing signs over their heads indicating that’s what they are. They carry this secret, horrible shame under a veil of intense rationalization and cognitive dissonance. If I could get the audience to sympathize with this character, even a little, then we might have a chance with this proposed series.

Even though the story and writing came easily, I worked harder on Europa’s Cry than I had on anything previous. Because it was something that I felt could be very important. If not to readers than at least to Michael and me. Thankfully, Michael provided me with a character through which I could express my own opinions (as Europa operates very much in his voice) in the form of the devil in female form: Patience. Using Patience as her own personal advocate, I could introduce moral dilemmas without having to worry about the prose turning evangelical. And though we have the angels referring to God as “the Father”, we’re going to address the nature of God as well in subsequent stories. And what’s so amazing is that Michael Apice is allowing me the license to do this, to work out my own issues at the same time as following his storyline and utilizing his faith as the backbone.

What we both hope to achieve with this series, should it catch on (and even if it doesn’t), is help people understand that it’s okay to question. It’s okay to feel doubts, and it’s okay to find solace, in your faith, whatever it may be. Especially if, like me, you’re not 100% sure what you believe in. Because ultimately, the Europa stories, as we have them tentatively mapped out, really asks what we, as individuals and as a culture, believe to be right and wrong. Was God wrong to give mankind souls and Free Will, as Patience believes, because we aren’t worthy? Are we worthy of this gift? That was the foundation of the first war in Heaven—it was fought over our existence. Did the winning side really win?
It took a long time to get Europa’s Cry from concept to page. Because that it’s neither fish nor foul—not strictly Christian but not strictly anything else—we opted to put it out ourselves and it took a while before technology caught up to our desires. It wasn’t until recently that print-on-demand was affordable, manageable or even reputable. Now it’s no different than self-distributing your own movies. All the hard work is on our shoulders but, of course, it always was.

I’m looking forward to doing more of these and I hope everyone who reads the first story finds something of value in it. We’ve already had one person tell us that it’s “offensive” to Christians, even though a Christian was the motivating force behind it. To which we replied, “If your faith can be shaken by one piece of fiction, maybe it wasn’t that strong to begin with.”

I still haven’t figured out what I ‘believe’ to any concrete degree, and I wished I saw things more through Europa’s eyes, with her unyielding devotion to “the Father”. Unfortunately, I tend to see the world more from Patience’s point of view. Hopefully, that can change the more I write.

If nothing else, Europa’s Cry  is worth picking up solely for the six pieces of Michael’s artwork. If you do decide to pick it up, it’s a quick read at 40 pages. Right now it’s available through Amazon and through our personal sites, and If you order through us, we’ll likely even sign it for you (I know I will). But feedback is what I’m most interested in. I want to know what you think.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Seasons Greetings to One and All!

And here's to a much, much better 2010!
Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Conversations for Parties

What’s the opposite of “going green”? I want to do that. I want to stuff polar bears into Hummers and leave the air conditioning on for them. And the radio. If I had a crop duster, I would sky-write this blog every day with the biggest words I knew. And I would sign each entry “Agamemnon Zithertopolis, Master of Pro-Antidisestablishmentarianism”. Then I would add, “A Go-Go.”

Alas, I’ve already lowered my carbon footprint by not mowing my lawn all summer. I did this not because of political conscience but because of broken tractor. To counterbalance this act of eco-friendly emission-elimination, I haven’t turned off a light since mid-July.

“But don’t you believe in climate change??”

Of course I do. I also understand how the Earth works. It’s been warming and cooling since, well, the dawn of atmosphere. I think it’s a little egotistical to think that we’ve had that much of an impact.

“But…but…we’re killing the Earth!”

No, actually, we’re not. We could create cities out of landfills but all we’ll be doing is ruining the Earth for us. The Earth will be fine. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if all this climate changing is the Earth’s equivalent of trying to rid a virus by inducing a fever, in other words: us. We’re the sickness and the Earth may be trying to sweat us out.

Don’t believe me? Haven’t seen WALL*E? Go visit a vacant lot. Now look down. See the cracks in the asphalt? What’s growing up through them?

Yep, the Earth is going to be fine.

“You’re evil!”

Probably. Like all right-thinking people, being a cynic is a hobby of mine. Sometimes I’m cynical out of sheer frustration with the general population and sometimes I adopt this stance just to amuse myself.

I was at dinner once with some friends and a new acquaintance that insisted that she was a member of PETa, despite wearing leather. She also swore she was something called an “ova-vegetarian”. She liked a good egg every now and then. Whatever. All animals should be protected. I turned to a buddy and said, “You know what’s fun? Taking baby seals and banging them together like chalkboard erasers.”

She demanded that everyone at the table not smoke because this area was “officially” the non-smoking table. Even though we were in the smoking section of the bar (back when such sections existed). We all responded by lighting up. And only three of the dozen of us actually smoked.

Then she got her teeth into other topics. “There wouldn’t be as much violence in the world if we had stricter gun control! We’re such a violent society. Shooting each other, having abortions! Abortions! No one should be allowed to have an abortion. Or a gun!”

“I own a gun,” I said.

“What do you need a gun for?” she demanded.

“Drive-by abortions.”

I recommend that the hard-core cynical of you in desperate need of amusement try to work the above phrase into casual dinner conversation as often as possible. However, please be sure you know CPR.

“You’re going to Hell!”

Yes, but if climate change is indeed happening as drastically as they claim, Hell will probably be more than a few degrees cooler by the time I get there. Besides, I know for a fact that Satan thinks I’m amusing. Maybe he’ll cut me some slack.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My place in the food chain

Friends and family have long marveled at what they call my “picky eating habits”. I don’t look at my habits as picky any more than I consider their eating habits to be “haphazard”. We all like different things, right? That’s why “Baconaise” was invented.

For instance, I don’t care much for salad. Or, really, vegetables of any kind. I consider eating plants to be unnatural. Animals eat plants and I eat animals. Basically, I’m cutting out the middleman.

But really it’s a moral issue with me. I really can’t condone the way salad is killed. Ripped apart with the bare hands? Barbaric.

I’m really not hip to anything that isn’t an animal by-product. There are some vegetables I’ll eat—corn, peas, cooked carrots—but only because they go perfectly with roast. There are other vegetables I avoid because of the texture. I’m not a fan of the “surprise crunch” that you get while shoveling, say, an omelet into your mouth and getting the unpleasant grit of a green pepper bit or an onion. I order my cheeseburgers without salad toppings like lettuce or tomato for that very reason: cheeseburgers are not crunchy and should not be. I get a crunchy cheeseburger I prefer to think that it’s either burnt or still contains an amount of hoof. The lettuce and tomato just add ambiguity.

Salads, to me, look like large bowls of lawn clippings. I don’t eat those either.

Now, admitting this to people, an odd question usually asked of me is “do you hunt?” Maybe that’s a reasonable question—people who dig salads often do their own gardening. But no, I don’t hunt. In fact, during hunting season, our land is notorious for harboring deer. There have been some seasons where the higher grass of my land undulates like a storm-tossed ocean from all the deer lurking within.

And when interrogated about my not hunting, I offer this simple explanation: I am a modern man. I take advantage of supermarket technology. I like that I can buy a lump of meat, wrapped in cellophane attached to Styrofoam, take it home and eat said meat lump without having to go through the bother of gutting, deboning and de-cute-ing.

If you are a hunter, and you eat what you hunt, bravo. But if you’re simply hunting for sport, wouldn’t you be better off going after something that can fight back? Like a transient or a Mormon? Unless the deer wear armor, I don’t see much sport in it. Of course, judging from some of the people in my area, staring wistfully at my deer-choked property, perhaps the allure of hunting boils down to freezing your ass off in a tree in the hopes that something soft and fuzzy wanders by with a target on its head.

Which brings me to my final reason of not hunting, directly relating to supermarket technology. Years before I was born, man also invented indoor technology, complete with forced heat, blankets and satellite TV. When I’m hungry, I can go into my kitchen, open the box where cold is stored, take out a de-cuted lump of meat, fry it up on my heat-generating box, and eat it without worrying about a kamikaze crunch or a pair of big brown eyes staring up at me begging me not to kill it.

No, it’s not the sort of philosophy that religions are based on, but it’s a fair summation of why I’m not invited to dinner too often.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Someone is spying on me...

It’s nice to know that people read me every once in a while. A few years ago, I wrote in this very blog that there are only two constants of the human race: 1.) All women are crazy; 2.) All men are stupid.

These two tenets are fun conversation starters at parties. But no one I know has every disagreed with me.

Now, I just read that ABC has a new sitcom in the works called Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid. Reeling from the unfairness of this—no check at all, ABC?—I read further to learn that there’s a book with this title by Howard Morris and Jenny Lee (Full title: “Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid: The Simple Truth to a Complicated Relationship”), published this past September.

Which led to further outrage! My God—a conspiracy to keep this white man down! I feel like Billy Blaze in Night Shift—“Wash ‘n drys. I had the idea for those. I ever tell you that? I invented them! Except they already had ‘em.”

Needless to say, I’ll be boycotting this show until Morris, Lee or someone from ABC formally apologizes to me and offers at least a loaf of fresh baked bread as means of making amends.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: I SELL THE DEAD (2009)

[Note: until Blogger gets around to restoring HEY, DID YOU EVER SEE THE MOVIE...?, deleted by their robots for "spamming" after I fulfilled their desire that I "monetize" my blog, this review will reside here.]

Irish director Glenn McQuaid’s feature film wants you to know that, despite evidence put forth in movies like The Body Snatcher and The Doctor and the Devils, grave robbing is actually a merry way to make a living. Sure, it’s unpleasant and distasteful to the law, the church and to public opinion in general, but you can make great friends and have smashing adventures!

McQuaid’s tongue-in-cheek horror comedy drops us into the middle of a prison where professional ghoul Willie Grimes (the outstanding Larry Fessenden) has just had his head separated from his body by the guillotine’s blade. His partner, Arthur (Dominic Monaghan, holding his own amidst very colorful character actors), makes his last confession to the hulking but pleasant Father Duffy (Ron Perlman). He reveals how he apprenticed to Grimes under the employ of the blackmailing anatomist Dr. Quint (Angus Scrimm!), and the life he and Willie led as two of the best body snatchers of their time. When things don’t go as planned—such as when a corpse turns out to be a vampire, or the body of a circus freak is revealed to be a dead alien—they somehow manage to turn things to their advantage, whether it’s to get out from under the bad Doctor or to get one over on the vicious Murphy Gang. Occasionally, grave-robbing leads to love (or, at least, opportunity), but more often than not seems to be way more trouble than its worth. Which is how the poor rapscallions found themselves in the gaol awaiting the big chop.

There are no words to adequately describe just how much fun I Sell the Dead is. The script is solid, the performances are all perfect and the direction is right on with camerawork and editing just this side of Evil Dead lunacy without ever feeling forced or derivative. While Monaghan is the hero, Fessenden is the star. However you feel about his own movies (like the deliberate Wendigo or simply slow Habit), Fessenden’s performance will likely go down as a favorite of the horror lover once I Sell the Dead receives its deserved wide-release. Like a genre Cassevettes, Fessenden throws himself into everything he undertakes and his own love of the material shines through to the very end. 

Which isn’t to give a short shrift to the supporting actors. Scrimm and Perlman are, it almost goes without saying, tip top and having the time of their lives. As the Murphy gang, John Speredakos is a gleefully murderous Cornelius (so rotten his drug of choice is the powdered bones of the dead!), Alisdair Stewart is a cartoonishly menacing dog-toothed Bulger, and Heather Bullock memorable in her small role as the disfigured Valentine—whose visage is so horrifying that, once revealed, even a zombie screams. The mixing of genres never feels forced, either. In fact, with all of this taking place in Arthur’s narration, the story takes sharp left turns not into parodic comedy but in classic tall tales and Munchausean epics. Zombies and aliens are not out of place in this graveyard yarn, but merely the odd spice in the familiar but still intriguing stew.

Though I Sell the Dead was produced on a limited budget through Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix, it never looks cheap. Attention was paid to period detail, both in costume and dialogue, but not at the expense of the mischief. 

I Sell the Dead saw a very limited theatrical release in late 2009 but has been picked up by IFC and Anchor Bay for DVD and On Demand. There’s even a comic book tie-in available through Image, but it falls short of the magic of the movie. Once it’s more widely available, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not seeking it out. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Officially Welcome Me Back

A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone I’d never heard of, asking specific questions about me. Normally, this would be in the form of a survey or a message from a deposed Nigerian, but this time around, it was from a reader I didn’t know I had.

“I know you’ve put out a couple of books this year and are working on a couple of film projects,” my reader asked (and asked me to withhold his name should I choose to discuss this—more on that later), “but I honestly miss your blog. I used to look forward to it, even though, by your own admission, it was ‘infrequntly updated’ [sic—but I believe an honest typo]. Do you have plans to return to it because I really did enjoy reading it.”

To which I responded, predictably, “So you’re the one.”

Glancing over the entries this past year, I was astonished at how little I had written for Random Acts. As my reader pointed out, I was focusing on other things, including a collection of articles, including many of these very blog entries, called The Incomplete Works of Mike Watt Vol. 1 (with an introduction by legendary bassist Mike Watt—now available for order through Amazon or…ahem…), so I could easily make the excuse that I was avoiding blogging until the collection was out in order to avoid feeling compelled to jam more recent entries into the lovingly-sloppy mix. But the truth is, like so many of us, 2009 kicked my ass.

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow recount of the tragedy stack—I’m in the mood for neither sympathy or a pissing contest as I know for a fact everyone had their own garbage shower this year—but in a nutshell, emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually, 2009 was the biggest metaphysical crotch-kick I’ve ever gone through. Both Amy and I and many, many family members and friends experienced soul-crushing hardships and set backs through this, the cruelest of years in recent memory. None of us, praise be to whomever, wound up dead or ill or homeless, but that’s because I think 2009 wasn’t trying to kill us, just leave us metaphorically maimed and close to death. All in all, 2009 was a loyal adherent to Nietzschean philosophy, though dammit, I don’t feel much stronger after this year-long staring contest with the abyss. I certainly don’t feel like an Uber-anything, that’s for sure.

But, as my father succinctly put it at Thanksgiving, he and my mother having gone through the wringer themselves this year, while it’s no comfort to say ‘it could have been a lot worse’, we all came out the other side alive and intact.

We may have lost friends, but there are many others who stayed. Life got hard, but we still had blessings to count. The Big White ‘X’ stalked us throughout the year, but it didn’t always find us. The falling piano didn’t always crush us.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t find myself so desperate for better karma that I turned to witchcraft and shamanistic advice. I sent missives out to multiple deities during numerous moon phases just to make sure I covered all bases. If you think it’s silly to ask both Jesus and Jupiter for help, then you had a better year than I.

So while I sit here, as usual, trying to keep my head down and just survive the remaining two or so weeks left in 2009, I understand, too, that a “better” year has as much to do with attitude as it does luck or karma or curses. I know all too well that 2010 won’t be better if I don’t believe it will. My mindset is directly linked to my destiny. If I allow the events of 2009 to keep me flattened, then I’ll simply slip under 2010’s door like an unwanted Chinese Restaurant menu, rather than stride boldly—or, better yet, kick it in—and announce, “Hey, 2010, you fucker! I’m here!” Though, on second thought, maybe it would be best to knock politely, preferably with a year-warming gift, and greet it cordially, rather than call it out as soon as the Times Square ball drops.

Still and all, rather than wait and see how 2010 is going to treat us, I’m already planning to make the best of things. 2010 marks the 13th Anniversary of Happy Cloud Pictures and we already have several things in the works to celebrate that including the 10th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of The Resurrection Game, complete with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage and testimonials from all sorts of lovely people who feel that it’s well worth your time. Res Game will have a number of neat tie-ins as well, including updated editions of The Dead Life comic book and a long-awaited updated novelization which will also include the sequel story, After Strange Flesh.

This is not to mention official releases of Demon Divas and other super-cool things. New merchandise to part you from your money, that sort of thing. So whether or not 2010 co-operates or not, you’ll see more than enough of us in the future.

In closing this first-in-a-long-time blog, we’d like to thank everyone who has stood by us this past horrific year and especially those of you who supported us and our work these past 13 years.

Which brings me back to my unknown reader. When I told him how much his message meant to me, and asked if I could publish it in whole or in part, he agreed but, again, asked that his name be kept private. And I understand his reasoning behind it, but I still have a cynical grin on my face as I think about it. He was so passionate and encouraging, but doesn’t want anyone to know who he is.

I like to think that he’s less concerned with privacy and more worried anyone finds out he’s a fan of mine. I like a good sense of shame in a devoted reader. It creates the impression that I’m somehow a guilty and forbidden pleasure, like masturbating in a staff meeting. You shouldn’t do it, but dammit, it feels too good not to!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brand New Blog for Your Time-Wasting Needs!

Now I know you're all agog with anticipation for the Cinema Wasteland premiere of Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation but here's a little something I like to call "Hey, Have You Ever Seen the Movie...?" It's a new blog dedicated to odd and hard-to-find movies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DEMON DIVAS to premiere at Cinema Wasteland

Just got the news: DEMON DIVAS AND THE LANES OF DAMNATION will premiere at Cinema
Saturday, October 3rd at 6:30 PM! This is a great slot and I can't thank Ken and Pam Kish enough for it. And as long as the donations keep rolling in (thanks everyone!) the 10th Anniversary DVD of THE RESURRECTION GAME will be on sale there as well. Wasteland is the patron saint of Happy Cloud Pictures!

The HCP Donation Drive started over at Facebook. If every one of my various 1,000 Friends over here at Myspace join the cause and Paypal just $10 to we'll have enough to put DD out on Blu-Ray, finish the 10th Anniversary DVD of The Resurrection Game and put together seed money for the still hush-hush new film currently in pre-production. Good karma and 10 years off of your Purgatory stay for anyone who donates. Not to mention our eternal, heartfelt love. ;)

Thanks to everyone who has supported us and HCP over the past ten years!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Daily Grammar Made Easy

This is primarily for people who consider themselves writers, journalists or reviewers but tweeters, texters, bloggers and updaters should take note as well:

"Look, it's simple: when you're writing out a sentence, sound out its contents for your peace of mind."

In other words: "Look, it's (it is, verb form) simple:

"When you're (you are, verb form) writing out a sentence

"sound out its (no apostrophe on possessives - to what do the contents belong? They belong to it) contents

"for your (no apostrophe on possessives - to whom does the peace of mind belong? The peace belongs to you) peace of mind."

Possessives: his, her, your, our, its.

Verb forms: You're (you are), I'm (I am), it's (it is), he's (he is), she'll (she will), we're (we are).

I know the whole point of the internet is to get it out fast to the world, but we're not lolcats, don't leave our language dying in the ditch. Think about what you want to say and say it. Especially if you're going to pitch me a story or an interview or a review. Even in email, style and grammar matter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

List of Personal Essentials

Okay, while these might not all be "essentials" - in that you don't have to worry about going to your grave without having seen some of them - if you add these to my "Essentials" list, I think it's pretty well-rounded. Tastes will vary, of course.

This one is more liberal and includes many more indie and no-budget titles that I respect and have enjoyed very much.

This one adds up to 180 titles and they'd have to go with me to the desert island along with list #1. Consider this list "Extra Credit" for the serious film fanatic.

29th Street (1991)
52 Pick Up (1986)
Abyss, The
Accione Mutante
Addicted to Murder
After Hours (1985)
Alone in the Dark (1982)
American Nightmare
Armour of God, The
Army of Darkness, The
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Back to the Future (1985)
Beau Geste (1939)
Better Tomorrow II, A (1988) (Yinghung bunsik II)
Big Fish
Big Sleep, The (1946)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) (L'uccello Dalle Piume di Cristallo)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Blues Brothers, The (1980)
Borsalino (1970)
Boy Who Could Fly, The
Brain Donors (1992)
Braindead (1992) (aka Dead*Alive)
Bugsy Malone (1976)
Bus Stop (1956)
Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1919)
Cannibal! The Musical (1996)
Chainsaw Sally (2004)
Champion (2005)
Clockwork Orange, A
Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover, The (1989)
Crazy Moon (1986)
Day at the Races, A (1937)
Dead Man (1995)
Deep Rising (1998)
Descent, The
Desperate Trail, The (1995)
Devil Rides Out, The (1968)
Devil's Backbone, The (2001) (El Espinazo del Diablo)
Devil's Rejects, The (2005)
Diva (1981)
Dividing Hour, The (1998)
Dogs Of War (1981)
Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog
Duel (1970)
Duel at Diablo
Dust Devil: The Final Cut (1992)
Eating Raoul
Emperor of the North
Emperor's New Groove, The (2000)
Everything Moves Alone
Evil Dead, The (1982)
Fly, The (1986)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Friends of Eddie Coyle, The (1972)
From Russia With Love (1963)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Glass Key, The (1942)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Grosse Point Blank
Hammett (1982)
Hard-Boiled (1992)
Harper (1966)
Head (1968)
Help! (1965)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Heroic Trio, The (1992)
Hickey & Boggs (1972)
His Kind of Woman
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1987)
Howling, The
Impostors, The (1998)
Incubus, The
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Insignificance (1985)
Into the Night (1985)
Iron Man
Killer Elite, The (1975)
King of Comedy, The (1983)
King of Hearts (1967) (Le Roi de coeur)
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
Knightriders (1981)
La Femme Nikita
Lady from Shanghai, The (1948)
Land of College Prophets, The
Last House on Left, The (1972)
Last Seduction, The (1994)
Lethal Force (2001)
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Living in Oblivion (1995)
London Voodoo (2004)
Long Riders, The (1980)
Magic Christian, The (1969)
Man in the Iron Mask, The (1998)
Man of La Mancha, The (1972)
Marat / Sade (1967)
Marathon Man (1976)
Mark of Zorro (1940)
Martyrs (2008)
Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future (1986)
Mighty, The (1998)
Mr. Mike's Mondo Video
Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996)
Night of the Demons (1987)
Nightbreed (1990)
Ninth Configuration, The (1980)
O.C. and Stiggs (1985)
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)
Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (1999)
Phantasm (1979)
Phantasm II
Pinata: Survival Island (2002)
Pit and the Pendulum, The (1991)
Pom Pom & Hot Hot (1992) (Shen Qiang Shou yu Ga Li Ji)
Project: Valkyrie (2002)
Prophecy, The
Psychos in Love
Real Men (1987)
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
Return of the Living Dead 3
Rosemary's Baby
Rounders, The (1965)
Rumble in the Bronx
Schindler's List (1993)
Schizopolis (1996)
Sender, The
Serenity (2005)
Shadow of the Vampire
Shaft (1971)
Shatter Dead (1994)
Shockheaded (2002)
Silence of Lambs (1991)
Silverado (1985)
Six-String Samurai (1998)
Sixth Sense, The (1999)
Skin Crawl (2007)
Sleuth (1972)
Snatch (2000)
Sonny Boy
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama
Spider-Man 2
Star Knight (1992)
Star Wars
Terminator, The (1984)
Terror Firmer
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The (1983)
The Toxic Avenger
The Tune
Thunder Road (1958)
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
Tiger on Beat (1988)
Time Bandits (1981)
Time Machine, The (1960)
To Live and Die in L.A.
Tromeo and Juliet
Twin Dragons
V for Vendetta (2005)
Vicious Sweet, The
WALL*E (2008)
We're No Angels (1955)
Wings of Desire (1987)
Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
Yakuza, The (1975)

My List of Essential Film Watching

A few months ago, at the nadir of anything practical to do at the old office, I started an Excel spreadsheet of movies I've seen in my lifetime. It was more a memory exercise than anything else, but it soon developed into a cataloging obsession. After a while, it wasn't enough to just list features, but also memorable shorts as well. Of course, I had to include the endless amount of indie films I've seen (that I could remember), bootlegs, unreleased treasures, etc. Obviously, there was very, very little work to be done at the office - is it any wonder they went under?

To further my insanity, I started reviewing more recently-seen films and incorporating reviews I'd written for Film Threat, Sirens, Films in Review, CFQ, etc. Every day, I'd think of at least three or four more titles to add. Then I started reading other peoples' lists, etc. What can I say? At least I wasn't stalking starlets or rooting through my neighbors' garbage.

The thought popped into my head to start listing my own "essentials". Every critic-cum-film-fan has one. So in my tiny bit of spare time, I started highlighting titles that I either believe every person who calls himself a film buff should see as well as personal favorites that I recommend, though not necessarily for everyone.

I write this not as an announcement, but a warning. As of this morning, I have 6,170 titles on this list, total, and well over 600 recommendations, some reviewed and justified, some not. Fruitless exercise? Probably. But, again, keeps me from roaming the streets in a drunken, armed rage.


This is not meant to be a fight-starter. This is not up for debate or fuss or outrage. This is just a list I made of my personal picks for essential viewing for anyone who wants to begin a lifetime of movie-loving. There are 250 titles on this list. It's in alphabetical order, not order of importance.

There will be a second list of personal favorites, not necessarily essential, but important to me.

If you have a question why a certain title is on this list, what makes it "essential", ask and I'll show my work. If you disagree with anything on this list, make your own.

36 Hours (1965)
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1938)
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
All Through the Night
American Beauty
American Werewolf in London, An
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Animal Crackers
Annie Hall (1977)
Apartment, The (1960)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
August Underground
Bad Day at Black Rock (1954)
Ballad of Cable Hogue, The (1970)
Beauty and the Beast
Better Tomorrow, A (1986) (Ying huang boon sik)
Big Lebowski, The (1998)
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Blood on the Moon
Blood Simple (1984)
Brazil (1985)
Brick (2005)
Bride of Frankenstein (1931)
Bride Wore Black, The
Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Brother From Another Planet, The (1984)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2003)
Bullet in the Head (1990) (Die xue jie tou)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Café Flesh
Cape Fear (1962)
Casablanca (1942)
Cast a Deadly Spell
Changeling, The (1980)
Charade (1963)
Chinatown (1974)
Chinese Ghost Story, A (1987) (Sinnui yauman)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City of Lost Children (1995) (La cité des enfants perdus)
Compulsion (1959)
Curse of the Demon (1957)
D.O.A. (1950)
Dark Crystal, The (1982)
Dark Knight, The (2008)
Dawn of the Dead - 1979 Director's Cut
Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Deep Red (1975) (Profondo Rosso / The Hatchet Murders)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dragons Forever
Drunken Master II (Jui Kuen II)
Duck Soup (1933)
Ed Wood (1994)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
Excalibur (1981)
Exorcist, The (1973)
Face in the Crowd, A (1957)
Fight Club (1999)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Freaks (1932)
Fright Night (1985)
Frisco Kid, The (1979)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Front Page, The (1974)
Front, The (1976)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Godfather, The (1972)
Goldfinger (1964)
Grand Hotel (1932)
Great Escape, The (1963)
Great Race, The (1965)
Gunga Din (1939)
Hard Day's Night (1964)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Harvey (1950)
Haunting, The (1963)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
Heathers (1989)
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Hell is for Heroes
Hellboy (2004)
Henry V (1989)
Hey, Stop Stabbing Me!
His Girl Friday (1940)
Holiday Affair
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Hot Rock, The (1972)
House on Haunted Hill (1958)
I'll Bury You Tomorrow (2002)
In Cold Blood (1967)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
In-Laws, The (1979)
Invasion! (1999)
Invisible Man, The (1933)
Iron Giant, The (1999)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Jaws (1975)
Jesus of Montreal
Joshua: Then and Now
Killer, The (1989)
Killers, The (1946)
King of the Hill (1993)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
L.A. Story (1991)
Last of Mohicans, The (1992)
Last of Sheila, The (1973)
Last Temptation of Christ, The (1988)
Leon: The Professional
Let the Right One In
Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, The (1972)
Lilo and Stitch (2002)
List of Adrian Messenger, The
Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)
Lonesome Dove (1989)
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Lost in La Mancha (2002)
M (1931)
Magnificent Seven, The (1960)
Maltese Falcon, The (1941)
Man Bites Dog (1992) (C'est arrivé près de chez vous)
Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1956)
Man Who Would Be King, The (1975)
Man with Two Brains, The (1983)
Martin (1977)
Masters of Horror: Takashi Miike: Imprint (2005)
May (2003)
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Memento (2000)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Metropolis (1927)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
Muppet Movie, The (1979)
Murder by Decree (1979)
My Favorite Year (1982)
Near Dark (1987)
Night of the Hunter (1955)
Nightmare Before Christmas, A (1993)
Noises Off! (1992)
North by Northwest (1959)
Nosferatu (1929)
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Out of the Past (1947)
Painted Faces
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood (1996)
Phantom of the Paradise, The (1974)
Pickup on South Street (1953)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Player, The (1992)
Police Story (1985)
Poltergeist (1982)
Princess Bride, The (1987)
Prodigy, The (2005)
Producers, The (1968)
Project A
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Purple Rose of Cairo, The (1985)
Quiet Man, The (1952)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Ran (1985)
Raven, The (1963)
Re-Animator (1985)
Rear Window (1954)
Reivers, The (1969)
Return of Living Dead (1985)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Road Warrior, The (1981)
RoboCop (1987)
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975)
Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
Ruling Class, The (1972)
Schlock: Secret History of American Movies (2003)
Scrapbook (1999)
Sea Hawk, The (1940)
Searchers, The (1956)
Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The
Seven Samurai (1954)
Seven Year Itch, The (1955)
Seventh Victim, The (1943)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Shallow Grave (1994)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Sixteen Tongues (1999)
Sleeper (1973)
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Sorcerer (1977)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Wars: Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
State and Main (2000)
Strange Things Happen at Sundown (2003)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Straw Dogs (1971)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Support Your Local Sheriff (1968)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Ten From Your Show of Shows
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)
Theatre of Blood (1973)
There's Nothing Out There (1991)
Thin Man, The (1934)
Thing, The (1982)
Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)
Third Man, The (1949)
Throne of Blood (1957)
Time After Time (1979)
To Be or Not To Be (1942)
To Have and Have Not (1944)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Tombstone (1993)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Treasure Island (1950)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
True Grit (1969)
Twentieth Century (1934)
Uninvited, The (1944)
Up (2009)
Usual Suspects, The (1995)
Valdez Is Coming (1970)
Videodrome (1983)
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1993)
Way of the Gun, The (2000)
West Side Story (1961)
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Wild Bunch, The (1969)
Wind and the Lion, The (1975)
Yojimbo (1961)
Young Frankenstein (1974)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Phobophobia - now on sale

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMike Watt hopes you contract Phobophobia this winter.

“The only thing we have to fear, we’re told, is fear itself…”

In Phobophobia, the first short-fiction collection from award-winning journalist and screenwriter Mike Watt (The Resurrection Game, Dead Men Walking, editor Sirens of Cinema Magazine), readers will find plenty of reasons to leave the light on.

Thirteen (triskaidekaphobia) tales, six appearing in print in this collection for the first time, tell of ordinary people caught up in decidedly unordinary events where nothing is what it seems—

—Not classic red Mustangs…

— Not “typical” art exhibits…

— Christmas Morning…

— Not even your “average” hard boiled mystery.

In her introduction, author and star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amber Benson, writes, “What I love most about this collection is that Mike takes every day, normal scenarios and infuses them with a pinch of fear, making the reader want to turn around just to check that they’re alone before embarking on the next story.”

“Once upon a time, I made a very meager living as a fiction writer before I moved on to the ‘flashy’ world of professional journalism,” says Watt. “Recently, I went back to the digital desk drawer and dusted off a handful of stories that always made me proud, some published, some not. Phobophobia is the result.”

Boasting a haunting cover by artist Romik Safarian (, Phobophobia is available by the author himself through’s Createspace.

“The entertainment marketplace has become completely democratized and Createspace emulates that idea. Artists no longer have to fight and scrape against the mainstream to make their work available. Books, movies, art—everything and anything can be created inexpensively and made available to the audience. There’s no difference between self-publishing and self-distributing your own DVDs, which my company Happy Cloud Pictures has done for years.”

Interested readers may purchase the trade paperback through, Createspace at or, alternatively, an autographed copy from the author himself at his website,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sirens of Cinema #14 - Final Issue on Sale Now!

Today, I released this news:

With mixed feelings, publisher Kuiper and editor Mike Watt announce that Sirens of Cinema Magazine will complete its regular quarterly run with the publication of Issue #14, a Collector's Edition. Boasting yet another of their signature gorgeous covers, this time around by Vampirella artist Louis Small, Jr., the women-oriented magazine’s Issue #14 offers interviews with Lucy Lawless (Xena, Bedtime Stories), Zoe Bell (Bitch Slap, Angel of Death), an exclusive pictorial with Sybil Danning, a rare interview with original 'queen' Michelle Bauer and much more.

“The economy has really taken its toll on the country,” says publisher, Kuiper, “and we’d been experiencing the downturn at Sirens almost since the first issue. Costs on everything, particularly paper, have gone up exponentially since 2005 and our readership, while steady and supportive, remained nearly constant over the last three years. With so many publications competing for space on the store shelves, it just didn’t seem feasible to continue pursuing a mass market.”

But don’t take that as a concession of defeat—or that Sirens of Cinema is indeed dead! “Sirens of Cinema will continue on in many different forms over the coming months,” says Kuiper. “Look for special digests—which we’ll be releasing as Sirens of Cinema Presents—on a variety of topics over the coming months, all with our signature brand of feminism and style. Instead of our product being hidden on shelves behind copies of People, we’ll be releasing directly to our core audience, so keep checking the website.”

For the time being, fans and supporters are invited to check out Issue 14, on sale now, and sign up for future announcements via the magazine’s official site at

But, again, don't think of this as the end - maybe of Vol. 2, perhaps - but the beginning of a new metamorphosis. You'll be seeing a whole lot more of "Sirens of Cinema Presents" fare over the coming months.In the meantime, there are too many people out there to thank - our countless talented artists, including this issue's Louis Small, Jr. and Amy Fletcher, our host of talented writers and all of our valued readers.

Thanks so much to you all for making these last three years truly special for me. As I've said before, we could have folded any time between issue 1 and now and I would have felt we'd gone out on a high note.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Belated Goodbye to 2008

A Belated Goodbye To 2008

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reliving some personal history—cataloguing, collecting, sifting through old work and trying to decide what is worth pursuing, what is best left at the bottom of the desk drawer, so to speak. During the sifting, I’ve revisited old blog entries, re-evaluating previous years, what we’ve achieved, what alluded us, what I failed at completely. The last few months of 2008 consisted of one royal groin-kick after another. But it wasn’t the worst year I ever slogged through.

There were definite lowlights, yeah, but highlights as well.

Gonna try an experiment—after I relive the low, I’m going to end on the high.

Ending on high notes has never been my forte, but I’m going to give it a shot.

The low, of course, some of you already know. 2008 started tricky, plateau’d, then went rapidly downhill, culminating in the hospitalization of Amy’s mom, just four days before Christmas. She was hanging stockings and fell off a small stepstool. It landed her in the emergency room with a concussion and a bruised spinal cord. After two harrowing days, she underwent surgery to fuse four vertebrae and ensure she’d walk again. In all honesty, it was a miracle that she was even breathing on her own, but she pulled through. The family spent Christmas Day with her at the hospital and New Year’s Eve with her at the rehab facility, watching Pittsburgh’s stingy fireworks clear away the last arbitrary remnants of 2008. Finally, this past Friday, she was discharged and returned home. We’ll be having the Best Family Christmas this coming Sunday, finally leaving ’08 behind.

Everything leading up to the fall—including a disastrous film shoot in early December that resulted in the end of a multi-year friendship that I’m still grieving over—came to a halt with Mary’s accident. The whole family held their breath, banded together to help each other through it. I don’t feel I did much—Amy provided the strength for the rest. In a lot of cases, I was just there.

While she spent time with her mom and sisters at the hospital, I worked on Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation and issue #14 of Sirens of Cinema, which had been my sole focus for most of ’08. It took a great deal of time, but Demon Divas finally started to take shape, but not until the year ticked over. Up until January 1, the movie’s structure had eluded me, and this left me sleepless and very depressed. I felt like the movie was defeating me.

Sirens met its own challenges—ones we’re not quite ready to talk about yet, though soon. We wound up with a high note of an issue, but it was a lot of work, maybe more than we’d done on any other issue. 2008 was not kind to us at the magazine. It fought us. We tried to fight back. Things didn’t end the way we hoped, but…

I woke up on January 1 and actually breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, time is an illusion, and “New Years” even more so. It’s arbitrary—the Chinese New Year ticks over in February, and let’s not even start discussing the Hebrew or Mayan calendars. But I’ve always relied on that arbitrary New Year’s Day for psychological renewal. I take a deep breath and hope for the best of the coming year. I’ve even made it a habit of staring out of our bedroom window, at the sun rising over the hills of our neighbor’s sheep pasture, and pretend that I can see good fortune on the horizon. Honestly, it’s all what you make of it, and at best it’s a psychic placebo, I know this. Doesn’t stop me from hoping.

In 2009, I started the year thinking, deliberately, about the good fortune I managed to drag with me out of the morass that became 2008. I have:

* for the first time in my adult life, a “real life” job that I not only enjoy but am actually pretty good at.

* A marriage that has survived for what will be ten years, added to a relationship that began fifteen years ago. And while we have our problems, like everyone, we’re a better partnership than ever.

* A production company that has managed to suffer through five feature films and a handful of shorts with an accompanying (more or less) positive reputation and a desire to keep trying new things with each new project.

* A family of Muppet-style good friends, blood relatives included, who have always been there for us for whatever we needed.

* A good reputation as a knowledgeable, hard-working, dependable and reasonably talented writer in a business famous for doing its best to destroy all of the above.

* A fount of projects in various stages of completion that not only mean a great deal to me to complete, but others seem to be looking forward to as well.

In 2009, we have two Cinema Wastelands to look forward to, at least one new film in the works, two past ones to release in final formats, get-togethers, parties, and, I swear, days where Amy and I do nothing but… nothing. Type-A personalities be damned.

In 2009, just thirteen days from now, I will turn 36 and become officially middle-aged, so I’m told. And while I’ve taken on the mantle of adulthood, I still don’t feel like an adult. My shadow doesn’t run away from me, and pixie dust still won’t let me fly, but I’m no closer to becoming a chartered accountant than I was when I was ten, so that has to count for something.

There are challenges ahead of me—I hope some of my damaged past friendships can be repaired. At the same time, there are still a number of psychic vampires in our midst I hope to cleanse us of. I will still expect great things of myself and others. I will still by my harshest critic and my own worst enemy.

The economy has a long way to go, but we’re just days away from ridding ourselves of the current cancerous administration and welcoming the new one—hoping beyond hope that it lives up to our high expectations. (Hey, we did our part. Just days into 2009, we helped the economy by buying a used foreign car!)

I’ve made a lot of promises to others that I have to honor. But more importantly, I made a goodly number of promises to myself, in the past month and over all the years of my life, that I’m determined to make good on now.

Sure, all of the above sounds like a cliché and it probably is. But what the hell? What are clichés for?