Apr 242023
 

Some movies I only know through Tumblr, back when Tumblr allowed porn. Belle de Jour was one of those movies. I would see gifs of a pretty blonde either getting whipped or having mud thrown on her. I had a vague impression that this movie was about a woman’s masochistic fantasies.

A week ago I decided to give the movie a try. The movie opens with the pretty blonde lady riding with her husband on a carriage ride. He gets mad, has the drivers pull over, bind the woman and then strip and whip her. Then he instructs her to fuck the woman.

And then we cut to the woman, idly daydreaming about what we just saw. We find out the woman hasn’t had sex with her husband yet and he is terribly patient about it. The woman just looks sad.

The woman discovers that there is prostitution ring in town and she decides to go check it out. After a brief interview, she agrees to work as a prostitute but only in the afternoon so she can get back to her husband. They come up with the alias, Belle de Jour.

Or does she? I have my doubts. The woman’s life of a prostitute is exciting, scary and sensual. She falls in love with a gangster who is so rakishly wild and eccentric that he looks like he came out out of a romance novel. Matters escalate and her husband gets shot and a friend betrays her confidence. Everything looks bleak but in the final scene, her husband is fine and everything is roses.

Which begs the question, is the ending another fantasy of the woman or was the whole movie a fantasy? The director refuses to say and that is fine with me. I feel like this movie is a tribute to secret fantasies and normally, a “it was all a dream” would piss me off, but it doesn’t here. Maybe because it never felt real to begin with. In a lot of ways, this movie felt voyeuristic in the sense that I was directly inside the woman’s fantasies.

Although a bit slow at times, I can see why this is considered an essential movie to watch in the erotic genre.

Feb 102023
 

Skinamarink is a 2022 experimental movie by Kyle Ball. Two children wake up to discover their father is missing and that everything is dark outside. The two small kids get scared out and hang out in the living room to watch cartoons. Bad things happen.

The key thing about this movie that will either delight you or frustrate you endlessly are the camera angles. Most of the shots are facing upwards, like a child looking up. shots rarely move. Heck, things in the shots rarely move. We never get a good look at the children. To be honest, we never get a good look at anything as light is very minimal. We sometimes hear the characters speaking, but they are almost never in the shot when they are talking.

And the movie goes for 100 minutes like this. It is nerve wracking. Our natural need to information in a scary situation means we are constantly on high alert for any shred of a clue on the screen. It reminds me how the movie, It Follows, trains you to watch the background for any suspicious looking characters moving towards the camera. Except this movie very rarely gives you anything to spot for all of that attention that you give it.

It is a divisive movie to watch. My wife tapped out after 18 minutes. It wasn’t that she was bored, No, she understood the level of tension being created and wanted no part of it.

I, on the other hand, loved it. I marveled at the audacity it takes to create an almost unpleasant viewing experience. I admire the skill involved and am glad I saw it. I will probably watch it again but at the same time, it is the rare movie where I read negative reviews and I find myself nodding along with people’s very accurate observations at how unpleasant it can be.

I’ll tel you another thing, this movie scared the shit out of me. I watched it alone with three cats in a dark house. After it was over, I had to go into my dark kitchen to reach the stairs and I hesitated. There was nothing specific that I was afraid of, except just the dark itself. It had me wanting a night light for the bedroom when I sleep. That is what the movie did to me and I can’t remember many movies that have had that kind of effect on me.

So yeah, Skinamarink. It is a truly disturbing experience. I hope to one day write something that impactful.

Nov 042022
 

Saloum is a 2021 movie set in Sengal. Three mercenaries, known as the Hyenas, are extracting a Mexican drug lord from a country during a coup-d’etat. The mercs consist of the leader, the muscle and the magic-user(!). Their small plane is sabotaged and they are forced to go down. That’s okay, because the leader knows of a small hotel/camp where they can stay and get repairs. All the have to do is blend in and not look suspicious.

That is complicated by the fact that a dear/mute woman immediately recognizes the mercenaries and demands to be taken with them or else she will expose them. It is further complicated by a visiting police chief who clearly does not believe their cover story. Even more complicating is that the owner of the camp is acting really suspicious and has a very curious relationship with the local villages.

Shit hits the fan like all great thrillers but then the REAL SHIT goes down as the spirit demons appear and turn this movie into a survival horror.

This movie is fantastic. It is so nice to see African characters with only the most marginal appearances by colonists. There is an incredible amount of tension as lies are told and exposed almost just as quickly. The three mercenaries are the coolest characters you will ever see. The leader is crafty, the muscle is a brute and the magic-user is everything you want out of a modern magician.

Did I mention that the movie is only eighty-four minutes long? That is an insanely short run time for a movie that has comedy, terror, tension, action and genuine pathos. Movies like this shouldn’t work but it does with perfect craftsmanship. It is the kind of movie that spoils you for other movies.

I don’t recommend this movie as much as I insist you you watch it because you deserve to see great movies.

Oct 312022
 

Reel Wild Cinema was a television show on the USA Network, hosted by Sandra Bernhard. It featured “The good parts” from exploitation movies of the 50-s and 60’s. This meant that often you would get a five minute version of these awful movies, showcasing the bad acting, silly special effects or moments of sleaze. Every hour long episode had a featured movie that would be truncated down to twenty or thirty minutes. In between clips, Sandra would interview guests like Dweezil Zappa, or discuss trivia involving the movies.

I absolutely loved it. It aired in 1995. This was a mystical time when we had the internet but weren’t quite sure what to do with it. You knew of cheesy movies but were at the mercy of your local VHS rental place. Blogs were not quite a thing yet and word of mouth was usually limited to what LordMovieScum69 talked about in an AOL Chatroom. In short, Reel Wild Cinema was the best way to find the worse movies of previous decades.

The show was cancelled after two seasons. Fortunately for us, Something Weird Video posted the entire series onto youtube. I am struck by how timeless the show is. It truly does break movies down to the good parts while also giving you a list of schlock to follow up on. Many of the movies can now be bought by digital downloads from the Something Weird Video site.

Oct 142022
 

The First Nudie Musical is a 1976 movie about a struggling movie studio. To make ends meet, Harry, the owner, has been reluctantly making porn movies. They have been flopping and he needs a hit to right now or else he will lose the studio. His secretary, played by Cindy Williams, jokingly suggests he make a porn musical. Because this movie is a musical, Harry launches into a musical number and decides to do just that.

What follows is a very good comedy about porn and movie making with more frontal nudity than I thought was legal back then. Since it is a comedy from the 70’s, I was expecting some exploitative humor but to my delight, this might be first sex comedy from that era that doesn’t turn women into the butt of the jokes. If anything, this movie enjoys dumping on the men, from the sleazy porn actor who can’t hook up with any of the cast to the idiot director forced onto the movie by one of the money lenders. This is a surprisingly progressive movie that holds up well today.

I am a sucker for musicals and movies about making movies so I was already inclined to like this movie. The smart comedy about porn and the likable characters of Harry and his secretary keep the movie going. The rampant nudity was nice to watch to. It was a joy to watch and I look forward to seeing it again.

Apr 012022
 
A fine, well, okay, well, mostly okay crew.

It is well documented that I love almost anything involving pirates. What might be less known is that I am a huge fan of Rhys Darby. Imagine my pure orgasmic delight when I found out that Rhy Darby was in a pirate comedy series produced by Taika Waititi. It is called Our Flag Means Death and is currently airing on HBO.

Rhys plays Stede Bonnet, one of history’s more peculiar pirates. Bonnet was a land-owner who had a midlife crisis so he bought a boat, hired some scum and tried his hand at piracy. It is a ludicrous idea, one perfectly suited for Waititi’s approach to comedy. Laugh at the idea of a Captain bringing a library of books onto a wooden ship and then laugh harder when you realize that the real Bonnet actually did that.

More interesting to me is how much representation is in this series. They have gay pirates that and a major story line revolves around it! There is a bit of cross-dressing. We have some odd people who may be on the spectrum. There is an entire episode of how terrible the Europeans were for the native people. There are pirates of different races rather than the lily white folk we see in too much pirate fiction.

I like the show a lot. It is funny but it carries a lot of heart. Bonnet is an idiot but more importantly, he’s a nice guy just trying to find his happiness. That is a relevant concept in any age and maybe more so today.

Feb 182022
 

Like Ben Rumpson in “Paint Your Wagon”, have been known to get the melancholy now and again. There is no real reason or cause, so it is just something I have come to live with. It usually goes away on its own but sometimes it goes away because I watch or read something that hits my funny bone just right. Lately, it was Murderville on Netflic.

Murderville stars Will Arnett as Terry Seattle, a grizzled homicide detective who investigates a murder every episode. He doesn’t solve them though. Every episode, Terry gets a new guest star to be his partner and that partner has to solve the crime. The thing is, everything is scripted but the guest star doesn’t get a script. The guest star has to improvise and figure out who the killer is while dealing with outrageous events.

So yeah, it is an improv show without an audience. Well, the audience is often the guest star trying their best to stay in character while responding to weird challenges. The guest star is improving and the regular cast as improving as they react. On top of that, the mystery itself are usually fair and clues abound.

Some guest stars are good, like Annie Murphy or Marshawn Lynch. Others are freaking fantastic like Sharon Stone or Ken Jeong. Their mileage will vary from star to star but no one was a dud.

I don’t know if this show will cure your bout of melancholy but it went a long ways towards helping mine.

Feb 112022
 

I am a sucker for travel shows. Stuck at home during a pandemic, I live vicariously through other people’s travels. Give me new food, new places and new ideas to explore.

Midnight Asia is a different kind of travel show. Every episode focuses on a different Asian city and it’s nightlife. More interestingly, it turns its focus to certain individuals rather than a location like a restaurant or a dance club. about five or more people are profiled in each episode and it bounces back and forth between them to create a tapestry of characters.

I say characters because it reminds of the supplements you buy for a role-playing game. They would give you characters for your players to interact with. Midnight Asia is a source book for your writing and your imagination. You can’t see a 85 year old woman who moonlights as a DJ and not get inspired to include someone like her in your next story or role-play scenario.

The other nice thing about this series is how relaxing it is. Despite being about nightlife, the music and presentation leans towards the meditative. There are some gorgeous liminal shots mixed in with the jumping dance club patrons. It makes for a perfect material to watch before going to bed.

Jan 282022
 

Dan is a genius film restoration artist. He can take burnt, moldy, water-logged tapes and restore them to viewable quality. His family died in a tragic house fire when he was eight, which is why he has serious trust issues as an adult. Still, he is great at what he does and he does have one friend who runs a mystery podcast.

Because of Dan’s talents, he gets approached by a mysterious rich guy who wants him to restore some video tapes recovered from an apartment fire in the 90’s. due to vague confidentiality reasons, all the works has to be done at a remote location in the Catskills, and he is going to be all alone with shitty cell reception and no internet. The land line works, but tends to crackle and pop because of the very obvious wiretap.

That is the premise for Archive 81, an eight episode series on Netflix. It is also just the frame story, because the real story is what is in those tapes. A young woman went to go live at a creepy apartment building to interview residents and learn the history of the place. The residents are weird, no one is allowed on the 6th floor and there is rhythmic chanting coming from the radiator pipes. Weird shit is going on.

This series checked a lot of boxes for me. There is found footage, restoration work, a mystery from the past and the mystery of who and why was Dan hired for this job. It is not a spoiler to say there is something occult going on. Better yet, the occult side is well done and not reliant on any Lovecraft Mythos or other familiar works. This is it’s weird thing.

The series is based on a podcast, which I have not heard. I enjoyed the series on its own and the ending was a bit open-ended for a second possible season, but also tied up enough that I was happy if it doesn’t get renewed. It is eight really creepy episodes about family, occult mysteries, and the hard work of non-detective investigators. I enjoyed it a lot.

Jan 142022
 
I love these jerks so much.

This is a safe place, right? I have to admit that I am not a big fan of anime in general. There are some shows that I loved when I was younger but for the most part, I find anime to be formulaic and the art a little boring. I don’t hate anime like other people my age, but I am less inclined to watch it. Also, a lot of the series are way too long and I am a commitment-phobe sometimes.

Which means I have only ever seen one episode of the anime Cowboy Bebop and that was last month. I liked it! My wife less so. In a compromise, we watched the Netflix live action version which she was more interested in. We tore through the series over the holiday break.

It’s good! It features two partners, Jet Black and Spike Speigel, two bounty hunters with different pasts flying around the solar system taking on weird bad guys in weird places. Things really pick up when Faye Valentine joins the group and things slow down when we have the inevitable long scenes where the bad guys are bad to each other. Science fiction stuff happens and at one point they pick up a dog. Most of the villains look like they were created by the designers of the 1966 Batman TV series.

What I can’t convey with mere words is how stylish this series is. Every location is over the top with great colors like a Luc Besson movie. The music is fantastic jazz and keeps everything moving. The technology is futuristic but also mass-produced clunky and beat-up. The total effect is a wonderful vibe that saturates the series with fun and energy. I want to live in this world and stay awhile.

Sadly, you can’t stay because the series is cancelled. The upside is that the story is resolved by the last episode and although the main characters aren’t talking to one another, you can easily imagine getting the band back together in a hypothetical next season. So don’t let the cancellation put you off. This is a great series that we won’t see the likes again for a very long time. You got to treasure what we got.