i just got home from the second of the two days i was able to attend fantastic fest this year. they advertise it as the "festival with the boring parts cut out" and that pretty much sums up my experience.

my friend chelsea and i camped out at the alamo drafthouse on south lamar all day and hit the freaking jackpot. we got in to everything we wanted to see, twice getting free tickets out of the clear blue sky from generous folks. our program was even more varied and interesting today than the lineup i was able to see saturday. it couldn't have worked out better.

we started the day off with a bang with legend of the fist: the return of chen zhen (2010). this theatrical continuation of the popular chinese television series features donnie yen as both star and action choreographer and he knocks it out of the park on both counts.

an outrageous opening set piece sets the tone for some daring and imaginative action sequences throughout. it generated a round of spontaneous applause from a festival audience that has just about seen it all this week, not an easy feat. these stories are often just a flimsy peg to hang a series of ever-escalating acrobatics on, but this one is bit unique, at least for western viewers. it is set during/just after world war one, a time frame most history students are familiar with, but is filtered almost exclusively through the prism of china versus japan and what the aftermath of the great war means to the dominant powers in asia. anglo interests are minimal, if not non-existent. it is refreshing that an action film can also serve as a stirring reminder that we are not alone in this world, that the globe goes right on turning and sometimes we have absolutely nothing to do with it. the title character, chen zhen, is something of a folk hero by this point and has also been played by bruce lee and jet li in the past. the politics on display are, of course, greatly simplified in these film versions and your notion of hero and villain could vary a bit depending on how you feel about the early chinese republican era and the rise of the japanese empire. what you cannot dispute is how much ass donnie yen kicks, about one hundred of them in one scene alone. very entertaining and, in spite of its twenty-first century kicks, a little bit of a throwback. the nods to rick's place in casablanca (1942) are no accident. it was a great, and very energetic, way to start the day.

then it got dark. next up was jang cheol-so's bedevilled (2010). this festival entry from korea won this year's audience award and it was nice to see it go to something so challenging rather than more high profile, easily digestible films.

there is nothing that feels good about this film. it forgoes the quick setup that would have turned this into cheap exploitation fare and we spend the bulk of the film becoming intimate with the pain of bok-nam, the island girl who longs for a way out of her miserable existence. we see in excruciating detail the indignities and abuse she suffers daily at the hands of her husband, his brother and the elder women of the island, population nine or so - seven unfeeling monsters and one perpetual rape victim/punching bag/pack mule and her young daughter. the hint of her child possibly being molested is the last straw. she makes arrangements to make a run for the mainland but, as with everything else that happens in the first three quarters of the film, that comes to a futile and infuriating conclusion. finally, after the death of her daughter, she cracks. she stares into the sun and it tells her what she must do. it's a testament to just how horrible her "family" is that when she sinks a sickle into the throat of her first victim, a seventy year old woman, cheers erupted throughout the theater. it's an incredibly cathartic moment. thus begins a final cycle of violence that vaults this into the pantheon of the greatest revenge films ever made. you can only push a girl so far. and you will never think of bean paste the same way again.

it's not for everyone, but if you have a sturdy constitution i highly recommend it. it is full of brilliantly painful performances and lush korean location photography that highlights both the physical beauty of the landscape and how ironically fouled it is with all this degradation.

as evening fell, we left the pacific rim for ol' virginny. this turned out to be my favorite thing i saw this week, i think. in a stroke of programming genius, the festival organizers brought in the stage production nevermore - an evening with edgar allan poe. stuart gordon and jeffrey combs, who most folks know from their work together on re-animator (1985), have re-teamed as director and performer for this one-man show that lets us travel back in time to watch richmond's not-so-favorite son read, recite and unravel before our very eyes.

this was a gamble on the organizers' part, i thought. genre film fans, as a lot, can occasionally come up short in the attention span department. with so much overstimulation going on in every theater how would a one-man play based on literature a century and a half old, filled with florid and increasingly archaic language go over? in this case, like gangbusters. it was a great performance filled with tender humor, pathos and drunken trash-talking of henry wadsworth longfellow. combs was uncanny in resemblance and effective in manner. "the tell-tale heart" and "the raven" were among the signature pieces he performed but the heart of the play was in the asides and reveries. the women in poe's life turned out to be the most significant characters in the play without ever setting foot onstage - his sainted mother, his tubercular cousin/wife, recently deceased and his intended - they all were ghosts that haunted him that he exorcised with demon rum. or rye, in this case. combs' performance received a well-deserved standing ovation. i hope they do more of this type of alternative programming in the future. bring in grand guignol theater next year!

after that it was back in line for the fourth and final secret screening of the week. it turns out, we were in a select group of eleven non-badgeholders that got in to this particular event. our reward? troll hunter (2010).

this particular bit of norwegian wackiness resides at the intersection of the blair witch project (1999) and grimm's fairy tales. using the same "recovered footage" conceit as blair witch, this tells the story of a group of student documentarians who went missing after they stumbled upon a man who hunts trolls for the norwegian government. now, norwegian trolls are nothing like gnomes or other, more friendly, "mythical" creatures. these trolls bash. they bludgeon. they bite heads off. they are gigantic brutes, as dumb as the rocks they routinely dine on. this is played (mostly) for laughs and is fairly well done. it's not winning any oscars anytime soon, but as tonight's dessert, it was just right. one of the big lures of the secret screenings is the air of exclusivity that surrounds each one and this one was about as exclusive as it gets. aside from the five people - director, two producers, sound mixer and dolby lab guy - who assembled this cut of the film a scant twelve hours before, no one had ever seen the finished product before we got to. they haven't even shown it to their distributor yet. so, that's kind of fun. i got to be the first kid on my block to see it and thereby completely round out my fantastic fest experience. not bad.

looking forward to next year already. hope to see some of you there.


trailer tuesday

this week's entry is for jonathan glazer's sexy beast (2000).

it's possibly the only entry in the spate of british gangster films that came out in the late 90s/early 00s that has nothing to be ashamed of. ray winstone is superb and ben kingsley is flat-out terrifying. someone finally capitalized on my favorite character trait of his that went so long underused - his menace. you can see it bubble up here and there throughout the years, my favorite example being in the film adaptation of harold pinter's betrayal (1983), but here it's not reined in. it isn't lurking beneath the stiff upper lip and veneer of english, middle class propriety. here it is boiling over. he is quite out of his mind. if you are going to trifle with him you had best be prepared to go farther than him. and he is prepared to go all the way to the end. "no" is not a word he is interested in, unless the question is "would you like to go see a guy ritchie film?".

p.s. if anyone out there can facilitate betrayal getting a dvd release, i would be forever in your debt.


closing in on the gods

fantastic fest, the world's best genre film festival, is well underway and i finally had a day off to take in as much of it as i could. once again, it exceeded expectations.

i started the day at the alamo drafthouse and first on the agenda was an afternoon screening of roger corman's x: the man with the x-ray eyes (1963). this is one of my favorite mad scientist movies and, as corman goes, ranks just behind the poe adaptations he made with vincent price. actually, it's a bit unfair to refer to ray milland's character as mad. he is a visionary (zing!). dr. james xavier develops eyedrops which make your vision so acute that you can actually see through things. his noble aim is to use it to help mankind, beginning in the hospital where he works. as a diagnostic tool, it will make x-rays primitive, suitable for "witch doctors". as is often the case with those ahead of their time, his work is met with a mixture of misunderstanding and fear. he begins to experiment on himself with increasing frequency and a series of desperate acts/accidents forces him into hiding. he has become both mad scientist and his own misunderstood creation, simultaneously. it's as entertaining and thought-provoking a piece as corman ever came up with. ray milland, a heavyweight in decline, brings a certain gravitas to the picture that karloff or price, as much as i love them, couldn't have. don rickles shows up and turns in a rare and effective dramatic performance. the "spectarama" effects, which show you the point of view of our afflicted doctor, are a riot of color and light and the costly nature of vision weighs heavily on all concerned. just exactly how much is too much to see? it begins playfully enough, with a nice touch of exploitation humor that uncovers all the kids and colleagues at a party but by the end, when no amount of darkness is enough, there is nothing left for the man to do but pluck out the eye that offends him.

more than once, milland covers his stricken eyes in a telling pose that looks like nothing as much as grief. closing his eyes does no good. he finally suffers the worst fate that can befall a man of science, a desire to see no more. it is only then that he has truly gone mad. he has begun to see things we cannot comprehend. he is, as he said, "closing in on the gods".

then the man himself dropped by and entertained everyone with anecdotes and fielded questions from the audience. he talked about everything from the conundrum of having a hit versus having critical acclaim (and having both) to working with vincent price and ray milland to his festival experience so far. he was quite an engaging guy and after all this time he is still trying to make sure his audiences get their money's worth. mission accomplished today, roger.

next up was jorge michel grau's we are what we are (2010). this is a grim family drama from mexico which begins with the unexpected death of the patriarch, leaving three siblings and a mother who may be a bit unstable to fend for themselves. and did i mention they were cannibals?

the film follows this somewhat hapless bunch, adrift without their father/husband, as they attempt to round up food/a subject for the ritual they believe perpetuates them. the genre elements are downplayed in this, for the most part, and that works in the film's favor. i still didn't think, though, that it realized its full potential. it was good, not great. it was most effective when it started to edge into other taboo areas aside from the cannibalism. issues and intimations of sexuality, both within and without the home, provided the most interesting scenes for viewers to sink their teeth into but they weren't developed in a fashion that sustained any momentum. it is somewhat strange to say it, but i wish even more time had been spent on these thornier questions, possibly at the expense of the horror elements altogether. it could have been a much better horror film if the horror was left out.

the last film of my evening was a screening of snake in the eagle's shadow (1978) that was taking place at the paramount theater. this was part of of an evening of programming devoted to yuen woo-ping that also included a showing of true legend (2010) and a lifetime achievement award presented by none other than the RZA himself. i missed the first half of all that but got there in time for master yuen's q and a and the second feature. for those of you unfamiliar with yuen woo-ping, he has been one of the most revolutionary figures in hong kong action cinema for the last thirty years. his fight choreography is always dazzling and innovative. he is the bridge from the shaw brothers kung fu theater of the sixties and seventies to the visually arresting wire work extravaganzas that are prevalent now. snake in the eagle's shadow was his directorial debut and is every bit as fun today as it was in 1978. it doesn't stray far from the rival schools/betrayal mold of kung fu films, but it doesn't have to. it is personality plus. this is the film that took a young jackie chan (then billed as jacky) and set him on the path that would make him a household name. it jettisoned the "new bruce lee" thing he had been saddled with in favor a funnier, more acrobatic approach that has been his hallmark ever since and it changed the hong kong film industry in the process. master yuen's father, yuen siu tien, is perfectly cast as the master of the snake fist style who takes chan under his wing as they head toward a final showdown with the evil practitioners of the eagle claw style. their chemistry makes for a winning combination and it's a testament to their rapport that the most memorable piece of choreography in the entire film isn't a fight scene but, rather, their spirited game of keepaway with a rice bowl. description/photos won't do any of this justice. you have to see it in motion.

if you like martial arts films at all, i highly recommend you check out master yuen's body of work and this film is a fine, and fun, place to start.

all in all, a pretty great day. well done, fantastic fest. i think i'll get at least one more full day in on wednesday. talk to you then, if not sooner.


starlite cinema series - halloween spook show

well, we managed to fend off the rain long enough to get tonight's program in. thanks again to annie street arts collective and the folks who came out. it was an evening full of steam-driven, gaslit wonders of the age. we learned some valuable lessons, not the least of which was "when in doubt, listen to gertrude the duck".

next month's installment is going to be something special. halloween is my favorite time of year so we are expanding the film lineup to make it a festival of sorts and we are going to have a musical guest as well. country willie and the zombie apocalypse are going to kick off the evening with a selection of heart-rending and brain-eating tunes about how hard life is, or isn't, as the case may be, for our zombie brethren. the result lies somewhere in between lefty frizzell and george a. romero. willie's songs touch your heart while reminding you to aim for the head. music will start at about 8:30, so make sure you come early. you don't want to miss it. there will be a special dedication to all you zombie mothers.

the films will start soon after, beginning with the legend of hell house (1973), quite possibly my favorite haunted house movie of all time. the haunting (1963) and this one are constantly vying for top honors. it is the story of a group of mediums who take on "the mount everest of haunted houses" haunted by the spirit of an aleister crowley-type who manages to inflict his debauchery from beyond the grave upon a cast headed up by roddy mcdowall. horror stalwart richard matheson adapted the screenplay from his own novel. good pedigree, shivers all around.

next, we have the mexican import misterios de ultratumba (1959), known in the states as the black pit of dr. m. this one sidesteps the atomic age/cold war vibe that was populating american movie screens with giant insects and shrinking men at the time and takes things back to the golden age of universal monsters. it concerns itself with the ramifications, spiritual and corporeal, of men overstepping their bounds and trying to peer behind the veil. fernando méndez cloaks it all in a gorgeous black and white atmosphere that would make karloff proud. it's a far superior product to what was being produced by its contemporaries north of the border, i'll tell you that.

rounding out the evening, at just about midnight, we will be collectively marveling/jeering at troll 2 (1990), the best worst movie ever made. i can't begin to do it justice with my description. it is a milestone of horrendous filmmaking. simply off the scale. i can't think of any better way to see it than with a backyard full of friends as the witching hour tolls. i promise it will be worth your while. madness of the first order.

so come, eat hearty. all this will take place on friday, 10.29.10 starting at 8 p.m. here is the facebook event page for those of you that can use it. as always, if that's not an option and you'd like to attend, please send me a message and i will make sure you get the pertinent information. costumes are absolutely encouraged. we look forward to seeing you there.


trailer tuesday

this week's entry takes us back to those heady days before bill cosby was america's favorite dad. it's uptown saturday night (1974). hey, bill! hang up those sweaters! bring back that righteous beard!


meet henry laszlo

my friend, henry laszlo, is a pretty interesting guy. say hello, henry.

i've known henry his whole life. his mom and i go way back. she has always been one of my favorite people, as sharp and as creative as they come. it's no surprise, then, that her progeny share those characteristics. henry, at 12, is the eldest son in a family that also includes mom, dad, two younger brothers, a baby sister, two dogs, four cats, one hamster and untold accordions. they live in tillamook, oregon where henry is homeschooled, doing the bulk of his work online with the exception of attending junior high for band classes. a few weeks ago henry attended the summer camp offered to young filmmakers by the portland art museum's nw film center. it's a great program that instructs and encourages young filmmakers and offers them the opportunity to experience all of the creative and technical aspects of making their own movies.

i invited him to talk about his experience here and he kindly accepted.

v,a: by way of introduction, i thought we would start with some questions about movies in general. tell us a little about why you like movies.

henry: i like movies because they are a great form of entertainment. it's people doing something you would never do, but fun to watch somebody do anyway.

v,a: where do you get to watch movies?

henry: mostly, i watch movies through my computer.

v,a: when you watch movies, what do you look for? what captures your imagination?

henry: if i'm watching a pixar preview, i'm looking for the art in it, how artistic it is and how well it is made. if the characters look realistic and i can understand what is happening just by watching the preview, i like that. if it's a live action movie, then i usually tend to just watch the preview and see if i can see through the special effects. it's pretty typical, but i'm a kid and i want something to blow my mind and, later, see how it is done. for example, the teaser preview for district 9 (2009) - it was kind of creepy because they were able to harness and capture the aliens and it made me wonder if the aliens were ever going to try to rebel and get free. i like a lot of special effects. action usually grabs my attention and comedy is also something i like. slapstick humor definitely makes me laugh, i like it a lot, but satire is kind of the one i find more in movies that i like.

v,a: so, once a trailer has lured you in and you decide to watch a film, do you tend to lose yourself in it and analyze it later or are you paying attention to the technical aspects as you watch?

henry: if it's a boring, repetitive kind of movie, i just tend to lose myself in a manner that involves drooling and having my eyes half-open. if it is a very engrossing or creepy movie, then i lose myself in the suspense parts, or when there's a zombie eating someone's head.

v,a: did camp change the way you watch movies and what you watch for?

henry: before i went to camp i didn't know much about how to make a movie, all the little secrets and tricks to making it look and sound good. one little trick i did know before i went to camp was that if you want to create a creepy scene, or build tension, then all you need is the right camera angle. now that i have been to camp, when i see those things i think about what the cameraman or boom mic operator was doing during the making of the scene.

v,a: what are some of your favorite movies?

henry: the pirates of the caribbean series and kick-ass (2010) are probably somewhere on my top ten list.

v,a: what do you like about those?

henry: i like how well everything overlaps in the storyline. a bunch of different stories come down, trickling like water, and they all meet in the middle of a big bowl. like water does, they all merge together and right when those droplets meet, it's the end of the movie. that kind of storyline is what i really like.

v,a: do you focus on particular actors or directors?

henry: not exactly, i don't really look for actors or directors. i mostly look for genres. i like actors, without actors there is no movie. if i'm watching a movie in a genre i like and jackie chan shows up, i say, "oh hey, look! it's jackie chan!" but after watching that movie i don't go running around looking for more jackie chan.

v,a: how do you find out about movies you would like to see?

henry: mom usually tells about me about a movie she saw last night that she thinks i would like to see. i also see commercials or trailers on youtube or on the preview sections of other movies.

v,a: do you talk about movies much with your friends and family?

henry: a little. if mom saw a movie that i saw a preview for then we'll talk about it. if my friend and i saw the same movie, we'll talk about certain characters or scenes that we really liked. as for information on films, i don't tend to look them up online or read about them in magazines or anything. i have read vitagraph and watched the videos on here. other than that, i'll give it a glimpse and move on.

v,a: is everyone in the family pretty creative?

henry: yes. dad is very good at the guitar and has written a few songs. mom makes cookies and is a very good accordionist. thomas is interested in photography (you can see some of thomas' photography on his blog, awesome nine bajillion) and george draws a lot and plays the violin.

v,a: do you guys work on projects together?

henry: yeah, sometimes we do. one christmas, we all tried to learn the song "i saw three ships" together. we also cook a lot together and we make each other's christmas gifts.

v,a: tell me about film camp. what was a normal day like?

henry: a normal day started out silent because everybody was still nervous. a few would speak up because they had already made friends with each other but it was mostly silent. then the teacher would show up and get us started with the movie. around then, developing communication was a vital thing. that way we could understand each other during the making of the movie, so that was when the talking started. the first day, we did a few exercises. we played a game that was like a scavenger hunt but you had to take a five second video of what you needed to find, such as something you may take with you on a camping trip or a kitchen appliance. then we would get down to movie making. one girl named olivia started up a little game with the fuzzy thing that goes on the boom mic. what you had to do was, if you got steve, the fuzzy thing, you had to keep it away from everybody else until all hell breaks loose and the teacher takes away all snack privileges.

v,a: you took the mockumentary class. why did you choose that one?

henry: i didn't choose the mockumentary class as a first choice. it was my back-up if i didn't get the digital movie making class. when i first signed up, i leaned towards movies with people in them, such as digital movie making or mockumentary, rather than animation. there were only two classes that covered those interests. i got my second choice.

v,a: why was digital movie making your fist choice? do you like the technology for a particular reason?

henry: the only reason i tried to take digital movie making is because there weren't classes that used actual film. i think digital is great but i hope people don't forget how to use "reel" film.

v,a: why did you initially lean toward live action films rather than animation?

henry: i felt more like using a camera, rather than a computer, to make my movies.

v,a: do you like the idea of working with actors and interacting with other crew members more than animation.

henry: yes! yes, very much.

v,a: what classes would you like to take next time?

henry: before, i just wanted to do live action stuff, but i have seen other computer animation things i like on youtube since then and have really gotten into it. i am going to take an animation class this winter.

v,a: tell me about your project at camp. what was your function on the crew?

henry: my function was mostly technical, because a lot of the kids that were there signed up for an acting opportunity. so, i got the chance to do everything - cameraman, boom mic operator, assistant camera, director, assistant director.

v,a: what was your favorite of all those jobs?

henry: i didn't really have a favorite, as they all required the same amount of work. i never really felt drawn to any of them, i just wanted to try them all out. they all looked very intriguing to me. i didn't like the director or assistant director jobs that much because they don't get their hands on the technical stuff. they just tell the actors what to do or make sure the stuff is set up right. you don't even get to touch a wire, and if you do, it's because you stepped on it. i liked working with machines a lot more. the boom mic and the camera piqued my interest more than the lights.

v,a: how big was your cast and crew?

henry: it consisted of fourteen people.

v,a: how did you find the process of collaboration?

henry: easy, because most of them had experience. working with them was easy. being friends with them was a bit harder because they all just wanted to stay with their groups. i was able to make one friend, who was very nice, but it was hard getting to know everyone. communicating as if we were on a real set was fun - saying "action" and communicating the way a director a does with the actors and cameramen and assistant. it was like playing pretend, almost.

v,a: your instructor, andy blubaugh, is a fairly accomplished indie filmmaker. did you guys talk much about his work and his experiences in the film business? how did you benefit from his experience?

henry: he didn't talk about his movies and nobody really asked because they didn't know who he was. being good at making movies, he gave us hints. he pretty much left the movie all in our hands. every now and then, if he saw that the cameraman was having trouble finding a good shot he'd step in and help a little, like asking the light person to move out of the way or having the actors stand in a different place.

v,a: how did the class react to that?

henry: i though it was funny - when the kids came into this, hoping that they'd be guided along the path to movie making, but then were shocked to see that the teacher left everything in their hands and only helped a little bit. i liked his method of teaching. i was a little surprised myself but i rolled with it.

v,a: tell me about the film you made.

henry: our project was called the glazed ghoul. it is a mockumentary about a journalist who is investigating the rivalry between two doughnut shop owners. it's about eight minutes long.

v,a: the word "ghoul" suggests there might be a horror element to it. is that right?

henry: not exactly. the ghoul is just part of an advertisement scheme by one of the doughnut shop owners.

v,a: how can people see your film?

henry: we have a dvd and it's been posted on youtube.

v,a: that is cool. it seems like that was a pretty great experience, overall. are you excited about going back?

henry: yes!

thanks for taking the time to talk with me, henry. good luck in animation class!


dog day afternoon

i count myself infinitely lucky that my folks were kind enough to get me a dog when i was a kid. i got jake when he and i were both pups and there wasn't a better pal a kid could have had. he was a mutt - beagle was the only discernible ancestry that we could determine - and was my boon companion, my partner in crime. we had countless adventures, read many a comic book together and wore out a mountain of batteries playing merlin, which always made him turn his head sideways at the noise it made when i won at tic-tac-toe. on those fateful saturday afternoons when i discovered our gang/little rascals shorts and the creature from the black lagoon (1954), jake was sitting right there beside me. i am, without a doubt, a dog person. i think the way people interact with dogs says a great deal about them and if a dog doesn't trust you i might be a little skeptical of you myself.

the reason i bring this up is because i stumbled across this great picture of buster keaton and a pal of his:

two great stonefaces.

this sent me looking for more and i discovered something that only makes me like the golden age of hollywood even more when compared to today - these folks loved their dogs. you know, like normal people. yes, i know a lot of these photographs were publicity shots, spreads for life magazine, et cetera, and geared to make you think just that - "these stars are just like us!". and i am sure there are plenty of celebrities these days that love their dogs just like i do but there is just a different quality present in the photographs then versus now. so many of the shots you see now seem to be designer dogs in designer carriers, dogs as accessories. they don't strike me as part of the family. i don't picture paris hilton (horrible example, i know) getting down in the floor and roughhousing with her pup but lauren bacall damn sure would.

it's just nice to see people whose work i admire exhibiting a facet of their own humanity that has nothing to do with playing a character. here are a few more...

carole lombard and the luckiest dog in the world.

alfred hitchcock.

jean arthur.

a young groucho and harpo marx.

audrey hepburn.

marlon brando.

ingrid bergman.

stan laurel.

elizabeth taylor.

i'm really not one for taking pictures, but if only one document of my life survives, i hope it's a picture of me playing with my dogs.


trailer tuesday

christmas comes early to vitagraph with this week's entry! rare exports (2010) is a promising bit of scandinavian oddness that is currently generating a fair amount of interest at the toronto international film festival. forget everything you thought you knew about santa claus.


blood and thunder

one of my favorite novels, and one that has been perched atop the list of unfilmable books since its release in 1985, is cormac mccarthy's blood meridian, or, the evening redness in the west.

i've been re-reading this book lately and thinking about the notion of anything being unfilmable. i don't believe in the idea. it's cowardly. it reduces all that is potentially great about cinema to a paltry financial equation. if what it contains is so reprehensible as to be unfilmable, why, as a novel, was it also not as equally unwriteable or unreadable? i am simply unconvinced that there is not a group of talented people who are as willing to be as ruthless, cinematically, as mccarthy is with his pen. what these people mean when they say unfilmable is that it isn't good business. it would take an awfully bold patron to bankroll this one. when you cease worrying about a return on your investment, nothing is unfilmable. not one damned thing.

and it's a book full of damned things. damned things, damned people, a damned country. its savagery and brutality are unrelenting. if you make this thing, and you make it correctly, you would be setting a standard for subversive cinema that it would take a lot to eclipse. you could combine salò (1975), irreversible (2002) and antichrist (2009) and still not come close to the fury of what would be depicted in a film version that adhered closely to this source material. todd field is currently attached to the project as director. ridley scott was previously at the helm, but he jumped ship, which i am grateful for. scott would have made it an oversized spectacle, i fear. it seems, of late, that he is unable to do anything else. this is something that will be more frightening the more intimate it is. smaller is better. when the inhumanity is this boundless, your scale doesn't have to be. an example:

"everywhere there were horses down and men scrambling and he saw a man who sat charging his rifle while blood ran from his ears and he saw men with their revolvers disassembled trying to fit the spare loaded cylinders they carried and he saw men kneeling who tilted and clasped their shadows on the ground and he saw men lanced and caught up by the hair and scalped standing and he saw the horses of war trample down the fallen and a little whitefaced pony with one clouded eye leaned out of the murk and snapped at him like a dog and was gone. among the wounded some seemed dumb and without understanding and some were pale through the masks of dust and some had fouled themselves or tottered brokenly into the spears of the savages. now driving in a wild frieze of headlong horses with eyes walled and teeth cropped and naked riders with clusters of arrows clenched in their jaws and their shields winking in the dust and up the far side of the ruined ranks in a piping of boneflutes and dropping down off the sides of their mounts with one heel hung in the withers strap and their short bows flexing beneath the outstretched necks of the ponies until they had circled the company and cut their ranks in two and then rising up again like funhouse figures, some with nightmare faces painted on their breasts, riding down the unhorsed saxons and spearing and clubbing them and leaping from their mounts with knives and running about on the ground with a peculiar bandylegged trot like creatures driven to alien forms of locomotion and stripping the clothes from the dead and seizing them up by the hair and passing their blades about the skulls of the living and the dead alike and snatching aloft the bloody wigs and hacking and chopping at the naked bodies, ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries to their fellows. and now the horses of the dead came pounding out of the smoke and dust and circled with flapping leather and wild manes and eyes whited with fear like the eyes of the blind and some were feathered with arrows and some lanced through and stumbling and vomiting blood as they wheeled across the killing ground and clattered from sight again. dust stanched the wet and naked heads of the scalped who with the fringe of hair below their wounds and tonsured to the bone now lay like maimed and naked monks in the bloodslaked dust and everywhere the dying groaned and gibbered and horses lay screaming."

good luck with that, todd.

to be fair, he has made a couple of fine films, but nothing i have seen suggests to me that he has this in him. a couple of difficult domestic dramas are not the same as unleashing hell on earth.

casting is the other fly in the ointment. i can think of contemporary counterparts for most of the dreadful band of cutthroats we follow throughout the novel but i can think of no one that could inhabit judge holden. besides me, anyway. it's crucial that they get that right. those of you that have read the book feel free to play "who would you cast?" in the comments section. it's always fun and i'm always curious about other folks' ideas about this sort of thing.

judge holden action figure tie-in possibilities abound!

of course, all of these are moot points as the film remains stuck in development and i am sure no studio would take a chance like this right now. that doesn't make it unfilmable, though. it just means no one has both the money and the guts. it's a shame. someone stands to make film history.


a summer place

well, the summer is winding down and that always brings with it the bittersweet news that the paramount summer classics series is drawing to a close. it goes through sunday but, due to a busy schedule, i have visited the old girl for the last time this season. a long summer tour with the band and a busy work schedule made time pretty tight but i managed to see quite a few great films. here is a poster gallery of what i managed to take in. the earliest film represented is wings (1927) and it goes up through lone star (1996). they are arranged in chronological order of original release.

it's not all bad news, though. october, my favorite time of year, is just around the corner and one summer classics series ending just means i get to look forward with anticipation to when they announce the schedule for the next one. so long, row q. i'll see you in may, 2011.