Reflections on a Wasted Life

Here is a video I created as an experiment, not to tell a story so much as to capture a mood.

Here is a video I created as an experiment, not to tell a story so much as to capture a mood. Let me know what you think. What mood do you think it captures? How does it make you feel? How much part does the music play in reflecting what is happening in the films as well as in setting the mood.

By the way, I made this film from elements available in the public domain. I did no actual filming myself. I certainly did not compose the music.

Minty Comedic Arts and the Scariest Ice Cream Commercial

As you may know, I love YouTube. I watch it instead of regular broadcast TV and even in place of cable/pay TV. Its 10-15 minute programs really appeal to my short attention span that wants to hop constantly from subject to subject.

Just now, I finished watching one of the weirdest yet also one of the best YouTube videos I have seen.

This is on Minty’s Comedic Arts, a YouTube channel based in Australia and which focuses movie reviews, usually along the lines of horror. This is one of my favorite channels. Mark Bishop, the host, does a terrific job of bringing out the fascinating highlights of movies while still being entertaining.

Tonight (I saw it tonight; the video was actually produced two years ago), Minty talked about the scariest/ weirdest commercial he ever saw. Now that I have seen it, I have to say that it is the scariest, weirdest commercial I have ever seen.

I bring it up here, because it is somewhat dark and it was influence by famed horror filmmakers such as David Cronenberg, director of ScannersVideodromeThe Dead Zone, The Fly, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, et cetera.

This video is so weird yet so brilliant in so many ways. I love the way Mark Bishop presents this in a way that is quite suitable for the bizarre nature of the film.

I will stop here. Watch the video. Let me know your impressions.


Film Review: “Body Bags” (1993)

Poster for Body Bags
Poster for “Body Bags”, 1993

Last night, I managed (we live in a remote part of Arkansas) to hook up Roku to our bedroom TV and finally get a decent stream of TV into said bedroom. Now my wife, on summer vacation from teaching, has spent much of last night and today watching Shudder (I more than she having had a bout of insomnia). I expect this to continue for some time. She is a big horror fan, the more modern the better. However, she does enjoy some blasts from the past. She caught a glimpse of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” from 1974, starring Jack Palance, and instantly proclaimed it a classic.  This was immediately before succumbing to Mr. Snooze and Mr. Snore after imbibing our version of a Sea Breeze cocktail (1:1 Malibu Coconut Rum and Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, shaken and on the rocks). Shudder, by the way, is a fun, little Amazon Prime horror channel.

The first thing we watched together though was John Carpenter’s “Body Bags” from 1993. This is a cheesy film, but so cheesy that it is quite enjoyable. Wikipedia accurately describes it as “… a 1993 American horror comedy anthology television film originally made for television, featuring three unconnected stories, with bookend segments featuring John Carpenter, Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper as deranged morgue attendees.” As Wikipedia also notes, it is most notable for its celebrity cameo appearances. 

The three stories are fun for television horror of the early 90’s. My first thought on watching about the first five minutes was that John Carpenter must have gotten together with some of his horror director pals and done this on a drunken goof. The stories are not worthy of any directors

Mark Hamill in Body Bags
Mark Hamill in “Body Bags” (1993)

involved. They are rather silly and amateurish in terms of plot, etc. The first, “The Gas Station” involves a pretty girl pursued by a serial killer on her first night shift at a local gas station. The second story, “Hair”, has Stacy Keach as a vain executive type undergoing a radical hair growth technique and then discovering its horrifying consequences. The third story, “Eye”, has Mark Hamill as a baseball player who loses an eye in an automobile accident and then has it replaced (unknowingly, of course) with the eye of a serial killer. You can pretty much figure out where that one is headed from that brief description.

Now, on to the interesting part: the celebrity cameos. Note that I said in the above paragraph that this film is not worthy of any of the directors involved. That’s because this film has cameos from most of the most famous horror directors of that era: Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Roger Corman, and Wes Craven. If you are curious about what these guys are like in real life, this is your chance to find out. I won’t go into long, meticulous detail about each of their roles. It will be more fun for you to just watch the film and watch them pop out here and there, then watch the credits to see if you’re right.

There are also a few other non-horror celebrities making an appearance: Stacy Keach, Sheena Easton (for you younger set, she was very popular and very hot in every sense of the word in the early 90’s), and Charles Napier. One horror star that crops up is David Naughton of “An American Werewolf in London” fame.

Anyway, I won’t bore you with much else. I have some writing to do and a light supper to eat, so I must be signing off.

Bottom line: watch this movie just for fun. Don’t take it seriously. It was obviously made to be camp and silly. Just enjoy it for the silliness and the trivia value.

 

Review of Titus Andronicus, October 13, 2019

Anthony Hopkins in the eponymous role of Titus Andronicus

After I watched Equus on Sunday, I decided to ramp up the drama into horrific tragedy by watching Julie Taymor’s  bizarre 1999 film version of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

This film is bloody enough in its own right, but it transcends the usual graphic horror found in Stephen King novels or teen slasher flicks by showering the innocent as well as the not-so-innocent with the soul-wrenching agony of parents watching their children  and the children watching their siblings suffer horrible deaths and torture.

Think of Titus Andronicus as Shakespeare’s predecessor to Game of Thrones with the horror turned up a notch but without the mercy that occasionally pops up.

Wikipedia notes that Shakespeare wrote this to “to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the 16th century [per Joseph Quincy Adams’ Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: The First Quarto, 1594 published by Scribner’s Sons, 1936].

Shakespeare knew how to work with his audience’s emotion.

Unlike other Shakespeare plays, this one is not based on a historical character. It is set in an unspecified time in Rome after the reign of Julius Caesar. Titus is a general returning from a successful campaign against the Goths (who defeated the Romans at Adrianople in 378 CE followed by the Visigoths sacking Rome in 410 CE).  He has brought with him the Goth queen Tamora and her three sons. To pay homage to the gods during the interment of 25 of his soldiers, Titus sacrifices the eldest son of Tamora, who begs for her son’s life. Titus continues with the sacrifice.

The emperor of Rome has died and just after the execution of Tamora’s son, the emperor’s son Satuninus ascends to the throne. Saturninus wants Titus’s daughter Lavinia for his bride and Titus gives her to him, even though she is in love with Bassanius. Just after Lavinia takes her place beside Saturninus,  Titus gives him an additional gift of Tamora and her two remaining sons.  Saturninus practically drools over Tamora. Lavinia immediately runs off with Bassianus, but Saturninus has the woman he craves, so he decides not to bother with Lavinia. This makes Tamora the empress of Rome. Things keep getting worse and worse for Titus and his family as only Shakespeare can do.  Lots of gore and blood and screaming. If John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, George Romero, Dario Argento, and Guillermo de Toro could team up for a movie, this would be the movie they would make, but in King James English. Lots of limbs and heads coming off.

Julie Taymor sets this in a fantasy time, where swords and guns, horses and cars,, togas and suits are used with anachronistic abandon. From what the Wikipedia article on Titus Andronicus says, she did this to show the timelessness of violence. In one of the few obscenities I will use on this website, I will say NO SHIT, JULIE. VIOLENCE IS TIMELESS. TELL US SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW.

But then, her production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is also unusual including the gender of the wizard and main character, Prospero, is changed from a man to a woman. Still, If she hadn’t translated these films to cinema, who would have. I am grateful that I got to see them in whatever form, so long as they remain reasonably true to Shakespeare’s script. Setting a Shakespeare play in another time is not unusual. Kenneth Branagh did it with Hamlet and Baz Luhrmann did it with Romeo and Juliet.

Still, with Taymor the effect is still a tad weird. She starts out in the modern day with a boy of about 11 playing violent games with toys on his kitchen table. He is then whisked away to the fictional time and world of Titus Andronicus, where he spends several scenes loitering in the foreground and watching the main characters, before he becomes Titus’s grandson toward the end of the movie.

In my humble opinion, the movie could have done without the character of the modern boy. It’s too distracting from the story and the dialogue. I don’t mind so much the setting being in a fantasy time and world, but the boy is an unnecessary detail that adds nothing to the plot or to the overall story.

Personally, I would have preferred that the movie be more historically accurate, even though the characters are fictional.  Julie should have just picked a post-Christ era of the Roman empire and ran with it.

Mel Gibson could have done it better.

Anyway, if you are into horror, like I am (though I don’t go for really graphic stuff), this may be the Shakespeare play for you.

Overall, it was a decent production and NOT BORING. I was definitely wide awake and pausing the movie when I had to take the dog out. I don’t do that for all films.  The plot is intriguing and the characters sympathetic with good and evil in each, though often one outweighs the other.

As with all Shakespeare plays made into movies and sticking to the original script, the King James English is tricky to learn at first, but it can be done. I have watched several of these films and it takes a while to adapt, but it helps it you read the closed captions. Once you adapt to it, you will wonder what happened to the beauty of the English language over the centuries. There are some beautiful and incredibly poignant passages in the dialogues, made even more poignant when you understand the overall situation the speaking character is in.

I would write more, but I have a headache from being in the declining phase of a cold and will close it here. Maybe I will write more later. I have wanted to watch Titus Andronicus for a long time and finally got around to it today. I am glad I did.

I recommend this movie highly, especially for all Shakespeare aficionados.

It all goes south in the must see trailer for Southbound

Source: It all goes south in the must see trailer for Southbound

No kidding!  You have to see this terrific trailer for “Southbound” over at Missing Reel.  Check it out now!  “Southbound” opens in limited theaters on February 5 and then hits VOD February 9.   I am looking forward to it.