Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
[Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror]
Director: F.W. Murnau
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
The first vampire film that I ever saw, it, along with Keaton's Seven Chances and Cops and Chaplin's The Gold Rush, kick-started my fascination with silent film. Not only my first vampire film, but also the one that creeps me out the most, even to this day. Perhaps because its not about blood or cheap scares or insane special effects; like many Murnau films, it's about mood. This particular mood contains a virus that slowly rots away at your soul and your psyche. The mood works over you much like the plague represented in the film, and you are already half defeated with the sickness by the time that Orlock makes his way into the town of Wisborg. Sure, it's not half as erotic as its plagiarized source material, Bram Stoker's Dracula, but in some ways, I feel this version gets closer to the syphillitic nightmare that lies at the heart of Stoker's words, himself rumored to be consumed with the disease. Besides, I've never been into the "cool" vampire thing: the cape, the affected politeness, the romantic airs, the hypnotic longings -- poppycock. Orlock is my idea of a truly frightening vampiric figure -- nasty, ugly, rat-like, practically bursting with craving due to its narcotic addiction for its victim's blood. This is not to say that I discount Lee, Lugosi, Langella, Oldman and all of the other Draculas and knockoff vampires. I enjoy them all for different reasons, and Dracula is one of my personal favorite books. And I understand the whole disguised-horror aspect which allows Dracula to entrap his victims. I just happen to prefer the hideous Max Schreck, who has to really work to get close to the ladies. That's something that I can identify with, not the schemings of some pretty-boy lothario.

Yellow Submarine (1969)
Director: George Dunning
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
I am so happy that my nephew has been introduced to this film at the age of 5, because that makes him half the age his father (my brother Otis) was when he and I stayed up until 12:30 in the morning one summer weeknight to watch this on the CBS Late Night Movie. It was the first Beatles movie that I ever saw (I caught Help! for the first time about a month later on the same series), and though I was familiar with their music in a subliminal fashion, it was the one that made me crack open for the first time the Beatles albums that my cousin Brad had left behind when he disappeared to the Lower 48, and thus, I started the swift process towards my own personal Beatlemania. By the time that I saw Help!, I was fully hooked. What I didn't know at the time, and a fact of which many novice viewers of the film are not aware, is that outside of the music, the voices of the Beatles are not used in the film (they only endorsed the project as a way of fulfilling their contractual movie obligations). Didn't matter at the time, doesn't matter now; the film is bright, marvelous fun and brought to life through some wonderful, if limited, animation. What is important is that the charm of the Beatles shines through. And though I didn't get to see the sequence built around the song when I was a kid (it was deleted from the American release), via the soundtrack album I was introduced to the song Hey Bulldog, which has remained one of my favorite Beatles songs to this day.

Road Games (1981)
Director: Richard Franklin
Cinema 4 Rating: 6
An old favorite from the video rental days in the 80's, when you jumped on any new horror film that came out. All of the Italian giallos were cut to shit and retitled, nothing was letterboxed, and you didn't care what you saw (most of them were crap), as long as it was bloody as hell. Then, every once in a while, you ran into something different and got a nice kick in the boo-boo. From the cover, you'd think it was a generic slasher film, and it prominently features Jamie Lee Curtis, and at the time, that meant "slasher film". What I got was a different take on the sub-genre, with a good dose of Hitchcockian thriller ala Spielberg's Duel, and all set in the Australian outback with a gabby Stacy Keach trying to figure out some of the weird things that he has been noticing but that no one else believes has been happening. Some of it doesn't quite work, and I don't like it nearly as much as I once did, but there are enough memorable scenes and a quaint characterization from Keach to make it worthwhile. Once upon a time, Franklin was considered a talented up-and-comer in the Hitchcock mode (he did direct Psycho II right after this one, after all), and then it went to hell for him. He's still around doing TV series and the occasional movies, but some of them turned out to be huge stinkers (Link, anyone?). Check this one out for some of his early promise.

Boogie Nights (1997) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson Cinema 4 Rating: 8
To anyone that hasn't seen an actual Johnny Wadd film, you can't possibly find the Wadd knockoffs shown in Boogie Nights quite as hilarious unless you have seen the real deal. Until you have, John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg just seem to be doing a generic (though funny) version of good actors pretending to be bad actors. Once you see the evidence that what they are enacting was done in real life, and in the same crappy manner, the movie takes you to even higher levels of both satire and pain. The names and details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, for the film is pastiche and not meant to be biography in any means, but the world they inhabit was ever so real in those days:
the "lucky" and highly untalented goofballs played by Reilly and Wahlberg get paid to bang hot women, achieve a certain level of low fame, party nonstop in a cloud of cocaine dust -- and then the bottom drops out. Reality hits, and like anybody, these "stars" have to learn to cope with a world that isn't necessarily not suited for their type, but instead they discover how very ordinary they are in the context of the rest of the world. A big dick might get you laid or get you cast in a porn film where you get laid and paid, but following that "dream" world, unless you are comfortable with them, there are relatively scant ways in which it can help you make a living. "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm...?", indeed. Nobody is really happy in this film -- it might look like a party, but like all parties, it has to end sometime, and for some in the film, there is no next party. The cast is absolutely amazing, and, as the leader of this little "family", Burt Reynolds was robbed of an Oscar.

Cry-Baby (1990)
Director: John Waters
Cinema 4 Rating: 6
I like this movie slightly more in my head than I do watching it, but it is still fun to view again. I enjoy the soundtrack wholeheartedly, both the original music (James Intveld and Rachel Sweet do the fine vocals for the otherwise perfectly cast Johnny Depp and Amy Locane) and the 50's oldies that are perfectly matched to their scenes. Getting it on DVD was great, but I noticed more than ever that not everything comes off as well as it should. I'm hoping that the stage version will correct some of the glaring story problems, some of which were corrected by the "Director's Cut" version of the DVD. Like many modern movie musicals, I wish that there was a little more reliance on music and a lot less on action -- it is a musical, after all, and four or five set production numbers are not enough to sell me on it. But what is here is a lot of fun, provided that you are down with John Waters' "unique" vision. Luckily for me, I have been for a number of years, ever since my world was rocked by my first experience with Pink Flamingoes. In fact, I much prefer the younger Waters' ouevre, though he can still surprise every now and then. (As of this writing, I have yet to see his latest exercise in "bad taste", A Dirty Shame. It got pretty bad reviews across the board, so, of course, I am really excited to see it.) Even in PG-rating land, this film is still of a piece with his earlier work, though I've haven't grown comfortable with Waters' role as a culturally accepted flagbearer of bad taste. But now, nothing's truly shocking since the internet came along as the media of choice for provocateurs of outré visions. We are now all part of the same enormous worldwide freak show, and Waters' had to learn to evolve his unique talents to the new mainstream. I like that he is reaching the masses with his toned down but still subversive message, but I sort of long for the days of singing assholes, egg-sucking grandmas, Divine getting raped by a giant lobster or eating dog crap, and Babs Johnson and her incestuous son licking every inch of the horrible Marbles' household. Now, that's entertainment...


The thing I like about John Waters these days is that, unlike gross-out films like American Pie or Road Trip, his films are decidedly free of derision and not mean spirited at all. His characters may make fools of themselves, but you can tell he has an actual love for them. They're just so joyous in their sickness.

Plus I think he put it best himself when he said that Hollywood is putting out nothing but trash these days, so to be a true outsider you have to be normal.
EggOfTheDead said…
I think you'd enjoy A Dirty Shame, Rik. As a Baltimore girl, I'm a fan of all Waters' films if only for the way he turns those familiar faces & locations on their ear. He really taught me to love that city. Cry Baby is my favorite of his "commercial" works - Sure got Johnny Depp out of the rut Hollywood had slotted for him! - and Desperate Living is my favorite early work. Waters' flix often miss being laugh-out-loud funny, but there's something endearing about them. I think Working Dead hit the nail on the head in his previous comment. I recommend the Very Crudely Yours box set - Mom sent me mine for Xmas '06!

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