The girls sing Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.”
Directed by Colin Higgins (Harold and Maude, Nine to Five).
Ladysmith Black Mambazo x M.J. What is perfection but a blissful marriage of image and sound, song and dance?
Ted Danson dancing on a moonlit pier in Florida. I love the world. A sublime scene from Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 Body Heat, a neo-noir erotic thriller also starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and a virtually unrecognizable Mickey Rourke.
Bait me with promises of ventriloquy and you’ll ensure my attendance to any event. That was the strategy employed by Mya, my trusty Mastodon Mesa co-curator, to lure me to the screening of cuckoo 1981 Z-movie Carnival Magic this weekend. The film is about a magician, his talking chimp, and their friends in a travelling carnival– but the only problem is that everyone in the movie is beyond creepy, especially the chimpanzee, who repeatedly requests (in gravely, growling tones) to be scratched by teenage girls.
The film was hilarious and mind-blowing, but the icing on the cake was the presence of magician Dave Markham, warming up the crowd in front of Cinefamily with his wisecracking sidekick Squeaker, a psychic wisenheimer who bears an eerie resemblance to Davy Jones. I had my new camera with me, so I captured the wary movie buffs as they responded to Squeaker’s sassy inquiries.
Don’t miss the rest of Cinefamily’s “Fucked Up Kids’ Movies” series, running each Saturday in May. Coming up: a night of E.T. rip-offs featuring Mac and Me, the sadistic South African kids movie Lost in the Desert, and misguided Bugsy Malone wannabe Hawk Jones.
Part of what makes our favorite movies so precious is their finite nature. We’re thrust into instant relationships with a series of enticing celluloid strangers, and by the time we feel like old friends with the characters, we’re pulled away form their world forever. Barring an adequate sequel, we’re bound to those two piddly hours to dwell upon. We savor our friendship with repeated views, wistfully attempting to extrapolate from their actions what we think our old pals have gone on to do in their later lives. Often times it’s a good thing that films end when they do– no one needed to find out what happened to Sharon Stone’s character after the first Basic Instinct, for instance.
We appreciate the mystery, but the urge to reconnect lingers in our minds. That’s what makes Postcards to Alphaville, Paul Paper’s project prompting artists to draw postcards to their favorite film characters, so brilliant: rather than foolishly trying to solve the riddle behind these characters’ post-celluloid destinies, we’re simply given an outlet to express our longing, our friendship and our loss by revelling in these loving homages.
[ Note: This is Future Shipwreck's first post by the puckishly erudite and altogether rad writer Dan Rosplock. I'm excited to welcome him as a contributor, and what better way to kick things off than with a post about a brilliant cinematic clusterfuck that we both hold dear to our hearts? Without further ado... ]
It may come as no surprise to anyone who sees Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribably awesome experimental horror/comedy Hausu that the director got his first big break doing commercials for things like cars and men’s deodorant. Now, I realize that might not come off as a ringing endorsement since the phrase “commercial aesthetic” in reference to cinema tends to conjure nightmares of Michael Bay explosions and endless shots of Kristen Stewart staring pensively into the distance doing her concerned lip-bite face, but in this case think of it terms of the considerable talent it takes to craft a truly striking, almost uncannily idealized image.
What if the apple-cheeked youths of a Norman Rockwell illustration (or their Japanese equivalents– a slew of giggling schoolgirls) went on Spring Break to an isolated mansion in the countryside? And what if said youths were trapped in a room with a demon-possessed portrait of a cat projectile vomiting torrents of blood? Hausu tackles these tough questions and oh so many more.
Each of Obayashi’s seven bubbly female protagonists is a character in the most self-consciously one-dimensional sense, right down to their flatly descriptive names. “Fantasy” has a vaguely unsettling romantic obsession with her older male teacher while “Kung Fu” integrates martial arts into every mundane or supernatural situation she is confronted with. These lovable caricatures gallivant carelessly around a world of fluffy kittens and rural splendor until things abruptly go bat-shit insane and they all inevitably succumb to the cartoonish horrors of that titular domicile.
Hausu‘s pleasures are too numerable to mention, let alone analyze. Certainly, part of its appeal stems from the perverse joy one feels upon witnessing the destruction of the false idols of youth and beauty which popular culture presents to us every day. Nearly every shot resembles a too-meticulously arranged tableau, and yet Obayashi himself casually uses every available cheesy special effect in existence to break up his own stunning yet highly “commercial” imagery.
However, beyond merely showing off his iconoclastic abilities the director does something even more intriguing: he presents the possibility of building something completely new and utterly indefinable out of the rubble of those oppressive cultural stereotypes and aesthetic conventions. Ultimately, Hausu is more about rebirth, breathing new if somewhat freaky and unnatural life into dead imagery. At least according to Obayashi’s logic, “Old cats can open doors, but only ghost cats can close them.”
Hausu is currently screening in limited engagements throughout North America, and rumored to be getting a deluxe video release by Criterion later this year. Animated GIF via the always-amazing FourFour.
0s & 1s is a movie written and directed by my bud Eugene Kotlyarenko, starring Morgan Krantz (who I was in that Zune commercial with) and Jeremy Blackman from Magnolia. As Eugene puts it, “it uses the language of a computer operating system (from beginning to end) to tell the story of a young ruffian who must find his stolen computer.” The film is still in post-production but the brief trailer alone has got me hella jazzed to watch this cyberdelic mind-trip! Also, part of it was shot in my old living room. Watch out for 0s & 1s at festivals this winter!
I’ve been leading a secret double life! For the past couple of months, I’ve been writing for Spike Jonze’s We Love You So, a brand new blog that launches today! The blog is designed to give a glimpse at some of the influences and behind the scenes forces at work in Spike’s upcoming epic masterpiece, Where the Wild Things Are, as well as to share rad art and ephemera outside of the Wild Things orbit. I’ve been creating content alongside three of my all-time favorite bloggers: Dallas Clayton, Molly Young and Matt Rubin. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve put together, and there’s plenty of material to look at in the archives already– so go dig in!
In 1977 a volcano called La Soufrière threatened to obliterate Guadeloupe. After the island’s evacuation, Werner Herzog read an article stating that one man had refused to leave. The filmmaker immediately set out on a journey to the Caribbean to examine the quiet before the storm. If you have a Netflix account, you can watch La Soufrière in high quality instantly. If not, watch it right here.