Archive for May 2009

It!

It’s no secret that my goal in life is to watch every movie Roddy McDowall ever made. But did you also know that my other goal in life is to watch every giant killer statue movie ever made? Well, it is. And I made this life-altering decision about two minutes after I watched the 1966 Brit flick It! – which not only stars Roddy McDowall but also features a giant killer statue. Talk about everything clicking into place!



You want to see the Rodster overacting like he’s never overacted before? Watch It! You want to see giant killer statues punching holes in London landmarks? Again, watch It! In fact, we could all save a lot of time if you just switched off your computer right now and went and watched It! – but I understand you come here for in-depth critical analysis and film theory, so let’s plough on.

Roddy plays Arthur Pimm, a curator’s assistant who lives at home with his elderly mother. And, when I say “elderly,” I mean old... Cobwebby old. Yes, Mrs Pimm is actually a rotting corpse sitting in a rocking chair in her son’s bedroom. (I know... where have I seen this idea before, right? It’s on the tip of my tongue...) Anyway, Pimm talks to her, dresses her, and carries her around the house, but mostly she just sits there rocking quietly in her chair. Quite how she manages to rock is never actually explained. She is, after all, dead. But rock she does, and very spooky it is too, thankyouverymuch.

One evening sometime in Scene 2, Pimm is called out to the museum’s storage warehouse, the scene of a devastating fire that’s destroyed almost everything the museum owns. Oh, except for a large, scowling stone figure, which may – or may not – be a giant killer statue. I’m giving nothing away. Pimm gives it the benefit of the doubt but, when his boss gets an unseen whack to the back of the head whilst standing near the statue, things aren’t really going in its favour. Particularly when the curator dies as a result.

Was it the statue that delivered the fatal blow? All we know is that, where once its arms were in an extended position, one of them now seems to be pointing downward, and Roddy does to great lengths to illustrate this using an umbrella and a range of puzzled facial expressions. I tell you: you don’t know what acting is until you’ve seen someone using a brolly to mime the motions of a giant killer statue.

Let’s cut to the chase, anyway, because It! doesn’t keep you guessing for long. It’s a Frankenstein story at heart and the statue is actually a golem, which is to say it’s an ancient, folkloric monster of unlimited strength, compelled to do the bidding of its master. In the right hands, it could be the most lethal WMD the world has ever seen. In Mr Pimm’s hands, it helps steal a few bracelets and smack anyone round the head who stands between him and the job of head curator.

Around about this point, I’d love to provide you with a screen grab of the golem but, since I watched It! on TV, I can’t do my usual high-tech wizardry – and there don’t even seem to be any good pictures online, either. But I will say it’s quite an effective-looking monster and I’m sure would’ve caused me a nightmare or two when I was younger. Oh, hang on, here’s a likeness from an old print ad... Prepare to shudder!



Golems aside, I had to marvel at Pimm’s other secret weapon: his marvellous filing cabinet. Whenever he needs anything (or, alternatively, needs to hide anything) it’s straight into the top drawer and the problem’s solved. It’s so good, in fact, and so devastatingly handy, I actually began to wonder if that filing cabinet was really the “It!” of the title. Again, a screen grab would be wonderful here, but you’ll just have to make do with this randomly-sourced image... Prepare to marvel!



Sheesh! Look at that thing go! Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the rest of the film for you but I can’t not mention that the last twenty minutes of It! are so insane, they make the build-up look like a serious documentary about dangerous stonemasonry. There’s motorbike stunts, old ladies being torched, and the dropping of a nuclear bomb somewhere in the Home Counties. Those sweet, sweet 1960s!

Wheel out your Wondrous Filing Cabinet of Wonder and file under “It!’s awesome!”

Rating: 3/5

Psssst....



Hey guys...I'm back for a sec to tell you about a site that me and my girl Issa Rae from Black Film Academy started up...its called Soul Sis-Star Reviews, and it's all Black Cinema reviews for films old and new--from two minds that are probably just as twisted as the other, haha! Check us out HERE...we are still under construction so bear with us--love you!

PS: I am not leaving this blog, don't worry :-)

advice about the weight of "originality"

a recurring topic that comes up between jamie and me is "originality". jamie's opinion (and i'm paraphrasing from memory, so if i got this wrong jamie, feel free to set me straight in the comments) is that everything has been done, so take what you need from your influences and put your own spin on them.

i tend to agree with jamie on this. during my internet travels today, i went to bill bruford's blog and he had this to say.

putting the idea of originality in this perspective actually takes a load off of my shoulders. everything's already been done? great! i can just get on with telling my story and not worry about whether or not it's original.

"The Last Haunted House" Update

we are now finished with the 3rd draft of the scene-by-scene breakdown.

unless we find something wrong with the breakdown at the last minute, we are finally moving to the script stage. jamie, chris and i have been building towards this for the past five years. we are going to briefly pause at this point for the following reasons:

1. we haven't shown any of this to chris yet and still need to get his blessing on what we've come up with.

2. we need to figure out how we're going to actually write it (i.e. one of us does a complete draft and passes off to the other for polishing, or we split up the scenes between us and then stitch them together at the end, etc.).

make no mistake about it, though:

this is a BIG moment.

during this pause in the action, i'm going to take the opportunity to write the smaller pieces that we'll need for the film. these are what i'm calling "sub-scripts" that are scenes unto themselves. they involve TV and radio newscasts that appear briefly throughout the film. they will be filmed separately and then woven into the fabric of the main film. these sub-scripts will keep me busy and allow me to get practical experience writing screenplays.

ever onward.

a general update on varied things

once again, i've been neglecting this place. here are a few random updates:

1/ the season five finale of lost did not disappoint. it's going to be a LONG wait until january 2010, which is when the sixth and final season premieres.

2/ i am nine episodes into j.j. abrams' new series fringe. this is a terrific show. abrams and his co-conspirators alex kurtzman and roberto orci have taken the best aspects of the x-files and created something fresh.

3/ i recently finished reading the forever war by joe haldeman. this is one of those classic science fiction novels that i hadn't had the chance to get to until now. it is labeled "classic" for good reason. the novel is a metaphor of haldeman's experiences serving in the vietnam war. st. martin's press recently reprinted the forever war and can be found at any reputable book seller.

4/ i haven't made any further progress with the scene-by-scene due to lack of time and exhaustion. however, i plan to rectify this tomorrow. it's my day off and i plan to use it productively.

that's it for now.

Pauline Oliveros

Performance at Cal State (2007)

Houston-born composer and accordionist Pauline Oliveros performs an improvisational piece at Cal State.

Part 1


Part 2

OK, Y'all....

While the rest of the world is trying to figure out if Oprah really wears a weave (she says no), or why your cousins minstreled it up to the highest power over some Popeye's for Earth Day (hilarious post!) and for some KFC last week, and why any type of moisture whatsoever is kryptonite to Gary Coleman (see picture above), Ms. Invisible tries to stay sane through the arts, but even I have succumbed a bit. But even as I try to stay afloat these days, please believe that I will never, ever, be as crazy as this chick right here:



Because of the changes I have been navigating, I wanted to be fair and let folks know what is going on. When I started this blog, I compiled a 'Negro Justice League' of bloggers, which consisted of me (of course), Undercover Black Man, Afronerd, PurpleZoe, and Supernegro, with Just Judith as our loyal Gal Friday. Well, two folded up their capes to do wonderful things; Supernegro aka Jeffrey L. Wilson, also a tech writer, went off to write a book, and Undercover Black Man, aka David Mills, just shut down shop to write with David Simon (The Wire) on a new HBO show that was greenlit called "Treme" (watch for it next year, read about it HERE).


Anyhoo, I thought about taking their route. If you want to be strong and leave the blogosphere, it is almost like quitting drugs, honestly. But I am not able to do it cold turkey. I love and enjoy my readers too much, and y'all know I love talking about film too much. So rather than have you guys keep checking for a new post that isn't there, I will be going on hiatus with this blog for an extended period.

Thank you to the readers that have encouraged me to keep it open and not shut down-- specifically the wonderful commenters, those who have started "following" my blog even in the absence of fresh posts, and my amazing brother and sister bloggers--big up to 4 of them who all gave me a "SPLASH AWARD" (yes 3 separate ones! see the award pic above) in the past 2 weeks--Professor Tracey of "Aunt Jemima's Revenge", Ms. Marvalus of "Opinionated Black Woman" and "Conversations With Marva" (who ALWAYS has my back through thick and thin!), and Aaron and Alaine from "A Political Season". All of these bloggers are super-duper intelligent Negroes on every level, so it was quite the honor, to say the least.

But fear not, while I am away from this blog, I will be contributing to another wonderful Black Cinema blog--"Shadow And Act". It is collaboration of me, Tambay Obenson from "The Obenson Report", my beloved Sergio from Ebony/Jet, and my Black Cinema comrades of "Must Love Movies", "Black Film Academy" and "The Black Box Office". Please join us daily over there, because unlike me, there are some overachievers there that actually have the nerve to post more than once a day, every day. Can you imagine?


Keep those martinis flowing... and stay woke! :-)


I WILL be back....until then......SHADOW AND ACT

Don't be a dummy

You’ve seen Dead Silence. You’ve seen Magic and Dead of Night. If you’re a real straight-to-DVD masochist, you may even have seen The Dummy and Triloquist. But can anything prepare you for...



Now tell me that’s not the scariest ventriloquist’s dummy you’ve ever seen. I’m not sure about Melbourne Ales putting life into you, so much as The Fear Of God!
I found that newspaper ad in a copy of the Yorkshire Evening News from 1955. The reason behind me posting it? Um... yeah, ya got me there. Although I have been watching 1967’s It! which is all about a murderous statue come to life. So that’s kinda like a deadly dummy, no?



Okay, no. But it does have Roddy McDowall in it... Therefore It! equals automatic joy! Review on the way.

Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms


I got a copy of the book (Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms - Essays on Gender, Race and Culture) I published a chapter in - it arrived a few days ago and am absolutely thrilled to find it a fantastic read. Every chapter is well-written, informative and rhetorically vigorous. I am especially enjoying a chapter on one of my favorite (and criminally neglected) Hammer films, Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972). And, it is indeed nice to see one's own chapter finally hit the presses... Our editors - Dr. Kay Picart and John Edgar Browning did a fantastic job, every contributor delivered a great chapter and Scarecrow Press published a very handsome book. This pub came on the heels of another honor - getting a picture of me included in Carlos Aguilar and Anita Haas' latest and very excellent publication - the book "Eugenio Martin - Un Autor Para Los Generos" which I have already read cover to cover. I had a great time interviewing Eugenio last October and am grateful to Carlos and Anita for including me in their most excellent new book and for sending me a copy (all the way from Madrid). I can gladly now return the favor and send you a copy of my recent publication.


So, if you don't mind a shamefull plug (trust me, I don't see a dime!), I think that Draculas, Vampires and Other Undead Forms is a really great read for those who love Vampires. I imagine a trade paperback will come out sometime in the not too distant future, but the hardcover is NICE.

Next up, a review of I, Desire when I can find a minute or two. Grading finals for four classes is munching all available time...

the tarantino mixtape

this is truly a sight to behold:

Eclectic Method - The Tarantino Mixtape from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.



please treat yourself and watch this. whoever did this is a mad mad genius. this video really opens up the possibilities of video as art.

watch and comment below...i wanna get a discussion going about this.

Slaughter High

Slaughter High is a slasher that goes straight down the middle. It’s not great, it’s not crappy and, when I watched it, I forgot why I supposedly like slashers so much in the first place. In fact, I felt like any normal person watching a slasher. I was mildly entertained, yet I was unmoved. I felt no affection towards the genre, nor any great loathing of it. I wondered why I wasn’t watching something with more famous people in it. Or any famous people. Or some explosions. It was weeeeeird.

The movie itself hasn’t been put together with any great thought. It starts with a prank that goes predictably wrong... Well, I say “predictably” but I’m not sure if anyone who hasn’t seen this would be able to imagine how said prank goes from humiliating the school nerd in the locker room to said nerd having his face blown off by an exploding jar of nitric acid. I guess It’s just another sad incidence of violence in our schools...



Anyway, the nerd is Marty (Simon Scuddamore) and he’s not particularly likeable, which might be detrimental to the plot if this were a straightforward tale of feelgood revenge (but it’s not). His taunting classmates aren’t especially appealing, either, although they do eventually become tolerable simply due to the fact that the film spends most of its time with them. Where? Back in the school, five years on from graduation, where the guilty gang have arrived to celebrate their reunion. Funny thing is: no one else from the Class of Nineteen-Eighty-Whenever has turned up. It’s just them. The school’s been closed down but their lockers are still there, and each contains an item they thought they’d lost long ago. Spooky, huh?

Faced with a desolate, cobweb-strewn building, some creepy props and no one around, you’d think the teens would blow the joint and find somewhere worth partying in, but they stay to down a few beers – a plan that quickly goes awry when one of their number drinks from an acid-spiked can and finds his intestines bursting from his stomach with the projectile force of the creature from Alien. Most of the teens flee – only to find the doors and windows blocked by electric fencing – while one decides to take a bath, naturally, in the school’s, um... student bathtub? Again, not a good plan, in any case, as acid comes churning out of the mixer tap and bath-girl promptly dissolves like a giant Alka-Seltzer®.


An acid-base slasher, then? Nope. I think that’s it for the chemistry-related killings, although the remaining death scenes are fairly memorable, especially one involving electrocution and dirty talk. It’s not that Slaughter High doesn’t try. It just doesn’t seem to impress. That’s even more surprising when you take into account the climactic chase scenes, which I have to admit are quite brilliantly filmed using a Steadicam. It’s a great technique, and it throws you right into the action... but, again, you probably won’t care enough to get too worked up.

Until recently, Slaughter High was considered something of a lost slasher, having had no DVD release and drifting about in rated and unrated versions on video in the US, and a heavily cut version in the UK. Lionsgate’s new DVD puts out when it comes to being uncut, but is also the most blatant case of poor-quality VHS transferred straight to disc I think I’ve ever seen from a reputable distributor. Now, I wouldn’t have minded at all if I’d been watching on video, but I wasn’t, and that sucked. It’s distracting, disappointing and reeks of cutting corners to cut costs.

On the other hand, the disc’s trivia track invaluably informed me that, when one character donned a hockey mask, it was a tribute to Friday the 13th. Not a total waste then.

Rating: 3/5