Bill Murray is excellent.
Aykroyd is awesome.
It stands up.
Bill Murray is excellent.
Aykroyd is awesome.
It stands up.
So much I could say about this one.
But it’s one of the few times where I can say, “I worked with that person.”
Probably wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire.
Because I’m a Trump supporter.
But he was the best drummer I was ever in the same room with.
And drumming was the longest “career” I ever had.
I’ve played drums since I was a kid.
All of them.
Orchestral snare drum.
The whole 4-mallet thing.
But when I worked with Clem, I was a bass player.
It was the bass that took me to England.
And to Spain.
And it was the bass that first took me to Los Angeles.
But this is about Blondie.
And what a band!
Based on my own experiences just mentioned, I can attest to the extremely high musicianship of Clem Burke.
And watching this relatively-short documentary (an hour) convinces me of just how special each of the band members were/are.
But perhaps my favorite part is seeing Mike Chapman work.
The record producer.
What a talent!
It was my dream to be a record producer.
Didn’t really work out 🙂
Maybe you fuck up.
Or maybe no one helps you.
Or maybe you get one chance. And only one chance.
But that’s ok.
Because life goes on.
Marilyn Monroe aged.
Lou Reed sang about it on the Velvets’ “New Age”.
And Godard wrote about it.
The aging of Marilyn Monroe must have been a traumatic phenomenon for the first generation of movie goers.
The first generation with that color reality.
And with the television buttress.
Even Elton John, a homosexual man, was in love with Marilyn…in a sort of way.
“Candle in the Wind”
Which brings us to Debbie Harry.
The former cocktail waitress from Max’s Kansas City.
Chickpeas and lobster.
Park Avenue South.
And brings us to the album Parallel Lines.
This documentary is almost strictly about that album.
About Blondie’s breakthrough into the mainstream.
Yeah, they were punk…
Had the street cred.
But they transcended.
Mostly due to musicianship.
A bit like the Talking Heads.
The other bands were hopelessly arty.
Of this scene.
My favorite, Suicide.
[R.I.P. Alan Vega]
I met Alan once.
Changed my life.
But Suicide never really had a hit.
[Nooo…you don’t say?!?]
But that was punk.
And my whole mission is a bit of a punk mission.
Not a name I came up with.
But given to me.
I remember that day.
And the personages.
But my mission is also a bit like the mission of Greil Marcus.
And Lipstick Traces.
Now I’d just prefer to read Debord.
Or read Len Bracken on the Situationists.
But Greil tries (valiantly!) to pull it all together.
And I’m a bit like that kind of wanker.
Just hoping to SOUND like I know it all.
And someday have Harvard written on my spine.
But we’ve hardly discussed Blondie.
Or this excellent little film.
Which is currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S.
Again Kino Lorber’s marketing team (?) seems to be absent behind this release.
There’s no Wikipedia page.
And the iMDB page lists the title of this made-for-TV-affair as Blondie’s New York and the Making of Parallel Lines.
Ok, so it’s not Citizen Kane.
But it’s well worth watching!
Directed by Alan Ravenscroft.
He does a fine job here.
It really is a magical story.
New York City.
The Fugs! 🙂
New York, a magical place.
Hell, even mayor Ed Koch is in this.
And he’s much easier to stomach than Bill Clinton.
I don’t care…liberal, conservative…whatever.
Just don’t be a dick!
And if you’re a dick, have the schtick down!!
He has the schtick down.
He’s learned to lie.
In his many years.
“The babies, the beautiful babies…the innocent babies”…
There were no babies, my friends.
There was no chemical attack.
That footage was in the can for some time.
But it’s a white lie in the world of geopolitics.
It’s like telling your kids that Santa Claus delivered the presents.
There’s no way to explain, “I’ve gotta bomb Syria to make an impression on China. And the bombing has to happen almost simultaneously with dinner…at Mar-a-Lago.”
And McMaster must be lying too.
Just don’t make a habit of it.
Because then you’re CIA.
And that’s a dark road.
To get wrapped up in lies.
But the white lies are synthetic terror where nobody dies.
Even the Russian/Syrian body count.
Especially the “four kids” detail.
The Democrats are really (I mean it, unfortunately) exceptionally dumb.
They only sense the general outline of the conspiracy.
Russia’s faux indignation.
But they don’t understand that their infantile foreign policy made such machinations necessary.
See the documentary.
Forget about North Korea for a moment.
By all means, don’t watch inferior propaganda.
The Propaganda Game?
Songs from the North?
Cinematic equivalent of toilet paper.
The Cinémathèque Française knew the value of propaganda films.
Back when they were educating “the five” (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rivette, and Rohmer).
And Godard understood the importance of “good”, well-crafted, persuasive propaganda.
As Jacques Ellul wrote in 1962, “Ineffective propaganda is no propaganda.”
In other words, it has no business calling itself propaganda.
But kick back with some Machiavelli.
And The Art of the Deal.
And remember the unholy marriage of art and commerce that is and was Blondie.
This is the story of O.J. Simpson.
This is the story of Phil Spector.
Too much foreshadowing?
Scramble the meaning.
This is Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon come to life.
Fifteen years before anger published.
In France they have Angers.
And every George is a multiple.
But what passion!
Yes, dear friends…
Sunset Boulevard is one of the strangest films ever made.
If you want to know from whence Mulholland Drive came, start here.
If you’re really daft (and I am), you’ll think you’re watching that guy who played The Professor on Gilligan’s Island in one of the best films you’ve ever seen.
But there’s a big fucking difference between Russell Johnson and William Holden.
Or is there?
Just let the wind blow through the bellows of the pipe organ for a moment.
And imagine yourself in a dream so dark it could be a nightmare.
But it’s merely spooky.
The great art.
What was director Billy Wilder groping for?
Never mind, for a second, the bursting cast.
Every extra a novel in themselves.
Just the story of Sunset Boulevard is enough to make a thinking person stagger into the intersection on the Rue Campagne-Première.
But there are so many intersections…
It starts bad.
Like a second-rate Raymond Chandler ripoff.
But it compels you to stay with it.
A little underwater photography.
So much hinges on Paramount Pictures.
And how criticism can thwart a career.
The straw that broke the needle in the camel’s eye.
It’s like something out of Breathless or Dr. No.
The precipitous turn.
Kicking up dust.
Before the boulevard was broken dreams and crack vials.
Just ordinary fascism.
Triumph over violins.
And we trace the line.
A palazzo. A collection of post-Impressionists.
Because we want to know.
For nothing could be more mysterious.
Lost a husband to the Spanish flu.
Lost two more, too.
But one lives as a ghost.
And his monocle groove is strangely vacant.
Erich von Stroheim.
Whether in a Jean Renoir picture or here.
Whether behind the camera or acting in his own film.
In two places at once.
Like Schrodinger’s cat.
But nobody remembers Schrodinger’s chimpanzee.
And a little coffin.
And the steps Stroheim has to take to stand in a hole.
This is the story of Michael Jackson.
This is the story of Emmett Miller.
Not gone, but forgotten.
And it is the true way entertainment worked.
When mass media was born.
At a million miles an hour.
Churning out pictures.
From the dream factory.
And wax cylinders.
And who cares about these young girls…we can always find more.
But Buster Keaton sits in for Miller.
Because there is nothing more sad than a sad clown.
The rogues gallery.
It could have been Elektra.
But it had to be Richard Strauss.
Great silence on one coast.
And great noise on the other.
Direct from Europe.
This is the story of Thora Birch.
The greatest star who ever was.
And I am just a humble servant.
There will be Max.
Always a sadness over beauty.
When beauty is counted in but one way.
3-D clustered, but without 4 time.
But you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.
And actors are all full of nothing.
Must empty out.
To fully fill.
May the best shell win!
So that she stalks the shit outta him.
Like some Transylvanian octopus.
And Igor schleps his stuff in the middle of the night.
Like some dream from Dreyer’s Vampyr.
What the fuck?!?
Poor William Holden is living in the decline of the West.
The sagging tennis court.
The bowling alley in the basement we never see.
Because it would be like the Biltmore on hard times.
Decay. And decadence.
Taken separately. Different connotations.
A piece of rotting fruit in the trash.
And champagne supernovas of drunken, naked excess.
But they are one and the same.
When rooted word-wise to rot.
Gloria Swanson is the hysterical car-wreck-of-an-actress here.
You can’t look away.
Bride of Frankenstein. Hell, Frankenstein himself. Sex changed. Sexless.
More hideous internally than externally.
And more nuts than the peanut gallery of an old picture house.
But no locks.
Perhaps a lock of hair…
But no gas.
It’s quite a spooky thing to be trapped in such luxury.
What the hell!
She’s paying, right???
For godsake, man…Valentino danced the tango here!
But now the tarantula hums.
Manipulative receives new meaning.
An actress. A star! And that Roaring Twenties, gilded, cocksure, brassy optimism.
Unfazed by decades of disuse.
“She’s doin’ the ballet on/both of her wrists”
If Echo & the Bunnymen were around in 1950…
William Holden has been sucked in.
To a vortex.
And it ain’t no fun.
No funny business. No funnymen.
Plenty of echoes.
Of his past life.
Mingled with her omnipresent portraiture fecundating the stale mansion.
“He could die happily ever after”
Bob Dylan knew about the pillars.
And the pillory of fame.
And so C. B. DeMille was a natural choice.
To depict the heartbreak.
Of a washed up life.
Hate to break it to you, kid…
But the diva is in denial.
Yes, the bitch is back.
Take Elton and a whole gaggle of crocodiles…and the Isotta Fraschini with the leopard seats.
Several leopards died for your ass(es).
How’s the weather up there?
And so she rides a white swan because she’s born to boogie.
With the swagger of Bolan.
Monomaniacal about beheading the past.
On a platter.
American montage shows the unwieldy devices–to make young again.
Strobo-oscillo-sonic skin tauteners.
Franju had a less frightening story sans yeux.
Face without eyes.
But the eyes have it all!!!
The fire of once-great dominance.
The eeriness of Sunset Boulevard is that Gloria Swanson WAS once a great star (sort of).
And even more so, Erich von Stroheim WAS (REALLY FUCKING WAS) a great director!
And so Billy Wilder managed to tell their stories.
Only the names were changed to protect the guilty.
Devotion till the end.
Love for cinema.
Love for a woman.
A woman is a drum.
Where’s Duke Ellington when you need him???
Horizontal shafts of light.
But shadows all the more prominent.
This is our Rembrandt.
Norma with bitter, vindictive precision.
And then the curtain is pulled back on the waterworks.
And the fucking Pompidou explodes in hideous reds of dysfunction.
Come and see where I live.
In a lonely place…
Maybe it’s better you don’t know me.
But he really wants to say, “Will you marry me?”
On this night.
We think such overwrought misery only exists in the movies.
But the intersections of real life sometimes make such tragedy possibly.
And we shouldn’t wish such on our worst enemies.
She can’t stand the shock.
But cinema is the ultimate beauty.
So fragile at the end…
We give thanks to see such a picture.
To see Stroheim one more time.
“Alright, boys… Let’s rev up those cameras!”
To see the silent era stagger down the stairs one more time.
Like a wrought-iron flower.
With a green patina.
Nickelodeons penny on the dollar.
Kicked to the curb.
Save for Langlois.
She just needed one more shot at youth.
It was too much, too soon.
One last shot in the arm of that excitement!
That camaraderie of Hollywood.
Before it became a drag.
Memory is scary as hell.
Dear Ilinca Călugăreanu,
You have made a beautiful film.
Which the world needed to see.
And the title made me think it would be imperialist propaganda directed at North Korea.
But I could not have been more wrong.
Because Romania has touched my heart so many times.
And so I am glad to add another name to the list of auteurs.
Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Cătălin Mitulescu, Cristian Mungiu…
And now Ilinca Călugăreanu.
Yes, it is only right that a young female director should bring us this story.
Ms. Călugăreanu, born in 1981.
Because this film is very much about the 1980s.
And the situation in Romania.
Chuck Norris is merely a placeholder.
A meme which has undergone a certain détournement.
But there is no substitute for communism in this tale.
if you tell people to do one thing…and you’re really heavy-handed about it,
they will almost certainly do the opposite.
At some point.
And Ms. Călugăreanu’s very persuasive hypothesis is that videocassettes brought down the Ceaușescu regime.
And so there is very little way around this impasse without talking political economy.
First, let us address the very astute current Russian minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky.
The esteemed Mr. Medinsky has famously (?) called Netflix “U.S. government…mind control”.
Or at least that’s how The Washington Times (who needs the Post?) framed it.
But let’s investigate.
Let’s have Mr. Medinsky’s words and not just a CliffsNotes, elevator-pitch summation of them.
He says [translated],
“And, what, you thought these gigantic startups emerge by themselves? One schoolboy sat down, thought for a bit, and then billions of dollars rained down from above?”
That is pursuant to the funding which helped birth Netflix (and, presumably, other American companies with what Mr. Medinsky feels is a global, insidious reach).
He continues [translated],
“It turns out that that our ideological friends [the U.S. government] understand perfectly well that this is the art form that is the most important…”
And Vladimir Lenin himself knew it!
Mr. Medinsky then seems to evoke the Leonard Cohen of “Tower of Song” when he says [translated],
“They understand how to enter everyone’s homes by getting into every television with the help of Netflix…”
Leonard Cohen (God rest his soul) said it thus:
“Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.”
What a lyric!!
And that was in 1988!!!
So our director, Ilinca Călugăreanu, knows that of which she speaks.
Because the grip of Ceaușescu was beginning to slip.
But let’s give Mr. Medinsky one more say [translated],
“And through this television, [they get into] the heads of everyone on Earth. But [Russians] don’t grasp this.”
Now why was Mr. Medinsky so upset?
Well, because Netflix undertook a vast expansion this past summer.
Indeed, the article from which I’m pirating these quotes (yes, translations are intellectual property) dates from June 23, 2016.
The same article notes pointedly that Netflix’s expansion into Russia, plus a vast number of new territories, means that the streaming service is now available in 190 countries worldwide.
Wait a minute…
How many countries are there, you might ask? 196. Or 195.
Poor Taiwan, they just can’t catch a break.
So then you might say, well…what the fuck?!?
What countries is Netflix NOT in???
It appears those countries are China, North Korea, Syria, and…Crimea?
Suffice it to say, the international “community” is not unanimous in their appraisal of Crimean statehood.
Is it part of Russia?
Is it part of Ukraine?
What do the words Republic of Crimea even mean if its not an independent country?
Which brings up the specter of “frozen conflict zones”.
I’m guessing that Netflix might be unavailable in Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.
But I digress…
Because we are on to more specific matters.
There are at least two major ways in which Americans can view the Romanian communist period as it has been depicted in motion pictures.
First, Americans can sympathize with the repression of the Romanian people.
Any doubters should do a little digging on the PATRIOT Act.
Indeed, the psychosis of surveillance (which is mentioned in Chuck Norris vs Communism) could not field a more forbidding bogeyman than the National Security Agency.
And so, dear peoples of the world, would you feel more or less safe living in the same country in which the NSA is headquartered?
Second, Americans could extrapolate Ms. Călugăreanu’s hypothesis to mean that countries such as China will eventually implode as a result of the fulminating combination of repression and technology (even, perhaps, with a starring role for entertainment).
All of that is to say that movies COULD bring down China or North Korea or even Iran.
[Notice the non-Netflix countries…Syria is without, but apparently Iran does have the service.]
Which is to ultimately say, Mr. Medinsky’s fear is completely warranted.
What is at stake in Russia?
The fall of Putin.
A sea change in leadership.
And I will be quite frank.
There is no doubt that Netflix’s catalog is heavily biased towards globalist propaganda.
One of the most glaring areas is India.
I can’t tell you how many watery, transparent premises there are on Netflix which are some permutation of a young person rebelling against a repressive culture.
It’s almost like they’re churning these formulaic films out in a factory.
Boy marries girl from lower caste. Mayhem follows.
Girl goes to human rights court. Happily ever after…
Boy rebels against father’s traditional ways [read: religion].
I mean, at a certain point it’s just pathetic.
But we must hand it to Netflix for some (SOME) of their selections.
Actually, I have found a good many gems on the site.
But it is a very biased (and historically-uninformed collection).
In general, history doesn’t exist for Netflix.
Unless that history is the Holocaust.
Then, of course, there are a plethora of scenarios to “inform” you about the Nazis.
Make no mistake (my best Obama voice), the Nazis were bad.
But do we need 10 fucking films about the Holocaust?
And if Schindler’s List is the zenith of the genre, God help us…
But I digress again…
Chuck Norris vs Communism is a very beautiful film.
It’s about rebellion.
It’s about the little things we do to assert our existence.
And in this case, it’s about a translator (a voiceover dubbing artist) who reached the hearts of innumerable Romanians.
Whether it was Chuck Norris, or Jean-Claude Van Damme, or Sylvester Stallone, Irina’s voice made the dialogue come alive in Romanian.
But it was a subversive activity.
“Imperialist” films were not allowed in Romania.
But Romania was falling apart.
To take the interviewees of our documentary at their word, their lives sucked…without “video” night.
But we must be clear.
Everything (EVERYTHING) about this enterprise was illegal in Romania.
First, the videos had to be smuggled across the border.
Then they had to be copied and dubbed (voiceover).
Then they had to be distributed.
Then some brave schmucks took the risk of screening these films on their TV sets (for a few lei, of course).
But it was dangerous business.
Especially if you were the kingpin.
So it is then strange to meet this kingpin of video piracy face to face.
Not the guy with the panpipes.
No, this was Teodor Zamfir.
Made a pretty penny.
But the fascinating thing (by Călugăreanu’s hypothesis) is that he completely changed Romanian culture.
The seeds of revolution were sown by Dirty Dancing, Last Tango in Paris, The King of Comedy…
And especially by the action films.
Rocky, Rambo, Lone Wolf McQuade…
And so, if you want to piss off a communist (or socialist, or whatever they’re going by these days), you can go with the familiar tack,
“Didn’t they already try that? Wasn’t it an immense failure?”
I don’t know.
But I don’t doubt the faces of those who lived through Ceaușescu.
No national cinema has been nearly as effective as the Romanian in communicating to the West just what life under communism was like.
And so Romania becomes our lens into the Soviet Union and its satellite states.
I know there are Russians who fondly remember communism.
Let’s be clear: capitalism can also suck.
Change and upheaval can be deadly.
They say, “Watch the price of eggs” (to demonstrate how a free market dictates prices).
But we see a very similar discontent in the Middle East.
Is this democracy?
Yes, America has made some mistakes.
And so we should watch everything with a critical eye.
Be your own critic.
Be like Emerson.
And then double back.
Live by palimpsest.
Because you are the ultimate philosopher.
For your life.
I can’t tell you.
And you can’t tell me.
We have to learn.
It must be the right time.
To receive a particular lesson.
I draw courage from Irina Margareta Nistor.
But most of all, I draw courage from the Romanian people.
Perhaps my country’s Hollywood crap (the stuff I took for granted) was just the stuff necessary in the dark times.
Entertainment. Ass kicking. Escape.
But the Romanian cinema of today inspires me beyond words.
And so let us remember, whether we are capitalists or socialists, the price paid by the people of Romania in December 1989.
Was it 1,100 people?
It’s troubling that nobody knows for sure.
But even if it was a thousand people.
They didn’t just get trampled by goats or run over by garbage trucks.
It wasn’t a bloodless revolution.
At least 1000 people.
They saw their moment.
They seized on a moment.
They capitalized on their opportunity.
There was something which impelled them not to just sit at home and listen.
I salute these brave souls who went out into the streets.
For a thousand people to have died, it seems rather inconceivable that there wasn’t an attempt made by the government to “restore order”.
That’s the line which can’t be crossed.
That’s when a government has lost its legitimacy.
Some stories are twisted.
And full-blown civil wars do erupt.
But it appears, in the end, that repression lost.
And repression, censorship, and heavy-handed tactics (whether adopted by socialists or capitalists) should, by historical lesson, be most strictly avoided.
It is human nature.
The people will not tolerate being treated like livestock.
And something as seemingly inconsequential as VHS tapes can tip the balance.
The concept of the “family” movie has changed since The Sound of Music in 1965.
Wikipedia, that grand arbiter of officiality, does not primarily recognize “family” as a genre.
They opt for “children’s film”.
Nonetheless, the Wiki article lists “family film” as an alternative name for this nebulous genre.
In 1965, The Beatles were still releasing albums like Rubber Soul.
1966 saw these same alchemists get a bit edgier with Revolver.
By 1967, the whole world was tripping balls to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It’s important to document this sea change in pop culture by way of the personages pictured on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s:
-William S. Burroughs
-and many others.
Just these four personalities alone made for a shocking collection on the cover of what was sonically a hippy-dippy platter.
But maketh thou no mistake: The Beatles were self-consciously out to SHOCK!
By then, The Beatles were no more.
1968 had come and gone (violently). And The Beatles had reached their zenith (or nadir) of angst with songs like “Helter Skelter” (from “The White Album“).
There were no new Beatles albums in 1971.
Indeed, there was never again a “new” Beatles album
But 1971 gave us Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
And so, about four years late, Hollywood managed to weave the psychedelia of Sgt. Pepper’s into a bona fide family classic.
It took a while longer before Hollywood had another idea with legs (other than just borrowing from the great minds in rock music).
It is worth noting that the three original Star Wars films (1977, 1980, and 1983) were interpolated in 1982 by a cute alien named E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Sure, there were classic superheroes (like Superman in 1978), but the next real wave was another coup of futuristic thinking.
The Back to the Future franchise raked in whopping revenue of nearly a billion dollars at the box office over the release years of 1985, 1989, and 1990.
But still, no major taboos had been broken in this fragile genre.
There was no auteur conversant in James Monaco’s theories on “exploding genres”.
Yet, two films from this same period stick out as family-proto (not proto-family).
–1988: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? [ooh la la…stretching the genre like Jessica Rabbit stretched her red sequin gown]
-1989: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation [a real benchmark or signpost…perhaps not as racy a National Lampoon’s Vacation, but still edgy enough to elicit laughter during “the decline of the West” (as Oswald Spengler put it)]
Which almost brings us to the unlikely masterpiece that is Kingpin.
Randy Quaid had been counted on by the National Lampoon franchise for his peerless role of Cousin Eddie.
By 1996, he would become a priceless asset for the makers of Kingpin.
It is hard to chart how we went from The Sound of Music to Kingpin…even with the help of the inestimable Beatles.
If we are to really reach our goal (an explanation), we must follow the followers–the children of The Beatles.
-1970: Syd Barrett was still bloody mad (and brilliant) on The Madcap Laughs [especially the song “No Good Trying”]
-The Mothers of Invention released albums titled Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh [pretty odd, edgy stuff]
-and international artists like Amon Düül II (from Germany) gave the world a whole new organic, electro-bombastic sound to attempt to decode
-1971: The Krautrock invasion continued with CAN’s Tago Mago
-Tribal hippies Comus found the perfect sound with First Utterance
-1972: Hawkwind released their cosmic, perpetual-motion masterpiece Doremi Fasol Latido
-1973: Pink Floyd changed the cultural landscape with Dark Side of the Moon (perhaps presaging the space/aliens films which would preoccupy family film makers in the coming years)
-Brian Eno melted many minds with his masterpiece Here Come the Warm Jets (complete with the balding artist on the cover in drag)
But we missed something significant:
If the 1970s belonged to any one band, it was this one.
-their first two albums were released in 1969
-by the time of Led Zeppelin III (1970), they were competing against overt (though clownish) occultists like Black Sabbath [Jimmy Page of Zeppelin being a more covert, zealous admirer of Aleister Crowley]
–Led Zeppelin IV was released in 1971
–Houses of the Holy saw the light of day in 1973
–Physical Graffiti dropped in 1975
But as Led Zeppelin began to peter out, another group picked up the slack and streamlined the music. Their message was as tough as their humor was bawdy.
AC/DC slapped the world with High Voltage (1976), Let There Be Rock (1977), and other masterpieces which made for a loud world.
But music was just getting started in asserting its agenda for Hollywood.
Iggy Pop dropped two masterpieces in 1977. One light and tough (Lust for Life), and the other a much darker affair (The Idiot).
But the real earthquake…the real force which rent the curtain in the temple was Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.
From this album in 1977, nothing was ever the same again.
And so the film under consideration, Kingpin, was born from many decades of broken taboos.
Some would call this “progressive” (and then proceed to solicit a donation).
Oswald Spengler might rightly have called it The Decline of the West.
But in the case of Kingpin, I can only call it funny.
I can’t pass judgement on film since 1965.
As to whether it is fit for families to view together.
But I can pass judgement on this film insofar as its most important merit.
It’s damned funny!
I was Munsoned by Cinema Paradiso. Long ago.
I thought I had a chance. But I was Amish. I just didn’t know it yet.
But let’s first start by talking about the dirtbags who frame this film.
#1 is Woody Harrelson (though he starts as just a protégé).
Woody has had an interesting life.
When I was growing up in San Antonio, one of our family shows to watch after the 10 p.m. news was Cheers. This gave us great comfort. Great laughs. And Woody played the character Woody Boyd. One of the bright spots of a great television cast.
But Woody Harrelson’s dad was a hitman (in real life). And he killed (in 1979) U.S. federal judge John H. Wood Jr. right here in my hometown: San Antonio.
It was a drug hit. Harrelson’s father hired for $250,000 to shoot and kill this judge outside of his home. The drug dealer who hired Harrelson got 30 years. Harrelson got life in jail.
Harrelson denied in court that he killed Judge Wood. He claimed he just took credit for it so he could collect the money.
Well, all of this backstory fits quite nicely into the dirtbag saint Woody Harrelson plays in Kingpin.
#2 is Bill Murray. Bill is an old hand (no pun intended). Bill’s character teaches Woody a lot, but Bill’s a real bastard in this film. Of course, this is a comedy. So his ostentatious cruelty is worth a few snickers here and there.
At this point it is worth mentioning the twisted (gifted) minds which brought us this film: the Farrelly brothers.
Peter Farrelly (whose birthday is two day away) and his slightly-younger brother Bobby Farrelly.
You might know them from their work such as Dumb and Dumber and the Jonathan-Richman-chalked There’s Something About Mary.
[N.B. Richman makes a great cameo in Kingpin. We may not have Lou Reed anymore, but thank God for Jonathan!]
The action of our film shifts from Ocelot, Iowa (“Instead of a dentured ocelot on a leash…”) to hard-scrabble Scranton, Pennsylvania.
[home of “Creepy” Joe Biden]
Randy Quaid (#MAGA) is fantastic as an Amish rube with a promising set of bowling skills.
Somewhere along the way, the opportunistic Harrelson becomes Quaid’s manager.
I got great joy out of seeing this.
Because there are few more difficult things than managing “personalities”.
I’ve done it.
Now I have an advanced degree in management.
And still, I know…it’s hard!
But back to family films.
This IS a family film.
But it is also an example of what the family film has become.
In general, this picture would not be suitable for young children to view.
That’s just my opinion.
But perhaps it’s a subgenre of family film.
It’s something which parents with high-school-aged kids MIGHT be able to enjoy with their children.
But I leave that discretion up to the parents.
Because the Farrelly brothers like to SHOCK!
It’s funny. They’re good at it. It has a point. But it might be too lewd for some families.
Speaking of which, it is a quite interesting device with which the Farrellys chose to frame their film: the Amish.
It borders on surreal, but this bawdy comedy always has the temperate presence of the Amish throughout.
In a certain way, I think it does great honor to the Amish.
From an entertainment perspective, it’s genius.
But this is also a road movie.
And we know strange things happen on the road.
I was just so impressed by Woody Harrelson’s acting. It’s effortless. Flawless.
And I was equally impressed by Randy Quaid’s naïveté. Truly an acting coup!
But the film gets REALLY interesting when Vanessa Angel hops on the bandwagon!!
Remember her from Spies Like Us, emerging from that snow-covered tent in her underwear?
Yeah, that’s her.
And it turns out that she’s a very good actress!
Ah, but thank God for condoms!!!
At the end, you will feel proud of your efforts.
To walk out the door everyday into a corrupt world.
We are all sinners.
But music saves us.
“Bad Reputation” by Freedy Johnston is a revelation.
And makes me wistfully recall my last days as a professional musician.
“I Want Candy” is such a tough beat! The Strangeloves!!!
“I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren is magical music at a magical moment in this film.
“Showdown” by Electric Light Orchestra is the perfect tune to pit Murray against Harrelson.
But the real eyeopener was hearing “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman.
Such a magical song!
Great movie. Great acting. Comes from a place of reality.
The naysayers will call it politainment, but that’s as uncreative and trite as trotting out “reactionary”.
And while there was indeed a tremendous amount of substance in this first US Presidential debate a month ago, it was solely from one side.
Lester Holt largely disgraced himself as another “presstitute” (not my coinage, but fitting).
Holt was the decidedly unmoderate moderator.
“The questions are mine and have not been shared with the commission or the campaigns.”
“The audience here in the room has agreed to remain silent so that we can focus on what the candidates are saying.”
You see, Americans don’t stay silent.
They/we might be wrong (the “ugly American” stereotype), but we/they are rarely silent.
Some observers around the world recognize this as the asset it is.
Others denigrate it as “squeaky wheel”/”loudest duck”.
There’s very little silence in this year’s election (except in the corporate mass media concerning Hillary Clinton’s litany of disqualifying activities).
“I am honored to have this role, but this evening belongs to the candidates and, just as important, to the American people.”
…but most of all, to the American “elite” (and their transparently biased media) who had already picked their anointed, sycophantic, warmongering, maniac of a candidate: Hillary Clinton.
“There’s been a record six straight years of job growth…”
But at what rate, Lester? Read the Wall Street Journal, fucking moron.
What I meant to say was, the “record growth” is anemic in historical terms.
So the “record” aspect is merely academic.
It’s been stable as shit. That is the most accurate characterization.
Then “Secretary” Clinton takes over:
“Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday…”
Oh really?!? I didn’t know robots could reproduce!!
“First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”
“That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.”
Her biggest export would be American jobs. She’s got a bad case of cognitive dissonance from too much globalist Kool-Aid.
“I want us to invest in you.”
Whether that’s what she wants or not, it’s not what she’s planning to do. So it’s immaterial what she “wants”. Her intent is clear: destroy her own country economically (if not literally in a nuclear war) by way of some twisted Robin Hood fantasy. Sorry Hillary, we’re not in Jonestown. Why don’t you drink your Kool-Aid first?
“…most of the new jobs will come from small business.”
Which will go OUT OF BUSINESS as a result of your idealist, rubbish policies.
“…equal pay for women’s work.”
Oh, you mean like never, ever having a job…like you?
Hey Hillary, your boss (the American people) called. They want to know what the hell you were doing using a personal email server as the goddamned SECRETARY OF STATE??? And by the way, they want your work emails…because those are property of the company (the United States of America). Oh… You were writing emails about yoga on the job? Ok, no problem. But as you were being paid to write emails on “yoga”, we’d like to take a look at those emails. You did, after all, produce “yoga” emails with our tax dollars. Oh… You destroyed the emails? After being subpoenaed?? Hmmm… That’s a problem.
[That must have been one hell of a “yoga” discussion.]
“We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share…”
Oh, excellent. I guess we can start with freezing the assets of the Clinton Foundation. Seems that some small group was getting very rich off of that scam.
“Donald, it’s good to be with you.”
First and last time she’d ever say that.
“I hope that I will be able to earn your vote on November 8th.””
You’ve never earned anything in your life. You’ve been a carpetbagger from Arkansas to New York to Washington, D.C. “Social climber” does not qualify as a métier.
Ok…that’s enough Clinton. How about some truth? Fire torpedo #1!
“That’s called business, by the way.”
Ah, business. Value. Creating value.
If you’ve read this far (and I’m sure there are very few who have), I’ve created value for you. I’ve held your attention. You could think I’m the dumbest motherfucker on the planet, but that feeling of condescension is worth your time. Perhaps I’m entertaining. That’s also value. And, God forbid, I actually say something that rings true… For anyone who agrees with me enough to delve so far into this specious blog post, I’ve created value.
“Secretary” Clinton creates NO value…in anything she does.
I don’t even take enjoyment in insulting her. To insult her is my duty. I don’t want this person leading my country for the next four years. Hell no!
“And, Hillary, I’d just ask you this. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now? For 30 years, you’ve been doing it, and now you’re just starting to think of solutions.”
Exactly. Say what you want about Trump, but he hasn’t been dicking around as a government do-nothing during that time. He’s created value. You can denigrate the true worth of that value, but it does have a dollar value. It’s like a stock price. It is a market measurement. You want your money back? Fine. Sell your one share of Google stock. Yes, the broker will charge a fee. No, holding one share is not recommended. But it’s a market measurement. The market value of Trump’s activities is indisputable. It’s not perfect. It doesn’t figure in obtuse Althusserian dimensions, but it’s a measurement (damn it!).
Hillary is much more comfortable hiding in the maze of government with her private server and hiding behind the nonprofit structure of the Clinton Foundation. She creates no value. She never has to prove what value she has created. She knows that her social climbing has bought her immunity from accountability.
[BUT MAYBE NOT]
Hillary might have been thinking about bringing jobs back to America for the past 30 years, but she certainly hasn’t acted on those musings.
“Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry.”
[giant sucking sound…alarums and excursions]
“But you have no plan.”
Of course she doesn’t. Her plan is being prepared by a bunch of globalists. All she has to do is stay on two legs and… [whoops!]
“…you are going to regulate these businesses out of existence.”
And that is no accident.
“I’m going to cut taxes big league, and you’re going to raise taxes big league, end of story.”
Yeah, pretty much.
“She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much.”
Indeed, no matter the outcome of this election, Hillary Clinton is not going to go down in history as a master strategist.
“…you’re telling the enemy everything you want to do.”
Right again. Pick up some Sun Tzu, Hillary.
“…the taxes are so onerous…”
“…we have a president that can’t sit them around a table and get them to approve something.”
Yeah, that’s because he’s never had a job either. “Amateur golfer” does not cut the mustard.
“And with a little leadership, you’d get it in here very quickly, and it could be put to use on the inner cities and lots of other things, and it would be beautiful.”
Value-creation works. As a model. As a measure. What ISN’T sustainable is sucking the thriving countries dry in an effort to bring up the languishing ones. There is a solution. There is a deal. A compromise. But Hillary doesn’t have that spark of problem-solving genius. All she knows is the college playbook from pseudo-intellectual, hippie-era Yale.
Ok, I’m even starting to bore myself.
There is not enough digital ink in my pot to finish penning this diatribe.
I think you get the point.
In cinema terms, this was an auteur (Trump) vs. a metteur-en-scène (Hillary).
Shot. Reverse. Shot.
I could have sworn the titles said Hududların Kanunu, but there’s never any mistakes on Wikipedia, right?
So we are going with Hudutların Kanunu.
The Law of the Border.
And it is such an honor to review another Turkish film.
I must say, this one really “spoke” to me.
Not only does Yılmaz Güney play the lead role of Hidir, but this same actor also wrote the screenplay.
As I watched Yılmaz Güney’s wonderful portrayal of the smuggler Hidir, I was reminded of Antonin Artaud’s acting in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.
Güney’s penetrating eyes and stoic face are very similar to Artaud’s physical features.
But not only that.
It occurs to me that Güney bears a striking resemblance to a more contemporary figure: Vladimir Putin.
This is all the more interesting when one considers that Güney was born Yılmaz Pütün.
Güney was a Zaza Kurd who apparently got in trouble often with the Turkish government.
He died an early death at age 47 (in 1984).
Whether Hudutların Kanunu is propaganda is beside the point.
It certainly has traits of propaganda films, but it’s such a damn good movie that it doesn’t really matter.
Yes, there is a social justice angle to Güney’s story, but much credit should go to the wonderful directing job of Ömer Lütfi Akad.
Though Güney himself was a director as well, he did not direct this film.
Güney, by the way, had a fascinating life (including an escape from prison in 1981 and a subsequent Palme d’Or at Cannes for the film Yol).
[Sounds a bit like Timothy Leary’s prison-break and rendezvous in Switzerland with Ash Ra Tempel.]
If my numbers are correct, Güney acted in 14 films released in 1966 (!) [including this one] and also directed one as well.
Only one copy of Hudutların Kanunu survived Ahmet Kenan Evren’s 1980 coup in Turkey.
I would describe this wonderful film as being like a 1960s Turkish version of Sicario.
Though The Law of the Border is not a big-budget movie (a military officer comically says “let’s surround them” when he only has three soldiers [himself included]), the film is overall convincing. It conveys a very powerful story.
As stated earlier, the principal activity at issue is smuggling.
What could be more timely to this day and age?
In the US it is drugs (from Mexico), and in Turkey it is perhaps other things (coming in and out of Syria).
And if the main character looks like Putin?!?
Well, it certainly confuses the meaning, but it still makes it like a Salvador Dalí dream.
It’s like a perfect storm of symbolism.
Furthermore, besides being a film set on a border, a main issue is education in Turkey.
This is, once again, a very timely issue.
As you might have heard last year, there were many protests by high school students in Turkey about the trend of religious schools replacing secular (or science) schools.
Incidentally, our director Ömer Lütfi Akad went to the oldest high school in Turkey: Galatasaray Lisesi in Istanbul. The school was started in 1481.
But let me tell you something important…
This film is very entertaining!!!
Whizz! Bing! Pow!
It reminds me a bit of Howard Hawks’ Scarface from 1932.
Also at issue in this film is the concept of change.
Can a person change their beliefs?
Can I change my beliefs?
I am 39.
Yılmaz Güney was 29 at the time of this film.
Can we change our beliefs?
And should we?
For Güney’s character Hidir, changing his beliefs is a Herculean effort.
And the moral of the somewhat-propagandistic story is that he’s a hero…JUST FOR TRYING.
He tried to change.
He makes a valiant effort.
A bit like Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.
This is the challenge for the world.
To look ourselves in our mirrors and make an effort.
Not physically (necessarily), but philosophically.
I’m not here to offer you propaganda.
But I am very concerned with the situation the real Vladimir Putin has been put in in Syria.
Why do we fight? [to echo the old series of American propaganda films from WWII]
We fight for the same reason anyone else does.
Or rather, Putin fights because he has drawn a line.
No more American aggression.
Syria is his line.
It’s not a game.
It’s real blood and real tears.
Proxy wars are not like AGMs (annual general meetings).
They are more like air-to-ground missiles (AGMs).
War is not a strictly academic affair.
It’s messy. It’s sad. It’s unnecessary (most of the time).
And the US and Russia have painted themselves into a corner.
That corner is Syria.
Perhaps Hudutların Kanunu is the Sholay of Turkey.
Perhaps it is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Anatolia.
One thing is sure: Yılmaz Güney, “the Ugly King” (Çirkin Kral), was a brilliant man.
My first foray into science fiction.
And is this a hell of a film!
A sort of forgotten masterpiece.
Part schlock, part genius.
This is really a quality picture…reminiscent of another 70s gem: Phantom of the Paradise.
There’s just something really mysterious and compelling about Futureworld.
Sex with robots!
Jim Antonio is the Clark Griswold equivalent of Clifton James in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.
And so this is essential viewing for fans of the recent Ex Machina.
Sadly, director Richard T. Heffron is no longer with us.
And, yes, this is a sequel to the Michael Crichton film Westworld, but Futureworld stands alone.
Peter Fonda is the Ur- Jarvis Cocker. And really some fine acting from Peter.
Blythe Danner is outstanding.
Stuart Margolin is very strong.
We get journalism, robots, cloning…the works.
Think Hillary Clinton has a robot/clone double?
This film appeared on Hulu at a particularly suspicious time as regards that canard.
But see the film and you might not think it’s so crazy after all.
Doubles of world leaders.
That’s the master plan.
It’s not giving much away to tell you that.
That is, after all, the elevator pitch for the film itself.
And it is compelling.
Retina scanners, biometrics, psychic driving, Antonin Artaud…
This was both advanced and historical for 1976.
Ahead and behind.
Which is to say, completely plausible.
The only hilariously bad moments (ok, there’s quite a few) are the guns which seemingly came from the set of the first Star Wars film. Said guns completely destroy suspended disbelief (more than any actual target).
The Westworld tragedy supposedly claimed the lives of about 50 guests.
Pretty close to the fake Pulse nightclub shooting (49).
That being the exact number of the Maidan snipers’ massacre in Kiev (49).
And with Pulse we are there in theme park central.
Robots are all around us today.
The drones that kill innocent people in Pakistan.
And the driverless cars rolled out by Uber this past week in Pittsburgh.
[I better watch what I say or Emil Michael will sic his opposition research wet dreams on me.]
So yes…we probably have Northrop Grumman to thank for 9/11 (Global Hawk).
All around us. Automation. Lovely.
Watch Futureworld and you will see the technocratic extension of Operation Mockingbird.
Mimic. Opinion leaders. Memetics.
The gene and the meme. Dawkins was right on it.
In the same year. 1976.
Sure, this film is not very precise in some regards.
Are they all robots?
It’s not very clear.
I highly recommend this film for connoisseurs of Baudrillard.
This whole film is an orgy of simulation.
[Though, with a PG rating, not a simulation of an orgy.]
Interesting note…a significant portion of this film was shot “at NASA” in Houston.
Every American film is a cautionary tale.
David Lynch was the new path forward.
But then something happened.
Jarmusch is good.
But no one on our landscape is important as Harmony Korine.
No one could have made this film but him.
I was mistaken.
I had them wrong all along.
Ashley Benson seemed like the mom.
But she’s just 26.
[Don’t trust entertainment ages.]
I had her for Harmony’s wife the whole time.
Making Faith feel comfortable.
December 18. Close.
Bingo. Shares my birthday.
Doesn’t act 27. But this was four years ago.
Rachel Korine is a real actress.
I can’t find the artist for the shower scene.
It is also Casino Royale. Eva Green.
But Daniel Craig is behind the camera.
Maybe Rachel is the only one with an honest age.
But I have to give mad props to Selena Gomez for doing this film.
[Did I just say that?]
It’s true. You have to excuse my thuggee language.
Selena Gomez is brilliant in this film.
Why? Because she ostensibly survived it.
Is she a great actress?
I don’t know.
Is she even acting at all?
Hard to say.
Hanging with the Korine posse would seemingly drive anyone to tears.
But let’s define.
This milieu…these trappings. Were/are genius. Needed to happen.
It’s like Mercury Rev’s second album Boces.
Not something most people will want to revisit often. [including the band]
Unless you’re bent.
So Selena’s an artist.
She’s done one thing in life which will never disappear.
Chocolate syrup in the squirt gun.
Try it out. Try it out.
Lots of Pussy Riot.
If you can’t handle the chicken shack, then you’re doomed.
Kinda like me years ago when Uma got stabbed in the heart.
The one in Florida.
Far from Pussy Riot.
A lesser filmmaker (Oliver Stone) would have made Natural Born Killers.
Spring Breakers obliterates that poseur film.
[And Oli’s made a couple great ones. But that’s not one.]
Let me just add this.
James Franco is all-world in this movie.
It must be seen to be believed.
Come in with no preconceptions.
Because Hollywood makes all actors into crap.
Only a Harmony Korine can save their acting souls.
And there’s only one of him.
So we have Godard. Korine. Lynch slumbering. And the Romanians.
Gotta give some more props to Gucci Mane.
That’s some damn good acting.
You wanna know black lives matter?
Even white kids get desperate.
From shitty small towns.
And so the uniquely American version of EXCESS.
All the detritus from the MTV vaults.
So many disposable summers.
Finally put into perspective by a true humanist. Harmony Korine.
You gotta get real deep to see the layers of meaning from the inside out.
Remember four girls in a pool.
Breathing their own air.
It’s an extreme version.
Of the American dream.
That gum you like’s gonna come back in style.
Miguel Ferrer defers.
A mere 130 IQ.
Perplexed and amused us for years.
But we are required to go deeper.
To a deeper poetry.
Greatness demands all of us.
Lenny Von Dohlen we knew in every blank gaze.
Every sheepish word.
A foreigner at home within us.
Criminalistics not complete with stylometry of Fort Meade.
A poetry of.
It is beyond MFA.
It is compulsion of unfettered existence.
Tied to entertainment.
I was a bastard brat.
For a moment beneath me.
My higher calling.
Thought a pentagram was imminent.
But the magic is white as MIKE.
Unity of opposites.
We will have much more to say in dissertation form.
A true X file.
With no rational explanation.
Thwarted by every dimension of reality.
And Ray Wise is brilliant.
To ask so much of an actor.
Lord let it rain on me.
What do you think?
I’m asking you.
Fire walk with me.
Only Baudelaire with that kind of darkness.
Maybe even necessitating Lautreamont.
But we will go deeper as we outstrip the functionalities.
And then host for Ezra Pound.
In possession which destroyed Lasker’s first edition.
Belmondo once proved his love.
To use our powers for good.
Hokey fumbling with mysticism.
Deadly accuracy of possession.
We want to know more of Moloch.
And the cremation of care.