Kingpin [1996)

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:

-Aleister Crowley

-Lenny Bruce

-William S. Burroughs

-Karl Marx

-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!

1971.

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).

Aliens!

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.

Time machines.

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:

Led Zeppelin.

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.

-PD

The Gold Rush [1925)

Sometimes a lack of words is sadness.

Down at the dancehall.  “Auld Lang Syne”…

Old long since.

Long long ago.

“Long, Long, Long”

From Robert Burns to George Harrison.

“Standing in the Doorway”

You left me…

Bad as Me.  “New Year’s Eve”…

Yeah, someone noticed.

It’s not as entertaining as “the rolls”.

[lointain]

…wisps of music on the wind with lonely snow.

There are good people in the world.

I can attest to that.

Whether they’re joking or not.

There are little miracles.

Like “the little tramp”…

A light flickering here and there.

In Alaska.

“Caroline Says II”

It takes a long time to watch a movie like this.

It takes a lifetime.

In this fashion.

To see it once…as a kid…in high school…and swoon to the wallflower image.

And now 20 years later (at least).

This time we know “the rolls” are coming.  Buzz rolls.  Open rolls.  Double-stroke.  Scotch snaps.

“Auld Lang Syne”

It is the sentiment of Dean Wareham on that last Galaxie 500 album.

“Fourth of July”

I stayed at home…

Dog biscuit…

This Is Our Music//

like Ornette…

1960.

Ah…I’m skipping around.  Snow blind.

Lost in a flurry.  Of activity.  Or snow.

Mack Swain…Georgia Hale.

And Charlie “Charles” Chaplin.

I don’t remember what version I saw as a kid.

Today.  I learned of a new version.  New being 1942.

Voice-overs by Chaplin.  I resisted at first.

Yet, this may have been the version I saw as a kid.

I don’t remember.  Cinema was just a dream in my heart.

But now I know.

For all the outcasts and underdogs.

I was asserting my personhood.  Making my own choices.  Silent film.  What a rebellion!

And now I know.

The other side of the coin.

It takes a lifetime to watch this film.

In the dancehall.

Invisible.

Leaning on a rattan cane.

The weight.

The world is meant to squash your dreams.

Currently.

Everywhere.

Some dream of Denmark.  Sweden.  Switzerland.

But I don’t live there.

And I don’t live much at all unless I let out a love cry like Albert Ayler.

Up on “Zion Hill”…

It don’t mean a thing.

It could be called Composition No. 173 like Anthony Braxton.

It’s the only way you know you’re still alive.

The only way I know I’m still alive.

The genius of Charlie Chaplin.

We didn’t know such things could be expressed.

And we were fascinated to find that they had been expressed so well so long ago.

-PD

British Sounds/See You at Mao [1969)

Bloody fucking bollocks!

I’ve wanted to say that for a long time.  I’ve said it before.  But it looks better in writing.

It has a sort of permanence to it.  Yet we never know.

Why the non sequitur expletive?  Because this film is a brilliant expletive deleted.

Long ago…in a galaxy…in OUR galaxy, as a matter of fact,

there were some clever blokes (?) who called themselves the Dziga-Vertov Group.

Chief among them, of course, was Jean-Luc Godard.

But it is telling that he wanted his celebrity subsumed by something greater than himself.

Ach, Gott!  Fuck this.  I have caught myself slipping into a routine voice.

A routine voice will tell you nothing about this film.

And so we come to the crux of this experiment:  struggle.

Film is a struggle between images and sounds.

In a Godard film, even images struggle amongst themselves in a feeding frenzy.

It is a manifestation of a mind trying to process the unfathomable complexity of the world.

In the film under review, it is especially the sounds which cannibalize one another.

But this is not new in Godard films.  Always, ALWAYS…there is a plethora of content.

Like a honey ant ready to explode.

[                                                      ] Space left intentionally blank.

Analogous to paragraph.

If you are thinking poetry,

you are not far off.

We miss the mark daily.  It is not a Christian confession.

There is not a way to look over the summary to this film on Wikipedia.

In that sense, I am offering a service.

Yet, I am giving you a very subjective, personal impression of this film.

I write film criticism which strives to harmonize with each individual film under consideration.

In other words, each film must be reviewed differently.

There really isn’t, despite a tendency to the contrary towards generalization, such thing as

a film like all the rest.

Yet I have my patois.  My schtick.

Take it or leave it.

Only know that the message is under continually scrutiny.

Self-criticism of film criticism in a controlled system seeking to explain it all.

If you are looking for the answer to the question,

“Who’s in control?,”

the answer is,

“No one’s in control.”

I’m sure my friends at the CIA will agree with me on this.

To clarify, I have no friends at the CIA (that I know of).

Speaking sequentially and descriptively with deference to “plot” is useless here.

We have lost the plot.  [Thank God!]

And so a guitar can change he world.

And some extremely-advanced students can change some Beatles lyrics (months after The White Album was released).

You must struggle in the mud.  Mud and blood.  Le sable et le sang.  Rimbaud.

I failed miserably.

And she was hoisted into the air on a Panavision boom.

Nude ascending a staircase.

This just in…THREE LEVELLERS SHOT BY CROMWELL IN BURFORD…

ORIOLES DEFEAT WHITE SOX IN BOURGEOIS VACUUM

Ah,…now I am weeping for the revolution…or for the auteur.

But the auteur has given us a lasting oeuvre.

Was Truffaut’s only English-language film Fahrenheit 451?

It matters.  Here.  …et ailleurs.

I am weeping for the old auteur…before he’s even gone.

And next I will view but not review.

Solely my own experience.  To remember where I started.  (which is basically where I am at this very second)

I have not moved an inch.

It is essential to see British Sounds.  To hear British Sounds.

As an English speaker.  In April 2015.  You won’t even need the Italian subtitles.

They are telling us we are losers.  THEY they.

I have no message.  “Too many messages.”  –Harry Partch

I am just floating on the waves of free association.

Go on:  call me an amateur.

A lover , not a fighter…who didn’t claw his way up to gargle in the rat-race choir.

He lives.  Let me check.

He lives.

Regardless.

And we have no way of communicating with our fellow man.  The life sucked out of the 21st century.

This is by design.

“Separation is the alpha and the omega of the spectacle.”  –Guy Debord

I present the conspiratorial view of history applied to cinema.

Paranoid nonfiction.  I have never read Dick.

Quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.  The difficulties.

Such a quintessentially British euphemism.

The Troubles.  Northern Ireland.

We know nothing.  It’s not as easy as shot/reverse/shot.

It’s like the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ).

KGB calling it a CIA false flag.

Need we remind the perceptive reader of world history that Dr. Ewen Cameron was being paid by the CIA to carry out hideous psychiatric experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute on the grounds of McGill University in Montreal as part of Project MKUltra over a period of time which overlapped with the activities of the FLQ? That is established fact and not a conjecture with which the KGB had any connection.

And so the question becomes, as Godard and co-director Jean-Henri Roger ask, [to paraphrase] “Is Marx the best weapon with which to confront the situation before us?”

Baltimore is haunted by the past (capitalism).  China is haunted by the present (vestigial communism).  In America there is no present moment (minus the times when reality erupts within the spectacle).  In China there is no past.  Not really.  It is forbidden.  Communism requires the primacy of the present moment.  History is history.  Gone.  Capitalism requires the continuation of the past.  Inheritance.  Both suffer from the status quo.  Capitalism is no longer capitalism…and communism is no longer communism.  The great irony is that monopoly capitalism and totalitarian socialism are no longer easily distinguishable (if they ever were).  Why more people don’t seek out the power elite of this two-sided conspiracy coin is beyond me.

Fear.  Fear prevents us.  Only the dispossessed have what is called courage.  Rage.  Courage.

-PD