Friday, July 25, 2008

the titans GATHER!


Lately it’s consumed more of my life than I care to admit. I’ve mused on the world ­David Milch has created so much as to treat the inhabitants of the filthy Black Hills town like gospel. I’d been watching and grappling with the show since the beginning. It’s brutal, overflowing and bears repeated viewings cause there’s so much absurdist, laugh—or-you’ll cry poetic brilliance in almost every scene. I've never had cable, so I spent a lot more time at the folks' place (how my mom can hate so many of the violent movies I go for and still watch this show is beyond me) than usual. If not to see the season as it played, it was to catch a re-run. Stacks of tapes (disordered due to missing a few here and there) are rifled through on a pretty regular basis. As with The Sopranos, I'd implore parties (interested or not) to take the trouble to rent the show. Having caught an episode of Sopranos on Bravo, I have to say it's a lousy way to watch the show. Not just because of the distractingly idiotic profanity substitutions, but due to the fact that commercial interruptions pretty much destroy the carefully constructed connective environments of the show. The profanity being rampant as it is in Deadwood, the thing would likely never be considered for network syndication. That, and the show obviously didn't find a wide enough audience. This is a big part of why I'm writing this.

Twin Peaks, as good as it was, never had the freedom that this show does. Chances are, some nitwit was tapping those writers on the shoulder going - hey, let's have more people talking about “ooh boy, that pie”. How bout that wacky old log lady. She tested very well! Like many HBO programs, there's a signature quality to Deadwood -- one that dismisses any inkling that you're a target audience. Though, I suppose, you are. However, I'd like to hear just what the target audience is for a show like Deadwood. Western fans? They're few and far if current trends are to be considered, and the ones that are left are likely not thrilled with the unusual levels of Shakespearean talkiness, depravity and general weirdness of the series. So… Open-minded western fans? I guess so. That's me more or less. So there you go. Anyone wondering why the show won far more critical than popular acclaim, perhaps this is why. It was too damned particular!

Uniqueness being a dubious gambit to begin with, there's no use in trumpeting this as one of the major reasons to watch. The show's backwards sort of hook may be the very thing that makes us so damned fickle in the first place -- simple comings and goings made agonizingly complex by over-thinking. The show is chock full of this kind of stuff. Every character, no matter how insignificant to the ringmaster Al, is given their turn to expound on their lot and the lots of their chosen companions. If this sounds tedious, I might suggest you reconsider just how enticing the mundane can be. Like when you say "bike" and suddenly it's just a meaningless sound that drops out of you. It's important that we don't close our minds to things just because they don't manipulate us in a way that popular entertainment traditionally dictates. Though the show does uphold this tradition, it also subverts it beautifully. In time you'll find yourself fascinated at something startlingly un-immediate in its appeal, like a boney preacher bending at a crazy angle and proselytizing to a horse's ass. The bizarre fact of the scene is that it's not obviously played for laughs. As with The Sopranos, you'll find plenty of moments that are as confounding as they are enticing.

Fiction loves itself -- above all things it must. So when I start to feel like the Deadwood camp has gone a little Fraggle Rock with its clannishness, I don't balk. When I consider how much of a dark, fragile place it is, sometimes I feel I wouldn't mind if they all had a big group can-can in the thoroughfare to the tune of "Hog of the Foresaken." I find myself wanting certain villains squashed and certain characters avenged, despite the show's insidious subverting of these pleasures. Yet, for every god-awful thing that the camp exposes us to, we get a little hope and illumination.

I suppose this sort of alchemy is nothing new. Most every drama dealing with dark subject matter has used some measure of lightening the load to keep things from getting too overwhelming. Especially when we're talking television. It's rare shows like Twin Peaks, The Office or Deadwood that get the balance right -- as much as producers may have tried to nudge the series toward a more temperate clime. Sometimes, for the heights to be assured the lows have to be downright abysmal. Rather than striking an artful balance, other TV dramas suffer from too much having their cake and eating it. Hence the liberal use of benign ghosts (Six Feet Under) and predictably poignant moments punctuated by the invisible rumblings of a gazillion cliffhangers (Lost). Alan Ball likes to stroke his audience with self-involved, moody characters writ large. Milch slaps us around a good deal with crusty, belligerent sorts that test our ability to feel compassion when it seems most out of reach. Much like the characters in Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt Maine, audiences likely find it difficult to see in them any kind of moral through-line, but that's just what saves us from our finicky 'ol selves. To see humanity flourish where it seems least likely should be a challenging process, and with Deadwood, it most certainly is.

I may've found myself at odds with the show's runaway verbosity for a good stretch there. It seemed so excessive that I lost patience trying to figure out everyone was going on about. The diction of the characters was so convoluted and pretentious. Then I began pushing myself to comprehend these various grandiloquent conversations and soliloquies and eventually came around. I now see that it is one of the show's greatest strengths. Because of this dialogue, the show is blessed with the rare distinction of being truly novelistic in scope. While It's tragic that the show is no more, when I think of how much is packed into the thirty-six hours that have come, I am thrilled with the achievement. No doubt, the indelible, unforgettable cast of people and places helped to seal this achievement. I can't say enough good things about every last actor in the series. Each one understood the deft direction of his or her role so admirably that the exceptionally lavish set pieces all around them became as natural as the drab cubicle landscape of The Office. To describe them meanly would be a disservice, so I'll use what poetic talent I have as a tribute that tries to do a few of them justice.

E.B. Farnum

That yellow on your ruffle?
That perpetual egg sting your face?
In a flinch you're the go to
And get away
You're the gunk slopper ev'ry day
Service with a smile
tear a hamfist swathe
off that awkard pause
then demure
scuttling off to indulge
in your giddy guile
your place is in question
eyebrow arch and forehead crease
at the faintest suggestion
the drab
the mundane
the half-taken pains
childish glee
at the yanking
of near-existent reigns
putting it strained
you're a fine example
of a sprightly stain.

Doc Cochran

Sawbones, clenched teeth
Constipated at the sight of it
No justice, nor peace of mind
Degraded by the self-righteous
And reluctantly wicked
A soldier of morbid focus
Hunched over the sick and
The dead with as much
Fascination as disgust
Sometimes the two become one
And your good heart smiles
Cracked on reflecting.


Had me a doggy
God bless 'im
God bless 'im
Thanks for the listnin
I told him, I told him
If I weren't somewhat civilized
By golly I'd kiss him
He's better than y'all
God bless 'im
God bless 'im
Doesn't vex me atall
No evil arrests him
There's a peace of my mind
Digestin', digestin'
In that doggy by my find
God rest 'im, god rest 'im!

Analysis, metaphoric readings, investigation into its creation be damned - deep down, all I want to do is share my love for a gorgeous, grandiose work of art. I mentioned some other shows before by way of showing Deadwood's superiority. That sort of exposition is either a necessary evil or a bad habit -- I haven't quite decided.

While HBO programmers may want to compartmentalize their viewers, I see no reason to suggest it's better than something you've already grown attached to. You could be a reality television obsessive, or a game show freak and still find much to love here. As for Deadwood, rest assured, once acclimated, there's something in this saga for any damned one of you out there. Don't let anyone say "It's not for everybody" to you. As far this show's watchability is concerned that's just another way of saying you wouldn't understand.

Part of the reason there are no "classics" any more is because the term itself has been bought and sold. Don't let marketers feeding into your knee-jerkingest inclinations dictate your tastes for you. Get defiant and get immersed -- you'll be happy you did. No matter how hard combing through the frustratingly cold machinations of fate can be, Deadwood shows how we can come through the process feeling somewhat enlightened. Did I mention the thing is a big ball of bawdy fun? Well it is. Take it to the bank, friends. The fact that it's more or less bereft of safety nets should only encourage you to make the thrilling jump.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


blog or songlyrics, blog or songlyrics-KILL THE ANT! got im. songlyrics or blog? i know!!! i'll do both!

only fibbing. this is just a regular old, opinion-o-nated bloog utree.
but i do have ants here. and it stands to reason and all that is primrose that they must pay for traipsing on any carpet but they own.
but naw, i'm not writing about insect creature features. to be 100percent honest i don't have the first clue what i'm-

(gimme a sec)

Alright. Things have gone too far. it's all well and good to go delving in the vast world-o-sphere circles of slimy, blasted 80s horror gems, but you have to accept the fact that there is no end to how subversive things are behind the film's likely intent: $tuff. Both Clownhouse (1990) and Pulse (1988) spend an unnerving amount of time shooting adolescent boys in an almost lascivious manner. It's one thing when you're seeing the eighties bvd commercial-style homoeroticism (there's almost zero sexycamera time spent on the female love interest) in A Nightmare on Elmstreet 2. It's one thing when you're peering into Neville Brand's soppy malt whiskey commercial gone horribly wrong in Eaten Alive.

When you're looking at this.
But there's something about Joey Lawrence being photographed as though there's volumes to be read in his self-conscious child actorness that just crosses a line. Clownhouse, like Pulse, was a film from my childhood that creeped me out. rather than waste time wondering why i find clowns scary, i'm more likely to be fathoming how in blazes anybody wouldn't. That clown doctor dream sequence, and the laughing parking lot clown that Pee Wee tied his stolen bike to in Pee Wee's Big Adventure both still creep me out. But, whereas Pee Wee was a quality film, Clownhouse and Pulse are decidedly not.
Though, admittedly, both have their redeeming factors for us mouldering vhs nostalgia hounds. In Pulse (probably the more watchable of the two) there's a ridiculous scene with a tv repair man where the actor is seemingly trying to stuff his entire resume into one two-minute confused, drifting snore of a monologue that seems to portend, and then just dithers about. Is he coming on to J. Lawr's step-mom or is he shaming himself before her? is he a pro with secret knowledge of electronics (the flick's about rogue killer electronics, or - as they are known in legend - "voices in the wires") or just a worker drone who reads the diagrams in his tv repair guy guidebook. This performance is so bizarre it almost eclipsed the film.
If only!
And Clownhouse, aside from having an insufferable, Tales from the Crypt-style soundtrack, is something that my friends and I really dug as a kid. naturally, we didn't notice the overly reverent, fawn-the-boy camera work, so it was just left to those scary scary clowns*. Years later i found out that the director had molested the young star of the film at the time. naturally this made watching the film a distracting, morose experience. decidedly more morose an experience than any horror, pure exploitation or otherwise, oughta be.
It raises the question: what separates the rarified septic glisten of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Martin from the wilted, sour dregs of a Maniac or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer? Since none of the people involved with any of these films have any kind of bonafied artistic clout it must be left to chance. Some slapdash kind of race for something signature combined with an unrelenting, airtight foray into blankest of evil. The former are rewatchable while the latter only serve as cautionary tales for when you go buying into everything that gets dubbed a "cult classic". Nowadays, it seems to be a cheap way for some round-the-bend hack to try and cash in on us discerning esoteric bygone pop culture fans. I'll tell you all right now - stay away from The Garbage Pail Kids. I know, I know - but stay away! it's just nowhere near as amusing as it oughta be. Shoulda been a animated.

There's no telling how to separate good bad taste and bad bad taste but I'm pretty positive the distinction exists - and that it isn't completely mind-numbing and geeked out to some diseased degree. It has a lot to do with technique, and as many of these film-makers had particularly finite budgets, its whether all the ridiculous amount of facets that go into making a film are all in accordance with one another. a miserable film is a gorgeous one when it feels melodious and of a piece -- when (as is true in Martin and TCM) there's merciful/crafty editing and purposeful, uniquely choreographed camera work. if the idea isn't 100% or the crew as slick and professional as they'd like - there's still a belief in creating something truly memorable and deserving of its own consideration outside of any marketing context.
If I had my way, Let's Scare Jessica To Death (which i hope to acquire loads more images from to plaster all over this sumbitch) would be, not a midnight movie, but a midday movie. I saw it during the day as a kid and still enjoy it at this time today. I think this film, in some part, helped to show how horrifying a scene shot in broad daylight can be. Actually, one should try, right as the sun is coming up, watching Let's Scare Jessica To Death with headphones on. it's as rarely perfect and delectable a mood as you're likely to find. Cult schmult. This is something special. You don't know about it? I'm telling you now. Others likely will as well.
There are too many films that've taken a sledge-hammer to my proudly warped sensibilities and been revelations but some have merely been soul-sapping excursions to creatively bankrupt half-assery. Street Trash is another of these which one ought to steer clear of (unless you're dying to see a slapsticky some rancid homeless folks playing keepaway with a penis). It has the charmless feel of a Troma Production and Troma sucks because they're so self-consciously "cult" as to be more naseating with their leaden attempts at humor than the actual gore that is their stock and trade.
I can't commit to putting quotes on the word "cult" or not. I believe it's generally used in the negative, David Koresh sense, so there tends to be a trendy, in-the-know feel when you refer to a movie as such. yet there's an implicit meaning behind it that more benignly suggests something uncategorizable. Something that sticks out. Then again, my favorite films are exactly these sort, and sometimes catch myself resenting word "cult" being thrown at some of them. Homogenization is beyond threatening to me. If i'm part to be part of something, whatever it is, I want to consciously align myself. in turn, each film should be taken wholly on its own merit, and not in the context of what cultural trend it corresponds to. I'm sorry, but vh1 must die. They're shitting up the mystique and pretending to be celebrating in the process.

But there's really no need to get all up in arms about it. In the end, all art appreciation is destined to become fetish. Something strikes us and glitters our eye. But in this dizzingly chaotic world we inhabit, something like Invasion U.S.A. needn't be camp. It could be prep school! no, seriously, its a work of art worthy of the blissfully uncoveted Road House Award. You should see it.

Don't believe me. Read this:

Lou Tetry, Grade Six

Chuck likes the life of a swamp rat. he has an indian friend in there and they boogie around in the swamp when chuck thinks hes getting to get killed its only his armadilla i named him Quincy. the goverment want him to stop the evil forein guy and his multi-racial army from shooting the entire world. chuck doesn't wanna do it, but he has a guilty consciense when his indian buddy is killed by the evil foreign guy who has blonde hair and doesn't liken to Chuck one bit. Chuck kills his adversery and then some before the movies thru. the best is when they attack christmas and the mall. i think this would make christmas shopping a real good one! there'd be chuck driving a truck thru kaybee and then back into record town. i think this is the best imagination of the movie. it stops and starts, but not too much - mostly all chuck, all action! he could kill my uncle bert with one punch. he totally could kill the entire evil empire that makes everything bad in happen in the world. he could kill a gorilla. there's nothing on earth we wouldn't kill so much as lookit. and when he's done, the stupid dumb reporter girl gets left with the mess so Chuck can get some quality time with Quincy on the bayou. that's a movie if you ask me.


*interestingly, i noticed that the real clowns were uncannily more chilling than the escaped murderers that replaced them -- somehow, clowns trying to scare you are not nearly as unnerving as clowns just being clowns.