the host (bong joon-ho, 2006)

I wrote about The Host almost ten years ago, and I guess you could it was a case of damning with faint praise, when I devoted a mere one sentence to what I thought was a 7/10 movie: “Korean monster movie, a few dozen rungs above what you'd see on any random Saturday on the Sci-Fi Channel, if not quite the 5-star masterpiece some critics call it.” Having just watched it again, I have to say, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking back in 2008. At the least, I should have realized that “a few dozen rungs” is a lot.

Partly, I have context now, having seen a lot of Korean horror since 2008. Just to take Bong’s movies, there are Memories of Murder, Mother, and Snowpiercer (the latter actually being his American sci-fi-action flick). In other words, I’m a fan of Bong and Korean movies in ways I wasn’t when I first saw The Host, so I’m more predisposed to like it.

There are other little things ... Scott Wilson, who’s had a long career in everything from In Cold Blood and The Great Gatsby to The Walking Dead, has a cameo at the beginning of the movie. And Doona Bae, who I hadn’t noticed before in several movies, but who is a fave of mine on Sense8, so now when I re-watch The Host, there’s Bae as the archer. These are the kinds of things that bring a familiarity to The Host that wasn’t there before.

But enough explaining. I still missed the boat, because The Host isn’t just a few dozen rungs better than Sharknado, it’s in another league. The monster is cheesy but intriguing. The political undercurrents are there without taking over the movies. And the core characters, from a dysfunctional family that responds in various ways to the monster’s appearance, are finely-drawn and interesting in their own right. The Host works as a family drama, even without the monster.

Plus, the comedy isn’t stupid, and like the politics, it never overtakes the movie.

I still think I’d start with Mother if I wanted to introduce someone to the work of Bong Joon-Ho. But The Host is getting closer. #104 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st cenury. 8/10. (At this rate, if I watch it again in 2026 and 2035, I’ll give it a 10/10.) (Trying to imagine me watching a Korean monster movie when I’m 82 years old.)


godzilla’s revenge (ishirô honda, 1969)

The title has nothing to do with the movie, and it would probably be better to use an alternate English title, All Monsters Attack, which is at least closer to what we see on the screen.

I’m sure many people think all of those old Japanese Godzilla movies are equally bad, with perhaps a nod to the original, which is actually a fine movie. Well, even fans of the movies tend to agree that Godzilla’s Revenge is the worst Japanese-made Godzilla movie of all time. Just think of how bad some of those movies are, and then try to imagine the depths to which Godzilla’s Revenge must go to take the title of Worst Ever.

For instance:

The fight scenes among the monsters are footage from earlier Godzilla movies (and not necessarily the best ones). Godzilla does not go on a rampage in a city with a large population. He lives on something called “Monster Island”.

“Monster Island” doesn’t actually exist ... it’s a place the hero, Ichirô, dreams about when he sleeps.

Thus, none of the monsters, including Godzilla, are “real” within the context of the film’s universe.

Ichirô is a latchkey kid who lacks parental advice because they are always working, and who is regularly bullied by the other kids.

When Ichirô dreams of Monster Island, he hangs out with Godzilla’s son, who speaks, thus allowing them to have conversations where Son of Godzilla explains that his dad is trying to teach him not to be a coward.

When Ichirô is awake, he uses his dream memories to emulate Little Godzilla, finally getting the courage to fight back against the bullies.

Oh, there’s also a plot about two bank robbers that are captured thanks to Ichirô.

Seriously, this is one awful movie. And I confess, I watched it on our DVD copy. Yes, I own Godzilla’s Revenge. 2/10.


blu-ray series #16: eyes without a face (georges franju, 1960)

Since I don’t know who the audience is for this blog, I don’t know how much I have to say to provide context. Say nothing, and some people will be left behind. Say too much, and I’ve bored the readers. In this case, I’ll err on the side of saying too much.

Georges Franju was a Frenchman who, with Henri Langlois, started the Cinémathèque Française in 1936. It held (and holds) one of largest archives of films and film-related material in the world. Their post-war screenings were attended by many of the future stars of the French New Wave. Franju went on to make documentary films before moving on to fiction films, of which Eyes Without a Face was the second.

By the time this film made it to the U.S., it was treated like a typical drive-in horror flick. A couple of scenes were edited, the title was changed to the ridiculous The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus (there is no chamber or Dr. Faustus in the movie), the French dialogue was dubbed into English, and it was stuck on a double-bill with the immortal movie The Manster (HALF MAN, HALF MONSTER!). I don’t remember The Manster, but I seem to recall seeing The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus on Creature Features when I was a kid. That I am not sure of this last face suggests the movie didn’t make much of an impression, if I did see it.

Which brings us to Eyes Without a Face. The concept isn’t completely original … scientist’s daughter has her face disfigured, scientist tries to graft a new face onto the old one … at some basic level, I suppose it is a horror film, although the buildup is so slow I’m not surprised I can’t remember if I saw it. There are a couple of faded stars to tart things up … Pierre Brasseur, who was in Children of Paradise in 1945, plays the scientist, while Alida Valli, the female lead in The Third Man in 1949, plays his assistant. In fairness, Valli had been in plenty of movies of note in the 1950s.) The scientist and his assistant kill young women, looking for a match for the disfigured daughter, and again, this isn’t exactly a new idea in horror.

So why is Eyes Without a Face considered a classic? Partly, it’s the perfectly controlled way Franju gradually lets the audience into the scenario. At first, the scientist seems like a somewhat arrogant man who is still mourning the loss of family members. But as the film progresses, we realize that the doctor will stop at nothing to achieve his aim of fixing his daughter’s face, even after she expresses her desire to just die. Ultimately, he is uninterested in his daughter. He only wants to create a new method of grafting. Thus, the film is a commentary on patriarchy, where women are mere symbols for what men want to accomplish. It’s also a warning about placing too much importance on reason … the rational scientist never seems to understand what he is doing to his daughter, or why she would want it to end.

But what really lifts the film is Edith Scob, who plays the daughter. Scob is aided by the mask she wears to cover her mangled face … it makes it hard for the actress to emote, and more props to her for using her eyes and her body to express emotions. But it’s the actual look of the mask that will haunt you long after you’ve seen the film.

ewaf

I’m not sure she’s even wearing a mask … in an interview included on the disc, she talks about sitting in makeup for long periods. There are times when the mask is taken off or put back on, but that could be camera trickery. Whatever … what matters is that the mask simultaneously looks like a mask (i.e. “fake”) and like a real face. It’s exquisitely done … her face looks oddly flawless.

Franju happily, consciously, messes with our notions of the possibilities of art in genre work (which might have been more vital in 1960, I suppose). Eyes Without a Face is an ambitious film. It’s better than the average horror film, there’s a lot going on, there is plenty of interesting subtext. All of which, to be honest, makes me enjoy thinking about it more than I enjoyed actually watching it. #338 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. For a companion piece, try something by Cocteau, maybe Testament of Orpheus. Or John Woo’s Face/Off.


what i watched last week

The Heroic Trio (Johnnie To, 1993). (Siu-tung Ching must also be mentioned from the start for his work as “martial arts director”, i.e. wire fu.) I don’t remember exactly when I saw John Woo’s The Killer for the first time. I know we rented the VHS video from Palmer’s Cameras, so that might narrow the time frame. I knew nothing about it, but the in-store advertisement looked interesting. About halfway through the movie, I said something like “holy shit”, and became an instant convert to Hong Kong movies. It was a good time for such movies, and one of the pleasures of finding something new-to-you is that there is already an established batch of things to watch. (Binge-watching TV series carries some of the same feeling, or reading the first book in a series.) First I watched Woo’s classics, then Jackie Chan, then anything I could find. The UC Theatre showed HK double-bills on Thursday nights, which meant there was always something new. Michelle Yeoh was a particular favorite, thanks to her great beauty and terrific ability in action scenes (she had no martial arts training, but used her past as a ballet dancer to good effect). There was Yes, Madam! with Cynthia Rothrock, Police Story 3: Super Cop with Jackie Chan, and Wing Chun, which she carried largely on her own, although Donnie Yen was along for the ride. The Heroic Trio came between Super Cop and Wing Chun, and it’s a truly loony piece of work. The plot makes no sense, but it doesn’t try anyway so that doesn’t matter. The laws of gravity are broken with regularity, as is always the case with wire fu, so there is no reason the laws of narrative would fare any better. There is a surprising amount of real grossness to some of the violence, which needs to be mentioned for folks who are squeamish. But the hook for Heroic Trio is the actors who play the titular characters. There’s Yeoh as “Invisible Woman”, Anita Mui as “Wonder Woman”, and Maggie Cheung as “Thief Catcher”. I don’t know if I can translate this cast to an American production … maybe if they made Charlie’s Angels with Sigourney Weaver, Madonna, and Michelle Williams. Yeoh would become famous in the West as a Bond Girl, and later for her part in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon … Cheung is loved worldwide for movies like In the Mood for Love and Clean (for which she won a Best Actress award at Cannes). In Asia, Mui was the biggest star of the three, often called the “Madonna of Asia” for her music, which placed her atop the charts for many years. But Mui was like Madonna, if Madonna could act … Mui won awards for acting as well as singing. In short, these are three of Asia’s most honored and respected actors, and they show up in a bizarre wire fu movie. It’s quite fun, if you’re in the right mood. You can tell Yeoh is handling most of her own action work, but To makes Cheung and Mui look good, too. Yeoh also has the most showy role as far as acting goes, and she makes the most of it. (Cheung is often comic relief, as she was in the Police Story movies with Chan.) Perhaps Charlie’s Angels is a good comparison: three absolutely beautiful actresses kicking ass. But Charlie’s Angels didn’t have Siu-tung Ching. 7/10. For a follow-up, you could catch the sequel, Executioners, which I haven’t seen but which isn’t highly regarded. For Yeoh, try Wing Chun. I never miss a chance to tout In the Mood for Love with Maggie Cheung, although it is nothing like this movie. Finally, Mui won awards for her work in Rouge.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011). The viewing experience isn’t always relevant, but in this case, I need to state upfront how I watched this movie. I watched the first half on Blu-ray, but the disc kept screwing up, so I finally gave up and returned it to Netflix. They sent me a replacement, and I watched the second half a couple of days later. (Creepy sidenote: when I put the replacement disc in the Blu-ray player, the movie started up where I’d left it with the other disc.) I mention this because Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a long movie (a little more than 2 1/2 hours), and it is built to be watched in one sitting, so that it will draw out a cumulative response. Since I took a break in the middle, I was able to put off some of the possible boredom that might have ensued otherwise. (Mick LaSalle called it “colossally, memorably and audaciously boring”.) I could certainly see why some people would be bored … “nothing happens” for long stretches of the film, and the first two hours offer multiple renditions of the same events: police are driving a murderer around, looking for where he buried the body, but he was drunk at the time, can’t really remember where the grave is, and many places in that part of Anatolia look the same, so they drive to a spot, get out of the car, look around, murderer says that isn’t the place, they get in the car, drive to a spot, etc. As they drive around, we listen to their conversations, which seem extremely mundane (click here for a discussion of yogurt). It all reminded me a bit of L’Avventura, where the characters wandered around, seeming aimless, while Antonioni turned their lives into something bigger. Anatolia is designed to frustrate your expectations … it’s a police procedural, it’s noir, it is, in Andrew O’Hehir’s words, “like an episode of ‘CSI,’ scripted by Anton Chekhov, stretched to two and a half hours, and photographed against the bleak, impressive scenery of Turkey’s central steppes.” There are no clear solutions to anything, and what we learn about the characters lacks clarity as well … what you think you know could slip through your fingers. It’s not a movie for everyone. #116 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century. I give it 9/10. I haven’t seen them, but Ceylan’s earlier movies Distant and Climates are also highly regarded. Or you could watch my 17th-favorite movie of all time, L’Avventura.

Spider Baby, or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (Jack Hill, 1964?). Another one of those movies where it’s as much fun talk about the extraneous stuff as to discuss what’s on the screen. Let me get the latter out of the way. Spider Baby is a low-budget Inbreeding Meets Lolita story that is part horror film, part comedy, and overall better than you would expect. One poster read “Seductive Innocence of Lolita, Savage Hunger of a Black Widow!” It will never rise above cult status, but within that context, you could do worse. Now to the fun stuff. It’s the first film directed by Jack Hill, who gave us such classic 70s exploitation movies as Coffy and Foxy Brown. It stars Lon Chaney, Jr. who actually does a decent job. (The above-mentioned poster says, “Starring Spider Baby and Lon Chaney”.) The cast includes cult faves like Sid Haig, Carol Ohmart, even Mantan Moreland. It was filmed in 1964 for around $60,000 … the title at the time was Cannibal Orgy. The money men behind the production went bankrupt, so the film wasn’t released until 1968. The song that plays under the opening credits is performed by Chaney. One of the actors, Quinn Redeker, went on to some success as a soap opera actor, and also was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay to The Deer Hunter. Jill Banner, who plays Spider Baby, died in a car accident at the age of 35 … at the time, she was working with Marlon Brando. A lot of cheapo movies are incompetently made. Credit to Jack Hill for making a movie where the camera is where it belongs, where the performances are reasonably OK, where you’ll see something a little bit different. Doesn’t mean it’s a good movie, but relatively speaking, it’s fine. 6/10. For a companion, you could watch one of Hill’s Pam Grier movies. There’s also Chaney in The Wolf Man, which is very good, or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which also features Chaney (and Bela Lugosi as Dracula!) and which is very very good.

The Music Room (Satyajit Ray, 1958). I originally intended to give this movie its own post in the Blu-ray series, but I don’t think I can do it justice, so I’ll just attach it here. It’s almost universally admired as one of the greatest films of one of the greatest directors, but it mostly left me cold. I’m willing to accept that I just wasn’t in the right place to appreciate it. It’s an hour shorter than Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, but I found it much harder to get through. Again, the might be my own fault … I didn’t realize half the film is a flashback until I read it in reviews after the fact. I get the comparisons to King Lear, but this movie is far too quiet for the comparison to work … the main character never explodes against the world the way Lear does, and in fairness, emulating Lear is not likely to have been Ray’s intention. I can’t blame him for what others said about his film. Perhaps because I was bamboozled by the time frame, I never found the main character to change. It could have been a 20-minute short and worked just as well for me. For now, I’ll file it under “watch it again in a few years”. #218 on the TSPDT list. 6/10. I obviously don’t have any recommendations for similar movies to watch. Perhaps Charulata, another Ray film that I saw 40+ years ago and remember liking.


what i watched last week

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012).  Impressive, and Haneke knows it. Amour is an unrelenting look at old age, and he cuts straight to the point: not long after the movie begins, Anne (Emmaneulle Riva) has what seems to be a stroke, after which we get two hours of her fading gradually until she is barely there. The title comes from the fact that Haneke thinks he’s telling a love story, between Anne and her husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who cares for her as she dies. Indeed, Riva and Trintignant have a great rapport, and it is not hard to believe they have been together for a very long time. There is heartbreak, and even horror, because we all know this fate awaits us, too, whether as the sick one, the caretaker, or (eventually) both. Haneke doesn’t turn away from the realities that are so often passed over in more congenial films about old codgers. As I say, it’s all quite impressive. Yet I think the title is a misnomer, for Haneke’s control of the material is so severe that we feel distanced, even when seeing the most personal aspects of the characters’ lives. Riva and Trintignant are magnificent, and Amour really is unforgettable. Yet somehow it feels bloodless. #77 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century, and winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. 8/10.

Attack of the Crab Monsters (Roger Corman, 1957). My wife is in Nebraska, and I’m sitting at home wondering how to pass the time. So I dredged up this classic from the Creature Feature days of my childhood. Nothing in the movie makes sense, although you can probably guess that from the title. Giant crabs eat humans and absorb their brains, after which they retain the memories and can speak in the humans’ voices, telepathically. Virtually every scene has something completely unbelievable, even without considering the premise. You can’t compare it to, say, Amour … if that film was 8/10, Attack of the Crab Monsters must surely be 1/10. But compared to various other cheapo 1950s monster movies, Attack of the Crab Monsters ranks reasonably well. Every scene has action, an order Corman gave to screenwriter Charles B. Griffith. So the picture moves quickly, and it’s over in 62 minutes, so you don’t really have time while you are watching to consider how dumb it all is. On the other hand, the need to make something happen in every scene is one reason the movie is such a mess: there is no time for logic when each conversation must be quickly interrupted by a rampaging crab monster. Inspirational quote: asked why the brains inside the crabs have turned against their former friends and colleagues, Richard Garland explains, “Preservation of the species. Once they were men. Now they are land crabs.” 5/10.

Battle in Outer Space (Ishirô Honda, 1959). Honda had a fascinating career. In America, he’s best known for movies like the original Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and Attack of the Mushroom People. (Pacific Rim included a dedication to him.) But he started as an assistant to Akira Kurosawa, and five years after his final movie, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Honda went back to work with his old mentor on Kagemusha, Ran, and Dreams. Battle in Outer Space, like Attack of the Crab Monsters, was a fixture on the Creature Features of my youth. It holds up a bit better … there are some lovely visuals, and the space battles have a cheesy goodness. (Luckily, the humans’ ray beams are squiggly, while the aliens are straight, so you can always tell who is shooting.) I’d rather watch it than watch Armageddon. 6/10.


what i watched last week

Voices (Ki-hwan Oh, 2007). I decided I should pass some time by watching a Korean horror movie, and ended up here. The plot was pretty goofy, but it snuck up on me, which is to say, it didn’t seem so goofy at first, and by the time I realized it was silly, it was too late. I was already hooked. It’s the kind of horror movie that tosses in something scary and/or gory every dozen minutes to keep your attention, and it worked, since I spent most of the movie oohing and aahing. It’s possible there was supposed to be some larger message here, but if so, I missed it. Voices demonstrates a pretty depressing vision of humankind, but this, too, sneaks up on you; for most of the movie, you think you have someone to root for. By the end, such people were long gone. Not as good as Oldboy or Mother, but still an easy 7/10.

Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010). This sci-fi movie couldn’t be more different from Voices. Made for $800k, or $500k, or a lot less than $500k, depending on who you asked, Monsters features two professional actors along with amateurs who may have thought they were in a documentary. It’s about aliens who land in Mexico and turn into giant octopus-looking creatures. It’s the first feature for director Gareth Edwards, who did the special effects in his bedroom using off-the-shelf computer software. And the male lead’s name is Scoot. I assumed it would be akin to a made-for-SyFy Channel movie, only without a big star like Eric Roberts. Boy, was I wrong. Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars out of 4. Andrew O’Hehir in Salon called it “a dynamite little film, loaded with atmosphere, intelligence, beauty and courage.” It won three British Independent Film Awards. And Edwards was handed the reins for the Godzilla reboot to be released in 2014, which will likely have a slightly larger budget than Monsters. Monsters isn’t quite as good as the above suggests, but it’s certainly better than a SyFy Channel movie. And the final scene with two aliens is unexpectedly moving. I’m giving it the same rating I gave to Voices, but it sure comes at its 7/10 in a different manner from the Korean film.


what i watched last week

Face/Off (John Woo, 1997). This turned up on HBO … we thought to catch a few minutes and ended up watching the whole thing. It’s Woo’s best American movie, although I can think of at least half-a-dozen HK and Chinese Woos I prefer to this one. The plot is ludicrous, and there are times when Woo seems to be going through a checklist of his repertoire of tics (here come the doves in a church!). But John Travolta and Nicolas Cage do wonders with their roles. They are clearly having a blast, and are so good that you have to pinch yourself to remember that Travolta is playing the Cage character and vice versa. The face-exchange plot pretty much ensures there will be some contextual references to identity, but really, the movie is made by the two leads. 8/10.

Ultimately, Woo’s Hollywood career went about as well as might be expected, which is to say, it was disappointing. It’s a standard story: someone’s talent is recognized, he is signed, and then he’s asked to be something other than the talent that got him signed in the first place. Hard Target wasn’t all that bad, but the studio wanted him to tone down the violence, and he couldn’t get an “R”, so the studio re-edited it without him. Broken Arrow was better, and it made a little money, which led to Face/Off, where Woo had more freedom than he had gotten in his earlier American films. Unsurprisingly, it was the best of the bunch. Then came the dreadful Mission: Impossible II, the boring Windtalkers, and the merely-competent Paycheck. (Happily, Woo hadn’t lost his touch … when he returned to China, it was to make the magnificent Red Cliff.)

Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956). I last watched this a little more than three years ago, and wrote about it for one of the very first “what i watched” posts. In that post, I mentioned that when I first saw the film many years ago, I thought it was “about” me and my addiction to caffeine. I then noted that in 2008, it still seemed to be about me, only this time I saw myself in the erratically terrifying dad. In 2012, I found myself identifying with the arthritis-like symptoms of the main character, which proves I’m getting old. I liked it enough to bump the grade a bit: 8/10. #569 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. Features Barbara Rush as the female lead … she was last seen in these parts in It Came from Outer Space.

Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011). An odd movie, mostly because it’s not very odd at all. It’s a thriller about a fast-spreading virus, but the action is presented in a matter-of-fact manner that quiets the thrills. It seems ripe for philosophical interludes (I am, after all, the person whose favorite book is The Plague by Albert Camus), but it sidesteps them. It’s got an all-star cast, with three Best Actress Oscar winners and a bunch of guys who have won or been nominated for Oscars of their own, yet it treats them all as actors first and movie stars second. The low-key nature of the film is nice, considering how many similar films crank up the cheap emotion and show lots of things blowing up. And it’s not overlong, and it’s never boring. But neither is it ever great. 7/10.

Drive, He Said (Jack Nicholson, 1971). This is the kind of film people mean when they speak of the golden age of American movies. Oh, it’s not great itself, but it fits right in with the times, and the filmmaking fits in with the golden age. Nicholson, in his first director’s stint (outside of his uncredited work in The Terror), avoids clichés, and as expected he gets the basketball scenes right. Plus, there’s student unrest and naked actors of both genders. It’s a worthy effort, but it’s not much good. 6/10.

Circus of Horrors (Sidney Hayers, 1960). This week’s Saturday Creature Feature is a typical British Hammer-inspired B-movie genre flick, with a slightly better-than-average pedigree. Donald Pleasance turns up for awhile. The lead is played by Anton Diffring, who appeared in well over 100 movies, doing everything from Truffaut to Jerry Lewis’ legendary The Day the Clown Cried. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe earned three Oscar nominations in his career. And it was distributed by the same company that released Peeping Tom the same year. I mention the pedigree because it’s more interesting than talking about the movie, which is OK but nothing more. 6/10.


what i watched last week

Slim pickings, what with the end of the semester, and so many TV series finishing off their seasons. I’m left with the “what shall I watch on my Kindle Fire while we lay here in bed relaxing” movies.

Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004). Seemed like a good Fire choice, since it’s short, and the visuals are kinda lo-fi. I hadn’t seen it in almost six years; back then I wrote the following:

Ethan Hawke is a generally fine actor and he's very good here, but the truth is, I couldn't take my eyes off of Julie Delpy. It's not her looks ... she's pretty enough, but that's not what made her so compulsively watchable. She just does a great job of conveying both her submerged emotions and her open intelligence ... you often get one or the other, but not both like this. She deserves an Oscar nomination.

Delpy did get an Oscar nom (I saw this during one of my annual Oscar Runs, before I gave up on the idea because I couldn’t bear to watch another movie about Captain Jack Sparrow). But it was for Best Adapted Screenplay (along with Hawke and Linklater and Kim Krizan). She and Hawke clearly add to their own dialogue .. how much is unclear, perhaps, but it’s obvious that some of it is theirs. It all works so well, even if it sounds twee: couple who met cute nine years ago meet up again and spend an hour and a half walking around Paris, talking.

As for Delpy, early on, I looked at my wife and said, “I’ll bet you Mick LaSalle loves Julie Delpy”. She is so much his type: pretty-not-beautiful, smart, European, makes interesting career choices. Then I get up the next morning, and what do I see on Mick’s blog? “The Most Alluring Women in Cinema”, a slideshow of his favorites. Julie Delpy is there, and his description could have come just after seeing her in one of the “Before” movies: “You already feel like you’ve been on a date with her. And you already know what to do. Keep your mouth shut and let her do all the talking.”

Meanwhile, the first time I saw Before Sunset, I gave it 8/10. It’s stood the test of time so far: 9/10. #18 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 movies of the 21st century.

The Terror (Roger Corman, 1963). Two weeks isn’t enough to make a tradition, but we may look back on this period as the beginning of the Saturday Night Kindle Fire Creature Feature. Last week it was It Came from Outer Space. This time I went with a Roger Corman classic that was far more interesting in the making than it is on the screen. Corman had just finished The Raven, which starred Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson, among others. He kept Karloff around for four days and shot a bunch of footage, using some of the same sets from the earlier picture. He then left the movie to his second-unit crew, which means parts of the film were directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, and even Nicholson himself. To add to the complicated tale, a few years later, when Corman had Karloff under contract for two days, Corman told Peter Bogdanovich to make a movie using Karloff and clips from The Terror. The result, Targets, was Bogdanovich’s first film as a director. Meanwhile, The Terror is actually a pretty dull and shoddy affair, although Karloff manages a few scenes of pathos. You get to see Nicholson in his mid-20s, six years before Easy Rider. And you can’t go wrong with the immortal Dick Miller. But the incoherence is too much to overcome. 4/10.


dick miller

Charlie and I had a discussion going on his blog the other day ... LiveJournal makes it easy to include comments, I commented on one of his posts, he replied to my comment, I replied to his, etc. The topic was blogging, and whether or not it was good to tell specific, true stuff about yourself and others. In the context of this conversation, Charlie said of my blog, "Yours is on the not-personally-revealing side of the spectrum."

Partly I was proud when I read this, because I like to think I'm a mysterious person, that no one knows the "real" me, and I do a lot of dissembling, here and elsewhere, so people won't know much about me. But I was also depressed, because in truth, I want people to know everything about me. I am my own favorite subject (solipsism is great, everyone should try it). And I think I expose my inner being all the time on this blog. So it was depressing to find that in fact, I was not personally revealing at all. What, am I speaking in code here?

Of course, I am speaking in code. That's the whole point ... it's the dissembling process. Look at me, go away.

Tonight I'm watching Karen Sisco, which has maintained a pretty high level so far ... it's nothing special or revolutionary, not something you'd use to prove Teevee Is Good, but it's a fine show through the first month or so. Karen goes into a shoe store, and the man who assists her is played by Dick Miller. Now, every time I see Dick Miller, I think to myself, "Hey, it's Dick Miller!" Or, if someone else is around, I say it out loud: "Look, it's Dick Miller!"

The previous paragraph was not personally revealing. Except it was, to me. I'm telling you something about myself. I'm not telling you my deepest secrets, not fessing up to suicidal tendencies or admitting I'm overwhelmed with ecstasy. But I'm telling you about Dick Miller, as a way of telling you about myself. I know you probably don't even know who Dick Miller is, but I like it when I see him, and I'm telling you about my pleasure, and hoping you'll then know more about Steven Rubio.

But Dick Miller doesn't really say anything about me ... I suspect you can learn more about me from knowing I watch Karen Sisco than you can from knowing I like Dick Miller. So I'm being faux-revealing, or rather, faux-pretend-revealing (and is faux-pretend a double negative?).

Dick Miller has been in 120 movies (God bless the Internet Movie Database). He was "The Leper" in The Undead, "Heckler" in X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, "Cop #1" in Beach Ball, "Team B Rifleman" in Executive Action, "Spectator" in Candy Stripe Nurses, "Bit Part" in Vortex, and "Horseshoe Player" in Motorama. He played "Walter Paisley," perhaps his greatest role, in A Bucket of Blood; in homage to that role, he was also called Walter Paisley in Hollywood Boulevard and The Howling and Twilight Zone: The Movie and Chopping Mall, and "Officer Paisley" in Shake, Rattle and Rock!. His part went uncredited in The Girls on the Beach, and in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and in The Legend of Lylah Clare, and in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. He was in Pulp Fiction, but his scenes were deleted ... he was in The Terminator, and he wasn't deleted. According to the IMDB, his "one-scene appearances in countless movies and TV shows guarantee audience applause." And in Rock and Roll High School, he delivered the immortal line, "They're ugly. Ugly, ugly people."

So now you know about Dick Miller. The question is, have I revealed anything about Steven Rubio?