Thursday, October 31, 2019

The SBC, BB Allin, and Lanalou's Halloween Hellraiser

News broke this week that the SBC Restaurant has had its liquor license revoked, and that all gigs there have been cancelled, seemingly permanently. Some people have speculated that that is due to the recent dragging mishap, which left a 24 year old woman quite badly injured - even though footage has emerged that that may not have been entirely the fault of the driver. Others have speculated online that it may have something to do with development plans for the block ("FOLLOW THE MONEY," one observer, herself no stranger to venue closures, wrote, all in caps...). And of course, there's the chance both situations apply: that opportunists waiting for an excuse might have seized upon the dragging as a pretext to take the SBC out of the picture. Whatever the reason, Cecil English and Donna Mabbett (previously involved in booking the Flamingo, I believe, which also bit the dust as a venue location not long ago) are left venueless for the time being; and another historic location in the Vancouver punk scene has bitten the dust. Even a gig I was planning to write about and attend this weekend got cancelled: that being Bloody Betty Bathory's GG Allin tribute act, which I had previously written about here.

So it goes. Meantime, people who, like me, were hoping for a Betty Bathory-level of derangement at a gig this weekend can take heart: Betty also has a gig this very night, with Daddy Issues, at the Lanalou's Halloween Hellraiser. I am not promising that I will be there - I've been nursing a cold all week, loudly coughing up - to the great disgust and dismay of my wife - great greygreen goobers, and have already missed one gig (David M. at the Princeton on Monday) and two horror movie double bills (see below), as a result (and even one day's work, last Friday; and most of the Adicts show last Thursday, though I did stay for a couple of songs, having bought the ticket and so forth. But whether I am up for a show tonight or not, the least I can do is plug the gig.

So here, copied directly from the Facebook page for the event:
Halloween night come raise hell with the spookiest freaks in town. For real. Don't miss the most action packed horror filled evening guaranteed to shock, titillate and (knowing you all) OFFEND.

If you haven't seen them you've definitely heard OF them. Featuring members of Dayglo Abortions, Powerclown, No Likes, The Subhumans and Bloody Betty.
Nope, nothing offensive to see or hear here.

Vancouver's reigning master of the bizarre. If you have somehow avoided this man's show thus far you should just stop that crap RIGHT NOW. No extra charge for the lasting mental trauma sure to ensue. He really stays with you. Sometimes he even follows you home.

Are SO FUCKING GOOD you cant afford NOT to see them. Seriously they are one of the best bands in Vancouver right now. Give them your money.

Responsible for the splatter F/X, temporary genitalia and severed appendages that adorned the stages of Bloody Betty and The Deadly Sins shows for almost a decade. Shes gonna eat a corpse. You probably don't wanna see that but you should anyway. It'll be good for your constitution.

If you haven't heard about her we aren't gonna tell you. Yeah it's that bad. Soooooooo we dare you.

SHOW @ 9
$13 @ The door.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Resident

Maybe my favourite of the sorta-recent Hammer horror movies is The Resident. It's got a very interesting story, some rich psychology: it takes you inside a damaged male mind in a way that is seldom done in cinema. It pulls some of its punches, in the name of appealing to the mainstream - because a man who has allowed himself to degenerate sexually to this extent would live in a world of pornography, for one thing, of which there is no trace. And like a lot of thrillers, the "who will win" contest at the end of the film is less interesting than the set-up. But there are fine performances by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in a role very dissimilar to Negan; Hilary Swank; and the late Christopher Lee, who is very effective, even if only briefly used. I can understand the film's villain in ways that disturb me, in ways I shouldn't publicly admit. It would be a fine double bill with, say, Tobe Hooper's best later film, The Toolbox Murders, or grouped with other movies (like Rosemary's Baby or Panic Room) which involve a woman and/or family moving into a new building. Kind of recommended (Wake Wood, as I recall, is pretty good, too, of the recent Hammers, in a more Pagan way - kinda like Pet Sematary Meets The Wicker Man).

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

And also! Sunday Morning (with Bruce Wilson) if I'm going to write about China Syndrome's new video, I should also mention Sunday Morning's one, too! Quite haunting (or haunted?) and beautiful. It's actually a little outside of my usual realm (unlike Bruce, I didn't mature THAT much past the days of Tankhog; and I never really did get into the Scott Walker thing, much as I respect it. I mean, no one is required to want to listen to EVERYTHING, right? No married man who wants to stay happily married will insist on that!).

...But I mean, I like it way better than, erm, this new Nick Cave album, say! (Which - sorry, sorry! - I also respect but I kinda prefer "King Ink," you know? Like I say about my maturing...).

Still, read my giant feature on Sunday Morning (and Tankhog) here! It sort of prefaces this material a bit. (Maybe I shoulda held off?). Buy the song or read the lyrics or check out other Sunday Morning here.

Note, yeah, it would be better if I did another Straight piece but I just can't right now; I have too much else on the fire, other commitments, etc.

Also: you all already know about Stephen Hamm Theremin Man, right? More to come on that, I think. That I will do a piece one tho' (because I have never really interacted with Hamm much. Sold him a used book once,* been in the same movie theatres with him dozens of times, but that's about it).

Buy and explore his new album here here.**

Personally, I dig Theremins. Actually, what I want to do is put George McDonald and Stephen Hamm in a room together. "Duelling Theremins": has it been done?

Just kidding. Went shopping at Hobo, if you get me. Anyhow, check this stuff out!

(*Anthony Burgess' Earthly Powers. Never read it, myself).

**This is not, like, a paid ad or anything. I'm not shilling; there is no guestlist request pending; I plan to pay for the albums and gigs; this is written strictly because I like and believe in what these guys are doing, a lot. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Killing Them Softly redux

So I've been doing this book challenge thing on Facebook, posting seven books and tagging seven friends and yadda-yadda, which is only partially interesting: I see a lot of books in my thrift store scrounging and it doesn't mean a lot to me to know that some of the books I see out there I have not read, have in fact been read by my friends! However, I have learned about a few books I do not know about, been tempted to revisit a book - Roszak's Flicker - that I actually read, once, when it first came out; and it was really cool to discover one person is a big George V. Higgins fan. I totally admired Higgins' novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle - which I was surprised to discover is even better than the movie, including a detail that resolves the story in a way that never happens in the film.  It moved me to suggest to Erika (who was game) we watch Killing Them Softly, last night. I saw it theatrically, I think - or maybe just as soon as it came out on DVD - and wanted to see if it had improved with time and distance. I haven't looked at it since my initial review of the film, which was positive, in fact, but kind of emphasized the negative, in such a way that it turned out that the negative was all I could remember... 

Watching the film again, I re-discovered the greatness of it. There's some great acting, great dialogue, great characterization, and a refreshingly downbeat and honest look at American life near the bottom of the food chain. Andrew Dominik's best film (not counting the Nick Cave doc, which I have not seen) is still The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, but there is some utterly really powerful stuff in Killing Them Softly.  I stand by everything I criticized about it, previously - there is also stuff that is too on-the-nose and unsubtle; but I enjoyed it more the second time, and will probably enjoy it more yet the third time. So that's nice to note. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

China Syndrome pays homage to Elvis Costello

China Syndrome by Justin Lim

The strangest thing about the conversations with the Nick Cave event the other week was finding myself standing about a foot from Elvis Costello and Diana Krall, as they negotiated the crowds near the beverage area. I got to say to my buddy Will, who had provided the tickets, "dude, look - it's Elvis Costello and Diana Krall," in the classic celebrity-spotting whisper one does; I can't recall the last time I had occasion to do that, but it was probably more on the lines of pointing out Stephen Hamm at the Cinematheque to my wife, which is kinda a less excitable whisper, y'know? (I like Hamm's new material a lot, mind you). Later in the evening, Elvis (but not Diana) got called out by a fan, and ended up the subject of a bit of Mr. Cave's humour: Cave was answering a question about declining his MTV Music Award, explaining it was mostly because he doesn't enjoy the experience of being at awards ceremonies. Observing that he sometimes doesn't even pick them up, he gestured at Costello - "you know what it's like," then chuckled and added something to the effect of how Costello probably does pick his awards up, probably has a roomful of them. It seemed a wee, weird poke at Costello (whose reaction I could not see; I hope he smiled). In any case, Mr. Costello does a spectacular job of walking through a crowd radiating a distinct vibe of "yes, I know you know who I am, but I really don't want to interact with anyone right now." I certainly wouldn't have disturbed him for the world, even though I have been a fan for years (not that I know a lot of his body of recorded work; but the albums I know and like, I like a lot).

Anyhow, Tim Chan of China Syndrome is obviously also an Elvis Costello fan, because not only does he know about Costello's video for "What's So Funny (About Peace, Love and Understanding)" - which I had never seen before today! - but, with the help of Vancouver Island punk documentarian Paulina Ortlieb, whom I interviewed here, he has released a video for China Syndrome's song "Curated," which pays explicit homage to the Costello vid. That video "made a huge impact on us when were kids," Chan explains, "especially because it was filmed in Vancouver, so we thought it would be cool and fun to use it as an inspiration for ours.”

The press release offers a fun story that "during the video creation process, the band had a chance encounter with Elvis Costello himself. Chan recounts, 'We ran into him on the ferry on the way to Vancouver Island. We didn’t tell him about the video, but he was very nice to chat with us and he seemed interested in the band.'"

Elvis can take my word for it, China Syndrome is superb; and they do a mighty fine Squeeze cover or two, as well. My past interviews with Chan can be found here and here.

As the press release further explains, “'Curated' was co-written by Chan and guitarist Vern Beamish and is from China Syndrome’s fourth album, Hide in Plain Sight, produced at Vancouver's JC/DC Studio by David Carswell (The New Pornographers, Tegan & Sara, Destroyer, the Evaporators, Apollo Ghosts). LPs and CDs of the album are available from local stores including Zulu Records, Red Cat Records, Neptoon Records and MusicMadhouse Records; the album can also be streamed from digital music platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music and Bandcamp, among others."

China Syndrome's next show is on Friday, November 22 at the Fairview Pub in Vancouver.

Hallowe'en Horror Movie roundup: zombies and pagans and gore, oh my!

For awhile now, I've been hoping for an occult-themed horror program to play at a Vancouver arthouse, with films like The Devil Rides Out (coming out soon on Blu-Ray!) or The Devil's Rain, for example. But while I wait for that to happen - it may never! - this is a great idea for a Hallowe'en program: a series of British folk horror films, including Kill List, The Wicker Man, and best of all, Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon, screening at 6pm tonight!

Kudos also go to the Vancity Theatre for programming the (delightful, giddily gory, and ridiculously fun) Re-Animator, this Wednesday. Obscene visual puns about the giving of head aside, it's actually a fairly faithful adaptation of the HP Lovecraft short story, though not even Lovecraft can prepare you for how over-the-top the film gets. It is delightfully paired with an even more over-the-top horror film by one of the people behind Re-Animator, Brian Yuzna, called Society. Gore has seldom been so effectively used as political allegory, if my memories of the film are correct; it's almost like an early Peter Jackson film, but with a targeted streak of class rage at its core. It ends with an orgy of gore that must be seen to be believed:

I am more excited by the Wednesday programme (of two John Carpenter favourites, Halloween - a film and a franchise I am, frankly, tired of - and The Thing) that airs on the Big Day itself, but what the heck, Carpenter is also fun, and The Thing is a great film (I might go just to pay homage to the late, great Donald Moffat, who is the guy who doesn't want to spend the rest of the winter "tied to this fucking couch!" And let's not forget David Clennon's delightful line delivery for "you've gotta be fucking kidding me.").

The Rio, as they often do, aims for crowd-pleasers, but I can see people getting out for Beetlejuice, What We Do in the Shadows (which I almost typo'd as What We Do in the Closet!), and The Exorcist. Much as I love some Friedkin, that's another horror movie I am a bit tired of, but I can watch the stuff with Max von Sydow squaring off with Pazuzu in Iraq over and over again.

For less obvious crowd pleasers, I would recommend checking out the rental event at the Cinematheque on the 29th, curated by the director of the short film I was in recently, Fun and Games; "The Maestro" Shane Burzynski will be presenting The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue and Fulci's legendary Zombie, sometimes described as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead. I am happy to see Shane get on board with 4K digital restorations, since some of the film prints he's sourced at past events (at great expense and effort) have turned out to be pretty damaged. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue is a fairly obvious homage to Night of the Living Dead, but has cool zombie effects, and is interesting simply for being one of the earliest British zombie films, under the modern-day understanding of the term "zombie," anyhow. (There are doubtlessly a few earlier "voodoo zombie" films from Britain).

Fulci's Zombie, or Zombi 2, meanwhile, has the interesting distinction of trying to link up the modern zombie phenomenon with Haiti, has one of Fulci's more memorable "eye-damage" moments, and contains as a set piece that legendary scene that inspired the bandname Fake Shark, Real Zombie, though in this case, it's a fake zombie and a REAL FUCKING SHARK.

You haven't seen a zombie fight a shark before? Really? You should see this film. I mean, it's a Fulci film, and not one of his inspired masterpieces, like The Beyond, but it's still a lot of fun. I like that Shane is choosing two films that have great and obvious debts to the first and second Romero zombie movies; it's nice to be able to appreciate Romero through his influences and progeny (it's not just Greg Nicotero, folks!).

Meantime, you home video fans should definitely catch The Devil Rides Out, with Christopher Lee as a virtuous occultist trying to rescue a friend from the hands of an evil cult. I think it hits shelves on Tuesday. It is cool enough that Electric Wizard ripped it off for an album cover (using the image from a version of the film with a slightly different title, but no matter). Do you need further testimonials? I  mean, this is Electric Wizard we're talking about.

Happy Hallowe'en, folks!

Rambo: Last Blood and the evolution of Rambo as a vehicle for propaganda

Erika and I watched Rambo: Last Blood today. We kind of enjoyed it.

Allow me to explain that.

Agreed: the only actual good film of the five - five! - Rambo movies is First Blood. Filmed in BC, directed by a Canadian, and featuring an amusing, VERY brief early appearance by Bruce Greenwood (!), the film is anti-authoritarian, aware of the dangers of the abuse of power, and sympathetic to the plight of soldiers, to the extent that the climax of the film occurs not during one of the shoot'em ups, but when Rambo breaks down crying near the film's end. Best of all, it is all these things without ever seeming to act as a propaganda vehicle for any particular political movement or cause. We take Brian Dennehy and his bad cops as fairly realistic examples of the potential for small town cops to be violent hicks, without ever seeming to need to generalize that all cops are bad, or even that these particular cops are all bad (even Dennehy seems well-meaning at various times). We sympathize with soldiers, but we are aware that soldiers can do and have done - say, in Vietnam - some horrifying things, which they may be scarred by. We also realize that the film is somewhat critical of the American failure to take care of its veterans, but we probably don't want to form our own anti-government survivalist movement and move to a shack in the country to start weapons training for the inevitable conflict. The film is pretty much just a solid drama with no objectionable political subtext or intent.

Rambo: First Blood Part II is the first obvious film in the series to have a real propaganda edge to it, but as I was just Rambo-splaining to my wife, Erika, the film is kind of curious in how it approaches what it is propagandizing. It is dubious that any forces in America at the time of its making actually wanted, for example, to return to Vietnam to rescue missing prisoners of war, or that indeed anyone involved in the making of the film (or consuming of it) actually believed a large number of such prisoners existed, so it's not like the film was explicitly propagandizing such a cause, in the way, say, True Lies is explicitly propagandizing Islamophobia. It's actually a somewhat curious piece of American bullshit, because while it does have a bit of that right wing, flag-waving, patriotism-stokin', enemy-hatin' racist fever at its heart - it's maybe THE film of the 1980's that has the most in common with a Trump rally, like The Dark Knight is in its own way THE action film of generation Gitmo - its influence is kind of generalized, without obvious real-world sociopolitical intention. Wave the flag and attack, well, someone. For some reason. Even if the one in this movie is kinda far-fetched.

Rambo III, meanwhile - as I recall it, anyhow, having seen it first run, and not having revisited it since - is the one with the richest and most weaponized propaganda value, appearing to argue for US support of anti-Russian jihadis in Afghanistan, who are portrayed as heroes and allies. Since the CIA was (apparently) funding (through Pakistan) the training of Mujahadeen, including (I believe it has been established) Osama bin Laden, the film is especially interesting post-9/11. It would be really interesting to think about blowback, about the way old allies become enemies, and the shameless opportunism of US foreign policy, while watching this film with the benefit of hindsight. The film may well have been made with US government aid; it's every bit as potent a piece of propaganda as Triumph of the Will, except with a soldier, not Hitler, as its hero.

I'm actually kind of keen to revisit it, given the above.

Then came just plain and simple Rambo, the film structurally most similar to Rambo: First Blood pt Ii, involving a rescue mission, this time into Myanmar. I suspect that Myanmar was chosen as its location - or were they calling it Burma? - not because of any political objectives or ambitions on the part of the US government in that region, but simply because not many people in North America have strong feelings about Myanmar one way or the other. It was a way to put Rambo at the heart of a bloody political conflict and (doubtlessly) misrepresent it freely to suit the purposes of the story, precisely because most people don't follow what's going on in Myanmar that closely. The Burmese bad guys are like the aliens in the Alien franchise or the zombies in anything: an excuse to have heroes fighting, a pretext for onscreen violence, an enemy to kill. The film is, in a way, the purest action film of the lot, the one least morally suspect, for all its brutal violence; as for the rest - "it's just a movie, don't take it so seriously," as they always say, but this time it kind of rings true. People with a deeper investment in Myanmar may feel differently; and hell, maybe there WAS some US military/ government involvement in Myanmar that the film was somehow trying to justify or drum up tacit support for? I don't really read it that way, but I dunno. (This isn't to say it isn't, possibly, racist or otherwise offensive; apologies to Burma, but I still find it kind of ridiculously entertaining, for how over-the-top its kills are, even though I presume it has absolutely nothing of value to offer by way of insights into the actual conflicts in the region).

So the series, to recap:
1) Begins with an anti-authoritarian drama
2) Develops into vague propaganda
3) Becomes very clear propaganda, with a possibility of direct real-world implications
4) Appears to try to use a propaganda-like structure of the previous two films in the service of a somewhat apolitical action film.

Where would the last chapter land? I was curious.

Answer: pretty close to installment 3, actually, as having very visible/ weaponized propaganda content. As a friend (hi, Ken! ) pointed out the other day, there's obviously a connection between this film and the mood in Trump's America vis-a-vis Mexico, with anti-Mexican sentiment so high in the film that at one point, a character says she wants to go to Mexico, and Rambo's first response, offered with no explanation or cause, is "why do you want to do that?" This is then followed up a Mexican character - the sole sympathetic one - characterizing ALL OF MEXICO as "a dangerous place." The film makes the director's first feature, Get the Gringo, which is also full of images of sleazy, evil, dangerous Mexicans, seem quite fair and evenhandedby comparison, since there are also some virtuous Mexicans among its characters (compared to the single sole decent Mexican in the new Rambo film, whose decency has required her, apparently, to leave her country; she's the one who describes it as "dangerous."

The propaganda content is not the most interesting part of the film, however, and does seem to come second, as a purpose for the film, to the main goal of providing excuses for Rambo to kill people, as in the previous film. The most interesting thing about the film, in fact, is how godawful the screenplay is, and how - once Rambo breaks out his knife and starts menacing people with it - little that ultimately matters. Despite two screenwriters being given credit (one of whom is Sylvester Stallone; I wonder if his screenwriting credit was given him because he mostly improvised his lines, or something?), the English-speaking characters in this film, including Stallone, seem to be making up everything they say on the spot, with an eye towards advancing the action of the film; with a combination of cliches - which Erika likened to Hallmark cards - and dully literal plot advancements, often offered with an air of grandiose macho posturing, the film feels like it could have been written in crayon...

But even as you roll your eyes at the ham-fisted tough talk, you will also be aware that it doesn't really matter much to being able to enjoy the film, in the lowbrow, a-critical way that it is intended to be enjoyed. After all, no one who has come to this movie is expecting good writing; if they wanted something well-written, they wouldn't be seeing a Rambo film at all. No: we have assembled to see Stallone growl at people and kill them, to stab people in the neck, to create cool 'Nam-style booby traps, to shoot people with arrows, to beat people to death with a hammer, and, with the aid of a giant knife, to rip out a still-beating human heart and show it to its owner (all of which Rambo does in the film, note).

And as atrociously-written as it is, it's very well made, in terms if its images. If you can play past its anti-Mexican, politically suspect/ racist elements, it clips along at a fast pace, is nicely photographed and edited - maybe a bit less so than Get the Gringo, which is written with wit and style, compared to the new Rambo film, and is also a bit showier with its camera-craft and set designs.

In an odd way, it was even kind of comforting to see that the propaganda elements had crept back in; I kind of felt nostalgiaic for the days of Rambo II and III when watching it. You don't get many blunt-weapon style Hollywood propaganda films these days. In that regard, Rambo: Last Blood is kind of an old-school throwback of a movie.

My Mom, had she lived to watch it, would have been screaming "kill him!" at the screen, when Rambo finally squared off against the main villain.

She was fun to watch movies like this with, actually.

Erika and I kind of enjoyed it, too.

Monday, October 21, 2019


Well, it's better than a Conservative win, and not much different than I expected, but I thought the NDP would do better. Not the first time I have felt this way after an election, and likely not the last.

Fractured and the Mental Health Ordeal film

There's a sort of subgenre of thriller, not to my knowledge being presently grouped together and acknowledged as a subgenre, where a main character gets their beliefs fundamentally challenged about reality and/ or their mental health, often around the issue of a child in jeopardy, who may or may not exist. Some of the bigger-budget examples include The Forgotten, with Julianne Moore; Flightplan, with Jodie Foster; and Non-Stop, with Liam Neeson, which is in some ways atypical, and in some ways not. The formula for the film usually has four distinct phases: the set up, where things are as they seem, and our hero unquestionably virtuous: the challenge, where our hero finds himself in a Twilight-Zone type reality where no one believes them about some fundamental issue, and they become increasingly isolated; the ordeal, where desperation is most palpable, and we and our hero - who is struggling against doubt and perhaps dishonesty and nefarious schemes - are led to entertain the possibility that what we think we know is wrong, and that they really are, as others claim, insane, deluded, deeply in error about the world they have been living in; and the resolution, which can vary, but usually - sometimes at the cost of great improbability, most palpable in The Forgotten (and if I recall, an even more absurd alternate ending for that film) - the hero is vindicated, proven right, and not only is reassured about their grip on reality, but saves the day for others. The borderline between these last two phases of the film is sometimes fluid: sometimes the ordeal "fakes us out" with a resolution that is as we expected it would be, then reveals that really the ordeal has not yet ended.

There are, of course, variants in how this story manifests. Jodie Foster, in Flight Plan, boards a plane with her daughter, then wakes up on the flight to be told her daughter was never with her. Julianne Moore, in The Forgotten, goes to bed one night (as I recall) in a world where everyone remembers, along with her, that she had a son who died in a plane crash, then wakes up in a world where everyone but her has forgotten he ever existed, and she must prove that he in fact was real. Non-Stop deals with an Air Marshall who may in fact not be who he thinks he is; he is trying to rescue passengers on a plane from terrorists, not a child, as I recall, but for a time, reality shifts, and the hero is encouraged to believe, very credibly, that he is, in fact, the terrorist, and is suffering a mental breakdown. Calling into question - in all three cases - the sanity of the protagonist also teases us with the possibility that we, in identifying with them, have been wrong all along; the resolution, in all these examples, soothes us by ultimately vindicating our hero, and assuring us, in fact, we were right.

They're odd films. I find something in them objectionable, in that they seem to suggest no one is ever mentally ill - that people who appear to be in the grips of a deep delusion have been, in fact, correct all along. It's not like people who suffer from delusional thinking need to be encouraged by such films that if they stick to their guns, everything will eventually work out all right for them. (It's such a strong feature of the above films that it almost makes the "happy ending" predictable; I mean, what mass audience is going to pay for a movie where they leave the theatre being told they were wrong all along? Save that for the arthouse!).

But there's also an interesting aspect to them, almost a conspiratorial mindset at work, since often our protagonists are pitted against institutions, authorities and so forth. These are almost always incorrect; sometimes they are malignant, even responsible for the threat in the film. That paranoid mindset, where you are encouraged to disbelieve the reality you find yourself in - where reality and the forces aligned with it seem like some vicious prank - has an almost Phildickian aspect, is kind of subversive and possibly anti-authoritarian. (I don't know all my Dick, but Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said definitely has relevancy here, only there the person whose existence is called into question is the main character, himself). If only the films didn't end with such a strong reassurance that we were  right about reality all along - if only they were allowed to end with a note of doubt - the genre would be even more interesting (it occurs to me that Take Shelter also fits into this "type" of film, though it is far better than any of the other films I've used as examples).

The director of a new Netflix thriller, Fractured, is Brad Anderson; he has previously made two superb films dealing with mental health issues, Session 9 and The Machinist, and another that is at least interesting (Stonehearst Asylum; it's okay, if you're a fan of Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley, but it owes a bit more to genre, is not as fresh as either of those films; of course, he has several other films to boot, but none on mental health issues, as I recall).  In Fractured, after an accident, a man - played by Sam Worthington, who does fine work - finds himself in a hospital, where we have seen him bring his daughter; only - after he passes out in the waiting room and wakes up - no one believes she exists, there's no record of her, etc. It definitely fits with the above subgenre of films, and plays on some of the conventions mentioned; but you get the feeling that Anderson has thought quite a bit about these conventions. That's about all I want to say, but it's quite a gripping thriller. It's still not as good as Session 9, but few recent horror moves have been.

Anyhow, check it out. (I really can't say more than that, but personally - and even this is a mild spoiler - I liked the ending a lot. Apparently it has been contentious (bigger spoilers there, and an odd attempt to reference the subgenre by citing an example-free trope apparently named for Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, which I have not seen, but which may also have a bearing here).

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Theatre of Hate versus the East Van Opry

So Theatre of Hate plays tonight at the Rickshaw! I did not manage to get anything written in time for the show, but I did interview Kirk Brandon last year, and am really excited to be able to finally see this band, whose song "Legion" has been a favourite of mine since the 1980's, when I first heard it.
They are not the headliners (and should be going on around 9pm, I gather) but (with apologies to Chameleons, Gene Loves Jezebel, and the Gathering, members of all of whom are playing tonight) they are the band I am going for; if things go to plan, I *will* be talking to Kirk at some point tonight.

Also exciting, but not on my schedule for the evening for obvious reasons, is the East Van Opry, which I have enjoyed wholeheartedly on a few occasions. This I *did* manage to do some writing on, focusing on M'Girl - First Nations females who combine "western" vocal harmonies with indigenous themes. I also wrote about Kitty and the Rooster apropos of another show of theirs, and highly recommend them. References to the Khats festival got censored from the start of this piece, which I gather caused some trouble for my editors. Hell, folks, it was all in fun! 

Anyhow, if you're not going to the Opry, go to the Rickshaw, and if you're not going to the Rickshaw, go to the Opry. Or else stay home and watch Netflix, whatever. Fractured was pretty good, actually (the new Brad Anderson, and very much in keeping with films of his like Session 9, The Machinist, and Stonehearst Asylum.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Please vote

EDIT: since he isn't actually known by his usual alias on Facebook, I decided to give one of the two people I singled out a break, and have removed his name from this post. And since I wasn't doing that, I decided to remove the other guy's name, too. I probably won't boycott their bands, either. They should still vote.

There are some people among my Facebook friends who apparently think it's okay not to vote - so much so that they are announcing it publicly.

To be honest, there was a time when I felt similarly: when I felt superior to the process, felt contempt for it. In my 20's, I would rant on about how we are provided with the illusion of participation in how we are governed, asked to choose between a puppet on the left and a puppet on the right, to make us feel like we were being given a meaningful voice in how we are governed. That was, I think, an insight I borrowed from Jello Biafra, who said a similar thing at a 1985 Dead Kennedys' concert (I believe he has come around, since). People would say to me - my father would say to me, even - that if I didn't vote I lost the right to complain, and I would respond that it was, rather, precisely by voting that one lost that right, by virtue of authorizing the process, becoming complicit in it: "If I were with five other people, and they decided that they would take a vote on whether to rob me or not, and I agreed to participate in the vote and lost: then I would have lost the right to complain, because I had ratified the process by participating." (I probably cribbed this from teen-aged readings of Ayn Rand, and give Ayn her due, here: Dad never had a comeback to that).

It was all clever enough on my part - and B******* and B*****  and all the other cynics on my Facebook feed are clever enough with their own arguments, sometimes. But the truth is, it was all just horseshit: I wanted a way out of the process, a way to excuse myself from doing the work required to figure out what the candidates stood for and if, in fact, it did make a difference who got in. ("No matter who you vote for, the government always wins," B******  has said on Facebook; not sure if he knows he's cribbing from the Bonzo Dog Band there, but in any event, he's wrong).

It does make a difference. It probably is good news that Andrew Scheer - the conservative candidate for PM - has been outed as having a dual citizenship with the United States (and selling insurance without a license, to boot, also mentioned above). Neither thing matters much, in reality, but like Trudeau's tasteless/ stupid adventures in brownface,  they look bad. It's more significant that Scheer is pro-life; that - like Harper and Trump - he is fixated on things like stopping illegal border crossings, campaigning on a whiteguy fear of racial otherness; or that, as recently as 2005, he was comparing same-sex marriage to declaring a dog's tail to be one of its legs. Oh, and of course he believes in a magical sky-Daddy that plays a role in human life and affairs: a sky-Daddy in whose name centuries of bigotry, intolerance, and oppression have been enacted. Oh, and depending on which news source you read - he probably believes in re-criminalizing marijuana; and of course you'd get the usual openly pro-business agenda, complete with pipelines sticking out of every orifice and little interest in discussing climate change.  Even though the whole dual citizenship thing has probably sunk his campaign, there is still a moral imperative to make sure Scheer and the conservatives do not get in - unless, of course, you like the idea of a Canadian government similar to those of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, in which case, you probably aren't reading this blog, anyhow.

A similar moral imperative informed my voting for Justin Trudeau in the last election. It was the right choice: even though Trudeau doesn't impress me much (doing a prompt about-face on the idea of electoral reform, for instance), it still beat the hell out of four more years of Harper and his "barbaric cultural practices" (leave it to the sky-Daddy believers to call out barbarism in others). There's plenty that Trudeau has done a decent enough job on; were I gay, I would probably feel more secure under his governance than I ever have before; marijuana is legal (even if the rollout has been a bit of a shitshow); assisted suicide is legal (though again, making it so has not been without complications), and - well, I bet there are plenty of Syrian refugees who appreciate the hell out of him. Trudeau remains a superior choice to Harpe - I mean Scheer; as uninspiring as it is to vote for the lesser of two evils - or to vote "strategically" (blech) to keep the Conservatives out - Trudeau is the better choice, if we only have two prospective leaders to choose from.

Of course, that is not the case. Personally, I have voted in an advanced poll for Jagmeet Singh, who has made it singularly easy to do so, by running in the riding where I live (I might have been tempted to go Green, otherwise). Singh, like Trudeau, may not prove to be the answer to all of Canada's troubles, but he's vastly superior as a choice to Scheer, and probably would do a better job of governing Canada than Trudeau. I don't really know about Singh's own sky-Daddy, of course (or Elizabeth May's! What's with all the fucking Christians here, what are we, Americans?), but I would much rather live in a Canada governed by the NDP (or the Greens, or the Liberals, or a coalition of any/ all three of those parties) than one governed by the Conservatives - WOULDN'T YOU?

I mean, seriously, B******, B******, et alia: do you not think it makes a difference, whether we are going to be governed, ultimately, by a pro-business right wing white xenophobe/ homophobe, on the one extreme, compared to these other options? Are you genuinely indifferent, or are you just, like, lazy and afraid? Even if you do not personally care how you are governed - do you not feel a responsibility to your queer friends, to women, to immigrants and refugees, and to the very environment of the planet we live on?

Would it help you get your asses in gear if I said I would consider boycotting future releases/ concerts by your bands? Because it is bad enough you are personally cynical and apathetic - you're using social media to encourage OTHER PEOPLE to be cynical and apathetic, too! It's like you're proud of your ignorance and indifference: without having read each other's comments, Chris Walter and Robin Bougie both responded on FB when I mentioned how embarrassed I am to have friends who were boasting about not voting, by saying "its like bragging about not reading." Exactly right. You oughta be ashamed of yourselves; the only defense you have is that you obviously don't know better.

But you should, you really should.

Please, folks: get out and vote!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Sorry, VIFF! Plus Assholes: A Theory

I didn't get very far in my intended VIFF blogging this year. Between having very little freetime and a wife keen to watch Season 9 of The Walking Dead; and given some unexpected opportunities to write for pay for the Straight - one interview and the first three record reviews I have done in maybe five years - I saw exactly one and a half films this year: the documentary Assholes: A Theory, which was amusing but underwhelming, and a documentary on Escher, which for some reason Erika and I couldn't finish.

I didn't get to a single film, otherwise. There were several I was curious about, like Blood Quantum, but the time just wasn't there. Here's what I did get written, about Assholes: A Theory. Would have published this on its own, but it just wasn't enthusiastic enough:

The most curious thing about the film Assholes: A Theory is that it chooses to only indirectly implicate Donald Trump from its arguments. With sections devoted to Wall Street, social media haters, sexists, and political leaders like Silvio Berlusconi, the film seems almost an indirect portrait of Trump, calling out his privilege, his egregiously bad behaviour, and his sense of his own righteousness, even though it only occasionally references him (usually somewhat obliquely). The Canadian content in the film involves Sherry Lee Benson Polodchuk, a whistleblower who suffered sexist and demeaning behaviour as a part of her boys-club job with the RCMP, which intensified after she refused to lie to protect a colleague; the section makes the point that assholism is not necessarily just encountered individually. Other figures interviewed about their encounters with assholism include Italian trans public figure Vladimir Luxuria, and of course the author of the book Assholes: A Theory, Aaron James, who seems to have, surprisingly, encountered the idea for his book while surfing. The film is light and entertaining, an engaging look at the bad behaviour of people who consider themselves entitled. It was exactly as enjoyable as I figured it would be from the VIFF description - no more, no less, but worth a look, if the subject matter appeals.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Killing Zoe and Lucky Day

I am excited to see that Roger Avary has a new feature film, Lucky Day, slated for theatrical release next weekend. (I have no idea if it is going to open in Vancouver). The film has not been well received, at least not by the Globe and Mail, but I see on social media that the fanboy contingent is excited by the promise of a meaty new role for Crispin Hellion Glover, who has muscles and can kick, but doesn't get cast in too many major roles these days. There is a trailer; I have not watched it, since I know I am interested in the film, simply because it is written and directed by Avary. Critics who are unfavorably comparing it to Pulp Fiction - which Avary co-wrote - are already missing the point, since Avary's true claim to fame is a charming 1993 black comedy/ heist thriller, Killing Zoe - a flawed film, but a vastly entertaining one, which he wrote and directed, and which boasts no share of charming features, including the following: 

1. Eric Stoltz and Julie Delpy, both very fun to watch in the lead roles, though Stoltz - an actor I like - is a bit subdued and inexpressive at times; he's done better work, but he's still fun to watch. Delpy, however, is at her prettiest, and acts with conviction. Is Stoltz's Black Flag tattoo in that film real, I wonder?

2. The film has a delightful representation of someone being pressured into getting much more stoned than he wants to be, then trying to negotiate that. I have seen this happen in very few films, but it sure does happen in life. No one ever gets more fucked up than they want to be in movies. Especially the night before they're supposed to rob a bank.

3. The film is also a great object lesson in why you never, ever want to rob banks with a hedonistic, terminally ill, drug-addicted French lunatic (played with an unhinged joi de vivre Jean-Jugues Anglade of Betty Blue; he is the real star of the film). The idea of trusting a friend against your better judgment, believing that what might seem like a bad idea could all work out for the best, based on that person's assurances, and then having to live with the consequences when things turn out even worse than you might imagine, is pure film noir.

No one talks about Killing Zoe much these days; the only reference to it I've seen since the 1990's is in the documentary about Ron Jeremy, whatever that was called, where his cameo in the film gets talked about. (I challenged my wife, with whom I just shared the film, to a game of "spot the hedgehog," but she aced it easily, even though he's only on screen long enough to put up his hands and get shot). But I'm very fond of the film, always have been, and may have occasion to see it again some ten years from now (I've watched it maybe four times now, each at sizeable intervals; it's become a kind of cinematic comfort food for me). The film is very entertaining, if you can find it. It has some amateurish qualities - like, the drummer in the cabaret scene is noticeably not drumming on anything - but it has charms all its own, which make it a unique, memorable entertainment.

By the by, did you get my Crispin Glover joke? See here, if not. I remember seeing that on TV when it first aired. It was rather startling!

I am down for Lucky Day - screw the critics.

For the time being.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

On removing a post

I don't usually self-censor but have decided that the last thing I posted here had, uh, potential for misuse. I've thought about it and decided to go nowhere with it and that maybe no one else should go anywhere with it, either (?). For those with an interest in precognition, this book comes highly recommended.  See you at Nick Cave!