Flickhead
On Location with Steve Fiorilla

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Thursday afternoon matinee with
Jacques Corédor

Summer/Fall 2005

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    Where in the halls of hell was I? Hospitalized after surgery for the removal of a bowel obstruction—looking on x-rays like something an Alien face-hugger may have left behind—I had “solid” proof of what I’d long expected: I’m full of shit!

    Nonetheless, a notable post-surgery night was spent watching a Turner Classic Movies mini festival (“Future Shock Month,” they called it) of Forbidden Planet, From the Earth to the Moon, and 20 Million Miles to Earth. Drug-addled to the gills, images and sound (dig that crazy Krell lab jazz!) rocked my gut-stapled world, as I slipped in and out of “Coma-vision.” Morning rolled around with the realization that movies can damn well heal.
    In the meantime, everyone please sit tight (and don’t let the sutures bite), as I slowly attempt to catch up here…

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The Machinist

Christian (Batman Begins) Bale pulls a reverse DeNiro by shedding some sixty pounds for the role of a skeletal insomniac caught in a Spider-like web of denial. Trevor Reznik (Bale) wanders in a blue collar fog as a paranoid victim of something beyond the reach of his overly-taxed memory. A non-descript L.A. (Spain, actually) is lit in a thirty-watt dimness that Reznik can never find sleep in. His only focus, a live-in prostitute squeeze (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is ineffectual in bringing him out of the zombified day-to-day that’s eating him up. Major spooks arise with the appearance of ‘Ivan’ (John Sharian), a villain from Reznik’s unraveling consciousness, appearing as a rubbery, Silly Putty version of Marlon Brando. (Imagine a crazy-eyed, Gumby-changeling Wild One.) Violins and Theremin whirliness juiced by the spirit of Bernard Herrmann bounce off of Polanski pretenses (Repulsion, The Tenant) throughout this creepshow, a place where deep sleep becomes the ultimate freedom.

Team America - World Police

Quite a span of time from the penny gaffs of London in the 1800’s (unlicensed puppet theatres which attracted audiences of petty criminals and hookers) to a marionette couple banging wood on the big screen. This gritty entertainment has some shelf-life. I’m no thieving whore, but I laughed with the rest of the shills and am somewhat confused as to why I’m not watching the Thunderbirds feature (released months earlier with a live cast). A Hansel & Gretel play made about as much sense over thirty years back in grade school, when it strained my strings of perception. In a dark auditorium, it was like peeking through a window of light and movement in the black void of space. A gift of a Pinocchio marionette kept me busy with instilling life into such a creation. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s puppet TV series were a treat whenever I had the chance to see them, and nostalgic clips of Howdy Doody were an outright oddity. A scene in Attack of the Puppet People showed a frightening side to suspended figures. I attempted to carve a marionette in an art class, but never got past the whittling of its head…All of it fuel in attending a showing of Team America—Thunderbirds turned on its side with raw humor (blow jobs!), a timely terrorist plot, and hasty puppeteering. Brought to the screen by those two millionaire ‘tards from the puzzlingly successful South Park animated TV show. Team America is already on its way to being a video rental mainliner with the kegger crowd. Any potential sequels will most likely go straight to Blockbusters.

Finding Neverland

Fictionalized author bio vehicle for cool Van Deppster coaxes some charm to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan mythos…after the damage weathered from a 1991 Spielrock movie abortion and the tagging of ‘Neverland’ as a Shangri-La for pedophiles (all thanks to the King of Pop). Rent Gavin Millar’s Dreamchild to explore a certain (rabbit) hole of conjecture concerning author Lewis Carroll; but take Finding Neverland as a pleasing story for kinder, gentler audiences who wouldn’t know what to make of either volume of Kill Bill.white_christmas.jpg Meanwhile, in 2006 Kathy Rigby threatens to hang up her green tights and aerial harness after her farewell tour of the Peter Pan theatrical production.

White Christmas

Holiday music pumped through department store PA systems out into the chilly city streets is a potent memory for me, one that I notice is missing while on my way to Shea’s Performing Arts Center (www.sheas.org) to catch a free showing of Michael Curtiz’s 1954 Vista-Vision, Irving Berlin-scored production of White Christmas. ‘S OK…though since my mind is pickled in the brine of old memories and has proven quite productive at synthesizing those missing elements needed for Jack (Time and Again) Finney-type time travel experiences such as this. Shea’s certainly comes through with its restored golden and red velvet opulence—church-like in its appearance, it conjures up a holy attitude toward entertainment. I do admit to the fact that everyone in this holiday-colored musical is long dead, and it dampens my time relocation efforts a bit. Perhaps if I strain harder I can leave the theatre and hail a yellow cab from beyond, to glide down a main street of marquees (The Hippodrome, The Century Theatre, The Lafayette and more—all long gone from this area), but with my luck I’d transmogrify into James Mason in Bigger Than Life, booting up cortisone to assuage the drudgery of white picket fences. White Christmas still tastes fine as film eggnog, spiced with its “Hey! Let’s put on a show!” Hollywood spirit. Holiday revivals like this should be a mainstay in any and all old theatres still opening their doors.

Surviving Christmas

Affleck afflicted flick, with ‘holiday spirit’ tepid at best and Ben sapping it all away. James Gandolfini and SCTV’s Catherine O’Hara (who’s funny in whatever she appears in) slog along for grocery money. Udo Kier (remember Andy Warhol’s Dracula?) and David Selby (remember Dark Shadows?) cameo for cab fare.

Seed Of Chucky

No! No! Stop the madness! Those Full Moon Puppetmaster movies make more sense than this. It made me want to hunt down Magic (with Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margaret) and had me recalling how starkly creepy the Dead of Night ventriloquist dummy segment was in that film. Please—for the love of God!—give up this uninspired sequel nonsense…now!

The Forgotten

TV commercial spots conveyed a ghost story ambiance, but this is about alien abductions, gang. A date film for UFOlogist Budd (Missing Time) Hopkins and not much else. One senses that there might have been more to it—was the film abducted?? An abduction-into-the-sky special effect is worth experiencing. An alien (‘gray type’) appears for only seconds.

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A Very Long Engagement
Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and actress Audrey Tautou (today’s Audrey Hepburn for the undiscriminating viewer) team up again for a period epic of lost love that’s rich in wit, detail and scenic beauty. Tautou’s character operates like a detective in her obstinate search for the missing soldier she refuses to believe is dead. A slew of characters offering up information/speculation pop in and out in her lively paced, almost Holmesian pursuit of the truth. Costarring Dominique Pinon (one of France’s busiest actors) and a French-speaking Jodie Foster (!). Oui! Oui!

Alfie

What’s it all about? AIDS, if you’re not careful. In the opening shot a condom package is seen on Alfie’s bedstand, so everything’s covered along those lines. Actresses Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei are on fire as two of Jude Law’s conquests…though Sarandon turns the tables in a delightfully cold way. Sienna Miller (as Nikki) ignites the screen with a body that may be CGI. She’s Candy (re: Terry Southern) for the drooling husbands in the audience who share their beds with weighty wives. Of course, like most hot young broads, Nikki has anger issues, slings a lot of “attitude,” and isn’t too punctual with her meds. A shot of her naked in a kitchen hacking veggies with a really big knife is a spooky turn-on. Otherwise, it’s dream fare for the perpetually horny. Soundtrack tunes by Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart.

What the #$*! Do We Know!?

Drew Barrymore says she loves this film. Perhaps that’ll shed some cosmic light on the wacky tone of this New Age documentary in which theories of alternate realities and quantum physics are interspersed with a story starring Marlee Matlin as a photographer unable to shake her mentally debilitating hang-ups (with thickening thighs a major worry). Colorful, simplified animated segments recall grade school science class educational films (remember Hemo?) and a theory by Japanese researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto about water crystals being affected by human thought and emotion are things that could mess up your whole ordinary day. If bothered, follow it up by getting a hold of Dr. Emoto’s book, The Hidden Messages in Water.

The Grudge

Pointless, Americanized remake of Takashi Shimizu’s original Ju-on: The Grudge, now cast with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Bill Pullman. Why booking the Japanese version wasn’t feasible is beyond my understanding. Fun, if just for making flowing black hair seem incredibly frightening. Comes with a wasted role for accomplished character actress Grace Zabriskie.

Saw

If one more person asks me, “Did you see Saw?” I think I’ll scream. Like David Fincher’s Se7en, it’s serial killer cinema that takes place in shabby, pissy-lit rooms in a nameless city devoid of sunlight. A crud-covered bathroom serves as the film’s main set for two chained men, strangers who are forced to commit drastic limb liberation by the end. Is a dead man in there with them going to cause trouble? Give it points for not being the standard lame slasher crap. On the way home, pick up some Comet and clean your bathroom!

In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger

Simply wild (in a Collyer Brothers sense) documentary of a very eccentric janitor (Darger) who spent countless hours of free time writing and illustrating a bloody and freakish epic about a massive hermaphroditic child-slave revolt in an Eden/Auschwitz land. Realms_PosterHeart_large.jpg Full title of this bizarre work is (here goes): The Story of the Vivian Girls in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal or the Glandolinean War Storm or the Glandico Abbiennian Wars as Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. I’m not even gonna touch where Darger’s sensibility arose from, but his artistic methods are fascinating in their own right. Darger, not much of a genuine talent, kept old telephone books as scrapbooks for a lifetime collection of little girl imagery (such as the Morton’s Salt girl) that served as swipes for his mural-sized drawings. Multiple tracings of any one pose comprise troops of storybook lasses—individually altered arms and legs, or flopped figures break the repetitiveness. Monsterish helpers in the wars have girls heads on serpent and animal bodies—others seem like they may be inspired by Dr. Seuss’s creatures. Color is mixed media but old dried-out paint boxes are glimpsed in wandering shots of Darger’s faded apartment studio—all kept as it was by art-loving landlords who treated it as a museum after his death in 1973. Young actress Dakota Fanning narrates. An apt choice, given that the little darling is a shoe-in for one of Darger’s Vivian Girls. See and believe! A steady output of documentaries along the lines of Realms (as well as Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation) might just make me want to hug Michael Moore for popularizing this engrossing form of filmmaking.

Ray

Not the bio-pic of Flickhead CEO Ray Young. It’s Taylor Hackford’s Ray Charles story, seeing the light after a decade and a half of film doodle. Unlike Forest Whitaker in Clint Eastwood’s Charlie Parker pic, Bird, Jamie Foxx had the opportunity to hang with Charles and perfect every nuance obsessively…thus, the dedicated star elicited yipes-tainted applause whenever he slipped into Rayisms on the talk show circuit. Both Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator) have commented on the difficulty of letting their real life characters go, sometimes falling back into them without thought. Potent flashbacks to Charles’s difficult childhood cast an uneasy atmosphere throughout the film, but of course the music (Ray’s songs) magically rise above it.

House of the Flying Daggers

Another fight ballet from Zhang (Hero) Yimou concerning ninth century political unrest. Two cops (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) need to find the title’s secret organization and trick a blind dancer, flying dagger operative (Ziyi Zhang) into leading them to its location. With movie martial arts having transformed into something akin to zero gravity training, the choreography of a grand battle in a bamboo forest (more shades of green than Oz’s Emerald City!) is truly something to see. A film that portrays existence as one endless fight. When director Yimou goes Hollywood, how about director duties on a feature-length film version of The Green Hornet—heavy on Kato, ‘natch.

Blade: Trinity

Second sequel in Blade movie franchise (inspired by Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula comic book) again resurrects the “PC”-staked Blaxploitation genre, weak tea for those who recall such ‘70s gems as J.D.’s Revenge, Sugar Hill, and, of course, Blacula. With a success that shied away from Snoop Dogg’s “supernatural Shaft” attempt in 2001’s Bones, these Blade features could go on forever as vampire jive for Baaaddaaasss lovin’ moviegoers. Indie vamp Parker Posey scores platelets as a punked-out “dick juggling thunder cunt” bloodsucker out for Blade’s hide. It’s a mystery as to why a TV set in a hospital room plays a scene from the Esperanto film Incubus, but Trinity’s vampire disintegration effects (glowing briquettes fizzling to the ground) are scorching, so shut yo’ fanged mouth!

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Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee in Beyond the Sea

Beyond the Sea
Flickhead’s board of advisors were hoping that the release of this movie would green light a Bobby Darin film fest on Turner Classics, but no dice. Letterboxed screenings of Pressure Point, The Last Westerner and The Vendors still wait to be tuned into. The latter two never having been released theatrically—what finds they’d be! Beyond the Sea comes courtesy of actor Kevin Spacey who runs the whole show—even singing Darin’s songs instead of pulling a Milli Vanilli. Spacey’s ego may be just as inflated as Bobby’s was. Dig the scene where Darin one-ups wife Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) by belittling her fan rag coverage with his Life magazine spread. (When the shark bites, indeed!) Later on, in the ‘60s, Swinger Darin gets With It and searches for Meaningful Lyrics. But mom problems and empty fame seriously dent his existence. A drive past “Super Freak” Rick James’s wake in a Buffalo, New York church in the summer of 2004 made me think: now there’s a story waiting to be told, and I wondered if a screenplay was already in the works.

Christmas with the Kranks

I suppose that a film about Christmas, starring ex-con Tim Allen and Hollywood’s reigning thespian banshee, Jamie Lee Curtis, simply had to be made…if just to show how depressing the holidays can be. Sometime back, spastic, scream, whine and screech queen Curtis (she of the overly large pie hole) announced her retirement from the movies—a New Year’s gift for many, I’m guessing.

Vera Drake

Director Mike (Naked) Leigh’s wonderfully dreary homage to the somewhat popular Kitchen Sink realism of ‘60s British cinema (track down Tony Richardson’s A Taste of Honey [1961] to get the feel of that movement) gives birth to an impressive performance by Imelda Staunton as a kindly but driven illegal abortionist in 1950’s London, who feels deep anguish after she’s caught and punished for fixing the many ‘Oops!’ of others. It’s a good reason to gather up your idiot teenage spawn and watch what stood for serious disgrace back in the old days.

Birth

Not-so-shocking woman/boy relationship (he claims to be the embodiment of her dead husband…great pick-up line) with reincarnation belief up for grabs. Distant, vague atmosphere but fine performances from Danny Huston, Betty Bacall and Anne Heche. Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer collaborated on the screenplay with veteran screenwriter/Buñuel accomplice Jean-Claude Carrière—who also wrote the comedy, Max mon amour (1986), wherein Charlotte Rampling plays a gal who freaks out her bourgeois family by falling in love with a chimpanzee. Boys, chimps, oh hell—complimentary passes on this one go to Pam Smart and Mary Kay Letourneau.

Fat Albert

The most terrifying live-action film adaptation of Saturday morning cartoon characters to date. Bill Cosby’s crackhead group of simpleton junkyard dwellers squeeze through a TV set to help a funked-up young chick straighten out her attitude. The crystal meth kicks in as Albert and gang start to fade into the ‘real’ world. Complexions become ashen and Filmation colors drain from their clothing as time becomes a critical issue. They’ve gotta rap up their meddlesome mission and haul ass back to 24-fps so they can jerk around with their homemade musical instruments. This is followed by a not-so-happy ending of Cosby himself and his old-aged creations standing around Fat Albert’s gravesite, puzzled as to why his heart exploded some years back. Just the kind of shit you wanna take the kids to, right?

Darkness—Darkness? My head’s filled with it as I sit down to write this one up and realize that I didn’t take notes. Several months zip by and I can’t recall even one moment of this movie. (Still, I’m doing better than Flickhead himself, who usually develops amnesia as soon as the ending credits roll.) But a TV commercial blaring out its arrival on DVD brings it all back. Anna Paquin, Lena Olin and Giancarlo Giannini (it’s a mighty long way from Seven Beauties to this) set up house in a creepy old mansion, just to make their lives dangerously difficult. Any backstory on what awful thing happened there must have been on the reel Fed-Ex lost when Miramax acquired this Spanish dud.