26 September 2008

Relevant to my Interests, Ep. 14

For no real reason, here's a picture of Louise Brooks. Although it's not as if one needs a reason, is it?

23 September 2008

Free Associations, Ep. 4

I never would have figured Rosalind Russel as a fan of Drone Doom. Her neighbors must hate her subwoofer.

22 September 2008

Brain Droppings

I've got a few ideas floating around my head, but I don't think any of them would make for a decent post in and of themselves. Because I'm a lazy bastard, it's time to substitute quality for quantity. In the grand tradition of George Carlin, here are a few of my own Brain Droppings.

  • The Discovery Channel has made me paranoid about bedbugs and cockroaches, thanks to the show Verminators. That aside, it's equally horrifying and amusing just how horrifyingly dirty some people choose to live. Whereas I'd probably shit the proverbial brick if I found cockroaches in my apartment, some people have apparently just let them proliferate without doing anything about it. Ick. Los Angeles must be a horrible place.
  • Power Quest is Dragonforce light. Not surprising, considering that the band was formed by Sam Totman, the former keyboardist from Dragonforce. Power Quest songs are virtually identical in form to Dragonforce songs, but without the minutes-long bursts of guitar shredding (a factor which has the effect of making Power Quest a bit more interesting to listen to). Alessio Garavello also has a better voice than Z.P. Theart. The only area where Dragonforce has an edge over Power Quest is, ironically, in the keyboards. Sam Totman features his instrument prominently in Power Quest's songs, which has the unfortunate effect of adding an extra layer of cheesiness to the music. The jury is still out on which band has the goofier name.
  • Vilma Banky was hotter than Pola Negri, but I think that Pola Negri wins in a fight. I base the latter assumption on the fact that Polish Hussars looked cooler than Hungarian Hussars, because the Polish Hussars had wings. ...Shut up, it makes perfect sense.
  • Because the Cowboys/Packers game was so craptastic, I decided to watch the last game at Yankee Stadium last night instead. I'm not much of a baseball fan, except when the Yankees are doing well and I'm surrounded by Red Sox fans (or really just anyone who hates the Yankees). Them I'm a huge Yankees fan.
I've also had the idea of putting together a pod cast, in the manner of internet celebrity Jim Ether (who is also one of my personal heroes). I'm not sure what I'd talk about, though. Probably just more nonsensical shite like this.

21 September 2008

The Art of Grimness, Ep. 8

Marduk is the brainchild of Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson. The Swedish guitarist convened the band in 1990 with the intention of forming the "most brutal and blasphemous metal act ever". The jury is still out on whether or not Marduk has actually achieved that title, but I will admit that they are among the most intense Black Metal acts in existence. Their style has inspired scores of imitators, almost none of whom have been able to break the Norsecore mold.

Not coincidental to their influence, Marduk is also one of the most popular (and commercially successful) bands in Black Metal. They have toured Europe and South America extensively (as often seems to be the case with Scandinavian Metal bands, however, they have had trouble getting into the United States).

20 September 2008

Life: Complete.

Well, I can die without regrets now. This movie. It was like sex. Except I was having it.

18 September 2008

Play Safe (1936)

When I was but knee-high to a grasshopper I had a VHS of classic cartoons. This tape--along with a bootlegged copy of Dumbo that also contained Disney's rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk--was a cornerstone of my sad, sorry childhood. While most respectable children were outside climbing trees and breaking limbs, I was watching cartoons (and getting fat).

One of the cartoons on my tape was Play Safe, a 1936 production by the legendary Max Fleischer. Play Safe is the story of an anonymous lad who is enamored of trains. When a train goes by his house, the boy runs to have a look but is stopped by his dog, who has ostensibly been placed in charge of the boy. Determined to check out the trains anyhow, the boy ties his dog's leash to a tree. As the helpless dog tries struggles, the boy climbs aboard a train, which begins to move. The boy falls off the train, and is knocked unconscious. Still laying on the railroad tracks, the boy descends into a nightmarish realm of trains the likes of which must have been the invention of Clive Barker and H. R. Giger (well, maybe that's stretching it a bit, but the whole dream sequence is nevertheless pretty freaky). The dog manages to escape the rope and pull the boy off of the tracks, just in time to keep him from being run over by a train (the very thing which the boy loved so dearly!).

One of the things which made the cartoon particularly striking to me back in the day (and which allow it to continue to be striking today) is the use of rotoscoping, a process which Fleischer himself patented in 1915 (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth). Along with such phantasmagorical details as mountains with faces and trains that scold, the rotoscoping gives the dream sequence an extremely vivid, almost three-dimensional feel, as though one were experiencing the whole cartoon in a dream. Rotoscoping was commonly used in Paramount cartoons of the 1930s and 40s, which allowed them to have a similarly vivid feel.

Play Safe is one of those 1930s cartoons that I mentioned in an earlier post. Give it a watch, and appreciate all the little Fleischerian touches that make it so great.

15 September 2008

Dreaming of the Field of Glory

Over the past week or so, my sleep patterns have been rather out of the ordinary. I've been falling asleep much earlier than I usually do--around 10 PM or midnight, rather than the usual 2 AM or later. Concurrently, I've been waking up uncharacteristically early, usually before dawn, and I've been unable to get back to sleep. I'm less interested, however, in the the physical matters of sleep than I am with what happens in my unconscious mind during those few hours wherein I am asleep.

The past few months have seen a rather strange recurring theme in my dreams--not only am I back in High School, but I'm also specifically in Phys Ed class. Sometimes I'm aware of the abnormality of the situation, while other times I simply go along with the scenario as if it were perfectly ordinary. The finer details are lost in the murk of my subconscious, but I can recall that the dream always seems to take place during the preparations for the daily exercises, while I'm emerging out of the locker room into the gymnasium itself.

Last night I had a more vivid, larger scale version of the dream. Not content with the mundaneness of simple Physical Education, my subconscious saw fit to cast me as a member of my High School football team (i.e. the Shawnee Mission North Indians, whose games I made a point of never attending). Rather than preparing to run laps around the basketball court, I was preparing to take the field (or at least the sideline).

I'm no athlete, and I'll readily admit that (I just did, in fact). Outside of an early Halloween, I've never worn a football uniform--a fact of which I seemed oddly aware in my dream. I also couldn't find a helmet or a decent pair of shoes (the equipment manager was clearly asleep at the wheel). I finally did manage to get all my equipment in order, but I woke up before we actually went out onto the field. Kind of shame, really; I would have liked to have seen how I did. I probably would have looked a lot like this guy:

[Image sauce]

11 September 2008

Free Associations, Ep. 3

Scruples? What are those?

10 September 2008

Well, on the plus side...

...the old gang is finally back together again. No doubt they're tearing across the Elysian Fields in a 1930 Cadillac this very moment, blasting Judas Priest and getting into all manner of shenanigans. Like shooting old man Caesar's precious antique cans and covering Virgil's house with toilet paper. At least that's my conception of cosmic justice.

07 September 2008

In Pace Requiescat, Anita Page


I was afraid I was going to have to make this post sooner or later. Anita Page, one of the very few living silent stars, has gone to the great gig in the sky. With her loss, we are even further removed from the golden age. This turn of events makes me much sadder than it perhaps ought to. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, Anita, et æternam habeas requiem.

Addendum: A quality obit at the Washington Post, and another from the New York Times (it took them long enough, didn't it?).

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05 September 2008

Gunga Din (1939)

Based on the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name,1939's Gunga Din is a by-the-book adventure film. Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Victor McLaglen star as a trio of British officers of the Royal Engineers stationed in India in the service of her majesty the Queen. Sam Jaffe plays the titular role of Gunga Din, the regimental water-bearer who dreams of becoming a proper soldier. When a small army of Thuggee (cf. the English "thug") marauders attack and eliminate a British outpost at Tandipur, the Engineers Regiment is sent to investigate and is subsequently ambushed by the Thugs. After surviving the ambush, the regiment returns to base, at which point an expedition is organized with the intent of putting down the Thuggee revolt. Sgt. Cutter (Cary Grant) and Din strike out for a hidden temple of gold, and adventure and misadventure ensues as the temple turns out to be the nexus of the Thuggee army.

Three things in particular stood out to me while watching. First of all, the bad British accents of Cary Grant and Doug 2.0 and the worse Indian accents by just about everyone else. Second, copious amounts of good, old-fashioned masculinism. Finally--and perhaps most importantly--the film manages to venture beyond the typical "noble savage" fair in its depiction of the Indians. The first bit is pretty self-explanatory, so I'll gloss over that in favor of more profound topics of discussion.

Sgt. Ballantine (Doug 2.0) is coming upon the end of his period of enlistment in the army, and is considering settling down with his sweetheart Emmy (Joan Fontaine) and getting into the tea business once he musters out. Mortified at the prospect of such a fate befalling their war buddy, Cutter and MacChesney (McLaglen) are determined to keep Ballantine in the service. Ballantine, of course, comes around and decides to put bros (not to mention Queen and Country) before hoes.

Aside from Gunga Din's noble self-sacrifice to prevent the ambush and annihilation of the British Army, Eduardo Cianelli turns in an admirable performance as the Guru (the leader of the Thuggee rebels, who looks rather like an evil version of Mohandas Gandhi). The Guru is the sort of villain who is clearly evil, but is quite dignified in his wickedness (of course, any villain who can work references to Hannibal, Caesar and Alexander into his rhetoric immediately gets points in my book). On the other hand, he and his followers do possess a strong penchant for violence and bloodshed--they are Thugs, after all.

In many ways, Gunga Din is the spiritual predecessor of the Indiana Jones movies, Temple of Doom in particular. From the Kali-worshipping Indian death cult to the protagonist's fear of snakes, one can easily see how the earlier film influenced the later ones (although nobody in Gunga Din tries to rip out Cary Grant's heart through his ribcage). Gunga Din also has a climactic, large-scale battle, which is quite well-done, especially considering the massive number of extras who appear. There's also a great cavalry charge, courtesy of a unit of Sikh lancers. I'm a sucker for a good cavalry charge, let me tell you.

Thought it might be a bit dated in its technology and its social mores, Gunga Din is a highly enjoyable bit of movie adventuring in the tradition of the first Douglas Fairbanks (in that respect, it's appropriate that Doug 2.0 gets in his fair share of derring-doery). Definitely a classic.

I only wish I had been able to work in a "Thug Life" pun somewhere...