And now the stunning conclusion. (Spoilers abound.)
Sunday, March 28, 2010
And now the stunning conclusion. (Spoilers abound.)
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Some of my most traumatic television moments came from The Bionic Woman of all places! Mind you, I haven't seen that show in several decades, so in writing this I'm relying on my terrified child's memory. Obviously the worst for me were "the Fembots". If you recall, they were female androids that took on the appearance of ordinary women, often posing as someone else. Whenever it was revealed they were a "fembot" their face was torn off to reveal the metal circuitry under the skin. But they still had eyes! Look at this shit!!!
There was another episode of a show, and now I can't remember if it was The Bionic Woman or possibly Nancy Drew/The Hardy Boys (more likely the latter) but it dealt with a haunting and a cave that had Native Indian carvings. When they showed the cave drawings it was dark, there was a flickering fire and there was low, incessant Native chanting going on. I think it was to do with ghosts -- and I remember them cutting to a woman in bed being woken up and this chanting is going on. Obviously that freaked me out too -- so much that I don't remember anything else about it or even what show it was. For all I know it could've been the Bigfoot episode too.
Related to the terrors of The Bionic Woman, my brother used to torment me about the "Venus space probe" on The Six Million Dollar Man. A recurring "enemy" on that show, basically "the probe" was a Russian built space craft that landed in America. It was designed to destroy anything that got in it's way, so naturally only Steve Austin could fight it. Just to pick on me, my brother would chase me around pretending to be the deadly "Venus space probe", saying "the probe! the probe!" in a robotic voice while making a repetitive snapping hand gesture -- really just an excuse to scare the crap out of me & start a wrestling match. Really, I don't think the "Venus space probe" on tv was all that frightening, it was just what my brother turned it into that bothered me!
Another time I recall walking into the room as my parents were watching "Salem's Lot" and accidentally seeing this guy sitting in a dark room slowly rocking in a creaky rocking chair:
(Note to self: delete this mo-fo off my hard drive as soon as I post this!)
Being the kind of nut that I am, I'd love to re-watch some of these past tv horrors now. For one thing it would clarify my memory about them. Another reason would be to "exorcise" some of my childhood demons because this cheesy 70s stuff probably seems pretty tame now.
So go on -- Share your childhood horrors... if you dare!
Friday, March 26, 2010
It was a massive travelling print & poster sale that used to visit university campuses. Usually it hit this neck of the woods in early fall, if I remember correctly. They usually set-up business in the student union building or cafeteria and it was huge! They had posters of pretty much anything you could think of: fine art, music, nature, fantasy, celebrities, almost any movie poster you could think of. The selection was amazing and although they usually had everything sorted by category you could easily spend hours flipping through searching for something that fit your obscure tastes -- and you usually found it!
Recently I got thinking about those Imaginus sales and about my love affair with posters. In my youth I was quite a connoisseur of posters and my walls were usually "wallpapered" with them. Even at a very young age I remember having posters in my bedroom. The first I remember having was one of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman that my mother gave me. I don't remember necessarily being interested in that show; in retrospect I suspect it was my mother's way of making a subtle feminist statement (remember, Wonder Woman was on the cover of the first issue of Ms. magazine.) Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate that and I remember well the fate of that poster: jumping up & down on the bed with a handful of crayons I scribbled all over it. Suffice to say my I got in trouble for that little stunt.
The posters changed with my tastes. Usually they reflected movies and tv shows that I liked at the time: E.T., Return of the Jedi, The Greatest American Hero. I even had a Shaun Cassidy (the cuter of "The Hardy Boys") poster that came with one of his records that was handed-down to me from one of my brother's female friends. One early favourite poster was a Raiders of the Lost Ark poster which showed Indy kicking up the dust with his bullwhip. Later on the posters got more and more about "cute boys" and rock bands. A lot of things on my walls were torn out of magazines but also big, full-sized posters too. I was really "into" The Police at the time (Sting seemed less douchey in the 80s!) so I had a lot of them up there...until they were replaced by punks like The Sex Pistols, who were in turn replaced by my greatest musical love, The Smiths. I had a lot of pin-ups torn out of Smash Hits magazine on my walls. Sometimes I just put things up because I liked the aesthetics of it, and didn't necessarily know who the band or actor was. Later into my teens my tastes got geekier and my walls reflected it: Monty Python, comic characters like Wolverine and The Joker, and of course, Star Trek.
Some of them I wish I still had but most of those posters were destroyed or given away to friends over the years. But I do still own a good number of them. I keep most of them in a triangular cardboard mailing tube. The other day I got thinking about some of those posters so I retrieved the tube from my parents' basement. This morning I looked at what was in there. Some of it was cringe-worthy but some of it is still pretty cool. There's a rather unique looking pastel pencil drawing of David Bowie from 1984 that's pretty sweet. A Jack Nicholson from The Shining ("Here's Johnny!") b/w poster. Several Morrissey and The Smiths posters, including some presumably now rare-ish "tour" posters (one of which, from The Queen Is Dead, I still have framed on my studio wall.) And like a lot of young people, I went through a James Dean phase: I have an extremely large, "colourized", floor-to-ceiling James Dean poster that I got off a friend's sister; a b/w shot of him on a motorcycle; and a classic movie poster from "Rebel Without A Cause" (which looks pretty good; I'm considering putting this one up in the studio too!). Oh, and a ton of classic Star Trek posters. It seems my tastes were pretty bi-polar, running the gamut from cool to nerd.
What were some of the posters you had on your walls?
Thursday, March 25, 2010
"Picnic", Columbia Pictures, 1955. Directed by Joshua Logan, based on a play by William Inge. Starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell. All photos and videos used solely for the purposes of review.
Apropos of nothing, the third installment in my slightly tongue-in-cheek classic movie review.
Recap: Sexual tensions ride high as handsome hobo Hal Carter joins the desperate women of a small Kansas town at the big Labour Day picnic.
Madge Owens has been crowned the Queen of Neewollah in a ceremony evocative of some pagan fertility ritual. Afterwards there's a dance along the waterfront pavilion. Nerdy Millie attempts to "shake her groove thang" as Hal shows her how it's done. As expected, Hal knows a thing or two about moving his body, but poor Millie can't quite get the hang of his rhythm. Watching from the staircase above, Madge gets in touch with Hal's dance and seizes the opportunity to horn-in on her little sister's date. Naturally Hal and Madge work their beautiful bods in perfect harmony. They share a sensuous dance to "Moonglow" and the hearts of women everywhere begin to melt. (Footnote: William Holden hated dancing and demanded $8000 "stunt" pay to perform this scene, thinking that would get him off the hook. The studio paid it and the rest is history: the scene instantly became a romantic classic and "Moonglow" rocketed to the top of the charts that year.) The locals aren't too happy about it, though. Millie, annoyed that her sister has cut-in on her action and once again stolen the spotlight, is pissed. Finding Howard Bevans' whiskey bottle she quickly drowns her underage sorrows. Mrs. Owens isn't too thrilled to see Madge eschewing rich Alan for a homeless man. Mrs. Potts thinks it's pretty hot, though. And so does Rosemary Sydney, who is getting all hot & bothered watching Hal work it on the dance floor. And it seems Hal's got a little something for everyone... except Rosemary. In a jovial moment, Hal even takes Howard into his arms for a little dance.
This is where the shit hits the fan.
In a jealous fit, perhaps fueled by homophobia, Rosemary puts an abrupt end to their dancing. She tries to lighten the mood with her drunken rambling. She pulls up Hal's pants, demanding to see his bare legs. Hal objects, she persists. Wedging herself into Hal's arms Rosemary lets her hands wander, and tells Hal that he looks like a statue or a Roman gladiator. She gets increasingly aggressive. Howard demands that Rosemary stop molesting Hal. In a lustful fit Rosemary tears off Hal's shirt. Hal looks victimized and ready to cry. Suddenly Millie appears, announcing that she's drunk then vomits on the spot. Alan arrives and demands to know that's going on. Half-naked Hal is too distraught to speak. Rosemary launches into a tirade equivalent to "he was asking for it" and hurls the blame for Millie's drunkenness and pretty much everything else on Hal because he's so good looking and thinks he's cock of the walk, so to speak. Effectively, it's his fault because he was "dressed provocatively", I guess. Eager to hear all the dirty details the townsfolk shine a spotlight on half-naked Hal and the whole sordid scene. Shamed and humiliated Hal runs off. Madge follows.
One interesting thing about "Picnic" is that it takes a lot of our common gender stereotypes and stands them on their head. If the tables were turned, and the genders in this film were reversed, Hal Carter could easily be a Marilyn Monroe sex-bomb type, or even a little Lolita. Consider what we would generally we think of the naive young ingenue; a vulnerable young female, usually either vacantly unaware of her power over the opposite sex and suffering unwanted attention, or otherwise as calculating and manipulative, exploiting her own feminine wiles for power or gain. Here it is Hal who takes the role of the ingenue, seemingly a victim of his own sexual magnetism. After seeing the sexual harassment he suffers from Rosemary Sydney we begin to see Hal as something of a victim of his own carnality. Suddenly that outrageous tale of the "Thelma & Louise" thieves in the sports car doesn't seem so preposterous. Of course, Hal is a bit dim-witted, but we begin to question his motives: Is he a drifter because he's a manipulative gigolo? Or is he a victim of the judgements people make about him based on his appearance? Is he the victim of his own sexy pheromones who was brought to ruin by a lifetime of exploitation and abuse? That's open to interpretation, I think. And returning to the point of gender-role reversals, have you noticed that the sexual aggressors in this film are the women, most notably Rosemary Sydney? Her outburst at the dance is an easy metaphor for sexual assault. Which, I should point out, I'm in no way taking lightly. I'm just pointing out the parallels: If it was an older man making unwelcome sexual advances on a young girl and tearing her shirt off we'd have a very different movie! It would be an interesting experiment to consider "Picnic" if all the characters were cast in the opposite sex. I think it would play out just as well, requiring only minor revisions. For example, instead of Queen of Neewollah make "Madge" a quarterback. See how easy it is? Another important point to consider about "Picnic" is the sexual themes. Remember, this is an American mainstream movie made in 1955. It seems in our post-modern age we are quick to view the past through the rose-tinted glasses of prudery. As my husband so wisely remarked, "each generation likes to think they invented sex." Of course, people have been writing about sex forever. Still, it feels unique that a movie made in the place and time that it was deals so openly with female sexuality and gender issues. Really, you have to give this movie props for that.
Next time: The stunning conclusion (I promise!)
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
"Picnic". Columbia Pictures, 1955. Directed by Joshua Logan, based on the play by William Inge. Starring William Holden, Kim Novak, Rosalind Russell, Susan Strasberg & Cliff Robertson.
This is the second installment of my "slightly tongue-in-cheek yet I'm not entirely making this up" review.
Recap: Sexy drifter Hal Carter, a man with a checkered past and an apparent "Spanish fly" effect on women, arrives in a small Kansas town on Labour Day.
Cut to the beach for a little pre-picnic swim. Show-off Hal makes quite a splash (groan!) at the lake, drawing much attention from the female swimmers. Millie becomes the envy of them all as she boasts that Hal's her date for the picnic. Score one for the nerdy girl!
It seems this whole swimming scene was included for one purpose alone: the changing room sequence. Wet bathing suits are peeled off & hit the floor. The camera pulls back to reveal a cut view of the men's and women's changing room, separated by only a joint wall. Being 1955 and for modesty, the camera is strategically placed most of the time but the effect is we see our characters standing around chatting in the nip. At one point, Millie tries to sneak a peek through to the men's side and can't help but join in on Hal & Alan's conversation. It's a cute scene, but again, it's purpose does seem only to add to the titillation.
Back at Mrs. Owens' rooming house they're packing their picnic baskets. Rosemary Sydney, resident cougar, awaits her boring beau, novelty salesman (read:purveyor of fake dog doo) Howard Bevans...all the while hoping she'll get a better offer. She claims there's a mystery man she met at a dance who wants to marry her and he could arrive any minute to whisk her away. But then, she also claims that she was as beautiful as Madge in her younger days -- another dubious claim. Rosemary Sydney is a boiling pot of repression and sexual frustration. While she's quick to keep up the appearance of propriety and wear the label of "old maid school teacher", she's desperately horny. She's desperate for a man, desperate for an escape from the other old maids at the school and the rooming house. It's Labour Day and the school year's about to start again -- she's got to get her hooks into a man. Today. Enter Hobo Hal, arriving at the house to pick up Millie for their date. The ladies are charmed by Hal, and Hal is quick to oblige them -- taking off his jacket to reveal his muscular build. Rosemary Sydney has a hallelujah moment.
Too bad for Rosemary: boring Howard is her date not buff Hal, and she's pretty pissed about it. She becomes increasingly cranky and prissy. In an odd scene that's vaguely suggestive of oral sex, Howard produces a bottle of whiskey in the car and coaxes prudish Rosemary to have a tipple. So now we have Rosemary: bitter, desperate, horny and just drunk enough to shed a few inhibitions. Yeah, this is going to end well.
Gathered together at the picnic, the gang from the Owens' rooming house see more of Hal in action. He swaggers about, climbing trees, doing push-ups -- anything to draw attention to his physical prowess. Relaxed, he lets his guard down a bit, dropping hints about his troubled past: particularly abuse he suffered from an alcoholic father. Again we see the dichotomy between Hal the show-off and Hal the vulnerable. On the one hand he flaunts his body, brags about his sexploits and appears to be the typical "big man on campus" jock. At the same time we see Hal's child-like naivete and his fractured past. It seems like most of Hal's problems have stemmed from the way others have treated him. Could it be Hal is simply a victim of his own simple-mindedness and the deviousness of others? Or, maybe his sexy pheromones are clouding my opinion too! One thing's for sure -- Rosemary Sydney can't take her eyes off Hal's pants....
The picnic itself is a bizarre spectacle. The townsfolk amuse themselves with a variety of physical competitions. Sure, there's the standard 3-legged race and pie eating contest. But then there's also a game called "trained seals" where the men are tied-up in submissive positions and gagged with a stick in their mouths as the women toss rings at them. (Not surprisingly Rosemary Sydney is particularly fond of that game.) As night falls they have a group hymn sing. What a sea of bored faces! As I look across the glassy-eyed crowd I can't help but wonder if this is what Jonestown looked like. The evening is capped by the crowning of the "Queen of Neewollah" (that's Halloween spelled backwards. Slightly demonic, wouldn't you say?). Naturally, Madge is a shoe-in as Queen. The Queen floats down the river in a swan-shaped boat in a seemingly dark pagan ritual. The citizens take on a creepy, cult-like demeanor, bowing and chanting in unison "Nee-woll-ah".
It's amazing they don't don hooded robes and chuck Millie on an altar as a virgin sacrifice! At any rate, let's just interpret this as comment on the drone-like conformity found in small-town America. Despite the apparent festivities of the day we get the impression this could be a very closed society... not at all the type of place welcoming to free spirits.
Now that their Queen has been crowned, they celebrate with a dance.
Next: The Climax... coming in Part 3
Monday, March 15, 2010
Maybe we aren't so "special" after all.
Friday, March 12, 2010
(All photos & video clips used solely for purposes of review.)
Introduction. As my fixation with William Holden continues I am slowly going through his filmography. From all accounts, "Picnic" is cited as Holden's most sexually charged performance (just look at this movie poster for crying out loud!) so naturally I've been biding my time for the right moment to savour this one. Here's my interpretation of a seemingly innocuous little film that's one part "Rebel Without A Cause" and one part "American Beauty" with a healthy dash of "WTF" thrown in too. (Be warned I am going to hyperbolize a bit as is my poetic licence to do!)
"Picnic" opens with a freight train (yes ok, an obvious phallic symbol) pulling into a sleepy little Kansas town. From the train leaps a stow-away: a dingy hobo named Hal Carter. Hobo Hal wastes no time peeling off his clothes to bathe in the nearby river before venturing into town. (Footnote: William Holden in varying degrees of undress, usually bathing, happens at least once in almost every movie I've seen him in -- it's practically his trademark!) With his fabulous physique now a little more presentable, Hal wanders into a residential neighbourhood, knocks on the door of an elderly lady offering his "services" for hire. Noticing Hal's obvious, um... assets... Mrs. Potts puts Hal to work in her backyard... under the condition that he removes his shirt (ostensibly because she wants to wash it, and... ya know, he's a man so going topless is fine and... YOU GO GIRL, MRS. POTTS!!!) Of course, as Hal stands working behind the trash barrel his lower body is hidden, creating the illusion that he is nude. It's probably no coincidence that Mrs. Potts puts Hal in plain view for the rooming house next door for all there to enjoy the view. You sly ol' dawg, Mrs. Potts!
Cut to the rooming house owned by Mrs. Owens, a single mom whose life has passed her by. Languishing at the bottom of the social strata, she ekes out a living renting out rooms to spinster ladies, such as self professed "old maid school teacher"and part-time cougar Rosemary Sidney. Mrs. Owens vicariously places all her hopes in her two teenage daughters, Millie and Madge. Millie, the younger daughter is a brainy tomboy who resents living under the shadow of her more attractive, but otherwise bland older sister, Madge. Madge is the local all-American beauty queen with a surprisingly bad case of ennui. She's pretty and popular and is dating the richest boy in town but she's bored and unhappy -- and worse, she isn't bright enough to know why. What she does know is that no one is really interested in her beyond her good looks and that her boyfriend Alan is a bit of a bore. She admits to her mom that they "make love" down by the river but hints that flaccid Alan gives her no pleasure physically. Still, Mrs. Owens would prefer that Madge bag her rich beau while she can because really time is ticking away on Madge and once her looks fade she'll have no chance to make it in life. Admittedly, I'm kind of in agreement: Madge seemingly has no personality, interests or skills. As an aside, "Picnic" was Kim Novak's first breakout role and honestly her performance is very wooden. She easily could've been replaced by a mannequin.
Back to flaccid Alan, who it turns out used to be Hobo Hal's old college roommate (that is, back when Hal was riding out a football scholarship before being chucked out of the frat house for poor grades.) Hal tells Alan his hard luck story of how he was bilked out of all his money by essentially a liquored-up & rapey Thelma and Louise in a sports car.
Don't hate him because he's beautiful; the poor man can't catch a break. Hal begs rich Alan for a job...preferably an executive position with a corner office and personal secretary. Alan gives him a job as a farm hand. We begin to see Hal Carter as a man with a small brain, a huge penis and a distorted sense of entitlement. As footnote, William Holden initially refused this role. Being 37 years old at the time he was correct in thinking that he was too old to play this character. However, Holden pours a lot of bravura into this performance and manges to pull it off. He throws in equal amounts of swagger and dim-witted earnestness, enough to make you unsure of Hal's true motivations. Is he really a scheming con man or just a handsome idiot?
So Hal's got a job now but no work today because it happens to be Labour Day and the whole town shuts down for a huge picnic. Naturally Alan is taking Madge so he invites Hal to tag along as little Millie's date (because who better to pair up with a rebellious underage girl than an over-sexed homeless man, right?)
What could possibly go wrong?
More in Part 2.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
For starters, I deactivated my Facebook a couple of months ago. I haven't regretted it. I didn't "advertise" the fact I was leaving it, I just did it (and I'm sure no one really noticed I was gone). Social networking isn't for me. I'm not the least bit interested in reconnecting with former classmates, past co-workers, etc. If someone is not currently part of my life there's probably a very good reason for that. Ironically, the handful of people from my past that I wouldn't mind staying in touch with don't use Facebook. Also, the minutia of my acquaintances lives frankly doesn't interest me. Constant status updates about every mundane little thing they're doing (the fact they enjoy coffee or that they changed their socks today) annoy me. I really prefer to keep at arm's length with a lot of people. And I really question the need for virtual "approval" from people. My mood has much improved since deactivating Facebook, and my productivity/creativity has probably doubled.
Obviously I've been following the final season of "Lost". Absolutely one of the best written and most ambitious shows on television ever. That's no exaggeration. If you haven't been following it you're really missing out (but you've got to watch it from the beginning -- in order!!!) Damn, I'm gonna miss this when it's gone.
Back in my university days I was very into jazz music. Not "modern" jazz; I mean mostly swing from the 30s and 40s. Lately I've been rekindling my love of old jazz. Recently I got some CDs to replace some of my old worn-out cassettes (this "Okeh" Duke Ellington double cassette set used to be a particular favourite of mine). I feel like there's a time & a place for certain music, sometimes it feels like putting on a comfortable old pair of slippers. I've been nagging Chris to help me do an electronic "jazz" album (old style jazz/swing/scat inspired tunes done all on synths with some triphop beats), and I hope to do some Duke Ellington covers. I'm not sure he exactly shares my vision yet. :) Ok its not everyone's cup of tea... but if it ever gets done it will be awesome -- trust me on this.
Recently I picked up an ultra cheap SD camcorder, similar to this one and I've been making videos. The image quality is pretty poor... but I guess that's part of it's charm. I have lots of ideas of future videos I want to make -- the only thing slowing me down is my lack of skill! Keep checking YouTube for updates.
I won't mention any books or movies here yet -- I'll save them for upcoming reviews. Suffice to say I've been running the gamut from awesome to WTF lately...