Degenerate Art (2012)
Directed by: M. Slinger
My mom’s been interested in glass blowing ever since I can remember. Of course, every time she made me sit and watch some guy make a piece, I was a little kid and the person was just making some cutesy little snowman or some shit like that, and I could not possibly have been more interested. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I never really thought of a glass pipe as being anything other than a tool, and definitely not an art form of any sort. Well, I was wrong.
Degenerate Art is a documentary about the underground world of glass pipe-making. Sure, the things are used for smoking weed, but drugs have nothing to do with it. It’s a movement of young men and women taking a new medium and finding out what they can do with it, and that’s just awesome. I could talk all day about how cool it is that people are still finding new ways to create art. I only with this doc had done the same.
Basically what it comes down to is that this is just a poorly-made documentary, and it’s a damn shame. It was definitely able to pique my curiosity about the art form, but it completely failed to answer every single question I had about it. For instance, it seems like an obvious step to start your documentary about glass blowing by telling your audience even the vaguest idea of how glass blowing works before launching into the self-congratulating fellatio of the artists involved, but nope. The director was clearly involved in the movement, and does a very bad job at explaining any background to people who don’t know anything about it. And I really WANTED to know more about it. I understand that it’s a little tricky, just because these people ARE making drug paraphinalia and it’s kinda sorta illegal-ish? But it just feels like if you made a documentary about programming in the 60’s and you completely failed to mention what a computer is or does. I really wanted to like this movie more than I did, which is the most disappointing feeling to have coming out of a documentary. Maybe in a couple years after weed is legalized we can get a real filmmaker to take a crack at the subject material.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy
When I was a kid, I HATED this movie. That’s right, I’ve always been a bitter old asshole. However, I think in this case the main reason I didn’t like it was because a friend and I always tried to play the tie-in NES game and god damn is that the most frustrating thing you can possibly try to do when you’re seven. Anyway, I figured I’d give it another chance now that I’m nearly 30 and I haven’t played that game in, oh, about a year or so. Still can’t beat the damn thing.
An alcoholic detective down on his luck (Hoskins) gets embroiled in a scheme way over his head, a la Chinatown. Only this scandal is about Christopher Lloyd wanting to build a highway through the town where cartoon characters live, and oh yes also cartoon characters are real and they live on Earth and nobody minds that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Okay, here’s the reason this movie exists in the pop culture conciousness at all: Technically speaking, the way they combined live action and animation is amazing. It’s still clearly very rough, but this is 1988 we’re talking about here. And hell, they do a better job in Roger Rabbit than they do in The Phantom Menace. Also, Bob Hoskins plays the role of the loser detective/ex-circus clown to a T, and it’s hard to imagine many other people being able to pull of an oddball character like that. The faults are a little more major, in my opinion. With all the effort spent on the effects, the story takes a far back seat, and it reads like the most generic possible detective story you can imagine. It’s like an episode of Police Squad! without the comedy. Also, Roger Rabbit is the most fucking obnoxious character and you can’t help but root for his death in every scene. But maybe that’s just me, I know I have a much lower tolerance for the “funny” annoying guy archetype than most.
Directed by: Jim Clark
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry
The tagline to this film is, “If stark terror were ecstasy, living here would be sheer bliss!”, which is just about the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. You know, if blood was cheese, the hospital would be a restaurant! If the theory of relativity was the board game Monopoly, you’d get $200 for going faster than the speed of light! IF FROGS HAD WINGS THEY WOULDN’T BUMP THEIR BUTTS ON THE GROUND WHEN THEY JUMPED!!
A washed-up horror actor (Price) is haunted by the monster he played in his movies years later when similar murders begen to happen in real life. He lost his career after everyone thought he killed his wife and had gone crazy, and now they all suspect he might be schitzophrenic and the persona of the killer comes out when he’s asleep or something. It’s kinda like the plot to a Scooby-Doo episode, only with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing.
Vincent Price was an amazing horror actor, and while he generally got known for his roles as the bad guy, I actually think he does a lot better when he plays a poor suffering victim. I mean, just look at the guy’s face, he’s got a permanent puppy dog look to him… he just also happens to have one of the most amazing voices ever recorded. This movie isn’t very remarkable amongst the other 60’s and 70’s horror movies, and the twist ending can be seen coming an hour and a half away. But still, VINCENT PRICE!
Directed by: Akihito Shiota
Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Ko Shibasaki, Kiichi Nakai
Boy, this was a weird one. The best way I can describe the tone of the film is that it’s somewhere between Rurouni Kenshin, Power Rangers, and Lexx. It’s quirky as fuck and when I tried to explain the important plot points of the first 30 minutes to my wife when she came in late, it took nearly 30 minutes to do so. I enjoyed it.
An evil emperor performs a dark magic ritual, sacrificing his unborn son’s organs and body parts to become all-powerful. The devil he deals with turns all those body parts into evil monsters that roam the land, and the baby is born looking like a weird squishy potato. His mom obviously throws him away, but he’s taken in by a weird Geppetto-ish guy who builds arms and eyes and things for the kid. He grows up to be a mysterious swordsman who’s swords are actually embedded in his elbows and pop out when he pulls his arms off. I told you it was weird. He meets a chipper young lady thief who pushes him to defeat the monsters and regain his organs, and eventually they go on to face the emperor himself.
This movie’s pretty cute, and the practical effects they do for the monsters are charming and creative… and VERY Power Rangers-ey. I don’t have a clue how they came up with the premise for this story, but nobody could say it’s not creative. Apparently it’s based on a manga from the 60’s, which explains the film’s biggest flaw: it tries to cram WAY too much into just an hour and a half and can be hard to follow at times because of the complexity and weirdness of its premise. So basically it’s just a movie you have to pay attention to, and you’ll be rewarded with a fun, colorful action adventure story from the mind of an insane person.
The Sorcerer and the White Snake (2011)
Directed by: Siu-Tung Ching
Starring: Jet Li, Shengyi Huang, Raymond Lam
You may not know this, but there’s a surprisingly wide subgenre of kung fu action movies which are basically just fantasy stories where people jump around and kick dragons in the face. If you weren’t aware, you’ve been missing out boy, hoo-doggie. Though it generally lacks the same kind of oomph you’d get from a really good Bruce Lee movie, for example (the subgenre is entirely wire-fu stuff, from what I’ve seen), it adds a really refreshing twist on the boring old high fantasy Tolkein ripoff stuff you get over here.
There’s a lot of stuff going on in this movie, but it centers around the relationship of a fisherman and his mysterious wife nobody knows the origin of. Jet Li is a monk who goes around the country killing demons, and he finds out that this lady is actually a super powerful demon in disguise. Of course the monk thinks that she’s using the fisherman and wants to eat his soul, but could it be possible that she just genuinely fell in love with the guy?
The action isn’t wholly remarkable, but there are some great special effects and I really enjoyed the lighthearted tone of most of the film. Basically the main plot is only a third of the movie and the rest is goofy cute stuff with all the comic relief characters, demons and humans alike. Jet Li is super badass in this movie, and it’s really cool to see him as a good guy who’s also the antagonist. Really, the film’s worth watching just for his very well developed no-nonsense monk character.