Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time-Warp Movies

Thanksgiving, 2010
First of all, this blog is slowly deteriorating into a blog not about scary movies and knitting, but about movies in general. For this, I apologize. I've been expanding my horizons.
But two, maybe three people read this blog. Do you care? I don't care. If you're not upset, I'm not upset.

So, with that!

Last night I took the plunge and watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I missed when it originally came out in 2008.
    2008 was quite a year for movies. I wouldn't be too hard pressed to argue that it was one of the most important years for film in the past decade. It held the release of such brilliant films as The Dark Knight, Wall-E, The Changeling, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, the Hurt Locker (The last four of which i didn't see so i'm guessing,) Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Doubt, and...Twlight? The Happening? Bolt? You Don't Mess with the Zohan? 
2008 was when i really started noticing movies, and I certainly noticed some of these, and continue to today. I suppose the summer of '08 wasn't that long ago, but it feels a bit like it was, and I wouldn't be afraid to say that it was a really important moment in modern cinema.
     Benjamin Button shares a lot of similarities with another 2008 film that I hated, Marley and Me. They're both horrifically sad, include a deliberately casted leading man who narrates every single second of the film, and, most importantly, take place over a very very long time.
      Benjamin Button, of course, is a much better film than Marley and Me, if nothing else just because it's a more serious film. Really, though, it's not just my opinion: Benjamin Button was the twentieth top-grossing film, with a significant stack of Oscar nominations, and Marley and Me placed somewhere around fifty seventh, according to IMDB.
     Still, the format is the same, and I have a problem with it. Here's an idea: Greek Theater Conventions. Unity of Place, Unity of Action, Unity of Time. I know very well that we are, quite literally, centuries away from the requirements of performance inherent to the ancient Greeks, but still, it's the beginning. If i were a director, I'd keep them in mind. These movies throw them out the window. And then watch them get run over by an eighteen wheeler full of clocks going backwards and time machines, or something.
Maybe they're doing this intentionally, like some movies might do with other conventions pretty effectively (though i can't think of any--even with subplots, even with location shooting, the characters and plots are connected somehow and there is some central "home" place.)

Continuation: Today

I suppose there are movies (which i haven't seen,) that include many different characters and plots that don't seem to connect at all, and I hear that they work pretty well. So you certainly can abandon theater conventions, but you have to do it intentionally. I'd make the case that Benjamin Button and Marley and Me are just biting off more than they can chew.

I would venture to say that one of the biggest advantages of following someone for a large part of their life/entire life would be that you'd get some serious character development, but these movies really don't do that. Movies are able to portray character through tiny details, showing not telling. In the movie about  me, for example, you don't know that i knit because somebody comes up to me and says, "hey, girl who knits!" in the hallway or whatever, you know because the movie starts with a pan of my yarn collection and then a shot of me getting ready for school or sitting at my desk feverishly blogging or, if we're being really over the top, knitting. When you have narration throughout the whole movie, it's easy to cheat your way out of this and even important. I'm thinking specifically of Benjamin Button's transition from innocent old man child to promiscuous hunk. One minute he's turning down Daisy's invitation for sex because of his morals, and the next, we get a weird montage of him bringing girl after girl home, and Brad Pitt in voice over is like, "heh heh...yeah, i might have had me more than a coupla' girls..." They're showing me this, and they're telling me this, but i still don't understand at all why it's happening and how Benjamin became such a ladies man, because we skipped all the filler stuff that was important to his character. (Obviously i do know why Benjamin is a ladies man--because he's Brad Pitt.) Same with Daisy being a dancer--we see her as a child, and then we see her as a dancer, and that's the most important thing about her character. But when I met her, she wasn't a dancer, so to me, this is a new weird phase she's going through, and when she can never dance again, i'm not that emotionally distraught. In Marley and Me, when the family moves to Florida (?), theres a party and there are all these friends, but where did they come from? Are they the parents of the kids friends? How did they make those friends? Do i care about them? Also, it feels for a long time like all that Jennifer Aniston does is miscarry babies, because that's the only even that we see.

Obviously, you couldn't possibly include all that filler information, but it's important, and when you're only covering a little bit of time in somebody's life, you can do that. You can focus on your characters and their relevant goals without the audience missing some important thing about them. Relationships can be formed in little montages, and we care about the characters because we see a lot the events in the short time that tie them together. There is certainly some potential merit to seeing a variety of events over a person's life that make up their personality, but you can't possibly see them all, and if you're advertising that I'm seeing this person's whole life, gosh darnit, i want to see all of it.
But i also don't want to watch a movie any longer than Benjamin Button was, probably.

To be fair, i need to mention that in the time between me starting this rant and finishing it, I did watch Annie Hall, and that movie did something right, I think, because I liked it a lot. I was missing some stuff about the characters sometimes, but I could deal with it, and it worked out in the end. Possibly because it was coming straight from the horses mouth--we only knew what Woody Allen knew, we didn't start the movie the minute he was born (I actually missed the first three minutes, so don't quote me on that,) and we get the events he tells us are relevant. Furthermore, everything connects some way to his relationship with Annie, and as far as we know, there's nothing else really worth knowing. Benjamin Button is an interesting dude, I want to know what his doctor says about his condition, why he wasn't in more newspapers, what the heck is going on with that clock, etc, but we mostly just get the story about Daisy with some other random events thrown in. I understand that the clock is thematic, (and brilliantly so,) and Daisy is the one telling us the story so she is the most important character, but I guess what i want is all or nothing .You're either telling a story about yourself, and your life, or you're telling a story about your relationship with another person. We get a weird mixture, and I'm not sure I'm entirely ok with it.
Annie Hall also isn't presented in any logical order, so we expect less logic from it, I suppose. It's clearly a collection of a kind of crazy persons memories, while Benjamin Button is a weird guy's memoir that we're supposed to trust in it's accuracy and that is also all in chronological order. It's too logical--it makes hyper sense--how do we know that Button knows how his birth took place? Is the film just filling in the gaps for us? Is this what Daisy is picturing as her daughter reads her the diary? He wasn't there when Daisy crashed, how does he know what happened? We're getting a first person story but it's not in first person camera at all, we're pretty much omniscient.

That's all getting much to deep, though, I suppose, and I'm not prepared to make a formalized argument for or against the mood and POV that the cinematography creates, because I wrote most of this on Thanksgiving and it has been quite a while since then. Obviously I am over thinking it a little bit or a lot in trying to pinpoint what bothered me about it, but really, I did like a lot of the things the movie did, and more than its weird use of time, its most important contributions to cinema were artistic, in makeup, costumes, editing, adept use of symbols and parallel plots, and cinematography. And there were definitely some very important and very impressive things there.

What bothered me about it may have just been Brad Pitt, because I hate him a little bit.

I decided to finish it today, because I needed to get the juices flowing to write a psychology paper in which i analyze how my personality has developed based on various events in my life so far that i have a limited amount of space to present .

Luckily i age forwards, so it shouldn't be too complicated.

Felting is Fun...? UPDATE: Felting IS fun!

I have never felted before. It's a pretty cool process--basically taking some knitted stuff (out of wool,) and washing it so the fibers all stick together and make, well, felt. It's technically called fulling, but if you google that you won't get any results because everyone calls it felting. 

I'm knitting this hat in my insatiable desire for a proper cloche, which i refuse to buy on principle or because they're all expensive or uncomfortable or something. But I'm a little scared, because this is what the hat is supposed to look like:
And this is what the hat does look like:

It's extraordinarily enormous. Felting/fulling is supposed to make things a lot smaller, and i certainly trust the Anticraft for the pattern, which I followed pretty closely. But this hat is huge. Really, really big.  It's a foot tall and has a thirty inch diameter at the brim. 

We shall see how this turns out. 


Felting is ridiculously fun. My favorite thing about knitting is that it's taking something very raw and simple, yarn, and doing a series of actions that seem to have no connection to each other or the goal, and creating something useful and beautiful that is completely different from what you started with. This is like that but MORE, because once you have that beautiful, useful final thing, you change it more, so you can't see the connection between the first thing and the last thing even a little bit. It's absolutely magical.

I followed this wonderful tutorial from knitty, everybody's favorite knitting e-zine, and it worked really well. I already knew the general process of felting, but I had an idea that it was probably more complicated than just throwing it in the washing machine, which it most certainly was.

A lot of tutorials said to put it in a pillowcase, which i did, to keep all the little fuzzies from getting all over the washing machine and destroying the entire plumbing system. The hat fell out of the pillow case pretty quickly, so that was unsuccessful. I definitely recommend using a zippered pillow case or pinning the top closed if you decide to do this, because getting all the lint out of the machine basin is quite difficult.

The tutorial I used said to check it every five or ten minutes, which I did, but it's probably not entirely necessary. I just fangirled over it. Look! It's so pretty!
It's still enormous in that picture, but less enormous. And as it starts felting, the yarn i used (Lamb's Pride, I believe, which has some really lovely mohair in it,) gets all fluffy and wonderful. 
So fluffy and wonderful. 
I only put it through one wash cycle, because it seemed to be a pretty reasonable size. (spoiler alert, it wasn't.)

The most difficult part about the specific tutorial I used was that it required a pretty in-depth knowledge of washing machine cycles, which I do not have. Because of this, the hardest part was the rinsing. There was this whole thing about taking it out before the spin cycle, but putting it in the rinse cycle, but not letting it be agitated in the rinse cycle. But the spin cycle comes before the rinse cycle, and you have to get all the lint out of the water before the spin cycle, but the waters really hot and full of soap and poison and you can't put your hands in it because they might burn or fall of or something. And once you do get the hat out, you're just holding this dripping wet mop of wool in your hand and standing in front of your washing machine while it does some horrifying thing, and you have no idea what to do. 

It was a very exhilarating experience. I just set it down on a plastic bag on top of my dryer until it finished the spin cycle, and then the rinse cycle didn't seem to be doing much, so i disrupted the normal cycle of my washing machine to set it to 2nd rinse, and that filled the basin up nicely so I could dunk the hat in to get all the soap out like the tutorial said. 
This is the dangerous part of felting. I was dunking the hat into the water, just like it told me to, and it was filling up with this freezing, freezing water which was getting all polluted with little fuzzies, and I was like, "Hm, I wonder what happens when the washing machine fills up"

At that point, as I was grabbing a little fuzzy off of the spinny thing in the middle, the machine decided it was as full as it wanted to be and the spinny thing started freaking out and nearly chopped my hand off. At this point, I freaked out and stared at my hat in the agitating rinse cycle, knowing full well it shouldn't be there, and waved my arms around for a while until i figured out that I could stop the machine, just as I had done at least six other times during the process. It was pretty terrifying, but I'm ok. 

The tutorial said that a lot of people didn't put it in for the final spin cycle, but I did, and nothing bad happened to it. It seemed to be dry enough after that and my wringing it out some, so i got really excited and put it on and ran upstairs to look in the mirror. However, it wasn't dry enough, so it started dripping everywhere and I had to run back downstairs to hold it over the washing machine. I put it in the dryer for two or three seconds, because it was a little bit big anyways, and then took it out, put it back on my head, and ran back upstairs to see how it looked. 
The same thing happened, but I ignored it because I really wanted to take a picture:

Much better than the picture I posted yesterday, huh? Still a bit too big though. But it's so fuzzy and beautiful
After having water drip everywhere and all over me, I ran it back downstairs and put it in the dryer for a very small amount of time--two, maybe four minutes. It got smaller enough that I'm happy with it, so i tried it on one more time...
Then I decided it wasn't quite 1920's magazine enough, so i moved it around and blocked it a little bit...
And decided I was happy with that. I stuffed it with some plastic bags to hold its shape and set it to dry on a towel on top of my dryer. The tutorial says to put hats over a head shaped bowl, but I wasn't sure how my mother would feel about me comandeering a kitchen implement to help sculpt a shedding, fuzzy, wet piece of wool. Parents don't understand sometimes. 

It currently weighs about a million pounds because of the water, and I haven't figured out if i'm going to decorate it with a simple ribbon or an applique, but I love it to death. 

Knitters, if you haven't tried felting, go get some wool and try it right now. 

Pattern courtesy of The Anticraft, Flowers on  Grave. http://theanticraft.com/archive/samhain05/flowersonagrave.htm. The Anticraft is my favorite knitting website. It's very sacreligious and a little bit inappropriate, but it's my favorite and you should go buy their books and read their e-zine. 

Tutorial Courtesy of Knitty, Felt This!http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter03/FEATfelthis.html. Knitty is my other favorite knitting website. It's super classy but also a lot of fun, and less NSFW. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And the internet backs me up!

Have i told you about Nostalgia Critic? I love her

And she totally just said what I was sayin', with a wonderful quote from Mel Brooks about loving what you parody. Yaaay Nostalgia Chick!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Manly Masculine Man Movies and my life, 2010

I am a blogging machine.

Look at what the New York Times just said to me:
"6. Superheroes take a break. Yes, there was “Iron Man 2,” but even that offered a respite from the glowering, pretentious action allegories that have dominated screens for most of the past decade. The battle between good and evil rages on in some quarters, but mostly in self-conscious, self-parodic form. In the strangely similar animated kiddie comedies “Despicable Me” and “Megamind” the heroes and villains are self-conscious role players, and the villains are actually nice as well as more interesting than their occasional square-jawed nemeses. This may reflect genre exhaustion (though another round of superhero blockbusters is already on the horizon), or a measure of real-world cynicism. The investigative documentaries that proliferated this year ("Inside Job," “Client 9,” “Casino Jack and “The United States of Money”) suggest that corruption and criminality exist virtually beyond the reach of justice." ((here) 

No. Absolutely not. I disagree. 

This was a year of revelations for me, mostly about gender and movies. And with that came the revelation that I need to stop avoiding superhero movies. They are campy just like slasher movies, take place in pretty cities with pretty girls, and deserve a lot more credit than I've given them in the past, which i suppose is just from neglect rather than dislike. 

Remember that I avoid modern films usually, but regardless, were i to make a list of my top ten films for this year, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World would be probably at the top of the list, and Kick ass would be on there somewhere too. 

Granted, i did see these movies with some of my very best friends on two very significant occasions. They were spots of movie brightness on some very dark days. But i went into them surrounded by warnings of, "Krista this movie is about video games, you probably won't like it," "This is a funny movie, but you won't get most of the jokes," and most ridiculous of all, "Krista, this movie is really violent, I don't know if you'll be able to handle it." 
Both of these movies made me really, really happy. They were both hilarious and extremely well done, and played directly to the normal superhero film viewing audience. ( I know this because I only talk to five or six people on a regular basis, and one of them likes superhero movies like i like slasher movies.)

I know they aren't superhero movies in the traditional sense, really at all, but if you're going to put them in a genre that's the one where you put them. Comic book movies, at least. Maybe they do result from "genre exhaustion," since they're both sort of satire/deconstruct sort of films, but at least they aren't sequels or remakes or spin-offs. I suppose that these films are evidence of the "self conscious and self parodic" films that the article mentions, but I think it's an achievement for a genre to reach the point where it has a large enough fan base and an established enough personality that it can be self conscious and self parodic and still be successful. 

I suppose that this warrants a discussion on how we would define "genre exhaustion." What the article refers to I would say was the sort of ultimate point for a film genre to achieve. This may not be the case with a more general genre, for instance, action movie, or drama, but for a genre so specific with such a specific target audience: nerds. (I use the term in the most affectionate way posisble.) Recently it's seemed like superhero/comic book movies are trying to aim for a larger audience (aren't we all,) especially with the advent of technology creating a world where movies are seen just for the special effects, and comic books are, for many, obsolete. While they can no longer depend solely on a group of cult comic fans, they can rely on the fact that those people will show up to every movie at least once. Having a devoted audience like that certainly seems to help a genre get established--take slasher movies, for a totally random example. The slasher genre is built upon independent, low budget films that, while not at all applicable to a mainstream or high-film audience, were loved and relentlessly viewed by the genre fans, and for that matter, still are today. If formula slasher movies didn't make money off of those cult fans, more movies wouldn't have been made, changes wouldn't have happened, and we never would have gotten to Nightmare on Elm Street or even Silence of the Lambs. Going even further back, Psycho's success was pretty much dependent on the "cult" fans, if you will, of Alfred Hitchcock--all of the publicity was based around the fact that it was his movie. 

When a fan base gets big enough that movies can be made by a big production company and make a profit, that seems like a pretty huge deal, not a sign of genre exhaustion. There comes a saturation point with formula films, i guess, where you have to recognize that you are a formula film--and it seems like a fantastic moment to me. Wes Cravens' career success in the past twenty years is based entirely off Scream, and while maybe that means that he's no longer making movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, it means that...well, enough people get it. Enough people have seen enough films that a movie referencing them is successful in the mainstream (you may think I'm referencing the success of the Wayan and Selzer. I am not. Do not speak those dirty words here.) And, while I'm not at all an expert or even a little bit knowledgeable about superhero/comic book movies, I think it's the same situation. When you have enough (wonderful, loveable, awesome) nerds out there to understand Scott Pilgrim  or Kickass, you're pretty set. Congratulations, you're a genre. 

What i really want to talk about is how underappreciated Scott Pilgrim is. I just read quite a few articles about movies of the year, and I've looked at Academy Award Nominees: Scott Pilgrim is conspicuously absent from all of them. There's a lot of talk about how The Kids are All Right (which i haven't seen, but i love on principle,) represents our modern family structure and changing view on social acceptability, about how The Social Network works because we're all so obsessed with the internet, how Inception captures the confused, surrealistic, escapist view of entertainment right now. 
And yeah, i guess that's pretty much whats happening in 2010, but clearly none of these people spend any time looking at internet memes or in not-so-classy clubs, because they've forgotten about two very important and potentially opposite groups that are coming into the mainstream this year: nerds and hipsters. 
Maybe I'm biased, having my personality coincidently fitting parts of both stereotypes/subcultures, but i really think that in the future when you stereotype folks in 2010, or at least in the coming decades, they will be playing videogames, watching videos of lolcats, and arguing about cult film. They will be wearing plaid and fedoras and listening to Bright Eyes and The Avett Brothers and being "all ironic." 
Scott Pilgrim did not miss these subgroups. It represented them, and perfectly. No aspect of my weird little cultural underground, that lives somewhere in my boyfriends garage where D&D is played or at the Starbucks in Barnes&Noble where my best friend and i often sit judging people, was missed. My friends, this movie is our Breakfast Club. Teenagers will watch this movie thirty some odd years in the future and say, "Oh, thats what my parents were like in 2010." Or whatever we say when we watch Breakfast Club. No movie that's on all the lists really took these groups into account, as far as i know. 
Presumably, our culture is too focused on the nonsense that MTV is putting out to notice whats really going on in youth culture, or maybe I'm too focused on what isn't going on in youth culture to notice that whatever MTV is putting out is the reality of those under thirty. I'm pretty sure I'm right, though. Scott Pilgrim captured what i see as the mood of our generation perfectly, which few if any forms of mainstream pop culture had really done, as far as I can tell. So...congratulations, nerds and hipster, you're a subculture! 

Not to even get into the fact that a lot of the technical stuff Scott Pilgrim did was just insane. It's sort of concoction of aspects of videogames, comic books, movies, internet, and weird dream sequences was amazing and incredibly innovative, absolutely like nothing I've ever seen. If it influences movies as much as it should, it may signal the beginning of a hyper-realist surrealist movement or culture. The movie makes it seem like we are getting the truth, but from Scott Pilgrim's perspective--it is distorted, but exactly in the way an identity confused youth who spends much of his time in the world of video games, underground clubs, interrupted naps and the internet would imagine it to be. 

So really, there is a lot of room for a recognition, as that article claims there is, of the unhappy realities of crime fighting--the genre is acknowledging itself as fiction, which i think is a very mature thing to do. 

So! In conclusion! I think that the exclusion of Scott Pilgrim from prestigious film critic and award nominee lists is a horrible, horrible mistake, and that the film "trend reports," if you will, that I've read very much misinterpreted what the superhero movies of this year mean for the genre and the "state" of cinema and therefore, ourselves, in general. 

However, once again, I tend to look at genres backwards (from self parodic to origin, instead of the other way around,) so my knowledge of superhero films is super limited, so please disagree with me if you feel it necessary. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas...

For the last three weeks, this has been the topic of probably forty percent of all conversations. We talked about parenting during Frankenstein in English class, my ecology teacher is pregnant so everything in that class is about babies, we're learning developmental psychology in AP Psychology so that's all about infants, one of the documentaries we looked at in film studies was about gender in babies, a friend of a friend of a friend is pregnant so that friend has been talking about babies quite a bit, the human relations kids are carrying these little robot babies around, every sitcom i watch is about pregnancy somehow, and every night i take a pill to prevent the agony that comes from the workings of my body that someday could allow me to have a baby, god forbid.
So it's only appropriate that this movie i just watched was baby themed too.
Regardless of that, this is one of the best and most underrated slasher movies i have ever seen.

Black Christmas was released in 1974. Woah. I don't know if you understand what that means. While Halloween is credited as being the first "slasher," this one definitely deserves that title.
Don't get be wrong, i'm not hating on John Carpenter, I love Halloween, and it makes sense that it often gets credited with being the father of slasher movies, even down to it being the literal son of the unarguable grandfather of slasher movies, Psycho, the former having its main actress as the daughter of the latter's main actress. But this movie, Black Christmas, is much more related to the slasher movie as we think of it today, it came first, and it's...brilliant. Everybody should watch this movie, including non genre fans.

So the plot focuses on a group of sorority sisters and their brother fraternity (postmodernism ftw?), around christmas time, and they're getting all these weird phone calls from this guy who talks about all these weird, sexually perverted things. Nothing much going on, it's a sorority, sorority stuff happens. Most of the girls leave for Christmas vacation, and one of them gets killed by a totally unseen person.
To be honest, it wasn't until this point, (approx. ten minutes in) that i started paying attention, because this kill actually made me jump. I started watching this film as some festive background to my knitting and dress designing, but i quickly realized that it deserved a more thorough viewing.

Soon enough, we find out that survivor girl is British pregnant, the insanity of which i cannot even express. Keep in mind that there really hadn't been any formula slashers before this one, and besides this little problem, this movie kinda follows the formula (therefore setting it,) to a T. Even more insane than her being pregnant, she wants to get an abortion and doesn't want to marry the father. Sins on top of sins on top of sins! This girl is just full of sins and she's foreign! Kill her right away!

It becomes pretty clear pretty fast, however, that she's our main girl, and the movie, instead of focusing on the group or the killer like (i think) previous films had done, focuses mainly on her. The conflict becomes juxtaposed between the small town where they live looking for the first girl that died and the sorority dealing with the creepy phone calls, and Jess (survivorbritishgirl) negotiating her pregnancy with her angsty pianist boyfriend. As the latter conflict progresses, the former conflict gets closer and closer to it--the calls start seeming to come from/represent Jess's soon to be aborted fetus. And it's amazing. The whole movie has this outer conflict--the town looking for the first girl and trying to help a mother find her thirteen year old daughter, who is missing,--and the inner conflict, with Jess dealing with her potential motherhood/murder. It's just brilliant. The theme of parenthood and children run through the whole thing (am i crazy? have i just been reading too much Mary Shelley and learning too much about neonatal development?) There's this one really significant scene right when we're about to get to the battle where all these little children come caroling and Jess just looks at them all motherly and you can see the little hormones running around in her brain like "babies! look how nice they are!"
A really interesting thing is the babylike nature of the killer, and the killer in general. Mainly, the fact that we know nothing about him. We don't even ever see his face: just his hands and his eye. I suppose, in retrospect, that this is because (SPOILERS!) we're led to believe that Jess's boyfriend is the killer, which was a weirder part of the film.
When the killer (Billy/Agnes,) calls on the phone and when we hear him talk, it seems that he's got a bit of a Bates syndrome thing going on: He seems to speak for himself (who is a very childlike, innocent thing,) and for his mother, (more of a Grendel's mama deal,) who is the perverted violent killer, perhaps. It's never made very clear, but it's very creepy. This is all we see of him:
I paused this shot and just stared at it for probably a minute and a half.

Also, he makes the calls from the house mother's phone, which is pretty significant symbolism, if you ask me.
The movie has a lot of great symbolism, especially in the whole phallic weapon department, which is only appropriate considering it is a slasher movie. When promiscuous horrible drunk girl gets killed, it is in bed amongst flying blankets and hands reaching up and screaming and the like, and I'm pretty sure we're supposed to think that church lady, who is outside with her aforementioned choir of caroling children, thinks that someone is having sex in the house and therefore leads her children away hurriedly. We know that the fight is about to start when survivorgirl looks over and very significantly sees a nice stick like fire poker deal, which even gets its very own super close up.
Freud is so happy right now.
She then goes on to kill who she thinks is the killer, her boyfriend, the father of her baby, with the penis  firepoker. OHMYGOD. Did they mean to have this much symbolism? Normally i would say no, but i find myself having a lot of faith in this movie. And it's just to good to pass up. She kills her boyfriend, who "stabbed" her with his "firepoker," if you will, and got her pregnant, and who questioned her choice to get an abortion, the combination of which seems to be causing this whole thing. Brilliant. Amazing. Slasher Perfection.

So the big question now is, why isn't this the movie all of us slasher devotees worship instead of Halloween? Why has this movie been thrown into the chest of weird low budget movies based on holidays instead of given the love and praise it deserves? And why on earth do we let foreign pregnant sin girl live?

Well, really, it can be argued that we don't let foreign pregnant sin girl live, because this movie wasn't very well received and doesn't have the legacy it deserves. This movie really sets the standard for that whole representing the time thing that maybe will make me a lot of money in book form some day, considering this whole nonsense about abortion happened at the Vatican a month before the films USA release, and that whole ERA thing that was going on in the seventies. So clearly, abortion and a woman's right to choose, or to kill their boyfriend with phallic symbols, was on the public brain when this movie came out. However, they made the fatal (haha,) mistake of not punishing these things. I'd say that by '74 we were on a downhill (sorry guys, politics,) slope to the new right of the 80's and sledding quickly away from that whole...thing that was the 60's. Four years later, Halloween's virginal Jamie Lee Curtis, who fears men and sex but adores children, made forty seven million dollars and our dear Jess here only made four million. If Jess had been killed, and maybe boring, pre victim Claire had survived instead, maybe the movie would have the legacy it deserves.
It probably didn't help either that the film is Christmas theme and was released on December 20th, right when people are finishing up their holiday shopping. I think this is most of why, straight up marketing wise, Halloween was so much more successful. Around the end of October you want to be scared, you want to go with your friends to the movies and vicariously be stabbed/stab, you want to think that every door that opens is going to lead to your worst nightmare. Even teenagers, though, feel a little less like that around this time of year, (unless they're me, apparently,) and even if they do still want to go to the movies and be horrified, there are family events and stuff to go to, and there's just no way your parents are going to let you skip out on decorating the tree with aunt Margie to go see that new gory trash at the cinema.
That's the other thing--with this and Halloween being the parents of slasherdom, why has it, even from the very beginning, had such a bad reputation for being gory and sex-filled? Slut-girl in this movie has a lot of weird scenes talking about sex, but there's no nudity and the gore is very, very minimal. Look, it's all wrapped up in plastic and clean....

It's really not that bad at all. The only reason i wouldn't recommend this to anyone, specifically non genre fans, is because if anything it's a bit slow. It's so clearly dealing with important issues though, and not just being a sex and gore fest. I know standards were different in 1974, but seriously. Less than a bottle of ketchup used for this film. Like Psycho, it is high quality in that all of the violence is implied, we don't see it happen. It's a bit disappointing at times, especially in that Jess killing her boyfriend is represented only by a scream, and then a shot of her with his dead body across her lap. Very simple, very smart.
Also, the cinematography is brilliant and highly underrated. Look at this.

Oh my god. Oh. My. God. I died. This is so beautiful. What is happening? Why is there a series of small square screens with blue backlighting in the basement of the sorority house?
I don't care at all. I want to paint my wall with a mural of this shot, it's so amazing.
The ending is also just...pure film happiness. Film magicalness. One of my favorite things ever is keeping the camera in the same place while action goes on basically without noticing it--the shot is static, and people come and go as the please, and you hear what they're doing and therefore know what you need to know. The camera then pans around to all the dead bodies, and we hear that the killers still alive, and the credits happen over a long, high angle shot of the house with the phone ringing and getting progressively louder until it ends.
Film gobledeegook, i know, but...magic. Magic magic magic. It made me so happy.

Here's more film gobledeegook: listen to this symbolism i just noticed. If Halloween, focusing on feminine themes but also masculine ones with the doctor and Micheal Myers, is the father of slasher films, then this film, with it's strong focus on a female lead and a gender ambiguous killer and maternal themes, is the MOTHER of slasher films. With that in mind! The fact that it was not well received says some serious things about how slasher audiences and filmmakers think they look at motherhood.

Woah guys. Woah. That is something to think about while you eat your Christmas pie.
If you're weird, like me, and think about gender in horror while at family gatherings.

Happy Holidays, all :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Getting in Trouble is the next cult horror hit

Guys, I am watching Glee right now. Why do I do this to myself. It's so over the top. It tries way to hard. It lays it on so thick. Does it know how ridiculous it is?
It made a funny joke about that teacher/shoe guys hair tonight, but everything else about it just makes me upset.

So I decided to do what I've been doing lately when I'm upset about something. Watch Getting in Trouble.

Getting in Trouble is, arguably, one of the lowest quality horror movies ever made. One camera, no special lighting, written in exactly five days, performed by unprofessional teenage actors.

My best friend and I created this movie. It is our child. I love it to death. It is possibly the pride and joy of my entire high school career.

The creation of this film was inspired by a,) the advent of my obsession with slasher movies and, b)the subsequent summer nights my dear friend and i spent watching the slasher movies available to watch instantly on netflix. Most instrumentally, one called The Majorettes, one called Stupid Teenagers Must Die, and a third called Demon Summer. 

And these movies were terrible. The latter two were made just as we ended up making GiT: they were clearly produced on a budget of less than a thousand dollars, by some twenty somethings or even old teenagers, who were bored one summer and had a camera and a stolen copy of Final Cut and decided that instead of just hanging out with their friends, they'd make a movie.
Or something.
Majorettes is a different story. This movie had a budget of 85 thousand according to IMDB, and that isn't a lot, but it's something. Enough to hire like one writer. This movie is ridiculous. Demon Summer and Stupid Teenagers at least kind of know what they're doing: they credit themselves as having no budget, and a tagline for Teenagers on IMDB is "intentionally bad acting."

However, even in the realm of self-satire, these guys did a pretty bad job. I don't remember Demon Summer very well, except that the writing was clearly based off of the experiences of the kids who wrote it, and Teenagers seemed to have been based off of slasher movie stereotypes I didn't know existed--for instance, over the top geeks who end up sort of being bad guys or something, a lesbian couple who just starts having sex whenever the movie gets slow, and a kind of over complex plot.

The main idea of that rant is that Zoe (my best friend,) and I said to ourselves, "we can do better than those guys." And in some ways, considering our budget, ($35 dollars, including paying for pizza and costumes,) and our one camera, I think we did pretty fantastically.

Another big inciting force was that the house where Zoe lived at the time was immensely creepy. We didn't really use that to our advantage, but it was still inspirational.

All right, thats enough back story. On to the topic.

Cult Horror. All of the aforementioned films can fall into this category. Movies that have no quality, nearly no content, that are made only for genre fans. (Cult Horror Films: from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman to Zombies of Mora Tau says " the word cult suggests a small group of loyal fans, so a cult horror film would be one made strictly for the horror audience, the audience that will literally watch anything as long as it's a horror flick.") Unfortunately for a lot of indie film makers, a vast majority of horror falls into this category. But i'm talking extreme cult horror. Like, if you wore a t-shirt with a quote from one of these movies, you'd have to go to some sort of hard core horror convention in Manitoba to have somebody recognize it. Movies like The Evil Dead, Stupid Teenagers, Night of the Living Dead, I Spit on your Grave, Troll 2, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Children at Play anything MST3K reviews...there are a lot. They are really bad. Maybe even movies that aren't good enough to have a really loyal fan following.
But they are important. I love them. They synthesize what has been done in horror movies before, stop taking any of it seriously, subtract anything any production studio wants them to do, adds some very racy stuff, and end up having a huge influence on film for the rest of forever.
Horror film gets a lot of these because violence upsets mainstream people, so it's difficult (or it used to be) to make a horror that was palatable to a mainstream audience. Also, because special effects can be as simple as ketchup (or chocolate syrup, if you're amazing like Hitchcock,) and the characters are meant to be annoying, you don't need a ton of money to make them. Horror fans are also some of the most loyal folks in the world. You make it, they'll eat it up again and again, and back in the day, they even used to pay money for it.

And I'm not delusional. I read the feedback on Netflix. I know that most of these fans only like movies like this because they smoke a lot of marijuana. But still. It's an audience, and producers keep making the films.

OK. So in my opinion and experience, here are some of the things that go into making a cult film.


A complete lack of subtley--Characters are bad. You know they're going to get killed, and you want them to get killed. They're horrible, they're crude, they sin, they're stupid. You find yourself wondering why they are taking their clothes of in the middle of irrelevant scenes and where all the alcohol came from. See Stupid Teenagers, The Evil Dead, The Funhouse, MST3K

Extremely stereotyped characters--You have your virgin. The rebel. The smart girl. The slut. The comic relief that's really just annoying. The misogynist jock. The goth. The nerd. The black guy. The displaced ex-boyfriend. The stupid police officer. The psychologist who used to know the killer. The stoner. The best friend.
There are so many cliches to be used, and yet we keep using the same ones. In any case, there isn't any subtlety in the characterization either: you should be able to tell immediately by looking at each character who they are in the movie.
See any horror ever made ever.

Terrible, terrible quality footage. This  can be hard to avoid when your filming with your parents old camcorder while your trespassing in an abandoned barn. But it's definitely a part of these movies. Lighting is especially bad, and scenes that should take place at night might take place during the day. Cinematography tries, but may not succeed. The continuity issues are endless. (Did you know that movies actually have people just to check this?! I bet these movies don't.) The mic shadows are plentiful. Shaky cam is used excessively, whether intentionally or not. See Evil Dead, Stupid Teenagers, Demon Summer, MST3K

Sex and drugs...sex sex, and drugs.....: As noted above, the plot just whips these things out of nowhere. But they're always there. See any horror movie ever.

Pretty terrible writing: Plot revolves entirely around the preconceived notion of what horror movies should be. Slashers include your general teenagers go away from home, do bad things, get murdered one-by-one set up, that and others may include especially incest packed locales with lots of scary hillbillies. More than any other movie, you're inclined to say, "Don't go in there!"--not because of suspense, but because it just doesn't make sense for the characters to do that. Characters may also point out very obvious things in case the events that have transpired aren't clear enough to the audience. They also likely swear a lot. Take Cabin Fever for instance (<3) where, if you are unlucky enough to watch it on the sci fi channel, you will not understand most of what the characters say because it is censored.
Don't i recognize..?: You know who starred in a cult film? Brad PittJamie Lee Curtis. About a million other people.

Quoteable quotes: Usually hilariously unrealistic things that a character says, maybe the tagline. The thing that ends up on a tee shirt. A catch phrase of the killer, perhaps, or a particularly well delivered line.


Low budget: Or no budget.
Really, really good intentions: people don't films that they won't make money off of unless they have really good intentions and a creative urge to do so. From this, you can get a LOT out of some films that may or may not need to be there: one of my big theories is, because horror represents our most base human instincts (violence and sex,) theres a ton of room to add layers of social commentary--essentially any original aspect in the film becomes a social commentary. Sometimes this is intentional and therefore way over done, like in The Happening, and sometimes it's unintentional and subtle, but effective, like having a black protagonist in Night of the Living Dead. 
Filmed in a weird setting or situation: Again, the best example i can think of here is Romero: when they did Night of the Living Dead, it was just him, some crew, and a bunch of his friends living on location for a few weeks making this movie. This also comes from the low budget, so locations are chosen more based on convenience than selected for their perfection. (so like, low budget directors are r-strategic species, and high-budget directors are k-strategic species...oh god. I promise to never talk about ecology here again.)
Ketchup bottles: Guys i love ketchup so much.

With all of this taken as truth, then Getting in Trouble, my very own brain child and my pride and joy, is right in line to be the next great cult film, as soon as my friends all get into college and move far away and aren't minors any more so maybe i can put it on the internet.

Because it deserves some recognition.


A complete lack of subtley--oh yes yes! We make it very clear what's going on here. Charity Conscience, survivor girl, constantly is saying "my parents aren't home!" Boyfriend Zane brings alcoholic chocolates (do those even exist?) and randomly decides in the middle of the movie to get naked and take a shower. Promiscuous Lotus and rebellious sleazy Donovan talk only in sexual euphamism. 

Extremely stereotyped characters--We thought of stereotypes, and then made the characters. This is emphasized by the fact that nobody is wearing normal clothes, and by names. The virginal good girl is Charity Conscience, slutty girl is named Lotus. Rebel Donovan wears a leather jacket, comedic relief Egmont wears an oversized t-shirt with a cartoon character, smart Rachel wears essentially a school uniform, jock Brad wears a school sweatshirt. The characters can only act within their stereotype. 

Terrible, terrible quality footage. We filmed this in artificial lighting overhead lighting and night vision. With a camcorder. Nuff said. 
The continuity problems are endless, and all the time in the background you can see tripods and assistant directors (myself,) and shadows of people that aren't there. The special effects are pretty  bad, the weapons are (almost? oops?) all plastic, you can't see anything in the night scenes. 
It's hilarious. It makes the movie fun and playful. 

Sex and drugs...sex sex, and drugs.....: We kind of actually fail at this category, but thats because we were filming with our friends, who were mostly under the age of fifteen. We couldn't really have nudity, we definitely couldn't have sex, we could barely imply drugs. Like i said, they constantly talk about sex, but there is no actual physical contact. Lotus does some cuddling, and at one point kisses another character (i won't give spoilers,) but the sex scene literally consists of two characters sitting multiple feet apart from each other, with "implied" sex about to happen. We do have nudity though! Full frontal..above the waist...male nudity! But it's pretty random. And a shower scene, so...
Don't judge us. We were sophomores.
Did i just justify not having an element in the movie that would have been gratuitous and lowered the quality?

Pretty terrible writing: It was very intentional to base this movie off of the formula. But it gets tiring. We came up with a big back story, and it didn't come through very much in the plot, so a deus ex machina comes in three quarters of the way through the movie and just explains everything. Characters provide helpful exposition at random times: "Your sister's dead. Now you have no one to take care of you .You were a mistake!" ..."even if you did make out with your lab partner in the janitor's closet..." "you know Lotus and Donovan dated freshmen year..." "mary jane, that girl you used to have dance class with was killed!" It's not subtle, but it's in there. There is complexity behind the weird plot holes. 

Don't i recognize..?Guess how many of our characters have played a lead in a school play since then? Three. Thats right. We are a jumping off point. 

Quoteable quotes: We have a lot of these. Jock saying "the best defense is a good offense!" is pretty fantastic, as well as "there's no way I've been hanging out with a bunch of homosexuals..." Zane's "I have to get this blood off of me!" is classic, Lotus's cherry lollipops...the list goes on. Cheesy films=quoteable quotes. 


Low budget: No budget. 
Really, really good intentions: This film is backed by brilliance. Each character has a complex back story leading to why they act the way they do, including the mysterious, totally random killer. Every rip off from every other slasher movie is a direct reference on purpose to honor our precedents. Each bit of satire is not meant to be stupid, but clever. 
Nobody else gets it, really, but it's brilliant. Pure brilliance, and I know it's there and I love it to death.
Also, a lot of unintentional things come out of our opportunistic cinematography. Donovan and Rachels' character foil and her eventual motivation is preceded by a lot of two shots of them, as well as their matching costumes (what!? why didn't we do that on purpose!?). Also the paralells to our lives now, but you all don't care about that.
Who am i kidding, only people who were in the movie will read this...
Filmed in a weird setting or situation: This movie was four months in production, from conception to premiere. We filmed from six to eleven for two nights in between doing a history project and going to dances. 

So do we qualify to be the next cult hit? I hope so. Getting in Trouble is bad enough to be mocked profusely but also good enough that it's more funny than brain melting. It's justifiable. It's art. 

And as much as i may say bad things about it, it really is a short film i would watch and enjoy. Like i said before, i love it to death, right down to our lack of ability to include background information and Donovan's dorky sneakers (Zoe's only regret.) And someday, I hope that we've all grown unrecognizeable enough to put it on the internet. 

Does anybody mind if i share the trailer? 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Did I just send this to a college? Lolwat?

 Please take note that I penned this short essay after writing another essay, which I also submitted, about the fact that one of my favorite aspects of the school was the drug/alcohol awareness program. 
The question: Please share something about yourself that you have not addressed in your Common Application and which may not be revealed in a recommendation.
            This is embarrassing. This is something that I subconsciously tried to avoid in my Common Application. But I trust you, [potentially my first choice school,] to hear my small confession.
            I love slasher movies. Not in a visceral way, not for the monsters, not for the suspense and fear, but because I think these films represent our society at the most basic form and therefore the creative things that directors do with them most simply represent what we fear in society at the time they are made. They are not bloody gore fests for low budget, low quality teenagers to enjoy—they are in fact subtly veiled morality tales, warning us against sin and ill in society.
            I spend a lot of my time watching these low budget, low quality films, and then analyzing them on my blog about scary stories and knitting.
            I have, in fact, co written and directed two extremely low budget, (no budget, one might say,) slasher films with my best friend, full of all the unconvincing special effects and terrible acting that one expects from such a film. They are formulaic, something that makes more high-brow film audiences see them as base, without intellect, solely based on the desires of audiences. But wasn’t Shakespeare a formula writer? Aren’t all films formulaic?
            My realizations about these particular films—Psycho all the way up to Paranormal Activity 2—are what led me to realize that, even with all of the humanities out there, I belong in the field of film studies.