Tuesday, March 8, 2011


These are fun and I wanted to share them:

This is like hangman, but instead of just guessing a word, you guess the title of a movie with the hint as an iconic object from that movie. It's brilliant. Unfortunately, you can only play it once. You aren't timed, so think hard. You will have many aha moments.


This is hilarious. The Spanish chatter stops around 0:50.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

You're Jammin' my Frequencies-Poltergeist and Ronald Regan

I have a confession to make.

I am in love with Zelda Rubenstein

This Zelda Rubenstein
I recently watched Poltergeist for the first time. Until now, I've kind of written it off as a quirky, fun family horror movie where there are some spooky ghosts in a house with some cute little kids. A Halloween movie. Fun, cute, but not fantastic. Cheesy. Certainly not scary. 
I was pretty incredibly incorrect. This movie is very, very scary. It's a little strange that Tobe Hooper's other most famous film is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I'm pretty sure is widely considered to be the most gory and inappropriate of the classic slasher films. They play Poltergeist on ABC Family. It's rated PG, for goodness sake.

Honestly, I think this is a pretty brilliant move on Hooper's part--there's no real nudity, only one incidence of the "s" word, an I guess because there's no direct human-on-human violence, it somehow gets away with this rating. Because, for the first half of the movie, it has that happy, family feel that Stephen Spielberg (writer and producer,) is so apparently good at capturing, it can play to the target audience of that film--then BAM! Scary time!

Brilliance. Pure unadulterated scare the pants off of children brilliance. And I hate children, so I love scaring them. The fact that the scary part opens with a tree coming into the kids' window is so terryifyingly wonderful, and certainly intentional--what are kids in 1982 more afraid of than the creepy tree outside their window?

There were parts in this movie that legitimately freaked me out. It is cheesey--a result of its time, I think, more than anything else. It fell victim to the terrible effects available in 1982, but considering how bad it could have been...it's ok. And again, some parts were really very creepy. Like the following, which I literally had to turn away from because it was so disturbing and went on for so long:
PG rating, you guys...

Or this thoroughly creepy scene, which occurs after JoBeth Williams (pictured) gets a nice implied rape from an invisible spirit:

Even better than the horror in this movie, though, is the hilarious satire that makes up the beginning of the movie--which ends up being relevant to the horror as well. The whole movie is mocking American suburbia--from the starting notes of the national anthem that we hear in the first shots of the film, to the degradation of the family as the spirits take over their house--a house that is, of course, the basis of their entire family structure. The father, played by Craig Nelson, is a real estate agent for a suburban development in California in which he lives--and where his home is ground zero, if you will. The satire that comes from this is subtle enough that, I believe, millions of happy families were tricked into believing this was just a nice film about them--"satire" or "humor" is not listed in the genre notes on Netflix, nor is it mentioned in the summaries or FAQ's on IMDB. I thought the jokes were hilarious, and I noticed a lot of them, but they were often subtle or visual.
For instance!
 In the scene where the poltergeist first shows itself, the last shot is of the kitchen chairs stacked precariously on the table--which then fades to an empty table in the same room, and zooms out so we see that the father is showing another identical house to an old couple. In an earlier scene, the father argues with the neighbor over TV channels--because the families have the same remote control, they can control each other's televisions. ...More on the importance of TV in this movie later. Then of course, there was my personal favorite visual joke about suburbia, the new right, and how silly California is:
As the mom laughs over her small box of marijuana. Just say no!

It also mocks how suburbia feels about and treats death, which ends up being an incredibly important set up for the rest of the movie. One of the first scenes shows Heather O'Rourke walking in on her mother as she goes to flush the recently dead canary. ("Oh shit, Tweety, couldn't you have died on a school day?"). When the family goes to dig in their backyard to build an in-ground pool, we see the shoe-box coffin of the dead bird being carelessly shoveled away with the dirt.

Little do they know! (SPOILERS). After the infestation of ghosties and beasties has begun, we witness a conversation between the father and his boss, the CEO of the development company, offering the father a promotion and a bigger house on the hill. Neilson looks behind the hill where they are standing, indicating and expansive graveyard--"Not much room for a pool..."
It is at this crucial point that it is revealed how the development company builds their neighborhoods so cheaply--they build them in places where graveyards used to be. The new neighborhood, for which the family's new house will, again, be "Phase one," is built over a graveyard, as well as the neighborhood where the film takes place. The father is concerned about this, but the CEO is not, and reassuringly utters some famous last words--
"Nobody has ever complained before."
It doesn't take an above average analyst to realize that this is the root of the problem--the poltergeists in the house clearly are the unhappy spirits of those buried under the suburbs, entering into hyper perfect American life to take revenge on American progress by attacking the most important part of it--the family.

Or, wait a minute. Although they do capture the young daughter, their real target is the house. The mother of the family, a stay at home soccer mom who spends all of her time taking care of the kids, is deeply upset by this, and through the film and the beyond-the-grave kidnapping of her daughter, she undergoes a transformation and rebirth, and, very obviously, emerges from some yonic imagery covered in gloop. The father, however, does not under go this rebirth and replaced importance on family. He is, arguably, the center of the humanized American-ness in the film--as we movie into the eighties,  the new right is taking over and the ERA and the sexual revolution of the previous decades fade into the background. So is it the father who the spirits are really attacking? Stealing the daughter is possibly just a side effect of their true victim--the house. The father's life centers around the house, it is not only his home but his entire source of income and a symbol of his manhood. So while it seems that the center of the suburban family structure is, well, the family, it is in fact the house itself--materialism!

And what better way to enter that house, that pure symbol of American suburbia, which is in a development full of identical abodes, the perfect symbol of Californian ridiculousness, than through the essence and symbol of Western progress, a virtual tangible synechdoche for the American Way of Life--the television. 

I was going to stop there, but lets keep this going! Let us take a step back from the movie--literally. Imagine that you are sitting in your house, sometime in October, and the film in question is playing on ABC family, as it does every year, as part of their thirteen nights of Halloween gimmick. The camera of your mind, your visual screenshot, is focused on the TV, but let's say it starts zooming out--and there you are, in your house (the symbol of your fathers manhood and ability to provide for his family,) enjoying the mostly uncensored entertainment really only available in the West in such a form, on the American Family channel--perhaps it is at this point that you realize the magic of Tobe Hooper and Stephen Spielberg--Poltergeist, like so many films, has become a mirror of its audience. You are watching television if you are watching this movie! The visual and auditory information of Poltergeist is invading your mind like so many little angry spirits, and perhaps the scary pictures will prevent you from sleeping to well, or perhaps your brain will be invaded with the social commentary!

Mind. Blown. 
Zelda Rubenstein!!

This house has been cleaned!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


My mother should know better than to mention vintage dresses available for my use at eleven thirty on a Wednesday night....

Ohhh yeah

I've heard a lot about this dress--it's one of the favorites that my mother ever wore. We were talking about it this evening (for some reason? Tafetta came up?) and she mentioned, even though I was already making a prom dress, that she and the other bridesmaids who wore this at a wedding had picked out the dress thinking of what it could be used for in the future. 

It is a beautiful dress, and was especially in the eighties--it's a lovely iridescent blue with a triangley waist and a very full skirt. The bodice fits me perfectly. The sleeves, as you can see, are a little ridiculous...but I was given permission to fix them.

Time for an all night sewing fest.

(But first, a bit of irony. Yesterday we recieved the invitation for the second marriage of the man whose first wedding my mom wore this dress too...what? Crazy coincidence.)

Anyways, luckily, the ridiculous sleeves were already on their way out.
That is, indeed, my beautifully manicured thumb...
Pretty much all I had to do was take my handy dandy seam ripper and take those babies off. It was quite nervewracking, taking a seam ripper to a dress that was at one time very expensive...but I did it. For a good cause. My mom gave me permission (though I do worry she will regret it come morning...)

Even more luck came my way regarding the sleeves!

Remember those ridiculous bows on the side? Perhaps you didn't notice. Let me refresh your memory:

Fortunately! They were just strips of fabric sewn on rather flimsily, and I was, again, with the help of my handy dandy seam ripper, able to remove them and turn them into..straps!!

Now, I may take of the bottom, non poofy part of the sleeves and attach them, because I love the idea of a prom dress with sleeves, especially for a girl my size. If you google "prom dress with sleeves," there are approximately .5 results, and any results you do find are only at plus size stores, because apparently the only reason not to expose as much of your skin is possible is if you don't fit societally laudable weight standards...

...Anyways!! Here's the result of my evening labor:
C'est bonne? I like it, it makes me feel very Victorian and elegant. The whole thing needs a little ironing, and I need to find the right sized crioline to put under it, but I think it's a go for prom, aka the only excuse in most people's lives to wear a formal gown besides a wedding. The dress I was making was sophisticated, but not quite over-the-top enough for prom. There's a certain amount of leeway you get as an eighteen year old at an outdated, stereotypical, coming-of-age formal, and I would like to take full advantage of that by wearing a beautiful, but slightly satirical, poofy iridescent dress. Also, my presumed date and I will have been dating for three years at that point, so it's not as if I'm trying to woo anyone...meaning, I can basically wear whatever I want. Nobody to impress here. I will save the classy, red-carpet-esque dresses for professional formals and dinners where I need to make a good impression on potential employers or something. Prom is an opportunity to be a little bit ridiculous. 

Opinions on the gown, s'il vous plait....

Warning: Here are some pictures of me modeling a taffeta sleeve from the eighties as a silly hat.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Just in case...here's where I get pictures.




Possession: the most fun a religious person can have...?

Today I am feeling POSSESSED to blog about religious horror films. Screw carpal tunnel and my missing wrist brace and my refusal to get tested for arthritis...I've got stuff to say.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching a fantastic religious horror film, Stigmata, directed by Rupert Wainwright. For those of you who aren't weirdly into religion (by which I mean, fascinated by religion in a nerdy way, not in a evangelical way,) stigmata is the name of the phenomenon where a deeply faithful person suddenly erupts in all of the wounds of Jesus.
Like, as a reward...from Jesus..because he loves you so much...

Like any good religious horror flick, the plot of this movie deals with the constant battle between faith and science, and it does it quite effectively. Our main man is a organic chemist-turned-priest who goes around the world trying to assign scientific explanations for miracles. Of course, being stigmatic is a miracle (fun stuff?) so he ends up going to our main lady, Frankie...(?) and trying to scientifically explain her random flesh wounds. Of course, Frankie isn't faithful at all, but in fact a self proclaimed atheist...plot ensues.

It appears that this movie was clearly made by folks who believe in God--the message seems to be that faith (even spirituality, dare I say it?) is an important part of life, whether or not it is necessarily, scientifically true.

Fascinatingly! While this movie certainly has its Gody message to give to us, it's main idea is that the organized church is, for the most part, an ineffective and corrupt vessel for Godliness and faith to be brought to humans. Woah! My mind was blown by the fact that this movie was aware of that. On the one hand, we have Frankie, as a pretty moral-lacking, uneducated twenty something in Pittsburg, clearly in need of some direction in her life (at least, it's portrayed that way...lots of partying, etc. The movie is actually complex enough to portray that her lifestyle choice is her own and that it's wrong to judge, but still have the implication that it's not fantastic.) On the other hand, we have the church repressing history and real religious texts in order to stay in power and get what they want, as well as a criticism of fanatical, literal Christianity--the idea of "Jesus on toast," etc, is taken down pretty early on in the film with organic-chemist/priests scientific explanations.

The other thing I found interesting was how similar the symptoms are when you're possessed by the devil as opposed to possessed by Jesus. Frankie speaks in tongues, has little conniptions, moves around in terrifying ways, adopts a predatory male voice, etc....all of those lovely things we saw in the Exorcist.

Pretty similar....
We've got the eyes rolling back...

The weird flying thing...the list could go on if I felt like taking more screen shots. 

I was quite intrigued by this--how could it be the same thing, essentially, to be possessed by two completely opposite things?

Of course--(we've been talking about binarisms in English class...get ready for some rantin'), I know that Jesus and the devil are not opposite things. One cannot exist without the other, and Jesus had to do some pretty devilish things before he figured out how to be...well, Jesus.

Another very un-Jesus like thing that Frankie does while possessed is to try her (his?) very hardest to seduce a priest...

Come on now, lets not do this...God will strike you down...!
Movie actually does a very clever job of explaining this, as well as the demon/Jesus possession similarities, by saying that people who are close enough to Jesus to experience stigmata are also closer and more open to demons and temptations gettin' in there and infecting their souls and stuff. Is that true, in religious lore? Who knows. But Movie says it is.
God will still strike you down and eat your face off!!
The movie pays some well-deserved homage to the real, historical Jesus, because about halfway through the film it is discovered that the tongues Frankie was speaking in and the words she wrote on the wall were the same words that were in a secret Gospel, that was thought to be the "secret sayings" of Legit Jesus.

Legit Jesus? 
Allegedly, the papacy says that these scrolls are heresy, further blocking out "real" faith and "real" belief in Jesus and his words. The last twenty minutes or so of the movie actually focuses on this issue, and the conflict between the lower levels of the church (priests who are actually scientists and scholars) want to translate and be aware of these words, and the upper levels want to keep them as confidential as possible. If you have crazy possessed young adults running around and writing them on stuff, that's hard to do.

The movie then ends with a little description of what went down with the actual scrolls, which I described before, which is interesting, but also adds a weird tone of propaganda to the whole film. I, personally, hate religious propaganda, so at first I was a bit turned off by this, but since it's propaganda for historical research and against the church, I felt better about it. 

Also, it would probably be worth it anyways, because this movie has some fantastic 90's style surrealism. Very impressive cinematography...a lot of lights and darks, some cool special effects, etc. It depends a lot on close-ups to emphasize thematic elements and to set the mood, which makes it seem a little dizzying (appropriate, since Frankie is having seizures pretty much constantly in the movie,) and trippy. Very 90's, but actually in a good way. 

High recommend this movie for your vacation viewing experience, or for anytime you feel like getting a little bit of church-bashing in to your day...add The Exorcist, The Omen, or Rosemary's Baby for extra fun!

Seriously, though, if Jesus actually looked like Christian Bale then I'd probably convert to Christianity right now. 
[Stigmata is owned by MGM, The Exorcist is owned by WB, and Mary, Mother of Jesus is owned by Hallmark.]