Saturday, August 1, 2015

Rowdy Roddy Piper Merges With The Infinite

just look at that magnificent bastard

Working a crowd isn't easy, especially doing so as the bad guy.  But, man, somehow Rowdy Roddy Piper became not the villain people loved to hate - people just plain ol' loved him.

I don't follow wrestling now at all, and my window of interest when I was a kid was pretty narrow, so my viewership occurred primarily during that early 1980's window where the WWF was suddenly everywhere, and you had colorful characters like Jimmy "SuperFly" Snuka, George "The Animal" Steele, Mr. Fuji, the Iron Shiek, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.

At age 8, I liked it a lot.  The plots were straightforward.  Mean Gene Okerlund had a cool, dry wit we all admired, and it was a lot like watching live-action comics, but only as complicated as the Hostess ads.  There were good guys and bad guys, and sometimes they switched.

Among the wrestlers I liked, I counted Rowdy Roddy Piper.  That guy had moxie.  He was hilarious, he didn't take anyone seriously, and he was just fun to watch.  I just assumed because I liked him he was a good guy who happened to talk trash or something.  He had a kilt, bagpipes, and a mouth that didn't really stop.  But, no, he was a bad guy.

In fact, his gig was more or less that he was the biggest SOB in wrestling, pretty keen with an insult or gag or low-blow.  All with a cocksure attitude backed up with wins, and a fanbase that adored the act.  The clips you watch now are, uh... un-PC, to put it mildly.  But he didn't need to be un-PC, he just needed to be a needling jerk.

In fact, he's been voted the best "heel" in wrestling multiple times.

That, my friends, is the sort of life goal I aspire to.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Noir Watch: Conflict (1945)

No one is going to accuse Conflict (1945) of being my new favorite movie.

It played a few weeks ago on TCM's Summer of Darkness, and I recorded it as I always like Sydney Greenstreet, but hadn't seen (or heard of) this movie.

As host Eddie Muller explained prior to the film, the movie disappeared in part because it's not a film in which Bogart plays the hero, even if he is the focal character and, in that way, the protagonist.  But he's a protagonist who has fallen out of love with his, admittedly not-terribly-fun wife and in love with her sister (played by Alexis Smith).

In order to clear the way to the sister, Bogart works out a pretty good plan to murder his wife (I mean, credit where it's due) while everyone believes he's not even ambulatory thanks to a car wreck.  From here, things get messier and messier, despite the fact that the entire movie feels like one long, telegraphed, inevitable conclusion.

Greenstreet actually plays a nice guy, so while I was delighted to see him...  you know, it's not going to be anyone's favorite Sydney Greenstreet performance.

Not exactly a forgettable movie, but one that feels well worn, plot wise, and certainly lacking in tension both due to the inevitable ending and because... really...  like a lot of movies, they sort of missed the whole element of people acting like people.   Though someone's wife and sister is missing, no one grieves, particularly.  No one is inconsolable and out of their minds.  Instead, they take a jaunty trips to the country and go out for nights on the town.   I dunno.  I don't need gnashing of teeth, but it almost seems like everything after the action of this movie and the horror Alexis Smith's character will feel upon learning the motives for her sister's murder, should have been included.

It's so weird that grieving rarely shows up on film in any significant way in so many movies, both then and now.  But especially in a movie shot during a war.

I do like the windy plotting and Bogart is actually very on point in his acting here (he's so much a presence, sometimes I forget the man actually can act).  But, Alexis Smith doesn't do much but look pretty, and everything else just feels like snapped in parts of a build-it-yourself plot and movie.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Birthday to Arnie

Today actor, politician, barbarian, adultery enthusiast and former-Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger turns 68.

Let's hope he runs over a cake with his tank.

Sadly, this is not a new Calvin and Hobbes strip

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip on

Can someone please confirm that this is all new?

edit:  In a month when we got back Bloom County and with Watterson ghosting some Pearls Before Swine last year, literally anything seemed possible. It is now apparent this is not new Calvin and Hobbes.  As you were.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

80's Watch: Stripes (1981)

I didn't see Stripes in 1981 when I was six.  I know I was in middle school, and I'm pretty sure I watched this one sometime after my dad figured out I could watch an rated-R movie with him without blowing our cover when it came to the content of whatever it was we were watching.  After all, both of us knew The KareBear could be a little sensitive about language, violence and nudity in movies, and Stripes provides a bit of all of the above.

The movie is from an era in Hollywood when they were trying out these SNL alums as movie comedians and releasing the Second City performers into the wild.  It was also the era when female nudity made its way into movies in a big way, with a seeming prerequisite for many a comedy to include unnecessary shower scenes.

So, hats off to us, Dad, for silently agreeing to not discuss the many topless scenes in this movie with Mom.

Noir Watch: Double Indemnity (1944)

I've talked about Double Indemnity (1944) before, but I finally purchased the movie on BluRay thanks to a recent release that had a lot of participation from TCM and a short doc with Eddie Muller, James Ellroy and others all talking about the film.  And, it cost less than what it would have cost to go to the theater to see the movie when Fathom Events played it when I was in Chicago and couldn't go.

As the commentary on the BluRay sort of barks at you, Double Indemnity set the standard for noir, a form I think of as really cementing maybe 3-5 years later.  The form has its origins in both pulp magazines and adaptations of those stories on the big screen like The Maltese Falcon from 1941, but in comparison to even the crime movies of the 1930's and pre-Hays Code, it's just... different.  Just as comics had to adapt with the Comics Code Authority in place, and that took them down whole new avenues, I tend to think of a lot of the subtlety of noir stemming from the constrictions of the Hays Code era trying to make sense of post-Depression/ post-WWII life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dead Watch: Army of Darkness (1992)

The first time I saw Army of Darkness (1992) it was mostly context free.  My brother had seen Evil Dead 2, liked it, and said "oh, that Army of Darkness movie is the sequel.  Cool."  And that was all I knew.  And with all the knowledge I had about Evil Dead 2 stemming from the cardboard VHS tape cover and the name, I had assumed it was yet another monster-horror-straight-to-VHS movie of the era, and those weren't my thing.

But then some family friends came into town with their daughter who was in, like, 8th grade, and I was a senior in high school and I was told "take Amanda to a movie" because the adults wanted to talk and pretty clearly Amanda and I had nothing to say to each other.  So we drove over to the cineplex to see what was showing.  I don't recall if she had any opinion as to what we should see, and it's not too likely I cared if she did or not (I was 17 or 18).  Thus, I bought tickets for Army of Darkness, because it was showing and the dude on the poster had a chainsaw and was fighting skeletons or something, which seemed a good sign to me, at least.

For the run time of the movie, I laughed like a lunatic in a half-full theater populated with people who seemed pretty sure I was watching the wrong movie.  They were there to see a serious action-horror movie, and that seemed to be how they were taking it until, I'm not sure - maybe the "tiny Ashes" scene?

I loved every last minute of it.  But I also knew - this was not going to be a movie for everyone.

Shortly afterward, I wound up in college.  On my new dorm floor, I ran into some fellows I'd known from my first high school (I moved from Austin to Houston summer before my sophomore year in high school, hi Mike and JAL!), and - given the relationship I'd had with these guys the first go-round, in about thirty seconds of conversation, we learned we'd all seen and loved Army of Darkness.   I don't even know how it then spread around my floor Freshmen year, but pretty quickly everyone had seen it.  And at Halloween, UT had a showing of Evil Dead 2, which, clever me, I brought a date to see.  I'm pretty sure my enthusiasm about the movie didn't help, but my follow up of making her watch The House on Haunted Hill (the original, Vincent Price version) more or less killed any chances there.  All for the best, as Jamie has been a fan of much of Raimi's work and quietly just ignores most of the rest of my vintage horror thing.

Anyway, I'm in no way objective about Army of Darkness.  I don't know how you could be.  In the way of a pre-internet things-that-worked-for-a-small-audience, the fans are quietly cultish but give knowing nods.  Some of my greatest pleasure in the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies (two movies I still think do superheroing better than most of the last 15 years of superhero movies) is when you can see him deploy some of those same directing tricks you know from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness (the Dr. Octopus' arms come alive scene is just classic Raimi).

And as much as I like the Three Stooges pastiches, the wicked good camera work and editing, the melding of horror, comedy and cheese...  Man.  Who can you not like Bruce Campbell?  The man is a national treasure.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

80's Watch: Weird Science (1985)

Ah. John Hughes.  What exactly happened to you in high school, man?

What's weirdest, Mr. Hughes, is that it's the filter through which you experienced your formative years, applied to a very small handful of films, either created or so reflected a vision so all-consuming that its seemed to rewrite reality for your audience, leading decades of suburban kids to believe your movies have something, anything, to do with reality, and rewriting how movies and TV would portray high school, and allow all of us to cast ourselves as the outcast and the geek.  Hell, we all knew we were Cameron, not Ferris.  And that was the point.

Pretty clearly, Mr. Hughes, your perspective is that of a highly privileged suburban Chicagoan, something that is both incredibly specific and still enough part of fly-over country and enough a part of the generic American public school experience that we can't help but recognize the surroundings and relate a little when we see a gym with kids in PE dress-out uniforms* or the lockers along the hallway.  Even if the same public missed the point during those test screenings of Pretty in Pink and insisted on the wrong happy ending (which I imagine must have killed you inside, Mr. Hughes).   

Maybe in middle-school we believed it, but even by high school, we knew it was never as simple as the jock, the nerd, the princess, the criminal and the freak.