Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Survey – Lily or Morticia

I posted the following on Facebook the other day:

It was a whim, after my friend Aurora had posted a bunch of pictures for both The Addams Family and The Munsters. I didn't give it much thought. Just thought it was funny and added some text to a picture stolen from a Google image search. From the first comment on though, I realized that there was way more going on here.

Going on looks alone, I'd say they're pretty evenly matched. In my mind, Morticia has a better body, but Lily, a better face. Take into account personality, I'd say Morticia wins hands down. Gomez and Morticia were obviously doing it, whereas Lily and Herman were pretty darn asexual. I mean, seems like after they had Butch Patrick, they were like, "Yeah, we're done now."

But is that really Lily's fault? 

I mean Gomez obviously knew how to please a woman. But Herman? Despite my belief that he would have had an enormous schwanstucker, he was probably a bad lay. Is that Lily's fault? What if Lily had married Gomez? She might have been every bit the sexual being that Morticia was? Lily might have been a dynamo with a white-striped hoochie? How hot would that be? 

The more I think about it the more I think it is exactly the same question as Ginger or Mary Ann. Do you want the innocent girl next door (Lily/Mary Ann) or the hottie who's been around the block a few times (Morticia/Ginger). In all honesty, I don't know whether I could make that call. Being a man, I'd really want to have them both. But speaking from my own life, my wife, Mary, despite talking a good game when were dating, was definitely more of the girl next door type. We just had our 25th anniversary this year and had been going together for about four or five years before that. 

I guess that tilts the scale over to Lily. And going all Gomez on her in hopes that the carpet matches the drapes.

Possibly, I'm taking this a bit too seriously. I'll stop now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ukuleles, Insomnia, and Halloween

About two months ago, I bought a ukulele, and I've been trying to teach myself to play it with marginal success, using books, online videos and tablature sites, etc. I think the biggest problem I am having is finding middle ground between really simple songs that are pretty easy to play and sound okay and stuff that is difficult to play, but sounds way cool. 

I mostly want to learn instrumental stuff, especially themes from movies and TV, because you don't need to sing, and they are instantly recognizable. The big problem is they can be unforgiving. You mess up a little bit, and it really throws it off. Thus, back to my original problem, playing simple easy-to-play melodies with single notes and stuff that is so far over my head that I don't even want to attempt it. So every night I sit there watching TV, alternating among playing the songs I can already fudge my way through, trying to find new stuff online, and retrying stuff I've already found in hopes that maybe I'm enough better to handle it.

This brings me to last night. Previously, I had run across the theme from Halloween, and listening to it, it was fast and sounded too tough. Well, I gave it another try and despite being fast, it wasn't that bad. It's basically the same three notes played over and over and moved up and down. Later, after The Daily Show and Colbert Report, I couldn't go to sleep. 

I hate that, lying in bed trying to get to sleep, and I think maybe I should just get up. Maybe, I could play a little. That wouldn't be creepy at all. Dead of night, dark house, only sound is the theme for Halloween played on ukulele. Poorly. Punctuated with ocasional swearing. And, "Where did I put my mask and butcher knife."

Perhaps, I've said too much.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead

This may end up being a fairly short review, because I really don't want to do any spoilers. I know I always say that, but this time I'm sticking to my guns, or in this case bloody hammer. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is the sequel to Dead Snow, a Norwegian zombie movie. Now, Dead Snow was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but for the most part it is a just an over-the-top zombie movie. What made it unique was the Nazis. I mean if zombies are awesome, Nazi zombies are, umm, what's better than awesome.

I saw Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead in an encore screening as part of the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. Going in, all I knew about it was the title. From the Red vs Dead, I figured it would be, Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies. How awesome would that be? So in the couple of days leading up to it, what was going through my mind was:

Please let it be Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies.
Please let it be Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies.
Please let it be Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies.
Please let it be Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies.
Please let it be Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies.

Well, it did not disappoint, and to be honest if all it was was Commie zombies vs Nazi zombies, I would have been happy. Oh, but it was so much more than that. Miguel Rodriguez who organized Horrible Imaginings Festival said that it was like they took the first movie and turned it up to 11. That's pretty accurate.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead starts pretty much immediately after the Dead Snow. There is a brief recap of the first movie, so if you haven't seen the first film, you'll be up-to-speed by the time the second movie starts. 

Now, I'm not what you would call a zombie purist. I figure the mythology of the modern zombie film, goes back to Night of the Living Dead (1968). Any mythology that was created in my lifetime is fair game. I am fine with zombies being the result of a curse. I am fine with them being the result of an infection. I'm okay with slow moving zombies. I'm not real crazy about fast-moving zombies, but that's mostly because they freak me out. Admittedly, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead does take some liberties, but in my mind, I'm okay with it because they are doing it to serve the story.

I don't know what else I can say about it without giving away too much, except that the story was for lack of a better word, clever. For example, something happens fairly early in the film that was very funny, and I would have expected it to be a throw-away gag. It turns out it was a plot point the drove the entire film. In fact, the film would have fallen apart without it. You see, clever. Plus, it had the best use in intestines ever. It surprised me, in a good way. 

I'll close with my 14-year-old daughter Jasmine's review. We have been watching a lot of movies together lately, and she has this way of describing a movie in about 10 words in a way that is both funny and insightful. Her reaction:

Pure genius, but what did I just see and why?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Tingler

In honor of it being October, I am going to review my all-time favorite horror movie, The Tingler (1959), starring Vincent Price. Producer/director William Castle was known for the gimmicks associated with his horror films, and The Tingler had possibly the best of them all. When released, larger theaters were outfitted with buzzers, which caused certain seats in the theater to vibrate when the monster, the tingler, was supposedly loose in the theater.

This review does contain mild spoilers, but bear in mind that the plot of The Tingler is laughably stupid, so there really isn't that much to spoil. Vincent Price plays a pathologist. While performing an autopsy on a prisoner executed in the electric chair, he notices that something had caused the prisoner's vertebrae to crack, a phenomenon he had seen before. He surmises that when a person is in complete terror, a force within the body is unleashed along the spine. This is what causes the hair on the back of your neck to stand up when you are frightened. This force is dubbed the tingler, and it can only be kept at bay when the person in question screams. Well, it turns out if a person is unable to scream, the tingler can actually leave the body and cause all sorts of mayhem.

There are a number of things that make the The Tingler great:

  • The film opens with a disclaimer with the feel of a 1950s educational film. William Castle warns that people in the audience may feel a strange sensation, and that some will feel it stronger than others, but all will feel it to some degree, and when you do feel it, you just need to scream. It may just save your life.
  • The film is shot in black and white, all except for one scene, where really lurid color is used to great effect. Even now, I still find this scene incredibly creepy.
  • The Tingler is also the first depiction of LSD in a major motion picture. Vincent Price's character takes it to induce a state of terror in order to study the tingler. Writer  of The Tingler Robb White had experimented with LSD at UCLA after hearing about it from Aldous Huxley. In 1959 when the film was made, Timothy Leary hadn't even begun to experiment with the drug. Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was published almost a full decade after The Tingler was made.
  • The tingler itself is this worm-looking creature, basically a big rubber centipede that is pulled along the floor with most of the time visible strings. But what is kind of cool about it is that this it had such an effect on works that followed:
Alien from The Hidden (1987)
Neural parasite from Star Trek TNG, "Conspiracy"
 (Season 1, Episode 24, 1988)
The tingler
Medical scan of neural parasite from "Conspiracy"
X-ray Vincent Price makes of the tingler
Any of these things taken by themselves would make The Tingler worth watching, but for me, what makes The Tingler work is that Castle and in particular Vincent Price treat it completely straight. Rather than being camp and going for laughs, they completely sell it. Don't get me wrong, camp is fun. I love camp, but camp works because it embraces the schlockiness.

The Tingler works not because it is a bad idea, but because it never acknowledges its badness. It is the perfect example of a really stupid idea executed absolutely as well as possibly could be. They don't just hit the nail on the head. They knock it out of the park. They hit it so hard it went into orbit and gave Sputnik a run for its money.

Monday, October 6, 2014

µBlog – Psycho, So Much Better on the Big Screen

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

Tonight I Psycho on the big screen for the first time, and it was so good. Now, I have always acknowledged that Psycho is a great film, but for me, I always put it fairly low on my list of top Hitchcock films, and it really came down to one thing, the lack of humor. 

Tonight I discovered that it's not that there is no humor in Psycho, it's just that the humor doesn't translate very well to the small screen, at least, not like many other Hitchcock films. But in a dark theater with dozens of total strangers, it has some good laughs. Very dark humor most of it, but not nonexistent, like had previously thought. The guy who is buying the house with the cash the Janet Leigh steals is quite funny. I really may need to rethink my top Hitchcock films.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

2015 TCM Classic Film Festival Pool

With the announcement this week of the dates of the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), March 25-29, 2015, there has been a lot of excitement about the upcoming Festival. At this point, there isn't much to go on, just the dates, hotels, a vague date for the ticket sale (Nov. 2014), and most importantly the theme for the 2015 TCMFF, History According to Hollywood.

At this point in the game, not a lot of go on, but the theme, History According to Hollywood, is enough to start speculating on, and I figure why not make a game out of it. Thus, I present the 2015 TCMFF Pool. Just pick 10 films you think they will be showing at the Festival. 

As a prize, I would like to offer a bottle of Humphrey Bogart Gin, but since that is not yet available, I can't say for sure that will happen. Humphrey Bogart Gin is scheduled to go on sale later this year. I'm going to say, if I can lay my hands on a bottle for less than $200, that will be the prize. If not, it will be something else, but it will be good.

As an alternate for people who do not drink, I am offering a signed and numbered (6/40) print from artist, Jim Silke, of Myrna Loy.

Official rules

I would like to restrict this to people who plan to attend the 2015 TCMFF, so the prize can be presented at the Festival. If the winning entry cannot attend for some reason I will make arrangements to get the prize to the winner some other way, but bear in mind that you can't really ship liquids or alcohol. To enter, you must post a comment to this blog entry, stating your 10 films. All entries must be posted by 12 am November 1 (Midnight, Halloween night), US Pacific time or whenever TCM makes the first announcement containing titles of films to be shown at the TCMFF, whichever comes later:

  • If TCM announces film titles before the end of October, entries must be posted by Midnight Halloween (any films revealed at this time considered a gimme and will be accepted)
  • If TCM announces film titles after the end of October, entries must be posted before this announcement is made. I will use my discretion on whether or not to allow entries made on the same day as the announcement
Any entries that contain more than 10 films will be considered invalid. Any entries that contain less than 10 films will be considered valid. In either case, I will attempt to contact the entrant to correct the mistake. No promises here. Only one entry per person. Films do not need to be related to the History According to Hollywood theme. If the film has been remade and you specify the year, only the version from that year counts. For remakes with different titles, the title specified is the one that counts. The winner will be the entry with the most correct films.

I will keep a running tab of who is leading in the pool. Normally, TCM announces just a handful of films at about the time tickets go on sale. Then announce more films over subsequent months, until the final schedule is announced in the few weeks before TCMFF. Once the final schedule is announced, the winner can be determined.

My entry is given below. Yes, I am playing too. If I win, I'm drinking the gin. In the case of a tie, I will exclude myself if I am involved in the tie and the winner among the tied entries will be the first posted tied entry.
  • Casablanca
  • The Gold Rush
  • History of the World Part 1
  • Spartacus
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Sound of Music
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Sergeant Rutledge
  • North By Northwest
  • Ben Hur (1925)

Good luck, everyone.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

µBlog – TCM Classic Film Festival Dates Announced, Woohoo

µBlog – Too long to tweet, too short to call a real post

So my twitter feed was all, well, a-twitter today with the announcement of the dates for the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival, March 26-29, 2015. Woohoo! And Do'oh! For me, the timing could be better. You see, I do volunteer work for Wonder Con, April 3-5, back-to-back weekends. Once again, I will do four days of running around, too little sleep, too much drink, then back to work for a couple of days, and then do the same thing all over again. Oh well, you can sleep when you're dead. Could be worse, they could be both the same weekend. 

Anyway, very psyched and already booked a hotel despite tickets not going on sale for another month.

Go here for details on the TCM Classic Film Festival.