A weekly film blog.
Each entry is 100 words long.
Mandy is a slog. But the right kind of slog. It is something like warm sludge. Thick and nauseating. I felt sort of sick for most of it. There is an ancient stone that summons motorcycle demons. But it is played slowly. There is a man with a knife for a penis. But he moves slowly. A chainsaw fight where every swing is heavy. Mandy is metal slowed down. Heavy, but full of precision. It is like a concert through the eyes of a guitar. A little long, maybe. But, then again, the fatigue might be the point. Also the chainsaws.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
When the puppets started fighting each other, we didn’t know what to do. It had started on set, the performers pitting the green alien Yoda against the lovable trash can that beeped. But at night, union janitors reported hearing voices coming from the soundstage. The puppets, uncontrolled, wrestling and thrashing each other. Seeming, at times, to hold each other. Each morning, they looked more disheveled. The last morning, we arrived on set to find R2D2 wearing Yoda over his head. We are not fighting, they said with one voice. We are becoming a new kind of film.
The film, The Mirror, is arriving. I can't say I understand it. It warps whenever I look at it. He wanted to make us a film that only referenced itself. An echo chamber. A woman levitating; a burning barn that sounds like rain. More than anything, it hypnotizes us. It hypnotizes us more than anything. A barn levitating; a woman that like burning rain sounds. A chambered echo. A film that wanted to make itself a reference to us. It looks at me warp when I'm at it. It understands. I can't say it. The Mirror is the film. Is arriving.
The Maltese Falcon
Sam Spade says when a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something. Sam Spade says he’ll send you to the chair. If you're nice, you'll get twenty years. If they hang you, he’ll remember you. Sam Spade says he wants the falcon. Sam Spade says he wants the two hundred dollars you owe him. Sam Spade says his drink was poisoned. Sam Spade says when a man's partner is killed, somebody — anybody — is supposed to do something. I watch the movie quietly. I talk to myself. I say, now maybe I love you and maybe you love me.
Wizard People, Dear Reader
So this one is not really a movie, but hear me out. It’s an audio track that an art student made in 2004 that is intended to be played over the entirety of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It is not an exaggeration to say this makes an entirely different movie. It is also not an exaggeration to say alchemy was never about gold. Once, I went into a room with a man I did not know and played this for him. Six years later, we came out of the room with coins falling out of our mouths.
My Neighbor Totoro
The first time you watch Totoro, you may notice that Totoro only appears when the children are dreaming. When they are asleep in the woods, afraid for their mother. You may think the children dream Totoro. However, that is not the whole dream.
For Totoro is also dreaming. And he is dreaming of the children. When they cry for their mother, Totoro wakes. When Totoro plants a tree and it grows to the size of a mountain, the ground wakes.
There are also spirits of dust that rise into the sky. It is not clear who is dreaming of them.
Before he went on to write the screenplay for Alien, Dan O’Bannon chased a beach ball for twenty straight minutes in John Carpenter’s first film. The beach ball is dressed up like an alien. Kind of. But it is more or less a beach boy with claws.
There is too much in this movie. A surfing astronaut, a stoned captain frozen in ice for a hundred years, a talking bomb that must be convinced it is real. It is like sleeping in a childhood basement. Packed with chords, objects, heat.
The beach ball has teeth. It murders the screenwriter slowly.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Laura Palmer is my hero. And not just because of her haircut. Though that, of course, is heroic.
It is because she is bursting joy and with anger. It is because she survives repeated assault and is still able to rescue her friend. I have come to think the movie tortures Laura too much. But the torture is familiar. In the final moments of the film, we see that Laura didn't die. Instead, she is alive, sobbing. Looking at what had, at one point, vanished from her painting.
Twenty-five years later, Laura opens her face. Suddenly, a column of light.
He says, Where we’re going we don’t need eyes. And I believe him. And so I take the eyeball and slice it in half. I’m blind now. But don't worry. The movie still works on it own. I can tell whats happening by the way that it sounds. How the actors scream at each other. What sweat builds up on my hands. I can tell what’s happening by the way I hear Sam Niell crying. The way Laurence Fishburn goes flying in space. By the way that I take the cold DVD and bury it, at night, in the yard.
When I first watched Persona, I had the volume turned down and spent the first fifteen minutes thinking it was a silent film. The first sequences — the one with Dracula, the Creature, the Wolfman, the eyeball split in half — thrilled me. The scenes in the hospital. The closeups on the lips. The dialogue between the two women. I watched, like a Chaplin, in silence. By the time I realized my TV was broken, I didn’t want to start it over.
I think this has something to do with Persona. Keeping the sound off. Preferring the film that you've learned.
One of my favorite props in film is the gun in Videodrome. Or rather, it is how the story of the gun is told. Early on in the film, James Woods acquires the gun. Like most action heroes, he holds it confidently. But then his chest opens. This opening, we can see, is a vagina. James Woods, to his horror, slowly puts the gun inside of himself. His chest closes. He can no longer find his gun. Later in the film, the gun pushes itself back into his hands. But it is changed. James Woods is killed by this gun.
Try it. If you’re having a bad day behave like Count Orlok. Be silent and tiny. Move your eyes before moving your head. Raise your hands and wiggle your fingers when you see something delicious. Move across the room, stiff legged. Wear a black gown so no one can see you glide perfectly on your muscular toes. Or better yet, on a bad day, behave like the filmmakers of Nosferatu. If life says you can’t make Dracula, make up a monster whose different. Who is exactly like Dracula but better. Who is a monster you can call all your own.
Paris is Burning
What makes Paris is Burning great is nothing I can say about it. Rather, the Queens can speak for themselves. Venus Xtravegaza, whose murder has still not been solved, says, "Touch this skin, darling." Dorien Corey, who died in 1998, says, "You’ve left the mark on the world if you just get through it. And a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues. And enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you."
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
When Werner took me to the cave, I thought we would see the ancient drawings, but instead the walls were empty. "They were just here yesterday," he stammered. "I remember them all." He fell on his knees. Wept. I consoled him. The next day when we returned, there was a single line on the cave wall. When we came back the next day, there were two. Each morning, a brand new line. The old drawings gone forever. The new drawings – somehow different. Larger. More frightening. We came back each morning to see them. To find out what they would say.
The Innocents might be my favorite exorcism film, wherein an exorcism does not take place. The children, we’re told, are possessed. Though it is unclear by who. And we are never entirely sure of their powers, if any, beyond the magic that children have to remind us of loss. We are unsure, of course, if the children are possessed, but that is beside the point. At the end, when the narrator looks down at the boy, a man we cannot see raises one hand into the air. It cuts to black. The Innocents does not end. It is exhumed.
The Return of the King
When I saw my brother get married, his face was partially obscured by a chuppah. I think in a way, weddings are celebrations that our friends have achieved deeper privacies than we will ever know them by. They are still open, still loving. But there are parts we can no longer see. Every year I watch these same movies over and over. They end with a character slipping out of sight. Another one, his best friend, closing a door. Is it too much to say I love because I cannot see them? I love them because I cannot see them.
The Two Towers
I take long walks looking for antlers. In the summer night, I look for animal bones that have been carved into horns. I don’t find them, but I like to look anyways. My neighborhood seems more quiet since I decided to move from it. I worry how much I'm going to miss it.
I love The Two Towers. I watch it at least once a year. I love the others too. But The Two Towers has more things to capture and to keep with me. A horse running across a field. A broken doorway. A funeral held in a river.
The Fellowship of the Ring
I like to eat in the company of my friends. I don’t always like to cook. But I like to eat. Sweet bread; apples; wine. Once, I cried because a friend bought me ramen when I didn’t have money to eat. Potatoes; red onion; more wine. Once, I cried because I had dinner after my brother was married. It costs almost too much to love our loved ones. Though I think it costs less after we've eaten. I love these three movies. Sometimes I think they are about stepping outside after a long dinner indoors. The cold air. A coat.
Some facts about Akira while there is time: Akira was created with 24 frames per second, almost twice as many as the average Disney movie. Akira was the first anime to record voice acting before beginning animation. Akira is the only movie about psychic teenagers and giant flesh babies that I will cry at. Akira is about the atomic bomb and the opioid crisis in Japan and the sound motorcycles make when they crash into children. Akira is about Akira. Who is an infant, then a jar full of organs, then a ghost boy, an eyeball. And finally, a scream.
I came into the mansion scratching my fur. I was itchy that day. Full of bugs. It was June in LA and I still wasn't used to the heat. Besides, the feds were trying to repossess my Carolla and I couldn't allow it. After parking in the garage of the big abandoned place off the road, I adjusted my tail, thumped my chest, entered the place quietly. It was strange inside. Cluttered. Upstairs, I found a small open-faced coffin. Inside of it, there was a small human baby. I howled. Behind me, I heard the scream of a beautiful ape.
The Duke of Burgundy
First, find a body that is dry. Preferably one that has had no visible damage on either of its wings. Place the body in a tupperware container with three to four damp paper towels covering the bottom. Let it sit for 48 hours. Be gentle. After two nights, see if the wings move when you tenderly apply pressure to the thorax. If they flutter jarringly, you will know they are ready. Press a pin through the head of it. Be careful not damage the antennae. Spread the body on a styrofoam surface. Flatten the extensions. Pin it however you'd like.
North by Northwest
I think what interests me most about North by Northwest, Hitchcock's fantasy film, is how effortlessly Cary Grant gives over to the movie. Yes, he is a baffled salesman at first. Unequipped. But as soon as the plot arrives, he does what is demanded of him; becoming, without complaint, an international spy. It's a dangerous fantasy. The kind that ends on top of Mount Rushmore. Many don’t know this but Mount Rushmore was abandoned before completion. It was blasted illegally into a sacred hill. The mountain was thought, when they built it, extremely unstable. Ready, at any moment, to collapse.
Lord, let me go to airplane heaven when I die. Not people heaven where everyone’s sad. I want airplane heaven where everyone is in their cockpits and flying upwards between sets of blue clouds. Piercing them. Not jumping on them. Striking them through like with our weight.
Porco Rosso is, among other things, about death. Specifically, what kind of death we choose for ourselves early on in our lives. At times, the choice can be easy. Passion or boredom. Other times, it can be hard. Fascism or the control of the body.
"I'd rather be a pig than a fascist."
Killer of Sheep
There is a scene where Stan and Eugene must carry the car engine down a tight set of stairs. The way is narrow. The engine — heavy. I hate to watch it. Knowing the essential car part will somehow break before it reaches the truck. Knowing it will explode or combust, and be taunted by the boy in the dog mask who appears intermittently, something like the Duck Hunt dog, to laugh at how Stan the butcher is poor. This is a film about black poverty in LA. Even when the engine arrives unharmed, it still will not start the truck.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
The only future I want to believe in is the one that Bill and Ted travel to. A crystal room made of pink foam and cardboard, lit with soft purple lights. A rock ballad by Robbi Robb plays. Three future actors float, each with future sunglasses. They look solemn, play air guitars. Its a dumb future, but an excellent one. One in which you can see the spraypaint on the sets. The boom in the shot. The wiggling strings holding up the performers. "They want us to say something.” Bill says. “What should we say?" Ted answers, "Make something up."
The best part about Babe is the robot dogs. By this I mean how the dogs are often filmed. When the camera cuts away and then returns. And the mother dog becomes, briefly, a robot. I think this is like alchemy. The robot dog as my favorite kind of magician. The second best part of the movie is when Farmer Cromwell wants Babe to be happy — this is after Babe learns that animals can be eaten — and so, in order to cheer up Babe, Farmer Cromwell dances. This movie is about ritual magic. The spell is to treat others well.
The End of Evangelion
This one is about loneliness, yes. But it is also about the anxiety of having a body. How we desire to be rid of it and also to escape where being rid of it takes us. When the purple robot descends into the giant naked space woman's forehead and then emerges from her eyeball, I think this has something to do with watching a woman die when I am twelve years old. And how badly I wanted to live. And also to escape that I had seen it. The robot is incredibly strong and frightening. Its name is Unit I.
In one of the only promotions for Eraserhead upon its release, David Lynch is seated on a couch with five stuffed Woody Woodpeckers. At the time he is 31, with one son. He introduces the dolls as his “boys.” They are named Chucko, Buster, Pete, Bob, and Dan. He thanks the audience at the Nuart Theatre for supporting his film. Eraserhead is, among other things, about the fear of failing as a father and also about how far a symbol can be examined before we must forgive ourselves for dismembering it. The woodpecker dolls, after this, are never seen again.
The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
I want to avoid my problems the way Sinbad avoids the claymation Cyclops. He stands, gorgeous, in front of the Cyclops on a hilltop. And the Cyclops — somehow — moves through Sinbad, falls to his death. It does not matter that later there is a second claymation Cyclops — this one is killed by a claymation Dragon — it is only important that by standing in front of it, gorgeous, the great towering Cyclops passes through Sinbad, falling to his death. There is also a claymation Snake Woman in this movie, and a claymation Two-Headed Bird. I do not wish to avoid them.
2001: A Space Odyssey
When we launched the first monkey into space, he came back blind, speaking only in omens. At first it said small prophecies: lottery numbers, horoscopes that didn’t came true. But gradually he began to speak with authority. "America will get to the moon first," the monkey declared. Which, of course, we liked to hear. "A princess will die in a car crash." Which yes, was sad, but it wasn't our princess. However, when he sat up and declared that Stanley Kubrick would never win an Oscar, we cried. Howled. He would not budge. We shot the monkey back into space.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Due to the lack of visible gore in the film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was originally submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America aiming to receive a PG rating. Instead, the film received an X rating, one of the first. The Motion Picture Association concluded that being made to imagine gore was worse than the actual presence of it. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, by comparison, received a PG rating in 1984. Almost everyone who has seen the movie remembers the gore. Almost no one remembers that the main character of the movie, due to her resilience, survives.
The dog sits in his kennel looking at the new dog. Then the new dog opens. Then the new dog continues to open. He opens until he is ten times what a dog should be, with ten dogheads and ten doglegs coming out in ten places. It is clear by now that the new dog is The Thing. And that what The Thing is is multiple dogs pushed together. We may try to fight it with a flamethrower. But then The Thing becomes multiple flamethrowers. Kurt Russell is great in The Thing. At the end, he is not The Thing.
In Tarkovksy's Stalker, there is a man going down a hallway. The man is called Writer. He is not the main character of the film. That is Stalker, whose daughter is called Little Monkey, and who warns Professor not to answer the phone. The man going down the hallway is instead a sound that echoes in the hallway. He moves slowly and does not know he is loud, like a new piece of music. Tarkovksy's Stalker ends when Little Monkey knocks a large cup off of a table while Ode to Joy plays. The cup does not echo at all.