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Aug. 10th, 2016

bewildered

PROFESSOR ABRONSIUS'S GARLIC-INFUSED MID-SUMMER BACK-TO-SCHOOL QUIZ

Here are my answers to the current movie quiz on Dennis Cozzalio’s Sergio Leonie and the Infield Fly Rule Blog. Follow either of those links and play along!

1) Name the last 10 movies you've seen, either theatrically or at home
Red Dust. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window & Disappeared. Inside Out. Kim. Straight Out of Compton. Sinister 2. Bone Tomahawk. Topkapi. The Walk. Mistress America.


2) Favorite movie feast
The eating scene in “Tom Jones.”

3) Dial M for Murder (1954) or Rear Window (1954)?
Dude. Rear Window!!

4) Favorite song or individual performance from a concert film
Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” in “Follow the Boys.”

Excluding another film from the same director, if you were programming a double feature what would you pair with:

5) Alex Cox's Straight to Hell (1986)? Hellzapoppin’ (1941)
6) Benjamin Christensen's Haxan: Witchcraft Throughout the Ages (1922)? Naked Lunch (1991)
7) Federico Fellini's I vitteloni (1953)? Barbershop (2002)
8) Vincente Minnelli's The Long, Long Trailer (1953)? Vanishing Point (1971)
9) Sam Peckinpah's The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)? Strange Days (1995)
10) George Englund's Zachariah (1971)? Bedazzled (1967)

I programmed these double features as if I were actually programming these double features. All my picks have something in common with the movies they’ve been paired with, but mostly I wanted two movies that complimented each other and provided a contrast. I would sit through all these double bills. Well, not The Long Long Trailer or Zachariah. If the rules permitted I would stick them on a double bill by themselves and not watch it. But the rules do not permit that.
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Jul. 20th, 2016

bewildered

Stuff Falling Apart, Chapter 87

My bathtub drain was clogged again and my landlady sent over the plumber to deal with the carrot cube. It always turns out to be a carrot cube. The plumber spent half an hour snaking the bathtub drain with something that looked like a steam-punk ray gun and sounded like the part of the David Cronenberg movie where I go “O holy shit” and head to the kitchen to get another can of Diet Pepsi. Anyway, the drain was good to go shortly and I moved onto the next issue, which was an Internet connection that gets wonky whenever the sky is overcast. I suggested to the young lady in Tech Support that this might be an outside wire problem of some sort and she didn’t believe me but sent over a guy to check it out anyway. The guy told me the issue was that they were sending me too much speed. If I told them to send me less speed, my connection would seem faster. I said I didn’t really follow this, unless by ‘speed’ he meant amphetamines, but he assured me that if I called Verizon and said to slow down my connection, everything would be fine. “Part of the problem is you’re so far away from the main building,” he said. “What ‘main building’?” I said. He shrugged. He had done all he could do. Lord only knows how many morons like me he deals with every day. His patience was commendable. Fortunately (at least from the internet connection angle) it has been a dry summer with mostly sunny skies.

May. 24th, 2016

bewildered

Burt Kwouk R.I.P.

The actor Burt Kwouk died today at the age of 85. He was probably best known for playing Inspector Clouseau’s ‘manservant,’ Cato, in the Pink Panther movies. He would attack the Inspector apropos of nothing (once from a refrigerator) and grapple with him until the phone rang and he would calmly answer, “Inspector Clouseau’s residence.” It was a terrific running gag that lasted for 5 or 6 movies over the course of 15 years. But he was in a lot of other movies both before and after that…

I was at NYU when the Pink Panther series was revived after a nearly decade-long hiatus and one afternoon some of my fellow students were in the Weinstein Hall cafeteria, speculating about the true identity of Burt Kwouk a.k.a. Cato.

Burt Kwouk was the true identity of Burt Kwouk, but in those pre-iPhone, pre-Wikipedia, pre-YouTube days, good information about stupid pointless shit was much more difficult to obtain and you were often forced to speculate in order to keep the conversation going.

CARL: You know, I’d been under the impression it was Bruce Lee, but…

JOEL: Yeah, ‘but’ indeed.

CARL: …But the new movie is definitely the same guy, and it ain’t Bruce.

STEVEN: It’s a lookalike. It was Bruce in Shot in the Dark, and they got a lookalike for the new movie.

JOEL: Is it ‘Kwoke’ or ‘Kweek’?

STEVEN: What? The made-up bullshit name? ‘Kwoke,’ I think.

CARL: Who’s the guy in Streetfighter? Did you guys see Streetfighter?

JOEL: Yeah. No, it’s not him.

CARL: Not the street fighter per se, but I think he’s one of the other guys.

ME: Are you gonna finish that Jell-o?

STEVEN: Yes I am. I’m not even sure it’s a real Japanese guy. Remember Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

JOEL: You think it’s Mickey Rooney? Because—

STEVEN: I’m just saying it’s not off the table. A Mickey Rooney-ish guy, I mean, a guy with that range, who can portray Japanese, American, whatever. Obviously Mickey himself is too old.

CARL: Obviously.

STEVEN: Stop looking at my Jell-o. Put the fucking fork down.

ME: I wasn’t…

GUY AT NEARBY TABLE IN AVIATOR FRAMES: It’s a real actor, he was in a couple of James Bond movies.

CARL [raised eyebrow]: A couple of James Bond movies.

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: Yup.

CARL: Which ones?

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: Goldfinger, and uh…

STEVEN [smirking]: Oh sure, I remember him. He played Odd Job. He just gained 150 pounds and grew six inches. Very versatile actor… [Winks broadly]

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: He didn’t play Odd Job. He’s in, I think, Casino Royale, too.

CARL: Of course. The James Bond movie that isn’t even a real James Bond movie.

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: What does that have to do—

JOEL: Yeah, yeah. Nice try, Captain Bullshit.

ME: Wait. Is he the Chinese guy who sells Goldfinger the atom bomb??

AVIATOR FRAMES GUY: Bingo. Yes.

CARL: “Bingo. Yes.” Jesus.

JOEL: Are you two jerk offs in cahoots??

ME: No, but I remember there’s this other Chinese guy in—

CARL: Gentlemen, I would say he’s just pulling that out of his ass, but nobody has an ass that deep.

**

As excellent as Carl’s insult was—and I was conscious of its excellence even then, all too conscious—I hope I don’t need to tell my regular readers that I came up with a totally crushing rejoinder. In fact I came up with three.

The first one occurred to me less than a week later while I was buying a soda at the candy stand at Variety Photoplays on Third Avenue. I rejected it as being a trifle too obvious.

A far superior one came to me around 1993, when I was changing the belt on the roll machine at the bakery. Then just after the turn of the millennium, I thought of an even better one. Absolutely killer.

Next time I see that goddamn Carl, I’m ready.

May. 14th, 2016

bewildered

Guy on Cell Phone outside the Post Office, May 14, 2016, 9:50 AM

“…Well, he lives in a friggin’ swamp! An’ everything he owns smells like, like he lives in a friggin’ swamp! …I dunno know the name of the SWAMP. A…a cat’s got a name, you can put it right on the dish. Not a swamp.”

May. 10th, 2016

bewildered

After the Carnival

Carnival of Souls really puzzled me when I first saw it on TV at the age of, let’s say, 9. It wasn’t scary but it was creepy. It had ghouls, or zombies, or something, but it was hard to figure out what their agenda was. This was kind of fascinating but it was, weirdly, no fun. I sensed there were things happening that I didn’t understand, and I also sensed that I didn’t understand them because I was a kid. Despite all its gaucheries (and they were pretty clear to me even then), I could tell this was an adult movie. I kept watching anyway. On the off chance you haven’t seen it, or read about it, let me do a *spoiler alert* here. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to know what’s going on, although if you’re not a 9 year old kid in 1964 you’re going to figure it out in about 5 minutes.

The main character is dead and doesn’t know it, and sometimes people interact with her and sometimes they can’t even see her, and her sense of isolation and loneliness is what gives this 78 minute, micro budget B & W movie most of its power.

The director, Herk Harvey, made educational films and industrial safety shorts (“Shake Hands with Danger,” for instance, which has an excellent theme song) for a mid-western company called Centron. This was his only feature, made for 33K in the course of three weeks in 1961, released (without a copyright notice, placing it automatically into the public domain) on the bottom half of a double bill* in 1962, and then sold to TV immediately. Harvey continued working for Centron for another couple of decades but never made another feature.

Although he tried. He got one into production in the late sixties, The Reluctant Witch, adapted by fellow Kansan James E. Gunn from his own Galaxy short story. It began filming and then things fell apart, as they often do. I didn’t know about this until a few days ago, when David Cairns mentioned it in the course of a post about the new Criterion Collection Blue Ray edition of Carnival, which includes a video essay by Cairns.

He also mentioned that the rushes from Witch are available on the Internet Archive.

!!!

That would be this, and there’s an hour of it. It’s exciting because nobody (well, me) knew it existed, but it’s raw footage, not color-corrected or balanced or edited, and there’s no sound, and a lot of it seems to be test footage or b-roll.

I found a YouTube edit  putting 5 minutes worth of the material in some sort of continuity. It’s the same raw footage, but a lot less of it. Some music from Carnival is pressed into service as a soundtrack. Otherwise, it’s still silent, not color corrected or light balanced, etc., which is to say the image quality is awful. And of course it’s not Harvey’s edit. The fight at the gas station looks like it might have been potentially cool, given the camera placement when those guys come boiling out the door. The thing is, there’s no way to be certain Harvey would have used any of these shots in the film. Some of it could have been intended to run under the credits, some of it might have been deemed unusable for one reason or another, etc. Although I’m grateful for the existence of this edit, I don’t think it does Herk Harvey’s reputation any favors.

On the other hand, it did generate some new info: From the comments on the YouTube page: “I can't believe you have this footage! That professor is my father, Leonard Schneider. He was working for Centron as well, at the time, as a director and writer. They had him play the lead in this unfinished film, along with Jennifer Salt (later of Soap**).” (I didn’t spot Jennifer in the edit or in the raw footage).

This isn’t exactly the original version of Magnificent Ambersons or the complete Greed or even the missing giant spider scene from the 1933 King Kong. But this is what we got.

_________________________________

The story it was based on—“The Reluctant Witch,” (also known as “Wherever You May Be”) by James E. Gunn—was adapted by the radio show X Minus One, and the episode can be streamed or downloaded as an mp3 on this page. (It’s really not fair to judge the story on the basis of a radio adaptation, especially one with an oboe going “Wah-WAH” every time the hero realizes he’s in trouble, but still.)

The Internet Archive hosts Carnival of Souls here for streaming or download. It’s not a terrible print but it’s not great, either. They have a better-looking copy here. This is the theatrical release version and it’s 5 or 6 minutes shorter. And you can find some other prints as well as a bunch of Herk’s safety films on this page (including “Shake Hands with Danger”!)

* Top half: The Devil’s Messenger, a Swedish crap-fest cobbled together from three episodes of an ersatz Twilight Zone show, with Lon Chaney Jr. spliced in at more or less random intervals. He plays The Devil. Don’t even ask.

** If the film was really shot in the late sixties (and it sure looks like it), she would already have appeared in a couple of early Brian DePalma movies and possibly Midnight Cowboy. She’s currently the co-exec. producer & sometime writer of American Horror Story.

May. 5th, 2016

bewildered

Crisp

The Softsoap dispenser on my bathroom sink is filled with “Crisp Cucumber & Melon” scented Softsoap. I like the way it smells, but I just this morning noticed that “crisp” and it’s really bugging me. Why would ‘crisp’ be a selling point for a smell? The soap has no ‘snap’ to it. Are they just going for the alliteration? Is ‘crisp’ an alternative to the way-overused ‘fresh’? Probably ‘yes’ on both, but I’m still bugged. I’m washing my hands and thinking, “I’m washing my hands with ‘crisp’ soap.”

I have a bar of Irish Spring my daughter gave me for Fathers Day a few years back. I could use that, I guess, but then I would be thinking “I’m washing my hands with a bar of Irish Spring that my daughter got me for Fathers Day.”

May. 3rd, 2016

bewildered

Cow Scampi

There are 50 or so cows on the farm and they wander about at will. Certain cows have discovered wild garlic, and this has affected their milk. You may remember the science class assignment where you were instructed to put a chunk of garlic between your toes for a few hours before bedtime, and cometh the dawn you had garlic breath. Works with milk, too. Geoff and Elizabeth were sent out on a search-and-destroy mission and dug out quite a lot of wild garlic (which looks like thick coarse grass). Most of the milk is back to normal now, but some of the cows seem to have a secret stash of garlic and creep away to nibble on it when everyone is occupied, like junior high girls sneaking a smoke in the rest room during lunch period.

I can imagine a cheese that might be enhanced by a soupcon of garlic, and in fact such cheeses exist, but the garlic is usually introduced into the process post bovine. You want to be the one controlling the amount of garlic in the cheese, not a cow on a toot.
 

Apr. 27th, 2016

bewildered

Rain Cow

As we move more deeply into spring, we change our hats, and this has upset the cows.

Lindsey switched from a woolen cap to a baseball cap a couple of weeks ago and two of the cows had to be comforted* before they would allow themselves to be milked. It was explained to me that cows like things to be exactly the same every day. Lindsey’s (pink) baseball cap rocked their world, but not in the good way.

Well, wait, I said. Doesn’t Lindsey wear different clothes every day?

Yes, but the cows understand that part of Lindsey is inconstant, the way they understand that the truck is sometimes parked over here and sometimes over there. Lindsey’s woolen cap was thought to be a constant, like Lindsey’s nose or the tree next to the chicken house. And now the woolen cap is GONE, and this other THING is there. It’s a world gone mad.

In a couple of days the cows were more or less settled down, but they still sneak worried looks at Lindsey’s baseball cap when they think no one is watching them.

* You don’t wanna know

Apr. 25th, 2016

bewildered

Rogue Carrot

Regular readers of this space are aware that my peerless meatloaf recipe calls for half a little can of either mixed vegetables or peas & carrots. Because I mix my ingredients with enthusiasm, a fragment or this, or a morsel of that, ends up in the sink from time to time. This is not a problem, 99% of the time, because I own a sponge and a sink strainer.

The thing with the sink strainer: when I pour hot water in the sink, it shuts down. The rubber stopper or whatever it is seals off the drain without my having done anything to facilitate it shutting down. Maybe the heat makes the rubber swell up. Anyway, if the water is above room temperature, removing the sink strainer is the only way I’m going to get rid of the water.

So the sink strainer was out when a little cube of carrot shot into the sink, and it went down the drain, and blah blah blah, super delicious meatloaf, blah blah blah, and the next morning while I was making coffee the sink drain made an uncharacteristic ‘blurp’ sound, and the morning after that my kitchen sink drain, my bathroom sink drain, and my bathtub drain all went ‘blurp’ simultaneously and no longer deserved to be called drains. Three stopped drains.

I did all the stuff you do with stopped drains short of calling my landlady, which I was hesitant about because she’d had a plumber unclog my drain maybe three weeks ago. The problem there was the Milford water supply having a very high something-or-other content, which results in calcium build up in the pipes. The something-or-other is probably calcium, now that I think about it. Anyway, it takes longer than three weeks for it to build up and it probably wouldn’t stop all three drains at once. I was pretty sure the issue was the little chunk of carrot, which (I was certain) had somehow migrated to a bottleneck in the plumbing. I felt that if I used enough Draino, or some other horrible shit, I could dissolve it.

I would not have been so sanguine if I’d chopped up a raw carrot for the meatloaf, but this was a cooked carrot out of a can and was the carrot equivalent of one of those Walking Dead zombies that died back in season one and is all corroded and gross, and you can knock its head off with a soft ball bat even if you are a chick, assuming you have decent upper body strength. And if you’ve made it to season 6, let’s face it, you probably have.

I spent two days attempting to burn away the carrot with Draino, and then I said, well, okay, nothing’s happening here. The carrot wins. Call landlady in the morning.

On the other hand: One of the problems with my bathtub is the crappy drain, which allows water to slowly leak and curtails my tub time. I like 40 minutes, minimum, which gives me time to absorb the soothing Epsom salts and return phone calls from producers and agents and elite fan club members. However the drain would usually make this untenable at around 25 minutes.

But—not an issue with the drain completely stopped up! So I filled up the tub, lolled around, and digging the mellow sounds of “Bossa Novaville: Ultra-Lounge volume 14.” After about 15 minutes, the drain went “Blurp! Blurp!” and I was suddenly sitting in an empty tub, albeit one with a functional drain. I grabbed a functional towel and checked the other drains, which were now also in working order.

The carrot did not win after all.

There are a couple of recent poems by me in the new issue of Poetry Pacific, which has an online presence, so you can read ‘em right here. Two points if you can identify the two one-line TCM movie descriptions in “Lease Breaking Party.”

Apr. 12th, 2016

bewildered

The Josh Raby Story

At April 10th, at 1 AM, a guy named Josh Raby in Nashville went to McDonalds to get a milkshake. That’s all I know about Josh Raby. I wouldn’t even know that, but when he concluded his milkshake run, he wrote about it in a series of 25 or 30 tweets that went viral. His milkshake run made the news as far away as South Africa. McDonalds is reviewing security footage. There are now “Milkshake Truthers.” Here is his story, pasted in from his Twitter Feed (@JoshRaby) exactly as it appeared:

‘It’s 1AM and I decided I wanted a milkshake. So there’s a McDonald’s near my house. I’m greeted at the drive thru by the following sentence:
                       
“Hey holy shit hello, you are at McDonald’s, and I am begging your patience.”

There are no other cars here, by the way. I’m caught off guard so I mumble “Um, ok you can have it.” The voice comes back: “Praise you.”

So I sit for a minute, then he finally returns and says “please tell me your order” So I say “milkshake” I don’t know why that’s all I said

“I’ll need a minute”, he replies. I realize I did not describe my desired milkshake in any way so I yell “I need to tell you what kind.”

He is gone for several minutes. When he returns he says flatly “we aren’t going to be able to do the milkshake. I do have many apple pies.”

Do not ask me why I did this but the next words out of my mouth were “Are you ok”

“I am not ok. Would you please tell me your order so I can try to punch it in? I will be very slow, but I will get it.”

I tell him not to worry, I am not upset, and at this point for some reason I order a chicken sandwich

My chicken sandwich order confuses him. Several minutes are spent repeating what I want on it, watching the screen as he tries over and over

At one point I guess he gave up because the screen just went black for a while.

I hear a deep exhale.

“Dude I lost my wife”.

“I’m sorry, man, I-”

“Please describe your chicken sandwich to me again so I can succeed at one thing.”

Anyway he finally gets it and then says “I really do feel bad about the milkshake situation. Can I sell you an apple pie?”

“Fine. I will buy an apple pie.”

“Apple pies are cheaper than milkshakes anyway.”

“Ok, thanks”

Then there is a weird series of beeps and when his voice comes back in he is fucking SCREAMING into his headset: “I FOUND HER! THANK GOD!”

“What? Who did you find?”

“MY WIFE. SHE WAS WATCHING ME FROM BEHIND THE BOXES!”

At this point I have ordered a chicken sandwich I do not want and an apple pie I do not want and no milkshake and I’ve been here 22 minutes

“Can you give me my total” I say because honestly I don’t know if I want to understand his marriage or if I even could and I just want to go

So he says “your total is 8 HOLD ON my wife is here and she wants me to tell you she will sell you 2 apple pies at a discount”

“What is the discount?”

“2 apple pies for only 2 dollars. You should take it.”

(Note: One apple pie is $1.19)

“Give me the extra pie”

“She says thank you”

“Tell her I said no problem”

Why am I talking to his wife like this why

I pull around and they are fucking making out in the window and he has his thumb out like he is aware I will be driving up to this

Both of these people are in their mid-40s

They unstick themselves from one another and I hand him my card “sorry about this. I haven’t worked at McDonald’s in 16 years” he says

I say “it’s fine” to which he says “FINE just stands for FUCKED UP, INSECURE, NEUROTIC, and ERROR-PRONE”

His wife cackles and says “I knew that when I was 13, get with it, man!”

I have been here 37 minutes.

So listen I get my card and drive ahead to the next window and THERE IS A WHOLE SEPARATE FUCKING HUMAN AT THAT WINDOW

He hands me my bag, leans out the window and says “you get to drive away” then promptly shuts the window and sits on a stool, head in hands

My chicken sandwich was wrong, by the way’

*

I was going to present this without comment, but as I was typing it out, Rabe tweeted that he has been contacted by McDonalds—not the McDonalds down the block, McDONALDS—and tomorrow, Wed. the 13th, they are picking him up in a limo to give him the Ultimate Drive-Thru Experience.

“I have been assured I will receive a  milk shake,” he says.

 

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