What Wednesday #7

Today I watch some old as crap movies with the Criterion Collection–a Hitchcock war propaganda film, two of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen, and the most terrifying movie you ever saw as a kid (no, not The Brave Little Toaster).

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What Wednesday is where I talk about what I’m watching, reading, playing, listening to, because for some reason I think that might interest you. Today I watch some old as crap movies with the Criterion Collection–a Hitchcock war propaganda film, two of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen, and the most terrifying movie you ever saw as a kid (no, not The Brave Little Toaster).

What I’m Watching: Old as crap movies. And lots of them. I love a good old movie. It’s a perfect time capsule of that time period’s fears, morals, values. What were the 90s if not a really extended version of Clueless. One of my favorite ways to watch old movies is with the Criterion Collection, a lovingly curated collection of historically and artistically significant movies; aka old and artsy fartsy. (Though it has plenty that are neither–like the high art classic Armageddon!) I got Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war film Paths of Glory for Christmas a couple years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The collection is a great mix of under appreciated gems and beloved classics, and each movie comes excellently packaged, with stellar original art and in-depth special features. During the month of July, Barnes and Noble takes 50% off all of their Criterion movies, so I indulged my inner-collector nerd and picked up 4 new ones: a couple of horror classics I’ve never seen, a lesser known movie from the thriller master, and a kids animated movie that terrified the crap out of me as a kid…and as an adult.

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Eraserhead, directed by David Lynch (1977): Let’s get this one out of the way first: WWHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAA??? Whoa boy, was I not ready for this thing. I like Twin Peaks, but I’ve never watched one of David Lynch’s films, so I had no idea what to expect. Eraserhead is about as indescribable a film as I’ve ever seen. It has no solid plot; no solid, definable characters; no solid anything, really. Just lots of moodiness, like a cracked out Terrence Malick horror movie. That said…I don’t think I actually hated it. Well, I don’t know how I feel exactly, which is probably what the movie is going for anyways. The music is pretty awesome, though. Some Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor stuff right there.

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Foreign Correspondentdirected by Alfred Hitchcock (1940): A fairly by the book political thriller with a few memorable scenesForeign Correspondent usually doesn’t make the list of classic Hitchcock films, but it still has its share of Hitchcockian flair. Besides having one of the first filmed examples of enhanced torture techniques (i.e. bright lights, sleep deprivation, loud music), it’s mainly notable for being a 100% legit propaganda piece: released shortly before America entered World War II, it not so subtly argued that Americans could no longer stay on the sidelines. At that time, the Defense Department was literally telling Hollywood the kinds of movies they should make and what they could say about the war. Foreign Correspondent was less overt than most, but even so, an impassioned “we must fight!” speech was added at the last minute to the end of the movie. To its credit, the rest of the movie is more entertaining and less preachy. As a Hitchcock film, it’s slightly above average; as a propaganda film from the early 40s, it’s pretty darned good.

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Watership Down, directed by Martin Rosen (1978): If you like your kids movies bloody, depressing, and dripping with political and social commentary, Watership Down is your movie. If you saw it as a kid, you either vividly remember the intense violence and death, or you suppressed the movie deep within your subconscious so you wouldn’t have nightmares the rest of your life. Childhood trauma aside, the film, like the book it’s based on, is incredibly well done, emotionally dense, and a powerful allegory for freedom in the face of tyranny. So like a good Ayn Rand. And while the topics it tackles are heavy, it’s done in a way that is very respectful to children. I’ve never seen a kids movie that handles death in such a healthy way. I mean, it ends *spoiler* with the death of the main character on screen, but without either being totally depressing or unrealistically happy. That’s a hell of a trick to land.

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Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg (1983): Though Eraserhead caught me off guard, this one didn’t. I knew going in what I was getting with a Cronenberg movie: gross out body horror with a cynical message. And that’s exactly what I got with Videodrome: a freaky horror movie with intense scenes of violence and torture, coupled with some trenchant insight on mass media and control. It’s impressive how well this movie and its effects hold up over 30 years later, as well as some of its predictions, like the rise of reality TV and our own digital identities. If you can cope with the freaky stuff, it’s well worth a watch.

What Wednesday #5

Today I catch all the haters, watch a farting Harry Potter, and listen to an 18 minute punk song on my sweet new record player.

What Wednesday is where I talk about what I’m watching, reading, playing, listening to, etc. Today I catch all the haters, watch a farting Harry Potter, and listen to an 18 minute punk song on my sweet new record player.

What I’m Playing: Pokémon Go To continue last week’s theme of adults enjoying things made for kids, let’s talk about the fun new game everyone’s playing, Pokémon Go! Well, I haven’t played it (yet–though I will eventually because I am an alive human), but I just wanted to hop up on my soapbox for a second. *Ahem* Newton’s Third Law of Popular Things: anything that gets lots of love will also create an equal and opposite amount of hate. Selfie sticks. The ice bucket challenge. Dabbing. All were eventually deemed by Serious People as “no fun at all” and “I don’t get it” and “back in my day we hated everything but McCarthyism.” And now, after less than a week, it’s starting to happen with Pokémon Go. From it being disrespectful, to totally pointless, to serious societal danger. Listen, if it’s a problem that too many kids are walking around outside, in (mostly) public locations, the problem lies with society itself, not the game. You know the saying: don’t hate the game, hate the lack of trust between members of a community that contributes to the continued decay of safety for everyone. Or something.

Now that we’re talking about it, I seem to remember another popular video game from when I was growing up in the 90s that had the social ills of that time put upon it…Mortaaal Kommmbbat!! This isn’t even the first time Nintendo‘s crazy popularity has collectively freaked out the nation: they rustled so many jimmies back in the days of the Super Nintendo, parents started therapy groups to combat Nintendo-mania!

What I’m Watching: Swiss Army Man My friend James asked me to go see this strange movie last week, and what a wonderful man date movie it was! I hardly knew anything about it–other than it starred Daniel Radcliffe and the greatest actor of my generation,  Paul Danoand since it’s even harder to describe after seeing it, you should just go in blind and experience it for yourself. I’ll only say that it’s like Castaway, if Wilson was a dead Harry Potter who farts. A lot. James says it’s “like Castaway meets Weekend at Bernie’s meets K-Pax.” How can you not want to see that?!

What I’m Listening To: NOFX, “The Decline” Helped a friend move, friend lends me an 18 minute punk rock song exploring American politics and the country’s decline. I’ll take that trade. NOFX is a legendary punk band from the 80s and 90s, and this song is a beast of a thing: prog rock through a punk rock filter, with lyrics that alternate between profound and absurd. I always appreciate exploring new parts of music history that I missed out on. But really, it just gave me an excuse to put my new record player through its paces. Its lovely, lovely paces.

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