{fv_addthis}

Latest Blog Posts

by Bill Gibron

11 Apr 2009

To paraphrase a famous quote by one Homer J. Simpson, family is the cause of, and the solution for, all of life’s problems. Issues between parent and child, sibling and sibling, adults and children more or less rule and ruin our sense of self. One day, we’re happy go lucky. The next, we’re dealing with psychological trauma so deep seeded and scaring that it feels like it came directly from the darkest recesses of the womb. As a result, the problems between relatives and crazed kinfolk have sparked dozens of artistic sentiments, from sad songs and symphonies to comic/tragic motion pictures. As part of their seventh outing as humor independents, the gang at Cinematic Titanic have tapped into the bizarre Asian awkwardness of Blood of the Vampires. And as a subtext to their spoofing, the always plentiful wit centers around issues that run thicker than one’s own vein vermouth.

During a luxuriant party for neighbors and friends Don Enrique Escodero is taken ill. On his almost-death bed, he warns his two children, son Eduardo and daughter Leonore, that his will mandates the burning of the family home to the ground. Why? Well, you see, dad has a little secret that he intends to take to his grave. Apparently, the kid’s mother didn’t die as previously stated. No, she fell victim to a crazy curse which only affects the females of the clan. In fact, Don Enrique has the matriarch hidden in a secret basement crypt, living in a coffin. That’s right - Mom’s a vampire and Leonore is apparently destined to become one as well. As the two children try to appease the demands of their specific boy/girl friends, their mother gets loose and starts sucking on the citizenry. Before long, Eduardo and his honey are “infected”, and they intend to turn Lenore as well. Luckily, her main man Daniel is there to help, even from beyond the grave.

Like most movies made in a foreign land while relying on elements wholly Western and unnatural to their culture, Blood of the Vampires (a Philippine production meant to mimic early 20th century Mexico - no, really) is one mixed-up mess. From its hate crime like depiction of subservient slaves (nothing more than actors greased up with very bad - and very obvious - black face) to the weird folklore fashion vampirism is introduced (there’s no main ghoul, just a traditional ‘curse’ that seems to function whenever and however it wants to), director Gerardo de Leon and his capable cast think they’re making a standard cinematic melodrama. There’s so much hand wringing over who will and can get married, so much personal palpitation over the notion of Mom living like an animal in the basement that we hardly get any horror. Instead, there’s confrontation and conflict, but no creeps.

Perhaps the oddest aspect of the film is not the various side characters running around with fake fangs in their mouth. Nor is it the incredibly icky sequence where son Eduardo actually lets his Mammy sink her psycho teeth into his neck (incest never seemed so disgusting and unsavory). No, the real brain burner here is the prevalent, one could say overwhelming use of black face and racially insensitive make-up on various extras. Somehow, this movie got it into its thick little skull that turning all the servants into Al Jolson (sans Southern fried accent) was a brilliant bit of period piece recreation. Of course, how dressing actors up like chocolate covered versions of their Asian selves recalls Mexico 100 years ago is anyone’s guess. Still, Blood of the Vampires indulges in such ethnic slander openly and willfully. All needle incisors aside, it’s the film’s most unconscionable calculation.

Family and faux Africans therefore become the main focus for the always hilarious CT tribe. As with past installments in the DVD only series, we continue to get introductory material that explains away some of the concept’s premise. Clearly, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Mary Jo Pehl are part of some giant experiment to give children of the future riffed versions of every film ever made. Of course, while digital copies of the Godfather trilogy metaphysically merge and spoil in storage chambers (a classic opening gag), our heroes have to tolerate incredibly crappy films like Vampires. Elsewhere, the single “stop-gap” sketch features Weinstein brings out a bottle of booze - and Conniff breaking his 22 year old AA vows. In between is the classic comedy stylings that made Mystery Science and its various offshoots so gosh darn popular.

Indeed, the best thing about Cinematic Titanic, outside the abundant laughs, is the feeling of familiarity and the accomplishment that comes with skill. All of these performers are so expert in their craft, so freewheeling with their wit, that they can turn anything into a joke. And since much of this humor here centers on familial dysfunction, parent/child peculiarities, pre-marital strife and old world ritual, along with abundant hate crimes, there’s no lack of material for these masters. Indeed, one of the downsides to the Cinematic Titanic collection is that, outside of major studio support or distribution, self-financing and releasing equates with limited additional content. Here, a new feature (“Extras”) is actually nothing more than a collection of trailers that one can already access online. In addition, smaller budgets mean less room for sketches. Perhaps one day we will actually get to see the actual inside of the gang’s underground think tank.

Until then, as long as Hodgson and his pals have access to material and an outlet for it, Cinematic Titanic should do more than survive - it should thrive. Purists who pounce whenever one of their prized schlock sensations is giving the in-theater shaft should really just shut up. Sure, this may be the one and only time film fans see your fabled foreign neckbiters film starring overly tanned Philippinos playing superstitious Hispanics, but when the results are as reprehensible as Blood of the Vampires, your passion is definitely misplaced (this is, after all, a movie that lets the famous monsters walk around in the daylight and see themselves in the mirror). It’s very similar to the kind of uproar one experiences when family goes fetid for the sake of individual angst or anxiety. Such biological links indeed create both benefits and detriments. In the case of Cinematic Titanic, however, they’re nothing but fodder for genius. 

by Rob Horning

10 Apr 2009

This post (via 3QD) from Josh Tucker reminds that my reaction to new media like Twitter is often pretty parochial. I tend to imagine only Americans using it, and then only the sort of urban Americans who are invested in being part of the tech cognoscenti, the sort of people who need to crowdsource their afterparty plans. Tucker points out that Twitter works effectively as a low-cost walkie-talkie server for oppressed people/guerrilla groups organizing social protests.

The events unfolding in Moldova, however, suggest that internet-based social networking tools that were not even present during the original colored revolutions, such as Facebook and especially Twitter, may also be able to play a very valuable role in allowing even loosely organized opposition networks to coordinate protest activity. To the extent that a constant stream of Twitter posts increases any individual’s confidence that there will be more protestors in the street at a particular place at a particular point in time, it should also serve to lower the perceived costs of participation to potential protestors.

by PopMatters Staff

10 Apr 2009

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Last Chance Harvey. It’s easy to feel sorry for Dustin Hoffman. Gimme a break, I’m sleep deprived.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Max from Where the Wild Things Are. I love going places in my mind when given the chance… I have very vivid dreams on a consistent basis. I think this might be because I’m a light sleeper, so when i do get there I’m not too far from conscience.  Or maybe it’s because I eat a lot of dark chocolate.

3. The greatest album, ever?
Sgt. Peppers. My first experience with this album was my older brother’s copy on vinyl. I drew on it with a piece of chalk. In retrospect I knew for me it was going to be either visual arts or music or a combination of the two.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars. What more can I say?

5. Your ideal brain food?
Sushi. Raw protein on some sugary starch, mmm. Nozawa in Los Angeles is the best sushi in the western hemisphere.

by Jayson Harsin

10 Apr 2009

I like Mecanique Ondulatoire, the venue where I saw the ascendant fuzz rock royalty A Place to Bury Strangers, but by most standards – with just a 150-person capacity—it is too small for this band. (APTBS played Paris last November in the Nouveau Casino, a 400-person capacity venue.) Descending into its basement concert lair, the Mecanique Ondulatoire, with its arched form of huge sand-colored rectangular stones, looks like a medieval torture chamber. And with a sardine-packed sold out crowd inside, the venue is more a closed-off tunnel than a room.

 

by Colin McGuire

10 Apr 2009

One of my editors at the Sun-Times once asked me, “Roger, is it true that they used to let reporters smoke at their desks?” This wasn’t asked yesterday; it must have been ten years ago. I realized then, although I’m only writing about it now, that a lifestyle had disappeared. When I entered the business in the autumn of my 16th year, newspapering seemed the most romantic and exciting thing I could possibly do with my life. “But honey,” my mom said, “they don’t pay them anything.” Who cared? It involved knowing what was going on before anyone else did, and putting my byline on top of a story telling it to the world. “Roger Ebert” is only a name. “By Roger Ebert” are the three most magical words in the language, drawing my eye the same way a bulls-eye attracts an arrow.
In the way some kids might be awed by a youth gang, I was awed by admission to the fraternity of newspapers. I adopted the idealism and cynicism of the reporters I met there, spoke like they did, laughed at the same things, felt that I belonged. On Saturday nights about midnight at The News-Gazette, when we put the Sunday paper to bed, we gathered around the city desk, tired, released, and waited for the first papers to be brought upstairs. Ed Borman, the news editor was in the slot; Bill Schmelzle, the city editor, had Saturday nights off. Borman would crack open a six-pack. I tasted beer for the first time. I was a man. My parents, my family, my friends at school, nobody, would ever really understand the fellowship into which I entered. Borman didn’t care that I was drinking at 16. We had all put out the paper together. Now we would have a beer.

That particular passage comes from Robert Ebert’s journal he keeps on the Chicago Sun-Times’ Web site. The aforementioned entry these previous two paragraphs appear in is titled “The Best Damn Job in the Whole Damn World”. There is plenty more where that came from, and should you have an extra 10 minutes, the piece is certainly worth looking at. 

Why? Because everything he touches on is right. Correct. True-to-form. It’s realistic. It’s passionate. It’s honest. And, more than anything, it’s exactly what working for a newspaper is all about. In fact, it’s exactly what drew me to that very medium and it’s also why I find myself, at the ripe old age of 24, in an interesting predicament.

You see, wanting to become a newspaper man promised me three things: One, I wasn’t going to make any money at all. Two: If I were ever to be lucky enough to find a woman to fall in love with, she, along with any family we may want to have, would have to be the absolute most understanding people in the world considering how little I would be home and how much I would never be able to give her both emotionally and monetarily. And three: I could finally consider myself “cool” on some unwarranted and undefined level that defies any sort of logic.

Recently, though, it has promised me a fourth thing that I never entirely considered until lately, as I consistently see major, historical, metropolitan daily newspapers go under quicker and harder than any mess the Titanic could have found itself in. Just as I have begun to finally get my feet wet in a business that can take years to finally break a person in, I am beginning to wonder how this business is going to survive.

I am not of the thought process that suggests newspapers will one day be obsolete. But I am also not naïve enough to think that newspapers will be fine whenever the “storm is over”. I mean, come on. It was no more than a week ago that the New York Times threatened to shut the Boston Globe down if unions were unable or unwilling to accept a total amount of $20 million in concessions. To think that someday the clouds will recede and the sun will shine enough light on newspapers to make sure everything ends up OK is absurd at this point. But to think that they will fade into obscurity altogether is a notion I refuse to either believe or accept.

So here we are. With this blog, we plan to bring you the most up-to-date information on the world of newspapers and newsgathering as it continues to evolve in ways no one could ever predict. Is there a solution to this ever-growing “newspaper problem?” How many newspapers will shut down within the next month? The next year? Are there any newspapers in the world that happen to be somehow thriving? And how are they doing it? Does a pay-to-read service really matter? And if so, does it actually tend to have an adverse affect on what newspapers in general are trying to accomplish? And, of course, how about the Internet? How does that play in? And will that transition—should it be called upon—work?

Admittedly, we don’t know any of the answers to these questions. Not even close, actually. But this is a historical time for print media as we know it and this place in time warrants being monitored and dissected to a degree that is both informational and suggestive. With this blog, we plan on being around to relay the information to you as best we can, hopefully opening the doors for discussions and ideas that very well just may be of help to an industry that was once so romantic, so pure. An industry defined by people that have an insurmountable level of passion for what they do for a living. It’s an industry that is simply too proud to let conditional factors ruin what was once the most important form of media this world had to offer.

And besides. You have to know by now that the mark print media can leave on a single person reaches so far deeper than any simple amount of ink left on one’s hand after holding a newspaper in your palm for a couple minutes.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Supernatural: Season 11, Episode 22 - "We Happy Few"

// Channel Surfing

"The show serves up an Avengers-esque character round-up, but the plot is powerless.

READ the article