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by Nikki Tranter

8 May 2008

At least once a week in the video store, a high school kid will ask me this question:

“Have you got The Accidental Tourist?”

It’s gotten so that I sigh as I tell them we don’t. “But I can get it for you,” I say. “It’ll take a week.”

“No,” they say, sprightly and carefree. “I need it for an exam tomorrow.”

Ooh. I wonder if they can actually hear my soul snapping in two?

And then they ask for phone credit.

If it’s not The Accidental Tourist, it’s Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird or I’m Not Scared. And it’s not all high school kids—a university student asked me for Tom and Viv a few weeks back and outright admitted she “couldn’t be bothered reading it”. That’s the same excuse I got from one of my own employees who wanted a copy of The 39 Steps. He didn’t want to read the screenplay, which was required at his school prior to viewing an updated version of the stage show.

It happens all the time. So, I was moved ever so slightly today when I saw this article. According to a study, kids somewhere in the world do actually enjoy reading. Dr. Seuss, it would seem, is the most popular choice among young readers. 

I guess that means I don’t have to fear a first-grader coming up to me and asking for the DVD of Horton Hears a Who!, because he just can’t be bothered ... well, you know.

by PopMatters Staff

8 May 2008

Robyn’s new Blip video series from the masters of the format The Blip Boutique (Radiohead, White Stripes).

Handle Me:


Bum Like You:

Konichiwa Bitches:


Curriculum Vitae:

Fleet Foxes
White Water Hymnal [MP3]

Danielia Cotton
Bang My Drum [Streaming]

The Lexie Mountain Boys
Sweet Potato Sugar Tot [MP3]

I’m a Machine [MP3]

Kardinall Offishall feat. Akon
Dangerous [Video]

by Bill Gibron

7 May 2008

Film may be a kind of international language, but sometimes, the true meaning of a movie definitely gets lost in the translation. Let’s face it - not every country gets its neighbor’s artistic temperament, and visa versa. The most constantly referenced and clichéd example of course is the French critical community’s abject adoration of Jerry Lewis. While Americans find him a goofy, often grating comic persona, Parisians palpitate over his high strung histrionics. Similarly, certain foreign film types fail to generate the same kind of response once they hit Western shores. The recent rash of J-Horror genre efforts proved Americans will only cotton to so much dark haired ghost girl gimmickry before turning back to blood and guts. 

Yet leave it to the Turkish to take the piss out of the entire interpretative back and forth. Instead of embracing movies from around the world, they simply rip them off and remake them, sometimes shot for shot. From ‘60s TV series like Star Trek to modern spectacles like Spider-Man, the Turks can take any franchise or film and mirror it. A perfect example of this copycat creativity comes in the form of 1974’s demon possession do-over, Seytan. Yes, one year after William Friedkin set cinema on edge with The Exorcist, his ode to familial dysfunction, the generation gap, and extracurricular cruci-fixation, the Eurasian madmen of the far off country’s movie business concocted their own frightmare facsimile.

That’s right - the same story, the same narrative structure. Now, the first thing you have to remember upon visiting something like Seytan is that it definitely comes from a different spiritual realm. Friedkin and his film were labeled blasphemous by Church leaders who felt the film’s demonic possession storyline went too far. Turkey is a nation made up of 99.8% Muslim, so messing with Jesus or any other Christian symbol just doesn’t impress. So in Seytan, priests are now professionals, the sacred vs. the profane is set aside with religious imagery kept to a minimum. Islam is never really mentioned by name, nor is the Koran.

Other changes derive from the sovereign setting as well. Gone are the moments of icon defilement and movie business schmoozing. In their place are endless interior shots and hardbound copies of Satanic How-To manuals. And our little heroine no longer abuses herself with a cross. Instead, a strange curved amulet is the defiler of choice. Similarly, the last act exorcism is not really a battle between God and Devil. Instead, it plays more like a snotty little girl giving a group of poorly trained specialists a relatively hard time.

Yet in all other facets, Seytan seems to follow Friedkin’s original subtext to a fault. Many have marveled at The Exorcist‘s staying power, commenting on how unusual it is for a film with less than state of the art special effects (they were impressive in the ‘70s) and an overdeveloped philosophical foundation can still scare viewers some 35 years later. Of course, what many fail to see is the movie’s subtle cultural context. The Exorcist came out just as the War in Vietnam was reaching a crisis point. Young people all over America were taking to the streets to protest (it’s a situation that’s referenced in the film itself) while the conservative Establishment sat bewildered, wondering what had become of their children. The Exorcist provided an obvious answer - they must be under the influence of the mangoat himself.

Indeed, the entire underpinning of Friedkin’s film rests on actress Chris MacNeil (played brilliantly by Ellen Burstyn) and the sudden, shocking change in the behavior of her teenage daughter Regan (Linda Blair). One minute, the adolescent is painting ceramics and giggling about her birthday. The next she’s channeling Beelzebub, peeing on the floor, and expectorating demonic bisque. It’s not a very subtle analogy, but then again, 1973 was not a very subtle time. But for audiences expecting a standard thriller, the notion of innocence violated, ambiguous metaphysical answers, unsure science, and a literal deus ex machina via a final leap of faith resonated like a Walter Cronkite commentary on the trusted CBS Evening News. While much of that makes little sense today, it was a shocker several decades ago.

Seytan sticks with the little girl unhinged ideal. Here, our pert adolescent Gül is Regan redux. She’s bright, chipper, inquisitive, and just a little precocious. Her doting mother (stripped of any career ambitions and left nameless throughout most of the movie) is not so much hapless as hindered by her gender. Many of the men she deals with - doctors, scientists, social workers - ignore her pleas and tend to take her insistences with a substantial grain of chauvinistic salt. Since special effects are less than plentiful in such foreign locales, heavy doses of green make-up supply the necessary Hellspawn glow, and when things really need to get dicey, straightforward camera tricks and old school sleight of hand is employed.

Director Metin Eriksan remains a leading light in the Turkish movie industry, He was an early agent provocateur who was required to go commercial when his country’s stern censorship started banning his more controversial works. Turning to horror and genre themes, he used the marginalized movie macabre to address themes of human frailty and loneliness. Seytan stands in sharp contrast with the rest of this filmmaker’s creative canon.

Indeed, one notes a definite sense of going through the motions here, specific blocking and compositions cribbed directly from Friedkin’s frightmare. Even worse, there are instances where Eriksan could have worked some subversive magic with this movie, adding some of the confrontational components of his previous efforts. Instead, we have moment by moment mimicry, complete with what appears to be actual lines of dialogue from the American original (apparently, screenwriter Yilmaz Tümtürk failed to fully understand the meaning of ‘adaptation’).

Since most bootleg versions of this film arrive sans subtitles, a lot of what Seytan has to say has to be inferred from what’s happening onscreen. Since it follows the original Exorcist fairly closely, recognizability helps with our comprehension. Gül goes through the same barrage of scientific tests, she gets the perfunctory psychological evaluation, both sides of the medical issue appear dumbfounded and clueless, and the last act arrival of our demon expert seems rather anticlimactic. When Max Von Sydow finally appears in The Exorcist, it’s like a date with destiny. In Seytan, the lack of a solid sacred subtext really puts the kibosh on the impact.

Something sinister can be read into the Turkish version of the film, a gender-mandated foundation that may be hard for Westerners to swallow. It is clear, when watching this adaptation, that women and their role within society are substantially downplayed. Gül is treated very badly, given little of the sympathy shown to Regan. Equally unsettling is how readily the entire situation is chalked up to female hysteria. While one has to read this into the onscreen actions, it’s clear that the men just don’t want to tolerate these emotionally high strung women. The bloated paternalism is present in every single frame.

This is one of the reasons why the chance to see a statement like Seytan is so enlightening - both culturally and entertainment wise. Most of the foreign films offered for US consumption tend to follow preconceived guidelines of subject acceptability. We like political drama, interpersonal intrigue, and the occasional bout of slapstick comedy. When you add in the genre efforts from Asia and the martial artistry of Hong Kong, the motion picture parameters are pretty well set. But because Seytan steps in and re-imagines one of our own classic contemporary films, it digs deeper beneath the social surface. In turn, it gives us a glimpse into a world (at least circa 1974) that we never would have seen otherwise.

From the opening archeological dig and bad papier mache demon statue to the dying mother subplot complete with a trip to the loony bin, Seytan is still all “Tubular Bells” and projectile vomiting. Some may see it as nothing more than a retarded rip-off and laugh at all the amateurish missteps. Others will look beneath the male-cenntric surface and see a sort of cinematic hate crime. But the truth remains that Seytan is nothing more than one country’s attempt to cash in on another culture’s social phenomenon. It’s clear that, in many cases, imitation remains the sincerest form of international filmmaking flattery. Sometimes, as in the case of Seytan, it can be a sure sign of creative cluelessness as well. 

by Azmol Meah

7 May 2008

There have been many video game iterations of popular board games in recent years. Everything from Monopoly to Risk to Jenga has made the jump from cardboard boards to, erm, digital boards!

All are household names and all have sucked as video games harder than a super turbo charged vacuum cleaner.

Next in this inauspicious line is Hurry Up Hedgehog!, based on a popular German board game known as Egelrace, which roughly translates to ‘Hedgehogs in a Hurry’. And just as the aforementioned titles should have remained board games, so should have Hurry Up Hedgehog. After playing the game equivalent, you’ll genuinely question how this could even pass as a decent board game.

There are two things that will catch your attention when playing Hurry Up Hedgehog!. First, there’s an option to dope the hedgehogs. Second, the little critters themselves come across as a sort of super freaky hybrid of Tina Turner’s ‘Aunty’ character from Mad Max 3 and some reject Twisted Sister outcast. Of course, those hedgehogs are maxed out with anthropomorphic traits, which means lots of animals behaving like humans! Why can’t hedgehogs act like, you know hedgehogs—granted, they don’t do much aside from getting splattered on roadsides by soccer mums in their 4x4’s—but surely a hedgehog murdering simulator would have been a better idea than what Oxygen have given us (ideally, the hedgehogs in this alternative game would be on drugs as well).

But alas, the developers only managed to get the dope part right. The rest of the game simply involves guiding those whiny, grotesque beasts we get from A to B on a 6x9 garden-themed grid, where your greatest foe isn’t an overindulged Knightsbridge housewife, but instead, a mud pit. Yes, that’s right, a mud pit. You move your team of Frankenstein’s droppings from left to right, forwards, backwards or on top of other Hedgehogs for some hot, saucy, hedgehog on hedgehog action, guide your team to the finish line and that’s it.

Yes, that’s it; stroke the stylus in four different directions. If you can master the ancient art of being able to tell the difference between, left, right, up and down then you’ll be a Jedi at Hurry Up Hedgehog! in the blink of an eye. Though with gameplay this banal, don’t be surprised if you find yourself edging closer and closer to the dark side. Even its single cart, six-player multiplayer can’t rescue it from total disaster.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the game essentially has one mode, no in-game music, a middle school educational CD-ROM look, menus that are only ever half explained, characters that could rival Sonic’s merry band of losers in terms of utter lameness and gameplay that requires no skill, thought, strategy, arcade nor mental ability. Add it all up, and you have one awful game.

Wisely, the game is being released at a paltry £14.99, which is, in all honesty, £14.99 too much. Sadly, a lot of the DS-loving teeny–boppers will probably pick this up, thinking it’s some sort of new super cutesy pet sim, but it’s not.  It may simply be the MOST…POINTLESS…GAME…EVER.

by Raymond Cummings

7 May 2008

Blubberlandby Elizaberh M. FarrellyMIT PressMarch 2008, 219 pages, $19.95

by Elizabeth M. Farrelly
MIT Press
March 2008, 219 pages, $19.95

Author Elizabeth Farrelly kicks off Blubberland with something of an extended mea culpa:

I, like you, drive too much. I buy too much—of which I keep too much and also throw too much away. I overindulge my children, and myself. Directly as well as indirectly I use too much water, energy, air, and space. My existence, in short, costs the planet more than it can afford.

Farrelly’s concerns here are spatial, aesthetic, social, political, and environmental, and the questions she delicately poses and answers at considerable length are poignant ones: Why do we First-World denizens insist on owning ugly houses and cars that we don’t really need? Similarly, why do believe that buying useless stuff will make us happy? Why won’t world leaders legislate in favor of sensible ecological co-existence with nature? Why are we so pathetically out of shape? Why are we so desperate to isolate ourselves from others, and how can we break the vicious cycle of narcissism?

Here, Farrelly, a University of Sydney adjunct architecture professor and Sydney Morning Herald columnist, supposes that , ‘Blubberland’ isn’t so much a place as it is a state of mind that champions an out-of control sense of self-entitlement. When it comes to suburban sprawl and energy conservation, she explains, governments are like overly permissive parents who allow their children (constituencies) to have whatever they want. Furthermore, she argues, this more-and-now mindset has us in a double-bind because parenting trends have followed a similar course in the last several decades:

This compulsion to desire-fulfillment has democracy in a trap. If we want to eat meat, with its huge eco-footprint, we do it. If we want to sprawl our cities across the landscape, live in a McMansion, drive an SUV, leave the lights or the hose or the TV on all night, we do exactly that. Even governments are intimidated to the point of being frightened to regulate. If it can’t be achieved by the market, they weakly presume, it can’t be achieved.

This culture of permission has spawned the notion that what’s unpleasant or painful about life can—and should be—surgically removed or made plain. Even places of worship aren’t immune, according to Farrelly: “Everywhere, under every log and rock, nice old churches are being melted down into imitation dry-cleaning shops, nightclubs, and ad agencies while the new, bursting-at-the-seams versions have the common-or-corporate look so down pat it’s hard to pick them from the general hight-street lineup.”

Farrelly envisions monotonous suburban sprawl as both key villain and deadening aftereffect here, a geographic phenomenon that encourages social disconnects by allowing us to be separate from one another and necessitating long, isolation-chamber drives to work: “Forget yoga. Forget acupuncture, hypnosis, and mindfulness therapy. Bested only by television and alcohol, the car is one of the most effective anaesthetics ever discovered.”

Drastic urban renewal, she believes, is the key to our selfish malaise, noting that life expectancy is higher in cities than suburbs and that city living encourages people to “share energy, share transport and share space to a degree that is inconceivable in any other situation”.

Blubberland‘s final chapter, however, imagines a Utopian future in which famines, oil shortages, and droughts confine masses to walled cities: everyone walks to work, on-break employees exercise on machines that help power their office buildings, everyone’s healthier because nobody can afford to drive. Farrelly may just be onto something there; whether or not world leaders will arrive at similar conclusions and act courageously before our selfishness hits a crisis point is an open question that’s almost too depressing to contemplate.


//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2015: 'Dark Echo'

// Moving Pixels

"Dark Echo drops you into a pitch back maze and then renders your core tools of navigation into something quite life threatening.

READ the article