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by Bill Gibron

14 Jan 2010


We all know the combat cliché - war is indeed hell. But so is filmmaking, that is, if you ask Troma chief and all around champion of independent art, Lloyd Kaufman. Not only would he argue that any conflict - political, personal, or philosophical - is absolutely pointless, but it’s painful as well. All throughout the bonus features for the recently released “Tromasterpiece Collection” version of the studio’s seminal Troma’s War, the infamous filmmaker complains about the production clashes that almost cost him his movie - and his sanity. From less than professional actors to constant complaints about shoddy food service and “third meals”, this brilliant satire on man’s unbridled bloodlust and the sovereign satisfaction of same stands as one of their best - no matter the final box office.

Yes, Troma’s War was a bomb, and that’s something the Kaufman and clan just can’t get over. Frankly, such a status is understandable when viewed through the middling eyes of the mainstream, but almost impossible to fathom when it comes to balls-out geek fandom. For all its outright liberal leanings, this film falls right smack dab in the middle of American road, an offering that celebrates carnage and killing (actually setting a record for most squibs used in a major motion picture) while arguing against such outright aggression. Indeed, Troma’s War is a crackpot inconsistency, pro and anti, a delicious dark comedy that’s often vile and mean-spirited, a standard action flick flecked with all manner of Kaufman’s bad taste comedy conceits. Together, these impossible parallels deconstruct everything we love about the genre while reinventing the way we view the enemy, and ourselves.

by Omar Kholeif

12 Jan 2010


For years, the writer/artist/filmmaker, Miranda July has been creating work that has challenged audiences to think beyond the conventional norms of expression. Both sweeping and observational, her work often tends to highlight the fragile relationship between human pain and pleasure, with a particular emphasis on how the minutia of everyday life can help foster an understanding of collective experience.

In particular here, I am eager to discuss how July’s feature length film debut, the oddly beguiling, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), is able to utilize a series of narrative and aesthetic devices, to subvert traditional capitalist, and patriarchal ideologies. The first of these devices of which I will discuss, relates to the female protagonist, Christine, and her whimsical approach to life.

Take for instance her first rendezvous with the object of her desire, Richard (a troubled shoe salesman). After they meet in a department store, Christine starts following Richard as he walks to his car. During this time, she asks him to imagine that the road before them is an emblem of their life together. As they continue along this street, they begin to envision their future together—they share unadorned hopes, dreams and desires. Throughout this, the pair’s conversation takes on a surreal emotional language that is incredibly childlike. Such is the case that at times; it feels like one is watching two idealistic children sharing an intimate moment. This innocent and unbridled approach to romance in the narrative defies the usual dating tropes – suggesting that patriarchy can exist without the rational expectations that contemporary logisticians are so keen to maintain.

by Bill Gibron

11 Jan 2010


No matter the culture, no matter the country, politics is farce. It’s the crazed game playing of people so drunk on power that they don’t ever realize they’re regularly pissing themselves. It’s policy draw on deception, tricks and tactics merged with an infinite desire to betray. As the old saying goes, leadership regularly stifles the needs of a nation, compromising them by the mandate to maintain control. Toss in special interests, unlikely allies, regular scandals, and the freakish rarity of actually accomplishing something, and strange bedfellows are the least of its new world worries.

So it’s easy to see how this bi-partisan, bicameral back and forth leads to laughs. It, like most of its participants, is a no brainer. It’s also an arena that UK writer/director Armando Iannucci has mined before, most successful in his British sitcom The Thick of It. Now he’s turned that delicious debunking of the English government into a much honored and critically acclaimed feature film - In the Loop (new to DVD from IFC) - and the results are resplendent. Using the War in Iraq as a backdrop, and offering a multileveled look at the push toward invasion, Iannucci and his fellow screenwriters craft a burlesque so smart, so completely incapable of avoiding the truth, that it turns even the most meaningless events into a devious bit of double-edged détente.

by Bill Gibron

10 Jan 2010


It’s lasted over six years. It’s become the buzz in the background of our daily lives. It’s the rote response to any “support our troops” suggestion. And even with a recent ‘withdrawal’, there still seems to be no end in sight. Two years ago, Hollywood tackled the Iraq War and came up losers. It wasn’t their intentions that were flawed, it was there approach. They wanted to make our soldiers into villains, transforming their acts of bravery into the resulting raging outbursts of psychopaths - both abroad and at home.

The box office failure of such films as Redacted and In the Valley of Elah should not have been a surprise. After all, with the conflict still garnering national discussion, no one wants to think of the lasting, long range consequences yet. That’s why Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (new to DVD from Summit Entertainment) is so special. It’s not afraid to show the heroism along with the personal horror.

by Bill Gibron

10 Jan 2010


Nothing is more fulfilling than the creative process. Nothing is more tormented, either. Usually, the ends justify the means, the art produced (or in some case, the crass product manufactured) validating all the fears, flaws, and failures. This is especially true in film, where so many collaborative elements have to successfully come together to form the final vision. One sour facet, and forget it. On the other hand, if the vision at the center can’t stand up to scrutiny, no amount of artisanship can supplant it. Indeed, for many, art is all about imagination and inspiration first, it’s competent realization second. 

For Federico Fellini, one of the greatest director’s of all time, insight comes from the strangest places. After the worldwide embrace for his seminal La Dolce Vita, the maestro became enamored of Carl Jung’s focus on the “extrasensory perceptions” of his own intuitive muse. Call it gut feeling over preplanned sensitivity. Incorporating said dream logic and imagery into his already established neorealistic style, the resulting “experiment”, the brilliant , (meta-named for the number of films Fellini had “directed” up to this point in his career) would signal the beginning of an amazing run of self-referential, collective unconscious masterworks. It also explained how art not only imitates life, but frequently fuses with and redefines both.

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