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by Bill Gibron

29 Aug 2009


Frank Frazetta and Ralph Bakshi were two highly influential icons from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The former, through his paintings and cover illustrations, literally redefined the look and feel of the fantasy genre. The latter, both beloved and controversial, took cartooning in a more complex and adult direction, formulating such cult classics as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Wizards. As the ‘80s began, the popularity of the sword and sorcery pulp category was at an all time high, and Bakshi wanted to continue exploring the realm. While his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings had proven problematic, bringing Frazetta’s beef and cheesecake conceits to life seemed like a perfect post-American Pop challenge. Oddly enough, it would be the last film the animator would director for nearly a decade.

At its core, Fire and Ice is really nothing more than a battle between elemental good and evil, hot and cold representing each dramatic conceit, respectively. In the allegorical tale, evil Queen Juliana has raised her son Nekron to be a master of the dark arts. Through pure manipulation of will, he can control a massive glacier, sending it roaring across the fertile lands of this unnamed world. Destroying everything in his path, our villain uses an army of Neanderthal like “dogs” to do the rest of his unholy bidding. In the volcanic region of Firekeep, King Jarol is worried. Unless some manner of peace treaty can be reached with the advancing forces, his dominion is doomed. Nekron demands absolute subservience, and when Jarol refuses, the wicked warlord kidnaps his daughter, Princess Teegra. It is up to a drifter named Larn and his partner/protector Darkwolf to step in and save the day.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right up front - those who hoped that Blue Underground would release both Fire and Ice and the previous two disc DVD bonus feature, the brilliant Frazetta documentary Painting with Fire, as part of this otherwise fantastic format upgrade will be gravely disappointed. True, the main feature is still offered here in all its uncut glory, and the Blu-ray version looks amazing. It’s colorful, detailed, and showcases Bakshi’s unique approach to animation brilliantly. But that 2003 in-depth exploration at the life and work of the storyline’s source and artistic inspiration (Frazetta did collaborate on the project helping with character and costume design) is no longer part of the packaging. Sadly, it turns a previous must-own into something of a casual curiosity.

Indeed, there will be many who take one look at Fire and Ice, compare it to the current crop of computer-aided animated films, and wonder why anyone would champion such a visually awkward approach. At this point in his career, Bakshi was exploring the possibilities of rotoscoping, an old process by which live action footage was “drawn over” to create a more realistic sense of cartoon movement. Having embraced the technique in full for his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy (that film covers about the first book and a half), he would literally hire actors, put them through their paces on film, and then turn said material over the animators. Painstaking and problematic, rotoscoping produced what Bakshi called “painting in motion.” In retrospect, it was a perfect match with Frazetta’s epic illustrations.

Yet there is also something clunky and incomplete about the look, a lack of fluidity and finesse that will leave some fans feeling cold. Bakshi does everything he can to liven up the proceedings, giving characters like Nekron the full blown psycho bad guy treatment. There is also a heavy undercurrent of sexuality and machismo present, the characters truly connected to their physicality and form. The one thing you can definitely say about Fire and Ice is that Bakshi and his illustrators really emphasize the functionality of form, putting all aspects of the human (and other) body to expert use.

In addition, the narrative does contain enough twists and turns to keep us engaged. Certainly there are times when Larn’s lack of skill and Teegra’s tendency toward always being recaptured grows old. We like a little variety in our plotting, to see our characters grow, learn, and improve. Here, without Darkwolf’s constant interference, we’d have nothing more than happenstance and failure. Toward the end, when Nekron lets the full force of his evil come alive, Fire and Ice definitely finds its footing. The stand-off is handled very well indeed and the acting really emphasizes what’s at stake. While lacking any known names, the voice work here is strong overall, Bakshi getting the best out of everyone involved.

Still, Fire and Ice will feel like a slight disappointment, a blood and bodice filled misfire that occasionally looks like a corrupted episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Indeed, rotoscoping limits what can be done within the narrative. If Bakshi didn’t film it, it couldn’t be illustrated, and while rare hand drawn elements like the Dragonhawks provide a moment of artistic freedom, everything else is truly locked into the approach. Indeed, one of the reasons Bakshi remains a well-regarded if marginalized figure within the world of animation is his rebellious desire to do things in ways both inventive and aggravating. He’s been accused of being a racist and a revolutionary. Luckily, he’s on hand here to guide a fairly informative commentary track, as well as a Q&A on working with Frazetta. There’s also an old Making-of featurette which explains the rotoscoping process more fully.

Newcomers to Bakshi’s world will probably be less than impressed with what goes on here. Yet in some ways, Fire and Ice and the way in which the film was made highlights the growing changes in animation throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. It many ways, it can be seen as a precursor to the mainstream acceptance of anime, the Japanese conceit that combines detailed realism with visionary ambition to accentuate the plotting and character performance. While Frazetta is a minor player here (made even more so by the Blu-ray’s lack of Painting with Fire), his imprint remains strong within Bakshi’s bravado turns.

While Fire and Ice is less of a classic and more of a oddity, it definitely delivers what it promises. Sadly, it would signal the last full length animated feature the filmmaker would ever produce. Bakshi would go on to make the Gabriel Byrne/Brad Pitt/Kim Basinger live action combo Cool World, but he has yet to return to the artform that made him famous. Like Frazetta, he seems locked into a time when FM radio provided a potent backdrop for misspent youth and adolescent angst. No matter how serious the connection to speculative fiction or fantasy, both men will be remembered for the nature of their artistry. Fire and Ice is a perfect example of why. 

by Bill Gibron

26 Aug 2009


The Simpsons was never a solo effort, no matter the recognition and raves creator Matt Groening has earned from the animated sitcom’s phenomenal success. The venerable Sunday night favorite, a Fox fixture since the days of The Cosby Show, Reaganomics, and the laser disc, is really the combined result of dozens of talented individuals. If one element underperforms - writing, directing, voice acting, drawing - everything suffers. It’s one of the reasons that the show’s continued creativity (and commercial appeal) is such an amazing thing. Every week, these funny business facets must be in place, properly calibrated via collaboration, or America’s favorite family becomes nothing more than a bunch of bozos.

While it would be nice if the studio stepped up the DVD release schedule and gave us more Simpsons more often (at this rate, any Blu-ray release schedule will more than likely outlast the format), it’s safe to say that no other digital presentation is this concerned about giving each aesthetic cog in their multifaceted machine a chance to be heard. The Season 12 set, just released on 18 August, continues in the tradition. Each of the brilliant 21 episodes offered is peppered with commentary tracks, outtakes, deleted scenes, animatics, and other added content that really explains the entire Simpsons process. From who pitches what idea to how some sequences get completely rewritten, the men and women as part of the process are more than happy to share their experience. Clearly, they love what they are working on.

And so do we. Sure, the naysayers love to argue about which portions of the Simpsons’ protracted popularity are better than others, but said grousing is never really a question of quality. It’s more like nostalgia wrapped in a need to play contrarian to the current cultural whims (call it “Armond White Syndrome”). If The Simpsons: Season 12 were representative of any other series, the messageboards would be lighting up with unqualified praise. It’s just impossible for any TV show to maintain such a high level of hilarity - and yet, surreal or not, stepping outside the typical suburban family dynamic the show started with, this ‘version’ is still a satiric gem. It even acknowledges the constant criticism by giving the show’s leading cynic, Comic Book Guy, his own love story themed installment…and calling it “Worst Episode Ever”. 

Elsewhere, Season 12 sees the family visiting Kenya (“Simpson Safari”), helping neighbor Ned Flanders build a religious-based theme park in honor of his dead wife (“We’re Going to Praiseland”) and picking up the ‘sport of kings’ (“Tennis the Menace”). Family patriarch Homer is up to his ‘everything old is new again’ tricks, starting a gossip website (“The Computer Wore Menace Shoes), a day care center (“Children of a Lesser Clod”) and a hunger strike to keep the local baseball team from moving (“Hungry, Hungry Homer”). He also becomes a ‘prank monkey’ for Mr. Burns (“Homer vs. Dignity”) and learns why he’s so stupid (“HomЯ”) while wife Marge vouches for a prisoner with a penchant for art (“Pokey Mom”). Lisa takes local ecological matters into her own eight year old hands (“Lisa the Treehugger”) while uncovering the secret to bullies (“Bye, Bye Nerdie”), Bart learns the art of grifting from his grandfather (“The Great Money Caper:”) and joins a boy band (“New Kids on the Blecch”).

In between, Krusty becomes an accidental dad (“Insane Clown Poppy”), the students of Springfield Elementary get trapped inside the school during a blizzard (“Skinner’s Sense of Snow”), the city splits over differing area codes (“A Tale of Two Springfields”) and Sideshow Bob returns to wreck even more havoc on the tiny town (“Day of the Jackanapes”). There is also the traditional Halloween show, offering a spectral Homer, evil fairy tale characters, and killer dolphins, as a take on traditional folklore offering Tall Tales revolving around Paul Bunyon, Johnny Appleseed, and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer. The gaggle of guest stars include rock band The Who, comedian Kathy Griffin, Drew Barrymore, Stephen King, Patrick McGoohan, Tom Savini, Venus and Serena Williams, and mega-music stars (at least, at the time) N’Sync.

As a nearly eight hour experience straight through (473 commercial free minutes, to be exact) The Simpsons’ 12th Season is stunning. It is loaded with classic lines (“more mouth-watering monkeys”) and moments that rank right up there with the series’ best. Certainly, some of the storylines go off on tangents that are purposeful middle fingers to the audience (Grandpa’s early funeral arrangements turns into a new tennis court for the back yard???) and unless Al Jean’s working on the story, the simplistic days of pure familial interaction are long gone. Some could successfully argue that at this stage in the show’s popularity, the minds behind the mayhem thought they could get away with pretty much anything. The commentary tracks included here argue for concept taken to bizarre extremes, while others were purposefully forgotten and tossed aside as being way too “out there”.

It’s also interesting to hear the creators revisit these shows some eight years after they were made. They all pre-date 9/11, which leads to some interesting insights, and every time a butt crack is show, everyone explains how Fox has since mandated no more nudity. The Simpsons Movie is mentioned, as are the graduates of the Springfield School of Animation Hard Knocks who have gone on to work at places like Pixar. In many ways, this DVD set is more than just a keepsake of a classic comedy. It’s a document of a specific time and place, as well as a history lesson surrounded by inside jokes and personal jabs. Certain no-shows - Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer, longtime writer John Schwartzwelder - always spike curiosity. One can definitely support their desire to stay silent. But with everyone (and in some cases, their droll 14 year old son) joining it, their absence seems odd.

Even with the MIA members of the Simpsons’ camp, the DVD of Season 12 is sensational, loaded with laughs, insights, unexpected treats and much, much more. Of the installments offered, more than a couple stand out. “Tale of Two Springfields” does a great job of illustrating the show’s hidden class subtext, while “Homer vs. Dignity” is a delicious take on the classic comic novel The Magic Christian. “Skinner’s Sense of Snow” is loaded with memorable moments (“Di di Mao, Seymour, di di mao!) while “New Kids” has some of the best fake pop songs ever conceived for a TV show. In between hobo sponge baths and dancing Texans, there is something here for everyone. And the best thing about The Simpsons - as long as they maintain the group effort in all they do, they can go on as long as they want. Even halfway through their unplanned legacy, the show is still great.

by Bill Gibron

23 Aug 2009


Two years ago, films about the War in Iraq were all the rage - almost literally. Somewhere along the long creative line between idea and greenlight, filmmakers and their supporting studios decided to turn our dedicated men and women in uniform into sad psychological freaks, their post-traumatic time in the Middle East a catalyst for everything from self-destruction and mental illness to out and out serial murder. Turning soldiers into villains may work when it’s the Nazis, or the Viet Cong, but few members of the Red, White, and Blue fraternity want to see their armed forces armed and dangerous - outside of a combat zone, that is. You can see the turn in this year’s celebrated The Hurt Locker. There, cockiness and commitment are channeled in ways that result in more suspenseful heroics and less blood-splattering horrors.

It’s the same with a smaller entry from the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, American Son. Starring Nick Cannon as a 19 year old Marine on 96 hours of leave before heading overseas, this is another examination of the war’s effect that’s reflective, not reactive. Instead of turning this small, simple attempt at individual import into a grand, grating political statement, writer Eric Schmid and director Neil Abramson keep things closed and personal - and for the most part, it works. Sure, there are characters that we don’t quite connect with, and the core love story seems pat and poorly defined, but at least we aren’t witnessing another jarhead on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Indeed, American Son is one of the few modern takes on the material that never once apologizes for its warrior-in-waiting.

When Mike Holland gets the bad news - his company is shipping out to Iraq almost immediately - he hops a bus and heads back home to Bakersfield. He has 96 hours of R&R before he is deployed and he wants to make the most of it. During the trip, he runs into recent high school graduate Cristina. She is taken by his swagger and his strength. He instantly falls for her innocence and sweetness. Once back in his old neighborhood, Mike realizes that little has changed. His father is still struggling, his Mom working way too hard to care for his sister and new non-committal step-dad. Even worse, his older brother is lost in a world of drugs, a deadly domain that also seems to be sucking in best buddy Jake. As he attempts to connect with Cristina, the upcoming journey into battle hangs over his head. Mike enlisted to challenge himself. He didn’t know the war would be fought both at home and abroad.

American Son is a calm, contemplative movie, an attempt to use little moments and revelations to suggest bigger, more meaningful issues. It’s not out to wave the flag and force feed us jaded patriotic jingoism, nor is it a bleeding heart denouncement of the young people taking up the mantle for an otherwise ungrateful nation. Instead, Mike’s inner journey, his hatred of his home life and the possibility of purity with Cristina take center stage - sometimes, to the film’s detriment. It’s almost as if Schmid and Abramson are afraid of the family and ethnic dynamic at work. Race is never mentioned, even with Tom Sizemore as a deadbeat step-father and Matt O’Leary as a cliché-ridden suburban ‘gansta’. It’s refreshing not to hear the black/white issues rehashed, even if Cristina’s family has their own inferred black/brown one. 

But it would have been nice for the film to explore what’s actually going on in Mike’s life, especially since it’s the foundation for why he joined up in the first place. Chi McBride shows up for a few scenes, playing the absentee biological father who no longer seems connected to his kids. When he takes Mike out to look for his doped up older sibling, we sense a wealth of unspoken issues between the two. Yet said history is reduced to a single garage scene set-up with our hero proclaiming “I’m not you” in standard son rebellion mode. Similarly, Mike appeared to be the only kid of color in a group of hard-partying, rap-loving white boys. While it’s obvious the Marines have changed him (“Semper Fi” and all), why he hung out with this bunch of inebriated losers in the first place is almost unfathomable.

Indeed, Mike is so noble, so seemingly centered with his eye on the prize that very little that goes on around him seems to have an effect. Cannon, whose crafty smile appears too casual to be hiding any real angst, gets a couple of emotion breakdowns, but without any conversational follow-up, we’re not sure what he’s worried about. There is a scene with Jay Hernandez as a recently returned vet with a missing leg, but for the most part, the possibility of dying 5000 miles away in some desert Hell hole barely gets a mention. Of course, it’s all part of Abramson’s plan to avoid the epic to focus on the smaller details. But American Son is almost too languid to make this stylistic choice work. We need to feel the film building to something, not just spinning its cinematic wheels as time ticks down.

Then there is the core relationship between Mike and Cristina. It’s hard to see an attraction beyond the physical, and when the two get together, it’s the usual sexual stand-offs and maneuvers. We can understand why she might be willing to jeopardize her future and fall for this boy - he’s confident, polite, and easy going. But beyond the curves and coy innocence, Cristina herself is a cipher. All we really know about her is that she has a strict Hispanic family and that she wants to go to college. That’s not a lot to hang your major plot points on. While Cannon and actress Melonie Diaz have a decent chemistry, the automatic affection is one of the film’s weaker elements. Even with Abramson and his producers on hand for a detailed DVD audio commentary, we get little insight into this couple.

The rest of the digital package is equally oblique. The Making-of material is more behind the scenes shenanigans and struggles than perspective, and the deleted scenes suggest a different, more direct kind of movie. In fact, what one takes away from American Son is a sense of caution. Instead of getting into the sadness and psychological trauma Mike might feel, it’s all about stoicism and inner strength - and in some ways, that’s invigorating. Sure, the movie ends on an ambiguous note, some situations resolved, others left raw and unhealed, but for the most part, Abramson plays it safe. When compared to other Iraq-themed stories of late, that’s a welcome change of pace. For the particular characters and circumstances here, however, a little more complexity would have turned something good into something great. 

by Bill Gibron

23 Aug 2009


Boxing used to be called “the sweet science.” It was considered one of the more rarified sports, even within its blood, grunt, and sweat domain of violence and pain. Then the modern era occurred, fighters like Ali and Tyson turning the competition into the exclusive kingdom of almost impossible to defeat gods. By the mid ‘80s, scandal and crime undercut the activity, slowly turning it into a living, lying joke. Today, it’s all about extreme, and ultimate, and mixed martial artistry. A boxer can’t get arrested unless he’s wants to - or is on HBO or Showtime. But put a few thick-headed hunks in a cage and let them beat the snot out of each other for public consumption, and Generation Next can’t get enough.

So a film like Fighting should seem like a Tinseltown no brainer. Take a cult figure filmmaker (Dito Monteil of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), toss in a few famous faces (Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, MTV muscle boy Channing Tatum) and put them into the grimy and gritty world of NYC underground boxing. Sprinkle with the standard boy meets girl from around the way melodrama, add in a few can’t miss character actors (Luis Guzman) and everything should pump with testosterone-laced fisticuffs. Unfortunately, the casting causes more problems than it solves, the love story stinks, and Monteil may have a feel for the city, but he has little flash when it comes to crafting onscreen action. Fighting is one of the most inert bare knuckle brawlers ever.

Tatum plays Shawn MacArthur, an ‘ah shucks’ transplant from Alabama who is carrying a bit of failed family baggage on his meat puppet shoulders. Keeping to himself, he tries to make it selling fake IPods and counterfeit Harry Potter books to gullible Manhattan suckers. One day, he runs across a Fagan-like ticket scalper named Harvey Boarden. Seeing that Shawn can rumble, the two team up to make some quick cash. Before they know it, they are traveling to Brooklyn to face off against a Russian bad-ass, and then entering the Bronx to battle a beefy, blinged-out homunculus. All the while, Harvey promises a massive payday, but Shawn is sick of seeing little green. When he meets a waitress at the local gangster’s club, he is momentarily misdirected. But then Harvey sets up a huge fight with an old rival from our heroes past - and worse yet, they must throw the match in order to get their cash.

If it all sounds familiar and formulaic, that’s because Fighting is carved almost completely out of the efforts that have graced the street scrapper genre before. There are bits of Rocky here, nods to Fat City and Hard Times along the way. Monteil certainly believes he is making a motion picture completely in touch with the streets. He tosses in so many references to urban archetypes, borderline clichés involving pitbulls, tattoos, and leather that he appears a single step away from restaging Scarface for the late 1990s. Unfortunately, nothing feels that authentic. Instead of seedy, it’s all stagy - and showy. Fighting wants to go for truth and brutal honesty. But its scam sham narrative is about as fictional as such forced storylines get.

And again, the acting is problematic. Guzman is good (he always is) though his dialogue appears made up of repeating Howard’s character name over and over again. Speaking of Mr. Hustle and Flow, there is a real desire on his part to come across as nonchalant, almost comical, about the life and death deals he is making. Howard puts on a slight high pitch pith, languishing over his lines like he’s just remembered them. He’s not bad, but he’s definitely not redefining the thespian art. And then there’s Tatum. The human equivalent of a mathematical null set, he’s so blank, so completely dead emotionally or dramatically, that we aren’t sure why Monteil is making us follow this lox. Surely there must have been someone better to champion - perhaps a really nice cut of prime rib, or a random slab of concrete?

As the script struggles for significance, fake insights giving way to reams of conversation contradictions, Monteil keeps piling on the implied local color. As a director, he has his specific beats down pat. He loves the overhead and underneath set-ups, the better to witness his actors grappling in yawn-inducing, you-are-there closeness. Similarly, his fighters can’t seem to stay in their proscribed arenas. One moment they are surrounded by spectators, the next they are careening through convenience stores and inside apartments. And it has to be said - Tatum’s Shawn never really “shows” why he’s such a great fighter. Fate always seems to step in and aid in his pursuit, be it a handy porcelain water fountain, a hyped up babe with a gun, or a well-placed plaster pillar. If he wanted to win us over, Monteil would have put two men in a ring and let them go at it in an as realistic way as possible.

Even in an unrated version (don’t get excited, all we get are a few extras seconds of mano-y-mano action, along with a dialogue addition or two) Fighting fails to excite. Deleted scenes added to the new DVD offer nothing new or interesting, and the reinserted material does little except add three minutes to the running time. In fact, it’s safe to say that whatever intentions Monteil and his co-writer had for this project appear lost in a haze of faked authenticity. You can just see the sets, reeking of male machismo and stunt coordinator cockiness. We never once feel like Shawn is someone worth investing in and Harvey is just as flawed as a focus. At the turn of the century, when the populace was desperate for some manner of entertainment, bare knuckles boxing was the gentleman’s pursuit. Fast forward 100 years and Hollywood has turned it into a test of tedium. The only thing you’ll be ‘fighting’ is your lagging attention span.

by Bill Gibron

22 Aug 2009


How is it that great movies end up forgotten, or worse, undiscovered? How does a masterpiece, meaning some important work clearly recognized as having amazing artistic merit or qualifications, wind up sitting on a shelf in some studio, quietly distributed and then all but disregarded? It seems to happen all the time - a director’s magnum opus newly uncovered, an actor’s best role just recently released. Such is the case with the flawless Australian film Bad Boy Bubby. Before hitting DVD a few years ago, this 1993 wonder from Downunder was celebrated by a select few, known among cinephiles as an explosive tour de force. But to the rest of the cinematic status quo, Rolf De Heer’s allegory of purposefully arrested adolescence was that lost diamond in a celluloid cave full of rhinestones and fool’s gold - and it definitely didn’t deserve to be.

The story centers on Bubby, a deranged manchild who has been living in the horrific Hellhole of his mother’s bunker like home for over 35 years. Cautioned that the real world outside the barricaded front door is dangerous and poisoned, he spends his days isolated and afraid, his only friend a feral cat (which, in pure psycho-logical profile style, he relentlessly torments). Mother makes demands of Bubby, her menopausal loneliness leading to inappropriate acts of abuse and incest. When a stranger arrives at their door, claiming to be the overgrown boy’s Dad, our stunted savant goes crazy. Soon, he’s escaped his dungeon-like domain, and goes on a perplexing Pilgrim’s progress through a series of social interactions. In the end, Bubby winds up a vitriol spewing member of a rock band. He also helps those unable to communicate to “voice” their heretofore unheard thoughts.

Imagine Christ born, not in a manger, but in an abattoir, the Virgin Mary so lost and biologically bonkers that she beds down the matured messiah any chance she gets. Now turn our soiled savior into a combination Johnny Rotten and Sigmund Freud, disconnected from the real world but capable of linking with society’s frightening fringe. Wrap it all in an amazing performance by actor Nicholas Hope (who is truly remarkable) and exceptional direction by A Quiet Room‘s De Heer, and you’ve got some idea of the level Bad Boy Bubby exists within. In this uneasy, unforgettable portrait of pain amplified into aggression, we see humanity defiled, personality perverted, compassion corrupted, and the healing power of love tossed aside for an equally therapeutic dose of hate. In fact, convert the aforementioned Biblical angle on its head and this could be the Antichrist’s biopic.

Told in movements, each one meant to mimic our lead’s claustrophobic sense of the world, De Heer manages the unthinkable. He turns the derelict into something defendable, the sadistic and malignant into the somewhat soured milk of maternal kindness. We get why Bubby’s mum is the way she is. It all comes back to her - and us - when “Dad” returns. Her demented defense mechanisms have colored her son’s 35 plus years on the planet, making him completely ill-prepared for reality. This in turn sets up the finale for the first act, a disgusting, destructive jag that indicates just how deep Bubby’s bruises go. Sure, there are elements that seem excessive, but in comparison to what we’ve seen in the set-up, our heroes acts are some of the most cruel - and cathartic - of any movie ever made.

Thus we enter De Heer’s second “symphony of struggle” and the outside world is just as traumatic. Bubby is inundated with goodness and badness, both sides of the social coin unprepared to make sense of, and or exploit, his naïve nature. It’s like a Pynchon novel as envision by the two Davids - Lynch and Cronenberg. Toward the end, when his stardom and psychic abilities are secured, the final movement manages the truly remarkable. Here, in this stunted, stifled human being is potential fully realized, acceptance gained without a moment’s hesitation or a single personal compromise. Bubby might not be settled, but he sure as Hell is happy…for once.

Indeed, like any struggle for enlightenment, Bad Boy Bubby is about channeling the past in an appropriate and productive manner. It’s about finding your place, no matter how long you’ve been out of the currently running rat race. In this case, the outrageous physical and sexual abuse he’s been subjected to, in combination with the limited purview of his experience, results in Bubby’s uncanny ability to communicate. He’s not special, he’s just really, really tuned in. The punks respond to him because he knows pain, knows it like an unnatural love (and lover). Similarly, the physically handicapped connect with him because he’s used to reading minor changes and gestures as details. With De Heer presenting everything in a kind surreal puzzle box of pleasures, visual - and most importantly aural - approach simulating Bubby’s perspective, we become lost in this undeniable stunning cinematic exercise.

It’s an experience accented by the new Blu-ray release from Blue Underground. Porting over all their extras from the original DVD, we are treated to interviews with De Heer, Hope, and a strange short film, Confessor Caressor (the catalyst for landing the actor this part). There is also a trailer, as well as an accurate audio track which recreates the binaural set-up the director used to put the viewer directly into Bubby’s brain. It can be disorienting at first, especially when you consider that the technique was meant to capture the craziness going on in the character’s head. While some may be sad that a rumored commentary track from other region releases didn’t make the switch to the new format, the updated technical attributes (including an amazing 2.35:1, 1080p image) more than makes up for its absence.

In fact, Bad Boy Bubby is one of those rarities that requires little actual supplemental support to matter within the motion picture artform. Sure, it’s a set example of its time and place, a reflection of the unusual filmmaking fervor overtaking Australia during the ‘90s. But it’s also a potent metaphor for the horrors of youth translating into an equally scary adult sense of dread. As the old saying goes, Bubby was not born bad. He was made that way after years of neglect and trauma. But if the results lead to a kind of redemption, to a freedom forced through violence and aggression, then maybe it was worth it. To suggest that something good can come out of depravity and disease is just one of this film’s finer pleasures. Then again, that’s the great thing about lost gems - they’ll surprise you every time.

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Call For Papers: Celebrating Star Trek's 50th Anniversary

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"To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hit franchise, PopMatters seeks submissions about Star Trek, including: the TV series, from The Original Series (TOS) to the highly anticipated 2017 new installment; the films, both the originals and the J.J. Abrams reboot; and ancillary materials such as novelizations, comic books, videogames, etc.

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