A better review than I wrote …
youmightfindyourself:

Repo Man: A Lattice of CoincidenceBy Sam McPheeters
Repo Man, released in early 1984, was the first feature film by a twenty- nine-year-old British UCLA film school graduate named Alex Cox. Even now, the film’s existence seems implausible. It is an apocalypse tale with no doomsday, a punk movie with no concert, a science fiction story with less than ten seconds of aliens. Most of its now classic music was on the far, far edge of American society in 1984. It mines a world of drugs, crime, and capitalist peril for absurdist yuks (when Cox showed the film to his contacts in the real world of Los Angeles auto repossession, they found it to be a diluted version of their much more terrifying jobs). The project, originally envisioned at one-tenth of its final budget, was picked up by Universal Studios. That backing launched the green director into the unfamiliar universe of teamsters and lawyers and the watchful eyes of a studio that could smoosh the project with one phone call.
How a major studio allowed such a vehemently odd movie to exist really is a mystery. Its outlandishness isn’t forced; it’s forceful. This is a film that expands a singular style of humor into an entire worldview, a physics as vast as the Force in Star Wars. But part of the mystery is also that Cox could gather so much talent in one place. Granted full autonomy in his casting, he somehow assembled a flawless ensemble. Emilio Estevez’s Otto is a pitch-perfect mix of blank ambition and obliviousness. Matching this is the world-weary exhaustion—dubbed “the Old West/cadaver look” by a friend of Cox’s—of Harry Dean Stanton’s Bud. Otto is a baby-faced punker initiated into a secretive trade by Bud, who listens to obsolete music, dresses square, and dreams small. Their worldviews collide in the new terrain of early eighties America, an era of subtle but rapid change from the Me Decade to the Greed Decade.
The casting is so impeccable that it is hard to ponder the film in any of its almost-were incarnations. Dick Rude, so brilliant as the steely-eyed ex-con Duke, was originally slated for Otto. Lance Henriksen auditioned for the role of the fictitious neutron bomb inventor J. Frank Parnell, ultimately played with leering gusto by Fox Harris. Bud was nearly portrayed by Dennis Hopper (Stanton’s own agent had, inexplicably, pushed for Mick Jagger). Most difficult to contemplate differently is the role of Otto’s hapless pal Kevin, portrayed with such geeky authenticity by the newcomer Zander Schloss; those scenes were reshot after Chris Penn tried the role as a teen- comedy goofball.
Universal treated the completed Repo Man with puzzled indifference, pulling the film from theaters after one week of underperformance in February 1984. For most movies, that would have been that. Fortunately, MCA Records had made a deal to release the soundtrack on its new, “edgy” subsidiary, San Andreas Records. Opening with Iggy Pop’s glorious theme song (with backing by the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and two members of Blondie), the album is a masterful mix of essential L.A. hardcore and the spooky Chicano- surf scoring of the Plugz. Six months after the film’s ignominious opening, its soundtrack sales topped fifty thousand. Universal reassessed its property, and the film was relaunched to critical acclaim and (modest) commercial success.
Repo Man thrived largely because of its music. The soundtrack not only resurrected the theatrical run, it also stoked interest in the video release. The film had the wonderful serendipity to enter the VHS market during the golden age of video stores. In the mideighties, “cult film” was both an aesthetic and a status facilitated by scarcity. Video connoisseurs of the pre-Internet world foraged through shelves and bins, propelled by word of mouth and employee picks. Even if you managed to catch the infamously edited television version of Repo Man (with “flip you” and “melon farmer” dubbed over saltier insults), you would have had to own a VCR to share the experience with friends. The film bloomed as a phenomenon not just because it had to be sought out but because it delivered on expectations when finally found.
Musically as well, it’s hard to think of another nondocumentary film with the preposterously marvelous timing of Repo Man—Cox had the most vibrant and diverse punk scene in America to work with. And certainly no other film used such good fortune to such novel effect. Consider the cameo by the Circle Jerks. That scene shows one of the mightiest lineups in the first wave of American hardcore—Keith Morris, Greg Hetson, Earl Liberty of Saccharine Trust, and the celebrated drummer Chuck Biscuits—in that incarnation of the band’s only recorded performance, as a drum-machine-backed lounge act. ‘
Like Billy Wilder and so many others, Cox saw Los Angeles through the eyes of a foreigner. Perhaps this perspective helped him gauge the weight of the city’s car culture. There is a boxy, sinister element to all the key autos: Bud’s Chevy Impala, Otto’s heisted AMC Matador, the Chevy Malibu that really did get stolen during filming. Actors auditioned in cars. The film’s only glamorous ride, the Rodriguez brothers’ 1964 Ford Falcon convertible, felt the wrath of Stanton’s baseball bat— during an on-set argument over his right to wield a real baseball bat in place of a prop one. And as a car film, Repo Man faithfully captures the terrors of its era. InGrease—a movie with a similar magic-chariot finale— the paved L.A. River is a private racetrack for gleaming hot rods. Here, it’s Bud’s doomsday escape route.
The original drafts of the Repo Man screenplay actually did end with atomic annihilation. Even with the sunnier conclusion that the film wound up with, it still fits snugly in the roster of politicized 1980s American sci-fi. Most science fiction made under Reagan—from the low-budgetThe Brother from Another Planet to Escape from New York, Robocop, They Live (a Cox favorite), and even the blockbuster bluster of The Terminator—couldn’t avoid engaging with political issues, providing the same kind of canvas for social commentary once offered by westerns. Nuclear apocalypse loomed, and Reaganomics turned downtowns into dystopian Bantustans; reality was rapidly catching up with fantasy. In this context, some of Cox’s gags have a deeper meaning. Repo Man’s streets aren’t just stages for comedic weirdness; they’re also part Calcutta, zones where a dead body can be left on a bench or a sidewalk without repercussion.
Some of the film’s oddness is borrowed. The smoldering boots of the patrolman were lifted from executive producer and ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith’s previous production, Timerider (1982). Cox’s student film Edge City (1980) first used the wonderful background burble of radio and television commentary. The Pik ’n Pay generic foods scattered throughout, Repo Man’s most enduring and original gag, were real, having been donated by Ralphs supermarket (only three generic products—“Food,” “Drink,” and “Butyl Nitrate”—had to be made as props). And Cox pays homage to the hissing “great whatsit” of 1955’s apocalyptic noir Kiss Me Deadly with his own glowing trunk MacGuffin.
Repo Man would be a hard debut for any director to outshine. It’s a film with nearly zero body fat, in a league with Star Wars or the Monty Python movies in its abundance of quotable lines. Its countless little extras—Miller’s shaman dance, the clucking agents, the ubiquitous (and sponsored) air fresheners—reward repeat viewings.
It’s been nearly three decades now, and I’m still waiting for the world to produce another Repo Man. Its legacy and influence are so diffuse and varied that they register as background noise, leaving it to stand not just as a great work of cinema but as a challenge. Why can’t more films be like this?

A better review than I wrote …

youmightfindyourself:

Repo Man: A Lattice of Coincidence
By Sam McPheeters

Repo Man, released in early 1984, was the first feature film by a twenty- nine-year-old British UCLA film school graduate named Alex Cox. Even now, the film’s existence seems implausible. It is an apocalypse tale with no doomsday, a punk movie with no concert, a science fiction story with less than ten seconds of aliens. Most of its now classic music was on the far, far edge of American society in 1984. It mines a world of drugs, crime, and capitalist peril for absurdist yuks (when Cox showed the film to his contacts in the real world of Los Angeles auto repossession, they found it to be a diluted version of their much more terrifying jobs). The project, originally envisioned at one-tenth of its final budget, was picked up by Universal Studios. That backing launched the green director into the unfamiliar universe of teamsters and lawyers and the watchful eyes of a studio that could smoosh the project with one phone call.

How a major studio allowed such a vehemently odd movie to exist really is a mystery. Its outlandishness isn’t forced; it’s forceful. This is a film that expands a singular style of humor into an entire worldview, a physics as vast as the Force in Star Wars. But part of the mystery is also that Cox could gather so much talent in one place. Granted full autonomy in his casting, he somehow assembled a flawless ensemble. Emilio Estevez’s Otto is a pitch-perfect mix of blank ambition and obliviousness. Matching this is the world-weary exhaustion—dubbed “the Old West/cadaver look” by a friend of Cox’s—of Harry Dean Stanton’s Bud. Otto is a baby-faced punker initiated into a secretive trade by Bud, who listens to obsolete music, dresses square, and dreams small. Their worldviews collide in the new terrain of early eighties America, an era of subtle but rapid change from the Me Decade to the Greed Decade.

The casting is so impeccable that it is hard to ponder the film in any of its almost-were incarnations. Dick Rude, so brilliant as the steely-eyed ex-con Duke, was originally slated for Otto. Lance Henriksen auditioned for the role of the fictitious neutron bomb inventor J. Frank Parnell, ultimately played with leering gusto by Fox Harris. Bud was nearly portrayed by Dennis Hopper (Stanton’s own agent had, inexplicably, pushed for Mick Jagger). Most difficult to contemplate differently is the role of Otto’s hapless pal Kevin, portrayed with such geeky authenticity by the newcomer Zander Schloss; those scenes were reshot after Chris Penn tried the role as a teen- comedy goofball.

Universal treated the completed Repo Man with puzzled indifference, pulling the film from theaters after one week of underperformance in February 1984. For most movies, that would have been that. Fortunately, MCA Records had made a deal to release the soundtrack on its new, “edgy” subsidiary, San Andreas Records. Opening with Iggy Pop’s glorious theme song (with backing by the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and two members of Blondie), the album is a masterful mix of essential L.A. hardcore and the spooky Chicano- surf scoring of the Plugz. Six months after the film’s ignominious opening, its soundtrack sales topped fifty thousand. Universal reassessed its property, and the film was relaunched to critical acclaim and (modest) commercial success.

Repo Man thrived largely because of its music. The soundtrack not only resurrected the theatrical run, it also stoked interest in the video release. The film had the wonderful serendipity to enter the VHS market during the golden age of video stores. In the mideighties, “cult film” was both an aesthetic and a status facilitated by scarcity. Video connoisseurs of the pre-Internet world foraged through shelves and bins, propelled by word of mouth and employee picks. Even if you managed to catch the infamously edited television version of Repo Man (with “flip you” and “melon farmer” dubbed over saltier insults), you would have had to own a VCR to share the experience with friends. The film bloomed as a phenomenon not just because it had to be sought out but because it delivered on expectations when finally found.

Musically as well, it’s hard to think of another nondocumentary film with the preposterously marvelous timing of Repo Man—Cox had the most vibrant and diverse punk scene in America to work with. And certainly no other film used such good fortune to such novel effect. Consider the cameo by the Circle Jerks. That scene shows one of the mightiest lineups in the first wave of American hardcore—Keith Morris, Greg Hetson, Earl Liberty of Saccharine Trust, and the celebrated drummer Chuck Biscuits—in that incarnation of the band’s only recorded performance, as a drum-machine-backed lounge act. ‘

Like Billy Wilder and so many others, Cox saw Los Angeles through the eyes of a foreigner. Perhaps this perspective helped him gauge the weight of the city’s car culture. There is a boxy, sinister element to all the key autos: Bud’s Chevy Impala, Otto’s heisted AMC Matador, the Chevy Malibu that really did get stolen during filming. Actors auditioned in cars. The film’s only glamorous ride, the Rodriguez brothers’ 1964 Ford Falcon convertible, felt the wrath of Stanton’s baseball bat— during an on-set argument over his right to wield a real baseball bat in place of a prop one. And as a car film, Repo Man faithfully captures the terrors of its era. InGrease—a movie with a similar magic-chariot finale— the paved L.A. River is a private racetrack for gleaming hot rods. Here, it’s Bud’s doomsday escape route.

The original drafts of the Repo Man screenplay actually did end with atomic annihilation. Even with the sunnier conclusion that the film wound up with, it still fits snugly in the roster of politicized 1980s American sci-fi. Most science fiction made under Reagan—from the low-budgetThe Brother from Another Planet to Escape from New York, Robocop, They Live (a Cox favorite), and even the blockbuster bluster of The Terminator—couldn’t avoid engaging with political issues, providing the same kind of canvas for social commentary once offered by westerns. Nuclear apocalypse loomed, and Reaganomics turned downtowns into dystopian Bantustans; reality was rapidly catching up with fantasy. In this context, some of Cox’s gags have a deeper meaning. Repo Man’s streets aren’t just stages for comedic weirdness; they’re also part Calcutta, zones where a dead body can be left on a bench or a sidewalk without repercussion.

Some of the film’s oddness is borrowed. The smoldering boots of the patrolman were lifted from executive producer and ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith’s previous production, Timerider (1982). Cox’s student film Edge City (1980) first used the wonderful background burble of radio and television commentary. The Pik ’n Pay generic foods scattered throughout, Repo Man’s most enduring and original gag, were real, having been donated by Ralphs supermarket (only three generic products—“Food,” “Drink,” and “Butyl Nitrate”—had to be made as props). And Cox pays homage to the hissing “great whatsit” of 1955’s apocalyptic noir Kiss Me Deadly with his own glowing trunk MacGuffin.

Repo Man would be a hard debut for any director to outshine. It’s a film with nearly zero body fat, in a league with Star Wars or the Monty Python movies in its abundance of quotable lines. Its countless little extras—Miller’s shaman dance, the clucking agents, the ubiquitous (and sponsored) air fresheners—reward repeat viewings.

It’s been nearly three decades now, and I’m still waiting for the world to produce another Repo Man. Its legacy and influence are so diffuse and varied that they register as background noise, leaving it to stand not just as a great work of cinema but as a challenge. Why can’t more films be like this?

(via cinecity)

Princess Mononoke (1997) written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, animated by Studio Ghibli.

I saw this in the theater. I was taking a film course in San Diego and was required for the course to watch a foreign film. Because I am a terrible procrastinator, I waited to the last possible moment — and Princess Mononoke was the only foreign film playing at the local art theater. At the time I had never heard of Miyazaki — had not, in fact, ever seen Japanese animation that did not strongly feature giant robots. Internally I groaned and bought my ticket.
From the very first frame, my jaw was on my chest and I was thoroughly enchanted. 
An amazing film, an amazing filmmaker.

Princess Mononoke (1997) written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, animated by Studio Ghibli.

I saw this in the theater. I was taking a film course in San Diego and was required for the course to watch a foreign film. Because I am a terrible procrastinator, I waited to the last possible moment — and Princess Mononoke was the only foreign film playing at the local art theater. At the time I had never heard of Miyazaki — had not, in fact, ever seen Japanese animation that did not strongly feature giant robots. Internally I groaned and bought my ticket.

From the very first frame, my jaw was on my chest and I was thoroughly enchanted.

An amazing film, an amazing filmmaker.

(Source: kiisaki, via brudesworld)

Review:


This is Scix in the Back Row, cutting out.

Excision (2012) written and directed by Richard Bates, Jr, and starring AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Gray Gubler, Marlee Matlin, Ray Wise, and John Waters. The film is a feature-length adaptation of the 2008 short film of the same name.

Review:

This is Scix in the Back Row, cutting out.

Excision (2012) written and directed by Richard Bates, Jr, and starring AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Gray Gubler, Marlee Matlin, Ray Wise, and John Waters. The film is a feature-length adaptation of the 2008 short film of the same name.

Angel Heart  -  
Review
Look, even the movie poster makes a point of showing the fans!
Angel Heart, Angel Heart, Angel Heart, what can I say about this movie? It’s a mystery, and a pretty good one. Once the final piece falls into place, the puzzle makes a picture that is both clear and disturbing, and our innocent, idealist hero of a detective had a shadow-self proclaiming darkness all along. 
Some secrets were obvious — a dime-store joke of a name, for instance — some took a bit more work to uncover, but it was all bathed in blood. Chicken blood mostly, but not only chicken blood.
And always the fans turning, turning … fans move air, like breath. In many languages the same word is used for both breath and spirit. Turning, like the wheel of karma, perhaps? Alternating shadow and light, but mixing them around in one circle? Maybe Alan Parker just liked fans. 
I mean, David Lynch certainly does, as do Team Silent.
Some lovely, noir patter. Some excellent scenery. Interesting moments. Just an excellent film. A good follow-up to Jacob’s Ladder.
And somehow, one of very few films that leaves me with a shudder, even so many years later…
This is Scix in the Back Row. At least, I think it’s me…
Angel Heart (1987), directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet. Adapted from the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg

Angel Heart  -  

Review

Look, even the movie poster makes a point of showing the fans!

Angel Heart, Angel Heart, Angel Heart, what can I say about this movie? It’s a mystery, and a pretty good one. Once the final piece falls into place, the puzzle makes a picture that is both clear and disturbing, and our innocent, idealist hero of a detective had a shadow-self proclaiming darkness all along.

Some secrets were obvious — a dime-store joke of a name, for instance — some took a bit more work to uncover, but it was all bathed in blood. Chicken blood mostly, but not only chicken blood.

And always the fans turning, turning … fans move air, like breath. In many languages the same word is used for both breath and spirit. Turning, like the wheel of karma, perhaps? Alternating shadow and light, but mixing them around in one circle? Maybe Alan Parker just liked fans.

I mean, David Lynch certainly does, as do Team Silent.

Some lovely, noir patter. Some excellent scenery. Interesting moments. Just an excellent film. A good follow-up to Jacob’s Ladder.

And somehow, one of very few films that leaves me with a shudder, even so many years later…

This is Scix in the Back Row. At least, I think it’s me…

Angel Heart (1987), directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet. Adapted from the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg

Sinister…

Sinister (2012) directed by Scott Derrickson, starring Ethan Hawke and Juliet Rylance

Just saw it with some friends.

Review: I found it utterly predictable and disappointing. The reveal/twist was neither surprising nor logical. All of the characters disappeared the moment they weren’t talking to Ellison — no one had a life or personality of their own. The sound design was cheesy, and cheated startle-scares unfairly.

It felt like it was written by someone who browsed a few pages on TV Tropes, and that’s it.

The best footage could be edited together into a decent music video, though, maybe something by Rob Zombie.

image

This is Scix in the… you know, never mind.

Review:
I watched this the first time because I had heard that it had been a big influence on Silent Hill. Clearly, it has been a big influence on many things, though it is largely forgotten. The ubiquitous shaky-headed ghost was pretty much an invention for this film, for example.
It’s dark. It’s dark regardless of which interpretation of “what’s really going on” you opt into. But its horror is also weirdly beautiful. Not Dario Argento-beautiful, but beautiful in its own misshapen, dilapidated way. Beautiful-enough that I have now posted over 400 screenshots.
Ultimately, it’s a haunted house tale, where the house is Jacob Singer’s brain, and the main question is trying to find out “what the fuck is going on?” My favorite kind of tale. And while it’s probably an “Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" near-death hallucination, it’s also a parable of purgatory, of letting go, of government conspiracy, of lost love, of mourning, of man’s basest instincts, of a battle between a good soul and demons trying to drive him mad.
You know. The good stuff.
This is Scix in the Back Row, shaking his head.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990) directed by Adrian Lyne, based on a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin and starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, and Danny Aiello.

Review:


I watched this the first time because I had heard that it had been a big influence on Silent Hill. Clearly, it has been a big influence on many things, though it is largely forgotten. The ubiquitous shaky-headed ghost was pretty much an invention for this film, for example.

It’s dark. It’s dark regardless of which interpretation of “what’s really going on” you opt into. But its horror is also weirdly beautiful. Not Dario Argento-beautiful, but beautiful in its own misshapen, dilapidated way. Beautiful-enough that I have now posted over 400 screenshots.

Ultimately, it’s a haunted house tale, where the house is Jacob Singer’s brain, and the main question is trying to find out “what the fuck is going on?” My favorite kind of tale. And while it’s probably an “Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" near-death hallucination, it’s also a parable of purgatory, of letting go, of government conspiracy, of lost love, of mourning, of man’s basest instincts, of a battle between a good soul and demons trying to drive him mad.

You know. The good stuff.

This is Scix in the Back Row, shaking his head.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990) directed by Adrian Lyne, based on a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin and starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, and Danny Aiello.

REVIEW: Whew! This one took a while. It’s so visually iconic, I wound up taking over 800 screenshots. I whittled it down to 242. I’ll try to control myself better next time.
Phillip K. Dick was a loony-toons writer, but he had a creative and wondrous flavor of loony-toonicity that gave rise to mind-warping tales that leave the reader questioning the very nature of reality and identity.
Smack dab in the middle of this oeuvre is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel that Blade Runner is based on. It raises questions on the nature of consciousness: can an artificial being be a real person? What if it has feelings? What if it doesn’t even know it is an android? How is ending the life of such a creation morally different from ending the life of a human being? Would a society that invented and used such beings be different from slavers? Would the difficulties and turmoil of a slave-based culture be the same?
It is set in the near future, on a somewhat dystopian Earth whose population is decimated by off-world emigration, leaving only the poor and sick behind, along with those that profit from them. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a sort of bounty hunter who specializes in hunting these androids, known by the trade name Replicants.
A quartet of off-world Replicants have come to Earth, pretending to be human, in search of answers. Most notably: how can they extend their lives beyond the built-in expiration date they were designed with?
Deckard’s heart is not in it. They seem to be a metaphor for his own failing life, but he hunts them anyway — and the strongest of them hunt him in return, until it becomes a showdown on the roofs of the city of Los Angeles.
Stylistically, this film is iconic. Anything cyberpunk, anything in a dark, messy dystopian future, owes much to Ridley Scott’s creation.
Speaking of Ridley Scott, Do you suppose this could be the same world as Alien? We see the spacefarers, but don’t spend much time on the streets of Earth seeing what it’s like for those left behind. I think it could be. 

This is Scix in the Back Row, taking the Voight-Kampff test.
Blade Runner (1982) directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong, Morgan Paull, Kevin Thompson. Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

REVIEW: Whew! This one took a while. It’s so visually iconic, I wound up taking over 800 screenshots. I whittled it down to 242. I’ll try to control myself better next time.

Phillip K. Dick was a loony-toons writer, but he had a creative and wondrous flavor of loony-toonicity that gave rise to mind-warping tales that leave the reader questioning the very nature of reality and identity.

Smack dab in the middle of this oeuvre is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel that Blade Runner is based on. It raises questions on the nature of consciousness: can an artificial being be a real person? What if it has feelings? What if it doesn’t even know it is an android? How is ending the life of such a creation morally different from ending the life of a human being? Would a society that invented and used such beings be different from slavers? Would the difficulties and turmoil of a slave-based culture be the same?

It is set in the near future, on a somewhat dystopian Earth whose population is decimated by off-world emigration, leaving only the poor and sick behind, along with those that profit from them. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a sort of bounty hunter who specializes in hunting these androids, known by the trade name Replicants.

A quartet of off-world Replicants have come to Earth, pretending to be human, in search of answers. Most notably: how can they extend their lives beyond the built-in expiration date they were designed with?

Deckard’s heart is not in it. They seem to be a metaphor for his own failing life, but he hunts them anyway — and the strongest of them hunt him in return, until it becomes a showdown on the roofs of the city of Los Angeles.

Stylistically, this film is iconic. Anything cyberpunk, anything in a dark, messy dystopian future, owes much to Ridley Scott’s creation.

Speaking of Ridley Scott, Do you suppose this could be the same world as Alien? We see the spacefarers, but don’t spend much time on the streets of Earth seeing what it’s like for those left behind. I think it could be.

This is Scix in the Back Row, taking the Voight-Kampff test.

Blade Runner (1982) directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong, Morgan Paull, Kevin Thompson. Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

Repo Man (1984)
I saw this movie in the 80s when I was a teenager — not at the theater, strictly a VHS video rental scene. I don’t recall thinking very much about it, and it didn’t seem to make much of an impact with me or my friends. Though as I recall, bits of the soundtrack kept showing up in our proto-hipster mixtapes.
You see kids, in the old days music and movies were stored on magnetic strips of tape…
Anyway.
Each time I have rewatched it since, I have found myself more and more moved. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about this quasi-mystic dystopian teen badboy working stiff alien comedy-drama gets under my skin. Maybe it’s all the adjectives.
Tracey Walter’s character, like Filo in UHF, like quite a few oddballs in 80s film and TV, is the only one that really knows what’s-what, even though he’s a cloudcuckoolander. I like to imagine that’s me, but what are the odds? We’ll only know when the mother ship returns.
This is Scix in the Back Row, with a can of Drink and a bag of Snacks.
Directed by Alex Cox, starring Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton. Also starring Tracey Walter, Olivia Barash, Sy Richardson, Susan Barnes, Fox Harris, Tom Finnegan,  Del Zamora, Eddie Velez, Zander Schloss, Jennifer Balgobin, Dick Rude, Miguel Sandoval, Vonetta McGee, Richard Foronjy, the Circle Jerks and Samuel T. Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb

Repo Man (1984)

I saw this movie in the 80s when I was a teenager — not at the theater, strictly a VHS video rental scene. I don’t recall thinking very much about it, and it didn’t seem to make much of an impact with me or my friends. Though as I recall, bits of the soundtrack kept showing up in our proto-hipster mixtapes.

You see kids, in the old days music and movies were stored on magnetic strips of tape…

Anyway.

Each time I have rewatched it since, I have found myself more and more moved. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about this quasi-mystic dystopian teen badboy working stiff alien comedy-drama gets under my skin. Maybe it’s all the adjectives.

Tracey Walter’s character, like Filo in UHF, like quite a few oddballs in 80s film and TV, is the only one that really knows what’s-what, even though he’s a cloudcuckoolander. I like to imagine that’s me, but what are the odds? We’ll only know when the mother ship returns.

This is Scix in the Back Row, with a can of Drink and a bag of Snacks.

Directed by Alex Cox, starring Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton. Also starring Tracey Walter, Olivia Barash, Sy Richardson, Susan Barnes, Fox Harris, Tom Finnegan,  Del Zamora, Eddie Velez, Zander Schloss, Jennifer Balgobin, Dick Rude, Miguel Sandoval, Vonetta McGee, Richard Foronjy, the Circle Jerks and Samuel T. Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb

True Stories (1986) 
David Byrne is the frontman for the 80’s new-wave band Talking Heads, of which I am a great fan. Their music is avant-garde and quirky and while being played totally straight, clearly has a playful sense of fun and never takes itself too seriously.
True Stories is just what you’d expect then. It plays, in a way, like an extended music video, though it is more. Byrne narrates throughout like the narrator in Our Town, but with a big hat and a slightly bemused expression. In ways it’s a Waiting for Guffman-esque mockumentary, introducing the fictional town of Virgil, Texas and its preparation for the big sesquicentennial celebration. It introduces characters that are only a few notches from David Lynch — a woman obsessed with cuteness to the exclusion of all else, a woman who matter-of-factly spins ever-more extravagant lies, unchallenged by the baffled people she is addressing. A woman who has never left her bed. A psychic who reads radio waves by touching your nose. A man obsessed with getting married. A voodoo housekeeper. A captain of industry who hasn’t spoken to his wife in 12 years, and who seems part robot attempting to pass as human.
You know. The usual.
There are moments of poignancy, moments of idiocy, moments of lunacy, and Byrne narrates it through immersing himself in the little town, becoming one of the characters. Observing like an alien.
Does it all mean anything? Maybe.
This is Scix in the back row, wearing the big hat.
True Stories (1986) directed by and starring  David Byrne of the band Talking Heads, costarring John Goodman, Swoosie  Kurtz, and Spalding Gray.

True Stories (1986)

David Byrne is the frontman for the 80’s new-wave band Talking Heads, of which I am a great fan. Their music is avant-garde and quirky and while being played totally straight, clearly has a playful sense of fun and never takes itself too seriously.

True Stories is just what you’d expect then. It plays, in a way, like an extended music video, though it is more. Byrne narrates throughout like the narrator in Our Town, but with a big hat and a slightly bemused expression. In ways it’s a Waiting for Guffman-esque mockumentary, introducing the fictional town of Virgil, Texas and its preparation for the big sesquicentennial celebration. It introduces characters that are only a few notches from David Lynch — a woman obsessed with cuteness to the exclusion of all else, a woman who matter-of-factly spins ever-more extravagant lies, unchallenged by the baffled people she is addressing. A woman who has never left her bed. A psychic who reads radio waves by touching your nose. A man obsessed with getting married. A voodoo housekeeper. A captain of industry who hasn’t spoken to his wife in 12 years, and who seems part robot attempting to pass as human.

You know. The usual.

There are moments of poignancy, moments of idiocy, moments of lunacy, and Byrne narrates it through immersing himself in the little town, becoming one of the characters. Observing like an alien.

Does it all mean anything? Maybe.

This is Scix in the back row, wearing the big hat.

True Stories (1986) directed by and starring David Byrne of the band Talking Heads, costarring John Goodman, Swoosie Kurtz, and Spalding Gray.

The Raven is the only time these three horror movie giants appeared on screen together. It is also one of Jack Nicholson’s first appearances.  He’s really only the Jack we’ve come to know and love when he’s possessed with some “diabolical mind control.”
The film is quite silly, and not to be taken even remotely seriously. As such, Corman’s silly special effects fit right in. It’s a good watch if you have nostalgia for these horror giants, or like “so bad they’re good” films. Beyond that — there’s nothing particularly important or interesting about the film itself, but still I enjoy it immensely.
This is Scix in the back row, under diabolical mind control.
The Raven (1963) produced and directed by Roger Corman, staring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson. Loosely inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name. Very loosely. In 1935, Karloff starred in a film directed by Lew Landers with the same title, with Béla Lugosi.

The Raven is the only time these three horror movie giants appeared on screen together. It is also one of Jack Nicholson’s first appearances.  He’s really only the Jack we’ve come to know and love when he’s possessed with some “diabolical mind control.”

The film is quite silly, and not to be taken even remotely seriously. As such, Corman’s silly special effects fit right in. It’s a good watch if you have nostalgia for these horror giants, or like “so bad they’re good” films. Beyond that — there’s nothing particularly important or interesting about the film itself, but still I enjoy it immensely.

This is Scix in the back row, under diabolical mind control.

The Raven (1963) produced and directed by Roger Corman, staring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson. Loosely inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name. Very loosely.

In 1935, Karloff starred in a film directed by Lew Landers with the same title, with Béla Lugosi.

Troll Hunter: This is a “found footage” mockumentary. Sort of. There is no way I can know whether there is humor lost in translation, linguistically or culturally. For example, the names of the different breeds of troll are untranslated. Is this because they are the actual names of folklore trolls? If I knew the folklore would I understand? Or are they a joke?
In any case, they play it straight, even when lining up three billy goats on a bridge as troll bait. There are funny moments, but I kept getting pulled in because the actors are actually pretty good. Better than is probably required for a shaky-cam Blair Witch-stye film.
The scenery is just gorgeous, and I wonder if all of Norway is like that, or if they got a kickback from the Tourist Board.
Overall, I liked it, it was in turns light-hearted and desperate. I like to imagine how I would react in a situation like that, and I fancy I’d do better than they did — but probably would just get eaten the very first chance I got.
Worth a watch, certainly. And this is me, in the back row, turning to stone.
The Troll Hunter (Norwegian: Trolljegeren)   (2010) Written and directed by André Øvredal, and starring Otto   Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen and   Hans Morten Hansen.

Troll Hunter: This is a “found footage” mockumentary. Sort of. There is no way I can know whether there is humor lost in translation, linguistically or culturally. For example, the names of the different breeds of troll are untranslated. Is this because they are the actual names of folklore trolls? If I knew the folklore would I understand? Or are they a joke?

In any case, they play it straight, even when lining up three billy goats on a bridge as troll bait. There are funny moments, but I kept getting pulled in because the actors are actually pretty good. Better than is probably required for a shaky-cam Blair Witch-stye film.

The scenery is just gorgeous, and I wonder if all of Norway is like that, or if they got a kickback from the Tourist Board.

Overall, I liked it, it was in turns light-hearted and desperate. I like to imagine how I would react in a situation like that, and I fancy I’d do better than they did — but probably would just get eaten the very first chance I got.

Worth a watch, certainly. And this is me, in the back row, turning to stone.

The Troll Hunter (Norwegian: Trolljegeren) (2010) Written and directed by André Øvredal, and starring Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, Tomas Alf Larsen and Hans Morten Hansen.

"Sing Cuckoo!"
Review: The Wicker Man (1973)
When I first saw this film, I was actually a practicing neo-Pagan, and I rather liked the quaint paganism of Summerisle. It wasn’t peopled with Goth witches or Hollywood-pretty worshipers, but regular folks, butchers and bakers and teachers and chemists and clerks. While Sgt Howie clearly found the culture of Summerisle disturbing and even menacing, I thrilled to his discomfiture.
And yet I really didn’t want to see him burned. Yikes. PR fail for neo-Paganism, I thought.
Of course, it was never a neo-Pagan PR campaign. It was a horror film. The casual Paganism of Summerisle was quaint, at first, but insular, and wary of strangers, much like the village of Innsmouth in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth (and others). Still, rather than be horrified, I still watch the film mostly as Sgt Howie being a dick.
The movie has quite a cult following, and has received awards and acclaim as an exceptional horror film. Why? What about this admittedly low-budget film attracts such ardor? Christopher Lee, himself, loved the project so much he did the role of Lord Summerisle for free, and used his fame to promote the film. There were some hurdles to jump through, but finally the viewer can see the film more-or-less as Hardy originally intended it, uncut and undoctored as it was when first released.
So what makes it exceptional? I think its earnestness is what separates it from the pack of its contemporaries. Each actor, even the minor villagers in the background, believes in their role, in the made-up culture that Hardy and Shaffer created. In some way, they made it real. They were humorous and amorous and frivolous in their way, but deep down connected to their village, their land, and their crops. This is what I feel was most missing from The Wicker Tree (2010), the not-sequel they made with a pair of Texas evangelicals serving as the protagonist-victims.
And don’t get me started on the travesty that Nicolas Cage helped bring into the world. If there is a Lovecraftian horror so vile and unnatural as to cause a base, atavistic terror in the lizard brain of modern man, it is the existence of that film. So let us agree that it never happened.
This is Scix, shouting “BEEES!” in the back row.
The Wicker Man (1973) directed by Robin Hardy, written by Anthony Shaffer. Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Britt Ekland.

"Sing Cuckoo!"

Review: The Wicker Man (1973)

When I first saw this film, I was actually a practicing neo-Pagan, and I rather liked the quaint paganism of Summerisle. It wasn’t peopled with Goth witches or Hollywood-pretty worshipers, but regular folks, butchers and bakers and teachers and chemists and clerks. While Sgt Howie clearly found the culture of Summerisle disturbing and even menacing, I thrilled to his discomfiture.

And yet I really didn’t want to see him burned. Yikes. PR fail for neo-Paganism, I thought.

Of course, it was never a neo-Pagan PR campaign. It was a horror film. The casual Paganism of Summerisle was quaint, at first, but insular, and wary of strangers, much like the village of Innsmouth in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth (and others). Still, rather than be horrified, I still watch the film mostly as Sgt Howie being a dick.

The movie has quite a cult following, and has received awards and acclaim as an exceptional horror film. Why? What about this admittedly low-budget film attracts such ardor? Christopher Lee, himself, loved the project so much he did the role of Lord Summerisle for free, and used his fame to promote the film. There were some hurdles to jump through, but finally the viewer can see the film more-or-less as Hardy originally intended it, uncut and undoctored as it was when first released.

So what makes it exceptional? I think its earnestness is what separates it from the pack of its contemporaries. Each actor, even the minor villagers in the background, believes in their role, in the made-up culture that Hardy and Shaffer created. In some way, they made it real. They were humorous and amorous and frivolous in their way, but deep down connected to their village, their land, and their crops. This is what I feel was most missing from The Wicker Tree (2010), the not-sequel they made with a pair of Texas evangelicals serving as the protagonist-victims.

And don’t get me started on the travesty that Nicolas Cage helped bring into the world. If there is a Lovecraftian horror so vile and unnatural as to cause a base, atavistic terror in the lizard brain of modern man, it is the existence of that film. So let us agree that it never happened.

This is Scix, shouting “BEEES!” in the back row.


The Wicker Man (1973) directed by Robin Hardy, written by Anthony Shaffer. Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Britt Ekland.

Crossfade …
Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), directed by David Lynch
I am not sure I even feel qualified to review Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me or otherwise. It explores some of the Black Lodge mythos of the TV series, and gives some backstory of Laura’s descent from nice hometown girl to the wreck that was murdered by (spoiler) her father while possessed of an entity named Bob, who actually wanted to take her over instead. It adds new characters, and ties the whole series of murders to a larger history.
Lynch, however, would rather things be more opaque rather than more clear. The film is dream-like, even the ordinary slice-of-life bits Lynch always includes as contrast (Blue Velvet, for example, opened with that montage of Lumberton as a wholesome, American town).
I dunno. Frankly, I am just going to heat up some garmonbozia and eat it with butter and pepper, and go on thinking of the works of David Lynch as a mystery it is fun to pursue, but which can never be solved.
This is Scix in the Back Row, slurping garmonbozia.

Crossfade …

Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), directed by David Lynch

I am not sure I even feel qualified to review Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me or otherwise. It explores some of the Black Lodge mythos of the TV series, and gives some backstory of Laura’s descent from nice hometown girl to the wreck that was murdered by (spoiler) her father while possessed of an entity named Bob, who actually wanted to take her over instead. It adds new characters, and ties the whole series of murders to a larger history.

Lynch, however, would rather things be more opaque rather than more clear. The film is dream-like, even the ordinary slice-of-life bits Lynch always includes as contrast (Blue Velvet, for example, opened with that montage of Lumberton as a wholesome, American town).

I dunno. Frankly, I am just going to heat up some garmonbozia and eat it with butter and pepper, and go on thinking of the works of David Lynch as a mystery it is fun to pursue, but which can never be solved.

This is Scix in the Back Row, slurping garmonbozia.

The Shining (1980)

[Here there be spoilers]

Stephen King, who wrote the novel The Shining is based on, is reportedly unhappy with this adaptation. It is easy to see why: Kubrick’s vision has little in common with King’s.

King’s protagonist was a nice guy — weak rather than malicious. His inner demons were past, and he was working on making a good life for his family and forgetting his alcoholism and violence. The hotel worked on him to bring those to the fore, and engaging a hidden and vicious ego that Jack had (mostly) suppressed. The hotel wanted Danny because his power would amplify that of the hotel once he was one of them, and used Jack as a tool to get at him. In the end, Jack briefly shook off the clutches of his inevitable doom to save Danny and Wendy and destroy the hotel.

Kubrick’s protagonist — if it’s fair to call him that — is a barely-controlled ball of anger to begin with. His alcoholism is only a few months in his past, and his anger and ego are largely unaddressed. The hotel finds fertile ground in him, and while it clearly wants Danny and Wendy in its cast of ghosts, it uses Jack as more than a tool, it treats him as the star attraction. He’s a murderer (in the book he doesn’t kill Halloran. I suppose Dick is a ghost in the hotel now, too), and, it is implied, an abuser, who is, at best, barely keeping these impulses in check. Kubrick’s Jack Torrance is like a set mousetrap, only needing the right prod to spring into violence — violence that is his own, not entirely that of the hotel. Kubrick’s Jack has secrets as deep as those of the hotel, and these secrets prove to be the access to his wrath. Kubrick’s Jack joins the hotel’s coterie of victim-ghosts with a smile — or at least a frozen grimace — on his face.

King said Kubrick failed to understand the horror genre. Well, perhaps, but I think he created his own work of art that used horror as one of its main themes, and did so successfully. The 1997 TV adaptation was far truer to the book, but on film at least, moving hedge animals and oversized croquet mallets (Jack’s weapon, what Kubrick replaced with the more film-friendly fire axe) just cannot be scary.

This is an aspect of King’s genius: he can make ridiculous things terrifying. Unfortunately, film as a medium simply cannot do the same.

Kubrick’s genius was pushing the medium of film to its limits, and then pushing it some more. The intersection of these two geniuses produced something amazing, but easily overlooked as overacted schlock.

Heeeere’s Scixie in the back row, shining in the dark.

The Shining (1980) directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and Danny Lloyd. Based on the novel by Stephen King.

And that wraps it up for Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners.

The Frighteners may be my favorite ghost movie. I hesitate to call it horror, for though it is scary in parts, that’s not really the focus of the film.


Like most ghost stories, it’s a mystery at heart — and it doesn’t cheat: no unused guns on the mantle, no clues that have been kept from the audience even as hints. Misdirection aplenty, of course, but that’s the nature of the beast.

It’s a little Dirk Gently [1987], a little Silent Hill 4 (though of course this predates SH:4 by 8 years), part Ghost Busters, Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas, Beetlejuice, Flatliners

Overall a fun film, with some special effects that you started to see shortly afterwards all over the place. Fox does a wonderful job of playing a lovable con man who turns out to have more depth and character than anyone could have guessed.

This is Scix in the Back Row, huffing ectoplasm.

The Frighteners (director’s cut) (1996), directed by Peter Jackson, executive produced by Robert Zemeckis, Music by Danny Elfman, starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, Jake Busey and Chi McBride.

NOTE: I will no longer be making the slide show / video clips. No one seems to be watching them, and I am not sure they add anything, really.