Posts Tagged ‘movie’

The Conjuring (2013) – James Wan (Dir.), Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lily Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, the Children of the Corn: Female Edition, and a Creepy Fucking Doll

Worst. Santa. Ever.

Worst. Santa. Ever.

Um…guys…can you, um, switch on the lights? Please? Like…like…all of them?

Guys? Why isn’t the light switch working? *Click, click* Guys? This isn’t funny.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT. WHAT WAS THAT? Did that door open by itself? Guys, I’m being serious right now. Fucking stop it.

JESUS MARY JOSEPH AND THE OTHER ALL THE OTHER PLANETEERS, WHAT WAS THAT?

Oh. It was just a camera getting really close to my face. Get out of my way, camera. Why are you so close to me? Why are you focusing just behind my head and not on my face? And why is it so silent all of a sudden?

Wait…wait…should I look behind me? I’m gonna look…I’m gonna look behind me…right…now…

WHAT THE…?

…CONSTIPATION CURED.

(Commercial Voice) Talk to your doctor today about The Conjuring to help with your dyschezia. If you suffer from backed-up bowels The Conjuring might be for you. Side effects include: Mild Heart Failure, Spontaneous Urination, Close-Up Camera Fatigue, Acute 70s Nostalgia, Exorcist Deja Vu, and Bat-Shit Lily Tomlin Syndrome (BSLTS or BathSaLTS). If you or any loved ones suffer nychtophobia, insomnia, sciophobia, wiccaphobia, pediophobia or Vera-Farmigitis, please consult your physician before trying The Conjuring.

Oh the horror (genre). The horror…(genre). What a silly beast you are. My love for you is as undying as your supernatural antagonists and the rage you cause me is comparable to transforming me into a machete-weilding hockey-masked demon and slicing up my Netflix Account (side note: does anyone know a quick fix for “Machete in Your PS3”? I googled it, but there’s nothing helpful). It is a genre that has produced perhaps some of the greatest and certainly the most turd-ulent of cinematic terrors. On the one hand, we have The Shining. On the other…Paranormal Activity 4. In the ‘good’ category, there’s Rosemary’s Baby and in the bad there’s, well, everything else. Other than the annual Spielbergian Oscar grabs, there is no class of movies more emotionally manipulative or as formulaic. While, for the most part, the directors of these schlockfests usually depend upon cheap scares and the cinematic equivalent of ‘Gotcha’ Journalism, sometimes horror movies can be more effective than most at delving into deeper questions about the fabric and quality of humanity. While a soul-searching, uplifting drama of nauseating optimism might champion the strength of the human spirit, horror can venture equally far into the darkness. As they say, the brighter the sun, the darker the shadow. And if they don’t, they should (even though it makes no physical sense).

"WHO ATE ALL OF MY FUCKING COOKIES?" ~ Vera Farmiga, alpha.

“WHO ATE ALL OF MY FUCKING COOKIES?” ~ Vera Farmiga, alpha.

Mr. James Wan, the director of this quaint little ditty, is a fascinating fellow. His career, though short, is as storied and perhaps more grotesquely marred than Nick Nolte’s DUI record. His first film, Saw, the Rosa Parks of torture porn, if you will, transformed the terrorscape forever more, shifting mindless zero-budget BS from the hack-and-slashers of what I call the “80s Hangover”, towards the direction of the openly misogynistic (Hostel: Part II), the purely sadistic (The Human Centipede: Full Sequence) or the utterly pus-ridden and mind-melting (Saw III). Since then, he’s explored the failed career of Donnie Wahlberg as he fights dolls (Dead Silence), Kevin Bacon getting angry (Death Sentence) and the utterly bemusing and more-tonally-inconsistent-than-a-dubstep-appreciation-concert Insidious. It was that last film that clued me into a long lost talent, residing hidden below the surface of jump-scares and nonsensical scary mask design. The first act of Insidious is careful and tense, allowing shots to linger and the silence to infest. It employed Actors (with a capital A) such as stage veteran Patrick Wilson and so-deadpan-you-need-to-check-for-a-pulse Rose Byrne. There were shocks and genuinely disturbing imagery gradually seeping through each frame, growing to a throbbing and spine-tingling crescendo… And then the second half begins and subtlety is thrown to the wind, like a pair of panties captured after a Revenge of the Nerd-esque undergarment raid. We have mediums and ghostbusters and battles in the land of the spirits, not to mention an out-of-the-blue plot point that derails the story faster than you can say “Where the fuck did that creepy old lady come from?”

Now, we have the next stage of his horror opus, The Conjuring. This little ditty tells the tale of Ed and Lorraine Warren, two of the most famous real-life demonoligists this side of the River Styx, as they tackle a tormented house in the backwoods of Rhode Island (and, yes, Rhode Island has backwoods, no matter how small you think it is. Well, it’s more of a back ‘garden’, but you get the idea). Now, these two were the ones brought in to exorcise the Amityville Horror back in the day (though they couldn’t exorcise some fucking profit from the 2006 remake. BOOYAH!) and their work inspired the so-straight-forward-it-might-as-well-be-a-fucking-ruler titled A Haunting in Connecticut. You thought that stuff was scary? No? Well, neither did anyone else, BUT, and that’s a massive Kardashian-sized heiny, this is the scariest tale of them all. Or, at least, the Polanski-esque credits tell us so in the opening frames. Wilson, taking a second crack at a decent movie with Wan, is back as Ed and the delectable and inexplicably frilly-caped Vera Farmiga joins the crew as Lorraine. They hold the center of this tale, their chemistry unmistakable; and they offer a beating heart that is so often lacking in this sort of by-the-numbers ghost story nonsense. The family, on the other hand, does their best to exemplify the classic American Unit, though there’s so many of them (all female) that 1) it’s impossible to distinguish any of them, other than the one that was in White House Down and 2) they look like the Children of the Fucking Corn. I half expected them to transform into some kind of satanic Wicker Woman and cover Patrick Wilson in bees. The parental units are the targets, however. Lily Taylor, an actress who has already slogged through the supernatural sewer in 1999’s Owen-Wilson-gets-decapitated classic The Haunting, has once more drawn the short straw. Throughout the course of the film, along with Ms. Farmiga, she is dragged through metaphorical and literal hell. Meanwhile, Ron “That Guy Whose Career Stalled After Office Space Because He Only Speaks in Semi-Concerned Monotone” Livingston gets off almost scott-free as the kinda distant, mostly clueless father.

"What? Is it my hair? It's my hair isn't it. I look like a Ken doll, don't I? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME HOW DUMB I LOOKED BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE?!" ~ Patrick Wilson, oblivious.

“What? Is it my hair? It’s my hair isn’t it. I look like a Ken doll, don’t I? WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME HOW DUMB I LOOKED BEFORE WE LEFT THE HOUSE?!” ~ Patrick Wilson, oblivious.

Alright, what’s the plot? Fresh off the case of the Freakiest Demonic Doll You’ve Ever Fucking Seen, the Warrens are called in to investigate the Perron family. They’ve been plagued with night after night of knocks and claps and smashing things and closing doors and opening doors and odors of rotting meat. The Warrens show up and Farmiga immediately goes into “Pressurized Eyeballs Being Sucked From Skull” mode. Shit ain’t right. After about 10 minutes of research, they discover that a witch literally sacrificed her child to Satan and then hung herself on the property about a hundred years before. Since then, there have been suicides and murder-suicides in store for any family unlucky enough to file a mortgage on the place. At this point, Ed Warren literally says, “Well, that explains a lot.” No joke. Anyhoo, the hauntings become worse and Bathsheba (yep, actual name) possesses the poor and haggard Ms. Taylor, who then spends the latter half of the movie acting like hemophilic Beatles fan. The haunting escalates faster than a moving walkway on meth and soon they have no choice but to exorcise the spirit without the Vatican’s help.

"NO! DON'T TAKE ME BACK TO THE HAUNTING! I CAN'T TAKE ANYMORE LIAM NEESON! PLEEEEEASE!" Lily Taylor, damaged.

“NO! DON’T TAKE ME BACK TO THE HAUNTING! I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE LIAM NEESON! PLEEEEEASE!” Lily Taylor, damaged.

To be clear, there is nothing, I mean nothing innovative about this movie. You will most likely walk from the theater muttering, “I’ve seen all that before.” But your knees are still shuddering and you still check behind every goddamn door in your darkened home before slipping into bed. It seems that this is James Wan’s attempt at pure quality rather than creative depth. Almost every frame is referential to every decent horror film for the last 30 years, most notably The Exorcist. But the references don’t plague the film. They’re subtle emotional cues that, for those that notice them, usually act as harbingers of anxiety. This movie is tense. Wan knows that he only has about three tricks in his shallow tool bag, but he knows how to use them. Where Kubrick employed color tone and long, static lingering shots, Wan keeps things close, dark and unbroken. So often he keeps the take going as long as humanly possible, no doubt orchestrating some kind of graceful choreography behind the scenes to catch us off guard at every moment. It would have been nice to see this story, set in the mid-70s, to have been filmed on actual film rather than HD digital. But, alas, such things are of the past for money-minded studios. Along with that, one of Wan’s most beloved fallbacks is his creature design. He can’t help tossing in a creepy doll here and an old-lady face there. The film is truly unnerving when the threat is only suggested, much as Spielberg discovered in Jaws. Luckily, Wan’s visual indiscretion doesn’t become apparent until closer to the end, when the witch begins popping into frame with increasingly pointless frequency, a pale imitation of a Sam Raimi prosthetic. Until you see it, though, the movie is tenser than Thanksgiving Dinner after Grandma Sally brings up ‘The Negroid Problem’.

"Quick! Get this woman a plastic surgeon!" Vera, helping.

“Quick! Get this woman a plastic surgeon!” Vera, helping.

James Wan, for all of his earlier career faults, is gradually growing into a solid delivery boy of scares. His talent may seem limited to a few predictable fall-backs, but he manages to keep his direction tight and focused. I held my hand over my eyes for a good many sections of the movie. I DON’T DO THAT. EVER. For me, most scary movies are about as unnerving as a fucking squirrel in a tutu. Usually all I do is laugh and then question the humanity of dressing up a rodent in a ballerina outfit. Wan’s skill increases dramatically with every feature, both figuratively and literally. While his next movie might be the seemingly tepid sequel to the bat-shit Insidious, the feature following is the seventh addition to the brain-explodingly brilliant Fast and Furious franchise. Perhaps there he will discover a new set of tricks, what with abs and biceps and carburetors flying about the frame, before returning to horror with a set of terror-inducing weaponry to truly create something magnificent.

Godspeed, sir. Godspeed.

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Cloud Atlas (2012) – Lana Wachowski (Dir.), Tom Tykwer (Dir.) Andy Wachowski (Dir.), Tom Hanks x 6 (Regular Tom Hanks, Future Hick Tom Hanks, Irish Tom Hanks, Buck-Toothed Tom Hanks, British Tom Hanks, Old Man Tom Hanks), Halle Berry x 6 (Regular Halle Berry, Jewish Halle Berry, Future Halle Berry, Crazy Asian Doctor Halle Berry, Slave Halle Berry, Hot Indian Girl Halle Berry), Jim Sturgess x 4 (Regular Jim Sturgess, Asian Jim Sturgess, Angry Scottish Hooligan Jim Sturgess, Photograph Jim Sturgess), Boona Dae x 4 (Robot Boona Dae, Hispanic Cleaning Lady Doona Bae, White Doona Bae, Underage Doona Bae), Jim Broadbent x 5 (They’re all Old British Jim Broadbent – SPOILERS) Keith David x Awesome (Keith David is always Keith David), Hugo Weaving (Assassin Hugo Weaving, British Hugo Weaving, Slave Owner Hugo Weaving, Nurse Ratched Hugo Weaving, Asian Hugo Weaving, Lord of the Rings Nightmare Hugo Weaving), Hugh Grant x 4 (Douchebag Hugh Grant, Slave-Owner Douchebag Hugh Grant, Old Douchebag Hugh Grant and Cannibal Douchebag Hugh Grant)

This could either be a Wachowski movie, or an ad for Herpes medication.

Holy Shit.

I’m not entirely sure what just happened. Just look at that cast list. LOOK AT IT. Yes, allow your face to melt off like a Nazi peering into the Ark of the Covenant. This isn’t so much a movie as it is a visual novel, an attempt at a cinematic symphony, an event of such colossal insanity that it is not applicable to quantify or qualify any of its attributes by any earthly standard. It is brash. It is bold. It is huge. It is utterly absurd. And it’s one of the most interesting things you will watch all year. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, before even reading this review/response/I-don’t-even-know-what-I-do-anymore, go, go see Halle Berry as a white Jewish woman living in Edinburgh, see Hugo Weaving with an Asian-face so terrifying it might be used to ward off Korean plastic surgery for the next century, and witness this sprawling, undulating, titillating thing. It is a wonder to behold. Much like the first space shuttle launch or perhaps the first flight of the Hindenburg, the masses huddle about one another waiting to see something either great or a disaster of ball-tingling brilliance. We have the movie-equivalent of a ten thousand ton volatile payload, a Wachoski-ass full of liquid hydrogen that, on the one hand, could send us into the outer-stratosphere of imagination and, on the other, might offer a fuck-up of such astronomical proportions that even Heaven’s Gate might give it a standing ovation. What do we have…?

I loved this storyline too. The tale of a man attempting to overcome great adversity in the face of terrible grammar.

Wow. That’s all I can utter. I went to this thing, late on a Sunday night, exhausted out of my mind, and completely certain that I was going to pass out within the first ten minutes. I didn’t. Not once. They don’t waste a damn second. Cloud Atlas is based on a novel of the same name by David Mitchell (not the hilarious sour-faced Brit we all know and love from Peep Show, but an actual Writer with a capital ‘W’). It follows characters throughout six time periods who each have a loose connection to one another. There’s Jim Sturgess, the slowly dying chronicler trapped on a boat in the 1800s Pacific. Then we have the touching and painful tale of Ben Winshaw as a struggling gay composer and his parasitic relationship with a man who has far outlived his welcome in 1930s Edinburgh. Next, there’s Halle Berry as a tenacious reporter intent on averting a Three-Mile Island-esque catastrophe in the 70s with her helpful deadly black friend, Keith David (who, for the record, is always deadly). Number four is my favorite, Jim Broadbent’s aging publisher is locked up against his will by his terrifying vagina-faced Hugh Grantian brother in an old folks home requiring a Great Escape-level jailbreak. Fifth: the utterly Matrix-ified, action/adventure, kinda-racist yellow-face revolution following a clone named Sonmi-451 and her seemingly-incinvible boyfriend Chang (Jim Sturgess, who, as you would know from Across the Universe is about as Asian as Adolf Hitler). Finally, we have Tom Hanks as a goat herder in 2333 helping out techno-angel Halle Berry save her people, all the while dogged by Hugo Weaving as dressed as a hobbit-demon. Yes. That is only the set-up. Over the course of these three epic hours, the tales intersect, overlap, go under and over, pass by, intertwine, make-out, sixty-nine each and then can’t really look each other in the eye anymore at work because they both know about the weird shit the other is into… Yes. It’s a mess. But it’s a really fucking fun and engaging mess. Like a drag queen who came runner-up in RuPaul’s Drag Race. You’re with her. You feel for her. You know she’s beautiful. But she’s still stuffing her face with ice cream and sobbing over what could have been.

Jim Sturgess, talented you may be, Asian you are not.

Cloud Atlas brought up a lot of Feelings. Yes that’s with a capital ‘F’, mutherfuckers. Not only is its scope and ambition something I wish to aim for myself one day, but it’s stories are so perfectly constructed, along with its haunting score, to touch you were it tickles. We have these disparate stories that really have nothing to do with one another; each story lead is only offered a fraction of what is typically needed to build an emotional bond, and the tone runs the gamut of quiet British sensibility to bombastic sci-fi, balls-on-the-table batshitness. A funny thing occurs, though. The casting of a handful of actors to present this unhealthy mass of human emotion brings about two ends: firstly, you spend the movie going “Holy shit, who convinced Halle Berry to Guy-Pierce-in-Prometheus herself like that? She looks like if someone threw acid on Mr. Miagee” and secondly: though these people only take up a few minutes of your time, the repeated viewing of the same faces somehow builds a sense of camaraderie, a connection to the basic principle of these people. You end up falling for an utterly indescribable and ephemeral through-line, a spirit, if you will. It’s the oddest thing. A pavlovian emotional response. And while the make up and fake prosthetics are almost infuriating in their ridiculous nature, playing ‘spot the actor’ is, in a way, encouraged. With each instance of “Aha! There they are!”, from Tom Hanks’ despicable attempt at an ‘Irish’ accent (I think) to Hugh Grant as a mutherfucking cannibal, you are drawn into this cast of actors who truly seem as though they are working towards an unachievable end…but they’re going for it all the same. By the end, you’re with them, whether you like it or not. They have you in their claws and they ain’t letting go until all the dust has settled and you’re ready to grab a loved one/not-really-loved-one-but-there-anyway/Ben and Jerry’s ice cream tub and hold them tight.

This won’t be the best movie of the year but it will be the most ambitious. Nobody has ever attempted anything of this scope and scale since perhaps The Lord of the Rings and, even then, most of that was a safe bet. This, this reeks of risk and career suicide. Leave it to the two assholes who brought us Speed Racer to bring about the most sprawling and challenging work in a decade. Also, Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer. That mutherfucker is just as crazy. Does it do everything right? FUCK NO. Did you read that cast list? Holy God, there were a few scenes that were almost Zipedee Doo-Dah-levels of awkward. Yes, they should have had at least one Korean or Korean-American actor in the cast. Yes, some of the make-up is so distracting that sometimes you’re afraid you might be smothered by Hugo Weaving’s tits while you sleep. But you know what? You ain’t never seen anything like this before. You can have your Lincolns, your ‘important’ movies about ‘important’ people who said ‘important’ things. You know, movies where actors put on a single piece of prosthetics and are critically fellated for being so ‘brave’. Brave? Fucking brave? You wanna see brave? See Hugo Weaving doing ANYTHING in this movie. One day, he’s going to show this to his grandkids and say, “Yes, that’s granddad Hugo with fake boobs. And there I’m blonde and murdering dogs. And then I look like someone turned my scrotum into eyelids. And, oh, oh look! Now I’m a warted, top-hat sporting hick-demon from the future!” But, then again, he was in Pricilla Queen of the Desert. Crazy Aussie.

Choices. This movie makes them.

A collection of the most coolest/most hilarious moments: old-face Hugh Grant, a dude exploding after falling off a balcony, inexplicable kung-fu, buck-toothed/balding Tom Hanks talking about Jim Sturgess’ meat, slow motion china exploding, Hugo Weaving’s tits, Jim Sturgess with a prosthetic nose punching the shit out of a British gentleman, “I know! I know!”, a plunger in the mouth, that awkward moment when the audience realizes Ben Wishaw played Hugh Grant’s wife, Boona Dae as a murderous hispanic lady, Halle Berry as a white woman, Hugo Weaving as a Nazi composer, Susan Sarandon with Mike-Tyson-esque facial tattoos and so on and so forth. If you don’t just say, “Hey movie, I know you want to play and you get a little goofy…but here I am. Let’s do this,” you are missing out. It’s like watching a conclave of nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, you can be a snobbish ‘cool kid’ and write them off as losers, OR you can watch, figure it out and realize that sometimes the nerdiest and oddest people think about the world in utterly engaging ways.

Fucking. Awesome. Sauce.

You won’t see anything like this for years, my friends. Mark my words, see it. See it again. Really digest what you are viewing. Then devise a drinking game involving every time the movie is unintentionally racist. You won’t regret it.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sanchez (Dir.), Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Apparently 1994 was also a bad year for people other than OJ Simpson

We have reached it. Like Alice descending back into the madness that is Wonderland, we have come upon our own world through the looking glass. However, instead of demanding and size-altering cakes, Jesus allegories and caterpillars with severe opiate addictions, we have handheld cameras, horrible cinematography, worse acting, predictable plots and night vision, OH THE NIGHT VISION! Yes, my intrepid readers, after my years of waltzing around the desolate wasteland that is handheld-horror, witnessing the sagging and putrid corpses of The Last Exorcism, the maggot infested Paranormal Activity, the bloated remains of Paranormal Activity 2 and the unfortunately puss-spewing, self-defecated, smells-like-that-one-time-at-my-grandmother’s-place-that-we-don’t-like-to-talk-about-in-polite-company mess that was Quarantine, we have come to the epicenter of it all, the ground zero of crud, the patient zero of virulent cinematic laziness: The Blair Witch Project. Believe it or not, I had never taken the Kurtzian plunge into this ‘Found Footage’ Heart of Darkness. I remember when it was released back in the late 90’s, how it took the world by storm, how everyone naive enough to believe the epitaph at the beginning of Fargo thought that these three kids had been murdered in the woods, how this thing, which cost around $20K to make, ended up breaking the $240 million barrier. It was an event. An event to which I hadn’t been invited.

Now, like an aging and sagging Sylvester Stallone, I’ve been called into the field for one last mission (with the added bonus that I can actually form sentences instead of treating words as though my mouth is a verbal pulverizer). Yes, armed with an old fashioned in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other, my favorite lady-blogger at my side, we took the first, regrettable steps into the world of Burkittsville, Maryland. And oh, the horror…the horror… Well, actually, let’s be frank. It wasn’t that bad. Maybe I was drunk. Maybe I passed out. I’m not responsible for my actions. But in between snotty close-ups, constant screaming of the some permutation of ‘fucking man’, ‘man fucking’, ‘fuck man fuck’, ‘man, man fuck, fuck’ and the immortal, ‘fuckity man in the man with the fucking fucked fuck man fuck balls’, this thing has certainly earned its place on the shelf of classic horror. As a connoisseur of the ‘Found Footage’ horror genre (is ‘connoisseur’ the right word? Can one have a refined palate for the sewage run-off of an old-folks home intended for people with IBS?) I’ve seen pretty much everything they have to offer. From the in-part wonderfully crafted The Last Exorcism that ended with the filmmakers ejaculating acid into the eyes of their viewers in the final minutes, to the utterly useless and boring Paranormal Activity 2I’ve seen ‘Documentaries Gone Awry’, ‘Surveillance Cameras Seeing Weird Things’ and ‘Hot News Reporter Interrupts Her Oncoming Porno Featuring a Number of Well-Hung Firemen with a Zombie Outbreak’ but I’ve never observed the seed from which all things grew. Now, I have spent many, many an evening sitting through these things, shakier than a coin-operated bed, dumber than cat with its head stuck up its own ass, and jumpier than Marilyn Monroe at a ‘Butt-Squeezing’ convention and, honestly, I’ve never been scared. HEAR THAT, INTERNET? I’VE NEVER BEEN SCARED. Yes, Paranormal Activity, that poster-child of ‘new horror’ was duller than a paint drying competition. Oh no! It’s JUMPY! Fuck that. And Quarantine had about 3 legitimate nerve-wracking moments in its entire 90 minute runtime. Even The Last Exorcism (which is the cause of perhaps my longest and bluest-of-face rants) had a truly fascinating idea at its core, leaping back and forth over the line of creepy ambiguity…until the mutherfuckers pull a Rosemary’s Baby in the last 2 minutes of the film and murder EVERYONE. I was infuriated. What may have begun as an edgy and new take on a tired formula has become an industry norm, a crutch, the reality television of movie making. It requires no real cinematographer and a director with only the most basic visual sense. Even the plotting at this point has simply flittered out the window. And the question that fails each and every one of these fucking movies (let’s be clear, here is a list of ‘these fucking movies’: The Last Exorcism, Apollo 17, The Devil Inside, Cloverfield, Chronicle Quarantine, Rec, Rec 2, Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity 2, Paranormal Activity 3, Paranormal Activity 4, Paranormal If-The-Make-Another-One-I’m-Going-To-Burn-This-Place-To-The-Ground) is a simple one. Why is the camera there? Perhaps it makes sense and thematically fits during the first act, but by the time there’s screaming and running and dark spaces and people getting murdered…why doesn’t the camera man think to DROP THE CAMERA AND RUN? What is this? National Fucking Geographic? Are they looking for the Nobel Prize in Dumb Shit Nobody Cares About (I think Denise Richards won that once…OH WILD THINGS BURN!)? Movie after movie, the suspension of disbelief is drawn so taught, it might as well be Kirstie Alley’s thong. It’s a cheap art form. It’s an easy art form. And it’s a dumb art form.

“All aboard the Bongtown Express! Stopping at Weedsville, Stonerbridge, Tokestown and Holy-Fuck-Pink-Ffloyd-is-the-Best-berg”

So, like Dorothy approaching the man behind the curtain, I had some questions for this mother of movie mongoloids. The Blair Witch Project, if it didn’t begin the entire subgenre, it certainly made it more appealing than bacon to a, well, anyone. Because it’s bacon. If you don’t love it; you don’t have a soul. So, to the uninitiated, The Blair Witch Project was touted as raw footage found left behind by three students creating a documentary about the super spooky Blair Witch of Burkittsville, MD. What begins as an incredibly, annoying, amateurish series of murky shots sprinkled with the ass-juice of complete ineptitude, soon becomes, well, more of exactly that and continues for the length of these boring-ass 81 minutes. It felt like 3 hours. I believe that Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity needs a new caveat. Time dilates when you approach the speed of light or if you turn on this fucking movie. But, that said, I didn’t not-enjoy it. There are a number of reasons why this is remembered and why it was so ground-breaking at the time. Firstly, it plays with the concept of American Folklore. As a country, the US has borrowed from every culture on the planet, stealing whatever mythological past it can to fill its story-telling tradition with color. There are shockingly few legitimate American folk tales. Other than guys who sleep too long and oxen that ate too many blueberry Wonka bubblegum, there isn’t a whole lot of tales to tell the kiddly-winks. The initial pieces of the documentary where they aren’t in the woods does an excellent job of generating this collective oral history of this thing living in Burkittsville. You never really are offered a coherent version of the witch. Sometimes she’s hairy, sometimes she floats, sometimes she encourages people to murder other people…instead of crafting a fully-formed image of this never-seen malevolence, you’re only offered disparate coordinates of an unfinished mosaic. And so, as the events of the movie unfold, the unknowability of what is going to occur builds by the second. There are little stone piles here and there, shouts in the woods, KY jelly on backpacks and little straw dudes littering the trees. Then, when it’s all said and done, everyone dies. It’s cute.

Ah, the iconic shot of the movie. Your boogers shall be remembered, Headband Girl.

Here’s the question: is it scary? That requires an easy and emphatic: NO. Granted, it plays the game of less is more with the creepiness of the forest. They also do an incredible job of keeping the verite style in tact throughout the runtime. You never seen anything explicit, CGI-ed or false. These kids were literally lost in the woods and chased around by the directors, a sick Hunger Games-esque escapade ending with them trapped in a deserted house and running around using camera night-vision like idiots. The dialogue is painful. The characters are unlikeable, especially Head-Band Girl (I think her name was Heather, but her egregious practice of uncovering her forehead at all times required a different moniker). They’re all idiots. They’re all grating. And they all feel like real people. Though at first I wanted to push Head-Band Girl through a plate-glass window, it became abundantly clear throughout the film that this was the filmmaker’s intention. With the pretense of jumpy scares removed, the possibility of seeing creepy things practically nil, The Blair Witch Project endeavors to be about more than simply wetting some date-night panties (and not in the good way…unless you’re into that kind of thing) and about the nature of US folklore and filmmaking itself. Pretty much all of the uneasy stuff occurs at night without any visual aid…so all we’re offered is constant audio of people weeping and asking over and over, “What the fuck is that, man?” (If I hear someone call another person ‘man’ and his name isn’t ‘The Dude’ I will push their dangly bits into a sausage maker. ARGH). And nothing really happens. Ever. It’s like Waiting For Godot, with a lot more swearing, a lot less existentialism and 100% more terrible headbands. When asked why Head-Band girl constantly films everything that is occurring, one of her ill-fated comrades posits that perhaps she is constantly trying to keep the reality away using the camera as a barrier. While these terrifying and dangerous events unfold, she’s hiding and pretending it’s all a fantasy. We, as a country, secretly strive for more folklore, what with our men with hooks for hands and everything that was the basis for that turd-bucket of a Jared Leto vehicle that was Urban Legend, we want these scary tales to be true…but when they are, we’re not emotionally prepared to face the horror. We are no Theseus, charging against the minotaur…we’re one of those damn virgins who, let’s be honest, probably did the dirty Sanchez the first dude they could find before being tossed into the Labyrinth.

So, no, The Blair Witch Project, isn’t particularly good, or enjoyable, or watchable, or worthwhile…but it is a fascinating piece of filmmaking simply from a historical perspective. They did something new and, for their meager goals, they succeeded. Every imitator that has come since has failed to capitalize on the basic principles that made this what it is. Perhaps Paranormal Activity came close but, seriously, that movie was about as shocking as that time I thought I wasn’t wearing matching socks when, really, they were actually matching. It’s about a ‘2’ on the scare-o-meter. Give me The Shining or The Ring or The Thing any day. But Hollywood never learns. I mean, this is the place that made FOUR Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Paranormal Activity 4 hasn’t even finished its opening weekend and they’re already projecting movies and 6. It took Saw, a series where EVERY CHARACTER DIES IN EVERY INSTALLMENT, seven, that’s right, folks, seven mutherfucking films before it finally died. And guess what? They’ll probably reboot it in 2 years. They’re already rebooting the reboot of the sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So, carry on, you reckless fools, continue on your charge into the Tartarus of cinematic sludge. Bombard us with tale after tale of the purest mediocrity and banal boredom. Suck from that already drying teat as long as you can, until your gums bleed and your tongue is rougher than moldy sandpaper. Just as bullet-time eventually died out after The Matrix so will this infuriating Found Footage fad. Perhaps you can finally make some good horror movies. Assholes.

The team was nonplussed to discover that their missing friend had really only been looking for a private place to masturbate.

But until then, I’m sure you will hear my screams of fury from here to Timbuktu. Or…until my next article on Sinister.

Ugh. What am I doing with my life?

Midnight Cowboy (1969) – John Schlesinger (Dir.), Jon Voigt, Dustin Hoffman

I demand movie poster’s this cool to be made again! Have you seen the one for The Avengers? C’mon!

Ah. Back in the game. And it feels good, people. My good friend and resident dragon, Ryan, picked this bad boy out of the hat. And believe me, it’s a bad boy. More specifically Jon Voigt getting all kinds of naked up on old ladies/young boys/his mother/Bob Balaban (WTF?) for money…while failing miserably. This is one of the movies that inspired the whole game, one of those classics swirling about in the ever undulating cloud that precipitates the Flix of Net. I have never seen Midnight Cowboy. I know! What the hell? This movie is iconic. From Dustin Hoffman looking like he went through a Danny-Zuko-turd-juicer to “Everyone’s Talking At Me” playing at me every fucking thirty seconds of film. This is the movie that popularized the infamous “HEY! I’M WALKING HERE!” that is heard by nobody in New York ever because it is never said, you stereotyping jerk. Well, people say it a little.

So, story. This is a dandy little film about a dandy little cowboy from Texas who, instead of cleaning dishes, decides to go to New York and sell his body for money. He makes this decision in the first thirty seconds of the movie. You’d think other people take time to weigh the moral and medicinal implications of such a career move. But not Jon “You Used to Want to Bang My Daughter” Voigt. He pulls on his boots, gets on a coach and heads to the Big Apple, where he wanders around generally looking charming and idiotic, hitting on ladies until one of them (who I suspect is a Phyllis Diller impersonator) invites him up. But he forgets to discuss money. I mean, come on, we all know that Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy, especially when E’ryday He’s Hustlin’ (a different kind of hustle, I feel, than is intended in that song). Anyhoo, after failing miserably at mankind’s oldest profession, he meets up with Dustin Hoffman doing an impression of either a rat or Martin Scorcesse. I can’t tell. Either way, it’s horrifying. What we’re given is a fucking dark descent into the lives of two people who are really not very good at what they do and yet they’re always fantasizing about how great everything will be.

Look how happy he is to sell his body!

More than anything, I kept finding myself comparing this flick to Darren Aronofsky’s heroin-addled laugh-fest of the century Requiem for a Dream. If you haven’t seen that movie, get any children under the age of thirteen and watch it in a single sitting. Do you remember that part in Oedipus Rex where Oedipus rips out his own eyes because he fucked his mom? You’ll do something similar, just replace your mom with the phrase “Ass to Ass”. *Shudder*. Both movies depict people taking up a line of work that is certainly on the other side of questionably moral. Both movies depict these people as being totally in over their heads. Both movies depict them dreaming of some final goal that will obviously never be achieved. While one has Dustin Hoffman dying of the consumption, the other has electro-shock therapy, Jared Leto getting mutilated (that isn’t a spoiler, he gets mutilated in every movie he has ever been in. That’s science. Look it up) and the phrase ‘Ass to Ass’. *Shudder*.

Specifically what I loved about both films was the use of fantastical imagery and breaks from reality interwoven into each scene. While Dream kinda shows off it’s technical dong, waving about fancy new-fangled camera techniques, Schlesinger goes with the age old: “here’s a non sequitor. And something weird. And a five year old giving his mother/aunt/make-it-stop an orgasm by way of a back rub.” I loved it. As the movie progresses we get to chip away under the skin of this prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold-and-a-head-filled-with-stupid and see what’s really going on. That sunny disposition and flippant disregard for his sexual safety come from a dark place. And then, just as I’m getting into the film, our old pal ‘Random Gang Rape’ makes an appearance. That guy always shows up in these ‘good’ movies to harsh my vibe. It makes sense. It doesn’t come out of nowhere and it is sad as hell. This isn’t intensity on an American History X level, but it sure isn’t Yo-Gabba-Gabba. Wow…what if Yo-Gabba-Gabba had a special guest: ‘Random Gang-‘. Never mind. Stop there.

Dustin Hoffman in the Bravo series: “Stars When They Were Meth-heads!”

The team behind this movie has fucking pedigree. Well, at the time they didn’t, but we all know them. We’ve got Jon Voigt before he birthed super-star Brad Pitt and played every villain in everything ever and we have Dustin Hoffman pre-Outbreak. I know people would probably say Rain Man is his defining role, but those people haven’t seen the cinematic bliss/divinity/perfection that is Outbreak. Kevin Spacey bleeds out of his eyes! Cuba Gooding Jr. is…well, in it! Made of win. Sorry, back to the point. This movie is also from John Schlesinger, who directed one of my favorite movies of all time: Marathon Man. Where else can you have Sir Laurence “Sir Laurence Olivier” Olivier slitting people’s throats with a hidden retractable wrist-blade? It took the video game community thirty more years to come up with something comparable! Unfortunately, this guy doesn’t have much else on his filmography that stands out except for maybe the awesomely British made-for-TV movie Cold Comfort Farm. Unfortunately, that knowledge alone infringed upon my enjoyment of this film as I was constantly hoping Voigt would suddenly reveal he was an escaped Nazi and then slit some old broad’s throat. Alas, he did not. Hoffman got seriously fucked up though. So at least that’s a common theme.

The directing is fantastic. The script is fantastic. The acting is fantastic. Basically, if this movie were a tall Joe Buck standing outside a movie theater, I’d be a mousey Bob Balaban (again…what the fuck?) doing his best to be Rick Moranis before Rick Moranis even existed, approaching him asking him if I could suck his manhood. That got graphic. But hey! This is about prostitution. I have no qualms. If there is anything to take away from this movie, it would be 1) I think Angelina Jolie cut off her father’s face Hannibal Lecter-style and wears it to this day, 2) ALWAYS get the money first. No kissing on the lips. Gets complicated. And 3) New York used to be a shit hole. I lived there for a hot second. It’s a nice city, especially now CEO and Evil-Overlord Bloomberg has turned Broadway into a fucking cafe. Even Times Square isn’t as nauseating as it used to be. Well, it is. Just in a different way. Back then, New York could give you a staff infection if you were just speeding by it on the New Jersey Turnpike, it was that nasty.

TOO…MUCH…NEBBISHNESS…SYSTEM OVERLOAD…

So, kids. Remember. Watch Requiem for a Dream and ALWAYS get the money first. That’s a message directly from your Uncle Andrew.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) – Alfred Hitchcock (Dir.), Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave

She didn’t vanish…she’s above the train. She’s right there, guys…

There’s a gentleman who existed once. Many years ago. He entered filmmaking, a hidden specter, pumping out films as though they were Irish babies (that’s three a year), subtly and gently redefining how we understand tension and visual storytelling. Part silhouetted shadow of night, part Winston Churchill impersonator, this man is a master of thrillers, a godfather of horror and a delight of British sensibility. I am, of course, talking about Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

We all know Hitchcock as the man who brought us Norman Bates, a fear of biplanes flying over our heads in corn fields, and James Stewart watching us get dressed from his rear window. Hitchcock’s name is synonymous with cinematic excellence and class (as well as ‘ornithophobia’, but that’s because ‘ornithophobia’ is recklessly difficult to say.). However, what you might not have known is that Hitchcock’s career spanned about forty years. Watching a movie from his earlier years (i.e. The Lady Vanishes) and one from 1960 (Psycho) would be like comparing Oliver Stone’s Platoon, a grim, well-shot, brilliantly scripted Vietnam thriller, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps a movie that thinks it’s better than the numeral ‘2’…and that Shia Lebeouf isn’t completely fucking terrible. It would be like comparing Scorcesse’s Goodfella’s to Hugo. Both good, but occupying opposing beds in the overnight train of Marty’s long career. A train fraught with gunfights, Jack Nicholson wearing a strap-on, and people demanding to know if you think they’re funny, like a fucking clown.

Speaking of trains: This movie. Hitchcock loves his trains. We have strangers meeting on them, we have people taking them North by Northwest. I’m not sure what about these locomotives endlessly fascinated the man, but every chance he gets, he cuts to a vehicle rolling by, pounding and steaming its way along. Inadequacy issues, perhaps?

Tell me I’m wrong. I dare you. Alright, that’s it, outside, after school. Gloves off.

Well, in a nutshell, this thing is about a spoiled spark-plug Iris (Margaret Lockwood, doing her best to confuse the shit out of me with a half-English/half-American garble of an accent. Which was it? IT DROVE ME CRAZY) befriending an old woman, Mrs. Froy (Dame May Witty – not sure if she was a dame or she was just badass enough to demand that it was put in the credits) on a train going through the Eastern European country of *muffled cough and change subject*. After getting hit on the head, she passes out and Mrs. Froy is gone. Nobody on the train remembers her. Everyone thinks can’t-decide-what-side-of-the-fucking-pond-she-came-from Iris is crazy. Except for famed parent of everyone famous, and Petyr Baelish look-a-like, Michael Redgrave. He had a character…I guess he played music and was writing a book…or reading a book…point is, he looks like Petyr Baelish and he is dashing as all hell. It seems that Mrs. Froy was just a pigment of Iris’ imagination, but, remember, this is Hitchcock…

While watching this classic, I decided that this was the same plot I’d seen before with a woman on a train going missing and whatnot. And then I remembered that I HAD seen it before…on stage when I was a wee little shit. About the point when they discover the magic cabinet, I had a moment of “Eureka!” And stripped down naked. My roommates don’t appreciate when I do this and I don’t appreciate them stifling me, both emotionally and artistically, so they can shut their whore mouths. Anyhoo…When I was about ten, my parents dragged my brother and myself to see a campy adaptation of this movie made for the London stage. If I remember correctly…it sucked. I never saw the second half because either I A) Fell asleep (extremely plausible) B) left in a huff because the two old women in front of us complained that my brother and I were “Eating our sweets too loudly.” Well, missies, you’re lucky you can still hear anything. As your bodies break down and the last wisps of youth flitter away into oblivion, you’ll be glad you could hear my damn sweets. Enjoy eternal nothingness. Jerks.

It was an apt translation to the stage, I discovered as the plot unfurled and the characters grew ever-more ridiculous. It’s about as campy as Ru Paul starting a musical theater company. Is this the same Hitchcock that made me fear tennis matches? That pushed Jimmy Stewart to the brink of madness? It’s almost easy to forget that Hitchcock isn’t just British, he’s as British as the bloody leg-before-wicket rule enacted at the third test match of the Ashes after a fortnight of raining cats and dogs. Or, simply, ‘British as fuck’, in American. We have these two men, Caldicott and Charters who wander from scene to scene, complaining about foreigners (their food, their language, their lack of up-to-date cricket information and their not-being-british). Now, I like to think I’m an enlightened person, an ally to the LGBTQ community…but these guys were about as gay and a sausage eating contest in a Nazi all-boys school. Like…prep school gay. Like…St. Paul airport bathroom gay. In summation: these two ‘hetero-life mates’ and their discussion of ‘cricket’ was nothing more than a prelude to good old, weepy, shameful, don’t-tell-your-mother penis-to-penis. And yet…it never comes up. Ever. Nobody mentions a word. They just accept these two confirmed bachelors climbing into bed together shirtless and don’t blink an eye. Oh the English.

“No, that’s preposterous, there’s no nob-gobbling here! We’re simply discussing the trade routes of the the Dutch-East India company’s…Caldicott, stop nibbling my earlobe!”

That aside, the whole ordeal waffled between taught political thriller and a damn pantomime. When the doctor (so obviously, gloriously malicious and yet NO ONE SUSPECTS HIM) tells Iris that Mrs. Froy “Never existed,” I had half a mind to yell “Oh, yes she did!” And he’d have turned to the camera and stated flatly, “Oh. No, she didn’t.” And I’d yell back, “Oh, yes she…” The point I’m trying to make is that pantos are fucking insufferable. They’re like strapping two toddlers to your head and dousing them in pepper. Entertaining for about six seconds until you have the sensation of a miniature foot kicking you in the temples from both sides for two hours. There was NO TENSION in the entire film. For about 20 minutes you question if Iris is just suffering from ‘crazy bitch-itis’ and this whole thing is just playing out in her head in some mental institution on the outskirts of *cough and mumble, change the subject*. But then you find out what’s going on. The second you question a motive, the motive is made clear. There is no suspense.

And then the fights scenes…oh lordy. There are two. And they are amazing. Both brilliant and horribly terrible that you stare on in utter shock. First, the fist fight. It’s like two virgins who decided they were both subs, thereby both of them are tied up, trying to dry hump each other into oblivion. And Iris stands to the side, gently kicking their bottoms. It reminded me why I’m so glad virginity is not a permanent affliction. Next: a gunfight so nonchalant, you’d think it was cucumber that was simply too cool for academics, thus it lies there, not giving a fuck. People are shooting, sort of. It’s the most painfully British shoot-out since the Queen decided that she didn’t want to go to the royal wedding and capped a few guards. I think that happened. I heard about it.

This movie didn’t seem to care. An overwhelming sense of distance hung in the air, forcing any connection with the characters into the sidelines, leaving these oddballs of British sensibilities to flounce further down the road of absurdity. This was codified for me when Charters (the tweedly named Basil Radford – I know, right? People actually have names like that) walks out of the train and gets shot in the hand. He doesn’t react. He doesn’t do anything. He just glances down and walks back inside. After getting shot. In the hand. WHAT? What’s confusing about the entire ordeal is that sometimes it exemplifies Hitchcock’s strengths: his ability to visually advance the plot, his sense of wit and character, his complex plotting…and yet the rest is a floundering mess of Anglican hilarity.

Is he shooting? Or just pointing out that there are people trying to murder them in that general direction?

It’s difficult to tell if this was intentionally a comedy or simply so soaked in goofiness that Goofie would have asked them to “cool on that shit.” (And then Goofie would knock down his sunglasses, rev his engine, look into the camera one last time and declare ‘Derrrrr. See ya later!’ He’d ride off into the night, just a light dwindling into the mountains, a ghost drifting from our lives as quickly as he had entered. We’ll miss you, Goofie. God rest his soul.) Excuse me. Sorry. To the point: Hitchcock  is a master, a genius even. Perhaps this absurdity was simply an extended piece of satire, singling out the British as completely disconnected from the international community, people who emulate their island dwelling, repelling all invaders attempting to broaden their world view. The central plot point is that there is a message that needs to get back to the Foreign Office about two major European powers joining forces. Since this was made in ’38, Hitchcock couldn’t say who it was…but let’s assume it rhymes with Shmermany and Shmussia. Perhaps he was kicking the Brits where the sun don’t shine, a very naughty place no one should mention in polite company, in order to force them into the international community on the brink of world war.

Or, perhaps, it was just really silly. Like…really, really, really silly. It’s a fascinating relic, a milestone on a career so prolific it would make Joyce Carol Oates say ‘Damn, son.’ See this movie. I laughed more during the length of its run-time than I have in a long while.

by Andrew Mooney

Bill Cunningham New York (2010) – Richard Press (Dir.), Bill Cunningham (duh)

This movie makes me want a bike. Not that I’d ride it. I just want one. Gimme.

Alright, so I’ve broken down and created a new category of viewing situation. This isn’t a relapse. I’m not slipping into my old ways of watching Independence Day every time I can’t think of anything else to do (I will not go quietly into the night, Mr. President. Never.) This is a new part of the game. It came to my aggravated attention that Netflix changes movie availability. I mean, am I surprised? Bastards. Therefore, movies harshly recommended by friends, or those that are required viewing need to be watched now or never (see what I did there? I went to college!). After an extremely forceful suggestion from my friend and work-buddy Christin, Ryan and I flicked this bad boy onto the streaming mecca that is the Flix of Net.

Now, I’ve never been a fashion person. I’m white. I’m male. I’m straight (shocking, I am aware). Thus, my predisposition for well-tailored clothing isn’t genetically probable. I spent all of high-school looking like a Backstreet Boy, then a copper-top battery, later upgrading to ‘fancy homeless person chic’ in college. It wasn’t until I began my hilariously fish-out-of-water talents towards the hair industry did I begin to see the light…and learn anything about the fine, ancient, mind-boggling art of ‘color coordination’. I’m still fairly terrible at it…but at least I’m told occasionally I dress well. The issue had always been one of apathy. I didn’t care. Fashion was for people with money. Fashion was for ladies and, as some of my relatives would put it, ‘the gays’ (God love the Brits). I’ve always been a man of words, putting them on the page, shifting them about with nerdish glee and twisting phrases like a lad ripping apart ants on the playground. Visual aesthetics have always been lost on me. During my ‘fucking idiot’ period, reaching its indelible peak during freshman year of Oberlin, I would love to lay down statements, laced with bovine fecal matter, such as, “Modern art isn’t art.” I wish I had a time machine. I’d go back and slap the shit out of myself. (And I’d also go back and insert myself inconspicuously into scenes of Jurassic Park containing Laura Dern. Don’t ask why. I don’t judge what you’d do with a time machine. Jerk.)

Bill “You Wish I Were Your Grandfather” Cunningham

Alright, that’s the lengthy and, most likely, unnecessary preamble. Let’s cut the foreplay and whip out…the movie. So, there’s this guy, Bill Cunningham. He’s 83. He did live in a rent-controlled artist studio in Carnegie Hall until he was evicted. He only has about 3 outfits. He has no kitchen, no bathroom because, as he says, “Who needs all those rooms to clean?”. His bed is plywood held up by books. He owns nothing but a camera, a Scwhinn bike and about ten thousand filing cabinets. And he is one of the most respected names in fashion journalism. No fucking joke. This guy, right here, is the definition of artistic badass. If he were a warrior of art, he’d be John McClane strapped to Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrapped in a big ball of Alexander the Great and sprinkled with a dash of Death Star.

He takes photos. That’s it. They’re not prepped; there is no studio, no set up. Candid. People on the street in New York, in Paris, just wandering around. He sees something, he takes a picture. And that is all he does. He barely eats. I’m not even sure he sleeps. He simply takes photos of anything he likes. No less. No more. He doesn’t give a shit about celebrity or fame or manners or whatever. If it’s ‘boring’, you’re out of the club, bucko. Good luck next year when you’re not such a bland, cookie-cutter douchebag, crowding the streets of our cities, spreading cultural excrement in a way to build your own insatiable self-esteem…

Sorry, not sure where that one came from.

Iris “George Burns” Apfel

Thus, in New York, there is a man, a superhero if you will, wandering the streets in a blue windbreaker, snipping and snapping people leaping over puddles and snuck in snow drifts, documenting every inch of current fashion. An old man, who, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think was a misplaced trainspotter and/or peeping Tom, trolling for young flesh to add to his scrapbook of pre-faceless victims. But he’s not. The second you hear him talk, you realize this guy is the result of dipping Mr. Rogers in fairy-batter and baking in an oven set to ‘Adorable’ degrees. He’s probably the only person on planet earth, who could stand on a corner in Soho, taking photos of people’s butts and escape without a stiletto heel burying in his spleen.

Within minutes, I was convinced Mr. Cunningham was no mere mortal. His artistic passion is so uncompromisingly beautiful that he disregards romantic relationships, base needs, social standing etc. He does whatever he wants. He tore up checks from Conde Naste because, “if they give you money, they own you.” He is an artistic aesthete I’ve never experienced in my life. He’s described by fashionistas and titans of the fashion industry as ‘the most important man in the world’. And yet, he’s this 90lb bag of bones and pixie-dust jam who doesn’t even stop hiding in the sidelines and snapping shots at his own awards show. No, he is not a man. He’s a demigod, a nymph displaced from the ancient forest to the urban millennium, drifting about civilization, observing and yet never disrupting. He does not review. He does not analyze. He simply watches. When told to differentiate street fashion as ‘in’ or ‘out’ he returned with the agonizingly egalitarian, and bewitchingly brilliant “if they’re wearing it, it’s ‘in’. Everything is ‘in'” (paraphrase, sorry). In no way does he create trends. He’s a cultural scientist of such blissful objectivity that he can simply observe. He does not partake in the slightest, never accepting so much as a glass of water at events and sporting a duct-taped poncho when it rains because, “why buy a new one? It’ll just rip in the same places.”

‘Inspiring’ isn’t the word for Bill Cunningham, nor would he care for it. It’s something else. This man is living proof that artistic ideals never need to be compromised. When I complain about how my work may not allow me enough time and energy for my writing, I’m incorrect. I’m giving in. I’m allowing what is as essential to me as respiration fall by the wayside because of petty things such as ‘nice food’ and ‘belongings’ and ‘relationships’. If committing word to the page, be it electronic or otherwise, is the delicious addiction I believe it to be, nothing will get in my way to get my fix.

The movie as a whole is endlessly enjoyable. Not only does Bill “Teddy Bear Made Out of Gumdrop Dreams” Cunningham brighten every frame, but he has collected such a gallery of fascinating characters that you can only marvel at the eccentricity on display. From the 98 year-old Editta Sherman, who refused eviction from Carnegie Hall as well, declaring the film-crew uncivilized for not bringing coffee, yelling at them for filming one of her pictures of Andy Warhol and displaying one of her Cunningham original berets, to the former ambassador of Nepal modeling his collection of polky-dot, plaid, striped, furniture-stolen, manic-panic clashes of chromatic brilliance, pieces that would make a blind man declare, “That suit is loud as hell.” We have a man who refuses to you let you see his face as he changes hats (and they are fucking fabulous, of course). We have Iris Apfel, whose plate-sized spectacles and peacock-murdered attire manage, somehow, to overshadow her fun-house decorated apartment, rounded out subtly with a stuffed parrot looking directly into the camera (It’s disconcerting. I was uncomfortable). But, still, for those morsels of insanity shaved down into human form, none of his muses can measure up to the enigmatic nature of this movie’s subject.

Editta “I’m a Legend. And Get Me a Coffee, You Bastards.” Sherman

Mr. Cunningham is an example of a curious cultural phenomenon. His fervor and unbreakable dedication to his work is not simply trapped in the world of fashion. In every walk of life there are maniacs of a similar sort, people who have crafted something seemingly minor into an art form. Look at plumbing. I guarantee there are people who care so deeply about controlling the path of water in an industrial environment that they have made it their life work. Every aspect of our society has an obsessive, unrelenting and unyielding, whittling their field down from the basic to the infinitely artful. For Cunningham, it’s what people wear. For Isaac Newton, it was calculus. For Bill Gates, its computing. They are the web of passion, coursing through every fiber of civilization, holding the whole thing together for the rest of us. The blood pumping away under the surface.

I witness it and, in vain, wish I could be one of them. I’m not. I’m just an asshole with computer who enjoys the sound of keystrokes. And that’s fine. I love being an asshole…(there should be a better way of saying that). For all the work I put into my craft, I’m still human. I am no demigod or genius. I go home at night and hang out with roommates. I have relationships. My addiction can subside without stimulation, allowing me just slivers of temporal briefness to live in the moment. For all the undying respect I have for greats such as Bill Cunningham, I would never wish to be part of the club.

There was a moment, near the end, when Bill was asked if he’d ever had a relationship. He laughed, of course, and said ‘no.’ He was then asked why he goes to church every Sunday. He fell silent and looked down at his hands. For far too long. Press, the documentarian, told him he didn’t have to answer…yet Bill had shut down. As though a kill switch had been flicked. For all his smiles and sweetness, for all his charm and gregarious nature, he was still impenetrable. There was no way into his psyche. We are simply allowed to witness. He only let’s us observe.

There’s no way into a mind such as that. Perhaps, it’s best if we simply leave it, an undiscovered country. Perhaps, under the surface, there’s nothing we would wish to see. I’m okay with that. I think.