Sunday, April 8, 2007

Not writing, not writing at all, reading a little

The other night Mark and Chris and I saw Grindhouse. (warning: annoying website) It's nice when we do things together as a family.
Mark had been reading reviews and telling me about the trailers and the Rodriguez zombies, and that the Tarantino movie had Kurt Russell in it as Stuntman Mike. "They made a movie for you, how can you not go and see it?"

I admit, I am a sucker for trailers. Back when Chris was a little codger, I ordered tapes full of trailers from a little company run by a guy who used to act in Andy Warhol films. Nice guy, we corresponded a bit about films; he'd make suggestions about which tapes would keep a toddler's attention (the '60s sf adventure ones, and some Hammer horror). I used to joke that the first words Chris would read would be blurbs like NEVER BEFORE SEEN! AMAZING! SPINE-CHILLING!

The best Grindhouse trailer, for my money, was Don't! by the Sean of the Dead guys. It was note perfect, and the ripped-paper layout was absolutely right. Mark said it gave away all the money shots, but I thought it only stayed on one for too long, and the rest were shown briefly enough to pass.
Chris thought Thanksgiving was the best, and certainly the sample footage of the parade was a beaut, the whole crappy handheld pov camera was just right. The rest of it was a bit meh, but I'm not as well-versed in the slasher-holiday genre.
Machete was brill, especially the part where he opens his coat and it's just wall-to-wall blades - it reminded me of one of my fave kung-fu flicks, Sacred Knives of Vengeance (a film with three endings, one after the other).
Hobo With a Shotgun was perfect in its incoherence and poor production quality. I bow.

Of the features, the Rodriguez Planet Terror was more successful, I thought. He had the selective incompetence down, the overabundance of characters with intertwined backstories, the oh-no-oh-no moments, the badassery and the anyone-can-die ethos.
And some great lines that we've already started quoting:
"I looked for that jacket for two weeks"
"Useless talent number 32."
"I brought you something."
"Self-preservation comes to mind."
"This is my yellow friend. This is my red friend."
Odd, considering that Tarantino is supposed to be the dialogue / banter guy. Chris had some difficulty with Death Proof, because he can't stand Tarantino banter (though I think it was toned down.)
While Death Proof was a fun ride, I thought it suffered from being too much of a turnaround. Once the good guys get the upper hand, they keep it, and the baddie pretty much collapses.
Now, I haven't watched nearly as many car-chase movies as I have zombie flicks, but I have watched more than a couple revenge movies, and once the revenger picks him/herself up and goes after the baddies, the outcome should still be uncertain. At least once it should look as if the revenger has overreached and the baddies will take their revenge, which will be even more appalling because they've been shamed and scared and on the run themselves.
But this does not happen. And because of that, the ending loses some of the hellya! it should have had. Too much time was spent with the cannon fodder, as well. Granted that grindhouse movies had a lot of waste space, this was meant to be a hommage, not a replica.
On the other hand, Zoe Bell makes up for a lot. I wondered if the second part of Death Proof might have been a nod to Aussie film Fair Game, a revenge-chase film featuring Cassandra Delaney doing the hood-ornament turn before she takes revenge. Suppose I'll have to wait for the dvd commentary.

Mark pointed out that although both features supposedly have missing reels, they both run full-length, or darned close. The originals usually ran about 80 minutes, sometimes less. The reason MST3K mocked shorts was that the films they mocked didn't have enough running time to fill their slot.

Reading right now: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, new edn, by Diana Wynne Jones. Wonderful book. This edition has a back-cover essay on how she came to write the first edition - while working on The Encyclopedia of Fantasy with John Clute. This caused me to hit Reference and check the Encyclopedia, and...gosh...I can see how it inspired her. Many, many of the entries could have been taken over with minimal editing.
Somehow or other, I never read much Extruded Fantasy Product. Which may have been a merciful escape. I'm still able to laugh at the Tough Guide, and at Limyaael's fantasy rants, (which are terrific writing advice anyways) but perhaps I'd get more out of them if I'd suffered for my art by reading dozens of cod-mediaeval pseudo-Tolkien doorstops. I'm having a perverse desire to hit the thrift shops and find some for cheap. If nothing else, so that I can look at their maps.
I admit it, I'm not very bright. I bought the Tough Guide at the beginning of March, and I only yesterday figured out that the map is Europe upside down. You may now pelt me with clues.


Evan Goer said...

Great list of fantasy rants. Oh, and I didn't notice that the map was Europe upside-down either.

batgirl said...

Aren't they brilliant? I've been so inspired by them. I printed out the one on royalty.
Oh, I'm glad I'm not the only one to have missed the map of eporuE thing. I only caught on because I read Bay of Caysib as an anagram of Bay of Biscay, and started looking for other anagrams. Then I saw Italy's profile and (visual pun alert) kicked myself.
The worst of it is that I'd been looking at old maps of Bohemia and Moravia, drawn with a southern orientation (traveller's maps, so arranged so that the compass-sundial could be laid on them without being obscured by the traveller's own shadow) and hadn't twigged.