Despite being physically nothing more than distortions of light and shadow on a few reels of tightly-wound celluloid, a movie can possess the power to frighten free the literal turds from viewers’ backsides. I was eleven or twelve when I first saw Poltergeist, and I remember clearly the electric squirms it blasted through my vertebrae.
I’ve since grown to find I’m more a fan of comedies, documentaries and films involving talking badgers than horror flicks, mostly because I find the tropes of the horror genre to be repetitive. Who dies, who lives – that’s the central question a typical slasher pic makes its audience ask, or in the case of the torture-porn subgenre (the Saw movies and their ilk), how grotesque can the human imagination become when there’s a multimillion-dollar budget at stake?
But some horror films are truly glorious in their ability to capture the human psyche and scare the ever-lovin’ bejeebus out of it. The Exorcist is one; The Ring is (for me) another. And I’ll drop Poltergeist into that column too, despite the fact that I can still only see the film through my eleven (or twelve)-year-old eyes. But there was a lot more to the weirdness of the movie than what we saw on the screen, which is why today it gets a kilograph of its own.
For starters, we can’t even say for certain who directed this thing. Tobe Hooper (in the middle) gets the official credit, and if you ask him, he’ll swear it’s his picture. The guy had made his bones in the horror game, with the gore-fest Texas Chainsaw Massacre under his belt, as well as 1981’s The Funhouse. But if you compare the shot composition, the framing and the overall aesthetic of Poltergeist to those films, it just seems… different somehow. Read more…
It’s never easy writing about someone I admire. I run the risk of babbling, and sounding like a gushing fanboy, instead of the award-winning journalist that I’d rather pretend to be. A couple of days ago I found a unique take on the Beatles, which allowed me to write intelligently about their work, and avoid falling into the trap of, “Isn’t that chord just before the vocals come in on ‘Sun King’ so frickin’ awesome?!”
Today I’m tackling the Ben Folds Five. First, allow me to expunge the giddy music nerd inside me: I’ll go on record that I believe Folds to be among the finest songwriters and musical minds in the business today. He is also one of only a half-dozen celebrities around whom I would be truly fan-struck and tongue-dumb to meet. Which I did (though briefly), and I totally was.
Ben Folds Five have reunited for a new album, and they’ve opted to grab their marketing machetes and slash a new path through the distribution wilderness for the disc’s release. Using Pledgemusic.com, they are offering a free download of their new track, and upgrading each of their fans to Vice President of Promotions for the BF5’s de facto label. In short, they’re shirking traditional marketing methods (which makes sense, since their music hardly meshes with the bilious pap that record companies like to promote these days), and turning to their fans to inspire their friends and family to come to their senses and check out the new record.
Yes, I still call them 'records'. A 'disc' is something in your spine or something the Tron dudes throw around.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it was done before – sort of – in a different realm. Last year, filmmaker Kevin Smith released his brilliantly Tarantinonian Red State through the word-of-mouth of his fans, a tour, and by harnessing our culture’s new lifeforce: social media.
Apart from the fact that Smith is another one of those six or so art-makers with whom I’d love to sit down and brain-pick, there are a surprising number of similarities I’ve noticed in the career and artistic arcs of both Smith and Folds. Read more…
After a barrage of flavorless Wikipedian stubs about soccer players, Polish villages and moth species, a familiar face looked coyly out at me from the right-side column of the page. It was a face that said, “Hey there. You landed on my page. You know you want to write about me.” I am powerless to resist the power of the Shat.
"Yes... you are."
So what did I learn? I learned that Mr. Shatner is worth the investment of a thousand words. For example…
Okay, everyone probably knows this. He was born Côte St.-Luc, a Montreal suburb that was the first municipality in Quebec to ban smoking in public places. The city was forced to merge with Montreal in 2002, and exactly four years later it re-incorporated itself as a separate city. I doubt Shatner had anything to do with this.
Bill is descended from Austrian, Polish, Hungarian and Ukrainian Conservative Jews. I don’t know if this has ever surfaced in his work, if he’s ever played a notably Jewish character, but it’s interesting. Also, the thought of him reading a portion of the Talmud in that trademark delivery of his just makes me smile.
He was on Howdy Doody.
Well technically he was on the Canadian Howdy Doody show. He played Ranger Bob. There’s no footage of this on Youtube, but I hope it exists somewhere. If nothing else, this gives us an idea how long Shatner has been in show business – he helped to invent Canadian television.