Thursday, March 28, 2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

26 MOVIES FROM HELL: DONALD CAMMELL



Last week I had the pleasure of chatting about Donald Cammell on the 26 Movies From Hell podcast. Listen below and enjoy...


Saturday, March 23, 2019

A FEW WORDS ON 'US'



Us is a pretty fun movie. Nothing more or less. Film snobs that aren’t in to horror (yet they somehow get paid by big film outlets to write about horror) will make up some pseudo sophisticated sub-genre or fancy label for US in order to make it ok for them to like horror movies as if the horror genre is beneath other movie genres. Critics & journalists also make up these labels in order to justify unnecessary acclaim. “Post Horror”, “High-art Horror”, “not really horror HORROR”, etc. Us is a horror movie. Straight up. 
Now...this is not a masterpiece or the greatest horror movie ever made (yes, Us has been called that by quite a few reputable folks who clearly just want to be quoted on the Blu-ray box cover). But it’s ok to not be a masterpiece. It’s ok for a movie to just be entertaining. Us certainly has a few deeper thematic elements beyond just entertainment. The movie is about people being terrorized & haunted by evil doppelgänger versions of themselves. It’s no mystery that this movie is about being your own worst enemy and the fight within ourselves and all that stuff (not to spoil anything, but in a movie with doppelgängers & parralel universes, you can kind of guess the basic twist that Us builds up to)


Even though Us is not a masterpiece, I don’t think it’s “meh” or “bad” or “terrible”. This is an entertaining movie. I’m no horror aficionado by any means (although I know more than some unqualified people writing about horror these days), but I’ve seen enough (good) horror movies to know that Us falls right in line with other scary movies that folks seem to enjoy.

The problem we’re facing right now is that people want every movie to be a masterpiece. If a movie is just pretty good without anything offensive or challenging it’s dubbed as genius. But at the same time - when a good/solid movie doesn’t change the world and falls slightly short, then people have to automatically hate on it just because and not allow it to be "good" or even "ok". I get it. When something that I feel is just “ok” or even “good” is labeled a masterpiece by the majority, I immediately withhold anything positive to say about it just to balance things out. Right now Jordan Peele is being called one of the best directors working today and the voice of a generation (yes, people are saying that). I honestly don’t think he's either of those things. Perhaps he’s working his way towards that. But give him some time. We’re two movies in to his feature filmography. Let him be a great director naturally & organically. Let’s not get patronizing and start throwing undue acclaim his way. As a Black person I understand the excitement other Black people are showing for Us. It’s a horror movie about a Black family and the movie isn’t about race (I’m sure there are some folks who will think otherwise). The fact that they’re Black isn’t a “thing”. So I understand when casual Black movie fans get overly excited for something like Us. There's no "beautiful struggle" or slave tales or other things people might consider stereotypical. It’s the same with women/young girls & Captain Marvel or Asians & Crazy Rich Asians. Representation is important. Be excited for your race, sexuality, gender, etc. The world isn’t just White people. But the representation can’t be fake or forced which is, unfortunately, a problem we’re facing in film & tv today (that isn’t the case with Us. The “representation” seemed natural to me). Don’t just praise something because the needs were met on a surface level. Ok – a major motion picture has a Black/Female/Latino/Trans/Asian lead. But is it genuine. Is the movie actually good?
I understand it's difficult to remove the racial angle from this movie. This is the follow-up to Get Out. On a side note - I'm starting to feel like Get Out is turning in to another Drive or Pulp Fiction in that they were/are culturally impactful (even on a surface level) but it's dividing folks. You have people giving over-praise which naturally forces people to dislike and reserve praise simply because that's how humans operate. 
Just enjoy the movie for what it is. It's fun. It didn’t save or revive the horror genre (every time people say something like that it exposes how clueless they are), but it also isn’t a bad movie.

I went to see Us because I enjoy Jordan Peele’s work and his appreciation for the cinema that came before him. Peele always makes it a point to shout-out old movies that inspired him so it isn’t out of line to draw (visual) comparisons between Us and classic horror movies that came before it...

Nosferatu / Us

The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari / Us


Even non-horror movies...
Black Girl / Us
Bamako / Us


I also like seeing my fiancee jump at scary movies which it certainly made her do.

So while this isn’t a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned, it’s still worthy of the ticket price and the big theater experience. I just don’t think it should be overly praised.

Monday, March 18, 2019

THE SCHOOL OF GODARD PART 4: MOVING IMAGERY

Here's part four of the ongoing series on the visual similarities between the films of Godard and the directors that came after him.

Enjoy...

Pierrot Le Fou /
Moonrise Kingdom

A Married Woman / Loves Of A Blonde 

Breathless /
Inland Empire

Contempt /
Crash

Vivre Sa Ve / Stranger Than Paradise

A Married Woman / Do The Right Thing

Alphville / Claire Dolan

Alphaville / Ratcatcher

Alphaville /
Les Rednezvous D'Anna

Alphaville /
Collateral 

Weekend / Crash

Weekend / Crash

Breathless / Perfect Blue

Breathless / Rabbit In Your Headlights 


Sunday, March 17, 2019

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 87!




Friend in real life and friend of the show Mtume Gant stopped by to talk about a few recent films.

Enjoy...

Sunday, March 10, 2019

FLIXWISE CANADA: UPGRADE



I'm back on Flixwise: CANADA to talk about one of the most fun (AND UNDERRATED) movies of 2018: Upgrade.

Click here or the image above to go to the episode. Enjoy...

Friday, March 8, 2019

THE RIDER



Chloe Zhao’s Rodeo drama The Rider has a lot in common with Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. Both films center around athletes who can’t let go of their respective dreams even at the behest of their doctors.

Hell - there’s even a few identical moments in both movies...

The Wrestler / The Rider
In the above images we see our protagonists having to resort to working at a supermarket in order to make ends meet (neither film paints retail/supermarket work as “less than”. It’s just a shock/wake-up call to go from having thousands of people cheer for you to ringing up groceries). There’s also that element of not knowing how to do anything else besides the sport you’re good at and having to adjust to “normal” life.


Both Rodeo & professional wrestling have a quite a bit in common on a basic level. While wrestling is a bit more popular (and sometimes more lucrative), both sports are dangerous and on the outside of the traditional world of Basketball, Football,Baseball & Hockey.

Watching The Rider unfold reminded me of a very specific (and very real) pro-wrestling story...

Daniel Bryan
In 2014, Daniel Bryan was forced to retire from the WWE (in his early 30’s) due to too many head injuries (much like Brady in The Rider). What hurt so much about Bryan’s retirement is that throughout his career he was told that he was too small and that he would never make it (Bryan’s physique is very different from traditional wrestlers like The Rock, John Cena and Triple H). Right at the very moment that Daniel Bryan proved everyone wrong (he won multiple world titles and was loved by casual fans & internet wrestling marks), he was forced to retire so he wasn’t able to really enjoy the spotlight that he worked 15 years to attain.
After getting clearance from various doctors outside of the WWE system, Bryan is now wrestling again (he’s the current world champion) and back in the spotlight. This worries me because he wasn’t given clearance to wrestle from various doctors for years and suddenly he’s able to compete again? What’s even more worrisome is that Bryan continues to take moves to the head. Am I the only one who thinks that’s a problem? If you weren’t able to wrestle for years due to head injuries, why would you go back to being dropped on your head? I think wrestling fans are so excited to see Bryan return that they haven’t thought about this. Or perhaps they have thought about it (I mean - how could you not?) and are just ignoring it because they want to be entertained.


Note the move Daniel Bryan takes at around 5:05 (keep in mind - this was a person suffering from too many concussions & head injuries prior to this moment)

and about a month ago - Bryan was on the recieving end of a botched move directly to his head (fast forward to about 2:04)...



Unlike Bryan, Brady has stitches and a metal plate in his head from years of abuse as a rodeo rider (this is established early on in the movie). As an added touch of realism - the metal plate and stitches in his head are very real as Brady was a former rodeo competitor who had to cut his career short for the same reasons as the character he plays in the movie. So while The Rider is a fictional film, it’s also damn-near autobiographical (Brady’s sister, father & friends in the film are played by his real sister, father and friends from the rodeo circuit). Also similar to Bryan, Brady has friends (well...one friend) who can absolutely no longer compete in the rodeo due to severe brain damage (Lane). True - Daniel Bryan doesn’t have any close friends with severe brain damage but there are quite a few wrestlers from his class/era that he came up with that can no longer compete because of permanent injuries.

The Wrestler
Daniel Bryan is, to some degree, on his way to being the real life Randy “The Ram” from The Wrestler. Both were given orders to not wrestle again. In Randy’s case he ignored the doctor’s orders and met his (probable) demise at the end of the movie (sorry but you’ve had 11 years to see The Wrestler so I’m not sorry if I spoiled it for you). In Daniel Bryan’s case, it was a difference in opinion from a few other medical professionals that allowed him to get back in the ring. I hate to harp on this point again but - if you’ve had a number of concussions to the point where you weren’t cleared to wrestle anymore - why would you get back in the ring (and take dangerous moves no less)? I’m not a doctor so maybe someone can shed some light on this for me.

Daniel Bryan (L) performing the same move as Randy in The Wrestler (R)

I understand it’s difficult to give up something you’ve worked so hard for. And I’m sure being in the spotlight with thousands of people cheering your name is also hard to let go. But at some point you have to stop and be realistic. Daniel Bryan has a daughter, a beautiful wife, money and lifelong fans. Why risk all of that to wrestle for another 10-15 years and potentially not make it out of your 60’s (for those of you that don’t know - making it out of your 60’s is somewhat of a rarity in the world of pro-wrestling).
Look at The Undertaker. I can’t be the only wrestling fan who gets worried every time he takes a hard bump in the ring (yes - The Undertaker still wrestles part time after two hip replacement surgeries and various other injuries from the last 30+ years).

Brady (The Rider), is still young (early 20’s) and has the opportunity to live a full-ish life outside of The Rodeo (I say “full-ISH” because no matter what - there will still be some medical issues he’s going to have to deal with later in life given the fact that he already has various brain injuries in his 20’s).
Instead of following down the same path as his friend; Lane, Randy “The Ram”, Daniel Bryan and countless others, he has the opportunity to step away from the sport that could very well kill him.


Outside of the rodeo angle, The Rider is one of the few films to represent Native Americans in a non-traditional way (Brady, both the character and real person, are part Sioux). We all know Natives don’t have much of a voice/representation in film. But they have even less of a representation in the world of sports. Think about it - White men are the face of the Rodeo. How many films show Native American athletes in a non-patronizing and/or offensive way?

The Rider is also subtly beautiful with shots that call back to both Terrence Malick and even Andrei Tarkovsky...
Solaris / The Rider

Badlands / The Rider

While The Rider is an excellent movie, it's one of those projects that can easily fall in to obscurity quickly (director Chloe Zhao is moving on to bigger projects as I write this), so if you haven't had a chance to check this out I highly recommend it.

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 86



Everyone has been talking about Abducted In Plain Sight so we decided to give our opinion on it. Enjoy...

Friday, March 1, 2019

THE SCHOOL OF GODARD PART 3: MOVING IMAGERY

From the regular culprits (Jarmusch & Hal Hartley) to not-so familiar faces (Charlie Ahearn), we take another look at Godard's (POSSIBLE) influence on modern cinema.

Enjoy...


I admire Jean-Luc Godard and I think it's impossible today for anyone making cinema to escape from his influence - Hal Hartley
Masculin Feminin / The Book Of Life


New York Times: Was your own filmmaking influenced by Godard?

Jim Jarmusch: Certainly. “Breathless” was really inspiring to me formally. With that one, he didn’t have enough money to shoot a film with sound. It’s all dubbed after the fact, so he could go out on the street and just shoot in a guerrilla style, which is how I started out. And he used jump-cutting to facilitate the ability to edit something out of whatever he shot.
Masculin Feminin / Permanent Vacation

Masculin Feminin

King Of New York / Contempt

Band Of Outsiders / Cold War


Godard, Fellini and Bergman were my heroes - David Lynch
Vivre Sa Vie / Inland Empire

Vivre Sa Vie / Mister Lonely

Weekend /
Synecdoche New York

A Married Woman / The Best Day Of My Life

Contempt / Belle Du Jour / King Of New York


I think the only people who really experienced film are people like Jean-Luc Godard, you know? He really experienced the texture - Claire Denis
A Married Woman / Trouble Every Day

Vivre Sa Vie / Inland Empire

Breathless / Chungking Express

First Name Carmen / Our Time

First Name Carmen / Revanche

Breathless / Kreutzer Sonata

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 85: SLOANE LEONG




Comic artist/writer Sloane Leong was kind enough to take some time out of her Sunday to talk with us about her work, Tony Scott, David Cronenberg and so much more. 

Enjoy...

Make sure to check out her site and her recent book; Prism Stalker.




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