Archive for March, 2010

I know things have been ghost town-ish over here for a while. I haven’t felt much like updating my blog other than the odd ranting screed about a movie, because other stuff has just been too much to talk about. But I feel I should explain my flakiness, my long standing IOUs on correspondence, etc.

My father was just diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. This is his third time undergoing treatment for cancer. The first two were thyroid, which was described to me as “the sort of cancer you want, if you have cancer.” This is not the case with pancreatic cancer.

I know there are people who read this blog who don’t know my dad–or me, really, other than what I put up here for everyone to see–but I really hope that anyone who sees this could send some positive thoughts his way. He is an amazing guy. I owe so much of who I am to him. He traveled a bunch when I was a kid, but every night he was home he would read to me a chapter of a book, most of which impacted my young psychology, for better or for worse. Mostly for the better. We did The Hobbit, all the Narnia books, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, pretty much every Roald Dahl book in existence (and even some of his short stories for adults, because my dad is awesome like that), the Oz books, tons of Katherine Patterson (kudos for my dad for being totally cool about the scene in Jacob Have I Loved where the narrator gets her period!). He gave me my first book of classical mythology (a gorgeously-illustrated picture book of the more kid-appropriate stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses). While who I have become as a grown-up is me, unique, the raw materials of my personality and my interests are largely due to my dad. And thankfully, those raw materials were pretty fucking rad.

We haven’t always gotten along perfectly; we’re too much alike for that–stubborn as mules, as set in our ways as cats, and probably a few other animal analogies. While that stubbornness often frustrated me as a kid, I know it will help him during the upcoming months, and so I’m grateful it’s as much a part of him as his ever-present Magnum P.I.-style mustache.

So, yeah. If I owe you an email or have acted oddly towards you in the last few weeks, it’s because we kinda knew about this a while ago, but have kept it on the quiet. Today was the prognosis meeting with his oncologist, and now that it’s official, I feel OK mentioning it here.

Just to put a face with all of this, here is my kick-ass dad looking handsome and in love with my gorgeous mom, at my wedding in 2006:

Be well, everyone.

Jesse Bullington and I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. This week I know I talked up the film and that’s always a recipe for everyone on the internet being like “it’s not so bad! wtf?” but I don’t care. I hated this movie.

The Film: Ladyhawke (1985)

Also known asThe Movie That Broke Molly (2010)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Story by Edward Kharma (The Quaid epic Enemy Mine), screenplay by Kharma and three co-writers who boast such credits Blade Runner (David Peoples), The Hunger (Michael Thomas), and the Dragnet movie (Tom Mankiewicz). Oh, and Michael Thomas also co-wrote Molly’s favorite movie ever, Countryman, so check that out if you get the chance and remember to pass it on. Direction by Richard Donner of The Goonies fame, which could explain Molly’s allergic reaction to Ladyhawke. Painfully dated soundtrack by Alan Parsons Project alum Andrew Powell and, well, Alan Parsons, of all people. We were specifically warned about this element by Clint Harris and it still kicked our brains in the genitals, if you can imagine such a thing. Just awful. Oh, and acting by Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), Lothos from the Buffy movie (Rutger Hauer), the super-genius-turned-hermit from WarGames (John Wood), Number Two from the old Prisoner show (Leo McKern), and a rather grungy looking Doc Ock (Alfred Molina).

Quote: “This is not unlike escaping mother’s womb. God, what a memory.”

Alternate quote: “Do you know that hawks and wolves mate for life? The Bishop didn’t even leave us that. . . not even that.”

Molly’s reaction to hearing both of those lines, and most others: “What? What?! FUCK!”

First viewing by Molly: Last week.

First viewing by Jesse: Probably around seven years old.

Most recent viewing by both: Last week.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: Blissfully unaware of its very existence.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Moderate. Even as a kid I think I subconsciously recognized that the concept was much cooler than the execution and so my Ladyhawke make-believe was far superior to the actual thing. I mean, when you’re seven year old Jesse I don’t know if it’s possible to get a cooler scenario than knight-in-black-armor-with-rad-sword-who-is-also-a-werewolf-and-also-is-Michelle-Pfeiffer’s-boyfriend when it comes to running around the woods stabbing trees with a stick.

(Molly Aside: I keep saying this to Jesse but he won’t fucking listen: RUTGER HAUER IS NOT A WEREWOLF. He might be a gentlemanwolf or maybe a knightwolf but he is sure as fuck not cool enough to be a werewolf.)

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to watching: I admit I was intrigued. Several years ago a friend alleged this movie was pretty cool. I like falconry. Whatever could go wrong? OH, WAIT. EVERYTHING.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: There’s a reason I hadn’t gone back and re-watched Ladyhawke since I was a kid, and that reason is that I suspected it would not withstand the test of time. I couple of times I’d come across Ladyhawke DVDs in the bargain bin at stores retailing for $1.99 and always put it back down, thinking it best to leave this particular film as a fond memory instead of a painful contemporary viewing experience. But Molly had never seen it, and when she heard the premise there was no going back—I suspected she would hate it, but hoped the nostalgia factor would be high enough to keep me from gouging my eyes out.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Fuck. Fuck and shit. Fuck and shit and I hope everyone involved with this movie got bunions. I loathed this movie. I loathed it from the moment I heard the inexplicable and troubling musical score during the opening scene. My loathing grew when Ye Olde Matthewe Brodericke showed up onscreen. I still loathe it, a week after watching it. Jesse was not exaggerating: this movie broke me. It hurt something precious inside my heart and soul that I don’t think I’ll ever get back.

For starters, it is criminally miscast. Matthew Broderick is goddamn wretched in it—he is exactly everything I despise in a movie character (twee-ly annoying, wisecracking, cowardly, comic-relief-that-isn’t, ugh). His phony stupid accent made me want to die. His haircut made me want to break things. Michelle Pfeiffer is terrible, as well, starring as a classic MPDG, and, as I have now learned, this trope is even more repugnant when placed in a fantasy setting. And then we come to Rutger Hauer, an actor I have a distinctly love/hate relationship with: I love him as the creepy vampire Lothos in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, and I fucking hate him as I do everyone/everything that was involved with Flesh and Blood, a movie that is definitely another candidate for Most Hated Film in The Book of Tanzer. Let me just say this: I don’t mind adventure-movie dudes who are, you know, slightly less ‘roid-raged out than Conan. I mean, honestly, the standard of all adventure-movie dreamboats for me is Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride, dirtstache and being unable to actually fight the badguy at the end and all. I only mention this because I don’t want to be taken amiss if I say that Rutger Hauer’s character Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke is such a god damn do-nothing wusspot boring piece of garbage that he makes Bow from She-Ra look hard. Jesus. What the fuck is he even doing in this movie?! Fuck, fuck, FUCK! I mean, OK seriously, seriously, when his fucking trueloveomgforeverz girlfriend—the titular and inexplicably old-timey extra e-ed Ladyhawke—is wounded by an arrow and needs medical attention, what does our brave knight errant Navarre do? OH SHIT. Well, fuck, instead of taking her for some first aid himself, he decides, for no reason whatsoever, to send her away with his coward dipshit sorta-squire Matthew Fucking Broderick. Really? How fucking noble! I’m sure she appreciated it! I’m sure she understood that he was just too goddamn busy hanging out in a field or something! And also! His character can’t fight good unless he has his dad’s sword! Call me crazy, but I’m really more awed by heroes who can pick up just about anything and kick ass—I’m not sure who Navarre’s swordmaster was, but he seriously dropped the ball.

And that’s just the casting—the plot sucks so hard I think all the trees around Jesse’s apartment are now permanently angled toward his windows. Fuck. NOTHING HAPPENS. I was so disengaged while watching this movie that it never even occurred to me that Navarre was disappearing at night and turning into a wolf (wolfe?)—when we see Ladyhawke (who has a name but I’m not going to look it up because I don’t care and I remember it sounding stupid) kinda petting the black German Shepard they cast as a wolf I just thought she had a way with animals cuz she’s the ladyhawke, after all. Nope, it turns out he’s cursed, too. So, OK. Whatevs? Gawd.

So here is the plot, for the record: Matthew Broderick (AKA “the mouse”) is a crappy thief who escapes from Azkaban, but he’s being pursued by an Evil Abbot (what other kind of religious figure is there in a fantasy movie, other than an affable drunken priest? Don’t worry, he shows up laterz). The Evil Abbot is sorta-kinda in charge of Azkaban and wants Broderick back because otherwise. . . uh. . . other people? Will try to escape? Or something? But things become even more “complicated” when Broderick falls in with Hauer/Ladyhawke because it turns out that Hauer/Ladyhawke are. . . both, uh, under a spell. . . that the Evil Abbot put on them? With the help of (really!) the devil. The spell is that she is a hawke in the day and he is a wolfe at night. For the middle part of the movie Broderick/Hauer/Ladyhawke run around for a while doing absolutely nothing, and then Ladyhawke is injured and they take her to the Drunken Affable Priest who has decided that there’s a way to break the curse when. . . an eclipse happens? Because it’s a day without a night and a night without a day? FUCK AND SHIT. So they go to confront the Evil Abbot, and fucking Hauer tells fucking Drunken Affable Priest to straight-up murder Ladyhawke if he fails to slay the Evil Abbot. This is, of course, the best part of the film, because ol’ Ladyhawke definitely never really mentions she’d rather die than live without Hauer’s milquetoast bargain-basement wannabe-Lancelot angst-filled bullshit; in fact, she seems to think that Broderick’s character is pretty OK and I’m guessing she would prefer to live a long and happy—if nocturnal—life together if Hauer got iced, instead of, you know, being murdered and stuff. But oh fucking noes Hauer can’t fight anyone adequately because Broderick lost his special sword in a ridiculous icy-lake scene I’ve forgotten, but it turns out that OH SHIT the sword is actually still around because Broderick just. . . hid it? Instead of giving it back? For no reason? So, using the ol’ fantasy-movie “I’m wearing a robe and thus no one notices I’m not really a priest” trick he retrieves the sword. . . from under their cart. . . and throws it to Hauer, who then throws it through the abbot’s chest because that’s all he can do as a hero and everything is OK because Ladyhawke turned back into a Lady instead of a Ladyhawke during the eclipse and she and Hauer kinda spin each other around and it’s OK! THE END! EVEN THOUGH ALL THE OTHER PRIESTS ARE HANGING AROUND JUST SORTA STARING AT THE PEOPLE WHO MURDERED THEIR ABBOT AND YOU THINK THEY’D BE PISSED! But they’re not! And also everyone kisses and touches Matthew Broderick on the face and it’s weird and uncomfortable to see Broderick and Hauer having A Moment Between Men while Ladyhawke looks on all like wheeeeeee my boyfriend told a priest to murder me but it’s OK because he’s handsome (?) and I’m not a bird!

I hated this movie.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: As it turns out the nostalgia factor was high enough to keep me from gouging my eyes out. My ears, however, were not so lucky—whoever thought fusing Gregorian chants with an Alan Parsons jam session should be publically flogged. That said, the movie itself was, while decidedly not good, really not so bad. In all fairness, I was paying more attention to Molly’s reactions than to the movie itself because it was far more interesting but the snatches I caught of the film between Molly’s outbursts looked like they were shot on location, which is cool, and Alfred Molina was looking all kinds of skeezy, which is also cool. Plus I think Kintaro Miura modeled young Gatsu’s armor on Rutger Hauer’s, which is maybe a point in its favor. Maybe?

Ladyhawke apparently has a large cult following, which makes less sense than the actual movie itself. It’s way too tame to appeal to the flesh and blood/Flesh and Blood audience, and seemingly way too fucked to appeal to a more romantic crowd—as Molly pointed out, the scene where Hauer orders Number Two to murder Ladyhawke if Hauer’s quest fails is downright creepy. Nice romantic lead you got there.

So the dialogue was spotty, the plot nonsensical, the motivations baffling/nonexistent, the soundtrack dreadful, the pacing slow, the action boring, and the overall tone dull. . . big deal. I’ve seen worse; I’ve seen a lot worse. And really, witnessing Molly’s suffering was both a hoot and a holler, as they used to say back in Pennsyltucky—though it did stretch a two hour movie into a four hour one as Molly kept pausing the film to scream at the television. Trust me, the diatribe above is positively restrained compared to the IRL meltdown this movie brought on. So while I agree with all of her points, I must say that re-watching it was a helluva lot of fun. Now, if I’d watched it by myself I might have a different opinion but this project is all about the experience of viewing it together.

High Points: None at all, according to Molly. Jesse liked the sets and filming locations, and Hauer’s sweet double-action crossbow.

Low Points: Every element of the film, according to Molly. Jesse would like to single out the music. The music, oh the music. For example, check out the opening credits, where the first minute or so is strictly whatevs but by minute two yours ears will be rupturing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70_3pFmlpKE

Would you send a thief to guard your treasure?

Final Verdict: A split! Jesse says he’s seen far worse and the movie is made of flesh and spirit, whereas Molly says it is made of pure sorrow (actually, I said “pure shit” but apparently Jesse’s on a cussing diet).

Next Week: The Witches

Tomorrow the all-new Films of High Adventure will go up (I am having PTSD just writing the entry for this one), but for today, mellow out with Rainy Mood. Seriously, do yourself a favor. As a mood-lift or a writing aid, it’s amazing!

Personally, I’m enjoying the combo I’m rocking right now: rain + Aufs Lautenwerck, an album of Bach’s lute and harpsichord music. I’ve heard, via J.T. Glover, that the Goldberg Variations are also awesome.

OK, yeah. My husband is awesome. He just read a book and posted a reveiw of it on GoodReads, and I laughed and wanted to re-post it. Full disclosure: I have not read this book. Further disclosure: had I read it, I have no idea if I would agree with these sentiments. I just liked it, and wanted to share. So there.

Excession, by Iain M. Banks: A review by John

God damn do I love a good space opera! My hat is off to Iain M. Banks for the Culture series. I read my first Culture novel a while back when my good buddy Jesse gave me Consider Phlebas (the first novel in the Culture series) and I read it and it was good. But this book, the fourth in the series (I think), is just incredible. It’s one of those books with a million characters that you can’t keep track of doing a hundred things that don’t have any real impact on the actual plot but is just awesome because it is in outer space and involves sentient fucking spaceships battling tentacled monsters in hyperspace. Or something like that. I honestly couldn’t keep track of it all but loved it anyway because Banks writes the kind of sci-fi in which everything is possible. Everything. Sentient spaceships with cool names like “The Steely Glint”? Check. Being able to change your biological sex, grow wings, live forever? Check. A talking bird? Check. Growing a sample of your own skin in a vat and then sending that skin to a tailor so that tailor can make a stylish suit for you to wear? Check.

Actual plot? I’m not really sure. There were the tentacled things, called– seriously– the Affront, and there were the sentient spaceships, and there were some normal people for some reason that I think involved a baby. And there was the Excession, of course. What is an Excession, you ask? It’s something that’s excessive. In what way? I have no idea. It pretty much just sits around in space for the whole novel.

Do you love space opera? Do you think the only thing missing from Dune was more weird shit that didn’t make any sense? Then you should read this book, and the Culture series in general. Just look at the god-damned cover: a space ship that looks like a big gun floating around a dark sphere with binary code faintly playing across the background. I can hear the space Valkyries singing.

The Film: Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Also known asKing of Destroyer: Conan Part 2 (Japan)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Conan created by Robert E. Howard, who deserves better. Story by Roy Thomas (Some episodes of the cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian) and Gerry Conway (some episodes of Law and OrderG.I. Joe, and My Little Pony N’ Friends. Huh.), and execrable screenplay by Stanley Mann (Damien: Omen II). Direction by Richard Fleischer (Red Sonja. Enough said.) and soundtrack supposedly by Basil Poledouris, though it sounds more like producer Dino De Laurentiis let a stoned nephew go crazy remixing the excellent score from Conan the Barbarian into a warmed over symphony of half-hearted crap. Acting by Grace Jones, hackting by Arnie and Sarah Douglas, mugging by Tracy Walter and Mako, passable wooden golem impressions by Olivia d’Abo and Wilt (sigh) “the Stilt” Chamberlin, and André the Giant as the grumpy awakened Dreaming God who, alone of all the cast, was uncredited and thus allowed some shred of dignity.

Quote: “The horn is his life! Tear out the horn!”

Alternate quote: (If one desires the companionship of a gentleman) “Grab him! And take him!”

First viewing by Jesse: Not sure, but I was young enough to think it was watchable.

First viewing by Molly: Maybe a month ago?

Most recent viewing by both: Maybe a month ago? Frankly, we’ve been putting off reviewing it.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Low. I was more familiar with the first Conan movie and Red Sonja as a young’un, but I do have vague memories of the Dreaming God Dagoth and the Evil Queen (Sarah Douglas) being awesome in the way that rubbersuit monsters and vamped-out villainesses are intrinsically awesome to kids of a certain genetic code.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: Nil. Thank goodness.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Indeed.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Goddamn it sums it up pretty well. I knew as soon as Molly got the big-eyed “oh hells yes” look on her face during Conan the Barbarian that we would end up watching Destroyer, and that Destroyer would be a piece of shit. It’s kind of like being a kid and being so excited when you’re parents take you to the mall to meet Santa Claus and it’s so frickin cool that you have to go again next year, but when December rolls around again this year’s Santa has a drinking problem and a thin beard and grease stains on his sleeve and as soon as you get off his lap the rent-a-cops handcuff him to await the real police because to finance his gambling debts to a local mob boss he’s been illegally dumping toxic waste in your favorite public park. And kicking puppies. That’s what going from Barbarian to Destroyer is like, and I knew it, and I agreed to re-watch is anyway, Crom forgive me.

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: I was excited, because I really, really enjoyed Conan the Barbarian, and I knew Arnold and Mako would be returning, and Mr. Poledouris did the score. My exact thought was how bad could it be? I was warned by Jesse, warned by my uncle Glenn, warned by the friggin’ video store dude, but I remained optimistic. I called bullshit on Jesse’s theory that the fact that it was PG made all the difference, since it was made the year the PG-13 rating was just being adopted and, and, and. . . I was wrong.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Total bullshit. We actually got a formal protest not to review this movie given just how wretched it is but intentionally hurting ourselves comes with the territory. Conan the Destroyer is so stupid it makes The Beastmaster look like a nuanced and clever film (Molly Aside: I’m not so sure about that sentiment; they are awful in different ways. At least the protagonist of Destroyer looks like a goddamn barbarian instead of some surfer-dude in a leather skirt with some weasels. OK, back to Jesse.). I’m going to try to tone down my hating on director Fleischer this time around since Molly pointed out that he’s dead and I can’t think of a single ghost I’d like to be haunted by less, but for the love of all that is holy he made one stinky, stinky fucking movie. Well, two, counting Red Sonja, and three counting Amittyville 3-D, and—you know what? Never mind. This movie sucks for a host of reasons, only some of them we’ll have time to explore, and lest repeating Fleischer’s name affects some sort of Candyman resurrection the less we say about him the better. Maybe that last bit was a little harsh. . . but he made Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja, so the Candyman warning stands.

While the first film certainly deviated from Howard’s source material all over the place it at least captured certain elements of the original stories and had a lot to love in of itself. Destroyer, by contrast, feels like a monotonous journey on Dungeons and Dragons Railways, with only the occasional stop to let off painful jokes and pick up plot contrivances, plodding ever closer toward the forgone conclusion we all predicted the moment dungeon master Fleischer let out a Mountain Dew belch and informed us we would be escorting the princess on a perilous journey. Worse still, instead of simply having an obvious plot we also have a chronically stupid plot, with such idiotic sequences as the adventuring party of Conan N’ Friends spending the night camping just outside the island-bound ice palace of the evil wizard they’re intending to jack in the morning without keeping watch, whereupon the evil wizard, not being completely fucking worthless, sees them and kidnaps the princess. When Conan and company find the princess missing they promptly board the boat that is inexplicably waiting for them and row across to—forget it, forget it, just repeating the stupidity that is this movie’s plot is making me want to break priceless vases with my face.

One of the most painful elements of Destroyer is the forced humor, courtesy mostly of Tracy Walter who I liked quite a bit in Repoman but is just awful in this—he basically does here what the annoying kid does in Red Sonja, which is make a bad thing worse through inane one liners. Hell, most of Conan’s new sidekicks are painful to watch—Wilt and the princess just can’t act to save their lives, but Mako, as with Arnie, is obviously trying to act, and in both cases the result is a decrease in quality from their performances in the first movie. Oh, and as for added skin-crawling horror on a Friday afternoon the Wikipedia page for the movies describe then-15-year-old Olivia d’Abo as “playing the petulant teenage princess with sexy innocence” when she is, in fact, a perfectly terrible actress and, as the same person noted a few words earlier in the sentence, a fifteen year old one. The only thing this has going for it that Barbarian doesn’t is Grace Jones, and the absence of Subotai (Gerry Lopez) is sorely felt every time one of Destoryer’s side characters fails at life—Subotai knew how to sidekick, for reals.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Fuck this movie. It sucks. It sucks in the same way Red Sonja sucks, which is to say, relentlessly. Literally the only thing I enjoyed about it was watching Grace Jones. She was having such a good time I couldn’t hate her—the way she mugs for the camera, the way she is totally OK with wearing a barbarian outfit with a tail on it, the way she’s just happy to be there and in a movie and holding a spear and being all fierce and stuff. Everything else is completely worthless. I mean—fuck. Poledouris didn’t even write a new score for this pile of turds. Why bother? He just sped up the tempo of the Conan the Barbarian movie soundtrack and cashed his fucking paycheck, which I hope was padded by royalties from the original Conan movie. Jesus. Jesse was all like “you will hate his sidekick so much” and I was like, really? But I knew the minute Tracey Walter (AKA Truly the Worst Sidekick of All time in Conan the Destroyer, AKA one of the hideously annoying Ferengi in the season oneST:TNG episode where that race first appear, AKA the dude who has appeared in some of the worst entertainment war crimes of the 20th and 21st centuries including, no joke, ALFCity SlickersMelrose Place, the Beloved movie,Mighty Joe Young, and Masked and Anonymous,) spoke his first line I was in for deep hurting.

Here’s the thing: a while ago Jesse and I were working on a project together and I called him out on something that made no sense. Jesse responded, “it makes fantasy sense.” He was right, and I have a hearty respect for “fantasy sense” (you know, like how in Conan the Barbarian, when Conan is a pit fighter? And making his owner a ton of money? And then his owner lets him go—without a sword—because “he was like an animal that had been caged too long” or whatever. . . that makes fantasy sense). But nothing in Conan the Destroyer makes any sort of sense at all, not even fantasy sense. To wit: why do Conan’s pants keep disappearing and then reappearing at random? Why do they make camp outside the evil wizard’s palace in plain sight, unprotected, for an entire night? Why does the wizard touch a gem only the princess can touch that he’s had foreverz and clearly knows how to use? You get my point. This movie is a quintessential Idiot Plot film and I hate it.

I’d also like to say this about swords in movies: if you’re going to use big fucking broadswords, please have people use them properly. No one in his or her right mind will swing a broadsword around so it makes those oh-so-nifty “shwoop shwoop” sounds (a la any comedy movie featuring a scene wherein a Western Dude defeats an Asian Dude by shooting him in the face after the Asian Dude swings his swords around in a vaguely martial-artsy manner while saying “ahhhhhhhhhh so!” or whatever). It would probably sprain your wrist. Also it is stupid. It is far more effective to hack at a person with a big fucking sword if you are trying to hurt them. But you know, if you’re making a kid-friendly fantasy movie, I guess it’s a decent stand-in for actually hurting someone? Ugh.

I really, really wanted to like this movie. But I didn’t. I hated it. I didn’t hate it nearly as much as next week’s movie—I’m deliberately holding back the title for the Ultimate Reveal—but I hated it quite a bit. I think I hated it mostly for its utter blandness. They excised pretty much everything that made the first Conan movie awesome: big fucking swords used brutally by big fucking dudes, a sense of epic gravity to the proceedings, an interesting female character, a sidekick who is awesome and cries for Conan because Conan will not cry, battles that are actually cool, a plot that makes some sort of sense, a good soundtrack, a hero who’s man enough to wax philosophical about picking berries with his dad, a dead girlfriend coming back valkyrie instead of a weird blue ghost or something, and of course, a wizard who actually has chops (I’d like to see the wizard in Destroyer turn a snake into a goddamn arrow. . . the worst evil wrought by that doofus was, what? Turning into a cartoon bird and stealing a girl in plain sight? Having an ape-monster who can be killed by shattering a mirror? Come the fuck on). Instead we get. . . a stupid movie with nothing interesting and a final scene that is just a bargain-basement redux of the sort-of crappy ending of A New Hope, but instead of Chewie making everyone force a chuckle with a final “NNNNGGGGAAHHHHHHH” we just have Conan just walking away from some babe, without, I think, even bagging her doughnuts. . . wtf.

High Points: Grace Jones. The credits.

Low Points: That embedding was disabled for this stellar clip of Conan and the caped Goliath. That the rambling but still-engaging narrative of the first movie was traded for the most bone-headed “you all meet in a tavern, where a local king hires you to retrieve the three crimson orbs of the rumpshakers” style of plot imaginable. The attempts at humor, which are as frequent and forced as they are idiotic and often out of character. The myriad attempts to borrow elements from the first film in hopes of bettering this one, such as the camel punch, almost as if the filmmakers knew they were crafting an inferior picture and naïvely hoped that by lifting from Barbarian they could recapture the charm that is utterly absent from this goddamn pile of human waste. The tail they put on Grace Jones’s costume—the definition of an ORLY? decision on the designers’ part. The jingle bell sound effect they added to Grace Jones shaking said tail—Jesus fucking Christ. The fact that they somehow found a way to make Conan of Cimmeria swinging a sword, getting his mack on, butchering redshirts and monsters—doing his thing, basically—so utterly, irredeemably boring.

Final Verdict: A big ol’ fuck you, Conan the Destroyer.

Bonus: I found this image while searching for Conan the Destroyer images:

turning snakes into arrows? YES WE CAN

A lot of awesome people are up on the British Fantasy Awards: in terms of novels, Jesse Bullington’s up for his debut The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, Jeff VanderMeer for Finch. Ann VanderMeer (Weird Tales) and Cat Rambo (Fantasy Magazine) are up for the Best Magazine category, and several Fantasy Magazine authors are up in the Best Short Story category! Yay, and congrats to all!

Dan Savage has the contact info for the Itawamba school district’s superintendent as well as the contact info for Itawamba Agricultural in his column today. Please send an email/fax/letter on behalf of Constance McMillen!

OK OK OK. I was going to stay out of the whole Lierre Keith getting a pie in the face thing because (1) Lierre Keith is probably (and hopefully, gawd) at 14:54 in terms of her 15 minutes of fame, and prolonging that seems like a disservice to critical thought and also the world as a whole; (2) I’ve admittedly only read of her book what’s available free on the internet and/or been quoted on the PPK; (3) I’m not entirely convinced the whole thing wasn’t simply a publicity stunt and, finally, (3) I have a reasonable suspicion she has Google Alerts set up for herself and in case she’s a reader of FM/thinking about purchasing Running with the Pack I wouldn’t want to discourage her. Don’t second-guess yourself, Lierre! The werewolf story I wrote has an ex-vegetarian as a character! You’d love it!

But! A member of the PPK has put up a .pdf of an elegant, devastating critique of some of the silliest claims in Lierre Keith’s junk-science manifesto, The Vegetarian Myth, and I couldn’t resist plugging it. Here’s a sample:

The Claim: “Understand: agriculture was the beginning of global warming. Ten thousand years of destroying the carbon sinks of perennial polycultures has added almost as much carbon to the atmosphere as industrialization, an indictment that you, vegetarians, need to answer. No one has told you this before, but that is what your food—those oh so eco-peaceful grains and beans—has done.” (P. 250)

The Reality: Much of Lierre’s book is borrowed from Richard Manning, a well-respected environmentalist and author. Manning understands that human dependence on grain monoculture is not a result of the small percentage of concerned people who decide to be vegetarian, but is rather a historical mistake of which we all share the burden of repairing. Despite Lierre’s insistence, vegans do not need to eat grains nor any sort of annual crop. Why did she target vegans when compared to average corn-fed Americans, vegans consume much less grain?

On the topic of climate change, Lierre fails to address that regardless of type of feed or forage, ruminant animals emit an abundance of methane. She, along with other grass-fed proponents, point out that growing pasture sequesters carbon in the subsoil and claim that farms like Polyface are carbon-neutral. However, she ignores the fact that soil only retains a limited quantity of carbon—once pasture is healthy, it is carbon stable. Any pasture-based livestock production contributes, pound-for-pound of meat, to climate change as much (if not more) than conventional livestock production—an indictment that you, Lierre, need to answer.

Yeah. I think the best part is how reasonable the authors are while discussing the outrageous misinformation presented as fact in Lierre’s Weston Price-sanctioned screed (a “fair and balanced” source to be sure, coo-coo-claiming as they do that the ideal diet contains such things like brains ground up into your casseroles and adding heavy cream to infant formula, no joke). So check out the link above of the first chapter of her book. Read it for yourself. There’s all sorts of wisdom-nuggets like:

Despite what you’ve been told, and despite the earnestness of the tellers, eating soybeans isn’t going to bring [chinooks, bison, grasshopper sparrows, grey wolves] back. Ninety-eight percent of the American prairie is gone, turned into a monocrop of annual grains.

Shit. Pretty much every single vegan site promotes that fundamental tenant of veganism: eating soy brings back extinct/endangered species! With such a devastating critique of “the vegetarian myth” I think I’ll go right out and eat a burger! See, before I discovered Lierre Keith, I thought that a ton of the grains grown in America fed livestock, not people. . . oh, wait, that’s actually true. But who cares? Moving on:

By turning from adult knowledge, the knowledge that death is embedded in every creature’s sustenance, from bacteria to grizzly bears, they [vegans] would never be able to feed the emotional and spiritual hunger that ached in me from accepting that knowledge. Maybe in the end this book is an attempt to soothe that ache myself.

Probably so, Lierre. In the meantime, I’ll remain here in childlike-reasoning-land, where I make a distinction between living creatures who cannot feel pain (bacteria) and living creatures who can (um, grizzly bears), and make informed decisions based on that infantile assumption. Actually, why am I even still talking about this? The folks who wrote the above .pdf already covered it:

The Claim: “I built my whole identity on the idea that my life did not require death…Did the lives of nematodes and fungi matter? Why not? Because they were too small for me to see?” (P. 18, discussed throughout the book)

In Reality: This is a straw man argument. These views are not held by most vegans. The goal of veganism is to eliminate direct, unnecessary suffering at the hands of humans–not to magically end all death. Why shouldn’t the cow with its undeniable ability to suffer take precedence over plants and organisms with limited or non-existent nervous systems such as the nematodes Keith frets about in this book?

Yeah, well, so. ‘Nuff said.

I’m working on a project involving Atlas Shrugged. This means I am re-reading Atlas Shrugged. I shan’t be saying a lot about this project here, it’s still in its infancy. I will, however, post a quote from the book that I read today, a quote that filled me with the sort of dread and horror the characters in this book supposedly feel when faced with the moral outrage of, say, charity:

The boy had no inkling of any concept of morality; it had been bred out of him by his college; this had left him an odd frankness, naive and cynical at once, like the innocence of a savage. (AS 342)

I know that’s what college did for me! And it’s certainly what I tried to do when teaching college! Woooooo! Let’s all hear it for savage innocence!

Actually, let’s talk about “savages” for a moment. Who’s a “savage,” according to Rand? Well, Native Americans, for one (all quotes from a lecture at West Point Academy in 1974):

[Native Americans] had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages.

Oh?

What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched–to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. The racist Indians today–those who condemn America–do not respect individual rights.

Uh? So what did the whites do, when dealing with these savages living “like animals or cavemen” all over the place?

The white man did not conquer this country. And you’re a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights–they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures”–they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It’s wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you’re an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a “country” does not protect rights–if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief–why should you respect the “rights” that they don’t have or respect?

Holy mother of fuck.

So the question “who is John Galt?” is asked repeatedly in Atlas Shrugged for various reasons; I think a better question is “who is Ayn Rand?” Well, friends, these quotes do a lot to answer that question. This is Ayn Rand.

Jesse Bullington and I have (perhaps foolishly) decided to embark upon a quest: watching “classic” adventure movies that informed one or both of our childhoods. We’ll be posting one every Friday. . . at least, that’s the goal.

This week we’re postponing our scheduled review of Conan the Destroyer to mourn the passing of Corey Haim. To that end, this week’s choice should be obvious. Unfortunately, both Dream A Little Dream 2 and Prayer of the Rollerboys were checked out from the video store, so we’re going to make do with The Lost Boys instead.

The Film: The Lost Boys (1987)

Also known asThe Main Thing Corey Haim Will Be Remembered For (2010)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Story by Janice Fischer and James Jeremias, who didn’t ever really do anything else, and direction by Joel Shumacher who, unfortunately for caped crusader fans, did—Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Helping Fischer and Jeremias with the screenplay was Jeffrey Boam, who worked on The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr. and some other fun stuff. Soundtrack by Lou Gramm, INXS, Roger Daltry, Echo and the Bunnymen, Run DMC, and more—in large part covering other artist’s songs to painful results. Oh, and grating theme song (“Cry Little Sister”) repeated ad nauseam courtesy of Gerard McMahon. Thanks, guy. Acting (insert lame vampire “suck” joke here) by the Coreys, Kiefer Sutherland, the Keanu fill-in from Speed 2 (Jason Patric), the mom from Edward Scissorhands (Dianne Wiest), the dad from the Gilmore Girls (Edward Herrmann), and Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter).

Quote: “My own brother—a goddamn shit-sucking vampire!”

Alternate quote: “Death by stereo.”

Random Frog Quote: “If you try to stop us, or vamp out in any way, I’ll stake you without even thinking twice about it!”

Random Quote That Molly’s Husband John Blurted Out During Kiefer’s Death Scene: “I Just killed a beautiful monster, but I loved him like a brother.”

First viewing by Molly: 2005, I think, at longtime friends Randy and Maria’s house.

First viewing by Jesse: As a kid? I know, I know, descriptive.

Most recent viewing by both: Last night.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: None. Literally, and not in the sense of the word where it means figuratively. I was not aware this movie even existed until college, when (if memory serves) my dear friend Brad came into my dorm room before the annual Halloween party in torn jeans, an acid-washed denim jacket with the sleeves cut off, and some other horrifying clothing with his hair teased out and fake vampire teeth. I asked, “what the fuck are you supposed to be?” (or something like, knowing me). He responded, baffled, “a lost boy!” “From Peter Pan?” I asked, further confused by the vampire teeth. He looked at me, and with the patience of one explaining to the cat why he shouldn’t scratch the couch, said, “you know, from the movie? The Lost Boys?” I had no idea what he was talking about.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Moderate. I dug the Frog Brothers, of course, and loved me some Kiefer and Haim, but I saw Near Dark before I ever saw this and so my 80s vampire heart belongs to Lance Henriksen and crew. Plus, Jenny Wright > Jami Gertz to adolescent Jesse like whoa.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: When I saw this at Randy and Maria’s house, I was pretty (very) drunk on wine and my contacts had dried out, so I didn’t remember much except blinking. I recall thinking it was OK but nowhere near as good as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film, which I owned on VHS until very recently.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: I hadn’t re-watched this since high school, thinking some films are better left as fond memories. This whole project is predicated on smashing that conceit and dragging the dated movies of our youth squealing into the caustic light of the present day, however, and if they burn up like a bleach blond bloodsucker, well, no one said it would be easy. I went into the re-watch confident that the Frog Brothers would still be awesome but not sure of anything else.  After all, low expectations never hurt a movie-watching experience, though often that’s just not enough to save it (see: Red Sonja).

I also wondered if Haim’s recent passing would incline me toward a more charitable estimation of his performance. Would Haim be another casualty of my baffling youthful fondness for blond leads with suspect acting abilities, or would he prove to be an accomplished thespian on the level of an Emilio Estevez or a Kiefer Sutherland?

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Sometimes, if you don’t have childhood affection for a film, there’s only so much you can love about it as a grown up. I’m going to come right out and say that I fucking hated The Goonies, which I saw for the first time in college. Dick and fart jokes have never really been my thing (and thus my love of Robot Chicken is nigh inexplicable), and ugh, you know what? Lest I alienate everyone on the internet around my age by pooping on The Goonies, I’ll stick to the topic at hand: The Lost Boys.

One thing I will say: I unabashedly love the sort of bizarre nonchalance everyone feels toward vampires in this film. The Frog Brothers’ “whatevs” attitude, Corey Haim’s willingness to accept his brother’s transformation into some sort of supernatural being, the fact that the grandfather knew all along. . . what? No attempt is made to give a larger picture of the world this film occurs in—are there vampires in other cities? Werewolves? Banshees?—and thus characters’ reactions are often baffling.

Also: Diane Wiest. She is among my favorite actresses of all times, and watching her sweet sincerity made me really happy. She’s every bit as good in this as she is in Footloose, Edward Scissorhands, Law and Order, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and, um, Practical Magic. Edward Herrmann also classes up the film tremendously, as he generally does, and the both of them are just so young! I also enjoyed Corey Feldman’s acting tremendously, and the zany grandfather.

I really wanted this movie to rule big-time, but it fell a little short for me. It was awesome, but not quite as awesome as I would’ve liked it to be. I think it was the high concentration of down-time in the film: montages, scenes with nothing happening that are just “local color” shots while entire songs play in the background, that interminably long sex scene, etc. It just needed to be shorter or have more happening. The “be shorter” issue is frightening, as well, if you make the mistake of watching the deleted scenes, of which there are an alarming number. I just wish I’d seen it as a kid, when the ‘tude and the bath scene with Mr. Haim might’ve had a bigger impact.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Holy mother of shit, the ape drapes in this movie are out of control! I thought Red Sonja had the lock on unapologetically heinous cinematic mullets but Alex Winter’s alone is so far entrenched in trash culture that it’s a wonder he ever crawled out of the 80s. Oh wait. . .

While The Lost Boys hasn’t aged with anything resembling grace or taste it is, at least, not Red Sonja. This is enough for me to be grateful. It is also better than Conan the Destroyer, and by dint of preventing me from having to spend any amount of time thinking about that movie today I am further obliged to it. There’s an undeniable charm to the film, even if said charm only affects people already susceptible to the debatably dubious appeal of John Hughes films, Oingo Boingo, and/or swatches. If the future generations ever pose the question “what were the years between 1979 and 1990 like?” this film will be the perfect answer, containing as it does amusement park rides, boardwalks, the Coreys, a brat packer or two, partying, and montages, montages, montages.

Stacking this against other 80s vampire films it comes in just behind Fright Night and Near Dark but way, wayyyyy ahead of Once Bitten and most of the other offerings.  I can already hear the clamoring of indignation that I would put Fright Night ahead of the Lost Boys, but I’m going to come down on the side of Chris Sarandon and Roddy Mac every time. For one thing the homoerotic undertones are much more pronounced in Fright Night, which is crucial for an 80s vampire movie, and for another there’s the first 20 seconds of the following clip, which is one of the best things in the history of the universe:

High Points: The Frog Brothers 4-eva. The vampire deaths, which are messy and varied—both assets. The lame jokes. The pure vintage 1987 look of the film, from the hair to the costumes to the hair again, because that shit is intense. As I mentioned above, the Kentucky waterfalls splash down many a denim jacket-gilded shoulder in this picture and must be seen to be believed. Fortunately, a devoted fan of Alex Winter’s character Marko has put together a compilation for us that, while focusing on one bemulleted nosferatu in particular, it gives us a glimpse at the treasure trove of bad hair that is The Lost Boys:

Low Points: Shumacher’s Montage Fever. “Cry Little Sister”—why won’t it stoppppppp?!?! The endless family bonding. Jason Patric and Jami Gertz’s “sex” scene. Depending on one’s sense of humor, the hair and fashion and lame jokes could be applied here as well.


Final Verdict: Corey, you will be missed.

Next Week: We really will do Conan the Destroyer.