A Very Quick, But Not So Dead, Look At Sam Raimi and Evil

Spoilers ahead for THE EVIL DEAD (1981) and OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013)

Sam Raimi's complicated relationship with the nature of evil is on display in "Oz".

Sam Raimi’s complicated relationship with the nature of evil is on display in “Oz”.

So I finally got around to seeing Sam Raimi’s (via the Disney Studios) 2013 opus “Oz The Great and Powerful” last night. I was prepared to hate this creation and had literally postponed my viewing for over a month so that the majority of my ticket price would go to the exhibitor and not the studio (yes I DO think about these kinds of things). In fact the only reason I finally DID go see “Oz” was because I re-watched “The Evil Dead” (1981) over the weekend in anticipation of seeing the remake. And somehow the lingering positive effects made me crave a viewing of Raimi’s latest. But then a strange thing happened. I liked “Oz The Great And Powerful” – I liked it a lot.

I don’t think this opinion was by accident, by chance, because I’m a sucker for 3D (upon hearing my affection for this film a close friend who knew I also enjoyed the recent “Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Hobbit” suggested I was a sucker) or because I had recently eaten a couple of Bob’s Donuts at the Farmer’s Market. It was absolutely because I had watched Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” (1981), and my viewing of “Oz” was accordingly informed by that film. “The Evil Dead” shed light on some hidden and some not-so-hidden themes within “Oz”. And yes this means that Sam Raimi is obsessed with similarly “fucked-up” ideas that permeate both a micro-budget cult film AND a macro-budget studio-backed franchise branded blockbuster. Continue reading

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The Trash Humpers Watch The Trailer For KIDS

Momma and Herve, two of the characters from Harmony Korine’s 2009 Trash Humpers watch the trailer, below, for 1995’s KIDS, for which Korine wrote the screenplay.

Trash Humpers. Momma in frame center, Herve behind the camera.

Trash Humpers. Momma, center, Herve behind the camera.

Momma: So is this movie about kids or what?

Herve: HEE HEE HEE (cackles)… Are they giving us goddam POPCORN?! THIS IS A MOVIE RIGHT?! THIS IS AMERICA RIGHT?!


Herve stands and starts to do the Jitterbug, knocks over a chair and sits down again.

Momma: Settle down. Settle down. No need to get all worked up over a movie. This is worse than when we saw Tom and Jerry and you had to leave when the music came on.

Herve: Is all them kids wearing t-shirts or just going without – is that the style these days?

Momma: I think this film takes place in the sixties, maybe the fifties. It was the style.

Herve: OH YEAH! OH YEAH! OH YEAH!!!! Lookie here!!! These ones look like they up for a real good time!!!  I like that blondie girl, she reminds me of vanilla ice cream with a little white bread and milk and sugar on top.

Herve begins to dance again. Continue reading

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Make It, Make It, Don’t Fake It. Thoughts on Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine, and a Culture of Fabrication.

"Spring Breakers" Benson, Hudgens, and Korine - or is it Britt, Candy, and Cotty. Does it matter?

“Spring Breakers” Benson, Hudgens, and Korine – or is it Britt, Candy, and Cotty? Does it matter?

People aspire to be something that they are not. This is life. And even if that something is a complete fabrication – a media and pop culture lie – there is still something about becoming that fabrication that is both a real journey and a genuine destination. It is still SOMETHING after all. Harmony Korine’s latest feature “Spring Breakers” is the story of a quartet of American girls who want to break out of their economic, social, educational worlds and do something else, go somewhere else, be someone else…. But this place just happens to be a Dov Charney and Joe Francis fever dream called spring break.

Faith (Selena Gomez) wants to get our of her church-group surroundings. Cotty (Rachel Korine) wants to be a part of a group – ANY group. And headliners Britt (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), as one of Faith’s church-going friends says at the beginning of the film, “have a little demon inside of them.” But they are demons without a way to sin. They are trapped, and who in 2013 America cannot relate to that? Later on in the film we meet a drug dealer, petty thief, and YouTube-based rapper named Alien (James Franco) who thinks he has transformed into something that he has wanted to become but instead may still be just a fake, a pretender, a wannabe – and in the worlds of Harmony Korine, there may be no greater sin than that. Part of the genius of “Spring Breakers” is that the two actresses playing Britt and Candy (Ashley Benson of “Pretty Little Liars” and Vanessa Hudgens of “High School Musical 1-3”) probably feel trapped too. This duo of characters and actresses seek a credibility in the hardcore, sexualized world of the post-aughts American pop criminal. And along with Benson and Hudgens, actor James Franco wants to exist as both a matinee hero (in the currently in release “Oz: The Great and Powerful”) and as anything but that, and with his performance in this film he is somehow able to do both.

But to really understand what is going on in “Spring Breakers” I found it helpful to look back on “Trash Humpers”, Harmony Korine’s 2009 film shot on VHS about a gang of three vandals in elderly persons’ masks who terrorize the backyards and parking lots of Nashville. Much as it is difficult to separate the aspirations of Britt and Candy from Benson and Hudgens, it becomes difficult to separate the actors behind the masks from the characters – or monsters – that these three become. Are there any actors behind the masks in “Trash Humpers”, have the actors fused with these characters (and of course masks) – physically or mentally? Are these actors in masks even playing a role or have they become one and the same? Continue reading

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Am I obsessed with Martin Freeman… or was “The Hobbit” actually a good film?

Martin Freeman on the road to my heart.

Martin Freeman on the road to my heart.

I’ve never been a huge “Lord of The Rings” fan. But guess what, I enjoyed “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” quite a bit.

But complaints for the film seem to be coming from all sides, and in all forms and varieties – often times the criticisms are conflicting: It’s too long vs. there’s not enough in it; It looks like a BBC drama vs. it looks too CGI; There are not enough stakes vs. there is too much going on; There are too many cameos vs. its not “Lord of The Rings-y” enough. And forget 3D 48fps vs. 2D 24fps – I won’t even attempt to scratch the surface of that debate here (but for the record I saw the film in IMAX 3D 48fps and I do believe the novelty did make me appreciate the experience of seeing the film a bit more than if I had seen it in good old fashioned 2D 24fps).

Ultimately I think conflicting criticisms means unrealistic or improbable expectations. And seeing how one of my favorite things is to defend maligned films (see my defense of “The Amazing Spider-Man”), I will start by saying I not only enjoyed “The Hobbit AUJ”, but that the only film I’ve loved more in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth series is “LOTR The Two Towers” which just happened to be one of my top films of 2002. And yes that means I enjoyed it more than “LOTR Fellowship of The Ring” or “LOTR Return of The King”. But many audience members are so obsessed with making “The Hobbit AUG” a LOTR film (including perhaps the studio and the filmmaker at times) that they are ignoring the things that make the story of “The Hobbit” so great.

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Top 10 Things I Wish I Could Be For Halloween 2012

I really get into Halloween each year but unfortunately I can only be one costume each year. Today I offer ideas that I wish I could be, but was not, this year.

1.) Carrie from “Homeland”

Homeland’s Carrie

Why I wanted to be her: Carrie is the ultimate bad-ass on television right now. Sorry Walter White and Raylan Givens, you can only win this title by running through a terrorist infested Beirut apartment when you are off your meds.

Why I passed: Not sure if this will totally read with my gender AND skin tone. 😦

Continue reading

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