Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Loft's Favorite Films of 2010

Combined List:

1. Dogtooth
2. A Prophet
3. Tie Exit Through the Gift Shop AND Black Swan
4. Inception
5. Mother
6. A Serious Man
7. Tie Winter's Bone AND The Social Network
8. The Maid
9. Monsters
10. House

Individual Lists:

J.J. Giddings, Operations Director:

1. Enter the Void
2. Dogtooth
3. A Prophet
4. Big River Man
5. Alamar
6. Trash Humpers
7. Exit Through the Gift Shop
8. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
9. Black Swan
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Honorable Mention: Fish Tank, Animal Kingdom, Bad Lieutenant, Winter's Bone, The Oath, Mother, Samson & Delilah, Please Give, Marwencol, The Maid, A Town Called Panic, Love Exposure

Steven Soloway, Office Manager

1. Dogtooth
2. Double Take
3. House
4. Trash Humpers
5. Exit Through the Gift Shop
6. Revolucion
7. Cairo Time
8. House of the Devil
9. A Serious Man
10. The Human Centipede

Luanne Withee, Membership Director

In No Order:
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Prodigal Sons
Valley of the Dolls
Winter’s Bone
Last Train Home
The Maid
La Dolce Vita

Evan, Floor Staff

1. Dogtooth
2. Toy Story 3
3. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
4. The American
5. Wild Grass
6. Inception
7. A Prophet
8. The Social Network
9. Exit Through the Gift Shop
10. Animal Kingdom

Honorable Mention: Greenberg, Shutter Island, Kick-Ass

Tim Keene, Floor Staff

1. Winter’s Bone
2. The Maid
3. Please Give
4. A Prophet
5. Inside Job
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop
7. I Am Love
8. Jackass 3-D

Amy Harclerode, Development Director

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
2. The Last Station
3. The Messenger
4. An Education
5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (The way only The Loft could do it.)
6. Coco Before Chanel
7. Bronson
8. A Single Man
9. Valley of the Dolls
10. My Dog Tulip

Peggy Johnson, Executive Director

Animal Kingdom
Breathless (re-release)
Breathless (Korea)
Enter the Void
A Prophet
The Maid
I Am Love
The Messenger
Samson and Delilah
White Ribbon
My Dog Tulip

Alyson Hill, Projectionist

1. The White Ribbon
2. Black Swan
3. Dogtooth
4. An Education
5. A Serious Man
6. True Grit
7. Easy A
8. A Single Man
9. I Am Love

Pedro Robles, Assistant Manager

1. The Social Network
2. Black Swan
3. Inception
4. Dogtooth
5. The American
6. Lebanon
7. Shutter Island
8. True Grit
9. A Prophet
10. The White Ribbon

Jeff Yanc, Program Director

In no order, except for #1
1. Dogtooth
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Fish Tank
The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector
I Am Love
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
The Maid
Winter’s Bone
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
**Favorite trashy movie and best reason to pay extra for 3-D glasses: Piranha 3-D**

Dave Paiz, Facilities Manager

1. Inception
2. Valhalla Rising
3. Revolucion
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop
5. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
6. A Serious Man
7. Big River Man
8. Splice
9. The House of the Devil
10. Life During Wartime

Anthony Cutrone, Floor Staff

1. A Prophet
2. Dogtooth
3. The Social Network
4. Mother
5. Best Worst Movie
6. Inception
7. Black Swan
8. True Grit
9. Animal Kingdom
10. The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Dale Meyers, Projectionist

In no order:
The Girl/Stieg Larsson Trilogy
Shutter Island
A Serious Man
A Single Man
House of the Devil
Un Prophete
Valhalla Rising
The Town
Black Swan

Christian Ramirez, Floor Staff

1. Black Swan
2. A Prophet
3. Dogtooth
4. The Social Network
5. Double Take
6. Toy Story 3
7. Inception
8. Exit Through the Gift Shop
9. The Kids Are Alright
10. Monsters

Daniel Terry, Assistant Manager

1. A Prophet
2. Dogtooth
3. Black Swan
4. True Grit
5. Monsters
6. Winter’s Bone
7. Inception
8. Easy A
9. Never Let Me Go
10. The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Zach Breneman, Business Manager

1. A Prophet
2. Mother
3. Dogtooth
4. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
5. Animal Kingdom
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
7. Black Swan
8. Big River Man
9. The Social Network
10. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Honorable Mention: Fish Tank, Samson & Delilah, Daddy Longlegs, Valhalla Rising, Marwencol, Everyone Else, Last Train Home, Love Exposure, I Am Love, Boy

Kyle Canfield, General Manager

1. A Serious Man
2. Mother
3. Exit Through the Gift Shop
4. Monsters
5. Black Swan
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
7. I Killed My Mother
8. A Prophet
9. $9.99
10. True Grit

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Friday Shorts, Oct 1, 2010 by Howard Salmon

Very enjoyable First Friday Shorts. Lots of creativity, originality, and humor: moustache rides, the return of the Wambolt brothers!

There really is a scene happening at the Loft with First Friday Shorts. There are a few familiar names that consistently submit films, and it seems that Max Cannon (the MC) is friendly with many of them. In fact, as I sat there, watching short films, watching the audience hoot and holler, and watching Max moderate the whole shebang, I suddenly felt like I was witnessing something significant, and I’ve come to a few conclusions: low-budget, hastily thrown together films are the “new punk rock”; for businesses to grow and thrive, they must create their own communities and subcultures; and that video (and film – same thing) is the preferred art form for today’s kids.  The movies are just about the same length as a pop song (i.e. about 3 minutes), and there’s a strong interactive experience: between the MC (Max), the audience, and the filmmaker.  The only other place you can get this type of audience participation is in a nightclub, watching a band. The Loft, with FFS, appears to have bridged the difference between watching movies and attending the live show. 

The winning film tonight was called “$40 Shy” by Grant Hunter. The story was about a guy who was telling his girlfriend what he did over the weekend—how he had a “Lost Weekend” with a friend of his, which included drugs and sex with a prostitute, all paid for with his girlfriend’s credit card.  The audience loved this movie, cheering as if the home team had just scored a touch down. This film started out with a couple in bed talking to each other, while the “flashback” part of the movie was composed of a series of still black & white photos that illustrated a voice over narration of the events in the story.  Simple but effective.

It seems as if some of the film makers are friends with each other, and joining forces to increase their chances of winning the prize. This became clear with three separate films that were shown one after the other, all which contained the same actors: Jesse Moore’s “Taco Stand”, Nick Wambolt’s “Inbred Auto Repair”, and Tim Wambolt’s “Moustache Ride”. The Wambolt brothers are local celebrities for their submission last month, which completely satirized Mike Sterner, Max Cannon, and First Friday Shorts—and ended up winning the $200 prize. This month, they each turned in weaker entries, but Tim Wambolt’s “Moustache Ride” turned out to be the running joke of the evening, with Max using every opportunity he could to taught each film maker with remarks such as “speak up, as if you had a moustache!”, or “how many of you here would give this guy a moustache ride?!” (or something to that effect)

One movie that I liked was called “GTFO”, which stands for “Get the F*ck Out!” The movie starts with one guy shouting at another “get the f*ck out of my house!”, only to find that “f*ck” is a substance that’s alive in his refrigerator, and needs to be removed. The movie is thus about the process of  getting the “f*ck” out of one’s house. Apparanantly, it requires a sponge mop.

Other movies screened tonight were: “I’ll Kill You And Your Whole Family” by Diana Stapleton (a warped and twisted version of the old “Mr. Bill Show” from Saturday Night Live, but without Mr. Bill); Grant Nelson’s “Vampires of Last Christmas”, which was about a spoof band giving a spoof interview (in the studio) about what it was like making their (spoof) album.; and a movie called “Shocking Shameless Shindig”, which juxtaposed shots of three sexily-dressed girls (with rifles) playing cards in the wash vis-à-vis scene from old black and white animated cartoons.

The last movie not gonged was a low-budget Kung-Fu action film called “Short Fists”. This featured some hastily-recorded footage of two brothers (one tall and chubby, the other short and small) fighting either with their Kung Fu moves. But the real star of that movie was the overdubbed sound track: all of the dialogue was added later as a voice-over, which didn’t quite synch up, just like those old Kung Fu movies! Brilliant touch.

After the audience voted for their fave movie, Grant Hunter marched to the stage to get his giant $200 check. While posing for photos, Max gave Grant a peck on the cheek. At First Fridays, you can feel the love, big time.

Howard Salmon is the author of “Al Perry Comix”, and is the publisher of “SLIT” music & art magazine. His website is www.howardsalmon.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Essential Review: Spirit of the Beehive - Justyn Dillingham

When the Loft's formidably knowledgeable Jeff Yanc introduced the first showing of Victor Erice's 1973 classic "Spirit of the Beehive" on Sunday, he noted that the rather better-known 2007 film "Pan's Labyrinth" had, to say the least, "borrowed" a lot from this Spanish classic. But while the two films share a number of elements—a setting, fantasy erupting into the world of a small child, an important plot point revolving around a watch—it's hard to imagine two films more different in tone. Whereas "Pan's Labyrinth" is a violent and disturbing film that troublingly blends history with fantasy—I walked out of it at the end feeling like I'd been bludgeoned with beer bottles—"Spirit of the Beehive" is so quiet and seemingly realistic a film that it sometimes feels more like a documentary, with its long, gorgeous shots of the Spanish countryside and carefully detailed scenes of ordinary people going about their business. You walk out of it thinking about what you've just seen, and what it all meant.

At the beginning of the film, two little girls living in a small, rural Spanish village go to see a rare screening of the 1931 "Frankenstein." Ana, the younger sister (Ana Torrent), is fascinated by Boris Karloff's monster and wonders "why they killed him" at the end of the movie. Her slightly older sister, Isabel (Isabel Telleria), tells her that movies aren't real -- but that the monster himself is, and that he's a "spirit" who lives in a nearby barn. So Ana sets out to find him, but what she eventually finds is very different. This story blends quietly with other stories involving the girls' parents. The father, a beekeeper, spends his days absorbed in his hobby; the mother spends her days writing letters to a lover in France. Neither of them ever know that their young daughter is struggling to understand death, a concept that has never occurred to her before. Ana, of course, doesn't realize this; she thinks she's looking for the monster. Instead of overwhelming the film, the suggestion of fantasy expands and deepens its vision; the filmmaker seems to be suggesting that there is something inherently mystical and incomprehensible about life, no less than death.

Erice focuses his camera on the sort of things other directors quickly cut away from. He seems to be genuinely trying to understand the world the way a child sees it. In one remarkable scene, the father takes his girls mushroom-hunting. "If you're not sure a mushroom's good, don't pick it," he tells them. "Because if it's bad, and you eat it, it's your last mushroom and your last everything too." He crushes the mushroom under his foot. We do not see Ana's reaction to this, but we can feel it -- we can sense her horror and bewilderment. In the age of video games and Twitter, it's all too easy to forget that children live in a different world than the rest of us, one in which adult assumptions and ideas play no role. Movies do not have the same impact on children that they do on adults, and something that an adult takes for granted can bother or bewilder a child for days.

Ana's experience has a powerful context; the film takes place in the years following the Spanish Civil War, that grim rehearsal for World War II (One-line recap: after democratic Spain's government was overthrown in a coup, a motley crew of rough-hewn anarchists, democratic socialists, volunteers and Stalin-backed communists fought against General Francisco Franco's Nazi-backed right-wing fascists, and lost). The war haunted artists and intellectuals for decades, inspiring Picasso's grim mural "Guernica," Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and George Orwell's classic piece of reportage "Homage to Catalonia." By the 1970s, our cultural memory of it (at least in America) seemed to have dwindled to a running joke on "Saturday Night Live" ("In other news, General Francisco Franco is still dead..."). But "Spirit of the Beehive" doesn't require any prior knowledge at all; it works both as a unique study of the lives of ordinary people at a certain time and place, and as a universal examination of what the world looks like to a small child. That's more than enough reason to see it.

"Spirit of the Beehive" is playing Tuesday at 7 p.m. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5.

-- Justyn Dillingham is a 2009 graduate of the University of Arizona.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

South of the Border Review

Oliver's Stone's new film South of the Border is all about shaking people up.  Well, it certainly shook up our own Dale Meyers.  Check out his review of the film here.

Friday, August 13, 2010



I have a lot of early horror movie memories, but one of my strongest was when my dad took me to see the original ALIEN when I was 8 years old because I insisted on going.  I had read about the movie in a horror magazine, so I knew about the big gross "chest-burster" scene, and when the scene was just about to happen during the movie, I ran out of the auditorium, hid in a bathroom stall and refused to come out until the movie was over.    I didn't get to see the chest-burster scene or the last hour of the movie until years later when it came out on VHS and I was ready to handle it.


Having been terrified by Pinocchio at an early age, I was probably too sensitive for horror films, but the blood and guts and the sublimated meditations on death have always intrigued me.  The first horror film I watched through to the end was Night of the Living Dead.  George Romero shot it in locations I'd been around all my life, and in Pittsburgh, watching the film was a rite of passage; everyone knew someone who was in it.  Despite how scared I was, something about the slow, unstoppable force of the film kept me watching.  Zombies have occupied a large swath of my subconscious ever since.


I was around 10 or 11 when we went to visit my uncle in Maryland and to keep my sister and I busy while the adults hung out they let us watch a movie. She and I sat in a dark room in a strange house in the woods and watched Poltergeist. It was easily the most frightening experience I ever had watching a movie and we both still talk about how much it scared us as kids. 


My very first horror movie memory would be when I was just a couple weeks shy of my 5th birthday. Salem's Lot was airing on TV and naturally my mom wouldn't let me watch it. Just like any kid would do, I tried to find reasons to leave my room. "Mom, I gotta go to the bathroom." or "Mom, I want some water." Well it just so happened that when I left my room to go to the bathroom, little Danny Glick was very (un)dead and floating outside of his brother's window trying to get in. Needless to say, after seeing that, I actually did have to go to the bathroom. To this day, thinking about that gives me the willies. So, thanks for bringing it up. :)


The first movie that horrified me was, honestly, ET The Extra Terrestrial.  The  Loft got it as a Cult Classic once & the first half of that movie still terrifies me. The first real  horror movie I saw was An American Werewolf in London. While my mum was out, my father popped it in the VCR and asked' "If you want to watch this, you can't ever tell your mother." I of course agreed & my mind was blown. I still, to this day, can't imagine a better way to be introduced to the genre.


My first horror film memories weren't of a specific movie, but were as a kid watching World Beyond at 1030am on Saturday mornings.  If you survived the morning cartoons and didn't need to go and clean your room or help dad mow the lawn, you could watch a 'Mondo Monday-style' flick on Channel 5, the local, independent TV channel.  Watching them made me feel grown up, a little bit older; I knew a little bit more about the world.   If I remember correctly, the show's theme music was off of Pinik Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, though some have said it was Santana's Black Magic Woman.  


I saw 'Jaws' in a Corpus Christi multiplex I was about 8-9 years old, watched about 1/2 of it from the lobby, peeking through the entry doors into the theatre, and for a long time after that, being alone on a boat in shark-infested waters was THE recurring motif in my absolute WORST childhood nightmare.


The flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz scared me to death.  Also the Blob was the scariest thing ever - I was so scared that the blob would start oozing out from behind the screen.


The House on Haunted Hill (1959) is the first horror film I ever saw. I watched it with my dad on the Turner Classic Movie channel when I was probably about 4 or 5. There are a few things that really stick out in my memory- the opening scene with the screams and disembodied heads, Vincent Price and his mustache, the haunted organ, and the walking skeleton had me hiding under the covers. I remember it scaring me a lot but not wanting to tell my dad so I could continue watching movies with him. 


When I was 8 my family and I were visiting my grandparents in Michigan, and my dad decided to rent the first Nightmare on Elm Street to keep me and my cousins, who were the same age as me, occupied.  The film was bloody and creepy and scary.  Needless to say, I didn't do much sleeping on that trip. 

First Friday Shorts, August 6th, 2010 - Howard Salmon

This was a looong First Friday shorts. I must have been in the theater for over three hours. There were that many films. Tonight’s fest was a packed house, and marked the return of local cartoonist Max Cannon as MC. He started off great; he has a great repoire with the crowd, and Max seems to relish it, extending his role as MC into a sort of impromptu comedy routine that sometimes goes on a bit long. He likes to bait the crowd, and get them all riled up, which is a lot of fun…until he violates the rules of the road. As with every First Friday shorts, the rules are explained at the beginning: a film is given a chance for three minutes, and after that point, the audience can demand that it be gonged. In explaining the rules, Max made the point that The Loft is the “last bastion of democracy”, since the fate of each film rests upon the direct vote of the audience. Tonight that didn’t happen.

The first sign that something was amiss was with Daniel Haye’s film called “Fruitcake”, which is a disgusting movie where the filmmaker has about 30 bums from the bowels of New York spit loogies into a bowl of fruitcake batter. The filmmaker explained, on camera, that he was going to cook up the result, and bake it for his father (it reminded me of last month’s equally gross movie “Baked Alaska”). Well, the audience booed loud and hard for this gross disgusting movie be gonged…but the MC wouldn’t have any of it. He wanted to see Mr. Hayes’ father eat the logy-filled fruitcake (which he did). Four people in the row ahead of me got up and walked out, noticeably angry (they later returned). The crowd voted to have “Fruit Cake” gonged…but votes calls were overrided and it was let to run it’s full course! Although the ideal of pure democracy was promised here tonight, it was subverted well before intermission.

Max once again stayed the Executioner’s Gong by intervening to save the retro-styled black & white computer animated surrealist film called “Danger Elf” by filmmaker Peter Linn. The audience roared with disapproval, at length, that this brilliant film be gonged, but Max ignored the audience and let it run in its entirety “for esthetic reasons”. The filmmaker obviously impressed Max because it out-did Red Meat with the Red Meat esthetic. It was as if Max had the rug yanked out from under him in the department of weird retro computer drawn cartoons. Imagine Salvidor Dali taking over Max’s Red Meat strip and turning it into a multilayered, multivalent dream sequence that just would not stop. It evoked the originality and bizarre quality of old surrealist art without recycling any of it’s clichés: it felt very original and it went on and on and on, never getting tired, always staying interesting. It really was quite amazing. It obviously took a lot of work, but the audience hated it. The audience’s cry to gong this film was loud, long, and sustained. but Max let it play because I think he felt respect for it (as did I). However, ignoring the loud chorus of jeers was a bad call, for it was unfair to the audience.

During the latter half of this short film marathon, we were treated to something very unusual: a serious documentary (“Plaza Entraga” by Cesar Luitron), which is about photojournalists who endanger their lives when covering the drug war in Mexico. The audience sat respectfully for the entire during of the film, and when it was over, the whole theater gave it an enthusiastic round of applause! Surely this film would win the coveted $200! (‘Fraid not) In a night filled with graphic violence, sadism, rudeness, and gore, it was really nice to see someone submit a film that took life seriously.

Derek Waters gave us “Deep Waters”, which is basically a claymation video where a beach bum meets various cartoon clay-animated sea-creatures. This was good enough for national TV (on “Adult Swim”).

Stan Brown submitted “Sheep Chingon” (sp?), which was about two guys acting out an intense drug bust confrontation…in a really nice house with a swimming pool. This was all about story (and no costumes of props), and appear to be a spoof of a certain genre of tough-guy films. However, tonight the filmmaker was at a baseball game, leaving his buddy to hopefully collect the $200 prize money. Max did not speak too kindly of that stunt, and encouraged all filmmakers to who submit movies to First Fridays, to actually show up; no stand-ins.

Connor Pepper gave us “The Tea Man and the Ruffian”, which he described as “an ancient Zen tale retold”. Had the feel of an old ‘70’s styled TV show, great old ‘60’s Motown-styled music, and close-ups of people pouring tea. Maybe it was some weird story about politics today. Who knows, for it was gonged! (one of the few)

Next was Chris Keaton’s “Gathering Souls”, which was an incredibly violent and sadistic film that was hard to watch; violent and tasteless (that is, it wasn’t my cup of tea..er, blood)…except that it contained some very creative camera work, utilizing slow motion, and layered imaging effects. And to top it all off, it became a ghoul-fest, with characters chomping on each other’s necks. It goes to show you that good camera-work can save a horrible script and difficult imagery.

Daniel Geoffrey’s “The True Meaning of Life” is about a guy who spends all his money so he can watch TV for two years straight. He also pays other people to watch TV for him so he won’t miss anything. Toward the end of this movie, the filmmaker addressed the camera, saying that he doesn’t care what happens to him, for his life means nothing, so he might as well watch all the TV he can. It makes you wonder how his life would change if he turned his TV off (Oh yeah! He’d submit a film about watching TV to First Fridays!)

Bianca Rudiker entered “Zombie Guest”, which she described as a “zombie comedy with blood and guts”. Surprisingly, this was very well acted (in a campy sense), and was made with professional actors. This movie was just as good as any of John Waters’ early movies. It had the feel of “Leave it to Beaver”, but with a zombie vibe. There are a lot of very well-made movies submitted to the Loft’s “First Fridays”, but obviously, only one can get picked as the $200 prizes winner. Good job on this one, Bianca, even though it got overlooked.

Other films were, “Arizona Chainsaw Massacre” (more gore); and a very violent piece called “Payment Due” which showed some macho guy shouting and strutting around shirtless around a battered and gagged woman who was tied to a chair. When the red light shown on the gong, the audience once again roared its disapproval, and demanded the gong…but Max again grew a deaf ear. Tempers flared! People in the theater shouted remarks such as “hey bald guy!”, “gong the MC!” , and “what about democracy?!” Amidst all of the noise, I can’t even recall if the movie was even gonged.

Some guy who called himself Joke Harmonica showed a movie called “Homage” which had blurring visuals run through a “watercolor” filter, while we listened to a female voice read shameful memories, all while Joke Harmonica strummed along with a guitar. The audience listened respectfully.

The last piece was called “Reinstate the Constitution”, which was just some simple movie clips of the sky: some with clouds, some with rain, some with fireworks. It looked like it could’ve been shot on a cell phone camera. The best part of the movie, however, was the title, for it summarized the struggles between the audience and Max to decide the fate of each film. The power struggles for gonging rights can be a fearsome thing to behold.

The winning film, “The Death of My Father” (“continuing in the patricide theme” said Max) by Ari Grabb, was a black and white film that started with a kid shaving…and ended with some guys saying, over a bloody dinner, “The hamburger was my son!!”) I wish that I had more to report on this movie, but I’d dozed off for about a 30 seconds…and missed half the movie! And that was the movie that won? Ha!

Howard Salmon is the author of “Al Perry Comix”, and is the publisher of “SLIT” music & art magazine. The 30th anniversary issue come out next month. His website is www.howardsalmon.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

Undefeatable (1994) - Billups Allen

In Hong Kong productions like Undefeatable, it is important to suspend disbelief enough to accept that everywhere the characters go they will encounter people who know kung fu. It is an especially difficult premise to carry in suburban Maryland. Godfrey Ho directed over a hundred karate movies, many notorious for being bad. He is the Ed Wood of Hong Kong Cinema. I honestly don’t think the fight choreography is as bad as it is made out to be. Certainly not the worst I have ever seen. The fight sequences do however contain loads of unnecessary slow motion segments, arbitrary close ups, bad cutaways, and some ridiculous clothes ripping. While filming these scenes, Ho trots out every cliché in martial arts filmmaking. And when they are used up, he brings them out again. And again. And Again. 
Five time World Karate Champion Cynthia Rothrock gained notoriety as a film star in Hong Kong. In Undefeatable, she portrays a waitress who takes part in street fights to earn money for her sister’s college tuition. Her sister is kidnapped by Stingray (Don Niam).  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you he is also a karate master. Stingray, who seem to be teetering on the brink of sanity at the beginning of the film, loses his mind after his wife leaves him and begins kidnapping women who resemble her. You can tell the minute he loses it because he sprays streaks in his hair with some sort of red hair dye he got at the mall in a scene that some writer meant to be as intense a the transformation scene in Taxi Driver. As a crazed martial arts kidnapper, Stingray abducts women in some particularly public places causing some especially noticeable brawls with karate expert boyfriends. It is hard to imagine nobody would notice Stingray engaged in a full on kickboxing match in front of a shopping center in the middle of the day. In spite of his loud abductions, the police aren’t able to close in on him until they bring in a karate master who analyzes the wounds on the dead bodies and determines that the killer is using a martial arts style that only three people in the area are using. But these are the least of the convoluted ideas holding this plot together.
Undefeatable is endlessly entertaining. The dialogue is wooden, but consistently wooden so as every line comes across as a gem. The street gangs are awesome in that way where they say tough things that don’t sound tough and wear clothes that members of a street gang would never wear. The cops have the luxury of making clever observations in the middle of action sequences. The script reads as if the writers are constantly trying to dig themselves out of a previous scene. This is a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It keeps you on the edge of your seat for the wrong reasons, but in the end, you won’t be able to look away.

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Third Man — Justyn Dillingham

Some movies are of their time and place, and stay there, but The Third Man brings its own time and place with it whenever and wherever it plays. “Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies,” wrote Roger Ebert. “I saw it first on a rainy day in a tiny, smoke-filled cinema on the Left Bank in Paris. It told a story of existential loss and betrayal. It was weary and knowing, and its glorious style was an act of defiance against the corrupt world it pictured.” The film was shot in postwar Vienna, and it’s hard to think of any other film that captures its setting so well; after seeing it, you might find that ferris wheel and those sinister balloon men popping up in your dreams. With its dreamy, sideways shots, The Third Man sometimes looks as if it was filmed in a giant ashtray, with bombed-out buildings sticking out of the rubble like cigarette stubs.

The film, from a Graham Greene story, tells the story of Holly Martins (the always excellent Joseph Cotten), a writer who comes to Vienna to see his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to discover that Lime is – well, that’s complicated, it turns out. As Martins sets out to discover what became of his friend, he spirals into a world of sardonic British agents, shifty-eyed physicians and an enigmatic actress (Alidi Valli, credited simply as “Valli”), all of whom had something to do with Lime’s unusual career. Soon Martins finds himself caught up in a rather more morally puzzling story than the pulp Westerns he writes for a living. He thinks he can play the good guy, but in this story, there are no good guys – and, very possibly, no bad guys.

Why is Orson Welles so universally associated with The Third Man? After all, he’s barely in the movie – his scenes, added up, probably don’t amount to more than ten minutes. Yet that’s his face beaming out of the poster, and the trailer, and the most famous shots in the movie. The movie’s unusual style – its skewed perspective and gorgeous chiaroscuro black-and-white compositions – are rather Wellesian, but he didn’t direct the film. Nor was Carol Reed, the director, a one-hit wonder; his 1947 Odd Man Out, a masterful thriller with James Mason as an Irish rebel pursued through the rainy Dublin night by British police, is just as striking and powerful as The Third Man.

Yet, somehow, it’s Welles’s presence that gives the film its greatness. (Welles, who spent his career donning fake noses and capes, played the character with no makeup; it may be the closest he ever came to appearing on screen as himself.) With another actor in the role of Harry Lime, the character would simply be a villain; instead, Welles plays him as a disarming charmer – a real charmer, not the villainous kind – and we find it difficult to condemn him. He’s the representative of everything postwar Vienna has become, and somehow still the likable all-American friend Holly Martins finds it so difficult to forget. Perhaps Harry Lime is a scoundrel and a cad, or maybe there’s a little Harry Lime in all of us. Then there’s that famous speech about how the Italy of the Borgias produced the Renaissance while the best poor, peaceful Switzerland could lay claim to was “the cuckoo clock,” a speech Welles allegedly wrote himself and which he delivers with a kind of rapid-fire grace, as if he were afraid he would stumble over words that he clearly meant to be remembered, and quoted, forever.

“When the picture came out,” Welles later remarked, “the Swiss very nicely pointed out to me that they've never made any cuckoo clocks.”

— Justyn Dillingham is a 2009 graduate of the University of Arizona.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Green Slime (1969) - Billups Allen

 The Green Slime opens with a 60s, psychedelic rock theme song that repeats the title of the movie over and over again as the chorus. That is a sure sign of an excellent film in my opinion. This low budget sci-fi movie combines all the best plot points of Armageddon (1998), Alien (1979) and Moonraker (1979). It starts with some scientists blowing up an asteroid heading towards Earth. For my money, this concept serves better as a half hour sub-plot. Then there is a “people disappearing off a space ship” plot that culminates into a “guys in space suits floating in space shooting at aliens” battle. All this is packed into a 90 minute running time.
Ex-Toho employees designed both the special effects and the monsters. By 1969, they must have been seasoned art directors. By seasoned, I mean you can no longer see the strings on spaceships and asteroids. It was a magical time for moviemaking when people weren’t concerned so much with the fact that things would burn and smoke in space. This film exhibits the best of those late 60s special effects where everything is painted with bright colors and, even though nothing looks real, the style of the film outweighs the lack of convincing special effects. The film is laden with bright colors and crazy spaceships. Besides all the plot lines from other movies, the aliens also look suspiciously like the aliens form The Simpsons. If I didn’t know better, I might be led to believe that this is one of the most influential sci- fi movies ever. Director Kinji Fukasaku directed a long list of films until his death in 2003. After his death, his son took over his last film production. How cool is that? 
The Green Slime - Monday, August 1st at 8:00 p.m.
It's MONDO MONDAYS at The Loft, celebrating weird, wild and wonderful flicks from the Mondo side of the silver screen! Admission is only $3.00, and don't forget to check out our yummy "Mondo Munchies" snack bucket ... fill a cup for a buck!

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly.

Monday, July 26, 2010

BODY ROCK (1984)

It makes sense that Body Rock was made the same year as Breakin' (1984). All the good dancers must have been making Breakin’ when Body Rock was being filmed. Where as the cast of Breakin’ was largely a group of unknowns who knew how to dance, part of Body Rock’s budget went to pay Lorenzo Lamas. Chilly (Lamas) is a cut-rate rapper/break-dancer who runs a crew called the “Body Rock Crew.” The BRC are, according to Chilly, ready for their big break despite the fact that only a few of them dance competently. But the big break comes when an uptown businessmen wants Chilly to perform in his club. He goes on to achieve great fame in the club circuit despite the fact that he has no discernable talent. He is able to sleep at night under the notion that he is eventually going to ease everyone from the BRC into his club act so they can all “make it” like he has. But after a few leather jackets and sexual encounters with strangers hot for his fame, Chilly quickly forgets his roots. The BRC must struggle without him.

 First of all, isn’t this the plot of Breakin’? Krush Groove? Both of these movies came out the same year as Body Rock. The differentiator is that there were talented people in those movies. Lorenzo Lamas is hilarious as he lumbers through the movie like a rapper in a fast food training video. The best parts of the movie for me were the ludicrous stage productions put together by the club choreographers after he “makes it.” One where the lights go out and these neon skeletons dance around him incompetently is worth sitting through the whole movie to see.

Breakin’ was essentially a pretty awful movie, but the dancing saves it. Here, the dancing saves the movie as well; only it is all the terrible moves making the movie worthwhile. The best dancer in the whole thing is a young man named Magick (La Ron A. Smith). There is an awesome montage where Magick teaches Chilly to dance. Of course, when it’s over, Chilly can’t dance any better than when he started.

Another bizarro-world parallel between Body Rock and Krush Groove/Breakin’ is that Chilly forgets his friends and must eventually choose to if or not to redeem himself. I don’t want to give the story away, but I will tell you that if he does happen to come crawling back to the BRC, it is because he has no other choice. In Krush Groove, for instance, Joseph has to make a moral choice regarding whether or not to realize who he was. In Body Rock, the moral is that talentless schlubs who fall into high paying jobs should not burn bridges.

Body Rock - Monday, July 26th at 8:00 p.m.
It's MONDO MONDAYS at The Loft, celebrating weird, wild and wonderful flicks from the Mondo side of the silver screen! Admission is only $3.00, and don't forget to check out our yummy "Mondo Munchies" snack bucket ... fill a cup for a buck!

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Name: Wang Dang Dingle Dangle Diddly Doodly Diggity Danny...or just Daniel :)

LOFT Staff position: Projectionist and such

I have worked at THE LOFT since: September 11th 2009

I grew up in: A lot of different places in North Carolina

My birthday/age is:  12/03/74

When I am not at THE LOFT I: to be camping on the mountain, away from it all. I also like recording original music under the banner of Project 774.

I work at THE LOFT because: I love movies and The Loft tends to show the better ones. I stay at the Loft because it's populated with good people.

A few of my favorite films are: I can only put a few? Ok. Cool Hand Luke, Shaun of the Dead, Halloween, House of the Devil, Invasion (aka Top of the Food Chain), Friday the 13th part 4, Die Hard, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Bronson, The Empire Strikes Back, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Road House, Black Christmas, Hot Rod, Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles...I'll stop now I guess...

My favorite directors are: Edgar Wright, The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorcese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Danny Boyle, John Carpenter, David Fincher

My favorite LOFT experience was: So far? Working the overnight on the Scream-o-rama last year. Such a long, silly night finished off with drinking coffee on the patio and watching the sun come up with Dan-ager and Christian.

My favorite thing about the Loft is: I couldn't pin it down to one thing. I love it all. Cleaning the theater while the Arnold Schwarzenegger Workout CD plays. Getting turned on to new movies and music by my co-workers. Mondo Munchies! Cleaning the popper (no really, I actually like doing it) Watching Rocky people lose it on the floor while running around the lobby to hit a cue. Anything Dave says.

Make up your own question here: How can I find out more about your music?  Gee whiz, thanks for asking! Just search Project 774 on Facebook. All the music is free, as music should be!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mondo Monday - CAGE (1989)

Once in a while, a movie comes along that makes you wish you could ask why. I have to be careful not to make fun of Lou Ferrigno for one, very primary reason: I wouldn’t want to fight him in a cage or otherwise. He does appears to have a sense of humor about himself as exemplified in his recent appearance in I Love You Man (2009). I can’t help wondering how it came about that he was convinced to play someone who suffers brain damage to the point of having the mentality of a child. My instinct is to feel a bit offended for him. Was that part of the original story? If so, did they consider Ferrigno because they thought he could handle portraying someone with brain damage? He seems like a nice guy, but it probably goes without saying that he is not much of an actor. A lot of my time watching this movie was spent trying to piece together how they approached this subject with him. You would be surprised to discover that there is very little written on the subject of Cage
Ferrigno’s character Billy Thomas is a soldier fighting in Vietnam who becomes a hero when he rescues fellow soldier Scott Monroe (Reb Brown). Thomas suffers heavy brain trauma during the rescue. After what I am pretty sure is an unintentionally homoerotic convalescence scene, the movie flashes forward twenty years to Los Angles in 1989 where Thomas’ hair has not changed. Monroe and Thomas are running a bar together. Across town, an underground cage match is taking place. Most of the story is about two mob guys trying to trick the dimwitted Thomas into participating in this underground fight circuit. They think he is a sure thing, but Monroe won’t let Thomas fight. Thomas is a sweet guy, but when he gets angry, well, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

The film has some wonderfully inept scenes, including some of the least suspenseful fight sequences ever put to film. There are 28 stuntmen listed in the credits but you wouldn’t know from watching it. There is also one of those really unrealistic 1980s gangs terrorizing the bar where they work. The Chinese Mafia, a device that 1980s action movies were obsessed with for a short period of time, is also involved in the fight ring. For all of the wisdom you would expect from the world’s oldest organized crime syndicate, they are not smart enough to just kill their enemies. Inspired by techniques perfected by Dr. No, they collect them all into a room for the purposes of killing them at a later, more convenient time. I don’t want to give the ending away, but I will tell you instead of waiting around to die, the good guys get it together for the purposes of trying to escape towards a terrifically abrupt ending. The film is hopelessly optimistic at the end by leaving an indicator that there will be a sequel. And there is, apparently. There is even less information available on the subject of Cage II (1994).  I guess the producers felt they had not explored all the layers of Lou Ferrigno’s performance as a gigantic child. 

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ESSENTIAL CINEMA - Buster Keaton's The General

Though it's all but disappeared as a subject for Hollywood, you could make a good case that the American Civil War helped launch the movie business. After all, it provided the spark for the first blockbuster, D.W. Griffifth's 1915 "The Birth of the Nation," a film whose first half still impresses with its uncanny visual veracity -- you could be watching tattered newsreel footage of the war itself. Only Griffith's bilious sentimentality reminds us that Hollywood's worst qualities were born here, too. (The surreal racism that blights the film's second half, which portrays the Ku Klux Klan as heroic freedom fighters battling the sinister ex-slaves, makes it seem like a film made in some parallel universe where the South actually won the war.) But 11 years later, a far greater artist made an infinitely greater film, one that the world's most famous movie critic would rank among the ten best movies ever made. Strange to say, that film was a boisterous comedy made by a great comedian, and one that can still leave them in the aisles, as they say, today.

The film is "The General," Buster Keaton's 1927 masterpiece, though I hesitate to apply the word "masterpiece" to anything this funny. But Orson Welles (who ought to know) once said that Keaton's film was a hundred times more gorgeous-looking than "Gone With the Wind," and the proof is on the screen for anyone to see. Whereas that great Hollywood epic concerns itself with large matters -- an epic romance, an epic war, the fall of a city, the disappearance of a civilization -- "The General" concerns itself with the adventures of an ordinary young man and his love for his train. His story is set in the South, but the war doesn't concern him too much, except that it leads to him getting rejected by his girl when the Confederate army turns him down. The film, loosely based on a real historical incident, concerns Our Hero's attempt to steal his beloved locomotive, The General, back from the Yankees. (Oh, he also needs to rescue his girlfriend -- but you suspect that the train is really what matters here.) Complications ensue and of course, it all winds up with a terrific chase scene -- one of the best in the movies, and apparently the single most expensive movie sequence filmed up to that time.

In his day, Keaton was eclipsed by Charlie Chaplin; later, it became hip to say that Keaton was the real genius, and Chaplin a mere crowd-pleaser. In fact, there's no reason to choose; between the two of them, you have two types of comedy that cancel each other out. Chaplin is funny because he does funny things; he can't walk into a room without the ceiling caving in, or the floor turning into a skating rink. Keaton is funny because he doesn't do funny things; instead, he remains perfectly still, almost untouched as the world falls apart around him. If the ceiling caves in, you can bet that Keaton will have his back turned to it, lost in some reverie. He greets catastrophe and triumph alike with a thoughtful, melancholy gaze -- and, of course, he always comes out on top. In my favorite shot of "The General" (also, incidentally, one of the most dangerous stunts ever filmed), after being rejected by his girl, Buster glumly sits down on one of the coupling rods between two of his train's wheels to think. The train starts moving and the wheels begin to turn. Keaton remains sitting there, going around and around and around. Still thinking.

Buster Keaton's "The General" plays at The Loft Cinema Sunday, July 11, at 1 p.m., and Tuesday, July 13, at 7 p.m.

-- Justyn Dillingham is a 2009 graduate of the University of Arizona. He ever so slightly prefers Chaplin to Keaton.