The Hateful Eight

2015 Western

Rating: 17/20 (Dylan: 14/20)

Plot: A pair of bounty hunters, a town's new sheriff, a murderous bitch (the movie's word--not mine), a guy who likes his mother, a Mexican named Senor Bob, a pompous Englishman, a confederate general, and a stagecoach driver all walk into a haberdashery.

First, I'm not sure about the "8" in the title. The least amount of people involved in these spaghetti Western shenanigans is nine, I believe.

Tarantino doesn't put himself and his annoying chin in this movie, but he does throw in narration twice. That was one thing I didn't like about this movie. I also thought that there might be some fat that could have been cut out. I like lethargically-paced movies, especially if they're Westerns or samurai movies, however, and loved how Tarantino gave everything a chance to breathe. It builds gradually, tension mounting maybe more because you know it's a Quentin Tarantino movie and that all of the characters would likely end up dead or maimed. Like the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill: Volume 1, you know this hateful eight ain't getting out of that haberdashery with all their limbs. When spurts of violence begin, it's the orgy of gore you're expecting from Tarantino. There are moments when you feel like reaching for a handkerchief to wipe blood off your face. There are loads of blood. The violence, though expected, is shocking and brutal if you're into that sort of thing.

The majority of the movie isn't focused on violent acts--more violent thoughts. The majority of the movie is dialogue driven, and it's also what you'd expect from Tarantino--verbose, witty, somehow simultaneously authentic and anachronistic. Did characters right after the Civil War really say "motherfucker" this much? As with a lot of his movies, its a perfect marriage of great performances and great writing. It's a great ensemble, and most of the characters get their moment to stand out. Samuel L. Jackson is as good as I've seen him, weathered and wise and as tough as Samuel L. Jackson gets. His moment is a story he tells to the confederate general, a story that might be completely true or might be completely fictional or might be a little bit of both although it hardly matters. That confederate general is played quietly by Bruce Dern who is terrific in a role he plays almost entirely from a chair. Dern's got to be the go-to guy in Hollywood when you need an old coot. Kurt Russell's the loudest character and gets some of the best lines, and chained to Kurt Russell for almost the entire movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh who gives what's very close to a perfect performance as that murderous bitch. She's abused but forever feisty, and it's her facial expressions and gesticulations that build this character into a woman you'll absolutely love to hate. Walton Goggins is electric as the new sheriff of Red Rock, perpetually grinning like a dumbass and always on the verge of being shot at because he can't close his mouth. Michael Madsen is kind of who he always is in these movies, probably because all of his characters are supposed to be related, Tim Roth manages to sort of play a pair of characters and does it very well, and James Parks is great as that stagecoach driver. Oh, and Demian Bichir gets to have some fun as "Senor Bob." It's just a terrific cast, and they chew on the scenery just enough. They're actors who know they've been given special characters and special dialogue and let it work. And it just works.

Speaking of the scenery, this pretty much has three settings. You've got blizzardy mountains that recall great classic Westerns with jagged backdrops and flakes of snow. You've got the inside of the stagecoach where the first chapter or two take place. And you've got the haberdashery, dilapidated but warm, a place you know is going to wind up soaked in blood. All of them are filmed beautifully by cinematography Robert Richardson who's worked with Tarantino on his last five movies. I maybe expected this to be more grand with all this 70-millimeter talk, but I'm not complaining about anything I saw. It was ominous when I need to be, gorgeous when it needed to be, and claustrophobic when it needed to be.

Maybe I'm just a Tarantino fanboy--though honestly, there's something kind of annoying about him as a person--but when I watch these movies, it's almost like I'm watching our era's Shakespeare, movies that will stand the test of time and, even though they're really just entertainment for the masses, will always be considered true art, head and shoulders above his contemporaries. This one's no exception. Set against a violent time in American history right after our most violent time, it's really turning the mirror on contemporary times. I've not digested exactly what this says about race relations and politics in our time, but I know there are connections to be made. And when a movie has something to say about society and can still be very funny, very suspenseful, very mysterious, and very horrific, that movie is really doing something special.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Ennio Morricone's gorgeous score! I loved it, especially the opening piece which was repeated in Chapter Five. Just so good!

Johnny Got His Gun

1971 anti-war movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A soldier gets his arms and legs blown off and has to spend the rest of his days on a hospital bed, unable to communicate. He's got nothing to do but have flashbacks filled with bad acting.

I'm so glad that the guy's genitals came out of all of this unharmed because I'm pretty sure there's a scene in this where the guy gets a hand-job from a nurse.

You've seen large chunks of this movie if you saw the Metallica video for "One" (a terrible song) aired in the late-80's on MTV, a cable station that plays music videos. That video chilled me, and I always thought that was mostly original material filmed for the video. Nope, it's just a bunch of clips from Johnny Got His Gun.

Don't be fooled by my 14/20 rating because that's really too high. I'm giving generous bonus points because I like that this war movie is tried something new. In medias resily, it begins after the guy's had his limbs blown off--one more than Anakin Skywalker. And then the rest of the movie is all taking place in the main character's head. And he's a main character, played by Timothy Bottoms, who we don't even get to see. Well, you see his forehead, but everything else is covered by a mask and a sheet. Bottoms does play the guy in his flashbacks where he's hanging out with his girl and talking to fellow soldiers and playing Blackjack with Christ, but most of his screen time is in that hospital room where he can just shake his head furiously.

The problem is that the acting and writing don't come close to matching the interesting idea of a look inside the head of a man ruined by the democratic American war machine. Bottoms provides terrible, almost comical voice over work.

"I need that arm!"
"You can't go around cutting a man's arm off like you were pruning branches from a tree!"
"Oh, no! Not my other arm, too!" (This after some thoughts about how one-armed men can only sell pencils, an idea that baffled me since we all learned with The Fugitive that they are good at killing wives.)
"No arms! No arms!" (Seriously. He says this.)
An extremely whiny: "Don't let them take my legs, too!"

He also asks, "How can you tell what's a dream and what's real when you can't even tell when you're awake and when you're asleep?" And that's nearly profound. He says this during one of the two scenes featuring Donald Sutherland as Jesus. That's right--Jesus is in this movie, once playing some Blackjack with soldiers, once leaning out the engine of a train and screaming, and once, giving our main character advice on how to end a nightmare while crosses are being loaded into a cart behind him. Jesus tells the poor guy that we control our daydreams while our dreams at nights control us, eventually telling the guy he needs to split because he's unlucky and is afraid it could run off. It's a real dick move, and it adds to the cynical point of view of the entire movie.

Donald Sutherland does make a pretty good Jesus though.

Jason Robards is also in this. He plays the guy's father in flashbacks, and although he's mostly pretty good, there are times when things are a little off. I think we can blame the writing for that though. There's a really unrealistic conversation he has with his son about how everything he has is small and about how he loves his fishing pole more than his kid. That kid displays some terrible child acting, but with lines like "From now on, I'm going to take my baths at the YMCA like my daddy does," he didn't have much to work with either.

Luis Bunuel got partial writing credit for this which might explain the Jesus-on-a-train scene, a very strange side show fantasy, and a brief shot of what I think was a unicorn. The oddness keeps this interesting despite its flaws. It's not a great movie, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're interested in a very depressing film that doesn't have much of a plot.

Trash Humpers

2009 Harmony Korine movie

Rating: 3/20

Plot: The title is pretty explicit actually.

Harmony Korine has bottomed himself.

This is kind of like that Jackass Bad Grandpa movie except instead of trying to make people laugh, it's like Korine is trying to irritate you. You realize within the first three or four minutes that the entire movie is going to be the same sort of thing--people in bad old people masks running around breaking things and humping trash cans. From there, it's a real endurance test to get through the thing, and I'm not sure if I'm proud of myself or disappointed in myself for making it to the end. And while watching, I had trouble figuring out if it was even a movie. Korine does refer to it as a "film" in the end credits, but why should we believe the guy?

Something else I might be disappointed in myself for: I've recommended this to two other people. I'm guilty, but I just couldn't be alone in the experience and be the only person who has seen Trash Humpers. But I do apologize, Mark and Josh.

This movie certainly does bring the pain, but it's not without its moments. I even laughed out loud a few times. A guy telling jokes in his front yard ("So these two pigeons are on the beach. Not pigeons--seagulls. Fuck!" might be the best movie joke I've heard in all my years of doing this blog.) was pretty good. And. . .well, I'm sure there was something else in this that made me laugh. Most of this little VHS-recorded faux-avant-garde (more like avant-hard-to-watch! Ta-duh-dum!) feels just like somebody is jabbing you in the brain with the business end of a spork. Taking a wheelchair through a car wash, mindless destruction of a house or a television, laughing at a kid in a suit who can't play basketball, laughing at a toilet, tap-dancing, the repeated line (nearly Shakespearean) of "Get that trash pussy!," the other repeated mantra of "Make it, make it, don't fake it," characters eating pancakes with dish soap on them, fake Siamese twins in hospital robes with exposed buttocks, those same twins putting on a puppet show, the most grating cackling you're ever likely to hear.

All the appearances of the words "play" and "tracking" and the lo-fi quality gives this a found footage vibe. It's like the Blair Witch Project without any plot at all and with the woods replaced by alleys and the witch replaced by artsy-fartsy assholes dressed as old people trying to have sex with trash cans.

This is people going out with cheap equipment and no ideas and trying to make a movie. It's the film equivalent of a contractual obligation album by a musician forced to make one last album except Korine doesn't have that excuse. No, Harmony Korine, a provocateur with nothing interesting to say, actually had a vision, gathered people together, and then very likely came close to putting his vision on the screen. And that's why this is a damn shame. John Waters has already done all this shit, Harmony Korine, and he did it a lot better. And I'm not even sure that I like his films at all.

You know, I know this all sounds pretty negative. Ask me in a few months. I might have nothing but fond memories of this movie. Maybe the idea of this movie will grow on me as time goes on. Right now, I'm just kind of annoyed.

"Make it, make it, don't fake it."


2003 comedic poem

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular town's about to be flooded. Six guys in suits and hats have to get the stragglers to evacuate in exchange for lakeside property. Meanwhile, an orphan who thinks he's an angel interacts with a quartet of eccentric angels. And there's a big wooden dog in there somewhere.

A family of angels, an orphan who thinks he's an angel, a stilt-legged wooden dog thing, an ark built by a guy with two wives, one angel with weird steam-punk glasses and wooden (or sometimes porcelain) hands, another angel named Cup of Tea, wings in a briefcase, a guy nailing his feet to his porch. This is a movie with oddball ideas, and there are times when they feel a little forced. At times, it feels a little cold, difficult to connect with, and I wish it all came together a little more coherently. It suffers a bit from being a period piece as I always have a little trouble connecting with those. The setting, one of dusty magical realism, is all grays and browns and doesn't feel like a real place at all.

What keeps it afloat is how visually spectacular it is. The Polish brothers, the guys who gave us Twin Falls, Idaho, fill this with gorgeous visual poetry. It's really about as beautiful as a movie can get. The shapes of men's hats, floating coffins, that impressive ark, black car choreography, a child swinging against a backdrop of mountains, a three-walled church, animal trophies, antiquities.

Even though this feels a little stiff at times, there's also a sneaky humor that I like. At times, it feels like a somnambulistic Coen brother movie. Cup of Tea gets the best lines, calling characters "saucy, sheep-biting flat-mouthed dewberry" or "daintish beetle-headed foot-licker." One character throws out a "What are you talking about, Willis?" that made me laugh out loud. And then there's Ursula, the woman at the diner, and her weird guessing game she makes customers play when ordering.

This is a quiet movie where nothing much seems to happen, but by the end, you feel that the Polish brothers have thrown a lot of threads out there. Most things are left open-ended, and this is definitely the kind of movie that would be fun to dissect with others if it was something that other people would care to see.  Personally, I think it deals with the afterlife, but I don't really know very much.

Ninja Champion

1985 "ninja" movie

Rating: 3/20 (Bad Movie Rating: 3/5)

Plot: Hell hath no fury like a Godfrey Ho movie. A raped woman gets her revenge on as she hunts down her rapists. Meanwhile, a red ninja fights circus performers, characters who might be related to the other characters in this nonsense.

I've seen a pair of Godfrey Ho movies--this one and that one--with Bad Movie Club. Undefeatable was fairly straightforward, another revenge fantasy heavy on the kung-fu. Robo Vampire was far wackier, mixing in supernatural elements with the martial arts and not really making a lick of sense. Ho, at least during this stage of his career, was known for taking existing films and splicing them together to create his own, so this is closer to Robo Vampire territories. The red ninja vs. white ninja stuff clashes dramatically with the stuff regarding the main character and her quest for revenge. It makes for an odd experience anyway, but you add in the mistranslated dialogue (I hope, anyway), Asian thug characters with names like Robert and Larry and Donald, and general weirdness, and it seems almost otherworldly.

I'll start with the ninjas. First, they red ninja is a white guy. He's skilled enough for a movie like this, but the producers must have had their doubts that he could pull off "ninja" convincingly enough because wardrobe gave him this accessory:

That's right--a headband that says "NINJA" on it. The red ninja scenes just kind of interrupt the actual narrative, a narrative that might make sense on its own. You don't know who this guy is, who the white-clad ninjas are he is fighting, or why the hell they're fighting. The red ninja always shows up when the white ninja guys are practicing their plate spinning or ring tricks, and their ninja outfits just kind of materialize. The film climaxes with a red vs. white ninja fight at a playground that really is something else.

The revenge story involves the rape victim, who later has a twin sister (that might be a spoiler, but I can't be sure), hunting down the guys who raped her. She poisons the first one before whipping him with a licorice whip. That scene contained the best dialogue ever:

Guy Who Just Realized He's Been Poisoned: "The wine! There must have been something in it! Oh, God!"
Woman: "Not the wine. My nipples, you jerk."

The second guy might get it worse because he doesn't even get to see her nipples. He's beaten by a handcuffed Rose as he's high-heeled in the head, gets his hand smashed in a car door, is stabbed in the back several times by his own knife, has his groin kicked, and is eventually run over by his own car.

I'm actually getting a headache just thinking about this movie, so I'm going to stop writing about it.

Bad Movie Club: The Humanoids

1979 Italian sci-fi movie

Bad Movie Rating: 3/5 (Josh: 3/5; Fred: 2/5; Johnny: 3/5; Libby: didn't finish and maybe didn't even start)

Rating: 6/20

Plot: Bad guys--the Vader-looking guy, a bald guy, and that woman with the weird hair and cleavage at the center of the poster even though she's not one of the main characters--create a Humanoid out of a James Bond villain (or caveman) in order to take control of Metropolis. It's up to an Asian kid, a robot dog, a braless woman, and an Italian guy with great hair to stop them.

This starts unpromisingly enough with a familiar blue-texted scroll and a space ship that looks suspiciously like a Star Destroyer. From there, you've definitely got parallels to A New Hope, but thankfully, it goes its own direction--its own stupid direction. There's a silly robot dog, the R2-D2 of the show; a naked woman being pierced by a wall of needles because Princess Cleavage up there needs her serum; angelic space mimes with laser arrows; the Darth Vader character showing off his laser hands, jazzy blue hands that shoot blue lightning streaks that would be deadly if he had better aim; weirdly-shaped spaceships; lots of shots of the same four or five Stormtrooper guys (only they're in black armor) dying over and over again; and that Asian kid who has abilities that might remind you of the force. Things never really move beyond nearly-interesting with this, but it's fun to watch Richard Kiel do what he does best--grunt and destroy things and be way bigger than everybody else. Fred described it all perfectly as "Eegahhhhhh innnnnnn Spaaaaaaccceee."

Two questions:

Did Ennio Morricone phone it in with his score for this or was he really trying his best?

I forget the other question that I had.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

2015 action sequel

Rating: 14/20 (Dylan: 8/20)

Plot: Ethan Hunt, part of the disgraced and currently defunct IMF, tries to singlehandedly take down a terrorist organization known as the Syndicate.

You already saw the two best stunts in the previews of this, and the amazing, vertigo-inducing airplane sequence on the poster up there takes place during the film's first five minutes, actually before the credits. There's a tense underwater moment and a fantastic chase scene with motorcycles, but this doesn't build to any big action sequence like the last Mission Impossible movie did. It's a fast-paced action movie, and Cruise and his friends are still likable enough. Newcomer to the franchise Ilsa Faust (played by Rebecca Ferguson) has fantastic legs. Our bad guys aren't all that interesting, but this does feel like a chess game at times, and that might be where this franchise is at its best.

Animal Passions

2004 documentary

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A documentary look at zoophilia, the scientific name for people who enjoy boinking animals or being boinked by animals.

A couple things before I get started. First, don't be fooled by that poster, one that I'm not even sure is for this British television documentary. You might be interested in seeing this thinking there will be a scene where a woman makes love to a bird. Alas, there are no scenes of any human having sex with an animal.

Second, you should be aware--if you haven't read any of my blog and don't already know--that I am not really mature enough for a documentary about bestiality. I'm not mature enough for documentaries about penis museums either.

I heard about this documentary when reading one of my favorite annual articles--the A.V. Club's "Year in Band Names." A band named itself after a line from one of the zoophiles interviewed in this when he talked about JTRHNBIR--Just the Right Height, No Bucket Is Required.

This is a subjective look at an issue that I'm sure a lot of people have very firm opinions about--some firmer than others if you know what I mean. Director Christopher Spencer passes no judgement on his subjects, just lets them do all the talking. And like all good documentaries, some interesting ideas are raised and you learn a few things. I thought the idea that the cute sex therapist raised an interesting idea when contrasting people's views of sex with animals (abusive according to an overwhelming majority) and animals being forced to work or killed for food (not abusive, according to most people).

Here's what I learned from Animal Passions:

--Dog love foreplay.
--I probably should have studied to be a sexologist, a job that is real.
--A guy married his horse, a portion of this that unfortunately reminded me that Jerry Springer exists.
--Christianity ruined bestiality for everybody.
--Mare orgasms are called maregasms.
--Stallions masturbate.

Of course, I'm not really interested in learning things which is why I don't watch a ton of documentaries. No, I'm more interested in giggling. And it was hard not to when hearing people say things like the following:

"Girl pussy, pony pussy. Pussy!" (That might also be a good band name.)
"I wasn't aware that my wife was aware that I had reestablished an intimate relationship with my mare."
"Oh, my God! I'm gonna have puppies!"
And, of course, the absolutely wonderful "Just the right height, no bucket is required."

My spellcheck is trying to tell me that "maregasms" is not a word.

Question for my readers: If you had to make love to an animal, what kind of animal would you choose?

Movies A-Go-Go: Harold and Maude

1971 romantic comedy

Rating: 20/20

Plot: I already wrote about this movie here, and I'm happy with the plot synopsis I wrote there.

My brother loaned me the Criterion blu-ray of this which gave enough of an excuse to watch it again. It's firmly in my top five favorite movies, and if you ask me on the right day, I'd probably tell you that it is my favorite movie. I agree with everything that I wrote previously (although I do probably like Cat Stevens more as I get older), but I didn't give this movie nearly enough love. So it gets the increasingly popular Movies-A-Go-Go treatment.

Hanging, self-slashing in Mom’s bathroom, Sunset Boulevarding himself, shooting himself in the head, burning himself alive as a first impression, hari-kari-ing himself on a first date. I've always thought that if I were more clever, I could have been Harold in high school--intrigued with death, gawky, sexually attracted to the elderly. I think part of me wanted to be Harold during my freshman year at the Bible college.

Now I'm more like Maude--saggy and attracted to younger men. [I should have just edited this out.]

Opening starts us in darkness...dark banister, dark suit, dark shoes, dark wood...very little natural lighting here. I know the last shot is all natural lighting, one with lots of sky.

Why would any kid whose family owns a harp not want to embrace life?

That hanging, if you haven’t seen this movie or know its basics, would have to be shocking. More shocking: Mom’s complete apathy. I remember first seeing this scene with mouth agape.

"Mouth agape"--that's the kind of thing you get with Movies-A-Go-Go.

Still love that opening line so much: “I suppose you think that’s very funny, Harold.”

One’s love for this movie can only go as far as their tolerance for Cat Stevens. I never really cared, but I’ve learned to appreciate his repertoire.

First thing Harold needs to do when he climbs down: clean up that stream of slobber. Maybe it's the blu-ray edition, but I'm not sure I'd ever noticed that before. It adds to the grotesquery.

Eat your beets...and watching him devour those beats is the first clue that Bud Cort’s work here is one of the finest acting performances ever.

Mom’s reaction to the second faux-suicide is a little more appropriate, although she’s really more upset at the mess, I think.

The dramatic pause before the “I go to funerals” answer to the “What gives you satisfaction?” question from his psychologist reminds me of Wes Anderson. This might actually be the first Wes Anderson movie actually.

First impression of Maude--a gigantic sneeze.

Divertissements? I guess that's language you can expect from a person who owns a harp.

That “right-hand man” gag is simultaneously the worst thing ever and the best thing ever.

What’s the Nathan Hale connection? That can’t be random as most generals wouldn’t have a Nathan Hale picture in their office. Is that the “Give me liberty or give me death” guy? [I looked this up, and my knowledge of American history is sound. I guess it makes sense since a lot of what this movie is about is freedom.]

That smile when he answers “15” to the psychologist's question about how many suicides he's performed is so perfect. I'd be proud of it too, Harold.

I like that there’s nothing more than a cold homelife and a slightly oppressive mother to explain why Harold is the Harold he is. If this was made now, we’d have scenes where he’s getting bullied in school and stuff, and it wouldn’t work nearly as well.

Maude--psst, a flamboyant wink, and a finger twirl. It would have to be love at first sight, no?

Look up "sex appeal" in the dictionary, and let me know if this picture is there. If not, you need a new dictionary.

Juxtaposition of the parade as the pall bearers…that's a little of what this movie's all about in that one quick image.


“The National Computer Dating Service. They screen out the fat and ugly.” Man, this scene where Mom’s filling out the dating form for him while he’s sitting there tells you everything you need to know about their relationship, doesn't it? 

If Vivian Pickles' character is a MILF here, it's only because she's in one of my favorite movies or because her last name is Pickles.

Bud Cort is so pale.

The first time I watched this, I was sure it was a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” type situation and would end with a devastated mother. I also don’t think I knew it was a comedy.

Rainbow in the sky as Maude drives Harold’s hearse around a corner. I don't think it's a CGI rainbow, but I've seen enough movies to know that it's impossible to trust images anymore.

I love Maude's justification for stealing cars--that it helps people not get too attached to stuff.

Maude’s “free as a bird,” just like Nathan Hale wanted to be.

“Harold does have his little eccentric moments” warning as he’s pouring gasoline on himself in the background. That is so perfect.

I have no idea how Harold accomplished the burning suicide, but it’s my favorite one. And his breaking of the fourth wall as Cat Stevens starts up is also perfect. This is such a perfect performance.

I’d forgotten how flirtatious Maude was from the get-go, like a slutty cartoon cat.

How much for Rainbow with Egg Underneath and an Elephant? I don't collect art, but I'd love to have that in my living room.

Odorifics, to “give the nose a treat.” And suddenly, we enter a science fiction realm.

Maude’s walk...had to have been a conscious decision, something practiced and refined. She’s always doing something with her hands, and walks like she’s on a fast-motion catwalk. Again, everything she does is flirtatious here.

“Try something new each day.”
“Greet the dawn with a breath of fire.”
Harold is to Daniel-San as Maude is to Mr. Miyagi.

That transition from being surrounded to flowers after the “allow themselves to be treated like that” speech to that shot in the cemetery is as profound as movie visuals can get.

Do trees really get asthma?

“It’s alright. It’s organic.”

I just love how this relationship develops. Harold so desperately wanting to sing along to that goofy “Be Free” song, Maude turning away to cry and realizing that she can cry in front of Harold after he’s asked the right question. This relationship, unlike most movie relationships, is also organic.

“Everybody should be able to make some music. That’s the cosmic dance.” This movie's got more wisdom than most Hollywood movies from any one year put together. Except for the year that The Karate Kid came out, of course.

Shot with Harold in his yard with the banjo. It’s a good one.

“The earth is my body. My head is in the stars. Who said that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I suppose I did.”

“Possession of a stolen shovel.” And the fact that Maude tells Harold to grab the shovel before stealing the cop’s motorcycle. Comedy hijinks, right until the cop poses to fire his pistol. I've always considered myself to be a funny person, but I have no idea how something as funny as this scene can be written.

“Aim above morality.” More Miyagi-esque words of wisdom.

This story Harold tells about the chemistry lab. This is by far the most he’s talked in this movie. And it just seems odd.

“I understand. A lot of people enjoy being dead.” I know I made a list of movie characters that I'd want to have a dinner party with. I think if I could choose one character to spend an entire day with, it might be Maude. [And yes, I'm bringing a condom.]

Slug bug...yellow.

“She supplies the whole southwest with chicken feed.” How could one not be attracted to that?

Hatchet to the hand scene--Mom’s reaction with her teacup and saucer is fantastic.

Veteran with crutches falling into a pile of leaves…it looks like something that's supposed to happen in the background of Airplane 2.

If I could lose any scene, it’s the get-out-of-the-army scene. It’s just a little too silly.

“Everyone has the right to make an ass of themselves. You can’t let the world judge you too much.”

Hey, wait a second. Now Cat Stevens is ripping off Maude. This is her song!

Of course, the first time I saw this, I didn’t get the Holocaust decision. It’s so quick, and I never studied the Holocaust in school anyway. I can't decide if it's a little cheap or if it's a great visual clue to help in Maude's characterization.

That look they exchange when Maude’s going on about seagulls, always glorious birds. At that moment, you know these two are in love. And you just hope it leads to sex.

Sunshine Dore...maybe it’s just the hat, but this might be the one.

After this write-up and the Eyes Wide Shut, I'm starting to wonder if I have a hat fetish.

Wait a second! This is a different room. Are there two harps in Harold’s house? Harold's mom is a two-harp owner?

The Sunshine as Juliet thing is a little silly, too, but the “Harold, that was your last date!” payoff makes it all worth it.

I want an entire movie based on the experiences of the guy with the beard who’s watching the toy trains while standing between the title characters. [As I suspected, that's director Hal Ashby.]

One of my favorite scenes, and since it’s one of my favorite scenes in this movie, it’s probably one of my favorite scenes in any movie: “This is the nicest present I’ve received in years” declaration before she tosses it into the lake. 

Fireworks! Sex!

Where’s Harold’s dad? He’s got father figures--Uncle General, psychologist, the priest. But I wonder what happened to his father. No, I'm not asking for a prequel. 

That priest who has trouble saying “intercourse” and “commingling” and “sagging breasts” and especially “flabby buttocks.” That dude shines in that too-small role.

Such a bittersweet ending...

Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie

1995 documentary

Rating: 15/20 (Dylan: 16/20)

Plot: The story of the greatest pissing contest in all of human history.

I've had this from my brother for somewhere around seven years. The cover says that some of this is in 3D, but I'm not sure what part that would have been and don't think I have the right equipment (Biff's friend's glasses in Back to the Future) anyway.

This is a great companion piece for The Atomic Cafe. This is the evolution of weapons of mass destruction and some lovely scenes of test explosions. The Atomic Cafe is more about the reaction and psychology of the masses. As a kid growing up during the waning years of the Cold War, I had my share of nuclear holocaust nightmares, visions of mushroom clouds dancing in my head. I'm not old enough for bomb shelter obsessions and turtles telling me to duck and cover, but these two documentaries helped me relive some of the paranoia of my childhood. That's always nice--revisiting past paranoias.

This isn't much different from what I'd assume you could see on the History Channel or something as a pretty basic look at the chronology of the development of these bombs. There's some serious mushroom cloud porn if that's the kind of thing that gets you off, and William Shatner's narration fills in gaps, telling you mostly things that you won't remember anyway. I did enjoy learning that Nagasaki got Fat Man because I thought it was the other way around. That might come in handy for bar trivia nights.

What sets this apart is first the music composed by William Stromberg and performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. It's incredible, one of my favorite scores I've heard this year. It adds gravitas to visuals that don't even need it. I doubt Stromberg composed while watching videos of billowing mushroom clouds, but it almost seems like that destruction is choreographed to the symphony, and it's really cool.

There's a lot of this that is chilling, but what got me was the interview with Edward Teller, the hydrogen bomb's daddy. He talked about how knowledge is power but how others wanted to stop the madness. There's just something chilling about knowing that a whole bunch of people, the people responsible for the evolution of these weapons and not just ordinary guys wetting themselves when they think about Commies reaching for giant red buttons, knew this was all a terrible idea.

My favorite moment in this is the feverish montage that ends this that shows the Chinese getting involved in a feverish montage. Their tests involved a big more pomp and circumstance which was interesting enough, but watching Chinese soldiers charging a mushroom cloud on gas-masked horses was something else.

The Red Shoes

1948 ballet movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A ballerina struggles to balance her art and her personal life.

This movie might have been a little too long. Extraneous scenes added nothing to the story or the character. However, the Powell/Pressburger team paint some magical moments in the scenes that do matter. This precursor of Black Swan, only with far less masturbation, is splashed with color during that time in filmmaking when color probably looked the best. It's artificial color, but that's precisely the right sort of color for this dark fairy tale. Combined with some "How'd they do that?" effects, especially during the performance of the ballet that shares its title with the film, the visuals dazzle. That "red shoes" sequence is true movie magic, the kind of imagery that might actually make a person who doesn't think he like ballet realize that he likes ballet. The dancing is fine, I suppose, but it's the creative use of that color set design and some studio trickery that really makes this scene stand out.

I was impressed with Moira Shearer who I assume was picked for this because she had red hair and knew how to do that tippy-toe thing. I wouldn't call her classically beautiful, but her innocence and ballet moves give her just enough presence. Homely, and the love triangle between her, the villainous and perfectly egotistical Boris Lermontov played by a guy who isn't David Tomlinson but could have been, and the composer wouldn't have worked. Overly flamboyant or powerful, and you'd have difficulty empathizing. So she really is perfect for the role.

Tragedy is rarely filmed this beautifully. I just wish the story could have been told more succinctly.

I Can See You

2008 psychological horror film

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Millennials go camping in an effort to get pictures of trees for a marketing campaign, but things don't go very well.

Though this climaxes in a sense-altering freak-out montage that is almost great, its pretensions overwhelm. That surreal, hallucinatory, freaky-deaky imagery at the end--pretty much the last wild 15 minutes or so--is something else, and I want to credit director Graham Reznick for taking some chances, but this narrative driven by a character's fractured state of mind just doesn't have enough substance to make it resonate. Reznick's tricks aren't anything new, and he's not quite the filmmaker yet to get away with them. This comes across like a cheap imitation of Lynch fartsiness.

This movie has my vote for the least erotic sex scene ever filmed.

Movies A-Go-Go Christmas Extravaganza: Eyes Wide Shut

1999 romantic comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A man searches for a little holiday nooky.

I've written poorly about this, my favorite Christmas movie, before, but it deserves the popular Movies A-Go-Go treatment. Actually, I'm not sure if this or Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas is my favorite Christmas movie. They're close. I guess it would depend on how horny I am. When I'm feeling extra randy, the choice is obvious:

I like Eyes Wide Shut more every time I see it. I've now seen it over 70 times despite the lack of puppets. When I previously wrote about it--after watching bits and pieces of it with a group of people playing poker, the ideal way to watch any Stanley Kubrick movie--I said it didn't feel complete. That's the type of thing I probably shouldn't type after watching a movie in bits and pieces because now, I don't think there's a single wasted moment in this movie and the storytelling and character development are nearly perfect. Sure, if Kubrick had had more time--he was killed by NASA right as he finished the movie, allegedly--he would have seen the light and included at least one puppet, but I don't think that ruins the movie experience.

Or was Nicole Kidman actually a puppet?

Anyway, I should explain that I had to watch this in two installments. I've been suffering from a little insomnia lately, and my sleeping habits are all jacked up. So I actually started watching Eyes Wide Shut around 5-something Christmas morning after not sleeping since about 4 PM on Christmas Eve. Eventually, dawn came, and the sun started oozing into my bedroom. Eyes Wide Shut just isn't a movie you can watch when it's light outside, so I put my pants back on and took an extended intermission. I can't promise any of this will be represent the thoughts of a man who was entirely lucid. Words in bold were added afterward.

As always with the enormously popular Movies A-Go-Go, these are my thoughts as I watched. If you want, you could take off your pants, start the movie now, and then read as you watch on your own. It'll be very close to the actual experience of watching a movie with me, and that, I believe, is something that punk Leonard Maltin has never offered you.

Here we go.

Kubrick knows how to start a movie. My God! I could look at Nicole Kidman undressing all day. [First, this first shot is far sexier than anything in Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. And because I want to pull back the curtain as much as possible, you should know that I just got distracted while proofreading this and watched a gif of this opening scene for about fifteen minutes. I'm not saying I'm proud of this, but I feel it's something you should know.]

Wait! Maybe this is what the otter is watching!
You can make your own masturbation joke here if you want, but I'm taking the mature road and refusing to do it.

Tom Cruise, always charismatic. However, there are times--and I know you know what I’m talking about--where it looks like he’s about to chew a face off.

Mr. Ziegler can throw a party. Saucy Hungarians, drunk bimbos, tons of light.

Where do you think Sydney Pollack's Mr. Ziegler character keeps his sex party mask? And do you think a fellow like that's got more than one of those, or do you just wear the same sex party mask every time? I need to do some research on this.

I could watch Nicole Kidman pretend to be drunk all day.

This party’s bathed in golden light. So much of this movie, as I recall, is lit by Christmas lights. It gives the whole thing this fuzzy, fairy-tale ambiance.

I want to see what’s at the end of the rainbow.

Oh, poor Mandy. It’s not a party until you have to resuscitate a completely nude woman.

Tom Cruise could give me that smile, and I’d also agree to go to rehab.

By my calculations, Nicole Kidman has danced with this suave Hungarian gentleman for at least 45 minutes. I have no idea how I came up with that number.

I just love everything Nicole Kidman does with her face in these early party scenes. This must have been pre-Botox, when she could still do things with her face.

Do you think they even had to pay Sky du Mont (that's that guy's name) to do this?

This mirror shot is possibly the most incredible shot of Kubrick’s career. At least until Tom Cruise shows up.

Tom Cruise, quite literally eating a face off.

If I were Nicole Kidman, I'd rather look at myself in the mirror, too.

We’re at 6 nipples now. 10 if I’m allowed to count Nicole Kidman’s multiple times. I'm going to try to keep track.

I’ve been slightly inebriated one time, and I’ve never been stoned. If Nicole Kidman’s acting is to be believed, both make you talk really slowly.

The color is very artificial here, but I like how the bathroom behind Kidman’s nipples (and later, the window) is all this electric-milky blue.

This is my new favorite Christmas movie.

Let’s be serious, Tom Cruise. Any hypothetical woman is going to be thinking about your penis when she’s in the same room with you.

Kidman’s convulsive laughing fit has now ruined my Christmas. Or as Cruise puts it: a FUCKING laughing fit!

As Cruise listens to his wife’s story, one that is apparently going to take 45 minutes to tell since she’s stoned, I’m starting to wonder when this takes place in the Mission Impossible chronology.

45 minutes again. What’s with me and the number 45?

I’ve heard people say that Kidman and Cruise have no chemistry in this, but I don’t see it. It’s the same sort of chemistry a man would have with an unreliable lawnmower, but it’s still there.

There’s another Christmas tree. There are almost as many Christmas trees as there are nipples so far. I wonder what the significance of this all taking place around the holiday season is? Is it just so that I’d have an excuse to watch it at 5:30 AM Christmas day?

More blue. I never realized that New York City was so blue.

See, Tom Cruise? Marion’s dad just died, and she’s quite obviously thinking about your penis. Not even a dead dad in the same room is going to keep women from thinking about your penis.

Carl arrives, interrupting awkward kissing near the recently deceased. I hope he can’t smell Tom Cruise’s pheromones, but I don’t really see how he couldn’t.

Who plays the Navy guy in Cruise’s black and white dark fantasy flashback. [His name is Gary Goba, and this is his only movie. He's a model.]

Here he is. Gary Goba.

“Hey, hey. What team’s this switch hitter on?”
“You want to take a ride in this fudge tunnel, you stupid faggot?”
I think that was the Van Buren Boys from that Seinfeld episode. [OK, I was apparently confusing two Seinfeld episodes here. I was thinking all the Van Buren Boys were like the two effeminate guys who steal an armoire from Kramer in the Soup Nazi episode. Now this doesn't make much sense at all.]

It’s the fur hat on this prostitute. Absolutely irresistible. There’s no way I’d have interest in a prostitute, but I would pay to cuddle with that hat.

Domino, played by Vinessa Shaw. And I'm starting to think that Kubric hired most of these actors and actresses just because they were good looking.

Red doors, tinsel, green walls, silver doors. Boom! Christmas tree!

“What do you recommend?” That sounds like something I’d ask a hooker when talking about money. That or, “What do you have on special?”

One hundred and fifty dollars spent, and he didn’t even get to touch her hat. Maybe that's what I'd ask the prostitute--"How much just to feel your hat?" That would not be a euphemism.

Two Christmas trees in the same show. I’m pretty sure the trees are beating the nipples at this point.

Nick Nightingale--playing light jazz on piano is probably one of the few things you can do for a living with a name like that. No wonder he dropped out of medical school. What medical professional would have a last name like Nightingale?

Tom Cruise can’t keep his hands off Nick Nightingale.

And in a deleted scene, he eats his face off.

There’s a second reference to rainbows.

Milich, owner of Rainbow Fashions, is played by Rade Serbedzija, presumably because Peter Stormare wasn't available. This character's got himself a tree, too. [I looked up Mr. Serbedzija, and he's a busy actor. I saw him last as "Frightening Old Man" in The Double.]

Cruise should go with an Elsa costume. Those are all the rage. Or show up to the sex party dressed as Spiderman.

Apparently, Milich has more problems than his bald spot. I’m not sure if this Rainbow Fashions scene is supposed to be played for laughs, but I thought it was very funny. There’s just something about a Eastern European guy yelling at two Asian men in their underpants.

Why is this picture here?

Good thing Tom Cruise didn’t forget the password and say another Beethoven opera after spending all kinds of money to get to the sex party. [Beethoven didn't have any other operas. Fidelio was it.]

Nick Nightingale, jamming on the electric keyboard. You know, this sex cult could have saved money by hiring Stevie Wonder and not needing to purchase a blindfold.

This is the weirdest foreplay I think I’ve ever seen.

This woman who just approached Tom Cruise at the creepy sex party has an even better hat than that prostitute!
I may have spent too long looking for this picture.

“Hey, aspiring actress, would you like a part in Stanley Kubrick’s new movie? Tom Cruise is going to be in it.”
“What? Are you serious? Absolutely! This could be my big break. What part am I going to play?”
“Oh, you’re going to lay on your back on a guy on his hands and knees while some other guy bangs you. Anonymously, because you’ll be wearing a ridiculous mask.”

I can’t decide if I’d have an open-mouth mask or a mask with an outrageous beak.

I mean, I like them both. I'd have to be a multi-mask orgy man, I guess. What if I showed up in one of those old-school plastic Halloween masks with the flimsy rubberband? Would they automatically turn me away regardless of what passwords I knew? 

Oh, the double password! That’s a smart move, Guy in Red Cloak.

Wow, Red Cloak is a major boner kill.

Beak. I would definitely go with an outrageous beak mask.

Daughter there significance with that name?

More blue again. I’m really digging that blue.

Kidman with a nightmare that forces her to giggle uncontrollably.

Alan Cumming?

[Here's where the sun came up. Intermission. Hum yourself a little song before continuing please.]

By the way, I lost track of the nipples at the big tree-less orgy. But I’m fairly positive nipples pushed ahead of Christmas trees, at least temporarily. There's still a lot of Christmas trees in this movie though.

Ahh, that piano. So simple, yet so striking. I think I’ve decided it’s somebody trying to play “Jingle Bell Rock” without fingers or prior piano experience.

Larry David just came out of the car at the orgy residence. No, wait. It’s Dick Cheney. No, nevermind. It's neither of them.

This scene at the gate, though implausible enough to make you wonder how much of this is going on in our protagonist’s head, is timed so perfectly. And that piano! Chilling!

Slow pan in the doctor’s office, ending at yet another shot of a Christmas tree. This one’s washed out, the colors bleeding into a paleness. [If I had more time, I'd line up every Christmas tree in this movie in order just to see how they change throughout the story. Do they gradually fade? Do they get smaller?]

I think I’ve decided that Christmas is a symbol for the fantastic, the fresh and new, the unbridled hope for something you don’t even understand. It's glowing temptation lurking everywhere Tom Cruise and his penis go.

Domino--that name’s got to be important. I’m not smart enough for this movie.

These God-damn trees! Sally, a gal who doesn’t understand personal space, tells Tom Cruise that Domino is HIV-positive, that Christmas tree lurking in the background. It's faded and imperfect, branches askew.

The posture of the bald guy in the tan trenchcoat in what might be both the quietest and most exciting scene ever. Solace in a coffee shop with the front page of his paper reading “Lucky to be alive.” [Why the hell did I type this? It doesn't even make sense. I would like to point out that I still hadn't slept before starting the rest of this movie.]

This movie is criminally underrated.

That conversation with Syndey Pollack doesn't answer very many questions at all, but how much fun is it to watch Pollack here? I was distracted in his first scene because he was wearing suspenders with no shirt.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I counted Pollack's nipples or the nipples in the painting behind him. Add "nipple counting" to the list of things I'm bad at.

Which mask do you think Pollack's character wore? And do you think Pollack the actor was actually present during that sex party? That scene had to have taken a long time to film, a lot longer than most people would imagine. I think I'd want to be there, but I don't think I'd be able to stop giggling and Kubrick would force me to wear a blindfold like Nick Nightingale. 

Do any of my readers attend masked sex parties? If so, let me know in the comments. I'd like to attend one.

Tom Cruise returns home and turns the lights off on his Christmas tree. That's likely the most significant moment in the entire movie. More blue.

Oh, man. That mask on the pillow. Tom Cruise is so busted. Again, this shot brings up more questions than it answers, but what a perfect shot it is. It's a choice, no? 

Look at the shadow on that pillow! If given the choice between Nicole Kidman, a mask, and a puppet, I'd go with the puppet. But it would be a tough choice. 

This is likely a complete coincidence, but Kidman is wearing a coat that is very close to the one the bald guy was wearing in that chase scene.

Nope! Not my imagination! Those coats are identical!

Whoa, Kidman! With a last word like that, this is probably going to end up with an R rating.