Friday, August 28, 2009

In defence of Halloween

Much to the consternation of raving and foaming fanboys, Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 opens tonight. As it stands, I was and am completely perplexed by the moaning over what was described as an absolute bomb of an opening weekend for the first one. How the hell does anyone put “only” and $4 million” in the same sentence? Sure, that isn't Transformers 2 cash or anything, but for the movie that it is that is a hell of a draw for two days. Especially since many fans of the raw brutality he was aiming for tend to just wait for it to hit video. That bit of bitching aside, I wanted to take a moment to defend that film against the apparent hordes declaiming it.
Regardless of your opinion of the film as a whole, pacing issues, you being pissed off that Michael is too big or his background in a stereotypical white trash home, there is a moment of absolute genius that raised it far above damn near everything to to roll through theaters this decade:
The First Kill.
We all know the drill. We're shown a complete douche that no one in their right mind would bother defending. In this case, it's the standard school bully who makes the mistake of talking shit about poor Mikey's mom. The guy might as well have had “dead” tattooed across his forehead.
No-one is at all surprised when he gets ambushed in the woods (especially with those F13th esque camera angles) and the entire theater erupted in cheers and laughter when that first whack fell. The little shit had it coming and we NEED to see him pay. This is a fairly standard trick that allows us in the audience to enjoy brutal slaughter guilt free. We came to see some people get fucked up and dead, but we aren't sick people because they deserve it. This is precisely what everyone paid for and we are all comfortably happy.
The pure genius that I mentioned before comes in how the scene plays out. Normally, no matter how brutal, a kill scene in a slasher will be over quick. Slice slice, splatter splatter, we're done and on to the next. But Rob just keeps going with this. We see this dickhead turn from belligerent to cowed but he just won't fucking die. By degrees, the noise in the theater faltered and by the end everyone is dead silent. This boy who is probably just as miserable and fucked up as the kid we were siding with is pathetically begging, pleading for his life and Micheal just keeps pounding away while we sit and stare. This ride isn't fun anymore mommy, I want off.
For the first time in my life, I'm in an audience that is truly horrified.
Sure, most of them have seen worse than what just happened on the screen. The scene wasn't particularly gory. The horrific aspect isn't the image or even the act itself but the fact that we wanted it to happen. This bastard made us feel safe in a trope that we all knew and then forced it down our throats. The effect was similar to the ages old approach of forcing young Jimmy to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes on after the other because he thought he was old enough to handle smoking.
That stunned, absolutely silent audience experienced true art and they probably never even noticed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Super-deep Bhuddist-like Ruminations on the Lawn

Mowing the lawn yesterday (after a three week bout of laziness that resulted in the creation of a new ecosystem in my yard) got me thinking bout why it is that I actually enjoy doing it.  It isn't exactly mentally engaging, it's repetitive and it uses up time I could be spending napping.  In theory, this should be torture of a near taking-the-trash-3-feet-out-onto-the-back-porch degree, but I actually enjoy it.  Stranger still, I'm not alone in this.  I've asked around and quite a few people LIKE mowing their lawn.  Why?
I'm not going to fall for that typical crap of the peace of working the land.  The simple, repetitive nature of the act creating a Zen-like state?  Then why aren't factories across America producing the most enlightened workers on the face of the planet?  Yes, there is much to be said about any work where you can see immediate results but I can see the same kind of immediate results cleaning and I'll be damned if I ever do THAT willingly.  I would say that they are all bullshitting me, but the mania with which some people approach lawn-care stands as proof against that.
I can only go with what know from myself and just assume that it applies to everyone.  If it worked for Ayn Rand then it has to be a good approach, right?  My reason is simple: control.  Any moron can lay absolute waste to nature.  Little kids burn ants with magnifying glasses and my own local P&G has been dumping all kinds of marvelous plant and animal killers into the ground and water supply for generations now.  I could easily turn my lawn into an easily manageable wasteland of flat concrete, but where would the FUN be in that?
With my grass, I get to allow it to live its life as if it is a free being of nature but only in the ways that I wish it to.  First off, only the types of plants and grass that I deem worthy are permitted to survive in my yard.  Anything so common and unappealing as Dandelions or Clover fall beneath the wrath of my chemical doom.  Further, those plants are only to exist in the places I want them to.  I will go to any extent to destroy an uppity Yucca that has the nerve to pop up outside of its designated position.  But here is the best part, where the mowing comes in:  I let them live, but only so long as they don't have the nerve to grow higher that a couple inches.  It's like random imprisonment of an entire species. 
The exceptionally ingenious and cruel take it a step further by actually encouraging rampant growth.  They feed their grass and other plants only the best  food possible.  Food that is designed to promote full, luscious growth.  Then they cut those little bitches down. 
An uncle of mine takes it a step further by growing grass and other plants where they don't even belong naturally.  He lives in the desert and spends an inordinate amount of money on soil, water, fertilizer, etc.  Then, once all of that begins to work its magic, the choppin' starts and it is truly something to behold.
The Glory of it all is astounding.  Nothing else exemplifies man's subjugation of nature to his iron will like a well manicured lawn.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What thell right does he have?

So, I just saw the video for the new Eminem and it brought up a question about the role and rights of the artist. Yeah, I know what you're thinking... Eminem, an artist, seriously? But it wasn't his work itself that got me thinking. Instead, it was the placement of himself among the atom-bombed wasteland of Detroit as if that is still the life that he leads.
I have to admit that I was inordinately pissed off at the presumption that he retains the slightest inkling of what it is like to no be obscenely rich. Until I starting thinking about the fact that that is what artists do, when they are doing it right.
Yes, anything an artist creates is a reflection of themself, but anyone worth their salt has to start looking outward at some point. As obsessed as I am with fiction, what pulls me in about it is that desire to place myself in another's world, to understand them and their life. All of my favorite authors have made their careers out of placing themselves in the heads of people entirely different from themselves.
To be pushy about it, maybe that is the role of the artist: to show us the lives of others as refracted through themselves and to open up our view of the world.
I think this whole thing was a tad self-indulgent.