Still conflicted about Taxi Driver. Sure it’s a good movie, has a real nice look to it (ugly, but at least purposefully, professionally ugly), good acting, neat character. Just doesn’t fly out at me as a Great Film or justify the 30 years of hype. Guess I just wasn’t meant to understand American 70’s Cinema. Was really nice to see this on the big screen, even if Lefont decapitated some actors and credits… good texture to it, very nice print. Wish they’d have played King of Comedy instead, but that might not have even pulled in the 50 loners and misfits who bothered to attend this one.

Jan 2010:
Watched again on DVD with Katy, who enjoyed it but kept commenting how obvious everything was – same thing I said when I first saw it. It’s still a nice movie, but watching a widescreen DVD on our square TV (similar problem as with Standard Operating Procedure) you lose all the detailed CG-animation magic that was added when sitting in front at the movie theater – so, all the story problems without the razzle-dazzle that made me overlook them last time.

all I wrote 7/16/2006 was:
Couldn’t help thinking of the Doc Hollywood comparisons I’d read before seeing this. Fun movie, looked great. More obvious than other Pixar movies. Nice enough preview for Ratatouille, our Next Great Hope. Patton Oswalt is in it!

Yay, exactly lives up to expectations. Great adaptation of the book, great casting and animation and interpretation. Which means it gets fully depressing at the end, and makes me sad just to think about it. Sits inside the mind of a drug addict and tears his mind apart, turns it into not just a paranoid government conspiracy but a small-scale personal tragedy. Amazingly, unexpectedly, Linklater casts his jovial stoner hero from Dazed & Confused as the first addict whose mind falls apart… seems like a personal comment thrown into what is otherwise PK Dick’s vision (even including Dick’s list of dedications from the end of the book).

“We were all very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief.” “There is no moral to this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were.” – PK Dick

Amphetamine (1966)
Where Did Our Love Go? (1966)

Warren Sonbert started his career just like Stan Brakhage (Desistfilm) – sitting around his apartment, shooting his friends doing daily stuff. But where Brakhage used camera tricks and crazy editing, Sonbert (12 years later) relied on his friends’ outrageous antics (drug use, homosexuality, knowing Andy Warhol) to make his movies interesting. It didn’t work for me, but the mid-60’s pop songs he strung together on the soundtrack made for good listening.

Honor and Obey (1988)
Friendly Witness (1989)

Then Sonbert travelled the world for a number of years, reviewing operas and shooting everything he came across with his portable Bolex. And like the dude who did “Ashes & Snow”, he one day sat down and edited all his stuff through the years into some movies. Unlike “Ashes” though, it’s quickly and intuitively edited, the shot order making sense only to the director, if anybody. “Honor and Obey” is completely Brakhage-silent, and Friendly Witness starts with the same 60’s pop songs from before, then uses opera over the second half. Slightly more excitingly edited than “Honor” and would’ve been preferable anyway if only for the pop songs. Completely wonderful films, great color, great framing, lots of animal shots, shots from planes, on water, on children. Loved ’em. Didn’t understand ’em, of course, but didn’t have to.

Initial bad signs:
Characters live in a universe where the hellraiser movies exist, wear hellraiser t-shirts.
The story centers around an online game
Lance Henriksen is the special guest star

Hellworld 1

Amazingly it isn’t the not-even-clever inside references, the netspeak or the video game nonsense that sinks this movie right into the crapper… it’s the stupid story and corny acting. Never since Blair Witch II has there been so much teen-actor mugging in a horror movie! The story falls into the twilight-zone groove of Inferno, but not as good… Lance very obviously drugs their drinks and they’re asleep the whole movie. Two kids get rescued by the cops, and Lance gets chopped to bits by a cenobite for mis-using Pinhead’s props for a lame it-was-all-a-dream ending. Possible Aliens reference:

Hellworld 2

When this typical 80’s couple…

Crimes 1

meets THIS typical 80’s couple…

Crimes 2

… only a big ol’ Psycho-referencing ending can ensue:

Crimes 3

Fantastically fun, over-the-top movie, with crazy crazy acting by Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins. Normal guy with frigid wife falls for fantasy-fulfillment prostitute (who’s a clothing designer I think by day) who is being stalked by creepy bible-quoting porn addict (Perkins, on break between Psychos 2 and 3). There’s nothing here to dislike. Ken Russell audio commentary is a treat to save for later.

So… super underground investigative journalist comes across videotape of death cult. Girl shoots herself in head, comes back to life. Journalist follows story to Bucharest where, coincidentally I’m sure, it’s much cheaper to film a horror movie than it is in the States. Finds a nearly-dead girl with a hellraiser box in her hand

Deader 1

Gets the box. Solves it in about seven seconds.

Deader 2

But that was maybe a dream. Lotta people are in some kinda state of dead or living and maybe dreaming I’m not sure. Also the reporter has occasional flashbacks to her abusive father. Eventually, Pinhead ain’t putting up with this bullshit anymore, shows up, kills everyone.

Deader 3

And the twist: the reporter’s boss (also her ex boyfriend or husband) hires… yes, ANOTHER REPORTER! I don’t get how that’s a twist, but the movie seems to think so.

Whole movie has stupid jerky editing including, get this, the bootleg videotape of the death cult! It’s all grainy and low-light but shot with a buncha cameras and edited by the same spaz who did the rest of the movie. Unbelievable, that. Pinhead has little to do except summon a few chains and say some catchphrases. A confused buncha nonsense overall, not even a tight little small-thinking twilight-zone story like the last few. Makes me think Inferno and Hellseeker were actually kinda good.

Best horror series ever? Maybe not, but let me hyperbolize. Totally consistent and original movies with a really interesting conclusion, even if I still think Don is being vague just so we’ll think he’s way deep. Might find out later on the commentary. This weekend, listened to Don talk about parts 1 & 2, and watched 3 & 4 for the first time since they came out.

Phantasm 1a
Phantasm 1b

Part one gets better every time. Obviously so low budget but you can see ’em putting their heart into it. Love how Don waits until Mike is struggling with the rubber fly monster wrapped in a jacket to talk about the excellent acting in this series… I laugh at first, but dude’s got a point in general. Weird how Reggie & Jody’s song on the porch is one of my favorite scenes. The British tagline for this movie was “Where The Dead Are No Longer That Way”. Too bad I missed this at the drive-in.

Phantasm 2a
Phantasm 2b

“The Ball is Back”. I used to think this was the best Phantasm movie, but now I see it’s just the slickest and most expensive (and not coincidentally, the one that was always on cable in 1988-90). James LeGros of Drugstore Cowboy and Living In Oblivion takes over the Mike role cuz Michael Baldwin was busy that week. Still might be the best Phantasm movie, I’m just not positive about it anymore. Best Tall Man death (exploding eyeballs!) and Balls and effects and stuff. Not much left to write about, since I’ve watched it a hundred times now. Don says the fans used to complain about this one a lot… until part 3 came out.

Phantasm 3a
Phantasm 3b

“Lord of the Dead”. I used to complain about part 3 a lot… thought it was silly, what with the kid with the killer frisbee and the feminist/lesbian with nunchucks. Watching all the movies together puts it in better perspective. They’re ALL kinda silly. Nobody ever really bought the rubber fly in the jacket scene, and you can almost see the stagehands lobbing metal canisters at Reggie at the end of part 2. It’s just fun with bursts of horror and some good storytelling underneath. The repeated bits in each movie (especially the mirror endings) are fun, too. Anyway, the kid and the drifters and the nunchuck lesbian aren’t bad, and it’s nice to see Mike back, and this is where the whole thing gets weird, what with Jody’s return from the dead and the Tall Man implanting a Ball in Mike’s head, then spending part four trying to get it back, I think.

Phantasm 4a
Phantasm 4b

“OblIVion”, or, The One Composed Largely Of Deleted Scenes From Part One Used As Flashbacks. Given about a third the budget of the last one, Don found a way to create a new story around old leftover footage rather than give up or sell out the characters. Hardly any peripheral actors/characters, lot of final-standoff Mike vs. Tall Man stuff and of course an origin story. No horror series makes it to part four without an origin story. The Tall Man gets a name (Jebediah Morningside, a funeral home director who builds portals to other dimensions at home in his spare time), Mike tries to control the Ball in his head (or something), Jody keeps popping up but I still don’t know why, and Reggie gets in some good bits. Watch these movies enough times and they start to seem like real people. I’m sad to see the story finally end.