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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Buzzbomb (2001): One Last Bullet

Terror Organ, Buzzbomb (The Rectrix, 2001)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

The members of the band, wearing gas masks and seated in back-to-back wheelchairs, adorn the album cover.

Pity they got section-eighted out of the military.
photo credit: metal-archives.com

The day after receiving this album in the mail two months ago, I decided it had a strong chance of topping my year’s-best list. The intervening weeks have done nothing to dissuade me from thinking such.

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Genetic Chile (2010): A Hill of Beans

Genetic Chile (Christopher Dudley, 2010)

The title is superimposed over apicture of a pile of New Mexico chiles on the DVD box.

Wear latex gloves when cutting.
photo credit: csindy.com

Christopher Dudley’s 2010 documentary Genetic Chile is at least honest enough to put itself out there as a “war on ideas” movie from the get-go. (Compared to, say, Hot Coffee, which starts out looking like it’s going to focus on the Stella Liebeck case before unreasonably broadening its horizons.) I mean, maybe it’s me, but it was impossible for me to look at that title and think anything other than “this is an anti-GMO movie.” And then I sat down to watch it, and I got exactly what I expected to get. As I am somewhat aggressively pro-GMO, I attempted as best I could to divorce my feelings about the subject matter from the presentation; after all, I have in the past been perfectly willing to approach movies whose subject matter I find distasteful with an open mind, and if they present their case well, recommend them, sometimes strongly. (The most recent example: Chasing Ice.) Still, I’d advise you to take what I have to say about Genetic Chile with a grain of salt, especially since (a) I also had the pleasure of watching this on a seven-inch phone screen, which is not a mode of playback for a feature-length film that I would wish on my worst enemy, and (b) I was floating in a wonderful dilaudid haze for about half the movie’s barely-over-feature-length runtime, as I was in the hospital when I saw it (viz. my review of Shank, above).

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mahamanvantara (2001): Je Ne Sais Pas/Je Ne Sais Quoi

kNOw, mahamanvantara (The Rectrix, 2001)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

A shadow of a man about to be executed adorns the CD cover.

Deathbed kundalini.
photo credit: discogs.com

The sixth release on New Jersey label The Rectrix is the debut CD from kNOw, a collaboration between Alex Anievas and The Hollowing veteran Matt Gibney. The six tracks here, in total, clock in at just under an hour.

The majority of the music here sits solidly in the dark ambient vein, sitting just under the pain threshold, but every once in a while (e.g. the climax of track 2, “Forever”), the noise kicks in and things get staticky and chaotic. Imagine listening to the soundtrack of a serial killer movie while suffering from bouts of tinnitus and you should have a good idea.

One track that truly stands out is “Lethe Parallel,” an almost minimal journey through what sounds like an endless, silent, cavernous tunnel of love with a nervous companion who keeps shifting in his seat and dropping pennies over the side of the boat to gauge the depth of the water (despite the darkness). Building of tension leads to the kind of payoff you just don’t see often enough from the Hollywood machine; might as well get it from a small CD label in New Jersey, right? ****

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1994): Darling, Its Better Down Where It’s Wetter

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Ray Muller, 1994)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

A montage with Riefenstahl in the foreground, Hitler in the background, and the masses behind them adorns the VHS cover.

Thiefland.
photo credit: IMDB

First, let’s get something straight. An artist’s intentions are secondary, to say the least, to the intentions of the viewer. (That’s how Jesse Helms can say “I don’t know what pornography is, but I know it when I see it,” I can say the same thing, and both of us can be accurate despite having thoroughly different subsets of what constitutes pornography in our heads.) That said, the “is/was Leni Riefenstahl a Nazi?” question is quite simply irrelevant all the way around, and is hereby dispensed with.

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Shank (2009): One Blunt Thrust

Shank (Simon Pearce, 2009)

Wayne Virgo and Marc Laurent are about to go into a liplock on the DVD cover.

Beneath the milky (and salty) twilight.
photo credit: Cheaper than Therapy: A Gay Perspective

I stumbled upon Shank while I was looking for a copy of Shanks, the infamous 1974 William Castle film starring Marcel Marceau. (Which I did eventually find, viz. my review on 2Mar2013.) This one looked interesting, so I threw it on my Netflix queue, where it joined almost four hundred other titles, and I promptly forgot about it. Fast-forward a year or more and, for various reasons, I wound up stuck in the hospital. It was the first time I’d been overnight in a hospital where I was the patient in over thirty years. Things have changed. They had to clear my friggin’ laptop with the electrical department, for pete’s sake. So that first night, stuck with a godawful roommate who spent the entire insufferable eighteen hours I was stuck in a room with him complaining a mile a minute to anyone who would listen (I kid you not, he did not sleep), the only way I had to watch anything other than broadcast TV, which I swore off a couple of years ago, was on a phone. And ESPN3 wasn’t showing any cricket that night, so I popped open the Netflix queue, spun the scrollbar, and then stabbed at the moving queue to pick something as close to at random as I could. And thus, as a result, I spent my first night in the hospital watching Shank and Genetic Chile [below]. (The next day, I got my laptop back, and I’ll tell you, I have never been so happy to see a fifteen-inch screen in my life.) None of which has more than the vaguest thing to do with Shank, other than that I was watching it on a painfully small screen and thus cannot make my usual comments about such things as cinematography, camera placement, and the like. Probably for the best, since that’s the day I was introduced to dilaudid, which became my best friend for the next three weeks. How fuzzy was I? I’d actually written down the wrong film (I had Mo Ali’s 2010 thriller in this spot instead of Simon Pearce’s gay romance; I have never seen the former). Thankfully, I came to my senses, because by all accounts that movie is a dog’s dinner. This one, despite a slow and confusing start and maybe a bit too much manufacture drama leading up to the big climax, is pretty good.

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Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (2011): The Winners Lose

Joseph A. McCartin, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (Oxford University Press, 2011)

full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

Ronald Reagan's profile looms over a photo of a strike in the early 1980s on the book's cover.

The end of an era.
photo credit: gillespieforum.org

I was born in 1968. So in 1981 I was thirteen years old, and I was growing up in a staunch Republican family (though one who preferred to get their news from MacNeil and Lehrer; I still haven’t figured out how to reconcile that). I was not terribly politically aware, partially because of the atmosphere in which I was raised and partially because the entire idea of politics was something of a mystery to me and I didn’t really understand how Presidents were any different than kings or something like that. So at the time, when my parents, who are still staunch Reaganites, dismissed the entire ATC strike as something that needed to happen and was good for the country, it never occurred to me to question that, and by the time I did become politically astute enough to wonder about it, the entire incident had faded not only from my conversation at home, but from the media, and slipped into obscurity to the point where I had forgotten it even happened. So when this came across my Vine emails, I grabbed a copy because I had only the vaguest memories of the incident at all, much less how it might have changed America.

What a dash of ice water to the face.

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Fevre Dream (1982): A Song of Water and Steam

George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream (Poseidon, 1982)

[originally posted 2Nov2001]

The faces of two vampires appear in the clouds behind a nineteenth-century riverboat on the book's cover.

Vamperick?
photo credit: toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.com

It would be unfair to say that after reading A Song of Ice and Fire’s first three novels, Fevre Dream was a disappointment; it’s unfair to expect any novelist, with the arguable exception of Clive Barker, to live up to ASoIaF’s standards all the time. And to be fair, Fevre Dream is original from beginning to end and quite well-written.

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