01/26/2014

“Should I kill myself or get another hooker?”: Cinema Obscura Part 1

by Matthew Hawkins

Taken while waiting for WHITE OF THE EYE to wind down.

So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching lots, and lots, and LOTS of movies. Most of which you’ve probably have never heard of. Heck, most I hadn’t heard of either!

As explained already, was in the middle of detailing last year’s NYAFF before this blog went completely off the rails (btw, I plan on covering the rest of the fest, most of which has been written out already, though I can’t seemed to find the corresponding TextEdit files). So I figure a good way to get back into the swing of things might be to rundown all these crazy ass films you should definitely try to see for yourselves! Though that’s much easier said than done.

For starters, the first film I’ll be talking about was seen at The Spectacle, this super duper low fi screening room in Williamsburg. Chris Person recommended that I check it out ages ago, given that their brand of programming is right up my alley. Though he mostly suggested I get to know the people behind the scenes, in hopes of snagging a chance to screen stuff myself. And I did chat with a woman on that end that evening, and she was mad cool. As for everyone else, that’s a different story.

Going in, I expected the dirt worst attempt at MST3K-esque commentary from obnoxious hipsters imaginable and that’s exactly what I got. What I didn’t expect was, while waiting for the movie, for some message therapist who lives above the theater and was getting some fresh air (I think) to try and explain A. why Citi Bikes are evil, B. how he once waited on OJ Simpson & his wife Nicole a week before the former murdered the latter, and C. that I was ”the coolest nerd I’ve ever met”.

So moving on…

The Pit

The Pit centers on Jamie, whose antics would perhaps be cute if he was 6 (and even then he’d probably still got on everyone’s nerves), but at age 12, the kid’s downright cringe worthy and pathetic. Not surprisingly, Jamie has no friends aside from a sentient teddy bear (who also looks creepy as all hell, btw), and a bunch of trolls who live in a hole in the middle of the woods (hence the title of the movie). There’s also Sandy, his babysitter, who aside from being a hottie, tries her very best to be as patient and understanding as possible. So much so that Sandy doesn’t totally freak out when she wakes up to discover Jamie at her bedside, who had been starring at an exposed nipple of hers for who knows how long.

Predictably, Jamie falls in love with Sandy, and perhaps due to extreme horniness (naturally the girl doesn’t reciprocate), he goes completely off the deep end, like pretending to kidnap the librarian’s daughter, so he can force her to strip naked by the living room window (as to take Polaroids that he can, presumably, jerk off to). At least Jamie figures a way to get the trolls to like him, which is by feeding them. And as it turns out, their desire for human flesh is also a great way to get rid of people, like the kids that beat Jamie up in school, Sandy’s boyfriend, and the elderly lady that still gives Jaime grief for the time he caught him pretending to be naked Superman. A must watch, though your only real options are VHS copies that occasionally pop up on eBay.

… The following day was Subway Cinema’s Totally 80’s Movie Freak Out mini fest (which took place at the Anthology Film Archives, aka God’s gift to New York cinephiles). Six fairly obscure and completely awesome films, all shoved down one’s optic nerves in one sitting. But because The Pit was a midnight screening, I didn’t get home until 4am, so I missed movie #1, White of The Eye.

From what I gather, it’s by a Brit director who examines the pathos that is living in the middle of nowhere USA, but in the form of a slasher flick. Or at least it starts out that way, and is ultimately ”much bigger than that”. I did catch the ending, and one could tell that the director does music videos. Anyhow, onto movie #2…

Miami Blues

The last thing I expected was an Alec Baldwin vehicle, so upon seeing his name, my immediate reaction was ”Really?” But I was quickly reminded that A. Subway’s Cinema’s tastes should always be trusted, and B. once upon time, Baldwin wasn’t the total douche that he is today. Not saying much more since the trailer does a good job of hitting all the major points, plus when compared to everything else on the card, Miami Blue’s description wouldn’t be nearly as exciting to read. Still, it’s absolutely worth tracking down, if only cuz you can, given that it’s the most readily available of the bunch as well (was made widely available via DVD). A must see for all fanboys of Sidney Lumet especially, though a word of warning: like all combination crime capers/black comedies, someone loses their fingers and it’s especially gruesome here.

Class of 1984

Class of 1984 is “my God, this country is DOOMED” cautionary propaganda at its best. Aa before, the trailer sums everything up quite nicely, though there are some details worth elaborating on. Like how it features an especially fresh faced (and kinda chunky) Michael Fox before he got the J; his second film ever! He’s a band geek, naturally, one of the few good apples in the music class taught by the new guy, who’s trying his best to impart knowledge into kids’ skulls damnit. As well as the best friend of another total square, the one that buys drugs from the bad kids and snorts the whole thing, right there on the spot, and immediately ODs (like in every after school special from the 80s). Also awesome is Roddy McDowall as the science teacher who drinks on the job since his students are so hopeless, and goes nuts when they kill his cat (poor kitty).

Skatetown USA

Take the Mos Eisley cantina scene from Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, combine it with the Mos Eisley cantina scene from the Star Wars Christmas Special, add very healthy doses of disco and cocaine, and you get Skaketown, USA. It’s also my brand new cinematic obsession (one of two actually), which comes at the right time since I’ve officially seen GETEVEN a hundred times at this point. At the center of it all is some Luke Skywalker but on steroids looking dude who wants to make a name for himself on the hallowed (and waxed) floors of the hottest rollerskating rink in a suburb of California, though I like pretending that it’s some far away land, with no connection to time and space and reality.

By Luke’s side is his sister, played by Maureen McCormick, aka Marcia from Brady Brunch, who I swear to God has never looked hotter (well, she’s older and has lost the long goofy hair for shorter locks). Along with Scott Baio, who actually gets top billing, and is Luke’s manager of sorts. And the one person standing in the way (on wheels) is Patrick Swayze making his big screen debut, as the head of the nefarious Westside Wheelers, a gang who terrorizes Skatetown (and his right hand man, who does the real dirty work, is Horshack of Welcome Back Cotter fame). The all-star cast also includes Flip Wilson, who plays both the manager of the rink and his mother, Billy Barty as the dad/husband, Ruth Buzzy as some uptight city councilwoman who wants to shut the joint down, and Joe E. Ross from Car 54 in the most nonsensical cameo ever. But there’s more!

Skatetown USA basically has it all: live performances from 70s music superstars that you’ve never heard of, the hijinks of a nerdy newlywed couple that includes the wife being kidnapped by a black guy, hallucinogenic drugs as a pizza topping, a stand up routine by The Unknown Comic, and some seriously sweet roller-skating, captured via truly eye-popping camera work. It’s a real shame that the movie was never released on home video, with the going theory being that it would have been a nightmare to get all the record labels to sing on. The entire thing is on YouTube, but the quality (from a telecine, based upon a 16mm print; the version I saw was in glorious 35mm) is beyond abysmal. But better than nothing I suppose.

Road Games

Regarded as a classic in the annuls of Ozploitation (and for good reason), Road Games stars Stacy Keach as Quid, a trucker going from one end of Australia to the other by his lonesome self. To keep his wits, he crafts intricate narratives based upon the people he pass by on the road, or makes up silly games, both of which are either irritating or way too freaky for the passengers that come his way. But Jamie Lee Curtis is the one hitchhiker that plays along, and she too believes that this guy in the green van that Quid keeps running into is indeed a serial killer as suspected. Making matters worse is how Quid himself eventually becomes the primary suspect, plus everyone wants to kill his dog. I’m sucker for movies in which everyone thinks the hero is nuts, and near the end, you start thinking the same thing as well. It’s the Rear Window/Mad Max mashup that you never knew that you wanted. Was released domestically on home video, but that was ages ago.

Enemy Territory

Here’s the premise: the whitest insurance salesman in all of NYC must traverse a housing project that’s basically a war zone (translation: poor/angry black people live there) to get a kindly old lady to sign her policy and accept her first payment (which is $5,000, in cash) and make it back alive. Out for blood are the Vampires; no, not actual blood suckers, but a gang that calls themselves that (and led by Tony Todd, in his very first role) and which terrorizes the entire building. Thankfully the white dude comes across a friend in the form of the cable guy, played by Ray Parker Jr (yes, the man who sang the theme to Ghostbusters). Oh, one lone white guy lives there as well, a disabled war vet that’s a total militia dude who, aside from having a billion guns also has bullet proof steel covering everything, even the kitty litter! Easily Jan-Michael Vincent’s greatest role you never knew about. Came out on VHS but never DVD, so good luck hunting!

… That’s not all folks! Continues in part 2.

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