Saturday, October 8, 2011

The beyonders of metal

Holy moly jeepers-wow. I've been so busy over at PRESS PLAY talking about trauma, Chelsea Hotel, DRIVE and ALPHAS

I've not checked in here to make mention of my latest remarks about dark, dark, dark, really dark but not quite black metal.

Which you can do by clicking the title, which will take you to the world where METAL SUCKS (ironically).

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Hey--It's been a while, but I've been busy writing for my column over at PRESS PLAY.

Anyway, I always come back to needing to write about Ulmer's The Black Cat. Although The Bride of Frankenstein has the rep, Edgar Ulmer's 65 minutes are the true pinnacle of post war morbidity achieved in Universal's 1930s horror cycle. Its tech-deco-necro delirium is by turns hilarious, dated, classic, beautiful, stylistically 40 years ahead of its time, a storehouse of of cinema syntax drenched in true melancholy: this, not Detour, is the film that makes the case for Ulmer’s unjust exclusion from the upper leagues of the pantheon.

In a plot seething with multiple really Old Europe sexual pathologies, Bela Lugosi plays Dr. Vitus Werdegast a psychologist driven nearly mad by the torture he suffered at the hands of sadistic frenemy/architect/Satanist Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris, living dead Karloff) during World War I.

Lugosi and a magnificently naïve American couple (David Manners, Julie Bishop) couple arrive at Karloff's Bauhaus mansion--literally built atop a graveyard--and enact one of cinema's most brilliantly deranged dances to the death.

Dressed in shimmering Mandarin robes, his hair bleached the white of the old dead and cut in scary, unnatural geometries, Karloff creates one of the most glamorously seductive images of unfettered evil ever lensed, while Lugosi commits the performance of his career by actually underplaying his character's bloodlust.

Without showing an inch of flesh or a drop of blood, Ulmer creates a weirdly lyrical nightmare of necrophilia, mad science, implied flaying, classical music appreciation, and, hard to believe, more, as the true depths of the Poelzig’s dementia are revealed.

Without knowing there was an argument, Ulmer’s film shows that Hitchcock actually had style limitations, while actually predating the New Wave in a bravura sequence of elegant, aestheticized, sexual soul sickness that included intended jump-cuts, long single takes, and cross-fade glides from single to third person POV, all while Beethoven’s Seventh, Second Movement, mourns on the soundtrack and Karloff, camp stripped bear, channels the weariness of the first generation to endure the mechanize mass slaughter of modern warfare. “Did we not both die here in Marmorus 15 years ago? Are we any the less victims of the war than those whose bodies were torn asunder? Are we not both the living dead?

But horror is always just five inches from black comedy and Ulmer’s team doesn’t just cross the line, they dance on it. Perfect example and scene: poor lost Manners freaking out about being isolated in this Bauhaus house of death, and not being able to place a call. And Karloff, eyes glittering with something between Borscht Belt stand up and deep mittel European madness, "You see? Even the phone is dead."

Saturday, July 9, 2011


My new column starts at PressPlay with Parts 1 and 2 of THE TREE OF GAGA about my favorite Mother Monster.

About the whys, the hows, the...whys again.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hotness that Matters

This is a couple years un-fresh but I think this group collaboration is still fun, accurate
and good argument material (where's Gina Torres???)

Women of The Years
Forget SI's Vacant Swimsuit Smiles--Here's 20 Babes Whose Babeness Matters

By Ian Grey, Emily Flake, Violet Glaze and Bret McCabe | Posted 2/13/2008

ALAS, IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR again. February is when Sports Illustrated releases its annual swimsuit issue, replete with the usual oiled-up pimping of site-specific liposuction, freakish genetics, rhinoplasty, gym-rat body sculpting, faux-hot thousand-yard gazes, and chemically plumped lips puckered into automaton pouts.

Viruslike, this Photoshopped Frankenstein aesthetic spreads to cinema and mass culture, and/or vice versa, reinforced by lad magazine spreads that make objectification sound progressive and reinforce an obsession for the deathly anorexic. Which helps explain how aerodynamic points-of-purchases such as the Jessicas Biel, Simpson, and Alba, talentless nip/tuck lab creation Fergie (frighteningly, No. 10 on Maxim's babe list), and America's No. 1 Victim, Elisha Cuthbert (Captivity, 24), are bestowed with a dumbed-down mantle of hotness. Their major active effect on males is the nurturing of a fetishistic urge for impossible females; for women, they instill self-loathing about bodies that can never match a swimbot's mechanistic perfection.

But the SI issue also allows us a primo excuse to celebrate women who embody everything Franken-girl culture would have us think doesn't exist or scarcely matters. And so, here are our alternative Top 20 of hotties who thrive outside or in spite of their traditional notions of beauty.

These women are cinematic icons who matter, persist, and are reflective entities in whom we see best-case-scenario versions of ourselves or whom we dream we might be. And for those of us with special needs--the nerdy, the outsider, the literally and metaphorically queer--this reflective quality is even more important.

Whether it's via signature roles, life stories, off-screen behavior, or an alchemical mixture of all those elements, they validate, reinforce, and represent. Like any good relationship, digging their finer qualities takes some effort. It's energy well spent, what with the way these women continue to make our lives palpably better places to live. (Ian Grey)

1) Helen Mirren

Because she embodies a truth that applies to every woman on this list, a truth that those who slaver at the supermodel of the month will never get--that "attractive" is not the same as "perfect," that "beautiful" has nothing to do with "young," and that "sexy" is none of the above. See The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Prime Suspect TV series. (Violet Glaze)

2) Katee Sackhoff

For all her boozing, Cylon-blastin' and--God help us--barely clothed boxing in Battlestar Galactica, it's the way the butch/curvy Sackoff deals with the show's signature agonies that accounts for her thermonuclear hotness. The cockiness melts in slow gradients as the lost girl in Starbuck's backstory emerges, almost scarily naked and vulnerable, followed almost immediately with the delicious tension of waiting to see whether she'll get hard-case stony, get shit-faced, or blow something up in that liberatingly unhinged manner only she possesses. (IG)

3) Michelle Yeoh

A former Miss Malaysia turned dancer turned one of the very few women Jackie Chan lets do her own stunts. The only actress who can not only imbue kicking, punching, and flying through the air with Grace Kelly-style class, but who can share the screen with Zhang Ziyi and not suffer by comparison. See Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Supercop 2. (VG)

4) Sally Field

The great transformation of Martin Ritt's 1979 Norma Rae isn't Sally Field shedding a sexless flying nun habit, Gidget's '60s sweetheart grin, or Smokey and the Bandit's sassy mouth. It's a formidable actress turning a single mother textile worker into the sort of spryly intelligent and charismatic hero typically reserved for the good-looking Robert Redfords and Dustin Hoffmans of the era. Sure, Norma Rae is a very Hollywood version of the real-life Crystal Lee Sutton, but it remains one of the few times mainstream American movies or television ever touched organized labor--and the men and women who fill its ranks--in any way. (Bret McCabe)

5) Jean Seberg

The perfection of Jean Seberg's astonishing porcelain face was rivaled only by the tragedy of her not-long life. Troubled marriages, stillborn babies, suicide attempts, addictions, persecution by the FBI--and still she found time to pretty much invent the close-cropped strong-yet-fragile delight that is the modern gamine. See Breathless, Lilith. (Emily Flake)

6) Alyson Hannigan

That Hannigan--a physically androgynous young women perhaps best described as wallflower-pretty--has forged a career armed only with ace comic timing, huge silent film-star eyes, and bottomless geek empathy is remarkable enough. And that she was able, in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, to make us totally invest ourselves in Willow Rosenberg's somewhat unusual seven-year arc--from education-crazed Jewish outsider to wiccan witch to nontormented lesbian to black-veined villain to happily partnered assistant world-saver--is an amazing feat of extended acting chops. But it was those chops fused with her disarming sweetness that rendered her first-ever TV lesbian kiss, with Buffy co-star Amber Benson, so inarguably dear that even the Fox network couldn't rationalize nixing it. And that's earned Hannigan a deserved place in queer/humanist televisual history. (IG)

7) Katharine Hepburn

Acid-tongued, more handsome than pretty, fiercely independent, and preferring pantsuits to girlie frocks, Hepburn herself was who most succinctly summed up her radical role in American cinema culture, saying "I am a missing link" between the genders. The original drag king, and she wasn't even trying. See Woman of the Year, The African Queen. (IG)

8) Jean Harlow

Even her surname is loaded with echoes of both "harlot" and "hallowed." There would be no Marilyn, no Jayne, hell, possibly even no Pamela Anderson without her. Cut down at 26 by uremic poisoning, her short stint on Earth produced one of America's most beloved archetypes--the Blonde Bombshell. See Red Dust, Saratoga. (EF)

9) Hanna Schygulla

If Josef von Sternberg and Alfred Hitchcock had their druthers, bombshell blondes would fulfill only one role in movies: untouchable ice-queen objects of desire (see: Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, et al.) Fortunately, German writer/director Rainer Werner Fassbinder met actress Hanna Schygulla in the 1960s, and in their 23 movies together Schygulla completely rewired the archetype into so many different complex women that their work together still mystifies. See Lili Marlene, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Beware a Holy Whore, Effi Briest. (BM)

10) Penélope Cruz

Penélope Cruz is possibly the most glaring example of Hollywood's shameful waste of female talent. It's in the movies of her native Spain that she's truly allowed to shine--and she makes it clear that despite being eye-searingly gorgeous, her beauty is incidental to her real work. See All About my Mother, Volver. (EF)

11) Ida Lupino

The heart-faced, sour-sweet Lupino didn't just play a fatale, victim, or sassy sidekick in classic films noir, she shape-shifted between elements of all the genre's archetypes. Too big in ambition by the late '40 s to play second fiddle to male fantasies, she then became the first--and inexplicably underworshipped--American female to produce, write, and direct her own movies, quickly hitting her fear-free stride with Outrage, an expressionistic noir dealing with rape and its aftermath--and in 19-frickin'-50, yet. See Road House, On Dangerous Ground, (IG)

12) Clara Bow

The "It Girl" of silent movies, as kittenish as Mary Pickford and as fearlessly carnal as Theda Bara. Seen through modern eyes, she's still got an easy smile and giggly wink that promises a strings-free good time--not because she's crazy, slutty, or tragic, but just because she likes you. See The Plastic Age, Children of Divorce. (VG)

13) Maila Nurmi

The protogoth pinup Vampira was nothing more than an elegant fiction created by the self-described ugly, poor, and anorexic Nurmi, but what a fiction! And to Nurmi's credit, no one--not Patricia Morrison, not Lily Munster, and definitely not that tacky blasphemer Elvira--could (re)animate that poison hourglass like she did. See Plan 9 From Outer Space. (VG)

14) Sonja Sohn

Part soul, part Seoul, all hot--Korean-African-American Sonja Sohn's interpretation of police detective Kima Greggs is one of the most finely nuanced performances on television today. The mix of intelligence, strength, tenderness, and humor she brings landmarks the role as a lesbian icon and an instant classic. Are you really, seriously not watching The Wire? (EF)

15) Anne Bancroft

Yes, she won her Oscar for The Miracle Worker. But it was with pencil skirt-powered legs, lust-sheen glare, and toying with a craven, helpless Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate where Bancroft's catlike hotness performed another miracle: During the youth-besotted 1960s, she made older women sexually viable. The original MILF--with a vengeance. See The Pumpkin Eater. (IG)

16) Traci Lords

The angel-faced dirty brat next door. So hot, so blond, so barely legal--whoops, not legal at all. Child porn laws put the kibosh on a portfolio of "performances" made before her 18th birthday, but name one other actress who essentially destroyed the 80-100 films that made her famous and went on to bigger success. See Crybaby, select episodes of Melrose Place, Will and Grace, Gilmore Girls. (VG)

17) Louise Brooks

An ethereally beautiful booze hound with a salty tongue and caustic wit that rivaled Dorothy Parker's, Louise Brooks disappeared from film after 1938--but not without leaving a permanent mark in the shape of her trademark spit-curled bob. The quintessential flapper, bristling with wry, intelligent sexuality. See Pandora's Box. (EF)

18) Sissy Spacek

Transform from trembling geek to drop-dead glamour queen? Stab your psycho fundamentalist mother? Telekinetically whack a future Scientologist? Burn down the fucking high school? Spacek's ultimate grub-to-avenging butterfly in Carrie was the first in inspiring gangly, overfreckled outsiders worldwide not to take this shit. See Three Women, Coal miner's Daughter. (IG)

19) Tallulah Bankhead

A decent actress but a far better sexual provocateur, this openly bisexual originator of ab-fab consciousness was touted in the '30s as the "next Marlene Dietrich." That didn't really pan out, but as the eternally bemused original patron saint of elegantly not giving a goddamn, Bankhead was unbeatable. See Tarnished Lady, Lifeboat. (IG)

20) Summer Glau

The look: Doll-like Victorian manga. Specialty: subverting multiple assumptions by playing mentally discombobulated girlie girls-turned-supersmart ass-kickers. See her seemingly fragile, ultimately heroic, space zombie-whacking telepath in Serenity and emotion-challenged "good" Terminator in this season's funnest guilty pleasure, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Result: Fanboys grow faint, gushes, troubled souls of all stripes gain a new poster girl. (IG)

Graphic by M. WARTELLA

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kryoburn's readymades

Three Years Eclipsed
Candlelight Records
(Originally appeared at

The dis on the ‘net is that Kryoburn are Fear Factory clones and so much for them. Well, I just want to say this is really unfair. Kryoburn are Fear Factory clones that clone a whole mess of other bands as well, okay?

Now that that’s cleared up, what separates this New Mexico band’s brand of industrialized metal from the Factory is the pleasing swing and openness in their Terminator grooves. We all like to claim that while we might claim to lust after the aural equivalent of having our heads relentlessly beaten with an ultra-loud battering ram sample powered by a Commodore 64, the truth is, a little air and swing between attacks is a pleasure and a relief.

Everyone—okay, Metal Hammer, UK-- is predicting that the band that seamlessly combines electronics and extreme metal will be a Next Big Thing. I think this is kind of a meh sort of ambition, but on “Introspective”, Kryoburn certainly pull it off.

There’s a wall of techno pads and digital chimes as a Strapping Young Lads-y groove head-slams and and the whole enterprise gains texture and catchiness when the growl-sung lead vox are neatly juxtaposed against a pretty chorus of what sound like male madrigals. (Have you been noticing how many bands are getting all madrigal on our asses lately? Is ‘choir metal’ the Next Big Thing?).

Anyway, “Three Years Eclipsed” is produced by Tue Madsen (Dark Tranquility, Moonspell, Suicide Silence) and he gives every track a glistening, 2011 surface. Things pop, punch and slide just so and Hey, remember Curve?

“Reinvention” has a distressed voice sample thingee that the 90s pop-goth-metal combo would proudly call its own lacing a Korn-y riff (in a good way!) And again, out of nowhere, we get a clean vocal singing a line out of Bach or some such shit. It’s like a formula, but only “like”.

“Burning the Doubt” adds Five Finger Death Punch-y macho for immediate ass-kick appeal while “Broken Hero” and its staggering/lockstep riff and slithery-pretty synth legato suggest Rammstein minus the punishing Teutonics. Less endearingly, “Event Horizon” is all generic Sturm und Drang riffing; when that lonely ‘classical’ vocal shows up it just proves that one idea can’t save every song, alas.

But that’s one failure. When Kryoburn are on their game, it’s the shock of the old that makes them special. Unlike Fear Factory’s now-retro,, post-apocalypse digitalism, Kryoburn are doing something that’s essentially modern, in the old, art school sense.

They’re approaching all of metal and looting it for spare parts, for what Duchamp, back in the beginning of the 20th century, called “readymades”--things not usually thought of as art—I think nu metal counts here—and by pasting them to other things, hoping to eventually create something paradoxically newish. They sometimes fail, but the process is a thrill.

Friday, June 17, 2011

James Wan--Hyper Grindhouse Mensch

I interviewed James Wan back in 2007. He was, to put it simply, a delight, a one-person redefinition of his generation's lousier instincts when it comes to grindhouse cinema, free of poison irony, or undue idol worship, or just plain being the sort of dick who would feel comfortable at Kim's video.

I was at the time interviewing many more 'important' filmakers but Wan was the one who was just so much fucking fun to talk to. Plus--great pull-quote from the guy who was inaccurately credited with starting the torture porn blight at the peak of the Bush years.

In my review of SAW I noted that it was not just the defining horror film of the Bush years, but the defining film of the Bush years, period.

As more and more sickening details of Cheney's beyond-monstrous torture for torture's sake program become public, and the public is more comfortable bitching about HOSTEL than men forced to defecate on themselves while dogs attack and are waterboarded in dank rooms from David Finchers private nightmare file. I'd say SAW is the softcore defining film of those noxious 8 years.

But onward...

Despite an awful virus that delayed his interview for an hour for a doctor consult, horror kingpin James Wan is more than happy, in a sneezy way, to talk in a mild Aussie lilt about horror. The reason goes beyond the need to perform promo duties for his long-delayed ghost story, Dead Silence, and have everything to do with who he is. “I am an extreme geek,” he declares. “A horror nerd. Big time. And proud of it.”

Keeping in mind how crazy-busy he’s been for the last three years, the fact that Wan’s immune system has finally succumbed comes as no surprise.

First, of course, there’s the storybook success of Saw, a short film that became a feature whose paltry $1 million budget led to a staggering gross of more than $102 million, which begat a blockbuster franchise with two sequels already released and another in the planning stages and of which Wan had a story or producing involvement in.

Then there’s Dead Silence, once known by the more curt Silence, a neo-Hammer horror that Wan directed and that sat on the shelf for a good year for reasons he’ll explain in just a minute. And finally, there’s his Kevin Bacon-starring genre segue into classic revenge film, Death Sentence, now in post production.

Directing conversation with the hyper-fecund auteur is delightfully near-impossible: We tried string things off by focusing on Dead Silence--which, like the Saw films, features a dummy prominently, this time a mysterious ventriloquist’s dummy. Instead, Wan wanted to know if New York--where he got his cold--still hadn’t gotten any snow. We said, no, and he snapped, “Man, that is strange! The ice caps are melting! It’s like the opening sequence of The Arrival!”

And there’s Wan’s charm--and passion--an in a nutshell: You can’t talk to him about anything without movies coming into it. And dummies. Dummies, like the creepy one in Saw, feature prominently in his films.

“I’ve always had a strange fixation with dummies and dolls. I was scared by Poltergeist at a very young age...There’s that creepy clown doll that attacks the kid? That stuck with me ever since, and I’ve ever since been on the lookout for scary doll or scary dummy films.

On a roll, he qualifies, “I’m not so much into killer doll films--I find the creepy factor far scarier than the killer doll thing. One of my favorite horror films of all time is the British film, Dead of Night. The scene with the ventriloquist dummy is one of my favorite sequences--ever.”

In the autuer's own words, his creepy dummy movie “opens with a young couple [True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten and Judith Roberts] getting a package. They open the package and inside is a ventriloquist dummy. And they’re like, “What the hell is this? Where the hell did it come from?” There’s no return address on it. And then something bad happens.

Another head of steam as he elaborates that “basically, the rest of the film has our lead protagonists trying to find out who sent the dummy and what kind of malevolent evil it holds.

“And that leads them back to the small hometown where he and his wife grew up. The story goes back to the legend of an old ventriloquist, a ghost ventriloquist. The legend goes that if you scream in the presence of this ghost, he takes your tongue and the last thing you hear before you die is the sound of your own voice talking back to you.”

He finally pauses to take a breath. “And that’s what it’s about.”

While the idea of the hearing your own voice mocking you just before you die is an eerie idea worthy of shuddery consideration, I couldn’t help but stress out how this will actually manifest on film.

As in: CG revenants pace the newer, awful The Haunting? “I used some visual effects, but it’s more about mood and atmosphere.

“A big part of my influence for this film was I really wanted a tribute to the Hammer horror films I grew up loving. This film truly has a Hammer horror feel to it but with a contemporary edge.”

So can we expect a shift from the acidic, David Fincher-y color palette of the Saw films to something more akin to Hammer’s trademark saturated Technicolor? “To some degree. I love bright colors, but I also love cold, neutered color.

“But there are moments in Silence--a big part of the film takes place in an old theater, in the 1930s. So that’s very colorful, very theatrical and it has that edge to it, but in modern day, it’s a ghost town, very cold, very removed from reality. It has a very fantasy edge to it.” (And it won’t be like Richard Attenborough’s surface-similar Magic, due to the fact that Wan “never got around to seeing Magic. I did not want to be influenced by it. I kept my influences to Dead of Night and the classic gothic Hammer horror films.)

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but note the similarity in the mysterious mannequin delivery here and the mysterious videotape delivery used in Lost Highway. “I guess it is [like Lost Highway]. To some degree, yeah. It’s not just an outright horror film, it’s a mystery about what the hell is going on.”

“But having said that--it’s very different from David Lynch. I would never dare to put myself in the same category as David Lynch. Because Lynch to me is King. I’m not worthy of being mentioned in the same breathe as David Lynch.”

His humility is charming. It’s real, breathlessly sincere.

But when I ask why the film has been sitting on Universal’s shelf for a year, real life tragedy tampers his exuberance.

It’s about the sudden death of Saw co-producer and close friend, Gregg Hoffman, 42, on December 4, 2005. Hoffman’s passing during Dead Silence’s post-production turned the film into “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

“He became such a good friend, a mentor, a father figure, that when that happened it really effected me in a big way. He was just such a cool guy and a very good friend. For lack of a better term, we were pretty fucked up by that.”

“The studio was kind enough to give me some time off, because it was such a shock for me. He passed away just after I’d shot the film--this was in post [production].

You can almost hear him trying to shrug off the grief. “And so, in taking some time off, I missed an opening [release wise]. Horror films really play best in two slots of the year...early in the year and Halloween, and I missed those two slots completely.”

The reason for the title change from the original Silence to the current modified version is less traumatic: explaining it offers Wan a chance to emotionally regroup.

“It was really simple. Initially it was called Silence. But there’s a not-very-well-known filmmaker named Martin Scorsese--he had that title locked up from a while ago, so we couldn’t use it.

“It does make it sound a bit more, um, ‘B’, but I actually don’t mind! Especially since the films I’ve been inspired by--films that are called, like, Dead of Night”--he chuckles--”So Leigh and I were never offended by that.”

One constant in Wan’s tumultuous career is his relationship with fellow Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology attendee/actor/coconspirator Leigh Whannell. Their working style on Dead Silence was typical of their unique creative relationship. “The way Leigh and I work is we cook up a story together, whether he initiates it or I initiate it. Once we like the overall story, I pretty much leave him to go and write the screenplay. Then he’ll come back to me and go, “Hey James, what about this?” and then I’ll add or subtract to it.”

The constant back-and-forth process has an amusing result. “People will ask who came up with what and we’re not quite sure--it’s really a mishmash of our ideas together.”

This particular mishmash is a departure from the total creativity control Wan enjoyed with the indie Saw. I try to be tactful about possible artistic compromises, but Wan will have nothing of it.

“You mean, ‘What’s it like working on a low budget as opposed to studio film?’ It has its ups and downs. It’s the classic story you’ve heard many times before and which I’m not going to get into because you’ve heard it many times before. It has it’s good sides and its, um, more challenging sides. I know that’s very PC of me to say, but it’s the truth.” (Still, he promises that, next time he visits New York, “over a glass of beer, I’ll let it all loose!”)

Meanwhile, his decision not to direct the Saw sequels leads to very interesting territory, some having to do with Wan’s career direction, his sense of his place in movies in general, and his disquiet with the direction horror films and the world they flicker in have been going in of late.

Wan avoided helming Saw II and III because “I did not want to repeat myself. I wanted to try something different. Leigh and I just felt like we wanted to go off and try a ghost story.

“The funny thing, after Saw came out, even though I hadn’t made any other films, I was immediately pigeonholed as this sick director who makes gory violent films.

“It wasn’t like I was taken aback by that--I felt a lot of people missed the point of the first Saw film. Which wasn’t just about sick traps and a nihilistic way of killing people. Leigh and I spent so much time coming up with a story, plotting it, doing other things people missed.”

In a similar sense, he doesn’t seem to feel particularly allied with the new breed of ultra-violence merchants such as Alexandre Aja, Neil Marshall, Eli Roth, and Rob Zombie and even less in sync with horrors’ devolution into a sort of torture cinema.

“What do they call it? ‘The Splat-pack?” He chuckles. “Don't get me wrong, it’s a really cool title, but I never asked for it. If anyone knows Leigh and myself, they’d know that we are the happiest guys in town. To be branded as part of a group of guys who created this torture film is really strange to me.”

He does agree with the suggestion that the new torture film genre wouldn’t exist or be profitable were it not for the context of the real life charnel house of the Iraq misadventure and the atrocities of Abu Gharib. “I actually believe that. You look back at horror movie history, you look at all the George Romero films, right? They’re a reflection of the times they were made in.

“And a lot of the time these horror films are made at the height of a war that was going on and I do believe that the way America--and a lot of other countries--are taking to these torture horror films is in big part due to all the crap going on in the world right now. I honestly do believe that. If we were living in SmurfLand right now, I don’t think there’d be so much hype around torture films. You wouldn’t have [the popularity of] films like Hostel--or Saw.”

So is he taking the opportunity of his latest film, currently in post production, the Kevin Bacon-starring neo-vigilante movie Death Sentence, as an opportunity to move himself away from the Splat Pack and the genre he loves and made his name?

An uncharacteristic pause, then, “I should be very careful how I say this. I guess I wanted to show that I wasn’t “just” a “horror film maker” [You hear quote marks in his tone.] “That I could do drama as well.

“And despite it’s title, Death Sentence is not a torture movie! It was a natural progression for me to move from horror film to an area that was somewhat similar. I mean, let’s face it, nobody’s going to give me a romantic comedy to do next.

“My progression had to make sense. I’d always been a fan of revenge movies. When the script came along and I really liked it, I was like, “You know, I should give this a shot.”

Considering that Ian Jeffers’ script is based on a book by Brian Garfield--he of the 70s mother of all urban action revengers, Death Wish--should we be expecting something along the lines of that, or perhaps something more like Chan-wook Park’s slick and stylized revenge films?

“This is not Oldboy,” Wan states, “this is Rolling Thunder! This one is 70s revenge. This is old school. It’s like a father goes up against a scary street gang and ends up fighting a cat and mouse game with them.

The designated vengeful Dad in question is played by Kevin Bacon about whom Wan is glad to gush. “I love Kevin! I’m not just saying that. He’s such a professional...He comes to set prepared every day...He’s such a great actor, he’s just so...good! He has so many stories, I love to just prod these stories out of him--he doesn't do it willingly! I love to hear stories about all these great films he’s been in--Stir of Echoes to Apollo 13 to you-name-it. He’s done everything.

“I’ve been very fortunate with Death Sentence, I have to say. In terms of all my actors, with Garrett Hedlund [Eragon] who plays the main badguy, really scary.”

Also featured is John Goodman, whose performance Wan promises will cause folks to see the actor “in a very different light. People are used to seeing him as this nice, jolly, charming fellow. They’re going to be very surprised. I tried to make John as scary in this film as I could--and I think he’s pretty scary.”

In the continuing spirit of being too-busy-for-words, Wan and Whannell are hatching the fourth Saw sequel. But with Jigsaw highly expired in the last installment, where will he go with that? “I was thinking, Jigsaw--The Wonder Years. We watch him grow up as a kid and enter preschool. No--I’m kidding! I have a rough idea; I can’t say what; I’m sorry. They’ll shoot me. Greater powers than us are pushing that thing and talking about it early on is one of those things they’d rather have us not do.”

After polishing his Death Sentence and hammering out the Saw IV details, Wan is looking forward to a deserved period of “chilling out” and regrouping. But even that may entail more creation. “We think we have a noir/sci-fi film in us and we’re working on it right now. But Leigh and I want to go back to our roots to how we came up with Saw. To just sit back and come up with a movie where we’re not pressured and come up with something we just think is fucking cool.”

But we’d probably best not look forward to Wan creating some big dollar gosh-wow extravaganza “because I would love control [over this project]. I never realized how much I respected control until I didn’t actually have it. We want a high concept storyline that doesn’t necessarily cost the Earth, you know what I mean?”

Meanwhile, as an out and proud extreme horror nerd who “grew up with Fangoria” and other devoted horror mags, Wan still can’t still can’t get over the fact of his near-instant transmogrification from fanboy to icon-creator.

“I still wake up every morning going, “How did this happen?” I didn't set out to create that. All Leigh and I wanted to do was make a movie! To write a good script, make it with our own money and if some people saw it, great. I mean, believe me, getting a franchise out of it was the last thing on my mind.” A last, long gleeful laugh. “And it’s great! I can’t lie--it’s a great feeling!”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bong Joon-ho's monsters

What I learned from talking to Bong Joon-ho was that I harbored a sort of Asian fetishism in the sense that I transferred onto him a superior way of dealing with my own country's horrific behavior. That is, we spoke in 2006, right in the middle of Cheney/Bush's reign of bloody idiot moral nihilism, and here I was, impressed by my subject's cool and friendliness while talking about his new and awesome monster movie, THE HOST.

What did I expect, for him to leap over the table and rip my throat out while shouting "FUCK THE FTA!" just before snapping my spine?

In a way I kind of was. The US was, after all, deeply fucking Korea's economy on multiple levels in that clueless way that was the signature cruelty of the Bush years.

But I *was* and continue to be impressed with Bong's ability to separate people from their monstrous institutions, whether governments or traditional families.


“Could you please call our creature Steve Buscemi?”, Bong Joon-ho asks, claiming that Buscemi’s character in Fargo was the “character reference” for the while creating The Host’s” title creature. I give it some thought--hmm, Buscemi’s murderous goofball character rep’s a very American sort of monstrosity, The Host deals with the same--and I say, “Okay. Sure. Steve Buscemi it is.”

We’re in Manhattan’s dingy flower district in the ramshackle offices of Magnolia Pictures. Bong is the writer/director of The Host, which is simultaneously the best monster film in forever, the most scathing political film in recent memory and a terrific tale of dysfunctional family bonding.

Bong’s a boyishly handsome 38 year old dressed in the international film director uniform of all black with a smart gray designer sweater as concession to the late winter chill. Talking with him is produces a enjoyable sense of playing cat and mouse with the roles always shifting. He makes very smart films and his one of his greatest skills is finding the absurd in the tragic and vice versa.

He says that the inspiration for his film came “When I was young and I lived by the Han River. From my apartment window I would look down on it and think, ‘What if something like Loch Ness, Nessie, came out of the Han River?’ When I first pitched it to my producer, I actually Photoshop’ed a picture I took of the Han River and Nessie together and said, “This is what the film is.”

Bong sites three films as inspirational influences. Assumably for its water-based anxieties, Bong namechecks Jaws, while John Carpenter’s The Thing manifests in the Host’s use of cool-toned tight spaces to crate a chilly, brand of claustrophobia. Also singled out is M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. “The story deals with the invasion of an alien or something,” he says somewhat dismissively, “but it’s strongly focused on the emotional details of the family.” And the Korean family and society is currently facing challenges as scary as those mucking about The Host. But that’s for later.

Like his excellent serial killer film Memories of a Murder, which eschewed a Seven-ish crescendo of horror in favor of a closing series of meditations on the mystery of human behavior, The Host too subverts Western horror structure requirements for more emotionally resonant goal.

And hence the reason why Steve Buscemi not only appears in the film’s first fifteen minutes, but in daylight. “I really hate the convention [of] waiting an hour just to see the tail of the monster,” he says, which means the audience ends up spending its time simply wondering “what the creature looks like. Or, ‘I wonder how we kill it?’ That would have been very”--a shrug-- “ordinary.”

But doing it his way, “the audience, already having seen the monster, can explore other things. They can concentrate on the needs and emotions of the family.”

Of course, the 800 pound gorilla sitting in on any conversation about The Host is its politics. “When the creature is given birth by an America pouring all this formaldehyde into the Han River, I could say it’s a metaphor for America.”

“When we showed it at Cannes. There was one journalist in particular who, during the press conference, kept repeating, “The monster’s America, right? The monster’s America!””

Beat. “Anyway, it turns out he was from the Middle East.”

After out laughter subsides, he adds, ”But I think it would be kind of wrong to just simplify it so, well...simply.”

True: after the opening salvoes of anti-American sentiment, Bong widens his view to include an inept/corrupt Korean government and the pan-national corporate misery profiteering enabled by Steve Buscemi’s rampage. Says Bong, “The film becomes very universal if you ask the question, “Has any state or country or system ever helped the weak person?”

And so the film is at heart about “the torment of the family--the family not getting any support from the state or the society.”

Adding to the film’s crankiness is the reality of a South Korea grappling with The Korea-US Free Trade Act, the mere mention of which has Bong hooting “FTA!!!” in (possibly) mock horror.

To its detractors--the majority of South Koreans--the FTA is viewed as sweetheart deal for US pharmaceutical and industrial agricultural interests that would totally screw up Korea’s peasant family rice farming tradition, while also erasing regulations that have required that fifty per cent of Korean film be homegrown, thus allowing US film product to flood the Korean market.

“I grew up watching American films,” Bong says, “listening to American music, eating American fast food”-- ‘Super size me!’”

“But at the same time there’s that stress that’s coming from stuff like the FTA and the [resulting Korean public] frustration and hysteria. As a filmaker...the really stresses me out. It’s not just political ideology so much as an everyday life...with the farmer, it’s the same thing: it’s about their harvest. It’s connected to life itself.”

Does he think those stressors explain the film’s incredible success in Korea? He goes for the feint with a grin: “I don’t know. Maybe it was the aggressive distribution?”

There’s no pause when I ask him if he feels a kinship to Guillermo Del Toro and his blend of the beautiful, fantastic and political. “Yes. But I think he’s more visually extravagant than I am, or beautiful. For me, I want to create such images, but at the same time, there’s a twisted part of me that what’s to destroy the beauty!”

With our allotted time running out, I go for the easy closing question. What does he expect US audiences to take from his film?
“My hope is they enjoy this weak family story. Even in America, unless you’re of a very special class, [audiences should be able to] enjoy the everyday Joe, family story....and if they leave the theater thinking, that would be great.”

Even with that scene where the one good American proves himself useless?

A parting grin. “The actor is Canadian. Blame Canada.”

Paula Frazer's hauntings

Paula Frazer
A Place Where I Know – 4-Track Songs 1992-2003

Recorded alone on an analog deck with some guitars, sundry sound implements and a voice that’s seen it all twice, this Paula Frazer compilation is like a dry run-through of Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief experienced from a very slight distance. Featuring songs that first saw dark of night under Frazer’s ex band, Tarnation (and ones that didn’t), it turns out that lurking beneath the accused neo-traditionalist/country/whatever singer is a furtive but superb diarist.

Not having any other humans present improves every version here, as she isn’t freighted with the weight of genre expectations or the glare of an engineer through a recording booth glass. Both soothing and scary, a better title might be Ambient Chill-outs for Hauntings.

Or, to pick up Frazer’s own career-long Southern Gothic implication and stumble with it, everything here is wrought in autumnal tones. Her voice shifts ghost-like from scotch-raw low to double-tracked girly. Structures are sometimes loose, often concise, always deadpan achey. Her twelve tales of lost love and just plain loss employ a weirdly proper folksy syntax, like a poetic cop reading a post mortem. The burned out sadness from one song bleeds into another.

This CD is defined by a steady-state elusiveness: the more you listen, the less you remember later. One returns to the disc, and ends up floating off on sonic and emotional tangents—-on the trail of a blue echo, wondering what a sentence meant, inspecting an overdubbed harmony for...what? Then another song drifts in, another set of gossamer conundrums, tricky, gorgeous, wonderful evidence of the infinite payback of self-set technological limitations.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

JENNIFER'S BODY: great yet hated

I think JENNIFER'S BODY is a fantastic film. Some of the reasons why are included in this article.

Some of the reasons this movie, written and directed and staring very attractive women...what could those reasons be?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gaga, Queen, Queen, Gaga

I knew she was going to do this!* aka Holy contrasting contexts! So on "You & I" (all "U's" with umlaut, of course), the chords from "Born this WaY" are half-time'd, and it becomes a gospel hymn ('cause that's how it works!) and you throw in Queen's beat and Brian May's wall-of--many-Brian Mays and

Gaga becomes the-sweet-ghost-of-Freddie* and holy moly and the last song being "The Queen" gives you an idea how interlaced all of this is, or rather this final song troika, and the fact that "You and I" ends with one chord voice of pause, the literal edge of...something...

...well, duh, of course we go to "The Edge of Glory", now the Monster Hymn of Chrome and no, I'm not overthinking this, I'm barely touching the surface of a record where she's been the queer messiah-ette, Almodovar kook, constant Xtian inversionist, Denmother of the Darned, Friday Night Goth, seriously, she wears idenities faster than critics will fail to come up with coherently cynical ways to dismiss what she's doing.

*God, it must have been so weird being Brian May, alone with Mutt Lange, with another incredible vocal queen. he must think "I'm so fortunate", "My life is so weird" and "I miss my friend so fucking much".

**"Yes, a post with footnotes. It's the new thing."

BTW: Gaga's techno

Lady Gaga's BORN THIS WAY is this generation's most important recording as depth-y and iconic as BORN TO RUN or New Order and Kate Bush's first three records (I'm still putting together how to contextualize it). I can't be more put my belief of this more emphatically.

So I'm just going to be posting things I observe over the next few weeks or months regarding the album.

Right now, Number 1: Gaga's techno.

In glam and Ziggy Bowie used this "boogie" that nothing to do with no one's idea of "boogie" except "boogie" sounded American which suggested something new and glam certainly was supposed to be that but boogie also suggested viability as in some African American tradition which found it's way into massed saxophones in Bowie's glam.

Which is to say that Lady Gaga is using European "techno" in a similar multi-use manner, to do things it wasn't meant for, to suggests things it wasn't designed to do. So you have "techno" grooves used like they were the Muddy Waters blues Jeff Beck's weren't, you have "techno" as music history lesson as "Government Hooker" kisses New Order/New Wave, or hard rock that isn't "Highway Unicorn".

"Techno" is her roots music.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sully v. Gaga!

As people who are interested know, Andrew Sullivan is unhealthily obsessed with Sarah Palin and what Sullivan calls "Palinism", which he describes as the ability to, by sheer force of delusion, decide everything is it whatever one desires it to be.

I think Sullivan is obsessed with this because of what he sees in the mirror each morning.

For example, there is Sullivan, arch conservative of a subgenre known only to Andrew Sullivan, a conservatism that's actually 21st century "liberalism", but hey, who's counting.

Anyway, Sullivan, among his many charming peculiarities, has found it necessary to declare the death of gay culture as a way of mainstreaming queers into American life and so help gay marriage happen more quickly.

This is the sort of exotic view of Americans that only a person from a foreign country--Sullivan is from the UK--could possibly formulate.

You and me, actual Americans, we know how gay marriage will happen--it will happen by fisting it up the tight evil ass of gay hating scumbag Americans, just like other civil rights before it were forcefully ass-rammed before it.

But back to The Death of Gay Culture. So gay culture must die so gay marriage can happen. Okay--except already we've seen this isn't accurate or true. Now onward to real.

It isn't. But to an in-spirit Palinist, it MUST be true, so reality must be, uh, rearranged.

So Lady Gaga sucks.

Whoa! That was a jump, you might say! But check it out.

Sullivan was saying the other day how Lady Gaga is overplaying her hand to her huge gay audience (*but I thought you said gay culture had no SILENCE!),

--that she was nauseating with "Born this Way" just like John Lennon was with "Imagine" what with liberals who didn't know poverty from fuck being equivalent to a straight woman not knowing "difference" from fuck but hey, it's a nice song but--

It's not as good as Madonna.

Madonna who REALLY spoke for the gay community. (Madonna who wasn't, uh, gay, but had a gay designer--Jean Paul Gautier--doing silly things for her).

But Lady Gaga, she's no Madonna! (Who had the gay Alexander McQueen doing her designs, who was an actual genius, but you get the sense Sullivan doesn't know or care about this.)

Anyway, Sullivan's argument seems to be that gay culture is dead because Madonna is WAY better than Lady Gaga because Madonna had her hits when Sullivan was a clubbing youth.

So case closed, right? Gay culture is clearly dead.

And GLEE? It's not *really* gay culture because it's *assimilated gay culture* because in order for a culture to be a culture is has to be on the fringe.

Okay--what about that eternal gateway to gayness: showtune culture!

No answer.

Okay--then what about RuPaul? That's totally on the fringe!

Too far on the fringe. Who cares about a bunch of queens?*

But that's what Lady Gaga says in her song! "Don't be a drag just be a--"

*Didn't we take care of Lady Gaga?*

Well actually, no.

Sullivan presents himself as the king hipster queer conservative who knows who Erasure is.

Which makes sense of why his entire frame of reference is in the late 80s.

Because how else could you possibly *still* be referencing Madonna vs Lady Gaga three years after Gaga burst on the scene when the actual discussion is how well will Gaga be able to pull off a post-feminist, queered Bruce Springsteen?

But I guess with gay culture dead and all, Sullivan doesn't have to think about this, he can eternally go back to 2007, compare Gaga to Madonna and always find the lady wanting.

And for anyone whose gone to the theater or opera, whose walked through Chelsea or the West Village, who has tickets to Rufus Wainright or Scissor Sister or, yes, Lady fucking Gaga, and the millions of people and dollars in support people and industries in these super gay cultures, your need to claim all of us dead, well Andrew, it’s kind of insulting.

PS: Notice I did not upload an image of Sarah Palin.

This is because if you are reading this, you must be a person of good intent and because as much as Sullivan makes me want to tear my hair out and go Grr! and Argg! at least once a week, I think he's a good egg, and would never put his image on the same virtual page as that of that terrible, terrible heathen fry-brain. Not that there's anything wrong with actual heathens.

PPS: Actually, I knew several very nice heathens. Their ceremony was beautiful and full of spiritual elegance.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Deke worked the dark third-floor at The Odyssey disco in West Hollywood, mining the bad-Daddy chickenhawk trade for tens and Tuinals, a thirteen-year-old midnight cowboy in clothes to match, not counting his Teenage Jesus & the Jerks tee-shirt. A boyish shag blond, his face became even more angelic from the free plastic surgery he'd endured, rumor had it, after his father broke his jaw one night in the grip of passion.

Above all things, Deke cherished the sound and image of David Bowie. The music, especially songs such as “We Are the Dead” (from Diamond Dogs), “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars), and “All the Madmen” (The Man Who Sold the World) validated his emotional geography, while Bowie’s shifting exotic looks affirmed Deke’s desire for a mutable exterior of easy-access beauty that, in his mind at least, might for an evening negate the squalor he knew.

Until his stay with Good Uncle Vic, Deke had found lodgings in the filthy basement below Frederick’s of Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard, a veritable underground railroad for punks, runaways, kid hookers and other distressed youth. There were other places that charged negligible overnight fees in even worse areas, places like the Canterbury Arms, a 20’s German film industry émigré hotel gone to seed. Even more desperate lodgings were offered by borderline cases like Andrew Collar.

Collar worked at a computer video transfer place he claimed was aligned in some technological manner with George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic facility, and with whom Deke found lodgings for a spell during the bad spring of ’82, two years ago. He owned a co-op in Universal City, the place was always packed with tow-headed early teen multiples of TV’s James at 15 star Lance Kerwin. (In 1999, Kerwin was arrested for crack after two failed marriages he currently lives on an all-Christian rehab ranch.)

All Collar wanted was company and the right to the occasional candid Polaroid. Then there were outright monsters like Good Uncle Vic, Deke’s ultimate destination before fate beat sheer velocity.

Good Uncle Vic, whose handle people always pronounced in full, was a prescient post modernist who could have told you what that meant. Looking like a screenwriter’s idea of a child molester—half bald, bug-eyed, and perpetually sweaty—he did everything he could to make his appearance even more loathsome, which he correctly guessed would gain him the admiration of kids who thought they looked worse and did everything they could to emphasize it. Good Uncle Vic—a displaced native of Germantown, MD—owned a six-bedroom house in Van Nuys, CA, and a storefront in Flushing, New York. Being an interested party, Good Uncle Vic kept up with the latest trends in youth culture.

This was 1981, and so the kids were excited about the New Romantic movement, which featured made-up androgynes fronting bands with colorful names such as The Teardrop Explodes, Visage, and Ultravox. Because of scattershot US release patterns, the dour urban trance rock of Joy Division, whose lead singer Ian Curtis had recently hanged himself at the age of 23, was also in favor. (The band had gotten its name from the World War II novel The House of Dolls by Karol Cetinsky; in the book, 'joy division' was a term applied to young concentration-camp inmates forced to prostitute themselves for Nazi soldiers.) With further research, Good Uncle Vic discovered that all these groups enjoyed a primary influence in the works of David Bowie.

And so, to create the veneer of being in the know with kids who respected little else, he played New Romantic sounds, along with every David Bowie record available. He had permanent guests running both residences, and who kept a Super 8mm projector wound with Swedish Erotica loops intercut with bottom feeder boy porn (shot on-premise) showing at all times, some of them staring Deke. In two years, Deke’s partially decapitated body would be discovered in an apartment on Franklin Street by West Hollywood Sheriff Department Vice, a one-room completely lacking in personal effects except for a small tape player and smashed cassette tape in pieces and unraveled in a wild perimeter of the room. Their report would list the cause of death as "shot-gun wounds to mouth, self-inflicted."

[extracted from my novel, GONE. ]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Krallice Comes Through

I'd really rather given up on Krallice. It wasn't that my brethren were 'hipster' metal. They just didn't seem able to get their color-wash right. Their mixes never made sense. Their songs suites would start you here then drop you there and you'd be left wondering if it there was any thinking behind what they were doing, if it was just a case of them gluing one cool part to another cool part and calling it a day.

Even when a composition felt like an actual composition, their song architectures were unwieldy--admirable, but nothing you wanted to live in. As fellow New Yorkers who were getting a lot of good ink, I wanted to join the party, but as in therapy, my issues just wouldn't go away.

"Diotima" is the sound of a band who have finally found a way to put on record that noise that's been rattling around in their collective head for so long. The interplay between Colin Marston (guitar), Lev Weinstein (drums), Nick McMaster (bass) and Mick Barr (vocals, guitar) has become that great metal thing, the single beast made of many parts.

To me, this is extreme metal doing it's job greatly. It's metal that's abstracted itself out of being able to be termed "metal", while all the black metal --tremolo-picked guitars, rasp-vox, canon accent drums--have literally been distorted or reverb-blurred into a wash of pulsing indeterminacy. In short, this band that kept promising greatness, finally delivered.

Friday, April 29, 2011

More messes like STAGE BEAUTY please.

As a tragedy of artistic obsolescence, a feminist triumph fable, and pan-gender love story—and sometimes all at once--Stage Beauty is perhaps unavoidably a mess. It often seems poleaxed by the endless mirror reflections of its themes of sexual personae and desire. But along with high-delight-ratio turns by Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, Beauty actually delivers a rare pleasure, the sense of being a movie in heated argument with itself.

But you have to get through an annoying first act to get to the film’s chewy center. Ned Kynaston (Crudup) is Britain’s most adored “leading lady”, the last of the red-hot drag queens who dominated British theater in the 1600s. (“A woman playing a woman—where’s the art in that?” he queries.)

Kynaston’s dresser Marie (Danes) is an actress manqué performing Shakespeare on the sly in underground productions. King Charles II (Rupert Everett) catches a show, and, at the urging of his wannabe actress lover (Zoe Tapper), declares female impersonation illegal. Unfortunately, director Richard Eyre (Iris) seems worried about our attention span, resorting to handheld, zoom and rack-focus camera gymnastics.

But as farce turns to drama, Eyre ditches the showy stuff and the movie hits its stride. Kynaston is reduced to performing skeezy he-she shows; Marie’s thespian shortcomings offer him a chance to teach her how to really be a woman, and so return him to legit theatre.

We know Crudup’s a fine actor: here he’s something possibly better, an A class showman. And after the mean de-glamming she suffered in Terminator 3, Danes comes back bristling with an almost predatory sexual intelligence.

After his banishment, Marie invites the identity-stripped Kynaston to her place for rest and rehab. She’s interested about the minutia of man-on-man action, but more fascinated by its possibilities as a tool for defining her self.

With no make-up, hair pulled back and a loose gown affording us glimpses of her small breasts, Marie looks the ideal androgyne. She mounts Kynaston, taunting, “Who am I now, a man?” She lies under him. “Am I a woman now?” That they eventually end up a pile in a pile of giggles is adorable, and so much for the immutability of sexual power roles. It’s a romantic dream view endorsed here and then wrecked in high, viscerally effecting style by the late film production of Othello.

The chastened (?) Kynaston plays the Moor soldier with a crazed virility suggestive of a punk rock Brando. Marie’s Desdemona becomes an early Blanche Dubois. Even while seemingly endorsing these pre-Method methodologies, the performances criticize it: Are simulated off-the-chart evocations of female suffering more ‘real’ than the stylized mode? Is this enraged masculinity how we define a ‘real’ man? Or is Kynaston really using his return to grace as an ultimate act of drag lampooning the idea of machismo that, as a bonus, also serves to help Marie? With one elegant last sentence, the film ends honestly, with a triumphant declaration of uncertainty.

Monday, April 25, 2011


The 2006 first season of BBC America's Torchwood was the most singularly vexing tease of a televisual sci-fi experience a geek could imagine. For every strange delight--the show's instantly identifiable gritty/glossy digital noir look, queered Hawksian banter, sudden-death romance, and fevered willingness to insert sex into everything, typified by an episode about an alien who feeds off orgasms--there was an equal negative. The worst offenders: a reliance on 11th-hour high-tech deux ex machinas and an increasingly Lost-like sense that the show's creators were just making shit up as they went along.

But with the second season, Torchwood's bi-sci-fi geek promise of being a randy mix of Queer as Folk and Doctor Who--creator Russell T. Davies respectively created/reanimated both shows--was seriously fulfilled, thanks to the appropriation of one actor from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and a generous infusion of tropes from Joss Whedon's classic. For example. he got really good at killing off characters...

With the good chance that you've neither seen nor heard of Torchwood, some exposition.

"Torchwood" is a secret group operating "outside the government, beyond the police" so as to staunch the flow of aliens, ghosts, Romans, the black plague, and sundry other inter-temporal flotsam slipping into our world through the Rift--a space-time anomaly in Cardiff, Wales.

Working from an underground lair done up in retro tubeway chic, complete with mortuary and in-house pet pterodactyl, Torchwood is composed of plucky local cop Gwen (Eve Myles), laddish cynic physician Owen (Burn Gorman), IT girl Toshiko (Naoko Mori), and fashion-conscious teaboy (!) Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd). All are under the command of the ever-grinning, mysterious, possibly immortal American Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

Unfortunately, the first season strained to define its themes and characters with sufficient velocity to prevent U.K. viewers from switching to Heroes' vanilla recombinant pulp, often devolving into an alien-of-the-week format dashed with tantalizing bits of identity politics. What kept fans tuning in was the promise of the Torchwood crew and Capt. Jack, who was kind of great from Day 1. A sexually omnivorous, fine-jawed scamp in a 1940s military long coat, Barrowman plays him like a camp Tom Cruise, alternately/simultaneously arrogant, pigheaded, flirty, world-weary, and idealistic. But in the first season's fantastic finale, Jack morphed from lovable rogue into an entirely new genre archetype.

Due to a time-machine gaffe by Owen, an inter-temporal, life-absorbing God--"The Great Destroyer," no less--threatens life on Earth. With the chips down, Jack's browbeating and flirtatiousness dissolve to reveal an absolute, almost fatherly love of his co-workers. He forgives Owen and sacrifices his own immortal self--seemingly for keeps this time--to slay the opposition. One acolyte--excuse us, Gwen--waits at his side for days until Jack rises briefly before disappearing, presumably to allow his followers to follow his example and continue his good works.

Needless to say, it's cheeky to blatantly reposition your horny gay-leaning hero as a Christ substitute, a deliriously fun conceit that prefaced the high learning curve seen in the second season's opener, an episode aptly titled "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang."

It opens with the chase for a coke-snorting alien blowfish--seriously--and the cheerfully unexplained return of Jack, before segueing to time traveler Capt. John (James Marsters, aka Spike from Buffy), who swaggers out of the Rift done up in Adam Ant pirate-punk gear, paralyzing lip gloss, and a horny leer to the accompaniment of Ennio Morricone-esque audio camp.

Captains John and Jack meet in a sleazy bar, make out, beat the crap out of each other, share a drink, and then bitch about each other's wrinkles. If you'd never seen the show, you could be forgiven for thinking your TV went completely insane. Turns out, John is Jack's dark doppelgänger/ex-lover gone gleefully bad and willing to fuck and/or kill every member of Torchwood in order to--well, no spoilage here.

Marsters' appearance is both a reminder of just how much Torchwood already owes Buffy--for obvious instance, the alien-spewing Rift is a sci-fi take on Buffy's demon-spewing Hellmouth-- and a preview of just how smartly it would appropriate from Whedon's world, which, in a weird/wonderful bit of intertextual alchemy, has allowed Davies' show to become more indelibly, well, Torchwood-like.

Like Buffy herself, Gwen struggles to keep her life as a normal person and world saver separate. Toshiko has expanded from a dangerously archetypical "Asian"--all cool competence and raised Spock brows--into Torchwood's Willow surrogate, the show's supercute, smart, intrinsically open-souled center.

But geeky citations aside, what Torchwood most effectively assimilates from Whedon is the use of supernatural events and creatures as metaphors for the characters' inner demons, along with a sort of soap opera humanism--the repurposing of deep weep melodrama as a means of addressing the group's existential pains.

In that way that renders the science fictional literary, Jack's horrifically traumatic youth is revealed; his response to it explains why he needs to help people. A parallel-universe episode offers the anxious, socially inept Owen hiding under his semi-douchebag skin. And Toshiko finally meets a man she can love--a WWI soldier suffering from PTSD--but her painful duty to the greater good trumps romances, and so much for that.

And so fused in a cauldron of its characters' essential loneliness, the Torchwood crew, as in most great TV, coheres into a alternative viable family. Davies would follow this with Torchwood: Children of Earth, a steep learning curve jump into near-Arthur C. Clarke-style grand SF and, as I write this, a Starz Network reboot about the end of death (!).

So looking back, what was Torchwood season two on about? Same as it ever was. That beneath its ambisexual snogs, quips, and action-plot tragedies, Torchwood was and will always be about difference, empathy, and striving to do the right thing in an indifferent-or-worse world while knowing you'll inevitably getting it wrong half the time and learning to forgive yourself for doing so. In the end, it's an atheist's idea of grace.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Some 'spect 4 D.E.B.S.

At a tone-defining juncture, raven-haired arch villainess Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster) is so overtaken with passion for blond superspy Amy (Sara Foster) that she’s compelled to kareoke her way through the entirety of Erasure’s 80s electro-camp classic, “A Little Respect”. And that pretty much sums up the cockeyed appeal of D.E.B.S.: Uncontrollably goofy, smart but not too, and most of all, cute, adorable even.

While the tagline leers, “They're crime-fighting hotties with killer bodies!” writer/director Angela Robinson’s film is a knockabout milestone of another sort—the first lesbian action comedy.

Robinson’s lark was shot in candy-colored 24P video on a low budget--a good deal of which must have been spent on clearances for it’s cool-kid hit parade of cuts by The Cure, Death in Vegas, Goldfrapp, and New Order. It revolves around the neat conceit that, hidden in SATs, is a secret recruiting code for rooting out future members of the D.E.B.S. (“Discipline. Energy. Beauty. Strength.”) spy team.

Our featured spies in matching plaid minis: a sexed-up, chain-smoking French (!) bad-girl (Devon Aoki), a catty but sweet airhead (Jill Ritchie), no-nonsense African American leader (Meagan Good) and frustrated art student Amy.

Their mission: find and arrest Lucy, who, besides robbing banks, is infamous for her failed 1999 attempt to sink Australia (“I don’t like their attitude,” she explains.) What nobody knows is that Lucy’s main concern is her crappy love life: crime pays, but getting dates is a bitch.

The D.E.B.S.—doing their nails while hanging from the rafters of a tony restaurant—stake out Lucy only to find her trying to escape a blind date with a surly Russian assassin (Jessica Cauffiel). After their surveillance is ruined by all-thumbs Homeland Security agents, Sara runs into Lucy, and instead of shooting her, finds true love at first Mexican standoff. Their ensuing affair leads to much inter-friend and agency agita lensed in frenetic screwball comedy style and ending in a small-scale cavalcade of queer affirmation.

Originally a Sundance short film favorite, Robinson’s feature version shows some strain at being elongated to feature length, and her characters’ repartee loses its zing at critical junctures. Still, there’s not a mean bone in the film’s body, and like John Waters circa Hairspray and onward, it understands that there’s nothing like a relentless charm offensive to change hearts and minds.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Look!--It's Jesus' Son

After a lot of dealing, overdoses, and nodding out, a young junkie known only as Fuckhead (Billy Crudup) is going nowhere on a subway car when, jonesing big time, he sees Jesus. And so like any man, he gets a raging hard-on.

Yes, it's a joke, but it's also the Passion and the narcotic and the mix. All of which are just parts of the impressive cinematic kit and caboodle that comprising Alison Maclean's Jesus' Son, a film so inventive, well-acted, spiritually uplifting and just plain brilliant that criminally neglected barely describes the lousy fate awarded this obscured fine effort.

Based on Denis Johnson's superb short-story collection of the same name, Jesus' Son takes place in the 1970s in a series of interchangeably grim nowhere towns. We meet Fuckhead--FH for short--hitchhiking on the highway, hung over and filthy. In a slacker-noir voice-over, FH tells us that he knows the car that's about to pick him up is also going to crash. And the car does crash--all stuttering images, disembodied screams, and bloodied chrome. Then we're in another car with some nattering wack-job salesman.

We would, at this early juncture, be justified in worrying that we're trapped in art-film hell. But Maclean isn't just going pretentious on us. The scattershot technique proves an effective analogue for the mental gum works that pass for a junkie's thought processes. We soon become accustomed to the flip-flopping reality effect as a series of vignettes connect the dots between FH's descent into assorted hells and his nomadic drift toward redemption.

Illustrative of Maclean's subtle modus operandi is a segment of the film called "Work." FH is invited by drunkard pal Wayne (Denis Leary) to do "a salvage job." They rip apart one of a row of abandoned prefab houses. The house turns out to be Wayne's. Between his life-drained face and the blasted-heath landscape, his reasons are clear: He's destroying his house as a means of destroying his past.

Outside the house, Wayne and FH catch a glimpse of a naked woman harnessed to a kite being pulled into the autumnal twilight sky, a beatific look on her face as she literally rises above the squalor. "Now that," Wayne says, "is a beautiful sight."

And it is. The rest of the film looks pretty damn fine too, courtesy of cinematographer Adam Kimmel (Monument Ave.), who films each segment with a mood-enhancing color palette, ranging from Wyeth-like pastoral hues to forensic-room fluorescent blues. But beneath its shifting surface sheen and alternating currents of hard-boiled humor, Grand Guignol gruesomeness, and off-center sweetness, Jesus' Son is all about lost souls searching for . . . well, they're not sure what.

There's Georgie (Jack Black), FH's co-worker at an emergency room. When a redneck ends up in the ER with a hunting knife rammed into his eye, Georgie saves him--but mainly out of a lunatic act born of running low on bennies rather than good Samaritanism. At a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, a partially crippled ex-druggie named Mira (Holly Hunter) offers FH some sexual healing, but her dead/alive demeanor sends him back on the road in search of a more palpable release.

In what's almost a cast-off bit, the film finally shows its cards. A post-overdose FH is asked by a nurse if he's hearing voices. He says no. A tray of computer-animated cotton balls (!) begs to disagree. "Help us!" they squeak in his head, giving voice to the agony that everyone in the film quells with dope and delusions, "Oh God, it hurts!"

At the heart of all this inspired strangeness is FH's girlfriend, Michelle, played by Samantha Morton, who's so good she probably will not win an Oscar. Everyone's known a Michelle. She wears the skimpiest halter-top at the party and is the first to do a big bong hit. She's the girl every boy (and plenty of girls) wants to bed, for reasons that elude them. Michelle's odd allure is that she's both chaos personified and, by default, a born healer. She gives FH's life (and Jesus' Son) an emotional center of gravity. Without Michelle, FH wouldn't last long enough for the quietly grand epiphanies that await him later in the film.

And Crudup? He's as good as he should be, and never aspires to better. When other characters fall off the edge and he's left standing, the actor's cute/doofy face wordlessly lets us in on his own inner wonder at being spared.

With only one other feature (Crush) and some shorts and TV episodes (including a Homicide) to her credit, Maclean already has filmmaking technique up the wazoo. More importantly, she knows how skill weaves the very delicate fabric of her very particular stories. Although informed by the more spacey efforts of Robert Altman (Three Women, Images), her film is free of egocentric auteurisms, and so becomes, appropriately enough, imbued with a rare sense of grace.

While surveying a group of spiritually bloodied survivors, FH says with wonder, "I had never known, never imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us." It's a testament to both the actor and his director's skills that we come to long for such a place, and even feel we might deserve to belong there too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Friedkin's Eternal Struggle

Thirty-four years after his career-defining Antichrist smash, The Exorcist, director William Friedkin still blames the devil. "Everybody has this thin line between good and evil," he told me from his cushy seat in Lionsgate's swank Manhattan PR suite back in 2006, a week before the release of his fevered late-career high, Bug. "And sometimes we cross it.

"Like the kid in Virginia. I don't think he was born evil, but I think it was the devil that caused him to do it."

Speaking in a measured drawl, he projects a sense of holding court rather than being interviewed, reminiscent of a long-tenured professor who doesn't really care what you think of his opinions but can't help but express them in detail. The odd takeaway is that everything he says sounds completely rational. But the devil? As in Judeo-Christian?

After discussing the inability of psycho-social context to explain Hitler's atrocities, he nods. "It's very well expressed in the Judeo-Christian manner," he says. "We can [at least] get a handle on it as a metaphor. But yeah, the devil, a force of evil--just as I believe in a force for good."

In Bug, the war between evil and good plays out in moral gray tones on a notably secular proscenium as the conspiracy theory-crazed war vet played by Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd's soul-blown waitress go mutually mad in the middle of a very American nowhere.

Deviling these lost souls is a post-truth world where Friedkin says we can no longer "trust the government" or a media that "takes what's fed to them and print it as fact." In short, Bug is partially about how, bombarded with disinformation and with no viable filters, we're all going crazy.

But there's more. After an aghast recollection of a recent poll showing that 35 percent of potential Democratic voters and not a few Republicans believe that George W. Bush knew about Sept. 11 before the planes hit the towers, Friedkin says, "Another thing that's at work is how people who are vulnerable, lonely, and isolated--which is most of us--will hook up with somebody who's in the same boat and attach ourselves to their worldview.

"So when this guy comes on in the film and spouts out these theories, she believes them . . . because they make sense to her in the same way it makes sense to [all those voters] that Bush knew."

Friedkin insists that Bug, Lionsgate's marketing aside, is not a genre film in the post-Hostel frame, but a very new sort of horror picture. "It could be viewed that way," he says. "This would have been flagged in the '60s or '70s as a horror film. But the horror film . . . isn't what it was. And that's too bad, because it was a very promising genre."

What Bug inarguably is is a relentless mind-fuck. "All of filmmaking is a kind of a game between the filmmaker and the audience," he points out. "Ever see one of Michael Haneke's films?"

But like the Caché director, Friedkin takes the "game" to extremes. Instead of opening up Tracy Lett's play, he makes it even more constricted, shooting most of it in one room in purposefully static closeups. ("Some of the most dramatic events take place in a room where personalities clash," he says, putting the kibosh on that discussion/critique.)

And for a director known for his inspired use of unconventional music--think Mike Oldfield's pre-ambient "Tubular Bells" in The Exorcist or Tangerine Dream's nightmare sound swathes for Sorcerer--Bug is notable for its lack of a score. "The score is the air conditioner and the coffeepot," he says, and so much for that topic as well.

But the biggest mind-fuck is the movie's subjectivity. "I can't vouch that anything in that film actually happens," Friedkin says. "I don't know how much that happens is their combined fantasy. The only way I could make that film is to be able to see the world through their eyes."

As for Judd's frighteningly visceral performance, which finds her sweaty and filthy when she also isn't naked and/or covered in sores and cuts, Friedkin rather charmingly expresses both admiration and awe. He likens her interpretation of Lett's often febrile text to what "often occurs with a musician and a score. . . . A score's a bunch of illegible notes on paper, and then Pinchas Zuckerman plays it and it breaks your heart. And Ashley does that."

What is impossible to imagine is Judd, covered in fake gore, segueing from shrieking "I am the super mother bug queen!" to ordering a ham sandwich when the director called "cut." "In many ways, [Bug is] a black-comedy love story," Friedkin dryly notes.

But Friedkin says "that's exactly what she'd do. Immediately after I said `cut.' The same way that Linda Blair was able to. If you saw the outtakes of The Exorcist, she'd go through the most outrageous things, I'd say `cut,' the camera's still rolling, and you see her start to giggle and from offstage a prop man hands her a milk shake." He shrugs. "I can't tell you that I know where that comes from. I just don't have it."

But with Bug, Friedkin has at least sussed out his own career-long motivation for making movies. "In the maybe 40 seconds of introspection I encounter in a year, I was thinking, Why did you do this [film] or that?," he says. "And the same theme keeps popping up: The constant struggle of our better angels to exceed over the horrible impulses all of us get."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aronofsky before the SWAN

I interviewed Darren Aronofsky back in 2000, the week of the release of Requiem for a Dream.

I include it here because I think it fascinating in retrospect to see how formed he was as artist 11 years before Black Swan and even as he contemplated some really bad ideas (a Batman project? Whew.)

We see how wrong critics were about this artist regarding matters of style, how Dream's hyper-kinetics were a cinematic application just as The Wrestler's grungy verite was the same. We see that, more than anything, he is a director of actors, especially female actors (think the women who surrounded Mickey Rourke, of Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, and the way they gave that wreck of a man a reason to exist.)

But anyway, without more preamble, the artist before the Swan...

After the surprise 1998 indie hit Pi, a hyperstylized exploration of mathematics and obscure Orthodox Jewish ritual, Darren Aronofsky's choice of adapting Hubert Selby Jr.'s 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream, a downbeat drama about a clan of drug addicts in New York's Brighton Beach, might appear to be an act of random perversity. As it turns out, Selby has always been a major influence on the writer/ director.

"He's one of my heroes," Aronofsky says. "When I went to film school, I made his short stories into a short film called Fortune Cookie. It's about a fortune-teller who gets addicted to the fortunes in cookies."

Aronofsky's obsession with Selby's work eventually led him to contact the author about adapting Requiem for the screen. The 31-year-old auteur and the 72-year-old writer's visions proved to be eerily in sync: Comparing his Requiem script with one Selby had penned in the 1970s, Aronofsky discovered that "about 80 percent of the scenes he had chosen [from the book], I had chosen. After that, we just traded notes."

The finished film, which was shot in 40 days in and around Brooklyn's Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach neighborhoods, cost only $4.5 million to make--a bargain by current industry standards. Although full of praise for all of his cast's performances, Aronofsky speaks with a certain awe of Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn's turn as cross-addicted widow Sara Goldfarb.

"Her performance is unbelievable. Definitely the best thing I have ever been involved with was having the honor to catch this performance," he says. "She's 67. And she had four prosthetic necks that took about five hours a day to work with; she had two fat suits. I mean, just technically, huge problems. And she just seized them."

None of this skill and artistry much impressed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) when Aronofsky submitted his film for rating. To the MPAA, even more troubling than the characters' drug use was a strobe-lit scene of lesbian sexuality involving Jennifer Connelly's Marion. "The three-minute psychological intensity of the film's climax," the director says, "they had problems with that and wanted it to be toned down."

The MPAA doled out the dreaded NC-17 rating, a virtual guarantee of diminished newspaper coverage and theater distribution. The filmmaker, with a slight undertone of "fuck 'em" in his voice, says he refused to comply with suggested snips. "We turned it down," he says. "It'll be released unrated. It won't be cut at all."

Aronofsky seems drawn to films--Pi, Requiem, a projected new Batman movie ("We'll see what happens," Aronofsky cautions)--that focus on marginalized heroes and subcultures. He says that his projects all share a more specific subtext: "It's being a Jew in the world. When you're Jewish or another minority in America, you're still an outsider.

"The notion of being somehow different puts you on the outside. You just sense it--you grow up in this world and see all the fucked-up things people do to one another over and over again, and it makes you wonder why. I think I'm attracted to darkness, just to explore that idea."

But do we really need yet another drug movie? "I don't think the movie is about drugs. It's more about addiction," Aronofsky says. "What is a drug? It could be TV, it could be coffee, alcohol. The word 'heroin' is never mentioned in the film because I wasn't really interested in telling that sort of story.

"Selby's message is the [to which] length people go to escape reality. And that when we do that, we create a hole in our present," he says. "Addiction vs. the human spirit. And that struggle, no matter who you are, you deal with that. You battle with your own addictions. And they are your own demons."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Deliver Us from Evil

We’re almost charmed when we first meet ex-priest, Oliver O’Grady, now living in Ireland and awaiting a Vatican pension thanks in part to a President Bush pardon. He’s a gnomish, easily smiling senior with mischievous blue eyes. His soft tenor voice enjoys a melodious Celtic lilt.

Even as he talks about how he’s always liked children, the younger the better, and especially naked, even as we learn that he’s raped hundreds of them--from one-year-olds to grizzled tweens--for over twenty years, the disconnect between this gentle old coot and his crimes persists.

Then director Amy Berg presents us with a psychologist who stresses the need for a thought experiment. She says we need to walk through the reality of a grown man’s genitals being forced into the tiny aperture of an infant’s.

And so denial dissolves: in Deliver Us from Evil, we are dealing with the lowest form of human monstrosity as Berg etching a synergistic relationship between O’Grady and a Church gone lousy with criminal indifference and contempt for its customers, that deals with its shadow side, as a victim’s lawyer says, with "deception, denial and deceit from the highest levels".

Berg uses her experience at CNN and on 60 Minutes to give us a dry, damning-fact-laden accounting. Known as Father Ollie to his parishioners and victims alike, O'Grady--sometimes almost whimsically--narrates his adventures during the 70s and 80s.

He thinks back to the good times--raping children at one parish and then being moved by the Church to another to rape children there.

Berg’s unearthed DA video interview footage reveals a Cardinal Roger Mahoney--still Archbishop of Los Angeles--and doddering Pope Benedict--once in charge of investigating priestly abuse--showing no remorse, none, zero, zip, as they equivocate, cling to legal minutia, or brazenly lie about their complicity in Ollie’s crimes.

Worse is the prevalent Church view that pedophilia isn’t all that big a deal--a big deal would be homosexual sex between consenting adults.

The shredded heart of Berg’s film belongs to a core group of survivors--Nancy Sloan, Ann Jyono and Adam M.

In the film’s most horrific intersection, Adam, a handsome, clenched jaw, emo sort of guy, revisits the place where O’Grady raped and sodomized him as a kid.

A few minutes later, O’Grady recalls doing so with not much more than a shrug.

Ms. Jyono’s story is godawful not just for the unimaginable suffering the degenerate directly inflicted on her, but in how those crimes spread, cancer-like, to her entire family.

Ms. Jyono’s an attractive professional nearing forty and fearful that the spiritual scar tissue left from her priest’s acts will leave her unable to ever have a relationship, ever.

Jyono’s immigrant Japanese father recalls how a holy Church was part of his American dream.

And so he allowed Father Ollie into his home, where the priest seduced and fucked his wife.

It's no hyperbole to say that the tension becomes almost unbearable as we wait for the inevitable, precisely because we know it's inevitable: kindly Father Ollie, then actually living with the Jyono family, raping his child at age five.

When Mr. Jyono finally reaches this ultimate betrayal, this reserved man completely falls to pieces, weeping, cursing himself, the Church and God.

With the exception of some new footage of a meditative O’Grady at church--meant, one supposes, to evoke the mystery of the creature in its natural habitat, but which ends up feeling intrusively cinematic--Berg maintains her properly detached tone throughout, enhanced only by mournful, liturgical songs by Nick Cave and Joseph Arthur.

Berg seems to slip on the side of saccharine as the survivors engage in a sort of group therapy, but that view promptly evaporates when we see O’Grady composing a letter to the survivors suggesting they all fly to Ireland for a salving group confab.

To which Adam suggests his ex-pastor go fuck himself. And amen to that. Unfortunately, the institution that made O’Grady’s crimes possible is still at large and unaccountable.