Saturday 24 November 2012

Hot Dog! We Have a Wiener!

Some time ago, Zombots! was awarded the Leibster Award by Mr. Elwood Jones of From the Depths of DVD Hell. My heartfelt thanks to Elwood whose own intro to this award perfectly sums up what I often think and feel about blogging.

A condition of my winning requires me to answer eleven questions posed to me by Mr. Jones. So here goes!

1. Who is your favourite Kajiu monster and why?

We're off to a great start with this one. Shockingly (read: embarrassingly) I don't watch much Kajiu film. It's not because I don't like creature features, I just haven't seen many, or really any, old school rubber-suited monster movies. So, I'm widening the scope of the question to include modern CGI and puppet monsters. And here's my answer: Samael from Hellboy.

Samael is part rubber suit, and part anamatronic puppet. He is computer generated at times, but most of what you see in the movie is a physical SFX. Truth be told, I have a problem with CGI. Most of the time, I think it sucks. Films that rely heavily on CGI for monster effects often look cheap: the creatures are poorly rendered, the interlacing is all wrong, and I can't engage as a result. But when a filmmaker invests in building a real monster to fill the physical and fictional space inside the movie, the experience is that much more magical.

My other reason for picking Samael is that I studied Assyriology and my particular passion was for the art and religion of Sumer and Akkad. The Samael that appears in Hellboy is a complete fiction, but I appreciate the effort to actually do some research on Mesopotamian history and culture. Indeed, Nergal did lord over the Underworld but he never had an unkillable dog-thing for a son.

Other brilliant monsters include the host in The Host, the brain bug in Starship Troopers, and, of course, the terror dogs in Ghostbusters.

2. Where does your interest in movies come from?

Probably my dad. Or, at the very least, love for The Blues Brothers comes from my dad. No one in my family much likes horror. At the risk of dating myself, I remember when we got our VCR and my dad would rent movies for me. Shortly after that came my obsession with Mighty Mouse and The Cat From Outer Space. Those were the only videos I wanted to watch. Eventually I branched out: I watched my parents' tape of Amazon Women on the Moon. When we got First Choice on the TV (the precursor to The Movie Network), it was all over. I watched everything, which slowly turned into watching everything horror.

My parents never bought a video camera but my friend Robin had one and she and I produced some classic videos, such as "Missing Pieces Theatre: Death of a Lady" in which I suddenly convulse and die while reading a book. In high school we had two classes devoted to film and television theory and production, which I aced. There was an editing suite in the basement and I spent all my time down there making Sailor Moon music videos for my friends. And then I schlepped off to film school. There, I learned to talk about film in terms other than "it sucks" and "it really sucks".

Perhaps one of my greatest accomplishments related to my love for movies came in the form of a game we used to play at work. Contract archaeology can be pretty dull at times, so you find a way to make your field walks more interesting. We came up with a 20 Questions-style of game specific to movies. I'll never forget the day when Jed said he was thinking of an action movie from the 90s and I immediately guessed Firestorm. I've never been more right.

3. You're being sent to your own private island so what book, film, album, and luxury item are you taking with you?

A hate questions like this.

Anyway, book. I'll want to pick a book I've already read more than once. Or a book that I'm planning on reading a second or third time. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson comes to mind. I've read it twice and when I find my copy, I'll read it again. One of my all-time favourite books is Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. I've read that one twice, as well. Dave Cullen's brilliant non-fiction book Columbine is on my to-read-again list; it's an outstanding investigative piece, ten years in the making, about the massacre. Alternatively, I might pick Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Echo. I have a running bet with a friend on who can finish it first. We've both picked it up, and we've both only made it partway through.

It's too bad Garth Merenghi's Darkplace doesn't count as a movie, because this contest would be over so fast. If I'm gonna take just one movie with me, it's got to be a film I already watch constantly. Although I loves me my horror, I'd probably take either Airplane! or Airplane II: The Sequel. No one today can do comedy like that--visual, literal gags played straight. Airplane! has so many great moments like the fight-cum-dance scene, a jive-talking Barbara Billingsley, and the running "drinking problem" joke. But Airplane 2 has my favourite visual gag of all time.

I suppose bringing a mix tape would be cheating, so for album I'd probably go with a soundtrack. Maybe Tron: Legacy. I really like Daft Punk and I felt they were cheated when they didn't get an Oscar nomination for their incredible soundtrack. The music, which they wrote as electronica and then orchestrated, covers a broad spectrum of emotions, which will help underscore or balance out my thoughts and feelings while I contemplate a life of seclusion on a private (and I'm hoping climatically equitable) island.

Assuming this island has all the basics, like shampoo and chocolate, for my luxury item I'd bring the Internet. I can read on it, write on it, listen to music when I get bored of my one CD, and watch stuff when I need a break from Striker's high-jinx.

Take that, question! In your face!

4. What is the most underrated movie of all time?

Initially, I'd say Lake Mungo, but it's not so much underrated as unseen. Seriously, just watch it. You won't regret it.

As for something that is well and truly underrated? Maybe Cherry FallsCherry Falls is a satirical horror movie about a killer in a small town who's murdering virgins. Starring Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr, and the late Brittany Murphy, the film cleverly subverts horror tropes. There's some weird stuff going on in the background too, which gives the film more depth than you'd expect.

5. Is Noel Clarke the worst thing to happen to modern cinema and as such should be banned from any acting/directing/writing project, or am I overreacting?

I had to look this up because I've not seen anything he's done. In one photo he appears to be wearing a Gators shirt and I was a 'Nole for a while, so fuck that guy.

6. Why should people read more rather than just waiting for the film version?

I'm a big advocate for reading, but even I have to admit there are books I have no interest in reading although I've seen and liked their movie versions. Conversely, I bought and read The Lovely Bones with the sole intent of prepping myself for the film and then never bothered to see it. And then there's The Hunger Games, a film made specifically for those who read the book.

Books and movies weave interesting patterns, but it's not a matter of reading the book first because it came first, it's a matter of reading in general. People don't read enough.

Working backwards, movies can get reluctant readers interested in reading. This way, people can get a better handle on their likes and dislikes, as well as their abilities as readers. I saw The Relic long before I ever read the book and, in fact, wasn't too keen on reading it because the movie wasn't so great. But a good friend recommended it, and I'm now a huge fan of Preston & Child and I've read almost all the Agent Pendergast books.

If you read a book before seeing the film you might get more out of the movie (or possibly less, depending on the quality of the adaptation) but reading will also benefit you in other ways. Big readers are better writers, better at understanding others, and better at making themselves understood.

Reading is a life skill, like knowing how to drive a car or operate a chainsaw. The more you do it--and I mean really invest in it--the more you get out of it. This is different from getting better at it. I mean, sure, if you don't read much you won't be very good at it, but once you've got a handle on basic literacy you can start to explore your literary tastes. I like to believe that everyone likes to read, but not everyone knows what they like to read.

7. What is the scariest movie ever made?

Historically and anecdotally, The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever made.

For me, my scariest movie is Ju-on and I'll tell you why: I saw Ju-on at Midnight Madness at TIFF. As the name suggests, the films screen after midnight. So, imagine working all day then staying up late to see a horror movie. No big deal, right?

Now imagine a movie theatre full of people who've done the same thing. They're all precariously balanced between exhaustion and excitement. And then imagine a film that is unrelentingly suspenseful. Imagine the anxiety and fatigue that would cause in a body that's being pushed to it's emotional limit. Cram a lot of scared people into a room and their fear becomes a tangible presence; you can't help but be affected by the energy that fills the space.

Ju-on itself is a scary movie, but it was my experience seeing the film that made it that much more frightening. When I finally got home at 3am or whenever, I had to watch Tremors to calm down enough to sleep.

8. What film is most memorable for traumatizing you as a child?

I have two: The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story.

I was so scared of the Grimorim--those black spidery things in The Dark Crystal. And the Skeksies were terrifying, of course. In The Neverending Story it was the Gmork and Morla. And the fucking Swamp of Sadness! Jesus Christ.

Maybe it's kind weird that I was more scared by childrens' movies than grown-up movies, but I think it has to do with comprehension. I didn't always get everything that was going on in the more adult films I saw as a kid, but I understood perfectly what was happening to ET, for instance, and that made it so much scarier.

9. What are your golden rules of blogging?

Proof read your posts before you publish. And don't just skim over them, read them out loud. It's the best way to catch misspellings, grammatical errors, and poor sentence structure. It's not fool proof (I post mistakes all the time), but it's better than nothing.

Read other people's blogs. See what they're saying, how they're saying it. As I mentioned above, reading will make you a better writer. Read magazines, too. Anything that covers your interests. You'll become better informed, will be able to write with more authority, and may find new angles and ideas.

There's no right or wrong way to blog, but for me it's important to be honest and accountable.

10. How big is your watch pile?

Since I co-host a weekly podcast, my watch pile is always at least three deep. When I lived in the US and Netflix had queues, my DVD queue was about ten titles, while my streaming queue was thirty-something. At present, I've got three movies for next week's show, something I noticed this morning on Netflix, and I still need to see Looper. And then a whole bunch of other stuff. So what's that, like eighteen?

11. What was the last scene in a movie which truly blew your mind.

The hallway fight in Inception is freaking amazing. But I most recently, I'd have to say the slow-motion in Dredd 3D. Never before have I used "beautiful" and "action movie" in the same sentence.

Another brilliant scene is the opening race in Redline. It's a great introduction to the characters and the action. And it's animated!

Many thanks again to Elwood Jones for the honour!


Chris Hewson said...

So the Relic book is good! A few weeks ago, I bought one of the Pendergast books and got into the series, and when I looked the series up, I was surprised to know that The Relic, which I didn't like, was based on one. It's good to know that the Relic book is good!

DM said...

Yes, it's very good! And its sequel, Reliquary, is also a great read.

Andrew Barr said...

AIRPLANE! 2: The sequel has one of you favorite visual gags? Which one? I love both Airplane!s. wasn't until I watched the commentary on Airplane! that I noticed the funniest thing in that movie. it's during the "magic trick" scene.

DM said...

It's the one where it appears two guys are conversing via video, when one (William Shatner) opens a door and you realize he was standing behind it, speaking through a window.

I also love the joke where they pull Striker's record and it's some awful album he recorded.

And the one in Airplane! Where they pour the dump truck full of lights onto the runway. Or where they take the pictures off the wall.

So many great moments!

What's the funniest thing in Airplane!?

Andrew Barr said...

The funniest thing in Airplane! isn't even a proper joke or anything.
During the scene where Leslie Neilson is pulling the eggs out of the distressed passengers mouth.
When he cracks the final Egg and a bird flies out watch the background.

Unknown said...


Madison Harvey said...

Thank you for writing and sharing this