Blog on Hiatus

Hey guys, I’m putting this blog on hiatus. I am choosing instead to focus on my other blog: alternatewrites.wordpress.com which is more about my screenwriting journey and how I hope to accomplish that first sale.

Of course, if I get thirty comments on this post saying “Bring the blog back!” I definitely will, but I am under the impression not many people read this to begin with.

Yours in terrible taste,

Jon

Bear Bear..Teddy Bear (UK: 2008)

No words this week. Only sadness for the plight of Bear Bear. Now who feels sorry for having a stuffed animal?

Compassionate Sex (Spain: 2000)

Compassionate Sex

Compassionate Sex

Honestly, it’s very difficult to make a movie about sex be this unsexy. This muddling, middling mess is anchored by Spanish actress Elisabeth Margoni as the town bicycle, who finds her mission in life to give every man in this depressed Mexican community at least one sympathetic roll in the hay, because, well, the girl can’t help it. Actually, her husband Manolo deserted her, and she can’t help thinking that it was because she was too good a person. To do bad, she becomes a whore, but true to her character, one who never charges.

Don’t worry, guys, there is no nudity in this movie, and the closest we get to graphic are a few bedroom moments featuring incredulous town members going “Is this real? Is this really real?” (or the Spanish equivalent of that). This may dismay the town females, the city prostitutes (who, you know, ride around in a Puta bus), and the priest, but once they see that Lolita (formerly Dolores) has a heart of gold, they embrace her wholeheartedly (which is the creepy part). This movie does a lot in its 109 minutes, but perhaps the real achievement of this film is to convince people never to have sex.

The movie doesn’t achieve this great feat through the acting, which is terrible at best, but through its message—have sex and you will feel compassion. As experience will attest, this is rarely the feeling humans have after sex. In fact, to say that all your problems in life can be solved by casual sex, while a cute idea, would mean that 1970s swingers solved the Cold War. Sure, I may be a little down on sex, but I can’t help thinking that Margoni’s character, Lolita, however compassionate, is a breeding ground for STDs.

Fine, I accept the idea of compassionate sex, but after the sixth or seventh go-round with the village idiot, you’re going to have to wonder whether the sex is giving love a chance or a convenient way to escape boredom. A much less expensive treatment for this town’s blues could be the installation of cable for example. Not once have I heard of anyone getting Chlamydia through the HBO.

What this movie most reminds me of is a “comedy” open mic I once attended in New York. One poor middle-aged woman, convinced she could play a “character” told the audience she was a patient at “The Institute of Good Sex.” However funny this must have seemed to her in the mirror, in front of an audience this was just creepy, especially because she went on for ten minutes in the same squeaky voice. By the end of her set I was convinced that if this is what good sex did to your mind, it would be better to remain celibate the rest of my life.

This movie also reminds me of this wonderful and superbly creepy Monty Python sketch that I invite you all now to enjoy:

La Nave de los Monstruos (Mexico: 1960)

The first time I attended a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Boston, Massachusetts was a special experience. There were other people who were also obsessed with culty movies, bad acting, and campy dialogue? For those two hours in the Cambridge AMC I felt I was no longer an outsider. Then I left the movie theater and returned to sad reality. Such is life. Which is all to say, seeing La Nave de los Monstruos with a live audience at the Hammer in L.A. this past Friday had to be the culmination of this blog. Not only are there people who enjoy campy American film, but campy foreign film, too!

And man was this campy. Let me try to explain the plot: Venus is facing a man shortage. There are no more men on the planet. Two space vixens, Beta and Gamma are faced with the overwhelming mission to rescue one “man” from each planet, ala The Bachelorette, except these men are octopi, skeletons, and a giant space brain. Obviously they were soliciting on the wrong interplanetary dating website. But fine, it’s science fiction. Then they crash on Chihuahua and things start making even less sense, if that’s possible. They somehow meet a singing cowboy, Laureano, whose fervent wish on a star to find a woman unsurprisingly comes true, and both Gamma and Beta fall in love with this guitar-slinging homesteader. Laureano chooses the less assertive Venusian Gamma and jealousy turns bitter Beta into a vampire, and she and the not-too-happy interplanetary dudes wage war on northern Mexico. Still following? Good. Just throwing it out there, this is also kind of a musical. And it has a robot. And a monkey who sings.

OK. I just made that last one up, there is no singing monkey, but I am trying to illustrate a larger point: this movie makes no sense. It is the movie equivalent of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink. I understand cross-genre exploration, but vampires, singing cowboys, and a jealous vampire should not be in the same movie–at least not a movie whose budget equals the bill for a meal at Denny’s. Not only does this movie not make sense, the director, Rogelio Gonzalez isn’t even trying to be coherent at a certain point (minute two). Why is it night and then suddenly day? Why does the robot fall in love with the jukebox? Where in Chihuahua did Beta buy fangs and a black cape?

And yet. And yet this movie made the audience laugh (Laureano’s useless explanation to other bar patrons about space vixens), cry (when Laureano nearly died at the hands of a space gorilla) and get up off their seats and applaud at the end (OK, I made that last part up again, but they should have). It was that campy and it was that good. Let’s not try to explain away this movie by invoking the motivations the director must have had to make it, whether to create a distinctly Mexican sci-fi picture, to titillate a truly conservative 1960s Mexico with space vixens, or to comment on the burgeoning threat of nuclear warfare that promised to disturb our world as much as any interplanetary gang of angry space bachelors. Let’s instead enjoy this with no context, because a movie this bad doesn’t need it; let’s laugh, reel, cry, be surprised, and celebrate it in museums like UCLA’s Hammer, because let’s face it, to make something this bad is a work of art.

A Taste.

The Fuccons

This week, I am examining something new for the blog, a series I consider terrifyingly bad but its country of origin, Japan, enjoys. Welcome to the world of the Fuccons, one inhabited by plastic mannequins, whose ho-hum lives, excited voiceovers and inane dialogue not only annoy, but cause serious nightmares. Parents James and Barbara and son, Mikey’s boring adventures both enshrine and parody the 1950s sitcom world of Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet and you know, freak out children.

Director Yoshimasa Ishibashi creates a world of surreal meets stupid—think Coneheads without the humans. For example, in one episode, Teacher Bob visits the Fuccons to talk about Mikey, but turns out to be a very strange man who uses his mother to speak for him. Five minutes later, at the close of the episode, he leaves, deciding not to stay for dinner. End of show. In another a “lady tutor” gives Mikey math lessons, the parents suspect they are getting it on, but, no, when they storm in, they realize that they are in fact making origami. What just happened? I dunno. The project ultimately most reminds me of something an art student would create with a video camera, an editing program, mannequin models, and a stash of pot. If anything is funny on pot, this could be the stoner’s Citizen Kane.

Of course, some shows are gems. In one of the non-ironically good episodes, James explains “corporate structural reform” to his family and invites them to vote on who they should “kick out.” Unsurprisingly, after the family votes Dad counts the votes and calls it a tie. But in a last reveal, we see that Dad actually garnered the most votes. Damn that patriarchy! The show is filled with moments like these, winks at the present-day viewer that attempt to show the hypocrisy and unintended irony of classic television and by extension, advertising, consumer culture, and the corporations. You know, stuff high people talk about.

Yet for me the “talking” mannequins really turn me off. I’m willing to listen to any subversive message, but in the form of the Fuccons, it still gives me nightmares. Perhaps it’s the intended effect, but there’s something creepy about a dead world filled with plastic people who declaim but never interact with each other. Maybe creepy is the keyword here, but I can’t see myself curling up with the Fuccons on a Friday night. I choose media for its escapist value, and when the world is as disturbing as the emotional vacuum of the Fuccons, I’d rather stay in my family room and confuse emotional intimacy with Roseanne episodes.

Cool Event at the Hammer

Hi Folks, if you are in the Los Angeles area, this next week there will be film screenings of “Mexican Sci-Fi Classics” that I don’t think you want to miss. The details are below, but the Hammer is located near UCLA, in Westwood. All events are free, and they will be showing “Santo Vs. La Invasion de Los Marcianos” which sounds like a Spanish-language rip-off of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” but in fact translates to “Santo the Silver Mask Vs. The Martian Invasion.” Who knew, right?

Here’s the address: 10899 Wilshire Blvd, LA, CA, 90024

And here are the details:

The Details

The Details

Brazilian Star Wars!

Os Trapalhões na Guerra dos Planetas

Os Trapalhões na Guerra dos Planetas

I am about to commit BadTasteAbroad heresy but here goes: I didn’t mind Os Trapalhões na Guerra dos Planetas, or in bad movies circles, Brazilian Star Wars; it  certainly was not as bad as Turkish Star Wars, and could even stand up to Star Wars (jk, jk). The plot was fun, if difficult to follow, and I had many a laugh out loud moment; if only they hadn’t done the sound effects via Windows Me sound (guy gets bopped—cue badop) and hired the Brazilian Bob James to score the film I think I’d start a new blog, Okay Taste Abroad.

To quote the annoying guy on line in Annie Hall I guess the film hit me at a “gut level;” life is a lot like Brazilian Star Wars—one day you are in a high-speed police chase, the next moment you are discoing it up with Chewbacca and what look to be like the Fanta girls in an earlier film credit, then you crack open a boulder-sized egg and a man in a chicken suit chases you halfway across the desert. Basic life stuff.

To try to explain the plot is difficult—I don’t understand Portuguese and the version I watched was neither subbed nor dubbed. From what I could make out, and trust me, it wasn’t much, the Brazilian comedy troupe, Os Trapalhões, is abducted from Earth. They meet Brazilian Darth Vader (who wears costume jewelry and has a disco aboard his “Death Star”) and he steals Brazilian Luke’s girlfriend. The Os Trapalhões embark on a mission to save her and in the process meet four models, humanoid disco dancers, and a man in a chicken suit. That they hang out in a cave stocked to the brim with giant mushrooms should come as a surprise to no one.

Yes, the movie is corny, and yes, the whole idea of an adult comedy for kids never really works, but at least unlike any other movie I’ve watched this summer, this one doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, that’s right, Os Trapalhões know how to have fun. They may not have the greatest sense of plot, their soundman should be shot, and I can’t really understand their dialogue (my fault, not theirs), but I would gladly pay ten dollars to see them send up any seventies movie. Let’s see where they take Jaws, for example. One moment there’s a giant shark, the next moment he is doing the hustle with Richard Dreyfuss. Just wait. It will happen. Four thumbs way up for Os Trapalhões and their excellent movie, however little I understood what happened. Let’s hear it for the seventies and let’s hear it for absurdity.

Check it out!