Blog on Hiatus

Hey guys, I’m putting this blog on hiatus. I am choosing instead to focus on my other blog: 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,


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!

Machine Girl

This review is going to be short and quick, I want to get to the point fast. If you are in need of medical care, and you stumble upon a mechanic, it is not OK to accept his or her services, even if he does say, “I am the son of a doctor.” As a son of a doctor, I can tell you, this status means no medical skills whatsoever, except maybe a dislike of insurance companies, but that’s not a practical skill. Trust me, you will end up like Machine Girl with an automatic weapon for a forearm and then try going back to school, just try.

Do Not Trust These People with Your Health Care!!!

Do Not Trust These People with Your Health Care!!!

Machine Girl is the tragic story of a woman, Ami, who loses everything, her little brother, her friends, her arm, and her sanity. Her brother, Yu somehow fell in with the wrong crowd, a group of teens with connections to the Yakuza, Japanese organized crime. Anyway, he owed them money (for what? Baseball cards?) and after a very lame fight scene, fell to his death. Through the rest of the movie, Ami flails around her hometown, looking for the teenage gang who committed such a vile act. Instead of consulting the police, she morphs into a one-person A-Team, fighting her way to justice.

And then at one point Ami loses her arm, and as they say, the rest is history. Instead of just attacking her Yakuza victims, she makes a point of firing several thousand rounds into their system, too. Which brings me back to my first point, when you’re sick, see a doctor, not a mechanic. Sure, you want revenge in your twenties, but by your forties or fifties, that’s going to get tired. And how are you supposed to get that thing through airport security? Would be a disaster. Of course, knowing you, Ami, you’d probably shoot your way onto the plane.

Finally, this is a message to Ami. You say to your brother in the beginning of the film, “Violence doesn’t solve anything.” Except plots, it turns out. What happened? Why did you change your mind? Didn’t you see everyone else in your life destroyed by violence, your parents, your sibling, your friends, and yet you still want more? Oh well, a machine gun arm is a little better than a tempura arm, which also makes an appearance in this feature film. I won’t spoil anything else, except to say, if you thought your last encounter with a Fembot was tough, wait until you meet Violet, who brings new meaning to the cone bra.

Now with more barrels.

Now with more machine girl action.

East Side Story

This week I’m taking a break from the bad movies to look at a documentary about some of the worst movies on Earth—the Soviet musicals. Yes, when Stalin said in 1935, “Life has become better, comrades; life has become more cheerful” he wasn’t simply referring to his brutal purges, he was also talking about Alexandrov’s Volga, Volga, a musical about villagers who travel the Volga to Moscow to become entertainers. Because, you know, the real entertainers in Moscow, had been, like, exterminated. Dana Ranga’s East Side Story is one of the best documentaries I have seen about Soviet film and is required watching for truly devoted readers of this blog.

While from Lenin on the Soviets have tried to compete with Hollywood, Protazanov’s Aelita comes to mind as an early attempt to make a sci-fi film, they have never been truly successful. Big sets and fancy costumes somehow don’t gel with five-year plans. The very idea of a musical in the midst of Stalin may seem counterfactual. Gregori Alexandrov can be considered the pioneer of these 1930s musicals, he directed Jolly Fellows in 1934, never expecting it to get it past Soviet censors. With Gorky’s help, Alexandrov scored a showing with Stalin, who rightly said “it takes a very brave man to make a comedy,” and then, being a fan of the slapstick, didn’t kill Alexandrov and the rest is movie history. Of course, these weren’t run of the mill fun in the sun musicals, they had to fuse social realism, you know, stories about workers, with music. My favorite selection from these often odd-couple offerings is the coal press musical, which features young women mouthing “we sing the song of the coal press.” Score one Stalin! There are other movies about tractors, peasants, and yes, a swineherd in love. Not unlike The Sound of Music, in fact, except with pigs.

While Soviet musicals may have died out with Stalin, the GDR seems to have picked up the shiny baton in the 1950s. Ranga features My Wife Wants to Sing, a totally communist approach to American Idol which looks a lot more fun than the Russian stuff. It being communism, the dancing isn’t great, but at least My Wife wants to have fun—in fact, however off-key, the songs are kind of catchy. In the 1960s, with the division of Berlin came a similar cutting-off of GDR culture. Simply put, the East German hippie musical industry never took off.

Why are Soviet musical numbers not sung in the streets? Beautiful as they are, these bad movies have been forgotten to time. While Americans will be bombarded with say, The Ugly Truth for years, they will never catch Jolly Fellows on cable. The director often quotes Brigitte Ulrich, simply credited as “audience member,” who sums it up this way, “Behind the Iron Curtain, there is laughter.” Not a bad way to put it, really. And who knows, if more Americans saw this, we could finally solve the Cold War, because, well, if they can laugh, they’re not that different after all.

The Jolly Fellows

East Side Story

East Side Story Cover

Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde (Turkish Wizard of Oz) (Turkey: 1971)

If you know anything about Turkish cinema, or are a reader of this blog, you will know this country’s directors took on and redid most American classics, many of them featuring the same actress—Zeynep Değirmencioğlu, whose luscious innocence captured Turkey’s imagination for decades. Imagine if Judy Garland had not grown up and gone crazy with the painkillers, or better yet, if she had grown up and gone crazy, and the studios kept making her play Dorothy. Unfortunately, this video was never dubbed or subbed into English, so you could watch it in the original Turkish—or you could enjoy the movie unedited with some Dark Side of the Moon—because every Wizard of Oz adaptation worth its salt can be synched to this album. Roger Waters is a freakin’ wizard like that.

I have nothing to say about this video—except to say I am assured that the guy who linked Dark Side with this must have been on some heavy stuff. The movie reminds me of a really scary déjà vu dream—everything looks the same as the original in Turkish Wizard of Oz, but sparkly, unexpectedly colorful, not Technicolor but overheated budget film, and filled with strange, sometimes scary pantomime. This should be a kids movie, but right now it’s looking like a bad trip. Basically, this movie with the music is one long hallucination. Right now, I’m hearing “Time” and watching halogen-Dorothy dance with Scarecrow in what looks like Vision Quest State Park. Like Plan 9, be careful, the days do switch to night arbitrarily and the sets are laughably ridiculous—the Emerald City is in fact a sand castle mold. If you don’t have the time to watch the entire movie, please check out about 36:20—the Cowardly Lion meets the vaguely militaristic “Seven Dwarves” and freaks out in what could be the most awkward piece of cinema history ever. Bad vibes man. Bad vibes.

If I could choose one movie to represent this blog or the work I’ve done on it this past month—it would be this one. Equal parts ridiculous and unself-conscious, Turkish Wizard of Oz does more for the genre of bad foreign film than any other film we’ve watched up to this point. More videos like this and I think I’ll have a book pretty soon.

A Screenshot.

A Screenshot.