Movies I watched in June 2009.

I was going to quit making movie lists this month, but I keep them for myself on paper anyway. As long as I post other things too, I don’t mind them being on here.

Movies that passed the Bechdel Test

  • Star Trek (Barely. One chat between roommates.)
  • Away We Go (Lots of varied conversations. This movie was… fine.)

Movies that failed

  • The Neverending Story (Does someone have a movie test where two guys cry about each others’ feelings in a movie? This would pass that.)
  • The Hit
  • Wrath of Khan (Makes a perfect double feature with the new Star Trek.)

Titles in bold are things I’m especially glad I watched.

Movies I watched in May 2009

Movies that passed the Bechdel Test

  1. Beyond the Mat (WWF wrestler Chyna goes shopping with her friend. That barely counts but I’m partial to weird shopping scenes.)
  2. The Celebration (Lots of little chats.)
  3. Pan’s Labyrinth (Again, lots of conversations.)
  4. Terminator (A few small chats.)
  5. Terminator 3 (Feminine Terminator steals a woman’s stuff… Can I put only the car chase in bold?)
  6. Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters (The Doctor’s sidekick tries to enlighten a woman who is stuck in a timeloop.)
  7. The Pee Wee Herman Show (Miss Yvonne and Hermit Hattie talk about make up.)
  8. Big Top Pee Wee (This one is probably for fans only.)

Movies that failed.

  1. A Scanner Darkly (My rational mind rates this movie as only medium-good, but some other part of me has a lot of affection for it. The sad ending. The perfect Philip K. Dick moment when Keanu is told to put himself under extra surveillance. It has a purity.)
  2. Jean Claude Van Damme
  3. Bloodsport (Probably would not have been fun without watching JCVD.)
  4. The Godfather
  5. The Godfather Part 2
  6. Terminator 2
  7. Terminator 4
  8. The Dark Knight (I’m fascinated that I find this movie so satisfying and so fascist at the same time.)

Bold means I’m glad I watched it.

This month’s lists are evidence that my neighbours Casey and Jessica are fond of renting entire series of Hollywood movies. I have also watched with them: all the Die Hard movies, all the Rambo movies, Alien and Predator in preparation for Alien vs. Predator, and probably more.

The fact that I go along for these action movie marathons could probably go in the same category as the facts that I only like to watch sports when international championships are broadcast at 4 in the morning, and that if I don’t see the midnight premier of questionable superhero movies I probably will never watch them. Bland content is a good foil for intense viewing contexts.

Dot in the Dreamy Garden

In her golden years, my mom suffers from Dementia with Lewy Bodies (think Parkinson’s + Alzheimer’s).

Here we are in the garden. She’s calling me Jim (my father’s name) and thinking she’s having a dream…

I expected this video to make me sad, but I felt happy watching it. I spent a lot of afternoons sitting in gardens with my grandpa in his advancing dementia, and our interactions were often like this. Me guessing what would help him or soothe him, just sitting and telling each other we loved each other with words and pats and hand squeezes. My trying to understand his observations but not really getting it; him trying to understand my observations but not really getting it; both of us trying to be ok with that. I’m happy that sometimes when communication breaks down, it can break down into just inarticulate love.

And I just posted about putting ugly things in context to make them beautiful.

A disability activist perspective on independence, and on working less.

“Professionals tend to define independence in terms of self-care activities such as washing, dressing, toileting, cooking and eating without assistance. Disabled people, however, define independence differently, seeing it as the ability to be in control of and make decisions about one’s life, rather than doing things alone or without help.”

— Michael Oliver quoted by Sunny Taylor in The Right Not To Work: Power and Disability

I looked up Sunaura Taylor after enjoying her discussion with Judith Butler in the movie Examined Life. They talked about walking as it related to disability and gender issues, and about the politics of helping each other and asking for help. At one point they stopped into a thrift store to get a sweater for Sunaura, which was suddenly revealed as a Queer Eye make-over scene such as I have occasionally wished for. Queer shopping with politics intact; it was quite beautiful! I had a little thrill, there in the cinema.

Part of the thrill was seeing the two of them act out an interdependent version of shopping, with Judith helping Sunaura try things on and the store clerk adjusting her usual check out techniques. It was very clear that all of the people benefited from working together, and it was also clear that to accomplish that they had to work outside of usual store policies and etiquette expectations.

I have been finding affirmations of interdependence in a lot of different sources lately, and they really cheer me up. I’m hunting for ways to resist competition and hierarchy without resorting to competitive tactics, and in the meantime it is very encouraging just to watch people cooperate within structures that are set up to facilitate competition. Life affirming.

Taking a different angle on accepting all of us instead of competing to find the winners, here is another quotation from that essay. This is especially for Erin and anyone else who is into working less.

The right not to work is the right not to have your value determined by your productivity as a worker, by your employability or salary… What I mean by the right not to work is perhaps as much a shift in ideology or consciousness as it is a material shift. It is about our relation not only to labor but the significance of performing that labor, and to the idea that only through the performance of wage labor does the human being actually accrue value themselves. It is about cultivating a skeptical attitude regarding the significance of work, which should not be taken at face value as a sign of equality and enfranchisement, but should be analyzed more critically. Even in situations where enforcement of the ADA and government subsidies to corporations lead to the employment of the disabled, who tends to benefit, employers or employees?

One more, because I really like this question:

The minority of the impaired population that does have gainful employment are paid less than their able-bodied counterparts and are fired more often (and these statistics are more egregious for disabled minorities). To ensure that employers are able to squeeze surplus value out of disabled workers, thousands are forced into dead-end and segregated jobs and legally paid below minimum wage (for example, in the case of “sheltered workshops” for those with developmental disabilities). The condescension towards the workers in such environments is severe. Why should working be considered so essential that disabled people are allowed to be taken advantage of, and, moreover, expected to be grateful for such an “opportunity”?

Like Busby Berkeley with censorship bars

I need to organize more time to hang out naked with my friends. I love it so much. In the summer, there is usually night swimming and maybe this year I’ll go to our local nudie lake with it’s one hilariously small dock. But what about winter? What about now? I don’t think there is a women’s bath or anything in this town. I need to organize some nudeness at home. Anybody want to come over and take expressive naked photos? Give me a call.

Freaks, zombies, horror movies… old drafts.

More old drafts that have been sitting in the archives, more quotations from The Monster Show .


[Tod] Browning spent a lot of time at the ballpark and racetrack in the early thirties, and veteran Hollywood writer Budd Schulberg (author of The Disenchanted and What Makes Sammy Run? ??) had a memory of another Browning pastime. “The marathon dance was in vogue then and we went a few times to the Santa Monica Pier to watch the young unemployed zombies drag themselves around the floor in a slow motion dance macabre,” Schulberg wrote in his 1981 memoir ??Moving Pictures. “Even more appalling than the victims on the dance floor were the regulars, affluent sadists in the same front-row seats every night, cheering on their favorites who kept fainting and occasionally throwing up from exhaustion. One of the most dedicated of the regulars was Tod Browning, who never missed a night and who got that same manic gleam in his eyes as when he was directing Freaks.”


The rediscovery and rehabilitation of Freaks became almost a cause celebre in the film journals beginning in the early sixties. Once considered crass and tasteless, the film was now “compassionate” and “sensitive.” In a way, the appreciation of Freaks became a politically correct means to indulge a morbid curiosity about thalidomide deformities, while still being able to feel self-righteous and progressive.

An anti-war horror movie I’d like to see, old random drafts.

In the spirit of spitting things out rather than polishing them forever and driving myself crazy, I’m going through my archives and publishing drafts.

A couple of years ago I was reading a lot about horror and monsters. At some point I saved quotations from The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror.

p.186, regarding WWI vets.

The Frankenstein pictures continued to be a cultural dumping ground for the processed images of men blown to pieces, and the shell-shocked fantasy of fitting them back together again.

That was the first idea I ever heard about horror as a mirror of culture, from a Chuck Palahniuk interview. It doesn’t make me want to watch horror movies, particularly. But this next movie is something I would like to see.


For his unnerving final sequence— completely irrational, but nonetheless a devastating moral statement— [Abel] Gance recruited actual members of the Union des Gueules Cassées, and created a nightmarish montage of all the ruined faces that had been haunting the world’s cinemas for the past fifteen years in the guise of “horror entertainment.” The actual men are nameless, but they could easily be the living models for the masks worn by Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Lionel Atwill, and others. As a conscious antiwar statement, J’Accuse is superior; as an unintentional revelation of horror’s major subtext in the twenties and thirties, it is breathtaking.

G-rated YouTube porn, feathers.

I ran into this while I was looking for info about whether found feathers can have any germs or mites or whatever (probably not). I love the wealth of g-rated porn that has blossomed under YouTube’s anti-nudity terms of service. I don’t think they intended to create a video sharing service where only kinky sexplay is allowed (watching women fart, smelling socks…), but I guess that’s a fairly predictable side-effect of banning mainstream, tab-a-slot-b, show-the-boobs sex in an online space.

So far I haven’t found anything especially subversive— lots of groomed women and muscular men, lots of hypergender, whatever— but I actually like this tickling video because the tickler and the ticklee seem to have actual communication with each other. “OK, OK,” feet flex, feet relax. That’s kind of magic to see on YouTube.

Persepolis, surprises, posting to the future

This year’s Mystery Movie surprise screening at Cinecenta was Persepolis! I’d never been before, but the idea is that they screen something anticipated that hasn’t been released over here yet. Our only guess was that it might be that crazy Bob Dylan movie with multiple people trading the lead role… and then as soon as we had any kind of guess, I was worried that when we were wrong it would be disappointing. Surprises are fragile.

Seeing the film come up in black and white animation was so optimal that it felt sort of charming. This was the only upcoming movie I’ve been looking forward to, and almost the only one I even knew anything about. It’s hard to be more fun than anticipation, but I don’t think that accomplishment was the charming part. A guy from the Cinecenta staff had come out and introduced the screening beforehand, so already it was feeling like a human social event rather than a commercial transaction, and then it turned out to be a movie made by people I could picture in my head from watching the little making of feature on the movie website. Lots of people involved, rather than only vague forces of fame and culture and money. I think that was what felt so warm and fuzzy. (Maybe especially after considering a movie about Bob Dylan as a sort of opaque, unknowable icon?)

I don’t understand why more cinemas don’t put an effort into spectacles and gimmicks like this on a regular basis. Surprise movies (old or new) are going on my local cinema wishlist, along with having a human introduce each screening, offering table seating, downloadable mp3 commentary tracks, loveseat-style seating in more places than just the back row of The Roxy, and beer in non-plastic containers.

I’m not much for movie reviews, but I suppose I should mention that I liked Persepolis. Funny parts, sad parts, angry parts, cute parts, and a lot of characters processing ethics out loud, and integrating external wars and politics with internal, personal feelings. The animation was very beautiful. (And boy do I like the various Arabic Persian nose shapes that Satrapi draws.) I think you could check out the books and the movie in any order without wrecking anything.

This whole episode has been a curious test of my 7-day posting lag. When I realized which film was showing, I felt like I’d been hoarding information because none of my companions could read the future archives of my blog, where I’d stashed links and details about the movie. That’s exactly counter to my anti-exclusive motives for posting to the future. And then I felt disappointed that I wanted to write a follow-up post when the first thing I wrote about Persepolis might be due to publish less than a week in the future— my follow-up was at risk of being weirdly late. It turned out to be pretty well-timed after all, but it is hilarious the way media influences real life reactions. This is more disconcerting than the “I wish I’d brought my camera / Kodak moment” feeling.

Guy Maddin is my muse of the week

Interview with Guy Maddin, one of my favourite directors, from October 2006:

GM: I’m also kind of pleased with what I came up with. It was such short notice that I didn’t have time to make anything up, I had to just be very honest. So much so that I can’t really show it to my family. I’d be disinherited, things like that.

TB: It’s kind of funny to hear you say that about a film that involves organ harvesting in a lighthouse.

GM: Yeah, I sort of promised myself I’d never talk about that part of growing up. It’s all there now! But sometimes you can hide things in plain sight.

I watched The Saddest Music in the World three times over the weekend, with and without commentary, and now I find myself hanging on every word out of Guy Maddin’s mouth.

His comments about expressionism in the Saddest Music are helping me with my mission to draw. He did things like shoot the actors making assorted facial expressions against a black backdrop so he could stick them in whenever he needed a shot, figuring that nobody really cares whether the backgrounds are consistent or accurate: the characters are in the movie, that’s enough context. I like that specific tactic, to just stick everything in together and nevermind the accuracy. It’s helping me draw, and design websites. I’m good at thinking up parts; less good at accurately proportioning them.

This other comment is helping me think about giant projects that involve a lot of research:

I know the Japanese had a different way of presenting silent film altogether, with a benshi narrator who would get in to characters or supply their own narratives that ran athwart the text unfolding on screen and that sounds really elaborate. The most I wanted my interlocutor to do was sort of season up, spice up, the proceedings a little bit and, truthfully, clarify some spots where I may not have shot things clearly enough. The benshi thing I found out about just a bit too late to figure out how to work with it and incorporate it myself.

That happens to me a lot, getting into a project and then finding really inspirational ideas right at the end. I have to insist that it’s ok, a good sign even, to be spotting neat ideas all the way through a project instead of having a complete and perfect idea right from the beginning.

And of course I’m looking forward to sometime seeing the organ harvesting movie, The Brand Upon The Brain.