Sunday, February 21, 2016

Forty Days of Lent: Day Twelve

Last night I dreamed I was with my family at some house.  The feeling in the dream was that it was early evening, the quiet time after some social gathering when the food was put away and the majority of dishes had been cleared and cleaned.  We were all gathered in the tv room and someone (I don't recall who) was insistent that we watch Pier Paolo Pasolini's film "Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom."

In the dream (as in real life) I kept trying to explain to my family that Salo is not a film that they would want to watch.  The movie basically consists of four of the town elders kidnapping and raping and torturing a group of teenagers during the final months of WWII.  Yet I couldn't convince my family to watch something else.  They kept insisting that they would watch the movie until it got really bad and then stop.  I couldn't convince them otherwise.

I have no idea why I dreamed this.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Forty Days of Lent: Day Eleven

Below is my review of Live and Let Die for Cinephile City's overview of the James Bond films.

Here at Cinephile City, we like to run a regular column called Movie of the Moment, where we talk about how a given film perfectly defines the era in which it was released. Well, looking at the imminent release of SPECTRE, we realized that just about every James Bond film is a movie of its moment. So we’re celebrating James Bond Week with Movie of the Moment pieces all week long, each about a different Bond film. Enjoy!

Published in 1954, Live and Let Die was Ian Fleming’s second James Bond novel, the follow-up to Casino Royale. The film version, however, was the eighth in the Bond series – ninth, if you include the deliberately silly 1967 version of Casino Royale – and the first starring Roger Moore. Live and Let Die the film shares some elements and scenes with the source novel, more so than other Bond films that got only their title from one of Fleming’s books. Bond is on the trail of heroin kingpin Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto, sporting a generic bad guy’s name if ever there was one) who also happens to be Kananga, a corrupt Caribbean dictator who feeds people to crocodiles and sharks and makes his decisions based on tarot card readings.

This gap of almost two decades might have been even longer had screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz not been so interested in pitting 007 against some black villains. The Civil Rights Act was not even ten years old but a dubious sort of social progress can be seen in Live and Let Die‘s script: the bad guys are black and almost all the good guys are white. It doesn’t seem racist so much as an illustration to not judge people “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The Black Power movement of the late 1960’s both inspired and provided an eager audience for the major cinematic influence on Live and Let Die, that of blaxploitation cinema.

It was the first time a Bond film would take inspiration from any type of film other than classic Hollywood spy thrillers, though the story here is an inversion of blaxploitation. Instead of a black character striking back against a powerful white man who is destroying their community, a white character fights a powerful black man who is aided by the entire black community. It replaces blaxploitation’s anarchic thrill in seeing a corrupt person or system taken down with the wit of watching Roger Moore refusing to lose his British reserve in  situations where he sticks out like a white thumb. They’re all against him, they’re all spying on his every move. It’s both a parody of white paranoia (“They all know each other and stick together. Lock the doors and roll your windows up!”) and a sad reversal of the spying and infiltration of black communities undertaken by the FBI in response to the Black Panthers movement.

Live and Let Die is not really like other Bond films. After several movies with villains in secret underground lairs who threaten to launch weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Big’s plan seems fairly mundane. He plans to flood the drug market with free heroin, force other crime families out of the drug business and then raise his prices once the competition is gone. It’s a plan that would fit as the plot for any number of early 1970’s crime films such as The French Connection or The Seven Ups. The look of the film echos the gritty realistic look of crime films of the era. Gone are the nifty gadgets and glamorous locations of earlier Bond films. James stays at an unexceptional tourist hotel when he is on the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique. The heroin factory is a shack he quickly dispatches by burning it down. One chase scene takes place at a small airport for chartered planes and the other is with speedboats on the waterways of Louisiana. You could almost call it the most realistic Bond film were it not for the voodoo and tarot cards.

The interest in the occult in the early 1970’s was part of a general reaction against the established order begun in the 1960’s, the order in this case being that of organized religion. Witchcraft, magic, Yarrowstalks, the I Ching, tarot cards, fortune telling, palm reading: these were well-known and seen as benign even to those who didn’t use or believe in them. They were featured in movies long before the 1960’s – more than once you’ve seen the cliché of a gypsy, while reading someone’s future in the cards,  flipping over the card for…DEATH! – but the occult had penetrated mainstream culture enough that its ideas could be taken seriously in a James Bond film. Kananga’s tarot card reader Solitaire (Jane Seymour) isn’t undone because the occult is bunk or because the cards mislead her but because James easily tricks her. He makes her think that “The Lovers” card means that they are to be lovers. They do, but Solitaire loses her connection to the spirit world and thus her usefulness to Kananga in the process.

The sexual and racial dynamics of the Bond – Solitaire – Kananga triangle are such that you have two men, one black and one white, fighting over the virtue of a white woman. Both are exploiting her for their own ends.  Once again Bond saves the world with his dick, but for the sake of the plot the idea is reinforced that any white guy can steal a woman from a black man, even if he’s more successful and has more to offer. “Stay with your own kind” is a warning to women in this film, seen not only in Solitaire being offered up as part of a voodoo sacrifice for her betrayal of Kananga, but in how quickly Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry, a veteran of the blaxploitation genre in films such as Black Belt Jones and Black Caesar), a black double agent, is dispatched after sleeping with Bond.

The notion of the occult as a legitimate alternative spiritual system wasn’t to last long, as evidenced by 1973’s most successful film, released just six months after Live and Let Die: William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. From then on, any contact with the other side other than prayer was seen as just an invitation to have evil forces invade and ruin your life. Tellingly, Linda Blair’s Regan mentions she’s been playing with an Ouija board shortly before she’s possessed. The occult could now only provide the initiating action for horror films and punishment for characters foolish enough to try it but little more than that.

The success of blaxploitation cinema would also wane by year’s end.  There would still be blaxploitation films, but as critic Richard Maynard wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “By late 1973 the genre simply ran out of gas. The formula had become dull and audiences just stopped showing up. The studio execs had already found a new staple to fill the downtown theaters — martial-arts movies.” The crime film naturalism of Live and Let Die would be replaced more and more in each succeeding Moore film with technological fantasy and camp. Kananga’s comical death – Bond force feeds him a gas pellet that makes his body inflate like a balloon and then pop – might seem like an anomaly in this film but is a prediction of what was to come in the series.

Friday, February 19, 2016

40 Days of Lent: Day Ten

Every month or so, friends of mine gather in the back room of the bar Videology to watch movies.  Everyone chooses a clip to share which are then compiled into a master reel.  Above is the intro sequence I created for one of our movie parties.  Enjoy.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

40 Days of Lent: Day Nine

As seen on ebay

50ml - Trance-channelled Archangel Soul Sprays for comfort, peace and rejuvenation.
This crystal essence was given in trance to Jill Harrison by the Archangels. Spray this meditation essence into your auric field and breathe in deeply to help you connect to the Archangel Temples of Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael,This spray contains a blend of Frankincense, English Rose, Sandalwood and Jasmine essentail oils.
How our Soul Sprays are made
During trance sessions, Jill Harrison has been given the formula for these Soul Sprays, to assist mankind with re-juvenation and relief from negative energies, which impact on our ability to be the best that we can be. 
These essences are lovingly aligned with the vibration of the Archangel or Ascended Master. The Soul Sprays are made within a vibrationally prepared space, with crystals and essential oils. 
Each spray carries its own specific divine energy. 
The Benefits  of these sprays are:-
  • They help to dispel negative mental, emotional energy that clings to your auric field.
  • Boosts your meditation experience and helps to raise your vibrational energy levels.
  • Helps you to stop negative thought patterns. 
  • Helps you feel settled and comforted so you can achieve your goals more easily.
How to use Soul Sprays.
To get the best from your Soul Spray,  shake the bottle, then spray a mist in front of you. About three sprays should be sufficient. Then close your eyes and step into the mist, noticing how you are responding to the energy of the Soul Spray.
You can also spray these essences onto a handkerchief or pillow. Alternatively, place a teaspoon of the Soul Spray into an oil burner, and add some water to allow the energy of the spray to cleanse the negative ions in the air.
To use on someone else, ask them to relax and close their eyes. Shake the bottle and spray from above into their aura. 
You can use these soul sprays anywhere. Use during meditation, to help align your energies to a specific Archangel or Ascended Master.
As these Soul Sprays contain essential oils, do not spray into the eyes, and any residue that remains on the hands should be washed off to avoid contact with the eyes. Pregnant women, those suffering from asthma and those who are epileptic, should avoid using essential oils and only use essences after consulting with a medical practitioner or qualified aroma-therapist.
How do they work?
Just think about how different smells affect your moods. If a child throws-up on your carpet, imagine the feelings you have and the change of attitude. Same if you spilt a bottle of milk in the car, or a wagon full of pigs, off to market drives by you; or the drains or sewers overflow nearby. 
Now picture and sense the feelings you get when you smell your favourite flowers, or smell the fresh bread being baked in the bakery; or the confidence you feel when you find the right perfume for you. Our sense of smell allows us to affect our moods and attitudes, according to the different smells we encounter. The formulas for these sprays have been put together by the angelic realm, specifically to alter our moods and attitudes in the direction stated on the bottle.
Who is Jill Harrison?
Jill Harrison is an Avatara. An Avatara is a woman who has been chosen by the divine to deliver messages from the angelic realm, to enlighten humankind about what God really is; and how we can become spiritually highly evolved.
These Soul Sprays have recently been given, by the angelic realm.
Glenn Harrison, Jill's husband and twin-flame, partners with Jill, in a mission to help people around the world with enlightenment. 
Jill is available for channelled Archangel readings.
Warning: There are many charlatans around who say they can channel Archangels. The reality is, there are very few who really can. It is not for us to say who the charlatans are; but it is important to help you feel comfortable that Jill Harrison is the real deal. Just ask and you'll get all the verification and validation you need.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

40 Days of Lent: Day Eight

I love weird cultural artifacts found in museums.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

40 Days of Lent: Day Seven

Images from a Graffiti Mural Now Painted Over 

Monday, February 15, 2016

40 Days of Lent: Day Six

Gilliam on Gilliam

Originally posted on Cinephile City.  You should probably read it there because why not?

Even if he hadn’t been one of the founding members of Monty Python, a group considered The Beatles of Comedy by none other than George Harrison, or if he hadn’t directed several unique and influential masterpieces – though opinions vary as to which of his movies are masterpieces – Terrence Vance “Terry” Gilliam would have lived a life worthy of a memoir. It’s wasn’t just his coming of age in interesting times that makes the memoir, it’s his uncanny sense of knowing where to be during those times.

It’s a life that encompasses having to use an outhouse as a boy in Minnesota and playing Grand Theft Auto as an old man, aware that the game is having an effect on him even as he enjoys it. Between those two poles he wanders around Harlem with Robert Crumb while he sketches the people who live there, is hit on by the man who was the original model for Mattel’s Ken doll, gets chased out of a restaurant because his hair is too long, and spends a tense night in a hotel room with all the furniture barricading the door.

Gilliam has had an interesting life, but one that was hardly unexamined. In addition to his frank DVD commentaries, much of Gilliam’s story has been told before: in the exhaustive oral history The Pythons; in Gilliam on Gilliam, a book-length interview; in the “making of” books The Battle of Brazil and Losing The Light; in the documentaries The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys and Lost in La Mancha. It’s a relief to find that Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir, written by Gilliam with Ben Thompson, isn’t a rehash of stories told elsewhere.

In fact, the most compelling material comes from Gilliam’s life before joining the Pythons: his trouble-free childhood and adolescence, working for his hero Harvey Kurtzman, traveling around Europe in the mid-60’s before expatriating himself and moving to England. It seems to be the pattern with memoirs that once a person finds success and becomes the persona that we know, their observations about the world around them cease and they only write about themselves and their work, perhaps with some juicy gossip thrown in if you’re lucky.

Concerning the latter, it’s a relief that at last Gilliam has put in print for all eternity Martin Scorsese’s honest appraisal of what it was like working with Bob and Harvey Weinstein: “It’s a horrible experience, but if it’s the only way for you to make the film, you’ve got to do it.” “Horrible experience” and “only way to make the film” are two phrases which tend to come to mind when discussing Gilliam’s work over the last 15 years. The text of Gilliamesque can’t help but have a rueful tone as the successes of his mid-career give way to the frustrations and disappointments of his later work.

However, there is a book within the book, one that consists of the images found on almost every page. It’s Gilliam’s autobiography told through family photographs, cartoons, production artwork, set photography, story boards, cards given to friends; a small history of a compulsive creator. According to the introduction, Gilliamesque was originally conceived as an art book, but Gilliam got carried away while recording descriptions of the pieces and the project slowly turned into a memoir. Hopefully someday someone will publish a compendium of Gilliam’s artwork, similar to his long out-of-print Animations of Mortality. Ironically his success with Python and as a director has meant that his cartooning has been remained underrated. We know the story of his life and the stories behind the making of his films. Get the words out of the way: we’re not yet sated with his art.

Gilliam's view of the Klan's social progress from Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine.