Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

A conversation with Robert Weide, filmmaker*, biographer and personal friend of Kurt Vonnegut will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at IU Cinema, 1213 E. Seventh St.  For more than 30 years, Weide has been working to create a definitive documentary covering Vonnegut’s life and work. He will give a sneak preview of several extended clips of the work in progress and discuss his work on the film.  (From the “Events” section of the local newspaper.)

So I, a Vonnegut fan, a writer myself, and one interested in the arts — and creation of art — in general, made sure to be there last night. In fact, I even prepared myself by making a point to read the preface (by editor and compiler Peter Reed) and Vonnegut’s own introduction to 1999’s BAGOMBO SNUFF BOX, of previously uncollected short fiction, which describe the period in which these works were written, the 1950s and early ’60s where one could earn $3000 for a short story from magazines like COSMOPOLITAN or THE SATURDAY EVENING POST; the rise of TV that replaced these magazines to a large part, bringing a time where one had to write a whole novel to earn the same amount as an advance.  But Vonnegut’s early novels never sold that well until, including a deal of luck, his masterpiece SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE with its anti-war sentiment hit the market at just the right time to become a best seller.  And so I was able to anticipate some of what was to come, as described in the Indiana University Cinema’s blurb:  This special event is a conversation with filmmaker, biographer, and Kurt Vonnegut’s personal friend, Robert Weide, incorporating extended clips from a work-in-progress version of his long-awaited film, KURT VONNEGUT:  UNSTUCK IN TIME.

More than 11 years after his death, Kurt Vonnegut — who was born and raised in Indianapolis — remains one of the most popular literary figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Readers from one generation to the next, the world over, continue to find their lives transformed by his comic and cosmic insights, on display in such bestselling books as CAT’S CRADLE, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, MOTHER NIGHT, GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and on and on.  Amazingly, all of Vonnegut’s works remain in print, and his popularity shows no sign of waning. Yet to-date, there has been no definitive film documentary covering his extraordinary life and work.  For over 30 years, film and TV producer, director, and personal friend, Robert Weide, has been working to correct that oversight.  He will be giving a sneak preview of several extended clips from the work-in-progress, as he discusses his 36-year odyssey to complete the film.

The event is presented as part of Granfalloon**: A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence, an initiative of the Arts & Humanities Council of Indiana University.

And so it goes, for me, as writer, an enlightening and a humbling experience.  Yes, luck played a part in Vonnegut’s success, both good and bad, plus some horrendous life experiences, but I’d not realized the amount of hard work, and number of false starts that went into SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE until he got it “right.”  Or that success did not go well with him in certain ways, though it did in others, including a final bit of luck in his reluctant 2005 publication of A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, a collection of essays that became an instant best seller, two years before his 2007 death.

But one more surprise too, while the blurb spoke of film clips, Robert Weide announced that he couldn’t decide, ultimately, which ones to show, so instead we we got to see the entire two-hour film, in its present not-quite-completed condition, followed in turn by a Q and A session.  A little bit rough, but whenever the final version comes out, I’ll recommend it!
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*Among other things screenwriter and co-producer of the film version of Vonnegut’s MOTHER NIGHT.

**(Wikipedia)  A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel CAT’S CRADLE), is defined as a “false karass”. That is, it is a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is meaningless.  Charles J. Shields’s 2011 AND SO IT GOES:  KURT VONNEGUT:  A LIFE  quotes the novelist, who wrote that a “granfalloon is a proud and meaningless collection of human beings. . .”  That biography also cites Hoosiers as “one of [Vonnegut’s] favorite examples” of what the term refers to.  Other events include displays at the Lilly Rare Book Library, lectures both there and at City Hall, a stage reading of the musical adaptation of GOD BLESS YOU MR. ROSEWATER, and several concerts.

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Did I mention last post, about Le Grand Méchant Renard, that the one sane character in the entire barnyard is a pig?  So, speaking of pigs, in my visit to family (cf. April 24) we spent our first night together with Netflix on the TV with the feature selected (“Let’s do ‘Creatures,'” I suggested as we explored the menu) a Korean horror movie called CHAW.  Of which this on Amazon:  Chaw is the name for a man-eating wild boar with a body length of 2m and approximate weight of 410kg.  Sameri is a quiet village on the foot of Mt. Jiri in South Korea where no incidents have occurred in 10 years.  One day a mangled human wrist is found and the village of Sameri is placed in fear and severe anxiety.  Shortly later another body part is found and then footprints are discovered with bloodstains.  Former hunter Il-man Cheon (Hang-Seon Jang) lost his granddaughter and he now suspects her disappearance is tied to the man eating boar.  Il-man then gathers some residents to find the boar including Sun-kyeong Kim (Tae-woong Eom), professional animal hunter Baek (Je-mun Yun), and Hyeong-sa Shin (Hyeok-kwon Park).  Animal ecosystem researcher Su-ryeon (Yu-mi Jeong) is also enlisted in their hunt.

CHAW or CHAWS?  That is, one niece suggested the film unfolds much like a land-based version of JAWS, with an oversized porker instead of the fish.  And she was right if you think about it — a story unfolding, horror by horror escalating, until there’s finally an all-out attempt to destroy the critter.  But also an ending suggesting such horrors might still exist.  Perhaps it’s not all that unique a plot-line but the success is in how it’s carried out, with (in this version) a fair bit of humor as well.  Or to quote viewer “Adamo’s” review on Amazon:  Jung Yu-Mi is so adorably cute in her role as the eager college student trying to research large boars.  ‘Chaw’ (pronounced ciao, means trap in South Korean) is some sort of mutant boar terrorising a local village.  It goes for about 2 hours and I watched it over the course of two nights and really it doesn’t seem to drag too much, it’s witty and tongue in cheek without being ridiculous and pays respect to the creature feature genre.  These movies are Chawnotorious for horrendously dodgy looking creatures but even the boar looks and moves realistically, for the most part.

I laughed out loud when right at the end when the camera pans away the serious straight cop pulls his jacket up so you can see the outline of his ass in skin tight brown leggings.  A perfect example of the spirit CHAW was made in.

I honestly don’t remember that little touch at the end, but it seems likely enough and in general I think the review is a fair one.  And, even though he only gave it three stars, I enjoyed the film enough myself that I’ve ordered a copy for future (re)viewing.

Whoever thinks that the countryside is calm and peaceful is mistaken.  In it we find especially agitated animals, a Fox that thinks it’s a chicken, a Rabbit that acts like a stork, and a Duck who wants to replace Father Christmas.  If you want to take a vacation, keep driving past this place.  So says IMDb and the place is France, or at least in the 2017 cartoon, based in turn on a series of Franch graphic novels, LE GRAND MÉCHANT RENARD ET AUTRES CONTES in a U.S. sneak preview this afternoon at the Indiana University Cinema.  And the fox (le renard) no relation to those we met in the comments in the post just below (April 24), the would-be harassers of beleagured cat Arlo, but funny and just a little bit scary (violent, at least, enough to for one father to have to leave with his upset child) as he attempts, under the tutelage of the big bad wolf, to steal if not chickens, three freshly laid eggs which, when they hatch, might provide them both lunch.  The only trouble, when they do hatch, the first thing the chicks see being the fox they immediately bond with him as their “mother” — and hence, of course, he bonds back.

So which are they, prey or predators, foxes or chickens, in what unfolds as an examination of identity and the meaning of family (restored to the farmyard, the chicks get in trouble in school, e.g., for trying to bite their fellow pupils)?  Combine with this two other tales, “Baby Delivery” and “The Perfect Christmas,” under the frame of the “Honeysuckle Farm Players” (of whom our fox is a principal actor) presenting a play for our enjoyment — in French, to be sure, but with English subtitles.  Its distribution in the U.S. has been delayed for a month or two, however, according to the IU Cinema docent, to the point where they almost didn’t want us to see it this early, but it isn’t silly (despite its premises) and it is funny as well as in some places just a bit touching, a lovely Saturday matinee should you get a chance when the time comes to see it.

So let’s give Haleigh Foutch the introduction in “9 Psychological Horror Movies That Will Seriously Mess with Your Head” on COLLIDER.COM via THISISHORROR.CO.UK:  . . .  you won’t see titles like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or LES DIABOLIQUES — they’re some of the best movies ever made in the psychological horror genre, but their effect is different.  What you will find here are a whole bunch of mentally taxing freakout films that will prod at your psyche and put you through the ringer.  It’s . . . obviously nowhere near a comprehensive list, it’s an assortment of my favorite (or perhaps most dreaded) movies that mangled my mind.  Along the same train of thought as my list of visually stunning movies, sometimes I just like to celebrate a few of my favorites without getting into qualifiers and rankings.  Think of this as a starting ground, a conversation starter, and a few of my personal favorites, and be sure to keep that conversation going sound off in the comments with the movies that messed you up the most.

So which movies are they?  Well, starting with JACOB’S LADDER, and ending with THE VANISHING (the original foreign language version, NOT the 1993 remake in English), highlights include some I’ve seen like the two just mentioned, but several I haven’t as well, so I know how I may be spending my evening.  It is, after all, Friday the 13th.  So, for those who would like to share the misery — or at least enjoy some of it for oneself — for the rest of the list press here.

Dracula does retain his name in the Turkish version of his movie (see March 26, including a link to the film itself), although spelled at least three different ways in the subtitles.  The other characters, however, are Turkish and the Mina Harker equivalent works as a showgirl (for convenience, let’s call her “Alt-Mina,” who’s also already married to Alt-Jonathan), allowing for two dance sequences which, among other things, neatly divide the 1953-made 94-minute film into three approximately half-hour segments.  And otherwise, while also set in the 1950s, it follows Lugosi’s 19-year earlier classic (and the novel) better than, say, the Hammer Films versions.  Also as it happens the dance sequences served as convenient markers for watching it on a library computer in three separate not-overly-lengthy segments.  And even if “Dracula” is balding and a little bit boorish, the movie is fun.

In brief, the first half hour takes us through Alt-Jonathan’s meeting in Dracula’s castle, ending with him shooting Dracula (or so he thinks) in one of several coffins being readied for shipping to Istanbul.  Then fast forward to Istanbul and Alt-Mina’s club with a reasonably sexy dance sequence, after which she receives a message in her dressing room that Alt-Jonathan’s doing fine (one of the fake letters that Drac had made him write in advance), followed by a phone call that her “sister” Alt-Lucy is ailing and she should pay her a visit.  Thus segment two gives us Dracula’s attacks on Alt-Lucy, her getting “sicker” (one symptom being sleepwalking into the garden where . . . well, you know), doctors being called for, one opining that while surely she’ll get better soon there is this specialist he knows. . . .  And Alt-Mina gets a phone call that there’s a charity show in town that night and could she, maybe, do a dance number for it?

Thus another “Bollywood” moment, after which she receives a message in her dressing room that Alt-Jonathan was discovered having escaped from Drac’s castle and is now in a hospital on the Hungarian(?) border.  This leads to a series of short scenes in which (1) she drives to join hubby who must remain in the hospital three more days, (2) the “specialist,” Alt-Van Helsing, receives a message requesting he consult on the Alt-Lucy case, (3) he does, prescribes transfusions and garlic but she dies anyway with Alt-Mina and hubby arriving back just in time to say goodbye, (4) newspaper articles highlight a strange woman luring children into the cemetery and leaving them with neck-scars whereupon Alt-Van H. drafts Alt-Lucy’s erstwhile fiance plus Alt-Jonathan on a staking (or as the subtitles have it, “poking”) expedition, (5) Alt-Mina’s charity gig is continuing and, while having been talked into always wearing a garlic neclace, she has to take it off when she’s in costume, leading to (6) a visit from Dracula in her dressing room after, moments before hubby arrives to pick her up (while the others await in the last of Dracula’s lairs — real estate agent Alt-Jonathan having pass keys, you see [the subtitles use the term “kiosk” for these properties, a word derived from Turkish, but I assume with more a British than American meaning]), a chase ensues, and (7) a final fight scene and subsequent happy reunion.

Well, you knew how it would end anyway, but go ahead and give DRACULA IN ISTANBUL a look, if only for its curiosity value (remember? March 26th’s post has a link — way, way down at the very very end [and the reason the desk clerk crosses herself is she’s Romanian]).  And as I say, it holds up well enough as a movie (despite sometimes injudicious subtitles) as well as being fun.

Drakula Istanbul’da (Dracula in Istanbul) is a Turkish horror film from 1953.  The screenplay was based on a 1928 novel by Ali Riza Seyfi called Kazikli Voyvoda (“Impaler Voivode”), and is more or less a translation of Stoker’s novel, but there is no Renfield character and Guzin, the “Mina” character, is a showgirl given to performing in revealing outfits.  Drakula/Dracula is played by balding Atif Kaptan.  Long believed lost, Drakula Istanbul’da is considered the first non-western film version of the Dracula story, and oddly, one of most faithful to the Bram Stoker original.  With Dracula scaling the castle walls, implied infanticide, and the ceremonious end of the vampire, with first a staking, then a beheading, then stuffing the mouth with garlic (as per the instructions in the novel), this movie adaption contains more of the creepier elements of the book than many higher-budgeted and more pedigreed productions.  Perhaps it’s the proximity of Turkey to the Eastern European setting of the novel, or perhaps shared similar legends and folklore, but Drakula Istanbul’da, in all its threadbare grace, seems to have an authentic and maybe innate feel for the myths of the region that cannot be found in any Hollywood back lot.

Say what?  And yet it’s true, the above from CREATIVECOMMONS.COM, with the information brought to us via E. K. Leimkuhler in “Dracula Retold:  Early Variations on a Gothic Classic” in DEARDARKLING.COM.  This, in fact, is the film version of KAZIKLI VOYVODA, a Turkish “translation” of DRACULA by Ali Riza Seyfi that follows the main plot points pretty well, albeit with Turkish characters substituted for the English originals and other changes (e.g. Dracula fears not the cross, but the Quran) to make it more relatable to a Turkish 1920s audience.  Also, unlike the “real” DRACULA, there’s an actual direct connection to “Vlad the Impaler,” the Harker character prior to meeting the Count in fact wondering if he could possibly be a descendant of the historical Vlad.

The DEAR DARKLINGS article covers four variations in all, the Turkish book being the third.  First is “Dracula’s Guest,” originally a part of Stoker’s novel but left out of the final version, published separately in 1914, two years after Bram’s death, by his widow Florence.  Then in second place is another “translation,” MAKT MYRKANNA (a.k.a. POWERS OF DARKNESS), a 1900 Icelandic version published “by” Bram Stoker and Valdimar Asmundsson.  After the start, however, this one varies considerably from the original (e.g., [a]mong other misadventures, Harker finds multiple rotting corpses [which don’t disturb him nearly as much as the Count’s lewd banter], encounters an allegedly insane Dracula cousin, and witnesses the Count leading a Black Mass a la Hammer.  Additionally, the Count’s machinations involve a somewhat convoluted international political conspiracy) although, according to Leimkuhler, there’s some indication Stoker may have at least shared unused parts of his notes with Asmundsson.  Both this and the Turkish book version have since been translated into English, with links provided (a third variant in Swedish has yet to be translated, however).  Then, finally, Universal’s Spanish language film of DRACULA, made concurrently with the Bela Lugosi version in 1931, is cited, again with a link, this one to an omnibus edition of all six Universal “Dracula” films (i.e., up to and including 1948’s ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN) which includes the Spanish version as an “extra.”

And so, to see for yourself, check here.  But also a bonus, linked to as well in the DEAR DARKLINGS piece but deserving a special place here as well, what of that Turkish Dracula movie?  To see it for yourself, with English subtitles (at least of a sort — and with the desk clerk at the inn early on, despite its reimaging into Islam, still crossing herself when Dracula is named), press here.

First, don’t go toe-to-toe with them on the ground.  Infantry should be reserved for evacuations, crowd control and to preserve civil order.  Once it’s been shown that the animal’s hide is too thick for bullets and shoulder-fired rockets to have any effect (and this always proves to be the case), withdraw the soldiers and Marines from the front lines.  But we knew that anyway from back in the WAR OF THE WORLDS days, didn’t we, not to mention the numerous attacks on Japan by prehistoric reptiles.  But then 264569-giant-monster-movies-all-monsters-attack-wallpaperwhat can we do the next time Godzilla rises with less than honorable intentions?  Not to mention his many companions.
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Well, first, heed the above, from “How the Pentagon Could Destroy All Monsters” by Joe Pappalardo on POPULARMECHANICS.COM, delivered to us via Friday’s email.  The secret it turns out is in use of air power.  But know what’s in the arsenal first, and how best to employ it — even biplane pilots have learned from their experience with King Kong that it’s better to attack from above , not at chest level, and stay out of reach of those monstrous paws.  And if tank shells bounce off a dinosaur’s flanks, don’t expect airborne cannon fire to do much better.
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In other words the time has come to ignore the movies which always seem to get the details wrong anyway.  Instead, let author Pappalardo explain in detail, by pressing here.

Asami, Marie, Annie Wilkes, Carrie’s mother, what do these women all have in common?  As Jessica Ferri would have it, courtesy of THE LINEUP:  Men have dominated the “killer” role in horror movies for decades.  There is, however, a certain level of dread inspired by the female horror villain that just doesn’t compare.   Driven by revenge, psychosis, demonic possession, or something even more sinister, we would not want to incur the wrath of these women.  Move aside, Freddie and Jason.  So possibly these wouldn’t make the best girlfriends — or friends in general.  Nor would Mrs. Voorhees, Samara, Lola . . . the list goes on.  And let’s be glad Valentine’s Day is over!

The article is titled “Hell Hath No Fury:  10 Best Female Horror Villains,” and can be found here.

So, as we know (cf. March 4, below) I made it home from Providence Sunday, though fate (and American Airlines) apparently would have preferred that it be Monday.  A flight to Philadelphia cancelled (one does not get to Indianapolis without changing planes at some point in the journey)!  But I persisted as the saying goes, and a way was found, via Washington DC, with only one small glitch — it left from Boston.  Ha ha!

But I once lived in the Boston area a long time ago and Logan Airport is no farther from Providence than, say, Indianapolis from where I live now.  There are trains and busses, though schedules might be chancy on Sunday.  So going back to the Dean Hotel (a lucky connection with a Providence city bus from the airport there back into the city) where I had been staying, and technically wouldn’t have had to check out till 11 a.m., where they let me borrow my room key back to rest for an hour or two, then set up a ride for me via Uber for, still, significantly less than the cost of an extra night in a hotel.

So I got back to Bloomington three hours later than I had planned — big deal, big deal!  I who on Friday had survived, and walked between hotels, and 7-11s and CVSs to cobble together a rustic lunch, what USA TODAY has described as a “bomb cyclone”!

So, weather disasters and airports aside, just what was I doing at StokerCon?

Not schmoozing in the ConSuite for one thing.  They didn’t have one — which is rather amateur in my opinion, the hospitality suite even more than proverbial, though over-noisy hotel bars being where people get together during lulls between panels and other activities.  On Friday night, however, after 4 p.m.’s Dark Poets Face to Face Redux, several of the poets and I kind of faked it with order-in pizza (the “bomb cyclone” beginning to wind down) in one of our number’s room.  And at 8 p.m. repaired from there to the Third Annual Final Frame Horror Short Film Competition, won by the very funny — and horrid — Great Choice (dir. Robin Comisar, “A woman gets stuck in a Red Lobster commercial”), with 2nd place going to Exhale (a.k.a. Expire, dir. Magali Magistry, “A toxic fog, the Smog, blanketed the planet forcing people to live confined.  But when you are 15 like Juliette, real life truly begins outside) and 3rd to Winston (animated, dir. Aram Sarkisian, “A man is driven mad by his obsession and paranoia), some of which once the film festival season has ended may begin to be seeable on YouTube.

Other things I wasn’t on, but attended on Friday, were panels:  Pulp Horror 2018, How (Not) to Win the Bram Stoker® Award, a post-lunch final half hour of What’s Vlad Got to Do with It? (“a tour thru Romania with Dacre Stoker”), How to Make Ordinary Things Scary (having noted to Dark Poets moderator Marge Simon that my TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, on the other hand, seeks in a way to make scary things ordinary), and DARK CARNIVAL: The Writing Prompts of Ray Bradbury.  A very full day!

Saturday, following coffee Americano and a huge pecan donut at the Dean Hotel’s coffeehouse (very good, but nevertheless apart from the convention, still not a ConSuite) I shared a prose reading (Block Thirteen, 10 a.m. in the official program) with participant and host for the previous evening’s poetry and pizza Karen Bovenmyer, and Nathan Carson, with me reading the Part III chapter called “Carnival of the Animals” from TOMBS.  Afterward it was back to my hotel and one block farther to Providence’s public library, to use a computer to reconnect, briefly, with the outside world.  Then, back at the Biltmore a panel attended, The Classic Weird in 2018, and out again for a late lunchette before 4 p.m.’s Vampires:  The Next Generation which I moderated, and a final panel, Unspoken Clichés.

And that was pretty much that — with nothing planned for those who might not be going to the awards banquet, after some chatting with folk in the Biltmore lobby, etc., it was to the Subway across the street for a sandwich to go, then reviewing a busy and enjoyable weekend at my hotel and an early bedtime.  And thus, well rested, I could find out at something before 7 a.m. Sunday that, re. getting home, the adventure had actually not quite yet ended.

But we already know about that.

We’ve just announced the eleven extraordinary short films that will be competing for the $1,000 Grand Prize in our Final Frame Film Competition.  This event has become one of StokerCon’s most anticipated and popular features, so be sure to mark Friday night on your con calendar!  So, indy film lovers, these ones are shorts, to be shown at StokerCon Friday night from 8 to 11 p.m..  Or to quote more fully from the latest Progress Report, received yesterday afternoon:  The Horror Writers Association is proud to announce the third annual short film competition held in conjunction with StokerCon 2018, held at the fabled Biltmore Hotel, in Providence, Rhode Island on March 1st through March 4th, 2018.  Final Frame celebrates the darkest, weirdest and fantastic short horror films from around the globe.  The winner will be announced at a cocktail reception after.
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So if you’re going to StokerCon too (cf.February 13, et al.) perhaps I’ll see you there.  A quick rundown on the films themselves can be found by pressing here.



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