31 July 2006


Part of our Hall of Fame and the probably the Best of 1995. Famously denied a nomination. The world mourned.

R Crumb comes off as really funny and personable, and he is quite the snappy dresser. The critics surmised that art is therapy, but the social constructivist within me submits to you the proposition that interaction is therapy.

30 July 2006

Taxi Driver

The other night at the weekly Heavy Duty/DivideByZero/Highland Cinema summit meeting I initiated a content and form discussion. I'm sure you're aware that it wasn't a landmark discussion, and it was more about content and form rather than content versus form. The whole thing came to mind earlier in the day when my current Chan Marshall enthusiasm started me thinking about artistic interpretation and appreciation. YouTube has this "Nude As the News" clip that I've watched a number of times this past week or two. You can check it if you want:

You don't have to watch the whole thing -- it's a 1996 Cat Power performance from a UK television program. I like it quite a bit as it illustrates the only consistently good thing about Chan (her voice) and also showcases her occasional talent for writing a good song.

Problem was, I didn't know what this tune was about. I wasn't paying attention to the lyrics at all. When I finally looked them up on the internets they didn't hit me in the gut like I'd hoped they would have. I started wondering whether or not that even mattered. From where should my appreciation derive? Is performance enough? I should probably get it, right? Am I doing this the wrong way?

Okay, so after we watched Taxi Driver I found myself (as usual) on the Crap/Not Crap Electrical forum where some guy wrote:

"First movie to ever make me feel like I was not crazy for feeling alienated and pissed off all the time. Top 5 all time.


I first thought this was completely ridiculous. Travis Bickle should definitely make you feel like you're not crazy, but he sure as hell shouldn't make you feel that way because you identify with his alienation and hostility. He's clinically insane and dangerous. You angsty young men out there in the audience, your bodies full of piss and vinegar, your heads full of literate cynicism and hyperbolic disgust, you may think you are starting to relate to Travis thanks to his abject loneliness and inability with the fairer sex, but please for the love of God stop right there. He's a threat to society. He saved an eleventeen year old whore, but he was hellbent on killing a senator! For no reason. Well, no good reason. I hardly think misdirected sexual frustration is a valid motive for murder.

But then I realized that what's great about Taxi Driver is Marty's ability to subject us to a deplorable character while somehow keeping us from wallowing in said character's delusion and aggressively downward spiral. There's nothing noble or commendable about this guy and yet the movie is so expertly done that you sometimes catch yourself thinking of Travis as strange rather than as a candidate for Bellevue. There's certainly some whoa moments, but they are often understated and non-exploitive. I can't empathize with you if you honestly relate to DeNiro's character, but there's a certain level of frustration, anger, and fear present in this movie that you might find yourself thinking in a manner inconsistent with your rational mind. Taxi Driver is so good that it might make you think it's speaking for you even when the actual events taking place are entirely at odds with your moral compass. Bicks is an anti-hero in the true sense of the hyphenated term, but since the movie never stops being about him and his perceptions it doesn't necessarily debase or belittle him. Taxi Driver is uncomfortable, but I don't think it's pitiful or pathetic until you think about it later.

The point of all this was that my concern about whether or not I was misinterpreting "Nude As the News" seemed to go along with my reaction that the above Albini-fan had misread Scorsese. Upon closer inspection, I really don't think that either is a blatant case of a wrong interpretation. Sure, both could benefit from a more refined analysis, but what's most important about all of this, and what ultimately transpired from our NW Blogspot summit meeting, is that emotional response is the only thing that matters. All I knew was that voice, it made me cry. And that unnamed poster (who is most likely referring to a younger version of himself), all he knew was that Taxi Driver made him feel less alone in this cruel world in which we live. Both are entirely appropriate responses, and are furthermore ones that certainly aren't at odds with the artists' intents. So who cares? And why did I write so many paragraphs on it all? You should watch this movie. Even if you've already seen it 'cause it's really fucking good. Travis Bickle is lonely and pissed-off and alienated and you'll know that right off the bat. Hell, identify with it if you want. Chances are you're a smart cookie (you found to this page, after all!) and you'll get it soon if not now. So stop worrying. Hey, time for South Park. Later!

Congratulations! You have just read the first ever Highland Cinema "blog" post!

27 July 2006

Capturing the Friedmans

Had Andrew Jarecki come to the Cinema for advice we'd have told him:

"Hammer home the absurdity of the McMartinesque accusations instead of making us hate the Friedman sons for the way they yelled and screamed at their poor mother."

He didn't ask us. This is still a worthwhile doc, but there's more to the case that what you see here. Just ask Debbie Nathan.

Ghost Dog

Forest Whitaker lives by a code. And kills for wiseguys. I sure wish he hadn't shot that fella who knew all the words to "Cold Lampin'." There's already too few of us in this sad and beautiful world.

Jarmusch movies are mostly the same: Good!

Forest Whitaker is a fave too...the sheer fact he did this overrides the sheer fact he did this.

26 July 2006

Talons of the Eagle

Dr Pepper, Cool Ranch Doritos, Billy Blanks. The Holy Trinity of the Highland Cinema. Sure, we've upgraded a little, but little else has changed.

Yes, readers, it was eleven years ago that the seedlings of the Cinema first sprouted when a teenaged Highland Cinema board of directors stumbled upon the two greatest films of all time. One starred the most punchline-worthy of superstar siblings, the other featured Billy Blanks, trainer to the stars, ass-kicker of lesser stars, and the only man who can combine a serious lack of acting chops with a serious aircraft carrier-styled flattop. We've seen the Blanks rock some dudes with multiple kicks, machine gun punches, and double blasts. We've seen him take on pissant martial arts stars, sidle up next to super hot babes, wear way-too-skimpy muscle tees, and throw down with Don "The Dragon"Wilson. Hell, we've even seen his real-life "kicking machine" bro fight the Dragon. In a movie with Steve Garvey, if you can believe that! And remember that time Billy trained Shannon Tweed at Crunch Fitness? Of course you don't. Fuck yeah, we're old school, dammit, and this was all before TAE-BO so take your informercial jokes elsewhere.

The point is that Blanks is the fucking man and when I sat there scrolling through the list of Billy's cinematic achievements I stopped here. Talons of the Eagle? Must've slipped through the cracks. Holy shit! Also stars James Hong! Priscilla Barnes! Matthias (S)Hues! All of our favorites of years past. And present. Who doesn't fucking love Big Trouble? Or Three's Company? Or TC 2000? Here we are, legitimate adults and every single one of us here at the Cinema thinks hands down that Talons of the Eagle is the best movie in celluloid history. There's a theme song at the end credits! You see that picture up there? It's the fucking Eagle's Claw! Imagine you're hearing DVDA sing rawked up shit. Soooo good. Dude, these guys drive through a fireball! Blanks slices a guy's throat! That kind of shit never happens in these B-movies. A few necks get snapped, but you never see a karate dude work a blade through a jugular. But it happened here, and you know you're watching some serious shit.

You don't care about the plot, right? Oh, really? Blanks and Jalal Merhi are undercover cops out to get James Hong. The end. Lots of fighting and some stripper boobies.

We can die happy.

Wait, bitchin' sidenote!!! You know this is the Cinema's favorite band, but these guys are a close second. They were already closing in a battle royale with some space beasts, but once we found out they watched Showdown before every show the race got that much closer. Stay tuned.

24 July 2006

Comedians of Comedy

How awesome is it that Brian Posehn got excited about buying candy? That guy can come to the Highland Cinema anytime. Our concession stand is here for you, buddy! And what's more is that this Posehn cat is goddamn hilarious. He has a Death Angel t-shirt! Remember when we saw them? He even makes a side-splitting "Straight Outta Cockpit" joke when they talk about Northwest Airlines. Hey, didn't we have that same conversation last night? Krusty Kuffs! Bleeps and creeps! George Lucas in a Greedo mask!

There. You've just watched the entire movie. Not amazing, but better than my original vitriolic draft would have led you to believe. Your enjoyment depends on how funny you find bear catch-phrases, arrested development, and hanging out. Hey, three for three for the Cinema. That stuff's gold, Jerry. Gold. We don't really dig on the comic books, though. Well, not most comic books anyway.

I walked away thinking that I should have been treated to a much better movie, but also that Maria Bamford has some serious fucking balls to do that act for the past fifteen years. I'm sure she was a favorite at the Sheboygan Giggle Hut.

Three Kings

A dude movie classic from a year known for its dude movies. Also a part of the Highland Cinema's permanent collection, a collection I found myself perusing after a sooner-than-expected return to headquarters late this morning.

Three Kings brings brings way too much cool to the table. Ice Cube! Marky Mark! Gaffs in a bit part! But we really have to give it up for this guy. Kudos to you, my main man, you stole the show almost as much as he did. A performance so good even they loved it.

And I don't know about you, but when I see Nora Dunn I only hear this voice.

23 July 2006

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

Why? He is a man of his word, he is. And he is crazy.

Herzog has some good flicks under his belt, but I'll take his commentaries over his films any day of the week. Shoe is passable -- a story like this is the stuff of artiste legend, but I think it would be better served if the footage did not exist. Herzog lives as he speaks, I don't think anybody can deny him that. His pines for adequate poetic imagery are certainly realized here in spite of the fact he isn't even behind the camera.

19 July 2006

Best of SNL -- Christopher Walken

Saturday Night Live is mostly unfunny.

Christopher Walken is one hell of a character.

The end.


This is the most awful piece of shit. Ever.

How's that for an opener?

Really though, Bruiser is worse than made-for-Showtime garbage and Sci-Fi channel originals. Worse than Hell Comes to Frogtown. Worse than Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Worse than Mac and Me. It bothered us that Bruiser wasn't coherent, stupidly violent, or interesting, but it insulted us that it was neither FUN nor fun to make fun of. I didn't even think such a thing was possible. The Cinema was dead silent for this one, and you know something is rotten when even we're not a-crackin' wise. I joked my way through a corpse's cunning linguistics, a school library one-man squeeze-off, and an entire Morrissey concert, but I spent my time with Bruiser dumbfounded and slack-jawed, all the while thinking, "Is that six-pound bag of pretzels really almost gone?" and "Is it eleven o'clock yet? Damn." Show me disgusting! depraved! shocking! but please don't show me boring.

This sure seemed like the perfect Cinema fodder. Guy wakes up with a mask instead of a face and lays down the law on those who've wronged him. Whoa. Neat, right? Let's see some revenge. Problem is he only offs three cats, and he kills 'em in the most mundane of ways: gunshots, sack of silverware to the dome, extension cord hanging. Laaaame. We kept thinking it would kick into gear, but it never ever did. I can't even figure out why in the hell he starts killing people in the first place. Is it because he doesn't have a face? That doesn't even make sense. He has a face, it's just sorta covered up. Now if he was invisible or marked for death, a killing spree I could understand. But this?!? Shouldn't there be some zombies or steel mills somewhere? This is a George A. Romero joint for Pete's sake!

At least we got to see the Misfits. Of course, it was the super-lame Mountain Dew Misfits instead of the super-cool Jagermeister Misfits. How much would it be to send this to Lodi, NJ? Express mail, please.

The final verdict: we used to suspect it, but now we're certain -- the only good thing about Big George is Tom Savini. Not even these awesome frames could change our minds.

12 July 2006

City of God

I spent the entire movie trying to think of an appropriately side-splitting Seu Jorge joke without even realizing he was in the fucking movie! And not just as some goofball extra, but in a real deal role. The entire second hour depends on him! He's second in command!

Jesus, what an idiot.

I eventually got over that, but the Highland Cinema wondered what the future will say about City of God. At only a few years old it is fast becoming a certified classic -- the recipient of many-a four-star review and the eighteenth greatest of all time. Better than Dr. Strangelove says a mass of internet voters. Sure, we enjoyed it. We enjoyed it a whole lot in fact, but those jump cuts, that start-at-the-sort-of-end narrative framework, and the oversaturated color timing just scream turn of the millennium. Temporal is one thing, but dated can cast an overwhelming pall on a thing. Will Fernando Meirelles' excesses be Cidade de Deus' pastel sportcoat?

10 July 2006

Broadway Danny Rose

That Woody Allen, he knows how to get the Highland Cinema a-laughin'. And now that we're getting older we've found out he also knows a thing or two about getting the Highland Cinema a-creeped out. I know, I know, she wasn't technically his daughter, but ain't no right about that, no way, no how.

This Broadway Danny Rose? "A-O-decent!" if I can steal a witticism from our imagined good friend. Lots of exaggerated schlemiel-in' and neat photography, but not a whole lot else that got me going. That parrot wearing a bonnet, though, that had me dying.

09 July 2006


Chopper is a bad dude. A bad dude with personality, but a bad dude nonetheless. Motherfucker gets stabbed eight times by his best friend and doesn't blink an eye. He pays a guy to cut off his earlobes just 'cause he wants a cellblock transfer. The blood's running down his shoulders and pooling at his feet and he's yelling at the guy to stop being a pussy and cut faster. Once he finally gets released he suspects his lady-of-the-night "girlfriend" is seeing another dude so he beats her senseless in front of her own mother. Then Chopper tracks down the other guy and shoots him in the stomach, but only after he demands a cash payout. Damn. One crazy s.o.b.

The Highland Cinema's only goal in life is to stay out of the pen -- smiley manipulative cats like this will trick you into thinking you're friends, but won't think twice about stabbing you in the face with a filed-down spork. Or worse -- you do know what prisons are most famous for, right? What hurts most is the lack of respect.

07 July 2006

We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen

The Highland Cinema doesn't listen to the Minutemen. "Why in the hell not?!?" I ask myself. Especially since I fucking love Mike Watt. Really I do. Those tour diaries? I've read every single one. In its entirety. Usually while at work. In less than two years I saw Watt play four different times, the first backing up my most-favorite of guitarists, the last supporting that awful band with Krist and Curt Kirkwood. And how couldn't I dig Watt when he has such super-cool fashion sense? It's like looking in a mirror.

But I still don't listen to the 'Men. The CD cabinet has some fIREHOSE and Engine Room, but where's Double Nickels? Would you believe that I have eight Greg Ginn solo releases and not this? What gives, Highland Cinema?!? You love SST! You love proto-alt-rock! Get with it!

We Jam Econo is great: chock full of live performances that are chock full of sweaty fat guys and drum fills. And lots of early 80s hipster talking heads -- most of whom you'll recognize from Get in the Van. But where's Ginn? And more Hurley! Is that J Mascis or your Grandma? Check out these guys' living rooms. Jack Brewer is forty-something and it looks like he lives at home, and Joe Baiza has Christmas lights in his kitchen.

What we really dug was how all these cats absolutely adored the Minutemen. This band was a force to be reckoned with, a live juggernaut that made you listen but weren't assholes about it. Seeing that almost makes me feel okay for not having any of the records -- they were just flyers for the gigs anyway.

You should totally see this. But skip the rambling, go-nowhere "deleted" scenes. "Deleted," my ass! No one would put that Pettibon segment in a movie.

06 July 2006

Jandek on Corwood

Watch this movie and you might think Jandek's a genius.

But watch this and you'll probably think he's crazy.

I can't weigh in on the matter since there's no way I want to wade through forty-plus Corwood releases, but I sure think this Jandek guy's interesting.

04 July 2006

Nekromantik // Nekromantik 2

Oh my goddamn. Who would've thought a corpse-lovin' double feature could be so gross? Hey, I know, how about everybody? And I don't mean just plain "gross," I mean fucking gross. Think of the most repulsive thing you've seen and add one. Hell, think of the most repulsive thing you can imagine and then add one. Or two. Or eight. Eighty minutes of greasy, slimy, decaying German bodies and people doing things they shouldn't be doing. 'Cuse me while I puke. [Shudder]

Nekro I is a classic inasmuch as something this putrid can be classic: you watch that opening menage and think, "Whoa, that's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen." [Blech] "That's a dead body! And a lady in the throes of passion!" [Barf] But hold on! If you make to the very end you'll get a scene that is even more disgusting and more offensive, and I will guarantee you that's it'll be unlike anything you'll ever see in any movie for the rest of your life. Especially one that you could get from Netflix. Yuck. I'm serious. Don't watch this. Ever.

But wait, there's more! In case you forgot about Nekro's finale, Nekro II makes you watch it again. The humanity! The horror! The...[throws up in trash can]. Man, that was fucked up, what the hell, Jorg? Nekro II is sometimes even more repellent than its predecessor thanks to a new and improved bloated green corpse. Yecch. [Retch]

Hey, why does it smell like pretzels and stomach acid in here?