Amoeblog

AFI 2012 - The ABCs of Death (2012)

Posted by Charles Reece, November 18, 2012 10:41pm | Post a Comment
abcs of death poster

Lets just say this film is NOT for the morally conscious.
-- Timo Tjahjanto on his "L is for Libido"

The ABCs of Death
is a collection of humorous horror shorts from around the world, each based on a letter of the alphabet -- so you know going in that, percentage-wise, some of it won't be very good. However, there are a truly inspired few that make enduring the whole worthwhile. What you'll learn, if you didn't already know, is that Americans aren't very good at making horror these days, Asians are the best, with the French and Mexicans falling somewhere in between.

The best of the bunch is undoubtedly from Indonesia, Timo Tjahjanto's "L is for Libido."  Two men are chained to chairs, forced to masturbate to whatever's put before them on a stage. The last one to ejaculate gets gruesomely eliminated, while the winner goes on to the next round, with something even more heinous being put before him and his new opponent. Without giving any of the shock value away, I'll just say that the forced fetish spectacle was sufficiently evil to get the asshole sitting next to me who couldn't stop playing with his cell phone (a video arcade was coming from his seat) to finally pay attention and leave in disgust. A good horror film can't be ignored. Despite Tjahjanto's claim of amorality, there's actually quite a bit going on here. I'm thinking about the assumption of passivity in gaze theory, both on the part of the spectacle and on the part of the spectator. What's being shown in front of the camera is under its controlling gaze (typically, this is thought to be women, objectified and fetishized), while giving the viewer the false impression of being in control of that gaze, when in fact the gaze has been ("always already") structured for him (men tend to be assumed to be in the role of the scopophiliac). The short manifests this theory as horror: the men are actually subjugated to a spectacle beyond their control. But it's unlikely to win many feminist converts, because it's played for laughs (of the gallows humor variety). The problem in gaze theory is that the spectator isn't passive, a mere product of interpellation, which is made comically apparent through sanguine literality. Intentional or not, Tjahjanto has created a perverse satire of Laura Mulvey's theory.

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AFI 2012 - Interview with Olivier Assayas

Posted by Charles Reece, November 5, 2012 06:49am | Post a Comment

Olivier Assayas discussing his student radicalism and new film about those years, Something in the Air
(which has a better French title translated as After May, but we're not supposed to know to what the
"May"refers over here, I guess).

Return to Beyond the Black Rainbow

Posted by Charles Reece, September 11, 2012 11:54pm | Post a Comment
beyond the black rainbow blu ray

There were only 11 films from 2011 to make my illustrious 'best of' list earlier this year and one of my favorites, Panos Cosmatos' Beyond the Black Rainbow, has finally received a blu ray release as of today. Before home video, digital recording devices and illegal file sharing provided us the liberty of watching pop culture when we want as our founding fathers had promised (control of property being the basis for liberty), a drug-addled consciousness, in the early morning hours, would be retuned to reality through a forced choice of bad cable movies or informercials -- the remote control providing only the remotest semblance of control. The mind was in a particularly susceptible state during such inert periods and, having so little control on media saturation (like having to listen to an entire side of an LP all the way through), it became shaped, one might say enamored, by televisual junk. Set in the time of Orwellian dystopia, Cosmatos' film captures this shaping of the android mind as telepathic domination. The editing feels like pushing the button on the remote at random, which eventually coalesces into something of a cross-channel narrative thread between a self-help guru with a narcoleptic delivery and the final girl sequence in a slasher film. The 80s sci-fi hues turning into hypnotic visual patterns accompanied by Wendy Carlos drones and John Carpenter melodies pull the viewer into the nostalgic abyss. The laissez-faire decade was when most Americans were rebuilt by aliens; only a few escaped.


Amoeba's patented What's in My Bag? with the writer-director of Beyond the Black Rainbow

If Alain Resnais Had a Cat

Posted by Charles Reece, September 10, 2012 03:00am | Post a Comment

Henri 2, Paw de Deux, winner of the Internet Cat Video Festival

Pop Cultural Feminist Icons and Why I Really Don't Like Wonder Woman

Posted by Charles Reece, September 2, 2012 11:48pm | Post a Comment
wonder woman 28 cover

My interest in Wonder Woman has always been lukewarm, with a back issue collection ranging somewhere between Dazzler and She-Hulk. This essay was the result of an invite from Noah Berlatsky over at the Hooded Utilitarian who's currently working on a book devoted to William Marston and Harry Peter's Golden Age run on Wonder Woman (they created the character). Noah had blogged his way through every issue of the comic, and was celebrating with a roundtable on the final issue (#28). Since it was clear that I pretty much loathed Marston's ideas, Noah figured it would be fun to get a negative take, and the following was what I delivered. At one time, the bondage theme had led me to try a volume from the DC Archive editions, but the mind-numbing repetition of  “oh, you’ve bound my bracelets” and “now, I have you tied up with my lasso” only proved what I thought impossible: how meek and boring sadomasochism could be. I imagine what Suehiro Maruo might do with the character -- questionable as feminism, true, but free of tedium. This is a roundabout way of saying I prefer my feminist icons with teeth. And Marston wasn’t interested in artistic ambiguity, but propaganda:

[That w]omen are exciting for this one reason — it is the secret of women’s allure — women enjoy submission, being bound [was] the only truly great contribution of my Wonder Woman strip to the moral education of the young. The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound. … Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. [quote from p. 210, Jones]

Submission as an essential quality of womanhood might sound dubiously feminist, too, if not for Marston’s insistence that what is woman’s by nature should be a virtue for man to follow. There was no Sadean intent for us perverts. Submission was Marston’s end to violence, not a subset. When moralizing critics of his day objected to the overtly fetishistic nature of Wonder Woman, Marston’s response was that bondage is a painless way of showing the hero under duress. Unfortunately, he was correct: his and Peter’s depiction is about as troublingly kinky as the traps laid for Batman in his sixties TV show. As issue 28 indicates, even the villains use physical force only to subdue the heroines, never for torture: When Princess Diana and her mom are bound by burning chains, Eviless makes it clear that the flames don’t actually burn. [p. 20] As fetish or drama, this is about as flaccid as it gets.

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