Merry Christmas, Mr. Lorenz (Part IX)

“Well Christ almighty,” Junior said to Bill, “is that a smile I see on your face?”

“You’re damn right!” Bill replied, “it’s a new day for ol’ William Lorenz!”

“Thought I’d never see the day.”

After the two exchanged pleasantries, Bill walked into the cafeteria and grabbed a tray. As he moved his way down the line, he came up to the dessert potions. “Care for some lemon meringue?” the cook asked.

“Ya know, I used to hate lemon meringue,” Bill replied, “but fuck it! Why not?!”

The cook shrugged and plopped the cake onto his plate. Bill then sat down on the other end of the table from Sappy. “Sappy, you disgusting piece of shit! How ya doing this morning?!” Bill greeted.

Sappy didn’t reply.

As Bill shoved his face with sloppy joes and French fries…drenched in nacho cheese of course…a gang of four inmates snuck up behind Sappy. Bill recognized the men. They were all fellow counter-revolutionaries on the outside. The leader tapped Sappy on the shoulder.

“I’m getting tired of seeing you diddle yourself in the shower,” the man said, “if I see it one more time, I’m gonna cut that pecker off!”

Sappy and the gang began exchanging words. Bill licked the nacho cheese from his fingers and approached the group. “What seems to be the problem here?” he asked.

“This has nothing to do with you Bill,” the leader replied, “go back to stuffing that dumbass mouth of yours.”

“Woah woah woah, cool it buster! I’m just trying to keep the peace!”

“How about YOU cool it, turncoat!” the leader retorted. This caught the attention of Junior, who remained on the sidelines with his finger on the taser.

“Turncoat?” Bill asked, “Tom, what are you on about now? Come on man, we lost! Let’s move on with our lives!”

As the two shouted at each other, Sappy quietly pulled out a shiv and leapt toward the leader. Bill grabbed Sappy and wrestled him to the ground. Junior and the guards never noticed the small dull blade being drawn as their sight was obscured by the gang members. Bill forced the weapon out of Sappy’s hand and snuck it into his own jumpsuit. “Sorry Sappy,” Bill said, “but it looks like you owe me one.”

“Everyone back to your cell!” Junior ordered. The guards grabbed the Sappy and the gang then escorted them out of the cafeteria. “What’s gotten into you Bill?” Junior asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Normally you’d be the one to instigate these fights but now you’re stopping them!”

Bill nodded. “Then I suppose you should be thanking Dr. Effington,” he said.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Flashback: “The Man With the Golden Eye”

I’m not gonna say I’m suffering from writer’s block. But I’m certainly lazy as shit.

So here’s another flashback from the early days. It was a sequel to Shoot Me, Deadly and it’s by far my least read story. It’s not nearly as good, plus it’s replete with grammatical errors.

But, eh.

Whatever.

The Man With the Golden Eye

The phones were ringing off the hook. Everyone was missing something: cat, dog, prosthetic arm, leg, penis, you name it. Business was booming.

But I needed help. I was on the phone all the time. Not solving cases.

Isabella brought in lunch: a Philly cheesesteak from Tony’s off 5th Avenue.

“Gee mister,” Isabella said. “After I sent a butthole pic to that producer on the internet, I’ve been getting all kinds of acting job offers!”

“That’s good to hear Izzy,” I replied. “But you can call me James.”

The calls kept coming. I couldn’t keep up. Unfortunately, between the court fees, medical bills, fines owed to the state of California for burning down a nature preserve, and replacing the window in my office after a man fell through it, I couldn’t afford help.

“Say James,” Izzy said. “You look swamped. Since you saved my life and all, the least I could do is help you out with your business.”

“Oh you’re a lifesaver Izzy. I had to let go of my secretary the other day. If you could sit at her desk and answer phones, that would be great. Just ignore the calls with a Sacramento area code,” I replied.

As I was explaining the job, Sgt. LP Anderson of the LAPD called.

“What do you know about Franco De Werner?” Anderson asked.

“He’s around 5’10.5 with a great head of hair. He’s the biggest arms manufacturer on this side of the Mississippi. He’s been a financier of various counter-revolutionary movements in South and Central America. In fact, his eye got shot out in Nicaragua for which he now wears an eye patch. He’s earned a reputation as a solid middleman between the CIA and various fruit companies in war-torn countries. He graduated summa cum laude from Emory, earned an MBA from Wharton. His wife is Becky, they have two children ages 15 and 18. His drink of choice is Kentucky Bourbon, and he enjoys the works of Dostoyevsky. Otherwise I don’t know much,” I said.

“Well the FBI called, seems like a shipment of Werner’s has gone missing en route to Costa Rica. If you provide your assistance, the FBI said they’ll drop their investigation into you. I’m assuming you know they’re talking about,” Anderson asked.

I sighed.

“Very well,” I said. “Tell your FBI contact that I’ll set up a meeting with Franco De Werner.” I hung up the phone.

“Lazy bastards,” I thought to myself.

I went to Izzy. “I need you to gather all the information you can find on Franco De Werner. Print it off and slide it under the door of the bathroom. I’ll be in there for awhile,” I instructed.

The Philly cheesesteak went out as fast as it went in.

***

I took the California 1 up to Malibu. Again, I got pulled over.

“You need to stop fuckin around,” the officer said. “I’ve seen your kind before. You come around here thinking you solve everything. But you can’t. You’re just one man. You can’t change the system.”

“First off,” I replied. “Weren’t you a sheriff in San Luis Obispo last week? And secondly, I’m just helping the FBI on an investigation into Franco De Werner’s missing property. I’m not trying to change any system. And third, how the hell do you know who I am? Hand me my ticket and fuck off.”

The officer glared at me for awhile then wrote up the ticket.

“I better not see your face around here again. And fuck this piece of machinery that you call a vehicle,” he warned.

“I’ll have you know that I get 12 mpg in this piece of machinery,” I replied.

The cop flipped me the bird and walked away.

I pulled up to Werner’s beachfront property. As I walked towards the house, a 50 cal. machine gun knocked up a bunch of sand and blew my bowler off. I dropped to the ground and pulled out my .45.

Seconds later, there was a laugh and a man walked up. His smile was perfect.

“Those commie bastards did me a favor by shooting out my eye. My aim has never been better,” the man said.

I stood up and knocked the sand off.

“Mr. Franco De Werner, I presume?”

“Indeed,” he replied. “You must be the investigator the FBI sent. Welcome to my humble abode. Can I offer a refreshment? A bourbon perhaps?”

“A change of underwear if you’ve got it.”

We went inside to Franco’s Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. His servants offered cucumber sandwiches and some 90 proof Elijah Craig.

“I heard you slaughtered an entire mafia up in the mountains,” Franco said.

“How did you hear about that?” I asked.

“For a man in my position, it pays to have eyes everywhere,” he replied. “I could use a man like you.”

“I’m just here to assist the FBI, Mr. Werner. Not for a job interview,” I said.

“Right”

Franco sat back in his seat and lit up a cigar. Villains love their cigars.

“There was a whole shipment of M4s and Carbon 15s going to counter-revolutionary forces in the jungle. The communists had to of intercepted it,” Franco explained.

“How could they have known?” I asked.

“I must have a rat in my midst,” he explained as he puffed on his cigar. “I need you to sniff him out Mr. James.”

“I’m a simple private investigator Mr. Werner. Not an undercover agent.”

Franco took a drink of his bourbon.

“I know about your troubles. I know about you burning down an apartment building, about the massacre in Big Bear, about your medical bills and unpaid fines to the California Highway Patrol. I can make all your problems go away if you do me this favor: join my team, and find this mole.”

I thought for a second, then poured a glass of Elijah’s.

“I’m all ears,” I said.

***

“Do be careful James,” Izzy said.

“Be sure to pack my Beretta 93R,” I replied. “Things might get heavy.”

Izzy handed me my aluminum edition suitcase and drove me to Burbank International. I was headed to Belize to pick up the trail of Franco De Werner’s missing arms shipment. 

To infiltrate his elite team of mercenaries, Werner provided me with false credentials. My name: Carlos Newhouser…a half-Austrian, half-Mexican, former member of Spetsnaz. 

My mission: snuff out the communists.

Kill, if necessary.

At the airport, a rag tag crew of rednecks, Arabs, fishermen, nomads, musicians, accountants, fur trappers, Canadians, dope heads, dope dealers, truckers, Canadians, hockey players, Arsenio Hall, and former special forces were there to greet me. This was Franco’s crack team.

“I’m Carlos,” I said.

Everyone glared. 

“Anyone gonna say anything?” I asked.

A female stepped forward.

“Welcome to Belize, Mr. Newhouser,” she said. “I’m Angelika Anotolukolopolous.”

Angelika was red headed. She spoke with a Scottish accent.

“Let me take your bags,” she said.

“No thanks,” I replied. “I prefer to carry my own.”

We all piled into the bed of a jacked up 95 F-150. Anna tried to brief me on the situation while on our journey to the hotel.

“What?! I can’t hear you through this loud ass Diesel engine!” I said.

“Franco has tasked us with finding the missing arms shipment! He suspects the communists of stealing it!” she replied.

“I know! We’ve already gone over this!”

We arrived at Helena Bay Family Resort. The hardened crew gathered by the poolside bar while children ran and played about.

“I heard you torched a school in Sarajevo because you suspected they were harboring communists,” one of the mercenaries said to me. “You’re one cold blooded son of a bitch.”

“Better dead than red,” I replied. I looked over to the bartender. “Mai Tai please.”

Angelika stepped out in her bikini. The ruffians glanced over and went back to their mojitos. I stripped off my shirt and jumped into the pool.

Angelika looked me over through her Ray Bans.

“I see you have a good taste in music,” she said. She was referring to my Def Leppard tattoo. 

I hopped out of the pool and dried off.

“Thanks,” I said. “Got it during their Slang Tour in 96.”

“I’d like to see what else you got,” Angelika replied. She was playing seductively with her straw between her lips.

“On my left ass cheek is the Whitesnake tour from 92,” I replied.

She slipped me the key to her room.

“Come see me tonight, after 10:30. I’ll show you what I got,” and with that Angelika got up and slowly walked away.

She suspected something. We suspected each other. But I had to follow my leads, and Angelika was at the top of my list.

After 10:30, I unlocked the door to her room. 

“Angelika?” I asked.

From behind the bathroom door appeared Angelika in a purple corset and black undies.

“Well,” I said. “I don’t see your tattoos.”

“Hello James,” a woman’s voice said from behind. 

I turned around and there stood another Angelika in the kitchenette.

“Sorry ladies, I only brought enough protection for one,” I said.

“Please sit down,” the Angelika in the kitchen replied.

I complied.

“Care for a drink?” she asked.

“Irish whisky,” I replied.

A third Angelika appeared and handed me a glass.

“Can I have the bottle please?” I asked. “What’s going on here?” 

“We are genetically enhanced clones from the Ionian Liberation Front,” the first Angelika said. “We know you’re not Carlos Newhouser. You’re a hack detective from some agency in Los Angeles.”

“Genetically enhanced?” I asked.

The second Angelika took my glass and smashed it against her head.

“I see what you mean,” I said.

“We’re after Franco De Werner. Join us, or you won’t be leaving this room alive.”

I thought for a second, then I saw an opportunity: The burrito I ate earlier was roaring back with a vengeance. So I stood up.

“I need to use the bathroom,” I said. “It must be Montezuma’s Revenge.”

“Very well,” one of the Angelika’s said begrudgingly.

I sat on the toilet and started thinking through my options. As I stunk up the room, a forth Angelika handed me a roll from behind the shower curtain.

“Don’t forget to wipe,” she said.

***

“If you stray a foot, I’ll murder you where you stand,” one of the Angelikas told me.

All the mercenaries, 40 of us in total, boarded the black hawks en route to the jungles of Honduras. The three other Angelikas disappeared hours earlier. Only one was left to watch me.

“Why are you after Franco De Werner?” I asked her.

“In addition to killing our comrades, he holds the key to a secret nuclear arsenal somewhere under the Gulf of Mexico. If we can capture him, we’d control enough fire power to destroy the Western Hemisphere,” she replied.

Well fuck me, I thought. Angelika(s) plan was to massacre the mercenaries in the jungle during their communist hunt, forcing Franco down to Honduras. 

I was caught between a rock and a hard place: between a diabolical madman and a kill squad of four genetically enhanced clone-ladies

“But why me though?” I asked. “Are you aligned with the mafia? Are they still pissed because I torched the shit out of them in the woods?”

“Just shup and do what you’re told.”

The choppers dropped us off on the beach. We set up camp for the night. All the men gathered around the various fires, cracking open one Keystone Light after another.

It became a beach party.

I stood watch along the tree line. Angelika handed me an MK 556. She pushed me up against a tree and grabbed my dong.

“Remember,” she said. “I am always watching you.”

She then kissed me and disappeared into the jungle. I began to cry.

The men started to get rowdy. I told them to quiet down, that the communists could be watching.

“What are you afraid of, Carlos?” replied Tiger Tanaka, the most ruthless of the bunch. “You’re the most notorious arsonists in Eastern Europe. Quit being a puss.”

Tiger then pulled out a Henri Selmer saxophone and started rockin’ out like he was Clarence fucking Clemons. This noisy instrument was echoing across the bay and into the jungle.

“Damn it Tiger! If you don’t put that loud piece of shit away, I will shoot you myself!” I yelled.

“I ain’t afraid of nothin in this jungle!” he yelled back.

Ironically, a tiger then jumped out of the woods a mauled his face off. The men quickly scattered into the jungle, leaving their weapons behind. I fired a few rounds at the animal before it disappeared.

“There’s tigers in Honduras?!” one of the men yelled. I shrugged.

Angelika must have something to do with this, I thought.

The men attempted to retrieve their weapons. Every time they got close, the tiger would reappear and drag one of them into the woods.

“It’s an ambush,” I said. “We must fall back.”

“Fall back into the jungle?! WITHOUT OUR WEAPONS!” said Thomas Jane “Little” P.P., the explosives expert.

“Calm yourself, Little PP,” I replied. “Fall back and we’ll regroup.”

As the men retreated, trip wires began going off. A fireball would light up the sky and body parts would fall back into the trees.

“We’re gonna die!” screamed Little PP. He ran ahead a few yards in front of me before falling into quicksand.

I extended my rifle to pull him out, but he kept sinking deeper. “I don’t want to drown!” Little PP yelled. “Please kill me, Carlos!”

When I realized that I couldn’t rescue him, I lifted up my rifle and fired one round into Little PPs chest. I watched as his dead body sunk below the surface.

The screams of men continued to echo across the jungle. I heard growling behind me. The tiger was near. I fired a few rounds into the bushes and ran off.

I hopped across a trip wire and hid behind a tree. “Come at me mother fucker,” I said. The tiger jumped out and hit the wire. The explosion was brilliant.

Tiger blood rained from the sky.

I sat down and radioed in.

“To Angelika or whoever’s listening,” I said. “Tiger’s dead. Both tigers are. There can’t be very many of us left. But I’m still standing. If you want me, you’re gonna have to come down here and get me. 

But be warned: it’s gonna take more than a tiger and a few land mines to kill me.”

***

The warm breeze blew through the trees while the sun beamed down. Dead and mangled bodies littered the jungle floor.

I rested beneath a tree, waiting for the Angelikas.

A chopper rattled in the distance. The trees rustled as it hovered overhead. Four ropes dropped down to a clearing in front of me.

The four Angelikas lowered down.

“You’re coming with us,” they said.

“Not today sisters!”

I attempted to fire off a clip, but my rifle jammed. I threw the weapon down. If it came down to hand-to-hand combat, I was fucked.

Three of the Angelikas attempted to corner me. One stood back. I threw a grenade, but one caught it and threw it back. The explosion knocked me back a few feet.

The chopper continued to hover overhead.

As I laid there in a daze, I suddenly remembered: Izzy packed my burst action Beretta. The Angelikas were inching closer. I pulled out the sidearm and unleashed the three rounds into the chopper.

I could see the pilot’s brains splatter across the glass. His body leaned forward and the helicopter came careening down into the jungle. As it exploded, fire rained down onto the three Angelikas.

They might’ve been genetically enhanced. But as I’ve learned time and time again, no one is immune to the destructive force of a fireball.

I walked towards the last remaining Angelika. She instantly cowered down.

“Don’t kill me! I’m the original, I’m not genetically enhanced,” she screamed.

“Where’s Franco?!”

“He’s holed up at the abandoned airstrip a few klicks away.”

“You’re taking me to him.”

I held her at gunpoint as we journeyed towards the airstrip. Franco was in the hanger while his private jet rested on the runway. 

“Here’s your communist mole,” I told him.

“Excellent work, Mr. James,” he replied. “Now that I can trust you, I’ll reveal to you my secret plan.”

Franco turned around and removed his eye patch. A brilliant flash of gold appeared from where left eye once was. He laid a steel briefcase on the table.

Inside was a ridiculous looking retinal scanner.

“When I run my golden eye through this retinal scan,” he said. “50 scud missiles armed with nuclear warheads will fire from beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Each aimed at a major city in the Western Hemisphere.”

“You’re a madman, Mr. Werner,” I replied. “You’re not even gonna attempt to blackmail world leaders? What kind of villain are you?”

“Once when the world’s major cities have been destroyed,” Franco continued. “They’ll blame the communists, and leaders of the world will have no choice but to use my services to defeat them.”

“Billions of people will die, just so you can make a profit,” I replied.

“Basically, yeah.”

I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: madman wants to destroy the world just so he can make a few extra pennies. People will do anything for money these days.

“With that type of destruction,” I interjected. “Nuclear winter could last ages. Are you sure that you completely thought the consequences of your plan, Mr. Werner?”

Franco pondered for a second.

“Shit, I guess I didn’t,” he replied. “Oh well, it’s a risk worth taking. But tonight, we feast!”

Franco left the hanger. Angelika was locked up behind a gate.

“James,” she said. “Franco killed my friends, my family. All I’ve ever wanted was justice. Please don’t let him do this.”

Franco returned with his servants. They were bringing in cartons full of local cuisine out of the jet. He poured a glass of bourbon, then lifted it to make a toast.

“To the future,” he said.

I had to act quickly.

***

Franco stuffed his face with Chile con queso and guacamole. When he finished, he pulled out a cigar.

“Time to get this show on the road,” he said.

Franco ran his golden eye through the retinal scan, which initiated a countdown. He laughed as he lit up the cigar. When the clock reached zero, the computer informed us that all fifty missiles were launched, all aimed at the fifty largest cities in the Western Hemisphere.

“We better get the fuck outta here,” Franco said. “We don’t want to be on the ground when those warheads hit.”

Angelika, myself, Franco, and a few of his minions boarded the private jet. When we were up in the air, Franco was still amused with himself.

“In 19 minutes,” he said as he puffed on his cigar. “We’ll be the richest fuckers in the universe.”

Then he leaned forward as his stomach cramped.

“Damn it,” Franco said. “Montezuma’s Revenge.” He got up and ran to the toilet.

I looked over to the steel briefcase that controlled the warheads. “James, do something!” Angelika yelled.

I swiftly leapt out of my seat and kicked the guard in the dick. “Ow! My groin,” he yelled as he fell to the ground.

With the guard incapacitated, I opened the briefcase and attempted to redirect the missiles. However, I didn’t know how to operate the computer.

“Remove the handcuffs James, I know how to do it,” Angelika said. I took the keys off the guard and set her free. She redirected the missiles into space, where they’d all converge to create one massive explosion.

Moments later, the sky lit up…almost as if there were two suns resting on the horizon.

“Congratulations Angelika, you saved the world,” I said.

“We still have a problem,” she replied. “One missile is not responding to the commands. It’s headed straight for Mexico City.”

I thought for a moment.

“What’s our flight path?”

I busted into the cockpit and knocked out the two pilots with the butt of my rifle. “Our path takes us near Mexico City. We can intercept the missile with this jet,” I said.

I took control of the cockpit in an attempt to steer the jet into the missile. I never flew a plane of that magnitude before. I flew a Cessna once. I figured that flying a Lear at 745mph couldn’t be that different.

“Two minutes to intercept,” Angelika yelled as she was putting on a parachute. I climbed out of the cockpit and began strapping into one on as well.

I kicked open the emergency exit and the cabin depressurized. At that moment, Franco ran out of the bathroom and began firing his Ruger. Angelika grabbed his arm and attempted to knock it out.

“Jump James!” she yelled.

I jumped out of the plane. Angelika engaged with Franco for a few more moments before throwing him out of the plane without a parachute. Then she jumped. 

The missile crashed into the Lear, detonating the last nuclear weapon several thousand feet above us. We deployed our parachutes. When we were 20 feet above the ground, Franco rifled out of the sky like a lightning bolt, grabbing ahold of me and crashing us into the ground from his tremendous momentum. 

Franco somehow managed to keep his cigar in.

We wrestled on the ground, with him getting the better of me. When Angelika landed, not even she could overtake him. I took out my Beretta, but Franco kicked it out. 

While I was laying on the ground, Franco grabbed the gun and aimed it at me.

“Goodbye, Mr. Private Dick.”

The wind then kicked up and my parachute blew on top of him, obscuring his view. I jumped on top of him and began to strangle him.

By this point, I’ve probably killed hundreds of men. But there’s nothing like killing a man with your bare hands.

Franco gurgled for a bit, then the bones and muscles in his neck began to break. When his eyes rolled back into his head, I loosened my grip. 

“Let him go, James,” Angelika said. “He’s dead.”

I took my hands off his lifeless body and stood up.

“That was fucking brutal. Jesus!” Angelika told me.

I began to strip off the parachute when a man fully decked out in military regalia came out of nowhere and began to clap.

“Well done, well done,” the strange man said.

He walked over to Franco’s body and picked up his cigar. “I am Admiral General Colonel Majors. United States Navy,” he explained.

“Where were you guys when we needed you?” I asked.

“You were never in serious danger. We were monitoring the situation the entire time.”

Angelika and I look at each other.

“But 50 nuclear missiles were launched,” I replied.

“Don’t worry about it,” Admiral Majors said. “What’s important is that I’m here to recruit you into my ultra top secret kill force, the most lethal unit in the world.”

“Why me?”

“You’re a killing machine James. You know that. You love the thrill of taking a man’s life. I watched it with my own two eyes. Face it James, you were born to kill.”

I finished taking off the parachute and threw down the Beretta. “I’m a simple LA detective, Admiral,” I replied. “I seek the truth. I’m not very good at it, but people pay me to do it. But I’m not a killer.”

“Suit yourself,” the Admiral said. “But this isn’t the last you’ll see of me.”

Angelika was later arrested due to being wanted by INTERPOL. Something to do with “terrorist activities” in 14 countries. I called Izzy.

“Mission complete,” I told her. “I’ll back in LA in a couple of days.”

“Oh that’s wonderful, James,” she replied. “Did you find that missing arms shipment? It would be really bad if all those weapons fell into the wrong hands.”

“Fuck! I forgot!”

THE END 

Not another shit post!

Fuck you!

I don’t have the time to write you an essay every day! Who do I look like?

Susan Sontag?!

As a spry 102 year old, I have mouths to feed: five kids in the states and another family I started in Vietnam while in the Marines (during the 90s, of course). So my time is VERY valuable.

That being said, one thing I find very satisfying is a good performance on screen. Even if it’s a minor role. So while I was sitting on my ass, at work, and watching the second best James Bond film (with Timothy Dalton) -License to Kill– I was reminded of an actress that understood the assignment and nailed it: Teresa Blake.

Don’t remember her? She played the role as “ticket agent” at the airport when Bond was moving on to his next assignment. The place was covered with police officers and she informs 007 that “some big drug dealer just escaped.” Understanding what that meant, Bond rushes away, leaving her hanging. “Your ticket!” she exclaimed.

This was the best performance of the movie. Yes, even better than Robert Davi’s.

Teresa Blake went above and beyond what the role called for. I’m sure director John Glen and producer Michael G. Wilson simply told her “just look hot and say the lines.” But Blake (probably) told them to stick that piece of direction up their ass because she was gonna add some subtly to the role.

Usually in these small exchanges, the attractive woman is supposed to ogle James Bond. But that’s not what Blake does. Instead she plays it like she’s just doing her job. She couldn’t care less that a “big drug dealer just escaped” and that there’s a tall, handsome British agent standing in front of her. Yet even then, her delivery of the “escaped” line fits in perfectly with the James Bond Universe. Blake is aware of why she was cast and leans into it. She plays it like a Bond girl without the needless sexual innuendos.

But her finest moment was the delivery of “Your ticket!” Clearly John Glen saw what I saw. He could have easily put that line on the cutting room floor but left it in because Blake absolutely sold it.

So shout out to Teresa Blake. It’s a shame that she doesn’t have more credits but at least we have her 20 seconds in License to Kill.

Death of a theater

There’s a lot of bitching about the supposed death of movie theaters. The argument goes that the only way to appreciate filmmaking is on the silver screen with a fellow audience. Because of the proliferation of internet streaming, the communal experience cinema has fallen by the wayside.

Do I agree with this assessment?

Yes.

Do I give a shit?

No.

Perhaps I became a cinephile at the wrong time. I mean, I get it. I really do. But the dynamics of the filmgoing experience has changed. And that’s alright. EVERYTHING changes at some time or another.

But I quit caring about movie theaters a long time ago. Long before COVID even. The last time I’ve been to a theater was in 2017 to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This is largely because I have truthfully never bought into the “communal experience” of watching a movie.

I remember watching Joe Dirt in theaters long ago. I realized it was funny before everyone else did; before it became a cult classic. When Joe Dirt threatened to blow up the Grand Canyon and got poop spilled all over him, I laughed hysterically. Everyone else sat in their seats stone-faced. Audiences (except for me, of course) wouldn’t know what was funny if it bit them in the nuts. So fuck what other people think.

My argument is this: if you want to enjoy a movie, it has to be just YOU and the film. My love of cinema didn’t start in the theater. It started at 11 years old, after midnight, while watching Taxi Driver on Cinemax. Of course I was watching Cinemax at that hour to see some gratuitous T&A. At least initially. In fact, if anyone caught me, I would have probably quickly switched to porn and denied I was watching the classics of cinema. The first time I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was with some friends and, to be cool, I had to say it was the most boring thing I’ve ever seen. But in my heart, I knew it was genius. At 12 years old, I stayed up late to watch The Deer Hunter and cried myself to sleep. I never told anyone that until years later. Enjoying a movie, to me, should be an intimate experience; it should reveal things about yourself both good and bad…things that you may never tell another living soul. THAT’S the power of filmmaking.

This isn’t to say that theaters don’t have their purpose. But I’d argue that theaters simply offer the spectacle of film. They serve a similar purpose to churches. Sure, everyone can come together and listen to a sermon, but to have a truly transcendental religious experience, one must transcend the spectacle and enter a state of gnosis; of opening one’s mind to things unseen. Movies can be more than a spectacle. They can be a revelation.

Honestly, the slow death of movie theaters probably started with VHS.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lorenz (Part VIII)

“Merry Christmas, Dr. Effington,” Bill said as he sat prim and proper in the psychotherapist’s office. The good doctor smiled and nodded in astonishment.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lorenz,” she replied, “I assume your meeting with Susan went well.”

“It did not, but that’s okay. I’m ready to move forward.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, doctor. In fact, I’d like to learn more about you.”

Satisfied with the progress she was seeing, Dr. Effington gave a slight smile. It was the most warmth and personality Bill had seen from her. “What would you like to know?” she asked.

Bill shrugged. “Anything really. Why did you become a doctor?”

“Well, I realized the inefficiency of modern psychology to combat pathological behavior,” she explained, “in men, there’s sometimes a sexual component. If the new government is truly interested in eliminating crime, this problem should be addressed.”

“Your methods here have been kinda extreme, wouldn’t you say?”

“Only in light of the previous paradigm of sexual repression. But we’re now living in a new paradigm.”

Bill nodded. “I see,” he said, “so I’m sexually repressed?”

“Not repressed, Mr. Lorenz. You’re sexually misdirected.”

Bill thought for a moment. “So I’m assuming you’re still not wearing underwear?” he asked.

“You have assumed correctly.”

“May I see?”

Dr. Effington slowly uncrossed her legs and spread eagle in her chair. Bill gazed at her genitalia. “Am I still permitted to uhh…pleasure myself if need be?” he asked.

“Of course,” the doctor replied.

Bill unzipped his prison jumpsuit and started touching himself. “Can you touch yourself too?” he asked.

“Can we continue to discuss your history?”

“Actually, I was hoping to talk more about you.”

Dr. Effington started rubbing her right hand down her thigh. “How so?” she replied.

“Do you do this for all of your patients?”

“Just you.”

Bill began stroking himself harder. “So ehh, what gets you off?” he asked.

“A lot of things,” she replied as she rubbed herself.

“Can you take out your uhh…,” Bill began to stutter.

“Breast?” Dr. Effington asked as she unbuttoned her blouse. After she exposed her bare chest, she placed one hand on a nipple and the other between her legs. Bill was completely zoned in. “When was the last time you were intimate with someone, Mr. Lorenz?” she asked.

“Please don’t call me that,” he said.

“Would you rather be called ‘Bill’?”

“I’d rather be called nothing.”

Dr. Effington’s moans of pleasure increased as Bill neared climax. “You can come closer to me,” she offered.

“I can’t,” he said, “the heart monitor will go off.”

“I had it switched off.”

Bill slowed down as he moved his chair closer to hers. He reached out to touch her leg. As he stroked her leg and himself simultaneously, he began to feel a sense of performance anxiety.

“Is everything alright?” Dr. Effington asked.

“I’m…I’m sorry doctor, I don’t know what my problem is!”

She buttoned up her blouse and placed her hand on his shoulder. “It’s quite alright,” she explained, “I’m proud of you. You’ve made a lot of progress.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

3001: The Final Odyssey

I don’t usually do book reviews as I’m not a big fan of them. So I’m not sure that this is a review. It’s probably closer to a commentary on 3001 and Arthur C. Clarke’s work as a whole.

As a film buff, I find 2001: A Space Odyssey to be the most ambitious movie ever made. I also think Peter Hyams’ 2010 is an underrated gem that doesn’t detract from its predecessor at all. What both these films do is ask more questions of humanity than it answers. However, it is typical for both film and book series to provide a sense of closure.

Which is why I was somewhat disappointed with Clarke’s 2061 and 3001. In fact, I found 2061 to be entirely superfluous. I enjoyed 3001 far more but even then I found the final entry to the Odyssey series to be wanting.

That is, until I read Clarke’s “valediction” at the end of 3001, where he reiterates what he stated in the introduction to 2061:

“Just as 2010: Odyssey Two was not a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this book is not a linear sequel to 2010. They must all be considered as variations on the same theme, involving many of the same characters and situations, but not necessarily happening in the same universe.”

Excerpt From
3001
Arthur C. Clarke

While in a certain sense I found this explanation to be a cop out, it does stand to reason when you evaluate Clarke’s work as a whole. In fact, I totally bought this same explanation for his Rama series. Rendezvous with Rama is one of the greatest works of hard science fiction and one one of my personal favorites. Yet its sequels are far friendlier to popular audiences. While I found the sequels to be a guilty pleasure, their perspectives don’t quite mesh with the original. To account for this, I too have to adopt Clarke’s rationale in his 3001 valediction.

Plus, the conclusion to the Odyssey series is in keeping with the themes found in his other works. From what books I’ve read from Clarke (I haven’t read them all), he rarely offer easy answers. In fact, that’s part of the reason why Rendezvous with Rama is so effective: there’s no clear explanation, merely speculation, for what the Rama craft is and why it visited the Solar System.

I think there’s an assumption that when we make contact with an intelligent, spacefaring extraterrestrial species, everything will be absolutely clear. At least that is what’s presented in mass entertainment. But that’s never the conclusion that Clarke reaches.

Space is unimaginably huge. And insofar as scientists can tell, there’s a limit to how fast information can travel. In all likelihood, when the first positive confirmation of intelligent life is found, it will likely be centuries before contact is made. Humanity, as a result, will be flipped on its head where entire theories will be obsolete and new fields of speculation will be established. Where humanity stands presently, it is unlikely that we have the language and understanding to fully grasp the final answers. That’s what it means to come face to face with “God”.

So to me, it’s these steps in human evolution…on our ultimate path towards the infinite…where Clarke found his fascination. That’s why he rarely provided answers: because we aren’t ready for them.

Oof

Other than the James Bond films, I typically don’t pay too much attention to new releases. But I was so blown away by Midsommar that I’ve been loosely following the career of Ari Aster. Originally called Disappointment Blvd, the trailer for Aster’s next film Beau is Afraid has recently dropped, and, well, I gotta say…Beau is afraid for Beau is Afraid.

Perhaps I should be glad that the same guy who made the short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is getting carte blanche in Hollywood, but a cursory glance at the history of filmmaking will tell you that’s almost never a good thing. Ever heard of Heaven’s Gate?

Damien Chazelle is the latest victim of this curse of talent. You make a few great films on a modest budget and suddenly you’re the toast of the town. Producers then give you $100,000,000 to do whatever you want and you create a three-hour, self-indulgent mess called Babylon.

Not to say that Beau is Afraid won’t be interesting. One man’s unfortunate adventure to visit his mother sounds like a hoot. But here’s the problem: it’s also three hours long!

Very few movies across history deserve to be that long; maybe, like, five total. And if there’s any genre that absolutely should NOT be that long, it’s horror AND comedy. Audiences should stand up and say to Hollywood: if you can’t tell a good story in under two hours, you don’t deserve to be making movies.

That’s a hill I will die on.

But maybe Aster has earned the benefit of the doubt. Allegedly, we’ll be shown Phoenix’s gigantic (prosthetic) testicles. Maybe when his mother says “I am so sorry for what your daddy passed down to you,” she’s referring to his abnormally large wang? So this might be a story about the burdens of having a big dick. If that’s the case, then I think three hours are warranted (because I can relate, of course).

But if we really wanted to maximize Aster’s talents (Hollywood, if you’re reading), here’s my suggestion: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Producers have been trying to adapt that book for years, but the truth is that it’s nearly unadaptable. UNLESS you have someone like Aster’s sensibilities. Clearly, much of the novel would be cut out, but Hollywood needs a horror film director to tackle that material. Moreover, you need a director that’s willing to pull the trigger on disturbing subject matters. For a guy that made a short film about a dude that sexually abuses his father, Ari Aster is just the man for the job 👍

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lorenz (Part VII)

“I can’t believe they granted you a conjugal room,” Susan said.

Bill was busy setting the candle light and pouring wine. “And they gave me alcohol too,” he replied, “maybe things aren’t so bad.”

Susan pulled out a chair, sat down, and looked him square in the eye. “I’m not having sex with you, Bill,” she said, “besides, I’m already seeing someone.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Because it’s John.”

Bill looked down at the ground and shook his head. “Goddamn it,” he uttered.

“There was no good way to tell you,” Susan said.

Bill walked over to the window then glanced at the small Christmas tree in the corner. “Well Merry Christmas to me,” he replied.

“But I did bring you a gift,” Susan said as she dug through her bag. She pulled out a picture of him and his grandfather at Mount Hood some 15 years earlier. “I know that this was the last picture of your grandpa before he passed,” she continued.

Bill took the photograph and turned his back on Susan. He was silent as he recalled the memory of that day. After several awkward seconds, Bill spoke up. “I haven’t seen this picture since the day it was taken.”

Susan said nothing.

Then Bill turned around. “Why John?” he asked. “Don’t you two have a history? Isn’t the government watching you two like a hawk?”

“Maybe,” she replied, “but I don’t care. I think we always had feelings for each other.”

“But you guys aren’t up to the same old shit again? You just got out of prison for Christ sake!”

“I don’t think I should discuss this with you right now.”

“You are! Fuck. I hope they don’t have this room bugged!”

Susan threw up her arms. “Let’s drop it,” she yelled, “I was hoping this would be a happy visit. But obviously you’re not mature enough for this conversation.”

Bill began drinking directly from the wine bottle. “I guess not,” he replied.

The two uttered nothing for a few minutes. Finally, Susan stood up. “I don’t think I’ll be coming back,” she said, “you seeing me probably isn’t good for your rehabilitation.”

Bill didn’t reply.

“I wish you luck in the future,” she continued, “when you’re released, if you know what’s good for you, please don’t reach out to me. Do you understand?”

He nodded.

Susan knocked, then a prison guard unlocked the door and let her out. Before she exited, she turned around. “Merry Christmas, Bill,” she said, then departed.

Bill held the bottle of wine in one hand, and the photograph in the other. Then the prison guard stepped in the room. “You still have access to this room for a few more hours,” the guard said, “do you wish to stay here?”

“No,” Bill replied, “please take me back to the cell.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lorenz (Part VI)

Bill kept wiping the sweat from his brow as he waited for Dr. Effington. The nurses once again attached the heart shock device to his chest. After 10 agonizing minutes, the psychiatrist walked into the office.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Lorenz,” she said. The doctor rolled her chair just feet away from Bill.

She was wearing the same boring brown skirt that went past her knees. Bill had seen her don that same outfit hundreds of times. Though slightly relieved…because he thought this might be a normal session…he couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

“That’s quite alright, doctor,” he replied, “I’m sorry for taking out my penis and trying to touch you last time.”

“Given the circumstances, that’s quite understandable,” Dr. Effington explained, “but due to safety concerns, I cannot permit you to touch me. At least not yet.”

Bill wondered what she meant by ‘not yet’.

The doctor pulled out a folder and began looking through her notes. “Now last time we spoke, we were discussing your family life,” she continued, “I would like to explore that further.”

Bill sat up in his seat. “Wait a minute,” he replied, “I’d like an explanation for our last meeting.”

She closed the folder of paperwork in her lap and removed her glasses. “I’m sorry, Mr. Lorenz. But I can’t disclose that at the moment,” Dr. Effington said.

“Why not? It’s my treatment. Don’t you think I’m owed an explanation?”

“All of this will become clear in time. Now please, let’s return to the subject at hand.”

“Doctor, you stood completely nude in front of me. I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have questions.”

“Your psychological makeup is quite unusual, Mr. Lorenz. And unusual problems require unusual solutions.”

“Then I cannot participate in this treatment if I’m not given an adequate explanation.”

Dr. Effington sat up and readjusted herself. She ever so slightly slid up her skirt and uncrossed her legs. For a long half second, Bill could see she was not wearing underwear.

He sat stone faced as she continued her questioning.

“Mr. Lorenz,” Dr. Effington said, “I need you to trust me in this matter. Now please…tell me about your relationship with your mother.”

Bill began to feel sweat beading down his back. “Uh…,” he stuttered, “there’s not much to tell. She OD’d when I was 15. My father was also a junkie and he ran out on me. I was raised by my grandfather.”

“Did this ever make you feel alone? Guilty?”

Bill chuckled as he began rubbing his face. “Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he said.

“What did you do to address these issues?” The doctor asked. She again placed her pen up to her lips.

“Uhhhmmm…I’m sorry, Dr. Effington, but I know you’re not wearing underwear.”

“I know you know.”

“Could I see more?”

Dr. Effington moved her fingers down her blouse. “Possibly,” she replied, “but I need you to answer my questions. Were you angry after your mother’s death? How did you cope?”

“Of course I was angry,” Bill said, “I was angry at the world.”

“Is this how you became involved in politics?”

Bill paused for a moment. “I…I don’t know,” he replied.

“Did you ever have any romantic relationships?”

“I don’t think I was ever good with women.”

“Well, what can you tell me about Susan?”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Troma’s War (1988)

If you knew nothing of this movie (as I did), you’d think that this movie was meant to be a genuine action thriller that was repurposed into a comedy.

Also known as 1,000 Ways to Die, the plot revolves around a group of plane crash survivors that get caught up in an armed conflict on an island. Various characters include a deranged Vietnam vet, a blind woman, a saucy Latina, a (probable) British secret agent, an asshole Wall Street broker, etc. Apparently this was Lloyd Kaufman’s response to the glorification of war and violence during the Reagan era.

I’ll admit, the opening few minutes are quite funny. Through the credits, we hear a voiceover from the pilot calmly and casually inform the passengers that the plane’s about crash and the opening scene depicts a woman losing her shit as she watches people flail around while on fire. It sounds horrible, but it accurately sets the tone for the rest of the film. We watch as the survivors slowly evolve into full fledged commandos as they fight a hodgepodge syndicate of terrorists and communists that occupy the island.

There are a few lines here and there (“I don’t know if the guy’s psycho, or just crazy”) that might crack you up. But there are also a few moments, like an interaction with a villain where a priest’s tongue gets ripped out, that feel a little too real. Of course, that was the filmmaker’s goal. However, the satirical points never quite mesh and honestly it mostly feels like an awkward mess. When compared to other self-aware 80s parodies like Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke Em High, Troma’s War falls short in my view.

That being said, I’ve been waiting a long time to see something like this. Whenever I watched Apocalypse Now as a teenager, I’d always laugh at the thought of replacing Wager’s Ride of the Valkyries during the helicopter attack with a bangin 80s soundtrack, complete with synthesizers and electric guitars. Suddenly the complexion of the movie would change. So thank you Lloyd Kaufman, I guess, for thinking the same things I did.