Dirty Harold

I sometimes forget the impact that Dirty Harry had on me as a kid. I was expecting it to be some stupid exploitation flick from the 70s, but it turned out to be much more.

Unlike other gritty crime films from the 70s, like The French Connection or The Taking of Pelham 123, director Don Siegel and DP Bruce Surtees shot the movie like it was a western. Clint Eastwood looms large in mythic form over the screen, but he never completely dominates it. Like how the rough and tumble deserts and mountains are a major character in westerns, the streets of San Francisco play a similar role.

But Dirty Harry was slightly ahead of its time. While westerns were fading away, and with it the gunslingers delivering justice on the prairie, Clint Eastwood was offering the a audience a new hero: the pissed off cop that’s tired of rules and regulations and the constant whining from bureaucrats over the rights of individuals. Dirty Harry fit the mood of white conservatives during the age of Nixon and those that wished to return to a simpler ethos of good guys vs bad guys. In short, Dirty Harry was the predecessor to the Cannon Film craze of the 70s through the 80s.

But in my view, the unsung genius of the film is Andrew Robinson as the crazed villain. Even now, it’s an unnerving character…one that no one could get away with today. The closest comparison that I can think of is Heath Ledger’s Joker, but no sensible writer would permit Batman’s arch nemesis to kill, rape, and abduct children. THAT would be crossing the line. But Robinson’s Scorpio does it numerous times throughout the film.

Which is why the ending was so effective. Sure, it’s a cliche to hear Eastwood utter “do you feel lucky?” before blasting his last round into the bad guy. But you actually feel his rage as he asks Scorpio “well do ya? PUNK!!”. In my view, that was Eastwood’s finest moment as an actor.

While Dirty Harry might be synonymous with Clint Eastwood, I think it would be interesting to see the character return to the screen given its political undertones. Obviously Clint Eastwood is too old, and casting someone like Karl Urban to replace him would seem like parody. But now that the nature of masculinity on film has come under scrutiny, and the zeitgeist has turned skeptical towards law enforcement, it would be fascinating to see Harry Callahan return…especially to such a divisive city as San Francisco.

The 90s Reevaluated

Sorry, still sick so here’s another phoned in post.

Pierce Brosnan has been blowing up my news feed for whatever reason. I guess he’s playing some superhero or whatever, but I don’t watch that stuff. Unfortunately this has created a lot of (likely clickbait) opinion pieces that reevaluate his James Bond tenure.

I’ve always placed Goldeneye in the top 5 Bond films, which is where most 007 fans have historically placed it. But there’s a massive drop off with Brosnan’s other three films. The consensus is that while Brosnan could have been a great James Bond, his movies were either mediocre or terrible.

Or, I should say, this WAS the consensus during the Daniel Craig era.

Now that Craig’s moody and brooding Bond is dead and gone, perceptions on Brosnan’s portrayal have shifted. Craig’s 007 matched the times while Brosnan’s seemed clownish by comparison.

But after two years of a pandemic, record high inflation, and superhero movies flooding the theaters, audiences seem primed for a more tongue in cheek James Bond. So the Daniel Craig era is looking more passé by the second.

People are looking to return to a simpler time. And the most (relatively) simpler times in recent memory is the 1990s. At least this is my best explanation for why Pierce Brosnan is undergoing a micro-renaissance.

As a side note, the Star Trek: Next Generation films (which were also released in 90s) are being reevaluated. This is probably due to the cast returning for the final season of Picard. So Generations, released in 1994 and which infamously killed the original Captain Kirk, is being discussed again.

Why I bring this up is because a fourth “Kelvin era” Trek film, starring Chris Pine as nu-Captain Kirk, has stalled for probably the 10,000th time (thank god). While that (hopefully) means we won’t ever see Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as McCoy again, that does NOT mean we won’t see Pine as Kirk again.

Why?

Because as any Trek fan can tell you, while Shatner’s Kirk was killed in Generations, technically his existence is preserved in some “ribbon” that floats around in space where time doesn’t mean anything blah blah blah. And this “ribbon” hasn’t been mentioned in Star Trek since.

So you can see where I’m going with this: when another Trek film makes it to the streaming services sometime this decade, the original Captain Kirk will be pulled out of this ribbon to be played not by William Shatner but by, you guessed it, Chris Pine.

Anyways, enjoy the 2020s, aka the 90s Reloaded.

Skeetin

I’m a little under the weather so I’m just gonna phone this one in.

But I was doing my annual Paul Schrader marathon when I got to Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. A few thoughts: 1.) it’s a shitty movie but 2.) Vittorio Stararo was the DP?!!! How did that get past me?

And it’s such a shame that this film didn’t work because it is very much in line with the themes that occur throughout Schrader’s work. I haven’t bothered with the retooled Exorcist: The Beginning, but I’m glad Schrader stuck to his guns and at least attempted to make a cerebral film rather than make a run-of-the-mill horror. That’s what made the original Exorcist so interesting: director William Friedkin stated that it never occurred to him that he was making a “horror film” (he could be bullshitting though).

Schrader probably should have had a bigger say in the screenplay. Much of the introspective philosophical back-and-forth that, in my opinion, slightly bogged down The Last Temptation of Christ (which clashed with Martin Scorsese’s rather “extroverted” direction) would have been quite effective for Dominion. Additionally, the event that caused Father Merrin’s lack of faith should have been revealed later in the movie. And while there was some good stuff with the British colonial troops, I felt that there was no payoff for any of it.

(Plus the special effects REALLY sucked ass)

I also saw Touch for the first time. I don’t remember a damn thing about it other than Skeet Ulrich was in it.

Whatever happened to that guy? That dude was like, super fucking hot. Shouldn’t he have had a bigger career?

Were people disappointed to find out that he wasn’t Danish?

who watches the watchers watching the watchers?

I’m a little late on this Alan Moore thing. But while I can empathize to a degree on Moore’s point here, I recall listening to his interview with Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker from a few year ago where he stated “everything is politics” and it makes me want to beat my head on the wall.

I’m afraid that we’ve reached a point where audiences aren’t allowed to enjoy anything due to the hyper-politicalization of EVERYTHING. The last few years have been a wet dream for ideologues because finally people are as miserable as they are. And I’ll admit, much to my embarrassment, that I’ve played a hand in this. But people need their distractions from a world that’s seemingly falling apart all around them.

While I’m not a comic book fan, I’d venture to guess that most comic/superhero fans don’t connect this material to any sort of real world scenario. They recognize it for what it is: entertainment.

And that’s okay. Let people be happy.

I think Moore is projecting his “everything is politics” (🤢) worldview here. And that, in my opinion, is far more toxic than what the comic nerds are doing.

whats this sh…

Look, I’m just not ready for the 90s aesthetic to make a comeback. Mostly because, stylistically, that decade sucked balls.

Know what I mean:

Grunge was overrated (no, I didn’t stutter), Reservoir Dogs isn’t as good as you remember, and that blowjob Bill Clinton got in the White House sounds worse and worse by the day. Except for gangsta rap and West Coast Hip Hop, nothing in the 90s worked.

So let’s allow Nicole Brown Simpson to Rest In Peace, and we’ll move on with our lives and forget that an entire decade happened.

While we’re at it, we’ll do the same for the 2000s. And BAM, just like that, 20 years of American history are gone 🫰

All good things…

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. -Paul of Tarsus

In all sincerity, in his review of Picard Season 2, Mike Stoklasa nearly moved me to tears when he discussed his realization that Star Trek really was dead, comparing his journey to the that of the boys in Stand By Me (which coincidentally starred Wil Wheaton). His journey of grief led him to face the realities of life, put away childish things, and blossom into a man (who subjects his friends to shitty movies and laughs at old people for a living).

After the disaster that was Season 1 of Picard, I figured that the powers that be…the writers, producers, Paramount+…would have corrected course and made a proper send off for the legendary cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Then the trailer above dropped.

And I’ll admit: my heart absolutely sank to my feet. Patrick Stewart will no longer be alone in his debasement for the upcoming season. Now the entire cast of TNG will be along for this pitiful, disgusting ride.

I could go on ripping this trailer to shreds, but I won’t. You know why? Because someone…a LOT of someones…LOVE this show. When the Star Wars prequels arrived, they were derided by the entire fan base. But they made a FUCK TON of money. So I knew in my heart, despite me hating the SHIT out of the prequels, there’s gonna be a whole generation that will love them.

And honestly, good for them. It’s the next generation of fans that these long-established franchises are aiming at. I could spend the rest of my life being angry at what these new producers have done to my beloved Star Trek. But I’ve been on the ride long enough.

It’s not the way I would have liked to have seen my favorite character go out, but he was a hero of my childhood. And it’s time to put childish things away.

Farewell TNG

***

But you know what I WON’T put away…or even put DOWN:

That’s right: the works of Joseph D Newcomer and Dead Star Press!

And I have GREAT fucking news: I went BACK to the airport to harass that guy from last week. And to get me OFF his ass, he told me something that BLEW my mind:

I said “31% off for the entire month of October! You gotta be shittin me!”

And HE said, “why would I be shitting you? I’m AFRAID of you?!”

So after the police and the Los Angeles Superior Court banned me permanently from the airport, I immediately saved 31% off my next purchase at Dead Star Press!

Look at what I bought:

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Discount will be applied at checkout!

Dead Star Press: It’s okay to be a weirdo, but at least be a LITERATE weirdo!

Blade runner

Soooo, did I ever talk about Blade Runner on this blog?

I’ve always had a lot of opinions about the film, but it seems like every film buff has wrote a dissertation on it. So what’s the point of clogging up the internet with one more, ya know?

But after ripping off it’s ending in my latest short story, I can’t stop thinking about it.

For the record, and I’ve been very open about this, Blade Runner 2049 is the superior film. By a fucking mile too. Ridley Scott is an interesting visual filmmaker, but all of his movies lack heart. This is true for not only Blade Runner, but Alien, Gladiator, The Martian, etc, as well.

Additionally, I find the script to be underwhelming. Even the film’s most memorable moment (the Tears in Rain monologue) was largely the result of actor Rutger Hauer’s ingenuity and not so much the writer’s. I don’t blame Hampton Fancher and David Peoples for this (the latter would later write Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven). The final script was probably the result of compromise during a troubled production.

Nevertheless, Blade Runner works because everyone else behind the scenes CRUSHED their role, from F/X artist Douglas Trumbull, DP Jordan Cronenweth, composer Vangelis, concept artist Syd Mead, production designer Lawrence G. Paull, and everyone in between.

In Scott’s defense, I believe he sees himself as more of a “CEO”-type filmmaker, or one that brings together highly talented people to do their thing, as opposed to being an auteur himself. So in that respect, he did his job really well. Nevertheless, likely because of this approach, there is an “it” factor that’s lacking in Blade Runner which prevents it from becoming one of the great classics in cinema.

Strangely, I think MOST cinephiles agree with this: Blade Runner is visually and conceptually one of the most influential films of all time. But is it a great movie?

Personally, I think that question is more interesting than the film itself.

But where I disagree with most other fans of the Blade Runner universe are on the Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) scenes. Hauer feels like he’s acting on an island in this film. While that’s a deliberate choice, his scenes drag the movie down. And to be completely honest, the movie is not nearly as interesting without Harrison Ford on the screen.

Now Ford’s performance is somewhat controversial. It’s noted for being his first “mature” role, and a lot of people don’t like it. He often comes across as detached, grouchy, and needlessly aggressive in some parts. Ford’s performance is a bit dialed back, as opposed to Hauer, who isn’t afraid to be hammy and childish. Unfortunately, Ford acting choices were better suited to the Blade Runner universe and, despite being the leading man, he doesn’t feel like he’s in the film enough.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to say 🤷‍♂️

Breaking bad on Wall Street

Yeah, like everyone else in the early 2010s, I was addicted to Breaking Bad. It came at a turning point when we started evaluating the male ego in art and storytelling. Many bitch about this paradigm shift, but honestly it’s given me a fuckton of creative fuel to write my dumbass stories.

Without it, I wouldn’t have a writing career at all! So thanks Breaking Bad for all the digital trees I’ve wasted on the internet.

But as time has passed, it’s obvious that there were problems with the show. Now I try to evaluate art by the intentions of the artist. So what were the showrunners trying to do here?

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/breaking-bad-creator-vince-gilligan-231701266.html

https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/breaking-bad-skyler-hate-vince-gilligan-1235347122/amp/

Apparently, creator Vince Gilligan didn’t know either. While I think everyone involved did their jobs in the most competent and effective way possible, in my opinion, there was a fundamental difference between Gilligan’s vision and Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White/Heisenberg.

I base this opinion on zero research, but hear me out…

I’m assuming, when the show was pitched, that the thrust behind the story was to watch the protagonist turn into the villain. At least this is what drew me into the show. But if that’s the case, we run into an age old Clark Kent/Superman problem.

Philosopher and film theorist Slavoj Zizek, while discussing The Joker, claimed that the real identity of a superhero IS the mask and the person beneath it is the alter ego. Or, in other words, the MASK is what permits us to be our true selves.

In that sense, Heisenberg-the “MASK”- is really what Walter White is. If Heisenberg was ever wearing a mask for a disguise, that mask was the man Walter White. Therefore, Walter White…or, more accurately, Heisenberg…was ALWAYS evil.

I’m glad all of that makes sense.

But the problem is Walter White doesn’t always ACT like the bad guy. In fact, he’s usually shown being a loving father and Jesse’s guardian. Sure, he poisons a child, watches a woman choke to death, etc etc. but Walter White…probably due to Cranston’s acting choices…seems to signal horror at some of his decisions. In fact, if memory serves, he shows a sigh of relief when he learns that the child WON’T die from the poisoning attempt.

He even begs for Hank’s life for fuck’s sake!

Would Gus Fring, Walter White’s arch nemesis, have done that?

Fuck no!

And therein lies the fundamental problem with Breaking Bad: the audience never severs its sympathy with Walter White. Nor, I would argue, were they ever encouraged to do so.

Was this a deliberate choice by the showrunners? Was Cranston too damn competent at his job? Did anyone think any of this through?

I don’t suppose that this undermines the quality of the show. It’s just annoying to consider while re-watching it. The show seems to fail at meeting its own objective.

In fact, this concept…displaying a totally deplorable character in the most engaging way possible…has been successfully done before. Perhaps you remember it: The Wolf of Wall Street.

To be fair though, Martin Scorsese has a knack for this kind of thing. In fact, the movie that put him on the map, Taxi Driver, does something similar. The audience is exposed to a deranged world of a protagonist, we even empathize with him to a certain degree, but we can’t ever imagine coming to his defense (as fans of Breaking Bad have done many times before with Walter White).

With the Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese “let’s you in on the joke.” Jordan Belfort is an over-the-top nutcase, and Scorsese allows you to indulge in his depravity, but you know that the end will come crashing down at any moment.

Scorsese isn’t afraid to “pull the trigger”…or show you the moment when a protagonist looses his grip on reality.

While Walter White certainly had his over-the-top moments, the audience is never encouraged to lose sympathy for him. This is reinforced through the writing. White should have never of begged for Hank’s life, his relationship with Jesse should have been established as being purely manipulative and nothing more, his role as a father should have deteriorated, etc etc.

Perhaps that’s the limits of television. When you spend five or more seasons with a character, it’s hard NOT to have sympathy for them.

But it always felt as though Walter White never quite broke bad.

klaus Kinski in your crawl space

I’m starting to really scrape the barrel of Tubi. I’ve probably seen every horror film from the 80s offered. So I might have to dip into some 90s and 2000s stuff soon.

This goes against my longstanding theory that it takes at least 30 years after the movie’s release before we can actually appreciate and judge its merits. Clearly I violated that policy by reviewing We Are The Flesh last week, but I only did that because I’m a disgusting pervert.

Yet, I have a duty to perform. And that duty is to find terrible and/or forgotten movies. I have to do what must be done.

The only thing of note I watched this week was a Dario Argento-produced joint called The Church. Really the only part that stuck out was it’s Philip Glass-inspired soundtrack. At one point, a woman is smashed to bits by a train to that inspiring score. If you’re a fan of Argento or Italian horror, this might be up your alley. Otherwise, fuck it.

The other film is Crawlspace starring Klaus Kinski.

Apparently this film has some notoriety, which I was unaware of when I started watching it. There’s even a short film called Please Kill Mr. Kinski that discusses the making of this movie.

Allegedly, Kinski was so disruptive on the set that the filmmakers tried to have him fired. Supposedly, a producer tried to have him killed (which wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to kill Kinski on a film set). The actor himself caught wind of this and became more disruptive.

But what about the movie itself? Is it any good?

Eh. It’s well made, I’ll say that much. Russian Roulette plays a big part in the story. And I give it bonus points for being really short.

But despite Kinski’s antics behind the scenes, he’s kinda subdued in a role about a Nazi doctor that rents out apartment rooms to unsuspecting women. Maybe I’m just used to watching Kinski be so insane that I forget that he was also an actor.

Anyways. That’s all I’ve got to say. Bye ✌️

Jack hardcock: Christian detective- a quick aside

My motivation for completing this story about a right-wing, ex(and now anti)FBI agent in Ohio has been depleted after some presumed MAGA dude was killed after trying to infiltrate the Cincinnati FBI field office.

It kinda sucks the fun that I was trying to have with this.

I know you don’t give a shit, but I need to say this to get it off my chest: I am not trying to make a statement with this story. My position with this blog has always been anti-political. In fact, I will continue to argue that our current political environment is indistinguishable from religious dogma and I want no part of it.

Furthermore, if you champion people getting killed to make a political statement, you are a part of the problem. You can waste your life arguing about some imaginary supernatural or metaphysical force that you want imposed on the world, OR you can live your life, create art, fall in love, and make the best of the short time we have on this extraordinary planet.

As an aside, my two biggest influences for much of my writing is Paul Verhoeven and some guy in rehab that tried to explain the plot of Momma Mia! Verhoeven’s schtick, particularly with Starship Troopers, was to tell the story from a fascistic perspective while simultaneously letting the audience in on the joke.

That concept blew my mind, so I picked it up and ran with it.

I’m intrigued by the idea of giving an audience the illusion of truth, but in actuality there’s nothing behind the curtain. It’s all dick jokes and insanity.

This is probably why I was so taken with the film We Are The Flesh. The review that I linked to in my last post called the film “anti-art.” And that’s essentially what I’m doing here. And that’s the motivation behind all of my writing.

There’s nothing behind the curtain. So embrace the madness while you can.

Jack Hardcock will return…