Category Archives: Alfred Eaker’s Fringe Cinema

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

is claiming (again) that he only has a single film left in him: an R-rated “Star Trek.” Of course, volunteered to revive Captain Kirk. Paramount needs to jump on this. If anyone could breathe life into that long dead formula, it would be Tarantino. As for Shat, perhaps he would learn something, even at his age. When Shat took his Star Trek V idea of the Enterprise crew battling God to the studio, Paramount, Gene Roddenberry, et. al. shot back: “They can’t meet God!” Shat lost his balls. He should have grabbed Tarantino, then because this is a filmmaker who does not let history, social norms, or formula expectations dictate to his art.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood posterAfter his films with Sergio Leone, composer Ennio Morricone became such a cult figure that it wasn’t long before wannabe film composers began paying homage to him with one yawn-inducing, predictable tribute after another. Of course, most attempted to solicit his endorsement, and received blank stares and unanswered letters in reply. That is, until jazz composer John Zorn came along and filtered Morricone through snippets of Carl Stalling, video game music, and his own sensibilities. Morricone was delightfully startled, breathed a sigh of relief, and gave a resounding accolade, noting that finally here was a worthy tribute, because Zorn refused to treat him with reverence. Zorn was as radical and revolutionary as Morricone himself.

This is what Tarantino does consistently. The title of his latest is no coincidence, paying his homage to cinematic idol Leone. Tarantino clearly has an authentic love of 1960s and 70s grindhouse cult film as well; so much so that he is no mere imitator, and this makes him one of the most interesting filmmakers of the last 25 years.

As in Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino takes the role of a celluloid antifa and wallops the fascists. “Let’s kill Nazis,” goes the chant, probably much like the American troops sang  on D-Day (one must ask: when did hating Fascism become a bad thing?), but he has a new Fascist offshoot target as well: cultists. And, as before, he rejects the way his source material ended, and so crafts a new dreamscape ending. In this, Tarantino reminds me of an artist named Antonio Adams who created adult sculptures of JonBenet Ramsey and Emmett Till, allowing them to grow up in his sculptures, denying their fate. So Continue reading ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: ALADDIN (2019)

One has to wonder about the mindset of studio executives. Disney handed the live-action Dumbo remake over to , who hasn’t made a good movie in twenty years. Then, they assign Aladdin to Guy Ritchie, who has never made a good movie. On top of that, there’s the utter pointlessness of “live action versions” of animated classics. This one is no exception. Unless the original fell short some one way or another, why remake it (except to improve on it)? It’s especially futile when the original was so damned good.  Aladdin (2019) is just a piece of crap, and the only actor who survives this embarrassment—and smells like roses, comparatively—is Nasim Pedrad as Dalia, the handmaiden of Jasmine (Naomi Scott).  Why does Aladdin (Mena Massoud) prefer the personality-bankrupt Naomi over Nasim? Oh, because that’s in the script. And, Aladdin is a braindead jackass.

Still from Aladdin (2019)The original Aladdin (1992) came at the tail end of a brief Disney resurgence that began with Little Mermaid (1989) followed by Beauty and the Beast (1990). This revival came crashing down with the saccharine, run amok Lion King (1994), which of course has a live-action (sort-of) version in the works. Why does Disney keep doing this? Because fans don’t give a hoot. Aladdin has already made a zillion dollars and the undemanding Disneyphiles, who actually crave more of the same, are singing its praises all over social media.

The changes Ritchie makes are hardly worth mentioning, with two  exceptions. First, he manages to solicit a dull performance from Will Smith, which is not an easy task. Understandably, Smith does not attempt to copy the fiery performance of the late , but Ritchie slaps a harness on Smith—which echoes the film itself, because the director sucks every ounce of color and fun out of the original.

Clunky, clumsy, and gray, Aladdin was an endurance test, and likely the briefest Summber blockbuster write-up I’ve given. Instantly vapid and unmemorable, it does not deserve more of my time. It does not deserve yours ether. If you’re craving the story, go back to 1992.

ALFRED EAKER VS. THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU (2019)

What the hell can I say?  When I saw that 366 Weird Movies’ readers had topped themselves in sadism with this year’s summer blockbuster picks (a video game, a Disney, AND a comic book movie) you can understand why I, quite frankly, forgot the lot of you. The only possible reprieve is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,  which is why I’m here belatedly for the video game entry and did not bail entirely (or get my revenge by making Greg go in my place).

You could have at least sent me to the Star Wars thingamajig so I could piss off both the lovers and haters (they’re still bellowing over The Last Jedi, which, let’s be honest, is the first Star Wars with any sense of surprise since 1980).  And you hit me first with a goddamned video game movie adaptation, which is about as low a bar as it gets.

First, let me tell you what annoys me about gamers. Now, mind you, I did play Pacman and Centipede once, in a Godfather’s Pizza, but I least I got to enjoy smoky treats while I got slaughtered (not that many of you would remember, but yeah, we used to smoke in public—restaurants, college, malls, airplanes—before all you annoying nonsmokers overbred and took over the entire world). But that was not when I decided that suicide would be preferable to the whole video game thing.  No, that realization came after I did a few years managing a video store (Do you remember these? that’s a Statler Brothers reference, by the way) when I had to deal with gamers. They would call the store and, to a man, they would rattle off game titles, most of which had some kind of X followed by a number. Those excitable boys would say the names at such a fast clip I always had to ask them to repeat that a tad slower. I remember one gamer coming in wearing a shirt which said something to the effect that Nintendo (or whatever) was better than girls. How would he even know?  And then their comedy is the cherry on the cake; you know, when they get defensive and claim they are  being productive and that video games are art and they are complex and… zzzzz.

Now you gaming twits have taken a swipe at me by sending me to Pikachu. Oh, how cute. Now it’s my turn.

Still from Pokemon Detective PikachuOK, first, is this yellow a guy a rabbit? He sort of looks like a rabbit, which might explain why this movie rips off Roger  Rabbit (and several other films). Except that director Rob Letterman is no Robert Zemeckis, Pikachu is no Roger, and Justice Smith is no (actually all the humans here are pretty lifeless, like that one Star Wars prequel where Yoda was the most animated person). Also, Roger Rabbit was actually a funny screwup. Pikachu does cutesy one-liners that are predictable and ingratiating.

I suppose we should get to the plot. Tim (Justice Smith) does not like Pokemons because his detective dad was supposedly killed by one (sound familiar?) Tim lives on the outskirts of Ryme City (visually, a cross between Blade Runner and Toon Town), where Pokemons and humans cohabitate, and now has to team with Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) who was his dad’s partner. Insert Phillip Marlowe references. Repeat often for filler.

Of course, there’s a plethora of universe building. Am I the only one who does not give a hoot about all the extended universes of late (Marvel, DC, etc)? Someone in the popcorn line (you tightwads have never even sent me a damned AMC gift card for enduring these summers) referred to it as the “Pokeverse.” OK, I’m putting my foot down. I will not even include the next Pokefeature as a summer blockbuster poll option (and no doubt there will be many more to come as it has already made a zillion dollars. As the saying goes, you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence or taste of the American public.)

Anyway, the CGI excess is not a surprise. It becomes tediously hedonistic about the midway mark. What is surprising is that the plot gets complicated and sloppy. There’s the rub, so to speak. Pokemon wants to be taken seriously, but it wants to be entertaining, too, and tries this mostly through Pikachu’s sidekick, Psyduck (I’m not making this up), who has to be kept calm or he will implode (think of the tradition of bringing in a cantankerous duck when the protagonist toon gets too goody-goody dull.)

The Sherlock Holmes bit apes countless cop buddy movies, but suffers most from an outcome that is anything but a mystery. Some of the humor is a tad risqué—that’s clearly the reason for casting Deadpool‘s Reynolds—but even that can’t save Pokemon, once it ceases to be a movie in favor of product building.

For Pokefans only.

Next week: Aladdin.

I hate all of you.

READER POLL FOR ALFRED EAKER VS. THE 2019 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES

Summer’s almost here, and that means it’s time for the 366 Weird Movies reader base to send me, Alfred Eaker, on my sixth masochistic field trip of blockbuster movie torture. Since the blockbusters listed here actually extend to the end of the year in 2019, I will grant readers a choice of 4, rather than the normal 3 (AS LONG AS AT LEAST ONE CHOICE IS A FILM DEBUTING AFTER JULY). The candidates are below. Be sure to view the entire post; you will vote at the end.

  1. We’ll start with the most masochistic film imaginable: Pokémon Detective Pikachu (Opening May 10). Do I have to explain why a field trip to a mortuary would preferable? Although I’ve never seen anything out of the Pokémon franchise, I know it’s supposed to be the most profitable media franchise of all time and I’ve seen enough of its merchandising to know this is something to be quite afraid of. Of course, one will never go broke underestimating the intelligence and taste of the American public, so it will naturally be the biggest thing since Moses parted the Red Sea… until the next big thing, that is.
  2. Aladdin (Opening May 24). Strike one: is dead. Strike two: This is directed by Guy Ritchie, who’s never made a good film in his entire career. Strike three: Uh, live action movies of animated Disney fodder are lessons in banality and redundancy. The proof is in the pudding of Dumbo. Did anyone really think that was going to be anything less than a pile of excrement? Especially, since it was directed by whose mojo violently gave up the ghost twenty years ago. Disney never learns.
  3. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Opening June 7). There has been a pretty consistent lesson with the whole “X-Men” thing: hire , avoid all the entries not directed by him, and do not let him direct anything else. With Singer’s personal and legal matters, his career seems to be history now, so why not put the franchise out of its misery? Not a chance, no matter how many godawful movies they churn out.
  4. Child’s Play (Opening June 21). On the (maybe) plus side, Mark Hamill has a supporting role, hopefully as a villain, as he is far more interesting when his ugly side comes to the surface (something the crying fanboys could not grasp regarding Last Jedi). On all of the negative sides; the director, Lars Klevberg, has only directed one feature, and it was reportedly dreadful. So too was the original Child’s Play, which failed to do in 2 hours what Trilogy of Terror accomplished in 15 minutes. The sequels were even worse—so now, let’s revive that dead horse.
  5. Spider-Man: Far From Home (Opening July 5): Ok, the previous one, also directed by Jonn Watts, received great reviews. However, the trailer for this looks like a preview for the next Avengers thingamajig. Besides, I heard they killed Spidey in the last Avengers thingamajig. Still, hopefully it will suck so I can pan it and piss off Marvel fundamentalists.
  6. The Lion King (Opening July 19). Oh, come on! Two–count ’em, two–pointless live-action rehashes from the studio of mucus in Continue reading READER POLL FOR ALFRED EAKER VS. THE 2019 SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS: THE CANDIDATES

ALFRED EAKER’S CRINGE CINEMA

Hello, readers, I’m Alfred Eaker and I have a confession to make.

I am a doo-doo head.

I like to promise my editor that I am going to submit an article, knowing that he is desperate for content, then not come through. This is how I get my jollies.

I enjoying doing this time and time again, swearing that it will be different this week, just to see how many times I can fool the sucker.

You see, my time and my personal projects are more important than everyone else’s. I could care less about inconveniencing others.

If the person I am betraying considers me a friend, all the better. It just makes my job easier.

For I am Alfred Eaker, doo-doo head.

PS: Happy birthday to the late !

REFLECTING ON A DECADE OF 366 WEIRD MOVIES

I had somehow stumbled on a film forum in 2009, and I don’t even recall the name of it. Reading through it, I saw a post about and the poster was asking … something, I don’t remember, but it was something I knew the answer to and offered it. A discussion snowballed and, as I was jabbering about Greed, bitching because it had never been released on DVD (it still hasn’t), another user piped in. I don’t even remember the user name he was using; only that he had from Night of the Hunter as his avatar. Over the next couple of days, Mr. Mitchum and I bandied back and forth about a number of topics, including , , , etc. In the course of the convo, I believe I mentioned that I used to write essays on films for an art gallery magazine called “The Fringe,” had taken countless classes on film aesthetics, and dabbled in surreal indie films. Mr. Mitchum asked to see samples of my writing and I believe we exchanged emails, and… his name wasn’t Mr. Mitchum after all. It was Greg Smalley. He told me that he was starting an e-zine called 366 Weird Movies and he needed another writer, as he was the only one, and asked me to join him. I agreed, thinking it’d be fun, but on one condition: I didn’t want to get pegged into writing only about weird movies because my experience has been that, no matter what topic is chosen, once it’s named people start mantling a fundamentalist attitude to it. In other words, I wanted to remain stubbornly iconoclastic. Agreement made, I started with a reevaluation on Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), and my Fringe Cinema subcategory was born.

Alfred EakerMy writing echoes my paintings. I go through many phases and I do not like to look back at old work, only being interested in what I’m working on currently. Greg plugged away at his List Entries, secured other writers, and it was years before I even submitted an official List entry myself. I was merely doing my own thing, week after week, and suddenly, years had gone by. Coming up for air, I often found that many movies I wanted to write about, Greg (or others) had already covered, goddammit. (Most of the reviews I had indeed read, but forgotten).

Still, it’s been a helluva decade with Greg, and I not only loved writing, but reading my peers in this family of misfits. I picked up a reputation, however, of being the site’s provocateur. I will say that I rarely set out to push people’s buttons. I just don’t give a hoot or a holler if I do, and I believe it’s an artist’s ethical responsibility to have the balls to write without inhibition and to always take an attitude of saying to hell with the status quo (and everything has the potential to develop its own status quo, even weird movie aficionados). Over the years, I’ve earned a few haters who, in their either/or mindset, wanted to label me as a liberal. I’ve never considered myself liberal Continue reading REFLECTING ON A DECADE OF 366 WEIRD MOVIES

ED WOOD’S TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE (1970) BLU-RAY

As we approach the New Year, it would be wise to remember the timeless words, of the great prophet: “Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.”

Isn’t it refreshing to see long-overdue appreciation of Edward D. Wood, Jr? Whoever would have guessed that his Holy Grail directorial swan song, Take it out in Trade (1970), would be  discovered, restored, and given such a gorgeous Blu-ray treatment by American Film Genre Archives (AFGA), in collaboration with Something Weird Video? May blessings eternally be bestowed upon both of them.

As this is from Wood’s later period, his budget seems to be down to about the $1.50 range. Also, like Wood’s later output, it’s a sexploitation flick, with astoundingly gratuitous nudity. Still, there’s a degree of renewed Woodian energy, which had been primarily missing since the auteur bogged down in fatigue in the late fifties. There is no mistaking that Wood here is in an advanced decline from serious alcoholism.

Trade actually has a story, such as it, and is different from his late work, too, in being an intentional comedy. Shirley (Donna Stanley) is missing, forcing her parents to hire a Private Dick named Mac McGregor (Michael Donovan O’Donnell). They must not have much of a detective budget because McGregor is totally inept. As he says, in typical Woodian narration: “Sex is where I come in. Dead or alive, sex is always in need of my services. A service to which I sincerely apply myself wholeheartedly—sometimes even in the daylight hours.” Indeed, he hardly does any detective work, being repeatedly distracted by sex.

Still from Take It out in Trade (1970)Wood himself shows up in drag, wearing… drum roll, please… a lime green angora sweater, topped by huge blue fake pearls. He looks bad—splotchy and bloated—but there’s a twinkle alive through all that self-destruction. Looking for Shirley, McGregor takes one international holiday after another, flying into wherever (cue stock plane footage), looking  for naked people (stock nudie films and new nudie footage), flying back, checking his office, getting bored, and flying to a new destination to see more naked people. Countries are represented by the barest minimum establishing shots, such as one of a continental dandy sipping wine. McGregor’s reactions are cartoonish, the jokes are groan-inducing, and the pacing is napalmed due to Wood’s padding to reach feature length. He apparently hoped against hope that it would all work, because he bragged in the trailer (included in the Blu-ray extras), “This one won’t be ignored by the box office.”  Of course, it was.

The twist is that when McGregor finally tires of bug-eyed reactions to naked people and goes to look for Shirley, it turns out that Shirley is a hooker. Cue Wood’s bizarro assessment of the sex trade. Shirley’s not in the gutter, she’s having fun, and indeed, what better way to make a living than being paid to have sex, which she enjoys?

Wood’s views of square sex are like Aunt Ida’s from Female Trouble, minus the cynicism, and with its cheapo international adventures, Take It out in Trade has an undeniable charm. With its acceptance of “deviants,” it could almost bee seen as a sequel of sorts to Glen or GlendaIt’s a shockingly progressive and nicely optimistic world view: accepting every brand of “deviants,” from trans couples to heroin addicts.

When Wood himself gets in drag, he’s enjoying the hell out of himself again, and its contagious when he does.

AFGA/Something Weird restored every minute they had access to, and although one wishes that about a half hour of footage would have remained lost, its a bona fide find and release.

The extras also include Wood’s Love Feast, which reverses the voyeurism with a Peeping Tom reaping what he sewed in a dog collar. Although both films show signs of age, the restoration job is clearly a labor of love, and who could argue with Something Weird?