Archive for January, 2014

The Bully Pulpit: Turning the Blind Eye

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Welcome to a new radomly appearing series here on tentaclechris.com. If you’re a regular reader of my “Western Watchins” you’ve probably noticed that those had at times turned more into social commentaries than outright movie reviews. The blunt and barbaric truths I have to share about both society and the cinema were getting watered down with one another and while it sort of worked it was muddy and messy and the point of much of my writing is to be crystal fucking clear. Ask any of my friends current or former and they’ll tell you I’m really into a straightforward, heart on my sleeve, loose cannon call out kind of lifestyle. And that type of attitude isn’t looked upon too kindly in these days filled with everyone’s “friendship is magic” mindset that slavishly reminds you to hold hands, stay in line and keep your head down lest you look up and see what’s really happening to the world around you.

So every once in a while, when something ridiculous occurs that demands a response or if I’ve had too much whiskey and just feel like typing up a tongue lashing I’ll come here to do it. Call me a bully if you want, many have, but I’ll be damned if you can call me a liar. What you choose to do with these truths is up to you, namecalling’s the easy way out but just because you can’t deal with my asshole-ian authenticity doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Remember that “bully” used to mean brave back in the day, something very few people truly are these days. 

That was so much more serious than I had planned. But tongue in cheek can become fist in face real quick under the right circumstances so no apologies here. And with that…

It’s either synchronicity or a mild case of divine intervention that I would have just finished watching High Plains Drifter when I then come across this article. Seems a girl accidentally walked in front of a group photo op and after some terse words was literally beaten to death as folks nearby took video on their phones. Yes, instead of rushing to nullify a torrent of punches and kicks so violent that they would eventually lead to a 23 year old being declared brain dead the bystanders just watched.

And this happens all the time.

What’s worse is that people are okay with it. The ability to ignore something on the scale of the Holocaust doesn’t blossom overnight. It must be cultivated and cared for with a healthy mix of justification, excuse and cowardice. In quite possibly the greatest “frog in a boiling pot” scenario humanity has ever faced we’ve trained ourselves as a society to not give a shit on a daily basis about seemingly mundane things but that world view numbs us and as silly as it sounds when we brush off one friend royally fucking another friend over it’s not too long before we walk past someone out in public who might need help and then that apathy builds and builds and builds on to grander and graver stages and at this point we recognize how entire countries can choose to not see the most horrible atrocities. Because the country that ceases to care is simply made up of a people that have ceased to care.

One slow, unseen and apathetically painless step at a time.

You probably wouldn’t condone the shoving of a friend of yours into an oven. That’s terrible, unforgivable. But I’ll bet you that you’ve glossed right over that post on Facebook, that cryptic Tweet or, worst of all, that face to face sit down with someone close to you who’s having an issue with someone else you know and explains in detail how much they’ve been hurt only to see it’s all falling on deaf ears. You feign interest while the rationalizations begin building in you like a backed up septic tank, you’re proud of your self preservation and you stink of it too.

Angie and I rented a room once to a guy named Peter. Just some guy, someone we shared a love with for almost all things fitness and nerd related but who in the span of a few short months betrayed all that love and left us rather wronged. By the time he moved out he had  broken a gentlemen’s agreement we had for the room rental, despite “cleaning” left his bathroom an absolute biohazard and a half dozen cats worth of feline fur all over our furniture and was present when a shield I’ve had hanging in my stairwell unmolested for more than two years mysteriously ended up broken during his moving process. Top it off with the fact that he was courting one woman while invloved with another whom he eventually slept with then dumped a week later by text before hooking up with another as a pretense to vacate the residence and his obligations. Of course he was never responsible for anything. The girlfriend in Texas had misunderstood him, the one here just wasn’t working out and Angie and I were pressuring him menacingly on all fronts. He laid waste to at least five friendships but not one action did he own as he played the “woe, is me” concerto on his little violin to anyone that would listen.

And listen they did.

Even once others had heard both sides of the story which showed without a doubt that Pete was in the wrong and owed apologies instead of excuses they figured he was one of the best friends you could ever have. That’s right, knowing full well how he’d lied, cheated, abused and connived a whole cabal of companions just wasn’t enough to trump pizza night.

And one degree at a time the world burns.

And it stands flabbergasted and afraid when I cut anyone who has anything to do with ilk like that out of my life. I get lots of flack for rolling around deck the way I do but I’ve cleared out lots of garbage along the way and been able to find the kind of pals that would take a bullet for you if need be. Those folks speak their minds and get called all sorts of names just like I do. But if that’s the price of true friendship, of true humanity, then so be it.

Bully for them I say, and bully for me too.

Western Watchins #63

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There were a few times during my first full day ride into the Saguaro National Forest outside of Tucson, Arizona that I imagined I was carrying on towards some grave reckoning and that I would soon become a vicious instrument of fully deserved retribution feeling beads of sweat pour down my brow as drops of blood fell from a number of despicable individuals. It’s an undeniably powerful feeling to know exactly who you are, and act on every feral fiber of that knowledge, even if you are just daydreaming. When the titular antihero who upon high plains does drift rides into town there’s something on his mind too.

Except he’s not just woolgathering.

This here’s Lago.
 

 

It’s a whole town Clint Eastwood built on the otherworldly shores of Lake Mono in eastern Yosemite. Universal Pictures said Eastwood had to film in Hollywood on some studio backlots. Eastwood said

 

 

Thus more than a dozen buildings went up including a church, barn and two story hotel all completely finished inside and out to facilitate any possible on site production needs. And needs in Lago were a plenty, especially for the spectre of a man astride a pale horse who just happens upon such a town in the middle of some haunting nowhere. It’s mere minutes into the film and already the only conceivable direction for shit to go is down. In case you’re wondering what happens when Clint Eastwood comes for a visit it’s simple: men get a gut check, women get satisfied and assholes get fucking dead. Here comes a happy customer now!

 

 

Oh, and before you go and get that I need to fart or I already did fart and now I smelled my own fart kind of disgusted look on your face because of the rape that takes place at about the half hour mark and my use of the word “satisfied” above, I will guarantee you that little Miss Callie got exactly what she deserved. It’s debatable whether it was even rape at all and she came back for more. Watch the movie and you will most likely agree with me. If not, feel free to stop reading right now and go jerk off to a picture of Gloria Steinem using your tears of angst as lubrication.

High Plains Drifter is not an easy film to watch and one even harder to live up to. It’s not for the spineless, gutless, heartless or nutless. If you voted for the current president you should avoid this film. It will scare you. In fact one of the best lines has to do with just that exactly.

Fear.

It’s monumentally memorable and I’ll be damned if I’m going to ruin it for you but it boils down to the fact that most people are pussies. The screenplay was inspired by the infamous Kitty Genovese murder and explores the question “what happens when good men do nothing” and answers with “Clint goddamn Eastwood happens.” Everyone in Lago looks familiar because on the surface they are you. There’s the shopkeep and the barber, the preacher and the prostitute. That guy’s an entrepeneur and those two handle all the odd jobs in town. Some are married and some aren’t. They live in houses. Eat their meals at tables. Sleep in beds at night. But underneath it all they harbor a shameful secret. Then along comes the other side of that ethical coin landing face up…a new mysterious face…a stranger’s face…and that visage brings with it a terrible vengeance.

When Kitty got stabbed it made a lot of psychoanalytical types start to wonder and soon they minted terms like “bystander effect” and “diffusion of responsibility.” In the 70’s it was all theoretical and not often witnessed on a daily basis making a statement like the one made in High Plains Drifter, I’m sure, seem all the more absurd and implausible. Flash forward to 2014 and realize with a grim “what the fuck” in the pit of your stomach that most people today would be more likely to film you burning to death in your car with their iPhones than to try and save you.

People are afraid. And not just of physical pain. They’re afraid across all spectrums. They wouldn’t dare speak up for themselves for fear they might lose even a single “friend” on Facebook. They’d never feel the need to defend someone who’s getting bullied for fear they might also become a target. They could never entertain the thought of actually standing on principle for fear of losing out on a paycheck.

Welcome to the future. One bright and shining pile of selfish shit.

The people of Lago figured they’d have a bright and shiny future too as long as they just ignored their misdeeds, valued falsity over good faith and redacted their collective history in the name of that most detestable pursuit “moving on.” But hiding in a corner with your eyes closed never makes the problem go away, it just goes to show the world what an impotent ass you really are.

So this stranger comes a calling and uses his brains, bullets, balls and the glorious booming of TNT to make sure everyone hears. Rarely does the Western revenge flick reach past the framing of “this guy done me wrong” so how fun it is then when one is built upon the premise that it’s an entire populace that pissed in your face and left you for dead. When you decide to piss in Clint’s face make sure you go home, have your favorite dinner, binge watch some goddamn My Little Pony episodes because everyone else does and you just fucking need to fit in, then tuck your kids in, cuddle with the wife and make real sure you say goodbye to all before you head off to work in the morning because before long you will be on your backside staring up at this:

 

 

And then the fuckining of your life begins. But I did say this movie was fun too didn’t I? High Plains Drifter does layer on a lot of wry laughs atop its violent underpinnings. I smile a lot watching this movie. And if you stay sharp through the smirks you’ll also notice a lot a social commentary beyond the sadistic central storyline. Some is obvious (civilized townfolk pick on a dwarf dude because they’re insecure dicks), some is obscure (rape victim/enjoyer Callie first crosses paths with Clint as she walks out of a real estate holdings office slyly associating her with wealth and power while establishing her elitist can-do-no-wrong attitude) and other moments are wonderfully tongue-in-cheek (Clint offers an Indian man a huge stack of blankets). Don’t worry about that Indian though, Clint’s not a government douchebag so those blankets are a generous gift instead of a fuck you and die get off your land that is now my land situation. He is ferocious in this film but also just as kind as another “man with no name” archetype for you to hang your hat on if you’ve got the sand. Because, like everyone in Lago and everyone in life, you have a choice.

High Plains Drifter deserves high praise and 6 of the finest rounds I’ve ever loaded. I love this movie. The setting, the sets, the costumes, the explosions, the creepy ass music, the sex, the violence and the tough as nails going up against the chicken as shit. It is easily my favorite Clint Eastwood Western and one of my personal top ten as well. It is simply spectacular, engaging in its slow burn style to establish Eastwood as Leone’s worthy Western heir. I tip my hat, raise a glass, kiss a beautiful woman and put some prick in his place in your honor High Plains Drifter.  As I ride through all the years to come, may I always live true your lessons.
 

Haikuesday

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Find your destiny

Beyond others’ weak limits

Do not be afraid

 

Western Watchins #62

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 photo poster_zps291cee99.jpg

 

I have started typing up this review a half dozen times already and nothing funny or thoughtful is coming to mind at all. It could be writers block or whiskey block (though that usually helps) or simply the after effects of having watched a Western made by The Insane Clown Posse.

You are not reading this wrong or having a stroke. 

A man named Violent J and another man named Shaggy 2 Dope gathered up a bunch of their friends including rapper Vanilla Ice, porn king Ron Jeremy, recovering addicts Jason Mewes and Scott Hall along with recovering successful actor Tom Sizemore and made a movie. And a legitimate one at that.

I’ll let you know right off the bat that, should you ever ask me some of my favorite musical acts, The Insane Clown Posse would not have made the top ten. Or the bottom ten. Or any other of the tens. The number of ICP songs I’ve ever listened through all the way to completion I could count on no hands. Hip-hop isn’t my thing and being “gangsta” is not my scene. Plus all the blatant “whiteface” is terribly hurtful to Anglo-Saxon people. I’m probably a tad sensitive to the subject as my all white Broadway revival of Song of the South has been struggling to find funding. It’s not my fault you’re offended I sign all my sponsorship letters thus:

 

“Thanks for your consideration!

Respectfully,

Tar Baby Chris.”

 

I know right? “Thanks”! So informal! Joking (and awesome theming) aside, we’ve all forgotten how to laugh. Try watching an old Mel Brooks movie nowadays and you inadvertently cringe in moments that used to have you rolling. I know I do and not because it’s not funny anymore but because society is screaming, from every PC blog or broadcast, that it’s not. (Here’s some proof if you were wondering how ridiculous it’s become!) Today your jokes get you labeled as a racist, fat-shaming homophobe. Yesterday you’d have gotten a screen writing credit for History of the World: Part I.

Thankfully, ICP is a bit more O.G. in this respect. And by that I mean that they show little if any respect to those presuppositions you might have about what should or should not be allowed in any film much less a genre one. Anachronisms and stereotypes are served up like meat and potatoes with a heaping helping of slapstick gravy on top to add a funky, fun flavor. There are actual jokes here too amidst the asinine and absurd. It takes a lot for me to “LOL” because most folks aren’t as funny as I am and I live with me all the time so I’m spoiled. It’s a curse. But one pleasantly broken when a film like Big Money Rustlas comes along.

And even with scenes that have whatever the fuck this is happening in them…

 

 

…the movie works. It makes coherent sense as a story moving from Point A to Point B, one that mixes action and exposition with surprising dexterity as many of the characters sing fluently past their one-note appearances even if only for a few bars. And all of this at an enjoyable pace. Two buffoning bastards took 1.5 million dollars and put out a better product than half the films I’ve already reviewed. Jon Favreau had 163 million and made Cowboys and Aliens. In case you have no idea what that one was about neither do Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and they were in it.

No amount of pictures from the internet or proselytizing from the me will probably ever convince you that the poster you first came across when you began reading today belongs to a movie you should take the time to see. It might even do more harm than good to remind you that the Big Bad’s henchmen are named “Raw Stank” and “Dusty Poot” or that the token Mexican is 1) played by a white dude with a memorably fake mustache and 2) named “Dirty Sanchez.” You might be put off by midget sex, midget violence or violent midget sex. Perhaps knowing that the slapping done in this film (bitch or otherwise) would make the Three Stooges blush or the fact an entire scene is dedicated to a song entitled “Near My Butt” will dissuade you from ever watching this film. Perhaps! But, amigos, let me-undissuade you as hard as I possibly can. 

While Big Money Rustlas comes out of a fandom that looks as if it has never taken a bath led by twin men-children who come off as little more than glorified Faygo frontmen I can say with a straight, make-up less face that if you’re a fan of Westerns and can still laugh at any joke that’s funny even if some, most or all might consider it offensive then belly up to this bar and start drinkin’. It was actually so well received by the critical types that screenwriter Joseph Bruce (AKA Violent J) has been asked by 20th Century Fox to work on Days of Future Past!

 


I’m kidding of course, Bryan Singer will ruin that all on his own. But Magneto does bring up an interesting point. The production of Big Money Rustlas is indeed miraculous. It should suck on so many levels that our minds would be forced to put in a basement and a helipad just so that we can find other levels upon which to suck. Instead I’m loading 4 rounds in the cylinder for this odd, vaudevillian offering. It’s a harlequin hootenany that makes you feel like you’re a kid again albeit a mildly retarded one. It’s not perfect and it’s not high art but it is goddamn fun. But it’s also something more, I believe Violent J said it best in ICP’s magno-vitriolic music video ‘Miracles’ when he said “there’s magic everywhere in this bitch.”

 

I agree wholeheartedly bizzitch, wholeheartedly. MCL headed your way. Which means “much clown love”. Which means now I have to kick my own ass for even knowing that. But tis a small price to pay for having taken in this moronic masterpiece. Our lives become frightfully unenjoyable once we forget to laugh, at each other and at ourselves. Riding true means having a smile on your face from time to time so every once in a while amigos, send in those clowns.  

 

Western Watchins #61

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 photo AnotherPairOfAces_zpsbc45e4e8.jpg

 

When you watch any movie there may come a time when you think “this might be an instant classic” or “am I dying?” I’ll bet that second thought is just such the case if you’ve ever seen Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind. Not that you expect too terribly much from a made for TV Western but with preceeding titles like the competent Shadows Riders and that cowboy ratings coup called Lonesome Dove there had to be some expectation that this movie would not be as numbingly terribly as it was. Oddly enough this one is a sequel to the (cr)aptly named Pair of Aces that had done so well the year before as to send CBS scrambling to field a follow up all fast like. A third planned film in the franchise entitled What? A Third Pair of Aces? Fuck this Noise I’m Done! was never produced because I haven’t made it yet.

This film starts with a good premise: Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson doing shit. Here they are on set with one of the writers.

 

 

Nelson’s conman/gambler/beard haver character was hands down the best part of the movie. His zen like musings and offerings of Wild West wisdon delivered with gleeful tact were awesome. The fact his name was “Billy Ray Rodriguez” even more so. Commercial breaks and Willie’s charisma were perhaps the only things that kept me awake through all ninety three minutes. It certainly wasn’t Kris Kristofferson whose entire performance was pretty much pointless grimacing. His labored blinking and shallow breathing had me convinced that Elliott would soon stop by, shove him into the basket on the front of his bike and then fly him off to the woods so he could “go home”. This guy went on to help Blade avoid the I.R.S. as Whistler and did so with some brass so just what the hell was going on here we may never know. Or care. More likely the latter.

At least everyone sure looked like they were having fun on set.

 

 

Of course that picture was taken just before they were told what movie they had signed on for. And this next one right after.

 

 

Speaking of cleansing fires, Rip Torn is also in Another Pair of Aces. Here he is telling the movie exactly which way Hell is so that it can go there.

 

 

I’m kidding, that’s a shot of him as Maax from The Beastmaster, a schlocky 80s boobs, barbarians and ferrets film that, despite its shortcomings, is still a more accomplished exercise in almost every cinematic skill than Another Pair of Aces. I clearly remember Rip from The Beastmaster and I haven’t seen that movie in almost two decades. I couldn’t conclusively tell you one thing about what he did in Aces and I saw that only two weeks ago. It’s that good folks.

Now, one interesting fact about this production comes from behind the camera. Did you notice the opening graphic I used was from the “directors cut” DVD? Were you thinking “this thing has a director” like I was? Who, who the blind and batty of all retarded fucks directed this? I’m going to find out and give him a piece of my mind! Several pieces, a pair of pieces even, and then another pair! Come on out you bastard let’s see what IMDB has to say! Okay…your name is Wilfred Bailey Everett…oh I can already taste the lack of talent with a name like that…just one more thing here…your last name is…Bixby? Wait, Wilfred, Will, Bill…Bixby? Oh, oh damn. You weren’t listening were you Bill?

 

 
 photo BillBixbyHulk2_zpsc9d840d2.jpg
 

Well of course he wasn’t because sadly he’s dead. So that, combined with the fact he was the Hulk, a professional magician, a Libertarian and by all accounts just a nice damn guy I will not go any further with my character assassination. So what, if anything, can be cleaned from this horrible movie made by such a wonderful man who died well before his time? Yup, life is too short amigos.

Too short not do the things you really want to do.

Too short not to go the places you really want to go.

Too short not to be who you really want to be.

And too damn short to waste any time watching Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind. 1 round in the cylinder for this and that’s being generous on account of a cool country legend and one Bruce Banner. Why was it even called “three of a kind”? Because Willie and Kris team up with Joan Severance and she has sex with one of them. I won’t say which one but it was like watching a sort of hot chick have sex with a deathly ill extraterrestial. I don’t even think the MST3K treatment would have helped this movie because it’s not even to that “so bad it’s good or at least laughable” level. When thinking of its pace the words “monotonous” and “please kill me” come to mind. Plus despite its wrapped up neatly with a bow and a Willie Nelson joke just before the credits roll finale the overall feeling you’re left with as you erase this from your DVR is despair. A deep, dark, directionless despair that had sat stewing just inside a hippopotamus’ rancid rectum before explosively expelling itself onto your face. Why did I feel this way? Perhaps because I had spent ninety three precious minutes watching this instead of having sex, going for a run or hammering nails through my scrotum. Another Pair of Aces is slow and just sad. Like delicious syrup someone went and peed in.

But, even with that funky flavor in my mouth I still appreciated the fact I watched this while I was visiting my parents on a vacation. We endured it all together. The bad writing and acting and editing and sound quality and production value and Kraft services. All of it. Time spent with loved ones always has value. Even when watching Another Pair of Aces. Sometimes you grab life by the balls, sometimes it grabs yours. Either way, ride true amigos. Ride True.

 

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