Friday, May 12, 2023

Notes on Film: Seasons

 by Anthony King

They are a-changin'.

We're still 20 days away from the greatest time of the year, but my heart is screaming for sleaze. It's funny how my taste in movies and music are dictated by the seasons. And luckily I live in the midwest where (at least for now – thanks, climate change) we have four seasons. More in a bit, but first here's what I've been watching.
A report from the trenches: Well, friends, I did it. I watched a Marvel movie. I appreciate the spirited conversation in the comments of last week's column, and I took to heart all the recommendations you all threw my way. I didn't want to force myself to watch a superhero movie just because I'd written about it, and to be honest I had a momentary crisis of self when I felt regret about writing that column because my curiosity began to wane. But I found myself with time and a bump up in said curiosity last weekend, so I decided to start from the “beginning” and pushed play on Jon Favreau's Iron Man (2008). The great and wise Daniel Epler cautioned that I needed to go into these movies with an open mind (his words) and not my usual cynicism (my words). And like many of you said, Iron Man is just a great action movie. Guess what? You were absolutely right! There were things I didn't care for in the movie (Gwyneth, Stark snark), but also things I really loved (the military stuff, Bridges). That evening I broke the news to my family during dinner that I watched a Marvel movie and said that I liked it. “Are you going to watch more?” they asked. “Eh, maybe,” I responded. But the next day, the longer the movie had marinated with me, I got more and more excited about it, and I want to watch more. What I've concluded is I think I'm more into the heavy action, look-at-all-these-cool-weapons, “reality”-based superhero movies (Batman, Iron Man, etc.), as opposed to the look-at-all-this-cool-magic-stuff superhero movies (Spider-Man, Thor, etc.). So the plan is thus concerning Marvel movies: I'll watch the second and third Iron Man movies, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Logan (2017), and Black Widow (2021), and go from there. I hope I made you proud.
Last Saturday I had a Buster Keaton day. I was already a fan, having seen Sherlock, Jr. (1924), The General (1926), and The Cameraman (1928). I'd already considered Keaton the greatest stuntman to have ever lived, and having watched five more Keatons, he's now moved into the second position of funniest person to have ever lived (Jerry Lewis is the undisputed, impossible-to-dethrone King of Comedy). My Buster mini started with Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), a story about a recent college graduate who comes to live with his steamboat captain father. Next up was One Week (1920), a 22-minute short about newlyweds who have been given a plot of land and a build-it-yourself house-in-a-crate. This was followed by Our Hospitality (1923), where Buster plays a young man who falls in love with a young woman, and upon arriving at her home, realizes he and his love are on opposite sides of a Hatfields and McCoys-type of rivalry. The fourth film in my Buster mini, and my favorite of the bunch, was a short called Cops! (1922), about a man who offers to help move someone to the city by driving the horse and buggy, gets embroiled in misunderstanding after misunderstanding, and becomes a fugitive of the law. I wrapped things up with College (1927), about a nerdy college student who, with the cajoling of his mother in order to vie for the affection of a young lady, tries out for several different sports teams at the school. So many of Buster Keaton's films are readily available to stream on several different services, but if you have access to Kanopy you'll find several restored versions of these films. If you've never attempted to get into silent cinema, or you've had a hard time, I can all but guarantee Buster Keaton will be a wonderful guide into a world so many have yet to venture.
Lastly, my wife and I had a rare night together where neither of us had prior commitments, so I sent her a list of 10 horror movies from which to choose. Bobbie chose Christopher Smith's Triangle (2009), a movie I'd heard about for many years, one that had been on my watchlist for many years, but one I was trepidatious about because I thought it'd be a cheap and forgettable whimper of a movie from the mid-2000s. Oh, how wrong I was. Having not seen a trailer, read a synopsis, or even looked at a cast list, the only thing I knew was the poster of a woman carrying an ax through a pool of blood which showed the reflection of a person with a burlap sack on their head, also carrying an ax. A group of people gather at a dock in Florida to take a small yacht out onto the ocean for an afternoon of sailing. Out of nowhere they get caught in a big storm, overturning their boat, and leaving them stranded until a giant ocean liner comes along. Boarding the ship they discover it to be abandoned except for one person they can't seem to find after initially seeing their silhouette. That's all you get. It stars Melissa George as a mother who, from the beginning, seems a little off, and all is revealed in the final shot of the movie. There's nothing quite like being pleasantly surprised by a movie you already had bottom-of-the-barrel expectations about, and Triangle really blew my socks off.
Now to the topic at hand. I don't know if this is a normal thing for most people, but my musical tastes change with the seasons. Summertime is for punk rock, synth-wave, and '80s pop. Fall is for horror movie scores and showtunes. Winter is jazz and orchestral movie scores. Spring is heavy on different types of electronic music (deep house, vaporwave, etc.). But the same goes for movies (which I'm pretty sure I've written about in the past). Summer is heavy on exploitation and sleaze. Fall is all about that Sadvember, baby! Winter is holiday-themed and westerns. Spring is a random conglomeration of everything else that doesn't fall into those categories. With it being May, and summer knocking at the door, my depleted sleaze bar needs replenishing. Luckily, Junesploitation is just around the corner, but I feel the urge to watch grimy, goopy, and gross pictures now. I have turned to previous episodes of Movies from Hell, Unsung Horrors, and Twitch of the Death Nerve for recommendations of what to watch. And like I did last year around this time, I've decided to do another Movies from Hell film festival this weekend, kicking it off with Pin (1988). I want it all. I want to feel like I need a shower after watching a movie. I want the credits to roll and feel the urge to blurt out, “What the hell was that?!?!” I want to be able to go into Junesploitation with a list of recommendations that scream, “I dare you to watch this!”
To tide me over until the greatest month of the year I dipped my toe in the exploitation pool this past week. I watched Christopher Speeth's Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973), Umberto Lenzi's A Quiet Place to Kill (1970), and Jose Mojica Marins' aka Coffin Joe's At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964). From here until July 1st, we're wading through the dregs of cinema, honey! I want to be covered in the muck of whatever syrupy hell broth stains the floors in The Corpse Grinders (1971). I want to wreak like what I imagine the basement in Last House on Dead End Street (1973) smells like. I classed it up with Buster Keaton. I went big with RDJ and Marvel. And even though I’ve got Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and It’s a Gift (1934) coming up on Cult Movies, those will be but shiny blips on a radar of filth. Those superhero movies mentioned above will have to take a backseat until July, because for the next 50 days it’s crud country, pal. Wife wants to go see Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret? Call a friend, dear, because I'm busy watching Schoolgirls in Chains (1973). Kids want to see the Spider-Verse? Nope. It's Nurse Sherri (1978) time. It's 80 degrees outside which means it's time to discover what dreadful things Aunt Martha does sometimes.


  1. One superhero movie i think was not mentionned is Captain America Winter Soldier. It's basically a James Bond adventure with a superhero twist. You like big guns? You'll like this 😁

  2. PIN could easily fit into your Sadvember viewing.

    Looking forward to Junesploitation as much as you are. As much as I love exploitation and sleaze, though, I tend to get away from that kind of cinematic diet right before Junesploitation. Being as fresh for the the month as possible makes Junesploitation an even more special experience. I also try to get a little bit of class into my watches for the month. Park Chan-wook can fit in with the likes of Umberto Lenzi, Ted V. Mikels and Al Adamson.