Monday, November 05, 2007

You Only THINK McDonald's Fries Are Greasy

...Now it's visually confirmed. This guy drew a large portrait using a large size container of McDonald's fries:



Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ART CLASSIC #5
Poltergeist:
The Most Perfect Horror Film--Ever

Director: Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
Writer: Steven Spielberg (story)
Screenplay: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor
Special Effects:
Industrial Lights and Magic (Lucas)
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Steven Spielberg
Musical Score: Jerry Goldsmith [1] (Oscar, Best Musical Score, The Omen) [2]

This year is the 25th anniversary of the film. One reason Poltergeist is so perfect is because of the people involved in the production: Tobe Hooper, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Goldsmith, and George Lucas' Industrial Lights and Magic. The list reads like a who's who of classic and expert film production. How could it not be perfect with this ensemble?

Many horror films have been made in over a hundred years of film making and certainly, most are a dime a dozen. There are many genres of horror films: the slasher films, creature features, 'B' horror, to name a few. Nearly all of the genres seem apt to become dated as they are often reflective of a specific period in cultural time and tossed on the winds of fad culture. Only one genre stands the test of time, no matter how old the story or film becomes: The Ghost Story. The cast of creators aside, what makes Poltergeist so perfect is the story. What makes the film so unusual as a horror film is that it does have great writing. But this is no usual Ghost Story. The Ghost Story is merely the vehicle for the larger message (which horror films almost never possess).

Poltergeist uses all the typical devices of a classic Ghost Story horror film: creaking sounds, subtle voices, play on light and dark, simulated heartbeat sounds, things emerging from the periphery, cropping, surprise, terror juxtaposed with ordinary objects, people, etc. Spielberg, et al. take the right approach with fear, which is, that it is simple and not complicated, and doesn't require a lot of gore. It is this sparseness and simplicity and earnestness of acting by a then unknown cast of characters that makes the film so terrifying. I saw this film when I was eleven years old. I watched it at a friend's house on cable. It was scandalously uncut and it terrified the living daylights out of me. It was the first horror film that really blew me away. However, I was too young to appreciate its broader meaning. It is not only a timeless ghost story but a timeless cultural commentary as well.

The trailer to the film makes the best plot summary:



The film is a classic Ghost Story but it is also about the microcosm of house/home/family that symbolize the country. It's about patriotism and nostalgia, economic downturns, innocence and the loss of it, greed and abundance, form without substance in American culture, and ultimately, the loss of the American Dream.

The Freelings and the American Dream

The family is Steven and Diane Freeling and their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne, and their dog E. Buzz. First, their name is "Free-ling." Much like "underling" or "earthling," it is not so much a name as a designation.

Photo Credit

These "free" people live in a suburban home in a development called Cuesta Verde (loosely translated = "it costs green"). It is a manufactured neighborhood of suburban sprawl where all of the homes look the same, which is a quality that recalls Malvina Reynolds' song, "Little Boxes." [3] The family's life reads like a commercial for middle class abundance: the perfect house, 2.5 kids, toys and other products filling the house, etc. Douglas Kellner states, "By depicting with affection its residents, houses, goods, toys, and electronics, it presents advertisements for a U.S. way of life which defines happiness in terms of middle-class lifestyle and consumption." [4] Kellner calls Spielberg's films "clever ideological fables" and "meticulously constructed ideology machines." [5] He states, "The film attempts to manipulate its audience through carefully planned, carefully paced jolts, special effects, frightening scenes, sentimental depictions of a loving family, and the assuring presence of technology, professionals, and spiritual powers. " [6]

Kellner's observations are poignant and astute. I personally think the term "sentimental" as applied to the depictions of the Freelings as a loving family would be better termed "idealized." In the film, the family is shown as a tight unit that only begins to break up under the assault of the poltergeist intrusion. They share a bed, they joke and play with one another, and even when they embark on the rescue of Carol Anne, they show courage and a tight bond. When deciding who should enter the closet/portal to rescue the child, Diane convinces Tangina (the spiritualist) that she should go since she is Carol Anne's mother. Steven says that he should go instead. Diane says, "Who's strong enough to stay up here and hold the rope?" He relents and as she starts walking into the closet, she turns and shouts to Steven, "Steven, don't let go!" Diane goes into the unknown and Steven "tows the line." The image of the Freelings is idealized and heroic. They face their fears to save their daughter--head on. And this is no difficult task, because the supernatural force that they are fighting knows their fears and exploits them.

Photo Credit


Photo Credit

The theme of the American Dream is further reinforced by elements in the film. First, the film opens with a very blatant use of the Star-Spangled Banner being played at the end of day broadcast of a network channel on television. Steve Freeling has fallen asleep in his chair in front of the television as the broadcast day winds down in this iconic way. I don't think it's unintentional on Steven Spielberg's part. Opening the film in this way is a tight piece of foreshadowing as well as a symbolic representation of the American Dream coming to an end: in this case, reverting to the low power "snow" mode of the television channel. It is also a genius creative choice in terms of the musical score. This scene is shown not once, but twice--the second time being as the whole family (except the teenage daughter) are asleep in the parents' bed and right before the poltergeist makes contact with Carol Anne and causes an earthquake (only in the Freelings home, interestingly enough). Johannes Grenzfurthner states, "It is no coincidence that in the film “Poltergeist” from the early 80s Tobe Hooper used just this phenomenon as something calculated to give one the creeps. After the American national anthem the broadcast is over; the snowstorm sets in. And it doesn’t take long for the eerie voices of the damned to start calling out of the hypnotic blizzard. It seems as if we would like to ban this snow from our world." [7]

As Kellner stated, happiness is defined "in terms of middle-class lifestyle and consumption." The American Dream to Spielberg and Hooper is about the acquisition of a home, updated technology, a swimming pool, 2.5 children, and an abundant collection of (Lucas-based) toys for those children. The teenage daughter even has her own phone in her room. This is the age of innocence and abundance for the Freelings. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith reinforces this period of the film by scoring it initially with what is basically a lullaby. Gradually, as the Freelings' lives go out of control, the score alternates with darker and moodier tones with intense, bombastic music.

Besides the use of the Star-Spangled Banner, economics (and politics) are alluded to in another subtle way. Near the beginning of the film, Steve Freeling is laying on his stomach on their bed while Diane is rolling joints. He is reading a book entitled Reagan: The Man, The President. [8] Reagan would later become the President who posited "Trickle-down Economics" which is also known as Reaganomics or Supply-side Economics. "Proponents of these policies claim that they will promote new investment and economic growth, thereby indirectly benefiting people in lower tax brackets who do not receive the direct benefits of lower taxes. Opponents characterize this as a claim that the people who would otherwise pay the tax will distribute their benefit to less wealthy individuals, so that a fraction will reach the general population and stimulate the economy." [9] In addition, even though the modern War on Drugs was started by President Nixon in 1969, it was Reagan who created the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1988. So, the irony is not lost on the contemporary viewer when watching Diane prepare marijuana for their mutual consumption while Steve is reading a book on Reagan. There was also a real life economic contradiction going on during the age of Reaganomics. While the economy was being presented as good, the reality was that it wasn't. Mortgage interest rates only dropped below 10% once during the Reagan Presidency (1987) . During the year that Poltergeist takes place, the mortgage interest rate was 14.72/14.74% (fixed/adjustable). [10] So, buying a home was out of reach for most low income wage earners--unless they were willing to sacrifice their family on the altar of work to "keep up with the Joneses." Viewers of the film know that Steve Freeling is upper middle class because his boss, Mr. Teague, offers him a brand new home at no cost to keep him employed because Steve is singlehandedly responsible for bringing the company over $70 million in real estate sales. However, pitted against this wealth and idealistic family harmony is the isolation of the nuclear family, the forces of nature, failed technology, and the mesmerism of television. We also eventually find out that the initial cause for all the disturbances in the Freelings' house is GREED. Mr. Teague, knowingly, and probably in cahoots with other questionable characters, decided to cut corners and increase profits by only moving the headstones of the cemetery on which the Freelings' house rests.

The Tuthills

The Tuthills are the Freelings' next door neighbors. They have achieved the same measure of success as the Freelings although they are presented as less sophisticated (e.g. the son is portrayed as a slack-jawed child). Mr. Tuthill is competitive with Steve and it is obvious that neither wants a "neighborly" relationship with the other. The competition is expressed through the television remote fight that they have when both are apparently on the same frequency and Mr. Tuthill's children would like to watch Mr. Rogers and Steve would like to watch football with his buddies. The scene is one of the most humorous but also the clearest representation of their competitive relationship. The men have achieved everything (presumably), yet assert their power in this childish way. The Tuthills are not only competitive, they are oblivious to the travails the Freelings are enduring in their home. None of the disturbances are happening on their property. But even when they are pulling Diane from the skeleton-filled swimming pool, it is unclear whether or not that they notice the bodies at all. They seem to respond only to the screams of the children inside the house. It is not until the house finally implodes that they seem to react to the supernatural events. It is possible, however, that they perceive the imploding of the house to be related to a gas main explosion. Either way, the impression left with the viewer of the film is that the family is in utter isolation in its experiences, even though they are surrounded by suburban sprawl and neighbors that are literally a stone's throw away.

Man Versus Nature

Three forces of nature are pitted against the Freelings. One is the
manifesting force that Diane calls "another side of nature" which is the appearance of supernatural events in the home. The other two more tangible forces of nature are the dead tree that springs to life and tries to devour Robbie and the tornado (that is presumed to be a part of the thunderstorm) that whisks the tree away before it has a chance to do so. Robbie shows an early fascination with the dead old tree in the film. He is obsessed with it--terrified by it. It sparks his imagination and disturbs his sleep. Initially, it seems out of place in the new and shiny opulence of the suburban landscape. It seemed to be carefully left there to "add character." In the end, it becomes the fly in the ointment for the Freelings. Not only does it try to devour Robbie, it acts as what appears to be a deliberate distraction for the supernatural elements to abduct Carol Anne, which they do. The storm and subsequent tornado once again seem to only be happening at the Freelings' home. Historically, The Storm has been a symbolic presence in all the arts to represent the forces of nature that humankind battles against. Everything else in the Freelings' lives up to this point seems to be under control. Nature is not under control and supernatural and natural forces conspire to destroy their dream of American "normalcy."

Technology Run Amok

Another theme of the film is that the comfort that technology brings to the modern life is fleeting and unpredictable. It is the illusion of comfort at best. Shorts and manufacturer's defects happen. Faulty programming happens. Warranties run out. In the Freeling home, light bulbs burn with extreme intensity and don't burn out. They flash, spark, and flicker. Most notably, remote control and electronic toys move on their own and eventually spin around the children's room in a frenzy. The viewer is confronted by an electronic robot in one scene when the paranormal researchers open the door to the children's room. The robot approaches the viewer on its own power, laughing maniacally. At the same time, a lamp flies through the air and "plugs itself in" and turns on. A record is played by a compass point. It is during this frenzy of spinning toys that we are once again reminded of the amount of things the children possess. These things are out of control in this context. Later we are simultaneously reminded of affluence and recalcitrant technology in the form of Robbie's ominous talking clown at the foot of his bed. Eventually, the fear that the poltergeist knows he has comes true and the clown attacks and tries to strangle the boy. The clown's face has become contorted with evil and he also laughs maniacally as he attacks the boy. Robbie is at once strangled by what Whitman called the "mania of owning things" and technology. Fortunately, the ordinarily fearful and timid Robbie finally gains his courage, owns his power, and rips into the wayward toy shouting, "I hate you!" Of course, by now, the viewer has realized that the clown was another distraction to try and abduct Carol Anne a second time.

Robbie's Clown, Before (Photo Credit)

Robbie's Clown, After (Photo Credit)

The Medium is the Message

The most apparent technology in the film is the television. It is the through the television that Carol Anne is first contacted by the poltergeist. It whispers to her and eventually reaches out with a ghostly appendage to touch her. It shoots energy through her prior to the "earthquake" in the Freelings' home. Once abducted, she communicates through it with the family. Ultimately, her communication through the television is unsatisfying and ineffective. One can't have an intimate relationship with a television. Steve Freeling has fallen asleep in front of the television. It is kept running in the background. At one time, the whole family falls asleep in front of the television. There is a television in every room. It is essentially treated like a member of the family. But this "member of the family" has a hidden agenda.

It seeks to seduce the most innocent corporeal member of the family into its realm. One doesn't have to delve too deeply to understand the statement Spielberg and Hooper are trying to convey. There's even a touch of irony after the poltergeist contacts Carol Anne the first time through the television and after she becomes fascinated with the low power station from which the poltergeist's communications come. The scene takes place during breakfast on Monday morning. Carol Anne is too young to go to school. Once the other two children start heading off to school, Carol Anne heads over to the small television in the kitchen, climbs up on a stool and switches the channel to the snow channel to see if she can hear the voices again. Diane passes Carol Anne as she's cleaning up the breakfast table and declares, "Oh honey, I wish you wouldn't stare at that channel. You'll hurt your eyes." As Diane utters these words, she simultaneously changes the channel to a violent war film. Again, the irony is deliberate and not lost on the viewer. One will hurt the child's eyes. The other will hurt the child's mind (as many believe, though this is not necessarily agreed upon by experts). Of course, we know today that Spielberg personally believes this because he took the extra effort in the re-release of E.T. to digitally remove the guns out of the federal agents' hands at the end and replace them with walkie talkies--because he believed that ultimately, it was too violent an image for a children's film.

Those Who Don't Study History....

...are condemned to repeat it. We've all heard the adage. The Freelings also express 1) The lack of knowledge of history, and 2) seem to not be capable of learning from their experiences. These two qualities are extremely prevalent in Americans (one could, of course, argue all of humanity). Steven is the top salesperson at the company who built his house and he was not aware of Mr. Teague leaving the bodies and just moving the headstones prior to construction of the subdivision? The family is literally blissfully unaware that their house is on a sea of bodies--some of which are centuries old. Our ancestors are our history. Ghosts symbolize memory and history. When the ghosts are finally captured on film, Diane says, "Look at all of them." Robbie responds, "Where are they all coming from?" This dialogue expresses their obliviousness to the true history of the house.

The Freelings have encountered a poltergeist that tried to drive them out, devour their son, and succeeded at kidnapping their daughter. They are told by Tangina that the other presence inside the house was The Beast, or Lucifer, or Satan, or Beelzebub, or the Lord of the Flies, or whatever you want to call him/it. It is after all this, that they STILL decide to spend one more day (and night) at the house. It seems crazy by any standard. They seem determined to return to the bliss and normalcy that they had before--to their own detriment. Steve goes to work. Diane has the children tuck themselves into the same beds that are in the same room where Steven faced The Beast. While they're tucking themselves in, she goes into the bathroom to dye her hair. The children are left alone to fend for themselves even after the extreme risk Diane took by spelunking via a hemp rope into the supernatural world of the poltergeist and The Beast and exiting through the living room ceiling. The results of this laissez-faire attitude are predictable.

The "Experts"

In Poltergeist, the experts are the three paranormal investigators, and the eccentric spiritualist, Tangina. The paranormal investigators are clearly overwhelmed by the extreme nature of the Freelings' problem. Tangina admits not encountering such energy before. If we see the former as representing "science," and the latter representing "religion," both are poor substitutes for the "real" things and are incapable of rescuing the Freelings from their situation. It is up to the family in a "man versus supernatural" battle, in which only their bond equips them for this battle. Science and Religion can't rescue them from their suburban malaise either.

Conclusion

Poltergeist's perfection lies in its cleverly, yet thinly disguised story of a heroic family's journey. There are all the Joseph Campbell elements in this family's journey (which is really no surprise since Spielberg and Lucas go way back, and Lucas was a student of Campbell's). These heroes participate in battles and individuals are resurrected. Innocence is lost. It has the cautionary nature of an medieval fairy tale set in a modern suburb. It is a not-so-subtle piece of socio-economic and political propaganda. It explores the themes of man versus himself, man versus nature, man versus man, and man versus the supernatural. And of course, it still terrifies movie watchers through its masterfully applied horror creation techniques. It is a "ghost story" to end all ghost stories.


© Stephanie Lewis, 2007


[1] imdb.com
[2] imdb.com
[3] The Red Rock Resistance
[4] ejumpcut.org
[5] ibid.
[6] ibid.
[7] Monochrom
[8] Hedrick Smith Productions
[9] wikipedia.org
[10] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Top Ten Favorite Black and White Horror Films

1. M (1931). A psychotic child murderer stalks a city, and despite an exhaustive investigation fueled by public hysteria and outcry, the police have been unable to find him. But the police crackdown does have one side-affect, it makes it nearly impossible for the organized criminal underground to operate. So they decide that the only way to get the police off their backs is to catch the murderer themselves. Besides, he is giving them a bad name. As far as I'm concerned this film is the most disturbing horror film of all time. This German film by Fritz Lang confronts pedophilia and child murder with the most chilling cinematography. One simple scene brought me to tears the first time I saw it. Once you see it, you'll know which scene I mean. The film explores revenge and self-righteousness and mental illness and other complicated things about being human. Peter Lorre, the Christopher Walken of his age, plays the killer in probably his best performance ever. We probably wouldn't have Horror films without Germany. Figures.


2. Psycho (1960). Marion Crane works at a Real Estate Office in Arizona. She has a sister named Lila and a boyfriend named Sam. She wants to marry Sam, but the two do not have enough money, since Sam is still paying off his ex-wife's alimony, and she has a small job at Lowery's office. One Friday, December the eleventh, Mr. Cassidy, a rich oil tycoon, comes to the office to give Lowery $40,000 to buy a house for his daughter's wedding present. Lowery asks Marion to deposit the cash and she said she would. Instead, she packs up and heads for Fairvale to see Sam, with the money in her purse. She ends up at the Bates Motel where she meets Norman Bates, a troubled young man who seems to be obsessed with his Mother. After Norman feeds Marion dinner, she goes back to her room for a shower.... Norman Bates is one screwed up guy. Anthony Perkins nails the role as a matricidal momma's boy. He plays it subtly and chillingly. Of course, the shower scene that has left an indelible mark on our culture puts it at or near the top of anyone's list.

3. The Innocents (1961). In late 19th century England, an inexperienced young woman becomes governess to a small orphan girl living in a lonely stately home occupied only by the child, a housekeeper and a small complement of servants. Her initial misgivings allayed by the child's angelic nature, her anxieties are once more aroused when the girl's brother, equally captivating, is sent home from boarding school for wickedness of some unspecified kind. Then eerie apparitions and inexplicable behaviour on the children's part cause her to wonder about the house's history, especially about the fate of the previous governess and the former valet, Peter Quint, and to fear for the children's souls and for her own sanity. Eventually convinced that there is an unnatural force at work, perverting the innocence of her charges, she sets out to secure the children's salvation by wresting them from its power. Though her struggle reaches a resolution, its real nature and its outcome ultimately remain ambiguous. This is one of those films that appears to be one thing, and is actually another. What appears to be a haunted house story is actually an exploration of the innocence of childhood, Victorian sexuality, and the adult and child's different perspectives on fantasy and imagination. The story is actually and adaptation of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw."

4. King Kong (1933). Master showman Carl Denham has fallen on hard times due to the depression, and mounts an expedition to the mysterious Skull Island to find another showpiece. He takes along adventurer Jack Driscoll and the down-on-her-luck gorgeous blonde Ann Darrow with him to spice up the show. Arriving on the island, they discover it is home to gigantic beasts like dinosaurs, and ruling over all is Kong, a 30 foot tall gorilla. The natives kidnap Ann as a sacrifice for Kong, and the other crew members head into the dangerous island interior to rescue her. Where would special effects be today without the mastery of stop-action animation? King Kong is part Horror, part Drama, part Sci-Fi, and part Love Story. I will have to part ways with the final statement in the movie: No. It was not Beauty who killed the Beast. It was the sorry opportunist who drug the monkey out of his environment to the states to make some cash. Way to blame the chick, though.

5. Village of the Damned (1960). In the small English village of Midwich everybody and everything falls into a deep, mysterious sleep for several hours in the middle of the day. Some months later every woman capable of child-bearing is pregnant and the children that are born out of these pregnancies seem to grow very fast and they all have the same blond hair and strange, penetrating eyes that make people do things they don't want to do. This is a film that explores fascism and conformity and nuclear annhilation all in one felled swoop. A must-see. The children are chilling.

6. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). The world of freight handlers Wilbur Grey and Chick Young is turned upside down when the remains of Frankenstein's monster and Dracula arrive from Europe to be used in a house of horrors. Dracula awakens and escapes with the weakened monster, who he plans to re-energize with a new brain. Larry Talbot (the Wolfman) arrives from London in an attempt to thwart Dracula. Dracula's reluctant aide is the beautiful Dr. Sandra Mornay. Her reluctance is dispatched by Dracula's bite. Dracula and Sandra abduct Wilbur for his brain and recharge the monster in preparation for the operation. Chick and Talbot attempt to find and free Wilbur, but when the full moon rises all hell breaks loose with the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein all running rampant. This movie is a classic because it's horror and comedy are so close it's painful. There are scenes that are so funny that I cry from laughter. But, if you don't appreciate Abbot and Costello like I do, than you will be at a loss.

7. The House on Haunted Hill (1959). Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren and his 4th wife, Annabelle, have invited 5 people to the house on Haunted Hill for a "haunted House" party. Whoever will stay in the house for one night will earn ten thousand dollars each. As the night progresses, all the guests are trapped inside the house with ghosts, murderers, and other terrors. Skeletons, heads in hatboxes, acid baths....how can you go wrong? Incidentally, the remake sucked big time. They should make it a law that NO Vincent Price movies may be remade. What hubris to think you could play ANY of the man's roles or give a proper tribute!

8. The Wolf Man (1941). Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela's mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Larry, transformed by the full moon, heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen. I've always sympathized with werewolves. They tend to be hapless victims and have no control over their fates. During the Wolf phase, they almost always struggle to retain some of their humanity. The Wolf Man's struggle is OUR struggle. Our humanity is often at odds with our baser instincts. Lon Chaney Jr. (The Man of A Thousand Faces) plays the role with compassion.

9. Them (1954). After several people in the New Mexico desert wind up missing or dead, including an F.B.I. agent and most of his family, police Sgt. Ben Peterson teams up with F.B.I. agent Bob Graham to find out what's causing the strange occurances. They find send a strange print found at one of the crime scenes tothe Department of Agriculture. Doctor Harold Medford and his daughter Doctor Patricia Medford arrive and ask to be taken to the scene of some of the disappearances. When they get there they are shocked to find gigantic ants, whose mutations were caused by the first atomic bomb explosion nine years earlier. They manage to destroy the nest of ants, but not before two winged queen ants and a couple of drones have hatched and escaped the nest. Now it is a race against time to find the two queen ants before they can establish more nests and hatch more queens. The 1950s's penchant for giant creature features can be connected to fear of the recently detonated nuclear bomb and the red scare. To me, this is the most representative and classic of the genre. Nuclear testing breeds monsters. Duh. The opening ten minutes are spectacular. Of course, since it's the 50s, the special effects are pretty sad.

10. Frankenstein (1931). Dr. Frankenstein creates a simple creature from various body parts. The creature turns into a monster when Dr. Frankenstein rejects him. Sticking close to the original novel, we are guided through the story of Frankenstein's quest for knowledge, and his creature's search for his 'father'. This blatantly cautionary tale about unethical and unchecked science is beautifully and poetically filmed. It is the story of megalomania, accountability, and the fearfulness of brute force without a soul. The scene that was only added back in in the 1990s because it was too controversial for 1930s audiences, involving the little girl is absolutely indelibly embedded into the culture's archetypal memories.



Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Top Ten B-Horror Films of All Time*


1. Tourist Trap: Teenagers come across a shut-in psychopath (played by Chuck Connors) with telekinetic powers. He proceeds to use these powers to slay them one by one as well as animate the various mannequins he uses to keep himself company. This one gets my vote because it is so utterly hilarious and creepy at the same time. Chuck Connors can be one scary dude. And of course, any B-Horror with the lovely and extremely talented Tanya Roberts can't lose. Apparently, someone has created a Tourist Trap Font. Click here to download your very own.

2. Class of Nuke 'em High: When Warren and Chrissy notice some strange things happening around their high school, they begin to suspect that something is going on at the nuclear plant next door. Though the plant officials deny that there are any problems, Crissy gives birth to a bloodthirsty mutant who immediately begins eating everyone in the school. Will Warren and Chrissy be able to stop their killer kid?

3. Bloodbath at the House of Death: Six scientists arrive at the creepy Headstone Manor to investigate a strange phenomena which was the site of a mysterious massacre years earlier where 18 guests were killed in one night. It turns out that the house is the place of a satanic cult lead by a minister monk who plans to kill the scientists who are inhabiting this house of Satan. Total carnage and STILL funny. The jewel in this one is that it's one of Vincent Price's last horror films. And, let's face it....Who is the KING of B-Horror if it is not Vincent Price. May he rest in peace. Two words: Toilet Scene.

4. April Fool's Day: A group of college friends gather together at an island mansion belonging to Foreman to celebrate their final year of school. They soon discover that each has a hidden secret and as they are revealed they end up dead. Yet are they really dead or are they just part of the very real and cruel April Fool's jokes. The hostess is the only one who knows what's going on but then again is it really her. This one is rather surprising in that it is fairly intelligent with some decent and surprising plot twists for a B-Horror.

5. Rabid: Rose is involved in a motorcycle accident, and has experimental surgery performed in order to save her life. However, she develops a taste for blood. Her victims grow in number as well as madness, turning the city into chaos. Hands down, the most absurd B-Horror movie ever. And it stars former porn star Marilyn Chambers.

6. Videodrome: Lowlife cable TV operator Max Renn discovers a "snuff TV" broadcast called Videodrome. But Videodrome is more than a TV show; it's an experiment that uses regular TV transmissions to permanently alter the viewer's perceptions by giving them brain damage. Max is caught in the middle of the forces that created and the forces that want to control Videodrome, his body itself turning into the ultimate weapon to fight them. This one actually falls into the category of B-Horror officially, but I think it's a little too smart for that. I would call it Classic Horror. Tune in to watch Deborah Harry (Blondie) in her costarring role with James Woods.

7. The Brood: A man's wife is under the care of an eccentric psychiatrist who uses innovative and theatrical techniques to breach the psychological blocks in his patients. When their daughter comes back from a visit with mom and she's covered with bruises and welts, the father attempts to bar his wife from seeing the daughter, but faces resistance from the secretive psychiatrist. Meanwhile, the wife's mother and father are attacked by deformed children, and the husband begins to suspect a connection with the psychiatrist's methods. Memories of some of the scenes from this movie STILL creep me out. This one is actually a successful horror movie in that it could probably scare someone for real.

8. The Toxic Avenger: This is the story of Melvin, the resident geek at the local health club. One day, Slug and Bozo (some resident jocks) chase Melvin around the club and Melin ends up plunging out of the window into a tub of toxic waste. Melvin is transformed into The Toxic Avenger and he is a geek no more! Toxie fights crime and gets revenge on his enemies like a true hero. Really, any Troma Film is a winner, but this is the company's classic.

9. Re-Animator: In this H.P. Lovecraft tale, Herbert West is a Swiss scientist who has discovered a fluid which brings living tissue back to life. After the suspicious death of his professor in Switzerland, West moves to Miskatonic University to continue his research. He involves fellow student Dan Cain and his fiance Megan Halsey in his research by experimenting on their dead cat. Dan, fascinated by West's research, agrees to smuggle him into the hospital morgue with predictable results. I'm a sucker for mad scientists whose experiments go horribly horribly wrong. This guy is nuts-o-rama. This is technically Classic Horror too, but still a little on the absurd side.

10. From Beyond: Doctor Pretorius and his colleague work on a sensational experiment: by means of stimulation if the pineal gland they want to open mind for higher dimensions. When the experiment succeeds, they are immediately attacked by terrible life forms, who seem to be floating around us all the time. When Pretorius is killed by one of them, Dr. Tillinghast is under suspect and thrown into psychatry due to his stories. Only the ambitious psychologist Dr. McMichaels believes him and wants to continue the experiment. This is another Mad Scientist story (with the same actor who played in Re-Animator), but complete insane and absurd and so NOT scary. The most hilarious part is when the pineal gland makes its "appearance."


* All synopses are taken from IMDB.com. Please pardon the random bolding in this entry.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Can't Get No Respect:
O'Keefe Museum Wants
to Block Deal

Article

It's becoming quite apparent that either Bentonville, Arkansas or the entire state of Arkansas is the Rodney Dangerfield of the U.S. What do outsiders think is going to happen to precious American artworks if they come to Arkansas? Do they think Billy Joe Jim Bob in his overalls and bubba teeth is going to go out with the boys and shoot paintings out of the air or hide them in Beaver dams in rivers and go noodling for them? Use them to practice target shooting with chaw? Hock them on the black market to replace them with saw blade paintings? Of course, I don't believe any of this, but the way the elitist art market is acting, you'd think that's what THEY believe. I've lived in this area for almost 13 years and I can tell you that the Bentonville area has grown by leaps and bounds and it is about time for a museum. What is the problem with these people? Sigh.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

They're Baaack: The "Noisy Ghosts" Return


I, for one, am very excited that the horror classic, Poltergeist (means "noisy ghost" in German), is returning to the big screen for a one-night engagement, with extras. The film is showing at the Tulsa Cinemark on Thursday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m. The DVD with extras and digitally remastered material is coming out on October 9 and you can bet I'll be purchasing it. One of these days, I'll write here what makes Poltergeist such a great horror film (and you know they are rare).

Transformers Review Update

Yesterday, I went and saw Transformers again at the IMAX Theater in Tulsa. I'm still planning on writing a review of the film, but am waiting to be able to buy the DVD so I can sit down and take some notes so my thoughts are clear on paper. There is much that is positive to say and I don't want to mis-write my ideas.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Big News for NWA and Crystal Bridges

Article

Crystal Bridges, Fisk Solidify Agreement




Fisk University and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced a $30 million agreement on Tuesday that will give Crystal Bridges Museum a 50 percent undivided interest in Fisk's Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

The agreement will allow the two institutions to assume joint ownership of the collection and participate in mutual care and management of the pieces as well as publicly display the collection on an equal basis.

The Alfred Stieglitz Collection includes 101 different works of art. Nashville, Tenn.- based Fisk University gained ownership of the collection in 1949 when the estate of Alfred Stieglitz donated the pieces to Fisk.

Georgia O'Keeffe also donated four of her own paintings to the university, which are now part of the Stieglitz collection.

In addition to the agreement Crystal Bridges founder Alice L. Walton has personally pledged the donation of $1 million for the renovation, improvement and maintenance of the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk. The donation will allow the university to exhibit the Stieglitz Collection in accordance with the art museum industry's highest standards.

The two entities have also announced the establishment of an internship program that will be funded by Crystal Bridges and will give Fisk students an opportunity to participate in on-site training and gain industry experience at Crystal Bridges.

Fisk will deliver a motion requesting relief from its prior orders under the Cy Pres doctrine to the Davidson County Chancery Court for final approval.

"We are honored to partner with Fisk in the ownership and care of this significant collection," Walton said. "From the beginning we sought to create an innovative arrangement with Fisk that would accomplish three important goals: keep the collection intact, ensure the collection would remain on public display and enable Fisk to continue to achieve its historic education mission. We believe the interests of each institution and the Alfred Stieglitz Collection itself are well served through these arrangements."

Crystal Bridges is under construction in Bentonville. The 100,000-SF gallery is envisioned to be home to some of America's premier pieces of art. The museum complex will encompass a gallery, library, meeting and office space, a 250-seat indoor auditorium, areas for outdoor concerts and public events as well as gardens and walking trails.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Women in Film

Seamless...

Women In Film

Brent Green


I read about up-and-coming animator Brent Green in my newest copy of Art in America (September, 2007). Intrigued by the blurb, I looked him up on the web and discovered his website as well as some YouTube videos of his work. If you are easily offended or disturbed, don't watch his films, but I find them to be rather poetic verbally as well as visually.





Carlin


Nervous Films

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lucas Cranach's Portraits of Martin Luther
and His Parents

The other day, I was researching something about Martin Luther for some reason and came upon three portraits by Lucas Cranach the Elder (one of Luther's good friends and an artist). I've never been one for Cranach's nudes, but his portraits, such as these, are very telling and insightful into the characters of the sitters.


Portrait of Luther's Father, 1527


Margarethe Luther, year unknown


Martin Luther, 1529

After reading the information on the following links, what do you think of Cranach's portraits?

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Luther
The Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on Luther
10 Things You Didn't Know About Martin Luther from a PBS program



Senseless Act

A homeless man attacked the painting of Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds on Wednesday with a hammer.




Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Was Wrong


Cy Twombly was NOT pleased that a woman loved his painting so much that she kissed it. In fact, he was "devastated." The fact that art vandalism is a crime is undisputed by this author. However, to call her vandalism "Rape" is a bit much. We live in an age where raping a woman is not even called RAPE anymore. The term has been neutered to be called "sexual assault" -- whatever that means. One cannot RAPE an artwork. Well, I guess one could, but that would be rather odd and something I would not like to imagine. It's a sad thing that there may be permanent damage done to this painting. Perhaps try alternative words like "tragedy," or "destroyed," or "ruined," or "demolished," if one still has a penchant for the dramatic, but I think it's time some people got over themselves and leave the word "Rape" for the real thing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Where Art and Science Meet:
"Flight Patterns" by Aaron Koblin





I saw this on ABC World News tonight. A designer named Aaron Koblin has created a visual spectacle of the flight patterns in the United States. Here is his page exhibiting the work using Quicktime. His work is both fascinating and beautiful; and frankly, a stroke of genius.


Aaron Koblin's website.

Photos are from Koblin's website.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cy Twombly Would Probably Love Her for It

News Article

Cy Twombly, Leda and The Swan; 1962 Oil, pencil and crayon
on canvas 6' 3" x 6' 6 3/4" (190.5 x 200 cm)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chilly Portraits

Matt Hoyle exhibits his photographic portraits at the Point of View Art Gallery in an exhibition called Icebergs.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Annie Leibovitz and The Queen

Recently, the Queen of England was presented as blowing a gasket when photographer Annie Leibovitz asked her to dress down for her photo shoot. Of course, the BBC has apologized for misrepresenting the non-event. Here's one reporter's take on the incident prior to the BBC apology:





A traditional portrait of the Queen by Annie Leibovitz.


The BBC Apology


Friday, July 06, 2007

More Than Meets the Eye


The new Transformers movie smashed all box office records this past week grossing $29.1 million on the 4th of July (article on Yahoo). Of course, I wasn't a boy in the 1980s (rather, a girl), but I saw the film on an early preview showing and I thought it was spectacular. I'll probably review it here after I see it a couple more times.


Transformers movie's official website.

The Cat in Art

A recently published book on the subject has been written about in Art News.

Book on Amazon.com.

I've long been a fan of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen's cats. However, the work of Louis Wain has long intrigued me because his work shows his descent into schizophrenia.


Before: A naturalistic cat before the onset of schizophrenia.

After: Untitled - c.1933, watercolor & bodycolor, 9 x 7.5 in.

Sources of Images:
http://www.outsiderart.co.uk/wain.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Wain_Cat_%28realistic%29.jpg

$13.1 Million

Le Coq by Joan MirĂ³ (1940)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Damien Hirst Talks About "A Thousand Years"

New Family Member

A couple of months ago, a feral cat had kittens on our property. After separating them at weaning time and socializing them for a couple of weeks, I ran into the reality of the animal welfare system in Northwest Arkansas. The shelters are overflowing because people still have a rural mentality in a rapidly developing suburban/urban area. Animals are abandoned, not spayed or neutered, and treated in the cruelest of ways. And, unfortunately, there isn't a lot of support, funds, policies, and laws to help them all so a great deal of them are euthanized.

So, we took on the task of trying to adopt out the four kittens ourselves. The shelters were so crowded that they were beginning to euthanize kittens and puppies and begged foster "parents" to take in some of the kittens and puppies. I spoke to one such foster parent who had 40 kittens alone in her garage and was trying to adopt those out. That is the sad nature of the glut of unwanted animals in this area, and with attitudes like this, it is no surprise.

I took action. I drove them to my hometown, St. Louis, where there is NOT a glut of unwanted animals, but kittens like these are in demand. I took them to a veterinary clinic I know of and they adopted them out in less than a week. I decided after much deliberation that I would take one myself and introduced a new family member to my house of two elderly cats. My husband, his son, and I all had the same favorite kitten and were initially calling our new kitten "Adventure Boy" because he liked challenging himself. I've have a cat named Solomon and my husband's name is Jeremiah, so in keeping with a Biblical name, we're now calling this new member of our family Samson. It seems a fitting name for Adventure Boy, since Samson slayed a lion and ate honey from the carcass, cavorted with prostitutes, married twice outside his tribe, broke ropes that bound him, slayed 3000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, carried heavy city gates on his back, and eventually pushed an entire temple down with his bare hands (Judges 13 - 16).

Doesn't he seem like he could push a temple down?
Well, maybe not right now....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Remains of Female Pharaoh Found

Queen Hatshepsut's mummified body may have been found.

Older Artist Wins BP Portrait Award

Paul Emsley, 59, won the prestigious award and a commission in the annual competition that was hitherto fore closed to elder artists. It is unclear to me as to why the competition had been closed to artists over 40--seems to eliminate a lot of artists in their prime.


The Winning Portrait: Michael Simpson, oil on canvas, 1370 x 1120 mm


My personal favorite:

Zuzana in Paris Studio, by Hynek Martinec, acrylic on wooden board, 1300 x 1100 mm


Highlights from the competition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can You Believe This?

James Howard

Charles Saatchi recently purchased an entire exhibition from an art student. "James Howard, a student at the Royal Academy Schools, was shocked to discover yesterday that Britain’s most influential collector of contemporary art wanted 46 of his – an entire graduation show. Howard, 26, one of 19 students who have just completed the RA Schools’ postgraduate course, was fast asleep when Mr Saatchi popped into the academy last week.

The young artist found out later that his digital prints – each one a collage of photographic images made up to look like a typical internet advertisement – had caught the collector’s eye."

I have more than a sneaking feeling that as Clement Greenberg helped define the modern era through his writing and collecting, so Charles Saatchi will help define the post-modern era through his collecting of art. Wait and see. Indeed, he already is.

Charles Saatchi

Link to the Saatchi Gallery

Monday, June 11, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Animation: Women in Art

Salvador Dali on What's My Line?

The fact that Dali was on this show with blindfolded guests, a countdown flipbook, and a gameshow host is surreal.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nancy Grossman

* I was recently reminded of an artist who gained notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s: Nancy Grossman. While she has worked in sculpture and mixed media, it is her drawings that intrigue me, particularly her "Gunhead" images. Even though her work was created 30+ years ago, these drawings are relevant to the present day. These drawings make us confront the violence endemic to ourselves as individuals and as a society and how intimate we are with weapons and the destruction mindset. In our highly technological age we are so intimate with these weapons, we are practically conjoined to or hybridized with these weapons--at the same time our awareness to their effects is distanced and blinded. As we invent more destructive and complex weapons, we move further out from intimacy with the victims. A soldier can bomb a village or town from hundreds of miles away and never see a drop of blood. More than any other situation, war exhibits man's inhumanity to man. In light of current events, Grossman's drawings become more and more poignant.

Gunhead, lithography crayon on coated paper, 1975


Liliaceae, lithography crayon, graphite, wash and paper collage on paper, 1973


Hitman, lithography crayon, graphite, wash and paper collage on paper, 1973


Nancy Grossman's biography at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York


Nancy Grossman on ArtNet

* Photo is by Richard Avedon. Nancy Grossman is on the right pictured with fellow artist Anita Siegel.