If you’re anywhere in the United States, chances are, you got hit with snow this weekend. We’re currently clobbered in a white blanket of the stuff and all I can think of are the jokes Dan makes about coke.
This week, we’re going to explore such happy subjects as the uprising of the little guy and cults. We’ll start off with a look at Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), known to some as that point in time when Peter Jackson was still hitting the quality control button. What can I say? They can’t all be sparkling slices of sunshine in the dead of winter.
The recent uptick in 90s nostalgia is real, man. Part of that might come from the fact that in terms of entertainment, everyone is either dissatisfied with the same old crap getting rehashed/updated (I firmly believe that Clueless can’t be remade because it’s fine as is and a complete time capsule of that era) or they want the comfort of the good old days. Which, frankly, is fine by me when it comes to some of the glorious 90s cinema we were lucky enough to get. Exhibit A: Empire Records (1995), a stunning snapshot of life in a record store on one really eventful day. Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – Corporate
One of the larger plot points of this film is the looming
buyout of the titular Empire Records – a sweet, welcoming indie shop with
quirky employees and personality coming out the wazoo – by the larger record
chain Music Town. I feel like this is a thinly-veiled slam against Media Play
in the 90s, but really, it’s a recycling of the 80s film trope of having to
save the youth center. This time, instead of skiing competitions, we get Lucas
(Rory Cochrane) gambling and fast-talking his way into making sure The Man
doesn’t get his mitts on the little guy. If that sounds like snark, it’s not –
I love this trope so goddamned much.
#2 – Rex Manning is
Where there’s a teen idol – no matter the age or era that has passed – there will always be hangers-on. Nothing is more painfully honest than this truth, as presented to us by the way people cling to Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield). You still see it to this day, with the way people fawn all over the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, and the Spice Girls (while we’re at it, can we please fucking please admit to ourselves that that Spice Girls aren’t that great?). And yet these past figures will continue to ride that wave of success – and excess – as far as they can. Watching Rex is a bit of an uncomfortable experience in the renewed era of hero-worship long after the peak of success. Keep that in mind.
#3—Joe’s a really
For every boss from hell – for every person who’s made staff
cry, tight-fistedly denied raises, and barked that your job should come before
your family (those are always fun) –
you have at least one Joe in your back pocket: someone who’s got your unconditional
loyalty. Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) is good to his employees: he cares, and he
makes a point to learn and accept the quirks of everyone’s personalities. If
you’ve got a Joe in your past, you’ll get those happy feelings of having a
really good boss. There’s a reason the Empire Records crew is so loyal.
#4 – The soundtrack
Oh man, this soundtrack was life when I was a teenager. The best part: for every song that made the official soundtrack, there’s like three or four that didn’t make the official cut (that’s what Spotify playlists are for, my friends). I double dog dare you not to dance along while watching this film. The wild part though comes in the realization of how much music is packed so effortlessly into his film – it really is like being in a record store. You just want to groove along while doing your thing (shout out to my friends that did time in Media Play). That’s a fun way to spend your workday, and the film really nails that sense of good tunes getting you through a mundane workday.
#5 –Perfect casting
Shout out to Gail Levin, who did the casting for this film: she hit every role perfectly. Liv Tyler is sweet and really apple pie good girl Corey; Renee Zellweger has a fantastic edge as bad girl Gina; LaPaglia is everyone’s favorite boss Joe; Johnny Whitworth’s A.J. is equal parts funny and charming (the gluing of the change to the floor is a personal favorite moment); Brendan Sexton III nails the pissy teenage delinquent role Warren; Ethan Embry is so out-there as Mark that no one else could have played him (coincidentally, head on over to his Twitter page – THIS is the guy we need to run for office); Caulfield’s Rex Manning is delightfully washed up and displeased. The highlight for me is Robin Tunney, who manages to look vulnerable and edgy simultaneously. Plus, everyone wanted to be Lucas. This movie is magic, I tells ya. Magic. And that cast’s chemistry is a huge reason why.
Empire Records is
available for streaming on Netflix.
Cards on the table: I am not a fan of AMERICAN CITIZEN Reese Witherspoon. I have not been a Reese Witherspoon fan since 1999, when I saw her get snarky with a reporter who wished her well on her upcoming wedding. I don’t trust people who portray themselves as balls of cotton candy and light when they let that level of utter contempt for others fly out in the open; it’s manufactured and fake. Which means that Reese is the perfect person to play the perky-yet-conniving Tracy Flick in Election (1999). Election sees Tracy square off against teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a man who snaps and decides to undermine the ho-hum class president election of the resident go-getter. Normally, I’d be rooting for Jim all the way, but there’s something sly in the script that makes me go Team Tracy on this one: Jim’s motivation is slut-shaming in nature, and he threatens Tracy via implied blackmail.
Early on, we learn that Tracy is fresh off an affair with another teacher, Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik). Dave used his position at school to get some alone time with Tracy, who he describes as a “loner” — Tracy, for her part, acknowledges that she doesn’t have much time for friendship. Right off the bat, there are warning signs on both sides: she’s a vulnerable kid from a workaholic single parent household, and he’s seeking to appeal to a lonely 16-year-old via praise and flattery. From there, they embark on a sexual relationship, which meets an abrupt end when Tracy’s mother discovers a note from Dave asking the teenage girl to run away with him. Dave winds up losing his job, his marriage and his access to his child. Jim’s voice over lets us know that Dave had to move in with his parents. At the tail end of the film, we get an update on Dave: he’s working at a grocery store, and looks completely miserable.
Now back to the scene at hand: Tracy is accused of meddling in the election, and Jim attempts to extract a confession from her via guilt tripping and saccharine lecture. During this interaction, he tells her, “there is, for just one example, a certain former colleague of mine, who made a very big mistake,” then follows that statement with, “I… think that certain young and naïve people need to thank their lucky stars and be very, very grateful that the entire school didn’t find out about certain indiscretions that could have ruined their reputations and their chances to win certain elections.” Let’s stop there for a moment, because Jim throws up some major red flags. Internally, I always scream, “Bitch, you did NOT!” at Jim because of the way he deflects blame. While Tracy participated in the affair, she was a teenage girl in the care of a teacher. Currently, age of consent in Nebraska — where this film takes place — is 17, which means Dave was in massive legal trouble for screwing around with her… legal trouble that went away when he resigned (I’m side-eying the hell out of that school district because every school district has those skeletons, and it’s gross. As someone who worked in a school district, I can attest.). This girl was placed in a situation where she was manipulated by an individual in a power position — the onus rests on the adult who should have known better, not the vulnerable teenage girl who got tricked and groomed into developing feelings for and fucking a man that was a good 20 years her senior (and for the record, if this was gender-reversed, I’d be just as angry). And yet Jim brushes off his buddy’s horrible, calculated course of action by calling it a mistake on Dave’s part, making it sound like Dave accidentally face planted onto Tracy’s cooch. As if that’s not enough, he then goes on to deliver a thinly-veiled threat to Tracy: he can make her life a living hell by letting everyone at school know about her illegal affair with a teacher. That’s even more disgusting because he’s essentially telling her that she’s lucky he didn’t go blabbing that his friend committed a sex crime against a teenage girl, thereby leading to harassment by her peers for being the victim of a sex crime. Let’s be clear: ordering a chalupa when you meant to order a quesadilla from Taco Bell is a mistake; transposing numbers on a cheque is a mistake; wearing black underwear underneath thin white pants is a mistake; buying a Nickelback album is a mistake. FROSTED TIPS ARE A MISTAKE. Grooming and sleeping with a 16-year-old girl and asking her to run away with you isn’t a mistake — that’s being a predatory creep. You can’t call those actions a mistake and then threaten the victim into being quiet because you’re still angry that your garage band buddy lost his job where he had access to more teenage girls he could try to fuck.
However, this is where Tracy gets back into the game: she does not take this shit lying down. After Jim’s little smile-filled, After School Special-style speech to her, she fires back the following:
And I think certain older people, like you and your colleague, shouldn’t be leching after their students, especially when some of them can’t even get their own wives pregnant. And they certainly shouldn’t be making slanderous accusations, especially when certain young, naive people’s mothers are paralegal secretaries at the city’s biggest law firm and have won many successful law suits. And if you want to keep questioning me like this, I won’t continue without my attorney present.
Damn, Skippy. Here we have Jim, smiling while trying to coerce a teenager into silence via sexual blackmail with dulcet, paternal tones, and Tracy throws right down. She metaphorically takes off her earrings, removes any valuables, and sucker punches Jim without a second thought. Now at this point in the film, the audience already knows that Tracy is a backstabbing, fake-as-hell, conniving person, but in this instance, we cheer for her. We cheer because it’s the realization that Jim wants to see her fail as a form of revenge for his friend committing a crime and having to go away. We cheer because — while a complete phony and a total pill that’s written in a way we’re not supposed to fully embrace — we recognize that Tracy was not only the victim of an adult who took advantage of a young girl, but someone who showed way more drive to achieve things than most adults. And we cheer because she calls his bluff. She isn’t about to take shit from Jim McAllister, who is busy defending the actions of a sexual predator and teaching the same crap year after year while holding on to the vestiges of his youth. Tracy won’t be blackmailed – if you try to take her down, you’re all going down with her. If I had to pick someone to be in my corner, you bet your ass I want methodical, unsentimental Tracy Flick kicking the shit out of my opponent.
There’s no scarier thing sometimes than a person who owns their scandal. The act makes attempting to manipulate or control the person far more difficult. That’s precisely what Jim tries to do, and he fails miserably at gaining the upper hand. Sometimes, you don’t get to throw around that you have very private information that could hurt someone’s reputation; sometimes, you have to be prepared that the person you’re trying to control via sexual blackmail has no fear about firing back at you. The real fun starts when the wild card owns it.
Oh, the road to accomplishing stuff on the weekends is paved with good intentions, I tell you…
This week, we’re heading back to the 90s. We’ll take a look at something that’s always bothered me in Election (1999). Thursday will see a recommendation for Empire Records (1995), a slice of nostalgia that’s available for streaming. Grab your brown lipstick and your best pair of Delia’s shoes. It’s going to be a blast.
Okay, so I’m recommending something that pretty much
everyone has seen. Still, Jordan Peele’s Get
Out (2017) is one for the books. People are going to be talking about this
film for ages to come, and with good reason: it’s excellent. So instead of
giving you first-timer reasons to rewatch it (or watch it for the first time),
I’m going to go a bit more abstract. Here are five outside-of-the-box reasons
to watch it this weekend.
#1 – Jordan Peele
kicked down a door
Writer/director Peele pitched the story producer Sean
McKittrick without the expectation that the film would get made; McKittrick
loved it and optioned it. The end result: Peele was the third individual
nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for his debut
film by the Academy, and he was the first black individual to take home a Best Screenplay
Oscar. If this means we get more storytellers of color out there in the
mainstream – or at least get them recognized for the stellar work they’re doing
– then I owe this film.
#2 – The
There’s a scene in this film where the bodies of people of
color are fetishized and spoken of in terms that seem flattering on the surface
but are pretty shitty in practice. There’s a big difference between saying that
someone is good looking and slobbering over a bodily stereotype like you’re at
the meat counter of an upscale deli. It’s not how you treat a real person in
front of you; fuck, you shouldn’t even act like this in private. It’s gross,
but it’s something that needs to be observed and stomped on more often.
#3 – Microaggressions
Microagressions piss me off. They’re the snarky little comments that are said with a smile and shrugged off with feigned surprise – the old, “Why are you being so sensitive?” defense. They’re the insults and questions lobbed at someone, then brushed off as being perceived by the other person as being inappropriate, not actually inappropriate in nature. It’s class and race snobbery that’s deflected onto the feelings of the person who’s being crapped on. It’s alive and well at several points in this movie. Your blood should rightfully boil.
#4 –The original
ending was dark AF
Look away if you don’t want to know the original ending. Still with me? Okay: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) sits in jail after he’s arrested for trying to strangle Rose (Allison Williams), pretty much resigned to the fact that he’s going to rot in prison while the real aggressor is out there. It was supposed to be a statement on the real-life scenarios that unfold based on racism, but then police brutality got more press, and a happier ending was provided with the express purpose of providing some hope. I kind of like that Peele went that route, but the fact that he also had a darker ending in his back pocket means that he was willing to show a reality some didn’t want to see. I have to admire him for that.
#5 –The meaning of the song title
This is more so trivia than a full-on reason, but I think it’s cool. One of the songs in the film, “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga,” is Swahili, and translates to “listen to your ancestors”. The song is a bit of a warning – telling the listeners heed their elders and move away from danger. It’s little details like that that make a film for me. And is it ever relevant.
Get Out can be
purchased digitally, on Blu Ray or on DVD. This one is worth the investment.
Candyman (1992) has been in the news of late, thanks to the announced remake coming in 2020 from Jordan Peele. The original was written and directed by Bernard Rose, based off Clive Barker’s short story, “The Forbidden,” from one of his Books of Book installments. The DNA of the story has remained consistent: woman seeks to document local urban legend and summons the vengeful spirit to her own detriment. People are seriously excited to see Peele’s take on the subject matter – I know I certainly am, for a reason that many have expressed all over social media: as a white woman seeking to understand perspectives outside of my own, I want to see a black filmmaker take on this story so that I can learn more from a different perspective I have not experienced. Articulating this further, I feel that a major point of the first film gets overlooked in favor of the gentrification theme: the entire mess of summoning the Candyman (Tony Todd) has its roots in white grad student Helen (Virginia Madsen) trying to take a story that belongs to another culture and use it for her own purposes without truly seeking to understand it.
Backing up a bit, one of the main points of criticism, rightfully, is the look at gentrification in this film. The theme comes to us from the original short story, which sees the character Helen investigating the graffiti of a rundown part of town (based in Liverpool, England, and lacking the distinct racial overtones of the film) for her graduate thesis; Helen starts poking around and finally meets the Candyman, who claims her as his latest victim. The film elaborates a bit more on that, placing the action in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project of Chicago – a place known for its crime and racial stereotypes – that saw an increase in upscale high-rises in the 1990s, further highlighting socio-economic gaps. Between Mayor Byrne’s publicity stunt to prove the area crime-ridden and the push to make the area a mixed-income (read: massive economic gap that pushes out the poor) section of town, the place came to symbolize the struggle to improve living quarters without the residents getting pushed out and further fucked over. There’s no one that personifies that tone-deaf approach to a problem more than Helen, a well-heeled graduate student who strolls into the projects to get the inside scoop on a local legend so that she can write the best thesis in her department.
Here’s where it gets problematic: the Helen of the film doesn’t perform her research out of a desire to help the community have a voice for the influx of crime and the further victimization caused by socio-economic disparity. Helen wants a thesis that’s not like every other thesis out there: she wants to capitalize on the story of people she insinuates as less educated and brightly-future than she. Helen tells her hesitant friend of the project, “we can write a nice little boring thesis regurgitating all the usual crap about urban legend. We’ve got a real shot here… An entire community starts attributing the daily horrors of their lives to a mythical figure.” Helen doesn’t believe for a second that there could be something behind the story, as most folklore is rooted in an explanation of a traumatic event; to her, the residents use the Candyman as an excuse for why things are bad for them and nothing beyond that excuse, which includes mutilations and murders. Helen isn’t in this for the plight of the residents – she wants a thesis that is going to make her look good, that’s going to set her apart from other students, that’s going to snare her a great job offer and academic accolades. She doesn’t want to listen when a child tells her about another kid who was castrated by the Candyman. She doesn’t listen to the desperation and distrust of Anne-Marie (Vanessa A. Williams), who implores, “What you gonna study? How we’re bad? We steal? We gang-bang? We’re ALL on drugs right?… We ain’t all like them assholes downstairs, you know. I just wanna raise my child good.” She doesn’t listen to the blatant statement, “White people never come ’round here except to cause us a problem.” Helen keeps going, even when she’s assaulted, because she thinks she’s got a good lead on a thesis that could bring her professional glory. She’s thinking about being hailed as an original for relaying the legend that grew out of a man being lynched for having the audacity to achieve financial success and a sexual relationship with a white woman while being black. Helen does not give a shit about the realities of poverty for the people of Cabrini-Green, not their concerns, their stories or their safety until a baby gets kidnapped and she gets blamed for its assumed death. While some may argue that she sacrifices herself for the baby to live in the end, the audience is left with two distinct pieces of evidence that contradict this heroic action: she dies with a clear name – that she was not a murderer – and she carries on as part of the legend by killing her adulterous husband. Helen isn’t a folk hero – she’s an opportunist thirsty for attention and the need to be right.
That is where the film makes a stunning point: Helen takes a story that belongs to the black community and seeks to use it for her own gain without really paying much attention to what it means to the keepers of the tale. That’s the definition of cultural appropriation right there: she borrows without thinking of the cultural significance for the express purpose of meeting her own needs and desires, which falls squarely into the territory of unthinking exploitation rather than dissemination of information and tradition. She essentially waives the concerns of the community members, some of whom are extremely hesitant to speak with her on several different levels: the nature of the lynching story involving white aggressors tormenting a black man; Helen’s socioeconomic and education differences, marking her as distant and separate from the daily realities and experiences of the community; the need to only intervene when she herself is in danger of being perceived as an evildoer. Helen wants the story without delving into the true histories and concerns – she can always walk away from Cabrini-Green while everyone else must keep on living there with the literal boogeyman stalking their bathroom mirrors. She doesn’t have to get in the mind frame of the urban warrior to survive because she can go back to her cozy apartment and write a thesis that will procure a respected position in academia, all while her colleagues applaud her for having the courage to walk around a bad part of town to write a glorified term paper. If she had listened to the stories she studied, she would have realized the levels of racial and socioeconomic distrust reflected in the tale’s history and themes – she could have made someone’s life better by bringing attention to issues that desperately needed correction. Instead, she cherry-picked and exploited local lore, then complained when her safety was threatened for being treated like an outsider trying to take advantage of a community’s hardships. She’s the white savior figure that falls flat on her face because she can’t make an effective difference by using her platform to do something good for the group – she merely exploits, then whines when the piper calls to be paid.
The takeaway from Candyman in 1992 is the need to allow people of color to tell their own stories. Don’t swoop in and tell those stories for them – let them have that voice, because the perspectives brought differ in ways that can educate in areas we sorely need. So often, the voices and perspectives of artists of color are shut out. And so I leave you with a reading list – here are some excellent writers of color who deserve to be read; it’s time we listen.
When I first started this site back in 2015, it was as a stress reliever. I looked forward to talking about movies and analyzing them because it brought me joy. And while it still is something I enjoy… I’m finding more and more that it’s bringing me less joy. There are two ways I can approach this: work through it and hope it gets better, or take a break. I’ve been working through it for the past three months now, and I’m feeling that I need to step away from it for a little while. As of February 15th, I will be taking a break from adding content to this site. I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone; it could be anywhere from three months to a year. I do know that it wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve loved hearing from people who have felt that a voice has been given when they couldn’t find the words; I’ve loved making new friends; I’ve loved getting to converse with some fantastic filmmakers. Thank you for giving me a great run.
Until next month, you’ve got some analysis goodness heading your way. This week, we’ll be taking a look at Candyman (1992), then recommending Get Out (2017). It’ll be a week with some heavier subject matter, but one we hope you enjoy.
Recently, I realized that, while I’ve analyzed The Thing (1982), I’ve never actually used it as a weekend movie. That needs to be corrected, especially as we’re into the dead of winter here. A classic from John Carpenter, the film didn’t do so well upon its release in 1982, thanks in part to the release of E.T. the same year. Everyone wanted a cute, cuddly little alien, and John Carpenter gave us Kurt Russell battling gore and Wilford Brimley in the middle of the Antarctic. It’s a cult classic for a reason. Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – It’s a remake
I know, I bitch a lot about remakes, but this is a remake done right. This film is an update of The Thing from Another World (1951), which featured Leslie Neilsen pre-Police Squad! That film itself is worth checking out, because it features a woman in the group and is itself a classic of the 1950s era. This update sees our group stranded in the middle of nowhere during the Cold War at a cold, barren outpost. The themes of paranoia and distrust of the foreign really shine through, and expand upon the original film without totally crapping on it. This is the way you remake a film.
#2 – The source material is famous
The core story of The Thing comes from the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. Fun history: Campbell’s story was discovered to be a shortened version of an unpublished novel called Frozen Hell, and in early 2018, a successful Kickstarter was held to finance the publication. Considering that the novella was voted as one of the most influential science fiction stories around, it’s a biggie. Something that beloved is worth checking out if you haven’t already.
#3 – The sense of foreboding
Carpenter is a master of suspense, and this film pulls a fantastic trick: it shoves people into a confined space and makes the action seem simultaneously large and claustrophobic. The men of the team are stationed at a research post that doesn’t allow for socialization or escape: it’s simply too cold and faraway. Yet the tricks of lighting add to the close quarters, making the action far more urgent and tense than it would be under wide-open circumstances. Between trying to keep track of who could have been turned into a thing and the dark lighting and out-of-nowhere scares, it’s still effective 37 years later.
#4 – The soundtrack
Raise your hand if you love Ennio Morricone. Morricone is a classically-trained composer who has provided scores for both television and the silver screen. If his name sounds familiar, you may have heard it associated with the works of Dario Argento or Quentin Tarantino. The man knows how to cover both twang and sweeping atmosphere. Now I want to go back and re-listen to the Kill Bill soundtracks. Getting back to the task at hand, the soundtrack is simple, clean and damn effective. Nice work, Mr. Morricone.
#5 – Trapped indoors in the cold
There’s a reason why I didn’t recommend this one in August. The Thing is one of those fantastic films to watch on a cold, dark night when you’re stuck home alone. Maybe there’s a pizza involved; maybe there’s a fire and a blanket on the couch. It’s a good one to watch by yourself when it’s too frigid out to do much else. Get nice and cozy, only to look out and see that your current location bears quite the resemblance to what you’re watching. Which only adds to the atmosphere. Sleep tight, kids.
The Thing deserves a place in your collection if you don’t already
** Warning: This post containers spoilers for a film still relatively new. **
Upfront: while at first distrustful of the updated Suspiria (2018), I came to love it over
the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Luca Guadagnino clearly studied
the styles and themes of 1970s Italian cinema, in everything from the colour
schemes to the giallo trademarks to the political undertones. The film has
taken, at the time of writing, a good month to stew over, simply due to the
sheer layers I’ve wanted to digest; truthfully, this post was very nearly about
the political themes and their ties to the film, which will be covered at a
later date. For now, though, the focus rests upon the implications of a brief
exchange between Susie (Dakota Johnson, who was damn fabulous) and Dr.
Klemperer (Tilda Swinton as Lutz Ebersdorf) concerning his role in her coup of
the dance academy and her broad gesture of forgiveness.
The scene comes at the tail end of the film: Klemperer, traumatized and bedridden, recovers from his ordeal in the bowels of the dance academy, where Susie has revealed herself to be the true Mother Suspiriorum and dispatched the other witches faithful to Madame Markos. Klemperer – a man continually searching for his missing wife, Anke (Jessica Harper) – had previously attempted to help troubled ballerina Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz), then sought out the assistance of academy member Sara (Mia Goth), inadvertently causing Sara’s torture and death. Mother Suspiriorum reveals to him that Anke – who had wanted to leave a bad situation in Germany long before her husband did – was captured by Nazis and taken to a concentration camp, where she died of exposure during a cruel exercise by her sadistic tormentors. Mother Suspiriorum tells him, “We need guilt, Doctor. And shame. But not yours,” before wiping his memories, giving him some peace before his death.
Except one of the larger problems with this blanket forgiveness comes from the troubled nature of Klemperer’s actions both during the present setting of the film and before the action even takes place. During the climax of the film, Klemperer was lured to the academy by a conjured version of Anke, then berated by other witches for his gender bias of his patients. Miss Huller (Reneé Soutendjijk) screams at him, “When women tell you the truth, you don’t pity them! You tell them they have delusions!” Previously, Klemperer had stated “a delusion is lies that tell truth” when discussing Patricia’s seemingly psychotic ramblings; however, that was merely his perception of the therapy sessions. Ol’ Patty was right on the money with what she had suspected and experienced, and yet Klemperer had viewed her as not perceiving the world around her accurately – according to him, she may have seen some stuff that she interpreted and spun into her own strange version of events, but she was an unreliable source of information because clearly that couldn’t have happened. This line of thought works to validate his hypotheses resulting from his experience rather than believe the suffering woman in front of him. If this had been a one-off instance, we could justify getting behind Klemperer as the voice of reason in a world gone to complete supernatural chaos… but the problem is that this is slyly established as a pattern for him, as Miss Huller points out. Earlier in the film, when discussing Anke, he mentioned that she had wanted to leave Germany long before the Nazis came for the couple; he, on the other hand, patronized her by telling his worried wife that she had nothing to worry about – they had papers, and besides, it wouldn’t come to that. So when the piper came a-calling, Anke was hauled off; I’m noting here tentatively that we don’t know if Klemperer himself did time in a concentration camp. Either way, though, Anke pays for her husband’s flippant dismissal of her concerns and anxiety, choosing instead to let his hubris ultimately lead to her anguished death. This past action parallels his disbelief of Patricia, then of Sara’s concerns; he needs to physically witness Sara dancing on a broken leg and screaming in pain once the magic wears off to confirm that something might actually be there with these outlandish accusations and suspicions. He can’t take a woman’s word for it – he’s got to do his own investigation and witness the pain of someone else for it to be real; even then, it’s got to be something he physically perceives as accurate before accepting it as the truth.
And Mother Suspiriorum thinks that he deserves forgiveness for that, because he was stripped naked, mocked, and forced to watch a supernatural coup as the corrupt, dishonest leader of a coven was ousted alongside her loyal cronies.
The place where this leads us is one that holds a vast amount of discomfort, because we have to ask ourselves, At what point should we forgive someone? When has penance been satisfactorily achieved? And really, that’s a hell of a loaded question to pose at this point in time considering the mass unveiling of women (and men, and children) stating that they’ve been wronged. When do we get to accept apologies – when the rage dies down? When someone makes an effort to do a little digging and validate claims of abuse? When one person is saved from a bad fate? Does one action really erase established patterns of behavior that have harmed people? Do we have the power to forgive someone for actions that have stretched beyond our scope of experience? Is this a major disrespect to someone who has been silenced and abused – possibly even killed – as a result of someone’s bullheaded need to be right? Was this even Mother Suspiriorum’s place to offer this type of plea deal?
I’m inclined to think not, and here’s why: in my college years, I had the opportunity to meet several Holocaust survivors as part of a course on Holocaust literature, and one of the main themes and discussion points was forgiveness. Their views on the subject greatly shaped my own understanding of the act of forgiving someone. One spoke of how she had forgiven her tormentors because she had no desire to hurt herself further – anger and hatred, she felt, were prices she would have to pay, not those who had harmed her and her family. Another – a gentleman who had to relearn how to eat and walk after liberation, who went into the camps at the age of 12 and didn’t come out for three years – steadfastly denied forgiveness, stating that his tormentors deserved whatever punishment they had coming to them, whether in this life or the next, and they earned every stick of his fury. Neither of these people were wrong, because their trauma could not be erased by others, nor is it the place of someone else to grant forgiveness for them. While there are merits to both viewpoints – peaceful existence versus justified anger – forgiveness cannot be viewed as a blanket healthy cure so that life can continue. The individual gets to decide; we mustn’t take that from them as well.
Socially, we like to forgive to move on, to cleanly compartmentalize the troublesome parts of life so that there’s harmony and happiness moving forward. There’s often a pressure to do so from outside sources, with a myriad of nuances in between that range from the need to continue working with someone versus the establishment of a harmonious family dynamic versus a need for the guilty party to repent and go to sleep at night. There’s no easy answer to the question, Should I forgive this person? The answer lies within the wronged party, and so if you’re not the person who has to live with the repercussions of someone else’s actions, leave the forgiving to the person who does. Sometimes, it’s not up to you.
The story of psychic vampire cat? Monsters come to a small town, where only one cat can stop them.
In the grand tradition of December being a fuck off month for this column, something pretty special had be on the docket. Steve’s first original screenplay seemed fitting. However, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. I read the script, honest I did. But while researching this it became clear the true hero of this tale never got his due. So…
To give the film it’s proper title, The Curious Adventures of Detective Whiskers is the tale of one cat’s encounters and triumph to become the first feline to make detective in the police department and stop a supernatural force.
We open on a couple of demons in town (I think they’re demons; the movie is never 100% clear on what the creatures are). There are hints they’re like psychic vampires, but they look the bastard offspring of the Cowardly Lion and one of the vampires from the Buffy TV show. They hit the incestuous bond thing like five times in the opening scene because King has always been one for taboo. In a scene linking back to their first home, they’re like the Jeffrey Dahmer of cats. So they need life force from a virgin, and find the most appropriate target is a popular high school girl, because a Magic The Gathering tournament had just left town.
That’s when we first meet Officer Clovis Whiskers. On standard speed trap with his partner, he’s heard tell from the word on the street there are monsters about. But then a call came in that Whiskers was on the case, coming across what appeared to be some kind of rubber-suited homunculus only Whiskers could see. His partner is fatally stabbed by a pencil; that’s when Officer Whiskers jumps into action, trying to expose the cheaply done special effects to the world. After taking some damage, the perp gets away. In the wake of Andy’s death, it’s personal for Whiskers.
When back at the station, torn up by the death of his partner, Whiskers is promoted to the rank of detective by the chief. After interrogating Stephen King and a whole host of other cameos (seriously, this thing is a who’s who of horror directors: John Landis, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, Mark Hamill – I’m guessing they all signed up having only read their scenes), even though he should be happy about his promotion, Whiskers just can’t get over the thought he could have helped Andy. He sits smoking a cigarette in the rain:
“Come on Whiskers, we’re going for a few down at the bar.”
“Not now, Chief. I have to find the killer.”
“There was nothing you could’ve done.
They’ll turn up.”
“You haven’t see what I’ve seen. The
dark underbelly of this town, Chief. I’ve seen a lot of good people
get swallowed up by it. Just never thought it would be one of our
“Well, we’ll be down at the bar if you need us.”
Whiskers can’t let it rest. He decides to put word on the street about his partner and finds a few willing to help out. They think they have the right house on the edge of town. The police follow this lead, but there is no one at the house, and the Chief is not impressed with Whiskers’s care-a-damn attitude. At this point, the Chief throws Detective Whiskers off the case:
“That’s it Whiskers, you’re off the force!”
“I am the force, Chief!”
“You’re a loose canon.”
“I’m the best this town has got.”
“Get the hell out of here, Whiskers. I want your gun and your badge.”
Whiskers storms out in the humid night air. He knows he got the right house and poorly constructed monsters must be something the likes of which he has never dealt with before. The rest of the police force goes to protect Tanya, the girl saved at the cemetery. Whiskers sits in his car with a bottle of scotch, keeping an eye on the house he believes is at the center of this whole conspiracy. How do they know that? Well the front yard is full of hissing cats, it has various cars out front (which are either robbed or they’re people who visit the house), and they never turn off the fucking record player.
Meanwhile back at Tanya’s house, the mother of this monster pair storms in and kills all of the cops and Tanya’s parents…. sorry I need a moment here. I thought the mother was dying so the son needed the virgin soul. But now the mother is okay again because the son is hurt worse? I know King was clean and sober when he wrote this but… jeez.
Anyway Whiskers comes across this scene of his fallen former colleagues and now it’s even more personal. He and his feline brethren are taking that house by force. Whiskers are the Chief make up their past differences in the car ride over the house.
“Whiskers, you’re the best damn cop I’ve ever known.”
“It’s your round at the bar when this is all over.”
“We’re coming up on the house.”
“Why not drive through the wall, Chief?”
“That’s a great idea Whiskers.”
The Chief drives through the wall as Tanya is killing the mother cat looking thing. The Chief shoots it a few times to reveal the most hideous foul thing imaginable: the underfunded creature effects at this movie’s core. Anyone with an appreciation for design or craft of such things must look on in horror as a poor body actor has to flail around in this latex monstrosity. Tanya gets away, but this unventilated nightmare impales the Chief on a white picket fence. Whiskers rushes over to him.
“It’s getting cold, Whiskers.”
“You’re going to be okay, Stanley.”
“Just… just tell my wife I love her.”
“You can tell her yourself when… Stanley?….STANLEY!!!”
Whiskers and his group of informants tear the cat monster to pieces, putting this crime against the memory of Dick Smith to rest. Detective Whiskers knows he’s saved this sleepy little town from the scum of whatever the fuck those monsters were supposed to be.
As the sun sets on another year of this column, what’s left to say but: