April 28, 2014

Who's That Lazy Jackass Minding The Dog Farm These Days?

Liebster Award
     It's a recurring theme with bloggers:  "I just can't find as much time to devote to my little corner of the internet as I would like.  Those mundane day-to-day problems and obligations keep creeping up, and now I'm going to have to put the blogging on the back burner."  Well, I'm not doing that again (yet), but this year has been a challenge thus far.  First and foremost, I've been remiss in acknowledging some very generous and appreciated recognition from my peers.

     Vern at The Vern's Video Vortex, Barry at Cinematic Catharsis, and Matt at Midnight Cinephile have each been kind enough at different times over the last few months to nominate Movies At Dog Farm for a Liebster Award.  Owing to a variety of different "challenges" hurled at me by the world at large since late last year, I've yet to properly respond to any of these nominations.

     For those who may be unaware, a Liebster Award is a peer to peer accolade presented by bloggers to other bloggers.  Proper etiquette dictates that the recipient of a nomination responds with a post on their own blog linking back to the blog that nominated them.  The nominee also answers a series of interview questions posed by the presenter, as well as nominating eleven other blogs for the award.  It's a nice way to acknowledge the efforts of your peers in the blogosphere, and it also provides a means to pay it forward by drawing the attention of your own readers to the bloggers you choose to nominate yourself.  Not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions now I've failed to follow through.  I suck.

     In an effort to make amends, I wanted to at least take a moment to thank Vern, Barry, and Matt for the kind recognition.  As I'm sure they know all too well themselves, blogging can often be a thankless calling.  Only another blogger truly realizes just how much time, effort, and commitment it takes to maintain a blog.  That being the case, the recognition of others who toil relentlessly on their own blogs is especially gratifying.  The support is greatly appreciated.

     Please take a moment to visit the links above, and see just how hard these guys work.  Be sure to check  out their other nominees, as well.  Following are the links to the Liebster specific posts on each of the blogs mentioned above:

Vern's Liebster Post

Barry's Liebster Post

Matt's Liebster Post

     Thanks again, guys, for your continued support of the Dog Farm.  The blogging community is one of the nicest bunch of folks with whom I've ever had the privilege to be associated. 
     Another case in point:  just before posting this I was enjoying a look through some birthday wishes (yeah, I'm yet another year older today), and I came across this link on Twitter from my good friend Carl at The Info Zombie.  Thanks, Carl.  You're far too kind.

April 15, 2014

100% Guilt-Free Movie Pick Number 2 - Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship Troopers gif
Starship Troopers (1997) - Gif created by Mike at Moviesludge

     I'm always surprised by how much I labor over selecting movies for the Movies At Dog Farm live events.  Moreover, I'm always surprised by how circuitous the thought process usually is that leads me to the titles I ultimately select.  I start with a particular title (this year it was Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls), that title suggests an organizing principle (this year it was "guilty pleasures" about which I refuse to feel guilt), and then the rest of the titles just fall into place - except they don't.

     I'll try on title after title like I'm trying on pretty dresses in front of a dressing room mirror.  One title may momentarily catch my fancy only to become less attractive the longer I think about it.  Another title may seem like a dark horse and then gradually build momentum.  Sometimes, though, all of this back-and-forth will finally lead to an "A-ha!" moment, a title that's such an obvious fit that I can't even imagine why it took me so long to come up with it.  Such is the case with director Paul Verhoeven's much maligned Starship Troopers (1997).

     I can already hear the groaning.  Stop it, or you'll get Verhoeven's Showgirls (1995) instead.

     I've never understood the hatred Starship Troopers so often elicits.  And it is hatred.  It's never just "I didn't particularly care for that" or "Meh - I've seen better".  It's always pop-eyed, teeth-baring hatred.  The two most common justifications are as follows:

1)  The acting is bad.  No-one in Starship Troopers could act their way out of a damp paper bag. 

     - Get over yourself.  Starship Troopers was clearly never intended to be an actor's showcase.  It's an old-school war movie.  The youngsters in the movie are supposed to be shallow, vapid cardboard cutouts.  The entire movie is fashioned as a lampoon of wartime propaganda.  Propaganda isn't intended to show the ugly truth, it's intended to win converts to the agenda the propaganda is promoting.  You don't win converts by suggesting, "Hey, you should join our cause, because that's what all of the old, unattractive people are doing."  The performances in Starship Troopers are entirely adequate, and the performers uniformly convey exactly the callow, jingoistic characterizations the material demands. 

2)  Starship Troopers is a bastardization of the Robert A. Heinlein novel upon which it is based.

Clancy Brown in Starship Troopers (1997)
Why have I never read Starship Troopers?  Not enough Clancy Brown.
     - It probably is.  I wouldn't know.  I've never read the source material.  Still, I find it hard to believe that any fan of the source material saw or read anything about this movie and thought that it would be a faithful adaptation.  The Shining (1980) isn't a faithful adaptation of the source material, either, but it's a damn good movie.  

     Verhoeven intended Starship Troopers to be a satirical jab at military rule and fascism, things that - as I understand it - author Heinlein's book has often been accused of promoting.  Verhoeven made exactly the movie he intended to make.  I'll concede that perhaps it was a bit of a bait-and-switch to call it Starship Troopers since Verhoeven's agenda seems to be the exact opposite of the agenda reportedly promoted in Heinlein's novel, but viewers would do well to judge the movie for what it is rather than what they might have hoped it would be.  As a satire of militarism, the movie Starship Troopers succeeds.

Brain Bug from Starship Troopers (1997)
I haz a big brain!  I can haz cheezburger now?
     Those who hoped for a faithful adaptation of Heinlein's book should take solace in the fact that Starship Troopers will undoubtedly be remade, and that the producers interested in remaking it have already announced their intention to make it more faithful to the book.  I don't begrudge fans of the book a faithful adaptation.  I'm also not opposed to seeing a faithful adaptation myself.  If nothing else, two different versions should make an interesting point/counterpoint.

     It occurs to me, though, that Starship Troopers and Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls are both parodies of the properties they sprang from.  Is it possible that some of the hatred directed toward Starship Troopers is born less of its failure as a faithful adaptation than the fact that the book's fans just don't like seeing it made fun of?  I can understand that.  Doesn't mean I'll stop defending Verhoeven's accomplishment, though.  Starship Troopers is deserving of reappraisal.  In the interest of advancing that goal, I've chosen Starship Troopers as the second confirmed title for Movies At Dog Farm III.

     Why do I feel as though I'm about to be savaged in the Comments section like that unfortunate cow in the gif above?

April 7, 2014

Movies At Dog Farm III - Guilty Pleasures, Now 100% Guilt Free - Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)

     The term "guilty pleasure" should be stricken from the language.  If you derive pleasure from something - a pass-time, a vice, a movie - you should step up and loudly proclaim your appreciation to the world.  Don't feel obliged to offer the self-effacing preemptive apology implied by the application of the term guilty pleasure.  Chances are, someone else appreciates the same weird, esoteric bullshit as you.  You're probably not alone.

     On that note, I've decided to build the program for Movies At Dog Farm III (being graciously hosted this May as a component of  Phil Neff's Dog Farm Spring Event 2014) around a clutch of movies that I unashamedly adore, in the hopes of introducing some of that weird, esoteric bullshit to the uninitiated.  Chances are, someone else will appreciate it.  If not - well, there's no accounting for taste (or a lack thereof).  Though I've yet to program the entire event, I've decided that the centerpiece around which the program will be constructed this year is a slick, funky little number that chronicles the rise and fall of the fictional all-girl band The Carrie Nations entitled Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970).  It is not a sequel to the the 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley Of The Dolls.  Although that was the initial intent, it's makers had other ideas.  I believe everyone should be exposed to this weird, wonderful gem of a movie at least once, and let me tell you why . . .

Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert
     Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is one of only three films ever co-written by the late Roger Ebert.  Yes, that Roger Ebert - the first and only film critic ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Ebert, probably one of the most well known and respected film critics who ever lived, wrote the screenplay for one of the most gloriously tacky and bizarre X-rated exploitation flicks ever released by a major studio.  If you have a hard time wrapping your head around that, just wait until you actually see BVD.  And I'll go ahead and save you the trip to IMDB - Ebert's other two screenwriting credits were Up! (1976) and Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens (1979), also both Russ Meyer productions.

     Who's Russ Meyer, you may ask?  Well, Russ Meyer was a filmmaker known primarily for making soft-core movies starring women with big boobs.  Ebert - understandably, I guess - was a fan of his work.  You can check out his review of Vixen (1969) to get a feel for Ebert's enthusiastic appreciation of Meyer's films.  Ebert, being one of the only movie critics to recognize  Meyer's work as being a cut above the typical skin flick, ultimately developed a lifelong friendship with Meyer.  The rest is weird cinematic history, some of which - as described by Ebert himself - you can read about here

     So is the unusual pedigree the only reason to see BVD?  Ebert once wrote that Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls seemed "like a movie that got made by accident when the lunatics took over the asylum."  Conceived as a parody of the hugely successful but critically reviled Valley Of The Dolls (1967), BVD is a movie unlike any other - at once satiric, melodramatic, cliched, and extreme.  When first confronted with the news that BVD had been awarded an X rating, Meyer's response was to attempt to re-edit the film in order to add more sex and nudity.  20th Century Fox declined to afford him the opportunity, but BVD's initial cut was already far bawdier than most major studio productions. 

The Carrie Nations
     Although hugely succesful in its initial theatrical run, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is undoubtedly a movie destined to divide audiences.  Many first time viewers will see only a tacky, offensive exploitation movie.  For those tuned into it's satiric underpinnings and over-the-top execution, though, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls will be an unparalleled treat.  As one of BVD's taglines proudly declared, "This is not a sequel - there has never been anything like it."  So true.

     Regardless of how one feels about the movie itself, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is a fascinating snapshot of one fleeting moment in history when a major studio hired a movie critic and a soft-core filmmaker to make an X-rated exploitation movie for major theatrical release.  That warrants a watch, doesn't it?  Of course it does.  There's no need to feel guilty about it, either.

April 2, 2014

Phantasm V: Ravager Is In The Can!

Phantasm V: Ravager poster
     Real life has forced an unplanned hiatus for the Dog Farm, but I couldn't let this news go unremarked upon.  A fifth entry in the Phantasm franchise, entitled Phantasm V: Ravager has already completed principal photography, and both the one sheet and teaser trailer appeared on the internet last week.  It isn't just fan fiction or wishful thinking this time.  The Phantasm movies are pretty much my favorite genre franchise, and I couldn't be happier.

     This latest chapter was filmed independently over the course of the last two years, with Kathy Lester, Bill Thornbury, Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, and Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man!) all reprising their roles from previous entries.  The Phantasm franchise has maintained the same core group of talent throughout its thirty-five year history, which is somewhat unusual in this age of relentless rebooting.  Franchise creator Don Coscarelli has turned over the directorial reins for this most recent entry to David Hartman, with whom he co-wrote the script.  Coscarelli's working relationship with Hartman dates back to the production of Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-Tep (2002).  Now how about a release date?  At this point, sources tease only that Phantasm V: Ravager will likely be released sooner than we might expect . . .

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