Now that I’ve finally seen Hellraiser…

My Fantastic Fest friend Cole was aghast (AGHAST, I say) when he learned that I had never seen Hellraiser. I was a bit aghast myself. Not only have I been a horror film fan since my childhood, that childhood included all of the 1980s. I was even an avid reader of folks like Stephen King and Clive Barker. Hellraiser should have hit my eyes soon after it came out in 1987. 

But the truth of the matter is that I just never got around to it. When I eventually saw Nightbreed, I found myself unthrilled with Clive Barker’s directoral style, so I never sought out any more of his movies.

Yet all these years, I’ve spoken fluent Hellraiser. I knew enough about the film series that I could name the characters, I knew many of the plot points, and I certainly knew the key quotes. I’m much the same way about Star Trek as a franchise. I can speak fluent Trek well enough that super-fans don’t eschew my presence, but in all honesty, I’ve seen the films, plus a couple episodes of the original series and Next Generation, and that’s really it. (I blame this on the guy I dated in early college. We’d turn on Next Generation to watch it, but within 5 minutes would be thoroughly ignoring it because we were engaging in less innocent activities. Yes, I prefer sex to Star Trek. Deal.)

(And yes, that is me in Trekkies 2. Shuttup.)

Anyway, I digress. I finally sat down to watch Hellraiser last night, mostly because I discovered Cole had never seen the original Assault on Precinct 13, and I wanted to guilt him properly. My verdict is that Hellraiser is a decent low-budget 80s gorefest with a uniquely overt sexual slant, but it didn’t have a whole lot of impact on me. It probably would have gotten better traction in my brain if I’d seen it 25 years ago.

On the plus side, I finally know what to do with this thing, which has been sitting on a shelf under an Atari 2600 E.T. game cartridge:

Well, now that I've actually seen all of Hellraiser, I now know what to do with this thing. (cc: @colewbradley)

Bill Stiteler says that I should sell it on eBay as a 50 Shades of Gray Rubik’s Cube.

Fantastic Fest 2012: Day 8

HONDOOOOOO! #ff2011 #fantasticfest

HONDOOO! (By which I mean, “I saw Future Folk play live at the closing night party!”)

Well, it’s been a couple of months since Fantastic Fest ended, but I notice that I never closed out my film reviews for the festival. So here it is: the final day of Fantastic Fest 2012!

COMBAT GIRLS

It’s amazing that Combat Girls got made at all. Set and filmed in modern Germany, the story centers around two young women: one who is already hardcore white supremacist, and one who stumbles into white supremacy while seeking community and friends. The resulting film is an intimate, gruelling, and extremely sensitive look at the inner workings of people who fall into such groups. The characters are by no means forgiven for their prejudices or crimes, but the film gives the people tremendous dimension, which is perhaps key to understanding how stuff like this happens in the first place. It reminds me a bit of American History X, except starring German women.

I DECLARE WAR

This was one of the best things I saw at the entire festival. The plot is simple: the film follows a game of war, played in a neighborhood woods amongst a group of preteen kids. But the film leaps beyond this simple premise, simply by occasionally leaping into the kids’ heads, where they actually see their wooden-stick guns as AK-47s. The film quickly turns into an allegory for all rules of engagement, including the humane treatment of prisoners, use of strategy vs. brute force, the use of diplomacy, etc. It sounds heavy, and it kind of is, but the film keeps moving and never lingers too long on one concept. It also features a great cast of child actors. Great stuff.

LEE’S ADVENTURE

Man, I could not keep my brain on this film. It may not be the film’s fault, as I was exhausted at this point and I may or may not have nodded off. I don’t remember. I don’t remember nodding off, and I don’t really remember the film. I do recall that it had a lot to do with time travel via video games, and it had some neat visuals. But I honestly can’t tell you more than that. Click that link to the Fantastic Fest review above; it will probably serve you better than I can.

THE ENTITY

Finally! I’d wanted to see The Entity for literally decades, and I finally had my chance at Fantastic Fest. It’s a 1982 horror film (supposedly based on a “true story”) where Barbara Hershey is an average single mother who suddenly becomes plagued by an invisible rape-demon. The interesting thing about the film is that, for most of the running time, it is readable from both the standpoint of a believer and the standpoint of a skeptic. Ron Silver plays a doctor who is pretty convinced that Hershey’s character is suffering from mental illness instead of demons, and that character spends a lot of screen time making very good points about how mental illness should be treated and not stigmatized. Ultimately, the film, because it’s a horror film, launches into paranormal territory, but I think it’s still an interesting movie to watch as a skeptic.

THE CLOSING PARTY

At the end of every Fantastic Fest, there is a closing night party of epic proportions. This time, the closing party was themed around the Red Dawn remake, so the FF folks turned an American Legion building in downtown Austin into a North Korean concentration camp (!). Seriously. There was barbed wire and lookout towers and a North Korean flag flying from the building.

We are in Texas, and this American Legion hall has a N Korean flag. #ff2012

I am so not kidding.

In keeping with the concentration camp theme, you could get your head shaved (for free) and/or get a tattoo (for free).

Read that again, and let me again stress that I am so not kidding. There were real tattoo artists working for hours, embedding Fantastic Fest tattoos into the skin of anyone who wanted one.

I did not get a tattoo, but only because I thought it would be weird to have a Fantastic Fest tattoo before I got a CONvergence tattoo. I did, however, let them shave my head.

On a different note, Future Folk were part of the live entertainment at the party, to the delight of pretty much everyone. I got a Hondorian helmet and wound up having my photo taken with the band.

Future Folk Group Shot

HONDOOO!

After that, and after a few beers, I wound up meeting the Twisted Twins, aka two Canadian film directors named Jen and Sylvian Soska. Indeed, they are twins, and they directed American Mary, which also screened at Fantastic Fest but I didn’t get to see. The Soskas are charming, though, and they completely went gaga over the fact that I shaved my head at the party. They were taking cell phone shots of my head and everything. It was pretty grand.

Really, everything was really grand. It was a really grand Fantastic Fest.

PowerPoint Karaoke in November!

The holidays are lurking around the corner. The Christmas decorations are already feeding on the rotting corpses of the Halloween decorations, and you are eyeing that can of jellied cranberry sauce. What will save you from all that cheer, tinsel, and family facetime?

PowerPoint Karaoke, of course! See improv comedians bravely attempt to give a PowerPoint presentation for a deck that they have never seen before.

This tremendous event happens at the Bryant-Lake Bowl on Thursday, November 29th, at 10:00pm! Doors will open at 9:30pm, so arrive early and have a beer!

This month, we are partnered with Fearless Comedy! This month’s presenters are: Matt Allex, Molly Glover, Nick Glover, and Anna Weggel. (That’s right! We will have some husband-versus-wife action this time!)

As (almost) always, I’ll be there, slinging the slides!

Tickets are $7 ($5 with a MN Fringe button), and can be purchased at the Bryant Lake Bowl website!
http://bryantlakebowl.com/calendar/shows/powerpoint-karaoke-9

If you like doing the Facebook thing, you can do that here:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/173729749431720/

Please attend! Laugh! Drink beer!

MN Amendments: Doing It Wrong

Image from the Wikimedia Commons

Today, the citizenry of Minnesota will choose whether to adopt two proposed amendments into the Minnesota constitution. The first amendment would limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman. The second would invoke Voter ID practices.

I won’t get into gay rights or whether voter ID disenfranchises large portions of the electorate. Even outside those sizeable issues, both of those amendments should be kept out of the constitution. Here’s why: neither amendment has any business being in a constitution.

Regarding the marriage amendment, there’s one giant honking red flag that should clue anyone on either side of the political aisle that something is amiss. Constitutions are meant to a) set up a city/state/country as an entity, and b) guarantee rights for its citizens. If an amendment does neither of these things, and especially if it limits rights instead of guaranteeing them, it probably doesn’t belong in the constitution. Limiting people’s behavior, even for the safety of others, is the business for laws. If you want to stop people from walking ferrets on Tuesdays, that’s what a law is supposed to do. If you want to stop people from driving drunk, that’s what a law is supposed to do. If your constitution is setting those limits, you’re doing it wrong.

(If there’s anyone out there that thinks gay people shouldn’t have the same rights as straight people, I simply say this: the rights of my fist stop at your face, and vice versa. Religion cannot be used to limit the rights of people who don’t subscribe to that religion. The minute our society assigns civil and monetary benefits to being married, like tax exemptions, and yet denies marriage to certain consenting adults, that becomes discrimination at a civil level. End of line.)

Now, regarding the Voter ID amendment, the amendment simply poorly designed. The amendment itself does not specify all of the operational details. That will be figured out by legislators after the vote. In essence, voters are being asked to vote on a blank slate. Nobody knows how the Voter ID procedures would be paid for, or how much it would cost, or what IDs would be included as valid, because nobody has gotten that far yet. This means that, if this amendment gets voted in, the details of it will sway with the wind depending on who’s controlling the legislature. Granted, the small details need to be malleable in order to be adaptable over time, but this thing is so vague that even Voter ID proponents should vote against it.

I personally think both amendments are terrible for other reasons, but I think this is the sort of ground that both liberals and conservatives can meet upon. If you are a Minnesota voter, please vote no on both amendments.

Edited November 11, 2012 to add: I am pleased to report that both amendments were soundly trounced yesterday. I am proud of my home state.

New Geek Life: Star Wars Disney Blah Blah

In the most recent Geek Life Podcast, we discuss Star Wars and Disney and other things that aren’t Star Wars or Disney, but it’s mostly Star Wars and Disney. Enjoy episode 173!