Old-School Fun

While on vacation, the last thing I want to think or write about is all the unpleasantness in the world.  If I’m having fun (and, presumably, I am!), why not my loyal, dogged, faithful, persistent, lovable readers?  (After all that flattery, why not check out my SubscribeStar page, hmmm?)

My local paper ran a story on Monday about the discount cinema in Florence, the Julia 4.  Because fun is outlawed in The Age of The Virus (yes, yes, I know I’m at Universal Studios—it’s a joke), we can’t see movies anymore.  The Julia’s solution:  become a drive-in theater.

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In my darker moods, I can’t help but notice in what a bleak future we live.  Sure, there are many elements of America that still exist, and some of which are strong, at least in some parts of the country.  But things like constitutionalism, rule of law, respect for wisdom, faith, and a great deal many other wonderful items are daily disrespected, ignored, and/or abused.

I’ve been on a kick lately of watching dystopian films, that genre—next to zombie movies—that Americans love best.  Last week I watched the 1974 cult classic Zardoz (starring an out-of-work Sean Connery), a film that shouldn’t exist given the nature of studio politics (it’s a rare example of a studio saying, “Make whatever you want,” and the director took it seriously).  I also watched the less classic Equilibrium (2002), starring Christian Bale.

Zardoz explores a distant future in which frosty, immortal, aloof, and bored elites, the Eternals, live in perpetual paradise while employing vicious, gun-toting Brutals to exterminate the excess population of Earth.  Equilibrium tells the story of a society, Libria—a mash-up of America and Britain, it seems—that, in order to prevent a fourth global war, outlaws all emotions, on the premise that art and literature inflame men’s passions to destructive degrees.

While it might not qualify as a “dystopian” film, I also viewed the Coen Brothers’ classic Barton Fink (1991), about the titular writer—a successful Broadway playwright who writes theatrical productions about, of, and for “the common man“—who cashes in on his success with a move to Los Angeles to write for Capitol Pictures, where he immediately develops writers’ block.  Fink is a 1940s Jewish intellectual who pontificates frequently about his desire to tell the grubby, realistic stories of everyday people, yet he keeps ignoring his shabby hotel neighbor, Charlie Meadows, an insurance salesman who tells Fink repeatedly, “I could tell you some stories.”

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A Tale of Two Horror Movies: Snatchers (2019) & Black Christmas (2019)

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of Redbox, the company that managed to survive the digital streaming revolution with its ubiquitous red monoliths stationed outside every pharmacy, Wal-Mart, and gas station in the country.  Without the overhead of Blockbuster, Redbox has scraped by on its hundreds of locations and super cheap rental fees, and by throwing coupons at customers every five minutes.

Little Lamar has one trusty (if occasionally glitchy) Redbox kiosk outside the local Dollar General.  I was convinced until this week that I was single-handedly keeping that kiosk afloat, but in The Age of The Virus, everyone is looking for cheap entertainment, and I’ve had to wait on someone slowly browsing through the dozens of selections before picking their entertainment sleeping pill for the night.  Regardless, I’ve rented so many movies for dirt-cheap, I’m achieved “Legendary” status with Redbox.

Finally, the recognition I deserve.

My point is, Redbox makes it compelling to watch a lot—and I do mean a lot—of schlocky trash.  They used to throw $1.50 off coupons at me (remember, a rental is only $1.90 for a DVD) like concubines at King Solomon.  Now they’re going with a BOGO strategy, which probably suits their interests better (if you forget to return your two movies, you’re going to pay for another night for both of them).  Either way, it just means I watch a TON of movies.

If I’m spending, essentially, $0.80 on a rental, I’m willing to take some risks.  Sometimes, as in the movie Snatchers (2019), that risk pays off beautifully, and I stumble upon a diamond in the rough.  Usually, I lose the bet, as was the case with Black Christmas (2019).

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Orangutan Keeps Swinging

Apes, monkeys, gorillas, chimps:  they’re fascinating creatures.  Part of their allure is their similarity to humans.  Indeed, I think part of what we like about higher-order animals is when they do anthropomorphic things.  Everyone loved Koko because she had a pet kitten and talked with a Speak-&-Spell.  Even more alien creatures with human abilities draw our attention.  I love octopuses because they’re beautiful, odd creatures, but also because they can open jars and possess memory.

There’s also the connection to primal energy:  a silver-back gorilla is as fat and hairy as I am, but it could rip my head off.  King Kong holds such a powerful presence in our cinematic minds because it’s the story of Beauty and the Beast—the love of the soft and feminine subduing an unbridled, masculine force.

So this story from The Epoch Times about a recovered orangutan really caught my attention.  A female orangutan was shot and separated from her baby in Indonesia.  A team from International Animal Rescue managed to save the poor creature, who was starving on the jungle floor, and release her a few weeks later into a primate sanctuary.

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Portly Movie Review: Teacher (2019)

Given the unprecedented Age of The Virus we’re all living in, and the changes it’s brought to teaching and learning, I’ve been dedicating more and more blog posts to the subject of education.  Like NEO’s recent post “National Lineman’s Day” (the proprietor of Nebraska Energy Observer has electricity in his blood), it’s only natural that I’d keep coming back to my profession as a source of blog material.

Similarly, in entertainment I’m often drawn to films about teaching.  Like pretty much every other teacher, Dead Poets Society left a pretty strong imprint on me (and my students used to call me “Captain,” years ago, though I doubt many would stand on their desks for me), and School of Rock directly shaped my approach to teaching music (indeed, Jack Black deserves the credit—or blame—for my musical personae).  Frank McCourt’s memoirs of teaching, Teacher Man, also inspired me to enter the profession.

So last night, while casting about for some quarantine entertainment, I stumbled upon the psychological thriller/after-school drama Teacher (you can stream it on RedBox for $2.15).  It’s a 2019 film about a nebbish English teacher at a critical juncture in his personal life and career, who is also dealing with intense bullying of two of his nerdy students.  He then decides to take matters into his own hands with some vigilante justice.

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Lazy Sunday LVI: Movies

If you want to find these flicks on RedBox, use my referral link; you get some bonus points, and so do I!  Link is here:  https://www.redbox.com/refersignup?referrer=50892857667272)

As I wrote in the lengthy preamble to yesterday’s SubscribeStar Saturday post, in The Age of The Virus, we’re all being asked to make a sacrifice befitting our decadent age:  stay home and watch movies.  With that in mind, I thought this Sunday’s Lazy Sunday should look back at some of my movie reviews, which are fairly thin on the ground.

I’m not a professional movie critic—I like what I like—so take these reviews with a grain of salt.  My dad has a system for finding movies he enjoys:  if the average rating is around three stars (out of five), it’s going to be good.  After all, what critics look for in films is often quite different than what the average movie-goer looks for, which explains why you’ve often never heard of the annual Oscar Winner for Best Picture.

With that, here are my posts (at least, the ones that I could find) about movies:

  • TBT: Transformers 2: Conservatives in Disguise?” – I wrote this review way back in the TPP 1.0 era, when the blog first began on Blogger/Blogspot.  The Transformers series now is a sell-out to Chinese audiences, but the plot of this second Transformers film highlighted the inefficiency of government bureaucracy, filled as it is with bean-counting busybodies who miss the big picture.  My preamble in the TBT version from last March draws a parallel to the EPA official in Ghostbusters (probably my favorite movie of all time, by the way), whose smarmy, toadying officiousness results in an apocalyptic outbreak of spooky apparitions in Manhattan.
  • Slammed Holy Saturday: Captain Marvel” – It’s apostasy in conservative circles to say so now, but I actually enjoyed Captain Marvel when I saw it last year (also, with The Virus shutting everything down, I pretty much forgot that today is Palm Sunday—that’s the real apostasy).  Of course, what I didn’t like was the pandering “you go GRRRRRRLLLLLL!”-ism of the film, which went so far as to make the alleged titular hero into an unlikable feminist.  Even the other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe don’t like her!  But it was still a fun distraction, which is really what these superhero flicks are supposed to be.  It’s a shame they stained it with a bunch of SJW clap-trap.
  • They Live: Analysis and Review” – I love John Carpenter.  I love the range of his films, and I love that he writes synthy, electric guitar-driven soundtracks.  This flick in particular has become a bit of a meme for the Dissident Right, as the main character finds a pair of sunglasses that expose that huge chunks of the population are actually aliens, and that humans are in cahoots with these would-be invaders.  It’s a sharp critique of mindless consumerism, globalism, and the elites who push both.  WATCH IT!
  • Milo on Generation Joker” – If I love John Carpenter, I adore Milo Yiannopoulos, the cheeky, flamboyant British Greek with a penchant for mischief.  Little wonder, then, that Milo loved The Joker.  For a super villain movie, it paints a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of its subject, with parallels to the frustration of young men in our society today.  It’s another must-see; the They Live of the 2020s.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films” – Yesterday’s SubscribeStar Saturday post, in which I offer up brief summaries and review of five films from Hammer Films, the famous British film company known for reviving classic horror characters from nineteenth-century literature.  Hammer movies are iconic for their gratuitous subject matter and bright, vivid colors (a bit idiosyncratic for horror flicks, but it works).  These movies won’t scare you, probably, but they are great fun.

That’s it for this Lazy Sunday!  Do your civic duty and cuddle up with a bucket of popcorn and these movies (I’m sure you can stream most of them on RedBox).



Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

The Age of the Virus has demanded a unique sacrifice of all us, one that is fitting for our reduced age.  Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy and fought in the jungles of Iwo Jima.  They and their parents endured the Great Depression (we may be facing a similar struggle).  They sacrificed in blood, sweat, and toil.

All The Virus demands of us—the great sacrifice we all must make, of which we will tell our grandchildren, when they ask about the plague—is that we stay at home and watch movies.

It’s amusing.  Commentators will often quip that Americans today couldn’t make the sacrifices of the so-called “Greatest Generation.”  God surely has a sense of humor, for the sacrifices we’re asked to make are ones in which Americans are well-trained:  sit around, eat junk food, don’t visit other people, and veg out in front of the tube.

To that end, I’ve been engaged in my civic duty this week, as I’ve watched nine films.  Four are from the Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi 4-Movie Horror Collection, which I will write about in more detail another time (it’s only $10, and I highly recommend picking it up for The Black Cat alone—and the other films on it are good, too).

But the focus of this SubscribeStar Saturday will be another collection of B-horror flicks:  the Hammer Films Collection.  No, it’s not the Ultimate Hammer Collection, which I thought I didn’t know existed, but it turns out it’s on my Amazon wish list!).  But it does have five excellent, macabre films (I also didn’t realize that my Hammer Films Collection is merely the first volume; Volume II is now on my Amazon wish list for future purchase).

So, prepare yourself for my review of The Two Faces of Dr. JekyllStop Me Before I Kill!Scream of Fear!The Gorgon, and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Phone it in Friday VII: Universal Studios

As I wrote yesterday, I’m out on a rare vacation (other than Christmas, Spring Break, all summer, and every second- and third-tier holiday that falls on a Monday in the winter).  I’m down in Florida visiting Universal Studios Orlando with my family, and it’s been an amazing, tiring trip.  I tried filing away blog posts for while I was away, but couldn’t get enough done to have every day of my trip covered.

That said, we got back from Day 2 in the park a little while ago, and I’m slamming something out while playing with Mario Kart Hot Wheels with my almost-three-year old nephew.  Here are just some observations from my vacation.

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Lazy Sunday XLVIII: Culture

A paradox of blogging is that the more I write, the more difficult (at least some weeks) it is to think up a good theme for Lazy Sunday.  Part of the problem is that the earliest editions often featured very broad categories; thus, the proliferation of “Part II” posts throughout.

Of course, that’s probably a problem for me, the writer.  You’re just looking to scan through a list of hyperlinks while enjoying your pre-church coffee (or—given my tardiness posting of late—your post-church nap).  Such is the nature of the relationship between creator and consumer—thirty minutes put into crafting a blog post equates to about thirty seconds of skimming.  But it’s worth it to have your eyeballs (eww…) for those thirty seconds!

On that note, I’m dedicating this week’s Lazy Sunday to matters of culture.  In compiling this short list of recent pieces, I came to realize that I way overuse the “culture” tag on my blog posts.  In my defense, I do so because I see most issues as cultural (or, even more deeply, theological and philosophical), rather than merely political or economical, in nature.  The major political battles we’re fighting in the West today are, at heart, about culture.

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