Saturday, January 5, 2008

'turistas' doesn't suck that much

Yowza, New Year's seems like a long time ago, even though it was less than a week. That flu was a motherfucker. I spent most of New Year's day and the day after sleeping, then I've been working every day since, and generally settling into a pleasant, if tiring, start to the New Year. Tomorrow's my first day off since getting over the flu, and also my first radio show of 2008, so that's something to be excited about, I guess. The new job continues to go well. My duties are generally pretty interesting (buying records, ordering records, stocking records, listening to records, talking about records...) and my co-workers are all really cool. Of course, the culture of the store where I'm at is terminally dysfunctional, but that really only marginally touches me in my little buyer's corner, more of an occasional annoyance than a genuine grievance. In terms of liking what I do, being interested in it and maybe kind of good at it, as well as liking most, really all, of the people I work with, it's probably the best job I've ever had. Not in terms of pay, unfortunately, but at least it's not the worst paying gig I ever had. Anyway, pretty much for the first time ever, I'm generally pretty happy on the employment front. Which I'm sure means they're going to fucking axe me come first thing Monday morning, or maybe I'll just get hit by a car or something...

Anyway, between being sick and working I haven't watched a ton of films lately, and not a ton worth writing about (I have been reading alot of comics, but I haven't had the chance to scan anything). I still haven't made it to "Mystics in Bali," at least past the first ten minutes, which promise a degree of sheer mania to rival the wackier moments of "Horrors of Malformed Men." I did watch, as mentioned a few posts ago, the TV film "Fallen Angel," about child pornography. That was a tough one to get a bead on. In some ways, it was kind of good, but, being a 1980s TV movie, it was also goofy as well. But then, watching it, you realize you're giggling at child pornography- well, not actual child pornography, but a story about it, and then comes the shame, the deep, deep shame.

It's also a weird flick because it's dealing with something very sexually taboo, yet as a TV film, it's extremely tame. Which doesn't detract from the impact of the story so much as, well, I dunno, it's something weird. And speaking of weird, here's a crazy cast for you: The main character, that being the 12-year-old who goes from the video arcade to hardcore skin flicks over the course of the narrative, is played by Dana Hill, who played the daughter in "European Vacation" (she died pretty young of diabetes, according to the imdb). Her mom is played by Melinda Dillion, the mom from not only "A Christmas Story," but also "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (she's also in "Slap Shot," "Magnolia" and a number of other prestige flicks, as well as Tobe Hooper's not so prestigious "Spontaneous Combustion," with Brad Douriff). Mom's well-meaning boyfriend is played by Ronny Cox, of "Deliverance" and "Robocop" fame. The child pornographer, who's not just a businessman but a boner fide pedophile, is played, quite creepily, but the ubiquitous Richard Masur, a familiar face who's been in everything from John Carpenter's "The Thing," Alex Cox's "Walker," "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Palindromes" to "Encino Man," "My Girl" and "Multiplicity," not to mention "Heaven's Gate," "The Believers" and the Michael Nesmith produced "Timerider- The Adventure of Lyle Swann" with Fred Ward and Tracey Walter. Perhaps best of all, Masur's creepy cronie is played by none other than Mr. David Hayward, a character actor from "Nashville" and Tobe Hooper's "Eaten Alive," best known to me as 'Chooch' from the 1979 van movie "Van Nuys Blvd."

"Fallen Angel" was directed by Robert Michael Lewis and written by Lew Hunter, both TV vets and frequent collaborators. After "Fallen Angel" in 1981, the duo reteamed in 1982 for another movie-of-the-week "Desperate Lives," about the slightly less confrontational but still pretty heavy subject of teenage drug abuse. "Desperate Lives" has a pretty serious cast as well, with Helen Hunt as a strung out teen who freaks after a PCP O.D., Diane Ladd as the mom, Diana Scarwid as the concerned teacher, "The Brood" and "Black Christmas" star Art Hindle as her boyfriend, also concerned and horror icon Tom Atkins as Hunt's dad. You know, these films are pretty campy twenty five plus years later, but it's hard to really fault them, as they aim to take a compassionate and understanding look at serious topics that are often dealt with in much more hysterical and hyperbolic terms. They give their characters, even Masur's child pornographin' pedophile, some depth, instead of just making him a cartoon villain, not that he comes of sympathetic, but rather he's played as kind of pathetic as opposed to one-dimensionally evil. Anyway, there's really no good reason to watch or not to watch "Fallen Angel" or "Desperate Lives" unless, you're down with the after school special scene, which I am, which is to say I really kind of enjoyed both, largely because of, and not despite, their various faults blah blah blah

Meanwhile, this rarely happens, but I actually saw a movie recently that I was convinced was going to be totally shitty but actually turned out to be kind of alright, no great masterpiece, but something worth your time if you have the time. The film in question is "Turistas," which I saw on more than a couple of "Worst of 2006" lists, suggesting that some film critics aren't watching bad enough movies. "Turistas" walks a fine line between being the kind of survival horror film like "Wolf Creek" and "Hostel"-lite torture porn (neither genre especially appeals to me), but it works well enough because it seems to have at least half a brain in its head. The characters aren't as totally repellent as those in the "Hostel" films, and the horror scenario is given some interesting sociopolitical undertones. The film takes place in Brazil, and the main villain kidnaps and harvests organs from white tourists as attack on America and Europe's colonial attitude towards underdeveloped nations- rich whites come to Brazil for organ transplants they would have to wait a long time for in their own countries, instead of getting native organs as expected, the villain murders other well-off white turistas for their spare parts. The film, which is directed by John Stockwell (co-star of John Carpenter's "Christine"), takes takes these ideas on postcolonialism a step further by having the villain actually turn out to be racist against Brazil's own non-urbanized indigenous people. So, basically, yeah, "Turistas" is totally something more than it looks like, not like a ton more, but enough to make it kinda interesting, to me anyway, and shocking unannoying...

So I guess that's it for now. Stay swell and I'll be back soon with more stuff about stuff, and other things too. Promise...

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