Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Thoughts on the Aughts

As this first single-digit decade of the 21st century draws to a muted close, how do we begin to tie a bow around it? What has it been? What has it meant?

The first thought which comes to mind is that it may be the first decade to take away more than it gave back, considering the vast number of luminaries who have passed. This year alone: John Updike, Alain Robbe-Grillet, J.G. Ballard, James Purdy, Philip Jose Farmer in literature; Michael Jackson, Ron Asheton, Lux Interior, Bud Shank in music; Walter Cronkite, Don Hewitt and Paul Harvey in broadcasting; Patrick McGoohan, Gianna Maria Canale, Paul Naschy, Harryhausen producer Charles H. Schneer, Harry Alan Towers, composer Maurice Jarre, Ray Dennis Steckler and critic Robin Wood in film. This is not your standard obituary listing; it is a hemorrhage -- nay, an exodus.

In past decades, art has always been regenerated, but now, with the arts slowly perishing through a combination of factors -- lack of support, rampant remake-iana, inability to compete with the internet's onslaught of trivial communication and free access -- it seems that the gratification of soul that is the dividend of real art is vanishing from the bottom up, as death scythes the cream off the top.

For me, this past decade has been like an extended "time out" to explore work from previous decades that either got past my radar earlier, or was not previously available, or was not previously subtitled or translated, or needed to be re-read. I can remember joking during the '80s that everything needed to be put on pause so we could all catch up, and that pretty much happened. Here are some of the offerings this past decade that were especially meaningful to me...

Novels: Robbe-Grillet's REPETITION, Nabokov's THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA, Ballard's SUPER-CANNES, Theroux's LAURA WARHOLIC OR THE SEXUAL INTELLECTUAL, Pynchon's AGAINST THE DAY -- but the most meaningful, for me, aside from the one I wrote (THE BOOK OF RENFIELD), was GLIMPSES by Lewis Shiner, published in 2001. Honorable mention, if I may, for the completion of my 32-year project: MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK.

Films: Terry Zwigoff's GHOST WORLD, Charlie Kaufman's SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK, Lech Majewski's shot-on-video THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS, Jonathan Weiss' searing film of Ballard's THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION, Wong Kar-wai's 2046, Terence Malick's THE NEW WORLD, Guillermo del Toro's PAN'S LABYRINTH, Tomas Alfredson's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

Some other 00's movies I loved or admired: MULHOLLAND DR., SIDEWAYS, LOST IN TRANSLATION, ONCE, LUST: CAUTION, ALMOST FAMOUS -- also THE DIRT, the short film starring Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, her best work to date. ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL continues to taunt me, such a near-miss.

Movies I saw this year for the first time that left a lasting impression: CHILDREN OF PARADISE (why did I wait so long?), FORBIDDEN GAMES, Robbe-Grillet's THE MAN WHO LIES, Frankenheimer's GRAND PRIX, Michael Blake's shot-on-video LAUGHING HORSE (an oddball, baffling showcase for the beauty of Irene Miracle, in her most enigmatic role), and the work of Myriem Roussel.

Music: For me, this decade was almost entirely retrospective in a musical sense. The completion and release of Brian Wilson's SMILE (a musical milestone yet somehow more tantalizing as uncoalesced puzzle pieces), DigitMovies' liberation of countless great Euro soundtracks from the CAM vaults, the Beatles and Stones remasters, some great Miles and Coltrane box sets, King Crimson and Pixies in 5.1 sound, the three-disc VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY set. But what made the most difference to me was my own postponed, deep-dish discovery of Françoise Hardy, who did record several fine albums this decade. None meant quite as much to me as my belated discovery of her 1971 and 1996 releases, LA QUESTION and LE DANGER. I recommend the five-disc set 100 CHANSONS as the best starting point, if you can find it; it's the only place you can be exposed to all her facets.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Donna (seen here in our 35th anniversary photo, taken yesterday) joins me in sending to all Video WatchBlog readers -- that most mercilessly teased of species under the sun -- our warmest wishes for a happy and healthy Holiday and New Year!

We were hoping to have our new issue back from the printer in time for a pre-holiday mailing, but that didn't happen... subsequently, our work in the first days of 2010 is cut out for us. My apologies for not assembling a "Favorite DVDs of the Year" list from the lists of our various contributors, as has always been our tradition here, but I was under the gun with another deadline and couldn't manage it. The next issue will feature my own list of favorite discs from 2009 in my editorial, however.

Stay well, and keep checking back. You never know.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Complete PRINCE PLANET Series on YouTube!



I was amazed to discover that YouTube is now hosting what appears to be the entire 25 episode run of the early Japanese anime series PRINCE PLANET (Usei shônin popi), in stellar digitally restored prints, courtesy of MGMDigitalMedia. I saw a fair number of these episodes, imported by American International Television in 1965, circa 1969 when they ran on Cincinnati station WXIX-TV, Channel 19 -- and then they seemed to vanish for decades. A few years ago, I found the theme song footage (very scratchy looking) on a site specializing in such stuff, which confirmed its existence for me... but now, voila, here's the motherlode! Above is a direct link to Episode 1, "A Boy From Outer Space." Just click on "Prince Planet" in the blue fine print to bring up the full clickable episode guide. If you enjoy GIGANTOR, you'll enjoy this. But you WILL want to kill the xylophonist on the theme song (the singing kids too, maybe) after a couple of episodes.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG #154


THE AVENGERS
With the help of Optimum Entertainment’s new box set import, Kim Newman explores Britain’s most enduring TV spy franchise, beginning with the surviving episodes of Season 1 and the complete Season 2, in the order they were taped!

DVD Spotlight:
MATT HELM LOUNGE

Kim Newman reviews Sony’s MATT HELM LOUNGE, a box set collecting the four films based on Donald Hamilton’s spy hero, starring Dean Martin: THE SILENCERS, MURDERERS’ ROW, THE AMBUSHERS and THE WRECKING CREW!

AVI WATCHDOG: Brad Stevens covers Bob Dylan's RENALDO AND CLARA!

VIDEO WATCHBLOG: Just when we think we've seen everything, guest blogger David Kalat turns up IL RAGGI MORTALI DEL DR. MABUSE, an Italian cut of THE DEATH RAY MIRROR OF DR. MABUSE that adds a number of never-before-seen sequences and qualifies as a substantially more entertaining picture!

PLUS Reviews of...
3 SECONDS BEFORE EXPLOSION
THE BEAST IN SPACE: UNRATED VERSION
BOLLYWOOD HORROR COLLECTION VOLS 2 & 3
DANTE'S INFERNO
DEAD OF NIGHT
DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3: GO TO HELL BASTARDS!
EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR 3
FIVE
GOTH KILL
THE GRUDGE 3
HEROSTRATUS
LOVE GODDESSES OF BLOOD ISLAND
NATURE'S GRAVE
I RAGGI MORTALI DEL DR. MABUSE (Italian best-ever version of THE DEATH RAY MIRROR OR DR. MABUSE with additional never-before-seen footage!)
RIPLEY UNDER GROUND
STARLET
DIE TEÜFELSWOLKE VON MONTVILLE
TOKYO!
TREASURES IV: AMERICAN FILM AVANT GARDE 1947-1986

Plus...
RAMSEY'S RAMBLES
Ramsey Campbell on EDEN LAKE!

BIBLIO WATCHDOG
Reviews of HORROR CINEMA, CALIGARI'S HEIRS: The German Cinema of Fear After 1945 and COMEDY-HORROR FILMS: A Chronological History, 1914-2008!

AUDIO WATCHDOG
Douglas E. Winter reviews the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold on CD, RESIDENT EVIL 5 and more!

Other contributors featured in this issue:
Anthony Ambrogio, Michael Barrett, John Charles, Bill Cooke, Shane M. Dallmann, Sheldon Inkol, Tim Lucas, Richard Harland Smith, Eric Somer, and Brett Taylor.

Release date: January 2, 2010. Order your copy now at www.videowatchdog.com !