A Wheel Upon the Earth

While living for six years in the New South at the turn of the millennium, I was struck by a certain I-don’t-know-what-ness.  Underneath the smothering yet genuine gentility and kindness there was still an undercurrent of “sticking to your own kind” – and it wasn’t just down lines of race, but down political, religious and social class lines.  Birds of a feather should flock together.  This certainly isn’t unique to the New South.  This undercurrent (sometimes seen as a tidal wave) has always existed to varying degrees across the world.  But what made it unique in my eyes, and positively Southern, was that it was coupled with this melancholic and melodic nostalgia for a time before that was better than now – yet it was a time that was not clearly defined, only dreamt about, perhaps having never really existed and only ever dreamt about.  It begs the questions, when exactly was it better?  What about the good ol’ days of Jim Crow?  Was it better during the Great Depression?  Was it better during the days of Slavery?  Or maybe it was better before any white or black men set foot on the land and there were only trees, beasts and Native Americans? 

Yet even I found the milieu intoxicating…the whole “Country Time Lemonade” commercial-ness of it all – lazy Sunday afternoons on the porch, Ma and Pa sipping on sweet tea, the kids running barefoot through the tall grass – the kind of laid-back twilight feeling that “once upon a time…it was always like this…it could always be like this…if only….”  And for the better part of those six years I yearned to let my North East jackass-ery and uptight-ness slip away into a world of Yes, Sir’sNo, Ma’am’s…and Thank You Kindly’s.

I think maybe writer director Robert Persons was trying to capture that I-don’t-know-what-ness of the New South in his troubling yet haunting experiment, General Orders No. 9, which exists as an amalgamation of poetic voice-over, ambient music, stunning images verging on still-life, animated maps and an overall “otherworldliness” of bygone times set to the crawling cadence of 72-minutes on film. Continue reading

The Cabin in the Woods

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - who do you think is gonna survive?

There’s an interesting moment about twenty minutes into Drew Goddard’s debut film, The Cabin in the Woods (co-scripted by Joss Whedon) where an inanely bad CGI bird comes gliding down into the open space outside a mountain tunnel and crashes into some kind of invisible electrified grid imprisoning any living thing that travels through the tunnel.  As if the weirdly mundane pre-credit sequence featuring Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford wasn’t enough to clue viewers in…this moment reminds us that something conspiratorially massive is afoot.  Is this “snarky and attractive college kids are about to get stalked and killed in the woods” flick really just some sadistic reality show?  Is it all just an overly elaborate set-up for a modern-day spin on yee olde human sacrifice game? 

But the bad CGI bird hitting the electrified grid is deliberately misleading because it doesn’t prepare you at all for Goddard’s gleefully bonkers denoument…a rollicking special-effects laden and gore-strewn twenty minutes of balls-to-the-walls horror show fun.  I don’t know how else to describe it but to say it’s as if the “Imaginationland” episodes of South Park went live-action meta-horror.  The whole thing is wonderfully paced to lull you into thinking it’s going through the genre motions only to defy every expectation you have of a modern horror film. Continue reading

The Return of Game of Thrones and Even Stranger Bedfellows on Sunday Nights

Game of Thrones

April 1st marks the welcome return of the most visceral and entertaining show on TV, HBO’s violently epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones.  I was a reluctant watcher when the show premiered last spring, but it sucked me in with its carefully tailored bouts of sex, war, politics, beheadings, kids in jeopardy, dragons and plot twists. 

Emilia Clarke is the dragon woman.

From the opening episode that left me screaming, “Holy shit, they threw the kid outta the window!” to the season finale’s smoldering closing scene featuring a bare-breasted maiden and some newly hatched dragons that had me screaming, “Holy shit, look at that rack…oh, and damn, there be dragons up in there!” I was addicted.  The whole shebang is ferociously entertaining, and I learned my lesson well from last season – stay off the message boards where people who have read the books are far too eager to spoil huge plot points!  Continue reading