Category: Movies

Underground Merchandising

In the words of uploader and co-director Ed Seeman:

This three minute film was created by Frank Zappa and Me in the late 60's to illustrate the art of UNDERGROUND MERCHANDISING of his album FRAK OUT! [sic] It was the begining of our filming relationship that lasted two years and became the initial shooting for UNCLE MEAT. This opening was shot at the Garrick Theater in Greenwich Village.
I did all the shooting for the next two years with a silent camera so that Frank could score it himself.
To read the whole story check out my Zappa web site at www.edseeman.com/zappa

R&B

Zappa and childhood friend Denny Walley talk about his early blues influences.

Another documentary from the Dutch station VPRO -- man, those guys must love him.

This one appears to be a 2007 doc called Frank Zappa: Pioneer of the Future of Music. At a glance I can't find any place to purchase it legally, which is a shame -- if you know of any, please let me know and I'll gladly link to the store.


Edit 2012-12-29: I've posted the entirety of the documentary.

More Zappa on Politics

This'll probably be the last one of these for awhile.

Per uploader dannen59, "It's from an Austrian documentary called´╗┐ "Das Beste von Frank Zappa - 20 Jahre Extravaganza 1969-1989"."

In a parallel universe somewhere, the 1992 election featured Bush, Clinton, Perot, Zappa, and Nader. A man can dream...

Heart of Frankenstein

Watched Young Frankenstein tonight -- it's that time of year.

Certainly one of Mel Brooks's all-time greats. And certainly there's plenty of pure spoof and slapstick, with corny jokes and wonderfully, gorgeously over-the-top performances from its impeccable cast.

But there's something in there that keeps it from being the straight-up trifle that, say, Spaceballs is (and I like Spaceballs). It doesn't have the social satire of Blazing Saddles, but it does have heart.

It's not just that it's a love letter to the original Frankenstein films (and the whole Universal Monsters line), though it's certainly that, too. It's that it's a story about family, about fathers and sons. For all that Frederick tut-tuts that it's Fronkensteen and his grandfather's work was doo-doo!, he's already followed in his footsteps to become a neurosurgeon and the very first thing he does in Castle Frankenstein is ask where his private library is. He's well on his way to taking over the family business before he ever chants "Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!"

And of course, crucially, the difference between Frederick and Victor is that Frederick shows love to his creation -- even risking his own life, as the Monster points out in the climax. Because as anyone who's read Frankenstein can tell you, Frankenstein's crime isn't in creating the monster, it's in abandoning it. Mel Brooks carries that sentiment to its logical conclusion and gives us a Frankenstein who is a good father -- and so instead of the standard Tragic Ending where Everybody Dies, we get the standard Comic Ending where Everybody Gets Hitched.

Plus I doubt it's a coincidence that Wilder and Brooks wrote it around the time the former was raising a daughter and the latter fathered a son.

Such as Seals

Welp, another Halloween, another Rifftrax Live. This year: Birdemic.

It is increasingly clear to me that House on Haunted Hill is far and away the best movie Rifftrax Live has ever done.

I mean, House on Haunted Hill has Vincent Price and a handful of other colorful characters, is competently written and directed, and is unironically fun to watch all by itself.

Birdemic...Birdemic doesn't even have the homemade charm of Manos.

I mean, it is homemade. It's homemade as hell. But it's homemade in an era when any-damn-body can make a homemade movie.

Manos was shot on a shoestring budget with primitive equipment in 1966. Birdemic was shot on a shoestring budget with primitive equipment in 2010. Manos took effort to make; it's surprising the damn thing was finished at all.

Referring to Birdemic as "finished", on the other hand, makes for liberal damn use of the word "finished".

Not only does it feature CG that actually looks substantially worse than if they had just used stock footage or rubber birds (and presumably cost more, too, unless it actually came with the video software they used to make the movie -- which, to be fair, is a distinct possibility), it is the most amateurishly, sloppily edited film I have ever seen, and that's coming from a guy wearing a Crow T. Robot T-shirt who has namedropped three separate Rifftrax Live events so far in this post. I have seen some bad movies, is what I am getting at.

Manos -- well, the entire damn film is dubbed because it was shot without sound. And yet, the inevitable sync issues aside, the audio editing is solid. The audio of Birdemic cuts out, constantly -- just straight-the-fuck-up cuts out. No sound. And that's without getting into the multiple scenes where you can't hear what actors are saying because they're shooting on a windy beach, the multiple times actors clearly flub their lines and they don't reshoot, and the bits where going from one character to another comes with a very long pause in the dialog and a substantial difference in background noise.

Of all the bad movies I've ever seen, this may be the only one where I wasn't struck most by the quality of the acting, the writing, the shooting, or even the effects (and trust me, all of them are pretty terrible), but the editing. It is shoddy, shoddy work. This movie makes Sci-Fi Originals look like...well, at least as good as House on Haunted Hill.

Birdemic 2 is slated for a 2013 release.

Argo

The other flick I caught last weekend was Argo. I hadn't seen the last two movies Affleck directed, but I hear they're good, and I enjoyed this one.

Nitpicky stuff out of the way first: I thought he piled too much on at the climax. I sincerely doubt that -- minor spoiler -- the real-life Houseguests had guards speeding after them with machine guns on the tarmac.

I was also a little disappointed that they filed the serial numbers off the fictitious Argo film. In the movie, it's just a generic sci-fi B-movie -- but in real life it was a failed adaptation of Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, with production designs by Jack Kirby. I can see why these details were changed, and they're not essential to the story of a CIA exfiltration operation masquerading as a film crew, but I love that background and have been fascinated by it since I first read about it in a 2007 Wired article. Indeed, there's currently a Kickstarter going to make a documentary about the aborted Lord of Light movie.

But those quibbles aside, Argo succeeds on its own merits. It's well-acted and suspenseful, and brings attention to a largely-unknown sequence of events that happened as part of the better-known Iranian Hostage Crisis. And it's a truly crazy story -- the kind that would be unbelievable as the premise for a fictional spy movie. Truth, as they say...

And even if it's disappointing that the likes of Kirby and Zelazny don't get their due in the movie, legendary makeup artist John Chambers (played by John Goodman) sure gets plenty of props.

All in all, Argo is recommended. I caught it at a matinee; it's not going to lose much if you wait to see it at the cheap theater or on Netflix or what-have-you. In the meantime, check out that Wired story; it's fantastic.

From Straight to Bizarre

The trailer for the documentary about Zappa's independent labels. You can get it on Amazon but I'm not convinced it's legit. Seeing as how it refers to itself as a DVD-ROM and is listed under Books. Not sure where you can find a legitimate copy; if anyone does, be sure to let me know and I'll update this post.

ParaNorman

It was a busy weekend! I had a friend in from out of town, then had my cousins over for cartoons and games, then had more friends out of town and went drinkin' with them.

Caught a couple movies, too, including ParaNorman at the cheap theater. I liked it!

First of all: it's a kids' movie that does shit you're not supposed to do in a kids' movie. My favorite gag involved the rather gruesome image of the ghost of a dog who had been hit by a car. It's funnier than it sounds.

The flick does some fun things with genre conventions, has the usual kids' movie message that it's okay to be different, adds the rather more complex message that bullying is caused by fear and begets more bullying -- but mostly it's just a damn pretty, weird, creepy, funny, unconventional kids' horror movie, from a couple of directors whose resumés include Flushed Away, Coraline, and Corpse Bride.


Playing: Oh so very many things. This weekend we threw down on Scott Pilgrim, Gears of War, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (purchased used -- my boycott remains unbroken), and most recently Batman: Arkham City, which my cousin loaned me. I was going to buy the PC version to use with my sweet PC graphics card, but on finding out it had SecuROM I decided not to pay for it and just borrow the Xbox version instead -- you listening, Square Enix? Of course you're not.

Dinah Moe Humm

Another old favorite from Over-Nite Sensation, and probably my favorite dirty song of all time.

Looks an awful lot like a commercial DVD; I try not to post too many of those but it's late and I'm tired. Baby Snakes, maybe? I'll see about looking it up later.

Anyway, as always with stuff that's available commercially, I encourage you to support the Zappa family and purchase it.