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31 Days of Horror 5: Room 237 (2012) by Jamie

So I decided to take something of a different route for this entry into 31 Days of Horror. I honestly haven’t had that much to say about the films that I’ve watched so far. The ‘let’s randomly watch a film that I just stumble upon’ approach has been, let’s say, unrewarding for the most part. So I reckoned I’d take a look at a film that I’d heard a lot about. It’s not a horror film itself persay. Rather it’s a documentary about one of the greatest horror films of all time, a little film called ‘The Shining’ by Stanley Kubrick. It is not, however, a film about the making of The Shining. Instead it is a film about all the conspiracies and secret meanings that certain fans have read into it.

Now, I don’t think I’d be causing any waves if I said that Stanley Kubrick was undeniably a genius filmmaker. Many of his films are considered among the greatest of all time with The Shining in particular often topping horror film list and with good reason. He was also something of a perfectionist and a somewhat private person. This privacy garnered him the somewhat unfair reputation as a recluse. It is this famed attention to detail plus this supposed reclusiveness that has certainly helped some of the conspiracies and myths build up around him. There is also the fact that some of his films are, well, kinda batshit insane.

Still just because The Shining has something of an aura that is conducive to conspiracy does not mean that conspiracies actually exist as is true of any conspiracy theory. And this is one of the problems with ‘Room 237’. The film is literally just voice over of people explaining their particular conspiracy theories over often slow motion shots of the film. In terms of style, the film I could most compare this to is ‘Zoo’, a film which I was not exactly a fan of. So all you get is the someone talking largely nonsense about how The Shining is actually about the genocide of the Native Americans or the Holocaust or how Kubrick faked the moon landings or some other bull crap. I’ll admit, some of the conspiracies are somewhat interesting though still so loosely cobbled together as to be laughable, all the result of random coincidence and self-delusion. Seriously, if I watched it enough times I could probably come up with a theory about how ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ is actually a treatise on the Kennedy Assassination that reveals the identity of the true shooter.

The truth is that conspiracy theories aren’t nearly as interesting as the people who come up with them and that’s what could have made this film a whole lot better. Show me the people behind the conspiracies. Let me get to know about them and more about why they think this way. As it is, all I have is a collection of faceless voices giving me their secret meanings about a film. In essence, someone has made a documentary about an internet message board. Well done.

In summation this could have been a really interesting film if it had delved just a little deeper than the surface it offered. Still it has left me wondering just why the fuck Jack Torrance is reading an issue of Playgirl while he waits to meet the hotel manager? Two pints out of five. Laterz.

Room 237



Documental: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey by Jamie

I never used to get on with Elmo. Like many people who watched old school Sesame Street I felt that he overshadowed some of the shows core classic characters and was generally pissed off with the little red monsters dominance over all aspects of the Street’s merchandising and marketing but I will admit that my impression of the character has softened recently mainly because of videos like this one:

What further helps to soften my image of my once most hated Muppet is the documentary I just watched, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, a film that covers the life and career of Kevin Clash, the man who would come to voice and perform the titular character. I shall not try to be spoilery in my review although it’s generally difficult to spoil a documentary unless it’s something like ‘Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father’. Anyway, on with the review.

Kevin Clash grew up in a relatively poor area in Baltimore and from a young age he found himself obsessed with puppets and puppetry. He used to sit glued to the television watching Captain Kangaroo and when, at age 9, Sesame Street came on the air that his obsession really took off and by age 10 he had built his first puppet out of his father’s best coat.

Kevin’s obsession grew and grew and he soon had a catalogue of eighty-five puppets and was performing shows in the local area, first for his mother’s day-care class and eventually schools. This led to him being teased by his fellow high school classmates but rather than be discouraged, he stuck at it, doing the thing that he loved no matter what anyone else said. He caught the eye of a local TV producer and soon got his first big break in the world of local television and the name calling soon turned to admiration and he was voted most likely to become a millionaire in his high school year book.

Kevin perfected his puppetry by mimicking the actions he saw on Sesame Street, learning to make a puppet move as though it were a real, living human being and he learnt to make the puppets themselves by watching as many specials by Jim Henson on the subject as he could. He finally got to meet one of his heroes, Kermit Love (Muppet building Master), on a school trip to New York and he helped the young man perfect his craft. It wasn’t long until Clash was attracting the attention of Henson himself and the rest is red felt covered history.

The film obviously goes into a lot more detail with regards to Clash’s life and career but I’ll leave the rest of that for you to discover for yourself. What I will say is that it a surprisingly inspirational and moving story for being about a man who performs a child-voiced Muppet. There were a number of occasions when I did feel tears welling up in my eyes, notably when discussing his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the discussion of Jim Henson’s death (including clips from Henson’s memorial which always makes me a bit weepy). It also makes you feel like a little kid again, especially when you see the kids meeting Elmo and largely just ignoring the fact that there is clearly a man standing behind, operating him. They just fixate on the puppet as if nothing else in the world matters and their faces light up and you get to share in that sense of wonder too.

It is seriously the perfect film to watch at the beginning of a New Year, an inspirational tale of a man who had a dream, stuck to it, achieved it and even managed to go on to continue the spirit of his hero. If I have any criticisms it’s that the film’s a little short at around one hour and fifteen minutes and there’s no mention of the TV show Dinosaurs which I loved… Although Clash did play the series most annoying aspect, Baby Sinclair. Despite these factors, I’m going to give this film five pints out of five just as it’s given me a new appreciation for Elmo and what he’s really all about.



Documental: Cropsey by Jamie

It seems that every town has an urban legend involving some kind of scary maniac, weirdo or boogeyman who lives away from the rest of society doing untoward things like kidnapping or murder. The one we had growing up was Bill, a homeless man who lived down by the river. Admittedly ours was an actual person though the legend that grew up around him was probably somewhat exaggerated. There were those who said he was an eccentric billionaire who actually owned a rather nice house but decided to live down by the river instead because he was mental. I don’t really remember any tales of murder but I do remember that our parents would warn us of him when ever we were going down that way.

I remember one day when a few of us were walking across the Cow Pipe (a pipe elevated of the ground that ran from one part of the river to a cow field next to it) and Bill came round the corner. My friend fell and I grabbed him. Unfortuantely he took me with him and I landed in a big pile of stinging nettles. Bill sat there on the pipe laughing at us for a few minute before wandering off. It was one of the times that I remember being really and truly afraid.

The urban legend that circled amongst the kids on Staten Island was of Cropsey and that’s kind of what the film of the same name deals with. The interesting thing about this case is that something happened after the establisment of the legend that gave the story further credence.

On Staten Island there used to be a mental institution called Willowbrook. It was originally designed for 4,000 residents but by 1965 it had over 6,000 and was the biggest state-run institution for the mentally handicapped. In 1972 the institution was visited by the admirably mustachioed Geraldo Rivera in a report he called ‘Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace”. His footage, some of which is shown in ‘Cropsey’ showed scenes of overcrowding, children screeching naked and covered in filth. The report caused a public outcry but Willowbrook would remain open until 1987.

After it’s closure a few of the former residents and even staff members returned, living for periods in the woods around the institution of in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the old building. One of these people was a former employee, Andre Rand.

Whilst all this was going on, children were going missing on Staten Island and this just helped to feed the Cropsey legend further. In 1987 a young girl with Down’s Syndrome called Jennifer Schwiezer went missing. Searches were carried out around the island and eventually her body was found close to Willowbrook. Attention turned towards Rand especially when witnesses came forward claiming that Jennifer had last been seen with a man fitting his description. He was brought in for questioning, charged and convicted receiving twenty -five years to life.

The film itself investigates all aspects of the legends and facts around Staten Island and Willowbrook. First it traces the legened of Cropsey before getting more and more involved in the case of Rand, going so far as to contact him and ask for interviews as a new trial is about to begin involving the disappearance of another little girl from 1981.

Overall it’s a pretty fascinating documentary and one which honestly gets more than a little creepy at times, particularly when the film makers are going through the ruins of Willowbrook at night, discovering all the old sleeping places of people who used to live there. It also handles the question of whether or not Rand is guilty quite well early on although as the film progresses I certainly found myself thinking he was probably guilty not so much because of any slant in the film but because of the actions of Rand himself which also ties into things. Is Rand being declared guilty because of any concrete evidence or because he seems like the kind of person who might do horrible things and therefore makes a convenient boogeyman for the community of Staten Island?

In closing the only real problem I had was that the film seemed a little all over the place at times but I’ll put this down to the nature of the story rather than any real fault of the film itself. Four pints out of five. Laterz.



Documental: Prodigal Sons by Jamie

Some may consider this review a touch spoilery but it’s really not to be honest. There’s stuff that may be considered spoilers if you haven’t seen the trailer I suppose.

Kimberley Reed is a magazine editor based in New York but she was brought up in Helena, Montana and is headed back there for her twenty year high school reunion and she’s excited if somewhat apprehensive about seeing her old friends. Part of this apprehension derives from the fact that she’ll be seeing her estranged brother adopted brother Marc who she hasn’t seen for a decade. There’s also the fact that the last time she was in her hometown her name wasn’t Kimberley Reed. It was Paul McKerrow

Yes, Kimberley was born a boy and had suffered with gender identifications for her whole life. In her school days as Paul, he had been one of the co-captain’s of the football team, was popular and had girls chasing after him. When he finally made it to San Francisco after leaving her home town she had the gender reassignment surgery that would make her into the person she would want to be. Marc, on the other hand, didn’t have such a privileged life, at least from his point of view. He was popular but he was also considered hyperactive during pre-school which caused him to be left back a year, putting in the same class as brother Paul.

He was popular enough but he preferred the partying life rather than buckling down and excelling at anything. Then at the age of twenty-one he was involved in a car accident which left his brain scarred and caused him to suffer from seizures. He underwent a couple of surgeries to remove the scar tissue but unfortunately this had other side-effects. Left with a damaged brain that affected his short term memory and ability to control his emotions, Marc began to dwell on the past and the sibling rivalry that he felt characterised it, feeling as though life had cheated him even though out of his siblings in his mind he had turned out normal (He also had another younger brother, Todd, who was gay). Combine this with said difficulty with regard to controlling his emotions and Marc would sometimes lash out, uncontrollably violently at those around him.

Another aspect of Marc’s life that caused him difficulty was the fact that he was indeed adopted. In his eyes, his siblings had another advantage because they were genetically related to their parents, meaning they should have had a better idea who they were. As for Marc, he was always left wondering just who he was supposed to be and just where his innate ability for the piano came from.

So it’s with all this going on that Kim decides to film her reunion and hopeful reconciliation with her brother. At first things seem to be going well but before she’s due to go home, Marc snaps and begins going on about the past and begins tearing shit up. Still, they do part on somewhat good terms, Marc feeling incredibly guilty about his inability to control himself. Some small ground has been made but it’s not really the reunion Kimberley had been hoping for.

Then Marc receives some fairly incredible news about his birth mother. It turns out that she was Rebecca Welles, daughter of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. Yes, the man who had been jealous of his siblings’ genetic connection to their parents turned out to be related by blood to Hollywood royalty. He’s flown out to Croatia to participate in a documentary about his grandfather by Oja Kodar, Orson’s “soul-mate”. Still it seems that despite these sudden revelations about his famous relatives, Marc is still unable to let go of his past with his adopted family, particularly the brother who became a sister that he had envied so much growing up which causes Kimberley some embarrassment when he shows a picture of the three brothers as youngsters to the crew of the Welles documentary.

That night the siblings have a discussion and Marc says something that suddenly makes Kim rethink her life. He makes her realise that she can’t be true to herself as a whole person if she completely tries to erase Paul from her past. This sends her on a kind of pilgrimage to rediscover her past and confront the transition that she’d tried to bury deep inside herself. She goes back to San Francisco and visits haunts that she’d frequent both before and after her sex change as well as meet up with an old friend of Paul’s.

And so the film continues on but sadly, Marc’s behaviour continues to become more and more erratic and violent until it finally reaches a boiling point during a family Christmas and events transpire that end with his arrest.

I think that’s about enough of a synopsis there. What I can say about this documentary is fuck! It twists and turns like a twisty turny thing. Every time you think that everything might finally be resolved and this family might have a chance at something approaching normality something else happens! It’s truly a pretty fucking incredible story that I promise will keep you hooked from start to finish.

What amazes me the most is that I came to this film thinking it would mostly be about the son of Orson Welles’ long lost grandson, and when you look at Marc the relation is obvious, particularly when you see his nose in profile. There are times when there are sideways close ups of that you almost think Welles has been brought back to life somehow. The fascinating thing, as I was saying, is that I went into this thinking that that would be the most interesting part of this whole film but it turns out it’s actually a fairly minor part of the story in relation to everything else.

No, this isn’t the story of Orson Welles’ long lost grandson. Rather it’s the story of a family and the members of it struggling to find out their true identities, trying to find out just who they are and how they fit into this mental world. Hell, even when Marc finds out who he’s related to it doesn’t seem to change his identity crisis. If anything it’s probably the catalyst for his condition worsening. Imagine if you had grown up jealous of your seemingly superior brother only to suffer brain damage and feel as though you’re completely unable to fulfil your true potential. Then you find out that you’re related to one of the most revered men in cinema history and yet the news basically comes to late for this new information to really change who you are or who you can be. That would probably eat a person alive inside. Of course, I’m just speculating but that’s certainly how I’d feel about it.

All in all, this is a truly incredible documentary that I don’t think I can possibly recommend further. Find it and watch it. Five pints out of five. Laterz.



Documental: Winnebago Man by Jamie

I’ve said it before, the internet is probably the greatest thing mankind has ever created that isn’t directly responsible for saving lives. It allows for almost instant communication, instant dissemination and sharing of news and information and, of course, mountains and mountains of pornography. So much pornography. It also unites people across borders through that most simple of pleasures, the humiliation of others.

Yes, for every internet success there is the other side. For every internet entrepenuer who has amassed billions of dollars, there are those who have become the subjects of ridicule because clips of them that they thought would never see the light of day have become viral video sensations. For every Mark Zuckerberg there is a Star Wars Kid or, indeed, a Winnebago Man. Who is the Winnebago Man? Well, hopefully this clip will clear that up. It is most certainly not safe for work…

That is the Winnebago Man. That clip of outtakes from a 1989 industrial film for the Winnebago company would become a viral video sensation thanks to copies of the original video tape being passed around and eventually reach millions more with the invention of YouTube. It would also become something of an obsession for a film maker by the name of Ben Steinbauer who became determined to find the star of the clip, a man by the name of Jack Rebney, a determination which would give rise to the documentary ‘Winnebago Man’.

He begins his search by investigating a number of avenues. He asks around people who have passed around copies of the tape in the first place and some crew members who worked on the original film. On this journey he also investigates the effect that the viral video had on individuals and on pop-culture in general, including a number of references to it in movies and TV shows. He also investigates the effect that a viral video can have on the often unwilling subjects such as the case of Aleksey Vayner whose boastful video resume ‘The Impossible is Possible’ became a viral hit much to the humiliation of Vayner himself. He apparently even received death threats via e-mail. Yes, the viral video world is not for the timid, which is a shame because often the star has no choice.

But what of the Winnebago Man? His obscenity-laced tirades certainly didn’t seem to indicate he was a timid man. Did he even know he was an internet star? Was he even still alive? After coming up with nothing but dead ends regarding Rebney’s current location, Steinbauer turned to a private investigator to hopefully shed some light on the subject. The PI found a number of post boxes in the man’s name and so the film maker decided to send a letter to each of them. Eventually, he got a response.

And so he got his chance to meet the man, the mystery, the enigma, the Winnebago Man himself, Jack Rebney. And he got to interview him and ask him what he knew about the video and all that. And he found Rebney to be an affable, charming old man, perhaps a little odd because he had become something of a hermit living alone in the mountains but other than that, a perfectly likeable older gentleman. So Steinbauer left after getting his footage, somewhat disappointed that even though Jack Rebney was still alive, it seemed as though the Winnebago Man was dead.

Then he got another message from Jack. In it he explained that he had basically put on a front for the camera and he was actually incredibly pissed off about his internet fame and the world he felt was falling into absolute disrepair. It turned out the foul-mouthed Winnebago Man was very much alive and so Steinbauer finally got his chance to meet him.

And that’s pretty much where I’ll leave the synopsis. I’ll just say that Jack is perhaps even more of the curmudgeon you’d expect him to be from the Winnebago Man clips. He’s sweary, angry and yet also strangely charming and seems able to switch between the two with the flip of a switch. His temper never really seems particularly malicious or at least not overly so. It’s just the way he reacts to the world around him. He views the fans of his outtake clips as a bunch of slack-jawed morons and can’t understand what they possibly enjoy about the video. This all comes to a head when he’s flown out to the Found Footage Festival in San Francisco and he’s brought face to face with his fans.

Now, Winnebago Man isn’t necessarily the most well made or most structured documentary in the world but I don’t think that’s really the fault of the film maker. I think it’s merely a side effect of making a film with a person like Jack Rebney, a man who seems completely unwilling to talk about himself or his past, for the most part, preferring instead to get his message about the evils in the world like Wal-Mart or Dick Cheney. He just seems like a difficult person to work with though ultimately a rewarding subject for the documentary. Throughout the whole film you can’t help but like Jack because, like I said, there doesn’t seem to be anything malicious behind his outbursts. That’s just who he is. The film also has one of the sweetest endings I’ve seen in sometime from a documentary and it honestly brought a few tears to my eyes.

If I had to compare it to another film I’d seen in recent times, I’d probably say ‘Best Worst Movie’ the documentary about the cult following of Troll 2 except kind of in reverse. In that film the main subject, George Hardy, is delighted by his fame and is eager to meet his fans. Jack Rebney, not so much. So all in all it’s an engaging documentary about an intriguing and interesting character but also a nice little study on this new world of viral video fame and how it effects their often unwilling or even unknowing stars. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Catfish by Jamie

I thought long and hard about whether or not to make this review spoiler free or not and, in the end, I came to the conclusion that not mentioning spoilers would make this film particularly difficult to write about so yes, there will be spoilers in this review. Due to the nature of this film I would heartily suggest that you go and watch the film before reading further. To make sure that you don’t accidentally read anything that will spoil the film for you, I’ll place a video underneath this paragraph.

Hahaha, that never gets old. Yes, there’s nothing quite as funny as a chimp sexually violating a frog. It’s true what they say, they’re so like us. Anyway, on with Catfish then. I assume that we’re all finally on the same page here, all having watched the film. If you decided to read on anyway without watching the film then I guess that’s up to you. I can’t stop you.

The film begins in New York when professional photographer Nev Schulman receives a painting of one of his pictures from Abby Pierce, an eight year old from Michigan. Nev begins an online friendship with Abby and, by exension, Abby’s family including Abby’s mother, Angela, Abby’s brother Joel and Abby’s older half-sister Megan who Nev takes quite a shine to as they chat online and via phone calls.

Nev’s brother Ariel and his friend Henry Joost begin documenting Nev’s relationship with the family, in particular his developing romance with Megan. It turns out that Abby isn’t the only artiste in the family and that Megan herself is quite the proficient dancer and prolific songwriter. She sends him copies of songs she has recorded and he is quite impressed. Impressed, that is, until he finds that the songs have pretty much been taking from YouTube videos. This leads to the guys investigating some of the other claims the family have made.

For example, Megan had claimed that they had purchased a gallery in order to hold shows for Abby’s work and had sent them pictures of the building. Through some online sleuthing they discover that the building is actually an old JC Penney’s which is actually still up for sale. Determined to find out the truth behind the story of the family, the filmmakers decide to head out to Michigan to confront the family.

The first place they head to is a horse ranch which Megan supposedly owns in the middle of the night, which actually turns out to be quite a creepy scene. Upon arriving they find that find that no one is there and there is certainly no sign of any horses. Furthermore an investigation of the mailbox reveals that it’s full of postcards which Nev had sent Megan on his travels proving once and for all that the British door-based letter slot is far superior than the American mailbox system.

The next morning the three guys decide to just show up at the family’s house. There they find that Angela and her husband doesn’t look anything like their Facebook pictures, Abby isn’t an artist, Megan is no where to be found and Angela is in fact a housewife who cares for two disabled sons and is the actual person behind the paintings. The filmmakers come to the conclusion that it is Angela who has essentially fabricated an entire life on Facebook, creating fictional profiles for a large network of family and friends and that she is, in fact, in love with Nev

Nev eventually gently confronts Angela about all this and the truth finally comes out. The last half hour or so of the film is spent basically interviewing Angela and her family in order to try and get some kind of handle of just who she is. It’s revealed through these interviews that she basically carried out the lie in order to vicariously experience a life she had given up on in order to have the family she has now. During most of her interviews, Angela is seen making a sketch of Nev. When everything is all over Nev returns to New York where he finally receives Angela‘s portrait of himself.

So yeah, that’s basically the film. And it’s a well told story with many interesting turns and twists and you never really lose interest but by far the biggest question surrounding this film is it’s veracity. Are the events pictured real or is it all an elaborate hoax. It does seem as though things play out so nicely that it’s almost unbelievable but I’ve let documentaries slide for that before, the fantastic ‘King of Kong’ being a good example.

Still, there’s something else that just drives me to believe that the whole thing is fabricated and that’s the way people speak, especially the three filmmakers. It just seems to me as though they are saying things that they had planned out and trying to make it sound natural. I’ll admit this could be simply due to the presence of a camera. I’ve seen people just talking about stuff and coming off completely differently simply because they are being filmed. Still, these guys just come off so unnatural to me that I have a hard time believing that the film is a true documentary.

There’s also a scene where they’re talking about chickens and apparently none of them knew that chickens lay one egg a day. Really? Are you shitting me? Who the fuck doesn’t know that? I know that they live in New York but surely they must have learnt that at some point in their lives. The whole thing, again, comes of as something written that they thought would be a wacky little conversation because seriously, I refuse to believe that there’s anyone who has heard of chickens that doesn’t know that they lay an egg a day. I mean Jesus fucking Christ!

Ahem. Whether or not the film is real there are a couple things that just rubbed me up the wrong way. The first is the unrepentant douchebaggery of the three main characters. They just seem so smug to me that I just found them genuinely annoying and I was kinda glad that they’d been played for fools. The second thing is the style of the film. Something about how heavily it relied on the internet imagery pissed me off as well. Yes, I understand it’s a documentary about people meeting and forming relationships over the internet but do I really need to see Google Maps every time they go travelling? And I swear this film had showed Facebook more fucking times than ‘The Social Network’ did. It just seemed as though they were saying “Look! The internet exists and we’re using it a lot in our movie! Aren’t we current and up to date!” It just irritated the hell out of me and I realise that’s more my problem than the films but still.

Despite these flaws, it is a interesting story, true or not, about the perils of relationships with strangers over the internet and one which is certainly relevant right now what with the release of ‘The Social Network’ and Mark Zuckerberg being name ‘Times’ man of the year. Yes, 2010 was the year of Facebook and ‘Catfish’ is another part of that. Overall I’ll give it 3 out of 5.



Documental: Waiting For Armageddon by Jamie

Ah, religion. Religion, religion, religion. Yep. That’s a thing that happens. I’m sorry but as I know all too well, writing anything about religion on the internet can provoke some fairly extreme reactions from people on all sides of the argument. So it’s once again that I throw myself into this quagmire with a review of ‘Waiting For Armageddon’, a documentary which focuses primarily on fundamentalist evangelical Christians and their views on the coming apocalypse which they see as being imminent.

Now, I’m fairly sure that ever since humans came to understand the passage of life and it’s eventual end, there have been those who have expected to see the end of days in their lifetime and from my point of view, these people are no different. It’s just that, as this movie shows, there are a shit ton of them and they aren’t entirely without political sway. No, it should be said that I think this film was made during the Bush administration when the religious right certainly did have quite a large amount of sway in Washington and I’m not sure what the climate is like now but either way, these are a loud and, to my mind, scary group of people.

That being said, the film doesn’t seem to really take a side though it’s kind of similar to Jesus Camp in that it interviews the people about their beliefs and shows them participating in various activities and largely leaves what the viewer thinks of the issue up to said viewer. Whereas I came away from this disagreeing with most people and their apocalyptic beliefs and the destruction and devastation they’re willing, almost happy, to see take place in order for those beliefs to come true, I’m sure there will be others who already agree with these views to come away seeing it as a documentary which does nothing more than espouse those views. That also being said, much like Jesus Camp, the context of the clips does seem to lean a little more towards my side of the argument. Then again, I could just be seeing it that way because that’s the side of it that I fall on. In other words, I’m confused.

So for anyone who isn’t familiar with the book of revelations, it’s sort of explained in this film. The basic gist is that Jesus is gonna come back and fight the forces of the Antichrist in one major world-ending, pay-per-view event. Jesus is going to be carrying a flaming sword or something and he shall mete out righteous justice and then hit the reset button on all creation, abolishing evil forever. Before this all the righteous Christians will be called up to Heaven so they won’t have to endure the terrible tribulations that will proceed this awesome Holy War which we sinners will have to. The final fight itself shall take place in Jerusalem because if there’s one thing that place needs it’s a massive Holy War. Some Jews will finally accept Jesus as the messiah and the rest will be obliterated and all the rest of us that don’t will suffer a similar fate. I’m not sure whether Hell get’s destroyed with the giant universal reset or not so I’m not sure if I’m due for an eternity of torture or an eternity of oblivion which is what I’m expecting anyway. I suppose that’s kind of beside the point at this juncture. So that’s basically the end of the world according to the various accounts from the people in this movie. In other words Revelations is Jesus’ gritty reboot which, according to the fundamentalists, is long overdue.

Of course, there are a few things that have to take place before this occurs, paramount of which is the destruction of the Dome Of The Rock and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. The destruction of the Dome is joked about quite often during a conference at the end of the film ass is, rather disturbingly, God’s “failure” to stop 9/11, the joke being that God didn’t fail to do anything because by definition God cannot fail and so all things occur according to his whim. This means that anything bad that happens, especially with regards to the Middle East or anything even slightly related to it, can be seen as a sign of the apocalyptic prophecies coming true because it’s God’s will.

I couldn’t help but laugh at one particular speaker during this conference. Something about the way he talked about post-modernism and us troublesome atheists just reminded me of the speaker at the police conference in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. You know, the one who talks about reefer addicts. Yeah, guy reminds me of him and it tickled me pink.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the documentary is when a group of evangelicals head of to Jerusalem on a visit and it’s interesting to see their interactions with the Israelis. There’s a sort of grudging politeness. I say grudging because at their heart each one of these people simply cannot respect ‘the other persons point of view. The Christians believe that the only way to get right with God is through Jesus and the Jews just don’t see things this way. The Christians have to be polite and support the Jewish people because if they don’t then they don’t get to see all the sites they consider holy plus they don’t get their Armageddon they’ve so been looking forward too. The Israelis have to be polite and put up with what I’m sure is a lot of evangelising, because these are evangelicals after all, because as one Rabbi puts it ‘We have a phrase called the golden rule. The one with all the gold makes all the rules.’ The same rabbi also claims that if Jesus did exist he was a womanizing sorcerer and has the best line in the film ‘So they believe that Jesus is coming back. We don’t think he’s going to make it a second time.’ Hilarious. Just something about the way he phrases it makes it seem like a threat.

Anyway, this film was pretty good despite it’s rather scary subject matter, it didn’t make me as angry as ‘Jesus Camp’ and there is some fairly interesting stuff in there besides the whacky prophecy stuff. The main thing it highlighted for me was that I just don’t understand religious belief. Maybe it is something genetic or something to do with brain chemistry that makes someone more susceptible to religious thinking (I’m not saying it’s the only reason just something that could make something like that more likely in certain people) but I’ve never believed, even when I was a child being taught all this stuff in primary school. I just don’t have the capacity for it and so it’s one of those aspects of human nature that will always remain a mystery to me. I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs, they’re just not for me. So yeah, the film gets four pints out of five.



The Depress-A-Thon: The Cove by Jamie

In recent years, my impression of dolphins has really gone down a few notches. In my youth I quite liked them but as I grew up, I heard more and more horror stories that convinced me that these so-called ‘clowns of the sea’ were actually unrepentant bastards. I’ve seen reports where they’ve tried to rape divers, cases where they’ve killed men in order to get to a woman and one harrowing documentary which showed the darker side of the bottle-nosed menace where they were actually killing baby porpoises and enjoying the fuck out of it.

No, I consider myself a shark person. Sharks have always gotten a bad rap, Great White Sharks in particular (Ironically due to the success of one of my favourite films of all time, Jaws). The truth is sharks kill very, very few people. Generally they mistake a diver for a seal, take a bite, realise that there isn’t enough fat to make a decent meal and swim off. It’s a shame that that bite can be quite substantial but hey, they’re just predators without a great deal of intelligence. Like Matt Hooper says “All they know how to do is swim, eat and make little sharks.” Dolphins, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re doing. They’re self-aware, highly intelligent and apparently serial-killing, psychopathic rapists.

Still, I highly respect them for their intelligence, an intelligence which we really don’t fully understand. Hell, they might be more intelligence than us but without the benefit of thumbs they’ve really fallen behind in the technology stakes. And that’s probably a good thing. Who knows, if dolphins had the technology to build suits that allowed them to move about on land uninhibited, they’d probably rape you and everyone you care about… I’m fairly sure I was supposed to write about a movie at some point…

So yeah, the film is called ‘The Cove’ and it follows the adventures of Ric O’Barry and his Oceans 11-esque crew of high tech eco-warriors as they attempt to bring attention the yearly slaughter of 23,000 dolphins in a cove in Taiji, Japan. The public face of the operation is catching dolphins for aquariums around the world, selling them for massive amounts of money so they can be enslaved and trained for our amusement like I’m assuming God intended. The rest of the dolphins are then herded into a smaller, more secretive cove nearby and harpooned to death.

And why is Ric O’Barry so concerned about the welfare of these animals which decided to evolve in reverse for some reason? (I mean seriously, what animal evolves to go back to a fully aquatic life after their ancestors had tasted the sweet, easy life on land?) Well Ric feels somewhat responsible for the captive dolphin shows taking off the way they did. You see he used to be a dolphin wrangler and trainer for the TV show ‘Flipper’. It was these show which caught the public’s imagination and began the love affair with dolphins. From then on dolphin shows became big business. O’Barry’s opinion on this treatment of our cetacean friends changed when his favourite dolphin, Cathy, appeared to commit suicide by purposefully closing her blow hole which he attributed to depression caused by her captivity. And it’s easy to see why. If you were born with free range over the planet’s oceans and you suddenly found yourself confined to a concrete tank being forced to do tricks for moronic hairless apes, the noise they make completely fucking up your primary sensory organ, you’d be pretty depressed too.

So O’Barry and his team travel to Taiji in order to film the slaughter, setting up cameras in order to get a complete view of the cove in some pretty sweet covert operations. I don’t wanna give too much away except to say the tricks they come up with to get this whole operation done are pretty fucking awesome. If the real message of the film wasn’t so important I’d say that this alone was reason enough to watch it. Of course the important thing is the message, the footage that they capture and massively depressing and distressing it is too.

I know I’ve made jokes at the expense of the issue and the animals during this review but I just kind of felt the need to because the facts of what are happening in Taiji are truly, truly horrific. The scene where they finally show you the dolphin slaughter is an image that’ll probably stick with me for the rest of my life. You get the impression that these aren’t just animals acting on the whim of a basic survival instinct but intelligent beings who are experiencing real panic and terror, creatures that understand the concept of death just as well as humans do and know what it is that is happening to them. It’s heart wrenching.

The film isn’t just about the well being of the dolphins, though. It also hits on some of the issues surrounding human consumption of dolphin and whale meat due to the high mercury content of their meat and some of the political issues involving the International Whaling Committee and the way that the Japanese government basically manipulates a powerless organisation and buys off other, poorer countries in order to get their support. The lengths they go to in order to keep killing cetaceans is really quite incredible.

All in all I think ‘The Cove’ is an incredibly important film one that should be viewed by anyone with even a passing interest in these animals, even if that interest is as simple as getting drunk and yelling accusations of rape at the ocean… But seriously, it’s an important film, an interesting film and, despite it’s very serious subject matter, it even manages to work a little bit of humour in there as well which is much appreciated when dealing with such a heavy issue. The Cove gets five pints out of five.

To find out ways you can help bring an end to cetacean hunting you can visit this site.

You can buy the Cove on DVD from the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk store.



Documental: Exit Through The Gift Shop by Jamie

Spoilers ahead though honestly I don’t think they’ll really hurt your enjoyment of the film.

I’m not the most artistic person in the world. I can just about manage to draw half-human, half-animal people in as long as they’re pretty much just standing there. Oh, and drawing hands always gives me trouble as well. I don’t know much of the art world either. I can look at a painting and say whether or not I like it. Art interpretation is a bit of a mystery to me. This may be because my preferred art form, cinema, has become a huge bloated corporate corpse that’s quite far removed from the art world that birthed it. Sure, there are still the independent film makers still trying to cling onto their artistic integrity and even some mainstream film makers you could still claim are quite artistic but for the most part Hollywood is largely concerned with the dollar. Hell, even if you are an artistic, visionary director, there’s a good chance that your work will be fucked around with by the studio unless you already have quite a bit of clout. Just look at what happened to Fincher on Alien 3.

Still there is one genre of film-making at least were the substance of the story seems to be more important than the profitability of the project and that is documentary, a genre which I am particularly fond of. Sometimes these documentaries are about art such as the one I’m looking at today… Wow, that was a tortuous segue. Anyway, my point is this is a review of ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, the documentary touted as being about Banksy and, whilst he does feature in it, it isn’t really about him when you get down to it. Rather it’s about the man, Thierry Guetta, who set out to make a documentary about street artists such as Banksy and what happened during this process.

Now, I should point out that there’s been some controversy over whether or not the film is a hoax or not. All I’ll say on this subject is that I’ve seen a fair few documentaries in my time and if this is a hoax then it’s a fucking food one. Everyone interviewed comes off completely natural and unscripted so I personally think it’s real but hey, I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

Anyway, Thierry Guetta is a French man living in California, America. He owns a clothing shop and he has one obsession, his camera. He takes it everywhere and films everything so much so that it‘s occasionally gotten him in trouble during the odd celebrity spotting. On a visit to Paris he meets up with a cousin of his who is part of the burgeoning Street Art movement. My understanding of Street Art is that it’s the inevitable evolution of graffiti, taking it from simple tagging to actually creating murals and pieces of visual theatre and such. That’s what I think it is anyway. Like I said, not particularly arty. Guetta’s cousin, named Invader, makes mosaics of characters from the retro video game ‘Space Invaders’ and places them throughout Paris and, eventually, other cities throughout the world. Guetta joins and films Invader as he spreads his art throughout the Parisian streets.

This ignites a passion in Guetta and he seeks out other street artists in order to film them at work. Finally a chance encounter leads him to Banksy and the idea of creating a documentary is discussed seriously. Good thing too because along his travels Guetta has collected literally thousands and thousands of hours of street artists at work without really considering what he was going to do with it.

Something else begins to happen as he films these people as well. He begins to help them pasting up their giant posters, helping them paint, holding ladders and keeping an eye out for the fuzz. He breaks one of those old documentarian rules, never get involved. I’ll admit, that might only apply to nature documentaries but still I stand by it. The point is that as Guetta gets more involved with the art, the more he begins to become obsessed with it. Soon he’s going out by himself and creating his own pieces. Whilst this is going on, Street Art continues to grow and starts becoming quite big commercially. Inspired by a show that Banksy has put on, Guetta decides he wants to do one as well giving himself the pseudonym Mr Brainwash.

He advertises his show heavily, apparently putting more work into the publicity for the show than he does actually doing the work into it. Still, he hires a massive team, gives them the designs and mass production begins on thousands of pieces of art that Mr Brainwash plans to sell at his show. Finally the show comes around, much money is made and Mr Brainwash is pleased. Some of the Street Artists he had befriended and who had helped him aren’t though. They see his overnight success as something corrupting, something he didn’t work hard to achieve by himself like they had.

And in the end I think that’s what the title of the film means. The film starts of with a genuine look at the rise of the Street Artists and an examination of what they do and why they do it and it ends with a show full of art, mass produced like cheap souvenirs in a museum gift shop, which seems to have been made simply because the ‘artist’ saw that it was making other people money and he wanted that himself. In fact the museum gift shop analogy is fairly apt. You enter the building because your interested in the paintings and such housed inside. You can study them, interpret them, find out the history of them and at the end of the day you can pick yourself up a cheap, meaningless imitation. That’s what I think anyway. Like I said, I’m not much for art interpretation.

Over all, this is a fucking fantastic documentary that I highly recommend whether you’re interested in the subject matter or not. Luckily I do because, although I may not be much into the art, I do like the Street Art stuff, Banksy in particular, but I honestly think that the story is interesting and engaging enough that you’d be able to enjoy it whether you had an interest in it or not even if this review doesn’t really get that across. Sorry but I wrote this a week after watching the film and didn’t have time to watch it again. Still, watch it and I promise you’ll enjoy it. Five pints out of Five. Laterz.



Documental: Capturing The Friedmans by Jamie

Even the most unassuming of people can harbour the darkest of secrets. And when those secrets come to the surface they can tear even the most seemingly loving family completely apart. That essentially sums up the premise of the film ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ as directed by Andrew Jarecki.

Arnold Friedman is the aforementioned unassuming man. He was an award winning teacher, taking hundreds of children under his wing to teach them computer classes. He had a seemingly perfect family, a loving wife and three sons. Of course he also had a dark secret otherwise we wouldn‘t be talking about him, would we? What was that dark secret? Well, it seems as though Arnie had a bit of a penchant for kiddie porn. He was captured when the postal service seized some of his mail which turned out to contain items of that nature. They set up a sting operation, Arnie fell for it and he was arrested. Fair enough but it‘s from here that things take a more controversial turn.

Now of course it‘s only natural that when child pornography turns up in the possession of someone who has been teaching children that further investigation is necessary. You’ll want to interview those kids and find out if anything untoward had been going on. It‘s at this point that the film began to remind me of another film, Witch Hunt (which I thought I‘d reviewed but apparently I haven‘t).

The problem with interviewing children is that they can be very eager to please and so will respond to questioning differently depending on the way the questions are asked and the methods used to obtain the answers. To be fair, that‘s probably a sweeping generalisation. I‘m fairly sure most adults will act in the same way when confronted with an authority figure. Anyway, the problem is that it is hinted that the police questioned the children using leading questions, in other words basically telling the children the answers they wanted to hear. They also used hypnosis to try and recover hidden memories which is so fucking irresponsible it pretty much begs belief. You see the suggestive state caused by paralysis is a wonderful way of accidentally implanting false memories which is a bit of a problem when investigating a crime. It should also be noted that there is absolutely no physical evidence that any of the children had been molested at all and the testimony of hundreds of children that absolutely nothing happened.

Due to the testimony of the children, not only is Arnold arrested but so is his eighteen year old son, Jesse. Now, the film never really strongly takes a side with regards to Arnold‘s guilt but it seems as though it‘s pretty much made up it‘s mind that Jesse is innocent. I don‘t know if that’s the reason why but I certainly ended up feeling the same way. With Arnold, I felt he was probably guilty of something but it’s really hard to know for sure. Obviously he should have served time for the possession of child pornography but whether he or not he actually molested children is really up in the air.

What do you do in that situation? Do you take the cautious route and convict someone of a serious crime when there’s the possibility of that they’re or innocent? Or do you accept the fact that when there is still a good amount of reasonable doubt with regards to someone’s guilt that you simply can’t convict them, let them go free and live with the possible consequences that being wrong could lead to? It’s a tough one to be sure.

Still, this film isn‘t just about the arrest and whether or not it was justified. There’s also the more personal story of how these allegations affect the Friedman family as a whole, most importantly the almost complete breakdown of the relationship between the three sons and their mother. The three sons are firmly on the side of their father, believing that the allegations are ridiculous and that he‘s clearly innocent. The mother, Elaine, on the other hand, has lost all emotional attachments to her husband since the whole mess started and, through home movies, you get to see a few huge arguments and the complete lack of respect that the boys now have for their mother essentially seeing her as a traitor to their father. It really is quite devastating to watch.

At the end of the day Capturing The Friedmans is a damn fine film. Nothing is really resolved by it but then I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s just a chronicling of the events and all the consequences triggered by them and at that it succeeds admirably. I highly recommend it. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.




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