Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movie Review: Willie Dynamite: A Feminist Blaxploitation Pimp Movie?

So I fucking love From Dusk Till Dawn, both the show and the movie . And I would be lying to both myself and my audience if I didn't say that part of that was  their indulgence in the male gaze. I am human and both Salma Hayek and Eiza Gonz├ílez are a beautiful ladies.

That having been said I stupidly made a Google alert for Gamergate and am still getting "notifications" about the stupid. Why do I do this to myself?

Anyway my love of b. movie shlock makes me question how and why I said everything I vocalized during my twitter flame ups.

In a nutshell I can make it gel because of how I view the media landscape and the marketplace of ideas.

I view each piece of media as a way for it's creators to either do or say something meaningful to themselves even if what thier saying or doing is just commenting on something else somebody else said or did as in the case of most of the Tarantino ouvre. And in my view that big wibbly wobbly ball of stuff is "the way things should be dig it."

Most of my more interesting ideas come from studying the intertextuality of media, how does one piece work within the context of everything said and done around it, and my overall problem with Gamergate, among other things is that it refused to acknowledge that that intertextuality exists and should be studied, rather than sealing off each game as it's own little bubble.

Media is a lot more fun and interesting when it exists as a millue, an on going debate about the ideas the media presents and media itself.

And thus I present to you Willie Dynamite.

At first glance Willie Dynamite looks like the million and one disposable Superfly knock offs when it slowly becomes clear it's an anti-Superfly movie.

The movie exists to point out exactly why Superfly is a jackass and make him as miserable and pathetic as possible.

While yes it does have something to say about literal sexworkers it uses Willie D and the pimp archetype he represents as a metaphor for the male patriarchy. The only unambigously good character walks into Willies' place tells the prostitutes that Willie is worthless scum and is using them for his own ends, and that they should unionize because, "We're doing it for ourselves"

What makes the movie interesting is how long the movie can juggle being both a shameless blaxplotation movie and a vicious condemnation of the same. And that's both it's strength and weakness.

It juxaposes the junky shlocky tropes of say Dolimite with the composition, and themes of The Wire, never letting the audience get quite in the mental groove it takes to enjoy one of these types of movies.

The epitome  of this are the jail scenes where shots of cinematic Joyce Walker are intercut with women who look a bit harder which mostly means without a bunch of make up but hey film is a visual media.

You know at first I was set to hate this movie because Willie is one of the most dispicable characters I've seen on film and but pretty soon it becomes clear that's on purpose as the film wants the audience to enjoy taking him and by extension both the pimp genre and the male patriarchy he represents down a few pegs.

The third act is basiccally realizing that his talk in the first half of the movie was just that, talk as the movie proceeds to strip him of all his "pimptasticness".

In a normal Hollywood lesson this would be about Willie learning some sort of lesson about the price of gold or some such.

This is not that movie. Well it is but ...

Okay Willie D. does the obligatory last shoot out every crime movie has to do.

But rather than being funny, or spectacular, in this movie it's just kind of pathetic as it's slowly ripped all the "movieness" away from Willie. He's just a broken pathetic asshole with a gun. And the movie is about both him and the audience realizing that.

Not unlike Fujiko Mine the movie has the quasi guilt about ripping itself up. "Willie please don't hate me for what I've done." Both admit that yeah there is a place for that stuff but this one. This one has to do it's own thing and if that thing means killing your darlings to make a point so be it. And that's the point of the ending. The movie looking at the audience and going. "I'm sorry you had to see that but it needed to be done."

On the Facsimile of Film Part 2

I want to revisit this for a few reasons. First off I didn't realize it at the time but yes a lot of what was kicking around in my head was from Moviebob's review of Inglourious Bastards.  But all the same it's an interesting idea that's worth exploring on it's own merits.

Sure everybody knows both Tarantino and Rodriguez are movie guys but why are they movie guys? I outlined their grand statement to the world that the "movieness" of movies should be celebrated but even they generally don't turn to the camera and make that case themselves assuming if you're watching their movies you're probably already on board with team "these types of movies are awesome!"

But why is thier ability to make what amounts to live action cartoons so important.

Film and for that matter fiction isn't reality. In reality everything is the turn of them bones but fiction is a construct. Everything that happens in fiction is a choice. And the dissonence between what both what the writer and audience would choose happen and what could, would, or did happen in real life can be used to say something meaningful and powerful.

While Tarentino would never just turn to the camera and say this. I can think of one piece of media that did. Daria's "Write Where it Hurts"

What made Daria so resonant for a lot of people of my generation was the conceit that she was by and large the smartest person in the room, (with a few exceptions) and reacted to that not by becoming a benevolent demigoddess magically solving all her friends and family's problems but by going off to the side and snarking glib observations in the corner.

And that's what made me like it at 12.  What makes me like it now is that the show had the guts to occasionally criticize and question Daria herself. The later seasons were all about that self evaluation but it was there in the earlier ones.

And that's the crux a write where it hurts where Daria is stuggling with writers block and get's some poinginet advice from her mom.

                                              Helen (Daria's Mom)
"Daria I apologized for not helping you before I'm offering to help you now. What do you want to do?

My story sucks.


Well honey I'm sure if you just give it another day or two_


Everything I do has already been done (Macbeth and The Graduate parodies). I wanted to write something meaningful. I can't write anything all.


Maybe you're trying to hard. Maybe You don't have to write something meaningful, just something honest. 


I can do honest. I look around me and I describe  what I see.


How about describing what you'd like to see, honestly.


What do you mean.


Daria the easiest thing in the world for you is being honest about what you observe. 


What's hard for you is being honest about your wishes, about the way you think things should be not the way they are. You gloss over it with a cynical joke and nobody finds out what you really believe in. 


Ah ha so my evil plan is working.


If you really want to be honest be truthful about what you'd like to see happen, there's a challenge. 

Cue one of the most heartwarming moments in the entire show after Helen reads the short story in question.

Jane (Daria's best friend)
Wow so your story made your mother cry. 

Out of happiness and that's the sick part.

And run the reason by me again


She took it as evidence that I'm secretly not as alienated as I seem or something. It'll take me years to undo the damage.

So you going to show it to O'neil? (her english teacher)

I have no choice but if he cries to I'm dropping out of school.

Well listen, now that you have such a great attitude and everything can I have your boots.  

My point is that there is a meaning and power between what is and what we wish was and fiction or in this case film can be a great place for exploring that dissonance. Unless you're an idiot i.e. willfully blind you know what is.

But what would an ideal world look like and of equal importance why would it look that way?

Screw it just play The Wall again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Television Review: From Dusk Till Dawn Season One

So last time I mostly talked about From Dusk Till Dawn's place in the cultural landscape. Why this little film from 20 years ago is worth watching and talking about. To talk about the show I'm going to have to get a lot more into plot. How the show is different from the movie and whether or not those differences make the show worth watching.

The answer is yes.

The movie was little more than an affectionate recreation of the types of movies Rodrigez and Tarentino liked in thier youth the show uses the plot of the movie as the outline of a much dramatic story.

I have mixed feelings about that. If you're watching the show for the same reason you watch the movie it might disappoint as it takes itself more seriously at least narratively. The movie was much more willing to to just say. "Shhhhh just go with it."

But the show is much more interested in its narrative rather than just stringing together a lot of cool fun moments. That's not bad, But if your're going in to see how many times Cheech Marin can say the word pussy on screen and keep a straight face,  or Sex Machine as a giant rat you might be disappointed.

So the question is the story worth it. Which brings up the elephant in the room.

What makes the original story so impressive is how long it goes before it switches gears and tells you what it's about. Namely that you're watching a Raimi/Romero inspired vampire spookhouse flick. The entire movie is structured around the plot switch as it goes from a crooks on the run movie to Evil Dead, to Dawn of the Dead.

It's been 20 years and the fact that everybody gets eaten has been thoroughly spoiled by this point and that dampens some of the initial impact of that switch.

My point is the first several episodes basically retell the plot of the first half of the movie and talking about thier plot, the thing that makes the show worth is going to spoil the movie.

Two bank robbing brothers hijack a mobile home to cross the Mexican border where they plan to meet a contact for some sort of nefarious deal. What makes the first half of the show is that it goes into detail often expanding on many of the fan theories of the last 20 years and using them to up the drama and pathos of what before was an excuse plot to get vampire strippers and cool transformation and gore effects on camera.

The most of the additions are just taking some of the acting choices of the original and extrapolating backstory from them but there are two big plot detours.

The first is that Carlos a pretty bit character in the movie orchestrated the meeting at the vampire bar.

A huge part of why I kept watching was figuring out what his deal was, and figuring out how they actually managed to make Fez menacing.

Sorry Wilmer Valderrama, you're never going to live that down.

The second is that the show introduces a Texas Ranger as a new character. And he's pretty interesting a decent guy who sees darkness in the Gecko Brothers who are at the same time both worse (we see what Richie did to that hostage) and more sympathetic than in the movie since Richie in particular is being egged on by the boogie this go round.

Beyond plot one of the most interesting things has to do with "author appeal" Rodriguez has never been shy about putting Latino actors and iconography into his work.  But this time the story goes whole hog working the bar and it's setting into Mesoamerican myth name checking The Popol Vul, the hero twins, and the lords of night to make these vampires its own.

And that's where the second half comes in. The second half of the movie was mostly an excuse to have a bunch of cool cheese and surreal visuals. But the show is actually concerned with plot namely why it was important to the vampires, Carlos and Satanico Pandemonium the Gecko Brothers were in that bar.

While it's interesting the show sets up a much more interesting season 2 now that it doesn't have to replay the movie without all the fun bits. Though the snake dance was okay.

Movie Review: Dusk Till Dawn AKA on Cinematic Facsimile

I had an eventful December (Christmas can eat a...) Since I had some time off I did the movie marathon thing. Wolf of Wall Street and Django Unchained have been on my list for a while. But in their own way both of those require some homework to really give them the once over they deserve. Wolf of Wall Street basically exists as Scorsese on autopilot. Which isn't to say it's bad. The movie is great but to really sink my teeth in I need to view it within the context of Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, and Taxi Driver, but  I've only seen half of that list.

And as for Django,  It's a Quentin Tarantino movie even if the movie itself didn't expect me to watch the 100 or so movies it's riffing, this far after it's release I would feel like a jackass if I didn't at least pay lip service to the other big slavery movie of 2013.

Eh. It's on my list.

Anyway Django really is a great movie and made me want to review the Tarantino oeuvre.

That plan went bust I'll explain later.

Time to lay some movie history on you.  Tarantino is hailed as one of the big three indie directors of the early 90's along with Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith. What made almost all of these guys interesting is the same thing that made the blockbuster kings of the last generation so interesting.

They were able to somehow manage to combine a sincere love of the trashy low art of thier youth, in this case the grindhouse drivein scene of the late 60's and 70's with incredible structural and scripting chops.

While the blockbuster kings of the 1970's were out to prove yes you can make a pulpy space opera, monster movie, or gangster movie epic and meaningful these guys were much more willing to revel in the "trash" themselves. They didn't feel the need to show the world the beauty in say a heist gone wrong flick because well been there done that.  In other words Lucas and Spielberg try much harder to justify the B movie elements in their movies while this new crop were much more satisfied to say, "this is the type of movie you walked in to. You want to get this shindig rolling or don't you."

To be perfectly honest From Dusk Till Dawn is pretty much a modern B movie, but what makes it interesting is what's going on under the hood especially within the context of what we know now about the guys at the helm.

Dusk Till Dawn having been written by a young Tarantino and directed by a young Rodriguez acts as a rosetta stone to both these guys' styles of movie making.  I spent so much time talking about that 90's crew is because right now, they are the best in the business at shooting "fun" movies at least the big name ones. Rodriguez in particular is a master at shooting over the top, "because movie" action scenes.

And part of that is because most of the 90's movie brats loved the facsimile or movieness of film. And I suppose if thier movies had any sort of consistent point to be made that would be it. Contrary to popular belief about things like "realism" and "suspension of disbelief" there is a power nay an importance to that facsimile of film and it should be celebrated rather than restrained and denied.

It's been what? 20 years so fuck spoilers.

The movie basically exists to have fun with old movie genres and recreate in its audience and let's be honest its crew the feeling of a night out at the grindhouse,  at first playing like a tribute to Bonnie and Clyde, then morphing into a Sam Raimi picture.  And then switching gears to Romero rules with a dash of John Carpenter thrown in for good measure.

This movie is basically both men's love letter to the movies of thier youth and really once you think about aren't all thier movies love letters to film itself.

The reason why I didn't just go a head with the Tarantino plan is that I got sidelined with this flick I wanted more and so I binged on the Tv show just before getting knocked out by the microbial menace and having fever dreams of being eaten alive by snake people.

P.S. I might as well cop to this I borrowed a lot of these ideas from Movie Bob's Hollywood History series check it out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Southfield December 15, 2014 Regular City Council Meeting

Topics Discussed Include

  • A Zoning Ordinance Regarding Medical Marijuana
  • The recognition of Fern Katz and Darryle J. Buchanan whom after many years of service have left the Southfield Board of Education
  • The Recognition of Councilman/ State Representative Elect Moss and Mayor/Congresswoman Elect Lawrence who after winning elections are moving on to their new positions
  • The Elliot Larsen Act and LGBT Civil Rights in Employment

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield December 15, 2014 Special City Council Meeting

On December 15, 2014 The Southfield City Council held a special meeting to discuss end of the year budgetary matters.

Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce Farewell Reception For Congresswoman Elect Brenda Lawrence

On December 15, 2014 the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce held a farewell reception for Congresswoman Elect Brenda Lawrence whom has served as Southfield's Mayor since 2001

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Southfield School Board Meeting December 9, 2014

Southfield Board of Education Meeting held December 9, 2014
Topics Discussed Include

  • The recognition of Fern Katz and Darryle J. Buchanan who are leaving or have left the school board.
  • Recognition For the Southfield High School Football and Engineering Teams
  •  K-8 Curriculum and Testing Standards

An agenda and related documents can be found at here.
Note: Due to technical difficulties roughly the first 15 minutes of audio were cut.

Southfield Police Southfield Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin December 1-7, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Southfield City Council Meeting December 1, 2014

Southfield City Council Meeting held on December 1, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • A Demolition of A building on 9-Mile Rd
  • Permission for the Fire Department to Apply For A Grant that Would Allow for the Purchasing of New Radios and CPR Equipment
  • The Need for More Personnel in the Fire Department
  • Medical Marijuana Zoning
  • The Upcoming Roll-Out of the City's Mobil App

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

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