Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Well, I don't quite know how to start this review.  If I just come out and say that Friday the 13th is a bad movie, I'm sure you'll instantly roll your eyes and sigh to yourself while thinking "yeah, Eddie...duh." However, no matter how much I try to tell you that the movie is utterly worthless and put together by people who just don't seem to give a damn, you'll never understand the sheer boredom that I felt at about 12:45am when I realized that I still had an hour to go.

Friday the 13th fails on just about every level.  The storyline sucks, the acting is wooden, the effects are questionable,  the photography is grainy and shaky, and finally the direction is just plain terrible.  

This remake starts out directly at the end of the first Friday the 13th.  It's 1980, and Mrs. Voorhees has been killing teenagers who she feels are responsible for her son Jason's death.  In the first few seconds of the remake, we see just how much she's lost her head (...sorry...).  The film picks up in present day when a few campers are traipsing around Crystal Lake looking for a huge patch of marijuana.  Unfortunately, they run afoul of Jason, and the twenty minute sequence is about the only decent part of the movie.

Soon enough, we're introduced to a new group of twenty-somethings.  We instantly identify with Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), if only because she's the only character given any amount of screen time.  Yes, there were other campers with her, but they're obviously red shirts meant for the slaughter.  I didn't even realize that there were three females in this group until close to the end of the film.  Jenna runs across Clay (Jared Padalecki) who is searching for his sister, who looks suspiciously like one of the campers from the beginning.  

Well, you can pretty much guess where it goes from there.  The campers get to their enormous cabin (I can't really call them campers...I guess partiers is a more appropriate term) and Jason begins to pick them off one by one while Clay searches for his sister and Jenna falls for Clay.

The movie has a host of problems.  It definitely suffers from Stupid Character Syndrome, where the movie's characters do the dumbest thing possible because it serves the script and allows for another kill scene.  I couldn't tell one character from the other, and after about twenty minutes, I didn't care.  For instance, I didn't know until the film was almost over that Jenna had TWO female friends with her.  I couldn't tell because they weren't characters.  They were nameless women who existed to flash their bare breasts and then get a machete through the head.

"Hey!  Hey, you!  Have you seen an arrow?  No?  Huh.  Strange.  Hey!  Come closer!  No, but for real, come over to the dock!  I want to tell you something!

I've mentioned that the effects are questionable.  They're all boring.  I've never seen a slasher movie with so little blood.  Listen, I'm not a very violent person, but the Friday the 13th series is kind of known and appreciated for it's violent and inventive kill scenes.  They're not the goriest movies, but they show quite a bit of blood.  I really expected them to ramp up that aspect, and was both relieved and a little disappointed when I noticed the lack of blood or gore in the movie.  What gore is in the movie...well, it's more minimal than most movies of this sort. 

The camera work is another huge problem with the film.  I understand that shaky cam is becoming more and more prevalent, but it seems that no one can really do it right yet.  It's certainly not done well here.  The camera shakes so much that I half expected Jason Bourne to crash through the window and save the day.  Horror is such a visceral genre (film itself being visceral as well) that I can't imagine what they were thinking when they shot this movie.

"Hey!  Let's not let our audience know what's going on and who's dead!"

I'm not certain how this is a remake since it deviates pretty wildly from any Friday film that I've seen.  As a matter of fact, this could have been called Friday the 13th 11: Return to Crystal Lake, and it would have fit in perfectly with the rest of the films.  I suppose what makes this film different is that Jason has strung lights, alarms and traps throughout the woods of Crystal Lake.  Oh, and he's an excellent athlete, as his childhood trophies show us.  Also, he has a bit of a "creepy serial killer keeping the girl in the basement" thing going on.'s not scary.  It's absolutely not scary.  Listen, I bite my fingernails.  It's a disgusting habit that I'm trying to break.  The more nervous I am, the more pain my fingers will be in the next day.  Well, when I wake up tomorrow I'm going to feel just dandy...because there's nothing scary, stressful, or exciting about this movie.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's missing the gravitas that Kevin Bacon brought to the original.

Friday the 13th is about as boring a movie as you can imagine...which is just about the most damning thing that I can say about it.  A horror movie shouldn't bore you.  I can't say that I recommend the movie to anyone.  I wouldn't even recommend that horror fans go to see it.  Instead of seeing this movie in a theater tomorrow...just turn on the television.  I'm sure that at least one (if not several) of the original series will be on cable t.v. tonight (I'm looking at you, USA Network).  It's a safer bet, and you won't spend any money.

Perhaps Jason X will be on.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Goin' to Heaven on a Mule

I'm really fascinated by racial representation in film.  This is probably due to the fact that I'm an American Indian who has constantly been somewhat irked by the representation of my race in the industry that I love so much.

I'm currently taking a course called Multi-Cultural Perspectives in Cinema: The Musical. Recently we watched a film in class called Wonder Bar (1934).  Wonder Bar was directed by Lloyd Bacon, choreographed by Busby Berkeley, and starred Al Jolson.

The film details the events that take place one night at the titular Wonder Bar.  The bar is filled with people from a dozen different backgrounds, ethnicity, and races (though, importantly, there are no black people at the bar).  Two drunk American businessmen are trying to cheat on their uptight wives, while the wives are trying to cheat on their drunk husbands.  A Frenchmen who has lost all of his money is blowing the remainder of his money away as he plans on committing suicide that night.  The Spanish dancer Inez is in love with her gigolo dance partner, who is planning on running away with another married woman that night...if he can sell her stolen merchandise.  All the while, the proprietor of Wonder Bar...Al Wonder (Al Jolson)...runs the show, poking and teasing at the French, Chinese, Russian and homosexual employees and patrons.

Oh yeah!  Keep in mind that it's a musical.  A comedic musical.'s  sample of a musical number from the film...

Now, it's a bit manipulative for me to show this to you without you having seen the film and understanding the context.  As I've explained, just about every race and ethnicity in the film gets poked at.  As indefensible as it may seem, it IS possible to view this as a satire of common cliches and representations of African Americans.  I'd even make the argument that...if that is indeed what is going on's no different from The Chapelle Show or South Park.  

However, it's seriously the most extreme version of the "ribbing" races, ethnicity and sexualities receive in this film.  Viewing the film this way is also problematic because of how large a success the film was.  You can certainly feel the influence of Wonder Bar in the following video.

I suspect that Warner Bros. was simply trying to capitalize on the success of Wonder Bar with this cartoon.  The problem is that an entire generation of children watched this cartoon on a movie screen.  It's very troubling when you consider what attitudes this cartoon reinforces. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of racism is the utter thoughtlessness, which is perfectly captured in this cartoon.

See how problematic it is to view Wonder Bar as satire?  If you've seen the entirety of the Al Jolson black face scene in Wonder Bar you can tell how much it influenced this cartoon. However, there's nothing satirical in this cartoon.  This cartoon is replete with the attitude of simply not caring what the black community thought of it.  Even if you believe this to be satire and not blatantly racist (which I will disagree with you on), satire of racial relations coming from the race in the majority with all of the power seems completely insincere.  

The fact that it's based on the popularity of Wonder Bar brings that film to a questionable standing as well.  I still haven't decided whether or not I believe this film to be satire.  It is, however, a fascinating case for a study of racial relations in cinema.

They're fascinating to watch, and I'd love to hear what anyone else thought of them.  Though, remember that the scene by itself is taken out of context when not watched with the entire film (which is impossible to find).  I defy you, however, to not realize just how influential the cinema can be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Here goes nothin'!! blog...pressure, pressure, pressure.

I suppose that I should sum up exactly what I'm doing with this thing.  A really simple explanation is that I'll be using this blog to write about film.  

Maybe you'll visit here and find that I've posted a movie review for some trash movie I caught at the Park Slope Pavilion (my local theater here in Brooklyn).  Or, you might find me talking about a film that I've recently watched in class (I'm currently a student of the CUNY Unique and Independent Studies Program, and my major is Cinematic Theory and Aesthetic Communication). It's also quite possible that I'll run my papers on this blog for others to peruse and comment on.  

Whatever I may post here, I sincerely hope to have a dialogue with anyone who wishes to comment.  You can also reach me at  

In order to start this show, I suppose that I should take a moment to tell you about my five current favorite films.  

Short explanation: I don't believe in "favorite films." I believe that if you have an "all time favorite film," one of two things is happening...

1.) You simply haven't seen many films or...
2.) Your subjecting yourself to the same films over and over.

So when I say that this is a list of my current favorites, I mean that they're simply movies that I've picked off of the top of my head that I happen to love.

1.) Blue Velvet (1986) - David Lynch

I love this film because it is so ambiguous.  I've read over a dozen essays on the film, and each form of criticism (whether feminist, post-modern, Freudian, etc.) has extremely valid points.  Besides the ambiguity, it is beautifully photographed, thrillingly mysterious, and extremely odd.  Last but not least, Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth may be my absolute favorite movie villian of all time.

2.) Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1972) - Werner Herzog

The film is incredibly hypnotic.  To me, it feels as if it takes place in a complete dream-like state.  The imagery of the jungle is used to great effect as madness overtakes Aguirre and those who follow him.  For some reason (which probably deserves greater meditation on my part), the final moments of the film are terribly haunting, and they stay with me for days after viewing the movie.

3.) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - Danny Boyle

It's kind of fashionable to say nasty things about this movie right now.  While I agree that it's absolutely formulaic...damn...the formula just works so well here.  The cinematography is gorgeous, the acting is wonderful (especially the kids), and the story is moving.  Though we know how it will end (it is formula after all), we find it invigorating because it is a new way of getting to the ending.  Also, the dance scene in the credits is wonderful, and leaves the viewer in a joyful mood while leaving the theater.

4.) The Big Sleep (1946) - Howard Hawks

Okay...first of cool is Bogart in this movie?  The ladies love him here.  The plot may not be immediately approachable, but this is the kind of movie that you should watch more than once.  Not that it's hard to watch.  Tough dialogue and fun characters make this version of the Chandler book one of the most watchable film noirs out there, in my opinion.

5.) The Goonies (1985) - Richard Donner

(Okay, I'm adding this so that anyone reading my blog doesn't think that I'm some sort of snotty film snob.  I am, but I try not to be snotty about it)

Who could be snotty about this film anyhow?  It's everything that a family film should be.  It's exciting and fun, with humor for children and adults.  I can't imagine a person who could hate this movie (although I'd love to hear Robin Wood's thoughts on it).  Anyhow, suffice it to say that I love this movie so much that I watch this movie about once a month.  It's such a comfort movie for me.

Okay then.  That's it for now.  As you can see, I'm not the most tech savvy person on the planet, so if my blog seems a little bare bones for now...just keep coming back.  I'm a quick learner.