Mickey Mouse in Vietnam

One of the sad things about the 21st century is there’s not really a political underground movement or even much of an underground scene anymore. Sure there’s bits and bobs online but most of it is bollocks with the odd exception here and there which makes a point. Part of the problem though is that there’s little in terms of the establishment to take down these days.

Back in the 1960’s the Underground scene was hugely influential in tearing down icons, especially during the Vietnam War where America and its imperialism was brought into question. One such piece of Underground media was Whitney Lee Savage and Milton Glaser’s Mickey Mouse in Vietnam. A film long lost lost if anything sums up the Underground ethics of the peace and love era it’s probably this so enjoy all 66 seconds worth of it.

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In celebration of Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton has passed away, and the acting world is a little bit lesser for it. Stanton was in my mind one of the finest actors of the last 50 years, and not as the BBC would have it, a ‘cult actor’. In fact it’s only when you look at his C.V. that you realise the man didn’t stop working for six decades so you can’t call someone who appeared in huge mainstream films and on massively popular TV series as a ‘cult’ actor. He was an actor who didn’t look like a leading man, but instead looked like ‘normal people’ and this was his attraction in a medium where people look extraordinary.

Like most people of my age I first noticed him in Alien. where he enjoys a great death scene.

Imagine Alien though without Stanton (or indeed any of the cast) and with traditional Hollywood actors and it wouldn’t work as well. In fact you only need to look at Alien: Covenant to see what that looks like. However as my education into film progressed it wasn’t hard to see Stanton seemingly everywhere from the glorious Cool Hand Luke to what’s still one of my favourite WW2 films, Kelly’s Heroes.

It is safe to say though that after Alien, Stanton became a higher profile actor and during the 1980’s carved himself a niche playing roles in some of the best (and in some cases vastly underrated) films of the decade. From The Rose, to Escape From New York, Stanton would appear in crucial roles but three films he appeared in during the 80’s also happen to be in my mind three of the best films ever made.

Death Watch is a SF film shot in a Glasgow still blacked by the industrial revolution and still dragging itself into the 20th century. It’s a fantastic backdrop for a story that seems prescient as reality TV vomited into the world a few decades later.

Repo Man is one of the few films that hits a perfect Punk attitude. The film shares some of its DNA with the comic Love and Rockets, and is wonderfully seedy in a way we never seem to get in film anymore.

Paris, Texas is one of the best films ever made.Stanton makes the film soar with one of the best openings you’ll ever see in a film.

In 1990 Stanton and director David Lynch finally linked up with Wild at Heart, then a few years later with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

He later worked with Lynch in a small, but crucial role in The Straight Story and Inland Empire, while seemingly never stopping working in films good, bad and just plain bloody awful or popping up in cameos in mega-blockbusters like The Avengers.

A few weeks ago the Twin Peaks return finished on a high with Stanton returning playing the same role as he did in Fire Walk With Me 25 years ago.

I could list more and more, but Harry Dean Stanton had a career like no other and will never be replaced because he’s a one-off who leaves us an amazing body of work. He’ll be missed.

The making of ‘Day of the Dead’

George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead is probably his most underrated of his zombie films. For me I’ve always loved the film for not just the fact  it’s the goriest thing you’ll ever see but because it has a weight no other zombie film since Dawn of the Dead, and to be blunt, no other zombie film since comes close to it.

It is hard to see how a divided, angry, emotionally drained, group of people grouped into their own echo chambers against a single-minded menace is relevant today, but somehow Day of the Dead has more to say as the years go on. This making of documentary dates from 2013 and is fantastic. It also serves as a reminder of Romero’s talent and I only wish we’d had more from the man.

Anyhow, chow down and enjoy…

Sean Young’s Making of Dune

Another David Lynch related blog but this one is pretty short and sweet. Sean Young was one of the stars of Lynch’s Dune, Lynch’s only real ‘failure’ but I film I highly regard as something unlike any other science fiction film of the time, or indeed, since. It doesn’t quite work but it is less turgid than the book which I’ve never, ever liked however it does create a future which is utterly alien and familiar at the same time.

Turns out Young had a Super 8 camera with her and here’s a brief video of her home movies from behind the scenes filming Dune. Enjoy.

Jonathan Ross on David Lynch

With Twin Peaks proving itself a spectacular piece of television and David Lynch reminding everyone just how a great director he is, it’s worth looking back at the time when Lynch was still a cult figure.

For One Week Only was a documentary series presented by Jonathan Ross for Channel 4 in 1990, and even 27 years later stands as possibly one of the best documentaries on Lynch you’ll see. It even discusses his comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World. So enjoy, this is a cracking bit of archive.

ITV’s Hot Fuzz obsession

I love Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. It’s a wonderful satire/homage to action film as well as British film all in one package.

ITV2 and ITV4 are those channels lurking in the depths of Freeview or whatever TV package you have. It generally shows shite like Made in Chelsea or repeats of The Professionals but it also shows films, in fact it shows films a lot, it just happens to be that they’ll show the same film every week.

IN the case of Hot Fuzz, they seem obsessed by it. People have noticed this. There’s even a Reddit thread about it. There’s not much evidence online of the multiple showings as companies don’t seem to have listings from the last decade or so, but it pops up on sites and of course Twitter has noted this too.So what exactly is going on?

Well, the solution is simple enough. TV companies buy films in a package and seeing as ITV2/4 are those channels watched when you’re pissed and channel hopping after the pub, so you’ll stop on them if you recognise something in your beer-fuelled stupor. True, you may end up watching the same film four times in a week which doesn’t just mean ITV have ran out of ideas, but it also means you’re probably drinking too much.

Fact is all these smaller channels are desperate for your views. They know also people drink. Mix the two and you’ve got ITV showing Hot Fuzz so often that you could stop watching it one night and pick up from the same point another night. Still, at least they’re showing something good, imagine if they broadcast the shite remake of Total Recall every week?

Oh, they do? Fuck.

The magnificent world of David Lynch

The return of Twin Peaks has been a pretty wonderful affair that’s managed to mix the mystery of the plot with the quirky weirdness with whatever is in David Lynch’s head to produce something unlike any television probably produced on either side of the Atlantic this century.

In an era where the cliffhanger is king and ‘Netflix and chill’ is the mantra, the idea of a television series that doesn’t just tell a story, doesn’t just work as a piece of art, but pushes the medium in a way that it rarely has ever been pushed. Episode 8 of Twin Peaks starts following the ongoing plotline with the evil Dale Cooper and his scheming, but then it takes a turn around 15 minutes into the episode after this Nine Inch Nails song.

Now I suggest watching the episode in its entirety because it is simply a spectacular bit of television, especially after the above song where Lynch totally cuts loose and pours his visuals on our stinging eyes and because we’ve been starved of watching art we soak it all up.

See as much as programmes like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Preacher and the likes are all entertaining, even artistic explorations into the world they inhabit but they don’t push it and don’t push the expectations of the medium as it stands. We know most episodes will end in some sort of cliffhanger or question that will be answered next episode because you’ve got to keep people watching. With Twin Peaks Lynch doesn’t give a fuck about cliffhangers or how television should be so we get insanely long takes of people sweeping floors or Nine Inch Nails popping up or the 45 minutes of episode 8 after the aforementioned NIN song. I can safely say that my favourite film/TV moment of the year so far is the eighth episode of Twin Peaks as it is so unique, so bizarre yet does so much with the confines of the medium that watching it again I was stunned by what Lynch managed to do as much as I was the first time.

And what was so glorious is that what is essentially a series of art films and images strung together to make an experimental narrative told a story and even then every single expectation you have as a viewer is subverted and played with to the point when it ends you want more not because there’s a cliffhanger, but because you know you’re watching something so special that you have to see what Lynch does next. Too often on television a creator is given total freedom and we end up with a crushing disappointment but this isn’t the case. This is brilliance and I want to see how Lynch tops all of this and that’s the best sort of artistic cliffhanger.