29 January 2010

"I fed up with this world!"

Regular readers will know that I am a strong supporter of The Room, the smash hit film sensation that is sweeping cult cinema circles like the Black Death through Europe. However, I haven't experienced the full Rocky Horror-like sensation of seeing the film with a crowd of true-blue fanatics in a loaded theater. Until last night.
The first time I watched it was a couple of years ago by myself - I was home sick with the flu, but the next day I went back to work. I'm not claiming The Room miraculously healed me, but the timing is a bit suspicious. Since then, it's only been small (but very fun) group viewings at friends' apartments, getting loaded and reenacting our favorite scenes (I was Denny). I'd had a few opportunities to see it in the theater with a raucous crowd, but nothing quite convenient enough for me to rent a suit, buy a football, and fill a flask. Thankfully, Astoria Indies gave me another opportunity to get off my ass and fully experience it.
Astoria Indies is a screening series and networking group dedicated to promoting filmmaking within the eponymous New York neighborhood. For those of you in the area, I highly recommend attending its screenings at the Bohemian Beer Garden. They're taking place on Thursdays throughout the winter, to be capped off with a genuine festival in the spring. As January is comedy month, they appropriately got their hands on The Room, loaded the audience with in-the-know ringers, and handed out plastic spoons at the entrance.
Was the experience that much different? Definitely. While my friends and I have latched onto various mystifying aspects of the film, watching it with a different group gave me new things to notice and wonder at. We never picked up on the "Full House" connection, for example, and I don't think I've ever realized that when Lisa first seduces Mark, he wonders about candles and music that aren't actually present in the scene. The (screening) room was also charged with more energy than a small group can generate, which gave the laughter a momentum that carried us through the doldrums of the Second Act (which begin after the drug dealer scene and end with the surprise party). Something that had previously been tedious - like the long pans across the Golden Gate Bridge - suddenly became another part of the fun. It had a festival atmosphere amplified by the shouting wisecracks and the plastic spoons that showered around us every time the background photograph of a spoon was glimpsed.
There were other new things I spotted without having them pointed out to me. During the conversation Lisa has with her girlfriend ("Who are you?!" the crowd shouted when she entered with her poor man's Stifler), the awful continuity became glaringly obvious. Most people have written about Lisa's bulging neck in that scene (something else I hadn't seen until last night), but to me, the bigger offense was Lisa's drastic change in hand positions from shot to shot. I couldn't believe I hadn't picked up on it before. Yes, folks, much like other classic films, The Room offers new details to enjoy on every viewing.
I am not being facetious in the slightest when I say that everyone - at least, all filmmakers and artistic types - should see The Room at least once (and if one viewing is good for you, I can well understand that). Watching it is instructional, to be sure, but it's also, in some ways, inspirational. After all, if this one man could manage to get his dream project finished and embraced by fans around the world, what's to stop the rest of us?

18 January 2010

Jack Bauer's Hour of Power*

*Title recklessly stolen from friends.

I have a confession to make: For the past few months, I've been going to the gym approximately every other day. I intend to continue to do so for...well, the rest of my life, I suppose, or until I move someplace where I can buy and keep my own treadmill like a caged tiger. I just hope that after admitting my routine to my audience of four and a half regular readers, I don't casually discard it and allow myself to blow up like a puffer fish with a carton of Colombian Coffee ice cream (the one currently in my freezer).

As a result of my exercise, I'm exposed to segments of pop culture I wouldn't normally seek out. I am the last person in the contiguous United States to own any sort of iPod or listening device, and I keep forgetting to buy a good pair of headphones to plug myself into the television machines they have attached to most of the exercise equipment. And so I watch whatever's playing on the widescreen televisions overhead, reading the words in closed captioning, and listening to the same Top 40 Execrable Pop Songs that play on what feels like an infinite loop. More often than not, I just end up focusing on the calories ticking slowly upward, cursing them to move faster, for the love of God, Montresor.

Sidenote #1 - I want to devote a small portion of hate for a couple of pop songs in particular. Someone with more knowledge in terms of music can set me right if I'm wrong, but it seems as if these days, all of the emphasis is placed on making the chorus catchy, and the hell with everything else. Back in the day, when you liked a song, you liked the whole damn thing, and sang along to every word. The chorus was just the frosting on the cake. These days, the chorus is the dew on the rock, with the audience desperately licking it for some sense of satisfaction and telling themselves it's delicious, really it is. Case in Point: Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." I like the chorus part just fine, but the rest of it is phoned in. A considerable portion of the lyrics are plain nonsense, and not even the good type of nonsense Michael Jackson specialized in. It's still better than The Offspring's "Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?" That song feels so lazy I'm pretty sure it doesn't even qualify as music. On a scale of Not Music to Music, it goes: Silence - White Noise - "Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?" - Random Nature Noises - Street Ambiance - Music.

Anyway, at the gym the televisions are usually turned on to one of the ESPN channels. I have zero interest in sports, and the only times I saw anything worth watching was a 30 for 30 documentary on the Baltimore Colts and a replay of Jimmy V's 1993 Espy speech. If they're not turned to ESPN, they're turned to CNN, which I can only tolerate so much of.

Sidenote #2 - Here's a question I've been pondering a lot lately. Is television - with its emphasis on the visual over the written - an inherently poor medium for news and information, or have the 24-hour news networks just allowed it to devolve into a bunch of blathering nonsense? As many wiser people before me have pointed out, televised news segments typically consists of about two-to-three minutes of actual information, followed by Asshole #1 and Asshole #2 disguised as "Experts" yelling talking points at each other about what it means (both are usually incorrect), followed by anchors trying to sound thoughtful and important and failing miserably. C'mon Internet, bring back real journalism! (If it ever existed - a valid debate to have.)

If I get lucky and am there late enough on a weekday, they'll have a television program for me to watch and read the dialogue to. These vary in quality, and I've found if a series is too good - like "Modern Family" or "Glee" - it's difficult for me to follow along. They require me to actually pay attention - the utter gall! On the flip side, if the shows are too bad, then I get bored and end up focusing on my shitty calorie count again. Here we have most programs that air on The CW. Listen, Network, just because people are beautiful doesn't mean I care about them...alright, Michael gets by, but only because he was on "The Wire."

Tonight, however, I found my perfect program. "24" fit all my hour-at-the-gym needs and left me with a big grin on my face. I've never seen an episode before now, but given its prominence in the cultural conversation, I've read a lot about it, and a lot of my friends are in love with it. Based on the 55 minutes of one episode and five minutes of another I watched, I've developed a theory on why the show works so well. If anyone has brought this argument up before - I imagine someone must have, but don't feel like doing the required reading - or if I haven't seen near enough to form an opinion - a likely scenario - dedicated fans of the show can tell me to cram it up my ass. I'll happily shut up.


For me, it's all about the pacing. In the hour I watched, the show threw out one hoary cliche after another: Young black guys playing basketball step up to Jack Bauer! Officer Fuzzy Dunlop beats up Jack Bauer because of mistaken identity! An old boyfriend comes back to threateningly charm a CTU techie (a holdover from last season? Ah, who gives a shit?)! Chloe can't get Mykelti Williamson to see the reasoning behind her arguments! A head of state is having an affair! His brother is behind the murder scheme! The assassin is one of the cops! Jack Bauer has to get there in time! A car blows up! Jack Bauer's sidekick miraculously survives! The guy about to pull the trigger is actually shot from behind! All set to a ticking timer that is counting down the minutes until disaster! What made it work for me is that the show did all with a straight face and nary a sign of shame. The full-on embrace of Whatever-We-Need-to-Do-to-Keep-Asses-in-Seats made me grin like a six-year-old and actually feel excitement.

Granted, I didn't care what the hell happened to any of the characters. This was more of a meta-watching experience. What are the producers going to do now to keep the momentum going? What will they pull out of their ass next? How will the writers delay CTU from piecing it all together before the assassins put their plan into play? What will be the ticking clock scenario in the next episode? How ridiculous can it get? It reached a point where I kind of wanted to keep going on the treadmill just to watch the second hour of the show.

That kind of viewing experience isn't one that will keep me hooked. Hell, after I got home I preferred to type this up rather than turn on the TV and resume watching. But I know that if I go back to the gym after missing however-many episodes, I'll be able to follow along without any trouble, smiling like a big ol' eejit. And if I look down at the timer (the treadmill's, that is), or zone out while praying for the calories to move faster, dammit!, or try to awkwardly check out the woman in my peripheral vision, I know I can look back up and immediately get lost in whatever they're throwing at me. The pace at which it moves is a great inspiration for anyone in the midst of exercising. After all, if Jack Bauer can keep up that hellish momentum, then I should be able to survive an hour of jogging.

11 January 2010

"You'll never hit me with a bullet that slow."

With the beginning of the new year, as with every year, I am trying to catch up on many of the 2009 movies I've missed so far. I still have not seen Avatar, Up in the Air, Precious, The White Ribbon, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and a host of other heralded cinematic achievements. Furthermore, Film Forum is currently holding a Kurosawa retrospective for the masses featuring everyone's favorite samurai and salarymen. That is why, on my weekend day off, I went to see Ninja Assassin.

This is what assassinating ninjas looks like.

Perhaps some context is required. I met up with a friend of mine for brunch at the Film Center Cafe on Ninth Avenue with the intention of watching a movie after our meal. For better or worse, the restaurant featured a $15.00 unlimited drink option with brunch, of which, dear reader, I confess we took advantage. On top of that, we were armed with a $25 gift certificate to AMC I earned back in November because I knew more movie songs than everyone else at a filmmakers' meeting.

With our meals down and more than enough vodka in our stomachs, my friend and I made our way to the theater on 42nd Street (passing, along the way, the New York City outpost of my beloved Yoshinoya) only to find that the screening for Avatar we were hoping to attend was sold out. That seems to be the par for the course these days, so instead of waiting for the next showtime an hour away, we searched through the other movies, bypassing those we had previously discussed and settling on the one that started the soonest: Ninja Assassin.

It was on the very top floor of the theater, and by God, that is a tall ass theater. Escalator after escalator took us further and further up, with a several-stories-tall Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser watching our progress from the buildings across the street. Later, on the way down, their poster took up the small windows as seen from the escalators, and the isolated faces and designs made me feel like I was stuck in a claustrophobic German Expressionism Hell.

All of this is merely prelude to my actual subject: How I felt about the film. I do not hide my love of Asian cinema, nor outrageous action films; even better is when the two are combined. I believe there are things that I would angrily dismiss in an American film that I would hypocritically embrace in an Asian one. For example, Taegukgi cannot, by any measure, be called a "good" film, but I love it all the same, and will fight anyone to the death who says otherwise. So I felt fairly confident heading into Ninja Assassin that I would at least be entertained. No, it's technically not an Asian film, but it is certainly an homage of sorts to the chop-socky genre and all its brethren. How could it go wrong? As it turns out, it could go very wrong.

The film opens promisingly with the gratuitous slaughter of a bunch of yakuza nobodies. And though the horrors performed on their persons are CGI, it is fairly well done CGI, and - here's the important bit - we see all of it. A semi-decapitation, two hands chopped off, ninjas akimbo; all good stuff. There are not so many people that it devolves into a bunch of shit thrown at the screen punctuated by the odd bit of crimson.

From there, however, that's what the film does become. The plot takes up time between ninja fights, and neither it nor the characters are interesting enough to elevate a genre exercise into something better. Eventually, when blades come out and the gun-toting Europol agents still find themselves at a disadvantage, it's a lot of flashing lights and spurting computer blood filling the screen, moving too fast and too darkly lit to make us care too much whether someone gets torn apart by shurikens or sliced in two by a sword. And then...well, the film just kind of ends.

There's the opening action sequence, a few fights, the mid-way dust-up, and then the closer - sounds like enough to keep the audience occupied, but when the credits roll, there's a feeling of "That's it?" because none of them are epic or put together well enough to sate our violent curiosities. My general feeling when it comes to these sorts of movies is that the filmmakers need to fulfill one of several options, and ideally more:
  1. Forget about the plot, or minimize it as much as you can, to cram in as much crazy action as you can possibly fit (Riki-Oh);
  2. Expand upon the characters and story so that we actually care about them and create a somewhat believable world that can comfortably contain your movie (Kill Bill - note that even other passengers on the flight to Tokyo have katanas);
  3. Make 'em laugh (Versus);
  4. Blood, blood, and more blood. Fill the screen with crimson goodies. Make it outright utterly insane and, perhaps, find your way into the audience's heart (Dead Alive - not an action flick, but I think it's an appropriate example nonetheless).
Ninja Assassin did not do any of these (okay, it was pretty damn bloody, but not in a way that made it fun or audacious). If it had continued in the same vein as the opening scene, it all would have been well and good - a bit with a washing machine comes close - but it becomes - and I hate to write this as I doubt it's applicable to other films - too serious for its own good. After the film, despite the plot being neatly resolved and all the strings tied up, it seemed like we were still owed at least another action sequence, like we hadn't yet gotten to the part that would make us drop our jaws and say "Holy fuck, that's what I paid my money to see."

Sometimes a film can do that and keep going. I remember watching Casino Royale and being perfectly content with the film ending with Bond's recuperation. But it goes on to feature the house battle in Venice and I thought, "Wow, it's like a bonus action scene!" It did what it came to do, then went a little more, ending before it became tiresome. That, perhaps, should be the standard action filmmakers should aspire to. Not "Eh, good enough."

05 January 2010

Leave the Window Ajar

The other day, the IMDb linked to this rather innocuous short article posted by NPR. Its author, Linda Holmes, makes the perfectly reasonable argument that we should be more open-minded in our cultural pursuits, that we shouldn't dismiss out of hand entire genres or authors or whatnot just because we've decided to be prejudiced against them. Here, in my opinion, is the money paragraph:
People who have written off all Hollywood movies, or all television, or all popular music (or all rap, or all thrillers, or all romantic comedies), on the basis of a presupposition about quality that blankets an entire medium or genre are regrettable for their corrosive attitudes, yes. But they're even more regrettable for what they're missing. Rare indeed is the enormous vat of nothing but bathwater; there's almost always a baby in there somewhere.
I certainly agree with that. I doubt I know anyone who doesn't. Most people think they're perfectly open-minded and would nod in approval, all while blithely dismissing something they think they're above, or not interested in. "Old black and white movies? Those are so boring!" No, you're just visually illiterate.

The problem comes in when people take this argument a step further and start suggesting you take in specific films, books, songs, etc. "How do you know Twilight is stupid? You haven't seen it or read the books! So shut up!" "So what if all the reviews of Norbit were terrible? Watch it and make up your mind!" "Well, I like 'Rock of Love.' You shouldn't have an opinion unless you watch it too." We all know someone like this. We've all probably been someone like this. It's an irritating argument precisely because it is, in theory, correct. But in practice, as in, the way life is actually lived on this Earth, it is horribly wrong and leads to wasted lives and minds.

Why? Because there is too much shit out there. And I don't mean "shit" as in "bad." I mean "shit" as in "sheer volume." A quick count on the Wikipedia page for "2009 in Film" tells me that 273 films were released in the United States last year (no, I'm not recounting them to make sure I'm accurate). And those are just the major ones. Think about all the films that played in festivals, or that your friends made, or were only in a theater for one showing and then disappeared. No one saw every single one. I didn't even see 273 movies in total, and I watch a hell of a lot of movies. Now take all those movies and add in all the television shows you're supposed to be watching, the books you're supposed to reading, the music you're supposed to be listening, the podcasts you're supposed to be downloading, and the YouTube clips you're supposed to be forwarding.

That's all the media for you to consume in the short periods of time you have between work, sleep, family, friends, general mental-grabassery, and (maybe) exercise. And that's just the new media, by the way. Don't forget about all the old classics you should watch, and everything that came out the year before you still need to catch up on.

The sheer bulk of today's cultural output necessitates that we keep our windows closed a bit. Some discrimination must be wielded. I am not, however, advocating that we overlook entire swathes of culture willy-nilly. My argument is thus: We must not be outright, ignorant dismissers, but informed dismissers. We must work together to keep ourselves sane and our Netflix queues neat and orderly. How so? I'm sure most of you do it already. You read reviews, or hear what your friends have to say, or find articles analyzing and dissecting. This perks something in your mind - "Say, that sounds pretty cool" - and it leads you to seek out and conquer. Over time, you learn whose opinions and thoughts you generally agree with, or find most insightful, and you turn to them for their thoughts more frequently than other places. You become better at judging things from advance word, or based on what the artists have done previously, and this leads you to spend your time more fruitfully.

Ah, yes, of course there are problems with this. Namely that you run the risk of falling down the rabbit hole of taste, like those who only listen to indie music or only watch horror films. Also, I agree that it's better to know as little as possible about something before you go into it; that way you're free to judge/enjoy it on its own merits without your preconceived notions screwing the pooch. This is especially true in a day and age when, thanks to the proliferation of opinions on the Internet, everything is simultaneously over- and underrated before it's even been released.

Therefore, if you wish to remain a culturally broad individual, you have to keep an open mind whilst simultaneously judging things entirely on the scant amount of reports, trailers, and previews you must limit yourself to. In addition, you avoid entirely dismissing something. While it may not look good in the here and now, future thought may convincingly persuade you otherwise. Yes, "Bad Girls Club" looks like a complete waste of time that you would do well to skip, but if a person makes the argument that it's actually a compelling look at traumatically disturbed skanks suffering serious denial and indicative of the sad state of our society, well then, it might be worth a look or two.

Once again, though, caution must be taken. Whoever is making the argument that the shit sandwich really is peanut butter and jelly must give you sufficient reason to change your mind. "It's good" is not enough. They must offer "It was good because..." They must work to change minds and demonstrate why Object A is worth your precious time. (But then again, that's something everyone should be doing always. If you don't know why you like the things you do, even if most others agree with your opinion, then what good is it?)

And if they don't convince you? There's no reason to be snotty. Take a lesson from literature and stick with "I would prefer not to." They have their reasons for enjoying "Jersey Shore," and if they're not reasons you can get behind, so be it. At least it makes them happy. Let them be in peace. Basically, I can sum up this post with one sentence, the modern-day Golden Rule: Don't be a dick.

Unless they dismiss something you love. In which case, go full-on apeshit.

03 January 2010

"Novelty is as old as the hills."

With New Year's now officially over and done with, I've managed to best temptation. I have not posted any sort of Year or Decade in Review, nor predictions for the future. Mostly because I was too busy to do so, which isn't really anything to take pride in - sheer laziness and holiday obligations have trumped the ease of composing a Looking Back, Looking Forward piece. The other part of it - because there is always another part - is fear. Fear that, once again, I have simply not done enough to create, to make my voice heard, to impose my will upon Creation. Time moves swiftly, and the window for making some kind of impact rapidly diminishing.

Crazy talk, of course. One can't take that kind of thing into account when dreaming up projects and films. Not too much, anyway. We just have to do what we can and let the public and press figure out what is worthwhile and what is crap (with our notions changing from moment to moment). But rather than doing something sensible like looking back and taking stock of what has happened to better manage and plan for what will come, I prefer to remain afloat on an uncomfortable cushion of speed and adrenaline (yes, yes, like Wile E. Coyote skimming through the air before he looks down). Retrospection should come only by accident, and all deeper findings derived from it should be judged with suspicion and trepidation. Perhaps like many artists, I don't know why I do what I do, and I'm afraid to find out what drives me. Knowledge is power, but self-knowledge is fucking scary. I'd much rather analyze and critique other people.


I just wrote those words, and I believed them when I did, but in re-reading, I realize they're bullshit. I love critiquing and analyzing myself when prompted - I'm my favorite subject, after all - and I also think that learning new information, while often destroying comforting illusions, replaces them with a more concrete, tangible, and rewarding reality/consciousness/state of being. Case in point: films. It's harder to lose yourself in an awful romantic comedy when you know how the sausage is produced, but it can give you greater appreciation for those filmmakers and works that fall outside the Hollywood milieu.

I suppose I've argued myself into actually having some Year in Review of what I and my collaborators have accomplished thus far. But, for the time being, I'd still rather be the dark horse and draw your attention to several films I've been fortunate to watch in the past few days.

Children of Paradise - There are certain classic films that most people are trepidatious about watching. They don't like the black and white, or it's in a foreign language, or it's four hours long. But those films are classics for a reason. Beyond their superb and innovative technical work, they contain great stories and tell them extremely well. They exist in a category I like to think of as "Classic Movies That Are Also Really Fucking Good," in that even non-cinephiles can dig them if they're willing to try them out. The most prominent two films I put here are Citizen Kane and Seven Samurai (I suppose The General also belongs...hell, I would put pretty much any old film I love in this category). Joining them now is Children of Paradise.

Alright, so Arletty was a bit too old for her part. Otherwise, flawless.

It's French. It came out in 1945. It's three hours long. It prominently features mimes. But it breezes by due to the great pacing of the editing and the sheer strength of the story and characters. It crams a lot into its running time, with no less than four major leads and a bevy of supporting turns. Though it's an original story, it feels like an adaptation of a major novel by Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens. Each character is well-drawn and distinguished, and even the minor ones have memorable traits, like Jericho, the ragman known by an infinite number of alternate monikers, or Avril, the street tough who isn't actually very tough. With its cosmopolitan and frank point of view on love and sex, the film, like all the greats, remains relevant and compelling today. The world it creates is so alive that the concluding scenes, set during the Paris Carnival celebrations, give you a you-are-there feeling, the sense that they will always exist and will always take place in some hidden corner of the space-time continuum (as a point of reference, this is the same hard-to-describe sensation I get when I read the The Sound and the Fury, particularly the Quentin section).

The Cameraman - While I was waiting for the delivery men to drop off my brand new bed this morning, I watched this Buster Keaton silent film. As if it were all preordained, they called me just when the movie was over to let me know they would soon be by. The film is a very good comedy made even more fascinating by the passage of time. It depicts cityscapes and attitudes long since past, with its hapless but determined hero trying to make good and win the girl by getting enmeshed in Tong gang wars featuring blasting machine guns but no visible casualties.

It's tough to find good gags these days that can compare with the best in silent comedies. From Keaton's casual reappearance after being knocked down a flight of stairs to his gently placing a knife into the hand of a struggling gangster to create a more exciting scene, there is an emphasis on the visual (naturally enough) that is sorely lacking in today's cinema. Nowadays it's largely about the one liners people can deploy to cut each other down - not that I'm against that, but it would be nice for some emphasis on other comedic areas as well.

Perhaps filmmakers first starting out should devote themselves to creating silent shorts. Once they've mastered how to tell a story entirely through visual terms, then they can go on and throw in dialogue and sound effects. Unfortunately, there isn't much of an audience for silents these days, but the Internet offers great potential as a distribution arm for the genre. People might not go to the theater anymore for a feature length silent, but I bet they'd be more than willing to download a five or six minute comedy, or even a series of them. Hell, Duly Noted is still the film we get complimented on the most, and it doesn't have a lick of talk.

Police, Adjective - Once my bed was delivered, I headed down to the IFC Center for a double feature. First up was this Romanian work, one of the latest in that country's new wave of realism. Truth be told, in the beginnings it's a little too slow-paced. I could hear the audience around me audibly growing antsy, then somewhat stir crazy with the film showing us every little piece of an investigation by a cop into a group of teens he doesn't want to bust. But the film tips its hand in a scene where the cop has to listen to his wife playing the same vapid pop song over and over. It's a masterpiece of dry comedy, and perhaps the frame through which the rest of the film should be viewed: as a very, very dry comedy. Certainly the later scenes become funnier as the cop deliberately delays completing his case by any means possible. Still, the very nature of the plot - a man trying to avoid doing something - makes for a slightly inert viewing experience. Not a film I'd recommend to the parents, if you know what I mean.

When it was over, I had some of David Lynch's signature cup coffee, "black as midnight on a moonless night," and chatted with a friendly IFC regular. Then I saw another film I definitely won't be recommending to the parents.

Antichrist - I'd read a lot about Lars von Trier's film before going into it, but I still wasn't prepared for the effect it had on me. I haven't seen much of his previous work - actually, I've only seen Dancer in the Dark, which was too melodramatic and manipulative for me - but felt like I should be defensive before going into this one. After all, isn't he only trying to be provocative in order to get a response? After watching Antichrist, I would say "No." The film certainly has provocative, cringing moments, but I would say that they work in service to a larger thematic point. In my mind, the film is about death, not in the sense of the main characters coming to terms with the loss of their child, but in the sense of DEATH as the operating principle and factor behind NATURE (yes, in capitals). Plus the evil that inherently lurks within man and woman alike.

It's certainly a horror film, one that leaves you feeling disturbed. There's something about the juuuust slightly shaky camera, and the off-kilter jump cut editing, and the syrupy visuals of the surreal moments that raises anxiety in the viewer. You watch the film waiting for a jump-scare that never comes, and the effect puts you on edge. (There is one jump-scare in the infamous "Chaos reigns" scene - now immortalized in IFC t-shirts - and I would say, absurdly enough, that that scene is the one that goes too far over the top; I'm suddenly reminded of a friend admitting that the "Like a Virgin" scene in Moulin Rouge was a bit much for him in a movie he otherwise loved.) The scares here are more of the philosophical, life-is-cruel kind, in addition to moments of unsettling sexual violence - deeply, deeply unsettling.

That's all I got in me for today, kids. I hope your New Year's was extra special and gooey, and that each and every one of us marches forward into the future with the luck, dedication, and vision to realize our greatest dreams.