AEC


film (b)log by
ariel esteban cayer


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Next of Kin (Atom Egoyan, 1984)

“As the film works self-consciously through the familiar clichés about family to produce a happily-ever-after ending, Next of Kin suggests that we respond more powerfully to repetition than to originality, to the familiar than to family, to acting than to bein, and to narrative than to life." — Monique Tschofen, "Repetition, Compulsion, and Rpresentation in Atom Egoyan’s Films", North of Everything: English-Canadian Cinema since 1980, p.169

Next of Kin (Atom Egoyan, 1984)

As the film works self-consciously through the familiar clichés about family to produce a happily-ever-after ending, Next of Kin suggests that we respond more powerfully to repetition than to originality, to the familiar than to family, to acting than to bein, and to narrative than to life." — Monique Tschofen, "Repetition, Compulsion, and Rpresentation in Atom Egoyan’s Films", North of Everything: English-Canadian Cinema since 1980, p.169

Degrassi Junior High, 3x01: “Can’t Live with ‘Em, Part One” (1988)

Degrassi Junior High, 3x01: “Can’t Live with ‘Em, Part One” (1988)

Never Too Young To Die (Gil Bettman, 1986)
Above: Peter Kwong as Cliff, a.k.a. my Halloween costume for 2013.
Forget Troll 2 or whatever bullshit: Never Too Young To Die might honestly be - alongside Miami Connection (1987), of course - the best worst movie of all time, the true unsung gem of the 80s; a reasonably big-budget, big-dick spy film starring John Stamos as Stargrove (cue theme song), Peter Kwong as Cliff the nerdy Asian inventor-sidekick (my onscreen doppelgänger and also one of the “Three Storms” in Big Trouble in Little China), Prince’s protégée Vanity as the love interest, George Lazenby as Stargrove Sr., a Robert Englund cameo and…last but not least….Gene Simmons as Velvet Von Ragner the hermaphrodite super-villain. Words can’t do it justice. It’s simply perfect.

Never Too Young To Die (Gil Bettman, 1986)

Above: Peter Kwong as Cliff, a.k.a. my Halloween costume for 2013.

Forget Troll 2 or whatever bullshit: Never Too Young To Die might honestly be - alongside Miami Connection (1987), of course - the best worst movie of all time, the true unsung gem of the 80s; a reasonably big-budget, big-dick spy film starring John Stamos as Stargrove (cue theme song), Peter Kwong as Cliff the nerdy Asian inventor-sidekick (my onscreen doppelgänger and also one of the “Three Storms” in Big Trouble in Little China), Prince’s protégée Vanity as the love interest, George Lazenby as Stargrove Sr., a Robert Englund cameo and…last but not least….Gene Simmons as Velvet Von Ragner the hermaphrodite super-villain. Words can’t do it justice. It’s simply perfect.

Intrepidos Punk (Francisco Guerrero, 1980)
…loud, baffling, dumb, sexy and a whole lot of repetitive fun to be had.

Intrepidos Punk (Francisco Guerrero, 1980)

…loud, baffling, dumb, sexy and a whole lot of repetitive fun to be had.

Batman (Tim Burton, 1989)
Tim Burton’s third(!) feature film is a great piece of work that not only stunningly showcased his precise creative vision, but also provided a unique direction of heightened (albeit still deliciously campy) realism for the future of masked heroes on screen — ushering them into a whole new era of superhero and comic book-based films at a time where the Lundgren-starring The Punisher (1989) was coming out, Jim Wynorski was following Wes Craven with The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) and Christopher Reeve’s vehicle Superman franchise had just ended in 1987.
First film of Warner Bros.’ classic franchise, Burton’s Batman pitted its hero Bruce Wayne (embodied by Michael Keaton, in hindsight refreshingly older-looking compared to Clooney or Bale) against arch-nemesis and maker Jack Napier a.k.a. The Joker (Jach Nicholson, in a landmark performance).
Indeed, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Burton’s highly expressionistic film, penned by Sam Hamm & Warren Skaaron, is how it revises Batman’s origin story and avoids making it the main focus of the story (see Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins), rather focusing of Batman’s conflict with the Joker while weaving the origin into the central mystery through the main antagonist. The flashbacks to the fateful evening do open the film, but remain allusions until it is revealed that Jack Napier, the Joker, was indeed holding the gun as a young thug — portrayed by Hugo Blick, pictured above.

"I made you, you made me first."
"Hey, bat-brain, I mean, I was a kid when I killed your parents. I mean, I say "I made you" you gotta say "you made me." I mean, how childish can you get?"

This is break in canon that surely must have infuriated purists at the time, but ultimately makes for a stronger, and as time progresses, more original film — a decision heightening a fairly conventional conflict that otherwise fails to be particularly philosophical (the classic duality conundrum of chaos vs. order/dogma vs. anarchy to be much more richly explored in Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight in any case).
Past that, it’s classic damsel in distress (Kim Basinger), hero vs. villain narrative but the central maniacal plot of Nicholson’s The Joker becomes nicely tied to his physical appearance, his scenes of rampage also hilariously livened by songs from no other than Prince. Burton’s direction proves to be thorough and incredibly stylized throughout and Anton Furst’s standout production design (clearly finding inspiration in German Expressionism and all manners of Gothic and Fascist architecture) brings Gotham City to life in ways that haven’t been matched since on film — a look that would would be epitomized later in the superb Batman Returns (1992; review coming up) and gloriously turned on its head in Joel Schumacher’s exalted day-glo nonsense that were Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), two films I am actually quite fond of and will revisit later this week as part of this impromptu Bat-a-thon.

Batman (Tim Burton, 1989)

Tim Burton’s third(!) feature film is a great piece of work that not only stunningly showcased his precise creative vision, but also provided a unique direction of heightened (albeit still deliciously campy) realism for the future of masked heroes on screen — ushering them into a whole new era of superhero and comic book-based films at a time where the Lundgren-starring The Punisher (1989) was coming out, Jim Wynorski was following Wes Craven with The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) and Christopher Reeve’s vehicle Superman franchise had just ended in 1987.

First film of Warner Bros.’ classic franchise, Burton’s Batman pitted its hero Bruce Wayne (embodied by Michael Keaton, in hindsight refreshingly older-looking compared to Clooney or Bale) against arch-nemesis and maker Jack Napier a.k.a. The Joker (Jach Nicholson, in a landmark performance).

Indeed, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Burton’s highly expressionistic film, penned by Sam Hamm & Warren Skaaron, is how it revises Batman’s origin story and avoids making it the main focus of the story (see Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins), rather focusing of Batman’s conflict with the Joker while weaving the origin into the central mystery through the main antagonist. The flashbacks to the fateful evening do open the film, but remain allusions until it is revealed that Jack Napier, the Joker, was indeed holding the gun as a young thug — portrayed by Hugo Blick, pictured above.

"I made you, you made me first."

"Hey, bat-brain, I mean, I was a kid when I killed your parents. I mean, I say "I made you" you gotta say "you made me." I mean, how childish can you get?"

This is break in canon that surely must have infuriated purists at the time, but ultimately makes for a stronger, and as time progresses, more original film — a decision heightening a fairly conventional conflict that otherwise fails to be particularly philosophical (the classic duality conundrum of chaos vs. order/dogma vs. anarchy to be much more richly explored in Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight in any case).

Past that, it’s classic damsel in distress (Kim Basinger), hero vs. villain narrative but the central maniacal plot of Nicholson’s The Joker becomes nicely tied to his physical appearance, his scenes of rampage also hilariously livened by songs from no other than Prince. Burton’s direction proves to be thorough and incredibly stylized throughout and Anton Furst’s standout production design (clearly finding inspiration in German Expressionism and all manners of Gothic and Fascist architecture) brings Gotham City to life in ways that haven’t been matched since on film — a look that would would be epitomized later in the superb Batman Returns (1992; review coming up) and gloriously turned on its head in Joel Schumacher’s exalted day-glo nonsense that were Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), two films I am actually quite fond of and will revisit later this week as part of this impromptu Bat-a-thon.

Miami Connection (Y.K. Kim & Woo-sang Park, 1987)
Probably the pinnacle of cheesy 80s trash cinema, Miami Connection makes Never Too Young to Die (a personal favorite of mine starring John Stamos and Gene Simmons) look like an Antonioni film. All joking aside, this is the greatest, most hilarious film I’ve seen in a long time, featuring everything from cocaine-dealing ninjas to amazing songs about friendship and kung-fu, of course. To be given to royal treatment from Drafthouse Films sometime later this year.

Miami Connection (Y.K. Kim & Woo-sang Park, 1987)

Probably the pinnacle of cheesy 80s trash cinema, Miami Connection makes Never Too Young to Die (a personal favorite of mine starring John Stamos and Gene Simmons) look like an Antonioni film. All joking aside, this is the greatest, most hilarious film I’ve seen in a long time, featuring everything from cocaine-dealing ninjas to amazing songs about friendship and kung-fu, of course. To be given to royal treatment from Drafthouse Films sometime later this year.

They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)

They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)

Zoom In: Rape Apartments (Naosuke Kurosawa, 1980)
Getting an excellent DVD release July 10th from the fine folks at Synapse Films who have been bringing us a stunning selection of titles from Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno catalog in celebration of the studio’s centennial, director Naosuke Kurosawa’s debut film (and semi-sequel to Koyu Ohara’s 1979 Zoom Up: Rape Site), is one of the weirdest and most despicable bits of filmmaking you’ll ever have the (dis)pleasure of sitting through - getting a release under the softened title of Zoom In: Sex Apartments — because rape isn’t as easily marketable here than it is in Japan, now is it? Much could be said about this film’s appalling plot - and lack of consensual sex, overall, a bigger problem of Japanese culture I won’t dare get into right now - in which a leather glove-wearing, trenchcoat-clad pyromaniac rapist straight out of a giallo film repeatedly assaults women of the Kibougahara apartment building, to then gruesomely set their genitals on fire. Many things could be said, but nothing that couldn’t be effectively summed up by the following: this film’s events will make you feel shame for the entire human race, sexual violence being trivialized, ignored and fetishized like never before. Yet, speaking of gialli, both soundtrack and hyper-stylized direction (from a director a little bit too good for this film’s sake) borrow clearly and heavily from Dario Argento — from the fetishistic set pieces, mirror play and other typical visual tricks. This is a film that in many ways, epitomizes the contradiction (and fascinating qualities, shall it be said) of Nikkatsu Roman Porno films — that is, its seemingly consistent struggle between content (often abysmal by any standards, but sometimes surprising) and form, almost always astounding, irreproachable and being the main reason to revel in such questionable cinematic fare. In the DVD’s liner noters, Jasper Sharp eloquently argues to this effect:


Like Argento’s work, the hallucinatory cinematography of Nikkatsu’s stalwart Masaru Mori and the film’s extravagant mise-en-scène distract from the more dubious motivations behind the exercise, reducing the misogynistic verve of so many of its set pieces to mere stylistic workouts. Let’s face it, these films were never really about any kind of “reality” in the first place, with the no man’s land of the partially-constructed tenement complex and its surrounding windswept wasteland imaginatively deployed to evoke an imaginary netherworld arena in which to play out the film’s psycho-sexual games. Rather than be outraged by this sick but undeniably slick symphony of tastelessness, one is best left revelling in such scenes…


To quote my friend Dave, with whom I watched this with at ungodly hours of the morning: “Will this make you a better person? Absolutely not. Is it entirely unforgettable. Yes, most definitely.” There you have it, now proceed with caution. Next up (for me at least): True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell and True Story of a Woman in Jail: Continues (both 1975), also from Synapse’s celebration of Nikkatsu’s 100th anniversary. Also, look forward to Part 2 of my Nikkatsu Hyakunen article, to coincide with Fantasia’s Nikkatsu series and in which these films will be discussed further.

Zoom In: Rape Apartments (Naosuke Kurosawa, 1980)

Getting an excellent DVD release July 10th from the fine folks at Synapse Films who have been bringing us a stunning selection of titles from Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno catalog in celebration of the studio’s centennial, director Naosuke Kurosawa’s debut film (and semi-sequel to Koyu Ohara’s 1979 Zoom Up: Rape Site), is one of the weirdest and most despicable bits of filmmaking you’ll ever have the (dis)pleasure of sitting through - getting a release under the softened title of Zoom In: Sex Apartments — because rape isn’t as easily marketable here than it is in Japan, now is it? Much could be said about this film’s appalling plot - and lack of consensual sex, overall, a bigger problem of Japanese culture I won’t dare get into right now - in which a leather glove-wearing, trenchcoat-clad pyromaniac rapist straight out of a giallo film repeatedly assaults women of the Kibougahara apartment building, to then gruesomely set their genitals on fire. Many things could be said, but nothing that couldn’t be effectively summed up by the following: this film’s events will make you feel shame for the entire human race, sexual violence being trivialized, ignored and fetishized like never before. Yet, speaking of gialli, both soundtrack and hyper-stylized direction (from a director a little bit too good for this film’s sake) borrow clearly and heavily from Dario Argento — from the fetishistic set pieces, mirror play and other typical visual tricks. This is a film that in many ways, epitomizes the contradiction (and fascinating qualities, shall it be said) of Nikkatsu Roman Porno films — that is, its seemingly consistent struggle between content (often abysmal by any standards, but sometimes surprising) and form, almost always astounding, irreproachable and being the main reason to revel in such questionable cinematic fare. In the DVD’s liner noters, Jasper Sharp eloquently argues to this effect:

Like Argento’s work, the hallucinatory cinematography of Nikkatsu’s stalwart Masaru Mori and the film’s extravagant mise-en-scène distract from the more dubious motivations behind the exercise, reducing the misogynistic verve of so many of its set pieces to mere stylistic workouts. Let’s face it, these films were never really about any kind of “reality” in the first place, with the no man’s land of the partially-constructed tenement complex and its surrounding windswept wasteland imaginatively deployed to evoke an imaginary netherworld arena in which to play out the film’s psycho-sexual games. Rather than be outraged by this sick but undeniably slick symphony of tastelessness, one is best left revelling in such scenes…

To quote my friend Dave, with whom I watched this with at ungodly hours of the morning: “Will this make you a better person? Absolutely not. Is it entirely unforgettable. Yes, most definitely.” There you have it, now proceed with caution. Next up (for me at least): True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell and True Story of a Woman in Jail: Continues (both 1975), also from Synapse’s celebration of Nikkatsu’s 100th anniversary. Also, look forward to Part 2 of my Nikkatsu Hyakunen article, to coincide with Fantasia’s Nikkatsu series and in which these films will be discussed further.

This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
Bittersweet final film at the Blue Sunshine Psychotronic Film Centre — i.e. what has been my second home, workplace & school for two years now. Prefaced by a phone call from no other than Wing Han Tsang. One of the most special, memorable and emotional nights of my life. BLUE SUNSHINE 4 EVER. 

This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)

Bittersweet final film at the Blue Sunshine Psychotronic Film Centre — i.e. what has been my second home, workplace & school for two years now. Prefaced by a phone call from no other than Wing Han Tsang. One of the most special, memorable and emotional nights of my life. BLUE SUNSHINE 4 EVER. 

Battle Beyond the Stars (Jimmy T. Murakami & Roger Corman [uncredited], 1980)

Battle Beyond the Stars (Jimmy T. Murakami & Roger Corman [uncredited], 1980)