Something Weird by Vince Bonavoglia
God, I love movies.
Notice I said movies, not film. Entirely different animals. The former, like Underdog, a critter both humble and lovable, is welcome in my home anytime. The latter, however, is a preening bitch on which I wouldn't waste my spit should it be on fire.
That said, the revelation that I am a man of little pretense should come as no surprise. I've no room in my life for the "finer things"; elegant dining and haute couture are completely lost on me. In my mind, food is something one needs to temporarily fend off death, while clothing is an effective productivity booster and lawsuit repellant (a fact to which the chick with the awesome rack in the cube opposite mine will gladly attest). At thirty-six, my "business attire" resembles that of the average ten year-old: a pair of faded jeans, sneakers (I wonder who the pinhead was who decided to call sneakers "tennis shoes"? I don't play tennis. Never have, never will.). I do, however, appreciate art. I suppose it comes with the territory, what with me being an illustrator/graphic designer (or whatever we're called these days). Since childhood, I've been infatuated with images, be they comprised of lines and color, those conjured by words in succession, or, as evidenced by my tenure as toastmaster of Unleashed (in both its DVD and Media incarnations), those flickering in rapid succession on movie and television screens.
Movies are important to me, particularly those with exploitative themes. The more cheaply made and horribly acted, the better. Three cheers for the workaday warhorses like David F. Friedman and Harry Novak, the two men most responsible for my lifelong movie mania. Give me Space Thing or Pigkeeper's Daughter -- masterpieces of mammary-laden cinema both -- in lieu of the work of universally overrated auteurs any day. Make no mistake, as rough around the edges as they are, the output of the sovereigns of sleaze -- and those like them -- is still art. Like Mr. Warhol said, everything's art. That watch on your wrist, the brightly-colored carton of steel wool pads sitting on the supermarket shelf, and the latest blockbuster barreling through the country's cineplexes all fall under the grand category of artistic creation. The fact that most were crafted with commerce in mind does not negate their aesthetic impact, whether lofty or lowbrow. Art is art.
Which leads me to one of the main factors in my decision to bow out of the genre reporting arena. There emerged a group of netizens whose concern for their favorite films (their word, not mine) became increasingly hard to ignore. I'm sure you know the type (If you find the following description bites a little too close to the bone, do yourself a favor and seek counseling. Quickly.): those that, heedless to the circumstances under which the objects of their obsession were crafted and, more importantly, the intent of the artists responsible, incessantly whine and complain about film imperfections. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been witness to conversations like this:
"Dude, have you seen Big Disc’s transfer of Magical Bastard Repairman Part One?"
"You bet. They did an awesome restoration! Except for that nasty splice about thirty-seven minutes into the film and a slight hiss in the last reel. Oh, and the grain is pretty noticeable, too. Other than that, they did an outstanding job!"
God, it’s enough to make one swear off DVD forever (which, come to think of it, is almost what I did -- I still haven’t decided whether to thank my good buddy Eddie or punch him in the head a few dozen times for dragging me back...). Those with mindsets like our two friends above are just spoiled, plain and simple. To these self-appointed defenders of the faith -- most of whom, unfortunately, suckled at the teats of the Video Watchdog -- digital technology is a time machine, neatly erasing the results of the ravages of the past. Call me a purist, but the fact that the technology is readily available (and fairly inexpensive, to boot) doesn't automatically impart a license for its implementation (Just ask Mr. Oppenheimer). Digitally-scrubbed and sparkling, the resulting cinema is as soulless as techno music, as lifeless as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, as... Well, you get the picture. An avid fan of music in my youth, I eagerly awaited every release by prog pioneers, Yes. To this day, whenever I hear The Gates of Delirium or one of their other lengthy compositions, my mind vividly conjures the ghost of my old 8-track tape player, erupting in a cacophonous ka-chunk as it changed tracks in the middle of the piece. There was no getting around it. The same goes for Sgt. Pepper. A Day in the Life skipped like a bastard on my well-worn platter. Sure enough, I can still recall the echoes of the defects whenever confronted with Lennon's magnum opus. Let's face it, film is a fragile medium. It scratches, fades, discolors, and breaks very easily. It's all part of the glorious process! Well-worn film stock has life. The imperfections are a good indication that the reels had made the rounds in their day. They probably passed through a projector more times than a teen Chasey Lain through the boy's locker room and, more importantly were enjoyed by as many eager participants (well, almost as many...). Flawed film has life! Although I'm in the majority on this one, I'll say digital cleansing is a detriment and leave it at that. For now.
Another reason for my departure concerns Seattle's own Something Weird Video. Now, my admiration and appreciation for Mike Vraney's work (and of those around him who choose to remain nameless, wink wink) and love of the films comprising his catalog is common knowledge to Unleashed's regular visitors. Without fail, every new Something Weird release would soon be slapped with the Media Unleashed Seal of Approval, a rating of distinction elevating Mike's discs above those of his peers. It got to the point where it became an inside joke among Eddie, myself, and our mutual friends on both sides of fandom. Nothing I couldn't live with, however. At least fans knew where to go when they wanted the inside scoop on Vraney's activities. Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. Unfortunately, events quickly degraded into something entirely different, something downright hostile, as reader after reader accused me via email of sucking up to Mike. "How the hell could you give Space Thing the Seal? That film sucks!" As the onslaught continued, there came a point where I dreaded each successive SWV release. The company whose discs had instigated my involvement in genre reporting had become the bane of my existence. Looking back, I believe I gave up a bit too easily. Those who know me will attest that I am nothing if not honest. My mouth has led me on a trajectory with trouble since I learned to speak. If I'm guilty of something at all, it would have to be unleashing (pun intended) my enthusiasm for Something Weird unfettered on the digital page. Scotty, my proofreader, would roll his eyes whenever I passed a SWV review pass his desk. "Man, you're gushing!" he would always say. And he was right. But it was the truth (and he'll readily admit that my reviews accomplished the task for which they were intended: making the reader want to experience the discs to the same degree as I). I still believe Mike is and will always be Schlock Cinema's very own Wolverine, the absolute best at what he does (Sorry, my geek side is showing. Let me get that...). I've done both myself and those eager to know more about Mike's discs a disservice by hiding my head in the sand, something that Eddie, bless his soul, has recently rectified. Yes, it's true, I'll be writing a few new reviews each month for DVD Maniacs. In an effort to impart a hearty and much-deserved fuck you to my detractors, however, I have chosen to cover Something Weird product exclusively. So there.
Lastly, a year or so into the life of Unleashed, I began to notice a gap forming between my family and myself, particularly between my two girls, Nina and Mia. Both under the age of four, my children would, as they're so fond of saying on NYPD Blue, reach out, only to find their efforts squelched by my professional commitments. Believe it or not, writing reviews is a thankless game. You really have to love the movies in question. Think about it: a minimum of six hours of one's life in exchange for a two-dollar slice of pitted metal and plastic to add to one's collection is not what I would call fair compensation. Yet I forged ahead. Like I said before, I love movies. But, when faced with the choice of spending my extra time with Jayne Mansfield or my two children, I gladly chose the babes over the boobs. Since then, I've found a way to have my cake and eat it, too. A few reviews a month will neither kill me nor will it significantly impact my time with the little ones.
Those of you eager to read my forthcoming reviews have none other than Eddie to thank. The kind of friend that comes around only once in a lifetime, Eddie's boundless enthusiasm for the genre was the deciding factor in my returning to the game. Taunting me for the better part of a year, Eddie's constant barrage of, "Admit it. You miss it." finally took root. Thank him or blame him, he's the one at which to point the finger. I haven't decided yet whether or not it should be the middle one...
Well, like it or not, I'm back.
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