by Melanie Reed
Since its inception, film has been employed to raise society’s awareness of the plight of its abandoned or marginalized members. But the ways these kinds of stories have been told vary as dramatically as the ways they’ve been told in literature and nonfiction. What kinds of story elements best help us to identify and feel another’s pain? Sometimes this is best achieved simply by the close observation of a solitary individual’s daily life. In film as well as literature, the scenes and sensory details must be deployed in effective choice and sequence to create an atmosphere that progressively paints a picture of a character. Filmmakers who choose to “show vs tell” take the harder but subtler route. The material must feel realistic, yet have symbolic content. The actors must work diligently and deeply to display nuanced responses to their experiences that in many cases take the place of dialogue. If we as viewers are open to it, this kind of slowly building picture of a person who is lost or struggling can in the end touch us more than either a comprehensive documentary with many interviewees or a docudrama-style treatment with strongly telegraphed dialogue, “dramatic” music, and a morally black and white ending.
by Travis Vogt
Few genres have given more masterpieces to the world of VHS box art than Ninja movies. What is it about these films that so inspired legions of box artisans throughout the years? The balletic movement of martial arts in application? The primal simplicity of raw human combat? The swan-like elegance of a muscular human body while engaged in the sacred act of kicking? The nifty costumes? Sadly, we may never know the answer to this age-old question, as all of the artists responsible for the following pieces are no doubt long dead by now. Their work, however, lives on in all its rapturous, thrust-y glory. Brace yourselves–the dazzling beauty of these canvasses will shake you up like a spin kick to the jaw. Or better yet, a throwing star to the crotch.
by Kevin Clarke
With THIS IS ACTUALLY WHAT HAPPENS we present you with a movie that actually exists, and proceed to describe events that genuinely transpire, regardless of how implausible they might sound.
The late actor Dean Jones made a career out of playing straight man to crazy animals trying his patience, in such classics as That Darn Cat!, The Ugly Dachshund, The Million-Dollar Duck and The Shaggy D.A. He was so famous for being annoyed with pets that he was even hired to play the villainous doctor in Beethoven.
In the 1967 film Monkeys, Go Home! Jones plays American ex-astronaut Hank Dussard, who inherits a picturesque villa in France, which comes complete with an olive farm! Naturally, he then thinks, “Hey, maybe I should get into the olive business!” But the neglected olive farm needs a lot more work than one man can muster. What to do!
by Greg Carlson
(In this column, I go through the high volume of movie-related collectables that I’ve acquired over the decades, and revisit (or view for the first time) the film(s) associated with the used VHS tape, promotional T-shirt, scratchy vinyl soundtrack album, etc., that have filled my shelves and storage boxes.)
“Times Square” Discount DVD/LP Combo
Back in mid-2002, I was working at a health insurance company located on the outskirts of Tacoma, Washington. During my lunch breaks, I had the option of A) bringing my meal and eating it in the drab break room, B) driving down the main road and choosing one of the many fast food franchises, or C) walking across the street to the truck stop, and entertaining myself with the odd assortment of sundries and gadgets populating the shelves. Given my fondness for hunting down buried treasures and kitschy knick-knacks, you can probably guess which lunchtime option was the most popular.