Ugly Love: Dogfight (1991)

Okay, look…I’m not really a romantic comedy, chick flick kind of girl. I hate a leading man with too much charm, cliche’ romantic embraces and deep..eye…looks. I don’t know. It’s just not my type of entertainment. What I do love, is a love story that is ugly and imperfect. It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow so why not share one of my favorite almost-a-love story movies ever, Dogfight.

Dogfight is a 1991 comedy/drama from director Nancy Savoca. Its set in 1963 and stars Lili Taylor, as Rose, an awkward teenage waitress and River Phoenix, as Eddie Birdlace, a young soldier. Eddie and his friends plan to celebrate their last night before shipping out to Vietnam by throwing a party and playing a game called “Dogfight” where they all set out to find the ugliest date. The one with the ugliest girl wins a prize. Running out of date options as the night goes on, Eddie finds Rose, messy and unpolished, working in a diner and invites her to be his date.

Lili Taylor as Rose

Poor Rose gets all dolled up, as best she can, and is clearly so excited for the night ahead of her. Eddie starts to feel guilty when he see’s her come down dressed up and smiling and tries to talk her out of going to the party, but Rose insists. Flash forward, Rose overhears what the real story behind the party is and is heart broken and runs home. Eddie spends the rest of the night trying to see her and make it up to her.

River plays Eddie like only he could. You really feel so many different ways about him throughout the movie, especially as the viewer knowing what he doesn’t know about his future in Vietnam. He was such an amazing talent but I think it’s really Lili Taylor’s performance that steals the show. You just feel for her every step of the way. When she’s heartbroken, you’re heartbroken and when she’s mad, you’re mad.

There is something about this movie that just makes me want to scream “UGHH!!!!! IT’S SO FUCKING GOOOOOOOOD!!” and hug myself. I can watch it over and over again and feel all the emotions every time and love it. Then I run into the other room and deliver a monologue to my boyfriend about how fucking good it is while he humors me by nodding blankly.

It’s cute. It’s heartbreaking. It’s ugly. It’s beautiful. It’s just such an underrated little film and more eyes need to see it. If you’re looking for a movie to watch this Valentines Day, watch Dogfight and then yell at your significant other about how good it is.


Russian Doll

Over the weekend, in between an exhausting Joe D’amato marathon (that I’ll be writing about later), I binged Netflix’s new show, Russian Doll, starring Natasha Lyonne. It’s an easy show to binge watch with each of it’s 8 episodes being just about 30 mins long. But the ease of watching wasn’t what kept me going. It was Natasha Lyonne being an amazing personality bomb as always.

The story surrounds Lyonne’s character, Nadia, who is hit and killed by a car after leaving her birthday party. Instead of finding herself in a heaven or hell, she finds herself back at her birthday party and the night repeats itself….and repeats itself….and repeats itself. Why is this happening and what does she have to do to end this cycle?

The show takes some interesting turns and Lyonne has mentioned a lot of inspiration came from her struggles with addiction and it’s those sort of undertones that set this apart from the shallow Groundhogs Day comparisons. Chloë Sevigny plays Nadia’s mother in flashbacks and though she has little screen time, her perfomance leaves a great impact on the story. The best advice I can give is not to get discouraged by the repetitiveness of the first two episodes. Things go much further than the birthday party. Give it a watch.

Recently Watched: Cry Wilderness and Night School

Cry Wilderness 1987 | Directed by Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (Night Train to Terror)

I picked this one out of the multiple titles in the Vinegar Syndrome collection 5 Films 5 Years: Volume 4 based on the brief description. I saw the words Big Foot and that was all I needed. I would not have expected Vinegar Syndrome to put out a family film but I’m thrilled they did because I don’t know if I’d of seen it otherwise. Apparently this film is a favorite among MST3K fans and I can see why.

The movie is centered around Paul, a young boy who is away at a posh private school. One night Big Foot, an old friend of Paul’s(as briefly established in the opening scene), visits him in his sleep to tell him his father, a park ranger, is in danger and Paul must go to him ASAP. So Paul hitchhikes to his father without being molested by the random truckers that pick him up. Once he is dropped off, he finds his father, no problem, in the middle of the wilderness. All seems fine, but it turns out there is a tiger loose in the woods and thankfully Paul is there to help. I guess. I don’t know.

What this movie lacks in quality it makes up for in cute animals, bad haircuts, old native american ghosts, and plenty of awkward laughing. Big Foot is in it more as well, but not enough. There is also a scene where a guy tries to choke a raccoon to death, if you’re into that. I really, really loved this one. The perfect amount of “what?!”

Night School 1981 | Directed by Ken Hughes (Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang and Casino Royale)

Set in Boston, Night School follows a detective as he tries to figure out why all these college girls keep getting themselves murdered. While a lot of this movie gives off early slasher vibes, it’s also very much a thriller.

The killer in this one is pretty obvious from about 10-15 mins in and they do little to throw you off as it goes on. My favorite scene was in the diner with the two customers giving the cook some shit while they ate their stew. You know what’s going to happen in the scene but they don’t rush it. It’s a unique movie, and while it may not be overly memorable, there are plenty of great scenes in it that make it worth a watch.

Reading Works from the Beat Generation

I’ve long been a fan of the beatnik generation of the 1940’s and 1950s. My first exposure to this subculture was as a child watching Nick-at-Nite and came in the form of Maynard G Krebs. A character portrayed by Bob Denver on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The character was a comedic caricature of a beatnik, complete with goatee and a rhythmic dialect. Another beatnik type character from my childhood was Judy Funnie from the kids show Doug. Always dramatic as hell. Always wearing that beret.

Bob Denver, fuckin’ up some bongos, as Maynard G. Krebs

In reality the beatnik generation doesn’t seem quite as fun as Bob Denver led me to believe. In reality the heavy weights of the era were very controversial and damaged men. William S Burroughs was a drug addict who killed his wife, Allan Ginsberg would eventually become a supporter of NAMBLA, and Jack Kerouac was just a drunk. But these were the men of the beat movement. 

Recently, I found myself wanting to read some beat generation authors. I went right to the most obvious choice and listened to the audio book for On The Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac. It was about an 11 hour narration, but I got through it in just a few days while at work.

It started out pretty lovely. The protagonist, Sal, begins a trip from New York to San Francisco. I was really pulled in from the start; the way Kerouac describes places and feelings struck a chord with me. One part that pops into my head was when he was in Colorado and another character who is from Denver says something along the lines of “I use to roll a hula hoop down this street as a kid” and Sal thinks to himself something like “I wish I could see it. What did it look like when he was a kid?” I have those feelings whenever I’m anywhere new, no matter how mundane of a place it is.

Although I did end up really enjoying his style of writing, as it went on the story got less enjoyable but still had a lot of great and romanticized descriptions of different people and places. As soon as the character Dean (whom is based on Neal Cassady but I totally picture as Maynard G. Krebs) is introduced and becomes a major part of the story, it felt like a big shift and became borderline annoying. It became less about the experiences of his travels and centered more on his “free spirited” travel buddy Dean, whom by today’s standards is an eccentric, pretentious creep.

The way he spoke of women in the story, compared to how he spoke of the male characters, was very interesting. They were all like scenery and souvenirs for him. The free love movement sort of began in the beat generation and Sal was claiming to love all these women he had just met. It reads so immature at times, but with the mindset of the time perhaps that’s just what they used as a synonym for lust.

The lack of any real fleshed out female characters had me wanting to read some female beat authors. You’ll have to scroll quite a bit to get to a woman authors name. And when looking for their work to read or listen to, you will find much fewer options. I could only find one audio book and their hardcopy books are pretty expensive! I ended up buying Desert Journal by Ruth Weiss and the one audiobook I found for Come and Join the Dance (1961)by Joyce Johnson. The Ruth Weiss book is a poetry collection which I am slowly making my way through.

Joyce Johnson

I did listen to all of Come and Join the Dance. It was a quick 4.5 hr listen that I had on while painting one day. It was a much different voice than that of Kerouac. The story was about a college student, named Susan Levitt, who is a week away from graduating from college in New York City. The story follows her through that week and a day or so after. She mostly lives as a “good girl” but doesn’t seem very excited by that life and now that she will be graduating, the rest of her life is about to begin, so she feels it’s time to be more daring. It’s a short simple story of a young woman’s small attempts at self-discovery. 

I didn’t love this story. It did sort of feel like the Yin to Kerouac’s Yang in the way that that Susan seems to very much consider and care about what the men in her life think about her and how they feel. It seemed to be that similar tone of women coming secondary, which is clearly a common mindset of that time, even within the subcultures. 

Now lastly, I’m currently listening to the audiobook for Junkie (1953) by William S. Burroughs. This one doesn’t seem to be about anything other than the mindset of a drug addict. It’s sort of interesting to see how, other than the slang, it isn’t that far off from the way that drug addicts today still live. I can’t give a real overview on it until I finish it but it’s sort of just boring and repetitive. I’m sure it was perhaps more shocking or interesting to past generations who didn’t see this shit on television everyday. I don’t find much beneath the surface of this one, but I still have a bit to go.

Even though I’ve been sort of underwhelmed in all of this reading, I still eat up all things beat generation. Much like Sal in On the Road, I wish I could see everything they saw…I want to know what it all looked like. And since I can’t, I’ll just keep reading and dreaming.

True Crime Movies: Vol. 1

In the spirit of my last post talking about The Ted Bundy Tapes, the upcoming Ted Bundy movie and the fabulous 2002 movie Bundy, I figured I would write a bit about some other true crime movies; both good and bad. I’m sure I’ll do more lists of these because there are so many, but we’ll start with a quick list of three:

Bully 2001 | Directed by Larry Clark (Kids, Ken Park, Wassup Rockers)

Bully is about the 1993 murder of Bobby Kent in Hollywood, Florida. The movie stars the late Brad Renfro as Marty Puccio, a teenager with an abusive and manipulative best “friend”, Bobby Kent, played by Nick Stahl. Bobby Kent was basically such an abusive dick bag that Marty and his girlfriend conspire to kill him, and have no problem finding help along the way. Watching it, it’s crazy to imagine it being based on a true story, but it really is. Larry Clark’s weird dirty teenage-sex-obsessed film making style really lends itself well to this one because he never tries to pretty up the story for the viewers. He sticks to the real story pretty closely and I like how
there are no true good guys to root for. I really like this one.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 1986 | Directed by John McNaughton (Wild Things)

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a lot of peoples favorite true crime movie. And it’s good, it’s dark and it can be disturbing at times. But I don’t feel like this one really captures what Henry Lee Lucas was all about. Now, if you replaced Michael Rooker (who plays Henry) and Tom Towles (who plays Ottis Toole) with the characters from the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, you might have a better picture of Henry Lee Lucas. I think Rooker’s portrayal is more of a Gary Ridgeway type…deranged working class guy, but you wouldn’t suspect anything by looking at him. Where as in reality Henry Lee Lucas had, like, 4 teeth and one fake eye and would definitely give off creep vibes right away. The depiction in this movie just doesn’t seem studied or realistic. It’s a good movie, but watch it for entertainment. Not for true crime story telling.

Heavenly Creatures 1994 | Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, The Frightners, Bad Taste, and oh yeah, those Lord of The Ring movies or whatever)

Heavenly Creatures stars Kate Winslet as Juliet Hulme and Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Parker. Two girls who’s friendship became so obsessive that they team together to kill Pauline’s mother when she tries to keep them apart. The murder took place in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1954. I’m not super well read on the details of this crime so I can’t say how well the movie does at keeping to the true story but it is an interesting one that I can’t imagine anyone outside of New Zealand would of ever heard of had it not been for this movie.

Overall, this movie is pretty good, but I think you have to be in the right mood to watch it. The girls get REALLY annoying at points when they go on and on about their fantasy worlds. Those scenes tend to drag out for me and with both girls being 16 years old, they just seem way too old to be acting as immature and bratty as they do. Both actresses do a great job with their roles, especially Melanie Lynskey. She is a stand out for me.

The Ted Bundy Tapes and the Ted Bundy Movie

I finished The Ted Bundy Tapes last night. The series is directed by Joe Berlinger who is also directing the Zac Efron Bundy movie coming out this year. The Ted Bundy Tapes was just released yesterday and consists of 4 one hour-ish long episodes. I’ll start out by saying that I am a big fan of true crime and Ted Bundy has always been one of my “favorites” for lack of a better word.

Information wise, this documentary didn’t really bring anything new to the table for me but that’s okay! It did other things really well. What I did really enjoy was all the courtroom and news footage and interviews with his survivors, lawyers, and acquaintances. The narration from Bundy himself showed how delusional and manipulative he was, especially when sprinkled in to all the other peoples interviews. But best of all it was, like, really funny to see him royally goof his whole fucking trial just because he couldn’t give up control even in a life or death situation.

Now those funny courtroom bits about Bundy are where I started to think about the 2002 film Bundy. I LOVE this movie. I just looked it up and it is apparently directed by Matthew Bright who also wrote and directed Freeway and Freeway II: Trick Baby so no fucking wonder Bundy was great. And when I say it’s great, I mean it’s bad, but it’s also great. You guys know! It came out at the same time as all those straight to video serial killer movies did in the early 2000’s. There was some called Gein, Dahmer(starring Jeremy Renner) and Gacy. The Bundy movie was, without much competition, the best of these.

Hi, I’m Ted.

The movie was really low budget so it lacked in many areas but I loved how silly it was. I mean, Ted Bundy is a fucking monster. A legit bad dude. And he is portrayed as a monster in Bundy BUT he is also hi-fucking-larious in a laugh at-him-not-with-him sort of way. Which I think is the best way to look at Bundy. He thought he was so smart and good looking but he was really just a fucking loser. So many articles and stories give him too much credit. He was a fucking dork and don’t you forget it!

So back to the Zac Efron Bundy movie, titled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. I’m disappointed in the casting because Zac Efron is a good looking dude bro and that’s what Bundy would of wanted to be cast as. It’s probably how he saw himself, which is gross. There is a resemblance once Efron is in costume but it just doesn’t seem right. I’m open minded though! I do hope they portray him as the loser he was and not some smooth criminal. I just watched the trailer for it and it does seem to have a bit of silliness to it, but hopefully it handles the silliness and horror with a better balance than the 2002 film to make for a more impactful movie.

The director also did Paradise Lost, which is a great documentary but also full of half truths and left out information all together. Hopefully they stick to the facts with Bundy because nothing is more interesting than the real thing.

Record Collection: Soundtracks

When it comes to music, realistically, I’m going to stream it from my phone and listen to it on headphones so I’m not a big record collector. I have a few milk crates full but I don’t buy much anymore. I listen to them so few and far between, and because of this, I only buy albums that I feel like I MUST own. Because I am who I am, these albums tend to be dumb bullshit. BUT IT MAKES ME HAPPY, GUYS!

I’ll post more occasionally but in the meantime, here are just a very select few of the soundtracks in my collection:

There seems to be a trend here…

The above three albums were all purchased at the same time and are my most recent buys. This was not on purpose, I swear. I was just going through the soundtrack section at my local store, pulling out what I wanted. Not until I was done did I notice that I had picked all John Travolta movie soundtracks. All three are great soundtracks and great movies, so no shame! Urban Cowboy is probably my favorite of the movies.

If you have to go to Hell…go for a reason.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was a gift and it’s got lots of Dolly on it, so whats not to love? The Devil in Miss Jones was one I bought awhile back. The soundtrack isn’t as memorable as the one for Deep Throat but still a good one.