The economy is slipping into a downward spiral, the ice caps are melting, and the leashes that tether the Dogs of War are slipping through the sweaty fist of our fearless leader. What is the average American to do? Where is our refuge from the mega-stressors that bludgeon our sensibilities, elevate our blood pressure, and empty our wallets faster than an IRS agent armed with an industrial strength Hoover?
Why in watching movies, of course! So as a public service, I have assembled a list of stuff you should have watched already, but may have missed secondary to wasting your time earning a living or trying to stay "informed" (as if anybody actually understands what the hell is going on or would share the information if they really did). Well my friends, life is short and you never know when some asshole terrorist might decide to dust your favorite video store with anthrax so here are some flicks you need to see before you bite the big one. After all, you don't want to be the only one in the afterlife who doesn't know the cool stuff we will all be talking about, for that would truly be movie geek Hell. Read about them; watch them; thank me later.
I guess it is possible to reach what passes for adulthood in America without knowing about Gamera, Guardian of the Universe, the only serious rival Godzilla has ever had, but I've got to believe that such unfortunately under-informed individuals struggle through life with a painfully parochial perspective. Admittedly, Gamera started out in the 1960s as a decidedly quirky, low-budget alternative to Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, but in his current incarnation Gamera is both more entertaining and, dare I say it, spiritually rewarding.
Here is the basic premise, Gamera, a giant mutant turtle with tusks that flies and breathes plasma fireballs, was left in suspended animation by the lost civilization of Mu (or Atlantis or Lemuria, who cares…), and wakes up in modern day Japan. He is actually a genetically engineered super-weapon that was designed to stop another genetically engineered super-weapon, Gaos, a big triangular-headed bat thing that regards humans as hot hors d'ouvres. So basically Gamera is an anti-monster monster and that is all you need to know because each one of his movies has exactly the same plot: some otherwise unstoppable creature hell-bent on humanities' destruction comes to Japan and Gamera shows up to put the kibosh on it. Now this formula alone would be enough to get me to watch one of these movies, but not three. What hooks me however are all the wacky subtexts that run through these movies that basically equate Gamera with some kind of beneficent savior god. Gamera takes a tremendous amount of punishment on our behalf, largely unappreciated by the people he defends, except of course the children and one girl in particular with whom he has a telepathic/empathic bond. He dies for our sins. He is reborn more highly evolved, and in my favorite special effects sequence from the second movie, plugs into the "Earth force" (magnetic field, ozone layer, aurora borealis, who knows…) and focuses it through his body to incinerate an alien invader that has been kicking his shell-encased butt. It's super turtle as Gaia and Messiah. If alien archeologists ever uncover any of these Gamera movies in the distant future, after we have gone the way of the dodo and the $2.00 movie ticket, they are going to have some interesting ideas about Religion in the late 20th century. So rent the movies and see the light. Amen!
This is the perfect movie for any assemblage of male movie viewers who have access to copious quantities of beer and too little quality time with women. The movie stars the first ever set of twins to be Playboy centerfolds, Mary and Madeleine Collinson (October, 1970) and the plot can be succinctly summarized as follows: Buxom vampire babes bite British boobs (in that they not only chow down on the jugulars of some doltish Englishmen, but also actually put the bite on some significant English breasts- yowsah!). There is a good twin, there is a bad twin. There is a heroic choirmaster and an evil Count named Karnstein (whose name translates to mean "meat stone", hmmm?). There are sacrificial rites, reincarnation mumbo-jumbo, and the venerable Peter Cushing playing the twins' seriously deranged uncle. What more could you want? This movie truly sucks in most of the ways that are important. Rent it and tickle your funny-bone and your libido simultaneously.
I am not an anime fan. Most of the genre looks like it came out of the notebooks of sexually frustrated, Japanese geek-boys (which is why it is so wildly popular with sexually frustrated, American geek-boys), but Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue is one of the finest examples of animated storytelling I have ever seen. The plot is worthy of Alfred Hitchcock and the animation ranks with the best done by any studio in the world in the last 10 years. (Katsuhiro Otomo who directed Akira, another legitimate classic from Japan, served as a special advisor on Perfect Blue.) The story centers on a successful, female pop vocalist who is trying to make the transition to acting, who may or may not be losing her mind. People she cares about die horribly. She is under surveillance and her private life is posted on the web. Someone is stalking her, or maybe not. Watch it, but be warned: just because it is animated doesn't mean it is kid stuff.
So that's it for this installment, 5 suggestions as to how you can squander 10 hours of your life. Let's face it, if you have the time to read my ravings, you sure as hell have nothing better to do. Remember, don't sleep, watch movies.