Game of Thrones: The perfect way to catch up.

THE END IS COMING. Are you caught up yet? I’m working on it now. There is a list of episodes floating around the internet that shows you exactly which threads are important for season 8. And while I appreciate the thoughtful gesture, in the end I don’t think it is the way to go.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching serialize television is the element of surprise. Is there any lower form of scum than a nasty spoiler posted for all to see on social media? They are scroll-able land mines just waiting to ruin my viewing experience.

Now, to be fair, It is WAY TOO extreme to categorize a list of episodes in the same league as cold hard spoilers, because it’s not. But I just don’t like how even reading the list of episodes forces my brain to make certain connections that it otherwise would not.

The Solution.

Screen Junkies has put together the perfect recap that boils 67 episodes (68ish hours) of story into 52 minutes and 27 seconds of catch up. This way, I can chug the whole story like a can of beer at a frat party without feeling like I might be able to predict where things are heading.

Although I did pass by this (click at your own risk) the other day. I didn’t read the article, but I can’t lie, the headline does have me more excited than annoyed. There is also the chance that it could be hype. But your brain does automatically start trying to figure out what kind of moment it could possibly be based on where things are left at the end of Season 7. Oy.

Ok, stop reading THIS, and instead WATCH THAT below!

Misfits Reunion? Sometimes April Fools jokes can come true.

All the way up to 3 years ago, if you had said on April 1st, 2016 that Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein would reunite as The Misfits and play Riot Fest you would clearly be joking. If someone didn’t look at the calendar, their heart would skip a beat as they read the news. Today, not so much because we now live in a world where Green Hell has frozen over.

It is truly a surreal notion. The next time you think something is truly impossible, just remember that Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only shared a stage as The Misfits after 10/29/83. Anything is possible.

Art by  Taylor Love

This is Us: Peeling Back the Layers

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This is Us:

Peeling Back the Layers

WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS.

Please do not read or read with caution IF you have not seen the film yet.

There is one thing that is truly undeniable when it comes to Jordan Peele and his filmmaking: His originality. It is so refreshing in a time plagued with endless reboots, remakes, sequels, and homogenized tent pole concepts meant for the masses. It is that originality that gives Peele an endless well of credibility for me as moviegoer. I will go see ANY genre film this man makes, all you have to do is tell me it is a Jordan Peele film, and I am there - trailer unseen. His brand is that strong, and it continues to outshine any flaws that I have seen in his work.

Peele also possesses an immense pop culture intelligence that has afforded him the ability to subversively weave his influences as well as meaningful symbolism throughout the narratives of his films. Like Get Out, a lot that has been baked into the Us cake.

Things that stood out as I watched:

Shiny objects. The dead twin Tyler girls in the upstairs hallway lie in the same positions as the Shining twins! Considering that Jordan Peele was doing press dressed as Jack Torrance, this didn’t feel like a coincidence.

Froot Brutes. While the Wilson family sits around at the home of Kitty & Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker & Elisabeth Moss), Jason can be seen eating from a bowl of Froot Loops sans milk. Is this meant to be a nod to the psychotically tranquil scene where Rose Armitage enjoys her segregated “white” milk from “colored” Foot Loops? Does this add further evidence to the crazy reddit theory about Jason? What kind of psycho eats dry cereal as they drink milk? Scary stuff.

C.H.U.D is MY bud. I LOVED seeing the C.H.U.D tape among the other VHS on the shelf at the beginning. Not only is it a nod to the subterranean on goings mentioned just before in the opening preamble, but it feels like a little wink from Peele to reassure Horror fans and Genre nuts that they are getting something good. Additionally, I really appreciated seeing the random tape with a written on label - nostalgia city.

All those damn Vampires. Much like the C.H.U.D tape, another one of those winks was using Santa Cruz and its pier as the setting for the story. It too ties into the whole subterranean theme with the cave that David and his coven of Lost Boys hang out in. It is such a magical yet ominous place that laid on a nice layer of dread, especially in the opening flashback. There is even a very brief mention of the filming of some scary movie that Adelaide’s mother tells her father.

Tuned in. The comedic use of NWA’s song Fuck the Police is the perfect button of satire on the eerie juxtaposition of the Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations playing as the Tylers are savagely murdered by the doppelgangers.  As I’ve read elsewhere online, it ties into the idea of the police being worthless much like we also saw in Get Out. Peele’s cinematic use of music rivals Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Danny Boyle.

Chiller. The Thriller shirt is another tasty visual treat that really make us feel the time period, much like the VHS, and the location of Santa Cruz. Just seeing it made me feel the same feeling I felt watching the Thriller video as a lad and added to that same ominous tone. It felt like it was the template for Peele in the same way that Halloween was the template for the opening of Get Out.

Everything went black. I’ve read online that the golden scissors are clearly a symbolic way of revolt by cutting the “Tether".” In hindsight, this is quite obvious. But at the time while I was watching I could only think of the reversal of the silver spoon - a popular expression for those fortunate to be born into wealth. The golden (or perhaps it is brass) scissor (as well as the red jumpsuits) represent a life of endlessly toiling in a garment or sweatshop.

Nobunny loves you. The Tethered are some sort of failed experiment who (exclusively) eat  rabbits - kindred spirits who have always been test subjects in one way or another. Did the cloning start off with experimenting on rabbits? This might explain the rabbit surplus. As I talk about below, it just feels too surreal to be explained in any sort of rational way.

Psycho Killer. There is a really fun theory that Jason is a deadite, there is also a theory that Michael Myers is one of the Tethered. It makes sense. Wow! Such a great idea. It’s as if we have retroactively found mythologies for these slashers! I’m digging it, and with those red jumpsuits they wear, I once again wonder if it is meant to be a tip of the hat in some way.

Revenge. It was really great to see all the Black Flag t shirts! There were 3 in all that in hindsight are pretty self explanatory, it doesn’t get more subversive than that! First we see the My War  shirt at the beginning, followed by the classic bars, and lastly, Jealous Again. So perfect. I love this sort of thing - a great lesson for any filmmaker looking to add rich, symbolic detail to their film. Before the band, the Black Flag was a symbol of Anarchy. I am surprised that Peele didn’t use the Damaged album cover as well, it would have fit perfectly with the rest.

Parental Advisory. Peele takes the gilded idealism (like “Just Say No”) of  Hands Across America from the 80s and just shreds it in the best way ever by turning this empty benevolent gesture from a bygone era into a malevolent focal point of chaos,  anarchy, and carnage. It is deeply linked to whatever trauma was felt by (the real) Adelaide Wilson and really says something about how random things can imprint people during horrific situations and become a symbolistic focal point for them.

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I feel confused, but I am not sure if it is in that good way.

There are a few tiny gripes. I have too many questions about story semantics. They just could not be ignored no matter how much I enjoyed the terrifying performances, masterful filmmaking, dark comedic flourishes, and spine tingling suspense.

Normally I want to revel in the mystery. But with Us, I just needed more answers. I don’t know why. When I got out of the screening, it was a bit frustrating and my initial emotions left me feeling unfulfilled, but I realize that it is probably for my own good. Sometimes when it is all on the table, I begin to nitpick and complain about spoon-fed exposition along with the nagging question of “why everything needs to be explained?”

If I had to guess, it could have been this shift in tone from realism, to what seemed supernatural or surrealism, and then followed by another reversal to realism. When we first meet the doppelgangers, I was sure they had to be supernatural in origin. I was a bit shocked (also a tad let down when they weren’t) and that led to too many questions (not always a bad thing). I hate to say it, but the tonal shift feels (to me) a bit too post Sixth SenseShyamalanistic” like The Village: A misunderstood film, that should be better seen as a Twilight Zone episode.

I got questions.

Ok, I wasn’t going to dive in, but once I started I could not stop. I am still grappling with the “They” who created the Tethered. Who are they? The Government? Do “They” end up keeping tabs on everyone they have cloned and then pair them up? i.e. The Tyler’s and the Wilson’s Doppelgangers are married to the same people - or is that taken care of through the mental tethering aspect? What about their children? Are they clones? Or did the Tethered conceive those children? Is it possible that they are sterile and the only way they reproduce is to mirror the combinations made above by cloning the children as well? What about the scissors, red jumpsuits, and rabbits? If “They” who created the Tethered happen to be the Government, then these are weird items to include. They feel very surreal and lynchian - elements that do not reflect the scientific/realism of the cloning. I could not reconcile their union.

As the film lingers in my thoughts, I continue to glean what is being said online and my brain mellows a bit on the questions. I also realize that because of the brilliant twist ending, I will need another viewing in order to give the appraisal it deserves. Like any good film with a Sixth Sense level twist, the entire meaning is forever changed when you finish that first viewing. It will never be the same film again.

A sophomoric success.

Overall, Us is a well-rounded sophomoric (sometimes they can be sophoMORONic) home run with some frayed edges. I am stoked for his critical and box official success. We need A THOUSAND more directors like him. Peele must have felt the pressure as he crafted his second film. How do you follow up a movie like Get Out? It can’t be easy. Especially when the hype machine is constantly shouting hyperbole that “we” as an audience hope is true. Is Us a masterpiece out of the gate like Get Out? I don’t think so (although time will tell). Peele is forging a respectable body of work. He is on a path to solidifying a cinematic legacy like Hitchcock and Spielberg, however, if he is not careful he could go full Shyamalan. And as we’ve already learned, you never go full Shyamalan. Can’t wait to see what you do next Mr. Peele!!!

Post Note: I DO NOT hate M. Night Shyamalan or his films.

I think he is immensely talented and has the capacity to tell great stories (when he does). Left unchecked, we get things like The Happening and... so on.

Rock Me Joe: An Awkward Pixies Moment

The Pixies truly are one of the GREATEST examples of how to tastefully reunite as a band while trying not to sell out. They play the hits. They make new music. They tour frequently.

In my book, they “cashed in” with the upmost integrity. I never get tired of seeing them live. There is no better feeling at a live show than a setlist where you are gonna know almost every song on a deep, intimate level.

To coincided with the 30th anniversary of their legendary EP and LP Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa, The Pixies released, Come on Pilgrim… It’s Surfer Rosa.

It’s a “Three LP edition with new artwork reimagined by original designer Vaughan Oliver and the bonus disc, Live From The Fallout Shelter - one of the earliest recordings of the band, a radio concert that first aired in late 1986 on WJUL-FM in Lowell, MA.”

The next step in the usual tired, cliche reunited band cycle is to tour on one of their iconic albums on its anniversary, and play the whole thing in it’s entirety. The Pixies are no strangers to this ritual, but unlike other bands, they do it with class and consideration.

When they play Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa in their entirety, they replicate the dialogue on Surfer and make sure to play a stellar mini set of B-Sides that no fan in one thousand years would ever think they would get the chance to hear live like: Build High, Dance the Manta Ray, Rock a My Soul, and the Purple Tape version of Down to the Well.

That is what I call considerate!

My moment as an awkward Pixies cringe lord.

11/20/18

Rich and I walk up the sidewalk to Brooklyn Steel when I see him. Off to the side, is a bald gentleman in a cabbie hat smoking a cigarette in the cold. He faces the brick wall of the venue. He clearly doesn’t want to be noticed.

I grab Rich’s arm and SQUEEZE as to prevent any verbal expression that would draw attention to who I know it is… One of my ALL TIME guitar heroes . <GASP>

Joey Alberto Santiago. A man whose music I have worshiped for the last 14 years, since that first time I played Doolittle in the tape deck of my ‘94 Toyota Camry, stands before me. He is a magician that can make his guitar speak in a shrieking, tortured, wailing, emotional musical language that compliments the obtuse, subversive, abstract lyrical poetry, and the raw, focused, primal screaming of Black Francis.

Rich understands the squeeze and takes a hard turn with me. In the 7 times I’ve seen the band since 2005, I have never been fortunate enough to see a Pixie outside of the green room/tour bus/back stage in the wild.

Executive decisions have to be made in a matter of precious seconds. It is my ONE CHANCE to talk to a hero of mine. I would regret it forever if I didn’t try. I go for it.

He turns and sees this DERP(me) standing before him. I assess the situation.

The weather report is not good.

(My appraisal of) his face says, “Dude- I’m so just trying to smoke a quick cigarette right now without anyone noticing me so that I can go back inside where it is warm. I gotta play in 30 minutes. Please don’t bother me.”

I really don’t blame him at all. Like any good smoker who can’t smoke inside, it is never too cold to go out and have a cigarette.

A valuable lesson that I’ve learned when meeting people of note: It is important to realize that your special one moment in time with them is just one of a million of their seconds. Who knows how they are feeling in that day, hour, minute, etc? Don’t take it personally.

At this point, I kinda wish I could abort the mission, but it is too late to retreat.

My legs carry me towards him as my brain sends signals to my mouth piece to speak. My mouth opens and nothing comes out. I have NOTHING to say. I ask my closest companion, my Brain to send me stuff to say. As die hard fan, there is million things to say, and Brain doesn’t send me any of them. Maybe that is a good thing?

He waits for me to talk. Brain scrambles to put a sentence together. He sends me the wrong sentence, “Thank you so much for a great show.” Stupid Brain!

My tongue, the unsung hero, catches it before it can leave my mouth. Cunning Tongue!

Instead, I say, “Looking forward to a great show tonight.” Or some variation of that… Joey nods. I think he says, “Thanks.” I can’t really tell because I know I have already fucked this up.

I walk away. Joey smokes on, not being noticed.

I die, as I try to deconstruct this exchange that probably lasted all of 30 seconds?

During the show, in between moments of musical ecstasy, I think about what I could of (or should of) said. As I write this, I think I should have walked up right behind him while he was making out with the brick wall and whispered, “Rock me Joe,” and just continue on nonchalantly. I don’t really know. It would have made for a much better story than this one. What would you have said?

I still feel like a derp thinking about this. I will remember it forever.

Sorry I bothered you Joey, thank you so much for a great show.