Wednesday, July 27, 2011

30 Days, 30--No, 40--Horror Movies

Yet another one of those opportunities to clog up one's friends' Facebook feeds with movie trailers is going around. Since this one's about horror movies, I thought it would make a nice warm-up for Camp NaNoWriMo next month. (I'm working on a YA gothic novel.) This was actually kind of fun because I really had to think hard to remember which horror movies I've seen, since it would probably be cheating to list Dracula Has Risen from the Grave 40 times. I never really noticed how much of my experience with horror is vampire-related.

1. Your First Horror Movie
I’m not sure. When I was a kid, my best friend’s mom loved horror movies, so we’d always end up watching scary stuff whenever I went over to her house. One really horrible one I remember was called The People Under the Stairs, I think.

2. The Last Horror Movie You Saw in the Theater
The 40th anniversary print of Alien. I’d seen it on TV, but I was still chewing my nails in terror.

3. Favorite Classic Horror Movie
Actually, my real favorite classics are mentioned elsewhere, so I’ll say the silent version of The Phantom of the Opera, specifically for it’s nightmare-inducing two-strip Technicolor sequence.

4. A Horror Movie You Thought You'd Love and Didn't
The Hunger. Bowie is really good in it, but otherwise, it’s a lot of style over substance.

5. Favorite Horror Remake
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, Werner Herzog’s remake of the silent film. Most disgusting fingernails ever.

6. Favorite Vampire Movie
Funnily enough, the original Nosferatu. Doubly scary because it’s also an old silent film.

7. A Horror Movie You Think No One Has Seen
Decasia, which I know other people have seen (because I saw it with them), but which I suspect no one who isn’t a film student has seen.

8. Favorite Foreign Horror
Let the Right One In. It’s one of the very few cases where it’s actually appropriate to have emo vampires. I mean, they are Swedish, after all.

9. Favorite Super Natural [sic] Horror Movie
The Shining. There’s that one disturbing image from near the end of the film I will never, ever get out of my head. If you’ve seen it, you know which one I’m talking about.

10. Horror Movie Every One [sic] Loves But You Don't
Frankenstein, if by everyone you mean “film critics.” You know it’s going to be a bad adaptation when they list the author as “Mrs. Percy B. Shelley” in the opening credits.

11. Favorite Horror/Comedy [You know what, I'm just going to stop pointing out the grammatical errors and correct them.]
Young Frankenstein. That’s “Fronk-en-steen.” Not only is it hilarious, but it is the best of all the hundreds of adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel.

12. Most Disturbing Horror Film
The original German Funny Games. In fact, if you do not find this film disturbing, you need serious help.

13. Favorite Zombie Movie
Shaun of the Dead. Every time I’ve seen it I get zombie-related nightmares, but I don’t care. It’s hilarious!

14. Favorite Indie Horror Movie
Indie horror? I don’t even know which—Oh! Shadow of the Vampire! That was an independent production, right?

15. Favorite Monster Movie
The original Gojira. I know we like to joke about the bad dubbing and guys in rubber suits, but the Japanese subtitled version is actually pretty good.

16. Horror Film With a Great Soundtrack
Suspiria, because it does exactly what a good horror movie soundtrack should do: make the film even scarier than it would be with just the image alone.

17. Favorite 80s Horror
The Lost Boys for it’s cheesetasticness. And, with both Coreys, it’s quintessentially 80s.

18. Favorite Horror Movie Filmed in Black and White
Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Technically more of a thriller or even a melodrama, but is Mrs. Danvers not the scariest female character ever?

19. Best Use of Gore
Videodrome, which uses gore to actually say something rather than just grossing the audience out.

20. Favorite Horror Character
Count Dracula, or, as he’s sometimes called in a non-copyright infringing* way, Count Orlock.

21. Best Horror Franchise
Forget franchise, how about cycle! I like the Hammer films of the late 50s-early 70s. Sure, they’re kind of camp, but they’re still a lot of fun. The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Mummy are the best, though the second Frankenstein film and many other Dracula ones aren’t too bad either.

22. Best Death Scene
Martin Balsam’s in Psycho. We all know what happens to Janet Leigh, but this death is even scarier because we don’t see it coming.

23. A Great Quote from a Horror Movie
Two from Todd Browing’s Dracula. The first the hilarious “I never drink… wine.” And of course, for the second, the classic, “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.”

24. Horror Movie Character That Describes You
I wouldn’t say “describes,” but I kind of identify with Carrie. I mean, what kid who’s ever been picked on hasn’t cheered just a little bit inside the minute she slams those gym doors closed at the prom?

25. Favorite Christmas/Holiday Horror Movie
The Wicker Man. Happy May Day, everyone! (What?? It’s a holiday!)

26. Horror Movie for a Chicken
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s actually kind of boring.

27. Your Guilty Pleasure Horror Movie
Dracula A.D. 1972. Hammer camp + hippie exploitation = so bad it’s good? Well, almost.

28. Horror Film You'd Like to See Remade/Rebooted
Van Helsing, and not just because it was really awful. There’s a line in the novel where Van Helsing mentions that he’s been pursuing Dracula his whole life or something like that. I’d like to see movies with more interaction between them, and not like this crap, or the Hammer franchise where they had to keep coming up with more ridiculous ways of resurrecting Dracula. I’m thinking more like Dracula prequels, which would be great, because we need more vampires who aren’t a bunch of emo wusses.

29. Worst Horror Movie
Blair Witch 2, which my friend dragged me to see for her birthday. I don’t like horror movies that are more “Eww!” than “Aahh!”

30. Your Favorite All Time Horror Movie (Or One Of [Emoticon excised. Thank me later, humanity.] )
Most of my favorites are listed elsewhere, but this seems like a good place to mention The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sure, it’s not all that scary (unless you think a guy in fishnets is particularly frightening, but that’s your problem), but it’s got music! And you get to throw things!!

31. Favorite Horror Movie Theme Song
David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” and not the remix on Let’s Dance. Although, to be honest, I’ve never actually seen the remake of Cat People, so I don’t even know if it’s still a horror film.

32. A Movie That Scared You as a Child (Doesn't Have to be Horror)
The Dark Crystal. Creepy!! I’m 28 and still find it a little bit disturbing.

33. Favorite Slasher Movie
Silence of the Lambs. Does that actually count as a slasher movie? Oh, well, it’s a lot better than the average slasher movie anyway.

34. Horror Movie That Was Ruined by the Ending
Kracauer would say The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari because we now question the narrator's sanity and thus the film's anti-authoritarian message. But I don't know. Now, the cheesy overdone special effects at the end of the original version of The Omen--that's how ruining a movie with the ending is really done.

35. The Horror Film That Started Your Love for Horror
Interview with the Vampire. More accurately, it’s the book that got me into horror, but I read the book because my friend and I had been plotting for months to see the movie, so it still counts.

36. Favorite Contemporary Actor in a Horror Movie
Um, I haven’t seen that many contemporary horror movies, so I’ll go with Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow.

37. Best Special Effects in a Horror Movie
I don’t think special effects should be all that important to a horror movie. I mean, to be truly frightening, you need more than just convincing monsters or gore. So, even though I think it’s a horrible movie, I’ll say Bram Stoker’s Dracula, because it’s a celebration of cinematic technique. And it’s got some killer under-cranking.

38. Best CGI in a Horror Movie
I don’t even know if I’ve seen a horror movie that uses CGI. What about the little girl in The Ring? Was she CGI?

39. Horror Movie That Should Be Seen on the Big Screen
The Tingler. Unless, of course, they come out with some kind home media delivery system that will also send little shocks to your seat.

40. A Must See Movie for Every Horror Movie Lover
Peeping Tom, because it’s so metafilmic cinephiles will love it.

*Um, apparently the courts feel otherwise.

Friday, July 22, 2011

British Actor of the Month: Wizarding Edition

With the final Harry Potter movie released this month, I thought it appropriate to honor

Alan Rickman

Now, after a pause in which you’ve wiped that coffee or whatever you were drinking off your computer screen, I’m sure you expected me to suggest Daniel Radcliffe or Ralph Fiennes or gender bend to feature Emma Watson, let me explain.

To those outside the Potter fandom, Rickman is perhaps best known for playing bad guys. His first major part as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, which the AFI ranked at #46 on their 100 Heroes & Villains list, defined the role a generation of British actors would play in Hollywood cinema: clever, sophisticated villains. Rickman has continued to play bad guys in films like Sweeney Todd and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which he, as the snarky Sheriff of Nottingham, steals the movie from Kevin Costner's rather lame Robin Hood.

Of course, Rickman doesn't always play the bad guy. Thanks to that rich, velvety voice of his, he's played the romantic lead a few times in films like Truly, Madly, Deeply and Sense and Sensibility, for which I must amend the Rule of Austen to say that playing a character who ends up married to a Jane Austen heroine in the film or TV production is British-Actor-of-the-Month-worthy. And let's not leave out a bunch of notable comedy roles such as in Dogma and the Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest, where he plays a Spock-like character. Lest my geek membership card be taken away, I must mention also that Rickman voices Marvin the Paranoid Android in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

And, lastly, the point of this blog, Rickman’s role in the Harry Potter films as Professor Snape. A thoroughly unlikeable character who is nevertheless not really a bad guy*, Snape would be a difficult character to tackle, and yet Rickman plays him to perfection. We never really know whose side the potions master is really on**, and yet we're always intrigued by him. We have no idea what Snape's motives are, but he always comes across as a believable character. And, without giving away too much (seriously***, is there anyone out there for whom this would be an actual spoiler?), his performance in Deathly Hallows--Part 2, in which we finally find out what does motivate Snape, is heart-breaking. I really do think Rickman's performance in the last film should get an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.

*River Song just hit me over the head with her diary.
**Until page 658 of the American hardback edition. That's where I started jumping up and down shouting "Haha! I knew it!!" And then I cried.
***I so wanted to type "Sirius-ly."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Proper Hot Dog Preparation

I was going to relish (tee-hee) not being obliged to post a blog today, but then I realized, what with the holiday weekend upon us, I'd be doing a public disservice if I didn't address this topic.

Every year, millions of Americans jeopardize their tastebuds by incorrectly preparing and consuming hot dogs. Here is the correct way to eat a hot dog:

1) Steam an all beef hot dog.

2) Place on a poppy seed bun.

3) Top with the following:
Yellow mustard
Chopped white onions
Sweet relish (the more vibrantly green, the better)
Tomato slices
Dill pickle spear
Sport peppers (opt.)
Cucumber slices (opt.)

4) Sprinkle with celery salt.

5) Enjoy.

Some cultures may prefer to top their hot dogs with chili or sauerkraut in combination with other condiments, however


Have fun and eat safe this Fourth of July.