Friday, May 15, 2015

Netflix and YouTube Watching: Retro, Disco, Surrealism, Kitsch, Tragedy, Laughs

And my movie snobbery shall reign free in another post! I've discovered some new favorites, one flick with squandered potential, and another to add to my list of so-bad-they're good movies. But let's start out with the best ones...

Danger 5


Danger 5 is a series about a team of special agents with one mission: Kill Adolf Hitler. Set in the 1960s and later, the 1980s it's an absolutely hilarious valentine to badly-aged action/spy shows of the 1960s (like Thunderbirds) and horror/action movies of the 1980s. There's something for everyone, this is a wildly eclectic show. I love every intentionally cheesy second of it! I've never seen anything so beautifully curated to be "bad." It's deliciously surreal and emulates the eras its satirizing with near-perfect accuracy. It can quickly become a game of "spot the reference" for movie buffs, and even the aspect ratio and film quality changes between seasons to accurately depict the 1960s vs 1980s film styles. It's a show for movie nerds, but funny enough that everyone can be entertained.


The sets are obvious models, the action scenes have this delicious obvious artifice (a lot of toy airplanes and cars, no attempt to hide the strings) and you just know the creators had a literal blast exploding so many heads...airplanes...roller coasters...the list goes on. There's even references to Power Rangers, anime, horror, and many other genres that magically blend in perfectly. It's incredibly well-styled and choreographed, the director has a knack for perfectly emulating the exact look of particular genres. He does this to perfect affect in Italian Spiderman, a reproduction of 1970s Italian exploitation rip-off films. Expect shark-people, Japanese lions, Wolf Samurai, robots and dinosaurs aplenty! I cannot sing enough acclaim for this show. It is weird and wonderful in so many ways.



Watch the video above (click through to the blog if you're reading this via e-mail) to get a better idea of the surreal imagery, no words can do it justice! Get out of my head, show producers! I love the first 1960s season and it just upped the action and bizarre to crazy fun levels in the second 1980s themed season. LOVE! There are raptors with gatling guns, c'mon! 

Paris is Burning


My roomie and I found this film while looking for RuPaul's Drag Race on Netflix. (It was, unfortunately, no longer available. Boo! We need our Drag Race Fix!) What came up instead was Paris is Burning, a thoughtful exploration of drag during its "glory days" as it evolved in New York underground clubs. This is another must-watch for creators, for anyone that burns to rise from their current economic status, for dreamers, for artists. Gender and gender roles are endlessly fascinating for me. I appreciate anyone who challenges them. I've challenged them. My roomie and I are huge LGTB supporters, when a (thankfully, ex) boyfriend of hers went on a rant against lesbians when we were watching a video about Drag Kings we ran to the bedroom and dressed in drag to offend him. It ran 'em off. I have pictures but I'll share the rest of that story another day!


Drag can be baudy, crass, colorful and wildly fun. But there's more to it than that, and Paris is Burning has a pitch-perfect, pensive look at the phenomenon. Drag is a fantasy. Drag stars create an exaggerated kabuki-like caricature of femininity. This documentary shows low-income individuals indulge in the facade of living life "at the top"; the polar opposite of their societal position. Glamorous women are imitated because they're the "pinnacle" of their American Dream; desired, rich, respected, successful. This is exemplified in the concept of "Voguing" (just like the Madonna song, it's a dance form that evolved from New York drag) where drag queens walk the cat walk and strike a pose like a model on the cover of the iconic fashion magazine of the same name. The performers put a lot of work and sometimes investments into their costumes and performances, it's an expression, and for the often Latino and Black low-income participants, an escape from everyday life in recession-stricken late 1980s NYC. Participants from all walks of life are interviewed. Some are sex workers to survive, others are taken in by drag "mothers" after they were kicked out conservative homes. Definitely a must-watch, a classic depiction of the subculture and an award-winner for a reason. Nonbelievers, give this sensitive movie a watch.

Lovelace



Lovelace is biographical film about Linda Lovelace, a polarizing porn star that starred in the pop culture phenomenon, Deep Throat. For reasons I can't fathom, the film became a mega-hit in 1972, being the first porn flick to have a relatively high budget, script, and a long running time of 61 minutes. It started the "Porno Chic Era," a brief period of mainstream interest in pornographic films. Lovelace focuses on the conflicting stories about the creation of the movie rather than its massive influence.

Linda Lovelace was initially wildly supportive of the film. Soon after it's release she wrote a book about the experience, all positivity. Later she would become an outspoken anti-porn activist, she'd write a 2nd book saying she was forced to star in the movies and was in an extremely abusive relationship with her husband. This landmark film has two origin stories, and Lovelace handles this in an interesting way, by telling both side. First, we see it as Linda Lovelace first described the experience, and then the story she'd later claim happened. I appreciated the innovation with the storytelling but honestly, this felt like a made-for-tv movie. Rushed, cheap, bad set-design, and unfortunately, bad acting. And Amanda Seyfried is very talented, she just had no material to work with. The general artifice of the acting, sets, and some bad wigs on Seyfried worked from keeping me immersed in the film. The movie fails to give the most important perspective- Lovelace's. We never feel her experience, there's no voice over, no hint at some deeper emotions. The cold clinical approach to the storytelling was probably to keep the film like a fair and partial documentary but this story needed more warmth. I do appreciate it for introducing me to details about Deep Throat. I'd heard the name, but never knew what it was about or why it was significant to American culture.

The Secret Disco Revolution


I grew up listening to disco records and have always been drawn to that era of music. The documentarian is equally fascinated with the 70s most popular expat and his movie centers on a bold hypothesis. He says disco was a revolution that crossed color barriers and united all social statuses during a low-point in America's lifestyle and economy, creating peace throughout the land with song and dance. The claims are punctuated with kitschy actors, each representing the "causes" that disco supposedly championed. A picture of the poor economic and political climate is painted, and a decent case is made by the director. There are interviews with the DJs who intentionally worked to make disco the dominant sound of the 1970s and more interviews disco stars of the era. In a funny move that undermines his thesis, the directors keeps in the scenes were nearly all of the disco legends tell him he's over-thinking it and his theory is crazy, with differing degrees of confusion and annoyance. But I argue that there's some truth there and the documentary explains itself very well in a appropriately gaudy, kitschy way. Disco got people dancing as couples again, it created an explosion of exposure for black artists, and it was an inner-city respite during a violent and tough economic time. Disco fans or just the curious should give it a watch, even if you don't agree, it's an entertaining diversion.

Kept Woman


I love cheesy Lifetime movies, especially the slew that came out in the 1990s. Sometimes I'll let myself click down the YouTube rabbit hole, where many of these movies are available in full. This one was not a YouTube discovery, but instead was described to me by my mom during a phone conversation. "I'm watching this crazy movie where this guy wants everything to be like the 1950s. He has a perfect replica, uh, it looks exactly like the stuff you sell, of that type of house in his basement. He keeps women in there..." She needed say no more, I was already typing the movie in YouTube where it was, of course, fully available.  I watched, I cringed. I laughed. So bad, so good.


I see what you're doing here, Lifetime. Mad Men was on the way back with their final season and everyone is still ape shit for that Betty Draper "perfect housewife" drag. This movie's a quick cash-in with bits of shallow feminism thrown in to spice up the mix to pretend it's something deeper. Kept Woman's protagonist is so unmemorable I can't remember her name so I'll just call her SF for "Straw Feminist". She's a graphic designer but keeps getting distracted from doing her work so she can solve mysteries on the side. Oh yes, you just read that. She's basically a stay-at-home wife that makes her long-suffering husband take on all the housekeeping roles in addition to working full-time to pay for the home that SHE expressly demanded. When she and her husband first started dating she territorially put lipstick on all of his shirt collars. This in told in passing like it's charming. SF is abducted by her neighbor, a "Men's Studies" professor (he dresses "millennial retro"- 1950s-inaccurate-fedora, bow tie, sweater vests) who longs for the era when woman were expected to be obedient, servile housewives. He locks SF in his perfect 1950s replica "basement home" to be his "second wife."  SF has to use her informed-by-the-script wit to escape the horror! The movie is laughably transparent, it's clear this is a vintage-gasm aimed at our current obsession with 1950s styling and decor. A lot of comments on this video I've seen on the web stated how "cute" the kidnapped rape, abuse and kidnap victim looks after her "1950s makeover" or how amazing the 1950s set (a DUNGEON for kidnapped women) looked. If you're a bad/horror movie lover AND vintage fan (like me), this a fresh pastel 1950s home-baked treat.


Been watching anything interesting lately? Any recommendations for me? I've been meaning to get to the Red Box to catch-up on some newer films...
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10 comments:

  1. Since yesterday I have netflix, and I didn't know where to start! The first one sounds good, I like cheesy :-) Hope it's available over here too!

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    1. It's the cheesiest :D ! I have to watch it again soon.

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  2. I just put Danger 5 and Paris is Burning on my watch list.

    Have you seen the movie Big Eyes? It's probably in Red Box. It's about the artist who created the Big Eyed paintings in the 70s. Very interesting and lots of retro goodness.

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    1. I've been seeing it in Red Box, HAVE to watch it as soon as possible. It's my favorite director and Margaret Keane is such a fascinating artist. I'm interested to see what he does with a more "Straight" bio-pic.

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  3. Paris Is Burning is such a classic, I'm glad you got to see it.

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    1. Indeed. Surprised we never heard of it.

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  4. Damn you woman, none of those are on Canadian Netflix, lol. Why oh why does Canadian Netflix suck so much?

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    1. Boo! Hate it when that happens. I need to search for more universal movie sharing subscriptions. I hate for people to miss out on the good stuff.

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I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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