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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #12

Posted: July 15th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted January 2004)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

The Fantastic Forbis world of Film, Part 2

May (dir: Lucky McKee)

May is a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies.

To be fair, it’s also a horror movie for people who do like horror movies, which makes it a horror movie for pretty much everyone, and not to be missed.

The set up is as follows. May Canady (Angela Bettis) is a socially awkward young woman with a wandering eye (corrected by glasses and contacts) and a penchant for talking to the ceramic doll given to her as a child. Having grown up with no real friends, May’s interactions with others are strained, often to a comical degree, and I found myself watching her with equal parts pity and bemusement. Having recently passed into the realm of womanhood, May becomes attracted to Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a mechanic whose shaggy mane and blue-collar clothing make him look like an amalgamation of all the members of The Strokes. In particular, May is fascinated by Adam’s hands, bringing to mind the Seinfeld episode in which George becomes a hand model (a reference that’s vaguely alluded to in the film.) Adam initially finds a certain charm in May’s naiveté and the two hit it off. But he soon notices a darker side to the waifish ingénue’s behavior and spurns her, sending her reeling into the arms of Polly, a lesbian cad and co-worker of May’s played by Anna Faris (Scary Movie).

As May is exposed to both the pleasures and perfidy that are inherent in modern sexual politics, she becomes more and more unhinged, and her psychological disintegration is represented by the slow cracking of the case in which her favorite doll is ensconced. Finally, May snaps and decides that since everyone has at least one ‘perfect’ part, she’ll take the best parts of everyone and combine them into a ‘perfect’ friend.

What will non-horror fans like about May? For starters, it’s original. May doesn’t go anywhere near the predictable path of a slowly mounting body count that most horror flicks follow, and instead looks to May’s disturbing inner battles to create tension. And cinematography buffs will appreciate May‘s eclectic angles and set design. While I’ve read reviews that compare the film to the work of Italian horrormeister, Dario Argento, I found myself more reminded of Cronenberg (The Brood, Naked Lunch) on his good days. May also has a contemporary feel, showing young adults who have a modern set of sexual mores as opposed to the pre-HIV mantra of ‘Let’s fuck anything’ that most accessory slasher movie characters seem to inherit. (This is may be the first horror film truly aimed at Generation Y).

Finally, May has an intellectual girth that would appeal to highbrow viewers – it’s a reflection on the lonely individuals who fall through the cracks of society yet yearn for normal interaction. But lowbrow horror buffs (a group to which I proudly claim membership) will find plenty to like too. Though the bloodshed doesn’t start until late in the game, it’s by no means sparse. And director Lucky Mckee proves more than capable of creating an unsettling mood throughout the film, imbuing the viewer with the notion that something’s wrong here, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it. Combine all that with – praise Jesus! – lesbian scenes with the divinely beautiful Anna Faris, and May definitely passes the mustard for the Fangoria set.

This is not to say May is perfect. I found the title character’s transition from timid geek to murderous chick a bit too sudden. (Though Angela Bettis certainly comes across as a capable actress – it’s more a flaw of editing). And the final concept of May Frankensteining together a perfect person wasn’t particularly intriguing.

Nonetheless, you could do a lot worse. The film is an excellent example of a self-actualized voice sneaking from the sidelines of cinema and using the limitation of a low budget as an impetus to get creative. The film easily trounces such recent genre offerings as Darkness Falls and Fear Dot Com, both of which operated with bigger stars and greater FX budget. With a little luck, the creative forces behind May can go far in the movie world.

diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #11

Posted: July 11th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted October 2003)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

[A note from your editor…] Wil has been a busy man recently, and so you have been neglected from reading his deranged columns of late. I assure you that he is on the case and will be submitting new things very soon, but for now, may I present you with a couple of movie reviews which Mr Forbis has written in one of his ‘other lives’? You might not feel that these are strictly relevant in this day and age (ie, the films are quite old), but hey, that’s all you’re getting. Enjoy!

The Fantastic Forbis world of Film

Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (dir: Sam Raimi)

Recently a friend of mine satiated my quest for 80’s kiddie porn by lending me a copy of the Molly Ringwald classic, 16 Candles. Upon its return my friend insinuated that I should reply to the favor by lending her a copy of one on the many fine films in my video collection. “How about Evil Dead II?” “I asked. “It’s just like 16 Candles, but with more flying zombies!”

In truth, Evil Dead II – Dead By Dawn is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made. Directed by Sam Raimi (Of current A Simple Plan fame) and starring his childhood friend, Bruce Campbell (a modern day Buster Keaton) the film is essentially a remake of the first Evil Dead with a much bigger budget. Really more of a comedy than a horror flick (albeit a comedy where all the characters either die or are hideously tortured) the plot ghosts the story of its predecessor – young people arrive in spooky house, summon forces of evil and then wackiness ensues. A lot of what keeps the film becoming a cliché of the Friday the 13th part 7 variety is Campbell’s wonderful overacting; he seems to have a continual body tic that offsets his “boy next door” good looks with spastic twitching. He then proceeds to heighten that effect with quietly mumbled curses in the flavor of Elmer Fudd.

Also impressive is the pure physical abuse Campbell takes during the film: he’s thrown from a car window, repeatedly smashed into trees, maniacally saws off his own demon-processed hand and has enough dishware smashed against his head to knock out Iron Mike. One gets the feeling that if Campbell wasn’t available for the role it would have gone to Roger Rabbit.

Despite the underlying farcical nature of the film, there is a moody eerieness. Raimi is one of the few directors who can use a fog machine in a way that doesn’t remind you of a 1989 Whitesnake concert and also has some patented violent camerawork that continually disorients the viewer and creates the illusion of panic. His “rushing along the ground” shot that represents an evil force we never really see is perhaps the most instantly recognizable and identifying camera shot of any director. (Though I just recently read the idea wasn’t Raimi’s but some forgettable AD or something.) There’s also some great claymation work right out of the Ray Harryhausen catalogue that it its own way seems far more impressive than the computer generated effects of films such as Deep Impact or Jurassic Park. You can see the elbow grease that goes into claymation; it’s strikingly obvious that the only way to create such effects is to diligently manipulate clay and camera for what must be days. The purity of the effort overcomes the obvious limitations on realism.

So the film moves along, humorously eliminating its human characters while Bruce Campbell’s alter ego, Ash, progresses from a nervous simp, to a kick-ass, battle ready simp. The plot leads directly into what was essentially the third Evil Dead, Army of Darkness. All three films are vital to any connoisseur of cult, but I do believe it is the second Evil Dead that stands the strongest. Evil Dead II also made a minor contribution to pop culture that I never really noticed until a visit to my friend Dan’s House, this past summer. “You know,” I mentioned. “I don’t think you really saw zombies with eyeballs until Evil Dead II” (A large grinning and eyeballed, zombie stares out from the EDII poster.) And this is true. The old style zombies of the Christopher Lee mummy films to even Ed Wood’s work have no apparent vision devices. But a few years after Evil Dead II, films like Return of the Living Dead (another classic, the film that got me into Punk Rock) or Scooby Doo on Zombie Island appeared, featuring zombies with full ocular abilities. I know many of you have often wondered when the undead first appeared with functioning eyeballs and hopefully this goes a long way towards answering your question.

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #10

Posted: July 8th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted April 2003)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

I feel that over the course of my tenure writing this enlightening musical column I have been on a quest. I have been searching for a style, a format that could easily support my acerbic observations and all-knowing wit. For a while I was doing the “ten reviews in one column” format. Then I switched over to the “reviewing music in the context of a greater storyline” concept that plagued my last three columns. But lately, I’ve felt the need for the change.

I brought up this desire during my latest meeting with diskant taskmaster, Gen. Simon Minter, while we shared a pipe at the local opium den.

“Minty,” I said, “It’s time for something new. Something to shake things up.”

“What did you have in mind?” he asked between demure puffs.

“What if, instead of reviewing musical albums that can be found in the bargain bins of pawn shops and used record stores, I began reviewing the vast collection of homosexual child erotica I have pertained from the Internet?”

“Don’t think I can sell that to Marcy,” Minty replied. “What else you got?”

“Well,” I said. “I suppose I could usher in a new format where I review one record per column, starting with my truck stop purchased copy of ‘Sony Music Special Products: Blue Oyster Cult’?”

“Tell me more about the child erotica,” Minty opined.

Fortunately, cooler, less opiated heads prevailed, and I herald my new, one album per column format. Men stare in awe! Women swoon! Children squeal! (Whoops – make that “Men stare in awe! Women swoon.” The “children squeal” part was from one of my homosexual child erotica videotapes.)

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #9

Posted: July 4th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted December 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

“Zarcon, your time has come,” I yelled out as I leapt through the glass canopy of the palace, causing shards of vibrant colors to shatter against the concrete floor. I too soon hit the ground, but managed to mitigate the impact by performing one of my practiced roll and flip routines that could not have been better executed by the finest ninja. Upon completion, I popped up, unslung my M-16, and gazed about the room. The was General Zarcon, the Middle eastern despot I had come to apprehend, surrounded by his two sons, Tweedle and Deedle Zarcon, as well as a host of other official dignitaries and guards. They had not been expecting to see me and were seated at a table with a game of The Justice League Collector’s Edition Monopoly laid upon it. Several of the guards reached for their arms but I coolly popped off a few rounds from the M-16 and they flew back against the wall, cooing out their final death throes. As I watched, several birds descended upon their bodies, plucked out their eyeballs and flew off to feed them to their hungry birdlings.

Leaping forward I…. Oh. I can’t help but notice that confused look on your face dear diskant reader. Is it possible that you haven’t read the two previous episodes of Bargain Bin Culture and need to be brought up to snuff? Well, first of all, shame on you for not partaking in the finest music review column dedicated to the obscure albums and CDs found in the used bins of the finest pawn shops, second hand stores and music boutiques across the land. But I shall allot you one instance of such neglect and fill you in on current events. I had been chosen by the United State’s elite military unit to become the superspy that would invade the camp of Middle Eastern despot and master of arcane music triva, General Zarcon. My first mission had been to approach his daughter, young Sally Zarcon, a probe her for whatever information might prove relevant (like the size of her cervix). Then… stuff happened… and I ended up here, determined to either apprehend the feared General, or spray his cranial matter across the walls before he could unleash his dreaded “LP Bomb” – a nuclear device that would eliminate record LPs worldwide, thus destroying the backbone of western culture. Make sense? Good, let’s get back to the story.

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #8

Posted: July 1st, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted November 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

KIDS: You have to read the previous episode of Bargain Bin Culture for this to make any sense. Ahhh, who am I kidding? Nothing I write ever makes sense.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even blink when the Air Force Sergeant pushed me out of the airplane into an open freefall in the dark Middle Eastern night. I had several minutes to waste before I’d be below radar level and able to open my ‘chute, so I calmly reminisced on the events that had led me to this moment. I’d been tapped by the CIA to infiltrate the camp of the famed General Zarcon, a Middle Eastern despot set on worldwide domination. Whereas many other agents had failed to integrate themselves into Zarcon’s closely knit group of advisors, they had not had my secret weapon: an omnipotent command of pointless record trivia. You see, Zarcon demanded that his cadre of serviceman be able to answer any query he proffered about obscure musical groups both past and present. As the United States leading expert in such matters, I alone would be able to work my way into his camp.

However, my task at hand was a mere prelude to my final mission. Today I was assigned to sneak into an encampment containing General Zarcon’s beautiful daughter, Sally Zarcon, and do what I could to pump her for information. All in all, it seemed like a pretty cushy gig: parachute into a well-guarded fortress and convince the resident beauty to give up her allegiances to her father and provide me with whatever information might prove useful. Nothing I couldn’t handle in my sleep. After all I was an amazingly talented super-spy, I…

Egads! I’d reminisced so long I’d forgotten to pull the cord on my parachute. Now it was too late. The ground rushed up to meet me, closer, closer!

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #7

Posted: June 27th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted October 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

Slowly, I lifted my third gin and tonic of the evening to my lips and took a deep sip.

It went down smooth, but couldn’t chase away the bitterness and resentment I was feeling. After three years as the chief record purchaser for McRainey’s Rock and Roll records, I’d been let go. I’d been replaced with a machine. The Xoltan 3000, a device that could give the blue book value of a record within three seconds, with an accompanying printout listing the musicians who played on the album cross referenced against their favorite groupies. It was a mechanical horror that didn’t take coffee
breaks, didn’t ask for raises and didn’t tell the customers they looked like a leftover squash that had been left to sit in the sun for three days and then sprinkled with acne. It had been with a swift boot that McRainey had shown me the door.

What was I to do? Records were my life. And truth be told, I had no other skills. I couldn’t mix an espresso, but I could tell you who played bass for the progressive blues band, Camel. (Dave Ferguson) I couldn’t deliver a pizza but I knew that Kansas guitarist Steve Morse had a career as an airline pilot. I was doomed!

Suddenly a strong hand gripped my shoulder. “Snap out of it, soldier!” a manly voice
commanded, and I turned to face a portly woman with a three o’ clock shadow,
dressed in the military greens. Several high ranking Army types stood behind her. “Your country needs you!”

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #6

Posted: June 24th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted August 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

I hadn’t slept for three days and I was jonesin’ bad when I met my source at a dilapidated record store in south Los Angeles. “I need something, man,” I told him, my voice shaking. “Give me anything, as long as it packs some punch!” My source nodded and led me into the back room. Lest you think I was merely pining for some some junk, let me correct your feeble-minded assumption. I kicked the horse long ago and was in total agreement with Keith Richards’ observation that “heroin is for pussies.” I had a new monkey of my back now… music! I craved it with every fibre of my being, but only the good stuff – the crazy stuff. You can take your Britney Spears, your P.O.D., hell, even your …Trail of Dead, and stuff it up your socks. I wanted something that spoke of the lost generation of now, the reckless angst of modern youth. Like an empathetic vampire, I thrived on such musical cacophony. “Check this out,” my source said, removing a long play album from its plastic wrap and placing it on the turntable. The needle hit the groove and suddenly the room was fill with sweet, wonderful music. It was sound unlike any I had ever heard and it filled my soul like a Truck Stop waitress filling a mug with the murky black. “Yesss…” I said, feeling the driving hunger in my soul subsiding. “This is it, man… I’ve never felt this high before… don’t stop… don’t stop… oh, man, whatever you do, DON’T STOOOPPPPPPPP!!!!”

My source, a longtime music addict himself, knew what I was going through. He held me in his arms as we listened to this musical ambrosia over and over into the night. I question whether I should reveal the identity of this album to you. It may well convert you into a music fiend as well, my friend. I may be creating a generation of night travellers that walk the record shops in vain, looking for a greater high. But my journalistic integrity demands that I must reveal it to you. I cannot hide from you what is the greatest musical collection ever. It is… SESAME STREET: THE BEST OF ELMO!

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #5

Posted: June 20th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted July 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

It seems like lately I’m doing all my review columns according to themes in which I group the albums by genre or some other predefined categorization. Like, last month it was heavy metal. Before that it was fusion. And the first column of the new year was the ten best albums of last year. Despite every indication that the universe is a meaningless, random place, I still attempt to find some way to compartmentalize it. Well, enough I say. I give up. I’m through fighting.

If anything, the events of September 11 have shown us that any attempt at making sense of it all is lost. My mind may scream out with a desire to organize, to systematize, to classify… but it’s a lost cause. Our universe is a random stream of floating nucleons and electrotrons that can just as easily end up in the brain of rabid terrorist as they can a harmless puppy dog. Therefore, I now offer you five record reviews that have nothing to do with each other. They share not same genre nor artists, they are totally random. And meaningless. Just like the real world.

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #4

Posted: June 17th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted May 2002)

Overlord note: In case you were wondering, Tuesdays and Fridays are now diskant rewind days where we’re posting up some of the amazing columns we wrote years ago that have since been unavailable online.

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

You know, I gotta tell ya, gang… I ‘m hip to the fact that diskant is primarily an indie music e-rag, and I try and be respectful of that, but the man who holds the knife to my throat, our beloved taskmaster, Gen. Simon Minter, has just requested – nay, demanded – that we get our new columns in right away, so I’m going to have to leave the confines of currently popular music and venture outward to ruminate on the kind of music I know best – heavy metal.

(Dig that incredibly long opening sentence, y’all. I’ve been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft lately and let me tell you, homeslice could stretch a single sentence over three paragraphs.)

So anyway – yeah, don’t be frightened. Heavy Metal ain’t gonna hurt you. Sure, the subliminal messages may cause you to kill yourself, the satanic references may cause you to sell your soul to the netherworld, and any emulation of the heavy metal “look” may ensure you never get hired to be anything other than a gas station attendant, but otherwise, metal music is perfectly harmless. It’s got a bad reputation, but my feeling is that this poor rating has always been do more to crappy rock critics that any general opinion of the masses.*

I’ve actually got a theory of why heavy metal has always done so badly with the critics. My suspicion is that whenever a rock critic was sitting down to give a good listen to a metal album, a knock would come at the door, and he/she would open it to see a chimpanzee holding a balloon. Attached to the balloon would be a note and when the rock critic read it, they would see, “Hello. My name is Bobo. Would you like me to sodomize you?” Now we all know rock critics love to be sodomized by chimpanzees, so they would jump at this opportunity, and instead of giving the metal album on their plate a good listen, they’d quickly scribble down something like “This sucks. I hate metal” and send it off to Jan Wenner or whoever their overlord was, and then get down to all that chimpanzee-sodomizing. Of course this is just a theory, mind you – I have no proof of such activities. And I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I’m just painting a picture of such degenerate activities as a mean spirited attempt to get even with all the critics who have maligned my favorite form of music.

For example, by no means do I want you to visualize Rolling Stone‘s Jimmy Gutterman sitting alone on a Saturday Night, settling down to review Ozzy Osbourne’s “No Rest For the Wicked,” and then hear a knock and see our previously mentioned chimpanzee friend. Get such an image out of your head if it is currently residing there. (Did I mention that the chimp is wearing a clown suit?) I would wish you to focus on that no more that I would wish you to ruminate on alterna-critic Gina Arnold spending lonely hours in her bedroom, bad mouthing KISS, while intermittently pining away for a stray sodomizing primate, only to have her dreams answered by a doorbell and bobbing balloon. I beg of you, wash such iconography from you mind. Were you to continue such thoughts, you might start envisioning The Stranger‘s Sean Nelson breaking into the New York City Zoo’s Ape section when he should be giving a favorable review to Prong. Okay, that joke is quite finished, isn’t it? My point being, however, that as usual, critics speak for themselves. Regular, decent, salt of the earth fuckers like you and I, love metal. (You do love metal, right?) So I thought I’d take the time to list what I feel are some forgotten metal classics that happen to reside in my vinyl and tape collection. (What the term “Heavy Metal” means has always been a point of contention, so some people may object to my rather loose encapsulation of its definition as seen by my choices below. Generally, I think Heavy Metal can be said to include all music in the sub genres – Hard Rock (Poison, AC/DC) and Metal (Celtic Frost, Slayer.) Many will disagree with me on this and they should know I have a chimpanzee with their name on it.)

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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #3

Posted: June 14th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted April 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

Many a day will pass where I’ll be reclining in the Secret Diskant HQ (It’s location is so secret I can’t reveal to you where it is, but I will say it has a great view of the Eiffel tower) and young pups such as Greg Kitten or Ollie Simpson will approach me and say, “How do you do it, Wil? How do you get all the chicks? The birds go ape around you!” (I dunno how they found out about my dalliance with the London Zoo’s female gorilla, but that’s beside the point.) “Well, boys,” I’ll sagely reply, while taking a puff from my opium pipe, “You have to dig the right type of music. Girls don’t give a damn about all that indie-noise you waste your time with. You wanna know what gets chicks soggy? Fusion!” “Fusion?!” Greg and Ollie will say in disbelief. “That’s right, lads” I’ll say. “Nothin’ makes a woman hard like a twenty minute moog solo. Or a bass riff harmonized with a ten piece horn section. Or songs with titles like “The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea, Pt. II*” “Gosh Wil,” Greg and Ollie will reply. “That makes perfect sense! Perhaps you could provide us with a brief review as to what you see as being some of the key fusion albums that can easily be pertained in the used record bins of your native America.”

Perhaps, I could, boys… Perhaps, I could…. Oh, you mean right now!

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