10 April 2010

This Movies I Seen

Coming back from a self-imposed blog-break--if that's not a phrase already, patent pending; I'm sure if I shot over to Urban Dictionary I would be amazed and horrified at its existence and variety of connotations--I wanted to write something loose and fun. It could also be because I need a break from the couplet of readings I'm currently undertaking (Bartiz's wonderful but sobering polemic Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did, and Zizek's maddening and delightful The Sublime Object of Ideology--which is maddening only in its occasional opacity and the way it constantly makes me realize that now that I can actually grasp the simple concepts of psychoanalysis and Marxism I need to rethink them entirely; thanks Zizek!)

Anyway, I recently got the chance to talk with some really smart folks at the CGU "Subverting the Margins" conference, and my discussion of the provocative and--in my opinion--political fallow animated film Fritz the Cat (1972) shocked me in its reception. I wasn't shocked, per se, but I was intrigued how many people had never seen (let alone heard of) Fritz the Cat. That, of course, is going to sound really snarky, and it shouldn't. It wasn't like I gave a talk on The Godfather or Gone with the Wind, so a lack of familiarity with the film is understandable. Nevertheless, with some of the film's I'm anticipating writing about (more below), it merely solidified the fact that--like the conference's title--I'll be occupying a marginal space. Not to be callow, but that could be a great thing (in terms of marketability*) or a bad thing (in terms of reputation**). Without further ado--this was supposed to be a fun post, wasn't it?--here are some of the future topics (read: films) of the academic enigma (and hack?) Mike Petitti:

A Bucket of Blood (1959): This Roger Corman film--who, finally, was appropriately sainted at the Oscars this year (without him, no New Hollywood)--stars Dick Miller (of Gremlins fame) as a busboy-cum-avant-garde-artist. Miller accidental kills a neighbors cat and, in a deft move, turns it into art (it's how Van Gogh started, I believe). The film is great on many levels, not the least of which is its flaying of beatniks and their culture, but also as a savage critique on art and creativity. On the level of Swift and Voltaire? Yes, yes it could be.

Blood Freak (1972): Look, any film that involves a complicated plot of a pot-addicted, Vietnam veteran whose taste for toxic turkey meat leads him down a rocky path (spoiler: he turns into a turkey, by which I mean his head is replaced with a cheesy, pawn-shop constructed turkey head). The film is almost didactic as an anti-drug piece--look where one joint can lead you...--yet there's also, obviously, so, so much more going on. Also, it sucks. Which brings me to a pervasive critical interest: bad cinema.

Detour (1945): Finally, an essential bit of film noir that is often overlooked in the canon, but has a substantial cult and critical following. Not sure what I'd like to say about this tale of the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time--but it's a true delight. In other words, I've run out of steam here.

*I'll be the guy who writes theoretical, humorous, and (hopefully) insightful pieces on obscure American movies.

**I'll be the guy who writes dense, unfunny, and pretentiously shortsighted pieces on obscure American movies.