3 Dead Girls

3 Dead Girls

3deadgirls

Chris Broadstone recently edited together a collection of some of his short films, 3 Dead Girls. Overall, these three short films are some of the best micro budgeted shorts I have seen, and that opinion holds strong after screening many short film festivals over the years.
One of the limitation of short films is trying to squeeze an entire story within a very short period of time. With the 2000 short film, Scream For Me, it is readily apparent. We’re given much of the backstory through an extensive and well performed monologue by Gabriel Sigal until Tony Simmons steals the show with his Madman character. Because there was a lot of back story to quickly digest through narration, it may easily slip by how Broadstone perfectly paralleled the beginning scene between Gabriel Sigal and his victim and later when Simmons victimizes Sigal. However, there was no shortage of perversity, sadism, and industrial music to hold our attention for the ride. There were some bonus features which illuminated the behind the scenes fun. Apparently, many out-takes were due to Simmon’s inability to know how to use Duct tape, and I quite enjoyed watching him make the tape completely unusable while never missing a cue or a line.

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My Skin is another collaboration between Tony Simmons and Chris Broadstone as well as the final entry, Human No More. Tony Simmon’s transforms from his Madman trucker persona to a pale skinned figure of death incarnate. This story functions more of a final act to a New England Gothic story, as we come upon Death finally having revenge on a killer who keeps messing up his Date of Death ledger. Broadstone, with a micro budget, used the mise-en-scene combined with Simmons performance to create an unsettling sense. However, with such a short story I was kept wanting. I also couldn’t help but think that this incarnation of Death was a precursor to Broadstone’s Puzzleman novel which explores this creepy atmosphere in much more depth and detail.
Human No More is a confessional from a burnt out homicide detective. Broadstone zooms in on the final moments before the detective relinquishes his soul in order to carry on the good fight against evil. This story is very much about surrendering morals. If given a proper amount of time and budget, it’s easy seeing this unfolding into a mashup between Exorcist III and Fallen. Once again, it’s amazing how much insight Chris is able to reveal in such a limited budget and schedule. Despite setting up time, it’s a wonder how he was able to envision these creative and stylized shots. Although the monologue focuses solely on Tony Simmon’s character, he still manages to set up multiple points of view and even one that is presumably of the detective’s inner demon.

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3 Dead Girls is a fun compilation of short horror movies. Along with the films, this release also comes with enough extra content such as behind the scenes footage, interviews, and commentaries to justify picking it up. I, for example, enjoyed listening to the banter between Broadstone and Simmons. Also, despite the packaging and name, these horrors don’t fall on the extreme/snuff side of the genre, so there’s no reason to be timid to show these among a diverse crowd of friends. These gothic films are perfect for a fright night party.

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David Bowie: Inspirational Stranger In a Deranged Land

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Now, I could start this off talking about the impact David Bowie had on the culture I grew up in. It had been quite clear for a long time that he had affected every section of the art community. There are many articles that show parallels and connections to him that we can play Six Degrees of David Bowie. In fact, for being someone from another planet, he has impacted my culture quite significantly.
As his last gift to us earthlings, Bowie gave us the beautiful album Black Star. When I first heard about Black Star, I wasn’t excited because we were getting a quick follow up to his solid The Next Day. I was particularly excited to see him so thrilled about the prospect of star KIC 8462852 having life that he paid homage to the idea by creating another work of art. Sadly, no aliens have been observed, but it would have been one hell of a departing gift for Ziggy. Don’t you think? Regardless, that is my attraction to him.
David Bowie is an artist who keeps his mind open and allows possibilities to spark his imagination and throws him into a creative frenzy. He never seems to be too concerned for his passions making him look too nerdy or too weird. That may have been why much of his lyrics adopt an outsider’s point of view, but it’s why I found him to be the most relatable artist. Every time I saw him perform or heard him sing or act, I knew that was 100% him. He was always genuine.
As I go back and look over David Bowie’s discography, it certainly reminds me of looking over a wine list. There’s quite a selection, but it’s hard to find someone who has a pallet for each choice. Also, just like wine, some of his material, such as the Berlin Trilogy, aged quite well over time, and for some people they themselves haven’t aged enough to appreciate the selection. I was one of those people.

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Growing up I remember David Bowie being the Thin White Duke with the sexy songs. I would sing to myself Let’s Dance while peddling my way over to my girlfriends house. Then I would sing Dancing in the Street on my way home. I would sing along with Mercury and Bowie to their love song to humanity, Under Pressure. Then, when nobody was looking, I would sing China Girl. In fact, I blame Him for my pseudo English accent that permanently set into my singing voice.

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Another great part of Bowie was that I could easily listen to him around the grandparents. Originally, to me he was that top ten artists with safe sounding hits. So, when I saw him take the stage next to Trent Reznor, my mind became blown. I was young, but it was at that moment when I realized he was so much more than the guy with the hits. He was the artist who wasn’t afraid to reinvent his style and passion for music. He had made a career out of being an iconoclast. He would build his image only to disassemble it and rebuild it again and again.
Much of consumerism America prefers their “artist” to stamp out hits, albums, whole bodies of work that are nothing but an imitation of the original money maker. However, true artists such as David Bowie in particular never conform to the demands of the public. They continue creating something new and inspired that reflects their current mindset. For example, I love the fact that those radio friendly hits I mentioned came out right after his most experimental phase. As I aged, my pallet now consistently hungers for those experiments during that Eno, Bowie, Visconti era.

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During my time couch hopping, I also found myself personally embracing more of his later works. His lyrics and themes often portrayed a voyeuristic wanderer discovering humanity. It was one of the tracks buried in Earthling that particularly resonated with me, Searching for Satellites. The minimalist lyrics over wailing synths and guitars reflected the mood of a lonely vagabond packing and taking inventory of his personal possessions while flicking through the news on the TV, which is something I’ve experienced more than enough times. Somehow, that was always the trick to his profound lyrics. He could be singing about walking out of a spaceship, but for me it’s a soundtrack about shedding my past and walking into tomorrow.

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As obituaries and eulogies pour out after news broke of Bowie leaving us, there’s one story from Duncan Jones that warmed me up. Back in Jones’s youth his father use to read SciFi tales to him. For me, this parallels my reading tales of black holes and quantum physics to my preschool daughter. I’m sure he also hoped that these tales would not only spark the imagination in his son but also illuminate the possibility of change. After all, David Bowie lived a life that proved that reinvention isn’t scary but rather beautiful.

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Age of Ultron: The Movie that Broke My Love for Superhero Movies

Age Of Ultron:
The Movie that Broke My Love for Superhero Movies

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Age of Ultron is the worst movie to happen to the Superhero franchise genre. Despite its publicity and praises on the script, Age of Ultron was the Transformers release of 2015. It made its bank, but critically it was a bomb.
The AoU announcement came quickly after Marvel Comics finished up their reboot of Age of Ultron story arc, which is arguably the worst Avengers story arc in recent memory. However, Marvel has adopted cross media promotion. Remember the whole, “it’s all connected” thing? So, it wasn’t a surprise when the announcement finally came.
When news was first breaking about the script, it was called dark and cerebral. Early readers praised AoU in its complexity and thought it would be strong enough to stand up next to Winter Soldier’s success. After all, they had a lot of material and foundation to work up from. Also, us Geeks had wondered when the time gem would come into play. Because Ultron story arcs ultimately like to play with time, it made sense that AoU would play into the Infinity Gauntlet mythology. Because the gem grants the user the time traveling power, which Avenger would be worthy or responsible enough to hold on to an Infinity Gem? Often, the comics choose Captain America to hold onto the gems because he is the most altruistic. But, what if they had to go back to 1950’s America to stop Ultron from being developed, as they often do in the comics but Steve Rogers wanted to stay? We even hinted at his longing for his past in previous installment as well as Age of Ultron. Simply put, a moral dilemma would have been a welcomed addition to the franchise. Now, that is just one of many areas they could have gone. However, bestowing the gem to a completely new character creation undermines the Avengers role or purpose regarding the Infinity Gauntlet.
In case those of you who forgot, the Infinity War is something the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up to for over a decade now and it has now become the slowest moving McGuffin to crawl into the cinematic world. Now, most McGuffins are just there to fuel the plot, yet it should have some sort of impending consequence to the characters involved. However, each time we hit play, all tension surrounding the gauntlet has been subdued and white washed. The gems are somewhere but who cares? Do they matter? None of this became more confusing until Marvel decided to blow their own horn and show all of their Marvel releases back to back to those die-hard fans who inevitably became overburdened by the undeniably loose plot threads. For me, the Ultron/Infinity slap in the face didn’t truly hurt until Thanos decided to break the fourth wall and yell at the audience for the incompetence and mishandling of the Infinity Gauntlet story arc.
Then we must address the overall purpose of this franchise. Within the first five minutes of AoU, I am quickly reminded of Super Bowl America. Scenes of American white male fantasy include the gridiron offense overpowering linebackers, tough Ford trucks overcoming boulders on mountains, and now Avengers beating down some Nazi-esque terrorists. As my fist is pumping and these scenes of masculinities are playing in slow motion through my head, Pauline Kale and Alejandro Inarritu’s words are echoing in the back of my mind. Are these superhero franchises nothing more than immature white boyhood fantasies? Are any of these relatable characters? By the time we leave Hawkeye’s farm, the answer is no. First of all, the family and farm undermined the sexual tension that was not only building between Natasha and Hawkeye since the first Avengers but also building from an earlier exchange of dialogue while Hawkeye was in recovery. Who uses a wife and kids plot twist outside of the romance genre? In fact, I can’t quite think of a sequel undermining its characters relationship since Princess Leia kissed Luke Skywalker. Then there’s Mark Ruffalo’s character and romance. By the way, in the same year Mark Ruffalo is the guy who just came off of doing the three-hour Foxcatcher, which relied on body language to fully explain the complicated relationship between Ruffalo and his drug-addicted brother, and also the guy who may win awards for his supporting performance in Spotlight. So, it wasn’t the acting. It was that the scene had no clear direction or purpose. This is the part of the story which serves as the character development phase, yet it was all too awkward.

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There are some people who scream about social injustice in regards to Ruffalo and Johanson’s character romance. However, I say the social injustice is directed at the homoerotic tension that’s been building up between Chris Evans and RDJ’s respective characters since the first Avengers movie. Don’t the quips between Evans and Downey sound like that of a recently married couple? Wouldn’t it make more sense why Tony Stark is mad at Steve Rogers when he finds out about his secret lover Bucky; therefore, their breakup is kicking off the Civil War? If we don’t want to admit to Avengers being a conservative male fantasy, then isn’t it time Marvel pony up and show their progression by changing the status quo, at least a little?
That is the reason why the Marvel franchise became pointless. Outside of their respective origin movies, nobody and nothing change. The Age of Ultron is about the Avengers overcoming a robot with daddy issues. At the end of the day everyone high fives each other and white washes anything that might kinda affect future plot lines, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to name drop like a sponsored prize fighter. It isn’t cerebral. It isn’t dark and full of character depth. It’s a timid blockbuster and it’s full of product placement for a bloated franchise. Perhaps, if Joss Whedon stuck to the original script or somehow stopped outside influences, we could have experienced what was promised. However, what we received was a 280 million-dollar commercial for a franchise that has overstayed its welcome.

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Overall, what is the relevance of the super hero genre? One issue that sparked debate later in the year was when Spielberg mentioned that the super hero movie will go the way of the western. The western genre back in the day was its era’s blockbuster. That’s where Hollywood threw all the big names in the pot, and they made sure that it was fun for the whole family. However, these days westerns come out much less frequently and aren’t the big dollar maker that they use to be. After Spielberg let these words slip during an interview for Bridge of Spies, which isn’t related to blockbusters or super heros, many reporters asked everybody for a few insightful words. During a press conference for his directorial debut, Before We Go, another movie that has nothing to do with blockbusters or superheroes, the most insightful response came from Mr Captain America, Chris Evans. he mentioned that, “I certainly think that given the fact that technology has finally advanced, they’re always going to be looking for other films to match their technological accomplishments… whether it’s superhero film or fantasy in general”. That argument makes a lot of sense. SuperHero, Fantasy, as well as Sci Fi should be great places to showcase our newest Hollywood technology. However, I can’t think of a single instance in Age of Ultron where the technology particularly stood out, at least Ant Man had the Quantum Realm.
Personally, I now regret ever wanting to see my favorite comic book characters turned into celluloid and keep slapping my eight-year-old self for being slightly interested in the Infinity War and Civil War. Jesus, none of the entries really can come up with an original title or identity.