Tuesday , October 27, 2009
All-Time Top 5 (Well, 8 and a Half): Favorite Horror Movies
Ba da da, in time for Samhain, we present to you a list of some of our favorite horror films. Well, MY favorite horror films, 'cause this entry is pretty much a default Kat Attack (and basically half a movie short of a nogoodformeix). Maybe Liz and LJ don't watch horror movies? I don't know! I toyed with the idea of being all conceptual and listing every single awful romantic comedy on earth (because I'm often genuinely horrified by them) and analyzing why they suck and how counterproductive they are for the evolution of human nature. But true to my sense of classicism, I'm going straight genre here. I never understood those people who are like, "Oh, I wasn't scared at all, I saw that coming a mile away" when they see a horror film. Yeah, you do see the baddie or the twist coming a mile away, but that's the fun of it sometimes; you get to be all smartypants but still get freaked out in the best way possible. Horror is one of those genres where sheer craft can win out in creating those visceral chills and thrills -- although a few severed limbs and some serious blood spillage never hurt. My only criteria for this list was either the movie was so well-made that it transcends or forwards the genre in some interesting way -- or it scared the living daylights out of me. What films would you put on your list? (Kat)
RINGU (1998)/THE RING (2002)
The Japanese do horror like no one else, really. While so many western horror films deal with metaphors of suburbia-as-major-suckage, gender/sex anxiety (all those slutty teenagers!) and the dregs of Christianity (the totally excellent The Exorcist), the Japanese have a truly ancient tradition of animism and ghost stories (kaidan) to draw upon, not to mention their own cultural neuroses and an often riveting sense of visual surrealism, all of which mix into that lovely cultural subgenre J-Horror. Restless bloodthirsty spirits, bizarre apparitions, soul inhabitants, chills and thrills more about psychological anticipation and dread over gore and grossness - dude, BRING IT ON. Ringu (and its massively successful American remake, The Ring) is one of those films where, if you think about it too much, the plot kind of falls apart, but no one really cares because it's so richly imagined. The initial hook is one of those urban legends, a videotape full of mid-era Nine Inch Nails video imagery that seems full of bizarre film-school student nonsense (believe me, I should know) but is actually super-creepy. The twist is that a few days later you get a phone call and THEN YOU DIE. Suffice it to say that the film enters into a bizarre whole mythology centered around an implacable wraith named Sadako in the Japanese version. (She goes by Samara in the Americanized remake.) I won't say more about Sadako except she made a great Halloween costume the year the movies came out, and she's indelibly scary. The backstory and mythology of the whole Ringu series is really intense and rich and psychotic, so it's worth checking them all out just to get into it. It took me awhile to get through all of it, though, because the finale of both The Ring and Ringu had me so fucking freaked out afterwards that I couldn't be alone in a room with a television set for a week straight. Kill your television indeed!
IF YOU WATCH THIS YOU WILL DIE IN A WEEK!!! AHHH, I'M SUCH A WIMP I CAN'T WATCH THIS ALONE:
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Sunday , October 18, 2009
The KAT ATTACK Book Club: Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
I fell for this book really hard for a variety of reasons, some of which I'll list here in handy-dandy order of how they happened:
1. Huge portions of this book take place in my neighborhood of Morningside Heights, and it also references my local coffee shop in a way that makes it abundantly clear that the author has spent many, many hours there. Somehow when this happens in a book, this makes me love the place even more and makes me love the book even more dearly, like a circle of gooey affection.
2. It's actually believable that these people live in the NYC that I know, with its rickety-old apartments and idiosyncratic plumbing and non-glamorous kitchens.
3. The way the man loves the woman in the book is sometimes how I suspect that women wish men would love them...meaning that it is about a man finally paying close attention to his beloved and delving into the truth of who she is instead of concocting some image or fantasy about her and then taking her for granted, which is a lot of ladies' big fear.
4. There is a reference to a powder blue pea coat with round buttons that made me want to wear one.
5. It's just a fucking good book and I think some of you out there will enjoy it.
Atmospheric Disturbances begins simply enough: the wife of a middle-aged psychiatrist comes home, and her husband realizes that she has been replaced by a doppelganger, an "imposter," as he comes to call her. Dr. Leo Liebenstein then spends the rest of the book in search of his real wife Rema, unfurling a kind of "extraordinary things happening to ordinary people" journey that involves the Hungarian Pastry Shop, meteorology, Argentina, an enigmatic mother-in-law and a schizophrenic, among many other things. It's all very surreal, sometimes funny, somewhat alienated - and ultimately very moving.
This is the type of book that is usually described as a tour-de-force in some way because it takes such odd hairpin turns and gets marooned in some interesting, though not necessarily vital, intellectual thickets - the language of science permeates the book, and you'll need a little patience to wade through it in parts. But the way Galchen uses that language turns back in on itself, and you realize its inadequacy to describe most mysterious human processes of all: that of love, intimacy and the human heart. That sounds cheesy, but it's true. For all his erudition, Leo was always and remains befuddled by the person he loves most on the earth, and this is his (and the reader's) biggest source of beauty and frustration.
This is a curious book in that it's about intimacy, but not really about "relationships" as we know them in the modern sense - in fact, one can argue that Leo seems to have spent much of his relationship with Rema prior to her "disappearance" not quite relating to her or even understanding her much. The story's heart is really about the idea of the beloved - about having the biggest source of mystery in your life be in the closest proximity to you, about realizing the person you love most is a foreign land, with a language, history and customs that are nothing like your own. No matter how far you travel, you'll never quite penetrate into its inner workings or secrets or mysteries. That Leo remains forever in search of Rema to the end breaks your heart in so many ways because it's both a testament to how much he loves her but also a mirror of the fear that we can never truly be close to those flames that we flutter closest towards.
Atmospheric Disturbances ends on a kind of Mobius strip of perception, a twist that is so seamless that you don't realize that it's happening till you fully understand the point of view upon which Leo interprets the information he gathers and ultimately filters his existence. Because of this, as well as the labyrinthine intellectual contortions and the playfulness of her language and devices, Galchen often gets compared to Pynchon, Borges and Murakami, and definitely if you're into those writers, you'll probably have a deep appreciation for this book. But as much as I love those writers - Murakami especially is one of my most favorite contemporary authors these days - rarely have I ever shut one of those dudes' books and just wept like a baby at the end of my time with it. You know that thing, when you hold a book in your hand and you're crying and going "But he loves her so much!" (I had the same reaction when I finished The Time Traveler's Wife - I'm such a gooey stuffed animal inside, it's embarrassing.) It's a marvel to see the literary techniques and preoccupations mined by the aforementioned hommes grands being used by an awesome (female) writer to such romantic, emotional, plangent ends. (Is it old-fashioned to admit to want to be moved by literature?) This is not to say that Galchen's work isn't intellectually ambitious or conceptually dazzling - because it is. But ultimately this isn't about smarty-pants mental gymnastics or grand epistemological statements - it's that most beautiful of things, an old-fashioned, never-gets-old love story. I'm hoping that Galchen's next work proves to be even more rigorous in terms of actual narrative and old-fashioned storytelling. But I also hope she keeps the keen heart that kept me reading, hoping to get to the core of why you love someone so terribly much that the gravity between you both transcends everything.
Sunday , July 26, 2009
KAT ATTACK! Five Awesome Movies Coming Out Soon(ish): Whip It, Jennifer's Body, The Runaways, 9, Dear Lemon Lima
KAT ATTACK! is Kat's unwieldy portion of the currently inert "We're Obsessed" feature. There is no organizing principle in this column, other than Kat writes it. She hopes to discourse/blab about all the random things she loves: movies, perfume, philosophy, dudes, dating, words, autumn, the Fall and shoes, among other things, which she does, anyway, but perhaps in a more rambly way. She is taking requests on things you would like her to write/obsess about (kat (at) nogoodforme (dot) com) and promises never to use the third-person again in a preface of KAT ATTACK!, unless she is impersonating Mary J. Blige or other eminent R&B and rap superstars. In this installment: movies coming out soon that you may want to keep your eye out for -- Whip It, Jennifer's Body, The Runaways, 9, and Dear Lemon Lima,
I always considered Drew Barrymore to be like my pop cultural sister: we're approximately the same age, we're both part of that micro-generation sliver somewhere between the slacker cynicism of Gen X and ambitious uber-connectivity of Gen Y, we both seem to be extended adolescents, and we both clearly have boy/commitment issues that we're happily working our way through. I like to imagine that Drew and I will be pals, going to shows together, ogling the cute guitarists, something like that. I've always rooted for Drew, even from her Little Girl Lost days when she was starring as jailbait in B-movies and writing tell-all autobiographies (Little Girl Lost, by the way, is one of my favorite celeb bios, right up there with Faithfull and the Motley Crue bio The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band.) I even stuck up for Drewski during her stripping-on-Letterman days. Now she's all grown: she's a genuine Hollywood mogul and impersonates Edie Beale on a television movie near you! And she's also directing a movie about roller derby, starring everyone's newly favorite indie ingenue, Ellen Page. It looks amiable, fun, a bit silly and good times, which is totes Drew:
Tags: 9, Amanda Seyfried, Dear Lemon Lima, Diablo Cody, Drew Barrymore, Floria Sigismondi, Jennifer's Body, Karyn Kusama, movies, previews, screenwriters, stitch punk, Suzi Yoonessi, the Runaways, Tim Burton, Whip It, women film directors