The Curator of Schlock #173: Resident Evil

Resident Evil

Why? Because this blog needs more zombies!

So it became apparent to me upon watching the trailer for The Zookeeper’s Wife that the film is actually about the Nazis invading Poland. Who knew? I hope the movie ends with the zookeeper’s wife leading an army leopards, baboons, and giraffes against the occupying army. That would be cool. I guess this week I’ll have to get back to covering movies I’ve actually watched. You know what movie I haven’t watched yet? La La Land. What’s the reason as to why I haven’t watched it yet? I…don’t…care…about…LaLaLand. That movie is for namby-pambies.

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You know what movie isn’t for namby-pambies? Resident Evil. I bought the Blu-ray set for fifteen bucks so we’ll be covering this series for the month of March. There are worse ways to waste one’s time other than watching Milla Jovovich kick some zombie butt. Where do we begin? The movie starts out in some secret lab run by the Umbrella Corporation, a company involved in bioweapons research. Someone steals some green and blue vials, smashing one of them before getting out of dodge. Some kind of virus or toxin escapes up the air vents. Suddenly, all of the workers get locked inside the facility. Poisonous gas sprays out, killing many. Others drown in airtight labs after the sprinklers go off.

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The poor suckers trapped in the facility’s elevators are subjected to free-fall. No one survives.

"I've really got to buy a new bed."

The next thing we see is Milla Jovavich waking up in a shower, naked. She wraps the shower curtain around herself and proceeds to walk around what is one of  the creepiest mansions I’ve ever seen. She finds a slinky evening dress laid out for her on a bed and slips it on. Some guy in a baby blue dress shirt grabs her. Then a bunch elite soldiers in tactical gear and gas masks smash through the mansion windows. The soldiers stick the guy in the white shirt in handcuffs. He screams out that he’s a cop. They ask Milla Jovovich’s character to give her report, but she doesn’t know what they’re talking about. She has amnesia, most likely from when the mansion’s defenses kicked in and sprayed her with knockout gas while she was in the shower.

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Okay. Before you get confused any more (or before I get confused any more), I’ll explain what’s going on. The name of the lab is The Hive and it’s kept beneath the grounds of a mansion on the outskirts of a town called Raccoon City. An artificially intelligent computer known as The Red Queen controls the Hive. Milla Jovovich’s character’s name is Alice. Michelle Rodriguez plays Rain, a tough soldiers with an attitude. The other actors escape me, but I recognized one of the dudes from those Brosnan-era Bond films. 

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So the Red Queen killed everyone underground because a zombie virus escaped. This virus is known as the T-Virus. Maybe the T stands for Terrible since that virus is indeed terrible. I’d say the Red Queen is terrible, but she sounds like an English schoolgirl, and English schoolgirls aren’t terrible. She does end up slicing up several members of the team with a super laser at some point. The Red Queen tells them that they’re “all going to die down here.”

The English schoolgirl computer must have been referring to the hoards of zombies skulking about the underground lab. We get some kung Fu zombie action courtesy of Milla Jovovich. Unfortunately, it’s just her doing kung Fu on the zombies and not the other way around. There are zombie dogs too. Milla Jovovich manages to kick one them right in the kisser.

What else?

Members of their little group aren’t who they say they are. There’s a betrayal. Jovovich fights a monster with a giant tongue. Alice survives the ordeal only to be kidnapped by Umbrella scientists and held for observation. She wakes up in another lab in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse.

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To be continued…

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Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Shakespearing #45: Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

Shakespearing #45 by John King

Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost is a weird play. There, I said it.

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The premise is that four young men, in a spirit of fellowship, swear that they will forbear the company of women in order to devote themselves to a Spartan, scholarly life. The man driving this hard bargain is the Ferdinand, the king of Navarre. His cynical, witty friend, Biron, sees the impossible difficulty of this feat from the outset, but loves his fellows too much not to try.

A visitation from the Queen of France and her ladies in waiting throws this plan out of order almost immediately, but before that we have a subplot that also suggests that swearing off women, and love, is impossible. Don Armado, a lesser Spanish noble whose grasp of English is, ummm, problematic, has caught the witty and clownish Costard wooing the beautiful Jaquenetta in contradiction of the king’s edict forbidding such intercourse. Don Armado loves Jaquenetta himself, and so, for his discipline, the king places Costard into Don Armado’s questionable custody.

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Jim Helsinger as Don Adriano de Armado, Jacob Dresch as Costard, and Maxel Garcia as Moth. (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

Shakespeare’s themes of struggling to being honest and true in a complicated world, the fallibility of the heart and the mind, and our smallness before our fates, come off in ways that sometimes seem pedantic when not hysterical in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and in the last act the turns of emotion are extreme. Love’s labors are lost, after all.

Sometimes Shakespeare’s work is a provocation for interpretation, and it is up to each acting troupe to make something coherent and whole out of some of the bard’s more wild maneuvers. Elsewhere, I have lamented the nadir of Shakespearean film, Kenneth Branagh’s version of LLL, which was set in the 1940s, so when I learned that Orlando Shakespeare Theater was having a go at it with a 1920s theme, I confess I felt a pang of terror. However, I have never seen a bad Shakespeare show at OST, and was rewarded for my faith in this company.

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Dan Helsinger as Don Armado (Photo by Tony Firriolo)

Jim Helsinger, who is the artistic director of OST, plays Don Armado, and it is this performance that pulls the entire production together. Helsinger somehow balances the broad slapstick of the don’s pronunciations and malapropisms and foppishness with a sense of humane tenderness that lends a gravitational weight to the larger plot. There is a hint that part of what makes Armado so uncouth is simply that he is outside of his own culture, and that his bombast, while egotistical, is not narcissistic.

 

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Matthew Goodrich as Longaville, Blaine Edwards as Dumaine, Buddy Haardt as Ferdinand, and Christian Ryan as Biron. (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

And really, considering the hijinks of our four would-be sequestered scholars, such as their pretending to be a troupe of Russian dancers, is Don Armado all that foolish? By the end of the play, everyone must truly be who they are.

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Kathryn Miller as Rosaline and Aubrey Saverino as The Princess of France. (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

This would include the women of the play as well, who in their pride are willing to mock the loves of these men, and their pretensions for scholarly fellowship. Shakespeare engages deeply with romantic love, but never suggests that experiencing it will ever be easy.

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Jacob Dresch as Costard, Gabrielle Toledo as Maria, Kathryn Miller as Rosaline, Georgia Mallory Guy as Katherine, and Alexander Mrazek as Boyet. (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of LLL speeds up the exposition, and gets to the funny sooner. One detail of Dan Conway’s set design really abetted this concision: a ring upon the stage that turned like something out of a Busby Berkeley film, or an opera, that can set tableaus in motion or suggest cinematic cutaways without forcing a stop to a scene.

The ending features a play within a play that doesn’t go as smoothly as the tale of Pyramus and Thisby from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the mayhem will take a dramatic emotional turn. Thomas Ouellette’s direction manages to convey a real dreaminess to the abrupt and elliptical ending, which technically lacks Aristotelean brevity of passing time. The king tells Biron that the resolution of the plot will occur in “twelvemonth and a day, and then ’twill end,” and Biron retorts, “That’s too long for a play.” The stagecraft of Orlando Shakespeare Theater graciously makes up the difference. With another deep cut from Shakespeare’s body of work, OST finds the fun and the shocking drama that makes the play come alive.

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John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 248: A Craft Discussion About E. L. Doctorow’s Creationists, with Vanessa Blakeslee!

Episode 248 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk with Vanessa Blakeslee about E. L. Doctorow’s Creationists.

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NOTES

I’ll be appearing at

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Episode 248 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #172: March Movie Previews and Prognostications

The Curator of Schlock #172 by Jeff Shuster

March Movie Previews and Prognostications

(I don’t know what I’m talking about. I really don’t.) 

 No movie this week, but I didn’t want to leave y’all empty-handed. We’ve got a gaggle of fantastic movies that I’ve never heard of coming out in March. I will attempt to discern what they’re about from their movie posters. What could possibly go wrong? 

Collide

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Collide features a young couple in love that would do anything for each other. Looks like they’re taking the money and running so we can assume their names are Billie Joe and Bobby Sue. KITT from Knight Rider is following in close pursuit. Sir Ben Kingsley and Sir Anthony Hopkins will star as two old men playing hopscotch in Central Park. KITT will run over the Ben Kingsley character.

Personal Shopper

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Kristen Stewart stars as a personal shopper in Personal Shopper. You find her performance peckish, sexy, and less than riveting. The film takes place at a Hitchcock Convention where ghosts both spiritual and physical haunt the twisted soul of Warren Beatty’s character, Dr. Carlos Silsmaria. Exceptional edge of your seat captivation awaits you in this strange romantic comedy.  

Raw

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Raw is 89 minutes of characters getting nosebleeds and stuffing tissues up their noses.  These bloody tissues will be raffled off before each showing of this motion picture. Please do not resell these tissues on EBAY.

13 Minutes 

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13 Minutes tells the brave story of the first man to ever part his hair on the right side. This simply wasn’t done back in the day.

Wilson

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Woody Harrelson stars as Wilson, a man who hangs out in public restrooms all day, harassing every man who uses a urinal by asking him about the meaning of life. It will later be revealed that Wilson is a disgraced ex-bathroom attendant.  

Carrie Pilby

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Bel Powley stars as Carrie Pilby, a woman whose goldfish obsession has landed her into hot water with the authorities on several occasions. Carrie is a member of F.L.U.K.E. (which stands for Fish Liberators United against Kippering and Eeling). Carrie manages to rescue several goldfish throughout the movie, releasing them into the Atlantic Ocean so they can “swim free.” Upon realizing that goldfish are freshwater, she commits suicide by eating some blowfish sushi.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

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Jessica Chastain stars as a zookeeper’s wife in The Zookeeper’s Wife, a woman who longs to be known for more than just a zookeeper’s wife. Daniel Brühl plays the zookeeper, a man who longs to own an automobile because the local soldiers keep making fun of the basket affixed to the front of his bike. 

Ghost in the Shell

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In Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johanson plays a ghost who hides inside a tortoise shell to escape being exorcised from this plane of existence by the yakuza. Only she can stop a demonic geisha from destroying San Francisco.


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Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Pensive Prowler #4: How Not to Write a Short Story

Pensive Prowler #4 by DMETRI KAKMI

How Not to Write a Short Story

The intention was to write a short story, inspired by a friend’s painting. Five thousand words, at most. By the time I finished, I had more than 14,000 words, which hardly constitutes a short story. It was a novella, one that dug deeper than the modest chiller I planned to write when I encountered Shane Jones’ painting of a very realistic door.

Two thoughts popped up when I read the thirty-seven manuscript pages of the novella that was passing itself off a short story:

  1. I suck at short story writing.
  2. Is it best to plan a piece of writing and adhere to the plan, or should I allow the idea to lead me where it will?

Admittedly, I don’t entirely suck at short story writing. It’s just that I find it hard to corral ideas that fly out in all directions. Despite this shortcoming, I’ve written stories that went on to be quite successful in their own way. But the last time I was commissioned to write one for an anthology with a particular theme, the story blew out from 8000 words to 32,000 words. Of course, the editor rejected the submission, and who can blame her? I’m now turning that 32,000 words into a 65,000 word novel.

The original idea for the short story about a painting of a door was basic.

When I saw the life-size painting hanging in Shane’s stairwell, I thought it was a real door that led to a newly constructed room on the other side. Shane laughed and pointed out it was the same painting I had tried to open a few years earlier at his exhibition of trompe l’oeil, a series of visual illusions that trick the eye into perceiving a painted work as a real, three-dimensional object.

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The top part of Shane’s painted door is taken up by a frosted glass window. That suggested infinite story possibilities to me. As we dined that evening, the alcohol-soaked grey cells in my head ticked away at the problem of the door in the stairwell.

I’m a fan the traditional ghost story. M. R. James, Susan Hill, Robert Aickman. They’re writers I turn to with reverence and awe; and their invisible presence was very much beside me at the table, talking over and above the real people sitting across from me that night.

I thought what would happen if you walk past the painted door one day and see a face in the glass? What would you do if you hear a cry in the night and discover it’s coming from behind the door?

That’s how stories begin, you see, and you have to be attuned to them. You have to listen when they come a-knocking at the portals of the mind. I listened, but I didn’t know what to do with what I heard. I saw a situation, but I didn’t see a character or a story. I went home, wrote it down, and there it sat for well nigh on a year, until Shane asked how the story was coming along. I told him it wasn’t. Soon after, he emailed a detail of the painting.

I had forgotten, but in the round silver doorknob, he had painted a reflection of himself standing at an easel, painting that very door. It’s an idea straight out of Jan Van Eyck’s 1434 Portrait of John Arnolfini and his Wife. The wryly observed, self-reflective (and self-reflexive) detail Shane sent me was exactly what I needed. It fed directly into my brain where it was suddenly water for dry soil; and quite unexpectedly a new idea sprang out of an old idea. Or rather two ideas combined to make a whole.

Sometimes this happens. You get an idea and you don’t know what to do with it. And then, three or four years down the track, you have lunch with a friend or turn on the television and stumble on another idea. The current idea is in perfect synch with the earlier idea. They glom on to each other and you’re ready to go. That’s why it’s important not to rush writing.

Anyway, finally, I knew what to do.

I would write a psychological ghost story about a man who confronts hidden truths about himself. With this came everything that had been eluding me for a year. (Patience pays.)

I saw a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t begin writing if I don’t know how a story will begin and how it will end, right down to the sentence. The only thing I didn’t know was how to get from one point to another. I decided to let the story dictate a path. I even had the tone of the story, the style of writing and the main players; how the language would flow to become an integral part of the atmosphere. Even the central images and metaphors presented themselves, as if they had been hiding round the corner all along and now they could show themselves.

Writers are often accused of plundering friends’ lives. It’s sometimes true of me. For instance, three characters in The Boy by the Gate are my friends in real life, right down to their names, dress, speech and behaviour.

When I’m looking to create a fictional character and my brain refuses to provide the piquant detail, I see no reason why I can’t turn, in a desperate moment, to those around me and pick and choose features and attributes that will work for a story. Most writers do this and there’s no reason why shame or secrecy should to be attached to what is after all an organic process.

I decided there and then that fictionalised versions of Shane Jones and his partner, the painter Deborah Klein, would appear in The Door. Their warehouse apartment serves as a key location. Thankfully, they were flattered rather than horrified by the way I plunder their lives. Though, of course, the Sean and Dora you encounter in the story are merely leaping-off points, not the real people. In fact, what happens to Sean in the novella is more reflective of my state of mind at a certain point, rather than the real Shane Jones.

On one level, The Door is about facing darkness to shed light on life. The story takes a character on a journey through the upper and lower realms of his psyche, as he moves through transitional spaces (doorways and stairwells) that carry him from one state of mind to another. In that regard, the layout of Shane and Deborah’s split-level apartment, with the staircase, was perfect for what I needed. Why not use it?

Once I could see and hear the characters, the story dictated its own terms. The pace — slow and measured — was an obvious choice for the character’s hesitant, groping progress. And once I hit 8000 words and kept going, I knew I had a novella on my hands. Not a short story.

The story imposed its own length because, ultimately, a story is as long or as short as it needs to be. No amount of corralling can change that. You have to trust the process and let it take you where it will. But not too far from where you want to go.

_______

dmetri-kakmi

Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.

Episode 247: A President’s Day Special!

Episode 247 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

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This week’s episode is an eclectic mix of poetry, fiction, and an interview on the subject of the American presidency. This show features Jennifer Berne,

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Shawn McKee,

Shawn McKee

Karen Best,

Karen Best

Christopher Booth,

Chris Booth
Jeremy DaCruz,

Jeremy Da Cruz

& Lauren Camp!

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NOTES

On Monday, February 27 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, at Bookmark It in The Lovely, Vanessa Blakeslee will lead a discussion of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here.

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Episode 247 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Buzzed Books #50: Ari Banias’ Anybody

Buzzed Books #50 by Amy Watkins

Ari Banias’ Anybody

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Ari Banias’ debut collection, Anybody (Norton, 2016), begins with a poem titled “Some Kind of We.” In it, his reason for writing is laid out as plainly as a thesis statement in a freshman composition class:

I am trying to write, generally and specifically,

through what I see and what I know,

about my life (about our lives?),

if in all this there can still be–tarnished,

problematic, and certainly uneven–a we.

Throughout the book, that “we” changes shape, from the American everyperson to pairs of lovers to family to gender groups.

What holds each “we” together is tenuous. For instance, he imagines that every home in America holds “the large plastic bag / with slightly smaller mashed-together / plastic bags inside.” As a basis for a poetic national identity, it’s not much, but it’s also probably true. There’s a gallon-sized ziplock stuffed with plastic grocery bags in one of my kitchen drawers as we speak. I use them to line the bathroom trashcan. Banias’ poem continues: “it is overflowing, and we keeping adding, / bringing home more than we need.” We are excessive, but we knew that already, didn’t we?

In poems about more specific or more personal groups, the imagery carries more emotional weight. In “Villagers,” immigrants to the US are recognizable by “boxes taped up and up then tied with twine | addressed on every side | in that careful longhand taught on other continents.” Because one of the book’s “wes” is the speaker himself–a person who has inhabited multiple genders, carried multiple names–images of clothing are especially significant: a nightgown that becomes a jellyfish, a tuxedo, “a sundress on a splintery / swingset in Texas.” In one of the collection’s most poignant moments, his grandmother, oblivious to his bound breasts and changing identity, places her engagement ring on his finger and calls him beautiful.

Many of the poems rely on a Frank O’Hara-esque stream of consciousness–images and ideas racing ahead of the poet’s or the reader’s ability to logically categorize them. Poetry is made out of this kind of risky juxtaposition, but great metaphors are recognizable as well as unexpected:

Some taught me famous names, to drop the coins of these

in slots of conversation so with others I might feel like we.

This is new, but it’s also such an apt description of the awkward pop culture currency teenagers (and some adults) trade in that it feels almost familiar, as if we should always have thought of it this way. The same poem continues:

But I at the shore of a sea, I on the pebbled, tar-smeared edge

of an island. There hungered or grumbled or stood an astonished I

I picked at like a splinter once part of something bigger.

That desire to be part of something bigger–to “feel like we” as well as “I”–is something that genuinely binds us as readers, as human beings. As Banias says in another poem, “There’s something to be said for individuality, / multiplied.”

Pair with a six-pack of whatever you like. Share it with someone.


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Amy Watkins (Episodes 124161164192, and 209) grew up in the Central Florida scrub, surrounded by armadillos and palmetto brush and a big, loud, oddly religious family, a situation that’s produced generations of Southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl and earned her MFA in poetry from Spalding University. She is the author of Milk & Water (Yellow Flag Press, 2014) and the art editor for Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #47: My Own Private Idaho [Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2] (1991)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

47. Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho [Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2] (1991)

Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho is a stylized, Midnight Cowboyesque romp through the gay underworld of the mid-and-north-west. Oh, and it’s sort of an adaptation of Henry IV.

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Bill Stafford’s music takes the steel guitar of honky tonk music and extends that sweet tang to exotic Hawaiian proportions, defamiliarizing “Home on the Range” and “America the Beautiful,” and that sonic dreaminess combines with some visionary cinematography by John J. Campbell and Eric Alan Edwards that makes the scenery of My Own Private Idaho into an enchanting painting that is alive.

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Gus Van Sant’s screenplay is poetic, grotesque, goofy, and seemingly documentarian at times.

Mike Waters (River Pheonix) is a narcoleptic gay hustler traveling the midwest. He is haunted by memories of his mother. He is befriended by Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), a rich kid whose father is the mayor of a city, who is slumming to make himself feel alive and test the systems of power that will gladly grant him a privileged position in it.

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In one delightful metafiction scene, the characters of the film appear on the covers of blue boy magazines. Scott Favor offers his theories about the hustling life as his companions interject with their own opinions and objections.

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Gus Van Sant’s complex mixture of various registers of dialogue makes it not that surprising when, a half hour into the film, Bob Pigeon, a latter-day avatar of Falstaff, shows up using a debased version of Shakespearean verse.

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This is an especially loose adaptation, one that is bold in its weaving in and out of Shakespeare’s text.

When Prince Hal wakes Falstaff, and Falstaff asks the time, Hal says,

What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons and clocks the tongues of bawds and dials the signs of leaping-houses and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.

In Van Sant’s idiom, it goes,

Why, you wouldn’t even look at a clock, unless hours were lines of coke, dials looked like the signs of gay bars, or time itself was a fair hustler in black leather… isn’t that right, dude?  There’s no reason to know the time. We are timeless.

The hijinks of this band of miscreants in the jangled aesthetics of Van Sant’s film seems especially appropriate somehow, and perhaps this is what allows us to lose ourselves in the story, and feel closer to its spirit. (Some of Shakespeare’s tavern scenes are, truth to be told, a bit stiff.)

Yet what is most surprising is not the Shakespearean slumming, but the story of Mike and Scott’s friendship. Scott looks out for Mike, whose narcolepsy makes him especially vulnerable, and throughout this peripatetic story, Scott will try to help Mike find some sort of closure with his mother.

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Along the way, Mike will confess to Scott that he loves him, even though Scott will only have sex for money. Scott will love Mike, but their relationship will be threatened when Scott comes into his inheritance.

Mike will come to represent the underground lifestyle that Scott will choose to reject. Falstaff, and Bob, are essentially clownish characters. (According to E. L. Doctorow, Falstaff is a flat character.) The vulnerability that Mike will have to experience alone is a much deeper matter. And yet Gus Van Sant’s cameras will be gentle to him, in this unforgettable film.


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John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 246: Erotic Poetry Night V (Smut, Actually)!

Episode 246 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

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This week features our 5th annual Erotic Poetry Night, featuring…

  • Naomi Butterfield
  • Ephraim Scott Sommers
  • Diane Turgeon Richardson
  • Wilson Santos
  • Stephanie Rizzo
  • Brian Downes
  • Rachel Kolman
  • Lisa Roney
  • Madison Strake Bernath
  • & your host, John King.

Episode 246 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #171: My Bloody Valentine

The Curator of Schlock #171 by Jeff Shuster

My Bloody Valentine

I’m not saying that Loveless is the greatest album of all time. Loveless is the greatest album of all time whether I say it or not. 

Happy Valentines Day everybody from the Curator of Schlock! There are some who would argue that I’m not a romantic, but that simply isn’t true. Heck, I did a whole Nicholas Sparks adaptation month for the blog back in 2012. I still ball my eyes out each time I watch The Way We Were (which is at least once a month). For this Valentine’s Day, I’m serving up something special: 1981s My Bloody Valentine from director George Mihalka. Sure, it’s a slasher movie, but it has a love triangle subplot going for it.

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By the way, this is another one of those Canadian slashers, but at least this one makes no bones about the fact that this story takes place in Canada, Nova Scotia to be precise. So you’ll be hearing a fair share of “aboots” in this motion picture, but it’s all good. A Canadian was nice to me this week so I’ll lay off my usual jabs. Plus, we need to recognize Canada’s contribution to the horror genre. These slasher movies are ultimately just gory whodunits. And there’s probably no finer example than My Bloody Valentine.

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The movie takes place in the small mining town of Valentine Bluffs, a town with a deep, dark secret. Many years ago some miners got trapped in the mine while their supervisors were getting all liquored up at the town’s annual Valentine’s Day dance. It was days or weeks before they were able to dig through the rubble to get those men out. They found only one survivor, Harry Warden, devouring the flesh off the foot of one of the dead miners. Don’t worry. The cold air down there probably preserved the bodies so Harry wasn’t eating rotten flesh. That would be beyond the limits of good taste.

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I guess young Harry must have snapped after that ordeal, because he proceeds to dress up in his miner’s outfit (complete with creepy gas mask) and go on a killing spree. He drives a pic axe into the chests of his old supervisors and proceeds to rip their hearts out. Harry then placed those hearts Valentine’s candy boxes, leaving the boxes next to the punch bowl at the next Valentine’s ay dance. The town locks Harry away in a mental institution and cancels all future Valentines Day dances. This Harry guy is a bit of a party pooper.

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Twenty years go by and the town decides to finally have another Valentine’s Day dance. And wouldn’t you know it, a bloody human heart gets sent in a Valentine’s Day box to the mayor of Valentine Bluffs. Could Harry, the cannibal, be up to his old tricks? Maybe it’s a new killer trying to ruin the fun for everyone. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

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Oh, and there’s a love triangle between one of the local girls and two losers. There’s also a mustached man who cooks Hungry Man dinners over the top of car engines. This movie has something for everyone.


Jeffrey Shuster 1
Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.