Archive for drugs

R’XMAS – Abel Ferrara – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by bookofdread

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Christmastime is a peculiar context for a kidnapping story, but in the hands of New York provocateur Abel Ferrara it’s not really that big a surprise. No stranger to the juxtaposition of religious atmosphere and illicit dealings, (Ms. 45, Mary, The Funeral), Ferrara uses these settings as a way to humanize his criminals. In a Ferrara picture someone is always looking for salvation.

Real life thug Lillo Brancato Jr. plays a drug-dealing husband who lives with his family in a Penthouse. He’s a bit dim witted, but clearly knows his game. Drea DeMateo plays his wife, clearly the brains and balls in the family business. They have a daughter and seem to live with two older ladies, maybe her mother and aunt. This Dominican family is very like any family at Christmas time, dancing, eating laughing.

The film begins at a kid’s school performance of A Christmas Carol. A little boy in a Lincoln beard plays Scrooge and walks by the homeless giving them money. I think we can read this as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Husband, (as he is referred to in the credits), got into the drug game most likely because he didn’t speak much English and he wanted to help his family back home. We hear his wife frequently refer to the money they send back to the Dominican Republic.

He films the play with a camcorder, as human a figure as you could ask for, we see him with his family, he seems normal until he tries to bribe a toy store employee with a wad of cash to get a doll for his daughter.

Come to find out, he’s a big time cocaine dealer. He visits a separate apartment where he meets associates who give him his cut of money. Another associate meets him, and leaves his cash with him over Christmas, because he thinks he’s being followed. This gentleman is the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He represents the paranoia and the walls closing in. If husband doesn’t quit the game, something bad is going to happen.

Something bad happens. The husband is kidnapped. Wife meets with Ice-T to discuss release. He demands all the money she has and she even finds the hidden money in the separate apartment and gives it to him. He demands that if he releases her husband that she do everything in her power to get him to quit selling drugs. She agrees. This guy is the Ghost Of Christmas Future. He’s showing her what will happen if they stay on this path.

But then comes the Abel Ferarra twist. Husband and wife discuss quitting the business. Finding a new way to earn. But she says she doesn’t want to take their daughter out of private school, and he says he wont live with her mother. Then, on TV she sees the man, arrested as part of a sting on corrupt NYD officers.

Finally, we see them at a fancy party. Some associates call the husband away to the alley. In the trunk of a car we see Ice-T with a bloody plastic bag around his head. The Ghost of Christmas future is dead.
What is Ferarra saying here? Who are the most identifiable or moral characters? The crooked cop? The immigrant drug-dealers? I’m supposed to be glad the lying cop is dead, but his argument about selling drugs to kids is also sound. Ferarra provides no easy answers. There is a card at the end about Rudolph Giuliani being elected Mayor and that the story would be continued, but I’m not sure it ever was. Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes the film feels a little light/incomplete, but still a unique effort.

Despite the normalcy the family strives for, it seems that Ferrara’s New York won’t be affording them it anytime soon. At least they all end up together, and that’s as close to a Merry X-Mas in this film as you are going to get.

Spring Breakers – Harmony Korine – 2013

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2013 by bookofdread

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Spring Breakers is to hedonistic youth culture what Requiem for a Dream is to drug use. Unlike Requiem, Spring Breakers does not show realistic consequences for its characters actions. It is decidedly fantastical in nature and constantly subverts the viewer’s expectations of a real-world repercussion with the bullshit entitlement perspective of a little hot bitch.

Please, no offense with the term bitch, for this article the word means dangerously entitled young woman.

See, hot little bitches think the world owes them something, just because they are used to getting what they want in a general sense. So in this story, these girls are constantly taking from the world what they want and the worst that ever happens is they get winged or sent on a bus home.

Early in the film, Korine gives us two ciphers with which to decode the film. The first of these is a moment in a dorm hallway where he has all the girls standing on their hands upside-down in the frame. This is, textually, a lack of uprightness. The girls are inverted and thusly their world view.

Secondly, before three of the girls rob a chicken shack, we see them trying to attain a car. They steal one from a professor. But, after the robbery, they burn the car. Huh? You don’t burn a car in the woods if you had zero cars to begin with? How would you return to town? Here, Korine is saying, this is what a hot little bitch would wish would happen, not how the world really works. The rest of the film is littered with moments like this.

When arrested at a cocaine party, Alien (Angel), doesn’t come and bail you out. When Pink Hair is drinking tequila and beer bonging it with those guys, in real life that scene ends in rape, but not in hot little bitch fantasy. Alien doesn’t let Faith go back on a bus. He’s a bad man and in the bad world that doesn’t go down like that. After the “gun in mouth” scene it’s an absolute fantasy that this guy doesn’t pistol-whip these kids and throw them away. During a drive by a girl is hurt in such a small way, anyone would say, Jesus, in real life she’d be dead!

That’s really the key to understanding this film. It’s a hot little bitch fantasy in which the BALLR with the guns and money knows how to play Britney Spears on the piano. He doesn’t want to rape you. He wants to serve you. Nothing can go wrong because you make the rules. Spring Break Forever.

Spring Break Forever. It is repeated throughout the picture and reflects the lack of consequence inherent in the hot little bitch worldview. I’m young; I make the rules because I have just discovered my sexual power. Spring Break is a potent metaphor for the valueless nature of current youth culture.

Let’s talk Faith. Faith’s character is the product of balanced writing and without her the film could be seen as incredibly single handed in its portrayal of these young women. But, this arc seems like something we have to get through. The only truly great scene with her character is one of those unbelievable fantasy moments. A terrifying Franco holds Faith’s face in his hand and ultimately decides to let her go. Selena Gomez is perfect in this moment, and seems truly frightened. Then she gets on the bus home.

Tensions rise, (sort of), after Alien takes the girls to a strip club and his ex-mentor makes beef with him. This thin plot thread sees the film through to its blood soaked and neon fueled ending.

The gun in mouth scene is the crown jewel of the picture, a moment so rich and subversive that it could only be delivered by the hand of a master. Two of the girls put guns into Alien’s mouth, and one is certain this scene will end badly. But Franco starts sucking on the pistols, completing the role reversal. These women are in charge. He tells them after, “I just sucked yall’s dicks. I think ya’ll are my mothafuckin’ soul-mates.” Only in hot little bitch world does that happen. In any other movie, or in real fucking life, that thug grabs those gals and exerts himself. But not here, here, Alien exists to fuel the girl’s appetite for chaos. He is the American dream of money and fun and no consequences come to life. He is the evidence that their philosophy bears fruit.

So they rob tourists and their fantasy boyfriend plays a sweet Britney Spears song. They don matching pink masks like super-heroes, taking what they can from helpless tourists. They are just visiting Spring Break. These girls live in Spring Break Forever. Their super-power is invulnerability from reprisal.

By the end of the film, the girls and Alien plan an attack on Arch’s compound. The girls keep chiding Alien for being scared. Again, the gender roles are inverted, the armed man is full of trepidation, and the girls are fearless.  They take neon-lit speedboat across the bay and walk down a hellish pink pier. The first guard appears and shoots Alien in the head. He immediately falls and dies on the pier. This man, their self-made Angel, who lived and died for them, is a victim of these girls.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. These two remaining gals, with two guns kill over a dozen guards and the mobster. They indiscreetly steal his bright orange Lamborghini to make their escape.

Here, the audience member, preferably a hot little 21 year old gal, is thinking, I’d never have gotten out alive. Nothing in this film was real. This is all a fantasy. The final shot of the film pays off the thematic established early in the film. As a pink masked heroine kisses the dead Alien on the pier, the camera inverts as she rises and walks down the pier into the darkness. Again these women are inverted, upside-down. As the camera turns over it is a warning to the viewers, these kids are out there, and they hope to remake the world with their values. We are not upright.

 

John Dies At The End – Don Coscarelli – 2012

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2012 by bookofdread

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Don Coscarelli is one of the world’s great independent filmmakers. I stress the word GREAT. Not good, not working, but a great genre filmmaker who is working at the very top of his game. We’re talking about a guy who’s first couple of films, (with apologies to Kenny and Co.), were Phantasm and The Beastmaster. His last pair of films, Bubba Ho-Tep and most recently John Dies At The End are no less classic than his early work, and may even go on to be more greatly revered over time.

What all these films have in common is a great pair of heroes, (with the animal kingdom the #2 of the Beastmaster), Coscarelli is a master of character interplay. John and Dave in JDATE are the best of friends, and theirs the kind of easy, effortless interplay that one recognizes from close friendships. These guys are funny and cool, and you want to know them. The film is framed in a kind of anti-linear fashion with Dave giving Paul Giamatti an interview as the glue. We cut back and forth and all around. In a film about inter-dimensional demons and rifts, time, life and death all have very loose meanings.

The film is both hilarious and perfectly crafted. It is so great to have a guy with as steady a hand as Coscarelli handle material that is so delicately absurd. It is more or less the equivalent of getting Terry Gilliam to have made Good Omens so many years ago. It’s a comedy about the end of the world. That’s JDATE to a T.

People take a drug called Soy Sauce to get a sweet out of body experience not unlike that of DMT. But some when they return from said trip are no longer human. These creeps are invading our world one bug at a time and making way for something much bigger. The film at once is Lovecraft and John Carpenter, while also being a little Mark Twain and Chuck Jones.

The film, and stories treatment of audience expectations, starting with the declarative title, makes room for the impossible and it delivers. Mind bending plot point after another, the film dares you to guess what’s coming next. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love. This film is as classic as they come. A throwback to a paranoid era where you could only look the apocalypse in the eye and laugh in its face as it shot toward you.

I love that Coscarelli works outside the system. Hollywood would never make this film. It reminds me a lot of They Live and reflecting the sick reptilian interior of the ruling classes. And Dr. Albert Marconi is exactly the type of mentor the warriors of a new generation needs.

The film leaves you on a note begging for the next chapter of the story, and the book, “This Book Is Full Of Spiders”, exists but I have not read it. I’ll see it after Coscarelli turns it into a movie. Go see John Dies At The End if you see only one movie this year. You won’t be disappointed unless you are an inter-dimensional interloper, in which case, fuck you.

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