Velvet Goldmine (1998)

After watching Todd Haynes gradually shift towards traditionalist, Douglas Sirk-inspired dramas like Carol & Far From Heaven, it’s been fascinating to return to the wild, fractured, untamed excess of his earlier, more transgressive works. Haynes’s debut feature, Poison, was a roughly assembled, anxiously queer anthology that covered territory as widely varied as 1950s mad scientist B-pictures & Jean Genet’s masterful, poetic smut Our Lady of the Flowers. Before that debut, his name-making short Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story re-imagined a high profile celebrity tragedy through hand-operated Barbie dolls. It’d be near impossible to reconcile the two disparate ends of Haynes’s beautifully improbable career, the controlled drama & the wildly fractured art film, if it weren’t for his magnum opus, Velvet Goldmine, a glam rock opera that somehow encapsulates the totality of what the director has accomplished to date in a single picture. Velvet Goldmine remains Haynes’s grandest achievement by somehow elevating his youthful passion for melodrama, disorder, and camp to the level of the Oscar-minded prestige productions he’d later settle into as he aged within the industry, all while remaining aggressively, unapologetically queer. It’s overwhelming to watch a filmmaker this ambitious throw every possible tone & technique he can achieve at the screen, but drowning in Haynes’s chaotic, yet glamorous sensibilities is a pure, intoxicating pleasure.

Christian Bale stars as an ex-Brit reporter working out of NYC on an investigative assignment about the publicity stunt “murder” of a glam rock star he had worshipped religiously as a queer teen. It had been a decade since British rocker Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) faked his own death onstage & disappeared from the public limelight. It seems as if the glam rock lifestyle, with its outrageous gender-androgynous costumes & conspicuous absence of sexual norms, had died along with that persona. Through the relatively dull framing device of watching Bale’s gloomy reporter research the missing Slade, Haynes opens up the wild world of glam rock past in a series of disjointed vignettes following Slade’s life from birth to “death”. The film is primarily concerned with Slade’s musical collaboration & bisexual affair with American proto-punk icon Curt Wilde (Ewan McGregor), an obsessive relationship that wrecked his sobriety, his closeness with his wife (Toni Collette), and his overall ambition to change the world through the transformative power of rock n’ roll. Haynes crafts a deliberately messy, loose story out of this rock n’ roll romance by employing every tool he had in his arsenal: the Barbie doll performances of Superstar, the James Bidgood tableaus & Jean Genet allusions of Poison, the Douglas Sirk melodrama of Safe & Far From Heaven, flesh on flesh pansexual erotica, etc. He also conjures glam rock’s natural mystique by allowing X-Files style record company conspiracy theories & supernatural claims that Oscar Wilde’s origins as a space alien changeling to inform his narrative without batting an eye. The only restrained-feeling aspect of the plot is Bale’s investigative framing device, but even that boasts the perverse virtue of essentially reimagining Citizen Kane as a glam rock opera.

Although narratively loose & ambiguous, Velvet Goldmine clearly evokes two real-life romances/collaborations in this patchwork plot: David Bowie’s affair with Iggy Pop & Britain’s affair with American rock. Slade is a clear Bowie stand-in, a connection deliberately referenced in the title & unappreciated by Bowie himself, who threatened to sue before the script went into rewrites. The film mostly follows the Ziggy Stardust & post-hippie eras of Bowie’s career before his romace/heroin-sharing/music collaboration with Iggy Pop unraveled those glory days. It’s a relationship that’s understood more through myth & rumor than confirmed, openly admitted fact, so Haynes is smart to abstract any 1:1 comparison, even if it was a decision inspired by threat of a lawsuit. Bowie’s life story is blended with other pop stars like Marc Bolan & Buster Poindexter to create the figure of Brian Slade, while Curt Wilde emerges as a similar blend of Iggy Pop & Lou Reed. This abstraction & democratization of their characters leads to the film feeling like a larger, more mythical tale of American & British rock n’ roll’s endless back & forth romance & collaboration than an affair between two queer men in the 70s & 80s. A childhood Little Richard drag routine Slade stages in his parents’ living room feels just as essential to his stage persona evolution as any of the film’s Oscar Wilde space alien weirdness, making this moment in time shared between British & American rock to feel like a smaller thread in much larger tapestry, albeit an essential one. Velvet Goldmine depicts glam rock as less of a craze or a passing fad than a failed revolution that very nearly topped the world in a flood of glitter & lube before it lamely succumbed to the pitfalls of heroin & romantic jealousy. Bowie & Iggy were useful figured for that story, but the overall effect is much larger than anything two men could amount to alone.

Velvet Goldmine was a box office bomb that was met with middling, confused critical response upon its initial release. It’s the exact kind of overly ambitious, insularly passionate art picture that’s doomed for cult status over wide appeal, but I selfishly wish that were the kind of art Haynes were still making today. As much as I appreciate Carol‘s intoxicating allure, it feels like a film that could have been pulled off by any number of visually skilled, queer-minded craftsmen. Velvet Goldmine, by contrast, is undeniably a Todd Haynes film. The same way Citizen Kane posits that a man’s full persona can’t be contained by a single picture, Velvet Goldmine argues the same for the spirit of glam rock at large. Haynes structures this argument around a sprawling all-inclusive clusterfuck of every weird, passionate idea he’s ever projected onto the screen in his life. It’s a magnum opus that makes room for drag queens, Barbie dolls, Bowie worship, Oscar Wilde conspiracy theories, an extended cameo from glam-revivalist band Placebo, and Ewan McGregor’s spread-open butt cheeks. It’s risky, go-for-broke cinema that doesn’t have a 100% success rate in its individual elements at play (Christian Bale’s gloomy sulking is a lot to stomach), but consistently impresses in its visual beauty & sheer audacity. It’d be a cultural tragedy if we never see Haynes working in that mode again.

-Brandon Ledet

Band Aid (2017)

Band Aid is one of those intimate indie comedies that are easy to advertise in trailers as Sundance-flavored quirk fests packed with cutesy flights of whimsy, but deliver something much darker & more painfully honest once they get butts in seats. The last time I watched a film this tonally contrary to the light-hearted romcom romp it was advertised to be was last year’s Joshy: a darkly funny, yet emotionally devastating reflection on themes like grief, addiction, repression, and suicide. Band Aid similarly sweeps genuine emotional trauma under the rug until it can no longer be ignored, but sweetens its bitter medicine with even more of a quirk-friendly premise than Joshy‘s rogue bachelor party shenanigans: the formation of a novelty punk band. The film offers the same exciting swell of watching a fresh musical collaboration come together that was such a joy in last year’s Sing Street, except with a lot more focus on the stop & start failures necessary to make that magic work and a constant Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? mode of bickering romantic cruelty that consistently sours the mood. It’s much more of a personal, slyly devastating work of deep hurt & genuine pain than its quirk-focused advertising (understandably) makes it out to be, a kind of tonal sucker punch that arrives early & often enough to feel like an outright pummeling.

Writer, producer, and first time director Zoe Lister-Jones stars as a failed author & moderately successful Uber driver who’s stuck drifting through a joyless haze. Painfully conscious of her peers’ seemingly successful marriages & constantly bickering with her lazy stoner husband (Adam Pally, who was also in Joshy), she suffers every slight to her confidence, her independence, and her social status as a motherless wife as if it were a violent stab to the heart. Being around friends’ children seems especially painful for her, an anxiety she barely keeps at bay with the help of marijuana & old-fashioned emotional suppression. Couples’ counseling is not working. She seems to be stuck reliving the same fights with her husband over menial bullshit like doing the dishes & not having enough sex while more drastic elephant-in-the-room issues are allowed to fester, unspoken. While stoned at a friend’s kid’s birthday party & avoiding questions like, “When are you guys gonna make one of these things?” from cultish parents her age, she finally rediscovers the one healthy way she can still interact & collaborate with her husband without bickering & wanting to die: art. Music, specifically. As an act of self-actualized therapy, the couple decide to start a band (with the help of their wide-eyed creep of a neighbor, played by Fred Armisen) and turn all of the topics of their daily bickering into playful punk songs. Things get much better from there . . . for a while.

One of the most rewarding aspects of Band Aid is that it doesn’t allow for easy answers in what’s clearly an emotionally complex situation. At first it appears as if the couple’s cheeky songs about diminished sex drives & unwashed dishes are going to magically fix all of their deep-seated emotional pain in a convenient, only-in-movies release of pressure. That infectious spirit of creating art together eventually crumbles, though, and when they inevitably end up fighting again it’s over something much more significant & severe and they go about it in a much crueller way. But that’s okay. This is a film much less about mending a broken relationship than it is about embracing your right to fail. Bands, marriages, and all other kinds of intimate partnerships are difficult collaborations to negotiate, ones where successes can be less frequent than the failures necessary to make them possible. Band Aid is a film about that interpersonal push & pull just as much as it is about internal grief & despair.

Zoe Lister-Jones was not only ambitious in imprinting her auteurist personality in nearly all levels of production on her first feature as a director; she also set out to experiment with the general gender dynamics of a typical film production, indie or otherwise. Band Aid boasts an all-woman crew behind the camera, which has to be some kind of a rarity in film. Although gender dynamics is certainly high on the list of subjects tackled by Band Aid, I’m not sure you can clearly detect a tonal difference in the effect that atypical crew has on the final product. It is an idea worth celebrating & exploring, though, and it’s likely only Lister-Jones herself would be able to fully articulate the difference that dynamic made on bringing her script to life. There’s an undeniable omnipresence of the director’s personal voice throughout the work, not only because she plays the main character & sings all of her on her own songs. Dark humor about ISIS, Nazis, and mental disability offset a lot of the film’s potential twee whimsy. Its focus on the failures inherent to art & romance feels so much more relatably human it should in a film with this kind of a comedic premise. I guess it’d be easy to dismiss Band Aid as the quirky romcom it’s advertised to be if you only engage with its novelty songs & scenes of Armisen doing his usual post-Andy Kaufman schtick, but the film is so much more honest & nakedly sincere than that. It’s an impressively vulnerable work that often transcends its financial means and recognizable genre tropes by exposing an obviously raw nerve, then repeatedly attacking it with joking song lyrics & power chords. If nothing else, I very much respect it for that emotional ambition alone.

-Brandon Ledet

The Icy Road from Hip Hop to Nu Metal

After watching Cool as Ice, our Movie of the Month for June, I became more interested in Vanilla Ice than ever before. He’s so much more than a one-hit-wonder with terrible pants. He actually does have talent. There’s something about Vanilla Ice that’s just so mysterious & strange and it’s pulling me in. While on my Vanilla Ice high during our Movie of the Month viewing, Brandon mentioned that Vanilla Ice dabbled in some nu metal during the late 1990s. I absolutely love nu metal, so I was determined to find out more about nu metal Vanilla Ice.

In 1998, Vanilla Ice aka Robert Matthew Van Winkle, released his third studio album, Hard to Swallow.  The edgy album cover features a mirror image of a nude woman with bloody eyes surrounded by roses. How did the creator of “Ice Ice Baby” get to this point? Well, it turns out that a whole lot happened to Vanilla Ice after his one hit wonder faded away. He got heavy into drugs (mainly heroin) and jet skiing, but he was still attempting to stay relevant in the music world. Thus, an unsuccessful nu metal album was created.

I listened to the entirety of Hard to Swallow, and while it isn’t by any means a great album, it does have some redeeming qualities.

Track 1 – “Living” (0:00): The song begins with a Jonathan Davis-like scat before very angry, violent lyrics start spewing out of Vanilla Ice, or as he refers to himself in this song, “Iceman.” It’s pretty awful, but it gets even worse at the chorus where Iceman starts to babble on in a Jamaican accent about not having control of his life; at least that’s what I think he’s trying to say. When looking up the lyrics for the song on multiple websites, majority of the lyrics were transcribed as “incomprehensible,” and that sums up this track perfectly.

Track 2 – “Scars” (3:45): The root of Iceman’s anger definitely comes out in this track, and it’s his abusive & absent father. After he says his father threw him out of a window for watching TV, I can’t help but feel for this guy. He also gives a shout out to Mama Ice for doing her best considering the circumstances, which is really sweet. His “scars” are what motivates him to be a better family man. There are so many uplifting messages hidden behind the mildly terrible guitar riffs.

Track 3 – “Ecstasy”: Nine seconds of instrumental confusion that’s nine seconds too long.

Track 4 – “Fuck Me” (8:51): Featuring vocals from Casey Chaos (co-writer for the System of a Down hit “B.Y.O.B.”), this song is a whole lot of fun and very catchy. “Fuck” is said at least every 5 seconds, so it’s obvious that he’s trying really hard to blend into the nu metal crowd. Ice makes fun of himself throughout this entire song with lyrics like “Ice ice baby, ice ice biatch” and “Fuck Vanilla Ice! He sucks! He eats shit!”

Track 5 – “Valley of Tears”: A guy that sounds a lot like Johnny Cash utters a short yet poignant phrase in this short interlude.

Track 6 – “Zig Zag Stories” (13:36): I was waiting for a song about smoking weed, and it only took me six tracks to get to it. Ice pretty much raps about smoking weed and not abusing it, so it’s almost like a liberal D.A.R.E. course. There’s a part in the song where he sings “You know I like to fly,” and it sounds a lot like when Fred Durst says “If only we could fly” in my favorite Limp Bizkit song, “My Generation.” This song came out two years prior to Limp Bizkit’s “My Generation,” so did Fred Durst rip off Vanilla Ice? Say it isn’t so!

Track 7 – “Too Cold” (19:03): Lucky number seven! “Too Cold” is the only song from this album that made it to radio. It’s a nu metal remake of Vanilla Ice’s one-hit-wonder “Ice Ice Baby,” and it’s a damn good song, at least by nu metal standards. Turning a cheesy 90s hip-hop anthem into an alternative hit really shows off Ice’s musical genius.

Track 8 – “Prozac” (22:27): Honestly, this song is pure garbage. How did he legally get away with writing a song called Prozac? Maybe it was so bad and unknown that the major pharmaceutical company never caught him? Watch out Iceman, they may be coming for you.

Track 9 – “S.N.A.F.U.” (26:55): S.N.A.F.U. stands for “situation normal all fucked up”. What is that even supposed to mean? He sounds like a clown on speed during the chorus, and I can’t even handle it. Jimmy Pop from The Bloodhound Gang lends some of his talent on this track, but it’s not enough to save this song from being a piece of crap.

Track 10 – “A.D.D.” (31:42): This is one of my favorites for sure, and that’s probably because it’s heavily influenced by The Deftones. Ice strays away from his rap rock vocals and reveals his softer, more emotional side. He, of course, has some intense rap rock moments in this song, but it’s tastefully done.

Track 11 – “Stompin’ Through the Bayou” (36:57): The next time I visit my parents down the bayou, I am blaring the hell out of this. I would’ve loved this song so much when I was an angry teen living in Larose, LA. This song was made to be played while throwing back a few beers around a bonfire and smoking a shit ton of menthols.

Track 12 – “The Horny Song” (40:21): This track was really hard to get through because it’s pretty much a douchebag anthem. I didn’t expect much from a song titled “The Horny Song,” but I hate it more than I initially thought I would. There are actually lyrics in the song that state, “All I wanna do is hump with it and make you scream, and eat you up as I floss with your g-string.” It’s just the worst.

Track 13 – “Freestyle” (44:55): C-Note, Cyco, and 2-Hype are rappers that are featured in the last song on the Hard to Swallow album. I’ve never heard of them, and while they’re not the completely terrible, they’re not very memorable. This song isn’t very alternative like the other songs on the album. It’s a trip back to Vanilla Ice’s weird gangster rap stage that occurred after “Ice Ice Baby” and before Hard to Swallow, best captured by the video to “Roll Em Up.”

All in all, Hard to Swallow isn’t really a terrible album. There are some crappy songs, but there are also a couple of gems. I will be adding “Stompin’ In the Bayou,” “Fuck Me,” “Zig Zag Stories,” “A.D.D.,” and “Too Cold” to my music collection very soon.

For more on June’s Movie of the Month, the Vanilla Ice vehicle Cool as Ice, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film, this episode of the We Love to Watch podcast that covers similar themes of artful commercialism, and our look at how it functions as a remake of the Marlon Brando classic The Wild One (1953).

-Britnee Lombas

Movie of the Month: Cool As Ice (1991)

Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before & we discuss it afterwards. This month Brandon made Boomer, Britnee, and Alli watch Cool as Ice (1991).

Brandon:  “I do believe motion pictures are the significant art form of their time. And I think the main reason is they’re an art form of movement, as opposed to the static art forms of previous times. But another reason that they’re the preeminent art form is that they’re part art and part business. They are a compromised art form, and we live in a somewhat compromised time. And I do believe to be successful over the long run, unless you’re a Frederico Fellini or an Ingmar Bergman or a true genius in filmmaking, you have to understand that you’re working in both an art and a business.” – Roger Corman

I return to that Corman quote more often than any other summation of what cinema signifies & achieves as an artform. It’s even more insightful to me than Roger Ebert’s often-quoted pearl of wisdom about how the movies are “a machine that generates empathy,” because it better takes in the full spectrum of film as both a force for good and a force for commerce. Something that’s especially interesting to me about cinema’s nature as a “compromised” art form is that it’s more or less required to mask the fact that it’s partially a business, hiding its desperate need for profit from its potential customers. As Corman points out, not every filmmaker is a Bergman or a Fellini, so the main goal of most films produced in the annual cinematic cycle is to make enough money so that producers can, in turn, make more movies the next go-round. They’re not supposed to show their hand while doing so, however, and most audiences prefer to maintain the illusion that their entertainment was produced solely to tell a good story or provide a good time or achieve some kind of transcendent artistic ambition, not to make a quick buck. What’s always fascinating to me is when that illusion completely breaks down and the “art” of cinema is nakedly exposed as a simultaneously commercial enterprise. Titles like Space Jam (where the cash-in conscious brand mashup of Looney Tunes & Michael Jordan™ are injected with a wealth of unwarranted, but marketable 90s Attitude) and Mac & Me (where E.T. was shamelessly ripped off to promote a wide range of Coca-Cola & McDonalds products) make for an absurdist, deliriously silly confession of guilt where filmmaking is exposed as the compromised art form that it truly is. The Vanilla Ice vehicle Cool as Ice, produced at the heights of the white boy rapper’s marketability as a flash-in-the-pan novelty, is one such film, a nakedly honest admission to its own nature as a cynical cash grab. What’s most surprising about Cool as Ice and what makes it a memorable watch, though, is how well it fulfills cinema’s other defining function: art.

Structured as a “rap-oriented” remake of the early Marlon Brando classic The Wild OneCool as Ice finds its titular star and “Ice Ice Baby” singer stranded in a small town in Everywhere, America. His big city looks (including a leather jacket that exclaims things like “SEX!” & “YEP!” in gigantic block letters and the loudest pairs of pants this side of MC Hammer), flashy motorcycle antics, and massive overdose of hip hop flavor make him & his crew (a conspicuously black entourage that provides him visual street cred among an endless sea of white faces) out to be a target for wild accusations in the small town they unintentionally invade. While waiting for one of his buddies’ motorcycles to be repaired at a Pee-wee’s Playhouse style garage described by the soundtrack to be a literal Limbo, Ice’s protagonist, Johnny, strikes up a budding romance with the Girl Next Door and gets blamed for a string of local crimes he had nothing to do with based solely on his outlandish appearance. Unlike a young Marlon Brando, Vanilla Ice is not exactly oozing with potent sexuality & onscreen charisma. When asked to deliver raw machismo in lines like, “Words of wisdom: drop that zero and get with the hero,” he mumbles his way through the readings as if he were rehearsing them for the first time. He is, however, in his own strange way, a beautiful specimen, an object that can be easily commodified. Like a wind-up toy idly waiting on the shelf for its opportunity to entertain, Vanilla Ice mostly exists as a fascinating image, a collection of 90s fashion quirks & excellent bone structure that only comes alive when he’s prompted to do the one thing he was built for: sing & dance. He’s a talent in both regards, even if his skill set is a time capsule of a bygone era, and the movie doesn’t ask much more from him than to wait his turn until it’s time to pull his string to perform another song. Cool as Ice boils down its titular star to his most basic essence: a product.

Just because Cool as Ice is a cheap cash-in doesn’t mean it’s a lazy cash-in. Artfully shot by cinematographer Janusz Kazinski, who has since made a name for himself as a longtime collaborator with Stephen Spielberg, Cool as Ice often plays like an alternate dimension where Terrence Malick directs feature-length breakfast cereal commercials. Although a cartoonishly inane crime thriller, love story melodrama, and half-assed comedy about a doomed romance between a bad boy rapper and a spoiled Daddy’s girl, Cool as Ice is just absolutely gorgeous to behold. Gay 90s club music (not unlike the soundtrack to recent Movie of the Month Head Over Heels) pulsates while luscious camera work and over the top set design flood the screen with a meticulous craft in imagery the movie doesn’t deserve, given its pedigree: Malickian breeze blowing through tall grass, lightbulb microphones lifted from the “In Dreams” sequence of Blue Velvet, long lines of glowing globes spinning in the moonlight. In one especially stunning sequence, Vanilla Ice takes his Girl Next Door love interest (sporting a downright iconic sunflower sundress) on a daylong bike ride through the desert sands & a nearby construction site in what I’d genuinely consider one of the most visually pleasing and oddly sensual two minute stretches of pure cinema bliss I’ve ever witnessed. Given that director David Kellogg’s resume mostly consisted of “video documentaries” for Playboy until that point, I’m willing to attribute that beauty & awe entirely to Kazinski’s eye (speaking of the intersection of art & commerce). Still, it’s interesting that so much careful attention to visual craft would sneak its way into a movie that mainly exists to strike while the iron’s hot on a one hit wonder pop star. And since the movie failed as a business decision, only making a sixth of its budget back at the box office, all that’s really left to chew on at this point is its novelty as a pop culture time capsule and the artful flourishes Kazinski was able to sneak onscreen. I’d say both of these elements hold up in a 2010s context and together do a fairly decent job of being honest about the movie industry’s compromised existence as both an art and a business.

Britnee, how hyperbolic am I being in praise of Cool as Ice as an art object? Do the visuals of its summertime bike ride sequence and Limbo Garage production design actually achieve an artful aesthetic or is the film solely enjoyable for its “so bad it’s good” charms as an expensive, feature-length advertisement for Vanilla Ice, like an extended music video relic? I’m curious to know your thoughts on how the film balances art & commerce.

Britnee: I do agree that Cool as Ice is a beautiful work of art, as completely bonkers as it may sound. The fun house style camera angles, the vibrant neon colors (clothing, background, motorcycles, etc.), the fast-forward sequences that incorporate 90s hip-hop beats are just a few things that make Cool as Ice a visual treat. As Brandon mentioned, the bike ride and Limbo Garage are some of the most artistic elements in the movie, especially the Limbo Garage. Every scene that took place in the Limbo Garage was almost like stepping into another world, maybe even another movie? The garage owners, Roscoe and Mae (Blanche from Grease), act like they’re aliens disguised as humans, and that somehow really adds to the artistic flair of the garage. Their blank stares and eccentric attitudes were sort of chilling, and their ultra funky home seemed so out of place in such a white-bread town. Also, let’s not forget about the insane sandwiches the bike gang members made while in the house. Was it their personal choice to put sardines and peanut butter on a sandwich or were they under some sort of extraterrestrial spell? It’s all just so mysterious, and I love it.

As for the bike ride/construction zone love sequence, it was visually stunning, but it leaned more toward being “so bad it’s good.” Vanilla Ice popping out of unfinished walls with a childlike smile was way over the top. However, I did love the shots of the two lovebirds riding through the desert on his sweet bike while the sun was setting in the background. It was all very Purple Rain. This was the moment in the film where we should have been able to get a better glimpse into Johnny’s life. Kathy began to ask him personal questions before they started hopping over pieces of wood, but he never gave her any answers, only his signature “Yep, yep.” This scene, much like the rest of the movie, was more about the visuals instead of the story itself, and that’s not really a bad thing.

Cool as Ice was ultimately a film made to capitalize off one-hit-wonder Vanilla Ice, but in all honesty, I did not feel like the movie was trying to sell me Vanilla Ice. The incorporation of Vanilla Ice’s musical talent in real-life scenarios was surprisingly tastefully done. Yes, it’s terrible early 90s white boy rap, but his flow is pretty amazing. The film opens up with a club scene which is basically a Vanilla Ice video that incorporates Naomi Campbell’s lip syncing (I think?), but the rest of the movie, thankfully, strays away from that music video style. The next time Vanilla Ice, a.k.a. Johnny, gets a chance to show off his mad rhymes is at a teen hangout called The Sugar Shack. The performance was pretty great and sort of romantic, even though Johnny basically dry humps Kathy on The Sugar Shack’s floor. It’s so terrible, but it truly seemed like the two had a strong connection after that moment. Kathy, much like myself, was officially “Iced.”

I really enjoyed Vanilla Ice’s performance as Johnny. His acting reminded me of the kind of stuff you would find in an art house film. The way he recites his lines is so poetic and he exudes confidence. Personally, I would love to see him in another lead role because he knows how to own the screen.

Alli, were you at all impressed with Vanilla Ice’s acting skills? What other genre of movie would you like to see him act in?

Alli: More than anything else, I was actually really blown away by his dance moves, which I wasn’t aware he had somehow. I guess that one sequence in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 didn’t prepare me. Acting wise, I wasn’t really impressed with anyone in this movie. However, in this cast, he was a gem.  He carried the role of the star very strongly, even stealing away attention from the ridiculous production design. His absurd balance of white boy rapper swagger and romance movie heroics somehow works. There’s no real explaining why, other than I think he’s given a lot of good (or bad, depending on how much of a grouch you are) material to work with. “If you ain’t true to yourself then you ain’t true to nobody. Live your life for someone else, you ain’t living,” is a real stand out line for instance. The showmanship of it all just comes so easily and naturally to him, which probably explains how he was even popular in the first place.

If I had to see him in a different genre of movie, I guess I would have to go with a road trip buddy movie. I’m thinking Crossroads, except replace Britney Spears with Vanilla Ice.  He’s got that hip, laid back style, but can play the troubled bad boy as well. Just find a couple of equally nuanced and ridiculous 90’s dudes and you’ve got a hit on your hands. They could teach each other life lessons and dance moves, as they try to find themselves and the American Dream. Pun totally intended here, I think something like that would have been the perfect vehicle for him.

The Wild One was also prime for him, though. Of course Brando and V-Ice play the troubled, bad boy Johnny in different ways and Cool as Ice‘s plot quickly jumps off the rails, but I think it was a good fit. Both movies and actors play up teen crazes and parental anxieties. The Wild One, with its leather jackets, hip jazz music, and wild hats, is a movie all about style, which is something I know Vanilla Ice to also be about.

Boomer, what did you think of Vanilla Ice and his crew’s fashion? Was it a beautiful early 90’s/late 80’s hip hop time capsule or a horrifying mess that you can’t believe you watched an hour and a half of?

Boomer: The fashion was certainly atrocious at points, but it worked for me in the context of this movie. Cool as Ice is even more of a cartoon than the similarly named Cool World which followed a year later. In fact, the moment that solidified my surrender to the absurdity of the film was when the two hapless goons stopped in the middle of a sandy waste to review their map, and the sound that accompanies the taller of the two pulling his gun from his waistband is the basic cork/rubber popping sound that you can hear in animated stuff going back to Looney Tunes. It was essentially the same experience I had when I saw God Help the Girl for the first time and just absolutely hated it, until I surrendered to that film’s tweeness and accepted it for what it was, then ended up falling in love.

I’m not saying I fell in love with Cool as Ice, but I was certainly willing to overlook a good many of its flaws the more I allowed myself to be carried away by its unwavering devotion to being as aesthetically and narratively discomfiting as possible. From the way that the featureless scenery of the unnamed small town and its surrounding areas are treated like beautiful vistas by the cinematic eye, to the stylistically indulgent music video-esque speed-ups and musical accompaniment when Kat’s family is preparing dinner, there’s a distinctly tongue-in-cheek animated quality to Cool as Ice that caused me, against my better judgment, to make allowances for the portraits in sartorial horror that float through the film. Perhaps that innate zaniness is why the director’s only other feature, the awful Matthew Broderick Inspector Gadget, was (slightly) better received.

That having been said, that doesn’t mean that the, erm, fashion in the film gets a complete pass. It’s mind-boggling to me that not only does Johnny own not only one, but two pairs of short overalls; one of them is black with white stripes and one is black with blue stripes, and both are worn with the bib down and the straps hanging on his sides. Worse still, both pairs have the word “ice” stitched into the bib, meaning that they are (a) intended to be worn this way, since the word is printed to be read by others, and (b) these are presumably part of Vanilla Ice’s personal wardrobe, not just Johnny’s, since “ice” is only part of his catchphrase in the film, not his name. On the other hand, the times when he is wearing this less eye-catching apparel are not as bothersome as some of his other outfits. I absolutely hated the eye-searing harlequin pants in the first scene, but when they made their reappearance in the final musical sequence, it was a welcome relief after the film’s most heinous vestiary crime: that awful skull cap that Johnny wore at the very top of his head like Parappa the Rapper. I was willing to forgive a multitude of sins based on how bizarre this movie was, but not that hat. All of that having been said, aside from Kat’s timelessly simply dresses, all of the outfits in this movie are ridiculous, so it’s not just Ice’s personal flair that we’re seeing take the wheel here.

Of all the things that can be easily mocked about Cool as Ice, Kristin Minter’s performance is not among them. Most of the cast seems to be made up of amateur actors (not counting Michael Gross, last seen hereabouts in previous Movie of the Month Big Business, and he seems to be sleepwalking through this film), but Minter turns in a pretty solid performance, with surprising pathos. It’s a shame to think that her career hinged on the critical and financial success of this film, which never materialized. What do you think, Brandon? If Minter managed to sell her performance in this movie, why hasn’t she managed to have a more successful career?

Brandon: I totally back the praise for Kristin Minter’s performance as Kathy. Minter’s tasked with a fairly thankless, almost impossible dual duty of both existing as a blank slate so that teen girls in the audience can daydream of being in her place next to the supposedly hunky Johnny and making Johnny appear hunky in the first place. She is the literal Girl Next Door in the film, with her only defining characteristics being that she’s college bound & rides horses. In a hilarious touch of production design, the film even emphasizes this personality void by prominently hanging a framed blank sheet of white paper over her bed. Minter’s physicality and genuine mix of intelligence & sweetness makes Kathy feel like a real human being against these odds, however, which even better served her role as an audience surrogate. The actor has continually worked since the 90s, but besides a role as one of the McAllisters in Home Alone, it seems she mostly appears in single episode runs on various television series. Cool as Ice was clearly her time to break out & grab attention and I’d agree she did so admirably. My best guess as to why that didn’t lead to wider success is timing. Minter bears a striking resemblance to early 90s Lara Flynn Boyle in Cool as Ice, which was released concurrently with Boyle’s run as Donna on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series. If anyone was specifically looking to cast Minter’s type at the time, I suppose they’d be more likely to look to the actor who worked with Lynch instead of the one who worked with Vanilla Ice. That’s all speculation, of course, but when I gaze at the glory of the Cool as Ice poster (as I often do, thanks to the hilariously puzzling tagline “When a girl has a heart of stone, there’s only one way to melt it. Just add ice.”) all I see is Donna Hayward waiting to straddle the back of a white rapper’s motorcycle (which is somehow still a step up from James’s motorcycle).

Part of what’s so refreshing about Minter’s presence in the film is that she’s surrounded by so many mediocre, bitter men. Kathy’s father, the sleepwalking Michael Gross, allows his dark past to interfere with his daughter’s summertime fun & romance. The boyfriend Kathy leaves for Johnny is an alpha male shithead who slut-shames her in public for dancing with another man and obnoxiously threatens her life with drunk driving recklessness. Just about the only male character who isn’t a total monster in some way is Kathy’s kid brother, who serves as an audience surrogate for the demographic of potential Vanilla Ice fans who aren’t horny teenage girls: young children who look up to the rapper for being so cool. It’s entirely up to Minter (and Ice’s wardrobe) to sell that cool factor on Ice’s behalf, since a lot of Johnny’s actions read as bullheaded machismo. In the couple’s initial meet cute, Johnny shows off by jumping his motorcycle over a fence, scaring Kathy off the back of her horse in what could have been a paralyzing or even life-threatening fall. As payback, she kicks him in the balls. Johnny also steals Kathy’s personal property so that she’ll be obligated to talk to him again, shamelessly flirts with her in front of her boyfriend despite her obvious disinterest, and frequently sneaks into her bedroom window, uninvited, while she’s either asleep or not at home. In the film’s strangest moment (which is no small distinction) Johnny climbs into Kathy’s bed while she is sleeping and wakes her up by seductively sliding an ice cube between her lips. The frost on her breath is filmed beautifully as it rises in the early morning sunshine and the audience is left to stew in the creepiness of the moment for what feels like an eternity. Thankfully, Kathy is more turned on than creeped out and that scene leads directly to the construction site sequence I love so much. Vanilla Ice’s sex appeal can only be conveyed through so much wardrobe, dancing, and sunlit shirtlessness, so we rely on Kathy’s screen presence to sell us on its potency. She really does save the movie from just being a miserable parade of overly macho scoundrels.

Speaking of motorcycle straddling and ice cube sucking, teen horniness plays an alarmingly large role in this PG film about a white rapper and a small town kidnapping plot. It’s even been reported that a young Gwyneth Paltrow was offered the role as Kathy, but her parents made her turn it down because of the sexualized content. Britnee, you already mentioned Johnny dry humping Kathy on the Sugar Shack dancefloor. What are your thoughts on the way teenage sex & romance are handled in the film overall?

Britnee: I had no idea that this was a PG rated film. The ice cube bedroom scene alone is enough to get this film at least a PG-13 rating. Cool as Ice somehow manages to incorporate teen sexuality without making it too over-the-top. Kathy has a slight sexual awakening on the Sugar Shack dance floor, but nothing is really that hot and heavy after that. The film is trying to be sexy enough to attract horny teens to theaters, but at the same time, it’s trying to keep the main focus on Vanilla Ice’s dancing and rapping. For instance, the infamous ice cube scene could have gone much further than it actually did. Vanilla Ice is fully clothed in her bed (shoes and all) when lying beside her, while she’s fully clothed as well. This was definitely an opportunity for a sex scene, but it seems like it was intentionally avoided. Her little brother walks in on the two and asks if they were having sex, so it seems like that was done to keep the film’s sexiness on the quirky side to keep that PG rating.

Other than the surprising lack of sex scenes in Cool as Ice, I was very surprised to find that Vanilla Ice only had a few musical moments. He only raps about 3 or 4 times, and it just didn’t feel like it was enough for a film that’s supposed to be a hip-hop musical. I wanted to hear more of Vanilla Ice’s sick rhymes, so maybe this is just me being selfish. There were a couple of funky 90’s club songs thrown in here and there, and they took away opportunities for us to have more Ice.

Alli, did you find the relative lack of actual Vanilla Ice music to be strange? Do you think a love scene between Ice and Kathy that involves a rap serenade would have done well in this movie?

Alli: I did find that for something that seems so much like a vanity project there was a distinct lack of self promotion as far as music goes, but I’m glad he didn’t cram this movie with as much “Ice Ice Baby” as possible. I think that’s part of the reason why it transcends from weird vanity project to cult film art. While I’m glad his performance/seduction on the dance floor didn’t feel too, too forced, I actually would have really liked a delicate, free style serenade in the middle of that McMansion construction project (maybe a premonition of his current work on the DIY channel as a house remodeling wise guy). When they were just romping around in the emptiness would have been the perfect time to try to sell him more as a tender, troubled hunk, a role I just wasn’t buying. Overall though, yeah, I would have liked some more of his jams. I think the lack of Ice-related tunes just called more attention to everyone’s acting, and the bizarre muddled mess of a plot.

I didn’t really understand the whole crooked cop thing. Is this supposed to be a movie full of crime and intrigue or is it a teenage love story? I don’t even think anybody working on it knew for sure. I know we’ve talked about some of the similarities between Head Over Heels and Cool As Ice as far as the 90’s club jams, but I think they also have this crime narrative that happens somewhat out of nowhere that kind of hijacks the movie.

Boomer, do you think the father’s side plot took away too much attention from the love story?

Boomer: The side plot with the father’s past coming back to haunt him certainly seems to come out of nowhere, and is easily one of the least sensible elements in a film that’s already treads very close to nonsense, especially given that it’s instigated by his own foolishness. I mean, seriously, if you’re in witness protection, why on earth would you allow yourself to be filmed for a sound bite, even if it’s supposedly local? That aside, it does introduce the only real conflict in the film other than the fighting between Johnny and Katherine’s (ex)boyfriend, which is pretty tension-free after we see that Johnny alone is capable of fighting off a bunch of cornfed country boys single-handedly. Given that there’s not much other action taking place, there’s no real other way for Johnny to prove himself to Katherine’s family other than saving her little brother, but it still seems like a job that should have been left for the FBI (or whomever is in charge of the witness protection program in this bizarre universe), rather than a random rapping hottie with as much personality as an album cover.

Overall, the crime plot is the only element of the film that elevates it out of what would otherwise have been only nominally a plot. Without it, there’s not much in the way of conflict, nonsensical though it may be. It also gives the sleepwalking Gross something to do in the film, given that he’s the only real star here. I also liked the way that the two revenge-seekers were both somewhat bumbling and also credibly threatening. To go back to the above mention of Minter’s role as one of the McAllisters in Home Alone, they reminded me of the Wet Bandits from that film, in that they’re comically inept but still utterly capable of violence, as indicated when they kidnap Katherine’s younger brother. Her boyfriend is undoubtedly a “zero,” but without something to do other than stand majestically on his motorcycle in a romper, Johnny’s not much of a “hero” until the (ridiculous) rescue that serves as the meager climax of the movie. This centerpiece and the plot snags that lead up to it may seem tacked on, but without it, there’s even less of a film that what we end up with.

Lagniappe

Brandon: It seems that Vanilla Ice’s entire career has been defined by overcoming his early status as a one-hit-wonder. Ever since “Ice Ice Baby” made him a star, Ice has been struggling to reinvent himself. When gangsta rap changed the industry, he released the single “Roll Em Up,” refashioning ​himself as a hard-as-fuck street tough. When Limp Bizkit popularized rap metal, he reimagined his sole hit single as the would-be nu metal anthem “Too Cold.” In more recent years, he’s found his most appropriate home yet on reality television, where being a flash in the pan novelty act is a godsend, not a handicap. Cool as Ice is an obvious choice to me as the best of Vanilla Ice’s cynical cash grabs since his star prematurely rose and fell with his first album. It turned his blatant commercialism into pure artistic expression and an exaggerated cultural time capsule that only gets better as the years roll on, like so many motorcycles riding until dawn. That virtue entirely rests on cinema’s unique crossroads of art & commerce. If the movie has one major fault it’s that it didn’t lean into its obvious status as a commercially-minded novelty even further to conclude with a performance of “Ice Ice Baby,” which is nowhere to be found on its soundtrack. That would’ve been the icing on the cake.

Alli: I really, really would have liked more info about that Pee Wee’s Playhouse garage. It’s out of nowhere. I know Roscoe and Mae are eccentric, yet awkward geniuses, but as said above even for this universe they’re strange. Also, this house and garage are supposed to be a literal Limbo, but between what? Is the world Johnny and his friends came from in some sort of chaos? What did they go through before happening upon this innocent town?

Boomer: I also love the art design of this movie. When mentioning to a friend that I had just watched Cool As Ice, he asked if he was misremembering the film in that he remembered one location as consisting of nothing but colors and shapes, which I was happy to point out was an actual set on this film. My favorite bits were the globes and doors out front, as well as the ludicrously sized salt shakers that at first seem like a perspective trick but ended up being a gag. So fun.

Britnee: I wish Naomi Campbell had a bigger part in this movie that just a small lip sync scene in the film’s opening. She should’ve been part of the motorcycle crew! Even though I know that wish will never come true, I love the hell out of this movie.

Upcoming Movies of the Month
July: Britnee presents Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983)
August: Boomer presents The Psychic (1977)
September: Alli presents Schizopolis (1996)

-The Swampflix Crew

Sing Street (2016)

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I can relate to the teenage punk wannabes of Sing Street more than I should probably admit. The film’s depiction of an all-boy Catholic high school as an oppressive hellhole shaped by a Kafkaesque adherence to The Rules & a constant, violent power play of toxic masculinity rang particularly true, though it’s an environment I experienced in mid-00s New Orleans, not mid-80s Dublin. So, what do you do in that creativity vacuum where the priests are worse than the bullies and your drab homelife only serves to feed your depressive teenage angst? You start a punk band with your fellow angsty friends, dummy. You shamelessly mine music & pop culture knowledge from people who actually know what they’re talking about (in this case a stoner older brother) & you start holding band practice in your friend’s garage. The only things that don’t ring true about Sing Street‘s central conceit for my own experience is that its high school punk band is actually pretty good (mine was a goofy mess) and that it was mostly formed to impress/woo a girl. That latter point is actually where the film loses it’s way, too, as it forgets to focus on what makes it special as an against-the-odds rock ‘n roll story in favor of a much less distinct sappy romance fantasy.

I don’t know if the titular teenage band of Sing Street would necessarily categorize their music as “punk”. They seem to prefer the term “futurist,” which is apparently a grey area between new wave & new romanticism that formed in punk’s mid-80s European ashes. This is a pop culture environment where Duran Duran’s music video for “Rio” is considered revolutionary art and teens form all over Ireland & rural England are flocking to London to become part of the scene. Sing Street doesn’t follow those kids, though. It instead tells the story of the less-wealthy punk wannabes who can’t afford to move to London & have to stay behind. The film’s early proceedings play like a less fantastical version of Moone Boy as our “futurist” rock heroes try to assert themselves as small town radicals, wearing makeup to a Catholic school & filming dirt cheap music videos for each new song in Dublin’s back alleys. The coming-of-age aspect of the film works quite well, especially  in the way the central band is allowed to start shitty & gradually improve as they mimic each passing fad in the music industry. Unfortunately, a lot of this goodwill gives way to a story about “getting the girl,” a preposterously rose-tinted tour through heartfelt teenage romance that drags down a lot of the film’s good vibes & aesthetic specificity into mind-numbing tedium. Sing Street is a great exemplifier of the dreaded critical cliché “third act problems.” The film drops a lot of what makes it interesting to clear room for its will-they-won’t-they teenage romance (something that never lasts, no matter where you leave off by the end credits) and an extended concert sequence that drags the pace down to a crawl with its diminishing returns musical numbers.

I don’t want to sound too down on Sing Street as a whole, though, even if my own enthusiasm was greatly deflated by its concluding half hour of romantic doldrums. At the very least I enjoyed it more than I expected to, based on the fairly generic trailer. It’s a pleasant film more than a challenging or ambitious one, but it does recall some feel-good aspects of (better) recent works like We Are the Best & God Help the Girl. You could do much worse for a lazy afternoon’s entertainment than enjoying Sing Street for its catchy mid-80s pastiche soundtrack or its period specific visual cues, like its wardrobe’s overindulgence in denim & wire-frame glasses or its accurate lampooning of the era’s music video clichés. The film just loses a little steam when it stops cheering for the band to succeed & starts cheering for an obviously doomed romance instead, with little to no implication that it knows how improbable that couple’s chances really are. Once you start to realize that only one or two members of the six piece punk, uh, futurist band are going to be developed into any kind of full-blown characters, it’s difficult not to feel at least a little disappointed. This is a pretty good movie, but if it stuck to its original trajectory it could’ve been something truly great.

-Brandon Ledet

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is doing dismal numbers at the box office right now, but so did the cult classic comedy it most closely resembles: Walk Hard – The Dewey Cox Story. The Judd Apatow-penned John C. Reilly comedy Walk Hard applied ZAZ-style spoofery to the musician’s biopic genre and wound up covering the entire history of rock & roll from its blues origins to its Vegas crooner swan song. Popstar picks up exactly where Walk Hard leaves off, mixing ZAZ spoofery with a Spinal Tap documentary format to skewer the modern state of pop music as it has developed since Walk Hard‘s release nearly a decade ago. It’s a shame both of these films failed to make waves financially (Popstar‘s seemingly complete lack of advertising couldn’t have helped there), but they do promise to hold onto a more significant longevity among their respective comedy nerd fandoms. Case in point, just look to the other The Lonely Island film that failed at the box office & found a second life among dedicated fans, Hot Rod. Popstar is just as funny as Hot Rod & just as primed for repetitive viewings, so there’s no doubt in my mind it’ll get the same cult comedy treatment as that militantly goofy title in the long run.

The really interesting thing about that lack of immediate financial success, though, is the way it plays directly into Popstar‘s plot. In the film former SNL player Andy Samberg embodies a versatile stand-in popstar archetype that covers enough ground to resemble any popstar of note you could name from Kanye to Bieber to Skrillex to whoever. Samberg’s titular popstar struggles to repeat past success with a solo record & tour that only do a fraction of the numbers landed on his hit releases. Over the course of the film he learns to put past grudges & current hubris behind him & give the people what they want: a cash-in reunion of the Beastie Boys-esqe pop group that first made him famous. In a lot of ways Popstar itself is Samberg’s way of giving the people what they want. Presuming that Hot Rod didn’t make as much money as it could have because its delightfully moronic daredevil subject matter isn’t exactly what audiences would expect from a The Lonely Island movie, Samberg & company return to their roots here to construct a full-length version of what made their SNL sketches & comedy albums popular decade ago: pop music parody. According to the film’s fantasy version of this well-deserved cash-in, they should be making absurd amounts of money right now, but that’s not exactly how things are working out despite the product being on-point.

Box office numbers & middling reviews aside, Popstar stands as Andy Samberg’s greatest achievement to date. His deeply silly magnum opus lovingly skewers the totality of hedonistic excess & outsized hubris on the modern pop landscape. The film nails the feel of modern pop documentaries in terms of style coopting the on-screen text & social media illustration of titles like Amy along with talking head “interviews” with folks like Nas, Questlove, and Pharrell, the exact kind of contributors you’re likely to see pop up in films like Fresh Dressed. Popstar builds a solid, believable base to hang its gags upon & that in-the-know confidence allows the humor to go as broad or as absurd as it needs to in any particular moment without throwing the audience off track. You’re never entirely shaken by a throwaway gag like a baby playing drums like Neil Peart or an artist responsible for the “brilliance” of catchphrases like “#doinkdedoink” having the self-confidence to declare the Mona Lisa “an overrated piece of shit” because the movie is well-calibrated enough to support those kinds of over-the-top indulgences. The format, the character, his world, and our own pop music terrain all back up each ridiculous gag Samberg throws at the wall,  making the film out to be an efficient little comedy machine in comparison to the sprawling, Apatow-dominated landscape comedic cinema’s been exploring to death in recent years. There’s certainly loose improv afoot in Popstar, but it’s arranged & edited into highly functioning efficiency.

I don’t think I’d call Popstar my favorite comedy of the year so far (it’s got the looming presences of Hail, Caesar!, The Mermaid, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, The Nice Guys and The Bronze to deal with there), but I do think it outshines its closest comparison point in recent months: Zoolander 2. My main complaint with Zoolander 2, a movie I quite enjoyed, was that it gets “a little exasperating in its never-ending list of cameos & bit roles […] The film is overstuffed with both celebrity cameos & SNL vets dropping in for a dumb joke or two.” Popstar somehow adopts that exact cameo-saturated format & makes it work like gangbusters. It’s impossible to review this film without name dropping some of the musicians (RZA, Usher, A$AP Rocky, Arcade Fire, etc.) & comedians (Sarah Silverman, Eric Andre, Bill Hader, an actually-utilized Tim Meadows, etc.) involved, but their presence is actually necessary for the format to work instead of being distracting & dilutive the way they were in Stiller’s film.

Popstar smartly & lovingly dismantles the entirety of pop music’s current state of ridiculousness from EDM DJ laziness to the devastation of a negative Pitchfork review, to Macklemore’s no-homo “activism” to U2’s invasive album release snafu. Celebrity obsession & absurd acts of cartoonish hubris play right into that surreally vapid world, so Samberg has established a work here where needless cameos &  unhinged silliness are a necessity just as much as they’re an indulgence. Long after the lack of critical or box office buzz are forgotten, Popstar might just stand as Samberg’s greatest to work, the most efficient application of his distinct sense of humor put to record.

-Brandon Ledet

Five Albums I Would Love to See in the Style of Girl Walk // All Day (2011)

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May’s Movie of the Month selection, Girl Walk // All Day, was such a unique experience. After initially viewing the film, I couldn’t help but think of albums that I would love to see done in the style of Girl Walk // All Day. These, of course, would need to be dance albums because anything else just wouldn’t be as energetic and fun.

Here’s a list of five albums that I would love to see come to life on the big screen:

 

1. Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters

How can you not “feel like dancing” when listening to this incredible debut album by the Scissor Sisters? The music is just as unique as their bizarre music videos, so a visual album would turn the world upside down. I’m picturing a few body painted dancers portraying a coming-of-age tale in a mystical forest.

 

2. The Chemical Brothers – Push the Button

As the iconic beginning to “Galvanize,” the first track on the duo’s fifth studio album, plays, the audience is introduced to post-apocalyptic New York City. Dancers would be decked out in shredded pants and leather studded jackets, you know, the regular post-apocalyptic couture. Oh, and dirty faces for everyone!

 

3. Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Every song on this album would be perfect for interpretive dance, and I think that a short musical film for You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby would be much like Girl Walk // All Day. Energetic tunes in the background with a leading lady breaking all the rules is the image I get for this one.

 

4. Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill

This album is just 100% fun, like just about all of the music from the Beastie Boys. The songs on this album are so humorous, and they definitely make for some great old-school hip-hop dancing.

 

5. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

Aliens dancing up a storm in outer space is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sound of Silver. This is one of those albums that you just can’t help but smile while listening to. The futuristic beats are perfect for dancing in the goofiest way possible, and I think it would be a lot of fun to see this album as a film.

For more on May’s Movie of the Month, the 2001 narrative dance video Girl Walk // All Day, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film, our look at five other classic visual albums, and this comparison of the movie with Miyazaki’s “lost” short On Your Mark.

-Britnee Lombas

Green Room (2016)

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With his last two features writer/director Jeremy Saulnier has carved out a nice, little niche for himself in constructing intimate, terrifying thrillers about folks who are in way over their heads (in blood & viscera). His last film, Blue Ruin, was a tightly-wound revenge thriller in which a doomed, ordinary man took on an organized criminal syndicate despite his ineptitude for violence in a private war he instigates (or avenges, depending on your perspective). His attempts at violence are ugly & disastrous, as he fucks up constantly, but the inertia of the plot doesn’t allow him any viable options but to continue on anyway. There isn’t much of a difference in Saulnier’s follow-up, The Green Room, except a change in scenery and a shift in perspective from revenge to survival in its central plot concerns. The Green Room somehow feels less special & more pared down than Blue Ruin, but it’s still an effective thriller that never loosens its chokehold on the audience’s throat throughout its runtime thanks to an increasingly limited set of options for a positive outcome for any one of its characters, protagonist or otherwise.

Fictional hardcore punk band The Ain’t Rights (featuring Burying the Ex‘s Anton Yelchin & The Final Girls‘s Alia Shawkat among its members) are struggling to make it home from a disastrous road tour, resorting to siphoning gas & camping roadside to ease their financial desperation. Keeping their punk band ethics D.I.Y. & internet presence free, the band finds themselves in the fragile situation of playing one last gig for an isolated skinhead (ne0-Nazi) community (run by a no-nonsense, ice-cold Patrick Stewart). As soon as The Ain’t Rights open their set with a cover of the Dead Kennedys’s classic diddy “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” the vulnerability of their situation becomes terrifyingly apparent & only gets worse as the plot thickens & the chokehold tightens. After their set The Ain’t Rights accidentally uncover a couple nasty secrets their racist/militaristic punk show hosts are hiding at their concert venue/compound and the situation snowballs into a total nightmare where they’re locked in a small, windowless dressing room with no hope for escape except an all-out bloodbath where the ill-prepared youngsters aren’t likely to survive. Spoiler alert for those unfamiliar with this kind of genre fare: most of them don’t.

If there’s a prevailing concern that drives every scene of The Green Room it’s authenticity. Scenes of D.I.Y. punk kids drinking beers, listening to records, getting dead serious about their biggest artistic influences during college radio interviews, and having out-of-body religious experiences while thrashing around in a mosh pit all feel true to the punk scene as I know/remember it, albeit without the stench of body odor that would seal the deal. Apparently The Thermals frontman Hutch Harris was brought in as a coach for this aspect of the film, which is about the cutest thing I’ve heard of since Deb Harry handed out “punk rock merit badges” to the Frog Scouts on The Muppet Show. I only have to assume that the skinhead scene is represented with the same level of authenticity, as I’ve thankfully had very few experiences with their presence at New Orleans D.I.Y. shows. I’d like to see a version of this kind of punk scene thriller without these white power monsters’ involvement, but the movie seems well-researched in their representation. At the very least it gives the same fetishistic attention to the various designations of their bootlace colors as Friedkin gave to the gay S&M scene’s handkerchief coding in Cruising.

The Green Room‘s authenticity doesn’t stop at its depictions of D.I.Y. punk culture, either. The violence is some of the most horrifically brutal, gruesome gore I’ve seen in a long while, not least of all because it’s treated with the real life severity that’s often missing in the cheap horror films that misuse it. Each disgusting kill hits with full force, never feeling like a frivolous indulgence, and the resulting tone is an oppressive cloud of unending dread. From the Dead Kennedys cover to the end credits my veins were pulsing so hard they felt as if they might explode. That’s a sign of a highly effective thriller, but it wasn’t necessarily a feeling I’d wish to return to at any point.

The Green Room amplifies the hopeless situation of Blue Ruin by confining its action to an extremely limited space & uping the potential number of lives at stake, but I couldn’t help but find the plight of Saulnier’s in-over-their-heads protagonists a little repetitive here. There are some truly great, small moments in the film (the religious experience in the mosh pit especially stands out), but in a larger context I felt it was mostly delivering a heart-racing sensation of fear & apprehension. It was intense in the moment, but felt like somewhat of a cheap thrill once I reached the relief of the end credits. As a genre picture I think The Green Room checks off all the right boxes & delivers everything you could ask for as an audience looking to cower & sweat. However, I’d love to see Saulnier switch gears in the future & push where else he can take that intensity/authenticity with an entirely different set of genre expectations.

-Brandon Ledet

Movie of the Month: Girl Walk // All Day (2011)

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Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before & we discuss it afterwards. This month Brandon made Boomer & Britnee watch Girl Walk // All Day (2011).

Brandon: Mashup DJ Gregg Gillis, better known by the stage name Girl Talk, releases all of his sample-based mixtapes for free through an imprint collective named Illegal Art. This isn’t necessarily a choice based in artistic integrity (although Gillis himself does have a lot to say about the legitimacy of copyright laws), but rather a product of the circumstance that Girl Talk tapes would be illegal to sell commercially. In an industry where hip-hop artists & pop music producers are careful not to get sued over borrowed melodies & uncleared samples, Gillis composes his music entirely out of repurposed, previously copyrighted material. His work as Girl Talk is fantastic party music, but it’s also commercial suicide. I assume Gillis makes most of his money mixing songs at live gigs since the art he’s most well known for is decidedly “illegal”.

Having this uncopyrightable material floating around out there has its advantages, though. For instance, a rogue dance crew could, say, make a full-length music video centered around one of your mixtapes without any fear of legal persecution (at least not from the DJ). Girl Walk // All Day is a movie-length dance video constructed around Girl Talk’s 2010 album All Day (which is still his most recent full-length mashup release). The film (and I do think it qualifies as a legitimate film) seems to take Gillis’s “illegal art” imprint as a mission statement. Stealing its soundtrack & candid reactions from outside sources and operating around what presumably had to be permitless film shoots, Girl Walk // All Day has an inherent sense of danger at its center that makes the film feel like it shouldn’t exist. Yet, its star dancer Anne Marsen (billed simply as “The Girl”) brings a childlike exuberance to every scene that makes the movie feel like it does have a right to exist even if it’s on earthquake-scale shaky ground legally, as if good vibes & positive intentions should outweigh any potential scandal. Girl Walk // All Day is frequently removed from YouTube & broken into annoying chapter segments on Vimeo due to its inability to secure an official release, but when you watch the film you’re left wondering exactly why someone (or some corporation) would want to crush or erase a work so joyful & goodhearted in the first place, uncleared music samples or no.

Legality aside, I feel like the first thing we have to address about Girl Walk // All Day is whether or not it has a legitimate claim as a feature film. It screened at film festivals, it made critic David Elrich’s Top Films of 2012 countdown, it has several narrative arcs that run throughout its 74 minute runtime (one about The Girl’s personal growth as an antonymous woman, one about a love triangle where she’s caught between The Creep & The Gentleman, and one about the sprawling structure of NYC), but it’s easy to see how someone could brush the film off as an overlong music video. Britnee, where do you fall on this divide? Is Girl Walk // All Day a modern spin on the dying art of the cinematic musical or does its thin, near dialogue-free narrative exclude it from consideration as a legitimate motion picture?

Britnee: First and foremost, I was unaware of the legality issues with Girl Talk’s music prior to this conversation. I always thought that he had permission to use all the popular music samples in his mashups. I’m far from being a Girl Talk expert, but the thought just never crossed my mind. It’s amazing how his musical career is so huge while he’s surrounded with so many copyright issues. This makes Girl Walk // All Day seem so dirty, and I like that.

As for your question of Girl Walk // All Day being considered an actual film, I would have to say that it’s most definitely a legitimate film. I can also see how some would consider it to be an “overlong music video,” but I consider many music videos to be the equivalent of short films. Take Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” or, more recently, Adele’s “Hello” music videos for example. How could those not be considered cinema? Music videos are directed, contain acting, and tell a story. Is that not what makes a film, well, a film? Girl Walk // All Day does contain quite an interesting plot, and although the film contains no dialogue whatsoever, emotions are portrayed through expressive dance and facial expressions. That doesn’t make it less of a film; it just makes it a little different.

The dancing in Girl Walk // All Day was so contagious. Just watching The Girl dance her heart out all over New York City gave me such a sense of freedom, to the point that I was getting a bit lightheaded (I was only drinking water during the viewing). Boomer, if you were one of the many bystanders during this film’s production, would you join The Girl in quick jig or would you walk on by? Did you find her to be a likable main character or did you find her to be annoying and intrusive? What exactly did you make of The Girl?

Boomer: That’s a good question. At multiple points throughout the film, I found myself identifying with many of the people that The Girl encounters, the willing and unwilling participants alike. Although several of these passersby seemed disinterested in participating, she actively seemed confrontational with many of them (the one which stands out in my mind is the man whose hand she grabs while wearing the “Dance With Me” sandwich board), which didn’t sour me on the character but did leave a bit of a bad aftertaste in my mouth. Having lived in a few different cities, I can certainly say that my experiences with unsolicited engagement with others is not always pleasant. Over the course of the film, I found myself very much wanting to dance with The Girl in theory, but I don’t know if I would have actually had that desire in practice and in the moment. It’s pretty unlikely that the Girl Talk tracks that appear in the film were diegetic, given the movement from place to place and general public reaction, and as such I feel like my first instinct would be to avoid a potentially dangerous person approaching me, dancing to a song that I cannot hear. Other factors, like what kind of mood I might happen to be in when The Girl chanced upon me and whether I was in a hurry to get to work or another engagement would also affect how willing I would be to join in her movements, sublime though they might be. I want to answer your question with a resounding “Yes,” but I just don’t know if I would actually do so should the opportunity arise.

I’m talking, of course, about those scenes in which she is dancing through crowds and on the streets. Some of the Staten Island ferriers are utterly disinterested in her performance, and many of the people who seem taken aback by her look like NYC tourists to me. It makes sense that residents would be nonplussed by The Girl and her apparent mania, in contrast to visitors who are less accustomed to every performer within a 25 mile radius desperately fighting for attention and notice. Still, as fun and flouncy as the narrative is, there was an undercurrent to it that felt off, as none of the people captured on film seemed to have given their prior consent to being filmed, which is troubling despite how much joy I, as a passive observer, got out of the performance. I don’t know that I would find her annoying, and I really wish I could unequivocally say that I would have given in to the movement, but I know that I would have found her intrusive.

That may be why I got more enjoyment out of the less candid scenes. The opening scene in the ballet class and the overpass breakdancing dance off were a lot more fun to me, as was The Girl’s voguing in an alley with no other people around. There’s an exhilaration to the street scenes that I would find anxiety-inducing were I to be involved as a performer, and I like that the more rehearsed sequences felt a little calmer (but no less exciting) in that regard. Still, I didn’t care for The Creeper dancing with flowers in the park, despite the fact that it was one of the sequences that did not feature non-performers. It lacked some of the verisimilitude (insofar as that word has any meaning in a film like this) of the rest of the film, and I found it lacking as a result. What do you think, Brandon? Did you prefer the sequences that featured random people being pulled into the mix, or the more standard, “closed set” sequences?

Brandon: The individual set-ups in Girl Walk // All Day work for me on kind of a case-by-case basis. There’s so much going on in this film (which, although manicured to an extent, must’ve been a chaotic shoot) that each of the moving parts can be hit or miss depending on the execution. I’d agree that the closed set shoots do feel more purposeful in a general sense than the candid shots of The Girl interacting with the public do, but they sort of have to for the film to make sense narratively. Take, for instance, the graveyard flowers scene Boomer just mentioned. It’s a somewhat jarring tangent when the flowers first appear because they exist outside the Girl-Creep-Gentleman dynamic we’re used to until that point. However, the scene does carry a lot of significance to the film in a narrative sense, since it’s in that moment that The Creep literally grows a heart inside that dancing skeleton of his and makes the transition from antagonist to socially inept beau. The only “scripted” scenes I was lukewarm to, honestly, were the ones centered on The Gentleman, since he was the most static, least interesting character of the central trio. I guess it was fun for a moment to watch the random hardcore parkour dude steal his hat, but that’s about all there is worth mentioning.

As for the candid video interactions with the public, I think Anne Marsen’s performance as The Girl has a lot to do with how they go individually. She has an insanely infectious smile that can make you want to join in as well as a cartoonish grimace that can make you want to back way, way off. Marsen has incredible control over her physical language & expression (as I’m sure most talented dancers must) that can make interactions either inviting or confrontational depending on her desired effect. I’m in total agreeance with Boomer that the discomfort of these scenarios isn’t something I’d necessarily want to live through as a passerby, but The Girl’s mock aggression does make for some especially great moments in the film. I’m thinking not only of the aforementioned “Dance With Me” sandwich board sequence where she’s shown mentally unraveling & a scenario where’s she’s booted from a baseball game by the nonplussed security team, but particularly of the glorious moment when The Girl appears loaded with shopping mall ephemera in a high society fashion bitch outfit to taunt Occupy Wall Street protestors. It’s a beautifully over-the-top exchange that not only solidifies Girl Walk // All Day as a work of highly-functional performance art, but also a document of a very specific moment for NYC/America at large.

In most cases it’d be a massive cliché to say that New York City itself is a character in a piece of film criticism, but I feel that faux pas is inescapable here as it’s quite literally true. Not only are citizens (and tourists) of NYC roped into the production as performers, but The Girl’s personal journey (into adulthood? autonomy?) is more or less told through a guided tour of The Five Boroughs. Historical markers like Occupy Wall Street & the pop songs Girl Talk samples on the soundtrack are also very specific to the cultural zeitgeist of a particular time. Britnee, how much different would Girl Walk // All Day be if this physical & temporal setting were shifted? How different would the film be if it were set in, say, 2016 New Orleans? Are the time & place of its setting and the era of its pop music soundtrack entirely essential to its existence the way they’d be in a documentary?

Britnee: I’m quite unfamiliar with NYC as I have never visited the city nor do I personally know any residents, so I probably missed a good bit of symbolism that NYC offered Girl Walk // All Day. However, I am not that out of the loop and thoroughly enjoyed the hilarious yet profound Occupy Wall Street scene. I do think that the film would be very different if set in a different time and place. Music style and social issues change through time and by location, and these are major components of the film. The film’s essential message of self-acceptance and personal freedom might be the only thing that would not be all that different if this film were not set in 2011 NYC. It’s interesting that you brought up the question of the whether or not the film’s setting and music serve the same importance in the film as in a documentary. I definitely think that the importance of time and place in Girl Walk // All Day is very similar to that of a documentary. Her actions and the film’s music would hold a different meaning if she were to dance through Miami in the late 1980s or Atlantic City in the 1930s.

If set in modern day New Orleans, the film would be slightly different as New Orleans seems to be really different from NYC. Current issues New Orleans faces include gentrification, social segregation, and uncontrollable crime. I’m sure that the same issues occur in NYC, but not on the same level as they do in New Orleans. I can imagine The Girl dancing up a storm out in the Bywater to one of those extra-long bounce remixes Q-93 plays on Saturday nights. As she dances her way through the neighborhoods, life-long residents pack moving trucks while white upper middle-class families unpack moving trucks, carrying boxes to their new homes. Oh, and she would need to definitely leave that windbreaker behind since it’s always hot as hell down here.

Boomer, would you like to see more films in the style of Girl Walk // All Day? What particular album (from any artist) would you like to see turned into a film? And where would the setting be?

Boomer: Oh man, what a great question. The first album that springs to mind is The Decemberists’ Picaresque, if only because that album already has a particularly narrative quality. A film version of Picaresque would have to take a different approach, acting as more of a series of vignettes through which a dancer could travel; I would also see this as having more of an exaggerated, fantastic visual leitmotif, perhaps moving through several different areas inside a vast theater with individual plots being acted out in different small set pieces (or perhaps I’m just being too influenced by the album artwork in my imagining, as the characters I’m picturing all have the same ghoulish, caked-on white makeup as the members of the band). I would also love to see a film set entirely to Visions by Grimes; I imagine it as a Miyazaki style animated feature following Grimes herself as she makes her solitary, heroic way through a colorful jungle, a barren desert, a village full of people who refuse to interact with her (maybe they’re ghosts?), and other familiar Hero’s Journey locations, with each new track bringing her to a new locale.

Moving back to something more grounded (again, as much as that word can apply to anything in Girl Walk), I’m having a hard time trying to think of a particular album that’s actually New Orleansy enough to work in this context. Although they’re Brooklyn-based (or were 5 years ago, the last time they updated their Facebook page), I’ve always thought that Snakes Say Hisss! had a dirty South synth aspect to them, and I’ll Be Loving You feels right for something like Girl Walk filtered through a South Louisiana lens. The film could start in the Bywater (I imagining the film opening just like the video for NOLA-based Jean-Eric’s track “Better than Good”) with “Talk,” then move into the Marigny with “We Are Hot” before getting deep into the Quarter with the next few tracks before hitting the CBD with “Take It Slow” and “Right Behind You” (this track in particular makes me think of the rich carpetbaggers in suits hanging around the offices near Ampersand and Jos. a Bank). “I Control the Wind” is totally MidCity, as is “Avalon,” despite its region-specific references. I could go on, but I encourage people to listen to the album and trace their own journey, really. Of course, this runs the risk of locking non-Louisianans out of the loop, but that’s never really been a concern for large scale productions set on the coasts, has it?

Lagniappe

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Britnee: I love how this film made me insanely happy the entire time. There wasn’t a moment when I felt even the slightest bit disinterested. Films that contain the amount of good vibes given off in Girl Walk // All Day are a rarity.

Boomer: I agree with Britnee; this movie was a delight and it made me want to dance. In the intervening time since the viewing, I’ve found myself dancing to myself in spite of the general inappropriateness of the given situation. And although this isn’t a complaint (merely a fact of life), I’m with Britnee in her hesitant appreciation for the NYC-specificity of the film overall. I recently had a conversation with a friend (well, a member of a rival trivia team, but whatever) who was shocked that we were familiar with the Queensborough Bridge. He hails from New Jersey and was shocked that Southerners would know about a relatively unremarkable landmark in New York; I had to explain to him that all of America lives under the iron fist of NYC’s cultural stranglehold, for better or worse. Still, given the rate at which gentrification is rotting the soul of that city (as it is in New Orleans, and here in my new home in Austin), it’s entirely possible that Girl Walk may one day be remembered as one of the last pieces of real art to come out of the boroughs before all the artists actually starved to death.

Brandon: Besides whole-heartedly backing Britnee’s concept for a New Orleans version of Girl Walk set to a Q-93 Social Shakedown mix (not a bad idea for a Kickstarter campaign, honestly), I’d also like to conclude my thoughts here by highlighting my favorite section of the film: the shopping mall sequence. Just before The Girl emerges to taunt the Occupy Wall Street crowd, she gets through a butterfly-like metamorphosis at the shopping malls of Times Square. I’m typically a sucker for shopping mall delirium in film, anyway; it’s usually the imagery that sticks out for me when it’s done right, with Clueless, The Night of the Comet, Invasion USA, and the 2007 Dawn of the Dead remake being a few key examples off the top of my head. However, I think part of the reason it sticks out so much here is that it’s one of the better moments where The Girl is allowed to focus on herself instead of her place in the Girl-Creep-Gentleman love triangle. The self-reflective nature of consumerist pleasures like make-overs & fashion upgrades provides The Girl a lot of personal space to emerge as an oversexed butterfly in a moment that oddly glorifies & satirizes femininity as a performance & an identity.

This sequence always makes me so happy & by the time The Girl appears crunking in her Tell Me About It, Stud leather get-up at the end of it, I always get a little overly giddy. If the idea of watching Girl Walk // All Day in its entirety sounds a little too exhausting for some folks, I at least suggest checking out that particular chapter in isolation, especially since the film is often broken down into those rigid divisions anyway (instead of its ideal state as a fluid, continuous work).

Upcoming Movies of the Month:
June: Britnee presents Alligator (1980)
July: Boomer presents Citizen Ruth (1996)

-The Swampflix Crew

Da Hip Hop Witch (2000)

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When Britnee & I used to work together in New Orleans East, she once gently pressured me into taking a couple DVDs out of the trunk of her car that even she couldn’t stomach, despite typically having a much stronger fortitude than I do when it comes to total shit cinema. One of those putrid slices of schlock was Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, a movie so amateur that I had a hard time convincing myself that it was an actual, legitimate feature film & not some 80s punks’ super 8 home movies. The other was Da Hip Hop Witch, which I am sad to report is most certainly not a legitimate feature. It is, without question, a home movie (this time filmed on a camcorder instead of a super 8 camera). It just happens to be a home movie that features a long list of famous (and not-so-famous) rappers. Even accounting for the “film”‘s straight-to-DVD cheapness, it’s difficult to pull any entertainment value from Da Hip Hop Witch, except maybe from the schadenfreude of watching Eminem embarrass himself.

Because it is the sole moment of genuinely entertaining content in the movie, I’m going to transcribe here the entirety of Da Hip Hop Witch‘s prologue: “In December 1989, in the Newark Projects, there were a series of unsolved attacks and one murder. Residents claimed that it was an angry spirit, who became known as ‘The Black Witch of the Projects’. Ten years later, the attacks began again. This time, occurring in every inner city project on the East Coast and targeting every Rap star in the Hip Hop scene. An aspiring reporter determined to find out the truth and five white kids & a pug from the suburbs were determined to become famous for capturing Da Hip Hop Witch.” I promise that passage is much more fun than a proper plot synopsis would be. The only other chuckle-worthy bit of text in the film is the line, “Yo, check it! This is Salem, Massachusetts. You know, the place the witches are from?” Dear God. That about sums it up for the film’s enjoyable dialogue. For the other 90 minutes of runtime you’re pretty much left to fend for yourself.

If you haven’t yet guessed based on the film’s title, release date, or the phrase “The Black Witch of the Projects” in the prologue, Da Hip Hop Witch is a found footage Blair Witch Project spoof. Just by genre alone, the movie may already sound lazy to the uninitiated, but I swear it gets worse from there. More than half of the film’s runtime consists of staged street interviews in which famous rappers call the titular witch a bunch of names, coming off a lot like foul-mouthed schoolyard bullies. Imagine Eminem, Pras, Mobb Deep, Vanilla Ice, Ja Rule, and (for reasons unknown) graduation dances staple Vitamin C mumbling things like “That fucking bitch,” and “I was like, oh my God, what is up with this fucking bitch?” and you pretty much get the gist of what the film has to offer. To keep up the appearance that it has some sort of narrative structure, there are some non-Hip Hop Witch TV (as the interviews are dubbed in the film) storylines involving some late 90s, dreds-rocking, white hip hop kids & an investigative journalist all attempting to prove that Da Hip Hop Witch is a hoax created to sell records & garner buzz. Unfortunately, Da Hip Hop Witch is very real, and so is this piece of shit movie.

Perhaps the worst aspect of Da Hip Hop Witch is that it wastes a pretty killer title. I like the decades-late idea of a blaxploitation horror comedy like Blackenstein or Blacula (those are real movies, in case you’re wondering) updated for the late 90s/early 00s era. Besides the prologue & a laughably bad, Russ Meyer-esque tour of Salem’s street signs, though, the only value the film brings to the world is in embarrassing Eminem, as mentioned earlier. According to some reports, the blowhard, dickhole rapper’s lawyers attempted, but failed, to have his part removed from the film entirely & also tried to completely block the film’s distribution. A lot of the dialogue in Da Hip Hop Witch ranges from the misogynistic (women are feared & ridiculed because they might be the witch) to the transphobic (there’s a whole lot of “She looks like a man!” bullshit), but Eminem’s street interviews are are particularly cringe-worthy as they go on & on about how the witch tried to finger him. He just endlessly rambles about the witch’s “basketball fingers” and his own precious butthole to a near-obsessive degree and because he was such a hot comoddity at the time of Da Hip Hop Witch‘s release date, they kept every embarrassing second of it. If you dislike Eminem as strongly as I do, Da Hip Hop Witch provides a deeply satisfying feeling of knowing that he hated his contribution as much as he did, but the movie was released anyway.

The only stipulation is that the movie is so horrifically unwatchable that most people will never be able to participate in Eminem’s public shaming. Vanilla Ice also gets his fare share of embarrassments here, as Da Hip Hop Witch was filmed during his nu metal phase, but that detail is honestly more sad than it is satisfying. Every other rapper (and there are dozens involved that I haven’t bothered to list here) get by more or less unscathed. Ultimately, who cares who’s involved, since Da Hip Hop Witch isn’t a real feature film anyway? It’s a DVD version of a home movie that never should have left the confines of Britnee’s trunk. Well, Eminem cares. When the film was set to be re-released in 2003 (what? how? why?) the rapper managed to have its cover art that prominently featured his likeness scrapped before it reached the shelves, reportedly under undisclosed, Shady circumstances. As terrible as Da Hip Hop Wtich is on the whole, Eminem’s reluctant involvement still shines as a beacon of delectable embarrassment from within. I wouldn’t say that the full experience was worth it for that aspect, but it honestly didn’t hurt.

-Brandon Ledet