Friday, February 26, 2010

a night in

(ETA: Well, your proprietor has been made to look and feel like a tit, what with this episode disappearing from the schedule. Again.)

Your proprietor doesn't trust the sun that has peeked through a rainstorm that's been battering San Francisco for the better part of the day. One suspects the rain will return in earnest rather soon. But here at the House of Sparrows we're practically hoping for a rainy gloomy night, in anticipation of a half hour of television that has been oft-delayed, but eagerly awaited...

Based on one of my favorite comics, Batman: The Brave and the Bold has been a delightful destination for early Friday evening viewing. Though slightly more kid-friendly than other iterations of the DC comics universe, B:TBATB has captured the truly gonzoid spirit of the team-up comic upon which it is based, which mined the teaming of Batman with lesser-known heroes for some offbeat stories. At worst it's a diverting and entertaining superhero cartoon; at best (as in a truly sublime teaser which teamed Batman with Detective Chimp to solve a locked room mystery), it can be downright thrilling.

I've been keen to see tonight's episode for a number of reasons. "Chill of the Night" concerns Batman's quest for the killer of his parents. Heavier subject matter than the show's usual beat, which may account for its continued postponement. But also notable is the fact that the episode brings back writer Paul Dini (one of the driving forces behind the justly lauded "dark deco" Batman: The Animated Series) to the Batman fold. Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman for many years, also steps in to provide the voice of the Phantom Stranger. Given the Phantom Stranger's household god status here at the house of Sparrows, tonight's episode pretty much commands your proprietor's attention.

The episode airs in the show's usual timeslot (Friday night, 7:30pm) on Cartoon Network. If you tune in, comment and tell me what you thought, and thus become a friend of the House of Sparrows forever.

the Rondo Awards

A nice and respected by-fans-for-fans set of awards honoring the best in horror. Your proprietor is thinking about the various nominees. I'll likely write in No Name and Balrok as Best Horror Hosts for their booze-addled antics, genial comic timing, and generally contagious (if a mite fratboy-ish) enthusiasm for the lowest-rent horror on Creepy KOFY Movie Time, 'cause those motherfuckers make me laugh.

Meanwhile, fave blog Arbogast on Film offers some well-reasoned advocacy for Frankensteinia and its proprietor Pierre Fournier, so I'll likely follow his lead.

Voting closes early April. Vote early and oft--I mean, once.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


A long, long train rolls by behind the credits. Havenhurst and Vargas, two homicide detectives from a different (and better, if more conventional) film, have their morning rounds interrupted by an 1154 call. Someone's dead.

The setup for this long-awaited David Lynch/Werner Herzog collaboration is juicy indeed, including a glancing encounter between Havenhurst (Willem Dafoe) and Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon). But once McCullum barricades himself in his home with a pair of hostages, all we can do is watch as the pieces of McCullum's bizarre history assemble, and wait for the situation to reach a boiling point. Or, in this case, not.

Over the course of the last several years, Herzog has been quickly lapsing into self-parody: the anti-nature ranting and bemusement over his human subjects' folly became tiresome in ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD. But while some of his routine had been skewered by the gonzo energy of Nicolas Cage in THE BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, the familiar Herzog tropes roll by in MY SON, etc. as if on a checklist. Though clearly supported and indulged by producer Lynch here, the styles of the two directors prove less than their sum (and there's some Lynchian checklisting here too, as Grace Zabriskie gives the same performance she's given in every Lynch project she's appeared in since TWIN PEAKS). Herzog tries to accommodate some Lynchian shots of suburban torpor-turned-hell, but his obsession with hard, ego-damaging reality doesn't mesh with Lynch's nightmares.

As for lead Michael Shannon, he offers another dangerously unhinged character to his gallery, but one wonders if he's able to grasp a character whose life is grounded in more conventional psychology. Giving him space here to make the attempt might have lent some context to his escalating derangement, but Shannon plays every scene in the same dully insistent monotone.

There's a growing audience for Herzog's comedy of detachment, and the numerous shots of flamingos and ostriches will surely tickle this crowd (as they did at the screening your proprietor attended). Those hoping that a producer with as strong an auteuristic bent as Herzog's would send him into new territory will be disappointed.

Here's hoping Absurda yields better material with King Shot, if financing allows.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


As in SEXY BEAST, the previous collaboration between screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto, 44 INCH CHEST begins with an examination of actor Ray Winstone's body at home. But unlike the previous film, which began with Winstone well-fed, sun-baked, and relaxed by the pool, Winstone (here playing gangster Colin Diamond) lies barely breathing, like a beached whale, amid the wreckage of his marriage, his home, and indeed his life. We soon learn some of the details of his wife's infidelity, and a desperate, barely coherent phone call from Colin quickly brings a small army of friends to his support.

Said friends turn out to be a veritable rogues gallery of Britain's Most Dangerous Men, from the pragmatic Archie (Tom Wilkinson) to gay and dangerous gambler Meredith (executive producer Ian McShane) to old school foul-mouth Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), who immediately kidnap the boyfriend for a tete-a-tete with Colin. Colin is reeling from the betrayal, and remains indecisive about the boyfriend's fate, even as his friends wait itchily but patiently on the sideline, all too eager to get their licks in.

The story in many ways seems simply an excuse to get some of the UK's finest actors together for a Pinter-esque cuss-a-thon, and indeed, watching these thespic lions inflicting all manner of verbal and physical abuse upon one another is a delight. But the film exists as more than simply a filmed stage play, and deploys a number of cinematic devices to portray Colin's disassociation and potential annihilation. To be sure, debuting filmmaker Malcolm Venville has most of the heavy lifting done for him by the script and cast, but the film never takes the easy way out by descending into British gangster cliche, and Venville keeps the humanity of all of the film's characters front and center. Some have been disappointed by aspects of its story, but like its troubled protagonist, 44 INCH CHEST ultimately has nothing to prove to anyone, and is possessed of a morality that is ultimately bracing. Your proprietor regrets that he can not divulge what grabbed him so much about this film without spoiling major aspects of it, and thusly commends it to you unreservedly, saying no more.