Grindhouse Rant - Part Deux: After having watched Planet Terror one more time, (just to make sure I wasn't being too hard on it) I find myself sadly coming to the following conclusion: I like it even less now. Haven't watched Death Proof a second time, but would like to, just to formulate additional thoughts on why it's crap. I just didn't care for the whole sha-bang. If they worked for you, hey that's super - but they didn't for me.
What do I like about these two films? I like many things - individually that is, it's the sum of their parts that leave me somewhat cold and wanting. Basically, I am fond of everybody involved with these projects (not so much the directors though), the actors (especially Rose and Rosario, fantastic actresses - but what's up with Rose these days - I see her with Robert Osborne on TCM and she SOUNDS weird, the tone and articulation of her speech seems a bit off, the cadence is weird - maybe it's the stress of her current relationship, hey-ooooooo), the crews, the effects teams (I've been a Nicotero fan since his career began), etc. etc. I just didn't "like" the films. And, yes, the reasons I don't like them are part stuck-in-my-ways curmudgeonry and part postmodern problematics. The curmudgeonry is strange as Tarantino is about 6 years my senior and Rodriguez is a year older than yours truly. So, I find it odd that I feel some nostalgia is better left untampered with while they (being a bit older) were willing to try this experiment.
The experiment failed from a profit-ratio analysis (although DVD sales are the bread and butter these days) upon initial screenings. To illustrate this point, I queried my History of Film class back in April of 07' to see if they understood just what these films were "about" - students who had had me before chimed in with authoritative "yeses" and there were a few older students who claimed they did, but the rest of the class was utterly clueless. None of them knew what a grindhouse theatre was, or exactly what type of programming played there or how this programming came to be in the first place. Bad news if you are the Weinstein brothers. A happy aside is that since I started teaching, my students become knowledgeable on the subject of exploitation films - origins, appreciation, history - etc.
So, why did I like them even less? I dunno really. I guess it's because I'm tired of having to explain over and over and fucking over to everybody where I feel these films are symptomatic of a larger global discourse. I don't find anything wrong at all with nostalgia, hell, I'm the POSTER BOY for nostalgia (shall I produce a document explaining why Buck Rogers was the greatest show of all time? Clearly it's not, but boy I could argue...). Where I find nostalgia to be problematic is when it becomes the impetus, structure and content for pastiche/self-reflexive/intertextual driven programming (Family Guy anyone?). I've already written about this in another post and there's no need to go on and on... Suffice it to say, Grindhouse worked for some people, but it didn't really for me.
To quote Brooks Hatlen "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."
The differences between the then and the now are monumental. Much has been written about the last twenty to thirty years - the giant leaps - the progress - the idiocy - the pathetic state of human affairs - the postmodern condition - - - - - - - But one thing is for certain dear readers - things ain't what they used to be. From the industrial revolution, World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, The Cold War, The 60s - budding agency of marginalized groups, the political correctness of vernacular discourse, and two million other equally important things that would take forever to list - nothing is the same. Global Capitalism sees to this.
The world has gone off the deep end and nothing will ever be the same. My buddy Fred Adelman from from DVD Maniacs puts it very nicely when he points out the differences between the cinematic experience of decades past versus the ridiculousness of it today:
1) Order the tickets online so we don't have to wait in a line (Waiting in line was one of the best ways to meet a girl and her friends).
2) Watch the movie in a sterile environment (We use to have ash trays on the seat handles, for both cigarettes and pot).
3) Get distracted by the lights and sounds of people's cellphones (Back in the day, if people were unnecessarily distracting you from the movie, you simply got up and punched them in the face and threw them out of the theater. Try doing that today).
4) After the movie is over, get something to eat, get laid, go to sleep (That's the only thing that has remained the same).
Nuff' Said there. The analogy I'm working at is that the films that Grindhouse is aesthetically and thematically working at are best left where they were. Grindhouse was fun, but empty. I guess there's only one summer per customer.
I can honestly say that I am far more impressed with Mad TV's Dr. Funkenstein series than Planet Terror and Death Proof. Some of the funniest shit I have EVER seen. I haven't seen them all, but I am especially in love with Funkenstein Versus the Werewolf Hookers.
Lastly, I'd like to direct you to Tim Lucas' ever-brilliant Video Watchdog. This month, Tim and several other contributors (Steve Bissette, Shane Dallmann, and Kim Newman) have a round-table (as they often do) discussion devoted to Grindhouse. I align myself very strongly with Kim Newman's views on the project. My favorite bit is when Kim ponders how Quentin and Robert would have operated under REAL exploitation conditions (not Reservoir Dog/El Mariachi conditions) - with an ULTRA low-budget, crazy shooting schedule, orders to include 10 minutes of stock footage, a 79 minute cut, x-amount of nudity etc etc... - - Again, I say why didn't they contact JOE DANTE for a faux trailer?? He actually made films for Corman, and may I say that PIRANHA is still a masterpiece - period!! End of story. No, I mean end of story, the post's done and I'm sure you're grateful.