Monday, February 11, 2019

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Review

I really wanted to like this film. I really did. I was hoping for a stylized and scathing critique of the lust, consumerism of "high society" rooted firmly in transgressive fiction. Something akin to American Psycho or even something (in part) evoking Infinite Jest and by all appearances (if the trailer was any indicator) it initially presented as such. What I got however, was a schlocky combination of Final Destination and Insert generic ghost story here. 

Velvet Buzzsaw committed a lot of sins but what killed it for me is that it began with such a genuinely interesting premise. The world building of the elite contemporary art scene (a microcosm of the American petty bourgeoisie) got off to a strong start.Russo's line of "I've gone from anarchist to purveyor of good taste" was particularly striking for me. The plot thickened as Vetril Dease the aged resident of a slummy apartment complex passes away in the lobby leaving his life's work a prolific collection of art ripe for the taking. The catch? He left specific instructions to have it destroyed. One can't help but think of real life outsider artist Henry Darger when recanting this tale. 

As the art world is taken by storm Josephina (Zawe Ashton... more on her later) Rhodora Haze (Rener Russo) and Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) both seek to profit off of the newly discovered cache of art. As pointed out earlier, a strong start only to be hijacked by the same elements of any generic horor flick of the 2010's. Unsurprisingly, Dease's ghost returns, embodied within his art to reek havoc on the people who dishonored his last dying wish. The cast all expereince increasing paranoia and then die in a manner of gruesome (yet very un-creative) ways and there we have it. There are also of course, a fair amount of sex scenes in between all this.

Russo and Gyllenhaal who need no introduction were absolutely brilliant in 2014's Nightcrawler. A truly harrowing tale of ambition gone horribly array and while both of their performances were at least serviceable here any they were clearly subdued and worst of all took a back seat to the leading lady, Zawe Ashton (aka Josephina). Her flat, uninspiring and at times outright unlikable performance took up far too much screen time. Her romantic and personal troubles were of no interest and I genuinely felt no emotional investment in her character. I'm admittedly unfamiliar with her filmography but this was a very disappointing introduction.

One bright spot (literally) was the set design. The art presented in the film was quite good. Captivating and definitely a plus in the world building aspect that I was quite fond of throughout. 

As someone who is quite the consumer of all manner of horror media who has also attended quite a few art galas in my day, I can say with confidence that this film fails at the whole lot. Fine art? Certainly not. Horror?  suppose it puts forth the bare minimum. Social commentary? Maybe in its own mind. It also seems to have a certain kind of pretentious ere to it. Whether this is because it wanted (and possibly was, studio edits can make or break many aspects of a film) to be something more than what it was, or because it really was a self indulgent mess is of little consequence. I feel safe in rating this film a 3/10. There are much better ways to kill an afternoon than Velvet Buzsaw. 





Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Day in the Life

1.
Mr. White sat at the public chess table in Ironwood Park quietly smoking a cigarette. He was alone for the time being and it was colder than usual. The wind sliced through his paper thin, god-knows-what sort of stained windbreaker and chilled the edges of whatever flesh his scraggly beard left uncovered.
"You look like shit."
Mr. White looked up. A man stood in front of him. A man from nowhere materializing from the atoms that make up the wind. Everything and nothing. A man dressed for a funeral, sporting a jet black (and undoubtedly overpriced) three piece suit, daubed with a faint cologne to mask the even fainter scent of corruption. A man he knew well.
"Waiting for you takes a toll." Mr. White said, after stomping what little remained of his cigarette out.
"Come now, Mr. White... that's hardly an excuse."
"Let's play. We're long overdue." Mr. White said his voice gripped by a sense of urgency he hadn't felt in some time.
"Very well old sport. Very well.
2.
Jason opened his eyes very, very slowly. The invisible vice grips pressing against whatever brain cells he hadn't killed off last night, forcing it all to come into focus. The day old puke in the kitchen sink, the (mostly) empty bottle of Captain on his nightstand, the general atmosphere of dim squalor as the light of the sunrise he'd missed by several hours crept through the holes in his blinds all called him back from the netherworld of his dreams.
"Fuck me," he said to no one in particular. TV snow buzzing like a swarm of cicadas ("what a life, spend all your time underground waiting and waiting to reach maturity then you finally grow up. For one day, you get to eat and fuck as much as you want then- nothing. Death, the final curtain...what a fuckin life") he thought to himself between the throbbing pain. He reached for what was left of the rum and chugged it. No chaser, it was gonna be one of those days. He made his way outside to the bus stop (knowing that all roads lead to the liquor store), no shave, no shower... one of those days.
3.
"You're slipping old sport. That was some rookie bullshit if I've ever seen it."
"Old sport?" Mr. White sighed
"Really topical humor."
Well-" the man in black moved his pawn to E5.
"I try to bring some levity to our little get-togethers but all jabs at 1920's lit aside, you seem... off. You have for a while now. What have I missed since last time?"
"Nothing you aren't familiar with. Nothing that you didn't set into motion yourself."
The man in black smiled in the shit-eating way that he always smiled.
"That's hardly polite. Scorning an old friend for showing genuine concern? We may have had our-differences but surely, surely we can put some of that aside. We've been through a lot together Mr. White. That ought to count for something."
"Rook to H3."
4.
"Long day already?" the usually disinterested Arabic store-clerk asked. Jason said nothing. Even if he'd wanted to the hangover hadn't died down enough to make such banal small talk anything close to a reality.
"Yeah, I guess," Jason grunted.
"Pint of rum I take it?"
The thick smell of incense wasn't helping his hangover in the slightest.
"Yeah..."
"Five fifty."
Jason reached for his money. The yellowed teeth of store-clerk (he hadn't bothered learning his name after all this time) curling into a smile. His coffee scented breath exhaled into the air they both shared. A symbiosis of sorts. A reliable customer was exactly that, a reliable customer. Jason knew it. His friend the store-clerk knew it. The money and alcohol changed hands and Jason headed for the door. After looking around for a while for any cops that might be cruising by, he took a brisk walk to the back of the parking lot to take a few swigs before the bus ride home. He thought of a picture that the store-clerk kept by his register. A young girl 5 maybe 6, smiling. Genuinely smiling. Jason popped the cap and took the first of what would be many more swigs.
5.
"Nice move. Maybe you're coming around."
The man in black always did this. He instilled false hope into Mr. White right before he swooped in with a victory. It had been like this for while now. It wasn't always but here lately, Mr. White had been slipping.
"Don't think that I don't know how you work your little hustle."
"A hustle? Why, I'm insulted." The man in black smiled.
"Time for a smoke break." Mr White lit one up his eyes still glued to the table best he could. It was going to be one of those days.
6.
"Aye man, what you need?"
Jason looked at the skinny, twitchy guy to his right.
"Ah, no man I'm (burp) good."
Whoever it was said nothing and scurried away towards the front of the store.
"Cocaine really is one hell of a drug," Jason thought to himself now more than a quarter of the way through his pint... enough to starve off the withdrawals but definitely not enough for a good time. After one more gulp he followed suit and made his way back to the store entrance.
"I ain't gonna tell you again mother fucker. Give me your fuckin cash now! All of it!"
"Holy shit! Please, please I have a daughter... b-back in Pakistan. Please..."
Jason didn't have time to assess the situation. All he knew was that the twitchy fellow he'd ran into moments before had a  gun in the store clerk's face. Now was a time for action.
7.
"Check," Mr. White said. His voice not quite as muffled. His breathing a little less labored.
"Hmm, I see..."
The man in black... his true colors were starting to show.
"Well, I suppose I'll have to fix that now won't I... It's been a while since you've put me in this predicament old sport."
"Save it. I'm not in the mood for any of your bullshit pleasantries. You'll have to figure out a way to fix it pretty soon. Time's running out."
Tiny, almost imperceptible beads of sweat began to form on the man in black's brow. As the hourglass loosened a few more grains of sand. Mr. White's lips curled into a smile of their own.
8.
If the Marines had taught Jason anything, it was how to take out a target. One punch to the gut and un uppercut to the lower rib. One stomp on the wrist to disarm and one swift kick (also in the gut) remove any chance of Cracky McCrackerson of being able to get up anytime soon. Jason grabbed the gun, gave it to the clerk (wracked by tremors, furiously dialing 911) and bolted out of the store. He ran through a labyrinth of back alleys and burnt out squats until he couldn't. Gasping for breath. He reached into his filthy hoodie, took one look at his pint of rot-got rum and tossed it at the broad side of the garage next to him. Shattering into too many pieces to even dream of putting back together. Spilling its lifeblood all over the streets. Jason collapsed in the middle of the hood alive. He began laughing, crying tugging at the loose pieces of asphalt.
"Thank you... Th-Thank you!" Jason sobbed.
A light rain fell over him. On the corner of South 3rd and Taylor.
9.
"Check mate.'" Mr. White said, his voice giving way to thunder as the skies opened up.
"No! No! im-FUCKING-possible!" The man in black screeched. The veins in his neck bulged. His jagged teeth were ripe with a lust for blood. He tried to reach for something (a gun, a knife whatever you want it to be) but it was too late. The rain that hit his skin instantly turned to steam. Pockets of flames erupted from under his suit. This wasn't any sort of fire that rain could put out. His flesh peeling and turning to ash as a chasm opened up below his chair. On-lookers stood like deer in the headlights as the man in black was swallowed up into the grave of flames beneath him.
"Better luck next time," Mr. White said with a wink and just as soon as it had happened. It vanished. The rain gave way to sunlight. Joggers and couples walking their dogs went about their business as usual. Children played on the nearby jungle gym. Mr. White, looked around, picked up a Sunday paper leftover from who knows who and breathed a sigh of relief.
10.
3 months later, Jason sat in a VA halfway house quietly sipping his coffee. A letter from his hometown he'd received a couple weeks ago hung on his wall. Two words and nothing else.
شكرا جزيلا
For the first time in a long time. Jason closed his eyes, took a deep breath and smiled.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Art on Imgur #fleshgang

Some recent projects I've been working on (not of the penned variety, though I am hard at work on some new content/branching out a bit stylistically). These were made for fun with a deep dream generator. Hopefully they'll be appreciated by someone out there. 

https://imgur.com/a/wkJPjoF

Friday, September 14, 2018

Exposition/Expiration

Microbiota, older and wiser than we are outnumber our somatic cells 10:1 watching from their migratory paths as the meat they travel through learns how to imitate reality. Conforming to cold laws of time and motion of God and government. Ambitions increase as the game of chess within our blood unwinds. Civilizations within a simulacrum built on the rot of its billions of predecessors. All is calm and still in the wake of self digestion (the most meaningful act of violence we'll endure) a shamanic catalyst for an afterlife torn from the pages of books we've written relished with the scent of coffee and cigarettes a world we can only dream of... I wonder how many of them have names? Can microbes dream of love and yearn for peace? Is there a spot in heaven for all the L-form bacteria that crawl through life with us? ... I wonder what they think of the mess we've made. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Another Statistic

July 2010

"So, what is this shit suppose to be?" Gerald asked after exhaling

"They call it V. Shit's like coke on steroids."

"Nah, more like ice." Jim chimed in (followed by the obnoxious fucking laugh of his "HEH HEHAH"). Scott, after fidgeting with his ever-present sunglasses, looked his way and shrugged.

"It's an upper man. It'll get ya there. Discovering how is half the fun."

I looked at Gerald hesitantly. 

"I asked if you were good on weed man. Weed, not fake coke cooked up in some Chink sweatshop." 

"You boys tryin ta get high tonight or what?" Jim asked sternly, not laughing this time. A hostile glare illuminating his dipshit, redneck face (I didn't care much for Jim if you couldn't tell by now).

"Alright, fine. How much?"

"$25 for a half G."

"All right, fuck it. Yo, you got that 10?" Gerald asked me.

"Uh... yeah sure..." 

My mind racing with possibilities. Unbeknownst to everyone else. I'd already had a love/hate affair with that "fake coke shit." Surreal, life-affirming feelings followed by spending the better part of 2 days in  hellish comedown had prompted me to stay away.  I had enough manic highs and crushing lows to deal with under ordinary circumstances Besides it was a 1 time flash in the pan sort of thing. Just another party drug; "Just trying it for the life experience man" but something had got the better of me. Peer pressure, curiosity, a growing fascination with what regular society deemed the most disgusting aspects of poly-drug abuse? Whatever you wana call it. I decided that one more time couldn't hurt.

September, 2017

"Gerald. I'm going out for a bit."

Gerald sat, bathed in the soft blue glow of his computer monitor. His facial features as flat as its surface.

"Where you going?" he asked after a longer pause than usual.

"It's Tuesday dear."

"Meds?"

"Yes... meds," Linda said shakily.  Forcing herself to swallow the lump in her throat.

"How... how have the voices been?" 

"Okay I guess... Mom," he said as Linda did a double take to make sure she'd picked up the spare key. Trying her best not to fixate on the clutter on the table, dried up dog turds on the floor and expired milk in the fridge.... Those are things that can wait.

"Yes?"

"Can you get me a pack of Newports while you're out?"

"Yes dear... I love you."

"Love you too," Gerald said. His eyes still fixed on his computer screen.

Linda, slowly shut the door behind her and lingered for one last look at the front door before starting her car. 

September, 2010

"You should slow down on that shit man," I said (ah the pre-junkie da(ze)ys. That awkward time in one's life where sound judgement still makes an appearance. 

"C'-C'mon (tweaker behaviors intensifying). Scott's got a fuckin ball of the shit... A ball! Maaaan, we could go in on that, dime it out and push it all around town. I know plenty of people who would jump all over that like a... like a fuckin dog in heat. C'mon. Please help me out!"

"Push it or smoke it all?" I asked. 

Gerald said nothing.

"I'm sorry man. I just started school. Can't be fuckin around with too much of that ya know?"

"Fuck! Fine." Gerald said while storming off to his truck.

"You can lose my fuckin number while your at it!"

"Whatever you say Gerald," I said letting out a sigh before lighting my first cigarette of the day.

"Whatever you say."

March 2013

"Hey, you remember Gerald?"

"Yeah, it's been a minute. What's up with him these days." I responded after exhaling, coughing and passing the blunt back to Dana.

"Damn, been a while huh?"

"What?" I asked

"I mean this is okay-tier shit but not that good. Wouldn't have thought that it would phase ya being a college student and all," she snickered.

"Gotta cough to get off," I chuckled.

"Besides it's not all coeds and vodka" I said after finishing my coughing fit.

"Midterms this week, have to buckle down and actually study."

"Suuure, anyway Gerald."

"Yeah, what about him?"

"Dude's a fuckin space cadet now. I was hanging out with him at Jay's a few weeks ago. He started going on and on about how he hears these voices sometimes but it's all good because he's just like on a higher level of consciousness or something."

"Wow," I said unable to think of much else to say.

"He was hittin that V pretty hard, even after Scott left town."

"I'd heard he was still doing it occasionally but... damn." 

"Well, I don't know for sure. Rumors are rumors. You're the psychologist in the making. What do you think about all that? I mean I've definitely met people who get pretty fuckin weird after messing with stuff like that."

"Hard to say. Could be any number of things really. I hope he's alright." 

Those words echoed through my head long after I made the (hour or so) drive back to my dorm.

"I hope he's alright."

October 2017

"911 where are you calling from?"

"Yes! My... my name is Linda Smith. I'm on 313 Lincoln Avenue. It..It's my son Gerald. He's having an episode or something. I thought he was better. Dr. Bernard from Behavioral Health told me he was doing so well with his new meds."

"Ma'am please repeat your location so I can alert an officer."

"Mom! Mom! They're saying... They're saying that you have to go." Gerald said with tears streaming down his face.

Muffled screaming... Call ended at 9:21 AM 0:47 seconds.


January 2018

Man Accused of Strangling his Mother to Death Found Unfit to Stand Trial

Gerald Smith (29) arrested on charges of 1st degree murder in October has been found unfit to stand trial after undergoing a formal psychiatric evaluation. Johnathan Sanders II public defender originally assigned to Gerald's defense filed a motion for a fitness evaluation following the events leading to the local man's arrest. Gerald was evaluated by Dr. Sharron Asad MD (state mental health services) and Jim Townshed Psy D (state mental health services). He'd had an extensive history of mental health issues which may have played a role in the charges he's facing. 

According to testimony of first respondents, a 911 call had been placed by Linda Smith of 313 Lincoln Ave at 9:20 AM on Oct 23, 2017 stating her son was "having an episode." Officer's arriving on the scene found Linda unresponsive face down on the kitchen floor of the residence. Gerald was pacing, appearing very agitated stating that "the voices made me do it." Smith's charges were indefinitely suspended by state officials but may be revisited if Smith attains fitness to stand trial. 






Thursday, June 28, 2018

That one time I tried crack

"You ain't tryin'a buy dope are ya?"

I found myself facing an older and if appearances were to be trusted (very speculative) balding black woman as I stood out front of the South End Tap mindlessly puffing away on a cigarette.

"Me? nah (burp) nah man. Not this guy." I lied, drunkenly.

Pale and lanky as I was strung out... I wasn't fooling anyone.

"I don't care if you doin dope, just be smart about it. Don't be drivin and shit.

"Oh, no no ma'am I would never."

She look at me and smirked. 

"Here take this, barely touched it. Seem like you need it mo'than I do."

She handed me a Styrofoam take out container filled to the brim with chicken fried okra. Three days ago, I'd been in detox (oops) and the food there had been as bland as my senses. As grey as the hospital gowns we shuffled around in amidst the back-drop of dying fluorescent lights. Alcohol and fistful after fistful of vicoden and lorazepam may have turned me into a zombie but there was nothing that made you feel quite as undead as detox. I snatched the parcel from this strange woman and scarfed down what I could, before tossing my cigarette to the wind.

"Thanks man" I mumbled in between mouth-fulls 

But she'd already went back inside. As lump after lump trans-fat drenched goodness made its way down my throat, I began to remember the reason I'd decided to venture out to this particular shit-hole bar. 

I'd tried just about everything else. Shit-tire whiskey and Steel Reserve had made up my mind a long time ago hell maybe even genetics had made up my mind a long time ago. Everything culminating to the moment where I finally score some crack rock. I'd done powdered coke enough to know that its glamour was illusory. There were darker avenues to venture down. Untold riches of arcane, euphoria lied there ripe for the taking and after epically failing at detox, it was my time to experience them. I'd been down and out for years, now I just needed to join the club. 

Later, (had no luck scoring at the bar) I found myself outside of a liquor store a few blocks down. I went in to buy some more beer. It didn't matter what brand or how much. I just needed a reason to scope out the clientele or... let them scope me out rather. A good dopeman knows the scent of desperate oblivion and I reeked of it.

"Aye," A voice called out to me as I was leaving.

"What you need my man. I got that good bud."

I looked back to meet his gaze. His gun the first thing I noticed and believe you me, I felt the weight of that gun through my eyes. His posture told me that he had no intention of using it now but wouldn't hesitate to at a moments notice. They say that if the dope doesn't kill you the lifestyle will... Now I understood. This palpable atmosphere of danger really was the great equalizer. Nothing imparted on me from my petty bourgeoisie upbringing could have prepared me for this. This was everything the 90's Drug Free PSA's and DARE programs had warned me about.

"You got anything other than weed?" 

"Yeah, what you need?"

"Rocks... a dub."

"Hold on a minute."

After motioning to another person I'd not noticed standing beside him he handed me a bag and I handed him a crisp $20.

"Aight, you good?"

"Yeah." I said mesmerized. The strained sound-waves echoing in the distance the further I walked.

My hands shook with excitement as I pinched the end of my cigarette, stuffed the rocks in and covered them back up with the loose tobacco I'd harvested. 

"3...2...1..." I said to myself bringing the lighter to the tip and the butt to my mouth I inhaled harder than I ever had before and then... Bliss. The infamous bell-ringer made itself known as every pore on body vibrated for a few precious minuets. I spent the next hour or wandering around aimlessly, drinking and talking to myself until the familiar shapes of my little suburbia came into view. I stumbled home and actually managed to fall asleep. Days came and went as they tend to do. I never did go back to that liquor store parking lot. I knew the age-old bedfellows of pain and pleasure. I knew that wherever angels tread, demons follow close behind... I had enough of those and wasn't ready for another quite yet.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

I Have a Problem... I'm a Cannibal

A generation and a half
Force fed tragedy
Desolation festers beneath the shiny surface
Corupting the host(s)
Maddned by madness
Bound and submissive
Youth lies ripe for the taking
In a world (more or) less troubled

A lust for death sets in as flesh and bone fracture
Christ on a digital cross
Laid bare by the tools of His sinners (with each gnawing pain)
Releasing  a spray of visceral dread
To be consumed #trending
To be... eaten
#againandagainandagainandagain




Notes; The following was partially inspired by Stanley Dean Baker. A real life cannibal and feature of some true crime documentary series I've been wasting my time with lately. A fascinating read for anyone who may be interested https://gizmodo.com/the-heart-eating-hippie-who-admitted-i-am-a-cannibal-1724667829