Monday, December 25, 2023

2023 and me

Sometimes at this point of the year, I get super-introspective. But this time out I'm tabling the philosophising for a different day. I reckon you can find plenty of deep thoughts elsewhere on the internet machine right now - too many at this moment it seems - thus if you came here, you really wanted only to immerse deeply in cultural arcana.

Call it shop talk, call it inside baseball, call it compulsive wonkery, but this is what I do better than.

All year long, I've been asked what I'm up to. And there have been two projects that I've thrown the bulk of my time and energy on. I was already hip deep in these two projects last year as well. I'm sure everyone has heard of how the business of the show is a "Hurry up and wait" process, and yes, I've had several instances of scrambling to get a task done, and then waiting seemingly months for the results. All the while, there's factors beyond that keep slowing things down. And after you've told your parents the same "to be determined" story for the fourth time, yeah, it's confounding.

Thankfully, at least one of these is out of my hands, and within a few months, can be in yours.

Over 20 years after she passed away in the shadows, 18 years after I first saw her sole feature film, and 8 years after I became her de facto tubthumper, I am extremely proud and pleased to say that the late Christina Hornisher will finally receive some flowers, as her long-hard-to-see artsploitation drama HOLLYWOOD 90028 will come to BluRay, its first official U.S. physical media release. And that I will have my contributions all over it, including a painstakingly revised essay on her career and my journey retracing it. The trust, counseling, support, and respect I've received from Bob Murawski and David Szulkin at Grindhouse Releasing, Heidi Honeycutt and Etheria Film Festival, the surviving cast who spoke on the record, and the people who loved Tina, has been rewarding. And seeing the film itself, in advance of this BluRay edition, get screened over the last year and a half to a sell-out house at New Beverly, and to charged reception in international festival settings, tells me that betting on this longshot was the right choice. There's no street date yet, but my Impulse tells me you'll be able to have it in your hands by Spring.

Meanwhile, I cannot as yet disclose what I am specifically working on for Jonathan Hertzberg and his terrific Fun City Editions label. I can say that after years of correspondence that began from our mutual movie blogging, where we geeked out on the same minutiae of movie presentation most take for granted, it's been a thrill to engage with him in the elevated and significant manner that I have since he first launched the brand. I've been combing libraries, archives, collectors, and other less-visited venues, all in the name of creating a singular cinemanic experience in the home theater, and maybe beyond there as well. When you ultimately see what I've helped produce, I suspect when I ask you "how'm I doin'," you'll reply in the affirmative. Meanwhile, buy all the FCE BluRays. Especially Michael Ritchie's SMILE.

For the first time in ages, I am in the position to offer all the adjacent movie pick perks that became sadly sporadic in recent years. That's always a plus for me.

Not just a standard Jury Prize, but also, in a sense, a Justice Deferred Now Achieved Prize, goes to Jason Rutherford's epic sprawling chronicle of exploitation filmmaking MASTERS OF THE GRIND. I was involved as a talking head and filmed my material a decade and a half before, and at least one interview subject I brought to the project (who, unfortunately, did not make the cut) has since gone to the celestial green room. Indeed several of the people you hear from in this film have left us, filmmakers and actors that, even in the geek revolution of zines and DVD commentaries, never got the chance to expound at length as they received in this documentary, and having their testimony captured for posterity is important. Four hours may seem excessive to devote to the rise, decline, and extended wake for grindhouse auteurs, but ya know what, you could say the same thing for Ken Burns devoting 18 hours to baseball; if you're into the subject, the time commitment will be worth it.

And the covertly-coveted Runaway Jury Prize I gleefully confer upon Timothy Scott Bogart's biopic of his father Neil Bogart, SPINNING GOLD. Maybe a better filmmaker with a bigger budget could have made a more dignified and well-rounded history of the maverick producer who shepherded three record labels and several iconic singers. But when you've got a a master of chutzpah and self-promotion as your topic, is that what you really want? Or do you want to get a high octane taste of how he would tell his own life's story? No money for needle-drops? Fuck it! Actors who look nothing like the legendary artists they're portraying? Fuck it! Green screen work that looks cheaper than yr mom? Fuck it! SPINNING GOLD is the Bogart children giving their dad a victory lap, and as Bobby Heenan said, bragging isn't bragging when you can do it. And harp on its many flaws, with good reason, but I had way more fun watching this than I did with BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY or ROCKETMAN. 

Ten Worthwhile Films Nobody Saw But Me
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
Cobweb (the Samuel Bodin one, not the Kim Jee-woon one...yet)
Earth Mama
Of An Age
The Outwaters
Polite Society
Rye Lane
Saturn Bowling
The Unknown Country
When Evil Lurks

And seeing as you sat through all the self-promotion and the hot takes (and thank you for that), it's time to deliver the goods: the Top 13 of 2023:


12. MUTT












This year's requiem goes not to a person, instead to a place. One of several places that, while valued solely as a patch of land by speculators, were treasured points of convergence for families, lovers, and loners, all of whom owned a set of wheels, a lot of free time after sunset, and a love of watching dreams flicker in the moonlight.

“[There are] people that come from outside of the city to see the drive-in theater. They don’t come to see warehouses…There should be families smiling and making memories on that property.¨
- Robert Wilkiewicz, Pomona resident, to Montclair High School student

- Mission Tiki Drive-In, May 28, 1956 - January 22, 2023

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