Friday, October 29, 2010

Brown & Nasty: Project Runway's Winning Design

I've written about television from time-to-time on the blog, usually about Last Comic Standing. After last night I feel incensed enough that I need to jot down some thoughts/feelings about the finale of Project Runway.

I've been a fan of Project Runway since about mid-point in the first season when I sat through a ubiquitous Bravo marathon of the show, catching up and learning to love Jay McCarroll. Since then I've been hooked, even during the disastrous first Lifetime network season.

Have I disagreed with the judges' decisions before? Sure. I thought that Chris March shouldn't have been eliminated from the finale and that his use of hair in his designs was cutting edge, not kitsch. And there were a few other blunders here and there but nothing that has incensed me as much as the finale of Season 8 (10/28/2010).

Starting off strong and winning a few challenges, Gretchen Jones seemed the designer to beat on Project Runway this year until the fifth challenge ("There IS an 'I' in Team") when she showed a significant lack of taste but also an incredible streak of animosity toward fellow designer Michael Costello. Gretchen hung a target on Michael C and didn't let up on him, incessantly bullying him and badmouthing him (at least that's what the viewer saw). The more she picked on him, the worse her designs appeared to get.

More than even the clothes she designed, Gretchen showed questionable taste when it came to her own outfits and styling. She would don drab earth tones and do her hair up like a fairy princess as if making herself look dowdy would make her outfits more exiting.

Gretchen eventually turned from outright hatred of Michael Costello to a fake, simpering "friendship" where she would try to touch and hug him whenever they were on screen together. This may have been worse than the abject loathing and backstabbing she'd been practicing. It could have been that Michael C was Gretchen's biggest competition early on in the show but spent the last few challenges in the bottom of the pack. Or, it could have been that Gretchen was getting tired. In the final group challenge ("We're in a New York State of Mind") she whined about being tired of challenges. This was the NYC challenge where Gretchen turned in a completely drab look that had been allegedly inspired by Manhattan's Lower East Side. If it wasn't for contestant April Johnston completely repeating herself then it might have been Gretchen going home at that point. Rather, she stuck around for the finale.

Ironically, Michael Costello's collection for Fashion Week spoke to Gretchen's work. Michael employed a monochromatic palette that the judges lambasted. Yet, Gretchen utilized the same single color theory for her drab collection. Judges Nina Garcia and Michael Kors lauded Gretchen's work for being a ready-to-wear collection, something available to go from a runway to a woman's closet, completely missing the point that her fellow designers' clothes here far more fun and engaging than her muddy, matronly wear.

Instead of praising her taste, the judges should have been questioning it. Gretchen came to the final runway discussion wearing something that looked like it was out of a 1980s Frederick's of Hollywood catalog. More than liking Gretchen's work, it seemed that Nina and Michael were mad that superior designer Mondo Guerra hadn't listened to their advice and made adjustments to his stunning polka dot dress. By bringing this dress to the final discussion I'm sure that they felt Mondo was being rebellious when he was continuing to be adventurous. It seemed that Nina and Michael had forgotten the need for fashion to be fun and backed Gretchen due to her apparent commercial appeal. If Gretchen's clothes represent where fashion is headed then now is the time to panic. The world needs clothes like those of Mondo Guerra, not Gretchen Jones.

In other words: Project Runway Fail.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Philadelphia Event: Brickbat Books

On the eve of the second Noircon event I'll be in Philadelphia, PA for an event at the ultra-hip Brickbat Books. I'll be appearing with Chris Cummins -- a frequent contributor to Cashiers du Cinemart whose article "The Gremlins That Could Have Been" appears in Impossibly Funky.

I hope that folks will be able to join us on Wednesday November 3rd at 7PM for the event!

November 3 2010 - Impossibly Funky at Brickbat Books

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Impossibly Funky Release Party

I wasn't in the theater when the curling iron scene hit the big screen but I could hear the moans coming from inside the auditorium from the table on the first landing. I was manning the book table and just cooling out for a bit while the screening of Black Shampoo went on.

While I'd been watching, I found myself laughing and/or reacting extra loudly a few times to the film as I think that the audience was a little stunned by the happenings on screen but when I came back in near the end I was glad to hear everyone reacting appropriately.

Seeing Black Shampoo on the big screen in a fairly crowded theater in Detroit really was something of a dream come true. That people were showing up for something that I helped put together made the experience even more of a joy.

Things started around 2PM at the Burton Theater. Rather than reading a piece from Impossibly Funky I did a brief history of the zine, doing a show & tell of old issues to show the evolution of Cashiers du Cinemart. Then it was showtime. I'd put together a two hour program: a half hour of previews and Who Do You Think You're Fooling and 90 minutes of Black Shampoo (my fan edit of the film which removed the "poodle kick" scene from the DVD), And, afterward, I rang up director Greydon Clark for a Q&.A via phone. Greydon came through loud and clear, talking about Black Shampoo and fielding questions from the audience. It was awesome!

I had expected maybe two dozen people to show up -- counting the folks who had responded via my Facebook invite along with folks who promised they'd show up -- and managed to get more than that. In all, I'd estimate that maybe 40 people came, and I wasn't the former co-worker, college chum, friend, or family friend of a lot of them! I can't thank everyone enough who made it to the event. It turned out far better than I could have hoped.

Thanks again to everyone who came out! Below are a couple of pix. I'll add more when/if I get 'em!

Andrea mans the selling table.
Books $20 in person (autographs free) and DVDs $5

Mitch Range and me express our admiration.

The infamous pool table at the Burton.
No one reenacted scenes from Black Shampoo there
(that I know of).

Me and Andrea outside the Burton
on a lovely Sunday afternoon
Photo by Dion Conflict

Dion by The Stream in the Desert, Cass Avenue

A run down palace behind the Burton
Photo by Dion Conflict

The Detroit Door at the Burton
Photo by Dion Conflict

Going Apeshit


Friday, October 22, 2010

Are You Ready, Detroit?

Are you ready for an impossibly funky good time, Metro Detroit? It's all happening Sunday 10/24 at the Burton Theater at 3420 Cass Avenue in Detroit at 2PM.

I'll be reading a selection from Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection, fielding any questions, selling and signing books. After that, get your butts to your seats for a half hour of previews, music videos, and a short film (Who Do You Think You're Fooling?) before the feature presentation; Greydon Clark's seminal blaxploitation flick Black Shampoo. And, if all goes right, Mr. Clark will make a special cameo appearance at this Sunday's festivities! (fingers crossed).

Tickets are $7 US at the door and books will be selling for $20 ($5 off the retail price). The concession stand will be open with plenty of pop and popcorn available.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Walking in Philly

Just mapping my walking route for when I'm in Philadelphia the first week of November. I'm sitting here watching the Food Network's number one Food Porn show, "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and there's a deli in Philly that I must visit - Sarcone's.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Voice of Detroit

I was lucky enough to get an invite down to WDET 101.9 FM, the local NPR affiliate, for an interview on the Craig Fahle show. Rob St. Mary locked me up in a little soundproof booth where my screams were ignored by everyone at the station. After I calmed down, I sat for a few questions and answers. A film fan, St. Mary asked some great questions. The above pic is a shot of Rob from where I sat in the Isolation Room.

The segment ran today and can be downloaded or listened to here: http://www.wdet.org/audio/craigfahle/227/CFS_10-18_Podcast.mp3. I'm about 1:46:45 into the proceedings. If you listen to the entire show, keep in mind that it's pledge time on public radio!

Speaking of, if you enjoyed the show, feel free to pledge at WDET.org.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Impossibly Funky Book Release Party in Detroit!

I'm just getting back from the Burton Theater in downtown Detroit where I locked in details of the Impossibly Funky book release party!

I've put the word out on Facebook and am hoping to get the word out to more folks. Feel free to spread the word as it's an open event! Here are all the pertinent details:

WhatImpossibly Funky Book Release / Film Screening
WhereBurton Theater, Detroit
When2PM-4:30PM, October 24, 2010
WhoAnyone who can make it!
How Much$7 US

This will be the first time since the '70s that Black Shampoo has played in Detroit! There will also be a set of previews and short films including Who Do You Think You're Fooling? since it plays such big part in the book.

C'mon out for a good time!

Bookstores Selling Impossibly Funky

Having a book on Amazon feels like a big accomplishment for me since it's a worldwide site but I want to emphasize that there are a lot of good, local, independent booksellers that have picked up the book and are selling it in their brick & mortar stores as well as online. If you're going to order it, patronize these fine folks first, would ya?

There will be more places soon as I drop off books at the stores I'm visiting as well as stores who take the chance and order the book via Ingrams distribution. Note that the book in Ingrams's system is marked as "non-returnable" so a lot of booksellers will shy away from ordering a book by an unknown author with a goofy title. That said, most bookstores will special order and will carry a book if there's an audience for it. The key is to let them know that people want it.

Buy Now

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Oh hai, Amazon!

How nice it was to finally do a search on Amazon on "Impossibly Funky" and find that the book is now available via the online book behemoth! That's right! You can now buy Impossibly Funky via Amazon, or put it on your Wishlist and have your loved ones buy it for you for your birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa!

Here's the link!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Expendables Vs. My Soul to Take

My gang's got some cheesy shadows," says Stallone.

My gang's got some bitchin' reflection effects," says Generic Movie Teen #4

Who's gonna win?!?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Paracinema 10 - Now Available!

It's that time again, folks! It's time for the new issue of Paracinema, one of the best independent movie magazines being published today -- and I'm not just saying that since I've had a couple stories in their hallowed pages.

ISSUE 10 / Fall 2010 features:

  • Melodrama in Fast Motion: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls As Not Just Strange but Scathing by Adam Blomquist
  • Pink Socks and Monsters: Excess in Andrzej ŻuĊ‚awski's Possession by Todd Garbarini
  • Film Fanatical: A Conversation with Author Danny Peary by Brian Saur
  • Robert Downey, The Fool Prince by Brett Taylor
And, also, my piece about talking genitals in the movies. And, if that doesn't sell a few copies, I don't know what will.

Copies are just $7 (no shipping in the US) -- what a bargain! Order Now!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Big Push

And now begins my big push to get Impossibly Funky into as many media outlets as I possibly can. Newspapers, blogs, radio, TV, social networks, whatever. Between the release of the book and the tour, it's time to take out all stops.

I've started compiling a list of media outlets in all the cities where I'll be appearing in November but if anyone can chime in with information -- the local alt-weekly, good film/pop culture/entertainment radio shows, book reviewers for the local paper, etc -- I'd appreciate it. As a refresher of where I'm going to be appearing, here's the list.

Of course I'm going to concentrate on Detroit and Philadelphia first and then bust some butt on Pittsburgh, Metuchin, Baltimore, Richmond, Washington DC and points in between. Thanks in advance for any help!

Wasted

As readers of this blog may recall, I'm not one for conventions (or "cons" as the parlance goes). I hit the Motor City Comic Con in the spring and that's been about the limit of my con experience. By happenstance, this year's Cinema Wasteland convention fell on the same weekend in Strongsville, OH that I was coming to Cleveland, OH for a book event at Visible Voice Books. It seemed natural that I swing by Cinema Wasteland to see what it was all about.

Taking over the Holiday Inn, Strongsville, this year's convention boasted a large selling floor, several celebrities, and two screening rooms. As I've taken a vow of abstinence when it comes to buying movies and most books, there wasn't a whole lot of interest for me in shopping around. Several of the t-shirts for sale proved amusing and I coveted a lot of the figurines but I stayed my hand when it came to purchasing anything except when I happened across Josh Becker selling DVDs of his own movies as well as three books that he's penned over the years for Point Blank Press.

Though I've introduced myself to Becker before and exchanged some emails with him over the years, he doesn't know me from Adam. That's fine. I don't expect people to remember me. Being a fellow Metro-Detroiter, I wanted to throw a little support behind him and picked up his book Rushes. It looks like it's going to be a fun read.

One person I had hoped would remember me was sitting just a few feet down from Becker, none other than the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis. To be frank, he was the reason I came down to Cinema Wasteland. Being a cheap bastard, I wanted to save a couple bucks on postage and hand-deliver a copy of Impossibly Funky to Mr. Lewis as thanks for his contributing the foreword to the book. He didn't seem to remember me or remember writing the foreword but he definitely recalled the Maryland Film Festival where I met him. He's still pissed about the stage blood that fellow "Panel of Blood" member, Brian Horrorwitz, got on his pants. I wrote about it back in Cashiers du Cinemart #13.

After wandering around for a bit, contemplating stopping by and saying hello to Carol Speed and telling her how much I loved her in The Mack, I went into a screening room for a program of Three Stooges shorts and Warner Brothers cartoons hosted by Son of Ghoul. (Hosting, in this sense, means turning on the projector).

Herschell Gordon Lewis's The Uh-Oh Show was next on the docket. Originally intended to be a gore-iffic update to the Grimm fairy tales, The Uh-Oh Show also includes themes of reality television, media trends, and today's tough economic climate. The final project comes off as something of a mish-mash where it's fairly obvious that the folks on screen were having a good time but I'm not sure how much of that translated to the audience.

The movie deals with the bloody game show Uh-Oh where contestants who can answer trivia questions get some incredible prizes. Those who don't pass muster are subjected to the wheel of misfortune where they might lose an arm, a leg, a nose... you get the idea. Of course, no one comes out a winner (kind of like The Running Man) and audiences always get their fill of gore. When investigative reporter Jill Burton (Nevada Caldwell) loses her slacker boyfriend on Uh-Oh, she's stymied by her superiors as she tries to find out what's happened to him. Why she doesn't turn on the TV and watch her boyfriend being decapitated doesn't seem to occur to her. Meanwhile, the network wants a bigger and better program to fill a prime time slot. This thrills exec Fred Finagler (Joel D. Wynkoop) and burns up Uh-Oh host Jackie (Brooke McCarter). And, somewhere in there, a guy named Ray (Bruce Blauer) shows up to give Jill some kind of new romantic interest.

Wynkoop and McCarter couldn't be more different in their approaches to their roles--Wynkoop is completely unhinged, practically foaming at the mouth, while McCarter seems to be in danger of tripping over his lines and hurting himself and everyone around him. This uneven acting isn't limited to just these two actors but they demonstrate just how stilted the overall product is.

I know I'm asking a lot for The Uh-Oh Show to have a strong central narrative but it wasn't there and it bothered me more than it should have. I feel really bad capping on this movie as I really don't want to insult HGL and I was really looking forward to it. It just felt like it was trying to do too many things at once and should have concentrated on one or the other. Also, I was a little turned off by the bizarre appearance of a completely oversexualized African American character and a trio of "Arab" men who were pulling the strings behind the scenes. I have a feeling that this wasn't a reference to Americathon but maybe it was.

Now in its tenth year as a stand-alone convention (as opposed to being a seller at other conventions), Cinema Wasteland is Ken Kish's baby. I felt pretty bad wondering who the guy at the front of the theater taking slugs off of a Jack Daniels bottle was, only realizing once the post-Uh-Oh Show Q&A began that it was Kish himself. I got the feeling that when you're at Cinema Wasteland that it's Ken's world and we just live in it. Luckily, his love of genre films and everything to do with them comes out strongly at Cinema Wasteland. The whole event felt very well-organized and quite a hoot for horror film fans.

Oh, and HGL related the story about his pants during his Q&A. I think it's a regular part of his schtick. I wonder if Brian Horrorwitz knows that.

Later, in Cleveland...
"Whatever you do, don't go to Cleveland," was the advice given to me by Tesco Vee when I asked the fellow Michigander for tips on touring around a book. Vee hadn't had any luck selling his Touch & Go book in the Metropolis of the Western Reserve. His advice came after I had already set up my tour date for Cleveland (where I hoped I'd have better luck).

I got up to Visible Voice Books way too early. I spent some time wandering through the shelves. This is the kind of store that I'd frequent if I were anywhere near Cleveland. The store has a nice upstairs area for readings and this is where author Wred Fright found me as the clock neared 7. He was joined a short time later by a gal who had seen the reading mentioned and a twitter friend that was in town for Cinema Wasteland.

And, thus, the four of us sat around at Visible Voice for a while. I broke out my story, "Theater Daze," and read it to them -- making them guinea pigs for my first attempt to read in public. I think I'll need to cut it down a bit to make it fit into ten minutes rather than twenty. Otherwise, it went fairly well.

I exchanged a book for pizza with Wred (the same arrangement worked well when I got a copy of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus from him in July). No other copies of Impossibly Funky were "sold" today. Yet, I still found the trip to be worthwhile. I delivered a book to H.G. Lewis, saw The Uh-Oh Show, read in public, and hung out with some interesting folks. As Ice Cube would say, "Today was a good day."