Friday, February 23, 2018

It's The (Gasp!) Rondo Boys Club

It's awards season, ladies and gentlemen, and this always brings to mind the questions of legitimacy and purpose for awards overall.

I've given my share of awards over the years. As a judge at the MicroCineFest I often encouraged my fellow jury members to go beyond the standard "Best Feature" and "Best Short" to come up with many unusual awards, knowing that sometimes that laurel leaf design wrapped around "Best Whatever" can often give a filmmaker a shot at being in another festival or even garnering something greater. I'm not saying that we single-handedly helped Rian Johnson land the Star Wars: The Last Jedi gig but... we didn't. His Evil Demon Golf Ball from Hell was in the 1997 program before the festival had awards.

Regardless, awards can be helpful. Movies that are nominated for Academy Awards can suddenly regain box office momentum. This "seal of approval" from peers earmarks a work or a person as being special, of being noteworthy.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards. I watch the show religiously though I am not necessarily invested in it. I don't rush out to see all of the Academy Award-nominated films in hopes of winning my Oscar pool by knowing which films, performances, audio editing, or costumes truly deserve to walk home with an award.

I think back to Dustin Hoffman railing against the Academy Award for which he was a winner in 1980 (for 1979's Kramer Vs. Kramer):

I'm up here with mixed feelings. I've been critical of the Academy, and for reason. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be able to work.[...]I refuse to believe that I beat Jack Lemmon, that I beat Al Pacino, that I beat Peter Sellers. I refuse to believe that Robert Duvall lost. We are a part of an artistic family. There are sixty thousand actors in this Academy – pardon me – in the Screen Actors Guild, and probably a hundred thousand in Equity. And most actors don't work, and a few of us are so lucky to have a chance to work with writing and to work with directing. Because when you're a broke actor you can't write; you can't paint; you have to practice accents while you're driving a taxi cab. And to that artistic family that strives for excellence, none of you have ever lost and I am proud to share this with you. And I thank you.

And that brings me to the Rondo Awards. The website states: "Since 2002, the Rondo's have been fandom’s only classic horror awards — decided by fans, for fans." Let me say up front that The Projection Booth podcast - which I have co-hosted for seven years now - has been nominated five times. Also let me say that The Projection Booth is not necessarily a "horror podcast". The name of the Rondo Awards is officially "The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards". A better name would probably be "The Rondo Hatton Genre Awards" where "genre" typically gets translated these days into Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy.

Take a look at the nominations this year for "Best Film of 2017" and you'll find films like Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Wonder Woman. Those clearly are not horror films.

What's stranger is the second part of the Rondo credo: "decided by fans, for fans." The nomination and voting process of the Rondos is murky at best. I'm not asking for Price Waterhouse Coopers to oversee the process but a little more transparency would be nice. As it is, the nominations seem to come from the Classic Horror Film Board. I don't want to cast aspersions upon the members of this particular forum but they seem to be rather myopic.

The man behind the Rondos, David Colton, says: "It's an imperfect process, obviously, but we try the best we can to represent the best each year. [...] there's so much out there that sometimes things fall through the cracks."

While that may account for a few things getting by Colton and the 8600 members of the Classic Horror Film Board, it seems very odd that almost an entire gender escaped notice this year. When the Rondo Nominees were announced on February 18, 2018 there was a glaring gender gap.

This year's Rondos have 29 categories. Of those, six are strictly write-in categories, leaving 23 with nominations. Of those 23, roughly a dozen recognize individual achievements (categories like "Best Blog" or "Best Multimedia" can be argued to be group efforts). Of those, there were only seven that had a single female nominee of any kind and only one that had two or more female nominees (Best Short Film).

This caused a small uproar on Facebook, leading to the addition of two more nominations -- one in the Best Commentary category and one in the Book of the Year category. Yet, this felt like a case of "too little, too late."

Traditionally, people picture the stereotypical nerd living in his mom's basement as the the kind of person that would be interested in the horror genre but that is an outdated and incorrect. Shock of all shocks, there's even been a concerted effort to shed a light on women in horror with the aptly titled Women in Horror month!

Setting aside the gender gap for a second, let's look at the nominees overall and ask if they're even worthy of being in the running. Some of them are doing fantastic work but among their ranks are several writers, producers, podcasters, etc. who are just "phoning it in" and getting awarded for their flagrant mediocrity. Let us not forget that Lianne Spiderbaby is a Rondo Award winner. She could get a nomination (and win) while the people she ripped off for her articles and YouTube show did not: Lianne wasn't cribbing from the handful of consistent Rondo-nominees that have shown up time and again since the 2002 inception.

Where are the people who are doing the work? Putting in the hours, pounding the pavement, providing quality research into the horror genre? Where are Amanda Reyes, Heather Buckley, Bill Ackerman, James Gracey, Kier-la Janisse, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Chris Hallock, and Heather Drain? Where's The Cultural Gutter website and the Daughters of Darkness podcast? That's just a cursory list. I can't even say that I am a "Monster Kid" and those are just a few names that come to mind. The people who know horror will know these names and many more. These aren't the kind of people to nominated themselves on the Rondo thread (which I saw repeatedly when just taking a cursory glance). They're too busy actually busting their butts to do the work and then don't get kudos when the time comes for the farkakte nominations get announced.

If David Colton and the guys who provide the nominations need help, I suggest they join a few Facebook groups and follow some sites. As it is, I'm a casual fan and seem to know more of what's going on than these ardent fans. Or, is it just that they don't care? Or, is Facebook too new of a medium? Are they stuck with forum groups? I mean, the awards themselves still rely on antiquated things like "Email me your votes" rather than any kind of real online tabulation system. It would be nice to know who's actually getting votes. But, again, that's transparency and that's not what the Rondos are about.

Going beyond the bigger question of "should there even be awards?" I want to ask:

Who did the Rondos miss for work that appeared in 2017?
Who should get a little notice that hasn't?
And, should you even bother writing them in or are the Rondos just a sham?



This rant will likely preclude me from getting another ill-conceived nomination for a Rondo Award but, as Groucho Marx said, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."



Update: Apparently this piece along with some better sentiments have managed to touch a nerve. Mr. Colton writes:

I hesitate to do this, because if you have to list the women we've nominate then yup, there must be a problem (which there is). But just for those who might not know, this year's Rondo ballot includes: directors Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, Natalie James, Izzy Lee, along with writers, artists and pros like Sheena Joyce, Susan Svehla, Heather Wilson, Samm Deighan, Kat Ellinger, Deborah Painter, Tiffany DuFoe, Holly Interlandi, Stacey Asip-Kneischel, Andrea Subassati, Amanda Reyes, Laura Wagner, Sara Deck, Elvira, Graveyard Shift Sisters, Women in Horror Month, Etheria Film Festival, Rebekah McKendry, Homicidal Homemaker, Joanne Fulton, Vanessa Harryhausen, Susan Sarandon, Arachna, Marlena Midnite, Robyn, Penny Dreadful, Clizia Gussoni, Sara Karloff, Nancy Allen.

Past Rondo winners have included Jovanka Vuckovic, Kier-La Janisse, April Snellings (Writer of the Year, 2016), Jessie Lilley, Donna Lucas, Marian Clatterbaugh, Kathy Burns, Julie Adams, Lorraine Bush, Hannah Neurotica, Jackie Blaisdell, Vicki Smeraldi, Sue Howison, Sara Karloff, Vampira, Elvira, Linda Wylie, Trish Geiger, Rhonda Steerer, Debbie Rochon, Heather Buckley, Alycia Forum, Victoria Price.

Me thinks he doth protest too much. I also wonder if all of those winners even add up to half the total of Rondos that Tim Lucas has won over the years.

Also please note that even more things have been added to the list since I wrote this piece yesterday.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Tarantino Tales


As I mentioned way back when the Lianne Spiderbaby scandal broke, I'm the guy that people bring their Tarantino news to. I'm also the guy people bring their wild stories to.

The "take down" of men who have been accused of sexual misconduct has also brought about some incredible conspiracy theories as well. "Look at who's being accused! They're lower level nobodies, no one who's making Hollywood any significant bank these days. They're all sacrificial lambs while the real criminals carry on..."

Couple those two things and I've gotten an in-box full of Tarantino Tales that implicate him as a sexual predator -- specifically against Death Proof actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead -- and that his disavowal of Harvey Weinstein was nothing more than a smoke screen and that Sony is now protecting Tarantino from any accusations of misconduct now that he's in pre-production on his Manson film.

Let's not forget that Quentin Tarantino was dating Mira Sorvino -- playing a role in getting her in The Replacement Killers, which was right around the time Peter Jackson was in pre-production for Lord of the Rings. Some say this was an orchestrated revenge against Sorvino on Tarantino's behalf. ("Some say" is that same kind of crappy phrase Trump uses like "People are saying...").

There are also "casting couch" stories in regard to all of the movies that Tarantino has bandied about but never made: the Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill remake, the Vega Brothers movie, etc. But, again, those are rumors. Baseless accusations.

While these allegations against Tarantino have yet to come to light, they still may. However, I've also been treated to some stories about Tarantino that Alex Jones may find far-fetched.

Let it be said right now that I don't think that these hold any water. I don't think that Quentin Tarantino gave Roger Avary a spiked drink, leading to a fatal car crash nor do I think that Harvey Weinstein pushed Tarantino's long-time editor Sally Menke off a cliff while Tarantino video taped it, in order to make a snuff film to which he could masturbate later. Quentin Tarantino may be a lot of things but I don't see him as a Bond villain-level mastermind committing a string of crimes.

I don't even buy him throwing Hadrian Belove to the wolves as Cinefamily is a digital threat to the analog New Beverly; or doing the same to Harry Knowles because Knowles no longer serves a purpose. No, I see Tarantino as a guy who likes to hole up in his house and smoke too much dope.

I also don't see Harvey Weinstein as a serial killer who had both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams killed. This seems the definition of "fake news" and batshit crazy.

I'm sure not what to think about Robert Rodriguez's involvement in the Weinstein story. The casting of Rose McGowan in the notorious Grindhouse project presents some problems especially when I remember that Rodriguez cheated on his wife with McGowan before he abruptly broke up with her.

And what role does Amber Tamblyn play in all this? She allegedly encouraged Quentin Tarantino to "come clean" about what he knew about Harvey Weinstein but it all seems overly-calculated. This is both show and business.

I don't see it as any coincidence that Bryan Singer was removed from Bohemian Rhapsody right before being sued for sexual assault.

Now I am starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist but I will say that not only do I think we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg in regard to the mechanisms of the entertainment industry but that what we've read reeks of pre-approved studio releases.

There's absolutely no journalistic integrity to this blog post so it shouldn't be considered news. Consider it a bit of "pulp fiction" as it were. If there are hard facts out there to support any of these things, it's improbable they'll ever come to light but stranger things have happened.

Shanghai Diary: Three Weeks Later

It may sound like I'm exaggerating but not an hour goes by without thinking of Shanghai.

I won't give my usual list of what I miss -- food, people, etc. One of the strangest things that I miss was everyone around me speaking Mandarin. When I was over there I went out to lunch a few times with co-workers and they would speak to one another most of the time, leaving me out of the conversation and just speaking to each other in their native tongue. I have more experience with this than I might like.

Just today I was at lunch with three of my American co-workers and they were speaking to one another and leaving me out of the conversation. They were speaking another language -- or might as well have been. They were talking about sports of one kind or another. Football, mostly, and some hockey too, I think. I honestly could make out more from listening to the conversations in Mandarin. Plus, it was a little less aggravating to hear the Mandarin.

Having all of those conversations going on around me in Mandarin made my life a lot easier. Not knowing what was being said was akin to being able to just tune things out. Too often I'll be in public and my ears seem to pick out a single speaker -- someone annoying -- and can only hear them, even louder than my companion(s). I didn't have that problem in Shanghai.

Being here in the subzero temperatures of Michigan and seeing the 40-60 degree temperatures in Shanghai also make things a bit painful as well.

Being in the nicer weather and being in the big city lead to a lot more physical activity than I've been capable of doing over here. The good news, I suppose, is that I didn't gain much weight when I was there -- despite being so freaked out about not being able to maintain my diet. When I went in for a weigh-in I had only gained three pounds.

I've gotten a lot of compliments at work over the last week. However, every time that happens I realize that I'm only halfway there. One hundred pounds down, one hundred to go. And then it'll be time to maintain that weight.

I keep trying to think of a way to talk the powers-that-be at work into sending me back but I can't seem to find the right combination of words yet to make that happen. In the meantime, I'm just slightly miserable.