Happy Holidays, friends.
Happy Holidays, friends.
When dealing with pastiche, one runs the risk of caving to a certain kind of nostalgia; an enjoyment bred on familiarity. If you’re at all versed in 70s and 80s American horror movies and/or the paradigms of production, style, and story therein, the components of the decidedly retro House of the Devil might not shock you. However, you might be surprised at how effective writer/director/editor Ti West is at employing certain cinematic techniques, effectively juggling the shlocky thrills of Friday the 13th and Amityville Horror with the assuredly slow pace and terrifying atmospheric chills of Roman Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy” and John Carpenter’s Halloween. A rigorous commitment to 1980s period detail gives the film a comfortable sense of place, which is then undercut with high-wire tension and a heart pounding sense of dread you can only get while being home alone in the house of satanists, eventually and inevitably giving way to a brief period of ritualistic insanity before its hugely ironic finale. But make no mistake, this is far from kitsch: House of the Devil may be an imitation, but it is hardly inferior to its trashy forebears and is truly the more-accomplished offspring of its Reagan-era parents, possessing the ability to take us back in time while maintaining its own sense of purpose and integrity. Now, whether that purpose was to put Tom Noonan back in the born-to-play role of a psychopath or to have a beautiful woman (Jocelin Donahue) dance around to The Fixx’s “One Thing Leads To Another” is another story altogether, but I’m not complaining.
Given the bias of this operation, I can be silent no longer. And let’s be honest — the Hot Stove is sometimes more appealing than cruel realities. As you may know, on December 2, 2010, the Chicago White Sox signed free agent first baseman Adam Dunn. This shocking move caused massive reverberations in the Sculpting in Dimes headquarters I can assure you, as I can also assure you that we toasted our Bill James Handbooks and laughed maniacally into the depths of night, forever freed from the soul crushing shackles of Mark Kotsay’s hostile takeover at the designated hitter position. But this joyous reception is not just here, in the city by the lake, but across this vast nation. So in an attempt to free ourselves of bias, let us take a look and see how some sportswriters and media pundits across the country have reacted. The results speak for themselves:
“To cut to the chase, Kenny Williams’ heart-breaking and magnificent signing of Adam Dunn is the supreme masterpiece by one of the greatest of 21st-century GMs. Bringing together all of sabermetrics highly developed ideas about statistical analysis, value, and objectivity, as well as grace, redemption, and human nature, this signing is understated and majestic, sensuous and ascetic, ridiculous and sublime.” -The Arizona Republic
“Kenny Williams’ masterpiece defies any conventional analysis, telling a story of sin and redemption by signing Dunn, a donkey, after he passed through the hands of a number of teams, including a peasant (Nationals), a satanic delinquent (Reds), and a saintly fool (Diamondbacks). Perhaps the greatest and most revolutionary of Williams’ signings, this will be a difficult but transcendently rewarding experience, never to be missed.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“But the Adam Dunn signing is, for many people, a profound spiritual experience. Kenny Williams, a very devout GM, creates his own unique vision of baseball, as well as a signing of transcendence that sweeps us up with its exquisite innocence, purity and quiet suffering.” -The Seattle Times
“Where the Adam Dunn signing differs from Williams’ other moves is in the degree to which it accepts and sustains a multiplicity of actions, objects, even, in an almost traditional sense, “character.” Not that Williams has lowered his vision (the move’s range of associations in symbol and dogma should occupy any amateur of sabermetrics for some time) but that he has expanded it to include a superbly precise and compassionate awareness of the physical universe.” -The New York Times
Adam Dunn is one of the saints of baseball, and his signing with the White Sox is his most heartbreaking prayer. This signing will illuminate the life of Dunn from birth to death, while all the time living with the dignity of being himself–a dumb beast, noble in its acceptance of a life over which he has no control. Dunn is not one of those cartoon animals that can talk and sing and is a human with four legs. Dunn is a donkey, and it is as simple as that.” –Roger Ebert
“All of life in one single free agent acquisition.” -Jean-Luc Godard
-The Dallas Mavericks might have the best zone defense in the NBA…ever? Beckley Mason takes a look at Hoop Speak.
-NBA players are fouling out less and less, and Dan Feldman does the dirty work over at Piston Powered.
-Clyde Frazier is the best. Not that I need proof, but here’s an interview he recently did with SLAM.
-Apparently there was a Bill Veeck film in the works (starring Bill Murray!), only to be squashed by the AOL-Time Warner merger. It’s still out there, though, and Paul Sullivan briefly covers the history of the project at Chicago Breaking Sports.
-Glenn Kenny takes on auteurism, Irvin Kershner, and Jean Renoir’s French Cancan at MUBI.
-Some wonderful friends & west-coast correspondents have started up an Arizona-related sports blog: Can’t Snake a Snake.
[Photoshop by Alex Foucre-Stimes]
In the world of Gaspar Noé, death is not simply a void or darkness (or even an afterlife), but rather an acid trip through famous territories of cinematic experimentation. It seems impossible to think of Enter the Void without thinking of its obvious inspirations: the first person POV of Lady in the Lake, Tony Conrad’s incessant Flicker, the deliriousness of Kenneth Anger’s The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, and last but not least, Douglas Trumbull’s notoriously trippy Star Gate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. While these references and inspirations (which by the way don’t stop at the aforementioned) are particularly glaring, they aren’t essential to our collective understanding of the film, but are merely technical notes. Because Void, if it is anything at all, is an experience: a full-on sensory assault, free of form and flowing through space and time itself, an out of body experience for the drug user and cinephile inside us all. Hovering shots from a bird’s eye view zip through walls and ceilings, strip clubs and sleazy motels, the past and present, the void and back again, pulsating with the gaudy neon lights of Tokyo. The story, of sibling love as the result of severe trauma and separation, is vulgar in its simplicity and adolescent in conception, but here at Sculpting in Dimes we prefer not to compartmentalize the unique aspects of the filmmaking process: the film is the film. And Void, spanning an entire lifetime (and beyond) and presented non-linearly as a series of brief and often melodramatic moments, annihilates notions not only of traditional narrative, but of nihilism as well. Noé might not believe in much, but his strict adherence to repetition and a whacked-out stroboscopic first-person aesthetic reveal a deeply human curiosity for what Jean-Paul Sartre, in Nausea, called “the feeling of adventure”:
If I remember correctly, they call that the irreversibility of time. The feeling of adventure would simply be that of the irreversibility of time. But why don’t we always have it? Is it that time is not always irreversible? There are moments when you have the impression that you can do what you want, go forward or backward, that it has no importance; and then other times when you might say the links have been tightened and, in that case, it’s not a question of missing your turn because you could never start again.
[Note — Since there was no field trip last Friday due to holiday excursions, please forgive the untimeliness of a few links]
-Christmas came early this year for the White Sox, and Jim Margalus examines the Adam Dunn signing over at Sox Machine.
-Jim Emerson takes on cinematic realism over at Scanners.
-On spectacle and Blake Griffin, Bethlehem Shoals conjures up my favorite take (so far) on the rookie phenom at Free Darko.
-Obvious, but necessary: Sam Peckinpah gets treated by Leonard Price in the ongoing Gateways to Geekery series at The AV Club.
-Kobe reveals his true inspiration: Michael Jackson. Adrian Wojnarowski has the story, as usual, at Yahoo! Sports.
-Hype, haters, and why Derrick Rose should be held to a higher standard, from Noam at Hardwood Paroxysm.
-John H. Richardson interviews the amusingly angry Christian Bale over at Esquire.
[Photoshop by Alex Foucre-Stimes]
I post here today at the risk of beating a dead horse, but as I always say, as long as the horse remains unbruised in certain areas, I’ll get the Singapore cane.
It’s widely believed that in America you can’t go home again. Unless, of course, your team’s road schedule says so; then you have no choice. To return home willingly would be to admit failure and also to relive ugly moments and feelings that made you leave in the first place. So tonight is the return of Cleveland’s former Prodigal Son who, after taking his talents to some faraway beach, has become the city’s very own Judas Iscariot. Inconsolable to the highest degree, the fans of and even the Cavaliers themselves (from Mo to Gilbert) have expressed their discontent, from burning jerseys to angry screeds in comic sans to outright legal investigation. But nothing can prepare them, or us, or LeBron, for what’s going to happen this evening. No, I don’t expect any disgruntled fan in The Q to recreate a scene from Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968), but you know if the kids are united, they will never be divided (and all that). This is extremely exciting on one end because we might bear witness to a heightened level of fandom, bolstered by anger, and ultimately (and hopefully) released in creative and hilarious ways of unity only rivaled by drunken high school students in Army fatigues cheering on their friends in an empty suburban auditorium.
For a variety of reasons however, I’m considerably less interested in Cavaliers fans treating tonight’s game like a sequel to John Milius’ Red Dawn (1984) as much as I’m interested to see LeBron James forcibly defy American mythology and, yes, return home again. One of the reasons the public anger has yet to subside, probably, is that ultimately nothing’s been resolved. The Heat have been underwhelming. The Cavs pretty much suck. If there’s one thing Americans tend not to like, it’s an ambiguous ending, and for many, it seems that tonight will serve as the time to bury the hatchet once and for all, or maybe ignite a lifelong flame of hatred (which very well might have already have been lit with The Decision). Either way, the whole situation (and decision) is and was more complex than it’s been made out, and all we can hope for now is that by returning home, LeBron might answer one or two of the many questions he’s asked so incessantly all season long in the Nike Rise ad.
More than likely, though, tonight will pass without incident. LeBron will get booed, the game will be uninspiring, and we’ll all be left with an even bigger sense of dissatisfaction than before. But maybe not. Coming Home is not just the title to a Hal Ashby film about Vietnam vets, but a theme prevalent in many American narratives, which begs the question: which narrative will belong to LeBron James, or to which narrative will LeBron James belong? Will he be lost and roaming forever, just outside the shadows of the interior like John Wayne in The Searchers? Will he be shocked to discover his own disillusionment and empty mansion like Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer? Will he sing the national anthem like the characters in The Deer Hunter? Will he come home and yell at everyone and get into fist fights like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces? Or will he determine his own story, his own future? Will we get a glimpse into his soul? His mind? What will we find? I’m not sure, but I’m excited at the possibility of finding out.