Sunday, November 26, 2006

Introductions and Influential Movies

I was sort of dreading this first post. There's an internal pressure to sum things up, to "set the tone" for the whole blog, to get it right. Screw that. But I will play one of those introductory games that you get every now and again on blogs.

The game? "What movie changed everything in how you looked at films?"

For me that would be PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. I suppose I should credit the Medved brothers for making me aware of it in their GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS book, but whatever the reason, my friend Brian White taped it when it played late night on Channel 9 in Chicago. And we watched it. Sure, it was "bad" compared to empty polish of most commercial releases -- this was, after all, the '80s, when producers and packaged films ruled the roost, and everybody wanted to make their films "in the style of Spielberg" -- but there was something so surreal and watchable about this Edward D. Wood, Jr. masterpiece. We started by laughing at the movie, but after repeated viewings I started to suspect we were laughing with it.

We loved it, starting with the way Criswell bends time in his framing monologue, moving from "Future events such as these" to asking "Who's to say these things didn't take place?" (Forgive me for paraphrasing.) I remember questioning the bad day-for-night utilized in the stock footage driving sequences when they traveled to and from the cemetery, counting the days that passed if it wasn't really supposed to be night.

Along with the wonderfully twisted exposition, I think it was spotting the shadows of the tombstones on the studio's wall that was nothing short of a revelation. Here we could see that this was a set, that the actors were just playing along, that this was a created and obviously fictional reality. This is when I first saw how deconstructing a film could make it richer. We watched that movie dozens of times on crappy VHS, fast-forwarding over commercials. Each time the movie got richer.

People like to say PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is an accidental masterpiece. I like to think of it as an intentional masterpiece. Even if every bit of evidence points to Ed Wood being just as bumbling and driven as Johnny Depp played him in Tim Burton's endearing ED WOOD, I like to imagine Wood had complete control. I mean, can you imagine anybody making that movie on purpose? That, to me, would be a complete genius.

Welcome to my blog.


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