Thursday

The Men Who Stare at Goats

2009

This movie belongs to a special family of films which I call The Amityville Horror group. The primary distinguishing characteristic of this group is that they become much more interesting if you think they are true. One might go further and say that they are only interesting if you think they are true.

Start with the godfather of the genre, The Amityville Horror. It was a financial success, even a bit of a phenomenon, when it was released because people were filled with curiosity about paranormal occurrences which really happened. Allegedly. If the film had been released as a straight horror film, without pre-selling its base in reality, it would have come and gone without attracting any notice. It's not, to be honest, a very good movie, and it's not even particularly scary, but it does raise the hair on the back of your neck if you watch it while thinking, "Wow, this really happened." By the way, it didn't. When subjected to investigation, the story proved to have major flaws.

  • Local police records show that they were not called and no officers were dispatched to that address, contrary to claims in the book.
  • Weather records show there was no snow on the ground when the mysterious cloven hoof tracks were supposed to have appeared in the snow.
  • The doorknobs destroyed by ghosts and goblins? Never replaced and in perfect condition when the house was sold.
  • The ancient tribal burial grounds upon which the house was built? Eh, not so much. The local Native Americans called "shenanigans" on that one.
  • The neighbors reported that there was absolutely nothing unusual when the horror family lived there.
  • The house is still standing. Various families have lived there in the past thirty-some years, their lives undisturbed by anything more supernatural than crabgrass.
  • And so forth.

Since the story wasn't really true, you may now feel free to dismiss that film as the inconsequential twaddle that it is.

Which brings us to the point. Finally. Sort of.

This is another of those movies. It is supposed to be based on a true story, and we enter the theater with that premise, yet we end up watch a film that becomes ever farther-fetched. Hell, if the stuff on screen here is true, everyone should want to see this. But it isn't. The word caption says that more is true than we would believe, but even that is a stretch. I have no trouble believing the true parts.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is about a real U.S. military project to develop a breed of psychic super-soldiers who could spy from afar, become invisible at will, and walk through walls. I kid you not. It sounds ridiculous, but there is some logic behind it. It seems that somebody in U.S. intelligence got wind of the fact that the Russkies were researching possible uses of the paranormal in spying and combat. While the merits of the Soviet project were generally doubted, the more open-minded members of the American high command reasoned: "What if there's something to it? Can we afford to have a world full of Commie super-spooks without God-fearin' American super-spooks to combat them?" Well, obviously not! The Pentagon therefore took a particularly eccentric major general and put him in charge of creating the paranormal unit, or whatever they called it. The real-life story behind this unit was well documented in a book, also called "The Men Who Stare at Goats," as well as in a three-part documentary on the BBC. Details can be found here.

That's the true part, and I have no trouble believing that it happened. Military outfits engage in experiments, probably many more outlandish than that. Shit happens.

And it sounds like a great film, doesn't it? General Stubblebine, who believed he personally could walk through walls, is like a real-life Doctor Strangelove. (He is represented by a minor character in the movie, and those scenes do provide some very entertaining moments.) The problem with the movie is that the screenwriters apparently felt that the true story behind the creation and development of that wacky army unit was not good enough to form the basis of a film script, so it gets exaggerated lavishly, and the embellishments establish an inconsistent tone. Sometimes the film seems to be skeptical of paranormal phenomena and ridicules the credulity of the Army officers who bought into it, but then it turns around and shows the super-soldiers actually doing the impossible. Sometimes the squad seems to be taking a vaguely scientific and suitably military approach toward psychic research, and at other times the group seems to be a hippie commune. The beginning of the film is often a hilarious look at an open-minded reporter determined to chase down some madmen in pursuit of a story which is certain to be great whether the paranormal exists or not. The ending of the film turns serious and becomes a whole "Chief Broom escaping from the asylum" thing, then disintegrates further by turning away from a healthy skepticism and suggesting that some men can walk through walls, even if the nutty general could not. In other words, it's really two movies as different as the thin rockabilly Elvis and the bloated Vegas Elvis.

It's a good movie in many respects. I laughed out loud at least a half-dozen times when the film was in its early rock-and-roll stage. I smiled at the irony of a scene where Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) has to be told what a Jedi is. And, to be honest, I found that some of the serious part, like the Vegas Elvis, could be kind of stirring in its own ridiculous way. The cast includes Kevin Spacey, The Dude, George Clooney and Obi-Wan, a list which speaks for itself. I referred to Jeff Bridges as The Dude because he is, in fact, playing The Dude Lebowski as a Lieutenant Colonel. I'm not sure how closely that resembles reality. My guess is approximately zero percent. On the other hand, I haven't read the book, and I suppose stranger things have happened on this planet. Just not that many.

It's a movie with excellent moments, even great moments, and yet the complete package seems like an OK movie with a great movie deep inside, crying to be released.

The nudity is minimal. Just some hippies hanging around in hot tubs. On the other hand, the film's nudity percentage was quite high, since those are just about the only women anywhere in the story. (Apparently hot-tubbing with hippies was a necessary part of The Dude's research into alternative mind-sets.)

(There is also some male nudity: long-distance butt shots from George Clooney and Obi-Wan.)

 

  • * Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

  • * White asterisk: expanded format.

  • * Blue asterisk: not mine.

  • No asterisk: it probably sucks.

OTHER CRAP:

Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Snuff Trap

2003

Today is a "Babe in Bondage" and "Damsel in Distress" day as we look at "Snuff Trap" starring Carla Solaro ( a real look alike of Connie Britton of "Friday Night Lights" ) and Federika Garuti along with some unknowns.

After her daughter gets abducted, a mother enters the dark world of underground pornography, because the kidnappers belong to an international organization that will create snuff films to order, as long as the exclusive clients pay well. The search for her daughter not only leads the mother across Europe, but also into prostitution. She goes to bed with some guys to get her clues. When she finally makes contact with the snuff organization, led by the mysterious Doctor Hades, she's getting into great danger herself.

Carla shows the boobs and a flash of bush in these caps and long clip. There is also nudity from others in this clip.

Carla Solaro

Carla and Frederika Garuti

Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

8 1/2 Women

1999

Part 1

Amanda Plummer film clips. Samples below.

Scoop's notes:

I have a love/hate relationship with the movies of the eccentric auteur, Peter Greenaway.

Although his plotting is almost irrelevant and his concepts are so eccentric as to defy summarization, I have found some of his movies charming, quirky, intellectually engaging, and aesthetically brilliant.

I think Pillow Book is an aesthetic marvel, although I have to admit the purity of my aesthetic appreciation was rarely polluted by any comprehension of what the hell was going on. I think Drowning by Numbers is a masterpiece of eccentric art and puzzle construction, smarter and artier than, but comparable to, TV's "The Prisoner." I think "A Zed and Two Noughts" is one of the best examples of "moving pictures" as art - a true moving painting, although is stranger than strange.

As for Prospero's Books - well, it is unusual and quite a feast for the senses, although Elya reminded me that it was the most pretentious thing she's ever seen. And this from a woman who has seen all of Tarkovsky's movies. I mean - more pretentious than "Nostalghia"? That's pretty friggin' pretentious. Maybe she has a point, but I also thought the film was a stunner in a lot of ways. But on the other hand, Greenaway's eccentricities can be irritating and boring and uncomfortable to watch. "The Draughtsman's Contract" could be the single most boring movie I've ever seen.

"Eight and a Half Women" is not that dry, but doesn't have enough of Greenaway's strengths, to offset the fact that it  is too deeply rutted in his personal eccentricity, intellectual aloofness, film theory and artistic theory. It starts out with the death of a beloved wife, after which the sole son consoles his stiff banker dad by having sex with him. So right away you know this ain't gonna be a Touchstone Pic. Then, together, they assemble a mansion full of concubines to fill up their grieving lives. A sub-plot about the bank's foreclosing on a Japanese businessman gives Greenaway an excuse to indulge his fascination with Japanese art, aesthetic design, and flower arrangement. Not just Japanese. Italian as well. There are at least two tributes to Fellini's "8 1/2": in the title, obviously, and in the fact that the father and son watch that Fellini classic twice.

The movie has some striking visual composition, and a truly excellent performance from the older man, John Standing. It also has some interesting discussions about filmmaking, the engineering marvel of the penis, Kabuki theater and various other subjects that you won't find discussed in the next Bruce Willis movie. For example, one Japanese woman wants to become a female impersonator so she can be more feminine - because the female impersonators in Kabuki are trained in every nuance of feminity.

I'll be honest. I try to support individualistic filmmakers like Greenaway, because I admire solitary and unique geniuses and their disregard for the copycat formulae of Hollywood. We need such people, and who else but Greenaway could even conceive of making such a movie as this? I really wanted to like this movie.

But in the last analysis, I really wanted it to end.

Sorry, Peter. I promise to watch "Drowning by Numbers" again as penance.

This is, per the IMDb ratings, is tied for the dishonor of being Greenaway's worst feature length non-documentary:

  1. (7.44) - The Falls (1980)
  2. (7.20) - The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea (2004)
  3. (7.19) - The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
  4. (7.18) - The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
  5. (7.17) - A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)
  6. (6.78) - Drowning by Numbers (1988)
  7. (6.74) - The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to the Finish (2003)
  8. (6.71) - The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story (2003)
  9. (6.69) - A Life in Suitcases (2005)
  10. (6.64) - Nightwatching (2007)
  11. (6.58) - The Belly of an Architect (1987)
  12. (6.58) - Prospero's Books (1991)
  13. (6.49) - The Pillow Book (1996)
  14. (6.09) - The Baby of Mcon (1993)
  15. (5.60) - 8 Women (1999)
  16. (5.60) - The Death of a Composer: Rosa, a Horse Drama (1999)

 

 

Nine Miles Down

(2009)

Johnny's comments: Nine Miles Down is about a security officer who goes to check an isolated scientific station and finds nothing, until a women comes running out of the horizon. She wants to leave because everyone else is dead, but he wants to investigate. Big mistake. Fairly good idea, but doesn't completely hold and gets bogged down with tricky visual effects. And the ending is quite shocking which is a nice change.
 

Kate Nauta film clips. (Collages below)

 

 

Pics

The beautiful Argentine model Zaira Nara. HQ

Chelsey Parks in Drop Dead Rock

 

Film Clips

Annette Kreft in an episode of Lindenstrasse

Sybille Waury and Isabell Brenner in another episode of Lindenstrasse - 22 years later!

Clio Goldsmith in Le Cadeau

Deja Kreutzberg and Nicole Moore in Sorority Row

Maria Valverde in Melissa P

Natasha Gregson Wagner in Another Day in Paradise. What the hell happened to her? What is she doing now?  She just disappeared from the scene about five years ago.

 

Bai Ling in The Crow in HD (Sample right)

 

Kathleen Beller in Surfacing! (Sample right) I wish this was on Blu-Ray. C'mon. Admit you had a crush on her.

 

Arta Dobroshi in Lorna's Silence (Samples right.)

 

Peta Wilson in The Loser (Samples right.)

 

Amanda Seyfried in the Chloe trailer again- this time in HD - and in English!. (Samples right.)