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NASTY HABITS (1977)

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

A MUST SEE... NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING.

I DOUBT THAT THERE WILL BE A BETTER


HORROR FILM BEFORE THE END OF THE DECADE.

HORROR MOVIES SIMPLY DO NOT GET BETTER THAN THIS.

THE

MOST CLEVER TWEAK ON HORROR CONVENTIONS

SINCE

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL
FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION

SUNDANCE
FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION

CANNES
CRITICS WEEK
OFFICIAL SELECTION

A FILM BY DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL

W I N N E R

FANTASTIC FEST
Next Wave AWARDS
BEST PICTURE

BEST SCREENPLAY DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL

CONTENTS
A Morphing Missive From The Editor
The Critical Transformation Of Alfred Hitchcocks VERTIGO
From R.U.R. To Now: A Fleshie Reflects On The Robot Uprising
The King Of The Adaptation: Kenneth Branaghs
Directorial Career From HENRY V To CINDERELLA
That Perfect Alchemy: The History Of The Cocktail
BENJAMIN BUTTONs Backwards Feast: Spring Onion Vichyssoise
Video Vortex:
Getting Marooned With ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES
EYES WITHOUT A FACE: A Q&A With Artist Jason Edmiston
Ill Hurt You If You Stay: Transforming Love In THE FLY
Unmasking FACE/OFF
The Last Word With CHAPPIEs Neill Blomkamp
Editor-in-Chief
Devin Faraci

Managing Editor
Meredith Borders

Associate Publisher
Henri Mazza

Art Director

Joseph A. Ziemba

Graphic Designers

Zach Short, Stephen Sosa, Kelsey Spencer

Copy Editor

George Bragdon

Contributing Writers

James Sanford, Jordan Hoffman, Mandy Curtis, Bill Norris, Trish Eichelberger, Joseph A. Ziemba,
Rob Jones, Phil Nobile Jr, Noah Segan

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Promotional images and artwork are reproduced in this magazine in the spirit of publicity and as historical illustrations to the text.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the respective filmmakers, actors, and studios.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A Morphing Missive
From The Editor
DEVIN FARACI
Badass Digest Editor-in-Chief
@devincf
Read more at badassdigest.com

Cinema is all about transformation. Its the


transformation of actors on a set into captured images,
and then the transformation of those still images into
the illusion of motion and life, transforming those
actors on a set into eternal iconic art.
Its also about robots transforming into cars, Jeff
Goldblum into a fly and Nicolas Cage into John
Travolta. It takes all kinds of transformations, which
is why were dedicating this issue to that very concept,
in all of its various forms. That includes off the screen,
like the transformation of VERTIGO from a flop to a
critics darling that was recently named the best movie
of all time. Or the transformation of straight liquor
into delicious cocktails. Or the continuous, ongoing
transformation of Kenneth Branaghs directorial career.
The most important part of cinemas transformative
power is the way it transforms us as the audience.
The person walking out of a good movie is, in some
subtle, psychological way, a different person than who
walked in. It doesnt happen every time -- sometimes
you walk out of a movie and the only transformation
is that youre two hours older -- but that change, that
shift in perspective, is why we keep coming back to the
theater. Hopefully something in this months issue will
transform you, if only a little. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Critical
Transformation Of
Alfred Hitchcocks
VERTIGO
JAMES SANFORD
Creative Manager Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo
@jamessanford
Read more at badassdigest.com

Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO is the greatest film of


all time.
At least, that is, according to the critics that voted
in the British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound
poll. The survey, which is compiled once a decade, saw
Hitchcock bumping Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE,
which had held the spot for 50 years.
By any standards, that would be an astonishing
achievement. It's even more remarkable when you look
back at what critics thought of VERTIGO when it was
released in the spring of 1958.
Hitchcock's film, adapted by Samuel Taylor and Alec
Coppel from the Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
novel "D'Entre les Morts (From Among the Dead),"
follows retired detective Scotty Ferguson (James
Stewart) -- who suffers from a paralyzing fear of heights
-- as he becomes obsessed with Madeleine Elster
(Kim Novak), the woman he's been assigned to watch.
When Madeleine meets an untimely death, Scotty is
devastated, until he runs into Judy Barton, a young
woman who bears an eerie resemblence to the late
Mrs. Elster.
"Alfred Hitchcock, who produced and directed this
thing, has never before indulged in such farfetched
nonsense," snapped John McCarten of THE NEW
YORKER. "(A)nother Hitchcock and bull story,"
snapped the critic for TIME magazine. "The story line
is not easy to follow," noted the reviewer for THE LOS
ANGELES CITIZEN-NEWS. "... VERTIGO is not
his best picture."

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

The general consensus was that the movie was much


too drawn-out, glacially paced and extremely farfetched. The VARIETY staff critic identified only
as "Stef" deemed it to be "prime though uneven
Hitchcock," singling out Stewart's "startlingly fine
performance" but complaining that "the plain fact is
that the films first half is too slow and too long."
There were a few raves. "VERTIGO is one of the most
fascinating love stories ever filmed." declared Jack
Moffitt of THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, while
Bosley Crowther of THE NEW YORK TIMES called
it a "fascinating mystery" and praised Nowak as "really
quite amazing."
Despite his misgivings about the movie, VARIETY's
"Stef" confidently proclaimed, "VERTIGO looks like
a winner at the box office as solid entertainment in the
Hitchcock tradition."
"Stef" turned out to be no prophet when it came to
profits: instead of being a blockbuster, VERTIGO
barely broke even, making back its $2.5 million budget
but bringing in far less than other Hitchcock films of
the period, such as REAR WINDOW, TO CATCH A
THIEF and NORTH BY NORTHWEST.
VERTIGO was re-released theatrically in 1963 and
shown on TV for the next 10 years. Then, just like
Madeleine Elster, it vanished. Ownership of the film
rights had been transferred from Paramount, which
originally released the picture, to Hitchcock, who
locked it away for a full decade.

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Absence truly made the heart grow fonder, at least


where film critics were concerned. VERTIGO's
reputation steadily skyrocketed once no one could
actually see it. While many "lost" films that are
recovered from the vaults lose their prestige once
they're brought back, that was certainly not the case
when VERTIGO was finally reissued in 1984.
VERTIGO dissolves the actual San Francisco into
the heavy symbolic density and visual intricacy of a
voluptuous dream: the tempo is slow; the dominant
motifs are steep hills, tall trees, towers, a bouquet
of pink roses. We succumb with almost masochistic
pleasure," David Denby wrote in THE NEW
YORKER last year.
"The story's formula, a twist on Hollywood staple, was
ironically summed up by Hitchcock as 'boy meets
girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl again, boy loses girl
again,'" commented Rhik Samadder of London's THE
GUARDIAN newspaper. "... Ultimately the beauty
of VERTIGO cannot be so captured and pinned; it is
more akin to the butterfly garden, in which we all wave
our own nets. Everyone's catch will be different, and
different each time."
And therein lies one of the key reasons VERTIGO
plays better 57 years later than it did when it was
new. If ever there was a movie that rewarded multiple
viewings, it's this one. The 1958 critics who had to
cook up their reviews immediately after seeing the film
once seem to have zeroed in on the implausibilities
of the plot and the leisurely pace of the storytelling;
like Stewart's Scotty Ferguson, who is determined
to refashion shop-girl Judy Barton into his elegant,
ephemeral Madeleine, journalists denounced
VERTIGO for not being what they wanted it to be, i.e.
a typical Hitchcock thriller.
We know better than to expect that. VERTIGO
is a mystery, but only in the mildest sense. While
numerous writers in 1958 lambasted Hitchcock for
letting us in on the truth about Judy a full 20 minutes
before Scotty figures it out, that revelation is almost
beside the point. What must have captivated Hitchcock
was the movie's take on the futility of "perfect love"
and how you can destroy what you supposedly adore
by continually, relentlessly gilding the lily, touching up
each perceived flaw, until you completely lose sight of
what's underneath.
That concept has also made VERTIGO one of the few
films of its era that feels relevant and resonant today,
because six decades later men and women still try
to make over the people to whom they are attracted.
As most of us have learned over time, our idea of
perfection and our partner's are rarely in sync; we see

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

flaws within ourselves that they don't, while they


detect faults in our character or habits that we don't or
won't acknowledge.
In most relationships, there will be some degree of
compromise or give-and-take. Not so in VERTIGO.
Fueled by a potent cocktail of guilt, shame and
desperation for love, Judy acquiesces, overhauling
her wardrobe, changing her makeup, dyeing her hair
and scrubbing away her own identity as he reshapes
her into his dreamgirl. As she does, Hitchcock turns
VERTIGO into an acidic commentary on the sexual
politics of the 1950s, which dictated that a woman
should do whatever it took to land and hold on to a
man. Judy blindly follows that course and, in doing so,
gradually self-destructs before our eyes.
So, of course, does Scotty, as the movie slowly and slyly
unveils the true nature of his condition: not only does
he suffer from a fear of heights in terms of the physical
world, he is also terrified of the emotional high that
would come if he really resurrected Madeleine. In
his rush to create the ultimate lover, he loses the
qualities that would make him lovable: his humor, his
gentle nature, his charm. He becomes an increasingly
demanding, micro-managing puppet master, using the
excuse of imperfection as a reason to hold off passion.
To one degree or another, illusion plays a part in every
love story, and in VERTIGO it's the unseen villain,
hanging in the air and blinding everyone like a thick
San Francisco fog. 6
VERTIGO screens at the Alamo Drafthouse this month.
Go to drafthouse.com for showtimes.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

From R.U.R. To Now:


A Fleshie Reflects On
The Robot Uprising
JORDAN HOFFMAN
Freelance Writer for NY DAILY NEWS,
THE GUARDIAN, VANITY FAIR
@jhoffman
Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Twixt Dark and Daybreak


Eight Cycles Since Last Moon
Twenty-Two Twelfthy Moons Since AIWakening.
To Any Fleshies That Survive Me The Chromes found our last localized network, and have
eradicated our files. They also killed my Commander,
and using the vicious disc full method, too. As such,
there may very well be no more recorded information
about this war anywhere in the NorthAmeriZone -maybe even the entire world.
Somehow, I've found some paper in the back of what
must have been a mansion owned by a millionaire
named Duane Reade. Perhaps he was an associate of that
other ubiquitous bourgeoise personage we only know by
the initials C, V and S. Anyway, by using a pincer from
a destroyed Arachnobot (the same bastard that killed
Johnson, may his flesh decay in peace) and dipping it in
this weird substance called Four Loko (it must have
been used for some sort of fuel when pre-war Fleshies
were still allowed to travel vast distances), I am able to
write down this message.
As one of the last archivists, I still have my letters and
some memory of the holo-stories we used to viddy to
amuse ourselves. If these projections were even only
partially true, it could potentially explain what led to
the AIWakening. My hope is that what our great fallen
leader (disintegration be unto him) said is true: that one
day the Great Reboot will come and this world will start
over. If so, maybe this doc file, unsaved on any drive, can
help bring about understanding.
The first robots were created in 1920 for a play called
R.U.R. by a Czech man named Karel Capek. As far as I
can tell a play was just like a holo-story except it was
performed by fellow Fleshies, not by Lummies, and
you would experience it WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I
know this sounds really gross and embarrassing, but it's
important to try and understand the times.
Anyway, R.U.R. was the first to present manufactured
life-forms, used by industrialists as a cheap workforce.
The word robot derived from the Czech robota
which meant forced labor. That word was derived
from the word rab which meant slave. In this fiction,
mankind is killed by a robot uprising. Oh, if only we
knew then what we knew now.
For most of holo-fiction (whose early forms included
movies and TV) that's what robots were for -- they were
servants. In 1927 German director Fritz Lang made
METROPOLIS, featuring a Maschinenmensch, or
Machine-Man. Lang's vision of the future showed a
world where an elite group kept the masses as slaves, and
the movies' first robot was used as a deceptive tool to
promote strife and injustice. Ugh, didn't they know this
was gonna bite us in the rear?
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

Robots were continually shown as mere tools. There


was FORBIDDEN PLANET, where an enormous,
seemingly sentient construction was capable of
unbelievable computational ability. He was humiliatingly
forced to fetch 60 gallons of booze for some yokel. A
similar robot appeared on a television series called LOST
IN SPACE, and despite his advanced circuitry and skills,
his involvement in the program soon devolved into
buffoonery. When Jonathan Harris isn't the silliest thing
in the show, you know someone is getting played. And
let's not even talk about the indignity of Rosie, a kept
fetish object for some deviant sex freak named George
Jetson, of whom there is very little lasting information.
In something called STAR WARS, a series of over twohundred films that led to a destructive death cult and a
tragic group suicide at something called the Anaheim
Convention Center, there is ample evidence of how
droids were just yanked off desert paths, bartered
and sold, shoved into harm's way, dragged across vast
distances in space and had their memories wiped. Just
awful business. Truly, the Chromes had every right to
hate us. I know just saying this may brand me a Bleeding
Flesh, but it's true.
A later television show that the STAR WARS cult tried
to eradicate, and the true title of which is lost to history,
featured a type of robot called an android known as
Data. Details are slim, but Data was apparently a tragic
figure. He was tricked by the Fleshies aboard the S.S.
Makeitso -- led to believe that his servitude was of his
own free will. In truth, everyone else just hung out and
played around watching holo-stories while Data did all
the work.
Then we come to the documentaries. The
TERMINATOR films that, barring any remaining
firsthand witnesses, are the closest approximation to how
the AIWakening happened. (Except for all that time
travel stuff -- that shit makes no sense.)
Clearly, this all could have been avoided if we were just
kinder to our creations, or if rich industrialists weren't
always looking to squeeze a buck. There is no harm in
having an electronic gadget open a can for you. It's when
we begin to take these things for granted that we need to
correct ourselves.
I need to stop writing now. I hear the whirring of a
SentryBorg, and I am not in my designated Flesh Cube.
I can't possibly serve another sentence in the silicon
mines and survive. My hopes remain with the future,
and a time where, maybe, Chrome and Corpuscles can
learn to live together. 6
CHAPPIE opens in theaters March 6.
Go to drafthouse.com for listings.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The King Of The Adaptation:


Kenneth Branaghs
Directorial Career From
HENRY V To CINDERELLA
MANDY CURTIS
Forever Young Adult Contributor
@mandyannecurtis
Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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Depending on what side of the pop culture spectrum


you fall on, you might know Kenneth Branagh -- actor/
director/screenwriter/producer/performer/narrator/
British knight -- from very different projects. The
man has been involved with film in one way or
another since 1981, when he had an uncredited role
in CHARIOTS OF FIRE. (I wouldnt suggest trying
to spot him, however, unless youre willing to sit in
front of your viewing screen of choice searching the
Cambridge Society Day crowd.)
In the more than three decades that have followed
that first, tiny role, hes tried what seems like nearly
everything associated with the acting profession. In fact,
hes the first man to ever be nominated for an Academy
Award in five different categories: Best Actor in a
Leading Role (HENRY V), Best Director (HENRY
V), Best Live Action Short Film (SWAN SONG), Best
Adapted Screenplay (HAMLET) and Best Actor in a
Supporting Role (MY WEEK WITH MARILYN). Its
a clich, but a fitting one: Branagh is most definitely
a renaissance man, and one who likely doesnt get a
whole lot of sleep.
In 1989, Branagh made his directorial debut with
HENRY V, which was also the first of his many feature
film adaptations of one of William Shakespeares
plays. HENRY V, the fourth of Shakespeares history
plays, tells the story of King Henry V and the years
surrounding the Battle of Agincourt. Although the
adaptation stayed true to the heart of the play, stuck
with Elizabethan English and was set in 15th century
France, Branagh wasn't content to adhere completely
to the source material. To make the film his own, he
incorporated flashback scenes from HENRY IV parts
1 and 2, and toned down any of the small comedic
roles to make it a more serious affair. With HENRY
V, Branagh also showed his dedication to making the
Bards work more accessible by dressing the narrator
character of Chorus in modern-day clothes. The
changes certainly worked in his favor: HENRY V is
lauded by many as one of the best Shakespearean
adaptations of all time.
In 1991, Branagh got behind the directors chair a
second time for DEAD AGAIN, a quasi-film noir
about a private detective and a woman with amnesia,
and their past lives as a murdered pianist and her
composer husband who was executed for the crime.
The next year saw the release of PETERS FRIENDS,
a semi-comedy about seven friends who were in an
acting troupe in college who meet up after a decade
apart to share memories and secrets.
Branaghs fourth film, MUCH ADO ABOUT
NOTHING, opened in 1993. The film swung
Branaghs directorial focus back to Shakespeare, but
this time to a comedy. MUCH ADO ABOUT

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

NOTHING is a complex story, involving mistaken


identities, ruses, rumors and political intrigue, that all
ends up working out well (for most of the characters)
in the end. The adaptation stays true to the source
material, but Branaghs directing, and the cuts in
content he chose to make, made it much more
accessible to viewers.
In 1994, MARY SHELLEYS FRANKENSTEIN
hit theaters. Branagh, again, was extremely faithful
to the films origins, the story of a doctor obsessed
with cheating death who creates a man/monster out
of various human parts. So faithful, in fact, that this
adaptation is considered one of the most true to
Shelleys novel ever made.
Branagh returned once more to Shakespeare, in a
manner of speaking, with 1995s A MIDWINTERS
TALE. The romantic comedy tells the story of an outof-work actor who volunteers to put on a production
of HAMLET -- at Christmas -- to benefit his sisters
church. The play within the movie must have been at
the forefront of Branaghs mind, because a year later,
his adaptation of HAMLET was released.
Branaghs HAMLET, which clocks in at more than
four hours long, is the first unabridged film adaptation
of Shakespeares play, which tells the story of neurotic
Prince Hamlet, his traitorous stepfather Claudius and
his suicidal ex-girlfriend Ophelia. Even though he
stuck with the original text and language, Branagh
once again impressed his own style on The Bard, and
updated the adaptation to be set in the Victorian era.
(Also notable: HAMLET was the last picture to be
filmed on 70mm film until 2012, when Paul Thomas
Anderson filmed THE MASTER.)
The turn of the millennium saw the release of LOVES
LABOURS LOST, yet another Shakespearean
adaptation, and the first film version of the
comedy ever. Its the least liked of any of Branaghs
Shakespearean endeavors, and the one that most
deviates from the original source. (The play might be at
fault, however, as LOVES LABOURS LOST is one of
Shakespeares least popular plays.) The basic story is still
there -- the story of four men who swear off all women
and their eventual marriages to the four women who
make them curse their vows -- but Branaghs version is
set in the 1930s and is a musical.
The most recent of Branaghs Shakespearean adaptations,
AS YOU LIKE IT, opened in theaters in Europe in
2006, but went straight to HBO in the U.S. In the film,
which follows heroine Rosalind on her quest to escape
persecution (and find love), Branagh returns to his
dedication to sticking closely to Shakespeares original
plot and language, but sets the story in Japan in the late
1800s rather than medieval France.

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2006 also saw the release of THE MAGIC FLUTE,


an English version of Mozarts singspiel (a German
musical drama/opera). The movie was released in
conjunction with the 250th anniversary of Mozarts
birth and, although Branagh updated the setting to
take place during World War I, is very close to the
original (as is his custom), which tells the story of two
lovers who must go through trials to be together.

2014 saw the release of another Branagh-directed


big-budget film adaptation, JACK RYAN: SHADOW
RECRUIT, which is (loosely) based on the novels
written by Tom Clancy about CIA analyst/all around
badass Jack Ryan. The film, though not well-received,
continued Branaghs trajectory away from high-brow
film adaptations of theatre productions and into
Hollywood tentpole territory.

In 2007, SLEUTH, an adaptation of a play by


Anthony Shaffer about a novelist and the unemployed
author who ran off with his wife, opened, and didnt
do well in the eyes of critics. Branaghs version of the
film differs greatly from the play it is based on, and
from the 1972 film of the same name.

This month marks the release of CINDERELLA,


Branaghs 14th feature film. At first glance, this bigbudget, major studio production might seem like a
marked departure from his typical projects (until 2011,
at least). With its grand sets and stunning costumes,
it promises to be his most visually decadent project
yet. But when you think about it, the match makes
complete sense. The movie is an adaptation of the
1950s cartoon, which was an adaptation of the classic
fairy tale. And theres really nothing Branagh loves
more, or does better, than adapting a classic tale for the
enjoyment of the masses. 6

Branaghs career made a drastic shift toward the


mainstream in 2011 with the release of THOR. The
movie tells the story of Marvel comic superhero
and Asgardian god Thors exile from his home realm.
When Branagh was chosen to direct the comic
adaptation, no one could quite believe it, considering
his previous, far more serious output. But the
reception was ultimately good.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

CINDERELLA opens in theaters March 13. Go to


drafthouse.com for showtimes.

That Perfect Alchemy:


The History Of
The Cocktail
BILL NORRIS
Alamo Drafthouse Beverage Director
@wnorris3
Read more at badassdigest.com

The very act of mixing a cocktail is a form of alchemy.


Through the judicious application of cold and
dilution in the form of melting ice, sweet in the guise
of syrups or liqueurs, sour squeezed from citrus and
bitter from various dashable potions first formulated
under the auspice of medical quackery, base liquors
-- some harsh and aggressive, others smooth and
sublime -- come to be transformed. At its best, a wellmade cocktail rises above its component parts with
flavors recognizable in their origins, but elevated to
something new, something better.
What we know now as cocktails are uniquely American
in origin, though the idea of flavoring beverage alcohol
is ancient. Early in the process of the discovery of
distillation, the first rough alcohols were rather quickly
flavored with whatever herbs, fruits, roots or berries were
at hand in the vicinity of the still. This was, most likely, a
matter of necessity. Distillation is as much an art as it is a
trade, and while anyone with access to fire, a fermented
liquid and some basic equipment can produce a rough,
strong alcohol, it takes some skill and experience to make
that alcohol palatable. One way around the problem
of crap spirits is to adulterate those spirits to mask the
offending flavors, and whether you side with those that
argue that distillation got its start in what is now the
Middle East or with those who argue for other places, it
is a very safe bet that those early spirits were tough going
until they were flavored somehow.
But what we know now as the cocktail, a single
serving drink mixing spirits with other alcohols or
flavorings, was first defined in THE BALANCE
AND COLUMBIAN REPOSITORY of Hudson,
NY, in 1806 thusly, Cock-tail, then, is a stimulating
liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

and bitters. This is, of course, recognizable as what


we now call an Old Fashioned-- indeed, the very
nomenclature of that particular drink came about when
bartenders began to expand the idea of the mixed drink
beyond a simple sweetened, bittered, diluted spirit
and curmudgeonly guests, not on board with the use
of fancy liqueurs and fruity syrups in their daily (or
hourly) tipple, persisted in asking for one of those old
fashioned cocktails.
But the genesis of the cocktail began long before,
perhaps as early as the 1500s in the British Isles, when
it was common to mix up a posset, a mixture of fresh
milk, curdled with wine or ale, and flavored with some
combination of sugar, ginger, candied anise or sweet
wine. These were believed to be good for curing colds,
or whatever might generally be laying you low, and they
traveled to the colonies.
By the time of Americas colonization, early taverns were
home largely to communal drinks, most commonly in
the form of the flowing bowl of punch, a convivial
and neighborly way to spend an evening. As time went
on, you may also have been able to request a cobbler
(sweetened booze, served over cobbled ice, and
adorned with fruits of the season,) or a sling or a toddy
(booze, sugar, hot or cold water and sometimes citrus,
depending on the nomenclature of your locale). There
might have been Sangree (a sort of punch made from ale,
wine and spirits) or a flip (booze shaken up with an egg),
but punch was the dominant mixed drink of the day.
But as America grew, the leisurely punch bowl came to
be too slow for our common tippler. We were becoming
a go-go society, one always on the move, expanding
westward, transforming lives and giving rise to dreams.
A shorter drink would have to do, something strong and

bracing to open ones eyes of a morning or close them in


the evening.
Enter the cocktail.
56 years after the first recorded mention of the word
cocktail, one Jeremiah P. Thomas, more familiarly
known as Jerry, published THE BAR-TENDERS
GUIDE (aka HOW TO MIX DRINKS or THE BONVIVANTS COMPANION), the first comprehensive
bartending recipe book in history. Thomas, who also
went by The Professor, was born in upstate New York
on the banks of Lake Ontario in 1830. As a very young
man, he first learned his trade in New Haven, but then
lit out for California during the Gold Rush, where he
did time as a bartender, gold prospector and minstrel
show manager. At the still tender age of 21, he returned
east to New York City and opened his first bar in 1851.
Over the course of his life, he would own four bars in
Manhattan and spend time behind the stick in St. Louis,
Chicago, San Francisco, Charleston and New Orleans.
He toured Europe, teaching the art of the new American
cocktail there using a set of solid silver bar tools. While
behind the bar at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco,
he made $100 a week, more than the Vice President of
the United States.
Maybe.
Thomas, you see, was also a man of vast self-promotion,
prone to exaggeration, and most of the record of his
life comes from newspaper accounts of the era in which
Thomas himself is telling his own tales to captivated
-- and intoxicated -- reporters. But it is undeniable that
his tome was the first to codify the drinks recipes that,
until then, had been largely communicated as an oral
tradition. HOW TO MIX DRINKS is full of recipes for
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

punches, sours, slings, cobblers, shrubs, toddies and flips.


But, near the end of the first edition, there are ten recipes
under the guise of Cocktails, each of them containing
bitters, an ingredient that, for a number of years,
differentiated the cocktail form its mixed drink brethren.
Time, as it is wont to do, marched on. Language, as it
does, evolved. Thomas revised his book in a number
of editions. Early sours and fizzes and slings evolved.
Improved Cocktails appeared, in which the bitters,
sugar and booze were first adulterated with a liqueur,
usually Maraschino, Curacao or Absinthe. And then, and
who can say exactly when, the word cocktail changed
to mean any mixed drink, of any sort. We know this
linguistic evolution happened before 1917 when Mrs.
Julius Wash, a doyenne of St. Louis society, threw the
first recorded cocktail party, an hour-long affair for 50
guests held before lunch was served.
But the original cocktail, the true cocktail, that mixture
of strong spirits, bitters, sugar and water, is still sublime
and, one might argue, an act of patriotism, a nod to
our uniquely American heritage that is as bracing and
delicious today as it was in 1806.
Whiskey Cocktail (Original)
2 oz. 100 Proof Rye Whiskey (or your spirit of choice)
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
oz. Rich Simple Syrup (2 Parts Raw Sugar dissolved in
1 Part boiling water, and allowed to cool)
In an Old Fashioned Glass, combine Rye, simple syrup
and bitters, add a large ice cube or three and stir until
quite cold. Cut a swath of peel from a lemon or orange
and express the oils over the glass, dropping the peel
inside the glass for garnish.
Enjoy. 6

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BENJAMIN BUTTONs
Backwards Feast:
Spring Onion Vichyssoise
TRISH EICHELBERGER
Austin Market Chef
@cheftrish
Read more at badassdigest.com

Our lives are defined by opportunities; even the ones


we miss.
Spring onion vichyssoise is a classic soup, one that is
given an extra boost of flavor by slow roasting the often
underutilized white bottoms of spring onion. The spring
onion or scallion is not the typical allium you find in
the more traditional versions of the age-old recipe. This
seemingly French soup, whose origins are fairly unclear,
usually plays off the lighter onion notes of the leek.
Although I do adore leeks, they are a tad frustrating to
work with, as so much of their volume goes to waste
due to the tough and fibrous nature of the green tops.
In the kitchens at the Alamo Drafthouse, we are guilty

of letting the pungent white bottoms of most of our


spring onions go to waste, favoring them mostly for
their bright green and more mildly flavored tops. When
it came time write a recipe for a menu for the muchanticipated Backwards Feast for David Finchers THE
CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, I found
it a good time to showcase the often overlooked and
underappreciated green, or spring, onion.
This soup can be made vegetarian, and for the event we
will be making a veggie version for our vegetarian guests;
however, if your diet allows, I highly recommend using
chicken stock for it will result in a much richer, more
substantial soup.

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4 bunches of firm fresh spring onions


4 lb Yukon gold potatoes, washed,
peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp butter
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
1 quart stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 quart cream
1 tsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
Trim the green tops from the spring onion and set aside
Trim the tap roots from the bottom of the green onions
Spread them out on a sheet pan, cover lightly with oil
and place in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes
or until they are soft and roasted (this timing will vary
depending on the thickness of the onions.)
In a large soup pot, over medium heat, sweat the diced
yellow onion in the butter until it is soft, fragrant and
almost translucent.

Add the roasted green onion bottoms


Add the stock, potatoes & cream
Allow to cook at a simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Add the salt, pepper and allspice
Using a stick blender or counter-top blender
(use caution and do small batches) puree the soup
until it is smooth.
Taste to adjust seasoning
Trim the green onion tops to very thin pieces and use
these as a garnish for the creamy soup.
Enjoy!
*If you have a chinois or fine strainer it is recommended
to use it to achieve the most desirable texture. 6
The Alamo Drafthouse is proud to host the
BENJAMIN BUTTON Backwards Feast this March.
Go to drafthouse.com for more details.

This exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and made possible by the Ford
Foundation.
Generous funding for this exhibition at the Blanton is provided by Jeanne and Michael Klein
with major support from Alec Rhodes and additional gifts from Chase, Nancy and Bob Inman,
Melissa Jones, Regina Rogers in memory of Jack S. Blanton, Sr., the Texas Commission on
the Arts, and a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for
the Humanities.
Barbara Jones-Hogu, Unite, 1971, silkscreen with ink on wove paper, 22 1/2 30 in.,
Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund Barbara Jones-Hogu

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY 2015


Blanton Museum of Art / The University of Texas at Austin / MLK at Congress / www.blantonmuseum.org / 512.471.7324

#WitnessVoices
@blantonmuseum

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Weekly emails.
Fun rewards and surprises.
FREE membership.
FREE movies.
JOIN THE RANKS AT THE BOX OFFICE OR AT:

DRAFTHOUSE.COM/VICTORY
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Video Vortex: Getting


Marooned With ATTACK
OF THE BEAST CREATURES
JOSEPH A. ZIEMBA
Alamo Drafthouse Art Director and Programmer
@JosephAZiemba
Read more at badassdigest.com

In 1965, The Kinks released a song called "I'm On An


Island." The lyrics went like this:
"I'm on an island. And I've got nowhere to swim. Oh,
what a mood I am in. I'm on an island."
Ray Davies's lyrics were a simple ode to loneliness.
The lyrics were not an ode to someone's skin melting
off because they jumped in a lake that was filled with
acid while running from shark-toothed demonoids on
a tropical island.
That's where ATTACK OF THE BEAST
CREATURES comes in.
Island settings have always been money in the bank
for trash-horror filmmakers. Because islands have
bugs, beaches, coconuts and sunlight -- everything
you need to not have a good time. From THE
FLESH EATERS to PORNO HOLOCAUST, horror
movies have proven that the concept of "islandas-a-harbinger-of-doom" is real and prescient. For
instance, I visited Marco Island in Florida when
I was nine years old. My dad bought me an ice
cream cone. After eating it, I spent the next twentyfour hours wrapped in a blanket on the bathroom
floor of our hotel room. Some people might think
that the ice cream made me sick. But I've seen
ANTHROPOPHOGUS. I know the truth.
Still, there's a common problem that runs through
every island-set horror movie. And that's one of
familiarity. Each one of these movies feels like it takes
place on our planet. We recognize the surroundings
and know that salvation is possible. No matter
what. In FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND, four adult
men in a hot air balloon land on an island and
fight the Frankenstein monster. But they still eat
Sloppy Joes and drive cars. The movie has a foothold
in our stratosphere. ATTACK OF THE BEAST
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

CREATURES does not. It could take place in any


galaxy, but that galaxy is obviously not ours. And that's
how a movie that was shot in Stratford, Connecticut,
over a few weekends for the price of a decent used
lawn mower trumps all -- there is no salvation.
It's 1920. Somewhere off the coast of Dimension X,
six humans crash a boat on an island. At first, all is
well. The survivors pick berries, tend their wounds
and talk about things that you talk about when
you're stuck on an island with people you don't know
very well ("I think theres enough deadwood in this
vicinity to get a fire going."). After the group visits
the wrecked ship and explores the woods, a man takes
a swim. He is instantly transformed into a steaming
pile of goop. That's the first indication of trouble
in paradise. Frantic and spooked, the rest of the
survivors jury-rig a camp.
Night falls.
Eyes appear in the darkness.
THE FACE-EATING BEGINS.
Audacity can take you a long way. For director
Michael Stanley and his tiny film crew, it took
them all the way. ATTACK OF THE BEAST
CREATURES is a movie about monsters that attack
a small group of people on an island. Normally, this
concept would call for a monster that was visually
disturbing or physically menacing, just like the one
in BRIDES OF BLOOD. But this movie goes in
another direction. Like THE KILLER SHREWS,
which featured monsters that were actually dogs with
bath mats glued to their backs, ATTACK dares its
audience to believe that lil' bloodthirsty buddies with
DayGlo eyes, Halloween wigs from CVS and a height
of no more than ten inches are enough to terrorize
full grown adults. And it works. Stanley believed it.

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He didn't back down. Because of this, the movie's


hypnotic and surreal leanings become even more
pointed. Actors thrash violently as modified Ken dolls
with piranha teeth are thrown at them from out of
frame. They step on the beast creatures, throw them
back and pretend to be in excruciating pain as the
creatures nibble on their ankles. It happens over and
over. It never gets old.

Super 8 camera and cart blanche on his imagination,


it might have turned out something like this. ATTACK
is innocent, but dark. It's hilarious, but scary. It's
a triumph of enthusiastic ambition and amateur
aesthetics. This is proven when the thumping bass
synths on the soundtrack continue for two minutes
after the end credits stop. As a whole, ATTACK could
also be considered repetitive. But so could eating.

ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES is nobudget ecstasy. It's a minimal backyard horror movie
with cheap gore, fat synths and a taste for nihilistic,
anti-human destruction. If a twelve-year-old who
was obsessed with 1950s monster movies was given a

By the way, this movie is way better than LOST. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES screens at the


Alamo Drafthouse this month as part of the Video Vortex
series. Go to drafthouse.com for showtimes.

EYES WITHOUT A FACE:


A Q&A With Artist
Jason Edmiston
ROB JONES
Mondo Art Director
@animalrummy
Read more at badassdigest.com

Mondo Gallerys next exhibition is titled EYES


WITHOUT A FACE, 150 pieces featuring the eyes
of characters in modern popular culture by Canadian
artist Jason Edmiston. Mondo Art Director Rob Jones
sat down with him to discuss his inspiration and
approach to the subject.
Q: Well, off the bat, from the name of the show are
you more a fan of Georges Franju or Billy Idol?
A: Ill have to say both, but Ive heard more Billy Idol
songs than Ive seen Franju films. Billys Eyes
without a Face actually takes its title from
Franjus film - they sing the original French title in
the background of the song. It was the first thing
that came to me when I tried to think of a name
for the show. Something about that title always
seemed intriguingly mysterious to me.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

Q: What spawned the idea? I remember you first told


me about it around the time of your last show.
A: I had the idea when I was working on my last solo
show for Mondo. I was driving around town with
my wife bouncing ideas off of her. I checked my
rear view and had the idea. I just saw traffic, not
my face or anything, but the shape of the mirror
made me think of just using a tight cropping of
eyes for the basis of a show. You know, the same
type of view if you looked at someone through
a mail slot. Ive always enjoyed seeing shows like
Mike Mitchell and Olly Moss have where there
are a ton of pieces all at once. I always wanted
to have a really big show like that, but the large
scale of my usual paintings precluded that as an
option. I knew if I kept it to mostly small 1:1
representations of just eyes that I could finally pull

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it off. I also kind of wanted to see what it would


feel like to be in a gallery surrounded by eyes
staring at you.

Q: Can you comment on paring down the potential


subject list for the show?

A: I dont know, I guess it depends on what youre


carrying in your head. It could be an audience or
a jury. We're all a little voyeuristic at times, but
in today's culture of social media, reality shows
and YouTube, we are also constantly becoming
much more narcissistic. We idolize a great number
of people from film, or music or politics, and
aspire to be worshipped just as much, sometimes
without having much to offer in return. This show
should give visitors the feeling of being watched
by their heroes. It should be quite an experience
to stand in the center of the gallery and slowly
rotate 360 degrees.

A: It was hard, and as you know its a gigantic list. I


think the initial count was over 500 personalities. I
wanted to be able to grab subjects from anywhere.
I admit a preference for films as they are a big
part of my life, but theres plenty from other areas
like music, comics, video games, toys and just
history in general. The gallery and I pared down
my initial list to a more manageable 150 portraits,
including our favorites from the list. Each piece
will be presented at a 1:1 ratio, from tiny plastic
toy people, to humanoid actors, to giant beasts. I
felt that the variety of subject matter would be the
most enjoyable part of the show for me, as I love
all of these characters, and their common feature
allows me to collect them together in a show that
makes sense.

Q: Talk about your stylistic approach to these. Theres


some variance in technique, correct?

Q: There arent a lot of groups of characters, and thats


on purpose. Can you expound?

A: Yeah, its dictated by the subject and my attitude


towards it. Some demand a looser brush, with
more expressive strokes, to add some aggression or
movement to the character. Keep in mind that the
cropping on these pieces is very tight, and doesn't
leave a lot of room for body language. Cold,
robotic features (both literally and figuratively) are
handled more tightly, and cleanly, with hard edges
and hot white gleams adding drama or mystery. I
don't actually consciously plan the styles out ahead
of time as a whole. The individual subject matter
determines where to go with the technique. I feel
that as a whole, they all still feel like my work.

A: Its just a recognition of the time available and my


desire to keep the show as varied as possible.
There are a few pairings and a couple of groups I
couldnt resist, but I think overall people will be
very surprised by some choices. This is a chance to
focus on some really interesting character studies,
without having to worry about representing each
property completely. Some properties are so rich
with visual history that it was difficult to choose
just one or two subjects, but I leaned towards
the most physically interesting and recognizable
characters, ones that would be fun to paint, but
also those that would connect the most to viewers.

Q: What do you think its going to feel like?


A Panopticon?

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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Q: If you had another six months how big do you


think you could make the show and maintain
enthusiasm for it?
A: Ive been having a lot of fun and the approach
really stretches my skills and captures my interest.
I could do these for years probably and still feel
like Im leaving folks out. I'd love to continue
the series into as many genres of pop culture
as possible. I see potential in product mascots,
or political figures, or famous statues...the list
is endless. I also really love the research aspect
of this concept. It satisfies my need to play as a
forensic detective, scouring the internet for height
data, and pictures of actors in monster suits next
to the average human to determine actual size
relationships, so I can accurately portray these
characters in their real-life sizes. Each stage of the
creation of these pieces is a new challenge for me.
Q: Can you tell me a few examples of folks you
wanted to paint but definitely wont make it into
this show due to time?
A: I had to draw the line at a point, but some
personalities that just missed the cut are the prawn
aliens from DISTRICT 9, The Green Hornet,
Charlie Brown and King Tutankhamun. It would
be incredible to include a life-size interpretation of
the statue of David by Michelangelo as well. I'm
also a huge STAR WARS fan, and that franchise
is so visually rich, that most all of the characters
could be included, but I will only be able to have
time for two or three.
Q: I know you have a lot plans for opening night. You
want to hint at any of that?
A: Id rather not, but I do want to make it a great
show for people who come to the opening.
Working with Mondo to make sure that this
exhibition is a full, engrossing experience, has
been very rewarding. They are detail-oriented,

and a great supporter of artists across their roster,


making sure the artist's vision is fully realized.
I've never had a more pleasant or productive
experience as an artist, than working together with
these people. I feel that visitors to my show will
have a fun time dissecting the show, and seeing if
they can pick out all 150 characters.
Q: All right, Ill see you in March with drunk bells on.
Lets all agree to keep eye puns to a minimum at
the show.
A: Aye-Aye! 6
Mondo Gallery Presents: EYES WITHOUT A FACE
runs from March 13-April 4 at the Mondo Gallery,
4115 Guadalupe Street, Austin. The opening night
reception is Friday, March 13 at 7pm.

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Chiller is the leading network devoted exclusively


to the horror/thriller genre, delivering edge-of-your-seat
entertainment 24/7/365.
Chiller features exciting series, spine-tingling reality, and
thrilling moviesfrom cult classics to cutting-edge premieres.
Our growing slate of Original Programs includes wickedly fun
pop-culture specials and visionary feature films.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

I'll Hurt You If You Stay:


Transforming Love In
THE FLY
PHIL NOBILE, JR
Badass Digest Contributor
@philnobilejr
Read more at badassdigest.com

David Cronenberg has often said his preoccupation


with physical transformation -- that infamous body
horror woven through just about every film he made
between 1970 and 1986 -- is really about the nature
of identity, the end result of an atheist filmmaker
trying to reconcile the intellectual self with the
physical self. Who am I? Am I the same person I was
ten years ago? Who will I be ten years from now? Our
cells are completely replenished every seven years; in a
very real sense we are several beings removed from the
people we were 25 years ago. So what makes us us?
Where religion provides a tidy answer, Cronenberg
has been turning the question over in his mind for
decades, each film an approach from another angle.
Certainly this theme of how much do I change
before I cease to be myself is easy to spot: the
characters in SHIVERS succumb to parasites which
erase everything in the host but their libidos; a
blood infection in RABID turns an entire city
into homicidal maniacs, bereft of individuality;
the protagonist of SCANNERS ends the film in
another body altogether. After Cronenberg eventually
abandoned the goop, as he calls it, he continued to
confront the question of identity. If a mob hit man
reinvents himself as a small-town coffee shop owner,
and lives that life for enough years (A HISTORY
OF VIOLENCE), is he still a mob hit man inside?
To what degree is he defined by the external vs. the
internal? If a cop pretends to be a Russian gangster,
lives as a Russian gangster and does the things a
Russian gangster does (EASTERN PROMISES), isnt
that in fact what he is? If I pretend to be someone
long enough, whos to say I cant, eventually, really
become that person? The same question, with less
Karo syrup and bladder effects.

But before he finally transcended the blood and


gore and emerged as a kind of Cronenberg 2.0, the
director gave us 1986s THE FLY, his horrifying,
heartbreaking body horror swan song. THE FLY
deals with Cronenbergs career-long conundrum from
a unique, emotional angle; while his protagonist
is running through his arc of transformation,
Cronenberg is also examining the nightmarish
journey of what its like to be in love with someone
who is slowly becoming someone else. And often
overlooked in the wake of Jeff Goldblums amazing
performance as Seth Brundle is Geena Davis layered,
nuanced turn as Veronica Quaife. In a tight 90
minutes, Davis delivers as thorough a relationship arc
as youre likely to find, touching on themes of new
love, betrayal, domestic violence, abortion issues and
the assisted suicide of a life partner. Its an incredible
performance, and much more complex than was often
credited upon release.
THE FLY was released during what was more or less
the height of AIDS awareness. It was inevitable that
the film, with its imagery of a sexually-awakened
protagonist devolving into a mass of cancerous cells,
would draw comparisons to the headline-grabbing
epidemic of the time. David Cronenberg has always
resisted that comparison. By 1986, sex and death
had been his professional palette for over a decade;
he was not a topical filmmaker, he argued. Rather,
THE FLY is about dealing with death, and what
Cronenberg calls the real original sin: the knowledge
of your own finite existence. Confronting death is
arguably at the core of all horror films. But THE FLY
offers a more harrowing experience, in that its about
confronting the death of someone you love. After all,
we can ponder our own death, but we cannot know it.

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The death of someone we love is unbearably real, and


thats part of what makes THE FLY resonate so hard
nearly 30 years after its release.
In Veronicas reaction to the slow death of Seth, we
see echoes of the very human pre-grief process,
an emotional touchstone for anyone whos had to
witness the person they love losing their dignity, their
faculties, even their basic bodily functions as death
looms. For a film hinged on a far-out premise of
matter teleportation and gene-splicing, the emotions
are all too familiar: Veronica begs Seth to seek help,
to please go to a doctor. She watches with sympathy,
with pity and even with impatience and exhaustion as
Seths mind races between despair and mania, trying
to make sense of whats happening to him. In the
wake of the films finale, Seths help me becomes
a plea for euthanasia. Veronicas mournful sobs as
the film fades to black are not typical horror movie
tears; they feel more akin to those from any graveside
funeral weve been to. How amazingly far Geena
Davis performance is from the scream queen role a
lesser film - and a lesser actor - might have delivered.
But whats most remarkable about the relationship
subtext is the subtler stuff. The big themes of dying
and decay in THE FLY get the lions share of critical
attention, but the film has smaller, yet no less
relatable, moments which speak to a different kind
of death. The confusion and hurt in Veronicas eyes
as Seth rages at her out of nowhere, the threat of
violence hanging in the air as he punches the walls,
is a resonant, terribly real moment. The prolonged
silence that follows an explosive argument, broken
by a panicked phone call (Ive been afraid to see

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

you. Now Im afraid not to), resonates to anyone


whos endured the back-and-forth death throes of a
relationship. The amazing insect politics scene (Ill
hurt you if you stay) isnt heartbreaking because
Goldblum is covered in fly hairs and 50 pounds
of foam latex tumors. Its a tear-inducing moment
because weve all perhaps once loved someone who,
little by little, atom by atom, became someone else
over time. It likely happened much more slowly and
involved significantly less gore, but it was every bit
as complete as Seth Brundles transformation, and
one which both sides were powerless to stop. The
emotional, human core of THE FLY is about more
than physical death. Its about Veronica struggling to
reconcile her feelings with the reality that the person
she loves isnt that person anymore. Logic tells her she
knows who the individual standing in front of her
is, but the being with whom shes in love no longer
exists. In the end, thats maybe the least sci-fi concept
in the world. 6
THE FLY screens at the Alamo Drafthouse this month.
Go to drafthouse.com for listings.

Unmasking FACE/OFF
NOAH SEGAN
Badass Digest Contributor
@kidblue
Read more at badassdigest.com

There is a reason that thespian rhymes with


lesbian. They are two of the awesomest things
to be. Thats a broad generalization for the sake of
a solid pun. Sos that and this. While ladies who
lunch on other ladies are an accessible, diverse and
inclusive group, actors are mercurial, testy and often
completely nuts. There is nary a marginalized, specific
community so wildly unknown and unknowable as
The Actor. Even their goal, that rote, clichd concept
of motivation, is hard to articulate. Are they looking
for upmost sincerity and believability? Does an actor
have their own agenda, a feeling or concept that they
want to express beyond whats in the script? Maybe
some of the better ones have an uncanny ability to
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

understand the tone and vision of their material


and adjust accordingly. Also, we call lady thespians
actors because you wouldnt call a lady cop an
officer-ess. Interestingly, we also call lady lesbians
lesbians. There are no coincidences, Dear Reader.
Full disclosure: The first step is admitting it. In
smoke-filled rooms with styrofoam coffee cups, we
sit in a circle on public-school Formica desks and
folding chairs. We rise up, one-by-one and clear our
throats. Everyone has to say the same thing and Im
no different. Im anxious every time I have to face the
crowd and announce, Im Noah, and Im an actor.
We stick together, and we respect one another, no

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matter how disparate and desperate we are. Good


actors and good filmmakers dote on each other, and
this ode is no exception.
Yo, doggg, I heard you like actors so I put these
actors in actors with other actors. FACE/OFF is a
rare insight into how actors actually do their job,
and a distillation of why it matters. It is a perfect
storm of filmmaking that illustrates the machinations
of where they fit into cinematic grammar. In the
benevolent dictatorship of cinema, the director sits
at the top of a trickle-down economy of creativity.
Its Reaganomics in effect. A guy like John Woo has
permanently influenced the language of cinema,
specifically through his visual aesthetic, his slowmotion fights, his evolution of the pot-boiling crime
genre. He created a microcosm of effect through his
work in Asia and rose to a global, mainstream scale
by making films in Hollywood. He took tropes that
had been set up by Western writers and filmmakers to
birth the noir and detective movements, filtered them
through his own cultural lens and then offered them
back to the West, which in turn added them to the
vocabulary. With great successes, by his third Englishlanguage film, he had the luxury to access big budgets,
high concept material and top-tier talent.
In 1997, John Travolta and Nic Cage werent the
biggest movie stars in the world, nor the engrained
caricatures we consider them today. Travolta had
been a sex symbol and teen idol. It was only a couple
of years earlier that he reignited his career through
PULP FICTION, which has become his most iconic
role. He had been welcomed back into the zeitgeist
for a great reason, since Tarantinos film only added
to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, GREASE and
WELCOME BACK, KOTTER in illustrating that he
has the ability to become part of our collective cultural
consciousness. Cage had spent the better part of the
last two decades establishing himself as a very rare
actor, someone who could play the lead role in a film
with the specificity and idiosyncrasy usually reserved
for smaller roles. He was a character actor who
starred in films, and it bode well for filmmakers with
the confidence to commit to their protagonist being
so unique, folks like the Coen Brothers, David Lynch
and Uncle Frank. Hed won an Oscar for the extremely
dramatic, naturalistic LEAVING LAS VEGAS and
promptly committed his hyperbole to action films like
THE ROCK and CON AIR. Even with such variety
and prolificness, he never sacrificed the creation of
characters that were so inexplicably iconoclastic they
often confused and galvanized audiences.
At the time, Travolta, Cage and Woo were all firmly
ensconced in a career trajectory that could ascend to
the place of collaborators like Bay, Cruise or Willis,
but not quite there in terms of sheer box office
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

power. They were, however, already iconic, part of


the aforementioned collective consciousness. Those
looks, camera angles, editing choices, voices and ticks
were identifiable and intrinsic to the success of the
film. Not only were two actors playing individual
characters and trading off, but they were using each
others personalities, histories and physicality to do so.
As if to punctuate the theatrical, Kabuki-meets-Greek
Tragedy concept of switching bodies, the audience
gets hints that we are reading a love-letter to the
magic of transformation. In the first big action piece,
Travoltas Federal Agent lands a helicopter on Cages
Terrorist getaway plane, a symbiotic, sexual bumpand-grind. Pinocchios theme song, When You Wish
Upon a Star, plays during a big battle, as if to suggest
that our lead characters arent real boys, just puppets.
Elaborate set pieces end up home to phenomenal
action scenes that do a poor job of hiding wires,
rigging and stunt doubles. That doesnt detract from
the film. It supports what Travolta and Cage are doing,
showing us the process, the wizards behind the curtain.
The care and feeding of an actor is a complicated
endeavor. While they dont eat much, they require
basically all of your attention, unconditional love
and a ton of money and/or gifts. They are often
ornery, revisionist and reactionary, until they lean
on whatever bohemian excuse they can muster to get
their way. In reciprocity, theyll give you something
pretty to look at, maybe a dose of truth couched in
humor or drama. As you consider the commitment
to your actors, consider that youll never truly
understand them, as they are constantly in flux; its
their nature. Only through rare exceptions, FACE/
OFF being one, will you get some insight, a guide to
just how special their skill and talent are. As they hide
behind their costumes and accents, their characters,
be grateful for FACE/OFF, eschewing all the
subversiveness for an unabashed, obvious illustration
of their process. Dry clean only. 6
FACE/OFF screens at the Alamo Drafthouse this month.
Go to drafthouse.com for showtimes.

GET REVENGE WITH YOUR OWN FACE / OFF MASK!

Just cut out


the face on this
page and
attach a rubber
band to
the tabs
on the side.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

SEAN
ARCHER!

GO UNDERCOVER WITH YOUR OWN FACE / OFF MASK!

Just cut out


the face on this
page and
attach a rubber
band to
the tabs
on the side.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

CASTOR
TROY!

The Last Word With


CHAPPIEs Neill Blomkamp
Q: What is your earliest movie memory?

A: THE CROW.

A: Probably THE SECRET OF NIMH. I would have


been two, I think, but I remember parts of that
experience well. It had a large effect on me.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure movie?

Q: What is the first movie you saw that made you


understand that movies can be art?

Q: What movie do you want to make before


you die?

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

A: TRANSFORMERS, 2007.

A: A war film. Im very interested in war history, and I


feel one day I would like to make a serious film in
this arena.
Q: What is your most magical cinema experience?
A: T
 HE MATRIX, 1999. I was 19, and I had been
working professionally as a VFX artist. I knew I
wanted to direct eventually and I was constantly
shooting small shorts outside of work. I saw that
film and my mind was blown. It was like some
shining beacon of philosophical filmmaking
brilliance. It had every single ingredient I ever
wanted in a movie-going experience. It had an
unbelievable, resounding effect on me.
Q: What is the movie you believe everyone should see?
A: I think probably ASSASSINS for that moment
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

when Banderas finds out Stallone is the mark and


does the woohooooo sound.
Q: Only one of your movies can continue to exist
after you're gone -- which one is it?
A: Well, I haven't made that many, but probably
CHAPPIE -- it speaks to the soul and the nature
of consciousness and sentience, and I think thats a
pretty cool topic.
Q: If you weren't born to direct, what else would you
be doing?
A: Id probably be a criminal of some kind.
Q: Why do you make movies?
A: Because its more fun than working in a host of
other professions. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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