Saturday, January 19, 2019

lids meeting -- january, 2019

The highlight of today's LIDS meeting was a presentation by Planting Fields' Assistant Director, Michael Runkel. Runkel gave an interesting presentation on holly's and conifers. Concentrating on plants that do well on Long Island, he spoke at length about how to care for these plants.

Before Runkel spoke, I had a little bit of microphone time. First I talked about the LIDS newsletter -- I am the new editor, but there are a whole lot of questions -- how often it will come out, in what format, etc. I made my plea for writers. My biggest fear is that it will be the Marc Whinston Daylily Newsletter, and I don't have the time, energy or expertise to be the sole creator of the newsletter. I also made a picth to get us an IO group which (I hope) will make it easier for the club to commiunicate and for me to distribute the newsletter.

In other daylily club related items, I was also asked to write something for the Region 4 newsletter about my experience with the online judging workshop. I have been meaning to write a blogpost about that, but haven't gotten around to it. Maybe I can kind of piggyback the two things into one.

The next meeting will be the annual luncheon in March. I think that will warrant a day off from my diet.

Friday, January 18, 2019

cinema history class: cut-throats nine

Session: Spaghetti Westerns, Week 1
Movie: Cut-Throats Nine (1972)
Directed by Joaquin Romero Marchent

As always, there may be spoilers here. And the trailer may be NSFW and/or NSFL

Sgt. Brown is marching a gang of hardened criminals across snowy mountains, knowing that one of them (but he doesn't know which one) murdered his wife. Oh, and he has his beautiful young daughter with him Hilarity ensues.

For this (the third?) installment of Spaghetti Western Month, Keith decided to go with spaghetti westerns that play like horror movies. And, boy-o-boy, did he deliver. CT9 is tense and miserable, cold and clautrophobic. And great.

In some ways, the film isn't much of a western. A lot of the tropes of Spaghetti Westerns are absent. For example, I only counted two gunshots, and though it seems to be building toward some kind of climactic battle, that battle never comes. It does, however, have the obligatory torture scene. In place of the familiar Spaghetti Western cliches, there are all sorts of horror movie cliches -- bloody stabbings, and even (courtesy of a hallucination) a zombie.

CT9 is much slower and more deliberate than most other movies I've seen in the genre -- and certainly slower than the good ones. But it keeps the tension alive. Even to the point where the moments that seem to be -- relatively speaking -- elicit muted uncomfortable chuckles rather than real laughs.

One of the most interesting things about the movie is the way it feels claustrophobic despite being set mostly in the great outdoors. Marchent kept placing his characters in enclosed outdoor spaces -- the entrance to a railroad tunnel, narrow paths on cliffs, forest trails. That claustrophobi feel combined with the unrelenting cold -- it reninded a couple of us of The Great Silence, which we saw a  couple years ago -- to make for an unremittingly tense experience.

Without giving away the ending, I will say that the conclusion was very well done. It did catch most of us by surprise.

Me: 9.4
Dave: 9.5
Ethan: 10
Joe: 9.8
Sean: 3 out of 4

Sunday, January 13, 2019

cinema history class: night of the ghouls

Session: Ed Wood Month, Week 4
Movie: Night of the Ghouls (1959 -- first released in 1984)
Directed by Ed Wood

As always, there may be spoilers here. And the trailer may be NSFW and/or NSFL

A fake psychic bilks rubes out of money by claiming to make contact with their dead relatives. Hilarity ensues.

It seems perfectly symbolic of Ed Wood's career that this film wasn't released until 25 years after it was made, and that the reason was that Wood didn't have the money to pay the processing lab.

As with the other Ed Wood movies we saw in this session, there was a whole lot to not like about this. There were continuity errors, wooden acting and oddly-used stock footage that was out of place and felt like filler. Oh, and Wood overused narration -- both a general narrator and a policeman's inner voice describing his thoughts. It seems that Wood had no business directing movies, yet he did. Again and again and again.

And yet, as bad as the movie was, there were some things that were just so odd they were amusing. The floating ghosts and trumpets during the seance scenes were a nice touch, and the makeup on Tor Johnson to show that his character, Lobo, had been horribly burned was excellent. And occasionally Wood used shadow really well -- making me wonder if maybe he could be a director of decent movies.

But the best part of the film was the ending. And I don;t mean that in a sarcastic way. For most of the movie, the story seemed uninspired. But the end was worthy of Twilight Zone, and literally saved the movie in my eyes. Until that point I was figuring on rating it a 7 -- which is a pretty bad rating in the context of this class. But the ending raised it to an 8.5.

Me: 8.5
Dave: 9.5
Ethan: 8
Joe: 9.5
Sean: 3 out of 4