Archive for the ‘Hotness’ Category

For as fanatical as I am about all things Danzig in music, there is a certain television creator that I would also be willing to follow into the Hellmouth. Joss Whedon. For the sake of this writing, I am going to pretend that I have only seen the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as any further episodes mentioned can only weaken my tale.

I had seen a few things that Joss had done prior to 1998, like episodes of Roseanne (funny) and Alien Resurrection (terrible), but my initiation to the Whedonverse proper didn’t occur until Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s second season, episode #13. I had seen the Buffy movie and righteously dismissed the show, thinking, “Why make a show about that piece of shit?”. While my question was valid, I was proven wrong. Had my friend Joe and I not been so horribly bored on Tuesday nights, we never would have broken down and gave the show a chance.

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Oh look, how sweet. We tuned in at right about this point. Buffy and Angel bone and then it would seem like Angel was going to vomit from revulsion. But then he goes into an alley and starts weeping in the rain. We found this so funny, that this dude gets the hot chick and goes outside to cry, that we had to see what happened next.

The next week, “Innocence” aired and we got some context. It wasn’t long before the absurdity fell away and I was hooked on the plot. Angel goes from lover to arch nemesis, killing Buffy’s friends along the way. It was actually gripping. It didn’t hurt that Sarah Michelle Gellar was downright foxy.

After that storyline and the finale to the second season, I figured the show was never going to get that good again, so I stopped watching. The following year, I’m over at Hector’s house and, once again, there is nothing on television. We’re sitting in the kitchen, which didn’t really make any sense as not only did he not have cable, but this TV was the size of a small microwave with an identical reception. We’re flipping channels and we see Buffy is on. I try, in vain, to tell him that the show was pretty good and nothing better was on. He waffled until I told him that the girl from True Lies was on-screen and she was hot now. The episode was “Faith, Hope & Trick”, Dushku’s first episode of the show.

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The episode wasn’t that great but I knew I didn’t want to miss a week of a show with her in it. I doubt I told him this but, from that point forward, I was only going to hang out on Tuesday nights if Buffy was on the menu. I finished the third season without fail and thought it was nearly as good as the previous one. Then, Season Four happened and everything fell apart. I almost jumped ship then. The only saving grace was the Faith story arc (y’all know why by now). The fifth season is severely underrated, in my opinion. The premiere episode with Dracula was fucking hilarious. The fact that they got Rudolf Martin to play Dracula, a month before he played the historical Vlad Tepes himself, should not be overlooked. It did introduce little annoying sister Dawn in the biggest “what the fuck” moment in the show’s run but that was forgiven due to the Xander lines about being a buttmonkey and covering his referring to Dracula as “master” by following it up with “bater”. Then there was the Buffy’s mom dead episode, “The Body”. And the flashbacks with Spike in “Fool For Love”. Great stuff. The only downside to that season was the continued use of Riley Finn, the meathead boyfriend of Buffy. He should have died at some point. That, and the end (at first, anyway). My friend Steve can attest to me actually bellowing “No!” when Buffy jumps into the portal in the season finale.

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What in the hell was I supposed to do now? The title character in my favorite show was dead. Little did I know at the time that Whedon was going to bring her back in a mostly forgettable sixth season. If it weren’t for the musical episode, I don’t know if there was anything worth watching before that season finale.

The last season came and was largely okay. It did bring back the use of Angel crossovers since it was the last season. They just weren’t allowed to say Buffy’s name over on the WB/CW/POS. It was with this plot device that they brought back Faith. Knowing that was the plan, I had decided to go back to watching Angel, even though the first season was a dud. I felt I needed some context for when Faith showed up and ended up liking the drawn out story of The Beast and Cordelia being possessed.

These two seasons also introduced me to the two main cast members of Whedon’s failed program, Firefly. I actually resented these actors and their characters because I thought they were hording in on the Buffyverse. Once again, Whedon proved me wrong.

Late in 2004, with all of Buffy and Angel off in the sunset, I was badgered to death at Books-A-Million by Ren Fair addict and co-worker, Dawn. The irony of that name being the one to do this is not lost on me either. She kept saying that I would like Firefly because I liked the other two shows and to just give it a try. I got the lone boxed set for Christmas and opened it the day before that. I finished watching by the early afternoon of Christmas Day. This show was different but had a lot of the same charm of the other shows. I was Buffy age when I watched Buffy and Firefly consisted of older folks than those shows, which I was becoming at the old age of 25.

Lucky me, when I found out that those characters’ stories would move on the following year in the film, Serenity, which I saw twice on opening day and a third time within the week. I absolutely love that movie. It may have been the greatest thing Joss Whedon had done ever. That is, until The Avengers, which I will stop talking about as I’m willing to bet there’s a future blog post about it.

I have all of the Buffy and Angel seasons on DVD, I bought Firefly on Blu-Ray (after having the DVD), I have purchasedSerenity three times (twice on DVD, the original and special editions, and once on Blu-Ray). I have both seasons of Dollhouse on Blu-Ray, even though it’s bad (again, you know why). I may even buy that new show to pair with The Avengers, even though I’m not enjoying it. Why? Because, in Joss, I trust.

You see, I happened to tune into the show at precisely the right times that would convince me to watch. It’s Kismet, no? Not only would I have never watched the vampire-infested programs but I also never would have been tempted to watch Firefly and, therefore, Serenity. I may have been prejudiced against The Avengers, which may just be my favorite movie ever, because of that. What a strange confluence of events that led me there. And I never would have watched if it weren’t for a soaken wet Sarah Michelle Gellar or a gothed up Eliza Dushku. Thank you for those, and so many other, visuals, Sir Whedon.

Suspiria

I have talked before here about my time at Crown Books and my misadventures with Jenny. While she was a full-on nutter, she did turn me on to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult as well as the films of Dario Argento. If she hadn’t been crazy, maybe she wouldn’t have known about these things and, ergo, neither would I. The “Italian Hitchcock”, king of the giallo (term for a crime fiction story), master of gore. I’d like to think that I would have found him inevitably as I watched countless Troma movies and random bullshit horror rented from Family Video. But maybe I wouldn’t have and I would have missed out on more than just film.

Argento is certainly an acquired taste. I often find that his work is easier to admire than to enjoy. My first experience was with Tenebre. I took Jenny at her word that the film was phenomenal, so I bought the DVD. Amazingly enough, I found the Anchor Bay “Dario Argento Collection” version at my local Best Buy. The first thing I remember as being striking to me was the appearance of John Saxon. I have, in the past, been quite the horror movie guru so I was very familiar with him. You would know him as Nancy’s dad in A Nightmare On Elm Street – the original, you heretic. But Nightmare didn’t come out until two years after Tenebre (Unsane in America). Maybe this flick had some credibility after all.

The camera work was like nothing I had ever seen in that kind of a film. The camera was its own character. It served as the killer’s eyes and we got to view the murder scenes through his (spoilers?) point of view. The gore was a vibrant, unrealistic red. The style was so immense that it becomes difficult to acknowledge the lack of substance. At least equal to the visuals was the score by Italian prog rockers Goblin. From the opening tones of the main theme, I had no idea what in the hell I was hearing. Not since Peter Frampton had the talk box been used to such absolutely evil effect. Between that and the organ synth of main composer Claudio Simonetti, it was so different and so out there. The audio and visual elements come together that definitely adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

I eventually would go back to Music Warehouse to get as many compilations of Goblin’s soundtrack work as possible. When Argento’s Sleepless came out in 2001, it was the first time in a long while that Goblin had done a soundtrack. I actually went online and ordered the soundtrack from an Italian website. There, it was titled Non Ho Sonno. This was long before Google translate (or Google even?) so I went on the site and hoped for the best. I was already a savvy online shopper at that point, so I figured that I didn’t do something horribly wrong. The CD arrived and I was not disappointed.

After conceding to Jenny that she may have actually been right about a second thing, I went back to Best Buy and caused a ruckus when they didn’t have any other Argento flicks. I then proceeded to buy all of the ones in the “Argento Collection” as they had all been recently remastered and restored for the first time in the U.S. I bought good ones: the two disc limited edition of Opera, Phenomena (with Jennifer Connelly and Donald Muthafuckin’ Pleasance) and the not terribly good: Inferno. There were also some great like Cat O’ Nine Tails and Suspiria.

Suspiria was the first in a proposed trilogy called “the Three Mothers”. It was released in 1977 and is widely considered Argento’s masterpiece. My copy is the limited edition three disc version that includes the soundtrack by Goblin. Every death scene is a macabre work of art, many have been mimicked over and over. It stars American Jessica Harper as a ballerina whose new academy is run by witches. It’s creepy as fuck. Inferno came out three years later and was totally lackluster.

The third came out a few years ago, Mother of Tears, and I was fortunate enough to see it at the Music Box. It was a great ending to the trilogy and a sign that Argento hadn’t completely lost his chops. His last two movies might prove otherwise. The best part was that it starred his daughter, and the object of my ultimate fanboy affection, Asia.

Asia is just flat out fucking beautiful and though a lot of her work lends evidence that she may not be a great actress (as a lot of the movies she is in are total rubbish), you need only check out Traveling Companion to know that she has got some chops. It’s all in Italian but that’s why there are subtitles. I actually don’t watch it in subtitles myself. I believe that, like a silent movie, that you should be able to know what’s going on just based on performance. Hers is fantastic. She has also become an established director in her own right. But, honestly, she really is gorgeous. I would actually watch XXX with Vin Diesel again just for her and that movie is fucking unbearable.

Argento has given me so much. He introduced my world to his film, the music of Goblin, and his daughter. I have collected nearly all of his films available (including the ones above: The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies On Grey Velvet, Trauma [with Asia], Two Evil Eyes [co-directed by George A. Romero], The Phantom Of the Opera [with Asia], Sleepless, The Card Player, Do You Like Hitchcock?) and even some on Blu-ray (Cat O’ Nine Tails, Deep Red, The Stendhal Syndrome [with Asia], and the awful digital transfer of the region free import of Tenebre). I have the four Goblin comps from DGA on CD but I would like to get some on vinyl but they be pricey. I also have procured a fair amount of Asia’s films (Demons 2, The Church, Traveling Companion, Scarlet Diva, and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things). At the height of my madness, I spent $400 on a first edition of the book Art Of Darkness: the Cinema Of Dario Argento from the bastards at Alibris through my job at Books-A-Million. I shit you not. That’s about how much after my employee discount. After losing my job at BAM (the fucks), I had to sell it. Losing that book still burns more than losing that job, or any job. Hopefully, I can find it again (and cheaper).

My ultimate goal is to eventually get to Rome to go to Profondo Rosso, the Dario Argento store. As nice as it would be to see the mother country, I don’t know that I would need to see anything else. Insanity? Probably, but so goes the price of extreme fandom.