PCR past banners Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #198  (Vol. 5, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 5--11, 2004.

Will and Karen's Excellent Adventure to South Florida - Part Four
by Will Moriaty
"Big Fish"
 by Mike Smith
Introducing Oddservations .... The Year That Was: 2003
 by Andy Lalino
Farewell to Twenty-oh-three and "Hello" MMIV
 by Brandon Jones
Bill....Where Was Geddy?....Producing....Dr. Ono?....Awards And Stuff....Say It Ain't So, Pete
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Ladies & gentlemen, I'd like you all to join me in welcoming on board as a regular columnist, Mr. Andy Lalino, writer, filmmaker, crazed fanboy extraordinnaire, and past perveyor of PCR Lettercol insanity. In the 2003 year-end issue of PCR, I mentioned Andy as a most valuable player, admitting getting "huff" about the listing as Andy was never a regular feature writer, but his intense Lettercol epics were "more than casual". I'm honored and pleased Andy was moved enough by what I wrote to reconsider his status and is now a regular feature writer for Nolan's Pop Culture Review. I am grateful to have him. --Nolan

Yet another big "thank you" to Nolan for mentioning me in his editorial in PCR #196. In an attempt to quell the "huffers" who note my non-status as a PCR feature writer, I am proud to (finally) debut my very own column on Nolan's site entitled "Oddservations" (in case you hadn't gathered that from the banner art above).

"Oddservations" will be a weekly (yeah, right!) column devoted to things most PCR readers appreciate and enjoy, namely: horror, sci-fi, and fantasy pop culture. It will occasionally be sprinkled with other interests I personally dig, such as New Wave music, indie filmmaking, the paranormal, and occasionally politics. Bottom line is, if you share these interests, pull up your computer desk chair and imbibe in "Oddservations", which will attempt to venture down memory lane, since genre efforts were much more palatable in years past. If I tick you off or brighten your day, say so in Nolan's "Lettercol".

I welcome all new readers, but beware: I aggressively defend genre pop-culture pre-1987. I consider the late 1980's, the 1990's, and the present (to a degree) to be a declination period of Genre Pop Culture, not worthy of recognition (with some notable exceptions). Genre Pop Culture is (kind of) on a shaky rebound at the present, but nothing like it was in the mid/late 1970's, when a bumper crop of genre-friendly talent began their careers (Stephen King, Brian DePalma, Steven Spielberg, George Miller, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Lucas, Lucio Fulci, etc.). We now have great white hopes like M. Night Shamalyan, the 'new Spielberg', to grab the torch. We're in trouble.

Nary a day goes by when another substandard project is in development based on Pop Culture of yesteryear; which proves we live in a climate of little originality. Just look at pathetic re-works of "Psycho", "Dune", and "Battlestar: Galactica". Nowadays we have matinee idols who resemble the Backstreet Boys, rather than Clint Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Harrison Ford, or Mel Gibson. Occasionally Hollywood will get it right, take for example the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", which I have not yet seen, but have heard from reliable sources that it is a worthy homage to the original. A rarity indeed.

The movie system today (theatrical releases) is star/celebrity driven rather than story/character-driven, and I long for the day that horror/sci-fi/fantasy will rightfully take its place as the King of the Genres, as it was from 1977-1986, before the general audience tired of genre fare, suddenly preferring more sophisticated entertainment, such as "Look Who's Talking", "Three Men and a Baby", and "Home Alone". The '90s were especially excruciating; a horror fan can name all the horror releases one hand in the lean year of 1996. Seems like things may be turning around however, but I'll believe it when I see it. I'm encouraged by the success of some genre offerings, like "Freddy vs. Jason" and "House of 1,000 Corpses". Just think of how more money they would have made if those films were actually any good! We owe this re-interest and resurgence in '70s/'80s-style horror to the DVD format. Who would have thought that such overlooked exploitation films such as Don Dohler's "Fiend", "Last House on Dead End Street", and Jean Rollin's obscure '70s vamp flicks would ever find their way to a superior media format - remastered nonetheless!

Surprisingly, Fanboys of today's generation do seem to have an affinity for the old (despite the media's insistence to the contrary), seeming to delight in freshly released DVD's of horror 'dinosaurs'. It's easy to see why; the B-movie of the '60s-'80s is not at all what B-movies are like today. The technology is too good, and missing is the lambchop '70s sideburns, grainy film stock, Elliot Gould handlebar mustaches, etc. to keep the interest of the viewer. I'd pit "The Devil's Nightmare" against the recent "Megalodon 2" any day.

For the record, I have always championed and have been intensely loyal to honest-to-goodness genre fare, of which legitimate fans can point to as "the real thing". As a result, I often get pegged with the "Living in the past" moniker, when in reality I'm just being honest in that I think a film like "The Giant Spider Invasion" is truer to the genre than, let's say the '98 "Godzilla". Just because a group of 'filmmakers' in the year 2003 decide to produce a new version of Battlestar: Galactica or bring back another tiresome version of Star Trek does not mean it's any good or worthy of viewing, especially by Crazed Fanboys, who should be the toughest customer. In my opinion, if the presented work does not esthetically satisfy the parameters established by genre pioneers such as Issac Asimov, Gene Rodenberry, Mario Bava, John Carpenter, etc., hell, it should be set aside and forgotten about forever. Being that this is not the '30s, '50s, '60s, '70s, and early/mid '80s, today's filmmakers have an uphill battle to fight, in that the palette they have to work with is not as fascinating as those of previous decades, culture-wise. There is no better example of the awfulness of today's science-fiction than made-for-Sci-Fi Channel features, which have been known to cause suicidal tendencies in true Crazed Fanboys.

Paralleling the downfall of the horror/sci-fi film in the late 1980's was the death of New Wave. Inexplicably, the mass audience preferred the 'Beastie Boys' to U2; 'Run DMC' to Oingo Boingo. Hair bands teamed up with dem 'rappers (and Milli Vanilli) to cause the demise of beloved British Art Rock, exemplified by bands such as Japan, The Human League, and China Crisis. Were it not for Goth/industrial (Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, It's Immaterial) the late '80s would have been a wash. Continuing the downward spiral, the dreaded '90s brought about the 'Grunge' movement, which was quick to slay metal bands, but interestingly not Rap (which stubbornly pervades pop culture today). After about 7 long years, grunge would too be bested by big business-embracing poppy acts like Britney Spears and N'-Sync, which is the situation we find ourselves in now. Kiss the days of Chrissie Hynde flicking the middle finger to the music execs goodbye; these Hillary Duff suit-puppets are all about doing what their masters tell them.

So there you have a glimpse into my mindset (scary, I know). Among some of my other goals, it is of utmost importance that we as Crazed Fanboys steer Genre Pop Culture back toward the '70s/'80s, which is, thankfully, what is kind of happening now, but we need to be even more aggressive, and support filmmakers who are influenced by the '70s/'80s, not MTV.

In a previous letter to PCR, I suggested that Crazed Fanboys be ranked in terms of their experience and taste. Like any other system, there would be "experience points" (sounds like D&D, huh?) and "demerits" (such as watching "Alias"). With enough experience points, certain Fanboys would achieve "God-Like Status" (Nolan and Corey Castellano's 1977 excursion to meet Rick Baker after the release of "The Incredible Melting Man" in St. Pete. would immediately christen them as Demi-Gods). Fanboys with God-Like status would mentor younger Crazed Fanboy acolytes, teaching them the wonders of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and Virgil Finlay art. Maybe even break out a Mike Jittlov video or a laserdisc of Bakshi's "Wizards". I think Nolan could be kind of a 'Gandalf' type figure to lead the Crazed Fanboy council - I vote we make Nolan the "Wizard of Fanboys". Acolytes would be expected to live their lives as if it were 1977, not 2004. Our official vehicle could be a supervan with CE3K artwork airbrushed on the side, or perhaps Frazetta's "Death Dealer"?

Crazed Fanboys Unite!!!

The Year That Was: 2003
Nolan, thanks for that great overview of all that happened in 2003 (Your welcome, sir, jes' doin' my job.---N). Being so busy with current filmmaking ventures, I admittedly haven't had time to see a lot of movies, other than watching those I taped off AMC and Off Beat Cinema. Hopefully I'll get out of the house more in '04. Anyway, Nolan asked us if we could share our thoughts for the year, perhaps picking some 'Best & Worst' selections in various categories.

It was a little too much work to highlight genre deaths of 2003 (most mainstream media outlets gloss over them), but I do recall losing Alex Gordon ("The She Creature"), Freddie Blassie, Warren Zevon, and the better-known celebs: Buddies Hackett & Ebsen, Bob Hope, Fred "Mr." Rogers, cinematographer Conrad Hall, Maurice Gibb, Richard Crenna, the great Robert Stack, and equally great Gregory Peck, Johnny Cash, legendary Charles Bronson, John Ritter, Gordon "The Big Guy" Jump, superstar Robert Palmer, George Plimpton, Donald O' Connor, Elia Kazan, Jack Elam, Fred "Rerun" Berry, Art Carney, David Hemmings, and the horror-challenged Katherine Hepburn.

The best horror film I saw in '03 was "28 Days Later", I guess. "Freddy vs. Jason", with the exception of some decent fight scenes, was laughingly bad. Another excellent shocker from Chile(!) was "Sangre Eterna", which I had the fortune of seeing on the big screen at Screamfest LA last October. It was Chile's first horror film, and an amazing sophomore effort by the talented Jorge Olguin, a name you will be hearing more of in the future. "Darkness Falls" had some great shocks, despite a troubled production in which the monster was actually changed! Reports say "Final Destination 2" was very good, especially the auto accident at the beginning of the film. Rob Zombie's "House of 1,000 Corpses" was a bit of a letdown; but of course we knew that was the case after the film was shelved for over a year. Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher" can be filed under "why the hell did they bother?" category. Some literary works just 'aint suitable for the silver screen; just ask H.P. Lovecraft. "Wrong Turn" was simply not a satisfying horror romp, due to the backwoods goons that resembled the 3 Stooges more than they did legitimately scary horror characters. Though "Willard" looked good in the trailer, it turned out to be somewhat of a bore, relying too much on Crispin's characterization of Willard Stiles and not enough action or pacing to keep the film going. What worked in the early '70s doesn't necessarily work nowadays - more rat attacks!!!

To be fair, I haven't seen a slew of recent genre offerings, namely: the new 'Saw, LOTR: TROTK, Cabin Fever, May, JC 2. Got some catching up to do!

To sum up 2003, it was actually a pretty good year in terms of horror. Finally we see at least an inkling of interest by modern filmmakers to hearken back to solid past influences, which I think is a step in the right direction. I was floored by the quantity of horror films released this year, and the amount of surprises the year had in store for the genre fan: the return of the zombie film (both good ("28 Days Later" and pathetic "House of the Dead"), the '70s-influenced "crazy family" sub-genre ("1,000 Corpses", "Wrong Turn", TCM '03), and Eli Roth (obviously a big horror fan).

Let's keep it up! Happy New Year everyone, and may 2004 be the best year yet!!!

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  Oddservations banner designed by Andy Lalino. All other graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.