Friday, June 08, 2007


Although Neil Sarver's blog is titled The Bleeding Tree, it is also a giving tree: serving up plenty of doses of movies, music, politics, boobs and wieners. So Neil pretty much has it all covered, but it's still near impossible to predict what his next post will be: he could follow up a loving tribute to Sam Peckinpah (preach on, brother) with a nutritious write-up of Pinky Violence or filling us in on why Roger Corman is his idol. Like the best of us, Neil appreciates the fine arts but loves the trash, which is why he hosted the wonderful Trashy Movie Blog-a-thon in April. And unlike most of us, Neil means it when he says "I could do better" after walking out of The House of the Dead -- he's currently juggling a few horror screen plays, and all of us at DVD Panache wish him the best.

'I'd like most to do a Spaghetti Western themed week. Part of me would most like to do a whole week with no Sergio Leone movies at all. Not because Leone isn't the top of the peak, as he clearly is, but c'mon, you can see those movies on the TBS "Movies for Men Who Love Movies" night. Pragmatically, in order to draw some kind of audience, I think a week of double-features, one by Leone and one by another director seems a good compromise. A Fistful of Dollars with Django. For a Few Dollars More with Death Rides a Horse. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with Four of the Apocalypse. Once Upon a Time in the West with The Great Silence. Duck,You Sucker with Run, Man, Run.'

DEAD AND LOVING IT: 'The dead genres like musicals and westerns, so dismissed by modern audiences, are among my favorites. I love art movies and crappy '80s T&A comedies alike, as long as they succeed at what they're attempting.'

FEAR THIS: 'Just about any scene in the original Night of the Living Dead, which is a movie that never fails to terrify me. The scene I'm going to choose isn't as striking as many others, but it's the scene in which Ben and Barbara first meet in the house and she is perfectly paralyzed by fear. There's something so painfully correct about her reaction and so terrifyingly real about Judith O'Dea's performance that it just grounds the entire movie from that point forth in a very real world that I relate to emotionally on every level. I think this is where many horror movies fail. Not, mind you, movies that simply are within the realm of the fantastique, a distinction that we rarely make in the U.S. Unless it's a comedy, nearly all dark fantasy movies, regardless of whether their heart may be more deeply in drama or action, are considered "horror" and given a marketing campaign promising to terrify the audience, and too often disappointing it. But even many movies that intend to frighten their audience neglect to show their characters frightened in any substantive manner, leaving the viewer with no empathetic "in" to experience the fear.'

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS: 'I see Hollywood like as an abusive spouse. I'm hopelessly in love with it. I know what it's capable of, and on it's best days, it makes me so deliriously happy that I want to forgive it on the days that it neglects and abuses me. The most basic crime it commits, and has since its very beginnings, is thinking that audiences as a whole fail to respond to anything beyond the surface. If Jaws is successful, perhaps it's not because they are hungering for movies about killer sharks, but for the well-realized characters and greatly crafted thrills in a general way. If the "Lord of the Rings" movies are successful, maybe there's something more to their success than wizards and dragons.

'As such, I think Hollywood's biggest success and biggest crime is convincing people that this is true. Audiences have been battered into thinking they want to see certain types of movies because they replicate previous experiences on some surface level. They rush en masse to see movies they're led to believe will do so. Because this experience is so often one of empty pleasure of the surface, they've slowly come to see movies as a wholly intellectual surface pleasure, they stop allowing themselves to suspend belief and become absorbed in the experience of the movie itself. The emotion, the artistic expression and the wonder disappear. And yet, I do continue to seek out their product. I continue to watch it in hopes that somewhere, in some moment, the movie will suck me in and allow me to experience the excitement and joy that a really rousing Hollywood movie can bring like nothing else in the world.'

NO TIME FOR QUOTES, DR. SARVER: 'I often quote Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: "I keep telling you, you listen to me more, you live longer!", "You no fun to play with, you cheat!", "That's why they call it the jungle, sweetheart." And I do sometimes quote Backbeat, "Tell me, Stuart, are you glad you came?" But, like, I don't think I quote Pulp Fiction or Star Wars much, although I've been known to try "I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit." on occasion. The only Monty Python quote I know hides in there somewhere to pop out occasionally is "It's wafer thin!" (You can supply your own accent.)

ALL BLOWED UP: 'Alright. I'll admit it: Michaelangelo Antonioni, I seriously don't get it. Any of it. I think L'Avventura is tedious. I find Blow-Up impenetrable. This would mean little to me, except I'm a great lover of the types of movies these represent. I know so many people with such similar taste to mine overall that absolutely love them. So many of my favorite directors site the influence of his movies on movies that I love. I absolutely love arthouse movies. I love meandering movies with little interest in plot ... I'm also a big fan of Italian cinema, from Fellini to Bava to, well, just about anyone, I think it's the country which has developed the greatest sense of what cinema can be. The art movies are terrifically wild and wonderful, thoughtful and entertaining, while the genre movies are amazingly filled with artful touches and avant-garde approaches. None of this allows me to understand the great appeal that Antonioni holds for so many people, as much as I'd like to find an in on this one.'

HUSH, HUSH ... SWEET JACKASS: 'I think it averages out to a movie a day, but I'm not certain offhand. I don't get out to the theater nearly as much as I'd like to, partially due to the simple money issues, but also scheduling and general annoyance with movie crowds these days.'

'I like buying movies that I've not seen heard good things about and supporting small DVD producer/distributors. Lately it's been limited to the best of the best of the best... not even that, the most temptingly rewatchable of the best of the stuff that wouldn't be easy enough to rent at Hollywood.'

BUT WHY A BLOG?: '...Discovering "Sneak Previews" with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on PBS. I remember specifically flipping through the channels and finding it there. Two weird dudes who just sat and talked about movies. But they weren't like most people talking about movies on TV. They argued and pondered and cried out with glee and disgust. They talked about movies like they mattered. They talked about movies like they mattered to them the way they mattered to me. Obviously that's a long time before I started blogging. Internet discussion partly begins with a lack of people around me who understand or care about movies in the same way I do and finding many more online, on Usenet, back in the day, or web discussion groups to find others with the same kind of passion and interest in movies that I have. Blogging itself is good, because it gives me a forum to write about other non-movie issues that interest me. It also isn't dependent on finding others who are not only as passionate as I about movies generally, but passionate enough that day about that movie. It's just me and what I'm interested in saying that day.

'It allows me a forum to document at least some fraction of the conversations I have with myself all the time.'

IT ALL STARTED IN...: '1980. I was already into movies by that point. In fact, I can't recall not being into movies. Unlike most of my peers, I can't think of a movie like Star Wars that hooked me on movies or moviemaking. I remember quite clearly wanting to see Star Wars because I loved movies so much. 1980 is the year of Popeye and The Elephant Man.

'Like all the other kids, I went to see Popeye to see Mork play the hero of the Fleischer cartoons. Unlike many others who were confused, bored or generally disappointed with the movie, I was fascinated by the verisimilitude of the world and the richly developed tapestry of characters from Elzie Segar's "Thimble Theater". I would soon come to understand this as partly the result of its director's style. It took some effort at that time before home video, but I'd manage to merge the LP version of the movie MASH, which contained dialogue and music from the movie, along with the original novel, the hugely successful series based on it and eventually a deeply censored television cut of the movie in my head into some understanding of his breakthrough movie as well.

'The Elephant Man was as close to a religious experience as I've ever had. At once real and impressionistic, it became the whole of my understanding of art, or at least the cinema art. I suspect I still subconsciously judge many types of movies based on how they evoke the emotional and intellectual responses I had to that movie. This led to my first experience making the effort to watch the Academy Awards, and, of course, my first in a lifetime of disappointment in the Academy's judgments when it was completely shut out.'

Contact DVD Panache if you are interested in contributing to Friday Screen Test.


Neil Sarver said...

Thanks so much.

I love this column and the wonderfully interesting questions you ask and the variety of answers you get and it was exciting and fun to be a part of it.

Adam Ross said...

No prob, Neil.

I see you mentioned Paul Seydor's great Peckinpah book (The Western Films: A Reconsideration) in one of your posts about the director. I'm just about finished with the book, and I highly recommend it if you haven't read it -- it's almost exhausting how deep he analyzes "The Wild Bunch" and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid."

Neil Sarver said...

I'm pretty sure that I didn't read that one back in the day I burned through every book I could on Peckinpah. I'll definitely keep my eye open.