Friday Afternoon Movie: Grave Of The Fireflies

Hey you, over there. Yeah you, with the Garfield plushy and the pictures of your cat, Garfield, dotting your cubicle walls. That’s right, you. You know what your problem is? You’re too damn cheerful. You say you hate Mondays in a way that tells me you really don’t and you’re always the first one to suggest ideas for weekend long team building exercises. You should stop that. What you need is a good, harsh dose of reality, delivered with an animated veneer. Here, sit yourself down and let me show you something.

Today, the Friday Afternoon Movie presents Grave of the Fireflies directed by Isao Takahata and adapted from the book of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka. Released in 1988 by Shinchosha, who wisely hired the renowned Studio Ghibli to animate it, Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of Seita and his sister Setsuko. Orphaned near the end of World War II — losing their mother in the firebombing of Kobe and their father in the line of duty in the Japanese Imperial Navy — we follow the two through a desolate and famine ravished Japan as they attempt to survive, enduring the cruel indifference of both their relatives and fellow countrymen.

The antithesis of what many people expect from an animated feature it must have been even more puzzling upon its release in Japan, paired as a double feature with Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. Grave of the Fireflies is a look at the aftermath of an event that Japan continues to come to grips with and it is nearly unflinching in its gaze refusing to gloss over the cruelty and desperation it falls upon without ever becoming gratuitous. Roger Ebert, in his review, said that he felt the choice to animate the story was the correct one as “live action would have been burdened by the weight of special effects, violence and action” and I could not agree more (thought it should be noted that there have been two live action versions released in Japan since, in 2005 and 2008). The impressionistic nature of animation only helps to let this tragic tale emerge on its own terms. Scenes like Setsuko, dying of starvation and hallucinating, offering her brother a “dinner” she cooked for him, in reality clumps of mud and stones, are some of the most heart-wrenching things I have seen a movie.

It’s proof of the power of animation that something like Grave of the Fireflies work’s so well; and a shame then that, in this country at least, the majority of animated feature films decline to deal with this kind of subject matter, opting instead to tackle stories deemed too strange (or costly) for traditional live action films or the saccharine, princess fantasies of Walt Disney. In fact, it seems disingenuous to limit that statement to the U.S. There are few animated features that dare to approach this kind of subject matter and perhaps none that have plumbed the same emotional depth, period. It’s a testament to Takahata and Studio Ghibli’s skill and courage — and the power of Nosaka’s story — that even movies from some of my favorite directors, writers, and producers don’t affect me the way Grave of the Fireflies does. If you haven’t seen it you owe it to yourself to experience this profound study of war and its effects on the human condition.

The Sara Carlson Experience

Remember those mind-blowing Heather Parisi clips we were all gaping at a few months ago? Well, it’s time for Heather to scooch her bedazzled Mickey Mouse-clad tush over on that giant Rubik’s Cube pedestal we built for her.

Make room on the throne, and in your hearts, for another star of numerous 80s Italian television variety shows, the inexplicable Miss Sara Carlson:

I’m just gonna give your guys a minute to process that clip. Deep cleansing breaths, people. Zalright? Zalright.

The commentary on Carlson over at Nobody Puts Baby in a Horner is sharper and better than anything I can come up with at this late hour, with the fabric of my reality in tatters:

I recognize that, in the era of YouTube clips, what probably made sense in a particular time to a particular group of people is reintroduced to the world in a contextual vacuum.  Without meaning, these videos become a veritable playground for camp, a place where the indecipherable message is the first language of ironic detachment and surface aesthetics the currency of visual pleasure.  As such, perhaps I’m inherently biased towards this Fellini meets Lady Gaga pinnacle of unadulterated, uninhibited batshit insanity.

Several more clips and further spot-on commentary from Benjamin after the jump.

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman’s Happy Nude Year

Quickly! A sneak peek of some (very happy, glowy) people we’ll be featuring in Issue #05:

photo credit: Allan Amato/Coilhouse

(And everybody goes “AWWWWWWW.”)

So far, 2010 has indeed been a happy nude year for musician Amanda Palmer and her beau, author Neil Gaiman. On New Year’s Eve, Amanda joined the Boston Pops Orchestra for the second year running to perform both Dresden Dolls and solo material (as well as passionately ravish Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1), and at some point during the course of the night, Neil proposed. They publicly announced their engagement on January 15th. A day later, the lovebirds met up with our wondrous Mister Allan Amato in NYC, who took these photos for an upcoming Coilhouse Magazine feature on their creative life together. They like that top portrait so much, they’re using it as their official engagement press photo. Yay!

photo credit: Allan Amato/Coilhouse

At 4am the next morning, they boarded a plane to LA and went directly to the Golden Globes, where, as the Huffington Post put it, Amanda “immediately became the most interesting thing at the awards.” (Heeee hee hee hee hee. Some things never change.) Congratulations, you two.


So, hey… things are kind of chaotic around here for the next few days, owing to the Whitechapel residency and all of us juggling multiple balls. Please forgive me for consolidating the following announcement with the Gaimanda Impending Nuptials Declaration, but my co-editors and I would also like to mention that Coilhouse Issue #04 has OFFICIALLY SOLD OUT in the online store.

Wow. It’s been what, a month?! We’re floored. Thank you for your overwhelming support and patronage! For those of you (in the States, at least) who missed the cutoff, fret not. There are still copies available in select Barnes & Noble stores across the country. Full list of stores here. Just be sure to call ahead to reserve your copy. There’s also Meltdown Comics in LA, Wildilocks in Australia, and… well… me in New Zealand. (Kiwis, just pipe up in comments and I’ll arrange to get your info.)

Onward and upward, comrades! Please do drop by the Whitechapel thread if you get the chance. There’s some really lively discussion happening over there, and we’d love to see more of our beloved blog readers chime in.

The Horrors Of The Tooth Worm

A French carving, pharm dating from the 1700s, designed to look like a human molar. At 10.5 centimeters in height it depicts inside its two halves, “The tooth worm as Hell’s demon” an explanation of the toothache as a battle occurring with the mythical tooth worm. The legend of the tooth worm apparently dates back to 1800 BC Mesopotamia and even has its own creation myth:

“When Anu created the Sky,
the Sky created the Rivers,
The Rivers created the Valleys,
the Valleys created the Swamps,
the Swamps created the Worm,
the Worm went to Samas and wept.
His tears flowed before Ea.
“What will you give me to eat, what will you give me to such?”
“I’ll give you a ripe fig, apricots and apple juice.”
“What use are a ripe fig,
an apricot and apple juice to me?
Lift me up! Let me dwell ‘twixt teeth and gum!
I’ll suck the blood from the teeth
and gnaw the roots in their gums.”
“Because you have said this, O Worm, may
Ea sink you with his mighty hand!”

The idea of a tooth worm was finally put to scientific scrutiny in the late 18th century by both Pierre Fauchard — “the father of modern dentistry” — and Philip Pfaff — who was dentist to Frederick the Great of Prussia. Pfaff seemed loathe to totally commit to such a position however (or was, in fact, a wonderfully sarcastic man), writing that, while he himself had never personally come across a tooth worm, he did not wish “to dispute the observations of learned doctors.”

via Honeyed : WurzelTumblr

Jo Boobs Teaches the Va-Va Voom!

Film courtesy of Syndicate of Human Image Traffickers.

All but her belly buried in the floor;
And the lewd trounce of a final muted beat!
We flee her spasm through a fleshless door…
Then you, the burlesque of our lust — and faith,
Lug us back lifeward — bone by infant bone.
— Hart Crane, “National Winter Garden,” (1930)

“Jo Boobs” Weldon is Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, whose home at The Slipper Room is just a few blocks from where Lydia Thompson’s “London Blondes” brought burlesque to America and a stone’s throw from where Minsky’s original National Winter Garden made burlesque part of the American vernacular. Minsky’s notoriously established Gypsy Rose Lee as an icon synonymous with striptease, and launched the careers of Abbott and Costello, Phil Silvers and Robert Alda before being closed in the name of public morality.

Houston Street Burlesque by Mabel Dwight (1928)

Is burlesque – a word which refers to turning things upside down – still able to subvert morals and mores? In a popular culture where the use of sexuality to sell consumer goods is banal, pornography of nearly every stripe is freely and instantly available, and sympathetic gay and lesbian characters are commonplace, is the self-conscious performance of gender merely campy fun or does it still have a liberating capacity? Can sex work, titillation, gender play and masturbation undermine heterosexual monogamy? Whose moralities and identities might they challenge?

Catherine MacKinnon argues that sexualized depictions of women in patriarchal societies reinforce misogyny to the point of constituting a form of violence. Do sexualized performances by women lead to their individual and collective debasement? Is stripping a phenomenon where women who appeal most to men are degraded whereas burlesque liberates women who stand outside the norms of beauty as prescribed by male desire? Considering stripping and prostitution, I ask whether everyone sells their bodies at every job? Further, when men pay a high premium to be with a woman or just to look at one, whose body is exploited? More specifically, does it make sense to import 20th century standards of judgment to a 21st century United States whose educational system produces more female post-graduates than male and whose career women earn 94.2% of the income of their male counterparts? Despite shifts in income and status, why do so few straight males study burlesque or work as strippers?

Jo Boobs and I met at the basement headquarters of her school on the coldest evening in recent years to explore questions of gender, activism, and whether she and her ilk are gender traitors or gender busters. She even stripped down to fighting gear for an intimate performance caught by our unblinking digital eyeball. (See above!) In June 2010, Jo will publish The Pocket Book of Burlesque (with a forward by Margaret Cho), a volume whose slender design can slip under the inspector’s prying gaze. The New York School of Burlesque is in sympathetic affiliation with Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque in Seattle and Michelle L’Amour’s Burlesque Finishing School in Chicago as well as programs in Washington, D.C and elsewhere. When will someone open a campus in Tehran?

COILHOUSE: How does burlesque differ from stripping?
JO BOOBS: To understand the difference, look at it from the audience’s point of view. If someone goes to a strip joint, they usually go in whenever they want, they pick the performer they want, they negotiate how they interact with them, they interact one-on-one, and they leave. When they go to a burlesque show, the show starts at a [predetermined] time, they pay a cover (not the performers), they watch the show, there isn’t usually any one-on-one interaction, and they leave when the performance is over.

Tea and Cookies (And Housekeeping!) with Coilhouse

Kurt Komoda’s editor illustration for Issue 04 of Coilhouse. Tea and sympathy (and tentacles). Arsenic and old lace (and absinthe). Information, inspiration, infection!

Morning, sinners! That’s Warren’s line, but then it’s a Warren kind of morning (the kind of morning that all Coilhouse readers should begin with a bottle of whiskey in hand.) Because this morning, and all week, we’re taking your questions and answers over on Whitechapel! Step right up, ask us anything your heart desires. There are a lot of different beakers bubbling in the CH lab that we probably can’t discuss directly… but we can hint! And we can certainly get into more general chat: Coilhouse’s history, our personal inspirations, magazine theory, internet curating, etc. We’re basically game to discuss whatever parts of the process you’d like to hear more about, and we’d love to ask you some questions as well! What periodicals do you read? What you think the future holds for mainstream print? For indie mags? For tastemaking blogs? For fringe/alternative culture in general? If you’re a Coilhouse reader, what subject matter would you be interested in seeing more of in our future issues? Down the rabbit hole we go. Let the Coilhouse/Whitechapel tea party commence!

Additionally, this a courtesy post is to let all readers know that Issue 04 is almost gone. Issue 03 is walking out the door pretty fast as well (we had more 03’s in stock originally), but Issue 04 disappeared at an alarming pace that even we weren’t prepared for. 800 copies are gone since we put it up on sale on December 21, and 200 copies remain (with about as many copies left of Issue 03). So for any stragglers who were on the fence about buying one or both issues, now’s the time. Now or never, because we’re not in the position to reprint. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. This one’s pretty special to us, so we hope you get a copy. You can pick it up in our online store, at Wildilocks in Australia, Barnes & Noble and Borders in the US, and Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles. An exact list of store locations will be posted today or tomorrow.

Top row: Caryn Drexl, Elle Moss, Katie West. Middle row: Hilary McHone, Diana Lemieux, Zoetica Ebb. Bottom row: Laura Kicey, Natalie Dybisz, Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir.

Finally, there’s a self-portrait competition in the last days of voting with several members of the extended Coilhouse family in the running, as well as some talented folks we’ve not encountered before. The artist who wins the popular vote will receive a $1,000, and the grand prize is a residency in Manhattan. We’d like to urge you to support an artist by taking the time to view and vote for their portfolio. The contest’s site unhelpfully does not list a guide to the portfolios entered, so we’ve selected a few artists who we believe deserve your time. Photographers Caryn Drexl, Laura Kicey and Katie West should be familiar to anyone who’s read the blog long enough; our articles about their work appear at the bottom of this post. Additionally, our very own Zoetica has entered the contest with several phantasmagorical interpretations of reality. Other photographers whose work we found fascinating include Elle Moss, Hilary McHone, Diana Lemieux, Natalie Dybisz, and Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. This list is by no means exhaustive, so if there are other entrants we should be aware of, please let us know in the comments!

On a related note:

BTC: An Anecdote of No Small Amusement

Ironically, one of the more quietly endearing moments from one of the most fascinating television shows of all time:

SO many reasons why this clip makes the heart glad. Where to start? Agent Cooper and Gordon Cole’s matching outfits? David Lynch’s oddball stentorian delivery? The quirky scrumptiousness of Shelley Johnson? Harry’s hangover? Log Lady’s grumpy wisdom? The sweet, cherry pie purity of it all? It was charming little scenes like these that made Twin Peaks’ darker, more surreal and confrontational moments all the more devastating.

Two thumbs up, and a cup of coffee, please. Black as midnight on a moonless night.

“House” aka “Hausu” aka “HAAAAAUUGHWOOOOSSS”

New Yorkers with a taste for the deeply weird and gorgeous and ridiculous, you owe it to yourself to go see Hausu playing at the IFC Center this week. Actually, y’know what? Correction– you owe it to ME to go, since I live thousands of miles away and won’t be able to.

Comrades, we’re talking about something unprecedented: a high-end screening of an actual print of what was long considered one of the most legendary horror bootlegs in existence. As far as I know, this fantastical film has been nigh-impossible for Westerners to view any other way. Until now.

Kudos to comics/film guru Ben Catmull for turning me onto this raging brilliant nutterfest.

Shot in 1977 by experimental Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi (and based on a story written by his 7 year old daughter), Hausu is one of the most riotously demented movies ever committed to celluloid. There’s plenty I could tell you about it (and there are tons of rabid, frothing film geek reviews online if you want to go exploring) but my instinct tells me it’s best to go unprepared, and just give yourself over to being repeatedly tit-slapped by the technicolor Japanese KRAY ZAY. My own virgin viewing experience was similar to seeing The Forbidden Zone or Eraserhead or The Billy Nayer Show for the first time– mindblowing, seminal, beautiful, and fucked up as all hell. Seifuku Koo Koo!

Come to think of it, there are a lot of wonderful things happening in New York imminently:  Throne of Blood (a completley different flavor of Japanese cinematic genius) is showing at Film Forum, BAM is celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King on Tuesday, and tomorrow there’s the Knickerbocker Orchestra’s WFC performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, with Neil Gaiman narrating. Plus, two ultra high-concept Coilhouse Issue 05 photo shoots that have been in the planning stages months are finally happening. We’ll divulge more about those shortly.

Meanwhile, seriously, DO NOT miss seeing Hausu in the theater. GO, GO, GO. If my fervent urging hasn’t yet convinced you jaded bastards that this screening is not to be missed, click below for several more clips and stills.

John Nolan’s Animatronics

It’s a little sad, how the advent of CGI rendered much of the animatronics industry obsolete just when cinematic robotics were starting to get so intricate, so lifelike. But the technology retains its place, and under certain circumstances, there’s still a definite advantage to using animatronics instead of CGI or stop motion. Some truly badass robotic FX artists have continued to find plenty of work. Take British wunderkind John Nolan, for instance:

Squeee! Although a relative newcomer, Nolan’s already worked on everything from Hellboy to Where the Wild Things to Doctor Who to Harry Potter. You have to check out his entire show reel. Incredible stuff.

Via DJ Dead Billy, cheers!

The Friday Afternoon Movie: A Scanner Darkly

Today is as good as any for a mind-fuck so the FAM is proud to present 2006’s A Scanner Darkly directed by Richard Linklater and featuring a rotoscoped cast headed up by Keanu Reeves who stars as Bob Arctor, a member of a household of drug users. Arctor is also known as Fred. This is the name he goes by at work, where he is an undercover police agent assigned to the household in order to discover the source of a new drug called Substance D. Fred has, in the course of his investigation, become addicted to Substance D as well and soon his surveillance focuses on one person: Bob Arctor.

And so it goes in A Scanner Darkly. Adapted from the 1977 novel of the same name by the late, great Philip K. Dick, one of his most personal work, in many ways a record of his drug experiences in the 70s. Twisting and turning, it is also one of his most complex, a labyrinth of alter egos where people are hidden from even themselves. Linklater handles all of this with aplomb, putting together a movie that deftly trumps its source in plot presentation. As much as I have always liked A Scanner Darkly it oftentimes trips over itself in explaining events, making for more than a few passages that require multiple readings in order to suss out.

Despite any problems with plotting, it remains one of Dick’s saddest works, and one of the few novels in which he goes out of his way to create real characters with a modicum of depth. The man, for all his brilliance, never put much importance on the people that inhabit his worlds; they function merely as tour guides, escorting the reader through the fantastic universes he has created. But the story of Arctor/Fred, perhaps by dint of it being a roman à clef, manages to overcome this proclivity and in doing so presents a powerful tale of paranoia and profound loneliness.

The fate of Arctor, used, abandoned, and broken, was one that Dick witnessed far too often and he channeled that hurt and anger into a story that sets its sights on both sides of the drug debate. It is most telling, then, that in his afterward, in which he lists people he has known who have suffered serious permanent physical, mental damage, or death from drug use he lists himself as well. It is just as sad that this list, included in the ending credits of Linklater’s film, had a name added to it. The story of A Scanner Darkly never really ends.