Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, 2019. by Anna Purrington

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, 2019. by Anna Purrington

“You like that scary stuff?”

This is what the school librarian asked me the first time I brought one of Alvin Schwartz’s short story collections to the checkout counter. It was the now-famous triology’s second volume, More Scary Stories; the first had been lost or stolen and the third not yet released, but I was still excited that my name had come up on the waitlist and I could finally get my hands on it.

 

 

I not only liked the scary stuff but thrived on it, and together with my younger brother, sought it out regularly, anywhere I could. We eventually read all three of Schwartz’s novels, and together with favorites such as Mother Bates, the beguiling Grady sisters of the Overlook, and Pet Semetary’s Zelda, committed the stories and their creepy images (courtesy of illustrator Stephen Gammel) to the depths of our horror-crazed memories.

 

 

 

It was easy to get hyped for film adaptation--André Ǿvredal (Trollhunter) and producer Guillermo del Toro are two brilliant, talented artists who have a solid grasp on the narratives, techniques and themes of effective horror. Overall, the film delivered with a skillful mix of new fear and old school ghost/monster horror (think Stranger Things or the recent It adaptations with the music of Lana del Rey mixed in for fun), but I suspect true fans of the books, like me, would happily trade a half hour off the film’s beginning or end for just one more of Schwartz’s stories.

The vehicle of the stories--a group of awkward teenagers who steal a magical book out of a haunted house--is intriguing, but it eats up a lot of time in setting up how and why everything is going to go down. As it’s no longer unheard of to experience character development in horror films, we get some, and it’s sort of nice, but not all that necessary; we came to the theater for “The Toe” and “Me Tie Doughty Walker,” (not backstory) and we could forgive a few less personal details in favor of a few more scary things from the books.

 

 

 

 

Aesthetic detail, large and small, was what this film succeeded at best--the places and all the little pieces within them gave a classic, almost John Carpenter feel to the story (rather fitting considering all the hurting, maiming, and killing that begins on Halloween here). Dark and shadowy nights alternate with gold, rusty days. It’s 1968, so the cars are huge, as are the eyeglasses. Drive-ins are still a thing. Corn fields, haunted houses, and psychiatric hospitals are pretty standard horror staples, and we see a lot of those, but we also get innocent little objects like a music box, a wax cylinder recording, and a self-writing book that assume very sinister properties in the context of the lighting, sound, and creature design of the film. Without spoiling any of the story-within-a-story choices or accompanying villains, I will tell fellow fans of the book to rest assured: you will recognize each “enemy” and often cringe or shield your eyes because you know what’s coming next once it has been introduced. I brought my kids to this film and afterward, each of us walked out having been wickedly disturbed by a different character, so in addition to being well-designed and true to the source, they’re a pretty broad reaching crew, as well.

Dust off the old books, grab a friend, and see this one for the nostalgia. If you, too, like the scary stuff, let’s talk again next month after the second part of It, shall we?

 

 

-Anna Purrington

 

 

 

Anna writes film, television, and literary reviews that are heavy on theme and experience. She received her BA in Cinema Studies and Media Culture from the University of Minnesota in 2003; her reviews have appeared in various local sites as well as her own media blog, Televisionlady.com. Anna lives in Minneapolis with her family."

80’s Ladies: Netflix to Stream Season 3 of G.L.O.W. Friday August 9th by Ryan Scott

An overwhelming wave of 80’s nostalgia has swept over our current pop culture zeitgeist. As ruffles, scrunchies, and damaged hair are once again en vogue, it seems only natural that a slew of 80’s themed shows have made a massive impression over the past few years.

 

 

The Goldbergs, Red Oaks, & Wet Hot American Summer: The Series have all been shot out of the canon within just five years of each other, and all with a certain degree of success. Out of this slew of “80’s Nostalgia” television, one show has risen to the top of the pack. That show is of course Stranger Things. Smart, suspenseful, heartfelt – the show is perfect in every way. However, while Stranger Things is most undoubtedly the show giving 80’s babies the warmest of the warm fuzzies right now, in my own subversive opinion, it’s Netflix’s G.L.O.W. that ends up taking the cake for best new show of the 80’s in the 2010’s.

 

I absolutely love G.L.O.W., if you’ll let me gush for a minute. I’ve always been drawn to quirkier, character-driven fare, and over the course of its last two seasons, G.L.O.W. has proven itself the perfect outlet for audiences of those sensibilities. With dialogue that causes frequent snort-laughs, emotionally engrossing characters, and a chemistry amongst the women of the cast that basically leaps out from the screen and body-slams its audience, G.L.O.W. is that rare confection: a smart show that ends up getting to the throat by way of the heart.

 

Inspired by the true stories (with a fair amount of fabrication thrown in) of the stars and creators of the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” Pro-wrestling promotion that began shooting in 1985, G.L.O.W. deserves a special place amongst the current wave of 80’s Nostalgia Shows for, if nothing else, being the first show to handle the themes and issues of the decade with an integrity that reaches beyond the campy, gimmick-laden, and tongue-in-cheek. Isn’t it the ultimate irony that the Sci-fi Horror of Stranger Things ends up giving us a warmer glow than the decidedly darker screwball comedy of G.L.O.W.? G.L.O.W. for the last two years, has been consistently unafraid to give us more than a glimpse of the dark underbelly of 1980’s Los Angeles, the women who were fighting for autonomy, and the sleazy men who ran the show. It’s no coincidence that G.L.O.W.’s popularity exploded in the era of #MeToo, but G.L.O.W. remains remarkable for being both a touchstone of the movement’s social footprint, while also transcending it as great entertainment for the ages.

 

Season Three of Netflix’s hit comedy drops this Friday, and by all accounts, it appears that the series has hit a graceful stride, with Allison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, and the rest of the cast returning and production of the series within the series moving to Las Vegas, (Nerds will be thrilled with this little historical easter egg. The real G.L.O.W. moved headquarters from L.A. to Las Vegas in 1987) Joining the cast this season is Academy Award winner Geena Davis, who’s slated to play the former showgirl-turned-entrepreneur who owns the hotel where the Las Vegas G.L.O.W. promotion is being housed. The star of Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, the athletic actress was one of only a handful of genuinely bankable female action stars throughout the 80’s and 90’s and she feels like the perfect addition to a show about strong women navigating a world that was entirely dominated by men.

 

It was long overdue that our current pop culture started examining the 1980’s under a microscope and much kudos is due to G.L.O.W. for achieving just that. We’ve seen sitcoms and dramas taking place in the 80’s yes, but G.L.O.W. consistently goes in for a deeper dive, closely examining the issues women were dealing with at this time. What makes the show really remarkable, from a feminist standpoint (and I understand I am saying this as a male) is that it really goes a long way in revealing how much of an identity crisis professional women had at that time, acting under specific professional personas, then dealing with a frustrating lack of autonomy under their real names.

 

What can we expect from Season 3? Said co-creator Liz Flahive: “The stakes are going to be higher. Their show has been dropped from morning television. The move to Vegas is about survival.” The shift from L.A. to Vegas will be more than a little jarring for the principal cast, and the first part of the season promises to explore this in humorous detail.

 

You can see from the trailer, released by Netflix last week, that everything seems to be taking a step-up: The relationships run deeper, the women are growing closer, the obstacles become bigger, and on top of it all, the season promises a degree of Las Vegas flash we didn’t get from the grungy Los Angeles gymnasiums of the first two seasons. Ultimately it's the relationships between the characters that keep bringing us back. This is what the show is really about, and undoubtedly Netflix has truly mastered a particular brand of hilarious and intelligent relationship driven comedy that still seems to be balked at far too often by mainstream networks.

 

 

 

-Ryan Scott

 

 

 

Ryan is a Film and Pop Culture/Content Contributor at Kowala Media.  A free thinker and free-wheeler born and raised in the dirrrty south. Ryan has received his undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis. He currently works as a free-lance performer, educator, speaker, & singer in addition to teaching classes on Acting, Lyric Interpretation, Modern European History, Southern Writers, Contemporary American Literature, & American progressivism. When he's not acting or teaching or writing, he's usually trying to remember why he went into the Kitchen - or doing everything in his power to keep up with his 4 and 7 year old daughters.

The Irishman Teases ‘Fresh Paint’: Netflix and Scorsese team up to chase critical Glory by Ryan Scott

One of the buzziest properties headed into the fall of 2019 is Martin Scorsese’s epic crime drama The Irishman starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.

 

 

 

The trailer alone feels epic, spanning decades as it provides audiences with small pieces of the puzzle that will be Scorsese’s The Irishman.

 

 

De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a WWII Vet who became a mob hitman and played a crucial role in Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. Pacino is starring as the notorious union boss Hoffa. The supporting cast includes heavy hitters like Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin, but also Scorsese’s as-usual out of left field supporting choices, like Ray Romano (remember when he put JoAnna Lumley in a small but crucial role in The Wolf of Wall Street – Scorsese has a penchant for giving pop culture junkies plenty of gleeful Easter eggs in his casting.) Every one of these players are featured in the two-minute-twenty-second trailer released by Netflix (yes, Netflix – more on that later) yesterday.

 

 

Based on Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses – uttered in the opening moments of the trailer by Al Pacino (who surprisingly enough has never worked with Scorsese until now) the film marks Scorsese’s long awaited return to the Gangster genre (which many feel he all but perfected with films like Mean Streets, Casino, & the all-time great Goodfellas,) after over a decade of forays into projects as varied as Hugo, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, & Silence.

 

 

The two biggest stories surrounding The Irishman concern Scorsese’s choice to use CGI FX to de-age his actors (Upon seeing the trailer, this viewer did a double take. “There’s not enough Vaseline in the entire World” I said out loud) and Scorsese’s much surprising and much opined decision to distribute the film with Netflix streaming service rather than through a traditional cinema distributor route. As for the former. Yes, I must admit, seeing Robert De Niro go from youth to middle age within a span of a few seconds in the trailer is jarring to say the least.

 

 

Ultimately, this new VFX technology helps the actor remain consistent in the role. While we may lean in when the trailer lingers over a seemingly younger De Niro’s face, rest-assured Scorsese is aware of this, and he has stated that he will be working on perfecting the film’s “De-aging” special effects right up until the movie’s fall release.

 

Scorsese’s decision to release his film through Netflix is a big deal – one that is worthy of everything that has been written about it in the past few days. At a time when film festivals are turning their backs on streaming services, Hollywood VPs are crying foul, and the Academy awards are demanding their films secure a theatre release to be eligible, the fact that Scorsese wants to take a $175 million film starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to Netflix, is, as one journalist for NBC News wrote, “absolutely remarkable.” Is Scorsese’s decision to partner with Netflix a show of solidarity with an Underdog distributor that has been largely ignored the same way he had been in his early days? Or is it a numbers game?

 

One has to take into consideration that even the films that would most certainly skank up the box office can come out on top when placed on streaming services where they are easy “hit play” offerings for bored homebodies.  Not to say that Netflix at all feels like a place for B grade movies – quite the opposite is turning out to be true in fact, but when a shitty made for Netflix rom com can get 30 to 40 million views, Scorsese knows exactly what he’s doing here.

 

The Irishman will begin streaming on Netflix and showing in select theatres later this fall.

 

 

-Ryan Scott

 

 

 

Ryan is a Film and Pop Culture/Content Contributor at Kowala Media.  A free thinker and free-wheeler born and raised in the dirrrty south. Ryan has received his undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis. He currently works as a free-lance performer, educator, speaker, & singer in addition to teaching classes on Acting, Lyric Interpretation, Modern European History, Southern Writers, Contemporary American Literature, & American progressivism. When he's not acting or teaching or writing, he's usually trying to remember why he went into the Kitchen - or doing everything in his power to keep up with his 4 and 7 year old daughters.

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood: Tarantino’s Revenge Fairy Tale by Ryan Scott

 

If We’re going to reflect on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Tarantino’s Fairy tale, then one has to take into consideration the underlying theme of revenge that permeates all of his film oeuvre.  Tarantino has created a 1969 Hollywood that is so sumptuously textured and sensually colorful it is immediately more like a fairy tale than anything Hollywood has ever been in any reality past or present.

 

 Once Upon a time in Hollywood is immediately remarkable in that it is a Tarantino film like no other, while also being the quintessential “Tarantino” movie.  If you’re looking for Tarantino’s subversive take on the socio-political climate of 1969 Hollywood and an exploration of the social and psychological reverberations of the Manson family murders, please turn around and walk in the other direction, because that is not this movie.   What Tarantino is striving for seems to be a bit more difficult to put your finger on.  What is clear is that Tarantino has created the film he wanted to make, even if it is indulgent and thematically in-cohesive, but I digress.

 

Every single one of Tarantino’s films has revenge as a central plot point (The Hateful Eight, Kill Bill, Django Unchained, Deathproof, True Romance) or have it tangentially connected to characters within the plot thematically (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds.) At first glance, none of the formula for anything remotely resembling a revenge story is present in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

 

While the title’s “Once Upon a Time” calls to mind bloody crime thrillers like Once Upon a Time in New York or violent epics like Once Upon a Time in the West, it might actually be most apt to read Tarantino’s title as quite literally the homage to fairy stories it has been for centuries. During one scene, DiCaprio’s character has an exchange with a child actress on the television show he is working on in which she declaims to be reading a book about the life of Walt Disney. She then refers to Disney as “Magical.” Throughout Disney’s career, he turned a profit by taking classic, often gruesome stories, re-arranging their unpleasantries and making them more palatable as entertainment than as moralistic warnings. Tarantino’s cinematic world is often so self-referential, I couldn’t help but be stricken by the parallel Tarantino seemed to be drawing between himself and Disney.

 

Tarantino too has of late made a name for taking painful history, infusing it with a shared pop culture, and making it into entertainment. He tackled World War II atrocities as a B-Movie Caper flick in Inglorious Basterds. Slavery, racism and the civil war were spun as a spaghetti western in Django Unchained. And in Hollywood, we get perhaps the most poetic and personal “Tarantino=i=zation” of history as Sharon Tate’s tragedy is spun into a screwball buddy comedy.

 

But in the film’s final frames, as the credits begin to roll, we begin to understand that what Tarantino has in fact done is enact his own revenge against the harsh facts of history that ended Tate’s promising future as well as one of the most creative, diverse, and hopeful eras of Hollywood history. The film itself becomes an act of revenge. And that is a breathtakingly beautiful, if almost childishly naïve feat to accomplish. One that we as the audience who know the truth, can really only accept if we believe in the ‘fairy tale’ Tarantino is trying to tell us. In this way, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood unexpectedly becomes Tarantino’s most gentle, humane, and perhaps poetic film. Immediately I recalled a feeling similar to the one I felt upon first viewing Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both Anderson and Tarantino seem to want us to understand first and foremost that the world of their respective films is a façade. Tarantino uses this façade to make a grand mockery of tragic events in our shared history – turning horror into bro-banter and dick jokes. Is it escapism? Or is it revenge? Always under the dopey dialogue and beautifully shot cinematography (let’s get real, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a movie ABOUT cinematography) is this sense of impending doom – a sadness for the thing that we know will eventually snuff out this light. This sad undertone elevates the zaniness, making Tarantino’s film feel like an assertion of some fundamental human right to be silly amidst the horrors of man’s inhumanity.

 

Did I love Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? No. Am I glad it exists. Absolutely. Will I watch it again? Probably not before I review Pulp Fiction for the thirteenth time. Ultimately, while the film didn’t add up to the sum of its parts for this viewer, I did fall absolutely, madly and deeply in love with the ideas in this movie. And when a big summer blockbuster has ideas as big as this film does, that’s reason to celebrate.

 

 

-Ryan Scott

 

 

 

Ryan Scott is a free thinker and free-wheeler born and raised in the dirrrty south. Receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis, Ryan originally began his career as a performer, traveling the U.S. with productions of Beauty and the Beast, The Who's Tommy, Rashomon, Sweet Charity, Light Up The Sky, Jerry Springer the Opera, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Reefer Madness, and countless others. After making the Twin Cities his home for six years, Ryan was awarded the 2018 National Master Teacher Fellowship and began teaching with Schools in MS.  He currently works as a free-lance performer, educator, speaker, & singer in addition to teaching classes on Acting, Lyric Interpretation, Modern European History, Southern Writers, Contemporary American Literature, & American progressivism. When he's not acting or teaching or writing, he's usually trying to remember why he went into the Kitchen - or doing everything in his power to keep up with his 4 and 7 year old daughters.