Friday, September 17, 2010

Just how funky can one man be?


Once upon a time there was these awesome little tomes of information called zines. Some called them fanzines. There are still a handful of enterprising people who are not afraid to embrace the published word as their source of power. But in the information rich times of the late 80's and 90's underground and counter culture was poppin and alive with fanzines. Especially film fanzines. While up market mags like PREMIERE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY kept the masses abreast of the big Hollywood floatsom, it was the holy duty of the zine world to keep alive the indie movie, especially things like B-films, cult movies, genre works and micro-budget. Rags like DEEP RED, SLEAZOID EXPRESS, SHOCK CINEMA (still around thank God), BRUTARIAN, FILM THREAT VIDEO GUIDE, VIDEO WATCHDOG, SHOCKING IMAGES and hosts of others all did an incredible job of keeping us informed and very entertained. 

Mike White published a fantastic zine called CASHIERS DU CINEMART, the title a play on the famous French New Wave magazine founded by Francois Truffaut and the gang CASHIERS DU CINEMA. White's mag, like all zines, was an opinionated, sometimes rant oriented blast of fresh air whenever an issue hit the streets. Unlike many other zines his tended to cover many different types of films, not one particular genre. The man had his passions though; Hard Boiled crime fiction, the movie BLACK SHAMPOO, the varying cuts and permutations of the original STAR WARS over the years and how Lucas screwed with it. Every issue was bursting with personalized writing covering everything from microcinema to Hollywood big budget scripts that had leaked out. CDC was easily among the best of the zine bunch and stuck around well into the 2000's. 

For those of you who missed the zine revolution, or for whatever reason maybe missed some of the old CDC issues Mike White has compiled some of the best material from the vaults into one tantalizing best of volume called IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY. Inside you will find some of the stuff that made CDC such a joy to read. Plus there is a bunch of new material too. But what makes the book so awesome is that it isn't a whitewash of the era, there were some controversies going on (nothing that would end the world) and Mike treats them with a nice world weary eye in which he lets the matters be looked at through the lens of time.
The biggest one of course being the whole Tarrantino "Who Do You Think Your Fooling" dealio. If you are not familiar you need to buy the book to read all about it. What I found most fascinating wasn't the whole Mike White VS Tarrantino BS that somehow got whipped up by fans and media, but the shit treatment White got by the organizers of the NEW YORK UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL. The correspondences printed here between White and then curator of the festival (and now Hollywood Bigshot director) Todd Phillips are pretty unfortunate. I also was interested to see that former FILM THREAT honcho Chris Gore put a forward in the book detailing the boning he gave White on the game show he used to host (once again get the book for the details). I would have never in a million years given Gore credit enough that he would even admit to being in the wrong on something like that.

But the book is lots more than fandom controversy. White is at his best when researching and discussing his favorite genre of FILM NOIR and hard boiled crime fiction and where the two intersect. A whole section of the book devoted to the subject explores the works of James Elroy, Richard Stark and David Goodis and the films made from their works. It comes as no surprise that L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and MIAMI BLUES ends up ranking near the top. 

Two movies get chapters all to themselves and they are, as mentioned before White's obsessions. BLACK SHAMPOO and STAR WARS. Everything you really ever needed to know about either one is contained in this book. I was a huge fan of STAR WARS as a kid, but as I got older and found horror and exploitation films totally lost interest in the series. Yet reading White's detailed writing on all the changes and tinkering with the film, as well as all the other minutia definitely took me back to that time when I did love those silly droids.

Another great thing in this book is the discussion of films and script that were either changed or never came to be, such as all the versions of what is considered to be the worst sequel of all time, HIGHLANDER 2 (White did not write this article, but one Mike Thompson who wrote quite a few articles for CDC). The digression of how varying cuts took an already bad film and just kept making it worse is truly a fascinating case study. But the look at the varying script revisions on Hollywood blockbusters like the SUPERMAN reboot or the horrendous CATWOMAN film are just as ludicrous to see how too many hands in the pot spoil the meal.

To top it all off there are a boatload of great interviews with tons of cult icons like Crispin Glover, Bruce Campbell, Taylor Negron, Dr. Demento and many others. Including Keith Gordon who has gone on to be one of TV's great unsung directors working on things like DEXTER, but in the late 90's was one of the most promising indie directors around with work like A MIDNIGHT CLEAR and WAKING THE DEAD. Though most will always remember him as Rodney Dangerfield's son from BACK TO SCHOOL.
So do yourself a favor, take some time away from reading blogs for a few minutes. Even this one! And pick up IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY and see what it used to be like in the time before the net made everyone and expert.

Review © Andy Copp

Here is the trailer that shows more of what is in the book than my measly review can even tell you!

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