“Man Vs.” — What, Exactly?

Trash Film Guru

Sometimes you just know what a movie’s about before you’ve even seen it.

Take, for instance, the low-budget 2015 Canadian production Man Vs that I checked out on Netflix the other night (I gather that it’s also available on DVD). With a title like that, is there any doubt in your mind that we’re going to have some kind of “reality” TV theme going on here? And that it’s most likely a “found footage” film?

You already know the answers to both those questions, so perhaps the first (and, as it turns out, only) surprise on offer from director Adam Massey and his screenwriter, Thomas Michael (working from a story by Massey himself) is that the “reality” host that their protagonist, Doug (played by Chris Diamantopoulos), is based on has a lot more in common with Bear Grylls than he does with Adam Richman. Nobody’s eating a 20-pound burrito or…

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A Movie A Day #153: Blue Collar (1978, directed by Paul Schrader)

Three Detroit auto workers (played by Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto, and Richard Pryor) are fed up.

It’s not just that management is constantly overworking them and trying to cheat them out of their money.  That’s what management does, after all.  What really upsets them is that their union is not doing anything to help.  While the head of the union is getting rich off of their dues and spending time at the White House, Keitel is struggling to pay for his daughter’s braces, Kotto is in debt to a loan shark, and Pryor is lying to the IRS about the number of children that he has.  (When a social worker shows up unexpectedly, Pryor’s wife recruits neighborhood children to pretend to be their’s.)  Kotto, Pryor, and Keitel plot to rob the union but instead, they just discover evidence of the union’s ties to the mob.  The union bosses will do anything to keep that information from being revealed, from trying to turn the friends against one another to committing murder.

Blue Collar was the directorial debut of screenwriter Paul Schrader.  Schrader has said that the three main cast members did not get along during the filming, with Richard Pryor apparently bringing a gun to the set and announcing that there was no way he was going to do more than three takes of any scene.  The tension between the lead actors is visible in the film, with all three of them giving edgy and angry performances.  That anger is appropriate because Blue Collar is one of the few films to try to honestly tackle what it’s like to be a member of the “working class” in America.  While management is presented as being a bunch of clowns, Blue Collar reserves its greatest fury for the corrupt union bosses who claim to represent the workers but who, instead, are just exploiting them.  The characters in Blue Collar are pissed off because they know that nobody’s got their back.  To both management and the union, the workers are worth less than the cars that they spend all day putting together and the money that can be subtracted from all their already meager pay checks.

Since it’s a Paul Schrader film from 1978, the action in Blue Collar does come to a halt, 40 minutes in, for a cocaine-fueled orgy that feels out of place.  While Keitel and especially Kotto give believable performances, Pryor sometimes seems to be struggling to keep up.  Still, flaws and all, Blue Collar has a raw and authentic feel to it, something that few other movies about the working class have been able to capture.  Perhaps because it never sentimentalizes its characters or their situation, Blue Collar was not a box office success but it has stood the test of time better than many of the other films that were released that same year.  Sadly overlooked, Blue Collar is a classic American movie.


Kicking Off A Trend: FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (Warner Brothers 1972)

cracked rear viewer

When FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH first hit the local multiplex back in the day, everybody in the neighborhood was kung-fu fighting, throwing chops and roundhouse kicks at each other, trying to be like star Lo Lieh. Bruce Lee’s movies hadn’t yet made it our way, but David Carradine’s KUNG FU was must-see TV for every adolescent boy (and some of the cooler girls). Pretty soon  chop-sockey action spread all over the city’s theaters, but it was FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH that reached New Bedford, MA first, and has always held a special place in my heart.

Hong Kong action star Lo Lieh plays Chao Chih-Hao, who’s sent to Shen Chin-Pei’s school by his mentor to train further and defeat Ming Dun-Shun’s “gangsters” in a martial arts tournament. Chih-Hao rescues damsel in distress Yen Chu Hung from some bad guys along the way, and though she comes on to him, his heart belongs to his mentor’s…

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We’re All Living In “The Divided States Of Hysteria”

Trash Film Guru

Let’s not kid ourselves — America is fucked. Anyone who follows my ramblings regularly is already more than familiar with my views of our current (and, in my opinion, probably quite temporary) president — and anyone who doesn’t can probably intuit how I feel about the bloated orange mentally ill clown easily enough based on the first couple of lines of this review alone — but one good thing about living in strange and tumultuous times is that the great Howard Chaykin will probably have something to say about them.

After taking us back to the past in his last series, the stylish noir thriller Midnight Of The Soul, Chaykin and his steady collaborators, colorist Jesus Aburtov and letterer Ken Buzenak, are taking aim at the present day (well, three years into the future, as the timeline here would have it) with their new Image Comics six-parter, the…

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Music Video of the Day: The Look Of Love by ABC (1982, dir. Brian Grant)

First things first, this is directed by Brian Grant, and not Julien Temple. The other version of this that is listed on mvdbase is from the ABC film Mantrap (1983).

Mantrap (1983, dir. Julien Temple)

If you enjoy ABC, then I recommend the film. It’s basically an extended music video for the album The Lexicon Of Love that comes complete with Martin Fry fighting his doppelgänger.

From the book I Want My MTV:

Martin Fry: The record companies weren’t pressuring anyone to look a certain way. That came later. For “The Look of Love” we wanted to cross the visual style of Benny Hill, a really crude slapstick comedian, with An American In Paris. I don’t think Kurt Cobain would have ever put on a striped blazer and sung to a wooden crocodile. There’s a parrot on my shoulder at one point. We were pushing it to the limit, seeing how embarrassed we could get. Art is what you get away with.

I wouldn’t have put it past him. Also, you weren’t so much singing to the crocodile as you were trying to beat it to death.

Brian Grant: Martin Fry and I both loved old Hollywood movies. There was no Look at us, we’re a serious rock band. They just wanted to have fun.

I picked up on that from the end of Mantrap.

Mantrap (1983, dir. Julien Temple)

Mantrap (1983, dir. Julien Temple)

There’s one more quote following the one from Grant, and then we get one from Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Sir Mix-A-Lot, artist: Devo, Gary Numan, the Fixx–I liked all the new wave bands. But I didn’t like any of ’em so much that I tried to style my hair like the guy from A Flock Of Seagulls. And I never tried to hold one key on a synthesizer for as long as he did in “I Ran.”

I’ll never look at Baby Got Back the same way again.

Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot (1992)

There are the obvious parts like what I assume is a reference to the beginning of 8½ (1963).

The flying nun.

The skater who falls off the bridge.

However, each time I watch this video, I seem to spot something else going on.

This guy looks like he should be in the background of a Jacques Tati film as he does his routine from A Day’s Pleasure (1919).

A Day’s Pleasure (1919, dir. Charlie Chaplin)

Is that his kid back there?

There’s a lower level on the set way back there. Why?

Why does this guy have a giant playing card in addition to everything else?

Who is this man in black that crosses the bridge behind Fry?

I guess we needed at least one eighties person in this video.

Tarzan Boy?

A fire-thrower wearing a leopard print skirt. Sure.

Charlie Chaplin dating a clown. Of course that’s in here.

I don’t know what this guy wearing Martin Fry’s costume from Poison Arrow is doing here or what exactly he’s even doing.

Director Brian Grant has done around 180 music videos.

I love this video. Enjoy! And remember to watch out for plugs in spaghetti.

30 Days Of Surrealism:

  1. Street Of Dreams by Rainbow (1983, dir. Storm Thorgerson)
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Children by Dio (1985, dir. Daniel Kleinman)
  3. The Thin Wall by Ultravox (1981, dir. Russell Mulcahy)
  4. Take Me Away by Blue Öyster Cult (1983, dir. Richard Casey)
  5. Here She Comes by Bonnie Tyler (1984, dir. ???)
  6. Do It Again by Wall Of Voodoo (1987, dir. ???)
  7. Heaven by Bryan Adams (1985, dir. Steve Barron)