Here’s The Trailer for Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo

There haven’t been many trailers to share, lately.  That’s largely due to the uncertainty that’s surrounding COVID-19 and when — if ever — certain films are going to be able to get a theatrical release.  That said, there is a new trailer out and I think that a lot of our readers are going to be interested in it.

So, without further ado….

Inmate #1 is a documentary about how all-around badass Danny Trejo went from being a convict to being a cultural icon.  As anyone who has ever seen Trejo interviewed can tell you, he’s got an inspiring life story and he’s also a wonderful storyteller.  I’m looking forward to seeing this documentary, which will be released in the United States on July 7th.

SXSW 2020 Review: The Shock of the Future (dir by Marc Collin)

The Shock of the Future follows one day in the life of a composer named Ana (Alma Jodorowsky).

The year is 1978 and Ana is living in a studio in Paris.  It’s not her studio.  The owner is currently in India and no one knows when he’ll be returning.  He’s lent it to Ana and she’s moved in.  She shares the space with a truly impressive collection of synthesizer equipment.  She swears, to everyone who stops by over the course of the day, that she can use the equipment to make wonderful music that will replace all of the dinosaur rockers who have outlived their usefulness.  Some believe her.  Some are skeptical.

Ana has been paid a good deal of money to write a commercial jingle but she has no interest in jingles, no matter how many times the sleazy ad guy (Phillippe Rebbot) drops by the studio and tries to intimidate her with his tough guy act.  She doesn’t care about “50s rock” nor does she care about the “soft voices” of acoustic folk.  Drummers, she says, are not necessary when she has a machine that can do the job.  In fact, she doesn’t need a band at all!  Rebbot is not particularly impressed and orders her to either write him a jingle or pay him back the money.

Throughout the day, more people drop by the apartment.  Geoffrey Carey plays a friend who brings her the latest records from the UK.  Teddy Melis shows up to deliver a piece of equipment and to smoke a joint.  A singer (played by Clara Luciani) unexpectedly shows up and she and Ana bond over their mutual dislike of the sleazy men in the business and then proceed to work on a song together.  It all leads to a party, in which Ana plays her new song for a dismissive producer who tells her that that “there’s something there” but it will never catch on.  The producer is especially dismissive because the song’s lyrics are in English.  “We are French!” he all but announces.

However, not all hope is lost.  By the end of the film, we’ve been reminded that there actually is a world outside of Ana’s studio and that the future cannot be stopped….

The Shock of the Future is a deceptively simple film.  Nearly the entire film takes place in one location and the majority of the action consists of people entering the studio, talking to Ana, and then eventually leaving.  This is one of those films that I’m sure some people will watch and claim that there wasn’t enough of a story for the film to hold their interest.  Of course, those people are wrong.  The Shock of the Future is a film about the act of creation and anyone who creates for a living — whether they’re a composer like Ana or a writer like me or a photographer like my sister — will automatically be able to understand and relate to Ana’s story.  If you’ve ever had someone dismiss your work by saying that it’s “too strange” or that it didn’t conform to whatever society’s current standards may be, you’ll relate to Ana.  You will understand what she is going through and why she refuses to surrender to the condescending naysayers around her.  All visionaries are initially dismissed by a world that’s not ready for them, by a world that’s not ready for the shock of the future.  Alma Jodorowsky does a wonderful job in the role of Ana.  There’s not a moment when she’s not onscreen and she’s compelling even when she’s just staring at her machines and waiting for inspiration to come.

The Shock of the Future is a tribute to the female pioneers of electronic music, the women who changed the direction of music and saved us from the tyranny of acoustic folk bullshit and who were often overlooked by future historians.  The film ends with a dedication to the “women who pioneered in electronic music: Clara Rockmore, Wendy Carlos, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Elaine Rodrigues, Laurie Spiegel, Susan Ciani, Johanna Beyer, Bebe Baran, Pauline Oliveiras, Else Marie Pade, Beatriz Ferrerya, et al.”  Ana serves as a stand-in for all of them and also as a stand-in for every artist who had the courage to follow their own vision.  In the end, Ana is one of us and we are all Ana.

After School (1988, directed by William Olsen)

After School is a strange “what were they thinking?” type of movie.  It’s also probably the only movie to end with a religious debate that’s moderated by Dick Cavett.

Cavett plays himself.  In this film, he still has a talk show and one of his guests is going to be C.A. Thomas (Robert Lansing), a former priest who has written a novel claiming that man created God and not the the other way around.  Cavett has reached out to the Catholic Church to ask them to send someone to represent their views on the show.

For reasons that are never clear, the Church selects Father Michael McClaren (Sam Bottoms), who teaches at a college in Florida.  Father McClaren is youngish and he rides a motorcycle, which the monsignor thinks will appeal to younger viewers of Cavett’s show.  (Did The Dick Cavett Show have younger viewers?)  Because Dick Cavett is legendary for investigating the pasts of all of his guests (that’s what they say in the movie, anyway), another priest is sent down to Florida to make sure that Father McClaren does not have any skeletons in his closet.

At first, Father McClaren seems to be perfect but it turns out that he’s having a crisis of faith.  It’s not just that the local bikers don’t have much respect for a priest, even when who does ride a bike.  It’s also that he’s become attracted to one of his students, the improbably-named September Lane (Renee Coleman).  It doesn’t take the movie long to settle into a familiar pattern of September coming on Father McClaren and then Father McClaren having to run off so that he can pray for strength.

So far After School might sound like a typical movie about a priest being tempted to break his vows.  However, what sets After School apart from other films of its type is that there are frequent scenes featuring a group of cavemen living in prehistoric times.  It’s never really made clear why the cavemen are in the film.  The main caveman yells a lot and there’s a scene with a snake that suggests that he might live in the Garden of Eden.  (The movie was originally released under the title Return to Eden.)  There’s also several naked cavewomen who are in the film so that they can be ogled by the cavemen.  Oddly, the cavepeople scenes are full of broad comedy while the rest of the movie takes itself fairly seriously.

Why are the caveman there and what does it have to do with Dick Cavett?  Who knows?  That’s one of the many unanswered questions to be found in After School.  When C.A. Thomas and Father McClaren do finally meet on the Dick Cavett Show, they debate the origins of mankind.  Neither one has nothing new to say on the subject.  Even though everything that C.A. Thomas says sounds like New Age gobbledygook, Father McClaren proves himself to be incapable of countering him.

I don’t know what the point of After School was.  There were so any scenes, like one in which Father McClaren attends an aerobics class, that didn’t seem to have any purpose.  September’s lust for Father McClaren never makes any sense and his sudden declaration of love makes even less.  Even if you can make sense of all that, there’s still the cavemen and Dick Cavett to deal with.

After School thinks that it is about something but who knows what?

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Lance Henriksen Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, Lance Henriksen is 80 years old!  In honor of this day, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dog Day Afternoon (1975, dir by Sidney Lumet)

Near Dark (1987, dir by Kathryn Bigelow)

Dead Man (1995, dir by Jim Jarmusch)

Mom and Dad (2017, dir by Brian Taylor)

SXSW 2020 Review: Gunpowder Heart (dir by Camila Urrutia)

Also known as Pólvora en el corazón, Gunpowder Heart is a raw and angry film from Guatemala.

Set (and filmed in) Guatemala City, Gunpowder Heart tells the story of two girlfriends.  Claudia (Andrea Henry) is the calmer of the two and works at a call center, where she says that she spends almost all of her time talking to “gringos.”  Maria (Vanessa Hernandez) is the more emotional of the two.  Whereas Claudia always seems to be holding back, Maria is in constant motion.  She lives in a dilapidated house with her mother.

One night, when Claudia and Maria go to a local carnival, Maria reveals to Claudia that she’s carrying a gun for their protection.  From what we’ve seen of Guatemala City, it seems like Maria has a point.  The streets — or at least, the streets in the neighborhoods in which this film takes place — are filthy.  The walls are covered in graffiti.  The police who patrol those streets often appear to be more dangerous and menacing than the criminals from which they’re supposed to be providing protection.  From the minute that we see Claudia riding her motorcycle through the streets of the city, there’s an ominous atmosphere of unease that just grows heavier and heavier as the film progresses.

However, Claudia does not want Maria to carry a gun and, when Maria isn’t looking, Claudia takes the gun and hides it from her.  Later that night, as they leave the carnival, Maria and Claudia are attacked by three men who force the girls to strip and then sexually taunt and abuse them.  It’s only the arrival of a clueless security guard that gives Claudia and Maria the chance to escape.

Angry that she didn’t have a weapon to protect herself, Maria manages to find the gun.  Maria is determined to use that gun to get revenge.  However, it turns out that getting revenge is not as easy as it may appear to be in the movies.  Maria’s plan is a messy and disorganized one and Claudia finds herself torn between her desire for vengeance and her knowledge that there’s no way things are going to end well.  Perhaps not surprisingly, it all leads to disaster and tragedy.

As I said at the start of this review, Gunpowder Heart is a raw and angry film, one that seems to be conflicted about whether or not to embrace Maria’s fury or to tolerate Claudia’s caution.  (That’s a conflict that many in the audience will share as well.)  Using the techniques of cinéma vérité, Gunpowder Heart put you right in the middle of Maria and Claudia’s shared existence.  The camera never stops moving, perfectly mirroring not only the anxiety of their lives but also the anxiety of those of us watching the two of them.  Throughout the film, Maria talks about leaving Guatemala.  She says that she wants to go to Europe and then later to America.  But, ultimately, there is no easy escape from the reality of what it means to be a woman (especially a woman who identifies as being queer) in a society controlled by violent and entitled men.

It’s a rough film and probably one that won’t appeal to everyone.  By refusing to come down firmly on the side of either Maria or Claudia, the film will probably alienate those who like their films to have a clear cut point of view.  As some reviewers have pointed out, we don’t learn much about who Maria and Claudia were before that night but I would argue that who they were before doesn’t matter.  From the moment that they’re assaulted outside of the carnival, Maria and Claudia’s old life ends and their new one begins.

Blessed with two brave and outstanding lead performances from Andrea Henry and Vanessa Hernandez, Gunpowder Heart is a powerful and anxiety-filled film.  It’s currently available to be viewed, for a limited time, on Prime.

Happy Cinco de Mayo from The Shattered Lens!

¡Feliz cinco de mayo!

When it comes to the U.S.A., is Cinco de Mayo a big deal outside of the Southwest?  I honestly don’t know and, to be honest, I can’t say for sure that I really want to know.  All that really matters, to me, is that it’s a pretty big day where I come from.  It’s always been one of my favorite holidays and the idea of celebrating this day in lock-down, shelter-in-place quarantine really, really sucks.  Cinco de Mayo is a time when people should be gathered together and not forcibly separated.  It’s also one of the few times that I ever drink.  That’s how much I love Cinco de Mayo!

(My fondest Cinco de Mayo memory comes from a 2006 party that I attended in Denton, Texas.  Everyone gathered on the roof of a house and celebrated.  There are a lot of stories from that night.)

Oh well.  This year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration will be different from previous years but still, I look forward to celebrating the day.  I may just end up celebrating it by just watching a lot of movies and writing a lot of reviews but that’s just the way of the world right now.  As I wrote to a friend of mine yesterday, quarantine sucks but at least I’m getting to watch a lot of movies.  Plus, my friend and TSL collaborator, Case Wright, was wonderful enough to send me an audible of Lonesome Dove being read by western actor Lee Horsley.  I just got started listening to it but I’m enjoying it so far!

As well, Dillon Francis is doing an online benefit concert so I’ll definitely check that out.  Erin makes the best margaritas.  And, of course, I can always watch the Cinco de Mayo episode of King of the Hill.  That one is a Texas classic.

No, today will not be a typical holiday but that won’t keep us from celebrating!

Anyway, my apologies for this rambling post.  This is not exactly a typical TSL article, is it?  But sometimes it’s good to just be able to vent a little.  We’re staying safe here at TSL and we hope you are too.  Happy Cinco de Mayo to all of you.

Lisa Marie

P.S. Today is not Mexican Independence Day, despite what many people seem to believe.  Instead, today commemorates the Mexico’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla.