Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Blog Has Nearly Died from Neglect!

I've been soo busy with write for other places I haven't been updated. Here's some articles I've written since the last post:





Friday, August 27, 2010

Less Debating, More Fighting

I have wriiten another article for my good friends at

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Subcultural Revolution

I am not cool. Never in my life have I been cool. For a long time I wondered if that “cool” world was better than mine and then one day I saw the light. “Hip” is just another word for personality disorder. What started out when I was in High School as a few huddled groups of kids with nose rings in art class has now become a worldwide tight-jeaned epidemic. I can’t walk into downtown New York these days without my biohazard suit and hipster repellent (hipster repellent being the music of Nickelback and/or Creed). Now, there are many subcultures that I disapprove of. Goths, born again Christians, punk rockers, NASCAR fans, people from Kentucky; I try to avoid and could do without them all, but at least these folks, insufferable as they may be, have the dignity to acknowledge the fact that they are a consumer group. Goths buy eye-liner, NASCAR fans buy those moronic reflective sunglasses, and Christians buy Mel Gibson DVD’s. Hipsters, on the other hand, probably the biggest youth culture market out there, cling like cat hair to a black shirt to their false sense of individuality. Think of the millions of pork pie hats and scarves that are sold each and every day, think of all the skinny guys with names like Connor drinking Pabst and wearing vintage distressed t-shirts, think of the sheer magnitude of them just texting and tweeting and I-Poding bringing this culture to its knees choking on its own sense of irony!

Sorry, I got a bit excited there. But seriously, fuck you Steve Jobs. I just need a phone to call people, not an app to scratch my ass.

Back before hipsters the line between cool and lame was quite clear. You were cool if you go laid, wore decent cloths, and others admired you. You were lame if you lacked fashion sense and social graces. Somewhere in this new millennium, though, we lost our way and geek became chic. Now right now you’re probably saying, “But dear sir, isn’t it high time that the uncool got their day in the sun?” A statement to which I respectfully reply, “Cram it, ugly. I’m talking here. Why don’t you scrape the dumbassery out of your ears and listen for a change?”

Geek, no matter how valiantly it tries, is not chic. That’s the point of geek, once it becomes chic it loses its geek. You follow? Thick-rimmed glasses, once a universal mark of geekdom, have been co-opted by the hipster because of their tenuous grasp on the concept of irony (though it would be nice to see pocket protectors come back. Do you pockets get as inky as mine?).

For hipsters, it all about the external. They must look the part with their hair and their ear buds and their tight jeans, they must inform the world daily of their various moods and stages of angst through Facebook and Twitter, all so much effort to seem so effortless. To seem like you don’t care you have to care so damn hard, so hard you end up looking like Russell Brand. You see cool people are inherently selfish. So the geeks aren’t finally getting their due, they’ve just gotten their cloths stolen.

Does anyone understand the concept of quiet dignity anymore? Everyone is shouting from the mountaintops about how unique they are. The problem is that there are a thousand other mountain tops with a thousand other people shouting the exact same thing. The noise from all the shouting is deafening and the people who are actually trying to make things better (the squares) can’t hear themselves think.

I’m not saying that all squares are activists and volunteers, in fact most aren’t, most of them are what you’d call “some dudes”. Your dad is a square, your teacher is a square, your boss is a square and, as superfluous as they all may or may not be, they’re at least attempting to contribute in a societal sense. The file clerk at a warehouse that ships party supplies is a square and, true, the world would be not better or worse without him. Like the male nipples they are without purpose, but at least they’re not parasites.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rochester’s Reign Expands

Hey everyone,

I have become a contibuting writer for the good people at
Under the psyduenym of "Lord Rochester" I will be doing, that's right, even more complaining!

Please to enjoy:

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Dream Police

Christopher Nolan is a director of rare abilities. He dreams big and, unlike other filmmakers who make films on a wide scope (I’m looking at you Roland Emmerich), actually has the talent to pull it off. For forty years Batman had been battling in a cartoon world filled with foes who’s most intimidating threats where things like, “You haven’t seen the last of me, Caped Crusader!” In Nolan’s hands Batman must contend with the new Joker, a man who is part domestic terrorist and part world’s worst (or, maybe, best) sociologist. So, when Christopher Nolan wants to make a movie about human beings with the ability to enter the dreams of others, we’re not talking about Randy Quaid fighting a snake man with Kate Capshaw here… By the way, for those keeping score, that is the second reference to 1984’s “Dreamscape” made on this blog. If you can find the first one, I’ll send you a free windbreaker.

There’s quote from and Edgar Allen Poe poem that in essence sums up the film “Inception”. "All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream". In a world where the technology that allows others to infiltrate dreams exists Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team are the best extractors money can buy. They make their living as dream thieves, entering peoples’ subconscious and stealing important ideas. One day, however, a powerful Japanese businessman named Saito offers Cobb the deal of a lifetime. You see Cobb has been on the lam for the last several years, if he returns to the states he’ll be arrested for his wife’s murder. He’s like the Roman Polanski of psyche-thieving non-pedophiles. Cobb is, of course, innocent and Saito offers him a free pass back into the United States to see his children again if he can complete one more assignment. But if you thought this was going to be another simple extraction like the others you are quite mistaken and unfortunately no longer eligible for the windbreaker.

What makes Cobb so good at his job, and ultimately what makes Nolan so good at his, is his ability to create dreams inside of dreams. The best way to steal an idea is to confuse the target as to whether or not they are still dreaming. Often times in the film people enter other dreams while already in one or wake up from a dream only to find they are part of another dream. Saito sees Cobb's expertise and asks him to perform not an extraction but an inception, he wants an idea planted in someone’s brain and the team’s artistry at creating multiple layers of dreaming makes them the perfect candidates.

The crime film is probably to the most prolific genre in cinema (with the exception of porn and talking dog movies) and the general thought is that everything that can be done has already been done before. With “Memento”, “The Prestige”, “The Dark Knight”, and now “Inception” Nolan challenges the status quo. Great directors, like Tarantino, or Michael Mann, or Scorsese, work inside of a genre and are able to make something new, to pull the rug out from underneath the audience just when they think they know what’s coming next. Christopher Nolan has made the ultimate post-modern heist movie and if you say you’ve seen everything there is to see [incoming hackneyed joke], much like Aerosmith, Nolan will tell you to dream on.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blood, Sweat, and Surgery

Let me begin with a caveat for those who are less than fully versed in the genre. There are certain truths we as an audience accept when watching modern horror movies:

1.) Everyone has terrible cell phone reception

2.) No one knows how to change a flat tire

3.) It is perfectly logical that the skinny chick in heels can out run the killer faster than her jock boyfriend

4.) When fleeing the killer’s basement and/or torture chamber the best route of escape is to whimper a lot, make as much noise as possible, and then summarily lock yourself in a room with no way out

5.) The villain cannot be killed by bullets, stabbing, strangling, or explosions but a porcelain lamp to the head will subdue him long enough for the girl to run into another inescapable room

6.) After receiving a 911 calling featuring a woman’s voice screaming, “Oh god help! He’s killing everyone!” the police will respond by sending one patrol car driven by a single officer armed with a flashlight

It’s going to take a new breed of horror film to break these conventions and, though it makes a few valiant efforts, “The Human Centipede” is just another replaceable soldier in the horror movie brigade. The film is saved, however, from its humdrum execution by its fairly original premise and the scenery devouring performance of its villain. The plot is simple; three tourists are abducted from the German countryside by the insane Dr. Heiter for his nefarious experiments. Where things start getting interesting is when we discover the nature of the good doctor’s lab research. I don’t want to give anything away but I will say that Dr. Heiter’s previous employment was most likely a rotation as the Chief Surgeon of the Wholly Unnecessary and Bat-Shit Crazy Procedures Department at Munich General Hospital.

The doctor, played with thin-lipped German menace by Dieter Laser, is both a throwback to the mad scientists of horror movies past and a personification of modern fears as well. We don’t fear being chased by knife-wielding maniacs anymore. A generation of children raised on unearned congratulations has produced and audience that thinks they can take down Jason Voorhees with a few punches from their Maori tattooed biceps. What people who were brought up believing they were God’s gift to the world fear most is the idea that they are impotent. That no matter how special they’ve been told they were does nothing to change the fact that they are flesh and bone and that the flesh and bone of even the most confident and posturing person is no less soft and brittle.

Look at films like “Saw” and “Hostel”. Torment and mutilation has replaced murder as the prevalent fear. Dr. Heiter kills only to protect his experiment, not out of sadistic joy. His sadistic joy, and the source of terror in these types of movies, comes from the idea of being left alive in agony. Americans believe that the world revolves around us and around our country and discovering the world (revolving around us or not) doesn’t care about your life and is often downright hostile to the way you live is revolting. The torture in these films is the real world putting us in our place. We have the biggest army, the fastest food, the loudest cars, and the shiniest cell phones but under the knife we bleed the same as anyone else would and that frightens us.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Crazy Little Thing Called the Industrial Revolution

Imagine it is 1927 and you are German. The First World War is over, Hitler is more than a decade away, your country is making the best films in the world, and guys named Gustav are still getting laid freely. The century is just out of puberty and life is seemly good. But, like all twenty-seven-year-olds, this new century is part party animal and part angst-ridden heap on insecurity. The pastoral European countryside that your ancestors had tilled and plowed for a thousand years is becoming increasingly pock marked with grey, windowless leviathans called factories which seem to do nothing but inhale the working class and exhale smog. The future that they told us about at the end of the 1800’s is approaching in fast and as it gets closer we realize that Jules Verne was only half right. Technology is only captivating to those on the receiving end of it. The men behind the machines sacrifice limbs, eyes, lungs, and lives to keep them running and as industry grows larger the machines grow hungrier. But you can’t fight the future and progress is still progress, even if a few million people get tuberculosis in the process. So how does a country cope? Well, if you’re German (actually, especially if you’re German) the answer is, of course, expressionist cinema.

There has been nothing about “Metropolis” that can be said that hasn’t already been said by every single film professor ever for the last sixty years. But, achtung! Lost reels have been discovered hidden inside an Argentinean film vault and now the Film Forum in New York City is selling tickets. Minus five or so minutes of the film that was permanently destroyed “Metropolis” is now back to its complete two and half hour form. It’s wrongfully assumed that the uncut version is always the best one. Film historians would have you believe that the film was censored, another example of government spitting in the face of true art, but the reality is that only a few subplots and extended shots were cut for time. Nothing new is really gained from the additional forty-five minutes aside from the knowledge that the world’s collective attention span was much longer back then. Despite the new version dragging in some points the classic film is, of course, still there in all its art deco glory. The new footage does not dethrone Dr. Rotwang’s machine-woman as the film’s most iconic image. She is the ultimate metaphor for the film; humans becoming machines in service of the greater machine. I also like to refer to her as C-3PO’s hot mom.

The film, thought often labeled as “political”, is neither liberal nor conservative. Rather than warning of the dystopian future we are wrenching and ratcheting our way towards it resigns us to inevitability. Mother Nature, the Fatherland, and along with it the old life, had already died twenty years before the film was made. But in the bleakness of this ironclad future the director, Fritz Lang, offers hope. The old ways are long gone but humanity will find a new way, evil robots be damned!

© 2010 Dan Howard.
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Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Immigrant Song

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to see “Heading East” put on its not-in-Broadway-but-hoping-to-get-there production at the Asian Society. What I saw was a highly stripped down version; a cast of less than a dozen, a mere quartet rather than an orchestra, and collection of props that included nothing more than a cowboy hat and a stack of wooden boxes. When the name of the play is prefaced with “A Charity Event for the Asian Society” most would expect a stuffy professorial production with actors standing around discussing the Asian-American experience in halting voices. Thankfully, “Heading East” is rousing musical with humorous energetic songs that, if I were more comfortable in with my heterosexuality, I would describe as toe-tapping.

B.D. Wong, known to most as that Chinese guy from “Law and Order” though others may recall his work as that Chinese guy in “Jurassic Park”, stars as a turn of the century immigrant from rural China who follows the rumors of riches across the pacific to San Francisco. Like everyone else, however, he arrives to discover that the city is not the golden paradise it was said to be (although I believe now The Golden Paradise is the name of a club on Castro street) so like all good Americans he immediately re-writes his dreams and convinces himself that what he really wants is to open a shop in Chinatown. The musical spans ten decades and three generations. By the end Wong’s character is in his late nineties, finally an official citizen, and jaded with the American experience. But even after nearly a century of poverty, racism, war, and regret he’s still tap dancing like an amphetamine-fueled Gene Kelly. That, I believe, is going to be the secret to show’s success. While it easily could have been a ponderous guilt trip the play and its entire cast were enthusiastic and joyous.

History plays a big part in “Heading East” as well. We get to see the Chinese community’s reaction and involvement in the gold rush, the railroads, the great earthquake which destroyed the hall of records (this also happens to be the base for the best song in the show), World War Two, The Korean War, Vietnam, and others. We also get some interesting insight about the tensions these events created between the various Asian communities that I, as one of the white-skinned blue-eyed devils, was not even aware of.

It’s ironic that the thing that makes this musical unique, its look into history and American cultural microcosms, will probably be its most difficult selling point for Broadway. Going on merit alone the charm of “Heading East” is enough to give it a shot at the big stage but are people going to see a play with an all Chinese cast that puts a mirror up against the idea of American success? Perhaps a handful of enlightened New Yorkers will but this is the kind of material that scares tourists. They flew all the way in from Topeka and they want to see a blond girl in a big dress singing about love and dancing around in glitter. This play deserves a chance and it’s good enough to get there. I just hope that in the process of getting there it doesn’t get dumbed down in order to appeal to ma and pa mid-west whose idea of culture is ordering the Mandarin Chicken Salad at McDonalds.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Young and The Listless

Genius is a burden. Few geniuses are going to be the life of the party or even get invited to the party. They find it hard to hold down jobs and make friends. Famous geniuses, it’s often said, have collapsed under the weight of their own brilliance. We tell ourselves that that’s what happened to people like Jack Kerouac and Emily Dickinson but the truth is that their burden was not from within. They fell apart because of us. Society is created and maintained to accommodate people at their most average. The more “normal” you are the better you fit in. It’s just not in our nature to nurture those with bizarre ideas and strange theories. They are told to cut their hair and get a job when the ironic thing is that they would do just that if someone could just give them a good reason. The geniuses ask too many questions and we don’t like people who poke holes in how we perceive things so we ignore them and relegate them to an existence on the edge of society.

The edge of society, in the case of The Rattlestick Theater’s production of “The Aliens”, takes place next to a dumpster in an alley behind a greasy diner in rural Vermont where Jasper and K.J., two self-described geniuses, languish away their lives. Jasper is a chain smoking would-be novelist and K.J. was, until his mental breakdown and subsequent departure from college, was studying theoretical calculus and now spends his days testing the effects psychedelic mushrooms have when combined with various food groups. The two strike up a friendship with a high school kid named Evan who is working in the diner for the summer. Evan is the physical embodiment of everyone’s most awkward teenage years and, until he meets these two, he’s on his way to growing up to be what everyone else wants him to be. He too is unique; maybe not a genius, but unlike Jasper and K.J. Evan has the backbone to keep the world from defeating him. Together they sit, they smoke, they talk, they quote Bukowski, they sing the occasional song, and that’s basically the extent of what happens over the course of two hours.

Though the themes in “The Aliens” are unique the play is far from perfect. It feels as though, with a little cutting of the fat, they could have gotten it down to a lean hour and fifteen minute production and not lost any of the impact. The dialogue is well written but there are pauses between words and sentences that you could drive a Mack truck through. At points the audience was left squirming during long silences between one person talking and another. Although I believe they were doing this to make a point, to try to make us feel as uncomfortable in out own skin as people like Jasper and K.J. must be, but you can get that point across with ten seconds of silence instead of sixty. There are a few other bothersome moments; on three separate occasions the actors express their anger by knocking something over which I always find to be a cheap and easy way to show emotion in any kind of acting. In a play about such emotional complexity it feels like someone banging on a trash can lid in the middle of a violin solo.

“The Aliens” teeters dangerously on the edge of pretentious and boring (truth be told it falls of the edge once or twice), but it succeeds in its most basic aim to make you feel sympathy for the weirdos and to question yourself as to why you find these characters weird at all. Is it because their ideas are absurd or is it because they show us that ours are more absurd?

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

But is it art?

“The human body is a work of art.” It’s a phrase that has been around for centuries and has now been said so often that most agree without even thinking. If you’ve ever had a hippy art teacher (yes, I am aware that adding the word “hippy” in front of art teacher is redundant) you’ve heard it a million times and nodded before going back to your pastel drawing of fruit which, for some reason, always seems to be arranged precariously on top of a Greek column. Honestly, who eats fruit like that?

But as a society, how committed are we to this premise? Once we’re dead, preserved, dissected, bisected and flayed is our form still something to be awed? For most people, I imagine, the answer would be no. Michelangelo’s David and his glorious marble abs or The Venus de Milo, whose armlessness only enhances her breast size; those are universally considered works of art. The Bodies Exhibition, under the guise of a scientific exposition, peels back the curtains (or, perhaps more accurately, skin) from our standard of the fig-leafed Adonis to show us a different side of splendor. True, those of a certain mindset will go and find themselves in a formaldehyde-soaked horror show, nevertheless I, and many others, were taken in by the fascinating displays of bone and sinew and veins. The bodies themselves are arranged in poses and with expressions they might have taken in life. Some are arranged, like the football and basketball playing bodies, to show the prowess of the muscle and ligament in action; however others are clearly put together with an almost Lovecraftian morbid sense of humor. One specimen is a man who has been severed in half vertically from head to pelvis in order to high-five himself. Another body lies in a glass display sliced up like deli meat to show every cross section of the viscera.

There is a need that is innate in people, even in those who don’t admit it, for grotesquery. Its what calls more to the freak show than to the art museum, what slows us down when driving by an accident with necks craned to the left while a garden passes by unnoticed on our right, and its why our ears prick up more to the whine of a passing siren than they do to a symphony. Our mortality is a wall that stands ahead of us. Behind that wall is a mystery and it will remain one and all we have to survive on is scraps of knowledge about death. We live for those tiny peaks through the cracks in the wall.

I am not suggesting that a violent car wreck should be considered art; I am suggesting that true art exposes something about us personally or about humanity in general even if it’s something we’d rather not see in ourselves.When you’re at The Bodies Exhibition, staring at the desiccated tissue and dead valves that was once a living human being, the question you should be asking yourself is, “Why can’t I stop staring?”

© 2010 Dan Howard.
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Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Freddy Kreuger: World's Worst Gardener

I am not one of those anti-remake people. Some of my best friends are remakes and I took a class in college on Remake-American studies. But do we really need to be retold the story of the most famous haunted kid-touching gardener in history? Okay, to be fair the only two other movies about gardeners I can think of are “Being There” and “The Constant Gardener”; the former featuring a simple-minded but tender Peter Sellers who teaches people to love again and the latter featuring Ralph Fiennes, who simply didn’t have time for pedophilia what with his constant gardening.

Remaking “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is like remaking “Schindler’s List” (which, I believe, is slated for a 2012 release, directed by McG, starring Tyrese Gibson, and I think the phrase “Tokyo drift” is now somewhere in the title). Everyone knows about Freddy Krueger and there nothing all that new you can do with the story. Freddy did some kid diddling at a preschool, the parents of the aforementioned diddled kids burn Freddy alive, and Freddy sues the parents in order to pay for his skin-graft surgery. No wait…he seeks revenge for the loss of his precious subcutaneous tissue by killing the now sexy teen versions of his diddle victims with his Wolverine claws in their dreams. So overall a pretty standard plot…By the way, why is a child molester the only one who is granted the powers if a dream warrior? Him and Dennis Quaid. The only logical conclusion one can draw from that is that Dennis Quaid is also a disfigured sexual deviant ghost.

(Improper gardening equipment)

But aside from that I take no issue with the film’s plot. God knows I would do the same thing in Freddy’s position, though instead of claws I’d probably use a light saber or those shoulder-mounted rockets from “Predator”, or a shoulder-mounted light saber launcher. I mean, if it’s a dream I might as well go hog-wild. My issue is with the fact that zero effort went into this movie. When I go to see a remake of a movie made in the eighties I don’t want to see the same exact movie minus the feathered hair and synthesizer soundtrack. The director, Samuel Bayer, essentially did this, which I find very presumptuous or, as we say in the film business, Gus Van Sant-ian. If you’re not going to offer anything new at least throw in some old staples like boobs and gore.

You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and make a movie called “Boobs and Gore.” No, actually, that title doesn’t have enough zazz for today’s kids what with their Twitters and Mac computers and tiny cell phones in their ears that make me think the androids have finally taken over. I’ll need to spice it up and call it “Boobs and Gore: Return to the Isle of Brassiere.” Get Michael Bay on the phone!

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Look out, Mick Jagger. Here come's Old Hickory.

I am far from a connoisseur of theater. Unless you count watching homeless guys and mariachi bands performing for you on the subway as theater, in which case I’m Tennessee friggin’ Williams…All right, I have just been informed that, in fact, no one else but me considers that theater. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the estate of Mr. Williams and for adding the word “friggin’” in between his first and last name. Though in my defense it does make his name sound more awesome.

Despite my limited interest in the theater I was thrilled by “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”, a fast-paced, hilarious, defibrillating shock to my theater-deprived brain. Rock-and-roll narrates the life of our seventh president as Indian arrows fly, Spanish colonialist start bar brawls, and all the while Washington D.C. is one big, gay disco party. Had I been sitting in an aisle seat I would have been rolling in said aisle laughing (to the man sitting next to me during the show: please forgive me for giggling like a stoner who just got an extra bad of Doritos from the vending machine throughout the entire production. Were I a more seasoned theater critic you would not have had to put up with my guffawing).

At this time in history corruption and nepotism are rampant in Washington (insert obligatory topical statement on American politics) and Jackson seeks to run for office and give the common citizen a say, to be the peoples’ president. The show, really, is about how fragile idealism is in the face of reality and how fickle the idolizers can be. When Jackson finally takes the presidency he finds that being the voice of the people is quite difficult when the people have no decision making skills. Sure they vote for the guy they want to have a beer with but when that guy starts asking them to think it’s time to put the Coors back in the fridge an go home. Left to his own devices Jackson makes a string of bad decisions which eventually lead to Indian Removal Act of 1830 which doesn’t sound all that bad until you hear it called by its other name; “The Trail of Tears”. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, look it up. It was kind of like the Bataan Death March only nobody talks about it because we’re the one’s who did it. Jackson’s populist romanticism dies with the end of his stay in office and his realization that, in America, progress only comes slowly and with compromise and a compromised world is one in which idealism is dead.

Now, at this time you’re probably saying, “My god! That doesn’t sound like a rockin’ good time at all!” That, my friends, is what makes this a great play; it can be enjoyed on all levels, from surface to core. You want a final verdict? Should you see “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”? You’re goddamn Tennessee friggin’ Williams right you should!

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Subvert and Destroy: "Kick-Ass" and the case for Nicolas Cage

For a long time now it has become popular to mock Nicolas Cage and his decade long streak of bad role choices. More popular than Robert Patterson…uh, Paddington….Patterhorn? That sparkly dude from “Twilight.” And that kid’s, like, totally on fire right now, so, there’s a strong analogy right? Okay, off to a great start….My point is that ever since that ever since, let’s say, “Gone In Sixty Seconds” Nic Cage has been an easy target for smug film schoolers to scoff at while writing scripts about twenty-year-olds coming to terms with things. But let’s face it: Nicolas Cage is the Bobby Fisher of playing crazy. Yes, Nicolas Cage is in mostly bad movies but all I’m saying is to think about how bad those movies would be without Nicolas Cages. So please film students, I merely ask that you pause your “Royal Tenebaums” DVDs and pull up your pants and consider that for a moment.

“Kick-Ass” features Cage as Big Daddy, a man who’s part Batman and part Mr. Rogers. By day he wears cardigan sweaters and sips hot cocoa, by night he dispenses justice at the end of a shotgun. Actually, most of the justice dispensed by Big Daddy is at the hands of his 11-year-old daughter whom he’s trained in the deadly arts of gunplay, swordsmanship, and being deceptively adorable. So in that sense he’s sort of the third party administrator for justice. Hit Girl, played by a precocious young actress whose previous film credit was “Tigger and Pooh and a Musical Too”, delivers up a thoracic surgeon’s ransom in carnage all the while mouthing off to the bad guys with language that would make a veteran merchant mariner blush.

(There is a carnival of madness just behind this man's handlebar mustache.)

There are other heroes as well but it’s these two that stole the show and I really would like the two of them to get the credit they deserve for their roles because, more than the other characters, they subvert all the comic book hero conventions. In the universe of “Kick-Ass” a scrawny 6th-graders and her soft spoken father are more dangerous than an army of mob hitmen. In every other comic book film they would have died in the first scene in order for the superhero to spend the rest of the movie avenging them. We in the audience cheer for Big Daddy and Hit Girl yet, at the same time, are we really supposed to be rooting for a man who trains his daughter to kill with sociopathic glee and who is himself, to put it mildly, crazier than a barrel of Glenn Becks?

More than the gallons of blood I think this is what has the moral outragers morally outraged. But that’s the point of the film. Behind every bad-ass killing machine is a man with severe psychological problems, behind every hero is a frightened child, and not often, but sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"There Will Be Blood" review

Here is the second article assigned to me by the E-Zine. As with the first the task was to appeal to the clientel of the website...which admittedly uses the f-word more liberally than most:

There Will Be Blood Review

As you’ve all probably heard by now Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in There Will Be Blood is causing the nation’s critics to pull out their dicks and cum all over the place. I believe I read in Variety that at the critic’s screening in New York many of the other audience members complained that Rex Reed’s glow-in-the-dark cock ring was an irritating distraction. But is Day Lewis’s performance really that spunk-worthy? I’ll say yes, for the most part, if for no other reason than I’ve run out of euphemisms for semen. Wait I got one more: Man chowder... and now we may proceed.

Daniel Day Lewis plays a man by the name of Daniel Plainveiw who, after being tipped off that there’s oil underneath a remote part of California called Little Boston, gets more than he bargained for from the local religious whack jobs who inhabit that land. The town’s leader is a young self-described prophet named Eli Sunday played by Paul Dano (although you may not recognize the name surely you all will remember him as “that fucking douche bag kid from Little Miss Sunshine”). Plainveiw’s and Sunday’s personalities clash. In one fantastic scene Day Lewis proceeds to kick the shit out of the little bastard, smearing his smug face with oil.

But it’s not all fun and games in Little Boston. An explosion at one of the drilling derricks causes Plainveiw’s son, H.W., to lose his hearing. He’s sent away against his will to a school for the deaf while his father remains to drill for more oil. Plainveiw is sick with guilt over this and yet at the same time driving by blind ambition and blah, blah, fucking blah. You get the idea. Lots of emotions and shit. Oscar stuff.

I’m sure that you all, as I did, wanted to see There Will Be Blood for one reason and one reason only: to watch Day Lewis bring the crazy. He brought it quite well as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York; the only problem was that we were treated to only about an hour of it while there other two hours were devoted to DiCaprio and Diaz speaking in half-retarded Irish accents. In this movie, however, it’s all Day Lewis all the time and let me tell you he is one crazy turn of the century motherfucker. The final scene in the movie is absolutely glorious. I don’t want to give too much away, but let me just mention that it involves Daniel Day Lewis gnawing on steaks while screaming about milkshakes and drainage.

For sure Day Lewis is a fine actor but did it make me, like all the others, shoot my goo? Almost but, not quite. Not that he is undeserving of his accolades, but there was another performance this year that had me practically humping the seat in front of me: Javier Bardem In No Country For Old Men. If you dispute my opinion I ask you only one question... How many people did Daniel Day Lewis shoot in the face with a shotgun?

I think I’ve made my point.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

"Juno" review or "Why I Hate Hipsters"

In 2008 I had two reviews published on a E-Zine website called I was assigned to write something that was "tastefully vulgar" and I like to think I succeeded (though it should be noted I was paid in t-shirts):

Juno Review

The Iraq War. Rising unemployment. Millions without healthcare. Global Warming.

There are many things one could pin the blame on for the downfall of American society. However, not to diminish the severity of these other issues, but the rot is much deeper. The current generation, a generation I am a part of in the chronological sense only, has been raised on the cultural circle jerk known as “indie”. Much like the fall of the Roman Empire the debate still goes on as to where exactly our society began to choke itself on its own sense of irony. Personally, I think the blame lies somewhere in the Kevin Smith/ Ethan Hawke area. Regardless of where it began we can pinpoint the exact moment where all hope for a better world was officially lost. America woke up one late December morning next to the dead hooker and the anal beads lodged irreversibly in its rectal cavity; metaphorically speaking of course. “Juno”, my fellow concerned citizens, “Juno”. It turns out T.S. Elliot was wrong; the world doesn’t die with a whimper, it dies with knocked up teenager spewing hipster catchphrases.

Now, before we get down to business you may be wondering what exactly classifies a hipster. There is no definitive way to identify them (its not like pointing out a black person) but here are a few ways you can determine who among us is a hipster so that you, hopefully, will then hit them as hard as you can in the brain. Hipsters are:

- people who own a hooded sweatshirt in any color or pattern but plain grey

- people who claim to enjoy the music of Bob Marely and are white

- people who have uttered the phrase, “I prefer his earlier work”

- people who play and acoustic guitar outdoors

- people who roll their own cigarettes and are not from the 19th century

- people who are heterosexual males and own more than one belt

- people who wear hats for any other reason other than to keep sunlight from their eyes or warmth

- people who comment on something’s irony more than once a day who are not Oscar Wilde

- people who do not live in Manhattan but still refer to Greenwich Village as “The Village”

- people who invest time and money on their cloths and hair in order to look like they do not invest time or money on their cloths or hair

Okay, now that that’s cleared up lets move on: what saddens me the most is that the “indie crowd” willingly and happily swallows shit like “Juno” faster than pigs eat... well, shit. Somewhere, somehow a bunch of movie executives must’ve gotten together and brainstormed over cocaine and Dom Perignon and realized that they could forgo actual character development and just pile on unnecessary quirks to fool these twenty-something acoustic guitar playing tumors on humanity’s colon.

The movie begins when our hero Juno MacGuff (you see its like the name of Alaska’s capital but not spelled the same. Isn’t that just delightful?) does what no woman in real would ever do; willingly has sex with Michael Cera. Much to the young hipster’s surprise she finds that Paulie Bleaker (Cera’s character) has planted the seed of a soon-to-be Death Cab For Cutie fan in her lady parts. Unlike most teenagers, who at this point would be reaching for the nearest coat hanger, Juno, dissuaded from getting an abortion by her apparently near retarded Asian friend, decides to keep the child and donate it to a local couple. The plot thickens when Juno develops and unhealthy relationship with the husband. They bond over their shared irony and self important attitudes towards “popular” music (surprise, surprise; there’s The Clash posters all over the husbands studio. We get it Joe Strummer you don’t like government, now brush your fucking teeth). And then.... aw fuck it, then eventually everything works out, play whiny indie song, roll credits.

Back to my point: this hipster culture is not just isolated pockets of smug kids listening to shitty music like goth culture or frat culture, it’s a plague. You see, hipsters have no mind of their own, they suckle like sickly calves to anything other people tell them is okay to like. How do you think Bright Eyes became popular? Because he’s a talented musician?! Therefore it spreads and occasionally its size-too-small t-shirt wearing tendrils sink into something that I actually enjoy. I used to love the movie “Suspiria” but now I can’t mention it without someone saying, “Oh, like in ‘Juno’ right?” and me wanting to toss that person into traffic.

Sadly, it seems we’re all doomed. We can’t just kill Conner Oberst or Zach Braff because that would martyr them and then the virus would only spread faster. I would say we could somehow set them up to get caught molesting children but that could backfire and suddenly we could be looking at The Moldy Peaches posing on the cover of Rolling Stone above the caption, “The Moldy Peaches tell you why they wont play with grass on the field. Plus- they tell you which candy keeps little Billy coming back for more”.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

"The Messengers" (2007)

"The Messengers" was a bad horror movie I reviewed back when I was the film critic for my college newspaper that attempted to capitalize of the success of "The Grudge". Few people ended up going to see it and those who did, like me, went begrudgingly. Get it? Be-GRUDGE-ingly. Eh? Eh?

Please Kill “The Messengers”

The Solomon family, seeking refuge from a tragic past, moves into a haunted North Dakota farmhouse to grow sunflower seeds in The Messengers. I’m no psychologist but are North Dakota farms (even perfectly un-haunted ones) really the best place to strengthen family bonds? I mean, sure, sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E but let’s face it; antioxidants can only help so much.
Anyway, soon after moving in the Solomon’s teenage daughter, Jen, begins to be plagued by visions of leftover special effects from The Grudge. Her parents give her the old speech that horror movie parents give; Jen is merely having trouble adjusting to her new life. Which, again, I’m no psychologist, but…well… let’s just move on. Her 4-year-old brother can see the ghosts too, but he can talk so he’s useless. The reason the movie has no one believe her, we all know, is so that we can spend forty-five minutes watching Jen wander through the house while blurry things run in and out of frame.
Ghosts in these movies always seem so lazy. It’s always the same: someone walks trepidatiously down a dark hallway, put’s their ear to the door, there’s about five seconds of silence and then BOO! Someone mashes their fist on a grand piano, the girl screams and there’s a quick cut to an eyeball or something. There’s nothing scary actually happening, but on the plus side the spirits do seem to have some great sound equipment.
Eventually Jen learns from one of the townies that the previous residents of the farmhouse were also killed by jump cuts and sound effects, however possessing this new information doesn’t seem to change Jen’s strategy of running around and letting little blue ghosts frighten her. And there was also something about crows too. Perhaps a metaphor for mortality but every time they showed up I could help but think that they only wanted some sunflower seeds.
The only entertaining thing about The Messengers is the fact that the Solomons posses the ability to brush off fatal injuries. Jen and her mother collectively fall down the stairs about eight times during the movie and at one point the father is pitch-forked in the spine only to moments lately get up fully recovered and engage in fisticuffs with a mustachioed John Corbet (see, you know he’s evil ‘cause of the mustache). By the way, John Corbet does more damage to this family with his fists in ten minutes that these dilly-dallying ghosts do the two hours. I’m just saying that, and yes I am making a judgment call here, you’ve failed as a horror movie when the love interest from Sex and the City is the most threatening presence in the film.

© 2010 Dan Howard.
All rights reserved.
Work cannot be reproduced for any reason without consent of Dan Howard.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New York Jedi: Character Intro

Hello Internet!

This is my very first post and my very first blog so I thought I'd start with something that sort of gives you an idea of my style and my interests. I'm part of a group called NY Jedi in which stage combat is performed using the Star Wars mythology as a background. Its a fancy way of saying we play with toy lightsabers. Anyway, what I'm posting now is the intro to the character I perform as named Blight, a nefarious soul-hopping zombie!

Please to enjoy:

Blight’s Manifesto

The “force” is a failed religion and a dead superstition and I am coming to bring it to an end.

Now before you become hysterical in your righteousness, as you Jedi are apt to do, I want you all to know that this is not a threat or a warning. I am simply telling you what is going to happen. Every son and daughter of the force will be killed. I will kill you and I will not stop.

My name has preceded me for longer than I can remember. Often I can’t keep track of every one of them but these days in most parts I go by Mr. Tooth. Mr. Tooth, when he was alive, had some infamy of his own. On Tatooine he was an outlaw and a butcher. He had a penchant for pulling out the teeth of the people he murdered. Hence the name. The Jedi of Tatooine, of course, decided that this sort of behavior could not be tolerated and had poor Mr. Tooth executed. At the time bodies of the condemned had been left to decay in a sand-scoured valley north of Mos Eisley called Ryl’s Hex, though the locals had taken to calling it by its more colorful nickname: the stink pit. Having been executed once myself I felt a certain kismet with the stink pit and its putrefying residents. My execution was centuries ago, though, when the Jedi were nothing but a lunatic cult of magicians. Back then they were even more sanctimonious than they are now if you can imagine. But that’s an entirely different story. I do tend to ramble and I must get back to my point. Let me just assure you, however, that Mr. Tooth is a more than adequate host. Rot will eventually render him useless like my previous vessels and I will have to find another like I always do. But that’s my favorite part about humanity; there’s never a shortage of dead.

At this juncture it would be perfectly fair for you to ask “why”. Why am I doing this? Why can’t I just leave the force to its natural order?

I am the natural order.

I am the electricity before a storm. I am the riptide. I am erosion. Everything must die in the end. Creatures die. People die. Civilizations die. Planets die. And God can die too.

The Jedi preach peace and the Sith preach order and the two of them rule the galaxy with the same dogmatic stupidity of a child ruling a toy army. But there are those out there who cherish disobedience, who revel in perversity, who live for sin. They are the silent majority. I am their father.

For centuries we’ve been under the thumb of a religion that regards people who don’t posses its powers as pawns and cannon fodder. Times need to change. I’m here to widen the crack in the glass. I will take my time but I will come for you as I will for everyone.

Every good story has a plague in it.