Tod Browning’s Freaks 1932

So the title of my blog was never more true to form than at the screening of Freaks at The Music Box in Chicago on 1/7/16. Did I sit in the front row because that’s what I like to do? Uhhhhhh, not really. Did I sit in the front row because that theater was packed to the gills and that was the only seat that was available since I am decades behind in watching this gem? Bingo! After seeing countless clips and scenes from the film in other movies and hearing, “One of us, one of us” and not fully understanding the significance, I am happy to have my first viewing of this masterpiece from start to finish sitting in a theater and watching it on the big screen as if it were 1932. Gooble Gobble, Gooble Gobble I am one of you that has been in awe with this film for so many years. A tale of family, tragedy, revenge but most important of all love.

Freaks tells the story of a traveling circus with Hercules a buffoon of a strong man, Cleopatra a beautiful, cruel and greedy trapeze artist, Phroso a foolhardy clown, Venus a lovelorn seamstress and a band of sideshow curiosity performers who are more family than friends led by 3 ft tall Hans and his fiance Frieda. Hans wants Cleopatra even though he has a good woman in Frieda but men are men and Hans wants to prove he is all man and will win Cleopatra’s heart with gifts galore. Hans doesn’t know Cleopatra is with Hercules and while the lovers laugh behind Hans’ back while enjoying the benefits of his love, his fellow curiosity performers want to make sure their friend is careful and warn him of Cleopatra’s true intentions. Convincing Cleopatra to marry him, after she finds out about Hans’ inheritance after his ex fiance Frieda begs her to be kind, Cleopatra shares her true feelings regarding Hans and his friends at their wedding reception, humiliating Hans by carrying him on her shoulders and berating his friends as FREAKS. What happens after that is plain and simple carnival style justice.  

So you may ask, how or why is this film about love? This film is about love in so many ways. Frieda, loving Hans so truly  even after she is tossed aside asks Cleopatra to be kind to him and not to break his heart even though her heart has been broken. Madame Tetrallini, loving her sideshow “children” as they dance, laugh and play outside in the sun, protecting them from the cruelty of the world. The human skeleton and his love for the bearded lady and their newborn baby daughter, his face beaming as he  hands out cigars to everyone on the birth of his child. The Siamese twins Daisy and Violet and their fiancé’s, each fiance telling the other to make sure to drop by their home sometime and don’t be a stranger. The love of friends, always there for one another and protecting each other no matter what. And Hans, if he had loved himself and been content with the love he received from his fiance Frieda none of this would have happened. 

Now I didn’t think this was a perfect film. While I understand the shock value of showing what Hans and his pals did to Cleopatra, they weren’t Dr. Moreau and I think the screams of the spectators and the imagination of the audience would have been sufficient if not more disturbing. Also, finding out the actors who played Hans and Frieda were brother and sister in real life was a bit odd but they didn’t cross a line with their affection and made me think of Justine and Jason Bateman in an episode of Arrested Development so they have that going for them. 

Freaks was playing at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago and if you have a chance to see it in a theater on the big screen I highly recommend you do it! If you don’t.. rent it, stream it, buy it, VOD it but just see it! 

My Favorite Shorts of 2016 

My Favorite Shorts of 2016 

“Be gentle, it’s my first time.”

Catwoman – Batman Returns 1992

Welcome one and probably one to my very first blog post. I know, I figured out how to turn on the tablet and everything all by myself and thought I may as well write about some things before I break it! Those who know me are aware that I suffer from two conditions: Cinephilia and being Technology Challenged so why not combine the two and put them to some use while also entertaining, I hope. Here I am, proof that ANYONE can do what they love and go from there. Film Festivals, Conventions, Events, Pre-screenings, Celebs, Film Reviews and more……trying everything and telling you all about it. So to keep my first post short, I thought I would begin with my favorite shorts of 2016. And to keep it even shorter, I will do my favorite 5 instead of 10 so here we go.

#5 The Stylist – Director Jill Gevargizian

The Stylist tells the story of Claire, a hairstylist working on her last client of the night and the dark turn it takes. From the first image of Claire daydreaming at the ceiling as she slowly spins in her stylist chair to that last emotional scene, Najarra Townsend captures your attention and breath with her performance and leaves you wanting to see and know more about what makes Claire who she is and what has led to her to this place. A mesmerizing score by Nicholas Elert, great cinematography by Robert Patrick Stern, editing by John Pata and production design by Sarah Sharp elevate the filmgoing experience. If a feature is to be made of any of the shorts listed, I can not only see this being made into one but also sequels to follow. Currently streaming on Shudder.

#4 The Light Thief – Director Eva Daoud

The Light Thief reminds me of It Follows with its subject matter and The Hunger with its eerie beauty. After a woman becomes involved with a man who takes her essence of love, how does it change her and how can she regain the light that was stolen from her? Daoud does a beautiful job giving equal attention to the character development of our dual villains and heroine, enough to care or despise them while also suprising you when you think you know everything about them. Phenomenal direction by Eva Daoud with excellent art direction by Marta Gutierrez-Abad, it also has one of the most beautiful production designs on a film, short or otherwise. I truly look forward to what Daoud will put forth to entertain and elevate us all. I believe it is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

#3 Hard Broads – Director Mindy Bledsoe

Hard Broads kept me laughing long after it had ended with 4 others shorts still to view. The film immediately made me want to be best friends with director/writer/actress Mindy Bledsoe and her leading ladies or know I would be in good company if I found a dead male stripper in the trunk of my car. One of the only films last year, short or feature, that passed the Bechdel Test, when 3 female friends are brought back together to help one with a corpse, an evening of hilarious adventures go down. Fantastic physical comedy by all the ladies and Susan Kirton who says so much without saying a word. A look at female friendship and A Weekend at Bernie’s for the millenium with more pot and laughs, the tag line says it all: Three Women. One Corpse. Stupid Plan. A funny, funny gory good time I am lucky enough to own.

#2 Light up the Night – Directors Caspar Newbolt and Matt Sundin

Short or 15 minute video, I’m not sure if it was the performance of James Ransone, the music of the Protomen or some weird Mr. Roboto girl crush thing I never knew I had that drew me to this Big Brother musical fantasy but I watched it, forwared it, spoke about it and then watched it again within 30 minutes. While it has a Repo! The Genetic Opera look to it, that will be the only comparison I will make about this story in a 1984 style setting with the robotic law enforcement and mounting tensions of the citizens ready to explode during a concert by the Protomen whose music narrates the struggle between the two. A Streets of Fire flashback came to mind with the city that sees no light, steam and violence in the streets and a soundtrack that makes it all work.I really like Streets of Fire so I think this is a big compliment. Now on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

#1 Fragile Storm – Dawn Fields

So there were 2 instances last year where I needed to walk out of what I was watching. The first instance for exiting was Phantasm Ravager in the theater during a horror film festival. The second was during the Etheria 2016 tour lineup at Days of the Dead Chicago after watching this jewel. While the reason for the first was because it was absolutely horrendous, the latter left me so emotional I had to skip the remaining short films to compose myself and try not to ugly cry while making my exit. This film is one of the best pieces of art I have seen all year. When a young woman is held hostage by an older man, played by the incredible Lance Henriksen, you are taken on her terrifying journey trying to break free from her captor, only to find out the truth of why she is actually there. My emotional response took me by suprise at what the story truly reveals which I can only imagine was a peronal experience for writer Carly Street that is becoming far too relatable for many others. Writing about it 2 months later after only one viewing and I am still fighting back tears. Even the tagline: He promised her…no matter what, is haunting. Suspense, Drama, Horror….however you categorize it, they are all true. Prepare to view greatness and bring some tissues, you’ll need them.

Best Actress in a Short Film

Najarra Townsend – The Stylist

Best Actor in a Short Film

Lance Henriksen – Fragile Storms

I have to acknowledge and thank Stacy Pippi for her excellent judgement as 4 of the 5 films are from the Etheria Film Festival or Tour Selections and I would probably not have had the opportunity to view them if not for her. Enjoy these at your leisure friends and let me know if there are any others you recommend. If you see me at the movies, I’ll be the blonde in front.