Dario Argento

In all of my horror film watching over the last several years, one filmmaker stands out over all of the others – Dario Argento. While I have my quibbles with some of his techniques, the visuals alone are astonishing. So far, I’ve watched Suspiria, Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Inferno, and Opera. Other than Inferno, the films listed above tend to be his most highly praised.

For the uninitiated, many of his films fall under the Italian horror/thriller subgenre or Giallo. Giallo, Italian for yellow, takes its name from the typical color of the country’s pulp novel book covers. The genre will usually include a black-gloved killer. While Suspiria doesn’t technically fall under this thematically, it’s often included in lists of Giallo films. There’s a clear throughline from Hitchcock to Argento and, despite his claims otherwise, a similarity to the films of Brian De Palma.

For Argento, there are other calling cards to his films beyond the visuals and Giallo tenets; the protagonist is usually someone creative (a writer, singer, dancer, etc.), a score by Italian prog rock band Goblin, violent and unexpected murders, and a twist ending.

About those visuals – Suspiria and Inferno share a sense of color and set design. While the latter is the weaker of the two as a film, it looks as good as the other. Even if saturated colors aren’t present (as is the case with 1987’s Opera), innovative camera moves and set design will be.

For all this praise, there are negatives. The films are typically dubbed (even with English-speaking actors speaking English dialog), as was the fashion in both these films and Spaghetti Westerns. The films can also be a bit repetitive – for example, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red have very similar endings. That said, the films are creative enough that it’s not a huge problem and it feels like he’s trying to improve each time. Let’s talk about music. Throughout most of these films, the music is great and fits well. But when there’s a horror moment, you’ll know it because the music by Goblin (or their keyboardist, Claudio Simonetti) will tell you how. This criticism may be a bit thin, but like Hitchcock and De Palma, women in his films are used, shall we say, interestingly. Even if the film contains a female lead (Suspiria, Opera), they are often damsels in distress or objects of desire.

I’d also recommend the Luca Guadagnino Suspiria remake. While they share many of the same themes and plot points (and even a cast member or two), they differ signifigantly.

Halloween VI

Continuing a tradition I started in 2020, I’ve been binging horror movies for the spooky season. As time passes, I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten weirder. I’ll likely keep watching this month and will post here (and Letterboxd) once I’ve watched more!

  • C.H.U.D. (1984)
  • Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
  • Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
  • The Exorcist III (1990)
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
  • Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
  • Halloween Kills (2021)
  • House (1986)
  • Inferno (1980)
  • In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
  • John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998)
  • Midnight Club (2022)
  • Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022)
  • The Neon Demon (2016)
  • Suspiria (2018)

See previous posts: Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween III, Halloween IV, Halloween V

London Underground

It looks like this blog is now dedicated to British YouTubers.

I can’t decide if this guy digging a tunnel between his house, garage, and shed is really cool or really dumb. I mean, it’s only taken four years of hand digging! When your other achievements include things like making working Wolverine claws and lots of flamethrowers, I guess this was the logical next step.

Tom Scott

Maybe you’ve seen Tom Scott’s channel, but I wanted to share it in case you hadn’t (he does have over 5 million subscribers). These three recent videos are good examples – short video essays, typically about amazing places, science, technology, etc.

Poké

Poké, essentially a Hawaiian sushi bowl, has become a favorite food. So much so that I’ve started making it at home (of course).

My basic bowl:

  • Sushi rice: I follow the package instructions and add nori komi furikake (sushi rice seasoning)
  • Corn: canned and nothing else (my local poké spot uses Del Monte, so I do too)
  • Pineapple: canned or fresh
  • Cucumber: I use sliced minis
  • Shelled Edamame
  • Shrimp: Cooked as basically as possible, I’ll often just cook it from frozen
  • Spicy Mayo: mix sesame oil, sriracha, and kewpie Mayo
  • Shoyu: I recently found a shoyu-based marinade from my local grocery store (basically soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds)
  • Fried shallot: from my local Asian market
  • Crispy wontons
  • Other items if I have them on hand
    • Cilantro
    • Green onion
    • Sweet onion
    • Avocado

Here are a couple more official recipes:

Maine’s Trans Books

Happy Pride Month! Several years ago, I made an observation… my home state of Maine has produced a fairly high number of books by, about, or connected to Trans people. I thought I’d gather those I know about here.

  • Jennifer Finney Boylan
    Jennifer is a former professor at Colby College here in Waterville, Maine. She’s best known for her book She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, which documented her transition. I’ve also attended a few readings of the book and was able to meet her on at least one of those occasions.
  • Nicole Maines
    Nicole first came to the public’s attention by fighting discriminatory practices at her school outside of Bangor, Maine. The incidents resulted in a several legal cases as well as her family relocating to Portland, Maine. She went onto star as Dreamer in the TV series Supergirl and the independent vampire movie Bit. I met her in passing at a past Portland Pride event.
  • Imogen Binnie
    I can’t recommend this book, and its very stream-of-conscience writing, enough. It’s clearly semi-autobiographical – the lead character is Trans and works in a bookshop (much like the author). Though I’d seen her band, Correspondences, a few times, I met her briefly when she was working a local bookshop.

    From the Amazon page for the recently republished version of the book:
    • `One of Vogue‘s Best Books of 2022 So Far
    • Buzzfeed‘s Summer Books You Won’t Be Able To Put Down
    • Book Riot‘s Best Summer Reads for 2022
    • Dazed‘s Queer Books to Read in 2022
  • Janet Mock
    Janet isn’t from Maine, but the state gets a shout early on in the book. Her boyfriend at the time grew up in Cumberland, Maine.

So, did I miss amy others?

Sunday

In preparation for the (rather interesting) Oscar ceremony this year, I watched several nominated films. This included the Jonathan Larson musical tick, tick,… BOOM! Knowing that I was going to see that film, I watched Rent for the first time as well. I didn’t really know Larson’s story going into it either musical.

I was impressed when hearing Andrew Garfield had not really sung before and learned a few songs on piano for the part. He’s come a long way from the first time I saw him – in an episode of Doctor Who (which included pig men in 1940’s New York).

One particular song and scene from tick, tick,… BOOM! was interesting to me for a few reasons. Although I’ve seen quite a few Sondheim musicals, Sunday in the Park with George was not one of them. Learning the song Sunday was homage to the identically named song from George made a lot of sense – the song felt different from others in tick, tick… BOOM! (and Rent, for that matter). (On a side note, I highly recommend Six by Sondheim, which I also watched after these films).

Not only was the Sondheim connection interesting to me, but also the number of cameos in the scene. This post from CBR.com gives a good breakdown of the cameos in the scene. Joel Gray, Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth, Phylicia Rashad, original Rent and Hamilton cast members, and more all appear in the scene. Lin Manuel Miranda, who directed this version and has starred in past productions of TTB, also makes a cameo.

It must also be pointed out that the Moondance Diner makes an appearance in a non-Garfield Spider-man movie AND Jake Gyllenhaal (who plays Mysterio in yet another Spider-man movie) also has a connection here.

Additionally, I’m including renditions by Raul Esparza who sang both Sundays in productions of these shows.

Risotto

I’ve been on a risotto kick lately and for a good reason… I find I often have seemingly random ingredients on hand these days. Dried mushrooms? Toss ’em in! Some cooked chicken thighs? Great, add it! Leftover bacon from breakfast? Perfect! Shrimp in freezer? Why not!

I’ve actually pulled elements from each of these recipes and made my own combinations. It (almost) always works!

Get it right and it can be creamy in texture, even without dairy. Well, the fake butter helps, too.

Korean Food II

Taking inspiration from my last post about Korean food in movies and my love for our local Korean place, N to Tail, I decided to try my hand at making some Korean dishes. I was pretty pleased with the results (though I didn’t get a good photo).

  • Bulgogi:
    • I did the following:
      • accidentally skipped onion (it was still good)
      • substituted 3T palm sugar for 4T white sugar
    • and didn’t do the following:
      • freeze the beef to slice (just be sure to have a very sharp knife!)
      • do the Seoul-style option included in the recipe
  • Kimchi pancake (aka kimchi-buchimgae or kimchi-jeon):
    • I used a mild kimchi by Kimchi Pride for this round
    • I may scale back on the flour and water, since a jar of Kimchi Pride isn’t quite a full pound
    • The video below is the actual recipe I used
  • Pancake and dumpling dipping sauce
Photo by SenuScape on Pexels.com