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Friday, January 31, 2014


COME ON, MARCH 26th...

I was looking forward to this sequel anyway,  but when they throw in a one-sheet teaser poster of the Black Widow, the lure is complete.

Ah, ScarJo...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I grew up with a great geeky love for the character Natasha Romanov, but never in a million years would I have expected to see her on the big screen at all, let alone more than once and played by one of my favorite gorgeous actresses. Yeah, it's a good era in which to be a geek. (That said, I still say ScarJo's a bit too young for the role and does not rock a Russian accent, but you can't have everything.)

Monday, January 20, 2014


This is what I saw un-ironically posted at the theater this evening when I went to see AMERICAN HUSTLE. The fact that we've reached the point where this is even remotely necessary breaks my goddamned heart.


Yes, you read that right. A flyer for a MLK Day-related "Freedom 2 Twerk" event where folks can go to get their drink and hump on while decked out in all their rap music video-style hip-hop finery. There was a bit of media attention about this during the past week-plus, thanks to members of Dr. King's family expressing outrage at his image being inappropriately used in order to promote parties in "honor" of his nationally-celebrated holiday. A figure of considerable dignity, especially revered by American blacks who are old enough to remember what a shithole this country was for us highly rhythmic individuals before the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King became the face of the struggle for equality in a land of the free that was anything but what it presented itself as, and his tragic death— no, let's call it what it was — his tragic assassination forever ensured him a place as black America's most iconic martyr. If you're black and around my age (48), you know exactly what I'm talking about, especially if you spent any time with your older relatives who likely had at least one framed portrait of Dr. King on their wall, or if you ever went to a church down South and cooled yourself while sweltering in a pew with one of those mass-produced hand-held fans bearing King's face. King's was, and still is, a face blacks of a certain age never wanted to forget, for reasons I cannot even begin to go into here with enough information and cultural/social/historical insight to get it all across to those who genuinely have no clue, so I suggest those among you who only understand MLK as "that black guy who made things okay for other black guys back in the Sixties" take some time to read up on him in-depth.

In the decades since his death, things have certainly improved for American blacks, and aspects of American culture have become so influenced by black input that it's taken for granted now. White kids today probably cannot conceive of a time when our nation's consciousness did not wield such a "just the way it is" melding of black ways and thinking in their everyday lives. In short, the so-called "great American melting pot" is becoming more so with each passing day. But along with that positive shift has come a rise in the glorification of ignorance and thuggery that sickens many of us who struggled to be taken seriously as human beings in communities where we were numbered among the handful of blacks who were not there as domestics. Over the past two decades especially, the exaggerated images and behavior seen in rap videos that rely more on their visual fantasy quality than any that may be found in their lyrics or beats has become seen as a lifestyle to be desired and emulated, perhaps completely missing the irony in such over-the-top macho and possession-oriented visual themes. "Ghetto fabulousness" and the old school pimpin' mentality are perceived as cool by those who don't know any better and that ain't going to change anytime soon. Sadly, Martin Luther King Jr.'s once-sacrosanct persona is now seen as being perfectly acceptable as an element for use in that pimpalicious aesthetic.

The art on these announcements tends to involve images of the venerated civil rights agitator's head Photoshopped onto bodies accessorized in gold chains, black t-shirts, and/or leather, surmounted with fancy cars, bottles of liquor, and scantily-clad women. Basically textbook rap video and album cover imagery, and if I may be completely honest here, I have to admit that the idea is so ridiculous that I laughed my ass off when I first saw examples of the flyer genre in question. It's like something out of National Lampoon during its intentionally over-the-top-offensive days, or the sketch from CHAPELLE'S SHOW that featured suave and wholesome 1950's-era crooner Nat King Cole engaging in pouring champagne over the body of a toothsome young thing while singing about "This is what you want on your vagina." It's funny because it's something that just should not be, yet there it is. However, I doubt that the makers of the MLK Day party flyers have such satire in mind. Maybe I'm wrong and I have unfairly misjudged the creators of this stuff, but when I weigh it against the behavioral slide exhibited by many in today's black community, it seems to me that these come from a place of ignorance rather than one of transgressional humorous intent. Anyway, from the many examples of such that I've seen over the past few days, here are my two favorites, both of which predate 2014. Both are utterly ridiculous, but the one from Endzone takes the prize for its grade school level of photo manipulation, especially the angle at which King's head is planted on the body. It looks like he has a defective neck after surviving a lynching.

Monday, January 13, 2014


It is with a very sad heart that I bid R.I.P. to Mike Vraney (Dec. 29, 1957-Jan. 2, 2014), the founder of Something Weird Video. News of his death from lung cancer has apparently only just been made public and I doubt it will make the mainstream news (I received a note about it because I've been a regular customer for over twenty years), but the man's contributions to the preservation of obscure, trashy, cult, and even downright pornographic cinema cannot be overstated. Something Weird has personally enriched my own collection to a considerable degree, with close to sixty examples of their wares evident on my shelves, and for that I owe Vraney a great debt of appreciation. Though I never met the man, I did speak with him a few times over the phone and he was always very knowledgable and nice. Rest well, Mike. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart. The company's official press release follows:

We regret to inform you that Something Weird's founder, Mike Vraney, passed away on January 2nd 2014 after a long heroic battle with lung cancer. He was 56 years old, way too young to leave this planet. There was still so much Mike wanted to do in his life, so many films to be found, and adventures to be embarked upon.
      This sad news may come as a shock to most of you. Mike was a very private person and didn't want anyone, except his closest friends, family and colleagues, to know about his illness. He went through aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments for over a year, but sadly the cancer spread and cruelly took him from us.
      Mike had a larger-than-life personality and a genuine enthusiasm for movies. Something Weird was his heart and soul, he was obsessive in his pursuit of tracking down the weirdest, wildest movies out there. And it wasn't enough to find a few forgotten films, he was always in search of the movie motherload. (Making 370 two-hour volumes of Nudie Cuties loops is a good example of this. Who does that?! Mike Vraney!) Even as a child, Mike loved movies. During his teenage years, he worked at the Bel-Kirk Drive-In, and then later as a projectionist at the Green Parrot and Apple Theaters in Seattle. Then around 1990, Mike went in search of as many old, unusual, obscure, and lost low budget exploitation movies as he could, and preserved them for prosperity. Mike amassed thousands of these rare movies and had them transferred to video so that people could relive the good old days of going to the drive-in or grindhouse theater, in their very own home. We have him to thank for introducing fandom to the wonderful world of sexploitation sinema, rescuing it from the dark recesses of forgotten film vaults and defunct movie theatres.
      Some of you may know that prior to Something Weird, Mike was involved in the early Seattle punk rock music scene. He was a partner in Modern Productions, the group who started Seattle's seminal rock venue, The Showbox, in 1979. Mike then went on to manage such well-known bands as The Dead Kennedys, TSOL, and Seattle's own The Accused. Mike always seemed to be at the forefront of whatever was happening and cool.
     Mike's second greatest passion in life was collecting old comics, vintage toys, movie memorabilia, and pop cultural ephemera. He enjoyed going to the swap meet and always had a magical ability for finding great stuff. But when he wasn't working, collecting, or telling great stories, Mike spent quality time with his beloved family. Mike adored his wife and business partner, Lisa, and two (now young adult) children, Mark and Danielle. These three were the center of his universe, and his reason for getting up each and every morning.
      The folks at Something Weird fully intend to keep Mike's incredible legacy intact. Mike may be gone, but his remarkable achievements will live on. One of the happiest days of Mike's life was when legendary David F. Friedman and Dan Sonney called him "the forty-first thief," which to him was the ultimate compliment and recognition for his work. We'd like to think that Mike's now hanging out with his old pals Dave and Dan, reminiscing and talking shop with Dwain Esper, Kroger Babb, Barry Mahon, Joe Sarno, Doris Wishman, Bob Cresse, Dale Berry, Michael Findlay and all the other exploiteers and smut peddlers who've gone to the great grindhouse in the sky.
      We will miss Mike with all our hearts. Goodbye dear friend, husband, father, and fearless leader…
      -- Lisa Petrucci, Tim Lewis, Kendall Bechtel, Mark Vraney, Danielle Vraney of Something Weird Video

Thursday, January 02, 2014