2016

I am pretty excited about the arrival of 2016. Why? Because I have been waiting four years to watch 2016 Obama’s America, the masterpiece of 2012!

Dinesh D’Souza‘s critique and warning of what the world would look like in 2016 was widely seen, particularly for political documentaries. The reviews at the time were pretty scathing with a Tomatomater rating of 25%. I paid it little attention at the time, but decided if the president won a second term, I would watch the documentary in 2016.

The film is a bit difficult to find today. However one streaming service offers it: Hulu.

After watching it, I am a bit disappointed. I hoped it would make some real predictions about 2016. The film mostly suggests that President Obama’s rampant anti-colonialism will destroy the United States by raising taxes to as much as 100% of income in an attempt to redistribute that money not to poor people here, but poor people abroad. Obama is criticized for not using his position as president to make his extended international family wealthy as well. D’Souza also indicates that Obama has never, nor will he ever, take a stand against Iran’s nuclear program because he is in favor of Iran and similar countries throwing off the yoke of colonialism.

D’Souza does speak to a couple of people who know the president, but it’s mostly filled with people afraid of him guessing about things he might do while presenting them as things they know he will do.

At the time, some people praised the production values as a higher class of political polemic, however there are many instances of bad audio, poor looping and sometimes no mics being used at all. The issues are constant enough to cast doubt in one bit where the filmmakers appear to be acting slyly. The clip features the president at some manner of a town hall. He is fumbling with his words, stopping and starting, starting and stopping. At the end of the clip, he tells the crowd he is happy they are fired up, but he needs to finish what he is saying. Of course, you only hear audio from his microphone with no sound heard from the crowd even though the president references it. Are they trying to make him look bad for starting and restarting when not using a teleprompter? Or is it that the editor is so inexperienced he didn’t know you are supposed to add in natural sound? Maybe the confusion about it is intentional.

I was a bit baffled as D’Souza hammered George Obama because he wasn’t angry that he hadn’t suddenly become wealthy and powerful because of his relationship with the president. It’s as if D’Souza is upset that nepotism didn’t run rampant. Is he suggesting that if he were elected that it would?

Ultimately, it wasn’t worth the four year wait to see the film, although I am glad waiting saved me from seeing it for a few years.

31 Nights of Horror: Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Halloween has arrived as has the final installment of 2013’s 31 Nights of Horror. Choosing a title for today was actually a little difficult. Fortunately Turner Classic Movies saw fit to provide a solution. While I have previously seen Hammer’s Horror of Dracula, I had not seen its 1966 sequel.

Horror of Dracula ended with Christopher Lee’s Dracula being reduced to ash via sunlight. I suspected that was the end of Dracula, and this sequel would simply ignore the prior film. Not so! Apparently in the 10 or so years between visitors to the ominous castle, Dracula’s henchmen swept up the ashes and kept them in a little box. He then proceeds to lure a few British tourists to the castle. One of them ventures off to investigate a noise and is killed and strung up over an open sarcophagus. The henchmen then drains the guy’s blood into it, mixing liberally with Dracula’s ashes. One misty revelation later, Dracula is returned. The man’s wife goes looking for her husband and becomes bride number one.

The other couple gets away, but in their escape, there is a carriage accident and the wife suffers a concussion. They are taken to the local monastery where they recover where Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor gives the lowdown on what’s going on. Dracula is still intent on gaining his second bride, though and mounts an assault on the monastery. He loses one bride, captures his desired number two and flees into the night back to his castle. Father Sandor and the husband pursue them and reach them just as they arrive outside the castle. The wife is rescued and Dracula meets his fate in one of the more original and rarely repeated ways in the book of vampire lore.

The film is a lot of fun. There is the gloomy castle. There is the bride of Dracula in a flowing evening gown. There’s the knowing priest who is also a man of action. Everything comes together nicely. You can’t top Christopher Lee as Dracula. But interestingly, he has no dialogue in this film. Lee said what was written was rubbish and he refused to say any of the lines. The film’s writer says he didn’t write any. It’s left for us to decide who’s telling the truth.

Given that vampires have been at a new peak in popularity the last few years, I was thinking about the ideas rooted in Dracula. Did Bram Stoker write Dracula as that Euro-trash guy who comes into the bar and leaves with the woman Stoker was trying to chat up? Is his ability to mesmerize women the writer’s crutch for why he couldn’t hold the interest of women when a man with a thick Eastern European accent came into the room? Probably there’s a paper in there somewhere if someone else hasn’t written it.

31 Nights of Horror: Juan of the Dead

Juan and Lazaro first get wind of the zombie apocalypse while fishing when they catch an orange jumpsuited zombie in the sea. After vowing to tell no one what they’ve seen, they return to Havana where things appear normal. By nightfall, though, the television has stories of US-sponsored dissidents causing problems in the street and encourages everyone to gather the next day for an anti-American rally. Of course gathering all the living in one plaza during the zombie takeover is a bad idea. Juan isn’t political, though. Having avoided the rally, but seeing his big break, he opens a new service: Juan of the Dead–We kill your relatives! Joined by Lazaro’s son California, a trans character going by La China and her beefy boyfriend Primero (who faints at the sight of blood), they make a good living for a while clearing out the undead from people’s houses for a tidy profit (double price for foreigners or people with family living abroad).

After being volunteered to recreate Cuba by the remnants of the military, the transport they’re riding in is infected. In the ensuing struggle, La China is bitten, eventually turns while handcuffed to Juan, and participates in a sprightly dance number before falling to her death. Shaken by the continued deterioration of their socialist paradise, they decide to get out of the city, but how do you escape a city when nothing works?

A Spanish-Cuban coproduction, Alejandro Brugues’ Juan of the Dead is a Cubano-centric response to the zombie genre. Juan is no idealist. He’s just a guy trying to make the best of a bad situation, kind of like he did during the Special Period. Only once are the infected referred to as zombies in the film. After being labeled so by the government, they are all dissidents. There are great one liners, my favorite of which comes while Juan and his group are looking for a car with which to escape Havana. After their first choice has an alarm and dissident inside, they settle into a old, worn car. No one sits in the drivers seat because Juan wanted to ride and no one else knows how to drive. Juan changes position, fights the car into cranking only to have it die after 30 seconds. His response? “Motherfucking Russians that brought these fucked up Lada cars to Cuba!”

Besides the political, the film out does many much higher budgeted pictures in creativity. With everyone on rafts fleeing the island, we get a glimpse of what is at the bottom of the sea. We see a country that’s long teetered at the edge of financial collapse pushed over the edge. Obviously a plague of zombies would go down differently in a poorer nation, but this is the first film I’ve seen that shows what it might be like.

Once again, 31 Nights of Horror veers into comedy, this time with political overtones, but Juan of the Dead is a great movie. I hope to see more Cuban-produced forays into genre cinema.