Monday, August 31, 2009

First Heard in August 2009 - "Will I Always Hate Myself?"


I have been listening to the same music since college, so I devised a little project that will spur me to actively pursue new jams. Each month, I will post a mix of the best songs that I heard for the first time within those 30 or so days. Won't you follow me on this journey? Thrill to the futuresounds? Mock me for being late to the party?

VOL 2.:

I didn't realize this as I was assembling them, but these mixes (only two so far) seem to be telling a story. I'm not saying you should read into the lyrics (I know I respond more to melody than lyrics when I am listening), but I have noticed some interesting coincidences in hindsight. The first one feels kind of sunny, upbeat, reflecting the excitement of having just moved to New York. This month is a little darker, more uncertain, the thrill is starting to wear off and I actually have to make a living. But honestly, the thought process in the moment was more along the lines of, "This song was in an awesome montage on 'Skins!'" It's not such a great show, though that montage is pretty amazing.

But maybe there is some truth in this line from M. Ward by way of Daniel Johnston, as I grapple every five minutes with the fear of not knowing whether I am talented enough to win this battle of wills with New York City: "I'll be true to you forever or until I go home."


001 Jason E Anderson - Half
002 MGMT - Time to Pretend
003 Santogold - Lights Out
004 The Antlers - Bear
005 Andrew Bird - Anonanimal
006 YACHT - Psychic City
007 Pale Young Gentlemen - Wedding Guest
008 Asobi Seksu - Nefi + Girly
009 Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
010 John Vanderslice - Too Much Time
011 M. Ward - To Go Home
012 Mount Eerie - Wind Speaks
013 Common & Mark the 45 King - Car Horn (Madlib Remix)
014 Dirty Projectors - No Intention
015 Mew - Beach
016 Le Futur Pompiste - Seeds
017 Minus Story - I Will Be Fighting
018 Feist - 1234 (Van She Tech Remix)


If you love this song, you may very well love the rest:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Film Gauge - "Inglourious Basterds" (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

What: "Inglourious Basterds" (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
When: Friday, August 21st, 2009 1:30 PM
Where: AMC 34th St. (34th St. & 8th Ave.)

Since his left-field debut with 1992's Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino has been a divisive figure, simultaneously heralded as a bold and singular voice in contemporary American film and derided as a human jukebox of regurgitated junk cinema signifiers shot through with Gen X irony. What the latter criticisms miss about Tarantino, and what the post-Pulp Fiction tidal wave of shallow "Tarantino-esque" shoot-em-ups have only served to reinforce, is the supreme confidence and control present in his work, the assuredness of his own voice. Much ink is spilled about the referential nature of Tarantino's films, as well as the meandering, often pop culture-infused soliloquies he places in the mouths of his characters. However, he rarely gets the credit due to him for his ability both as a visual stylist and as a director of actors to create an atmosphere of tension, crackling with the power of what is left unsaid amidst the arias. Nowhere is this more evident than in his latest effort, the sprawling, intimate WWII fantasia Inglourious Basterds.

Basterds, by virtue of its epic development history, perhaps couldn't help but confound expectations when it premiered at Cannes in May. Certainly, the trailers focusing on Brad Pitt and his titular platoon (who, in truth, are but a single piece of a larger tapestry) didn't help matters. Some viewers seemed flummoxed by the predominantly dialogue-heavy nature of the completed film, but the main criticism appears to center on Tarantino's interpretation of history. The question of artistic responsibility arises when dealing with the dramatization of real-life events, especially events as atrocious as those surrounding the Holocaust, and Tarantino's seeming reduction of this moment in time to a Jews vs. Nazis spaghetti-western has ruffled some feathers. There is perhaps a case to be made against Tarantino's championing of a battalion of Jewish-American soldiers who engage in the same grisly inhumanity shown by the Nazis toward the Jewish people with no discussion of the moral cost of vengeance. However, that seems to be missing the point.

Ultimately, it is unwise to approach the film on such literal terms, and the genuinely thrilling climax that Tarantino so skillfully builds toward [spoiler redacted] should dispel any notion one may hold of the filmmaker's designs on historical or sociological accuracy. With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino is painting in broad strokes, making a movie not so much about the particulars of WWII history but of WWII iconography, and moreover the ancient storytelling trope of the underdog turning the tables on its oppressor. He is propagandizing the moviegoing experience itself, the pleasure and satisfying simplicity of righting humanity's wrongs through fiction. Basterds, in fact, may be Tarantino's most reverent celebration of the power of cinema in a long career steeped in the cinematic. Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), another fantastic Tarantino heroine in the grand tradition of Uma Thurman's Beatrix Kiddo, and arguably the true hero of the film, literally uses the movie theater she operates as a weapon to bring down the forces responsible for the extermination of her family. This subplot, the culmination of which dovetails in the finale with the exploits of The Basterds and Col. Hans "The Jew Hunter" Landa (a sure-to-be Oscar-nominated Christoph Waltz), holds the key to Inglourious Basterds.

In his reimagining of the events of the second World War, Quentin Tarantino has achieved something akin to the period piece version of Werner Herzog's "ecstatic truth." Herzog coined this term to describe his documentary work, wherein he attempts to find a truth that is beyond facts, deeper than facts, and it can be said that Tarantino has done something similar here. Putting the real-life fates of Hitler, Göring, Goebbels and Bormann aside, and disregarding the fact that Shosanna Dreyfus, Lt. Aldo Raine and Col. Hans Landa never actually existed, Basterds hits upon a truth about humanity and our relationship to art that transcends the details of history. Tarantino shows us that, although mankind has a tendency toward cruelty that we can never truly disavow (just as the Nazi soldiers that The Basterds encounter are left with a permanent reminder of their actions), we are just as equally capable of great artistic expression.

For that, Inglourious Basterds may just be, as Pitt reflects in the film's final line, his masterpiece.

Click here to see the "Inglourious Basterds" trailer

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Genres & Judgements - Comic Book Trek, Master of the Demo, and Weaponized Club Owners

First up, the song of the week:

"Sitting in the Midday Sun" by The Kinks, Preservation, Act I (1973)

Since today is the end of my vacation, I'm revisiting one of my all-time favorite songs from The Kinks. Ray Davies is one of the more under-appreciated songwriters in rock history, in my opinion, and this one really shows off his brilliance. A particularly good selection to listen to on a lazy afternoon.
We begin this entry into nerddom with a quick review of Star Trek: Countdown (2009), the comic prequel to the latest big screen adventure of Gene Roddenberry's progeny, Star Trek. I adored the new Trek movie. It and District 9 were far and away the two movies I've enjoyed most in the theater this summer thus far. However, it was not perfect.
The best thing about this comic's existence is that it nicely fills in a few of the minor plot holes I felt existed in JJ Abrams' film, partly because Robert Oci and Alex Kurtzman developed the plot for this story in addition to scripting the screenplay with Abrams. Want to know how Spock and Nero came at odds? Curious as to how Nero became a captain? Want to know what those Romulan face tats were all about? And aren't you wondering what the hell Jean Luc and Mister Data are doing on this damn cover? Read, and all shall be revealed.
In short, it's a well-executed comic that contained plot points that would have slowed the film down more than what was necessary for most viewers. I can live with their exclusion now that we have this adaptation to go along with it. This is certainly worth your time if you enjoyed the tenth Star Trek film.
Jumping from an official prequel to a quasi-prequel, fans of last season's sleeper HBO hit Eastbound and Down might want to check out Danny McBride's previous role in The Foot Fist Way (2008). In truth, the two projects have nothing to do with each other outside of McBride's presence and the involment of a few other behind-the-scenes people, including director/costar Jody Hill and producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
The biggest differences between the two are that Foot Fist is about a Taekwondo instructor while Eastbound is about a wash-up professional pitcher, Foot Fist's main character does not have a mullet while Eastbound's does (a major improvement, if I do say), and Foot Fist's dramatic elements are more prevalent than the more-humorous Eastbound.
Between the two, I enjoyed Eastbound more simply because it's even more ridiculous than McBride's earlier projects had been (okay, maybe not more so than his character in Pineapple Express, but still). The Foot Fist Way is great to wet your beak if you're jonesin' for season two of Eastbound to come back to the airwaves, but taken as an individual film, it has its moments, but overall is just okay.
Moving along to my very different Netflix entry of the week, which was also a bit of a mixed bag.
A mid-70s film noir from experimental filmmaker John Cassavetes, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) tells the tale of Cosmo Vitelli, a womanizing, modern-day cabaret club owner with a sizable gambling debt. That debt leads to the title of the film. As a noir connoisseur, I found that there were some really great bits in this movie. Unfortunately, those bits are strung far apart in the grand scheme of the film. It reminds me a little of Scorsese's Mean Streets in that it has some parts down pat, but the sum total of the story just doesn't come together into anything ultimately satisfying.
After doing some research on the film before writing here, I learned that I viewed the director's cut, which has the unusual distinction of being shorter than the theatrical release by nearly 30 minutes. Apparently the original version has even more cabaret numbers included in it, which is just complete self-indulgence from Cassavetes. At least he was smart enough to excise much of that out of his second edit of the film, because I can't imagine sitting through a half hour of extra songs (that, perhaps purposefully, were not particularly good in the first place).
Cassavetes has one of those reputations as a great filmmaker, and this was my first viewing of a directorial effort from him. I'm filled with a bit of trepidation to dip my toe in his pond in the near future, but this film probably has some artistic merit, maybe even worthy of watching the two versions back-to-back for you film deconstructionists out there.
Most-Unfortunate Person of the Week:
The way-too-excited-for-having-finally-gotten-laid, Facebook-illiterate lady shown below. (via The Daily What and Fail Blog)

Gotta love her "friends" though.
Coming Up Next Week:
  • I finished watching the first two seasons of Mad Men this week as well, but that show is so dense, I haven't arrived at anything worthy to say about it yet. Because of this, I'm going to catch up with the new season's episodes and hopefully find some words for it next time.
  • I finally got my grubby little hands on a copy of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain. I'm not sure if I'll finish it in the next week, but most of my reading efforts will be here.
  • Upcoming Netflix reviews will likely include Fanboys and The Yakuza.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Genres & Judgements - Fathers and Sons, the Sexually Depraved, Dirty Cops and Prawns

First up, the song of the week:

"Little Toy Gun" by honeyhoney, First Rodeo (2008)

I'm still riding high with Explosions in the Sky this week, but here's a song by honeyhoney that I was into a few months back. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it caught on since then and, at this point, probably won't. But it's catchy, kinda fun and the video features and was directed by Kiefer Sutherland. That's probably the only reason it made it to my radar in the first place, but I'm glad it did. The album is pretty decent overall, but the song is definitely the choice number. Enjoy.
As promised last week, I devoured Cormac McCarthy's The Road in two days. Simply put, it is fantastic. Somehow, I had no idea going into it that it was a Pulitzer winner (amongst many other awards) and an Oprah Book Club entry, just that there was a film adaptation coming out soon and it was supposedly amazing. Well, if John Hillcoat even gets 10 percent of the source material right, it'll be in Best Picture contention at the 2010 Academy Awards without a doubt.
The Road is a haunting read. I switched from unsettled to relieved, horrified to overjoyed, and mystified to overwhelmed in the span of mere pages. McCarthy can reduce me to awe repeatedly as I traveled the way with his story.
Since finishing it, I have racked my brain for a novel I either enjoyed more or just thought was better. I came to three realizations. The first: no, I'm near-certain that I haven't read a better novel. Second: I don't have a top-5, top-1o or any other "top" list when it comes to novels. I can rattle off my five favorite movies, comics, bands, and pizza toppings without a second thought, but I somehow never thought about novels in this way, or at least it had been so long since I had, I'd forgotten which ones would have made such a list. This leads me to my final realization: I have a new number one now.
I feel silly even trying to explain what it's about. I won't be able do it justice. You may not even think it's possible that you could enjoy such a narrative as basic as I'd have to boil it down to in order to ensure you're spoiler-free. Instead I will say, just read the damn thing.
Soon enough, I expect to be inundated with trailers, positive reviews and, if it's a slow news week, cable news segments discussing how to either avoid the setting in which the book is set through adopting more green technologies or how maybe the rest of the world devolve to that point, but never Americans.
While I don't have any words to summarize it, this image (above) from the film captures what I think I would attempt to say.
So why review this here? The Road is certainly not a low brow piece, but it does deal with some of the classic genre fic that we love here at LowBrowMedia. However, it treats that genre with literary grandeur. To me, that is what more fiction from the high and low brow worlds should attempt to do a little more often: steal some tricks from the other.
As for my second bullet point last week, I only got around to completing half of it, and sadly it was a bit of a chore. Choke (2008), an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same name.
The movie alters it's tone rather liberally from absurd comedy to some fairly intense drama, which doesn't really work. Sam Rockwell is perfectly cast in the lead as the creepy, yet charming sex addict whom the film follows and does a fine job with the material, but he's pretty much the only worthwhile highlight in this one.
Wait for a 4 a.m. showing of Choke on HBO in a few years when you can't sleep to check it out if you must.
I also started watching season one of The Shield this week, a show that's been on my list for many years. I have mixed opinions on it. Sure, it was good and probably really floored people in 2002 when it came out, but I cannot help but compare it to the far-superior cop drama The Wire.
Full disclosure, I adore The Wire. Not only is it the finest cop/street life show I've ever seen, it's also flat-out my favorite show of all time, with only the grand opus that is Battlestar Galactica giving it a run for the top slot in my Best TV Shows list. Sooooo... you could say it has an uphill battle ahead of it with me. It's not fair, but it is what it is.
That said, I've liked what I've seen thus far enough to keep watching and, since it went on for seven seasons, it probably gets a little better deeper into its run. At least that's what I'm hoping. Other than the Commish, I didn't recognize any of the other actors, so I have no idea who's going to get killed, move on to other projects off camera or anything like that.
I'm hoping for more Dutch screen time since I know I'll get plenty of Vic awesomeness. That guy just makes me feel better for being a tall, awkward white guy.
Further updates on the show will come as I finish watching each season.
After starting off my week with a bang, it ended at another high point after seeing the brand spankin' new District 9 (2009). I was completely enthralled by this film. There's quite a bit of understated humor mixed with realistic, situational politics and human nature. Oh, and things get blowed up. A lot.
I'm not really sure what other movies to even compare it to. It just feels unique. It does tease a bit with your expectations based on the Michael Bay flicks you've seen and uses the techniques of Cloverfield to much better use. The international cast helps the impression of originality, because you know a Will Smith isn't going anywhere in the first act of Independence Day. There is no A-list performer in District 9 (to my knowledge). Not recognizing anyone gives my mind the freedom to allow for any possibility; something that can't happen in a Hollywood production.
I love how our heroes emerge, how they interact with each other and how it all wraps up. It was a complete movie that doesn't try to be a franchise like so many others, like Jumper, have been in recent years.
I do have a few nit-picks with the structure of it, but they're nothing as egregious as, say, a Saving Private Ryan that distracts you from enjoying the movie. Since it's still so new, I don't want to relay that info just yet. I probably will down the line as the film settles in my mind a bit.
But see this movie. It was great and certainly worth the big-screen experience.
The "I LOVE Science" Moment of the Week:

Behold! The shape-shifting condom! (via Popular Science)

Thank you, Mormons!
Coming up next week:
I'm on vay-cay this week, so the potential for me to be busy is there.
  • I'm hoping to polish off Greg Rucka's Private Wars, the prequel comic Star Trek: Countdown to the latest movie, and Batman: Dark Victory from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
  • On the Netflix front, I may finally get around to The Foot Fist Way and also have The Killing of a Chinese Bookie in my clutches now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First Heard in July 2009 - "Guess Your Having Fun"


I have been listening to the same music since college. New things here and there, but I rarely stray from my core constellation of faves - including various side, solo and other satellite projects. In my zeal to consume comedy, movies and comic books, the joys of discovering music fell by the wayside. My pop culture time was monopolized by the visual.

Inspired by a friend, I devised a little project that will spur me to actively pursue new jams (things I slept on, passed on arbitrarily, lost relics, up-and-comers, fresh bangers from old favorites, artifacts from a 2.2-gig Madlib torrent I just finished downloading): At the end of each month, I will post a mix of the best songs that I heard for the first time within those 30 or so days.

Won't you follow me on this journey? Thrill to the futuresounds? Mock me for being late to the party?

VOL 1.:


001 Busdriver - The Troglodyte Wins
002 Beirut - Scenic World
003 Caribou - Sandy
004 Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
005 Yo La Tengo - If It's True
006 Alaska in Winter - We Are Blind And Riding the Merry-Go-Round
007 Quasimoto - Microphone Mathematics
008 The Honeydrips - Fall From A Height
009 Coconut Records - Ask Her To Dance
010 Atlas Sound (w/ Noah Lennox) - Walkabout
011 David Vandervelde - I Will Be Fine
012 Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass
013 Beach House - Heart of Chambers
014 Four Tet - Chiron
015 Islands - Rough Gem
016 High Places - From Stardust to Sentience
017 cLOUDDEAD - Apt A Side A
018 Fleet Foxes - Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

Friday, August 07, 2009

Genres & Judgments - Power Rings, Zombies and Rupert Murdoch

Welcome to "Genres and Judgments," my new sub-blog for LBM that can include essentially anything I want to write about, but the core of it will be snapshot reviews and commentary of the movies, novels, television, comics, music and news that I've been exposed to over the past week and feel are worthwhile passing along to interweb at large, whether it be in a positive light or not.

I've never cataloged everything I've watched/read/listened to in a week before, so it'll be interesting to see how this week rates over the long haul, but I have to say that I'm pretty impressed with what I was able to fill my time with (and I'm only touching on the most interesting things here).

Anyway, onto the first entry...

First up, the song of the week:

"The Birth and Death of the Day" by Explosions in the Sky, All the Sudden I Miss Everyone (2007)

After my recent obsession with Friday Night Lights (the tv show), I learned that these guys did the score for the feature film and that the show's original music is inspired by their work and has on occasion actually utilized some of their songs. I read up on them, and realized I'm coming really late to this party, as they have a substantial fan base. They're hard to describe, but everything I've heard from them thus far is instrumental and riddled with distortion, but it has a violent elegance to it that I find undeniably appealing. This song in particular really grabs me, and I've been listening to it every day on my journey home from the gym of late. Hasn't gotten old yet.

Next is the new animated feature from DC, Green Lantern: First Flight on bluray.

I know very little about GL, but I keep hearing about how great the recent run by Geoff Johns has been. So between knowing that he's being treated right over at DC and that the first live-action version of the character will be coming our way in a years or two with Ryan Reynolds, I thought it was time I boned up on Sector 2814.
The picture, as expected, was gorgeous and contained a lot of really interesting bonus features, including some Justice League episodes from a few years back. The story is a little light in the character development department, even for a DC animated flick, but still enjoyable and, aside from the sudden shifts to computer animation during land/space-scape sequences, the art was very strong. Definitely worth checking out.

Shifting to the page now, I finally got around to reading the first collected volume of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. You have to know that I'm generally not a fan of zombie stories. To me, there isn't much to work with. The zombies themselves are boring -- they have no personality, no motivation save devouring the living, no chance at earning redemption on their own -- I could go on. Many will argue that good zombie stories are not about the zombies; they're about the people affected by the zombies. This I can buy, and it's what Kirkman goes with here, but I much prefer a post-apocalyptic story to bring out the very same character moments that are elicited from EVERY ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER. Sure, many zombie movies are also of the post-apocalypse varaity, but I feel the gangs of The Road Warrior and the politicians and tribal clans of Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten's Wasteland are far superior at both creating drama and that opportunity for action than the traditional zombie story. Maybe The Walking Dead gets better. I'm not in a hurry to find out.

Now It's Time to Get Serious on Your Ass.
Super-cutie CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin writes in her Media Money blog that Rupert Murdoch announced today that NewsCorp will begin to charge for all their online newpaper content in the coming months.

"The digital revolution has opened many new models of distribution, but it has not made content free." Murdoch pointed to the Wall Street Journal's subscription service as proof that people will pay for content, saying "Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting."

True, quality journalism is not cheap, but the genie is already out of the bottle on this one, old man. The newspaper industry (how much longer before we stop refering to it as that?) is going to have to continue to evolve over the next decade into something financially viable, but charging for content that can similarly be obtained for free at so many other outlets is not going to work across the board. Sure, it works for the WSJ, but only a handful of publications in the world have a product with reputation like that (the NY Times and the Washington Post are two notable examples). Simply slapping a fee on anything you produce will not work for the majority of internet news readers. There may have been a time when this could have happened, but not any longer. You're 15 years too late. As those of us out here who are web-savy have already learned, if you want to get something for free on the internet, you can. All it takes is a Google search and a forum or blog that has utilized this new-fangled, cut-and-paste technology. Next thing you know, Murdoch's going to come up with a plan to recoup his MySpace loses by creating a user fee for that site too. The Facebook folks will thank him when he does.

And now I undigress with something that I really didn't need to know about this week, but now that I do, you should too.

"Adult toy" for dogs (via Boing Boing)

This doll comes in three sizes: small, medium and large, to satisfy all existing races. “I had the idea to make this doll when my Maltese started to grab everybody’s legs. I did some research and couldn’t find anything like it, anywhere in the world. I decided to make it!”, reveals Marco Giroto, owner of the PetSmiling company, responsible for this worldwide novelty...


Coming Up Next Week:
  • Speaking of post-apocalypic stories, I'll begin delving into Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I've not tackled one of the modern-day Faulkner's novels before, so we'll see if I'm able to finish it in time for next week's article.
  • Also, Choke and The Foot Fist Way have arrived from Netfilx, so it'll likely be a week of raunchy comedies reviews, if my expectations are met.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Film Gauge - "The Holy Mountain" (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973)

What: "The Holy Mountain" (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973)
When: Saturday, August 1st, 2009 12:00 AM
Where: IFC Center (323 6th Ave.)

Art cinema is a world often concerned first and foremost with the filmmaker's "vision." The likes of plot and character development are secondary to the allegorical. As such, stripped of the more tangible delights of narrative storytelling, an art film lives or dies on the strength of said filmmaker's point of view. "The Holy Mountain," Alejandro Jodorowsky's incredible 1973 work, is certainly not at a loss for ideas. An assemblage of beautiful, disturbing, indelible images, it can be read as any number of things, from a sledgehammer-symbolic screed against imperialism (religious, capitalist and otherwise) and the marginalization of minority cultures, to an absurd sketch comedy, to an epic-scale middle finger extended at Art itself. Jodorowsky proves to be a rather prickly character, and ultimately quite hard to pin down.

The director undoubtedly has big things on his mind. From the outset, the film follows protagonist Hector Salinas (billed as "The Thief," a sort of Christ-like, Forrest Gumpian straw man) into an unidentified city flanked by gas mask-clad soldiers. Hispanic civilians are executed by firing squad for the benefit of ecstatic Caucasian tourists, who chatter away, snapping pictures. A female tourist is raped by one of the soldiers as she urges her husband to get a good shot of the action. Following this display, The Thief happens upon an all-frog production of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire that ends in torrents of blood. Later on, the film profiles a war toy manufacturer that conditions children to attack "brown native vampires" and to worship a superhero named Captain Captain who fights "The Peruvian Monster." The concern Jodorowsky expresses about imperialism and the demonization of "The Other" through these outsized, darkly humorous setpieces is genuine, as is his view on the commodification of art. In an extended montage that presages the condensed visual exposition of filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson, we meet a man who runs an "art factory" that features an assembly line of people pressing their paint-covered asses to canvas.

Every bona fide "point" Jodorowsky makes, however, is undercut by a moment of flat-out comedy. In a bit reminiscent of the absurd internal logic of a Mr. Show sketch, the art dealer shows us his "love machine," a device that is impregnated by a giant metallic phallus and gives birth to a smaller love machine that screams and cries like a newborn baby. He even includes some cartoonish moments that seem to poke fun at the kind of heavy-handed political satire featured prominently in the first act of the film. A grotesque couple first seen in various sexually deviant and bathroom-related tableaux (for whatever reason, their toilet is about 5 feet tall) are revealed to be financial advisors to "the president." After suggesting exterminating the population to save the economy, they retreat to their poolside villa to bottle-feed their baby snake. As the war toy manufacturer discusses her company's clientele, Jodorowsky has some fun with such generic phrases as "the politics of the government," which is represented by a shadowy group of mismatched world leaders.

Though, rather than trying so hard to parse Jodorowsky's intentions and what it all means, perhaps the best course of action is just to let the parade of awe-inspiring images wash over you. Jodorowsky is a gifted visualist, and the film boasts many scenes of odd, startling beauty that would seem only to be cheapened by over-analysis. In the fantastic opening sequence, Jodorowsky (as "The Alchemist") shaves the heads of two twin girls in some arcane ritual. A flock of sparrows burst forth from a gunshot wound. An old man removes his false eye and presses it adoringly into the palm of a ridiculously young, Mary Magdalene-esque prostitute. A man is chased through an M.C. Escher-inspired house by a group of children dressed as mice. An old, naked man with half a beard and jaguar heads in place of his nipples screams as the jaguars spit milk into another man's face. With images like this, who cares what they mean?

Ultimately, Jodorowsky himself seems at a loss, deciding that the entire enterprise is meaningless. As The Thief, The Alchemist and the whole crew make their trek to the titular Holy Mountain to find the secret to immortality, they come across a bar peopled by travelers who have given up on the quest and turned to various false idols. One man, brandishing an assortment of drugs, explains that his Holy Mountain lies within his pill bottles. Another opines that he can't climb the mountain because he can only move horizontally. The road to enlightenment, it seems, leads to a tourist trap. Ever the smart-ass, Jodorowsky goes one step further, drawing our attention to the artificiality of the film itself, urging us to leave the theater as "real life awaits." The final moment, while prankish, is somewhat poignant, giving us permission to find our own meaning in the journey of life.

Click here to see the "Holy Mountain" trailer