tom moody

Archive for the ‘art as criticism’ Category

kc reference



- tom moody

May 20th, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Posted in art as criticism

better watch out

I made this DVD cover as a thought experiment (previous example). Whereas Hellman's film Cockfighter will never get the Criterion treatment for an absolute certainty, because of animal rights activists and general distaste for southern cracker entertainment, this 1989 entry in the yuletide nightmare franchise might actually... nah.


It's a pretty good effort, rather droll and arch as it delivers the goods to the teenage date market. The protagonist is a cute blind girl with psychic powers; the bad guy is the serial killer from previous films (I think) who was revived from the dead by a well-meaning (!) scientist, played by Richard Beymer (later Benjamin Horne in Twin Peaks). More future Lynch actors show up: wifebeater Leo from Peaks and Laura Harring, twelve years before her breakout role in Mulholland Drive.

The serial killer wears a transparent plastic dome on his head that, as the movie progresses, shows clearer and clearer views of his exposed brain matter underneath the plastic. By the end, we even see reddish fluid sloshing around in there. Ick.

The film is never boring but moves slowly. Shots are carefully framed, especially closeups of the heroine, who looks like a Seventeen cover model and is smart, resourceful (at least when she's not walking up to the killer and touching his face), and surprisingly acid-tongued. An early scene with a shrink establishes that she's full of anger over the loss of her parents and that's why she keeps insulting everyone with rude one-liners throughout the movie.

Unless you are an IMDb commenter ("I feel that this is the absolute worst" etc), you can tell this movie was made by a slumming auteur. It's too smart, and the camera work and editing too assured, for the cheesy '80s series that launched with a topless Linnea Quigley running from an ax. In turns dreamlike and sarcastic, SNDN3:BWO is Two Lane Blacktop with decapitations.

- tom moody

May 20th, 2017 at 8:28 am

Posted in art as criticism, films

notes on cockfighter

I made this fake DVD cover as a thought experiment. Like Magritte's non-pipe, this object could not, and will not exist. This is one Monte Hellman film that will never get the "Criterion treatment." Some reviews of the film from internet sources (below) suggest why. A "real" DVD cover (or poster, or something, also found on the internet) is at the bottom of the post.



Frank Mansfield (Warren Oates) is one of the most respected "handlers" on the cockfighting circuit. He loses an impromptu match against his rival Burke (Harry Dean Stanton) and thus puts himself out of the running for the coveted "Cockfighter of the Year" award. He rightfully blames the incident on his big mouth and vows not to say a word until he's won the prize. Not to his family, his partner, or even his girl.

As in the earlier Two-Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman takes a long look at people competing at the fringes of society, misfit drifters trying to prove themselves -- and make a buck -- in an edgy niche. Frank and his associates are participating in a cowardly, brutal, sadistic "sport" where their only concerns are the odds and the payoff. Frank gets by quite well without his voice because he has little to say that doesn't involve negotiating the terms of a fight. He's an unusual subject for a character study, as he seems to lack much character. And yet, Oates turns in an excellent facial and physical performance that conveys Frank's thoughts, and manages to imbue him with a shred (just a shred, mind you) of something resembling humanity.

The fights are pretty visceral and the film doesn't flinch. I was prepared to be disturbed and offended, but hell, I had chicken strips for dinner last night. I couldn't work up enough hypocrisy to get too worked up by it. [Nestor] Almendros also films them with a hypnotic beauty, abstract flurries of beaks and feathers and blood.

On the whole I prefer Two-Lane Blacktop, but as a single performance, this is the best I've seen from Oates. Although you occasionally get to hear him in voiceover or flashback, for the most part he plays it silent, and does so very effectively. His gestures communicate to the other characters, and his eyes communicate to the audience. I also really enjoyed Richard Shull as Frank's partner, a fun and glib character who provides some of the film's lighter moments. As I've said before, Stanton doesn't do much for me but he's okay here.

This was a tricky movie for me. For a large part of it I had kind of a blasé "so what?" attitude about it, and then it dawned on me that I was actually enjoying it. It gradually grew on me to the point where I was really invested in seeing what this offbeat -- and largely unsympathetic -- character would get into.

Cult Reviews:

Cockfighter is an extraordinary film from more than just one viewpoint. Charles Willeford‘s authentic script and Hellman‘s carefully researched preparations catapult you straight back to the gloomiest regions of the contemporary America’s deep south, where sleazy Georgia locals gather around, cheering and money-waiving, to witness two animals fight to the death. It’s basically a repulsive topic, and also one of the main reasons why the film was a tremendous box office flop at the time, but only through actually making the effort of watching Cockfighter, you will notice the film does not primarily thrive on animal cruelty and clandestine sports. Cockfighter depicts the story of one man’s obsession and how he will stop at nothing to accomplish a pre-determined goal. Frank Mansfield is a natural born cock-fighter. Throughout all of his life, he trained cocks and was considered the best in business. A couple of years earlier, he became overly haughty and lost his biggest prize fighter over a stupid and meaningless bet. Since then, Frank took a vow of complete silence and dedicates his entire existence to the training of new cocks so that he will eventually regain the medal of best cock-fighter. His obsession slowly costs him everything, including the house where his brother lives, his old friends and even the love and respect of the one woman he cares about.


- tom moody

May 9th, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Posted in art as criticism, films

adolf loos' bedroom


Photo from the New York Times, in an article describing the above room, designed by Viennese modernist architect Adolf Loos (as recreated in 2014):

The [room] was devised as a dreamy spectacle by... Loos, in 1903 for himself and his wife, Lina. The bed, draped with a white silk sheet, appears to float over an opulent white fur rug, and white linen curtains mask the walls. The only color that is not white is the azure blue of the carpet.

The I Like & Like blog found an interpretation that's even more colorful:

The white room that Loos designed for Lina, his blonde, blue-eyed, nineteen-year-old wife, was the most intimate place in the house. The white walls, the white draperies and the white angora sheepskins created a sensual and delicate fluidity; every object in the room was white. Even the closets were concealed behind pale linen drapes. This was an architecture of silence, of a sentimental and erotic approach. Its contrast with the more public living spaces attests to a method of composition that was strictly governed by the psychological status of each room. – Panayotis Tournikiotis, Adolf Loos, Princeton Architectural Press, 2002, p. 36.

Yet, it resembles a hospital room done up for Ed Wood -- the clinical vibe is distinctly un-erotic. It also anticipates the hotel room as improvised sterile space in Stephen Frears' 2002 movie Dirty Pretty Things:


(image via the Internet)

Imagine being Loos's child bride and having to live in this environment. No red wine, please! Modernists, you can't live with them, you can't kill them. And lest anyone get carried away with the "beauty" of the room, here's a photo of the genuine article, from the early 1900s (image via I Like & Like):


Tales from the Crypt.

(hat tip Deborah Mesa-Pelly, who has a show up invoking this bedroom and other oddities)

- tom moody

April 29th, 2017 at 12:32 pm

censorship, 1970s-style

Going through the Discogs database recalled this racy LP cover (how could anyone forget this?):


That was briefly in stores in the US, but by the end of the year (1974) the "censored version" appeared:


Kind of eerie! If you're concerned about a transgressive female image, don't use half-measures. Just show some trees. This was decades before the erased-in-Photoshop genre appeared (e.g. removing the victims of the Kent State shooting using the "clone tool") so it seems almost presciently eerie.

- tom moody

April 17th, 2017 at 10:32 am



- tom moody

April 12th, 2017 at 1:09 pm

lazy YT-jaying: The Trip

According to the liner notes for Pebbles Vol 3, Kim Fowley wrote "The Trip," a mocku-psych 45 rpm record performed by LA disc jockey "Godfrey."
Here is the "rare long version": [YouTube]

it's that time, babe / it's time to take a trip /
gonna leave this place / and all the rat race
everything's so pretty / miles from any city /
just you and i / and the big blue sky

We 21st Century humans like to think our culture moves at Wi-Fi-Hi speed but this is a parody of psychedelia while it was happening (1966). That's a pretty tight discursive loop.

- tom moody

April 8th, 2017 at 10:12 pm

internet aware gift shop


yesterday's bad art theory is today's great gift shop

- tom moody

April 6th, 2017 at 7:38 pm memorial, part 3


The creator of the shabby-chic meme above, Chris Duncan, quit dumping long before died but this makes a nice memorial. Duncan went on to an excellent career as a Vine troll, harassing random urbanites and uploading their reactions. E.g., "You ride your motorcycle like a real weenie!" Duncan's dump memes were noteworthy for being made in MSPaint and saved as degraded jpegs. This one is missing the characteristic artifacts. The football jersey font was typical.

- tom moody

February 27th, 2017 at 9:09 am

milutis essay comments


Comments to Joe Milutis' Hyperallergic article on slowly trickle in (hat tip stage for upset "I Don't Get It Guy"):

sara • 15 days ago

Rene sucks d*nkey d*ck [asterisks in the original --tm]

Ross L. Gould • 2 days ago

No mention of deal with it??? Did you ever even dump bro?

tom moody • 11 hours ago

Thanks to Joe Milutis for this eulogy. Dump is hard to write about, and anyone who attempts to nail the experience risks becoming the IDGI Guy (a grumpy stock photo actor who, in real life, was one of the first people not to get Dump -- he and the photographer complained loudly until Jeanette Hayes painted IDGI Guy's portrait in oils -- then they got it). In fact, every dumper thinks they "get it" and will greet another's theories with sllence or abuse, hence this comment section. I said to one dumper that "Rene sucks d*nkey d*ck" was kind of a lame response and the dumper said the comment was "probably about the aspects of dump Milutis forgot to mention or couldn't fit in." And I said, "You're reading a lot into 'Rene sucks d*nkey d*ck.'"

tom moody • 5 minutes ago

And as for not covering "deal with it," the answer is -- [slowly descending sunglasses] -- "deal with it."

- tom moody

February 22nd, 2017 at 6:23 am