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Heads Up, Attention!

This blog will self-destruct (be deleted) in three days.  If you have any further interest, your only option will be to go here: http://letterboxd.com/Sternwise/

"Cybertronca Obscura" is essentially now "Cybertronica Obsoleta" and though you may be nostalgic for the movies here, any even any further films which might be coming out even in the next 10 years of the same spirit, I hate to tell you, it's all obsolete and too late to even be 'entertained' by.

All cautionary tales are now obsolete, the line has been crossed, the Rubicon has been crossed, it doesn't fucking matter if anybody watches these movies now. The only people who 'get anything' out of them now are hipster trash who think they're funny and have no interest in contemplating any of what was once their intentded 'content.'

Yes, they all knew, and they tried, but they didn't fail, YOU DID.

Also, the Internet is like a well, it has been 'poisoned.' The psychology of the average internet user is now "just skim, mine and pilfer" and provide nothing and communicate nothing, and attempt to make your little fucking 'business' out of it. Thus nullifying most of what anybody does 'with' the internet.

That's it. Commentary on 'computer shit,' is null and void now considering what 'tech' is about to be sprung on us in the next five years. Nothing will matter and no film nor comment nor opinion will matter by then.

The internet is a poisoned well, there's no 'cleaning' it up. Take that metaphor and contemplate that if you can.

See ya.

Repo Chick

“Repo Chick”

After watching Repo Chick I had a vision. Francis Ford Coppola is going to make a Prequel Trilogy to “The Godfather” entirely made with green screen CG. As a matter of fact, every movie you’ve ever seen is either going to suffer the demise of a “Prequel Trilogy” or a “reboot” with catastrophic results, it must have been in all the directors’ contracts from the very beginning. This “could” have been a good idea, at least until somebody said, “we’ll shoot it all in a studio with a green screen.” 

I don’t know the story behind “Repo Chick” and I don’t want to know. There isn’t simply a big difference in filmmaking from Repo Man to Repo Chick, or style or acting, the most astounding thing is while shooting the first scenes somebody thought it would work, the differences mean nothing when you’re staring at the screen and realize these people aren’t even trying.  At some point these directors we’ve all come to know either stop giving a shit, or they become so out of their minds with arrogance they think people will just suck up anything they put on video. Oh, there is something being said in this “movie” but truthfully, I’ve sort of seen it already. Watch “War, Inc.” or “Terminal City Ricochet,” which are both much better movies. There’s a couple ‘new statements’ here, but really, the “Chick” who they picked to lead their movie is just fucking awful to watch and you simply don’t care what the fuck is being said no matter how “relevant” it is supposed to be.  Oh, believe me, I “get it” I get who she’s supposed to be, and it’s dull, it’s cliche, it’s not really all that clever, and since the actress is just not going to give any kind of performance, well fuck it, there’s nothing here to keep anybody interested.  Plug in the fake backgrounds and ‘effects’ and it looks pretty much like you’re watching a crappy made-for-youtube amateur movie. 

The composition of shots, the close-ups, this becomes annoying to watch… Perhaps it was made for $1000, but add to the fact that this movie is retreading similar plot points and ideas in “Repo Man” I ask, why did you make this “movie” because it really isn’t “fun” which is the biggest selling point of “Repo Man.” That was such a “fun” movie that you want to watch it again and again, no matter the cheap effects, what the fuck happened here? What the fuck were these people thinking? This isn’t fun, and it surely isn’t funny—not in execution it isn’t… there are a great many “poorly executed” movies which end up still being something to see, it pains me to say it, but this isn’t schlock, it’s god-awful and boring.

It’s not really a sequel, it’s sort of a ‘remake’ but not really, at best, it’s “imitation” Repo Man, it’s like somebody on Youtube decided to rehash “Repo Man” with some sort of new contemporary set of ‘issues’ or social criticisms but fails pretentiously because their execution of it is so bad. It literally is like watching a movie “trying to be” like Repo Man with almost nothing that was anywhere near anything like the original, as if they didn’t really know what made Repo Man so good…as if George Lucas has made a ‘remake’ or sequel to Repo Man, or as if Peter Jackson, after falling on hard times, scraped up a few thousand bucks and set out to produce the ‘reboot’ of Repo Man, but not even caring how bad the CG looked, nor that there was no CG in the original, nor that there could have been anything to the ‘performances’ of the actors in the original, and it wasn’t about the acting, or the set pieces…or anything for that matter.

This movie is literally an insult to Repo Man, just like Phantom Menace is an insult to Star Wars, or the Hobbit is an insult to Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek (2009) is an insult to the 1960s Star Trek. It keeps being said, over and over, “what the fuck are these people thinking?” “Why the fuck would they do this?” There surely isn’t any hidden irony here in making such garbage ‘re-visitations’ of previous works. I can only assume that there is in fact a ‘secret rule’ in filmmaking, that if you make a great film, you must follow it up with some sort of shitty sequel which doesn’t simply show that you just don’t have it any more, but that you don’t even understand the movie you previously made at all. Perhaps when filmmakers become successful, they just stop trying, they don’t care any more, they’re too well fed and too lazy to bother with suffering for their “art.” 

This is one more movie to add to the ever-growing list of movies which should never have been re-visited by their creators.(or by anyone else for that matter).  Prometheus. Star Wars. The Hobbit.  I have a feeling Avatar 2 is going to suck so bad that people will be astounded that James Cameron even made it. I have a feeling that “Clive Barker’s” Reboot of Hellraiser will make people wonder what the fuck he was thinking, and on and on and on. Just stop. Just stop. Just stop. If you truly have no vision for your sequels, prequels and reboots, just stop. If you’re not willing to suffer as much as you did making the original, don’t try, how about something ‘new’ for a change? Is that too much to ask? Perhaps they actually do run out of fresh ideas, and hope that people won’t notice. Sure we do like to see sequels if there’s a good enough reason… Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls is the perfect example of “why the fuck did you make that movie?” Did we ask for this? No. Did we say, give us anything so long as it’s called “Indiana Jones.” Nope. Well, perhaps we did in the end, assholes went and paid for it didn’t they?

In this case, it’s not some big-budget remake, and nobody even knew this thing ever came out (on video) at least I didn’t, but for fuck’s sakes all this movie does is force the audience to ask themselves, “this is the guy who made Repo Man?” “What the fuck happened?”  Aside from the fact that there’s better CG effects on youtube videos, this movie just has nothing going for it. Clearly somebody thought it would be funny, but they’d be wrong, in order to be fun or even funny, you have to try, you have to ‘get there,’ not just let the video roll on and sip your coffee and say, “well that was good, we’ll fix it in post.”  The fact that they’re shooting this all on video gives them the ability to do 1000 takes if they have to in order to get something good, but instead, it looks like this shit. And by “this shit” I mean I’ve seen “this shit” before. “This shit” is what you see from countless Asylum and SyFy movies, and worse, any Troma Movie made/released by Troma in the last couple years. A bunch of shitty actors on video pretending to make a movie with a video camera. If you’re not going to give us anything, if it’s all done with a computer, then this is not the experience of watching a movie. 

I am reminded of the “Plasmatics” music video where Wendy O’Williams drives a bus through a wall of television sets. It’s all real. She drives a real bus through a stacked up ‘wall’ of old real television sets, busts through them, shit flies everywhere, she jumps off the bus and it explodes. It’s all real, all practical pyrotechnic effects, everything you see is staged, but all real. There was a time when even something as simple as this was real art that entertained. Yes, it was a stunt, and it was sensational, but it was all really happening, captured on 3/4 inch video, and it was greatness.  Alex Cox could have made this “movie” so much better by even shooting it in VHS, or by going out to the desert , or collecting junk, or shooting in an old abandoned factory or anything, but what he did was make the perfect example of how not to use the shitty fake digital technology that exists so you can sit on your ass and not really try. I get his use of toys instead of real cars or objects, but it doesn’t work, it may be a vision of some sort of ‘style’ but the execution simply isn’t there. Look at “Manborg,” which is made exactly the same way, but since there’s some creative shit going on there in props and design and heavy use of callbacks to pop culture it works enough to ‘get you there’ and there’s a lot more going on to keep a person interested in watching. If you’re going to use this CG shit for everything, you better have something that balances it out. “Manborg” is one of the few movies which manages to come up with that thing that will balance out the cheesy awful quality you’re seeing. Yes, it’s supposed to be cheesy, but there’s enough going on to keep it going.  I think it fails to make much of a comment on anything, but it’s still worth something. “Repo Chick” offers absolutely nothing new short of a few drab and poorly executed comments on the economy, and it is not trying heavily to get all this across, as a viewer, your eyes glaze over and you don’t even want to give a shit because you keep thinking of the studio they’re shooting all this video in, this CG shit just isn’t good enough, it’s one of the reasons Phantom Menace fucking sucks. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend or not on it, it just ALWAYS sucks for the simplest reason: you notice how much the people making it aren’t really trying. 

The characters in “Repo Chick” are nowhere near as interesting as the ones in “Repo Man,” and this is ultimately the biggest flaw. They could have been, but the cast pretty much sucks, and they’re not really doing anything interesting most of the time. So, if the characters pretty much suck, you’re watching a bunch of actors on green screen talk to nothing, shit, it just sucks man. There is something going on here with all this shit in this movie, but it’s lazy, it’s like somebody took a big shit full of laziness and said, well, here you go, this is my next “Repo Man” eat it up, because I don’t care, I threw in some lines there about the shitty world you live in, but I wasn’t paying attention if the actors were doing their jobs or not, I didn’t even look at the dailies, and I sent the footage off to the computer guys and they used their “plug-ins” or whatever and well, there you go. 

My advice to anybody out there who wants to make their own movie with no money, use VHS, don’t use widescreen digital shit with CG effects. Shoot it on old video cameras, use shitty practical effects, rubber masks and fireworks, go to a junkyard, don’t buy realistic costumes, go to thrift stores and just buy a lot of different colorful shit that has nothing to do with realism, don’t even try to make a ‘real movie’ and do you know what will happen? You’ll end up with something watchable, you’ll end up with something that ends up looking ‘real’ because it will be more ‘real’ than any of this shit people have been making for the last decade.  If you have a little more money and can afford 16mm film, shit, you’ll end up with a classic even if it doesn’t have a plot, because it will look 10 times better than any of this new shit. People will remember it. They’ll sit through it. All this new shit all looks the same and it all sucks. 



Don’t waste your time here, “Terminal City Ricochet,” the original “Repo Man,” “Repo Men,” “War, Inc.” and pretty much any episode of “Land of the Lost” is better than this crap. Sorry Alex Cox, and anybody else out there with a video camera and a computer, you have to actually “try” in order to make something even worth watching, the computer won’t do it for you. 

The Strange Powers of VHS: Glitchery and Malfunction from Another Dimension!

VHS was a different experience than Youtube, and different than Blu-Ray, and DVD, but not for what you’d think would be the obvious, that it is just a matter of high definition and aspect ratio. VHS was clunky compared to how people access their ‘video’ today, but there were a couple things that happen with VHS that don’t with discs and mp4s. I don’t want to get into the whole video store experience, or a lot of other details that are probably covered in Noel Mellor’s book “Adventures in VHS” I want to get straight to the heart of something very philosophical about it. 

I used to have a tape that I kept for some reason for a long time (though I don’t know what happened to it now) that was a video tape that I had recorded accidentally one day while “channel surfing.” This tape recorded hours of flipping through channels where you’d see totally random video, commercials, static screens, and scrambled screens and movie channels and news. You’d see a second or two of a channel and then on to the next, and it produced a very weird and funny form of ‘editing’ and strange phrases and odd moments would appear randomly by the flipping of the remote control. It was like watching absolute insanity, captured very specifically on a particular day in time, and it was a recording of a reality that nobody else could possible have. It was such a specific circumstance of serendipity and nobody else could have this very same tape of weirdness. 

There were moments of such hilarity based on the juxtaposition of images and sounds, based entirely on absolute accident that it created a strange sensation of new meaning. Your brain would fill in comparisons and implication and significance of meaning automatically while the images crossed the screen. Nobody had ‘created’ this thing, it was an artifact of absolute chaos and randomness. There was something ‘magical’ about it. When I say ‘magical’ I mean that not in the sense of nostalgia, but in the sense of the preternatural, almost mystical quality of its experience. One could imagine that it captured some sort of moments in time of some sort of madness, a subconscious survey of television ‘reality’ at a particular time. 

Many people have found this experience when taping over video tapes many times, stopping and starting at certain points where a video layer previously recorded shows up at the end of recording and some random juxtaposition of something occurs which can sometimes be utterly random, and sometimes profoundly silly. Like some form of cosmic editing had occurred and produced a result where somebody on screen says something just at the right time when one layer ends and the older resurfaces. 

Many people have experienced this ‘profound accident’ which is either strangely humorous, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes it borders on the mystical in it’s weird random statement, one that was made by nobody, no editing occurred, how could such a strange ‘statement’ have happened so accidentally?  Sometimes when people stopped and started to ‘cut out commercials’ they’d accidentally move the tape forward too far, or backward too far, and whatever was there previously recorded shows up randomly and produces strange juxtapositions where sometimes it’s completely random and meaningless, and other times absolutely amazing. To have such a thing occur, especially one which actually “suggests something,” though random, something which is a meaning which sometimes either never occurred to you, or one which is ‘just funny’ is also something which seems to imply something about the very thing you are watching that you recorded. 

This weird and often surreal experience of old layers of recording, especially if the recordings are old, and for instance something resurfaces from 1983, where something in 1995 was the most recent recording, can appear as a kind of ‘ghost of the past’ and even have implications on the recording of 1995 that you’re watching. All of this is happening without conscious control or direction, all random, all by accident, and all because of the technology of VHS, or in any other form of recorded video tape whatever the format (Beta, Super-VHS, VHS-C, whatever). 

What’s the point of all this? Why is any of it important? What does it all mean? Who cares? The point of all these observations isn’t just that glitches are funny, or that the glitches of VHS are superior in experience to those of DVDs, but that weirder and broader and more bizarre things occurred in the days where people used VHS. To help people understand much of this, it’s like when you first encounter a glitch in a video game where something astoundingly weird happens. People are sometimes amazed by weird video game glitches, which open up the game in ways it isn’t supposed to work and can sometimes continue and this experience never occurs again, making it a one-time only thing. 

Some little thing that astounded early hackers that they could make a device do something it wasn’t supposed to do opened up some sort of new channel of the experience of reality that excited them is something I would describe as similar but not the same. These glitches of VHS could produce all kinds of weirdness, of things chaotic and unmapped, producing thoughts previously unconceived of, but also sometimes acted in such a way as to ‘deconstruct’ the meaning of certain imagery being viewed. The ‘media’  was a strange and seemingly infinite thing, where strange sounds, and strange ideas could be accidentally produced through such incidental failures of the technology, and it almost seemed meant to be, or as if reality itself was cutting through the static, impinging on the distorted consciousness that ‘television programming’ produced. 

You don’t experience things like this on Youtube, or with DVDs or Blu-Rays, if something happens, the system that delivers the video you are watching simply stops working altogether, no strange exotic glitchery reveals itself. One might see certain degrading of ‘code’ which might produce a defect or two in the conversion of certain video files, but you simply do not get this weird ‘electromagnetic’ dispersal of chaos. It was a far more stirring thing within the VHS experience. There are distinctive ‘artifacts’ surely within other media, but none which, in my opinion produced the sort of effects which I saw when we all used VHS because there was no other media to use.

There really is no such things as ‘the days of VHS’ as if one cannot experience such things any more, one can still experience such things, all they have to do is start recording with VHS again, there’s no ‘days gone by’ because it is simply a form of technology that is no longer widely used, but it still exists, at least as far as these individual moments of experience are concerned. One can still play with VHS just as they can still play records or audio tape. The problem of course is that all this occurred in a time when it was so widely used so often that it was automatic, these things would just happen because of the regularity of use. You’d forget that the tape you grabbed was old and had defects, or you’d be taping things and forget that you didn’t hit pause or stop, and you’d accidentally produce all these results out of the mundane daily use of the technology.

There are surely possibly things similar to this that could occur today with the technology out there in regular mundane use, but how often do you see anything like this? Do you see ‘the internet’ or the experience of viewing things on your screen while surfing the net breakdown into such weirdness? Do you see Blu-Rays produce such extralinear unpredictable glitchery whose quality delivers such unusual weirdness that it feels like something erupting from the collective unconscious behaving as if it is dissecting something of reality which influences thought? The strange artifacts of video tape have surely influenced many a horror movie probably because of this reality, but could any of the modern technology do anything remotely similar?

One could imagine such things, but these were things that one could actually experience, the unpredictable which would produce something that could in fact amuse and even astound, something in the dark of night which while watching an old tape would emerge out of the magnetic recording and alter your perception of reality—or rather maybe, adjust your perception back to reality depending on how you look at it. Any glitch like this could all be a matter of interpretation, and act as a kind of Rorschach psychoanalytic mirror, but one can see intentional editing that mimics such things as having intentional meaning which one can make sense out of, there’s plenty of random meaningless glitches but many people remember ones which seemed so ironic, so meaningful that it seemed utterly impossible. These moments were all of course rare, and this made them all that much more astounding, their rarity and unpredictability made them seem like they came out of another dimension. It might have been as if some sort of electromagnetic discarnate gadfly (like Max Headroom) would invisibly interfere with reality, or your ‘recording of reality’ or what you thought was reality, jarring you back to reality but only for a moment. A simple accident producing a single moment of truth. 

Sometimes the chaotic static imagery itself was producing an unusual effect, defects of the tape or recording process could produce such unusual static distortion that was surreal and affecting that one could compare it to almost a psychedelic experience. The distortion of mundane imagery could itself offer a different version of reality to contemplate, distortions of such randomness that one could never replicate the exact situation ever again. It had no formula, no algorithm, no template, it was for all intents and purposes a completely ethereal experience, and one could experience such weirdness sometimes on late-night cable in the distortions of scrambled video transmissions as well and unless you recorded it, you’d never see it again.

This sense of chaos, unpredictability, and randomness was almost like a Ouija board experience, not the implications, but the feeling itself. Anything could happen. Today one randomly flips through links on Youtube, but nothing so similar occurs. The internet doesn’t scramble itself on your screen into a swirl of colored static or unusual random chaotic sound bytes.  

In the days when one could experience all these things, it seem to imply something far beyond the simple reality that technology breaks down and that television itself was a peculiar thing in and of itself, but that imagery and thought, meaning and transmission of thought, sound and intentional meaning could not only be scrambled, but that even that scrambling itself can produce an exotic meaning with an unexplainable origin that seemed a cryptic reciprocity of technology and consciousness. This chaotic element of malfunctioning technology could produce audibly and visually something valuable, an experience that broke through the mundane and monotonous reality of psychotic T.V. programming, sit-coms and ridiculous “news segments” and commercials.  









Invasion of the Mindbenders (1987)


Starring Roy Thinnes of the 1960s series “Invaders” and “The X-Files.” This is another Canadian production. 


Finally, I was able to find this movie, and after the first 30 seconds, I thought perhaps I may be wasting my time…  This is an extremely low budget… cheap… and ridiculous movie…  it has really bad over-acting, bad sound, bad editing, cheap production values, and is attempting to be some sort of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” silly teen comedy… and essentially fails at this, but…

I had fun watching this shitty movie.  Anyone who has seen “Interface” (1985) perhaps might be interested in this. This high school (like any high school) is having problems with a few students, and the principal (Roy Thinnes) has this guy from the “Behavior Modification Research Institute” try out a new system which uses sound to control behavior of students. This is not so far fetched, one can go to youtube and punch up videos which have certain frequencies on them which are designed to do exactly what is being presented in this movie.   The movie’s not that smart though, but this technology does in fact exist, and there’s a whole bunch of things people have used it for, and I’ll leave it to you to listen to them and decide or imagine what could likely be out there in real life… They are going to shut down the student radio station (because they don’t like rock n’ roll anyways) and broadcast these subliminal sounds over the speaker system to make students docile and suggestible. The main characters are the student D.J.s at the radio station and of course rebel goofballs who wear headphones all the time so they are immune to the mind control and decide the faculty have to be stopped. 

As soon as I saw the Max Headroom poster on the wall in the high school radio station, I had to see where all this
was going.  This movie is trying to do more than what they really have the resources for (decent actors, decent sound recording equipment, a good camera, money to buy props, etc) and it’s dumb, but the script isn’t entirely idiotic, and while the ‘actors’ are over-acting so much it’s ridiculous,  it moves along and the story itself is actually fun but I cannot make any kind of 'universal recommendation' for this, many people will be absolutely annoyed with the astoundingly bad over-acting which is really the worst part of this shit film.  There’s some insane things that happen that in the context of such a low budget film that are quite amusing.  It IS idiotic, but it can be fun to watch as often even the worst of the worst produced 'satire' can still be for some reason. 

There’s little things that happen here and there, and lines here and there which are actually commendable, and since this is not a Hollywood production, you get something that strays a little from something you might see from Paramount, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox or whatever. You get terrible acting, but better over-acting than weak acting. In this case it works a little better, though I can see this being annoying to some people out there. It’s rebellious at heart and subversive at heart, and even though this isn’t even on the level of Class of 1984, or Class of 1999 for that matter, it’s silly concept of brainwashing students, where rock and roll is the antidote, and turning them into mind-controlled robots carries this movie exactly where you’d want it to go.  This is terribly made, and that could be enough all by itself. They set someone's head on fire... for real, and that could be worth seeing... 

There’s some good ideas (at least fun ones) in this, and like Interface (1985), if you can handle the ridiculous performances and bad production value, there’s some fun to be had here. Clearly this film is lacking in professional quality, it’s like watching somebody’s first attempt at filmmaking, where they borrowed money from their uncles and used their credit card, but the difference here as it so often is from independent movies from the 80s is… it’s still on film!  Film somehow makes this all the more viewable than something people make today with an HD video camera. This is what you’d call a ‘crap movie’ but one still worth watching if you’re interested in old 80s obscure movies, and still want to be entertained. I was surely entertained, and actually had fun, I didn’t even fast forward anything. Personally I wanted to see what they were going to do with the ‘mind control’ plot with the computer programs, the subliminal tones, and how the kids rebel. Like Interface (1985), it’s all pretty pretentious, but there’s still something there trying to say something or do something subversive, funny or crazy with the premise. Sometimes even Troma Films don’t even have that, that silly edge which one might describe as ‘punk’ or rebellious, we’ll call it ‘80s satire.’  It’s not anything profound exactly, it’s simply trying to be outrageous and if it’s not only crazy but has something like allegory, or any kind of social commentary, no matter how pretentious, it can still all be worth it. This is a stupid movie most definitely, and it does try a little too hard to be funny, and attempts to be other movies out there that it isn’t, that it couldn’t be if it tried, but in spite of this, it’s still interesting to watch what they do with it. 

This isn’t exactly “so bad it’s good” but there’s enough “bad” that either I kept watching because I wanted to see just how hard they would try, or just what was it they were trying to do. In some sense what is here is in Class of 1999, only instead of cyborg teachers, it’s simply this mind-control plot. This isn’t the only movie of it’s kind, and I’m guessing it is trying to be one of these other kinds of movies, but it is still satire, so in a world where it seems nobody even gets what satire is, perhaps I’ll take what I can get.  Any movie which attempts to make statements like this, like what you might see in movies like “They Live” is still worth watching in my opinion, because there are so few of them, no matter how ‘bad’ they really are. 

There’s a lot of trash out there pretending to be ‘satire,’ and there’s satires that are so trashy they get sidetracked from their central purpose.  This might be considered a 'must see film' if you've decided to go out and film your very own movie, look at what's working and what isn't, a perfect teaching tool for those attempting this sort of comedy.  The production value can end up being so bad, it's hard to believe, and yet, I've seen worse from LIONSGATE. There are even big budget films that can't manage a story as coherent as this one, which is even more depressing.  You have been warned, but if you're into weirdness, this is worth a look. 

I'm going to have to make a solid list of movies like this, they seem to be of their own category, like Interface (1985), The Tower (1985) and a few others which have absolutely terrible production value--the worst, bad acting, and ridiculous plots, but there's something so weird about them, they're actually worth watching.