Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Wrapup

What do you do on the day after Thanksgiving with all that leftover turkey? Make something besides yet another sandwich. here you have turkey pitas: turkey crisped in the skillet with fresh-cut hot peppers and garlic and served with queso quesadilla cheese and cranberry salsa. Yummers.

And now, a last look at La Casa del Terror's turkeys--with an extra set of eyes as a surprise.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/29/10

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/25/10

From La Casa del Terror--where this noble bird looks down on the street with something akin to approval--to your home wherever it may be, a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May you be safe, warm and smiling ever so.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving week--yay! Turkeys get so much attention and respect the week of Thanksg...

Wait a minute...what am I so damn happy about? Yeah, turkeys get attention this the main course! I standing on a cutting board right now? Crap.

It's not just you, buddy. ALL turkeys are nervous this week--even plush ones like me! What'll we do? What can possibly save us?

Why, an unholy alliance with the Evil Bunny, of course! No one would dare mess with him! (Especially since he's been in exile since Easter...he's really, really pissed, yo.)

This Thanksgiving, it's personal!

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/22/10

Is it just me, or does this turkey bear a resemblance to "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/19/10

I am willing to bet that this coach house, tucked among the taller buildings of the Loop and, I've heard, a survivor of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (which would make it the only building in the loop with that distinction), is haunted.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eye of the Beholder

"What's wrong with your eye?"

The coworker who said this was leaning forward, a note of genuine concern in her voice.

"Nothing, as far as I know," I replied. Neither eye was sore--or, more accurately, no more sore than anyone's eyes would be after putting in a 16-hour day on Monday and a few more hours of OT spread over Tuesday and Wednesday.

I didn't doubt my coworker's word, though. I was tired from the tips of my ugly toes to the last strand of semi-gray hair on my semi-gray head, so why wouldn't my eyes--the primary tools of my trade--be just as weary, if not more so?

Still, these things aren't to be taken lightly. I thanked my coworker for pointing out the crimson hew behind my glasses, grabbed the Visine from my backpack and headed for the bathroom.

Sure enough, my left eye was bright red. Didn't hurt at all, but looked like somebody had punched me. Then again, my whole body felt like I'd been punched more than once in the last few weeks.

It's a most unpleasant sensation, exhaustion is--rather like being perpetually hung over without having had the relative pleasure of getting drunk in the first place.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/18/10

Monday, November 15, 2010

And the Lights Go on...

We probably shouldn't be seeing this yet, given that the official lighting ceremony is still more than a week away, but there it was: The christmas tree in Daley Center Plaza, almost fully aglow. No doubt this was a test by city crews to see whether the lights worked or not--a good thing to know before the mayor throws the switch next Wednesday, I'd imagine.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/15/10

Friday, November 12, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/12/10

Aquaman, Aquaman, does whatever an aqua can...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Decoration Continues Apace

City crews have worked, on the Christmas tree in Daley Center Plaza, which now sports a star at the top and has some of its many, many lights string across its boughs. The enormous plastic ornaments are yet to come. The German-style market behind it continues to take shape as well; quite a few of the buildings are up already. Maybe the city will open the market early this year?

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/11/10

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Movie Review: House (1977)

There's a lot to love about The Criterion Collection, the company that not only has issued many of the greatest films ever made on DVD and Blu-ray, including several of my personal favorites, like Pandora's Box, Beauty and the Beast and Gimme Shelter. However, they don't neglect more obscure movies in less reputable genres like, say, the horror film: They've issued deluxe editions of well-known genre favorites like M and Vampyr, as well as unsung classics like The Haunted Strangler, Fiend without a Face and White Dog. Any distribution company that can provide me with pristine prints of both The Seven Samurai and The Blob is going to get a lot of my cash. And they have.

But even my knowledge of Criterion's extensive, eclectic catalog couldn't prepare me for one of their latest offerings: Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 effort, House.

In skimming online reviews of House I found that one of the words most commonly used to describe it was, oddly enough, "batshit," or some variation thereof. It's meant as a compliment: essay after essay declared this movie to be one of the looniest ever made by any director in any country at any time.

Having now seen House on Criterion's beautifully restored Blu-ray (as viewed on my brand-new HDTV), I understand calling it "batshit," "insane," "screwy" or any number of other adjectives that are synonyms for "crazy." However, that seems like a backhanded compliment, and possibly even unintentionally dismissive: House is many other things beside merely being "crazy."

So...what are those things, exactly? That's not so easy to nail down. Is House a horror film? Yes. Is it a comedy? Sort of--there are plenty of moments that are intentionally funny. Is it a satire? A parody? Pop art? Yes, yes, and oh hell yes. But even with all of that, there's something else going on here as well. Obayashi's combination of all of these elements turn House into a commentary not just on horror films, but on the Japanese film industry and, ultimately, on cinema itself.

The plot is almost beside the point, but nonetheless worth noting. A young schoolgirl named Gorgeous (because, well, she is) is excited about going on her summer break with her best friends/classmates. (All of them have character-defining nicknames as well: Prof is the smart one; Fantasy is the head-in-the-clouds one; Melody is the musical one; Kung Fu is the athletic one; Mac is the one who eats a lot; Sweet is the one who's, um, sweet.) When Gorgeous's movie composer dad comes home from his latest assignment in Italy with a new stepmom for her and the class trip gets cancelled, Gorgeous writes a letter to her aunt in the country, asking if they could all visit. Auntie writes back that she'd be happy to have them stay with her, neglecting to mention that the house is haunted by violent, hungry spirits who start picking off the girls one by one.

Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. Obayashi, a former director of TV commercials, imbues the whole affair with a dreamlike logic and progression, like when Gorgeous brings her new cat, Blanche, along on the trip and doesn't seem to think it strange that Auntie has pictures of a cat who looks exactly like Blanche all over her walls. Colors and compositions are bright and saturated--especially the blood. Scenes shift from live-action to animated to a combo platter of the two. Body parts fly everywhere--literally. The same tune is played or sung throughout the film by various characters, including the cat. (Yes. Really.)

All the while, Obayashi has fun with film conventions and cliches like the haunted house/vengeful spirit movie, the Japanese "pink" (i.e., soft-core) film popular at the time (the girls are in increasingly skimpy states of undress), cute-couple comedies, romantic war dramas, mad slasher movies...the list just keeps going.

The experience can be overwhelming--there's a lot going on in this House--but it's so visually rich and moves along at an increasingly frantic pace that multiple viewings are likely required to take in all that this delirious, phantasmagoric fever dream of a movie has to offer.

So yeah, House is indeed "batshit." And brilliant.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/10/10

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Only the 2nd Week of November...

...but the Christmas tree is already up in Daley Center Plaza.

It's not decorated yet, of course--that'll happen over the next couple of weeks, just in time for the official tree-lighting ceremony on November 24--and the German-style market is under construction behind it. But on a clear, sunny, surprisingly warm day in downtown Chicago, this tree looks more than a bit out of place.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/8/10

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

I voted today. Did you? If not, then I don't want you complaining about the machinations in Washington. Or the shenanigans in Springfield. Or any damn thing relating to politics. You want the right to bitch? Then don't give up your right to vote. You don't like the way things are? Do something to try and change things. Your vote matters, no matter whom you vote for, no matter whether you're motivated by the economy or social issues or the relative quality of the candidates. Your vote matters. Get out there and cast it.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 11/2/10