The Clanging Gongs of Doom 2009 (An Evolving Post)
Virtual awards time! The inaugural Clanging Gongs of Doom show starts here and starts now. Or, actually, in a little while. Have to go change a nappy. Back in a bit.
Ok. Nuclear bum waste disposed of. And I didn't get no shit on me tux neither. Let's get to it.
1) The "Ah crap…I'm genuinely upset that this relatively famous person has died" Clanging Gong of Doom for 2009 goes to…
2009 – that rabid devourer of life and livelihood – has (in its final days) claimed another victim. Into its gaping (frost-bitten) maw has tumbled a "genre" hero. A titan of B-Culture. *sniff*
While most obits (such as there are) have focused on the John Carpenter connection (Dark Star) or the begetting role he played in Alien, comparatively few have made much mention of what is (for me) his magnum opus.
Baby-watching detail doesn't allow time for much fresh elaboration, so I'll dip into my archival sack and recycle some previously aired thoughts:
Few things are as enjoyable (when successfully realised) as good horror comedies – the only problem being that there are so few of them around. List-compiling film buffs routinely cite the same three or four features as high points of the sub-genre: An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 2, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein etc. Rarely (outside of 'fanboy' circles) however, does one hear mention of Dan O'Bannon’s delightful and delirious Return of the Living Dead. Best known perhaps for being the film that introduced the classic zombie "Brrrraaaaaiiinnnsssss!!" refrain to cinema audiences, its ingredients – general daftness, a cast of fairly irritating teens etc – do not appear overly promising on paper.
What makes it memorable (and highly rewatchable…especially after a few pints) though, are three perfectly pitched performances from the senior male leads: James Karen (as the folksy and avuncular 'Frank'), Clu Gulager (as his put-upon, pragmatic boss 'Burt'), and Don Calfa (as the Nazi-loving mortician 'Ernie').
Add in a kicking soundtrack (from The Cramps et al), a 90 minute runtime that ensures the joke doesn't become too strained, a winning affection for its (unabashed) 'B-Movie' aesthetic etc, and the result is a gooey, gory, hilarious treat. There may be one or two more important zombie films (Dawn of the Dead, for example) but none are anything like this much fun.
Dan – your award is now beaming its way o'er the astral networks to the happy lands of the dead. RIP.
Now for a long-ish commercial break – a day or so most likely (this ceremony is to be a very leisurely affair, allowing ample time for Yuletide reflection on mortality).
And…we're back. Stuffed to overflowing with day old turkey and sprouts (and stuffing). Giddy from the effects of one too many hot ports. Delighting in the gifts we have received (most notably a sumptuous book on the work of Ray Harryhausen, signed by Ray Harryhausen). Ready to dish out more gongs.
2) The "Tireless Promoter of Crude Gender Stereotypes" Gong of Doom goes to…
If you discount, a) the buffoonish entrepreneurial comedy stylings of Ben Dunne, and, b) twee Ould Mr. Brennan chuckle-fests, then 100% of all remaining Irish radio ads are puke-inducing, "War of the Sexes"-style shitathons.
The message is ever the same. All fellas are slovenly, disorganised eejits – but (Ho! Ho!) loveably rougish for all that. You can't actually see them winking cheekily to camera (what with it being radio and all) but the wink (and elbow nudge) is automatically implied.
All "girls", on the other hand, are nag-o-maniacal bitch-monsters who alternate between joyless tut-tutting (at their fella's many failings) and coquettish arm-twisting to get what they want. And what they all want, of course, are a) shoes, b) vouchers for the Kildare Village Outlet Centre, c) chocolate-coated Sex & the City box-sets, and, d) huge fuck-off engagement rings.
Having established the above facts, radio has (for the last 12 months) beamed out non-stop messages like these:
"Staggering home from the pub? Langered drunk? Forgotten to do that thing you were asked to do (like, forty times)? Don't sweat it! Pop in to your nearest Londis and pick up a Mega-Bar of Galaxy Indulgence for only €1.50. We guarantee it'll shut that bitch up!
Way hey! Go on the lads…
Not all advertising is this evil of course. Some of it is life-affirmingly wonderful. Behold (even if you've already beheld it):
Along with its magnificent "making of" companion, this was the YouTube find of the year. Snow-speeders in space (traveling with an Imperial fleet)? Decidedly non-canon "Beam Transfer" technology? A Darth Vader/Maurice Pratt buddy movie dynamic? This ad had it all. It's a worthy winner of…
3) The 2009 "Priceless Pop-Cultural Treasure Dragged Back from the Edge of Oblivion" Clanging Gong of Doom.
More to follow (probably).
Right. Last couple of gongs going mouldy in the bottom of me bag here. Beginning to reek. Time for some quick-fire awarding.
4) The Clanging Gong for "Bestest and Fabulousest (Irish) Blog Post of the Year" goes to…
The Notional Conversation (Fergal Crehan, Tuppenceworth)
At a time when public figures were lining up to sing (with misty-eyes) the praise of Questions & Answers (and John Bowman) – Fergal's cracking post exposed the inner-workings of the (smooth & pointless) "public discourse" machine.
5) The Clanging Gong for "Weirdest & Most Brain-Searingly Wonderful Book of the Year" is hereby awarded to…
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! (Fletcher Hanks; edited by Paul Karasik, Fantagraphics).
Question: How would you punish a criminal master-mind who tried, using his "oxygen-destroying ray", to take over the world by suffocating "every big shot in America"? If you answered, "By using my transforming ray to turn him into a giant head before hurling him into a 'space pocket of living death where the headless headhunter dwells'", then Fletcher Hanks (a demented 1930s/40s comic auteur and visionary) may be something of a kindred spirit.
Long neglected and largely forgotten, Hanks' work has undergone something of a revival in the last 2 years or so, thanks to Paul Karasik's (Eisner award-winning) reprint collection I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets (Fantagraphics, 2007). Hanks (as that astonishing volume delightfully illustrated) was churning out his violent tales of bizarre crime and savage (grotesque!) retribution at a time when "Superhero Comic" conventions had not yet been established. Without a prescribed path – and cursed/blessed with a stiff and crude artistic technique – Hanks was free to indulge in "righteous" morality tales of power, potency and gleefully excessive brutality. His villains were decidedly un-super: bumbling gangsters or fifth columnists. Ape-like hoods as drawn by Hieronymus Bosch. His heroes, like the "Super Wizard" Stardust, were omnipotent dolers-out of the roughest justice.
Hanks (an alcoholic, violently abusive father) died destitute & frozen on a park bench. The work in (volume 2) You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! (produced entirely by Hanks, at breakneck speed) might be testament to rage-filled, borderline psychosis – but it's thrillingly vital and magnificently (uniquely) strange for all that.
Hmmm…I smell yet another atomic nappy. Time to don the Hazmat suit and begin Operation Destinkify. That's yer lot for the 2009 Awards. Semi-regular service will resume in the New Year. 2010! We're living in the future!
December 24, 2009