Author Archives: Angela Englert

About Angela Englert

Horror editor at http://theculturalgutter.com, Mutant at http://www.the-losthighway.com/, co-host of the Horrible Imaginings podcast, Creative Pit Boss at Wolf In Wool Productions, live caption slinger, host of #PCapRecap (https://pcaprecap.wordpress.com/)

Should Be More Famous, Volume 2: Kevin Eldon

If Steve Buscemi can’t be corralled into doing a Don Knotts biopic, we do have a backup.

Continuing my whenever-I-feel-moved-by-YouTubing-ly series featuring performers I love that I want you to love, too, I offer Kevin Eldon.

Last time, I talked about Dylan Moran, and like Dylan, Kevin is a stand-up comic and Britcom actor with a difference…and a tendency to pop up in Simon Pegg projects. Unlike Dylan, he’s freaking insane. I mean, maybe he’s not insane. Maybe he’s one of the most brilliant conceptual surrealist comedians of his generation. It’s hard to know. He also does voices, plays guitar, and is clearly going to hell.

It was actually in Dylan Moran’s show “Black Books” that I first became acquainted with Mr. Eldon, in a series-stealing performance as The Cleaner…

Dirty.”

In the DVD commentary, which I have had on while I did light housework and don’t you judge me, I remember Bill Bailey saying something to the effect of “Here’s Kevin Eldon playing…Kevin Eldon” to laughter and noises of assent.

OK, this isn’t really a Kevin Eldon clip. It’s actually from Bill Bailey’s show “Part Troll,” but I think Kevin really sells the bit. I’ll get to a Bill Bailey post one of these days.

The sci-fi-themed Britcom “Hyperdrive,” starring Simon Pegg’s bestie Nick Frost, didn’t always work for me. It was like “Galaxy Quest.” Shoulda loved it, but by Grabthar’s Hammer…meh. Maybe it’s just me. But Kevin Eldon’s probable sociopath Lt. York was reason enough to smile and nod through the rest of the show, in much the way I’ll still endure the datedness of TOS Treks for Nimoy’s scenes. At least until William Shatner starts explaining what a kiss is.

My favorite York line is “We don’t have long to kill it before it dies.” I like to find opportunities to use this in my personal life. Here’s an unrelated clip that begins with Nick Frost’s Commander Henderson convinced Lt. York is a saboteur on their ship.

If you liked “Galaxy Quest” or “Red Dwarf,” you might want to check out the whole “Hyperdrive” series on Netflix.

Now to the ensemble sketch show “Big Train,” featuring Simon Pegg, Catherine Tate, and other people I’ll probably be moved to blog about in the fullness of time. If you haven’t seen it, they did fairly bizarre, but brilliant sketches like this one, in which Kevin IS Chairman Mao IS Bryan Ferry in Roxy Music playing “Virginia Plain.” Like SNL, a lot of the sketches were clearly born out of in-joke gestalting, and this sketch is a good example, but unlike SNL, the sketches are not unnaturally prolonged. I also really like this song, so that helps.

I haven’t even begun to mine his  2011 one man show “Kevin Eldon is Titting About” or his appearances on most of the other successful Britcoms of the last 20 years that didn’t star and concern the elderly. The interwebs also tell me that he’ll have his very own show on BBC2 in 2013, “It’s Kevin.” So there you have it. Should Be More Famous, volume 2: Kevin Eldon. I’ll close with a clip of one of his most famous characters, the pretentious poet Paul Hamilton. It’s probably fitting for him to have the last word.

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Should Be More Famous, Volume 1: Dylan Moran

Dylan’s been around for years as a stand-up comedian and actor, and he’s gotten his share of accolades, sure. But he’s virtually unknown in America STILL, although his howlingly hilarious “Black Books” is now in late-night PBS Britcom syndication, so the notoriety dividends from that should be paying off…approximately never. But nevermind! Dylan’s one of the funniest people on the planet, even if the whole of his oeuvre is not available in Region 1. Look him up on the YouTubes; you’ll not be disappointed. Oh, yes, and Black Books is on Netflix streaming.

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You Want a Narrative Art Form? Here’s Your Freaking Narrative Art Form!

Roger Ebert will go to his grave denying it, but games tell good stories, deep and involving stories, stories that are enhanced by collaboration with the player. Judging a medium by its least accomplished or most superficial exercises is like judging film’s narrative capacity on the strength of porn or Alvin and the Chipmunks. Does the Smurfs big screen debut nullify, oh, I don’t know — Beyond the Valley of the Dolls?

(This rant brought to you by Mass Effect 3, the only space opera — that’s right, THE ONLY space opera on the market right now, and probably the best written one in any visual medium — and the upcoming HD re-release of one of the best games ever written, Silent Hill 2. And also the notion that Dark Souls is in any way meant to be a story-delivery system. Meh!)

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by | March 6, 2012 · 9:17 pm

The Archbishop of Canterbury Believes We’re Damn Dirty Apes and Other Revelations

I confess, I’ve just not made time to watch the recent headline-making Richard Dawkins-Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury debate. Bad Angela. Bad militant atheist. Still, whatever Rick Santorum thinks, a good CPAC panel does a great deal more to radicalize my beliefs than Professor Dawkins ever, ever could.

While I can’t know this for certain, I doubt when I finally watch this that I’ll be very surprised by any of the content. I’ve seen these two men converse before — I won’t say debate. For all his reputed venom, there is no such thing as a Dawkinslap, and I’ve always found him to be very blunt, but also quite respectful. I’m pretty well read and YouTubed up on Dawkins and his Four Horsemen colleagues. Please partake if you’ve not seen these discussions, featuring Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett.

One thing that would definitely NOT surprise me is the fact that Dawkins allows a scintilla of the possibility that there might be a God or a Great Something-Or-Other or FSM, whatevs. He’s said that before. He wrote a whole big long book about this. It’s called “The God Delusion.” And yet after this debate, like manna from heaven, gleeful headlines that Dawkins is an agnostic, not an atheist. Clearly a saucy headline. All he’s saying is there is a limit to his knowledge, and so of course he can’t say there absolutely is no such thing.

What I found more eyebrow-raising, unmentioned in most reports I’ve seen, although present in the Telegraph account, was the Archbishop’s admission that he believes that humans have non-human ancestors. Perhaps if I were a Christian, or one who doesn’t live in the U.S., that would surprise me less, too. I think it would be a very good headline. “Head of the Church of England Believes in Darwinian Evolution.” As good as “World’s Most Famous Atheist Isn’t Quite Strictly an Atheist”? Perhaps not. I still like mine though.

I leave you with one of my favorite Dawkins moments from the YouTubes: the look on his face when Deepak Chopra explains how scientists have hijacked quantum theory and what follows, what I suppose you MIGHT consider a Dawkinslap.

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Some of the Best Not Killing Everyone in My Path Music I Know

This week has been pretty feisty. Actually make that FREAKING INSANE. How do I keep it together? Well, that’s an assumption. But I do find music doth soothe, or at least tamp down the rage, and I share with you one of my favorite, most obscure pieces of music. It’s everything xanax should be, and its effectiveness doesn’t diminish over time! If you like this, seek out the rest of the soundtrack on the YouTubes. You will not be disappointed.

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by | February 19, 2012 · 6:54 pm

Movie review: Back in Black, or Harry Potter and the Implacable Psychopomp

Boogedy-boogedy-boo!

I remember the first film version of “The Woman in Black.” It scared me as thoroughly as something seen on weeknight A&E, studded with promos for Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes and MCI vs. Sprint ads, might. And then I forgot about it for about 20 years.

I think I’m a little unique as a ghost story consumer, because I absolutely savor what I call “the domino setting upping,” the long, slow drive up to the Overlook, the unpacking in the new house,  the stupid kids getting lost in the woods on the first day of filming. Usually the rules of the haunting are herein defined as well, sort of the filmic equivalent of the flight attendant instructing you about exits and tray tables. It’s possible to overdo the domino setting upping — see every miniseries harvested from Stephen King’s body of work — but a good ghost story requires at least minimal attention to this phase of the story. Really successful ghost stories will use the 20 or 30 minutes spent here to subvert audience expectations and invigorate scares for the rest of the film, and when all the dominos fall, it will be exceptionally satisfying for all the deliberate architecture spent in the setting up phase.

“The Woman in Black” is a movie that you might characterize as lavishing too much time on the domino setting upping. I would argue that for all the time in the first half of the film spent on rolling around in mood and gorgeous, bleak scenery, it doesn’t really get much done in terms of establishing the rules of the haunting. It’s just really slow, slow like movies used to be before audiences had expectations, slow like movies are when they don’t have the budget for much more than a room with a view. Radcliffe does a lot of heavy lifting keeping the audience engaged through the first half, because he’s really very much on his own here. Just Harry, a turgid, bubbling moor, and a vague sense of expectation.

This is kind of scary "Woman in Black" offers you, the viewer. Not from the movie; this is a meme bouncing around Facebook now.

The second half of the movie though — whoa, hey. If you’re a fan of Japanese horror films like “Ju-On,” “Ringu,” or their American remakes, boy, oh, boy, you will love the second half of this movie. There were at least two scenes I recognized from “The Grudge,” and of course, most of the shock and horror derives from the kinds of scares those movies do so incomparably — the almost off-camera glimpse of a ghostly face, a forlorn shape separating from the shadows, the sudden discovery of a wraith kissing close to our protagonist. Once “The Woman in Black” gets going, it goes at full tilt until the end.

It's nice to see something this Tim Burtoney not starring Johnny Depp at least.

“The Woman in Black” represents a fitting return to form for England’s infamous Hammer studios, responsible for some of the 20th century’s best terrible misuses of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in similar costumed horror fare. It’s not exactly a successful movie on its own; too slow, too vacuous, too dependent on Radcliffe for too long. But perhaps I’m being too harsh. It does ultimately deliver, and if you do take the time for the first half, you won’t be let down by the end. That’s pretty much the polar opposite of my experience with most movies I’ve seen in the last year. And unlike the original movie version, I don’t think some of those scenes will be so quick to fade from memory, with or without commercial interruption.

Verdict: Go, see. And get all your bathroom going done before he spends the night in the house.

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Book revue: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Book revue: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Norman was not, technically speaking a psychopath, but you might be.

Just finished “The Psychopath Test: A journey Through the Madness Industry” by the guy who brought you “The Men Who Stare At Goats.” The book, not the movie.

Ronson’s prose reads like TV, especially with the juicy chapter stops built like commercial breaks, but that’s not a bad thing. This is a lively, fun read and thought-provoking to boot.  The thesis, and the main focus of the book, is that psychopaths are a lot more ubiquitous in our society than we know and funnily enough, psychopathic tendencies align very well with characteristics can that make one stunningly popular and successful in politics, business, etc.


Ronson comes upon the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, meets its architect and other interested individuals including psychopathic patients and captains of industry, and begins picking at the notion that our society actually rewards madness, even requires it in a subtle, sinister, reality TV-based way.

There’s more thought provoking here than thought following or thought fleshing, but it’s not a superficial book. To chase down the implications that occur to Ronson through his journey would require academic treatises and senate subcommittees and possibly jackbooted shock troops. It’s just that while the premise concerns our wider society, the only insights ultimately furnished are local ones about you, what you’re watching on telly, and if you’re over-medicating your kids or being over-medicated yourself. It’s very worthwhile, and I recommend the book. Go on and buy it. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to lend out and revisit once Campaign 2012 really gets underway.

(Google “Newt Gingrich psychopath.” You know you want to. Or you will after you read this.)

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by | January 29, 2012 · 5:27 pm

Buy Curious

Following up on Edward’s excellent internet blackout solidarity post — and I’m not only referring to the judicious use of Telly Savalas sprechcroon, although he surely improves everything he touches by a factor of 5 — some of you may have heard of musician Jonathan Coulton’s pithy tweet on the demise of file-sharing Mos Eisley, MegaUpload:

“Any other musicians out there notice that ever since they shut down MegaUpload, the money has just been POURING in?”

Zing! Ring-a-ding-ding. I like this guy already.

Well, after this caused a fair amount of what we may assume was negative or confused feedback, Coulton expanded his views on internet piracy legislation in a thoughtful, nuanced, and well-informed blog that is really worth reading.

I particularly cleave to the argument that every file shiftily acquired via MegaUpload or YouTube or Kazaa or whatever the kids do nowdays does not equal a lost sale. This is absolutely true. If you make a good product and you make it available to the public, they will pay for it. I know. I’m one of them. Just last week I bought this, while I could easily just listen to it on Spotify. Last night, I watched an old episode of MST3K on the YouTubes, but only because the VHS tape (remember when THEY were the Satan in this argument?) I originally recorded the episode on is obsolete and they have not made the episode in question commercially available in any other format, be it streaming or DVD. Trust me, if it were commercially available, I would pay for it. (Dear Shout Factory: the movie in question is Mole People. Do not tell me anyone is barring the rights to that thing.)

Image

And this is a show that I originally only paid for through a cable subscription. Those box sets range between $30 and $50 each, the single titles anywhere from $15 to $20. And that’s not counting the money I’ve spent on the same guys’ different post-MST3K projects: The Film Crew, Rifftrax, Legend Films commentary tracks, Cinematic Titanic. When my husband and I saw Cinematic Titanic live, those tickets were, like, $70 each.

Don’t ask me how much I paid for the Gizmo and that Poe ragdoll.

So, traditional distribution channels have failed the Bidness. Well, all ineffective things come to an end. The one thing I really am convinced of in this argument is that the consumers will never fail the content creators, if we’re given the least opportunity to do the right thing.

I bet someone’s downloaded that “Who Loves You, Baby?” on iTunes thanks to YouTube’s archiving of Telly Savalas, long after big companies with an alleged interest in keeping his content under their banner have forgotten all about him. And you know, I have a mad posh to go iTunes this Jonathan Coulton guy’s new album, produced by John Flansburgh (eeeeeee!)…although I might go check it out on Spotify first.

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House Calls

I’m down wit da sickness this weekend, dang it all, and while there are many things I would like to share, I am pretty much only up to lying in bed and passively absorbing the boob tube. Or boob Roku, I suppose. However. I do at least have a Youtube clip post in me.

As I was falling ill last night, I livetweeted a very strange film on TCM with other members of the Internet, and damn good times were had. The movie is called Hausu (House with a Japanese accent), it’s a Japanese horror movie, and you’ll find it in the Criterion Collection and your weirdest, way out nightmares. Where Ringu meets Scooby-Doo, where The Facts of Life meets The Evil Dead, that is the crossroads where whatever the hell this is should be staked and buried. But it’s definitely a must-see, possibly a must-own, and I highly recommend it.

I could attempt a plot summary here, but you wouldn’t believe me. So here’s the trailer. It is NOT subtitled, but I can promise you that in no way will affect your comprehension of the clip.

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by | January 14, 2012 · 6:42 pm

Christopher Hitchens Memorial Statue Campaign

I know, I know. The notion of a statue of Hitch for anyone who genuinely appreciated his work can seem only slightly less moribund than the mummified V.I. Lenin displayed like Snow White in her glass coffin. There is that. But what persuades me this proposal is not a repudiation of Hitch’s legacy as Hitch himself intended it is that a statue represents the status of his ideas in our society. For years, the Crackpot Right has been threatening a Culture War, and by God — essentially by God — they’re bringing it. Particularly in the current U.S. political environment where all the credible Republican candidates (Huntsman and Ron Paul are not really conceded as credible by anyone, right?) are at least unstinting religious zealots, those of us who are sane need our heroes and we need to be inspired to stand up. So damn the contradictions, immortalize the essential Contrarian, as the very existence of this statue will be a refutation to those who take their wisdom from on high or not at all.

I also find it a delightful notion to consider a golem of Hitch staring balefully out onto a society of hovercars.

Christopher Hitchens Memorial Statue Campaign.

(Crossposted to http://angeng.wordpress.com/)

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