It seems that I, your one true and good friend, El Cosmico, have at long last recovered from a recent experience which might have caused those of greater sanity to kill themselves, a viewing of the Golden Globe award show.
Oh, by the way, for those readers who don't like rambling, long-winded, non-sequitur filled articles, just click the back button right now and get on out of here. Off you go. If you stay, and bitch later, that makes you a fuckhead.
Was there ever an awards show that made more of a mockery of itself? No satirist has never approached such subtle and perfectly disturbing...satire. Kudos to Sarah Jessica Parker for the most obscene acceptance speech I have ever seen. Oh damn. My cat just vomited. I'm not kidding, it's coincidence, I think.
Well, cleaning THAT was pleasant. Pets are such a trade-off. Dogs slobber, make loud noise, stink, shit everywhere, and are needy, and cats vomit. Yuck-o.
Yeah, well, screw you too, cat. Anyway, it's not cruel of me to say that Ms. Parker's speech was obscene. I mean, if she watches it on tape, she'll realize it. That's fine. People are that way sometimes. Of course, I also think that the only reason that her show is popular is because Americans are childish prudes who giggle at every mention of sex, but that's another story. Or, maybe it really isn't. She can't be so insane as to take this all seriously, and so, in that spirit, I chide her.
At least Al Pacino had some perspective, when he talked about how lucky he felt to be there, Al gave one of only three truly real moments of the evening, and his speech showed how worthy he was of the award he received. Happy thoughts to George Clooney, who also seemed to understand the ridiculous nature of the situation, but the El Cosmico award of the evening has to go to Elizabeth Taylor (I will NOT call her DAME, royals are the scum of the Earth, caused most of the pain and bloodshed in the last millenium, and people who believe in democracy should turn down such accolades as "dame" with a polite "Fuck you, royal!" accompanied by a firm middle finger, of course).
Now then, where was I? Oh yes, Elizabeth Taylor gets the El Cosmico award of the evening, for doing exactly what I, and all sensible people would have done in her position. Picturing myself in a room full of sick monkeys, such a high caliber of which could only ever be found at a gathering of both film AND television...ahem..."stars", sanity and good form dictate that one should probably get PISS DRUNK. So, I salute you Ms. Taylor, because you shouldn't give a damn what those people think of you, you should just dress up in an outfit that makes you happy, go out, and have a fun evening however you can.
So, what the hell does this have to do with TROMA? Everything. Those of you who have read Lloyd Kaufman's stunningly excellent autobiography, "All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From THE TOXIC AVENGER", know that setting tone, providing context, is key to a truly transcendental understanding of any tale. Such as Lloyd's own tale of life in Chad, as it inspires the future existence of all that is TROMA. Lloyd Kaufman, you see, is a true champion among men. For those of you who haven't read his biography, whether you're a fan of Troma, interested in film, or just want to read a goddamn funny-ass book, you should go and buy about thirty copies and read them all over and over again. Buy them now at troma.com!
Firstly, I'll tell you why this article is here. Because on the 24th and 25th, in Park City, Utah, there is an event worth attending. You've seen and heard of Sundance, I don't think I need to go into the many ways in which it is wrong, and the few in which it is truly right. You may have heard of Slamdance, Felchdance, Nodance, Moondance, Fuckdance, Assdance, Dancedance, Masturbationdance, Globochemdance, and the like. Okay, some of those are only happening at my place this year. Most of these, however, are misguided attempts by one or another ape to gain one or another type of "cred", "props", or perhaps the occasional lot of "big ups" from the hopelessly entrenched "rebel" establishment, the very reason why every American should be required to read "Commodify Your Dissent". And, isn't it cool that I mentioned that. No, it's not cool. It sucks. Everything sucks.
That aside, there is an oasis of nonsense, a realm of pure artistry, mixed in a most disgusting fashion with, at various times, complete lack of talent, true inspiration, total lack of taste, true independence, absolutely the shittiest filmmaking you'll ever see, and, of course, real fun and substantially more originality than you will probably find at all of the other fests combined. It is, of course, TROMADANCE.
This year, I'm glad to say, I'm trapped in my cave, exploring new heights of misanthropic and highly consumer-victim driven life. Staring at my Playstation 2, I revel in the high degree of colorful and complex repetitiveness, only satisfying perhaps because it is confusing. I love it, and it hates me. Ultimately, I am most proud and ashamed of my recent journey into online shopping for groceries. You see, no longer do I have a single consistently occuring reason for leaving my apartment. They are now bringing my groceries to my door. This is such terrible beauty. It's a shame, though, that they must be brought by actual humans, whom I could otherwise completely avoid seeing ever.
The point is, if you're lucky enough to be out of the house, and are for some fool- headed reason in Park City, you shouldn't waste your time trying to catch wind of the next big thing, the latest buzz, and what have you. You need to have some actual fun while you're away from the office. Fill your mind with goodness. Go to TROMADANCE. There's no admission fee, and there are fun girlies there in sexy outfits...but keep your hands off Tiffany. She's mine.
Can I guarantee what you'll see there? Hell no. I was chatting with Lloyd for a good while, and we talked about lots of stuff, but I was more interested in discussing the films of his that I'd just watched in a marathon. Before chatting, I thought it appropriate to watch all of the Troma films I could in a mad weekend-long marathon, then I watched them again, this time with the director's commentary. Then, I was prepared to feed baited lines to Lloyd, so he'd be impressed with how great my questions were. Like when I talked to a certain cult after watching their infomercial, except that Lloyd preaches the truth. Said Lloyd to me, [do you] "want jalapeno peppers on your cultural pizza, or the baby food of PAY IT FORWARD"? I hear you man, PAY IT FORWARD can fucking go to hell.
What do I love about Troma? Do I care, for instance that the Cinematheque Francais has honored him, and compared to Dadaist Marcel Duchamp? That Sam Grogg, Dean of the American Film Institute Conservatory, described Lloyd Kaufman as one of the handful of genuine auteur directors in the United States? Of course, Troma also makes television for the British (Troma's EDGE TV, Friday nights on Channel 4, the largest private UK network), are madly popular in Japan, and they were celebrated this past December at the Anthology Film Archives in New York.
All of this has happened despite the intense and constantly hounding evil presence of the MPAA. As true independents know, the MPAA, as one of its founding principles, aggressively seeks out and destroys anyone not directly affiliated with an incredibly large corporation. I wish I was exaggerating here, but just look at the cut versions of Troma films versus the uncut. Like when, in Toxic Avenger, a couple of scenes that were cut out to obtain an R rating were...a grandmother being punched in the stomach, and...a guy on fire. Not insanely gross versions of these events, pretty much plain vanilla renditions. The trend continued and at Troma's first apex, during the 80's, when they released their epic Troma's War, they were told by Richard Hefner of the MPAA that their film was trash, and that it would never get an R. Of course, to get into theatres, they had to cut it to extremes, which left their fans watching a horribly dismembered film, which in turn made the fans think that Troma had sold out. Only recently, on DVD and home video, has Troma's War been viewable in its uncut version.
Incidentally, Troma's War has more squibbs than probably any other film ever, save perhaps Sam Peckinpah's Wild Bunch, and on top of that, I believe it had the first ever pair of simultaneously exploding breasts, a technique which recurs in Terror Firmer. More on that later. Anyway, the point is, that in an era of bloodbaths on the big screen, with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis, with Robocop and the like all having received R ratings for content much more extreme than anything Troma has ever done, the MPAA has continued to try to crush them. Not getting an R rating not only means that theatres won't carry a film, it also excludes many independent films from being carried at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. It couldn't be more obvious, and it's a sad, sick tale of a hopelessly pathetic and hypocritical agency. Thankfully, Troma's films will outlive Jack Valenti.
Even this year though, Troma's recent entry, Terror Firmer, an absolute masterpiece of Troma filmmaking, faced harsh pressure from the MPAA to cut tons of footage. This at the same time that Disney's Scary Movie included ball-sack shots, penises stabbing people through their heads, and come sprayed all over a girl like a fire hose. Shittiness, thy name is MPAA.
Thankfully, Troma has a business strategy that has kept them around for 26 years...living on almost nonexistent budgets, staying away from loans and debts of most kinds, which has allowed them to weather, albeit wearily at times, the most harsh conspiracies of madness being waged by sick monkeys everywhere.
The advent of the internet has permitted them to reach their fans directly, at troma.com and tromaville.com, and direct VHS and DVD sales have been of great help to the heroic company. So strong is the fan influence on Troma, that fans provided the plot for the most recent Troma film, The Toxic Avenger 4: Citizen Toxie, in which the Toxic Avenger faces an evil-universe Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD. As for other enjoyment from this film...a fine quote, "Heroes don't double amputate police chiefs!" as well as appearances from Ron Jeremy, Dolphin man, Mad Cowboy, Sgt. Kabukiman, Master Bater, a shaved Michael Herz, two fighting fetuses, the return of Melvin, a Hitler theme, tongue pulling, lesbian sex, and of course, Lemmy Von MÃ¶torhead.
Some of this probably sounds like it makes no damn sense to you at all. As Count Smokula has said, "When watching a Troma movie, you must not only suspend your disbelief: you must lock it up in a small iron crate and torture it." You see, there is so much to Troma's films. In my own opinion, you cannot understand their films until you have seen many of them, and explored the story of Troma. As I've discovered the works myself, and read through Lloyd's truly outstanding biography, I find myself more interested with each new bit of information. Every new thing I see makes me more and more of a fan. Each new work or commentary casts every previous Troma work I've seen in a new light. Some think of Troma's films as utter crap. Watching their historical development, though, a truly wise, enlightened person sees the evolving themes and subtexts, and by the time you get through the library to Tromeo and Juliet, Terror Firmer, and Citizen Toxie, if there is a soul in you, and a functioning brain, you will be in awe of the accomplishments of this brave, tiny, truly independent studio. They have a vision. A clear vision of a genre completely separate from all other films that you see. Abandon your previous hopes for film, and accept the greater ethos of Troma's Films Of The Future.
Yea, some say, at first glance, Troma films are about sex and violence. Big titties and guns. Hoo-has and Uzis. Bazongas and bazookas. Never better expressed than in Troma's War, perhaps. This film is also a prime example of the real motivation behind many Troma films, which is not simply to be entertaining, to re-use old props, thematic ideas, and jokes...although a lot of that goes on. In fact, one of the best ways to enjoy Troma films is to see how many films a certain prop (dismembered leg, for example) is used in, or to compare various takes on throwing people out of second-story windows to their horrible deaths. Underlying each of the modern Troma films, from the original Toxic Avenger on, is a serious political attitude. In Troma's war, it was a statement against jingoistic militarism that was rampant in the Reagan era, and continues even today.
Hollywood, let's be honest, is a wing of the Democratic party. Witness, for example, the aforementioned (see, I told you there was a fucking point!) Horrific Golden Globes. More openly proud forms of evil tend to gravitate to the Republican party. Troma rallied for Ralph Nader, and stands not only against big government and big corporations, but also against big labor (Kaufman was run out of the Director's Guild). One can understand their point, especially the point of Troma's War, when one considers a couple of fun combat actions. Reagan's invasion of Grenada, as all sane people know, was a total sham. It was, in the Hollywood language, a "Wag the Dog" situation, a diversionary tactic to distract the press from covering the HORRIBLE security fuckup in Lebanon just days earlier, which led to the deaths of MANY US Marines. Ultimately, the press discovered that there were 60 unarmed Cuban construction workers there. This was the communist takeover force. Well done, Ronnie. Clinton's shining moment was when he bombed a medicine factory in the Sudan, in order to distract from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Good on you too, Bill.
The beauty of this is that during the recent presidential debates, both candidates said that they fully supported both actions. Al Gore said he supported every military action taken in every recent administration. Of course we expect this from Republicans, but Al, you do remember that THE ENTIRE WORLD, I SHIT YOU NOT, I AM NOT EXAGGERATING, the entire world, including the UN Security Council, strongly condemned the invasion of Grenada. The only dissenting vote was... the United States. So, Al, what the fuck is the point of having a Democratic party if you can't criticize bullshit like that?
Here, we have the difference between true independent thinking and establishment mind-control, which occurs on both sides of the political fence. If you're still under the illusion that there ARE two sides. Or that there's a fence at all. Troma, meanwhile, last year protested outside of a Democratic party fundraiser, attended by masses of Hollywood elite, and promoted Nader on their website. Maybe you don't agree with their viewpoint on this stuff, but that's probably because you're wrong.
There are so many whip-ass chapters in Troma's history, and in Kaufman's personal history, but part of the fun is discovering it on your own, and the process of becoming a fan. As I said, the age of DVD has been good to Troma, and the Terror Firmer DVD is a two-disc set, with a release date of...TODAY! Go buy it at the Chopping Maul! With one disc dedicated to a feature-length documentary on the making of the film. Terror Firmer, to me, at least, is a sort of Meta-Troma-Film. It can only be truly appreciated if one has seen a good lot of Troma films, and is a real treasure for the hardcore Troma fan. A sort of fine and perfect distillation of the Troma ethic, clearly a crowning achievement for the filmmakers. Even if you've never seen a Troma film because you suck, though, you'll be able to appreciate the glorious, distinctly separate and excellent universe that is Tromaville. You owe it to yourself.
What about TROMADANCE? When asked about TROMADANCE, spoke the mighty Kaufman, "Oliver Wendell Holmes said, 'A person cannot truly have lived unless he shares in the actions and passions of his time', and we have come to the conclusion that so many film festivals are bogus, so many film festivals charge filmmakers to have their movies entered. For the privilege of having their movies excluded, you know, how many of these film festivals like Sundance...I mean, I had somebody, I had lunch with somebody recently, who told me that he invested in a movie, and that movie was being represented by Michael Ovitz, therefore, it was a slam dunk to be accepted by Sundance. Sundance, it's really very ugly when you go there, they're very rude to filmmakers, they're really snotty, and Slamdance, this other...we used to sponsor it, but they got really hoity-toity, and I think they've totally sold out. They may have some good movies occasionally, but they've sold out, they want to be a part of the Hollywood elite. So, we've set up Tromadance, there's no entry fee, we don't charge for tickets, so the public can come for free. Filmmakers, we feel that if you try to make a movie, if you make a movie, it's very expensive, and independent filmmakers have to donate a kidney, basically to get a film made. Why should they have to pay to have their movie entered into a film festival, especially when those film festivals are fixed...I mean, they're pre-determined, for the most part. They've sort of decided already what's going to be in those festivals.. ..it's unfair, especially when those film festivals really make their decisions based on powerful divisions of big studios and press agents. So, TROMADANCE is a reaction against that."
This year at Tromadance, there will be two venues, one in Salt Lake City, and one in Park City. Of course, more information can be found at tromadance.com.
So, while you're all fucking around in Park City, bored off of your asses, or talking about how much you love "independent film", consider who owns all of those supposedly independent film companies, how clearly cynical and test-marketed all of their themes are, custom-made for your wannabe ass. Then, get some sense into your head, and go see some TRULY independent films over at Tromadance...so your trip won't be a complete waste of time.
Hey, want to see something really offensive?