What does it take for a filmmaker to shock an audience these
days? Well, it depends on the audience
of course. I was shocked by that crazy
documentary Jesus Camp which is about
youngsters learning about scriptures but
I suppose there are people who could watch it and wonder what all the fuss was
about. Toddlers and Tiaras, the show on the TLC cable station, shocks me
when I take the time to watch it but if you’re a mother of one of those
toddlers, it obviously seems quite normal to dress a five year old up like a
So, I still get shocked and some of my favorite movies are
the ones that have shocked me the most.
I have put together a list of these movies and why, at least from my
perspective, they seem so memorable. The
list is in no particular order. If you
haven’t seen some of the titles, I caution that you need an open mind even to
get through some of them. They are
definitely NOT for all tastes. You have
Blue Velvet (1986)
This used to be my favorite movie of all time. It still is on my top ten list and bounces
around on that list depending on my random cinematic moods. It’s a story revolving around a severed ear,
some very bad gangsters, two innocent teenagers (who don’t really look like
teenagers) and a beautiful nightclub singer who gets abused (and sometimes
likes it). The best part about this
movie is how the director David Lynch directs the clash between the innocence
and evil. And it’s pure evil. The kind of evil that makes you think that
something very very bad is going to happen to the main characters. Favorite scene: Isabella Rossellini makes Kyle MacLachlan
strip naked while she threatens him with a knife. Not exactly shocking by itself but what comes
after certainly is.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
If there is one movie that should get the most shocks per
minute of screentime, I would like to vote for this one. John Waters created this low budget
masterpiece by using a cast of friends who apparently weren’t afraid of doing
anything. Pervert with a turkey neck
tied to penis? Got it. Singing asshole? Got it.
Drag queen eating dog shit? Okay,
hasn’t everyone scene that scene? Even
Mr. Waters is apparently tired of explaining that yes, that scene did actually
happen and Divine did call up a doctor’s office just to make sure that he
wouldn’t die of some sort of canine parasite.
I am amazed that I can’t think of another recent film that has this many
jaw dropping moments. There is even
bestiality. Strangely enough, none of it
seems gratuitous. In some ways, it just
looks like a group of friends got together and shot a lot of crazy shit with a
Hustler White (1996)
This film seems like a documentary but isn’t; the film
borrows its beginning from Sunset Boulevard where the narrator is face down
dead in the water. This film follows the
journey of a Hollywood hustler who is part of a very seedy, twisted and most of
the time, outrageous underbelly of LA’s sex scene. Extremely graphic, this is the type of film
that you would only dare your most open and closest friends to watch because
anyone else would probably never talk to you again for suggesting it. The star is Tony Ward, who seems strangely
comfortable in this strange world.
Henry: Portrait of a
Serial Killer (1986)
We see so much violence on tv and in the movies these days
that it takes A LOT of brutality to get through our jaded exteriors. But this movie seems to do it. Based on the true story of serial killer,
Henry Lee Lucas, we follow Henry as he casually kills people without any real
motive. He simply seems compelled to do
it. And he does it without any sense of
regret. The opening scenes of the dead
bodies in macabre tableaux are bad enough (especially the one of the half naked
girl at the sink with a glass bottle embedded in her head) but it only gets
more shocking with the torture of a naked woman while her husband and son are
unceremoniously killed. And the whole
scene is filmed by Henry’s accomplice, Otis.
Such raw evil is chilling; these victims could have been your mother or
your father or your child. Henry:
Portrait of a Serial Killer shows us how cheap human life can be. To add to the horror, Henry gets away with it
in the end. His real life inspiration
wasn’t so lucky.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
I saw this movie for the first time with a church
group. Admittedly, it wasn’t an older
church group, we were all “youths” and someone brought along this gem for a
“movie night”. Obviously, we didn’t have
any older supervision that night and I suppose all of us were too shocked or
intrigued or at that age, turned on, to turn the blasphemy off. If you’re not familiar with the story, it
tells the tale of a very bad adolescent who is part of a violent gang and in
one of the more gruesome scenes, they rape a woman and permanently maim her
husband all to the joyous melodies of “Singing in the Rain”. Weird indeed. The leader subsequently enters
therapy—pretty much desensitization to violent images while his eyes are held
open—and you might think that he would be cured. But you would be wrong. Sexually and violently graphic, the acting
and directing elevate it beyond a simple exploitation film. Why is called A Clockwork Orange? I have no idea. One of the great movies of the Golden Age of
Anatomy of Hell (2004)
And now we have a little French film. A little French film that is filled with such
disgusting and nauseating images that it’s best if you haven’t eaten a meal for
several hours. I’m not really sure of
the plot. I suppose it revolves around a
woman who tries to kill herself but then is rescued by a gay man who is
intrigued and repulsed by her sexuality.
Makes sense so far, doesn’t it?
Oh well, it’s French and that explains a lot. To its credit, it pushes a lot of boundaries that
most filmmakers wouldn’t even want to approach and in my opinion, doesn’t
deserve the 4/10 rating on the IMDB website.
If anything, this film will make you realize that there is always
something out there that will shock an audience, no matter how open minded they
are. And believe it or not, this
filmmaker is a woman, the one and only, Catherine Breillat.
This was the best year ever for the Savong Foundation!
I can say that with 100% honesty since the Savong Foundation
became official on May 4, 2011. On that
day, we received our 501(c)(3) paperwork from the United States Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) which allows American contributions to be tax
deductible. This process took nine
months from start to finish and involved a lot of fun paperwork with
interesting challenges like “Show us proof that you are not funding terrorist organizations within
Cambodia.” I wanted to write that all of
the children promised me that they would never ever build nuclear weapons at
the SOC (Savong Orphan Center) but from what I hear, the IRS
does not have a sense of humor.
In Cambodia, it seems that progress can be a slow painful
process. Savong doesn’t subscribe to
that philosophy because in 2011, it seemed like his projects were evolving at a
rapid pace. At the Savong School, a new
outdoor classroom was built and free Korean instruction was added to the
curriculum. (English and Japanese were
already being taught). Three of the
older students (Pomsen, Orong and Seyha) signed up for University and they
received their tuitions, living expenses, a laptop and a small amount of
spending money thanks to generous donations from their international
sponsors. Savong also made the decision
to go back to school because he clearly does not have enough to do in his spare
time despite the fact that he welcomed a new baby into the world. (A big welcome to Lucky!)
After a short downtime, the Medical Clinic at the SOC was
back up and running. Dr. Phin Sopheak leads
the helm and she sees about fifteen patients a day at no charge from the
surrounding community as well as from the SOC.
Also at the SOC, a full time guardian, Nan, was hired and the child
safety policy was implemented (you can read about it here http://www.savong.com/ChildSafety/tabid/173/Default.aspx).
The care, well being and happiness of the children at the SOC are always
a top priority and if you have ever visited this care center, you know that
they deserve the best!
Construction of the new student center began this year and
we are still doing some finishing touches.
This will be the home for the older students (ranging in age from 15 to 24)
who are attending the local high school or the university. All the land and construction costs (which
were considerable since Siem Reap is just not as cheap as you might think) came
from private donations. We hope to get
the students into this facility by January or February at the latest.
For me, the most fun I had this year was the trip to
Cambodia in mid November. I was there
for a couple of weeks with the treasurer of the foundation, Eddie Lamborn. I say “fun” but for most of the visit, it was
all about business and there never enough hours in our days. Savong was gracious with his time and we
discussed current projects and future ambitions. We had a great discussion about needs and
wants and Savong was very helpful in teaching us about the Cambodian
culture. That knowledge is essential; if
you want to help a population of people, the first step is understanding
them. And Cambodians are not
Americans. Or Australians. Or British.
That seems obvious but it is amazing how ingrained the Western culture
can be and without even realizing it, visitors such as ourselves can make
judgements which are misinformed or worse, just plain wrong. In other words, I learned that working in
Cambodia means leaving a lot of cultural baggage at home where it belongs.
What is in store for 2012?
The main focus for the foundation at this point is getting the student
center operational and making sure that the students learn as much at school as
they do outside of school. We do not
want to make them into adults who are dependent on outside help but instead
want to foster their independence while working as a team with the other
students. When we were in Cambodia, we
interviewed all of them and I’m excited about all the potential they hold. There is no question in my mind that they
have what it takes to make the most of the wonderful opportunities that they
have been given. Beyond the student
center, there are some other exciting projects on the horizon which will be
discussed with Savong, Duncan (in New Zealand) and the foundation. We are working hard on improving the website
(stay tuned!) and a fundraiser dinner is in the works for February.
As always, I want to say a huge (HUGE) thanks to all of
you. Your commitment, financial or
otherwise, is much appreciated and without your help, there is no way that we
could do the things that we do. I had no
idea that the foundation would take up as much time as it does but it is worth
it because the kids are worth it. If you
haven’t been to Cambodia yet, I hope you do someday because you will see what I
mean first hand. For those who have been
to the Kingdom of Wonder, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The foundation is dedicated to making their
lives better and we will do so with both accountability and transparency.
There is a big mistake with this picture which you might not immediately catch.
Oh Happy New Year and all that. I hope 2012 in a good one and the Mayans are wrong and everyone gets what they deserve--good or bad. Moving on ...
I took this picture in the fall and I guess it has been a while--or maybe my memory isn't very good--because I could have sworn this place was called Mono Bay. So I photoshopped it with a big mono bay sign which is unfortunate because it is called Morro Bay.
But I have better things to do with my time than play on photoshop (cleaning, doing laundry, walking dog, shower, eat and plan world domination, not necessarily in that order ...) so I have decided to leave it as is. It didn't take me long to do but still, I think I hear my dog peeing on the carpet ...
Morro Bay is a great spot to visit. Not sure I would want to live there (it's a little too sleepy for me) but it is very picturesque and they had some pretty good chowder on the docks. It's on the coast, north of Los Angeles on the way to San Francisco.