Joe Badon’s "The Blood of the Dinosaurs” Teases Something Great, With Something Great
It's another weird one, and it's a keeper.
Grandpa Universe is a kindly old Nosferatu hand puppet, here to tell us about birth and the horror of entering a new world. Of transition. Purity is a youthful but oblivious and happy little girl, here to let us know how capitalists introduced oil to a new world. And Uncle Bobbo, a disturbed children’s TV host of the Norman Bates cosplay variety turned up to eleven, is here to present us all to his world of waking nightmares, both internal and external.
This is Joe Badon’s latest short, The Blood of the Dinosaurs: A Prologue to The Wheel of Heaven. And it’s damn near brilliant.
With his previous two features, Badon’s work confounded me quite a bit. The God Inside My Ear left me, at least initially, frustrated - what was it, and why couldn’t I figure it out? Sister Tempest left me, for sure, delightfully perplexed - why was it, and why couldn’t I shake it? With The Blood of the Dinosaurs, I think I may have settled on comfortable ground with the filmmaker from the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.
If Eraserhead met The Lords of Salem, that meeting would be close to The Blood of the Dinosaurs, at least in how it feels when watching.
There’s sarcastic aggression to the faux children’s show at the center of this story, which veers from tangent to tangent or rather segment to segment, as if we’re experiencing the thoughts and memories and prophecies of a tortured soul - which, I believe we are. Whose soul? It can’t be that of Uncle Bobbo, performed with crackling campfire and piercing eyes by Vincent Stalba. His presence, one that is a constant fright with some darkly humorous tones ala the films of Todd Solondz, is but a red herring, I feel, at least in this prologue.
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Yes, The Blood of the Dinosaurs is a tease, and it’s teasing something great, with something great. I don’t know what’s to come with The Wheel of Heaven short series whatsoever, and I think director Joe Badon is being playful about this notion. Blood starts with a quick cut of Joe being asked what this film is “about,” which moves immediately to the extinction of the dinosaurs - presented here as kid’s toys being nailed with fireworks. Exactly. Joe is that kid, and what this film is about is what all of his films are “about.”
And just what is that? Transitions, from one thing to the next. Birth, death, rebirth. The power to tear down and create anew. To make a movie.
I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed the camped-up, creeped-out, and cared-for nature of this film. From moment to moment, there’s something new to grasp. From within each moment, there’s something new to learn. And from the movie as a whole, there’s a director’s world being born once more. 4/5
The Blood of the Dinosaurs is currently playing in film festivals.
Some More Things: Movie Money CONFIDENTIAL, Just an Illusion, and Gasoline Alley
Whether writer and director Rick Pamplin made Movie Money CONFIDENTIAL (yes, the last word is in all caps) to be genuinely helpful or to appear as such is beyond me, but I’ll assume he was true for now. His interview documentary on how to make it in Hollywood as an independent filmmaker is a same old same old talking head of the best beats from the least interesting how-to books on the subject. I hate to say it, but there’s nothing CONFIDENTIAL in this document.
Pamplin, from the get-go, comes across as someone with a massive ego, claiming that he’s been victimized for years but, through this movie, will let you in on his secrets to success. He and his various behind-the-scenes friends are first on-screen most spectacularly riding on a luxury boat that’s slowly traveling past other boats that are currently docked. Was this rented? Is this his or owned by a friend? Whatever the case, the impression that CONFIDENTIAL gives is that it’s a get-working quick infomercial scheme, cooked up under the pretext of offering up & comers some advice and to show the “haters” that any movie can be made - you just need to follow their guide. Or really, his guide.
Hyped as having the final on-camera interview with Burt Reynolds, CONFIDENTIAL lifts itself up onto a pedestal that nobody cares to notice. It’s way too long and three sizes too small for what it has to say. This is a grand shame, as the subject matter would be of use to students and future filmmakers alike. Rick and his friends participate in a few lectures in the film, where they respond to real questions with few real answers and lots of real scene-chewing, mostly from Rick. The director stretches his film out so much more than any Stretch Armstrong figure has ever been pulled, it’s amazing.
What feels like Birdemic and a Kirk Cameron biblical picture, CONFIDENTIAL could’ve been something good and noble. There are talks with Louise Levison, who famously assisted in getting The Blair Witch Project out into the world, and she does provide helpful tips and inspiration… when she has a second to talk. It’s mostly Rick talking loudly from behind his camera, asking questions that he already knows the answers to. Because he’s been there. Oh boy, has he ever. N/A
I rather disliked Three Eras, the previous effort by the Meyers crew. It was an atrocious bore that came from and ended at nothing, much like life itself - if you ask Eric idle. Their latest, Just an Illusion, continues this trend, if with a slightly better touch. The film, billed as an experimental documentary, is a complete jumble of time and a total mess of video footage. It’s an editor’s worst possible scenario, and worst possible job.
Set over the course of 11 years, the Myers family, headed by the patriarch Tim, enjoy various trips down river on a rinky-dink boat, getting into all sorts of scraps and scrapes. It’s hard to say what this is outside of that description, as the film is so crazily undone. Text pops up here and there with no continuity or sense of purpose, well before and well after traditional appropriate bits. The story jumps from year to years ahead and prior, showing just how much nothing changes, ever, except for the illusion of what we perceive to be “time.” Just an illusion? More like absolute mantra.
Just an Illusion is only ok when considering how much of a passion project this was to the Meyers family. It’s clear how much they love movies and how connected they feel to cinema and to each other. I just… I just wish they’d pump things up a notch and watch some Youtube videos on editing and pacing. Their films really should be shorter and a little faster. Too often, they meander and just sit on their hands. It’s a bore of a chore. For sure. 1/5
Devon Sawa is no Mickey Rourke. Actually, nobody is like Mickey Rourke. I only type this as in Gasoline Alley, the wannabe gritty noir, too cool for school who done it thriller, Sawa’s character is mentioned as being a bit hard to look at. I disagree, but maybe my standards aren’t too high. I’m not sure.
The movie is about a tattoo artist with a heart of gold and a mouth full of booze and smoke who, after meeting a cute and conversational “working girl,” sets out to find her murderer and why he’s being framed for it. Two detectives, played with a lackadaisical attitude by Bruce Willis and a cheeky if too cop-ish accent by Luke Wilson, aren’t so much “on the case” as they are just there to be harassers and exposition givers. This is the Devon Sawa show, who really gives it his all in projecting a smooth cat with a fire inside his body. Really, he’s the saving grace.
Gasoline Alley isn’t boring or poorly made, but it is hard to follow. Developments happen without much to go on, almost as if scenes were cut from the final version of the film. It’s also a bit cheap and rough around the corners, like when a car chase occurs through a junkyard and over a large patch of dirt that sounds suspiciously like pavement when driven on.
Still, Sawa is very good here, as is his lone good guy vigilante story. Similar to Drive with Ryan Gosling? No, but Sawa is still pretty cool. And that’s worth a watch. 2/5