By Dave Carnie
I don’t like movies. Waste of time. Actors are cocksuckers. Pretending and playing make-believe is not an art, or even a talent. It’s just lying. So I found it rather amusing when StrangeLove asked me to write some posts for the site and among the various subjects they suggested was: movies.
“Sheep And Tides.” By Dave Carnie (formerly @acidinvader until it got hacked—thanks for all the help Instagram/Facebook), 2020. Collage, mixed media.
“There’s always the movie angle of our company,” they said. “Movie reviews once a month?”
Oh, right, Dr. Strangelove is a movie. And that’s why asking me to review movies is so absurd: I barely recognize the title of one of the greatest movies of all time. But absurd is good. That’s actually a funny idea. It’s a card we played all the time when we were making Big Brother, particularly when it came to reviews and interviews. As Sean said in his “Heroes” post, “…we'd sworn to operate by the half-ass rule of thumb to never interview an artist we genuinely liked.” In other words, the more ignorant you are of your subject, the better. That’s why Clyde [Singleton] would interview metal bands. And that’s probably why my first article was a switch stance version of Clyde/metal: I reviewed a couple of “blacksploitation” films for the "Black Issue," Cleopatra Jones and Shaft.
As I said, I don’t like movies so I didn’t watch a minute of either of them. I just went down to my local bar with a tape recorder, met some random gal named Gloria, and asked her if she could tell me about the films. I got beat up by her boyfriend/bodyguard in the process (I later learned Gloria’s husband was in the mafia), but I got my reviews.
“Gloria, tell me about Cleopatra Jones,” I asked.
“I don’t know about Cleopatra Jones,” Gloria replied, “but I’ll tell you this, I know how it feels to be fucking busted, especially if you’re Black or Latino, like I am. It sucks. And like where I come from, I’m from an island, I come to this country and expect to be treated in a way that—I don’t know how to explain it. You’re putting me in a tough position.”
Gloria was gorgeously drunk.
“Let me tell you,” she continued after some prodding, “where I come from, it’s called Corn Island. Ninety-percent of the people I grew up with are black. I grew up with Rasta, and at Christmas time, what you get for Christmas is 90 pounds of marijuana that is just thrown away from a ship or a boat. I live three hours away from Jamaica. Whenever boats cross my island, it was like mostly boats that were taking pot or drugs from one place to the other and whenever the sea was rough—you can turn that off.”
She meant the tape recorder. She was smart. She knew she was babbling. I began to like her even more. “No, this is interesting,” I said.
“Okay,” she slurred. “Christmas time. I wake up in the morning and what I find in front of my house, you walk out and you have the ocean there and when you wake up at Christmas time you find a bag of fucking pot! I was 13-years-old and pot for me was like a fucking savior. My father smoked it like a cigarette. I never thought of drugs as being a bad thing.”
Cleopatra and her kickass Corvette.
And there I had a review. Brilliant. Of what, I’m not sure. Cleopatra Jones? I guess. I still have never seen it so I can’t tell you how accurate Gloria’s account is. We began to discuss Shaft next, but we were interrupted by Gloria’s bodyguard who had decided to end the interview and beat me up. The way I see it, I only spent a couple minutes rolling around on the floor with that brute whereas I would have wasted a few hours watching the stupid movies myself.
That’s not to say that there aren’t movies that I like, but they are few and far between. I think 90-percent of films are unwatchable garbage, 9-percent are mildly interesting, and less than 1-percent are good. I submitted those numbers to a director friend recently who then asked, “Well, what movies do you like? What are the 1-percent you think are good, smarty pants?”
That’s when I realized, “Good question. I don’t know?”
So I started making a list. Mostly because I realized that I was starting to sound like one of those holier-than-thou asshats who are always flaunting, “Ohhhh, I wouldn’t know because I don’t own a TELEVISION…” Assholes. There are plenty of reasons to dislike me, but “a strong aversion movies” seems like an unnecessary and preventable addition to that list. I do enjoy some movies. So I decided: stop being an anti-film cocksucker and make a list of the ones you like. In other words: if you can’t say anything nice about movies, then don’t say anything at all.
One of the first movies that came to mind for my list was, Drowning By Numbers, by director Peter Greenaway. It’s a very strange and clever film. “A dark comedy,” I believe it would be called? One of the main themes of the film is, control—a subject that is often illustrated with numbers (the numbers 1-100 appear in sequential order throughout the film, often in the background) and games. The father character, Madgett, and his son, Smut, are fanatical about inventing and playing peculiar games that all have a very Lewis Carroll-esque flavor to them: Bees In The Trees, Dawn Card Castles, Hangman’s Cricket, etc.. One of my favorites is Sheep And Tides.
Sheep And Tides is played in the ocean shallows with nine sheep arranged in a grid. Each animal is tied to a chair upon which a teacup and saucer is set. Sheep, we are told, are particularly sensitive to tides. So when the waters begin to rise, the sheep will react and jangle their respective teacups. Players each select a row of three sheep. The first row to jangle all three of its cups wins. A full game is played over 24 hours and three changes in the tides.
Film still of Sheep And Tides being played in Drowning By Numbers.
A passage from Douglas Keesey’s book, The Films of Peter Greenaway: Sex, Death and Provocation, provides an interesting analysis of Sheep And Tides and its relation to the film as a whole:
“Sheep And Tides,” Keesey writes, “enables us to see how many of our games treat the natural world as one big game board and Nature’s creatures as our playing pieces. This game, like most others, betrays the anxiety we feel about Nature’s unpredictability and potential threat to civilization (tides rattling teacups), and it shows our rage for order, our compulsion to clock Nature so as to foretell and forestall Her threat. (It is for this same reason that Madgett counts sheep before going to sleep—numbers give us the soothing impression of a world according to our desire, even as we are actually losing control and falling unconscious.) Finally, Sheep And Tides is a game like most games in being a competition between men over money, with the winner of the bet being the one who can best predict and control Nature, ruling over Her by using the rules of the game—the grid (of 3x3 sheep) and the count (of rattling teacups).”
Here’s some more Acid Invader sheep-related artwork for sheeps and giggles. This collage was created for the reissue of a 17th century canon of stories collectively known as “The Mutton Monster Myths.” They were, essentially, a Northern European adaptation of the ancient Greek story of the Minotaur, but with the bestiality befalling sheep instead of bulls.
The moral, of course, is that we do not have control over Nature and Mother Earth is not ours to rape and pillage. If there has ever been a period in history where this should be patently obvious to everyone, it would be now because Nature is doing some serious teacup rattling: global climate change is creating severe conditions throughout the world for all life (my state of CA is basically an ashtray at this point), reefs are dying, forests are being clearcut, water is poisoned, pollution is out of control, plus a worldwide viral pandemic is killing us off at an astonishing rate, and, if those catastrophes don’t wipe us off the face of the Earth, we’ve got a gaggle of selfish lunatics in Washington who are either trying to transport us back in time to the Dark Ages, or rush forward to a future extinction event—I’m not sure which and I don’t think they do either—but no matter where you live, the world is either on fire, flooding, freezing, or flying away in a hurricane. Nature ain’t down with our shit and She’s rattling the cups.
So I made a collage. Woo.
I understand I’m going to be appearing here more often? Questions? Comments? Use the form below—I’d love to hear from you. We can talk about stuff and things. Also, if you’re curious about the list of movies I like, here: