Watching: “One Bad Cat” and “Slacker”

I have been taking advantage lately of Netflix’s option to watch films directly on the computer, instead of waiting on the DVD to come in the mail. Of course not all movies are available for direct-play but I’ve been fishing out the ones that are.

Earlier in the week, I watched “One Bad Cat: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story,” about the Cleveland, Ohio-based outsider artist. Born and raised in rural Arkansas, young Wagner showed an early gift for art, but there was no outlet for his talent, nor was there any way to get him training, so it was tucked away for the time being. He moved his family to Cleveland in 1941 when he was a teenager. After spending most of his adulthood running his own moving business and having children with a variety of women — sixteen kids with his wife, and two each with two other women — Albert Wagner had a revelation, when he moved some paint cans off of a board, and saw the paint marks left there, that God wanted him to quit his philandering and become a painter. The story told in the film portrayed a complex man with complex relationships among all of the people around him, mainly due to his wandering ways with women and his difficult-to-swallow ideas that black men are sex-obsessed and that black people are cursed by God.

The next night, I took a different turn and re-watched Richard Linklater’s “Slacker,” a film I had seen already but which I haven’t watched in quite a while. The film uses a mosaic-like storytelling strategy to follow a series of young white people through the scenes of urban blight where they live: huge old houses occupied by multiple low-wage pseudo-hipsters, streets that are half-gentrified, hodgepodge coffee shops and used bookstores. I had forgotten how dark this movie is, but after watching it I remembered how angsty we all were back then, which may be why were dubbed “Generation X.” I remember really being into “Slacker” when it was new in the early 1990s — I was 17 when it came out — but re-watching the film now, in my mid-30s and almost twenty years later, it seemed more like a bunch of dirty losers who needed to bathe more often and stop bitching so much. I’m not going to go totally bourgeois conservative and say that they all needed to get jobs; I hope I haven’t fallen that far . . . “Slacker” was my generation’s call to “tune in, turn on, drop out,” we did . . . for a while. As a side note, there is a current project called Slacker 2011 that is supposed to be unveiled soon, in which some filmmakers re-shot the original movie. I’m not sure what that accomplishes, but we’ll see.

It feels good just to sit down watch movies. I don’t get to do that much anymore. I still watch old movies that I save from American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies, but I usually end up watching those in bits and pieces when time and quiet allow. The other day I watched “Slaughter of the Vampires,” a short, extremely clichéd and hokey Italian vampire film from 1962.

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