USA, 1981, 58 min, Dir. Paul Reubens, Marty Callner
Help me out. If you love Pee-wee Herman, which generation do you belong to? According to polling conducted at the Stranger World Headquarter's watercooler, people who have strong and deep connections to the nearly 40-year-old character, played by Paul Reubens, are Gen Xers (~40 to 54). As someone on the younger end of millennials (~23 to 39; I'm 27), I've never thought much about Mr. Herman. But I've decided to break my Pee-wee aversion and start at the very beginning of his adventure.
After getting denied from Saturday Night Live in 1980, Reubens created an original nightclub show around a new character he had developed, Pee-wee Herman, and performed it at Groundlings in LA. It was a bawdier Pee-wee—a little hornier, with Phil Hartman's character, Captain Carl, being the horn-doggiest. While watching Pee-wee and Captain Carl interact, I realized Pee-wee is a blueprint for SpongeBob SquarePants. The rhythms and jokes and attitudes are the same. The creator of SpongeBob, Stephen Hillenburg, has admitted this connection. That connection is wild to me because both of these franchises seem to define their respective generations. The Pee-wee juice is strong.
In 2011, this original show was revived for Broadway. A recording of that show is currently on HBO. It's great, but the original production is only legally available on DVD. (There is a lawless YouTube upload you can watch if you’re interested, but—for the purpose of this column—we don't consider unauthorized YouTube uploads to be streamable.) CHASE BURNS
USA, 1976, 99 min, Dir. Howard Avedis
But the real reason to watch Scorchy—at least for Seattleites—is the window into a city that's changed dramatically since this film was shot. We get to see Pike Place Market, Seattle-Tacoma Airport (which looks worryingly unchanged), Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, the old rickety Colman Dock, the viaduct. Seattle's skyline looks dramatically different dominated by the Space Needle rather than Columbia Tower (completed in 1985) or Rainier Square Tower (to be completed this year). But what fucked me up the most is a chase scene that occurs about halfway through where the bad guy tried to escape on the monorail. My have times changed!
Also shout out to Shane and Michael of Collide-O-Scope for playing clips of this at your tenth-anniversary celebration—you inspired me! JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 1970, 112 min, Dir. Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto
Third Window Films has become one of my favorite film distributors. Based in the UK, the 15-year-old distribution company specializes in unearthing cult movies from East Asia. Soon, they'll be releasing Macoto Tezka's 35-year-old (now-cult hit) The Stardust Brothers for the first time on DVD. It screened last year as a midnight movie at SIFF and I fucking loved it.
Last year, to a little less fanfare, Third Window Films released a very adult work from Tezka's father, Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy and known as the "Walt Disney of Japan." That film was Cleopatra, Queen of Sex, an acidic, strange, experimental "X-rated" animated film that flopped hard when it came to America in 1970.
I use "X-rated" in scare quotes because Cleopatra, Queen of Sex isn't quite X-rated enough. Billed with a self-applied X-rating, the film never asked for a rating in fear of getting an R. There is, of course, lots of sex. Weird sex. Tons of tits. Most of it very problematic. It remains artful. But the reason it failed is that American audiences allegedly didn't find it pornographic enough. Still, it's chaotic and crazy and, like most things distributed by Third Window Films, a forgotten gem that deserves a new discovering. CHASE BURNS
USA | UK, 1995, 119 min, Dir. Todd Haynes
In this illness, though, she begins to form a new identity. Believing that she has "multiple chemical sensitivity," a New Age-y allergy to the chemicals that compose modern life, she seeks refuge and community at Wrenwood, a center for people with her condition led by the suspicious guru, Peter (Peter Friedman). Safe isn't necessarily interested in whether this disease Carol believes she has is actually real—emotionally and physically, the things that are happening to her are true. Rather, director Todd Haynes is really interested in the order that people seek in the random chaos of sickness, and how predatory self-help culture often turns the culpability of illness back onto the patients themselves.
The film premiered at Sundance the same year as Harmony Korine's Kids, the buzziest movie at the time. Safe couldn't be more opposite—slow, deliberate, thoughtful. But I think its questions and ideas are just as unnerving and sinister, and certainly more applicable in this moment when "self care" talk reigns supreme. And the stickiness of Carol comes from her constantly asking how can I make myself better? It's a familiar question that can be answered a thousand different ways, taking you down a thousand different paths. Carol could be any of us when put in the right situation. JASMYNE KEIMIG