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This week:

Filthy says:
"Serial Killers are Grrreat!"

For those of you wondering where I've been for the past three weeks, the answer is not much of anywhere. Not that many of you should care. Hell, even I don't get too worked up when I disappear for long stretches of time. I remember I tried being a hobo once, but I was afraid to sneak into railyards and scared shitless to jump onto moving trains. So, I mostly hung out at this Denny's near the Union Pacific yard, drank coffee, got stomach cramps and told strangers I was a hobo.

I wore out my welcome at the coffee shop after two weeks and was told that I would either have to leave or order some food. I tried haggling them down to 50 cents worth of Mike and Ike's from the crank machine in the entry. No dice. So, I finally went home, sort of dreading all the crap that piles up after a fortnight away. But other than a postcard from a veterinary clinic that mistakenly thought I was a cat and needed a teeth-cleaning, nothing waited for me, and that night I was back to watching Andy Griffith and getting loaded with my dog like I'd never been gone.

The point is, I didn't miss much and neither did you. One week I was just fucking lazy. The next week I saw Factory Girl (piece of unholy shit) and got two-thirds of the way through a review when I got a stomach flu and spent 24 hours streaming shit faster than the web streams porn, then spent 48 hours trying to rehydrate myself by only drinking booze with more water than alcohol in it. Like NyQuil. That shit can quench a mean thirst.

Last weekend I was in Las Vegas with some friends. I bet there's some great stories about that, man, but only the security cameras and the guard whose badge I found in my pocket know for sure. All I know is I came home with my wallet bulging with cash and this vague sense memory that I won enough at some point betting on the Sigma Derby mechanical ponies at the Frontier to pay for a hotel room. I may have seen a movie, but I don't remember.

As I often tell Mrs. Filthy, regardless of where I've been, or what the crusty yellow stuff on my pants is, I'm here now and that's what's important so stop complaining.

As I watched director David Fincher's Zodiac, which is a long fucking movie, I kept thinking of Brian dePalma's The Black Dahlia. Both are true-crime stories about sensational killings where the murderers were never caught. Both follow the cops on the case. The difference is that The Black Dahlia sucked an old nun's ass and Zodiac is pretty fucking good.

dePalma's fart on film made up a load of psychobabble horseshit and melodrama and pretended to solve the unsolved Black Dahlia murder, I guess because he thinks Hollywood grassfuckers are better detectives than cops. Fincher's flick is faithful to the actual events and doesn't pretend to find the Zodiac Killer, who was responsible for at least five deaths in the Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s. The movie pays respect to the people who tried to and shows how leads, logic and suspicions can double back on themselves, point you in the wrong direction and get you fucked by red tape and miscommunication.

Jake Gylenhall plays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Maybe because he's bored, he gets all wrapped up in the case of the Zodiac Killer, who sends letters to the papers after each murder and demands they be published. Essentially, the guy's on an ego trip. Gylenhall first befriends Paul Avery, played by Robert Downey. Jr., a drunken reporter that might as well be out of one of those fast-tough-talking comedies of the thirties. Except that he isn't a funny drunk; he's a bad-liver drunk. By befriending Downey, Jr. Gylenhall has access to more information and he becomes obsessed with the case and trying to solve the Killer's cyphers and clues.

Mark Ruffalo plays Dave Toschi, a homicide detective assigned to the case. While Gylenhall plays amateur sleuth, Ruffalo lives out the American dream: he plays one for money. He is dogged, but his efforts are hampered by bureacracy and the limitations of communications 37 years ago. Shit we take for granted now, like scanners, fax machines and cell phones just didn't exist. I'm sure that made going to the movies better, but I can see what a boon instantaneous communications would be for people who actually have important shit to share. Anyway, Ruffalo is as obsessed with cracking the case as Gylenhall.

What follows feels like an organic process, close to the way leads in a case are followed. While Zodiac is purportedly about Gylenhall, it spends long stretches away from him when that's where the story leads. And that's fine. It tracks the case and all the creepy details, like a suspect who lives in a shithole trailer with squirrels, and the gruesome shooting and stabbing murders. The movie follows the clues, and sometimes that means wrong directions and red herrings. I guess that's frustrating to moviegoers who want shit all tied up neatly. But this movie isn't about neat bows, it's about the mess and frustration of trying to chase someone through hoops and bureaucracy. Still, despite the setbacks, Gylenhall and Ruffalo keep pushing forward, like trying to move a brick wall with their heads.

What we learn--or maybe we don't--is that a serial killer doesn't really have to be that clever for everyone to think he is. He doesn't have to be original or even that clever to stay one step ahead of the cops. This guy may have named himself after a crappy watch ad in Playboy, and may have slipped up on a few occasions. But his footsteps got covered by red tape.

Eventually, Ruffalo is forced off the case and he tries in vain to forget the case. But Gylenhall loses his job and keeps doggedly pursuing the Zodiac Killer, even after the cops stop. He loses his wife and kids and part of his mind, and he ultimately gains only the slight satisfaction of believing he knows who did it. The killer is never caught, though.

I'm no fan of Fincher, or at least I haven't been. The earlier movies I saw by him were mostly pretentious horseshit with the appearance of a lot more substance than actual content. They were for people who liked to think shit was deep without having to think deeply. This is completely different. There is little flash, and nearly no pretense (although using a vintage Paramount logo at the beginning had me worrying). It's just solid fucking moviemaking. It's also ballsy because Fincher is more interested in showing us how the case is pursued, and its effect on lives, than on some big showy Hollywood ending. The movie doesn't lie the way typical lazy Hollywood bullshit like The Black Dahlia did.

Sure it's nearly three hours long, but I didn't mind. My bladder wasn't even pissed. Four Fingers for Zodiac, a fine, fine movie.



Hall of Famer Pete Hammond of Maxim

300 is "A landmark motion picture!"

Wild Hogs is "Hysterically funny! It's City Slickers on bikes!"

Breach is A spellbingding real-life thriller. This one is a guaranteed 100% authentic nail-biter!"

The Number 23 is "mind-bending! Jim Carrey leads us on a twisted trek with hair-raising jolts. A must-see movie!"

Hannibal is "The new year's most terrifying thriller!"

Filthy's Reading
Edgar Allen Poe - Complete Stories and Poems

Listening to
Frank Black - Frank Black


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