Methamphysical Society for Research, Development, and Tweaking

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Cult Cinema: Volume 12

It’s tough to be straight-edge. By virtue of being drug- and alcohol-free, the whole world thinks you’re some Christian hardcore kid from Boston who only speaks in Minor Threat lyrics. But on the other hand, you do get to picture the whole world as some sort of decadent, liverish imbecile, lounging about in its own sick while giggling moronically at passing shadows and shiny reflections.

In this eternal struggle, we straight-edgers are blessed with mental clarity, rarefied by haughty elitism and unmarred by dignity-sapping Facebook photos of drunken Nickleback sing-alongs. But the bleary-eyed masses have a secret weapon: the drug movie.

There are two main types of drug films. The first is the stoned, peace-and-love, cars-that-run-on-organic-hopes-and-smiles hippie bullshit, like Dazed and Confused, Easy Rider, and every documentary that uses the phrase “quantum theory of possibilities.” Thankfully, while annoying, these films are fairly harmless, primarily because their fans tend to drift into a stupor mid-sentence before saying anything too irritating.

The second variety, the focus of this particular article, is much more dangerous. These films, primed on illegal stimulants, seem to believe that the entire world is not only fascinated by recipes for cooking meth, but is also either suffering for ADD or frequent Grand Mal seizures. The whole point of these movies seems to be to simulate a drug trip, but a remarkably unpleasant one that appears to be the Ludovico technique with a shitty techno soundtrack. The perfect example of these twitchy, narrative nightmares is Spun.

spun_ver31Cult : Methamphysical Society for Research, Development, and Tweaking
Basic Tenets
: Pacing, plotting, and narrative aresecondary tothemetallivinginmyteethandwouldn’tthat clockradiolookbetterifitwerei nsideoutandsolderedtoavibratorfuckmymouth
Adherents: High school students trying to look edgy, anyone who has ever been on A&E’s Intervention.
Example: Spun (2002), directed by Jonas Akerlund, written by Will De Los Santos and Creighton Vero

If, and only if, your primary form of entertainment as a child involved paint fumes and the spins, there’s a lot to like in Spun. But for everyone else, including the meth heads this ode to tweaker culture is marketed towards, will likely be confused, annoyed, or just plain angry after this film.

Spun follows Ross (Jason Schwartzman), a speed freak, and his various adventures as he tries to win whatever video game the screenwriters were hallucinating about when they wrote this absolute piece of shit. To say that there is no plot is not accurate; there’s too much plot, all cut together with the subtlety of an Ibiza DJ chopping up coke. Along the way, Ross meets Mickey Rourke, Mena Suvari, Ron Jeremy, Billy Corgan, one of the guys from Yes, and I think maybe China Chow from Frankenfish, but at that point I’d stopped caring. And all this, all this, is not in service to a story, but rather an excuse for director Jonas Akerlund, once a drummer for Bathory, to see if he can out-junkie Trainspotting’s visuals.

The film is all spinning cameras and stupid gags and everything happening at the speed of light with twice the energy. With no dialogue, effort, or attention paid to anything other than giving everyone watching a hangover. It’s enough to make me want to get stoned just to slow everything down.

– Al Kratina

Visit Al at www.alkratina.com , or follow him on Twitter.

43 Comments
  1. […] And it’s my fault, really. I should have known better. After all, while you were invented decades ago, your most familiar incarnation only developed in the mid-nineties, which makes you about 14 years of age. So, it makes sense that you get huffy when you encounter differing opinions regarding Tim Burton, and don’t know how punctuation works. […]

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  3. […] And it’s my fault, really. I should have known better. After all, while you were invented decades ago, your most familiar incarnation only developed in the mid-nineties, which makes you about 14 years of age. So, it makes sense that you get huffy when you encounter differing opinions regarding Tim Burton, and don’t know how punctuation works. […]

  4. Jerry Massilon says

    I work at NMR. We field data from dvd sales and rentals…I looked up Spun.
    In the first quarter, the dvd units (rented) total around 50,000,000 US$. that is substantial especially with an NC-17 rating. It has an audience. I guess we can’t discount the massive amount of drug users as a market. Kind of unique little picture. Sour tasting but unique. I wouldn’t watch it with my girlfriend but enjoyed Brittany Murphy and Mickey Rourke. Quite a list of countries bought it to distribute as well. I looked at the budget…It was shot on a shoe-string…can’t expect much there and they delivered there. And Billy Corgan’s ZWAN score is phenomenal.

    1. Tristan says

      It’s not rated NC-17 in the US. The film is unrated unless you count the really terrible edited R rated version, which you can find everywhere where I live. I find it at supermarkets and video stores and everywhere!

      1. Jerry Massilon says

        the unrated was rated NC-17 by MPAA and so they released it as unrated….the blockbuster version is R….YES…thats correct. probably censored heavily….

    2. Ricky says

      I think if you are looking at the number of rentals across the US, than you can get the same number of rentals for a straight to video Steven Segal film. The point that I am making is that it does not have a cult following. There could be many reasons why people rent it. Maybe they read this article and are now curious. Maybe they like Mickey Rourke. However movies with a true cult following stand the test of time and I don’ t think this film will age well considering most people hated it when it came out.

      1. Al says

        I think the fact that half the Internet (okay, two people commenting under different names) got so livid over the above review suggests it has a bit of a cult following. There are more comments on this post than anything else here.

        1. Ricky says

          Who is using two names? Who is who?

          1. Al says

            Oh, I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun. I’ll tell you later.

            1. Márcio says

              How about backing up what you said? I didn’t do that shit and I don’t want to be implicated by proxy so who are you refering to?

  5. Tristan says

    Ah man, I remember renting SPUN based on the cover alone. I remember being in a really queer sort of mood and I wanted to watch something with a lot of freaks in it. Normally I would have watched GUMMO, but my VHS tape that I owned at the time was about to fall apart after being watched so many times. I didn’t want to risk that so I just went out to the video store and found SPUN and rented it.

    The main problem I have with SPUN is that it has, more or less, the same plot as one of my favorite films of all time, THE PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK. If you haven’t seen that one I highly recommend it. One time me and my friends had ourselves an Al Pacino night where we watched DOG DAY AFTERNOON and SERPICO one after the other, followed by William Friedkin’s CRUISING and then finishing up with THE PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK. Damn, what a weird night that was. Anyway, SPUN has a similar structure to that film in the way the events play out. It has the same sort of plotless, mindless, grotesque feel to it I feel.

    I find PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK to be a much stronger film in all respects, but I can’t deny that I love SPUN! It’s not a good film by any means. I agree with generally everyone in that the editing and the washed out visuals drew far too much attention to itself. However, I found the film to be extremely funny and I found myself laughing throughout. I feel that if you look at it as a black comedy it works a lot better. I’d probably give SPUN a 6 or 7 out of 10 in terms of entertainment value and a 3 or 4 out of 10 in terms of technical aspects. I don’t think it’s a good film but I think it’s really entertaining, especially if you’re looking for a film that has a lot of really disgusting freaks in it.

    1. Márcio says

      I haven’t heard of “Panic in Needle Park” before but you really got me interested, I’ll definitely check it out, thanks for the heads up.

      1. Ricky says

        Panic in Needle Park is a film worth checking out.

  6. Mike D says

    Roger Ebert:
    Three stars

    Every other professional film critic:

    Geoff Pevere:
    It never quite convinces you this is anything but a fashion shoot.

    Wesley Morris:
    The Core is not the only disaster flick opening today, and it’s doubtful that the folks in that movie can save the urchins on crystal meth in Spun.

    Stephen Hunter
    A great deal of energy is spent setting the thing up, bringing it off and then, post-rush, it just sort of drifts off into nowhere and goes still.

    Terry Lawson:
    Ultimately, Spun has no more substance than American Pie II.

    Glenn Lovell:
    Seems to exist for no reason other than to suggest that crystal-meth freaks are really scattered innocents looking for their next consciousness-raising jolt.

    Jeff Strickler:
    This drug drama has enough drugs to stock a hospital but precious little in the way of drama.

    Steven Rea
    Spun is slummishly stylish, occasionally funny, and pretty much devoid of meaning.

    Philip Wuntch:
    This movie is less than zero.

    Richard Roeper
    It’s so concerned with camera trickery and letting the actors go nuts, that there’s no fuel left in the tank for story or character development.

    Megan Lehmann
    All flash, no substance.

    Jessica Winter
    The traumatized critic must struggle to avoid capital letters in urging patrons to steer clear of the colorfully cast but unbearable Spun.

  7. Ricky says

    Wow! Here I am worried about the guy who can’t spell attacking us on our review of Bloodsport when all this time I have been missing these comments. I don’t know how you do it Al.

  8. dirk diggler says

    AL…..
    spun was 8 years ago? not a good time to review this…its already gained cult status….so beat it down all you want….too late…your little voice will not be heard…. cult…..AL…cult…..cult……
    my favorite line in Spun….”i’ll let you lick me where i pee!”….that is probably still upsetting you AL…i get it.

    1. Ricky D says

      I really don`t think this film has a cult following. It is hardly ever rented at Movieland here in Montreal which has the largest selection of films in the city and the most customers. I`d be surprised if it rented more than three times this year.

      1. Ricky says

        Ok I checked the rental history of Spun. It has only 13 rentals since it’s release. Most so called Cult film at Movieland go out hundreds of times in a year. So why was your cult of the week wasted on a film that does not have a cult following?
        Good, bad, who cares? You cheated on your column.

        Also since I am planning our new theme entitled “Movies we love to hate:. I think it is only fitting Al chooses Spun!

  9. Simon H. says

    A+ everyone!

  10. Al says

    Hi Internet,

    Just dropping by to leave you a quick, general note. No matter how upset you get, Spun will never be good. I know it’s frustrating. But let’s move on, shall we?

    Love,

    Al

    1. Isabella says

      i said its like licorice….you hate it or love it…if you hate it cool…if you love it who cares….either way..the point being…you are all jackasses with zero life or understanding…you are suckers for a voice…adding absolutely nothing to the world but a shit-stain of your fucked up genetics and uneducated rants. none of you will ever amount to anything or accomplish anything or be heard beyond hearing and laughing at your own bullshit that streams out of your stinking grills….ahhhh yes….that’s right…one last thing…my opinion ain;t worth shit either and i really didn;t like my friends film either… – i just want to bring you all heart ache and pain at the truth that you are zero….and allow you the opportunity to come to jesus….you all need church….healing….a good ol’ sing a long with a holy roller….wake the fuck up you cows in line for slaughter…….oh shit….the cops are at my door…my methlab was discovered…i hear the dogs….the landlord–

  11. Isabella says

    typical….a review written by someone who knows zero about cinema or this genre. is this a homework assignment? here is the straight story….The film is written by a straight guy named creighton vero…I know…i met him…a damn talented guy….the story was given to him by a loser drug addict.. ..billy hilbert, who calls himself will santos…I know…i met him and he nearly stole my wallet in the process…definitely a loser…but vero got a great story out of him….so…..it is YES….a strain to watch because it shows the reality of the drug. it is true to the drug and it is directed by a music video director…hence the frenetic style….maybe not good for most films but for Spun….perfect….so those that that don’t like it…fine…its like licorice…you love it or hate it…but for those that understand that something unique happened here and it ain’t for everyone….I applaud…i mean shit…how many scripts attract a cast like that with that shoestring budget that film had…NONE…….the internet is a wasteland of douche-bags who are looking for a channel to be heard on….i tell you what….I dare any of you to get in touch with vero and do an interview… this guy will smack you so hard and wake you up to what is going on in cinema it is scary……little films need to be seen openly…and not bashed for being different….thank god for his Spun, because there is a sea of shit coming out of hollywood….listen Al Kratina of Boston….spend your time critiquing the garbage dribbling out of hollywood studios rather than talking nonsense about an indie film…but htne again…you’re from Boston…

    1. destro chang says

      mmmm…… still sucks. even if your friend made it. but don’t worry. you can continue insisting that people who don’t like it (whiney teenage voice) just don’t understand (/whiney teenage voice).

    2. Ricky says

      Set up an interview. We would love to have him on the show!

    3. Tristan says

      Look, I enjoyed the film SPUN, but it is definitely not even close to being a good film. It’s pretty fucking terrible in fact. Just watch THE PANIC AT NEEDLE PARK, which is the film that SPUN desperately wanted to be. The film isn’t original or creative in the slightest. It’s fluff.

  12. Ricky says

    I really feel that Spun is one of the worse films I have ever seen.

    1. Al says

      Yeah. Me too. That’s an opinion I didn’t think I’d have to defend.

  13. Márcio says

    A straigh-edge doing a review on a movie about drugs is the same as a male writing an article about the pain envolving child birth. You just can’t relate. Spun” is a fun movie, not great but still an enjoyable watch.

    1. Christos says

      By that logic, men should not watch films about women, only ex-WWE performers can comment on The Wrestler, and Up should be reviewed by either fat Asian kids or old cluster balloonists.

      A good film is a good film, regardless of the subject matter. A bad film is a bad film, regardless of the subject matter. And Spun is a really bad film.

      1. Márcio says

        Nope, by that logic a wrestler hater wouldn’t have an impartial view of the film, other than that all your extrapolation is flawed. As to “Spun” being a really bad film, that’s your opinion, you are absolutely wrong, but you’re entitled to it.

        1. Christos says

          First of all, being Straight-Edge doesn’t necessarily imply that you are actively against drug and alcohol use, just that you don’t partake in it. It also doesn’t necessarily imply that you’ve ALWAYS been Straight Edge, so you still might have knowledge or experience with whatever. But, by your logic, someone who happens not to be a heroin addict couldn’t have a impartial view of Trainspotting? Do I have to be an alcoholic to appreciate Leaving Las Vegas? Can I watch the hangover without having a hangover, or ever having been hungover?

          And even if it did imply a direct opposition, as it might in some cases, that should be irrelevant to any critic worth his or her salt. I’m sure plenty of film critics who hate professional wrestling still liked The Wrestler.

          1. Márcio says

            You’re wrong, a person who labels himself straight-edge has a millitant opposition to the consumption of any kind of drugs. There’s lots of people who don’t drink or use other drugs but don’t label themselves as straight-edge, there’s a difference. And if the reviewer being straigh-edge had no influence on his opinion about the movie, why did he mentioned it?
            Aside from that, he labels one of the best and most influential road movies “Easy Rider” as “annoying” and “hippie bullshit”. That leaves me with two options either he doesn’t know shit about movies,a possibility, but I’ll give the other guys in the podcast the benefit of the doubt, and believe that they wouldn’t just ask anybody to write silly diatribes, or he’s clearly biased against films dealing with drugs, that makes a lot more sense to me since he clearly states that there’s only two kind of drug movies and they’re both bad.

            1. Christos says

              Why did he mention he’s straight edge? Because it’s funny? I get the distinct impression, reading this column and the other Cult of the Week’s, that he’s perhaps not entirely serious all of the time…

              But that’s beside the point. Personal experience should not be necessary to understand/appreciate a film, nor should agreement with the filmmakers’ politics/opinions. Form and content are easily separated. That’s why people can appreciate the films of Leni Riefenstahl without being neo-Nazis, or why Birth of a Nation is still screened in film schools.

              In any case, I think we’re putting far too much effort arguing over a column that’s obviously a joke.

              1. Al says

                Oooh, a spicy discussion. I won’t interfere too much, but I’ll point out that while I am militantly opposed to drugs and alcohol, I’m not sure how integral that it to being SxEx. You don’t have to hate drugs and everything about them and punch people who smoke, you just have to be clean. It’s like being a vegetarian but not quite as wimpy.

                That said: I am a firm believer in the following precept: There is a difference between LIKING a movie, and thinking that it’s GOOD. There is a great deal of subjectivity in the former category; less so in the latter. It’s perfectly possible for me to LIKE a film that I think is BAD, or think a movie is GOOD, but not like it. Case in point: I love the films of Bruce Campbell, but for the most part they’re not very good. Same with Italian horror; love watching it, but think it’s real dumb. Conversely, I think the experimental films of Michael Snow are excellent, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to watch the one where he spins a camera around in the mountains for 6 hours ever again.

                What I’m trying to say is that my personal opinions and prejudices certainly do have an effect on whether or not I LIKE a film, but not on whether or not I think the film is GOOD. Fear and Loathing, for example, is a reasonably good film, well constructed, engaging, and quirky. But I’m not full of ether so I don’t really like it.

                Spun, on the other hand, is not good, AND I don’t like it.

                And for the record, while Easy Rider’s massive influence on independent filmmaking is obvious, I still find it an indulgent and rambling film. It captured a moment, and started a revolution, but that moment has passed, and taken on its own merits and through the lens of hindsight: three stars, maybe.

                1. Márcio says

                  Al: I myself am a vegan so thanks so much for calling me a wimp, I really appreciate that. Being that I grew up in the local punk/hardcore scene I can only talk about the straight-edge people I knew, but I would say that the main difference between a vegan and a straight-edge is that the vegan actually cares about something other than himself, a straigh-edge on the other hand is only interested in himself and having a holier-than-thou attitude and feeling superior to everyone else, that in the worst case scenario will lead morons to punch people in the face for smoking. Also the animal rights movement has it’s origins in the XIX century and has a long history of great thinkers and great books that you’ll obviously dismiss as whimpy because you like your meat so very much and as we’ve already gathered you’re always right. Also a movement that as it’s origins in a 50 second song, now matter how good that song is, seems kind of silly to me.

                  Like I said before, in my opinion, your shtick is tiresome, it’s so easy to make yourself appear smart when all you do is trash films. I would like to know what films exactly do you love? The only random film that I heard you call out in a podcast as good was “Garden State”… for a guy that trashes almost every film I must say that’s really, really weak.

                  But hey, you describe yourself as a filmmaker, so I’m sure I’ll just a matter of time before you come out with your own masterpieces that will end cinema as we know it. I’ll wait anxiously for it, I just won’t hold my breath.

                  1. crayze4swayze says

                    Again, Al is Borat, Márcio is everyone else.
                    2 for 2, way to go Al!

                    1. Márcio says

                      http://www.cheerleading.com/

                      Cheerleader uniforms as low as $59.99, thought you might be interested.

              2. Márcio says

                Christos:
                Funny? Really? I must have lost the train when being abnoxious and having a shtick that consists entirely in bashing every film under the sun to try and make oneself feel superior to everyone else began being funny. I agree with you with one thing, we’re putting far too much effort arguing over this, so I won’t any more.

  14. Mark Droog says

    Wait, you’re straight edge? Then why do spend so much time talking about cocaine on every podcast?

    1. Al says

      Because I lie. All the time.

  15. timor says

    You’re from Boston?

    1. Al says

      Gross.

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