Ladyhawke – The Unseen Review

RIP to Rutger Hauer, an actor with a colorful filmography and genuine, heartfelt talent. I’ll confess that there are a lot of his films I’ve yet to see, but there’s never been a better time to experience his body of work than the era of streaming video. May he rest in peace, and may his work live on.

In light of his death, I was reminded of a very silly article I wrote a long time ago. The premise for that would-be series is that I’d write a review of what I thought an unseen movie might be like based on the shortest summary of its story at IMDb, then watch it and write a real review. The publication never got off the ground, and I’m no longer in contact with those who commissioned it. It may as well find a home here.

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The Filthiest House

I can’t recall whether it was late 2002 or early 2003, but the Texas air was still chilly and the days were short.

In those Web 1.0 days PC messaging apps were in diverse bloom. When my ICQ client chimed its “uh oh!” notification one day, I was surprised to see a message from… we’ll call her Amanda. She was a friend from high school who dated one of my droogs in those far gone days, and wondered if I’d be around Houston any time soon. After some chatter I agreed to dart down there in a few weeks, and I began sketching the outlines of a fun trip. I really should have known better…

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Brief Memory of a Novelty Musical Act

His dim star fading even then, William Hung performed for the grand opening of a Planet Tan in late 2004. I know this happened because I was there. Though my nose subconsciously wrinkles remembering it, I regret nothing.

There’s no good justification for why someone goes to something like this. It’s like a pioneer family going to watch a stagecoach fire, or finding out someone who had a toilet mishap on national TV is going to willfully shit themselves in front of a brand new tanning salon. Sometimes you give in to the screeching primate side of you that wants to eat bad food and watch traffic collisions. And it was free when I was in college, and barely had rent money. Don’t imagine that was lost on me.

But even larded with rationalizations, it was a pretty sad way to spend a Saturday morning. Hung’s public persona, his very raison d’etre, was his ability to suck the air out of a room through the power of horrible singing. Seething black hole of talent that he was, the act of singing for hundreds of hours and projecting that voice to crowds started shaving off his voice’s worst and most feeble qualities. By the time Hung appeared before the crowd in Addison, Texas, he’d gone from Herald of the Apocalypse to Well-Fed Karaoke Guy. He wobbled around onstage to scattered applause, flanked by unpaid volunteer dancers, and sang under an overcast sky. After a few minutes the energy of the crowd was subdued. People shifted, and started to disperse or look for bathrooms. I left to get breakfast with my girlfriend. Hung released a Christmas album, then scampered back into oblivion. I hear he’s offering his services as an inspirational speaker, and wonder what kind of crowd that would draw these days.

Update: In an example asserting that there is neither mercy nor pity for past memories, this news struck today: at least for a few perilous minutes, he’s back.

Idle Hands in Field Work

Not too long after the start of The Great Recession I was an environmental geologist. I did a lot of work for different firms – ranging from Phase I Environmental Site Assessments to ongoing soil and groundwater remediation and environmental characterization – and on this partly overcast, gorgeous early autumn day I was waiting at a closed gas station with an environmental scientist from another firm. I’d run out to supervise the plugging and abandoning of a groundwater monitoring well, he was waiting to sign a chain of custody sheet and see several drums of designated waste off for proper disposal, and frankly we got bored. At some point – once we’d chatted a bit and realized we had several interests in common – my erstwhile companion realized that there were boxes of candy set out by the trash for pickup.

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The Committee.

Last night’s dream revolved around a funny joke from an old episode of The Simpsons that never actually happened. Because dreams slip away before you have a chance to write them down, all I remember was that Homer Simpson snuck up on someone selling food, fooled them under flimsy pretenses, and then smuggled away eight hot dogs by cramming them into parts of his face. There was some deeper relevance, but when I woke up at 4:30 this morning for no reason that had already evaporated.

Somehow my subconscious resented this. Within moments of closing my eyes I started dreaming again, only now I was on a panel convened to study the issue. Not content with its surviving cognitive morsel, my brain had convened a team of experts, including my tenth grade English teacher who was silently ablaze with heatless fire, a large man stuffed into a pink leisure suit, “the teddy bear committee,” a pile of stuffed animals cohabitating in an office chair, and an unidentified woman in a revealing bikini who picked things out of her teeth. Something told me this would take a while.

Footage was reviewed. Footage was re-reviewed with an array of signal processing methods – false color infrared imaging, low pass filters, transcoding to different video formats. Conference calls were placed with people who only wanted to talk about soup. A speculative fiction writer attempted to reconstruct the episode. A witness claiming to have seen the episode while engaged in sexual congress with her son’s gym teacher was interviewed by a one-eyed reporter. Someone called out for lunch, and edible waiters arrived an hour later carrying their own dipping sauces.


There was no resolution in sight. Finally, I said, “No, this meeting is pointless and will come to no good end, I’m done,” and when I opened the door to leave it was all clouds and light pink skies that I walked through. There were clouded glass floors, as far as the eye could see, until I found a big dog asleep by the real exit. It was hairless and wearing a knit sweater covered in white highlands terriers dressed for Christmas. I said it was a good dog and meant it, opened the door, and walked through into silence and restful sleep.