Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seagalology by vern

I could claim to have done a little light reading of Dostoevsky in the original Russian over the Fourth of July weekend, but that would be a terrible, terrible lie. So instead of making up a better story I will admit that I read “Seagology – A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal”. This book is by vern, the one-named lower case movie reviewer and self-proclaimed student of badass cinema, whose website is a treasure trove of hilarious and insightful reviews of all sorts of movies.

It’s because of vern that I was interested in this at all, since I’ve been reading his reviews for years I was happy to get him some royalties even though I really don’t care about the films of Steven Seagal and in fact haven’t seen any, unless you count Machete which is too recent to be in the book at all. Nonetheless, this book is funny as hell even if you’ve never seen any of these movies and don’t plan to. It’s not a collection of random facts (either real or made up) and it’s also not a fawning man-crush paean to Seagal either, since vern freely admits that a lot of the movies, especially the direct to video offerings, are simply not very good. Seagal also started out with his best movies first and has been on something of a downward trajectory since then, so that’s pretty interesting as well.

In addition to the humor value of the reviews, there’s a lot of side information in there about the various folks associated with these movies and the direct to video industry. For instance, a lot of these are shot while the script is either still under development or are multiple-choice in editing. In one of the films they filmed it in such a way that the bad guys could have been either aliens or eurotrash crackheads depending on how they put it together in post production. (They apparently went with the crackhead approach.) Seagology also has a nice section on Lance Henriksen, dubbed by vern a “Paypal Actor” since he must have a site where you can go and send him some money and then he’ll be obliged to come be in your movie, no matter what it is. In the same year he co-starred in Pistol Whipped with Seagal he apparently also appeared in two different sasquatch films. Nonetheless, this section actually inspired someone to go out and write a biography of Henriksen too.

Utilizing the auteur theory, vern puts together a little summary of the common elements in all the movies, such as how much glass gets broken, the awkwardest one-liner, the speech where someone says how badass Seagal is, and so forth. I could say more but I’d run the risk of just copying what vern said funnier than I could. There’s also quite a few typos in the book, so I’m not sure that the editor was really paying attention 100%, but part of vern’s charm is his somewhat idiosyncratic approach to grammar and punctuation. I’m still not sold on seeing any of this stuff but it was an enjoyable read anyway. Okay, maybe I’ll Netflix the one where he has to fight an evil wizard in Thailand. But that’s it.

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