Ghosts with Shit Jobs, and a few more movies



Ghosts with Shit Jobs (2012)

Jim Munroe is a long-ago zine guy, and former editor of Adbusters, who's since had a long run as a novelist and general "artsy guy." I've read one of his books, but not the one that this movie is based on. Anyway, full disclosure, I like the guy.

And I like the movie. It's not a lot like lots of other movies, and it's mostly successful at what it's trying to be.

It's set in a future where China runs the world, and North Americans provide the low-paid, outsourced labor that supports the Chinese economy. These workers (derogatorily called 'ghosts') perform such tasks as housebreaking robot babies, collecting leftover webs from mutant spiders, scrubbing brand names from the an occasionally-malfunctioning memory app, and being human spam — casually dropping brand names into their conversations.

"What is life like for these people? Are they branded outcasts and losers — or is there a richness to their lives that the news reports don't show?"

That's the question, asked in a documentary made for Chinese TV, filming these workers as they go about their lives in the ruins of Toronto.

Most of the movie's future tech is invisible, which is easy on the effects budget, and yields some mime scenes, where the actors are pushing buttons and scrolling past screens nobody can see. Done poorly, that could be corny as hell, but it's extremely well done, and quickly becomes believable.

Not that it matters, but it matters that this movie was made by unpaid amateurs, for a total budget of around $5,000. Watching it, you might guess it was low-budget, but I would've guessed half-a-million.

It's no masterpiece, but Ghosts with Shit Jobs is frequently funny, more often thoughtful, sometimes jawdropping, boring only occasionally, and builds to a unexpectedly heartfelt dénouement.

"Honey, it's a sad story. It really is, but do we have to make it even more sad by calling Security right now?"

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦    

Curse of the Black Widow (1977)

How did this get onto my watchlist? That's a question that bewildered me, watching Curse of the Black Widow.

It's an extremely 'made-for-TV' movie, with a 1970s TV-ish score, script, and camerawork, and of course, obvious TV commercial breaks. Almost every speaking part is a face you remember from some show way back when — an all-not-quite-star cast. Anthony Franciosa stars, with June Lockhart, June Allyson, Jeff Corey, Patty Duke Austin, Max Gail, Roz Kelly, Donna Mills, Vic Morrow, even Sid Ceasar.

Franciosa plays private eye Michael Higby, putting together murder clues against a maelstrom of cops and officials telling him not to go poking around, like TV cops are always saying to TV private eyes. The murders are TV-style 'supernatural', with the victims (refreshingly, all men) drained of blood and wrapped in cocoons. 

There's a zookeeper who hates animals, a bubble-gum snapping secretary, and a surprisingly gay, almost out coroner who says to Higby, "You know how I feel about you." Sadly, despite such amusements, the movie only rarely rises above average, even for TV.

With the supernatural element and the private eye, it feels like a sub-par episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and that, I suddenly realized, is what landed this movie on my watchlist. It's directed by Dan Curtis, who produced the Kolchak movies (and TV's Dark Shadows in the 1960s). I watched some Kolchak a year or two ago, which must've led via Google to this, but this is no Kolchak.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Our House (2006)

As I get older and see the human debris all around us, and get poorer and poorer myself, the subject of homelessness seems increasingly urgent. So I've added several films on the topic to my watchlist.

This one, picked at random from that pile, is dried barf. I knew it two seconds in, when the opening corporate logo announced it's from something called "UP faith & family." Ugh.

After heroically sticking with the flick long enough to fast-forward a synopsis, I can tell you that Doris Roberts plays a rich lady who decides to open her mansion for homeless people — a fairy tale of a millionaire to the rescue.

If you suspect I didn't give the movie a fair chance, you are correct. As a rule, I don't watch movies made by faith.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Coming attractions:

American Revolution 2 (1969)

Animal House (1978)

At the Circus (1939)

Bamboozled (2000)

Barbarians at the Gate (1993)

Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

Brain Donors (1992) 

Caged Men: Tales from Chicago's SRO Hotels (2017) 

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Dark Days (2000)

Delicatessen (1991)

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)

Edge of Fury (1978)

Elysium (2013)

The Flipside of Dominick Hide (1980)

Freaked (1993)

High-Rise (2016)

Hit! (1973)

The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

The Invisible Man (1933)

Jurassic Punk (2022)

Labirynt (1963)

Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

My Life in Monsters (2015) 

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (first season, 2022)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

Tunnel Vision (2023) 

12:01 (1993) 

Upstream Color (2013) 

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

White Lotus (first season, 2021) 

Who Killed Captain Alex (2010)    


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

CultCinema Classics
Films for Action
Internet Archive
Kino Lorber
Korean Classic Film
Christopher R Mihm
National Film Board of Canada
New Yorker Screening Room
Damon Packard
Mark Pirro
Public Domain Movies
Scarecrow Video
Timeless Classic Movies
or your local library.

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —
Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff.

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  1. Ghosts goes on my list, thank you and I share your fondness for Kolchak. It was Darrin McGavin's perfect role.

    Our House sounds awful and someone might complain that your quick dismissal because it was "faith" is unfair. I say, When they say faith up front like that it means they're going to bring Jesus into it and fuck that. The homeless need homes not Jesus.

  2. Faith can be fine in poetry, as a metaphor, and most people would prefer their spouses be faithful.

    In the context of religion though, "faith" is short for "I've decided not to think this through." It's a synonym, not for "stupid," but for "intentionally stupid."


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