Art and Craft

Art and Craft follows the story of one Mark Landis, a prolific art forger diagnosed as schizophrenic at age 17 while grieving the death of his father. Thinking to please his mother with a gesture in honor of his father, Landis produced a copy of a work by Maynard Dixon and donated it to a California museum. When the museum accepted it as authentic, Landis became obsessed with repeating the feat. Over the next thirty years, he donated hundreds of his copies to small museums and churches around the country, assuming various personas as eccentric philanthropist and Jesuit priest, and holding out the promise of further donations, to convince people of their authenticity.

In 2007, Matthew Leininger, then the registrar for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, cottoned on to Landis and began his own private investigation. Though he was exposed in 2010, Landis has never gone to jail for any of this, as he hasn’t taken any money for his copies and hasn’t technically broken any laws. Leininger and others have tried to steer Landis away from his deceptive practices by arranging for a gallery exhibition of his work in 2012.

The documentary shows that Landis lives independently, with occasional visits from a social worker, in a small apartment cluttered with belongings and art supplies. In the past, his original works have been made available through NARSAD Artworks (National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression), but at the time of this writing only a set of notecards entitled Magnolias is available for sale. (It copies artist Martin Johnson Heade without credit.)

Magnolias note cards, by Mark Landis.

From Beyond

From Beyond (Unrated Director’s Cut) is based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft in which a “mad scientist” type, Dr. Pretorius, develops a machine, “the Resonator”, a device which looks a whole lot like a giant Van De Graf generator, which allows human beings to see and otherwise have contact with strange and horrible creatures from an alternate dimension by giving off sound waves or vibrations stimulating the pineal gland in the human brain.  Most of these alternate-dimensional creatures as depicted in the movie (special effects in 1986 were not what they are today) seem to be jellyfish and trilobite-type things that swim in the air as their earthly counterparts swim in the water.  The problem is that in this invisible world there are some things larger and more dangerous than ethereal jellyfish, and that one of those “things” killed Dr. Pretorius by literally biting his head off. 

However, when Dr. Pretorius’s assistant, Dr. Tillinghast, tells that story to the legal system, he initially gets charged with the homicide of Dr. Pretorius, but then, as the investigating detective points out, it becomes known that the ax with which Tillinghast supposedly decapitated Pretorius is distinctly lacking in blood evidence.  What to make of Tillinghast’s story about the pineal-gland stimulating technology, the strange creatures, and the interdimensional being that attacked his colleague?  Tillinghast gets sent to the mental health system, where he  gets diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and waits for the arrival of a second doctor to concur on the issue of whether he is to be considered fit to stand trial (technical sanity for the purposes of the legal system and good mental health in an absolute sense being two different things). The psychiatrist who runs the facility in which Tillinghast is being held considers the new doctor, who is known for doing experiments on patients and embracing unusual theories about schizophrenics, ethically dubious as well as ineffective.  Dr. Bloch, hospital administrator, takes a dim view of experimentation upon patients, and holds to the traditional way of handling schizophrenics, institutionalizing them for life. According to Wikipedia, “As with his earlier film Re-Animator, Gordon made use of medical advisors to be sure that the actions taken by the doctors and nurses of the film followed proper medical procedures”. This story was clearly set in a time before widespread deinstitutionalization (perhaps the Reagan revolution and the idea that releasing people with mental health conditions on antipsychotic medication and leaving them to their own devices hadn’t yet arrived).

Tillinghast’s evaluation sparks a larger investigation after the second psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine McMichaels, orders a CAT scan (technology unknown in Lovecroft’s time, and reletively new in 1986, when this movie was made). As the doctors smoke while looking at the images, the CAT scan reveals that Tillinghast’s pineal gland has enlarged and is influencing other parts of the brain in an unprecedented way, leading to the hypotheses that (1) Tillinghast is not schizophrenic, and the Resonator did work; and (2) if powerful pineal gland = schizophrenia symptoms, schizophrenics are not really “crazy” so much as “differently abled”, being able to percieve supernatural phenomena unseen by others, a view held in Lovecraft’s time by people who actually worked with schizophrenics, most notably C. G. Jung.

Though Tillinghast rightly considers re-activating the resonator and re-running the late Dr. Pretorius’s experiment extremely dangerous, it is the only alternative to a life of institutionalization and worse, so accompanied by Dr. Michaels and a police sergeant, he reluctantly agrees to “return to the scene of the crime”, the creepy Victorian mansion in which the late Dr. Pretorius died. Tillinghast gets the Resonator working again, and they all see the strange creatures. Dr. Michaels gets “hooked” and runs the Resonator herself, putting them all in jeopardy. They re-encounter Dr. Pretorius, who lives again, effectively having been incorporated into the creature that ate him, and seeking to eat others. She also discovers an S&M dungeon in the basement of the creepy old mansion, and dons a leather outfit, which is suprisingly in good condition and just the right size. Then things really go off the rails. I had trouble following the plot at this point, but it seems I’m not the only one.

The repeated stimulation of his pineal gland causes Tillinghast to grow a stalklike appendage in the middle of his forehead, assume a zombie-like demeanor, and develop a taste for human brains. (A “frequent flyer” to the psych ward who sees him at the hospital is initially suspected of suffering the DTs, until an EMT sees him, too.) Tillinghast proceeds to wreak havoc when re-admitted to the mental hospital. When Dr. McMichaels returns to the hospital with the story about what happened and her new bondage look, the psychiatrist in charge, having been given a perfect opportunity to avenge her professional rivalry, orders that Dr. Michaels be given electroshock therapy. Last minute exigencies caused by the rampage of the brain-eating creature that used to be Tillinghast lead to the administration of the ECT being delayed. This gives Dr. Michaels the opportunity to escape, acquire new clothes, and misappropriate an ambulance. She returns to the old house and sets a bomb to blow up the Resonator. Tillinghast and Pretorius end up meeting mano-a-mano, but Michaels is the only survivor.

Catfish

A documentary–of sorts–of a Facebook romance gone bad, Catfish follows Nev Schulman, a New York City photographer, as he slowly unravels the web of lies and half-truths told him by a pretty 19 year-old calling herself Megan on the web. He drives to Michigan to find out how much of the story is real, and discovers the woman behind the sexy texts is 40 year old Angela Wesselman. Still trying to keep up the charade, Angela lets Nev into her home while pretending to call Megan; Nev happens upon two shirtless young men and is flatly told, “They’re handicapped.” Nev quickly puts down the camera and continues his fact-finding mission from the front porch.

Later, Nev gently confronts Angela about her deceptions, and she tells him that all her online personalities were based on herself, on the person she would have been had she made different choices in life, such as not marrying Vince and becoming the stepmother (and, apparently, primary caregiver) to two severely developmentally delayed boys. (Their specific disability is never named.) One uses a wheelchair and is fed via g-tube, while the other is ambulatory and can lead her to the kitchen to indicate when he’s hungry. (Angela implies that he’ll hit her with a pot if she doesn’t comply.)

Nev is satisfied knowing the impetus of Angela’s escapist fantasies, but though caregiving for two severely disabled individuals is taxing both physically and mentally, few caregivers act out in such ways. By way of explanation, Wesselman claims in a 20/20 interview that she’d been diagnosed as a schizophrenic, and there were days when she believed that Megan really existed. We at Disability Movies sincerely hope the Wesselman family has gotten some appropriate home health care to relieve the strain.