Saw a screening tonight of ROAD RACERS, Robert Rodriguez's film right after EL MARIACHI. Here's how the day went to show you where my head was at.
Woke up late as hell. Answering machine light a blinking two dozen times. ARGH!!!! I hate blinking light thingee. End up talking with agents, execs, and newspapers for the first two waking hours. Then I'm famished. Starved that is. Hungry. Wanting food. My you look tasty. So off Dad and I go to catch a City Bus. I don't know if this is safe, given that Dennis Hopper is in town, but dammit if my bus was gonna blow, I'd want Hopper to of planted the damn device.
Public Transportation is a very odd world. Not quite like real world. Nobody is looking at anything. They just stare at the ugly blue rubber tread in the center of the bus. Man, this is weird. Now our Buses have all types of cool "James Bond" types of things. Like the stairs convert to an elevator for the handicapped, and this strange bicycle attachment, then there's the button which lowers the entire front of the bus. Wow. I want one of these. Imagine the AICN BUS. Travels from coolness to coolness. Yeah, and clouds of cotton candy will descend upon the playground.
Finally after a 40 minute bus ride (actual real car driving time for same journey is 8 minutes) Once we get off the bus, I have to head to the DRISKILL HOTEL to get my package of goodies for the AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL and SCREENWRITERS CONFERENCE. After getting my goodies it's time to take care of food empty space in me belly!!! So off to the potato bar and sundae place we go. Hoofing it 4 blocks in no time. Then we stuff our faces. Yuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmm chili potatoes with cheddar and chives. Yummmmmmmm. Soon we are done and hoofing it to the ALAMO DRAFT HOUSE, yes the same place that does those cool as hell screenings of neato torpedo films at midnight, that yall've (how is that for word usage?) been reading about.
We arrive and get our tickets from the fantastic Elizabeth of the AUSTIN FILM SOCIETY. A secret society of rabid film lovers that work their asses off to bring us cool events like that CONTACT screening you read about, free cool films every Tuesday year around, and much much more. They were sponsoring ROBERT RODRIGUEZ presenting his ROAD RACERS. As I get my tickets (for me, dad and RoRo) I head into the theater only to be told by the film society people that everyone has to wait outside till 6pm (30 minutes in scorching heat) so I walk back outside, my dad does not. He pulls that old fart gruff thing that enables him to stand in Air Con. Me, I'm non-confrontational (read-- WUSS) and stand in the searing nova heat. Then I notice if I stand right next to the door and hug the wall, I'll be in shade. Who should I see a walking towards me, but my ol buddy David and his buddy and film maker Daniel Ericson (directed film entitled SCARY MOVIE, I actually like it quite a bit). As I'm talking to them, I begin to feel a presence on the other side of the glass... a presence spying on me, observing my every non-motion.
And lo and behold it's Robert Rodriguez and his camcorder. "Stealth Moooode," says Robert. Proudly exhibiting his ultra-cool compact camcorder with swing out playback screens. He shows me the footage that he, Robert Rodriguez, was shooting. Personally I believe Robert is a plant, trying to document me for the studios hit squads, though he denies the whole thing, most of the time anyway. So now I'm in air con. Here we stay and small talk a bit while we await the passage of time. He signs a couple of autographs, and we talk. All these people staring at us in the air con, while they are out there baking. I'm personally feeling their sweat. In fact I'm sweating, I'm always sweating, we fat people living in unairconditioned homes in Texas do that.
A little bit later it's up the stairs we go. Entering the lobby of the Alamo, where Borders Books has a display of.... shock.... Robert Rodriguez merchandise.... like: Rebel Without a Crew (his book, which really is a must read for film geeks, I laughed my ass off after reading it), From Dusk Till Dawn widescreen video, other stuff...lots of it. I consider going over talking to Robert more, but this is his deal and a time for fans to meet him, so I head into the theater. Oh by the way. Robert was NOT wearing his bandana. I was shocked. My dad didn't recognize him, and I did a double take, you know like Oliver Hardy? Instead Robert's head was covered with a big ol Black Cowboy hat.
You ever wonder why Robert covers his scalp? I have, and I just have to think that perhaps those tests and things at Pharmaco were a bit more...extensive than we were led to believe. Well, hell it's a theory anyway. I think I heard him say once that it was to keep the ideas in. I like that, even if he didn't say it, but I think he did in some article somewhere.
Once inside we find our typical Alamo seats and instantly. INSTANTLY a pitcher of water and two glasses are brought out for my father and myself. Then the waiter comes by and asks, "Anything you need MR. Knowles?" Maaaaaan, that gives me the creeps. People knowing my name, AND using mister, like I'm someone important. Then Dad reads me something out of the San Antonio paper where they have a quote of the Austin Film Festival leader, Marsha, saying something about me being able to make or brake people's careers. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Man, I can't even fix my car right now. I have to wait for buses to get where I'm going. AMAZING. You know, it's just amazing.
Then the mike tests begin, the how to order your food speech, then Robert and the director of the Film Program at UT (University of Texas). I see Robert's wife in the audience, she waves at me. That's cool. Then the UT professor guy, Berg I believe, gave a little intro about how he came to know Robert. Then Robert got up and gave a mini- film introduction about how SHOWTIME gave him a million bucks to make the movie on, and 13 days to shoot it. Wow, 13 days of glory and it's showing in the Alamo. Sorry, I couldn't help it.
Now I've been dying to see this film. When I first hung out with Robert, it was the film I was most curious about. I had casually mentioned that I had a friend who had a copy of it off of Showtime. Robert basically forbid me to see that print. Apparently they hadn't color corrected that print when they aired it, and it sorta looked funky. Also Robert seemed a bit nervous, and he said this was the first time he was seeing the film with a real audience. Since it was straight to cable, they didn't have a premiere or anything.
The lights dimmed and the film began. Basically this film rocks. In the genre of funky fifties flicks, where hard rock trashed bubblegum, hot rods ruled the earth, and crisco was the hair product of choice, this movie is a hell of a ride. Who in their right mind would of thunk up David Arquette as a James Dean tough god of cool. Not I. I couldn't have pictured it. But damn if when he blew a smoke ring and then bit into the bottom of it while sucking the smoke back in, if he just doesn't oooooze coolness.
Let us not forget Salma "My heart beats for you" Hayek. This was her first American film, and Robert casted her, more or less to convince Sony to cast her instead of Cameron Diaz in DESPERADO. Nothing against Cameron Diaz, but Salma is a sex goddess of a classic variety. She is a symbol of geek love. I mean man, she is cool and hot in all the right ways. Personally I was really hoping she would have got the part opposite Antonio in ZORRO. Sort of rekindle that Errol Flynn and Olvia De Haviland icongraphy. Alas. Sweet Salma shant swoon with Zorro. But she is great in this movie.
Then there's that wacky as hell guy from the opening of DUSK, you know the cash register dude. He steals the film for me, actually he kinda co-steals it. His culprits are a big as hell Hamburger flipping cook with a cleaver and the soundtrack, who is a physical player in the film, more so than anybody else. The music was predominately Link Ray. He used RUMBLE and ACE OF SPADES and THE SHADOW KNOWS. If those first two jog a memory it is because the same music supervisor on this, worked with Quentin on Pulp Fiction. Robert had played some of Link Ray's stuff for him, and Quentin wound up putting it in Pulp.
Boy does this movie have some edits. Robert previsualized this so well, he makes it look incredibly fast. And amazingly he cuts to the music as opposed to the people that cut a film and just lay music in on top.
The film is hitting videoshelves now, so take a gander at it. It was a blast. Afterwards there was a Q & A. During this someone asked Robert what his next project is. I began hiding. Robert said basically something along the lines of, "I can't tell you, but actually we're finalizing a deal in the next couple of days... just read Harry Knowles' Ain't It Cool News, he'll be the first with the story... He calls me up and tells me what I'm doing." Now folks I don't embarass easy, but damn if my cheeks didn't glow red and shine Santa through the foggy night. Sigh. Very cool. Damn fun film. Watch for a great CAMEO. I an't saying who, cause that would ruin it, but keep your eyes peeled.
Afterwards Robert was in the lobby greeting and talking with fans and admirers, meanwhile people were asking me for the web address and took photos of me. SHEESHUS. Anyway the coolest bit of future Robert news he let loose with was that he plans to begin filming (whatever it may be) in March of 1998. So either Fall 1998 or Winter 1999 you should be seeing the next film by the dude who makes his OWN movies, Robert Rodriguez.
Personally, and this is no bullshit, I'm dying to see Robert directing again. El Mariachi, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn was just the damnedest group of cool filmmaking by a single entity in quite some time.