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Josh Olson's Day 7 at SXSW: Richard Garriot: Man On A Mission, Ain't In It For My Health, THE RUNAWAYS, Weird World of Blowfly!

DAY SEVEN Harry’s already raved about RICHARD GARRIOT: MAN ON A MISSION, and the only thing I can really add to it is this - if you think Harry might be compromised by being too close to the subject (as he discusses in his review), you’re wrong. It really is that good. The film’s a wonderful reminder of how important space travel is, and what an incredible dream it is. The film gave me a smidgen of genuine hope for the future of humanity, and if you knew me, you’d know that’s a big deal. Next up - AIN’T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH: A FILM ABOUT LEVON HELM. This movie shouldn’t work. It’s a documentary that spends most of its time just hanging around with the legendary drummer of The Band during a period of time when he released his first album in 25 years, and gets nominated for a Grammy. The majority of the film just hangs out with Helm while he goes to the doctor, works on a song, smokes pot, and welcomes the birth of his grandchild. But it DOES work. Jacob Hatley directs one of the most interesting and compelling portraits of a musician I’ve seen in a long time. By the time it’s over, you don’t just have a stronger sense of Helm and his importance to rock music, you have a stronger sense of what it’s like to live the sort of life this legend has. His place in music history was something I’ve been aware of for a long time, but just how important he was to The Band and to Robbie Robertson’s writing was something of a revelation, as was the nature of the split between the two men. The movie doesn’t flinch from providing the darker side of Helm’s life, but in the end, he’s a riveting character who comes across profoundly committed to music and to life. Helm contributed a track to an album of unfinished Hank Williams songs a while back, and the scenes of him and his producer working the song out and finishing the lyric are surprisingly involving. Williams had written all the verses and one line of the bridge of the song Helm did. I’m a writer, so maybe it’s just me, but I suspect you’ll find yourself doing what I did, and straining to come up with those lines yourself while you watch them wrestle with it. It’s a couple of pretty simple and small scenes, but I’ve never seen anything like ‘em in a music documentary before. There’s also some great performances, including a mesmerizing cover of Bruce Springsteen’s very great Atlantic City. Helm’s bluegrass version kills. I’d heard less than salutory things about THE RUNAWAYS, and I went off to see it last night because I figured the one place it might be fun to see it would be here. I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s not a revolutionary piece of filmmaking, but it’s solid and entertaining, and has some terrific performances. Dakota Fanning’s terrific as Cherie Curry, but it made me a little sad to realize what a short childhood she’s had. Kristen Stewart is spectacular as Joan Jett, though. She really captures Jett’s physicality and presence. Michael Shannon’s been around for quite a while. I’d seen him before, but the performance that first killed me, just blew me away, was the one he gave in the woefully ignored Bug, William Friedkin’s film of the Tracy Letts play. His performance as producer Kim Fowley in this flick is what you’d expect - just magnificent. Lastly, THE WEIRD WORLD OF BLOWFLY. I’d forgotten Blowfly. I grew up in Philadelphia in the seventies and eighties, and I remember some of the kids I went to school with had Blowfly albums. Their grimy pictures of this bizarre costumed character surrounded by naked women were intriguing, and once in a while, we’d actually get to hear a track or two, when my friends’ parents were away. Blowfly was the original dirty rapper, and claims - probably legitimately - to be the first rapper period. It’s pretty clear he beat Rudy Ray Moore to the punch. But I haven’t thought of him in ages, or come across any of his music, and I never knew that Blowfly was really Clarence Reid, the Miami songwriter who penned countless R&B hits, including Betty Wright’s Clean Up Woman. Director Jonathan Furmanski caught up with Reid recently, and filmed him on tour with his current band. It’s a pretty fun documentary that will introduce (or re-introduce) you to this legendary character, and take you deep inside his life. Furmanski seems to have gotten pretty total access, and there are some pretty intimate scenes. Reid making himself breakfast in bed is weirdly memorable, and the scenes of Red and his manager/drummer/number one fan/best friend Tom Bowker fighting are hilariously touching. We’re watching two men who spend way too much time with each other, know each other way too well, and love each other bicker like an old married couple, and there’s something kinda powerful about their relationship. Some nice testimonials from the great Ice T and Chuck D help put Blowfly’s work in historical perspective. This one’s definitely worth catching.

Readers Talkback
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  • March 19, 2010, 5:25 p.m. CST

    first?

    by neosporing

    who cares.

  • March 19, 2010, 6:59 p.m. CST

    ULTIMA III by Richard Garriott

    by Sir Loin

    ...was the first computer game I ever bought, back in 1983 for my Atari 800XL. Played most of the sequels, too. The man's a genius. Back then, you could call Origin's office and talk to them, had a great conversation with Chuck Buche (Chuckles in the games) for 45 minutes!

  • March 19, 2010, 10:32 p.m. CST

    Levon Doc

    by jonesy21

    Saw this at the Lamar last week. It really is a spectacular film. Restores some dignity to the rock doc.

  • March 19, 2010, 10:33 p.m. CST

    Just saw The Runaways - PHENOMENAL!!!!!!

    by Flexfill

    Stewart knocked it out of the fucking park in every way. If the Academy Awards weren't a year away, she'd be a shoe in for a supporting nom. Her Joan Jett was so great, I just cannot get over it. You add this to an always dependable Fanning who delivers a STUNNING performance and Shannon who put the cherry on top, literally. This film is so much better than some on this site have given credit for. Do not miss this movie. It is not what you think so do not dismiss it. It fires on all six and does not relent. I hope the director's cut is an hour longer. I did not want this movie to end. Damn, this made my day. I'm definitely going back to see this again. Terrific film that does not shy away from language, nudity, drug use, lesbianism and good old fashioned sex, drugs and Rock & Roll.

  • March 20, 2010, 2:15 a.m. CST

    Moments I Love From The Runaways

    by Flexfill

    #1. As Joanie Larkin shops for clothing, the proprietor of the store tells her she's in the wrong section and that the girls' stuff is over there. Joanie points to a punk rocker at the counter and says "I want what he's wearing." Cut to Joan Jett emerging from the store clad in black leather and studs up and down. She runs down the street like Superman. #2. Young Cherie Currie enters the high school talent contest dressed and made-up like David Bowie, sings one of his songs and flips a two fisted bird to the dazed audience when she's done. #3. Kim Fowley brings stunt hecklers to abuse the band before their first gig, and they proceed to throw bottles and dog shit on the girls until they learn to fight back. #4. Joan Jett drops her leather pants and pisses on the headliner's guitar after sneaking into his better dressing room with better food. #5. Cherie becomes mesmerized by Joan's performance at the roller boogie and with a slow burn takes her mouth full of toke as a prelude to a night of sexual awakening. The shot is one of the more beautiful I have ever seen committed to celluloid, or digital. #6. Japanese photographers convince Cherie to pose in her black panties and platforms for press kit photos in her back yard. Her grandmother sees this and proceeds to beat the men with her cane. #7. Lita Ford tears into Cherie for taking the spotlight and looks great doing it. Joan defends Cherie, but moreover, asserts herself as a force to be reckoned with and the real powerhouse behind the band. #8. The entire band's performance of "Cherry Bomb" in Japan. It is perfect and electrifying. Dakota really brings it. #9. Joan's rise, like the mythological Phoenix from the fire and ash. As she dons the hot pink blazer, "I love Rock & Roll" and "Crimson and Clover" ensue. There are many, many more great moments in this incredible film. Oh, and Cherie's sister is played by Elvis Presley's granddaughter.

  • March 20, 2010, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Movies

    by film11

    What...no mention of Currie's spectacular film career?

  • March 20, 2010, 12:05 p.m. CST

    Flexfill=plant???

    by brabon300

    cuz from what i have been hearing, the performances are good, but the movie itself is very thin in terms of story

  • March 20, 2010, 1:58 p.m. CST

    B300

    by Flexfill

    I've been posting here for more than a decade. All the old school die hards no me and have responded to my analysis many times. If I'm a plant, I wish somebody would pay me for my critique. This just happens to be a film I found exeptional.

  • March 20, 2010, 2:02 p.m. CST

    error

    by Flexfill

    know me, I meant.

  • March 22, 2010, 4:13 a.m. CST

    Blowfly was the shit back in the day

    by Amadeo Zeller

    He had this one song called "SHOW ME A GUY WHO DOESN'T LIKE TO FUCK, AND I'LL SHOW YOU A FAGGOT". Ahhh, good stuff.