Nordling here with my semi-annual (and it's only semi because I missed last year's, but more on that in a moment) Butt-Numb-A-Thon Review! Forgive any misspellings and misuses of grammar - I'm still pretty punchy but I wanted to get this out there regardless before I hit the sack and my rambling mind starts forgetting shit. Hell, that's likely happened already.
This year's write-up requires a little explanation. See, as some of you know about me, I'm a BNAT freak. I bend light around the stars to try to go every year. The camaraderie, the sense of family, the films, and the general love I have for everyone is what really gets me through the year. I don't have it rougher than most. But everyone has that "thing" that makes their life worth living. Mine's my wife, my daughter, films, Ain't It Cool News, and BNAT. Well, last year, the economy really sucked for a lot of people and that kept a few regulars away. As for myself, I got into a fairly devastating auto accident taking my wife and daughter to the dentists. We can't drive for shit on ice in Texas, I was going too fast on an overpass, and there you go. BNAT for 2009, gone, in less than a minute. I was devastated. By all accounts BNAT 11 was a rousing success, and I would have slammed puppies into the sides of trees to have seen THE RED SHOES on the big screen with that crowd. But it wasn't to be.
This year I started rearranging my life in frigging August to make sure that I had the space in my schedule to go. I never take BNAT for granted. Contrary to what many of you believe I apply to BNAT like everyone else. I love Harry, Eric, Cargill, Jeremy, Steven and the rest, and I hate to miss it, obviously, but I go through the entire application process like everyone else. I jump through all the hoops Harry wants all the applicants to jump through, and it's never work for me. Short of making me have my BNAT app picture taken on the Great Wall of China - and don't think it's not crossing his mind as he reads this - I'll bust my ass for the best application possible. It's not in me to do BNAT half-ass.
I wanted to do something special, so I decided to make an Unofficial BNAT Soundtrack to give to everyone that attended. This soundtrack would consist of songs from BNATs past, along with dialogue, trailers, and various other pieces that help make BNAT so wonderful. With the help of Simeon Peebler (@simonfloodfall on Twitter) who helped me with the supplies, and Meghan Murphy (@kawaiinot on Twitter) designing the fucking AMAZING cover art, I made up over a hundred CDs to give away. The set list can be found here: http://community.livejournal.com/bnatters/125577.html, for anyone interested. I worked pretty hard tracking down the various things I wanted for it. From the reactions of everyone, it seems to have went over well, and I really hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I did making it.
Now, I also have an issue that I feel I need to share with people reading this - I'm diabetic, and it's a constant struggle. Now, diabetes attacks people differently - some through their limbs, some through their kidneys. Mine attacks me through my eyes. I have what's called macular edema where my sight has issues because of buildup of fluid behind the retinas. I have to have injections periodically to make these swellings subside. I also have to have laser surgery to shoot the various thin vessels that pop up when you have diabetes. If these vessels happen to burst, well, the doctor told me I'd be begging for him to remove one of my eyes because of the pain and the pressure. This past week or so, I've had to endure both laser surgery and injections and I have to go back next week for more. At one point it was looking like I might not even be able to go again this year because of these issues. Fortunately for me, I got these issues fairly straightened out, and so we packed up and made the trek to Austin for the pre-party. Harry told me then, "You're going to like your seats this year, bud."
So we get to BNAT, and go through the swag - amazing swag as usual - and make our way to our seats. And they're smack dab in the middle, 5th row from the screen. They're literally the best seats in the Alamo Drafthouse, other than Harry's of course. I was tearing up as I thanked him, I don't mind saying. It meant and means a great deal to me. Harry, man... I on't know how to thank you for that. He sat me next to Drew McWeeny, formerly Moriarty of AICN and now of HitFix.com, and it was a genuine joy for me to share BNAT with him and his enthusiasm kept me going throughout the night. Of course we couldn't begin BNAT without our ritual hazing of Jeff Mahler, and this year Harry brought in the stand-up comic Gravy to heckle the shit out of the poor bastard. Jeff kinda got some of us back later that night, though, which I'll get into further down...
Okay, so you're interested in the films. Blah blah personal shit blah blah. Alright then.
Now, this year's theme was MANDOM. The sheer best things in life about being a Dude. So it was totally appropriate to start with the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, and TRUE GRIT. TRUE GRIT is amazing. One of the best Coen Brothers films yet. I honestly don't know how I would need to sell this to you. If I have to sell it, this isn't meant for you anyway. Hailee Steinfeld turns in a stellar performance, one that deserves to be rewarded. One of the best child performances ever. Shot by the glorious Roger Deakins (the BNAT audience is one of the few audiences that applauds when cinematographers show up on screen) and written with dialogue that melts like butter on the tongue, TRUE GRIT is sure to be remembered Oscar-time.
Next up was LE SAMOURAI, a film by the amazing Jean-Pierre Melville and starring Alain Delon in a performance that launched a thousand imitators from America to Hong Kong. Much of the film is a kind of tonal piece, but I really loved it. I had never seen it before on the big screen, so seeing it with this crowd was terrific.
Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen have made some of the greatest musicals of all time, and ON THE TOWN is no different. Shot in New York in mostly outdoor settings, it's a different aesthetic than some might be used to for musicals of this type. Starring Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and the lovely Ann Miller (I must say she was getting some serious ogling from myself and most of the other guys in the audience), it's the story of three sailors on a 24-hour furlough into New York City and the mischief they get themselves into trying to find dates and pursue a particular girl throughout the city. I was smiling throughout this entire film. I adored it. I don't get the distaste that some people have for musicals myself. I love when Harry plays them and getting a Gene Kelly musical was especially wonderful. Probably my favorite vintage film of the night.
Next up was Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland and a young Ronald Reagan in SANTA FE TRAIL, a really well-made Western about the fighting of abolitionists in Kansas (yeah, you read that right). As well made as this film is, and as much as I enjoyed it, the message of SANTA FE TRAIL seemed to be that the issue of slavery didn't deserve to have a war fought over it. Raymond Massey plays John Brown as an utter religious psychopath, killing people as he saw fit to get his way. I do like the idea that the film seemed to present that although slavery was morally wrong and that people who fought against slavery were fighting a good fight, there's a certain moral ambiguity to the characters that couldn't be painted over with broad strokes. For all of Flynn's charm, he was advocating for an abhorrent way of life, and Massey's insane character was a murdering villain who yet was morally right in a way.
See, my punchy mind can't be sure if we saw the first 40 minutes of COWBOYS AND ALIENS at this point or later in the program, but fuck it, I'm writing about it now. Jon Favreau, Roberto Orci, and Ron Howard brought this unfinished piece to BNAT and without going into spoilers I'll simply say that this movie is going to fucking ROCK. Favreau has done something that can simply not be repaid - he brought Harrison Ford back. And not just stuck him into the film, either. He's fucking BACK. He gives a rich, layered, complex performance - as complex as movies of this type can be, anyway - and he commands attention as soon as he takes the screen. Who knows, he may even get recognized for it by the Academy. I don't want to be hyperbolic, but holy shit, he's so engaged here and for those of us disappointed in CRYSTAL SKULL this was an ass-kicking that we've been looking for since MOSQUITO COAST. Hell, maybe since BLADE RUNNER.
Gore Verbinski's 8 minutes of RANGO were next, and this looks charming and fun as hell. It also has a Western aesthetic to it, and the scene they showed was strakingly beautiful visually. This one looks like a lot of fun for next year.
Next was David Russell's THE FIGHTER, starring Mark Wahlberg and the phenomenal Christian Bale as the Ward brothers, Mickey and Dicky. Dicky's claim to fame was that he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, but it's not clear whether he was knocked down or tripped. Either way, it's probably the greatest moment in Dicky's life, and so Dicky trains Mickey to be the next great fighter of the family. Dicky's problem is that he's a drug addict (being followed by an HBO camera crew doing a doc on addiction no less) and Mickey isn't winning the fights because Dicky keeps thumping out on him. When Mickey breaks from his family (Melissa Leo plays their mother, and she's amazingly great in it, but I adored the performance of Jack McGee as the dad) to train on his own and sees a new girlfriend (Amy Adams) it causes rifts in his family that may be beyond repair. This is a great film, with great performances everywhere in the thing. Wahlberg is a good fucking actor. There, I said it. Give him the right part, the right director, and he can do amazing things.
Next up - the great Charles Laughton in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, in a beautiful print. A fucking certified classic, what can I say about this movie that hasn't been said before? If you haven't seen it yet, do so. One of the great film classics of all time.
This next print was extraordinarily hard to get. Apparently only one print exists right now (I think? Not sure) and it's not on DVD anywhere. It's Orson Welles' CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, his Falstaff Shakespearean mash-up with himself and John Gielgud. I can't claim to be a Shakespearean scholar or anything, but I do enjoy his plays. This one felt long to me, and I'd probably put this in the slot of "interesting failure." Maybe it was the time of night or just my caffeine-addled mind, but this wasn't clicking for me. Like I said, it's an interesting film, and I'm glad i had the opportunity to see it.
Our next film was a film genre that had never played BNAT before, stand-up comedy. We got RICHARD PRYOR'S LIVE AND IN CONCERT fro 1979, and seeing it like this was like hearing it for the first time. Drew and I were rolling on this one. C'mon, it's Richard Pryor, dude could make separating socks funny. Seeing this film with the company I had was easily one of the highlights of BNAT for me.
Now, I can't review GREEN HORNET in any real detail. I'd like to. In fact, if I were to write it up with any real specificity this would be the longest of these reviews. But I feel i must say this. Although this is being released in January, traditionally a dump-month for the studios, I must insist that this isn't a dump kind of film. I have no idea what kind of box office this will make. But this was for me the most pleasant surprise of all the premieres at BNAT. I really, really loved THE GREEN HORNET, and all I can say to you is that I urge you to see it with an open mind and and prepare to have a metric fuck-ton of fun with it. I'm not bullshitting saying this, not trying to get into anyone's good graces. An honest assessment of THE GREEN HORNET - it's really fucking good.
Can't tell you the next film I saw. I won't even hint at it with a mock title. It's likely been spoiled online anyway but it won't be by me. I'll just say this - it gave me exactly what I expected it would, and gave me what I wanted it to, and I laughed my ass off through most of it, which had to be the filmmakers' intention. That's it.
Next was DRIVE ANGRY in 3D. I can't really review this with any real detail either, but that's because I was starting to hit the wall physically at this time and kept having to go to the bathroom. I will say that these guys - who did MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D - do nudity and gore in spectacular 3D fashion, and that William Fichtner was the fucking shit in it, my favorite performance in the film.
After DRIVE ANGRY was finished (and Jeff Mahler threw a bunch of rubber penises at us, one of which hit me in the head - I like you too Jeff, hehehe) we were hauled out of the theater and put onto buses to the IMAX theater to see - you guessed it, TRON: LEGACY. I hate to end my BNAT review on a down note, I really do. I love the original TRON. Fucking ADORE it. I think the ony person that supersedes my enthusiasm for it is Harry and maybe the Tron Guy. As a sequel to one of my favorite childhood films, this is not the film I wanted to see, and you can take my negative review of it in that light. I loved the Daft Punk score, I loved much of the visuals, and up until Sam finally catches up with his dad I was really with the film. But once the explanations start coming the film lost me in a way that never got me back. See, my problem with TRON: LEGACY is the same problem THE PHANTOM MENACE has - the story just isn't very good. What story there is of it, anyway. Even the character of Tron is used in a pretty crappy way. Visually, it's amazing - although I prefer the look of the original film, retro though it may be - but that's not enough. I was really disappointed in TRON: LEGACY, but I'm glad I saw it and don't let my negative viewpoint keep you from seeing it.
Alright, thanks yous in order - Harry Knowles, Drew McWeeny, Christopher Cargill, the mighty Tim League, Eric Vespe, Aaron Morgan, Devin Faraci, Simeon Peebler, Meghan Murphy, Paul Gandersman, the glorious Alamo Drafthouse staff (we're really sorry for all the fleshlights and rubber dicks, really), and I'm sure I'm forgetting things in this 2ish A.M. write-up. Just know that this was easily in the top three BNATs for me. I thought it was terrifically great. All the world loves a lover, indeed. I'm so thankful for sharing this great past couple of days with everyone I met and hung out with this year, and hopefully I will see you all next year!