Father Geek here with a second round of reviews of BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 2, Harry's little B-Day party for friends and film fans from across this country and as it turned out the Atlantic and Pacific as well.
Just wanted to pipe in on some things from the fest, some of which I haven't seen elsewhere.
I am a long time reader / Alamo Drafthouse patron. We have actually met several times.
Tickets: I got into line at 8am, and was about 8th - the first guy was in line @4 am. Had fun hanging with the guys from Houston who wisely drove up to get in line instead of emailing in. I worry about next year's tickets. Now that the demand for them has gone up so much, with a fixed supply (please never let it move out of Tim's place), you now enter the area of scalping and such. And I talked to many out-o-towners who were not fans of the email thing. I know it was a last minute this-is-all-we-can-do thing, but still...
I thought DESTINATION MARS was a great way to start. Very fun. That documentary was a hoot. It was a great, unexpected lead film. Inspired choice.
No one has mentioned the great NZ short INFECTION. I thought it kicked ass. I love animation that is able to deliver such good characterizations with a minimum of visual cues. I was lucky enough to sit next to the guy who brought that and others from NZ. Cool guy. I hope INFECTION gets considered for the Academy Awards.
The negative reactions to THE HOBBIT are interesting. I think it is the STAR WARS effect. When you see it as an adult, it does not measure to your memories as a kid. And there is the fact that the HOBBIT (or STAR WARS) does not hold its own technically to today (some movies like PINOCCHIO hold up better). But, having said that, I really liked seeing THE HOBBIT. They did a great job of condensing the story into movie form, and I liked all the songs. Great animation previews before the movie too. "My Precious..."
Nomination for one of the best moments in the festival: when Ribbissi in THE GIFT is told that Keannu Reaves thinks that Blanchett is a witch, and he calmly gets out of his truck, grabs a tire iron, and just goes to town. Overall, great acting, great direction, great location, weaker story.
SEA WOLF and WONDER BAR were awesome. Robinson was great. I was shocked at how dark WONDER BAR was ( the same shock as the one seeing the LEAPING FISH short before THE NAVIGATOR ). I think most people missed the fact that Jolson cold bloodidly put the dancers body in the guys car because he KNEW that the guy was going to drive it off a cliff. Wow. These two films were a great switch in gear right before the half way point.
Best movie of the fest - in terms of reception at least : SNATCH. I thought it was better than LOCK STOCK. Brad Pitt was over the top. Even the New Zeelander couldn't understand him!
Nomination for one of the best moments in the festival: when the guy from SNATCH - I'm sorry but I do not remember his name - was "directing" the line.. "Mind the fucking queue... only the women get a fucking poster..."
Greatest whiplash of the fest: going from SNATCH to ULTRAVIXENS. You all did this on purpose, didn't you! ;) ULTRAVIXENS was definitely the low point, and the only time I intentionally spent a good chunk of a movie not in my seat. Hopefully you guys will do better next year.
Nomination for most surrealistic moment: that damn Christmas short from Tim. Holy %&*#&, that alone has made me want to go to the Sinus 2000 Christmas special. This was especially evil since it followed ULTRAVIXENS. Nuff said.
ROBOCOP was an interesting choice. It is one of those movies that everyone one has seen multiple times on TV thanks to TNT and such, so this was less of a hit than you may have been expecting. I liked it, but would have rather seen another SEA WOLF or WONDER BAR in this slot.
SHOGUN ASSASSIN was great, but a lot of people were snoozing through this one... perhaps it was just the graveyard shift. I think this slot is a great one for Hong Kong action flick/Kung Fu/Samurai movies.
ED GEIN was as inspired an end film as DESTINATION MARS was a lead film. Haunting.
I liked that you all kept the number of "stars" to a minimum. Next time, if you have a QnA, you may want to put the movie in the beginning of the fest in the interest of keeping the questions more coherent. I hope you guys keep on saving about half the seats for the locals and half for out-of-towners.
I really enjoyed myself, and it was great to see Drew, Paul, and some of the other recognizable members of the gang. Look forward to next year.
And from the comfort of the back row of the Alamo we have the following...
For starters, I felt like I was going into BNAT 2000 at a deficit. I hadn't gone last year, I didn't know anyone who was there, and the person who did come with me turned out to be a pain-in-the-ass after about three hours. Not only that I was called a pussy by the host of the festival because I'd shelled out an extra $5 for a couch. Okay, he didn't just call me a pussy. He called all the couch-jockeys pussies. So, aside from wanting to watch as many movies in 24 hours as humanly possible, I didn't feel like part of the crowd.
But luckily the lights went down. The first film out of the bag was DESTINATION MARS, a film we were told was confiscated by the U.S. government in the 50s because the director and most of the cast and crew had been accused of being Communists. Apparently, no one had seen this movie in over 45 years. Ve-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ry cool! And the festival was off to an electrifying start. The film was preceded by a short doc on the finding of film and the people who remembered the creators. This quickly became hysterical. The daughter of the director and the "lead" actress was the most bitter human being alive. I felt bad for laughing because these are real people and pain is pain and even if the way they handle it is funny. You shouldn't laugh. This didn't stop me, though, and it didn't stop too many other people, either. Then the movie started and the ruse was up. Through a combination of clearly DV filmmaking, non-period acting styles, and the use of an ergonomic desk chair, it became clear pretty quickly that the makers of the "film" had had one on us. What followed was an often-brilliant parody of 50s sci-fi. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I hope it does get picked up. My only problem was that after I knew it was a parody, I felt like it went on too long. Jokes got recycled. Performances stalled out. But that tends to happen when you know you're not going to be engaged in the film in a story sense. It might just be me, but when I know something is a joke, I stop caring about the story and focus on the satire. So, it didn't really maintain its energy for the whole length. But it was very funny and they found targets to make fun of that no one had thought to parody in over forty years. A funny movie and a great scam. And the actress who played the daughter in the doc should be a star. In closing, here is one of my favorite passages from the film:
COP: Can we stop these things with bullets?
DETECTIVE: I don't know. No one knows if you can stop an alien with bullets. But if you think about it, to them we're aliens. And we can be stopped with bullets. So there's a good chance they can be, too.
So the lights came up and Harry continued the "lost film" angle. The crowd let him know that we were on to it. In fact, I was one of the first to do the coughing move that soon earned Harry's hatred. What do you expect from a pussy?
Next film was from Harry and his Dad's incredible collection. THE HOBBIT. The Bass/Rankin version that showed on TV in the late 70s. This couldn't have resonated more if it had been introduced by my second grade teacher and my childhood best friend. I remembered this from when it first came on and had never watched it since. I looked forward to a reintroduction to it and a chance to bask in some lost-youth memories. But it didn't hold up. Stiff animation (if you can call it animation), that horrifying warbling singer and the song that wouldn't go away, and Richard Boone sounding bored and/or drunk as Smaug. Thank God for John Huston and Gollem. They made the movie for me.
Next up was another premiere, THE GIFT. I was mildly interested to see this, though the title blows. However, if Sam Raimi directs a junior high stage production of GREASE, I'll drive all the way to Des Moines to see it. Fortunately, I won't have to pay to see THE GIFT. It had some nice stuff in it (the speeding up fiddle player was creepy) and some good performances (Cate Blanchette disappears into her role, Hillary Swank was naturally good, and even Keanu was good). Giovanni Ribisi was very good, but I'm getting a little tired of seeing him play dimwits and retards. Greg Kinnear was. . .well, he was Greg Kinnear and his presence ruins any surprises (enough said). It's always good to see J.K. Simmons show up in anything (like SPIDERMAN. Hmmmm.) And Gary Cole pulled off two great back-to-back laughs without even trying. But the movie just didn't work for me. The photography was too crisp and shallow. The tone wasn't right for the story. I kept wishing Billy Bob Thornton had had the time to do a rewrite and direct it himself. Raimi was just out of his depth to direct this type of story that takes place in this region. He couldn't connect with it. (However, I am a guy and would like to thank him for Katie Holmes' nude scene. Who knew?) Overall, not terribly impressive. Could have been a lot better and whole lot creepier and unsettling. As it is, it's predictable and fun to watch for the great performances sprinkled about.
Next up was a double feature from the Knowles family collection: THE SEA WOLF and WONDER BAR. Thank you, Harry, for bringing these films. They are incredibly hard to find and, though I'd heard about them all my life, had never had the chance to see them. SEA WOLF was just great classic filmmaking with a stunning performance by Edward G. Robinson. (And, no, Anthony Hopkins is no substitute. I can't believe he could punch out a room full of sailors. With Robinson, you know he can whack the hell out of anyone.) I hope they don't remake this. It's just fine on its own. However, it's too hard to find. SOMEBODY RELEASE THIS FILM!!! A whole generation is missing it.
WONDER BAR is also hard to find, but for obvious reasons. The ending is an embarrassment. However, the film has great musical numbers and Al Jolson was just a force of nature. I loved his first number. No one throws that much energy on the screen anymore. (I had a flash halfway through that Stanley Tucci would make a good Jolson in a biopic. Just a thought.) But it was great to see the humor in this film. Flat out dirty jokes (and some of us thought dirty movie jokes came along somewhere around ANIMAL HOUSE). Terrific performances and one of the most cold-blooded endings you're ever likely to see in a romantic comedy. A lost treasure, but the blackface bullshit needs to go away. Aside from historical value, there's no other reason to watch racist shit like that.
Next up was our mid-festival adrenaline shot: SNATCH. There's too much to say about this movie, so I won't. I'll just say that if you've seen it, you know how wonderful it is. If you haven't, do whatever you can to change that. What a fucking movie!
Next up was porn time with Russ Meyer. I have to give Meyer credit for his energy, his almost psychotic energy. If you thought the swimming pool love scene in SHOWGIRLS was frenetic, you ain't seen nothing yet. BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE SUPERVIXENS. The less said about this the better. The whole couch next to us cleared out instead of watching this. (Pussies!) It was interesting to watch, but just not a good movie. There's a reason Roger Ebert took his name off of it. (By the way, after seeing this and BTVOTD, does Ebert have any right to criticize anyone's screenplay? He prides himself on being one of the few critics that has written a screenplay. Well, so what?)
Next up. . .well, I blacked out for a little over an hour and don't remember. I was happy and felt very fortunate, that's all I know.
ROBOCOP. Okay, I weenied out on this one and took an extended nicotine break during the middle of this one. (Those double features are murder on my addiction. But, then, this wasn't a double feature because there was no movie right before this one, right?) Anyway, I've only seen it about a thousand times, the most recent one being a month ago in New York in a screening room in midtown. So, I probably would have stayed if that hadn't been true. I did manage to catch all of Kurtwood Smith's greatest hits (i.e. "Guns! Guns! Guns!", "Sayonara, Robocop!", etc.) A wonderful, fantastic movie.
SHOGUN ASSASSIN was next and it put me to sleep. Sorry. But I'm a pussy. I slammed a Red Bull halfway through and that helped a lot. But it was just too repetitive and I just couldn't connect with it. I tried.
The capper was ED GEIN, a movie I'd heard very little about, but a subject that I've been fascinated by for almost my whole life (it was a very strange childhood). It was particularly weird because I became interested in murderers and the like when I was a kid because of HELTER SKELTER. So, it's only fitting that Gein would be played by Charlie Manson himself, Steve Railsback. And he gives an amazing performance. If the Academy didn't have a burr up their ass about movies that present the gooier, sicker side of life, Railsback would be a shoo-in for a nomination. It won't happen, unfortunately. But the guy is great. He lends so much talent, intelligence, and humanity to characters that we shy away from. He's amazing. Unfortunately, the movie isn't as good as the performance. It's pretty mundane and doesn't have enough edge to it. Overall, outside of Railsback, the creepiest thing in it (okay, aside from the "drum scene", too) was the opening which showed documentary footage of people reacting to the real events. It made me wish someone would actually do a good documentary on Ed. But for now, the truth is that the guy who inspired the creation of Norman Bates, Leatherface and kin, Buffalo Bill, and countless other murderers and creeps has launched much better films than the one that is actually about him. I'm not saying the movie is bad, it's just not as good as it could have been.
And then it was all over. 24 hours went by so fast. I was hoping for a way to get tickets for next year right now. I was ready for more. But I had to go back outside. The sky was overcast like the day before, so it was almost like no time had past. I walked up the street with my BW2 bag of goodies, my cool new T-shirt, and my supercool BLOW poster and went my way, saying goodbye to the pain-in-the-ass who shared the couch with me for the last day. Waved goodbye to some new friends I'd made in the lobby during the fest. And then I was in my truck and it was all over.
There are so many other things to talk about: the cool new people I met (good to meet you, Mongo), the hilarious Harry cartoons, the disturbing stalker short (did that have a point?), and the many, many, many, many previews of movies past and future. But I've talked too long for now. (Don't you think?) Thank you, Harry, for a great day. I apologize to anyone who was irritated by the "bullshit" cough and any smart-assed comments I made during HOBBIT. I didn't mean to irritate. I'll behave better next time.
Here's a brief one...
Harry, or whoever reads these,
Thanks for a badass time at the Butt-Numb-A-Thon. In particular, whatever you had to do to get the "mystery film," BRAVO!! I'm glad I can speak intelligently now on this controversy. Also, kudos for nagging SNATCH and DESTINATION MARS! Those were the highlights of the evening for me.
Oh yeah, and thanks for posting my review of THE GIFT, also. Mighty nice of you.
Another Quickie, this one from South of the border...
Indio2 chiming in.....
I'm a constant reader of the Latin-AICN columns on Tuesdays, I took a chance on the E-mail tics and won so me and my date came to the party although I was hoping to meet with LOBO and Sister Satan and tell them face to face how much the Latin coverage means to me as a student out of place in a different country.
We loved the festival, I especially liked SEA WOLF, THE GIFT, and SNATCH; the secret movie that didn't happen was great also. My date didn't like too much the VIXONS flick though, She has not been exposed to that type of film before.
Thanks for inviting us to the party, because of language differences some things escaped us, but we had a great time and will try to come again next year. Maybe I will meet LOBO then.
Now here's a review from someone who doesn't even read AICN, but who came and well...
A FUN PARTY
When a friend of mine, who is an AICN chatroom familiar, told me early this year that we would get another chance to go the 24-hour movie marathon appropriately named Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin, Texas, I said Omost definetly¹.
This was more hopeful banter akin to OI¹m going to get that story published as soon as I get around to finishing it¹ or ODude! All we need is a 16mm camera and we¹ll make our own movie¹; you say it, but know something will get in the way to prevent it from happening, as is the fate of the procrastinator. Car can¹t make a trip like that; don¹t have the time or money; we¹ll never be able to get tickets; somebody¹ll die that week (this actually happened to my friend¹s grandmother that week prior); I¹ll dieS
This year I must have done something good at some point.
I¹m not a frequent visitor to AICN. I¹ve only been there twice. I¹m not up-to-the-second on any new movie info or speculation. I don¹t go to the movies every week, hell not even every month. I¹m not an insider that is in the know and has got this project being looked at right now. I was approached by a woman with a British or kiwi accent and a video camera who asked what was my connection to Harry, the only response I could give was ³movies².
And that¹s what this deal was about. It was like going over to a friend¹s house that called you earlier because ³I just got this movie that I¹ve read about and is going to kick ass!². Just this time, though, it happened to be a party for his birthday, so he¹d been saving the movies up, which means you¹ll have to spend the night. That doesn¹t mean sleep over, so to the first fucker that falls asleep, we¹re gonnaS
Threats given, but not fully realized (well, except for a half-assed attempt with an electric flyswatter). The threats worked though; I would nudge my wife if she got too comfy on my shoulder and I was afraid she would start to nod off ,plus I consumed enough stimulants too keep an elephant orgy going all night long. Caffeine flavored gum should not exist.
The Alamo Drafthouse, if you have not been there, is the movie house that the movie fan built. The over 21 movie fan. I had not been inside prior to December 9, 2000, other than just past the entrance to pick up my ticket a month earlier.
One screen, not a bad sound system, couple hundred seats with couches in the back, a bar with kitchen and makeshift rail/tables before each row of seats with breaks in the tables to allow a moviegoer to exit without having to put his/her numb butt in front of everyone¹s face. The movie rotation consists not of first run blockbusters, but with stuff that is good and a person might not have had the chance to see or want to see again on the big screen, Ocause there is nothing like watching a movie in a theater. And again, A BAR! You can watch wire fu while having a few beers! I don¹t know how old the building is or the history of the theater, but it has the charm of a couple of theaters that I¹ve been to that were built in the O40¹s and O50¹s.
Understandably, there were a lot of people that were unable to attend (some outrageous number with the word ³million² in it was mentioned), and that is not cool for the movie fans that do not skip a flick because it does not follow a genre or formula that must be a prerequisite for them to see it. There is nothing I can say to all of those people, other than I was lucky I leave in a nearby city and I feel guilty for having stolen another fan¹s seat. But damnit, I had a blast and will type this lame witnessing of accounts as a sorry form of penance.
The programming for the night ran from classics, to the obscure to carnal to ultra violence to animation to gruesome to horrid with a bunch of trailers, homespun bits, sadistic Japanese game show clips, introductions to movies, free gimme¹s, guest appearances and threats to show really bad movies as punishment for insolence, in between films.
The first film of the a-thon was touted as a movie confiscated during the red scare in the U.S. during the 1950¹s entitled Destination Mars. The film came complete with Ointerviews¹ of people associated somehow with the movie and bios on the tragedies that followed the cast and director of the film. The movie was hokey fun with Woodian flying saucers, bumbling local cops that always appear on screen with guns drawn and using the guns as an extension of their hands to scratch and point to each other, the lovestruck Oyoung¹ couple in love that look old enough to have bowel problems and menopause and space babes (well a couple of them anyway).
The movie was also a modern spoof on scifi flicks of that era, though that was never admitted to. The documentary before the film had dialog that was obviously scripted, though I believe the photos of the dead cast members was real, but you just didn¹t see their faces well enough to say that it was the same actors. The word ³bullshit² disguised as a cough was barked up at every mention of the films authenticity until Harry Knowles threatened to play some movie entitled something like Do it until you¹re blind starring Robin Williams. Again, very effective.
The Rankin/Bass production of The Hobbit played next. This was a very clean print and very enjoyable. Other than having slain characters go whirling off into space instead of being cleaved in two or have a dagger through the eye, a pretty loyal adaptation of the Tolkien novel. The one pivotal act of violence, the slaying of Smaug, was kept as in the book. Hoping for the trailer to Peter Jackson¹s cinematic take on The Lord of the Rings books and not seeing that trailer, was somewhat disappointing , but this showing was enough to quell that desire for a while.
The Gift, Sam Raimi¹s latest picture was shown after The Hobbit. Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reaves, Greg Kinear, Giovanni Ribisi, Katie Holmes and Hillary Swank all perform very well in this take on the curse of the gift of premonition. Someone mentioned that Keanu Reaves deserved an oscar for his performance, which was a role he played convincingly of a wife beater, but Cate Blanchett and, especially, Giovanni Ribisi really did the most of the roles given to them. Ribisi has played the role of the mentally challenged guy with the good heart before, but damn, he does it so well. By the way, I think Blanchett goes driving around town in Ash¹s vehicle from the Evil Dead movies.
The audience was treated to two black and white movies, The Seawolf and Wonder Bar. Being unfairly biased against b&w films, I none-the-less really enjoyed both films. An excellent performance by Edward G. Robinson as the doomed captain of the Ghost, this character was not much at all like the roles he has been remembered and imitated for. Wonder Bar had great, witty dialog that was more well crafted than most lines today. Tongue in cheek innuendo on homosexuality, sadism and infidelity and blatant stereo typing of many ethnicities are interspersed throughout the movie, the last part of the movie being the most off the wall with a song and dance number of a black farmer singing about how he is going to ride his mule through the pearly gates. When he gets his chance to do so, he ends up in a heaven of free watermelons, pork chop groves and more racial stereotyping than I can remember all to the blackface routine of Al Jolson. I noticed the guy sitting next to me was wincing and looking away from the screen in embarrassment as I was. It was really interesting to see how accepted such notions were just some sixty-odd years ago.
The movie highlight of the event was easily Snatch, Guy Ritchie¹s excellent crime caper after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I think the audience wouldn¹t have minded watching Snatch again immediately after it ended. Ritchie seems to have created his own genre with the release of this movie and hopefully it doesn¹t end here. Regarding the cast of this movie and The Gift, Henry Rollins is mentioned as being in Snatch and Danny Elfman in The Gift, but I missed both of them.
There was an almost pristine copy of a rare Russ Meyer film entitled Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens shown. The best I can say about the movie is that the print quality was excellent, except for a little corruption at the beginning of the film, and the actress had nice teeth. A good third of the participants of the Butt-Numb-A-Thon left when this soft porn weenie played, but it was Harry¹s party and we got to see a film that normally we wouldn¹t get to see. Hopefully, like chicken pox, it only has to be encountered once.
There was a nice little birthday wish from Bruce Campbell, supposedly from his, or someone else¹s, home. He expounded on the symptoms and self diagnosis of the condition known as Gluteus Anasthesius. Too bad he couldn¹t have been there, but in Mr. Knowles own words, if there would have been more celebrities there, the audience would have been paying less attention to the movies and more to the guests.
During the final hours of the festival, a couple of older films with cult followings were shown: Robocop and Shogun¹s Assassin of the Babycart films. Most attendees took the opportunity to steal a couple of winks or restroom breaks during Robocop, but paid rapt attention to Shogun¹s Assassin, as most of the audience had not seen it before. The kinetic choreography of the swordplay and geysers of gallons of blood had the people cheering for more.
The final movie was based on, and named after, a nutter by the name of Ed Gein. A necropheliac, serial killer that had characters such as Leatherface, Norman Bates and Hannibal Lector based on him, the movie didn¹t stick to my memory or disturb me more than some old b&w short on Santa Claus played before the movie.
In this short, Santa, who says something like ³Ha, Ha, Ha!² instead of the traditional bellowing, teaches a boy and a girl that monkeys are as civilized as humans. He illustrates this point with a monkey puppet and stock footage of monkeys. I almost expected dialog to the effect of, ³Santa, if you have and hand behind Janie and a hand behind me, what hand do you have in the monkey puppet?²
³Ho, Ho, Ha, Billy! Good children don¹t question Santa! Now keep rubbing the monkey¹s belly².
People were doing their own impersonations of MST3K for this one. I myself said, ³But Santa, I don¹t want a blue diamond this year,² in reference to the movie, The Gift, shown earlier. The short was very threatening in some way or another. There is a shot of the little boy with dark circles under his eyes, looking off into nothingness, like a heroin addict waiting for another fix.
The monkeys which come from ³Monkey Mountain² were being represented as having human qualities, such as building structures (while eating the glue or ³whip cream² as the narrator put it), putting on their best suits, shaving (while eating the shaving cream), putting on makeup (while eating it) and wearing distorted masks of human faces. I can¹t seem to shake these images from my head and find myself wanting a copy of it to put with my collection of Mondo Kane and Faces of Death.
Free goodies and mostly cool people made up for any unsavoriness ($21 for breakfast for two; idiot cheering for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but not for the Cuban missile crisis; someone trying to take our seats with bogus tickets) that could have spoiled a fun weekend. My thanks to Harry Knowles for helping me keep really excited about my next movie fix.
Nobody in particular
One final quickie...
We had a fantastic time at the Alamo…thanks for letting us premiere DESTINATION MARS at your fun fest.
Have a great time in New Zealand!!
Zero Point films