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Massawyrm and more of his wacky INDIE INDIES!!! Undiscovered Gems!

Hey folks, Harry here... Once again Massawyrm has gone through the mines of magnetic tape.... tooling away through the mounds looking... praying for something to share with you. Films by those that have never written or directed before... films with no distributors... Something new for you.... Now see what he's found, and perhaps it'd be cool for you....

Hola all. Massawyrm, everyone's favorite Chain-smoking, Dr. Pepper swilling, indie schilling, soapbox dusting off reviewer here with another weeks worth of indie goodness for your digestion. This week I'm once again sporting two diametric opposites: One film that opened at Cannes, another that opened at Tromadance. Oh boy! Lets go!  

Yes, well, if I seem a bit excited this week, it's because I have been given the opportunity to talk about something that has plagued me for a few years and finally came to a head with the arrival of a film entitled "Bad Actors". What could be so exciting to talk about? Dogme 95. Yes, that Dogme 95.  

For those of you unfamiliar with Dogme 95 (and who think its probably some snooty French picture about the catholic church) let me fill you in a bit. Dogme 95 is a manifesto that was written back in (you guessed it) 1995, attacking the nature of modern film and promoting a call to action involving the adherence to their own version of the 10 commandments known as the Vow of Chastity. The Vow of Chastity is pretty much one of the most ludicrous lists of rules I've ever had the displeasure of contemplating. In my opinion, the way the Manifesto if phrased, it is the most ridiculous film concept ever envisioned. In it, it claims these rules are indisputable and alludes to the concept that anything else is complete "muck". Here is the Vow of Chastity as listed on Dogme 95's official website Dogme95.Dk  

1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).

2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).

3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).

4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).

5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.

6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)

8. Genre movies are not acceptable.

9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

10. The director must not be credited.  

Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste! I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a "work", as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations. Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY."  

                                                                   -Excerpt from Dogme 95 Manifesto  

So, in essence, your film must not have any artificial elements other than the script and the fact that the actors are present in that locale without any other reason to be there except to be filmed. Tripods are outright (Lars Von Trier's wet dream come true), no harm other than emotional may come to your characters unless that harm actually happens, and period pieces, sci-fi, fantasy, noir, etc. are not acceptable. (Can you have sex in a Dogme film? If so, must it actually occur or is simulated sex just acting, thus possible? It boggles the mind...)  

Essentially, what has happened in this movement is they've stripped away most of the fundamentals of this artform in the interest of artistic integrity and then claimed that the master artist is non-existent and superfluous. That its all about the moment. Personally, I feel the whole of Dogme is riddled with inconstancies perpetrated by a couple of frustrated filmmakers who have since "rewritten" the rules as the "Director must not be credited" only applies to ON THE FILM ITSELF. Not to after the fact. Note that on the site itself, the director of each Dogme film is clearly listed below the title. They don't see any problem with this.  

Oddly enough, I've read a similar manifesto, written by one Jack Keruac back in the day. It can be found in "The Portable Beat Reader" (available in any bookstore, and recommended by this reviewer for anyone curious about the Beats), but I'm not sure where else it might be printed. In it, Kerouac states that all writing should be from the hip and never revised, except to correct spelling mistakes and glaring, unintentional grammar errors. It was all about the moment.  

Well, as much as I love Kerouac (but not as much as I love Burroughs, who totally disregarded Kerouac's way of thinking, as it excluded science fiction as a viable source of literature), I think he was way off on many of his ideas, just as I think the Dogme folks are skipping down the primrose path of self righteousness. But, oddly enough, the directors who created the manifesto, don't REALLY feel that its a set of rules, but a project. Not really a movement as they decreed, but a new way to look at making one film, then moving back to the system they claimed was "muck".  

As a project, or an experiment if you will, it's kind of interesting. Like writing in Kerouac's style purely to see what will come of it; it requires inventiveness to play by all the rules. If the manifesto weren't so strongly worded and was offered as merely an interesting new approach to film, then I might think more highly of it, but alas, it WAS strongly worded and makes the whole concept pretentious and devoid of the very essence of art itself. It is, in effect, like saying that painting is trite and the only hand drawn sketches penciled in one sitting is a viable artform. I disagree that ruling out conventions in an artform is in the least bit viable. I feel that art should be judged upon what it has accomplished, rather than HOW it was accomplished. Sometimes the HOW adds to the flavor or the perceived genius of a film (as in El Mariachi, which is on the whole a good film, but when you look at how Rodriguez made it and how little he made it for, it becomes better in many people's eyes) but it does not make the film.  

I have never, until today, enjoyed a single Dogme 95 film. "Bad Actors" changed my opinion entirely. This was a brilliantly put together film that sticks true to ALMOST all the rules of Dogme 95 (the actors all have their own headshots, which are props that I'm assuming weren't originally in the location. But I'm guessing since they could have been there, and were the actors real headshots, this isn't an issue).  

"Bad Actors" is a funny little comedy about 8 actors, all using their real names and identities, taking an introductory acting class from a drunken washed up actress, played by veteran actress Cissy Wellman. The entirety of this film was improvised (not a Dogme requirement) and done so very well. Most of this cast delivers knock out performances as people in the industry many of us have encountered or gotten to know: the wannabes. They are all indeed Bad Actors, played by what I hope is really good actors acting bad (like those beautiful scenes in Boogie Nights where the cast acts very badly whenever on 16mm, especially reminiscent of that 5 minute sequence available in the deleted scenes in which Mark Wahlberg acts brilliantly badly much to the amusement of P.T. Anderson who is laughing offscreen.) This film has moments of that kind of brilliance.  

"Bad Actors" has no real plot to speak of, save that it is a slice of life in the world of people who believe they are much better than they really are. This is the type of comedy for people who love Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show, without being as absurd as those two films get. This is more true to life and that's what is so damned funny about it. True Arthouse fare, don't expect to see this one at the multiplexes, but it is from what I'm told playing in L.A. for a limited engagement in the next few weeks. Once I know more I'll let you folks know where you can find this little gem. But until then, check out this really cool website for the film. It really manages to capture the spirit of the film without revealing too much as well as gives the background of these real life actors. BadActors.Net There's also a nifty little downloadable trailer link there too.  

The casting for this film was pure genius, and many of the actors truly stand out: The afore mentioned Cissy Wellman, Anjeanette Carter who is both absolutely gorgeous and completely riveting (especially in her amazing monologue about the mishaps at a stage production of Peter Pan), David Ivers (who prefers to be called a thespian) doing the worlds greatest Andy Dick impression until he breaks out with the Shakespeare and tears the roof off, and Paul Witten who plays the pretty boy so well I think it may not have been acting. Here's hoping we see more of these folks in the near future. They were all magnificent.  

Debuting at Cannes and playing at Melbourne's Dogma Day Afternoon, this film still has no distributor, but really deserves one. Its a great piece of experimental film and deserves a look by any indie film fan.    

Shaun Monson  

4000D West Magnolia Blvd, Suite 260  

Brubank, CA 91505  

(818) 841-6626

And now on to a new subsection of my column, created at the behest of many e-mails and talkbacks: Best of the bad. You see, mixed in with the stacks of fine films I've received are a smattering of tasteless features and shorts that are made with non-existent budgets and contain no real artistic merit (by the standards under which one might consider something art). These films are designed for the total amusement of the viewer and revels in the fact that there is simply, well, almost no money to make the film. many of these have come my way, and some are just downright bad. Some so offensive that they defy description. Some however, refuse to leave me alone. They visit me late at night while I lay awake in bed; they haunt me when I see something or hear a phrase that reminds me of it. They won't go away. And then I want to watch them again.  

This is how many a cult film got started. And so today I christen The Best of the Bad with a bottle of twistoff top Champaign and send it on it's merry way with H.R. Pukenshette. Yes, read that as you will, that's exactly what you think it means. H.R. Pukenshette is a parody of those great, psychedelic Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning live action TV shows many of us grew up with. In this 10 Minute short, a distraught man fresh from being dumped decides to drink himself to death, only to get sick and puke up his new best friend, H.R. Pukenshette, a sickening little puppet who teaches the man the joys of life, like peeing on young lovers from trees and puking in public places.  

This movie is disgusting, raunchy and just plain tainted. But then again, there's this small part of my brain that craves this kind of entertainment. Yes, it is the 14 year old in me, but damnit if he wasn't amused and didn't want an H.R. Pukenshette of his very own. You can find H.R. Pukenshette making the rounds of the more liberal film shorts programs, this month London at the Highgate Film festival on the 15th, and here in my stomping grounds of Austin, TX on the 22nd at FlickerAustin.  

I enjoyed this film for its brash, unrelenting sense of indecency and its sharp, disgusting, sense of wit. A perfect parody. And, well, it has what Quint, the crusty seaman, refers to as the mark of genius (note: he has not seen this film nor endorses it in any way) it has a midget. For some reason, movies with midgets tend to be good (I argue that Gummo had a midget, but he waves his hand at me and claims it was all special effects). Well, one things for sure, H.R. Pukenshette indeed has a midget. Enough said.  

If you have an ironclad stomach and enjoy Troma style humor, check this one out when it comes near you, or better yet, check out their super nifty website complete with scads of downloadable stuff Here CLICK HERE  

Well, folks, that does it for me this week. I must note however that the tapes aren't quite ROLLING in. I received 2 this week. Two (not the two I talked about today). How many times do I have to ask people? Please, for the love of all that is holy, send me your tapes! Or for the love of all that's green, or just to amuse me...for any and all reasons, send me those tapes. Roughcuts, final prints and everything inbetween, get them to me and get some press.  

Massawyrm

3408 Red River

Austin TX, 78705  

and please email me with questions, comments or to contact me about covering your festival at massawyrm@netzero.net  

Till next Monday, smoke 'em if ya got 'em. I know I will.

Readers Talkback
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  • July 9, 2001, 12:51 p.m. CST

    What the fuck are "inconstancies"?

    by soylentphil

    Ain't It Cool Dog Me 2001 - - 1: Any review will make ample reference to the crap diet of junk food and soda consumed before/during/after the movie. Nothing green (not even anything in a green box, denoting "lowfat snack") will be eaten. 2: All true reviews will all but ignore the film being reviewed, focusing instead on other movies it made me think about. Kubrick, Spielberg, or any Hong Kong flavor of the month will be mentioned a minimum of two times within the review. 3: Fuck Spell Check. 4: Moderation is to be avoided. Any film deemed good will either "prove the existence of God", or will be cited as giving the reviewer "waves of orgasmic joy". Any bad film MUST be compared to animal excrement, or in special cases the filmmaker must be accused of "raping my childhood." Hyperbole, hyperbole, hyperbole. 5: No matter how much one hates a film, the review of said film's inevitable sequel must begin with an explanation of how eagerly the reviewer has been awaiting the release of the sequel, followed by a detailed account of how badly the sequel let you down (see rule 4). 6: Fuck Spell Check. 7: There are no rules on the internet. Let no one tell you what is or isn't a sentence (or a real word).

  • July 9, 2001, 1:16 p.m. CST

    Real people - Real action!

    by blastin_capz

    Most critics don't know shit. They all hate action. They love any weird talky thing - 180 degrees different opinions - day to day. And all shit is related to some book! Real flick peoplez don't pretend to like all 31 flavors! * I want my peeps raw. I want my peepz actionized. * Fuck books! I mean this whole Indie scene is like okayz: you know the Kevin Smith, Sling Blade stuff. That's stuffs fair, if you like your flickz shot flat as pancakes. Zzzzzz zzzzz I mean How can KSmith be into comics and have the eye of a cyclop? Makes no

  • July 9, 2001, 1:20 p.m. CST

    Ooopss - Sitess here

    by blastin_capz

  • July 9, 2001, 1:21 p.m. CST

    Ooopss - Sitess here

    by blastin_capz

  • Without sounding pretentious who here wants to be part of an indie film that is fresh and unique. NOW, I have no money to offer but I have a script dealing with the hearing impaired--gee, how often is that dealt with--and hope to break in(I have made one feature and several shorts, so I'm not a total crackpot)with this story. I am in NY where the film will most likely be shot next spring(perhaps on 35mm, I have ties with a DP who has his own equipment). If you have something to offer e-mail me at filmhaven@yahoo.com and let me know what it is and if you would like to be part of something. I'm not promising to be the next anything but with the right people we all could be.

  • July 9, 2001, 2:55 p.m. CST

    My movie never got reviewed :-(

    by Dirty_Bird

    I sent it away when he first started this column, the Chronicles of Ryan And Andy, but alas, it was never meant to be....

  • July 9, 2001, 4:44 p.m. CST

    According to that bit of nonsense, all home movies are art.

    by Huneybee

    If I want to film my five year old picking his nose, it would qualify. Soylent Green, you CAN have music but it would have to be playing in the room at the time, not added later. I sincerely hope that this dogme95(or was it 85? Whatever.) is intended as a bit of sarcasm and not something that someone, tragically, believes to be true.

  • All this whining over Dogma. And I'll bet none of these guys pissing and moaning in talkback have even made a movie. The least they could do is make a Dogma film, because it's that much easier, and the bastards can't even do that. You're all losers. Destined to sit online and critique things you could never do.

  • July 9, 2001, 7:58 p.m. CST

    Hhmm, I must admit to being a bit confused...

    by Huneybee

    Nekko, if you will read the words written ABOVE the talkback section ,I think that you will find this TB is referring to a Dogme95( please note the "e" and the addition of a number following the letters) Manifesto regarding the making of films. This is not about DOGMA (please note the "a" and lack of a number). The Kevin Smith TB you wish to respond may be the one from July 4th where they discussed J&SBSB. Indeed, I highly encourage you to read ALL of Harry's words on that subject. No one, that I am aware of, has defamed Dogma in this talkback.___________That said, I have a message for Soylent Green: I will never look at Elmer Fudd the same way again._________A bemused Bee

  • July 9, 2001, 9:35 p.m. CST

    I'm not confused.

    by Nekko

    I know perfectly well which DOGME/DOGMA I'm referring to. Abroad they spell it Dogme. In the States it translates to Dogma. Same thing, bro. And as for Kevin Smith, the man is a genius and I've been a fan since CLERKS. I would never confuse his work with Dogme 95 (even if I didn't add the friggin number on the end). My point was, all these guys dis Dogme films. Why? What's wrong with them? Who said all cinema should be one way? Variety is precisely what keeps movies interesting. 50 years from now, God knows what they'll be coming up with. I get the feeling these talkbackers all want to be filmmakers in one way or another. Just do it. You can't shoot much cheaper than by making a Dogme film. Believe me, just ask some of the guys who've done it.

  • July 10, 2001, 1:51 a.m. CST

    Nekko, thank-you for finally speaking clearly.

    by Huneybee

    Now help me to educate myself. I had, at first, classified you as a TB asshole that had happened into the wrong discussion and leapt before he looked. Apparently that is not so. I do not have a desire to make a movie nor can I give you a list of every movie made and the people associated with them. What I AM doing here is learning. Sometimes it is disguised beneath a veneer of cynisism and sometimes I plainly state things as they are. I am being honest now. What is the difference between a movie filmed according to The Dogme95 Manifesto and a home movie? The first thing that came to mind is The Blair Witch Project as an example of D95. I may be totally incorrect in that example but would be interested in any you care to offer for me to watch. I am not embarrassed to admit my ignorance but feel ignorance is very different from stupidity. Ignorance can be corrected.______awaiting your reply, Bee

  • July 10, 2001, 6:10 a.m. CST

    The difference

    by soylentphil

    Between a Dogme 95 film and a home movie is imagination. A home movie is more often than not just shooting what's happening in front of you and showing the film in unedited form. Dogme 95 was a challenge to abandon the conventions of contemporary film and STILL create something worth watching while working within those self-imposed restrictions. Though I have not seen it, Lars Von Trier's "The Celebration" is supposed to be a prime example of Dogme 95.

  • July 10, 2001, 7:27 a.m. CST

    Dogme is not a joke

    by twahook

    Listen, Dogme is not suposed to be satire, or a prank, etc. What it was intended to prove is that modern films rely too much on the frills of filmmaking(special effects, explosions, car chases, etc) instead of spending time making good characters, plot, and interaction. That manifesto was made so that the director would have to make his story as good as it possibly could be without having to shove in a death scene just to crank out an emotion from the audience. It's not just about shakey cams and crapping out a bad plot just to get a film made - it's deeper than that. Someone mentioned "The Celebration" earlier. That is an amazing film, Dogme or not. Maybe some of the TBers should actually see some of the work done under Dogme before they start comparing them to home movies.

  • July 10, 2001, 9:08 a.m. CST

    Auteur theory

    by straxboy

    Posited by one 'Andrew Sarris'. American. In the 1970's. Not Godard. That would be the Nouvelle Vague, now wouldn't it. "I see IQ's dropped sharply while I was away!!" I love it when poeple try to be right. Dogme is SO OLD NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!! As for the sex, check out 'The Idiots' you Dr Pepper drinking idiot....sex for real. Something I expect you're very unfamiliar with!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hrmph.

  • July 10, 2001, 9:10 a.m. CST

    The good things about Dogma

    by virkku

    Dogma movies tend to have excellent acting, because there is no big crew and no time is spent on lighting. Dogma films are shot fast and spontaneously and the actors can maintain the mood and "feel" a lot better. You rarely see as natural and convincing acting as in films like Idiots or Celebration. BTW, Celebration is not a Trier film, but Idiots is. Idiots is also good. I think the most important achievement of Dogma is that people realized that you can do films with no money and no crew on digitl video and you can still get a worldwide theatrical release for your film, if it's good enough. I think that's great. It's not the money that matters, but the talent.

  • July 10, 2001, 9:16 a.m. CST

    just had to read it again...

    by straxboy

    Am I right in thinking that this really is the first time Massawyrm has come across Dogme? I can't believe it!! But then again with all his pseud/gimp posturings and predeliction for trying to impress with chain smoking it wouldn't surprise me if it had completely passed him by. I mean this sin't just old news. It's like saying "hey there's this cool thing called the internet up and running - it's really rad man!". Isn't it ? Maybe we're just a lot cooler hear in England. I must be in the Twilight Zone I must be in The Twilight Zone I must be.......

  • July 10, 2001, 12:01 p.m. CST

    I just woke up and what, to my wondering eyes should appear?

    by Huneybee

    Forgive any illiteracy, I have not yet had any caffiene. Oh God, there were 4 mistakes in that last sentence alone. I appreciate all the informative replies and that includes you, Mr. Nekko (re:email). My next question is this: Where am I more likely to find these type of films? I live in a large city but I have the feeling that these may not be next to Under Seige at the nearest Blockbuster. Hhmmm?_______an individual reply to Twahook: Now if I had not been playing around with Pepe le Pew up there I might not have ever annoyed someone into an intelligent response (finally), thus learning nothing but the bedroom habits of Foghorn Leghorn. Not ALL people who come to this site are well versed in every aspect of film production. As you saw, behind my sarcastic reply, there was a legitimate question being posed. Why did I not simply ask as I am obviously unafraid of mentioning my ignorance? Because, to tell the truth, I was having fun. If I couldn't smile and laugh often, I would be one of the walking dead. I will now stumble blindly in the direction of the coffee pot..._______a REALLY hating mornings kinda Bee

  • July 10, 2001, 7:58 p.m. CST

    Ugh

    by twahook

    Huneybee: Sorry if I came off like a pretentious filmsnobby type... I surely didn't mean to. I was just tired of people who, seemingly, had no knowledge of this film genre(and Dogme is, at this point, a genre) making fun of it. That's all. Sorry for stinking on your fun. :-) And you can find Dogme films on amazon for pretty cheap.