|DVRfest 2013 (11.08.13 - 11.11.13, 14 movies)|
|11.08.13||Casting By||Tom Donahue||A chill wind blows through Austin. Night falls earlier, owls hoot their foreboding warning to varmints and trespassers alike. Is it the beginning to a spooky movie? Nah it's just MOTHERFUCKING NINTH ANNUAL DVRFEST 2013!!!!|
Hopefully your mind added some explosions and fireworks to that, and since at this point my readership is now just me 8 years from now bored at work thinking back on good times I can bet that you did!
But seriously, I've just gotten home from work. I stopped off and bought enough junk food to make me sick. Molly says she'll busy herself with her own stuff. That means I have a date with my empty couch, a Pringles can, and a DVR full up with movies.
This year, I think I have lots of movies in the DVR, a backup of three Netflix discs and an Internet's worth of streaming possibilities if i'm still hungry for more. for those of you who are new to this private ritual of mine (me 30 years from now when i'm senile and don't even know what i'm reading), this weekend is a celebration of another year maintaining this site. It's also an opportunity to clear out all the movies I saved on my DVR thinking "Oh I want to see that" but then never sit down to watch. It's also lately been a singular event to force myself to stop doing anything else I usually do for fun on a weekend (I'm looking at you, GTA5) and binge on some movies like I used to do. Basically every weekend for my friend Jarrette. The unwritten rules of programming the fest state that I only get one slot for a movie I've seen before; everything else must be new to me. This means sometimes the movies suck, but I'm the only one in the audience so who cares.
Pleasantries aside, let's dive in!
For tonight I'm watching a triple feature of documentaries about the movie business. I've heard all three of these are good so I'm excited, although I still don't know which one I'm watching first...
...and it's Casting By! An HBO doc about the unsung art of casting directors and a more thorough examination of notable pioneer Marion Dougherty who basically found every good actor from 1954 to 1989.
It's well constructed and has the suitably impressive amount of talent interviews needed to make the case for the profession, but also kind of feels like two shorts shoved together. The grudging stuff about how the position gets no respect in Hollywood's (or evil Taylor Hackford's) eyes is one thing, but the Dougherty biopic stuff is almost separately another. I mean I get that they are making an example of her career to prove their point, but considering she raised up a whole generation of talented casting directors who have spread Dougherty's method of casting across the industry, I could've used one or two stories about how they were awesome as well. If the cool casting anecdotes that drive this movie (seeing stars while they're super young or hearing about the other people who were up for now-famous roles or learning how particular roles were adapted through casting such as making Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon black are definitely the meat and potatoes of this movie) came from a multitude of casting directors rather than just one - like how Visions of Light showcased handfuls of great cinematographers - it might make the argumentative case stronger albeit at the loss of honoring Dougherty quite so much.
In any case, I'm a sucker for movies about movies so this still worked for me. Nice opener!
Coming up next: another HBO doc, this one much more recent!
|11.08.13||Seduced and Abandoned||James Toback||Alec Baldwin and Tames Toback travel to Cannes in order to raise money for a film and in the process they make this... quasi-documentary non-fiction film for perhaps a fictional scenario that doesn't really matter because really it's about the state of the industry and the perils of money. It's messy and meandering and all over the place and the heavy heavy use of split screen made me feel like I was sometimes watching two or three movies at once (the beginning montage of Cannes footage was particularly effective for me because it showcased both the history and extreme range of films that get shown there. There's young Warren Beatty juxtaposed with Godard and Polanski juxtaposed with Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator).|
I like this in-between take on non fiction. It reminded me a tiny bit of F for Fake (god I love that movie), and especially compared to the very familiar talking head construction of Casting By I'd say I responded to this more.
Up next I finish off my triple feature with a doc about a much different aspect of the industry although probably no less nostalgic for the good old days.
|11.08.13||Rewind This!||Josh Johnson||A doc about VHS, VHS culture, VHS obsession, and VHS nostalgia. I have to claim bias on this one. Alamo regulars made it, Alamo regulars appear in it, Austin is all over this thing so I can't really be 100% objective. I can say that this movie really exemplifies what seems to be a prevalent thought here in town shared by most cineasts and filmgoers that is a holy appreciation for the diamonds in the rough. You see it in the Alamo programming, the mondo posters, the continued survival of I Luv and Vulcan videos, and in every film geek conversation circle that takes place before and after most screenings. People here love movies and have no class distinction between high and low and perhaps the bestest thing ever is to root through the oceans of pap to come up with that one special film to bring to the rest of the group and share. I don't know if that made any sense. It's getting late. And who knows if that's in any way unique to Austin. Maybe all film lovers feel the same. |
Anyway, I liked this movie a lot. I feel like anyone reading this (read: me) has their own fond and formative memories associated with VHS or video stores. I certainly do. In fact from time to time I still look up to see how Wonder Book & Video is doing in Frederick, MD because they were the most special store I had access to in middle and high schools. This movie is an avid celebration of all that stuff along with some history and pontification on the future of media consumption thrown in. I feel like they covered all the bases and presented an enjoyable and complete experience here. Definitely some good stuff.
And now... I think I'm going to try and fit in a midnight movie even though it's after midnight and i'm pretty tired. We'll see!
|11.08.13||Spider Baby||Jack Hill||Well I fell asleep about half an hour into this so I finished it up as a matinee which is good because... well, it was pretty damn slow. This is one of those movies that's been in my blind spot, probably because it wasn't available on Netflix and I don't go to video stores anymore(feeling guilt from Rewind This).|
I know Jack Hill from the Pam Grier stuff from the seventies so when I kept hearing how great Spider Baby was I kind of assumed it was some weird seventies oddity with no narrative. Instead I sat down to a Bava-esque baroque horror film about a family who's... nuts or something. There was still enough cleavage to connect this to films to come so it made some sense, but it was a completely different movie than what I had invented in my mind.
Pacing aside, I liked this. Lon Chaney Jr. was kind of terrible but everyone else was good. I especially liked the narrator for his happy go lucky attitude and goofy grin.
And now onto day 2 of the fest. I've now realized that I have a ton of documentaries on the list. Today brings a double feature of music docs then some other stuff whatever I have time for. First up though I'm trading HBO for Showtime and a doc about a certain street in Los Angeles. Join me as we take a ride down the...
|11.09.13||Sunset Strip||Hans Fjellestad||...Sunset Strip! This is a great doc about the history of this... historic street and all the buildings and clubs and peoples and trends that inhabit it. It goes from the undeveloped land to modern day and covers pretty much everything I wanted it to. The Marmont, the nightclubs, the rock clubs, and the comedy clubs; the punk shows, the hair shows, the strip shows, the freak shows. Everybody that lives in LA is either on camera or listed as a producer, shit tons of period stills and location footage from films and concert footage and a stellar ending animation. Really exhaustive. It's great.|
I've seen 4 really good docs now pretty much in a row. One more to go then I think it's all fictional narrative from here on out. This next one... I really had no interest in until I learned Ron Howard directed it. What the hell is Ron Howard doing making this movie? I guess i'll see right now!
|11.09.13||Made in America||Ron Howard||Jay-Z put on a concert in Philly and Ron Howard made a film covering it. You know, as far as concert films go this one was pretty good. Howard really plumbed the whole "Made in America" theme of it to the point where it felt a bit more akin to something like Wattstax than Through the Never. It was interlaced and diverse enough to keep it interesting to me although I'm sure Jay-Z fans are upset that it's not his entire setlist.|
This was pretty good.
After Sunset Strip though, I found myself coming back to memories of a certain film throughout my viewing of this... so much so that I think I'm making a last-minute change to the line-up and I'm throwing in a DVD to make this double feature a triple. I haven't seen this next movie in a long time and the only time I did I was in the original Alamo with some drunk teens standing up and dancing in the row ahead of me. I'm excited to watch it again.
|11.09.13||Urgh! A Music War||Derek Burbidge||Thanks to Warner Archive, I have a DVD of this 1981 concert film that's basically a two hour timewarp back to the wave of American punk and birth of new wave. I really love this film. Half the bands I haven't heard of, I don't understand a single lyric, but the music and crowds feel so completely authentic to me that every frame feels fascinating.|
Plus you have Klaus Nomi and The Cramps and that incredible performance by Gary Numan in his little future car looking like a petulant child right after a temper tantrum. It's sooo so great I can't even believe it. I've never really thought about a favorite concert film but I'm sure this is at least in my top five. Shout out to Kier-la Janisse for programming it for Music Monday oh so long ago or else I would never have even heard of this.
Next up is.... I'm not sure! It's 11 o'clock now so I'm thinking one maaaaybe two more movies, but the stuff on my DVR seems destined for tomorrow's "Potpouri" day so...
|11.09.13||Mud||Jeff Nichols||Coming of age set in Alabama by the guy who made the excellent Take Shelter. Loved this. Everyone was great in it. Michael Shannon had a great small role. McConaughey was great. Great southern fried movie. Man, both kids were great. Also I should go back and check out Shotgun Stories since Jeff Nichols seems to love making really good dramas with Michael Shannon in them.|
I'm kind of out of words at this point - I guess it's been too long since I've had to write this many notes - and it's well 1am but I'm not falling asleep yet so I'm putting on a movie that screams midnight. A movie I've had on my desk for at least a month waiting for the perfect time to watch. That time seems to have come.
|11.09.13||Spring Breakers||Harmony Korine||Spring Break... Spring Break Forever...|
I think part of the reason why I've been so hesitant to actually sit down and watch this is because it was so insanely overhyped. When it played South By people freaked out... when it hit theaters people freaked out... and even when it came out on DVD I read tweets about people watching it on repeat and stuff. I've seen enough of his movies to know I'm not a huge Harmony Korine fan so I was kind of afraid I wouldn't like it as much as all my friends do.
So now I've seen it. I get that people like bikinis and guns and James Franco does give a crazy ass performance and the "look at my shit" scene is pretty hilarious... but it's still barely a movie right? Korine's indifference toward narrative is still pretty hard for me to take. The constant montage and repeating dialogue and languid pace really bugged me. I will say that anything involving the rival drug kingpin was hilarious. The scene where he's holding his baby and describing how it's starving because of the money being taken out of its mouth while sitting in a formal line-up of henchmen before a table literally heaping with marijuana was great, as was his commentary during intercourse. And you know... who doesn't like jiggling titties in slow motion set to dance music... the rest was a bit of an expected letdown. oh well.
So that's day two of DVRfest 9. Tomorrow I'll probably do stuff during the day but return for three or four to finish the fest out. Now it's 3:15 and I'm hittin the sack. bitchez.
|11.10.13||Nora Prentiss||Vincent Sherman||A very minor noir that I'd never heard of from the Warner archives (thanks again, TCM!). A straight-laced doctor guy meets vivacious Ann Sheridan and throws his life away in a series of bad decisions. I liked this ok, would've liked it more if it were a half hour shorter. There's a very nice turn halfway through but you immediately see where it's going and it takes like 45 minutes to get there. I feel like plenty of other movies cover the same territory much better, but at this point I don't think there are top-shelf noirs that I haven't seen so this is where I'm at. The nuance and some of the James Wong Howe San Francisco photography along with that nice story turn make this worth watching. There's a great shot of the Cliff House that would've been really spectacular except it's at night so literally all you see is two headlight spots and a neon sign reading "Cliff House." You kind of have to put the structure and coastline in using your imagination. It really reminded me where the term "film noir" came from.|
So that's my Sunday matinee. Just a handful of films left in full potpourri fashion. I may take a few hours off to do real life stuff but will return when the sun goes down!
|11.10.13||The Green Room||Francois Truffaut||AKA The Vanishing Fiancee. A while back I got pretty fixated on Truffaut. I read his biography, some of his reviews, had already read his interview book with Hitchcock, and tried to track down all of his films. I really liked most of them and managed to track down all but two. Years later, again thanks to TCM, I can cross one of those elusive films off the list.|
Truffaut stars as a World War I vet who's kind of obsessed with death and refuses to forget those in the past but instead lives with them always. He meets a younger woman similarly affected and... I don't know... talk about it for a while. Then he renovates a chapel and puts pictures of all his dead friends in it. At the end he dies.
So... I guess this is what I could expect from a French film about death. It's really plodding and pretty heavy and there's no joy or fun at all. I'm sure these conversations on the nature of death and the human experience hold deep symbolism and if I remember correctly this was a deeply personal movie for Truffaut to make... but you know as a consumer experience there was not that much fun to be had. This is definitely a film I'm happier to have seen it than to see.
I still love Truffaut though and seeing him on screen and reading his frequent collaborators' names in the credits makes me want to revisit the films of his I really love. Maybe someday.
Next up is a movie with a confusing title.
|11.10.13||Synecdoche, New York||Charlie Kaufman||whew. This was an incredibly complex and intricate work, lofty and grandiose and also intimate and clumsy. I feel like Charlie Kaufman is some spiritual kin to Michel Gondry and this movie is the most unadulterated that he's ever been. And like Gondry movies I feel that the amount of imagination and creativity at play is amazing if not exhausting and, like Gondry, I feel Kaufman's melancholy saturate everything. This is terrible but I feel like I'd like this movie a lot more with a happier ending. I know I know. Something about this movie keeps me on the outside though. Perhaps it's just because this is a first viewing so I was working to keep up with the plot and my bearings throughout the film, but I can't say I love this. I admire and respect it, but not love.|
Whew again. Ok. I'm thinking... two more movies. I only have one left on the DVR but it's not midnight just yet and there's always Netflix streaming. This next one is a SERIOUS oversight on my part so this is a great example to finally get this movie watched. And it's short. And ordinarily I'd say I'm in for a mindfuck but after this it may seem like a walk in the park! We'll see. Luckily the last movie of the night (and fest) requires zero mental activity.
|11.10.13||Primer||Shane Carruth||Yeah... I can finally cross this off my list. It's kind of pretty much exactly what I thought it would be based on hearing everything about it: lots of dialogue, hard to understand, interesting take on time travel. Check, check and check. I feel like the obtuse dialogue is a tad cryptic most of the time... like there's authentic shorthand and then there's alien language... but the jargon replaces the budget so I can't fault it for doing its thing.|
I think I understood 75% of it which isn't bad for the first time. I don't know if there will be a second, but I didn't hate it by any means.
So. We come to the end. it's 12:30, time for the last film of DVRfest 2013. This has gone on a day longer than usual and I threw in a few last minute bonus films to make this the biggest fest since the second one which was epic. For the last film I may very well fall asleep so expect final notes tomorrow. All I'll say is that I've seen it before and really like its 80s wackiness and the Art of Noise song at the end was really formative to my love of samples in songs. I listened to the cassette of the soundtrack a ton when it came out. Let's do it one more time.
|11.10.13||Dragnet||Tom Mankiewicz||So... Lars programmed a night of the original Dragnet television series. I think that's tonight actually and I doubt I'll make it out for that, but the old show was on my mind so when I saw this pop up on HBO I taped it. I feel like I watched most if not all the episodes when Nick at Night replayed them in my youth.|
This movie is pure 80s wackiness. Tom Hanks in full on funny sidekick mode, Dan Ackroyd trying his best Jack Webb, People Against Goodness And Normalcy, the absurdly strong henchman with bad teeth, high waisted bikinis, Dabney Coleman, explosions and machine gun fights, police commissioners, and the actors rapping over the end credits. I loved it at a kid, lapped it up. The City of Crime rap and the sample-heavy Art of Noise track were on heavy rotation in my Walkman at the time.
Now it's more of an artifact. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
I fell asleep pretty hard during this last night so I finished it up Monday, which makes this the longest and fullest DVRfest since 2006. Pretty happy about that. I will have to put some time and planning toward next year since ten years is a pretty big deal. Even though a good half of those haven't been movie-heavy years, I'm still keeping up with this and logging every movie I see. I can honestly say that it's lasted longer than I ever thought it would and now I feel like I can do another 8 no problem to beat Bogdanovich's 17. Did he even say 17 years? I can't even remember anymore. All I know is that if I ever get famous, this is the shit that they will publish. Sorry I can't draw as well as Guillermo del Toro, futurefans!
So a few stats to wind this fest up. in the past week I've seen 14 movies for a 2/day average, past month is 16 for a 0.53/day average, past year is 118 for a 0.32/day avg, and finally the site lifetime is at 2480 which works out to 0.75/day. Thanks for reading!