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BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 4 - The Response

Hey folks, Harry here... Here's the first batch of looks at BNAT 4. I see that people have been speculating about "the secret films"... if it were up to me, there would be no secret films, but sometimes to secure movies before their theatrical runs or their official world premieres, the studios, the powers at be, want the world to not know it was screened somewhere else, thus taking away from the multi-million dollar star studded extravaganza in exotic locales... Why then would they screen the film, generally because I've talked them into it by describing what the charity and where all this money goes to and then I describe the type of audience that is there to behold the films. Often times there's people in the audience that were producers or writers that just wish to watch the film, covertly in an ecstatic audience. Its the only audience I know that treats films like the greatest things they are. Having said that, BNAT 4 has been the best BNAT thus far according to me, this one had the best 7 film run yet, then it stumbled and finished off like Tracy Lords... It was pretty great, and I know what not to do next year... ah, the learning curve of programming... fun fun fun fun fun! Here ya go...

Nordling's THINGS I LEARNED AT BNAT 4 (in no particular order).

- No man on earth can handle the power of Myrna Loy and a whip.

- Geek chicks are hot.

- It's safe to believe the hype.

- Order the Chicken Pesto Pizza. Yum.

- THE GREEN SLIME is this year's STUNT ROCK.

- My cab driver looked an awful lot like Father Geek.

- No one can smack a lady around like Charles Bronson.

- Tim League rocks. (I already knew that.)

- It's not a good idea to have a gunfight on top of an oil drum.

- Bill Paxton has a really shitty jump shot.

- Penguin Caffeinated Cinnamons rock.

- mrbeaks does not, in fact, need a thesaurus.

- Don't got milk.

- Ray Harryhausen rocks. (Actually, I already knew that too, but it never hurts mentioning.)

- Miyazaki and Caitie make a nice couple.

- Sid Haig rocks.

- Eli Roth is cool.

- I need to bring my wife to geek events more often.

- "I need more parts."

- Bo Svenson telling sex stories and car chases with hillbillies - priceless.

- Matthew McConaughey has a large penis.

- There are WAAY too many breakfast cereals.

- 12 year olds with a passion for Spielberg and a video camera rock.

- The greatest Stedicam shot ever created.

- Harry and Mori are gentlemen and scholars. Always a pleasure, mates.

Thanks again for a wildly successful BNAT 4. My wife wanted me to thank you as well. What a great time. Love you guys.

Next for a more complete look, here's Massawyrm...

Hola all. Massawyrm here with a look at this years annual congregation at the church of the silver screen we all know as the Alamo Drafthouse for my absolute favorite weekend of the year, Butt-Numb-a-Thon. Now I’ve been to BNAT three times now, only having missed the first and I have a slightly different phrase for it. I call it Geek Christmas. Now I call it this because if you ask anyone who attends yearly, you’ll find that it shares several things in common with the Christian Holiday many of us will celebrate just days from now. First and foremost it’s an almost religious experience that cannot so much be described in words as it has to be experienced firsthand and remembered in joyous fragments of memory running through your head like 8mm film kept in the attic to be watched again on cold lonely nights when memories are all you have to keep warm. Secondly, like holidays with your family, Geek Christmas brings together all of your lost relatives, some even that you’ve never heard of, a brethren of strangers who share a common bond in their blood. The bond shared at Geek Christmas is the love and devotion to film in all it’s forms, a love its participants take very seriously. There are people I only see once a year, people I’ve met at previous Geek Christmas celebrations, who embrace you with a hug, share a drink or perhaps a cigarette in the cold winter night along Colorado Ave just outside the theatre. People who have become extended family. Seeing these people once again or meeting them for the first time is one half of the experience itself. The line outside of the theatre, the anticipation in the lobby, the cigarette and potty breaks between films. Every moment not spent watching a film is spent in comradery with fellow film geeks. Also like Christmas we are all given special gifts, the gifts of wonderful films wrapped in a veil of secrecy and kept from us until mere moments before the screen lights up with them. Only a select few know the line up, Harry keeps it secret from everyone else not involved in securing the films. His closest friends have no idea what’s playing before it does. And Harry loves every moment of the anticipation. He delights in the looks on our faces as he announces the next film. He gets the pleasure of giving as we get the pleasure of receiving. And finally, as those who have attended multiple BNAT’s will tell you, sleeping in on the one day a year you most need to sleep in is damned near impossible. BNAT runs from Noon to Noon, that’s 24 hours. Include drive time to the theatre and drive time home you’re looking at minimum 26 hours of consciousness. You SHOULD wake up at 10am to shower, get dressed and be there by noon. But you can’t. It was 7am this year when my eyes shot open, having slept only a scant 6 hours, the butterflies of excitement already dancing about in my stomach. And I wasn’t the only one. Almost everyone I talked to woke up unintentionally between 7 and 8 am to the sheer excitement of the day. Remember when as a child, you awoke on Christmas hours before you knew your parents would? Remember the painful anticipation, the knowledge that there was no way you could have Christmas at that moment nor could you ever go back to sleep until you opened your last present and tuckered yourself out with the toys. Well that, in a nutshell, is the morning before BNAT.  

But on to BNAT 4 itself, because the films are why you’re all really reading this. I’ve seen people discussing in the chatroom and in talkback about how BNAT 4 compares to its previous incarnations; so for those wondering, here’s my slant. Simply put, it is the best yet of the weekends, Harry’s greatest achievement in programming. Just like sex, no matter how good the first time is, it will always get better once you learn all the tricks. This time around Harry took into account the pacing of the films and the excitement surrounding certain releases and used it to his advantage. The festival built slowly but surely to an amazing climax, with only one major stumbling block along the way. I was awake for 31 straight hours this year (a monumental achievement for me as I usually become completely insane after hour 24) and remained excited and lucid the whole time. The crowd was electric this year. The energy was undeniable. This was, hands down, the best BNAT yet.  

Now Harry likes to squeeze certain types of movies into the lineup that fit a certain genre, mold or criteria to achieve the full BNAT experience and this year, with such a great lineup planned, he decided to kill several birds with one stone. Opening as usual with a classic sci-fi monster movie (with years previous opening films being “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, “Destination Mars” and “Fiend without a Face”) and hitting his “Oh my god, I can’t believe how racist a film this is from such mainstream talent” slot he offered to us “The Mask of Fu Manchu”, Boris Karloff’s 1932 turn as the famous Doctor. Now this was a fun film, a perfect entry into the old archeological horror sub genre that the Indiana Jones series so wonderfully had fun with and the Mummy series so recently revitalized. It’s got everything: sexy damsels, kidnapped archeologist fathers, a creepy evil villain trying to resurrect an ancient evil to achieve world domination, magical relics, and oh yeah, racist Asian stereotypes o’ plenty. I mean who can’t giggle at the sheer audacity of the heroic lead shouting at Fu Manchu (in all seriousness) “You Dirty Yellow Monster!” Harry had managed to secure a pre-code, 16mm cut of the film, which had 5 minutes more footage not available on the cassette many of you may rent to recreate a BNAT experience at home. It was wonderfully entertaining and a perfect beginning to the festival.  

Next, Harry stuck his “If the premier’s not first it’s second” formula and wowed us with Codename: Ventriloquist. This was the first of three ‘secret’ films that the studios or directors asked not be revealed. This is fairly standard for BNAT as some of the premiers coincide with World Premiers and other what not. But Ventriloquist was freaking amazing. While not my usual fare, I found myself marveling at the majesty of it all. It’s beautiful, poetic and stunning. A fantastic piece to set the mood for early in the day. At this point I was chewing Penguin’s Chocolate Mint’s like they were popcorn and found myself in the midst of the great caffeine high of all time. I was stoned, quite literally stoned off the caffeine to such an extent that I ceased to bounce off the walls and proceeded to bounce through them, spaced out in a reality created by the second film. It left me wondering if there was any other way to see Ventriloquist. We’ll find out when it opens and I try it without the mints.  

Following that was the Roger Corman 1958 starring Debut of Charles Bronson as the fabled gangster “Machine Gun Kelly”. This was a cool, noirish, humanistic portrayal of the mythic killer that was a beautiful companion piece to both the films surrounding it as well as last years BNAT hit, Roger Corman’s “Rock All Night”. Plus this film lead to one of the great quotes of the evening, stolen from a line in this film in which a police officer realizes that they’ve just been screwed and states quite plainly “Well, when the rabbit roars” to which all of his companions simply nod as if they know what the fuck he’s saying. We didn’t. And it was a beautiful moment.  

Next up was the 1959 Robert Wise Noir film about racial tensions “Odds Against Tomorrow”, a wonderfully taut thriller pitting Robert Ryan (“The Wild Bunch” and Col. Breed in one of my deep fried favorites of all time “The Dirty Dozen”) against singing sensation Harry Belafonte as two men stuck working together on a bank job in the midst of Ryan’s intense prejudice. Now several people walked out of the film saying that they expected it to be a bit more intense, but I was completely satisfied. For a film made in 1959, 8 years before “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” would storm the consciousness of Americans, this film boldly made statements about prejudice in this country, condemning it as an archaic, ignorant, backwoods ‘civil war’ mentality that had to be shed. This film has a great, intense end, that while ending on a fairly implausible note, it’s done so in a manner to deliver the movies punch line, its final note on racism. And it’s a doozy. Another great film.  

Following this was the absolute ass kicker of the first half, the stunning Shaw Brothers epic “Crippled Avengers” AKA Mortal Combat (Swear, that’s the title of the print we watched.) This movie was an absolute masterpiece of 70’s Hong Kong cinema. It’s the story of 4 men each crippled in a different way by a mad tyrant who must struggle to overcome their handicaps through the ancient arts of Kung Fu. Both amazing in its artistry and hilarious in its translation (there’s a brilliant scene which begins with a villain noting the amazing ability of one thugs “Ball shot technique” that got the audience chuckling and continued with brilliant innuendo that added an almost homoerotic masculinity to the movie that was downright side-splitting), this movie blew the roof off of the Drafthouse. Most notable about this film was the lead actors transformation of their characters. You watch them early in the movie as noble, healthy men, but by the end you really believe that they are appropriately blind, deaf, legless and mentally damaged. This movie continued Harry’s ‘upping the ante’, perfectly taking us to the film that followed.  

“Night Warning”, AKA “Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker”, an absolute atrocity and crime against humanity that was so amazingly terrible that it was a fun goofy ride. It’s essentially the story of Billy, who may or may not be gay, who is lusted after by his aunt who may or may not be who she claims to be, while being harassed by an extremely prejudiced cop (Bo Svenson, who claimed to be drunk through most of filming and who also had never seen this film) about a murder his aunt committed. Got all that? Yeah, throw in a beautiful decapitation scene shot by Jan De Bont during his single week of filming on this nightmare, a nigh psychotic actress who actually bashed in the skull of a fellow actress during a scene and plenty of characters that act like they REALLY, REALLY want to be killed, you end up with a movie that you simply cannot believe exists. It’s unreal and absolutely hypnotic. Brilliant in its sheer insanity, this is one of those films no one in the audience will soon forget and will always get both the chills and the chuckles just thinking about it.  

And thus ended the old films. At this point it was after midnight and the audience wasn’t the least bit tired. So this is when Harry unleashed a volley of four, count ‘em, four successive premiers meant to keep us wide awake till noon the next day. First among them was May, and dear god how that blew us all out of our seats. May is an amazing piece of film that slowly molds and draws a beautiful, endearing, sympathetic character before our eyes, someone we long for, care about and want desperately to find happiness in the arms of the man with perfect hands, only to see her crumble and waste away in a completely realistic madness that builds to a remarkably uncomfortable climax. Unlike most movies of it’s ilk, May doesn’t front load the visceral elements of the film only to deliver a flashback explanation at the end, trying to explain the character to us. Rather, director Lucky McKee builds May before our eyes in full, living color, perfectly acted by Angela Bettis (who easily deserves an Oscar nod if not the whole damned award this spring).  

May presents the textbook breakdown of a human being in no uncertain terms. It is raw, visceral and damned creepy as all hell. It slowly builds to a level of tension unseen in the horror genre in decades in true Hitchcockian fashion. And the climax, dear god. It’s the horror equivalent of the gunfight scene from the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. You know exactly what’s gonna happen, there’s no doubt in your mind. But Lucky makes you wait, make you squirm around in your seat, builds you up to a frothing frenzy and then, only when the time is right, gives you the release that still gets the audience off. This movie is PERFECT. There’s not a flaw to it, not a one. Nothing is out of place, and there’s nothing to complain about. Sadly, this is the greatest film most of you will never see on the screen. Lions Gate is only opening it in three cities (Austin, luckily enough, supposedly being one of them.) Please guys, as arthouse as this film is, please give it the chance it deserves. Open it wider, host some buzz screenings. Get the word out. May is a must see film, one that defies the genre to define the genre. See this at your earliest opportunity.  

The next film proved to be the second of a Lion’s Gate double feature, the infamous “House of 1000 Corpses”, sadly the second most reviled film of the festival. Now for some reason this film really just didn’t connect with the audience. Easily one of the most anticipated films of BNAT 4 (and the one that everyone was SURE would play, despite my insistence that it was too obvious a choice and wouldn’t be shown – shows you what I know) this film left the audience cold on the whole. Now what’s depressing about this is that I absolutely LOVED it, as did a couple dozen others. And I think this films biggest detriment is the hype behind it and Rob Zombies own statements about this film raising the bar on this kind of horror film. You see, it doesn’t. It is exactly what several of us expected it to be: an hour and a half Rob Zombie music video drawing strongly from such filmmakers as Tobe Hooper and Hershel Gordon Lewis, perfectly edited in a style akin only to Natural Born Killers. It’s a wonderful sensory overload of Gore, T&A, stupid teenagers, psychotic locals, the torturing of half naked cheerleaders all brought together with Rob Zombie’s signature bad assed music. House of 1000 Corpses is an experience unto itself that delivers on thrills and artistic merit unlike that which is typically expected from the genre.  

A beautifully surreal mix of stock footage, nightmarish imagery and not to mention a breathtaking slo-mo crane shot execution that is just bad fucking ass as all hell, this film really becomes something of it’s own, despite its fairly derivative nature. Imagine if you will, Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Funhouse” blended with Lewis’s “2000 maniacs” and “Blood Feast” put together with modern music video sensibilities. That’s “House of 1000 Corpses”. If this idea really seems silly to you, as it did a large portion of the BNAT crowd, then avoid this one. It’s not you’re cup of tea. But if an hour and a half of fast paced psychotic ephemera with a chugging, sample laden soundtrack is your bag, then by all means look forward to this one. I will no doubt be seeing this again and will gladly purchase the DVD (please Rob, give us an isolated score). But no doubt this one’s gonna divide audiences.  

And lastly we have the two remaining secret premiers. Green Boots and the further unearthed footage of Salome titled Salome 2. Green Boots, in a word, is God-fucking-awful. It’s an absolute mess that Johnny Wad put best when he said “The producers of this film have a legal obligation to take this film away from the director. Never before have I seen an audience audibly groan at decibels illegal within the city limits of Austin when the film should have ended (I mean we thought it was over) and yet continued. Green boots got a standing ovation at the words THE END, only because it finally had finished and we could move on. The heckling, however, (something heavily frowned upon at the Alamo Drafthouse) was so ruthless that it was well worth seeing the film. Famed chatter Logan (who sat behind me) had me in stitches with his running commentary. Oh man, I dread what this movie becomes once its recut. It looked like it could have been so quirky and cool. Sadly, it wasn’t. We’ll see what comes of it.  

And finally Salome 2. Yeah, like there was any worry that this film wasn’t going to rock the house to its foundation. Unbelievable, breathtaking and quite possibly one of the greatest epics of all time. There are things here you have never seen before and from here on out can only be duplicated, probably never surpassed.  

31 hours of consciousness and virtually every hour worth it. This was Harry’s crowning achievement to date. I walked out of the theatre to greet my wife there to pick me up with a huge, tired smile on my face. “So how was it?” she asked. “Well, there’s only 364 more days to BNAT 5.” I told her. “The anticipation’s killing me already.”  

Until next year friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.  


E-Me to Please me!

Here's 433's take...

It was the best of BNAT, it was the worst of BNAT.

The problem with festivals such as BNAT is that when a lot of emphasis is put on premieres, sometimes some of the premieres aren't very good.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I met Essay Contest Winner Jodi and her guest Nichole at the Minneapolis airport. We all got frozen yogurt, then got on the plane. The flight down was uneventful. We had a two hour layover in the Denver airport, so we just played cards. We got to Austin, picked up the rental car, and I dropped Jodi and Nichole off at the fabulous Austin Motel, then stopped in at Mrs. Reggie's room - unfortunately, she informed us that Pet Snake Reggie had slithered into her carryon bag, and due to lax airport security, was indeed in Austin!  I also found out that we got in too late for the showing of The! Empire Strikes Back in Harry's back yard. Weeping, I got back into the car and drove to my Austin friend Ginger's place, where I'd be staying. We stayed up late and chatted, then woke up so I could drive her to work.

After droping her off, I picked up Jodi and Nichole and we hit Ginger's restaurant EL RAY'S, where we ate and ate and ate and ate. We ate so much we could barely move, and certainly didn't want to sit around anymore, so we skipped the showing of NEMESIS and instead went to Hog Wild!, a collectible toyshop where Jodi got a Hawaiian Punch boardgame and a lunchbox (her house is filled with boardgames and lunchboxes) and Nichole got some Pinky and the Brain toys, while I just lusted after the .  We drove around a bit more, then went back to their hotel. We called Harry, who told us to bring beer and come to his house for a bonfire. There, I saw Mongo, Moriarty and Quint, and finally met the beautiful Alexandra! DuPont.  Heidi's present to Harry was given to him, 100 glow-in-the-dark zombies from the fabulous game "ZOMBIES!!!". Tons of folks were there. Beer was drunk, hints were dropped, Mori was teased. We called it an early night and went back to the hotel.

Up Saturday at 8:30. Showered and got into the car. Accidentally kidnapped a Scottish psychiatrist (sorry, Alex) and hit THE AVENUE for breakfast (another BNAT tradition) with our international "guest", plus the lovely couple from Manchester, Nick and Nikki. We walked over and got in line, chatting with people while waiting for the rest of the Minnesota Contingent to join us. Heidi called my cell phone just before I turned it off, so Jodi and I talked with her quite a bit. Inside, we found our seats (2nd row from the front) and settled in.

1) The Mask of Fu Manchu, a 1932 Boris Karloff movie about the Yellow Horde. We cheered when Dr. Manchu commanded his peopl! e to "Kill the white race and mate with their women!!!", because, well, you know, it was the right thing to do.

2) Helen Keller: A Musical Life was much better than I expected. Second only to Dr. James Kakalios' FDR: Days Of Infamy, Nights of Passion in scope and song. Ms. Keller would be sad that she missed the outfits of those dancing around her, but the thongs on those guys really got me hot. Seriously, though, Mystery Movie #1 reminded me of Dancer in the Dark, with ambiant noise turining into music, and the big production numbers in people's heads.

3) Machine Gun Kelly, the Roger Corman movie for this year's BNAT. Charles Bronson's first starring role. Good one, I hadn't seen it in years. It was no Rock All Night (last year's selection), but it was fun.

4) Robert Wise himself introduced Odds Against Tomorrow, a film that proved the old axiom: "Nobody cares what color you are when you're burned beyond recognition". 1/4 of the way in, a frustrated Harry Belafonte invents Free Jazz!

5) Crippled Avengers (Mortal Combat, Return of the 5 Deadly Venoms), a GWAR-worthy gore fest that proves that handicapped people can also have strong kung fu. We saw this recently this summer at Minneapolis' own Asian Media Access, so I was cheering the loudest when Harry introduced it.

6) Night Warning. All I have to say is this: Bo fucking Svenson. "I shot my parts in 4 days, and I think I was sober for two of them."

7) May. Hands down, the best stand-alone movie of the festival. You must watch for t! his movie. When it comes to your town, you must tell all your friends to see it. It is that fabulous. Angela Bettis reminds me of Amy Pohler (Upright Citizens Brigade, SNL) in the way she carries herself and her vocal performance. My god, this was so good.

8) House of 1000 Corpses. More like Movie of 1,000 Minutes. I was so looking forward to this movie, and I was so disappointed. I certainly didn't expect Rob Zombie to do something this cliche-riddled. Visually he aped Natural Born Killers, and where the hell was any sort of plot? Hands down, the low point of this or any previous BNAT.

9) Green Boots (Mystery Movie #2). This film was taken away from the director to be recut by the studio. Good. It was overlong, with more endings than A.I.. It was a comedy that just wasn't funny. Infact all the come! dy that should have been spaced throughout the movie was concentrated in this, the best line in all of BNAT 4: "My daddy was a truck driver. You know, all those people are on speed, and then there was a transexual prostitute. And he never let me have a kitten." Bad. Bad. Ptui!

10) Okay, I'm going to give what we saw next feature status. While we were eating breakfast, Tim League, owner of the Alamo Drafthouse, popped in a tape of a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark done over the course of eight years by a group of friends, starting when they were 12. This is so amazing, words cannot describe it. The talent, hard work, and inventiveness that went into this film made the audience giddy. We would have pushed back the highly-anticipated final film to see the last 45 minutes of this.

11) Salome II. What a steadicam shot!

Afterwards, we got into the car and made plans to hook up with Ginger later in the evening. We checked into the ! hotel and crashed for about 3 hours, then ate at Amy's Ice Cream (thanks, Heidi!) and grabbed Alex and Nick to hit GREEN MESQUITE, my new favorite restaurant in Austin. Ribs...covered in sauce...

Dropped the Brit and the Scot off, then dropped Jodi off, then Ginger dragged me (like I fought - hah!) to her "churches" - her favorite bars in Austin, all owned by or run by her friends: Lovejoys, Casino el Camino, and Beerland. Wow, especially Casino el Camino. This should be the official BNAT bar - sculpted gargoyles and skulls on the walls, movies on the TVs (we saw the end of Big Trouble in Little China and the beginning of Scarface)...hell of a place.

Monday morning I drove Ginger to work, picked up Jodi and Nichole, and walked with the UK Contingent (Nikki was awake and joined us) to THE MAGNOLIA CAFE, where we proceeded to stuff ourselves, talk about the BNAT, and make fun of Manchester United and people from Blackpool. Then the plane, home, and ! sleep.

I still had a hell of a time. It's one of the things I look forward to every year. I'll be doing this as long as I can.  

- 433

Then from the loathesome My Pet Snake Reggie, come this sssssscintalating tale of sssssssinema... well, maybe I'll post it later...

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