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SUNDANCE ’08! Kraken Sends A Postcard From ANYWHERE U.S.A.!!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. That is the worst punctuation in the history of intentionally overbearing AICN punctuation. Thank you. I’m glad to see Kraken contributing his own thoughts on the Sundance stuff he’s seeing as Quint’s wingman. And, yes, by “wingman,” I mean “scat bottom.” This one sounds crazy. I like crazy. I am curious to see this for myself:

Okay, I'm going to throw something out here first thing, just because I desire to lose complete respect from anyone who would read this... I'm a huge GUMMO fan. Fuck it, it's my favorite guilty pleasure movie that I don't feel all that guilty about loving. I will always defend that film and say the vulgar mouthed kids in dirty rabbit costumes and the deaf fight is some of the funniest things put to film. I bring GUMMO up because ANYWHERE U.S.A. reminded me quite a bit of GUMMO in essence. A sweeter, kinder version of GUMMO to be sure, but the feeling of taking a peek into very strange sub cultures and redneck life is definitely present in ANYWHERE. The first thing that struck me about the film is how well shot it was. Usually with these types of low budget, non-starlet filled films, you get something that looks like it was shot on a borrowed next door neighbor's VHS camera from 1988. But I was fairly impressed with the quality of the film-making here right off the bat with the opening shots introducing us to the various environments that the film would have us visit. The film is told in three parts, labeled as PENANCE, LOSS and IGNORANCE. I figure the best way to break the film down is to discuss each part individually. PENANCE - is probably my favorite of all three sections. It's a story about a pair of trailer park lovers who make appointments with each other to have the girlfriend beat the living shit out of the boyfriend every Tuesday evening. He's a pretty crazy hillbilly whose best attributes are his "beautiful fucking mustache and hair" and she's your typical looking day time trash talk show looking trailer chick... but somewhere under this stereotypical layer of skin, lay a deeper relationship and deeper personalities. It doesn't take long for this story of romance to get very strange, and very funny. There is some kind of suspicion of cheating based off the discovery of a "middle eastern nut" ... or "pistachio" found in the girlfriend's couch. This sets the boyfriend off in hillbilly rage for whatever reason and he's kicked out by his woman. He finds solace in his friend little Ricky (Brian Fox) who is easily the best "character" of the movie. Imagine the dwarf version of Walter from The Big Lewbowski (credit for this comparison goes to Rav who watched the film with me). This guy rules, he's militant, a conspiracy nut and sports the coolest fucking Robin (of Batman fame) tat on his shoulder I've ever seen on a dwarf. Oh, and he's an R/C car fanatic and technical genius. Somehow when these two put their heads together, they figure out the formula that the middle eastern nuts, the girlfriend looking cock up on the internet (did I forget to mention that?) equals an impending terrorist attack on their small town and they must do what they can do stop it. Hilarity ensues. Oh, and redneck speech subtitles are awesome. I know all that stuff up there that I just wrote doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but when it comes to this part of the film, I just did my best. LOSS - This is the sweeter side of this film. As goofy, strange and vulgar as the first part was, this part takes the story into a completely different, but still somehow oddly connected world. It's a story about a wandering pair of characters, a hippie uncle named Jeremiah (JEREMIAH BRENNAN) and his recently orphaned niece Pearl (PERLA HANEY-JARDINE) that have a run in with a small town real estate agent when the niece ends up wandering into the agent's car and accidentally eating five of her pot brownies in the parking lot of a gas station. From that point it turns into a little short drama about discovering the truth about the tooth fairy named Johnathan Lucas and the uncle convincing the real estate agent he's not a kidnapper. The story itself was pretty simple, and strangely touching. But, the biggest surprise for me in the entirety of the film is how AMAZING the actor that plays the uncle and the actress that plays the young niece are! The entire film seems populated by non-actors, but these guys deliver a performance that quite frankly blew me away. Honestly, someone needs to cast these two in another movie right now. Perla has the potential to be the next big child actor, and I can see Jeremiah having a pretty amazing career as a character actor if the right project comes along for him. The section "Loss" concludes with a conversation between Uncle Jeremiah and Pearl about fairy tales and beliefs that we hold as adults that I don't really want to give away, but was notably deep and heart warming considering the movie started out with a section about a militant dwarf and his terrorist fighting redneck sidekick. IGNORANCE - Honestly, this section of the film felt a little out of place with the rest of the movie. It was probably my least favorite of the three tales, which is unfortunate because it does leave a little bit of a sour taste in your mouth in what would otherwise be a fun little flick. The film runs around two hours, and I think it would benefit greatly from some trims, and I would suggest starting with this tale. Not to cut it completely, because I think it does have some very clever moments... but ultimately it feels like a short film that goes on about fifteen minutes too long. It's about a well off man that one day during dinner announces to his wife and grown son that he doesn't know any black people and desires to remedy that. There is a humorous scene where he ponders the difference between himself and black people and how they look at clouds, as his wife uses a sex toy on herself next to him in bed. But that's about all this particular part of the film has to offer. It tries to be a morality tale about racism, but just comes off as ineffectual and boring. The acting is fine and the character of Ralph (RALPH BRIERLEY) is interesting... but ultimately there just isn't much meat in this section for the actors to chew on. If this section of the film was MUCH shorter (and it's only about 30 minutes long as is) then I think it might be an interesting little epilogue to the rest of the film. It leaves the film feeling very anticlimactic which is sad because I think there is a lot to enjoy in this movie. Overall, I think ANYWHERE USA is a very fun flick, but one that could use some editing. The director/writer, Chusy Haney-Jardine, has a sense of play and heart that makes me want to keep track of his next film for sure, I think there might just be genius there. God help us.
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