Nordling's BNAT X Coverage! BENJAMIN BUTTONS, UP, MONSTERS VS ALIENS, VALKYRIE, WATCHMEN, CORALINE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE & More!
I knew I was in for a special BNAT (but they're all special) when I
found myself geeking out with Elijah Wood over the latest Pixar
masterpiece in the Alamo Drafthouse Men's Room. But more on UP later.
This was it. Butt-Numb-A-Thon X. 10 years of Geek Christmas, brought
to us by AICN's Master of Ceremonies, Harry Knowles, in celebration of
his 37th birthday. It was even blessed by Yahweh Himself, or at least
Cecil B. DeMille, when Massawyrm brought out the actual slabs used in
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and they stayed next to the South Lamar
Drafthouse screen for the next 24+ hours. For the next day, we
"overentitled cunts" as Moriarty christened us (Drew, I'm going to
miss you around these parts, man. Sincerely.) would see the best that
the past and the future of Hollywood had to offer. But first was TEEN
WOLF, as we tortured poor Jeff Mahler with not only a burnt to a crisp
print of his favorite film, but the actual Teen Wolf, Mahler's very
own Santa Claus in the flesh as he signed a basketball for Jeff in
consolation. BNAT X had properly begun.
Our first film was VIVA VILLA, starring the glorious Wallace Beery as
Pancho Villa, a monster of a man who had the best intentions at heart
even while he ravaged the countryside. This film also starred Fay
Wray, making her third appearance at BNAT. Funny, action-packed, and
a fine opening film for BNAT.
"We're meant to lose the people we love," says Queenie (Taraji Henson)
to Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) in David Fincher's fantastic THE
CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. "How else are we to know how
important they are?" This film, steeped in bittersweet emotion and
the heartache of loss, was probably the most resonant film for me at
BNAT. For people who have suffered terrible loss, this film basks in
the comforting knowledge that while nothing lasts, we can never forget
the intersections of the many lives that touch our own. Some critics
are calling BUTTON cold and distant, a criticism that I just don't
get. BUTTON moved me profoundly, and it is sure to be a film that I
We then saw the first of several clips from next year's films -
CORALINE, directed by Henry Selick and based on the short story by
Neil Gaiman. The imagery, especially in 3D, was awe-inspiring and
Selick and company spare no imagination in bringing these fantastic
images to life on the screen, with colors you could almost taste, so
brilliant they were. CORALINE opens Spring 2009.
The next film was SAHARA, a vintage Humphrey Bogart film set in the
North African desert during World War II. SAHARA is a tight war
thriller about a tank crew trying to survive on little food and no
water while crossing enemy lines. Bogie is great as usual, and I
admired the efficiency of the plot. Great characters and action -
Bryan Singer's VALKYRIE was next, with Singer recording a special
introduction. I can't review VALKYRIE as much as I would like. What
I did see of it was terrific edge-of-your-seat entertainment but
unfortunately my wife got sick and passed out in the hallway next to
the theater, and I spent much of the film tending to her. She's fine,
just a little overwhelmed by the greatness that was BNAT X this year.
Next was UP. 45 minutes of UP to be exact, brought by co-directors
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson to show to the BNAT crowd. Much was
incomplete, with only storyboards in some places, but it didn't
matter. Those 45 minutes were probably my favorite 45 minutes in a
BNAT ever. This film WORKS, another home run by Pixar, and if its
makers were nervous in presenting it to us, they were visibly relieved
when the footage went over as well as anything I've ever seen at a
BNAT before. Moving, emotional, and uproariously funny and the
Paradise Falls dogs scored huge with the crowd (you'll know what they
are in May 2009). "Squirrel!" As with WALL-E, there was imagery to
take your breath away, and this story of an old man going on his
greatest adventure is sure to do well next year. I can't claim any
kind of unbiased opinion here - my sun rises and sets on Pixar.
They're easily my favorite film studio. And UP looks to be yet
another triumph for them.
After UP we saw Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS, the 1980's Giorgio Moroder
revision. Surreal to say the least, and the music was probably dated
about 15 minutes after it was released, Not much I can say about
METROPOLIS that no self-respecting film fan doesn't know already, but
the Moroder music and the colors were very trippy as we dove into the
late night of BNAT X.
Two short clips of Dreamworks' MONSTERS VS. ALIENS in 3D followed with
Stephen Colbert hamming it up as the President of the United States
under threat from alien invasion, when the only thing that might be
able to fight the oncoming aliens are monsters captured over the
years. The 3D was amazing as expected (all animated films from this
point on just should surrender to this technology) and the clips - one
of the President trying to make contact and the other as the monsters
and the aliens go head-to-head - were action-packed and hilarious.
MONSTERS VS. ALIENS opens March 2009.
Our horror film of the night was next - MY BLOODY VALENTINE in 3D! I
wasn't expecting what I got from this movie - a blast of old-school
slasher horror with some fantastic kills all spurting at the screen in
three dimensions. Tits and ass (quite a bit of it!) and gore, all
wrapped up in a nice bow and stuffed in a still-beating heart! One
particular kill (it's literally jaw-dropping) got the crowd roaring,
and weirdly enough I can envision this as a terrific date movie.
Sure, it's dumb, but it's that good cheesy 80s horror film dumb, with
characters doing everything the SCREAM films warned us against. I
wouldn't exactly call MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D good - well, you know
what? I would call it good. It does exactly what it's supposed to do
- entertain the shit out of you.
Next was Spring 2009's I LOVE YOU, MAN, starring Paul Rudd as a guy
desperate for a man-friend and Jason Segal as his new, crude, and
overcompensating buddy. With humor straight out of the Apatow
playbook, this was a comedy that had the audience howling. Jon
Favreau has a pretty great scene involving beer boat races and
projectile vomit that made me wish that scene was in 3D. It's a guy
movie for sure, and very enjoyable.
Our next vintage film was Sam Fuller's WHITE DOG, starring 1970s star
Kristy McNichol as a new owner of a white German Shepherd that has
been trained to attack black people, with Paul Winfield as the man
hired to untrain the dog. I've seen WHITE DOG a few times and it's an
effective race drama that was sadly misunderstood on release.
At this point we saw clips from PUSH and KNOWING. PUSH looked nice
but the clip for KNOWING showed an impressive subway crash that
effectively wowed much of the BNAT audience. Then we were treated to
a sneak preview of Jody Hill's OBSERVE AND REPORT, featuring Seth
Rogen as a mall security guard with self-esteem issues. Fans of THE
FOOT FIST WAY will see the same kind of comedy here, as Rogen tries to
solve a flasher crime in the parking lot and gets in over his head.
Also starring Ray Liotta, the film opens next April.
It was here that director McG came on stage with footage from
TERMINATOR: SALVATION, and the footage was damn impressive to me.
McG's gotten some bad rap in the past from AICN Talkbackers and some
of the writers, but he seemed to me to give it out as much as he could
take it and seemed legitimately proud of his upcoming film, even going
so far as to seek James Cameron's blessing on the project. He seemed
confident that he made an entertaining film here and based on what I
saw I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Take note
Talkbackers - McG is probably reading you right now, so use this
pulpit any way you lijke. I think that T:S will impress you as much
as the footage we saw here impressed me. Apparently he had the full
film on DVD with him, but the suits at Warners nixed him playing it.
Then Rorschach showed up.
Jackie Earl Haley brought the first 22 minutes of WATCHMEN with him,
and if I was a little worried before I'm not at all now, squid or no
squid. This felt very much like Moore's and Gibbon's WATCHMEN with
chunks of dialogue taken directly from the book. Yes, Rorschach's
Journals are in there, full of the misanthropic loathing that we know
and love. Hollis Mason is pimping his book and Dan Dreiberg still
listens to those stories. The opening credits are marvelous,
introducing the characters and the world, effortlessly setting up the
story to the notes of Bob Dylan's "The Times Are A Changing." "It's
very scary playing a guy with a fucking sock on his head," said Haley
at the Q & A, but he needn't have worried. He embodies Rorschach
completely, and Haley admitted that the character was a hard one to
shake. Without having seen the entire film, I don't know if his
performance is awardsworthy, but from what I saw he is off to a hell
of a start.
Our final film was Steven Soderburgh's CHE, the Roadshow Edition. 4+
hours with the story of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, played to exception by
Benicio Del Toro. I am not very familiar with the Che history. But,
while I found Del Toro's performance to be excellent, I felt that the
film itself was highly overindulgent and undisciplined. Long
strecthes of the film are soldiers marching around in the jungle (and
most of the jungle looked like it was the same spot), broken up by
occasional gunfire. Basically, CHE is a film without a first act.
Maybe the first act is THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, a film I haven't seen.
In this film, I was never able to understand Che the man, not the way
the film was willing to show him. When Soderburgh is focused, he's a
great American filmmaker. But CHE gets away from him early on and he
never gets it back.
As far as BNATs go, I don't know quite where to rank this one (I've
been to 9 of them). Physically, this year beat me up pretty badly,
and my 4 AM queso heartburn was "gonna eat through the goddamn hull,"
so to speak. But the highs were just so incredibly high this year,
and I imagine BNAT 11-38 to be just as amazing, if not more so. I had
an amazing time, Harry, and thank you for inviting the wife and I to
your party, and I hope you enjoy your gift. But your gift to us was
much, much better. Thanks, man. BNATTER 4 LIFE.
Special thanks also goes out to Darryl Mott, Drew McWeeny, Christopher
Cargill, Patricia Knowles, Jay Knowles, Jeff Mahler, Derek Mahr,
Jeremy Stomberg, Elijah Wood, Holly Blain, Eric Vespe, Jeremy Smith,
Tim League, the wonderful staff at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar,
and Devin Faraci. Hope to see you all again next year.