Harry's Fantastic Day 2 @ SXSW 2009: WINNEBAGO MAN, BEST WORST MOVIE & BLACK!
Published at: March 15, 2009, 5:54 a.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here... Forgot the camera at home today - sort of got in one of those last minute rush situations where you get 4 miles from home and you suddenly go "FUCK! Left the camera at home!" I'm still not used to the idea of it being a standard piece of equipment for me. I also thought... "Bah, what would I need a camera for today... there's nothing I think I'll need it for."
Ok - Let's hit this. Today was a very odd day for me. I was up writing yesterday past sunrise. It was 8:20am by the time I finally hit the sack - and my original concept was that I'd get up around 2pm and start hitting films, but after a call at 1:20pm - I realized - the body wants more sleep. So I decided I wasn't going to hit things till she got off work at 5pm. She then had an emergency at work, and it looked like she would get stuck closing, which meant... I wouldn't be going anywhere till around 9pm. Which would basically mean, the only film I could see would be the SXSW presents FANTASTIC FEST screening of BLACK - a French / African exploitation film that I'd heard was kickass. I had wanted to set for myself the goal of seeing at least 3 films a day through the festival. I used to average 5 to 6, but given the amount of meetings and conversations that I have to engage in, I'm lucky if I average 1 or 2 a day during this fest. Luckily, the work problem cleared up for Yoko - and we were able to get to the Alamo South by 6pm.
Once she called, I began to search for what to see. I had asked Charlie, yesterday when he showed me the Harry on the bag, what films I should look out for - and since he was the documentary programmer - I knew he'd be good for giving me a couple of fun things to check out. Sure enough - he said that I absolutely had to check out WINNEBAGO MAN and BEST WORST MOVIE. I'd already heard about BEST WORST MOVIE from Quint and some folks at the Alamo - so when I saw that these two docs were playing as a double feature at Alamo South's big Screen #1 - I told Yoko we should check it out. She asked what I knew about WINNEBAGO MAN and I confessed that I knew nothing.
When we pulled up to the theater - there was a big ol WINNEBAGO pulled up next to the theater... heh, festival promotion - gotta love it. Anyway - As the documentary WINNEBAGO MAN began to play - I instantly knew what this was. I'm not sure when or if you have been exposed to WINNEBAGO MAN aka RV MAN aka THE ANGRIEST MAN IN THE WORLD - but pre-You Tube, I was shown a tape of outtakes from a Winnebago industry film on VHS featuring this older gentleman seemingly not having a very good time shooting due to an inept assistant named Tony, a plague of flies and oppressive heat. Here's the video:
This documentary is about a filmmaker's obsession in finding out the story behind this famed Viral Video - which began virally spreading before that term was created. The Winnebago Man's real name was Jack Rebney and the documentarian Ben Steinbauer - a local Austin film guy that I've seen around for years. It seems that Ben, over the last 3 years, had become rather obsessive compulsive in tracking and documenting the discovery of Jack Rebney.
The film begins with a bit of a melt down with Jack being frustrated with Ben - then we flashback to the beginning of the story. Ben goes into the realm of Viral Videos - which of course causes instant laughter throughout the audience. These have become fairly iconic images. Remember that SOUTH PARK episode? He has even more here. Remember that drunk redneck that those kids kept lighting his crotch on fire? I do, Tim League played that for years during pre-shows. There's an infinite amout of these things floating around, and there's a whole cult of people that track these things down and exploit them, share them and just enjoy them. They go to the very simple birth of cinema. When folks with those original cameras were just trying to capture absurd moments of life. I love those late 1800's and early 1900's looks at simple innocence. Like GIRL WITH WATER HOSE.
Well, this documentary exhibits quite a bit of determination by Mr Steinbauer, who now teaches film at the University of Texas. Almost nobody thought Jack was alive. People judging that video, which was dated as being from my graduation year of 1989 - and his irate state seemed to have him targeted for major stroke conditions - at least to observers. Ben tracked down everyone else credited in the video - he tracked down a better copy of the these outtakes - and then... desperate, he went to a Private Dick who turned up a bunch of P.O. Boxes over time that Rebney apparently had. Ben wrote to them all.
THEN - One fateful day - his phone rang, it was Jack Rebney. Seemingly calm and cool. And willing to meet with Ben. Turns out that Jack Rebney lives up in Northern California as a caretaker of a cabin and beautiful wooded secluded area by Mt Shasta. Not far from Redding, Ca. Ben's first impression is complete disappointment. He expected a fiery foulmouthed red-faced man, instead... he found a completely laid back fella seeming living an ideal life all on his own. He leaves... disappointed. Suddenly, Jack begins contacting Ben. Turns out Jack confesses that it was a sham, it was "Mary Poppins" - and the Winnebago Man emerges. Where the film goes from there is absolute gold.
For a while, the film seemed to almost frame Jack as the sideshow freak that the "victims" or "celebs" of these types of Viral Videos create. But as Ben gets closer and more familiar with Jack - he discovers a rich and fascinating story of a pretty remarkable and YES - ANGRY man. WINNEBAGO MAN is an excellent portrait of obsession on the part of BEN and a generational tale of a man coming to grips with a new type of celebrity while confronting his own mortality. It is quite emotional, absolutely hilarious and very poignant.
I can not recommend WINNEBAGO MAN strongly enough. And in a very fun way, it absolutely was a great lead in to the next film.
BEST WORST MOVIE
This next film has a very strong Alamo Drafthouse connection. Relatively recently, it seems, an extraordinary cult of TROLL 2 lovers have begun to declare TROLL 2 the Best Worst Movie of all time.... or simply the worst movie of all time.
There was a period of my life where I was a very dedicated aficionado of WORST MOVIES EVER. My dad and I bought every VHS tape we could get our hands on. I've seen TROLL 2. It's an amateurish, funky fucking movie that makes literally no sense at all, but you know what? It is fun. Just look at this assembly of moments from the film:
My personal pick for the worst movie that I've ever seen would have to go to either: THE MILPITAS MONSTER or METEOR MONSTER. In particular, THE MILPITAS MONSTER is especially astonishing. It was made by a high school - utilizing the town's denizens to play themselves as the town was in peril from the trash heap from outside the city. When you see the sheriff or the mayor or any declared citizen from the town of Milpitas... it's really them! And they're bleeding terrible! Fucking Amazing.
Though right now - holding strong at #1 on IMDB's Bottom 100 movies is the JONAS BROTHERS: THE 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE. The only film in the top 25 that I haven't seen.
But this film makes a strong case for TROLL 2 as being the BEST worst movie - but really - just like WINNEBAGO MAN, this is about much more. Had this film been about the cult that has sprung out around TROLL 2. It would have been little more than an extra on a whacked out BLU RAY of TROLL 2 (please god).
The film begins as a man named George Hardy begins his day blending up a protein shake. We see him at his Dentist office in Alabama. We meet all these people that just love George Hardy. Who seems to be a strange love child of Andy Hardy, George Bailey and Craig T Nelson or Tim Thomerson. The town, his family and even his ex-wife are so effusive about Dr Hardy, who moonlights as a rollerblading Tooth Fairy in the town's Christmas parade - that you almost expect them to reveal that he's some sort of released murderer or child molester. But George Hardy has a different skeleton in his closet. The mother gets the first question about this skeleton. "What did you think about George in TROLL 2?" Suddenly, the beaming proud mommy gets a sour look sprinkled with giggles. Yeah, her son was in one of the worst movies ever made.
BEST WORST MOVIE is directed by the child star of TROLL 2, the all grown up, Michael Stephenson. There was no world premiere for TROLL 2. Each of the actors kinda found out by friends or strangers that it had even been released. On VHS and HBO. Michael tells a story about how he found out about it. It was the last present he opened on Christmas as a boy and he was so excited, he instantly put it in the family VHS and discovered he hated the film, his dreams of being THE NEXT CHILD STAR were... in a word... CRUSHED.
This film documents the FLASH BURN that occurs around certain Cult Films. The unique part of this documentary is that one of the primary cast members that was caught up in the middle of all of it - actually documented and recorded the experience and then had the clarity and vision to cut something that isn't about making this look like the NEXT BIG THING - or all his cohorts as golden gods, but as humans. Sometimes sad and broken people with broken dreams, hopes and aspirations.
BEST WORST MOVIE has bottled this particular experience for you. The excitement of being discovered, the drug of a standing ovation, the thrill of strangers loving and admiring you. THEN the wake up call, the perspective, the humbling moment, then the dash of bitterness, but then also... HOPE. Hope for more.
George Hardy, who plays the father in TROLL 2 is a fascinating character. He's somebody that probably believes in the GRIN AND BEAR IT philosophy of life. He likes being a bit of a star in his community, his practice, his family. He loves the attention of the crowds at these cult events - like what occurred at the Alamo Drafthouse and its Rolling Roadshow trip to Nilbog, Utah. But there's the other side of it. When you try to really cash in at large events and you discover your a grain of sand dropped into the ocean... hoping for a tsunami, but not even getting a ripple. Being a CULT celebrity at a convention can be a sobering ordeal. It's something I'm definitely familiar with. It's probably got a lot to do with why I like both of these documentaries.
I've been to conventions where I've been swamped and been alone. When people come up and engage, its a glorious feeling... an intense injection of ego/pride. Which feels so much better than most any other drug, this side of LOVE. To be fawned over and praised. What a wonderful feeling. BUT there are several other sides to this. I've always liked my personal level of "fame". I'm recognized constantly, no matter where I go on this planet. It happens when you love it, when it's annoying and it sometimes makes life so friggin easy and blessed filled that you just can't express it.
But George Hardy has that curious celebrity that only the advent of the internet has really created. When fans of an obscure moment in cinema can unite, organize a screening, cultivate an audience and it feels HUGE to someone unfamiliar with these types of experiences - because in their life... the idea of sold-out audiences, standing ovations... its unbelievable.
Like WINNEBAGO MAN, BEST WORST MOVIE explores the Cult of Personality phenomenon that we have in modern society that we're surrounded by on a daily basis. It's a dangerous thing that can destroy or give meaning to a life.
When I saw Jack Rebney of WINNEBAGO MAN take the Drafthouse stage tonight. Aided by his best friend, due to the glaucoma which has taken his site... tears came out as he couldn't see the standing ovation. He could hear it, but he couldn't see it. And you could tell how much this all means to him, that his life has left a mark. This is a man that was living alone on a mountain - bitter at the direction the world was going and feeling to a degree helpless and indifferent to it all.
Then I saw George Hardy take a stage behind Michael Stephenson - and I'm not sure, but it seemed he had a touch of jealousy - but also a feeling of joy for being given something else to shine with. You see... George wanted to be an actor. He'd always dreamt of it, but like so many people with such dreams - George had a parent that belittled that dream, built a Kong-sized wall of impossible bullshit dream negative bullshit around George's dream till it all but died. George has a great life as a dentist. A beautiful daughter and a community that adores him. His celebrity from TROLL 2 sort of illustrates to me... "It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven!" George Hardy rules in the BEST WORST MOVIE and TROLL 2. And honestly... like Rod Steiger heard from Brando... he coulda been somebody, he coulda been a contender.
If you get a chance to check out either of BEST WORST MOVIE or WINNEBAGO MAN - you should make every effort. Its very strong work about the pursuit and rejection of fame and how quickly the gleam of it can dull.
I had to bounce out of the BEST WORST MOVIE Q&A to make a World Premiere across the hall of BLACK.
It seems the whole AICN crew decided to show up for this - the midnight dose of FANTASTIC FEST. We again got treated to the pert pink fur covered nipples of David Strong - and some odd costumery by Tim League. We also witnessed an oddly unenthusiastic beer chugging contest that left everyone wondering if these people had ever chugged a beer in their lives. Movie geeks seemingly are pussies when it comes to this past time. It's sad really. But we were also blessed with the director of the film, Pierre Laffargue and his producer Lauranne Bourrachot... both of whom had flown all the way from Paris to attend this, their world premiere.
BLACK is a superior French / African exploitation film - and its director, Pierre Laffargue is somebody to watch. The first thought I had at the end of this film was how much I'd love it if MARVEL put BLACK PANTHER into his hands.
You see - BLACK is something that seems to recall the conceit of Blaxploitation films, but in a thoroughly modern and artistic way. BLACK begins with this beautiful helicopter shot that could be any major metropolitan city (to my eyes) until it tilts to give us a glimpse of the city center of Paris. We're tracking a green garbage truck. I'm not going to recall the step by steps of this film. But I'll give you the broadest strokes possible.
This is a film that is all about a Diamond Heist in Dakar, Senegal. And it stars the French actor that I'd seen in DISTRICT B-13 named MC Jean Gab'1 - a famed French Rapper with endless amounts of charisma. He's a criminal. Not necessarily a good one. He's got good ideas, good instincts, but the reality of crime is... well, punishing and filled with unpredictable elements that can snowball on you. The opening crime is just such an endeavor. His cousin clues him in on a heist of a lifetime in Dakar and off he and a team of badasses go to rape Africa.
Now - you should know going into this film that this isn't a straight heist film. It is and it completely isn't. Peppered thoughout the film are animistic images and possibly black magic prophecies and powers. No, there's no morphing or computers involved. It is all handled with a degree of restraint until the proper moment. But it adds so much to the film in terms of culture, intrigue and general fascination.
I'm going to point out a few major highlights for me.
1st - the music for this film is napalm fucking hot! I'd kill to see a film with T'Challa with this music driving him on. Actually - throughout the film I found myself thinking BLACK PANTHER.
2nd - MC Jean Gab'1's performance and character just screamed - I'M A STAR! He's seriously someone Marvel should look at if they pursue a BLACK PANTHER film.
3rd - The look and style of the film. Certainly, shooting in Dakar, Senegal added an incredibly exotic layer to the film, but the actual stock of the film had a very rich grain and color that made it feel as though it came from another period... although the film is thoroughly set in the modern day. I love the Day-for-Night photography - giving such beautiful contrast and power - especially when you can digitally work post magic these days.
4th - One of the greatest EDITS & Character introductions ever in a film of this type. The funny thing. Heh. Actually - there's several regarding this scene, but to me... This was one of the coolest ways to introduce a mutherfucker of a badass. Just imagine if in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - Vader just got burned by Han Solo. He's gonna look bad to the Emperor... It's gonna be bad. He picks up his Imperial Blackberry and dials up... obviously, it'd be the Fett. Now imagine if Boba Fett wasn't introduced simply in a line-up of thugs... but if after that Imperial Blackberry cut to Boba Fett - with some incredible hot alien tart blowing him as he relaxes talking on the phone. If and when you see this film - the scene is 1: totally hot. 2: totally hot. 3. Fucking totally hot. And it only has one problem. I never saw the guy answering the phone - I was just staring in awe at the hot body bobbing upon the boy frame. It was so very nice.
Reaction to this film was pretty strong. Word is that its close to securing domestic distribution - and it'll be released this summer in France.
That's Day 2. Tomorrow I have drinks and snacks with Sam Raimi early in the day, then DRAG ME TO HELL that night. Amongst other fun activities.
If you're attending SXSW and you're seeing other films or you simply have different opinions on the films we're covering - write on in. We'd love to share your views with our readers. Even though I have quite a few people here at the fest - we could use all the help we can get - and frankly, so could the films.