Augustus Gloop Regales Us With Tales Of BNAT 1138!! A Great Write-Up...
Published at: Dec. 14, 2009, 10:53 a.m. CST by merrick
...with an extensive (and quite awesome) write-up of BNAT 1138 from Augusts Gloop. He has a lot to say, so I'll get our of the way and let Augustus do the talking...
My butt has become comfortably numb. Thank you, Harry for the greatest feat of cinematic gluteal anesthesia you've managed yet to accomplish! As I sit here, fit for study in any clinical sleep deprivation experiment, I can still hear the piping electric tones of the organ from our first film, but I get ahead of myself. (Regards to any grammar Nazis that abjure me for my run-on sentences. Do as well you will not when 1800 minutes since sleep you have had.)
The trailers began this year with 99 44/100% Dead, which appropriately included about a million variations on the phrase "Hello Harry". Next up was Death Machines, The Uncanny, and Stunt Rock. Some introductions and thanks to the programming staff led into a crazy Bulgarian happy birthday folk dance, and then Cinematical editor @scottEweinberg came out dressed as a representative of 'Thomas Dolby' to promise one very lucky little Jew that Teen Wolf would play in its entirety. Sadly, this was not to be the case due to some magnetic interference. I think the core must have been shifting, but at least Tim fulfilled his promise that the print would not burn this year. Introductions complete, we moved into our first feature of the night (day?)...
This silent film accompanied by longtime Drafthouse collaborator Graham Reynolds on the organ. Nothing short of a STUNNING start to the party, this show included special effects that would be impressive even today if done without the aid of a computer. While some shots were obviously just a matter of compositing, others were haunting and ineffable. The lighting work truly stood out, with the play between light and shadow contributing almost as much to the mood as the music. I can still hear many of the main lines of the score (not sure if that was Reynolds' own work or something written previously for the film), and many of us commented how much we would love to have the black, cloaked Mephiso costume. This is one of the few silent films I'd enjoy watching again and again.
Before the next show, we saw only one trailer, The Rape Killer and then some sort of PSA starring Ricky Schroeder that was entirely in Spanish (and incomplete, so we couldn't tell exactly what it was supposed to be saying).
Feature #2 this year was the first premiere, BNAT's most prolific repeat-director and perhaps its favorite, Peter Jackson.
The Lovely Bones
Disturbing, yet sumptuous, The Lovely Bones is a treat for the eyes even as it tears at the heart. Evocative at times of such films as 'What Dreams May Come', 'Stir of Echoes', and 'The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus', this film continued the theme of young women being used against their will physically and sexually. After taking on the enormous job of LOTR and then King Kong, I feel The Lovely Bones represents Peter Jackson et al taking time out to tell a simpler, poignant and more important story that is less a mystery and more of a lesson to the living about how to move on with life after a death. This is not a film for the mass-consumption genre audience, but it will play very well to those who can appreciate it as a narrative lesson in metaphor. The presents an amazing reproduction of early 1970's middle-America from the interiors of homes to vehicles to Susan Sarandon's period costumes and hairstyles. I would love to know if they shot the mall scenes on set or if they found a timeless place that had maintained that look without appearing old and run-down. Finally, I have to acknowledge the fantastic performances of City of Ember star Saoirse Ronan in the lead and Stanley Tucci who brought just the right sense of creepiness or 'offness' to his role.
The next thing we saw was some kind of montage of various dances, then Nudes on Tiger Reef and Fastest Guitar Alive.
Girl Crazy (1943)
Who, indeed, could ask for anything more? I often feel Mickey Rooney is underappreciated these days, especially given that he's one of extraordinarily few stars of that era who are still with us (and still working). Perhaps it is because he is still working at this age that people don't recognize his power as a leading man, or perhaps that is because today's stars must be 6' and up. At 23, his boyish good looks (and he looks GREAT in a tuxedo) and infinite energy play well with Judy Garland's wholesome fire. Together, they make beautiful music, but there is no question this film is Rooney's. For what I believe was a non-technicolor print of that age, what we saw was beautiful, and I can't let this go without mentioning the Gershwin score with classic standards "Embraceable You", "Bidin' My Time", "I Got Rhythm", performed by Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra.
We immediately moved into the next feature, an incredibly restored masterpiece.
The Red Shoes (1948)
If there was ever a film to hold up as THE perfect example of how the best film can look better than the best digital, I think it is The Red Shoes. The level of detail captured in this restored print is something I haven't yet seen matched on any digital production. The film follows basically the same fairy-tale story as the ballet depicted within (and I mean the ENTIRE ballet). I would love to be able to compare this movie with a similarly restored copy of The Red Balloon (1956).
After the Red Shoes, we were treated to a 'Happy Birthday' song and beer-chugging contest with the members of Broken Lizard and the AICN staff followed by trailers for They Call Her One-Eye and Sudden Death.
Harry then introduced the next film from Martin Scorsese explaining that it was Scorsese himself who suggested the programming of The Red Shoes, a choice which very well fit the theme of the night and which led very well into...
I think I've been waiting for this since sometime in 2007. Once again, we have a visually stunning period film which brings together Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo as US Marshalls investigating the disappearance of a female psychiatric patient at the nations' most maximum-security hospital-prison. With the exception of one or two powerful scenes, DiCaprio does not stand out to me in this film. Though he's in almost every scene, the supporting cast is one against which it may be difficult to shine. Particularly Max von Sydow, Ben Kingsley, and brief scenes with Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley. Scorsese has created a masterpiece of filmmaking from what is unfortunately for me a fairly predictable script. Visually and musically, the film is a work of art.
It was starting to get pretty late by this point, and I missed the complete title of the next trailer (Operation something-or-other) but next was Maniac Cop 2 (1990) (which notably stars Claudia Christian in a non-English speaking role just before the beginning of Babylon 5. I have to see that one!) and Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze which blends almost perfectly into
Le magnifique (1973)
While the boys in the audience drooled over the 29 year old body of Jacqueline Bisset, the girls could lust after a 40 year old Jean-Paul Belmondo who was perhaps more on display in this film than Bisset. Mostly hilarious, this plays hijinks with the James Bond stereotype as Belmondo's pulp writer catharticaly works out his real-life frustrations through rewrites that torture his enemies' literary representations.
We followed immediately with another premiere this time by legendary Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Micmacs (2009) aka Micmacs a tire-larigot
It is truly amazing to know that the same director who gave us Alien: Resurrection (at least he didn't script it) also wrote and directed A Very Long Engagement, Amelie, and now Micmacs. Besides the use of certain cast members, there is a vast difference in tone between the former and the 3 latter works. I'm not yet familiar with Jeunet's earlier work, but I can say that for any fans of his more recent releases, Micmacs will be a treat. Micmacs features a fantastic mishmash of circus-freak type characters, from the contortionist girl to the tiny man with herculean strength. They all team up with the hero, Dany Boon, as he takes on weapons manufacturers in an unconventional and zany script that combines the best of Ocean's 11, Topkapi, and Freaks, but that is pure Jeunet.
Two more trailers, The Ski Bum and Hot Dog the Movie led into...
While I'm not a fan of stranded plotlines such as Open Water, I am becoming a much bigger fan of Adam Green, who first caught me with Spiral a couple of years ago at Fantastic Fest. While everyone always talks about Hatchet, I have avoided it entirely due to the echoes of gore that still gleam in my friends' bloodthirsty eyes whenever they say the title. With luck, Frozen will be the new standard against which green's works will be compared. That's not to say Frozen cheats the audience out of any blood; it is just kept in its proper place... and covered in tons of snow. Films like this which trap the characters have very few places to go: The characters can all die, they can all get away, or some can die and some get away. So, the conclusion isn't important. Instead, the two things a director needs to do to make such a film work are #1 Ensure the mood is properly set and that the film is believable enough for the audience to put themselves in that situation. And #2 provide characters with whom the audience can connect so that they are stuck, with the characters, in that situation. Green does almost too good a job at this; one girl in the audience actually fainted during the screening. This couldn't have been accomplished without the leading trio of Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, and Emma Bell. This cast demonstrates real acting chops as they manage to keep the audience engaged. It is impossible to care what happens to the characters if you don't care about or identify with them. In spite of being young beautiful Hollywood superstars, these guys shed the "I'm too sexy" vibe for their roles, which would have alienated me. Frozen is a rare horror film where I can find absolutely nothing wrong. It is, in short, perfect.
The next two trailers were for Bug (1975) and Mission Thunderbolt Both highly appropriate intros to...
Centipede Horror (1984)
The Drafthouse recently came into possession of a very sizable collection of Shaw Brothers films, and they have started a non-profit organization to help with the preservation of these and other genre films. Centipede Horror is the third and least-impressive of these films that I've had the chance to see. I would love just once to get the chance to see one during the daytime, since the early-morning hours past 1am don't lend themselves to reading white-on-white captions that are too-briefly displayed on screen. In the case, of Centipede Horror, this combined with a hideously slow-moving plot to sadly put me asleep throughout. This is luckily the exception among the Shaw Brothers items I've seen and not the rule.
Next trailer was The Honeymoon Killers and Mr No Legs followed by Lunch Wagon.
Up until now, Matthew Vaughn was the director of my second favorite movie of all time, Stardust. With Kick-Ass, he may have knocked that one out of its position. Standout performances from Aaron Johnson, Christopher McLovin Mintz, and Chloe Moretz frame Nicholas cage in the only role where I've ever really LIKED him. According to applause, this was by far the audience favorite, and it really picked up the energy levels of the crowd. Though we were seeing an unfinished print with a temp score, I think audiences would love it just as it is. I particularly hope that Vaughn manages to swing permission to keep all of the temp tracks that are in place which include superhero themes from Superman and Batman, Morricone, tracks from The Dark Knight, and even a great Elvis number. Kick-Ass is the superhero film that can only have happened after ten years of our audience re-proving to Hollywood that comicbook films can make big money (after the Burton Batman franchise began to flounder). It is all at once a kid power story, a teen coming of age film, and family dramedy, and when Vaughn named the movie Kick-Ass he was being as descriptive as possible, as it features fights that haven't been approached by any film since the Nightcrawler opening to X-Men 2. This movie will own your ass!
Our final trailers of the night were: Buckaroo Banzai, Dark Angel with Dolph Lundgren, and a space-themed 1980's Dr Pepper commercial 'Out of the Ordinary'.
In 1993, Steven Spielberg delivered a quantum leap in digital filmmaking when he brought us the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. In Avatar, James Cameron has taken the next evolutionary leap, mixing live action and completely CGI digital 3D imagery. My number one concern was that the story would support that technology and that this wouldn't be dismissed as just a special effects movie. My friends, NO. Calling Avatar a special effects film would be like calling Doc Brown's Delorean a trash compactor. I don't think it was just sleep deprivation that led me to openly weep throughout the movie at just how beautiful it all was. I felt like I'd been shown just a glimpse of heaven over and over again through the film. The story, meanwhile, was a tight sci-fi tale about a soldier going native with hints of The Matrix, Alien, Final Fantasy, and Return of the Jedi. Don't be put off by this description, as those are merely whispers in a symphony, and Avatar is more movie than you ever imagined it could be.
Thank you one more time Harry for what was by far the best BNAT lineup in eleven years.