Mr. Beaks Attempts To Make Sense Of Everything Is Terrible's Everything Is Festival! Spoiler: He Fails...
Published at: Sept. 3, 2010, 2:27 a.m. CST by mrbeaks
When your evening begins with a pagan ceremony involving offerings of JERRY MAGUIRE VHS tapes and ends with the indescribably bizarre kung-fu flick MIAMI CONNECTION, the sight of a towheaded ten-year-old reenacting Adolf Hitler's final hours doesn't horrify quite like it should.
This was the triumph of Everything Is Terrible! and their mind-meltingly bizarre Everything Is Festival!, which took over Los Angeles's The Cinefamily last weekend. For two days, EIT, aided by special guests Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Zack Carlson, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, transformed that theater into a fog-choked den of found-footage iniquity. They struck fast and quick, following up their call for JERRY MAGUIRE tapes with a timely BP industrial short, which then bled into something we'll call "Scenes from a Biker Rally", where the womenfolk (circa early '90s) were encouraged to flash their breasts, catfight in the mud, and deep-throat mustard-coated hotdogs hanging from a wire (while astride some burly gentleman's Harley).
And before we could make sense of any of this, EIT thrust us into their second feature-length collage, 2EVERYTHING2TERRIBLE: TOKYO DRIFT. Finally, after little more than an hour of random found-footage madness, we'd no choice but to accept that the world is a place where shitty showbiz parents will dress their kid in a Nazi uniform, stick a toothbrush mustache under his nose, and have him pretend to blow his brains out just to impress some jaded casting director (who, sad to say, has probably seen worse). People really do such things. And they've no problem leaving evidence of their casual depravity.
Their shamelessness is EIT's gold mine. If you've ever perused EIT's website, you know they're obsessed with documenting pop cultural insanity as it was committed to videotape in the '80s and '90s. They delight in discovering hopelessly un-hip instructional shorts, creepily sexual Christian programming for children, and, generally, shit that defies description - like the vigorous massaging of cats. Then they tweak these analog artifacts as necessary - distorting faces and voices, and inserting all manner of improper imagery until they appear to be the work of Satan himself.
If this were the extent of EIT's ambition, they'd be nothing more than 21st Century Kermit Schafers, exploiting the ineptitude of imbeciles for cheap and forgettable laughs. What makes the collective worthy of a two-day orgy at one of L.A.'s finest repertory houses is their ability to edit these disparate clips together and get them interacting with and commenting on one another - to the point where something approaching a throughline materializes. Granted, they're not the first to do this (Joe Dante and Jon Davidson got there forty-two years ago with THE MOVIE ORGY), but with 2EVERYTHING2TERRIBLE: TOKYO DRIFT, EIT appears to be on the verge of saying something kind of profound about our media-saturated culture. And when I figure out what that is, I'll let you know.
Heady artistic ambitions aside, the EIT! crew are still primarily concerned with scrambling the audience's brain with the strangest assortment of clips they can track down - and they've outdone themselves with 2EVERYTHING2TERRIBLE: TOKYO DRIFT. Animals, robots, cackling televangelists and lots of Burt Reynolds in MALONE collide for an hour or so; you'll see Duane groove, Gary Busey battle "butt-horns", and, in what seemed to me a sign of the apocalypse, a pyramid of babies sing "Ten Little Indians" (which may not sound horrifying, but, seriously, it totally ruined babies for me). 2E2T is very much EIT's magnum opus; a mess of media that somehow focuses itself into an epic clash between good (represented by Duane) and evil (that Sieg-Heiling little shit mentioned above). It is stunningly... defiantly... almost... coherent. And I have yet to watch it under the influence of anything but alcohol.
For those who thought Zack Carlson's contribution for the evening, MIAMI CONNECTION, was going to be a more staid affair in comparison, the first five minutes of Y.K. Kim's one-and-only directorial effort swiftly demolished that notion. Best described as awesome and proof that God exists, MIAMI CONNECTION is basically a hybrid of ROMEO AND JULIET, FISTS OF FURY (U.S. mis-title), STREETS OF FIRE, Cannon's NINJA movies and THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION. It's a movie about a multicultural group of college buddies who study by day, rock by night, and fight whenever the narrative isn't being derailed by a biker rally that seems to have been spliced into the film by mistake. Moment to moment, there's no telling where this film is headed - and no matter where it darts (no matter how long), it never gets very far. Had Joseph Campbell based the Hero's Journey on a two-yard Barry Sanders rush, MIAMI CONNECTION would've been THE ORESTEIA of the twentieth century.
I've seen many "bad" or "bizarre" movies bring down the house before, so when I tell you that MIAMI CONNECTION belongs in a class with CARNIVAL MAGIC, NIGHT WARNING, FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE and THE BLACK GESTAPO, I mean to say that we've got a psychotronic masterpiece on our hands. MIAMI CONNECTION may be an absolute disaster on every level (right down to star Y.K. Kim's tragic inability to enunciate), but it resonates in its bug-fuck way because Kim and his crew clearly believed in this film. This is a movie made with conviction. Kim had something to say about friendship, family and the danger of ninjas - and he apparently got it all out of his system, because he never made another movie again in his life. I'm spinning my wheels trying to sell you on this thing. Just watch the trailer, and demand it. Live in a college town? Hit up the Alamo Drafthouse boys, and convince them you can fill your local theater with cinephiles who can have fun with, but also appreciate, a one-of-a-kind goof like MIAMI CONNECTION. Make a convincing case and maybe, just maybe, Lars and Zack will bring you the goods.
Saturday was a long, punishing bacchanal, so I wasn't exactly in peak form when I showed up for Sunday's early show, "Harmon and Schrab's Found Crap". But I perked up when Dan Harmon (the creator of COMMUNITY, and, generally, a motherfucker you should respect) kicked things off with a clip from THE PERSONAL TOUCH, a "classy", forward-looking piece of early '80s video pornography from Bobby Hollander. I'm sure BOOGIE NIGHTS' Jack Horner had many fathers, but, watching Hollander lasciviously describe the interactive potential of this new format, it's clear he figured significantly into P.T. Anderson's formulation of the character. For legal reasons (I'm guessing), we didn't get to see anybody fuck. (Boo.) But if the rest of the video is as erotic as the introduction, I'm pretty sure it's AGNES OF GOD hot.
As promised, Harmon and Schrab showed off a racist Benny Hill clip (an A-TEAM spoof featuring good ol' Benny in blackface as B.A.) and lots of squirm-inducingly awful stand-up reels (one of which, swear to god, may have been a serial killer's confession). But the highlight for me was a gun safety instruction video in which a grandfather seduces his grandson by teaching him how to fire a rifle. This is a 100% accurate description of the video: it's spank material for the Teabag Nation. Surely someone involved in the filming of this thing either was arrested or fled to Thailand.
And then there was the Found Footage Battle Royale, which was rowdy, controversial, but ultimately won by the guy who brought the best clips. Let's leave it at that.
Had I not spent most of the weekend inebriated, I might've emerged from the Everything Is Festival! with a belief that all of this, every last second of ephemera, connects in some way... that our defenses-down enjoyment of being in front of the camera exposes us all as a pack of fame-craving assholes. There's something more to EIT's process; they're building to something. Thankfully, I did spend most of the weekend inebriated, so my spotty analysis ends here.
Visit Everything Is Terrible, buy their new movie (they went to my alma mater, so show them the moneys), demand the 3,000 screen release of MIAMI CONNECTION, watch COMMUNITY this fall on NBC, and bring back THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM you assholes.