TOM JOAD reviews BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 2: Electric Boogaloo!
Published at: Dec. 22, 2000, 2:21 a.m. CST by staff
Hello all! "Tom Joad" here with a much delayed report from the front lines of Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2. I say much delayed, but then some things take awhile to recover from. Butt-Numb-A-Thon instantly qualifies as one of these things. Amidst an onslaught of twenty-four hours of film, one is so eager to consume all that plays before them, that much can go down undigested. It’s best to let it brew for awhile.
The week preceding BNAT2: Electric Boogaloo was a ridiculously hectic one for Annette and myself...
As some of you remember months ago, Harry had his head cast by KNB for John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars film. When filming had completed of said head, both Quint and Mouth were dispatched to visit the set and return with the priority one package. (I believe we are now but mere hours away from reading coverage of their trip.) Upon seeing the absolutely incredible job (HOLY SHIT!) KNB did recreating Harry's severed head, Annette and I decided to shoot a video short for Harry's birthday. Using what we had: Quint, Mouth, Harry’s head, my old roommate’s 1987 Oldsmobile that didn’t run & a buddy who could easily qualify as a Firearms Expert - we figured that Harry would think it a fun gift to have two of his spies blown to smithereens on the big screen for his birthday.
A thousand and one problems later (999 of which were technical difficulties - including a one week delay while the computer we use to edit had her logic board and processor replaced - !!!) we were saved by the fact that Annette’s schedule allowed a week of relaxation prior to the gig which was spent to the last moment editing the puppy together. We made it to the Alamo Drafthouse and dropped our tape into the hands of Tim ‘The Alamo’ League with mere moments to spare, we had no idea when it would be played during the next 24 hours. Without further explanation, we were both lacking the required amount of sleep to begin the fest, which would have been any amount at all.
Before the festival, Harry came over to Annette and myself and asked if we would mind ‘lending’ our seats during the first film, DESTINATION MARS, to a few of the crew, who had shown up at the last second. Of course they could use our seats. Having done the fest last year, I knew my legs would eventually get their fair share of poor circulation, so we decided to grab a bite to eat and move around a bit during the film. Months ago, Harry brought this film over to watch and we all really enjoyed seeing what these striving filmmakers created with little more than enthusiasm and few thousand dollars. A true piece of entertainment, this film plays like a long lost sci-fi film from the fifties, even opening with a short mocumentary (easily the best part of the program) about how this film was discovered, etc. before the show launched a full-blown attack on the people of earth in fine fashion.
After the film, the audience broke and hit the lobby for a stretch of the legs, some conversation & a nicotine fix. Returning to our seats, we noticed that both of our seats were empty but the Destination Mars people were still sitting in Harry’s. We went to speak with the bloke in Harry’s seat, and he confirmed the fact that his two companions were returning for the next movie. Annette politely explained that they were sitting in our seats and that we were waiting for them. He was unaware of our seating predicament but assured us that they had to leave by five. Already three o’clock, no problem. Harry announced the next film would be Bakshi’s THE HOBBIT, which the crowd really seemed to dig - as we again resigned ourselves to stand and watch feature number two.
Here I must mention that Cartuna and Harry worked on some animation with audio that opened the festival to a thunderous round of applause. Later in another, we were exposed to Moriarty being sodomized by a german-speaking Smurfette.
The next film was to begin at five o’clock and our seats were still filled with Mars people. Harry continued to roam around, sitting occasionally, talking to many - but I had to sit my ass down! I knew I would be sitting for awhile, but I had never intended to stand for five hours, it is afterall, the Butt-Numb-A-Thon. Finding seats on the row behind where we were to sit, just a few more to screen right than we would have been, but it was cool - all was well. Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2 had officially BEGUN!
Ironically enough, the first thing to roll before our freshly seated eyes was GEEKSHOW, the video short we shot for Harry. Getting more laughs than I think it warranted, the crowd was really in on the joke and seemed to get a kick out of watching Quint and Mouth being shot to all hell by a backwoods country sheriff. We utilized many of the crew to put it together, aside from Quint and Mouth, we had tremendous help from RoRo, Flesh Gordon, Clare Standish, & BabyFace. Harry alternated smiling and giggling throughout - perfect. The next film proved to be the first big surprise for me at this year’s fest.
When I first saw Sam Raimi’s A SIMPLE PLAN, I was blown away. The characters (Billy Bob, especially) simply tore me apart and as the plan started to fray and unravel, so did my nerves. I forgave Sam and forgot FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME, and I went into THE GIFT with the same mindset as A SIMPLE PLAN had left me. THE GIFT is a good movie. A very well done movie. A movie filled with capable actors and actresses who deliver incredible performances. But it lacks the punch that Sam gave ASP. Cate Blanchett lost her husband years prior in a work-related accident and makes a living for she and her children via readings, aka psychic readings. Before long, she is called upon to help in a missing persons case.
Something familiar about the ground Raimi’s treading upon here, but it's all about the screenplay. Billy Bob Thornton turned in an honest effort here and he's rewarded by terrific actors taking his great lines and running with them. Keanu Reeves plays the scapegoat in a performance that's not to be soon forgotten. Keanu is married to Hillary Swank who does a terrific rendition of a white-trash girl hopelessly in love with the man who strikes her on a daily basis.
Katie Holmes plays Jessica King, the local girl who has gone missing in action. A girl who knows what she wants and does what she has to do to get it - Ms. Holmes is in a number of scenes that slobbering fanboys around the world will be watching frame by frame around mid-May...
Greg Kinnear plays Wayne, betrothed to Jessica and utterly destroyed by her disappearance - Kinnear does his usual here, your typical, run of the mill, out-fucking-standing job.
Giovanni Ribisi plays Buddy in one of his best roles to date, and easily my favorite of his ever. Never before have the words, 'Oh he did, did he?' been more enjoyably delivered or received as Buddy reaches for his tire iron.
I could go on and on about the cast, and you already know enough about the plot to know what you're getting into. Without question, Billy Bob is top notch with the pen - and Raimi is still the man.
The next two features were the two that made some weak souls stray. THE SEA WOLF & WONDER BAR - two brilliant films both in black and white. I love black and white - I can talk about lighting and smoke and shadows until I'm blue in the balls, but I also know that some poor fools can't hang. Unfortunately for them, because SEA WOLF is the shit! Men (mostly criminals on the lam) recruited for work on a sailing ship commanded by none other than Captain Wolf Larsen (Edward G. Robinson in one of his best roles ever) a captain with a dark past and a darker heart. Incredibly atmospheric, it's easy for the uninitiated to see how Michael Curtiz was the man. Humphrey van Weyden plays writer Alexander Knox, who accompanies the Wolf in effort to write a book to immortalize him. Ida Lupino and John Garfield play two of the fugitives on board, and provide the romantic piece to the puzzle. This one played great for a movie made sixty years ago! Harry has screened this one before, and it only gets better with each viewing. WONDER BAR, however, was a first for me. Really having only THE JAZZ SINGER for a Jolson/blackface reference, this one took me by surprise! I am one of the first people to stand up and advocate the release of Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH, for a long list of reasons. A re-release of this film would face the same trials.
Jolson plays Al Wonder, owner of the WONDER BAR, where Dolores del Rio and Ricardo Cortez are the most famous dance team around. Love plays central to all, yet betrays many along the way. Love unrequited can be a very bad thing indeed, this tragic tale features stunning Busby Berkeley numbers that shatter opticals and minds as the number of dancers seems to double and triple right before your eyes! The Jolson finale features ol' Al doing blackface and singing about heaven where porkchops grow on trees, etc. and without the use of Disney animators, set designers actually created trees which grew porkchops from their branches and a large watermelon that split apart, freeing the dancers from inside. Crazy insane madness that has to be seen to be believed. I cannot believe this exists.
Amazingly those Mars fools are still in are seats at this point. We decide to give up the seat numbers which are printed on the tickets in our pockets and sit where we are until we are booted by whoever is supposed to be sitting here. It would have been nice had the Mars guys specified that they were 'leaving by five' meant five in the a.m. - not p.m. I don't really care though, because next up is SNATCH. Guy Ritchie became an instant fave of mine when he endeared himself to me with LOCK STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS. I had heard good things about SNATCH, which was said to follow along the same vein of crimes and criminals and I had heard was actually BETTER than LS&2SB, but I couldn't really imagine such a thing. Well, he delivered in fine fashion all those things which I had heard and more. Brad Pitt's Mickey DID steal the show, and now that he has obviously decided to become Brad Pitt 'the actor' and not Brad Pitt 'the sexiest man alive', I couldnÃ•t be happier - because his work is along a line that I agree a LOT more than disagree with... but I digress...
Ritchie has such a talent for creating characters and his talent is on display here: Turkish, Tommy, Gorgeous George, Frankie Four Fingers, Cousin Avi, Sol, Vincent, Bullet-Tooth Tony, Boris the Blade, Don the Head, and BrickTop. I've never seen this many ultimate badasses in the same freakin' film! Ubercoolness.
More than eleven distinct personalities all clear as a bell. One problem many people I've spoken with had with LOCKSTOCK is that they couldn't keep all the characters straight. To those of poor observational skills and weak ears I feel no pity, but they should have no problem here. Ritchie has honed his craft tenfold since LOCKSTOCK and SNATCH couldn't be easier to digest.
The soundtrack drives this film forward at a pace to shame a Texas stampede. In addition, each character has their own theme music that plays each time they take the screen, from Boris the Blade's Russian theme to Brick Top's sly polka, Ritchie doesn't miss a beat.
From Antwerp to New York to London, we're exposed to a plethora underworld activity: unlicensed boxing, pig farms, replicas, friendly-fire, wannabe Jews, Pikers, men who won't die, caravans, double-crossing, bookies, revenge and a lil' diamond snatching. Rarely pausing to let you take a breath, Ritchie's ninety minute film speeds by in a flash, so go in with your wits about you and enjoy the best film of the new year!
Afterwards Ade, who played Tyrone the driver in the film, got up before the crowd for a little Q&A. Before long, he made the mistake of telling the geeks in attendance to come up and get free stuff. This - OF COURSE - started a fanboy stampede that nearly got one small girl crushed beneath the madness. Ade could be heard at the front of the house yelling for Tim to 'Help keep the fuckers off' him! His first experience with fanboys was trial by fire to be sure. He should be ready for worldwide release by now. Amidst the ensuing mass-geekgasm, I cut to the lobby for my nicotine fix.
Harry announced that the next film would be Russ Meyer's BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE SUPERVIXENS. I am a fan of Russ' work, not a fan in the sense that I collect or own any of his work (except for FPKK) but in the sense that I'm glad that his body of work exists. Meyer, an absolute pioneer of independent filmmaking in his own right, was and continues to be able to make a living from his body of work. I'm a huge fan of FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! When I think of Tura Satana, I'm taken to the heart of my darkest nightmare, where Tura sits at the head of a table set for a massive feast. A feast which I am unable to see until she lifts the silver dome-shaped lid from the silver platter which I lie atop, awaiting her carving knife. Whew!! Sorry about that - another digression... Haji is at the opposite end of the spectrum... Whooooooooooooo!!! But you know what? Even though BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE SUPERVIXENS has a terrific title, it doesn't have Haji. Worse yet, it doesn't even have Tura... it's got tons of T&A, and a lot of snatch besides, but in the telling of the goings-on in Smalltown, USA, we're not only exposed, but in the end OVERexposed to the sights of the denizens of this small town frolicking about. Summing up this type of Russ' films, if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all... and that's not always a good thing.
The next film of the night was ROBOCOP, one of my favorite films and easily my fave Verhoeven flick. A terrific 35mm print that played (more-or-less) to a satisfied audience. I can't really speak for them, because I was so into this one...
Throughout the festival we were shown a couple of computer animated shorts. Similar to the LIQUID TELEVISION bit of old where flesh shaped like rectangles and squares would have like one eye and a huge hand or foot sticking out of them. The first concerned a hacker breaking in to minimize his college debt. When the virus was deployed, the madness ensued. The second featured the finest in eyeball destruction carnage. These seemed to be well received, and definitely helped spice up the twenty-four hour onslaught.
Next, we were exposed to a 35mm print of SHOGUN ASSASSIN, a film I greatly loved at one point before my neophyte mind was opened with the viewing of the LONE WOLF & CUB series of films... good god girl... THOSE are required viewing if youÃ•ve any love for the shogun - you OWE it to yourself!
Before the final film we were exposed to a short film that Tim had been holding back for us. Entitled something to the effect of Santa Claus' Christmas(I think) where two small children sit upon Santa's lap as he tells them the parallels between themselves and monkeys. Yup, monkeys. Up on Monkey Mountain, where monkeys do good in hopes to be visited by - you guessed it: Monkey Santa. A brilliant script acted out complete with monkeys, seemingly drugged children and one of the creepiest depictions of Santa ever make this one an instant must-see.
The next and final film was ED GEIN (IN THE LIGHT OF THE MOON). A new film, yet to be released (I believe April is the month to look for this one), portraying the exploits and actions of one Edward Gein. Yup, the one upon which TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and countless others have been based. Steve Railsback played the adult Gein in a performance that haunted me for days afterward. A truly intense performance by one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood today. An unforgettable film that I look forward to watching again by itself (not after twenty-two hours of other films) when I can really appreciate it. Definitely worth your time if you've any interest in the macabre subject or being truly affected by solid, yet disturbing performances.
After the film, it was discovered that Steve Railsback - Ed Gein, himself - was in attendance for a Q&A session. Not only was he in attendance, but had my seat not been stolen by the DESTINATION MARS people, he would have been sitting right next to me! Imagine! Next to Charlie Manson, Colonel Tom Carlsen, Duane Barry... holy shit... sometimes the movie gods hate me... (I was apparently to be next to Avi while he was in attendance for SNATCH, as well!!! AAaarrrgggghh!!!!)
I cannot stress enough how incredibly grateful I am to Tim and Carrie League for bringing the Alamo Drafthouse to Austin. Not only for bringing her to Austin, but for scheduling her to rival ANY movie house anywhere. And to the staff for pulling off such a monumental event with the grace to make it look easy.
Kickass overall programming by El Rojo should be tough to beat next year!
And to the DESTINATION MARS crew: You're welcome.
All in all an incredible twenty-four hours that I cannot wait to repeat next year!