Sunday, December 1, 2013

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 2

So the second day of Holehead started with some free Saturday morning cartoons of the 80s and 90s, because...that's just the kind of odd festival it is. And Saturday morning started at 1:00 pm, because that's definitely the kind of festival this is. Free sugary cereal (I ate too much and got kinda sick, so I had to balance that with a couple of beers) and SUPERFRIENDS (a weird space-Arabs episode), SMURFS, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (the origins episode where April O'Neill meets the turtles), CARE BEARS (learn sportsmanship with magic bears who help you cheat and win!), SHE-RA (crossover episodes featuring HE-MAN and SKELETOR), THUNDERCATS (the origins episode, where before they land on Earth they're actually walking around on their spaceship naked--but covered in cat fur. That's right, a little naked-ish Cheetara action! And I feel dirty writing that). Anyway, it was free to everyone, and quite a lot of families brought their kids there. A lot of them were asking the Balboa Theater management about doing this again, so...maybe?

Then the festival continued with...a surfing documentary? Okay, some explanation is necessary. Because the Balboa Theater is a new venue for the festival, and because it's near-ish the beach (certainly nearer than the Mission), the organizers of the festival thought it would be fun to take a break from horror and do a kind of mini-fest of surfing documentaries at the Balboa. And so H2INDO was the first one they booked. And then they couldn't find any more. But they talked to the director and he was super-excited to play the festival, especially at the Balboa. Then at the last minute he couldn't make it (or, I guess, convince any of his friends to go) so we ended up with a surfing documentary in a horror festival with maybe 5 people in attendance, myself included.

It's a shame this wasn't played in the right context, because it's actually a pretty good movie. It explores the world of the surfing sub-category or Stand Up Paddling through a two week trip to Indonesia with 7 giants (old guard and new stars) of the sport. I'll admit I know nothing about the surfing world, but for some reason the name Dave Kalama seems like someone I should know. The rest of them are Connor Baxter, Slater Trout, Talia Gangini (the one girl among all these guys,) Chuck Patterson, Dave Boehne & Jamie Mitchell. First-time director Brent Deal writes himself into the movie by essentially integrating his "making of" scenes into the film, starting with the phone call from his main backer--his grandma--agreeing to give him the money to make his movie. Then it's off to Indonesia with the gang, where he obsesses over how he doesn't know how to shoot surfing scenes--shooting from the boat is too shaky, and shooting from land he can't get good shots, so he gives all credit on his first day to his assistant who is shooting in the water. At first the idea of focusing on his struggles to make the movie seemed kind of self-indulgent, but eventually I realized that since he's a novice to Stand Up Paddling, having himself as a character actually serves as the point of view of the audience, letting us discover the world as he does. Too many surfing documentaries (in fact, action-sports documentaries in general) fail to do this, and end up being movies by and for the surfing/action sports community that aren't all that accessible to those outside. So that novice point of view is greatly appreciated.

Anyway, I've gone a full paragraph and haven't even explained what Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is. You might have seen those guys on big surfboards standing up with a long paddle (as opposed to lying on your board and paddling out.) Well...the guys standing up and paddling are doing SUP. Simple as that. Staying upright and using the paddle makes it easier for newbies to learn, and you can surf in more "junk" waves that shortboard surfers would pass up. And those shortboard surfers don't like these "spoon goons" getting in their way. That's a part of the story that plays heavily but isn't very well explained (mostly because it's explained by people who don't agree with it) but surfers can be very territorial and shortboarders don't think SUP is "core" enough to share the waves. Whatever, SUP looks like a heck of a lot of fun, and the movie ends up--despite Brent Deal's early concerns--getting some absolutely awesome shots of it.

Then the next show--exactly six hours after the beginning of the festival day--was the first horror movie of the day. And PINUP DOLLS ON ICE made me yearn for more surfing documentaries. Okay, not really, but it made me yearn for a good horror any-genre movie. It's derivative of any number of slasher movies, but with the misogyny dialed up to eleven and the intelligence dialed down to zero. The Pinup Dolls are a retro burlesque act that despite being introduced as kick-ass girls who will beat a guy with a baseball bat because he owes them money, but as soon as the generic-homicidal-maniac-with-a-weak-backstory-told-through-gratuitous-exposition-long-after-we've-stopped-caring shows up, they turn into quivering, scantily-clad (or not clad at all) weaklings who can't recognize and pick up a weapon in a roomful of weapons (hell, they're all wearing spiked heels and none of them think to take them off and use the heel as a weapon; instead they'll all try to run in them.) What bothers me most is that it was pretty well made. It was well shot, the bloody effects were good, and the acting was...energetic, if not exactly great. It bugs me that some obvious skill went into making something so distasteful, pointless, and dumb.

Then the next film was the highlight of the night, Bobcat Goldthwait's latest directorial effort, WILLOW CREEK. Set in...or at least near...the site of the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage, we follow a couple of documentary filmmakers on the search for Bigfoot. Or at least he is on the search for Bigfoot. She's along because they're a couple and she supports him. So they travel to the town of Willow Creek, California, home of the Bigfoot museum (and Bigfoot Burger, and multiple Bigfoot statues, and lots of ardent "squatchers.") They interview locals, hear some Bigfoot-themed folk music (this part blurs reality and fiction.) And for the first hour or so it plays out as if it's a pretty cool Bigfoot documentary. Then they go on a camping trip, against the warning of an angry local (San Francisco's own Bucky Sinister, who was there for the screening) and...well that night it turns into a genuinely scary horror movie. There's an already-famous 17 minute scene of them sitting up in their tent at night listening to noises and freaking the heck out. As someone who has in my youth spent more than a few nights in a tent in bear territory in Alaska (and with Boy Scouts who like to prank you by faking bear attacks) I can tell you how scary that can be. And as someone who watched the scene with THE HUNGER GAMES blaring in the theater next door, I can tell you how important it is to watch it in a well sound-insulated room, because that kinda broke the scene a little bit. But just a little bit, the scene was still excellent and made me jump at the right moment. I've said this quite a few times, but I think Bobcat Goldthwait is one of the most interesting directors working today, and Bucky Sinister related that Bobcat calls this time "the Ed Wood part of his career" where he will make the movie he wants to make, take a studio note from nobody, and then figure out how to sell it. Kudos to him for this movie, and for that attitude towards filmmaking.

Then we ended the night with a valiant attempt to watch BUCK WILD. More mis-adventures in Holehead screwups, the copy of the movie never arrived. So we watched a screener--an online screener via Vimeo. And it started out okay, despite poor audio and a watermark across the bottom, it actually looked okay. We met the main characters--a group of young men off on a hunting trip on Buck Wild ranch in Texas. There's the leader, the horny one, the glasses-wearing nerd, and the crazy cousin. And we meet the bad guys--Billy Ray (who we are assured is a bad-ass despite dressing like a gay pimp and speaking in a British accent) and his gang. And we're introduced to the concept of the Chupacabra. And then...the movie freezes up. And we fuck around with getting Vimeo to play it. And we switch to non-HD. And it works some more. The video quality isn't that great, but it's still watchable. And the horny friend is attacked by the Chupacabra-infected ranch owner's daughter. And they accidentally shoot the ranch owner, and the crazy cousin totally non-accidentally drugs the ranger, and the nerd accidentally drives his 4x4 onto Billy Ray's property and...the movie freezes again. And this time they just can't get it to play. So we call it a night. Too bad, because it was looking pretty promising, had a good mix of comedy and horror, and wacky characters that kept your interest even if they were over-the-top, unrealistic, and one-dimensional. But, those are the breaks, and they've become a bit too common at Holehead.

So that was day 2 at Holehead. Only half of it was horror, and only half of that was watchable (but at least WILLOW CREEK was pretty great.)

Total Running Time: 451 minutes (only counting completed programs)
My Total Minutes: 343,396
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