Indiefest started in earnest last Friday night, and I was there for a pair.
First up, the beautifully bizarre low budget comedy I AM A KNIFE WITH LEGS. Full of half-sequiturs (a word I just made up for quotable lines that make a bit of sense in context but none out of context--like "This eclair is weird" or "You can't fool Death. Death knows you microwave your soup.") It's the story of Bené, a French pop superstar whose girlfriend Baguette was blown up in a suicide bombing and who now has a fatwa on his head, either related to that or to his popular song, "All Religions Suck, Especially Yours." Anyway, he found out about it from an online site where you can request fatwas on people, and someone who goes by iluvtennis127 has put a fatwa on him. Then it gets weird. Simple drawings animate a little less than half the film (done by director/star Bennett Jones who used it as a way to get crazy ideas he couldn't possibly afford to film live.) It's about as wild a ride as you can have with two men (Bené and his rotund friend/manager Beefy) sitting around in an apartment waiting to die.
So my Indiefest has started with a couple of great comedies, so let's try to keep it going by comparing 90s TV teen cultural icons in TGIF vs. SNICK. So in full disclosure, I'm a little too old for this comparison to work for me. I was a Nick kid back in the days of You Can't Do That on Television! and (my favorite almost forgotten show) Turkey TV. I had never seen Clarissa Explains It All before last night. And other Nick shows I would watch with the ironic cynicism of a college student. Anyway, it was still impossible to avoid the culture, so let's take a trip back not-really-my-memory lane.
Full House: I never really watched this show when it was first on. And watching it now all I can say is Bob Saget was a trouper. You can see the famously dirty stream-of-conscience comedian's soul shriveling up as he controls himself to not be dirty (and not really be funny) in this wholesome show. Also, remember when the Internet was full of countdown clocks to when the Olsen twins would be legal? Remember how this show is how we knew about them? Internet, we're sick! I've never needed a shower so badly after watching family television.
Clarissa Explains It All: I had never seen this at all. It was supposed to be the cooler, cable TV version of family friendly entertainment. I know I'm no longer the target audience, but I find it hard to believe that there was a time I ever would've been impressed by this. Yeah, the insult comedy runs a little freer, so it's a little edgier than Full House, but that's kind of like saying tea is more flavorful than water.
Dinosaurs: Now finally we get into a show I watched--and loved. It was uneven and weird--just my kind of thing. I think their multi-part episode on operation We Are Right (W.A.R.) is still brilliant and my first experience with criticism of media coverage. All they played last night was a clip of the series finale, which (spoiler alert) ends with permanent winter and the Dinosaurs all going extinct. Now that's a ballsy way to end a show, even more so than smash cut to black.
Family Matters: Never really watched it at the time, but nobody could escape knowing who Urkel was. The interesting thing to look back on is how Urkel was treated as a stereotypical unpopular nerd, to be laughed at. But watching it now, Urkel is brimming with confidence that has never been seen in any true nerd before or since. He's not an icon in social awkwardness, he's a beacon of radical individuality in a world just starting to recover from the conformity of the Reagan years. I would start a cult of Urkel but emulating him would be completely missing the point. He's a guy who emulates no one, is uniquely himself, and is showing the world that with enough confidence, you can be yourself, too. And the show knew it, they couldn't make Urkel the "real" hero--people had to pretend to hate him, but when he get's everyone to dance the Urkel on a rooftop party, you know they all really love him.
The Adventures of Pete and Pete: And we ended on this absurdist masterpiece. I actually did watch this at the time (in my post-college still ironic and cynical phase, but I loved it all the same.) If Urkel showed us how to be individuals, Pete and Pete took us to a utopia of radical individualism that I've never seen before (and I've been to Burning Man every year since 1998--that's just a drunk party with weirdos. The Adventures of Pete and Pete is true absurd individualist utopia.) In this episode, they try to track down the identity of the friendly but mysterious Mr. Tastee, an ice cream man who never takes off his big plastic costume head. With cameos by Michael Stipe as a rival ice cream man, and a not-yet-famous Heather Matarazzo. Weird!
Total Running Time; 183 minutes
My Total Minutes; 381,725