Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 13

Two more movies on the final Tuesday of Indiefest. But first I had to grab some dinner at Ushio Raman, just across the street from the Roxie. I had the spicy black garlic ramen, and it was freakin' delicious. I recommend it highly.

And the reason I ate there is because the first film of the night was RAMEN HEADS, a fun and funny documentary about the ramen-obsessed chefs and fans in Japan. Chef Osamu Tomita is the star, the reigning king of ramen and a bit of a local celebrity. He obsesses over mixing the perfect broth, the "slurpability" of his noodles, everything about it. In fact, although he has several "apprentices" working for him, he doesn't trust anyone else to make his ramen. If he takes the day off, his shop is closed. And he doesn't really teach his apprentices anything. If they want to become great ramen chefs, they need to do it like he did--by tasting the leftovers from customers' bowls and reverse-engineering great ramen. The movie explores other chefs (my favorite is the guy in the small shop in Tokyo who ascribes no great significance to ramen. He's served thousands of bowls in his career, and it's just a simple, cheap dish, and his job is about speed and simplicity, not haute cuisine. It also explores briefly the history of ramen, how it was borrowed from China and became Japanese with soy sauce, and became popular as a cheap, fulfilling meal in the post-war period. But it always comes back to Tomita. I get the sense that the filmmakers wanted to do a wide-ranging exploration of ramen, but when they found him they realized he was the star. And they were right. He's as entertaining as his ramen is delicious (allegedly. I've never tried it myself. Maybe I need to make a trip to Japan.)

And then in keeping with the theme, I got stinkin' drunk before RON GOOSENS: LOW BUDGET STUNTMAN (oh, who am I kidding, I've been drunk through the whole festival.) If you look them up on IMDb, you'll find that the team behind this hilarious flick have worked together many times, and you can see that chemistry here (I need to check out their New Kids series, which is referenced in this film.) We open with Ron Goosens making good on a bet to pay his bar tab--to jump his car over an open drawbridge. He fails spectacularly, but his triumphant yell of "I'm totally shit-faced!" makes him a YouTube superstar (and get's the whole country triumphantly yelling "I'm totally shit-faced!" That's not enough to impress his wife, who threatens to leave him unless he proves he's "still got it" by bedding sexy star Bo Maerten (another main member of the comic group.) So he at least gets on set by being a stuntman. A low budget stuntman, who gets injured in crazy ways with every attempted stunt, but doesn't feel a thing because he's still shit-faced all the time. But there is more than just drunken humor to this film (although it is the main draw.) It turns out, to get in good with Bo, he needs to sober up--her dad was an alcoholic and she won't touch the stuff or associate with anyone who does. And when he's sober...he starts to realize how pointless his life has been--at least, the parts he can remember. Despite the drunken stupidity (I mean, it starts with a scene of drunk driving, something that really can't fly in an American movie) he becomes a sympathetic character, and you really end up loving him by the end.

Total Running Time: 176 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,153
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