Saturday, June 9, 2018

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 9

Two more films on Friday, starting with ROLLER DREAMS, a look at the roller dancing scene on Venice beach from the late 70s all the way up to...whatever it is today. But focusing on the 70s and 80s, when it was good. When it was an oasis of freedom, and a way to have good fun and not get into trouble in the 'hood. A place where you could be yourself, learn some moves, and have a good time with good music. Oh yeah, and it was a black thing. Not the whitewashed version that made it to Hollywood, most famously in XANADU. On Venice beach itself, the stars were people of color, like Mad, the leader of the group. Or Sally Piano, the leading lady. Or Terrell, the kid. Or Superion Duval. Or Crazy Legs Larry Pitts and Buck Wild Jimmy Rich. These were all beautiful, vibrant personalities (a few of them were there for the screening, and the Q&A was awesome!) Unfortunately, with the 90s and gentrification came noise complaints (which were bullshit, it was really "too many black people having fun in public" complaints) and time restrictions. Eventually the cops realized that for the first time in decades, they needed that particular strip of pavement for emergency access to the beach. And their "fair" solution--move to a smaller, more secluded section where nobody will see them. It's ridiculous that something as innocent as roller skating became political, but that's the world we live in. I don't know how to end this on a positive note, because it is really a positive movie. It's just, even in the most positive stories, some parts of the world still suck.
Sally Piano showing off some moves
And then I stuck around for FREAKS AND GEEKS: THE DOCUMENTARY. I might have been the only person in the theater who hasn't seen the TV show, and it didn't really matter (although I want to binge it at my next opportunity...which won't be until after the festival is over.) Directed by Brent Hodge (PISTOL SHRIMPS, Docfest 2016) the documentary is about way more than the cult show that launched the careers of Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco and Linda Cardellini, Busy Phillips, John Francis Daley, and many more.) It's also about the risk-taking dramedy that would never be on network TV today, and probably shouldn't have been back in 1999. Nowadays, there would be all sorts of other outlets--cable channels, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.--where a small, daring, quirky show would be a hit. And give some credit to NBC for giving it a shot--after all the other networks turned it down. Also give them plenty of scorn for cancelling it after less than a full season. And, in fact, give the documentary a hell of a lot of credit for interviewing the executive who made that decision. Because it wasn't a critical flop--it was a hit with the credits and a lot of executives really personally liked the show. It's easy to cancel something shitty with bad ratings. It's hard to cancel something that's good--and you know it's good--but it still has shitty ratings. But for the creators Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, success is the best revenge. Especially for Apatow, who has made it something of his own personal vendetta to make sure everyone on that show became a star, just to show NBC execs what they missed.
Great doc, about a show that I guess it's way past time for me to binge

Total Running Time: 154 minutes
My Total Minutes: 483,025
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