Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 8

The big second weekend begins with four shows Friday. Here we go:

First up, the hit short from Cinequest, BY A HAIR: still hilarious, still a cautionary tale about picking at a stray hair.

That was the lead in to the feature, THE BLEEDING HOUSE. Out in the middle of small-town nowhere lives a dysfunctional family. On the outside they don't seem too weird--an artistic mother, hard-working father, a teenage son who's embarrassed to introduce his girlfriend to them (or is it vice-versa). The one odd bit is the daughter, a Wednesday Addams type goth (though not quite so pale) who pins dead bugs to her walls. Enter a stranger named Nick, dressed all in white and talking all fancy. Seems he had some car trouble, or so he says. But of course, there are some surprises in store. Of course, I immediately guessed that the stranger is pure evil/a representation of the devil. And for quite a bit the film neither surprised nor disappointed me. Although predictable, I was reveling in the over-the-top gleefully evil acting. And then the ending took a slightly less predictable turn, and I loved it even more.

Next up, another representation of evil/the devil, in BREATH OF HATE. Jason Mewes, sober and stretching as an actor, stars as a regular client who falls in love with an escort. So in love, he offers to take her away, but her pimp has other plans. And he sends her on a call with two other girls, for an all-night party in a mansion. There they meet their creepy, creepy clients--a melon-fucking retard, an S&M mistress, and the ringleader Hate. Hate has a deranged plan to fix the world by...I don't know, killing whores I guess. So we're in for a bloody night. Very well done, and it plays a little with disoriented time and takes a bit of inspiration from the short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" which makes it a bit of a puzzle film, but not one that's too difficult to untangle.

Next up, Holehead/SF Indiefest continued their relationship with Uwe Boll by playing AUSCHWITZ. You know, I go to a lot of film festivals and pretty routinely I see movies where the director says he wants the audience members to interpret the film for themselves. So it's rare and odd to see a film where the director is so excruciatingly explicit in his intentions for the film. It opens with Boll introducing himself and taking full responsibility for the film. He talks about how 60-70 years after Auschwitz was in operation as a killing factory, we still see genocide in places like Darfur, and he's afraid that we've forgotten the lessons of the past (side note, from meeting him a couple of times I can say this is something of an obsession for him). What films are made are in the SCHINDLER'S LIST mold--showing the tiny rays of hope in the darkest of situations. He wanted to show the bleak truth, no silver lining, so that we may never forget what happened there on a daily basis.

He backs that up by bookending his film with interviews with German high school students. Disturbingly, with one major exception (one kid can recite all the facts, figures, and litany of horror) they seem to know surprisingly little about the Holocaust. Now I don't know if there's selective editing going on, I hope that he found several more kids who did know plenty but was more interested in showing the ignorant ones.

And then the meat of the film was a dramatization of a day at Auschwitz. Actually, "dramatization" is the wrong word, since it's specifically stripped of any drama. In his un-dramatization, Jews are marched in, stripped, and sent to the showers--where instead of water of course they are gassed. Meanwhile Nazi guards (including Boll) watch dispassionately (Boll takes a nap outside of the gas chamber while frantic victims are pounding on the door). Babies are shot in the head (too small to be of any use), soldiers drink and play cards, Jewish workers are sent in to pick up the bodies and carry them to the ovens, and black smoke blocks out the sky. It's bleak, horrible, and perfectly effective at its goal of showing both the extremity and extreme mundanity of absolute horrific evil. And that's a goal worth achieving, even if the end result is hard to watch.

And after that, I could use a wacky comedy, and that was the midnight movie, ATTACK THE BLOCK. Executive produced and co-starring Edgar Wright [note: Edgar Wright doesn't act in the movie. I confused him for Nick Frost. See comments. I left the incorrect statement in as a sort of 'own-your-mistakes' kind of integrity] (SEAN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, etc.) and directed by frequent collaborator Joe Cornish, it opens with a scene of a young woman getting mugged by some street tough kids in London. Then a meteor lands, a vicious little alien pops out, and the action starts. The thing is, in your typical monster movie these kids would be dead meat. They started out very unlikable, and unlikable kids die in monster movies. But in this one, they're the heroes. Sure, some die, but they also save the planet. And there's never a typical Hollywood "redemption" scene where they tearfully apologize and swear to live right. Hell, later they break into the same woman's apartment for refuge, and finding out she's a nurse they force her to perform first aid on one of them. But remember, they're the heroes. There's an important scene early on where she looks at the aliens, looks back at the thugs, and after a quick deliberation runs to the thugs as the lesser of two evils. So while I was watching it, I enjoyed the action and comedy (particularly Ron's weed room as the ultimate refuge) but I was a little put off by the fact that the "heroes" were thugs who mugged a woman for no apparent reason in the opening scenes. But while thinking about it the next morning, I realized there was a reason. It was a scene I didn't really pay much attention to at the time, but there's a part where they admit when they mugged her their knives were just for show, and they were just as afraid of her as she was of them. And they say they didn't know she had just moved into the block, and wouldn't have touched her if they knew she was a local. And this is very important to the 'we-take-care-of-our-own' ethos of the block. When they mugged her, they were simply defending their turf, attacking any stranger who enters the block. Exactly the same reaction they have to the aliens. They don't need a redemptive moment because their moral code never changes, and given their living conditions they were correct all along, and her mugging was a simple mistake.

I apologize for totally over-analyzing the morality of this movie. In fact, it's totally a popcorn action-comedy flick. It's just that to enjoy it as a popcorn flick, you have to either ignore morality or learn and embrace the block's morality. Belief!

Total Running Time: 345 minutes
My Total Minutes: 239,197


Perfect Timing said...

Correction... Edgar Wright is listed as an E.P. for Attack the Block, but it's Nick Frost (Ed from Shaun of the Dead, also in Spaced and Hot Fuzz) who plays the role of Ron, the bigtime weed dealer in Attack the Block.

puppymeat said...

Damn, you're totally right. I've had this weird block in my head ever since SHAUN OF THE DEAD and so many articles talked about the great creative team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Somehow I translated that into the on-screen pairing of Pegg and Wright, when it was actually Pegg and Nick Frost. So every time I see Frost I think Wright. Damn!