First up, the short THE YODEL WITHIN. Matthew Rice is inspired by a video on Youtube of Yodel King Franzl Lang. So he goes on a journey to find this man (inspired by Yodeling Joe Commin's similar quest). And instead, he comes to find his own inner yodel...by taking a yodeling class. Pretty funny.
By the way, I've been very impressed how well the shorts and features were matched in this year's festival. In fact, this was the first show where they didn't really naturally go together, but then what could go with a short, comic yodeling doc?
Anyway, the feature was PEEP CULTURE. The star is writer Hal Niedzviecki, who has written about what he calls "peep culture"--the willing destruction of privacy in our modern society, from reality shows to online oversharing. It even goes so far as "lifecasting"--putting cameras and microphones everywhere and putting every moment of your life online. And the central point of the movie is that Hal does this to himself (to the consternation of his wife). Prior he was a fairly private person--no Facebook, no Twitter, not even a cell phone. And he explores the larger culture by inspecting how this experiment affects him. I assume his book is good, it seems to have been well received. The movie, however, left me flat and provided no insight I could discern. So there are a lot of people in the world who are unhappy with their boring life and think they would be happier if other people watched them (either online or on reality TV)? But if your life doesn't even interest you, why should I watch you? Look, I have my online presence--this blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (which reminds me, I haven't checked that in a while). And if you follow all of it, you might think you know me. You don't, despite how it looks I'm actually somewhat careful about what I do and don't share online. And I don't feel any pressure to share more or be entertaining--something that Hal claimed he felt. Hell, I feel more pressure to be entertaining in real life. Now here's something the movie never explored--in real life you see the same people at work, school, etc. on a regular basis, and if your personality changes people ask what's wrong. Online, I can post about an important cause I care about and make a juvenile dick joke just minutes apart, and people accept that as a normal part of the fractured nature of an online presence. Now that might not be some deep insight, it might not even be true for many people. But it's more of an insight than this movie had.
And then the second show of the night, an amazing and inspirational story of BOB AND THE MONSTER. Bob is Bob Forrest, and the monster is...well a lot of things. It could be his band, Thelonious Monster. It could be his struggle with drug addiction. It could be--after he got cleaned and dedicated his life to helping other musicians get clean--the medical industrial complex that doesn't treat addiction well and resists his attempts to change the game just because...well, he's not a doctor. But man, he's had some life experience. He grew up idolizing Lenny Bruce, and actually claims he wanted to become a heroin addict. Thelonious Monster's success certainly enabled him to fulfill that dream, nearly at the expense of his life. And the archival/home video footage is scary, to say the least. But he survived...somehow. And he got clean, and started helping other musicians and attending addiction recovery seminars. His old friend Dr. Drew Pinsky (Loveline, Celebrity Rehab) recognized him asking all sorts of intelligent probing questions at one of these seminars. Honestly, Dr. Drew had assumed Bob had died, he was so bad off. Instead Bob, with the help of Dr. Drew, became a highly effective addiction counselor. He also became a highly controversial counselor, because he refuses to follow a lot of the accepted wisdom that always struck him as bullshit and didn't work for him when he was recovering. Many of his musician friends show up to offer testimonials of how much he has done to save their lives. And oh yeah, the band's back together, still kicking out great music--turned out he learned he could do that sober. Just a great, real, dramatic, and inspiring true life story.
Total Running Time: 160 minutes
My Total Minutes: 253,388