Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for Comedy Shorts Night

It's been a while, but last Saturday I was finally back at my favorite local silent film museum and theater. It's comedy shorts night, and it was sold out (love to see the enthusiastic audience) and I think this might be the first time I had actually seen every movie before. So I can make this post out of all my previous posts (the titles link to my prior reviews.)

THE IMMIGRANT (1917): Chaplin, his leading lady Edna Purviance, and his classic giant foil Eric Campbell. Chaplin's little tramp comes to America and gets into all sorts of trouble. Most notably with the difficulty of trying to pay for a meal at a restaurant (Campbell plays the surly waiter demanding he cough up for the bill.) Classic Chaplin, very funny.

NEIGHBORS (1920): Okay, I lied. I still think I've seen this before, but apparently I never wrote about it. Anyway, Buster Keaton and the girl across the tenement house are in love (Virginia Fox,) although neither father approves (interesting bit of trivia, Keaton's father is played by his real father, vaudevillian Joe Keaton.) So they go to great lengths (and he goes to great acrobatics) to see each other. And to escape a cop he wrongs. The acrobatics include some amazing work with the professional group The Flying Escalantes.


GET OUT AND GET UNDER (1920): Harold Lloyd is late for his big amateur stage role. No problem, he has his beloved automobile. Problem is, stuff keeps getting in his way. Stuff like arguing with a neighbor, the car stalling, and lots of police chases. But if he doesn't get there in time, his rival will step into the role of the masked prince and he'll lose his girlfriend (Mildred Davis, his future wife).

LIBERTY (1929): [Interesting trivia, this was right on the cusp of the "talkie" era and this was released with a recorded sound effects track. But this screening just had the wonderful accompaniment of Frederick Hodges.] Laurel & Hardy are great proponents of liberty. You would be too, if you'd just busted out of prison. First things first--they have to change out of their prison uniforms and into street clothes. Problem, the accidentally switch pants (so Stan can't keep Ollie's giant pants up, and Ollie barely fits into Stan's), which leads to a lot of comedy based on them trying to disrobe and trade pants in public. Eventually the action takes them onto a skyscraper under construction. They actually built a fake skyscraper set on the roof of another building. So they really were dangling ~10-15 feet over the roof, and the shots of the ground below are real (not back-projected.) As someone with slight acrophobia, these always get me.

Total Running Time: 97 minutes
My Total Minutes: 337,733

Jason takes a Midnites for Maniacs theatre crawl and goes Back to Skool

Catching up on my blogging, almost a week late.

Anyway, Midnites 4 Maniacs has introduced a new wrinkle, the "Theatre Crawl"--seeing multiple movies in multiple theatres (like a bar crawl, but with movies instead of drinking...and with drinking if you stop in any of the many convenience stores and smuggle in some alcohol.)

Anyway, last Friday was Back to Skool night, and we started at the Castro.

CAN'T HARDLY WAIT (1998): A movie that looked uninteresting to me when it came out (and I had just graduated college.) But now from my vantage point 15 years later...I understand why it didn't interest me. I was not a social person in high school. Nor did I want to be. The idea of going to an end-of-school party (even with a ridiculous revenge plot) just wouldn't appeal to me. I came out of my shell somewhat in college, but I don't think I've really become "me" until the last few years, and I'm probably still a work in progress who likes to be alone quite a lot of the time.

But wait, this is supposed to be a review of the movie, not a review of me. Yeah, it's actually pretty funny, for what it is. And you get to see a young Seth Green being absolutely ridiculous. Mostly I liked the irony in the title: CAN'T HARDLY WAIT is about a bunch of young people who waited until the last possible minute to do what they've been dreaming about for years. The thing is, most everyone who likes this movie likes it because there's a character they relate to. They can all say, "I was (or am) just like that character who ______!" But me...the closest I can say is "I was just like the character who never appeared on screen because he didn't give a crap about the party (no one told him about it anyway) and he stayed home and read a book." Consider me Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Film.

RULES OF ATTRACTION (2002): Now this was a revelation. Again, I didn't pay much attention when it came out. All I remember was it starred teen heartthrob James Van Der Beek at the height of his "Dawson's Creek" fame, and that one version of the poster stirred up some controversy (note: I want that poster now!)

Van Der Beek did not make this movie to capitalize on his pretty-boy fame, he made it to subvert it and not get typecast as Dawson. And he's an extremely unlikable character--drinking, doing drugs, dealing drugs, screwing, screwing over his friends, etc. Not that anyone else is that sympathetic, either. Nor are the filmmakers or anyone involved at all sympathetic. Perhaps the biggest trolling insult you could give director Roger Avary is to say, "I really, really enjoyed RULES OF ATTRACTION." This is not a movie to be enjoyed. It's a movie to appreciate, to marvel at, even to be blown away by; but if you enjoy it you're one sick freak. You open with a rape scene. You go back in time. You meet your gaggle of shallow, privileged college students. The fuck. They fuck around. They try to fall in love. They fail. They try to make money to pay off their drug dealer. They fail. There's a suicide so beautifully, obsessively, fetishistic-ally shot that you forget for a minute she's hardly a character in the movie. And now you're about halfway through. No more, too many spoilers already. And so much it's hard to keep it all in my head. I need to watch it again. I really, really enjoyed it.

Also, how about a double feature of RULES OF ATTRACTION and GLITTERATI (the feature-length version of the rapid-edit "European trip" sequence in the movie)...if it ever gets released? (Please, please, please!)

Then we walked down to the Roxie for the midnight screening of...

TERRORVISION (1986): What...the...fuck? A satellite dish (remember those, when people had gigantic satellite dishes to get all this TV without paying monthly bills for cable service?) accidentally pulls an alien creature into our world. Or...into whatever weird world of swingers this takes place in. Cheesy special effects, ridiculous plot, survivalist grandpa, the kid no one believes, and a late-night TV horror hostess with cleavage that doesn't end. Oh yeah, and  Beef from PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and Laslo from REAL GENIUS (or, if you prefer, Gerrit Graham and John Gries.) Then it gets weird.

Total Running Time: 293 minutes
My Total Minutes: 337,636

Jason slips into a Vortex and meets YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE

And last week I actually limited myself to 2 martinis (rule of thumb: martinis are like boobs, 1 is not enough and 3 is too many) and stayed awake for the movie.

And for the first half, I figured the "future" must mean ~10,000 BC, as all the characters are primitive humans. Yor (Reb Brown) is extremely blonde and must come from the tribe that first invented shaving, as he's the only clean-shaven man around.

Then after the intermission (Yes, the Vortex Room has intermission to change reels when they play 16 mm film. Yes, this was on 16 mm film!) we learn there are space aliens. Wow, that was weird. And fun.

Running Time: 88 minutes
My Total Minutes: 337,343

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jason slips into a Vortex and TAKES A HARD RIDE

Ummm...that is, he watches TAKE A HARD RIDE, as this whole month is Antonio Margheriti month every Thursday in the Vortex Room. And after a few martinis, all I remember in it is Lee Van Cleef. And to a lesser extent, I remember Jim Brown and Fred Williamson (and I guess Jim Kelly, too...just don't make me admit they all look the same to me.) But hey, Lee Van Cleef is pretty fuckin' cool, right?

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 337,255

Jason watches THE WORLD'S END

My friend Ira already wrote what I'll consider the definitive review of this third entry in the loosely-related (i.e., same guys made them) "Cornetto Trilogy." So I'm not going to rehash old ground. Just a few points.

As a (sometimes too often) hard-drinking guy nearing 40, Simon Pegg's Gary is my new hero, especially with his kick-ass trench coat.

Each pub reflects a plot or character point in the movie. While the final pub, The World's End, is pretty obvious, my favorite one was actually The Famous Cock. Not to give too much away, but it's the only one that remembers Gary--and has banned him for life.

While there's a lot in the movie about growing up, it's not really about becoming a responsible, productive member of society. Growing up (at least Gary's form of growing up--and by the end he does) isn't about contributing, it's about acknowledging that if you want to be drunk, fucked up, and irresponsible you will take what life gives you as a result. It's about being do what you want...any old time. And having that freedom is better than a comfortable life of civil responsibility. To alter a phrase that one of Gary's heroes (well, I'm sure he's a hero, although it's not formally established in the film) said once--it's better to be an adult in Hell than a child in Heaven.

Running Time: 109 minutes
My Total Minutes: 337,152