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I should be doing homework and junk right now, but this is much more fun. What follows will be my thoughts and observations of the films and other goings on at Butt-Numb-A-Thon 5 in Austin, Texas. Read on if you're interested.
The drive wasn't really as bad as I thought it would be. I tend to listen to the radio when I am on long trips just because it gives me some local flavor and kind of an idea of what the nation is listening to. Radio does make me sad sometimes because it's just such a small fraction of music for the most part. Anyway, thanks to a variety of caffeine drinks (Frapuccinos, Bawls, and something called Yellow Jacket), I made it to Austin just fine. I checked into a cheap motel, slept soundly, and woke up ready to go.
Everything seemed familiar in Austin, even though I had never been there before. I realized this was because I've seen just about every Linklater film, many of which were filmed in Austin. It's a neat town. I headed downtown, found the Alamo Drafthouse, parked my car, and got in line. It was so easy to talk to people, because they were all film geeks like me. I waited in line behind a woman and her eleven year old daughter. The daughter had actually already made two short films. The mom was a graphic artist who had actually sent her resume to Richard Taylor at WETA Workshop and recieved a friendly rejection letter from Richard himself. I was very impressed that she even made the effort to do that. A lot of the people attending had already been to previous BNAT's. Some had been to every one. There were a lot of people from Austin, many of whome attended the University of Texas. Finally the line started moving, and we headed in.
The Drafthouse is seriously one of the coolest theatres I've ever been in. It's got stadium style seats, but they have long tables in front of them. You can order food and drinks right from your seat. After I had picked up my bag of free stuff, I found my seat, ordered a bottomless soda, and hunkered down. Our goodie bags were chock full of various movie promotional items. Included in my bag were a Last Samurai script book, an American Splendor button, a Two Towers keychain, some Shrek bobbleheads, and a bunch of other stuff. Also included was a BNAT yearbook, with photos and bios of everyone in attendance. I flipped through it to get better aquainted with some of the people sitting around me. During this intro time Harry was up front making sure everyone had a seat and was getting into the theater okay. He was a very courteous host. There was some very cool and interesting people in the audience. This guy was sitting in my row. This guy was there and I wish I had talked to him. Same thing with this guy. Eli Roth was also really cool. One of the highlights of the evening is when he asked Mel Gibson how Cabin Fever did in Australia and a perplexed looking Mel replied "Cabin Fever?" The crowd busted up laughing. Anyway, lets get on with the movies, cause this is taking way too long.
Haunted Gold: This was a really old John Wayne flim. I think Harry said he is 23 in it. His horse, "Duke" really stole the show. This movie was fun to watch because everyone was getting into it, cheering for "Duke" when he took it to the bad gaves and saved John Wayne's butt, laughing at the girlish scream of one of th bad guys when he saw "The Phantom". It was great. I did think it was kind of dumb that everyone was booing when the Black Sambo stereotype character appeared. I mean, yeah, we know racism is bad, but at the time this movie was filmed, that was standard. I don't know, it just kind of bugged me.
Captain Marvel: Harry had told us we were going to watch this series of serials. It was actually pretty fun to watch. We didn't get too far though, because about 15 minutes into the picture the film broke, the crowd was bummed, but then the New Line logo popped up on-screen and everyone went nuts as we all got ready to see
The Return of the King: Holy crap. This movie rocked so much. I don't want to spoil anything for you guys, so I'll put up what I wrote on Bubbs. Best movie I've ever seen. I can't describe it better than just epic. I will say that if you hold on to the book too tightly, you're not going to be able to fully appreciate this cinematic masterpiece. The spirit of the book is there. Some things are missing, but the story is the same. It truly is. Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh did a 45 minute Q&A after the showing and Peter talked about the Saruman cuts and how he felt like with the stuff still in, they were in The Two Towers for too long at the beginning of this film. It will be on the DVD. The film is 3 hours and 20 minutes long. Jackson made a 4 hour and 20 minute long cut which he was pleased with, but it just wouldn't be plausable for a wide audience. Maybe that's how long the extended version is, I don't know. As far as the Scouring of the Shire goes, it was decided to leave it out of the scripts from the start. It would have added probably another 45 minutes to an hour to film and would have taken a very long time to shoot and it just wasn't possible. I found the ending very suitable. Hardcore Tolkien fiends (which I consider myself among) may not. That's their problem I guess. I found myself holding back tears numerous times throughout the film. Christmas just isn't going to be the same next year without an LOTR film being released. I plan on seeing this movie in the theater no less than five times. Oh yeah, and Sean Astin totally stole the freaking show. If he doesn't win Best Supporting Actor this year, the Academy is officially on crack. Honzo, what's our plan for next week??
The General: What a great movie to follow up ROTK. This is a silent film starring the incredible Buster Keaton. I had never really seen a silent film before and now I want to watch them more. We had the priviledge of having a soundtrack provided by a live band led by the very talented Glen Forsyth. It was a great experience. I was just amazed at all the cool stuff they did in this movie using pretty much zero special effects and what not. The physical acting of Buster Keaton cannot be beat. Great flick.
Oldboy: We were the first people to ever see this print of the Korean made film directed by Chan-wook Park. After we saw it, the print was sent to New York to be viewed by Harvey Weinstein, who is apparently buying the film for Miramax for possible future release and an American remake. I'm not really sure what to say about this movie. It's incredibly well made, it's a revenge flick, it's definitely original. It's also one of the most twisted films I've ever seen. it's intense. Definitely not for everyone, but if you're looking for something different and want to see a very well made film, you will definitely want to check this out when/if it's released. It might be awhile since it was released in Korea just last week.
Nid De Guepes: The title translates to "Wasp's Nest". This was a great French action film. It's a retelling of Assault on Precinct 13. It was a great, somewhat mindless action flick that was well needed after the intensity of Oldboy. Basically what happens is a group of theives and a group of military officers escorting a prisoner get trapped in a wherehouse by a mafia group trying to free the prisoner. Lots of violence ensues.
Ginger Snaps Unleashed: And here's where the blood starts flowing. The theme to BNAT this year was "This time, you bleed..." Yeah, Harry wasn't lying. Ginger Snaps Unleashed started a string of some of the bloodiest movies I've ever seen. This one was a werewolf flick, a sequel to the direct-to-video Ginger Snaps. Before we saw this, we saw a short titled "Blind" that was about a vampire hunter who winds up on a blind date with a vampire. It was pretty cool. Anyway, the werewolf in Ginger Snaps Unleashed did look really cool, and it wasn't CGI. Other than that, this movie did get a little repetitive, since it's pretty much a gal who is turning into a werewolf running away from the guy werewolf. Lots of violence ensues, but a twist ending makes it pretty interesting.
Haute Tension: Also called Switchblade Romance, this is an Argento style gore-fest slasher movie at it's best. It's also pretty darn suspenseful and freaky. Definitely not for the faint of heart, this one comes complete with a scalpel wielding killer, a barbed-wire wrapped board to the face attack, and a chainsaw finale. There's also a rather interesting twist ending that doesn't really make sense.
Teenage Mother: Oh my goodness. Everyone had warned me about Harry's early morning torture film. This one is from the late 60's and is one of those exploitation flicks that tries to scare kids into not having sex and all that jazz. The funniest thing is that Fred Willard is in it. There's some pretty funny stuff such as a dance scene that might take the prize of all time most hilarious dance scene that isn't supposed to be hilarious as well as a dope smoking tough guy kid who looks and acts like the worlds biggest doofus. Also, we learned that all drug lords hang out in old cars in junk yards. Anyway, the town blames the new Sex Ed. teacher for giving the kids bad ideas after one of them ends up pregnant. At the end of the film, the parents want to know what the students see in class. So she shows them. What followed was one of the most horrifying pieces of film that I will never be able to get out of my head. I've seen birthing movies. Those did not get audible sounds of shock and horror from every single person in the audience. Maybe it was the old look of the film, but it just looked yucky. The doctor also uses a sepulum. Everyone really started freaking out when the doctor realized the baby was too big to come out normally and busted out the scissors. That's when I almost blacked out and had to close my eyes, so I don't know what else happened. Let's just say I didn't have the breakfast buffet that immediately followed this movie. Ugh. Thanks Harry.
Undead: An over-the-top Zombie flick (with some Sci-Fi thrown in) from New Zealand that was just what I needed at this point in the festival. The special effects are very well done, the gore is to the extreme, and the camp level is at the perfect setting. Very funny as well. If you like Evil Dead, Dead Alive, or Bad Taste, you definitely will want to check this out if it shows up in the States.
The Passion of the Christ: What a way to finish the night. I've already talked about this movie, so let me just say that it is one of the best movies I've ever seen and don't listen to a lot of the mud slinging that is going on over this movie. The majority of thos people haven't even seen it. Mel Gibson was great. He was very passionate about the movie and his faith. His quote to sum all that up was "I turn to the wounds of Christ when I need healing..." The wounds of Jesus Christ are certainly the focus of this movie. It's very intense, very graphic, and very accurate. Gibson certainly doesn't pull any punches. The acting is top notch as well. I know some people are freaking out about how Gibson put in subtitles. He talked about that quite a bit, and he thinks that while the visuals take center stage, it's also important to know what the people are saying. Not everything is subtitled. He is actually taking out some of the subtitles from the version we saw. Trust me on this one, it's not that big of a deal, you'll still really enjoy this movie. Just the fact that everyone is speaking the languages that they are supposed to puts it head and shoulders above any other movie about the subject. It really adds that element that is missing.
So that is that. I was exhausted, yet so overjoyed when I left that I couldn't sleep for another few hours. Everything is still so fresh in my memory, it's almost all I can think about. If I wasn't leaving for China, I would certainly go to BNAT every single year. It was definitely the greatest cinematic moment of my life, and way up there on my best days ever list. Thanks for letting me share it with you.