I don’t go to see plays. Which is kinda odd, given both my interest in other dramatic arts, such as film, and that back in my school days, I was a devoted member of the drama club, both writing and acting (the former was, truth be told, rather too informed by a devotion to the works of Douglas Adams, but since hardly anyone else was, I largely got away with it). However, that ended when I went to college, my storytelling and performing skills were used for D&D instead. In the 30-plus years since then, the number of plays (rather than musicals) I’ve attended can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. But Chris got us tickets to see this for my birthday, not least because it was a touring production by the National Theatre of Scotland which was coming through Phoenix. Certainly, it was an intriguing premise, and had a nice gimmick – but would that translate into actual entertainment, or would I be reduced to surreptitiously checking my phone every 10 minutes?
The Internet never forgets. Or it might forget, but it has a tendency to remember again later, coughing up hair-balls of long-forgotten events that you’d be prepared to swear had been consigned to the trash-can of history. Or, in this case, the TC archives, for tucked away in the corner of And This Is What The Devil Does, was a grainy, obviously ripped from VHS (complete with rolling tracking lines) recording of the Revolting Cocks live performance at the Astoria in London from January 24, 1991.
This was an event which I had attended, and written about all the way back in TC 9. It remained one of my all-time most memorable live experiences: all gigs, even the Rammstein one written about a month or two back, were measured up against it, I had, at one point, a copy of the same bootled vid, but this had gone among the missing in the two decades and 5,500 miles of relocation since.
The Astoria, meanwhile, had bit the bullet as well, having been demolished in 2009 as part of the London Crossrail project. My other leading memory from there is a show with Front Line Assembly + Sheep on Drugs, which seems have taken place in October 1995. The basement formed another venue, known as the Astoria 2, and it was in there that I saw VNV Nation in 2000, less than a month before moving permanently out to Arizona…and seeing the band again on the night I arrived in Phoenix! But to get back to the RevCo gig…
We’re crowd sourcing some funding for our Horror Film Festival this year (Phoenix FearCON V) and hope you would be interested in sharing our Kickstarter project with your fans. With a little support from a bunch of backers, we’re partnering up with the community of horror fans and a sense of accomplishment that didn’t hurt in the pocket too much.
Horror Fans worldwide are a loyal lot and we’re making it simple for them invest a small amount and be part of something big. All we need is 1000 people to pledge $20 or more each, and it will be ridiculous fun at this year’s FearCON Pledging to our project includes a bunch of perks including VIP tickets to the event.
Here’s the link to pass on to whomever you like:
Chris & Jim – Festival Directors
Phoenix FearCON V
My first encounter with Rammstein was on the soundtrack of David Lynch’s Lost Highway in 1997, where I initially mistook them for Laibach – and wasn’t the first to do so. Somewhat snarkily, Laibach said, “They have proven once again that a good ‘copy’ can make more money on the market than the ‘original’. Anyhow, today we share the territory: Rammstein seem to be a kind of Laibach for adolescents and Laibach are Rammstein for grown-ups.” I’ve particularly wanted to see Rammstein live since hearing Rob Dyer’s tales of spectacles such as keyboard player Christian “Flake” Lorenz sailing out onto the audience in an inflatable boat. But I moved out to Arizona before they came back, and missed their 2001 tour so had to wait. And wait. Finally, I heard that they’d be playing here, and I’d get to see Rammstein live, 15 years after first hearing them – I think that’s a record, pipping the 14 years before I saw The Human League. At least until I ever see John Foxx (21 years and counting!).
If, as previously argued, wrestling has the potential to be art, then Wrestlemania is its Hermitage, Louvre and Guggenheim all rolled into one, except far more popular. The 26th incarnation of this wrestling extravaganza, with eleven matches in total, was held in Phoenix over the weekend. To give you some idea of the scale, it drew more people to the University of Phoenix stadium (confusingly, located in Glendale, not Phoenix), than when the Superbowl was held there in 2008, and setting a gate receipt record of $5.8m.
Along with 72,217 other people, Chris and I were in attendance, and after the jump, you’ll find our eye-witness review of the sports entertainment spectacle. But if you want to save time, we agreed that next year we’ll watch it on pay-per-view…
If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been of late, and why there’s been no reviews posted for three weeks, we’re heading towards the 3rd Phoenix Fear Film Festival on January 23rd. So, our spare time has been spent filtering through the various shorts an features sent in for the consideration of the viewing panel. Submissions came from a variety of sources: we had films directly from the makers, got others passed on to us for consideration by our friends at Brain Damage, and we also reached out to some creators whose work looked like it might be interesting. [You can spend, literally, days trawling round Youtube, watching trailers of all shapes, sizes and qualities of horror!]
This year, I think the quality of the submissions was the highest it’s ever been. I know it sounds like a patronizing cliche, but the decision of what to show was genuinely a difficult one, and we could easily have run the event over two days rather than one. Writing the rejections is not the funnest part of the endeavor, though much credit due to Devi Snively, whose email in reply was surprisingly upbeat and quite made our day [her film, Trippin’, is currently first alternate, in the event that a movie Brain Damage have promised us does not complete post-production in time. Update: and as that proved the case, Trippin’ made it in!].
We have now just about finalized the list of features to be screened there – details of those can be found on the festival site. But I’d like to pay deserved tribute to some of those that didn’t quite make the final cut [as it were], and give them a bit of publicity for their efforts. Hence, the reviews below, which cover some of the contenders in the feature category – please note, these are my opinions alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the entire festival panel, blah, blah. You know how it works. We’ll be covering the shorts separately, since we’re trying to squeeze as many of those into the festival as possible.
It’s somewhat amusing how some film-makers subtly (or not-so subtly) hint that if we pick their movie, all their friends will show up at the festival. We treat such assurances with skepticism, after years of promoting bands and other shows. Now, we pretty much knock a zero off any predicted claims of attendance – and deduct a further 50%, for those who do show up, and claim they should be ‘on the list.’ From a pragmatic viewpoint, it’d be only a short-term gain, even if their friends did turn up, and pay to get in. Showing crappy films might get a few more arses on seats this year, but the rest of the crowd will not come back next year.
For some reason, we got an awful lot of late entries this year too – in September, we were wondering if we’d have enough features submitted to fill up the event, hence our decision to see if Brain Damage had any suggestions. However, the last couple of weeks saw a tidal-wave of features and shorts arrive, on almost a daily basis. Which, of course, means that the viewing panel has had to convene on almost a daily basis to watch them. While this has been more of a pleasure than a chore, now we have got the line-up finalized, I think we will likely be taking a break from watching inde horror by choice for a while. So, look forward to our review of The Ugly Truth in next week’s update.
We’re joking. Of course.
Meanwhile, other preparations continue for the event: we did look at the possibilities of bringing in a “big name” star to headline the event, but the finances didn’t quite work themselves out there. I have to say, some do seem to have a rather inflated idea of their own worth, demanding more money for their appearance than we’d take in, if the entire event sold out. And we’re not even talking icons like Bruce Campbell, but fairly minor stars. Perhaps they’re under the impression the PFFF is some kind of commercial event such as Fango’s Weekend of Horrors, when it’s really just Chris and I, doing the work entirely because we love the genre – if we break even, we’ll be happy. However, we are delighted to have inked scream queen Tiffany Shepis, one of the leading horror movie actresses of recent years: she’s been a pleasure to work with.
Stay tuned for a full report on the event, with reviews of the five chosen features, towards the end of January – after we’ve recovered from the event itself!
On Thursday, Trash City hosted the Charles Band Full Moon Horror Roadshow at the MADCAP Theaters in downtown Tempe, and a crowd of about 150 enthusiastic fans enjoyed an evening of anecdotes, clips, props, audience participation and rampant consumerism. It’s the third time we’ve been involved with the event: after hosting it the first time Band came to Phoenix in September 2006, Chris was brought on board to find other venues, nationwide, for the tour in both 2008 and 2009.
I can’t come up with anything that’s quite like it. It seems to hark back to the early days of carnival cinema, when a showman would travel town-to-town, setting up his tent and showing some luridly-exploitational title such as Sex Madness, with separate showings for men and women, naturally! He’d sell some merchandise to make additional cash, then leave town before the authorities could react to the potential moral corruption in their midst. While other directors have done one-man shows – Kevin Smith and John Waters come to mind immediately – they don’t bring quite the same sense of showmanship. Think of it as a one-night FullMoonapalooza [next year, we would perhaps like to tie it in with some movie screenings in the afternoon]
Band is among the most prolific film-makers of his time, and the son of Albert Band, who made films in his own right, including the marvellously-titled I Bury the Living. Charles has 241 production credits on his IMDb page at time of writing, going back to his debut in 1973 with Last Foxtrot in Burbank. He gave Demi Moore her first starring role in in 1982’s Parasite, and has been involved with the likes of Klaus Kinski, Lance Henriksen, Bill Maher and Oscar-winner Gary Busey. Sci-fi, horror and soft-porn have been his bread and butter for over 30 years, and he survived the implosion of his theatrical venture, Empire Pictures, in the late 1980’s.
Long-running franchises like the Puppet Master series have been the staple of video-store shelves forever. The upcoming Puppet Master: Axis of Evil will be the tenth film to bear the name since the original came out, two decades ago, and if there’s a horror movie with dolls, puppets or other tiny terrors in it, there’s a good chance Band is involved. We’re not talking great art, let’s be honest. However, they can be great fun, and are a refreshing blast of nostalgia from a kinder, gentler genre era, before the advent of torture-porn. Much like Troma head Lloyd Kaufman, Band has stuck to doing what he wants, has survived and is still in the business. Such tenacity can only be respected.
As you can imagine, there’s no shortage of anecdotes available to him for the Roadshow, and that forms the focus of the show. He’ll sometimes bring special guests with him, such as Tim Thomerson, star of the Trancers series: at the first Phoenix event, we met Phil Fondacaro, a 3’6″ tall actor, perhaps best known for playing the only Ewok to die on screen in Return of the Jedi [“It’s a start…” mutter many Star Wars fans on reading that!]. The second show was also notable for the full-size guillotine on stage, used to carry out the live decapitation of an audience member, complete with severed head flying into the crowd. Cool. There was also the Boner-Meter, an eight-foot phallic-shaped piece of pseudo-scientific equipment; in 2009, it was an electric chair, complete with sound effects and flashing lights – I’ll get to its purpose in a moment.
Participation is a vital part of the show, not least when he gets attendees up on stage to act out a scene. This involves “auditions” for the various roles – straightforwardly described as Hero, Monster, Damsel in Distress, etc. – with the title [in 2008; I missed that section this year] generated by pulling random words from slips of paper supplied by the audience. It usually ends up as being Revenge of the Teenage Zombie Cheerleaders, or something of that ilk. The requirements are straightforward: the largest guy who can roar loudest, is the monster, while the female roles similarly go to those with the most convincing scream. Oh, and especially those prepared to take their tops off in exchange for merchandise. Ah, yes. The usual Mardi Gras cry of “Beads for boobies!” was supplanted by “Box-sets for breasts!” here – and surprisingly effective it proved, too.
Of course, this was strictly nudity necessary to the plot: this time, it was because exposed bosoms were the only thing which could calm the savage killer after he escaped from his electric chair [See? I told you I’d get to its purpose!], because they reminded him of his childhood. Brilliant! Makes perfect sense to me, anyway. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the silver-tongued Band has been producing movies in Hollywood for more than thirty years. Mind you, this year’s show was a great deal more restrained than last, where there was at least one participant who had to be talked into keeping her clothes on until the appropriate moment. That’s likely because this time, it was taking place in a cinema rather than a bar, with a selection of alcohol limited to Bud and Bud Light. To quote a work colleague, why is American beer like having sex in a canoe? Because they’re both fucking close to water. We will be correcting this shameful omission next year. Trust me.
Merchandise is also an important part of the event – I would say between the DVDs, CDs, prints, T-shirts and the models which are offered for sale, it probably generates more income for Full Moon than the ticket sales. I worked the stalls at the first two shows, and can attest to the feeding frenzy which erupts after the show is over. We had learned from this, and had recruited minions from Full Moon fans prior to the event to help out Scott, Brent and Harlan (the last being Charles’s son), the roadies for the tour.
Charles sat at one of the end tables and patiently signed anything put in front of him, chatting with a long line of fans, as shown in the picture atop this article. I’ve seen other celebrities show up at these kind of events, and it’s more like a production line, as they hurry you through, so the star can escape the unwashed masses as soon as possible. That wasn’t the case here at all, and kudos to Band for his unhurried patience: he didn’t leave until the last fan in the line had been met, greeted and dispatched on his or her happy way. Indeed, Band was one of the last to leave the venue – we know this, because we drove him back to his hotel on our way home.
Like most such events, the work involved behind the scenes is (or should be!) invisible to the participants. We dodged a bullet this time, as last year’s venue closed abruptly last month – fortunately, our Spidey senses had been tingling, and we had already moved the show to a new location in downtown Tempe. When it’s over, the reaction – as with all such events – is inevitably, “Thank God.” But it’s the kind of event we would love to attend as a fan, and when it’s a success, the sense of satisfaction which results is all the greater. We look forward to being a part of the Horror Roadshow again in 2010. Just as long as we can sort the whole beer thing out.
One thing I’ve noticed in my eight years here is the fondness the United States has for taking history and re-inventing it, in order to make it ‘better’ – which can mean anything from ‘more palatable’ to simply ‘more fun’. A simple if unscientific study shows what I mean here: if you Google the term ‘America lost in Vietnam’ you get just over six million hits. If, however, you search for ‘American won in Vietnam,’ that number soars to somewhere above thirty-eight million. Looks like Arizona native John Rambo was right when he asked, “Do we get to win this time?” though perhaps even more disturbingly, “America won World War Three” gets 693 million hits.
The Renaissance Fair, while not uniquely American, is certainly largely so, and seems to me another example of that strange trait. We in Europe have little or no interest in recreating the Middle Ages as a group. We’ve been there, done that, lanced the buboes. But America didn’t exist at that point – okay, I know a few Native Americans would argue with me on that, geographically, but I mean as an independent country. It’s as if the United States feels the need to make up being late to the national party, by going back and rehashing all the centuries on which they missed out. Historical accuracy is more an afterthought at a Renaissance Fair: suspension of disbelief is rendered almost impossible, when the crowd are less likely to be dressed in tights and chain-mail than jeans and chain-mall attire.
What started as a class activity at the home of a Los Angeles schoolteacher, Phyllis Patterson in the early 60’s, has become a good deal more. Patterson’s backyard endeavour is now the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which has over two thousand costumed performers, seven parades per day, fourteen stages of entertainment and around 150 artisans. Who knew the Middle Ages were so much fun? [It’s also helped spawn quite a few names. Charlie Sheen, Rosanna Arquette and Penn Jillette are among those who have worked at it]
And it’s far from being the only such event. Virtually every state in the country – even Alaska – now has them in a variety of shapes and sizes, from one-day events all the way to monsters like the Texas Renaissance Fair. That takes place over the best part of October and November, and has pulled in more than 370,000 visitors. Right up in the top rank – probably among the five biggest, nationwide – is the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which first took place in 1989 and now occupies a 30-acre site so far out to the south-east, it’s beyond even the suburban sprawl of Phoenix. It’s clear that entertainment comes first and foremost: the official press release describes the festival as “a Monty Python movie come to life.” And they clearly don’t mean the one about Brian, either. It goes on: “enjoy the pleasures of a simpler time in a storybook town… continuous music, dance and comedy shows, shop for wonderful arts and crafts, plus games, rides and a feast of exotic food and drink.” What? No killer rabbit? Not very like a Monty Python movie after all then, is it?
We had free tickets this year, including the Pleasure Feast, a six-course banquet, which was as much a variety show as a culinary experience, but worked pretty well as both. The food was certainly better than the average dinner theatre, I found myself thoroughly entertained – though any show where they keep coming past and filling up your tankard with more beer, is likely to skip fairly easily through the doorway of my critical acclaim. Stuffed to the gills, we rolled out of the banquet hall and began wandering around the fair. Or faire. Or fayre. For antiquated spelling is just about mandatory, with “Ye Olde [insert product] Shoppe” being par for the course.
Inhabiting the grounds are a large number of characters, though it was hard to be sure who were actually employees and who were paying customers, being a bit more extrovert than they should. This is where I begin to find things a little creepy: an interest in the past is fine, but when you feel the need to take on an entire independent character from a different time period… Here, the RenFest begins to occupy much the same ground as the Society for Creative Anachronism which, curiously enough, also started during the 60’s in a Californian backyard [likely not a coincidence: as they say, if you lived in California and remember the sixties, then you weren’t really there], who re-create the Middle Ages “as they ought to have been.” Chris used to be a member, and attended Pennsic War, their central event which draws 10,000+ each yet to Pennsylvania. She, however, opted to stay in hotels, an eminently sensible choice and is no longer a member – our review of the film Darkon gives some more insight into this general field of human activity, if you’re interested.
I have a theory about such groups and those who choose to inhabit an alternative persona: basically, it’s because they’re more or less unhappy with their actual lives. I don’t really want to go into this in depth, since I recall getting into a lot of flak in the anime community when I put forward much the same hypothesis about those who take part in cosplay, though if I recall, I was somewhat less diplomatic about expressing myself. [The line was somewhat alcohol-fuelled, and went something like “I stopped playing dress-up when I was eight.”] I certainly acknowledge the importance of escapism as a release-valve, but the principle expressed by Roman playwright Terence in the second century B.C. applies: Ne quid nimis or, “Moderation in all things.” But if you’re not a professional actor, then it seems a legitimate question; what exactly are you escaping from, by turning yourself into another person? However, it’s been a long time since I saw so much cleavage in one place, though the quantity was not necessarily matched by the quality, it has to be said.
Thoroughly unqualified psychological analysis aside, and back at the RenFest, we headed over to the jousting, being big fans of theatrical, staged violence. Did they really have cheerleaders in medieval times? They did here, with four knights, each assigned to a section of the crowd, and each with a rabble-rouser – us being the rabble – to ensure that we gave full support to the knight of our choice. Was this historically accurate? Or more something inspired by A Knight’s Tale? Painstaking research – literally, minutes spent on Google – were unclear on this. And what the hell was a pirate doing taking part in the joust? Johnny Depp has a lot to answer for, but since there are a couple in IZW too, we are hardly in any position to be critical.
Sadly, we had to leave before the Fight to the Death, scheduled for 5pm. Still, having got our fix of senseless mayhem, we headed back, passing the giant turkey leg stall [obvious question: what do they do with the rest of the giant turkey?], the belly-dancers and the ax-throwing, as well as less traditional features such as the photo booth or ATM – sorry, Ye Olde ATME – and returning to the modern world in the thoroughly authentic recreation of a 20th-century car-park. While amusing enough, I can’t say I’m too sorry to be back and definitely prefer the land of high-speed Internet, satellite television and microwave popcorn to the Middle Ages. Or even the Middle Ages as they ought to have been…
Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas,
April 15th-17th, 2004
Where do old wrestlers go? Not a question that’s exactly been on your lips, I imagine, and perhaps that’s no surprise. Whether you feel wrestling is sport or entertainment (my position would be that it is a sublime and unique mix of the two), it’s an industry that has never given its veterans the respect they deserve. The Cauliflower Alley Club, established in 1965, is trying to rectify that, as part of its mission to celebrate and recognise fellowship within the wrestling world.
When CC Starr, commissioner of the IZW federation here in Phoenix, told us they were having a reunion in Las Vegas, we were intrigued enough to sign up and make the six-hour drive from Arizona. [It’d have been less, but the construction work and security checks at the Hoover Dam made for much idling in traffic] Besides, it was a perfect excuse to hit Las Vegas for my thirty-fnghrrmmmth birthday. 🙂
|Ann Casey (right) and Penny Baker,
two queens of the ring.
We were a little apprehensive; while both Chris and I are wrestling fans, we are some way short of being all-knowing on the topic. I grew up in Britain, and while familiar with names like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks [pause for all UK readers of a certain age to sigh nostalgically!], the only American wrestling we got to see was occasional WWF bouts. Thus, beyond the household names like Andre the Giant, I’d be the first to admit my experience was limited, and we were thus concerned about looking like the total greenhorns we actually were.
We needn’t have worried, largely because a more friendly, warm-hearted bunch of people you couldn’t hope to find. Which is kinda ironic, given their “day jobs” in most cases involved beating the living daylights out of each other. But now, they seemed genuinely delighted by our interest, signing autographs, taking photos and talking to us in an incredibly gracious manner which soon put us at ease – and from which a lot of ‘famous’ people could learn.
A couple stood out in particular, both women wrestlers. Ida Mae Martinez, won the Mexican Women’s Championship in 1952, and is now a yodelling star(!), as well as featuring in an upcoming documentary with the intriguing title, Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling. Equally as fascinating to talk to, was Ann Casey, who wrestled into her fifties, then became a truck driver. With a life that also includes meeting Elvis, a degree in criminal justice, bounty hunting, poetry and getting shot five times in 1972 while sitting in her car, Hollywood really should do a bio-pic of her – Madeleine Stowe would be Ann’s personal choice to play her role.
|Ox Baker hugs a nervous-looking Chris!|
Speaking of films, we actually recognised some attendees, less from the ring and more their work in movies. There was George ‘The Animal’ Steele, for example, who played Tor Johnson in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Ox Baker, who famously beat up on Kurt Russell during Escape From New York, whose extrovert personality was still capable of filling an entire room [and going by his loud rendition of Happy Birthday, shares mine!] And we’d only just missed Hard Boiled Haggerty, from Micki and Maude, a stalwart of the CAC, who’d died less than three months before.
This was, sadly, another feature of the event: at Saturday’s night banquet, they named the wrestlers who had died in the past year. It was a lengthy list, led by Stu Hart, patriarch of the Hart dynasty which included his sons Bret and Owen. Hard Boiled Haggerty’s daughter also sang God Bless America, her voice cracking with emotion, and even I – who doesn’t believe in God and isn’t American – had to admit it was a moving moment.
|George ‘The Animal’ Steele|
It wasn’t all doom and gloom at the banquet, with the guest of honor Japanese superstar Antonio Inoki, best known for his bout against Muhammad Ali in 1976. What stood out for us, however, was co-host Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, one of the most famous managers in wrestling history. The Academy need to hire this guy for the Oscars, and forget Billy or Whoopi. He kept the event moving along with unfailing good humour, even when some of the recipients let their acceptance speeches get away from them. However, even he wasn’t fast enough to stop one recipient from referring to Vince McMahon Jr, the owner of WWE, as a “cunt”. Oops – next year’s ceremony will be on a 7-second delay.
Though it has to be said, crowd disapproval seemed limited to the inappropriate word, rather than any actual argument with the sentiment. The general feeling appeared to be that the antics of the WWE overshadowed the good work being done by independent promoters, that wrestling was going through one of its downturns, and that things were better in the good old days. However, I noticed a prominent phrase on one of the old promo cards which was part of the silent auction, and probably dated from the 50’s: “Huge reserved section for coloreds”. Not everything about the old days was good…
Another notable exhibit was a cast made of Andre the Giant’s arm and foot (right – the hand rattling around inside, feeling very lonely, is Chris’s for comparison). I’d seen footage of the 7’4″, 520 lb man in action, but apart from The Princess Bride, only with other wrestlers, and didn’t realise how big he truly was. Also ongoing was a Cribbage tournament, which may seem like an odd inclusion at the event, but CC told us that it was a favourite pastime of wrestlers backstage, while waiting to go on. Maurice ‘Mad Dog’ Vachon was defending his title – much like baseball players, it seems that wrestlers had much cooler nicknames in the golden days. Though, having said that, I guess there’s still the odd one around who’s old-school in this regard, such as Chris ‘The Rabid Wolverine’ Benoit!
All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the show on Saturday, where up-and-coming wrestlers got to do their thing for promoters, bookers and everyone else – difficult to think of a tougher crowd to perform in front of than this one! No folding chairs; no pyrotechnics; no lingerie matches; just traditional wrestling. One yearns for the days when this again becomes the normal perception of the sport, rather than a sputtering flame, barely kept alive by a bunch of die-hards.
We left on Sunday with a whole new appreciation for the wrestling industry, and those who are part of it, using their skill to put their health on the line for our entertainment, day-in and day-out for years on end. In most cases, they don’t do it for glory or riches, but because they love the sport, and a comment from one of the speeches on Saturday really brings this home. Someone once asked a wrestler what he’d do if he had a million dollars; he replied, “Put it in the bank, and wrestle until it’s all gone.” The knowing laughter which greeted this anecdote was proof of truth, and is why we’ll be back in Las Vegas for the 2005 reunion. We’re already brushing up on our cribbage skills.
[Visit the Cauliflower Alley Club website.]
Harkins Cine Capri, April 1st-4th, 2004
As predicted last year, the fourth Phoenix Film Festival found a new home in 2004 – the good news is, the venue was now only 15 minutes from TC Towers. The bad news…well, regular readers will know why the Harkins Cine Capri is not our favourite cinema. Add to this that organizers were now in bed with the Evil Empire of Ticketmaster when it came to selling festival passes – meaning patrons were the ones getting screwed – and the omens weren’t good.
From our standpoint, the timing could have been better. We had foreign friends visiting, and Friday night was spent with them at a baseball game. Then Chris came down with what felt like a 24-hour version of SARS, taking her out on Saturday afternoon and evening. This is why we only got to see four films over the festival, even though it was now extended by an extra day. Hence, we can’t fairly give out the TC Awards, as we’ve done for the past three years; we apologise, and promise to do better next year.
Looking through the program was also a bit disappointing. The opening night – described as the “largest independent film premiere in Arizona history” – starred those icons of indie cinema… Macauley Culkin and Mandy Moore. The closing night starred Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore. Half the others felt like an episode of Where Are They Now?, including Jennifer Beals, Kevin Sorbo and Brian Austin Green, while global cinema was represented by precisely one non-English language feature.
|Culkin prepares to
pop a wheelie…
As for genre entries, the closest was i died, a real-time movie filmed from a ghost’s point of view. This was initially on our watch-list, but the reports from the first screening were unanimously dire, with a huge number of walkouts. The organizers can’t blame a lack of submissions: I know that The Great American Snuff Film was rejected despite, I strongly suspect, being superior to i died. Wussy “slice of life” dramas were, of course, present in abundance, though Phoenix is hardly alone there; what film festival ever shows horror or cult flicks any respect?
Let’s give praise where it’s due however; while we may disagree on genres, when it comes to specific movies, the selection committee showed excellent taste. The hit-rate among the films we saw was much better than last year, with only one falling a little below expectations. The others were all thoroughly enjoyable, and two will certainly be candidates for the year-end TC top ten.
The post-Superbowl Puritan backlash seemed to have hit proceedings. While useful information, such as the running time, was not listed in the program, each movie had notes on its content: language, violence (broken down into fights, gunshots and blood), sexual situations and – heaven forbid! – drinking. Let’s be honest: if you’re concerned about consumption of alcohol in movies by adults, you need to get a freakin’ life. The information was not even 100% accurate: I was pleasantly surprised by the cheerily gratuitous strip-club sequence in You Got Nothin’, about which the program said zilch. Dozens of Amish attendees were carried screaming out of the theatre, but otherwise, civilization as we know it in Arizona seems to have survived.
|…as does Fonda.|
From an organizational point of view, there seemed to be few problems, with films starting on time and smooth entrances and exits for audiences. The tribute to Peter Fonda was, however, embarrassingly gremlin-plagued, with a number of technical issues which should have been sorted out beforehand. And whoever arranged for a loud rock band to play just outside during proceedings, should be strapped to the back of a truck and taken for a long drag. [As a side note, it might be worth stopping people from going into screenings after the film has begun; the weekend-pass system seems to encourage irritatingly late arrivals] Other celebrities in attendance included Russell Means, Michael Tolkin and John Landis – his latest film is entitled Slasher, but is actually a documentary about a car-salesman, which is kinda sad.
All criticism aside: we love the Phoenix Film Festival. It keeps getting bigger – 10,000 attendees in 2004, up from seven thousand last year – but the people involved continue to treat all of them, whether paid, press or professionals, as if it’s an honour to have them there. While the volunteers deserve particular credit for their unfailing good humour, everyone involved with the festival is great, and are probably the main reason why the city and Arizona can justly be proud of this event. Now, put us on the selection committee, and it’ll be perfect… 😉
Visit the Phoenix Film Festival website.
||Official Festival Awards