FILMS GONE WILD: SUNDANCE 2011 – ROUND TWO, “YOU CAN’T SOLVE ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS WITH A SHOTGUN.”
James Faust, Artistic director of DALLAS IFF unwittingly serves as my alarm clock this morning as he carefully tries to climb down from upper bunk bed. (No, I’m not kidding.) I’ve got ten minutes to get dressed and walk to the Library Theater. And it’s on, baby!
I make it and meet up with the film’s publicist, Craig Bankey, who combines being smart with being a character guy (two things traditionally in short supply with publicists – says someone who makes his living as a publicist). He hands me a ticket and I’m in with a couple of minutes to spare before the film starts.
Good morning Sundance!
Film fest buddy and cohort Kim Rickles sees me in the audience and calls out to me, “John Wildman! I thought that was your hair!” That’s both funny and scary. Time for a cut, maybe?
The feature debut, written and directed by Dee Rees and developed partially at the Sundance Institute following the screening of the short film version, PARIAH follows the struggles of a African American high school girl (‘Alike’) dealing with her conflicting thoughts over her sexuality. Her mother, played by Kim Wayans, tries to deny what is right in front of her as she attempts to put her daughter in dresses and line her up with friends more to her liking (as in not butch).
But just as Alike’s situation is much more complicated than simply being a lesbian, her family has complications far beyond what her mom envisions as well.
PARIAH is a winner, simply put. I can see people making the shorthand comparisons to PRECIOUS because people are lazy and there are plenty of superficial similarities to entertain using the prior film as a yardstick. And thinking along those lines, the things that rang false to the critics of PRECIOUS are matched by moments of real earned conflicts and emotions in PARIAH. And that’s coming from someone that was a fan of Lee Daniels’ film.
Sundance audiences vs. Real world audiences: This is a HUGE Sundance crowd pleaser – and it should be. But I would be unsure about it getting wide public acceptance. To the film’s credit, it doesn’t cheat or give the kind of Cliff’s Notes crap or convenient shorthand that is usually required for a drama like this to rake in the dough. But I’ll keep the fingers crossed for it anyway.
Fun Q&A tidbit: Discussing their preparation for the film, the actors’ mentioned “homework” assignments Rees gave them including having to go into a straight environment in character. So they wound up going to a Dave & Busters in Times Square.
Today is the day that the Film Society of Lincoln Center is having their Sundance party. And now late-breaking news delivers the kind of typical “crisis” that inspires many a publicist, producer, agent and events promoter to want to jump off a chairlift. One, there seems to be a discrepancy about our party space. That little discrepancy is that either the space actually isn’t ours, or that we are sharing it with two different films and are only allowed 50 guests. Which would be unfortunate since 180 have already confirmed.
But wait, there’s more! The plane carrying the person lined up to help me at the door is stuck on the runway in New York – with the hard copy of our RSVP names. So, all signs point to me being up a creek without a guest list. Calls are made, messages are left, and contingency plans are discussed. Then half a ham and cheese sandwich and a shuttle stop later, I’m at another press screening.
Gregg Araki picks up the thread from his Teenage Apocalypse films of the 1990s with KABOOM and the film almost plays like an Araki Greatest Hits album: Absurdly hot girls and pretty boys have sex in various combinations and cocktails (all-kinds of entendre intended with that one, trust me). And in between the hook ups are jealous-hearted wiccans with supernatural powers, a murder mystery, missing corpses, and cult members with a habit of wearing animal head masks thrown in for good measure.
It’s all pointedly absurd and ridiculous and fun and bat-shit crazy – and I had a great time watching it. My two favorite quotes: “To clear my head, I went to this nude beach near my campus.” And “Dude, it’s a vagina not a bowl of spaghetti.”
It’s the kind of film where you shrug when the main character gets the gift of a threesome for his 19th birthday.
Sundance audiences vs. Real world audiences: I think this one is pretty equal, actually. Again, KABOOM has everything you likely want or would demand from Gregg Araki. So, if you love him, you should love it. But I don’t think it wins any new fans, necessarily either.
And now back to our regularly scheduled party. Turns out that the space is indeed ours and the potential scenario I neglected to list was the one where whoever talked to our Film Society person and sent them into a panic had no earthly clue as to what the hell they were talking about. Then it was left to me to put the guest list on a thumb drive and try to convince someone – anyone to print it out (not so much) or get someone from the Film Society offices to fax it to one of the hotels for me to pick up (that worked). Back home, quick like a bunny, and quick with a shower and over to the Stella Artois Lounge to work the door like the intimidating bouncer-type I am not.
Right after I get there, Danny Glover shows up for some reason. He’s not there for our party, but does hang around long enough for me to reflect on the fact that much like his LETHAL WEAPON character, “I’m too old for this shit.” But of course, the party sails along famously. Everyone gets in and has a great time. I serve as Film Society Executive Director Rose Kuo’s Hype Man by giving her the big intro for a welcome speech and then close it out like Mr. Roarke from “Fantasy Island” with my version of “Smiles everyone, Smiles!” to rev up the party once again.
Then the sun goes down, party time ends and I leave the freezing cold of the velvet rope line to hit up another press screening.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
Sean Durkin’s drama delivers a curious take on the escape from a cult scenario as Elizabeth Olsen (yes, related to those Olsen’s plays a young woman who decides to duck out on a Catskills-based cult after a two-year run to return to what’s left of her real family and civilization. The problem is that she has a difficult time reconciling what accepted civilization is now and an even more difficult time freeing herself from the hold and paranoia the cult (specifically, it’s leader – played by John Hawkes, splendidly) has on her head and psyche.
She stays with her older sister (Sarah Paulsen) who is anxious to make amends and reconnect but nothing about the transition is easy. The best way to state this is to say that we aren’t talking about a Lifetime movie here. We figure out quickly that “happily ever after” isn’t a goal that’s really on the table as much as “even keel” is.
The movie successfully keeps you guessing throughout as the young woman’s memories vividly flash by and the truth is that you’ll still be guessing as the credits roll.
Sundance audiences vs. Real world audiences: Sundance audiences will eat this up with a spoon and then debate the hell out of it during the parties afterward. But this is NOT a multiplex movie. There is some intense sex that I have to think will be tough to mesh with the drama as far as selling the film to the masses would be concerned. But it will be a winner for the small art houses.
I go back to home base for a dinner of chips, salsa and red bull before heading off to the final screening of the night, a midnight showing of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.
After I arrive and grab my seat, the guy sitting next to me says, “I never would’ve imagined so many people (literally a full house) would have turned out for this.” A guy sitting in front of us turns around and says, “Are you not familiar with the title of the film?”
But first a short film…
THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM
Jerome Sable’s THE LEGEND OF BEAVER DAM is your typical horror musical ode to 70’s rough and ready shlock slasher movies. A bunch of kids around a campfire are under attack from a legendary killer their camp counselor has unwittingly summoned from the depths of hell. And only one nerdy kid with a penchant for defying convention can save them. And sing a bunch as well.
This thing is inspired and fun and if it’s the only short I see while I’m here, I’m good with that.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
Directed by Jason Eisener, who brought up they beyind fun, gory and wonderful TREEVENGE short film a couple years back, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is hell bent on delivering the goods promised by that title. Rutger Hauer is the hobo in question whose dreams of saving enough money to buy a lawnmower so he can start a modest grass cutting business is thwarted by the hedonistic evil of The Drake and his two henchmen-like sons. The sons and their bad dad wreck havoc on the town his violence upon violent ways, having their bloody way to do as they please.
That is until a certain hobo decides that enough is enough, the streets need to be cleaned up and with the help of a pretty prostitute and uhm….a shotgun, he’s just the man to do it.
My favorite exchange goes like this:
PROSTITUTE: “You can’t solve all the world’s problems with a shotgun.”
HOBO: “It’s all I know.”
Unfortunately, that kind of funny genius is ultimately drowned out by the excesses of the gore and outrageousness. Sometimes too much can actually be too much (see the majority of Jack Black’s performances). If this thing were dialed back in just the slightest amount, it would do wonders for the overall enjoyment.
But no. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN could’ve used editor with a shotgun, frankly. So, great idea and intent aside, the film will exhaust a typical audience.
Sundance audiences vs. Real world audiences: Sundance audiences hungering for over-the-top let off some steam screening fare will turn out for it, but despite repeating various gore gags afterward will not count it as a top screening experience. Real world audiences will Netflix it or VOD it or on the big screen, midnight movie it. I can’t imagine it travels farther than that.
That does that until the fun begins again in four hours or so….
Posted on January 22, 2011 in Features, Films Gone Wild by John Wildman
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
- DIGITAL CELLULOID – ISSUE 55: …WITH A SHOTGUN
- HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
- FILMS GONE WILD – HOW SERIOUSLY DO YOU TAKE YOUR MOVIES?
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