Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Celluloid Ramblings: Random Thoughts After F This Movie Fest

by JB
The circus has pulled up stakes and rolled out of town.

I have just returned from dropping Official FTM Songsmith Erich Asperschlager at the airport for his trip home from F This Movie Fest. I’m writing this on Monday, and I think that all of who participated this past weekend are feeling the effects of 1) the sadness that it’s all over for another year, mixed with 2) the exhaustion one feels after spending 14+ hours in a dark basement without even a big sack of harvested mushrooms to show for the effort. This year’s fest was a big success: we collectively logged more than 9,000 tweets, with movie lovers joining us from all over the globe. We trended nationwide until the Bernie Sanders rally started in Chicago.
I don’t want to be the guy who disappoints everyone by taking time off after the big game, though as the senior member of the team (White Beard, Obscure References, Paid AARP Membership, Smells Like Ben-Gay and Regret) I feel entitled to be more tired than everyone else. How tired? Last Saturday, I sat on my keister for 12 hours (Note to self: Bring back the word “keister”!) and watched fun movies with all of you fantastic people, and even THAT tuckered me out. When climbing those twelve basement steps to the bathroom leaves you out of breath, you start to feel maybe it’s time to get in the pine box.

In an effort to get back to normal (whatever that is) and do something productive today, here are some random thoughts in the wake of the Fest.
Whenever I watch Trading Places (which is a lot because I am retired and it runs on cable on a near-infinite loop) I find myself feeling sorry for the Clarence Beeks character played by Paul Gleason. I know that Gleason made a career out of playing annoying assholes—from perpetually wrong Chief of Police Dwayne T. Robinson in Die Hard to the “Mess With The Bull You Get The Horns” detention teacher Mr. Vernon in The Breakfast Club—and his Clarence Beeks is no exception. He is grim, rude, aggressive, and violent. At one point he tells Al Franken’s clueless baggage handler, “Back off! I'll rip out your eyes and piss on your brain.” Strong words for 1983. Gleeson was a great villain, but somehow, his comeuppance in Trading Places seems a little severe. On a New Year’s Eve party train headed for New York, Beeks is knocked cold, bound inside of a gorilla costume (Shades of Midsommar here) and placed in the locked cage of a very horny male gorilla. Gee! So, in the world of 1980s American Film Comedy Justice, Beeks deserved to be repeatedly anally raped by an adult male gorilla. The tag to this scene, when the cage is shown being loaded on a boat to Africa, only increases the hilarity of this character’s fate as we see Beeks one more time, looking… well, like someone who has had his keister assaulted relentlessly by a full-grown silverback.

(Note to self: HERE WE GO!)

I have read that when it is time for good friends Steve Martin and Martin Short to have their routine colonoscopies, they try to ameliorate the awkwardness and unpleasantness of the prep by making it into a kind of party. They invite their colonoscopy friends over for a night of poker, drink all that prep liquid instead of beer and cocktails, stay up all night, play cards, laugh, shit, drink more solution, laugh, play cards, shit, shit, shit, and shit. In the morning, they all go to the doctors together and have the procedure. Fun!
I’m guessing that Steve Martin has a big house with lots of bathrooms and lots of exhaust fans. I wonder how I would feel about participating in this ritual. I am a private person. Would turning colonoscopy prep into a communal event make it better or worse? I still remember the movie L.A. Story where Steve Martin plays a TV weatherman who dates the much younger Sarah Jessica Parker. In one scene in the movie, she takes him on a date during which they both have high colonic enemas. Ho ho! Are keisters (Note to self: It’s happening….) a theme in Martin’s work? I thought long and hard about the following facts:

• In The Jerk, Martin’s character has a dog named “Shithead.” He dates a rough carnival daredevil played by Catlin Adams; in one explosive scene, a jealous Adams asks Martin if he has “forgotten about her ass,” which has his name tattooed on it.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles contains the famous scene where, after being forced to share a bed, Martin asks John Candy where his other hand is. Candy responds, “Between two pillows,” to which Martin explodes, “Those aren’t PILLOWS.”

I think that I am on to something here.

The single most uncomfortable movie-viewing experience I ever had was watching a VHS tape of Deliverance with two friends in a college dorm room. Everything was proceeding normally (if a little sleepily—I think we started the movie at 2 am) until the Suburban Dad Weekend Rafting Club is besieged by sociopathic hillbillies, who rape poor Ned Beatty in a scene that is famous in cinema history for its disturbing explicitness and Beatty’s total lack of vanity. This is a serious and difficult scene to watch under ideal conditions, and it certainly wasn’t any easier to take when my friend Riley (who hailed from Carbondale, which to me in 1982 was THE DEEP SOUTH) began to hoot and laugh like he was watching the funniest comedy ever made.

“Hee Hee Hee Haw Haw Haw Hee Hee Hee,” he exploded loudly.
I have since seen plenty of films with Riley, but I never again heard him laugh like that. I turned to my left. Our other friend, Gregg, was asleep. I turned to my right. Riley was choking back the guffaws and pounding the ground to show his approval. He reached for the remote so he could rewind the whole thing and watch it again. I turned to my left again, and for the first time noticed that Gregg looked a lot like Ned Beatty. I protectively scooted my keister (Note to self: It’s REALLY HAPPENING!) a bit closer to Gregg. I vowed to stay awake… and vigilant.

Dear readers, if there is a lesson to be learned here, this is it: I was exhausted in the wake of F This Movie Fest, but I rallied. I wrote a column of the requisite length to compel Patrick Bromley to hand over my maintenance bag of heroin for the week. How on earth did I do it?

Why, this is the column I pulled out of my ass.


  1. Dear Mr. Bones, I was distressed, when listening to your/Patrick's otherwise fun discussion of 1990s comic book movies on that one recent podcast, to hear no mention at all of 1998's The Mask of Zorro. Granted, Don Diego appeared in prose and on the big screen before his first comic depiction, making him technically not a comic book hero, but then, it seems that The Shadow also started in prose before crossing over to radio, so if The Shadow counts as a comic book film by association, I don't see why The Mask of Zorro shouldn't, also. Furthermore, is it just me, or, to borrow a Bromley-ism, does "no one talk about The Mask of Zorro anymore?!" YouTube retrospectives are scant, and I have been (mostly) patiently waiting for an FTM! episode on the subject for years.

    Anyhow, after the financial underperformings/failures of Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, The Phantom, and The Shadow, The Mask of Zorro was an actual hit, so I like to think of it as the capper to this run of pulp hero revivals, the one that was an unqualified success with general audiences as well as sympathetic genre connoisseurs. In conclusion, Gene Siskel was wrong, and The Mask of Zorro is good.

  2. I love love love The Mask of Zorro and would love love love to record a podcast devoted to it on the internet machine one day.

    1. You adding "machine" to anything involving technology continually makes my heart soar like a hawk.

    2. "I promise we'll get to it someday! My memory is that I like that movie." -Patrick Bromley, 5/24/2017


  3. You did it. You wrote a column. And it was precisely the right length to be considered such. Bravo!