by Anthony King
I sensed a bit of trepidation leading up to the fest this year. People seemed cautiously optimistic about the lineup. Return of the Jedi and Valley Girl were both cheered for upon the announcement. WarGames and Mr. Mom were met with general applause. Superman III and Krull were greeted mostly with sighs and groans (especially from this writer) with a smattering of a few enthusiastic hurrahs. But as the fest opened, our goblets of enthusiasm began to runneth over, and as the day progressed, the usual proclamations of “He knows what he's doing,” began to pop up. Why would we ever doubt Patrick? I, for one, was dreading Krull, yet it played spectacularly. As I said on this week's podcast, I think Superman III was the surprise hit of the entire day. So once again, F This Movie Fest was, to use a word Randy used on Julie in Valley Girl, unsurprisingly and truly dazzling. I'd been pretty burned out on movies and podcasting up to that point, and with a full schedule of recording the new season of Cult Movies ahead of me, I wasn't as excited about it as I normally had been in the past. But the fest was just the energy booster I needed and, as usual, it reminded me why I love movies so much, and how they can bring people from all over the world together. Last weekend got me thinking about the rest of the year, movie-related plans, a few ideas, and how I want to grow as a movie fan.
Because of the fest, and because Cult Movies is ramping up again most of what I've been watching will be talked about on podcasts. Here are some shorts, though, I highly recommend seeking out, all of which can be found on YouTube.
Seasons... (Stan Brakhage, Phil Solomon | 2002 | 16 min.)
If you've never experienced one of Brakhage's scratch films this could be a great place to start. Allow yourself to become enveloped in the silence, and let the visuals sweep you away to a calm place. Every frame that passes before your eyes has been hand-painted and/or scratched by Brakage, resulting in fascinating colors and shapes. These visuals are then lit by Solomon's unique lighting techniques, so what we're left with are truly hypnotic, abstract images. Take a chance and watch something completely different today.
Svankmajer is known for creating some of the most remarkably odd characters put on film. Working in stop-motion and different animation techniques, everything I've seen from him so far has been absolutely unforgettable. Jabberwocky (1971) and Dimensions in Dialogue (1983) are striking feats in stop-motion. Cellar is a mix of live-action and stop-motion which follows a girl having to venture to the basement of her apartment building. Coming across strange characters and creatures, her eyes are opened to the reality of her neighbors. It's incredibly interesting and quite haunting, again leaving me in awe of the creativity.
The short film anthology series from BMW follows “The Driver” played by Clive Owen. Each short he's hired to transport people or objects while dodging bullets and cars from opposing forces. Every film is directed by someone of note (Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai, Guy Ritchie, Tony Scott, etc.), with appearances by well-known actors (Ray Liotta, Madonna, Forest Whitaker, Mickey Rourke, etc.). Before this I'd seen Ambush, directed by John Frankenheimer, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, and starring Owen and Tomas Millian, and Hostage, directed by John Woo and starring Owen, Maury Chaykin, and Kathryn Morris. Powder Keg follows “The Driver” trying to get an injured war photographer played by Stellan Skarsgard across the border of a war-torn Latin American country. Lois Smith makes an appearance as the mother of the photog. These films are masterclasses in efficient storytelling, proving that an hour of padding and fluff is totally unnecessary to care about characters.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) is another great recent example. (Pardon me if I've written all this before.) I really disliked the film. The performances were great, but I think the idea of the multiverse is one of the laziest creative efforts someone could put forth. “Hey, here's a movie where absolutely anything can happen. Hot dog fingers? Why the hell not! A bagel that doubles as a black hole? Sure!” It's the work of college freshmen baked to the gills in their hazy dorm room. Working within a structure is a real exercise in creativity. “What can you make within these parameters?” All this said, lots of people really love this movie. It moved them tremendously, and I think that's wonderful. Is EEAAO the worst movie I've ever seen? Not even close, especially with Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) exists (also not the worst movie I've ever seen). “The worst” or “the best” is speaking in absolutes, and speaking in absolutes is for lazy people who don't feel the need to grow any more. That's dangerous if you ask me.