By Mike White
During the political tumult that followed the 2000 presidential election I would often chuckle to myself. I knew that if the judges from MicroCineFest 2000 had been involved in deciding the outcome, it would have been settled over burgers and coffee. Four years of award giving, some delicious grub, and a few dozen amazing movies provided the synergy for a quick, painless round of bestowal.
Certainly, Gabe and I missed the presence of Genevieve "Diesel" McGillicuddy in our triumvirate but she was down in Atlanta getting ready to marry her famous disc-jockey boyfriend. Meanwhile, Shayna Nickle (AKA "Worm") aptly filled the void on the panel.
Save for a less-than-optimal video projector (a last minute snag that drove projection perfectionist and festival programmer, Skizz Cyzyk, to the brink), MCF2K went off without a hitch. Good will and a free pass even calmed an excitable suicide awareness advocate, upset about the synopsis for Mark Osborne's DROPPING OUT--think DEATH WATCH with belly laughs.
Other highlights of the fest included a bevy of bagels and good coffee courtesy of the folks from the Maryland Film Fest. While coffee was foremost on my muddled morning mind, the highlight of the brunch was a talk from San Francisco's Craig Baldwin who discussed the video as political, focusing especially on the state of modern day detournement. In honour of Baldwin's appearance the jury awarded Bryan Boyce's psychotronic news clip piece, SPECIAL REPORT, with the "Way Cool Detournement" Award.
I don't know why I was so tired that morning. The movie from the night before, SUPERSTARLET A. D., provided ample opportunity to doze. I have been working on an article about friend of CdC, John Michael McCarthy, for quite some time but I've left an aborted trail of wadded-up paper and deleted files in my wake. No matter how many of McCarthy's films I watch, I just can't get past the feeling that they're missing something. There's the bodacious babes, the raucous rockabilly, the marvelous mise-en-scene but, despite all of that, I just don't find pleasure in his oeuvre. It's frustrating. I feel like I'm just not "getting it" when it comes to J.M.M.'s work. Apparently, they must have some merit and following as they were programmed in the coveted "midnight movie" slot of the festival.
GOD MADE MAN
Within moments of opening, GOD MADE MAN quickly dispenses of the wood-grained veneer of suburban reality in favor of pure insanity. Directed by the aptly named "Crazy Pete," the film works by its own twisted internal logic. The narrative involves everyone from Satan to Jesus to a diapered assassin known only as "The Baby." GMM follows several storylines that intersect and diverge with surprising results.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, GOD MADE MAN is possibly the most pleasantly unusual film I've seen in years. Crazy Pete's film seems custom made to an earlier era of Midnight Movies. In this video age, I can only hope that GMM manages to properly proliferate its weirdness.
The perfect Midnight Movie, check out the website for more information on GOD MADE MAN.
GAS HUFFIN' BAD GALS
Directed by Harry McCoy, GAS HUFFIN' BAD GALS wears its Russ Meyer influences proudly. Not necessarily a straight out parody of FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL!, McCoy realizes the extent of his source material's outrageousness and simply kicks everything up a notch with hilarious results. Instead of Tura Santana and Lori Williams, GAS HUFFIN' BAD GALS stars the arresting Kristyn Watters as Diesel McGillicuddy and the lovely Laura Sweeney as GaGa. Diesel's a dangerous dame fresh out of the slammer and pumpin' gas in a pair of pumps. Soon she hooks up with GaGa, a gorgeous go-go girl gone bad who giggles and jiggles with fervor.
The voluptuous vixens welcome Dot (Rachel Scobie) to violence. A pre-teen girlie with a penchant for sugarcoated goodies, Dot quickly falls in with her zaftig gas huffing girlfriends as they embark on a life of crime-a five-gallon can of premium petrol in one hand, a soaked rag in the other. The tale of them cutting a swath of fume fueled destruction through the calm countryside is narrated by Detective Dick (Bradford Scobie), a gutsy gumshoe who Diesel frequently beats like a piņata. Dick delivers his didactic dialogue through tightly clenched choppers, to show his disdain for the gas huffin' trio of fast, free, and demented damsels.
Replete with alliterative articulation and hipster vernacular ("Welcome to Galsville, population gorgeous!"), GAS HUFFIN' BAD GALS clocks in just shy of a half-hour long. A completely satisfying watch with over-the-top performances, superb score, and splendid cinematography, GAS HUFFIN' BAD GALS sashayed away from the fest with the award for Way Cool Black & White Film. For more info about this big, beautiful, bulldozer of a film, visit www.petroleumfilms.com.
HARRY KNUCKLES & THE TREASURE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY
If you haven't seen HARRY KNUCKLES AND THE TREASURE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY, you've not attended an "underground" film festival in the last two years. This half hour film by Canadian Lee Demarbre has made the rounds and, if you believe what you read in your local Baltimore paper, HARRY KNUCKLES was the sole reason for the continuation of MicroCineFest. This film has everything: karate, transvestitism, robots, mummies, wrestlers, and one banana-eating bad ass hero, the eponymous Harry Knuckles.
Expanded from a short made in 1998, HARRY KNUCKLES AND THE TREASURE OF THE AZTEC MUMMY has the feel of the great 80s Jackie Chan flicks (ARMOUR OF GOD, WHEELS ON MEALS, etc). The narrative pits the hirsute-handed Knuckles against a hoard of dangerous hombres in a globetrotting tale of heroism and fanny slapping. At all times we're kept at arm's length from KNUCKLES' internal motivation, making him reminiscent of classic amoral characters of the screen like Bogart's Sam Spade, Eastwood's Harry Callahan, and Jagger's Victor Vacendak.
Having only seen a dark video transfer, viewing the film in all its 16mm glory allowed me to find a finer appreciation of Demarbre's direction, shoestring set-dressing, and the fight choreography which won this film the Way Cool Ass Kicking Action Award.
Winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Short Film, director Oscar Perez based PACIFIER on a letter he wrote to "Penthouse Forum" as a thirteen-year old. PACIFIER offers amazing insight into the mind of an adolescent boy. Playing like a campy condensed version of a Cinemax softcore movie, the narration of PACIFIER stays true to Perez's youthful writing, complete with poor grammar and misunderstood feminine anatomy.
Starring Roddy Gerard as the story's protagonist, Jack and Elise Abrams-Miller as his temptress, Jill, PACIFIER is a brief, rewarding watch. Smartly shot and hilariously sexy, PACIFIER would make a great double feature with Danny Plotnik's SWINGER'S SERENADE (see CdC #11). For more information, visit www.pinkbubblebath.com.
Masked wrestlers seemed the order of the day in 2000. Between Rusty Nails' SANTIAGO VERSUS WIGFACE (winner of the Way Cool Color Film Award-see CdC #12 for review), Lee Demarbre's HARRY KNUCKLES, Mark Jones' MINUTEMEN and Robert Smart's ZERO SQUAD: ATTACK!!, it seemed that these Mexican heroes were the mascot of my 2000 travels to film festivals, just as 1999 was the year of the monkey. Yet, there was still one monkey that I had to meet before the Millennium...Anarchy Monkey.
Coifed with a stunning blue mohawk and backed-up by a tempestuous punk band, Alex Roper's ANARCHY MONKEY is a brief, rollicking testimony to self-assured simians everywhere. Winning the Low Budget Video Award, ANARCHY MONKEY is the embodiment of an "underground" short.
Winning the Grand Jury Award for Best Experimental Video, Marcus Young's PHASES is a ballet of faces. Choreographed to a stirring piano score, PHASES is a single shot of three faces, tinted in blue, that "dance" to the music; blinking eyes, pursing lips, opening mouths, twitching cheeks, in rhythm and in time. Only getting better with each viewing, the credits of PHASES states that it is a work excerpted from the 'SMALL ALL SPRING FALL' performance at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, MN. If the rest of this program is half as good as PHASES, I'd like to see more!
Just as Richard Starkey stood in the shadows, writing all of The Beatles' popular tunes, MONDO FORD exposes another man who acted the part of a bumbling fool while actually being a shrewd kingpin in global and intergalactic politics, Gerald R. Ford.
After searching for years, American archivist, Nathan McGinty managed to track down a print of Ricardo Fratelli's MONDE DU FORD in an Italy and smuggled it into the United States. McGinty has spent the last three years translating and restoring this powerful seven-minute work by the sensational Fratelli.
Told using shocking heretofore unreleased photographs of our thirty-eighth president, MONDO FORD tells the story of Ford's rise to power and implicates him as a key participant in events diverse as the Roswell cover-up, the assassination of JFK, and the pardoning of Richard Nixon. A powerful documentary, MONDO FORD won the Low Budget Film Award.
Earning him the "Too Cool" Award, Hertzfeld knocked it out of the park with his Academy-Award nominated work, REJECTED. Presented as a series of rejected promotional shorts and commercials, REJECTED plays as a wonderfully twisted compendium of scenes that get more outrageous as they progress. A study of the creative process gone mad, REJECTED is a hilarious, violent short that tears asunder the very fabric of the universe. To purchase your own "I'm A Consumer Whore" t-shirt, visit www.bitterfilms.com.
Inside Scotty Ruben a battle rages between The Locust with his horrendous P-13 molecule and the righteous Soulfist with his sensible oatmeal diet. Director Nathan Pommer captures this tempestuous battle in vibrant 16mm. Everything in P-13 makes me happy: the acting, set decoration, editing, and surrealistic story all come together perfectly. Pommer's film was a shoo-in for the Way Cool Looking Film Award.
THE GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M
From the director of the El Frenetico and Go-Girl series, Pat Bishow, comes his first full-length outing, THE GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M. An antidote to the overblown hype machine of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, Bishow's movie has a heroic trio of female agents in tight black outfits out to solve a mystery involving global mind control and a conclave of killers. With ambition outstripping budget, THE GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M has a dense plot which is often hampered by inaudible dialogue. The poor audio is a shame as the dialogue is usually clever and highly expositive.
As expected from Bishow's high-caliber work, the camera work is highly kinetic (sometimes so much so that it draws unnecessary attention to the nimiety of cuts). The choreography of the fight scenes is top notch (if over-edited). The acting is heads above anything one might expect from a motion picture comic book. Standout performances include Charlie Pellegrino and Jon Sanborne as a determined duo of detectives, Jen Mattern as the GIRLS' understudy and Soomi Kim as their arresting archenemy.
For more info check out Provisional films. I'm already looking forward to the sequel!
I WANT TO BE LIKE ROY ROGERS
Kamchik, the Singing Cowboy is an impressively large man who can write some damn catchy tunes. A music video shot on a shoestring budget, I WANT TO BE LIKE ROY ROGERS features Kamchik's impressive collection of sparkly shirts and--once your ears get attuned to his thick Israeli accent--the hilarious lyrics of his tribute to the premiere singing cowboy, Roy Rogers. For more of Kamchik visit www.kamchik.com.
RADIO FREE STEVE
Somewhere between THE DEMON LOVER DIARY, THE LAST BROADCAST and THE LAST CHASE rests RADIO FREE STEVE, a self-referential road movie that has taken on a new life through expansion and adoption of its back story as nonfiction.
I couldn't believe that I scored free bagels and coffee two mornings in a row! As part of the "Cinema Sundays at The Charles" screening series, filmmakers and guests of the MCF were treated to sustenance and a screening of Viet Helmer's TUVALU. For more about TUVALU, check out the print issue of CdC #13.