Turn it Up to 11

Lost Weekend 11, that is, which was held from the evening of 21 March through the evening of 24 March. Evening and beyond, more accurately. We left the Alamo each night about 0200, and returned by 0800 for the next movie onslaught. Taking into account travel time, feeding the cats, feeding ourselves, that works out to about three-to-four hours sleep between movie marathons of about ten-to-fifteen flicks in a row. Let’s see you runners do that.

And this time, I hung in there. ‘Course it had its effects:

Our intrepid host:

The beets came in early this year.

Our intrepid manager:

If you see a farm theme going here, that’s due to the opening movie, The Biggest Little Farm, which is a rather stark, unromantic look at organic farming today. Farming is tough, cupcakes, and it’s not for the faint hearted. Me, I would have wiped the coyotes out to the last kit. They are not our friends.

After the inauguration, the party started. Get comfortable, settle in:

And let’s go:

Thursday night:

1. Sicilian Ghost Story. Based on true events, this is a very sad tale, very light on the ghosts, but you don’t care because it’s not that kind of ghost story. Your hope builds and builds as Luna gets closer and closer to finding Giuseppe, then, doesn’t.

2. Us. I have not seen Jordan Peele’s Get Out yet, but I’ve heard good things so I was really looking forward to this one and, it, bombed. Just bombed. It started out with a great premise, that our shadows are cruelly and inexorably tied to us, and they want out. And then it wasn’t about that. It exploded from a local family to the world and then completely changed premises and what the hell? I get a feeling a bunch of executive types panicked and forced Peele to throw the entire kitchen, sink and all, into this thing. They don’t understand that real horror is small. Take your movie back, Mr. Peele, and do it right.


3. Out of Blue. A holy mess of a whodunnit with the right-out-of-central-casting troubled, maverick, fighting-demons detective (played by Patricia Clarkson) attempting to solve the murder of an astrophysicist. Schrodinger’s cat makes an appearance. Or does it?

4. Island of Hungry Ghosts. An even bigger holy mess of a quasi documentary attempting to link the yearly migration of red crabs across Christmas Island to social workers helping refugees in a detention camp. And failing miserably. Don’t waste your time.

So, over a twelve hour period, I had seen two good and  three sucky movies on four hours sleep. The next one playing was Bisbee ‘17 and I wasn’t particularly interested in it so this was a good time to catch up on Z’s. To the Nap Van!

Refreshed, I resumed:

5. One Cut of the Dead. This is my favorite movie of the entire festival, heck, maybe of the last few years. A film crew making a zombie movie gets attacked by real zombies…at least, during the first thirty minutes. Then, everything changes. It is sheer friggin’ genius. I was falling out of my chair laughing so hard. Incidentally, somebody pirated this movie and sold it on Amazon while the producers were still negotiating with several distribution companies. The companies dropped out, leaving the producers holding the bag.  People suck, don’t they?

6. Woman at War. A much, much better movie than I expected. I thought this would be eco-terrorist Eurowoman-hear-me-roar nonsense, and there’s some measure of that, but not in any preachy self-righteous manner. Halla, the eco-terrorist in question, effs up a lot of things, including her and her sister’s lives, in a misguided and frankly unnecessary attempt to shut down the local aluminum industry. Those guys aren’t that bad. This is quite a fun movie, well written and beautifully filmed (man, Iceland is pretty), with a running gag involving an odd Icelandic band.

7. Keep the Change. Asperger’s ( or pick your social deficiency) in love, and delightedly so. Very funny and interesting movie about how difficult it is for those with mental or emotional issues to build relationships with each other, much less get along with the straights. Outstanding performances.

8. Department Q, The Purity of Vengeance. The fourth movie in the Department Q series, and as much as a doozy as the others. My God, what is going on in Denmark? In this one, the ever-popular Detective Assad is in his last week working for the less-than-popular Carl, a detective cursed with the most unfortunate of personalities. A grisly discovery behind the wall of an apartment building launches the two of them into one of the most bizarre Dept Q cases to date. And if you’re familiar with the series, that’s saying something. Henbane, anyone?

9. The Wind. A post-modernist, post-horror horror  movie set in the West that really can’t decide what it is.  Dreadful.


10. The Wedding Guest. A very exciting, action packed and superb thriller…until the last twenty seconds, when you go, “What the HELL?” The ending ruins the movie, just ruins it. Dev Patel plays Jay, a mercenary with a particular skill set who is hired to kidnap Samira, the girlfriend of a rich college boy (nastily portrayed by Jim Sarbh) before she is forced into a marriage she does not want. Things get out of hand, and things are not what they seem. Especially with Jay who, in the last twenty seconds, completely changes his character. Irritating.

11. A Breath Away.  A French scifi end-of-the-world saga that also manages to screw itself up in the last twenty seconds. An earthquake releases a poison gas across Paris, forcing Mathieu and Anna to abandon their daughter and flee above it to a fourth floor apartment of an old couple, who are a real delight. Best characters in the movie. Why abandon daughter Sarah? Because she has Stimsberg, or something like that, syndrome which forces her to live in a massive sealed sterile chamber. It’s engulfed by the gas but she’s alright, until the batteries run out. The movie is Mathieu and Sara’s efforts to recharge/replace those batteries and, ultimately, find a way to extract Sarah from the chamber. Everybody (except the old couple) makes really, REALLY dumb decisions and you wonder if natural selection is at work. The last twenty seconds is deus ex breathing maquina.

12. Wrestle. Outstanding documentary about a down-and-out high school wrestling team and their struggles to (a) reach the state championship and (b) stay alive.

13. Fiddlin’. This was GREAT! It’s a documentary about the annual Galax Old Fiddlers Convention, which I’d never heard about but, man, I’ma goin’. The music was outstanding. The film focuses on Wayne Henderson, who makes guitars for people like Eric Clapton, and thirteen-year-old Presley Barker, who won first place in the guitar category. When the movie ended, the two of them came down to the floor and gave us all a half-hour guitar concert. Out friggin’ standing.

Wayne Henderson and Presley Barker, a pickin’ and a grinnin’

14. The Public. Emilio Estevez directed and starred in this story about a group of homeless men who want to stay overnight in the Cincinnati Public Library because it’s like, ten degrees below zero outside. Makes sense, at least to me, and any halfway awake public official would say, “Yeah, sure,” in about three seconds flat. But, not here. Police and SWAT teams and prosecutors converge and it becomes defiance and revolution and the eeevil law-and-order (read ‘Republican’) racist rich guys against the pure, fun-loving, harmless homeless who just want to stay warm. Why can’t we all get along? What the hell is a prosecutor doing in all this, and why didn’t some assistant mayor tell him to shut up and go home? ‘Course that would mean an application of common sense, and that would spoil the story, wouldn’t it? A Hollywood generated non-issue that aims to highlight homelessness but misses it by a mile or so. Still, it’s a fun movie, enjoyable if unbelievable. Afterwards, the Esteves himself did a thirty minute interview with Andy. Our brush with semi-greatness.

Emilio and Andy-o

15. Cutterhead. This was a Secret Screening of a movie that could not be named until the first reel opened. Turned out to be the most claustrophobic, muddiest, gasping-for-air movie ever made and you’ll need oxygen when it’s over. And your faith in humanity restored because, geez, these are some awful people. Rie is a photojournalist hired to do a fluff piece on workers building the Copenhagen metro way, WAY underground when things start breaking. Badly. What the hell is going on in Denmark?


16. Shut Up and Play the Piano. A wild ass documentary about a wild ass entertainer named Chili Gonzales. Nevah hoid of him, but he is Big in Europe, for good reason. This guy is a genuine hoot.

17. In the Aisles. A stark quasi-comedy about a reformed thief who lands a job in a Costco warehouse on the midnight shift. A swath of quirky characters populate the story, which revolves around one of the most torrid platonic relationships ever filmed. You make your family out of what’s available.

18. Swing Kids. A delight, a gem, wonderful, I can’t praise this movie enough. The music and the dancing and the comedy, wow. During the Korean war, captured North Korean and Chinese soldiers were held at the Geoje POW camp. The North Koreans infiltrated the camp and instigated a series of attacks and riots, holding the US Army camp commander hostage for awhile. Place was out of hand. The new camp commander forces a Broadway dancer, Sgt Jackson, to put together a tap dance team from the POWs to prove that western capitalism is winning. Problem is, Sergeant Jackson’s best tap dancer is a North Korean infiltrator under orders to kill the commander. Things get out of hand again, but with style.  

19. I Trapped the Devil. This is either a monster movie or a psychological horror movie, depending on how you interpret the end. Problem was, it’s filmed so murkily and lowlit that I fell dead asleep about ten minutes in and didn’t wake up until the last five minutes. So I  don’t know.

20. Starfish. One of those deep art movies filled with symbolism and metaphor and you have no idea what’s going on. Supposedly, another monster movie. Aubrey visits the apartment of her best friend, who died a few days before, and falls asleep. When she wakes up, the world has ended. Or it hasn’t. You decide. The director, A. T. White, was there and held a Q&A and we had a lot of fun at his expense.

21. To Dust. A rather appalling movie about an Orthodox Jew’s insane obsession with his dead wife’s rotting body. You’re going to learn more about decomposition than you ever wanted. I pretty much spent the entire movie shaking my head in disbelief.

22. Wild Nights with Emily. I expected this to be some preachy story about lesbianism and the Greatness of Emily Dickinson but no: it turned out to be a Victorian comedy of manners, very entertaining, very fun. Molly Shannon did a great job playing Emily, warts and all. And if this is an accurate portrayal of Emily’s family, I can see why she stayed in her room.

See you in six months.

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