"At this point, I make a segue that seemed relevant at the time but in retrospect was probably a very bad idea. "You know," I tell him, "I asked the guy who does the Esquire Web site* what I should show George Clooney, and he said, 'Show him 2 Girls 1 Cup.' "
"It's the most disturbing video in the history of videos."
"Show it to me."
"Really? I don't know."
"I can take it," Clooney says. "I'm a grown-up. We're all grown-ups."
"It's scarring. It'll scar you forever."
"Is it long?" he asks.
"No," I tell him, "but it's so disturbing. I saw it once and can never get it out of my mind. I can't watch it again."
"I want to see it."
Well, he asked. After a bit of searching, I find the link. I click it.
After several seconds: "It's not so bad," he says.
Three seconds later: "Oh."
Another two seconds: "Oh, my GOD! Oh, my God!! Oh, my God!"
Clooney puts his hand over his mouth like he's going to throw up. He bolts from his chair and walks out of the room.
Clooney's longtime PR guy, Stan Rosenfield, wants to know what the fuss is about. Clooney tells him he just watched the most repulsive video he's ever seen. Rosenfield wants to see it.
"I want to go at least one second more than George."
"I've got to watch Stan watch it," Clooney says, recomposing himself. "It's like the rodeo -- see how long you can last."
Rosenfield lasts three full seconds before walking out.
Clooney, having regarded himself all morning, now just watches, doubled over with laughter.
* Cinecultist has hung out with said Web site guy, one Mr. Eric Gillin, and that's totally the type of thing he'd recommend.
Nothing makes one feel like a bonafide blogger than free WiFi. Cinecultist is currently in the Ikea lounge area of the Austin Convention Center after a screening, getting caught up on emails and checking in. All around us are earnest, badge wearing interactive and film folks tapping away on lap tops, drinking coffees, chatting and planning their next move navigating this massive festival. It's kind of awesome, the creative hub bub here at SXSW.
Last night CC watched the locally made, fiction film, Goliath, about a middle aged white collar worker dealing with his bourgeois rage and the loss of his beloved cat, and then today we caught the documentary We Are Wizards, about Harry Potter fans. So far we've been sticking with our initial navigation plan of seeking out off-the-beaten path movies, not films that are coming to New York in the next week or so. Both movies were worth seeing for their zany, home-grown qualities.
Goliath is a film directed and written by David Zellner, and produced and edited by his brother Nathan, with both brothers acting in the movie as well as other indie fixtures like Wiley Wiggins and Andrew Bujalski. It has an Office Space vibe, only with even more depressed, hopeless characters who endure soul crushing humiliations. Moments like the bureaucratic signing of divorce papers or the inane chatter in a break room full of imbecile dudes are played out unblinkingly and the resulting laughter is appreciative if also slightly embarrassed. The Zellner brothers are interested in fixating on situations we've all been in, and frankly it's slightly uncomfortable.
After the Zellners, We Are Wizards was a more buoyant and celebratory selection, delving into the world of Wizard Rock—bands devoted to performing original songs about Hogwarts characters—HP fan sites and other creative expression centering on The Boy Who Lived. After attending a few Union Square midnight extravaganzas for Rowling's books and movies, it was really intriguing to see folks from all over the country using post-modern expression to explore their love of Harry. A stand-out character in Josh Koury's documentary is Brad Neely, a geeky cartoonist for Super Delux who recorded his own audio interpretation/commentary for the first film. There's something about this wizarding universe and it's characters which he says allowed him to make his most resonant work. He tells Koury's camera, he still thinks about it all the time. Intriguing that in our pop culture saturated world, it's appropriation that can lead to truly satisfying creativity.
Just now, we saw film writer Dennis Lim walking past and chatted with him about his experience so far. This is Dennis's first SXSW too, and because he's serving as a documentary judge, he's parked here in the Convention Center for the day watching all eight of the competitors. We recommended that when he gets a break from movie watching to eat a meal at the South Congress Cafe. Cinecultist had a delightful brunch there this morning, complete with mimosas and cornbread muffins. Yum. We also ate an equally scrumptious cupcake from the Hey Cupcake airstream truck parked across the street. Oh Austin, you're so quirky.
Tonight, we have plans to hit The Toe Tactic premiere party and check out the advertised performance by Yo La Tengo. But before that we'll have to swing by the drugstore for some decongestant, Cinecultist is battling a bit of a cold or maybe allergies.
In a few short hours, Cinecultist will be winging our way from Newark, New Jersey to Austin, Texas, the site of the South by Southwest Film Festival. We could only take a couple of days off for the trip, and as we filled up our interactive film festival calendar yesterday with interesting screenings and panels, we realized it's shaping up to be a jam packed long weekend. Especially since we've heard such good things about Austin's bbq, tacos and margaritas from past festival attendees. Perhaps pulled pork will become our new go-to movie snack after this weekend.
Looking over the festival line up, Matt Dentler and his team have put together a great mix of mainstream new releases like the opening night feature 21 and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo, with documentaries and small indies. On our list so far are two docs we'd heard good thing about at Sundance, Gonzo and American Teen. But Cinecultist also hopes to make some introductions to new filmmakers, so we definitely want to check out some of the short subjects, Emerging Visions and Lone Star States collections. Plus, we're hoping to do some film party schmoozing and film panel attending, so as we said, busy, busy, busy!
CC has packed the digital camera and the laptop, so we'll be filing dispatches all weekend long. If you'll also be in town for the fest or have some bbq/taco consuming suggestions, drop us a line.
In the current issue of The Believer, dude extraordinaire Chuck Klosterman essayifies on that tried and true genre, the road movie. Recently, we'd decided our previous opinion of Klosterman's writing (mostly self-important, not a lot of there there) was misguided* but with this article, Cinecultist has gone back to sort of hating him.
As usual, Klosterman seems to have missed the forest for the trees, deftly writing around the main issue in a wholly unsatisfying and overtly-intellectualized way. He argues that road movies always lead the characters back to the beginning, are about reinvention, or discovering geography. Sometimes they have no structure, sometimes they have a strict three act structure. Maybe the point is nothing happens, maybe the point is something big happens. Klosterman throws all of these ideas out there for contemplation, and doesn't really pass final judgment on any of them.
But road movies, to our mind, aren't ever solely about asphalt or cars or nature versus society. They're about the externalization of that internal quest to know ourselves. Here's where we go a little Joseph Campbell: As the hero travels, exiting his home base/comfort zone, encountering archetypes and solving minor roadblocks, he comes to learn who he is. He may be traveling down the road in a car, but he's really trekking into his psyche. That's why 2001 is an interesting inclusion into the road movie genre—the road into space is a metaphor for Dave's real journey into that 18th century white alien room, ie. his mind.
Another annoyance from this essay is that Klosterman cites a lot of great examples of road movies like Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Old Joy and Two-Lane Blacktop (Most. Boring. Movie. Ever.) but neglects Cinecultist's fav, and the subject of a high school English AP paper we wrote about road stories in literature: The Muppet Movie. Kermit, a banjo, and a bunch of fuzzy buddies in a Studebaker going to Hollywood? How could Chuck have missed that one? Perhaps just like Fozzie, Klosterman learned to drive by correspondence school.
*CC recently donated to This American Life for the CD Kings of Nonfiction, a dialog between host Ira Glass and writers Susan Orlean, Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman at Town Hall. In this context, Chuck's writing or if you prefer, riffing about KISS for 600 words, seemed to have purpose. Obviously, we were wrong.
A few weeks ago, Cinecultist got the opportunity to chat with director Ramin Bahrani again, this time for Metromix. Ramin is a cool guy and always a fun interview—he let CC veer the conversation off into Ingmar Bergman exaltations and he humored our questions about his favorite neighborhood haunts. He also is obviously and deeply passionate about cinema which tells the unlikely, untold narrative, as is evident in his wonderful new movie Chop Shop about two teenagers living above an auto body shop in Willet's Point, Queens. Cinecultist has been, at least once, to all five boroughs of Manhattan but we were unfamiliar with this industrial part of the city near Shea Stadium. Bahrani opens a window to this part of New York and the people living their lives there. His camera doesn't judge. It just appears to observe, and the performances he elicits from his primarily first time cast are wonderfully natural.
The film is playing now at Film Forum through March 11, be sure to check it out.
Another brilliant portrayal by Amy Poehler as the young thespian Dakota Fanning on this week's Saturday Night Live hosted by Ellen Page. The addition of the "Kids Speak" feature is really choice. Geektastic Dakota takes to the streets to ask kids the kinds of questions she wants to answer: "What's your favorite David Lynch movie?" "Did you catch Philip Glass at Carnegie Hall?" and "Is Sarkozy trampling French people's civil rights?" Ha. Poor Dakota, any little girl who has a celeb crush like Charlie Rose and plays the hurdy gurdy is so freakin' doomed. But she'd still totally be Cinecultist's friend.