Wednesday, February 11, 2009

B-Fest Wrap Up No. 2

Mystery Short No. 1

Ever since it's height in 02 when "What is Communism" floated the entire auditorium on a cloud of irony, the mystery shorts have always been a take it or leave it proposition. Then last year, Sonny Bono showed up to give us a court-ordered lecture on drugs and my hope was restored. This year, we got a half-hour long all female Busby Berkly style musical in Chinese.

Well played, B-Fest.

The language barrier wasn't the only thing that made this indecipherable. The all-female cast caused a few heads to be scratched and the musical quality...ouch. Just ouch. You don't think "endurance test" when you hear the words "mystery short" but you also don't expect five minutes of screeching in a foreign tongue to seem like 4 hours in a dentist's chair, either.

Murder in the Air

I figured it would be a good five minutes before the fest crowd made an Alzheimer's joke. Nope. Inside the first minute, before the credits were done if I remember. It also took about a half hour to grasp onto the fact that "murder" wasn't where this plot was taking us, and that the "air" portion of the title was kind of incidental. It would be similar to "LA Confidential" taking place on Kominski Field with long grass that sort of resembled a labyrinth. And starring Jimmy Carter.

The movie was kind of dull, with Ronald Regan finding himself stuck as an undercover officer in a mob style noir. There's a moll, a bit of intrigue and planes, toward the end. No biggie.

Raffle, Wizard, Plan 9

Nothing new here. We were skunked, went to stomp and threw plates, in that order.

Scream Blackula Scream

Some negative buzz was floating around about William Marshall's second go round as the master of the slightly darker dark, as it were. In actuality, I enjoyed the film quite a bit. Yes, Pam Greer had nothing to do (though I did dig the voodoo ceremony toward the end) and yes, the plot moved a little slow and yes, the title character only does the reenacts the title in the final minutes out of the blue, but overall the thing had a great lead, decent atmosphere for a tiny budget and some kind of fun dialogue all the way across. And it was riffable.

My favorite bit involved Blackula crashing an antiquities party and sort of wooing everyone in the room, then going out the garage and turning into a bat for no reason. It fit the movie so well - great charm at the beginning with a bat on a string by the end.

By that point, I'm getting a big hazy. Onto:

Don't Knock the Rock

Pretty basic, really. The country loves rock. Musicians love rock. Old, powerful, sticks in the mud don't like rock. Musicians show up and put on a show to change people's minds. One slut ruins it for everyone. Then rock somehow wins and everyone falls in line. Somewhere in there, the main musician guy nabs the girl. Play us out.

And then Little Richard shows up and things get interesting.

Not really. Little Richard playing on the big screen in all his youthful, not quite flaming glory was a site to behold at 3 in the morning. The dude could play. Probably still can.

Woof. I ate too much junk and decided to sleep off Donovan's Brain and end up missing The Tingler, too. Ack!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

B-Fest 09 Wrap Up, Part 1

One thing I've noticed over my seven (god, seven!) years of going to B-fest is how many "normals" want to talk about it before and after. The idea interests them, captures their imagination somehow - the idea of pushing your body and your mind by cheesy movie after cheesy movie, each one more processed than the last.

What I tell them is it's glorious. And they would never make it. They seem to understand.

B-Fest 09 was glorious, let's get that out of the way first. The folks who attended have wits both sharp and quick and were friendly and great to be around as always. The trip was doable and the fest itself, one of my top three favorites. In short, good, good year. And normals wouldn't make it past Scream Blackula Scream. But we did.

The trip started off with Chad and I traveling to Omaha where we had dinner at the Dundee Del with the tall and friendly Mr. Lane Hickenbottom, then catching a screening of "The Wrestler" (if you've ever seen plastic surgery kill the face of an aging star - if you've ever seen a bad chin job then you've seen me) which was great and deeply sad in equal measure. Then it was off to the home of Matt and Pat Campbell where we all sang like girls during a spirited round of Rock Band, sampled some corn whiskey to offset the singing like girls, and hit the sack. It was up at 6, on the road by 7:30 and off we went.

Matt's an old pro at this, but Pat didn't know what he was getting into. Any trip with the three of us includes a stop in Iowa City (turn here, Mike) to visit He Who Walks Between The Arches at the Coralville McDonalds. Pat took it well, getting nervous upon the approach and reverent as we ate an early lunch in the coldest McDs in the free world. We considered the fryer as a source of warmth and could see our breath through the sips of sour water that passed for Diet Coke. HWWBTA was having a bad year, apparently.

We hit Illinois with a little Kung-Fu Panda (screw you, it's a legitimate Kung-Fu movie on training wheels), the Edward Norton "Incredible Hulk" movie from this year and a few other novelties. It was onto the Eisenhower, onto the testicle tingle trestle and into the Best Western to meet up with the BMMB. Again, Pat was nervous upon the approach and reverent as we pulled up.

We all headed off to the Tiki Bar for a few drinks, a mammathon and dirty talk over cigarettes. Then to the hotel for the after party where my tech skills proved woefully inadequate but my foresight in bringing lots of booze made up for it. I went to bed early, but apparently a lot of drinking took place after I conked out, leading to the immortal line "puke, you'll feel better in the morning." And so it was.

Friday, we dicked around downtown, bought some books, drank some coffee and hit the auditorium for the fest. The energy level was a touch lower than in the past (the pixie serving as MC who couldn't project over the crowd didn't help) but that changed real quick with the appearance of Mr. Chuck Norris. Welcome to B-Fest 09.


People love Chuck. I think Chuck is a real life douchbag who made some fun flicks, but let's face it - the jokes are getting old. It would have been hard to sustain an entire movie with "Chuck Norris is so tough..." jokes, so I thanked the quipping Gods when the first scene sees Norris and his buddy Louis Gossett Jr. tied prostrate in a desert, with only a beer for company as an evil someone or other drives away, laughing. Chuck crushes the beer bottle, uses the glass to cut his ropes and "crotch cam" is mercifully ended.

What follows is the really, really poor man's Indiana Jones with half-assed treasure hunting, a villain who doesn't pay much attention to the plot except when it calls for him to break into the stereotypical Native American "hey ya ya ya hey ya ya ya" and a love interest who bears a striking resemblance to a french poodle. The highlight of the proceedings is a bar fight where Mr. Gossett Jr. sees a punch coming and yells "aaawww nooo!" before taking one to the big bald head. The phrase immediately stuck and became the Zeus yell of 09's fest.

Overall, "Firewalker" was a big "eh," the defining characteristic being a distinct lack of fire walking. Imagine, Chuck Norris turning in a half-assed performance in a half-serious action movie. Perfect cannon fodder. Feeling good. Onto...

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Meets is kind of a strong word. It was more like a meeting where each side has something the other one wants. On the Wolfman's side, Dr. Frankenstein's science offers a way to finally die and end his suffering. For Frankie, I kind of forget what he was getting out of the deal. Given he ended up taking a dam to the face at the end of the picture, he probably got hosed.

This wasn't your typical "monster meets monster" movie for three big reasons: There was a musical number, some pretty famous names were involved (Bela Legosi played Frankie, of all people) and it actually reached a fairly good B-movie style crescendo. It was better than anything Aliens Vs. Predator was able to pull off.

My finest moment of the fest came during this movie. When the Wolf Man turned and started hunting a cop, Josh of the BMMB started making frantic "bacon bacon bacon" chants, like the dog on the commercial. When the Wolf Man finally attacked, I yelled "It's Bacon!" which worked on a couple letters. I got some scattered applause and my self-esteem was up for the year. Yay me.

When we return: bad special effects and even worse food.