Sunday, October 04, 2009

London 2: Opening Night

The last time I was at the Raindance Festival it was held at the UGC Cinemas in the Trocadero Mall at Piccadilly - which was a great venue because it was a dozen screens, a big lobby (where I did my free classes), and there were many people who sort of wandered into the festival - they might be going to see some Hollywood movie at the mall cinema and discover some indie film that had a cast & crew Q&A afterwards and see that instead. The UGC Cinema chain also has a yearly pass you can buy (you can see an unlimited number of films for one fee), which was honored by the festival, so many people with passes showed up for the festival because they could get in for free. This resulted in packed houses, sold out showings of obscure films from the Ukraine, and interesting Q&A sessions where some “civilian” would ask the question no one else would ask (“Why isn’t any of it in focus?” “Why isn’t there a story?” “How can I get my 2 hours back?”).

This year, the festival is at a new venue - the Apollo Cinemas - a few blocks away from the Trocadero. It’s a beautiful new cinema, 5 screens, but there is no chance for someone who is not attending the festival to show up... so the attendance is lower and the questions are less honest. Opening night, I am jet lagged, wearing unusual British underpants that make me aware of my private parts, and the bright blue lights under the cinema steps and causing some sort of mild hallucinations.

I bump into members of the Raindance staff I have not seen in years and say hello, then spot Janet and go to give her a big hug. Janet is a film junkie, and a film fest junkie, who I met at my first Raindance Film Fest and now every time I’m at the fest we usually have a lunch together and often see movies together. Janet is plugged in to what movies may be interesting and has these “film snitches” who tell her what films to skip and what films must be seen. Distribs, festival programmers, representatives of foreign film councils.

The Apollo has assigned seats, but my invite gets me *two* seats so she gives away her ticket and we sit together for the film...

MOVIE: HUMPDAY. Humpday has already played in the States and I missed it on purpose because it has a completely preposterous concept - two straight men decide to make a porno of them having sex with each other. Um, two straight men are not going to have sex with each other. Neither of these guys are even slightly bisexual, one is married and the other is a horn dog. The porno is an “art project”. None of this makes any sense at all, and was so completely unrealistic that I skipped it when it was playing at the Sunset 5. Plus, it’s mumblecore...

I think I have ranted about the mumblecore genre in the past - it’s like Dogme, just without any of the rules. Basically, no script, no lights, no camera work, no focus (camera), no focus (story), no story, and it’s usually about New York hipsters who sit around and talk about their bands. Booooring! I can’t imagine this genre existing when you had to pay for film and processing and rent 35mm cameras and rent editing equipment. In those days, people would realize this was a huge waste of money and make NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD instead. But today, anyone can grabs their video camera and go make a movie for nothing... about nothing.

But HUMDAY was different - it had a story and was in focus. Mark Duplass (BAGHEAD) and Josh Leonard (BLAIR WITCH) are the two long time buddies... and even though the concept is completely unrealistic and preposterous, writer-director Lynn Shelton actually makes it work. This is one of those films you actually have to see to find believable - from the synopsis it does not work, but on screen there is a whole bunch of fancy footwork that allows you to believe the premise. Well made, and very funny.

Duplass plays a married guy in a suburban home who is hoping to have children - and working on it - the wife has ovulation charts and timetables and he’s forced to perform when the timing is right, even if he is exhausted. One night they are awakened by the doorbell, it’s Leonard just back from some adventure looking for a place to crash. Wife is against it, but this is Duplass’ old pal, so they put him up for a while. Back in the day, these two would party all night and pick up women and have a great (irresponsible) time. Duplass misses that, and allows himself to be talked into going out on the town with Leonard, and ending up at a house party of bohemian artists - many of them female and hot. Leonard targets one of the women and starts what he believes to be a relationship... and to impress her, drunkenly says he’s going to make an art film with he and Duplass having sex. This begins an odd sort of macho one-ups-man-ship where Duplass agrees, so that he doesn’t look like a wimp or a prude in front of the hot bohemian women... and reserves a hotel room a week from now to shoot the straight man porno in.

And this is how the preposterous premise is made to work - these two guys see backing down from this as looking wimpy and weak, so their *macho* requires them to have sex with each other.

As the day approaches, and Duplass’ wife discovers what they are doing, many many things go wrong in funny ways... and eventually the two men end up in that hotel room with a video camera trying to figure out who does what to whom and whether they can remain friends afterwards... which is all very real.

One of the weird problems with the film is that the premise is so unbelievable that you begin rejecting the film, then it does a great job of showing you how this premise might actually be possible given the right set of circumstances, then brings you to scenes where the characters realize the premise is unbelievable... but they are stuck with it. The story becomes very real and very believable... but you have to watch the film to get there. If you just read the synopsis or if someone tells you what it’s about, you would think it’s a stupid idea for a movie and not want to see it.

Though still made with handheld camera and probably no lights or reflectors and maybe a largely improvised script, HUMDAY is focused and controlled enough to be enjoyable... and the actors and situations are funny and real and had me liking the film and reconsidering my dismissal of Mumblecore. If you can get past the idea that two very straight men would agree to have sex with each other for an “art project” when neither are artists, well, you’ll probably enjoy this film.

AFTER PARTY: The traditional Raindance Opening Night Party is at Tyger-Tyger, which you have probably read about in the tabloids or seen on Entertainment Tonight - movie stars get in fist fights there sometimes. It’s a hot London club. But this year, a different club. We all walked there from the cinema...

But when we arrived, our private floor of the club wasn’t ready yet - and would not be available for almost two hours! So, we had two hours of *paying for drinks* before the area with the free drinks was ready. Typical Raindance screw up... or maybe done on purpose. Who knows? So, I had some beers in the public part of the club and screamed over the music so that I could be heard by the folks I was attempting to have a conversation with. Film makers, Raindance staff folks, other people I know from past festivals...

Now, here is the problem - I am still wearing those British underpants which are thrusting my private parts forward, and the club is filled with hot women in microscopic dresses and I am jet-lagged and getting drunk and sleep deprived and maybe sleep *depraved*. I am thinking about totally hitting on these women in the public portion of the club, despite wearing my ugly shirt that I have been wearing for a couple of days, now. I have a hotel room... with a fireplace. Maybe I should just hit on every woman in the club until one says yes? I never do anything like that... but should I? But I’m in conversation with some people and worried about my shirt - kind of a wardrobe war going on between British underpants (screw some strange girl) and the ugly shirt (what woman would want to have sex with a man wearing a shirt like this?) and the shirt won...

Well, actually, the private floor won - because they finally got it ready, and there was free booze down there. All of the people I was talking to (screaming with?) said, “Let’s go” and we went downstairs to the private club. Free drinks... but by this time I wasn’t sure I could drink anymore and remain standing. So, I had none of the free drinks!

As everyone poured downstairs and grabbed seats, it became apparent that I would be standing for the rest of the night... but I spotted two chairs on stage, grabbed Janet, and we sat on stage... until a couple of security guys said that was not allowed. Hey, I knew it wasn’t allowed when I did it! We found an *empty* VIP room - almost quiet - and tried to have a conversation about the movie... but then some performers came in and said they would be using this room for their show, which we would miss if we stayed in the room... kicked out again! I watched part of the show, but it was impossible to have a conversation, and I was tired and wearing a stinky ugly shirt and forward thrusting underpants and decided maybe I should stagger back to my hotel room and get some sleep, and see movies tomorrow. Said goodbye (screamed goodbye) and left.

The next morning my luggage arrived, so I showered and went to see some movies!

SCRIPT SECRETS: LONDON - October 10 & 11, 2009 - BIG IDEA class, using GHOST as our primary example and it includes the new Thematic element!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Cut The Wandering and FARGO
Yesterday's Dinner: Packaged chicken sandwich from the store across from the cinema.

SCRIPT SECRETS: LONDON - October 10 & 11, 2009 - BIG IDEA class, using GHOST as our primary example and it includes the new Thematic element!

1 comment:

ObiDonWan said...

You have great pedestrian adventures. Underpants! Sounds like a premise in a Will Farrell movie.

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