Vol. 684 No. 39 (Subscribe) (Contact: micah[at] Wednesday, April 26 2017
AGFA Cinemapocalypse 2014
Genre: Festival Coverage

This article is part of AGFA Cinemapocalypse 2014

A rule I try to live by is that if there’s a Cinemapocalypse event happening, I’m going. I think it started as a road show Zack and Lars brought to several rep theaters on the west coast in early 2009. At least that’s when I first went to a Cinemapocalypse show, because my wife and I just happened to be in Seattle the same night they were coming through and showing Vice Squad at the Grand Illusion. Since then there’ve been various Cinemapocalypse screenings/marathons, including one that that immediately followed the screening of Inglorious Basterds where Tim draped the Ritz in giant Nazi banners, and the one-off screening of Psycho From Texas that Lars brought to Dallas a month ago, and I’ve never had less than an amazing time at one. So when this went on sale just a week or two ago, I bought my ticket immediately.

The idea for this Cinemapocalypse was to bring in 5 of NA’s best genre programmers, and let each of them have unfettered access to the AGFA 35mm archive to independently show whatever they wanted. Which meant this had the same disjointed-but-still-find-common-themes feeling that BTSNATs do. Since the event started at 2, I was able to leave town the morning of at a reasonable time and get to Austin with just enough time to drop my car off at the hotel I’d booked on 4th and then walk over to the Ritz. It was packed with tons of friends that always come to these events, as well as @troniks, who I’ve known over twitter for years but had never actually met. I ran into him almost immediately after walking in, and it was great to finally be able to say hey in person.

Soon we filtered in to Theater 2, and I grabbed my spot on the wall-end of the back row. I was happy to find out that no one was in the seat next to mine (at least at first… a couple showed up halfway through the first film, the woman was the sort of sporadic whisperer that is distracting and annoying but not persistent enough to be flaggable…. Luckily they left about 10 minutes into the 4th film and I had my own quiet bubble back), and because the two seats on the other side of that one were handicap spots, I was completely in my own little bubble.

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Tommy and Joe took the stage and said that about a year ago they were brainstorming all the things they most wanted to do but that seemed impossible. At the top of the list was having Joe Flaherty come to the theater to introduce movies as Count Floyd. (They’re still working on that one). But number two was what we were doing tonight. They originally thought flying/hosting 5 programmers in would be cost-prohibitive, but managed to make it happen (though they readily said tonight wasn’t really a money-making proposition but rather an expression of passion). Tommy and Joe then introduced and brought up all the night’s hosts, which really served as a crystallization of the night’s prevailing This Is A Reunion Of And Meeting Grounds For A Ton Of Really Amazing Like Minded Humans vibe.

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Everyone but Phil (@troniks) then sat down so he could introduce his pick of the night.

Phil said that his pick starred a guy who, in the 70s, was EVERYwhere. TV. Magazines. Movie theaters. Drive-ins. But then, in the 80s, his career started to slide. His observation that “But in my mind, it slid straight up” got a big laugh. Phil said that the actor made a lot of Dad Action Movies, and that this was one of his best. A this point I was pretty sure he was describing Burt Reynolds, and as I found out a few minutes later during the credits, I was right. As was the case for most of tonight’s movies, Phil didn’t tell us the movie’s name, but did say that on IMDB the plot keywords included two things that he realized he always likes to see in movies: “bare-chested men” and “racist comments.” He then apologized to the other programmers for booking something that was going to be way better than whatever they programmed, and sat down as the opening credits started running for:

Sweet. I’d never seen this one and had no idea what it was about. Actually, that was true for all of tonight’s movies. Burt’s name came up first during the credits and got a huge round of cheers. And then he comes on screen, and for the first 15 minutes he revels in portraying the most single-mindedly misogynist asshole I have seen on screen in years. That shifts not soon after for reasons I won’t disclose, and the movie morphs into an amazing story about a few days in the life of a beat-down-but-still-mostly-has-it private eye. This portion of the film (which is the bulk of the movie) has a very pulp-man-novel feel. He’s not a Marlowe or a Parker, but he’s the sort of guy that runs in their circles. AND THEN, in the middle of THAT movie, there’s this really funny and sweet and engrossing buddy comedy with Reynolds and Peter MacNicol. NacNicol had a face I recognized but couldn’t place, but glancing at his IMDB I think I know him most from 24. He’s amazing here as a timid client of Reynolds with an initially unclear motive for seeking out Reynolds. I think their segment of the film was my favorite, though I’d happily watch an entire movie of just Asshole Reynolds, Buddy Reynolds, or PI Reynolds. The night’s first theater-wide cheer came courtesy of Reynolds in an AMAZING pimp suit, and the cheers kept coming as Reynolds showed off his fantastic high-kicking fighting style. I love characters who are apt to say to the bad guys “Me against the five of you? That’s not fair odds. You’d better get more guys.” Reynolds doesn’t say that in this film, but it’s absolutely indicative of how he views the world. He’s uncompromisingly confident of his ability to come out on the better end of a physical confrontation, and he’s absolutely justified in that confidence. This was an excellent start to the night, and ended up being a nice bookend to the last film of the night. (As an aside, I found out after that there’s been an on-the-shelf-for-years remake with Statham in the Reynolds role. I really want to see that!).

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Up next were Lars and Zack to introduce the film picked by Kier-La Janisse, who couldn’t come due to family issues. The guys really praised Kier-La and credited her as being the person who first brought the idea of “Programming” to the Drafthouse instead of “just showing War Games every weekend.” They talked about her influence in the early Alamo years, and how Zack came to Austin just to work with her, only to be bummed a month later when she was forced to return to Canada for good. Turning to her pick, Lars said that during early company meetings, she’d always end up suggesting that they program this next film. And every time she did, Tim would “jump up on the table and declare that that movie would play at an Alamo over his dead body.” He was so anti this film that after Kier-La returned to Canada, she made Zack promise to keep an eye on this and 2 other prints that she was worried Tim would piss on and toss out. After this film ended, someone I talked to said they assumed we were about to watch porn based on that description of Tim’s actions. But having personally witnessed the deviant films that Tim has programmed at other events, I knew were must be in store for something from the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

And I was right, because Lars finally said “Ok. I’m just going to tell you the name of the movie. It’s Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure.” Huge laughs and groans from the audience, as you’d expect from that title. Lars said he’d always assumed this was a crappy cash-in project, but was surprised to find out that it was actually a huge labor of love for the director and animators, who packed the film with an unbelievable SIXTEEN original songs. Lars: “It’s directed by the guy who was the animation director for {checks a piece of paper he was holding} a movie called WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, which had a rabbit.” And so, with some trepidation, we launched into the last thing any of us expected to see tonight.

And… verdict… not bad! It starts in the real world as a young girl gets off a school bus, drags a Raggedy Ann down the street, into her house, and into her tiny attic room where she keeps a menagerie of run-down looking dolls. As soon as she leaves the room, the film transitions to animation and – Toy Story style – the dolls come to life. The plot is driven by the little girl’s newest doll's – a French hoity-toity named Babette – kidnapping by a horny pirate who lives in a snow globe and Ann & Andy’s journey to bring her home. Before they head out we get ~5-6 songs and I’d already started to dig the quasi-nightmarish animation style and the often creepy things done and said by the dolls. There’s two horrific twin dolls (called the Twin Pennies) who act as a Greek Chorus of sorts and early in the film say things are so bad they could die (the first of two times a character in the film shares that sentiment). Another example: when the pirate first sees Babette he freaks out and sings a song about how she’ll be his, and during the entire song, he’s overtly and repeatedly thrusting his crotch back and forth.

But the best part of the film was after Ann and Andy leave the house and go into an otherworld of madness where they come across all sorts of psychedelic characters (each of whom gets an introduction song, two or three lines of dialogue with our heroes, and then a full-length reprise of the introduction song). There’s a broken-down camel who seems to have acid flashbacks, a character called Greed who constantly morphs and eats himself and wants to cut out Ann’s heart (he’s my favorite), a tiny king who grows whenever he mocks someone else, and an amorphous underwater evil ruler who… does something. I’m not really sure.

I got the sense that a lot of people found this film tedious, but I definitely enjoyed it despite a few sequences where I couldn’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t watching a character sing whatever song they were currently singing. It had the same This Is Amazing But Every Minute Feels Like Infinite quality of The Magic Christmas Tree. So much so that I was shocked to find out that we only watched just over 60 minutes of the film due to a missing reel (which, in the context of the film, you couldn’t necessarily spot).

Anyway, I assumed you couldn’t show two movies back to back that were more different than Heat and Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure, an assumption that I learned was wrong after the next film was announced.

Up next was Bret Berg of Cinefamily, who said that he was honoring the spirit of discovery that he loves about AGFA and genre film in general by picking something he’d never seen. But it had been vouched for my one of his co-programmers, who loves what he calls American Lifestyle Documentaries… something where you get a glimpse into really obscure subgenres. Right about here I got a really crazy feeling that I was about to watch a doc that I’d just seen LAST NIGHT called STRIPPER, which I’d watched because it was the first film by TRAXX director Jerome Gary. Luckily that wasn’t the case, though I wasn’t far off, because our next film was The Miss Nude America Contest.

Bret mentioned during his intro that the real plot of the movie wasn’t the contest but this guy named Dick Drost, a paraplegic with MS who created a nudist colony called Naked City in Indiana in the 70s. Drost is an engrossing and often sympathetic character, though there’s moments where things get very uncomfortable. A candid Harry Reems says that Drost comes across as an unstable egomaniac. Drost is confronted with the small print of his employees’ employment agreement, which drops in “sleep with Drost as requested” in between “assist Drost’s parents” and “consent to have your photo used in ads for Naked City.” Drost admits that his dad’s recent (but years’ long) depression and alcohol dependency is a direct result of his insistence that they live with him in the nudist colony but he doesn’t care. Drost creepygropes scores of female contestants during a contrived photo-shoot. And most significantly, there’s a brief mention of how Drost pays his “models” $4/hour, except for the ones under $12, who only get $2. Plus, at least the way the film is edited, there seemed to be lots of children AT the Miss Nude contest. On the whole the doc was really interesting when it focused on the men and women who came to participate in the Mr/Miss Nude contest and vaguely unsettling when it focused on Drost. To the point where I wasn’t surprised to find out afterward that Drost was later charged with numerous counts of minor-related sexual felonies. Before I ended my brief inquiry into Drost’s future/past (depending on whether you’re looking at it from the point of the doc or now) in disgust, it looked like he’d pleaded down to fairly minor sentences. But – like I said – I quickly lost the stomach/interest into seeing how his story ended. Knowing what I know now, however, would make for a very different rewatch (kind of like watching CLOWNHOUSE with a knowledge of Salva’s actions at the time).

How about that for a Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure follow-up!

Oh this film had the night’s first callback with a loving reference by one of the contestants to Burt Reynolds! And Drost’s incredible mule headed argument with a Hare Krishna in an airport was a set up for a call-back in the night’s last film.

The next to last film of the night was programmed by Cristina Cacioppo from the NY Alamo, who admitted up front that it was slow and not something she’d normally program for a marathon, but that she picked it for tonight because of how rare it is (she claims it’s never been released on home video), how good it is, and how great the cast is (she’s not kidding… Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges, Rod Steiger, Ed Lauter, Randy Quaid, Gary Busey, and lots more). She also said that she’s pretty sure this is the only film in AGFA’s archive based on a Sue Grafton novel.

So. Lolly-Madonna XXX. Zack blamed his film’s lack of success on the title, but that’s got to be way more applicable with this film. I didn’t notice the XXX (they are supposed to be kisses) during the film’s title frame, and when I looked the film up after the movie on IMDB, I saw the full title and initially thought someone made a porn parody of the film we’d just seen (which would have been super weird). It’s based on a novel called The Lolly-Madonna War, and while that would have been a not great title for the movie, at least it doesn’t sound like a generic adult film.

Naming issues aside, this is a solid enough film (albeit one that, as Cristina said, felt like a strange turn for a marathon like the one we were having). It’s a Hatfield/McCoy style Feuding Southern Family drama that focuses on a week(ish) period where the long-standing feud gets pushed to the breaking point by a prank turned horribly wrong. (Family A leads Family B to believe that Family A’s Son’s Fiancé is coming to town on a bus and Family B kidnaps the first girl they see at the bus stop not realizing that she’s completely unrelated to Family A, and in fact Family A’s Son isn’t even engaged). The plot from that point out is pretty much exactly what you’d expect (and absolutely nothing more), and the enjoyment comes from watching a host of leading and character actors do actor-y things to various degrees of success. Ryan died the year this came out, and he was still absolutely compelling on screen.

Perhaps the best moment of the film was watching the patriarch of one of the families (Rod Steiger) have an absolute nervous breakdown in the family’s kitchen, which he signaled through the making of a horrific looking mayo, ketchup, and mystery-meat sandwich. Plus we got the first of the night’s two cringe-inducing home-remedy stich-up sequence. Onward to the last film of the night‼

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So Zack takes the stage and recaps the night so far. “We’ve seen a dad-ass action movie. A tortuous cartoon. 5,000 pounds of pubic hair (put your shirt on Max!). A Falknerian drama. And now this!” Zack explained that he intentionally didn’t pick the sort of movie you’d expect him to pick, because those sorts of things are being shown weekly at Terror Tuesday, Weird Wednesday, and other screenings in town. So he wanted to show something that otherwise wouldn’t get shown. “It’s from the nineties! {he cringes} I know! It has pretty Hollywood actors! {another cringe} I KNOW! But here’s the thing. It’s really good. It’s one of the best movies with the shittiest names. It’s Miami Blues.” The announcement of the title got a good portion of the audience to cheer, but I was momentarily confused, because I got braincrossed with Hill Street Blues. Once I realized my confusion, however, I still didn’t have any idea what this film was about. I did a quick IMDB check and was surprised to see Alec Baldwin and excited to see Fred Ward. Zack said that the title Miami Blues should make you think of a host of sad things, like bankruptcy and divorce. But this was a film that Ward felt so strongly about that he took the supporting cop role instead of the lead criminal role after the film’s financers balked at casting him as the lead. He also put some of his own money on the line and became one of the executive producers. It’s based on a novel by Charles Willeford (I’ve read one of his books, the amazingly named Shark Infested Custard) and is about a criminal that Zack described as a complete moron with no plan and very little skill (Baldwin) but really saved and made special by Ward’s toothless (literally) but doggedly determined cop character. “So yeah, he may have made movies like Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swan where he goes into the past and fucks his grandmother…” (side note – I really like Timerider) “but he also made really amazing films like this. He’s a legend.” He also said that if you hate Hare Krishnas, this is the film for you (a great callback to MISS NUDE). Zack: “So enjoy… I’m not going to say the title because it’s so bad. Enjoy… what’s a good name for a movie? … Enjoy Lightning Kick.” And then, as he took his seat, he yelled from the dark “No… enjoy Hare Krishna Blues!”

And yeah… this was a great end to the festival, and a perfect bookend with Heat. Both have superconfident lead characters (Reynolds and Baldwin) but they’re on opposite sides of the law and where Reynolds’ confidence is justified, Baldwin is a complete buffoon. He’s a super small time grifter who accidentally kills a Hare Krishna dude at the airport by breaking his finger, thus bringing him under the watchful eye of homicide detective Fred Ward. Remember how Robert Forster spends a good chunk of ALLIGATOR talking about/futzing with his balding hair? That’s Ward here, only with his upper dentures. A good chunk of the film he’s toothless, and the rest of the film he’s messing around with the dentures that one of his forensic cop friends made for him. It’s a weird quirk, but one (of many things) that makes Ward feel like a flushed out character. To an extent, I guess. Max pointed out afterward that pretty much everyone in the film feels like a caricature, and there’s really no disputing that. Ward is a shark in a cop’s costume. Baldwin is an absurd spring-loaded bomb on the brink of detonation careening from corner to corner of the screen. Baldwin’s girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was given a name but might as well have literally been called Hooker With A Heart of Gold. And on it goes. Which – as with Heat – gives the film a very man-pulp novel feeling. Watching this movie – especially with a crowd and especially after viewing 4 other films back to back – just felt like watching a balls-out blast of a party.

After the movie ended the typical post-movie circles formed for a while. At first I was stuck with trying to find a way that Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure tied in with at least one of the other movies. Everything else had a connection. Heat and Miss Nude had Burt. Lolly and Miami Blues had stitches. Blues and Miss Nude had Hare Krishnas. But where was the Raggedy connection? I felt like I could stretch by saying that Miss Nude and Miami Blues, like Raggedy, had female characters that sounded and acted like they were children. But that was a stretch. But then Max found the overarching connection: everything (including Raggedy) other than Miss Nude was based on an existing novel/story. Kudos Max!

Oh! And a connection I found that wasn’t intra-marathon but rather intra-theater… Miami Blues starts and ends with Spirit in the Sky, and Ritz’s Theater 1 was showing Guardians all day. So it’s conceivable that Spirit was playing in both theaters at the same time. Viva connections!

Eventually the circles broke up (it was still before midnight… we totally could have done movie 6‼), and I wandered out onto 6th to document via Vines the Drunken Apocalypse that happens every weekend there as is my wont. I saw lots of curb drunks, caught a fight on video (the first time I’d ever heard someone yell WorldStar in person), saw lots of bro hugs, and – a first for my Drunken Apocalypse venturings – a woman who spent at least 30 minutes (based on when I first and last saw her) walking down 6th completely topless.

Anyway, viva Cinemapocalypse! So far this year I’ve done a multi-day noir marathon at the Ritz hosted by Eddie Muller, a Savage Gold all-night drive-in marathon programmed by Lars and Zack, and now this. I said this after Savage Gold, but among just the enjoyment of spending the day watching great movies, the value to me of events like this is that it reminds me that even though there are times when (at least compared to the majority of people I interact with in the real world) I feel like I’ve watched or at least heard of all the movies, that is very definitively, and very happily, not the case. This event also reinforced for me what an amazing time we live in, notwithstanding the ever precarious nature of 35mm public screenings. I was absolutely thrilled to watch these five film sin 35mm. But if you’re reading this and want to recreate the experience (albeit not in 35mm), you’re living in literally the best time in all of eternity to do so. And if you don’t want to recreate the experience but use it as a launching point to deep dive into all of Robert Ryan’s early work, or all 70s animated child-geared fare, or the entirety of Burt Reynolds’ 80s output, or the first three films directed by Miami Blues’ director (Private Duty Nurses, Hit Man, and Vigilante Force), or really any super-specific subset of films that you and maybe only you are interested in, you can make that a reality relatively easily and inexpensively. I’m not the guy that’s going to say avoid everything Hollywood (I watched and dug Guardians, A Millions Ways, 22 Jump Street, and Apes, among others this summer) but damn man… don’t ever let yourself be cabined by what’s opening in a given weekend. Unless doing so is part of your job description, forge your own film-strewn path. Be a cinematic warrior. Create your own year-round Cinemapocalypse.

Can we do it all over again next weekend?

Author: Micah
Post Date: 08.11.14


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