Benjamin (serbanj) wrote,
Benjamin
serbanj

B-fest 2010 summary

B-fest is a 24-hour bad movie festival held at the end of January in Evanston IL.  It is fun.  This is my recap of B-fest 2010.

 

Starting about 20 minutes late due to projector difficulties, we finally got rolling with Crippled Masters (1979), a kung-fu flick in which one hero has no arms (but a prehensile piece of flesh of some kind on one shoulder) and the other has no legs.  It was about as insane as you’d expect, and we were full of energy for the opener, shouting out random quips to the theater at large (“I will not be de-feat… oh, wait…) and having quieter conversations trying to figure out the plot (regarding some jade horse statues that the heroes had to steal – “wait, did he just say that *horses* would show them kung fu?”  “Not very well, though.”).  Every blow in every fight, regardless of whether or not it seemed to connect, gets the same overdone “impact” foley sound effect, except for blows to the hump on the villain’s back, which gets a “squishy” sound.  After a strong start, the movie started to wear out its welcome in the midst of samey fight scenes; there are a whole lot, and some of them are long and don’t involving any cripples (“okay, we get it!  They’re fighting!). 
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good

 

Edward IX of BMBB fame, wearing a tux, introduced the first of his two sponsored choices, Heartbeeps (1981).  Our dubious benefactor concluded with the ominous words “I hope you really hate it,” and I did, in a B-fest appropriate way.  Within a few minutes we were starting to get angry at Andy Kauffman and Bernadette Peters’ ro-bot-ic voi-ces.  They star as escaped robots starting a family.  Also present is Catskill, a sidekick who talks almost entirely in tired routines seemingly from “My First Jokebook” but actually contributed by Henny Youngman, according to the credits.  Meanwhile, tthey’re pursued by a totally ineffective police robot who looks like a Dalek riding a flatbed.  Heartbeeps is a centrally flawed movie that doesn’t know from scene to scene whether it wants to be comedic or poignant; not surprisingly, it fails at both.  Given Kauffman’s involvement, I wondered out loud several times whether the whole movie was an elaborate prank on its audience.  Especially after a key scene in which Catskill reveals that he had enough energy left to save his dying robot friends because he’d been running entirely on “low power jokes.”  (Which became a bit of a running joke for us.  Sadly, the idiocy of characters drinking “a pouch of beer” was not properly exploited, in my opinion, as a B-fest running joke.)  Obviously, the writers were capable of crafting a genuinely witty moment, yet they relentlessly did not do so.  “We,” as a whole, were not pleased, but although a movie like this wouldn’t normally play so early in the Fest, it meant that we could weather it without too much gibbering – our resistance was at its highest.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Good

 

After this came a Merrie Melodies short (a little non-obscure for this venue, huh?) called “One Froggy Evening.”  This is a fairly famous one, with the dancing frog who sings “Hello! Ma Baby.”

 

Gymkata (1985) has been shown at B-fests past, but this was my first time seeing it.  I wouldn’t have put the two “martial arts movies” so close together, but despite my disproportionate worrying about such things, the film order turned out just fine.  Anyway, at first it seemed like Gymkata might, as some have suggested, render the rest of the genre obsolete.  What else would you expect from a movie featuring Kurt Thomas as an Olympic gymnast also blessed with the skills of karate?  He fights thugs across the world, makes it with Asian princesses, and has a knack for finding stuff he can use as makeshift parallel bars, pommel-horses, etc.  (Some alert individual was ready for an up-shorts shot of him, and stood next to the screen with a “DO NOT WANT” sign.)  But then Gymkata takes a strange but still entertaining turn in its second half, in which Thomas’s participation in a nonsensical competition involves him passing alone through an entire town full of crazy people with weapons, and huge chunks of slow motion.  I got a few chuckles by running on stage and treating this like a very slow version of “The Wizard Of Speed & Time.”  Speaking of which…
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Good

 

B-fest continued with a few annual traditions, including the annual raffle (and the annual me not winning anything) and the annual showing of “The Wizard Of Speed & Time,” a short about a guy who uses the power of stop-motion to run really really fast.  We lie in front of the screen and try to move our feet as quickly as he does.  You kinda have to be there to appreciate it.  Three consecutive showings for the Wizard this year, one of them backwards and upside-down, and no re-appareances later.

 

Ed Wood’s most famous film, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), is also shown every year, and also has a bunch of rituals that go along with it, such as throwing paper plates into the air whenever the suspiciously plate-like “flying saucers” appear.  [http://www.flickr.com/photos/jima/4317942928/]  It’s B-fest at its most cult-like, but also its least spontaneous.  Repeat attendees tend to get tired of seeing it year after year and often find other things to do (I used the early portions to go brush my teeth and such) and in fact one loudmouthed guy in the back went on an extended rant about being sick of the film.  But it’s a classic for a reason, combining near-constant cinematic ineptitude with a suprising amount of watchability, which keeps it fun.  This year featured the long-awaited return of the Solarmite Lecture, in which a few Fest attendees don lab coats to show slides illustrating the “science” behind the weapon humankind is apparently about to develop.  These folks did this routine in 2004, and it was a highlight of my first B-fest experience, so it was very good to see it again.
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Excellent

 

Another long delay setting up the DVD for the next movie left the rest of the festival short on time.  During the gap, the organizers threw on another old animated short, “Ego Trap,” a pointed little story in which a hapless engineer is forced to design a plane that looks more and more like his boss with each revision, and then blamed when things don’t go well.  This festival was very light on the shorts compared to previous years, partly because of the prevalence of movies on DVD rather than film, and partly because of the time crunch.  All in all, I’m fine with that.

 

All festival, people had been greeting each other with “oh, hi, [name]!” in anticipation of The Room (2003), the newest cult movie whose legend is still spreading.  Summarizing The Room is best left to others (http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-room,25723/), but having read about it, I was stoked.  Well, whomsoever reads this, The Room both is and isn’t as enjoyable as I expected.  Writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau’s story of relationship angst (and specifically, why women are evil whores) does indeed contain all the bizarre and memorable moments for which it is justifiably beloved, but it’s also a long time to spend watching essentially the same 2 or 3 repetitious scenes over and over, in no particular order, with characters’ behavior showing no consistency or logic, ever.  I did bring spoons and led off some throwing action, and “you’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” got a chant-along.  Plus, this was sown with the subtitles on, meaning we could attempt to turn it into a music during the cheesy pop numbers that play over the less than erotic sex scenes, which include a moment in which Wiseau appears to be fucking a woman’s belly button.  But as the movie dragged on, it also got a few “end!” chants and caused one lady to curl up into a fetal position on stage.  I’d have characterized the crowd’s reaction as “mixed” (or “pleasure spiked with pain,” to quote a song I like from a band I dislike), but The Room also led to about ten running jokes that persisted throughout the festival and almost always drew laughs.  In short, this one hurt, but it was totally worth it.
Movie quality: ABOMINATION
B-fest rating: Excellent

 

The other movie I wanted to be sure to stay awake for was a Andy Sedaris film, Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987).  And I was close to dozing off at times, but never all the way out.  This movie… well, it’s not subtle with the violence and breasts.  For instance, it actually includes the line “I do my best thinking in the Jacuzzi.”  It also seemingly blows its wad by having a character use a rocket launcher “too early” in the film, but my concerns about that proved unfounded.  This one is about two frequently topless agents, one of whom appears to be pushing 40, who fly out to Hawaii to… fight a bunch of people, or something.  It’s all blurring together.  But HTTH is actually a bit of a monster movie, since it in part (although not nearly enough) concerns a killer snake.  A snake that is “contaminated” by having “been fed toxins from cancer-infested rats.”  Not surprisingly, that line of dialogue went over huge with this crowd.  Clearly, the only appropriate ending was to eventually have the snake get shot at point-blank range with the rocket launcher.  Oops, spoilers.
Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good

 

This year’s crop of student organizers did a great job running things, but not such a great job making it clear what was happening.  With little explanation (we later found out that a film scheduled for the afternoon, Earth vs. The Spider was unavailable), they were going to “change things up a little” and show Black Shampoo (1976).  This was met by a rousing cheer from those of us who’d been looking forward to it from the tentative lineup and disappointed not to see it in the official schedule.  (Some blaxpoitation is traditional at B-fest, usually in the post-Plan 9 spot.)  For anyone who thought _Hard Ticket_ was shameless… well, BS redefined “shameless.”  Unlike in many blaxplo films, BS’s hero – a “hair stylist” known only as Mr. Jonathan – is all about the sex and uninterested in the violence, until events finally force him into action at the end.  So we see him “servicing” all sorts of female clientele, including a scene that verges on child porn and ends with a mom spanking her teenage daughters with a belt until they fall into a swimming pool, then mounting our hero in front of them to “show them how it’s done.”  That’s all in the first ten minutes.  Yes, this movie was actually made, and as dirty as it makes one feel to watch with a theater full of foul-smelling nerds, much appalled fun was had by all who were still awake.  Except for the curling iron scene, which mostly just had us appalled (it’s probably best not to ask).
Movie quality: Either Good or Bad, and I honestly don’t know which
B-fest rating: Good

 

After the promise of no more sex - I think some people were relieved - they played The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Beyond The 8th Dimension (1984).  I never “try” to sleep at B-fest, but I knew I’d be okay should I happen to nap in my seat here, since I did not grow up with this one.  I ended up being out for about an hour, and then woke up for the second half.  My main impressions were that it’s intentionally campy (and thus not appropriate for B-fest?  I dunno…), unpleasantly loud (although that could be the lack of sleep talking), and involves a lot of guys with accents saying or yelling “Buck-a-ROO?!”  Never really figured out what was going on.  Except for the power-walk over the ending credits; that was cool.
Movie quality: [Can’t judge]
B-fest rating: Decent

 

Troll 2 (1990) is a bad movie legend almost on par with The Room, and is another one that’s just maybe too well known for B-fest.  But hey, I’d never seen it, and it earns its reputation too.  For those unaware, Troll 2 contains no trolls, and has no connection with Troll; it’s an unrelated movie that got renamed.  It does, however, feature a grandfather who traumatizes his kid by telling him stories about militant vegetarian goblins who kill people by tricking them into eating green food that turns them into plant-goop.  Yes, that’s actually the plot of Troll 2.  Then the kid has to save his family of horrific actors (it’s an odd mix of competent filming and budget with some of the least convincing line readings and fakest monsters in major motion picture history) when they travel to a village called “Nilbog.”  This is another one where the badness can’t be retold properly, but there’s another line that got a chant-along from those who’d already seen the movie: “you don’t piss on hospitality!”  There’s a moment in which the enemy recoils at the sight of a bologna sandwich.  There’s a moment where a goblin witch seduces a kid whilst holding an ear of corn, which leads to the room filling with popcorn.  And a whole bunch of other moments that make one say “no, really, this movie actually exists.”  And then at the end of it all there’s an effective “last scare” that, much as it shames me to admit, actually totally works, IMHO.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Good

 

Live It Up! (1963), a black-and-white pre-Beatles British rock musical, was next.  First, by popular demand, we also saw the trailers for two other rock musicals from the same era.  (Also, sometime during the Fest, they also showed trailer for a movie called Black & White, which is a running joke I’ve never quite gotten that dates back to B-fest ’08.)  Anyway, LIU! was supposed to be even more whitebread than B-fest 09’s most polarizing film, Don’t Knock The Rock, and it lived up to that.  Our “teenage” (read: 30-ish) hero is a member of a band we dubbed “Draco And The Malfoys” after its peroxided bassist, although he reminded me more of Spike from Buffy.  He just wants to play music, but his parents, and the showbiz industry, and such make it tough.  I admit I tuned out a lot here, and spent most of the time chatting and ignoring the movie. 
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Weak

 

Lunch break, earlier than planned.  Which was excellent – I prefer to have more than three films after the last break.  A good chance to eat food laden with green vegetables and talk extensively about the finer details of The Room (trying to figure out why the characters were wearing tuxes in one scene, and who that guy abruptly introduced towards the end was, and whether Johnny and Lisa had been together for five or seven years (I opined that the movie took two years to watch)).  So many questions. 

 

Fiend Without a Face (1958) was more in keeping with traditional B-fest fare.  Are the killings somehow caused by radiation?  It’s always the radiation.  Is the half-crazy scientist involved?  It’s always the scientist.  This was a little slow, but all was forgiven in the last fifteen minutes or so, when they finally show us the monster(s) – and it’s a bunch of detached central nervous systems that look like brains attached to slugs.  The rest of the film involves brains diving in through windows to strangle people, and brains being shot into gooey bits.  Kinda glorious, really.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen the braaaains come after the humanoids…
Movie quality: Weak
B-fest rating: Good

 

Sextette (1978), originally scheduled for late night, is another musical, and another one legendary for badness.  The word “indulgent” got thrown around a lot here, because when Hollywood makes a movie about itself, the results are rarely interesting.  Especially when it consists mostly of Neil Sedaka inspired musical numbers.  There are a whole bunch of cameos from lots of random famous people, but the star is Mae West, who was in her 80s.  West plays a sort of official international-relations whore who’s been married six times and tells a bunch of raunchy jokes, but the octogenarian-sex angle turns out to be all talk and no action.  I wasn’t horrified so much as bored, and needed to caffeinate midway through, although that latter is more attributable to the lack of sleep.
Movie quality: Bad
B-fest rating: Weak

 

In the penultimate slot, we got Italian import War of the Robots (1978), sponsored by Dripdry of BMBB fame.  Oh, wow.  See, I tend to prefer something really shockingly awful towards the end, as a last dose of pain.  And did this movie ever deliver.  For the first 45 minutes, I suffered trying to make out the mumbled dialogue.  But eventually it came down to a bunch of guys, gals, and aliens fighting against a group of (I guess) robots.  They “shoot” them with their laser guns (depicted by having the guns light up and make a sound).  Then they go to a similar looking tunnel set, and fight another group of robots (or possibly the same group).  Then they fight another group.  And another.  The robots never shoot back and never accomplish anything other than padding out the film.  After a bunch of this, I started saying stuff like “you know what should happen next?!  They should fight more robots!”  And then they *would*.  It’s one of those things that’s so awful it comes all the way around and becomes something beautiful.  In any case, all of my comrades in arms were suffering, but there was a period of about 5 minutes where I just started laughing hysterically – trouble breathing, tears streaming down my face, the whole deal.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep.  Eventually the movie moves on to a space battle that, if anything, is even more repetitious.  As a sort of a piẻce de résistance, a major character is shown hunting down an enemy ship, and says “it’s hard to get away from me!”  This character is then killed.  We then see the same model ship footage, and *the same scene*, including the same “it’s hard to get away from me!”  This time he lives to the end of the movie.  They don’t make ‘em like that here.

 

I’ve said that in its way, WOTR is as shameless as the _Black Shampoo_s of the world are in theirs.  At the end, one of the organizers congratulated us “for getting through what may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”  This came from a man who’d watched Heartbeeps, The Room, Troll 2, and Sextette, just like the rest of us. 

Movie quality: ABOMINATION
B-fest rating: Excellent

 

B-fest usually ends with a Godzilla movie, but this time we kept it American for a finale of The Giant Claw (1957).  The oldest movie of the festival, TGC would actually be an entertaining and perhaps better-than-average giant monster movie, if not for the fact that the monster is a giant bird, played by an obvious puppet with visible strings and a beak that doesn’t close completely.  There are stories about how much this embarrassed the cast at the hometown premiere.  There were plenty of highlights during the talking parts too, actually, including the random background character who wins the audience’s heart by telling the leads to shut up, and the revelation that French Canadians are cowards, but women can be useful in a fight – but only if they’re from Montana.   The explanation of the bird being made of antimatter or something prompted a well-timed riff from one Fester when the hero is asked if the antimatter thing was just a guess; “it’s an anti-guess!”  Moments like this perfectly supplemented the main course of unconvincing giant bird menacing NYC and destroying famous landmarks.  A good way to end things.

Movie quality: Decent
B-fest rating: Good

 

And somehow we’d survived it all once again.  I’m worried that schedule conflicts may make this my last Fest for awhile, but if it’s at all possible, I want to be back for B-fest 2011.  The end.

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