Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taking Inventory as of June 14, Hole in the Head, & Citizen Kane

The Hole in the Head Festival ran June 1 to 14. I saw 11 programs; some good, some bad. All showings were at the Roxie.

Hole in the Head Film Festival:
Stagknight; (2007) - Official Website
Blood Car; (2007) - Official Website
Aachi & Ssipak; Anime; Korean with subtitles; (2006) - Official Website
Hazard; Directed by Sion Sono; Japanese with subtitles; (2005) - Official Website
The Thirst; (2006) - Official Website
El Muerto; Starring Wilmer Valderrama; (2005)
Special; Starring Michael Rapaport; (2006) - Official Website
Bad Bugs Bunny; Curated by Dennis Nyback; - Compilation of Warner Brother Cartoons
Murder Party; (2007) - Official Website
The Man from Earth; (2007) - Official Website
Automation Transfusion; (2006) - Official Website

Hole in the Head Film Festival Short Films (shown before some of the main features):
Night of the Hell Hamsters; 16 minute short film; (2006) - Official Website
Of Darkness; 21 minute short film; (2006) - Official Website
Splitting Hairs; 16 minute short film; (2007) - Official Website

In case you are curious, El Muerto has an official website at but it's down whenever I visit it. If you are interested, you can visit the official website of El Muerto (the comic book version).

Bad Bugs Bunny was a program that included 10 uncensored cartoons that were modified or pulled from distribution due to their original racist, sexist or otherwise offensive comment.

Let's see if I can remember all ten. Some of the synopses are from Nyback's homepage.

    Hare Ribbin (Bob Clampett 1946) This is the original version of this cartoon with the homicide ending that was changed to suicide a month or so after it came out. - Wikipedia Entry

    He Was Her Man (Friz Freleng 1937) A long suppressed cartoon due to it's extreme violence toward women.

    Sioux Me (Ben Hardaway, 1939) Native American stereotypes galore. The rainmaker must produce rain or the chief will slit his throat.

    Let It Be Me (Friz Freleng, 1936) Caricature of Bing Crosby as a woman abusing cad. He successfully sued Warner's to stop the showing of this cartoon.

    Ali Baba Bound (Bob Clampett, 1940) Porky Pig battles stereotyped Arabs. This includes a tasteless joke about a suicide bomber.

    Tin Pan Alley Cats (Bob Clampett, 1943) An all black character cartoon starring a caricature of Fats Waller. - Wikipedia Entry

    Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (Friz Freleng, 1944) Japanese bashing from WW II - Wikipedia Entry

    Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (Bob Clampett, 1943) Snow White set in Harlem with a bebop soundtrack - Wikipedia Entry

    Wise Quackers (Friz Freleng, 1949) Daffy Duck becomes Elmer Fudd's "slave."

    Wholly Smoke (Frank Tashlin, 1938) Porky Pig has hallucinations after smoking a cigar. Exactly what was in that cigar?

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Tin Pan Alley Cat were pulled from distribution in 1968 but I distinctly recall seeing Tin Pan Alley Cat in the mid-70's on Saturday morning TV when I was a kid. Actually, I remember 9 out 10 of the cartoons from my childhood. I can't with certainty that I saw Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs before but seemed familiar to me.

Nyback was present to introduce his program and take questions after the show. He mentioned the URL for a site that catalogs the edits and cuts from the Looney Tunes. The URL is By the way, note that the official title is Looney Tunes and not Looney Toons.

Out of those 11 programs, I can only recommend four. I recommend:

Hazard - Great Japanese film about a dissatisfied Japanese college student that drops out and goes to New York City because it is one of "the most dangerous places in the world"; i.e for some excitement. He falls in with another Japanese expat and a Japanese-Chinese drug dealer that sells snowballs (ice cream laced with ecstasy). The three of them become modern day cowboys before meeting a tragic end. The protagonist returns to Japan a changed man. The black comedy reminded me of Peckinpah.

Blood Car - Hilarious film about a (not to distant) future where gasoline is $30/gallon and no one can afford to drive. Archie (an earnest, vegan, school teacher) spends his nights tinkering on an engine that will run on wheat grass juice. He is unsuccessful until he accidentally cuts himself and some blood gets mixed with the juice. Eureka! Denise runs a "meat stick" stand next to the place where Archie buys his wheat grass. When he drives up in his car, Denise goes into full gold-digger mode. She gets so excited by riding in his car that she gives him a blowjob within minutes of getting in the car - while he is driving! That is just a precursor because Denise is a full-on sex freak that would make Rick James blush. Her sexual deviance awakens a dark side in Archie. To slake his sexual desires, Archie needs to feed the blood car so that Denise will remain interested. Archie progresses from killing small animals to making use of the recently deceased to killing people. All the while, the Feds are monitoring Archie and his blood car. The film is low budget but audacious as only independent film can be. Two gags made me laugh out loud. Anna Chlumsky (best known for her role in 1991's My Girl with Dan Aykroyd, Macaulay Culkin, and Jamie Lee Curtis) plays the wheat grass vendor that lusts after oblivious Archie. She is so desperate she draws her fantasies on paper which include her performing fellatio on Archie with the thought balloon "Your cum tastes like tofu." The other joke is when crass Denise rebuffs Archie's attempts to get closer to her. She says to Archie "Imagine me with a taco in my mouth. Think about that while you write haikus about my box."

Murder Party - Christopher is a lonely guy that sees an advertisement for a "murder party" on Halloween. He bakes a pumpkin loaf and heads over to the warehouse the "party" is being held. What he encounters is five artists that have planned the ultimate performance art piece - the murder of the anonymous guest of honor. He's bound & gagged while awaiting his execution. His fate would be sealed except for the dysfunctional quintet that have captured him. Sidenote - two of the artists are dressed as characters from two of my favorite movies. Lexi is dressed as Pris (Darryl Hannah's character) from Blade Runner. Another character (I cannot recall his name) was dressed as a baseball gang member from Walter Hill's The Warriors - "Can you dig it?!" Although a black comedy, slasher film, Murder Party is, at its core, an indictment of the pretentiousness, pettiness, and absurdity of the modern-day art world.

Special - Michael Rapaport plays Les, a loser who volunteers for a medical study for a test drug that will improve his confidence. Soon after starting the medication, he notices he has "super power" like his heroes in the comic books he reads. The only problem is that he doesn't have super powers; the drug is affecting his ability to comprehend reality. He thinks he is levitating or transporting himself through solid walls but everyone else sees falling on his face or running full speed into the wall. He even explains the blood and bruises as side effects of using his super power. The doctor prescribing the medication urges Les to stop taking the medication but Les knows the authorities have the office bugged and can communicate telepathically. He hears the doctor's real message - keep taking the pills to keep your new powers. As his superhero exploits (randon assaults and other bizarre behavior) begin making the nightly newscasts, the drug company gets nervous that Les' reaction will result in failure to get FDA approval. The two brothers that own the company will stop at nothing to protect their investment. This film is funny, bittersweet, & tragic.

Aachi and Ssipak wasn't my cup of tea but many people enjoy that kind of movie. It's an ultraviolent Korean anime about a society that uses human feces as their main fuel source. To monitor their fuel supply, they implant sensors in everyone's anus and keep them pliant with addictive popsicles. The Man from Earth gets an honorable mention. It's about a 14,000 year old man that tells his story to his friends. First, there is disbelief but eventually the conversation turns to existential, philosophical, historical, and anthropological matters. I enjoyed the film although some of the dialog was impossible to pull off. The final twist was one too many which downgraded it in my opinion. John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox from Enterprise), Tony Todd, and Nurse Lydia from ER co-star.

The Thirst should be avoided at all costs. This film about vampires near a college features dialog that is laughable, wooden performances, and a predictable plot. El Muerto was about an Aztec zombie that resists his evil impulses. I found it boring. Stagknight had a few laughs but was ultimately second rate and Automation Transfusion was nothing special - a predictable zombie flick that is most notable for its suprisingly good special effects given its ultralow budget.

In addition to all those films, I saw Citizen Kane which many people consider the greatest movie ever made. I won't write much about the film because so much has been written by others. A few pieces of trivia - early in the film, Charles Foster Kane's mother is played by Agnes Moorehead who 30 years later would play Endora, the mother-in-law in Bewitched. Bernard Herrmann who composed the original score for Citizen Kane at age 28 (his first film credit). He went on to compose original scores for Taxi Driver, Cape Fear, and several Hitchcock films including Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Birds, etc..

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs July 13 to 15 at the Castro.

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