Saturday, April 14, 2012

Four at the Roxie and I Wake Up Dreaming Again

In March, I saw four films at the Roxie which is really programming the most eclectic lineups in the Bay Area.

The four films I saw were:

Fake It So Real; directed by Robert Greene; documentary; (2012) - Official Website
The FP starring Brandon Trost & Lee Valmassy; directed by Brandon and Jason Trost; (2011) - Official Website
Secret Honor starring Philip Baker Hall; directed by Robert Altman; (1984)
Pudhupettai starring Dhanush; directed by K. Selvaraghavan; Tamil with subtitles; (2006)

The FP was on the program for the 2012 SF Indiefest. It looked interesting but I missed the one screening at Indiefest with the knowledge I could see it when the Roxie ran it for a week in March.

The opening night film of this year's Indiefest was 4:44 Last Day On Earth. I skipped it to see The Killing of a Chinese Bookie at the YBCA. I see that 4:44 is opening on April 20 at the Balboa.

Coincidentally, Indiefest is sponsoring a different kind of 4-20 celebration on that date at Roxie. The two are co-presenting Dark Side of Oz which is The Wizard of Oz set to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Someone discovered that the music on Dark Side of the Moon synchronizes perfectly with the scenes from The Wizard of Oz. Typically, the sound including the dialogue from the film is muted completely while the soundtrack plays. Close captioning makes it easier to follow the film although most people in the audience are usually under the influence of the devil's cabbage.

Speaking of the Roxie's programming. They are bringing Elliot Lavine back again for another I Wake Up Dreaming noir series. The 30 film series runs from May 11 to 24.

Pudhupettai played at the 2011 Third I South Asian Film Festival in November which I completely missed.


Fake It So Real is an appealing documentary about professional wrestlers. We're not talking about big time WWE matches in arenas but guys who wrestle in the MWF in North Carolina venues which look like a school cafeterias with linoleum floors and an audience sitting on folding metal chairs.

The most interesting character is Gabriel Croft, a rookie who gets a lot of razzing from the other wrestlers for being young, inexperienced and in their opinion of questionable sexual orientation. Earnest and eager to please, Gabriel is developing a wrestling persona modelled after Gabriel the Archangel. The highlight of the film is wrestling match between Gabriel and the league champ which surprised me for its athleticism.

Fake It So Real captures "the little train that could" feeling for both itself and its subjects. I can't say I was inspired by the wrestlers but I was entertained.


The FP, which stands for Frazier Park, takes place in an alternate reality. Reminding me a little of Streets of Fire (dir. Walter Hill, 1984), FP takes place in the current time and location except rival street gangs solve their disputes by having competitions on Dance Dance Revolution which is called Beat Beat Revolution; most likely to avoid copyright infringement lawsuits. I think that says enough. The recurring theme throughout the film is every female character seems to perform fellatio at least once.

Co-director Jason Trost plays J-Tro, the hero who looks like Snake Pliskin and actor Lee Valmassy plays El Double E, the villain who looks like a white Mr. T. For some reason, co-director Brandon Trost did not play B-Tro.

So the film had a few laughs. The final scene which would be a passionate kiss in most genre films is turned upside down and becomes a blowjob complete with soaring musical score and a pan out camera shot. That pretty much describes the film. Funny at times; not as consistently funny as I was hoping for.


Secret Honor was a one man film with Philip Baker Hall as Richard M. Nixon. Made in 1984, the film is also an alternate reality where Nixon, oiled up with liquor and in possession of a handgun, wants the set the record straight. Set in his office within his compound with closed circuit TV and film and audio recording equipment, Hall as Nixon launches into a boozy confession blaming the Bohemian Club, the Kennedy family, Kissinger and other for his downfall. I can't recall his explanation of Watergate.

One of the toughest performances is the solo act. Within anyone to react or react to, Hall delivers these extended monologues and diatribes which can beome tedious. Secret Honor clearly looks like a one-man stage show that Altman adapted for film. I don't think Altman and Hall were completely successful but they were on to something. Not to equate The FP to Secret Honor but to paraphrase, Secret Honor was engrossing at times, but not as consistently engrossing as I was hoping for out of an Altman film.


Pudhupettai was described as "operatic" in the Roxie program guide. Director K. Selvaraghavan made great use of color and lighting in several of the scenes. It reminded me of some of the productions at the San Francisco Opera although that comparison may have been liminally suggested by reading the program. At nearly three hours, the film was certainly operatic in length.

The story of the rise and fall of a gangster, Pudhupettai is an unremarkable and oft-told story with adequate performances and a few scenes of eye-popping cinematography.

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