Butt Numb-a-Thon is in it’s 18th year, now.
It’s legal. It can’t drink, yet. But it can die for it’s country and do anything consensual with another willing partner. (Some restrictions apply in some states, even if those restrictions aren’t strictly legal.)
I’ve been going since year 5 (with a couple of years off against my will) and, every year, it’s like a 24-ish hour cinematic hug with 120-ish family members.
People have made lifelong friends and life-partners.
Last year, there was a wedding. This year, we all banded together to make sure that a couple in need would be able to make it.
I hate this song, but it’s true: We are fam-i-ly.
Even the people who haven’t met officially are there for each other.
But the reason we all come together once a year (and sometimes more, if we’re lucky) is the movies. 10-12 beautiful movies. Even when they’re bad, they’re an experience.
Let’s go through the 2016 experience, shall we?
The day opened with Tim League, owner and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse, making the announcement that, unfortunately, there wasn’t anything truly, TRULY offensive this year.
That’s sad, because every year at around 4am, there’s always a movie that wakes everyone up with something so wrong, so hideous, so beautifully offensive that we all laugh, hide our faces and talk about for the rest of our lives.
So, this year, he decided to start us out with that moment: a trailer for the Danish film Klown and all of its sequels and tv shows. Drafthouse Films is selling every second of it on a USB drive shaped like…well…if you’ve ever seen the film, you can probably guess what it’s shaped like.
Let’s just say that it’s probably a good idea to not whip this thing out in public.
Ok, on with the show.
Harry Knowles, purveyor and curator of BNAT (and whose birthday party it is) came out to announce the first film.
He said that it was a moment of…
Martin Scorsese’s latest passion project is the story of two Jesuit priests (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) in the 17th century on a mission in Japan to find their lost mentor (Liam Neeson). This was a time and place where Christians were actually persecuted and tortured for their faith. We’re not just talking don’t say “Merry Christmas” at office parties. These people were crucified in the ocean and burned with dripping, boiling water.
Scorsese manages to make sure that NO ONE is pure, here, except for the people caught in the middle. The two priests are so dead-set on telling the Japanese that their Buddhism is wrong, that they can’t see that forcing people into another religion in exchange for help is wrong.
The Japanese government is so dead-set on keeping other ideas out of their country that they’re willing to kill their own people for it.
The film is beautiful and great and definitely something that you should see if you’re a fan of Scorsese or any of these actors. If you’re on either side of this sort of issue, you should see it. After seeing it once, though, I probably don’t need to see it again. It was emotionally rough and, like Kundun before it, it will have its ardent fans but, sadly, be forgotten about by most “normals” out there.
On a side note, it would be interesting if Scorsese was trying to make a film for every major religion before he dies. He’s done Christianity, Bhuddism and now, Catholicism (as if that hasn’t been a theme for all of his films). Maybe he’ll make one for Islam soon? Or maybe Hinduism? I’d see them all…but he’d better get to work on them!
This was RKO’s OTHER special effects extravaganza of 1933.
Unfortunately, because King Kong was so huge, this one just sort of got washed away (as it were) and was thought lost for many years. Pieces of it showed up in other films along the way, but the whole film just disappeared.
Of course, it can’t touch King Kong. Not even on a particularly good day. It’s dated in ways that Kong hasn’t, and Kong has dated poorly in a couple of arenas.
The film is about the end of the world. The Earth basically rebels against humans with earthquakes and tidal waves, killing off a good portion of our race. It’s the first instance of New York City being destroyed on screen and, for 1933, that’s pretty amazing, even if it goes on for, like, 15 minutes.
That’s the first 20 minutes of the film. After that, it’s all 1933 post-apocalyptic. But women are still treated as objects to be passed from one man to another. (“SHE’S MINE!!”) The “hero” falls in love with the main woman in a day, only to find that his wife and children are still alive. He’s so torn! After a day! WHATEVER CAN HE DO!! She’s absolutely distraught! AFTER A DAY!!
I’m glad I saw this little piece of cinematic history. I’m glad it was found. It’s painfully hilarious to watch, though, and I’m glad it was a BNAT movie. We all laughed at the casual sexism and misogyny and boo-laughed the casual racism. (A black man about a replica of the Venus de Milo: “Her arms is broke!” Ugh.)
It’s an hour out of your life. Check it out. But have some like-minded friends around to be awed by the effects and laugh at the rest. Totally worth it.
Denzel Washington is trying to make all of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle into films before he finishes his career as a human. After seeing this first one, I’m absolutely with him all the way.
Fences is definitely a play on film. There’s no way around that. But it really doesn’t matter at all.
The acting is some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. Denzel is a father who doesn’t know how to love because he was brought up without love. He has two sons be two wives and only connects with them through providing for them. His second wife, Viola Davis (who steals the entire film in about 10 minutes of dialogue after the big reveal), loves him but sees his faults with his children.
This is a film that can destroy you, emotionally. It’s a snapshot of what it was like to grow up in the 50s as an African American in the middle/lower class. (Probably redundant, I know.) It’s so good and so beautifully acted. If “Oscarsowhite” again this year, it’s absolutely because of racism. Because there’s no way that they didn’t see this and think that at least Denzel and Viola were worthy.
KONG: LONG LIVE THE KING
After the Kong connection with Deluge, Harry decided to keep the simian love going with this documentary about the love of Kong.
Directors Frank Dietz and Trish Geiger trotted out tons of Hollywood types to talk about what they love (and hate) about Kong and his many, many progeny…including his son.
These folks include Bob Burns, Greg Nicotero, Doug Jones, Joe Dante and Dana Gould (the most entertaining of the bunch).
This was a fun doc, but it was definitely the weak link of the day.
It was like a special feature on a DVD, and I’m guessing that’s what it’s probably going to be. Maybe on Skull Island when it comes out. It’s worth a look, but it was a strange addition to BNAT outside of knowing how much Harry loves Kong.
Speaking of Skull Island:
SKULL ISLAND FOOTAGE
The whole movie isn’t ready, yet, but this was an extended look at a couple of scenes from the film. The first was set in WWII and the second was Vietnam.
To be honest, I no longer have any clue what this movie is going to be like. Since these two clips have no connection to each other at all, there are no dots to connect.
My guess is that the WWII scene is at the beginning of the film to show that humans keep coming back to the island by accident and there is a second Kong.
Then, fast forward to Vietnam and Sam Jackson’s crew get to know that same Kong.
Whatever’s going on, this looks like a lot of fun! Sillier than the last film (Peter Jackson’s amazing remake, which got a LOT of love in the doc), maybe even with a bit of camp. But also lots of destruction and mayhem. I’m for it!
A CURE FOR WELLNESS
I’m not allowed to really talk about this one, as far as plot is concerned.
And, really, you’re better off not knowing. Go in blind.
Just know that, if you’re squeamish about eels, this is probably NOT the movie for you.
Gore Verbinski goes back to surreal for this one and is all the better for it. Dan DeHaan, even if he looks a bit young to be the character he’s playing, is great. (Seriously, this dude looks like a teenager at 30.) Mia Goth is also great as the mysterious young lady. And, of course, Jason Isaacs is a perfect malevolent force.
If you’re into surreal creepy stuff, go see this movie. It’s well worth your time.
While Dane was in town (he and Gore did a quick intro to A Cure For Wellness), he stuck around to show clips from his next project:
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Luc Besson has been wanting to bring Valerian to the screen for about 20 years…at least. Probably since he was a kid, reading the comics in France.
You see, Valerian is one of the most popular comics in the world.
Everywhere but the US, of course.
The sci-fi epic follows Valerian and Lauraline (Cara Delevingne) around the universe while they fight aliens and explore new worlds.
The clips we saw were super silly and made me wonder what the hell was going on.
But, The Fifth Element sort of did the same thing, and that was great. So, I’m totally for this. Let’s see what Luc, Dane and Cara can bring us!
Next up was Harry’s favorite genre:
Gene Kelly is everyone’s favorite musical star.
Even if they don’t know who he is, he is. Just trust me on this. As soon as you see Singin’ In The Rain, you’ll love Gene Kelly.
Brigadoon is the story of two Americans (Gene and Van Johnson) who happen upon a small town during a hunting trip in Scotland.
This small town has a miracle/curse on it: It disappears from the Earth for 100 years after one day.
This started in 1754. They’ve only lived for two days since 1754, going to sleep at the end of the day and waking up 100 years later.
Of course, Gene falls in love with Cyd Charisse. (Who wouldn’t?!) Should he stay or should he go? Can he even believe what he’s told? Everything adds up, but it’s so unbelievable…I can’t even!
The strangest thing about this movie, really, is that I was able to suspend my disbelief for Gene and Cyd in a way that I couldn’t for the two characters in Deluge. Gene and Cyd absolutely COULD fall in love in one day. It just makes sense!
And, of course, there’s the music. The title song, Almost Like Falling In Love, I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean, The Hether On The Hill…all of it is great. And any movie with Gene and Cyd dancing is going to be perfect. (I’m not even a dance fan and I know this.)
My favorite part, though, is honestly Van Johnson and his sarcasm about every little thing in life. I haven’t seen a lot of his films, but I’ve always thought of him as a tough guy, war hero, not a musical star. In a way, he still fits that bill, here. He starts off kind of hesitant to sing or dance, but warms up to it through the magic of the town. (All in the course of one song, of course.) But he still retains his sardonic attitude, and we’re all the better for it. (“Witches? Oh, we have ‘em. We just pronounce it differently.”)
A magical Vincente Minelli musical that everyone should see.
“PIMPERNEL” SMITH (1941)
I never really knew the story of Leslie Howard. I really only knew him as Ashley from Gone With The Wind. Fortunately, he was MUCH more than that. He was a war hero and anti-Nazi from start to finish.
Even before the world knew of the true atrocities of the Nazis, Howard was hard at work to put them down.
When he made The Scarlet Pimpernel in 1934, he fell in love with the story and wanted to find a way to keep it going. He decided to move the story to present day and put the character in the role of saving important people from Nazi camps.
Horatio Smith (Howard) is a professor of archeology at a prominent British university. He’s absent minded and very rule-oriented. (Also quite the misogynist, unfortunately.) At the end of the semester, he recruits some (male) students for a trip to Germany to find out if there truly was an Aryan race.
While there, he takes the time to rescue some folks from death and torture. Just as a side project, ya know?
Even with his problematic “women shouldn’t be in archeology” stance (although that could have been him trying to keep ladies out of danger), Professor Smith is a hero for the ages and the movie is a charming, rabble-rousing piece of propaganda used for good. The final speech alone is worth the price of admission, but the entire film is nearly perfect.
I loved every minute of it.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)
Three years earlier, director Michael Curtiz was busy making America fall in love with the UK again with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
This version is the perfect version of the Robin Hood legend.
Errol swashes his buckle against an entire army of Prince John’s (Claude Rains) soldiers, makes Marian (Olivia) fall in love with him and constantly insults Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) as if his very life depended on it…but always with a smile and a wink. No one was (or is) more charming while wearing tights and swinging a sword.
I might have fallen asleep a little during this one (I had seen it before), but I still loved every minute of what I saw for the first time on the big screen. If, somehow, you’ve never seen this movie, see it now. It will make you forget about foxes and Costners.
If you think that westerns ended in 1969 with The Wild Bunch…well, you’re mostly right.
Zachariah will probably never be mentioned again in the same paragraph with that masterpiece.
Harry comes up with a fake list every year to guide us through his 24-ish hour fantasy.
His fake title for this one was El Topo, and I can totally see it.
Zachariah is a surreal hippy western musical that stars the likes of The James Gang, Country Joe & The Fish, Doug Kershaw, Dick Van Patton and Elvin Jones.
Zachariah (John Rubenstein) is a lost young man. He’s tired of his small town and wants to get out. When The Crackers (Country Joe & The Fish) come to play, he gets in a scuffle with a local tough guy, who’s about 30, of course. He kills the guy in a duel and decides he can never go home again. His buddy, Matthew (the youngest Don Johnson I’ve ever seen) comes with him. Together, they have a trip full of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, along with some shooting, because it’s the Old West.
Nothing is real in this movie. The sets are absolutely sets. The dialogue is probably ad-libbed. The acting is stiff. But there’s something innocent and crazy about this movie that made me kinda love it for what it is: a time capsule for a period of time that I have a lot of interest in and love for. It’s not a movie for everyone, by any means. But if what I’ve said interests you even a little bit, seek it out. (And if it helps, Don Johnson is at his absolute girly prettiest here. Harry said he was in it. His name was in the opening credits. It still took me about half the movie to realize who this blond surfer dude on screen was.)
Just seeing the first act of this upcoming Wolverine movie is enough to tell me that this is going to be HUGE.
I’m not allowed to give any plot details, but I can say that it’s dark, desolate, mean and all kinds of R-rated.
From the first word to the violence of Logan’s attacks, this is NOT for the kids.
I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to see the finished product in March.
It’s going to blow us all away.
HARD BOILED (1992)
Having seen this movie multiple times, I fell asleep pretty hard during this screening.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t seen John Woo’s Hard Boiled (his last film as a Hong Kong director before going Hollywood), get off of this site and see it.
This, right here (along with The Killer), is the reason an entire generation of film geeks will always forgive Broken Arrow.
Even with a bad print, this movie blew everyone away.
Beautiful ballets of death prove that Woo was the Peckinpah of the 80s and early 90s.
So, that’s it for BNAT18. A day out, and I already can’t wait for BNAT 19.