Day 7: Thursday, January 24, 2008

Posted January 25, 2008 in
The night began with the press screening of Otto; or, Up with Dead People. The film is directed by Bruce LaBruce, and the experience strays not too far from his previous work with art/gay porn films (see review below). The film was a bit of an opiate to the head, so I was excited to catch the next film, Anvil: The True Story of Anvil. When I read about this film in the Sundance guide, I was confused whether this was a real documentary, or a tribute to Rob Reiner's mockumentary, Spinal Tap. The band's histories sounded frighteningly similar, and the drummer's name is even Robb Reiner. However, my confusion was laid to rest shortly before the screening with a conversation with director Sacha Gervasi. Gervasi had been a fan of Anvil in the early eighties, when he was 16, he lied to his mother about visiting his dad for the summer and roadied for the band. More than 20 years later, Gervasi had gone on to accomplish a number of things in the film and music industry, and when he looked up Anvil out of curiousity, he found that band was not only still intact, but still actively writing, touring, and rocking their way into obscurity. Needless to say the story is phenomenal (see review below).

After the film, I was able to split a cab with Lindsay Pulsipher, the vomiteer from yesterday's short film, The Rambler. I was a little afraid of being taken to a remote location, tied to a piece of furniture, and have organs thrown up all over me, but it turns out these fears were unfounded. Back on main street, I wandered back to the only party that seemingly still drew a crowd, the Liam Sullivan party at the Absolute Queer Lounge. For those unfamiliary, Liam Sullivan is the genius behind the web viral video, "Shoes. Oh my god. Shoes." The audience was treated to the debut of a new video, and a live performance of a couple of songs (including, of course, Shoes).

I also met up with Jonathan Lees, Director and programmer of Tromadance; who informed us that the festival was a huge success this year, standing room only for eight hours. This is awesome, as Troma is one of the few truly independent film companies left, and supporting this company is important for the health and vitality of film in general.

Coming up tomorrow night: Tromadance Closing festivities at Kristauf's Main Street Park City – (it should be said that I will be actually performing at this party as Agape).

Film: Otto; or, Up with Dead People

Director: Bruce LaBruce

Festival: Sundance

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 zombie boners

(Photo Caption: FIlm Still of Otto; or, Up with Dead People)

Otto is a beautifully shot drama of a socially confused gay zombie, focusing on the day-to-day experiences and tribulations of a zombie trying to make it in modern society. The concept itself is enough to propel the film into immediate cult classic status, but the execution keeps the film from a place in the canon of great horror, gay, or humorous cult classics. LaBruce offsets the moments of dark humor with an intentionally pretentious display of film elitism. While the point is well taken, especially in the context of the Sundance Film Festival, it is belabored and drawn out to the extent it hurts the entertainment value of the film itself. The problem is that the parody is too spot-on, and the viewers end up watching the film that LaBruce intended to mock. On the other hand, the unrestricted depiction of gay zombie sex is done very well, albeit very graphically. There are rumors that the Sundance version of the film was 'toned down' and edited for a more general audience; if this is indeed the case, LaBruce might have been overly conservative and hurt the impact of the film (i.e., made it too drawn out/boring).

Film: Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Festival: Sundance

Rating: 5 out of 5 horns in the air

Photo Caption: FIlm Still of nvil: The Story of Anvil)

Oscar Wilde once said, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." Well, in the case of Canadian hard metal band Anvil, this could not be truer. The band's tumultuous history is almost a carbon copy of Rob Reiner's faux rockumentary Spinal Tap (Anvil's drummer is even named Robb Reiner). It is almost bizarre. As a matter of fact, we were able to sit and chat with director Sacha Gervasi briefly before the film, who informed us that at one point during the filming, the cameraman pulled him aside and demanded to be told if the band were actually actors. The band is most definitely not – yet this film is the most emotionally inspiring and phenomenal story I have seen at Sundance. For 30 years, Anvil has produced album after album of hard 80's metal, only tasting success at their debut in 1982. Gervasi's documentary picks up in 2005, with the group banding together to tour and record their 13th album, This is Thirteen. What follows is an intimate look into the band's dedication and love for one another after three decades of playing together. Sufficiently self-aware, the band is disheartened by the thirty years out of the spotlight, but does not seek to succumb to current trends or simply play their debut album, they are blindlessly dedicated to the vision of making it – becoming the rock starts they were destined to be. Hopefully this film will be the catalyst for that vision.

—Ryan Powers

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Thursday was definitely a balls to the walls endurance day for me, and let me tell you why...I got four hours of sleep Wednesday night, worked for eight hours, drove through a massive shit storm to get back to Park City, and had three films to see starting at 7:30pm, but fuck it, this is what the Sundance Film Festival is all about!

I remembered my friend Jersey lived in Park City, but I had no clue where. Turns out he's a block away from Main Street...fuckin' jackpot. With the snow and the lateness of my films, I arranged to crash on his couch for the night. I just hope I don't pass out in a pile of yellow snow first. I parked my car at Jersey's, so I wouldn't have to drive at 2:00am, and with a bribe of Burger King's onion rings and a Hershey's Sundae Pie, Jersey hooked me up with curbside service to the Yarrow Hotel.

Film: Baghead

Directors: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass

Venue: Yarrow Hotel – Press Screening

Rating: 4 out 5 Retarded Q&A Questions

(Photo: FIlm Still of Baghead)

The Duplass Brothers return to Sundance with their film, Baghead. A concoction of comedy and horror, the story follows four failing actors and their desire to jumpstart their careers by producing their own movie at a secluded cabin in Big Bear. The film plays the ultimate game of who's who and what's what with twists and turns at every possible moment.

Baghead opens with one of the greatest slaps in the face to film festivals worldwide. After the foursome watches the horrific film We Are Naked at the Los Angeles Underground Film Festival, a Q&A session begins with its director and the idiotic questions begin to spew out; "What was your budget" and "How did you film for so cheap?" These are the questions we hear at every screening that make me want to stab myself in the ears. Hopefully this brilliant jab will change things...sadly, it won't, damnit!

Mark and Jay Duplass succeeded on walking a thin line between an exceptional and inventive film rather than adding a chapter to the Wayans Brothers' Scary Movie series. One minute, the audience is laughing at the awkwardness of unwanted love, the next, they're afraid to look at the screen. It's definitely a mindfuck. The relationship between Matt (Ross Partridge) and Chad (Steve Zissis) is one of true friendship, which only intensifies the interactions with one another, and Greta Gerwig's portrayal of the drunken, horny, playful friend Michelle adds nothing but a good time.

Upon the conclusion of Baghead, I joined fellow S.L.U.G. writer, Mr. Ryan Powers, in the Yarrow Hotel's lobby to discuss our recent movie endeavors. Check out his review on Bruce LaBruce's Otto; or, Up with Dead People. As we awaited our next screening for the documentary Anvil! The True Story of Anvil, we were unexpectedly joined by the film's director, Sacha Gervasi.

The love and passion Gervasi has for Anvil speaks unmistakably in his words. His eyes light up as he tells stories of being a roadie for Anvil as a teenager. It was a unique experience to have a one-on-one chat with the director minutes before watching his work. If the film captures a tenth of the emotion Gervasi displays, I think we're about to witness an amazing achievement.

Title: Anvil! The True Story of Anvil

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Venue: Yarrow Hotel – Press Screening

Rating: 5 out of 5 Turd Paintings

At first glance, you wouldn't think the man delivering food to public elementary schools in Toronto once rocked with Scorpions, Anthrax, and Bon Jovi, but he did. Steve "Lips" Kudlow has been rocking for over 30 years with his best friend Robb Reiner with their band, Anvil. It's all about being in the right place at the right time, and while Anvil may have missed their initial opportunity for fame three decades ago, Gervasi's documentary has developed one last chance. Through laughter, heartbreak, anger, and joy, Anvil! The True Story of Anvil reveals the true spirit of rock n' roll...and it includes an 11 setting on your amp's dial. For the full review, see Mr. Ryan Powers' blog.

Why do I also find myself in a rush during Sundance? I had 15 minutes to get from the Yarrow to the Park City Library for my next movie. I'm sure my legs are aching, but since it's a whopping five degrees outside, I can't feel them...Hooray for hypothermia!

The theatre was sold-out with an enthusiastic crowd, which only adds the supportive element any filmmaker would ask for.

Title: Sunshine Cleaning

Director: Christine Jeffs

Venue: Library Theatre – Public Screening

Rating: 5 out of 5 Bloody Mattresses

(Photo Caption: Film Still of Sunshine Cleaning)
How far would you go to better you or your family's life? Christine Jeffs poses that very question in her latest film Sunshine Cleaning. The story trails once head cheerleader, now single mother Rose (Amy Adams) and her attempt to create a healthier situation for her and her son by establishing a business that cleans the remains of grotesque crime scenes. Along with her immature and co-dependent sister Norah (Emily Blunt), the two discover that their newly found occupation is more than just scrubbing blood off walls.

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are the perfect combination to depict a pair of sisters whose relationship has gone completely mad. Their interactions, both outrageous and heart-wrenching, are so genuine; one can only apply it to a personal relationship with a friend or family member. Furthermore, I believe that Alan Akin, who plays the girls scheming father, is one of the greatest actors of our time. As always, his comedic timing is perfect along with his ability to capture the true essence of his characters, and, once again, he doesn't fail. Jeffs has captured a film that evokes an array of emotions that leaves you wanting more. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sunshine Cleaners winning the Grand Prize.

—Jimmy Martin