Seventies Slackers, Bikers & Psychedelic Japanese Animation: All That and Much More in Our Retro Guide to the 2016 Atlanta Film Festival

Posted on: Apr 2nd, 2016 By:

10294346_10153376281298424_3819900343571644880_nCinephiles rejoice! Now in its 40th year, the Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF) is back in bloom from Friday April 1 through Sunday April 10. ATLFF has long been known for a huge line-up of more than 200 diverse and offbeat features, shorts and documentaries from local to international filmmakers, and this year has one of its most exciting line-ups to date with some gems to warm our Retro heart.

Because it can be challenging to wade through such a wide-ranging schedule, we’ve taken the time to sort out some productions that you, our Retro readers, might particularly find of interest including a number of cult and classic revival films screening for free. We’ll also be running social media coverage and reviews of some of our favorites, so be sure to check back. And because we can’t mention everything, be sure also to check out the full festival schedule because there are lots more great films you won’t want to miss.

All screenings below are at the festival HQ at the Plaza Theatre, unless otherwise indicated. 

dazed-and-confused-movie-poster-1993-1010327275 Friday April 1

Opening night brings a red carpet of stars at the Atlanta premiere of THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING directed by Rob Burnett and starring Paul Rudd, but we know our readers will be more ready to get back to the 70s with a rare chance to see Richard Linklater‘s hilarious comedy DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) at 9:30 p.m., followed by Lips Down on Dixie as they present their extremely popular midnight performance of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). Although a Plaza staple for years, the show gets even better when seen with a festival crowd of fervent movie fanatics.

DudeDesigns_FCB_WEBSaturday April 2

Things get badass crazy with the world premiere of FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS (2016) at 9:30 p.m., which kicks off the MORPHINE DREAMS horror/weird series. The homegrown 1970s-style neo-exploitation feature promises to be even more over-the-top than its precursor DEAR GOD! NO! (2011) (Read our Retro Review here).  Just about everyone involved with this feature is a dear friend to ATLRetro and lots of the cast and crew will be there, including star Lawrence R. Harvey (HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 & 3), so we wouldn’t miss it even if we might have to cover our eyes once or twice. Read our Kool Kat of the Week interview with Director James Bickert for a pretaste of the ultraviolent insanity (WARNING: not for everyone!). Just $10 but buy in advance as we betcha it’ll sell out. Facebook event page here.

Gwilliam_Poster_11x17_v03Also on Saturday: Get your bizarro horror fix started early at Noon with THE WOOL shorts segment which includes the award-winning GWILLIAM by Kool Kat Brian Lonano and more of what the ATLFF describes as “other-worldly fibers.” 1979 (do we detect a theme here?) is the setting for GOOD OL’ BOY (12:30 p.m.), about the challenges of assimilating into a new culture for a 10-year-old boy who moves with his Indian family to an American small town and has a crush on the girl-next-door. everybody-wants-some-posterThen EVERYBODY WANTS SOME! (2016), Richard Linklater’s new “spiritual sequel” to DAZED AND CONFUSED set in the world of 1980s college life, screens at 7 p.m. Actors Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin and Blake Jenner are scheduled to attend. Also at 7 p.m. and free with RSVP at the Hill Auditorium at The HighRUBY IN PARADISE (1993), Ashley Judd‘s film debut as a Florida girl struggling to escape her working class life and achieve her dreams during Pensacola spring break, gets a rare return to the big screen as part of a retrospective of director Victor Nunez‘s career. A PECULIAR NOISE (2015) at 7:30 p.m. (7 Stages), is a sentimental documentary of the DIY underground music scene in the college town that spawned such alt-favorites as The B-52s, R.E.M. and Pylon. Director Jorge Torres-Torres is scheduled to attend.

CcufcVTW8AER7JQSunday April 3

Festivities kick off at noon with a 25th anniversary screening of Southern foodie comedy classic FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (1991) (free with RSVP). If you’re hungry afterwards, for just $20, there’s a Food on Film after-party at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center from 2-4:30 p.m. CONCERTO, at 5:15 pm (7 Stages), is a documentary about brothers Christopher Rex (Principal Cellist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 1979) and Charles Rex (a first violinist with the New York Philharmonic since 1981) who struggle to overcome a childhood at the hands of a disturbed but brilliant composer father. At 6 p.m., head to the Rialto Center for the Arts to revisit the explosive 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings where Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment in HBO Films’ docu-drama CONFIRMATION, filmed in Atlanta.

2012110720180322562_artikelThe second installment of the MORPHINE DREAMS series at 7:15 pm at 7 Stages, THE FORBIDDEN WORLD (2015), directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, is seriously crazed with a side of William Hope Hodgson : “A never-before-seen woodsman mysteriously appears aboard a submarine that’s been trapped deep under water for months with an unstable cargo. As the terrified crew make their way through the corridors of the doomed vessel, they find themselves on a voyage into the origins of their darkest fears.” Then rush back to the Plaza if you like crazy Japanese trippy Weird animated horror for MD#3, Eiichi Yamamoto‘s legendary BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (1973), a real event being that it was previous unreleased in the USA. Based on SATANISM AND WITCHCRAFT by Jules Michelet, young and innocent Jeanne is ravaged by the local lord and makes a pact with the Devil. According to the description: “The Devil appears in phallic forms and, through Jeanne, incites the village into a sexual frenzy. In a new restoration using the original camera negatives, this erotic and psychedelic trip of a film springs to life.”

CHEERLEADER

CHEERLEADER

Monday April 4

Get your dose of bubblegum, side ponytails, ’80s music and revenge in the 7 p.m. world premiere of CHEERLEADER, a witty satire of an all-American pastime.  Director Irving Franco and Producer Nathan Marcus are scheduled to attend. Then at 9:15 p.m., THE FOUNDERS goes back to the 1950s and the 13 women who fought male chauvinism to found the Ladies Pro Golf Association (LPGA). Co-Directors Charlene Fisk and Carrie Schrader, Producer Phoebe Brown and Actor Caleb Messer are scheduled to attend.

HandmadeVol6final_medTuesday April 5

At 7 p.m., the COTTON documentary shorts series at 7 Stages includes HOTEL CLERMONT, about residents of the notorious seedy and recently closed Atlanta landmark (yes, we said landmark), and THE NEW ORLEANS SAZERAC, about the quintessential Big Easy cocktail. Released first in 2005, HANDMADE PUPPET DREAMS (also 7 Stages, 9:15 p.m.) doesn’t date back to the 20th century in itself, but puppetry is a Retro art, right? This handpicked selection of puppet film shorts has received tons of international acclaim and just looks friggin’ cool, plus it’s introduced by Jim Henson‘s daughter Heather Henson. Read our Kool Kat of the Week interview with her here.

Bill Genovese in WITNESS.

Bill Genovese in WITNESS.

Wednesday April 6

At 7 p.m., THE WITNESS reopens the famous Kitty Genovese murder, which 38 witnesses watched from nearby apartments and did nothing. Forty years later, her brother Bill Genovese, who was 16 at the time of his sister’s death, digs into the case and “uncovers a lie that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era.” Bill Genovese, Director James D. Solomon and Producer Melissa Jacobson are scheduled to attend.

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MANOMAN, directed by Simon Cartwright, UK

Thursday April 7

Head to the Center for Puppetry Arts at 7 p.m. for WOOD, a screening of international puppetry shorts, followed by a reception in the Atrium and free entry into the new Worlds of Puppetry Museum featuring the Jim Henson and Global Collections, which includes rare artifacts from Henson-related films such as THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982) and LABYRINTH (1986) and a selfie opportunity with Muppets Kermit and Miss Piggy.

LOA

LOA

Friday April 8

During COPPER, a special presentation by the always intriguing Contraband Cinema at 7 Stages at 7 p.m., see contemporary and classic avant garde and experimental shorts with some of the filmmakers in attendance. At 9:15 p.m. also at 7 Stages, director George Koszulinski and other members of his creative team will be on hand for a screening of the “mystical, experimental” Haitian documentary LOA about the life of the Extanta Aoleé, a local houngan or ‘Vodou man.” And ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW screens again at midnight with Lips Down on Dixie audience participation floor show (see Fri. April 1).

MV5BOTA3Mjg2NDQ3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjExNTU3NzE@._V1_UY1200_CR73,0,630,1200_AL_Saturday April 9

In HUNKY DORY, at 12:30 p.m., “Sidney—an artist of many things but an extraordinaire of nothing at all—struggles to live up to the expectations of his glam rock dream.” Director Michael Curtis Johnson, Producers Tomas Pais and Jacqueline Johnson and Actor Chad Hartigan (who also directed “closing night feature” MORRIS FROM AMERICA which screens Sat. at 7:30 p.m.) are scheduled to attendAt 2:30, the GOLD documentary shorts series includes SAULTOPAL, in which Atlanta-based artist Susan Cofer invites Georgia-born filmmaker John Henry Summerour (SAHKANAGA) to spend a year documenting Saultopal, an 1100-acre farm in northwest Georgia populated by Longhorn cattle, gigantic rock sculptures and Carl, her husband in his 80th year, and TOURIST about a Vietnam vet revisiting the nation where he once fought.

41cIba3SqsL._SY355_Sunday April 10

The last day of the ATLFF is pretty Retro-kickass, we have to admit. See David Bowie live again on the big screen as the iconic Goblin King in a 30th anniversary screening of LABYRINTH (1986). Then in the much-anticipated MILES AHEAD at 2:45 p.m., Don Cheadle directs and stars as legendary jazz man Miles Davis. Not a full biopic, it centers on the period of five years in the late 1970s when Davis was holed up in his home with chronic hip pain and a fictional encounter with a music reporter which leads to a quest for a stolen tape of his most recent compositions. There’ll also be some Encore screenings yet to be announced, so keep checking the schedule if you miss a screening and/or it sells out.

Of course, these films represent just a tiny portion of the events, shorts, seminars, screenings and receptions/parties taking place. For a complete list, again you need to check out the official Atlanta Film Festival Schedule. And keep an eye on ATLRetro throughout the fest for coverage on all the fun and films. Enjoy this year’s ATLFF, movie lovers!

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Retro Review: Revisiting THE VISITOR, The Most Insane Non-Indie Horror Movie Ever Filmed in Atlanta

Posted on: Jul 12th, 2014 By:

Contraband Cinema presents THE VISITOR (1979); Dir. Michael J. Paradise; Starring John Huston, Paige Conner, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen; One Night Only, July 12 @7:00pm, Eyedrum; Tickets $7.00 at the door and actress Paige Conner will be attendance.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Early in THE VISITOR, an 8-year-old girl opens a wrapped present at her birthday party. Because we’ve been watching the movie, we know that the present contains a tacky statue of a bird, but now the girl inexplicably finds a gun. She grins, points it at partygoers, but then casually tosses it onto a table, which causes it to fire a slug into the back of another character, who then waits the length of a dramatic pause before collapsing to the ground. The entire incident goes from gift-giving to gunfire tragedy in less than 10 seconds.

The reaction among my friends watching the film in my living room was loud. “Wait, what?” “What the hell just happened?!” After a few moments and a few laughs, they calmed, awaiting the explanation that was sure to come.

But, of course, this is THE VISITOR we’re talking about. Explanations aren’t on its agenda, not when every second of screen time is another opportunity to smash a morsel of blazing, brain-melting insanity directly into the film. This is a movie in which legendary Hollywood director John Huston plays an “intergalactic warrior” matching wits with his greatest nemesis, a pre-tween telekinetic and her pet falcon. This is a movie in which director Sam Peckinpah plays an abortion doctor and Lance Henriksen an evil basketball team owner. This is a movie in which skating rinks and street food shops are the sites of supernatural murders. This is a movie in which the fate of the universe is decided in late-1970s Atlanta. But, above all, this is a movie that exists.

THE VISITOR fits loosely into the subgenre of supernatural child movies that bloomed in the wake of William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST (1973). Instead of a demon, little Katy Collins (Paige Conner) is under the sway of an evil intergalactic force named, of all things, Sateen, whose fractured soul is being reborn into children on Earth. I think. Honestly, the film is a tough to puzzle out, as if its heady ideas were being translated through some unfamiliar language which, in a literal sense, they were. The film was an Italian-American coproduction, written and directed by Italians and then translated into English for the sometimes-baffled American cast. But the film also routinely garbles cinematic language, connecting scenes and images that don’t make logical sense, dropping plot threads as soon as they’re introduced, and failing to explain, well, anything. In THE VISITOR, a guardian can tell a character that nothing bad will ever happen to her again about five nanoseconds before someone runs that character into a glass aquarium, and it’s not just OK, it’s expected. Anything less insane would belong to another movie.

THE VISITOR is the fevered brainchild of Italian schlock producer Ovidio Assonitis. He was The Asylum of his day, grabbing any idea that had traction in the public and churning out his own low-cost replica. From THE EXORCIST he invented BEYOND THE DOOR (1974). From JAWS (1975) he developed TENTACLES (1977) (also starring Huston!). From PIRANHA (1978) came, well, PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING (1981). Right away, however, something felt a bit different about THE VISITOR. The production had a whiff of class about it as Huston’s name and cachet attracted more big names to the cast, including the likes of Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters and Glenn Ford. Assonitis even shot scenes in Rome, Italy, before moving the production to the tax-friendly vistas of downtown Atlanta.

Paige Conner in THE VISITOR (1979). Drafthouse Films.

For locals the film not only exists as a virtual tour through a past version of the city—including looks at Underground Atlanta, The Omni and other retro locales—but as a dubious legacy for some of the Atlanta’s most famous figures. The credits reserve a special thanks for Mayor Maynard Jackson, who worked hard to bring the production to town, and the film owes memorable scenes and locations to the cavalier whims of Ted Turner. According to legend, Assonitis wagered the fate of the production on a Hawks game with Turner. If the Hawks won, the production would get access to Turner’s home as a shooting location free of charge. The Hawks did indeed win, and the production not only gained access to Turner’s home, but the Omni as well for a key scene in which the possessed little girl explodes a basketball with her mind. (Supposedly, eagle-eyed fans can spot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the scene as well as radio personalities Neal Boortz and Steve Somers. So there’s that.)

It’s unclear whether the city or Turner were grateful for the chance to contribute. THE VISITOR flopped miserably (and predictably) at the box office, perhaps because the world just wasn’t ready to see Franco Nero (DJANGO [1966]) as Jesus Christ or to see Lance Henriksen attacked by a ceramic switchblade bird. The film made a paltry amount of money at the box office, and that’s just counting the money they got to keep. In an interview on the film’s DVD, Henriksen talks about the film’s legendary badness and his embarrassment at a screening in New York when he heard audience members demanding their hard-earned money back. Henriksen’s opinion of the film represents the consensus at the time of its premiere, but time has a way of changing the story, and THE VISITOR’s story has changed.

The film’s first supporter was supposedly Huston himself, who immediately recognized something special hiding among the frames of the film and kept an elusive VHS of the movie near his deathbed. It took longer for audiences to catch on, but a few did, and a passionate cult helped the film become a regular at midnight screening and trendy repertory houses. Audiences came for the irony and stayed for the film’s unrivaled uniqueness. THE VISITOR doesn’t make a lot of sense, but compensates with mood. THE VISITOR has a dreamlike tone, cultivating something like madness out of its odd juxtapositions of tone and images, or of the powerful performances in service of a story that can’t be unraveled. The film appears assured and confident in the story it’s telling, leaving audiences wondering if the answers are in there after all, just waiting for a keystone piece of information to unlock them. Does it make sense that Henriksen’s evil, but certainly human, tycoon character needs to marry his girlfriend in order to create another wicked psychic child? Probably not, but Henriksen seems to believe it, so why shouldn’t we?

The big coup for THE VISITOR in its reassessment came earlier this year, when Drafthouse Films, the distribution arm of the trendsetting Alamo Drafthouse theater chain in Austin, Texas, released a wonderful new Blu-Ray edition of the film, made with the kind of loving care and attention usually reserved for a Criterion Collection release of a prestige classic. It’s safe to say that more eyes have been on the film in the past year than in the past few decades, and the movie seems to be well on its way to a complete rehabilitation.

By this point in the article, you probably have an idea if THE VISITOR is for you. If it is, then I highly recommend seeing it as soon as possible, and Eyedrum, along with Contraband Cinema, are giving you the chance. Saturday night, July 12, the art gallery is hosting a screening of the film with actress Paige Conner in attendance. Alongside the film will be an art exhibit featuring “new and original pieces based on this unique film by a variety of local artists.” This is a special opportunity to experience a forgotten piece of Atlanta cinema history in the midst of its revival and rediscovery.

THE VISITOR, at long last, has arrived.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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RETRO REVIEW: Hanging Out With MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED at The Strand

Posted on: May 17th, 2014 By:

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976); Dir. Peter Yates; Starring Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch, Harvey Keitel, Larry Hagman;  May 18 at the Strand Theatre @ 3:00 PM.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

One of the truest joys of watching retro movies is that so many of them could never, ever be made today. We like to think of culture as a steady march of progress, but it’s more like a cycle of tides, with some particular mood cresting before receding, like the way the risqué shocks of the 1920s eventually morphed into the repressed sexuality of the 1940s. Moments come and go all the time, and what made sense for one era and one particular group of people can seem like it was beamed in from another world just a few years down the line. It’s not that they “don’t make them like they used to.” It’s more of a question of how they were ever made that way to begin with.

For example, look at MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED, one of the strangest studio comedies produced during a very strange period of the mid-1970s when the rules about mainstream movies had shaken themselves apart and nobody quite knew how to put them back together. One part workplace comedy, another part slobs-versus-snobs, but also part serious social drama, MOTHER exists in a kind of weird pocket outside of genre. If you haven’t seen it, there’s no easy point of context to prepare you for what to expect.

Just going off the title, it’s easy to imagine MOTHER as a forerunner to the trucker-film craze kicked off by Burt Reynolds a year later in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977), but although the title characters are certainly drivers, their wheels are attached to Los Angeles ambulances instead of highway big rigs, and their antics are more in service of retaining their sanity over making a big score. Mother (Bill Cosby) is an irreverent veteran driver tasked with breaking in the rookie Speed (Harvey Keitel), so named because of his past selling drugs as an undercover cop. Mother and Speed encounter rival companies, tension with other drivers (including Larry Hagman in a pervy supporting role), and a loose collection of setups and punchlines, all the while hoping to make enough dollars to keep themselves and their business afloat. Meanwhile, the unfortunately-nicknamed Jugs (Raquel Welch) moves to escape her job as the dispatch and den mother for the boys and become the first female driver in her staunchly chauvinistic profession.

Welch’s plotline exemplifies the film’s jarring shifts in tone. Viewers are invited to laugh along with the drivers and the wacky ways in which they let off steam—Cosby, in particular, is at the peak of his talent and delivers plenty of laughs—but the film also aspires to blow the lid off of what was, at the time, a pretty scandalous industry. In an effort to maximize profits, drivers would sabotage rivals, bribe police officers, and invent phony fares to milk government kickbacks. Less the lifesavers that their marketing would have you believe, the ambulance business was more like a taxi service with steeper leverage over its customers. If you weren’t worth the driver’s time, then good luck finding another way to the emergency room.

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED was the brainchild of animation giant Joseph Barbera (the latter half of the Hanna-Barbera empire) who enlisted Tom Mankiewicz to construct the screenplay. Mankiewicz was a veteran screenwriter who presided over the James Bond franchise during its transition from serious spy fare to pulpier, more audience-friendly material and his particular tastes are all over MOTHER, including pairing slapstick wit and sudden violence. Mankiewicz, in particular, knew how to construct a set piece, as did MOTHER’s director Peter Yates, who helmed the iconic Steve McQueen picture BULLITT (1968) and later the less-successful (but justly infamous) KRULL (1983). MOTHER is likewise stocked with big, high-concept moments that keep things from getting too limp or self-important, which would have been death for a movie that so desperately wants to be a good time.

Ultimately, the real appeal of the film is Cosby, Keitel, Welch, and the rest of the ragtag assembly of drivers. MOTHER, JUGS, AND SPEED is a “hangout movie,” one in which most of the fun comes from revisiting these characters like a group of old friends. That’s another appeal of retro cinema. For better or for worse, even as the world changes around us, our old friends remain exactly the same.

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED plays @3:00 on May 18 at The Strand. Get tickets HERE.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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Retro Review: Blast-Off Burlesque Takes a Joyride Back to the Heyday of the ’70s LA Porn Industry with BOOGIE NIGHTS at the Plaza Theatre Sat. Jan. 21

Posted on: Jan 18th, 2012 By:

By Dean Treadway
Contributing Writer

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997); Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson; Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson; Starring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. Jan. 21; 10 PM; arrive early for a night of innuendo-laden foods, Porn Persona superstar costume contest, prizes, Rollergirl madness and a hilarious stage show with special guest Cousin Dan; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

BOOGIE NIGHTS is one of those films I love in spite of my better judgment.  It’s a resolutely big-screen experience, and Atlanta moviegoers are going to have a rare opportunity to see it on the big screen at the Plaza Theater on Saturday, Jan. 21 when it appears as the feature accompanying Blast-Off Burlesque‘s saucy Taboo-La-La show starting at 10 p.m.

I can recall gendering at the beautiful one-sheet for BOOGIE NIGHTS before it was released in the fall of 1997.  I marveled at its huge cast, and was excited about the subject matter – a trip through the Los Angeles porn industry of the late ’70s.  I didn’t know who the writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson was at that time, having not seen his first feature, the small-time con film, HARD EIGHT, but that would soon change.  The poster, though, with its intricate photo collage of characters from the film, promised an epic portrayal unlike anything ever attempted.  I was extremely thrilled about seeing it.

Burt Reynolds in BOOGIE NIGHTS. New Line Cinema, 1997.

In BOOGIE NIGHTS, we follow its naïve central character, Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), as he is ensnared into a makeshift family of porn filmmakers and performers.  He’s spotted by the patriarchal auteur Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) as he’s performing tricks on the side at his busboy job at an L.A. nightspot.  Impressed by his entire…um…package, Horner invites Eddie into the porn fold, and there his triumphs and troubles begin.  Eddie’s eventual transformation into the XXX-star Dirk Diggler is followed in great detail, but this story is really a kind of connective tissue for all the many other tales the film has to offer. Julianne Moore is a top-tier porn actress battling the courts and her ex-husband over custody of their son while using Horner’s coterie of performers as sort of stand-in children. William H. Macy is a meek assistant director struggling with his wife’s brazen infidelity. John C. Reilly is an amiable second-string performer with a penchant for magic tricks who’s attempting to forge a stronger identity for himself. Don Cheadle is another beaten-down porn star who’s finding difficulty breaking into the world of legitimate business. Heather Graham is the sexy but largely innocent Rollergirl, searching for the family she can’t find at home.  And Horner himself is battling pressures to convert to video rather than film – an idea he finds abhorrent (this is especially poignant now, seeing as how this might be your last opportunity to catch BOOGIE NIGHTS on 35mm).   Throw into this mix Philip Seymour Hoffman as a schlubby sound guy, Luis Guzman as an enthusiastic outsider, Robert Ridgely as a troubled producer, Philip Baker Hall as an imposing moneyman, and Ricky Jay as Horner’s loyal editor, and you can get a sense of this film’s great ambition.

Heather Graham plays a sexy, but largely innocent Rollergirl in BOOGIE NIGHTS. New Line Cinema, 1997.

I still find moments in the film to be quite wonderful.  The widescreen cinematography, by Anderson regular Robert Elswit (who would go on to win an Oscar for his work on Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD), is always vibrant and inventive, as is the ’70s-era source music score (which pairs nicely with a sad circus underscore by Michael Penn).  Anderson writes dialogue for dumb people particularly brilliantly, so there’s always funny conversation going on.  The period detail in the garish art direction and costume design are spot-on.  I love seeing Burt Reynolds tearing into a good role, for possibly the last time, and Julianne Moore is lovingly histrionic here, as she would be in Anderson’s MAGNOLIA as well (both received supporting player Oscar nominations).  As always, I find John C. Reilly to be a hoot as Reed Rothschild, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is sweet as the crewman who gets a crush on Eddie (his tortured confession of this to the unsuspecting Wahlberg is perhaps the movie’s most shattering scene).

Alfred Molina in BOOGIE NIGHTS. New Line Cinema, 1997

But I also find that many parts don’t work. William H. Macy is a barely-sketched punching bag of a character. Don Cheadle’s story fails to make a deep impression (note: any time you see a character in a white suit, you can bet that thing’s gonna be covered in blood by the end of the scene). And Graham’s Rollergirl, while extremely cute, also seems thinly-written.   It feels like Anderson just has too much movie here for 2 ½ hours to hold (BOOGIE NIGHTS would have been a much better TV series).

Still, though the film owes a bit too much to the GOODFELLAS style of soaring-then-crashing storytelling (with the onslaught of the 1980s being the rather too-obvious turning point), BOOGIE NIGHTS is required viewing if only for its extremely tense final third, which finds Eddie struggling with a cocaine addiction while trying to launch a hilariously ill-thought musical career (the songs, performed bravely and horribly by Wahlberg and Reilly, include the original “Feel My Heat“ and a cover of the closing song to THE TRANSFORMERS MOVIE, “The Touch“).  Particularly memorable in this segment, too, is one of the great scenes in movie history, where Wahlberg, Reilly and ne’er-do-well Thomas Jane are stuck inside a free-basing coke-dealer’s house.  The gun-toting dealer is played with a maniac’s energy by Alfred Molina; he’s so coked up, he has no idea that these three are planning to rip him off.  With firecrackers being thrown left and right by his houseboy, he holds the guys semi-hostage as he insists on playing “Jessie’s Girl” and “Sister Christian” for them on his stereo.  You’ll never hear these two songs in quite the same way again.  It’s really a marvelously scary moment that puts you right there in this mess and gets your heart pounding.

Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly in BOOGIE NIGHTS. New Line Cinema, 1997.

There are many other things I like about the movie: the stiffly-acted porn sequences, shot on a scratchy 16mm; the wonderful tour through one of Horner’s house parties, done in one long shot that recalls a scene out of I AM CUBA, where we follow a girl as she jumps into the pool out back, all to the tune of Eric Burdon’s “Spill the Wine”; and the final shot of the film, which recalls another Scorsese classic, RAGING BULL, but which ends with, at last, a glimpse of what made Dirk Diggler famous.  I wish BOOGIE NIGHTS as a whole was as good as these individual moments, but it’s certainly something worth checking out, especially if you’ve never seen it on the big screen.  And it remains an important film, if only as the breakthrough for an artist like Paul Thomas Anderson who, with each passing work, only seems to be getting better and better.

Dean Treadway is a longtime Atlanta film analyst and film festival programmer with more than 25 years of published works. His popular film blog is called filmicability with Dean Treadway.  He is also a correspondent for Movie Geeks United, the Internet’s #1 movie-related podcast.

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Kool Kat of the Week: The B-52s Fred Schneider Dons Shiny Spandex and Dances This Mess Around at Discoween Fri. Oct. 28

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2011 By:

In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, The B-52s turned disco on its head with sci-fi new wave numbers that were sure to get you twisting and twirling faster-than-the-speed-of-light. So it’s hard to imagine a more phenomenal host for Discoween, this Friday’s ‘70s inspired Halloween party at Paris on Ponce, than vocalist Fred Schneider. Indeed all the pre-buzz suggests an outrageous extravaganza worthy of the gregarious glitter-glam era, amplified by seasonal tricks and treats, including ‘70s dance hits spun by DJ Vickie Powell, Hustle dance lessons by Go-Go Ghoul Dancers, female impersonators selling ‘70s fashions, costume and dance contests for iPad prizes (OK, did you really want to win an old-school Atari?), a photo booth to record your ‘70s awesomeness, Bad Taste but good tasting ‘70s snacks provided  by Dennis Dean Catering, a raffle with period-authentic prizes including a vintage ‘70s Gucci purse and a framed photo of Elton John in the ‘70s taken by famed photographer Kate Simon, and much more.

Best of all, you don’t have to feel any shame when partying like it’s 1979, because all proceeds go to Canine Companions for Independence, a global nonprofit that provides highly trained service dogs to people with disabilities. Discoween was conceived by Fred’s friend and lifelong animal lover Cathleen (Cathy) Smith-Bresciani, who recently founded the Violet Trust to sponsor training of CCI’s service dogs. Known for throwing fashionably fun charitable fetes, she also chaired the 2010 and 2011 official after-parties for Jeffrey Fashion Cares and Fred Schneider’s Spring Thang benefiting PALS and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Tickets (age 21 & up) are $60 in advance ($75 at door) and can be purchased at the Website for Dixie Dog Wear, Cathy’s online pet accessories boutique which donates 100% its profits to various charities.

Designer Jason Wu, Cathleen Smith, Fred Schneider and Violet - a CCI service dog in training. Photo courtesy of Caren West PR.

ATLRetro caught up with Fred for a fabulous pre-peek at Discoween, his personal love of ‘70s dance music, how he got involved and what’s up next for the B-52s and his sensational side project The Superions, which he playfully described to another blogger as “the most exciting group to hit the music scene since Elvis or Lady Gaga.” At ATLRetro, we have no doubt that’s true, Fred!

ATLRetro: Why will Discoween be Atlanta’s best Retro-inspired Halloween party this year?

Fred Schneider: Any party Cathy Smith throws is the best. Ask anyone. And DJ Vicki and I know how to get people shakin’!!

What will you be doing as host of the party? Are you performing? Or Emceeing?
I’ll be doing a little of everything. I’m not performing, but the disco glitter dancers make their debut! And I’ll screen the Superions’ BATBABY mini-movie

Paris on Ponce is a very unique and cool venue. Do you shop there yourself (in which case what was your coolest Paris on Ponce purchase?) And how will that location play into the fun?

Yes, I’ve shopped there. Got a great 1931 modern designer furniture book. The venue for the party already looks like something from TRUE BLOOD!

What disco finest will you be pulling out of your closet, and any tips for putting together the ultimate outrageous ’70s disco costume?
I’m shopping tomorrow for an outfit! Anything shiny spandex is a must. Especially if it’s unflattering!

How did you get involved and why are you so passionate about Canine Companions for Independence?
My good friend Cathy Smith named a dog and is sponsoring one. I also do a line of dog cookies for her Dixie Dogwear [called] Fred Schneider’s Dogstars.

The B-52s were New Wave, which some people think of as anti-disco, but yet you were absolutely danceable. Did the band owe anything to the disco sound?
I love new wave disco. There’s lots of disco music we all liked.

What else are you and the B-52s up to now? Any recordings, other upcoming Atlanta appearances, eclectic hobbies, passionate causes?
The B-52s have a new live CD, WITH THE WILD CROWD, we taped in Athens. A DVD will come out later. One dream would be to play our 35th anniversary show at the Fox next year. My side project, The Superions, have a single and mini-movie out now, BATBABY. Our Xmas CD, DESTINATION…CHRISTMAS comes out again to save the holidays!

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