Monday, April 09, 2007

The last three weeks

Three weeks later and I've been all over the world again, or so it seems.

It started with I-CON, up in Stonybrook, Long Island. Amy and I were in attendance again at the request of friend and artist Mike Apice. For the second year, we were set up with the artists back in the Art Show portion of the convention. As I've mentioned before, this is a fan-run convention—one of the largest in the country—and because of that, it's a catastrophuck in terms of organization. Neither of us wound up on the site as guests, so nobody knew we were there. Two of our movies screened—at 3pm on Sunday, as the show drew to a close. We were supposed to be on a number of panels—none of which were on the convoluted schedule. And because I get the impression that the organizers aren't as hip to the Art Show as they want us to believe, we were again hidden in the ass-end of the very long sports building, sequestered in a gymnasium on the other side of a second gym where all the guests go to hold their Q&As. As a result, nobody knew we were there.

Which is a real shame because the quality of art on display was simply amazing. No matter which end of the room you started on, your eyes fell upon some of the most gorgeous and offbeat paintings, photography and sculpture. So while the traffic was more of the rural cross-roads variety, rather than the bottleneck to be found downstairs in the dealers' room, we were afforded plenty of opportunity to hang with some of these incredible artists. It was our personal pleasure to hang and eat and drink with a series of Mikes (Lilly, Okamoto and Apice) and their respective others Marie, Diana and Romik (sorry, man, couldn't resist – Romik is an amazing artist in his own right and nobody can dispute that). And we got to meet Artist Guest of Honor Steve Ferris, whose work just brings tears to the eyes. It's my sincere and desperate hope that I'll get the opportunity to work with all of these people again on projects in the future (the three Mikes have already contributed covers to Sirens of Cinema (5, 7 and 2, respectively) and look for a cover by Romik very soon.

Now, aside from the disorganization, there's only one other thing that irks me about I-CON. I've pointed this out before, as well. Science Fiction fans are a different breed from horror fans. There is virtually no little sense of humor to be found at SF shows. Nor is there much originality to be had. SF fans take themselves very seriously. There's no joking about what they like. If you don't know who they're dressed as, costume-wise, it's tantamount to pissing yourself in Royal Court in their eyes. Last year, I entertained myself by asking each person I saw with a scarf if they were Dr. Who or just cold. Not a single smile. This year, I couldn't even work up the energy to do that. The costumes on display, again, were dazzling, but they were all meticulously copied from something else. Anime outfits down to the thread count—not a single original creation, however.

SF fans like what they like and nothing further. Horror fans like everything. SF fans like Voyager or Next Generation and that's it. Horror fans like slashers, monsters, and science fiction. You mention horror to most of these hard-core SF fans, you might as well be exposing yourself to them, the mortified looks you get in return. *Sigh*

But anyway… the very next weekend was Cinema Wasteland. And suddenly all was right with the world. If you know anything about us, you know that Wasteland is our favorite show of the year, hands down. And we get to have this pleasure twice – in March and in October. It's like coming home, it really is.

And the nicest thing about it—something I've come to realize about the horror community in general—is that a family has grown out of this show. The same people attend or set up as vendors show after show. We get together twice a year to hang out, drink, take the piss out of each other and have a really good time. This is all thanks to the atmosphere generated by the promoters, Ken and Pam Kish, and all the vendors, guests and attendees respond to this. It's just a relaxed, wonderful event.

To make it more wonderful, Abattoir had its first screening in its final form on Saturday. After a series of stressful, technology-involved problems (a laptop that stopped working, a DVD player that followed suit), we screened to a moderately-packed house that seemed to respond positively to our weird little vampire movie. Because it was Wasteland, I was actually able to sit and enjoy some of the movie as well, instead of being too nervous to even enter the room. After (and during) the screening, Amy and I contented ourselves to drink perhaps just a little too much. And because it was Wasteland, we had plenty of people watching out for our well-being during the evening. Amy had a trio of French Canadians (Stiv, Hugo and Dave) with whom she murdered the French language. I hung out primarily with JimmyO and April Burril. And by the next morning, Amy and I shared details of the previous night—fortunately for us, we blacked out separate chunks of time, so the filling-in process went smoothly.

Now, this past Friday, Good Friday, was celebrated with Grindhouse. Members of the Happy Cloud family (Amy, myself, Carolyn Oliver and Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys) got together with members of Hero Headquarters (Jeff Waltrowski, Dave Cooper, Tara (the future Mrs. Cooper) and their friend Ambrose) for a glorious afternoon of senseless violence followed up with a steak dinner (it's the blasphemy that adds the extra flavor). As expected, Grindhouse was a fabulous, nearly-nonsensical three-hour-plus thrill ride. It's unashamedly stupid and utterly satisfying.

Of course, because Grindhouse was released on Easter Weekend, a notoriously family-oriented weekend, it opened to less-impressive numbers than expected by the Dimension head-honchos. And the crowd of reviewers have, in a marvelous display of shadenfruede, declared the film a bomb. Which is, of course, just silly. Like the B-movie films its creators pay tribute to, I suspect that Grindhouse will need more than a single weekend to find its audience.

On the other hand, I think commercial success was the furthest thing from the minds of Tarantino and Rodriguez. Why should they give a shit? They made a movie—a pair of movies—for an audience of two, themselves, first and foremost. And they banked on there being enough like-minded folks out there—like our aforementioned octet above, for starters—to keep the movie running for a few weekends before the inevitable packed DVD release. Grindhouse celebrates a subculture of movies that very few members of today's modern audience has any frame of reference for. They crafted a pair of intentionally-silly exploitation movies out of pure love for a whole cadre of intentionally-silly exploitation films based primarily in a decade that already seems prehistoric to the slew of ticket-buyers in the new millennium. It was a Sisyphean task that the duo took readily—gleefully. They didn't make Grindhouse to attract the attention of those who made the insipid Blades of Glory #1 at the box office. And they certainly didn't make it for the Meet the Robinsons crowd. Those audiences, quite frankly, deserve exactly what they got and nothing more. They're the reason Norbit 2 is in the works and they can have this world they've carved.

Nope, Rodriguez, Tarantino, and the whole company made Grindhouse for folks like us. And by 'us', I mean, of course, anyone reading this blog, for starters. The film lovers. The hard-core, unapologetic geek. Grindhouse is an intentionally imperfect child, a gritty and gratuitous as absolutely possible.

And to the critics who gnashed their teeth and groused or got embarrassed by the preceding, it wasn't for you and we're all happy you're not in our corner. To Barry Paris, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who needed "post-screening smelling salts" and was sent mincing into the night by the preview, next time, sir, perhaps you'd prefer to spend your time with a good loafer-lightener. And to the nitwits who bitch in the other direction, that the directors failed to emulate the '70s exploitation films because of x, y, z (use of cell phones by characters, references to Iraq, whatever), your theorem is flawed here. I may grudgingly grant that Tarantino inserted a Tarantino movie into the middle of his '70s race car/women revenge film, but, as Mark Bell at Film Threat pointed out, every no-budget '70s-era grindhouse movie has long, extended moments of talkiness. Tarantino is proud of his knack for dialogue—it's what he's known for. So, yeah, his talky parts are especially talky, but no less so than Two Lane Blacktop or Road Games. If you didn't like it, tough. It wasn't made for you.

Our little octet cheered and applauded and roared with laughter all the way through. Once Death Proof gets past the talky first act misdirection and is underway with the marvelous Zoe Bell and her posse, we couldn't take our eyes off the screen. The Faster, Pussycat ending was nothing short of celebratory!

(And to critics, like the aforementioned Mr. Paris, who accuse Grindhouse of being misogynistic, you should, perhaps, look this fucking word up! It comes closer to misandry, for Christ's sake! Oh, and by the way, Mr. Paris, not to beat a dead horse here, but how, exactly, is "Pittsburgh's own Tom Savini" "immortal"? And how is George Romero "sainted"? Seriously, I'm curious as hell.)

So, for my money, Grindhouse was the perfect way to kick off our Easter celebration. Though I couldn't help to think, with no fair amount of irony, that Dimension spent $56 million dollars to make Grindhouse look like The Resurrection Game