The Lack of Obsolescence: The FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL, 10th Anniversary Tour

FFF_Tour_Poster_Vol7

As a moving image archivist and profound fan of VHS tapes, when I heard about the Found Footage Festival I grew very excited.

For many, I think the comic factor is attractive. And that is understandable. But that’s not why I was thrilled. I didn’t get excited because the on-coming works to be shown seemed cheesy or ironically “awesome, dude.”

I wasn’t ready to support this show simply because it featured thousands of work-out tapes of the 80s that had been rediscovered in thrift-shops all over the United States, or because it was ready to seemingly exploit weird and wild home-made after-hours “Buy this! It’s only $99.99!” Mr. Popeil-style programs.

The Found Footage Festival, founded and curated by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher got me because it was a film festival generated by the same confidence and love for visual media that San Francisco Guardian critic and Castro programmer Jesse Hawthorne Ficks has discussed at length when he has railed against the modern viewer’s concept of “neo-sincerity” and the damage that this has done to pure enjoyment of the visual text. It is what I mentioned when I talked about the uniquely new concept of non-ironically loving what others seem to consider “Bad” media. When I was asked to do a list for Rupert Pupkin Speaks on Bad Movies We Love, this is what I wrote:

 

 

I believe that the term “bad movie” requires a great deal of unpacking. Tragically, when I was first in film school, * mumblemumble * years ago, it did not. “Bad” simply meant the opposite of good. It meant that you did not like the film. It was a poor choice at the video store or the box office, you wouldn’t do it again, you had to go off and knock back a bunch of beers with pals to wash out that “bad movie taste” and that was that. No recommendations for that cinematic failure. The movie sucked.
Somehow, in the last 15 or so years, “bad” has taken on all sorts of different meanings to people. Now we all remember what Michael Jackson meant when he asked, “Who’s bad?” but that’s not exactly what I mean. Although, in a way, it is. When we go around to look at people’s collections at their houses and we agonize that they have the most “amazing VHS collection evAr” because it has a few dozen films starring your favorite wrestling stars, what does that mean? Does it mean those are good films or does it mean those are good films to you? Please note that I do not use the term “bad” here. I do not believe that it comes into play. I absolutely hate when people use the “so bad its good” descriptor. That, to me, is like saying “but he only hits me because he loves me.” IT MAKES NO SENSE ON A LOGICAL LEVEL. 
 So let’s get a few things clear right now:
1)    There is no such thing as SO BAD IT’S GOOD.
2)    Very few films are ever perfect. Sometimes, it is in their imperfections and in their relentless references to time, place and cultural objects that you can find absolute glory.
3)    Polarizing terms applied to art (which, by its nature, exists in a gray area) are likely to change in time. How many films can you think of that were once completely shunned and are now considered “masterpieces”? Be careful of hyperbole. It’ll bite you in the ass.
All that said, when Jesse Hawthorne Ficks (of the MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS film series at the Castro Theater in San Francisco) came down to L.A. one night to present ROCKULA, he spoke about a thing called neo-sincerity, and that hit home. He said that we don’t watch these movies because we want to make fun of them, or because we think that they are stupid or so that we can, somehow, feel more superior by knowing that we dress “better” or some such. We watch these films because something in them actually appeals to us and we do actually dig them. So, with that, I give you a few films that other people may index underneath the genre of “bad movie” but I love the HELL out of.

As an archivist, I have learned that all media has a certain importance and this festival seemed like one that would not only be entertaining (being fronted by comedians and men who genuinely love both the VHS format and the comic craft) but also fascinating to my own work as a preservationist. It spoke to me on many levels since their approach mirrors the work of Rick Prelinger and Dan Streible in certain respects. Perhaps not the same tone, but like those respected archivists, these young men have taken the Home Movie Day approach with collections of old VHS works and they have most certainly become not only connoisseurs of the craft but experts in their field. To be frank, these men can reasonably do what any archivist does with a given set of elements: assess the collection, catalog the works, then provide access.  In my eyes, the Found Footage Festival is a unique and new kind of traveling archive. Yes, they give humor alongside the visuals. But these works are also reflections of an era that (most likely) many audience members now were not alive for.

Most people in the audience never owned a VCR. I OWN THREE. YES, STILL. Also, these clips, much like home movies, are like time capsules and windows into another region or era that none of us ever were part of. I will argue that this Festival is an important one. And these guys can make you laugh while you ingest important things that you didn’t even realize were important. Because it just looks like a crazy lady with an unfortunately feathered hairstyle doing yoga.

I highly recommend that you attend one, two or all of their events, as listed here. The link to where you can ACTUALLY BUY the tickets is HERE

I WILL BE AT BOTH OF THE NEW BEVERLY SHOWS. LET’S DO THIS THING!!!!!!!!!

Wed, May 7, 2014 @ 8:30pm Meltdown The Meltdown
Thu, May 8, 2014 @ 9:00pm New Beverly Vol. 7 in Los Angeles, CA
Fri, May 9, 2014 @ 9:00pm New Beverly Vol. 7 in Los Angeles, CA
Sat, May 10, 2014 @ 7:00pm The Loft Cinema Vol. 7 in Tucson, AZ
Tue, May 20, 2014 @ 8:00pm Spegeln FFF in Malmö, Sweden
Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 7:30pm Cinema Neuf FFF in Oslo, Norway
Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 8:30pm Bio Rio Vol. 7 in Stockholm, Sweden
Thu, Jun 5, 2014 @ 8:00pm E Street Cinema Vol. 7 in Washington, DC
Thu, Jun 19, 2014 @ 7:30pm Colonial Theatre Vol. 7 in Bethlehem, NH
Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 8:00pm Regent Square Vol. 7 in Pittsburgh, PA
Fri, Aug 1, 2014 @ 10:00pm Leicester Square Theatre Vol. 7 in London
Sat, Aug 2, 2014 @ 10:00pm Leicester Square Theatre Vol. 7 in London
Tue, Aug 12, 2014 @ 8:00pm Fine Line Music Cafe Vol. 7 in Minneapolis, MN
Thu, Aug 14, 2014 @ 8:00pm The Bishop Vol. 7 in Bloomington, IN
Thu, Sep 11, 2014 @ 8:00pm Lesley University Lesley University
Sat, Sep 20, 2014 @ 9:00pm University of New Hampshire University of New Hampshire

 

Happy Birthday Bill!!!

Right-o, since I’m still a-workin’ on somethin’ bigger, and the inimitable James Tiberius Kirk/Denny Crane/Man who had the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet/Priceline Negotiator, etc CLEARLY takes precedence ANYWAY….Have at it.

Happy 78th birthday to the one…the only….William Alan Shatner.

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Plus I shall give you Henry Rollins on his experience recording with Bill….

And some puppets singing the recorded song. Because the song? Fucking rules. And….so do puppets. In general.

ENJOY!!!!

My time in a Dublin Police Station…

Y’know, traveling is a fun AND a funny thing.

You get to have all KINDS of experiences. ESPECIALLY on holidays.

Especially on HOLIDAYS in FOREIGN COUNTRIES.

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So St. Patrick’s Day has a long and involved history, right? Involving religion, and snakes, and all sorts of fun stuff. But to a few 20-21 year old kids going to college in the UK, well, it was……about going to St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Not so much about historical pretense. Even if we were well educated individuals who actually did (and still do) care a great deal about the ways in which theology and history intersect to create ritualistic celebration. However, one must admit- it’s changed quite a bit from St. Patrick and his Snakes, no?

In any case, there we were. In Dublin. March of 2001. I was 21 years old. We had decided to go to Ireland, oh…maybe…72 hours previous.

I was with my Partner in Crime, my Ultimate Traveling Companion, the girl I met at school in the UK who hailed from Wisconsin. What *is* it about Wisconsin??? Constantly meeting awesomely people from there. Must be in the custard or the brats.

At any rate, there we were.

We’d done the “night.”

We’d hit the pubs, drank the Guiness, seen the madness, and were ready to call it a night.

…only we couldn’t. And funny thing? Neither could the folks we came with.

See it was almost comedic. I do say ALMOST. It was quite like those movies where you watch in horror as the people disperse into disastrous chaos and simply laugh. And why do we laugh? Because we know, according to filmic convention, that, in the end, It Will All Be Just Fine.

This didn’t seem like one of those movies when we were standing on the street, freezing our asses off, and all the bars were closing at about midnight or 1am. Yeah. That’s what we thought too. A bit early.

See, Ireland gets super cold at night and…..we were c.o.l.d.

I admit- our planning was POOR, at best. We, um, well….were gonna wait until the bus station opened at 6am, then leave. BUT, we were hoping that there would be stuff going on until at *least* 2, and then? Well, we hoped we could find a diner or something

No such luck.

Oh, the stupidity of youth. However, that stupidity makes for GREAT storytelling. Eventually. Once the hypothermia wears off.

I have images of our somewhat inebriated compatriots waiting for the bus or taxis back to the hostel in County Cork (a good WAYS off). We kept passing them, as we searched for somewhere to hang out for a few hours. And no, it wasn’t pretty.

It looked like the damned zombie apocalypse was coming, because we weren’t the only bad planners. There were a whole bunch more, only………they were SERIOUSLY drunk and my friend and I? Well, we were actually only pleasantly celebrational. Like, as in, we could stand, walk, ENJOY ourselves.

However, we were caught up in the rest of the folks banging on hotel doors to let us in for a few hours of respite.

No such luck.

And we kept passing our poor friends who were still waiting for the cabs.

Finally, exhausted, after a few more mishaps, we just didn’t know what to do.

A kind soul took pity on us.

“The police station, “ they said, “Just go there. They won’t bother you at all. You can sit there as long as you want.”

We looked at each other in disbelief. Neither of us were, um, too keen on the idea, shall we say? However, what did we have to lose?

We headed down towards the station. And entered the next part of our adventure.

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OK, so we were in the damn Dublin Police Station for St. Patrick’s Day.

Can you get much more bizarre than that? Well, yes you can. She and I sat there. Staring at the wall, shivering and wondering a) how the hell we got there in the first place, b) how the hell we were gonna stay awake until the bus station opened and c) what we would say to the nice Irish police officers, should they ask us why we just barged into the police station and sat down, without saying a word to anyone.

Dublin Police Station

Dublin Police Station

Just as we were coming to terms with our fate…….SHE came in, accompanied by another woman and two of the aforesaid Irish Police Officers (who, for the record, completely ignored us except for once, if I remember correctly, for the entirety of our “visit”). One of the women was taken back “behind the scenes,” while the other? She became our friend for the evening.

And boy oh boy, was she our friend. Aside from the nice homeless man, eating bread and listening to his walkman in the far corner, she was the only person in their with us. And we were her captive (and I DO mean captive) audience.

“Ah, but she’s sech a good gerl, she shouldna been done fer tha drunk drivin’, ye see, she’s a good gerl, y’see,” she kept telling us.

We nodded in agreement. Of course she was. Of course.

Then she asked us some questions, I think. Her sobriety, of course, was….less than reliable. We mostly just froze and agreed with Everything She Said. Because she Wouldn’t Stop Talking.

You think *I* talk a lot? You never met HER.

Mostly about what a good girl her friend was, and how she just “shouldna been done like tha’” of course, but she really was what my mother would call a “character.”

If you think this lasted forever, well you’d be right. IT DID.

And there wasn’t much we could do but listen to her. It’s entertaining now, but woah nelly.

At some point, she realized that as an audience we weren’t much, and started to try to figure out what to do about LEAVING.

That’s when the REAL FUN began.

She started to flip the lights on and off. She started running around the room. She started to knock on the bulletproof glass where the policeman/receptionist sat. Not only did this disturb him, but our Homeless Friend started going bonkers. He removed himself from underneath the seats, and started to be, um, not so happy with her, making sounds of protest, quite zombie-like, where he had been perfectly well behaved and just calm and walkman-listening before. Now he was ALL about the bread-chomping and pissed off at her proclivities towards flashing lights on/off and generally disturbing the peace.

The woman went a bit loopy, to say the least. At this juncture, our friend was spoken to. Firmly. By her friends, the nice police officers who had taken her friend in. They informed her in no uncertain terms that if she did not QUIT IT IMMEDIATELY, she would join her friend, the “nice gerl.”

Pouting, she sat down.

My companion and I sighed with relief as the tension left the air.

Shortly thereafter, she was escorted from the premises to meet her friend (we assume?), and it became light outside. The Dublin bus station opened, and my Partner In Crime and I removed ourselves from the freezing chairs (they left the doors open all night- it was no warmer inside the station than it was outside), and got ourselves to the airport.

FAST.

So, my friends, that was my story for this St. Patrick’s Day. Hope yours is well and good! Please be careful and well, keep safe and most of all, stay outta police stations!!

These Boots were made for Walken…

As I work on a proper entry, a tribute to the late and great Lux Interior of The Cramps (stay tuned),I will give you this:

Yet one more reason to LOVE Austin, TX (and especially the folk that reside there…)

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Yes, this sign really did happen. Wanna know how? Wanna know more? It’s all here, including a FREE Guide to the Undead!! BONUS!!!

Walk (en) This Way…

chriswalken

Just thought I’d start the week with a little bit of a laugh and a bang. Because hey- we all could use some Walken on a Monday morning, right?

Elliot Smith + Muppets = AWESOME

Thanks to my longtime friend Bill, I get to present you with morning AMAZING.

CHECK THIS OUT….