Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tarantino's March Madness Pt.7

Over the course of March the New Beverly Cinema is housing Quentin Tarantino's March Madness. The whole month is in celebration of Quentin Tarantino's birthday and will feature 37 movies selected by the master himself. Most of the films that are playing come from Tarantino's personal collection and a number of them are not available on DVD. The month long programming will feature plenty of grindhouse movies that have been influential to Tarantino and plenty of others as well. Tarantino's March Madness will also be capped off with a seven day run of the uncut version to "Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair." I will be attending thirteen nights of programming at the New Beverly Cinema and in an effort to give my readers the most in-depth experience I can I've planned to breakdown each of the events. Hope you enjoy and here's Part Seven...

Note: Technically this is the 12th event of Tarantino's March Madness however it is only the 7th event I've attended. I missed the "Crack House" and "Redneck Miller" double bill to kick off the month, the night of Ralph Bakshi animation with "Coonskin" and "Hey Good Lookin'," as well as the first midnight feature of March Madness, "Shame of the Jungle." Sadly I missed Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's extravaganza "Grindhouse" and "Machete" double (triple) bill as well as "Man Friday" and "Cooley High" double on March 16th and 17th.
Something about a day/night in the life of films and I get along. There are tons of examples out there that I could spend copious amounts of time on but this night is all about "Dazed and Confused." My second favorite day/night in the life movie (first is American Graffiti). My initial reaction going into the evening was that 'Dazed' would be better paired with American Graffiti than it would be Drive-In, as it were I was talking out of my ass because Drive-In is the perfect compliment to Dazed and Confused. It is actually a better pairing with 'Dazed' for the era/generation as well as the events taking place throughout the films than 'Graffiti' is. American Graffiti deals with the 60's while both 'Dazed' and 'Drive-In' are firmly placed in the 70's and Texas.

Ahead of the "Drive-In" and "Dazed and Confused" double were a nice allotment of trailers that played into the themes of the night. Groups, teams or gangs, hook-up's and high school. Before Drive-In was "The Lord's of Flatbush," "Youngblood," "Our Winning Season," "Bad News Bears" and "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training." Before Dazed and Confused was "Carrie," "Almost Summer," "California Dreaming" and "Rock N Roll High Scool." The thing that struck me the most about the string of trailers for the evening is how many movies of the 70's I need/want to see. It seems I've seen a healthy amount of film from the 80's on up through now but the 70's I'm definitely lacking. So many titles that appeal to me and all look like stuff I would eat up on a regular basis. There were only a few in the evenings group that really jumped out at me, but overall this whole month of March Madness I've been made privy to a number films that must be seen (at least by me). Lords of Flatbush is one of those movies. How the hell have I not heard of this? Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler and Perry King as a Brooklyn greaser gang, that is just begging for me to see it. One thing that really stuck out about the trailer was the song that detailed the film. Classic and laugh-out-loud good. Our Winning Season looks like another solid coming of age high school movie, the one thing to note there is a fresh faced Dennis Quaid playing friend to Scott Jacoby in the lead role. Another trailer that caught my eye was Almost Summer. The movie follows a group of high school seniors in their final semester of school before graduating. While it doesn't look too special, it appears to be knee deep in the 70's era looking extremely dated and stars a very young Bruno Kirby. It falls into the category of must see. The back-to-back run of The Bad News Bears trailers was pretty funny if only because of the explanation and repetitive nature to them. We also have the connection of Gary Lee Cavagnaro who plays the catcher Engelberg in The Bad News Bears and the overly sexually curious kid brother Little Bit in Drive-In. As I looked at the stats on all of the trailers/titles shown, outside of Lords of Flatbush all of these titles released in a three year span from 1976 to 1979. Among plenty of other trends it seems American audiences were riding a heavy wave of teen angst films in the late 1970's.

What sets "Drive-In" apart from "Dazed and Confused" is instead of paying homage to a generation years later it is trenched right in the middle of the time period. The day/night in the life movie is an accurate portrait of the 1970's in Texas. That is not to say 'Dazed' isn't also, but Drive-In nailed its time and generation while in the midst of it rather than after the fact. That is also a bit of the film's downfall. The film is actually pretty racist and sexist. Most of these moments are intended to be funny and may come across as a joke, but more than a couple times they hit a little too close to the chest. They remind me of a time in America that I am not proud of. The film touches on entrenched racism and chauvinism that still can be seen in certain parts of America today. Hurtful and painful themes that Americans should be ashamed of. Granted the film is a comedy and I don't mean to imply Drive-In is some serious hate filled movie, because it is not. It is by every means a light-hearted comedy romp, I was just offended by its racism in moments.

What I really enjoyed about Drive-In is the buttery buckets of the nostalgia it contains. The film houses a barrage of 1970's American muscle and a drive-in, two things I absolutely love. While the film doesn't feature too much of the cars driving around (because most are just parked at the drive-in) we do have a couple driving sequences that provide a few thrills. The drive-in angle to the film is perfect. Everything from the concession stand to the play ground just scream my childhood. Luckily for me I still attend the drive-in pretty frequently. We have two within a 20 mile radius. There is something special about going to the drive-in with friends, family or a significant other and Drive-In does a excellent job of illustrating that through all of its characters. Another bit of nostalgia the film highlighted was the skating rink. I loved rollerskating growing up and this film does a fine job of bringing back the memories of riding around and around in circles on a Friday or Saturday night.

In attendance on Friday March 18th, was star of Drive-In Glenn Morshower. Mr. Morshower did not saying anything to the crowd other than briefly stand up and wave, but it was neat seeing now far older actor (who is very recognizable) in his first starring role. Glenn Morshower plays Orville a straight-laced local Texas teen who is being courted by the town hottie Glowie Hudson played by the ravishing Lisa Lemole. Glowie recently broke up with her hood boyfriend Enoch and when he finds out that she has her eye on Orville, Enoch and his gang the Black Widows set out to find him and make him pay. All three of these characters are well acted by Morshower, Lemole and Billy Milliken as Enoch. They each play up their role to the letter. Morshower feels like the Richie Cunningham of 70's while Lemole is pure sex appeal showing the ability to make every teen male sport some wood in their jeans, meanwhile Milliken comes across as the perfect ass. The entire movie I just kept hoping and hoping he'd get what is coming to him.

The other part of Drive-In that really gives it a genuine appeal is the laugh-out-loud movie within a movie, "Disaster '76." We only get pieces of the film but it is completely ludicrous. Honestly, I kinda wanted more of it and less of the other jokes. Like the griping old lady smoking weed with her good for nothing son. Disaster '76 looked like something I would watch or would've seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000. One thing I did find kinda odd in Drive-In is the lack of soundtrack. It opens and closes with a song that feels written specifically for the film and houses only one other song, but everything else is vacant of score. Overall Drive-In was a good time. The crowd to seem to enjoy it a bit more than I did, but I still found plenty to keep me entertained. The print we saw was absolutely stunning considering it was recently made (not even 7 months ago). I'm not sure Drive-In is something I'd own, but certainly a film I can see its potential for high rewatchability. Unfortunately it is not currently available on DVD.

I saw "Dazed and Confused" opening night at my local AMC theater back in 1993. It was sold out and I remember it being a roll call of every stoner from our neighborhood. People were smoking marijuana during the movie and the theater's management came in saying if they smelled it again or if any further complaints happened, they would stop the showing with no refunds. To my teenage self, it was out of control awesome. It was my first experience of a rowdy crowd watching a movie. We were young, dumb and obnoxious. It was my junior year in high school and it would spawn a period in which I went on to dress as if the 70's and butterfly collars were still alive and well in the 1990's. That's right, I went on to religiously check all of the Inland Empire's numerous thrift shop stores in search of bell bottom pants and polyester button-ups. A time need I remind you when every one else was busy wearing flannels and listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. I was a teenager trying to be different, cut me some slack. Needless to say, 'Dazed' left an impression on me. It became a movie I would watch over and over till I knew the words backwards and forwards. I could practically act out the movie playing the multiple roles. Did I mention I was something of a drama kid in high school? Never really pushed it, but yeah, that's in there lingering around. I'd reference the movie in classes and annoy my teachers with my outbursts. Yeah, I think you might catch on it is a meaningful film for me.

Dazed and Confused is one of the most re-watchable movies. A lot of that opinion might have to do with my history with the film, but honestly the film is just a easy ride filled with non-stop head bobbing music, hysterical commentary and a day/night full of events that everyone should be able to relate with. Its a movie about hanging out with your friends. Its a movie about getting into trouble with your friends. Its a movie about well, our friends. Metaphorically it is a passing of the torch film. It is also just a movie about copious amounts of drug and alcohol use, but at least it is with friends right? Perhaps there is a huge contingency of people who hate this movie and find it completely childish or downright condemnable. The thought of glorifying fast cars, loud music, drug and alcohol use, fornication and hazing younger teenagers. They should be ashamed of themselves. Granted those people have probably never watched the movie for that exact same reason. Oh well, their loss. The crowd at the New Bev didn't seem to be under that mindset either because we all had a blast throughout. I must say for a night of comedy, the laughs came hard and steady all night. Usually crowds will tend to die down a movie or two in with less frequent laughter but that was not the case with 'Drive-In' and 'Dazed,' the laughter was contagious and frequent all night long.

The wide array of characters in Dazed and Confused is what makes it such a believable, connectible and lasting film. Everyone in the movie is fun to watch on screen. The seniors and their excitement for hazing the incoming freshman's. Particularly Benny and O'Bannion. When Benny goes to the Jr. High school to make the "open season" speech to incoming freshman you can feel that excitement and anticipation that's been stewing. It is finally their turn to be the hazer. On the other side the incoming freshman and their fear of being hazed. I imagine how awful it would have been to be Mitch. Having an entire group of seniors waiting and taunting you, calling you out of all the other freshman's. The flip to that is the joy Mitch is put through as he is accepted by the group that just hazed him. The ritual may seem archaic but by the end of the night you've realized that Mitch has made himself some new lifelong friends that respect him. Every culture has some form of hazing that occurs while growing up and Linklater's stoner comedy actually digs a little deeper peddling a honest message of friendship and loyalty under all the drugs and alcohol.

'Dazed' is such a tight film. It gives the viewer no chance to lose interest. It has an aggressive pace that never slows down and is constantly moving on to the next moment. Much like the teenage mindset, it is constantly moving, changing and latching on to new ideas. 'Dazed' inundates the audience with a event filled ride that highlights a day in the life of a group of Texas teenagers. The film also has incredible balance. Jumping back and forth between the different clicks and groups of friends and how they may or may not interact. One extremely helpful tool patching the film together is its usage of music from the era. Song after song after song, all that have the audience bobbing their head to the sweet sounds of the 70's.

Richard Linklater's script is straightforward and simple. It doesn't contain eloquent dialogue or even dialogue that is anything other than talk amongst friends, but it feels real. It feels like what we all heard through the halls of our high schools. It is authentic. It doesn't try to overachieve nor does it have to. At the same time it also houses some of the most memorable and re-quotable lines in film history. Part of what makes the lines so memorable though is the insane cast of actors. Actors that at the time were a bunch of nameless faces. No one knew who Matthew McConaughey, Milia Jovovich, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser, Anthony Rapp and Adam Goldberg were, sure we know them now but back then they were all no names. These actors gave this film its life. I think Linklater has proven over his career he can really get something special out of his actors and Dazed and Confused is one of the finest examples of that.

For a double bill of 'a day/night in the life of' movies in the 1970's focusing on teens, cars, debauchery and hijinks you can't go wrong with these two films. It was a genuine blast seeing them back-to-back at the Bev with a well receiving crowd as always.

Quentin Tarantino's March Madness continues throughout the rest of the month. Check the New Beverly's website for full details and times. Also stay tuned for more coverage of March Madness as I will be continuing to do write-up's on the rest of the events scheduled. You can also check out my previous coverage to March Madness with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.


Great recap. I couldn't make it to the screening, and that was sad, because I've always been fond of DRIVE-IN since I first saw it on the ABC Friday Night Movie. I'm not sure, but I think they left in the scenes with the cranky woman getting high!

Minor quibble; the opening theme song, "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott" by The Statler Brothers, was released in 1974, two years previous to DRIVE-IN's production, so as far as I know it was not written for the film, though it certainly sounds like it was tailor-made for it.

Thanks for the correction. Shows I should have done my homework before assuming it was recorded for the film. Changes forthcoming.