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Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2012 full report, from “The Hobbit” to “Cabin in the Woods”

Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2012 full report, from “The Hobbit” to “Cabin in the Woods” (photo)

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When Harry Knowles, the Grand Mufti of movie bloggers, has a birthday party he does it up big. It starts with the Internet’s most die-hard cinemaniacs filling out an elaborate application for a coveted, assigned seat at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and ends with intense film junkie bragging rights.

The event, appropriately called Butt-Numb-a-Thon, is a (more than) 24-hour movie marathon mixing hard-to-find vintage prints and first looks at forthcoming films. In years past, attendees have had sneak peeks at movies like “King Kong”, “Kick-Ass” and “Hobo With A Shotgun”, as well rare opportunities to see flicks like Disney’s “Song of the South” or Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight.”

This year, after a Friday night kick-off party at an elaborate pinball arcade, the lucky few exchanged tips on how long to wait until drinking coffee (everyone has their own theory) and tried to guess the line-up. This was my second BNAT, but the first one is merely a haze of nachos, laughter and beer breath. I still felt like a noob going into this, and, frankly, a little nervous. It was Saturday at 11:30 am and I wouldn’t be out again til 1 pm on Sunday.

Here’s a rundown of went down.


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Readers of AintItCoolNews (Knowles’ site) know that contributor Eric “Quint” Vespe has been embedded with Peter Jackson’s production of “The Hobbit.” As such he could not be there, so offered a “happy birthday” video of messages from the set. Sir Ian McKellan appeared in costume as Gandalf the Grey and, through the magic of cinema (and some pyrotechnics in the theater) Vespe appeared in the flesh. A nice reunion for he and Knowles, but for the rest of us he brought the first ever peek at the trailer for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” As a gag, he handed the hard drive containing the trailer to frequent BNAT attendee Elijah Wood to bring to the projection room, adding “keep it secret, keep it safe.”

We were asked not to get too specific with the description, but hearing the music and seeing The Shire I was surprised at the flood of emotions that hit me. It was like seeing old friends. (And something to look out for: a band of Dwarves sing. It’s a thing of beauty.)

The Alamo Drafthouse is known for the fun programming that happens between the films, and Butt Numb-a-Thon is no different. In addition to relevant trailers, this year the audience was treated to one-frame blasts of the movie “Teen Wolf.” The subliminal images of a furry Michael J. Fox’s slam dunks was the gift that kept on giving. Threatening to play “Teen Wolf” is a recurring gag, and this year’s 13th anniversary was actually called BNAT13Wolf on Twitter.

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The first feature to roll was Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.” An odd choice, perhaps, as it is currently out in theaters, but considering its love of cinephilia and invitation to “dream together” it couldn’t be more appropriate.

This led directly to the only 35mm print in the United States of George Melies’ ninety-nine year old sci-fi/fantasy film “A Trip To The Moon.” Watching it after “Hugo”, while you are still holding back the sniffles and willing to take a bullet for Melies, gives the short film an extra jolt of the warm and fuzzies.

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The next feature was the event’s most obscure, a 1930 sci-fi musical (yes, musical) called “Just Imagine.” You’ve never heard of it, but you’ve seen bits of it. . .in other movies. Many of the sets and props were re-used in sci-fi flicks like James Whale’s “Frankenstein” and the Buster Crabbe “Flash Gordon”/”Buck Rogers” serials.

It’s not by any stretch a good film – it a generic Depression-era picture grafted onto sci-fi. Characters say things like, “the only way I’ll be fit to marry her is if I’m the first man to explore Mars!!” Still, there are some odd, subversive jokes (like a baby vending machine) and a surprisingly blunt reference to Henry Ford’s anti-semitism. If you like quips about Prohibition while rockets are zipping through the heavens, this is a movie for you.

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After “Just Imagine” was “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” I’d seen it already in New York, but it is good to be reminded every now and again that not everyone lives in New York. I liked the picture the first time, loved it the second time. (This is precisely how I felt about Thomas Alfredson’s previous picture “Let The Right One In”, so maybe this is a trend to try and squeeze two ticket prices out of people.)

I strongly recommend this movie, and seeing it again confirms that I need to get out an eraser and adjust my end of the year top 10 list. The photography is gorgeous and the script is like a wind-up mechanical automaton (they borrowed it from “Hugo.”) “TTSS” came with a video message, and hearing Gary Oldman say the words “Butt Numb a Thon” with just trace elements of confusion and disdain got one of the biggest laughs of the night.

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This led right to “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” Reaction to this picture was mixed. I liked it for the most part. It’s better than “Pirates 4”, maybe not as good as “National Treasure 2.” I give the action sequences points for a lot of visual panache, even if they don’t really add up to much. For example, there’s a scene where our heroes are running in the woods and getting shot at by canons. It takes the “Matrix” “Bullet-time” effect and cranks it up to a remarkable degree. But it is empty. If feels like Guy Ritchie got hipped to a new technique, was excited to use it, but never bothered to put any depth to the characters or story.

I did not actively dislike “SH: AGOS”, but it is desultory. Jared Harris’ Moriarty is an evil genius because we’re told he is, not because of anything we see him do. I’m pretty sure I saw Noomi Rapace’s big Hollywood debut, too, but other than a moment of sitting in an unladylike pose in her Gypsy gown, I can’t recall a thing she did or said.

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Next was another vintage film, something unavailable on DVD. “The Beast With Five Fingers” stars Peter Lorre at his most bugnuts Peter Lorre-ish, working as one of a number of “kept people” in the service of a rich eccentric in a small Italian village. The other lead is Robert Alda, a composer, small time grifter, lover and all-around good guy who, when the benefactor dies, would like to see the fortune transition smoothly. Some greedy American cousins look like they’re gonna’ get in between Lorre and his Astronomy books, so that’s when the hallucinations and killings start.

The titular “five fingers” are a living hand that runs amok through the compound like an angry version of Thing from “The Adams Family.” The performances (and one-handed classical music selections) are gloriously over-the-top, making this 1946 selection a fun B-picture.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.