Butt-Numb-a-Thon 13: The roundup
I blogged a while back about how I missed out on Butt-Numb-a-Thon 12 and it sucked. Well, I was fortunate enough to be invited back for BNAT (pronounced Bee-Nat for you uninitiated) this year and I’m writing about the experience for – well – mostly my own benefit.
So hey, future me, enjoy! I’m guessing most of the people reading my blog are local and most of you haven’t been to Austin. Let me say up front that the prime reason to apply for BNAT is to give yourself and excuse to experience Austin, Texas.
I know that I sound nuts when I say this. Austin, Texas doesn’t sound like a vacation destination to most people unless those people are movie fans. If you are a movie fan, you know that it is one of the best places in the country to watch movies. The Alamo Drafthouse is a legendary venue and because Harry Knowles from Aint it Cool News lives there, there are an amazing number of special screenings and premieres that happen there.
The town is more than a movie town, though, and even if you don’t get into film, there is a lot to enjoy.
The food is out of this world amazing. If you go to Austin and eat in a chain restaurant of any kind, you are doing it wrong. Find the most rundown, crappy looking shack of a restaurant and go there. Doesn’t matter what kind of food it is, you will probably not be disappointed. While Barbecue and Tex-Mex are local specialties, we’ve found equally fantastic Thai, Italian and American food. Heck, we’ve even found a place that does the best doughnuts you’ll find anywhere. You name a kind of food and the odds are, there is a restaurant in Austin that will blow your mind.
The city itself just has a personality that I love. Big Box stores look out-of-place next to the quirky local shops and restaurants. The local motto is “Keep Austin Weird” and when you visit, you will agree that is a good goal.
I’d probably visit Austin once a year even if I wasn’t lucky enough to be a BNAT regular. BNAT is what makes a great town extraordinary for one weekend a year.
BNAT takes place in the Alamo Drafthouse which is, without question, the single greatest movie theatre in the world. The food is amazing, the layout is brilliant and most importantly, the people running the Drafthouse love movies. You will never see a movie projected incorrectly. Plain and simple, they give a shit.
The festival runs for 24 hours (or a little more). This year it began at Noon on Saturday the 10th and concluded around 1:00 PM on Sunday the 11th. There are breaks between most of the films so you have a chance to stretch your legs and pee but other than that, you are expected to have your ass in a seat so you can enjoy the movies.
The lineup this year was great. I don’t think there was a weak link in the chain. While I think it lacked an absolutely spectacular vintage “discovery” film, it was probably the most solidly entertaining lineup I’ve ever seen. A lot of folks talk about BNAT 5 (2003) as the high water mark and that was a great year that featured The Return of the King, Haunted Gold and Ginger Snaps 2.
On the other hand, it concluded with The Passion of the Christ and while most of the folks who attended BNAT that year loved that film, I hated it with a firey passion that burned brighter than a thousand suns.
I may be overstating it. Let’s just say that the film did not connect with me. At all.
Point being, in 2003, there were low points for me personally that made this year a more consistently great year.
So – finally – here is the lineup with my thoughts:
This year was the first time Harry programmed a movie that was currently playing in theatres. So unexpected was this move that a few of us had gone to see the film on Friday afternoon. I guess if I’d known (and Harry did try to tip us off), I would have picked something else. That said, I didn’t mind watching the film twice in twenty-four hours because I found it absolutely delightful.
Now for Harry, the movie is pretty much Martin Scorsese’s equivalent of Babe Ruth’s called shot. He pointed at Harry’s heart and said “I’ll be right here.” I don’t love the movie the way he does because that would be impossible.
But I did love this movie. A common question after BNAT is “which film was your favorite.” I’ve steadfastly refused to answer because I can make a case for at least three of them. This one is definitely in the running.
One thing about this movie that struck me is how there is nothing by Martin Scorsese that will prepare you for this film. It is so completely unlike anything else he’s done that it catches you off guard. I don’t know what I expected when I went to see Hugo but I know that Scorsese defied any expectation I might have had.
Le Voyage Dan La Lune
If you have seen Hugo, you know that the best conceivable follow up would be Georges Melies’ Science fiction film. I’ve seen this film several times (it isn’t hard as it is only about ten minutes long) but it was a special treat to watch it on the big screen accompanied by a live musician.
If you haven’t watched “the first science fiction film” and you love movies, watch this one. It isn’t hard. You can find it on YouTube.
I will note that if you watch it on YouTube, it will not be as awesome as watching it on the big screen with live accompaniment. Sorry.
I expect that most people will never have the opportunity to watch this film. It is a science fiction musical from 1930 that imagines what the world will be like in the far off time of 1980.
Watching it now, it is unintentionally hilarious. They get everything wrong – everything. Of course, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. What is surprising is the fact that the film has some good effects work and, while it has some unfortunate pacing, there are a lot of segments that really work well. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie and some of my Minnesota pals declared it “Best BNAT Movie Ever!”
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Another one of the “might be my favorite” movies, this is the movie I most wanted to watch again. To call it dense feels like understatement. There is so much going on in the film, it is easy to get lost.
I never got lost but I know there were things I missed and I want to revisit the film to catch all of the subtle clues I didn’t know to look for the first time I saw it. The cast for this film is unbelievable. So many great character actors in an engaging film that will have you thinking a long time after the credits roll.
Also, this film was introduced by Thomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman. The only reason I bring this up is because hearing Gary Oldman say “Butt-Numb-a-Thon” may have been the single greatest experience of my life.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Most of my friends felt that the sequel was better than the original. I liked the movie a lot but I’m not yet certain I think so.
My primary reason is because BNAT is something of a euphoric event. You are in a theatre with 200 crazy film fans who are all jazzed as hell to be there. There is no question that I enjoy films more there than I will anywhere else. I’m not going to say BNAT ruined the Lord of the Rings trilogy for me but I will never enjoy seeing those films as much as I enjoyed watching them at BNAT.
So did I enjoy the hell out of this film? Yes I did. Was it better than Sherlock Holmes? Maybe. Ask me after I see it again.
The Beast with Five Fingers
A vintage horror film starring Peter Lorre. How can it fail to be awesome? Lorre plays a crazed astrologer and if that hasn’t sold you on the film, there is nothing further I can offer to convince you to watch.
The Adventures of Tintin
Motion capture animation is still something of an uncanny valley for me but I can’t deny that I enjoyed the hell out of this film. It really feels like a throwback to Spielberg’s 80’s Indiana Jones films in tone.
Let me say that I saw it in 3D and I would prefer to see it in 2D because the color palette looked remarkable but it was muted due to the 3D glasses. I want to see those colors in all of their glory.
One of the few Miyazaki films I’d not yet seen and sadly, I still haven’t seen very much of it.
The movie played in the middle of the night and I had hit a wall. I tried like hell to stay awake but the dreamy score kept putting me right to sleep. The print was magnificent and what I saw of the film made me want to watch it when I was – you know – awake.
Cabin in the Woods
I can only echo what others have said about this film. It is a ton of fun and you should avoid spoilers at all costs. Don’t watch the trailer. Don’t read any reviews. Do tell your friends “I heard this movie was awesome and we should all go.”
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Didn’t knock the ball out of the park but it was, as my wife likes to put it, “good and loud.” The film absolutely kicks ass all over the original and includes several spectacular scenes of Nicholas Cage “Cageing out.”
Which is sort of like Hulking out for actors.
I would recommend this one for anyone looking for an enjoyable popcorn flick. It isn’t going to win any awards and probably won’t even see too many positive reviews but it is a Ghost Rider movie, people! You want a guy on a burning bike? You got it! Now shut up and enjoy.
Another movie on the “might be my favorite list,” this is a brutal ass kicker of a movie. Liam Neeson buries the badass needle in this film but not in a Taken kind of way. He’s just the guy we all want to believe we could be if we found ourselves in the worst of all imaginable situations.
A few years ago, we saw a film called Frozen at BNAT and I really didn’t like it at all. Though nothing at all like that film, The Grey succeeded for me in every way that Frozen did not. It puts people into an impossibly bad situation and asks you to give a damn about them.
Much like Scorsese and Hugo, The Grey is unlike anything you have seen from director Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team). If you think you know what you are going to get based on his filmography, you are going to be wrong.
It succeeds on every conceivable level.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Where I’m not yet ready to commit with Sherlock Holmes, I’m going to happily commit to thinking that Ghost Protocol is the best Mission Impossible film. I’d love to believe that it is because Brad Bird directed and Brad Bird is a god who walks among men.
While Bird definitely deserves credit for making the movie, I think he also had the best script of the Mission Impossible franchise to work with. He kept the parts of the franchise that have always worked and he got rid of several things that have bugged me every single time.
I think adding Jeremy Renner also helped the film because he is very much in league with Tom Cruise as far as his prestige as an actor. Putting an A lister like Renner in the same film makes the movie work better because you start to feel like the characters are a team and while Ethan is the team leader, the others are equally important to the success of the mission.
We watched this film at an IMAX screen and there is one sequence in particular that will absolutely blow your mind in that format.
In addition to the movies, we saw several vintage trailers and a couple of new ones. We were treated to an early screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and I think it is fair to say the movie looks exactly right. Lord of the Rings fans will most likely not be disappointed.
A surprise was a trailer for the G.I. Joe sequel which looked – well – fucking amazing. Will be move be any good? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you that the trailer sure as hell made me want to watch it.
So that’s it. BNAT 13 is in the can and it was fantastic. Thanks, as always, to Harry Knowles for throwing a birthday party that every film geek would want to attend. Thanks to Asutin for being weird. Thanks to the filmmakers who shared their films with us.