Cinemapocalypse, Part One: The Quent-Essential Report

Cinemapocalypse 2009

In most posts, I try to be as objective as possible. I'm not even going to attempt it in this account of Cinemapocalypse, Saturday's all-night movie marathon. It is not complete, but it should be enough to help you live a little vicariously, if only to build your DVD queue or library. Those of us at Cinemapocalypse were very, very lucky, and the rest of y'all have a right to be jealous.

Earlier this year, Alamo programmers Zack Carlson and Lars Nilson took 18 exploitation films on an eight-night West Coast tour and called it Cinemapocalypse. Apparently it was so successful the Alamo gang decided to incorporate elements of QT Fest and have a dusk-til-dawn film fest in Austin, kicking it off with Quentin Tarantino's latest, Inglourious Basterds. Only one of the films from the original tour made it into this weekend's marathon.

Despite only knowing that the first film would be Inglourious Basterds, that Tarantino would then program the next two films, and that none of the films besides Basterds would be known in advance, Cinemapocalypse Austin sold out in a record minute. The tickets went on sale at noon, and people who tried to start buying at 12:02 pm were out of luck -- and only Fantastic Fest 2009 badgeholders and AFS members could even try the first day. And yes, Alamo was verifying every single purchase.

Being the Alamo, there was a great deal of maneuvering to accommodate as many people as possible. Every row had extra chairs on the ends for the start, and as the studio special guests left, the extra chairs miraculously disappeared and those people migrated to theater seats. The smaller theater at the Ritz was full of Austin Film Society patrons to see only the first film -- their event included a special, set menu with wine pairings.

Alamo Nazi by Jenn BrownEarly check-in was easy, but it was a bit of a cluster...err... mess when the previous film wasn't out yet. I love the Alamo, but the traffic logistics get iffy for popular events, at any Alamo. The Ritz has the disadvantage of not being able to accommodate as many people, and having a nightmarish parking situation as well as a very small lobby. Anyway, by 8 pm the theater was packed with people initially checking in, people expecting to get seated, and the audience members for two theaters all trying get in at the same time and check phones and cameras. This being Alamo, the friendly staffer helping us check in our cameras was dressed in a Nazi uniform to get us in the mood for Inglourious Basterds.

After we were in our seats, all was good. Karen was in charge of trying to coordinate seating assignments, which had to be a bear of a task (versus a Jewish Bear, which is a whole 'nuther subject). The more I thought about it, the more I liked assigned seating for such an event, especially since you could request seating companions. It meant they could keep track of people who left early, especially for the waitlist folks, ... and if anyone stiffed the waitstaff, they knew who it was.

Speaking of the waitstaff, mine were great. Paula was very friendly, and got us pitchers of water, which kept us nice and hydrated. And she warned us about the last call before it was announced. She's the type of waitstaff that makes you wish the lights stayed up longer to chat with more. That's not to knock Christen, who was also friendly and helpful, but we had less "lights up" time with her, and we were increasingly exhausted, so we weren't quite so chatty.

Inglourious Basterds kicked off the first Cinemapocalypse with quite a few bangs, starting with a spirited introduction from Quentin Tarantino, along with first special guest, Eli Roth. Being a Tarantino film, Inglourious Basterds was a lot of fun, a lot of violence, and a lot of humor. And am I the only one who thought that Melanie Laurent looks like a younger Uma?

Being the Alamo, we should have expected something to happen, but I would have never guessed the stunt they pulled. During a pivotal scene that takes place in a Nazi-occupied theater, Nazi banners unfolded on the sides of the theater at the Ritz.

Yes, you read that right. Nazi banners. In the Alamo. And it was cool. As it turns out, it was all Alamo, without Tarantino's knowledge. Tim League is turning into a sneaky bastard, isn't he? He hid the Star Trek bait-and-switch from Harry Knowles this spring, and this from Tarantino?

Cinemapocalypse 2009

It was fun. And I think it was a good thing it was an Alamo stunt, and not Tarantino. Can you imagine if they were real props? I had a sudden thought that they were original props, and that they'd be given away, and that it would be cool to have props from Basterds, which is a very cool movie, but the idea of having a swastika-laden anything in my possession made me squirm. The squirm was moot, thankfully.

The Q&A was a mutual love fest, which is likely to be available online in the near future. There was a lot discussed, which was recorded and simulcast for the AFS screening (not sure if it's going to be available publicly). The conversation went all over the place, from Leni Riefenstahl as a director and as a Nazi, to D.W. Griffith and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, to casting (Diane Kruger, who now resides in LA, had to fly to Germany to get cast as a German).

[Edit: Mark Savlov of the Chronicle has more about Riefenstahl/Griffith comments, if you're curious.]

Eli Roth, when not speaking, seemed to be channeling his character (or a bouncer). He talked about things like the Mark Wahlberg versus Matt Damon debate from the Bostonian perspective. I have friends who lived down the block from "Mahky Mahk" back in his Dorchester days ("Daht") when Kids on the Block was a big deal.

He also talked about "fake Italian" which was inspired by a Greek guy he knows who came back from Italy with some interesting gestures and behavior. This just happens to be the 13th anniversary of my migration from Boston to Austin, so hearing a Boston accent and Boston related commentary made me all sorts of nostalgic. If I could have gotten him to say "wicked pissah," I would have been ecstatic. I mean, come on, Tarantino brought up "Massholes" (it's a Massachusetts pejorative for other MA residents). I got a sudden urge for Kupel's bagels, steak bombs, a certain North End joint whose name I never remember but I always seem to end up at when I'm there, and even having to put up with mafiosi wannabees named Jimmy.

I'll wrap up the rest of Cinemapocalypse in Part Two -- keep an eye out for it.

[Slackerwood will be doing a group review of Inglourious Basterds later ... after we all recover from the sleep dep.]