The Friday Afternoon Movie: Trekkies

It is…so hot outside. Walking out the door means hitting a wall of brutal heat so dense with humidity that getting down the street requires movements more akin to swimming than walking. At least it’s Friday though, so…there is that. As such, it’s time for another edition of The Friday Afternoon Movie, the internet’s highest rated weekly movie feature, according to Consumer Reports. (Editor’s Note: No. It. Is. Not.)

Today The FAM presents 1997’s spectacular and, occasionally, cringe-worthy Trekkies. Directed by Roger Nygard, it is one of my favorite documentaries. Your mileage may vary depending on how interesting you find nerd culture and/or how personally you are invested in said culture. Some have criticized the film for poking fun at its subjects but I feel that Nygard remains objective throughout; and while, as previously mentioned, there are some awkward moments to be sure, I find it to be very endearing.

And that’s going to do it for The FAM. See you all here next week, so long as I can make it home without my brain boiling in my skull.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Blood In The Face

Friday! It is now! At this very moment! Time for the FAM! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Today’s Friday Afternoon Movie is 1991’s Blood in the Face, directed by Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty, and James Ridgeway, based upon Ridgeway’s book Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. You may assume from the title of that book that this film may be about white supremacists. You would assume correctly. Blood in the Face, filmed mostly in Cohoctah Township, Michigan, is an encounter with the ultra-right, lunatic fringe — at least as it existed 20 years ago.

What makes the movie work, I think, is how casual, for lack of a better word, the entire encounter is. The directors eschew the usual tropes associated with exposés and documentaries. There is no narrator, there are no experts being interviewed in order to provide commentary or context. By and large the filmmakers stay out of the actual film (with the exception of Michael Moore, who makes an appearance around 7:12 in part one, interviewing a uniformed neo-Nazi). The majority of the interviews are conversational in tone, giving the disturbing illusion of actually being amongst these people. Oftentimes it feels like it’s just you and a bunch of crazed racists; an uncomfortable experience, to say the least.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky

I got far too little sleep last night. For what reason, I do not know, but I was simply unable to get more than two or three hours of real rest and, as such, I am not all here at the moment. And while this is normally a bad thing, it does allow me to at least place the blame for this week’s FAM upon my delirium.

With that out of the way, allow me to present Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky from 1991, directed by Lam Nai-choi and starring Fan Siu-wong as the titular hero. Truthfully, that is all I would like to say about it, letting those who have not seen it just stumble in blindly but that would be, perhaps, irresponsible of me. So, as far as plot goes: The year is 2001 and all government institutions have been privatized. At the beginning of the film our hero, Riki-Oh Saiga, martial arts master, arrives at a prison to serve a ten year sentence for manslaughter, for killing the man indirectly responsible for the death of Riki’s girlfriend.

That’s all you get. However, I must warn viewers that the draw of this particular film (besides the amazing/bad dubbing) is, frankly, its outlandish violence. Saying The Story of Ricky contains some blood and gore is like saying Bill Gates has a few bucks. The movie is soaked through with gallons of fake blood. It is an orgy of ludicrous, cartoonish violence. If you aren’t down for watching a man punch the jaw off a laughably fake head, then don’t click the play button. If, however, that level of disgusting camp appeals to you, and you haven’t already seen this fine movie, then prepare yourself for an hour and a half of the most ridiculous martial arts mayhem ever recorded.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: “Until The Light Takes Us”

Fenriz of Darkthrone. Still via Black Metal Movie.

[Video removed in response to copyright infringement complaint. Buy the film here.]

Screaming and corpse paint on this entry of The FAM as we take a look at Until the Light Takes Us, the 2009 documentary directed by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell which details the goings on of a small group of individuals who took the Norwegian black metal scene and propelled it into infamy with vandalism, church burnings, and, eventually, murder. It specifically sets its sights on two of the individuals: Darkthrone drummer and producer Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell and ex Mayhem member and one man band Burzum creator Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes who, at the time, was finishing out a 21 year sentence (the maximum under Norwegian law) for four of the aforementioned church burnings, as well as the murder of fellow Mayhem band-mate Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth.

The reasons for this decision are apparent from the start, as they are almost diametrically opposed to one another. Nagell continues to remain active in the scene, making music with Darkthrone and running his record label. He is also, seemingly, apolitical. Vikernes, on the other hand, is anything but. He waxes at great length about the ills his country and culture have suffered under the tyranny of everything from McDonald’s to Christianity. Indeed, of the two, he is far more charismatic. He is also the most problematic.

Critics have pointed out that Vikernes may have charmed his interviewers into complacency, and I can’t help but agree. Little is done to expand his views of Christianity, and yet it seems that most of those issues revolve around the fact that it is an offshoot of Judaism. It is also not mentioned that, for a number of years after his conviction, he identified as a neo-Nazi. (He has since created the term “odalism” to differentiate his beliefs, though those differences do not pertain to either racism or anti-Semitism.)

In a sense, then, Until the Light Takes Us serves much better as a history lesson, a snapshot of the early days of Norway’s burgeoning black metal scene. It serves little in the way of critique save to ponder how society has co-opted the scene, rendering it somewhat toothless in the eyes of its forefathers; and while this is an interesting diversion it is more observation than analysis. In the end, it could have used a more insightful vision. Aites and Ewell spent two years in Norway making this documentary and getting to know their subjects. It may have helped to get some distance.

The Friday Afternoon (Short) Movie: Jabberwocky

I will not, dear reader, attempt to convince you that I have any true comprehension of Jan Švankmajer’s 1971 short film Jabberwocky, for that would most assuredly be a lie. Comprised of stop motion animation and featuring a reading of the titular poem found in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, it is a film dense with seemingly impenetrable symbolism.

That poem is where the familiarity ends, the film beginning with a mysterious, moving wardrobe which opens to reveal a room that will change over the course of our journey, with the exception of the portrait of the severe, bearded man on the wall. There, we meet our hero, a child’s suit magically come to life. What follows is thirteen minutes of stop-motion insanity occasionally interrupted by the antics of a decidedly destructive black cat.

Ostensibly, Jabberwocky details the rebellion of a young man (the child’s suit) against authority or his father (the portrait) and, sure, that makes sense. What the intervening cascade of symbolism and weirdness actually means I cannot say. It is, however, certainly entertaining regardless.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: [REC]

It’s Friday again, and there you sit in your stale, air-conditioned office linking all your paper clips together. It’s fun, right? The end result is just really, satisfyingly uniform. I wonder is anyone has made jewelry that looks like linked paper clips. Maybe you should make some. You could sell them on Etsy. People would buy that, right? It would at least make you a couple of extra bucks to help with rent. Oooo, maybe you could make wallet chains too. The kids will eat that shit up! Maybe not. Probably not, right? I mean, even if they got popular they’d probably just get ripped off by Urban Outfitters and sold for twice the price. Man, we’re never gonna get out of this place. Oh well, at least there are still movies on the internet.

Today the FAM presents the 2007 Spanish found footage horror movie [REC], directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, which was remade in the US (because, as everyone knows, Hollywood will always do a better job) as Quarantine in 2008. [REC] follows TV reporter Ángela Vidal and her cameraman, Pablo, who are following a group of firefighters for a show called While You’re Asleep. At first all is normal until a call is received concerning an elderly woman trapped in her apartment. When the crew arrives they find the police have been called as well and soon break down the door. There they find the woman who looks decidedly unwell. This point is driven home when she attacks one of the officers, biting him. Not long after the building is locked down, and so begins a mad scramble to stay uninfected and find out the cause of this strange outbreak.

There have been enough found footage/shaky-cam horror movies at this point to elicit a groan from many, but of all of them, [REC] may be one of the best. Between its claustrophobic setting and constant state of confusion, [REC] does an admirable job of keeping the viewer off balance. I liked the use of a reporter as the main character, allowing for the kind of mystery solving usually ignored in this type of film in favor of jump scares. And while [REC] keeps much of its plot concerned with the immediate problems of survival, I enjoyed the slow unraveling of the greater mystery. That does lead to my one big criticism, that being the ending. The reveal of the virus’s origin and subsequent outbreak inside the apartment building seems to come way out of left field and, while functional, isn’t particularly satisfying. Overall, however, it remains a gripping experience, one which deservedly stands out in a field of increasingly drab entries.

The Friday Afternoon (Short) Movie(s): Matter Fisher & The Saga Of Biôrn

Two short films for this week’s FAM; something to tide you over in preparation for the three day weekend here in the States. First up is Matter Fisher by David Prosser, the strange tale of a fisherman who finds an extremely magnetic piece of…something. Prosser’s style is dark and minimalist, lending everything a ghostly vibe. It’s a world so lonely, one has the distinct impression that the fisherman could very well be the only human being in existence.

Next is The Saga of Biôrn by the army of Benjamin J. Kousholt, Daniel D. Christensen, Mads Lundgaard Christensen, Jesper A. Jensen, Jonas K. Doctor, Steffen Lyhne, Pernille Ørum-Nielsen, Frederik Bjerre-Poulsen, Jonas Georgakakis. It tells the story of the titular Biôrn, a viking warrior whose only wish is to die in battle, so that he may enter Valhöll. This one has none of the brooding of Matter Fisher, going for a much more comedic tone. The end of Biôrn’s quest is particularly satisfying.

And there you have it, a couple of choice morsels for another Friday. Good luck on the rest of your afternoon.

The Friday Afternoon (Short) Movie: Connected

A short film for today’s FAM, something to distract you, if only briefly, from your ever overflowing inbox. Seriously, fuck that inbox. Always full; one thing gets done, four things replace it. Goddamn you, inbox. You know what, don’t — just don’t even look. Look away. Look over here, for a couple of minutes.

Have a look at Connected, a short film from Jens Raunkjær Christensen & Jonas Drotner Mouritsen that manages to be even bleaker than that inbox (Editor’s Note: Shut up you ass! Don’tthinkaboutitdon’tthinkaboutitdon’tthinkaboutitdon’tthinkaboutit.) In a post-apocalyptic future, devoid of breathable air, two figures make their way across a deserted and windswept landscape, tethered together by two hoses, when a figure up on a hill spies them.

I had seen images of this quite some time ago, when Christensen and Mouritsen were still trying to finish it and was intrigued, but lost track of it. The finished product is, indeed, quite short, but is vague enough in its details to warrant repeated viewings. In the end, I’m still left wanting to know more; about the world, yes, but more specifically the relationships between these three doomed people, especially the adult and child whose symbiotic existence lends the piece its name. There is a stark decision made in that final act and it begs exposition, though wisely, or perhaps, blessedly, the filmmakers leave it unspoken.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Man Bites Dog

What a week, huh? Yeah, pretty crazy. It’s Friday though, so it’s almost over. And since it is Friday, how about some FAM?

Today we have 1992’s Man Bites Dog (French: C’est Arrivé Près de Chez Vous, It Happened in Your Neighborhood), directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde. A mockumentary, the story follows a crew of filmmakers, including director Rémy (Belvaux) and cameraman André (Bonzel) as they record the day to day adventures of Ben (Poelvoorde), a prolific serial killer. Ben brings them along on his excursions, introduces the crew to his friends and family, and discusses the ins and outs of his “craft”, as well as pontificating on subjects ranging from philosophy to architecture. Soon, however, the crew is drawn in to participating in Ben’s increasingly random and violent crimes.

I recently re-watched this with someone who had not seen it previously and it is definitely a movie of two halves. The first half of Man Bites Dog can be very funny, in a way that only dark comedies can be. There’s even an homage to the running gag in Rob Reiner’s seminal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, with the crew losing a number of sound men during filming (due to “occupational hazards”), with each receiving the same eulogy from Rémy. It is a cynical humor to be sure. The shift occurs 2/3rds through the film (Editor’s Note: Oh for— You said this was a movie of two halves and now you’re speaking in thirds. What is wrong with you? Must you be terrible at everything?), with a brutal scene that heralds the active participation of the film crew. It’s a powerful moment and it works by both removing the distance the crew afforded themselves from what they were filming, as well as removing the distance the viewer was afforded from what they were watching. In that moment, all the laughter sort of gets sucked out of the room.

Watching it again, over a decade since I first saw it, I was struck by how well it still holds up. The cast is superb, especially Poelvoorde who plays Ben as a man simply making a living, regardless of how monstrous the means may actually be. It is a manic, bizarre movie; violent, cruel, and funny. And yet, despite that last bit, it never feels like it condones what is happening on screen. In the end, all involved are judged guilty, and all pay for it.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: King Corn

Hell yeah, muthafuckas, it’s Friday, time to get drunk and break shit, amiright? WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Huh? No? Well…I mean…ok. Fine. I was just joking anyway. Whatever. It is Friday, though, so at the very least it is time for the FAM, your weekly stop (Editor’s Note: Semi-weekly, really. Lazy jerk.) for afternoon entertainment in film form (Editor’s Note: That was the worst thing. You are literally the worst.)

Today the FAM presents King Corn, Aaron Woolf’s 2007 documentary about two friends, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, who move to Iowa to farm an acre of land and investigate where America’s food comes from; specifically addressing the question: How and why do we eat some much damn corn?

I liked King Corn for two reasons, really. The first being, of course, that I found it informative. The second reason was a feeling of level-headed objectivity. The alarmist, Michael Moore style documentary, is certainly popular and while, perhaps, effective, they are a bit off-putting when it comes to presenting an actual argument, busy as they are in trying to drive home the point that the WORLD IS GOING TO END AND THESE PEOPLE ARE EVIL AND GET MAD! It’s exhausting. So I appreciated King Corn calmly laying out the facts for me and presenting a history of America’s obsession with corn as well as a snapshot of a Midwestern town. It was a pleasant experience to watch the credits roll on a documentary and not feel like I should flip over a cop car or just kill myself.