8/31/09

Constance Bennett Does Nothing Interesting

Constance Bennett as you've never seen her before.  Which isn't all that hard, actually.Welcome, won't you?

We're back from the weekend with a review for Constance Bennett's Daily Beauty Rituals, in which the titular beauty doesn't do much more than tell us that makeup exists. So, there you go. Good to know.

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RVOD078 What It Means to Be an American, Part 1

(1952, Educational/Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Sit up straight!

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:


It means fruit farming, badminton and playground fights.

Summary:

It means that our schoolkids can beat up your schoolkids.What It Means to Be an American posits that being an American means you live somewhere in America. The narrator goes over a partial list of places you might live in America, if you are, in fact, American. Five minutes of this later, he mentions something about freedom of speech, along with the necessity to break up the occasional playground fight.

The latter half changes tack. It posits that being an American means you are a surly fruit farmer in the Pacific Northwest. You have lots of kids; the younger ones fight in playgrounds while the older ones ride horses. All of them love badminton regardless of age. You should make sure everyone sits up straight at all times.

The short ends and Disembaudio pipes up. “Tune in next time!” he says.

Thoughts:

They're uh, hugging.  And telling secrets.  Yeah.If I didn’t have any preconceived notions of American-ness, and only had this short to go by, I’d have to say that being an American is essentially meaningless. All you have to do is live inside a boundary and have bratty kids. Being an American is easy!

Mike, Bill and Kevin want to know what it means to be an American too. A few of my favorite comments: When the narrator mentions something about “ideals”, Mike clarifies, “Ideals mostly based around contempt for other people’s ideals.” When he begins to introduce the fruit-farming family one at a time, Kevin adds, “Dad’s a powder keg of rage and mother’s there to light the fuse.” When the narrator goes on about “independent thinking” during yet another playground fight, Bill says, “We’ll drill independent thinking into your skull if we have to kill you to do it!” The short reaches no conclusions, but Archive.org says this short is actually ten minutes longer than the section shown. Maybe the conclusion promised by Disembaudio will explain everything for us, but I doubt it. The half depicted here is funny enough on its own.

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8/28/09

I'm Guessing This Requires At Least $500 Worth of Product Per Month

A good foundation and just a spritz of virginal blood are both essential.Welcome, won't you?

Do you wake up every morning, look at your naked face in the mirror and wonder, "What would Constance Bennett do?" I might, if I knew who Constance Bennett was. I think she might be a Pride and Prejudice character. Get ready to make yourself up Jane Austen-style with Constance Bennett's Daily Beauty Rituals, now available from Rifftrax. Review coming soon.

Also, the latest email blast says the next Rifftrax Presents will be Planet of the Apes, riffed by that mad genius from across the pond, Matthew Elliott. I don't see a product page up yet, so I can't tell you exactly when it's being released, or whether he'll be ragging on Mark Wahlberg or Charleton Heston, but I'll let you know as soon as I find out.

Update: It's next Tuesday (September 1, 2009) and Charleton Heston.

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8/26/09

Sorry, Fort Worth

They don't just fly, they sail as well.  Now how much would you pay?Welcome, won't you?

And here we have my review of Flying Stewardesses, the airline short that wants young women to meet men inflight, and wants young men to marry stewardesses. The riffers mostly want you to know that Fort Worth is a blasted wasteland of intense heat and stifling humidity. Read it here.

Also, have you been craving Cinematic Titanic DVDs, but couldn't quite afford them? Now's your chance. Cinematic Titanic is having a 25% off sale Thursday through Sunday. Head on down and pick some up.

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8/25/09

Look, a Real Flying Stewardesses Poster

Faster than a speeding drink cart...Welcome, won't you?

I'm most of the way through a Flying Stewardesses review, which ought to be up tomorrow. But for those unfortunate few who didn't get to see it already at the live performance, Rifftrax has made it available for sale on their site for the low, low price of ninety-nine cents. Having seen it already, I can whole-heartedly recommend that you head on down and pick it up.

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8/24/09

RVOD077 Cork—Crashes and Curiosities

(1940s maybe?, Newsreel/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Irish Sweep is made of people!

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:


Racing scenes from the dawn of motor vehicles, and something called “Irish Sweep”.

Summary:

Just look at all those corks.  Corks flyin' every which way.A narrator delivers an unstructured, stream-of-consciousness paean to race cars, motorcycles and other things that go fast in a rapid-fire Irish accent. Vehicles swerve through country roads, up steep hills, past many, many signs with enormous letters proclaiming “Irish Sweep”. (These are never explained.) Exotic, faraway locales such as Siam and Indianapolis are referenced. And then, without warning, it ends.

Thoughts:

I’m not sure what the narrator is trying to tell us, but his enthusiasm for it (whatever it is) is contagious. That and his adorable Irish accent make this short a treat to watch. Adding to the short’s entertainment value is an abundance of goofy crash footage, with no fatalities to bring the audience down. I suspect that a large part of the latter has to do with a certain amount of selectivity on the part of the editor. I suspect that that an even larger part has to do with the fact that this footage comes from the days before cars went much faster than a running pace.

A few of my favorite lines from the commentary track: When a collection of non-sequiturs and Irish pronunciation derails the narration, Kevin wants to know, “Is he speaking Esperanto?” After the short pushes through demonstrations of at least a dozen different vehicles in rapid succession, Mike summarizes, “Things with wheels, won’t you?” As a race car rounds a turn and pulls ahead, Bill adds, “[Now] Wario flattens him with a red shell.” We hear many comments about the unknown nature of “Irish Sweep”, until about the fourth of fifth time, after which the three of them intone “Irish Sweep, Irish Sweep” in a zombie moan every time it appears. They giggle along with us when the narrator says things like “har-pin turn” and “cazooality.” Nonsense or no, the short has an infectious joy to it, and the commentary mirrors that.

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Rifftrax Live Report

Not from the short, but in the same spirit.Welcome, won't you?

So, I went to Rifftrax Live last Thursday, and it was pretty damn fun. Here's the full report.

We saw Plan 9 from Outer Space again, as well as a new short, Flying Stewardesses (not the version pictured at left). I've already reviewed Plan 9 twice, and unless they release a new studio version, I'm not going to review it again. A studio version of Flying Stewardesses came with the downloadable goodies we got for attending, though, so I'll have a review of that up later this week.

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RVOD076 Teenagers on Trial

(1955, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Rogue Mouseketeers!

Rating: **

In a Nutshell:


Teens are inherently evil, but it’s not their fault.

Summary:

Oh yeah?  Well, so's your old man!Ah, life was perfect in the fifties. Perfect mothers dressed perfect children in the morning and kept immaculate homes while their little darlings were off at their perfect schools, preparing to spend the transitional years of teenagerhood as demonic, hell-bound agents of discord and chaos.

Yes, roving gangs of delinquents were all the rage back in the fifties, when a boy didn’t earn the title of Young Man unless he ganged up with a pack of similarly age-impaired miscreants to break windows, steal bicycles and jack automobiles. The girls get in on it too, but in true fifties fashion, their hell-raising options are limited to shoplifting.

But it’s not their fault, the little darlings. If only their mothers were less permissive, their schools less crowded and the court systems a little more understanding, then, um...

Well, the short doesn’t really finish its thought here, but I’m guessing they mean to imply that delinquency would disappear from the face of the earth, interest rates would go continuously down, there would be free cake in the break room, and unicorns would be real.

Thoughts:

Think of any fifties “teens in trouble” flick you’ve seen. (If you've watched any amount of Mystery Science Theater or the Rifftrax Shorts, you’ve seen a lot of them.) Now remove all traces of plot, along with anything else that might possibly be of interest, and you’re left with “delinquents are bad, but society is to blame”. That simple, unadorned phrase describes Teenagers on Trial in its entirety.

Not that the delinquency on display is particularly pernicious. Bodily harm is depicted only once, and even then it’s accidental. Kids of this era apparently never shot, knifed and/or impregnated one another, a phenomenon easily explained by the fact that, of course, they always abstained from strong drink and illegal drugs. I guess the fifties had a more wholesome sort of crime, where the worst you could possibly commit was theft. Maybe... maybe unicorns really were real back then, and there was cake for everyone.

A few of my favorite comments: “Look at how well they work together; they’re a finely tuned nerd-beating machine!” (Kevin). “That car mugged an elderly widow,” (Mike). “The well-funded pro-delinquency lobby,” (Bill, explaining the continued existence of delinquency). It’s decently riffed, but the short is bland and happens to address a subject of which I am very, very tired. Possibly, that means I haven’t rated it fairly. Maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

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8/20/09

Rifftrax Live Happening (Almost) Now!

Three times the charm, I guess.Welcome, won't you?

Rifftrax live riff broadcast is almost upon us. If you're planning on attending and don't have tickets yet, what are you waiting for? I'll be heading down to San Raphael in a few hours for the slightly tape-delayed version. For the rest of you it happens much, much sooner. Check the Fathom site for tickets and times near you.

I'll be back Monday with an event report.

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8/17/09

Plan 9 Live (Take Three) Coming Soon!

Three times the charm, I guess.Welcome, won't you?

Reminder: Rifftrax Live spreads its tentacles out across the nation this Thursday with their live broadcast-to-theaters-everywhere riff of Plan 9 from Outer Space. I'll be attending in San Raphael, California, but chances are it's showing at a theater near you as well. Get your tickets now.

Also, you become eligible for prizes if you help promote the event via twitter.

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8/14/09

Moosie Baby

Moose Baby's friends grew up and began to thirst for his blood...Welcome, won't you?

The Tale of Moose Baby posits the radical theory that the outdoors exists, and that there are beavers in it. Moose and coyotes are also established as residents of reality as we know it. I hope you feel as enriched by this knowledge as I do. Review here.

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8/13/09

RP016 Planet of the Apes (1968)

(1968, SciFi/Postapocalyptic/Political, color)

Riffers:

Matthew Elliott

When animals attack! With rifles!

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Charleton Heston is imprisoned by intelligent apes.

Summary:

Uh... Spoiler warning?Astronaut George Taylor (Charleton Heston) narrates a lot of portentous nonsense to the stars and then joins his crew in suspended animation for the rest of his year-long journey home. He and two of his three crew members wake up with beards, having crash-landed in a lake on an unknown planet. The survivors stumble around groggily, making it outside to a life raft with supplies before their ship slips to the bottom.

They swap more pretentious, long-winded speeches while they cross a nearly interminable desert, during which we learn that the time dilation/relativity shenanigans inherent in traveling at the speed of light have caused more than two thousand years to pass on Earth since their departure. Finally they arrive at a lush waterfall to strip and bathe. Upon returning to shore, they find that their supplies and clothing have been stolen. They don the scraps of fabric the thieves left behind and follow the trail, eventually finding a group of mute, primitive humans stealing produce from a cultivated field.

Gorillas on horseback arrive to break up the mass crop theft with nets and rifles. One astronaut dies, another is captured, and finally Taylor himself is brought down with a nasty throat wound. This prevents him from speaking to his captors, chimpanzee scientists Zira and Cornelius (Roddy McDowell), but he eventually proves his intelligence with his ability to read and write. An orangutan scientist/priest named Dr. Zaius finds out as well. He attempts to have Taylor castrated and lobotomized, but Taylor overhears the guards’ plans for him and makes a run for it. He’s eventually captured, but not before his throat has finally healed enough for him speak to the soldiers in public as they arrest him.

Aw yeah.  This one's for the gun nut ladies.Taylor, Cornelius and Zira are summoned before a high council of orangutans for a hearing. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, they accuse Zira and Cornelius of creating Taylor by surgically granting him the gift of speech. (During the proceedings, Zaius produces Taylor’s only surviving astronaut cohort, lobotomized of course). Afterwards, Zaius summons Taylor to his office. Taylor is still up for castration and lobotomy, but Zaius will spare him if he reveals the secret location of his intelligent human tribe. Taylor repeats his story about arriving from another planet, which Zaius dismisses as absurd.

Later, a young chimp named Julius rescues him from his cell. Taylor rescues a primitive human female named Nova on his way out. They meet up with Zira and Cornelius and travel into the Forbidden Zone (the desert from the beginning) to search for evidence to clear their names. Basically, they need proof that humans were intelligent in this plant’s distant past. Zaius and a small army of gorilla thugs catch up with them just as they reach an archaeological dig near the ocean. Taylor holds Zaius at gunpoint and demands that he consider Cornelius’s evidence. They discover ancient human remains next to bits of eyeglasses, artificial heart valves, and a human doll that squeaks “mama”.

Zaius eventually admits that intelligent humans predate intelligent apes. He also admits that he knew this all along, and has been following the instructions in secret scripture to keep this evidence hidden. (His reasoning is vague and flowery; something about humans being too violent to be trusted). Taylor takes food, water and a weapon and rides off along the beach with Nova. Zaius lets him go, but orders the cave with the evidence in it to be dynamited shut.

A short ways along the beach, Taylor discovers the shocking twist ending. (A twist you already knew about if you’ve seen any science fiction movie parody ever, or if you looked at the picture on your DVD cover). The ruined Statue of Liberty proves that he’s been on the Earth of the distant future all along.

Thoughts:

And, uh, one for all you chimp ladies out there.Planet of the Apes has a Very Important Message to impart, but I defy the viewer to figure it out. Not that it’s ambiguous; the moralizing in this film is about as subtle as a skillet to the head. The problem is that it’s approximately as helpful. Humanity is overly violent by nature, it says, so... Information suppression and a degree of strictly enforced primitivism are necessary for the good of the state? Or is that meant to be a bad thing too? They keep saying it’s a good thing, but the supposedly utopian society it protects has a rigid caste system with an administration that combines the bureaucracy of communist China with the zealotry of the Spanish Inquisition and the racism of South African apartheid. So yeah, the movie’s overall intent is a bit hard to read.

That said, there are two things that make this movie great:

1) The Rod Serling script. The lines might clank from time to time, but Serling’s television experience is very much in evidence, with the same fusion of horror, science fiction, philosophy and film noir that made The Twilight Zone a classic.

2) Mr. Heston’s, er... Well, for lack of a better term, I’ll call it a “performance”. Was there a bigger ham ever in the history of science fiction films? Not even Shatner comes close.

It works though. Mr. Serling’s lines are sometimes pithy and always memorable, but they don’t sound anything like something a reasonable, normal person might say. Fortunately for him, Heston doesn’t sound anything like a reasonable, normal person. Put these two together and you’ve got a happy, cosmic accident that turns what should have been self-righteous dreck into some of the most delicious camp Hollywood has ever produced. Usually entertaining, always fascinating and certainly memorable, Planet of the Apes is well-known even to people who haven’t seen it. Go ahead. Intone, “A planet where apes evolved from men?” at someone you know. You’re likely to get, “It’s a mmmaaaadhhhoooouuuusse!” or “Damn you all to hell!” or even (if the respondent is confused) “Soylent Green is made of people!” in reply.

Matthew Elliott takes on a highly quotable film with a commentary filled with highly quotable lines. A few examples: Shortly after their arrival, “There’s a very persuasive theory that NASA faked the landing on the Planet of the Apes.” When gorilla hunters net Nova, “If her name was Annette, I’d have something to work with here.” After at least a dozen condescending speeches from Taylor, “I’m starting to suspect he was bitten by a radioactive asshole as a teenager.” As is always the case with Mr. Elliott’s riffs, Mystery Science Theater 3000 references abound. He’s even got some prior Rifftrax references mixed in there. When the endless “marching across the desert” scene gets him really bored he starts riffing Casino Royale out of the blue, just to pass the time. As a whole riff/movie experience, I didn’t like it quite as much as his last commentary (for Die Hard), but it’s very close in quality and still well worth seeing.

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8/12/09

The Tale of Vin Baby

Wasn't he part of Dillinger's gang?Welcome, won't you?

Two things:

1) I have a marked aversion to Brain-Dead Racing Movies That Glorify Crime (i.e.: Fast and Furious movies), but the Fast & Furious riff charmed me into liking it against my will. That's some quality riffin' right there. Review here.

2) Filed under "Things I miss when I fall asleep in the afternoon": A new Rifftrax short, provacatively titled The Tale of Moose Baby. It sounds weird, and therefore (hopefully) entertaining. Pick it up here.

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8/11/09

RVOD075 Constance Bennett's Daily Beauty Rituals

(1937, Educational-Short, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

Stop saying “stimulation!”

Rating: **1/2

In a Nutshell:

Constance Bennett puts on makeup.

Summary:

A good foundation and just a spritz of virginal blood are both essential.Constance Bennett gets out of bed, washes her face, puts on a mask, defends Gotham City from deformed criminals by night... No, wait. Not that kind of mask. It’s actually a beauty mask, followed by a bath, then foundation, rouge and lipstick.

Thoughts:

She skipped eyeliner and eye shadow... I think... Look, I took two semesters of makeup in college to get my theater degree, okay? Don’t judge me. Or at least take that into account when you judge me.

Anywho, according to Wikipedia, Constance Bennett was an actress of some renown back in the twenties, thirties and forties. I’ve never heard of her, and unless you’re a bigger film history buff than I am, you probably haven’t either. (It’s not that hard actually; on a one-to-ten scale of film history buffness, I’m only a three point two.) Not that she doesn’t have good make-up tips for us. Well, okay, she doesn't. It’s pretty much the barest essentials of makeup application, committed to film for the novelty of hearing them mouthed by the great and famous (for the time) Constance Bennett. A modern equivalent might be a short film titled Keanu Reeves Gets in Shape, in which the titular star shows us how he walks by leaning forward and then moving his feet to stay underneath him.

A few of my favorite comments from the riffers: When the title displays, Bill says, “The sequel—‘Keith Richards Presents his Daily Beauty Rituals’—[was] less well received.” Ms. Bennett’s stilted pronunciation of the word “bath” leads Kevin to comment, “Her baath is starting to bag the hull out of me.” When she says that her mask cream gives her face that certain glow, Mike clarifies, “A glow that says ‘I just dusted myself with sausage grease.’” The short isn’t really bad or weird enough to inspire much in the way of mockery. It's not that it does anything wrong; it just doesn’t do anything right either.

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8/10/09

Riddle Me This

Giving Kilmer top billing is a bit misleading.Welcome, won't you?

Ah yes, Batman Forever, the Batman movie that forgoes Batman almost entirely to focus on Jim Carrey. As Jim Carrey films go, it's actually halfway decent, but I admit that's a bit like praising a mound of dung for its symmetry. Sadly, the Rifftrax Presents commentary (provided by the riffers of That Guy With The Glasses) suffers the same fate as so many of Carrey's co-performers, drowning in an endless gooey torrent of antics. Review here.

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8/9/09

RVOD074 Flying Stewardesses

(1940s-ish?, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

The captain thanks you for keeping the plane snake-free.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


Airline stewardesses must remain young and thin or face unemployment.

Summary:

Faster than a speeding drink cart...Young women gather in a classroom to learn about radios and rubbery, lukewarm meals with comically tiny portions. Moments later, a new stewardess is in the sky, assisting tie-wearing executives and mink-wearing fashion plates as they fly from New York to Chicago in a shiny silver prop-driven DC-3. Moments after that, she’s helping the ladies out of their minks and into their nighties during an overnight flight from Chicago to Fort Worth. We learn that airline seats of yesteryear apparently converted into full-sized bunks, complete with curtains.

In Fort Worth, she gets together with the other stewardesses to go sailing and play ping-pong while the narrator goes on and on about how stewardess experience makes a girl extra-marriageable, and how they’d better stay thin or they’ll lose their jobs. Now our cheerfully non-descript protagonist returns to the sky for a flight from Fort Worth to Los Angeles, during which she does all the things we’ve already seen her do.

Thoughts:

They don't just fly, they sail as well.  Now how much would you pay?The only bed I’ve ever seen on a plane was two and a half feet long and about a foot and a half wide. The flight attendants couldn’t get it to stick on the wall like it was supposed to, so my infant daughter had to sleep in my lap instead. It was just as well. Had they been successful, getting back into my seat would probably have required the removal of both my legs.

I could go on about the cramped legroom and substandard meals one gets at thirty thousand feet, but I’d be retracing the steps of pretty much every stand-up comedian ever since the invention of comedy. Suffice it to say that the air travelers of the forties (fifties?) had it much, much better than I ever did, even counting that overnight Miami-Santiago flight when the airline bumped me up to first class by mistake.

Moving on to the short’s non-airline-specific foibles, it’s sexist. Well, considering the era that spawned it, of course it is. I’m sure that airlines were far from the only industry to openly enforce weight and attractiveness requirements on their female staff. (Speaking of which, American flight attendants may look like normal people these days, but this does not appear to be the worldwide norm. The attendants failing to manipulate my daughter’s bed in the anecdote above, for instance, were good-looking enough to work as models. Every attendant on the flight looked like that, and it was a foreign airline, so I assume this was part of their job description.) What surprised me about the short, though, was the way the narrator used the attractiveness requirement to go off on an odd marriage tangent. It made me wonder about the intended audience. I’m pretty sure it was meant for prospective stewardesses. “Join us, and we’ll get you hitched within three years!” it promises. But then they go on to say that they can’t marry the pilots, because most of those guys are already married. This and other statements give the short more of a “mid-air meat market” feel. “Boys, we’ve got all these girls and not enough men,” it seems to say to a different sort of target audience. “Grab yours quick before she passes her sell-by date!”

Mike, Bill and Kevin debuted this short at their live performance on August 20, 2009. It was drop-dead hilarious there, thanks in part to the extra energy one always gets out of a live performance. An almost identical but slightly less high energy studio version was released a few days later. A few of my favorite quotes: During a pointless over-the-wing shot, Kevin does his best Shatner impersonation, “There is NOT a MAN on the WING of the PLANE!” As the new stewardess memorizes the names of her passengers, Mike gently reminds her of “Old Lumpyskull, Mr. Badpants and Lady Who Smells like Sausages.” Bill spends much of the short’s latter portion making fun of Fort Worth (during the live performance, he also apologized constantly to the people watching from that city), but one of my favorite comments of his comes when he introduces one a man emerging from the plane, “Hi, Bob Executive. Which way is Business?” The live performance was fantastic; the studio version is slightly less so, but still quite funny.

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8/6/09

Flu & Furious

Starring Mike Unleaded, Bill Propane and Kevin Gas/Oil MixtureWelcome, won't you?

A Batman Forever review sits half-completed on another computer, frozen that way by power outage, to remain there until I'm done with my current bout of flu. I'll post it when I no longer feel like I'm gargling broken glass in a sauna.

In the meantime, the Rifftrax folks have released the Mike/Bill/Kevin commentary for Fast & Furious to keep me company. Watching their stuff while feverish is always an experience. Either I'll be too delirious to get any of the jokes, or I'll think everything is funny even when it isn't. So the review for this one will probably have to wait too, until I can see it a second time while in my right mind.

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8/3/09

No DVDs! (Whistles)

Can you guys at least come back to San Francisco some time soon?Welcome, won't you?

Here's an interesting tidbit I missed from last Wednesday. Apparently, someone out there bemoaned the existence of Cinematic Titanic Studio DVDs, so Joely the Joel Sprite popped up and whistled his magic whistle. "No new studio DVDs," he said in one of his latest blog posts, by which I assume he means, "We're too tired to make lots and lots of money."

Later, he popped up again (possibly in response to an uproar of some sort) to clarify his previous statement as "No new studio DVDs this summer." There's only one month left in "this summer", but when you consider the pace at which things get done in Cinematic Titanic Land, this probably means no new Studio DVDs until the end of the year at the earliest.

Also: That Guy With The Glasses has been added to the Rifftrax Cast Page. A review of Batman Forever is in the works.

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8/2/09

Rifftrax Live, August 20, 2009 (Broadcast from Nashville; Viewed in San Raphael CA)

And remember, if you get fat or old, we'll fire you!I finished work a couple of hours before the show was scheduled to start. Of course, San Raphael is an hour away from me, while home is a half an hour in the other direction, so it was either go home and then to the show (with just enough time to kiss the wife and kids before heading out again) or just head south and get to the show an hour early. Guess which one I picked.

I sat in the parking lot to read for half an hour, and then went into the theater to read for another half hour. There were only three people in the seats when I arrived. Other attendees filtered in at a very slow trickle. I was afraid I was going to watch with a crowd of only two dozen or so (part of the fun of a live riffing event is getting to watch it along with a crowd) but then the lights went down and the trailers started, and suddenly the house was somewhere around half full, with audience members sprinkled evenly throughout. Where they were when the lights went down, I couldn’t say. At the concessions stand maybe.

An interesting thing I noticed about Rifftrax fans. Y’all are much, much younger than the Cinematic Titanic crowd. (Younger, at least, than the Cinematic Titanic crowd I saw the Blood of the Vampires with in San Francisco.) There were a few gray heads in the theater, but not very many, and almost no one looked old enough to be my father. Y’all are much better groomed too. The Rifftrax attendees looked like Bright Young Things from Everytown, U.S.A., whereas the Cinematic Titanic crowd wouldn’t have looked out of place at Burning Man. I suspect that a not insignificant part of that latter disparity might have something to do with the fact that I saw Rifftrax in Marin County and Cinematic Titanic in the heart of San Francisco, but it was still interesting to see.

Anyway, the show began. Host Veronica Belmont (whose shows I don’t watch, making this the first time I’ve ever seen her in action) read some introductions off a small slip of paper. It was very brief, with a frozen smile and a certain deer-in-the-headlights, “I showed up, what now?” look in her eyes. Mike came on and took charge, brought out his co-riffers Kevin and Bill for a bit of humorous banter, and then turned it back over to Veronica. Veronica gamely read us a brief description of the short, Flying Stewardesses, and the riffing began.

Flying Stewardesses shows the training and early career of an American Airlines flight attendant in the fifties. So yeah, it’s an overtly sexist film that cheerfully admits that if she gains too much weight, they will fire her. Also, air travelers of the fifties apparently traveled in opulent luxury, which I’m guessing means only the top five percent of the population could afford it. Rifftrax included a studio version as part of the downloadable goodies available to attendees, so I ought to have a full review up soon.

The Riffers did a fantastic job with it, with jokes about the sexism, Snakes on a Plane references and a running gag making fun of Fort Worth, Texas. The new (to me) performer-screen format was inspired. The riffers performed on stage to one side of the screen, facing the audience, each with his own spotlight and microphone. They spent a lot of time looking down, so I’m guessing they were watching a much smaller screen in front of them, but they did gesture up at the big screen fairly often. The expressions on their faces while they talked were almost as funny as the quips themselves; it was very much a visual performance in addition to their normal audio-only routine. Remote broadcast attendees saw just the movie by itself for about two thirds of the time, while picture would shift over for the remaining third and show boxes of the three riffers stacked on top of each other. It was very clever, and I found myself wishing that they’d let me see the performers more.

Sadly, the evening was not without technical glitches. The broadcast was interrupted at least five times for three to ten seconds each. We missed three jokes during Flying Stewardesses, and then it dropped out a couple times more during the interstitial material. The most appropriately timed glitch happened right after Jonathan Coulton’s first set. He took off his guitar to wave and say, “Enjoy the rest of the show!” and then the screen went blank for ten seconds. That was the last time, though. The film segment, thankfully, was interruption-free.

Getting back to the interstitial material: Veronica paraded on and off the stage to read her little slip of paper at us. Mike gave away an iPod to a guy in New York. Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka showed us a couple of commercials for really lame (and invented) sponsors which I guess were kinda, sorta funny. Internet songsmith Jonathan Coulton gave a fantastic performance with a couple of songs—The Future Soon and Re: Your Brains. During the songs, the cameras would occasionally cut away to focus on people mouthing the words along with him. There were six or seven of them, and all but one were female. One of ladies turned, saw the camera, and stopped with a mortified grin. Kevin came out during the zombie song and did his best to upstage him by pretending to eat his brains during the chorus. Jonathan acknowledged his presence before and after, and steadfastly ignored him throughout. After another odd Lowtax commercial, Coulton came out again to sing with Mike, Kevin and Bill about the upcoming movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space. It’s a funny song about plans one through eight. At least, I think it was funny. I was too busy laughing at the look of intense concentration on Mike’s face—what I could see of Mike’s face through the nose whistle, that is—to pay much attention.

And then the movie started. They’ve done Plan 9 before, so I’ll just refer you to those reviews for a description of the film. I recognized comments from the riff’s previous iterations, but not nearly as many as I thought I would. “Prairie dogs of the damned!” got changed to “Gophers of the damned!” Bill continued his Fort Worth gag from the short, while Tor Johnson’s pale, mouth-breathing post-death demeanor was attributed to a recent viewing of Transformers 2. The ability to see the riffers’ faces and the effect of the crowd around me made it their funniest version of Plan 9 yet.

Then the movie ended. The riffers and other performers took their bows, and we went home.

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