I’m behind in the blog entries, mainly in that I keep attending films and having fun, but I’m going to try and catch up with this re-cap of Friday’s fun.

The day started with a screening of “What Just Happened?” with Mr. Robert De Niro in attendance. Well, not completely in attendance, for either one of us. Since Jamie had seen the flick at Sundance, I decided to skip it and instead just head over for the Q&A to get some pics. After some BBQ lunch at the Smokehouse (Dallas’ equivalent of Iron Works in Austin) with my new friends at Reelz Channel, Jeff and Heather, I made it over to the theater. I arrived about a minute before De Niro did and, well, this picture says it all:

Hey, Mark! Did you just get here too? It’s me, Bobby!

I then went into the theater and caught the end of the film… which seemed funny, but very Hollywood insider. Still, it seemed to go over well, so maybe it crossed-over without issue. The Q&A with De Niro, Art Linson and Barry Levinson wasn’t the most exciting, but I didn’t expect it to be. I watched for about thirty minutes, and then realized that I had to leave the theater or risk missing the screening of “The Class” I wanted to attend. So I hopped into a shuttle and headed out.

I got into the shuttle at 3:30pm. Due to insane traffic, I got to the theater at 4:15pm, and that was thanks to the shuttle driver’s (I believe his name was Bill; looked like Santa Claus) knew all the backroads. Had we sat on the highway that wasn’t moving, I never would’ve made it for the 4:30pm screening. Thanks, Bill!

“The Class” will get its proper due in a review soon enough, but the gut of this teen violence film set in an Estonia high school is that it is unrelenting in its portrayal of a high school cliche / hierarchy gone horribly awry. The end result is one that you could’ve guessed early on, but also one that, at the end, actually feels warranted. And that’s a hard feeling / thought to reconcile.

After “The Class,” I hopped a shuttle over to the Angelika for a screening of “Sonic Youth: Sleeping Wide Awake.” The film is part of an educational program, and was a Sonic Youth doc / concert shot by seven high school’ers (the high school theme of the day continues for me). And, well… it looks that way. I can’t fault them too much, they were shooting DV in low-light conditions and the screening wasn’t helped by the projection, which showed every pixelated, jaggy-edge. If you love Sonic Youth and want an intimate view, it is worth checking out though it may translate better to DVD then a full blow-up.

My final adventure / task of the night was the head back to the Magnolia to see “Heckler,” and then host the Q&A for director Michael Addis and star Jamie Kennedy. When I got to the theater, programmer extraordinaire Sarah Harris informed me that Jamie wasn’t going to be there because he was sick. That’s fine, I had seen Addis earlier and he’s more than capable of making things fun for a Q&A.

While I waited for the film to get going, Addis showed up and he and I sat in the lobby of the theater talking all about everything from the death of film criticism in print to the overall issue of human nature and value judgments. He’s a bright guy, and fun to talk to. Whether we agreed on everything we spoke about doesn’t matter; it was still a good conversation.

The new cut of “Heckler” screened and I enjoyed it as much as I did the last time. Despite being a kick to my critic’s nuts over and over, I still find the movie hilarious. And the crowd seemed to as well. The flick ended (it was midnight) and a healthy contingent stuck around.

I went down to the front and set the Q&A ground rules (no budget, production length or hours shot questions) and introduced Michael. We re-capped our previous Q&A adventure, and Michael informed me that I had misheard him back in LA when I thought he had fun of my weight by saying that I looked like “a guy who eats a lot of pizza.” According to Addis, what he actually said was, “he dresses like a guy who delivers a lot of pizzas.” More a slam on style, but funny is funny, so kudos.

Michael called Jamie up, and Jamie participated via speakerphone on Michael’s Treo. The Q&A started out well enough, and seemed to be pretty insightful / on point, but then someone asked a question along the lines of “how do you feel about the downward spiral on film criticism on the internet” to which I replied by flipping said audience member off with my right hand, then my left hand, then both hands. This set a precedent, no doubt, for what was left to come.

At one point, Jamie called me on a statement I made about “Malibu’s Most Wanted” and “Son of the Mask” being “easy targets” for criticism, and asked why they were held to different standards then, say, “There Will Be Blood.” I rambled a bit about apples and oranges, but at some point I pissed off a row of what appeared to be teenagers in the upper decks of the audience, as they felt that what I was saying was that anyone who liked “Malibu’s Most Wanted” is an idiot. I tried to explain myself but then the kid went into a “who do you think you are to tell me; you’re a nobody film critic, I’ve never heard of you” rant so I informed him that “I’m the guy with the microphone who was asked to host this Q&A and he’s some motherfucker sitting in the 50th row.” Again, not a good precedent to set, as he and I began to go back and forth with more and more verbal insults, culminating in his standing up as if to come down and fight me, to which I goaded him to do so. He never made it down.

After some other outbursts wherein it felt like I had stepped into “Heckler” and was defending myself with whatever ammunition I could find, the guy calmed down and, eventually, his bedtime rolled around and he and his cohorts left. At that point, though, the Q&A had turned back into insightful conversation and Michael, phone Jamie and I talked for probably 30-45 minutes (or so it felt). It started well, went off the rails, and then ended strong.

The best part? The entire thing was videotaped. I’m trying to get a hold of that tape so I can cut together a “Critics Gone Wild!” video for the site, so hopefully that’ll work out. Truly the most unique Q&A experience I’ve ever had (and I hosted Uwe Boll’s Q&A for “Postal” at the Hollywood Film Festival, so what does that tell you). Since “Heckler” comes out in July on DVD, this is likely my last notable adventure with the film, and I honestly was surprised everything went the way it did. As I informed Addis earlier, you can’t bottle conflict, at least not with me, and what happened in November was over and done with so I really didn’t know what the festival thought they were going to get out of having me host the Q&A. Figured it would be uneventful and, while not boring, not anything to write a lengthy blog about. I was wrong.

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  1. Nathaniel says:

    The Sonic Youth documentary looks interesting. I’m going to try to catch it when it’s released.

  2. Mark Bell says:

    It was actually pretty hilarious and fun. “Heckler” just gets people riled up…

  3. Damn Mark, sorry to hear about how that Q&A went down. At least you seem to be taking it in good spirits. Attaboy.

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