By Pete Vonder Haar | December 23, 2008

Originally ran on on 06/20/08

Everything was perfect. The end.

That’s the gist of the article Kim Haywood, Chief Operations Officer of the 8th annual deadCENTER Film Festival suggested I write. I suspect she meant it as a joke, in spite of the fact she made this proposal from inside a jewel-encrusted palanquin borne by four Chippendales dancers of mixed ethnicity. More likely, she wanted me to stop taking my press coverage duties so seriously and enjoy the many opportunities the festival affords one to hasten cirrhosis. And truly, after last year I’ve come to sort of depend on the fest to satisfy several needs. The first, of course, is the opportunity to see good independent films – my capacity as lead mainstream reviewer here at FT means I sit through more than my fair share of big studio garbage. The result is that I now have roughly the same amount of humanity remaining as Bart when he sold his soul to Milhouse. Secondly, I get to hang out with some of the coolest festival people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. And finally, those wings from Elysium itself Bobo’s Chicken, which are what I refer to these days as my drug of choice.

At least since I quit smoking meth.

As one of the few out-of-town press folk in attendance, I admittedly get treated better than I deserve. And I get to blow into town after all the hard festival prep work has been done. The films have been vetted, schedules set, and while there are always some last minute crises that pop up, the organizers are generally in the mood for a few days of blowing off steam and – in the parlance of our today’s “hip” young readers – chilling to the max.

Thursday – Oklahoma is OK

The flight from Houston, TX to Oklahoma City takes a little over an hour, which is nice for potential victims of deep vein thrombosis but not very helpful for those of us who like to conceal our terror of plane crashes by sleeping. I consoled myself with a handful of off-market percocets and the knowledge that there was little chance of the water landing the flight attendants warned us about (though there was a high likelihood of buying the farm in the midst of a bunch of Dallas Cowboys fans).

My friend Ray, who picked me up last year, was reportedly locked up with rehearsals for “Debbie Does Dallas – The Musical” (no really), so I was met at OKC by the lovely and talented Robbie Shelburn, who had thoroughly cleaned out her car in anticipation of shuttling people she’d never met before to and from the airport. I thought it a nice touch, especially since the vehicle I regularly use to ferry my wife and daughter around supports its own subtropical ecosystem.

Check-in – once again at the downtown Colcord Hotel – went smoothly as before. Having taken an earlier flight this year, I actually had a few hours to plan my schedule, unpack, and hit the hotel gym. Yes, the gym. My strategy was simple: lull my body into a false sense of security before Rolling Thunder-ing my liver back to the Stone Age.

The opening party, like last year, was held at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Unlike in 2007, high winds and 90+ degree temperatures necessitated moving the festivities indoors. Kim had already deigned to speak with me earlier, but the party was my first opportunity to reconnect with everybody else, and it was nice getting caught up with Cacky Poarch, Melissa Scaramucci, and Rainbow Around the Sun’s Matthew Alvin Brown.

“Rainbow” kicked off the festival Wednesday night, and American Teen was the official opening night selection, but because I was scarfing down free scotch we already had a review of “Teen” up, I checked out The Stanton Family Grave Robbery with Cacky. Shot for roughly $1100, it contained more laughs per minute than anything Steve Martin has released in the last 20 years.

Afterwards, we grabbed some food at the Skirvin Hilton. I’d had naught but airline peanuts to sustain me since morning, so even though the margarita pizza – sans potentially salmonella-laden tomatoes – was a bit lacking, I wasn’t complaining. From there, we hit the after party at Maker’s Cigar Lounge in Bricktown. My journey of discovery and inebriation continued as I downed several rounds of Woodford Reserve bourbon and talked to Bark or Bite writer/director Suzie Bohannon. Suzie had (literally) just graduated from UCLA, and I thought I was pretty successful in suppressing my murderous rage that she was already getting films into festivals.

The party wrapped up around 2, and we headed back to Kerr Auditorium so Cacky could pick up her car. It was then we made the horrible (and thrilling) discovery that someone had chucked a rock through her driver’s side window. Thankfully, nothing was stolen, and we found out later that (probably) the same hooligans had broken another window in a building down the street. With my sense of chivalry heightened by whiskey’s warm glowing warming glow, I did my best to clean up the glass.

And I only cut myself twice.

The coverage continues in Part 2 of deadCenter 2008: The Naked and the deadCenter>>>

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