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TRAILER: Matchbox Cineclub presents The Beaver Trilogy

December 22, 2014

This is the trailer I made for Matchbox Cineclub‘s opening film – The Beaver Trilogy (dir. Trent Harris, 2001; 1979-85). We’re launching our monthly night at The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow, on Thursday 15th January. Here’s the poster:

Poster illustration by Sarah Amy Fishlock

Poster illustration by Sarah Amy Fishlock

And here’s the wee trailer I did for the night itself:

Get more information at the Facebook event page, here.

EVENT: Matchbox Cineclub @ The Old Hairdressers

December 3, 2014

I’m excited to announce that in 2015, on the third Thursday of every month, Matchbox Cineclub will be making The Old Hairdressers Glasgow a home for all our favourite cinematic orphans, outcasts and outliers. We’ll be showing films you most likely won’t see anywhere else – weird movies, cult movies, lost and banned movies, even films that have simply slipped through the cracks and deserve another look.

We’re launching with a double bill that defines cult appeal – The Beaver Trilogy (2001; 1979-85) and Rubin And Ed (1991), both showing by kind arrangement with their director, Trent Harris. The former is a prescient consideration of fame culture, a fascinating exposition on the interplay between fact and fiction, documentary and drama, essence and performance…and your only chance to see painfully young incarnations of Sean Penn and Crispin Glover perform Olivia Newton-John songs in clumsy, earnest drag. The latter, Rubin And Ed, is another true American original – a deadpan, tilting-at-windmills masterpiece of outsider art, as well as a curious pop culture footnote. Free entry to one and all and all are welcome, 7pm-late – tell your friends!

The Beaver Kid

Richard LaVon Griffiths, AKA Groovin’ Gary, in The Beaver Kid (1979)

The Beaver Trilogy is a genuinely unique experience. It’s three short films, with each sequel a considered escalation of the previous instalment. The first, The Beaver Kid (1979) is a documentary short on a subject almost literally stumbled upon by Harris while testing a new colour video camera outside a Salt Lake City TV station. Panning across the station’s car park, Harris’ camera finds Groovin’ Gary, a fame-seeking missile hailing from nearby Beaver, Utah. In town seemingly with the sole purpose of getting on TV, Gary’s so excited at the chance meeting that he basically just gushes infectious enthusiasm, jibber jabber and dubious celebrity impersonations. Harris himself is so enthused he then follows Gary to Beaver to capture his preparations for a local talent show –  a show Groovin’ Gary plans to headline in full drag, performing as “Olivia Newton-Don”.

In the “sequel”, The Beaver Kid 2 (1981), Harris recreates the events of his own documentary, almost shot-for-shot, as a work of fiction, casting an actor to play himself…and a pre-Spicoli Sean Penn to play “Groovin’ Larry”. Harris reuses footage from the original short even as he recreates his encounters with the Kid from one remove, jettisoning the first person immediacy of his documentary and adding new scenes to create a more satisfying dramatic arc. The third film, The Orkly Kid (1985), takes another swing at the fictional treatment, but expands the story even further. This final time around, Harris cast Crispin Glover (in the same year he appeared as George McFly in Back To The Future) as the Kid, transposing the action to the fictional town of Orkly and rounding out the cast with some other familiar ’80s faces, including Courtney Gains (later to play young Hans Klopek in The ‘Burbs) and Elizabeth Daily (already the star of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire and Tim Burton’s Pee Wee’s Big Adventure).

Crispin Glover as Rubin Farr in Trent Harris’ Rubin And Ed (1991)

Just a few years later, Harris cast Glover as the co-lead of Rubin And Ed (1991), a compellingly strange picture. Also starring Howard Hesseman and Karen Black, Rubin And Ed is notable in part for its association with Crispin Glover’s legendary appearance on Late Night With David Letterman. In 1987, a full three years ahead of the film’s release, Glover appeared in full costume – conspicuous wig, platform boots and wacky trousers – with no explanation. Oh, and also out of his mind on drugs. Anyway, that was the impression people got, and it’s kind of difficult to counter after watching Glover, having narrowly missed Letterman’s head with a clumsily performed, platform-booted karate kick, clutching for the host’s shirt as he tries to abandon the stage of his own live TV show. With a quintessentially early ’90s score often oddly reminiscent of Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, Rubin And Ed itself is a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, no-kidding original, and that’s before you even get to the water-skiiing cat.

There’ll be more up-to-date information at the Facebook event page, here.

And we’d be more than delighted if you said hello over at Matchbox Cineclub’s Facebook page, here.

And if you’re so inclined, check out our trailer and some of our Video On edits over at Vimeo, here.

Poster illustration by Sarah Amy Fishlock

Poster illustration by Sarah Amy Fishlock

2001: A Space Odyssey Programme Note for GFT

November 24, 2014

Lobby Card

2001: A Space Odyssey (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968) is screening at GFT from Friday 28th November until Thursday 4th December. My accompanying programme note will be available at screenings – read it online here, or download it here. GFT archives all its programme notes online here.

The Great 1980s Movie/Music Video Crossover

September 30, 2014

Lots of famous film directors have directed lots of famous music videos*, but in the 1980s a perfect confluence of talent, cocaine and nascent synergy produced some truly singular music video tie-ins, made by and often starring the directors of the film themselves. Sunglasses, mock(?) seriousness and an utter lack of self awareness, along with judicious re-use/seamless integration of movie clips** was the name of the game back then. Here are some of my particular favourites.

1. John Carpenter / “Big Trouble In Little China” by The Coup De Villes (1986)

There is no better example than this, in at number one – John Carpenter, the writer-director-producer-composer whose minimalist synth scores had put him at the top of the quadruple threat movie making list, proves that in the 1980s no matter how successful you were in your given career, you really just wanted to be the singer in a rock and roll band. Hence The Coup De Villes, Carpenter’s jam band who produced one full, not pretend album (Waiting Out The Eighties) and this, the theme tune to his perennially underrated Big Trouble In Little China.

2. William Friedkin / “To Live And Die In LA” by Wang Chung (1985)

William Friedkin’s To Live And Die In LA not only brought us the classic buddy cop “I’m too old for this shit” line, two years before Lethal Weapon, but also a none-more-80s soundtrack from none-more-80s band Wang Chung, who genuinely picked their own name, and not even as a joke. Friedkin cameos throughout with the novel application of the video’s central conceit – we are watching them record the music/make the music video! Kudos too, for the inclusion of one of cinema’s most vivid, apparently MTV-friendly, human eviscerations.

3. Ron Howard / “Gravity” by Michael Sembello (1985)

Another two or three boxes ticked – director cameo via an extended Ron Howard introduction AND he’s wearing sunglasses. In a darkened room. Then there’s the verite shot of the recording equipment at the start and the creative insertion of Cocoon footage into a minor masterpiece of cack-handed, 1980s neo-psychedelia. As Ron explains, “Michael loved Cocoon. He seemed to identify with it in an almost…unnatural way.”

4. Richard Donner / “Goonies R Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper (1985)

A quintessentially 1980s barnstormer featuring practically the entire cast of The Goonies, with cameos from a range of WWF wrestlers (including Roddy “They Live” Piper), producer Steven Spielberg and even,  as a trio of female pirates, the freakin’ Bangles. This, sadly, is the short version.

5. Tony Scott / “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins

Where a sweaty, apparently hungover Kenny Loggins variously wears sunglasses indoors, struggles to get out of bed, takes photographs of his penis and masturbates to flashbacks of Top Gun. Unlike the movie, there’s no homosexual subtext to the music video per se, but mechanophiliacs may empathise with Loggins’ passion for Tomcats.

BONUS: James Cameron / “Reach” by Martini Ranch (1988)

This is just a bonus, given that it’s not from a film soundtrack, but instead sees King of the World James Cameron direct one of his regulars, Bill Paxton, in an epic 7-minute promo for Paxton’s pleasingly 80s-sounding band, Martini Ranch. “Reach” also features a bunch of other Cameron regulars, embellished by cast members of Near Dark, Bud “Harold and Maude” Cort and human avatar of the period of time between 31st December 1979 and January 1st 1990, Edward Ernest “Judge” Reinhold Jr.

* Not counting the many that came up from music video directing – Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris,  Michel Gondry,  Jonathan Glazer, Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek, Tarsem Singh et al – here’s an inexhaustive list:

Michael Bay (“I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf)

Kathryn Bigelow (“Touched By The Hand Of God” by New Order)

Tim Burton (“Here With Me” by The Killers)

Sofia Coppola (“I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by The White Stripes)

Brian De Palma (“Dancing In The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen)

Jonathan Demme (“Genius Of Love” by Tom Tom Club)

David Fincher (“Cradle Of Love” by Billy Idol)

John Landis (“Thriller” by Michael Jackson)

Spike Lee (“Fight The Power” by Public Enemy)

David Lynch (“I Predict” by Sparks)

Gaspar Noe (“We No Who U R” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)

Sam Peckinpah (“Valotte” by Julian Lennon)

George A Romero (“Scream!” by The Misfits)

Martin Scorsese (“Bad” by Michael Jackson)

Gus Van Sant (“Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers)

And a special mention for Simon “Con Air” West  who is responsible for “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley (on its way to 100 million views thanks to the rickrolling phenomenon).

** An honourable tradition continued in Julien Temple’s 1991 clip for Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”, and which reached apotheosis with Paul Thomas Anderson’s video for “Save Me” by Aimee Mann (1999).

Dunoon Film Festival 2014

September 7, 2014

Screenwriter Paul Laverty will be attending Dunoon Film Festival next week, for a couple of events. First, a screening of his most recent collaboration with Ken Loach, Jimmy’s Hall (2014), after which he’ll be taking part in a Q&A session (Saturday 13/09 at 16:00). Second, an In Conversation event on Sunday 14/09 at 13:00, which I have the honour of hosting.

Full details at Dunoon Film Festival’s website.

I’ll also be hosting a Q&A event after the screening of Finding Family (Chris Leslie, 2014) on Sunday 14/09 at 16:30. Director Chris Leslie will be in attendance to introduce his latest film, alongside his recent short The Bird Man of Red Road (2013), and discuss his work afterwards.

Again, full details at Dunoon Film Festival’s website.

If you have any questions you’d like to pose either Laverty and Leslie, let me know in the comments or, better yet, buy a ticket and come along – only £5 for each event!

INTERVIEW: David Julian Leonard on Big Star: Live In Memphis

August 4, 2014

Big Star: Live In Memphis is screening at GFT on Thursday 07/08. Filmmaker and photographer David Julian Leonard edited the concert film from footage that had been left in a cupboard for almost 20 years. Filmed in 1994 at one of Big Star’s first reunion tours, it’s the result of a rare concession to cameras on the part of Alex Chilton and a “seat-of-their-pants” effort to put together a four-man film crew at the last minute. As they rarely performed live in their early 70s heyday and were even more rarely recorded, the film is the only professionally-filmed record of a whole Big Star show.

I spoke to Leonard about his experiences approaching the raw footage after all this time and his friendship with the sadly departed singer Chilton. He told me, “The GFT asked who should be credited as the director, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I don’t think it has a director.’ They said, ‘No, that can’t be! How about we just credit all three of you as the director?’ The three of us who are the producers, and I’m the editor. So I said, ‘OK, fine.’ Then we were figuring out, ‘How do we list the credits here?’ Officially, it’s going to say, ‘Directed without a net.’ It was like a high-wire act, and these guys did it.”

You can read the full interview over at GFT’s website, here.

Matchbox Cineclub Presents: VIDEO ON @ Sofi’s

July 30, 2014


Matchbox Cineclub is back! We’re bringing our VIDEO ON event to Sofi’s in Edinburgh in a four-week residency. Every Monday evening in August, we invite you into Sofi’s back room while we stick a tape on – the kind you might once have set to record overnight, never suspecting what rare treats you would capture as you slept. Each programme is themed to a cult film director – four weeks, four tapes – every one full of strange delights: adverts, oddities, ephemera and lost treasure.

Week 1: “ABSURD”

Week 2: “TRASH”

Week 3: “CHAOS”

Week 4: “BLOOD”

On Monday 04/08/14, the intrepid few are invited to immerse themselves in the tape marked “ABSURD”. The exact content will be a mystery until after the event, but expect an exclusive cornucopia of David Lynch rarities and other complementary content. Later weeks are dedicated to John Waters, Werner Herzog and Quentin Tarantino.

Facebook event page

Matchbox Cineclub

Sofi’s Bar



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