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AFI Fest 2009: Second Post

I forgot to tell a HILARIOUS JOKE based on night one before.

Two blonde chicks sat in the row in front of me for Fantastic Mr. Fox. They were in outfits designed to maximize their boobs as the focal point of everything.

And they ended up sitting in seats 9 and 11.

INAPPROPRIATE JOKE: It made sense that they were in seats 9-11, because tower #1 was exploding in my pants.

APPROPRIATE JOKE: It made sense that they were in seats 9 and 11, because that averages out to a perfect 10 each.

The next movie I saw at AFI Fest was Joe Dante’s THE HOLE in 3-D. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have a major distributor and has been doing the festival circuit.

Dante said that Roger Ebert told him it was the best 3D he’d ever seen, which still proved to him that 3D sucks and no movie should be shot that way. Ebert is tedious on this topic; if you don’t like 3D movies, DON’T GO SEE THEM! Most are available in 2D also. Maybe not for critics at press screenings, but critics have to see lots of stuff they hate anyway.

THE HOLE is about this single-mom-led family that move into a nice suburb to find a deep dark hole of evil in their basement. There’s also a hot chick who lives next door that the two male kids make friends with, but the older boy never even kisses her, probably much to the relief of the pre-teens this movie is aimed at. (Pre-teens with cojones, mind; this is a HORROR movie for kids. Nothing inappropriate, but it might scare the sensitive.)

Anyway, the big infinite hole starts belching out evil stuff, including a scary clown doll from POLTERGEIST and a dead girl from THE RING. Remember, this is aimed at kids who haven’t seen those movies and don’t know the meaning of the word “derivative” yet. Ultimately, the finale involves the surreal world found inside the hole, and it looks really cool in 3D. If not for the effects, it would be mediocre at best, but the 3D things make it fun enough to watch.

The next movie I saw that night was WAKE IN FRIGHT, also known as OUTBACK. Originally released in 1971, on a Sunday during a blizzard,as director Ted Kotcheff, told us, this movie had been lost for some 30 years, discovered 5 years ago in a Pittsburgh warehouse marked for destruction.

Kotcheff, a Canadian director best known for FIRST BLOOD and WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S (Take a moment now to wrap your head around those disparate credits…no-one believes me when I tell them) went to the Australian outback to make this movie, based on a novel that he really responded to. The print has been fully digitally restored, and it was a real treat to watch it on the big screen at the Grauman’s Chinese. It’s the sort of movie they don’t make any more, and ONLY made in the ’70s.

In the Aussie desert, a teacher named John Grant (Gary Bond, never famous for much else except UK TV shows) takes a holiday, intending to travel to Sydney, escape with the girl he loves there to England, and never look back; we learn that teachers are often stuck due to having to pay a $1000 deposit so they won’t flee whatever crappy town they’re assigned to.

On the way, he winds up in a  small town known as “The Yappa,” where friendly-but-scary locals insist on buying him drinks, and he gets sucked into a gambling game that involves the flipping of two coins. On a roll, he gets cocky, and loses all his money, thus keeping him from getting to Sydney…but the locals are so damned friendly, he winds up going from place to place before ending up at the rudimentary desert shack of alcoholic country doctor Tydon (Donald Pleasance) who takes him kangaroo hunting (footage used from actual kangaroo hunts), encourages the drinking of beer 24-7, and kangaroo meat-eating. A few days of debauchery strip the trappings of civilization from John, but he soon realizes he’s losing himself.

The movie is pitched as a thriller, but it isn’t quite, except inasmuch as everyday life thrills. It is a bit of a cautionary tale, and will resonate with anyone who has been ever-so-slightly peer-pressured to drink more than normal and act a bigger ass than usual. Like many ’70s flicks, it’s about what makes a man, and doesn’t offer easy answers. One of the best things I’ve seen on a big screen this year.

Asked afterwards about his research, director Kotcheff recalled being in Australia and going out to bars to get a sense of things. He said he and his DP were in the middle of the desert when they saw a bar in the middle of nowhere, and though he was advised against it, he went in. Looking at the time like a hippie with a huge mustache, he wasn’t exactly macho looking.

A local, seeing him, yelled out, “Hello Stalin!”

Kotcheff toasted him and moved along. The guy repeated, “Hello STALIN!” The bar went quiet.

After thinking for a second, the director responded, “Unfortunately, I can’t have a conversation with you, because I’m dead.”

It took the guy a second, but once it sunk in, he laughed, went “I love a guy with a sense of humor!” and bought him a beer. Ever afterward, whenever Kotcheff would enter a bar anywhere and get in any trouble, someone from that outback bar would be there and intervene on his behalf.

The movie riffs on this type of thing big-time, with Jack being offered a beer by a local even though he’s just started one; he is expected to chug the one he has and accept the follow-up immediately.

I imagine a DVD release is inevitable; get it when it comes.

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