In The Green Man Review with Excellence in Writing Award (EIWA).
Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969, Marv Newland, Independent)
Son of Bambi Meets Godzilla (no-date, Eric Fernandes, Independent)
The Lord of the Rings — Bogart version (2001, O. Sharp, Independent)
Hardware Wars (1977, Ernie Fosselius, Independent)
Troops (no-date, Kevin Rubio, Independent)
Jabba on the Dais (no-date, Mathew Beal, Independent)
The Fart Within the Matrix (2001, Anonymous, Independent)
Erotic Witch Project (1999, John Bacchus, Independent)
The Killer Bean 2: The Party (2000, Jeff Lew, Independent)
War for the Oaks Trailer (1995, Will Shetterly, Independent) reprise
Proverb from Zagreb
Studied in the film The Goblins
(Skrítci, 1998. Noro Drziak)
Independent film can be made for video, made for the Web, made for the screen… include remakes, spoofs, parodies, original works… animation, live-action, claymation…. There are trailers as well as ‘features’… independent trailers of studio films, trailers of films that haven’t (yet) been made… for films that exist only (but not merely) in the imagination. There are the relatively big-budget (sorta) Indies, like Rushmore, Memento, and Sex, Lies and Videotape, lesser known flicks like Slingblade and I shot Andie Warhol (of which there are hundreds upon hundreds, especially if you count non-English-language ones). Some of these hit the bigtime, like El Mariachi. But…
Many more of these flicks (perhaps the lion’s share now) are very-low-budget efforts, though they involve a considerable amount of time and planning on the part of the creator(s). Sure, they are often so wild, woolly, and bizarre as to range from hilarious and powerful to disgusting and confusing; that’s what makes them so amazing. They’re the work of so many diverse, creative minds… or minds which, if they are banal (no more than a Hollywood banality that hides behind hype and production costs), have the vivacious will to creativity that turns an idea into a tangible communication that can be shared without being diminished. These are like viruses in the wild… there’s an edge to them that says that some committee didn’t sit down and decide whether or not ‘we should say’ this or that with the film. If it’s outrageous, it’s being done in Indie.
Wanna cheap date? Line up a bunch of new (or old) freebies, make popcorn, and watch them with someone you love.
Now, there are those who say these are not “real” movies, not “actual” trailers… that they are somehow fake, bogus, pretend… etc. If that’s the case, that’s what all art is. No camera ever tells the truth, nor any artist, by that standard of legitimization. All cameras lie, because all cameras are selective. None gives “reality” as a whole; we get reality through a lens. And what is reality in regard to film? Isn’t there a distinction between the film and the film’s object and the kinds of reality appropriate to each? If the only recognized “reality” in film is a respectable studio, an ‘approved’ marketing scheme, a known director and cast… then it’s consensual reality. And that is what Indie films question and challenge all the time. Doing so is their bread and butter.
Marv Newland’s (1969) Bambi Meets Godzilla (pick up the DVD from Bitter Films), one of the elder statesmen among modern indie flicks, was also, for a really long time, considered the shortest… for obvious reasons. The first time I saw it, as a child, I lay on the floor laughing hysterically… first, because the credits were far longer (in the full-length version) than Bambi’s lifespan in the meadow, and second, because I knew there were other people in the world with minds as devious as my own. Here, in this animated short, there’s no gore like there would be in an Itchy and Scratchy Show; the goal here is obliteration! “That’s sick!” “That’s mean.” “That’s disgusting.” Yes… that’s why it’s wonderful! C’mon now… haven’t you on occasion had just about enough of Precious Moments, Beanie Baby, Tickle Me Elmo, Cabbage Patch, tweak your cheek, footy-pajamas, wook at da wittle Bambi CUTE?
Well, for me, it was always the fact that this flick was questioning the way the world should be. Questioning consensual reality. Seriously. This film, like much Indie work, asks whether the way we normally look at the world is the only way we should look at it. Most of the reactions I got, when mentioning it to my young associates, fell into three categories: “It’s wrong to think that way.”, “Cool. Let’s go blow stuff up!”, or “Damned straight! Question authority.” The latter, at least, knew that art could do that. The authority of consensus. It’s a good flick: there is nice peaceful music… the world is harmonious, not a jungle… all is right and good in the wood… Bambi is bug-cute and safe… ready for one of those “aw, it’s a sweet wittle baby deer” moments… and without so much as some Jaws-in-the-water studio sound… well… Bambi does meet Godzilla. And of course, it’s a respectful, nonviolent encounter… <grin>. Of course it isn’t. Yep, some people hate it. These are the people who are always trying to get some book taken out of the library, or make the librarians follow their children around and restrict what they can see. The meadow is a jungle. Some of us like the jungle. Some of us need the jungle to survive. The world is not safe.
Eric Fernandes has made a take-off on the original called Son of Bambi Meets Godzilla. I wonder if the outcome will be different? Yes, I know. It’s wrong. It’s bad. I’m a bad man. Muhuhahahaha!
One of my favorite doses of ‘real’ film (made by real people) is The Lord of the Rings. Seen it? Maybe not this version. It’s a film noir adaptation with Humphrey Bogart as Frodo (Really. Truly.), Marlene Dietrich (Galadriel) and Sydney Greenstreet (Gandalf). And it’s lovely, because who’s going to say it isn’treal film, when it stars Humphrey Bogart? This is one of those wonderful collages (it’s surprisingly smooth) that challenges the blurring and blending of acting with studio production. It draws a distinction. So often, in a revolutionary medium like Indie film, it’s the other way around. Yup, this film is a retelling pieced together from tons of old Bogart flicks, among others. It’s ingenious! Someone surely got either an “A” or a summary “F” for this monstrously good remake. Can they even do that? Is that a beer?
Sure. After all, look at Pat Murphy’s book, There and Back Again (Hobbits in space!), which I understand is pretty fine. And there are the really pathetic (if rather tame) parodies like Bored Of the Rings and Sword of Shannara! But Peter Jackson surely never thought of casting someone like Bogey as a hobbit! Welcome to the world of Indie film, where casting choices have something of an anarchistic flavor. I like this flick as much as I do the old Sherlock Holmes episodes with Basil Rathbone or Reginald Owen or Ronald Howard. Casting Bogey as Frodo is about like selecting Charles Bronson for the part of Holmes. And hey, if you can put Leonardo DiCapulet in a retold Romeo and Juliet, you can put Bogey in a remake of LOTR.
Speaking of punk kids tossed into romantic roles… After watching Hayden Christensen make love, more or less… or talk about it, in Attack of the Clones, who doesn’t feel the need to wash out one’s eyes with something a little less mechanical, like Hardware Wars? And sure it’s pretty good (I especially loved the Cookie Monster puppetry), but Troops! Troops is the end-all-to-be-all of reinterpretations of Star Wars. Out of all the Indie flicks in its class, it is the most developed, the most sophisticated, and the most socially biting. Oh gosh, I love it!. It’s a spoof of TV’s COPS in a Star Wars setting, of course… “Bad Boys, Bad Boys. Whatchya gonna do?”
There’s that enthusiastic announcement… “Troops is filmed on location with the men of the Imperial Forces. All suspects are guilty. Period. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be suspects, would they?” The troopers, rousting the local Jawas, sound EXACTLY like the LAPD jacking someone in the wrong neighborhood. But they’re just regular guys… “Some people call this the ass end of space… but I feel like I can really make a difference here… ” Troops follows the Storm Troopers for a ride-along on remote Tatooine. The helmet-clad heroes tell us about what the work is like, their views on the proclivities of the ‘criminal element’ and, of course, how they’re keeping the sands safe for people like you and I. Want to know what really happened to Luke’s Aunt and Uncle, and that Jawa sandcrawler smoking out in the desert?
It’s perfect. It is absolutely freaking perfect! The troopers have got that patronizing, “I’m wearing a badge and you’re toast” tone and lingo down just beautifully. It is the most significant piece of cultural criticism I’ve seen in Indie film. And it works, because it’s both spot on and scathingly funny. I’d buy tickets for this one. And it’s FREE for download!
There’s probably more Star Wars material out there than for any other one milieu. So, while you’re on Tatooine, how about a music video? Jabba on the Dais ‘…on the dais… on the dais…’ is a great twist on “Rock me Amadeus” with a Star Wars theme. It’s animated, and doesn’t have the production qualities ofTroops, but it’s fun and visually interesting at least once.
I’m not sure anyone knows for sure who made The Fart Within the Matrix. It’s a “viral video” – one that shows up in people’s inboxes as an email attachment. There are several cut-down versions out there, but the un-cut version is funnier and a lot longer. You can watch a short version online here if you haveQuickTime installed, or download it here if you don’t, or don’t have a broadband internet connection. For the full-length version, you’ll have to look high and low. I really didn’t think I would laugh. Toilet humour doesn’t do anything for me. But wit does, and this has wit enough for a couple of chuckles. Yes, flatulence with wit. Be sure to download rather than stream this, if you don’t have a fast connection, since it’s no good unless the timing is just right. Don’t try to stream it over a 56K modem. Expect scenes of The Matrix reprised, with the original dialogue, and a few interesting sound effects added at particularly ingenious moments. Might bring a smile to someone who’s under the weather, at least.
The Erotic Witch Project, subject now to a couple of sequels, is probably the most pornographic of the take-offs in The Blair Witch Project genre. Not really the kind of thing we pay attention to here at GMR, but it’s out there, so it bears mentioning. Three girls go to the woods, hear spooky noises, huddle in a tent for shelter, and… you guessed it… there’s touching. This is not a subtle film; it opens with a camcorder shower invasion followed by a lengthy (and really trashy) masturbation. Yup, this is an adult film, though it’d be really boring to most adults that I know. Like most porn (soft-core or otherwise), it’s a tacit denial of the power of the erotic. The title just makes it all the more silly when that petulant lip comes out, and that ragdoll “what you see is all you get” meant-to-be-enticing glance lingers on the viewer. Generally, you won’t watch it on the Web without payment and an identification check of some sort. So if you’d rather your children not gawk at three college girls making fools of themselves, just watch what your kids do in the jungle that is the Internet (Remember what happened to Bambi!), and it’ll be all right. Frankly, with all those body parts flopping out with neither ceremony nor sensuality, I think I’d be more aroused byThe Blair Thumb, which the producers of this video must have had in some place unmentionable.
While it’s not remotely folk material, I also enjoyed the hell out of The Killer Bean 2: The Party. If you like Matrix-stye action and Replacement Killers attitude, this film rocks! It’s the story of a bean who’s can’t sleep because the music at a neighbor’s house is too loud. So he’s going to go make dip out of the partygoers if he can’t retrieve that CD! I understand. Around here, we take our CD’s very seriously! Just try sending some electronic dance music to Big Earl’s house! I’d rather be Bambi facing Godzilla. And don’t send that shit to me, either!
We reviewed Will Shetterly’s War for the Oaks Trailer (1995) long ago, of course. And we mention it a lot, because it’s a groundbreaking preview. It’s a trailer for a film, such that: when the film is made, it will be made largely because of the trailer… not the other way around.
And we sell t-shirts. Damned straight, we sell T-shirts! WFTO, Eddie and the Fey tour t-shirts (The War for the Oaks Tour). Strange? Well, if you can make a trailer without a film, you can certainly wear a t-shirt without a tour. Urban fantasy, in this case, is not just the genre of the original novel; it’s also a kind of art of performance, an art of interaction and involvement, just like making a trailer for a film that’s still a dream. It’s what we mean when we say that a particular work is engaging, and we take that seriously. It was fun, at opening night of The Lord of the Rings, to see people dressing the part. A lot of us are just as involved with War for the Oaks. Yeah, I’m a fan of a band that a lot of people would say isn’t ‘real’. But I look at such things as contingent unrealities. And that’s kind of the point of all this art of contingent unreality… it’s questioning consensual reality, questioning whether the world should only be viewed in cute, neat, ‘Bambi is never in danger’ categories.
While watching this, you have two choices. You can laugh at the silly people in their SCA garb as they reenact battle scenes from the book, or snicker as a dog turns into a man with some clever camera usage. Or you can play along with the mood… — Michael Jones (from his review of the WFTO Trailer)
Remember, then… Indie films and trailers are real. I’ve seen them! (“I have seen land! It exists!”) I hear you thinking… “OK. OK. But we’re sane people here. Maybe Indie films are real, and Kevin Costner is an actor, but we don’t believe in elves and such. We believe what we can taste, touch, smell…” To you I say, “Our senses are elves which constantly deceive us.” Now watch some Indie; and then get yourself an Eddie and the Fey t-shirt.
Look around at other flicks like Highlander the Methos Chronicles (Episode 1), The Matrix in Six Minutes, Life and Times: Harry Otter (2001). You’ll find a lot of good film in all genres at IFilm, Atom Films, and MovieFlix. Some is free to watch, and some is for purchase. For videotapes, check outbuyindies.com. They have everything from A Polish Vampire in Burbank to Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven. Check out Killer Bean creator Jeff Lew’s page, too. Our own Cat Eldridge is the authorized distributor for the WFTO Trailer. You’ll have to pester him, if you want one.