I feel like Danny Glover in the later Lethal Weapon movies, grumbling that I'm getting too old for this s***. I spent my Saturday night and Sunday morning at a 14-hour (or so) movie marathon in Austin called Cinemapocalypse, perpetrated by the programmers at Alamo Drafthouse with some help from Quentin Tarantino. Apart from the first film, none of us (except the programmers) knew what we'd be watching.
The event kicked off with Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds, introduced by Tarantino and Eli Roth, who has a role in the film. The Alamo offered Nazi Scal(lo)ps on the menu as an accompaniment to the film. And during a key sequence set in a movie theater, we all heard a loud thump and realized that Nazi flags had been unfurled in the aisles of the Alamo Ritz, to match the onscreen theater. The flags stayed up all evening and felt a bit creepy after awhile, but apparently they were difficult to remove. The post-film Q&A covered topics from Leni Riefenstahl to Roth's accent to the film's connection with the Tarantino-scripted True Romance. Roth said he directed the movie-within-a-movie, Nation's Pride, which is only about 5 minutes of footage, all of which should appear on the DVD. Tarantino told us he'd originally planned Inglourious Basterds as a 12-hour miniseries, since "TV has really caught up with movies and no auteur has worked in this form yet," but was persuaded to make it a feature film after talking with Luc Besson.
Tarantino programmed the next two movies at Cinemapocalypse, citing them as indirect influences in Inglourious Basterds. Here's Tarantino's discussion of both films, if you want to hear more about why he thought they were worth screening. Thanks to Anne Heller for the video:
Both were set in Vietnam and were about groups of men banding together to fight -- but quite different groups. The Losers is a 1970 biker film in which a gang travels to Vietnam to perform a secret mission ... not as soldiers, mind you, but still in their biker gear and on motorcycles. I never quite understood it, and admittedly I started getting a bit sleepy. I wish I'd napped to be more alert for the 1989 film The Siege of Firebase Gloria, starring R. Lee Ermey as a sergeant prepared to take on the Viet Cong. I always like watching Ermey, even when he's saddled with cheesy dialogue, and he has one amazing speech in this film that he delivers while holding two severed heads.
Just because Tarantino's programming ended, however, did not mean that Cinemapocalypse died down. Actor Robert Forster made a surprise appearance to introduce one of his earlier films, Vigilante, from 1983. He told a long, fascinating story about how he started acting in films and how he landed the role in John Huston's 1967 film Reflections in a Golden Eye. Forster does a great Huston imitation, by the way.
Vigilante turned out to be a movie in the Death Wish vein -- apparently the Bronson movie inspired a number of similar retreads -- in which Forster decides whether to pursue a lawless gang. Forster then came back on stage and did an extended Q&A, in which he offered advice to actors and talked about some of his own performances, including the underrated Diamond Men.
After Forster departed, we all started to feel how long we'd been awake. The next movie, The Black Gestapo, was a blaxploitation film from 1975 that reminded me a little of Orwell's Animal Farm. It starred Charles Robinson, who went on to play Mac the bailiff on Night Court for years. It was an easy film to follow, which is good because I'm pretty sure I napped for nearly an hour in the middle of the film. I thought about skipping the last movie, but Alamo co-owner Tim League told us it would be something unreleased in the U.S. so I decided to stick around.
The last film of the evening was Ip Man, a 2008 film from Hong Kong starring Donnie Yen. The story was fairly routine -- Ip Man is a master of Wing Chun martial arts who is reluctantly called upon to perform heroic acts throughout the film. The fight sequences, directed by Sammo Hung, are fascinating even if you're not familiar with martial arts styles. Ip Man fights in a way that seems to conserve energy and movements as much as possible, while his showier opponents are flying all over the place and tiring themselves out. I didn't feel the least bit tired during the movie, even though it was after 9 am at that point.
League invited the evening's survivors to enjoy a beer with him in the lobby before heading home -- I skipped the beer myself, figuring I would enjoy a nap more. I love the "I survived" feeling you get after movie marathons, but it takes me days to get back to normal afterwards. League said he plans to make Cinemapocalypse an annual or even semi-annual event, with the next one maybe occurring in April. And Tarantino told us he'd love to revive the QT Fests he used to host at Alamo Drafthouse, also mentioning April. I'll have to clear my calendar for that month next year.