Friday, October 10, 2008

Watch-A-Thon flicks 19 & 19.5: RIOT ON SUNSENT STRIP & ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY

Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica freak out!
trailer | Brattle listing | Alamo Drafthouse

This mixed up ripped-from-the-headlines tale of misunderstood youth is an amazing trip. In his intro to the flick, Lars explains that the creative talents involved in making this picture were grounded in older-school, prim and proper filmmaking. More HAPPY DAYS fare than WELCOME BACK, KOTTER... or at least, that's how I took it. These "square" talents decided to tackle the crazy lives and far out happenings of the youth of the 60s, producing a surreal mix of cartoony beatniks and lettermen looking to make the strip scene.

Regardless of how mixed up the kids are in any era, their oppressors are always the same, aren't they?—the adults. Apparently, in particular, the aging majority of the Sunset Strip chamber of commerce. They've got it in for the shiftless kids who have nothing better to do with their Friday and Saturday nights than jam up the streets and sidewalks in front of their antique shops and... umm... I don't know what else, actually.

Ubiquitous teenage health film narrator voice introduces us to four high school kids looking for a little weekend distraction. Three are regulars at Pandora's Box, a club on the strip. The fourth, Andrea, aka Andie, is a new addition, and hesitant to indulge in the excitement of the strip. At the Box, she's into the music, but says no to a spiked drink. When a fight breaks out, they hightail it out to avoid getting rounded up by the cops. They get nabbed anyway, tho, for being out past 10pm curfew. Down at the station house, we discover that Amy's reluctant to call her dad to pick her up. Why? Well, turns out that her dad is a police lieutenant, and as watch commander, has jurisdiction over the treatment of kids on the strip. He's got a good head and heart for it, playing the reasonable middleman and ref between the geezer businessmen and the kids hanging out on their sidewalks.

Oh, Pandora's Box features three pretty kickass young bands of the era. The Shandells, The Enemies, and the Chocolate Watchband. The Brattle invited the lead singer of the Watchband, David Aguilar, to join us for this screening, and before the show, Ned introduced Lars, who introduced David...
That's Aguilar in the center, flanked by Ned on the left and Lars Nilsen on the right. David did a pretty inspiring job of relating the music scene as it was back then, for him and his band, and ultimately brought the experiences of being in this perfect creative scenario with the Watchband, being asked to perform in this Hollywood film, and soon, after leaving music to move on and move forward... bringing all that together to point up the fact that yeah, it was a high point in his life, but a high point in his life at age 19, and that he's had many more high points, pinnacles, he called them, throughout his life. This movie IS a part of his good old days, but they're not the only good days he's had. It was a pretty decent and inspiring message to deliver, altho it crossed my mind that it might have been particularly for the benefit of friends and family in the audience.

It totally brought to mind my favorite (and honestly, only remembered) quote from M. BUTTERFLY... "There's no surer sign of failure in life than happiness in high school." =)

Oh, hey! Here's David Aguilar circa 1967, rockin on...
Wild, no? =) Anyhow, back to my run-on rambling story retelling...

Andie's resentful that her own father seems to want to take care of all these kids who should mean nothing to him, but has apparently disowned her, leaving her in the harrowing custody of her alcoholic mother. When her despair over her screwed up home life threatens to overwhelm her, for an escape, she agrees to hit the strip again with her new friends.

This visit to Pandora's Box goes a bit differently. There's the threat of another fight, but the kids manage to police themselves, and prevent a little tussle into turning into a full-on brawl. This time, tho, Andie and her friends hook up with a Hollywood punk and his entourage who invite them to her first freak-out. What, you might ask, is a freak-out? Turns out it's a home invasion that leads to an LSD-fueled rave. When Hollywood punk slips good girl Andie an acid mickey, it sends her on an wild artsy-strippery interpretive dance trip. Hollywood takes advantage of her state to, well, take advantage. And once he's done, four of his friends follow.

When the neighbors call the police on the freak-out party, Lieutenant Dad, as unofficial liaison to LA's youth, decides to answer the call himself with a few unis. Most of the partying kids scarper off, but the police detain Andie's girlfriend, who's still flying high, and discover Andie, coming down from her devastating and tortured trip. Dad briefly questions Andie and finds her to be full of bile where he's concerned, and hate for herself and her imposed loneliness. She pretty much blames him for her misery and apparently her multiple date rape.

Thanks to Andie's girlfriend's chattiness, the police quickly round up three of her attackers and bring them to the hospital for the victim to identify. Lt. Dad arrives at the hospital in time to overhear the punks griping and moaning about how ridiculous their being arrested is. "She's no better than any of the other girls..." That kind of he-man bullstuff, y'know? Well, pops can't take it anymore and levelheaded Watch Commander (rightly) loses his shit and beats down these snivelling date rapist Reggies. When his colleagues pull him off and talk him down, he finds that a reporter on the police beat has followed him and claims to be duty-bound to report everything, regardless of the circumstances. Lt. Dad is shocked by his own behavior, fearful of what he might have done if he'd had his gun (and I don't know why he didn't have it, actually). When Hollywood attempts to defend himself and his friends, with some crap along the lines of, "Hey, she wanted it," the police explain to him that it really doesn't matter, Andie's not old enough to consent. "Ever heard of jail bait?"

I gotta admit, that was a simple, but impressive detail to me. Totally and righteously sealed the jerks' fates. That, I like.

When an evening news report includes Lt. Dad's assault of the punks, the sunset strip irregulars rise up in protest, hitting the street to picket and march. When any other policeman would probably think self-preservation and stay behind his desk, Pops makes himself very visible on the strip, keeping an eye out for any troublemakers on either side of the protesting. He intercedes to hold back an overenthusiastic riot cop, winning himself some thanks from a leader of the "longhairs."

When he returns to the station after clearing the strip, he finds his daughter waiting for him. She'd seen his patrolling of the strip on the news and realized that she'd had him all wrong, explaining to him that she's feeling well enough now and ready to go home, home with Lt. Dad (screw the burdensome alcoholic gypsy mom).

Ubiquitous health film narrator returns to explain... The strip has been cleared of the willful youth, but where will they go next? That is the question. In the near future, half the people in the world will be under the age of twenty five, and all those young people will need a place to go... Where will it be? where will it be?

The end.

Y'know, this might be worthy of a decent remake. Maybe it could be scaled down to a smaller city and then moved into the present? FOOTLOOSE meets WALKING TALL? The freak-out could be a home invasion and mini-rave. Sensual-good-girl-gone-bad-gone-good-again Andie could be played by Scarlet Johanssen I think. And okay, here's the real reason I'd want to see this remade. Ray Aldo, who plays Lt. Dad, could be updated and replaced by THE SHIELD's Michael Chiklis! Man, I really would love to see him clobber those Joe College Nazi Fratboys who attacked his daughter. I mean, he'd rip off one of their arms and beat them all into bloddy pulps with it, y'know? Maybe just throw one out the window and into a spiney sculpture in the hospital courtyard.

Yeah, I have a pretty lame fantasy life, I know.

Anyhow, after the RIOTous experience, I finally got up the nerve to say "Thanks!" to Professor Lars Nilsen, who helped bring "Return To The Grindhouse" to the Brattle screen. I also bestowed upon him a WristStrong band, passing it several links up on the fame food chain.

If you're not familiar with Stephen Colbert's wrist and wrist violence awareness initiative, here are a couple of Colbert Report clips to fill you in...

In response to his becoming a victim of wrist violence in July 2007, Stephen Colbert launches his WristWatch campaign and the WristStrong bracelet...

"Awareness is like a virus, and celebrities are like Typhoid Marys..."

Stephen Colbert explains his "fame food chain" promotion strategy for raising wrist awareness...

"I can say that because I AM one!"
trailer | website

I raced over to the Kendall Square Cinema to catch the last Boston screening of this flick and enjoyed the last three quarters of it. It's mostly footage of the three comedians' stand up routines, which was very funny, but not as solid as I'd imagined. The off-stage documentary segments are not nearly as insightful or interesting as I'd hoped. Depth-wise, it felt like an HBO special, and frankly, given the concept of their show and this film, I feel like I was promised more than that.

Still, there were more than a couple of great laughs. The one that I'm thinking about now and still makes me chuckle...

You were caught doing 40 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone...

What? That's ridiculous, and this is racist! I am out of here!

*gunshots* Oh my god...

Umm... that probably doesn't read as funny as it sounds as part of his routine. =)

Also, it made for an interesting delayed complement to Bill Maher's RELIGULOUS on Monday night. Sort of an answer to Maher's impatience and bullheadedness with many of his Muslim interviewees. I wonder how he and these comedians would get along and humorously scat off of one another. My sister mentioned to me that RELIGULOUS, either in an excerpt, or by Maher himself in the movie, refers to ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY. Me, in my, frankly, impaired state, I can't recall that from either of my two screenings of RELIGULOUS.

I am done.

Oh wait, not quite. Thanks much to Amy H. for her kind on-the-spot Watch-A-Thon donation in response to my clunky solicitation. I want to hit people up live for support, but really, I'm just awful in person. I've been thinking of printing up my email and leaving it in places for random people, Brattle patrons, to pick up. Although, would anyone want to pick up a piece of paper with that much frickin ink on it?

Foo. Maybe I'll try that at the halfway mark.

Keep on keepin on~

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