Friday, August 18, 2017

Plaza Classic Film Festival 2017: Some Odds and Bitter Ends

I should note first off that the 'bitter ends' in the title is facetious.

I now wrap up my coverage of the Plaza Classic Film Festival 2017 with some thoughts.

I had so wanted to do more movies, but alas, time was against me.  I had to skip both the short independent film series The Good, The Bad & The Indie along with Cronos.  After The Rescuers, I would have had to have stayed in the area for well over four hours, and I simply didn't want to stay there that long.

There was one film I went to see just for the pleasure of it, with no desire to review it.  I went to see National Lampoon's Animal House on the rooftop of the Mills Parking lot with three friends.  They had all seen it before, I had not.  I'd seen bits of it but not the whole thing complete, so I did know a bit about the film.  I declined their suggestion that we go in togas.

Before the movie started, the host asked if anyone was seeing Animal House for the first time to raise their hands.  I, along with others, did so, and the reaction I got shocked me.  The people around me who had seen the film before actually and literally booed those who had raised their hands!

I was shocked, upset and angry at this.  I am astonished the people who claim to be 'fans' of something would be so unwelcoming to those who had in a sense not been 'initiated' into the cult of Delta House.  That to me suggests a very insular group of people like Animal House, thinking that you have to go into it with the ability to quote every line rather that discover the film in such a public setting.

There is simply no excuse these Animal House fans can make to rationalize or justify their own boorish behavior.  What right do they have to exclude others simply because they had not been consecrated to the bonds of obedience?  It must be the greatest irony: Animal House, a celebration against conformity, has as its fans those who insist others totally conform to their ways.

It seems to me counterproductive to tell those who have never seen a film, 'we don't want you'. I looked around at those booing and asked, 'What, you want me to leave?'  Sadly, while I did laugh at some of Animal House (I confess not being big on some of its humor), the reaction by its fans diminished my enjoyment of the film.  I doubt I'll watch it again, since the reaction by its fans so disheartened me I will have negative feelings towards the whole experience that will end up coloring my view of the film.

Thanks, Animal House fans...for making me feel unwelcome and unwanted, two things the guys at Delta House were dead-set against.

I went to see Kathleen Turner, two of the big names to attend (the other being Richard Dreyfus).  She was having an autograph session on a Saturday, and I sacrificed my lunch hour to see her.  That day, my lunch consisted of an apple, Fritos, and some Cherry Coke.  It cost $50 for an autograph and picture.

Yes, I missed lunch and paid practically all I had for about two minutes of her time, but I figured 'how many chances am I going to get?'  She was very nice, and to my surprise spoke fluent Spanish in her low tone.  She signed my copy of Peggy Sue Got Married (one of two films she introduced).  My mother and cousin went to see her other film, Romancing the Stone, where I was told that Miss Turner said the film, contrary to popular belief, was not filmed in Columbia but in Mexico.  She also, if I understand it, served as unofficial translator, as some of the local cast & crew could not speak English and the director could not speak Spanish.

Turner spent more time speaking to the people immediately before me, who went to school with her.  As she mentioned that to me, I said I had barely gotten through my reunion.  She laughed and said she wasn't going to attend any reunions.  I completely missed the curiosity of her signing a copy of a film that revolves around high school reunions.

Thus, I keep the tradition of humiliating myself in front of famous people.

In regards to the sadly films I saw, I was highly impressed by Persistence of Vision, which I think was the best of the lot.  Ashes and Diamonds was also worthy of its reputation as being among the great films, and the introduction featured a Polish-American group.  I did feel slightly out-of-place there as I felt I was one of the few people there who wasn't Polish.

I had the same sense when I saw The Heart Outright in that I felt I was one of the few people in the smaller Philanthropy Theater who wasn't involved in the production or knew the cast/crew personally.  It should not be a reflection on either film that I was slowly nodding off during both screenings.

The Philanthropy Theater, which abuts the main Plaza Theater (or rather, the Kendall Kidd Hall), has a great air conditioning system and is extremely dark, two things that conspired to lull me to sleep.  The fact that both films were in the evening I think also played a part in that restive aspect.

It was there that I also saw Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man and The Rescuers.  I had never seen the latter and was enchanted by it, making it a rare Disney movie that I was not exposed to as a child.  As for the former,  I still do not find Bud and Lou funny and don't get why so many do.

The weather must have played havoc with some screenings, for I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show cosplayers running around all wet.  Since I don't get the cult around the film I don't feel much about it, though the cult around Xanadu is puzzling.  While The Atomic Café was a good film, I didn't find it as funny as I'd been led to believe.

I'm proud of the fact that I covered films that I had never seen before.  That, I think, is one of the important aspects of a film festival: to make new discoveries and yes, revisit old favorites.  Pity the Animal House fanbase does not understand that concept.

On the whole the Plaza Classic Film Festival 2017 was a wonderful success: along with the films, there was music and discussions.  I'd like to see more discussions and symposiums around the festival, and the El Paso Community Foundation and all those involved in the PCFF should be commended on doing wonderful work.

Even if I had to pay to see the films, but part of me has come to peace with those small indignities. 

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