Around town: Strange delights at Cinefamily's Everything Is Festival
The 4th of July weekend is typically a big moviegoing time, with theaters full of extravagantly loud blockbusters packed with explosions, gadgets and the fanciest special effects. (Exhibit A: this week's release of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon.") But for those looking for a different kind of movie mayhem, there is the motley, oddball Everything Is Festival, which begins Thursday night and runs through Monday at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater.
Presented by Cinefamily and the group of "video alchemists" known as Everything Is Terrible, the mix of programs -- 19 events in five days -- includes three feature films, found footage presentations, animation, a panel discussion, a keynote address, and some events that rather defy description. Numerous events will be streamed online during the festival, now in its second year.
The festival exists at an unusual intersection among film and video, the alternative comedy scene and found footage culture, and that sense of strange uncertainty -- the "What the what was that?" sensation that many of the programs inspire -- is in no small part the point.
"When you see something and you ask where did it come from or what is it, that sense of discovery has its own pleasure," said Hadrian Belove, a co-director of the festival. "Anybody who's curating is in some sense showing and sharing discoveries and trying to excite the audience with that sense of possibility. There's an inherent pleasure in the slightly unfamiliar."
The festival kicks off Thursday night with a panel discussion featuring writers from the NBC and TBS eras of Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show. That will be followed by a tribute to the surrealist cooking show "Food Party" with an appearance by host Thu Tran.
Friday's events include a keynote presentation by Mark Hosler of the group Negativland, early practitioners of the sort of "culture jamming" celebrated by many of the festival's participants. Also on Friday will be a performance of "The Pelican Brief Project," in which music group Candybox Violence perform their own alternate score to the 1993 Julia Roberts/Denzel Washington thriller "The Pelican Brief."
"The festival is all the stuff where we don't know where to put it," said Dimitri Simakis, a member of Everything Is Terrible and co-director of the festival. "A band does a score to 'The Pelican Brief,' what do you do with that? In the context of the festival it fits because here's this crazy thing that you didn't know existed, and if you just trust us and take our hand, we will take you on a journey."
Saturday's program includes a lecture by musician Andrew W.K. on how to live life like a party, as well as "Ninja Annihilation War," purported to be a found '80s-era Hong Kong kung-fu flick.
Sunday highlights include a screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation," the well-known years-in-the-making amateur teenage redo of the famous Steven Spielberg film. Also on Sunday, comedian Neil Hamburger presents a tribute to Dora Hall, the elderly entertainer whose husband, founder of the Solo Cup Co., financed her series of television variety shows in the 1970s. (For a preview, see the video at the end of this post.)
Sunday's programs also include a tribute to the influential early alternative comedy troupe the Firesign Theater, as well as a screening of the truly see-it-to-believe-it feature film "Dangerous Men," which opened in Los Angeles for one week in 2005 and became an instant cult classic.
Monday the festival ends with a July 4th party and screening of Joe Dante's epic, four-and-a-half-hour "The Movie Orgy," originally created in 1968 and among the early examples of the found footage mash-up.
Organizers of the Everything Is Festival insist that while their shows may seem like a lot of random weirdness, there actually is a method to the madness.
"Our slogan is 'if everything is terrible, then nothing is," said Simakis, "meaning it's all the same. We're not saying we're better, I don't want it to be some sort of ironic thing. I think that's what we're actually trying to get away from. It isn't about not caring and just liking something because it's so bad it's good. We definitely don't feel that way. We love it. It's so good it's good."
For those wanting to dip a toe into the festival but unsure of the best point of entry, anywhere will do.
"What I've started to say is just if you come at any point in the next five days, just throw a dart and show up, I honestly believe you will have a great time," Belove said.
"It's almost too much goodness for people to deal with."
-- Mark Olsen
Poster courtesy the Cinefamily
Below is a preview of Sunday's Neil Hamburger tribute to Dora Hall: