Slingshot Cops (2016)

Like an MCU film, an episode of a soap opera, or a single match from a months-long pro wrestling angle, it’s almost entirely pointless to review a Matt Farley picture isolated from the larger context of the Motern Media catalog. Outside maybe the holy trinity of Matt Farley’s most accomplished movies (Local Legends; Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas; and Don’t let the Riverbeast Get You!) it’s difficult to imagine someone stumbling upon a Motern production with no prior context and fully appreciating the perversely wholesome experience of what the film represents. Even Matt Farley’s holy trinity benefits from some prior knowledge of his decades of D.I.Y. media production with a stable cast of recurring collaborators, something you can only experience by watching the movies yourself. Motern Media is the definition of cult cinema in this way, as sinking further into the published materials, released over decades of backyard film productions and novelty songs recordings churned out from attics & basements, feels exactly like being indoctrinated into a cult. You don’t casually appreciate a Matt Farley film so much as you’re put under a spell by it, something you don’t realize until you’re six movies deeper into the catalog and conversing with Farley directly on Twitter, by phone, or traveling to see him perform in person at his annual Motern Media Day Extravaganza concerts (i.e. cult member meetups). As such, Slingshot Cops is not a movie I’d readily recommend to the previously unconverted, but rather the latest dispatch from a maniacal mind that has hijacked my own. It’s an aggressively silly comedy with an unnecessarily complex, self-contained mythology (a descriptor most of Farely’s backyard production share), but it’s something best enjoyed as just one piece in a much larger, sillier whole. It’s a continuation of a performance art piece/cultist tome that has only gained strength in the last two decades of under-the-radar development: Matt Farley’s life & career.

To that point, the first thing I noticed in Slingshot Cops is how much older Farley’s crew of Motern regulars has gotten over the years, especially performers who have been around since the early 00s days of films like Druid Gladiator Clone. As much as Farley is staging supernatural hangout comedies & over-the-top horror spoofs around familiar New England haunts, he’s also documenting the life & times of his inner social circle. Druid Gladiator Clone was a snapshot of their lives as late-college age brats adopting the aesthetic of the skateboard videos & MTV prank shows that defined its era. By the time Slingshot Cops catches up with them, you can feel the not-too-distant early signs of middle age creeping in from corners of the frame. Domesticity, grey hairs, and aging bodies appear onscreen as visual reminders of just how long Farley & co. have been hammering at their insular, decades-long collaboration of building a substantive catalog of supernatural, microbudget comedies. This stamina (or stubbornness depending on how you want to look at it) is impressive not only because of the crew’s collective longevity, but also because how of how well they’ve maintained the silliness at their shared objective’s core. Everyone onscreen might be nearly fifteen years older in Slingshot Cops than they were in Druid Gladiator Clone, but they’re just as big of goofballs as ever, fully committed to the nonsensical absurdity they’re tasked to perform. Even though it’s framed through modern digital equipment instead of adopting the earlier film’s MiniDV camcorder look, Slingshot Cops is of the same quality & wholesomely prankish energy as Druid Gladiator Clone. It’s a consistent commitment to a bit I doubt I’ve ever seen from any filmmaker before, even someone working with 100x Farley’s budget. As with all Motern productions, the existence of the film as a completed product is among Slingshot Cops’s most miraculous accomplishments, but it’s now gotten to the point where Motern’s continued existence itself is the larger, more astounding miracle – something that only becomes more heroic with each subsequent picture.

Matt Farley himself stars in this “supernatural buddy cop comedy” as a loose cannon police officer who’s sworn to protect the small New England town of Woodsville Center. He’s a well-meaning cop (as much as that’s good for), but he often finds himself in “quirky predicaments” that jeopardize his place on the force. In particular, his single-minded obsession with ridding Woodsville Center’s streets of illegal fireworks (which are treated in-film with the same gravitas as heroin) often inspires him to cross the good cop/bad cop line, which sees him demoted and reassigned to tutelage under a more even-keeled, old-timer partner. It turns out, though, that the year-round use of “personal explosives” for “amusement and/or atmospheric aesthetics” is not the only threat to civility in Woodsville Center. The town is also terrorized by the arrival of an international archvillain named Sensefoot, who can steal unsuspecting victims’ senses by touching them with his bare foot. Worse, if he touches their bare foot with his own, he kills them immediately. As if that mythology weren’t overly complicated enough already, Farley’s new partner also has the eccentricity of fighting crime with a slingshot (hence the title), which he arms with carefully-selected acorns. The town also has cartoonish obsessions with cupcakes, folk songs, freethrow basketball contests, and a whole list of other absurdist interests that land Farley & crew in “quirky predicaments” throughout the film. A less developed microbudget comedy would have stuck with a singular idea, framing an entire movie around dogs being terrorized by firework noises or the image of the not-so-mysterious Sensefoot’s glowing appendage approaching from offscreen like a straight razor in a gloved hand from a giallo picture.  By contrast, Farley only sees those details as launching points & an excuse to stage non-sequitur gags. Just describing the basic plot & background mythology of Slingshot Cops is exhausting, which is an impressive thing to be able to say about a movie that was pieced together over a series of weekends & downtimes by longtime friends & amateur collaborators.

One of the first things that stood out to me in Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You!, my first Matt Farley experience, is that characters recount the entire plot of the film in-dialogue every few minutes. It’s a maddening commitment to repetition that only became funnier the more it became punishing. Slingshot Cops similarly goes for broke in its own commitment to repetition. Farley’s protagonist repeats variations of the phrase “Alright, I’ll play it your way” to conclude nearly every conversation. An “Eastern European” character declares his vague nationality at every appearance by declaring “I’m Eastern European!” instead of attempting an identifiable accent. Similarly, cupcakes, dogs’ reactions shots, acorns, and phrases like “thrill-seeking preppie” are repeated at such a consistent rhythm that they can’t help but become funny with time. This repetition is also indicative of Motern’s larger appeal. Slingshot Cops is most impressive as a continuation of good-natured, prankish bit Farley & friends have been repeating onscreen for decades, something that only gets funnier the more you see it echoed in each picture. There’s also a familiarity built into that repetition. These New England nobodies become so familiar as you sink into the Motern catalog that they feel like old friends or even, because you can practically watch them grow up in real time, family. All cults self-brand as welcoming, wholesome families, though, and it’s just as likely that this repetition & familiarity hasn’t become funny to me so much as it’s hypnotized me into a receptive, brainwashed state of joyful compliance. This is usually the point in cult indoctrination where the previously unmentioned orgy breaks out or the cult leader demands access to my (non-existent) life’s savings, a hammer I’m expecting to drop any day now. It can’t be true that Farley & crew are this consistently wholesome & dedicated to friendly collaboration on long-term, absurdly silly art projects without being a secretly evil cult. It’s too good to be true otherwise.

-Brandon Ledet

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Local Legends (2013)

For the past few weeks I’ve been unhealthily fixated on the outsider art projects of Matt Farley and his Motern Media brand. Consistent with the other times I’ve found myself newly obsessed with insular worlds like drag, pro wrestling, or Doris Wishman cheapies, I’ve been obnoxiously shoehorning Farley & Motern into every conversation, stray thought, and Google search I can manage, to the point where I’m certain I’ve become an annoyance to everyone around me. Part of the appeal of Farley’s cinematic output in general is that it’s so aggressively localized that it feels unknowable to newcomers outside his dorkily wholesome New England community. The recurring cast of family & friends that populate Farley’s backyard film productions do become gradually familiar as you sink further into his Motern catalog, but there’s also a mystique to the unfathomable consistency of that recurrence. For instance, the weirdly muscly visage of the Tim & Eric-ready Kevin McGee is immediately fascinating, but only becomes more intriguing as you track the “actor’s” physical transformation over the decade between Druid Gladiator Clone (2002) & Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You! (2012). As much as Farley is making parodically silly horror movies around his new England neighborhood, he’s also documenting the evolution & aging of an insular community of people the outside world knows nothing about. There’s a wealth of material in the Motern catalog, but no immediate context to what you’re watching, so that the only way to fully understand what Farley’s accomplishing with his buddies (most notably his frequent director-of-choice Charles Roxburgh) is to watch all of his available movies. Even though the films are generally short & hosted on easily accessible sites like YouTube, that’s a daunting task, especially in an era where audiences are used to knowing practically everything about a film’s cast, plot, and production history before we experience the finished product for ourselves. Understanding Matt Farley’s work requires obsession, as it requires a hunger for small context clues spread over an untold number of film productions (I can’t even tell you exactly how many movies he’s produced, since even that information is mysteriously inconsistent depending on the source).

It turns out that attempting to piece together the mystery of Matt Farley’s decades-long dedication to microbudget film production through context clues in interviews, Motern Media’s website, and the Important Cinema Club podcast episode where I first discovered his work was essentially a waste of time. In addition to being the most self-aware man alive, Farley is also radically dedicated to existing in the public sphere as an open book; if you want any details about his life’s work, all you have to do is ask. He even frequently includes his phone number (603-644-0048) in the end credits of his films and the lyrics of his songs so that you can call him to ask questions directly. Interviewing Farley about his life & work is also a redundancy in its own way, though, because Farley has already laid out the essential details for all to see in a feature-length narrative film titled Local Legends, available for free on YouTube. Without shame or apology, Local Legends is a 70min infomercial for Matt Farley’s various outsider art projects. The film states in matter-of-fact, brazenly honest terms how & why Farley makes music & movies, as well as where you can find his work & support him financially. In addition to being a feature-length commercial for the Motern Media empire, Local Legends is also an artistic masterpiece, easily my favorite Matt Farley production I’ve seen to date. Any questions I’ve asked myself about his day to day routines, the amount of outside fanfare he’s seen for his work, and the context of where his community of adorable weirdos fits in on his local arts scene are answered plainly in the movie, which triples as a narrative feature, a documentary, and an essay film on the joys & embarrassments of amateur art production in the 2010s. Even beyond the convenient insight it provides into Farley’s Warhol-esque media factory, however, Local Legends is just stunning in its bullshit-free self-awareness as a small-time artist’s self-portrait. Local Legends itself is a kind of paradox, in that it could not exist without decades of back catalog art projects informing what Farley is saying about the nature of outsider art in the film, but it’s also a crowning achievement that feels like a philosophical breakthrough for Farley just as much an outsider’s crash course in his oeuvre. It’s a crass act of self-promotion, but the product being displayed is often about crass self-promotion & amateur hustling, which are necessary for a modern artist’s survival & longevity.

Matt Farley stars in Local Legends as microbudget filmmaker & novelty songwriter Matt Farley. As this is one of the select few of his productions not directed by career-long bestie Charles Roxburgh, Farley’s choice to write, star in, and direct the picture himself with an auteursist omnipresence recalls the unembarrassed narcissism of Woody Allen’s own self-indulgent oeuvre. Farley, of course, blatantly acknowledges this debt to Allen (something that hasn’t aged especially well in the last five years, for extratextual reasons you’re already aware of). He both shoots the film in a digital black & white that recalls Woody Allen‘s visual style and makes verbal references to touchstones like Annie Hall just so you know that the affectation is purposeful. Like with Allen’s works, it’s common for Farley to cast himself as a relatively unexceptional man who has multiple attractive women throwing themselves at him with romantic intent. That trope manifests here in Farley concurrently getting to know two women who are unsubtly interested in dating him, one he mutually cares for and another he finds to be annoying because she “only thinks about herself.” There’s immense irony to that criticism of self-obsession, as the only thing Matt Farley talks about for the entirety of Local Legends is Matt Farley. He recounts, at length, a detailed history of all his various art projects under the Motern Media umbrella, from how they’re painstakingly made to how they’re received and/or ignored, and confesses that he spends a significant portion of his day searching for feedback about his life’s work online (Hi, Matt!). Both the fascination generated by Motern’s backyard productions and the tension that makes Local Legends so rewarding is that Matt Farley pours every waking moment & spare ounce of energy into building a multimedia empire that the world outside his insular social circle of collaborators could not care less about. The Woody Allen-styled romances & flirtations at the film’s center provide a convenient plot structure for Local Legends, but it’s Allen’s narcissism that really provides Farley an interesting lens to put the full scope of his life’s work into perspective in all its magnitude & triviality – sometimes in self-amusement, often in self-deprecation.

My all-time favorite quote about filmmaking is from a Roger Corman interview with the A.V. Club, where the legendary microbudget director explains that cinema is the “preeminent artform of our time” partly because “[movies] are part art and part business. [Movies] are a compromised art form, and we live in a compromised time. And I do believe to be successful over the long run, unless you’re a Federico Fellini or an Ingmar Bergman or a true genius of filmmaking, you have to understand that you’re working in both an art and a business.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a film better demonstrate an understanding of that compromise than Local Legends, which is so blatant about the necessity of commercial intent it would make Roger Corman blush. Besides giving out his phone number and mailing address for anyone who wants to contact him with professional prospects, Farley also explains where you can order his physical media online and the exact math of how he pays his bills by streaming tens of thousands of novelty songs on Spotify. In brutal honesty about the search-optimization aspect of his songwriting process, he details how he’ll find a buzzword like “gluten” to use in a song title because it’ll get instant hits for merely existing, regardless if it’s any good. He shrugs, “People don’t care. They just want a song about gluten.” This commercial crassness is a sign of exhaustion more than anything. Farley is entirely disinterested in fretting over artistic integrity. He builds a meta-commentary within the film where a Corporate Asshole version of himself issues executive commands to his subservient Artist’s side on how to improve the profitability of his various projects, including the very film you’re watching. It’s entirely understandable how he became cynical too, as he portrays in brutal self-cruelty all the various, barely concealed insults artists suffer from family & friends who do not understand the significance of their passion, dismissing it as a silly hobby rather than a worthwhile life’s pursuit. By crassly pandering to the sillier aspects of his work that increases his profits (and, thus, makes it possible for him to continue working), Farley only intensifies outsiders’ dismissal of his art as mindless, anyone-could-do-it frivolity. They were never likely to find his backyard horror comedies and novelty songs about diarrhea worthwhile either way, though, so all he does by leaning into the more profitable aspects of his work is help ensure Motern’s longevity, exactly as Corman advises.

I know the self-portrait Matt Farley constructs in Local Legends to be true to life, because the second we (a lowly, amateur film blog from over a thousand miles away) posted reviews of Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You! & Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas, he was retweeting & promoting them to his dedicated audience of Motern converts and sending us personalized thank you notes. I also know it to be true because I recognize my own life in small-scale art projects (from this blog to long-forgotten punk bands to my dead-end college degree in poetry) in the minor joys & embarrassments that are depicted in all their naked honesty here. No matter how shameless my self-promotion of Swampflix can get or how pointless it may seem to anyone outside my immediate circle, however, I’ve only experienced a microscopic taste of Farley’s commitment to building Motern by hand over the last two decades. There’s a wisdom to Local Legends’s cynicism about the virtue of True Art. It boasts an ingenious shrewdness on how to sustain D.I.Y. media projects over long periods of time by connecting with your audience on a direct, personal level and having no shame in seeking minor financial victories. As much as I can laud the film for being wise, insightful, and admirably honest in its melancholic self-awareness, however, its real selling point is that it’s damn funny. Matt Farley’s art nimbly avoids potential “so bad it’s good” mockery in all of his Motern output by being so deliberately silly & wholesomely earnest that you’d be missing the point entirely by laughing at it. Local Legends confirms that having (and documenting) good-natured, harmless fun with family & friends is most of what he’s seeking to accomplish with Motern and that he’s well-aware of how silly the pictures appear to outsiders. It also confirms that Farley is a genuinely, naturally funny person. He starts the movie delivering punny, Neil Hamburger-style one-liners in a sparsely attended, laughs-light stand-up set, but also peppering the frivolity of that humor with harshly self-depreciating jokes like “I had to break up with my girlfriend because we had nothing in common. For instance, she really likes me and I hate myself.” He then launches into a song about Scarlet Johannsen’s farts, which the audience eats up with an enthusiasm they don’t afford those more artfully constructed, personal observations, which is a perfect sample of the D.I.Y. art project Hell Matt Farey details for the rest of the film to follow.

I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen in recent weeks that I’ve been obsessed with the impossibly niche world of a backyard filmmaker from New England, but I’ve also been struggling to recommend how they can best join in the fun. Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas & Don’t Let the Riverbeast Yet You! were stand-out titles I could cite as favorites of his backyard horror comedies, but it isn’t until you fully sink into his catalog, taking in years of development over multiple films and sampling dozens of extratextual novelty songs, that the full significance of those crown jewels becomes clear. That’s a lot to ask of someone who’s likely never heard of Matt Farley before, especially in an era where it’s difficult to successfully recommend even a minutes-long YouTube clip. In that way, Local Legends is a godsend. It summarizes everything that is wonderful, daunting, immense, and trivial about Matt Farley as an outsider artist in a single 70min morsel – twenty years of unfathomable dedication to obsessive pet projects made digestible in just over an hour’s time. Miraculously, that infomercial style self-review of Farley’s back catalog also stands as his most substantial, rewarding work to date – a weirdly philosophical meta-commentary on what it looks like to make underseen, underappreciated art in the internet age. We live in a time where it’s more affordable to produce & publish movies & music than it ever has been before, which means that there are so many amateur voices in the game it’s near impossible to get noticed, even for someone as naturally entertaining as Matt Farley. Local Legends captures the essence of Matt Farley & Motern Media, but it also captures the current state of online self-publishing at large and, by extension, what self-funded D.I.Y. art projects look like in the 2010s. If Matt Farley ever “makes it big,” it will be because of decades of stubborn dedication & repetition, a ton of hard work for potentially very little reward. It almost doesn’t matter whether or not that happens, though, because he’s already delivered his masterpiece in Local Legends, a movie of and about our time in amateur pop culture.

-Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week 7/19/18

Here’s a quick rundown of all the movies we’re most excited about that are playing on the big screen in New Orleans area this week. Film festival screenings, bizarre cult movie sequels, and niche subject documentaries seem to be ruling the local cinema scene this round, making for an oddly diverse & plentiful crop.

New Releases We Haven’t Seen (Yet)

1. Kubick screenings at Filmtopia – The Prytania Theatre is launching a brand-new film festival this weekend with the very loose theme of “movies good & plenty,” meaning they’re screening plenty of good movies with very little, if any, connection to one another. Out of the twenty or so films listed on the schedule, there’s plenty to be excited about (including a 90s feature from Personal Shopper director Olivier Assayas), but the crown jewel of the collection appears to be  a run of Stanley Kubrick titles rarely seen projected on the big screen: The Shining, Barry Lyndon, The Killing, Eyes Wide Shut, A Clockwork Orange, and Full Metal Jacket. They’re also screening a documentary titled Film Worker, about one of Kubrick’s closest, most consistent collaborators. The festival will run from July 20-26 at Louisiana’s oldest operating single-screen theater. Check out the full lineup here.

2. Unfriended: Dark Web – My personal fascination with technophobic genre films, especially ones fixated on the evils of the internet, once manifested in making everyone else in the Swampflix crew discuss the found footage internet horror Unfriended for a lengthy Movie of the Month conversation. Needless to say, I’m very excited for that film’s follow-up sequel, whether or not that enthusiasm is at all justified.

3. Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again – Speaking of bizarre sequels to cult favorites, this ABBA jukebox musical is a decade behind its 2008 predecessor, but promises so much unembarrassed joy, Cher-delivered sass, and maniacal horniness (the first one practically ends with an orgy) that it’s impossible not to be excited for the series’ return. It’s also the subject of our next podcast episode, to be posted sometime next week.

4. Three Identical Strangers – Documentaries seem to be having A Moment in 2018, as this well-reviewed oddity joins the Fred Rogers & Whitney Houston docs already in theaters, each in ever-expanding wide release. The trailer for this doc introduces a true, tabloidish tale of triplet brothers who were kept unaware of each other’s existence until they happened to discover their unlikely kinship by chance in their college years; it also teases a sinister tale of scientific cruelty & political corruption behind that bizarre occurrence. Looks like a very strange journey with plenty of you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up twists.

Movies We Already Enjoyed

1. Sorry to Bother You – This consensus is to dismiss this movie with descriptors like “messy,” “unsubtle,” and “all over the place” as if those were critical digs instead of exciting invitations. One of the wildest, funniest, most visually inventive political satires of the decade, a knockout comedy with an incredible amount to say about class, race, and organized labor under modern capitalist hierarchies. Easily the best new release screening in New Orleans right now, no matter how “messy” people seem to think it is.

2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – A Fred Rogers documentary that’s all but guaranteed to make you well up with both tears & awe. This film doubles as both a document of a philosophically-minded art project that aired on public television for over three decades (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) and a profile of a fascinating man who’s easy to love but difficult to fully understand.

3. Ant-Man and the Wasp – From Boomer’s review: “Like the first film, Ant-Man and the Wasp prioritizes fun shenanigans over the more superheroics of its MCU brethren. 2015’s Ant-Man was following in the footsteps of what was arguably the franchise’s first true comedy outing in Guardians of the Galaxy, but by foresaking that film’s space operatics for the more terrestrial mundanity of a heist film, it cemented a move that has come to be one of the motivating forces of why people love these movies and keep forking over money for them: humor, plain and simple. This is not a heist film, however, and unlike other outright comedic entries in the MCU, there’s not an easily-identifiable genre or style that director Reed has grafted the Ant-Man team onto this time around.”

4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – This a half-hearted recommendation, because Fallen Kingdom is not a great movie, but it does have a great movie buried within it. There are enough lame jokes, laborious duties to franchise-wide storytelling, and dull moments of forced chemistry between the mismatched leads to nearly ruin the film entirely, but director J.A. Bayona snuck an admirably bizarre B-movie conceit into this wounded behemoth that helps save it from being entirely useless. For a glorious 45 minutes or so, Fallen Kingdom functions as a haunted house Gothic horror flick with dinosaurs instead of ghosts, which is one of the most gloriously ludicrous genre mashups you’ll see onscreen all year, even if it is weighted down by the lumbering beast of a franchise it serves.

-Brandon Ledet

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

There aren’t many things to be grateful for about 2018 as a cultural moment, but I will admit that my heart has been swelling when I think about how much wide audiences are embracing Won’t You By My Neighbor?. Weeks into its surprisingly strong run in New Orleans, I saw the film in a packed theater, the audience brimming with the most palpable enthusiasm I’ve witnessed for a film since Get Out. That’s remarkable for a small-scale documentary about a public broadcast television entertainer who’s been off the air for nearly two decades. Fred Rogers has always been that way, though. He had a hypnotic presence that could instantly lull audiences into a state of open, receptive awe, no matter what menial tasks he was performing for their entertainment. As a kid, some of my favorite segments of his long-running television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, were moments when he would pull everyday objects out of a nondescript box and demonstrate the various things you can do with them. Against all logic, watching Fred Rogers play with a spool of string or a tiny toy car to pique his young viewers’ curiosity was somehow the most captivating thing in the world. It somewhat makes sense, then, that audiences would flock in droves to see a movie about the unusually talented man, whether to relive that captivation or to seek a better understanding of how he pulled it off. It also makes sense that Rogers’s sermons on love, kindness, empathy, and acceptance would beam out like a beacon of hope to modern audiences, as these grim times are in desperate need of a reminder of human goodness, especially reflected in a masculine figure. Still, it’s remarkable that a tiny documentary about such a seemingly non-commercial subject could generate the attention & box office numbers Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is earning; but Fred Rogers has always been a remarkable figure in that way, regardless of time or context.

As a public persona, Fred Rogers was an easy man to love, but a difficult one to fully understand. Rumors about his sexuality and urban legends about his supposed background as a violent military man always swirled around his public image, because no one knew exactly how to process the kind, empathetic, vulnerable version of masculinity he presented onscreen in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? isn’t especially interested in digging beyond Rogers’s surface eccentricities, except to claim that the version of himself that he presented on his show is very true to who he was in real life. Instead of exploring Fred Rogers’s psyche, the film is more a document of a decades-spanning art project, the educational children’s show that earned Rogers fame & adoration. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a philosophically-minded program wherein Rogers intended to conspicuously mold children into feeling loved & accepted and becoming better people. With a seething hatred for the sugary chaos of typical children’s programming (including a visual potshot at the undeniably praiseworthy Pee-wee’s Playhouse in the doc), Rogers sought to slow down the pace of young viewers’ entertainment so that he could connect with his audience on an personal level and let them know they are accepted & valued. Instead of exploiting children’s television as consumer recruitment the way too may programs do, he used the simple means of D.I.Y puppet shows & Daniel Johnston style-piano ballads to stimulate children’s imagination & incite them to emotionally process difficult internal crises like low self-esteem, anger, and political anxiety over events as wide ranging as Bobby Kennedy’s assassination & 9/11 (events kids likely witnessed vicariously, but never had explained to them in a direct, useful way). The most of Fred Rogers’s inner life we see in the film is how in how he expresses his own anxieties & self-doubt through an increasingly raggedy sock puppet avatar named Daniel Striped Tiger. The documentary is mostly concerned with a television show he wrote, produced, and performed with an auteurist vision for thousands of episodes over mutliple decades. As with before the film, the Fred Rogers we’re allowed to know is the Fred Rogers who comes through in his work.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is not at all shy about clashing the values of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with the amoral shithole of our modern, Rogersless world. Visual parallels are drawn between presidents Nixon & Trump to illustrate how little has changed since the 1960s. Puppet shows from the series about a paranoid dictator building a wall to prevent change in his kingdom are presented only for them to hang in the air with appropriate heft. Even more directly, the film asks in blatant terms whether Fred Rogers’s attempt to positively influence America was a success or a failure. It’s easy to see that audiences were mesmerized by his mere presence; children’s eyes widen with discovery & awe as he speaks to them with incredible patience & empathy. It’d also be difficult to spend any two minutes revisiting that awe without welling with tears, as Rogers’s presence still holds that power, even with the remove of this death and the intellectual distance of a documentary lens. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? could easily coast on the immediate power of Rogers’s naturally generated awe, something it flirts with in its rich orchestral score and its storybook illustrations of Daniel Striped Tiger navigating the world as Rogers’s avatar. Since this in no way a fearless dive into the secrets & psyche of Fred Rogers as a private person, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? effortlessly excels as a document of a low-budget children’s show hosted by an ordained minister – part art project and part philosophical quest to reshape children’s minds & (by extension) the future of the country. It’s daring, then, for the film to ask whether that project was a success or a failure in the long run, whether this well-intentioned experiment in mild-mannered, radical children’s programming actually changed the culture it miraculously managed to burrow itself into. It’s daring because, looking around at the modern world (even including the tiny indie theater my audience trashed at our screening without picking up after themselves), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would appear to be a noble failure. Maybe this documentary’s reminder of the attempt will reinvigorate its cause. There are certainly enough eyes on the screen for it to be worth a try. Either way, just because an experiment fails doesn’t mean the attempt wasn’t worth admiration, a sentiment Fred Rogers (and Daniel Striped Tiger) would likely echo if they were still around to do so.

-Brandon Ledet

Sex Work and Lizzie Borden

My favorite image in the entirety of Lizzie Boden’s no-budget bomb-thrower Born in Flames, our current Movie of the Month, is the hands-on application of a condom. Casually included in one of the many montages set to Red Krayola’s titular anthem that repeats throughout the film, there’s something intensely provocative about that matter-of-fact condom application. Juxtaposed with a wide range of images depicting labor derisively considered “women’s work,” the hands-on work of applying a condom is (somewhat in dark humor) positioned as a burden often laid on women, no different than dental assistant labor, child care, call-center duty, or the factory work of shrink-wrapping raw chicken. Its contextless, matter-of-fact presentation leaves a lot of room for interpretation, though, dividing me & Alli on whether that image was being coded as domestic labor of professional sex work. Similarly, Born in Flames’s attitude toward sex work at large is open for interpretation, as it’s a narratively disjointed picture that relies in the strengths of ideas & images (like the contextless condom application) more than concrete explanations of intent. My personal interpretation of Born in Flames saw its attitude toward sex work as the only aspect of the film’s radical politics that did not age particularly well. In my view, the film advocates for the abolition of sex work as an industry, lumping it in with rape & gendered subjugation. Boomer & Alli both saw it differently, saying Born in Flames presents sex work as just any other kind of job (albeit one in desperate need of advocacy for workers’ rights), which would put it closer in line with modern political thinking on the subject, as opposed to the more hardline stances of feminism past. It could be that I was lumping individual characters’ negativity toward sex work in with Lizzie Borden’s own views; all sides of nearly every political issue are allowed to conflict onscreen in Born in Flames with equal weight. It’s tough to tell with just one picture as evidence, especially one this deliberately disjointed.

Thankfully, Lizzie Borden’s next feature film, Working Girls, delves further into this exact topic. Depicting a single workday in an upscale Manhattan brothel, Working Girls finds Lizzie Borden tackling the topic of sex work head-on and at feature length.  It even follows a much more straight-forward, linear narrative than Born in Flames, so much so that it could easily be adapted into a stage play. Weirdly, though, it never fully settled my mind on Borden’s political views of sex work as an industry, which is indicative of both her own internal ideological conflicts and the complex nature of the subject. ­­Louise Smith stars in Working Girls as an aspiring photographer with a live-in girlfriend (and daughter) who secretly pays her bills by working johns in a brothel/apartment that resembles a windowless version of the Seinfeld set. Over the course of the film she works a double shift, making money off a variety of men who visit the apartment by appointment and pay to spend time with her in rooms upstairs. As the title suggests, brothel work is depicted in the film as if it were any other kind of industry. The workers who comprise the operation are tasked to alternate personalities & functions, from receptionist to office girl to therapist to hostess to actor to lover to dominatrix to housecleaner, as the minute-to-minute demands of the job shift. The manual labor of condom application implied by that single image in Born in Flames is expanded to include used condom disposal, laundering of soiled towels, and the insertion of diaphragms. This matter-of-fact presentation of sex work in a functioning office context even comes with a demanding boss who takes credit for all their employees’ labor and changes the mood of the room depending on their emotional outbursts. Judging by its office environment hierarchies & work flows, Working Girls indeed reinforces the idea that Lizzie Borden views sex work as just being like any other profession. That would indicate Born in Flames’s views were much closer to modern radical politics than the prostitution abolitionist views of feminism past. That’s not all that’s going on in the film, however.

The function & method of sex work might be framed in the context of office culture mundanity in Working Girls, but the sex itself is a punishing, relentless nightmare that complicates that intellectual distancing. The disjointed landscapes of Art of Noise-style music & disembodied grunts mix with subtly grotesque expressions of masculine violence in a never-ending nightmare that resembles an early 80s slasher with condom-wrapped dicks instead of glistening kitchen knives. Consensual trading of cash for pleasure shifts into acts of rape within the span of a single phrase or physical gesture. The capitalist hierarchy & financial desperation that presses its boot on the neck of the workers with increasing intensity makes the cramped setting feel like an ongoing hostage crisis. Even the women eating junk food between customers is a stomach-churning display, an effect Borden plays for a sinisterly humorous tone. Working Girls is often darkly funny, but it is first & foremost dark, depicting even the most privileged corners of sex work as an inherently exploitative industry hinged on power, greed, and violence. Whether that criticism is aimed at sex work in particular or capitalism at large is up for interpretation (I assume it’s a healthy dose of both), as the brothel setting of Working Girls is essentially the entirety of capitalism in an apartment-sized microcosm. I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a film with this much sex play as aggressively unerotic as what’s on display here, resulting in what’s basically a horror film about the hour-to-hour mundanity of sex work (and, by extension, all labor under capitalism), a slow burn creep-out & a low-key political screed.

Where that leaves Borden’s political views on sex work at large is still as hazy as the contextless, provocative imagery of Born in Flames, but that’s honestly a large part of what makes her work so engaging. According to Borden herself, she made Working Girls after collaborating with the women who starred in & crewed Born in Flames, noticing that a large number of them were financially dependent on sex work to survive (and had fascinating stories to tell on the subject). That at least acknowledges that if Borden was politically opposed to sex work as an industry, it was a question of anti-oppressive ideals, not of denigrating individual people it employed. The shame is that we never had a chance to see her expand even further on the subject. Because of the studio influence that compromised her later work, Borden considers Born in Flames & Working Girls to be the only two titles that are truly hers as the principle artist at the helm. With more, better funded movies her world view may have had a chance to clarify, evolve, or self-conflict in a clearer political display, but instead she’s been effectively silenced by a lack of opportunity. Luckily, the two films she was able to compete without outside fuckery are both ideologically dense, provocative works of D.I.Y. political filmmaking, as well as essential documentation of a long-gone, grimy era in NYC history. I’m unsure of my interpretations of either film, something that’s made no better through repetition, but I’m also awestruck by the potency of her D.I.Y. matter of fact imagery. Isolated images of a condom application, a greasy cheeseburger, a pantied spanking, and an exploding World Trade Center miniature will haunt me forever in their political implications & daringness to provoke. In two no-budget films, Borden left me with more to think about & debate within myself than most directors achieve with entire catalogs of professionally financed, polished studio productions. That’s about as punk as you can get, no matter what your exact political stances may be or how they may age with time.

For more on July’s Movie of the Month, the D.I.Y. feminist screed Born in Flames, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film and last week’s look at its place in the No Wave movement.

-Brandon Ledet

Fireworks (2018)

It’s always interesting what international media does or does not culturally translate in its voyage to America. The animated supernatural romance Your Name., for instance, seems like it should have been a massive crossover hit in the US, but it barely made a splash. The top-selling anime film of all time, Your Name. expertly plucked lovelorn teens’ heartstrings to a gorgeous visual palette and emo mall punk soundtrack, inspiring so many repeat visits to the theater in its target demographic that it became an instant cultural phenomenon. That phenomenon translated to a mere faint whimper in its US release, however, where the movie quickly died in near-empty theaters (despite being one of last year’s best domestic releases in my estimation). Meanwhile, in Japan, Your Name. was so successful that it’s already inspired a wave of pale imitators. Advertised as being “from the producers of Your Name.,” Fireworks (full title: Fireworks – Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?) is another animated teen romance that filters low stakes emotional crises through a high stakes supernatural plot. With a reliance on cheap commuter animation to fill in its gaps and a ludicrous story that barely holds itself together in any intelligible way, it’s clear that Fireworks was rushed to market to capitalize on Your Name.’s (Japanese market) success as quickly as possible, quality be damned. It can’t help but open itself up to direct comparison because of that lineage, a side-by-side that is unforgiving to Fireworks’s lack of emotional depth, intelligent construction, and genuine beauty. Even so, the film is mildly enjoyable as a novelty, a quirky footnote to Your Name.’s instantaneous legacy (outside the USA).

Two teen boys long for the love of the same troubled classmate, who has just learned that she’ll be moving away to a different town at the end of the school year. Unbeknownst to the boys who carry a torch for her, she plans to escape her fate by running away on the next train to Tokyo with one of her would-be suitors in tow for company. She decides the lucky victor based on a swimming pool race, which is treated in-film as the single most significant athletic event of all time. After the two teens pair off for a date at the town’s celebratory fireworks display, the left-behind, heartbroken third makes a wish on a magical orb that the swimming match had gone differently. If this is all sounds absurdly melodramatic, it’s because it very much is. There might be something to how teenage crushes are treated in Fireworks the way they feel in real life: like the biggest deal in the world, a monumental flood of lust & embarrassment. For the most part, though, the characters’ heightened earnestness over minor social exchanges feels entirely inhuman & absurd. It’s a good thing, then, that most of the runtime distracts itself with the supernatural machinations of the wish-granting orb, which the teens use to keep resetting their young-love predicament until the right couple can successfully escape fate & run away to happiness. The more they reset the loop of their fateful swimming race & fireworks date, however, the further their version of reality slips away from the physical world we know, allowing the animators to play around with surreal, computer-smoothed fantasy-scapes overloaded with underwater distortions, golden adornments, and abstracted fireworks.

There is one thing Fireworks gets exactly right about human behavior: teenagers are grotesque, horned-up idiots (I can confirm this because I used to be one myself). As much as the kids of Fireworks might feel like over-the-top caricatures in moments when they’re frozen motionless by the slightest confrontation with social anxiety, they feel entirely real in the stretches of juvenile dialogue when they’re cracking poop jokes, drooling over teachers’ breasts, and having relentless, inane arguments about whether fireworks appear round or flat when they explode (a topic that repeats so often it’s included in the film’s long-title). Besides its bastardization of Your Name.’s basic formula, most of Fireworks’s novelty lies in the juxtaposition of its beautifully cheesy, heavenly screensaver imagery and its central subject of grotesque teenage horniness disguising itself as romance. Your Name. generated a deep well of empathy, curiosity, and genuine beauty that convinced audiences its central romance was powerful enough to supernaturally break through the barriers of space & time. When the shit & tits-obsessed knuckleheads of Fireworks attempt the same romantic transcendence (with the help of a fireworks display and a magical orb) the sentiment plays like a bizarre joke. It’s charming in its own way, though, if not only for its very existence as a mockbuster version of a much better film that, at best, barely has earned a cult status in the U.S. If Your Name. failed to translate to American audiences in all its transcendent beauty, it’s difficult to imagine this rushed-to-market frivolity faring much better. Even more dedicated anime nerds will likely struggle with finding much value in its mediocre charms as an occasionally beautiful, relentlessly cheesy, oddly grotesque teen melodrama. I (mostly) got a kick out of it, though, as it helped further illustrate what makes its more substantial predecessor so goddamn great.

-Brandon Ledet

Evils of the Night (1985)

At the center of every early 80s slasher is a self-contradictory attitude towards sex. As a genre, slashers are obsessed with teenage horniness. However, they also reinforce old-fashioned values towards sexuality by punishing teen libidos with swift deaths, usually before the desire is consummated. The slasher is an evolution of the classic “road to ruin” exploitation picture in that way, allowing its audience to indulge in the thrill of young people (especially women) misbehaving, only to be brutally punished for the transgression. The 1985 sci-fi horror Evils of the Night starts as a brilliant subversion of that prudish, self-contradictory moralism. Evils of the Night begins the way most slashers do: gawking at teens as they make love in the woods, then are attacked by a mysterious, masked assailant. What’s different is how far the violence-inciting lovemaking goes. Implied cunnilingus & a young woman licking her male partner’s chest hairs immediately indicate that Evils of the Night is willing to push its prurient obsession with teenage horniness beyond the sheepish boundaries of the typical slasher. Then the young dummies start fucking, like, for real. The sex is likely simulated, but it is graphic, falling an insertion shot short of hardcore pornography. A dimwitted teen is still choked to death by an off-screen killer mid-coitus, so the movie easily qualifies as a genuine slasher specimen. It’s also a softcore porno, though, one where 80s pornstar Amber Lynn is joined by the likes of aged television personalities John Carradine, Julie Newmar (Catwoman), and Tina Louise (Ginger, of Gilligan’s Island). And as if that weren’t enough bizarro energy for a 74 minute horror cheapie, the movie is also overrun with 1950s-style space aliens, just because.

On Wikipedia, Evils of the Night is listed as a “science fiction/porno horror” hybrid. This is technically accurate, but it’s difficult to say if any one of the three genres listed in that descriptor are fully satisfied by the film as a finished product. The first half of Evils of the Night is a delightful novelty. Most cheap horror films are usually criticized for having porn-level acting & sets anyway, so it’s oddly refreshing to see one follow through on that (usually unintended) atmosphere. Suntanned idiots pound cheap beer & skinny-dip in a secluded campsite lake while an 80s pop music soundtrack inanely rattles, “Boys will be boys, that’s how they’ll always be.” The only thing that feels out of place is that the genre’s juvenile fixation on naked breasts is dragged out to an absurd length, to the point where two girls are sensually rubbing suntan lotion on each other’s areolas in a display of true, helpful friendship. This gaggle of horned-up teen idiots are incrementally thinned out by elderly garage mechanics in ski masks, who abduct them in small batches and sell them alive to a nearby “hospital” run by space aliens who trade gold coins for teen blood. The sci-fi costuming of the hospital nursing staff looks like an Atomic Age diner-themed strip club uniform, but the nurses themselves never get in on the lurid sex action enjoyed by the pre-abducted teens (outside some mild lesbian caresses). Instead, they shoot stun gun laser beams out of their space alien finger rings and await orders from the bombshell doctor in charge (Newmar), as if this were a colorized Ed Wood picture instead of a slasher-spoofing “porno horror.” Unfortunately, the two halves of the film, the sex slasher and the retro sci-throwback, never converge with any satisfaction. Instead, the movie is seemingly zapped of all its energy (and budget) midway through and wastes an alarming portion of its runtime in the wicked mechanics’ garage, patiently waiting for the credits to roll.

The first shot of Evils of the Night is an impressive special effects display of a UFO landing in the woods, teasing a grand sci-fi spectacle the movie has no intention to deliver. By the time you realize the entire third act is going to be staged in an unadorned garage, however, it becomes clear that special effects footage was lifted from a better-funded production. Had the sci-fi portion of the film led to the hospital staff’s grotesque practical effects transformations into alien beasts it could have made a substantial mark as a late-right cult film oddity. Instead, it drops the two things that make it notable as a variation on the slasher genre (the aliens and the sex) and concludes with two greasy creeps wielding phallic industrial drills, a display we’ve seen pulled off before (and better) in titles like Slumber Party Massacre & Body Double. It’s almost bizarre enough in that opening, pornographic stretch to make the third act’s doldrums worthwhile, though. Evils of the Night only becomes bland once it stops having sex and starts playing its straight-forward slasher beats as if they were inherently interesting on their own. With a more punched-up conclusion (either through space alien transformations or more lakeside skin-lotioning) it could have been a midnight movie classic. Instead, it’s the kind of midnight movie that starts as perversely thrilling, then puts you to sleep halfway through.

-Brandon Ledet

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Let me get the hottest take you’ll read in this review out of the way upfront: 1997’s The Lost World is the best film in the Jurassic Park franchise. As a technical achievement & a special effects showcase, there’s no topping the original Jurassic Park film from 1993, but The Lost World has a much more exciting, bonkers energy to it as a mean, over-the-top novelty in a way that’s always stuck with me. I prefer Spielberg when he embraces the B-movie spirit of his genre films, which are essentially $100+mil versions of Roger Corman’s schtick, instead of trying to “elevate” them into respectable material. The jump scares, suburban-invasion monster attacks, and raptor-kicking gymnastics of The Lost World strike the perfect B-movie tone needed to bring the Jurassic Park franchise into what it always pretends to be but rarely is: a series of creature features about the horrors of dinosaurs invading the modern world. I wasn’t much impressed by Colin Trevorrow’s recent soft-reboot to the franchise, Jurassic World (outside Bryce Dallas Howard’s laughably awful performance therein), but its own horror-centric sequel attempts the same B-movie revitalization that The Lost World brought to its predecessor in a way I can’t help but appreciate. Fallen Kingdom is dumber, meaner, and more over-the-top than the first Jurassic World, but it leans so heavily into the franchise’s modern world dino-horror tendencies that it feels like a remarkable improvement anyway. The only problem is that its characters & dialogue aren’t anywhere near as interesting as its big picture ideas.

Chris Pratt & Bryce Dallas Howard return as the world’s blandest romantic duo, this time with Howard’s absurdly inhuman performance zapped of its eccentricities so that she’s just as uninteresting as Pratt (although she is introduced in an audience-trolling shot that starts with her infamous high heel running shoes). They team up to rescue the world’s remaining dinosaurs from the island where the previous film was staged, as it is under the threat of a very active volcano. Unbeknownst to them, the privatized military they’re helping “rescue” these endangered dinos are actually villainous capitalists who are tasked with abducting the poor beasts only to sell them as organic weapons on the black market. This sets up a political dichotomy between bleeding-heart animal rights activists dedicated to “Save Our Dinos” and capitalist meanies who only want to ravage the earth for “easy” profit (there’s got to be a better way to make money than herding and capturing dinosaurs). The movie uses that political divide to shoehorn in some painfully unfunny anti-Trump humor with throwaway lines about “nasty women,” CNN scrolls joking about the president’s science denial, and a villainous turn from Toby Jones as a dino auctioneer with a grotesque orange-hair combover. The political humor is too vague & out-of-place to mean much of anything, except that the movie is going to age about as well as a canned fart. Likewise, the volcanic dino rescue is an over-labored setup for the movie’s much more interesting second half, even if its lava explosion action sequence does generate some memorable imagery. Fallen Kingdom opens with a punishing tedium not seen in this franchise since the doldrums of Jurassic Park III, so it’s downright miraculous that the film turns itself around enough to thrive as an over-the-top novelty horror in its second half.

All credit to Fallen Kingdom‘s back-half turnaround as a passably decent horror film goes to director J.A. Bayona (hot off the heels of his undervalued fantasy drama A Monster Calls). Outside a few moments of dino-melting volcanic mayhem in the opening stretch, Bayona treats Fallen Kingdom’s first hour as a necessary evil to bring the movie (and the dinos) to where he truly wants to go: a haunted mansion. Bayona comes alive in the film’s second half, where a dinosaur auction goes inevitably wrong and a small crew of unlikely caricatures are locked in a dark Gothic manor with loose, prehistoric monsters. The better half of Fallen Kingdom is a haunted house horror movie with dinosaurs instead of ghosts, the most exciting the franchise has seen since the suburban invasion themes of The Lost World. The way Bayona plays with odd imagery, like dino shadows being cast by lightning flashes or an encroaching claw reaching to rip a child out of the safety of their bed, is some surreal horror nonsense I can’t help but appreciate for its B-movie flavored audacity. The problem is that the movie tries way too hard to justify the indulgence in its over-labored setup (the same way Rampage over-explained a “plausible” reason for its own monster mayhem earlier this year, when it should have stuck to the simplicity of its video game source material). The script also could have used a few joke punch-ups from writers who are, you know, actually funny. Neither of these issues are necessarily Bayona’s fault, though, and the director makes the best of the material he can when he’s actually let loose to play around with the film’s Gothic horror hook (recalling an absurd revision of his much better-written haunted house film The Orphanage).

The best chance Fallen Kingdom had to be its ideal self was if it were never attached to the Jurassic Park franchise at all. It opens performing the labor of tying its haunted dino house conceit into the mess leftover from the first Jurassic World movie and “closes” by setting up a clear path for the next installment. This post-MCU dedication to franchise filmmaking is a massive burden on the movie’s shoulders, barely leaving any room for its central hook to fully deliver the goods, all for the sake of cross-film storytelling logic. Maybe this burden wouldn’t be as noticeable if the characters were more engaging or the humor successfully landed (that’s generally how it works in the MCU, anyway). As is, Fallen Kingdom barely squeaks by as an enjoyable big-budget Roger Corman descendant, when it should have been the second-best film in the franchise (after The Lost World, naturally). It’s doubtful we’ll ever get another haunted house dino horror film again, so this one’s novelty deserves to be cherished, but it’s also a shame that the opportunity was buried under so much debt to a franchise that doesn’t deserve the effort.

–Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week 7/12/18

Here’s a quick rundown of the movies we’re most excited about that are playing on the big screen in the New Orleans area this week. The selection is a little thin this round (in numbers, not quality), but that’s about to change with the upcoming, first-ever Filmtopia film festival launching at Prytania Theatre later this month.

New Releases We Haven’t Seen (Yet)

1. Sorry to Bother You – Although I’ve been anticipating this surrealist satire since it made a huge splash at Sundance early this year, I can’t report many details to anyone not already on the hook because I’ve been trying to go in as blind as possible myself. The trailer teases some Michel Gondry-style visual experimentation mixed with no-fucks-given social satire and a knockout cast that includes Tessa Thomson, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer and, in the lead role, Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield. This is one you want to see big, loud, and early, as it promises to be a visual spectacle & a political bomb-thrower everyone will be discussing for the rest of the year (and beyond).

3. Ant-Man and the Wasp – Just a couple months after the exhaustive spectacle of Avengers: Infinity War, it’d be understandable if MCU burnout kept most people from being too excited for another entry into the franchise. Like The Guardians of the Galaxy before it, though, the first Ant-Man film was surprisingly charming & lightweight in its allowance to play around in isolation from the more labored, franchise-wide concerns of the MCU, so this sequel could be good for some frivolous, one-off fun. Boomer & I were both positive on its predecessor in our joint Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X. review, so I’m more than willing to return for more.

Movies We Already Enjoyed

1. Yellow Submarine (1968) – A 4k restoration of the animated Beatles classic theatrically re-released for its 50th anniversary. This movie cheats a little in dubbing in the Fab Four’s voices with impersonators (when they’re not singing, at least), but more than makes up for that faux pas with a non-stop onslaught of trippy visuals. Only screening at Prytania Theatre for a single-week engagement.

2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – A Fred Rogers documentary that’s all but guaranteed to make you well up with both tears & awe. This film doubles as both a document of a philosophically-minded art project that aired on public television for over three decades (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) and a profile of a fascinating man who’s easy to love but difficult to fully understand. Enjoying its third week of screenings in the city, this tiny film is still miraculously gaining momentum, even joining the Yellow Submarine restoration for a week-long run at Prytania (which is apparently our MVP for the week).

-Brandon Ledet

Episode #60 of The Swampflix Podcast – Icaros: A Vision (2017) & A Mid-Year Return to the Best of 2017

Welcome to Episode #60 of The Swampflix Podcast. For our sixtieth episode, CC joins James & Brandon to discuss the most noteworthy movies from last year theyve seen in the six months since they made their respective Top Films of 2017 lists.  Also, Brandon makes James watch the meditative ayahuasca drama Icaros: A Vision (2017) for the first time. Enjoy!

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

– Brandon Ledet, James Cohn, and CC Chapman