The Butt-Numb-a-Thon film event is part sheer unadulterated glee, part gruelling endurance test. First, you have to apply to attend, and then hope desperately that you make it in. Then, assuming all goes well, you arrive at the theater at noon on one day, and exit sometime after noon on the next day. In between, Harry Knowles just shows you stuff. You don’t know what he’s going to show you. It might be a sneak premier. It might be a vintage film. It might be awesome. It might be horrible. You don’t know. You just need to summon all your zen powers and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.
Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2012, aka BNAT 14, is the 11th BNAT I’ve attended. I’m one of the lucky few to be invited back year after year, but I honestly never want to take that for granted. I consider the event my Christmas, where I spend a weekend in Austin, TX with my cinematic family. I’m lucky to be part of a large group of Minnesotans that also get to attend every year (and who are the original reason I was first able to attend the event), and this is the event where I actually get to spend time with them. Thanks to BNAT, this group of friends has expanded to include people who live all over the country and all over the world.
So, I love BNAT, and deeply thank Harry Knowles for turning his birthday into an amazing event that actually gives back to everyone who attends.
This year’s BNAT was extra special on a personal front for two reasons: my filmmaking buddy Jerry Belich got in for the first time and got seated to my left, and the guys who made Raiders: The Adaptation were seated to my right. BNAT is an awesome event in itself. It’s even better when you’re also flanked by awesome people. I can’t explain how amazing it was to sit next to Jerry when we each saw The Hobbit for the first time, one year after sweding the trailer. I really can’t explain the hilarity of sitting next to Chris Strompolos while we both cringed at the “secret movie”. (More on that later.)
Aside from that, this year’s BNAT film lineup was amazing. There have been years with bigger “win” moments, but there are few years that were as consistently fun. This year’s lineup was very light on premiers, which meant that six of the eleven films were vintage. I love the vintage films at BNAT, but this year had the unusual hiccup (for me) of lining up three films in a row that I’d already seen. Not only that, I’d seen all three of them in the last year. That said, they’re all awesome movies, so I still had a great time sharing them with others. Also, one of the films (Nightmare Alley), was actually on my “I wish Harry would show this at BNAT” list that I keep on my iPhone. Score a point for me!
Anyway, here’s a blow-by-blow account of Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2012. I’ve linked supplemental materials as necessary (there are a couple great Q&As online). In addition to those links, I’ve also built a YouTube playlist of all the trailers I could find, and here’s a link to my full gallery of BNAT photos. Enjoy!
Arrive at theater early; help pass out posters and swag bags to attendees.
Note: There’s a running joke at BNAT where Harry always threatens to play Teen Wolf, but the print always melts after the first minute or two. BNAT 13 was even named “BNAT13WOLF” as a nod to the joke. This time, the film played until the final scene… at which point it melted. Twice. We never got to see the climactic moment.
I heard from Harry later that playing Teen Wolf was a play for time. They were going to let it run until Peter Jackson arrived, and then burn it… but his plane got delayed.
Introduction to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.
Introduction by Harry
Guys, Broadway Melody of 1940 is amazing. Eleanor Powell is a show-stoppingly amazing tap dancer, and it’s criminal she didn’t get more work. Fred Astaire is great as always, but he nearly pales next to her. Amazing.
The only color Busby Berkeley musical, The Gang’s All Here turns into the 2001 of musical insanity. Carmen Miranda is in it, fruit and all, and by the end, she looks relatively ordinary in comparison to the downright kaleidoscopic pre-TRON circular neon I don’t even know how the hell to describe it. Also, giant bananas.
I’ll talk at length about this film in a separate post. It’s quite an interesting little horror film.
Video introduction / birthday greeting from Brad Pitt
This film has a four-way win with Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, and William Powell. Fun!
Break – Jerry proves that he can say the words “squib squid” 50 times in a row without getting tongue-tied
Introduction from Harry
Even if I could tell you what this film was, it wouldn’t help you understand what it was. I coined the term “exquisite incompetence” to describe it, a term that I would also use to describe things like The Room and Birdemic.
As mind-breakingly terrible as the film was, the experience of watching it with the BNAT audience is one of my favorite cinematic experiences ever.
Introduction by Harry
I plan to write about this film at length. It’s one of the greatest vintage films I watched this year.
Jimmy Cagney at his best. “I’m on top of the world, ma!”
Q&A with Paul Feig
…who showed up all our smelly, numb asses by showing up at 8 AM in a suit, and then giving us all free donuts.
Trailer (red band): The Heat (2013)
It’s hard to go wrong with death roller derby in the morning. Also, they showed this film off a gorgeous 35mm print, showing off all the retro-futurist architecture and decor.
Introduction by Harry
This is the one film I really didn’t care for. I like Stallone in his well-seasoned late years, but unfortunately the film around him has a terminal lack of logic or anything interesting. The main character felt like a Mary Sue. I really wanted this to be a return-to-form for director Walter Hill, but it just sort of was a dud.