Author Archives: Chebutykin

Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2015

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The BNAT 2015 audience during a break in the middle of the night.

Once again this past December, I was given the honor of joining the audience of the Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, TX. For 24 hours, around 200 or so hardcore movie nerds and I indulged in whatever cinematic glory that Harry Knowles felt like pouring into our eye sockets.

Windy Bowlsby, Meghan Murphy, and I already talked at length about the sights and sounds of BNAT 2015 over on Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome, but I also like to create a yearly text-and-link list of everything we saw. Alongside the movies, we get a host of amazing vintage trailers, so if you would like to see a little piece of the Butt-Numb-a-Thon, you can click the links below and see it for yourself.

Also, I’ve created a full playlist of all the links below on YouTube, if you’d just like to marathon all the videos.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

I sucked at keeping it together in 2015.

No, that’s probably not quite right, even though that’s how it feels on the first day of 2016. I sucked at keeping my brain together in 2015. On the outside, if I look at the evidence, there’s a lot I did in 2015 that should make me proud. The fact that I accomplished any of it while being sabotaged by my own personal issues is a wonderment. It’s weird that I can look back on all the stuff that happened in 2015 and only see weight gain, daily struggles with mental illness, far too little creativity, and way too much alcohol.

This is my first Tin Lizard blog post in over a year, which belies a year were I felt I was either doing too little of import or was doing too much to talk about it. I look at my computer records and see swaths of unedited photos and the sputtered sparks of once-promising projects. It’s like simultaneously looking at a year that didn’t happen and a year that was too full to have any sense applied to it.

Thus, to smack my brain back to reality, I need to list what I actually accomplished in 2015. I need to dump all the junk out of the box so I can sift through and find the keepers. Perhaps then I’ll be able to hash out what truly has been missing.

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Butt-Numb-a-Thon 2014

We miss you, Holly.

BNAT missed you, Holly!

For the last thirteen years, I’ve had the honor to attend the Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, TX, for which I am ever thankful to cinematic madman Harry Knowles.

I won’t delve too deeply into my overall experience right now, since a) I don’t have the photos edited yet, and b) I’ve talked about everything at length for upcoming episodes of Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome and The Geek Life. However, I do have a tradition of cataloging every little thing that played at BNAT each year, including the trailers, so you can at least relive a little bit of BNAT yourself.

In addition to the links below, I’ve created a playlist on YouTube of all the linked videos I could find. Enjoy!

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So, let’s talk about The Interview…

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Seth Rogen at Butt-Numb-a-Thon in Austin, TX, on December 13th, 2014. This is the last time The Interview was screened, and two days before studios started refusing to play the film.

Over the last few days, a movie became the biggest news story in America. Thanks to hackers who held Sony hostage with embarrassing e-mails, confidential employee information, and eventually terrorist threats, The Interview has been pulled from distribution. As of the time of this writing, speculation from the FBI is that the hackers are associated with North Korea.

But I bet you’re wondering: is the movie any good? Is this movie worth all the furor?

Last Saturday, I was at a 24-hour movie festival in Austin, TX called The Butt-Numb-a-Thon. In a nutshell, we show up to the theater with no idea of what films will play. We could be seeing premieres, vintage movies, or, well, just about anything. And one of the things that scrolled in front of our eyes was The Interview.

This was two days before the terrorism threats hit the headlines. The screening I saw was feted with confetti cannons, a live appearance and Q&A by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and 20-foot-tall banners bearing Kim Jong-Un’s face. Everyone received rocket-shaped sippie cups bearing logos of the film. And, of course, we got the film itself.

The Interview is… okay. It has problems, but I laughed a lot, and the audience around me sure laughed a lot, too.

The general plot, as I’m sure you’ve already heard, is this: Seth Rogen and James Franco play bumbling journalists who somehow score a Frost/Nixon-style interview with Kim Jong-Un. The US government intervenes and asks them to assassinate the North Korean leader. Of course, when they arrive in North Korea, wacky hijinks ensue.

I am generally lukewarm on Seth Rogen, mostly because his manchild schtick wears a little thin on me. I like the subjects he picks as targets for comedy, but the reality of his comedy rarely lives up to its promise. The Interview bears a lot of these same problems, but it succeeds more than most other Rogen vehicles I’ve seen.

Where The Interview truly wins is in its performances. The actors make this comedy 100% worth watching, even though not all the jokes land well. James Franco and Seth Rogen have amazing chemistry, and watching the two of them riff off each other is fantastic. But even better is Randall Park, who is hitting for the bleachers as Kim Jong-Un. Park takes over every scene, playing Kim Jong-Un as a sort of meek superfan of Franco’s character. (During the Q&A after the film, Rogen and Goldberg talked about how Park’s performance choices dramatically informed the plot of the film, to the point where the film’s best script choices were made because of him.)

Where The Interview stumbles is in the political commentary, which is puddle-deep and not really engaged with outside of the dialogue. It’s clear that the filmmakers didn’t really know what to do with the film once it arrives in North Korea, perhaps because the real North Korea is such an information vacuum. The film is better when it’s poking fun at American media and when it’s simply playing with its characters. This surely is no Great Dictator or Dr. Strangelove, but perhaps it wasn’t really meant to be.

Also, a lot of the comedy is really dumb. I mean, really really dumb. There are more butt jokes in this movie than there are turtlenecks in Love Actually. So many butt jokes. Anyway, dumb comedy is not my thing. If that’s your thing, The Interview would probably make you laugh more than it made me laugh, and you would laugh a lot.

So, given that the film is okay, is it worth fighting for?

YES. ABSOLUTELY.

Part of protecting freedom means protecting the stupid shit as well as the grand ideas. If Sony smothers the film entirely just so it can take the insurance money, I hope some office patriot leaks the film online.

Lessons of Holly

Melissa_and_HollyI don’t remember when I first met Holly. She just always seemed to be part and parcel of the Butt-Numb-a-Thon experience. Every year, when I’d go down to Austin, TX, chances were pretty good that Holly was also there, having traveled from Atlanta. Holly was always a burst of energy. She’d instantly befriend the new folks. She’d remember you even if she’d only met you briefly years ago. She’d wrap you up in a hug when you arrived, and she’d hug the hell out of you when you left.

I’d run into Holly several times per year. I’d run into her at Dragon*Con and at Fantastic Fest. She’d always have a story to tell. She’d introduce me to random people she’d just met. She’d always have a different hair color.

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I remember one Fantastic Fest where I had just seen a film named Love, which was set on the International Space Station. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, led by none other than video game designer/astronaut Richard Garriott. I sat through most of the Q&A baffled by the fact that I was in the same room with Lord British from Ultima, and that Lord British had lived in space.

After the Q&A, the audience got up and started to leave the room. I saw Holly near the front of the theater, so I walked up to say hi. She was chatting with some other folks, but when I arrived she said, “Oh, I want you to meet someone!”

I was then led by the hand to up to Richard Garriott, who’d she’d just met and of course immediately befriended.

“Richard! This is my friend, Melissa! She’s an amazing person, and you two should know each other.”

Dumbfounded, I shook the hand of Lord British. The part of my brain that still functioned had an internal dialogue that went something like Holly what the fuck why are you talking me up as awesome to somebody who has LIVED IN OUTER SPACE?

But Richard was totally cool. By the time five minutes had passed, I had learned a lot about how people poop in space, all because Holly talked me up to Lord British.

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Holly loved people. She was a main driving force of the BNAT Facebook group. She would welcome the new folks. She kept the fires of discussion stoked during the year. She was one of the reasons that the BNAT family of attendees really is like a family. She was like that one fun, wild aunt who would always keep the conversation going at Thanksgiving.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say anything mean about another human being.

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#ff2013 has marked me for life.Last year, at the closing party of Fantastic Fest, I was one of the lucky folks on the short list to get a free tattoo. It was a long wait, but Holly would drop by every now and then to make sure I wasn’t dying of boredom. I think she even brought me a beer at one point.

When I was called up by the tattoo artist, Holly was there like a shot. See, I’d chosen the top of my foot as an excellent place for this tattoo. I’ve gotten tattoos before, so I knew what to expect, but I knew that running a tattoo gun over the tiny bones of the foot would hurt like the dickens. I was prepared to grit my teeth on my own, but Holly would hear none of that. She was determined to keep me distracted while I got jabbed thousands of times by an inky needle.

So, all during the procedure, Holly held my hand and told me stories about when she worked as an abortion clinic escort. They were a mix of serious and funny stories, told with the pace and speed of a machine gun. She just talked nonstop until the tattoo artist was done.

At the end of it, I knew she must have been an amazing clinic escort.

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Just before BNAT last year (if I remember right), Holly announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Throughout the last year, she has been a paragon of positivity and good humor. She’d make Hulk jokes about the radiation treatment. She was very open about posting photos of her various operations and treatments, and yet she always found something light to say about the damage her body was taking.

She made it to Fantastic Fest this year, which means she was deemed healthy enough to travel. I took it as a good sign, especially since whenever I saw her flit by, she looked great. She had a radiation burn across her upper chest, and her build had changed since the last time I’d seen her, but otherwise, she looked great. Even her super-short cancer recovery haircut looked great on her.

She was maybe a touch less full of energy than usual, but the difference was slight. It honestly looked like she punched cancer right in its goddamned face.

The last time I saw her at Fantastic Fest was at the final party. She was waiting to get one of the free tattoos. As she sat in line, everyone was dropping by to say how great it was to see her. A common refrain was Goodbye, see you at BNAT!

I unfortunately had to drive other folks home early, so I was unable to wait very long with her. I did get to have a nice, long goodbye, and got a hug, as always.

I was sure I was going to see her at BNAT this year, because Holly is always at BNAT.

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After she got home from Fantastic Fest a couple weeks ago, she learned that the cancer had metastasized. She was riddled with the stuff.

Yesterday, I learned that Holly has been unconscious since Tuesday. Last night, I learned that she’d been taken out of the ICU and moved to hospice. This morning, I learned that she is gone. The tired goodbye at Fantastic Fest is the last I will ever see of Holly.

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She was effervescent. She was an unstoppable dynamo of activity, a fun-seeking missile, a maelstrom of energy. It’s hard to believe that her own body betrayed her. That there will be no more Holly.

All of us who saw her at Fantastic Fest are kicking ourselves. We should have skipped a movie and had lunch with her instead. We should have hugged a little longer. I should have just waited with her for that tattoo. But really, how could we have known? Hurricanes can’t be stopped, so how could we expect that Holly could be stopped?

And as I pen this, I realize that I am doing this all wrong. Holly had it right. Holly was in the moment with everyone she came into contact with. You felt appreciated and welcomed at all times. Meanwhile, here I am, expressing gratitudes into a machine after the person who should be thanked and praised can no longer hear them.

Oh, Holly. I thought there was more time. I was certain there would be more movies and karaoke and free tattoos.

May we all live with your zeal.

HollyMeghanMelissa