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PingWi-Fi Snuffs Red Carpet Doldrums At Dallas Film Festival

April 9th, 2011 · Tags:Arts · Cities

Last night the PingTeam shot yet another Red Carpet event at the Dallas International Film Festival. It was great fun and pageantry. The Dallas star of the evening was badboy J.R. — Larry Hagman of “Dallas” fame and my more favorite “I Dream of Jeannie” back in the day.

“Easy Rider” Peter Fonda cruised in at #2 on the star chart, taking time out to chat with just about everyone, showing off some sweet exotic cowboy boots and voguing for photos. Ha. He volunteered a “Hook Em Horns” two-finger salute for the cameras. Yes UT is the Texas film school … but I asked him for the other Texas school sign. At that point he gave me the thumbs-up “Gig ‘Em.” Try again Peter! Ha … Next his did that curled finger thing that symbolizes TCU among the Frog Nation. No doubt Peter and others in Hollywood got their first taste of purple with that great run to the Rose Bowl last year. No wait, that sign with the crumpled fingers … was that the SMU pony ears?

Still I was fishing. “How about that other Texas school, Peter? The one that does ‘Guns Up!'” He looked bewildered, as if I had asked for his father Henry Fonda’s one-finger salute to the man in “Sometimes A Great Notion.” I pressed him on it. “You know, ‘Guns Up’ … Texas Tech? … The school that rose to #2, fired the best coach in America, and then faded to obscurity?” He politely made a gun with his thumb and forefinger, sheepishly, as if he was brandishing a firearm at a Hollywood fundraiser. Just guessing he missed his chance to know what Tech once was. And then … well he was so done with me and he stepped on my line, saying, “You digress …” (j/k)

Next about 200 actors, producers, directors, sponsors and hangers-on paraded by the paparazzy’all. I ain’t no quitter. I shot until the end, and perhaps sometimes just pretended to shoot when the subject matter was the assistant to the division managerial subordinate to the subchief of the local electrical utility. But all in good fun.

Then I had a PingMoment. It was so-ooooo just like something I would do. Nutcase that I am.

I recognized one of the very last celebrities. Ha … I knew the face immediately. He had such a sinister look. He was perfectly cast as the bad boyfriend, perv, murderer in the film “Smalltown Murder Songs” … I recognized him, (so I thought) and I couldn’t just let it be. Ha! I felt like I knew him, since he was in one of the films I had actually seen at the festival.

In my mind, it was time for some PingFun. I started calling out to him … almost taunting him (as if to taunt his evil character in the film). “Hey! I know you! Hey! You’re the murderer! It was you! Hey, you’re the murderer!”

Oh, I was having fun with him. But, I was a little surprised he didn’t play along, in good fun. I mean, these red-carpet events can be a bit comatose.

“Why did you do it? I knew it was you … murderer!”

Well, I thought this guy must be pretty stuck on himself, that he wouldn’t even give me a response. I closed my mouth and clicked the shutter a few more times, and the emcee announced that he was … in fact … actually, one of the judges for one of the lesser film categories.

Oops! Can you say doppelganger-interuptus! Thank goodness it was the end of the event and many had scattered. Me … Oh yes, I had quite a laugh at the PingSelf, pretty much. (Not winning!)

More of the photos will be posted here later, and on Facebook. Meanwhile, here are some things I am relatively sure about — films that I did see, and verified in the media book. Support your local film festival!
For me, the 2011 Dallas International Film Festival has been the year of the concert film. As always, at any film festival, the biggest challenge is to see as much as you can with limited time. So, I haven’t seen many of the films. (To complicate matters, I was out of town for the first week.)

So, of the films I have seen, almost 50 percent of them have rocked, that is, have been music documentaries!

First up — “OK Buckaroos,” which chronicles the Outlaw Country, life and times of singer/songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker. What can I say that Jerry Jeff hasn’t already said, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance!”
The film combines concert footage, archive film, etc. to show the ups and downs of his prolific career during a time when country went progressive .

For a music nut, “Buckaroo” is a must. Of course most of you know JJW wrote Mr. Bojangles and that Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “owned” it. (I have to wonder if those Nitty Gritty royalties bought the private jet in the film.) But there are also reminders that Texas wildman Ray Wylie Hubbard wrote “Redneck Mother” even though JJW made it his own. Hubbard weighs in throughout the film. This factoid, I didn’t know. Jerry Jeff’s hit “L.A. Freeway” was written by Guy Clark. Or did I forget? Most impressive, the film documents JJW’s influence on artists ranging from Willie Nelson to Jimmy Buffet.

“Buckaroos” is filled with wonderful raw footage, the kind that looks like the band and the cameraman forget the camera was on, because they were having such a great time on stage — with a dozen other musicians, songwriters, family, etc. The scenes of JJW performing in his almost tighty-whitey running shorts are priceless. He is having so much fun performing, he makes the look work — a fairly athletic guy for an outlaw balladeer.

Stumping for the film, filmmaker Patrick Tourville and Ray Wylie Hubbard agreed the film is a work in progress and will include even more as the project progresses. At this date – 5 pings.

John Mellencamp may be the smartest songwriter on the planet. Shrewdly, after he made it big, he dropped his original stage name — “John Cougar.” Just how did he know 20 years ago that “cougar” would not be a good nickname for any man in 2011?

In “It’s About You” — John Mellencamp handed over a sweet assignment to photographer/filmmaker Kurt Markus and his son Ian Markus. The gig was to document a really cool idea — recording Mellencamp and friends in some of the most significant music venues in recent American history as he tours with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson . Not one to mince words — why wasn’t this film better? I mean, what an assignment!

The film starts out so grainy, faded and out of focus, albeit shot with Super 8, I had to wonder if something went wrong. Or was that a desired effect? If so, way overdone — IMHO. Toward one third of the way through the film, you can start to make out the faces of people … I exaggerate, but not much.

But it is a music film. And the music is awesome — soulful, gritty, stripped down, powerful, raw. (I wish someone had picked best songs out of Mellencamp’s extensive catalog, but that’s certain one opinion.) The film captures the troupe recording in Memphis’ Sun Studios, which of course launched Elvis. Across town, they recorded in the oldest African American church in the U.S. Pretty cool. The Mellencampers stopped in the hometown of Waylon Jennings, just long enough to document that it is blowing away. They recorded in the very rooms which witnessed some of the most significant rock and blues ever recorded. So cool.

Did they not stop in Norman Petty’s studio in New Mexico (Buddy Holly)?

My favorite scenes feature Fort Worth’s T-Bone Burnett – both mentoring on the guitar and convincing Mellencamp that the tune John thinks is the worst on their list is, in fact, worthy. Trust the T-Bone. It is probably the best in the film. The climax, perhaps, is the band playing “Crumbling Down” on stage in San Antonio. The sound is engineered, so that in the theater, it almost shakes the walls when the lyrics sing of walls crumbling, tumbling — nice touch!

Cougar … er Mellencamp is not my favorite artist. But I love some of his work — dating back to “This Time.” This film should have been so much more – 3 pings.

“Blood Of Eagles” is a history lesson for those of us who turned the pages straight from WWII to the Vietnam War. B of E shows a glimpse of a “little civil war” involving a few million people who wanted freedom in Indonesia, after centuries of Dutch imperialism. Good intent … It shows the sacrifices and heroism in the fight for freedom. But in this war there is little time to develop the characters. At times the actors needed more help than the wounded soldiers they portrayed. (I may not speak Indonesian, but I can read body language, even without subtitles.) I did love the brave little teenage soldier! But the miraculous victories against the odds — true story or not — came across as pretty far fetched.

I was impressed that a couple of Dallas pr guys (Rob and Conor Allyn) pulled this off … the second film in “a four-part trilogy” as it was described in the producer’s discussion prior to the film. AND … did they lobby so that this film on a war of indepedence be featured on page “76” of the media guide? Maybe not.

The film ranks smack dab in the middle between “The A Team” and “Saving Private Ryan” as war sagas go — 3 pings.

“The Age of Dragons” is an interesting tale. It starts with the culture shock of a couple of African American kids wondering around medieval Europe, until they have a fiery run in with an evil white dragon. Symbolism? One child survives and becomes Danny Glover – seriously. Glover becomes Ahab the guy with a fish fetish … only this time his nemesis is … yes … that pesky white dragon who toasted the sister.

With a medieval war-wagon, land yacht of a craft, hooded characters that look like Jawas, martial arts scenes, shamanism, a love scene with a would be princess, hand-to-hand combat … oh and stealthy dragons … This is a surf-and-turf combo plate of “Dragonslayer,” “Star Wars” and of course “Moby Dick.” The dialogue is pretty lame at times.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning, but the tempo moves slower than the land ship (which, btw, has no apparent method of propulsion.) But if you gotta see a dragon movie … there are worse — 2 pings.

Next up, “Smalltown Murder Songs.” Where to begin? The film seems to run long, but by contrast, the plot seems only complicated enough to have made a short. Does that make sense? It’s the usual formula … ha … a murder mystery, solved by a cop with inner demons, with a Canadian Mennonite backdrop. We know from almost the beginning whodunit. Little is done to throw us off the scent. It has one star — Martha Plimpton — who is fairly believable as a doting/fearful wife.

Ha … I thought it had “small film” written all over it from the outset, due to a single cigarette. In the film, a subordinate police officer has just lit a cig when his boss drives up. Almost as if he has been caught smoking behind the barn, he throws down the smoke. But … BUT … he doesn’t take that last drag before he litters. ALL smokers take the last drag before they pitch the butt. How’s that for critical attention to detail? … LOL.

“Smalltown Murder Songs” — not exactly CSI, even with the GC scenes (gratuitous cadaver ) … I’m thinking 3 pings.

Just two days left for Dallas International Film Festival and so much more to see …

Know what I sayin?