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A Look Back at My Plaza Classic Film Festival Experience

I already wrote about what I hoped to see at Plaza Classic Film Festival. These are my impressions now that it is over.

August 4
I went to see Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979, IMDB rating: 6.7/10) at the top of the Mills Parking Garage. The view was amazing! You could see the city all lit up, which always looks nice. While sitting looking at the screen all I had to do was turn my head slightly to the left to see the huge star on the side of the mountain. It was windy and the screen, decently big as it was, moved a lot. The screen was not a normal screen though. It inflated and was a cube. So it moved with the wind, but didn't just fall over. A side effect of that was the image on the screen would warp as the wind blew and affected the screen cube. This turned out to actually be kind of cool. Very psychedelic. The whole time it I watched the thunder off in the distance. Luckily it never threatened where we sat. The sound was a bit too quiet for my taste. Seeing as this is a movie that features so many great rock 'n' roll songs, it should have been very loud. I went with the twins from work. That was nice because I easily had the two best looking girls there at my side. I must have looked so cool!

As for the movie itself, it was campy but fun. Of course the music is amazing. The Ramones music dominates the soundtrack, but you also get songs from the MC5 and Eddie & The Hot Rods, among others. Immediately noticeable was how much the movie reminded me of those silly beach movies from the 1960s. The dancing is hilarious! Still, the whole thing was simply fun to watch. The Ramones could not act their way out of a paper bag. That was great too though. At one point the ever cute Riff Randell meets her heroes, the Ramones, and she's freaking out about them eating pizza. Dee Dee gives her this disgusted, confused look and just holds it there for what seems like an eternity while she's geeking out. It is the funniest part of the movie! It was hard to keep from dancing the whole movie. And with that, my festival week started off very well.

August 6
I wanted to go to A Day at the Races, but my car was boxed in (a consequence of having to briefly move back to my parents' house). So I missed it. I love the Marx Brothers too. Dang. That night, though, I went to see Taxi Driver (1976, IMDB rating: 8.5/10). This movie was actually inside the Kendle Kidd Performance Hall. The Performance Hall is a beautifully restored 1930s theater. While waiting for the movie to start you listen to a person playing the organ live down by the stage. The music ranges from old standards to classic rock songs to jazz. Then, before the movie begins, a light show tells the story of a day in nature. It is hard to explain, but the effect is amazing. By the time the movie started I was already very entertained.

Taxi Driver... Insane. I had actually seen it before. But to see it on the big screen is a totally different experience. It is easy to understand how he could become this vicious killer during the course of the movie. Being disassociated from people, seeing the ugly side of humanity, loneliness, poverty and a lack of direction all contribute to his breaking point. And the fact that Travis manages to walk down a path that could easily lead him to become a criminal or hero makes the whole thing suspenseful. I decided during the movie that I wanted to be Travis Bickle for Halloween this year. That means shaving my hair into a mohawk... If I have plans for Halloween (I have not had any plans since I was a child going trick-or-treating) I will do it. I know I could pull of looking insane. I am pretty close already! This could be me:

August 7
On this day I was supposed to go see Last Year at Marienbad (L’année dernière à Marienbad), but work ran very long and I missed it. Instead I went to an art and music show at the Percolator, a great little coffee shop nearby. That was a lot of fun. But the movie seemed so interesting, I was sad to miss it.

August 8
I needed some time away so I skipped town. I missed The Muppet Movie unfortunately...

August 9
I drove back to El Paso this night, but I missed so many great movies: Frankenstein, Dracula and The Godfather, Part II. I saw The Godfather at last year's festival and I was looking forward to seeing Part II.

August 10
Now that I was back in town I could go see more movies. Yes! The movie for the night was Fantasia (1940, IMBD rating: 7.9/10). I remember my mom renting this for us when I was a kid. I also remember not being able to sit through the whole thing. I ended up watching parts of it upside down while hanging off the edge of the couch.

Fantasia is designed to imitate an orchestra concert. Therefore, there is an intermission. Before the movie a man came out to introduce the movie and talk for a bit. He informed us of the intermission, but said the movie would continue after a minute and asked for us to stay in our seats. Of course, when the time came, half the crowd got up. Everyone forgot I guess? It was dumb. That annoyed me.

As for the film itself? Great. The music is incredible and the images range from trippy to beautiful to...kind of strange. Certain songs are interpreted as abstract images while others are fully fleshed out stories. Before the film a gentleman introduced us to the movie. He said it did not do well at the box office. Despite this, one of the songs became a Disney classic outside the rest of the film. Most people will recognize the image of Mickey Mouse dressed as a wizard losing control of the brooms he brought to life and nearly drowning in the process.

August 11
On Thursday I knew I wanted to see Head (1968, IMDB rating 6.2/10), but I was not sure about Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, IMDB rating 8.7/10). I had never seen it before and, frankly, was not that interested. I was never a fan of Harrison Ford. Not that I did not like him; I just never made it a point to see anything he was in. On a whim I decided, what the hell, everybody loves this movie. I'll check it out. So I did. There were two showings of Raiders of the Lost Ark and I went to the first one.

We were told before the movie that, this being the 30th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it had been restored. AND we were the first group to see the restored version in public. Wow. So here I was, a guy who was not particularly interested in the movie beforehand, getting to participate in such an honor. Then the movie started.


The energy in the theater was incredible. Raiders has so much excitment built into it, it was seemingly transfered to the crowd. After the movie ended, I noticed multiple people try to jump over seats. I did too! At that moment I wanted to be Indiana Jones just like everybody else did!

I knew Head started very soon after Raiders, so I rushed up the stairs, running, jumping, energetic. I made it to the top of the parking garage in no time. The night was nice as the movie started. Before the movie started, a man introduced it and said nobody knew what it was about, jokingly. The thing is, it is pretty easy to deduce what the Monkees were thinking while making the movie. Multiple scenes poke fun at pop bands/music and their own celebrity. Obviously, they felt used by the music and television industries and were trying to regain some sort of credibility inside themselves.

Head is very psychedelic. The plot is very loose and ends up looping around. So, theoretically, you get to the end and you see the beginning, which leads to the rest of the movie and the end again. And you could do it again and again. Mostly it is just fun and crazy. CRAZY. At one point the Monkees open fire with guns. That was unexpected, but awesome. It tries to do a thing like a Mel Brooks movie, particularly  Blazing Saddles, where the movie breaks down into the filming of a movie and switches back and forth. You end up not knowing if you are watching the movie or the movie within a movie. I thought it was pretty cool.

I thoroghly enjoyed the Plaza Classic Film Festival. There were more movies I would have liked to go to.  Perhaps next year I can make it back to El Paso to watch a bunch more. It is certainly worth it.
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