Thursday, April 19, 2012

Phil attends the MIDNITES FOR MANIACS "GROWING UP TOO FAST" triple feature at the Castro Theater-April 13, 2012

Hello again everybody! On Friday the 13th I traveled up to the City by the Bay (San Francisco to all you non-California residents) to attend the Midnites for Maniacs triple feature show at the world famous Castro Theatre. Hosted by the one and only Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, the theme was "Growing Up Too Fast" and the three films screened fit this theme perfectly! So let's begin, shall we?

Theatrical Movie Poster (2003)
The night started off with 35mm screening of Sofia Coppola's sophomore film LOST IN TRANSLATION. Now as hard it is to believe, this film is almost 10 years old! Now I remember when it first came out and to revisit this classic film a decade later reminds me of unearthing a time capsule. The film's about aging movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) who comes to Tokyo to appear in whiskey commercials. At his hotel he befriends a young and lonely newlywed named Charlotte (Scarlett Johanssen), who's husband is a popular and high demanded photographer. The two strike up a friendship that takes them out into the streets of Tokyo, and soon the two discover that life's still full of surprises.

The film caused a bit of controversy when it was first released because some found it demeaning and insulting Asian culture. However the film transformed the landscape of the indie film world and made Sofia Coppola a household name. She won an Oscar at the 2003 Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director as well. Also the film transformed Murray from a comedian and SNL alumni into an art house indie film star. And let's not forget Johanssen who went on to become one of Hollywood's most popular actress. Her next film is the highly anticipated AVENGERS film, directed by BUFFY creator Joss Whedon. The movie was preceded by trailers from Coppola's other films: 1999's THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, 2006's MARIE ANTOINETTE, and her most recent film 2010's SOMEWHERE.

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

Original Japan Poster (2000)
The second film up was the San Francisco Premiere screening of BATTLE ROYALE! Dubbed "The Mother of All Survival Films," is was based on the novel of the same name by Koushon Takami and was directed by the late Kinji Fukasaku. Now I don't want to explain the whole movie to you all, so I will just state the synopsis: In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act. Sounds brutal, doesn't it? Well guess what? It IS that brutal! But there is also some dark humor as well as some social commentary within its frames.

The film was an immediate smash in Japan but the film would be banned here in America. Why you ask? The film's graphic depiction of students killing off one another hit a little to close to home here in the states. Just a little over a year and a half prior to the film's release, on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, the Columbine Massacre accured. This tragic event left 12 students and one teacher dead, and 21 others injured. The massacre lead to debates about stricter gun control laws, the availability of fire arms (especially in the Wal-Mart superstores), and gun violence involving students. Of course, there was no way that BATTLE ROYALE would get to be imported here, especially in the Post Columbine United States. The film was banned for over 12 years, however all that changed with the release of the film THE HUNGER GAMES, which was also based on a series of novels. While the premise of GAMES sounded a lot like ROYALE it also sparked controversy. But because of GAMES, we here in the states finally received an actual and proper DVD and Blu-Ray release of BATTLE ROYALE! There's a cool 4-Disc boxset by its US distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment that just came out! So for all you peole who liked THE HUNGER GAMES, you need to pick up a copy of BATTLE ROYALE for you film library! The film was preceded by three trailers for upcoming Midnites for Maniacs shows: 1995's STRANGE DAYS, 1987's PREDATOR and 1982's THE THING.

Click here to watch the film's original trailer.

Original Japanese Poster (1977)
The third and final film of the night was the 35 anniversary screening of the 1977 Japanese art house horror film HOUSE (HAUSU). Words cannot begin to describe the plot of this film so I will do the best I can. The film is about a schoolgirl named Gorgeous who travels with her six classmates (Fanta, KunFuu, Gari/Prof, Sweet, Mac, and Melody) to her ailing aunt's country home, where they come face to face with supernatural events as the girls are, one by one, devoured by the home. What I just stated doesn't even compare to the actual experience of seeing this film on the big screen!

The film was inspired by the “eccentric musings” of Japanese director Obayashi's eleven-year-old daughter and it shows! But it is this “eccentric musings” that enabled Obayashi to create one of the most outrageous and eclectic films of all time. But it is also one of the most charming and original films ever made. Tonight's screening was from a newly struck 35mm film print from Janus Films and it looked amazing! The film never had an official film release here in America, but it was finally released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010 from the fine folks at the Criterion Collection (and yes yours truly owns the Blu-Ray of the film)! So if you want to see the most off-the-wall, hauntingly dreamy, funny horror film ever made, then go pick up a copy of the film! 

Click here to watch the film's original trailer. 

Tonight was another sold out show! So if you've never attended one of Jesse's shows and want to, well you're in luck my friend! The next Midnites for Maniacs show will be on Friday, May 4th at 7pm at the majestic Castro Theatre. To learn about past shows and Jesse Hawthorn Ficks, please visit his website at To view upcoming shows at the Castro Theatre, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a bit taken back that Lost In Translation was accused of making Asian culture look bad. Of the many effective aspects in the film one of my favorite is Coppola's use of scenery.

    The scene where Charlotte wanders to the more traditional side of Toyko with the wedding and the very zen like setting is so effective. As well as the scene where her and Charlie run through the streets and the arcade. It shows the diversity of the city and how Asian culture has been able to keep that very traditional nature while involving into a modern world.

    Regardless good reviews. Sounds like a fun triple feature.