Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Marvin's Movie"

Only my second post and already I feel like I'm cheating: Today's entry isn't really "forgotten" or "undiscovered." After all, it scored a great reaction at the 1993 Northeast International Film Festival and even ended up winning Best Documentary Feature at that year's Independent Spirit Awards. Still, I think a film this interesting can always stand to have a few more words written about it. So, without further ado:

Marvin's Movie (1993)
Directed by Stephanie Pilenti
Starring Marvin Atumi as Himself

In lieu of finding the theatrical poster, here is the uninspired VHS box art for "Marvin's Movie."

Marvin Atumi is the star of one the longest and most intricate movies ever made. That this movie was never filmed and doesn't technically exist is of little concern to him: "The human eyeball is the best camera that can and will ever be created. And I got two of 'em, man!" This is the opening dialogue to Marvin's Movie, Stephanie Pilenti's fascinating documentary about a man who took his love for the cinema to extreme (and eventually dangerous) levels. Shot from 1991 to 1992, the film offers both a portrait of and a definition for the "film geek," an evolving caricature that became popularized in concurrence with the rise of the Internet. 

Marvin seems to embody any number of the cliches that surround a person fitted with the moniker. He is overweight, almost swollen, and he always looks unkempt and day-old. With a scraggly beard that just can't commit and a hairline that has long ago given up the fight, Marvin slogs about the cluttered basement of a house he shares with his senile grandmother in Woodbury, Minnesota. As you can imagine, Marvin spends most of his time hunkered down in front of his "media center," as he calls it, a tiny television connected to a VHS player. There, he ingests any and all movies; Marvin is definitely not discerning in taste or preference. Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru (1952), a soulful examination of aging and the search for meaning, is quickly followed by a bootleg copy of The Amputee's Revenge (1978), a cheap, exploitation flick about a man with no arms hunting down a woman with no legs. When asked to describe the two films' similarities and differences, Marvin merely shrugs and declares, "They're both bitchin'." When not hunched over a screen, Marvin pays the bills by working at the (long out-of-business) Suncoast video store in nearby Roseville. Marvin notes that this particular Suncoast was the very first store in the chain. "That kinda makes me a part of movie history," he says with poorly aimed pride in his voice.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"A Sentimental Man"

To begin, I thought I would naturally start with one of my favorite films that, for whatever reason, failed to catch audience favor:

A Sentimental Man (1967)
Directed by Arthur Moreland
Written by Arthur Moreland and Terry Helms
Starring Vance Davis, Amy Poppins, Reed Wells, and Marion Van Zans

Theatrical poster for "A Sentimental Man."

Upon its initial release in 1967, A Sentimental Man was considered by the critical community as a major sophomore slump for director Arthur Moreland. His auspicious debut was 1965's The Annotated Streets of Omaha, a solid film in its own right that depicts the pitfalls (or, more accurately, pratfalls given the film's jaunty, off-kilter tone) of the lifestyle in Nebraska's then-burgeoning cocaine scene. While The Annotated Streets... is a bit dated today with its incessant usage of early seventies slang (I, for one, had never heard white people referred to as "chickpeas" before, but apparently the term was thrown around with wild abandon in the Midwest), at the time it marked Moreland as an auteur on the rise. Critics and cinemagoers alike were chomping at the bit for Moreland to craft another giddy, fever-pitched circus nightmare along the lines of The Annotated Streets..., and when he announced in 1966 that production had begun on A Sentimental Man people were already declaring it a masterpiece-in-the-making.