Saturday, September 19, 2009

Found Footage Festival, Vol. 4 (New York Debut)

I've written a couple of blog postings in the past about the Found Footage Festival. For those of you who haven't seen those, and haven't heard of it--Found Footage Festival is the brainchild of Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, who go to thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and other such places to find old VHS tapes. These end up being all sorts of "random" things--exercise videos, business presentations, celebrity instructional videos, etc. All of these are pretty dreadful, and Nick and Joe sort through them to put together shows that include "the best of the worst" of these tapes. There are three volumes of shows out already. Last night was the debut of the Volume 4 show.

I went to see the very first showing in New York last night, at the Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side. Brooklyn Brewery offered free beer for the show, which was great except that you couldn't bring beer into the theater, so you had to guzzle it down either before or after the show--and there wasn't much time. Brooklyn Brewery does make excellent beer, so it was a treat nonetheless.

I don't want to give away the whole show, so I'll just mention some of the highlights. Though it's hard to top Jack Rebney, this may be their best show yet. The show is made up of various montages or clips from videos with similar themes. Nick and Joe will give some background regarding the particular montage, and then show it. Occasionally they will have follow-up interviews with people in the videos, or present a spoof of their own related to a particular video or montage.

In this show, they started with Exercise Montage 5, a collection of dreadful exercise videos that included an insanely-babbling Jazzercise instructor, and a Milton Berle workout video, among many others. There were clips of a furniture salesman trying to film a commercial (and to save you money), bizarre celebrity instructional videos (including Phyllis Diller showing you how to have a garage sale), and montages of cartoons, computers, and sex instruction. They also had a slideshow of their favorite covers from various VHS tapes.

Some of the particular highlights: in a segment called "Andrew's grab bag" (named for the man who gave them the videos referenced), there was a man hawking a device called the "Venus II". This is a machine that allows guys to masturbate using this thing that looks like a tube hooked up to a car battery--with instructional video of the inventor using it on himself. Nick and Joe actually met the inventor's son, and then the inventor himself, and they presented an interview with him that they had taped. The Venus II device apparently costs about $1300, and the inventor actually let them take one, and they had it for show-and-tell. Joe confessed to taking a "test drive" with it, and said it was quite nice, though Nick pointed out that using one's hand was probably cheaper, and he didn't see why this was better.

They also had a video dating montage, from a dating service that gave men ninety seconds to record something about themselves to show women subscribed to the service. What they came up with was lame at best. One man went into a litany of what he didn't want from a woman, and one of the things he mentioned was "no hamsters" (?). After the montage, Nick and Joe did the best spoof of the night, making their own version of a video dating service featuring themselves and a few other guys that had me in tears with laughter. They called it "Beggars CAN Be Choosers", and it was absolutely hilarious. Joe, picking on the "no hamster" guy in the montage, repeatedly said, "What I do not want--no hamsters. I don't care if you're black, white, purple, or yellow--as long as you're not a hamster."

The whole show was really hilarious, which is why it was surprising that the guy running the projector fell asleep. In a tweet posted afterwards, they said it was the first time in 5 years a projectionist had fallen asleep at a show, and that he vaguely smelled of rum. The venue was pretty full, and when I left afterwards, the lobby was jammed with people waiting to see the second showing. They said they would be taping the show next week for the DVD, which is due out in November. You can pre-order it at the Found Footage website (link at the beginning of this post), and through October 15 there's free shipping. At the show itself you can pre-order for ten dollars--whether that will be true for all shows I don't know. They also mentioned they will be putting up a website of found videos "that must be seen right away", rather than waiting a year for another show.

So, if you like films that are "craptastic", you will definitely want to check this out, and if you can catch a live show as well, it's worth it.

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