Film Nerd 2.0 Fest concludes with 'Young Frankenstein,' 'Legend,' and 'Empire of The Sun'
I've been asked repeatedly about when I would finish my coverage of the first Film Nerd 2.0 Film Festival, an event that came together at the very last possible moment, and it's taken me this long because of other publishing obligations that have come up in the meantime. I love writing these articles, but they are among the most demanding for me because of what they deal with, and because I work very hard to capture the truth of these exchanges and these moment with my kids. There will come a time when I look back and these will be the one record of these times, and I want it to be as complete and unflinching as it can be.
One of the truths about film festivals is that whatever plan you make before one begins, you will not follow it for any of a thousand different reasons. That certainly held true with the concluding day of the Film Nerd 2.0 Summer Film Festival, which I threw for my two sons, Toshi and Allen, at the end of this year's spring break vacation from school.
Part of what complicated the weekend was Toshi's baseball schedule. He had a two hour practice on Friday night, a game on Saturday, and a game on Sunday. That's a whole lot of baseball to build a schedule around, and it had a real impact on the plans. The other part of what made it impossible to keep to our initial schedule was something I didn't really count on… my wife.
I don't often include her in the Film Nerd 2.0 articles because, truth be told, she and I don't agree on the role that film plays in the lives of our children. I think there are many days where she would happily declare our house a movie-free zone if she thought she could get away with it. When Toshi can excitedly recite every incident and most of the dialogue from a film he's seen eleven times but he can't tell her what words are on his spelling test for the week, it makes her crazy, and rightfully so. I think the pop culture we share with our kids is a major part of who they eventually become, but I also think that school is the one primary obligation the kids have right now. I think movies are the reward that make all the other effort worthwhile at this age for Toshi, and I try to approach it like that with him. He shouldn't expect movies as a god-given right, but instead should view them as a wonderful bonus, something that should be enjoyed as a treat each and every time.
She doesn't particularly like it when I go away to film festivals, and she didn't care for the idea of the kids taking part in a three or four day movie marathon. She told me at the start of Saturday that we would not be viewing any movies on Sunday at all. That meant cutting one whole day's worth of programming, and condensing things into Saturday while still leaving room for that baseball game. Not easy, and not helped at all by the fact that I woke up with a blood pressure headache brought on by the fact that I am an old and fat man.
I pushed what was supposed to be the first screening of the day and put on for them the original US theatrical cut of Ridley Scott's "Legend." I still remember seeing the film when it was originally released. I was so excited because it was Ridley Scott and because it had a great poster, and the imagery in the trailers looked gorgeous. Walking out of the film, which I saw with a close friend at the time, I was so flabbergasted by how much I hated the script that I couldn't stop laughing about it. My friend, a huge fantasy nerd, had evidently fallen head over heels for it while it was playing, and he stayed silent all the way to the car. As I made my 200th joke about how much the movie sucked, he lashed out with one perfect punch and hit me smack in the nose and mouth. I was surprised more than hurt, but it effectively made the point that perhaps I shouldn't lay it on quite so thick because someone else might have had a different reaction.
Over time, I've come to admire the film for its visual ambition and for certain things about it, but I still think it's a narrative train wreck. I figure the best time for someone to see it is when they're young enough that things like theme and character are less important and they can just get lost in the details. That's certainly what happened with Toshi and Allen, who both had dozens of questions about how things worked or why things happened, but who ultimately didn't care about the answers.
They were blown away by Rob Bottin's creature designs, they found Tim Curry absolutely hypnotic as Darkness, and Toshi loved how dark and weird things got. These days, the boys listen to a lot of soundtracks in my car, and they've heard both the Goldsmith score and the Tangerine Dream score for this film. After we finished the movie, Toshi specifically asked me to show him one scene with the alternate score playing, and we took it back so he could see how Goldsmith handled the sequence where the dress dances with Mia Sara before it magically merges with her. He was fascinated at the little changes in the edit between the two versions, and by how much the score changed the mood of what he was watching.
I've noticed that even in the last few months, the boys are less nervous about monsters onscreen, and more interested in the work that goes into making them instead. I think a year ago, "Legend" would have been way too dark for them, but now even Meg Mucklebones was just cool, according to them. It feels like we're turning a corner, and it opens up a lot of opportunities for what they can see in the near-future.