Here’s another Decider piece – Tourist Trap: Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn. Isn’t that a beautiful shot of Sissy the chicken? I took that with my phone!
One door opens, another window slams on my fingers. Mere hours after informing you of my new gig with the Decider yesterday, I was notified by my editor at Nerve.com that the site is being “restructured” under new management. The relevant portion of this restructuring, as far as I’m concerned, is that the Screengrab will cease operations in a few weeks. This is not only a blow to my wallet, it’s a big disappointment to me because I truly enjoyed the gig, from starting my day by surfing the trades for the Morning Deal Report, to ending the week by assembling The Screengrab Highlight Reel. Of course, the biggest tragedy of all is that I won’t be able to finish the Unwatchable series before the site shuts down. I’m already on the case, trying to find a new home for it (and if you’re interested, I’m at scottvond at gmail dot com), so watch this space.
Ah, Screengrab, I hardly knew ye.
OK, I’m not THE Decider, but I’m now a contributor to the Decider, which is the local arm of The Onion. There’s a print version, which is a section of the paper version of The Onion containing the local listings and restaurant reviews and whatnot. And more importantly, there’s an online version, with plenty of features unavailable in print. There are Deciders in 10 cities, including Chicago, L.A. and of course, Austin, which is the important one for my purposes. Anyway, my first piece is up and here it is:
One of my earliest movie reviewing gigs was with the venerable Film Threat, back when it was first getting its feet wet as a web presence and had a unique policy: send us your movie and we will review it. Here’s how it worked from my end: Film Threat honcho Chris Gore sent me a huge box stuffed with VHS tapes (yes, this was before the days of the DVD screener) and I gingerly picked through it, starting with anything that looked remotely promising and working my way down from there. So it was that I bore witness to such undiscovered classics as Cornman: American Vegetable Hero, Les Pantsless Menace, and the immortal Inbred Rednecks.
While vacationing at the Von Doviak ancestral manse on the rockbound coast of Maine, a friend of mine who works for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network showed me an episode of an MPBN-produced show which showcased locally produced films and interviews with the filmmakers. This particular episode featured two guys named Kyle and Efram, and their short film Pennyweight. I enjoyed it, reviewed it and forgot about it until years later, when two guys named Kyle and Efram turned up on the second season of Project Greenlight. Hey, I know those guys! Sort of! Anyway, in my own egotistical way, I felt like I’d discovered Kyle and Efram before Matt and Ben did, so I was a bit bummed out that the series tended to portray them as clueless control freaks. That was the nature of that show, though – the filmmakers always had to come off as goofballs to stoke up the on-set drama.
To make a long story short (too late), Kyle Rankin recently contacted me through my former blog Moonshine Mountain and wask kind enough to say that my review of Pennyweight meant a lot to him in deciding to pursue a career in filmmaking. And I recently managed to get a peep at his latest, Infestation. After all that, it would have sucked if I’d hated it, but as it turns out, I really enjoyed it. Here’s my review.
Next week marks the one-year anniversary of the Unwatchable project. As a writer for the Nerve.com film blog The Screengrab, there’s one thing I learned early on: the blog requires constant care and feeding. If you want to draw the eyeballs from other sites and keep the page views coming, you need a steady stream of new content, and those of us who have heard the call of this noble vocation must provide this content whether we feel inspired or not. So it helps to come up with a handful of go-to features you can call upon whenever you can’t think of anything else to write about. One day I posted about an article I’d read in The Guardian by Sam Richards, who had subjected himself to a few entries from the 100 lowest-ranked movies on the Internet Movie Database. Yes, many people know that the IMDb maintains a list of the Top 250 Movies as voted on by you, the moviegoing, computer-literate public (and there was a bit of a kerfuffle last year when The Dark Knight briefly overtook The Godfather for the top spot), but did you know they also keep track of the Bottom 100 Movies? You did if you’ve been reading Unwatchable. Anyone can watch a few of the 100 worst movies of all time, I reasoned. But who would be foolish enough to watch all of them? Only me.
And so, starting with #100 (Devil Fish), I began my ascent towards to the top of the heap – in this case, the garbage heap. As of this writing, I have made it up to #37 (Bad Girls from Valley High), and I figure to hit the top ten – er, bottom ten – by summer’s end, which will surely be cause for celebration. There have been a few pitfalls along the way; so far, four or five movies have proved impossible to find, but since the Bottom 100 is a continually evolving list (because it’s determined by the votes of IMDb users), I am able to find adequate substitutions by consulting a later version of the list than the one I’m using. Another problem is the number of films that made the list mainly because they were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I hate when this happens, partly because it doesn’t feel organic – someone told you that movie was bad, you didn’t decide it for yourself – but mostly because they’ve already used most of the good jokes.
Anyway, I’ve managed to hold onto my sanity so far, but if you haven’t been following my adventures, here’s your chance! You can start with the link to Bad Girls from Valley High above and work your way backwards, or you can check out these recaps I put together when I reached the halfway point: