Cinepub


The Depress-A-Thon: Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father by Jamie

I’m not one for openly showing much in the way of emotion. There are times when I’ll waver between the ups and the downs but as for things like weeping openly, well, it just isn‘t me. This doesn’t seem to apply to movies however. I am, as I’m sure I’ve said before, a bit of a crier when it comes to film. For some reason the over-the-top reality of film just seems more realistic to me. I can’t explain why.

Then there are documentaries which are based on truly horrific real life events. They manage to combine the horror of having these things actually having happened and the over-the-top hyper reality of film. By mentioning the hyper reality of film I don’t in anyway mean that any part of these documentaries are not based in truth but rather I mean that the very nature of films means that you can have many years worth of tragic and terrible events condensed down into an hour and a half, making the experience that much more intense. Such is the case with the subject of today’s review, ‘Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father.’

Fuck. This film fucking broke me in ways that I didn’t think possible. It manages to be both a beautiful tribute to a human being that the people in his life genuinely seemed to love and an horrific recounting of a series of tragic events and for that I must say I was truly blown away. The film managed to strike such a perfect balance between two different parts of the story that just seemed to highlight and intensify both.

Right, now I suppose I should go some small way into explaining the basic story of the film without giving away too much. This could be difficult but is absolutely necessary because you simply have to see this film. Might as well just get that out of the way up front. Ok, so the story then. The basic premise is that the film maker, Kurt Kuenne, had a childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, who is murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Jane Turner. Kuenne decides to travel to visit and interview various friends and relatives of Andrew in an effort to create a kind of video scrap-book for his infant son so he can get an idea of the kind of man that the father he would never know was. Wow. That was a tortuous sentence.

So yeah, that’s all I can really reveal about the plot of the film without giving away many of the twists and turns that cause the emotion to run so high whilst watching this film. What I can say is that the director is certainly a film maker of some talent. He uses some pretty interesting editing techniques to just ramp things up at the appropriate times. In particular his use of dialogue from the various interviews and statements from those involved repeatedly throughout the film in order to massively emphasis a specific point is especially effective.

I’d also be somewhat remiss if I didn’t mention the true heroes of this film David and Kathleen Bagby, Andrew’s parents. Some of the things they go through in this film will have you on the very verge of disbelief. They seem to have the patience of saints despite the horrific trials they are put through on an almost daily basis. And the way they deal with the events of the film at the very end is truly, truly heroic.

If there is one complaint about this film that I could have, it’s this. The director narrates the film and there was something about it that just kept reminding me about the Primus song ‘Mephisto & Kevin’ from the South Park Chef Aid album. I’ve since re-listened to the song and the voices don’t sound that familiar, there’s just something about the talking style and delivery that seems quite reminiscent of it. It’s not really a criticism of the film, just something that bugged me slightly. It’s definitely a problem with me and not the film.

Well, it’s gonna have to be a short one today because going any deeper into it would risk revealing some of the plot points of this truly fantastic film. Was it depressing? Yes, massively so. Did it make me cry? I’m not ashamed to say that it did. Would I watch it again? Surprisingly, yes. There are certainly some films that have been featured in The Depress-A-Thon which I always be hesitant to watch again. The primary examples being ‘Threads’ and ‘Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door’. Still despite this being as depressing as it is, it is also a truly wonderful tribute not only to Andrew but also his truly amazing parents and, for that at least, it is certainly worth watching again. Five pints out of five.

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Top 10 Films That Influenced Me As A Youngling: Part 1 by Jamie

The films you watch as a child will probably go some way to influencing your choice of movies as an adult. Sure, your tastes may refine as you get older. Some art house films may make their way into your collection, the odd underground hit or perhaps a foreign film or two but chances are that if you watched a lot of films of a particular type as a child, you will generally enjoy those kinds of films when you grow up. By the way, some films should just be taken as a given such as E.T. and Star Wars,

So what films then have most influenced my modern preference of cinema viewing? Let’s look, won’t we?

10: Son Of Godzilla

Yeah, that’s right. Son of Godzilla. Admittedly one of the weaker films in the series starring the king of the giant rubber monsters, the G-Man himself but I loved this movie as a kid. It’s got giant praying mantises, a giant spider, a baby Godzilla and glorious bad dubbing. Now I’m generally a subtitles man but fuck it, if I’m watching a Godzilla film, I want bad dubbing! The story revolves around the birth of the big dude’s son, Minilla, and his development. There’s another story revolving some Japanese meteorologists but who cares what the people are doing? Fuck ‘em.
There are some great moments in this film, most of which revolve around Godzilla being mildly abusive towards his son. Ah, giant reptile child abuse. It’s what I live for. There are some fun moments such as Minilla jumping over his dad’s tail whilst he’s sleeping, the baby’s attempt at breathing nuclear fire resulting in nothing but nuclear smoke rings and a few nice moments in which Godzilla protects his son from attacks from mantises and the spider. The ending is also bitter sweet as the monsters island home is covered with a blanket of snow, and Godzilla is shown protecting Minilla from the cold as they go into hibernation.
So this film is the reason that I love Godzilla films. All of them. Well, except for that one Godzilla film. Ugh. You know the one I mean.
One final note about this film. I once saw a poster for it and the tagline read thusly: “Have You Ever Seen A Monster Hatch From A Monster Egg? No? You Will!” Awesome.

9. Short Circuit

I love robots. I love Dr. Pepper. Therefore I love Short Circuit. It’s one of those films that seems to have moulded my life in tiny little ways that I often don’t realise. I’ll sometimes just yell out the word “Input!” whilst reading, so it’s a good thing I generally read while I’m by myself, sometimes I’ll yell “Disassemble!” in a terrified manner, I say the name Stephanie in an odd manner and I can only sing “More Than A Woman” in the style of Number 5.

So what’s the film about? Do I really have to explain it? Fine. It’s about a military robot, Number 5, who gets struck by lightning and comes all to life and that. He escapes from his military compound and goes off about town learning about what it means to be alive and what it means to die. Of course a remake is now in the works and I was one of those people who wasn’t that bothered by the whole remake thing. Sure I wanted to see more original things coming from Hollywood but it’s not like they could possibly detract from the originals at all? Could they? Of course, that was how I felt before the Friday the 13th debacle. I refuse to finish my reviews of the original films simply because I saw that damn film.

8. Dark Crystal

Hell yeah! Puppets are good, Muppets are awesome and this film is rife with them. Not your typical fuzzy animal fare mind you. Rather horrible, freakish nightmare creatures that are based on vultures. Ugh, the Skeksis used to freak me the fuck out when I was a kid, in fact only two things probably freaked me out more, the father alien in Mac and Me and the Child Catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. Oh god, I think I’m gonna be sick. Why do you taunt me nightmare monsters from my youth?

Still, the freakishness of the Skeksis is counteracted by the greatness of the UrRu because they look a bit like anthropomorphised giant ground sloths and giant ground sloths are awesome. As for the Gelflings, well, them I can take or leave. They just leave pretty much no impression on me whatsoever.

So what was the influence that Dark Crystal had on me? Well I guess it gave me an appreciation for the fantasy genre and for epic movies in general. As far as I know I hadn’t really seen many films with the kind of scope that this film had, maybe The Neverending Story but I can barely remember that movie at all, and the fact that it was all done with puppetry makes it even more impressive.

7. Explorers

For years I couldn’t remember what this film was called. It was on a video which was full of movie taped for me, simply called “Jamie’s Tape.” So when it came time for me to buy it, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. The video was up in the loft and I sure as hell wasn’t going to go up there and find it. So I searched and I searched the internet and finally, I found it. It was awesome.

The film is about three kids who build a spaceship after one of them has a surrealistic dream giving them instructions. The spaceship takes them deep into outer space where they meet two aliens obsessed with television. One of the aliens, Wak, seems to enjoy imitating Earth broadcasts such as Bugs Bunny and Mr. Ed. It’s all very fun until a larger ship attacks the aliens. They boys are told it’s space Pirates and warned that they should leave but they soon discover it’s actually the aliens father, reprimanding them for stealing one of the family cars. It’s an all round great sci-fi adventure film and definitely went some way towards my love of sci-fi today. One last interesting fact is that it was the first feature film for both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke.

6. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

This film is the greatness. A surrealistic mind fuck through a chocolate wonders cape, the eponymous factory as owned by Sir William Wonka. From shrinking corridors to fizzy lifting drinks, everything in this film elicits a response of wonderment and sometimes flat out, bat shit crazy terror. I’m thinking of one scene in particular. Let’s take a look:

Did you see that crazy shit? Woah, a chicken got it’s head all chopped off! And that dude with the millipede crawling across his face. That was pretty weird, eh? It would, of course, all just be a random collection of images if not for Gene Wilder’s fantastic, increasingly hysterical singing. Let’s take a look at the lyrics for a minute:

Round the world and home again
That’s the sailor’s way
Faster faster, faster faster

There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a-blowing

Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing

Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing

Fuck me. That’s awesome.

Well this seems like a good time to take a break, part two will be up tomorrow. If you’re wondering why I’m not going into too much detail on some of these films, well, it’s because I plan to review them. Laterz.




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