Five bizarre clips from the Found Footage Festival
In some weird way that almost makes sense if you think about it too much, the VHS boom was like a field test for the internet. Both media were initially popular as quick and convenient delivery methods for porn, but they eventually expanded into a more socially-oriented method of communication (cable access is sort of like the TV equivalent of Blogspot). That meant people with no sense of self-awareness or discretion had a chance to look profoundly ridiculous in public. As a result, both the VHS era and the internet age generated a sideline in irony-heavy, meme-generating atrocity tourism, with inexplicable foreign movie clips, news bloopers, and accidentally hilarious TV shows being passed around on video mixtapes decades before YouTube made the embarrassing internet celebrity an inescapable phenomenon. Like envoys from an earlier time, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have brought their Found Footage Festival DVDs and live shows to an audience that's spent a lot of idle work hours gawking at ridiculous crap on the internet, and they've unearthed clips like these that prove just how far back that hallowed tradition's roots go.
The Berenguer Boogie
The Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" cast a long and oppressive shadow over the sports world in the mid-1980s. It was one thing when someone like Ron Cey or Joe Frazier would put out a 7" that attempted to fulfill their weird pop-star aspirations. But with the advent of MTV and the rise of hip-hop, a lot of athletes got herded into studios and were given some half-assed lyrics to rap -- and then they'd be propped up in front of a camera to cavort around like complete doorknobs.
The 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins had their own entry in this embarrassing chapter of sports-based entertainment, and while flamethrowing middle-reliever Juan Berenguer is spared the indignity of having to grab the mic, it's pretty clear this is awkward on ten different levels. Watch for former Vikings linebacker Matt Blair and his "what am I doing here" cameo grimace, as well as the fact that everybody involved in this video dances like an ACL-tear recovery patient standing on a waterbed. That Paisley Park hosted the planning session for this video the same year that Prince released his classic double-LP Sign O' the Times is one of life's eternal mysteries.
F.A.R.T. the Movie
Not to be confused with Idiocracy's much-referenced Ass: the Movie, F.A.R.T. makes Mike Judge's moron-dystopian Oscar-winner look Bergman-esque in its austere subtlety. Granted, the plot holds promise, since it introduces the crucial element of struggle -- a man who loves to fart, pitted against his long-suffering, fart-hating wife. But what could have been a simple domestic drama based around gastrointestinal problems eventually lapses into the cheap-and-easy parody route ("what if thirtysomething... had farts? And now, what if Jeopardy... had farts?). During the opening credits, which feature an uncomfortable blues-rock song drawled by someone who likes to "keep my tailpipe warm," viewers discover that three people are credited for "original screenplay," while another four are given "written by" credits. So if the director needed to find out if there is a funny place a man can fart, there were more people available who could pool their resources to think of one, such as a bus, or in bed.
How did we troll people before the internet existed? Apparently we just sent tapes of skeevy-looking insult-comic dirtbags to people we didn't like and just hoped they'd watch for more than 15 seconds before ejecting it, taping over the recording-protection tab, popping it back in the VCR, and using it to save a bunch of episodes of NBA Inside Stuff. I'm not sure if constant exposure to comments on YouTube and Yahoo! Answers have dulled the once-cutting impact of Mr. Nasty's incisive insults, or if they just weren't all that biting to start with, but I will hazard a guess and assume that "if dey put ahhhhl yer brains in uh pissant, it'd walk backwids" falls under the latter scenario. The greatest value this tape can offer is giving you a new voice to imagine fist-typed messageboard invective and snotty Twitter @s being read in: "Ehhh, youse wrotes one-a the woist posts I've evuh reads, an' you don't's know nuthin'. Epuhc fehl." Extra special punk rock bonus cred for the D.O.A. and Dead Kennedys graffiti in the background.
Puppets! They're a good way to spread your message to other people without having to make eye contact with them in an attempt to convince them that you yourself are a decent person who is not unpleasant to look at or be around. But what if you are out of shape? After all, you've seen those damnable Muppets on the TV and they're always running around and yelling and carrying about -- how can you keep up with that level of energy? Man, you know what you gotta do, you've got to cross-train for that shit. You gotta learn how to cardio up, de-carb, blast your crouch muscles and work up optimum puppet-mandible-manipulating hand tendon flexibility so that when it comes time to hide behind that fake brick wall or cheap plywood playhouse window you are ready to hit that felt runnin'. But don't just do it for the kids, don't just do it for the puppets -- do it for Christ.
Gary Busey in Quigley
Like the preceding Puppet Aerobics video, Quigley extends past the FFF's usual VHS purview to gawk at the debris of our current -- and potentially waning -- DVD era. What with direct digital distribution being touted as the inevitable future of media consumption, the possibility that DVDs may go the way of the videotapes they supplanted means it's never too early to find out what other batshit treasures may be hidden in more contemporary physical media. For instance, here is a direct-to-DVD movie where Gary Busey -- who, it should be emphasized, once acted opposite Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood -- is reincarnated as a dog as ironic punishment for his not liking dogs. It's hard not to admire the perseverance and dedication required to go through a movie like this and distill it down to its most valuable component parts: Gary Busey muttering and affecting disconcerting facial expressions.
The Found Footage Festival comes to the Heights Theater on Sunday, April 24, at 8 p.m.
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