Monthly Archives: July 2019

J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius (2019)

Director: Director: Sandy K. Boone

Featuring: Penn Jillette, Richard Linklater, Nick Offerman, Gerald V. Casale

“Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke!”

Trailer

I do have some memory of the Church of the Subgenius and alt.slack when I first went on the internet in the mid-90s but had never really looked into it that much. I did however end up hanging out with a slightly similar group on alt.religion.kibology until well into the 2000s that had some people who I am sure where part of the same group.

After the documentary I talked to Paul Elliot of the now closed Polyester Books who used to distribute Church of the Subgenius and showed everyone the Dr Bob background on his phone.

The documentary follows a group of friends who decide to set up their own religion as a joke to appeal to other marginalised people like themselves. They never expected it to last hence 1998 being set as the year of Armageddon in their religion as it seemed far off in the future at the time.

I did enjoy the parts about sending pamphlets to random people and connecting with other people such as the writer of the Famous Potatoes zine. They also started broadcasting over CB radio and were surprised when other people started talking back.

The “pinks” were born representing the normal people and there was a conspiracy by them to supress your SLACK. Exactly what slack is, is not really explained but then again people do not ask that core concepts of other religions are explained.

The figure of the famous pipe smoking Dr Bob was from a public domain clip art library and its original source was lost to history.

After sending the original Subgenius literature to over 150 publishers in the USA a chance find by a book publisher in someone’s car leads to a publishing deal and they bought an artist on board to lay out the book properly in line with their beliefs.

As the founders say themselves you never know where references to Church of the Subgenius will pop up as it was an underground cult that never wanted that many members. It is good having the celebrity interviews and would have helped the Kickstarter funding and getting it screened but I think it would have worked without it.

Due to the popularity of the book an event is booked in San Francisco over two nights in a 900 seat theatre. Again the founders are surprised to the reaction to their show including the part with the smashing the watch and other people offer up their real watches to be smashed. After the success of the show they get correspondence from a church member saying they are not taking it seriously even though they wrote in the founding document for the religion that the entire point is to not take it seriously.

The pipe smoking Dr Bob was an easily indefinable meme before that was even a thing and it the group was popular with the media whenever they wanted a weird story to cover.

As with any church there will be splitters in fact they encouraged it. This did come back to bite them on the arse when people started talking out on their behalf after disasters and in particular the Columbine massacre. This had consequences for them in that their venue booking was cancelled and another church that tried to help them out was threatened.

9/11 is what changed everything as hate groups and religious extremists are now targeted as a national security threat. There is more us vs them in real life so having a religious group based hating the “normals” does not seem as relevant. As one of the interviewees said Donald Trump is the most Subgenius president ever.

It was a great documentary and managed to fit a lot in its short running time. It could have been a mini-series easily and they would have had to leave a lot of things out. The clips were entertaining but I am not sure they were all meant to have been played on a big screen as they were pretty low resolution.

That was a lot of people to wrangle for interviews and I was surprised they were still talking to each other after some of the things that have happened. Sometimes it is better not to meet the people you know from online but in this case it seems the people in the group have life-long friendships.

MIFF 2019: Shortlist

Shaw Brothers Double Feature – 36 Chambers of Shaolin/The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
Bacurau
The Day Shall Come
Hearts and Bones
Martha: A Picture Story
Measure for Measure
Morgana
Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks
No Time for Quiet
Beats
Happy New Year, Collin Burstead
Alice
Particles
Fire Will Come
Memories of My Body
Photograph
Daffodils
The Halt
We Are Little Zombies
First Love
It Must Be Heaven
The Tomorrow Man
The Gasoline Theives
The Kill Team
The Art of Self-Defense
The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash
Amazing Grace
Mr Jimmy
Bros: When the Screaming Stops
PJ Harvey: A Dog Called Money
Friedkin Uncut
Meeting Gorbachev
Midnight Family
Our Time Machine
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project
The Amazing Johnanthan Documentary
Los Reyes
Picture Character
The Seer and the Unseen
Present. Perfect
The Machine
The Hidden City
Return Home
Dudes
Europa Europa
Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors
You Don’t Nomi
Greener Grass
Come to Daddy
Violence Voyager
Memory – The Origins of Alien
The Waiting Room
Animation Shorts
WTF Shorts
The Art of the Score: The Film Music of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
The World Online
Australian Cities on Film
Morgana (talk)
Bruce Beresford in Conversation

St Kilda Jazz Stories (2019)

Director: Kaye Blum

Featuring  Eugene Ball, Bob Barnard, Rebecca Barnard, Margie Lou Dyer, Peter Gaudion, Judy Jacques, Vince Jones, Nick Polites, John Scurry, Bob Sedergreen, Ted Vining, Paul Williamson, Julien Wilson and Barry Wratten,  Bill Armstrong, Len Davis, Cameron Paine, Ian Stanistreet, Horst Liepolt

Soundtrack: Warwick ‘Wocka’Dyer with Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders, Judy Jacques and the Yarra Yarra New Orleans Jazz Band, Bob Barnard on trumpet with Len Barnard’s Jazz Band, Allan Lee on vibes with Len Barnard’s Modern Jazz Band, Allan Browne’s Red Onions, John Scurry’s Reverse Swing, and the Margie Lou Dyer Quintet.

I thought I was running late for this session, but it turned out there was a band before the screening so they were still playing before I arrived. I did get to talk to Rebecca Barnard about the oil pastel sketches I did of her dogs before the screening also.

I had heard about St Kilda being known as a Jazz hotspot before it became better known for punk and rock and roll but had not looked into it myself. I did know about Claypots being a meeting place for jazz enthusiasts and am a fan of the more recent band Jazz Party. Gil Askey did a guest spot with Harry Angus at one of the Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes’ residency shows at the Toff in Town back in 2011.

I did not expect to see Rebecca Barnard in this at all. I knew she did Jazz gigs but I did not know about her family having a Jazz history and the story of her mother and father deserves a documentary of its own. She told the best story right at the end and it could have gone on from there.

As with any music scene there is an evolution with venues and each of the interviewees explained their roles in each of them over the decades. The arrival of the Beatles in Melbourne changed everything and the music evolved also.

St Kilda was a lot less expensive to live in those days so a lot of artists and musicians lived there and Vince Jones said they wouldn’t mind him practicing his trumpet at midnight or having people play the song on piano all day to practice.

Unlike today where there seem to be more women in the jazz scene it did seem to be male dominated back in the day except for Rebecca’s mum and the famous Ruby Carter for Ruby Tuesday. Funnily enough I go to the toilet after the screening and the name “Ruby” had been written on the toilet wall already as a memorial.

The director said she was researching the Espy and found out about the jazz scene from there and the other venues that it had been played at.

Due to development a lot of these venues are no longer around and have gone from popular memory as not many people except the people who played there still know about them. As they said in the Q&A they were lucky to get all the people they did as some of them are not going to be around for much longer and one of them passed away earlier this year.

The subject of rights clearances came up as an audience member asked where they got some footage as it was their brother. The director said it was from the National Film and Sound Archive and they had to pay full price due to not having a grant. Also they were not allowed to give the footage out as they did not have permission from the owner. Paul Harris also said they wanted to get a music documentary for the festival one time but it was $12,000 for music rights.

The director had contributed a lot of the 8mm performance footage themselves and had filmed a lot of interviews for an online project, but wanted to include different footage for this release. There was about 24 hours of footage over 4 years but they managed to cut it back to 38 minutes. They would make a longer documentary if they got funding but can’t make it shorter if they want to include everyone.

They did want to include more people, but decided to go with people they knew directly as going through managers was a bit hard.  Horst Liepolt was initially interviewed over the phone from New York after the director found him via a Google search and then filmed on an iPhone. PBS FM offered a studio space to film some interviews so they would get good sound quality.

It was a good documentary and I found out in the credits that the trumpet seen in the background of most of the interviews had a history which contributed the documentary also.

Parasite (2019)

Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Jo Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-sik, Jang Hye-jin, Park So-dam

Trailer:

The Kim family is a lower socio-economic/bogan family sharing a grubby basement flat making whatever money they can from odd jobs such as folding pizza boxes. They still seem to be good and nothing about them says they are breaking the law to try and make money. It feels like you need to understand more about Korean society and culture to get the most out of this movie.

A telling scene is where the son says he failed the university entrance exam four times and the father says 500 university graduates turn up for a job opening as a security guard.

An opportunity presents itself for the son to get a tutor job for a rich family and once he gets the position he engineers ways to get the rest of his family into the house as an art therapy teacher, driver and finally housekeeper. Lies beget more lies and build until they meet someone with a bigger lie.

As usual Song Kang-ho is brilliant in this and I try to see him in every movie he is in even the ones not directed by Bong Joon-ho as he turns up in Park Chan-wook’s movies also.

The settings are really good also with the small flat the family lives in and the rich family’s house once owned by a famous architect. What the family does not know is that brilliant architects often have their own secrets and sometimes don’t tell them even when they sell the house.

It is the stated policy of the South Korean government that they want to make the best movies in the world with the aim of having a movie that eventually wins an Academy Award. There is a movie quota system in South Korea and local movies often beat Hollywood blockbusters on local release. Bong Joon-Ho stocked up on DVDs and Blurays when he was in Sydney for the film festival as most of the content delivery is online in South Korea.

If you are a social studies fan you will like this movie as the rich characters talk about people “not overstepping their boundary” and complain about the smell of people poorer than them. The son of Mr Park almost rumbles the entire scheme by saying they all smell the same.

I would not say this is Bon Joon-Ho’s best work as I still like the Host more even just for the part where Song Kang-Ho is crying so much he can’t run away. If this film gets more people to go back and watch the earlier work of the director I would support it.

I was perplexed as to the actions of some of the characters in the movie. I cannot think why Mr Kim would decide to do what he did. The scheme had already unravelled at that point and the extra action would not make any difference.