Archive | April, 2012

Shinny Shin Shins

25 Apr

It was early, an uncomfortable early where if I fell back asleep I wouldn’t get a sound night sleep, but not so early that I could start my day. I couldn’t sleep. It seems I never sleep anymore. I rolled over and checked my phone and the glow reminded my eyes just how long they had been staring into darkness. I heard scuffling in the quad and people giggling. It then dawned on me what day it was; April 20th, 2012. “HAPPY FOUR-TWENTY!!!” shouted a bodiless voice. “420” is Christmas for stoners, so of course giddy Mary Jane enthusiasts were up at 4:20am to commemorate . I can only imagine the sheer look of glee as they snapped the first of many bowls to be smoked that day.

The origins of 420 are vague at best. I find it hard to believe that a group of stoners coordinated to meet up after school at 4:20pm, and that the tradition of that evolved into one of the most recognizable icons for cannabis culture. But, stranger things have happened. If you go on Wikipedia and look up “420”, there is actually a picture of the Porter Meadow full of people partaking in the toking, so it is safe to say that “420” is kind of a big deal here. Each year, thousands of people pour into the Porter Meadow, and at 4:20pm a visible cloud of smoke rises up from the redwoods before dissipating into the air. I actually missed the initial lighting up since I was on the opposite end of campus. I got to the meadow as quickly as I could. I passed an older couple holding hands. The man was bearded and weathered.

He was shaking a feather at his companion, “Just think about it! Think about the memory we will always have when we like, look at it.”

“Exactly”, she nodded in agreement.

The scene at the meadow was ridiculous. Thousands of people were walking away from the main clearing and a few handfuls of late people were fighting the crowds to head towards the festivities. There was a police officer leaning against his cruiser who seemed to have given up on any notion of controlling this unsanctioned event. A troupe of students started blundering through the brush near the officer and he halfheartedly mumbled, “Watch out for ticks”.

One of the students turned to their friend as they walked away and remarked, “Bro, you’re gonna get Lyme disease”.

Weed followed me this weekend. I went to see The Shins at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, which is an indoors venue. This did not stop people from lighting up right in front of the stage. What I found to be more disturbing than the blatant pot smoking was the over-saturation of iPhones in the audience. People had them out as flashlights, cameras, modern lighters, video recorders, texting, calling friends to let them know where they were in the crowd, etc. which is remarkable. The crowd was pretty docile for a rock show, but it was The Shins show, so it makes sense.

Well, with the exception of one short, terrible, person. A taller man stood in front of her and she took the opportunity to open her mouth and unload this hateful dribble on him, deeming him an “inconsiderate asshole” for being tall. Being tall myself, I was personally offended by her slanderous attacks on the vertically endowed. The peaceful Green Giant eventually moved, primarily because of how uncomfortable her ranting was making everyone in a 10ft radius. Even after he left, she continued to complain to her friends about his ‘rudeness’. She was bumming out the mood, and I didn’t pay $32.50 to be bummed out. I called out how ridiculous she was acting. She got huffy at first, but then everyone else around piped in in agreement and she grew quiet.

Randy Newman knows what's up.

The Shins were a delight to see live. My favorite song of the night is off of their new album, Port of Morrow.

I never noticed it before, but James Mercer, the front-man for The Shins, looks like he could be Kevin Spacey’s little brother, or cousin.



There was a beautiful moment when “The Rifle’s Spiral” was playing where the smoke from the fog machine on stage was mingling with the smoke from the crowd. It was illuminated by the orange and purple light of the stage lights and lazily rose upwards to the ceiling. Great show, great weekend.


7th Annual Santa Cruz Secret Film Festival

17 Apr

I am still relatively new to Santa Cruz and have lived here just shy of a year. I admire the musicians who decorate Pacific Avenue with their instruments and songs. At night, the skinny trees along the storefront are wrapped in luminescence, giving night time strolls the beauty of December. I’ve been seeing posters around town for the 7th Annual Santa Cruz Secret Film Festival, hosted by the Del Mar Theater downtown, and decided to check it out.

Let me preface by saying I had an amazing time, and as long as I am in this silly little town, I will be attending all future Secret Film Festivals. I went with a few friends and when we arrived at 11pm, the line was already half way down the block. By 11:45pm, the line was around the block and out of sight. The excitement in the air was palpable. I have been to midnight premiers for films before, but this was different. This was not one film, where upon its conclusion I would return to Pacific giddy with the other filmgoers reveling in being among the first to see the movie. This was a marathon, six films and one short over the course of twelve cockcrow hours. The people in line had a look of excitement, but behind this lingered the knowledge that the next time they stepped through the Del Mar’s doors, it will be noon.

Originally called “The Mystery Movie Marthon”, the Santa Cruz Secret Film Festival primarily screens independent films that might not otherwise make it onto theater screens nation-wide. It’s an awesome experience. But as I discovered, it is also a test of endurance. At around midnight the theater opened their doors to the crowd. As we all filed in, the plaque outside the main theater (which normally lists the title of the film) read “ ? “. Let the mystery begin!

  1. God Bless America

When the usher described this as “a film where a man stops tolerating the world around him”, I had my suspicions that “God Bless America” would be the film. It is amusing in its own rite, but after a while it is hard to not see it as being what the film itself is critiquing. There were some parts that I found hilarious; the parody of reality television at the beginning was perfectly executed. A friend of mine in attendance described it as “Falling Down” mixed with “Juno” and I’m inclined to agree. The gruesome tone of the film is set by the initial fantasy of the main character, Frank. He can see no other solution to the world around him other than vigilante violence, and the fantasy becomes reality when Frank discovers that he is afflicted with an inoperable brain tumor. Senseless violence has its own appeal, but the problem with “God Bless America” is it tries to make sense of the violence, and the explanation is weak. I would recommend seeing “God Bless America” if the trailer appeals to you, but I do not think it is a movie I need to see again.

I will applaud it for not developing anything more than a platonic relationship between the young female lead, Roxanne, and Frank. Yet, even that is presented in a somewhat pretentious manner. The female lead is grating and unrealistic. Frank is a possibility, Roxxie is not. Also, I think that is how she would spell her name. Not Roxy, but Roxxie. She thinks she’s edgy, but she mostly comes across as obnoxious and irritating. She confuses her teenage angst with being jaded.

I should note that at this point the entire theater is going strong. Everyone seems pretty set on staying until noon, and I admire this. It also scares me, ever so slightly. It is becoming clear who among us are new to this experience and that for others this is not their first rodeo.

1.5 PAC-MAN The Movie

I found the actual short online, so go ahead and give it a gander! It’s a pretty cute little film about Pac-Man, a little cliché with the military figure suspicious of new technology and the spunky tech-girl, but I liked it. At around this time people had a choice to make between staying in the main room and watching a “movie that people who like to go to events like this would enjoy” and a Spanish horror film. I decided to stick around in the main room. I had listened to an interview with Morgan Spurlock of “Supersize Me” fame on “The Nerdist” podcast the day before, and hoped that the film about to be shown would be Spurlock’s latest project, “Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope”.

2. Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

I grew up in San Diego and have been to Comic Con a few times. I love it. It is an amazing experience where people who otherwise might not get a chance to really express their passion get an opportunity to do so with other people who are just as knowledgeable if not moreso about said hobby. The event itself has become overwhelmingly popular in recent years to the point where there have been rumors that the venue will have to be moved to Anaheim, CA or Las Vegas, NV in order better accommodate the massive demand for tickets.

That being said, I sorta have a soft spot for Comic Con and for all things related to it. I couldn’t stop grinning the whole duration of the documentary. “Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” does such a magnificent job of capturing the excitement and wonder of the event. Also, Stan Lee is in it. Stan Lee is an adorable old man and the father of the nerd movement as we know it and is also a delightful person to watch talk. Other people featured are Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Seth Rogan and Seth Green, and several members of the comic industry. I loved this movie and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in Comic Con or comic books.

After this movie I found the first sleeper. I went to the bathroom and found a girl gently passed out on a couch. I heard murmurs that the Spanish horror film was disappointing, which only cemented my satisfaction in seeing the documentary. I heard it described as “You’ll like [‘Penumbra’] if you like sitting next to your friend while they talk on the phone, while watching a movie in a theater”. At this point it was 4am. Normal people are asleep. We are not normal people.

  1. Juan de los Muertos

The two choices for this segment were “’Shean of the Dead’, but in Spanish” or “110 minutes of the tunnel scene from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’”. Maybe some people are in to being terrified. “But Katie!”, you’re shouting, “that scene wasn’t so bad!”. Fool.

Plus, “Shean of the Dead” is one of my favorite movies of all time. Simon Peg is a silly man and his films are golden.

Juan of the Dead” is a Cuban ZomCom that covers the uprising of an apocalyptic outbreak and a scrappy band of survivors holding out in Havana. The story is familiar, but it is beloved and translates well onto the big screen. I started drifting in and out of sleep during this film, but I liked what I saw and will definitely be re-watching it. “Juan of the Dead” uses the medium of a zombie apocalypse to point out everything wrong with Castros’ Cuba.

It is now 6am in the theater. Bathroom pep talks are less inspiring and more and more people have succumbed to the sandman. People are busting out full gallons of Arizona Ice tea, pizzas, goldfish, and Red Bull. The theater reeks of caffeine and every time I hear a can crack open, I am physically disgusted.

  1. The Sound of Noise

Silly Swedes and their music. This movie is catchy. I’d describe it as a crime musical, but there is something more to it. The music isn’t being weaponized (well, maybe the drum set at the beginning is), it’s being used to make people more aware of the power of rhythm. I decided to check out the alternate film and missed part of “The Sound of Noise”. I regret it. The alternate movie was an Irish horror film about two hitman and their entanglement in a cult. Potential to be awesome, but the accents were so thick I had a hard time making out what was going on and the character development was slow. “The Sound of Noise” is more my vibe.

My friends and I are weak. We cannot go on. I have been to movies and entered with it being light outside and exited to the moon, but I have never entered a theater at night and left during the day. It is unsettling; a bizarre time of day when Taco Bell is closed, but only for another hour or so and the air chills your face but not your hands. I was under prepared for this festival, but when I return for the 8th Annual Santa Cruz Secret Film Festival, I will be ready.

Also worth mentioning are the other two films shown from 8am-12pm, “The Raid” and “Goon”.

  1. The Raid

I was gone by this point, but I figure it is worth mentioning the other two films screened. “The Raid” is an Indonesian action film following the siege of an apartment filled with thugs armed to the teeth.  It was well-received by the audience and several of the people I asked about after said this was their favorite movie from the whole festival. I interviewed friends that stayed for the whole festival and was told that it is worth watching. Beautiful action scenes, minimal plot. I can dig it.

  1. Goon

Again, I was gone for this film, but I was informed that “Goon” is a goofy hockey comedy from Canada. Extremely lovable protagonist and a perfect light-hearted film to end the festival.