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Midnight madness

Cult films and local bands provide late-night fun at cinéfest

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Say what you will about our new Chief Executive, but the man delivers. He promised us a return to the traditional values that made this country great. And sure enough, the paint on the "No Vacancy" sign on the Lincoln Bedroom door is scarcely dry, and already unemployment is up, the petroleum industry is once again in charge of environmental policy, and we're back in a Cold War with China.

This spring, why not celebrate the dawning of this glorious new day for old white guys by doing two or three truly traditional American things. You could empty your car's crankcase into the neighbor's yard, or shoot a buffalo or, better still, put on your best red, white and blue Underoos and go see a midnight movie!

See, long before it was associated with curfew violation, heavy petting and camouflaged schnapps, the midnight movie was an integral part of our war effort for WWII, the Big One. Women flooded into factories, working overtime to supply the boys overseas, and markets, eateries and theaters started staying open late for the home-front heroes on the swing shift. Thus the midnight movie was born.

And if it's good enough for the hard-working women of the Greatest Generation, by Jingo, it's good enough for pampered, ungrateful lard-asses like us.

And thanks to cinéfest, the best little arthouse this side of Texas, you can join in this quintessential celebration of all things American. They've assembled an all-star lineup of late-night film fare and given this venerable tradition a new spin by bringing in local bands to play before each show. No doubt, the "Star Spangled Banner" will be on the set list, each and every evening.

The spring slate, which runs through the first weekend in June, marks a year of midnight screenings at the student-run theater at Georgia State University. According to 'Fest honcho Blake Meyers, the logistics of keeping a campus-based theater open into the wee small hours may make the current bi-weekly schedule of night-owl screenings untenable. Aficionados are advised to stock up; it will probably be a month between fixes come summer.

On April 20-21, come out and play with The Warriors. The band Suspicious Package will set the mood for Walter Hill's classic 1979 story of gang diplomacy gone horribly awry, a portrait of urban alienation and violence as timely as today's headlines and as realistic as Rocky & Bullwinkle. The Warriors, a motley crew of Coney Island toughs, attend a gang summit in the city and get framed for whacking the would-be kingpin of NYC street-crime and must try to escape back to their own turf while pursued by the whitest, wackiest array of theme-gangs ever put on film, all dressed in unique and fabulous outfits, from the bat-wielding, be-jersied Baseball Furies to the All-Girl Lizzies. It's like Boyz N the Hood meets The Boys of the Chorus.

In May, we can all do our part for rapprochement with China by acknowledging the many accomplishments of Chinese-Americans and our neighbors across the sea and turn out for the lost 1980s masterpiece, Big Trouble in Little China. Director John Carpenter, who practically invented the slasher film with Halloween and Kurt Russell with Escape From New York, was the first American director to pay the slightest attention to the rich, strange and beautiful cinema of Hong Kong. A good-natured, East-meets-West send-up of the wu-xia "flying sword-fight" films of Tsui Hark and King Hu, Big Trouble has a rough-neck trucker (Russell) helping a Chinese-American buddy rescue his fiancée by a festively dressed undead sorcerer and his demonic hench-critters. Dynamite fight scenes, spectacular production design and a delightful dead-pan wit didn't save this picture from the shit-list on its initial release, mostly because no one had seen the films that inspired it.

But with folks crowding into Crouching Tiger, there couldn't be a better time to revive this prescient pic. If you saw Ang Lee's tour-de-force fight flick and loved it, you'll get a kick out of Big Trouble. If you hated Crouching Tiger, you'll get an even bigger one. Hey, why not see it both nights? Not only will it be funnier the second time around, but you get a different band each night, Amelia on May 4, Puddin on May 5.

The band won't leave the stage May 18 and 19. The Plastic Plan, an offspring of the mighty Man or Astro-Man? lineage, will be providing an electronic score for the granddaddy of all special effects blockbusters, the 1925 version of The Lost World. Featuring breathtaking stop-motion animation by Willis O'Brien, the Man Who Would Do Kong, this adaptation of Conan Doyle's story about a South American plateau inhabited by prehistoric beasts remains one of the landmark works of fantastic cinema. Not only is any opportunity to see a silent film with live musical accompaniment, the way God intended, not to be missed, but the awesome brontosaurus-on-the-loose-in-London climax will make you a better person, and this, a happier nation.

Besides, with tunes and a movie going for a paltry six bucks, the musical midnight movies at cinéfest will allow us to escape, for a few hours, the horror of our slow slide back into deficit spending and recession ever-so-much less painful. And what could be more American than that?

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