The Macguffin video podcast talking about Red State. If you want to skip to the horribly embarrassing bits there's an embedded link towards the end of the text.
A few weeks back I went to see Kevin Smith's new film Red State at the enormous McCaw Hall. Not the smaller one next door that has become SIFF Cinema. Nope, the huge space that typically hosts things such as the Opera. A few years ago I went to the SIFF opening night film Battle in Seattle there. I don't recall the acoustics being quite so horrible at the time, but it's not really making me look forward to SIFF using it for the opening night film again this year. Crappy audio notwithstanding it was a fun night out. First off I got to hang out with a variety of film loving folks before the picture. And then after that meetup I enjoyed both the film and Mr. Kevin Smith holding court for an extended Q&A post screening.
I was a little dubious going in about Red State - not really so much because of the film itself, but mainly due to the fact that seeing it on this leg of its release tour cost almost $80. For those not following the mini-saga, Smith is engaged in an interesting bit of self-distribution with his latest release. His plan has been to tour personally with the film, collecting premium fees at large venues across the country. That's not altogether unheard of cost wise, as the price for the film plus Smith Q&A wasn't that different than what folks paid to see him live on tour without a film. In October after he has recouped the cost of production (I believe around $4 million) then Red State will get a more traditional release across the country. This style of self distribution isn't unheard of - it's a larger scale take on what Crispin Glover has been doing with his odd art films, and from what I've read in an earlier cinematic era the concept of renting a theater and taking home the gate for yourself was pretty common.
Red State kept me vaguely disturbed all the way through - and in a good way. There's not a central protagonist to follow, which may contribute to viewer unease. The basic outline of the story is that three high school buddies travel to a nearby town with the goal of triple teaming (sexually speaking) a woman they met on the internet. But all is not as it appears and they end up prisoners of a very violent Christian religious cult who's not too pleased with homosexuals, or heterosexuals other than their family members for that manner. Compounding things the boys making the amateur mistake of not telling anyone they were off to a random sex hookup and setting up an emergency "call the police if you don't hear from me by ..." plan. So basically they're quickly up the creek without a paddle. Somehow the plot manages to mix John Goodman in and a variety of other actors you're sure to recognize before things are through. I don't really want to talk more about the story other to say it certainly held my attention. And don't go expecting a comedy.
Given the title and the thinly drawn vision on a far more violent version of the infamous Phelps family it's easy to assume beforehand that Red State is intended as a political statement. I'm sure if you think about it enough there's something to that - or if not you could find a way to extract a message. But I chose to see it more as entertainment than statement - and at that level is worked pretty well for me. It's not a "fun" watch, and some of the characters approach caricature. It's dark material and the ending may divide some (personally I dug it). But it kept me pretty much guessing the whole way through and as a piece of escapist thriller-esque drama it was solid. I definitely wouldn't try to talk you out of seeing it in October, even if you did not like his earlier films.
The post-game Kevin Smith was very entertaining. It seemed as though by this stop in the tour (Seattle was the second to last screening) he had most of his patter down, to the point of being slightly repetitive. But from the intro where he told the audience he'd be in the back live tweeting the show, and that he'd setup his webcam to upload the flick to BitTorrent ("I'm full service guy") to later on where he gave a unique statement of the value of needing to make film ("you've got to want to fuck your art in a Denny's bathroom") Smith's natural storytelling abilities shown through (to the point of almost sparkling). These days he spends hours a day talking for free on the Internet via his SModcast network. I'm not a regular listener, but after the show I did start downloading a few - I think that even if as threatened Smith only makes one more film after Red State there's gonna be a lot of compelling audio content coming from him for years to come...
The Video Interview
A week or so after the show Spencer Fornaciari the co-host and editor in chief of The Macguffin Podcast invited me to do a video review with him about the film. Perhaps to partially make up for peer pressuring me on twitter to pay up to see the film in the first place ;-) Regardless of the reason it was a lot of fun to riff on film on and off camera with Spencer in the upstairs of the legendary Scarecrow Video.
I did learn it's probably better to get some sleep beforehand next time and not go on camera with horribly dry eyes. But independent of the fact that I feel I sort of look like an overweight bobble-head doll with blinking issues I enjoyed the overall experience. I've embedded our interview below. You can click through to YouTube for the high-def version. Not that I look any better in that one....