Friday, February 18, 2011

Spotlight on: “Punching the Clown”

Henry Phillips stands, and strums, at the center of "Punching the Clown."

So this comedian has a girlfriend. She’s beautiful, she’s funny, she’s smart, she has a great job. She’s a wonderful cook, she makes love like nobody’s business.

One morning she wakes up, and finds the comedian packing his suitcase. He throws his keys on the bed and heads for the door.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she cries. “Don’t you love me any more?”

He snorts. “NO MATERIAL!” he snarls, and leaves.

Comedy usually stems from an inner sense that things are not all for the best in the world. A comedian is a person at odds with reality, raising objections and pointing out cognitive dissonance in ways that jar our sensibilities and, hopefully, make us laugh.

Henry Phillips knows this life so well that he crafted an impeccably funny screenplay about the comic’s life, and got it made. “Punching the Clown” is an odyssey endured by Henry (playing himself, in essence) as he treks to L.A. to try and get off the road and into some better-paying, higher-exposure gigs as a guitar-strumming, song-belting funnyman.

For those of us who have toiled on stage at comedy clubs, “Punching the Clown” is practically a documentary. Sleeping on relatives’ couches, working children’s parties, enduring insufferable “creative” meetings, blowing interviews, putting up with the success of annoying no-talent acts that zoom past you on the popularity meter, being mistaken for a Nazi – (OK, maybe not that last item) – it’s what every aspiring performer goes through . . . sometimes for the duration of his or her career.

“Punching the Clown” is vastly superior to any other evocation of the life simply because it’s made by people intimately familiar with its ups and down (confession: a very good friend and former co-performer of mine, the lovely and talented Wade Kelley, plays radio host Captain Chaotic). If you love to laugh, you’ll love it. If you’ve been around the comedy life, you’ll sigh with recognition. If you’re thinking about going on stage, this will convince you to forget about it and get a degree in civil engineering.

Henry takes the bad with the good, gig-wise, in "Punching the Clown."

ALERT: Star, writer, producer and composer Henry Phillips will be with us for a chat and Q & A with us after the screening!

Punching the Clown


Dir: Gregori Viens

Feature Film


91 min.

Presented at the First United Methodist Church

Friday, Feb. 18, at 9:15 p.m.

Spotlight on: “These Amazing Shadows”

Tim Roth joins several other film luminaries in praising the work of the National Film Registry in "These Amazing Shadows."

85 percent of all movies from the silent era are lost forever. Half of all sound films made before 1950 have vanished.

The most amazing thing about the films we treasure so much are that they are so perishable. We tend to think of movies as being some kind of medium that captures performances, ideas and visions permanently – but they don’t. (In fact, many more recent releases – even Coppola’s “Godfather” films – have required extensive restoration and preservation work.)

“These Amazing Shadows” chronicles the efforts of the National Film Registry to save these priceless works of art. Initiated in 1988, this list of all manner of film documents – more than 500 to date, added to each year – is presided over by the United States National Film Preservation Board.

This fascinating and surprisingly moving film is part celebration, part detective story. Volatile nitrate film stock, so flammable that it can spontaneously combust, is ferreted out by intrepid researchers. Many times, it has deteriorated or cohered into “hockey pucks” – solid masses of matter.

Those who watch “Shadows” will see feats of technological magic, and, more importantly, begin to understand how much depth and breadth there is to the American film experience. The Registry contains newsreels, silent films, experimental films, short subjects, films out of copyright protection, film serials, home movies, documentaries, independent films, television movies, and music videos.

Anyone who wants to know the story behind the stories we tell each other in darkened theaters will relish “These Amazing Shadows.”

These Amazing Shadows


Dir: Kurt Norton and Paul Mariano

Feature Documentary


88 min.

Presented at the First United Methodist Church

Friday, Feb. 18, at 5 p.m.

BIFF presents the People's Choice Award

For the first time, this year the Boulder International Film Festival has instituted the People's Choice Award. This gives you the chance to vote in your favorite film of the Festival for one of our exclusive Vielehr statuettes!

Here's how it works: you will be given a slip of paper marked with the name of the fim and the numbers 1 through 5, 5 being the highest number a film can receive (please note: each film is judged on its own merits, not in relation to other BIFF films). When a screening ends, please TEAR THROUGH the number you think the film merits. Then give your ballot to one of our BIFF volunteers on your way out. It's that simple!

Vox populi, vox dei (that's, uh, let's see . . . Latin, yeah! It means "the voice of the people is the voice of God." And look how the Roman Empire turned out -- ).