Day 5 of the Las Vegas Film Festival saw a few pleasant surprises to liven up the festivities. First there was a Virtual Reality presentation by Hexa 360. This was my first time experiencing any sort of virtual reality technology and I was blown away by the brief viewing I had. James and Nick from Hexa 360 let me watch a brief sample of their work, and this is clearly the future of gaming and cinema. I look forward to seeing more from these guys in the future.

(l-r) James and Nick from Hexa360
(l-r) James and Nick from Hexa360

Festival goers were also fortunate enough to be treated to free candy from Zappos and free popcorn frozen in liquid nitrogen courtesy of Popped.

Popped (2) zappos

I managed to catch two outstanding documentaries, Call Me Lucky by Bobcat Goldthwait and Being Evel by Daniel Junge.
Call Me Lucky told the story of comedian Barry Crimmins, focusing first on his life and work, then exploring the dark secret he kept for years. I have to admit I had never heard of Crimmins prior to this documentary, so I was intrigued with his unique brand of comedy as well as his humanitarian work. The film explores how Crimmins helped launch the stand-up comedy scene in Boston in the 1980’s. Through interviews with comedians and friends, his material, influence, and mannerisms are discussed with a mix of nostalgia and concern. In a Q & A session after the film, Goldthwait said that he intentionally waited until about 45 minutes into the film to reveal the dark secret of Crimmins past. This was an excellent choice, as it allowed viewers to get to know Crimmins and his work first. SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD-skip below picture if you don’t want to read.

The documentary then focuses on Crimmins sexual abuse as a child, and friends recall how he revealed this information to the world during a stand-up comedy monologue. Rather than focus on self-pity, however, Crimmins uses his intelligence and wit as a force of good, crusading against pedophilia and the distribution of child pornography on the internet during its fledgling years in the 1990’s. Likewise the documentary does not dwell on the horrid details but rather focuses on all the good that has come out of Crimmins’ works. The highlight of the film were the clips of Crimmins testifying before Congress, intelligently trading jabs with an attorney from America Online and ultimately besting him. After all, the truth was on Crimmins side and no high powered attorney can obfuscate that. Crimmins’ humanitarian work, just like his comedy, was extremely intelligent, well researched, and obsessively passionate. It is no exaggeration to say that Crimmins’ efforts set the blueprint for the modern system of prosecuting child pornographers. In one revealing interview, a District Attorney admits that when Crimmins approached him regarding the filth he was exposing on the internet, the District Attorney’s office did not even own a computer. In this respect Crimmins’ was cutting edge, and thankfully he was around to raise awareness of this issue at an early stage in the internet’s development.

Overall, Call Me Lucky was an excellent documentary. Although the subject material was very heavy and emotional, the documentary was necessary in order to raise awareness of this issue. Crimmins realizes that this issue is bigger than even a larger-than-life persona such as himself, and was willing to go to some dark places in his past if it meant helping just one other person. Such is the nature of Crimmins, and the documentary captures this compassion.

(l-r) Russell Christian, Bobcat Goldthwait
(l-r) Russell Christian, Bobcat Goldthwait

Being Evel by Daniel Junge was a bravado filled expose on legendary daredevil Evel Knievel. This “warts and all” documentary chronicled the entire life cycle of the legend, starting with his origin story in the mining town of Butte, Montana, to his stratospheric rise to superstardom in the 1970’s, then his fall from grace and ultimate acceptance of his mortality and status as the elder statesman of extreme sports. Being Evel does an excellent job of splicing archival footage with interviews of family and friends. Perhaps the most entertaining narration of the film is by his modern counterpart Johnny Knoxville, who produced the film and answered some questions afterwards.

Just like Knievel himself, the documentary’s strength is in the storytelling. The documentary does an excellent job of indicating how Knievel spawned legions of copycats and created the modern concept of extreme sports. But despite the talents and fame of his followers (including his son Robbie, who broke most of his father’s records), none of the derivations of Knievel can substitute for the original himself. The documentary explains this by hilariously recalling all of Knievel’s publicity stunts, his outrageous quotations, and the larger than life persona he created about himself. The documentary reveals, however, how this persona almost became a trap for him, but once he freed himself from it he was able to finally live his last few years in peace, just a man from Butte, Montana who dreamed big.
Being Evel’s excellent storytelling makes this a hit not just for fans of extreme sports but for anyone who enjoys a good documentary.

The after-party at the Downtown Container Park was an enjoyable experience. Although I was skeptical of an outdoor party in August there were several misters in the area which kept the crowd cool. I called it an early evening before the Music Video Lab Premiere in order to save my energy for today. Look forward to seeing everyone on the last day of the Festival!