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Everyone’s favorite curse word

A trio of documentaries

Clapboard Jungle: the heads of indie filmmaking.
Clapboard Jungle: the heads of indie filmmaking.

This week’s offerings include a trio of documentaries that range in subject from the history of everyone’s favorite curse word, Miami’s cocaine cartel, and for openers, a cautionary fable for the marginally talented among us who think they have what it takes to make it in Hollywood.

Clapboard Jungle (2021)

As if the poster’s graphics — artist’s renderings of indie monarchs George Romero, Dick Miller, Sid Haig, Larry Cohen, Tom Savini, and more — weren’t inducement enough, the accompanying paragraph spoke of a “currently over-crowded marketplace” and how this documentary would “serve as a survival guide for the modern independent filmmaker.” Nowhere does it mention, “Vanity production by Justin McConnell who appears to have spent fifteen years in a sub semi-pro capacity trying to emulate schlock that came before him.” McConnell’s IMDB profile boasts almost as many entries as Scorsese. According to the writer-producer-editor-director-star-wallpaper-hanger-etc. the main reason his showreel isn’t as visually stunning as Marty’s has everything to do with budgetary limitations. (One guesses McConnell was too busy savoring the finer points of Troma to bother with Who’s That Knocking at My Door?)

We spend 5 years in McConnell’s life, following him from festival to festival, and one dashed deal after another, as he tries desperately to make it into features. This boy has more footage of himself than do the Kardashians. (It’s doubtful that even Kim videoed herself sleeping on an airplane.) There is much to be learned from many of the illustrious and less distinguished participants that one would think some of it rubbed off on the director. McConnell begins with 3 absolute musts to avoid when directing a film (don’t make it all about yourself, avoid a self-reflexive yarn about the filmmaking process, and never open with a quote) and then proceeds to contradict the advice.

It would also have served McConnell to heed the sagacious guidance of Buddy Giovinazzo (Life is Hot in Cracktown, A Night of Nightmares): “If a director says to himself, ‘I’ve seen this scene a hundred times… do something different.’”’ What McConnell has to show for himself can at best be described as derivative. What the film has to say about the current state distribution is the stuff gerd is made of.

Though he didn’t live to be one of McConnell’s subjects, the most honest response to the oft asked question, “Do you have any advice on how to get a job directing?” came from Jerry Lewis: “The fact that you have to ask proves that you’re not there yet.” Steven Kostanski’s (Leprechaun Returns, Psycho Goreman) pragmatic remedy was a close second: Get a job, save your money, and do it yourself. Available on Arrow Video.

F*ck (2005)

Neither as idiosyncratic nor assured as The Aristocrats, filmmaker Steve Anderson’s F*ck is nonetheless a very entreating feature-length documentary dedicated to everybody’s favorite adjective. First, let’s do away with all talk of “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” Any truth behind the word originating as an acronym for these terms is quickly dispelled. In fact, aside from proof that the word first appeared in the late 1700s, there isn’t much more discussion of who coined it and why. According to the film, no one knows.

Almost instantly, any aspirations to historical documents are shelved. We are instead treated to social analysis/stand up delivered by a cluster of talking heads that either delight in saying the word or view it as one of the main reasons our society is in such a miserable state of moral decay. (F*ck spews the word over 800 times averaging out to 8.88 “f*cks” a minute.) The vast majority of the participants include comedians interviewed for the movie and politicians caught off guard while tape rolled. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Howard Stern are all introduced via archive footage. Drew Carey, Billy Connolly and Bill Maher take turns extolling the cathartic virtues of the word. And just wait till those wacky republican Dicks Nixon and Cheney crack under pressure and let loose with a filthy exclamation or two.

Perhaps the most amusing participant is squeaky clean Pat Boone. Whenever agitated, Pat substitutes his last name for the rude expletive. Were he to get one of his white bucks lodged in a revolving door, instead of letting out a long, loud curse, the former Little Richard cover artist would emit a resounding “BOONE!” Gangsta rapper turned Car Shield pitchman Ice-T is quick to add that he can’t wait to get home, hop on his wife and give her a good “Booneing.” Available on DVD.

Cocaine Cowboys (2005)

Had I trusted my first impression, I probably would have hit stop five minutes in after witnessing fuzzy home movies intercut with an equally fuzzy staged hit man spraying the screen with bullets. Hell, it could only get better. I watched and it did.

It’s Miami in the 70s, a sleepy little retirement community with wide open borders. Coke, rum, pot, illegals, you name it, Miami had it all. Back then, Colombia’s Medellin cartel controlled 80% of the cocaine trade. It got so you could hardly see the tops of glass coffee tables for all the mounds of blow. Billy Corbin’s shot-on-video documentary is told from the first hand accounts of three battle-scarred survivors: convicted drug trafficker Jon Roberts, Mickey Munday, a pilot convicted of smuggling over ten tons of powder into the United States, and Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, un unrepentant contract killer currently serving four consecutive life sentences.

These boys were ingenious. Why risk transporting the contraband in their personal automobiles? Instead, they bought a towing service and stashed the dope in beaters that they hauled to their destination. If a cop pulled them over, which they never did, they had the perfect excuse: “It isn’t my car.”

Illegal drugs and violence invariably go hand-in-hand and it wasn’t long before Miami’s annual death rate neared 700. (The police department had to lease a refrigerated truck from Burger King to house all the corpses.) Perhaps the most brutal figure in this unspeakably violent universe is Griselda Blanco, the “queen of cocaine.” Only a tough mother would dare name her youngest son Michael Corleone. Blanco’s never-ending battles with fellow drug dealers almost single-handedly brought about the bloodshed for which Miami became infamous in the 80s.

This is documentary filmmaking by the numbers. Shoot a group of interviewees with compelling stories to tell and pad them out with stock footage and news reports. Technically, it’s a nightmare. I can understand visual loss when bumping VHS up to high definition, but what’s the excuse for all the hideous contemporary interview footage? Was the director trying to make everything match? As cinematically sloppy as it may be, the film never shies away from the hammering home the awful truth. Ironically, the drug trade helped fuel Miami’s building boom. While it never overtly crusades for drug legalization, I can’t think of a more eloquent defense. Watch it tonight on Pluto, Tubi, Vudu, or FuboTV.

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Clapboard Jungle: the heads of indie filmmaking.
Clapboard Jungle: the heads of indie filmmaking.

This week’s offerings include a trio of documentaries that range in subject from the history of everyone’s favorite curse word, Miami’s cocaine cartel, and for openers, a cautionary fable for the marginally talented among us who think they have what it takes to make it in Hollywood.

Clapboard Jungle (2021)

As if the poster’s graphics — artist’s renderings of indie monarchs George Romero, Dick Miller, Sid Haig, Larry Cohen, Tom Savini, and more — weren’t inducement enough, the accompanying paragraph spoke of a “currently over-crowded marketplace” and how this documentary would “serve as a survival guide for the modern independent filmmaker.” Nowhere does it mention, “Vanity production by Justin McConnell who appears to have spent fifteen years in a sub semi-pro capacity trying to emulate schlock that came before him.” McConnell’s IMDB profile boasts almost as many entries as Scorsese. According to the writer-producer-editor-director-star-wallpaper-hanger-etc. the main reason his showreel isn’t as visually stunning as Marty’s has everything to do with budgetary limitations. (One guesses McConnell was too busy savoring the finer points of Troma to bother with Who’s That Knocking at My Door?)

We spend 5 years in McConnell’s life, following him from festival to festival, and one dashed deal after another, as he tries desperately to make it into features. This boy has more footage of himself than do the Kardashians. (It’s doubtful that even Kim videoed herself sleeping on an airplane.) There is much to be learned from many of the illustrious and less distinguished participants that one would think some of it rubbed off on the director. McConnell begins with 3 absolute musts to avoid when directing a film (don’t make it all about yourself, avoid a self-reflexive yarn about the filmmaking process, and never open with a quote) and then proceeds to contradict the advice.

It would also have served McConnell to heed the sagacious guidance of Buddy Giovinazzo (Life is Hot in Cracktown, A Night of Nightmares): “If a director says to himself, ‘I’ve seen this scene a hundred times… do something different.’”’ What McConnell has to show for himself can at best be described as derivative. What the film has to say about the current state distribution is the stuff gerd is made of.

Though he didn’t live to be one of McConnell’s subjects, the most honest response to the oft asked question, “Do you have any advice on how to get a job directing?” came from Jerry Lewis: “The fact that you have to ask proves that you’re not there yet.” Steven Kostanski’s (Leprechaun Returns, Psycho Goreman) pragmatic remedy was a close second: Get a job, save your money, and do it yourself. Available on Arrow Video.

F*ck (2005)

Neither as idiosyncratic nor assured as The Aristocrats, filmmaker Steve Anderson’s F*ck is nonetheless a very entreating feature-length documentary dedicated to everybody’s favorite adjective. First, let’s do away with all talk of “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” Any truth behind the word originating as an acronym for these terms is quickly dispelled. In fact, aside from proof that the word first appeared in the late 1700s, there isn’t much more discussion of who coined it and why. According to the film, no one knows.

Almost instantly, any aspirations to historical documents are shelved. We are instead treated to social analysis/stand up delivered by a cluster of talking heads that either delight in saying the word or view it as one of the main reasons our society is in such a miserable state of moral decay. (F*ck spews the word over 800 times averaging out to 8.88 “f*cks” a minute.) The vast majority of the participants include comedians interviewed for the movie and politicians caught off guard while tape rolled. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Howard Stern are all introduced via archive footage. Drew Carey, Billy Connolly and Bill Maher take turns extolling the cathartic virtues of the word. And just wait till those wacky republican Dicks Nixon and Cheney crack under pressure and let loose with a filthy exclamation or two.

Perhaps the most amusing participant is squeaky clean Pat Boone. Whenever agitated, Pat substitutes his last name for the rude expletive. Were he to get one of his white bucks lodged in a revolving door, instead of letting out a long, loud curse, the former Little Richard cover artist would emit a resounding “BOONE!” Gangsta rapper turned Car Shield pitchman Ice-T is quick to add that he can’t wait to get home, hop on his wife and give her a good “Booneing.” Available on DVD.

Cocaine Cowboys (2005)

Had I trusted my first impression, I probably would have hit stop five minutes in after witnessing fuzzy home movies intercut with an equally fuzzy staged hit man spraying the screen with bullets. Hell, it could only get better. I watched and it did.

It’s Miami in the 70s, a sleepy little retirement community with wide open borders. Coke, rum, pot, illegals, you name it, Miami had it all. Back then, Colombia’s Medellin cartel controlled 80% of the cocaine trade. It got so you could hardly see the tops of glass coffee tables for all the mounds of blow. Billy Corbin’s shot-on-video documentary is told from the first hand accounts of three battle-scarred survivors: convicted drug trafficker Jon Roberts, Mickey Munday, a pilot convicted of smuggling over ten tons of powder into the United States, and Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, un unrepentant contract killer currently serving four consecutive life sentences.

These boys were ingenious. Why risk transporting the contraband in their personal automobiles? Instead, they bought a towing service and stashed the dope in beaters that they hauled to their destination. If a cop pulled them over, which they never did, they had the perfect excuse: “It isn’t my car.”

Illegal drugs and violence invariably go hand-in-hand and it wasn’t long before Miami’s annual death rate neared 700. (The police department had to lease a refrigerated truck from Burger King to house all the corpses.) Perhaps the most brutal figure in this unspeakably violent universe is Griselda Blanco, the “queen of cocaine.” Only a tough mother would dare name her youngest son Michael Corleone. Blanco’s never-ending battles with fellow drug dealers almost single-handedly brought about the bloodshed for which Miami became infamous in the 80s.

This is documentary filmmaking by the numbers. Shoot a group of interviewees with compelling stories to tell and pad them out with stock footage and news reports. Technically, it’s a nightmare. I can understand visual loss when bumping VHS up to high definition, but what’s the excuse for all the hideous contemporary interview footage? Was the director trying to make everything match? As cinematically sloppy as it may be, the film never shies away from the hammering home the awful truth. Ironically, the drug trade helped fuel Miami’s building boom. While it never overtly crusades for drug legalization, I can’t think of a more eloquent defense. Watch it tonight on Pluto, Tubi, Vudu, or FuboTV.

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