Made on the Margins

For 15 years, the Dallas Video Fest has flickered on the fringe

Money for Nothing: Behind the Business of Pop Music More than ever before, the music industry's under siege from all sides: the record labels who insist peer-to-peer piracy is killing their biz, the artists who insist their contracts are tantamount to slavery and the consumers who're buying more blank discs than prerecorded CDs. It's gotten so bad millionaires are holding benefit concerts for themselves; one can only imagine the next step, the Labor Day Don Henley Rock Star Telethon featuring Courtney Love and the once-and-future Eagle singing "Hotel California" while Sheryl Crow rings the tote board and Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks man the phones. For the mildly interested (those who read Entertainment Weekly, not Variety), there's nothing particularly revelatory about Kembrew McLeod's abbreviated doc; it's inflammatory and infuriating and loaded with charts and graphs (befitting a film made by an assistant professor of communications studies at the University of Iowa), but never more insightful than a long magazine article in which the usual suspects (Ani DiFranco, Chuck D, Michael Franti, etc.) rant and rail against the corrupt system. McLeod stacks the deck too high in her and her subjects' favor. It would have been nice to have heard about this sordid biz from the labels' perspective, skewed though it may be; it also would have been better had narrator Thurston Moore stopped reading off cue cards and started talking about how his own band, Sonic Youth, was screwed into major-label oblivion when its label, Geffen, was swallowed whole during the Unigram merger some years back. And, look, you sign to a major, you know you're just asking to get bent over a chair. So, like, deal. (RW)

Murals of Magic City Magic City was what folks called the Texas Centennial celebration at Fair Park in 1936. In the middle of the Depression, the esplanade at Fair Park housed this World's Fair that energized the city and, in turn, the Southwest. The murals of the title refer to murals painted on the buildings for the Centennial, and the current restoration of them mirrors the restoration of Fair Park. (One delicious note from this fine documentary: Dallas had no business hosting this event. It marked 100 years after Texas gained its independence from Mexico, not 100 years after statehood. But in 1836, Dallas wasn't even a city yet. Houston should have been the site of choice. But, in typical Dallas fashion, the planners were offered the Fair Park acreage to construct their fair and, oh yeah, 10 million bucks. That's all it took. Some things never change.) FDR is seen saying that the Centennial wasn't just for Texas, "but for all the other 47 states as well." Although the story begins without much context, it gives an informative look at the history of one of Dallas' few civic treasures. As the film puts it, the murals are "replaceable legacies of an unforgettable era, standing as monuments to the faith and hope of the past." (EC)

Prize Whores People wearing freebie T-shirts shouldn't make fun of people wearing freebie T-shirts, but that's just what Austin DJ Jenn Garrison does in this irksome documentary about folks who come to radio-station remotes in search of giveaway goodies. Garrison's is the worst sort of documentary: judgmental and self-serving, less an attempt to understand people who literally live for free movie passes and concert tickets and rock-band T-shirts than a chance to bad-mouth and humiliate them in front of the camera. Prize Whoresought to run about 10 minutes, which it would have been had Garrison not wanted to make a movie about how condescending, self-righteous and inarticulate she could be. Her crew, who eventually discovers how much fun it is to win free junk, shows up to denounce the film's troubled trio of "prize whores" as "vultures"; they're oblivious to the fact they're equally as culpable, picking over the lives of three people who clearly needthese remotes as a way to fill their empty lives and messy houses that are stuffed with little more than autographed posters and assorted effluvia picked up along the way. You'll come away hating only the jocks and radio marketing folks who bad-mouth their listeners and apparently hate their jobs and themselves; they're the real whores. (RW)

The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
The revolution was televised: Ernie Kovacs' rare TV work will be presented by wife and fellow performer Edie Adams.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in  Mike Figgis' Hotel.
A hole in the head, top: This is, we guess, a scene from Headcheese. Checking out, below: Rhys Ifans and David Schwimmer kill time in Mike Figgis' Hotel.

Details

May 16-19. Tickets, ranging from $65 for an all-fest pass including Video Association of Dallas membership to $10-$15 for single-day passes, are available at the door or at www.videofest.org. The opening-night film, Hotel, will screen at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave.
Dallas Theater Center Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

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Rock Star Parking A handful of filmmakers explore and explode the myths of being disabled in Rock Star Parking, compiled by Houston-based Carlos Lama and Denise Ramos. Much of the film focuses on people living life to the fullest despite physical limitations, whether it's athlete Mike Haynes hooping it up in a wheelchair ("Passion: The Game of Life") or dancer Bruce Jackson deftly incorporating his handicap into his performance ("Bruce") or a paraplegic who refuses to give up on sailing ("Sea Legs"). The highlight, though, is Shin Hee Park and Theresa Shih's "Access Disabled," a trip through the good, bad and ugly public rest rooms with wheelchair-bound Megan O'Neil, which will have you demanding wheelchair-accessible facilities if there's any life left in your cold, black heart. Actually, the highlight is Haynes playing practical jokes with a prosthetic leg. But I don't want to spoil the fun. (ZC)

Rosa, The Death of a Composer Maybe the smarties will get it, but the rest of you (by which I mean, the rest of us) will be left confounded and bored; such is the usual response to the films of Peter Greenaway, which are often as brilliant and intoxicating as they are baffling and infuriating. A 3-year-old film of an 8-year-old opera--with libretto written by Greenaway, director of The Belly of an Architectand The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and music by Dutch avant-garde composer Louis Andriessen--Rosatells an intricate (if not downright daft) tale linking the mysterious deaths of composers real (Anton Webern, John Lennon) and fictional (Juan Manuel de Rosa, of the film's title). It's engaging only in fits and starts, never as a whole; Andriessen's monotone, minimalist music, which recalls Joe Jackson's ill-advised forays into "classical," wears thin, and Greenaway's multilayered visuals hypnotize and nauseate all at once. With its scrolling text and background videos and naked singers and on and on, there's just so much going on about seemingly so little. The plot, such as it is, deals with the murders of Rosa, who dreamed of writing for Hollywood westerns, and his would-be wife Esmeralda (Marie Angel), who's abused emotionally and sexually by the composer; he reserves his intimate love for his horse, forcing Esmeralda to becomea four-legged creature as the piece progresses. Ultimately, she's entirely nude (it's remarkable Angel can keep singing in such a prolonged vulnerable state) and entirely mad; she's rendered human sacrifice by film's end. It maybe be brilliant. It may be awful. It's probably both. (RW)

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