Extreme Close-Up

I've lived in several run-down houses in Denton. One was a two-bedroom house that I shared with four roommates. We drank a lot and talked about how we were destined to rule the world because of our wonderful ideas. Rent was $125 a month, and I spent more money on beer than I did on food. Another house had a crooked toilet that was falling into the floor, a broken window that never got replaced, and a drooping showerhead that dribbled low-pressure, lukewarm water on good days.

Although I hope never to return to those living conditions, they did produce some of the most creative times of my life, and of my housemates' lives as well. Everyone played music, painted, wrote screenplays or poetry, and, when times were really good, used a video camera that somebody managed to have.

I remember walking into my house one late, cloudy afternoon and finding that a movie was being shot using one of those video cameras. It would eventually be called Larry, and it was about a son whose sleep was interrupted by his nagging mother (played by a Mrs. Butterworth's syrup bottle). The climax involved the son's kicking the bottle across the bedroom, where it shattered on the far wall. The mother gurgles her last syrupy breath as the son proclaims, "Now I can go to sleep, and you can go to hell." Great stuff.

Another time, I witnessed two roommates making a film (this one would be known as Billy and the Dragon) about a drunken man who was haunted by a tiny plastic dinosaur that was sporting a yellow Mohawk. The prehistoric creature (a symbol of the primal instinct, perhaps?) ordered the man to kill. Was the vision real, or was it his imagination? It was an unknown classic, to be sure.

These hilarious movies had several things in common: Amateurs made them, they used no money, and they were finished within a few hours. Despite those qualities (or perhaps because of them), both films appeared in the Good/Bad Art Collective's Video Night.

Of course, not all films appearing in this year's video night--called Video Kwon Do--are going to be as amateurish or rough. Some may actually have a budget and employ real actors. But Denton's Good/Bad welcomes all comers and all styles for its video nights. Video Kwon Do features a high-caliber headliner (well, slightly high) in Shit: The Movie, Julie Gaw's documentary that premiered at the Good/Bad New York satellite's video night last month and is described as "a documentary about poop." Thanks, we needed that. On the lighter side is Metallica Drummer, footage that recently circulated in the underground copy scene of a mulleted metalhead air-drumming a little too enthusiastically to a Metallica tune.

Beside these infamous treats will be soon-to-be-classic lowbrow videos by a new generation of Denton's finest creative loafers. Uncut (and most likely unedited), these cinematic diamonds in the rough have more independent spirit in one frame than any Sundance entry has in an entire reel of high-quality film stock. They have to, 'cuz, like, who can afford film anyway?

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Mark Hughes