Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ON STORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Film Crit Hulk Smash: HARMONY KORINE ISN’T LYING

Hulk spent two days as an embedded reporter with Harmony Korine, James Franco and the SPRING BREAKERS crew at SXSW.

Film Crit Hulk Smash: HARMONY KORINE ISN’T LYING

HEY ALL! A QUICK NOTE AT THE START HERE. FIRST OFF, HULK APOLOGIZES FOR THE DELAY IN THE RELEASE OF THIS COLUMN. SINCE HULK BELIEVES FULL-WELL IN TRANSPARENCY, HERE'S THE DEAL: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO APPEAR AT ANOTHER PUBLICATION (AND THEN ALMOST ENDED UP RUNNING AT A FEW DIFFERENT PLACES), WHICH MEANS THAT A GOOD DEAL OF THE DELAY IN THE THE LAST MONTH HAS BEEN PURELY A MATTER OF GOING THROUGH THE GAUNTLETS OF FACT-CHECKING, DEALING WITH PUBLICATION LIMITATIONS AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF HAPPENSTANCE. ALL OF WHICH WAS MORE THAN UNDERSTANDABLE, BUT IT ULTIMATELY LED TO A TOUGH SITUATION WHERE HULK WOULD HAVE HAD TO MAKE ENOUGH SACRIFICES TO THE PIECE THAT HULK GENUINELY THOUGHT WERE NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE PIECE ITSELF (EVEN IF THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR HULK, THE MOVIE IN QUESTION, THE INCREDIBLY KIND PUBLICISTS WHO AUTHORIZED ALL THIS AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF THAT REALLY DOES MATTER). BUT IN THE END, IT SHOULD BE BEST FOR THE READER. SO HULK DECIDED THAT THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION WAS TO BRING IT TO YOU HERE AT HULK'S HOME IN ITS FULL, FINAL FORM.

CHEERS + ENJOY!

<3 HULK

 

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1. THE MAN WHO LOST HIS MIND

HARMONY KORINE SITS ON A STONE PARK BENCH ADORNED WITH PSYCHEDELIC FLUORESCENT PAINT. HE LAUNCHES INTO THE STORY OF THE PARK’S ORIGIN, SAYING THAT IT WAS DESIGNED BY GROUPS OF PREGNANT WOMEN IN THE EARLY 70’S. HE SAYS THEY WOULD COME THERE TO DO L.S.D. BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT IT ENHANCED THE INTELLIGENCE QUOTA OF THEIR BABIES.

HULK HAS NO IDEA IF THIS STORY HAS AN OUNCE OF TRUTH.

PEOPLE GET THAT FEELING A LOT FROM HARMONY KORINE. ONLY MOMENTS LATER HE WALKS DOWN A NASHVILLE STREET WITH HIS FRIEND AND FELLOW ACCLAIMED FILMMAKER GASPAR NOÉ AND A STRANGER CALLS OUT TO THEM, ASKING WHY A CAMERA CREW IS FILMING THEM. HARMONY ANSWERS: “It’s for TRU Tv! It’s about people who have been mugged on the street. He’s the only guy who has been mugged four times on this same street! He was also struck by lightening.” THE BYSTANDER ASKS IF HARMONY IS SERIOUS AND HE REASSURES HIM IT IS TRUE.

THIS SEGMENT APPEARED TWO YEARS AGO ON A TRU TV SPECIAL CALLED “INTO THE NIGHT WITH HARMONY KORINE AND GASPAR NOÉ.” IT IS AN UTTERLY HILARIOUS BIT OF TELEVISION, BUT TO THIS DAY HULK ALSO FINDS IT TO BE ONE OF THE MOST REVEALING LOOKS INTO THE MIND OF ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST MISUNDERSTOOD FILMMAKERS.

WHEN MOST PEOPLE THINK OF HARMONY KORINE THEY TEND TO THINK OF HIS FAMOUS APPEARANCES ON DAVID LETTERMAN, WHICH WERE CHARACTERIZED BY A KIND OF YOUTHFUL, INTROVERTED AND FLIPPANT REBELLIOUSNESS. LETTERMAN APPARENTLY LOVED WHEN KORINE WOULD COME ON THE SHOW. THERE HE WOULD EGG ON THIS YOUNG FILMMAKER WHO HAD A PENCHANT FOR SPINNING AN AWKWARD WEB OF ELABORATE STORIES (ALL WHILST STARING AT THE GROUND). IT FELT LIKE THE ANTI-INTERVIEW AND WAS ALL PART AND PARCEL OF LETTERMAN’S EARLY DESIRE TO BURN TALK SHOW SINCERITY TO THE GROUND. EVEN KORINE’S CONTRIBUTION TO ARGUABLY HIS MOST FAMOUS FILM KIDS (1995) IS LARGELY MISUNDERSTOOD BECAUSE HE ONLY WROTE IT. STILL, MANY REGARD THE FILM ITSELF AS A VILE AND CRUEL JOKE ON HONEST SENSIBILITIES. AND WHEN YOU ADD UP ALL THESE TANGIBLE SURFACE DETAILS, THE PUBLIC CONCLUSION WOULD SEEM OBVIOUS:

HARMONY KORINE IS A LIAR.

AND BOY DO PEOPLE HATE PUBLIC FIGURES WHO LIE. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THEY ARE THE PARAGONS OF GOODNESS OR THE MOST DESPICABLE SCOUNDRELS, THE ONLY THING WE ACTUALLY REQUIRE OF PUBLIC FIGURES IS FOR THEM TO BE GENUINE REPRESENTATIONS OF THEMSELVES. WHY ELSE WOULD SOCIETY CHASTISE TIGER WOODS AND SIMPLY SHAKE THEIR HEADS AT CHARLES BARKLEY? THE LATTER’S BEHAVIOR IN HIS DRUNK DRIVING ADULTUROUS INCIDENT WAS FAR MORE DETRIMENTAL, BUT OUR INDIGNATION WITH WOODS WAS DUE TO THE FACT THAT HIS BEHAVIOR CLASHED WITH HIS IMMACULATE PUBLIC IMAGE. AS FOR BARKLEY, WE COULD CHALK IT UP TO A SIMPLE MATTER OF “CHARLES BEING CHARLES.” ULTIMATELY, WE JUST LIKE OUR PORTRAYALS TO BE HONEST.

CINEMA IS NO DIFFERENT. MOST PEOPLE LIKE IT TO BE FORTHRIGHT TO ITS SURFACE IDENTITY. WE LIKE TO UNDERSTAND ITS CLEAR PURPOSE AND SINCERITY. AND WHAT COMPLICATES THIS IS THE NOTION THAT KORINE’S CINEMA OFTEN FLIES IN THE FACE OF THIS CONVENTION WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY BEING DEEPLY VISCERAL AND UNNERVING. HE DIVES HEAD FIRST INTO THE EXTREMES OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND ANY PERCEIVED NOTION OF FALSENESS THEREIN IS READ IS A BETRAYAL BY THE VIEWER. IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE MADE TO FEEL AWFUL, IT BETTER NOT BE A LIE.

THUS A LOT OF PEOPLE TEND TO BE SURPRISED THAT HULK IS A DEEP ADMIRER OF KORINE’S WORK. FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE, IT SEEMS LIKE ANTITHETICAL AIMS TO HULK’S MISSION STATEMENT OF CLARITY AND OPTIMISM. BUT IN KORINE’S ABILITY TO DELVE SO READILY INTO “THE LIE” OF CINEMA AND TELL THE KINDS OF OUTLANDISH STORIES THAT SEEM TO SPRING FORTH OUT OF HIS HEAD AT MOMENTS' NOTICE, HULK SEES SOMETHING GENUINE AND EVEN WEIRDLY INSPIRATIONAL.

FOR INSTANCE, IN THAT SAME TRU TV SPECIAL, THERE IS A MOMENT WHERE HARMONY WALKS OVER TO A GROUP OF YOUNG AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRLS PLAYING IN THE PARK. HE BEGINS TO SING AND DANCE WITH THEM AND PROCLAIM THAT THEY ARE HIS FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. IT’S THE SORT OF MOMENT THAT WOULD PARALYZE AN OVERLY-SENSITIVE PROGRESSIVE PERSON AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THE STATEMENT IS UN-P.C. OR SELF-AGGRANDIZING, BUT SOON IT DOESN’T MATTER. HARMONY IS PLAYING WITH ALL OF THEM AND GOT THEM TO STAR IN HIS “MOVIE,” PROCLAIMING: “This is my extended family here in Nashville Tennessee! You guys are never going to leave me, are you? You’re going to stay at my side forever? You’re gonna help me find that guy's mind! It’s a movie about a guy who goes to this park and loses his mind. Everybody let’s search for the mind!” AND SOON EVERYONE IS HELPING HARMONY TRY TO FIND THIS GUY’S MIND AND WHILE DOING SO THEY SEEM TO BE HAVING THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES. HARMONY DIRECTS THEM WITH FUN-LOVING EASE: “I think I smell the mind under the tree!” AND SOON GRABS A BIG IMAGINARY CHUNK AND SAYS WITH PETER-PAN-LIKE GLEE: “I’m going to give everyone a piece of mind! I got a big piece here! Who wants this piece?”

IT’S THE KIND OF MOMENT THAT REMINDS YOU OF THE BASIC FLIPSIDE OF THE “LIE” OF STORYTELLING. IT’S ALL PRETEND. AND IN THAT GAME OF PRETEND THERE IS A SPECTRUM OF PURE EXPRESSIONS. HARMONY ISN’T CRAZY FOR EXPLORING THEM. THERE IS EVEN AN ACUTE SPECIFICITY TO THE STORIES HE TELLS. THE STORY OF A MAN WHO LOST THE PIECES OF HIS MIND AND NEEDS THE KIDS TO HELP HIM FIND IT? AND IN DOING SO GIVES THEM “PIECE OF MIND” IN RETURN? IT’S TOO DAMN SUCCINCT TO BE ACCIDENTAL AND MIGHT BE ONE OF THE BEST SPONTANEOUS METAPHORS FOR STORYTELLING HULK HAS EVER HEARD.

IT’S JUST FINDING THAT SAME PURE EXPRESSION IN HARMONY’S CINEMA HAS BEEN WEIRDLY CHALLENGING FOR SOME PEOPLE. PERHAPS THAT’S WHY HULK’S ALWAYS BEEN DEEPLY CURIOUS ABOUT THE PERSON BEHIND THAT CINEMA AND WHAT HIS MOTIVATIONS WERE.

AND TO HELP UNEARTH WHATEVER IT MAY BE THERE, HULK SPENT TWO DAYS AS AN EMBEDDED REPORTER WITH HARMONY KORINE AT AUSTIN’S ANNUAL SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST FILM FESTIVAL (SXSW), WHERE HIS NEW, HIGH-PROFILE FILM SPRING BREAKERS HELD ITS AMERICAN PREMIERE.

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:

2. THE ART OF WAITING

SUNDAY MARCH 10TH – 3:28 P.M.

OF COURSE, THE VERY SECOND THAT HULK MEETS HARMONY KORINE, HE LAUNCHES INTO A STORY.

HULK HAS JUST BEEN GIVEN A QUICK INTRODUCTION AND WE SAY A FRIENDLY HELLO. HULK PROCEEDS TO TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLAIN PRECISELY WHAT HULK WILL BE DOING THE NEXT FEW DAYS, MOSTLY IN TRYING TO MAINTAIN A NON-INVASIVE OBSERVATIONAL ROLE, TO WHICH HARMONY REPLIES: “Oh, so you’ll be a lurker!” AND FROM THERE HE PROCEEDS TO LAUNCH INTO A STORY ABOUT HIS FATHER. HE DESCRIBES HIM AS A QUIET MAN WHO WOULD ALWAYS JUST ROAM THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE, LURKING IN THE SHADOWS, TRYING TO CATCH HARMONY IN THE ACT OF DOING SOMETHING WRONG. HE RECALLS LISTENING TO THE CREAKY FLOOR BOARDS OF THE HOUSE AND ALWAYS TRYING TO STAY ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE LURKER.

THUS, HULK INSTANTLY FEELS LIKE HARMONY KORINE’S DAD.

THIS KIND OF CHARACTERIZATION IS ALSO THE GREATEST WORRY OF ALL EMBEDDED JOURNALISTS, SO HULK CLUMSILY ATTEMPTS TO ASSUAGE HARMONY’S FEARS, IMPLYING THIS WON’T BE THE CYNICAL KIND OF “GOTCHA!” JOURNALISM HE SHOULD WORRY ABOUT - AND BEFORE HULK CAN GO ON, HARMONY IS ALREADY LAUGHING AND SAYING NOT TO WORRY. MUTUAL APPREHENSION IS TO BE EXPECTED, THERE’S AN INHERENT LEVEL OF TRUST THAT HAS TO GO BACK AND FORTH IN THIS SITUATION, AND IT’S THE KIND OF MOMENT THAT REMINDS HULK THAT THERE’S AN INTERACTION THAT TAKES PLACE “OFF CAMERA” WHEREIN EVERYTHING FEELS NORMAL, SIMPLE AND KIND. FROM THAT POINT ON THERE WASN’T A SINGLE WORRY.

BUT AFTER A FEW MORE MINUTES OF INTRODUCTIONS AMONG THE GOOD P.R. FOLKS ORCHESTRATING THIS LITTLE BIT OF EMBEDDED-NESS, THERE IS A MOMENT WHERE EVERYONE JUST STANDS AROUND IN A CIRCLE, WAITING FOR THE LAST PERSON TO ARRIVE… THIS CIRCUMSTANCE WILL BECOME SOUL-CRUSHINGLY FAMILIAR.

A WEEK EARLIER, WHEN HULK TOLD A FEW COLLEAGUES ABOUT THE ASSIGNMENT IN QUESTION, EVERYONE’S REACTION WAS THE SAME:

“That’s going to be insane!”

IT IS AN OPINION THAT WOULD SEEM TO MAKES SENSE GIVEN BOTH THE CONTENT OF SPRING BREAKERS ITSELF AND THE CALIBER OF WIDE-RANGING STAR WATTAGE INVOLVED, BUT THE COMMENT ALSO IMPLIES THAT ONE OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HOW THESE SORTS OF WHIRLWIND PRESS AFFAIRS TEND TO GO. THEY ARE NOT FILLED WITH THE CRAZED INCIDENTS OF INSANITY. THERE ARE NO ROCK STAR ANTICS. INSTEAD, THESE EVENTS TEND TO FUNCTION IN VERY PRECISE WAYS WITH VERY LITTLE SCHEDULED DOWNTIME. THE NEXT TWO DAYS WILL BE FRONT-TO-BACK MEDIA BLITZ, MEANING IT IS NOT THE CIRCUS OF PARTYING SPONTANEITY, BUT THE CIRCUS OF SEMI-PRECISION.

BUT WHAT THIS KIND OF SCENARIO DOES PROVIDE (AND THE REASON HULK LIKES HANGING AROUND THEM) IS A UNIQUE CHANCE TO GET TO KNOW SOMEONE WHILE THEY ARE: WAITING, NERVOUS, BORED, STIR-CRAZY, PENSIVE, EXHAUSTED AND BASICALLY PLACED IN THE PREPARED MINDSET TO BE SELF-ANALYTICAL. IN OTHER WORDS, IT IS A TIME TO BE AROUND SOMEONE DURING HYPER-CONSCIOUS VULNERABILITY. AND THAT IS WHY SO MUCH CAN BE GLEANED FROM SIMPLY STANDING AROUND IN A DAMN CIRCLE.

EXACTLY 32 MINUTES PRIOR, HULK ARRIVED AT THE FOUR SEASONS OF AUSTIN, TEXAS, LOCATED JUST ALONG WHAT APPEARS TO BE A RIVER, BUT IS ACTUALLY LADY BIRD LAKE. HULK ENTERS AMIDST A FLURRY OF FOOT TRAFFIC OF WORKING PROFESSIONALS FROM ALL KINDS OF MEDIA, FILM, INTERACTIVE AND JOURNALISM ALIKE. THEY ARE ALL DOING INTERVIEWS OR ENJOYING DRINKS AS THEIR RESPECTIVE COLOR CODED BADGES ADORN THEIR NECKS. THERE ISN’T A SINGLE SPARE TABLE OR COMFORTABLE TALKING SPACE. IT IS ALL INTENTIONAL CHAOS AND ADVOCATING THE EASE OF REPROACH. HULK MAKES HULK’S WAY TO THE ARRANGED MEETING AREA AND FINDS SEVERAL SPRING BREAKERS POSTERS, WHICH THANKFULLY CONFIRM THAT HULK HASN’T GOTTEN LOST. HULK EVENTUALLY EYEBALLS HULK’S P.R. CONTACTS FROM ID-PR AND A24 FILMS AND THEY ARE PERFECTLY WELCOMING, ALL WHILE TRYING TO WRANGLE THE NEEDED TALENT AND GET THEM WHERE THEY NEED TO GO.

ONE OF THE FILM’S STARS, ASHLEY BENSON (OF THE POPULAR SHOW PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) SUDDENLY APPEARS TO MAKE A QUICK CHECK IN ON HER SCHEDULE BEFORE SKIPPING OUT FOR A BREAK WITH HER FRIENDS. SHE SEEMS PARTIALLY UNRECOGNIZABLE WITH HER NEWLY DYED BROWN HAIR PULLED BACK INTO A PONYTAIL, WITH THICK-RIMMED GLASSES AND WEARING WHAT SEEMS TO BE ALMOST NO MAKE-UP AND PORCELAIN SKIN (A RARITY FOR ACTORS SUBJECTED TO THE HORRORS OF CAKED-ON MAKE-UP IN THE HD AGE). SHE IS ALSO WEARING A GIANT GREEN D.G.K. JACKET (SHORT FOR “DIRTY GHETTO KIDS”) THAT DISPLAYS A BIG MESSAGE OF PRO-WEED SENTIMENT. IT ALSO SEEMS TO BE THE EXACT SAME ONE THAT JAMES FRANCO WEARS IN THE MOVIE. BENSON IS WITH A LARGE GROUP OF FRIENDS WHO COMPRISE ONE OF THE WIDER VARIETY OF STYLES THAT HULK CAN THINK OF: FROM STRAIGHT-LACED PLAID, TO LIGHTNING FACE TATTOOS... NEEDLESS TO SAY, IT’S A MIX, BUT THEY ALL SEEM TO BE BOUNDING WITH EXUBERANCE, SENSING THE FACT THAT THEY ARE FINALLY FREE TO HAVE A MOMENT FROM THE DAY’S PRESS TO GO OUT AND EXPLORE THE BUSTLING STREETS OF SXSW. WITH THAT, THEY EXEUNT.

FOUR MINUTES LATER, JAMES FRANCO EMERGES FROM THE ELEVATOR ON THE EAST END OF THE HALLWAY. HAVING JUST ARRIVED AT ONE IN THE MORNING, HE SEEMS HALF-ZOMBIFIED. HE’S SIMPLY CLAD IN DARK JEANS, RED + NAVY PLAID SHIRT AND A BLACK JACKET. HE ALSO HAS A THICK-ASS BOOK UNDER HIS ARM THAT HULK CAN’T QUITE MAKE OUT THE TITLE FOR YET. WITH HIS EYES HALF-OPEN HE WALKS TOWARD THE WRONG INTERVIEW ROOM. IT TAKES A FEW TIMES FOR FRANCO TO HEAR THE TWO P.R. AGENTS CALLING HIS NAME AND WHEN HE REALIZES HE’S GOING INTO THE WRONG ROOM, HE SLOWLY TURNS BACK IN AN ELONGATED LOOP, AS IF CORRECTING HIS ERROR WOULD RESULT IN FAR TOO ACUTE A TURN AND RUINING HIS BLISSFUL SLEEPWALK. HE THEN ENTERS THE CORRECT “LITTLE COLONY” ROOM WHEREIN HE WILL GIVE A FEW BRIEF INTERVIEWS FOR THE E.P.K. (SHORT FOR ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT). FRANCO TAKES A MOMENT, BREATHES DEEP THROUGH HIS NOSE, WIDENS HIS EYES AND EFFECTIVELY “TURNS ON.” HE IS NOW READY TO COMMENT ON THE FILM AND DO SO IN EARNEST... THE CHANGE IS SOMEWHAT REMARKABLE AND REMINDS YOU OF THE KIND OF IMMEDIATE BRAIN SPACE THAT ACTORS HAVE TO OCCUPY. ALAS, HULK WAITS OUTSIDE THE ROOM TO GIVE THEM ROOM AND HARMONY IS APPARENTLY COMING DOWN THE ELEVATOR AT ANY MOMENT.

SAID ANY MOMENT LATER, HARMONY ARRIVES AND WE HAVE THE AFOREMENTIONED INTRODUCTION CONCERNING HULK’S “LURKER” STATUS. HARMONY IS DRESSED LOW-KEY AND COMFORTABLE. BLACK JACKET. JEANS. MOST NOTABLE IS HIS PAIR OF CHECKERED CHUCKS AND A TATTOO ON THE BACK OF HIS HAND THAT HULK’S NEVER NOTICED BEFORE. HE’S WORKING HIS FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW AND BUBBLES WITH A PECULIAR BRANT OF GENIALITY. THESE ARE OF COURSE THE THINGS ONE NOTICES WHILE STANDING AROUND IN A CIRCLE, WAITING.

FIVE MINUTES LATER JAMES FRANCO EMERGES FROM HIS INTERVIEW AND THE TWO CLASP THEIR RIGHT HANDS, PULL THEM TO THEIR CHESTS, AND GO IN FOR AN AUTHORITATIVE HUG.  THEY PROCEED TO HAVE A QUICK CONVERSATION ABOUT FLIGHTS AND WHAT THEY’VE BEEN UP TO IN THE LAST FEW DAYS (THE SXSW PREMIERE IS COMING AFTER A SERIES OF EUROPEAN PREMIERES). AT ONE POINT HARMONY MAKES HIM LAUGH AND FRANCO UNLEASHES WHAT HULK WILL SIMPLY CALL “THE PATENTED JAMES FRANCO SMILE.” IT’S A SQUINTY, DEVILISH GRIN THAT HULK IS CONVINCED IS RESPONSIBLE FOR AN ALMOST UNQUANTIFIABLE AMOUNT OF INHERENT CHARM. FOR ALL THE MOVIE STARDOM, ART PROJECTS AND RENAISSANCE ATTITUDE, HULK ARGUES THIS SMILE IS THE INESCAPABLE BACKBONE OF EVERYTHING HE DOES, GOING ALL THE WAY BACK TO HIS BREAKOUT ROLE OF DANIEL DESARIO FROM FREAKS AND GEEKS. AND IN PERSON, IT IS JUST AS EFFECTIVE.

HULK IS THEN INTRODUCED TO FRANCO’S ASSISTANT: ANNA, LITHE, OBSERVANT AND UNFLAPPABLE, SHE IS NOW HOLDING THE AFOREMENTIONED THICK-ASS BOOK, WHICH HAPPENS TO BE AYN RAND’S THE FOUNTAINHEAD. RATHER THAN LAUNCH INTO A DISCUSSION ON THE RELEVANT MERITS OF OBJECTIVISM, HULK TAKES THE MOMENT TO CLARIFY WHAT HULK WILL BE DOING AND IT SEEMS EVERYONE HAS BEEN PRE-WARNED AS TO WHAT WILL BE GOING DOWN. ANNA: “Ah, you’re the fly on the wall.” BEFORE COCKING AN EYEBROW AND HOLDING IN A MONA LISA SMILE.

BUT NOW THAT HARMONY AND JAMES ARE TOGETHER, WE ARE ALL BECKONED TO THE ELEVATOR WHERE WE WILL LEAVE BY GOING OUT THE SUPER-DUPER-SECRET-AWESOME-CELEBRITY EXIT, ALSO KNOWN AS “THAT SIDE DOOR THROUGH THE KITCHEN.” WE TRAVERSE THIS PATH AND IN ABOUT A MINUTE WE EMERGE INTO THE SPARSELY POPULATED ALLEYWAY AND FULL BRUNT OF BLINDING DAYLIGHT. THERE WE AWAIT TWO BLACK FORD SUVS, WHICH WILL ARRIVE TO TAKE US ALL TO THE NEXT LOCATION.

NATURALLY, THEY ARE NOT THERE YET AND IT IS JUST ANOTHER MOMENT OF PEOPLE STANDING AROUND WAITING TO LEAVE. IT’S AMAZING HOW MUCH OF PUBLICITY IS THE ONGOING GAME OF HURRY UP AND WAIT.

3. THE SEEDY GODARD

TO MANY PEOPLE HARMONY KORINE IS STILL JUST THE FILMMAKER RESPONSIBLE FOR KIDS AND GUMMO (1997). MIND YOU THOSE EFFORTS CAME OVER A DECADE AND HALF AGO, BUT THE STIGMA OF THIS AGGRESSIVE FORAY INTO THE SEEDIEST OF CULTURE REMAINS WITH HIM. THIS IS LARGELY A SHAME BECAUSE IN THE INTERIM, KORINE HAS UNLEASHED SOME OF HIS MOST VIVID AND INTERESTING WORK. FEW HAVE SEEN JULIEN DONKEY-BOY (1999), WHICH WAS THE FIRST OFFICIAL AMERICAN EFFORT IN THE DOGME 95 SCHOOL OF FILMMAKING. FEW HAVE SEEN HULK’S FAVORITE FILMS OF HIS IN MISTER LONELY (2007), WHEREIN A GROUP OF CELEBRITY IMPERSONATORS LIVE TOGETHER ON A COMMUNE (IT ALSO FEATURES KORINE’S FULL ON EMBRACE OF SEMIOTICS). FEW HAVE SEEN THE PRANKISH AND FREQUENTLY HILARIOUS TRASH HUMPERS (2009). AND EVEN FEWER HAVE SEEN THE CAVALCADE OF IMPRESSIVE SHORTS HE HAS RELEASED IN THE LAST THREE YEARS.

THE RELATIVE POINT OF WHICH IS SIMPLE: HIS NEW FILM SPRING BREAKERS IS BEING RELEASED WITH A GREAT DEAL OF HOOPLA AND YET FEW PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THE FILMMAKER THAT HE’S BECOME OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS. THUS, THEY LACK THE CONTEXT AND THE TRUST TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HE’S GOING FOR IN IT. BUT EVEN WORSE, THIS LACK OF CONTEXT PREVENTS MANY FROM REALLY UNDERSTANDING WHAT KORINE HAS BEEN TRYING TO DO SINCE HIS EARLIEST FILMS.

THERE IS NO DOUBTING THAT HARMONY WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED IN “THE UNSAVORY.” HIS SUBJECTS HAVE ALWAYS CENTERED AROUND THE DREGS. THE WEIRDOS. THE AMORAL. AND THE WORST THINGS PEOPLE COULD DO TO ONE ANOTHER. AND RATHER THAN TREAT THOSE THINGS WITH DISDAIN, HARMONY SEEMED TO CHARACTERIZE THEM WITH NORMALCY OR EVEN FLIPPANT GLEE. THUS THESE UGLY WORLDS FELT HIGHLY “CREATED.” AND AS HULK ALLUDED TO BEFORE, WHEN WE WATCH HORRIBLE THINGS WE WANT THE “NON-FICTION STAMP” TO JUSTIFY IT, OTHERWISE IT FEELS LIKE WE ARE BEING “SUBJECTED TO” INSTEAD OF BEING “SUBJECTED WITH” – IT REALLY DOES UNNERVE PEOPLE – AND WHILE HULK FINDS THAT SENTIMENT UNDERSTANDABLE, IT IS STILL AN OBVIOUS HYPOCRISY. FOR WE RARELY MIND ALL THE GOOD AND INDULGENT LIES OF CINEMA, WHETHER THEY TAKE THE FORM OF JAMES BOND FILMS, INCONGRUENT ROMANTIC COMEDIES, OR EVEN SOMETHING BORDERING ON LIFESTYLE PORN LIKE ENTOURAGE. WE ONLY REJECT THE LIE WHEN IT MAKES US FEEL HORRIBLE. BUT HULK ARGUES THAT ONCE YOU HAVE AWARENESS OF THE DYNAMIC, ONCE YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO GET OVER THIS SIMPLEST OF MINOR EGOCENTRICISM AND OUR WANT OF INDULGENCE, THEN WE ARE ABLE TO EMBRACE ART THAT IS “PLAYING WITH US.” AND IT IS IN THAT SPACE THAT THE CINEMA OF HARMONY KORINE COMES ALIVE.

SUDDENLY THAT CINEMA IS NOT A LIE. IT IS A HYPER-REALITY.

AND THROUGH THAT LENS YOU CAN SEE THAT THE WORLD OF KIDS IS NOT REALLY MEANT TO BE VERITÉ SHOCKER, BUT AN UGLY EXPRESSION OF YOUTHFUL INSANITY (A POINT PERHAPS MADE CONFUSING BY LARRY CLARK’S DOCU-LIKE DIRECTION). INSTEAD OF EXPLOITATIVE HICK VOYEURISM, GUMMO BECOMES A BATSHIT VERSION OF THE HOMESPUN BACKWOODS LEGEND, UPDATED FOR THE SALVAGE YARD ERA. HECK, WATCH ANYTHING ON THE MAKING OF TRASH HUMPERS AND SUDDENLY YOU SEE THE HOME-MOVIE SENSIBILITY AND FREE-FOR-ALL JOY THAT WENT INTO HIS “ODE TO VANDALISM.” THERE’S SOMETHING VERY PUNK ROCK ABOUT ALL THIS, BUT THERE IS ALSO SOMETHING PURE AND NATURAL. FOR KORINE, IT’S JUST NATURAL STORYTELLING. AND WHAT IS PERHAPS SO CONFUSING ABOUT IT IS THAT HARMONY IS FAMOUS FOR GROUNDING HIS FILMS WITH NON-ACTORS, WHICH DOESN’T HELP WITH THIS “LIE” BUSINESS, BUT ALSO BRINGS PEOPLE UP ON THE TRICKY CONVERSATION OF EXPLOITATION. IS HARMONY USING HIS SUBJECTS? IS THERE A DIFFERENT LEVEL OF “AUTHENTICITY” NEEDED? IS IT SUBJECT TO THE LIBERAL GUILT OF VOYEURISM? WHAT IS AMAZING IS HOW MUCH THESE QUESTIONS DON’T SEEM TO MATTER. WATCH HARMONY AT WORK AND IT FEELS ABSOLUTELY INCLUSIVE. THE PRANKISH NATURE OF TRASH HUMPERS MAKES THE COLLECTIVE FEEL LIKE THEY ARE GETTING AWAY WITH SOMETHING. HULK ARGUES THE USE OF REAL-LIFE FIGURES TO HELP SUPPORT THE UNREAL STORIES IS VIRTUALLY NO DIFFERENT THAN DAVID SIMON USING REAL-LIFE FIGURES IN THE WIRE. IT’S JUST A DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT CONTEXT AND PURPOSE, NOT THE ACT ITSELF.

PLUS THERE IS THE SIMPLE FACT THAT HARMONY DOESN’T REALLY SEEM TO CARE ABOUT ANY OF THESE WORRIES. HE KNOWS THAT WHAT HE IS DOING COMES FROM A GENUINE PLACE. HE DOESN’T JUDGE HIS SUBJECTS. HE DOESN’T REALLY SEEM TO JUDGE ANYONE. HE JUST FINDS THEM INTERESTING. FROM THERE HE GOES TO THE ENDS OF WHAT WE DEEM ACCEPTABLE. HE GOES TO THAT WHICH DEFIES CATEGORIZATION. HE FINDS THESE SUBJECTS AND PEOPLE TO BE WORTH EXPLORING THROUGH CINEMA IN ALL ITS VARIOUS FORMS. AND WHILE THERE IS CERTAINLY AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE LARGER MORALITY IN HIS FILMS, HE DOESN’T SEEM TO BE INTERESTED IN PUNISHING OR ADMONISHING THEIR BAD DECISIONS, BUT MERELY REFLECTING THOSE REALITIES IN THE FORM OF A PURE EXPRESSION.

AND THE MORE HULK HAS GROWN UP, THE MORE HULK HAS COME TO ADORE IT. WHEN HULK FIRST SAW KIDS ALL THOSE YEARS AGO, HULK’S ANGER WAS… PALPABLE. HULK SCREAMED “THIS IS NOT A MOVIE! ALL THIS FILM WANTED TO DO WAS MAKE HULK FEEL AWFUL! FUCK THIS!” … YOU KNOW, THAT KIND OF THING. AND AS A PURE EXPRESSION OF ALMOST NIHILISTIC GLEE, IT WAS THE KIND OF ANGER THAT SPARKED OFF THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION REGARDING WHAT OUR CHILDREN WERE REALLY UP TO. AND IF THE FILM WERE NON-FICTION? MAYBE WE WOULD HAVE JUST DISMISSED IT AS A ONE TIME THING. INSTEAD THE REALITY SEEMED TO MATTER MORE THAN EVER. THE FILM DIVED RIGHT INTO THE MURKIEST OF QUAGMIRES AND DIDN’T CARE. AND SINCE THEN KORINE HAS EVOLVED INTO A MORE REFINED FILMMAKER. HIS WORK SKIRTS EXPLOITATION AND INSTEAD BECOMES AN OUTRIGHT INVESTIGATION OF EXPLOITATION, IF THAT MAKES SENSE. HE SPARKS DEEPLY RESONANT SATIRE AND PATHOS AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE. HE CREATES THE MOST VIVID OF SEQUENCES HULK CAN REMEMBER, LIKE THE SCENE IN MISTER LONELY WHEN A NUN ACCIDENTALLY FALLS OUT OF A PLANE. THE VIOLENT WIND TEARS AT HER ROBES AND THEN ALL GOES QUIET AS SHE PRAYS TO GOD TO SAVE HER FROM THE FALL. IT IS ONE OF THOSE CINEMATIC MOMENTS BURNED INTO HULK’S BRAIN FOREVER. AND IT’S ALL TO A GREATER PURPOSE. THROUGHOUT HIS CAREER, KORINE HAS QUIETLY TRANSFORMED HIMSELF INTO THE AMERICAN GODARD, ONLY HE HAPPENS TO MAKE HIS CINEMATIC HOME IN THE SEEDY BACK ALLEYS OF AMERICA AND THE LURID CAMPS OF THE ESTRANGED.

AND NOW WITH SPRING BREAKERS, HE’S ABOUT TO MAKE HIS CINEMATIC INTENTIONS ALL THE MORE CLEAR.

4. WHAT THE FUCK?

SUNDAY MARCH 10TH – 3:47PM

THE BLACK SUVS ARRIVE FINALLY ARRIVE AND WE ALL AWKWARDLY PILE INTO THEM. FROM THERE WE BEGIN MAKING OUR WAY TOWARDS AN AUSTIN LOCATION KNOWN AS “ESTHER’S FOLLIES,” A POPULAR COMEDIC VENUE. TRAFFIC IS TERRIBLE. IN FACT, WITH SUCH BUMPER-TO-BUMPER HORRIBLENESS IT LEADS ONE TO WONDER WHY WE DIDN’T JUST ALL WALK. WHY IT’S SUCH A BIG DEAL THAT TALENT HAS TO RIDE IN CARS TO LOCATIONS AWAY FROM THE PUBLIC’S PRYING EYES? IT SEEMS NEEDLESS, BUT IT REALLY IS THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION. PERFORMERS BY NATURE NEED TIME, PEACE AND COMFORT. AND WHEN TRAVELING WITH THE LIKES OF CELEBRITY LIKE JAMES FRANCO, THE SIMPLE ACT OF WALKING DOWN THE STREET CAN GENUINELY BECOME A PRECARIOUS AFFAIR. AND BOTH COMFORT AND SAFETY ARE ALWAYS THE MOST PARAMOUNT CONCERN. NOT TO MENTION THE FACT IT IS HOT AS HELL OUTSIDE AND IT DOES NO ONE ANY GOOD TO ARRIVE FOR A SHOW FEELING SWEATY AND CHAFED. SO WE EVENTUALLY ARRIVE AT THE LOCATION BACK-ALLEY STYLE, ROLLING PAST A FEW BARRICADES BLOCKING OFF 6TH STREET. AGAIN, IT’S JUST A FUNCTIONAL MATTER, BUT YOU CAN’T HELP BUT FEEL LIKE YOU ARE PART OF SOME SECRET SERVICE DETAIL OR SOMETHING. FROM THE END OF THE ALLEY, ONLOOKERS WAIT TO SEE JUST WHO COULD POSSIBLY BE EMERGING FROM WITHIN. WHEN FRANCO STEPS OUT HULK SEES A SHORT BLONDE GIRL COVER HER MOUTH AND STARE IN UNBLINKING FASHION. WITH THAT, WE ALL HEAD INSIDE.

THE REASON EVERYONE HAS COME TO THIS LOCATION IS BECAUSE HARMONY AND JAMES ARE PARTICIPATING IN A LIVE VERSION OF MARC MARON’S POPULAR W.T.F. (“WHAT THE FUCK”) PODCAST.

THE TWO OF THEM ARE BOTH SOMEWHAT UNSURE ABOUT WHAT THE PODCAST IS ALL ABOUT, JUST BEING TOLD IT IS A POPULAR SHOW AND MOST DEFINITELY WORTH DOING. HULK (BEING AN ENORMOUS FAN OF MARON’S PODCAST) TRIES TO INFORM THEM OF THE PROVERBIAL DEAL, BUT SINCE WE ARE WINDING THROUGH THE TINY HALLWAYS TOWARD THE WAITING ROOM IT IS DIFFICULT TO ARTICULATE THE NECESSARY INFORMATION. IN RETROSPECT, HULK WISHED THAT HULK COULD EXPLAIN THAT THE SHOW TENDED TO BE GEARED AROUND BLUNT HONESTY, WHICH IS NOT TO SAY THAT IT IS NOT WITHOUT GOOD-NATURED HUMILITY, JUST THAT OFTEN IT CAN COME OFF AS MORE… UM… CONFRONTATIONAL THAN ONE MIGHT EXPECT.

MARC IS THERE WAITING FOR THEM AND HE’S JUST AS VIBRANT AND DIRECT AS YOU’D IMAGINE. HE QUICKLY SITS THEM DOWN FOR A QUICK POW-WOW ON HOW IT WILL ALL GO DOWN. THEY DISCUSS THE ORDER IN WHICH THEY WILL COME OUT ON STAGE. THEY QUICKLY TALK ABOUT THEIR RESPECTIVE MOVIES AND OTHER POSSIBLE TOPICS OF CONVERSATION. MOSTLY, HE WANTS TO KEEP IT LOOSE. MARON IS ALWAYS CONFIDENT IN HIS WORDS, BUT IT’S SO INTERESTING TO SEE HIM NERVOUS. IT’S CLEAR HE’S A FAN OF KORINE’S WORK AND IT’S PUSHING HIM INTO THAT LOVELY HUMAN AREA THAT HULK LIKES TO SEE HIM IN, WHERE HE’S A BLUSTERY MIX OF NEUROTIC AND WELL-MEANING. BUT EVEN IN THAT STATE, WHAT MAKES W.T.F. SO DAMN EFFECTIVE IS THAT MARON CAN’T HELP BUT STEP RIGHT INTO THE MOST INTERESTING, DIFFICULT AND PERSONAL SUBJECT MATTER AT HAND (HE’S KIND OF LIKE KORINE IN THAT WAY). AND WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT MARON IS THAT HE HAS THE KIND OF FILTER WHERE HE IS SMART ENOUGH TO ALWAYS CONTEXTUALIZE THAT INTEREST, BUT HE IS ALSO MISSING THE KIND OF FILTER THAT WOULD PREVENT HIM FROM BRINGING THOSE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS UP IN THE FIRST PLACE. IT’S THE JUICY SWEET SPOT AND HE JUST HAS TO GO THERE AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES HIS SHOW SO DAMN RESONANT. SO AS HE SITS IN THAT ROOM HE TRIES TO ASSUAGE THEIR FEARS AND EXPLAINS WHAT THE SHOW IS LIKE, BUT SOON ENOUGH THE CONVERSATION SPILLS INTO THE SHOW’S HISTORY AND THEY START TALKING ABOUT THE OLD GUARD OF COMEDIANS WHO HAVE APPEARED ON THE SHOW: FROM MEL BROOKS, TO CARL REINER, TO JONATHAN WINTERS. THEN THERE IS A MOMENT WHERE MARON ALSO TAKES CARE TO MENTION TO FRANCO THAT JUDD APATOW DID THE SHOW TOO, IMPLYING THAT HE SHOULD BE AT EASE.

THIS PARTICULAR DETAIL IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE OVER THE PERIOD OF EMBEDDED COVERAGE, HULK WILL WATCH A TOTAL OF 22 DIFFERENT PEOPLE TRY TO EITHER BOND WITH FRANCO, OR GET HIM ON THEIR SHOW / PROJECT / WHATEVER, SIMPLY BY MENTIONING THAT THEY HAVE DONE SOMETHING WITH JUDD. ON THE SURFACE, IT SEEMS INNOCUOUS. IT’S A MODE OF CONNECTION THE SAME AS ANY OTHER AND HULK IS POSITIVE THAT WE ALL DO IT IN SOME FORM (HULK IS CERTAINLY GUILTY OF IT). BUT WHEN LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS OF BEING AT FRANCO’S SIDE, THE SEAMS OF THE MECHANISM BECOME SO DAMN OBVIOUS. THIS HAPPENS TO HIM ALL-THE-TIME, EVERY DAY. PERHAPS IT’S JUST THE WAY THAT MOVIE CULTURE EFFECTIVELY VIEWS JUDD AS A “SHOWBIZ” DAD TO THE KIDS HE USHERED IN, BUT IT COULDN’T BE MORE CLEAR THAT JAMES FRANCO, NOW 34 AND HAVING DEVELOPED A WIDE-RANGING CAREER, IS VERY MUCH BEYOND ALL THAT AND IS DOING HIS OWN THING. AND THUS TO HAVE THIS REACTIVE NOTION THAT BEING “WITH JUDD” IS SOME KIND OF INSTANT SEAL OF APPROVAL IS SOMETHING THAT SUDDENLY FEELS PROBLEMATIC TO HULK. AND IT’S NOT JUST THAT IT’S CONSTANT, IT’S THAT HULK IS SUDDENLY NOT SURE THAT’S HOW RELATIONSHIPS HAVE EVER WORKED.

AFTER THE POW-WOW, MARON GOES ON STAGE ALONE TO DO HIS USUAL BIT OF GRIEVANCE-AIRING. HARMONY IS IMMEDIATELY CURIOUS AS TO MARON’S PARTICULAR SENSE OF HUMOR AND IS ALMOST CONFUSED BY THE COLLOQUIAL HONESTY HE SEEMS TO HAVE WITH THE AUDIENCE. THE LAUGHTER COMES FROM A DEEP PLACE OF UNDERSTANDING WITH MARC, ONE THAT SEEMS SO VITAL TO THE “HANGING OUT WITH A FRIEND” FEELING THAT IS REQUIRED IN PODCASTING. AFTER THAT, MARON BRINGS OUT HIS FIRST TWO GUESTS. FIRST IS PETER SAGAL OF N.P.R. RADIO, WHO REGALES EVERYONE WITH HIS TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS WITH HOLLYWOOD’S NONSENSE. HE IS THEN FOLLOWED BY COMEDIAN NATE BARGATZE, WHO TALKS CANDIDLY ABOUT THE DELIGHTFULLY BACKWARDS NATURE OF HIS BACKWOODS UPBRINGING.

MEANWHILE, OUR TWO SUBJECTS SIT IN THEIR CHAIRS BACKSTAGE AND WAIT. HARMONY SEEMS PENSIVE, CURIOUS. FRANCO ALTERNATES BETWEEN ZOMBIFIED-STARING AND FULLY ENGAGED LAUGHTER. MOSTLY THEY UPHOLD THE MODERN CLICHÉ AND SPEND TIME LOOKING AT THEIR PHONES. AS MUCH AS IT IS TALKED ABOUT NOW, IT IS REALLY AMAZING HOW MUCH SMART PHONES HAVE CHANGED “WAITING CULTURE,” AND RENDERED US INTO A SOCIETY WHERE BEING BORED NOW SEEMS LIKE AN IMPOSSIBILITY. STILL, THE TWO EKE OUT SOME INTERACTION. AT ONE POINT HARMONY GETS EXTREMELY ANIMATED WHEN HE REALIZES THAT FRANCO HAS NEVER LISTENED TO THE FROGS, A BAND THAT HAPPENS TO BE A FAVORITE OF HULK’S. THEY ARE ALMOST INDEFINABLE, HAVING SPANNED THREE DECADES OF ALTERNATIVE SCENES, BUT THEY ARE MARKED BY A VIBRANT PROGRESSIVE POLITICS, OFTEN CONCERNING L.G.B.T. AND RACIAL CONCERNS. THEY JUST GO ABOUT IT IN A DEEPLY UN-P.C. AND  CONFRONTATIONAL FORM OF PARODY. IT IS AT THAT EXACT MOMENT THAT HULK REALIZES JUST HOW SIMILAR THE FROGS ARE TO THE CINEMA OF KORINE. THEY REALLY FEEL LIKE DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE SAME COIN.

AS THE SHOW GOES ON BEFORE THEM HARMONY WATCHES AND NOTES, “Man, this is weird.” WHICH ISN’T TO SAY IT’S ACTUALLY WEIRD, BUT MORE THAT THE KINDS OF CONVERSATIONS TAKING PLACE ARE NOT THE ONES FREQUENTLY HAD IN ANY FORMAT. IT’S NOT A STERILIZED Q+A. IT’S NOT A FLUFFY TALK SHOW. THE CONVERSATIONS ARE RANDOM AND WITHOUT STRUCTURE. PLUS, MARON SEEMS TO LIVE IN A UNIQUE BRAND OF AWKWARDNESS. HARMONY IS ALSO SUDDENLY WORRIED THAT HE’S NOT A COMIC AND WON’T BE FUNNY ENOUGH TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WAY THAT THE SHOW HAS GONE SO FAR (AND HE’S PERHAPS WORRIED ON AN INATE LEVEL THAT MARON MIGHT SOMEHOW BE EXPECTING SOME MODERN VERSION OF HIS YOUTHFUL LETTERMAN APPEARANCES). HULK TRIES TO ASSURE HARMONY THE SHOW GOES BOTH WAYS AND CAN BE RATHER INTROSPECTIVE, SO JUST PLAY IT NORMALLY.

WHEN HARMONY TAKES THE STAGE THE TONE OF THE SHOW DOES INDEED SHIFT. MARON HAS A STRONG FILM STUDIES BACKGROUND AND IMMEDIATELY CONVEYS HIS DEEP RESPECT. BUT SOON HARMONY STARTS TELLING STORIES ABOUT HIS FAMILY IN NASHVILLE AND HOW HE GREW UP LIVING ON AN OLD COMMUNE WITH HIS DAD MAKING DOCUMENTARIES ON MOONSHINERS. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, BUT THIS SEEMS TO BE THE MOST ACCURATE VERSION OF HIS CHILDHOOD, BUT IT’S STILL A LIFE STORY THAT HAS BEEN SO PURPOSEFULLY OBFUSCATED AT THIS POINT THAT NO ONE HAS ANY REAL IDEA WHAT IS REALLY TRUE. HARMONY HAS TOLD SO MANY VERSIONS WHERE HE GREW UP AS A CARNIE, OR GREW UP WITH NO PARENTS, OR OF HIS SPENDING TIME IN JAIL. MAYBE THEY ARE ALL TRUE, MAYBE THEY ARE ALL LIES, BUT IT DOESN’T EXPRESSLY MATTER. IT’S ALL A VERSION OF AN ORIGIN STORY THAT LEADS TO THE MOMENT HE HANDED LARRY CLARK A COPY OF ONE OF HIS MOVIES (THOUGH THE LEGEND STATES IT WAS A SCRIPT) AND CLARK THEN ASKED HARMONY TO WRITE KIDS. WHILE GOING OVER THE STORY MARON APTLY CALLS CLARK “one of our few functioning devils.”

LATER MARON MAKES A COMMENT ABOUT THE LACK OF NARRATIVE IN KORINE’S WORK AND HE ACTUALLY SUPPLIES A FASCINATING ANSWER. KORINE STATES THAT CHARACTER AND STORY ARE ACTUALLY VERY IMPORTANT TO HIS WORK, BUT NOT “PLOT.” IT’S A MATTER OF PHRASING THAT REVEALS A CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE OF STORY ORCHESTRATION. STORY FEELS REAL, BUT PLOT FEELS CONSTRUCTED. HE EVEN TALKS ABOUT THE NEFARIOUS MEANING OF THE WORD ITSELF OUTSIDE OF STORYTELLING, AS IN “people who plot things.” IT’S ONE OF THOSE STATEMENTS THAT SETS OFF A LIGHT BULB IN HULK’S HEAD AND SUDDENLY HULK IS RE-EVALUATING HOW TO BEST CHARACTERIZE THE PURPOSE OF NARRATIVE ALL TOGETHER.

BUT THEN EDDIE PEPITONE STARTED YELLING.

IN CASE YOU ARE NOT FAMILIAR, EDDIE PEPITONE IS A FREQUENT GUEST OF MARON’S LIVE PODCASTS AND HE USUALLY COMES OUT LAST AND HAS SOME DEEP-SEATED ANGRY RANT ABOUT THE ILLS OF SOCIETY OR SOMETHING. THIS PARTICULAR RANT, HOWEVER, IS COMPLETELY UNPLANNED. PEPITONE JUST STANDS UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AUDIENCE AND STARTS YELLING AT MARON FOR DIGGING INTO KORINE AND TRYING TO GET HIM TO OVER-EXPLAIN / OVER-SIMPLIFY HIS ART. PEPITONE FINDS IT DISRESPECTFUL, EXCLAIMING “He made Gummo for chrissake!” MARON DOESN’T MISS A BEAT, STANDS UP FROM HIS STOOL AND STARTS RAMMING FIGURATIVE HEADS WITH THE MAN, UNLEASHING A SERIES OF UNABASHED BARBS. THE MOMENT IS ONE OF THOSE GREAT ELECTRIC CLIMATES WHERE TWO CANTANKEROUS COMEDIANS FEEL 100% COMFORTABLE YELLING AT EACH OTHER IN THE WEIRD SAFETY AND SINCERITY OF DOING SO IN THE NAME OF PUBLIC THEATER. EVEN FRANCO COMES TO THE SIDE OF THE STAGE TO WATCH IT ALL UNFOLD. BUT SOON ENOUGH PEPITONE SETTLES DOWN AND USES THE ENTIRE OUTBURST AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROMOTE HIS DOCUMENTARY THE BITTER BUDDHA AND LEAVES THE VENUE. MARON APOLOGIZES FOR EDDIE’S OUTBURST AND HARMONY RESPONDS: “Wait, you know that guy?!?”

EVERYONE LAUGHS AND MARON EXPLAINS AND SOON AFTERWARD THEY WRAP UP THEIR SEGMENT. WHICH MEANS IT’S TIME TO BRING ON JAMES FRANCO. AGAIN, HULK IS AMAZED BY HOW QUICKLY FRANCO CAN SHIFT GEARS. HE TURNS IT ON. THE DISCUSSION STARTS WITH THIS CHARACTER “ALIEN” IN SPRING BREAKERS, SPECIFICALLY WHERE IN THE HELL IT EVEN CAME FROM. FRANCO CALLS HIM “A gangster mystic.” AND CITES HARMONY EXPOSING HIM TO A BEVY OF INFLUENCES. HARMONY’S APPARENTLY “a great Internet researcher.” WHICH PROMPTS A WHOLE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE KINDS OF RIDICULOUS SUBCULTURES YOU CAN FIND ON THE INTERNET (APPARENTLY THERE IS AN ENTIRE NICHE DEVOTED TO VIDEOS OF PEOPLE GETTING INTO FIGHTS AT GAS STATIONS). AND THIS ENTIRE NOTION OF UBER-SPECIFICITY OF SUBCULTURE MAKES HARMONY’S STORYTELLING INTERESTS SEEM ALL THE MORE VITAL TO THIS DAY AND AGE. HIS FOCUS ON SPRING BREAK CULTURE IS NOTHING MORE THAN ITS OWN UNIQUE BRAND OF FETISHISM. BUT THE REAL BIRTH OF THE PROJECT COMES FROM THE FAT THAT FRANCO JUST WANTED TO WORK WITH KORINE GOING ALL THE WAY BACK TO KIDS.

THE CONVERSATION SHIFTS TO A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE RANGE OF FRANCO’S CAREER. THE BIG STUFF. THE SMALL STUFF. THE MICRO-ART. PROJECTS. FRANCO BREAKS DOWN THE GRANDIOSITY OF THAT SCOPE WITH A SIMPLE ETHOS OF: “just try it all.” WHICH PROMPTS MARON TO BRING UP FRANCO’S APPEARANCE ON ICONOCLASTS WITH SERBIAN PERFORMANCE ARTIST MARINA ABRAMOVIC, IN WHICH SHE GOT HIM NAKED AND COVERED HIM IN GOLD LEAVES TO MAKING HIM INTO A LIVING DEITY. AFTER A MOMENT OF SILENCE FRANCO DEADPANS, “Yeah, that was kinda weird.” THE AUDIENCE ERUPTS IN LAUGHTER AND HE CRACKS THAT DAMN SMILE AGAIN, WHICH HELPS MAKE IT CLEAR THAT HIS HUMILITY IS A KEY PART TO THE “TRY ANYTHING” MANTRA. HIS INTENTIONS ARE ALWAYS SERIOUS, BUT HE CAN LIVE WITH THE LIGHT-HEARTED RESULTS. IT’S THE SAME MANTRA THAT LED HIM TO HELP MAKE A RECENT PROJECT TITLED INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED AS BEING A RECREATION OF THE DELETED FOOTAGE OF WILLIAM FRIEDKIN AND AL PACINO’S CRUISING. IT ENDED UP JUST BEING A STARTING OFF POINT AS IT TURNED INTO A SEMI-DOCUMENTARY ON THEIR PROCESS, INTENTIONS AND EXPLORATION OF THAT SPECIFIC LEATHER BAR CULTURE.

FROM THERE THE CONVERSATION GETS PRETTY FASCINATING. HULK THINKS THAT FRANCO GETS WAY TOO MUCH CRAP FROM PEOPLE IN THE WAY THAT HE NEVER QUITE HONES IN ON EXPERTISE OR PERFECT ARTICULATION OF THESE VARIOUS SUBJECTS AND THUS IT BECOMES EASY FOR PEOPLE TO CALL HIM A VOYEURISTIC POSEUR OR SOME OTHER NONSENSE, BUT THAT IS NEITHER FAIR NOR CRITICAL TO FRANCO’S INTENT. IT’S ABOUT INVESTIGATING A SINCERE AND VITAL INTEREST AND HELPING GET THOSE PROJECTS MADE. HE LOVED THE WORK OF TRAVIS MATHEWS AND WAS AGHAST WHEN HIS FILM I WANT YOUR LOVE WAS BANNED IN AUSTRALIA. THAT’S WHERE THEY STARTED EXPLORING IDEAS. FRANCO EXPLAINS THAT HE WAS DEEPLY INTERESTED IN THE POINT WHERE SEX LOSES ITS TITILLATION AND “Becomes about the emotion of two people.” WHICH IS BOTH A PERFECT ENCAPSULATION OF MATHEW’S WORK AND A GREAT STARTING POINT FOR INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. FROM THERE HE AND MARON GO ON TO DISCUSS CARL WILSONS’ “The Journey to the End of Taste” AND WHETHER ART CAN BE A “Product of” VERSUS “a product for.”

IT ALL LEADS TO ONE OF FRANCO’S MOST REVEALING NUGGETS WHEREIN HE ARGUES “You can never transcend the context [OF THE PROJECT YOU ARE IN]. And if you do, you are making it about yourself [AND NOT THE ART YOU ARE SERVING].” IT’S THE KIND OF COMMENT IN WHICH HIS WHOLE CAREER SUDDENLY MAKES SENSE. BOUNCING BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW. HOW HE CAN GIVE A DOWNRIGHT INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE IN SOMETHING LIKE 127 HOURS AND THEN A HALF-ASSED, FULL-HEARTED TURN AS A LOVE-STRUCK WARRIOR IN YOUR HIGHNESS (A MOVIE HULK STILL STANDS BEHIND AS ONE OF THE MOST DELIGHTFULLY LOW-BROW MAINSTREAM FILMS EVER MADE. FOR IT NEVER MISSES AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE MOST BANAL EXPRESSION). MARON THEN INQUIRES ABOUT THE CONTEXT OF THE OSCAR HOSTING GIG AND FRANCO SAYS IT’S THE SAME EXACT CONCEPT: “I’m doing what they wrote me! You think me going out in a Marilyn Monroe dress is funny? [SHRUGS] Fine.” IT GETS ANOTHER BIG LAUGH, BUT IT ALSO GETS AN INTERESTING QUESTION OF AN ACTOR’S RESPONSIBILITY. SO OFTEN THE POINT OF THE OSCAR HOST IS TO OVERSELL THE SAME BORING, TIRED CRAP THROUGH SHEER WILL OF PERSONALITY. SO IS FRANCO JUST A MIRROR TO A PROJECT’S IDENTITY? IS HE JUST PERFORMING WHAT IT IS? IF HE SEES HIS JOB AS MERELY ADVOCATING THE CONTEXT WITHOUT TRANSGRESSING THEN ABSOLUTELY. THE ONLY PROBLEM SEEMS TO COME WITH THINGS LIKE HOSTING DUTIES WHERE THE GOAL REALLY MIGHT BE TO ELEVATE THE PRODUCT AROUND YOU.

AT ONE POINT THERE’S A MOMENT OF WORRY WHERE MARON’S HABIT OF GOING FOR THE PRODDING JOKE COMES OFF THE WRONG WAY, IMPLYING THAT FRANCO MIGHT BE TAKING HIMSELF TOO SERIOUSLY, BUT SUCH IS THE WAY OF W.T.F.. MARON IS THE KIND OF GUY WHO POKES AT HIS GUESTS, BUT HE REALLY DOES HAVE A CLEAR AND TREMENDOUS RESPECT FOR BOTH KORINE AND FRANCO. PLUS, COMEDY IS ALWAYS DEPENDENT ON CONTEXT. COMEDY ALWAYS HAS A VICTIM. AND WITHOUT ANY PAST EXPERIENCE, NEITHER FRANCO NOR KORINE CAN TELL WHAT MARON TRULY MEANS AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT. THEY ONLY HAVE THE MOMENT ITSELF. AND ONE’S REACTION TO ANY JOKE DEPENDS ON WHETHER OR NOT THEY IDENTIFY MORE WITH THE VICTIM OR THE TELLER.

AND PODCASTS ARE NO DIFFERENT. SO OFTEN OUR RESPONSES TO SUCH CONFLICT (PARTICULARLY IN A CONVERSATION AS NON-FLUFFY AS MARON’S) ARE DICTATED BY WHETHER OR NOT WE ARE ON THE SIDE OF THE GUEST OR THE SIDE OF THE HOST. HULK’S BEEN LISTENING TO THE SHOW FOR YEARS, BUT TO SUDDENLY BE SITTING THERE AND VIEWING IT ALL THROUGH THE FRESH EYES OF KORINE AND FRANCO’S EXPERIENCE IS SOMETHING THAT PUTS IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE. HULK CAN SEE THE BASIC CONFUSION, THE CHAOS, THE INTENSITY AND THE WORRY. IT’S A STRANGE THING, REALLY. AND PERHAPS ECHOING THE TRUTH OF FRANCO’S POINT, THEY ARE TRULY AT THE MERCY OF CONTEXT.

STILL, EVERYTHING IS SMOOTHED RATHER QUICKLY AND THE SHOW ENDS ON A DEEPLY APPRECIATIVE NOTE. EVERYONE CONGREGATES BACKSTAGE FOR A MOMENT OF PLEASANTRIES. NATE BARGATZE AND HARMONY BOND OVER THEIR NASHVILLE ROOTS AND TALK ABOUT WHICH HIGH SCHOOLS THEY WENT TO. MORE PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO GET FRANCO TO DO THEIR THING OR WHATEVER AND MENTION JUDD IN THE PROCESS. AFTER THIS PASSES WE ALL MAKE OUR WAY BACK TO THE BLACK SUVS. THERE’S SOME DISCUSSION OVER THE RELATIVE WEIRDNESS OF THE SHOW ALL TOGETHER AND HULK TRIES TO EXPLAIN THAT WEIRDNESS IS SORT OF “WHERE THE SHOW LIVES” AND THUS YOU JUST SORT OF ROLL WITH IT. WHICH THEY DID.

ON THE RIDE BACK, EVERYONE LOOKS FORWARD TO THE SHORT BREAK AND OPPORTUNITY TO NAP / RELAX, BUT IT FEELS INSUFFICIENT. SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE FOUR SEASONS, THE GIRLS ARE ALREADY GETTING OUTFITTED BY WARDROBE AND PREPPING FOR HAIR AND MAKEUP.

THE PREMIERE LOOMS LARGE...

5. CHAOS ENSUES

MARCH 10TH – 8:27 PM

HULK STANDS OUTSIDE THE PARAMOUNT THEATER, A MASSIVE 1200 PERSON VENUE THAT RESTS DEEP IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN AUSTIN. IT IS ONE OF THOSE VENERABLE INSTITUTIONS WITH UNCOMFORTABLE WOODEN SEATS, PEELING PAINT, ORNATE FIXTURES AND SOME THANKFULLY WELL-STOCKED BARS. THE PARAMOUNT IS ALSO THE FOCAL POINT FOR THE “BIG” FILMS OF THE FEST COMPLETE WITH FULL RED CARPET TREATMENT. SPRING BREAKERS ISN’T EVEN SCHEDULED TO SHOW UNTIL 9:30, BUT IT’S ALREADY A MADHOUSE. THRONGS OF PEOPLE SWELL ON ALL SIDES AND THE UNDER-MANNED POLICE OFFICERS DO THEIR BEST TO MAKE THIS NOT SEEM LIKE A CLUSTERFUCK.

HULK SIDLES UP INTO THE LITTLE HOLDING AREA TO THE RIGHT OF THE RED CARPET, WHERE THOSE WITH GUEST TICKETS CAN HANG OUT UNTIL THE THEATER IS CLEAR. KNOWING THAT HULK WILL NEED TO GET CLOSER TO THE PRESS ROW ONCE THEY START ARRIVING, HULK NEGOTIATES OVER INTO THE PRESS AREA AND CONTINUES THE ART OF WAITING. SOON ENOUGH FRANCO’S ASSISTANT ANNA ENDS UP IN THE GUEST AREA AND WE CHAT FOR A BIT REGARDING THE RELATIVE CRAZINESS OF THE SCENE. ALMOST ON CUE, THREE BIKINI CLAD WOMEN WITH PINK SKI MASKS AND “DTF” SHORTS (INTERNET SLANG FOR “DOWN TO FUCK”) RIDE PAST THE THEATER BEEPING THEIR HORNS AND SCREAMING “Spring Breaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak! Whooooo!” AND THIS WILL MAKE FAR MORE SENSE IF YOU’VE SEEN MOVIE, BUT AT THAT MOMENT IT JUST FEELS LIKE PROMOTIONAL STUNTING SANS CONTEXT. REGARDLESS, MOST PEOPLE CHEER. SOON ANNA IS TRYING TO NEGOTIATE HER COLLECTION OF GUEST TICKETS AND DAVID GORDON GREEN ARRIVES TO CLAIM ONE (HE’S WORKED WITH FRANCO SEVERAL TIMES AND IS THERE AT THE FESTIVAL WITH PRINCE AVALANCHE, WHICH MARKS HIS RETURN TO QUIET, INTIMATE DRAMAS). SOON THE GUEST AREA IS PACKED FULL WITH PEOPLE TRYING TO CLAIM A TICKET WITH THEIR RESPECTIVE P.R. CONTACTS.

HULK AVOIDS THE CRAZINESS AND SAUNTERS BACK TOWARD THE PRESS ROW, WHERE THERE IS ALREADY SOME DISCUSSION OVER “THE LINE.” FORGIVE THE INSIDE BASEBALL FOR A MOMENT, BUT THIS PROVIDES SOME CONTEXT: SXSW IS ONE OF THE FEW FESTIVALS WHERE PRESS IS NOT SPECIFICALLY GIVEN FIRST ENTRY AND ARE INSTEAD DUMPED INTO A LARGER LINE-BASED QUEUE SYSTEM (SOMEBODY CALL THE WHAAAMBULENCE?). THE IDEA IS TO CREATE SOME SORT OF EGALITARIAN NIRVANA WHERE PRESS AND FESTIVAL-GOERS ARE TREATED AS EQUALS AND EVERYTHING IS FAIRLY DISTRIBUTED. AND YES, IT ABSOLUTELY DOES CREATE AN EXCITING, FRENZIED ATMOSPHERE OF GENUINE MOVIE-LOVING THAT IS RARE FOR THIS KIND OF FESTIVAL, BUT IT ALSO (AND NOT TO BE A POOP HERE) IS A RATHER RESTRICTIVE POLICY THAT OFTEN JUST PREVENTS THE PRESS FROM DOING THEIR BEST JOB AND / OR SEEING AS MANY MOVIES AS POSSIBLE. NOW THE ARGUMENT IS THAT PRESS CAN SHOW UP FOR THE EXPRESS PASSES RELEASED IN THE EARLY, EARLY MORNING OF THE DAY, BUT THAT’S TRUE OF ALL BADGEHOLDERS. PLUS THIS EARLY TIME DISCOUNTS A WRITING SCHEDULE THAT HAS MOVIES WRAPPING UP AT 2AM AND WRITING DEADLINES THAT NEED TO BE HIT BY 5 OR 6AM. WHICH LEAVES OH, ABOUT ONE HOUR OF SLEEP BEFORE HEADING TO THE MOST MASSIVELY CRUNCHED DOWNTOWN WITH NO PARKING LESS THAN 20 DOLLARS AND NO REAL WAY TO REST BEFORE THE SCHEDULE STARTS AGAIN AT 11. THIS IS NOT A REAL LIFE COMPLAINT, MIND YOU. HULK’S POINT IS THAT THE SYSTEM IS…YOU KNOW… FLAWED. WHICH MEANS THAT SO MUCH OF ONE’S SUCCESS IN SEEING THE MOVIES THEY NEED TO FOR THEIR JOBS INVOLVES AVOIDING THE CRIPPLING MULTI-HOUR LINES AND ENGAGING IN DIRECT COORDINATION WITH P.R. PEOPLE TO GET EARLY ADMITTANCE. AND SUCH KNOW-HOW REALLY FAVORS THE BOLD VETERANS. THOSE ARE THE DIFFICULTIES, AND HEY MAYBE THERE IS NO HAPPY MEDIUM SOLUTION THAT WOULD ALSO ALLOW FOR THE THING THAT MAKES SXSW TRULY SPECIAL.

BUT THE POINT OF MENTIONING THAT QUEUE SYSTEM IS THAT IT LEADS PRECISELY TO THE KIND OF FRENZIED ATMOSPHERE THAT EVERYONE IS PART OF AT THAT MOMENT. IT LEADS TO THIS EXACT SITUATION, WITH GIANT-ASS LINES AND A LITANY OF NORMALLY-CIVILIZED PRESS PERSONS CLAWING FOR TICKETS BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. AND THE MOVIES THAT PEOPLE ARE MOST EXCITED FOR? THEY GET THE FULL-ON BRUNT OF HYSTERIA AND RESULT IN THE DISCUSSION OF WHETHER OR NOT THIS IS INDEED THE “LARGEST LINE.” SO YES “THE LINE” FOR SPRING BREAKERS IS CERTAINLY THE BIGGEST ONE HULK HAS EVER SEEN AT THE FESTIVAL. BUT SINCE IT HAS NOT AND CANNOT REALLY BE MEASURED, THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN  HEARSAY AND NEXT YEAR THIS PRETEND RECORD WILL LIKELY BE BROKEN AGAIN BY THE MOVIE DU JOUR.

AFTER ABOUT AN HOUR HAS PASSED THE PRINCIPAL CREATIVES BEHIND THE FILM START TO ARRIVE. THEY ARE ALL TRAVELLING IN THE SAME BLACK FORD SUVS AS BEFORE. FIRST UP IS HARMONY AND HIS WIFE RACHEL. HIS OUTFIT IS THE EXACT SAME, SAVE FOR A NICER BLUE PLAID SHIRT. RACHEL WEARS WHAT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS DYNAMIC, FLORAL, FLUORESCENT, ONE-STRAP DRESS THAT IS PROBABLY A PERFECT VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE MOVIE THAT IS TO COME. HULK CAN’T QUITE GET A GREAT LOOK AT THEM AS THEY ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PRESS ROW AND ARE BEING LED TO THE HEAD OF THE RED CARPET. IT’S FRENZIED NOW, BUT THINGS QUICKLY ESCALATE UPON THE ARRIVAL OF SELENA GOMEZ.

SELENA EXITS HER SUV IN AN IMMACULATE TWO-PIECE DRESS COMPRISED OF A LONG ORANGE FORM-FITTING SKIRT AND A SKY BLUE, FLORAL CROP TOP. SHE INSTANTLY MAKES HER WAY TO THE SIDES OF THE STREET TO GREET HER ADORING FANS. THE PART OF THE CROWD THAT IS MOSTLY MIDDLE SCHOOL / HIGH SCHOOL AGED GIRLS BEGINS TO SCREAM IN HIGH PITCHED WAILS: “Selena I love you! I love you!” AND SOMEONE BELLOWS OUT HULK’S PARTICULAR FAVORITE COMMENT: “Selena, you follow me on Twitter!”

THE KIND OF STARDOM INVOLVED HERE IS HARD TO QUANTIFY. FOR STARTERS, IT’S MOSTLY GEARED AROUND THE YOUNG AND PEOPLE WHO ARE AWARE OF WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE LIKE. BUT WHAT COMES FROM HER DISNEY TV STARDOM WAS TRANSFORMED BY BEING THE LONGTIME GIRLFRIEND OF POP-STAR JUSTIN BIEBER. THUS, GOMEZ SITS IN THAT UNIQUE PLACE KNOWN AS “MEGA-CELEBRITY” ALL THANKS TO THE AGE OF US WEEKLY. AND UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN IT OVER A PROLONGED TIME-FRAME, THE CRIPPLING REALITY OF THIS KIND OF MEGA-CELEBRITY MAY NOT EVEN MAKE SENSE. AS OF THE PRESENT, IT IS EFFECTIVELY A LIFE RELEGATED TO STAYING INDOORS AND AFFORDS A BARE MINIMUM OF REAL-DEAL INTERACTIONS. AND IT IS A CRIPPLING EFFECT THAT IS PRECISELY WHY THE VALUES OF ONE’S INNER CIRCLE OR FAMILY MATTER SO DAMN MUCH TO ONE’S DEVELOPMENT.

BUT IN THIS MOMENT SELENA TAKES A GREAT DEAL OF TIME TO HUG HER FANS AND TAKE PICTURES. THERE IS JUST AN UNDERSTANDING SOME CELEBRITIES HAVE THAT IF YOU TAKE THE TIME TO MAKE AN INTERACTION WITH A FAN COUNT, THE MORE LIKELY THAT FAN WILL ADORE YOU AND STAND BY YOU IN THE LONG TERM, WHICH ISN’T TO SAY THIS IS SOME CALCULATED GESTURE.IT’S JUST A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING THAT WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR FANDOM CAN OCCASIONALLY BE REFLECTED IN WHAT THEY GIVE BACK. UNFORTUNATELY AT THIS MOMENT WHAT MANY FANS WANT TO “GIVE BACK” IS THE CASUAL RIPPING OFF OF HER ARMS. THEY ARE BASICALLY CLAWING AT HER AND HER BODYGUARD / HANDLERS ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO QUELL THE RAMPAGE. SELENA THEN PULLS BACK AND AFTER LOOKING TOWARD THE RED CARPET SHE INSTEAD LOOKS OVER TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RED CARPET (CLOSER TO WHERE HULK STANDS) AND INDICATES SHE WANTS TO GO THAT DIRECTION.  SHE BEGINS TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH HER HANDLERS / BODYGUARDS OVER THAT INCLINATION. THEY SEEM TO DISAGREE. BUT SELENA WINS OUT.

WITHIN MOMENTS SHE IS HUGGING THE AFOREMENTIONED GIRL-WHO-IS-EXCITED-BECAUSE-SELENA-FOLLOWS-HER-ON-TWITTER AND SURELY THE MOMENT IS MAKING THE GIRL’S NIGHT. HER ONLY REACTION SEEMS TO BE SHRIEKS OF DELIGHT AND NOT ACTUAL WORDS (AT LEAST NOT ONES HULK CAN SPELL). BESIDES, HULK CAN BARELY PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR INTERACTION AS THE SHEER AUDACITY OF FEAR GRIPS HULK’S STOMACH AS MORE PEOPLE ARE CLAWING FROM THE SIDES, ALL WHILE CARS ZOOM PAST ALONG THE ROAD MERE INCHES FROM WHERE THEY STAND. THE WHOLE THING REALLY DOES FEEL REMARKABLY DANGEROUS. ONE FALSE MOVE IN A SWAYING SEA OF HELPLESSNESS AND IT ALL GOES WRONG. HULK GUESSES YOU JUST HAVE TO BE WATCHING FROM THAT LENS OF CONCERN AND NOT THE LENS OF ADORATION TO REALLY SENSE IT, BUT IT IS VERY MUCH REAL. LUCKILY, SELENA IS SOON CONVINCED TO MAKE HER WAY TO THE RED CARPET.

RIGHT AS SHE GETS THERE, ASHLEY BENSON EMERGES FROM HER OWN SUV ALONG WITH MANY OF THE FOLKS FROM HER EARLIER ENTOURAGE. SHE’S WEARING AN ELEGANT, BLACK, LONG, BACKLESS DRESS WITH A PECULIAR SILVER DESIGN RUNNING DOWN THE CENTER. THE CROWD SCREAMS: “Ashley! Over here! Over here!” HULK INQUIRES WITH SOME P.R. PEOPLE AND LEARNS THAT THE FILM’S OTHER STAR VANESSA HUDGENS COULD NOT TRAVEL TO AUSTIN BECAUSE SHE WAS SICK WITH THE FLU. IT IS AT THAT MOMENT JAMES FRANCO ARRIVES AND THE SAME GROUPS OF YOUNG GIRLS SCREAM OUT.

JUST SO YOU ALL UNDERSTAND THIS BEHAVIOR IS FAIRLY UNCOMMON FOR THESE BIG SXSW EVENTS, WHICH TEND TO BE ROOTED AROUND A RATHER DIFFERENT KIND OF FANDOM. AT LEAST ONE THAT IS NOT AS CLINGY AND / OR MAINSTREAM. HULK REALIZES THAT SOUNDS PRETENTIOUS AS ALL HELL, BUT LET’S PUT IT THIS WAY: THE PERSON HULK IS MOST EXCITED TO SEE SHOW UP FOR THE PREMIERE IS NONE OTHER THAN MEGAN ELLISON, WHO HAS SOMEHOW SOLIDIFIED HER PLACE AS THE FAIRY GODMOTHER OF HIGH-QUALITY FILMS THESE PAST FEW YEARS. SHE SEEMINGLY APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE AND GEARED HER ENTIRE OPERATION AROUND HELPING FUND TOP FLIGHT FILMMAKERS LIKE THE COEN BROTHERS, PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON, KATHRYN BIGELOW AND NOW HARMONY KORINE. HER ANNAPURNA OUTFIT SOMETIMES FEELS LIKE A DAMN MIRACLE IN THIS CLIMATE. BUT LUCKILY, HULK WON’T CLAW AT HER.

THE MODUS OPERANDI OF THE RED CARPET ITSELF ALWAYS GIVES HULK PAUSE AND THIS ONE IS NO EXCEPTION. THE PRESS IMMEDIATELY GOES IN FOR QUESTIONS WITH KORINE AND FRANCO – AND THE GIRLS ARE INSTRUCTED TO STAND THERE AND SMILE AND LOOK PRETTY FOR PICTURES. IF THEY ARE LUCKY, MAYBE THEY’LL BE ALLOWED TO GIVE A SOUNDBITE AFTER. IF THIS SOUNDS LIKE HULK IS BEING MEAN, IT IS BECAUSE THE ENTIRE OPERATION IS BEING MEAN AND RATHER THOUGHTLESS. IT’S BECOME THE KIND OF OBLIGATORY DYNAMIC THAT OBVIOUSLY SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT HOW WE REGARD THE MOST BASIC OF GENDER ROLES, BUT NO ONE DOES ANYTHING TO CHANGE IT. AND IT JUST FEELS SO DAMN YUCKY WHEN YOU SEE IT IN ACTION. ESPECIALLY WITH EVERY NAKEDLY CLEAR CONTORTION OF PHOTO REQUESTS.

FOR THE P.R. FOLKS, NAVIGATING THE RED CARPET AND GETTING PEOPLE TO THEIR SEATS IS AN UTTER NIGHTMARE. IT’S THE KIND OF SCENARIO WHERE THE REALITY OF THEIR JOB HITS YOU. IT IS THEIR DUTY TO ORGANIZE AND LIMIT PEOPLE WHO (PERHAPS JUSTLY) FEEL LIKE THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO FOLLOW WHATEVER MOMENTARY IMPULSE MAKES SENSE TO THEM, ARTISTIC OR OTHERWISE. BUT IN THESE MATTERS IT IS ALL ABOUT NEGOTIATING EXTRA SEATS AND DEALING WITH FRIENDS ARRIVING TOO LATE. THE RED CARPET HOOPLA JUST GOES ON AND ON AND USHERS ARE FREAKING OUT INSIDE AND THEY KEEP PUSHING THE SCREENING AND SOON IT’S ALL SO STRESSFUL THAT HULK HAS TO ABANDON HARMONY FROM HULK’S FIELD OF VISION AND GO INSIDE TO GRAB A BIG HULK-SIZED SEAT.

ABOUT 15 MINUTES LATER SXSW PROGRAMMER (AND CANDIDATE FOR NICEST GUY EVER) JAROD NEECE ENTERS AND INTRODUCES HARMONY TO THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE. HARMONY INDICATES THAT HE IS SHOCKED BY THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE IN THE MASSIVE THEATER. HE SAYS THAT HE IS HAPPY TO FINALLY BE SEEING THE FILM WITH AMERICANS, NOT A XENOPHOBIC COMMENT, BUT ONE LATER MADE CLEAR WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT THE OVERSEAS COUNTRIES HAVING LESS AWARENESS OF THE LANGUAGE OF THE FILM AND THE SPRING BREAK CONTEXT.

AND AS HE TOLD HULK EARLIER IN THE DAY, THE THING HE IS MOST EXCITED ABOUT IS THAT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME HE WILL SEE THE MOVIE PROJECTED ON FILM.

AH, THE AGE WE LIVE IN…

6. SPRING BREAK FOREVER!!!

SPRING BREAKERS IS THE KIND OF MOVIE WHERE IF YOU LINE UP 100 DIFFERENT PEOPLE YOU WILL GET 100 DIFFERENT REACTIONS.

IT SEEMS THAT MANY PEOPLE WENT INTO THE FILM EXPECTING A B-MOVIE SCHLOCK-FEST, ONE FILLED WITH ALL SORTS OF PULP INDULGENCE. AND SAVE FOR A FEW HILARIOUS MOMENTS, YOU WILL NOT FIND MUCH PULP IN THIS MOVIE AT ALL. INSTEAD, IT’S A FILM THAT OPTS FOR IRONY, REPETITION, DEFLATION AND DISTILLATION OVER CHEAP THRILLS. AFTER THE SCREENING SOMEONE ACTUALLY ASKED HARMONY, WITH SEMI-INCREDULITY: “How does a movie like this only have one sex scene?!?”

HARMONY: “What do you want? A Porn?”

THE OTHER FUN IRONY BEING THAT THERE ARE TWO SEX SCENES IN THE MOVIE.

BUT PERHAPS THE MOST ILLUMINATING THING IS THAT, ON THE FLIP SIDE, THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO REACTED EXACTLY AS IF THIS FILM WAS A PORN. HULK LISTENED TO NUMEROUS PEOPLE CHATTERING OUTSIDE THE THEATER WHO SAID THAT THE FILM WAS ACTUALLY CELEBRATING THE LIFESTYLE PORTRAYED WITHIN AND CALLED IT TRASH. USA TODAY HAD SOME PARTICULARLY NEGATIVE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE FILM’S “BACCHANALIAN EXCESS,” YET SOMEHOW THEY ALSO CRITICIZED THE FILM FOR NOT BEING TITILLATING AND ENTERTAINING ENOUGH WHILE DOING SO. IT’S A SPECTACULAR BIT OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE THAT PRETTY MUCH SUMS UP HULK’S PROBLEMS NOT ONLY WITH HOW MOST PEOPLE WERE WATCHING THE MOVIE, BUT WITH WHAT THE MODERN AUDIENCE WANTS OUT OF SEXUALITY IN MOVIES ON THE WHOLE. AND IT’S WHOLLY INDICATIVE OF THE HORRIBLE MENTAL GYMNASTICS MOST PEOPLE USE IN LOOKING AT SEXUALITY.

WHICH IS ALL A SHAME BECAUSE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE TRICHOTOMY OF THOSE WHO ARE SHOCKED BY THE LURID DETAILS, THOSE SO VAPID AS TO BE SAD FOR THE LACK AND THOSE WHO FAILED TO RECOGNIZE THE OBVIOUS CINEMATIC SATIRE AT PLAY, THERE EXISTS THE HAPPY CROSS-SECTION OF VIEWERS WHO SEE SPRING BREAKERS AS THE BLISTERING, LEGITIMATE COMMENT THAT IT IS.

FOR STARTERS, LET’S BE CLEAR ABOUT ONE THING: THIS IS NOT A FILM ENDORSING SPRING BREAK CULTURE OR THE HEDONISTIC IMPULSES WITHIN. THAT SHOULD BE PATENTLY OBVIOUS, BUT IT’S AMAZING WHAT CAN BE LOST ON PEOPLE WHEN A FILM THAT GOES ABOUT IT IN SATIRICAL MEANS. IT’S NOT EVEN LIKE THE FILM IS BEING MADE SARCASTICALLY OR ANYTHING. BUT SERIOUSLY, ALL THAT STARK OBJECTIFICATION ON DISPLAY? THE FILM IS CONSTANTLY TRYING TO CREATE AN APPROPRIATE DISTANCE FROM IT BY RENDERING IT SO UTTERLY REPETITIVE AS TO LOSE ALL EFFECT. IT IS DELIBERATELY TRYING TO MAKE ALL THESE “PORNOGRAPHIC” IMAGES FEEL BORING. IT DOESN’T CLUE US INTO THE MORALITY BY ADMONISHING THE CHARACTERS, IT DOES SO BY ADMONISHING THE AUDIENCE.

HULK HAS NO IDEA HOW THAT COULD NOT BE NOTICED. SO OFTEN THE FILM STEERS AWAY FROM TITILLATION BY TAKING ALL THIS BRIGHTLY SUN-LIT, SEXUAL IMAGERY AND COUNTERING IT WITH THE HOLY-SOUNDING, ELLIPTICAL SCORE (FROM CLIFF MARTINEZ & SKRILLEX) WHERE THESE WIND-CHIMED PRAYERS CLASH VIOLENTLY WITH IN-YOUR-FACE DUBSTEP, WHICH CREATES SUCH A DISPARATE CONTEXT. KORINE HIMSELF SAID: “It is as if Gaspar Noe made a Britney Spears video.” WHICH SHOULD BE ALL YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS A VISCERAL EXERCISE IN POINTED COMMENTARY. KORINE EVEN USED NOE’S CINEMATOGRAPHER BENOÎT DEBIE TO HAMMER THIS SENTIMENT HOME. BUT HULK WOULD EVEN GO ONE FURTHER WITH THE DESCRIPTION OF HOW THE MOVIE WAS CONSTRUCTED. HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT IT’S LIKE JAMES FRANCO’S ALIEN CHARACTER WAS TRYING TO MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT HIS ALMOST-RELIGIOUS LOVE OF SPRING BREAK AND DID SO IN THE VEIN OF THE TREE OF LIFE.

AND WHILE (1) THERE’S ALWAYS THE WORTHWHILE CONVERSATION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT AN EXPRESSION OF SATIRE CAN EFFECTIVELY ADD TO THE THING IT'S CRITICIZING (IN THIS CASE, STARK OBJECTIFICATION), AND WHILE (2) HULK DOESN’T LIKE TO MAKE ANY GRAND, SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT HOW SEXIST THINGS AREN’T REALLY SEXIST AS LORD KNOWS THERE’S ENOUGH GUYS RUNNING AROUND DOING THAT, HULK STILL FINDS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO DECLARE THIS FILM AS HAVING ANYTHING OTHER THAN GENUINE SATIRICAL INTENT. AND THERE ARE PLENTY OF OBVIOUS SIGNIFIERS TO GET US THERE. WHETHER IT’S THE CARTOONISH EXCESS OR THE HOLLOW REPETITION OF BANALITY. BUT NOWHERE SHOULD THE FILM’S SATIRE BE MORE EVIDENT THAN THE MULTIPLE SEQUENCES OF DEBAUCHEROUS PARTYING SET AGAINST THE AUDIO OF ONE OF THE GIRL’S MAKING A PHONE CALL TO HER GRANDMOTHER, REGALING HER WITH STORIES ABOUT HOW EVERYONE IS SO DAMN SWEET AND HOW THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST SPIRITUAL PLACES THEY’VE EVER BEEN… YOU KNOW… AS THEY DRINK TO PUKE-LEVEL AND PEE IN THE ROAD.

IT’S JUST ONE OF THE MANY MOMENTS IN THE FILM WHERE IT BECOMES A PERFECT EXPRESSION OF WHAT KORINE IS GOING FOR; WHERE IT DIVES INTO THE LURID INSANITY OF “SPRING BREAK LOGIC” WHICH EXISTS AS A WEIRD COMBINATION OF NAIVETÉ, DESIRE AND THE COMPLETE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF CONSEQUENCE. IT’S THE DETAILS OF CULTURE AND ITS VALUING OF INFANTILIZATION: GIRLS WITH ANIMAL BACKPACKS AND PASTEL NAIL POLISH WATCHING MY LITTLE PONY, ALL WHILE INDULGING IN BEER BONGS, COCAINE, BIKINIS, TAKING OFF BIKINIS AND PARTICIPATING IN ABSTRACT VIOLENCE.

AND KORINE DOESN’T LET THAT BIT OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE SIT THERE AS REALISM, HE TAKES IT AS FAR AS IT CAN GO.  HE TAKES IT TO THE ENDS OF FRINGE CULTURE THAT MOST INTEREST HIM. HE TAKES IT TO JAMES FRANCO’S RIDICULOUS ALIEN CHARACTER. HE TAKES IT TO THE POINT WHERE A REVERSE BLOWJOB AT GUNPOINT BECOMES A SOULMATE-CREATING EVENT. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, IT’S THE KIND OF FILM WHERE OUR HEROINES DRESS IN SKI MASKS AND DANCE ABOUT WITH AK47’S TO A BRITNEY SPEARS PIANO BALLAD. BUT DON’T MISTAKE THIS FOR BEING SOLELY ABOUT THE OBVIOUS POWER-PLAYS. THE FILM IS ALSO FULL OF GREAT UNSPOKEN MOMENTS, LIKE WHERE ONE OF THE GIRLS WAS HAPPY TO PARTY WITH ALL THE WHITE DREGS OF SOCIETY, BUT SUDDENLY HAS A FREAK OUT AND “JUST WANTS TO GO HOME” WHEN SHE’S IN AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN POOL HALL. IT’S SUCH A PERFECTLY CONSTRUCTED DETAIL.

SAY WHAT YOU WANT, BUT IT SHOULD AT LEAST BE OBVIOUS THAT HARMONY KORINE IS FULLY AWARE OF THE KIND OF FILM HE IS MAKING.

BUT IT’S JUST THAT IT ONCE AGAIN ENDS UP IN THAT TRICKY TERRITORY WHERE PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH “THE LIE”( WHICH AT THIS POINT WE’VE CONFIRMED IS NOTHING MORE THAN A HYPER-REALITY). ONCE AGAIN, LOOK TO KORINE’S USE OF ALL THE REAL-LIFE PEOPLE IN THE FILM. THESE WERE REAL SPRING BREAKERS AS EXTRAS, THESE WERE REAL PARTIES CREATED FOR THE FILM. THAT GUY NEXT TO JAMES FRANCO WITH THE DREADS? HE WAS A REAL WHITE RAPPER FROM FLORIDA NAMED DANGEROUS THAT HARMONY FOUND RAPPING IN HIS CAR. HECK, GUCCI MANE WAS IN JAIL WHEN HARMONY ASKED HIM TO BE IN THE MOVIE. AND HARMONY’S IDEA FOR THE FILM ITSELF CAME THROUGH HIS FASCINATION WITH WATCHING SPRING BREAK IMAGERY ON THE INTERNET. HE INSTINCTIVELY KNEW HE WAS SEEING SOMETHING WAY WEIRDER THAN WHAT WAS BEING GLOSSED OVER IN THE GIRLS GONE WILD ERA, AND HE WANTED TO EXPRESS IT.

BUT AGAIN, ALL THIS BECOMES CONFUSING IN THE FACT THAT IT’S A SATIRE AND NOT A TRADITIONAL ADMONISHING-THROUGH-CHARACTER-AND-STORY TYPE OF FILM. IN FACT, THERE’S A WAY THAT THE FILM SORT OF GETS YOU TO EMPATHIZE WITH ALIEN (A TESTAMENT TO FRANCO’S PERFORMANCE) AND HIS LOVE OF SPRING BREAK INDULGENCE, BUT REALLY THAT’S JUST GOOD SENSE HUMANITY IN STORYTELLING. NO DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER. EVEN THE MOST VIRULENT OF CRITICISMS SHOULD STILL FEEL HUMAN. PERHAPS THAT’S THE FILM’S BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT; EVEN WHEN TURNING THIS WORLD INTO A VIOLENT HYPER-REALITY, HARMONY IS ABLE TO MAKE SOMETHING THAT IS AT ONCE WHOLLY ACERBIC AND SOMEHOW NON-JUDGMENTAL. BUT THAT’S ALSO WHY PEOPLE FIND THE FILM SO MORALLY CONFUSING.

HULK THINKS THAT PART OF THE PROBLEM IS HOW WE ALWAYS SEEM TO LOOK AT MOVIES IN TERMS OF GOOD AND BAD. WE TRY TO EVALUATE WORTH INSTEAD OF PARSING OUT MEANING. WE JUDGE A FILM’S MERIT BY CHARTING ITS MOMENT-TO-MOMENT EFFECTIVENESS. AND FOR MOST TRADITIONAL STORIES THAT’S FINE, BUT NOT SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IF YOU HAD TO EVALUATE SPRING BREAKERS YOU’D HAVE TO CALL IT A MOVIE WITH MOMENTS OF GENUINE TRANSCENDENCE, MOMENTS OF BANALITY, MOMENTS OF BANALITY-WHERE-BANALITY-IS-THE-POINT, AND HARMONY MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN WHICH WOULD BE WHAT GOING INTO IT, BUT HULK IS PRETTY SURE THAT DOESN’T MATTER. IN THE END HE CRAFTED THEM INTO SOMETHING MUCH BIGGER THAN THE QUESTIONS OF WORTH AND EFFECTIVENESS.

HULK’S SEEN THE FILM THREE TIMES NOW, AND WHAT HULK IS ABSOLUTELY READY TO SAY IS THAT SPRING BREAKERS, FOR ALL ITS GLORIOUS COMPLICATIONS, IS A PURE EXPRESSION OF THE RAGING DISSONANCE IN SOCIETY’S BRAIN. IT REFLECTS INWARD. IT REFLECTS OUTWARD. IT MAKES YOU LAUGH AT ABSURDITY AND BORES YOU WITH THAT WHICH MAY TITILLATE YOU AT OTHER TIMES. IT OBLITERATES TRADITIONAL CONTEXT AND TURNS IT INTO SOMETHING TRANSCENDENT.

AND THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT IT REALLY DOES SEEM TO BE REGISTERING WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE. MANY ARE CALLING THE FILM KORINE’S BEST WORK, BUT REALLY IT’S JUST HIS MOST CINEMATICALLY OBVIOUS. HE’S BEEN DOING THIS HYPER-REALITY THING FOR AWHILE, BUT IT’S ON THE BIG STAGE NOW AND HE MAKES IT ALL RATHER CLEAR. STILL, THERE IS NO DENYING THERE ARE THOSE WHO FIND THE FILM TO RING FALSE OR EXTREME AND ONLY CAN SEEM TO WARM UP TO THE FILM AT ITS MOST FUNNY AND INDULGENT. HULK WOULD AGAIN ARGUE THAT HIS WORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THIS, BUT IT IS A HARD WAY TO SELL PEOPLE ON GUMMO AS A COMEDY WITHOUT SEEMING LIKE A SOULLESS JERK. BUT REALLY, IT’S THE SAME PROBLEM PEOPLE HAVE IN TRYING TO CONVINCE SOMEONE THAT A CLOCKWORK ORANGE IS A COMEDY. YOU JUST HAVE TO STRETCH YOUR NOTION OF WHAT CONSTITUTES COMEDY INTO SOMETHING MORE KAFKA-ESQUE.

BUT SUCH IS THE WAY FOR A FILMMAKER WHO DELVES INTO THAT WHICH IS MORALLY AND EMOTIONALLY COMPLICATED; A FILMMAKER FASCINATED BY THAT WHICH EXISTS ON THE FRINGE AND FINDS DELIGHT IN T

HULK ONCE HAD A CONVERSATION WITH [DELETING FAMOUS PERSON’S NAME HERE] ABOUT THE ONGOING “INTERACTION WITH STRANGERS.” WE CAME UP WITH A THEORY THAT HULK LIKES A GREAT DEAL. THERE IS A BELIEF THAT THE ADORATION OF A LARGE NUMBER OF STRANGERS IS COMPARABLE TO THE ADORATION OF A LARGE NUMBER OF ANY PEOPLE IN OUR LIVES. BUT THIS IS NOT THE CASE. THE ADORATION OF STRANGERS FEELS LIKE THE ADORATION OF ONE SINGLE PERSON. WITHOUT THE CONSTRUCT OF AN ACTUAL RELATIONSHIP, ALL STRANGERS COME TO REPRESENT THE SAME FACELESS ENTITY. AND YES, THEY DO MATTER, BUT EVERY INTERACTION FEELS LIKE THE SOLE REPRESENTATIVE OF “THE PUBLIC.” THERE’S NO OTHER WAY TO BEST EXPLAIN WHY THE CRITICISM OF A SINGLE STRANGER CAN FEEL SO HARSH AND YET THE ADORATION OF THOUSANDS OF STRANGERS CAN FEEL SO SMALL. IT IS SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY REPRESENT “ONE PERSON” IN YOUR LIFE, OR IN THE LEAST, ONE RELATIONSHIP.

AND THUS AT THESE PARTIES, THE ONGOING CONVERSATION WITH STRANGERS CAN FEEL LIKE YOU ARE HAVING THE SAME CONVERSATION AGAIN AND AGAIN. SAVE FOR THE MOMENTS YOU GET TO INTERACT WITH THOSE TO WHOM YOU ARE GENUINELY CLOSE AND THE WHOLE THING TAKES ON MORE MEANING, AS IT IS SET AGAINST THE CONTEXT OF A REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HISTORY. BUT STILL, THAT DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE TO CRAZY ANTICS. THESE PARTIES ARE WORK EVENTS AND ALL THE THANK YOUS AND INTERACTIONS ARE AN EXTENSION OF THE PREMIERE ATMOSPHERE. IT IS NOT A PERSONAL PARTY. IT IS A GLORIFIED OFFICE PARTY.

EVEN FOR THOSE FIGURES ON THE PERIPHERY, THERE ARE RARELY ANY MOMENTS OF CRAZINESS DURING THESE STUDIO SPONSORED PARTIES. SURE, SOMEONE USUALLY DRINKS TOO MUCH AND SLIGHTLY EMBARRASSES HIMSELF OR HERSELF. BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THEY SIMPLY BECOME A PLACE FOR MORE LOOSENED CONVERSATION. IT’S JUST AN OPPORTUNITY TO RELAX FOR A DAMN MINUTE. ESPECIALLY FOR THE LEGIONS OF P.R. PEOPLE WHO RUN THEM, THEY MUST FIRST DEAL WITH ALL SORTS OF RESPONSIBILITIES INCLUDING DOOR DUTY, LIST CHECKING, HANDLING, ETC. BEFORE FINDING TIME FOR SOME QUICK BREAKS OR THE THANKFUL LONGER TIME OFF TO ENJOY A DRINK.

THIS PARTICULAR PARTY IS OCCURRING IN WHAT ONE FORMER LOCAL CALLED “One of the worst bars in Austin.” HULK HAS NO WAY OF TELLING, OF COURSE, AS THIS IS FAR FROM A REGULAR SAMPLE, BUT THEY ARE MAKING STRONG DRINKS AND THERE SEEMS TO KIND OF BE ENOUGH SPACE. THAT’S A WIN FOR A PREMIERE PARTY IN HULK’S BOOK. SOMEWHERE TO THE EAST SIDE OF THE BAR THE SCOOTER GIRLS FROM BEFORE ARE DANCING IN ANIMATED FASHION. HULK GETS CLOSE TO LISTEN IN AND ONE OF THEM INDICATES THAT THEIR MASK IS ITCHY AS HELL. IT PROMPTS AN ENTIRE CONVERSATION ABOUT THEIR ENSEMBLE AND HOW THEIR BODIES ARE GOING THROUGH ABJECT WEIRDNESS FROM THE FEELING OF BEING FREEZING WHILE THEIR FACES ARE SO DAMN HOT AND SWEATY. LATER HULK SEES ONE OF THEM WITH IT ROLLED IT UP INTO A KIND OF BEANIE.

MEANWHILE, HULK TRIES TO INTRODUCE HULK-SELF TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO GET A SENSE OF WHO IS THERE. THERE ARE A FEW FILMMAKERS HULK CASUALLY KNOWS. THERE ARE PEOPLE FROM ANNAPURNA. CAA. WARNERS-INTERACTIVE. BUT THE REAL COUP OF THE NIGHT SEEMS TO BE HULK GETTING A CHANCE TO BECOME FRIENDLY WITH THE LEGIONS OF P.R. PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD A GRUELING DAY OF GENUINE WORK AND HAVE ANOTHER ONE TOMORROW MORNING. THEY MOSTLY JUST SEEM TO BE ENJOYING THEIR 30 MINUTES OFF. THE TRUTH IS THAT ANY GOOD CONVERSATION CAN MAKE FOR A GOOD AFTERPARTY AND HULK FINDS A WHOLE PLETHORA OF THAT AS THE NIGHT GOES ON.

AND FOR ALL HULK’S CYNICISM, THE KIND THAT COMES WITH GOING TO THESE KINDS OF PARTIES FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND HAVING LONG LOST THOSE STARRY EYES THAT ONE HAD IN THE BEGINNING, THERE IS A MOMENT WHERE EVEN HULK HAD A LITTLE LEAP OF JOY DEEP INSIDE: MARTIN STARR AND JAMES FRANCO HAD A QUICK MOMENT OF INTERACTION AND FOR THAT SPLIT SECOND: THESE VERY REAL PEOPLE JUST REVERTED BACK TO BILL HAVERCHUCK AND DANIEL DESARIO IN HULK’S MIND. AND THAT’S REALLY THE JOY OF CINEMA AND A TESTAMENT TO WHAT STORYTELLERS AND ACTORS CAN DO.

THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAYERS OF OBFUSCATION, THEY CAN MAKE AN UNREALITY FEEL IMPOSSIBLY IMPORTANT.

8. LATE NIGHT CRUISING

MONDAY, MARCH 11TH- 1:38AM

HULK LEAVES THE PARTY WHEN HARMONY AND RACHEL LEAVE THE PARTY. PERHAPS SOMETHING LURID AND INSANE HAPPENED IN THOSE REMAINING 22 MINUTES, BUT HULK KIND OF DOUBTS IT. INSTEAD, HULK TAKES THEIR EXIT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO TRY AND CATCH SOMETHING THAT IS GOING ON A FEW BLOCKS OVER.

YOU SEE, ABOUT 40 MINUTES PRIOR, JAMES FRANCO LEFT TO GO SHOW HIS AFOREMENTIONED ART PROJECT INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR. AT THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE’S RITZ LOCATION. HULK MAKES HULK’S WAY OVER AND IS ABLE TO CATCH THE END OF THE (ONLY 60 MINUTE) FILM. HULK GETS THERE JUST AS IT IS ENDING AND THUS DOESN’T HAVE NEARLY ENOUGH OF A SAMPLE TO COMMENT (THE CORRECT SAMPLE WOULD REALLY BE “THE WHOLE THING” ANYWAY). BUT IT IS NOW AROUND 2:45 A.M. AND JAMES FRANCO IS STARTING A FREAKIN’ Q+A…IN CASE YOU DIDN’T HEAR HULK, HULK SAID 2:45 A.M.

WITHIN PRESS CIRCLES PEOPLE HAVE LEARNED THAT FRANCO WILL ALWAYS GIVE A 7 MINUTE ANSWER. IN CASE YOU ARE NOT AWARE, THAT’S A REALLY LONG ANSWER. THERE ARE SOME THAT SAY LONG ANSWERS ARE JUST A BLOCKING TACTIC THAT PREVENT YOU FROM ASKING A LOT OF QUESTIONS, BUT MOST OF THE TIME IT’S JUST A SIGN OF BEING A THOUGHTFUL AND VERBOSE INDIVIDUAL. FRANCO’S ANSWERS ALWAYS SPRAWL OUT IN AN ORGANIC, UN-REHEARSED FASHION.

HE STANDS BEFORE THE AUDIENCE AND TALKS OPENLY ABOUT PURSUING THE ENDS OF SEX THAT MAY SEEM TO BE THE MOST TITILLATING AND EXTREME, BUT THEN MAKING THEM A STORYTELLING TOOL. AFTER ALL, EVERYTHING THAT APPEARS IN THE FILM IS THE KIND OF THING THAT HAS BEEN MADE AS A JOKING REFERENCE ON SITCOMS. AND THAT COMMENT GETS AT A REAL TRUTH AS TO THE WAYS WE ALLOW THE HINTING AT SOMETHING UNSEEMLY, BUT NOT THE HONESTY OF WHAT IT REALLY IS. IT REMINDS HULK OF HOW NORM MACDONALD ONCE CALLED THE DOUBLE ENTENDRE THE LOWEST FORM OF COMEDY BECAUSE HE FELT LIKE IT WAS THE LEAST HONEST. FROM THERE FRANCO BRINGS UP THE HONESTY OF TRAVIS MATHEWS AND STARTS TALKING ABOUT THE SAME IDEAS HE PARSED OUT OVER THE W.T.F. PODCAST, THE TOUCHSTONE OF FRIEDKIN’S CRUISING, HOW PISSED HE WAS ABOUT THE BANNING OF MATHEW’S FILM I WANT YOUR LOVE. BUT FRANCO KEEPS TALKING IN 7 MINUTE ANSWERS AND KIND OF TALKING HIMSELF IN CIRCLES, AS IF HE’S TRYING TO FIND WHAT HE REALLY WANTS TO SAY.

IT IS AT THIS MOMENT THAT HULK REALIZES ONE OF THE THINGS HULK LIKES ABOUT FRANCO IS THAT HE NEVER HAS A PERFECT WAY OF EXPRESSING HIS ART PROJECTS. NO, THAT’S FOR THE ART ITSELF AND IT IS SOMETHING WHERE HE CERTAINLY OVERLAPS WITH KORINE. WHILE HULK IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE BIGGEST ADVOCATES OF “HAVING SOMETHING TO SAY” WITH YOUR ART, IT IS A COMMON MISTAKE TO THINK ART HAS TO BE A 1:1 OF MEANING AND INTENTION. ART IS TOO INSTINCTUAL AND VISCERAL A PROCESS. RENDERING IT INTO A COLDLY LOGICAL EXERCISE WILL COME OFF AS JUST THAT (ALTHOUGH, HULK’S WORRY IS ABOUT THE OPPOSITE INCLINATION, WHEREIN PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS THEY ARE SAYING IN ANY CAPACITY, AND OFTEN THEY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY AT ALL). THE POINT OF THIS ENTIRE DIGRESSION IS THAT THERE HAS TO BE A HAPPY PLACE BETWEEN ARTISTIC INTENTION, HAPPY ACCIDENTS, POST-ARTICULATION AND THE EMBRACE OF AMBIGUITY. AND SURE THE BEST FILMMAKERS ON THE PLANET SEEM TO BE AWARE OF WHICH IS WHAT AND HOW TO BEST MANIPULATE IT, BUT HERE FRANCO IS JUST SO DAMN HONEST ABOUT TRYING TO FIND THAT BALANCE, EVEN IF UNSUCCESSFULLY. REAL ART IS THE WILLINGNESS TO FAIL. AND FRANCO IS MAYBE ONE OF THE ONLY PEOPLE IN HIS POSITION WHO IS TAKING ANY REAL CHANCES. AND THAT IS NOT ONLY SOMETHING WORTHY OF NOT CRITICIZING, BUT WORTHY OF BEING CELEBRATED.

SO FRANCO FINALLY FINISHES UP THE Q+A AND ON THE WAY OUT OF THE RITZ HULK CATCHES UP WITH THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE THE WHOLE TIME. APPARENTLY, FRANCO CAME IN FROM THE AFTERPARTY, DID A SERIES OF 1 AM INTERVIEWS (!!!) AND EVEN FILMED ONE OF THE FAMOUS ALAMO “DON’T TALK OR TEXT” PSAS, IN WHICH HE RECREATED THE “LOOK AT MY SHIT” SCENE FROM SPRING BREAKERS, ONLY TALKING ABOUT THE AMENITIES SPECIFIC TO THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE AND THEIR FINE FOOD AND DRINKS. AND NOW, HE’S CAUGHT UP IN EVEN MORE CONVERSATIONS WITH FANS ON THE WAY OUT.

WHEN FRANCO FINALLY EMERGES FROM THE THEATER IT IS ALMOST 4 AM.

HULK LOOKS AT HIM, THE GUY WHO GOT IN AT 1 AM THE NIGHT PREVIOUS, AND NOW REALIZES HE HAS NOW GONE 27 HOURS STRAIGHT IN THE COMMITMENT TO TWO DIFFERENT MOVIES, WHICH CLEARLY MEAN A GREAT DEAL TO HIM. AND ALL THE WHILE HE JUST LAUNCHED A NUMBER ONE FILM IN THE COUNTRY IN SAM RAIMI’S OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL FOR WHICH HE DID AN IMPOSSIBLE AMOUNT OF INTERVIEWS ALREADY. AND YET HE HAS AGREED TO EVERY REQUEST AND EVEN HAD TIME TO ANSWER QUESTIONS FOR A HULK ALONG THE WAY.

PERHAPS HE DESERVES SOME SLEEP.

9. INGÉNUE-ISM IN THE AGE OF DISNEY

MONDAY MARCH 11TH – 11:16 AM

THE NEXT MORNING THE PLAN WAS TO MEET AT 11:30, BUT HULK IS THERE 14 MINUTES EARLY. HARMONY ET AL ARE FINISHING UP SOME ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEWS AND THERE WILL BE MORE OF THAT AFTER THE DAY’S BIG EVENT, BUT FOR NOW EVERYONE STARTS GATHERING TOGETHER TO HEAD TO THE SCHEDULED SPRING BREAKERS PANEL.

HULK USES THE TIME TO CATCH UP WITH THE P.R. PEOPLE ABOUT THE NIGHT'S FESTIVITIES AND EVERYONE’S COMPLETE LACK OF SLEEP. FIRST HARMONY ARRIVES FOLLOWED BY RACHEL. SOON SELENA SHOWS UP FOLLOWED BY ASHLEY. HULK IMMEDIATELY NOTICES THAT EVERYONE HAS ENTIRE SATELLITES OF P.R. PEOPLE AND HANDLERS AND RELATIVES AROUND THEM. OVER THE NEXT FEW HOURS HULK WILL DO HULK’S BEST TO NAVIGATE THIS SEA OF PROTECTION AND DO HULK’S JOB. BUT ANY TIME YOU ARE DEALING WITH PEOPLE AT THIS LEVEL IT IS DIFFICULT TO DO. ONE IMAGINES THE CAST OF THE MOVIE ALL HANGING OUT IN SOME UNTOUCHED VACUUM, BUT REALLY IT IS THE ASSEMBLAGE OF EVERYONE’S RESPECTIVE CAMPS. STILL, WE ARE READY TO MAKE OUR WAY OVER SO HULK JOINS HARMONY AND RACHEL IN THEIR SUV.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT HULK HAS HAD A REAL MOMENT WITH RACHEL AND THE FIRST THING HULK GETS A SENSE OF IS THAT SHE IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLY WITH IT. HAVING ONLY REALLY SEEN HER PLAY THE MOST DIONYSIAN OF THE GIRLS IN THE FILM, HULK HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT. PERHAPS IT’S JUST THE STARK CONTRAST FROM WHAT WE SEE IN SPRING BREAKERS, OR WHAT ONE IMAGINES IN BEING THE WIFE OF HARMONY KORINE’S PUBLIC PERSONA, BUT SHE REALLY DOES COME OF AS ASSURED, ADULT, MATERNAL AND FULLY IN CONTROL. SHE’S SOFT SPOKEN BUT UNAFRAID TO CRACK JOKES. SHE COMMENTS THAT SHE DOESN’T LIKE WEARING MAKE-UP AND IS WEARING A CASUAL BLACK DRESS WITH WHITE POLKA DOTS AND BRIGHT RED SHOES. WHAT IS SOMEWHAT INTERESTING ABOUT RACHEL KORINE IS HOW MANY PEOPLE FOR WHOM THIS FILM IS THEIR FIRST AWARENESS OF HER AND WHAT THEY WILL THINK. RIGHT NOW, HULK HAS RUN INTO ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE YET TO SEE THE FILM AND JUST ASSUMED SHE WAS HARMONY’S SISTER AND NOT HIS WIFE FOR SOME REASON, WHY THAT IS HULK ISN’T REALLY SURE, PERHAPS BECAUSE CELEBRITY COUPLES RARELY CHANGE NAMES, BUT THEN THERE ARE THOSE WHO DO KNOW THEY ARE MARRIED, BUT JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF THEIR (NOT ALL THAT BIG) AGE DISPARITY. QUITE FRANKLY, IT’S ALL THE KIND OF TOPIC THAT HULK COULDN’T GIVE LESS OF A SHIT ABOUT. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU SIT THERE AND WATCH THESE TWO PEOPLE WHO OBVIOUSLY FUNCTION GREAT AS A COUPLE. THEY CALL EACH OTHER “HARM” AND “RACH” AND GO BACK AND FORTH WITH A KIND OF AFFECTION UNIQUE TO MARRIED COUPLES IN THAT IS AT ONCE AS RELAXED AS IT IS EVIDENT OF BEING SMITTEN. OR AT LEAST THAT’S HOW IT ALL COMES OFF.

ALONG THE WAY TO THE PANEL VENUE, HARMONY AND RACHEL GAWK AT THE CROWDS ROAMING THE STREET. HARMONY POSTULATES ON THE FACT THAT THE FESTIVAL SEEMS LIKE IT IS 90% PERCENT MEN AND WHETHER THAT MEANS IT COULD BE THE INDIE GAY MECCA. HE THEN COMPLIMENTS A GUY WITH A BLUE MOHAWK. HE AND RACHEL BEGIN TO TRY AND REMEMBER THE LAST CRAZY FESTIVAL THEY WERE AT LIKE THIS, AND EVENTUALLY HARMONY SETTLES ON IT BEING CANNES A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN HE WAS THERE “With Gus” (VAN SANT?) AND HOW SOME RIDICULOUS STAR WARS MOVIE PLAYED. IT PROMPTS A WHOLE CONVERSATION ABOUT THE WEIRDNESS OF WHAT KIND OF MOVIES PREMIERE AT WHAT FESTIVAL. BUT IT’S HARD TO ARGUE THAT THE U.S. SPRING BREAKERS PREMIERE OCCURRING DURING SXSW MAKES ALMOST TOO MUCH SENSE (THE FESTIVAL IS HELD DURING SPRING BREAK AT THAT).

WE THEN ARRIVE AT THE BACK OF THE AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER, A MASSIVE COMPLEX WHICH SERVES AS THE HEART OF THE SXSW INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE. THIS EVENT WILL BE HELD IN THE VIMEO ACC THEATER, WHICH IS THE ORDAINED SPOT FOR ALL THE BIG PANELS AND A FEW FILM EXHIBITIONS TOO (IT SEATS ABOUT 650 PEOPLE). WE GO THROUGH THE BACK HALLS OF THE CONVENTION CENTER AND THEN EMERGE INTO A HUMONGOUS DARK ROOM WITH ONLY THE SPAREST OF LIGHTS CRACKING FROM AROUND THE CORNERS TO PROVIDE ILLUMINATION. WE ARE DIRECTED TOWARD THE GREEN ROOM, WHICH IS NOTHING MORE THAN A FEW DARK CURTAINS PUT UP TO THE SIDE OF THE GIANT BACKSTAGE AREA. INSIDE IS RATHER NICE, HOWEVER, REVEALING A SMALL AREA WITH SOME COUCHES, COMFY SEATS AND A BIG OLD PLUSH RUG IN THE MIDDLE. THANKFULLY, THEY ALSO HAVE COFFEE AND REFRESHMENTS TO THE SIDE.

THERE WE MEET JANET PIERSON, THE SXSW FILM “HEAD HONCHO” WHO IS ALL KINDS OF AWESOME AND HULK ALMOST INTRODUCES HULK-SELF BUT CHICKENS OUT. WE ALSO MEET WITH ERIC KOHN, A FANTASTIC WRITER FOR INDIEWIRE AND SOMEONE WHO HULK IS A BIG FAN OF. HE’S GOING TO BE CONDUCTING THE PANEL SO THEY HANDLE INTRODUCTIONS. BUT MOSTLY, PEOPLE TRY TO RELAX. GREEN ROOM CULTURE IS MORE INTERESTING AND PARTICULAR THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT. THEY’RE OFTEN DESIGNED AROUND MAKING YOU HAVE A FEW ALCOHOLIC DRINKS OF CHOICE TO LET PEOPLE TAKE THE EDGE OFF (AT LEAST THIS IS THE PROTOCOL IN THE LATE NIGHT CIRCUIT). BUT THIS IS THE KIND OF EVENT THAT DOESN’T REALLY MAKE FOR CASUAL INCOHERENCY, PLUS IT’S SO EARLY THAT NOBODY WOULD REALLY BE BITING. PLUS, HULK HAS TO STAY ON HULK’S TOES FOR THIS PIECE SO THERE’S NO DRINKING… PLUS, HULK DOESN’T SEE ANY BOOZE AND DOESN’T WANT TO BE THE HULK WHO ASKS.

BUT REALLY, THIS IS HULK’S FIRST TRUE BLUE TIME WITH THE YOUNG INGÉNUES WHO STAR IN THE FILM. FOR THE PANEL, ASHLEY IS WEARING THIS SMALL RED AND PURPLE DRESS WITH ANGULAR DESIGNS WHILE SELENA WEARS A SEAFOAM FORM-FITTING DRESS WITH SMALL SECTIONS OF EXPOSED SKIN ON THE SHOULDERS AND AROUND THE STOMACH FOR SOME REASON… AT THIS POINT YOU HAVE PROBABLY REALIZED THAT HULK KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT FASHION. THE REASON HULK TAKES CARE TO MENTION IT IS THAT IT REALLY DOES SEEM TO BE A TOPIC OF INTEREST TO MANY AND HULK’S DISMISSAL COULD SEEM JUST AS FLIPPANT AS SOLELY CARING ABOUT WHAT THE GIRLS ARE WEARING. WHAT HULK FINDS PARTICULARLY INTERESTING IS THE WAY THE GIRLS’ APPEARANCE DOES NOT MATTER IN HOW THEY LOOK TO YOU IN REAL LIFE, BUT HOW THEY WILL LOOK TO THE ALL-SEEING EYE OF THE CAPTURED IMAGE. AND IN THE HD AGE THAT MEANS POUNDS OF FOUNDATION AND MAKE-UP WITH THIS WEIRD, DARKENED BEIGE TONE THAT MAKES PEOPLE LOOK ALMOST SICKLY IN REAL LIFE, BUT “CORRECT” ON CAMERA. IT’S A REMARKABLY WEIRD TRADE-OFF, BUT ONE THAT HAS BEEN DICTATED AS BEING THE RIGHT CHOICE. AND WHAT IS MORE INTERESTING STILL IS HOW THE GIRLS HAVE BEEN GETTING READY IN FULL HAIR AND MAKE UP FOR HOURS WHILE HARMONY AND ANY OTHER GUY HAS JUST BEEN HANGING OUT. HURRAY FOR THE DOUBLE STANDARD.

STILL, THE ONE THING THAT BECOMES CLEAR BY SIMPLY WATCHING THE INTERACTION AMONG THE THREE GIRLS IS HOW IMPORTANT RACHEL ACTUALLY WAS TO THIS ENTIRE PROCESS. IT’S EASY TO NOT KNOW A THING ABOUT IT AND LOOK AT THE CAST AND ASSUME SHE’S ADDED TO THE MOVIE AS THE “FOURTH GIRL” BECAUSE SHE’S HARMONY’S WIFE, BUT THIS WOULD BE AN INCREDIBLE MISTAKE. BECAUSE IN THAT MOMENT IT STRIKES HULK SO PROFOUNDLY THAT SHE WAS THE LINCHPIN OF THE ENTIRE FILM’S CREATIVE FUNCTION. HARMONY WAS ADAMANT THAT THE GIRLS BECAME FRIENDS BEFORE FILM AND YOU CAN SUDDENLY SEE HOW MUCH THEY GO OFF RACHEL’S LEAD. SHE WAS THE ONE WITH THE OBVIOUS COURAGE AND LED BY EXAMPLE. SHE WAS THE GUIDE AND THE ONE WHO GOT THEM TO TRUST HARMONY. EVEN THOUGH SHE IS CLOSER IN AGE TO THE GIRLS, SHE AND HARMONY HAVE A KID AND STABILITY AND SHE BROUGHT AN INESCAPABLE MATURITY TO THAT DYNAMIC. AND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT HOW THE CHARACTER IS SO DIFFERENT FROM HER ACTUAL SELF, SUDDENLY YOU ARE ABLE TO SEE THAT SHE GAVE A REALLY GREAT PERFORMANCE. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER WITH HER INFLUENCE AND GUIDANCE OF THE GIRLS AND HER CASTING FEELS LIKE A COUP.

MEANWHILE, ASHLEY BENSON SITS ON THE COUCH TALKING TO SOME PEOPLE IN HER CAMP AND AFTER TWO DAYS OF OBSERVING SHE FEELS MORE LIKE A MYSTERY THAN ANYTHING ELSE. SHE IS AT TIMES BOISTEROUS AND BRAZEN, AT OTHER TIMES CAUTIOUS AND QUIET. HULK REALLY DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT SHE IS THE ONE WHO SEEMS THE MOST YOUNG AT HEART. THERE’S SOMETHING REFRESHING ABOUT THAT. SHE IS ONLY 23 AFTER ALL AND IN THIS AGE OF STERILE PROFESSIONALISM IT’S NICE TO SEE SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T FEEL LIKE THEY’RE PRETENDING TO BE AN ADULT. WHICH ALSO SOUNDS LIKE A BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT, BUT IT’S MEANT TO BE ANYTHING BUT.

A FEW MINUTES LATER THERE IS SOME DISCUSSION OVER A PLANNED FINALE TO THE Q+A. SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE CAME UP WITH THE IDEA THAT THE GIRLS SHOULD END THE PANEL BY SINGING “HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME” BY BRITNEY SPEARS. AND NOT JUST SING IT, BUT LEAD THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE IN A KARAOKE VERSION. IT SOUNDS LIKE A FUN IDEA, BUT IT’S ALSO ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT COULD GO HORRIBLY. NOBODY WANTS IT TO BE AWKWARD OR STUPID AND NOT EVERYONE HAS THE FRANCO-ESQUE SENSE TO JUST DIVE RIGHT IN AND NOT CARE. EVEN HULK CAME DOWN ON THE SIDE OF ADVISING AGAINST IT. THIS IS A SXSW PANEL CROWD WITH BADGES, NOT THE CROSS-SECTION OF SUPER-FANDOM. HECK, IT EVEN PROMPTS DISCUSSION ABOUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE EVEN SEEN THE MOVIE AND WOULD GET THE REFERENCE (SOME ARGUE IT’S OKAY BECAUSE IT’S IN THE TRAILER). ALL AND ALL, IT’S ONE OF THOSE BIG IDEAS THAT IS WEIRD TO PREDICT AND NO ONE WANTS A DISASTER IN THE YOUTUBE ERA.

THEY ALSO PLAN ON HAVING A SEGMENT WHERE THEY INTEND TO ASK FOR EVERYONE’S CRAZIEST SPRING BREAK STORIES, WHICH EVERYONE ASSUMES WILL GO AWESOME AND BE HILARIOUS (HINT: IT DOESN’T AND ISN’T), SO THEY ALL GET TOGETHER AND SIGN A SPRING BREAKERS POSTER, WHICH WILL BE THE TOP PRIZE FOR THE CRAZIEST STORY. ONCE THAT BIT OF BUSINESS IS OVER WITH, PEOPLE FINALLY SETTLE IN AND JUST TALK. THE MAIN TOPIC OF CONVERSATION IS LENA DUNHAM’S GIRLS, WHICH IS APT BECAUSE IT’S PRETTY MUCH THE MAIN TOPIC OF CONVERSATION ACROSS THE BLOGOSPHERE (HULK IS SO SORRY FOR USING THAT WORD). THANKFULLY, ALL PARTIES SEEM TO BE IGNORANT OF THE MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF ABSURD HATE THAT IS HEAPED UPON THE (REALLY GREAT) SHOW AND THUS THEY JUST DO THING THAT FANS DO AND TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY LIKE IT.

AS THEY TALK WITH HARMONY HULK IS SUDDENLY REMINDED OF A COMMENT SOMEONE MADE UPON SEEING THE SPRING BREAKERS TRAILER, THAT THEY FOUND THE GIRLS DOING A MOVIE WITH HARMONY TO BE “PERVY” AND HULK JUST STARTS GETTING MAD APROPOS OF NOTHING. IT IS THE KIND OF FLIP, UNEDUCATED THING THAT GETS SAID A LOT THESE DAYS, BUT IS PERHAPS SYMPTOMATIC OF A CULTURE THAT REALLY DOES OVERVALUE THOSE THINGS. BUT AS A VALID OBSERVATION? NOPE. NOT AT ALL. IT’S AN ASSUMPTION BASED ON A YOUNGER MAN’S MENTALITY AND CINEMA THAT SEEMS EXPLOITATIVE ON THE SURFACE. FORGET THE FACT THAT IT’S AN IMPOSSIBILITY IN THE AGE OF HANDLERS, BUT WHEN YOU JUST WATCH THEIR COLLECTIVE INTERACTION IT FEELS MILES AWAY FROM ACCURACY. YOU CAN JUST TELL WHEN EVERYONE FEELS LIKE EQUALS AND THERE’S MOUNTAINS OF RESPECT AND ADMIRATION AND FRIENDSHIP AND ALL THAT STUFF THAT MAKES FOR SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION. HECK, SELENA’S MOTHER STANDS TO THE SIDE AND AS HULK WILL LEARN OVER THE NEXT FEW HOURS SHE IS ABOUT AS SMART AND ADEPT AS ONE CAN IMAGINE. SHE MAY BE “A SHOWBIZ MOM,” BUT SHE’S A SHOWBIZ MOM WHO SEEMINGLY HAS BOTH GREAT TASTE AND A HUMANE SENSIBILITY.

OH, AND FOR SOME REASON HULK IS STILL UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT EVERYONE IS WAITING FOR FRANCO TO SHOW UP, BUT THAT’S TOTALLY WRONG. KOHN LATER TELLS THE AUDIENCE THAT FRANCO WAS ACTUALLY DOUBLE-BOOKED BECAUSE HE’S DOING ONE OF HIS LITTLE THINGS WHERE HE’S TEACHING A CLASS ON HARMONY KORINE. IT’S A DETAIL THAT HULK CAN NEVER CONFIRM, BUT WOULD BE UNSURPRISING CONSIDERING THAT FRANCO APPARENTLY ONCE TAUGHT A CLASS ON… HIMSELF… SORT OF.

NO, THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT THE GIRLS HAPPEN TO BE STARVING. THEY’VE BEEN DOING INTERVIEWS SINCE 10 AM AND WERE UP FOR HAIR AND MAKE-UP LONG BEFORE THAT, AND IN ALL THE HURRY UP AND WAIT AND TALKING, NOBODY BOTHERED TO ACTUALLY FEED THEM. LUCKILY, SOMEONE HAS COME TO RESCUE AND HULK WATCHES AS SOMEONE SETS DOWN A BIG OLD PILE WHATABURGER FAST FOOD. THE GIRLS ALL PROMPTLY CRASH TO THE RUG AT THE CENTER OF THE FLOOR AND BEGIN TO DIG INTO SAID FAST FOOD, ALL WHILE TRYING TO CONTORT THEIR BODIES IN THESE MULTI-THOUSAND DOLLAR BITS OF RESTRICTIVE CLOTHING AND NOT FUSS UP THEIR ALREADY-APPLIED HAIR AND MAKE-UP.

THE IMAGE CREATED IS A METAPHOR FOR JUST ABOUT A MILLION THINGS INVOLVED WITH THE ONGOING STATE OF DEHUMANIZING AND TROPHY-IZING WOMEN. BUT MORE THAN ANY OF THAT, IT IS THE EXPOSURE OF A UNIQUELY HUMAN MOMENT. THESE GIRLS ARE ALWAYS SUPPOSED TO APPEAR POLISHED AND REFINED. AND IN THE CONSTANT EFFORT TO LIVE UP TO THAT EXPECTATION, THEY HAVE THE NECESSARY TWO SECONDS TO SIT ON THE GROUND AND SIMPLY EAT FOOD. YOUNG INGÉNUES ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO SUCH A THING, BUT THAT SAYS WAY MORE ABOUT OURSELVES THAN IT DOES THEM. NO, THEY TAKE THIS CRAP IN STRIDE. THEY LAUGH. THEY TELL STORIES. THEY TALK ABOUT MUSIC. THEY TAKE EXAGGERATED PHOTOS OF THEIR IMPROMPTU MEAL. QUITE SIMPLY, THEY TRANSCEND IT. AND TO ANYONE WHO DOESN’T HAVE A HINT OF EMPATHY FOR THIS SITUATION, GIVEN THAT ALL THESE PEOPLE “GET TO BE” RICH AND SUCCESSFUL MEDIA PERSONAS THEN HULK WOULD LIKE TO POLITELY CALL BULLSHIT. FOR ONE, THAT’S A TERRIBLE ASSUMPTION ABOUT PRIVILEGE STRIPPING DOWN THE BASIC RIGHT TO, LIKE, EAT AND STUFF. AND MORE IMPORTANT TO NOTE IS THAT HARMONY AND HULK AND THE REST OF THE GUYS DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANY KIND OF STIGMA INVOLVED IN ANY OF THIS. IT’S THE SAME OLD DOUBLE STANDARD AND ANY INEQUALITY LIKE THIS IS REPRESENTATIVE OF A GENUINE PROBLEM OF SOCIAL CONTEXT. BUT AGAIN, IN THAT MOMENT THERE’S NO ANGER, OR IRONY OR SHAME COMING FROM ANY OF THEM. HECK, THEY MIGHT NOT EVEN CARE ABOUT THE DAMN CONTEXT. BUT TO HULK IT JUST SEEMS SO DAMN ACHINGLY HUMAN, WHICH REALLY MAKES IT A STARK CONTRAST TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF INGÉNUE-ISM IN THE AGE OF DISNEY.

AFTER FIVE MINUTES OF ALLOWED LUNCHING, EVERYONE IS CALLED TOWARD THE ENTRANCE TO THE PANEL ROOM AND SUDDENLY WE’RE DEALING WITH ONE OF THOSE PROBLEMS NO ONE EVER ANTICIPATES. THE STAGE IS APPROXIMATELY 18 INCHES OFF THE GROUND. A BIG, BUT ACCOMPLISHABLE STEP FOR MOST PEOPLE, BUT THE LADIES ARE PACKED INTO DRESSES AND HIGH HEELS AND NAVIGATING A STEP OF HEIGHT IS BASICALLY IMPOSSIBLE. THE HANDLERS AND STAGE HANDS QUICKLY OFFER TO HOIST THEM UP, BUT THAT SEEMS JUST KIND OF WEIRD AND PERHAPS MORE EMBARRASSING THAN A D.I.Y. APPROACH, SO EVERYONE STARTS SCRAMBLING AROUND THE BACKSTAGE TO LOOK FOR APPLE BOXES (THE MOST USEFUL TOOL ON ANY FILM SET NEXT TO A C-STAND) AFTER A MINUTE, SOMEONE COMES BACK WITH A FEW PERFECTLY SIZED EQUIPMENT CASES AND FASHIONS A MINI-STAIRCASE ALONG THE SIDE OF THE STATE. THERE THEY WAIT WITH A HAND TO ELEGANTLY HELP THE GIRLS NAVIGATE THEIR WAY UP TO THE STAGE.

NOW THAT’S PROBLEM SOLVING.

10. THE WORLD’S MOST STUPID GENIUS

MONDAY MARCH 11TH - 1:08PM

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THIS KIND OF LONG-FORM PANEL IS WHETHER OR NOT THE MODERATOR TRULY “GETS” THE MOVIE. AND THANKFULLY, ERIC KOHN GETS THE MOVIE. HE SEES THE FILM FOR ALL ITS RELATIVE QUALITIES. ITS EXUBERANCE. ITS SATIRE. ITS FORM OF EXPRESSION. AND HE REALLY DOES TRY TO DIG INTO THE MEANINGS OF EACH OF HARMONY’S INTENTIONS, BUT THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT HARMONY DOESN’T REALLY TALK ABOUT HIS FILMS IN THAT WAY.

IT’S NOT LIKE HARMONY IS TRYING TO PURPOSEFULLY OBFUSCATE THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION OR SOME NONSENSE. HE’S NOT EVEN ADVOCATING AMBIGUITY FOR AMBIGUITY’S SAKE. HE IS JUST BEING HONEST TO THE FACT THAT HE REALLY DOESN’T KNOW. HE ADMITS, “I don’t have a relationship with that kind of analysis.” AND WHEN IT COMES TO HIS SUBJECTS HE SAYS, “I don’t want to know why I like it. I don’t like explaining it with words.” BUT AFTER ENOUGH PRODDING HE CAN SORT OF TALK AROUND IT. HE’S EXPLAINS HOW HE’S MORE INTERESTED IN THE MOVIE AS A PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE THAN A CEREBRAL ONE, WHICH IS ACTUALLY THE MEASURE OF HOW MOST ARTISTS MANAGE TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE. HE DOESN’T WANT IT TO BE CALCULATED. HE ADVOCATES HAVING A GOOD SENSE OF WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, BUT YOU CAN’T FORCE IT. YOU HAVE TO FIND IT AND YOU HAVE TO BE OPEN TO WHEN IT CHANGES AND THEN FIND IT AND THEN HELP SHAPE IT DURING PRODUCTION AND EDITING. THAT’S HOW HE BUILDS HIS ONGOING SENSIBILITY AND HOW HE NOW UNLEASHES THE “pop poem” THAT IS SPRING BREAKERS.

AT ONE POINT KOHN ASKS A VALID QUESTION ABOUT RACHEL’S NUDITY IN THE FILM AND ANY DIFFICULTIES EITHER HAD IN FILMING IT (THANKFULLY HE ASKS THAT WITH FAR MORE TACT THAT HULK HAS SEEN ANYONE ASK IT YET, AS OTHER HAVE BEEN… UGH). HARMONY’S REVEALS THAT IT WASN’T ALL THAT DIFFICULT AS HE REALLY DOES HAVE THE ABILITY TO SEPARATE THOSE CONCERNS WHEN HE’S MAKING A MOVIE. AND THE MORE RESPECT HE GIVES HER AS AN ACTRESS, THE BETTER A PERFORMANCE RACHEL IS ABLE TO GIVE IN RETURN. IF ANYTHING, HE SAYS THE EXPERIENCE ONLY INCREASED HIS RESPECT AND ADORATION OF HER.

KOHN TURNS HIS ATTENTION DOWN THE LINE AND AFTER HEARING A FEW MORE ANSWERS FOR A CERTAIN INDIVIDUAL, HULK REALIZES THAT THE PERSON HULK HAS BEEN MOST IMPRESSED BY IN THE LAST 24 HOURS IS ABSOLUTELY SELENA GOMEZ.

GOING INTO THIS EMBEDDED COVERAGE HULK HAD ONE SIMPLE QUESTION PLANNED FOR HER: “WHY? WHY DID YOU WANT TO MAKE THIS MOVIE? DID YOU SEE TRASH HUMPERS AND THINK ‘YUP, THIS IS FOR ME!’?”

IT TURNS OUT THAT’S ALMOST EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED. THE CONVERSATION BEGINS WITH HER ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT YOUNG INGÉNUES IN THE DISNEY AGE HAVE TO EVENTUALLY MOVE PAST IT AND TRY TO FIND A WAY TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY IN ADULT FARE. GOMEZ OBSERVES THE INHERENT TRUTH THAT: “There’s no right or wrong way to do this gracefully.” FROM THERE SHE LAUNCHES INTO A STORY ABOUT HER MOTHER / MANAGER BEING A BIG HARMONY KORINE FAN (WHICH PROMPTLY MAKES HULK FEEL OLD) AND SO THEY READ THE SCRIPT TOGETHER AND TALKED ABOUT THE MEANING AND IMPORT OF WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE STORY. AND THEN THEY WATCHED ALL OF HARMONY’S MOVIES AND, YES, TRASH HUMPERS WAS INDEED HER FAVORITE. FROM THERE SHE SIGNED ON. AFTER THE PANEL SELENA ADMITTED THAT SO OFTEN THERE ARE PRATFALLS IN THESE KIND OF CAREER DECISIONS AND SO MANY END UP DOING SOME KIND OF RATED R OR B-MOVIE THAT JUST SORT OF FAKES THE MATURITY. AND THIS WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A PART OF A REAL-DEAL ART FILM. IT WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO TRANSCEND ALL THAT. AND HULK THINKS SHE NOT ONLY TRANSCENDED THE QUAGMIRE OF SOMETHING THAT CANNOT BE DONE GRACEFULLY, BUT IN DOING SO SHE ALSO GAVE HULK THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER TO HULK’S QUESTION.

THE PANEL THEN HAD A HUGE SURPRISE.

BACK WHEN HARMONY WAS 15 YEARS OLD, HE APPARENTLY WROTE A PIECE OF CREATIVE WRITING THAT HIS TEACHER THOUGHT SHOWED PROMISE. MOST OF THE TIME THIS SORT OF ENCOURAGEMENT NEVER HAPPENED TO HIM AND HE WASN’T A VERY GOOD STUDENT, JUST SOME SKATEBOARDER KID IN A TIME BEFORE THAT HAD ANY CACHET. BUT THIS TEACHER ASKED HIM WHAT HE WANTED TO DO AND HE SAID HE LIKED MOVIES SO SHE ENCOURAGED HIM TO TAKE THE WRITING AND APPLY FOR A GRANT AND MAKE A FILM ABOUT IT. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HARMONY DID. BUT SINCE ITS COMPLETION IT HAS SPENT AN ETERNITY LOST SOMEWHERE IN HARMONY’S BASEMENT AND THUS HAD NEVER BEEN SHOWN IN PUBLIC.

UNTIL NOW.

THE FILM IS CALLED A BUNDLE A MINUTE AND IT IS AMAZING HOW GOOD IT IS. IT IMMEDIATELY SHOWCASES’ HARMONY’S INTEREST IN WEIRD DETAILS, HAREBRAINED STORY LOGIC AND A PREOCCUPATION WITH THE SEEDIER PARTS OF SOCIETY. HE GIVES THIS GREAT VOICE OVER, WHICH HE JOKED ABOUT EARLIER, SAYING HE SOUNDING LIKE A “Young Southern W.C. Fields.” IT’S THE STORY OF A TEENAGER RECOUNTING HIS LIFE AND HIS WEIRD EXTENDED FAMILY. THE NARRATOR TALKS ABOUT HIS UNCLE EATING FISH EYES AT WEIRDLY SPECIFIC INTERVALS, HIS FAMILY DYING, BEING FORCED OUT ONTO THE STREETS, ROBBING STORES, GOING TO JAIL AND EVENTUALLY LEARNING MODERN DANCE TECHNIQUES, BUT ALL BEING TOLD WITH A SENSE OF GENUINE ENTHUSIASM. THERE’S EVEN SOME SHADES OF KIDS IN THERE, ALBEIT WITH HARMONY’S NATURAL WEIRDNESS ALREADY INGRAINED. THERE’S ONE MOMENT THAT’S ALMOST PROPHETIC WHEN THE NARRATOR CALLS HIMSELF “The world’s most stupid genius,” WHICH IS PRECISELY HOW A LOT OF CRITICS WOULD SOON TAKE HIM AT FACE VALUE (WITHOUT LOOKING ALL THAT MUCH DEEPER). THE FILM IS CLEARLY SHOWS US HARMONY, THE YOUNG LIAR, THE FLIPPANT CHILD, SPINNING A WEB OF HALF-TRUTHS TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN. BUT REALLY HE’S JUST HARMONY THE YOUNG STORYTELLER.

IT ALSO TURNS OUT THAT THE VERSION THAT WAS JUST SHOWN WAS NOT THE FINISHED FILM. THIS VERSION NOT ONLY HAD THE TIME CODE RUNNING, BUT IT DIDN’T EVEN HAVE THE SCORE. HARMONY SPENT ITS ENTIRE DURATION ON THE GROUND FEELING MORTIFIED, BARELY ABLE TO WATCH THROUGH HIS FINGERS. TO THE AUDIENCE, WE DIDN’T NOTICE AND IT WAS SOME REALLY EFFECTIVE ORIGINAL STORYTELLING. BUT TO A FILMMAKER, WATCHING YOUR WORK WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG IS LIKE GIVING BIRTH TO SOME CRONENBERGIAN HORROR. HECK, IT’S THE REASON MOST CINEMATOGRAPHERS HULK KNOWS CAN BARELY GO TO THE CINEMA FOR FEAR OF ILL PROJECTION.

HARMONY SETTLES DOWN AND THE CONVERSATION SOON SHIFTS AWAY FROM THE SHORT AND COMES BACK TO SPRING BREAKERS AND THE INFLUENCES THAT LED HARMONY TO THAT SUBJECT MATTER. HE HITS A LOT OF THE SAME NOTES AS THE W.T.F. CONVERSATION: THE SUBCULTURE, THE GIRLS GONE WILD, THE COLLECTING OF THE IMAGERY. BUT HE THEN TELLS SOME STORIES ABOUT HIS REAL ON THE GROUND RESEARCH IN FLORIDA, WHERE HIS COHABITORS WOULD BE “Blasting Taylor Swift, leaving vomit on the doorway and snorting donuts.” ALL GREAT DETAILS, BUT HARMONY TRIES TO PERSUADE THE AUDIENCE THAT’S IT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT SPECIFIC DETAILS. INSTEAD, IT’S ABOUT THE LANGUAGE. ITS AFFECTATION HAS TO BE MORE LIKE POP MUSIC. IT’S A SONG THAT GETS IN YOUR HEAD. IT’S LIKE ALIEN’S IMPROMPTU NURSERY RHYME AT THE PIANO OF “Four little chickies.” AND TO CREDIT THE CRAFTING OF THIS LANGUAGE, HARMONY THANKS HIS GREAT EDITOR DOUG CRISE, WHO WAS ABLE TO FASHION THE ELLIPTICAL EDIT FOR THE FILM LIKE AN ELECTRONIC LOOP IN MUSIC, WHICH HARMONY SAYS HELPED HIM ACHIEVE HIS GOAL OF “blasting time.” MUCH IS MADE OF THE FILM’S BEAUTIFUL CINEMATOGRAPHY AS WELL AND IT IS CERTAINLY DEPARTURE FROM HARMONY’S USUAL SCRATCHY, HOMESPUN LOOK. BUT HARMONY INSISTS “Cameras are just an instrument. They make the tone.” BUT REALLY IT’S ABOUT HOW THEY HELP YOU CREATE THE SENSE OF YOUR WORLD. HARMONY SAYS HE’D SHOOT ON ANY MEDIUM AS LONG AS IT HELPED BUILD THE WORLD THAT HE WAS LOOKING TO MAKE.

THERE’S A REVEALING MOMENT WHEN KOHN ASKS EACH OF THE GIRLS WHAT THE MOST DIFFICULT THING WAS IN SHOOTING THE FILM AND HULK WAGERS THAT BOTH HE AND EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE WAS EXPECTING THEM TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE TABOO NUDITY OR EXPOSURE TO SEX, BUT INSTEAD THEY SAY THAT IT WAS ALL THE SCENES OF VIOLENCE THAT GAVE THEM THE MOST PAUSE. TO HULK, IT’S ONE OF THOSE FOREHEAD-SLAPPING MOMENTS THAT SAYS EVERYTHING ABOUT HOW WE VIEW AMERICAN CINEMA AND HOW IT DIRECTLY COUNTERS OUR HUMAN EXPERIENCE. FOR AMERICAN CINEMA IS ALL ABOUT THE GLORIOUS INDULGENCE OF VIOLENCE AS CATHARSIS AND HOW SEX SHOULD FEEL LIKE RESERVED TITILLATION. BUT ASHLEY, SELENA AND RACHEL ALL CONFIRM THAT OUR REAL-LIFE SENTIMENT IS THE OPPOSITE. OUR NATURAL DISPOSITION SHOULD BE (AND FREQUENTLY IS) VIOLENCE FEELING UNNATURAL. AND SEXUALITY / PHYSICAL CONTACT? IT SHOULD BE A POSITIVE ACTION THAT MOST PEOPLE ENGAGE IN EVERYDAY. IT SHOULD FEEL WAY MORE NATURAL. SO WHY WERE OUR EXPECTATIONS THE OPPOSITE? WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT US? IS IT JUST THE CULTURE OF MOVIES? IS IT SOME SPECIFIC MALE VIEW THAT MAKES US AUTOMATICALLY THINK THAT WAY? HOW DOES THIS DISPARITY HAPPEN SO EASILY? WHEN DID WE GET SO SCREWED UP?

THAT QUESTION LINGERS IN HULK’S BRAIN AS HARMONY RATTLES OFF THE LAST FEW ANSWERS THAT HE HAS BEEN FORCED TO GIVE A MILLION TIMES BY NOW. THIS SORT OF MOMENT IS INEVITABLE IN FOLLOWING SOMEONE AROUND WHILE THEY DO THEIR PRESS ROUNDS. YOU BEGIN TO SEE THE SEAMS OF WHAT HULK CALLS THE THOUGHT BUBBLE SINGULARITY. BUT THERE REALLY IS SOMETHING IMPORTANT UNDER ALL OF IT. DESPITE ALL THE HONEST ANSWERS, HARMONY INSISTS “I don’t want to know what people think.” HE DOESN’T WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS THAT DRIVES HIM. HIS INSPIRATION COMES FROM SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE REALM OF PERFECT UNDERSTANDING. HE’S NOT AFRAID FOR IT TO BE COMPLICATED. AND IT IS HONEST BECAUSE IT REFLECTS THE UTTER TRUTH ABOUT HIS (AND THEREBY OUR) ATTRACTION TO FRINGE CULTURE, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY UNDERSTANDING THAT IT’S A FRINGE CULTURE FOR A REASON. IT’S NOT INDICTMENT. IT’S NOT INDULGENCE. IT’S JUST A PURE EXPRESSION OF IT.

OH, AND THAT BRITNEY SPEARS SONG EVERYONE WAS SUPPOSED TO SING AT THE END? WELL, EVERYONE DIDN’T PARTICIPATE, BUT INSTEAD RUSHED TO THE STAGE TO FILM THE GIRLS… AND THEY ABSOLUTELY KILLED IT.

WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU EXPECT FROM PROFESSIONALS?

11. EXEUNT

SUNDAY MARCH 11TH - 3:14PM

EVERYONE EMERGES FROM BACKSTAGE AND SLOWLY POURS OUT INTO THE BACK HALLS OF THE CONVENTION CENTER. HARMONY CONTINUES TO BE MORTIFIED THAT HIS SHORT WAS MISSING THE MUSIC, AND HULK ASSURES HIM THAT IT STILL WENT OVER GREAT (WHICH IT DID). THEY ALL HOP INTO THE SUVS, BUT WE HAVE SOMEHOW AMASSED MORE PEOPLE THAN WE CAME WITH, SO HULK AND A FELLOW P.R. PERSON DECIDE TO WALK THE MONSTROUS STRETCH OF THREE WHOLE BLOCKS BACK TO THE FOUR SEASONS.

NATURALLY, WE BEAT THEM THERE BY ABOUT 6 MINUTES.

HARMONY AND RACHEL ARE THE FIRST ONES BACK AND THAT MEANS IT IS TIME TO SAY OUR GOODBYES. HE SEEMS INSTANTLY SADDENED BY THIS AND IMMEDIATELY ASKS IF HULK HAS GOTTEN ENOUGH GOOD STUFF. HE SAYS TO CONTACT HIM ANY TIME DAY OR NIGHT IF HULK HAS ANY QUESTIONS AND WE BOTH THANK EACH OTHER FOR EVERYTHING IN THE PAST BIT OF WHIRLWIND OF TWO DAYS.

IN ALL THAT TIME, HULK NEVER SAW A PERSON THAT FELL IN LINE WITH THE WORST ASSUMPTIONS OF HIS PUBLIC IMAGE. HULK NEVER SAW ANYONE THAT SEEMED UNHINGED, OR ALOOF OR WHATEVER YOU MAY ASSUME HE’S LIKE BECAUSE OF HIS CINEMA OR TALK SHOW APPEARANCES FROM TWO DECADES AGO. IN FACT, HE WAS QUITE THE OPPOSITE. SOMEONE WHO WAS KIND AND FRIENDLY. SOME WHO LIKED LAUNCHING INTO LONG, INTIMATE STORIES AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE. MAYBE IT’S JUST BECAUSE THERE WERE NO CAMERAS OR OPPORTUNITIES TO PLAY WITH THE INTERVIEWER. THERE WAS JUST A HULK STANDING THERE LURKING ABOUT. AND IN DOING SO HULK WAS ABLE TO JUST GET A LOOK AT A THOUGHTFUL ARTIST WHO HAD A LOT OF TIME TO STAND AROUND AND WAIT AND BE NERVOUS. LIKE HULK SAID, IT’S A UNIQUE SITUATION IN WHICH TO OBSERVE SOMEONE. AND SADLY, THERE’S STILL MORE WAITING HE WILL HAVE TO DO. FOR IN THAT MOMENT HARMONY IS OFF TO DO MORE ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEWS, FOLLOWED BY MORE INTERVIEWS, AND MORE HOTEL ROOMS AND THEN FINALLY THEIR SXSW EXPERIENCE WILL BE OVER.

BUT WITHIN 24 HOURS THEY WILL BE OFF IN NEW YORK TO QUITE LITERALLY DO IT ALL AGAIN. TALKING TO MORE PEOPLE LIKE HULK. DELIVERING THE SAME-ISH ANSWERS. THERE IS AN INSATIABLE DEMAND, A NEED TO FEED THE LARGER BEAST OF INFLUENCE: THE MARKETING MACHINE. THAT’S THE REALITY OF THE PROMOTIONAL TOUR.

AND HULK WISHES THEM ALL WAY MORE THAN LUCK.

12. A PURE EXPRESSION

DURING THE TRU TV SPECIAL, THERE’S A SCENE WHERE HARMONY TAKES GASPAR TO A SCRAP YARD (BECAUSE WHY NOT) AND AT THE BOTTOM OF A TRASH PILE IS A BIG PUDDLE OF THE GROSSEST LOOKING WATER YOU’VE EVER SEEN. HARMONY INSTANTLY GOES TO THE MOST PARALYZING QUESTION POSSIBLE: “Would you drink a gallon of that to save someone’s life?” GASPAR ASKS IF IT IS SOMEONE HE KNOWS AND HARMONY SAYS NO, IT’S JUST THE WORTH OF A HUMAN LIFE. THIS SORT OF MORAL COMPLICATION IS WHERE HARMONY LOVES TO EXPLORE. JUST A FEW SCENES LATER HE WILL BE TAKING GASPAR TO THE GUN RANGE AND HE INSTANTLY STARTS GIVING THE PEOPLE ON THE TARGETS A NAME AND AN INNOCENT BACK-STORY. AGAIN, HE’S GOING TO THE SAME PLACE OF MORAL CONFLAGRATION.

TO HULK, THIS IS THE TRUE POWER OF TELLING STORIES AS A HYPER-REALITY. IT’S THE ABILITY TO ASK THE MOST COMPLICATED QUESTIONS BY GOING TO THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE PLACE AND GETTING US THERE IN A VISCERAL WAY. IT PUSHES US INTO BEING TOTALLY AWARE OR IT DRAGS US THERE BY OUR MOST INDULGENT OF WANTS. THAT’S THE CINEMA OF HARMONY KORINE. AND HE GETS US THERE BY FOLLOWING HIS OWN INSTINCTS. QUITE HONESTLY, HULK FINDS HIS METHODOLOGY TO BE SOMEWHAT REMARKABLE. BUT HEY, SOME DISAGREE. THEY DON’T LIKE THE SEEDINESS. THEY DON’T LIKE “THE LIE.” IT’S A SHAME BECAUSE THEY’RE MISSING A GUY WHO TAKES ON THE WORLD OF JOHN WATERS AND EXPRESSES IT IN A MICHEL GONDRY-LIKE PLAYFUL ABSURDITY.

BUT MAYBE THE BEST THING ABOUT THE LAST TWO DAYS IS THAT HULK REALIZES THAT IT IS HARMONY’S OWN PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE MATERIAL, HIS OWN ATTRACTION, HIS OWN FASCINATION WITH FRINGE CULTURE AND THE WILLINGNESS TO CONTEXTUALIZE IT THAT MAKES IT ALL WORK. AND IT WON’T TRULY RESONATE WITH US UNLESS WE CAN BE HONEST ABOUT THAT INCLINATION IN OURSELVES. WITH MOVIES LIKE SPRING BREAKERS, WITH ITS WAFTING HYMNAL APPROACH TO DEBAUCHERY, HE’S GIVING US A MEDITATIVE OPPORTUNITY TO SWIM IN OUR OWN COGNITIVE DISSONANCE.

AND IT CONNECTS WITH US BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE HE LIVES.

ZOOMING RIGHT BACK TO A MOMENT JUST BEFORE THE PANEL STARTED, EVERYONE STOOD THERE WAITING FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE CALLED UP ON STAGE AS SKRILLEX’S “SCARY MONSTERS AND NICE SPRITES” WAS BLASTING OVER THE SOUND SYSTEM. IN FRONT OF HARMONY, SELENA AND ASHLEY STARTED BOBBING THEIR HEADS TO THE MUSIC. SOON RACHEL, HARMONY, EVERY BODYGUARD / HANDLER ARE EVEN DOING IT TOO; SO MUCH SO THAT IT OVERWHELMS EVERYTHING AND TURNS INTO SOME FULL-ON DUBSTEP DANCING. THE MOMENT IS SO GENUINE AND SO MUCH FUN THAT SUDDENLY NO ONE CARES ABOUT THEIR HAIR COMING UNDONE, OR THEIR DRESSES RIPPING, OR GETTING ALL HOT AND SWEATY BEFORE GOING ON CAMERA, OR EVEN CARING ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO SAY. IT IS A MOMENT OF UNABASHED FUN REGARDLESS OF CONSEQUENCES AND WHOLLY SYMBOLIC OF EVERY IMPULSE IN THE FILM. IT MAY SOUND TRITE TO THINK OF IT LIKE THIS, BUT FOR EVERY CRITICISM THE FILM MAKES ABOUT INDULGENT LIFESTYLES, ALL THE DETAILS, ALL THE REAL ACTORS AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, ALL THE URGES (UNBRIDLED OR OTHERWISE) ARE BORN FROM VERY PRIMAL INSTINCTS WITHIN ALL OF US. AND THEY CAN POP OUT AT A MOMENTS NOTICE IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT. AND IN THAT MOMENT OF SILLY DANCING, EVERYTHING ABOUT HARMONY’S WORK FEELS GENUINE. THE KID WHO MADE THAT SHORT WHEN HE WAS 15 IS NOW CONTORTING HIS BODY AWKWARDLY TO A SKRILLEX SONG FROM HIS MOVIE. HE WENT OUT INTO THE WORLD AND HE FOUND SOMETHING REAL. HE FOUND SOMETHING THAT WAS INNATE TO HIS BEING AND HIS ART. AND HE FOUND THE PEOPLE WHO COULD HELP TURN THAT INTO A PURE EXPRESSION. AND IN THAT ONE MOMENT IT MAKES EVERYTHING FEEL SO DAMN OBVIOUS. HULK SWEARS TO YOU…

HARMONY KORINE ISN’T LYING.

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
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