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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tallgrass has stars for 1-day fest

By Rod Pocowatchit
The Wichita Eagle

Bobcat Goldthwait likes to tread taboo ground. Actually, he stomps on it and smashes it to pieces.

The former comedian has evolved into a daring film writer/director with such offbeat movies as “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” which had its female protagonist admit to her husband that she experiments with bestiality, and “World’s Greatest Dad,” which stars Robin Williams as the father of a loathsome teenager who kills himself. Williams forges the son’s diary, which makes him look the model father, and he finally finds success as a writer. Both films were hits at the Sundance Film Festival.

Goldthwait’s characters do unthinkable things, but we can’t stop watching. There’s an uncomfortable air that permeates his work — he seems to revel in making audiences squirm in their seats.

His latest, “God Bless America,” is an angry, giddily violent — and very funny — commentary on the state of modern society and its infatuation with empty-headed stardom and repulsively mindless “entertainment.”

It follows Frank (Joel Murray of TV’s “Mad Men”), the divorced father of a bratty girl who is fed up with the rudeness of the world. And he reaches his wit’s end when he discovers he is terminally ill. So he decides to become a vigilante and rid the world of its ugliness.

He finds an unlikely accomplice in 16-year-old Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who joins Frank on his killing spree. They soon become a modern, ultra-violent Bonnie and Clyde, of sorts.

The film has overtones of Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” but edges more into dark comedy while skewering popular culture. It’s a revenge fantasy, but rooted in the relationship between Frank and Roxy, which becomes almost paternal but never romantic.

“God Bless America” is certainly not a film you’ll normally find at the local multiplex. But that’s exactly the reason the Tallgrass Film Association has chosen to showcase it as a Wichita premiere at “VI to X: Six Months to Tallgrass Ten,” a one-day film festival on Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway.

The event, which celebrates the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Tallgrass Film Festival in October, is designed to introduce new audiences to the film festival experience, which often includes filmmakers in attendance. Actors Murray and Barr will attend the screening of “God Bless America” and participate in a Q&A session after the film (which starts at 8 p.m.).

Overall, six film programs will be presented throughout the day, starting at 10 a.m.

Outside the Orpheum, First Street will be closed to showcase vendors and attractions organized by Wichita State University’s Communication Campaigns class to add to the festival atmosphere. Arcade machines, a photo booth, casino parties, spray tattoos, a hookah lounge, and a graffiti artist will be featured, as well as food by popular roaming food vendor The Flying Stove.

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