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Pac Masters and Horse Worriers 

I know, it’s a goofy headline, but it’s the best I could come up with at 1:30 on a Saturday morning. It was going to be “Stupid Fucking Rain,” but that seemed sort of pointless. Besides, a ale-filled day is a great day for staying in and watching movies… or going to Park Lane to do the same.

Saw my first out-of-town celeb in the bowels of the cinema complex: Callum Keith Rennie, here for the screening of Normal. I successfully resisted the urge to yell at him, “Billy fucking Talent! Where’s Bucky Haight?!!”

Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade is a look back at the glory days of video arcade culture. It didn’t last long… the technology moved quickly and soon it was more fun to stay home and play Atari and Intellivision. But in the early to mid-80s, the kids were all in the arcades, and a few, dedicated, nerdy white boys became briefly famous for having the highest scores in games such as Space Invaders, Defender, Pac Man, Battlezone, Q-Bert, and so on. At one point, a dozen or so of them gathered together in Ottumwa, Iowa , the self-proclaimed Video Game Capital of the World, and got on the cover of Life magazine. The doc finds that these now-middle aged guys aren’t that much changed. They’ve managed to find responsible jobs in the days following the galactic fame, but besides a bit of weight around the middle and a few fewer hairs on their heads, they’re still kind of obsessive. And that’s really the key here, and the key to so many subculture-examining docs (see my piece on Wiener Takes All: A Dogumentary in this week’s street edition of The Coast), obsessive people are fascinating, especially if the subject of their obsession seems trivial from the outside, video games or dachshunds or whatever.

Speaking of obsession, Zoo is a whole 'nother thing. A controversial entry at Sundance, the film is, at its core, a gentle, meditative, almost apologist treatise on bestiality. The filmmakers interviewed a small group of men who used to meet at a farm outside of Seattle, get drunk and have sex with horses. The audience hears the interviews in voiceover, as reenactments are staged. The thing is, the imagery and music are absolutely gorgeous. Lots of solo piano, synth washes and actors beautifully lit to hide portions of their faces… even the ones playing themselves. But for a single exception, where one of the actors is interviewed about his own connection with the events being depicted, no one on screen actually speaks… all the dialogue and information just comes from the voiceover. The soft-spoken male voices talking about what happened (one of their number died from a perforated colon and their recreational activities, revealed to the community, came to a sudden halt) combined with the stunning technical beauty in the shooting makes for a startlingly unusual and hypnotic film, the subject matter aside. And of that subject matter… there’s plenty of the “people just don’t understand our special love” talk that may make the more conventional animal lovers retch, but any work that makes a serious effort to better understand the transgressive in our society, that does away with hysteria, I think is worth thinking and talking about. After all, it’s lonely being a freak.

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