Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ASPHALT WATCHES: Five Road Movies


In Seth Scriver and Shayne Ehman's Asphalt Watches, two dudes--Skeleton Hat and Bucktooth Cloud--decide to hitchhike across the Trans-Canada Highway (although technically, Bucktooth Cloud is a blob, not a dude). Like all good road movies, Asphalt Watches makes sure viewers know that the journey is usually more important than the destination. Unlike other road movies, the entirety of Asphalt Watches is Flash animation, but it's not a kids' cartoon. It's part of The Toronto International Film Festival's Vanguard Programme this year, too.

Here are five other road movies that are a bit off the beaten path (get it?).


Road trips usually mean dirty gas stations, questionable hotels, and bad food. Not that Stephan Elliott's 1994 film doesn't have those things, but since the main characters are all drag queens, it's way more glamorous than most other road movies. Tick (Hugo Weaving), Bernadette (Terence Stamp), and Adam (Guy Pearce) set out for a small town in the middle of Nowheresville, Australia to perform at a hotel casino resort. Along the way, the trio encounters hijinks, heartbreak, and eventually, happiness.


Calvin Lee Reeder wrote and directed this surrealistic road trip movie that follows the real and possibly imagined adventures of the nameless title character, played by Dermot Mulroney. Although its narrative is anything but straightforward, in a lot of ways The Rambler feels more realistic than other road movies. After all, being on the road for days at a time, can make you see all kinds of crazy things. Like a scientist who can record dreams on VHS tape or women who might be your girlfriend might be real, or merely a figment of your imagination.


Not every road movie has to take place on an actual road. Like Doc Brown says at the end of Back To The Future, "Where we're going, we don't need roads." Prometheus is set in the future, but before the events of Ridley Scott's Alien movie. It also has a lot of the same touchstones: scientists travel deep into space to search for answers to questions that perhaps they shouldn't be asking. Let's not forget multinational corporations and hidden agendas! The end of Prometheus pointed towards a sequel where the surviving scientist, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) would embark on another road movie with an android's head as her companion (Michael Fassbender). This is possibly a first for any road movie.


4. The Road  
This utterly bleak tale of a post-apocalyptic society is such a road movie that it actually has the word "road" in the title. Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smit-McPhee play an unnamed father and son who aren't so much in search of a final destination as they are trying just to survive. It's based on a Cormac McCarthy novel, so "grim" is probably an understatement, but you should know that things get much, much darker in the film before any light shines through.


Peter Jackson's epic trilogy is possibly the ultimate road movie because it's actually several road movies in one. The nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring are split apart by choice and necessity, resulting in a series of parallel narratives involving traveling to various destinations. And for most of the movies' nine-hour plus running time, Frodo and Sam literally walk on roads without shoes! (Hobbits have sturdy feet, but still, that's hardcore. At least Viggo Mortenson had makeshift shoes in The Road.) The Lord of the Rings trilogy might be the only road movie in which there are no cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, or spacecraft. Instead, there are horses, carts, boats, ships, eagles, and of course, the Fell Beasts the Nazgûl ride.

After a this list of wildly diverse road movies, you should be prepared for the insane adventures found within Asphalt Watches, screening at TheToronto International Film Festival's Vanguard Programme.

ASPHALT WATCHES Screening Times:
Tuesday, Sept 10th, 9:45 PM SCOTIABANK 8
Thursday, Sept 12th, 8:45 PM SCOTIABANK 13
Friday, Sept 13th, 2:15 PM SCOTIABANK 4

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