A Look at 'Crestone' and Some Other Oddities

Movies for the #DitchMitch crowd, a selection of links, and a review of "post-societal existence" in Colorado

(Note: In the last newsletter, I began by listing a “fun” movie watchlist, to stir conversation. Let’s continue the trend!)

Q: For those who wish to #DitchMitch McConnell, what monster-ish (or monstrous) movies would help fire up the cause?

A: The following recommendations:

  • The Horror of Party Beach (a movie guaranteed to get people out of their seats and into the streets. because it’s boring)

  • The Undefeated (remember Sarah Palin? well, here she is again. a media monstrosity)

  • V/H/S/2: Slumber Party Alien Abduction (as terrifying as stalling relief legislation for petty reasons. or for no reason)

  • It (the Tim Curry adaptation. why? his version of the clown entity was just so definitive. so evil.)

  • Brahms: The Boy 2 (Mitch kinda looks like the doll, right?)

Can movies move people to political and community action? What creature features and other horror flicks would you pick?

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Links (to read & watch)

Nothing But Trouble turns 30

“‘… why don’t you watch my film before you judge it?’ Sia tweeted in November, when outrage about the movie’s casting started to percolate. Well, I have watched the film, I am judging it, and it’s awful.

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Sion Sono on Prisoners of the Ghostland

Richard Kelly on Southland Tales


Review: Crestone

Marnie Ellen Hertzler’s Crestone could very well be the best modern expression of the line “Haven’t you heard of ‘suspension of disbelief’!?” from the film Ed Wood. At no point in what can be best described as a bender of a picture, is there a stable definition of what it is. One will struggle to find the words and to take their eyes away from the screen. Crestone is absolutely engrossing and undeniably unclassifiable, and it may be the first purest play of and on cinema to kick off the 2020s.

From the get-go, we hear Hertzler’s narration of what is being seen and what she’s feeling, sometimes in real-time, sometimes in post, sometimes both at once. The world of the film feels out of time but not out of continuity; this can be attributed to Hertzler’s direction of and participation in the story and the editing skills of one Albert Birney (co-director of Sylvio and Strawberry Mansion). This tight community of Soundcloud rappers and Instagrammers, making music and living by the flight of their fancies in Crestone, Colorado - a desert of sand and dirt, almost carved out of nowhere - truly appear as though they live at the end of the world, at the edge of time itself. And maybe they are.

Crestone bleeds and blurs from real to reel so shockingly well, it’s difficult to tell where it started from or when it ended. There is little plot to write about, and yet it has a plot in the most primordial way possible. There’s more in common here with early cinema than you’d expect, being as manipulative and dreamlike as a Melies fantasy. It’s an illusion, a sleight of hand.

Special effects are superimposed in some sequences of true improvisation, not much different from how a DJ would remix a song or two. These elements pop in and collide as if guided by some cosmic sensibility. Put it here, do it there. It all adds depth to what behaves more like music at times, which makes sense due to the score crafted by Animal Collective, the folks behind the abstract Oddsac. But while some of this appears foreign and strange, there’s a natural feel that makes everything work. A serendipity of real-time filmmaking and what is likely real-time editing.

The best scenes that suggest what the film may in fact exist at the opening and ending, which act as sort of legends for what’s to come and what’s been left behind.

At the start, the camera observes a marijuana plant as it bobs and weaves with the wind. The camera follows suit in a deceptively wild manner, one that could be seen as an amatuer’s interpretation of handheld. However, the focus of the shot and the movement of the camera has a mastery of observation at its disposal. Here, we are told to concentrate on where our eyes are expected to be directed, which can vary in a single take and change at the flick of the wrist. Within this very of the moment documentation, a clear control of direction is happening. We later see the subjects granting Hertzler accommodation by letting her direct some of their routine activities. Of course, as she explains, they’re all high school friends, so not much is out of bounds or unreasonable.

At the end, when things have either fallen apart or triumphantly begun for these young plugged-in musicians - depending on a glass is half full or empty/big bang expanding or receding argument - one member of the crew has slid into a maybe abandoned home through a window. We cut here and there as if this were an average narrative, no longer just following these men and now potentially contradicting Hertzler’s real-time filmmaking statement (Did she enter the house first after learning of their intentions? Is she directing as they act on instinct? Are they acting?). We get a shot of a mirror which, a moment later, the camera acts as the eyes of. The man peers into the mirror, observing his visage as we observe his actions and his environment.

Indeed, this is now the literal explanation of art as a reflection of ourselves in a mirror. Crestone’s one moment of obviousness is also its most victorious, as it looks into our characters and they look into it. What do they see?

There’s an expedition into a cave that proves striking in a disturbing way too, when they encounter an entity that may be dead, may be otherworldly, or may be themselves. Sometimes, Hertzler throws in a collaborative curveball, but never are they totally out of place. Everything is illuminated, exterminate all rational thought.

Amidst the decay of stray homes they ransack and the squalor of which they’ve chosen to live in (a GoFundMe campaign attempts to build up their efforts), this group strike quite the relationship with the movie being made, which is itself looking for its own thesis. Not struggling, not trying, but looking. One imagines Crestone as being a form of what Francis Ford Coppola has imagined as “live cinema.” It’s not exact to that, but it is a living piece nonetheless.

It’s living.

Crestone is now playing theatrically and also available on VOD.


Based out of “Hollywood South” New Orleans, Bill Arceneaux has written about movies and moviegoing for publications like Big Easy Magazine, Film Threat, Bayou Brief, Occupy, DIG Baton Rouge, OffBeat Magazine, The Hammond Daily Star, and many more. He is Rotten Tomatoes approved, and a romantic for that flickering light. His favorite film often changes from APOCALYPSE NOW to ROMAN HOLIDAY, depending on which way the wind blows. Find out about his latest exploits on Twitter at @BillReviews!