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Our very own Gabe Ruzin needs you to know why you must watch Terry Gilliam's FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS.


Your six reasons to watch FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS

I. THE DRUGS: Drugs. Lots of drugs. Suitcases full of them. Trunks full of them. "A whole galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laughers..." represent not only the figurative main character of Terry Gilliam's mind-melting FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS during the kind of depraved weekend in Vegas that a contemporary pretender like THE HANGOVER could only dream of being, but also what many befuddled viewers have probably claimed that one needs in or order to understand its bizarrely fractured narrative, line slurring characters, and hallucinogenic cinematography. But those onion skin complaints sell FEAR & LOATHING badly short. Peel away the seemingly disagreeable outer layers, and the opaqueness with which it greets the casual observer, and one discovers a film teeming with sensory delights, magnificent acting, and black humor. It is Terry Gilliam's id almost completely unfiltered and unfettered. And it is a masterpiece.

II. THE PLOTLESS PLOT: FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS ostensibly centers around L.A. sports journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp before he stopped trying) receiving an assignment to cover a dirtbike race in Las Vegas. But the film quickly shoves that milquetoast plotline aside in favor of Duke and his overweight "Samoan" lawyer Dr. Gonzo (a hilariously feral Benicio Del Toro) paying scant lip service to the race before getting blitzed beyond reason and turning their hotel room into a foul pit of effluence that may have haunted H.R. Giger's most fevered nightmares. Eventually, the pair cut such a wretched swath of physical and emotional detritus across the Vegas strip that the jig is most assuredly up in every sense of the phrase. But, as cinematic comedy stoners are won't to do, they fall ass backwards into an escape of sorts and merely relocate across town to keep the party going. And so it goes.

III. BEFORE DEPP WENT DERP: The acting range established by both leads is a marvel. Del Toro is wholly unrecognizable, having gained upwards of 50 pounds for the role of Dr. Gonzo, all Hawaiian shirts, bristling mustache, and calculating beady eyes, while 'pre-Cap'n Jack Sparrow' Depp shows what he was capable of before he slipped into his laconic career phase that began with Sparrow and continues largely to the present day. Duke is a paranoid, coke-snorting flamingo in human form, his movements herky-jerky and comically splayed, Chaplin's Tramp on a perpetual ether binge and fixated on the enigmatic concept of the 'American Dream'. It's a sight to behold and a consistently funny one. This is Duke's and Gonzo's movie: Las Vegas' many inhabitants, tourists, and transients rarely enter the frame without falling victim, in one way or another, to the pair's drug-addled powder keg. But while Gonzo and Duke come across many other characters in FEAR & LOATHING, none are more crucial to the story than the city itself. Gilliam's Vegas is a nightmarish one, full of unsettling images, low angles, hallucinations, and oddly-tinted visages, an unwelcoming and unfriendly place. Gonzo and Duke rarely give the impression that they mind it that way.

IV. A GONZO AMERICA: Depp's Duke is, of course, based on famed gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and the movie is based on Thompson's eponymous novel, written in 1971. And that's where the movie's REAL narrative comes into play, one that ushers the viewer along on Duke's overblown binge against the backdrop of Nixon's America of the early 1970s. In his more lucid moments, Duke waxes melancholy about the end of the 60s and the peace movement, the protests against the interminable slog that was Vietnam, and so on. Basically, the world was a shitty place in 1971, as Thompson saw it. So bring on the mescaline and let's ride this strange trip out to the end. In this film, the American Dream is to survive America.

V. THE CULT OF GILLIAM: The Coens' stoner comedy/noir in disguise THE BIG LEBOWSKI tends to attract the lion's share of 1998 cult film street cred, and perhaps rightly so, but maybe that's because not enough moviegoers have yet to revisit, and reevaluate, FEAR & LOATHING. Largely dismissed as "incoherent," "sensory overload," and "unwatchable" upon arrival, Terry Gilliam's adaptation of a work thought impossible to adapt is instead, in this writer's opinion, a hugely enjoyable farce and masterfully realized film. Chock full of cameos (Cameron Diaz, Flea, Gary Busey, and Hunter S. Thompson himself, to name a very select few), 70s tunes, bizarre characters, and largely accessible surrealism.

VI. THE BREWS: Grab a bottle of Flying Dog brew and you can instantly see their instant love of their favorite absurdist journalist and his frequent artistic collaborator, Ralph Steadman. This BEER AND LOATHING event is to celebrate two great things that taste great together; A fine brew and a deliciously gonzo flick. Flying Dog brewery will be pulling out some exclusive Brewhouse Rarities as they takeover Glass Half Full. FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS may never receive the widespread praise it is rightly due, but we at the Alamo Drafthouse know a great flick when we see one. Buy the ticket, take the ride. (Gabriel Ruzin)


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