How A 10-Minute One-Shot Take Of Joshua Burge Devouring Spaghetti On Camera Became My Favorite Film Scene Ever
Joel Potrykus’ Slacker Masterpiece “Buzzard” (2014) Film Review
Mid-quarantine while I was furloughed, I spent a lot of time getting high and watching films like everyone else in the country because 2020 has been a dumpster fire so who isn’t stoned these days? One evening, I had just eaten an edible that I’d soon learn was way too potent and was scrolling through one of too many streaming services I pay for, searching for a film to watch when I came to a strange looking movie poster. The poster had a deep purple hue, almost electric, and featured a man with dough eyes and wide lips wearing a striped shirt and an odd looking Freddy Krueger glove. I remember feeling the onset of stoney-ness begin and thinking to myself “What. The. Fuck.” but very intrigued so of course I watched it. Thus began my descent into the work of Michigan film professor & super rad Director, Joel Potrykus. I had stumbled across his second feature film, the third in his animal trilogy, “Buzzard”. The first being his 2010 short film, “Coyote” (you can view the film here), followed by his feature film in 2012, “Ape” — which I have still not been able to find and watch. All three films star fellow Michiganian, Joshua Burge — who I wish had more film billings under his belt for my viewing pleasure, but I digress.
Before I dive into what’s now one of my top 5 favorite films, I have to remind you how at this point I am baked like a cake, so my first viewing of this film was very warped and hazy. I watched it 4 more times within a 2 month span and now I screen it for people who I think will appreciate it. By screen it I mean, suggest (softly force?) to watch when they come over. I should also mention it was distributed by my very favorite independent film company, Oscilloscope Laboratories. If you haven’t heard of Oscilloscope, do yourself a favor. Their vast collection of films are incredible and span so many different genres, decades, and feelings. I promise this isn’t a sponsored review, I just really love them that fucking much.
HOOKAY — here we go.
After a quick pre-title scene where our main character destroys his Nintendo Power Glove in a fit of rage (which ends up being a stark foreshadowing to the film), “Buzzard” opens with a close-up shot of our anti-hero, small-time con man Martin “Marty” Jackitansky — and before you ask, it’s not Polish, it’s white Russian. Marty is at a bank, the sister bank of his low paying temp job to be exact, enacting his first scam of the film. He’s there closing his account, only to open a new account and take advantage of their special offer which entitles the customer to a free $50. That’s right, Marty is going through the trouble of walking into a bank — this is enough for me, I don’t think I’ve been inside of a bank in years — for fifty whole dollars. This sets the stage for the kind of con man we are working with here. The first scene alone drew me in completely. I’m a really big fan of honesty and realism within film — situations we can place ourselves in. At one point the bank manager leaves to retrieve the account withdrawal and we’re left watching Marty’s bored, yet changing facial expressions for the amount of time it would actually take your banker to gather your funds when you close your account. They’re small, probably unnoticeable instances but long, realistic shots are my favorites and this film is full of them.
The way Marty goes about his various schemes is in a very “fuck the system” way — which I can appreciate. He orders expensive office supplies from his low paying temp job and returns them to the store in person for cash. He spends time on the clock calling frozen food companies like Hot Pockets and Totino’s to complain and receive free coupons. He goes well out of his way to scam the man and we as viewers can’t really be mad at it. Especially in a time of civil unrest and a horizon filled with change — Marty is one of us — in his own very special and somewhat selfish way. Back at his low paying temp job, Marty’s boss gives him a stack of checks with an easy task: call the customers and verify their addresses. Most people don’t take too kindly to getting calls from banks — especially if they’ve been paying back a loan — so naturally no one is biting when Marty calls and he’s left with the stack of checks. Like clockwork, he soon learns he’s able to sign the checks over to himself — which I didn’t even know was a thing — and our perfect storm is born.
Paired with a little bit of rage which you’ll see rise from Marty’s furrowed brow and wide eyes throughout the film, Marty goes about his scheme but before long, he catches a wave of paranoia. He decides to go into hiding in his best friend & coworker, Derek’s basement. Derek is played by director, Joel Potrykus himself and the banter both characters have between one another is both relatable and endearing. Derek invites Marty to the “party zone” which is really just the basement I’m fairly certain every home in the Midwest has, complete with a plaid couch, a strobe light, wood paneling, and half-drank 2-liters of warm Mountain Dew. The time Marty spends at Derek’s is probably the most light-hearted of the entire film. He’s still his short fused self, but there is something softer about him — like he’s on the edge of laughing at a joke the entire time. You can tell Marty actually really loves Derek, but he’d never admit it. The two are big nerds together— the kind that sword fight with light sabers and have Bugle-eating contests which are achieved via the treadmill at various speeds.
In addition to the aforementioned realism that really drew me to the film, it’s the quirkiness of the climate throughout. There’s something that makes you feel comfortable and understood because these characters are familiar and strange. We all know an over-exaggerative, slightly homophobic, thinks-he’s-cooler-than-he-is Derek, right? Or an angry-slacker-who-loves-metal-music-and-fucking-the-system like Marty? They don’t fit, but they’re familiar.
Throughout the film Marty works to perfect his Freddy Krueger Nintendo Power Glove, complete with sharp knife-like fingers. Marty seems to take comfort in horror — donning monster masks in public throughout the film and using the Freddy Krueger Nintendo Power Glove for protection against those that come close to busting him. Eventually Marty flees Derek’s once he’s convinced the heat is on him. He heads to Detroit and checks into a nice hotel, thus begins my favorite improvised scene in any film — ever. Marty lies in bed wearing a white hotel robe and while he waits for his room service order (a big ass plate of $20 spaghetti and a baby bag of Doritos), he sharpens his Freddy Krueger Nintendo Power Glove with a file provided to him by the hotel — fitting since a lot of people Marty comes across in life seem to be catalysts to his behavior. Marty’s room service order arrives and for the next 10 minutes we watch him inhale this plate of spaghetti like it’s his last meal. There’s that realism, that sometimes chaotic normalcy in film that revs my engine. It’s the strangest scene I’ve ever seen and it wasn’t even suppose to happen — that’s one of the best parts. Joshua just kept shoveling spaghetti into his mouth and Joel kept the camera rolling and that’s how a 10 minute one-shot take of a man in a robe devouring spaghetti in bed exists today.
Marty escapes some hairy situations throughout his time on the run, from being caught on camera in a fit of rage at a convenience store to duplicating a hotel key and getting caught squatting. As the film marches forward, he comes to rely on his Freddy Krueger Nintendo Power Glove to get him out of these situations. What started as a small-time con man with a temper fucking the system slowly, boils over into a pretty gruesome conclusion that I’d like to say I saw coming. We watch Marty grow darker and darker throughout the film which is sobering if you take into consideration the capitalistic climate of the plotline as a whole. I’ll drop the link to the trailer below for your viewing pleasure. Last I checked you can find this film on Amazon Prime or if you’re not into supporting billionaire, Jeff “Lucifer” Bezos (no judgement if you do), you can buy a copy via Oscilloscope. If this review has sparked your curiosity and you do end up watching “Buzzard”, drop me a note! I would love to hear what you think.