James Rolfe Appreciation Week:
Cinemassacre – The Films Of James Rolfe
“All that matters is what comes up on the screen in the end.”
– James Rolfe, Cinemassacre.com FAQ
While to many he is instantly recognisable as the Angry Video Game Nerd, many people often do not realise that there is much more to James Rolfe than this one (albeit highly popular) project. The AVGN series barely scratches the surface of what James Rolfe’s about. To put it short, he’s a devoted filmmaker and movie buff, and he’s been writing, shooting, directing, editing, and starring in his own videos since he was a child. In the “Filmography” section on Cinemassacre.com, Rolfe’s earliest cinematic offering is listed as 1989, meaning he has over 20 years’ filmmaking experience.
Every man must have a passion, and James Rolfe’s passion is movies and the making thereof. That’s pretty obvious, you only need to watch any one of the 300+ films he’s made over the years to see that. In his own words: “It’s not something that I started because I thought it would make me rich. It’s just an emotionally rewarding and stimulating experience to express myself through the combination of moving pictures and sound. It’s just what I do.”
So today as part of James Rolfe Appreciation Week, I’m going to look at a selection of films from the library of Cinemassacre.com to give you an idea of the many different projects, genres, and cinematic styles in which Rolfe has dabbled over the years.
I’ve already mentioned this particular video but I thought I’d mention it again and get it out of the way because it’s definitely worth a watch: it’s “Cinemassacre 200“, James’* story of how his love of filmmaking developed and the history of Cinemassacre.com. I’ve provided a link to the actual video this time and I urge you all to watch it because it is James’s* own story told by himself in his own words.
Another video which falls into the autobiographical section is this one: “Hosting Cinemassacre.com From My Basement“, which is kind of a behind-the-scenes “Making Of” documentary in which James Rolfe and his friend Ryan briefly outline how they created Cinemassacre.com and made it what it is today, the techniques they used and the difficulties they faced upon the way.
* Incidentally, I’ve never fully known when someone’s name ends in ‘s’ such as ‘James’, whether you’re supposed to put “James’ or “James’s” as a plural. I’ve gone with both here so at least then only one can be a mistake. Please could anyone shed some light on this? – Raven
James Rolfe explains in “Cinemassacre 200” how he first started making movies with friends using a home video camera and how when his friends started to lose interest, his own ambitions were growing. So after becoming frustrated when his friends would forget thier lines and leave a lot of his earliest films unfinished, James started making movies without actors. Substituting real people for his own toys and action figures, he would write scripts and shoot films moving the “actors” himself, tinker with the camera angles and scenery to switch the focus between foreground and background, and found himself learning the basic principles of animation.
He’s even created his own original characters; here’s a film about one of them in particular and my own personal favourite: Super Mecha Death Christ.
You can check out the rest of James Rolfe’s animation by clicking here.
The Jersey Odyssey’s
Rolfe made the film “Legend Of The Blue Hole” as a pilot for an intended series called “The Jersey Odysseys”, a sort of documentary-horror series based on urban legends in the state of New Jersey. The above film centres on the legend of the Jersey Devil. On Cinemassacre.com he states that this was his senior film in college in 2004. He also says that although he never got round to making the rest of the episodes, he does still intend to whenever he has the time. If the above film is anything to go by, I will definitely be looking forward to watching them. Check it out and see for yourself.
Also among Rolfe’s repertoire are comedy films, such as 2001’s “Stoney“, a Rocky spoof, as well as the intentionally bad and hilariously titled superhero film: The boy who could telepathically tell whether butter has salt in it or not. Also worth mentioning is 2000’s “Death Puppy“, another intentionally bad film which Rolfe used as a vessel to – blatantly and with comedic effect – highlight common errors some directors make such as issues with consistency.
In a tribute to some of his favourite films of all time, James has put together a few documentary-style films where he travels to the exact spots in which they were filmed. Probably the best example of these is the brilliant “Rocky Jumped A Park Bench“, which premiered at the Philadelphia Film Festival. In other films he also visits locations from the Batman films, Back To The Future, The Exorcist, and It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Which he voted #1 in his Top 30 Films Of All Time).
48 Hour Films
These are a kind of challenge among filmmakers. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about them or who organises them, but the basic principle is: You are given 48 hours to make a short film from scratch; everything from writing it to shooting and editing it ready for screening at a film festival. The twist is, for each film you’re randomly assigned a genre, and a character, prop and line which must appear somewhere in the film. The rest is up to you. Check out the charming Spaghetti Western in which Rolfe was given the genre “Western”, the character “Kevin O’Mara – Home Inspector”, the prop “Lotion”, and the line “I did that last time”. This film was Rolfe’s 2007 entry for the 48 Hour Films contest. The previous 3 years, he completed his trilogy of “Death Suit“, “Death Seen“, and “Death Secret“. These were all excellent although “Death Suit” is kind of surreal even for my tastes.
Along the lines of his “Angry Video Game Nerd” character, Board James is less angry but every bit as farcical and just as funny. He reviews board games, in case you hadn’t already guessed, and is starting to gather a following (being quite a recent addition to Cinemassacre.com). And I love this series all the more for the introduction of the character “Motherfucker Mike”, played by Mike Matei. Here’s a link to his first ever video as Board James, where he reviews the classic “Mousetrap“. Enjoy…
In addition to all of the above, James also has a series of reviews of various favourite movies including Top 10’s which are all entertaining to watch and offer his own perspective. And there’s also his brilliant series You Know What’s Bullshit, in which he picks out things about everyday life which really piss him off.
In short, the man is a genius and every single one of his videos is a pleasure to watch. So hats off to you James, I hope you carry on making movies for our entertainment for years to come.