- Kris Canonizado
IMDb RATING: 7.5 --- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1615908/ --- A guilt and shame ridden mentally unstable young man wears a dog mask to cope. --- REVIEWS: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1615908/externalreviews --- BLOOPER REEL: http://vimeo.com/20984627
At 22:33 on 23 May 2011
Waldo The Dog is not a perfect movie, but it’s kind of a great one. It’s a meditation on guilt and regret and the power of forgiveness, but it’s also a comedy and a horror movie and a fucked up romance that Charles Bukowski would have jerked off to. I watched it twice because the first time I saw it it kind of hypnotized me and didn’t really leave my brain with it’s critical parts functioning. The second time I found the flaws and wrote them down and then threw the paper away because I didn’t give a shit. Writer\Director Kris Canonizado has made a powerful and raw piece of film that sticks to your eyes like sleep does and punches your mom in her face when she’s not looking. The film begins in San Diego with a man in a dog mask knocking on someones door and shooting the guy that answers in the face. We see him take a few more people out and cross their names off some sort of list of criminals. It then jumps back three years and we’re witness to a man (dog maskless, but still faceless) stalking a girl across a grassy field, while flash cutting to paperwork laying out someone’s fears of a person who’s stalking and menacing them. The man eventually reaches the girl and rapes her in the grass Thomas Covenant style while professing his love to her. Later that night at his house, Rapey McStalkerpants is feeling some serious remorse and disgust (and maybe a little self-hatred?), so he head butts a mirror and knocks himself unconscious. When he wakes up, he puts on a dog mask and runs howling into the night. In the film’s final jump, we move forward two years and see the man still in the mask, homeless and collecting bottles and cans for some loose change. During the day he goes to a local gym and trains to be a pro wrestler like the Ultimate Warrior or Koko, but with a dog mask and smelling a little like dumpsters and tears. He’s also found someone new to stalk (Jaquelyn Xavier) and he watches her watch TV through her window while masturbating furiously. This is the day to day routine of Waldo The Dog. And sometimes me. Rook Kelly’s mostly silent (and masked!) portrayal of Waldo is breathtaking. The physical punishment he takes throughout this film is unreal, as he’s constantly hopping fences and running through narrow alleys when he’s not in the ring, training to be a wrestler or getting the shit kicked out of him by dudes on the street or children at the park. Kelly plays Waldo as a mixture of a superhero, a cartoon character and the uncle your parents don’t talk about anymore and, for some unbelievable reason, it works perfectly. He is in every frame of this film and carries it like someone who carries things professionally. This should at the very least get him a shit ton of stunt man work or maybe something in the mime community. Incredible. He’s like a Buster Keaton mixed with a Jimmy Snuka with a bit of Underdog thrown in for good measure. Jaquelyn Xavier is also excellent as…Jaquelyn, the object of Waldo’s obsession. When she’s on the way home from work one night and Waldo is his customary distance away, being creepy as shit, he saves her from getting raped by some guys in old people masks. (I’d like to take a moment and ask you all whether San Diego has a larger than norm subset of masked rapists or if this is just fictionalized by this film. This movie really made me feel like if I were to go to San Diego for vacation or on a field trip of some kind, I would have at least a one in three chance of getting raped by someone in a Halloween costume or, at the very least, a fake nose or something. If this is true, please write your congressman and tell him to either only allow mask wearing in the month of October or to make everyone have their own personal stalker to protect them. Thank you for your time.) After Waldo saves the unconscious Jaquelyn, he carries her back to her house (good dog) puts her on the couch and watches her sleep (bad dog). There’s definitely some suspension of disbelief involved with the relationship that grows between Waldo and Jaquelyn. When she wakes up to him rubbing her cheek, she (rightfully) flips out and screams at him to leave. He does, but creeps around to the window and watches her for a bit, giving his nuts a bit of a tickle. As they continue to meet throughout the film, she warms up to him and kind of starts using him as her guard dog. She’s puzzled by the mask, but never frightened of it and when she finds out he doesn’t talk and is homeless she shrugs it off as a mild oddity but nothing to be concerned about. She seems like a sweet and normal gal who works a shitty job and makes electronic beats in her spare time but, as far as Waldo is concerned, it seems like she’s got a few blind spots in her life radar. But Jaquelyn Xavier sells it. Her performance is an excellently underplayed and naturalistic and the sweetness she brings to the roll ratchets up the tension almost unbearably since we know how truly unsafe she is with Waldo. Some people will definitely accuse this movie of being a bit slow and repetitive and possibly a full half hour too long, and the first time I watched the film I would have agreed with those theoretical folks, but after really sitting with the movie and viewing it a second time, I think the choices Canonizado makes are perfect for the story he’s telling. The whole movie is about setting up Waldo’s routine and seeing his horrible, horrible existence. Random people constantly kick his ass, children chase him and throw rocks and the people he wrestles with treat him like shit and leave him crying in the locker room every day. But these are the circumstances he has chosen for himself by hating himself so much for raping the woman at the beginning of the film. He doesn’t feel he deserves any better and he doesn’t (he actually deserves much worse), so seeing his constant shit parade of an existence makes the film’s very uphill battle of making Waldo sympathetic a little more palatable. Kris Canonizado has an artist’s eye. He frames shots excellently and simply, but never without some different angle a lesser filmmaker would ignore. Mixing his docu style with the naturalistic performances of the leads, Waldo The Dog always feels raw and unsafe. The film doesn’t give a shit if you like it or not because it has a story to tell and you better let it past or it’ll roll right over any preconceived notions you might have about structure or pacing. This movie isn’t easy or necessarily even very much fun to watch, but it’s fascinating and alive and immediate in ways so few American films are anymore. As the film ends, a card comes up saying that Waldo will return. That makes me happy because this just feels like the origin story of a homeless, possibly insane rapist super hero. I want more. I want to see who his arch-nemesis is. Winter? Pennies? The term Anti-Hero is too soft for this shit. Waldo is a Sub Zero Hero, complete with costume, ready to follow you home and jerk off on your window sill. But he also might save your ass. You might not like this movie, but that’s okay. It doesn’t need any of us.
At 23:34 on 23 May 2011
One of the benefits of running The Jaded Viewer is that you get contacted to screen a lot of independent films. Some are terrible, others middle of the road and sometimes on that rare occasion you get to see a film that completely makes you go WTF! that was crazy awesome. Waldo the Dog is one of those films that was WTF crazy awesome. Director Kris Canonizado gave me the opportunity to view his debut film and it's one of hell of a ride. Waldo the Dog is guerrilla filmmaking at its most raw. Echoing the 90s indie vibe where independent filmmaking was scorching hot, it has that throwback feel of DIY creativity I enjoyed back in the day. No film permits, blurred reality and improvised dialogue. Canonizado has made a film with oddball characters that's part rom com, part drama and 100% weird. It takes a subject matter that's super duper sensitive and runs it in a gauntlet of emotion. Waldo the Dog will be unlike any other film you have ever seen. It's the equivalent of seeing a fancy car get wrecked, miraculously repaired and then totally wrecked again. As much as you'd like to look away you can't. It's just so mesmerizing to watch. Produced by Shane Ryan (of Amateur Pornstar Killer fame) Waldo the Dog is clearly in the same meta world. The film takes place around San Diego, California and revolves around a world that is pure wacky suburbia. The opening scene of Waldo (Rook Kelly), is him in his dog like mask which gets the first WTF out of you. Without catching a breath. a disturbing rape scene shows up that gets you completely weirded out even more. The next successive scenes are of Waldo doing his daily routine. He's a slightly large man, hooded sweatshirt, ripped vest and he wears gloves. He panhandles throughout the neighborhood and after getting a generous donation signs up for a wrestling school. At 100% mute, this proves hilarious. We see him collect bottles and cans so he can get cash. He also goes dumpster diving and aimlessly watches the pedestrian traffic. In one scene that had me cracking up Waldo gets enough cash for a trip to Del Taco (?) and eats a burrito. As he eats he dances. It's insanely funny. Later, Waldo rescues a beautiful girl (Jaquelyn Xavier) from a group of rapist thugs and they begin to form a friendship. One begs to question why a girl would start to get to know a man who wears a dog mask and doesn't talk, but I like to think it's all magical realism (it's the excuse I give something that I think doesn't make sense). Jaquelyn tries to figure out this goofy buffoon, having solo conversations with Waldo as Waldo answers her back via pantomime and gestures. Soon they are frolicking to McD's, becoming professional swingers (err I mean swinging on a playground swing), going to the movies and becoming best buds. Oh yeah, after every "date" Waldo likes to pleasure himself outside Jackie's window. I thought you should know. Waldo's wrestling skills improve while he's in his pseudo relationship and he's ultimately kicking ass. But all this can't last and as the last half hour approaches, we get some odd reveals as our mute becomes unmute. And in the last 10 minutes are a frenzy of WTF as ultimately we get an unmasking that proves disastrous. First let's talk about the performances. Rook Kelly as Waldo is superb. His mute performance has gotta be one of the best mute performances by a man wearing a dog mask...well ever. Obviously, all the scenes and dialogue are improvised with some direction from Canonizado but Kelly makes it seem effortless. He's clearly doing his best Marcel Marceau and acts a range of emotion from sad to happy to angry. You have to realize that he and Jaquelyn are acting where the world doesn't know they are acting. The other people they interact with are probably going WTF. Why is this man wearing a rubbery dog mask, hanging out with a hot girl and is being recorded by a film crew? I realized Waldo had entered Borat like territory. We're watching a movie where some of the people in it don't know it's a movie. There's a bit of surrealism in all this. The reactions all become priceless for all involved. Jaquelyn Xavier performs under some odd circumstances. Definitely improvising her lines has gotta be tough where her counterpart is mute. Some lines come off rehearsed while others flow naturally. It's a testament to her ability to make her performance feel real in a world full of absurdity. At the end of this movie, I realized I had not just a seen a day in the life of Waldo, a seemingly crazy masked anti-hero. I was actually watching an evolution of a man who was plagued by a guilt of something he had done. Because of this he needed to punish himself in different ways. When Waldo finally talks, he goes all Silent Bob and asks a profound question. From the physical, be it getting pounded on the mat by wrestlers or by a group of children on the playground, Waldo is looking to be punished for what he had done. His mental block of guilt was to create the Waldo the Dog persona and live a life of poverty, though seeking forgiveness from his victim. At the end you feel obligated to pick a side. Are you still pro Waldo or anti Waldo now that you have ALL the information. It's an emotional journey of redemption, albeit it is done with one camera and long continuous shots, there is a solid story in Waldo. That's not to say it's perfect. I'm willing to forgive the budget and the guerrilla style but my biggest gripe is the length. The movie is 2 hours long when it should be 90 minutes. I can see why Canonizado dragged out the monotonous life of Waldo to show us how Waldo has slowly descended himself into nothing, but after the 3rd or 4th scene of seeing him doing nothing, I was getting aggravated. My attention span can only take so much. With all this serious talk, I want to emphasize Waldo is full of ridiculousness that has gotta be seen to be believed. From the wrestling training (Tough Enough doesn't look like this) to a $1 for a kiss pier scam, it's full of moments of genuine ha ha's. I can't believe I am writing this but I actually got comfortable watching a masked man in a rubber dog mask for 2 hours. That's saying something. Canonizado's debut film is mesmerizing and is destined to be a cult classic. I can only imagine the undertaking to make a film with such difficulty. I had imagined this would be full of shaky cam and amateurish cliches but somehow it doesn't feel that way. It felt like a documentary at times, but also like a cohesive pro movie as well. So like I said, you have to pick a side. Ultimately, the success of Waldo the Dog is whether or not you like it's main character. Throughout the 2 hours of getting to know Waldo, I liked him. From his successes (scoring the hot girl!) to his failures (he's not gonna be on RAW anytime soon) I felt for Waldo even after his ultimate evil is revealed. Waldo the Dog is a film that will stick with you long after you've seen it. It's a breakout film by a talented director who dares to show you a glimpse of the absurd fiction of America. You might not always know where to look for it, but Kris Canonizado is a guide to lead the way. WTF moment: The reveal at the end and pretty much the entire movie The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis: I can't say enough good things about this film. I hope anybody who loves independent film will check this out. It deserves a cult following.