Watched Mar 10, 2012
I'm a regular listener to the Film Junk Podcast, of which Jay Cheel is a founding contributor. I ordered my copy of Beauty Day a month or two ago and finally got around to watching it this weekend. Given the long wait (the film premiered over a year ago), the availability of Cap'n Video shenanigans on the internet and my familiarity with the director I had a difficult time managing my expectations. Not to mention that I grew up with my own cable access lunatics (some are still going strong, something about war and info I think?) Luckily, all that didn't seem to matter, I love Beauty Day. Cheel does a great job of giving Ralph Zavadil aka Cap'n Video a proper, respectful introduction to the larger world. At the same time he manages to convey an appreciation of living life on your own terms, the importance of friendship and a sense of growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario. Ralph's story is told through home movies, video clips, interviews and new footage of Ralph and best friend Robert making Cap'n Video's 20 year birthday show. The biographical elements of the story are well-balanced. He keeps the emphasis on the Cap'n Video show and Zavadil's brand of entertainment but gives us entry into his circle of family and friends and some clearly important milestones, like getting busted for growing pot and his unceremonious removal from cable. I think what I loved most about Beauty Day is it's complete lack of irony. Zavadil is unique (although I'm starting to believe that maybe in Canada he's the norm) and it would be easy to set him up for ridicule. Cheel knows better, this is an honest approach that has some real surprises. I found that the emotional reaction I had was based on what I brought to the table, not how Cheel manipulated the material. Cheel uses the past to simply tell Ralph's tale and that's all, there's nothing maudlin or romantic about how his history is presented. Beauty Day deftly avoids that type of sentimentality, instead it echoes Ralph's desire to "keep on moving". By the end credits you may find yourself looking back a bit anyway, you may miss those days when achieving cult notoriety wasn't as easy as using your webcam. But if there's something to be learned it's that each day we're alive is a beauty day and thinking about your next adventure is more important than taking stock of your past. If you enjoy character driven documentaries then take 90 minutes and get to know Ralph Zavadil, it's time well spent. Grab some corn, some Sleeman's Honey Brown Ale, your electric light helmet and enjoy! But first, go to filmjunk.com and order a copy on DVD because it's not in theaters or on Netflix. The DVD boasts some great extras to sweeten the deal, such as the entire 20th anniversary show, clips from the original Cap'n Video show and two commentary tracks, one with Ralph and Robert and one with the Film Junk crew (and you'll get to meet Reed Farrington, sorry).