Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jason calls out a pervert from Aruba

Check out the search term this guy used to find me (click for bigger):

Turns out as of this morning I'm the number 4 MSN search result for 'animal sex movies blogspot', thanks to reviewing "Your Mommy Kills Animals" and "Forgiving the Franklins" in the same day. You dirty, dirty Aruban! In other news, since reviews "S&Man", I've been getting a few searches for snuff films, all from the UK.
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Monday, February 26, 2007

Jason watches "Ghost Rider"

Because in between Indiefest and Cinequest, not too mention watching all the Oscar nominees, I just wanted to see a dumb, flashy movie. And it was dumb, but just energetic enough in all the right ways too not piss me off. Yeah, a lot of it made no sense, but it was cheesy near-fun. I'll be back to watching good movies soon.

Jason looks at how well he did predicting the Oscars

Bottom line, I got only 11 out of 24 correct. But I did predict "The Blood of Yingzhou District" without having seen any nominees, how's that for skills? In fact, I was 2 for 2 in categories in which I hadn't seen every nominee.

Of the 13 I predicted wrong, for 7 of them I can be convinced to change my opinion. That leaves 6 for which I still disagree. They are:

Live Action Short--and I only disagree slightly, I can see voting for "West Bank Story" after seeing everything just once. Having seen it and "Binta" twice, "Binta" is better.
Supporting Actress--I'll soften my stance that Abigail Breslin should've won, and Jennifer Hudson was fine, but I wouldn't put her above any of the other nominees, much less all of them.
Directing--I still think Eastwood should've won, for the combined effect of "Flags" and "Iwo Jima". But I guess if you just narrow it to the nominated film, maybe.... Nah, I think this was just pity for Martin Scorsese.
Adapted Screenplay--I guess "The Departed" was just rolling. It was a fine adaptation, but "Children of Men" was all-around an awesomer movie (and was sadly shut out).
Cinematography--although I am happy for "Pan's Labyrinth", again I thought it should've been "Children of Men"
Score--"Pan's Labyrinth" is the only nominated music that can bring me back to the movie instantly.

And that's it. Funny thing, as soon as the Oscars are over, I no longer care about them. I get so spun up about trying to see all the nominees, and now it just doesn't matter.

Jason gets drunk while watching the Oscars

That's been a tradition of mine for a number of years. Sometimes with friends, last year at a Cinequest hosted party, this year at home alone. My drink of choice was a bottle of 2001 Olde Lockeford Lodi Viognier which might've been a little past its prime. Anyway, I took drunken notes, let's see what I wrote (italics indicates clarifications I came up with this morning):

Pre-Oscar blather pisses me off.
"Happy Feet" opening was borderline tolerable. This refers to the pre-show opening, not the main show.
Man, I'm being a curmudgeon!
The 3 Amigos (Del Toro, Iñárritu, and Cuarón) just admitted they don't really like each other's work, it's just sexual attraction. (Iñárritu said that)
Intro's going on too long! Intro to the actual show, where nominees are in front of a white screen talking about the people who inspired them.
Stan Brakhage call-out!
Sound is wrong, I can see people applauding Ellen DeGeneres but can't hear it over the music.
Ellen's doing an okay opening monologue.
I liked the Al Gore joke. Pointing out that America didn't vote for Jennifer Hudson, but here she is, and America did vote for Al Gore...
Yay for "Pan's Labyrinth" (Art Direction)
1/1 so far.
That shadow Oscar was trippy!
WTF was up with Maggie Gyllenhaal calling herself a "visual effect"? It felt like a line she didn't like but was compelled to say.
Will Ferrell's hair--ha ha ha...
Yay, John C. Reilly!
2/2, for me and "Pan's Labyrinth"
2/3, but "The Danish Poet" was a cool short, and Will Smith's kid's flub was cute.
2/4, but "West Bank Story" was cool, I just hope people don't look at it as a model for mideast peace.
You know, having seen them both twice, I'll say that "Binta and the Great Idea" holds up better than "West Bank Story".
Applause sound is still muted and it's bugging me!
Priscilla clip! (in the sound effects choir) turns out there were lots more clips from even better movies, so I gave up trying to call them all out.
Sound Editing--I can't remember my pick so no more n/m for me.
Alan Arkin--Whoooo!!! (didn't know I'd be that excited, but I'm 90% done with the bottle)
That shadow shit is awesome!!!
6:33, Melissa Etheridge just started her song, and I just finished my bottle and opened a 2002 Tamás Chardonnay.
Al Gore and Leo (onstage together) is surreal?
Playing Gore off as he was about to announce a run for President was awesome!
"Mad Max" director (George Miller) just won for dancing penguins. The ending is still dumb.
Did Jack Nicholson shave his head? Yes, as it turns out it's for a role as a cancer patient who escapes the hospital to go do everything he wants to do before he dies. Co-starring Morgan Freeman, titled "The Bucket List", slated for release in November. Directed by Rob Reiner.
Adapted Screenplay--"The Departed" getting some love, interesting!
"Marie Antoinette" won something? Suck it, critics!
Cinematography--"Pan's Labyrinth", but "Children of Men" shoulda won. Only time I'll be annoyed that "Pan's Labyrinth" won.
Fuck Visual Effects!
"The Lives of Others" is awesome, even above "After the Wedding".
7:334, and I'm seeing double and yes, that's what I wrote.
Jennifer Hudson is...a winner!
Jason sees double! 7:36 and apparently doesn't remember noting that exact same thing 2 minutes earlier.

Then I woke up and it was all over. I had to go online to learn that Marty finally got his Oscar. Luckily I had recorded the whole thing, so I'll watch the last part of it tonight.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jason predicts the Oscars, part 3

Okay, let's do the short films. First a comment, again thanking Magnolia Pictures for putting out this program, and the Landmark Lumiere and Shattuck and the Rafael Film Center for showing them. Also, as I mentioned before, I saw them on President's day just after a week of Indiefest shows and before the last few. It was odd, after some rather extreme cinema to realize how tame and unchallenging the Oscar nominees are in comparison. They are all well made, though. Okay let's continue.

Live Action Short Film:
"Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)" was the least memorable. "Binta and the Great Idea" and "West Bank Story" were most memorable just because I'd seen them before, although I think "West Bank Story" is a little too silly to win (still, I'm happy it was nominated). "The Saviour" was awkward, but funny. And "Helmer & Son" was hilarious. I'm going with "Binta and the Great Idea".

Animated Short Film:
By the way, Magnolia's program added a few bonus animated shorts, because the nominees alone took up just 40 minutes. Some of the bonus shorts were better than the nominees. I particularly like "A Gentleman's Duel" (about a pair of medieval gentleman, who battle for the hand of a fair maiden, using giant robots), "Guide Dog" (Bill Plympton's follow-up to "Guard Dog"), and "The Passenger" (about a timid schoolboy who finds a fish that turns into a monster when it hears the right music).

Anyway, as for the actual nominees. "No Time for Nuts" is too silly. "Lifted" was the Pixar nominee, and they're always cool. "The Little Matchgirl" will only win if the Academy suddenly gets some 'the winner has to be sad' idea. "The Danish Poet" will only win if the Academy gets a 'the winner should be hand-drawn but not sad' idea. And my pick is "Maestro". It's a single joke, but built up so perfectly, and with no dialogue so it works in any language. By coincidence, it's the one short I had seen before. So that might've biased me.

Best Foreign Language Film:
I have to start this with a rant. This is the first year I've actually (kinda) seen everything nominated in this category, so it's actually the wrong year for this rant, but I wanna do it anyway. In the Best Foreign Language Film category, unlike most other categories, there's a requirement that the voters have to have seen every nominee. The assumption is for other categories (except documentaries and shorts), they're out in general release and all members of the Academy will have a chance to see them. But for this category there are special screenings for the members. You can vote if you go to the screenings or provide some other proof that you've seen them all (in a theater, not on video). Now, in principle I agree with this, but there's an unintended consequence. If you have a nominee that is likely to appeal especially to the people who go to those screenings (who tend to be older and retired), you might hold it out of general release to limit the voting pool and enhance your chances of winning. You might call this the "Amelie" effect, where "Amelie" was very popular among general audience but lost to "No Man's Land" which hardly no one had seen (BTW, I agree with that call, "No Man's Land" was excellent and "Amelie", while cute, was treacle).

Anyway, this is actually a poor year to rant about this, because 2 of the films ("Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Lives of Others") I saw in general release. One ("Water"), I saw at Cinequest. And one "Indigenes") is out now at the Landmark Embarcadero, but I didn't know it would play there until after I downloaded it and watched it on my computer. That's right, I downloaded a movie (that and "After the Wedding", which gets a general release on March 30). I hated doing it, and as soon as I watched it I deleted it, but at the time it was the only way I could see it. I will watch both of them in the theater when they come out (in fact, if I have time I'll see "Indigenes" today before the Oscars). And, in fact, even on my tiny monitor I loved "After the Wedding" so much I already want to see it on the big screen and own the DVD. I had started downloading "The Lives of Others", too, before I saw that it's release date was moved up so I could see it on the big screen before the Oscars. When I saw that I canceled the download immediately.

Anyway, that was a long, incoherent rant about how the voting process can incentivize distributors to keep their films out of distribution in order to win awards, and as a film fan who wants to see all the nominees, that pisses me off. But, as I said, this is the wrong year to bitch about that, because in fact 3 of the nominees are already released, the other two have release dates, and one of them I already saw in a film festival.

With that said, as much as I love "Pan's Labyrinth", I think it might be too violent for the Academy voters, and I loved "After the Wedding" even seeing it in a small, crappy format. Mads Mikkelsen is awesome, so it gets my vote. By the way, in an only tangentially related topic, Mads Mikkelsen was the best thing about "Casino Royale". I didn't even know he was in it when I went to see it, and when his name came up in the opening credits I blurted out, "Mads Mikkelsen, awesome!" and everyone around me laughed assuming I was joking. I wasn't.

Okay that just leaves Best Directing and Best Picture. But first some comments about the documentaries. Actually, my only comment is I want to thank the Balboa Theater and International Documentary Association for putting on a program of all the Oscar nominated features and shorts. If only I wasn't so exhausted after Indiefest that I just couldn't drag myself up to the city for another full day of movies last Wednesday. I needed a rest, so I went into work, instead. If only I had done that, I would've seen everything nominated for anything in the Oscars. Oh, well, maybe next year. BTW, even though I only saw it and "Jesus Camp", I'm predicting "An Inconvenient Truth" will win. And even though I've seen none of the nominees, based on description alone I'm predicting "The Blood of Yingzhou District" will win best short doc. How's that for a ballsy prediction?

Best Directing and Best Picture:
Okay, finally the big two awards, and I'm putting them together. For me, it comes down to "Babel", "Letters From Iwo Jima", and "The Departed". It's incredibly rare for a movie not nominated in both categories to win either category (I don't feel like researching how often it's happened. Anyone with some time on their hands want to do it for me?) But in recent years it's been pretty common to split the awards. "Babel" is the dark horse in my opinion. It's parallel storylines, one of which just barely tangentially touches the other two, appeals to an intellectual crowd, but I think might be too much for most of the Academy (but I'll be thrilled if it wins). For me it's a matter of whether they want to finally give perpetual bridesmaid Martin Scorsese a ring. There's a part of me that thinks they'll give Scorsese best director but "Letters From Iwo Jima" best picture. But I think that'd be backwards. Clint Eastwood has to win best director, for "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers". He wasn't nominated for the latter, but it's impossible for me to separate the the two, and his accomplishment in making the companion pieces back to back is incredible. So he's my pick for best director. Now I'm really torn on Best Picture, and have only now noticed that two of the nominees are primarily or entirely in foreign languages. I could trust in the conventional wisdom that the Academy has a bias for English, and go with "The Departed". And I guess that's what I'll do.

Okay, for better or worse I'm done. I'll look at how I did vs. the results tonight.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Jason predicts the Oscars, part 2

Okay, I just got back from seeing "The Lives of Others" and "Volver". Both excellent movies. Now let's continue.

Actress in a Leading Role:
It has to be Helen Mirren. Interesting note, Kate Winslet is now the youngest actress to pick up six nominations, and still no win. If she continues picking up nominations at the same rate until she's 87 (the age that her "Titanic" co-star Gloria Stuart was when she was nominated), she'll have 36 nominations, with zero wins. And there's no chance she'll win this year. The London bookmakers even stopped taking bets on this category. Traditionally, the last year's best actor winner announces the best actress and vice-versa. If Philip Seymour Hoffman comes out on stage, tears off his human shell to reveal he is actually a crab person, it would not be as shocking if he retained his human form and announced Kate Winslet won. By the way, in the interest of disclosure, I saw Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" on DVD instead of the big screen. I don't think that matters.

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Oh, I really, really want it to be Abigail Breslin. So what the hell, that's my pick.

Film Editing:
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I saw "United 93" on DVD. This might in fact matter, because I couldn't sit still while watching it. I think this'll be "Babel". Actually, this is one of the toughest for me to call. I also have a feeling it could be "The Departed" or "Children of Men". But "Children of Men" was more noteworthy for not editing (see my comment on best cinematography). If "The Departed" wins this, then it'll be Scorsese's night (finally), but I'm just not feeling it.

Gotta be "Pan's Labyrinth". By the way, I'm still pissed that "Click" is nominated for anything. Okay, they put Adam Sandler in a fat suit and then in old man makeup. Both been done before, but has anyone ever done both in the same movie? Who cares?

Music (Score):
"Pan's Labyrinth". It was the only tune I still had in my mind when I left the theater, and if you played all the scores, it'll probably be the only one that'll bring me back to the movie.

Music (Song):
I guess I could be cheesy and say "Dreamgirls" without specifying the song. But I think they'll actually split the vote. "Our Town" from "Cars" is exactly the stuff the academy likes. But I think they'll go political with "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth".

Sound Editing:
Here's an interesting one, "Flags of Our Fathers" up against "Letters From Iwo Jima". And some other junk in the category. For the record, I saw "Flags of Our Fathers" on DVD because no theater was cool enough to play the double feature of "Flags" and "Iwo Jima" that I wanted. I think "Letters From Iwo Jima" will take it.

Sound Mixing:
And this one "Dreamgirls" will take.

Visual Effects:
It doesn't matter which will win, I'll throw up a little in my mouth whatever happens. "Pirates" looked like bad CGI, especially the ending where spoiler, highlight to read Johnny Depp threw himself in the kraken's mouthend spoiler. "Superman Returns" looked like bad CGI all the way through. I think the only reason I didn't notice the bad CGI on "Poseidon" is because I saw it on DVD and didn't really pay attention. So I'm giving the award to "The Fountain". Screw this category!


Okay, I've calmed down a little, and I'll predict "Superman Returns", but I don't like it.
But on a completely unrelated point, I'm pissed "The Fountain" didn't receive the critical or popular acclaim it deserved on any front.

Adapted Screenplay:
Seriously, can you really count "Borat" as being "adapted"...or as having a "screenplay"? I'm going with "Children of Men".

Original Screenplay:
As a wild-ass guess, I'm going with "Babel".

Okay, I'm taking another break. I'll finish up with the short films, foreign films, directing and best picture tomorrow morning. And maybe some comments on the documentaries, the two categories for which I haven't seen everything.

Jason predicts the Oscars, part 1

Okay, I've put this off far too long, and I'm going out in about a half hour to see "The Lives of Others" and "Volver", the last two nominated films I haven't seen that still in theaters. This'll be as quick as I can make it. In past years (pre-bloggery) I've made detailed arguments for why I think which movie should win and what movies should've been nominated instead. Now that the Oscars were moved up and are now tucked in between Indiefest and Cinequest, I just don't have time. I'm also not making a distinction between what I think will win and what I think should win. I've done that in the past and I've found my choices actually correspond better to the winners than my predictions of what the Academy will choose. So sometimes I'm going with my gut and who I'd vote for, and sometimes I'm double-guessing my gut. I'll try (and probably fail) to specify when.

Actor in a Leading Role:
Forest Whitaker will win, then celebrate by eating the losers. I know there's a lot of sympathy for Peter O'toole, but screw him. He's a fine actor, but as I said earlier, he's not even my favorite cinematic geezer of the year. Donald Sutherland could geeze circles around him.

Actor in a Supporting Role:
I still can't believe Eddie Murphy got nominated. By the way, isn't the whole premise of "Norbit" watching Eddie Murphy make love to himself in a fat suit? Isn't that kind of sick? But I digress. I'm torn between Alan Arkin and Mark Wahlberg. But I think I'm only considering Mark Wahlberg because he's the one major role in "The Departed" that wasn't in "Infernal Affairs", and so he was the one role that had any surprises for me. So screw him, I'm going with Alan Arkin, because the line he delivers to his granddaughter, "I'm madly in love with you, and it's not because of your brains or personality" was one of my favorite things in any movie this past year.

I'll do the actresses later tonight, after I've seen "Volver"

Tee hee, I just said "I'll do the actresses"

Animated Film:
Okay, seriously they should've put the category on hiatus for this year, if these were the top three. I would've said "Happy Feet" if the last 10 minutes made any freakin' sense! Spoiler Alert! Highlight text to read: 'Oh look the penguins are dancing, maybe we should stop fishing Antarctic waters!'End Spoiler Alert. Okay, now that I got that out of my system, I guess I'll go with "Cars", just because as silly and hypocritical it is to preach about a simpler bygone time while using the most advanced storytelling technology out there, it was the best made movie.

Art Direction:
Better freakin' go to "Pan's Labyrinth"!

Better freakin' be "Children of Men"! Actually, let me elaborate. While not the most beautiful of the nominees, it's incredibly long single takes, including during intense action scenes like car chases and shootouts, were beyond anything I've ever seen, and have broken the limits on what can be done. Freakin' amazing! Even if I know some people who didn't like it and possibly few other movies will copy it, it's still freakin' amazing!

Costume Design:
Shoot, I don't know, how about "Curse of the Golden Flower" because it was the most visually striking of the nominees.

Okay, I've gotta go now, I'll finish my picks tonight.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jason forgot to mention one thing in his Indiefest wrap-up

I also wanted to comment about blogging Indiefest. This is the second festival I blogged (Berlin and Beyond was about a month before), but the first festival where I was a sorta semi-celebrity and people knew I was blogging.

I've been a semi-celebrity at Indiefest for a few years now, and get to meet a lot of filmmakers. But in the past I've e-mailed my reviews to Bruce, who then at the end of the festival forwards them to all the filmmakers. This is the first time filmmakers have read my reviews while we're both still at the festival. And, in fact, what with seeing some world premieres and writing up my reviews on my cellphone on the way home some nights, I've occassionally been the first review up on the internet. At least, I was the first public review the makes of "Rolling" and "The Substance of Things Hoped For" saw. That was pretty cool, and unexpected.

I'm actually kind of a shy guy, and often the after parties are pretty loud, so in the past although I've had a good time with the filmmakers, I haven't really told them anything beyond, "yeah, I liked your movie". I feel I'm more eloquent on my blog, so I'm really happy for the chance to communicate better here with the filmmakers.

Okay, that's really, really it for Indiefest. I'm looking ahead to Cinequest now.

Jason wraps up Indiefest

Okay, first my favorites. I can't narrow it down to one, so I give out a few awards:

The one I simply liked the best: "Dante's Inferno"
The sexiest: "Viva"
The funniest: "Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell". Honorable mention, "Forgiving the Franklins" and "Stalking Santa" (which also wins for best use of Christmas carol music in an X-files style)
The "my sense of humor award" (the one I think is funny, but others might not agree): "Neighborhood Watch"
My reward for seeing everything (the movie which I might've skipped if I picked and chose what to see instead of seeing everything , but ended up loving. To me, this is my most important award): "Manhattan, Kansas". Seriously, how was such a wonderful, open, honest girl raised by a mom who was so full of shit?
Best Documentary that isn't "Manhattan, Kansas": "Your Mommy Kills Animals"
Best Short: "Moosecock", with honorable mention for "The One"
Movie whose title I like to repeat over and over again: "Moosecock"
Movie that makes me say "moosecock" over and over again: "Chickenfüt". Just kidding, it's "Moosecock".
The movie that did the best job of making me feel something I don't believe: "The Substance of Things Hoped For". Sorry, guys, I'm still an atheist.
The movie that expanded my understanding of how you can tell a story: "Ten Canoes". Honorable mention to "S&Man"

Okay, that's enough awards. Now how about the themes of this year at Indiefest:
Bunnies: That's the easy one. Too numerous to mention
Homosexuality: Okay, that's always prevalent at Indiefest or any SF film festival, so it almost doesn't count as a theme. But taking a 6 year view, this year has been a particularly gay Indiefest.
Torture: "Dante's Inferno", "Neighborhood Watch", "Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell", "The Third Eye" (okay, that one's kinda self-torture, but still), "Your Mommy Kills Animals" (animal torture), "Gobshite", etc.
Fractured reality: "Inland Empire", "The Third Eye", "Substance of Things Hoped For", "Bad Dreams", "The Third Eye", etc.
Blurring/confusing the line between documentary and fiction: "S&Man", "The One", "Rolling", "25 Cent Preview", "Stalking Santa" (okay, that one's just a straight up mockumentary, but still), etc.
And the theme that Bruce had to point out to me, and I feel like an idiot for not getting--Unreliable father figures: "Stalking Santa", "Fido", "Substance of Things Hoped For", "25 Cent Preview" (the "father" is actually a priest, but generalize it to authority figures), "Manhattan, Kansas" (the father figure is actually a mother, but there's also a father who left them when Tara was born), "The Shore", etc.

Okay, I feel like a doofus for missing that last theme, but it actually fits into a bigger meta-theme with the previous two. Fractured reality plus blurring the documentary/fiction distinction means one thing--reality just ain't that f---in' real anymore. And it's because our father figures have lied to us. I might even expand that theme to say it's tortured us and/or caused us to torture others. That's what the independent film community is trying to tell us this year. Turns out all those bunnies were just a red herring.

Okay, that's that. Unless I think of something else after the fact, this is all I'll write on Indiefest this year.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Jason goes to a couple of bonus days of Indiefest

Okay, so in past years Indiefest would've been over for me after Sunday night. In the past few years they've added a couple "best of the fest" days, but since I'd already seen the movies, I usually wouldn't go back for them, I'd rest instead. But this year they added two movies that they found after they had set the schedule, and wanted to show anyway. So I was back for two bonus days.

First on Monday I actually started by going to the Lumiere and watching all the Oscar Nominated short films. I'll post more about that later, but thank you to the Lumiere (and the Shattuck in Berkeley and the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael) for showing them, and thank you to Magnolia pictures for releasing them.

Anyway, then I took a pleasant stroll from the Lumiere back to the Roxie for the animal rights documentary "Your Mommy Kills Animals". Guess what, it had lots of bunnies in it (in various states of cuteness and "former cuteness". Actually, if you like bunnies you should probably avoid this one). The movie is a very even-handed look at the animal rights/animal welfare movements, motivated by the fact that animal rights activists were recently named the #1 domestic terrorist threat in the U.S. (possibly that was a combination of animal rights/enviromentalists, I forget exactly). Director Curt Johnson (whose previous short documentary, "Thoth", played at Indiefest and went on to win an Academy Award) is very conscientious to let everyone have their say, to the point where even the surgeon who justifies murdering animal experimenters comes off as looking at least articulate, but misguided. In fact, the one group that comes off looking really bad is one that declined to comment--PETA, who kills about 80% of the animals they take in (their mission is in fact primarily focused on euthanasia). The title of the movie actually comes from a propoganda comic book that PETA published, which is really pretty sickening. Here's some other fascinating things I learned from this movie:
  1. I've always thought that animals shouldn't suffer, but I still eat meat and believe it's okay to wear fur or leather (although I personally don't, just as a matter of preference) and to experiment on animals in order to protect or improve human life. I used to think I had a carefully nuanced position on animal rights. Turns out, it's called "animal welfare", and I can in fact be lumped into that group. That's cool, I guess.
  2. The Barbi twins are surprisingly smart, or at least have done their homework with regards to animal rights/welfare organizations.
  3. In general, those who identify with animal welfare are pretty cool people, those who identify with animal rights tend to be dicks.
  4. Curt Johnson also made (produced, not directed), "Michael Moore Hates America", which I missed and didn't care about because I assumed it was a right-wing hatchet job, but now I expect it to be very even handed. So I'll check that out when I have time.

Here's a picture of Curt Johnson at the Q&A afterwards:

So Monday night was supposed to be an early night. I could've gone home right then, but of course I had a few beers with the festival staff and friends. Then we left sometime after 11 pm. Thank you Tina for driving me home!

Okay, then I was back up there again Tuesday night for a night of religious movies. First was "Forgiving the Franklins". Actually, first was walking into the theater and meeting the director Jay Floyd who pointed to me and said, "You're that blogger!" Awesome, I'm becoming famous! And I know Jay will read this. Fortunately I loved his movie.

So "Forgiving the Franklins" is a hilarious send-up of right-wing religious nutjobs. The Franklins (Frank, Betty, and their children Brian and Caroline) are a good, Christian, all American family. Then one day, on the way to the church picnic, they get into a horrible car accident that leaves Caroline with an injured hip and leaves everyone else in a coma. In those comas, they all meet Jesus, in a scene worthy of inclusion in a list of the best surrealist comic scenes ever. Jesus is a tattooed Hispanic man chopping down a cross because the stupid marketing symbol reminds him of the worst day of his life. He then pulls apples out of the back of their heads, releasing them from original sin (and from shame). So when they recover from their comas, they're much more sexually liberal. Frank and Betty actually open their eyes during sex for the first time in their lives, and once that shock wears off, they get much, much kinkier. Brian comes out of the closet and has an affair with his football coach. By the way, Vince Pavia (Brian) is straight, but Khris Scaramanga (coach Caldwell) is (I'm told) a gay porn star, so the shower scene was a bit awkward for Vince. What a trooper. Of course, intolerant hijinx ensue. I've already mentioned the coma scene, which I believe is one of the most brilliant scenes I've ever seen (although the psychic communication--which was the result of it being too windy to record live sound that day, and not wanting to synch up the sound later--was a bit distracting). There's one other line from the movie that I want to relate: Betty--post-coma--is talking to her best friend Peggy Lester, who is trying to turn her back to the path of God (which, of course, Betty knows she's never left). Betty replies (and I'm sorry if I don't get this line exactly right, I'm doing this from memory), "When you talk about God, you sound like one of those women on the talk shows who still loves her husband even though he beats her." That, to me, is what the movie is all about--the difference between loving God (and therefore loving his gift of life) and fearing God.

Here's a picture of director Jay Floyd at the Q&A:

And here's a picture of star Vince Pavia (the gay son), with Indiefest guest curator Anita Monga:

And then I stuck around for a second screening of "Dante's Inferno", which I had convinced a few friends to see. That movie's still awesome (and keeps with the religious theme of the night). Then a few more beers with filmmakers and Indiefest staff. And then it was really, really over.

Okay, I might have one more Indiefest post coming up, summarizing the themes, my favorites, and my new experience of blogging Indiefest.

Jason has an additional comment about "Viva"

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that "Viva" heavily features Playboy magazine. You know what that means--more bunnies!!!!

That is all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jason goes to Indiefest--day 11

I'm catching up a little bit. This is sorta kinda the last day (at least, the day that ended in the closing night party).

Okay, the day started with "Beyond Hatred", a verite-style documentary about a french couple whose gay son was murdered by neo-nazis. It's told entirely in interviews, and follows the events leading up to their trial and the aftermath (the trial itself can't be filmed under french law). I consider it a minor personal triumph that I stayed awake through this whole movie. It's just too damned early in the morning and too damned late in the festival for me to watch a subtitled movie with no action (seriously, there's like a 10 minute scene with a voiceover describing how and where the body was found, and there's just a static shot of the location in a park. A few times people walk, jog, or bike by, but mostly it's a static shot). I could probably be more charitable if I were better rested, but by now I only feel exhaustion. The parents of the victim did write a letter to the killers 6 months after they were sent to jail, offering them forgiveness and help in becoming better people. That letter was pretty powerful, but not really worth the wait. At least not on less than 4 hours of sleep.

This seems as good of a time as any to give a nod to the caffeine/energy products that have gotten me through the festival. For the little pick-me-ups, I take a little XTZ. If I need a bigger boost, I've turned to Buzz Bites. And this year, I've added a new weapon to my arsenal--Cocaine. Thank you to all the wonderful purveyors of chemical stimulation. Now I need to come down for a week so it can be effective again when Cinequest starts.

Okay, next up was "A Ripple in the World". Here's a pic of the director (in the center, with the mic) along with some of his team (sorry, I forgot who they were).
I put this picture in front of my review instead of at the end because I want you to know what a nice, polite, quiet, friendly man Aron Cho is (a preacher's son, in fact). Because he made a pretty disturbed, fucked-up film. There's a mini-theme there, with him and Kumakiri Kazuyoshi ("Green Minds, Metal Bats"), we have polite, friendly Asian gentlemen making disturbing movies. Anyway, I was hooked on "A Ripple in the World" early on when a fat slob picks up a prostitute, and as she's trying to make conversation he blurts out, "Look! I just wanna fuck and then go back to Kansas...or wherever I'm from!" Anyway, the fat slob Big Will (Freddie C. Graves) returns in the movie, and so does the prostitute who's actually a transvestite Chris/Crystal. But the movie really revolves around Sam, a 22 year-old virgin who suffers from sleep epilepsy. So he works the graveyard shift at a hotel resort, and falls in love with a prostitute who frequents the place. This prostitute doesn't return his affection, but her transvestite brother (Chris/Crystal) does. Problem is, Sam isn't gay (or at least thinks he isn't). And things get violent. Well, actually things started out violent, but they get violent again at the end. And it sort of wraps around on itself. Pretty cool.

Okay, next up was "Special Creepy Talents", the program of short horror films. Quickly, now;

"4U"--this films a killer, and the director was brilliant to give out DVDs beforehand. Man, I can't tell you what it's about without spoiling it, but I wish I had copies of it to e-mail to everyone. Actually, you can buy them for $2.50 each here. Maybe I should do that....

"Bad Dreams"--Extra creepy about not knowing if you're dreaming or not. That's kind of a theme in the festival, too...

"Chickenfüt"--A horror-comedy (sometimes obviously absurd, some times genuinely scary) about a boy who is possessed by the sole of his dead pet chicken (inspired by the absurd premise of "The Return" starring Sarah Michelle Gellar). It just begs the question, who would win in a fight between Chickenfüt and Moosecock?

"Cherry Bloom"--A little girl rescues her family from poverty through her psychic abilities, even though it's killing her. And she wears bunny ears in one scene. Bunnies!

Okay, and that was "Special (Creepy) Talents". By the way, one film "Gran Rumore (Great Noise)" didn't play. That's happened a few times in the festival, so if you notice short programs where I didn't mention on of the shorts listed in the program, that's why. Bonus points for the first person who can identify them (put your answers in the comments)!

And here are some pics of Special (Creepy) Talents filmmakers. I know the guy in this photo is Harrison Witt of "Chickenfüt", and I believe the lady next to him is Anneli Gelbard of "Bad Dreams" (not the one who's half cut off, that's Fay, she works for Indiefest)

And I know this is Alexandre Moors of "Cherry Blossom" and Ehren Koepf of "4U" (I believe in that order, from left to right) along with Fay, at the far right.
Then it was time for the big closing night feature, "Fido", a zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy). In a post zombie-war world, ZomCom protects the people of the town of Willard from zombies, both through police action and through special collars that control the zombies brain hunger and turns them into docile domestic servants. In fact, it's a bit of a status symbol to own a zombie, so Mrs. Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) buys one (Billy Connely, in a voiceless but very expressive role) over the objections of her husband (Dylan Baker) and the initial ambivalence of her son Timmy (K'Sun Ray). However, when the zombie wants to play catch with Timmy when his dad is too busy, and then defends him against bullies, they become friends and Timmy names him Fido. Of course, brain-eating hijinx inevitably ensue. It's a hilarious satire of 50's era melodrama, boy-and-his-dog (yes, the boy's name is Timmy so it can have a "What's the matter, is Timmy in trouble?" scene), corporate big-brother paranoia, etc. It's kind of hard to count all the genres they spoof. Oh yeah, I forgot zombie movies! (I told you my mind is kinda gone by now). It's hilarious and beautfiul with all the bright colors and just so much fun. It's slated for general release this summer, so keep you eyes out for it. Also, here's a pic of director Andrew Currie:

And finally, there was "Viva". I've joked a lot that by the end of the festival I'm surprised I can write much more than "I saw a movie and it was pretty." Well, I saw "Viva" and it was really, really pretty! Okay, here's a bit more: it's an absolutely spot-on perfect rendition of a 70's era sexploitation flick. It'd be wrong to call this a spoof of the genre, it's really more of a loving tribute/recreation of the genre (except for the word-for-word lines from 70's era commercials sprinkled into general conversation). Director Anna Biller stars as Barbi, the bored housewife who is dragged by her neighbor on a wild adventure into the sexual revolution, where she becomes a party girl who's working name is "Viva" (because it's Italian for "to live"). Of course, sexy hijinx ensue. In fact, I counted 41 distinct flavors of sexiness! Go see it for yourself (assuming it gets released), see if you can find any I missed! Here's a pic of director/writer/star/almost everything else Anna Biller, with co-star Jared Sanford:

On a side note, she (and much of the same cast/crew) also made "A Visit From the Incubus" that played at Indiefest back in 2003. I thought it'd be fun to take a look through my vault and see what I wrote about it at the time. To my horror, I found I forgot to write about it. It was the short before "Soft for Digging" by J. T. Petty (who returned to Indiefest this year with "S&Man"), and I found my review for that, but not "A Visit From the Incubus". In the past I haven't been careful enough to remember to review all the shorts that play in front of the features. I'm very sorry. Retroactively, 4 years later I'm very sorry about that. So now I'll try to find a copy of that and retroactively review it here. I hope I haven't forgotten to review anything in this festival. As I've mentioned, a couple of the shorts weren't shown for technical issues, but I think I've written about everything I've seen (up to this point, I'm still a few days behind). If I've forgotten anything, e-mail me (link on the upper right).

All right, then it was off to the after party for beers with filmmakers and staff. I stayed out until they kicked us out of the bar at 2 am. Thank you Ira for driving me home (and I hope you got those brakes fixed), and thank you Indiefest for ending (sorta) the festival on President's day weekend, so I didn't have to go into work Monday.

But that was only the fake end. There were two extra bonus nights of movies. I'll write those up soon, hopefully tonight. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jason has more fun with how people find jasonwatchesmovies

As of 7:10 am, Feb 20, 2007, this blog is officially the #1 google search result for "trepanning a mermaid". Greetings to all the mermaid trepanation fans reading this!

Also, I've inspired Dan to start his own movie blog. I've seen him at several film festivals in the city. If you want to read some well-written counterpoints to my reviews, check it out. We often have completely opposite taste in movies. The ones that don't do it for me are often his favorites, and vice-versa.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Jason goes to Indiefest--day 10

A couple days late, let's just jump right in:

First up last Saturday was a double-bill of documentaries, starting with "GRA: Graffiti, Roman Art". The movie is, as the title would suggest, about graffiti artists in Rome. Unfortunately, due to technical problems they were unable to play the final 10-15 minutes of the movie, but here's some thoughts anyway: First, graffiti movies seem to be more and more popular in the independent movie scene. I've now seen several American movies about graffiti ("Bomb the System", "Quality of Life", etc.), one German movie ("Wholetrain") and now an Italian movie. Second, more than any of the other movies, "GRA" shows acceptance of the graffiti artists by the general public, even starting with a well organized graffiti art contest/festival. Third, I found it interesting how it went into the different styles of graffiti, from simple tagging up to very elaborate pieces. Also the difference between "writing" (elaborate letters most often spelling out the artists nickname) and "puppets" (figures and scenes with no writing). Yeah, it was pretty cool, although there's a lot of talking and so reading all the subtitles was tough. I'd rather be looking at the art than reading the subtitles.

Then there was "Counting Headz: South Afrika's Sistaz in Hip Hop" (and no, hip hop doesn't count as a bunny reference). The title is pretty self-explanatory, but I didn't even know that a) there was a hip hop scene in South Africa, or b) that there were women in that scene. But there are, and it's interesting how they deal with the male-dominated industry. Their music was pretty cool (for how much I know about hip hop), and the movie gave them all a chance to shine. Here's a picture of the co-director Erin Offer:
Then it was over to the Victoria for "25 Cent Preview". Oh yeah, this was the day that I was constantly back and forth between the two theaters. 6 shows (5 movies + Crazy Go Nuts) and no two consecutive shows in the same house. So I got my exercise (sorta, it's only 2 blocks between theaters). Anyway, back to "25 Cent Preview", it's a gritty, local, very real (although narrative, not documentary) story of hustlers in San Francisco's tenderloin district. The "heroes" are DotCom, the experienced black hustler and his protege Marcus, a white pretty-boy. Together they get high, they have sex for money, they get beaten up. And then things get really grim, when Marcus gets a strange message to call a certain phone number, which turns out to be a painful surprise from his past. The making-of story is just as interesting as the movie (if not more so). Merlin Gaspers, who plays Marcus, is the only real professional actor in the movie (and was producer, too). He actually hung out in the tenderloin researching the role, and once he gained the confidence of the other hustlers, he let them into the movie. Everyone in the film except Merlin are actually people they found and were into the idea. Including Dorian Brockington (DotCom), who totally stole the movie. Seriously, he was amazing. Anyway, here's a picture of the director Cyrus Amini:

And here's a picture of some of the cast/crew (DotCom on far right):

Okay, then it was back to the Roxie for an awkwardness-based musical comedy "Yellow". A story of Matt and Natalie, two lonely people in Portland who meet, fall in love, fall out of love, and sing. A few stylistic points about this movie. First, the color scheme was kinda interesting--the title card is actually just a plain yellow screen, and the only other time yellow is used in the movie is in the bedroom. Second, except during the musical numbers, nobody could really connect with each other--or with the camera. There are some very interesting choices where the camera would show conversations reflected in a window (but unheard), or just show the door behind which the important action/conversation was taking place. Also, it was actually shot on film (super 16), which by now isn't that important (digital video can do just as well), but the fact that the director Nick Peterson claimed a shooting ration of about 1.5:1 (he shot only 1.5 times the amount of film that made it into the movie. I don't know what's typical, but I know that's incredibly low. Basically nearly everything was done in one take). Pretty impressive. I do have to say the acting wasn't that great, mostly because composer Eric Schopmeyer drunkenly decided to play Matt when they couldn't find anything else (actually, Nora Ryan who played Natalie was fine). Also, although the music was passable, it wasn't particularly memorable. It really plays as dialogue (and was written in the script that way). The only somewhat memorable song is about getting drunk and/or high all night. Still, it's an impressive accomplishment, and as interesting for what doesn't work as for what does. Oh yeah, and there's a random painting of three bunny rabbits. Seriously, by this point my mind was so gone when I saw them I blurted out, "bunnies!", and everyone within earshot laughed at me. Anyway, here's a pic of Eric Schopmeyer and Nick Peterson:

Then I went back to the Victoria to laugh my f-in' ass off. First with the short film, "Moosecock". As my readers in Alaska will know, a moose is a large mammal, in the same family as deer (but much larger), and the male has antlers. The male also has something called a cock--moosecock. I can't begin to describe how fully "Moosecock" filled me with glee. I highly recommend that you get your hands on "Moosecock" for yourself. I'm sure you'll all enjoy "Moosecock" as much as I did! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock! Moosecock!

Then the hilarity continued with "The History of New America part 1: the Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell". Where to begin...in the post-apocalyptic future, Tex Kennedy--with the help of his two robots Yul and Quincy, and with the help of the dangerous but beautiful Cannibal Sue--must find Benjamin Remington, the nephew and declared heir to self-proclaimed King Remington, so he can take the throne and lead New America back to civilization (and Tex can be vice-King). In his way Mr. Jackle (actually King Remington's son, who's pissed that he wasn't named heir), his assistant Marcellus St. Joan, and his murderous band. Also in the way is Yorick, son of the devil and leader of the immortal denizens of the Threshold of Hell. And Javier Castro shows up at one point, and actually turns out to be a good guy (ironic, a Castro and a Kennedy working together). Well, to say that wacky hijinx ensue is an understatement. I can't describe it, and I also can't wait for part 2 and 3. Here's a pic of some of the cast and crew who were at the screening. Holding the mic is writer/co-director/star (Tex Kennedy) Kevin Wheatley. I'm pretty sure next to him is Jamie Bullock (Cannibal Sue), and I'm not sure who the other two guys are:
So then I was once again back at the Roxie for "Ten Canoes", a brilliant, gorgeous film in Ganadingu (Australian aboriginal language) with English narration. Australia's official submission for the best foreign Oscar (it didn't make the cut, unfortunately), it's a story of a long ago time and the time before that. It's a celebration of aboriginal life, humor, culture, and especially storytelling. It's a story within a story within a story. Ten men set out to build bark canoes and use them to hunt duck eggs. An elder noticed the youngest member of the party had been eyeing his older brother's youngest wife. So to distract him and teach him, he tells a similar story of a man who covets his brother's wife. This story is about spears and wars and fear of strangers and death, but ultimately it's a story about the virtue of patience. It's a good story--it's not your story, but it's a good story anyway.

And finally it was back to the Victoria for "The Crazy Go Nuts Show". I've already posted some pictures of the aftermath. And you know they did "Evil Dead Porn" and smeared splooge (vanilla pudding) on my face. 'Cuz that's just how they roll. There was also general silliness, hot dog fingers, barbershop death metal quartets, random beatdowns, gratuitous swearing, and a really really scary ad for their next show, "H 3-D: the true story of the Haddonfeld Babysitter Murders". Coming in march. Look for details at primitive screwheads.

Okay, that's it for day 10.

Jason (sorta kinda) finishes Indiefest

"Sorta kinda" because there are extra bonus movies tonight and tomorrow night. But I survived another festival and the closing night party. I have 10 movies to write up, plus "Your Mommy Kills Animals" tonight and "Forgiving the Franklins" tomorrow. Plus some final thoughts on the festival, and on blogging my first festival.

But that'll have to wait for later, I'm going to go out and see all the Oscar nominated short films at the Lumiere. This post is really just to let everyone know I'm alive. Happy President's Day everyone!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Jason laughs at San Francisco

So walking to the theater this morning, I saw this sticker everywhere. I agree with the sentiment, but can you see why this makes me laugh? I'll give you a hint...today is February 17. After the strident addendum of "Now!" to their plea, they announce that they'll hold a rally a month from now. That made me laugh.

Sorry this isn't about movies. And again, I do agree with thesentiment. US out of Iraq...Eventually!
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Jason Loves the Crazy Go Nuts Show!

So I won't have time to write up the last of indiefest until Monday (hopefully, maybe not even Tuesday). But I just got home from the Crazy Go Nuts Show (live stage comedy show). Here's some pics of my personal aftermath. Note that this is less blood than they usually use, since they didn't want to mess up the Victoria too badly.

I don't think you can see the light glaze of vanilla pudding on my face. They did the Evil Dead Porn show, and they really like me. That was...new. Walking the few blocks to my car was pretty interesting. I'm so glad I drove rather than taking public transportation. It was even worth staying sober.
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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jason goes to Indiefest--day 9

First up was "The Hawk is Dying", starring the always excellent Paul Giamatti. He plays the owner of an auto detailing shop, but his real passion is falconry. Trouble is, he's never actually successfully trained a hawk. Training a hawk involves getting it to eat meat you offer it, and his hawks have always starved before they've been broken. Meanwhile he lives with his sister in a possibly incestuous relationship (at least, they seem to take on husband/wife roles), her son (his nephew) is autistic, and he's striking up a relationship with a drug-addicted psychology student. Basically, nothing in his life is working quite right. When his nephew drowns in his waterbed (probable but unspecified suicide, after he's left alone for the night with the psychology student girlfriend), he decides it's time one thing in his life works right, so he'll tame his newest hawk (a beautiful big redtailed) using the brute force method where he ties the hawk to his wrist and neither eats nor sleeps until the hawk eats. This is mistaken by his friends, family (who need his help with the funeral service), and most of the audience as a descent into madness. In fact, I believe he's completely sane the whole time (and he at least demonstrates to his doctor that he's fully aware of reality). The hawk represents his fears and sorrows, and the taming regiment is his determination to finally conquer them, even if it kills him. That seems pretty sane to me. Anyway, I thought it was an excellent movie.

Next up was a packed-house screening of "When the Road Bends: Gypsy Caravan", a music documentary (always an Indiefest staple) about a tour of Rom (gypsy) musicians. The gypsies have had their own diaspora, and the musicians in this film speak 11 different languages and range from northern India to Spain (interesting bit of trivia I learned--Flamenco is a gypsy dance). But one thing they've kept wherever they go is a love of music. The performances are varied and great, the backstage antics are often hilarious, and it's especially rewarding watching the musicians get to know each other and play each others music until they can do one great combined piece at the end of the tour. My only complaint could be that it's a little long. It did wear on me by the end, but then I haven't slept more than 4 hours a night in over a week. Seriously, I'm kinda surprised I can process anything more than 'Duuuh...I saw a movie and it was purty!' at this point. Anway, here's a pic of the director Jasmine Dellal:

Okay, up next was a trio of films--two shorts and one feature--again having something to do with music. First was a comic short by student M. R. Dhar (who did the earlier documentary "Loops"), "Muzak", about a guy who wants to be a techno DJ and uses his mad skills to seduce a stock girl in the grocery store (I loved using the "can I buy you a drink" line in the liquor aisle.) Anyway, a good idea well written but the acting was definitely amateur. I think "Loops" was his better executed work. Here's an extra bonus pic of M. R. Dhar, this time in better light than before:

Next up was "Aesop's Diner", and in the interest of honesty and full disclosure I have to say that I was somewhat emotionally invested in liking it, since I've been drinking with director Cara O'Shea and star Royce Peterson for the past couple of days. Fortunately, the movie didn't disappoint. It's a retelling of the tortoise and the hare (bunnyfest strikes again!) with a rock band. Royce Peterson stars as Bugs (get it, as in Bugs Bunny?), who was the star of the Johnson Family Band until they broke up and he went between jail and rehab until he's broke. He meets old bandmate Shelly (a guy, short for sheldon--get it, tortoise shell?) who fills him in on the success of the rest of the band, including Shelly himself who's got a new hit single "Slow and Steady". Nicely done, and the music was cool. I was very happy to accept the free soundtrack CD. And, of course, a pic of Cara and Royce:

And then there was the feature, "Darkbeat: an Electro World Voyage", a documentary about the world of electronic music, featuring gobs and gobs of electro music, some pretty cool graphics and animation, and interviews about and defending electro music (I was particularly drawn to the argument that it's the only music made to appeal to the intellect and the body. Drawn to it, but I don't necessarily believe it's the only music). Personally, I must admit to liking a little electronic music, but nothing but electro for too long just gets to be too much. Fortunately, at just under an hour it was just about right for me. Here's a pic of the filmmakers. She's the director Iris B. Cegarra, and I'm sorry I don't remember his name (and he's kinda lost in the shadows, too):

And then it was time for the midnight movie, "Gobshite", preceded by the short "Morbid Curiosity". The short explores the dark comic question, "what if every morbid little thougt in your mind came true?" If you wonder what might happen if the house painter falls off his ladder, off he goes. If you imagine your mom having an accident with the vaccuum cleaner, whoops! If you think about Jesus being crucified, you retroactively caused it. Very funny.

And finally the feature was a hilarious dark comic Irish crime story about a real English gobshite--Ronnie Banks (aka Ronnie the Rabbit, as bunnyfest strikes again!) Ronnie can't control his temper, and although he works for a crime boss called the Governor, he wants to elevate his position in the organization. So he hatches a plan to rob a rich recluse in a tiny Irish village north of Dublin. He starts by stealing the local pub, to gather information from the rich guys security chief. And of course, wacky, violent, obscenity-strewn hijinx ensue. I loved every minute of it (except for when the tape ran out with 30 minutes left and it took a couple of minutes to switch to the DVD backup and find the right spot, but that was handled efficiently and professionally by the Roxie staff. Almost had to miss part of a movie there!

Anyway, then it was quickly over to the Big Lebowski after party, only to be told at the door that it was closing. So I stood outside to wait for the filmmakers and staff to come out to see if they were up for any additional after hours party, only to be told by the doorman that they wanted to keep this part of the sidewalk clear and I should move along. So I just caught the bus home, where I'm writing this now after spending my first alcohol-free day at Indiefest since...maybe some time last year? I guess technically last Saturday I didn't have a drink until after midnight, but I went home buzzed so that doesn't count. Oh well, and that's day 9.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Jason has some fun looking at where the visitors to this blog are coming from

Okay, so a couple of days ago I thanked Indiefest for linking to this blog. I definitely saw a spike in readership for this very new, still pretty obscure corner of the internet, and that was cool.

So I started looking more at where my visitors are coming from. On the day that Indiefest started linking to my site, the jump was definitely coming from there. The interesting thing is, since then the majority of my visitors are actually coming in from e-mail referrals. So thank you everyone who e-mailed your friends about my blog!

And then there are interesting search terms that lead here. A while back there was a visitor from New York who came here by doing a blog search on "Tara Wray" (director/subject of "Manhattan, Kansas") which was cool because I only had nice things to say about her. I still get an occasional visitor from Germany from my recent write-ups about the Berlin and Beyond festival (I'm the top english language google blog search result for "Vier Minuten"!)

And then the really interesting one, is at least for a while yesterday I was near the top of the regular google web search for "substance of things hoped for" "greg morgan" (alas, no longer, other pages have knocked me off the top pages, but I'm still the number one blog search result!)

Shortly after someone found their way here through that route, I got another visitor coming over from this forum. I forgot to tell you that the screening I saw of "Substance of Things Hoped For" was its world premiere! And, in fact, since I sit in the front row, I really saw it before anyone else (everyone else saw it a few nanoseconds after I did!) And apparently the next morning I was the first one to post a review on the web. Their cinematographer Jessica Gallant found it and linked to it. Now I wish I said more nice things about the cinematography (especially the dolphin footage was really cool. I don't know if she shot that or if they used stock footage). Then it got really interesting. The reply on the forum (presumably from whomever clicked on her link to find my review) as you can see, accused the film crew of sleeping with me to get a good review (I assume in jest). So here's the real scoop:

No, nobody on the film slept with me. In fact, the only representatives of the film whom I've met are director Greg Morgan and co-writer Duke Addleman who are both--how can I say this nicely? They're both dudes (not that there's anything wrong with that, I just don't do that). For the record, I did hug both of them, because the ending of their credits told me to ("Have you hugged your independent filmmaker today?"). But it was a manly hug--firm handshake, one arm around the back and a solid pat on the back. A very manly man hug.

But here's the thing, I've never even considered that my opinion could be valuable enough that I could trade it for sexual favors! I'm an idiot, just settling for having a beer with the filmmakers! (although I do like beer, and that reminds me to thank Red Hook for sponsoring Indiefest).

But seriously, I don't want anyone to labor under the false impression that I'm actually a legitimate movie reviewer. I'm certainly not a critic--if you read many of my reviews you can see I have a very hard time being critical of anything. I don't even like calling what I write "reviews", because I don't consider myself qualified to be a reviewr. I'd prefer to call them "write-ups" if that didn't sound kinda clunky. Now, I'm not a shill or a plant, when I write that I love a movie, I genuinely love it. And, in fact, I did love "The Substance of Things Hoped For". In fact, on a side tangent. I'm very shy about asking questions in the Q&A session afterwards, so when I asked them about their sound (which I thought did a great job enhancing the hallucinatory feel of the movie. And then they told me it wasn't actually finished, which tells you something about my qualifications to judge movies) it was the only question I've asked at the festival this year, and is the equivalent of a standing ovation from me.

My point is that I'm not an expert, I'm not part of the film industry at all other than as a fan (for a living, I'm a physicist working in medical imaging). I go into every movie wanting to absolutely love it, and most of the time I'm successful. The problem is, that means I'm not really a good source for gauging whether you or anyone else will like a movie. Which begs the question, then why should anyone read my blog? I can come up with a few reasons.
  1. You might learn about some new obscure film that sounds interesting and you might want to check it out.
  2. You're a filmmaker who likes to see your name (or at least your movie's title. Sorry for not including the name of every filmmaker) in writing.
  3. You're amused by my film obsession and like to follow my adventures.
Yeah, that's about it. This is by far the most rambling, incoherent post I've written yet. It's obviously very late in the festival.

Jason goes to Indie(bunny)fest--day 8

Yeah, so now it's getting to that point in the festival where A) I really notice the themes, and B) I kinda lose my mind. The bunnies are taking over! There were at least three more bunny references last night (more on that later). I previously pointed out how "Inland Empire" and "The Third Eye" very prominently featured bunnies or bunny characters. I neglected to mention there was a fleeting bunny figurine on screen in "Neighborhood Watch". There was an Easter Bunny reference in "Stalking Santa". Yeah...it's IndieBunnyFest! I haven't seen "Aesop's Diner" yet (that's tonight), but I did have a beer with them and they pointed out there was a tiny bunny on their soundtrack CD art. The "Your Mommy Kills Animals" poster at least prominently features a bunny.

Anyway, amongst all the bunnies there were actually some movies. Starting last night with "The Shore" (which featured a stuffed bunny in a few brief scenes). It's the simple, heartbreaking story, based on a real incident, as described to director Dionysius Zervos by a lifeguard. A mother and young (~5 year old) daughter go to the beach every day. One day, the daughter disappears and is never seen again. Well, in the movie adaptation the mother Kaliope (Izabella Miko, who has amazing eyes) leaves her daughter Anna with her (Kaliope's) mother (played by Lesley Ann Warren) who loses her (Anna). And from there it's a 90 minute meditation on loss and how people get on with their lives--especially the loneliness of continuing to grieve when everyone else has gotten on with their lives (the brief scene with her ex-husband is brilliant and crushing). This movie is slow--slow to the point of testing the audience's patience, and definitely split the audience last night. I talked to people who thought it was crap and also people who thought it was one of the best things they saw in the festival. My take on it is:
A) It made me think about a lot of very interesting things. Izabella Miko gave a brilliant lead performance, and especially seeing her grief become more and more isolated (as everyone else gets on with their lives so much quicker) is fascinating. Lesley Ann Warren as the grandmother who goes a little crazy and doesn't even acknowledge that Anna is missing is also compelling, and Ben Gazzara is great as the grandfather who is practical, wants to get on with his life, but in his own quiet way is also obviously heartbroken. One thing that particularly struck me is how private Kaliope had to make her grief, only breaking down a few times in the back of her father's restaurant. I got the sense that since this took place in a tourist town, during the tourist season everyone was supposed to look happy, like this was a little spot of paradise. She grew up there, and that was instilled in her, so she can't be demonstrative about her pain.
B) It's slow to the point of being laborious. Again, many people loved it, but I thought it could've been cut down to make a very good short. A long short, say 40-50 minutes, could definitely get the point across and might stick with me better.
C) The sound and the color were off a little bit. Now I'm not an expert, I don't work in the movie industry at all (I'm a physicist in medical imaging), but I felt in some scenes it'd be hard to hear the dialogue over the ocean, and then in the same scene the dialogue would go from soft to loud. Also the picture would go from bright, almost washed out, to fine in the same scene. Now that was my unprofessional opinion, but I did confirm it with a professional afterwards. It was distracting, and perhaps another pass through post-production to make the sound and picture quality consistent would help it a lot.

So to sum up, it was an okay movie, but frustrating in how much better it could've been.

Okay, then after a quick beer with some filmmakers and fans, I was back for the "Animation Amalgamation" shorts program. Here's the rundown:
"The Waif of Persephone"--Unfortunately this one, like some of the shorts in this program, was projected overexposed, so I couldn't see it well. The shots you can see on his plog are better than anything I saw on screen. Still, I got the sense of an interesting over-cute style masking a pretty devilishly funny story about the spirit of springtime being stolen by the evil lord of the underworld and the cutesy elves petitioning the president to ransom her back...but at a terrible price. Oh yeah, and there's bunnies in it!
"Windows, Masks, & Doors"--and wheels and gears and pretty things moving and being revealed and hidden again. I couldn't tell you what the heck this was about, but I was groovin' to it the whole time.
"Kuro Kumo"--Stylish anime of a woman telling her psychiatrist about her dreams in which she's a ronin.
"Cry From the Past"--Flowing pastel scenes with a voice-over by an old woman reminiscing of her life.
"Ara's Flight"--Another movie that suffered badly from the projection issue. There's a better look at it here. A boy in an orphanage dreams of reuniting with his dead parents (killed in the Armenian genocide of 1915, although that's not specified in the film, which is meant to be more universal), so he constructs a pair of cardboard wings to fly to heaven.

And here's a pic of director Hagop Kaneboughazian:

Continuing with the animation...
"Rabbit"--Oddly enough, no bunny in this one...just kidding! It uses the aesthetic of those learn-to-read books of pictures with corresponding words over it to tell a dark story of cutting open bunnies and finding crazy jam-eating idols who turn flies into jewels, feathers, and ink. Really cool!
"Gustavo"--This guy has a lot of body hair. Gross! And awesome!
"Un, Deux, Trois, Crépuscule (One, Two, Three, Dusk)"--I couldn't tell you what this is about. The only note I made on this was "layers".
"Last Dream"--Stop-motion meditation on dying. Pretty cool.

And the last show of the night was a series of shorts about interesting blue-collar jobs. First up was "Loops", a reference to the term for an 18-hole round of golf. A look at the life of caddies at a golf club, and particularly interesting were the older caddies who obviously didn't want to do this for a living but find themselves (in the words of one caddy) with no professional skills. While younger caddies look at it as a stepping stone, the older caddies are philosophical about it and find ways to maintain their dignity. And here's a pic of the director, M.R. Dhar, passing the mic to Indiefest staffer and Q&A leader Fay Dearborn:

Then there was "Do You Want the Elephant Music?", a fascinating look at circus performers. It's especially interesting to see the clowns take off all their makeup and see a rather professional-looking, serious guy under there. Very cool.

And there was "Los Tabaqueros", about the art of cigar rolling. Pretty interesting, particularly how each roller has his own special technique. I imagine real connoisseurs could tell something about the roller by how the cigar comes out. Here's a pic of director Russell Griffin (with M.R. Dhar off to the side in the foreground):

And finally, the last movie of the night was a fascinating documentary about a place where I haven't been in a long, long time--a barbershop! "Cutting Edge" specifically focuses on the barbershop as a meeting place for black youths, sort of a town hall for philosophizing, debating, joking, whatever. Very cool!

Okay, and that was it for day 8. I'm really down to the final stretch now. 4 movies tonight, 5 movies and the Crazy Go Nuts Show tomorrow, and 5 more on Sunday. Then a couple of bonus shows Monday and Tuesday. So if I don't have time to write more until it's all over, I'll see you at the movies!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jason goes to Indiefest--day 7

Okay, first that pic I snapped of the "Stalking Santa" guys that I couldn't get from my phone yesterday (it tried to e-mail it from my phone and it wouldn't work)? I manually transferred it to my PC last night, and here it is: Wasn't that worth the wait?

Well, the first movie I saw last night was "The Substance of Things Hoped For", as in "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1, KJV). Here's a pic of director/co-writer Greg Morgan and co-writer Duke Addleman:

"The Substance of Things Hoped For" is an amazing movie about faith, hallucination, sanity, family, ethics, science, choice,...did I forget anything? Oh yeah, dolphins. And I could go on and on--it's a very rich movie. It's the story of Daphne (Vanessa Lengies), a young woman who in a medical double-whammy is diagnosed with a rare form of schizophrenia and told she's pregnant (although she doesn't remember anyone who could be the father). The dilemma: the drug that will cure her insanity will kill her unborn child, which she doesn't want. Furthermore, her disease may be hereditary, but to find out she must find the father she's never known (Ray Wise from "Twin Peaks", awesome as always) and get him to take a blood test. However, he's a scientist who's had an attack of religious faith, and refuses to let science--in the form of a blood test--make the vital moral decision for her. So she decides to try to deduce his sanity for herself by studying his controversial research on dolphin linguistics. And then things get weird and maybe it's all a product of her schizophrenia. Or not, it's a movie that holds up a mirror and lets your reaction tell you more about yourself than about the movie. I just have to say, I'm an athiest, but I loved this movie. I don't believe in God, but I worship great movies, and this is a great movie.

Oh, and I almost forgot about the short before it. Which would be wrong of me, because it was one of the best pairings of short and feature I can remember. "God's Little Girl" is a fantastic, religious hallucination of its own. When a baby dies suddenly in its crib, the mother's heart stops beating but she doesn't die. If when God loves someone so much he takes them to heaven early, how do you balance being good enough to get into heaven but not so good that you die young?

And then it was time for the Indiefest Valentines Day special--"Unholy Women", a trilogy of Japanese horror films. The middle one, "Hagane" (Steel) was particulary romantic.

But first, "Kata Kata" (Rattle Rattle), about a woman who while walking home late at night hears a strange rattle. She's then thumped on the head and wakes up dazed, but unharmed. Then her lover's ex-wife starts attacking her, then she (the ex-wife) turns into a monster. Then it gets weird and freaky!

"Hagane" (Steel)--This movie made me wish I could find a woman who's beautiful from the waist down but from the waist up is a burlap sack full of razor blades. Maybe I should wait by the river until one floats by. What can I say, I'm a romantic!

"Uketsugumono" (The Inheritance)--When will Japanese children learn that if you have an uncle who died at a young age, don't go poking around in the creepy shed where you might disturb his ghost. Silly kid!

Okay, and that's the end of day 7. The end's almost in sight now. Just 3 more tonight, 4 on Friday, 5 + the Crazy Go Nuts show on Saturday, 5 on Sunday, and bonus shows Monday and Tuesday. Wow, it's almost over!