Monday, February 11, 2008

Jason goes to Indy-fest, day 4

No, that title's not a typo. It'll all be clear soon.

Another nice night in the hotel Fusion, then I checked out of the hotel and took another pleasant walk to the Roxie to see the 12:30 show, the shorts program "Animation Amalgamation". Here's the rundown:
"Requiem for DRM"--DRM being "Digital Rights Management". This was a top ten short at ourstage.com, which sponsored the program. A clever little music video showing the history of music from birds to CD's, and the futility of trying to stop it from being shared.
"Children of Shadows"--Japenese charcoal drawings of children growing up and taking over their parents' roles. Plus it's got bunnies! In fact, it's got drips of pussy juice turning into bunnies. I like bunnies...and the Japanese are fucked up!
"A Letter to Colleen"--A very angry, sexual letter from the man who's been tormented by her since his 18th birthday.
"Flighty"--For the life of me, I don't remember this one. Did it actually play?
"Hope Springs Eternal"--The hilarious story of Mort, who's such a loser he can't even get suicide right. Can't wait to see more adventures of Mort. Here's a very blurry picture of director Ron Noble:


"Switch"--Computer animated metaphor on life choices. We're all running along with timers on our backs and different doors to choose.
"Einstein's Riddle"--You know, that one about neighboring houses and who lives in each one? Well, this is updated with smoking, drinking, and gratuitous nudity.
"Fault"--The road gets revenge on an aggressive driver.
"Teat Beat of Sex"--Important lessons, explicitly educational.
"Fantasie in Bubblewrap"--The poor souls, won't someone stop the slaughter!? On second thought, that was pretty cool.
"Running Seasons"--The journey of life, in stark black and white.
"The Cock Song"--Sing along: "I'm gonna grab my cock and go to the chicken fight..."
"Veterinarian"--His work is never done. Seems like for every animal he cures, he accidentally causes another one to get sick. I guess that's job security.

So next up was the amazing father/son documentary, "The Body Builder and I". Bryan Friedman has never really known his dad. His dad Bill left when Bryan was two. After a second failed marriage, Bill--now in his late 50's--took up body building. At 57 he won the world championship in his age group. At 58 he was dethroned. At 59 this is his last chance to recapture glory, and to connect with his filmmaking son. Bryan has the idea to film a documentary about his dad, and the end result is about equal parts a look at the strange world of geriatric body-building and a dysfunctional family drama. Bryan is very obviously completely embarrased by his dad strutting around on stage in tiny bikini shorts. And the fact that he doesn't much like his dad doesn't make it much easier. It's ultimately funny, touching, and a bit tough to watch. Obviously what the world of geriatric bodybuilding has needed is Superman doing the macarena. But in the end, there's at least hope for a reconciliation.

And then, Indiefest became Indy-fest with the mega-event, "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation". This actually played at Indiefest before, in 2005. Reaching back into my pre-blogging archives, here's what I wrote about it back then:

When "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came out in 1981, this group of kids in Mississippi made it their life's mission to re-shoot it scene for scene starring themselves. 7 years later, they finished (mostly, they skipped the airplane fight scene). Then for 15 years it was mostly forgotten. Then Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) got a copy of it, and made it his life mission to get a copy to Steven Spielberg. He succeeded, and in the process made this epic fan project famous (famous enough that their childhood story has been
optioned to be made into a movie itself). Well, I had heard about it last year, and now I finally got to see it. It was amazing, a packed house cheering for every big scene, as
if they were seeing the original again. There are many levels on which you can
enjoy this movie, but not the technical quality (these were, after all, just kids with
camcorders). But you can enjoy it for the dedication, the love, and the real sense of
adventure. These aren't professionals cleverly tricking you into suspending disbelief and making you think they're having an adventure. These are kids actually going out and having an adventure. These kids are really running in front of giant boulders, jumping into rivers, and (most amazingly), being dragged behind moving trucks. I just gotta love film geeks this big.


Watching it a second time, I'll add this. You can enjoy it for the technical merits as well as the technical glitches. The strings are showing, but the strings are part of the fun. And what they accomplished is actually pretty amazing. Also, it's still an amazing audience event. They were just short of selling out the 500 seat Victoria theater, and everyone cheered at everything. And I think Kurt Zala is a new cult hero of everyone in the audience.

Here's a picture of Jayson Lamb (cameraman and special effects creator) and Chris Strompolos (producer and Indiana Jones):


So the Raiders show ran a little long, so I had to sprint to make it back to the Roxie for the next show. I missed the first few minutes of "Helldrivers". This is a documentary about Paul Riddell and the titular Helldrivers, a thrill show group that's been performing for generations. They travel North America doing some pretty amazing stunt driving shows. Paul himself is the undisputed master of two wheel driving. He's the only guy who takes passengers in his truck, turns it up on two wheels, and drives around the track (no one else takes passengers because it changes the center of gravity). His son, daughter, and wife are also in the show, standing on cars, doing drag and slides, exploding cars, etc. Or, I should say, they were in the show, because sadly it ends with Paul deciding to close the show and retire. The end of a way of life and a form of entertainment that just can't draw the crowds to pay for skyrocketing insurance and gas costs.

This was the first half of a pair of documentaries about drivers. The second was "Alligator on the Zipper", a documentary about women truck drivers (as their tagline says, 7 women, 7 stories, 1.4 million trucking miles). It's an interesting premise and a series of interesting characters, with trucking experience ranging from a few months to over a decade. Some are on contract, some own their own truck. They all talk of the freedom of the road--except for one kind of annoying woman who only talks about her million dollar ideas that will make her rich, famous, and be on Oprah. A documentary like this succeeds or not based on the quality of the characters, and this succeeds about 6/7 of the time. The only thing I'd say is it switches so quickly from driver to driver that you never really get to settle in and get to know them one at a time. I would've preferred longer takes with one driver at a time, but maybe that's just me. I have a feeling that somewhere in all the footage, there's probably a little bit better movie that could be made.

Anyway, here's a pic of director Ivo Stainoff:

And here are two of the truckers (and bikers) Mercy and Stacey:

And finally, the last film of the night was, appropriately enough, "One Night". It starts out with a real attention grabber--a woman walks out onto the street in the morning, a guy in a red hoodie walks up behind her and calls her name. When she turns around, he pulls out a gun. Cut to 15 hours earlier...and it never really matches the energy of the opening (how could it). It's Friday night in New York, and 15 strangers are about to have a night of hookups (and breakups...and crackups). It's an interesting setup, but there were just too many characters for me to get to know too quickly. Perhaps I was just tired (this was the end of a 14 movie weekend), but I couldn't keep everyone straight and by the end it was just a blur of everyone hooking up and getting laid. Actually, I shouldn't say I couldn't keep everyone straight, I just didn't have the energy to care about 15 characters I'd just met. I could tell it was well made, and this has the feel of a movie that gets better with multiple viewings. But a single viewing, at the end of a 5 movie day and 14 movie weekend, just left me kinda flat.

So I grabbed a beer at the Kilowatt bar (official Indiefest hangout), talked a bit with the staff and filmmakers there, and headed home. I didn't even wait for the last BART home, I left with easily 30-45 minutes to spare. That's how tired I was/am.
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