Monday, February 9, 2009

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 4

Another 5 movies on Sunday. Here we go.

I always see everything at Indiefest. It's exhausting, but fun. Whenever I feel like I should take a break and get a good night's sleep or a real meal, I remember every year there's at least one movie that is my reward for seeing everything. That's the movie that if I were more selective I might've skipped but turns out to be one of my favorites. Maybe it's hard to describe in the program notes, maybe it's a subject that on the surface isn't too close to me, but when I see the movie it blows me away. Song Sung Blue is my first "reward for seeing everything" in this year's Indiefest. It's a documentary about the ups and downs of the 19 years of marriage between Lightning and Thunder. Lightning is Mike Sardina, a Neil Diamond impersonator who used to be a solo act until he met Claire. It was love at first sight, and he made her the Thunder to his Lightning, first making her part of his act (she sings mostly Patsy Cline), and soon after the most important part of his life (they got married at the state fair with hundreds of their fans). Their career has had its peaks and valleys--going from being booed off stage to singing at Summerfest with Eddie Vedder in front of 30,000 people. Their personal life has had its rough patches, too. She was run over by a car while gardening, lost a leg, gained a lot of weight, and went through a long bout of depression. He had problems with his heart (and for some stupid reason thought smoking would help because it would help him lose weight). No marriage better exemplifies "in sickness and health, good times and bad." But what makes the movie great is the incredibly raw, honest, personal footage they allowed on screen. You see these people and their children (from previous marriages) often at their worst and most vulnerable. And as a result, what could be a kitschy film about eccentric characters turns into a heartfelt homage of their love. There's comedy, often at their expense, but you never get the feeling that the filmmakers crossed the line into mocking them. In the raw, honest emotion it reminds me a lot of Manhattan, Kansas from Indiefest 2007, which I also counted as my reward for seeing everything that year.

Next up was a collection of comedy shorts with sort of a slackerish vibe. The program was called "Dude, Where's My Purpose?"
Knock Knock Who's There: Pot smokers are making a buy, when thugs come in and steal the stash. So they go get some freakin' revenge.
Chase Me: A new exercise technique--real motivation. A new business that scares the shit out of customers so they can get a good workout.
Back Issues: Love in a comic book store.
The Valet: Hilarious (and long-ish) short about a valet who makes a decision that on some level he knows has to end badly. But he makes it anyway. And it ends badly.

Next up was a series of fantastic/genre shorts from Canada, called "Long Live the New Flesh" (for you Cronenberg fans). Dude, Canadians are really fucked up!
Electric Fence: Never get a blowjob from an epileptic hooker. Seizures can be a bitch. If you make that mistake, and need a transplant, make sure the organ doesn't come from a pedophile. Sometimes those have a mind of their own.
Cattle Call: Animated weirdness about cattle auctions. I guess this sort of counts as a documentary. Really more experimental than either documentary or narrative.
Heart of Karl: Visually striking and remarkably touching story of Max and his monstrous brother Karl.
The Facts in the Case of Mr. Hollow: Supernatural story, told entirely by focusing on the fine details in a 1930's photograph. A photograph that tends to change slightly. Beautiful imagery.
Ten Minutes Before Showtime: A film made in 48 hours, about clowns, a traffic accident, and how the show must go on.
The Animated Heavy Metal Parking Lot: Exactly what it sounds like. Heavy Metal Parking Lot was a cult classic. Now some of the footage was turned into a cartoon.
Hydro-Levesque: Quebecois independence, a nun trying to save the world. And Winnipeg made the sacrificial lamb. This was pretty weird, and maybe a little too experimental/surreal for my taste. But the scene of the woman pushing the flaming baby carriage is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
Treevenge: Christmas is happy times for some, but a horrible slaughter for the evergreens. Time to rise up and fight! On a side note, it took me forever to recognize the theme music from Cannibal Holocaust--nice!
For some reason, Found Objects did not play in this series. I believe the print did not arrive. That's a shame.

Next up was a creepy, twisted feature, Eugene. Eugene is a very lonely guy. He doesn't relate well to others. He describes himself as a "lone wolf, but not that it means [he's] dangerous." He uses a dating service to find a girl. He thinks things went well, but he's just not her type. In fact, she tells him that a) she's looking for someone she's "more attracted to", and b) maybe he'd be happier if he admitted he's gay and started dating men. Eugene is not gay. Or so he says. An encounter with a prostitute doesn't go so well, either. He decides he just wants to talk, but he's no good at talking. Same thing happens when he picks up a hustler named Josh. Josh is the other half of the story. Josh isn't gay, but hustles to pay his heroin habit. He actually has a girlfriend, Heather, who's a soft-core porn model, but wants to move out to New York and start a new life--they only need the money. Eugene has money, and makes them a lucrative offer, but a pretty sick one. What I really liked about this movie was how for about 90% it builds up sympathy for Eugene and his loneliness (the telephone scene after he loses his job is just heartbreaking), and then takes him over the edge into psycho territory, and dares the audience to continue sympathizing with him.

Also, as a side note, the acting was great. I mention that because I've noticed that there hasn't been any really bad acting in Indiefest this year. Usually when you showcase a lot of low-to-no budget films bad acting is something that goes with the territory and you have to be willing to forgive. I haven't had to overlook bad acting in any movie so far. Let's see if that holds up.

So after the twisted trauma of Eugene, I could use a little cheerful tonic to end the night, and that's exactly what Route 30 offered. Route 30 is the Lincoln highway in South Central Pennsylvania, and the movie tells three more or less connected (at least, they feature much of the same characters) from there. First is the segment 'Deer Hunters Wives'--Mandy (Nathalie Boltt) is a Civil War tour guide in Gettysburg, who takes her job a little too personally. Particularly, she worships Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed in the battle of Gettysburg (she was struck down by a stray sniper bullet while baking bread for the Union soldiers). Her best friend June (Christine Elise McCarthy) is an Internet entrepreneur. Or at least she wants to be, if she can convince her husband (Curtis Armstrong) to co-star in her porno scenarios. The important question that's answered--can you die from being shot in the butt? In 'What I B'lieve', Mandy's husband Arden (Kevin Rahm) has a wipeout on his motorbike when he's chased by Bigfoot. His back is hurt, but he can't afford a doctor, so he goes to a Christian scientist (Wil Love) who explains that neither the pain nor bigfoot are real, because neither can exist in God's perfect world. Yeah, sure...the pain doesn't exist. And finally, 'Original Bill' is the story of Bill (David DeLuise), a TV writer from Los Angeles. Working in TV has destroyed his creativity (trivia: director John Putch works in TV, and makes these movies to stay sane), but he recently came into some money and decided to move out to the country to search for an original idea. He meets his neighbor, an Amish woman named Martha (Dana Delany). Although Amish, she likes to drink, swear, and watch TV. Just not around her fellow Amish. A fun movie, a nice way to end the night and the weekend. And I still have the closing theme song stuck in my head. The strangest thing you've ever seen is sometimes in your mind...
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