Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 10

Entering the final stretch. Don't expect more blogging from me until Monday (I'll still tweet as much as I can)

Interesting question: is it a sign of addiction/mental disease if you have a screener of a movie, you've heard it's 'okay, not great', and you choose to get up early to see it on the big screen rather than get more than 3 hours sleep for the first time in a week? Because that's what I did, with Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. This documentary tells about Johnny Cash's work performing in prisons, especially Folsom, and his outreach to prisoners and work with prison reform. Although he never spent a night in prison, Cash wrote songs about sin, incarceration, and redemption that spoke to prisoners. The movie is put together in a brisk, playful fashion with interviews, archival pictures, and animation that keeps everything at least visually engaging. And they play plenty of his music, and that's good. But the standout for me was Glen Sherley. Glen was a prisoner in Folsom at Cash's famous 1968 concert/live recording there. He was in prison for armed robbery, but liked to play guitar and wrote his own song. One song was "Greystone Chapel", about the chapel in Folsom. Without telling Glen in advance, Cash played that song for the prisoners, and he was about the happiest man in the world right then. Cash worked very hard to get Glen freed, then to get him a career in music, bringing him along on tours. However, Glen didn't adjust well to the outside, and eventually took his own life. They interview his children and show archival clips of Glen, and it makes up about 1/3 of the movie. I was left wanting to know more about him. For me, the movie served as a 90 minute trailer for a Glen Sherley biopic/documentary that I'd really want to see.

Then I decided to head to the Maverick Spirit Award event for Diablo Cody (writer of Juno), and it turned into the strangest, wildest interview I've ever seen, all thanks to the interviewer/moderator Lew Hunter. I understand Lew Hunter is something of a legend, and teaches screenwriting at UCLA. I respect that, but it seemed like he was trying to upstage Diablo through the whole event, starting with coming out on stage with a little doggie. That I actually thought was cute, and thought an eccentric would do the interview--cool. And then Diablo came out to wild applause, and we settled in for the interview session. And Lew started to go of on a long, rambling anecdote about a night when he was really, really drunk and ended up running around naked outside in the rain. WTF? The audience started revolting, shouting "Let Diablo talk!" And rightly they should. Lew may be a legend, and maybe in a fairer world he'd be getting an award instead of talking to a young writer who lucked out and struck it big with an Oscar her first time out. But this was a huge crowd--they actually had to move to a bigger venue--and not a single person there bought a ticket to see Lew Hunter. When Diablo got to talk, she was cool, funny, and got a few swipes in (when he incorrectly said her book Candy Girl included scenes with her current fiancee she sniped back, "No, ex-husband. Do your research, weirdo!"). Oh yeah, and she started her writing career as a blogger, so that means I'm halfway to an Oscar myself. When they did start taking questions from the audience, Lew had to stand up and walk to the edge of the stage, in front of Diablo so we couldn't see her (at least not from my angle. Lew designated our section the "ornery" section, and Diablo said she liked it). Best moment of the interview: Lew, without a hint of irony, asked a somewhat rambling question about how she deals with fools. She looks at the audience, raises her eyebrows like 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?', and answers, "I must have the patience of a saint". Awesome! This will go down as a pretty legendary Maverick Award interview. People were complaining (I among them), but honestly I thought Diablo came out of it looking really cool. I'm going to have to put "The United States of Tara" on my DVR list now. And the highest compliment I can give--I went online on my phone and added her to my twitter follow list during the interview.

So then I had the option to run to see another movie but I just had to go to the VIP Soiree and dish about that interview. The Soiree was at Vault Ultralounge. Free wine, beer (including Phucket beer, featured in Audie and the Wolf), and food. And everyone was dishing about that interview. And then, just as I was leaving for the 7:00 silent cinema, Diablo Cody came into the party. I got to thank her, apologize for the interviewer (not that it was my fault, and she said it was actually fun). I got a couple of pictures taken with her (I need those e-mailed to me, Phil, Mike!). And most importantly, I Mavericked her. That is, I gave her a Maverick temporary tattoo. But we didn't have a wet cloth, so after an odd moment when I thought Diablo Cody asked me to spit on her (which is kind of a theme in the festival, most notably in Billy Was a Deaf Kid), she licked it onto her hand. Unfortunately, not quite enough saliva, and it ended up as "averick". But saying, "I 'avericked' Diablo Cody" would just make people think I'm weird. Anyway, I gave her an extra tattoo and then had to be on my way. By the way, another theme of the festival--I've managed to Maverick a lot of hot chicks just as I had to leave a bar. I have the worst timing.

So then I had to run down the street to the California Theater for the screening of Intolerance. Wow! Just...wow! 4 stories (including the story of Christ), 4 different time periods, 3 hours, 18 minutes. Epic scale, sets, crowds. All about intolerance, hatred, fear, violence. This was his answer to the racism charges of Birth of a Nation, and I just can't describe it. Amazing. And Dennis James again did an amazing job on the mighty Wurlitzer.

And that was Friday at Cinequest. Just two more days (I think 10 movies) left.
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