Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 5

A six movie marathon day.

Shorts 1: Beginning, Middle, End
THE BAREFOOT HUMANITY: Pepe, a guy with Down Syndrome, goes down to the harbor to meet his old friend Rosa, who is returning to town. Unfortunately, she is also returning to men who want something from her.
ETHAN: The life of a young boy with Tourette Syndrome, living with his tics, mastering skateboarding, showing his classmates he' okay.
GOD AND VODKA: The story of a relationship, told as a series of disconnected, special moments. And the story of the writer trying to complete the story. I loved how new information was doled out very carefully to keep the audience engaged in learning the story.
HATCH: A thief, his girlfriend, their baby they can't possible care for, and another thief. A story of surviving and doing what you have to do.
HENRY: A beautifully crafted story of a life lived and forgotten. A story of old age and how awful it is to realize you are an old man losing your memories.
RHONDA'S PARTY: Rhonda is ready for her best friend's 100th birthday party. The band is booked, the cake is delivered, everything is ready but the guest of honor. Very poignant.

Shorts Program #1 plays again March 5 at 2:15 pm.

Next up was a brilliant and epic story based on director Milos Misa Radivojevic's life, HOW I WAS STOLEN BY THE GERMANS. It's also the finale of his trilogy of meditations on warfare in Serbia, following on AWAKENING FROM THE DEAD (Cinequest 2005) and THE REJECT (Cinequest 2008.) Here he tells the story of his childhood and the German occupation during WWII. Aleks (Svetozar Cvetovic, also from the previous two movies) goes to the shore and meets an old friend--a prostitute and her young daughter Romi. In fact, for all he knows Romi might be his (although it might be hundreds of other guys'.) The important thing is her prostitute mom can't take care of her, so Aleks will drive her to the orphanage. Along the way, she coaxes him into telling her his life story. He tells an epic story of how during WWII the Germans occupied their village. And how the German officer Werner who lived in their house was really his only friend. He remembers storytelling, music, picnics, the only fond memories really of his childhood, and they all had to do with Werner. And Werner, of course, protected him and his mother. In fact, young Aleks wasn't the only one who got along well with Werner, he also had an affair with Aleks' mother, Jalena (one of the most adorably absurd scenes is when Romi interrupts saying, "My mom's a whore, too!") Throughout the story, Aleks really delves into how that relationship, and particularly the painful way it ended, turned him into the bitter, unloving man he became. And so, of course, there is an obvious cathartic ending to this.

Along with the story, I also was impressed with the cinematography and the use of color. The flashback scenes are in color, but the contemporary scenes of Aleks driving Romi to the orphanage are all in black and white, reflecting the lack of color in his own life. Really a beautiful effect in a wholly beautiful film.

HOW I WAS STOLEN BY THE GERMANS plays again March 4 at 11:00 am and March 7 at 2:00 pm.

Then I was bummed to skip the Q&A but I had to run over to the San Jose Rep for a one-time-only screening of THE MOVEMENT: ONE MAN JOINS AN UPRISING. It's a lean 40-minute film, and was followed by an extended Q&A from director Greg Hamilton (unfortunately, co-director and former Maverick Award winner Kurt Miller couldn't make it.) It very simply tells the inspiring stories of disabled skiers. It's framed by the story of Rick Finkelstein, who was paralyzed on Aspen back in 2004. Some six years later, he's finally ready to hit the slopes again, on a mono-ski with outrigger skis on his poles. We also meet a select group of other disabled skiers.... You know, we need a better word than "disabled." I don't know what to call them, and "differently-abled" always struck me as sounding weird. But we meet some guys with no legs who could still kick my ass, so it feels even more wrong to call them "disabled." Anyway, we meet a guy who was blinded in a chemical accident when he was 3 and given zero chance to live. Not 1%, not 0.01%...he didn't "beat the odds" he proved the odds wrong and has set the blind skiing speed record at 65 mph (although he wants to beat 100 mph.) We meet a veteran whose legs were blown off by a mine...he went on to pioneer a lot of disabled sports, and won the freakin' Boston marathon in a wheelchair. And we meet a few more. I don't want to just list them all, I want to encourage you to find this movie and watch it. Or better yet, join the movement's Facebook site, Make a Hero. If I had one criticism with the movie, it's that a 40 minute running time is pretty lean, and there's a lot more to tell about all the heroes. But fortunately, Greg Hamilton assured us more movies would be forthcoming.

Then I hopped over to South First Billiards (proud member of the Cinequest Dining Circle) for a few beers, some hors d'ouvres, and some hob-nobbing with big wigs (maybe even a muckety muck or two.) And then, back to the movies!

Next up was SALT, a funny and exciting Chilean western. Spanish film writer/director Sergio desperately wants to make a western. And he wants to set it in Chile, in the driest desert in the world. He has a script...but it sucks. See, he went to the desert once as a kid, but he hasn't really lived there. So in preparation for meetings with producers, he heads to the desert for some experience. And he gets way more experience than he ever wanted. Immediately, he is mistaken for Diego. That goes on even though he insists his name is Sergio. Eventually he decides screw it, they seem to like Diego, he's got writer's block, there's a party going on...maybe he can get a few drinks out of it. Unfortunately, Diego has a nemesis, local crime lord Victor. So Sergio/Diego's life is about to become hell. He's kidnapped, between, threatened, for some reason dropped at an old man's house and forced to work. That old man turns into his mentor and eventually they will have to stand up to Victor through a combination of Sergio's knowledge of tricks that have been used in classic westerns and the old man's fucking common sense. Hilarious, exciting, and dangerous. Plus there's a hot babe in it (Victor's wife/Diego's lover who he promised to take away with him.)

SALT plays March 4 at 4:15 pm and March 8 at 4:15 pm.


Then I was over to the fabulous California Theatre for the world premiere of THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X. First a little pre-show geeking out, seeing Will Keenan again (who I met at Indiefest with CHOP) and having him introduce me to Reggie Bannister (of the PHANTASM movies.) And then settle in for a rocking good time. Jonathan Xavier (Keenan, going nuts on screen as usual) is a rebel who just can't play by the rules, so the grand Inquisitor (Kevin McCarthy, in his final film role) sentences him to a horrible fate--banishment on Earth--only to return if Johnny can finally perform an unselfish act. There his gang of 1950's style juvenile delinquents become known as The Ghastly Ones. They terrorize the squares, all while singing and dancing (oh yeah, this is a musical.) And what else...he has a resurrection suit that lets him control the motion of anybody else. His Coca-Cola loving best girl has stolen the suit and ran out on him. Reggie Bannister shows up as a down on his luck concert promoter who needs a big hit from Mickey O'Flynn, the man with the grin (Creed Bratton, channeling a sort of demented undead Johnny Cash.) Oh, and Johnny's right hand man Sluggo has even ghastlier plans. And then somehow Paul Williams shows up as a midnight talk show host! This movie is an amazing ball of crazy showmanship, a ton of fun, and worth multiple viewings.

Speaking of multiple viewings, JOHNNY X will burn up the screen two more times, March 6 at 7:00 pm and March 10 at 4:45 pm. And for you film geeks out there, this was shot on the final stock of EASTMAN PLUS-X Negative Film 5231 black and white stock. More importantly, what I saw last night was a 35 mm print struck directly from the camera negative. What you will see if you go to either of the remaining shows will be a digital cinema package projected at 2K. Which I'm sure will still be beautiful, but I saw it as perfectly as it could ever be seen.

And finally, I ran back to the Camera 12 and ended the night with the midnight screening of PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE. This is truly a unique and effective film, shot in the street where director Bing Bailey grew up in Dublin. It's the story of a zombie, and the documentary film crew telling the story. Billy Murphy got infected with zombism while working at a meat processing plant (since shut down.) There was a bit of an outbreak, but his family now has him under control. They keep a muzzle on him, feed him what they can, and basically try to get on with life. Hell, he doesn't stop being your son just because he's sick, now does he? Well, his neighbors (who I like to think of as the collective Neighbors Against Zombie Invasions or NAZIs for short) don't take to kindly. Throw in a pregnant girlfriend and an unscrupulous American film director and you've got the makings of a catastrophe. A hilarious, hilarious catastrophe. Horror comedies are pretty common (at least, they make up a good staple of the films I watch.) Horror comedies that are this effective both as comedies and as horror are pretty rare.

PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE plays again March 5 at 9:30 pm and March 10 at 4:30 pm.

Total Running Time: 590 minutes
My Total Minutes: 269,728
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