Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jason goes to Cinequest--Closing night

The adventure continued, after I got to bed around 4 am, I was up bright and early in time for a breakfast beer and a 10:30 screening for my first film.

And that first film was GOLDFISH GO HOME (AKANE IRO NO YAKUSOKU), a charming little childhood comedy from Japan (with help from Brazil.) Ricardo is a Brazilian immigrant in Japan, living with his mother. She struggles to pay the rent, he struggles to fit in in school. Meanwhile his classmate Hanako has her own problems--mainly that her father's goldfish farm is in danger of going under. When Ricardo follows a mysterious spirit onto forbidden sacred ground, he finds a specimen of a bright blue goldfish that was formerly thought to be extinct. In fact, it's actually the spirit of a mythical Chinese princess who is searching for her prince (who is a bright red goldfish.) So that launches them on a magical journey which includes taking on the mayor and the yakuza, and a heroic samba parade. Beautiful, magical, kind of weird, and a lot of fun. Director Shohei Shiozaki is actually a returning San Jose State alum, and he made the movie based on his hometown, which is a center of goldfish farms in Japan. So there's a clear affection for home in the movie, and in bringing the movie to San Jose.

Next up was the final shorts program of the festival (I missed the student shorts and some of the shorts before the features, but I did see all the rest of the shorts programs), Shorts 6: Docu-nation
CARDBOARD TITANICS: SMART PEOPLE BEING STUPID: Hilarious fun of people who make and race boats made out of cardboard and duct tape. Energetic silliness, and I really appreciated the beach volleyball scenes.
CRISALIDA: A day in the life of an 86 year-old Cuban woman.
ENDING IN 6 MINUTES: People on the streets of Sydney wear masks and reveal their secrets, in extreme close-up on their eyes. An intriguing mix of tragedy, comedy, and first-world problems.
HERSTORY: And animated chronicle of a Korean sex slave. Moving, but would have been better if there were subtitles.
IN HANFORD: Quite possibly my favorite short of the entire festival. The story of the town of Hanford, WA, once a thriving agricultural town, polluted and destroyed by nuclear manufacturing. Shocking story, told with grotesque, Lovecraftian animation.
LADYBOY: The animated, silhouetted story of a MTF transsexual hooker in Bangkok who has to choose between making money to support her mother and following her love.
SKY BURIAL: A rare glimpse of the obscure and nearly extinct Tibetan "sky burial" ceremony, courtesy of Buddhist lama Bat-Orshikh. Chop the body to pieces and feed it to the birds to fully separate the soul from the body.
TAXIDERMISTS: A look at the World Taxidermy Championships, where artists pose animals in imaginative and artistic ways, all to try and make the Taxidermy of the Year. Some pretty cool stuff.
WADE KRAUSE: PINBALL ARTIST: Master screen printer Wade Krause restores and reinvents pinball machines for a new generation, resulting in some wild designs, including the clear pinball machine where all the mechanisms are visible.

Then...nothing else really fit into my schedule until the closing night gala. I kind of wanted to see CHITTAGONG, but with a delay in the schedule (due to a misprint in the guide) it was starting late and I would be rushed to make it to the closing night awards and screening of MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN. So instead I decided to hang out in the lounge and have a few drinks. And then I went to the VIP Soiree, had a few snacks, had a few drinks, and oh yeah, I met Salman Rushdie. We chatted for a little bit. I told him I was excited to see his movie. He said how great the cinematography was, making it look like it cost way more than it did. I mentioned how we have a great movie palace (The California Theatre) to play it in. Then we got to talking about Wurlitzer organs. So from now on, whenever the conversation turns to Wurlitzer organs (and I will make sure it does as often as possible), I will throw in an occasional, "As I was saying to Salman Rushdie..."

Anyway, I got to the California in time to grab a front row center-ish seat (the exact center is reserved for the photographers). Of course, one of my favorite things about the closing ceremony at Cinequest is how they get all the filmmakers who are still in town up on stage for a standing ovation, before they congratulate the award winners. As is typical, no matter how many I see at Cinequest I always manage to miss the bulk of the award winners. Even seeing every shorts program (except the students), I missed the best narrative short because it played in front of a feature I didn't see instead of in a shorts program. However, my favorite of the festival--LOVELESS ZORITSA--won the Global Vision Award! So as far as I'm concerned, I Cinequested right this year!

And then it was finally time for MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN, screenplay by Salman Rushdie and based on his allegedly unfilmable novel of the same name. Confession--I have not read the novel (I did read "The Satanic Verses" in college, in an "offensive literature" class. I liked it quite a lot, although it was pretty digressive--a word that Rushdie himself used to describe the novel of "Midnight's Children", so I can understand how it got the reputation of unfilmability.) The story centers around two children, both born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947 (for those who, like me, don't immediately appreciate the significance of that date, it's the day India became independent from Great Britain.) But the story began years before that--with the grandfather of one of the boys, a doctor with a famously giant nose, and his romance with a patient whose family is so strict he can only examine her through a hole in a sheet. Back in 1947, the two boys born at midnight are actually switched at birth by a nurse who is inspired to "make the poor rich and the rich poor." So the son who was meant to be a rich, privileged kid grows up a near beggar singing for his supper with his accordion-playing father. And that accordion players son is raised by a wealthy family, but has his own pressures to do great things. And he is the psychic link to all children who were born in the hour after midnight on that date--and they all have some form of super powers (flight, magic, invisibility, strength, whatever.) That link drives a lot of the story, but isn't all of it. In fact, nearly all of the psychically linked children are meaningless, except for the love interest. But the rise and fall of the two boys is played out in parallel to the political turmoil in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. And I suppose if I knew that history better I would appreciate that more, but it is unfolded in a way that at least makes it accessible to a novice. As for the movie in general--every scene looks great, is acted great, and is never boring. What it all adds up to is harder to wrap my head around. I ended up left with a feeling that I liked it, but the book must be much better. I guess I'll have to go read that sometime, along with more of Rushdie's work.

Then there was an on-stage interview with Rushdie, which dealt not just with the movie and novel of MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN, but also of course "The Satanic Verses", the fatwah against him, his secret identity as Robert Anton (also the title of his memoir of that time.) It was a good interview, although the interviewer tended to talk a little too much. General opinion afterwards was that it was a good interview when he let Rushdie speak. I think that sums it up pretty well.

And then it was time for the official after party at the Tech Museum. Lots of drink, snacks, desserts, dancing, drinks, etc. (and then a few drinks.)

The previous night, of course, I had a few people up in my suite until 4 am, and it was really cool. I had plenty of people passing around the word that we were doing the same thing on Saturday night. Then, about 1 am as the party at the Tech was winding down, I suddenly heard the DJ announce, "apparently we're keeping the party going in room 979 of the Fairmont!" Well, cool! But I was not ready for logistics of that magnitude. This was in a building where you needed the keycard to get in, and on a floor where you needed to use the keycard in the elevator to get there. So we had a couple of people shuttling groups up to the room. While we had plenty of alcohol, we had no snacks, no music except for the room radio alarm clock, and no cups quite a while. Next year, I'll have that better organized. Hell, next year, if all goes well, we'll have a large group pooling resources for the party and we'll reserve the whole top floor. In any case, the party did go well. Maybe about 50 people or so, and it went on until about 6-6:30 am. No noise complaints (that I know of) and only one pass-out throw-up drunk (who actually arrived at the party in that manner. She was taken home by the gentleman who brought her, and I got an update the next day that she was hungover but none the worse for wear.) A good time was had by all and no dead hookers were found the next morning, so I guess the party was successful.

And I still dragged myself out by 11 am to make it to Encore Day. Because I am a fuckin' rock star!

Total Running Time: 346 minutes
My Total Minutes: 320,645
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