Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jason goes to the Santa Cruz Film Festival--Sunday November 10th

Four more programs on Sunday, the last day of the short-but-intense festival.

The first two programs were short programs, starting with the local high school program REEL FRESH. This is the program of shorts made by students in video production classes in the Santa Cruz County Regional Occupational Program (ROP).

Ummm...this was almost two weeks ago, and I don't have a list of the films with descriptions. I do remember being pretty darn impressed at what high school kids could do. And I remember it ended with one that turned into a documentary about why their movie project failed, and it was pretty funny. But other than that...sorry I don't remember them that well.

Then graduating from high school to college we saw the UCSC shorts program Desire Obscured. This time I do have the advantage of a list of films, so here we go.
UNTITLED: An experimental, backwards, hand-drawn animated piece about memories of childhood.
BITS AND PIECES: Home movies...pieced together...to make...I don't know what.
DAYDREAMERS: A student's mind wanders, and in her wandering mind, she lives in a musical.
RUNNERS, SWIMMERS, BANDERS, AND TRACKERS: A sort of "ride-along" documentary on the day in the life of scientists tracking and banding birds in the South Bay.
A RIFT BETWEEN: The difficulties of trying to reconnect after years of estrangement.
I'M BLACK AND I THINK I SHOULD BE PROUD: A personal documentary, using Superman as a jumping off point, about white people dominating the television landscape and a dearth of black role models.
FERN BABY FERN: A woman and her prize-winning fern...who becomes a little too emotionally attached with her.
LOVE, OBSESSION, DESIRE: Director Carmella Crissman explores issues of femininity, sports, and body perception in a series of scenes dressing (and undressing) her in a baseball uniform and a dress...and playing baseball in a dress...and really, really enjoying holding a bat in her hands.
HIGH WIND ADVISORY: A daughter interviews her father on camera about his cross-dressing, which he kept secret for so long. Issues of trust are brought to the surface.
VENUS: A black and white animated homage to Venus Xtravaganza, who...I admit I had to look up on Wickipedia to understand who she was.
PRIMAL: Stan is bullied by Ted, just for talking to his ex-girlfriend Sarah. Sarah defends Ted. More bullying, leading up to a horrible event in a pool, that leaves everything changed.
FRAGMENTS: An experimental piece made from what looks like 8 mm home movies.

Then the next show was a short followed by a feature. First the short, MAGI, about the magic of Christmas. Specifically, about how on Christmas an excited little boy learns something about how sick with cancer his mom really is, and what sacrifice really means. Very sweet, and a little heartbreaking.

And that led into the feature documentary, ANNIE: IT'S A HARD KNOCK LIFE. It's a behind the scenes look at the recent Broadway revival of Annie. Specifically, about the kids and the choreography behind the featured song "It's a Hard Knock Life." There's some historical context from the writers of the musical, a little dig at the movie for making the song too fun, a nod to Jay Z and how he re-purposed the song to apply to life in the ghetto. But most of all, it's about the kids. Starting with auditions, we see how hard they work to get the steps right, how hard the choreographer works with them (and doesn't seem to know how to tackle it until very near the end) and how they somehow still manage to stay kids and laugh and have fun with it. It's a pretty pleasant film, and leaves the audience with a smile (this isn't a hard-hitting exposé on the working conditions of child actors--by all accounts they seem well taken care of.) I was just hoping all the way through we'd finally get a performance of the full song...and spoiler alert, that's exactly what you get for the finale.

And finally (only two and a half weeks late with this post) I ended the festival with the very funny CEMENT SUITCASE. Franklin is a wine salesman in Yakima Valley. And he's good at his job--he's very personable, knows a lot about wine, and gets people to laugh and buy a lot. Only problem is, he hates his job. It's not fulfilling. Instead, he has all these wild, impractical ideas that aren't of any financial value--like building a structure out of shopping carts and calling it Carthenge. Plus, he finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him and he...does nothing about it. Actually, he befriends the guy. Oh, and he can't keep up with the mortgage payments on his mom's house, so he's looking for a roommate. The only guy to answer his listing is an eccentric who breaks into his house. They have wacky adventures (including an explanation of the title) and despite a major nervous breakdown, Franklin ends up...well, somewhere. It's a movie that encourages you to...if not follow your dreams, at least indulge the crazy ideas you have, even if you can't make a living off them. Maybe not the most practical message, but it sure is fun to watch.

And that's my (very late) take on the 2013 version of the Santa Cruz Film Festival.

Total Running Time: 349 minutes
My Total Minutes: 342,365

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