Monday, February 17, 2014

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 10

Saturday was a big 5 movie marathon at Indiefest. So let's just jump right in.

First up was a special bonus repeat of the opening night program, starting with the short BEASTS IN THE REAL WORLD. A wild, unpredictable romp that starts with a camera going through a sushi restaurant recording the customers' reactions. Then into the kitchen where we meet the main dish. And then into its memories where we see the bizarre backstory that led it there--frustrated naturalists and a bloody civil war.

And then the feature film, THE CONGRESS. Based on Stanislaw Lem's "The Futurological Congress" through the eyes of an aging actress who has made some bad career decisions. Robin Wright plays...Robin Wright, living in a trailer near the airport where her ill son gets into trouble with his kite, she's given the last offer Miramount Studios will ever make her--a fortune to capture and digitize her entire essence. Every mood, look, etc. is recorded and Robin Wright the actress is now a completely digital creation owned completely by Miramount. That leaves Robin Wright the person as...well, we don't exactly know. We see her again 20 years later when she's invited as a guest to the titular Congress. A gathering of the most important hallucinators in the Animated Zone. She sniffs an ampule, becomes an animated version of herself, and enters a bizarre cartoon world where people just party all the time and take chemicals to momentarily become famous people (she's actually the sixth Robin Wright to check into the hotel for the Congress.) There's an insurgency, she gives a controversial, shattering address to the Congress, she meets the digital animator who has lived and breathed Robin Wright for the past 20 years. And then it gets kinda weird. By the end we go back into the real world and see sharp divide between reality and illusion. But if everything happens in the mind, does it really matter what's real? Very cool, kind of long, and I suspect I'd get it a lot better if I actually read Lem's novel.

And then we caught a couple of shorts programs, starting with the documentary program Real Talk
THE APOTHECARY: A look at the kind man who runs the pharmacy in a small Colorado town. It's miles to any doctor, so he serves as the unofficial doctor for most of their routine medical complaints. And his life is pretty tough, too, with a wife suffering from her own medical problems and a town full of unemployed, uninsured people whose IOUs he will likely never collect. In fact, it almost drove him to quit and close the pharmacy (that was originally going to be the movie before he changed his mind at the last minute.)
I KILL: A look at a travelling farm animal slaughterer in New Zealand. He kills cattle, sheep, and pigs, and explains his work in a very matter-of-fact way. A fascinating look at where our food comes from. I liked it a lot, although the images can be pretty disturbing.
A CONFUSED WAR: The Bay Area city of Richmond has one of the highest murder rates in the world. But in recent years the rate has gone down, thanks to the hard work and cooperation between the police, the Office of Neighborhood Safety, and the concerned members of the community.
PIANO HEIGHTS: Up at the top of Bernal Heights someone gifted the community a piano. So the plan was a twilight concert up there...until the piano was taken away at about 3-4 pm. So a mad scramble to get a new piano, and a filmmaker who randomly showed up that day makes a perfect, only-in-San Francisco, serendipitous documentary.
SEX: M: A look at Lucas (nee Laura) as he begins his testosterone treatments as a beginning of his transgender life process. An interesting look into his evolving life, his friends, and the San Francisco community that (of course) supports him. And he's just an engaging, funny guy who is interesting to follow around.
WHITE EARTH: And this was an extra bonus sneak preview screening (this was also the movie I couldn't remember in the "All Figured Out" program) of this documentary. North Dakota is having a pretty famous oil boom right now. And this is a look at that boom through different perspectives. The locals who are witnessing their towns double overnight, the young son of an oil worker, etc. What's interesting is that there really isn't any footage of the oil workers at work. It's all about the impact on the town, and that's pretty cool.

And then another shorts program, An Animated World. Hooray for cartoons! And hooray for inventive animation that isn't always for kids!
A DREAM AT THE EDGE OF LAND: A mix of old and new technologies as hand-painted 16 mm film meets computer generated cutouts for this brief story of a man and woman on the beach...becoming fish...becoming birds (it's a boy meets gull story! ...sorry.)
HUMANEXUS: A story of the history of communication and connecting, from cave paintings to social media. With the question of whether we've gone too far. Do we really want this much connectedness if it ends up isolating us from the people nearest us?*
LEVIATHAN AGES: A wild CGI battle of stone giants and a robo-octopus. I don't know what it was about, but it looked cool as hell!
MAKOR: A man cuts his legs off. Then modifies his arms. And his face. And pluck out his eyes. And eventually becomes a bird. Pretty cool.
MEDICAL ADVENTURE POWER!!: Adventures in colonoscopy, Crohn's disease, and explosive diarrhea.
A RIDE TOWARDS THE SEA (UNE BALADE A LA MER): A stop motion adventure of a tiny guy and his tiny scooter riding to the sea. All so he can set his fish free.
RPG OKC: An 8-bit online love story as two minor video game characters find each other and meet at the place between worlds.
THEY LOOK RIGHT THROUGH YOU: A look at people and their pets. Particularly, the powerful emotional connections they make and how some people--and some animals--understand each other better than they understand their own species.
TIN: Cool jazz and a romance across balconies in the projects. Very cool.
VIRTUOS VIRTUELL: The overture to Louis Spohr's The Alchemist is animated in drips, runs, and dashes of ink. An abstract realization of classical music.
A WALK IN THE WOODS: Leaves and twigs, found and animated. Be careful not to trip and fall.

And then a very important, instructional comedy, HOW TO BE A MAN. Former stand-up comic Mark McCarthy (Gavin McInnes) has male breast cancer. He also has a pregnant wife who doesn't know about this. But he's determined to teach his soon-to-be-son about what it takes to be a man. So he hires a cameraman over Facebook and sets out to make a series of "how to be a man" videos for his son at various stages of his life. Things get complicated when his cameraman turns out to be the son of a woman he was fooling around with a lot during his partying days. So...in fact he might be giving these father-son lessons to his actual long-lost son. In any case, they form a very strange surrogate father/son relationship. The lessons go from dealing with schoolyard bullies to dressing well to picking up women in bars. And...let's just say the lessons get more and more dangerous. It becomes pretty clear that Mark is excited about leaving a legacy for his child but not actually being there for him. In fact, he's more interested in getting wasted and reliving his wild partying stand-up comic years. If he wasn't so damned funny he would be totally unlikable, but the movie is totally carried by his comic talents and director Chadd Harbold and his writing team (including McInnes) know enough to dish out more than a few vicious hits of comeuppance on him.

Now on a personal note, I'd like to say a little something to all the comics out there who have their take on the right way to perform cunnilingus. First off, thank you, I appreciate your perspective and I know you mean well. Second, can you all please get on the same page here? Between this and MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE I have two completely different, exceptionally graphic tutorials in the past 3 1/2 months. It's almost enough for me to give up on getting sex advice from comedians and just figure it out for myself.

And then we saw the low-budget horror flick ALMOST HUMAN. It's an alien abduction picture sort of in the style of classic John Carpenter. Set in 1987 in the woods of Maine, it opens with Seth Hampton (Graham Skipper) showing up at Mark Fisher's (Josh Ethier) home ranting about blue lights and a mutual friend disappearing. He's clearly shaken up, a little paranoid, but...correct. Soon enough a blue light fills the night sky, and Mark disappears. In the aftermath everyone thinks Seth has something to do with Mark's disappearance, and although they can't prove anything he becomes something of a pariah in town. And then two years later, Mark returns. A really cool thriller with the suspense of early John Carpenter and the venereal horror of early Cronenberg (particularly when...how can I say this without spoiling too much? Implanting alien eggs into a host's mouth isn't really the most sensible orifice when you really think about it.) An excellent little micro-budget exploitation horror flick that's getting a limited theatrical release and V.O.D. (thanks to IFC Midnight) in just a few days--February 21st!

Then we stuck around for a little bit of the annual Big Lebowski Party. Had a couple of "oat sodas" (although I had to explain to the bartender that meant beer.) Then settled in for the awarding of the costumes and a moment of silence for Philip Seymour Hoffman. And then we bailed on the movie. I know, it's a great movie, and cool to see it in 35 mm. But I've seen it dozens of times now, and I needed some sleep.

Total Running Time: 474 minutes
My Total Minutes: 351,656

*Note: The movie did a great job illustrating the technological isolation paradigm, but I want to go on record as saying I've come around to the point where I disagree with this argument. Being connected to more people at the same time does not, in fact, weaken our connections with any one person. If you're with someone and are too insecure to let them text their friend, that's not about making them be polite, that's about you being selfish. Sure, there are intimate times when your focus should be solely on the person you're with. But unless my penis is inside you, it doesn't detract from you if I respond to a text or check my Facebook or Twitter really quick.
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