Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 11

It's all over but the writing. Which with the way things are going might take a while.

The big final weekend started with a 6 movie Friday. Here we go.

First off, after an extended conference call at work that made me just slightly late (luckily technical difficulties with the film made it start just as I got there) I started with the Facebock comedy FRIENDED TO DEATH. Michael Harris is kinda a jerk. He works in parking enforcement and gives out more tickets than anyone. He takes his job seriously, considering himself the Batman of parking enforcement. Of course, that wins him no friends in real life, but he has 417 friends on Facebock (check the screen carefully,) where he posts annoying stuff about the people he tickets, and "losers" he sees around him--even someone with only 3 people at his funeral. Well, that gets into a discussion about how many people would show up to his funeral. Especially when his best friend Joel dumps him to live with a colossal douchebag (there...really aren't a lot of likable characters in this movie.) So he teams up with a recently laid-off friend from work to fake his death online. First as a joke to see how many people are sad, but then he gets deeper and deeper into faking his own death, and wacky hijinx ensue. The premise is both high concept and simple, almost sitcom-y. But the execution is great, and the end result is lots of fun, and maybe a message about social media, if you're into that.

Then I dashed out of there as soon as it was over to make it to Shorts 4: Animate Me. Yay, cartoons!
DADDY ABC: From the United Arab Emirates, a cool little story about a couple celebrating their first child, the put upon mother, and a father finally learning...well, if not how to be good at managing the household and the baby, at least appreciative of all the work his wife does.
A DREAM AT THE EDGE OF LAND: I had already seen this at Indiefest, and it was cool to see it again. As I said at the time, "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.)" I'll stand by that, and I'm not sorry for the pun.
DRUNKER THAN A SKUNK: Bill Plympton (CHEATIN', also at Cinequest) animated this adaptation of Walt Curtis' "The Time The Drunk Came To Town And Got Drunker Than A Skunk, or So He Thought." Cowboys harass a drunk, and it's awesome.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF ADVERTISING: A man living in a billboard romances the woman across the street. But not very successfully. In fact, he mostly just convinces her to buy stuff she doesn't need.
THE MISSING SCARF: A friendly little squirrel helps his woodland friends with their problems, from lack of confidence to the heat death of the universe. Narrated by George Takei.
MR HUBLOT: This year's Oscar Winner, and adorable piece about a clockwork man and his pet dog.
THE NUMBERLYS: Little guys who make numbers all day decide they need something different. So overnight, they invent letters! Presented in vertical aspect ratio, because it's meant to be watched on an iPhone.
PUT A LID ON IT: Cool cats (literally) strutting to some cool jazz.
THE RISE AND FALL OF GLOBOSOME: Little dots, replicating out of control.
SALMON DEADLY SINS: Anagram-tastic adventures with 5,000 hand drawn index cards.
STICK OUT: Fun with popsicle sticks!
STRANGEL: A weird little guy torments E. A. Poe until he learns that strange misfortune can befall anyone.
SUBCONSCIOUS PASSWORD: A trip into the strange mind of Chris Landreth, as he tries to remember his friend John's name but instead sees his mother as Ayn Rand and H.P. Lovecraft explains the correct way to pronounce Cthulu (the "h" is guttural.)
THE VIDEO DATING TAPE OF DESMONDO RAY AGED 33 AND 3/4: Won't you please love this weirdo, or at least love his dad?

Then it was back to lounge for several more beers to get me in the right frame of mind for my next film--LOADED. Alex is an alcoholic and drug addict who is robbed by a hooker in the opening scenes. His father, who has always bailed him out, is sick of this shit and so calls his friends Raza and Ethan to help him. Raza is the career-oriented family man while Ethan's more of the partying L.A. actor. Alex is just wasted in San Diego and they have to get him up to San Francisco to check into a rehab facility. Wacky road-trip hijinx ensue, mostly having to do with Alex thwarting their plans and partying like a madman. A wonderfully made movie, with lots of fun but also (despite my joking to the contrary) a serious heart that shows the dangers of addiction and destructive behavior.

Then just a quick drink at the VIP Soiree at Zero 1 Garage (courtesy of Catering With a Cause) and then next door to the California for the silent film THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1924.) Orlac is a famous concert pianist who is badly injured in a train crash. The doctors rescue him and using an experimental procedure graft New hands onto him. The only problem is the donor--a murderer who was condemned to die. But the doctors assure him that it's the mind and the heart that control his hands, they don't have a mind of their own. That doesn't keep him from having bad dreams, and losing all his concert work. And when the police find the fingerprints of the executed murderer at the site of a new murder, it looks like pretty damning evidence. A pretty awesome movie and of course Dennis James rocked it on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ with a few little theremin touches for added sci-fi creepiness. And Michael Pecak joined in on the grand piano for that extra concert pianist feel.

Then I caught BURKHOLDER, Taylor Guterson's follow up to OLD GOATS using star Bob Burkholder (renamed Teddy in the movie) in his final starring role (unfortunately, the 90 year old Burkholder passed away after filming.) Teddy lives in the basement apartment of his best friend Barry (Britton Crosley, also of OLD GOATS) and has for decades. But Teddy is getting on in years, more than a little senile, and Barry is worried about him. At first his eccentricities are kind of charming--he's really into photography right now, even if he takes a lot of pictures with the lens cap off. And you have to admire his determination to remain active, even if it doesn't always seem like a good idea. The scenes of the two best friends in "couples" therapy is simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming, and they reveal that Barry has his own problems, particularly with nightmares. A climactic wilderness retreat for seniors likewise ends with a charming low-key combination of comedy and pathos. While OLD GOATS challenged stereotypes about seniors clinging not just to life but to the enjoyment of life, BURKHOLDER pushes that challenge to the extreme, exploring when--if ever--the enjoyment of life might actually run out before life itself.

And finally I ended the night with APP. And I want to take a moment to note the cool symmetry of starting the day with FRIENDED TO DEATH and ending with this cool Dutch movie about a literal killer app (with an accompanying app to go along with it.) Anna is a typical young college woman, always fiddling with her cell phone. She discovers a helpful new personal assistant, IRIS (Siri backwards?) was auto-installed on her phone. At first IRIS is helpful. And then embarrassing. And then downright deadly, as it takes out anyone who tries to delete it. The movie itself is a cool, well-made thriller, but it also comes with a gimmick. "Second Screen" technology allows you to download the IRIS app that will give you extra content. It's not a whole lot of extra content, I'd estimate that generously it does something for about 20% of the movie. It starts with an image of a news article referencing the opening scenes. Then you get to see alternate angles of some scenes (some are just random, some from her phone's point of view.) You get to see an embarrassing video of Anna's butt just seconds before the rest of the character's in the movie do. And probably the best feature is that you get to see some text messages characters in the movie are sending each other off-screen.

As for the Second Screen gimmick...it's actually pretty cool, but not at all necessary. Especially when you have to read subtitles, it's probably better to just watch the movie through once, then watch it a second time with IRIS. It's also my understanding that it's triggered by audio cues in the movie, so it should work without a data connection and if you're watching the movie at home--but I'm not sure about it. Also, you should set your phone to vibrate and be aware that IRIS will vibrate seconds before any content shows up on screen. So you don't have to keep looking at your phone to see if it's doing anything, it will alert you  (it took me a while to figure that out, and I think it's useful to know.) As for the distraction of a cell phone in a theater--that's normally something that I consider worth a savage beating, if not execution on the spot. But when the filmmaker intends for it to be seen that way, that's another matter. I always sit in the front row, so I wasn't distracted by everyone else's phone, just my own. But friends of mine who sat in the back thought it wasn't distracting at all, and was part of the experience. Cool movie, and a cool gimmick to go along with it.

Then I invited whatever filmmakers and fans were still around back to my suite at the Fairmont for drinks and partying until about 4 am. But I was still up and ready for the first VIP lounge beer of Saturday at 10.

Total Running Time: 563 minutes
My Total Minutes: 357,925
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