Monday, March 10, 2014

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 5

Holy crap! That was a fairly epic Saturday. And it’s only the first Saturday of the festival.

Anyway, after a small get-together in my suite at the Fairmont, I got a little bit of sleep and woke up early to start drinking in the VIP lounge at about 10:00 am. A few Stellas later and I was ready for the first film, NEVER. Twenty-something Denim has just moved to Seattle and is working as a graphic designer, mostly making t-shirt designs. He hardly knows anyone in town so he jumps at an invitation from a co-worker to go to a local club. There he sees Nikki (Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin Williams) singing, and is smitten. The only little problem is she’s a lesbian. But they become friends and she shows him all the cool spots in Seattle. Meanwhile his co-worker is falling for him while he is falling for Nikki no matter how impossible that is. The movie is split into two distinct halves, one focusing on Denim and one on Nikki. The Nikki section is several months later, Denim has settled well into Seattle, but still has impossible feelings for Nikki. A carefully crafted, astute look at complicated modern relationships, with some fantastic acting and beautifully raw singing by Zelda Williams (I’m assuming she did the singing herself.)

Then I couldn’t stay for the Q&A because I had to run over to the California Theater for the next show, starting with the Picture the Possibilities short DANCE. A young woman is an aspiring dancer hoping for a dance scholarship to college. When her boyfriend gets a soccer scholarship, they talk about how unfair it is that she doesn’t have one and what it will take to go to college.

And that was the lead-in to THE RUGBY PLAYER. A homecoming of sorts for this documentary about Mark Bingham, a local Los Gatos kid who played rugby for Cal Berkeley, started his own PR firm, and died on United Flight 93 on 9/11. We start with that last one, with footage of his mom visiting the memorial to the victims of Flight 93. We then go back for a loving look at his life, from childhood right up to a phone call during the tragedy. And while we can never really know what happened on that day, the view of pretty much everyone who knew him is that he must have somehow been involved with rushing the cockpit and saving unknown numbers of lives while sacrificing his own. Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the fact that he was gay. I guess that’s pretty important, too, what with all the stereotype-shattering and what not; and the fact that the international gay rugby championship is a battle for the Bingham Cup, named after him. I haven’t even mentioned that Cinequest is the first non-LGBT-specific festival to play this film, which is both freakin’ cool and a little bizarre, since this certainly has a lot of appeal beyond his sexual orientation. Nor have I mentioned what an absolutely awesome person his mom is. While this is supposedly a bit of a hero piece on Mark, it kinda become hero worship of his mom by the end. Which is really freakin’ cool because she was there at the screening and I got to give her a standing ovation and a hug. Sweet!

Then, for the first time in the festival, I actually had a significant amount of time to relax. So I did the smart thing—hung out in the lounge drinking a ton with filmmakers until it was time for my next movie.

That next movie started with the short THE SHOEMAKER, an interesting look at a 90-something year old man who has been fixing shoes in a small Brooklyn shop for over 60 years.

And then the feature, A IS FOR ALEX starring and about Alex Orr (director of BLOOD CAR, producer of CONGRATULATIONS!), his wife Katie Orr, and eventually introducing his son Truman. Allegedly born out of how insufferable Alex became in real life when he learned they were having a baby, they turn the pregnancy into an insane adventure of insecurity, mechanical bees, corporate advertisement on the moon, and busting his mom out of jail (for child pornography of all things.) Damn, I think I just gave the entire film away and still left you with no clue what the film is like. It’s funny, that’s what it’s like. Whether he’s waxing hopeful that brain chemistry will kick in and make him love his son, or he’s breaking the fourth wall and giving notes to the actor playing his father, there’s an insane, free-wheeling inventiveness that makes it pretty easy to throw any crazy idea into the story and watch them somehow all stick.

Then the VIP Soiree at Blackbird Tavern looked too crowded, so I just took a few friends up to my suite to relax and have a few drinks.

And then back to the movies with ACTING LIKE ADULTS, an almost-mumblecore comedy about romance and a scavenger hunt in Los Angeles. Brett and Shannon go on a fun couples scavenger hunt around L.A. But when Shannon discovers right at the beginning that the prize is a diamond ring—perfect for proposing—the day starts off on an awkward note. Over the course of the day, as competition and pettiness bring out the worst in each of them, it becomes kind of clear that this relationship is probably not going to last. But it’s not really the story of a dissolving relationship. It’s a story of two people who love each other—there are scenes of tenderness where you can see why they’re together—who have a lot of…compatibility issues. And with a married couple of friends who can provide expert commentary on how screwed up they are, and a run-in with his ex and her new boyfriend…well, relationships are complicated, funny things. And this is a funny and deceptively simple movie about complicated, funny things.

Then it was time for a real treat, ETERNITY: THE MOVIE, the story of the greatest contemporary R&B duo of the 80’s. Sensitive Todd moves to L.A. to make music, meets his beautiful and friendly neighbor and teams up with BJ, his saxophone playing co-worker at BJ Maxx, the best store for great fashion on a budget. Bearing a striking similarity to Hall and Oates, they have a #1 hit with the song “Make Love, Not Just Sex.” Their “brilliant” lyrics all come from Todd’s sense of heartbreak, while their bodacious sound comes from BJ’s absolute drive to score with a different hot chick every night. A hilarious send-up of the 80’s, with epic hair, Teb soda, Mr T Cereal, bubble baths, and Martin Cove (“Sweep the leg!”) smacked with a VHS of THE KARATE KID. Funny to the max! And it’s the type of dumb, goofball comedy that totally works because the actors totally commit and actually take it seriously. If that didn’t work, it would’ve been just a bunch of jerk-offs making fun of the 80s, and where’s the challenge in that?

And then the midnight movie, the horror-comedy LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS.  A couple of sisters travel to the remote vacation lodge Uncle Svetko’s All-American Family Lodge. The specialty there is Bigfoot tours, and the boyfriend of one of the girls works there as a Bigfoot. Anyway, toxic waste turns the bigfoot actors and lots of woodland critters into crazed mutants with a taste for human flesh. If only the on-site Abraham Lincoln impersonating doctor can synthesize an antidote before everyone suffers horrible, hilarious deaths. Yeah, this movie is pretty freakin’ awesome.

Then it was back to my suite where I drank with several friends and filmmakers until about 5:30 am (Damn you, Daylight Savings Time!) And I was still up again to get the first beer in the lounge at 10:00 am. Because it’s Cinequest, and I Cinequest like a rock star!


Films I have added to my schedule by drinking with the filmmakers: LAWRENCE AND HOLLOMAN, BITE SIZE, MASTERPIECE: FRANK MILLER’S THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, THE DIVORCE PARTY, HAPPENINGS OF THE EIGHTH DAY, IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE, KNOW HOW.

Total Running Time: 503 minutes
My Total Minutes: 355,251
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