Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jason goes to CAAMFest--Saturday, March 22

This was my last day at CAAMFest, as I was busy Sunday and didn't attend closing. It was also the only day I went all out, seeing 4 movies in one day. And it was awesome.

First up was the compilation project BEAUTIFUL 2013. Much like last year's BEAUTIFUL 2012, the Hong Kong Film Festival commissioned well-known Asian filmmakers to make ~20 minute shorts.
BEAUTIFUL NEW BAY AREA PROJECT: Kurosawa Kiyoshi's piece is an exciting story of an eclectic heir to a development company who tries to romance a beautiful dockworker but ends up unleashing a ton of kung-fu and revealing a strange conspiracy.
A NEW YEAR, THE SAME DAYS: Wu Nien-jen created this comi-tragic short about a beleaguered father who wants to leave his family and finally spend some time living for himself.
1 DIMENSION: Lu Yue presents a silhouette-animated story of a young prince and his teacher who go on a long journey to teach him to recognize good and evil. It's a test he must pass before he can rule.
INDIGO: And finally, Mabel Cheung delivers a touching story of a struggling mother (Elaine Jin) who sings in a nightclub to support her autistic son and daughter who is frustrated that he gets all the attention.

Next up was the father/son romantic comedy (that just sounds wrong) BRAHMIN BULLS. Sid is a young architect who hates his wife's cat. But that's the least of his problems. He and his wife are estranged. While he has creative ideas he has trouble at work and is demoted. And then his father shows up. They haven't spoken in years, and he wasn't supposed to come to town for a conference, but he saw his old flame (and former grad student) is speaking at the conference and wanted to get back in touch. Sid hasn't even told his dad that he and his wife have separated. So wacky hijinx ensue as Sid struggles with his father's surprises, and old wounds (that originally led to them not speaking anymore) resurface. Very funny, and a cast of excellent actors including Sendhil Ramamurthy, Roshan Seth, and Mary Steenburgen.

Then a real treat, the audience award winner at both Cinequest and CAAMFest, EAST SIDE SUSHI. I actually specifically missed it at Cinequest so I could see it here. Juana Martinez is an excellent cook at home and works hard to provide for her father and daughter. She clearly cares about the quality of her food, as evidenced in the care she takes with her little fruit cart in Oakland. Too bad a couple of thugs knock her out and rob her. Looking for something else, she answers a "help wanted" sign at a local Japanese restaurant. So begins a fish-out-of-water cross-cultural comedy, as she proves she has the skill and drive to learn to become a sushi chef (and romance the head sushi chef Aki.) Of course, the technical skill is easy, it's the overturning old traditions that's hard. For that true Japanese authenticity, only men can be sushi chefs. Plus the fact that she's not Japanese (not even Asian, as in one scene she humorously points out that their other sushi chefs are Chinese and Korean.) A fun and funny celebration of anyone who wants to break down cultural barriers and follow their dreams. I can see why it won the audience award at its first two festivals, and can predict that it will win many more.

And finally, INNOCENT BLOOD. Retired detective/college professor James Park (Jun-seong Kim) gets a horrible shock when his son is kidnapped. It's all about vengeance for a mishandled case years ago that sent an innocent man to jail (well, not entirely innocent, he was a vicious gangster, he just didn't commit the murder they pinned on him.) So the wronged man's brother Vincent (C.S. Lee) is on a path of revenge against anyone and everyone involved in the miscarriage of justice. And Vincent foolishly decides to pursue him alone rather than just going straight to the authorities. Which is pretty dumb, because his evasiveness gets the FBI suspecting him. It's a gripping, well-shot thriller but I get impatient when the hero makes baffling decisions like that. I know this is 20/20 hindsight, but ultimately just fessing up to the original mishandled case would have been far less painful.

And that, finally (only about 3 1/2 weeks later,) was the end of my CAAMFest 2014.

Total Running Time: 386 minutes
My Total Minutes: 359,234
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