Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 11

It's all over but the writing, and I have a LOT of writing left to do. So in what has alarmingly become a habit, I'm finally getting around to it two weeks later. 5 movies two weeks ago Sunday, starting with the member's screening.

The member's screening is always a secret, and this time it was revealed to be WORDS AND PICTURES starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche. Those are two powerful names, carrying high prestige for a movie. Unfortunately, getting two great actors is about all the movie gets right. In an elite private school, Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a beloved teacher of English literature. He inspires his students, and is friends with them, too. He's also a raging alcoholic whose past glory (as a published and praised author) fades further into the past every day. The new art teacher Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is a famous painter, but she hasn't done any work for a long time due to her crippling rheumatoid arthritis. Jack immediately starts pestering her, because...well, that's just part of his charm. She's having none of that, nor is she interested in befriending her students. She's no-nonsense, and is upfront about her art (pictures) being better than word (which, of course, lie.) So Jack picks up on that, and starts a little war, engaging their students in a public debate of Words vs. Pictures. Of course, this is all covering up the fact that there's an attraction, and eventually they will do it. And then just as eventually they will have a big fight. And eventually they expect me to care. That last part didn't exactly happen. Two fantastic actors, though, and they're never not fun to watch. It's just a disappointing story they appeared in.

Then I got back to the regular festival programming with CLUB SANDWICH, the latest from director Fernando Eimbcke (DUCK SEASON, LAKE TAHOE.) 15 year old Hector and his single mother Paloma are on vacation in a cheap Mexican resort hotel. Which really consists of long stretches of boredom, sitting in the hotel, ordering room service (club sandwiches, of course,) and playing games. Then Jazmin shows up, and it shifts from a movie about how boring vacation can be to a movie about how awkward, funny, and still boring young, budding sexuality can be. Which is an interesting take on it. Eimbcke has a reputation for making these slow, static, quietly observational films. And he actually said he wanted this one to be much crazier and wilder, like a typical young romantic comedy. But once he got there he just thought the actors worked better in a slower, quieter way. And it works, I guess it pays off to go with your strengths.

Next up was SHORTS 1
ANGELS: Set in San Francisco, and chock full of local settings and local film references. This was a lot a fun for cinephiles and San Franciscans.
BARN DANCE: Um...exactly what it sounds like. Two people dancing in a barn, and it's beautiful.
THE BIRD'S BLESSING: A Belgian film about an old estate, a hunting party, tradition, and sibling rivalry.
RE: AWAKENINGS: A wordless short about the comatose patients "awakened" by Dr. Sacks. You might remember this as the story behind the 1990 movie AWAKENINGS with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. This tells the story much quicker, and much more poetically.
SANTA CRUZ DE ISLOTE: A quick portrait of the small Colombian island, and it's interesting people.
SO YOU'VE GROWN ATTACHED: Easily the funniest in the program, a look at what happens to invisible friends when their children grow up and don't believe in them anymore. With some nods to the bureaucratic underworld of BEETLEJUICE.

Then it was time for a night of sports, starting with the coming-of-age sports comedy PING PONG SUMMER. Set in Ocean City, Maryland, and playing with the formula of 80s triumphant underdog comedies, shy 13 year old Rad Miracle (great name) is spending the summer there with his family. He meets a new best friend Teddy, who takes him to an arcade that is just the coolest thing ever. There he meets the love interest Stacey, who is unfortunately hooked up with the evil rich bully Lyle. One thing leads to another, and it will all climax in an epic ping pong battle. He seems horribly over-matched, but he's got a secret weapon on his side--he's being trained by Susan Sarandon? Pretty funny, and an enjoyable take on how important everything is at that age, even (especially) a very amateur ping pong match.

And then I ended the night with a documentary program, starting with the short HIGH FIVE. While the origins of the high five are subject to some debate, the standard story (and the one this movie takes) is that it was invented on October 2, 1977, when Dusty Baker hit a home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers and young Glenn Burke, who was in the on-deck circle, raised his hand and Dusty slapped it as he crossed home. Included in the story--Glenn Burke was gay. Not included--Tommy Lasorda hated him...because he was dating his son. Also not included, how he was traded to the Oakland A's and manager Billy Martin introduced him as "that faggot." Yeah, there's a lot more that could be in the story but it's still a good piece of  interesting entertainment for a 10 minute piece produced by ESPN.

And then the feature, NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY. Dock Ellis is famous for throwing a no-hitter on LSD. But that's just the start, man. He was a loud, cantankerous black man, described as the Muhammad Ali of the ballpark. He battled his opponents, the establishment, and his own demons with equal vigor before succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver in 2008. His life was quite extraordinary, and the later years when he was a drug counselor helping people learn from/avoid/overcome the mistakes he made are among the most interesting. All in all, it's a wide-ranging profile that can't quite fit everything in but still feels long at 100 minutes (that, however, might just be the effects of exhaustion.) But an engaging subject carries it through to the finish line.

Total Running Time: 481 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,375
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