Friday, March 6, 2015

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 10

Another day, another 5 shows. So after a few screwdrivers to wake me up in the lounge, I was off again and running.

The first show started with the Picture The Possibilities short, SNACK MOMS, a funny little story about super-competitive moms who insist on being the snack coordinator for their kids' event.

And that was the lead-in to the feature WAX: WE ARE THE X. Set in the French Riviera and starring a trio of thirty-somethings late-end Gen-Xers (also known as the Expendable Generation) it takes a sly jab at selfie culture as found footage documents the adventures of three expendables on their way to a commercial shoot in Italy. A lot of it is funny slice-of-life stuff, but it really picks up with the twist at the end. Which is a shame, not because it doesn't make for a good movie but because it makes for something that's really hard to write about. So instead of writing about the ending (which is my favorite part,) but instead about the found-footage style of the rest of the film, including several scenes that were shot on an iPhone. And all I'll say about that is don't be afraid that it will look like crap just because of that. It actually looks pretty great. And this is the second time in the last 3 months I've been surprised by how good an iPhone movie can look. We're truly in an age when everyone has the ability to make a good-looking movie on their cell phone. So if the crap you put on Youtube sucks, it's your fault, not your phone.

Next up was my favorite of the fest so far, ALLY WAS SCREAMING. Okay, first I have to lay out my biases, so you can judge whether or not to even trust my review (but trust me, you should trust me.) Back in 2008 Jeremy Thomas came to Cinequest with this awesome mind-blower called THE END. It ended up being my favorite of the festival, and my favorite film to champion for the rest of the year (and beyond, like when it came out on Netflix.) And now fast-forward to this year and with my drink-with-you-and-I'll-see-your-film rule I don't even read the descriptions anymore. So I didn't realize Jeremy was back until I started talking to him in the lounge. But when we reconnected, I knew this was my most anticipated film in the festival. Too bad it was late enough in the festival that I could only make their final screening (barring an Encore Day, I hope.) Anyway, for a few days the anticipation was rising and I was hoping I wouldn't get my hopes up too high and be disappointed. I was not disappointed.

After a few technical glitches that caused us to restart the movie three times, we finally got this little masterpiece on the screen (with sound.) It actually starts at Ally's funeral, and we quickly learn a few things about her life. Like her best friends from high school were Seth and Nole. And that her husband beat her, and then beat up his boss and went to jail. And that she was finalizing her divorce. And worst yet, that she never got around to updating her will so the abusive jailbird gets everything. Which is painful enough, but when they discover a winning lottery ticket worth $30 million, things take on a new dimension. Her sister Casey is the executor of the estate, and is scrupulous perhaps to a fault. Even knowing he beat her, she would give the $30 million to the jerk. Not split it with Seth and Nole, not even give it away to Ally's charity helping African kids. At least, that's what they expect. So is it possible they can find some other way to collect the money without her knowing. Options--convince her to split it--not likely. Try and cash it without telling her--also problematic, as Ally doodled all these distinctive bells on it, like she did on everything. If they show the ticket on the news Casey will know it was hers. So...how about killing her? Out of the question, right? They're too nice for that. But then, how many thousands of African kids could her death save? And she does say without a question she'd give up her life to save thousands of poor, starving strangers if given the opportunity. This is a very, very smart movie about morality. And much like I had to dance around the giant twist in THE END, I now have to dance around the question of whether or not they go through with their sinister plans. In fact, I won't say anything about it, other than it had me squirming in my seat. I'll also say that it's a smart psychological movie. So many morality tales are relatively simple--even if it deals with a complicated moral quandary, the story is generally of a form that there is a "correct" decision and as much as the characters can be tempted to do the wrong thing, if you don't choose the right decision you're not a moral person. But that's not the case here. This isn't a morality play as much as it's an engaging mental story that happens to be about questions of morality. And rather than making you feel immoral if you choose the wrong option, it makes you feel at least somewhat moral just for entertaining these moral questions. What I'm trying to say is this movie got me closer to thinking about becoming a vegetarian than any movie ever. I'm not going to do that, because meat is delicious. But it made me think about it, so that's something, and according to my read of the movie, that makes me good. Maybe I'll look more for humanely butchered meat.

Then I saw a stupid crowd-pleaser (actually, I don't know if anyone was pleased, because I ran out during the credits to get to the tail end of the soiree, but it was certainly constructed to be a crowd pleaser.) MISS INDIA AMERICA opens with Lily giving her valedictorian speech and telling everyone how she knew she was the best when she was a freshman 4 years ago. She hates to lose, and she's bitchy enough that I immediately don't like her. She has her whole life planned out--Harvard, John Hopkins, famous brain surgeon. That's okay, but she also has planned out her boyfriend's life. At least up until he takes a break and starts spending time with the reigning Miss India Nationals. So she enters the competition, stomping on her best friend's dream, and is just as bitchy, competitive, and overachieving there. Then she learns a lesson and undergoes something like a growth arc, but by that time I cared so little about her that I wanted her growth to be a tumor.

MISS INDIA AMERICA has no more scheduled screenings at Cinequest, but does play at CAAMFest up in San Francisco in a week. 

And then Shorts 4: Animated Worlds. Yay cartoons!
BEAR STORY: A beautiful story of a bear who was stolen by the circus, escaped, and made a clockwork story box about it. Really cool.
BEHIND MY BEHIND: A poem about what you might find in the cushions of your couch. You know, crumbs, the remote, a completely new magical world...
CHIAROSCURO: A flaming ball in a labyrinth is chased by a threatening black blob of blocks. The look was pretty awesome.
CROW: Poetry set to avant garde imagery of fluid and decay.
THE DAM KEEPER: Piggy is teased. Piggy makes friends with fox. Fox betrays him. Piggy can't hold the dam back, and lets darkness overtake the town.
DINNER FOR FEW: A social/political metaphor for greed, exploitation, revolution, and repeat.
FOOTPRINTS: Bill Plympton's latest, which I saw at Indiefest.
GERMAN SHEPHERD: The memories of the son of a Holocaust survivor, his hatred of Germans and his love of Holocaust movies.
HEAVENLY PEACE: An estranged couple reconnects on Christmas thanks to a beleaguered Cupid and Miss Barbara Streisand. Maybe the best romantic comedy at Cinequest.
JINXY JENKINS, LUCKY LOU: Or maybe this is the best romantic comedy. Jinxy Jenkins lives in building 13, Lucky Lou lives in lucky number 7. He's an accident magnet, she lives a charmed life. The only lucky thing that has ever happened to Jenkins is meeting Lou.
THE LAST RESORT: Mom and dad are out, so twin teenage girls are managing the lakeside resort. There's one customer, and one little sister who will make their lives hell. Hilarious.
LUNA AND LARS: Stop motion dark story of the night life of marionettes.
NINE: Cats and butterflies and warthogs and monsters and cats who have powers. Very cool.
TEETH: A man's complicated life-long relationship with his own teeth. From baby teeth to losing his adult teeth to dentures to teeth of other animals to the greatest dentures ever!

This program plays again Mar 6 at 1:30. Crap, that's like right now! Go see it now. Fast, like a bunny!

And finally, I ended the nights with Shorts 8: College Film Competition
ATTACK OF THE KILLER TREES: Lumberjack vs. demon trees. He might have to call in the beavers for backup.
BELL JAR: A swimmer in San Francisco, pondering jumping into the ocean.
BLAME: A kid on his way to a bright future. First of his family to go to college. And not some podunk community college, M.I.T. And then his parents find some horrible incriminating evidence on his phone, leading to a moral crisis.
THE COLUMBARIUM: A brief look at the last place in San Francisco where your earthly remains can rest.
HE TOOK HIS SKIN OFF FOR ME: A story of the things guys do for love.
INCH ALLAH: The life of a young Moroccan living in Mexico.
LAST STOP IN SANTA ROSA: A hostel for aging and dying pets, which I saw back in Docfest.
MARVELOUS FISHMAN: A sideshow attraction runs away and tries to find his parents. But he can't stay out of water too long. Maybe the little girl who is his new friend can help him.
NEW MISSION: A look at the changing face of the Mission district in San Francisco. Fuck gentrification.
NO REFUGE: PTSD is a bitch.
RATTLEFLY: Fuck it, I can't describe it, just watch it.
TIMMY II: Timmy II isn't accepted because he's a robot. So he undergoes expensive upgrades to look human. Too bad he looks like a Middle Eastern human and then 9/11 happens. Dude, 9/11 just happened. That's hilarious.

This program plays again Mar 6 at 9:15. So if you have no other evening plans...

Total Running Time: 515minutes
My Total Minutes: 388,925
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