First up was ON HER OWN, the story of a local (Sonoma County) family farm where the family is struggling to survive. Nancy Prebilich runs the farm with her parents, her sister, and her sisters adorable kids. Farming, butchering, selling meat is a way of life for them. And a way of life that is being threatened by an economy that makes it hard to keep up the mortgage payments and her parents failing health. In fact (spoiler alert) they both pass away over the course of the film. So now it's Nancy, her sisters, and the kids. And the sister and kids can't stay there forever, so no you know where the title comes from. Nancy is a likable person and you root for some miracle to rescue her, but the cards are stacked against her--as they are against so many family farms--and eventually the inevitable will happen. A reminder of where our food comes from and the human cost required to provide it so cheaply and readily available everywhere.
Then STINK!, a film about chemicals in our household products. And I don't mean the obviously poisonous products, I mean something as seemingly innocuous as a pair of child's pajamas. Jon Whelan uses his daughter's reaction to the scent of a pair of new pajamas as the jumping off point of his Michale Moore style documentary, wherein he investigates the loophole around not having to disclose what's in the scents added to products. And he sends the pajamas to a lab where it's revealed that at least one of the chemicals is potentially toxic. Now I'm all on board with the goal of the movie--either disclose what's in the products or have them adequately (and independently) tested to ensure they're safe. But instead we have a system where manufacturer's can claim something's a trade secret and not disclose it on the basis of "trust me, it's safe" and regulators can't test if it's safe because they don't know what's in it. That's a fucked-up situation, to be sure. But the movie gets dragged down by Whelan's annoying ambush antics to the point where I don't care nearly enough about the issues because he's just not a likable character to follow. Even the story of his wife who died of cancer doesn't help engender sympathy. And I know I'm a heartless S.O.B. for saying this, but if you keep harping on your dead wife, it's not going to make me like your movie. The movie still has to be...good.
Then I saw MADE IN JAPAN, a profile of Tomi Fujiyama. In case you (like I) didn't know, Tomi Fujiyama is Japanese music star. Well, she's a music star from Japan, but she sings American country music. Seriously, she appeared on the Grand Ol' Opry on a special anniversary show in 1964, where she was the only one to get a standing ovation (and the stage was full of superstars, including Johnny Cash.) She learned while performing in USO shows for the American troops stationed there, and just fell in love with the music. Now over 40 years later, her dream is to come back and play the Grand Ol' Opry one more time. But it's not that easy. To a select few she's a legend, and a beautiful symbol of the universality of the musical style. But too others--particularly those who run the Opry now--she's...too old and forgotten. The one thing they never come out and say, but it kind of hangs there as the elephant in the room, is that she's the wrong race to be playing their music. And now actually I regret bringing it up, because they never made it an issue in the movie, and it might be a product of my biased view of southerners as racist rednecks. So forget I said anything, and just focus on this amazing woman making great music, especially The Tennessee Waltz.
And then THE DECENT ONE, a fascinating, exhausting, and depressing journey into the banality of evil. After the war, soldiers found a safe in Himmler's home full of his correspondence with his wife, Marga. Against orders, they did not turn them over but held on to them. And now they've come to light and form the basis of this movie. Archival footage and the text of the letters are used to describe Heinrich and Marga's courtship, marriage, parenthood. And his exhausting work but high spirits. Or his devotion to good "German" values like order and decency (hence the title.) In some ways it reminded me of Jay Rosenblatt's HUMAN REMAINS, but expanded to feature length and focusing on just one figure. Fascinating.
Then the final show of the night started with the short THE 414S: THE ORIGINAL TEENAGE HACKERS. Named for their Milwaukee area code, these teenage kids were, as the title says, the original teenage hackers. And they found their way into more than a few government computer systems, including Los Alamos National Laboratory. Kind of like the real WAR GAMES (which is referenced in the short.)
That was the lead-in to GTFO: GET THE FUCK OUT, a movie about how hostile the Internet is to women. Going well beyond gamergate, it shows a bleak picture of harassment and threats, from violent to sexual to both and to bizarre ("I'm going to stuff and egg up your cunt and punch it." Really!?) The movie lays it all out in a way that makes it clear that the Internet in general and gaming in particular is not a safe place for women. And it's more than just a little hazing or girls who can't take a joke. It's awful shit and any man with a conscience should be ashamed (even if, like me, you're not a gamer.) And to drive the point home that this isn't just online, my friend texted me later that night that she had two sexually harassing incidents walking home from the movie that night (the Warriors had won game 5 of the NBA Finals that night.) She elaborated that that's actually par for the course, and she only thought about it because of the film.
Total Running Time: 438
My Total Minutes: 401,280