Monday, February 15, 2016

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 4

Four more shows on Sunday, so let's just jump right in.

The first show started with a couple of shorts.
SILVER DOGS: The fictional adventure of a homeless (from divorce) comedian, his van, and his two dogs. Funny and touching.
WELCOME TO THE LAST BOOKSTORE: The true life adventure of Josh Spencer; father, husband, paraplegic and a guy who's crazy enough to not just own a bookstore, but open a new one. "The Last Bookstore" in downtown L.A. is his passion and a great neighborhood hangout.

And those were the lead-ins to #BEROBIN THE MOVIE. Inspired by the life and death of Robin Williams, his friend and fellow San Franciscan comedian Margaret Cho carries on his life's mission of helping the homeless. With the mantra "Don't grieve Robin, Be Robin" she takes to the street to busk for the homeless. Holding an open case and a sign that says "If you have, give. If you need, take." It has become a bit of a movement, with lots of local comedians, musicians, and activists helping out. And it's interesting how it explores not just their good work, but how much comedy is drawn from a dark, dark place, and so the connection of comedy and people in need is pretty strong. As one person says in the movie, we don't laugh because we're happy; we're happy because we laugh. With all that said, it's a short "feature" (41 minutes) and in terms of filmmaking, it's a series of good people doing good work, but without much of an arc to hold it together. And that's fine, it's strength is it's people, and they can carry it easily.

Next up was a black-and-white oddity from Japan, AND THE MUDSHIP SAILS AWAY. Takashi is a slacker living with his grandmother (director Hirobumi Watanabe's real-life 96 year old grandmother, who steals the show with her deadpan expressions.) He doesn't have a job, doesn't particularly want one. He is bothered by a guy selling handkerchiefs to raise money for earthquake relief. And out of the blue, he suddenly has a sister. Half-sister, that is. His father's love child, although she doesn't like being called that. Well, having a long-lost love-child half-sister calling you an unemployed middle-aged loser should shake things up. And by the final act (a truly strange trip through Southeast Asia, once he finally takes the drug mule job) he...kinda gets shaken up. This is a very funny, very deadpan, very strange movie. In the director's statement, he lamented he couldn't be there to have a beer with us. So I had one for him. And I suggest anyone who sees this movie should, too.

But that wasn't the truly strange film of the day. That would be MA, a wordless (save for a singing child near the end) journey of a women through the desert of the American southwest. It's supposed to be the pilgrimage of Mother Mary, but I'm not religiously attuned enough to follow that. It's not a movie to follow as a narrative. It's a series of gorgeous scenes that flow freely one into the next. And there's a lot of religious symbolism, from Mother Mary to the Burning Bush, to...okay, those are the only ones I can think of at the moment. There's symbolism of dust and water. And I also thought it was somewhat about the struggle of a woman in society (and how she's not truly successful until the end, when she becomes a man.) Yeah, I don't know what it's about, but I loved every scene in it. It's beautiful.

Then, simultaneously, I watched CHUCK NORRIS VS. COMMUNISM. I'm a physicist, I can be in two places at once. It's...umm...gravity waves, that's it. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that it's also on the Cinequest press screener list. So...this is also a Cinequest preview. If you can't make it to the next Indiefest screening, or if you're just a South Bay guy like me, there's a few chances at Cinequest.

Anyway, it's a funny documentary about Romania in the 80s, under the communist regime of the dictator Nicolae CeauČ™escu. And the video clubs that played American movies in secret there. In a time when a VCR cost as much as a car  and could be confiscated by the secret police at any moment. Brave film fans arranged video nights (and charged admission, of course) where they would marvel about the western world and dream of being heroes. And they'd dream of Irina Nistor, the translator who dubbed nearly all the films. Her part of the story is pretty excellent, becoming the voice of hope and freedom. The film follows the story of the people behind the underground movie ring, especially the ringleader Mr. Zamfir, and thematically tells their story through clips of the very movies they showed, as well as modern interviews of them looking back at the time. As a film glutton, sometimes it gets to be too much, and I can't let movies affect me too much (if every film fully transformed me, I'd be a psychotic schizophrenic.) So it's great to see a world where films--especially easily dismissed cheesy 80s action flicks--really did make so much of a difference in people's lives.

And then I ended the night with LLUC SKY WALKER, a Spanish comedy about death. Lluc is a Jedi master of dickishness. A bitter man, with no family, no friends, and a brain tumor. And a homeless man yelling at his window at night, "Lluc! I am your father!" When the doctor tells him he has very little time left, he starts planning his funeral, and tries to make amends so that he'll have an actual crowd there. He takes care of the homeless man, buying him golf clubs and all the balls he wants. He romances the girl next door. And generally tries to be nice to everyone, despite the fact that he's still a depressed, deadpan, sad sack. STAR WARS is of course referenced liberally throughout the film, to humorous effect. And the ending even takes place in Tunisia, in the original Tatooine sets. Very cool.

Total Running Time: 317 minutes
My Total Minutes: 417,772
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