Saturday, March 11, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 11

Friday, the start of the final weekend. And my Friday started with WEDNESDAY, because that's what Cinequest does to me. From Iran, WEDNESDAY is a reference to the execution date for an unseen man. He killed another man, and the grieving family has waited years for justice to be served. Now the only thing left is for them to actively choose to execute him. To kick the stool out from under him and hang him. Complication--he's an in-law, and the question of whether to kill him or let him live the rest of his life in prison is causing a rift in the family. Especially when you add the further complication that the newlyweds are expecting a baby. A powerful drama told through arguments and debates on honor vs. mercy, and the notion of what, ultimately, is right.

Then a couple more drinks in the VIP lounge, and my first experience with VR. I watched a short documentary called UNDER THE NET from the United Nations Foundation's Nothing But Nets Campaign. You can see life as an 11 year old refugee in Tanzania, and how mosquito nets save lives. And it's a good documentary, but I'm not convinced VR adds anything to it. That is, it would still be a good documentary with a powerful message as a traditional movie. Putting it in VR means I can move my head around and see...things that aren't in the center of the screen. Which is typically...pointless. It's cool technology, but in a movie the director, cameraman, and editor make very distinct choices about where to look, and in VR that choice is given to me. And I'm an idiot about that. I understand how it could work for games or immersive worlds, but watching the film I was very aware that I was using the technology to look elsewhere than the intended object of focus. Maybe I need more practice at watching VR, but for now I just don't think it's my thing.

Then I caught a series of shorts at the Hammer Theatre, and finally met up with my brother-from-another-mother, Chris Garcia. And when there were some technical difficulties, I even had to get up there and vamp with him for a bit. That was fun...but unfortunate. And that's another story. Here are the films of Shorts 3: The Truth in Art
A DAD: Absurdity, art, a collage of found footage, to celebrate a dad's 100th birthday. Or is that Dada's 100th birthday. Voice-to-text can get really weird, when the text is not really text. I want this film as an unplayable blu-ray sculpture!
ALICE: A Korean-American dancer with big dreams.
ART OF COURAGE: A documentary about large scale aerial artists, who make pictures and spell out messages by positioning people on the ground and taking pictures from the air. Overtly political, and when the terrorist attack in Paris happens, they have to adapt to keep their art going.
BAE: Strange. Just really fuckin' strange. But kind of awesome.
NO PLAN B: A film about a filmmaker making a pitch to make the film...that is her film. Did that make sense?
REAL ARTISTS: Highly engineered animation, perfected for your enjoyment, through the power of AI.
THANKS FOR COMING: A serious actor vents about the vapidity of the casting process, with a twist.
THE JOHN SHOW:An art show featuring nothing but portraits of one man. John Riegert. An artist, an entertainer, and a man suffering from depression. So it's not just an art show, it's a way to save his life. At least...they hope. A beautiful film from Cinequest veteran Julie Sokolow (ASPIE SEEKS LOVE, Cinequest 2015)
THE PUPPETEER: A dancer explores her Indonesian cultural roots.
THEATRELAND: Ushers in a West End theater, living so close to the dream of being on stage. Maybe a young actress will get a break.

Then I was over to Gordon Biersch for the VIP Soiree, a couple of beers and a little food, then on to one of the annual highlights of the festival, the silent film. This year the selection was FLESH AND THE DEVIL, which I had first seen just a couple of years ago at the SF Silent Film Festival. Let's see what I said back then:
FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926): Then we saw the classic that turned Greta Garbo into a star and kicked off her romance with John Gilbert. And while Garbo is a force of nature (or maybe even supernatural) in this movie, the story is really a love story between two men--friends since childhood Leo and Ulrich (Gilbert and Lars Hanson.) They're in the service together, cover for each other, get punished together, go home on leave together. Ulrich's little sister has the hots for Leo, and hopes they'll get married someday. But his eyes fall on Felicitas (Garbo) and from that moment he's doomed. Oh sure, they have a nice little affair...until her husband comes home. This leads to a duel, which leads to Leo killing the husband, which leads to him having to leave overseas for a few years. Trusting Ulrich, he asks him to take care of Felicitas while he's gone. Well, Ulrich does more than that, he marries her! And then things get really interesting. If there's anything that can break up a long time friendship between two guys, it's a girl. And when that girl isn't just any girl but Greta Garbo at her vampiest best, then there's no hope. After all, if the devil can't get to you through the spirit, he'll get to you through the flesh.
Yup. I still agree with every word. Especially what a force of nature/supernatural Garbo is. The only thing to add is how absolutely astounding it was to hear Dennis James rocking the might, mighty Wurlitzer organ at the California Theater, with a traditional, period-accurate score. It doesn't get better than that.

Then I popped in to the Maverick Meetup at Mosaic for a little bit, before I was back for one final film.

DO NOT DISTURB was the short that played before THE NIGHT WATCHMEN, and I had arrived late and missed it before. A man checks into a rundown hotel. He has a large trunk, and the elevator is out so he has to drag it to the 7th floor. But finally he has a chance for a little rest. But the couple next door is fighting and his attempts to get a little peace and quiet take some very dark turns. Very cool.

Then back for another drink or...several...at Mosaic, and when that party broke up it was up to my suite at the Fairmont to keep the party going until...I think about 2 am? I don't remember the exact time, but there were a lot of happy Cinequesters there, and now I'm committed to seeing SECLUDED today at 2 pm.

And that's the last Friday of Cinequest 2017. Time to put on a shirt and go to the lounge and drink my breakfast.

Total Running Time: 315 minutes
My Total Minutes: 422,772
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