Sunday, March 5, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 5

Saturday was a pretty intense day, starting with a little free breakfast in the VIP lounge, courtesy of Whole Foods Market. Just one beer with breakfast (I was pacing myself) and then off to the California Theatre.

The first show started with the short MAY 15TH IN PARIS. A beautifully shot, somewhat experimental take on French history and current politics, juxtaposing May 15th, 2016 with May 15th, 1848.

That was the lead-in to FORGOTTEN MAN, a story of class divisions in London, revolving around a theater company for homeless actors. Appearances can be deceiving, as we see in the beginning when an audience member comments that he expected the actors to look "more homeless." Carl (Obi Abili) doesn't necessarily look homeless, especially when dressed in the nice suit from his play. He wasn't exactly looking to fool Meredith (Eleanor McLoughlin,) just show her around some of the spots he likes in town. But he isn't forthcoming when a little romance blooms. She's wealthy, in town for a family gathering, and they hit if off well. But he has to keep his life secret from her, while dealing with the violent temper of his buddy in the theater. And it all comes to a head when Meredith invites him to a play...the very play he wrote and is starring in. Very cool.

FORGOTTEN MAN plays again:
Sun, Mar 5 9:00 PM in Redwood City
Thu, Mar 9 1:30 PM in Santana Row
Sat, Mar 11 9:00 PM in Redwood City

Then back to the lounge for a couple of drinks, and back to the Cal for another show, starting with the short YOU. A clever, very short film about love addiction that gets the story across with very few words.

That was the lead-in to the Norwegian film, ALL THE BEAUTY (ALT DET VAKRE) which is also about love, and sex, and does so in a great many words. David is a famous writer, dying of cancer, who asks his ex-lover Sarah for help in finishing his play. Thing is, their mullti-decade love affair was not always kind, especially as David exploited their sex life for material for his very graphic, very scandalous writing. And his new play...well, it's re-examining all of that, and tearing open old wounds. We see the characters through four sets of actors at various ages from 24 to 51 years old. We see her going from a medical student to a respected doctor, while he goes from a promising writer, to a sensation, to kind of a jerk whose entire career has been based on exploiting his lover. Not that she wasn't a willing participant. It was kind of her idea to have an open relationship and tell him about her other lovers. It makes for a fascinating premise, and it's well executed. It did kind of drag on, though. It's an example of something I see all the time at film fests--what I call "the 90 minute short." Films that have an idea that could be explored in a 20-30 minute short film, but are expanded out to feature length.

ALL THE BEAUTY plays again:
Sun, Mar 5 4:00 PM at Santana Row
Thu, Mar 9 6:45 PM in Redwood City
Fri, Mar 10 9:15 PM in Redwood City

Then another quick drink in the lounge, and back for film 3, starting with the short TIME TO LOVE. A little bit of a romantic mindbender, as a jealous man knocks on his girlfriend's door at midnight trying to catch her with another man, but finds something far more surprising.

And then the feature, PRODIGY. In keeping with a multi-year theme of Cinequest, the black-and-white films tend to be my favorites. Inspirations for this film range from THE TWILIGHT ZONE to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to a little bit of 12 ANGRY MEN and more (oh, even X-MEN, I guess.) Dr. Fonda (Richard Neil,) a psychologist specializing in troubled children is approached by an old friend who needs help on a case. They have a very special, very troubled, very dangerous little girl. This isn't a typical case, the child is kept locked up in a military base, in a strait jacket, under heavy security. That little girl is Ellie (Savannah Liles) and she's a genius, evolved beyond mere humans, and living in pure logic without the constraints of primitive emotions. She also has...powers. Powers that are better left unspoiled, but safe to say there's a reason there's so much heavy security around her. As Dr. Fonda learns more about Ellie, and about the military's plans for her, it becomes a race against the clock to find a way through her mental walls and find the little girl inside so that he can save...well, everyone. A wonderful, thrilling, smart film.

PRODIGY plays again:
Sun, Mar 5 11:00 AM in Redwood City (that's like, really soon! Go there...now!)
Wed, Mar 8 9:30 PM in Redwood City
Fri, Mar 10 10:00 PM in Redwood City

Then a little bit of Soiree time at the Fairmont, and then over to the Hammer Theatre for LOVESICK. One of the hallmarks of a Cinequest film, in my opinion, is emotional honesty. It's interesting to compare this film to any superficially familiar Hollywood romantic fantasy. Dash (Jacob Tierney) is a 30-something artist in Winnipeg who has recently lost his longtime girlfriend Lauren (Jessica Pare) to a total douchebag (Jay Baruchel.) And so he's a pathetic mess who can't take care of himself and constantly disappoints all his friends. In the Hollywood version of this, he'd meet a beautiful girl and learn to get over his ex and love again. And he does meet a very beautiful girl, Nora Van Denbrock (Ali Tataryn) and...well, there's something clicking there. But actually...he's still hung up, and just because he meets someone new, or goes to therapy, or has friends who care about him...if you're fucked in the head none of these external forces are going to fix you and make everything okay. A very smart, real, and also very funny movie about love and heartbreak.

LOVESICK plays again:
Sun, Mar 5 1:15 PM in Redwood City
Fri, Mar 10 2:15 PM at Santana Row
Sat, Mar 11 9:45 PM at the California Theatre

And finally, the last film of the night was QUALITY PROBLEMS. A true family affair, married directing duo Brooke and Doug Purdy also star as a married couple and cast their own children Max and scout as their son, Max, and daughter, Scout. They're a crazy little family that yells, fights, teases, and totally loves each other. They've got a grandfather losing his mind to Alzheimer's, and mom's breast cancer has returned (in reality, Brooke is cancer free since 2008, but a lot of this was based on real events.) What was I saying earlier about Cinequest films and "emotional honesty." This film is overflowing with emotional honesty. But also hilarious family moments, insanity, bar fights, ruined cakes, dancing in your underwear, and the best birthday party ever. I loved it.

QUALITY PROBLEMS plays again:
Sun, Mar 5 6:30 PM in Redwood City
Fri, Mar 10 9:30 PM in the Hammer Theatre
Sat, Mar 11 3:45 PM at Santana Row
Sun, Mar 12 10:40 AM in Redwood City

Then I passed by the Farmer's Union right as the Maverick Meetup was closing down, but continues on to SP2 where the team from LOVESICK was keeping the party going until a little past 1:00. Then back to my party suite at the Fairmont for some unofficial after-after hours partying. A small, select group of die-hards stayed up until sometime around 3:00-3:30, before finally crashing. I promise, the after-party suite will happen again next weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, after the official Cinequest partying is over. Because I never want this party to end.

[Update: I forgot the most important part of my blog!]
Total Running Time: 476 minutes
My Total Minutes: 420,651
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