Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--The Penultimate Day

Cinequest has been over for about a week. I guess it's time to write up the final days.

So Friday night ended with me staying up with filmmakers, friends, and assorted Cinequestarians until about 2 a.m. But I was still up bright and early for a few drinks in the VIP lounge before my first event, the first of two Maverick Spirit Awards, this one honoring Fred Armisen.

We started with a replay of the hilarious short THE 11 O'CLOCK. I love this crazy movie. A psychiatrist treats a patient who thinks he's a psychiatrist. And since the regular secretary is out this morning, we don't exactly know who's who.

That had nothing to do with Fred Armisen, other than it was hilarious. Sal Pizarro interviewed him, and he was hilarious. He reminded me of something Woody Allen used to say about comedy. The audience doesn't want you to tell jokes, they just want you to be funny. If you can do that, you can read the phone book and they'll laugh. Well, Fred didn't read the phone book, but I would see a one-man show of him just listing things you can buy with money. Like clothes. You can go to a clothing store, try on clothes, decide you like them, and then pay for them...with money. Or real estate, you can buy a home. And you can move in there, keep your stuff there, and there's no landlord, because you own it. Or you can travel, like to Italy. (For some reason, Fred thinks San Jose is a lot like Italy. Which is cool, I guess.)

I also really liked that our other Maverick Spirit honoree, Jane Lynch, decided to show up and see his show. And then they started designing a car. Or rather, a car horn. One with different sounds for different purposes, because so far all car horns sound angry. There should be one that's gentler. Or one for "hey, I see my friend!" Or one for "hey, that wasn't me honking at you, that was the other guy. He's the a-hole." If available, I would get that car horn installed. For money. That's another thing you can buy with money!

Okay, then back to movies, this time in Denmark/Sweden (filmmakers are Danish, but shot in Sweden) with SECLUDED, featuring what I consider the best cinematography I've seen in the whole festival. It's a tense dramatic thriller about a family that looks perfect on the outside but is being torn apart by secrets. Sarah and her parents are on their way to a vacation in a remote cabin in the wilderness. On the way there, she learns that a sex tape of her was made at a party where she was very drunk. And apparently it's circulating online. And then they get too far out in the wilderness and she loses cell reception. She's not very far off when she declares that her father would kill her if he found out. It turns out her sex tape is not the only family secret, and over the week out there, more secrets come out and things go from happy family to tense to dangerous really quick. Director Anders Fl√łe has made his feature debut something very special, and he will be a talent to watch I hope and assume for a long time.

Unfortunately, the audience was rushed out of the theater for the next event, so the Q&A was in the lobby. But a good crowd followed there, and they all had positive things to say about the film. I just wish they had the honor of doing the Q&A on the stage of the California Theatre.

That next event was Maverick Spirit Award, this time honoring Jane Lynch. Another hilarious person, and poked a little fun when interviewer/Cinequest co-founder and President Kathleen Powell made a poorly-worded question about her "box." I have to say, as well as being a great actor and a very funny person, I've really appreciated how Jane showed up for a couple of days in the festival, how she showed up to the Soiree the day before, and how readily she'll pose for a picture with a fan (even though, for the record, I didn't even ask for a picture. I just wanted to shake her hand and thank her for coming.)

Also, she's an Intrepid Audience Member, so that makes her extra cool!

They also showed her new short film, WRITER'S BLOCK. Jane Lynch plays a songwriter with bad case of writer's block. Andy Kindler is hilarious as her nagging agent, and they skewer some of the culture and cliches of the entertainment industry. Then a little birdy helps her out. No, literally, she copies the melodies of a songbird. So she has to take care of that bird really, really well. Very funny.

And then I just kept staying in the California Theatre, this time for THE ASSIGNMENT (listed in the program as (RE)ASSIGNMENT, which I like better.) Walter Hill's latest is a twisted comic-book tale starring Michelle Rodriguez and featuring a scene of her penis. Actually, it features full frontal nudity of her with both male and female equipment, which is weird and kind of unsettling. She plays Frank Kitchen, a hitman who looks too much like Michelle Rodriguez in drag for it to not be distracting. He kills the brother of stone-cold Dr. Rachel Kay (Sigourney Weaver) who is a wealthy plastic surgeon who tracks him down, and...does him a favor...by freeing him from the constraints of macho, toxic masculinity. Yeah, she gives him a forced sex-change. And he doesn't appreciate it. And he's back for revenge.

Okay, I have to comment a little bit on the controversy around this movie. It has drawn the fire of those who say this plot is offensive to those in the transgender community. And Walter Hill was there and spoke afterward about how it's nowhere near his intention to make fun of anyone in that community. I can see that. There's really no transgender character in the whole film. It's a film about genital mutilation surgery, the guy that happens to is pissed about it, and the doctor who performs it is certifiably insane. Oh yeah, the movie opens with her in a strait jacket being interrogated by a psychiatrist (Tony Shalhoub, being typically excellent.) I don't know how to emphasize more "this character is crazy!!!" And I think that's important in watching this film, it is explicitly, intentionally filtered through an unreliable, insane narrator.

Whatever, it's far from a perfect movie but I had fun with it. Controversy be damned.

Then I just called it an early night, went back to my hotel room, read a few chapters in the Bible, had a nice glass of warm milk, and went directly to bed. Ha ha, no! I went to the Maverick Meetup at SP2, which went on until most people were ready to go to bed, but the die-hard few went back to my room and partied until something like 4:30 a.m. because we're all rock stars at Cinequest!

Total Running Time: 200 minutes
My Total Minutes: 422,971
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