Friday, March 9, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 10

Three more movies on Thursday, my last night of Cinequest in Redwood City (the festival continues, but I'm spending all weekend at the San Jose venues) and it was a truly grand night.

We started in Canada, Toronto to be specific. And not the good parts of it. LUBA is the story--and the name--of a single, struggling mother (Nicole Maroon.) Okay, technically not single, but her husband Donnie (Vladimir Jon Cubrt)--they're separated but not divorced--is a former crack addict and totally unreliable. But her son Matty (Porter Schaefer) loves him. Of course, because he's the cool dad who always wants to do something fun. He's also the irresponsible dad who will leave him in the movie theater while he goes chasing some tail. So Luba has to be the bad mom, the strict one who looks out for him. She has some help from Donnie's mother, (Jillian Rees-Brown) but things get really bad when Donnie relapses and loses his job (and then relapses harder.) A rich supporting cast rounds things out really well, as Luba desperately tries to hold together and find anyone who can help her. But help is hard to get, since everyone has their own troubles. And there's a really beautiful tension between trying to take care of everything herself and looking for someone who can just make everything better. Of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle. You have to be able to take care of yourself, but also reach out and accept help where it comes. A really beautiful, nuanced film that will destroy any notion that all Canadians are nice and polite.

LUBA plays once more, Friday night (tonight!) in Redwood City

Then a quick jaunt over to LV Mar for a drink and chat with a few Cinequesters, and back for another show, starting with the short HEIMLICH. Thematically, this actually follows LUBA pretty well, in that it's a story of a shitty father/husband, a mother who puts up with it, and a child. In this case, they're not separated, but should be, because the husband is an abusive piece of shit. But eventually the wife decides not to put up with his shit anymore.

And that was the lead-in to my new favorite in the festival, CHARLIE AND HANNAH'S GRAND NIGHT OUT. I don't even know how to translate into words how wonderful and weird this movie is. Charlie and Hannah are two lovely Belgian ladies out for a night of drinking and fun in Antwerp. And when they take some drugs homeopathic candy, things get beautifully insane. I don't know much about drugs, I don't know if there's anything that can create an experience like they had. I think it's something more powerful than psychoactive chemicals--it's cinema! Breasts start talking. Historical figures show up. A homeless person hands out a keychain containing a black hole. Their guy friend endures so many challenges (eat 17 cigarettes, scalp Tilda Swinton while hopping on one foot, swallow this bomb) that he ends up a pile of ash, only to be resuscitated with a beer. Buildings talk to each other (about meeting the Eiffel Tower on Tindr.) Pineapples get chased. Most importantly, it's an immensely playful movie. And a movie that's equally playful about the Grand Unified Theory, operettas, history, and cinema. It's mostly in black and white (with some stunning, beautiful color scenes) and makes no sense other than to just enjoy it.

Oh, and sometimes there's a moment in a movie--a line, a visual, an idea, etc.--that brings a certain clear and simple explanation to your life up until then, and your path forward. It's probably a bad sign that the line "Let's get life-threateningly drunk" feels kinda like one of those moments.

HEIMLICH and CHARLIE AND HANNAH'S GRAND NIGHT OUT plays twice more, Saturday and Sunday, both times in Redwood City.


And then the last film of the night was CROWN AND ANCHOR, which I was very excited to see because I had drunk with the filmmakers several times earlier in the week (they had to return home prior to this screening, unfortunately.) I'm very happy to report that their film totally delivers. Jimmy (writer/director/star Andrew Rowe) is a cop in Toronto, and he has anger issues. His cousin Danny (Matt Wells) has a drug problem. They both suffered different but connected childhood trauma. And the repercussions of that have left them estranged for years. But when Jimmy's mother passes away, he returns home to St. John's, Newfoundland and has to face the past trauma and estrangement, as well as the current shit situation. As his uncle informs him, Danny is is in deep shit. See, though Jimmy is a cop now, the family were a small-time Irish crime racket. Protection stuff, mostly. Sure, they took money and kept the neighborhood in a kind of order. They'd burn down your place if you didn't pay, but they also took care of those who did pay. Like if a priest diddled a kid, they'd eliminate that fucking priest. Or they'd keep drugs (at least the worst of it) out of the neighborhood. Well, Danny kind of dropped the ball on that one, bringing in some drug dealers who now have him by the balls. As well as being a solid story with a strong arc and powerful violence, it's also a gritty, low-budget ($300,000) masterpiece with a punk score to match it's punk attitude and aesthetic. Fucking great. Now I wish I had drunk with them even more. Like maybe gotten life-threateningly drunk.

That was their last screening, save for maybe an Encore screening on Sunday? Here's hoping!

Total Running Time: 293 minutes
My Total Minutes: 473,733
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