Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jason goes to SFFILM--Day 4

Four films on Saturday, to kick off the big first weekend of the festival.

I started with a real treat, the Mr. Rogers documentary WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR. I really hadn't thought much of Mr. Rogers--other than parodies and dumb urban myths about him being a sniper (untrue, nor did he wear sweaters to cover up his tattoos)--since I was the age of his target demographic. But this gave me a new and better perspective on him, and a greater appreciation for the depth and intelligence of his show. Fred Rogers started out as a seminarian, was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, and was supposed to lead his flock. But his deep faith, love of children, and fascination with this new-ish communication tool of television caused him to go into a wider (and not overtly religious) form of ministry. One built on the idea that children's feelings are just as valid and just as powerful as adult feelings, and sometimes kids need help understanding them. I don't recall as a kid his showing dealing with current events (probably because I didn't know what current events were) but I was surprised to find out that in his first year on the air--1968--when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, he did a segment on that. Not using the event at all but teaching the word "assassination" and talking through the grief and anger around it. It was also a show that celebrated silence and quiet moments--the complete opposite of normal children's television. There's a wonderful scene comparing frenetic children's cartoons of the time (yeah, I grew up on Transformers) with Fred watching a turtle walk across the floor.

The film also deals with some of the silliness around his persona. Like the urban myths. Like the parodies (he had a great sense of humor and liked the Eddie Murphy one. Others that mocked the underlying values not so much. I don't think he liked Jim Carrey portraying him as a sleazeball in a porn shop on In Living Color.) And the baffling backlash that his show--with the "you're all special" attitude--raised a generation of entitled millennials. He actually addressed that point in a commencement speech he gave. His message was never about being entitled. It was about the dignity of everyone, and the simple fact that you don't have accomplish something amazing in order to be loved. That's a pretty good lesson for kids. Maybe a good lesson for adults, too.

And then I saw a bunch of shorts, starting with Shorts 3: Animation. Hooray for cartoons!
CARLOTTA'S FACE: A fascinating examination of a woman who is face blind, but learned to draw faces (in particular, her own) through her sense of touch.
DROP BY DROP: Simple black-and-white story of a Portuguese village, and its history that clings to the place.
HYBRIDS: Hybrids of trash and sea life. Fish made out of oil drums, sharks out of boats, etc. Really imaginative and dirtily beautiful.
ICEBERGS: We only see the tip of the icebergs. In fact, these stop motion scenes of daily life hint at much bigger stories underneath.
NEGATIVE SPACE: A father's lesson on how to pack a suitcase. But it really means a whole lot more.
OH HI ANNE: Voice mail messages from underground film icon George Kuchar to his student, colleague, and director of this film, Anne McGuire.) Very simply animated.
73 QUESTIONS: Some old-timer San Francisco advice, during a walk from the Tenderloin to the Mission.
WEEKENDS: Shuttling back and forth between mom and dad, as everyone moves on with new relationships and the kid is taking it all in.

Then more shorts, with Shorts 4: New Visions. Hooray for exciting views from around the world.
.TV: It does not stand for television, actually. In fact, it's a country code, for Tuvalu. This small island nation lucked out when people wanted that domain suffix, and now licensing it out is its main source of income. Too bad it's going to disappear from climate change. But at least we can still watch streaming videos online, right?
ATOMKRAFTWERK ZWENTENDORF: A look at the history and current use of a nuclear power plant in Austria. Due to popular opposition, it's the only nuclear plant in the world that was commissioned and then never brought on line. Now it's part museum and part training facility.
FAIR GROUNDS: Quick edits show us some young men, their ancestry, and their path to the future. 
HANEMUN HONEYMOON: Animators Maya Erdelyi and Daniel Rowe got married, went to Japan on their honeymoon, and used a microscope camera to take up-close looks at various things they saw there. Fun.
MAHOGANY TOO: A short homage/re-envisioning of the cult classic film MAHOGANY.
RAMS 23 BLUE BEARS 21: The (alleged) first film ever made by the LumiƩre Brothers was of workers exiting their factory. A static camera, as people walk past. This is the same idea here, but with fans exiting a high school football stadium.
THE CLIMATE: Jem Cohen examines the life of New York. The Stock Exchange, the people, etc. Not just about the global climate (i.e., weather patterns) but about the mental and emotional climate of the people. It's not positive.

And then it was finally time for the late show, REVENGE. A rape-and-revenge superhero origin story that totally delivers on its bloody promise, despite being ridiculously unrealistic. It's interesting that the director is a woman (Coralie Fargeat.) Jen goes on a romantic getaway with her rich (and married) boyfriend (they take a helicopter in to his remote hunting lodge/mansion) and his buddies show up for a hunting trip. And that first night, they drink, party, have a little fun, but she of course goes to bed with her man, teasing his two friends. And you can see the influence of a female director--there's no moral judgment against her. And when the rape occurs the next day, it's just as much about the guy who walks out of the room and lets it happen. Or about her boyfriend who blames her for it afterward and beats her rather than calling the helicopter to get her out of there liked she asked. Big mistake, because when they try to kill her and she survives, she'll be back for revenge. Oh yeah, did I say that this is a superhero origin story? It is. I mean, technically her only power is...not dying even though she sheds about 50 person's worth of blood. And she makes the men shed their blood too. Enough to very literally paint a mansion. Watch it as a superhero movie, that way it's easier to get over the ludicrousness of it all and just enjoy it.

And now I'll just note how I started the day with Mr. Rogers and ended it in a freakin' bloodbath, and say that I love film festivals!

Total Running Time: 341 minutes
My Total Minutes: 475,827
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