Thursday, March 8, 2007

Jason goes to Cinequest--day 8

I remembered a couple more doggy movies--"Blood Car" and "Prince of Soap".

Anyway, 4 1/4 more shows today. First up the shorts program #1: "Mirror Mirror"

"4¼"--A greatly shortened version of Fellini's "8 1/2"
"Adults Only"--Well, the print didn't have subtitles, but some of the people (from Thailand) spoke english. A humorous look at adults talking about what they want to be when they grow up.
"Ars Longa"--An old lady views art in a museum, until she sees a masterpiece (hint: refer to the title of this program). Art is long, but life is short.
"Birthday"--A little girl meets an old man on his deathbed, and shows him a little kindness
"Regarding Sarah"--Sarah's old, Sarah's starting to forget stuff, so Sarah records everything.
"Skinheads"--Very polite skinheads, one of which has an itchy scalp.
"Validation"--Far and away the best of the program, about a parking attendant who doesn't just validate parking, he validates people. That is, until he meets his nemesis, the beautiful DMV photographer who forbids smiling. Oh yeah, and there's a doggie in it.
"Water Moccasin"--Fear, death, and clutter with a dead father and mother who doesn't take care of herself.
"The White Dress"--As in, the white dress the heroine wears when she takes her first communion. But due to troubles at home, she's taking her first communion alone.

Then I saw the first film in the "Docu-Nation" shorts program (I have a plan to see the rest later), called "Half Life: A Journey to Chernobyl". It's a 40 minute poem (or rather, series of poems) about Chernobyl, played over some very striking images. More lyrical than informative, but that can be forgiven on account of pretty much everyone knows about Chernobyl. I was particularly moved by the poem about the wife looking after her husband who is essentially melting. He was there so long, his bones are actually more radioactive than the site itself. Every time she holds his hand, it's an hour off her own life. And there's a scene with a doggy in it.

Then I snuck out of the rest of the shorts to see "The Melon Route", a Croatian drama about human smuggling. Smuggled people--nearly all Chinese--are called "melons", because they're smuggled over land in the back of a melon truck. Mirko works for the mafia, taking delivery of the "melons" from the truck and taking them across the river on the border of Croatia and Bosnia/Herzogovina border. One night, in a downpour, his overloaded motorboat capsizes, drowning all the passengers but one. He saves a Chinese woman, but given that her entire family is dead, she's none to grateful. Still, he protects her and hides her in his tiny, rundown shack until he can get her across the border to Germany. Trouble is, she's the only witness to the accident. Even bigger trouble--the mafia wants her. A gripping drama with good characters and some beautiful cinematography.

Next up was a funny and interesting documentary, "Third Monday in October", reminiscent of "Spellbound" but with middle school politics instead of a spelling bee. In 2004, while most of the nation was focused on the first Tuesday in November, middle school class elections were taking place across the nation on the titular date just a week and a half before. The filmmakers followed about a dozen candidates from 4 schools (one in San Francisco, one in Marin, one in Austin, and one in Atlanta), and watched the drama (and sometimes unintentional comedy, like "this is one half a popularity contest, and the other quarter is the issues!") unfold. It's really an interesting look at children at a time when they're sort of figuring out what their opinions are. And the filmmakers find some interesting subjects, like William, the one Republican in Marin, who's speech is eviscerated at the last minute when they force him to take out a line about whupping Superman (his opponent is Sam--aka "Student Action Man", who really had it together dressing up as Superman). Or another Sam, this one from Austin, who's the only Bush hater in the school. Or the three best friends on the cheerleading squad in Atlanta who run against each other. Or Jenny from San Francisco, who runs a controversial negative campaign based on how much went wrong last year. The other interesting thing I noticed was how many rules the teachers and administrators hold over the students. I was never interested in student government growing up, and I had no idea, for example, that you needed to have your campaign speeches pre-approved. Interesting.

And finally, I saw "Bigga Than Ben". But first the short film "Kidney Thieves"--don't you hate it when you go to steal someone's kidney just to find out that someone else got there first.
Okay, "Bigga Than Ben", or "How to Rip off London". Based on a true story, it opens with a doggy eating garbage (foreshadowing). Cobakka and Spiker flee Moscow (to avoid the army) and end up homeless in London. They're self-professed "Moscow scum", and they get involved with the local king of the Russian rip-off artists, who shows them the rope for a number of local scams. Their big goal is to get a bank account, but first they need proof of a mailing address and proof of employment, both of which are much harder to get than anticipated. In fact, making a dishonest living for a couple of illegal immigrants in London is no easy feat. The movie is handled with clever humor, including some great out-there scenes breaking the 4th wall (the subtitles button is pretty cool, but kinda random). It's a very funny movie, and if I had one complaint, it would be that with all the accents (both Russian and British), it's sometimes hard to understand. I feel like I got about 70-75% of the movie. Oh, but one random joke I really liked: Who's the patron saint of Catholicism? St. Pete-ophilia!
And with that, I bid you all good night.

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