Thursday, March 6, 2008

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 7

All right, I'm close to catching up. I have to write up 3 movies from Tuesday and 3 from Wednesday. I can do at least half that...

First up on Tuesday was "El Camino". It starts in accordance with theme #2--a death of a loved one. In this case, the loved one is Matthew, who's dying (I don't recall if the disease was specified, looked like cancer of some sort). Elliot was his best friend as a child, when they were both foster children in Washington, D.C. Now Elliot practically lives behind his camcorder, documenting everything, especially Matthew's last moments. At the funeral, Matthew's ex-girlfriend Lily and friend Gray show up. Lily is a little crazy, and Gray is just a self-absorbed cynical son of privilege. Gray had always promised to take Matthew to Mexico, so he steals a little bit of his ashes and takes off with Lily. Elliot barely manages to tag along at the last minute. And so begins a road trip (another staple of this festival) and a trip of self-discovery for all involved. In particular, for Elliot, who growing up as a foster child never really fit in and was never really able to trust anyone. His journey is the most uplifting of the stories, as he's on a search to go "somewhere else", and eventually one could easily say he finds that. A smart movie, shot with humor and pathos. Here's a pic of director Erik S. Weigel with producer Jason Noto:

Next up was "Anywhere, U.S.A.", which might be my favorite film of the festival. It is, without a doubt, the film for which I've received the most puzzled/argumentative responses when I've said I loved it. And it's also the first film I absolutely have to get on DVD and show my dad (it's a beard thing). Introduced as an "autobiography in three parts" it's a strange animal about personal and political regrets, covered in gobs and gobs of bizarre absurdist humor.

Part 1, Penance, describes the epic romance of Gene and Tammy. Once a true-love tale for the ages, Gene catches Tammy looking up cocks on the Internet. Then he discovers a pistachio--a Middle Eastern Nut! Tammy is being seduced by a terrorist! Or so deduces the gun-toting midget RC car racer who Gene hangs out with (think of him as Walter Sobchak's Mini-Me). Hilarity ensues, romance does not. Unless you count weekly dates of penance involving being beaten severely with a tennis racket. I don't.

Part 2, Loss, stars the director's daughter (who is absolutely adorable). She plays Pearl, an 8-year-old girl who tends to wander off and end up in other people's cars. That's the problem with having dead parents (theme #2, again!) and living with your kinda-crazy uncle. You wanna make it worse, go ahead and eat all those brownies you found in that car. Oops, those are "adult" brownies. While coming down, wander around town and learn that the tooth fairy is not in fact your friend's dad from across the street. In fact, the tooth fairy doesn't exist at all!

And finally part 3, Ignorance. Ralph is a wealthy man. His sports his well-trimmed beard with pride, sort of like a fake posh British accent, it opens certain doors for him. Until he realizes, in an epiphany, that he doesn't know any black people. Well, that's just wrong, but you don't run along the street just looking for black people to meet, do you? Know, it has to happen naturally. Of course, there are things you can do to make it more likely, I suppose?
Yeah, this movie was fucking crazy, and I loved it. Here's the director Chusy with I believe the DP Patrick Rousseau:

And finally, the heartwarming documentary "Les Paul: Chasing Sound", which starts with Les Paul's 90th birthday (theme #1!). Les Paul, of course, invented the electric guitar, played music since the 30's, and still freakin' jams today! Without Les Paul, music as we know it wouldn't exist. Not only did he invent the electric guitar, he invented overdubbing. This movie is filled with humor, historical performances, and whole lot of fun. It's just a celebration of an amazing man, and his awesome career. In a way, it's kind of exhausting, packing 90 years of music into just 86 minutes, it's a very dense film. And he did so much, it could easily expand into a series of documentaries, each focusing on just one decade of his career (which would make it an 8-disc box set!) Whew!

And that was Tuesday at Cinequest. Hey, I'm almost caught up on all my films.

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