Okay, on to the movies.
First up was a bonus surprise short, James. Of course, this wasn't a surprise if you go by the online program guide, but there's a misprint in the printed guide that put this short with the wrong feature (Waiting for the Sun instead of Waiting at the Gate). Anyway, I took a little grief after assuring my friends that I checked and there wasn't a short.
Oh yeah, I should stop babbling and actually describe the movie. James is an Irish schoolboy, an excellent student but has trouble relating to kids his own age. In fact, his only friend is his teacher. And he has a possible second friend in the creepy old man who propositions him in the toilet. Umm...gross...and engrossing.
Moving on, the feature was Waiting at the Gate, also about UK schoolboys. Robert is part of a group of typically rambunctious schoolboys. It's 2 weeks before their final exams and graduation, when they have to go out into the world. They have their dreams (e.g., pimping), but deep down they know they're more likely to be electricians. Robert, however, is sort of stuck in neutral (BTW, personal inertia is a big part of the festival so far. Watch for it), wishing he were the type of person who has something he's passionate about and can use it to make a living. It's almost like his dream is to have a dream (and yes, I know that was a joke on Strangers with Candy). Anyway, with just two weeks to go Robert is sent to the Referral Room for a week for spraying a fire extinguisher in class. There he meets Mr. Roy, a music teacher who is also there as a punishment (for swearing in front of his students). Robert and Mr. Roy...don't really become friends. They have a few conversations and some laughs, but this isn't that movie cliche where the cool, wise adult gives the kid the right inspirations (although, for the record, Mr. Roy was my favorite thing in the movie). He studies for exams, fulfills his punishment sentence, and deals with his friends becoming Neo-Nazis (best line--"Why do you go on about how we won the war and then wear a swastika?"). And in the end, it doesn't matter if he passes or fails his exams, it only matters that he's fucking done.
Next up was a really cool movie that is either a fun sci-fi flick about a government conspiracy to control your mind via a hidden TV signal, or it's a touching drama about a woman losing her mind. TV Virus opens with a naked man in the mountains above Hollywood. He finds an old mechanics overalls and a lunchbox full of mysterious letters, and wanders into town. His name is Jed, he's homeless and suffers from schizophrenia (or he knows the truth). Two friends, Michelle and Valerie, drive around Hollywood filming...whatever (the movie uses an interesting mix of their footage, security camera footage, and regular non-POV footage). Michelle sees Jed standing on a corner with his arm raised in a sort of catatonic state. She's intrigued, and starts investigating. Jed rambles a theory about how the government is controlling people's minds through the TV. They interview a mental health worker who assures them that Jed is schizophrenic--a conditioned characterized by paranoia, hallucinations and delusions of grandeur (director Aaron Lindenthaler revealed in the Q&A that his mother was a mental health worker and dealt with a lot of schizophrenics. All the stuff in the movie about schizophrenia is true). So when more homeless people corroborate Jed's story, that's not surprising--schizophrenia is very common among the homeless (in fact, it's a leading cause of homelessness). But Michelle--over Valerie's objections--gets increasingly swept up in the conspiracy. There really are embedded signals in the TV (mostly about things like number of lines/frame, etc., but there really are unused codes--as far as we know). Nazis did experiment with mind control, and their research was classified by the Allies after the war. So maybe there is something to this. Plus, the bums have an odd sort of almost-psychic communication, and what's up with the flowers? There's enough ambiguity to believe whatever you want (and remember, after all, it's just a movie), and playing the ideas and interpretations back and forth is a lot of fun. The only problem is there's so much in there it's hard to draw a conclusion after just one screening. And that's all I'll have time for here. So I'll just have to wait for the DVD release to figure it all out.
And now I'm actually all caught up with my Indiefest reviews.