Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jason goes to Cinequest--Closing Night

Okay, lots of movies to get through from the weekend. Let's jump right in

First up, WITH LOVE...FROM THE AGE OF REASON. Sophie Marceau stars as Margaret (changed from her birth name, the more provincial Marguerite), a hard-charging take-no-prisoners career woman about to celebrate her 40th birthday. And as a present she gets a package, delivered by an old notary. It's a letter, or rather a series of letters, from herself, at age 7. As a precocious child, she knew that 7 was the age of reason and 40 is the silly age, where she cares about stuff she shouldn't care about. If you can buy the conceit (and it's a pretty big one), that a seven year old could be wise enough to write all those letters to her future self, then it's a wonderful story of remembering your inner child, reconnecting with your dreams, and rediscovering what's really important. If you don't buy the conceit, you're a cynical fucking bastard. Normally, I'm a cynical fucking bastard, but I have to admit this is the first movie at Cinequest that actually made me cry. I don't know if it's just the sleep deprivation and constant onslaught of film had weakened me, but this totally broke through my defenses. Anyway, in the interest of science, I call on any 7 year olds reading this to a) don't tell your parents I cursed earlier, and b) write letters to yourself at 40, then open them 33 years later. E-mail me and let me know how that goes. I'm sure my response will be..."what the hell are you babbling about!?"

So then I caught Shorts Program 3: Lost and Found. I actually saw all the shorts programs except for the student shorts and one of the 3D programs (and there's some shorts that played with features I missed). That's more than I usually do, but the shorts have been pretty kick-ass this year.
PROTECT THE NATION: A story of a young boy, a good Samaritan, and xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
THE GAME: Little boys play a game on the beach in Italy. Whoever's coin attracts a bug first, he gets all the other kids coins. Innocent play, with just a reminder at the end of a not-so-innocent bigger world.
SON OF NONE: Adventures of a Liberian orphan chasing a goat.
NORTH ATLANTIC: A pilot off course, and the air traffic controller who talks to him. Based on a true, and very moving, story.
ALMARITSU: A young boy apprentices with a junk collector, and makes the world more amazing, beautiful, and whimsical.
HANGNAIL: A man and a woman have an argument in the bathroom--she in the shower, he on the toilet. Painful secrets are exposed. And as a technical achievement, it's an impressive accomplishment--12 minutes in a single shot, on 35 mm. Very impressive.

Then I caught the crowd-pleasing and amusing young love story from Norway, THE LIVERPOOL GOALIE. Jo is a timid little boy who survives school by doing bully Tom Erik's homework. And then a new girl comes to school, Mari, who is just as good as he is at math, plus she's a soccer player. So he pretends to be a little tougher than he really is to try and impress her, and of course he fails miserably right up until the point where he succeeds. Stories of first young loves are kind of a staple of film (and especially film festivals), so it's really tempting to dismiss this as an enjoyable trifle but 'seen it before.' But the fact is that just doesn't matter, I've seen it before but it's still well done, enjoyable, and still fresh.

And finally we ended the night with SOUL SURFER, a movie that I feel bad about not liking more. Bethany Hamilton has certainly lived an inspiring life (although she's barely past 20, so there's a lot more left to do). She grew up in Hawaii with surfer parents, spent so much time in the water that her mom joked that she's a mermaid, and dreamed of being a professional surfer. And then a shark bit off her arm. And she was rushed to the hospital, lost 60% of her blood, but survived and even returned to surfing. She was an active Christian to begin with, but after a brief scene of shaken faith, she goes on a journey that reaffirms her faith and finds a greater purpose in being an inspiration of triumph over adversity--something far more important than being a surfer.

Okay, so I said I wanted to like this movie more. Fact is, as an atheist I was uncomfortable with all the religious stuff. I know that's my problem, and that really is Bethany's character, so it would've been totally false to keep Jesus out of the movie. But there's so much of it there that it felt it would fit in better in a revivalist tent than in a cineplex (BTW, I hope this movie is shown to Christian youth groups, and it inspires them. That's their audience, not me). Beyond that, it's a pretty standard sports movie + triumph over adversity. There's the doubt, there's the learning to do everything with only one arm, there's the realignment of perspective, there's the sport training montage, there's even the bitchy rival villain (who's really okay, since she's the only one who doesn't treat Bethany any differently, and gets redeemed at the end). I don't know exactly how closely everything followed the actual events. If they followed real events very faithfully, all I can say is, "Stupid reality! Stop being so cliche!"

So after the movie Bethany Hamilton received the Life of a Maverick award and star AnnaSophia Robb received the Emerging Maverick award. Seeing them both on stage was kinda weird--AnnaSophia is about half the size of Bethany...and she (AnnaSophia) has two arms. Talk about breaking the illusion!

I wonder how many people applauding afterwards were snarky assholes like me thinking, 'Look what I can do. I can clap because I have two hands!'

Okay, enough of that. As I said, given her life story I really wish I liked this movie more.

So then I went to the after party and indulged my inner cynical bastard with about a metric ton of hard liquor and hung out with all the cool kids table at the after party. The highlight was chatting with Kurt Kuenne, who hasn't had a movie in Cinequest for a couple of years, but as far as the CQrati are concerned is still a totally bitchin' rock star from Mars. I got the scoop about his new feature film SHUFFLE, which sounds awesome (but no spoilers here) and is looking to premiere this summer. Hopefully it'll come back around to Cinequest next year, or at least play somewhere in the Bay Area.

Total Running Time: 410 minutes
My Total Minutes: 228,529

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