Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jason goes to Doctoberfest--Day 12

We're coming down to the final stretch, two more shows last Tuesday, starting with the shorts program The Business of Living:

IRMA: It started slow and dragged on for way too long, showing this old-ish woman working out, etc. And then you learn she's a former wrestling champion and singer. A really cool second half, if you just fast-forward through the first half.

DYING FAITH: The life reflections of an old Buddhist nun in Singapore.

SUNSHINE: The most engaging of the series, the story of an ad man (although he wanted to be a serious artistic filmmaker) who travels to China to make ads for McDonald's. Reflections on his life, China turning capitalist, and what it means to be "sunshine"--what the Chinese say to describe someone who has that right demeanor/look/quality for their commercial. Something akin to having "It."

MAURICE: A look at the life and work of Maurice, who runs the Beverley Cinema--a porno theater in Paris. It was so appropriate to see this in the Roxie--the oldest continually operating cinema in San Francisco--since it survived in the late '60s/early '70s as a porno theater.

GAZA SHIELD: A look at a Lebanese artists who design a game in response to an offensive game that promotes violence in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I applaud their efforts and goals, but I couldn't help being struck by how amateurish both their game and (especially) the game they're responding to looks. And what's really missing is that the original game was apparently meant as satire.

0,39: Note, this means 39 cents (euro cents, to be precise), not thirty-nine seconds as listed in the festival online guide. Spanish fishermen work all day, only to get 0.39 euro-cents per pound (or was it kilogram, I forget). Oh yeah, and the comma instead of a decimal point in the title is intentional. That's just how they do it in Europe.

And then the second show of the night was a delightful gaming doc ECSTASY OF ORDER: THE TETRIS MASTERS. It's a funny look at people who are way too good at Tetris. Specifically, classic NES Tetris. People who obsess over the holy grails--maxing out the scoreboard or (especially) beating level 29--the mythical "kill screen" and seeing level 30. They post videos or pictures of their accomplishments, and now are getting ready for the first world Tetris championship. And through it all there's a legendary character. Thor Aackerlund, champion of the Nintendo World Championship in 1990. That's right, there's a player with a whole mythos built around him and his name is Thor! He claims, but has no proof, that he has not only maxed out the scoreboard (something that a few players have done) but beaten level 29 and seen level 30 (which, allegedly, shows up as level 00). But he doesn't have proof. And he's something of a recluse. They're trying to get him for the championship competition. But for the longest time he won't commit. Then he'll make an appearance but not compete. Then he will compete. And then we finally meet him. And...I don't want to give away spoilers, but the twist in the movie is all about him. I will just say that there's a scene where he talks about the difficulties of life but then points out that's a lot like Tetris--sometimes you have a drought where nothing but shitty blocks fall. I loved that scene. I also loved the scene where a player shows how he plays Super Mario Brothers but never beats it--he always commits suicide right at the end because all games should end in death--just like Tetris, and just like life. Awesome!

Total Running Time: 166 minutes
My Total Minutes: 253,228

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