First up was CASSEROLE CLUB by Steve Balderson, and it was an interesting little slice of late 60's suburban American decadence. Five couples get together for a dinner party. They eat, elect a "Queen Casserole" for the best dish, have some drinks, play some games...and then the debauchery starts. Some are more into it than others. Some are specifically into certain other people. All wake up a bit...awkward. And then go back about their lives. And then do it again. Hell, it's 1969 (as evidenced by the Manson family murders and the moon landing), free love, all that stuff, why not have a little fun? Eventually the fun does give way to more serious ramifications, and there's a pretty good shock that changes everything. For a while it's fun to revel in the campy, sexy, nostalgia, but the ending shows that this is a movie with a little more thought and heart than just nostalgia. While the characters might be dumb (or at least selfish), they are smartly written and the story is pretty solid. Oh yeah, and maybe I'm making something out of nothing, but I noticed that a lot of the male characters had feminine names--Connie (short for Conrad), Leslie, etc. It seems likely that means something.
CASSEROLE CLUB does not play again in Indiefest, but you can pre-order the DVD from their website.
And then I ended the night with THE COLOR WHEEL. I hate saddling a film with the label "mumblecore," particularly if I don't know whether the filmmaker embraces the term or not (personally, I think it is poorly defined and too often used dismissively.) I will say that it's black and white, shot on 16 mm, and mostly features the two main characters talking to each other--take from that what you will. Colin (director/co-writer Alex Ross Perry) is going on a road trip with his sister JR (Caren Altman) to help her move stuff out of her professor/ex-lover's apartment. They joke with each other with a significant amount of hostility, and they run into some pretty strange characters (the Christian hotel clerk was particularly creepy), have a lot of awkward times, and...well I won't spoil it beyond saying the ending is pretty controversial.
I think this is the type of movie where you have to decide quickly if you care about the characters, because if you don't care about them the movie would just be tedious. And I have a feeling that it might come down to just my mood at the exact moment I start watching. Luckily, I was in the mood to enjoy the company of these characters. I loved the playful, natural, affectionate hostility between JR and Colin. Perhaps because I have a lot of siblings (I'm one of six kids) that I found their relationship accurate and endearing. Everyone with a sibling knows exactly how to push his or her buttons, everyone with a sibling knows their buttons will get pushed, and we all know how to avoid falling for the button-pushing. Most importantly, we all know that as hostile as we can get with each other, family counts on family, even when some family members can't really be counted on (disclaimer: this comment is in reaction to the movie, not to my family, every member of which is absolutely perfect.)
This will be my 11th year of seeing everything at Indiefest (well, it will be after I catch NO LOOK PASS at either Cinequest or SFIAAFF. I just couldn't fit it into my Indiefest schedule.) I like to give an informal award to the film that is my "reward for seeing everything." That is the film I end up loving even though I had no anticipation for it. So something like CHOP or DISCO EXORCIST would be ineligible because I always look forward to genre films. This year BULLHEAD got the Oscar nomination press, so it's not eligible. GREEN is from filmmakers I met at Cinequest a couple of years back and have been waiting for a chance to see it, so it's not eligible. Perhaps if I had been paying more attention and seen that THE COLOR WHEEL was on a number of lists of best unreleased films I would have had higher anticipation, but as it is THE COLOR WHEEL is currently my reward for seeing everything. Of course, it's still early in the festival so that could change.
Sadly, THE COLOR WHEEL does not play again at Indiefest. Next it's going up to Seattle for the Northwest Film Forum. You can check out their website, Facebook, or Twitter feed for more information.
Total Running Time: 173 minutes
My Total Minutes: 265,355