Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 7

Wow, I'm exhausted and I haven't even quite reached the halfway point. This used to be easier. I think I have extra stresses dragging my spirits down.

Aaah, enough of my whining, let's get to the movies.

The first program started with the short CIGARETTES AND DEATH. Two girls become instant friends based on the most tenuous of connections--the desire to commit suicide. Specifically, one wants to die young and pretty, one is just obsessed with death and wants to watch her die. Very cool and funny.

That was paired with the feature film, GREEN. This was one I was very excited to see. It was directed by and stars Sophia Takal, the star of GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY. It stars her, her partner and GABI director Lawrence Levine, and Kate Lyn Sheil (Julia in THE COLOR WHEEL.) Oh yeah, I was even more excited when I learned they were frequent collaborators with the team from THE COLOR WHEEL (director/star Alex Ross Perry appears in a brief party scene in the beginning.) Which is all to say that maybe I had built up my expectations too high, because my first reaction was disappointment. I don't know, it just didn't quite grab me like these other movies did. My second reaction was that I should give it another chance. There's a lot to acknowledge is well done in this movie. In particular, I liked the realism of the small talk chatter--there's something charming about three people sitting around a campfire naming as many cheeses as they can think of. And I liked the culture clash of hipsters vs. hicks. And although I've never been a woman, nor one who is prone to jealousy, I am told that the portrayal of friendship turning into paranoid jealousy (one meaning of the "Green" of the title) is accurate and insightful.

Genevieve and Sebastian (Sheil and Levine) are New York intellectuals who go to the countryside so he can try a season of organic farming and write about it (in one particularly funny scene, he complains about clearing rocks and if he can't get his crops planted he'll have nothing to write about. Talk about misplaced priorities, most people plant crops so they'll have something to eat.) There they meet local girl Robin (Takal, sporting quite a hick accent.) Since Sebastian is absorbed in his farming/writing, Genevieve and Robin become friends. And soon they are frequently dining together and talking like friends (although there's always a bit of smug intellectual superiority that Sebastian and Genevieve feel towards Robin.) Soon that transitions into Robin and Sebastian being closer friends and Genevieve getting all paranoid (including paranoid fantasy sequences featuring Robin and Sebastian getting it on, so that's nice.) And then it ends in a somewhat shocking way, that to me felt like an unfinished thought.

Oh, I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention some projection problems. I'm hesitant to blame my disappointment on this, because I'm a proponent of the philosophy that if you're paying attention to the projection rather than the story, the story has already lost you. But with that said, the Little Roxie is not a great place to watch movies (which is a shame, because they often play great movies.) There was the normal warping of the screen which is always an issue but I've pretty much trained my eyes to see around it. The resolution was poor, and there were scenes where the lighting was blown out--I'm not sure if these were in the movie (and intentional) or the projection was just bad. And there were a few minutes early in the movie where the image was (for lack of a better word) pulsating. I'm pretty sure that wasn't intentional. And I really only mention this because I know some people who saw THE COLOR WHEEL in the Little Roxie and didn't like it. They specifically mentioned how bad it looked. But I saw it in the Big Roxie and it looked great. So I can't help but wonder if I saw it on a better screen if GREEN would also be better.

In any case, I was back in the Big Roxie for the second show of the night, SIRONIA. Based on the music (and more loosely inspired by the life) of Wes Cunningham, who plays Thomas. Thomas was a successful singer/songwriter. He had a moderately successful first album, and just finished recording his second. But the studio heads don't like it, the singer/songwriter thing isn't hot anymore, and so they decide to bury it (and him). The only work his agent (Jeremy Sisto, in a fine cameo) can get him is writing songs for a brainless pop star to sing for a movie soundtrack. He hates this, it's beneath him, and so he and his newly pregnant wife Molly (Amy Acker) move to Sironia, Texas (actually, Waco) to be near Molly's brother Chad (Tony Hale) and his family (particularly cute is Stella Otto as little Heather, who adores her uncle Thomas.) There they experience a bit of culture shock, but Thomas actually kind of digs the "real life" with all it's simple quirks like mutton busting. But "real life" doesn't go all that well with being really broke. So Thomas takes a job he doesn't really like (helped along by Chad) but never really gives up on his dream. Which is a problem, because his dream isn't working out and he starts replacing it with getting drunk hitting on college girls. In a way, this movie is the antidote for the inspirational "never give up on your dreams" movie. It's a more realistic take, a sort of "if your dreams don't work and chasing your dream is destroying your family, maybe you should try a different dream and who knows, maybe you'll love it" story. Chad tells a story in the movie that I think sums it up pretty well. He talks about how he went to law school and his plan was always to ace the bar exam and then get a high paying job in a prestigious firm. Then he failed the bar (a few times.) And moved to Sironia, took a few jobs, ending up working for a community service organization, found out he loved it, and now he's saving the world (or his little corner of it) and probably happier than he would have been otherwise. A nice message, solid acting, well made film, and oh yeah, the music is pretty darn good, too (and everyone at the screening got a CD of five songs from the movie.)

And that was last Wednesday at Indiefest. More to come soon.

Total Running Time: 188
My Total Minutes: 265,717

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