First up, the hilarious mockumentary SUNFLOWER HOUR. Sunflower Hour is a children's TV puppet show--think low-quality Sesame Street--created by former porn producer Donald Dirk (oh my God, I didn't get the joke about that name until I wrote it right now. I must be tired.) They're looking for a new puppeteer, and the auditions have narrowed it down to four total freaks. There's Shamus O'Reilly, a proud, hard-living Irishman who might really have a split personality with his puppet. There Leslie Handover, an evangelical Christian who wants to use puppetry to teach children the evils of homosexuality. There's hot (wait, let me check something...yes, she's of legal age, so I'll go with "hot") goth chick Satan's Spawn who wants to destroy society and raise an army of anarchists...through puppetry. And there's David Spencer, the one guy who seems to really get the spirit of Sunflower Hour, probably because his brothers are always beating the crap out of him and puppets are his only friend. The story progresses with few un-telegraphed surprises, but with plenty of laughs. Plenty of dirty, dirty, profane, laughs. Oh yeah, these puppets aren't for children.
Next up was CODE 2600. A documentary on the history of hacking, computer security, and the current state of online privacy. It throws a ton of information at the audience, starting with the phone phreakers of the 1950's (the title comes from the 2600 Hz tone used to control the phone system.) It plays with--often confirming--the hacker stereotype of awkward kid in his parent's basement. It explains how the keyboard-only hacking shown in movies is really a rare "trick shot" and how so much more of it is based on human behaviors. Smoking by a busy door and jumping in when someone exits is a common trick. So is returning a "lost" USB key to the front desk. It gets into some pretty wild stuff when they show a modified iPhone used to hack into a computer at an Internet Cafe. It also makes the case that the Internet with enough security that we're all "safe" is an Internet nobody would want to use. And most intriguingly, it ends with a pretty compelling case that we shouldn't be lecturing today's children about online dangers. They know it so much better they should be deciding how they want to use it and then explain it to the older generation.
As I said, it gives you lots of information, but it's really too wide-ranging and rambling for an 82 minute movie. I'd much rather have seen a separate documentary on phreaking, or the birth and growth of the personal computer, or the current state of online security, or the debates about security vs. freedom online.
For some reason, the short MUTANT didn't play with CODE 2600. That seems to be an error nearly no one noticed. Oops on Cinequest.
But at least the next show remembered its short. 27 is the story of a Belgian man at the "dangerous" age of 27, walking through life, thinking he has it figured out, giving to those younger than him, challenging his elders, ready to take on the world--or at least his girlfriend.
That led into another documentary, but this one was as anti-technology as you can get. CLOSE TO HEAVEN opens with a Transylvanian proverb that when God made the world, he put his hand on a spot he particularly liked in order to bless it. When he pulled his hand back, bits of stuck to it and were drawn up, creating the Carpathian Mountains. And then we go through an entire year on a farm in the Carpathians, at the home of Dmitru Stanciu and his wife and son. Raising sheep, shearing them, scything the grass, making cheese and polenta (which looked delicious. More food featured in a Cinequest movie. Perhaps that's the theme of the year?) But you know, what they do is less important that how the movie looks. If you try to look at the story (as one friend of mine did) it will be boring as hell. This movie is all about the cinematography. Beautiful shots of fields, sheep, farm life, all expertly composed. In fact, if there was a photo-book of this movie it would be just about as good as watching the film itself. I'll admit, trying to follow anything with a story tired me out, and there were bits where I dozed off. But every time I opened my eyes, there was another beautiful scene in front of me. It's the perfect sort of movie to constantly wake up to.
Then I headed over to the VIP Soiree at 360 Residences catered by Restaurant O (neither of which are proud member of the Cinequest Dining Circle...what the hell, man? But at least there was free beer and a little bit of food left by the time I got there. Apparently I missed out on the chicken skewers.)
Then I was back at the Camera 12 for Shorts 3: Give and Take
15 SUMMERS LATER: An odd movie shot entirely in one long shot, about two lovers on the beach and the weird man from her past who shows up and makes trouble.
THE DAY EVERYTHING CHANGES BETWEEN US: Two guys and a girl sharing an apartment in New York, living and loving in their isolated world, until outside events start to expand their world in frightening ways.
RAJU: A German couple adopts an Indian orphan. He then disappears in the market, and in looking for them they find out some horrible truths.
THE RECORDER EXAM: A little Korean girl has to practice the recorder for her upcoming exam, but has constant obstacles. Her mean brother, he unsupportive parents, her old recorder that doesn't sound very good. An interesting look at the world through the eyes of a little girl, but in the end I was left wondering what it all added up to. I just wanted to know how she was graded on the exam.
QUEEN: It's hard enough to adopt as a gay couple, but when they break up it's even harder to adopt as a single...mother? In any case, this drag queen has a tough life, but perseveres in this stellar performance by Ryan Eggold.
YOUNG SOULS: Dancing...lots of cool, cool dancing. But what does it all mean? Seriously, I liked but didn't get this movie.
And finally, I ended the night with the Hungarian police thriller. HUNTING SEASON. In the opening scene, a young woman's hand is discovered in a swamp. That spurs an investigation led by veteran/mentor-nearing-retirement Ferman and his two assistants--volatile Idris and newbie Hasan, who is an anthropology student writing a thesis on why serial killers are a uniquely Western phenomena. At times playful (like when Idris tricks Hasan into shaking hands with the severed hand) and more often deadly serious, they go through suspects while always keeping in mind Ferman's mantra of looking at things from a different point of view. To be honest, I dozed off a bit in the beginning, so by the time I really caught up with what was going on, they had narrowed it down to one suspect. They just didn't have proof...or motive...or much of anything. But they did have an old man who had briefly been married to the deceased (and underage) girl, and the old man likes to play games and philosophize about hunting. Ultimately, the second half of the movie is a battle of wits between the old man and Ferman, with some rather interesting surprises (okay, anyone who was awake through the whole thing, let me know if the surprises were really as surprising as I thought they were.)
Then I just had time for one quick beer with Kathleen and Carlos at the Fairmont hotel bar before I had to grab my train home. And that was Thursday at Cinequest. Now we're about to start the giant final weekend. If I don't blog again until Monday, I'm sorry but I'm probably having too much fun and no free time. If I don't get back to blogging by the middle of next week, or if nobody sees me at the SF Asian American Film Festival starting Monday (I start with THE SPACE IN BACK OF YOU at 6:45 Monday,) call the authorities because something happened!
Total Running Time: 526 minutes
My Total Minutes: 272,007