First, after a couple of warm-up Stella Artois (official sponsor beer of Cinequest. Sponsor beer always tastes better.) I was over to the Camera 12 for my first movie.
We started with my new favorite short, ZOLTAN, THE HUNGARIAN GANGSTER OF LOVE. I have a hard time deciding what my favorite part of it was. It was either when he went to the barber who looked like Hitler, or when the big fight was going to happen and I thought to myself, 'I hope it's a dance-off' and then (SPOILER ALERT) it totally was! I wanna be a Hungarian gangster of love. In fact, I even tweeted that in real time.
So I was tweeting in a theater--against all my sense of decency--because the feature encouraged that. It was the documentary TWITTAMENTARY. Let me just list some of the tweets I made with some added commentary.
[Clearly I'm off to a rousing start.]
There are millions of people who trust twitter? Really? I don't know any of them.
Apparently, Twitter lives in Grand Central Station?
[Sorry I forgot the hashtags on that one.]
[I got into a mini-debate over whether those were subtitles or tweets displayed on screen. Both were happening, but there was quite clearly a lot of times when people were speaking in real life (not just reading tweets) and they were subtitled. I shouldn't let this bother me as much as it does...but it does.]
Anyway, then I was off to a good documentary, starting with the short DEAF NOT DUMB. They turn off the sound and deaf ASL poets jam about...well, about how they are deaf, but not dumb. It would have made a good pairing with DEAF JAM from SF Indiefest (although maybe a little too on-the-nose.)
Then we got to JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET. Jason Becker was a rock guitar prodigy. He was a rapidly rising star, and was lined up for the gig to be David Lee Roth's new guitarist. And then he got ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease.) He was given 3-5 years to live. But now it's over 20 years later. He is confined to a wheelchair, communicates only through eye movements (but communicates well) and, most amazingly, still composes music. It's the sort of story that even if the filmmaking was crap, it would still be an amazing, compelling, and inspiring story. But first time feature director Jess Vile nailed it. He drew on a ton of home videos, interviews, and old news articles to tell the whole story of a rock star on the rise. If anything, his disease and fall come in too late, considering that the audience knows all along what's going to happen. But I think we can all be forgiven for wanting to spend a few more minutes living in the world when Jason Becker was still walking on stage and ripping off amazing guitar riffs. I think what amazed me the most is how Jason still has a wicked (and kind of childish) sense of humor. My favorite part was during the Q&A when he was asked how it felt to see his story on screen, and he responded, "It's about time, dammit!"
Oh yeah, I guess I should tell you that Jason Becker (who is a Bay Area native, from Richmond) and his whole family were there along with Jesse Vile. And it was just awesome to see him.
The only problem was I couldn't bring myself to miss the Q&A, so instead of catching MARIACHI GRINGO (which I will catch Saturday) I caught a later screening of FIVE HOURS SOUTH. Which wouldn't have been bad, except that FIVE HOURS SOUTH is the SAMUEL BLEAK of 2012 (look at my coverage of last year's Cinequest to understand how much I hated SAMUEL BLEAK.)
So FIVE HOURS SOUTH is based on a true story. When he was young, Luca saw his best friend gunned down because they were all involved in drug dealing. Now grown up, Luca is a policeman and his other surviving childhood friend is a nightclub owner who of course is still involved with drugs. Okay, this could be a kind of cliched story but two friends on opposite sides of the law can have a lot of drama. But you know what would be even more compelling? What if Luca quit his job to try out for a dance show? Really, of all the possible dramatic stories (I don't care about SPOILERS, but his friend ends up killed) that's the one you go with? And that's not even the problem, it's just poorly done all around. He has a powerful line about how he's "not a quitter!" after he just quit the police force. His main competition, Energy, must have been named ironically given how little he does. In the first day of practice, the instructor insists she will work them all really hard, then calls it a day about 2 minutes in. Oh, and it's almost all in English, despite being set in Italy. In fact, a few characters speak Italian sometimes, so I'm to believe this takes place in the part of Italy where people mainly speak English? Is that true? I don't know...and really, I don't care.
So luckily I followed it with an absolute masterpiece, F.W. Murnau's FAUST. Epic sets, costumes, cinematography, and story (and LOVE, I think Murnau is under-appreciated for the amorous elements of his films.) Dennis James shaking the house with the mighty Wurlitzer organ and the theremin. Mark Goldstein providing the devilish counterpoint with the Buchla Lightning Wands. That might have just been the greatest cinematic event I've ever witnessed (at least until NAPOLEON later this month.)
Also, as a complete aside, it was cool learning Dennis James is on Facebook, so I friended him right away to keep track of when he's in town.
Then I had to rush a bit from the California to the San Jose Rep just as the opening credits rolled for MIXED KEBAB. It was a really nice story of love and intolerance. Bram is a Belgian of Turkish descent, a Muslim, and a homosexual, although he is arranged to marry his cousin back in Turkey and bring her to Belgium. He keeps his sexual orientation secret from his family, of course, and especially from his brother who is kind of a no-good punk. But when he travels to Turkey to arrange the wedding, he brings his boyfriend Kevin along but still tries to keep their relationship a secret (I figured he clearly wanted to be outed.) I really liked the obvious parallels between prejudice against homosexuals and prejudice against Muslims in Belgian (which makes it all the more interesting that the Muslims in the movie were the worst homophobes.) And I have to say, without giving away too much of a spoiler, there is a fake-out ending that nearly ruined everything, just before the "good" ending.
Then I went over to the at Pagoda Restaurant and Bar at the Fairmont (proud member of the Cinequest Dining Circle) just for a few drinks before heading to the midnight movie.
So finally I ended the night with GEORGE THE HEDGEHOG, a sick, profane cartoon (think Fritz the Cat) from Poland. George is a hard-drinking womanizing hedgehog, and a hero to all. And then a mad scientist clones him, and shit goes absolutely crazy. And I was drunk enough that I'm pretty sure I was still laughing my ass off even when I was falling asleep. I know I was awake enough to make a comment during the "rapture" scene (my friend Roy can attest to that.) I also felt like these were all clearly pre-existing characters, like this was a TV show jumping to the big screen. I was close, it's a comic book series.
Total Running Time: 559 minutes
My Total Minutes: 272,571