Monday, July 23, 2012

Jason goes to Jewfest North--Day 3

Okay, three movies last night (Sunday) so here we go.

First up I saw the first ever adaptation of a Judy Blume book, TIGER EYES. And she was there along with the film's director (and her son) Lawrence Blume. Now I have to confess that while I've always known about her work, I don't think I've actually read any Judy Blume. But I can say that if the movie is any indication then the reputation she has of being able to tell a very realistic story from a young person's point of view is entirely deserved. It's the story of Davey Wexler (Willa Holland,) a high school girl in Atlantic City whose father just passed away. Her mom can't cope, so they (she, her mom, and her brother) go to live with her aunt and uncle in Los Alamos (where her uncle is a world class topic, but I've noticed physicists are a recurring theme in the festival so G-d is telling me to get back in the physics game.) So she is simultaneously dealing with the loss of her beloved father and the culture shock of moving to a place where the atomic bomb wasn't just built but is a centerpiece of civic pride and the economy is still based on weapons research there (just to underline the death theme more.) It brilliantly captures that difficult time in a young persons life when adults can't seem to understand (or at least convince you they understand) at the best of times, much less in times of great trauma. In fact, her best comfort is a Native boy (Tatanka Means) who calls himself Wolf (she, in response, names herself Tiger, leading to the title) and helps her really just by letting her know she's not alone. Plus, he's got a scholarship to Caltech, go Beavers! Anyway, no need for plot elaboration, I'll just say that all the acting was pretty great, the story was compelling, and I'm still impressed at how well it got into Davey's point of view.

Next up was the international premiere of the third season of ARAB LABOR (specifically episodes 1, 2, and 4.) I was a little worried because I had missed seasons 1 and 2 (although season 1 is now on it's way from But no worries, it was pretty easy to jump in. The bumbling hero of the series is Amjad, a Palestinian living in Jewish neighborhood in Israel. In the first episode of season 3, he learns that his mere presence is driving property values down. He's determined to change attitudes towards Arabs the only way he knows how--by going on the Israeli version of Big Brother. But his first challenge is to try to pass as a Jew, and hilarity ensues. The rest of the season trades on his new found nationwide fame, and in episode 2 he gets into trouble from all sides. Seems like if he's popular in the Israeli media, he's hated in the Arab village where his parents live. But a series of incidents that mix politics and urine keep changing the national view of him. Oh, and he has a new grandson (from his daughter and her Jewish husband) and the question of his circumcision is also forefront. Not whether to do it or not (since it's both a Jewish and Muslim tradition) but what ceremony to use and who makes the cut. And finally, in episode 4 the BBC comes to interview him for a piece on the difficulties of an Arab living in Jerusalem, but with his fame all he can give them is a perceived insult from an overpriced cookie shop. Really funny, and made me want to eat cookies (but then, most things make me want to eat cookies.)

Next up, we were treated to an interview with Elliot Gould, the winner of this year's Freedom of Expression award at the festival. He talked at length and with humor about his career, his process, and his ambitions (in my favorite part, he said his greatest ambition was to be a great-great-grandfather, but so far he's happy just to be a grandfather and we'll see how far he can take it.)

Well, all that was a lead up to his new film DORFMAN, where he plays a widower and father of two. The elder is his son Daniel, who owns an accounting firm, is married, is trying to have a child, and seems to have his life together. His daughter Deb, on the other hand, is a work in progress. She works for Daniel at the firm, helps out everyone (including living with and feeding her depressed father) but doesn't really have herself together. When her best friend (and secret crush) goes on assignment to Kabul (he's a journalist/vlogger) she volunteers to look after his cat and fix up his new downtown L.A. loft (he just moved in and everything is in boxes.) Once there, she meets a very helpful/sexy/womanizing Egyptian neighbor Cookie who helps show her around "D-town" and helps set up the loft. And the process of making over the loft leads to a makeover in herself, a sexy new look and attitude. She changes from a frumpy valley girl to a sexy D-town chick, and even her father moving in and discoveries about her brother's...imperfections barely get in her way. Okay, they get in her way a lot, with humorous results. And that's really the most important thing--it's funny. And once you have that, you can tie in the themes of renewal and learning to live your life. But most important, it's funny.

And that's Day 3 of SFJFF, 2012 edition.

Total Running Time: 264
My Total Minutes: 292,618

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