Friday, November 30, 2012

Jason goes to Holehead--Day 2

Two more films last night, in the only night in the Victoria for Holehead this year. Today (Friday) we move to our traditional home of the Roxie for a week before having the final weekend in the intimate confines of the Vortex Room (fair warning, if you want to see anything at the Vortex room, it's an awesome space but there's only room for about 50 people, and the passholders will take up about a third of that. So get tickets early because it's likely to fill up.)

Anyway, the first show was supposed to start with a short called SACKED. But...something to do with the DVD not arriving or not working and no backup...anyway, it was cancelled. Sucks, but I've come to expect at least one technical screwup like that in every Holehead. Doesn't mean it doesn't suck, though.

Anyway, the first feature was A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE, and I have to give them credit for attacking the zombie genre with a ton of slapstick glee. There's a zombie hunting duo of a psychotic, heavily armed old man (with a fondness for tactical bacon) and a young female researcher who wrote the book on zombies and carries an unexplained mystical orb that glows and points the way to zombies. Then there's the vacationing couples. The engaged couple--the nice corporate conflict resolution specialist and his domineering bitch of a fiance. And the other couple is his sister and her husband/his best friend. Well, long story short he gets bit by a mosquito full of zombie blood and starts turning. But he also resists the infection pretty well, I assume because of his awesome conflict resolution skills. And that's the source of most of the slapstick. He finds that he's impervious to pain and eating anything other than brains makes him throw up (it's just a dietary restriction!) Like most slapstick, some gags work and some fall flat. I wasn't really getting into the movie until the big projectile vomit scene. Ultimately, it was pretty fun, although [SPOILER ALERT!!!] I really wanted that bitch of a fiance to die in the end. Oh yeah, and it had a cute little bunny in it!

Next up was FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS a movie about meta-movies that's so meta it crawls up its own ass, out its mouth, and back up its ass again (maybe 5 more times. It's like the INCEPTION of head-up-your-ass movies.) People Persons has gone off to Hollywood to become a star. But celebrity has changed him, so he goes back to San Francisco to reconnect with his roots and mend fences with his former friends, chiefly Sherman Firecracker, the struggling auteur behind such ideas as THE KILLING FIELDS...on ice! When they get together they decide ultimately to make a movie called...FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS about People Persons (playing himself) returning to San Francisco and reconnecting with his friends to make a low movie. But the lines between the movie and reality get so blurred that he doesn't know if he's fake killing his friends in a movie or really killing them in real life. And that's just the first half, before it contorts itself into yet more layers of reality/artifice (and, of course, the whole thing is just a movie anyway.) I think it started as a clever idea, maybe good for a 20-30 minute short, tops. But stretching it out to 87 minutes it just ended up dragging on, and on, and on. When someone yelling, "cut" and revealing one more layer of movie-making isn't surprising but annoying, you should stop.

Total Running Time: 174 minutes
My Total Minutes: 305,139

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jason goes to Holehead--Opening Night

San Francisco's premiere (and to my knowledge, only) horror, fantasy, and sci-fi film festival kicked off last night at the Terra Gallery. I had a few beers and then settled in for the opening night film, Richard Elfman's FORBIDDEN ZONE.

The black and white version of FORBIDDEN ZONE actually played as a midnight movie at Another Hole in the Head back in 2007, and as a result of my write-up my blog is still (as of the time of this writing) the #1 Google search result for "Richard Elfman's taint."

He mooned the audience again twice more before the movie and twice after during the Q&A. I swear it's to the point where I could pick his ass out of a lineup more easily than my own.

Anyway, the festivities started with the old Betty Boop/Cab Calloway cartoon MINNIE THE MOOCHER (1932), since that is one of the obvious influences on FORBIDDEN ZONE.

And then we were treated to a teaser trailer for FORBIDDEN ZONE 2: FORBIDDEN GALAXY. I really hope it's finished soon. The Youtube trailer says 2012. The one I saw last night was exactly the same but said 2013. I hope it isn't in development hell forever (and Richard insisted he can still bully his little brother Danny Elfman around, so he will have to come back as the devil and possibly more.)

Anyway, on to the feature, FORBIDDEN ZONE. Here's what I wrote back in 2007:
I'd never seen this 1980 [Note: it's actually from 1982, this was a special 30th anniversary screening. I don't know how I got that wrong. --Jason] cult classic from the brother of composer Danny Elfman (who scores the film with his Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo and appears as Satan himself), and after watching it, I'm still not sure if I've seen it. An odd bit of black and white comic surrealism, the Hercules family lives in a house with a secret passage to the Sixth Dimension, where Herve Villachez is king, there's a frog servant, and...what the fuck did I just watch? I'm not even going to bother. I've seen some strange-ass movies in my time, but this one walks that fine line of having just enough pretense of a plot to make you think you should be able to follow it. You can't, don't try.
Okay, well the biggest superficial difference is that it's now colorized. In the Q&A, Richard revealed his original plan, before he ran out of money, was to have the Forbidden Zone sequences hand-tinted in the manner of old silent films. He says the new colorized version is the only one he can watch anymore. However, after hearing that my favorite version is the one that only exists in my mind--where the "real world" is black and white and the Forbidden Zone is hand-tinted colors, like some sort of even more demented acid trip version of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Speaking of which, Richard Elfman also admitted he doesn't do drugs (although I can confirm he drinks.) This actually doesn't surprise me. It in fact reminds me of the Alejandro Jodorowsky quote, "I try to do with cinema what Americans do with recreational drugs." You don't need (recreational) drugs if you already have these images in your head.

I was also surprised to learn Richard Elfman was once part of the Cockettes, the notorious San Francisco drag musical theater group. I don't know if he knows the Thrillpeddlers have been reviving the Cockettes' musicals as part of their Theater of the Absurd. Now I shall fantasize about a Thrillpeddlers Forbidden Zone collaboration.

But, most importantly, I think I started to understand what's going on in the movie. I'm beginning to understand some of the machinations of King Fausto, Queen Doris, Princess Polly, etc. I still don't know what the giant frog-headed servant is about. But I'm becoming convinced that if I watch it enough, it will all make sense. And that scares me. Which is what Holehead is all about. So I guess it's off to a great start!

Total Running Time: 83 minutes
My Total Minutes: 304,965

Jason watches WRECK-IT RALPH

And I kind of enjoyed it, possibly despite my better judgement.

But first, there was a short animated film, PAPERMAN. A simple love story between a man, a woman, and a whole lot of airborne paper (with a BRAZIL homage in there, but I guess from the "Love Conquers All" version of BRAZIL.) It was cute and simple and more than a little old-fashioned. Not just in how it actually uses traditional hand-drawn animation, but in how it's a silent (that is, dialogue-free,) mostly black-and-white film.

And then the feature, WRECK-IT RALPH. It's hook is as a nostalgia trip through a world of classic 8-bit video games (it's possible the most unrealistic conceit isn't that video game characters have lives of their own, it's that a video arcade would still be in business today.) John C. Reilly voiced the title character, a video game villain who is tired of getting no respect. As he says, "It's hard to love your job if everyone hates you for doing it." So he goes rogue, or in the lingo of the video games, "goes turbo" (explaining what that means would be too much of a spoiler.) He escapes into other games and starts, well, wrecking everything. Not on purpose, that's just sort of what he does. And along the way he meets a glitchy little adorably annoying girl in a candy-themed racing game (voice of Sarah Silverman.) That relationship is the real heart of the film, and takes it from being a gimmicky nostalgia trip to a real character-driven story. And the story is sweet, kind of sappy, predictable but still pretty exciting.

And then after the movie I thought about the message for a while. On the one hand, it has a dignified, blue-collar moral of the value of honest work, and how nobody appreciates the valuable lower-rung laborer until he's gone. On the other hand, it's also a message about the dangers of trying to go "against the program." Learn to be happy with your lot in life, and never reach for anything better. And that's why I say I might have enjoyed it against my better judgement.

Total Running Time: 108 minutes
My Total Minutes: 304,883

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jason watches LINCOLN

And it's good, really good. Daniel Day-Lewis is, of course, brilliant and disappears in the role of Lincoln. I'd call him a lock for an Oscar but then I remember Joaquin Phoenix in THE MASTER and I'm torn. In any case, Daniel Day-Lewis creates an Abraham Lincoln who is full of good humor and illustrative stories (even echoes of Jesus' fondness for parables), and equal parts courage, righteousness, wisdom, and guile. It's that guile--the political machinations that contort the conscience all in effort of the greater good--that's the backbone of the story. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It's a well written, engaging story. It eschews the 'whole life arc' that bogs down too many biopics, instead focusing on arguably the most important month of Lincoln's career. That would be January of 1865, just after his re-election, as he tries to push the 13th amendment (you know, that anti-slavery one) through a bitter, divided, and partisan House of Representatives.

Throwing the audience in the middle of this with not context might be a bit jarring with other figures, but I think it's safe to assume that pretty much everyone who sees this movie knows who Lincoln was and knows that America fought a civil war over slavery. I.e., it's not really without context, it just trusts the audience to bring the context into the theater with them and figures (rightly) that spoon-feeding the audience would be more insulting than enlightening. As such, I'm curious how it plays overseas to audiences who don't know as much about Lincoln and the American Civil War (how much is generally known about Lincoln in other countries?)

It also challenges the oft-told story that the Civil War had more to do with states' rights than slavery. It even obliquely mentions the Lincoln quote that "If I could save the union without freeing any slave I would do it...." (the film mentions he had said it three years earlier, and his position was much more firm as The Great Emancipator now.) In fact, it makes the compelling case that Lincoln could have negotiated a peace in January (instead of the surrender at Appomattox in April, after yet another "spring massacre") but to do so would have scuttled his attempts at getting the 13th amendment ratified. Perhaps to many it was a fight over the principle of states' rights, but to the commander-in-chief, at least by the end of the war (and according to this film), it was a fight over slavery.

All that and I haven't even mentioned my favorite character yet. Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman and fierce proponent of racial equality Thaddeus Stevens. He is the north star of the story's moral compass, while Lincoln is the crafty navigator who knows how to avoid the swamps and canyons in the treacherous path north. His 'I don't hold to equality in all things, only equality under the law' speech is easily my favorite part of the movie. Starting as a craven betrayal of his lofty principles for political expediency, he turns it into a venomous mocking dismissal of his opponents. Absolutely freakin' awesome! And for someone who really knew nothing about him before seeing the film, the big reveal at the end was...well, sweet. He seems a complicated, colorful, and fascinating character. Another movie could be made just about him.

Running Time: 150 minutes
My Total Minutes: 304,535

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jason watches SKYFALL

And yes, its an exciting action thriller worthy of James Bond, if you ignore the plot holes. It also has a ridiculously omniscient super-villain (Javier Bardem) who would be worthy of Batman.

But I digress. The fact is, I've gone on record before saying that as much as I recognize that Daniel Craig is surely the most talented actor to ever play Bond (sorry Sean Connery) he's not actually my favorite Bond (sorry Daniel Craig, I'm still a Sean Connery guy.) And I think I can now articulate why.

In 1995 GOLDENEYE came out ushering in the Pierce Brosnan Bond era. And I was excited, it had been 6 years since Timothy Dalton ended his run in LICENCE TO KILL (still the longest gap between Bond films.) I was in college at the time and asked one of my friends if he was excited that they were making a new Bond film. He replied, "No, because I'm not 12 anymore."

After much thinking, I realized that was what I liked about Bond. His adventures could always take me back to a place where I was emotionally 12 years old and I could fantasize about growing up to be James Bond. And through all the different iterations (even George Lazenby) I could watch the movie and say, "Damn, I wanna be James Bond!" He is the epitome of the classic character who 'all the women want and all the men want to be.'

And then Daniel Craig came in. And the producers decides to make a grittier, tougher, more realistic (if realism means anything in the Bond universe) take on the hero. They starting making Bond movies that appeal your adult side, not your inner 12 year old. And I...just...don't...want...that. I generally forgave CASINO ROYALE (QUANTUM OF SOLACE is kind of a muddle, so let's not speak of it) as an "origin" story with the promise that after some learning curve Craig's Bond would become more like Sean Connery's uber-cool, unflappable Bond. That he'd gain his 'Bond swagger.' But dammit, as unforgettable as the scene of Mads Mikkelsen whipping a naked, chair-bound Daniel Craig in the balls was, at that moment I definitely didn't want to be James Bond.

Well, SKYFALL offers a few glimpses of that Bond swagger. Most notably in the opening action sequence (shown in most of the trailers, so not really a spoiler) when he jumps into a car of a moving train while the cars behind him are destroyed and gives a quick little adjustment to his cuff links. That's a great, classic Bond swagger scene.

But doesn't carry that swagger through. And it's not that he's still learning the ropes, becoming jaded and cool. This is explicitly an older Bond, one who even if he's not pondering retirement others are pondering it for him. But they don't focus on how freaking cool Bond is, they focus on how troubled he is (he wins ultimately by simply being more driven than the psycho bad guy, not by being more talented.) Well, why the hell would I fantasize about being a psychologically damaged alcoholic? Or, more importantly, why would my inner 12 year old fantasize about that? There's really no answer to this question, because this movie isn't aimed at my inner 12 year old. It's aimed at psychologically damaged alcoholics who want to fantasize that they can still be heroes somehow.

Anyway, it really is a pretty good movie, and my rant is my own problem, not the movie's. But it is what it is.

Running Time: 143 minutes
My Total Minutes: 304,385

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 7

For those keeping score at home, yes I skipped day 6. I was at a top secret film club undisclosed location. This (last Wednesday) was also my last day of Docfest for this year, as I have a more important family obligation.

First up, we started with a short film HANGING DOWNTOWN, a brief profile of Jason Escape, a Boston comedian/magician/escape artist/street performer. As the highlight of his act, he is bound in a strait jacket and tied in thick ropes and then hung upside-down 20 feet in the air as he escapes. Pretty wild act, and a pretty interesting guy.

That was the lead-in to WITHOUT A NET, a term which could describe both the circus acts  and the lives of the various young performers in a "social circus" in the ghetto of Rio de Janiero. The circus tent was put up in an abandoned parking lot (since the making of the movie it has been moved to make way for infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and is also under new management.) The owners run the circus and teach circus performing to the youth in the neighborhood as a way to give them self-confidence and keep them away from the drugs and violence of the favela. It's a nice behind-the-scenes look at making the show, but the show is almost secondary from the difficult lives from which the kids are using the circus as an escape. And, it's important to note, more often than not it's a temporary escape. Some go on to professional careers, but for the most part one year later everyone is still just struggling to survive. In a way, it seems a little naive to think that a circus will somehow solve all their problems. And it doesn't...but it is a rare positive element to their lives, and that's important in and of itself.

And then the second show I caught was MARRIED AND COUNTING, the epic love story of Pat Dwyer and Stephen Mosher. Sweethearts since college (in North Texas) they've been together nearly 25 years. And while there are a few places in the U.S.A. where they can get married, in most states they can't. And even if they did, the federal government under DOMA wouldn't recognize it, nor would it force any other state to recognize it (at the time of the beginning of the film, their home state of New York would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, but didn't sanction their own--that changes midway through the film.) So they decide to celebrate their 25 years together by getting married in every state that will allow it (note: civil unions don't count) culminating on their 25th anniversary with a wedding in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Supreme Court. But the politics really takes a back seat to the personal. The two of them fretting over being late to the clerk's office in Vermont for their marriage license is no different than any other couple's wedding jitters (well, I guess it's a little difference, because they had to drive to another state.) You could easily call this an example of making the political personal. But for me they do such an amazing job of opening up their lives and love to the audience that it really highlights the absurd injustice of making their personal lives politcal.

And I want to leave it at that (and add a shout-out to George Takei as the narrator.) It's a beautiful, personal story. So the rest of this post just happens to be a related political rant that is my personal view and is far more strident than anything actually in the film.

I support same-sex marriage (in case you couldn't already tell.) And I prefer to call it marriage instead of "civil union" or "domestic partnership." With that said, for many years I have taken the position that those who support the same rights for same-sex couples but want to keep the word "marriage" for heterosexual couples are allies on this issues. Rights are more important than words, and as long as this is still a fight for rights I'm willing to be flexible on the words. If I could snap my fingers and make same-sex civil unions (with all the rights and privileges of marriage, just not the word) the law of the land across the country, I would consider the battle won and not worry about the words. This has been my position for many years, and continues to be my position. But I don't believe it's the ideal, I believe it's a reasonable goal given the current political climate (heck, even George W. Bush has shown acceptance of civil unions.) It's reasonable to believe universal legal status of civil unions--equal to that of marriage--is an achievable goal and we shouldn't let perfect be the enemy of good by insisting on the word "marriage" (even if it's a preferable word.)

With that said, I would ask everyone who backs civil unions but balks at calling same-sex unions "marriages" consider this: Would you back a law that redefines murder so that the killing of an African American is punishable exactly the same as a "real" murder, but is officially called "nigger-killing?" The legal prohibition on nigger-killing would be exactly the same as, and carry the same punishments, as murder, so all the same legal rights and protections exist, the difference is purely in the word that is used. I suspect most of you are offended by my suggestion (if you're not, kindly get the fuck out of here.) I also suspect many of you will (rightly) find fault with my metaphor (for one, "civil union" was never meant as an epithet.) But I offer this example as a simple illustration of the fact that WORDS... ARE... IMPORTANT.

Total Running Time: 168 minutes
My Total Minutes: 304,259

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 5

Okay, two more shows last Monday, starting with the shorts block Women Warriors:

NATSANAT: The word means "freedom" and is the story of Ethiopian women freedom fighters who sacrificed either years of their lives or their entire lives but were a major part not just of winning freedom but in forming the new government. Really amazing women.

MOTHER ART TELLS HER STORY: The story of feminist mother artists in 70s Los Angeles. Finding a conflict between motherhood and an art career (at least one was told the only way she would ever be a serious artist is to leave her husband and child and devote herself to art full time) they decided to form their own collective and create art based on the themes of motherhood. E.g., performance and poetry in laundromats, "cleaning up" the banks and city hall. They even came under attack from conservative politicians (including Reagan) as a waste of government money (because they got a $700 grant for their laundromat performance. And no, I didn't forget a zero or two in there, $700 was considered a waste of money.) Interesting people and artists, but I thought the movie started to drag as it went into fully detail on everything they did. It's a 40 minute film, and can probably be trimmed to 30.

THE GASKETTES: The fun adventures of an all-girl moped riding gang. Ummm...not much more to say than that. It's fun to watch, the girls are cool, and it's obvious that they're having a lot of fun.

And then there was a movie that blurred the documentary/narrative line while telling a story that blurs the reality/interactive game line. THE INSTITUTE is the story of the Jejune Institute, which is kind of a new-agey cult. And it's the starting point (for many) of a game of Nonchalance. The Jejune Institute promises Nonchalance, but the Elsewhere Public Works Administration (I think that's what they were called, the EPWA) warns that the Institute is selling false Nonchalance and EPWA (and the teachings of Eva Lucien--yes, I'm sure that's a pun on evolution) will give them true Nonchalance. So a bizarre alternate reality game is born, where the city of San Francisco (and the East Bay) become the playground and you never really see the city the same way again. And we meet the designers behind the game, a player who becomes a little too obsessed and thinks its all real, and other players who just had fun with it all. It makes me wish I had somehow gotten sucked up into the game myself. But on the other hand, maybe just seeing a movie about it was enough. Which is good, because the game is basically over (except for the players who are keeping it going, but the game creators aren't doing much anymore.)

Total Running Time: 171 minutes
My Total Minutes: 303,840


Last Sunday night, I had the option of staying at Docfest or heading to Cinema By The Bay for CXL. But like an idiot, I chose Bad Movie Night and KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (aka KISS in ATTACK OF THE PHANTOMS) just because they let me sit in the front row and put a microphone in my hand. I repeat--like an idiot.

At least some of the KISS army were there. Apparently the three hosts were the only ones there as Anthony Zerbe fans. Zerbe is, of course, a well respected character actor who plays the villain Abner Devereaux, ride designer and animatronic genius. In fact, he's such a genius he can turn real people into his animatronic slaves just by soldering a single resistor on his neck. And for the record, the stupid part of the movie is that KISS has super powers. The Demon (Gene Simmons) breathes fire. Star Child (Paul Stanley) can...hear what people are saying far away by looking with his star eye? Space Ace (Ace Frehley) can teleport. And Cat Man (Peter Criss) has the power of being a giant pussy.

So that made for a pretty weird night. But I'm proud that I could be mildly funny without being drunk, and I don't think I was a complete asshole. I even refrained from making a racist comment about Ace Frehley's obviously African-American stunt double (for the record, the joke I was thinking but didn't say was, "Look! It's a Hershey's KISS!")

Running Time: 96 minutes
My Total Minutes: 303,669

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 4

I caught three more films at Docfest last Sunday, starting with the dickumentary* THE FINAL MEMBER. Sigurdur Hjartarson runs the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to the collection and display of penises (or "penes" if you prefer) from all different types of mammals. It's been a 30+ year devotion of his (as a teacher in Iceland, part of his philosophy is based on the idea that you should talk about whatever people don't want to talk about.) The movie introduces us to the museum, to Sigurdur, and tells his story somewhat. But the real narrative thrust (sorry for that one) is his quest to complete his collection with the final missing specimen--homo sapiens. And who knew, if you advertised that you wanted to display a human penis in your museum, you get a couple of colorful character. On one side is a famed Icelandic adventurer Pall Arason, now in his 90's, who promises to donate his penis upon his death. There is a little catch, though. According to an Icelandic folk tale, a wife was granted a divorce upon proving her husband's penis was not at least 5 inches long (when erect.) So Sigurdur decides that he will only accept a penis of "legal length," i.e., at least 5 inches. No problem for Pall, know how really old people tend to shrink. I've never thought about it before, but they shrink everywhere. So Pall is afraid that he might shrink to under 5 inches before he passes away (either that or he was exaggerating his size before and now he's having second thoughts.) In any case, Pall has competition from America, in the form of Tom and his penis Elmo (named before the Sesame Street character.) Tom wants Elmo to be a worldwide celebrity (he even has a website, obviously NSFW.) And is even willing to donate Elmo before he dies just to ensure Elmo's fame. I don't want to give too much away, but Tom/Elmo at first are kinda eccentric, then they seem batshit crazy, and finally they turn out to be kind of interesting. There are actually more reasons than just fame that Tom is willing to separate with Elmo.

This is a movie that really should be seen with an audience. The reactions--giggling, gasping, wincing, etc.--are a big part (sorry, no pun intended) of the fun.

So, after we've taken an in-depth look at the penis, let's explore for a moment what we put in our mouth. Yup, a short and a feature about food.

First up was the short MURDER MOUTH. A young Australian lady decides to explore food and her Greek heritage by saying she will not eat anything she is not able to kill. Broccoli is easy. Fish, less so. Chicken, even less. And lamb...well that was really tough. But now she has earned her right to eat meat. And after a lamb dinner where her family and friends are teasing her for being so squeamish, she gets to turn the tables and show them the footage of her killing their dinner. It's definitely playful, but with a pretty powerful statement about our relationship with our food.

Then the feature, EATING ALABAMA. Director Andrew Grace and his wife Rashmi move back to Alabama, a state and culture he's always had a sort of conflicted relationship with. For many generations--up until his grandfather--his ancestors were farmers. Even when his grandfather left the farm he still had memories of communal meals with food from local farmers, that was just the simpler, slower pace of life back then. So Andrew and Rashmi try to return to that life, by vowing for one year to not eat anything that was grown outside of Alabama. Suddenly crops become seasonal, meat is locally raised and butchered (or hunted, although spoiler alert: he never actually bags a deer.) Their front yard becomes a garden (which he describes as a very "punk rock" kind of move.) And they explore their relationships with their food. It's an interesting experiment, and something definitely comes out of it. Not exactly what he was looking for (family farming has long given way to agribusiness, to the point where you can't really make a living with a small family farm) but something more than just a movie (he does create a community and does get to enjoy a community meal of seasonal, locally grown foods.) It's pretty interesting because the "locavore" movement has already caught on somewhat among urban communities (especially San Francisco and New York,) and time will tell if that's a real movement or some hippie/hipster fad. But it seems a more natural fit in rural areas, and yet in some ways its harder there.

And finally, I ended my day at Docfest with BALLROOM DANCER, an intimate look at professional competitive dancer Slavik Kryklyvyy (don't make me pronounce that, or even spell it again.) A decade ago he was world champion. Now he's trying to make a comeback with a new partner, Anna. And at first they're falling a little short--coming in third, etc. But that's okay, they're just getting to know their motions and with the familiarity will come success. Or maybe not. Maybe his perfectionism, his inflexibility (mentally and emotionally, physically he's perfectly flexible), and his cruelty will drive a wedge between them and things will get worse and worse until it all falls apart. What's interesting is how little of the movie is told in words. Yeah, there are some words from coaches that shed light, but really you can tell everything from their looks and their movement. It's simultaneously a story about the love of dance and about how obsession can destroy that love. One of the most beautiful moments was just a little girl dancing in the studio. No technique, no skill, just a love of movement that you know had to be the way every dancer started. And then compare it to Slavik who is all technique and skill but you  have to question at times whether any of that love of movement is left, or if it has all been drained by a desire to win.

So that was my Docfest last Sunday.

Total Running Time: 238
My Total Minutes: 303,573

*You don't even want to know how long I debated whether to call it this or a "cockumentary."

Jason goes to Cinema By The Bay and sees AMITY

Instead of sticking around for a fifth documentary at Docfest on Saturday, I had to go to Japantown to see this film. And since I just barely mistimed the bus route, I hoofed it from the Mission to Japantown (specifically, from the Roxie to the New People Center)--approximately 1.7 miles in 30 minutes. So I officially got my exercise. Anyway, on to the film.

By the time an actual female character shows up in Alejandro Adams (AROUND THE BAY, CANARY, BABNIK) newest film AMITY, the female presence is conspicuous through its absence. This is approximately at the 50 minute mark of the 80 minute film. So it's pretty remarkable that the central relationship in the film is actually between a father and his daughter. Or, to be more precise, it's between an absentee, divorced father and his estranged daughter, on the night of her graduation. He has decided to fly in and surprised her by renting a limo for the night for her to party in. But she blows him off and he's left alone with the limo driver. The limo driver happens to be a former military counselor, so he has some insight on the human condition and this guy in particular (who doesn't just have problems connecting with his daughter or ex-wife, he seems to have problems relating well to anyone.) And while the limo driver is an excellent source of insight for the audience, he still doesn't seem to be able to get through to the man.

Oh, and once the female presence is introduced, it sort of goes into overdrive with the limo filling up with drunk, kinda slutty (or at least slutty acting at the moment) women. It's like the movie wants to have just as bad of a relationship with women as its main character does. And it reminded me of something that happened to me on the BART a couple of years ago, that is probably an irrelevant tangent but possibly very relevant.

I was BARTing home (to Fremont, end of the BART line) and there were a couple of young ladies (maybe college students, but probably high schoolers. I'm old enough now that all you young 'uns look alike to me.) They were obviously tipsy and going on and on about how tired they were and how they still had to go to another party after they got off the BART at Fremont. I tend to carry Foosh energy mints on me (to help make it through the 5th movie in a marathon day.) And because I'm a fundamentally nice guy (don't let my Twitter feed fool you) and because I was tired of the girls complaining about how tired they were, I offered them some caffeine mints. One girl looked at it and said, "What are these, roofies!" Then she grabbed one, ate it, grabbed another, and forced it into her friends mouth. Now I am never, ever, ever one to say, "she was asking for it" but I suppose if I were consistently hanging out with women like this, I would probably have a low opinion of them. Maybe the point is I imagine the main character in the movie spending most of his time with women like this (when he's around women at all.)

Yeah, so anyway I'm not sure if that meant anything. And I'm pretty sure I got sidetracked from the movie. Maybe the point is I imagine the main character in the movie spending most of his time with women like that (when he's around women at all.) And I will say that thought bugs me because it feels like I'm blaming those women rather than blaming him for being an unlikable jerk. But I will say Alejandro's movies are consistently provocative, even if I can't always say they were fun to watch.

Running Time: 80 minutes
My Total Minutes: 303,336

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 3

Last Saturday at Docfest started wtih a local interest short + work-in-progress feature + panel discussion, all collectively under the title 780 FREDERICK: The Struggle for Urban Recycling and Community Gardens. First, the short, MY GARBAGE, MY NEIGHBORHOOD started as a film school project by Soumyaa Kapil Behrens. Through it, she became involved in the work of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, and in particular it's recycling buyback center located at 780 Frederick Street, in a corner of Golden Gate Park next to Kezar Stadium. While many see it as a valuable community service, others view it as "ATM for the homeless" who are making the park sooooooo unpleasant. So they're trying to shut down HANC and evict the recycling center and put up a community garden instead (in response, HANC has added a community garden to prove they can live side-by-side.) Opponents of HANC (at least in the film) don't have any plans for where the homeless will go, and since San Francisco has a zero waste law if the recycling center wasn't there the local stores would be forced to buy back recyclables anyway (I guess possibly dispersing the "homeless ATM's" to multiple locations?)

Anyway, Soumyaa is currently expanding the short to a feature called 780 FREDERICK, and we were also treated to some extra footage that was shot for that (my favorite part was the professor who talked about how the homeless have become the new [epithet for black] or [epithet for homosexual]. They're the newest group that you can publicly speak ill about--to the point of wanting to "eliminate" them--without fear of social reproach.

And then we had a fairly long panel discussion on the subject, with Soumyaa and several of the people from the film--ranging from an eviction lawyer to the operator of HANC's recycling center to a veteran who recycles for a bit of extra cash. It was an interesting look at a situation that I (as a former East Bay guy who's now a South Bay guy) didn't really know was going on. And it's pretty clear what side the film, the panel, and the whole audience came down on, so in that regards it was a lot of agreement with no chance to confront the opposing views (although a good amount of that is done in the film.) Still, an interesting and eye-opening way to start the day.

Next up we went DOWNEAST to Maine to open a Lobster processing plant. Gouldsboro, Maine has been hit hard economically ever since its sardine cannery closed down. Enter our hero, Italian immigrant Antonio Bussone, with a grand plan to re-open the factory as a lobster packaging plant. Should be a boon to the hard-hit community, so nobody could possibly oppose it, right? Well, I've noticed one theme of the festival (continuing from BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN and 780 FREDERICK) has been people's problematic relationships with the government. And for Antonio, that problem is mostly with the local selectman (think, "city council member") who happens to be in the lobster business himself. He makes it hard to get grants or loan guarantees to convert the factory (note, there are non-nefarious reasons behind this, mostly that if the plant fails after gettting the loan, the city could be left on the hook to pay off the loan. But in my opinion the movie portrays him more as a villain.) Nevertheless Antonio presses on. And at least for a bit it seems like success is possible. But financing is a constant problem, when one customer's check (for ~$90,000 if I recall correctly) bounces that sets in motion a series of cash-flow catastrophes that lead to his accounts being frozen by the bank. It becomes a horribly depressing tone poem that highlights the difference between the working class (the mostly elderly women who just want the chance to work a long, honest, exhausting day processing seafood and picking up a paycheck at the end) and the investor class (bankers and business owners fighting over financing.) You gotta feel for Antonio, not just because his investment is going down the drain but because you can see him feeling the weight of all the workers who are depending on him. I tend to get pretty cynical about the politics and rhetoric of "job creators" but here's a case where I definitely sympathize with at least one job creator.

BTW, as an update it seems the plant was recently bought by Garbo Lobster, so at least there appears to be a continuation for the workers, even if Antonio's part in the story is over.

Next up, we took THE GREAT LIBERTY to Germany where we learned of the murder of a Swedish man. Jan Settfurs was allegedly killed by his young male lover Florian and his mother (with whom he had an incestuous relationship.) And that's just part of the lurid details. But this isn't a film based on prurient interest. It's the story of Jan's son, Klas who travels to Germany to rediscover his father and piece together the puzzle of his life. It becomes an interesting and challenging film, a reminder that behind every sensationalist headline there's a family member quietly and tragically trying to make sense of it all. Very, very interesting.

And then I ended my day at Docfest by spending some solitary confinement time in HERMAN'S HOUSE. Herman Wallace is a dominant presence and constant voice in the film, even though he's never seen on screen (oops, sorry for the spoiler.) Back in the 60's he was a sort of troubled kid who was sent to jail for his involvement in an attempted bank robbery (he tried to rob a bank with a BB gun.) While he was there, a guard was murdered, and Herman and another man were blamed. They were convicted although later new evidence came to light (fingerprints that didn't match either of them, questions about the truthfulness of other inmates' testimony, etc.) Nevertheless, Herman wasn't just locked up for life, he was sent to solitary confinement. He had been in solitary over 30 years when artist/activist Jackie Sumell. She realized she needed to make Herman think about the outside world--if she can't get him physically outside his cell, at least she can get his mind out. So she had him design--in extraordinary detail--his dream house. His designs are sometimes chilling (architects point out how everything is walled off and compartmentalized, like it was designed by someone with no concept of open space and flow) and sometimes hilarious (my favorite part is the master bathroom has a hot tub exactly one foot longer than his 6' x 8' cell.) Well, that design becomes an art exhibit and becomes the starting point for an effort to actually build Herman's House as a youth community center for at-risk youth in New Orleans (and maybe...just maybe for Herman to live in if his appeals are ever successful.) Well, I don't mean to give away spoilers but that part of the project is not yet successful. But you can go to the project's website to learn more, including how you can contribute.

Total Running Time: 269 minutes
My Total Minutes: 303,256

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 2

Two more movies last Friday, so let's just jump right in.

First up was THE STANDBYS, a movie about the people on Broadway who show up every day, are ready to get on stage and jump into a role at a moment's notice, but rarely do. We meet three performers--Merwin, Ben, and Alena--who do just that. We see the boredom (days when their job is to show up and play video games in the green room because they aren't needed.) We see the struggles and pain (when they aren't invited to the cast events.) We see the triumphs (when they get to go on and win over an audience who is disappointed the star isn't there.) We see on get promoted to lead when the lead quits, and we immediately get to see his standby. And in  some of the best moments, we get to see the three of them together, just telling stories and laughing about the strange life of a Broadway performer (and ending on a fart joke.) It easily becomes clear that this is something that's just in their constitution and for all the difficulty they'll put up with it for the brief opportunities to be on stage for an audience.

Also, as an interesting side notes I didn't realize there are three different types of theater alternates. The understudy is someone who has a smaller role in the company (and so is on stage every performance) but switches to a lead role if the lead can't do it. The standby doesn't have a regular role in the company but is just there to step in if the lead can't go on--often they're paid to be there and do nothing. And then the swing is the craziest job of all--they learn many, many roles and might be called upon to step in for any of a dozen roles. If you have the mental and physical agility (not to mention the vocal range) you can be in danger of being a perpetually in-demand swing. The only problem is the job kind of sucks. Takes more talent and gets less respect than anyone.

Next up was BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN a seven-year saga of the creation of the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. Focusing on the efforts of Daniel Goldstein, who had moved into his beautiful new apartment (bought, not rented) in Brooklyn only to find six months later that a developer wanted to build a fancy new Frank Gehry designed "Atlantic Yards" complex right on the site of his home. Well, he didn't want to move and so he fought it. As part of the Develop, Don't Destroy community group he put forth alternate plans that wouldn't tear down his (and thousand other's) homes, and fought for a fair hearing on the issue. It becomes a story of widespread corruption and either incompetence or indifference in the face of it. His group is only allowed to speak in hearings after the majority of the officials (and all the developers) have left. A community group in favor of the project springs up, but they appear to have ties to the developer (in fairness, I can believe that some of the residents are excited about the project and want it to go forward. It often seems that the fighting inside the community kept them from putting forward a united front to fight the plan and put forth reasonable alternatives.) When it gets into eminent domain issues, it gets really infuriating. In short, eminent domain is supposed to be used for public projects (highways, schools, museums, etc.) not for private enterprises. Even more importantly, to claim eminent domain (at least in New York) the state is supposed to show that the neighborhood is blighted. It wasn't, it was a thriving community and that's exactly why the developer wanted to be there. So they had to create blight where there wasn't any before.

Anyway, I'm getting into the details a bit too much. Spoiler alert (which is obvious to anyone who even casually watches the NBA,) the arena did eventually get built and the Nets play there now. But the movie isn't spoiled one bit by knowing that. The dramatic tension isn't in "who will win?" but "how much more corrupt and idiotic will this process become?" At the end, mayor Bloomberg is seen praising the new arena and claiming no one will remember what it took to build it, they'll only remember that it eventually got done. And that's a shame (and something the film is trying to correct,) because if you don't realize/remember how it got done, more thriving communities can be destroyed to enrich corporate interests.

Total Running Time: 168 minutes
My Total Minutes: 302,987

Friday, November 9, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Opening Night

SFIndiefest's Documentary festival, aka Docfest, started last night, and for the first time they played at the Brava Theater. Beautiful theater, if a bit cold (especially down in front.)

But hey, this isn't about the theater, this is about the film. And Docfest opened with a breezy, entertaining film about unique people and unique cities. WORKING CLASS uses Charle's Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities" as a sort of loose framing device to explore the cities of San Francisco and San Diego (note: where I lived before moving to the Bay Area, so it was cool to see the old hang-outs and beaches again!) and the artists Mike Giant (SF) and Mike Maxwell (SD.) For most of the movie director Jeffrey Durkin interviews them separately, and the cuts make for some funny moments (best part, Maxwell admits that San Francisco Mexican food is better, except for fish tacos. Giant admits that the first thing he does whenever he's in San Diego is get a fish taco.) It's clear that Giant and Maxwell know each other well (Giant can't even remember how they met) and have a lot of fondness for each other and their unique styles. The movie ambles along at it's own breezy but never hurried pace, talking about art, religion, women (and particularly violent female images in art), tattoos, skating, pot, war,...sort of whatever they wanted to talk about. But it's always fun and engaging and when they finally appear together for the end to the film it's so natural you'd swear they were right next to each other the whole time.

So here's to a great kickoff for another great Docfest. Unfortunately, due to unavoidable conflicts I'll only catch less than half of it (I'm out of town for a while after next Wednesday) but I'll make the most of what I'll be able to see.

Running Time: 72 minutes
My Total Minutes: 302,819

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jason goes to the Stanford for COBRA WOMAN and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943)

After seeing the silent, Lon Chaney PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) on Friday night, I just had to go back to Stanford for the 1943 Claude Rains version. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. It was the second half of the double feature I saw.

COBRA WOMAN (1944): First up was this fun little flick that I had never heard of before. Maria Montez stars as Tollea, a Pacific Island girl who is about to marry her boyfriend Ramu (Jon Hall) but instead she is kidnapped (by a mute Lon Chaney, Jr., in a role that made me realize what a large, physically imposing man he was.) Turns out she was the secret heir to the throne of Cobra Island, a mysterious volcanic island where the natives worship a king cobra and trespassing by a stranger is punishable by death. And in her absence, her evil twin sister Naja (also played by Maria Montez) has been an incredibly cruel high priestess who routinely sacrifices her own people to the volcano. So Ramu has to go and rescue her, along with his native pal Kado and a monkey. Yup, there's a monkey involved, and it's all a lot of fun. And in beautiful Technicolor.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943): And then for the main event. In this version of Phantom, Claude Rains is a violinist in the Paris Opera's orchestra. He's a gifted musician and has been there 20 years. But his hands aren't as fast as they used to be, and so he is dismissed. Of course, he should have a fortune saved up from all his years in the opera, but he's been secretly paying for Christine Dubois' (I guess they didn't want to have to pronounce Daae?) music lessons. So his livelihood now rests on his ability to sell his concerto.

Anyway, that's just the setup and it already feels too spoiler-y. Rest assured Claude Rains gets horribly burnt by acid and becomes the Phantom. And he terrorizes the opera while advancing Christine's career. And a combination of her policeman friend and her leading man (both of whom are trying to woo her) try to track the Phantom down. That's one of the things that really struck me, compared to 1925 Lon Chaney version--it's almost more of a love-triangle comedy than a horror film. The other thing that struck me was how little was done in the Phantom's underground lair. So much more of the action takes place in the rafters and rigging above the opera instead of underground. And, of course, I was struck by the brilliant bright Technicolor (a possible reason for so little of it to be underground--why hide the beautiful Technicolor in the dark underground shadows?)

But that brings me to the real importance of last Saturday's show. It was shown on silver nitrate film instead of acetate. To emphasize the significance of that, there are only a handful of theaters in the world that play (or even that legally are allowed to play) silver nitrate films. That's because silver nitrate films are flammable nearly to the point of being explosive (watch INGLORIOUS BASTERDS for a demonstration of this.)

But silver nitrate film does produce a better image. So the colors were supposedly brighter, more vivid, crisper, and shimmered more than regular film (or digital.) And the image was certainly exceptional, but I'm not sure I would've noticed anything if nobody had told me in advance that it was silver nitrate. Now I'm told that actually by 1943 the silver content in the film was so low that the difference between it and acetate is marginal. Also I'm told that the difference is greater in black and white film. So I have officially lost my silver nitrate virginity, but now I want to see even older films--and black and white ones--on silver nitrate.

Total Running Time: 163
My Total Minutes: 302,523

Jason watches PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)

And with Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer, of course.

This is Lon Chaney at his best. Not just in the grotesque makeup transformation, but in his oddly compelling and sympathetic portrayal of the Phantom. The big unmasking scene is brilliant, and his whole network of underground tunnels and traps is a whole lot of fun. And I was surprised to find there's a good deal of comic relief in it. Lots of fun.

Oh, and the masquerade ball was in Technicolor (apparently 5 sequences were shot in color as well, but in the version last Friday this was the only one in color,) which is pretty important since the Phantom shows up with a skull mask and wearing all red--a pretty obvious reference to Poe's The Masque of the Red Death. That was very cool.

I should also note that this was the silent version of the 1929 re-release, which was the sixth release of the film. Each time it was cut down a bit from previous versions, and in the 1929 version they added a sound bit in the beginning with a man holding a lantern and introducing what has led up to the events you are about to witness (BTW, the industry term for a talking scene inserted into an otherwise silent movie is a "goat gland" scene. Don't ask me why.) Anyway, I say this was the silent version because due to some technical glitch or mistake, there was no sound for the goat gland scene. But we did get to hear Dennis James rocking the Tocatta and Fugue in D minor, so that was cool.

Running Time: 85 minutes
My Total Minutes: 302,361

Jason goes to SVJFF and sees REMEMBRANCE

Last Thursday I was down at the Camera 7 for another SVJFF (aka Jewfest South) screening. The film was REMEMBRANCE, a based-on-a-true-story drama of the Holocaust, survival, and the past returning to you. In 1976 Hannah Levine, a wife in Brooklyn is preparing for her husband's important dinner party. At the cleaners, she catches a glimpse of an interview with a Holocaust survivor talking about his lover with whom he escaped a concentration camp. And she thinks he might be her long-lost love (whom she thought was dead) talking about her.

So we flash back to the camps. Back then she was Hannah Silberstein, and she fell in love with Tomasz Limanowski, a Pole in the camp (she, obviously, was there because she was Jewish.) Tomasz has an incredible skill to get anything you might need, he even procures Russian vodka for the guards. And he uses his skills to smuggle them both out of the camp.

Anyway, I don't want to get to spoiler-y, but the short version is they were separated for some time after the escape, and through misunderstandings they both believed the other was dead. And they both went on with their lives, got married, and had generally good lives. And bringing up this past and learning her old lover was alive is a very complicated and bittersweet realization for her. While the escape/on the run scenes from the past are exciting, the real emotional core of the film is her struggles with this new information and how it affects her whole family.

Running Time: 106 minutes
My Total Minutes: 302,276

Jason goes to a special Halloween Bad Movie Night--PIRANHA 3-D

I went out last Wednesday (aka Halloween, aka my birthday) evening. Wanted to see a film that was good. Instead I ended up at the Aquarium of the Bay, the people there were...actually pretty friendly.

Okay, if you don't know the Bad Movie Night theme song, you don't get the joke. No matter, the important thing is for one special night they had a much larger theater, a different kind of audience, and made fun of a 3-D movie with actual polarized 3-D glasses (instead of the blue/red ones, which has been done at least once at the Dark Room.) And that movie was PIRANHA 3-D.

I've actually reviewed PIRANHA 3-D before, and thought I did a pretty good job. But this time I saw it as a post-modern feminism story. The main hero is a woman (Elisabeth Shue.) Nearly all men are either reprehensible (Jerry O'Connell and his crew,) weird (Christopher Lloyd) or a minority (Ving Rhames.) Of Elisabeth Shue's children, her daughter is the preternaturally smart and responsible one, even making fun of her older brother for staring at a chick's boobs.

And that, of course, is the tricky point with calling this a feminist movie--all the boobs. A typical reading would say this is a juvenile male fantasy where women are sexually promiscuous and then get punished for it. But clearly, the audience is punished more than the women (who get to leave the movie.) In fact, it has reversed and subverted expectations by punishing the men in the audience for wanting to look at boobs.

Either that or it's just so bad that I didn't even enjoy looking at boobs by well before the midpoint.

Running Time: 88 minutes
My Total Minutes: 302,170

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jason goes to Not Necessarily Noir III--SUGAR HILL and GANJA & HESS

Wow, I've fallen behind a bit. I'll have to do this kind of quickly. Last Tuesday I was up at the Roxie for my final screenings of Not Necessarily Noir III (they played more on Wednesday, but I wasn't there.) Here we go.

SUGAR HILL (1974): A club owner is brutally beaten to death by some thugs, just for refusing to sell his club to them. But his girlfriend, Diana "Sugar" Hill vows revenge. And she knows just how to do it, with the help of an old voodoo priestess. She enlists the Haitian lord of the dead, Baron Samedi (played by a wonderfully creepy, gold-toothed Don Pedro Colley) to systematically kill all of the thugs and eventually the crime boss behind it all. There's some dramatic complication when the cop in charge of investigating the murders happens to be Sugar's ex (and possibly future) boyfriend. But the fun of the movie is really in the cleverly concocted revenge murders and especially in the depictions of the zombies. Super creepy, covered in cobwebs (even when they just came out of the swamp) and with silver orbs covering their eyes. Simply the best zombies this side of George Romero.

GANJA & HESS (1973): Now this was a real oddity, and I'm not sure how to react to it. Archaeologist Dr. Hess (Duane Jones) is stabbed by his assistant with an ancient knife. His assistant then commits suicide. Dr. Hess recovers, but due to the "germs" on the knife he is afflicted with a disease that causes a hunger for human blood. Returning home, he meets with his ex-assistant's wife, Ganja. And they start having an affair. But eventually she will have to learn about Hess and about what happened to her husband.

Okay, that's what happens, but it doesn't describe the movie at all. What describes it better is "drug-fueled hallucination." It's just a strange, strange, strange movie.

Total Running Time: 201 minutes
My Total Minutes: 302,082

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jason watches CLOUD ATLAS in IMAX

And it's beautiful, long, and dense. It's rare to see a nearly 3 hour movie that I immediately want to watch again to get all the connections in it. But I will say my first reaction was 'This is probably what D.W. Griffith was trying to achieve in INTOLERANCE: LOVE'S STRUGGLE THROUGHOUT THE AGES.' (I have a horrible confession to make--I found INTOLERANCE to be ponderous, confusing, and dull (albeit with amazing sets.) I don't think it makes me racist to say BIRTH OF A NATION is actually a better movie.)

Anyway, back to CLOUD ATLAS. Three directors, six stories spanning from 1849 to way in the future. And a recurring theme of either past lives (if you believe in that) or just how the threads we leave behind impact future lives until we get to the point where a man standing up to slavery in 1849 ultimately leads to a revolution of genetically engineered server girls in future Neo-Seoul. Ummm...but it's too much to wrap my head around in one screening so I'm not going to try to remember and map out all the connections. But I might just see it again and get more out of it.

I do want to say something about the multiple roles of nearly every actor and actress in the movie. This is definitely meant to emphasize the recurring lives theme. And I guess it ultimately works. But it's also distracting. I find myself paying less attention to the story and more attention to playing 'spot Tom Hanks/Halle Berry/Hugo Weaving/Jim Broadbent/Hugh Grant/Susan Sarandon/Doona Bae/etc.' And even that is okay except when they stretch so far that it just becomes distracting (Halle Berry as a Jew, Hugo Weaving as a woman, Doona Bae as a white woman, Doona Bae as a Mexican woman.) And I struggled a bit with this reaction. It strikes me as mildly racist to say I only want to see Halle Berry as a black woman, or  I only want to see Doona Bae as a Korean (or freaky genetically engineered future Korean.) After all, a great actor or actress should not be so constrained. On the other hand, I can't help but feel that it was undeniably distracting. I guess I'll let the future decide if the fault is with me or with the film, but to me it felt more or less like a different form of blackface.

Oh, and as for seeing it in IMAX. Yeah, it's beautiful, and it's totally worth the IMAX experience. It's also the first time I checked out the IMAX screen at the AMC Mercado. It's a good screen, I liked it a lot. I don't think it's quite as big as the screens at Hacienda Crossings or the Metreon (the two IMAX screens I've typically gone to before in the Bay Area.) I don't have the exact measurements on that, so don't quote me on it, but it felt a little smaller. But here's the important thing--I like to sit in the front row. And the front row in other IMAX screens is kind of overwhelming. Here, it was big; I felt fully immersed in the movie, but not overwhelmed. It whelmed me just right.

Running Time: 172 minutes
My Total Minutes: 301,881