Monday, February 11, 2013

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 4

Four more movies last Sunday. But first, big thanks to my friend Ira (aka Walter Sobchak) for letting me crash in his hotel room Saturday night. I was not up for a two hour bus ride and half hour drive home. I must make it absolutely clear, there were two separate beds in the hotel--nothing weird happened (not that anyone asked.)

Plenty of weird things happened in the first film of the day, though. NOT IN TEL AVIV is a movie built almost entirely around psychotic shifts in mood. The type of movie where a recently laid-off teacher who kidnaps a student at gunpoint will tell her, "You were a really good student" to which she'll reply, "You were a really good teacher" before they drive away. (Spoiler, that's basically the opening scene of the movie.) It's the kind of movie where when said teacher takes said student to see her mother, said mother will punch the teacher before inviting him inside to meet their guests. I could go on, but I've already gotten spoiler-y enough (but not as much as the festival write-up, so I feel justified in that.) It defies convention...and logic, and makes a uniquely strange world of its own. It's appropriate that the title defines the movie in terms of where it's not, because trying to define where (or what) it is would kind of be impossible.

And then I saw a documentary on the world's most famous cephalopod, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS. Regular readers know that I'm a bit of a soccer fan, and have in fact traveled to the last two World Cup tournaments. And my fellow soccer fans will remember that in 2010 the biggest story in the World Cup other than the actual matches was the amazing prognosticating power of tentacled oracle from Germany, Paul the psychic octopus, who correctly predicted 8 out of 8 matches, including all of Germany's games and the final Spain over The Netherlands. For that alone, he should be remembered forever, but now we also have this playful documentary about it. Footage of Paul, animation, fan videos, interviews with experts--psychics, bookies, marine biologists, mathematicians (explicit Bayesian probability FTW!) The film goes off on numerous tangents, or tentacles if you will (and you will, even you don't want to I'll make sure you will.) But it's perfectly appropriate and what you kind of have to do to flesh out a movie about an octopus to feature length.

Then we went from a fun documentary that made me laugh and smile to a serious documentary that pissed me the fuck off (and it was supposed to.) THE REVISIONARIES is the story of the Texas state Board of Education and the fight over textbooks. I've followed this a little bit. I knew about the attacks on evolution. I knew a little (but not nearly enough) on their attacks on social studies, particularly American History (best line of the movie, when a board member proposes and amendment--in a section on the legacy of American music--to "delete hip-hop and replace it with country and western." The black member of the board has a bit of a problem with that.) The movie (starting with the title) makes it pretty clear what side of the issue the filmmakers are on, and the fact that they sit back and let the evangelicals hang themselves with their own words ("Someone has to stand up to the experts!") doesn't really make it unbiased. It just makes it biased in favor of truth and knowledge (you know, the stuff of schools) instead of faith and fairy tales (you know, the stuff of Sunday Schools.) The most frightening part isn't just the impact on textbooks (and as one of the biggest textbook purchasers, their choices often influence what is available in other states) but on how the young-earth creationist evangelicals think they're mainstream America. Actually, what's even scarier is they might be right.

And finally, I ended the night with SIMON KILLER, a disturbing and unpleasant film about a disturbing and unpleasant person. Simon is a recent graduate student, who did his thesis on the connection of the eye and the brain. But then, by the end we're left to wonder if anything he said about himself is true--maybe he's actually a French Literature major? In any case, he's in Paris now, after breaking up with his girlfriend of five years (assuming she exists.) And he's hooking up with new girls--mostly a prostitute named Victoria. And he's financing his life in Paris by blackmailing her clients (even though he has a "cousin"...or family friend he can crash with.) There are quite a few fairly explicit sex scenes, which end up just being as disturbing and unpleasant as he is. And that's before the disturbing climax. A good movie, but a nasty way to end the night.

And that was the end of the first weekend at Indiefest. I'm actually ready for the long week, big second weekend, and final stretch now. Hopefully some time in there I will A) find time to sleep, and B) start my plan for Cinequest.

Total Running Time: 367 minutes
My Total Minutes: 314,243

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