Friday, May 30, 2014

Jason goes to Silentfest--Opening Night

The most intense weekend of the San Francisco film festival year just started last night (a few months earlier than usual, as it moved from its mid-July calendar slot to the end of May.) After a few brief introductions and thank yous we jumped right into the opening film, since it was kind of an epic.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921): The movie that launched Rudolph Valentino's career. Here's what I said when I saw it at Niles a couple of years ago:
THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921): The movie that made Rudolph Valentino a star (and I'm certain had a hand in popularizing the tango.) He plays the favorite grandson of a wealthy Argentine. As the designated heir and clear favorite, he can't help but grow up to be quite the libertine, living in Paris (where his mother is from,) painting (and romancing) beautiful women, including some of the higher echelon of society whom he'd be well advised to avoid scandalizing. Meanwhile, the other grandsons--his cousins--move to their fatherland of Germany. Then a little thing called World War I gets in the way. It's an epic (over 2 hours long) with quite an arc for Valentino's character.
Let me just say that I was kind of tired going in. I actually struggled to stay awake through the two shorts. But somehow this movie gave me my second wind and I had no problem staying awake through the whole thing.
Nothing I would correct there. In fact, coincidentally I was pretty exhausted going in last night, too, and the movie just energized me. I will add that the effects scenes--particularly the imagery of the four horsemen--was pretty fantastic. But I was somewhat put off by the inconsistent attitudes towards war--it's hell, but it makes young men heroic, but then those heroes die... And the most impressive effect might be Valentino's eyebrow raise. I don't swing that way, but I can understand immediately what made him such a sex symbol.

The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra provided the accompaniment and were fantastic as always.

Running Time (estimated, because I forgot to start my stopwatch): 133 minutes
Total Running Time: 363,496

Jason sees the Thrillpeddlers do PEARLS OVER SHANGHAI at the Hypnodrome

In the interest of time and effort I'll just refer back to when they first performed this back in 2009.

The show is largely the same, but after several Cockettes revivals the statement "The Thrillpeddlers haven't done this much music in their shows before" no longer applies. And it's more fun in a shockbox with a significant other. And the show has been held over through June! Tickets here. Also it's kind of amazing to watch an actor with his cock hanging out still project an undeniable femininity. That's great acting!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jason watches GODZILLA (2014)

And it's...actually pretty good. I'm not much of a rabid Godzilla fan, I've seen a few of the Toho studios movies (including both versions of the original) and maybe a few more (including the unfortunate first attempt at an American remake.) And I vaguely remember the Saturday morning cartoon from my childhood where Godzilla and his kid Godzookie were the goody guys.

With that background, I thought Ken Watanabe did a fine job grounding the movie in its Japanese roots. His perspective that Godzilla was not a destruction-bent monster as much as a natural re-balancing force there to fight the other monsters was invaluable. Bryan Cranston was as brilliant as expected but sadly underused compared to his prominence in the trailers (I can't say more without a major spoiler.) The progression of the monsters from Japan to Hawaii to San Francisco actually made sense, and dammit but San Francisco is a fun city to destroy. And the military operations were realistic-ish, by Hollywood monster movie standards.

The did, however, tease Mothra way too much for him to not show up. But hopefully that's for the sequel.

Running Time: 123 minutes
My Total Minutes: 363,481

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jason goes to Niles to see SUNRISE

But first a couple of shorts, which weren't on the original program so please excuse the fact that I don't have all the details on them.

THE VOICE OF THE NIGHTINGALE (1925): Russian stop-motion animation pioneer Ladislas Starevich (or Wladyslaw Starewicz, if you prefer) created this half-animated, fully-imaginative tale of a girl who captures a nightingale, the dreams its song inspires, and her decision to set it free.

HIS FATHER'S SON (????): I'm not only not sure about the date, I'm not 100% sure about the title. Or the plot (since I made the mistake of not writing this up right away.) Something about a young man who goes out and makes his fortune while his father falls on hard times. Eventually he has an epiphany and takes care of his father, when he sees him destitute working as a human advertisement at a restaurant.

Then, after a brief intermission, (arguably) the greatest silent film ever made.

SUNRISE (1927): I've seen this twice on the big screen. But never with the "right" score. Once, in fact, with a solo electric guitar score, which was...interesting. So not only was I looking forward to just watching it again (it is a movie that gets better every time you watch it) I was specifically looking for whether I felt the supernatural elements I picked up on during that electric guitar version (it is, after all, a SONG OF TWO HUMANS...although it's a love triangle...(essays could be written on which two of the three of them are humans.) And at first...I was convinced it was there. Particularly in an early scene where The Man (George O'brien) is sitting and the superimposed image of The Woman From the City (Margaret Livingston) appears to caress him. Now that could just be that he can't get her out of his mind. But it also could be a ghostly, supernatural power over him. But in the end, the big storm...I was viewing that as just a freak storm, not something she whipped up with her magical succubus powers. I don't know, future viewings might change my mind again, and that's part of the fun. But I also noticed that when The Man and The Woman (Janet Gaynor) fall back in love in The City, it was a much more important part of the movie this time. I had sort of glossed over it before as that fluffy bit of comedy in the middle of the movie. But it's a long stretch of the movie (at least half?) and extraordinarily important. There is a progress to them falling back in love, and that whole middle act of the film is an excellent romantic comedy. And then the storm, exciting action, and high melodrama again. And I think it's that shifting from melodrama to comedy to melodrama that perplexes audiences the first time around and makes it a movie you need to watch multiple times in order to appreciate.

At least, that's what I think this time. Knowing this movie, the next time I see it (and there will be a next time) my opinions will change again.

Total Running Time: 118 minutes
My Total Minutes: 363,222

Jason is Faster Than You at getting to Midnites for Maniacs

But I'm not faster at blogging. I'm falling desperately behind.

Anway, a few weeks ago, right after SFIFF ended, instead of getting a good night's sleep I was back at the Castro for a double bill. First up, SPEED (1994.) Keanu Reeves and Sadra Bullock in the classic (it's a classic now, right?) about a mad bomber  (Dennis Hopper) who rigs a bus so that once it goes above 50 it has to stay above 50 or else it will blow up. When I say that out loud, that premise still sounds ridiculous.  But dammit it still works. In large part because of the daring of Keanu Reeves doing his own stunts (kind of unheard of in today's CGI-heavy cinematic worlds.) And the chemistry between him and an (at the time) under-appreciated Sandra Bullock. And especially (and I didn't know about this until just recently) the uncredited script doctoring by a young...Joss Whedon. Quite a treat to see this again on the big screen.

And then the second half of the double bill, GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974.) Not the Nicolas Cage/Angelina Jolie remake. This is the original H.B. Halicki super-independent version. Halicki stars (and injured himself doing his own stunt driving) as an insurance investigator who runs a stolen car racket (using the serial numbers of the crashed cars on his stolen cars. A drug lord contracts him to steal 48 cars, and 47 are easy. That last one--a 1973 Ford Mustang code-named "Eleanor" (all the cars are code-named with women's names) is a little problematic, though. Thanks to a tip-off from a peeved business associate, the cops are onto him and we get the showcase of the film--the longest car chase ever all over the extended metropolitan region of Los Angeles. And it's pretty freakin' awesome!

Total Running Time: 221 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,982

Friday, May 23, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Closing Night

Finally, I'm almost to the end. I skipped Wednesday to see my San Jose Earthquakes battle to a rather lackluster 0-0 tie with FC Dallas. Probably would've had more fun at the movies.

But I was back for the Closing Night gala, and the film ALEX OF VENICE. Director Chris Messina has a small but important role as George, the husband and father who is bored and frustrated being the stay-at-home dad so he abruptly walks out on them (which, I suppose, gave his more time to focus on directing the movie.) That leaves Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to struggle with her young son, her aging father (Don Johnson, easily the best thing about the film,) and her work as an environmental lawyer. In the Q&A afterwards, Messina and the co-writers revealed that the first draft of the script had many overlapping stories set in Venice (California, not Italy) before they tightened it up and focused on Alex. Which kind of explains why it feels like there are so many loose ends. Her father's story is my favorite, but doesn't really get an ending (he gets to star in a play, but what exactly is his medical condition and prognosis going forward?) The legal battle (complete with an embarrassingly emotional closing argument) seems to be the main thread, but the massive ethical violation of having an affair with the opposing counsel just sort of...peters out. And her wild-child sister coming to town to take care of her son...well, that story also had potential that never quite got fulfilled.

Don't get me wrong. What was on screen was beautifully shot and mostly very good (the exception being the lawyering parts. I actually rode to the after party with a friend who's a lawyer and he shared a famous saying among lawyers--"If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. If the law is on your side, pound on the law. And if neither is on your side, pound on the table." She was doing the emotional equivalent of pounding on the table.) I just wanted more--wanted something to wrap up so many of these stories. And it's not like the movie was overlong, it's under and hour and a half. So perhaps a director's cut DVD would fill out the bits I thought were missing. And given that it's Messina's first directing gig (and how often first time directors tend to put too much into their movies instead of leaving too much out) there's every reason to expect great things from him his second and third time out.

And then it was all over except for the after party. I finally had my fill of free Grolsch, hung out with many of the friends I made over the course of the festival, barely missed meeting Don Johnson in the VIP room, did finally meet new SFFS Executive Director Noah Cowan and shake his hand, and finally went home to get a good night's sleep (which I did get, eventually, a few days later.)

Running Time: 87 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,761

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 13

Or whatever. The last Tuesday, and just one film. And it was beautifully made, but kind of a tough one to understand.

STOP THE POUNDING HEART is sort of documentary, sort of fiction. Italian-American director Roberto Minervini makes an odd, quiet, sometimes unsettling portrait of a real Texan family. Devout Christians who farm goats and home-school their children, the Carlsons are a pleasant, likable family (bias disclosure, I met them in the festival lounge a few days earlier and found them to be wonderful people. We even chatted soccer a bit, as they watched a lot with the Italian film crew who were staying with them. Coincidentally, my Earthquakes and their Dynamo play this weekend. But I digress.) It's their environment that gives me pause. Not so much the target shooting, including a pregnant woman firing a gun (although I knew plenty of people in the audience who have issues with that.) It's more the frequent sights of Confederate flags, and even (yikes!) a cross burning. To their credit in the Q&A the Carlsons disavowed any connection with that, and actually wanted it removed, but it's Minervini's movie, not theirs.

The story is...well, it's kind of hard to say. It's really more of a contemplative, poetic examination of the characters that doesn't follow a linear plot. Apparently Minervini and his crew just lived with them and shot footage for months until they finally decided on a character (teenager Sara Carlson) and a plot (her not-very-specific crisis of religious doubt) to focus on. The end result is a fascinating experience that probably wouldn't have been half as fascinating if I hadn't already met them.

Running Time: 100 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,673

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 12

Monday...two weeks ago...two more movies...and they were two of my favorites. And a night of music.

First up, WE ARE THE BEST, about 13 year old Swedish girls who form a punk band. You had me at "13 year old Swedish girls who form a punk band." And it's just awesome. These kids are so much fun. The movie has U.S. distribution through Magnolia Pictures, and some lucky cities will be able to see it starting May 30th. But if any clever arthouse theater plays it in a Scandanavian-punk-kids double bill with SONS OF NORWAY, they will instantly become the best theater ever.

So from punk music fiction we moved on to indie-rock documentary with HEAVEN ADORES YOU, all about Elliot Smith. I have to admit I didn't know anything about him before. And in the end, he seems like a very unlikely rock star. In fact, he's not a rock star, he's a musician. His "Miss Misery" was nominated for an Oscar (for GOOD WILL HUNTING) which he predictably lost to Celine Dion. But that was also the moment he went from a shy, unassuming, normal guy with immense musical talent to a star struggling with fame. But this movie doesn't rely on "Behind the Music" cliches. Yes, there are drugs and alcohol (and spoiler alert: premature death,) but it's much more interested in his music and makes a pretty strong case that his music will continue to grow in popularity and have a staying power long beyond the biggest stars of his time.

And that was my last Monday at SFIFF. Just a couple more days to go...

Total Running Time: 198 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,573

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 11

It's all over but the writing, and I have a LOT of writing left to do. So in what has alarmingly become a habit, I'm finally getting around to it two weeks later. 5 movies two weeks ago Sunday, starting with the member's screening.

The member's screening is always a secret, and this time it was revealed to be WORDS AND PICTURES starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche. Those are two powerful names, carrying high prestige for a movie. Unfortunately, getting two great actors is about all the movie gets right. In an elite private school, Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a beloved teacher of English literature. He inspires his students, and is friends with them, too. He's also a raging alcoholic whose past glory (as a published and praised author) fades further into the past every day. The new art teacher Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is a famous painter, but she hasn't done any work for a long time due to her crippling rheumatoid arthritis. Jack immediately starts pestering her, because...well, that's just part of his charm. She's having none of that, nor is she interested in befriending her students. She's no-nonsense, and is upfront about her art (pictures) being better than word (which, of course, lie.) So Jack picks up on that, and starts a little war, engaging their students in a public debate of Words vs. Pictures. Of course, this is all covering up the fact that there's an attraction, and eventually they will do it. And then just as eventually they will have a big fight. And eventually they expect me to care. That last part didn't exactly happen. Two fantastic actors, though, and they're never not fun to watch. It's just a disappointing story they appeared in.

Then I got back to the regular festival programming with CLUB SANDWICH, the latest from director Fernando Eimbcke (DUCK SEASON, LAKE TAHOE.) 15 year old Hector and his single mother Paloma are on vacation in a cheap Mexican resort hotel. Which really consists of long stretches of boredom, sitting in the hotel, ordering room service (club sandwiches, of course,) and playing games. Then Jazmin shows up, and it shifts from a movie about how boring vacation can be to a movie about how awkward, funny, and still boring young, budding sexuality can be. Which is an interesting take on it. Eimbcke has a reputation for making these slow, static, quietly observational films. And he actually said he wanted this one to be much crazier and wilder, like a typical young romantic comedy. But once he got there he just thought the actors worked better in a slower, quieter way. And it works, I guess it pays off to go with your strengths.

Next up was SHORTS 1
ANGELS: Set in San Francisco, and chock full of local settings and local film references. This was a lot a fun for cinephiles and San Franciscans.
BARN DANCE: Um...exactly what it sounds like. Two people dancing in a barn, and it's beautiful.
THE BIRD'S BLESSING: A Belgian film about an old estate, a hunting party, tradition, and sibling rivalry.
RE: AWAKENINGS: A wordless short about the comatose patients "awakened" by Dr. Sacks. You might remember this as the story behind the 1990 movie AWAKENINGS with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. This tells the story much quicker, and much more poetically.
SANTA CRUZ DE ISLOTE: A quick portrait of the small Colombian island, and it's interesting people.
SO YOU'VE GROWN ATTACHED: Easily the funniest in the program, a look at what happens to invisible friends when their children grow up and don't believe in them anymore. With some nods to the bureaucratic underworld of BEETLEJUICE.

Then it was time for a night of sports, starting with the coming-of-age sports comedy PING PONG SUMMER. Set in Ocean City, Maryland, and playing with the formula of 80s triumphant underdog comedies, shy 13 year old Rad Miracle (great name) is spending the summer there with his family. He meets a new best friend Teddy, who takes him to an arcade that is just the coolest thing ever. There he meets the love interest Stacey, who is unfortunately hooked up with the evil rich bully Lyle. One thing leads to another, and it will all climax in an epic ping pong battle. He seems horribly over-matched, but he's got a secret weapon on his side--he's being trained by Susan Sarandon? Pretty funny, and an enjoyable take on how important everything is at that age, even (especially) a very amateur ping pong match.

And then I ended the night with a documentary program, starting with the short HIGH FIVE. While the origins of the high five are subject to some debate, the standard story (and the one this movie takes) is that it was invented on October 2, 1977, when Dusty Baker hit a home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers and young Glenn Burke, who was in the on-deck circle, raised his hand and Dusty slapped it as he crossed home. Included in the story--Glenn Burke was gay. Not included--Tommy Lasorda hated him...because he was dating his son. Also not included, how he was traded to the Oakland A's and manager Billy Martin introduced him as "that faggot." Yeah, there's a lot more that could be in the story but it's still a good piece of  interesting entertainment for a 10 minute piece produced by ESPN.

And then the feature, NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY. Dock Ellis is famous for throwing a no-hitter on LSD. But that's just the start, man. He was a loud, cantankerous black man, described as the Muhammad Ali of the ballpark. He battled his opponents, the establishment, and his own demons with equal vigor before succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver in 2008. His life was quite extraordinary, and the later years when he was a drug counselor helping people learn from/avoid/overcome the mistakes he made are among the most interesting. All in all, it's a wide-ranging profile that can't quite fit everything in but still feels long at 100 minutes (that, however, might just be the effects of exhaustion.) But an engaging subject carries it through to the finish line.

Total Running Time: 481 minutes
My Total Minutes: 362,375

Monday, May 5, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 10

My first day of really going all in at the festival, and even then, on Saturday I only saw 4 movies.

First up was KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER. It's inspired by the movie FARGO's famous opening text claiming to be real events, and the urban legend that sprung up over a Japanese woman dying searching for the treasure. A fish out of water comic tragedy, first Kumiko doesn't fit in her native Japan, especially in the perky office culture. She doesn't like work, she has no love life, she doesn't even want to move back in with her mother. She's a failure and a shame to her family. Fighting the urge to spit in her boss's tea, her one comfort is a secret--a videotape with a key to a missing treasure. That videotape, of course, is FARGO, and FARGO is not a real story. Well, that and her odd collections of junk, and her adorable bunny Bunzo. But eventually she works up the courage to spit in the tea, walk out the office, take the company credit card, leave her bunny on a subway (too sad!) and head off to the promised land of Minnesota, and then on to Fargo. Well, there she's maybe even more of a fish out of water, where her limited English, guilt, and paranoia run up against Minnesota nice. Rinko Kikuchi does a fantastic job as Kumiko, bringing a lot of sympathy to a character that--if not for her deeply expressive eyes--is otherwise equal parts delusional and unscrupulous (and would abandon a bunny on a subway car!) Without giving anything away, I absolutely loved the ending. And I want to see a companion piece about the adventures of Bunzo on the Tokyo subway system. I need to know that he's okay.

Then I ran back to the press lounge in time to get a ticket for BURT'S BUZZ, and ran right back to see this documentary about the Burt behind Burt's Bees. But first, I've been reading a bit recently about a new thing kids are doing called beezing--rubbing peppermint Burt's Bees on your eyelids to get a minty-fresh high. That strikes me as, 1. it's stupid, 2. it won't work, and 3. it's probably a hoax. So of course I tried it. As the lights went out I smeared a little Burt's Bees on my eyes stings. And your eyes water a lot. And there is an interesting minty feeling all up in your sinuses. The stinging and worrying if I'd blink so much I'd miss a significant part of the movie wore off in about 3 minutes. The last vestiges of mint in my sinus were gone before 20 minutes. I did not get high. So...I feel that's the first piece of real investigative journalism I've ever done on this blog.

As for the movie, it's pretty great. Burt is a fascinating guy. A mass of contradictions. A hippie who became a massive corporate icon (it's unclear if he knows that he's practically the Col. Sanders of earth-friendly, organic personal care products.) A friendly guy who seems to enjoy posing for pictures with fans and will then talk about how some days when they come to see him he just wants to grab his shotgun and chase them away. Oh yeah, and he's a pacifist who likes to shoot guns. He'll claim one minute that he has no need for the Internet, ever! And then the next moment he'll be Skyping with his dog. And he's a guy with just a hint of bitterness about being cheated out of millions when he was sort of pushed out the company but he's also a guy who probably wouldn't live any fancier if he had those millions. Although they don't get into his finances, he doesn't seem to be lacking in funds, he just likes to live simply, in his cabin in Maine, with a wood-burning stove and no TV. A lot of movie is focused on his origins--as a highly accomplished photographer in Manhattan who ditched it all to live simply in upstate New York. A guy who learned beekeeping from monks, who realized he'd never need to look for another job if he mastered beekeeping. He used to sell gallons of honey from his truck until he met Roxanne Quimby. She was an artist also living simply in the country, but with two kids. They struck up a romance, she used her art to package his honey better, and they got into making whatever else they could with the beeswax. She runs the company now, and Burt wants nothing to do with her. And I don't want to put words in his mouth, but it seems that it's not about the money, it's about how at one time it seemed she might be "the one" but that her priorities turned to running the company instead of living a simple life with him. And there's...more of a story there (Roxanne's side of the story is not represented too well) but what is told is fascinating enough. And if Burt's story were easier to understand--if he wasn't so full of contradictions--he wouldn't be nearly as interesting. There's a point where he talks about being owned by nobody, and I think the contradictions are part of that. It's not his responsibility to dumb down his life just so that we can understand it. Kudos to him and to director Jody Shapiro.

Then I was lucky enough to get a press ticket for the Centerpiece presentation, and a few Grolsch's later I settled in for PALO ALTO. It's good to see someone take a chance and let a Coppola kid make a movie, in this case director Gia (granddaughter of Francis Ford.) Based on James Franco's "Palo Alto Stories," it's a loose collection of high school adventures of kids in Palo Alto. Drinking and driving, getting hit on by the creepy soccer coach (Franco himself,) etc. It's all very well shot, well acted, and...doesn't amount to much, in my opinion. I'll be honest, I struggled with this, contrasting my admiration for the skill involved with my ambivalence towards the subjects. Perhaps this is because I work in "Shallow Alto" and don't really care all that much about the problems of kids growing up in a town where the millionaires are complaining about the billionaires taking over and giving them no voice in how things are run. Especially knowing that it's right next to one of the most impoverished, crime-ridden places in the Bay Area, and I just have very little love for Palo Alto, the city. And I'm afraid that has transferred into not much love for PALO ALTO the movie. In the festival lounge yesterday several of us were discussing about what could be fixed to make the movie work, and I've decided a one-word change is where it all starts--make it EAST PALO ALTO and I'm immediately more interested in the kid's problems.

Then a few more beers and off to the late show, the Hong Kong action flick FIRESTORM. Violent crime in the most crowded parts of Hong Kong, starting with an armored car getting picked up and smashed around by a crane. Andy Lau plays the good cop (who has occasionally slipped up and done bad things) who has to bring bring the bad guys to justice. And he has the help of a mole--an old schoolmate who is trying to leave his criminal past behind and focus on becoming a good father.) And then metric tons of bullets fly around and things explode. And a good time was had by all. Look, there's really only one reason to watch the movie. There's a solid plot, there's a through-line about the intense surveillance state that...doesn't exactly pan out. But you watch for the action, the gunfire, the explosions. And there are tons of it, so it's good. That's it.

Total Running Time: 410 minutes
My Total Minutes: 361,894

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 9

So I started the last weekend of SFIFF with LAST WEEKEND--see what I did there? Patricia Clarkson plays the grand matriarch of a reasonably wealthy family who has gathered together in their Lake Tahoe home for Labor Day weekend. Unbeknownst to her sons--who are busy with their own lives, this isn't just the last weekend of summer, this is the last weekend they'll ever spend at the house. Wow, the way I wrote that was really dark and ominous. I mean she plans to sell the house after the weekend. Well, as I already said her sons are busy with their own lives--dealing with insecure boyfriends, or the actress from the show they write for, or a calamitous career mistake--and she is stretched in so many directions and jumps from topic to topic so quickly they think she's crazy. Then a medical emergency interrupts everyone's plans...kind of. Actually, life goes on...and that's kind of the point of the movie. It's a brief, 3-day snapshot of an insane family dynamic (and as the second of six kids, I know that dynamic plenty well) where issues come up, some issues are resolved, some are partially resolved, some are unresolved...and life goes on.

And then back to the lounge for a few more beers before the late show--INTRUDERS. It's a darkly funny thriller from Korea. In the vein of MISERY (there is even an explicit reference to it) a writer goes to a secluded cabin in the woods where he hopes to get some peace and just write. Along the way, he meets a pushy man who talks about just getting out of prison and how it's great to finally talk to a human. And when he finally gets away from him and gets to his cabin...he still doesn't get peace. He's bothered by constant news bulletins about escalating tensions with North Korea over nuclear testing. He's bothered by partying skiers looking for a place to stay. He's bothered by hunters. He's bothered by the dead body he finds in the woods. Wait, what!? He's bothered by the woman he finds in the bathroom when he's looking for help who then accuses him of trying to rape her. He's bothered by a lot of things, and he's not having a very peaceful time in the woods and really not getting any writing done. But at least he's surviving...maybe.

That was a lot of fun.

Total Running Time: 193 minutes
My Total Minutes: 361,484

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 8

Another weekday, another 2 movies, starting with the Bill Hader/Kristen Wiig dramedy THE SKELETON TWINS. Lest you think this teaming of SNL stars means it's a wacky screwball comedy, it opens with Milo (Hader) slitting his wrists in the bathtub. Maggie (Wiig) learns about it as she's about to swallow a handful of pills. Lest you think it's unending bleakness, there are some genuinely hilarious scenes (without giving too much away, the dentist's office and the lip-syncing scenes are standouts.) Twins Milo and Maggie used to be very close, but Milo's suicide attempt gets them talking together for the first time in years. Maggie has a perfect life facade--a good job as a dental hygienist, a hunky husband (Luke Wilson, at his pleasantly bro-tastic best,) and scuba lessons. But you've probably already guessed that it's just a facade (wait, you didn't have to guess, I told you.) Meanwhile Milo had moved to Los Angeles to become an actor but instead became a sad, gay cliche (oh yeah, he's gay.) It's a great story and great character study about life not working out as you expected (or hoped) and how those closest to you help you out the most but also have the ability to hurt you the most. And how close siblings are, even if you haven't talked in a long time.

 Both Hader and Wiig were there for the Q and A, so of course it was hilarious. Hader was the "on" one with Wiig playing a reacting role, but they were both great.

In fact, I stayed a little too long at the Q and A and just missed out on the last press ticket for KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER (I was literally seconds behind the guy who got the last one.) No problem, I have two more chances but that kind of throws my whole weekend around. Instead I got a ticket for BAD HAIR, which turned out to be a good choice. Junior is ten years old, lives in a low-rent high rise in Caracas, and desperately wants to straighten his curly hair so he can look like the models and singers on TV. Although I'm a proud owner of a rather impressive curly head of hair, I don't see anything too wrong with his wish. But his mom does--she sees it as a sign of femininity. And she starts seeing other sitting down to pee. Or just generally not being interested in playing soldier. Which is ironic, because she's kind of tough as nails, and a great mother. But fears and mis-communication conspire to put a lot of strain on their relationship. Seeing it mostly from the kids point of view (where wanting to play straight-haired singer instead of solider is nothing bad) it's fun getting into that feeling of being perplexed at his mother's consternation. A mark of a good movie is when it lets you figure things out for yourself, and BAD HAIR specifically lets you figure things out exactly the way the 10 year old Junior does.

Total Running Time: 183 minutes
My Total Minutes: 361,291

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 7

I didn't get there in time to see an early evening show, so instead I just drank free Grolsch (yay, sponsor beer!) in the lounge until it was time for BORGMAN. So let me begin by saying I struggled to focus and stay awake, and I will need to watch it again when I'm well rested and/or sober. I followed along while the armed priest chased Camiel Borgman out of his spider-hole, along with two of his friends. He makes a break for it, and immediately finds a well-off neighborhood where he can maybe ask for a bath. He's not immediately successful, in fact the husband beats him rather savagely. But the wife takes him in (unbeknownst to her husband) and gives him a bath, food, and wine. Although she takes the wine away from him before he's finished, which was just horrifying. Well, things will get more horrifying. At first Borgman appears to be a poor, homeless beggar, perhaps a free spirit unable to fit into society but not immediately threatening. But the devilish prankster quickly becomes a devilish devil, and...well, this is were I lost the narrative thread in a drunken haze, and so I will have to try again. But what I saw was weird enough, dark enough, and funny enough that I definitely am determined to try again.

Running Time: 113 minutes
My Total Minutes: 361,108

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 6

Two more shows last night, a night of making good on my policy that if I have a drink with you, I will see your movie if at all possible. (PAY ATTENTION, FILMMAKERS!)

First up was the first Costa Rican film ever to play at SFIFF, the wonderful little comedy ALL ABOUT THE FEATHERS (POR LAS PLUMAS.) Chalo makes a meager living as a security guard, and finally manages to get his hands on a cock. Wait, let me rephrase that. He manages to save up enough to buy a rooster, with which he plans to make a lot of money cockfighter. And with his friends Jason (excuse me, Jasón, pronounced ha-SEWN) Candy, and Erlan he gets into comic adventures trying to take care of Rocky (Jasón wanted to name him Apocalypse, but Rocky is a good name for a fighter.) Even though it's about really isn't. It kinda hangs over the proceedings, and there is finally a scene near the end (actually fighting isn't shown) and that might push some of the San Francisco sensibilities the wrong way, but it's really about the deep emotional bond that forms between a man and his cock pet rooster. And that's something beautiful and very funny.

Next up was my first shorts program, inventively titled SHORTS 2
DANCE OF THE DEATH: A literal race through the stages of life. Very funny.
DESERTED: Two Israeli soldier women, on the last day of officer training, have to finish navigating a course in order to pass. But problems ensue.
IN-BETWEEN WORLDS: Two little boys, brothers, living a carefree summer day selling lemonade.
MYSTERY (MISTERIO): A mother, a sickly father, and their son go on a very surprising trip to the beach. Nothing is quite like it seems, starting with the casual reveal of a Nazi flag in the opening moments.
NO ONE BUT LYDIA: A local film, shot and set in Berkeley. Arif is a misguided young man who is still obsessed with his ex (the titular Lydia, of course.) And so he sets about on a plan to do something very stupid to win her back.
ZIMA: Not about the discontinued drink, but about life in the winter in Northern Russia/Siberia.

And that was last Tuesday at SFIFF.

Total Running Time: 168 minutes
My Total Minutes: 360,995