Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 5

Another day, another 6 shows (because I just didn't have the stamina for 7, I must be getting old.)

Once again I was in the lounge and having a beer at 10 am. But this time, my first film was at 10:45

It started with a PTP short, AT WHAT AGE? Four people at age 12, 18, 40, and 70 talk about what society says they can and cannot do at that age, and conclude that chronological age is just a hangup.

That was the perfect lead-in to STILL DREAMING. At a retirement home for old entertainers--that is, actors, crew people, or even family of actors--they decide to team up with a couple of up-and-coming Shakespearean directors to put on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with the residents. For several of them, this is their first time working at a professional level in decades. For at least one--who's a family member not an actress--it's her first time acting, period. For others, they were song and dance people and never did Shakespeare before. It's hard work (especially if your eyesight isn't good enough to read a script anymore) but they throw themselves into it. Tension mounts as the performance date approaches. There's a dramatic blowup, in fact, and it almost looks like all their work will unravel. But...well, it's not actually important how the performance goes (it's great, actually, and everybody seems to enjoy it) what's really awesome is how the staff talk about being able to reduce their medication and just how much more energy, vibrancy, and life the place has. And that's pretty darn awesome.

STILL DREAMING plays again Mar 4 at 9:15 and Mar 6 at 12:15

Then because the first show started late I had to book it out of there as the credits started to make it to the opening credits of THE ANNIVERSARY. One year ago was Sam and Teresa's 20th anniversary, and they planned a huge party. Then Sam went for a run...and never come back. Now one year later they're having the party again, inviting all their friends although only a handful show up (good for keeping the cast small) because most of them think Teresa is crazy and sad for believing he'll show up again. They go through many stages of...well, complicated relationships. Hate, love, drunkenness, drugs, singing. I know it's a goddamn cliche, but I really did laugh and cry. It's a beautiful movie and I am not a good enough writer to communicate that, so I'm just going to have to ask you to trust me on this. Oh, it's also got Colin Mochrie in a superhero costume, if that hooks you in!

THE ANNIVERSARY plays again Mar 3 at 5:15

Then I hadn't drunk with any filmmaker in the next time slot, so I took a refreshing and revitalizing nap in the lounge....  Ha ha ha! No, I drunk like beer had just been invented! So I was kinda hammered by the time I went to HOW TO LOSE JOBS AND ALIENATE GIRLFRIENDS. So it's a testament to how engaging this movie is that I didn't fall asleep even for a minute. Thomas Meadmore was an editor for Lonely Planet films. His boss is an aspiring musician, and agrees to let him make a documentary about his band Speed Orange making their second album. Problem is he is admittedly not a great guitarist and doesn't have the best voice (this confession will come back to haunt...Tom.) Meanwhile his girlfriend is also an aspiring musician--a folk singer who doesn't put nearly enough work into practicing and writing. And Tom's blunt criticism as a film director threatens to...well, do exactly what the title says it will. Well, that and breaking all the rules about a documentary filmmaker maintaining some degree of distance and impartiality with the subject. Filmed over several years, the story eventually became about how the movie has ruined Tom's life, and the biggest moral, of course, is get your subjects to sign a release first! Tom makes a big deal about how Tarantino was a big inspiration for him to become a filmmaker. I don't know if he'll ever make a Tarantino-esque film, but he's made a great, hilarious, personal documentary.

HOW TO LOSE JOBS AND ALIENATE GIRLFRIENDS plays again Mar 2 at 1:00 and Mar 3 at 9:15

A little schedule reshuffling that I hadn't paid attention to left me scrambling a bit for my next movie, but I eventually settled on the Spanish/Indian movie, TRACES OF SANDALWOOD. Mina was a little girl when her sister Sita was born and her mother died in childbirth. She saved her from being drowned and started taking care of her, teaching her to do laundry as a toddler. But they're sold to a new family, and while Mina is taken to a brothel (where she quickly escapes, no worries) Sita is given to a Catholic orphanage. Mina escapes (as I've said) and becomes a servant/friend for a nice family with a nice older brother who takes a shine to her and takes her to the movies. Flash forward 20 some years and Mina is a Bollywood star, the older brother is her husband and producer, and she's still searching for Sita. In fact, she makes a movie about her life just for that purpose, and gets a call from that Catholic orphanage and through a little digging find out that Sita is living as Paula Diaz in Barcelona. So a trip to Barcelona is in the works. And that was all set up about as quickly as I wrote it. The heart of the movie is really Paula/Sita coming to terms with her hidden past She had forgotten her early years in India, and her parents had never even told her she was adopted. So first she reacts with disbelief, then mistrust (as everyone is telling her that Mina must only be looking for money.) But she starts watching Bollywood movies and starts getting close to a nice Indian man who gives her advice about Mina's films. A charming drama about different cultures and learning how to be part of both of them.

TRACES OF SANDALWOOD plays again Mar 3 at 7:30 and Mar 7 at 2:00.

Then again because one movie started a bit late, I had to run out to make it to the next film at the California, FOR HERE OR TO GO? Keeping with the Indian dual-culture theme, this is very much a Silicon Valley film. Vivek is a tech worker in Silicon Valley, on an alien work visa. He wants to leave his big company job where everyone is a moron who doesn't understand scalability. He wants to work for a small healthcare technology startup, but they don't have a budget for dealing with immigration paperwork. So he's always under threat to lose his job and be deported back to India. His circle of friends are all in similar straits--ranging from illegals to  temporary visas to about to get their green cards. The tension between the "freedom" of America and how quickly that can all be taken away is the source of high drama and some comedy. Add in that a complicated dating life (he seems to know every Sweta in the world) and a spirited debate between making a success in America or returning to India and using skills learned in America to improve their homeland. The immigrant experience has never exactly been an easy one, but the bureaucratic nightmare America has created seems particularly suited to make it impossible (seriously, how can you demonstrate one year of good behavior if that would mean overstaying your visa--by definition being in America one year later is demonstrating bad behavior...never mind the seven years of good behavior preceding it.)

FOR HERE OR TO GO? plays again Mar 6 at 7:00 and Mar 7 at 9:15

And finally, the midnight movie BAD EXORCISTS, a cheap and hilarious story of loser kids at a Catholic school--a nerd, a Jew, and a fat weirdo. And they're all film geeks...but really bad at making a movie. So they decide to make an exorcism flick by stealing their teacher's book on exorcism to add a little verisimilitude to the film. It adds to much, as they get their lead actress possessed by a demon. Oops! Wacky high school hijinx ensue, complete with bitchy girlfriends, super-soakers full of holy water, and heroic nerds. Awesome!

BAD EXORCISTS plays again Mar 1 at 4:00 and Mar 5: at 2:45

Total Running Time: 542 minutes
My Total Minutes: 386,720

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