Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jason goes to Cinequest--The Penultimate Day

5 more movies last Saturday, and another 4 on Sunday. It's all over now but the writing.

First up an animated short LOVE IN THE TIME OF MARCH MADNESS. A funny and poignant look at a 6'4" women's basketball star, and her awkward love life dating shorter men (because she just can't find guys taller than her.)

That was the lead-in to THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE. And I'm pretty sure if I hadn't been so exhausted, running on whatever you run on when you've run out of fumes, I would've felt so many feels my heart would've exploded and I would've died.

That's a horrible way to review it (especially using "exploded" in a movie with a scene at the Boston Marathon bombing.) Let me start again...

THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE is an amazing, beautiful, incredibly moving film about a theater troupe of LGBTQ (if I missed any letters, I'm sorry) youth in Boston. They tell their stories of love, acceptance, and struggle for acceptance (thankfully, more of the former than the latter) over the course of a year while creating this powerful and cathartic stage show. Beautiful and inspirational. There, that's better.

Next up was SHORTS 7 - Something Funny. Hooray, laughter!
DE SMET: A new neighbor provides a chance at romance that breaks up the best cigarette-rolling, card-playing trio of single guys ever.
DONATIONS: A woman finds the man of her dreams working in the blood bank. Sure, it took her a few tries to get him to draw her blood, but sacrifices are worth it for a chance at true love.
FIRSTWORLDPROBLEMS: Beautifully short, hilarious, and to the point. Sometimes mothers just worry too much.
THE FLY: The getaway driver is foiled by an annoying insect. Absolutely hilarious.

I have to pause and mention that there was someone in the audience laughing uproariously through the whole program, but none more than this one. It was a piercing, horror-movie kind of laugh punctuated with "Holy Shit that's funny!" He kind of became part of the show, and it was awesome. I wish I could've found that guy.

GRAND ZERO: It's not a's a multi-level marketing opportunity. But a son doesn't necessarily want to inherit the downstream from his parents.
HOW GUYS' THOUGHTS RUIN PERFECT RELATIONSHIPS: Perfectly to the point, a guy's inner monologue of stupid complaints destroying his perfect relationship.
LATE SHIFTERS: Two convenience store workers on the midnight shift listen to conspiracy radio and meet an eccentric customer who might just be an interdimensional space alien disguised in human form.
LEONARD IN SLOW MOTION: Leonard lives in slow motion in a regular-speed world. But maybe a massive overdose of energy drinks can cure him? The best use of slow-motion gold vomit ever!
LORD OF CATAN: Some people take Settlers of Catan waaay too seriously. Hilarious mayhem ensues.
NEW SOUL: A new soul just about to be born. Larry Miller as the exit interviewer preps him for his new life. He gets to make some choices, but race and sexual orientation are up to chance. Otherwise everyone would be gay Samoans, and if we were all gay Samoans there would be no more gay Samoans. Sorry I gave away the best joke in the short, but I couldn't resist.
TUNING OSCAR: A couple agrees that if she dies, he will wait at least two years before dating anyone else. Almost two years after her death, he's still afraid to cheat on her.

Then I actually had time to go the the Soiree at San Pedro Square Market and see the announcement of the jury awards. Congratulations to all the winners! And while I'm at it, since I'm writing this a few days later, congratulations to the Audience Award winners, too! And heck, congratulations and thank you to all the filmmakers who brought their work to Cinequest, especially the ones who had a drink with me!

Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Next up was SHORTS 6 - Docunation. Hooray, real life! (I ended up seeing every shorts program except #9, the high school student shorts.)
BEYOND RECOGNITION: Native Ohlone (not a federally recognized tribe, which is kind of a travesty) activists fight San Francisco Bay Area sprawl, particularly building shopping malls on their burial grounds. For real, this happens.
ELGIN PARK: As I said at Indiefest, Michael Paul Smith has been many things, but most recently he's an artist and model-maker, famous for creating entire realistic worlds of model vintage cars. Really stunningly realistic.
HOTEL 22: The VTA bus route 22 is the only 24 hour bus service in the Silicon Valley. And at night, for $2, the homeless and destitute can sleep for an hour or two. A sad look at the poorest people living in one of the richest parts of the world.
LOOKING AT THE STARS: Blind ballerinas are freakin' awesome!
LUCHADORA: And so are female Mexican wrestlers!
RARE TEA CELLAR: A look at a shop selling rare teas and other treats, and its proprietor Rodrick Markus.
SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDAY: Audio descriptions of life, with stuffed animals in strange conditions.
SUGAR COATED: Lolita fashion in Los Angeles. It's about being cute and fun, not about sex. Right? Ignore the fact that it's named after a famously smutty pedophile book, it's not about sex.

Okay, then it was time for HEART STRING MARIONETTE by Cinequest alum M. Dot Strange. There's an interesting story behind how it came to Cinequest, which you can read here. And for that matter if you want to know what I thought of his first movie, here it is:
And finally, the midnight mixed-media animation "We Are the Strange". Set in the world of a video game of the same name, with characters like "Blue", a girl who's skin turns to scales if she talks, smiles, or opens her mouth; "Emmm", a little doll boy on a quest for ice cream; "Rain", a cloaked, flamboyant monster-killer; and "Him", the pure E-vile overlord of stopmo city. For the first half, it's sort of a WTF trip, like watching the world's dumbest/craziest video game play with itself. And then eventually there's a story that takes over, in the form of giant robots battling each other. Pretty f-in' cool.
Okay, cool.... Well, HEART STRING MARIONETTE also feels like watching a video game. But this is a game about an avenging samurai an an evil clown. And either I was really tired, I have less patience for gratuitous weirdness, or this movie was worse that WE ARE THE STRANGE because this time rather than "pretty f-in' cool" I would say "that was pretty f-in' exhausting." Oh, well.

And finally, the midnight movie, THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET. This was pretty f-in' cool. It starts by looking like a pretty standard, very well done haunted house movie. Jennifer (pride of San Mateo Emily Goss) is seven months pregnant and moving with her husband Luke from Chicago to her old hometown in Kansas. And she doesn't like it. She had a good life and good friends in Chicago. In Kansas she's under the control of her domineering mother, who seems to have teamed up with Luke to keep her under control. Then strange things start happening in the house--like doors slam shut or furniture moves around. The acting is excellent and the sound design keeps the tension perfect. And as the story unfolds I realize this is much, much smarter than the typical "haunted house" flick. The ghost...or energy...or whatever is in the house isn't the real monster. The real monster is isolation. I really felt for Jennifer living there all alone. No friends in town. Her husband doesn't trust or believe her. Her mother doesn't trust or believe her. When her best friend comes to visit for a's nice for a while, but eventually apparent that she doesn't trust or believe her either. Now...there's a backstory that drives all of this, but I can't spoil that.  Nor can I spoil the ending, which I'm still kind of puzzling over (in a good way.) And I'll also mention that there's a possible political reading of it, as it's kind of a horror movie about how when a woman gets pregnant she's no longer able to make her own decisions about her own body. But mostly I want to say how it's a great, smart, and very professional-looking horror movie with excellent performances. But don't just trust me, there are other much better written and also glowing reviews here, here, and here (full disclosure, that latter one republishes my reviews often) and Emily Goss did win the Best Actress Award at the Fargo Film Festival. So I'm not the only one who thinks it's great!

Now the one reason you might not trust me is that I've drunk with the filmmaking team all week and even led the Q and A after the film. I've been at Cinequest for 15 years, but this is the first Q&A I did. We talked about the making of the film, the impressive sound design, and the funniest thing that happened on set (life lesson--skin tight unitards can be see-through in bright light) until eventually the theater manager kicked us out, since it was daylight savings time so we lost an hour during the Q&A and it was not after 3 a.m.

Then I was back to the penthouse of the DeAnza to party until about 5 a.m. with whatever friends and filmmakers could keep up with me. Then up again for Encore day starting with drinks in the lounge at 10 am, because I'm a fucking rock star!

Total Running Time: 539 minutes
My Total Minutes: 389,969

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