Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 3

4 (and a half) movies last Saturday, starting with a program of Youth Shorts. That is short films by--and mostly for--youth.
CUPCAKES: An unconventional and funny love triangle in a cooking class, where romantic fantasies abound.
GODONG'S PARTY: A weird little crudely animated short about a cat's birthday party and the little dog who is upset that he wasn't invited (note: I don't remember, but I might have the species backwards.) It was just a mixup, the invitation was lost, but still a good time is had by all.
KEEP IT CLEAN: A fastidious clean freak meets a grimy salesman, and things escalate out of hand. I hope this isn't too spoilery, but along with COP CAR this is part of a running theme of dead bodies in cop cars...I guess that's a spoiler for COP CAR, too.
KERS: A young graffiti artist, struggles for respect on two fronts. One, that her art is illegal. Two, that she's a girl, and her art is actually good, not just "good for a girl." Very interesting.
NOT JUST A TREE: FRIENDS OF THE URBAN FOREST: Meet the local kids of FUF--Friends of the Urban Forest, and their Green Teen initiative to plant and maintain trees in the city.
THE OFF / SEASON: A look at Kahlil Bell, once a promising young running back in the NFL. In fact, in his first play he set a record with a 72 yard scamper. But he has struggled since and had fumbling problems. And he has bounced around to a few teams. But he's working hard to make it back in the NFL and stay there.
SOPHIA: An excellent, short music documentary about Sweden's Sophia Higman, a maestro of several instruments and styles.
STRANDED: When the bus taking a group of young dancers breaks down, they use the time for practice and more.
TWO AND A QUARTER MINUTES: That's how long it takes to drown. And how long a young boy contemplates what's going on in the mind of someone for those two and a quarter minutes.
THE WAITING GAME: Overcoming writer's block, and dealing with the pain of a loved one's passing. Very thoughtfully done.

Then I dashed out of the Q and A and just barely managed to score a rush ticket to MR HOLMES, Bill Condon's new movie about an elderly Sherlock Holmes, played by Ian McKellen. It starts off very well, with great humor and wit. Holmes wants to set the record straight, explain that he never wore a Deerstalker or smoked a pipe (he preferred cigars) and correct all the rest of Watson's embellishments. The problem is, his memory is going (although he's still very observant.) He got some powder from China to help him with his memory, and has started writing the story of his last case...

And then the movie was interrupted by fire alarm. And then I completely miscalculated the time remaining and the time between when it would end (assuming a minimal delay for the fire department to give them the all clear) and when the next movie I wanted to see would start. I actually had plenty of time, but I forgot how to tell time and thought I wouldn't, so I bailed on the rest of the film to go get a leisurely lunch with a friend. But I saw enough to know that it's going to be an excellent movie and I know it's getting a wide release so I'll be excited to see it when it comes out.

Then my next full film was FLAPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, a debut feature from Vietnam, directed by Diep Hoang Nguyen and anchored by a stellar and moving portrayal by Thuy Anh Nguyen. She plays Huyen, a 17 year old student in Hanoi who finds out she's pregnant. Her transvestite roommate/best friend tries to help but just...isn't helpful. Her boyfriend is equal parts asshole and loser. And she's not sure she wants to abort or not...I mean, she does, but there are obstacles. Mostly money...which leads her into prostitution. At least, it kind of does. Her one client doesn't sleep with her right away, he actually...treats her really nicely. To the point where I don't understand what's up with him beyond being a really nice guy who can't possibly last. The movie is beautifully shot, with frank but tasteful depictions of sexuality, and walks the fine line between her youthful innocence and the harsh world around her. 

And then I caught CALL ME LUCKY, Bobcat Goldthwait's excellent documentary about Barry Crimmins. It starts by introducing him, via interviews with numerous comedians, as this sort of legendary figure of a brilliant comedian and angry political voice of the left. A sort of hero of radical comedy and one of the best stand-up comedians you've probably never heard of. And a pioneer of Boston's stand-up scene, where he nurtured many acts (including Bobcat, Steven Wright, and Kevin Meaney) out of a Chinese Restaurant. But there's constantly this undercurrent of 'he has his demons.' He's clearly a very angry, kind of damaged man. And about halfway through you learn why. And now I have to pause and struggle with the question of whether to reveal it or not, as it's kind of a big spoiler but also something that...would be bad to be blindsided by, because it could be pretty upsetting. So...I won't. Or I'll keep it vague. I'll say that he has survived some trauma. And he became an activist in protecting others from suffering the same way. And he became downright heroic (which is strange to say about a guy who claims his two most important goals are to overthrow the government of the United States and to destroy the Catholic Church.) And by the end, I was definitely crying, but I'm not sure if it was more from sadness, admiration, or laughter. Quite a great movie.

And finally a delicious journey through weirdness, Guy Maddin style, with THE FORBIDDEN ROOM. Born out of a project of recreating "lost" films based on their descriptions and his wild imagination, Maddin has created multiple storylines in beautiful 2-strip technicolor. There are the doomed submariners with a deadly, unstable cargo. There's a woodsman leading a team to rescue the lovely Margot. There's a tutorial on how to take a bath. And there's a guy who visits a doctor to get bits of his brain ripped out so that he can stop obsessing about butts (in a music video called The Last Derriere.) And that still doesn't tell you how weird it is. The look is amazing, and like he often does he creates the look of old silent films (or in this case, early talkies) that were made in a different universe that's a little similar to this one but where people enjoy a lot more recreational drugs. (Or maybe less, there is certainly less need for hallucinogens if you watch enough Guy Maddin films.)

Total Running Time (not including the beginning of MR HOLMES): 415 minutes
My Total Minutes: 393,469

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