Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Jason goes to Cinequest--Opening Night

The best 2-week party in San Jose started last night, and of course I was there. Got there a couple of hours early, to get my pass and check out the VIP lounge (thank you Continental Bar) and hug as many people as I could. Also get a few complimentary beverages from our sponsor, Stella Artois (it's a scientific fact that sponsor beers taste better.) As long as I'm thanking sponsors, let's also hear it for Tito's Vodka, who made the after party amazing, and I'm sure will make the entire festival epic. That and, of course, the great films.
Which reminds me, first a little business. This Friday, March 4, is the world premiere of a film called TEMPS. I don't know anything about it beyond what's in the program guide. I assume it's great, because it's at Cinequest. And for being my loyal readers, I can offer you a 50% discount on tickets to the world premiere. When you click on buy tickets (for the Friday, March 4 show only) click on the "Know a Promotion Code?" button and enter the code: CQCtemps

You can use that for as many tickets as you want, until they sell out. I'll see you there. Unless my have-a-drink-with-me-and-I'll-see-your-film rule supersedes and I'm watching something else. Which reminds me, all filmmakers should know that if you have a drink with me I will see your film the next chance I get. Note, if you're not a drinker, that's okay. It's not you drinking that seals this contract. Also, since about half the filmmakers this year are women, let me assure you I have no ulterior motives behind this. I just like drinking and I like movies, and this is a fun way to put them together.

By the way, how awesome is it that about half the films this year were directed by women!? Of course, half the world's population should have half the stories to tell. So it's only remarkable in comparison to the whole of recorded history. But still, here's to making this the new normal!

Okay, there was a movie last night, too--EYE IN THE SKY. In the glorious California Theatre. But first, an introduction  and an engaging talk with director Gavin Hood and festival director Halfdan Hussey. Gavin spoke lovingly of Alan Rickman (this was his last film) and his great--and funny--performance in the film. And while he didn't mention any movie in particular, he did talk about how he learned a lot working on big Hollywood productions, but he'd much rather be remembered for his personal films like TSOTSI and EYE IN THE SKY. And yes, despite having some pretty big name actors and production values, he considers this a small, personal film, primarily due to his returning to his native South Africa and using local crew members. In fact, he spoke about how as a child seeing the rare films from his own land awakened his cinematic spirit. Something Americans don't really understand, because there are so many films about Americans. And if you liked his story about how cinema was a way to open up a closed world, might I recommend a film in the festival called CHUCK NORRIS VS. COMMUNISM. It's excellent (sorry I don't have a discount code for that one.) Anyway, his story made me think of that.
Okay, on to the actual movie. EYE IN THE SKY is a modern warfare film. In fact, my favorite shot is in the beginning, when Steve Watt (Aaron Paul) is in his bed in Nevada, about to go on duty as a drone pilot. A fan is rotating above his head, exactly like the opening shot of APOCALYPSE NOW. This is still a story about a soldier in the shit, but the heart of darkness looks a lot different today. Steve is the titular "eye in the sky," as he pilots his drone high above a house in Nairobi where several Al-Shabaab members are meeting (including 3 of the top 5 targets on the President's kill list for Africa.) Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is running the mission with the local forces, and the capture mission turns into a kill mission when a bug (literally, a beetle robot with a camera) finds that they're planning a suicide bombing. Alan Rickman plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson, whose role is to navigate the legal and political machinery to get permission to take the shot. And he's easily the comic tension-breaker in the film, although never letting go of the fact that the ridiculous process all leads to a deadly serious outcome. And things are really thrown into disarray when an innocent wanders onto the scene. A little girl just selling her bread. And so the whole movie becomes a giant moral question. In fact, it's basically the trolley problem, but with a semi-comical political PR spin angle. And that's freakin' awesome.

Then it was over to The Farmer's Union for drinking, partying, and meeting filmmakers until just before midnight, when I took the VTA back home (Hooray for alternatives to drunk driving!) I think at some point I was interviewed by a TV station. So...that'll be fun to find.

Anyway, films I now have to see because I've met and drunk with the filmmakers:
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, tonight at 7:30, opening the Hammer Theatre (formerly the SJ Rep)
LOST SOLACE, Friday night at 9:30 (unless I switch it around for the Cinequest Connoisseur screening of TEMPS)
SHORTS 8: HIGH SCHOOL, Saturday at 10:00 am (Hey, how did I have a drink with a high school student? Don't ask.)
THE OTHER KIDS, Saturday at 2:30 at the Hammer Theatre (note, this is a change from the schedule in the printed guide, it's popular enough to move to a bigger venue)
LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED? Saturday at 9:30
SHORTS 5: MINDBENDERS, Saturday at midnight
SHORTS 6: DOCUNATION, Sunday at 1:15

Okay, see you at Cinequest!
Running Time: 102 minutes
My Total Minutes: 420,679

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