Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 7

Because scheduling kept me from making it to Santana Row Sunday night, I started the day early by viewing my press Screener of NEW CHEFS ON THE BLOCK. Not the best way to see a film, but with a home projector and Chromecast it was a bit better than watching on my laptop screen.

Most new restaurants fail. 30% fail before opening the doors. All restaurants put a huge strain on the lives and relationships of the owners and chefs (and especially chef/owners.) This film follows two chefs as they embark on this risky endeavor. Aaron Silverman opens Rose's Luxury, which serves fresh cuisine in an informal settings (much to the chagrin of those who think they're important and want to cut the line, they don't take reservations.) Frank Linn is following in his family business, opening his own pizza shop, Frankly Pizza. They both go through great pains to get the restaurant right. To get the food right, of course, but also all the difficult business part. Most importantly, getting good, reliable help. No-show, no-call, no more job. Which seems harsh, but the most important part of good hiring is good firing. And...well, it seems silly to hold back a spoiler because you can easily Google whether Rose's Luxury and Frankly Pizza are still in business. And while the film doesn't belabor the point, one key to success is good, loyal employees who actually enjoy working there and want to stay, contrary to the high turnover typical in the industry. Remember, the customer is not always right. And good business isn't all about taking care of the customers. Take care of the employees and they'll do a good job (or fire them if they don't, I guess.)

Tue, Mar 7 4:00 PM in Redwood City
Tue, Mar 7 4:00 PM at the Hammer Theatre

Then I headed over to Redwood City just in time to...realize I forgot my wallet and wouldn't be able to park there, so I turned around, drove back to Fremont, and back to Redwood City just in time to miss the opening short but catch the opening credits of THE NIGHT WATCHMEN. Rocker turned security guard has a hard time on his first day. The guys haze him. The boss is a creepy perve. And a mistaken delivery leaves them watching over a coffin with the body of a beloved clown in it. Oh yeah, that clown died in Romania...the land of vampires. So crazy shit happens, it's bloody, it's campy, it's hilarious. It's the Cinequest return of Mitch Altieri (half of the Butcher Brothers, from THE HAMILTONS in 2006 and A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO SNUFF from...just last year!) Great way to start the day.

Fri, Mar 10 10:00 PM at the California Theatre
Sat, Mar 11 9:45 PM in Redwood City

Then I headed over to The Spaghetti Factory right around the corner for a quick drink before the next film.

First up was the short SHOW BUSINESS. Comedian Clark Duke takes us through the fictional but all-too-realistic world of a moderately successful actor. His career, his friends, his...girl he likes hanging out with but is not necessarily his girlfriend unless they decide yes, they are a couple... Very funny.

Then the feature, THE TWINNING REACTION. Now here's a weird, weird story. In the 1960s a study on nurture vs. nature was launched. The plan--when twins are put up for adoption, separate them, give them to different families, and monitor their progress. Do they take up different interests, or are there some things that are just in their DNA? Problem is, this was in the time before "informed consent" and neither the babies (of course) nor their adoptive parents were told of the study. Decades later, some of the now adults go looking for their birth families, and find the truth. Or stranger yet, one pair happens to attend the same college, one year apart. Even weirder...they aren't twins...they're two out of three triplets. At first the story is kind of an oddity, and despite the ethical problems of how it started, things seem to be...happy, when the twins are reunited. They've always felt like something is missing in their life, and when they meet, it seems like that's solved. In a way, I envied them. Doesn't everyone feel something's missing? And wouldn't it be convenient if the answer was "long lost twin?" But it turns far more complicated. Even with happy, comfortable lives these kids all grew up with emotional issues. At least two subjects committed suicide. No papers were ever published from the study, and the details are locked away at least for now. But if I were to hazard a guess, the first finding is that separating twins at birth...really fucks them up.

Even stranger, my friend I watched this with, turned to me at the end of the film and confessed that he was adopted (I knew that, actually) and might have a twin...back in Russia. So good luck finding those records.

Tue, Mar 7 6:15 PM in Santana Row
Wed, Mar 8 7:30 PM in Redwood City

Then over to Blacksmith for another drink. Have I mentioned how many great restaurants and bars are in Redwood City. It's actually a really cool place to hang out for a day, as long as everyone knows where to meet.

Then I caught a pretty crowded screening of INDIA IN A DAY. The ultimate crowd-sourced film, on October 10, 2015, in a cooperative project with Google, millions of Indians filmed their day. Director Richie Mehta (AMAL, Cinequest 2008, also CAAMFest back when it was called SFIAAFF) put it all together, with the help of Ridley Scott's production company, and create a sort of cinematic tone-poem of a day in India. Waking up, washing, breakfast, going to school, going to work, from the bustling cities to the quiet rural areas. India's a country of over a billion people, so it's impossible to describe it in such a short time. You get some distinctly Indian flavor, but more important is the universality of human life everywhere. Really made me want to visit India.

That was the last screening of INDIA IN A DAY...sorry.

Then in an alternate universe I saw what I was originally scheduled to see--Shorts 3 - Truth in Art. And through the power of press screeners, I will see them, I promise. But in the meantime, here are...a couple of them. Including one from a returning filmmaker.
A DAD: Absurdity, art, a collage of found footage, to celebrate a dad's 100th birthday. Or is that Dada's 100th birthday. Voice-to-text can get really weird, when the text is not really text. I want this film as an unplayable blu-ray sculpture!
THE JOHN SHOW: An art show featuring nothing but portraits of one man. John Riegert. An artist, an entertainer, and a man suffering from depression. So it's not just an art show, it's a way to save his life. At least...they hope. A beautiful film from Cinequest veteran Julie Sokolow (ASPIE SEEKS LOVE, Cinequest 2015)

Shorts 3 plays again one more time, Fri, Mar 10 1:45 PM at the Hammer Theatre. Hopefully I'll catch it and see anything I missed.

But in this universe, I saw a different show, starting with the short THE QUARE IN THERE. From the South African term for queer, the term is explored and used to explore black and queer activists in Oakland. Their lives, and their stories. Very moving.

And then the feature SEAT IN SHADOW. Albert is an old painter, and a strange sort of psychologist ("strange psychologists" is another theme of the festival.) His friend asks him to counsel her grandson Ben. Ben is gay, and Ben has boyfriend problems and depression (maybe triggered by his boyfriend problems.) Their interactions are shot with a sumptuous, queer beauty. And then I fell asleep. Don't know if it was just too late, or just too much to drink, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. And I wasn't the only one. When I woke up at the end credits, the only other person left in the theater had also fallen asleep. Oh, well.

SEAT IN SHADOW plays again:
Wed, Mar 8 3:30 PM in Santana Row
Thu, Mar 9 8:45 PM in Santana Row
Sat, Mar 11 1:45 PM at the Hammer Theatre

Total Running Time: 338 minutes (only counting what I saw in theatres)
My Total Minutes: 421,357

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