Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 10

An excellent double bill on Friday, with two films that are so different I wouldn't necessarily expect to work well together.

The first program started with the short MOTHER'S DAY. A charity buses children to visit their mothers in prison (they do a similar service on Father's Day, but his film is about Mother's Day.) A look at the toll that incarceration takes on the children (1 in 10 California children have a parent in prison) by looking at the one day they get to have a family for a little while.
That was the lead-in to the Centerpiece presentation, THE WORK. A remarkable program, Inside Circle, matches troubled men with inmates--many of them lifers--in a 4 day group therapy retreat in Folsom prison (there are other circles, but the film focuses on the one in Folsom.) This isn't some "scared straight" bullshit. This is a team of men, inmates, and professional facilitators who get to the root of their troubles. Their feelings of betrayal, their fears, their machismo. They tear down barriers, they fight, they cry. It's so goddamn liberating for men to cry, and to not be ashamed of it. I don't think anything I can write will come off as anything but hokey. But it's not, the movie should just be seen, not read about. Or better yet, the experience should be lived. It was really fucking powerful just watching it. And dudes, we all got frustrations. One of my favorite parts was the guy who didn't look like he was there because he was in any sort of danger with his lifestyle, he was just kind of...aimless in life. 20-something, and doesn't know what he wants to be. Not the sort of thing you'd think convicts would help with. But they do. Turns out although his father wasn't abusive or anything, he just never got the praise and acknowledgement he wanted, so he grew up thinking he wasn't good at anything. And extremely common, almost mundane problem, but he makes a breakthrough as much as anyone else. Powerful, powerful stuff.

And then the next film, at first couldn't seem more different. And in tone, it certainly is. But while THE WORK is about how men deal with the pressures of being men, TAKE MY NOSE, PLEASE! is a comedic look at how women deal with the pressures of being women. Especially how female comedians take on cosmetic surgery--because they're the only ones allowed to be honest about it. Director Joan Kron, an 89 year old woman who has written about cosmetic surgery for decades, knocks it out of the park in her directorial debut (see, it's never too late to make your movie!) She's got humor and pacing, telling the history of cosmetic surgery (starting with face peels on Egyptian men in the age of the pharaohs) all the way through modern times. And how that history became a fact of life for women in entertainment--starting with Fanny Brice and a nose job from someone who turned out to not actually be a licensed doctor. And of course there's the Catch-22, where if you get work done, you're not aging gracefully but if you actually age gracefully, you can't be seen in public, much less work! And so dramatic or glamorous actresses lie about the work they get done, while comedians are the only ones who can speak openly. Even when their homely looks are part of their humor, like Phyllis Diller, they aren't immune to...wanting to look a little better (or as she put it, getting tired of the dog dragging her outside and burying her.) One interesting common procedure is getting the nose done, specifically to not look so Jewish. Hey, the movie doesn't judge, so neither will I. We also get to follow a couple of comedians as they get some minor work done, like youngster Emily Askin and the veteran Jackie Hoffman. And holy cow, I know I had seen her in bit parts before, but she's freakin' hilarious. How was I not a bigger fan of hers before?

Just a final thought, that wasn't in the movie but I was thinking it on the way home. Cosmetic surgery is kind of like CGI in movies. We think it looks bad, because we only notice when it looks bad. If it's well done, you don't even notice it.

Total Running Time: 194 minutes
My Total Minutes: 430,281

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