Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Opening Night

My favorite drinking festival with a movie problem started up again last night, and of course this locally famous scientist-by-day with a bushy beard was there. Many hugs, laughs, and drinks at The Continental and then the opening night film.

William H. Macy was back at Cinequest for the third time (first time was receiving the Maverick Spirit Award at the top of the 4th Street Parking Garage in 20013, second was in 2006 with Stuart Gordon's EDMOND.) This time he directed the opening night film, KRYSTAL, and it was a delightful crowd-pleaser that left everyone I talked to excited about seeing more movies over the next two weeks. In other words, it was a great choice for opening night. The title character, Krystal, is played by another Maverick Spirit awardee, Rosario Dawson. She's a stripper, an alcoholic, and the object of the Tyler's (Nick Robinson) infatuation. In fact, even though he's led a sheltered life and never touched alcohol, he starts attending AA meetings just to be near her. Wacky hijinx ensue, of course, but with a beautiful human touch that takes absurd situations and makes them very real.

As always, I'm setting as much of my schedule as possible based on which filmmakers I've had drinks with. And opening night is a great time to set a bit of my schedule. Tonight I'll be seeing Nicolas Cage because I have actually had a drink at an event where he was in attendance, and I've decided for a star of his magnitude that's sufficient. Right afterwards I'm honor-bound by alcohol to see HIGH AND OUTSIDE: A BASEBALL NOIR.

In the coming days I must also see these films:

On Thursday, I'll be in Redwood City  for MR FISH: CARTOONING FROM THE DEEP END (or at least the short AUTOMATIC ON THE ROAD that precedes it)

Saturday I'm going to start with Shorts Program 7 and end with YOU CAN'T SAY NO and SEEDS (and then, I assume, TELL ME YOUR NAME, but only because they're the only midnight show, not because I drank with them.)

Sunday I will end with Shorts Program 3. Monday I must catch STATUS PENDING in Redwood City. Tuesday back in San Jose for Shorts Program 6. Next Wednesday I'll be back in Redwood City for THREESOMETHING.

And that's it so far. Not a bad opening night haul, but there's still lots of room left on my schedule for any filmmaker willing to tip one back with me (note, you do not have to drink alcohol, but I will.)

Finally, I do have to apologize if I seemed kind of low energy last night. I had a touch of food poisoning the night before, and spent more time on the toilet than in bed. I don't need to gross you out with the details, but let's just say I was on shart-alert status 4. I started feeling better once I had a few drinks. And I got some sleep last night. So I should be at my normal sleep-deprived energy level for the rest of the festival. I hope to see you there!

Running Time: 90 minutes
My Total Minutes: 471,100

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for TRAFFIC IN SOULS

But first a couple of shorts

BELLE BOYD, CONFEDERATE SPY (1913): While Belle Boyd was a real historic figure, this film is entirely fiction. Winifred Greenwood plays Belle, who is sewing up Confederate soldiers uniforms in the beginning, when the announcement comes that the Union troops are approaching. The Union soldiers "borrow" Belle's home to make plans, but she spies on them from upstairs (through a hole in the floor) and saves the day...umm...for the Confederacy. A well made film for the time, but much like Keaton's classic THE GENERAL, you have to get over the fact that the Confederates are the heroes in this one.

BROKEN BUBBLES (1920): Hank Mann is one of those great forgotten film comedians. Perusing his credits on IMDb, it's really amazing how many films he made, including bit parts in famous Chaplin features like MODERN TIMES, THE GREAT DICTATOR, and CITY LIGHTS (where his role as a boxer is a little more than a bit part.) He also appeared in dramas like THE MALTESE FALCON, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, and INHERIT THE WIND (according to IMDb, his 452nd and final acting credit.) He was also the oldest surviving original Keystone Kop, and according to Edgar Kennedy, he was the one who came up with the concept (and was the original chief, before passing the role on to Ford Sterling.)

Anyway, all that introduction is to say...while I remember laughing a lot at this film, I don't actually remember what happened in it. Weird. I think I need to get more rest.

Then a brief intermission, and then the feature film.

TRAFFIC IN SOULS (1913): An early feature film (in 1913 most films were still short one or two-reelers) and an early example of a "social commentary" film, which were fairly popular in the silent era. This one delves into the social ills of prostitution. Particularly, new immigrants in New York forced into a white slavery prostitution racket. It also features very naturalistic acting for its time, rather than the exaggerated stage acting that was more common. And it features shots on location, so the exterior shots are very realistic (too bad that many of the interior shots were kind of obviously prop sets.) But for the time it took great pains for realism, which was played up in the advertisements. The story is solid drama, with many subplots, but the main one being the girl whose sister is missing, the policeman who tracks her to one of these forced prostitution rings, and the wealthy civic leader who is secretly behind it all. A very solid drama, with a true sense of danger and suspense, despite the primitive techniques. Of course, they were inventing the techniques as they went along at this time, so it's a pretty amazing achievement.

Total Running Time: 105 minutes
My Total Minutes: 471,010

Monday, February 26, 2018

Jason Watches EARLY MAN

Well that was some silly fun. Aardman claymation is always fun, going back to the days of Wallace and Gromit and even earlier (the Oscar winning CREATURE COMFORTS is still a delight.)

But it's also about the invention of soccer, and it features a bunny! It's like this movie was made for me. It turns out the remains of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs made an excellent soccer ball, and the beautiful game was born on day 1. A few eons later, a bunny-hunting tribe sees their idyllic valley overtaken by bronze age invaders. Dug is an optimistic guy who believes they can hunt mammoths instead of rabbits. And he finds a strategy where he can challenge the invaders to a soccer game to win their valley back in a soccer match. Of course, the bronze champions are powerful, but they're all superstars, so Early Man has a chance, if they're united. Get it, early Man United? Yeah, that's a joke in there. Anyway, it gets kind of corny, and follows the sports movie formula in the end, while also making fun of both the formula and the cheating antics of soccer players (a scene of the bronze age star taking a dive is pretty on-the-nose.) Lots of fun.

Running Time: 89 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,905

Jason watches BLACK PANTHER

Well that was kind of fantastic. There are many layers that many better writers have analyzed way better than I can. And there's no reason for me to be the thousandth person to tell you it's great. I'll just point out a few things I liked.

The MCU has followed it's funniest entry (THOR: RAGNAROK) with it's most serious, dramatic entry. So much for complaints that all MCU movies have to follow the "house style" and all end up being the same.

I love that it starts and ends in Ryan Coogler's hometown of Oakland. It grounds the film very well. It's like it doesn't just take place in the same world as the Avengers, it also takes place in the same world as FRUITVALE STATION.

Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan--the Michael Jordan of Ryan Coogler films) gives us a rare well-rounded, complex Marvel villain. You can root against his violent vision of a global black uprising while still understanding the pain and frustration that motivates him. It's important that the answer to his violent vision isn't just to oppose it, but to acknowledge that Wakandans--the black people in power--haven't provided a compelling alternate path to improving black lives.

In short, this is a movie based on ideas. It's dressed up in superhero antics, but those ideas are even more relevant in the real world. Because it takes place in a world that overlaps the Avengers and FRUITVALE STATION.

Running Time: 134 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,816

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum to learn about HAUNTED WINE COUNTRY

Okay, this was actually a fundraiser for the wine country fires from last year, and I was already volunteering at the museum. So really I just stayed a bit longer to see this film from Tom Wyrsch.

I bet this would've been a lot more interesting if I believed in ghosts and spirits and all that stuff. As it was, it's a showcase of paranormal experts talking about the historic events (often gruesome murders) that led to the restless spirits still haunting the buildings. And that's the problem--it's mostly just people talking. Wyrsch gamely tries to add a little reenactment, some recreations of the hauntings. But the whole thing is just terribly un-cinematic. Probably a fun resource for a paranormal believer who's planning a trip to the area. But kind of boring for a skeptical film fan.

Running Time: 81 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,682

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for a comedy shorts night

It's good to be back at my local silent film theater, and comedy shorts nights are always great.

THE COUNT (1916): Charlie Chaplin as a tailor's assistant. When they find an invitation to a ball at Miss Moneybag's (Edna Purviance) mansion, they both go impersonating the count. Wacky hijinx ensue, especially when the real count shows up.

MY WIFE'S RELATIONS (1922): Buster Keaton loved playing the unhappily married husband, especially when he was married to Natalie Talmadge (whom he married just the year before.) As a showbiz family, they took the ribbing with good humor, especially when Buster was a huge star making a fortune. Anyway, in this film a wacky mixup involving a broken window, a large Irish woman (Kate Price,) and a Polish judge who doesn't speak a word of English leads to the great stone face getting accidentally married. And his new in-laws are big, strapping guys who will break him. That is, until word comes in that he inherited a fortune and they suddenly make an about-face and have to be nice. Hilarious.

Then a brief intermission, and back for the last two shorts.

CRAZY LIKE A FOX (1926): Charley Chase is my favorite nearly-forgotten silent film comedian (he also had a talkie career, but never starred in his own feature films and so his fame didn't last the same as Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, or Laurel and Hardy. Probably his most famous feature role was as the boisterous brother from Texas in Laurel and Hardy's SONS OF THE DESERT.) In this one he plays the son of a rich capitalist. His marriage to the daughter of another capitalist has been arranged, but neither are happy about it. In fact, he'd rather marry the sweet, pretty girl he ran into at the train station (Martha Sleeper.) So he comes up with a plan. He has his valet add a p.s. to his note of introduction, describing how he's prone to harmless fits of madness. All he has to do is act crazy and the wedding will be off. So after a bit of practice, he goes about tormenting his fiance's family. Which prompts a response from the local asylum, with hilarious results. Especially when he finds out who the girl he's supposed to marry really is.

FROM SOUP TO NUTS (1928): The Boys, Laurel and Hardy, as clumsy, inexperienced waiters at a fancy dinner party. A simple premise that piles on the gags expertly. Directed by Edgar Kennedy (the master of the slow burn) and co-starring the under-appreciated Anita Garvin. Fantastically funny, on of their bests, and a great way to end another delightful comedy shorts night.

Total Running Time: 91 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,601

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jason goes to Indiefest--Closing Night

It's been over for more than a week, but upon writing this, it will finally be over for me.

The closing night feature might just be my favorite film of the festival (time may tell.) THE MISOGYNISTS sounds like the kind of movie I should hate. At least, it features characters I should hate. Set on election night 2016 in a hotel room full of booze, cocaine, and two guys who supported Trump. And they're celebrating with booze and cocaine. Especially Dylan Baker as Cameron (you know Dylan Baker, you've seen him, but you've never seen him get a leading role where he can chew the scenery like this.) His compatriot Baxter (Lou Jay Taylor) is a little more sedate, hoping Trump can pivot from the campaign rhetoric and be a good President. He's also worried about his wife, who is afraid of the incoming Trump administration. Of course, Cameron makes fun of him for his wife--an impediment that Cameron has recently shed, which is why he lives in a fucking hotel room now. Anyway, a night of booze, drugs, prostitutes, and sick revelations are ahead for them. Everyone has strong opinions on the election, and everyone gets their fair share of mockery for them. Now, "fair share" does mean that Trump supporters are in for a lot more mockery. But Hillary supporters--in the form of Baxter's wife and the two prostitutes (who don't even know if they're up for working that night) are also showed as less than stable geniuses. Through it all there's a recurring bit of magic where the hotel TV room spontaneously turns on and shows scenes in reverse (perhaps a sign of how the outcome is turning the clocks back in so many ways.) It's a wild night and a wild movie that I'm very glad I saw, but I'm not sure if I ever want to watch it again. Well, maybe to inflict it on my friends. I might want to do that.

And then I ended Indiefest with THE MAZE. It's based on the true story of the 1983 prison break from what was supposed to be the most secure prison in Europe. The thing is, you kind of need to know a little bit about the sides in the Northern Ireland "troubles" at the time. And I'm kind of a dumb American, I didn't get all...or much...of the references there. There is an exciting prison break drama in there, but my lack of both context and sleep rendered it kind of ineffective for me. Which I guess is a shame. I could tell there was great acting, and a story that is resonant with a time or place. It's just a time and place that is too foreign to me.

And with that, I finally declare Indiefest 2018 closed. Some films were great. Some films were great to sleep through, but it's always a fun party.

Total Running Time: 178 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,510

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 14

A.k.a., the penultimate night. Also, Valentine's Day. I love you all! I hope you had a great Valentine's Day!

First up was THE MANHATTAN FRONT, a hybrid art-film about historical events but also media manipulation which could be relevant today if it wasn't so saturated with academia. The presentation started with pamphlets being handed to everyone in the audience to explain the historical context. I still haven't read the one I got, not that I don't like reading or don't like history. It just felt like a red flag that the movie can't explain itself. So it's a story of a German saboteurs, the U.S. labor movement, and WWI. It mixes silent film footage from the time with reenactments, but the reenactments highlight the artificiality of the medium. E.g., the set of a theater is revealed to be a miniature. I get what the director/professor Cathy Lee Crane is doing. It's just a shame that her techniques to highlight the artificiality actually made it less interesting to watch. I don't know, maybe your mileage may vary, but as it is I was so lost and bored I couldn't really tell you what the plot of the sabotage even was. Maybe that paper handed out before the movie explains it all. But if a single sheet of paper explains your point better than a feature length movie, that doesn't say much good about the movie, does it?

And then it was time for an Indiefest tradition, the Anti-Valentine's Day Power Ballad Sing-a-Long. Much like opening night, this was an opportunity to skip and go home early, since I've been to quite a few of these. But I figured I'd at least check out the beginning, and I ended up dancing and drunkenly singing along to everything. The beer/cider was flowing from the concession stand, and I was totally lit. I'm not sure if I remember any of the songs other than the classic "Shot Through The Heart" (which used to end the show, but was introduced early to pump the crowd up) and the finale with "Bohemian Rhapsody" (where I didn't have to watch and read the lyrics, I turned around, faced the audience, and led them all. A wonderfully drunken, stupid night. Like Valentine's should be.

Total Running Time: 179 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,332

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 13

Two more movies on the final Tuesday of Indiefest. But first I had to grab some dinner at Ushio Raman, just across the street from the Roxie. I had the spicy black garlic ramen, and it was freakin' delicious. I recommend it highly.

And the reason I ate there is because the first film of the night was RAMEN HEADS, a fun and funny documentary about the ramen-obsessed chefs and fans in Japan. Chef Osamu Tomita is the star, the reigning king of ramen and a bit of a local celebrity. He obsesses over mixing the perfect broth, the "slurpability" of his noodles, everything about it. In fact, although he has several "apprentices" working for him, he doesn't trust anyone else to make his ramen. If he takes the day off, his shop is closed. And he doesn't really teach his apprentices anything. If they want to become great ramen chefs, they need to do it like he did--by tasting the leftovers from customers' bowls and reverse-engineering great ramen. The movie explores other chefs (my favorite is the guy in the small shop in Tokyo who ascribes no great significance to ramen. He's served thousands of bowls in his career, and it's just a simple, cheap dish, and his job is about speed and simplicity, not haute cuisine. It also explores briefly the history of ramen, how it was borrowed from China and became Japanese with soy sauce, and became popular as a cheap, fulfilling meal in the post-war period. But it always comes back to Tomita. I get the sense that the filmmakers wanted to do a wide-ranging exploration of ramen, but when they found him they realized he was the star. And they were right. He's as entertaining as his ramen is delicious (allegedly. I've never tried it myself. Maybe I need to make a trip to Japan.)

And then in keeping with the theme, I got stinkin' drunk before RON GOOSENS: LOW BUDGET STUNTMAN (oh, who am I kidding, I've been drunk through the whole festival.) If you look them up on IMDb, you'll find that the team behind this hilarious flick have worked together many times, and you can see that chemistry here (I need to check out their New Kids series, which is referenced in this film.) We open with Ron Goosens making good on a bet to pay his bar tab--to jump his car over an open drawbridge. He fails spectacularly, but his triumphant yell of "I'm totally shit-faced!" makes him a YouTube superstar (and get's the whole country triumphantly yelling "I'm totally shit-faced!" That's not enough to impress his wife, who threatens to leave him unless he proves he's "still got it" by bedding sexy star Bo Maerten (another main member of the comic group.) So he at least gets on set by being a stuntman. A low budget stuntman, who gets injured in crazy ways with every attempted stunt, but doesn't feel a thing because he's still shit-faced all the time. But there is more than just drunken humor to this film (although it is the main draw.) It turns out, to get in good with Bo, he needs to sober up--her dad was an alcoholic and she won't touch the stuff or associate with anyone who does. And when he's sober...he starts to realize how pointless his life has been--at least, the parts he can remember. Despite the drunken stupidity (I mean, it starts with a scene of drunk driving, something that really can't fly in an American movie) he becomes a sympathetic character, and you really end up loving him by the end.

Total Running Time: 176 minutes
My Total Minutes: 470,153

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 12

Catching up on the final week of Indiefest, two shows on Monday, so let's jump right in.

First up was the short, RICE BALL. A Japanese man and his son return from his wife's funeral. While talking about her, and how to move on, the father makes a very simple snack--rice balls. But not the way his wife made them. It's a simple dish, but somehow carries the character of the person. And the difference is a striking point of how she's gone, but also something to bring the father and son together. Very quiet, simple, and striking. 

And that led into the feature, HER MAGNUM OPUS. It's a mostly wordless, beautiful passing of the seasons through dance. A circle of friends gather to celebrate their mentor. They party, they dance, they celebrate life. It's not about the narrative, it's about a sense of joy, and of change. And it's another one of those kinds of movies where if you maybe doze off for a bit, every time you wake up there's something beautiful on screen. I wouldn't say it's a great movie to fall asleep to, but it's a good movie to wake up to.

And then a comedy of Los Angeles, THE CALIFORNIA NO. Elliot is a junketeer. That particular kind of writer who asks the same questions to celebrities promoting their movies over and over again. It's a living...well, it doesn't pay that much but he gets to see movies for free and hang out with famous people. And he's got a successful wife. But in the opening scene, at couple's therapy, he finds out he's in an open marriage. Or at least his wife is. When he lets his frustration and aimlessness ruin one of the junket interviews, he's suddenly a pariah. The "California No" of the title is the uniquely Californian (I'd like to think uniquely Los Angeles) method of rejecting someone--by simply ignoring them (I think the rest of the world calls that "ghosting" now.) He pins his comeback on writing an expose on a famous actor, although he pitches it to him as a fluff piece to reinvigorate his career. Wacky hijinx ensue, in a very funny flick that makes me thankful I don't live in Los Angeles.

Total Running Time: 160 minutes
My Total Minutes: 469,977

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 11

The big second weekend wraps up, with more shorts and then a couple of features.

Shorts 4: Fateful Intersections. The dramatic shorts program.
ON THE ROAD: A repeat from last year's Another Hole in the Head genre festival. From Poland, a couple of murderous scam artists target the same woman driver on a remote road. But surprise, she's not all she seems to be, either.
WHOEVER WAS USING THIS BED: A psychological thriller about a married couple, and a mysterious caller, who won't take "you have the wrong number" for an answer. And then the husband starts getting curious about the woman on the other end of the line.
THE SMOKE: From Russia, a story of a policeman and his drug-dealing son, how they keep secrets from each other and the deadly results.
PLUCK: An English woman traveling through Europe, becoming infatuated with a young Italian man. A dream-like adventure, and a rare cinematic glimpse into the female erotic gaze.

Shorts 6: The Girls Are Alright. Light comedy shorts.
THE MAKEOVER: Some people can pull of a certain fashion statement, and some just can't.
NORTH AND NOWHERE: From Bellingham, WA (full disclosure, I was a Bellinghamster as a kid) comes a story of a woman, her ailing dad, the family farm, and her unique solution to the situation.
THE BILL: It's all fun and games until you have to split the bill. It can turn the best of friends into mortal enemies.
LESBEHONEST: I'LL BE ALRIGHT: Sometimes break-ups are a good thing. Sometimes they send you into a weird spiral where you nearly hook up with three different women at your party. And when that happens, you need a good gay friend to keep you grounded.
FLIP THE RECORD: Filipino-American kids in the Bay Area in the 80's. They're trying to become DJs, and are surprised to find the little sister, Vanessa, has some mad skills. 

Next up was the feature, THE MIDNIGHTERS. A solid entertaining caper flick, with an equally solid father-son relationship at the center. I guarantee if you watch movies at all, you've seen the lead Leon Russom (maybe you know him as the Malibu police chief in THE BIG LEBOWSKI) but you've never seen him in the lead role, and he's fantastic when he's finally given the chance. He plays Victor, a safe-cracker finally out of prison after serving a 35 year stretch. He has no intention of going back, but he doesn't really fit in the outside, either. And then he finds out he has a son he never knew about. Danny is kind of a chip off the old block. Not a safe-cracker, but a criminal. And one who happens to have a score lined up...he just needs a safe-cracker. Victor reluctantly takes on the role not just of safe-cracker, but mentor to Danny. Something Danny doesn't entirely embrace, since Victor was absent for his whole life. But then, Victor can easily point out Danny's gullibility, and how his partners are not the least bit trustworthy. It's a cool movie with a great story and great characters. And the ending twist is excellent.

And I ended the weekend with MINDHACK (aka THE MAD GENIUS PROJECT.) Starting with the seemingly minor problem of plastic bottle pollution, Mason attempts to "hack the mind" until he can solve it. But so far the biggest thing he's accomplished is giving himself hallucinations of Finn, his id-fueled inner voice, who torments him for being so timid. But forces of evil (if you can distinguish good and evil in this cyber-punk world) also want to exploit his tech, so he has to fight them. You know, the plot isn't exactly important, or particularly intelligible. This movie is all about style. And while it falls for some hacker-haven cliches, the style is pretty cool. 

Total Running Time: 318 minutes
My Total Minutes: 469,817

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 10

The big second weekend started with lots of shorts, starting with Shorts 3: The Best of Us. Stories of great people doing great things.
BEYOND THE PLATE: ERIC WOLFINGER: The life and art of Eric Wolfinger, a globe-trotting food photographer, learning about different cultures by sharing in their food. Darn good way to do it.
JESSZILLA: Jesselyn “Jesszilla” Silva is a kick-ass little girl. 10 years old, and in love with boxing. She trains hard and already has plans to go pro. Her father...well, he's not exactly thrilled, but he's totally supportive.
SEVEN DATES WITH DEATH: Moreese Bickham was on death row for a long, long time. Longer than anyone, in fact. And then a lawyer took his case, proved there were mitigating circumstances in his case, and as an inmate with good behavior for over 37 years, he was eventually released as a free man.
THE TREE PROPHET: The story of David Milarch, founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. Attacking the problem of the loss of ancient trees with a combination of scientific techniques and religious zeal. Awesome.
THAT'S MY BOY: A profile of Sonu, a friendly man with lots of friends. And he's an excellent cricket player. So good he used to be on the national team. On the woman's national team. Now he's a voice for transgender acceptance.

Then the next program was Shorts 5: The Hustle. Dark comedy shorts, just my style.
MERYL FUCKIN' STREEP: A cautionary tale about how selling out to Hollywood can turn you plastic. Starring Barbie dolls.
JEFFREY: An exotic dancer who's in it for the art. He's not a sell-out looking to create something sleazy for the Vegas-style shows. He wants to bring safe, sexy dance moves to the public square.
LAURELS: Film festivals should be fun. But sometimes they can be very stressful for the filmmakers. Especially if you have to share hotel rooms. And especially if you don't get along with your roommate. It can get downright scary.
FUNEMPLOYMENT: Not much fun at all. Isaac sucks. He sucks at babysitting. He sucks at comedy. He's a shitty roommate. Shitty enough that when his roommate humiliates him after he brings his tinder date home, you don't sympathize with him, you sympathize with the roommate.
VALENTINA: Hot days are the worst. Especially when you're working. And especially when it gets so hot that your vagina starts complaining. Loudly.
PASTRIES: An Italian short about a self-absorbed actor who drags his girlfriend into a good-luck ritual of giving pastries to a homeless man. But things go tragically wrong when the homeless guy doesn't want his fucking pastries.
THE POET AND THE PROFESSOR: Ariel and her two men, in two dysfunctional affairs. The poet is an abusive filmmaker living in his girlfriend's luxury apartment but screwing (and abusing) Ariel on the side. And her professor is a depressed, pill-popping, married man. You just hope the whole time that maybe, just maybe, she'll get a gram of self-esteem and leave them both. And there is a moment where it looks like it might happen.

Next up was a feature film, FOR NOW. A California road trip movie, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Hannah and Connor are brother and sister. Their beloved parents recently died, and they're both dealing with it. Connor is a professional dancer in Europe, but Hannah got him an audition with the San Francisco Ballet, which could be a great opportunity for him. Or it could be more about how Hannah wants him nearby instead of half a world away. Joining them on the road trip is Hannah's boyfriend Kane, who is planning to propose if he ever gets just the right moment. And also Hannah's best friend Katherine, who you just know is going to hook up with Connor even though it's a pretty terrible idea. The plot meanders, allowing the movie to be more about characters...who are also kind of meandering. For their flaws, they're all sympathetic people, and the acting is great. I have to be in the right mood for these kinds of films to work for me. And I mostly was that day, so it was fun.

And the final show of the night started with the short SPRING AFFAIR. Two women on a hunting trip. Hunting a fairly unusual prey.

And then the feature MUSCLECAR, another one in the small Australian series in this year's festival. The premise--a car that runs on blood and the owner who kills to keep it running--reminded me heavily of one of my favorite movies, BLOOD CAR. Perhaps I was wrong to have that movie in my mind going in, because for all it's Ozsploitation sex and violence, I was disappointed because BLOOD CAR is so much better. Anyway, Bambi buys a car she can't afford. In fact, she can't even afford to put gas in it. But with a little voodoo help, she runs it on a particularly alcohol-rich blend of frat-boy blood. And gives it a heart. And...gets a little too intimate with it. That sounds better than it really is. Maybe it needs tarantulas, deadly tarantulas in vending machines.

Total Running Time: 334 minutes
My Total Minutes: 469,499

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 9

Catching up from a couple of weeks ago. Two movies...whatever night this was

First up was RABBIT from Australia, billed as Outback Noir. It starts with a cool premise--twin sisters (both played by Adelaide Clemens,) one of whom has been missing for a long time, presumed dead. But the other one has vivid dreams that makes her believe her sister is alive and in trouble. So she tries to use her psychic link with her twin to track her down, and finds some really baddies who are torturing her. It's got gruesome bad guys, and a cool premise, but it never really came together for me. Maybe I was just too tired to appreciate the subtleties. Maybe I was miffed that despite the title there wasn't any freakin' bunny in it! But it ended up being kind of a disappointment.

Then the second show started with a short, WHEN I WAKE, a story that takes place shortly after the election of a horrible, traitorous President, who enacts public policies restricting women's freedom. Yeah, like that would ever happen.

And then the feature, TORMENTING THE HEN. A lesbian playwright and her girlfriend travel to a remote retreat, so she can work on her latest play. It's supposed to be a quiet, woodsy resort, a nice place for her to work and her girlfriend to take a vacation. But their neighbor is kind of a creeper. Not that he makes complete overt threats. Mostly he just...mows the lawn. He mows, and mows, and mows. Which is obviously a pretext to keep an eye on the girls, but it's never clear if he has evil intent or is just curious and somewhat autistic. But none of that really matters, since I snoozed through most of it anyway. My understanding is it's supposed to be making a statement about men's feeling of entitlement to enter spaces where women want to be left alone. But talking to a few of my female friends afterwards, they were also bored and kind of jealous of my nap.

Total Running Time: 187 minutes
My Total Minutes: 469,164

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 8

A couple of excellent documentaries this night, starting with FAR WESTERN. I'm not even a fan of country western music, but there's something just incredibly fun about watching the Japanese enjoy it (is that racist?) After WWII, radios in Japan played western music, catering to the tastes of the occupying American forces. But there was also an audience of Japanese who just fell in love with the music, and starting making it themselves. And there's nothing ironic or mocking in their love of country music. It brings the music out of the country, out of certain regions, and makes it world music. Charlie Nagatani is the star, with his evangelical zeal to bring the joy of the music to Japan, but it also follows several Japanese country musicians as they tour America, the homeland of the music they love. And the great thing is how wholeheartedly they're welcomed into the community. They play festivals, they get American audiences dancing and cheering, Charlie even performs at the Grand Ol' Opry. It's just nothing but fun, fun, fun.

And then the next show was a stand-up comedy program, starting with the short SQUIRRELS DON'T JUDGE. Morgan Ruzzo is a 60-something transgender lesbian. Ehsan Mafi is an Iranian-American and devout Shia Muslim. And they're both stand-up comedians, getting to know each other as they perform together in shows together. It kinda tests my theory that if everyone had a sense of humor, they could get along together much more easily. And...that turns out to be pretty true.

And then the feature, the hilarious GINGER NATION. Shawn Hitchins is a redhead. He's also gay, and tells the story of how he became a sperm donor to his lesbian friends. He gleefully breaks taboos, talking about sensitive subjects of prejudice with grace, fierce, and most of all humor. I laughed the whole way through, and although I'm neither gay nor capable of pregnancy, somehow at the end I would've been honored to bear his little leprechaun children.

That was a fun night.

Total Running Time: 174 minutes
My Total Minutes: 468,979

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 7

This night started with a surfing documentary, BETWEEN LAND AND SEA. But a rather surprising setting for a surfing doc, the North Atlantic coast of Ireland. Yeah, when you think of the Irish you think "surfing" right? Anyway, the cool thing about surfing documentaries is the cinematography. Cool freakin' surfing scenes, this film's got 'em. So cool, that even if you're kind of exhausted and can't really stay awake, every time you open your eyes, something freakin' cool looking is happening on screen. Maybe it would've been better to see this on ample rest and really pay attention. But as it was, it was a pretty great film to kinda power-nap through (at least, through bits of it.)

The next show started with a short film, PROGRAM, about virtual reality and a woman trying to use it to fix an old love that didn't work.

And that was the lead-in to the feature, SEQUENCE BREAK. Based on the description, this should've been a movie I enjoyed more. A Cronenbergian story of a boy who repairs old arcade video games, the girl who enters his life, and the mysterious game that takes over his life. But I didn't get around to writing this until a couple of weeks later. And now I can't remember any of it, so I guess it didn't make much of an impression on me.

Total Running Time: 175 minutes
My Total Minutes: 468,805

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 6

A night of suicides movies, so let's start this the same way that both movies ended.

The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. If you or anyone you know is having any thoughts of suicide, please call. 

I started the night with the documentary THE S WORD. That word, of course, is "suicide." It's a fearless and heartfelt profile of several people who have attempted suicide but survived. In particularly, it focuses on those who work to prevent others from take their lives. It features many personal stories from wonderful people, and exemplifies what I've come to call the central paradox of suicide. That is, that suicide is often called "a selfish act." Which may or may not be true, but it's almost never done by selfish people. The stereotype of the suicidal person thinking "when I'm dead they'll all be sorry" is, if I may use some salty language, bullshit. Rather, they think (incorrectly,) "when I'm dead I won't be such a burden to everyone, and they'll all be better off." That's as unselfish as you can get (also as wrong as you can get)--sacrificing your own life for the betterment of everyone else. Those who want everyone to feel bad are just assholes. And assholes don't tend to kill themselves. They don't die to make everyone else miserable. They live to make everyone else miserable.

And then the second film of the night was the based-on-reality drama, HOLDEN ON. Holden Layfield was a good, popular kid. He was a high school football player, and a humble, generous, friendly guy. He was popular at his school, had good friends, had a bright future. And as the movie tells us very early on, he's dead. He suffered from mental illness, which he hid from everyone, including those closest to him. It's painful--intentionally so--to watch him suffer and struggle, and for those around him to just be confused and not know how to deal with him. He starts self-medicating, drops out of society. But when he is around, he's friendly, smiling, flashing a peace sign. It's obvious that the film is a labor of love made by people who knew him. But there's also a bit of a universality to his story. I can personally testify--even if self harm is not a possibility--that some of the friendliest, most generous people are masking pain with their smile. #IAmHoldenOn.

Total Running Time: 194 minutes
My Total Minutes: 468,630

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Jason guess to Indiefest--Day 5

Catching up slowly. Two more last Monday.

First up was Shorts 1: What You Don’t Know About Me.
TWO STRANGERS WHO MEET FIVE TIMES: Over the course of a life, two strangers learn a bit about prejudice and being kind to your fellow man.
TWENTY MINUTES: A 30 year old man with Asperger's syndrome is moving out to his own apartment. It's only 20 minutes away from home, but it's still a big step.
COUNTERFEIT KUNKOO: From India, the story of a woman escaping from an abusive marriage and the difficulty in that culture for a woman living on her own.
NEW NEIGHBORS: A black family moves into an all-white neighborhood. So the mom, always looking out for them, goes door to door to introduce themselves and assure everyone they live in the neighborhood so don't call the cops if you see them hanging around. A pretty uncomfortable way to approach the realities of racism (of course, not as uncomfortable as dying because of racism.)
SEVEN MINUTES TO CLOSING: If an asteroid is on its way to Earth and we're all doomed, how would you spend your final minutes? Looting? Getting drunk? Pricing candy in your convenience store?
OUTLINES: A teenage girl meets her dad's prostitute, and has an interesting heart-to-heart talk.

And then the feature, BLACK CAT, a spoof on true-crime documentaries. New evidence reopens an old case about a car crash that killed a popular actor/director. Duke Moody, an inept childish wannabe filmmaker is making a documentary about it (and has been stalking the suspect for years.) Throw in an obsessed cop who is sure that this chuckle-fuck did it. And then throw in a protective new girlfriend.... well, protective isn't the right word. More like...psychotic. Especially when she learns the truth. It makes for a pretty funny and exciting 50 minute ride. Unfortunately the movie is 85 minutes long. A lot of fun, but another example of what I call a "feature length short"--which are pretty common for independent film festivals. 

Total Running Time:
My Total Minutes:

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 4

Right after THE BIG HEAT, I ran as fast as my fat ass could move to get to Indiefest and RUMINATIONS. Fuck the Super Bowl, I'd rather watch a documentary about a wild and influential drag artist. Rumi Missabu was one of the founders of the famed Cockettes drag musical group in San Francisco. The film is a collage of his life. Art, drag performance, being roommates with Cindy Williams (from Laverne and Shirley, for you millennials out there,) to touching Andy Warhol and even stranger celebrity encounters. The inspiration of the Sunni poet Rumi. The drugs. The founding of the Cockettes. The Cockettes getting too big for their original vision. Fresh bread laced with cum. And then his later years, where he's got health problems but is also the top archivist of Cockettes material, which he is donating to the New York Museum of Modern Art (IIRC) and not to any local queer organizations (for reasons he won't discuss, beyond the fact that 10 years ago he definitely would have, but not now.) It's probably appropriate, given a life that seems to have gone everywhere possible, that it's impossible for me to appropriately summarize it. But I will say, nearly everyone who was interviewed on camera was laughing through every story they told. If you can live a life that leaves everyone laughing about your stories, I think you've done it right.

Then I caught another Indiefest retrospective, PASSING STONES was from Indiefest 2001, back in the pre-Jason days. And I've heard so much about this movie that it was built up to legendary proportions in my mind. And it fucking delivered. It's one of those underground, unpolished, indie films that just don't seem to exist anymore. Leon (writer/director/star Roger Majkowski) is a 30 year old "circulation manager" (i.e., paperboy.) One of his regulars, an old man, gives him his normal Christmas bonus envelope, then goes back inside and blows his brains out. Turns out, he got the wrong envelope. His family (who thought he died years ago) got a few buck. Leon got a ton of cash and a cryptic letter (in Polish) about how the rest of the money in underneath stone. So his fucked up family (him and his abusive brother) meet the dead guy's even more fucked up family--featuring a catatonic mother and a barking crack whore. All leading to buried treasure! Beautiful and insane. I'm so glad I finally saw this. Oh yeah, and the religious content in this movie was just insane.

But not as insane as the religious content in VIDAR THE VAMPIRE, a Norwegian horror-comedy about a devout Christian farmer and his strict mother. Vidar was mocked as a kid, told he will never get a girlfriend. Now as an's true. So he prays to Jesus to let him feel the pleasures of the flesh, rather than just the pages of a Playboy. And Jesus obliges, turning him into a vampire through an act of irrumatio (Google it, but maybe not at work.) Turns out, Vidar can't quite find a comfortable place as a whoremongering prince of darkness either, and so he seeks the help of a psychiatrist (the framing device of the movie.) It's all a wild, blasphemous ride about finding your own way in the world and how horribly you can twist the words of the Bible. My favorite of the festival so far.

Total Running Time: 255 minutes
My Total Minutes: 468,270

Jason goes to Noir City--Closing Day

Not closing night, since I caught the matinee shows, but let's jump right into them.

WICKED WOMAN (1953): I started with the B picture, because that's just how I roll. Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels) rolls into town on a bus. With barely any money she rents a room in a boarding house and immediately starts looking for a job. Her neighbor Charlie (Percy Helton) is clearly taken with her, and she simultaneously rebuffs and takes advantage of that. She does get a job as a waitress in a bar where she catches the eye of the bartender/owner Matt Bannister (Richard Egan.) Too bad he's married. But good thing that his wife Dora (Evelyn Scott) is a raging alcoholic and Matt doesn't approve. So they start a little affair, with the end goal being to dump his wife, sell the bar, and run away to Mexico (where, presumably, she will dump Matt and live off his money.) One little wrinkle, they need Dora's signature to sell the bar, and it's too much of a sentimental cause for her (it belonged to her father.) So the plan gets more elaborate, until it's cracking at the seams. What could be a super-sleazy story is elevated a great deal by Beverly Michaels, who plays Billie not just as a scheming woman, but one who is desperate and finding her way to survive however she can. It's the world that was wicked before this woman was.

THE BIG HEAT (1953): And then I ended the festival on a high note with this Fritz Lang classic. It starts with the suicide of a cop, Tom Duncan. Honest cop Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) investigates, and it's an open-and-shut case of suicide until the mistress (Dorothy Green) claims otherwise. Investigating further, it seems Duncan had a significant second source of income, but the guys upstairs are quick to but a stop to any investigation of corruption (because, of course, the corruption goes all the way to the top.) He doesn't heed any warnings to drop it, and when a car bomb that's intended for him instead gets his wife, he's on a personal mission to nail the bastards who did it. A twisting tale of revenge and justice, with Glenn Ford as the upright hero, the wonderfully vile Lee Marvin as the second in command baddie, and Gloria Grahame as his ditzy girl and occasional punching bag who fights back at just the right time (to huge applause from the audience.) A great way to end another great Noir City festival. 

Total Running Time: 167 minutes
My Total Minutes: 468,015

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 9

Still splitting time between Noir City and SF Indiefest. Last Saturday I only caught the matinee in Noir City.

SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 (1950): A crackin' good story about counterfeiters and the Secret Service going after them (trivia, the Secret Service didn't start out primarily as bodyguards for public officials. They started as a law enforcement agency specializing in tracking down counterfeiters.) An ace counterfeiter (Morris Ankrum) actually created the fake plates in San Quentin prison. That's the start of the case, as agent John Riggs (Don DeFore) goes undercover as Nick Starnes, working his way all the way up to the boss, Nora Craig (Andrea King.) Passion ignites, but justice trumps passion for the valiant and dedicated men of the Secret Service.

THE UNDERWORLD STORY (1950): And then what's better than dangerous Dan Duryea. In a similar setup to ACE IN THE HOLE he plays a disgraced newspaper reporter looking for another shot with a small town paper. (His name is Mike Reese, who I kept hearing as "My Crease," a possibly intentional play on words indicating what an asshole he is.) Of course, he's Dan Duryea, so he's over-the-top cynical and scheming, buying a share of a small-town paper, making him a business partner of the highly skeptical Cathy Harris (Gale Storm.)  But he ends up on the right side, defending a poor innocent girl Molly Rankin of murder (Mary Anderson, in unfortunate and cringe-worthy blackface.) Sure, he's only doing that to sell papers and advertising, but at least he's on the right side and has the town behind him. Unfortunately, that can change pretty quickly, as the father of the deceased happens to be a big-time newspaper publisher (Herbert Marshall,) and pretty well connected to the mob (in the person of Howard Da Silva.) And even though he knows Molly is innocent, he's still going after her rather than let the truth out, because...[no spoilers here, I've already spoiled enough.] Anyway, what's stranger than Dan Duryea being on the right side? Staying there, on principles, and taking a beating and becoming a hero by the end. Still a scheming son-of-a-bitch, but at least this one time, a heroic one. Now that's a pleasant surprise.

Total Running Time: 164 minutes
My Total Minutes: 467,604

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 8

I hear I missed some great stuff Thursday while I was at Indiefest. I like to think all the Noir City denizens (Noir Citizens) missed out on something great, too. You just can't be everywhere at once.

But I was back in Noir City Friday night for a double bill.

THE ACCUSED (1949): A depressingly timely film, one that's right in place with the #MeToo movement, "Me, too" meant not just that you had been harassed or assaulted, but that you had killed your attacker in self-defense and then tried to cover up the evidence. Loretta Young plays Dr. Wilma Tuttle, a psychology professor. One of her students, Bill Perry (Douglas Dick) offers to drive her home, but instead they end up on a secluded beach where he starts to get a little too forceful. And she fights back, successfully, and makes it look like an accident. Pretty soon Lt. Ted Dorgan (Wendell Corey) is on the case, and Perry's guardian Warren Ford (Robert Cummings) is hanging close by. And both of them kind of fall for her (especially Ford.) Of course, this whole time she was acting in self-defense, so even as the evidence starts damning her, she has a solid defense (I'm no lawyer, but I assume self-defense was a pretty good excuse, even in 1949.) But then the ending is a little off-putting, with more of a note of "darn, we'll never convict her because she's pretty and sympathetic" rather than "attempted rapist got what's coming to him." Ah, the fun and pitfalls of judging films by the standards of different time periods.

THE THREAT (1949): And then Charles McGraw, being evil and nasty. He plays Red Kluger, an escaped convict from Folsom prison who has sworn revenge on the cop and DA who put him there. The cop is brave, smart, and dashing Detective Ray Williams (Michael O'Shea,) the DA Barker MacDonald (Frank Conroy.) Along for the ride is a showgirl, Carol (Virginia Grey) who Kluger suspects ratted him out. And so he gets them all and keeps them captive in a remote shack in the middle of nowhere, beating and torturing them because a quick death is too kind. You know, a real feel-good family film, full of tension and testosterone, but relying on a smart woman to save the day.

Total Running Time: 167 minutes
My Total Minutes: 467,440

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Jason goes to Indiefest--Opening Night

Indiefest and Noir City overlap this year, causing me to make some difficult decisions over the weekend. But I had to be at opening night.

The opening night musical party started with STUCK, the film adaptation of a hit musical. Set inside a New York subway car, it starts with the train stopping, and everyone being stuck for a while. People from all walks of life have to just...sit there. But of course they don't. They talk, they fight, they sing, they get to know each other. Oh yeah, most importantly they sing, that's worth saying twice. The setup is pretty gimmicky, but the music is catchy enough and the characters are fully developed enough to transcend the gimmick and make you care about them. Each one starts as kind of a stereotype, but the point is to look beyond the stereotype and get to know each one of them as people. Who knows, maybe some of them might even stay in touch after the train starts moving again. That was fun.

Now I had been up since 5 a.m. for work, so I was a bit hesitant about staying for GIRL WALK//ALL DAY, a 71 minute dance party which I had seen before (mostly, I confess I dozed off a bit when it played back in 2012.) But I did want to see all my Indiefest friends and stuck around for at least the beginning. And ended up still there at the end, and even dancing along with the enthusiastic crowd. Great event for opening night. I don't think there's any way I can keep that energy up all festival.

Total Running Time: 161 minutes
My Total Minutes: 467,273

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 6

Just one film last Wednesday night. I needed to get to bed early for work on Thursday.

THE UNSUSPECTED (1947): Claude Rains is always excellent, and his distinctive voice is put to great work as a suave radio mystery show host Victor Grandison. His secretary is found hanging from a chandelier in his private office. It's officially ruled a suicide, as he had no apparent motive to kill her, and he's an upstanding member of society with a reputation beyond repute. He is...unsuspected. Well, there's a convoluted story that I couldn't possibly recap now. I'll just say the twists and turns are fantastic, but mostly it's the performance of Claude Rains that makes this such a delight. Especially the ending.

Running Time: 103 minutes
My Total Minutes: 467,112

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 5

2 more films last Tuesday.

THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946): An Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake classic. Ladd plays Johnny Morrison, a navy man just back from the war with his two best buds, Buzz (William Bendix) and George (Hugh Beaumont.) Johnny surprises his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) who has taken to partying and drinking in his absence. After he throws the guests out, they have a fight. She reveals horrible things, like their son Dickie didn't die from an illness, it was a car accident when she was driving drunk (don't drive drunk, people!) She has also been having an affair with Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva,) the owner of a nightclub, The Blue Dahlia. After threatening her, Johnny leaves, and eventually runs into Joyce (Veronica Lake,) a passing motorist who offers him a ride. The next day, Helen is dead. And of course, Johnny is the prime suspect. Fantastic twists, some unbelievable coincidences that aren't really coincidences (like Joyce is actually Eddie Harwood's wife) makes for a wonderfully convoluted whodunit. Lots of fun.

NIGHT EDITOR (1946): Here's what I said about it back when it played at Noir City 2009:
And finally, Night Editor which Eddie Muller introduced as "clunky". That was an extreme understatement. It has a ridiculous framing device, being told late one night in a newspaper office, as the editor tells the inside story of a small old piece of news (it was originally a radio play, and later a TV series, but this was the B-movie in between). This time he tells the story of a cop who's always working the night beat. And by "working", I mean sneaking off with his rich, socialite mistress. One night while making out in a secluded place, they witness a murder. Problem is, he can't come forward without admitting his affair. Trouble's worse when an innocent guy is convicted and sentenced to the chair. But he collects "evidence" to put the wrong guy away. All is going well, until the murderer provides a perfect alibi--the rich mistress who's now dating him. Almost as sleazy as it is clunky. But still, I regret nothing.
Yeah, that sums it up pretty well. Still sleazy, plus an ending that was kind of sweet. Maybe less clunky on multiple viewings. But most importantly, I still regret nothing!

Total Running Time: 164 minutes
My Total Minutes: 467,009

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 4

Two more on Monday, let's just jump right in.

CONFLICT (1945): Bogart killing his wife, what's not to love? And in a reversal of roles, Sydney Greenstreet plays the hero--a psychiatrist with an expertise in the criminal mind. Richard Mason (Bogart) has a very good reason for killing his wife (Rose Hobart)--he's in love with her sister (Evelyn Turner.) So there's an elaborate, fool-proof plan. But soon after the murder (framed to look like an accident on a windy mountain road) he starts receiving disturbing messages that she might actually be alive. Like most fool-proof plans, it's one small detail that will eventually trip him up. But the twists, turns, and suspense are great along the way.

JEALOUSY (1945): And then some good B noir trashiness. An alcoholic writer, his spunky taxi-driving wife, and the man who is smitten with her. Things will, of course, go bad--murderously bad for the husband, and bad for the rest of them when they are the obvious suspects. Gustav Machatý directs with a flair and visual style that shows what could have been if he hadn't been relegated to these low budget pictures after the scandalous ECSTASY (1933.) Lots of fun.

Total Running Time: 157 minutes
My Total Minutes: 466,845

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 3

Catching up on the last week. Last Saturday Noir City offered two badly wounded films, and a tantalizing teaser of a possible reconstruction in the works.

DESTINY (1944): So I did this in reverse order, with the B movie first. But in this case that's the right way to do it, because this started out as the opening segment of Julien Duvivier's anthology film FLESH AND FANTASY (not his original title.) Universal chopped it off and gave it to Reginald Le Borg (a decidedly lesser director) to fill out to B feature length. So it starts with a pretty uninspiring )(okay, laughably bad) story of a patsy, a bank robbery, and a getaway. Appropriately named Cliff Banks (Alan Curtis) is the patsy, an ex-con tricked into being the getaway driver. Not trusting the law to give him a fair shake, he's on the run in a small rural village. And then it turns into an entirely different movie when he runs into Jane Broderick (Gloria Jean,) a blind daughter of a farmer. She has a special, magical relationship with nature (this is when it stops being a Le Borg movie and turns into a Duvivier.) Nature provides for her, inspires trust in Cliff, and then protects her when he breaks that trust. A strange hybrid of the lowest B noir and some poetic magic realism. Add a tacked on framing device that completely changes the point of everything, and it's a shambling corpse that you can see once had a pretty strong heart.

FLESH AND FANTASY (1943): So FLESH AND FANTASY kind of picks off where DESTINY...might have left off if it hadn't been butchered. And a completely unnecessary "hammer the point home" framing story is tacked on, with Robert Benchley and David Hoffman. The less said of that the better. This is an anthology film all about fate, fortune telling, dreams, and whether you truly are the master or your own life. Originally in 4 parts but like I said part 1 became DESTINY. In part 1 (really part 2,) on Mardi Gras an ugly, bitter woman Henrietta (Betty Field) wears a beautiful mask and woos the student she's had a crush on, Michael (Robert Cummings.) They have a lovely evening, but at midnight she must return the mask, with surprising and sweet results. In part 2 (really 3,) Edward G. Robinson plays a skeptic who is unimpressed with a palm reader's remarkably accurate predictions. That is, until they continue coming true. And then he just has to know what that prediction the palm reader was too afraid to tell him actually was. Turns out, that also comes true in a very ironic way. Based on an Oscar Wilde story. And finally, in part 3 (really 4,) Charles Boyer plays a famous tightrope walker. He's famous for his "drunk on the tightrope" act, and for jumping from one rope to another--without a net. But when he has a dream where he falls and dies, he loses his nerve. Then he meets the woman he saw in his dream (Barbara Stanwyck) and starts really falling falling in love. But can dreams really control his fate?

So the highlight of all of this was Eddie Muller's revelation that there is a project in the works, hopefully, to restore Duvivier's original film. And I would eagerly watch that.

There was also a lot of discussion among Noir Citizens about whether Duvivier's film is "really noir." Normally I'm kind of bored by those debates. I'll give it to you that by any narrow definition, no this probably isn't "Noir." But you know what, you can go to Burger King and get french fries, which last time I checked are neither burgers nor kings. So unless you get equally worked up over that, just shut up an enjoy the cinematic meal.

Total Running Time: 159 minutes
My Total Minutes: 466,689