Saturday, April 7, 2018

Jason goes to SFFILM--Day 3

Three more films on Friday, racing around the city through the rain.

First up, I just barely made it to the Children's Creativity Museum for HAL, a loving tribute to Hal Ashby. Normally I don't much care for hero-worship docs, but in this case he fucking deserved it. His wit, his spirit, his fierce passion for peace, love, and artistic freedom. His fights with producers and studio heads. The way he made every actor--heck, everyone on the set--feel like they were the most important person and the person he liked best. He was a genius, who was kind of destroyed by Hollywood. His best films were in the 70s--the wild, crazy times. But in the 80s...he tried to keep working, but studio consolidation and increased interference from executives. Well, as is acknowledged in the film, most people make their bad movies in the beginning, when they're still learning. He jumped right in with masterpieces, and made his bad films late in his career, when studio heads fucked with him too much.

Then I had just a small break, to hang in the lounge, have one beer, and then make my way over to the magnificent Dolby Cinema (not a regular theater, a lab where Dolby is creating the newest technology for the most amazing cinema experiences to date. If you have a chance, I would recommend literally anything playing there.)

I was there to see the world premiere of WRESTLE, a beautiful and gripping documentary about a poor high school in Alabama--on their list of failing schools (in fact, it has since been shut down) where they have a remarkable wrestling program. Not necessarily remarkable for their titles, but for the fact that they have one at all, and they have a few talented wrestlers. I can't lie, I'm not really into wrestling, don't know much about the sport. But the way it's shot, I got into the drama of every match, cheering their victories and lamenting their losses. But it's not just about the sport, it's about how they wrestle with other issues in their lives. Drugs, school, teenage pregnancy, run-ins with the police (deserved or not.) And even their coach, he's no perfect inspiration, just a guy trying to do some good (they were all there for the Q&A, and he said how he definitely broke the stereotype of both the white savior and the inspirational perfect teacher.) The filmmakers (Suzannah Herbert and Lauren Belfer) got absolutely amazing access to these kids' lives (and their parents and coach) and it makes for a powerful, beautiful movie, and a rare chance for kids who are often invisible to get their stories told.

If I had skipped out on the Q&A, it would've been easy to make the late show, but I just couldn't do that, so I was once again rushed to make it to the Roxie for BEAST, a pretty remarkable first feature British filmmaker Michael Pearce.) Set on the island of Jersey (where he grew up) it's the story of Moll, a young woman who feels constrained by the limitations of the island. In an interior monologue, she likens herself to a killer whale, who in nature travel hundreds of miles a day, but in captivity go deaf from the echos off their walls and often go insane. In fact, she bails on her own birthday party to go dancing, and the next morning meets a handsome man named Pascal. He's got blood on his hands--from hunting rabbits (which is illegal, but he's that kind of free spirit)--and he gives her a ride home. It's also the story of a serial killer on the island, one who kidnaps and kills teenage girls. And Pascal is a prime suspect. But Moll is also totally drawn to him, they become lovers. She's sure of his innocence, even as the town closes ranks against him, and her by association. There are twists and turns aplenty in the end. There's definitely a moment where it could've ended kind of predictably, and I'm so glad it kept going and turned my expectations on end at least a couple more times. Pretty great.

Total Running Time: 293 minutes
My Total Minutes: 475,487

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