Thursday, March 21, 2019

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 11

It's all over but the writing now. For brevity's and sanity's sake, I'm skipping over most of the drinking and just writing about the movies now. Here's what went down on the last Friday of Cinequest:

It started the day with Shorts Program 1 - Inbound Visions. More than any other, the shorts program where you should expect the unexpected.
THE 17: The true story of a truly unjust law in El Salvador. It's bad enough to criminalize abortion, but classifying miscarriage as abortion and jailing women who experience it? That's beyond bad.
CHICKENS: Racist cops try to cover up a murder. The chickens come home to roost.
HAYLEY: A flight attendant might be paranoid, or she might actually be saving a little girl from trafficking.
LAMB: Led to the slaughter, like women in Hollywood to powerful predators.
NOCTURNE: A retirement home, a guest, and pie. Surprise.
NOTRE MORT: What do you do if you find your own dead body in the wilderness?
NURSERY RHYMES: For the life of me, I don't remember what actually happened in this one. But this image is pretty striking, isn't it?

THE REVOLUTIONARIES: From returning Cinequester Jadrien Steele (VICTORIANA), a story based on bombings by American radicals in 1970, in hopes of sparking a revolution. After an accident, one woman wants out, and suspicion, reprisal, and manipulation is the result.
THE WIND PHONE: In Otsuchi, Japan, there is a phone booth with a long line of people waiting to make a call. Their calls are ones of loneliness, missing their loved ones, maybe even regret. This phone isn't connected to anything.
WOMAN IN STALL: A woman goes into the bathroom, into a stall, and starts doing what she came there to do. A man knocks on the door. Did she run into the wrong bathroom, or is he a creep?

Next up was Shorts Program 6 - DocuNation. Hooray for real-life stories!
49 MILE SCENIC DRIVE: A brief history of San Francisco's famous scenic drive, the choice of the artist to design the signs, and the controversy when the design was recently changed.
BONES: Some artists just feel their art in their bones. And one uses that to make bones out of marble.
DOUBLE EXPOSED: A woman reflects on the home movies of her grandfather. Over footage of the one movie-making mistake he ever made (see the title) she reveals a much worse transgression of his.
I AM THINKING OF PIERRE CARDIN: A clever and colorful homage to the style of the great designer.
LION IN A BOX: A short, mostly animated account of a proud veteran's experiences with sexual assault, starting in boot camp when her drill instructor offers to make things either "very easy" or "very hard" for her.
NAZI VR: A fascinating look at the latest (possibly last ever) Nazi war crimes trial, which used a VR reconstruction of the camp to prove that the guard on trial couldn't have missed what was going on around him.
PROJECT CHICK: A look at artist Kim El from Pittsburgh. A poetic look at her life and work.
SHADES: Caring way too much about emojis.
SHOUT AT ME!: The training of a luchadora, and how she uses wrestling to combat violence and judgment against women.
THE SPRING THEY DIDN'T SEE: Shocking and depressing visual account of a Kurdish genocide, including the use of chemical weapons.
SUPER 80: An 80th Birthday party shot on Super 8. And how the love of his wife keeps him feeling super.
SWAN: A ballet performance. And it's beautiful.
THE SWIMMER: Swimming. And the thoughts that go through your head on a long-distance swim.

Next up was RED LETTER DAY, a hilarious, cynical, and gruesome horror flick from Canada. It takes a ridiculous premise, leaps far outside the realms of the believable, and completely fucking delivers. The day starts more or less normally in an affluent suburban town of Aspen Ridge. That is, until people check their mail. Seems like everyone has gotten a mysterious red envelope. Inside are instructions--you've been paired with someone in town, based on your social media presence you are the most antagonistic towards each other. Well, now it's time to kill them before they kill you. And let the mayhem begin! Of course, most people would refuse to kill. But the fear is there, and fear makes you irrational. The action follows one family around as they...kinda...try not to kill anyone, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. I heard a lot of people grumbling about this one on the way out, but if you read the synopsis in the guide and were expecting something else, I think that's your mistake. This completely delivers on its outlandish premise, and has a lot of fun along the way.
What wouldn't you do to protect your family?

Then it was time for THE BLACKOUT. No that's not a description of my mental state at this point of the festival. Rather, it was the first episode of a new Russian television mini-series. Or maybe the first half of a two-part made-for TV movie? We were a little unclear on the concept, but in any case we only saw the first half. Which opened with an exciting premise--it's the near-ish future, and for some unknown reason communications between most towns on earth have been severed. Most of the world has gone black, except for a small area in Eastern Europe. We meet the main cast, the visuals are like a snazzier and more militarized take on BLADE RUNNER, and we almost get to find out what's going on. Seriously, that's the cliffhanger of the first episode. Whatever is in the woods outside town is about to come out and attack, and then credits roll. Apparently it'll be on Russian TV in the fall, and coming in some form to the U.S. in November.

The good news is because the slot was planned for two parts, we had a lot of time between this and the next film, which I spent going to the Maverick Meetup at Mosaic and having exactly one beer, then deciding what I really wanted was a burrito. So I stopped at Taco Mania (hey, it was closer than La Vic and just about as good, although it's true that nothing beats the orange sauce)

Then it was back to the Hammer for EVERY TIME I DIE, a clever and entertaining thriller. Sam is a paramedic, he has friends, but his life isn't great. He has blackouts, and visions of him accidentally killing his little sister Sara when they were little. He's also got a best friend, Jay, who invites him to a weekend at a lake house. Jay's wife Poppy has a sister Mia, and neither Jay nor Poppy know that Sam is already having an affair with Mia, and for that matter neither does Mia's husband, Tyler. Okay, confused yet, because it's easier to follow in the movie than in my terrible writing. Anyway, Mia wants to break it off, Tyler finds out about it, and when Sam tries to leave, Tyler runs him off the road, chases him down to the lake, and murders him. End of story? Not really, because Tyler's consciousness just floats into another body. Specifically, Jay's. That's the supernatural premise, and it's very well done. Sam, inhabiting other bodies, tries to both get back with Mia and reveal Tyler's crime, but isn't believed because, of course, he's in a body that's obviously not Sam's. It's a clever premise, and makes for an entertaining ride that's a spin on the "ghost possession" genre from the ghost's point of view. Really cool, and also a bit philosophical about the nature of identity.

And finally, the midnight movie, starting with the short COME CORRECT. You gotta know what to wear, and what to order, if you want to hang out in the swankiest bar in town. And if you get it wrong, you can either leave, or challenge the bartender to a shake-off. All you need are skills...and a man with an epic beard to be the judge.

And that was the lead-in to the feature, TERROR NULLIUS, a movie edited together from the history of Australian (and if I'm not mistaken, a little New Zealand) cinema, as well as the history of Australia itself. The title is a play on the concept of Terra Nullius, which was used as a legal excuse for invaders to steal aboriginal land. So classics like MAD MAX; PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK; PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT; ROMPER STOMPER; THE BABADOOK (which in this movie turns you gay) etc. as well as more obscure fare are edited together in a sort of story about feminism, gay rights, aboriginal land rights, and more. The stereotypical (and cinematic) outlaw Aussie persona is turned around to one who is finally standing up for the aborigines and against colonialism. Or maybe not, it's such a head-spinning ride and it was so late at night all I really know is I fucking loved it.
Wait a minute... one of those characters wasn't in the original ROAD WARRIOR
Total Running Time: 512 Minutes
My Total Minutes: 501,780

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