Friday, March 22, 2019

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 12

The penultimate day! And I was legitimately hurting by then. But sometimes you have to play through the pain. So here was the last Saturday at Cinequest:

I started with...well, let's be honest, I started with drinks in the lounge at 10 am, like every day. But after enough of that, I went to the movies.

The first show started with the short INTO THE PLAINS, starring Maggie Alexander, a returning Cinequester whose previous film ENTHUSIASTIC SINNERS...I slept through. Look, my blog has some integrity, if not intelligence. Anyway, this time I more or less stayed awake (by the end of the festival, I don't really know what I'm watching vs. what I'm dreaming,) and it's a very good and gripping story of a woman who is avoiding her husband, "working late," and not facing their shared trauma of losing a child. Instead, she just takes off.

That was paired with the feature, RITOMA, a fascinating and inspiring documentary about the worldwide reach of basketball. Worldwide, as in...all the way to nomadic tribes in Tibet. Even more amazingly, it made it all the way to MIT (okay, I can kid because my alma mater literally had a documentary made about how much they suck at basketball.) Anyway, Tibetan nomads learn basketball from NBA broadcasts in their free time. They've got a little skill, a lot of enthusiasm, and zero sense for the strategy of the game. Bill Johnson was an assistant coach for MIT, and he learned about the basketballing nomads, so he comes up with a wacky plan. He travels to Tibet, teaches a team, and sets up a tournament with 8 local teams (and some visiting Americans.) And they have a blast. It's clear from the beginning, although there is a "hero" team, it really doesn't matter who wins. This is all about the fun they're having. International sports diplomacy on the smallest scale possible.

Blah blah blah, more drinks in the lounge. Ya know, I think I blame "Hambone."

Then back to the movies for a German crime thriller, CUT OFF. It's a satisfyingly gruesome story of a forensic pathologist who discovers a capsule inside a victim's skull. Inside is a note that leads to the realization that his 13 year old daughter has been kidnapped and threatened. This leads him on a wild chase with the help of his bumbling intern, with more notes hidden inside more victims, and a roundabout plot involving the an old case where he couldn't provide enough evidence to put a murderer away for long enough. Like most overly elaborate thrillers, the plot steps way outside the bounds of credulity, but ignore that and it's a lot of fun, and is twisty enough that I couldn't quite see the ending coming.

Next up was Shorts Program 4 - Animated Worlds. Hooray for cartoons!
THE BACKWARD ASTRONOMER: The decadent but empty romance of the wealthy, until a young man learns to be a backward astronomer and look down on the world from the moon.
FREAKS OF NURTURE: A young woman learns that her mom is amazing, in a cool stop-motion short.
FUN MORE: Super short, overlapping tasks and crude line drawings.
GUAXAMA: Memories of children on the beach, literally drawn in the sand.
I'M OKAY: Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka in WWI. Animated in a very playful style.
INANIMATE: A puppet has a sort of mental breakdown and starts questioning reality. Expect the unexpected.
MR. DEER: Animals on the subway. Being animals, just like people do.
NOT YET: A Hungarian film about a child searching for his mother. TBH, I don't remember much about this one.
ON THE DAY YOU WERE BORN: With simple line drawings, a man starts growing on his 45th birthday. Soon he can't fit his house, or his clothes, and then there's just a naked giant walking through town with his dong hanging out. Very funny.
PRIZEFIGHTER: Heavyweight champion Jack Johnson beat the whole world. But he was still subject to racism.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Man Hurts Hotdog. Other anagrams. The story of an animator submitting to a film festival. Possibly based on Cinequest. From Steven Vander Meer, of SALMON DEADLY SINS (Cinequest 2014).
SELFIES: Made from selfies, about selfies.
SOLILOQUIES: A teen with anxieties, based on the life of filmmaker Julia Song.
TRUMP BITES: Bill Plympton animates actual Trump quotes, in his inimitable way.
TWO OF EVERY KIND: A couple of peacock queens make snarky comments about the others on the ark.

Then more shorts, Shorts Program 3 - Sci-Fi,  Fantasy, and Horror. Hooray for the far-out films (but not quite Mindbenders)
8:27: Earlier in the fest I saw THE LAST SUNRISE, which was a long form Chinese story about what happens if the sun goes out. This is a German take, and a more humorous take, on the same premise. Based on the time it takes light to travel from the sun to the Earth.
BOOK OF THE DEAD: A gorgeous CGI dream/nightmare about the process of dying...and returning.
I just really, really, really like this image
DAZZLE BEAST: A dirty underworld, and a young girl with a little magic.
THE GIVE AND TAKE: A funny story of an old eighties video game, a helpline that shouldn't really work anymore, and a cosmic glitch that allows it to work, and change the life of the guy answering the line.
HENRIETTA BULKOWSKI: Stop motion animation of a hunchback woman who wanted to fly, but could never look up. So she spent her life building a plane, only to find a bigger surprise.
JUMPY: An 8 bit videogame character has a lot of determination. He just needs to make that one big jump, but he keeps missing and getting increasingly frustrated.
LIFE ON MARS: A dying father convinces his little son that they'll meet again--on Mars.
NADINE: Superpowers and overcoming hate.
NEGROLAND: A poor black town, if the residents there were zombies. Or at least, if they were quarantined and mistreated like zombies. Actually, maybe it's a documentary about Flint, Michigan.
SHOULD YOU MEET A LADY IN A DARKENED WOOD: A nicely creepy animated piece about a taxidermist and his final prize. But the lady turns on him.
SINGULARITY: A brief consideration of super-intelligent artificial life.
TERMINALLY IN LOVE: Lovers, memories, fantasies, and dreams.
THE MISSING TRAIT: Inspired by the art of Magritte, a man...and his hat, are looking for the thing that is missing. Maybe an apple? Very cool.

And finally, I ended the night with BLOOD PARADISE, a very Swedish film featuring some gratuitous violence and the most gratuitous nudity of all of Cinequest. This wins the Skinequest prize this year. Robin Richards is a best-selling sleazy crime author, but she's in a bit of a rut. Her last book kinda flopped, and she has no inspiration for her next. So her publisher has an idea--send her to a Countryside Farm rustic resort for a little peace and quiet and hopefully some inspiration. But it's all just a little off, starting with the creepy driver Hans who claims to be her biggest fan and insists she calls him "Hans, Bubbi." Hans' wife is jealous and thinks they're having an affair. The farmer is a weirdo with a secret, his sister never speaks, his son is a gun nut. And it's all hilarious and sleazy, in a perfectly Swedish way, if that makes sense. At least, it has a Swedish sense of dry absurdity. I'm not sure if there's a stereotype of Swedish sleaze, but for now, for me, this is it.

And that was the end of Saturday. At least for the movies. There was still the matter of heading back to my hotel to drink with friends and filmmakers into the wee hours of the morning. First in the bar lounge so as not to disturb the sleeping guests. Then after they kicked us out at 2 am up to the room.

Total Running Time: 517 minutes
My Total Minutes: 502,297

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