Friday, March 15, 2019

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 9

Wednesday. Five more films. Let's go. I think this was technically my "rest" day. Not that I stopped watching films, I just slowed down my drinking. Even the bartender noticed that the Tito's Bandito (confession--my alter-ego!) was a little slow on the draw. Don't worry, the Bandito will be back!
The Tito's Bandito. Have you seen this man?

Anyway, I started the day with BITE ME, A surprisingly sweet vampire love story that completely rejects the supernatural vampire myths (in fact, it starts with the protagonist looking into a mirror). 
Instead it's about fringe counterculture and finding love with a mundane. Sarah identifies as a vampire, in that she hangs out with fellow self-identified vampires and feels weak if she doesn't drink some human blood every week or so (no biting, all from willing donors, mostly in the community). She and a couple of her friends have been living in what they claim is a church, and therefore not paying taxes. So that gets the attention of the IRS, and James is the agent assigned to audit her church. And they turn out to get along very well. Even if it goes against the norms of both societies (it's interesting to think of the parallels between James' intolerant Christian friends and family and Sarah's too-cool-for-mundanes subculture) and especially against all professional codes of conduct (don't start dating until the audit is over!) they just kinda can't help it. It's funny and colorful, and in the end has a totally sincere message about how nobody is too special for ordinary, run-of-the-mill love.
It's so much fun when people ask my favorite film of the festival to yell out, "BITE ME!"

BITE ME plays again Sun, Mar 17 10:45 AM in Redwood City

Next up was LAST SUNRISE, a very clever sci-fi from China. It starts with a very simple but high-concept premise--the sun goes out. And not that it's slowly fading, it just rather suddenly blinks out, and what are the consequences of that? Obviously it's dark (dark enough for some beautiful vistas of the stars.) It's also cold and getting colder. And with plant life dying there's no more oxygen. Also our orbit is now more or less a straight line. Astronomer Sun Yang (I assume the name is intentional) was one of the few who saw it coming, but he's still not immune. He and his neighbor Chen Mu team up and work to survive I an increasingly cold world (both physically and emotionally) and make it to district 4, where allegedly there's a sanctuary that can save them--or at least prolong their survival. Really, without the sun all life on Earth is screwed pretty quickly, so it's more about the reactions of people to their impending extinction. Do you bind together in allegiances? Do you trust other people, or fight to protect yourself above all else. Really fascinating, although by the end you start to feel every minute of the 104 minute running time. It's great, but kind of exhausting (probably doesn't help that I was exhausted going in.)

LAST SUNRISE plays again Sat, Mar 16 6:30 PM in Redwood City

Then there was no time for Q&A, because I had to run off to the next show, which was Shorts Program 2: Family, For Better or Worse. All the different ways that a family can be:
ARCANGEL: Family can be a man and his elderly woman (maybe mother, maybe just friend) whom he's trying to get services for
BOY BOY GIRL GIRL: Family can be a gay couple and the drug-addicted lesbian couple who are carrying their baby girl.
THE CIRCLE: Family can be an aunt, spending the day with her niece before breaking some bad news
HAVE IT ALL: Family can be a working mom and her baby, and the exhausting comedic adventure of going to a work meeting
I AM MY OWN MOTHER: Family can be the mom who gave you up for adoption, and doesn't want you now, even if you're carrying get grandchild
MOVING ON: Family can be a surprise revelation after a dad's funeral
NAYSAYER: Family can be a father, barred from seeing his own son, who takes matters into his own hands. But in a recurring theme of the festival, his grip on reality is not good.
ONE CAMBODIAN FAMILY PLEASE FOR MY PLEASURE: Family can be one refugee family helping another, in the new paradise of Fargo, North Dakota
POZOLE: Family is food, even if it violates your dietary restrictions.
This is family

Next up was WBCN AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, about a Boston cultural institution in the late 60s through the 70s. A great indie radio station that combined rock and roll, politics, and rebellion (which is the only way to do rock and roll.) For a brief time it was the cultural institution of Boston. If you said you listened to the radio you didn't have to specify WBCN, that would be redundant. People would listen and turn their radios out the window so neighbors could hear. Legend has it you could walk across town without a radio and never not hear it. Using a wealth of archival footage, the film tells the story of a square entrepreneur and a gaggle of student radio DJs who first booked some overnight time on a failing station, and had the radical idea of playing what people were actually listening to. That turned out to be a winning formula, and by staying true to those roots they grew to become an institution. And then...they kind of knew it was over when they moved to some of the most prestigious real estate in Boston and really went "professional." But for a period it was an amazing place. Discovering new artists. Publicizing anti-war protests. Doing real investigative journalism (with their official "New Dissector"). I didn't live in that time or place, but the movie kind of makes me wish I had.
There was a time when these guys were the avant-garde of culture in Boston. Really.

And finally, I ended the night with a short and a feature. First up was the short, AMERICAN MUSCLE. It's a cool episode of a late night street race, directed by a guy who might or might not know how real it is. A story of leaving it all on the pavement to win a car, money, or at least some respect. Hopefully this short will get be expanded into a feature. At least, that's the plan.

And finally, APARTMENT 413 was an excellent thriller with a clever comedic touch. I don't want to give too much away, but it's part of the festival theme of mental illness and questioning reality (I guess in Cinequest-speak, they call it "Expect the Unexpected.") Marco has a good life...or at least an okay life. He has a girlfriend. They have a baby on the way. They have an okay apartment. He just needs a job so he can support them. But he has some bad habits. He oversleeps and misses an interview. He gets bored filling out applications and takes a break to play video games...for most of the day. And he's got a much, much bigger problem. Someone is leaving creepy notes around the apartment to threaten him. Or he finds a cell phone and some creep starts sending him messages that his girlfriend's baby isn't really his. Or he cleans the apartment and a second later it's a mess again. He starts questioning his own grasp on reality so much that he takes pictures of things to prove to himself and his girlfriend what's really real. Like I said, no spoilers, but expect the unexpected. Very well done!

AMERICAN MUSCLE and APARTMENT 413 play again Sat, Mar 16 10:30 AM in Redwood City

Total Running Time: 524 minutes
My Total Minutes: 500,794

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