Sunday, July 22, 2018

10-movie challenge

Alex nominated me for the facebook 10-day movie challenge. Unsurprisingly, I had a hard time narrowing it down to 10 (I ended up somewhat trying to match photos to those I was tagging.) Here are the rest I was considering. Any guesses?


And here are the 10 I did use:
#1. The Haunted House

#2. Moon

#3. Interview with a Vampire

#4. In Bruges

#5. Chinatown

#6. Cabaret. The old dude knows whats up.

#7. Last of the Mohicans

#8. Go

#9. Gosford Park

#10. Days of Heaven

Thursday, May 24, 2018

SFFilm Fest 2018 Roundup

Forgot to do this round-up earlier, in part because I made lists on letterboxd (narrative films here, short films here.) Still - good to do a little explanation on here.

Past round-ups: 20172014201320122011

So, from fantastic to meh, with a few favorite shorts at the end:
I loved this. It is very particularly my cup of tea; a murder mystery on the isle of Jersey, filmed as a dark, dreamy fairy tale, with a great cast. 

I Am Not a Witch
All I knew about this going in  is that it was one of the big contenders at the BritIndies last year. I almost recommend going in with just that and letting it unfold. It's so beautiful and so well done. 

Leave No Trace
The film I was most excited for going into the fest (Debra Granik's second narrative film!) and it did not disappoint. (I'd recommend skipping the trailer as it shows a lot of the plot). The basic plot is: a father and daughter camp out and live off-grid in the parks around Portland. There's beautiful shots of the Pacific Northwest, the young actress is as exciting a find as Jennifer Lawrence was in Winter's Bone, and there's one scene that makes me cry just thinking about. It's beautiful. I can't wait to watch it again.

The Rider
This is such a stunningly beautiful film, both visually and empathically. I found it the tiniest bit slow to start, just as the non-actors got used to being filmed, but the rest was totally absorbing. 

Support the Girls
Very similar vibe to Results. Very charming. Regina Hall and the supporting cast are awesome. 

Won't You Be My Neighbor
Just a theater-full of people quietly weeping. 

The Guardians (Les Gardiennes)
This was the surprise member's screening, and despite being very long in the Victoria's very uncomfortable seats, I loved it. It tells the story of the women keeping the farm at home running during the first world war; the cycles of the harvest interrupted only by the occasional leave of a family member or the death of one. 

I loved this. It's a great take on the rape/revenge genre and the superhero genre as well. SUPER bloody. 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
This is so well done. It will be interesting to see the *other* gay conversion therapy film coming out this year (with Lucas Hedges), but I really liked the cast in this one. The characters were so specifically drawn; the two rebellious teens - one of whom is Native and identifies as two-spirit, the really religious teen pressuring himself to change, the befuddled young priest trying to help but not ever grasping how. Chloe Grace Moretz gives a good, understated performance as a teen trying to muddle through the experience. I still think about the final scenes a lot. 

To Be or Not to Be
Carole Lombard is awesome. 

Angels Wear White
Really difficult to watch in parts, but extremely well done. If you can stomach the content (sexual abuse by those in power in China), I highly recommend it. 

I Was Born, But...
This had astoundingly terrible accompaniment by Blonde Redhead, but the film itself was very charming. It really captures the fluctuating dynamics of childhood friendships and allegiances.  

The Big Bad Fox (Le Grand Mechant Renard)
I only got to see two of the three segments of this (there are three stand-alone cartoons), because the director and tech folks spent AGES trying to set up for a live drawing demo after the film, and it started super late. THAT SAID, the two parts I saw are very charming, and while I don't get some of the rapturous love for it, it is very cute. Great for kids. 

Suleiman Mountain
I never quite got where this was filmed - I guessed Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, but I thought it was really well done. (Turns out it was Kyrgystan). It's a family drama, with an unconventional family, in an interesting location. Really funny in bits, and I thought the lead actress was brilliant. 

Purge This Land
This film won the LA Times experimental film award last year. It takes the story of John Brown and cuts it with the history of race riots in America (many of which I had never heard of), filmed against those locations, and interspersed with the filmmaker's musings on raising a biracial child. I really like essay films, and I thought this was really well done. 

I went into this with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised (I really like Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis, so that helped a lot). I also really liked Young Adult, which was the last Theron/Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody film. It wasn't exactly about what I thought it was going to be about. And Charlize watched it with us! I've never, ever seen talent stick around and watch a film from the audience before, but she did, and she was all verklempt at the end when she had to go back up to do a Q&A. 

This is a well done French zombie film, with a bit of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel. Some really great sequences. 

The Sower (Le Semeur)
Weirdly, the SECOND French period piece about women harvesting wheat and the men who done them wrong I saw in a single day. This one suffers by comparison only because it's a debut film and falls into a few tropes, where the other (the Guardians) was more assured. But this film is lovely, the location is stunning, and it hits that period-piece sweet spot well.  

I thought of this as a pretty straightforward documentary, made compelling just by who she is. But I read some articles later about the Sundance premiere, and apparently MIA hadn't seen the final cut and thought it was going to be much more about her as an artist, which was surprising. The film centers instead on her political activism and how that has shaped and influenced her career over the years. I thought it made her out to be very sympathetic, but I don't know that she loved it? I know some folks wanted more of her live performances in the film, since she's known particularly for that. 

Eighth Grade
As effective as Thirteen as giving you the I-want-to-claw-my-skin-off-remembering-how-awful-this-age-was vibe. Just with fewer drugs and more youtube. 

The Other Side of Everything
This film was a portrait of Srbijanka Turajli, an amazing Serbian pro-democracy advocate, by her daughter (who was obviously not always thrilled to be at the center of the political rebellion.) Not knowing anything about Serbian history, this film gave a really great, personal overview, while never feeling like a history lecture. It's an interesting look at how personal history intersects with political history, although difficult to end in the midst of political tumult.       

A Kid Like Jake
So, this is a pretty paint-by-numbers social drama. Parents have a son who likes fairy tales and dress up, pre-school administrator suggests focusing on son's gender-expansive behavior to get into hyper-competitive NYC kindergartens, liberal Brooklyn parents have to confront their own biases and fears for their son. I'm mostly not sold on Jim Parsons, dramatic actor, but the big, very-clearly-theatrical argument at the climax does work particularly well with him in the role. In fact, I think that scene is so well-done that it is largely the saving grace of the film. And while I don't know that the addition of Amy Landecker advanced the plot much at all (those scenes apparently weren't in the play), I really liked her in the role and enjoyed those scenes. That said, I could see all this having worked better as a play. 

Three punk teenage girls, with the assistance of an older American, make an indie film in Singapore, but then the dude disappears with the footage. The footage is recovered twenty years later, and the director reckons with the film and its place in her life. It's engaging enough, particularly the mystery of the dude and the footage, and the way it captures both what Singapore was like in that moment in time and the friendship of the three girls, but I left wanting more. 

American Animals
Great cast, but the film inter-cuts with the actual people, which undercuts the dramatic tension. The film briefly uses this to highlight the difference in their memories of the same event, but that motif is dropped, and not carried far enough to really land. There are some other nice stylistic elements, like an imagined heist, but overall it becomes too long and doesn't hold your interest. Bonus points for studying up on Heist and Matchstick Men in planning your crime, dudes. 

Winter Brothers
Some really interesting shots (much of the action takes place in a limestone factory), but while this was supposed to (I think) be a funny take down of modern masculinity, it ends up being difficult to particularly care about what happens to any of the characters in the film. 

Jupiter's Moon
There are some really beautiful sequences of the main character (a European refugee) floating through his environment. But while I liked the two leads (the refugee and the corrupted doctor who helps/uses him), they just wander about with no real intent, other than not getting caught. The whole thing becomes a bit of a shaggy dog story (no pun intended for the director's previous feature, White God.) This might be the most beautifully shot film on the refugee crisis, but it's definitely not one of the best. 

Sorry to Bother You
I really wanted to love this, but it *really* needed an editor. I love all the balls-to-the-wall crazy ideas in here, and there are so many that several do land well. But I didn't feel that the film held up overall. 

Beautifully shot, but very bleak story about an aging Swedish farmer and his son who refuses to commit to farming (he prefers bird watching.) I think this first-time director has great promise, but this was a relentlessly downbeat plot. (I just wanted to shake the kid and scream, 'help your father you selfish brat!')

Claire's Camera
So ridiculous. Lovely to watch Isabelle Huppert and Kim Min-hee swan around Cannes, but there's no purpose to this film -  no reason for it to exist other than someone wanting to make a film while they were at Cannes. Technically the plot is Kim gets fired mid-way through the fest because her boss has a long term relationship with the director they are representing, and he slept with Kim, then Isabelle has a magic camera that can change destiny and Kim gets rehired by the end of the fest. Gah.

Just not my type of film. A Brazilian mother contending with her eldest leaving the nest. Meh. 

And, just to cover a few shorts:

Autumn and The Dreamer
So - Nathaniel Dorsky is an experimental filmmaker (he also is an editor-for-hire, and won an emmy). His work is silent, and I didn't realize till the films started that he meant *actual silence* (I'm so used to scores on "silent" films!) He does amazing in-camera (16mm) work to change the lighting or the focus of a shot, often of up-close plants, or reflections, or images that can be hard to make out other than light/dark/color. He wrote a book called Devotional Cinema and, to quote wikipedia, "Dorsky writes of the long-standing link between art and health as well as the transformative potential of watching film." So obviously I love him. Autumn and the Dreamer both came out in 2016, and trace the seasons in San Francisco. I swear, forcing myself to sit with these (it was tough! A lot of people did not make it through the full program!) felt like it re-wired my brain for a bit. 

The director of this works at Pixar and it shows (this is a personal project, not a Pixar one, but he obviously had access to some of the best talent to help him make it!) Great soundtrack. Beautifully illustrated, really touching. 

49 Mile Scenic Drive
This is a niche interest, but I LOVE the 49 mile scenic drive, and its signs, and this short is both about the history of those things, *plus* the awful design change that the film makers then got fixed! It was just so lovely to see a small thing I care about get fixed for the better. 

Pigeons flying over Delhi. Very much my sort of film

I loved this immersive experience (travelogue feels like the wrong word) of San Basilio de Palenque. 

73 Questions
A wonderful rotoscoped animation that takes the Vogue "73 questions with a celebrity" format and applies it to an SF local. Such a wonderful way to get to know a neighbor. Also, Steve was at the Q&A and told what might be my new favorite SF joke; “I went to this bar, talked to this lady. I said do you want a ride in my BMW? She said yeah. We get outside. I said, that’s bart, muni, or walk!”

Also worth noting: Crisanto Street, which I quite enjoyed (I ranked it 11th/33). This won the Golden Gate for documentary short. In it, 8-year-old Geovanny is given a video camera to document life in his trailer and the community of folks living on the outskirts in the bay area. It's really joyful and hopeful and well worth attention in local discussions of the housing crisis.