I missed three things I had been planning on seeing; Vivan las Antipodas, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and Meanwhile in Mamelodi. Sad about Meanwhile, because it was the runner-up winner for documentary, and set in South Africa during the world cup. Ah well - there's always Netflix.
The Excellent (would not hesitate to recommend):
Liberal Arts. I know. I'm TOTALLY surprised. This was actually the secret screening. Once we were assembled in the auditorium, they announced the title and I thought, "Okay. It got decent buzz at Sundance. It'll probably be too twee and quirky and INDIE for my tastes, but they could've picked something worse." And I completely loved it. The tagline is about a 30-something falling for a 19-yr-old when he visits his alma mater, but it's actually about a lot more and a lot of the best parts stem from his interactions with a host of other characters he meets on campus. The film touches on college, life-long learning, literature, relationships, growing up... all-in-all it's just very well written and not what I expected. I really recommend checking it out.
Fantastic characters, really fun, really human. Also the only film at the fest that made me cry (even when I knew what was going to happen!) The description; "Winner of the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival, Nadine Labaki’s humorous and warmhearted follow-up to Caramel tells the story of a group of women in a Lebanese village who resort to extreme measures to keep their Christian and Muslim husbands from engaging in religiously motivated violence." [Trailer - warning, makes it seem cutsier than it actually is.]
Adolescent infatuation between star-crossed lovers deepens into wild passion in this cinematic incarnation of Emily Brontë’s classic 19th-century novel. Set against the rainy windswept Yorkshire moors, this adaptation is a haunting and almost tactile depiction of romantic obsession pared down to its most visceral and elemental form." [Trailer - this gives you a good sense of what the film is like.] (I have to follow this up with a story; I was in line for my next film after this one, and this guy turns to me, clearly not having gotten the film. Which, okay. It's filmed in a very oblique, artistic manner. It may not be for everyone. Anyways, he says, "was that a chick flick? Because I didn't get it." Um, NO. Personally, I've always liked Cleolinda's description; "Wuthering Heights is not romance but actually horror, about two emotional sadomasochists who lay waste to everyone around them, using them as pawns in their own personal war of attrition.")
Using Kashmir’s picturesque Dal Lake as its backdrop and underpinned by the political unrest in the region, this moving drama explores the relationship between two best friends and the female researcher, studying environmental degradation, who threatens to distract them from their dreams of escape." [A on CriticWire.]
An art heist goes terribly wrong in this darkly comic, fast-paced thriller." Out in limited release now.
A French counter-terrorism captain negotiates with his rebel counterpart for a bloodless end to a hostage crisis in this powerful film, based on a 1988 military action in the French Pacific. Actor/director Kassovitz (La Haine) precisely dissects imperial arrogance and political expedience, building to a dramatic conclusion of great force." [7.2 on IMDB]
When an aging and cantankerous cat burglar (played with magnetic gravitas by Frank Langella) receives a helper robot against his wishes, a new chapter in his life begins. This crowd-pleaser is an elegant and heartfelt meditation on the nature of character, memory and trust."
Doug Jones and Clancy Brown, so you know it has to be cool. [Trailer] Fest description; "Talking bratwursts, monsters made of meat and dogs with magical powers—the madly fertile brain of Don Coscarelli strikes again. Dissecting the incredibly baroque plot of his latest film would take out much of the fun, but the gist involves a super-powered psychoactive substance called "soy sauce" which causes its users to have extreme psychic experiences and the ability to travel across time and space. It can also overpower those who ingest it, turning them into shape-shifting monsters. The sauce makes its first appearance in the town of Sherwood, Illinois, where pals John and David come across it at an outdoor party. Trying to keep it from taking over their friends, and eventually the world, the duo teams up with other party survivors to defeat the substance and the various demons it sends after them. Adapting the popular Internet-launched novel of the same name by Jason Pargin (who wrote the book under a pseudonym) of Cracked.com fame, Coscarelli creatively shifts the action back and forth in time as David narrates his incredible story to an interested journalist played by Paul Giamatti. With wonderfully witty dialogue, a cabal of game actors and some terrifically gory set pieces, John Dies at the End is the most inspired horror comedy in years. Give yourself over to the sauce!"
The Okay (would recommend with caveats):
Stepping outside of the manor into urban terrain, the audacious director behind Dogtooth returns with a tragicomedy about a tightly knit group that specializes in impersonating the recently deceased. You’ll never look at tennis or rhythmic gymnastics—or modern life and grief counseling—the same way again."
When African refugees reach the shores of the paradisiacal Italian island of Linosa, members of a tight-knit Sicilian family get caught between cultural tradition and moral responsibility, in this gripping drama by the acclaimed director of Respiro (SFIFF 2003) and Golden Door (SFIFF 2007)." [Special Jury Prize at Venice.]
Having told her own riveting story in Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi explores the life of her great-uncle, revered Iranian musician Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric), as he reflects on the past and future while pining for a lost love, in this romantic, richly textured adaptation of her own illustrated novel." [Rated a B on CriticWire]
All three films of Dreileben’s character driven crime drama trilogy are set in and around a small town by the Thuringian Forest... A self-possessed police psychiatrist travels to a normally tranquil burg tense over an escaped killer’s unknown whereabouts. Her working rural “vacation” with friends won’t leave anyone feeling rested, safe or at peace with the past in this droll, suspenseful and slippery midsection to the Dreileben trilogy"
Dreileben’s final chapter finds mad yet resourceful hunted man Frank Molesch front and center, pursued through the wilderness by a detective. Is Frank a murderous criminal or lifelong victim? The triptych’s vertical narratives—not linear but vaguely simultaneous—conclude on a note that resonates with poignancy, tragedy and bitterest irony."
The invention of the vibrator is at the center of this historical romp. Weary from treating female hysteria with his hands, a young doctor (Hugh Dancy) contrives a contraption capable of making women sing arias of pleasure, with a little help from a layabout friend (scene-stealing Rupert Everett). Maggie Gyllenhaal costars." [B- on CriticWire]
The Problematic But Pretty:
Ah - I felt like so much I was seeing fell into this category. Films with structural, directorial, or other problems, but which work SUPER well as travel porn.
Hailed as the first Samoan-language feature film, The Orator is a tale that pits pride, grief and shame against forgiveness and courage. Saili, small in stature, must face the roles of manhood and speak up for his deceased loved ones in this tense, complex present-day look at Samoan tradition."
Alex (Gael García Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) trek through the Caucasus Mountains, led by Georgian guide Dato (real mountaineer Bidzina Gujabidze). A split second decision becomes a seismic event in this visually stunning chamber drama by the acclaimed director of Day Night Day Night." [B+ on CriticWire]
A German doctor working to fight an epidemic in Cameroon must make difficult choices in director Ulrich Köhler’s subtle examination of African postcolonial ties with the West. Echoes of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and a sense of dread pervade this lush meditation on the experience of being European in Africa." [B+ on CriticWire]
On what is supposed to be a romantic camping trip in Sequoia National Park, a couple gives their relationship a second chance but finds the reunion more complicated than expected. With a restrained tone and deftly achieved authenticity, this heartfelt debut contrasts an intimate story with a majestic backdrop." [B+ on CriticWire]
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. She might have been an interesting lady - certainly she had a fondness for dropping Wilde-ian bon mots - but this documentary was cursory and not very well put-together.
Dreileben - Beats Being Dead. This starts off alright, and then the two leads become the worst, most annoying people in the entire world. It's hard to watch a murder mystery when you're begging the escaped convict to hurry up and kill them already. There are some good creepy moments when there are noises in the woods, but, again, I was rooting for the things that go bump.
The Audience Award:
The Other Shorts:
I mentioned 663114. Here are the rest (skipping Pixar's La Luna, which seemed like an odd inclusion.):
you'll see a clip.]
Full video here!]
M. WARD: THE FIRST TIME I RAN AWAY. This was pretty good. Description; "Joel Trussell revives his collaboration with M. Ward in this latest music video, a sweet tale of loss and change. (Joel Trussell, USA 2012, 4 min)." [Video]
20 HZ. Kind of interesting, experimentally. Totally abstract. Description; "20 Hz observes a geomagnetic storm occurring in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Working with data collected from the CARISMA radio array and interpreted as audio, we hear tweeting and rumbling caused by incoming solar wind, captured at the frequency of 20 hertz. (Ruth Jarman, Joseph Gerhardt, England 2011, 6 min)." [Video]
The Old Stuff:
Clip here with the Tuneyards]
Hey, look! Public Domain! Good Night Nurse. The Haunted House. The Cook. One Week.