Sunday, February 20, 2011

Movie Festival Part Two

It's been a long week so I have not returned to the blog as promised. However, it's been a lovely week -- 60-70 degree weather. I can't believe this is still February! Usually I'm hating my life in Connecticut.

After attending the documentary, Southern Belle, which I wrote about in my last post, I wanted to see a couple shorts, including one called sexting by Neil LaBute -- the only name I recognized in this festival. Due to scheduling issues, which happened throughout the festival, I saw Mississippi Innocence, an hour-long documentary about the Innocence Project that freed two men (one from death row and one from life in prison) based on DNA evidence.

Not a great film, but one I acknowledge as very important. The style reminded me of Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line, though without the Philip Glass soundtrack. In fact, I seem to remember that the music in Mississippi Innocence was annoying. (One may say the same about Glass but I didn't mind it). Plus, it's always difficult in a crime documentary to treat the victim in a way that does not abuse her twice. I was alarmed, but understood, why they had to show part of the little girl's body -- in order to reveal serious problems with the forensic process.

After this documentary, which by the way, won as "audience favorite," I sat through the aforementioned sexting. I know that some of you may have very strong feelings about LaBute's films because he portrays devastating pictures about the relationships between men and women. Well, one could even accuse him of depicting/normalizing misogyny. One does not walk out of his films usually feel pretty good about humanity.

The short, however, was a comedy, featuring Julia Stiles who is such a strange actress -- with her very young face and husky voice. The camera focused on her as she delivered a monologue. The premise is that she received a sexy text message from her lover, but she realized that the text was meant for his wife, not for her. So, she calls the wife and meets her for lunch. Acting as the "wounded party" in this exchange, she did have some great lines and I laughed out loud at points. After this, I didn't stick around for the second short, Pillow, although I wish I had seen it.

Instead, I went to see two more shorts -- God's Square Mile and Mozambique. The first was an interesting history about a camp meeting that created a small town in New Jersey. For those not familiar with that term, though Willimantic, CT has one as well, the camp meeting was a Christian movement in America where people would go on a religious holiday, focusing on spiritual renewal, etc. I thought this history was interesting because this town was an important example of urban planning and part of America's religious history because it basically was a theocracy, with their own stringent blue laws and a court that enforced them. The controversy depicted in the film was the fact an older lesbian couple wanted to use the camp meeting's pavilion for their civil service. The film tried to make it out as a big deal but everybody was just so nice and reasonable, wanting to make the town a nice place, it really wasn't that interesting to watch. In other words, all sides made it clear that this was a legal matter, not a personal one.

Not that I need to have some kind of red meat controversy to make a good film, but this one definitely waned. I think an interesting film could have been made but I was bored.

The second short film in this set was Mozambique, a story about AIDS orphans. I liked this one very much, mostly because it wasn't one of those films where people from other countries come in and make "art" out of other people's miseries. Instead, this was a direct result of donating cameras and other equipment to AIDS orphans (those who lost both parents due to the disease) and this was the story of one young man who shot the film and told his story. It is fascinating how my view changes when looking at pictures the kids themselves took of each other. Rather than seeing the kids through a developed country's eye, I did feel like I was seeing their point of view. I may be kidding myself because obviously, the people who donated the equipment helped to edit the film.

The young man, Alcides Soares, who had been adopted by an elderly woman (a nice woman, but it appeared an example of forced eldercare), seeks his younger brother who moved with his father when the parents separated. I admit I wept a lot in this film, and I felt it was genuinely earned.

Okay, I'm on a roll, so let's finish off the Friday viewings!

Despite the fact I had been up since before dawn, I stuck around for the late night showings -- the horror movie block. Of course I had to! How could I look my friends in the eye if I did not report back on these films!

First up, Shock, tried to do something fun but I thought the film was poorly acted and boring. The twist was not "shocking."

Monster Hunt with James and Kevin took the premise if those ghosthunter shows (or other reality shows) actually found a monster. Reminded me a little of Mythbusters. I admit that this one cracked me up. A fun movie for what it was.

Blood Therapy was a very short piece about a young man talking to a doctor. The guy who played the doctor was terrible! Overall silly little film about someone trying to make a serious horror short. That's hard to do and I saw the end coming a mile away.

Happy Face, on the other hand, focusing on a young starlet, getting out of a mental institution on Long Island, was able to be a bit more serious and creepy. The actress, as the director tries to point out, does have one of those silent film star faces, and the guy playing her publicist was freaking hilarious. The sets and the dialogue were overall good. However, I do take issue with the long clip from Eyes Without a Face, including the gruesome surgery that removes a woman's face. That was a little too much of a heavy borrow which just signaled in an uninteresting way to the audience "isn't this cool? This is what I was thinking about in making my film!" But when your clip is more powerful than anything else in your film, you got a problem.

Night of the Punks was the must-see on my list because I knew that my horror loving, punk music friends would want a report. It did not disappoint. Snappy dialogue, high-grade B special effect (look at all that goo!), tight editing, many, many references to punk music. Shaun of the Dead has been very, very good to the comedy horror movie. My only question is why does the girl have to get the long scene with green gunk spraying in her face?.......Let's be a little subtle people.

Murderabilia is the must-see I recommend to you. Here, it focused on a guy who collects memorabilia from murder scenes (hence, Murderabilia which is an actual term). In the long opening scene, he is visiting a killer in jail to "collect" his story. The convict relates the night he killed a young girl. Very nice dialogue and very good acting. I actually found the collector WAY more creepy than the killer though his acting was well-done too. I thought the short was fantastic. My only complaint is that it placed the credits midway in the film, making us think that the film was over, when really it was just poor choice to go to the next scene. The film lost its momentum. The film turns to the collector visiting a murderabilia dealer. The dealer had some good lines, but he talked way too long. The director was obviously reluctant to cut some of the "good lines" which was a shame. Move it along. Still, best film of the night. They said after the viewing that they were trying to turn it into a feature film and based on what I saw, I think they have a good chance to make a decent film.

Last was River City Dead, a locally-shot b-grade camp horror film complete with Nazis (the character, Patricia Hitler, was funny), a noirish detective, sexy vampires, pimps, zombies, etc. Didn't work but it looked like they were having fun.

Okay, that was Friday. Admittedly, I didn't go to as many in the next days but since I saw collections of shorts, the posts may be just as long!

1 comment:

K. A. Laity said...

Wow -- I haven't even heard of most of these horror films. Thanks for the report and now you can look me in the eye :-) I so want to see Night of the Punks! Maybe I can run down to CT and see with the Queen and Marko.

Well, one could even accuse him of depicting/normalizing misogyny. Yeah. I'm not sure I could drag myself to see any film of his even a short.

They're playing the Oscar-nominated shorts here at the Spectrum. I need to find time to go if I can...