Wednesday, June 22, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 5

Usually, this is where I would take an 'intermission' as it is the half-way mark and features a 'special presentation' referred to as the "Centerpiece Film." (A 'special presentation' in price only, it seems.) But this time, my 'intermission' meant seeing only two films:

"Night Corridor" (dir Julian Lee 2004 Hong Kong 74 min 35mm in Cantonese with English subtitles) What was promised to be a David Lynch-esque nightmare of Catholic gay guilt, with a Hong Kong horror twist, turned out to be just... bad. In fact, as I read what I just typed, I realize that there were three too many concepts and styles being thrown into this thing. I could give you a synopsis, but... what would be the point? Once I got to the point of the twin brother's (who was molested by a priest as a child) death by being torn apart by monkeys, you'd probably stop reading anyway. The ONLY reason I stayed in there was because I needed to save seats for the "Centerpiece Film" which was to follow.

Speaking of saving seats, the Castro Crowd can become a little cranky as the fest grinds on. Alot of us have been in there all day, everyday, and have a tendency to 'home in' to certain seats. During the 45 minute or so break between programs, we throw down our personal items and wander off to stretch. As the new audience pours into the theatre for something that is oversold, as the next film was, these 'newbies' can get pretty rude and resentful that 'people are saving seats already?' Well, yes. We are. We've been here all day, all week, so back off. In yesterday's 'moment,' I was holding seats for Andy, Bong and Bob: Andy and Bong in front of me and Bob next to me. On the aisle, of course, not so much having to do with legroom as it is sightlines and clausterphobia. Well. These six big, beefy 'straight acting/straight appearing' guys come up and decide that it is not fair that there is a jacket (mine) over these two seats on the aisle. "I hate these guys who just come in at 11 and save their seats for all day! It's not fair." I, in full Chemo-Boy Mood Swing Mode replied (and lied), "I guess they ran across the street for a pizza and some air since they've been in here all week. Maybe next year, they should sell 'reserved seats' so no one can complain about how unfair it is that the people seeing 30+ films might want to save their seat between movies? That way, if you did end up in the back row on the side you'd have no one to complain to." And that, friends, ended my sermon and any chance of a coffee date with one of the six big, beefy guys. Anyway, Andy and Bong got in soon enough. But poor Bob didn't make it until curtain, by which point I felt the need to give up his seat (Sorry, again, Bob!!), as they had asked Frameline Board Members and Volunteers to give up their seats for the oversold audience. In short, this crowd was a mess! And what, you might ask, was all of this excitement and anticipation for?

Well, you don't get to find out just yet. There are the festival trailers and introductions before each screening. None of these are usually of any remarkable interest, as opposed to the magnificent faux pas that Rrrrrrrroxanne(!) makes at the SFIFF. The co-directors, Michael Lumpkin and Jennifer Morris, are appealing, welcoming and well spoken. This year, however, is a big fund raising year for Frameline (the host organization of the festival). It would appear that they have committed their budget to raising $1.2 million dollars for their "Campaign for the Future of Queer Film." As awkward as that campaign title may seem, so are the 'pledge break speeches' that various board members have made during the film introductions. Last night's was no exception. These pledge breaks (and yes, they are nearly identical to a PBS pledge break, with volunteers going into the audience with pledge cards for us) are dull, awkward and just a bit uncomfortable as each speaker has asked for "a raise of hands of who wants to help Frameline now!" Once that moment passes, to the relieved applause of the 1400 in the theatre, we finally get to:

"Happy Endings" (dir Don Roos 2005 USA 128 min 35mm) Don Roos created "The Opposite of Sex" which has a devoted following and so the anticipation of his next film was pretty high. Mind you, it has been doing 'the circuit' (Sundance, etc.) to mixed reviews, and it has distribution, opening in San Francisco in only two weeks, but the Festival successfully promoted it as a Special Event and the audience was READY. For this 'special screening' the only production member present was Jason Ritter, who plays a particularly small, supporting role, which happens to be gay, so that's why they (the studio?) shipped him out to be with us, I presume. He had very little to say during the introduction and was going to be there for the Q&A afterwards, of which I had no interest in hearing what he might have to say. Anyway, what about the film, you're asking? It's ok. Yes, just ok. Roos does get some fun snarky lines in there. However, that sort of works against itself. This is one of those large ensemble cast projects where the focus tries not to be on any single performance, but on the wit of the script. The problem here is that the cast is a really good, smart group of actors who are playing characters that are either 1) neurotic to the point of "Woody Allen-isms" or 2) the person who can't seem to let go of the stupid neurotic who is about to screw up their life. In each of the plotlines, and there are many, Character #1 does something so annoying and stupid that any normal Character #2 would just tell him/her to fuck off and leave. But in this script, Roos 'forces' the situation to continue with a stupid choice on the part of Character #2. I find this really annoying. Mostly because the 'odd couple' set ups here don't have the proper situations to force the characters into the relationships they find themselves. Yes, there are a lot of fun punchlines and great quirky little moments, particularly from Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhall (and surprisingly enough, even Tom Arnold!). However, the characters are making stupid choices while spouting inspired one-liners and it feels forced. If anything, it did increase my appreciation for Woody Allen and Neil Simon in their abilities to take smart actors/characters and place them into chaotic messes that you actually feel they MUST work out of. Roos' script has situations that are not nearly as 'life or death' and result in feeling quite contrived for the sake of some really good snarky lines. It's a good rental and you'll get some good laughs, but it's going to go down as forgettable in my book.

After the screening, I had two options: run over to the Victoria for "Guys and Balls" (about a gay german soccer team - will they win??) or catch up with Bob and go to the "Happy Endings" post screening party at Foreign Cinema. I went home and went to bed BEFORE 11 p.m.! woo hoo!!!!

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