Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Ok. After 10 days of independent and artistic cinema during the Atlanta Film Festival, I dove back into the pool, as it were at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, for a "double feature". On the surface, the only thing these two films have in common is a "money for sex" plot. But,... well, that is the only thing they have in common.
ZOMBIE STRIPPERS (dir. Jay Lee, US, 2008, 84 mins.) I LAUGHED until I CHOKED!! I haven't had this much fun in a theater since... I don't know?!! Yes, I saw it at the 11:30 AM matinee, with only one other person in the room. But we both were snickering through out and during the climatic battle, I THINK he was laughing as hard as I was! Director Jay Lee has adapted, well, actually lifted some of the dialogue from Eugene Ionesco's RHINOCEROS for his screenplay of transfiguring strippers and the price they pay for conforming for success. Jenna Jameson is the lead dancer, who while waiting to go on in her private dressing room, reads Nietzsche and shares her philosophy with the innocent newcomer, Jennifer Holland. The other women in the troupe are HARD CORE and in their own way, just as hysterical! Jeannette Sousa performs "Berenge" literally as the character from the Ionesco would be played. They all work at "Club Rhino", which is managed by "Ian Essko", played by Robert Englund, in an exceptionally campy performance. (Popping up in a "cameo" is Tito Ortiz, Jameson's current boyfriend.) Perhaps it is the Ionesco influence, but this campy little film does not pull any political punches along the way. It's got gags! Zombies! A ridiculous number of pole dances! BUCKETS of blood! Existential polemics!! I LOVED IT!!
On the other end of the "sex industry scale", there is PRICELESS (HORS DE PRIX) (dir. Pierre Salvadori, France, 2007, 104 mins.). Audrey Tautou (AMELIE) completely sheds her typecast innocent demeanor to portray a world weary gold digger, who actually hops from "potential husbands" so much, that she is in reality, an exceptionally high priced escort. This is the one little detail that the film shies away from. Her character never actually claims to be, nor is directly implicated as being anything more than a "gold digger", though it is quite clear what she is. During one of her "hops" she meets a bartender (played by an exceptionally, physically awkward, Gad Elmaleh), who is immediately stricken by her and poses as a potential suitor. Only a little bit of farcical hilarity ensues, before the screenplay completely shifts gears for the second act. Though it shares a lot with BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, it is a bit unclear in the emotional conflict between our two lead characters. This seems to be mostly due to the ambiguity that Tautou expresses through out ninety-nine percent of the film. Once she reaches her emotional climax, everything plays out fairly predictably, which is a bit of a let down. Other than that, it looks great! The settings and Tautou's gowns just WREAK with money and the pacing feels the whole of its two hours. It would seem it exist only to stretch Tautou and break her out of her "girl next door" mold, which it does.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Posted at Southern Screen Report, but edited with additional Awards commentary here.
The 2008 Atlanta Film Festival came to a close on April 19 with the feature filmTHE VISITOR. Executive Director of IMAGE Film and Video (now rechristened as Atlanta Film Festival 365), Gabriel Wardell, gave the obligatory thanks to the volunteers (an army of people, who did do a remarkable job this year!), the various sponsors and, of course, the staff of only four other people: Festival Director, Dan Krovich; Managing Director, Paula Martinez; Communications Director, Charles Judson; and Education Director, Elizabeth Hamilton. Wardell then introduced Thomas McCarthy, the director and writer of the closing night film, THE VISITOR, which opens in Atlanta on April 25, at the Tara.
After the successful opening night event at the Atlantic Station Regal Cinemas 16, the festival screened over 150 films at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, to over 13,800 attendees. The logistics of the festival went off with barely a hitch! There were no house management snafus or any crowd control chaos, even with last minute screening room substitutions. There was always a volunteer who was able to at least escalate to a volunteer manager any questions or concerns. Projection quality had improved by leaps and bounds from 2007! The kinks of adapting to the Landmark Midtown's newly installed digital system were completely resolved, even during any of the technically treacherous short subject programs. The were only a couple issues with the sound system. However, that could have been due to the media that the films were transferred on, as much as compatibility with the available systems.
Several screenings came packaged with after parties held at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Paste, Soapbox Studios and Guillotine Post. And, as an extra bonus during the festival, The Independent, a pub above the Landmark Midtown, was opened exclusively for festival pass holders and filmmakers, where sponsors Stella Artois and Starbucks served beverages, gratis. This was an exceptionally nice touch for those who are "working the fest", as The Independent has complementary wi-fi access, and work could be done during the hour between most screenings. As for any other perks or swag, what was sort of lacking in the "gift bags" for Opening and Closing nights, was made up for with some promotional merchandise at The Independent. (However, maybe the AFF-365 might consider hitting up gift bag sponsors in the future? Though not really having anything to do with "cinema", it does set off a celebratory feel to those paying premium prices for those events.)
The Atlanta Film Festival 365 is a competitive and juried festival. It is one of the festivals which short subjects are able to qualify for Academy Award screenings and nomination. The 2008 Jury Awards went to the following films:
Narrative Feature: MAKE OUT WITH VIOLENCE (dir. The Deagol Brothers, US, 2007, 108 mins.) Obviously, it is all a matter of taste as it zombified me. My pick would have been COYOTE, it is an exceptional piece of work.
Documentary Feature: AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR (dirs. Peter Gilbert, Steven James, US, 2008, 96 mins.) Gilbert and James were also honorees at this years AFF-365 Gala Awards Celebration, which may have given this film an edge over an exceptional field! I would have picked the not-just-another-Iraq-documentary LAND OF CONFUSION.
Narrative Short: AQUARIUM (dir. Rob Meyer, US, 2007, 17 mins.) I did not see this, and I actually only saw 10 of the 15 shorts in this competition category, which were maybe half of all the shorts screened. As much as I usually try, I just got a little burnt out on them. My pick, from what I saw, would have been THE ADVENTURE, which had such style and quirkiness, I simply LOVED it!
Animated Short: BUT SOME ARE BRAVE (dir. Grace Channer, Canada, 6 mins.) It is gorgeous and painstakingly made. If for mere entertainment value, I'd have picked FLATLAND: THE MOVIE. Regardless, I loved both of these.
Documentary Short: AFRICA'S DAUGHTERS (dir. Natalie Halpern, US, 2007, 25 mins.) Out of the nine doc shorts in competition, I only saw three, so I can't really comment here.
Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Direction: MY EFFORTLESS BRILLIANCE (dir. Lynn Shelton, US, 2007, 79 mins.) I do not know if this only considered the films in competition or the overall festival, but I am going guess it is the former. With that, I would have chosen Brian Petersen for COYOTE.
Special Jury Prize for First Documentary: LAND OF CONFUSION (dir. Jeremy Zerechak, US, 2007, 91 mins.) NO ARGUMENT!!
Special Jury Prize Pure Documentary Entertainment: SPINE TINGLER: THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY (dir. Jeffrey Schwarz, US, 2007, 82 mins.) An odd category, but even though interviewing John Waters is always a treat, I would have chosen JUMP!, since it did make me cry, after all!
AFF-365, with the sponsorship of Turner Broadcasting, premiered an award for films with a GLBT focus, called the Pink Peach Award. They went to XXY (dir. Lucia Puenzo, Argentina/Spain/France, 2007, 91 mins.) and a Pink Peach Special Jury Prize went to THE ELEVATOR (dir. Ben Hakim, Israel, 2007, 23 mins.). I saw the former and really liked it! I did not see the latter and I'm not exactly sure what constitutes a "special jury prize" to begin with.
The AFF-365's Rapid i Movement is a competition in which groups create a short in 48 hours. The Grand Prize went to DONE IN ONE, by Mavin Productions. I saw this in one of the quarter finals in the winter, and LIKED it, though I could swear they had it to have prepared the script before the competition.
The AFF's Audience Awards went to YOUNG @ HEART (dir. Stephen Walker, US, 2007, 110 mins.) for feature, which I could easily concur. The audience short subject went to MEXICAN IN THE CLOSET (dir. Chuck Moore, US, 2008, 25 mins.), which I did not see. I would have guessed it to go to COSMOS (dir. Clayton Hable, US, 2007, 23 mins.), which was one of the most talked about shorts in between screenings. I do not believe there was an Audience Animated Short Award, but that should change. With nineteen animated entries this year, it's a category that deserves more attention.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 drew to a close at the Landmark Midtown 8, with a pair of features and five shorts. I would have made it to the Noon screening of PRICELESS, but I was just up too late with the Animated Shorts the night before. (Plus it opens in a week.) And I wasn't sure how late I would be at the Closing Night Party. (Open bar?!!)
LIKE MOLES LIKE RATS (dir. Jim Torres, US, 2007, 95 mins.) As things progressed in this, I continued to question, "Where are we? Who are they? Why are they doing that?" And then, about an hour into it, about the time of the gun fight, I no longer cared. The film is based upon a play, and as I watched, I tried to figure that out, too. It is set in a post-apocalypse and most of the civilization appears to be living underground, in one form or another. There is a pregnant woman, which is a rarity, as there are no children anymore. Now. From there, it seems that the world above is in complete anarchy. There is also some familial feuding. I don't know why. In what felt like Act 3 (I thought it was ending nearly 30 minutes before it did), there is a lot of Greek Tragedy involving mothers and a son and everybody is killing everybody else and it was just sort of a mess, motivationally speaking. Now, this was sort of a shame, as the cast is a fairly accomplished group. But the script was just too unclear for me to figure it out. It was shot in Birmingham, Alabama, so the creators were there for a Q&A. However, I scampered out just as the credits began to roll.
A collection of five short subjects were presented in a program of "Full of Life Doc Shorts". They focussed on elderly and/or disabled people recollecting their past and how they face the present.
THE ART OF KARAOKE (dir. Will Hartman, US, 2007, 8 mins.) The program began with this perfect companion to the feature YOUNG @ HEART. Art is an 80 year old man, who started singing at a karaoke bar in his late seventies. He sings standards, but brings to them such sincerity that he has developed a following of fans at the bar. The climax, when he sings his version of "My Way" really does deliver to the build up that is 'signature song' suggested.
ONE OF THE LAST (dir. Paul Zinder, Italy, 2007, 12 mins.) A 78 year old Italian delivers a monologue about his passion for working in the fields, along with espousing his ecological theories. Watching him climbing olive trees said more than anything else!
THE SHERIFF (dir. Jeff Giordano , US, 2007, 14 mins.) This is a brief portrait of a legally blind, 78 year old, albino African-American, who works at the Industries For The Blind, in North Carolina. Though his speech needed to be subtitled, Eugene Alexander was a fascinating subject to focus on. Director Jeff Giordano did explain at the Q&A that he was going to develop it into a full length feature.
THE LADIES (dir. Christina Voros, US, 2007, 13 mins.) In sort of a GREY GARDENS way, but without the campy fighting, this presented the lives of 87 and 93 year old sisters, Vali and Mimi. They have spent their lives as dressmakers and continue to work full weeks from their small NYC apartment. Hungarian is their native language, so understanding them was particularly difficult and required subtitles. Since they have lived practically isolated with each other all their lives, that is what becomes the story. So, the film is not overly long, as they speak mostly about sewing.
BODY & SOUL: DIANA & KATHY (dir. Alice Elliott, US, 2007, 40 mins.) The final piece of the program was the longest and the most effective. Following the 37 year relationship between Diana, a woman with severe cerebral palsy and Kathy, a woman with down syndrome and also Diana's caretaker. Their lives together serve as examples of activism for independent living. They face Medicare denial of home health care, as they actually leave their home to speak against institutionalizing people with disabilities. The intensity of the relationship, particularly as it falls on Diana, is also documented. It is an exceptional piece.
THE VISITOR (dir. Thomas McCarthy, US, 2007, 108 mins.) For its closing night film, the festival programmed a tour d' force performance from Richard Jenkins! He is in nearly every frame of this film about a man whose world will be challenged and innate talents revealed by interacting with people from outside his little bubble. They are illegal immigrants, who have sub-let his apartment (in the only weak plot point of the film) in NYC. (He teaches in Connecticut and keeps the apartment for...?) Once that little technical hurdle in the screenplay has passed, the rest of what unfolds is particularly touching. Jenkins, whose persona is so "Willy Loman" as to provide a life long career in character roles, uses that tool as an invitation to the audience to view this new world through his eyes. As Jenkins moves from a nearly soulless professor of economics, to becoming a street musician, he appears as excited and surprised by that transformation as the audience is. The supporting cast is also excellent. Haaz Sleiman, plays "Tarek" a Syrian man, and Danai Gurira, as his Senegalese girlfriend, portray the fear and cynicism of this potential confrontation with the conservative Jenkins. When Hiam Abbass (as Tarek’s mother) arrives, Jenkins has already become part of this multi-cultural family unit. Once the issue of deportation is introduced, Jenkins opens up in ways we have never seen from him before, in this film or any of his previous work that is known to me. Thomas McCarthy may have a hole or two in his screenplay, but his direction of this cast is nothing if not SPOT ON! There is not a missed glance or line wasted. The economy of the performances is outstanding. The film's pacing is subtle and never lags. The production design is marginal, however, the costume design, especially of Jenkins and Gurira, is subliminally brilliant! Hopefully, this will reward Richard Jenkins for a once in a lifetime performance. During the Q&A, the device of the illegally sub-let apartment was brought up, and fairly dismissed. As for the emotionally ambiguous resolution... well, to speak of it anymore here, would be to spoil it.
The Closing Night Party was sponsored by Stella Artois and Guillotine Post, where it was held. This meant an OPEN BAR and a nifty little buffet, that ended with a chocolate fondue! YUM! (Now, if they could just do something about those "gift bags", which are only filled with flyers...) At the party, I stuck around for a couple of rounds, some hobnobbing with the FABULOUS Xanna Dont, her partner Ann, and their incredible circle of friends. I had spent a great deal of between-film-time with Xanna at The Independent. The Independent served as the exclusive Festival Lounge during the day. (A FABULOUS idea as it was an "open bar" thanks to Stella Artois and had free wi-fi access!)
Then I whisked myself away to get caught up on THESE postings!
re LIKE MOLES LIKE RATS: "Is it bedtime?"
re THE VISITOR: "Dooby doobie doo-ooo!"
re The Closing Night Party: "Breakfast?! Breakfast!" (That's what Maxxxxx says when he wants to be fed.)
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. Today's program included the Animation Extravaganza, which was a program of eighteen short subjects. I was able to preview half of them and reported on that
THE LIBERTY KID (dir. Ilya Chaiken, US, 2007, 92 mins.) This is quite an understated post-9/11 buddy movie. The performances by Al Thompson and Kareem Savinon make up in chemistry for what they might lack in technique. They do have the benefit of a very unique screenplay that touches upon an often ignored aspect of the 9/11 attacks, that being lost jobs and post traumatic stress. The two guys worked at the Statue of Liberty, which would be closed for an indefinite period after the attacks, which forces these to at-risk men to face limbo. It is their grasping for money and defining identities that fill the film. The diverging paths the friends take is deliberately paced. So, though the film reaches a satisfying climax, the denouement is just too long. It felt as if the film ended nearly fifteen minutes before it actually does. Chaiken may need to either tighten it up or take some ruthless editing to bring the film to a close, however ambiguous that might be.
KINGS OF THE EVENING (dir. Andrew P. Jones, US, 2007, 101 mins.) Ok. Let me be just up front about this. I came to believe that there wasn't a single redeeming feature of the film and I stayed to just prove my endurance. Well, that is a bit overstated. However, its "best" and worst feature was the performance of Tyson Beckford. He is insanely, if not inhumanly, beautiful. However, I don't think he has a Depression Era cell in his body. He certainly was not able to perform convincingly as if he did. With him as the center of the film, it was if the rest of the cast was thrown off. I can not think of a single scene that clicked. The production design was unspecific to place and somewhat to time. The costume design was particularly off kilter. One of the women works at a sewing factory. However, she does not seem to have brought any skills home with her. Also, the title refers to a weekly contest where men basically have a fashion show, and the winner is the "king of the evening". The suits are not necessarily to be the finest of depression era menswear, however there was not a significant difference in costume. Also, as I would be told later, the concept of the contest was fictional, which makes the entire project unnecessarily quirky. I did not stay for the Q&A.
SON OF RAMBOW (dir. Garth Jennings, UK, 2007, 96 mins.) I saw this at a pre-festival screening, and I thought I would go ahead and include it, as it was something of a "centerpiece" film, including a party afterwards. It is a CUTE film. I hate CUTE. Director Garth Jennings was able to keep me from completely tuning it out by setting it in the 1982, so it did tap into a little nostalgic vein of mine. The child actors are ok, however I only felt for one stand out, Will Poulter, who is the nemesis and school bully that strikes up an unlikely friendship with Bill Milner, who has the misfortune to be the "modern Oliver" in this story. Milner's character has been raised in a religious sect called "the Brethren", who do not allow television or film, therefore sending his character into the world as "the innocent". The boys team together to film their own version of RAMBO, for reasons I can't say I remember. Surrounding them is actually a fascinating cast of supporting characters, whose only real purpose is for atmosphere. The soundtrack also contributes considerably to that end! The production design is pretty specific to time and place, particularly the hair design. There are a number of animated sequences that occur within the film, as Milner day dreams about life outside of "The Brethren", which helps with the pacing and keeps the film from being visually stagnant. Lastly, it should be something of a commercial success, as an alternative summer movie. As something of a footnote, gossip had it that Mr. Jennings had a bit of an attitude during the Q&A and did not show up at the party afterwards.
WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? (dirs. Brandon Klein, Daniel Klein, Nicholas Klein, Timothy Klein, US, 2008, 80 mins.) Three brothers and a cousin take six months to navigate the length of Africa to record and investigate the success of world aid organizations on the continent. Now, as honorable as that thesis is, the family does show a lack of documentary and editorial expertise in its execution. By editing themselves into the film, expressing their reactions to the poverty, their disbelief to the ineffectiveness of some of the organizations, as well as their emotional reactions to the people and the stress of the trip itself, they unfortunately set themselves up as part of the problem. It was a topic that came up during the Q&A. They risk appearing as four exceptionally fortunate white males, who were able to indulge themselves with a six month trip through Africa, with the best intentions, yet not actually doing anything for the people or organizations they encountered. The team countered that with the argument that the film should speak for itself as an effort for change. It is similar to Pincus and Small's AXE IN THE ATTIC. However, they were able to express their personal editorials with enough technique to become the audience surrogate. Whereas the Kleins do not establish enough of a relationship with the audience to become surrogates, and without further judicious and objective editing, their presence in the film is going to be a distraction.
The day's program ended with the Animation Extravaganza, posted HERE.
Maxxxxx says, well... he's too excited about the animated shorts program to make comment...
The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. Today's program included the Animation Extravaganza, which was a program of eighteen short subjects. I was able to preview half of them and reported on that
THE ADVENTURES OF BAXTER & MCGUIRE: THE BOSS (dir. Mike Blum, US, 2006, 3 mins.) The only short that dared to get nasty! Baxter and Mcguire are... testicles. And they're not very happy with "The Boss", aka, the penis. It's sort of fun! It is computer animated, though would have been as effective as traditionally drawn.
BOTTLED (dir. Jian Lee, US, 2007, 4 mins.) Technically, I don't know HOW this was made! It appears to be drawn figures that were stuff into bottles. The plot between the two figures is secondary to the visual paach and technique that Jian Lee has employed. I assume the bottles containing the drawings were specially built props, but still, there was not a sign of stop motion involving the bottles or surrounding set. Yeah, I know I'm not being perfectly clear here...
DEADLY DESIRE (dir. Darius Hill, US, 2007, 2 mins.) An exceptionally pithy tale of a turtle in love with a hawk, and the tragic consequences. This was the traditionally drawn short that actually benefitted from the chapter looping! As we watched his tragic journey replay three times, it actually reinforced the power of infatuation and desire! He should think about actually working that in!
FETCH (dir. Dana Dorian, UK, 2007, 2 mins.) This perfectly describes the 'fetch and play' relationship that I have with Princess Isabelle, the English Bulldog. It is a harrowing experience to suffer the glaze of an unappreciative puppy. The short takes that look one step further and plays out that subtext we KNOW that those little dogs are thinking! Traditionally animated, though with CGI support.
KIDTASTROPHE and LAV DANCE (dir. Hilton Tennant, US, 2007, 2 mins. each) This pair of comic computer animated shorts for Delta Airlines exploring 1) the chaos of being on a plane, SURROUNDED by screaming, kicking, playing children; and 2) the "lav dance" of going to and from the lavatory, while gracefully dodging everyone else waiting in the aisle. KIDTASTROPHE was a HOOT! LAV DANCE was ok, though overplayed the joke.
RUNNING SEASONS (dir. Y. Grace Park, US, 2007, 6 mins.) It is sort of ironic that one of the longest shorts of the night was also one of the more forgettable. I vaguely recall the sharp black and white visual style (think Rankin Bass title sequences), but the story of a boy's growing up as an allegory of running through train cars, was lost on me.
SNAPSHOTS (dir. James Mullins, US, 2008, 6 mins.) James Mullins gets a big bunch of points for living out a little dream of creating his first animated short. It is the model/claymation story of an alien visiting another planet and being an obnoxious tourist, with some resulting punishment. Mullins' character design of the alien flowers was remarkably clever. During the Q&A (he is from Savannah), he described with a charming naivete the challenges he unwittingly faced, particularly in working with glass prop pieces.
WHEN I GROW UP (dir. Michelle Meeker, US, 2007, 7 mins.) This was a collection of pieces commissioned to visualize the dreams of children and the unrealized dreams of seniors, about where they would be when they grew up. As it spooled, I was sort of fascinated, however the format of the dozen or so animators only distracted from the overall effect of the film.
After the collection was screened, Brett called up the directors who were present: Count Lear Bunda (HITLER'S BRAIN), Hal Miles (THE MADNESS OF BEING), Gina Niespodziani (MOVIEKISS: THE LITE BRITE MOVIE) which are discussed in the preview post, and James Mullins (SNAPSHOTS). Bunda provided answers and commentary that only reinforced that HITLER'S BRAIN really was an honestly whacked out creation! Niespodziani was accompanied by the band whose music she Lite-Brite'ed to, and she appeared overwhelmed by the project she started. Miles now teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design after a full career in film and provided his short as part of his exploring his own work. Brett kept the commentary effectively bouncing around, i.e. not letting Bunda get too crazy, until well past midnight.
re FETCH: "Belle! Belle!"
re DEADLY DESIRE: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"
Friday, April 18, 2008
The Atlanta Film Festival 2008 continues it's 9 day stay at the Landmark Midtown 8. Uh, oh! The late nights are catching up with me. Today was the first day I gave in and took a nap, and I got to see a couple old familiar faces in a film made in Denver!
COYOTE (dir. Brian Peterson, US, 2008, 94 mins.) What is nearly a two man production, Brian Peterson and Brett Spackman created an unlikely 'buddy movie' about illegal immigration. The characters attempt to create a safer and friendlier border crossing service, without foreseeing the greed, corruption and danger that will play out before their venture reaches its tragic ending. That's not a spoiler, by the way, as the opening ninety seconds of the film occurs during the climax and what follows is a flashback, of sorts, as to what has brought him there. Brian Peterson has effectively directed a morally ambiguous performance from himself. He becomes something of an anti-hero as the film progresses. His character signifies the "American Dream" - a thirty-something who has already been able to retire and is about to be married. His American born, hispanic best friend, played by Spackman, is Peterson's foil, and becomes the moral center of the film. Extra credit must be given to these guys for writing for women, also. Carley Adams and Marina Valle have respectably sized roles as the love interests. Visually, the film is not necessarily remarkable and has some real issues regarding lighting towards the end, where the whites are so overwhelming that certain details are indistinguishable. (Perhaps it needs some color correction?) Other than that technical problem, it is an exceptionally paced film, but in timing, plot and emotional curve.
FOR OUR SONS (dirs. Vanz Chapman, Erik McKay, US, 2007, 83 mins.) Well, it is a documentary about the black male experience in the U.S., as told in 'talking head format' by a long line of speakers. In short, this is when I fell asleep, so I can't really speak about it.
MONGOL (dir. Sergei Bodrov, Germany/Kazakhstan/Russia/Mongolia, 2007, 120 mins.) This Oscar nominated foreign language film (officially from Mongolia?) is spectacularly shot. It was nearly on the level of David Lean spectacle, and deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. (It was screened in the smaller cinema #3 and should have been in #4, but there was a sell out in the larger house.) it is difficult to appraise performances that are 1) in such a foreign language; 2) set in 12th century Mongolia. However, the pair of actors playing Ghengis Khan and his wife are able to express a romanticism that is on par of the incredible battle scenes, thus the allusion to David Lean spectacle. So, though it is great to see some spectacle, the history seems so remote to me, that it plays almost as fantasy more than history. It also has a really odd end title score, that has nothing to do with the period, much less the story of what the film was about.
SKILLS LIKE THIS (dir. Monty Miranda, US, 2008, 87 mins.) So, as director Monty Miranda introduced the film and mentioned having shot it in Denver, I will admit I was distracting myself in trying to spot any friends from a half lifetime ago, but there was Marcus Waterman, playing the foul-mouthed "Mr. Nam", shouting obscenities at 5th graders! THAT was worth the price of admission! (I also spotted Patty Figel, in a non-speaking role, and Mark Rubald and Tupper Cullum were in the credits, though I did not recognize them during the film.) Anyway, the film itself is a nice little comedy about a writer, charmingly performed by screenwriter Spencer Berger, who realizes that his talent does not lie in playwriting but in robbing people. His uncanny ability to just walk into an establishment and successfully insist on getting their cash, also acts as an aphrodisiac for the women, and in one surprisingly successful comic performance, his best friend played by Brian D. Phelan, who also produced the film. Phelan gives one of those rare performances as "the asshole best friend" that you do NOT hate by the end! He delivers the obnoxious character with such sweet charm that you not only forgive him, but look forward to his next faux pas! Technically, the film is not remarkable, though some of the featured music and bands are great. However, it is apparent that the focus was on screenplay and performance. Thankfully, there is not a moralizing resolution and the film maintains its lightness through the end. It is a fun time!
re COYOTE: "Wooooo!"
re FOR OUR SONS: "Is it bedtime?"
re MONGOL: SHRIEKS!
re SKILLS LIKE THIS: cackles