Wednesday, May 30, 2007
A few quick and dirty ones.
Gordon Gano's biggest fan
Art of Crying
If you've ever wondered what a Todd Solondz picture would look like if it was directed by Ingmar Bergman, this is the movie. Sick, funny, incredibly deadpan and oddly affecting, Art of Crying has to be one of the most tasteful films ever made about a completely fucked-up family.
Wednesday June 6 4:30pm Pacific Place
Monday June 11 6:45 pm Egyptian
If you're expecting a Smokey and The Bandit, Convoy, CW McCall, naked girl mudflap nostalgia-fest, forget it. There are a few C&W oldies on the soundtrack and a respectful nod to chrome, but Big Rig is a contemporary portrait of a diverse group of long-haul truck drivers, most of whom think the country is going to hell. Interestingly, the three most upbeat truckers in the movie are a Polish immigrant and two black guys, one of whom has the tricked-out truck supreme. Although the doc is by no means comprehensive [no mention of NAFTA and no real explanation of how large trucking companies operate] it features lots of wonderful footage of the USA from a windshield perspective. The pic is well lensed with a Panasonic VariCam with crisp, nighttime photography. Score another one for HD!
Friday June 1 9:30pm Egyptian
Saturday June 2 3:15pm Egyptian
Born and Bred
I should have liked this film. It had all the elements I normally dig. A desolate, but beautiful landscape, an observational take on human behavior and a resolution that isn't false or un-earned. And yet the story of a man who loses his family in a car wreck and then broods about it in Patagonia left me cold. While taking a shower, it hit me. Born and Bred has no mystery and with no mystery there can be no discovery. We know everything about Santiago by the time he arrives in exile, so every revelation he unveils only surprises the other characters. The film, in a sense, contains its own spoilers. If they had cut out the beginning and end, you would have had the tension of a man unfolding between two suspensions. Without that existential interest, the film becomes an exercise in photography and acting. A rather good one, but disappointing all the same.
Tuesday May 29 7:00pm Pacific Place
Thursday May 31 4:30pm Pacific Place
How to Cook Your Life
A profile of Edward Espe Brown, author of the Tassajara Bread Book and resident chef at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, this film could have easily been called "How to Live A Contented Existence When You Happen to Be An Incredibly Fortunate Human Being." Actually, that's a bit ungenerous. The San Francisco Zen Center does good work in the community, but anyone who lives a peaceful and secure existence in the Bay Area, let alone Monterey County, would have to be ranked among the luckiest people in the world. Brown comes across as a fairly affable man, who has some valuable things to say about life and knows a heckuva lot about breadbaking, but Tony Bourdain he's not. Watch this if you have the time, otherwise wait for it on PBS.
Friday June 15 7:00pm SIFF Cinema
Sunday June 17 11:00am SIFF Cinema
Life in Loops
Speaking of people who don't have such wonderful lives, this movie is the perfect illustration of something Frank Zappa once said to an audience, "I have an important message to deliver to all the cute people all over the world. If you're out there and you're cute, maybe you're beautiful, I just want to tell you something, there's more of us ugly mother-fuckers than you are... hey!" Starting with some street hustlers in New York, the film bounces around the globe, introducing us to different varieties of horrible. A dye sifter living in a hut in Bombay seems to have the worst life in the world until we meet a group of scavengers salvaging bits of plastic from a filthy river. By the time we come back to a junky in NYC, he doesn't seem to have it so bad. The film sounds like a bummer, but Tino Novotny does a fascinating job of remixing and extending the footage Michael Glawogger shot for Megacities. If you missed this at NWFF, please try to catch it if it comes to town again or get the DVD. It's riveting.
To take an analogy from Woody Allen, If Life in Loops presented the horrible, this film presents the miserable. Actually, you couldn't necessarily say the people in this film are miserable. They just have jobs you or I wouldn't want to do. Observing firefighters in Siberia, deep-sea crabbers in Alaska, coal miners in Germany and cosmonauts training in Kazakhstan, Jiska Rickels presents us with a display of labor in four exhausting fields. One of the best things a film can do is to show us how people live and 4 Elements does this in a completely absorbing manner. Again, catch it if it returns and, if not, get the DVD.
As the lights went down at the Harvard Exit, my friend Bill asked me why I decided to see this movie. I said, "I figured it'll be like an Argentinean Wassup Rockers. You know, underage kids, sex, drugs. That'll be good, right?'" I was joking, but I was right! Glue is very Larry Clark/Harmony Korine, but without the 'hell"n-a-handbasket' feeling. You've got glue huffing teenage boys, naked teenage boys, naked teenage girls, teenage boys jerking off, teenage boys having sex with teenage girls, teenage boys having sex with teenage boys, teenage girls taking showers and the music of the Violent Femmes. Basically, it's American Apparel, the movie. I pity anyone who missed this.
My Best Friend
Upon leaving the theater, an audience member described this as 'harmless'. Let's leave it at that.
King of Kong
This was a fist-pumping 'fuck yeah!' of a film. Steve Wiebe got a standing ovation at the Memorial Day screening and well-deserved it. Seth Gordon probably won't admit it, but King of Kong is a big up-yours to Florida and all the 'USA! USA!' meatheads of the world; and as our representative of Blue State decency, Wiebe and his family come across as the only normal, grounded people in the picture. By contrast, Wiebe's nemesis, Billy Mitchell, is a walking caricature. Seriously, he's about as ironic as Chuck Norris. When they cast King of Kong as a feature, they can stick a mullet on Kevin Bacon and call it a day. If you missed this at SIFF, don't fret. Expect this in theaters everywhere.