It’s true, my life is always going 2,000 miles an hour. But I figure, just in case you only do have one life, you may as well make it count (this is why I always took 18 credits in college — I was paying for ’em anyway).
So after a super busy first quarter of my year with job stuff, I threw myself right into my favorite hobby – film festival immersion. When I lived in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Film Festival (and its predecessor) were a huge, formative part of my life. Some of my favorite memories and best friends came out of attending and volunteering. When I moved to SF in 2011, it only made sense that I’d get involved with “the film festival” here. Of course a year later I’ve discovered that this city has a film fest practically every weekend, although the San Francisco International Film Festival remains the grandaddy of them all.
The program and volunteer shifts came out while I was completely immersed in my work event, so I didn’t do as much pre-planning and research as I usually do beforehand. That led to a completely different type of festival experience for me, mostly because I inadvertently signed up for over FORTY hours of volunteering. Whoops. I feel bad canceling shifts though, so I sucked it up and stuck out my time management error.
You have to love an error that leads to reconnecting with awesome people you met in previous years, making new friends, accumulating random anecdotes about crazy people in rush lines.
Of course, I also did manage to see 13 screenings over the 14 days of the festival. Here’s a quick recap:
Farewell, My Queen – Take it or leave it twist on the final days of Marie Antoinette. Decadent cinematography and costuming, solid acting, but much too slow for my take. The drifting between fantasy and reality, while interesting, didn’t contribute enough to make the film noteworthy.
The Exchange – Israeli existentialist “comedy.” Don’t recommend seeing after a surreal 24 hours with little sleep. Won one of the fest’s awards, but I’d probably only recommend it to philosophy majors and those who thought the creepy puppet scenes were the best part of Being John Malkovich.
Wu Xia – RECOMMEND! Can’t recommend enough! From the director of Perhaps Love, one of my favorites from Milwaukee a few years ago. It’d be like if Christopher Nolan made a western. Engaging story, fantastic acting, funny, tragic, kickass action sequences. Go see it!
Merrill Garbus, Tune-Yards & Ava Mendoza score Buster Keaton shorts – This will never happen again, but you should’ve been there. Groundbreaking band complementing groundbreaking comedy? Win-win for everyone.
Last Screening – Lindsey, I’m sorry I dragged you to this in the pouring rain. Homage to French New Wave, but without the charming quirks. It’s like if Weekend was all the final act in the woods, without following the appropriate slow buildup along the road to crazytown. Apparently the other “Late Show” program, Headhunters, was fantastic. Ah, well.
The Third Man – Embarrassed to say I’d somehow never seen this classic film. But seeing a 35mm on the big screen at the Castro is a pretty good way to pop that cherry. Of course I loved it. It’s fucking classic for a reason. Oh, the golden age of movies. Sigh.
Your Sister’s Sister – Probably my favorite flick of the festival. I wasn’t a HUGE fan of Lynn Shelton‘s Humpday (I liked it, just didn’t salivate), which I caught at Milwaukee’s film fest, but I feel this took the best parts of that and added more. Yeah, it was mumblecore/hipster fare, but in a good way. A bit of a fantastic storyline, but the real and believable acting carried it. Gorgeous Pacific Northwest shots too, adding that extra character of scenery into the film. This one doesn’t have mass appeal, but if you’re a film buff, see it for sure.
Liberal Arts – Torn on this one. A bit too Garden State for me (10 years later, this is for the thirtysomethings), but I suppose I’m hypercritical of films for and by my generation. I did overidentify with Josh Radnor’s character (both his messed up personal life and his hatred of Twilight), but I found the overall tone of the film a bit too gratingly twee. Everyone will see it, non-cinephiles will think it’s the best thing ever, I’ll roll my eyes, whatever. It is worth seeing for the fabulous Allison Janney though. And it may get more people to read Infinite Jest.
OK, Enough, Goodbye – The film title pretty much is my review. Like a less-funny Napoleon Dynamite if Napoleon was a cranky, selfish, middle-aged Lebanese guy. I always struggle with liking movies/books where the characters are all detestable (see: Match Point, Wuthering Heights), unless they make up for it in comedy – this walked the line. It definitely had potential, but it got too off pace and didn’t quite sell me entirely.
Somebody Up There Likes Me – My opinion of the film is a bit clouded by the fact that the director was such a total PRICK during the Q&A that I think half the audience probably lowered their votes. The dickish humor translated great into a quirky comedy, reminiscent of other Austin outputs Bottle Rocket or Office Space, but not into audience relations. I recommend, but see it in distribution and not when you have to deal with an uncomfortable post-film discussion.
17 Girls – The biggest “surprise” of the fest for me. I described it as Juno meets Heathers or The Craft. Seriously creepy adaptation the 2008 story from Gloucester, MA of a group of high school girls all getting pregnant at the same time. Directed by two French sisters and relying on a cluster of unknown teenage actresses, the film maintained a dark, rebellious tone that kept me on the edge of my seat. Highly recommend this one.
John Dies at the End – I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure the weirdness of the film adaptation will please fans. I can’t comment on the story, since it’s supposed to be nonsensical. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Army of Darkness. Nerdy teenage boys will love it.
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey – Accessible “rock” doc. No sex, no drugs, mass produced rock n’ roll. A nice rags to riches tale. It is what it is. But I got to work stage security for JOURNEY. So that was, yeah, weird.