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Friday, June 24, 2011

SouthSide Film Festival (Part 2 of 2)

First half of my Festival reviews can be found here

Thursday Night (cont'd)
After the shorts finished, I watched The Athlete, a biopic about Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian who ran the 1960 Olympic Marathon barefoot and won the Gold.  Four years later, in Tokyo, he became the first to win consecutive Olympic Marathon Golds (this second time, with shoes).  Tragedy struck before he could try for a third Olympic Gold in Munich when a car accident left him a quadriplegic.  Still, his determination (and an operation) upgraded his status to paraplegic after which he proceeded to participate in the 1968 Paralympics in archery and win as a dog sledder in Norway.  The story was inspiring and the cinematography was outstanding, but the movie was a bit disappointing.  This was the only talk back I was able to attend—star & co-writer/director Rasselas Lakew was present and gave some great insight to the film.  His answers definitely made me appreciate the film a little more, but I wasn't able to stay for the whole talk back because I had to run to see...  ***

...a documentary called Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone.  If you're like me (and probably most of the world), you've never heard of Fishbone, however they've influenced dozens of bands you have heard of (e.g. No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, etc.).  Formed in 1979 Los Angeles, Fishbone was a black rock band that fused ska, funk, metal and punk in an amazing way.  The music of this film is great and the story of one of the most influential bands of the 80s is intriguing.  However, the middle drags on a bit too much ***1/2

Friday Night
Missed the first hour+ of Hesher, but the last half hour of this Joseph Gordon-Levitt film (that will hopefully be released some time soon) was pretty intense.  Luckily, it's not really a film whose ending can be ruined, but it was difficult to get too into the ending seeing as I had no real idea how the characters related.  The publicity materials listed JG-L and Rainn Wilson as the two major stars of this film, but Natalie Portman showed up as well.  This is definitely getting added to my Netflix Saved Queue on the likely chance it gets a limited release I don't hear about.  Can't give a rating to an incomplete film

Every year, there's a midnight movie that has a little bit of cult status.  Last year (I believe) the film was 1977 Japanese horror film House which was an absolute trip.  This year's film was an encore showing of last year's opening night film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil which was preceded by a short film, Hello Caller.  A simple story about a suicidal woman who calls a Suicide Hotline and receives some unexpected advice and hilarious results.  ****1/2

Starring Alan Tudyk & Tyler Labine, T&DvE is a horror comedy that takes the cabin in the woods genre and spins it on its head.  Tucker & Dale are two friendly hillbillies enjoying a weekend at their vacation home (it's a fixer upper).  Meanwhile, a bunch of college kids come across them and imagine the worst.  Through some hilarious misunderstandings, the kids keep accidentally killing themselves while the ones left are convinced Tucker & Dale are murdering them one by one.  Start at the 2m13s mark in the trailer below for an idea of the Evil Dead-like comedy throughout (the first 2 minutes show trailers for The Last Mountain and Der Sandmann).  ****

After the midnight film, several SSFF patrons (and a few filmmakers) hung out at The Funhouse.  SSFF Director Graham Stanford picked up several pies from Lehigh Pizza and bought a couple of pitchers of beer for all to enjoy, but silly me stopped by Sotto Santi for a slice first and then bought my own beer at the bar before ever venturing out to the patio to join the other SSFFers.  There were a few friends there so we talked a little about films and life, but before I knew it, it was 2:30 and we were getting kicked out. Little did I know that on the drive home, I'd get a flat tire on 78 at 3am, then have to wait until 5am for the Roadside Assistance to finally get there and fix the tire.  Since my night was already shot, I decided to drop the car off at the body shop and walk home where I finally got into bed around 6am (this is relevant later, trust me).

The first film of the final day, Imani, began with a quote from Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia: "And the good book says, 'We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.'"  Similar to that film, this one follows a day in the life of three random people in post-war Uganda—a former child soldier, a maid and a hip hop dancer.  Unlike, Magnolia, however this film doesn't take too much trouble to connect the stories outside of a simple theme.  Getting only about 4 hours of sleep Saturday morning before the day's screenings (I told you my story'd be relevant) combined with the general slowness of the film made it a big struggle to stay awake. **1/2

Next, I had to decide between I Am, a documentary about gay and lesbian families in India, and The Whisperer in Darkness, an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation about aliens in Vermont.  I chose the latter (and wonder if I chose poorly).  It started out strong—a 2011 movie adaptation of a 1930s short story, shot to look like a 1930s' horror film.  The film captured the feeling of films like The Day the Earth Stood Still really well, but shortly after folklore professor & narrator, Albert Wilmarth gets to the small VT town to research the legend, things got a little boring.  ***

Didn't have time to catch another full film because of The 39 Steps, but I was able to catch a few more shorts.
  • Always Somebody's Baby brought documentary writers/directors A.J. Wilhelm & Jason Orfanon back to SSFF (they were here last year for their film The Steps starring Jason's brother Billy O).  This documentary short tells about the connection between parent and child.  It's sweet and funny and features word on the street interviews (a bunch of random people all answering a similar question) which I love! ****
  • 1989 (when I was 5 years old) is a neat experiment in animation, narration and sound design, telling the story of the memory of a 5-year-old Danish boy who was in a car accident with his father ****1/2
  • I'm unsure if Monolith is a music video for the Soars song of the same name, or a short film using "Monolith" as its soundtrack.  The animation is very choppy, using odd dolls but the story behind it is decent enough **
  • The Birds Upstairs was an interesting animated short featuring two aristocratic birds who long for a child, only to be granted a baby causing a lot of complications.  Beautifully shot and designed, the animation intrigued me (was it stop motion or some type of advanced computer animation?) but the story just didn't click ***
  • Giving new meaning to the word "short," Euthanized is a 1-minute film about a woman, a man and a clarinet. Films like this really make me wish I had a video camera, some film-loving friends, the creativity to write clever little shorts and the time to actually shoot some movies... ***
And with that, the middle of Shorts Block #2 (Irasshai which I saw Thursday night) started and I had to leave to make it for 39 Steps call.  I did make it out to the Closing Night Party which had some nice food at The Gander Room.  However, I'm too introverted to actually talk to anybody, so I just ate and drank in silence as I made some eye contact with other SSFF regulars but did little more than a tiny head nod of recognition... I was able to see $95 worth of films on my $75 All Access Pass (not to mention free covers into The Funhouse, free pizza and beer (which may have been offered to non-lanyard holders) and a bunch of food at The Gander Room) so I think I made the most of my money. If I didn't have other conflicts, I could have seen $125 worth of films, but I'm still pretty happy with this year's showing.  Hopefully next year I won't have a show the same weekend and can see a lot more!

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