Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In a World...

I decided to take a look at this film written, directed, and starring Lake Bell, because the premise sounded intriguingly silly and I am always looking for some amusement among my darker film choices at the festival.  I was expecting a little lightness to my day, but was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this little gem.

In a world of movie trailer voice overs, no one has used the "In a World.." intro since the death of Don Lafontaine.  But a new epic intends to revive the format,  and all the voice over artists are competing for the job.  Carol Solomon (Bell), the daughter of Don Lafontaine's defacto successor, rather than being merely a dialogue coach,  has had some recent trailer success.  Going up against her unsupportive, chauvinistic father and his protege, does Carol have a chance?

The story could be trite, the supporting characters could be two dimensional, but oddly enough the film feels fresh and fun, despite the familiar wrapper.  Family dysfunction and awkward romantic encounters are handled with a deft comedic hand.  A great supporting cast, and a few star cameos make it sparkle.  I can't wait to see Lake Bell's next project!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fruit Hunters

A documentary about individuals out to protect the world's fruit varietals by Yung Chan.  The subject matter is fascinating, including personal and scientific efforts to preserve fruit diversity.

Balanced between finding a banana resistant to a disease that is decimating the world's crop, preserving the unique fruit species of Borneo before their forest are permanently destroyed , and actor Bill Pullman's efforts to create a community orchard in the Hollywood Hills.  It is an exploration of success, joy, loss, and frustration.

When it was following the passionate exploration of the individuals in pursuit of their preservation goals, the film was excellent.  Awkward historical reenactments of the early fruit pioneers were a bit distracting, but the key points it made about why it is worth persevering the globe's fruit legacy make this film worth a look.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

I was hoping that this would be the opening feature at SIFF this year.  Mostly because I wanted to  see Joss Whedon and Company.  I knew the guests would not disappoint, and I did not really expect the film to disappoint either, but... you see, I have always been a huge fan of Joss Whedon due to the superior writing he brings to all of his projects, I was uncertain if directing with someone else's words would deliver the same impact.

It does.

Filming in his own home and casting faces Whedon fans will be familiar with, it is charming and delightful.  Amy Acker is a standout as Beatrice, and Nathan Fillon brings his self-deprecating style to a wonderful Dogberry.  I hope that this film gets a broader release so that everyone has an opportunity to view it.

African Cypher

Bryan Little's documentary about dance styles developed within differing South African townships is fascinating.  He interviews a number of different groups from Soweto to Capetown to Durban.  Each has a unique style, but these groups represent identity, family, and often an escape from a life of crime.

Filming on the streets, in claustrophobic interiors, and on the stage of a nationwide competition, you see the different groups performing and speaking about the importance of dance in their lives.  Some beautiful music video type shots of the teams are included, but I enjoyed seeing them dancing in the streets of surrounded by members of their own community.  There is some commentary, but for the most part, the director lets the subjects speak for themselves.  What they have to say is equal to their dancing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ernest & Celestine

 oh-la-la.  Bears live above and mice live below and never the twain shall meet...  except when apprentice dentists play tooth fairy to baby bears.

Celestine has always been a bit contrary, and has never fully believed the myth of the "Big Bad Bear".  On one of her tooth collecting forays she runs into a little trouble, and is "rescued" by the hungry Ernest.  A relationship that brings out the best in both begins, as they struggle against societal intolerance.

Charming animation, lovely soundtrack, and a sweet story about following your dreams.  In French with English subtitles.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

SIFF Press Screening - Crying Out

Unlike many pass holders at SIFF I do not get a great deal of time off to take advantage of the press screenings, but I was thrilled that the one day I did get to attend, they were showing a film from Quebec.  My love of film was honed while going to school in Montreal, and I have a soft spot for all things Quebecois. 

Like Quebec itself this film is a unique combination of themes and tones. The guide describes it as "a quasi-surrealistic road movie" with "dark secrets and deadpan humor" which is very accurate.  It is a blend of pain, joy, exasperation, catharsis

The movie opens with a scene that was the most uncomfortable five minutes I have ever spent in a movie theatre, the off camera sexual abuse of a young boy.  The boy grows up to be "The Son" played by Patrick Hivon.  Interestingly the main characters, the Son, the Father, and the Grandfather are never mentioned by name.

The present day story begins with the death of the Father's second wife.   His grief drives him to run away with his wife's body.   The family thinks that the Grandfather and Son should track him down.   Each of them is dealing with their own pain - the Grandfather with his aging, the father with his grief, and the son with his unexpressed childhood trauma.   The situations and individuals they encounter in the journey across the open countryside of Quebec provide moments of humor, pain, anger, and ultimately compassion and hope.

I enjoyed this movie, however for those unfamiliar with French and French Canadian colloquialisms, the translation misses some of the emotional depth.

Monday, May 16, 2011

SIFF Member Preview - Paper Birds

It begins........
My first taste of SIFF 2011 was Paper Birds, a Spanish Film directed by Emilio Aragon.

At the close of the Spanish Civil War, a comedian, Jorge del Pino (Imanol Arias) rejoins his vaudeville troupe.  Initially returning to keep his head down, he assumes the role of "father"  to this theatre family, doing his best to avoid police suspicion and resistance recruiting. 

Despite the grim realities of his broken life, Jorge is able to offer a semblance of safety and hope to a young orphan beginning his life on the stage.  The moments of pain and suffering are balanced by charm and humor.

Shot well, with solid performances and an engaging story - a satisfying start to this year's festival.