We may not have the most sophisticated culture here in Jacksonville, Florida, but dammit we're trying to foster one. One step in the right direction was taken when the inaugural Jacksonville Film Festival was held in 2003. I'm ashamed to say that, as big a film fan that I am, I missed the first one completely; a mistake I swore to myself I would not repeat.
The second festival, held in May of last year, had a number of interesting films being screened. I had time on that weekend to see only one and ended up passing on such films as The Saddest Music in the World, Rick and Slasher, hosted by director John Landis himself. The film I eventually chose to see was none other than Napoleon Dynamite, and thus did we here in little old Jacksonville become privy to this breakout comedy long before the rest of the nation did. And, yes, I heartily laughed my ass off, as did the rest of the audience.
And so we come to today. Two weeks from today begins the third annual festival and I plan on catching at least one film per day, if not more. Here are the films that I'm considering and the descriptions as provided by the JFF website:
Murderball (The San Marco Theater at 9:30 PM) - The notion of quadriplegic athletes may be unimaginable to some, but Murderball shows that they can be as great as any. The film chronicles these men as they overcome unimaginable obstacles to become world-class athletes.
Four-Eyed Monsters (Theatre Jacksonville at 2:00 PM) - Arin and Susan, two lonely city dwellers meet online. Tired of traditional dating conventions, the pair opt to communicate through writing notes, chatting on the net and videotaping themselves.
The Works (Theatre Jacksonville at 5:00 PM) - In a nameless, faceless corporation, Victor tries to hold onto his humanity, despite the escalating humiliations and his failed attempts at resignation.
Childstar (The Florida Theatre at 9:30 PM) - A spoiled child actor's mother leaves him in the care of their driver, resulting in a relationship that changes both of them.
Plagues And Pleasures On The Salton Sea (Theatre Jacksonville at 5:30 PM) - Once a place for vacationers that was more popular than Palm Springs this desolate vacation spot is filled with the most unusual characters, all trying to keep Salton Sea alive.
I, Crumudegon (Theatre Jacksonville at 8:00 PM) - Director Alan Zwieg (Vinyl) looks at his fellow cranky people (including Fran Liebowitz and Andy Rooney) and how they got that way.
Brothers (The San Marco Theater at 11:00 AM) - Disturbingly realistic portrayal of two brothers: the younger one, the loser, fresh out of prison for a bank robbery that turned into a horrific assault on a bank teller; the older brother, the golden child, with a fantastic wife and two adorable kids who goes to do his duty in Afghanistan. While the "good" brother is in Afghanistan, the horrors of war triggers a reversal in the brothers' roles.
The Civilization Of Maxwell Bright (The San Marco Theater at 1:30 PM) - Arrogant, misogynistic, Max Bright wants a woman who will be supportive, clean up after him, be constantly sexually available, and oh, yes, beautiful and submissive. So he buys a Chinese mail-order wife. When Mai Ling arrives, she seems to be all that he wanted, but she turns out to be so much more. What could have been the set-up for a situational comedy becomes an incredibly moving story of one man's transformation, beautifully grounded in the performances of Patrick Warburton and Marie Matiko, ably supported by Simon Callow, Austin Pendleton, Jennifer Tilly and Eric Roberts.
I plan on doing reviews of each one that I end up seeing as well as commentary on the festival itself, so stay tuned.