Last Sunday, a friend and I headed down to Orlando to shop for video games (him), LEGO (me) and to trade in my vouchers for actual tickets to the Florida Film Festival. I had my movies picked out in advance and was able to get all the ones I asked for (it helped that I was ridiculously early in picking them up). Here's the list with descriptions provided by the FFF:
My Brother is an Only Child - Charming and delightful, this film adaptation of Antonio Pennacchi's Il Fasciocomunista reunites the screenwriters of The Best of Youth in a tale of sibling rivalry and brotherly love set against the turbulent Italian 1960s and 1970s. Brothers in the working class Benassi family, Manrico (Riccardo Scarnaccio) and Accio (Elio Germano) are both rebellious, but otherwise opposites: the former a handsome, charismatic firebrand who becomes a Communist; the latter an ordinary confused little brother who flirts with fascism, taken under the wing of a local MSI leader. Set in Latina in the area of Sabaudia, where Mussolini built model towns, the politics are there, with the filmmaker addressing Italy's fascist past, but only at the service of character and story. Maintaining a mostly light touch, the film is nostalgic and entertaining. Who can't laugh at a "defascistized" text for Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" or a "let everyone state their views" meeting? And there's more than meets the eye--a jarring somber climax reveals dreams and disillusionment in this acclaimed dramatic comedy that was nominated for eight Donatello Awards (Italian Oscars), winning four including Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
Stuck - The director of Re-Animator returns with a blackly humorous thriller torn straight from the headlines. Compassionate caregiver Brandi (Mena Suvari, American Beauty) is on the way to the top, her years of hard work about to be rewarded with a big promotion. Hapless Tom (Stephen Rea, The Crying Game) has hit rock-bottom, out of work, newly homeless, and in search of a park bench for his bed. These two paths intersect violently when an inebriated Brandi accidentally plows head-on into Tom, lodging him halfway through her windshield as she speeds through the streets. Terrified that the accident could destroy both her career and her future, Brandi makes a decision almost unthinkable: to stow the vehicle and its captive in the garage, and make her drug-dealer boyfriend dispose of the body. But there's a complication: the body isn't quite dead and is slowly, painfully trying to escape. Inspired by all-too-true events, Stuck plunges its antagonists into an exhilarating, disturbingly funny, and always unpredictable battle of wits that will leave you gasping!
Gigi - Winning all nine of its Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, the adaptation of Colette's eponymous novel whisks audiences into turn-of-the-century France, where Gigi (Leslie Caron), a young Parisienne, is given lessons in becoming a proper young lady and capturing a wealthy suitor. Fresh from a failed courtship with Liane d'Exelmans (Eva Gabor), family friend and seasoned millionaire Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan) escapes for a weekend retreat with Gigi and her grandmother (Hermione Gingold). The precocious Gigi and society-weary Gaston become fast friends, encouraging their scheming families' attempts at matchmaking. Amidst timeless numbers like "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and the conventions of 1900s French society, Gigi and Gaston's friendship blossoms into love. Marvelous performances, stylish costumes and sets, and a sumptuous soundtrack from the team behind My Fair Lady elevate this period Cinderella story into an enduring classic that has been delighting audiences for five decades - join us for this special 50th anniversary screening under the stars.
Fish Kill Flea - In a small New York town, oddly called Fishkill, a once thriving center of commerce from the 1970s is now converted into a shopping haven for the eccentric--a flea marketer's paradise. Fish Kill Flea presents an in-depth and unfiltered exploration into the day-to-day operations of this vibrant shopping community. The lives of the flea market-s patrons and shopkeepers take a drastic turn when a corporate home-improvement conglomerate purchases the mall for purposes of destruction. These people aren't only losing their business, but for many of them, they are losing their communities too. What follows feels like Samuel Beckett by way of Errol Morris. The result is touching, often humorous, and even tragic. Fish Kill Flea presents an unflinching look at the struggle of the lowliest American dreamers and entrepreneurs. How can they compete with the tsunami of huge corporate influences?
La Corona - If only every beauty pageant had contestants who were assassins, thieves, and murderers--perhaps they would all be this entertaining. Shot in the largest women's prison in Colombia, "La Corona" ("The Crown") is a 2008 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Short.
Tuya's Marriage - Set against the backdrop of the vanishing life of the Mongolian herdsman, Tuya's Marriage is a simple yet compelling story of a hardworking desert herder who refuses to leave her land and her family even in the worst of adversities. Director Wang Quanan meticulously captures the slow-moving realities of these harsh but picturesque grasslands. Tuya, played by Yu Nan, is the sole bread earner of her family. She not only takes care of her injured husband and children but also herds a hundred sheep. However one day when she hurts her back, Tuya is not left with much choice. Using her plucky peasant practicality, she decides to divorce her husband on paper and find a suitor who will not only marry her but will agree to take care of the entire family. The suitors line up, but it is no easy task. The film is warm, surprisingly witty, and gentle, making it no surprise that it has won top prizes at many festivals including the Golden Bear at the 2007 Berlin International Festival and Best Actress at the 2007 Chicago Int'l Film Festival.
Battle in Seattle - "Our world is not for sale" is the declaration at the heart of Irish actor and first time writer-director Stuart Townsend's provocative and heartfelt film, Battle in Seattle. Sparked by tens of thousands protesting the 1999 World Trade Organization conference, riots in the normally laid-back Northwestern city spanned five days, and the scene eventually grew into a state of emergency. Woven together with actual footage and dramatic performances, the film showcases the events from multiple points of view including protestors, police, and city officials. Characters are drawn from those on the front lines to innocent bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The filmmaker skillfully uses an all-star cast including Oscar winner Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ray Liotta, and Andre (3000) Benjamin to bring the chaotic and frightening true events to the screen. As civil liberties and global economics collide, the fights in Battle in Seattle are as relevant today as they were at the turn of the millennium.
Intimidad - Intimidad is the latest masterwork from the filmmaking team that brought us Mardi Gras: Made in China (Grand Jury Award - Best Documentary Feature, FFF 2005) and Kamp Katrina (FFF 2007). A Mexican couple marries young and struggles to provide for their baby while saving enough money to buy a tiny parcel of land and build their own home from scraps of wood. This intimate portrait of their impoverished lives illustrates what life must be like for thousands of young Mexicans working for American corporations south of the border. Unflinching yet tender, the film follows Cecy and Camilo over the course of four years as they face a dilemma that separates them from their daughter and nearly tears their marriage apart. It is a powerful, heartbreaking, and compassionate story that reveals the enduring strength of love in the face of economic hardship.
My Olympic Summer - Words and images no one was supposed to see reveal the love that was nearly lost behind the headlines of an historic tragedy. Winner of the Short Filmmaking Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story - William Castle made an undeniable mark on the world of film, but his story isn't that well known. He began his early days working as an assistant to Orson Welles, where he served as a second unit director on The Lady from Shanghai. He then turned to horror, creating gimmickry for audiences in the 1950s and 60s to create the ultimate cinematic experience. These clever promotions would include flying skeletons above the crowd, insurance policies and nurses in the theater, a Coward's Corner with yellow footprints leading up to it in theater lobbies, and the infamous electrified seats for The Tingler. Perhaps his most well-respected contribution to cinema history is producing Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, a project he was originally supposed to direct himself. Director Jeffrey Schwarz gives us a humorous and thorough account of this celluloid P.T. Barnum through archival photos, footage, and interviews with the likes of John Waters, Leonard Maltin, John Landis, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, and countless others. This compelling documentary offers long overdue appreciation for a unique artist who gave audiences something they were never expecting.
If a Body Meet a Body - Three Los Angeles County coroners answer a sobering question: How does one deal with life on a day-to-day basis when you're constantly surrounded by death?
Son of Rambow - Written and directed by Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Son of Rambow takes us on a nostalgic journey back to 1982, where kids everywhere idolized one of the greatest action heroes ever to grace the screen -- Sylvester Stallone’s "Rambo." Will is an imaginative little kid who is subdued greatly by the strict religious community he is growing up in. They all but succeed in sheltering him from any sort of outside media until the day he gets his hands on a bootleg copy of First Blood. The film absolutely mesmerizes the British 11-year-old, who then decides to make a movie of his own where he plays the son of Stallone's chiseled character. What follows is a creatively mad-cap attempt at a no-budget action epic, where the characters take independent filmmaking to a whole new level. The breakout hit of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Jennings's magical work is a hilariously fresh and visually inventive take on friendship, family, film heroes, and the death-defying adventures of growing up in the video age. Son of Rambow is an all-ages cinematic experience that is pure joy.