Saturday, April 05, 2008

FFF 2008: That's a wrap!

The Florida Film Festival was overall a great experience, and one I'd like to attend again (if Mrs. Mosley will let me). I don't know how likely that is, but let me go over the high points of my trip:

On the non-FFF side, I spent a day at Downtown Disney where I spent lots of money at Virgin Megastore, the LEGO store (natch) and the faux Irish pub that nonetheless served a pretty good fish and chips. I also saw The Bank Job at the AMC theater there and enjoyed myself immensely. Finally, on the last day there, I went to the Birds of Prey center where the Audubon society rehabilitates injured birds of prey such as owls, eagles, falcons and so forth. It's a great exhibit and it introduced me to the Northern Caracara, which makes some of the oddest noises and neck movements I've ever seen.

As I said before, the Malcolm McDowell thing was awesome. When he got up on the stage, there were two chairs set up at angles like on an interview show, but these never got used. Nobody interviewed him, he just stood there for eighty minutes and talked about his career. Best anecdote: After A Clockwork Orange came out, he was questioned by some people about the film influencing street gangs, as evidenced by gang members starting to dress like his character Alex (bowler hat, white shirt and pants, jockstrap worn on the outside). He replied, "Well you should be thanking me, then. They'll be a lot easier to spot now, won't they?"

I hadn't yet mentioned the three short films I saw before some of the features. La Corona was a short film about the larges women's prison in Columbia and how they conduct yearly beauty pageants for the inmates. Apparently it's a huge morale booster for the population, as evidenced by the entire population screaming and running about in a non-riot fashion. We get some background on a handful of the contestants and see their highs and lows during the competition. It was a nice documentary short. It also shows you that any girl can grow up to be both a guerrilla fighter and a beauty queen.

My Olympic Summer was a very touching personal piece by filmmaker Daniel Robin about his fracturing family when he was a child. This is all revealed through old 8mm home movies and a letter he found as an adult from his mother to his father (unopened). Added to this is footage from the Munich Olympics and the hostage crisis as his father was the military Chaplin that was held by the terrorists for a time before being let go. It's a very haunting story and I highly recommend it to anyone who might come across it.

If a Body Meet a Body is a short documentary about big city morgues and the people who work there. We get some fascinating views of the whole process which could turn some stomachs. With one corpse, who has no identity and was severely burned, one of the folks at the morgue cut of the thumb, fill the shrivelled thing with some liquid, and then leave in a beaker of a different liquid overnight. The next day, the pad of the thumb has filled out and solidified enough to make a legible print, thus helping identification. Again, very interesting stuff, but not for the faint of heart.

My Brother is an Only Child was your typical coming-of-age drama comedy, except it's set in post World War II Italy. I get the feeling I would have enjoyed it more if I had known more about this period of Italy's history. Apparently, there was a lot of strife between the Communists and the Fascists, who yearned for the Mussolini years. Into this mix is the standard mutual love interest of the two brothers and the jealousy it engenders. A good flick, but nothing earth shattering.

Stuck takes an outrageous true story and turns it into a unique little horror comedy. Back in 2001, a woman hit a pedestrian who crashed through her windshield. Her reaction to this was to leave him there in her garage for the next three days until he died. The movie is pretty much the same story, though I won't give away whether the pedestrian dies in the film as well. I will say that he does not go gently into that good night and has a helluva time dislodging himself while dealing with too many outright awful people. It's directed by Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator fame, and I can tell you that his penchant for gore and naked people hasn't ebbed. Good stuff for those that can handle the material.

Fish Kill Flea tells the sad story of a shopping mall that opened to great fanfare back in the seventies only to become rundown and transform into a flea market. This is not a sad ending, though, as the flea market becomes a beloved part of the community of Fish Kill, New York, and it causes a lot of distress when the owner of the property decides to tear it down entirely to build a Home Depot. It's a sad story, and the filmmakers draw some nice context with the past, though they go for more "laugh at the rubes" moments than is necessary for the kind of social message they are trying to impart.

Tuya's Marriage takes place in Mongolia where a woman does all the work on a remote farm because her husband permanently crippled himself while building a well. When she sustains a lumbar injury and is told her working will only make it worse, she is compelled to divorce her husband and marry someone who can support her. I did wonder during the film why they didn't just hire somebody, but I suppose being piss poor and out in the middle of nowhere isn't very conducive to that option. It's a very moving film and one I recommend, though the ending is a curiosity and will have you pondering the film for a while after its over (not necessarily a bad thing).

Battle in Seattle was probably the one film out of the eight festival entries I saw that has the best chance at making it to the multiplex. Fictional characters are weaved into the real life events surrounding the Seattle WTO riots in 1999. Big names here include Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, Ray Liotta, Connie Nielsen and Andre Benjamin. It's a very engrossing film, though it can be on the preachy side. You're likely to come away from it either resenting the protesters or wanting to become an anarchist yourself.

Intimidad was a very touching look at a struggling Mexican trouble and their little girl as they try to make a life for themselves with some land of their own. The filmmakers themselves were there for Q&A afterwards, where they revealed that most of the profits would be going to the couple to help them pay off their property debt. Forgive me for sounding trite if I say that the two most memorable tidbits from the film were that (a) women get paid 18 cents for every bra they make for Victoria Secret and (b) the Mexican New Years tradition is to hold a rickety wooden lattice structure above your head and set it on fire.

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story was my favorite. It's the story of William Castle, director and producer of goofy horror flicks that always had a gimmick. Far from being portrayed as a huckster, there is nothing but good feelings for the guy who apparently was just a really big kid and likable as all get out. Such reminiscence will leave a smile on your face. It's really a documentary for film geeks like me, and those of you who are will not be sorry you've seen it.

Son of Rambow comes in a very close second behind Spine Tingler as my favorite. The mood of the film is very much the same as it's time period: The eighties. You'll find yourself thinking a lot of The Goonies during this film and all the gleeful enjoyment you got from that kids-sized Indiana Jones sendup. Here we have a couple of outcast British kids that decide to make a film after being inspired by First Blood. That may sound dark, but it's not. It's a lighthearted valentine to imagination and friendship.

There were two venues that were used by the Festival. The Regal theater was, well, a Regal theater, but it was new and clean, so that made it comfortable. The Enzian, on the other hand, was a different animal altogether. There were about three levels of tables and chairs plus the lowest upfront level that had deluxe theater seats flanked by kidney-shaped couches and tables. I sat on one of these couches during Spine Tingler, which was an afternoon show and was lightly attended. I was able to lounge there and enjoy the Italian Sausage pizza I had ordered with my movie. I'm telling ya, you have to try this.

And I'll close this by presenting this ad for Peroni that they showed before two or three of the features at Enzian. Yes, it's a glorified commercial, but given how lovingly they pay tribute to La Dolce Vita, they at least knew their audience when they booked the commercial to show at a Film Festival.

Arrivederci, folks.

1 comment:

Aaron Hillis said...

Where exactly is there a "laugh at the rubes" moment in FISH KILL FLEA? Who exactly are the rubes?