Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Generic Titles, Specific Films

Day 4~6 IIFF
Nathaniel reporting from the Indianapolis International Film Festival
I'm spending today (day 6) mostly comatose in my hotel room. When my eyes are open (not often) I'm catching up on various "to-dos" and reading. I needed a break from sitting in dark rooms staring at the screen. But here's the cinematic stuff from the past few days.

Movies
True Love One of those 'hyperlink' films we were just talking about. This comes from writer/director Henry Barrial and is set in Los Angeles. There's three separate romantic couples ...all eventually connected, yes. There's no official site and unfortunately the IMDB synopsis and its title make it sound just stiflingly clichéd. But it isn't and it works. The characters were compellingly flawed and in not immediately recognizable ways, either. Best in show is Val Lauren (pictured left) who plays an unceasingly aggressive self-made man. If this film gets distribution I expect it'll do major things for his heretofore minor career (lot of TV guest spots and the like) This movie also answers the question that none of you have been asking: What has Randall Batinkoff been up to? Remember him? He got Molly Ringwald pregnant in the 80s in the film For Keeps and in this new film he's desperately trying to get his wife pregnant. All things come full circle I suppose. He's good in the film too... didn't mean to sound snarky. B/B+

After the Fall This documentary is about two sets of fathers and sons and their relationship to the Vietnam war: one father was a draft dodger who moved to Canada, the other a marine. The movie gets a bit bogged down in the minutae of an admittedly interesting plot twist --- the documentarians run into trouble with the government in Ho Chi Minh city (formerly Saigon) --but whenever the narrative focuses on the fathers and their sons it's a keeper. The intergenerational angle proves a compelling an accessible hook for looking at the Vietnam war and also contemplating America's current wartime nightmare. Iraq is mentioned often by the fathers, without any noticeable pushing on the part of the filmmakers, which says a lot I think.

World Cinema
I'm on this jury so just nibbles, no grades. Burn the Bridges (pictured right) is from Mexico and is about siblings trying to make their way into adulthood. They've got considerable baggage to lug around with them on this emotional journey in the form of unfulfilled sexuality and a dying mother. This Beautiful City, an award winner from Canada, deals with a gentrifying neighborhood where rich couples end up intermingling with addicts and hookers. It's yet another 'multiple characters who are connected in ways you don't realize' drama. That genre is getting so popular with filmmakers. It's Better If Gabriela Doesn't Die (Mexico was popular with the selection committee at the IIFF apparently), is a comedy about a telenovela writer and a cop who is obsessed with his show. It's got an outlandish melodrama overlay (by way of telenovelas) and thriller elements too. It works better than its disparate elements suggest it will. I laughed heartily at one joke that played right into a pet peeve of mine about the overreliance of shot / countershot filmmaking from today's directors.


Dan Butler Double
Dan Butler is still best known for his "Bulldog" Briscoe role on Frasier and for being one of the first known television actors to come out of the closet (before the days of Ellen, Rosie, TR Knight, etcetera) but he's been working steadily in films since the 80s. He showed at the festival (he's a native of Indiana) to support a film he stars in and co wrote and co directed called
Karl Rove, I Love You which he and his directing partner are calling a "fictional documentary". The sometimes hilarious and ocassionally disturbing faux doc is about Butler's search for a dream role that will elevate him from the supporting actor ranks. The dreaming leads to an unhealthy obsession with the "ultimate supporting player" George Bush's puppet master Karl Rove. Long story. I got a chance to sit down with Dan and his co-director Phil Leirness so I'll have that interview for you later.

Dan also has a medium sized supporting role in the Alaskan-set feature Chronic Town. His name in the credits is "Blow Job" --quite something to have on your resume. But the film is about a frequently stoned cabbie named Truman and his similarly wayward friends. The cinematography was affecting and the film is blessed with a welcome humanity --it's filled with disreputable types but none of them are approached with much in the way of typical movie judgments even when narrative punishments occur. JR Bourne (pictured left), a Canadian actor with striking eyes and physicality, gives an extremely winning performance of a total loser. Like Val Lauren, discussed above, bigger things could happen for his career if this film could find a wider audience. B

2 comments:

matt said...

Madonna's newest album came out more than 24 hours ago, and we still have yet to read anything Madge related on the blog! I know you're out doing the film fest thing, but some of us can't form our own pop culture opinions without first consulting nathaniel's opinion!

kidding (i think), but what do you think of Hard Candy?!?

NATHANIEL R said...

here's the awful truth.

I preordered the damn thing on itunes... but it's itunes on my home computer. so it's sitting there and i have no access to it. Now obviously i could go out and buy a hard copy (i always do) but i also have no way to play cds in my hotel room.

ARGH

this is the first time since the early 80s when i have not listened to a madonna album on the day of its release!