I have a small window of time in Tribeca duties so I must wrap the unfortunately brief Nashville Film Festival coverage.
New Directors Competition
This is the jury that I served on along with Lou Harry A&E editor of the Indianapolis Business Journal and actor Brian O’Halloran who you’ll remember from Clerks. It's interesting to watch so many debut features back to back because patterns do emerge in regards to strengths and weaknesses within first efforts. The jury discussions were yet another reminder – as if I needed one covering the Oscars so closely each year – that one man’s treasure is another man’s… anyway, the discussions were lively and fun but so much disagreement! We ended up not spreading the wealth much because we were very divided about our slate of films and even the individual achievements within the films. Our two winners were both films with small casts performing tiny character implosions.
- Grand Jury Prize: Michael Mohan’s One Too Many Mornings
I passed over this one at Sundance due to the title and description. My loss. Memorably shot and very well acted (not usually a strength in no budget indies), this black and white comedy brings two old friends together who are both having major life crises, though they're probably not the best sources of comfort or advice for one another. Alcoholism and male commitment problems aren't exactly fresh topics in film but it's all in the execution. There's enough idiosyncratic detail, smart filmmaking and sideways humor to keep this vivid and engaging. I'd eagerly take a second film from any of the people here which to me is a major test of a debut.
- Honorable Mention: Paul Cotter’s Bomber
In this dramedy, a quick-tempered son takes his angry dad, a former airforce pilot, and chatty fussy mother on an anxiety-ridden roadtrip. Their vacation agenda is unclear but the father definitely has one. Bomber is a great title, because its clever beyond its literal meaning once you think over the film and the screenplay's construction.
- Best Actor: Anthony Deptula, One Too Many Mornings
- Best Actress: Eileen Nicholas, Bomber
I normally only catch a couple of doc titles so naturally I miss any fest winners. I saw City of Borders, an intriguing documentary about a gay bar on the border of Israel and Palestine. It gets good mileage from the depressing irony that the only community that seems to be cohabitating quite peacefully (the gay community) is the community that is reviled on both sides. I also caught the button pushing Cleanflix, about the idealogical/legal war between Hollywood directors and the Mormon entrepeneurs who reedit DVDs to clear them of dirty words and sex scenes (and small bits of extreme violence) to sell or rent them to people who can't handle such content. This documentary must have had a large budget because film clips are expensive to license but Cleanflix is loaded with hilarious examples of before/after sequences. My favorite was a scene from The Big Lebowski which entirely cuts out Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid) but leaves in the dialogue addressed to her and reactions to her absent dialogue. So weird! Anything to avoid her aggressive bikini clad propositions, I suppose. The Cleanflix company even edits torture porn like the Saw series but draws the line at Brokeback Mountain 'for moral reasons'.
Here's to fucked up value systems!!!
Interestingly enough, I was speaking with the director of a small midwestern film festival after the movie and he asked what side I thought the movie was on? I said "Hollywood's obviously, 'my side'". He had the exact opposite reaction, believing the film came down firmly on the side of the Mormons, his side (though he doesn't share their fear of sex & swear words). Curious. The film gets a bit off track in its final act following the sex-crimes related incarceration of one of the many players in the 'scrub those dirty films' clean business! Oh the humanity.
- Grand Jury Prize: Marshall Curry’s Racing Dreams
- Honorable Mention: Taggart Siegel’s Queen of the Sun
- Grand Jury Prize: For Once in My Life
- Honorable Mention: For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair
I caught only one shorts compilation but aside from Applaus (see previous post) it was the highlight of my Nashville viewing experience. I'm nutty for the work of Jamie Travis so I knew I had to see the program "The Complete Works of Jamie Travis." I'd only previously see his Patterns Trilogy (trailer) which is one of my most favorite
films filmobjects ever. The visually gifted gay Canadian is in demand these days making commercials (he says they like his crisp sense of color) but hopes to make a his first feature soon. The Patterns Trilogy, which charts the obsessive imagined (?) relationship of neighbors Pauline (Courtenay Webber) and David (Christopher Redman), is a weird blend of horror, surrealism, musical, romance and drama but the rest of his shorts (The Saddest Boy in the World, Why the Anderson Children Didn't Come To Dinner and his latest, The Armoire) are all about miserable children who are living outside of our typical reality in one way or another. He's basically a genius.
- Documentary Short: The Rauch Bros' Q&A
- Doc Short Honorable Mention: TG Herrington’s Mr. Okra
- Live Action Short: Jamie Travis's The Armoire
- Live Action Short Honorable Mention: Roland Honeycutt Jr.'s Dwight David Honeycutt for Conway School Board
- Animated Short: Chris Landreth’s The Spine
- Animated Short Honorable Mention: Nick Cross’s Yellow Cake
- Experimental Short: Joseph Ernst’s Feeder
- Experimental Short Honorable Mention: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s A Letter to Uncle Boonmee
If that last title, sounds familiar it's because Apichatpong has expanded the short into a feature and it'll be playing at Cannes next month
I was there to watch Carter Burwell receive his Career Achievement Award in Film Music (writing briefly about his True Grit score -- did you want to hear more about that interview? I couldn't tell from the limited comments.) but heard about these other prizes after the fact.
- NAHCC Award for Hispanic Filmmaker: Javier Fuentes-Leon, Undertow (previous reviewed from Sundance)
- GLBT Film: Leanne Pooley's The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls
The artistic director of the fest really wanted me to see this one. Oops. You can't see everything.
- Rosetta Miller-Perry Award for Best Black Filmmaker: Mario Van Peebles, Black, White and Blues
- Best Film by a Woman Director: Jac Schaeffer, TiMER
This romantic comedy has a fertile if ridiculously implausible sci-fi premise (humans are implanted with devices that countdown to the moment when they'll meet their life partner) but whatever problems it has in dealing with its premise, it almost makes up for with pleasant charm. Of course it helps that it pandered to me specifically as soon as its opening scene. I should explain: TiMER reunites Buffy's hilarious demons Anya (Emma Caulfield) and Hafrek (Kali Rocha) in the opening scene! Schaeffer spoils me. Schaeffer must be a Buffy fan and I thank her sincerely for her good taste. For what it's worth -- since other Buffy fans will be curious -- Caulfield acquits herself well as a movie lead. I think she was absolutely Emmy win worthy as Anya (but who in the doctor/lawyer/cop-loving Academy was ever going to vote for a love-hungry money-loving vengeance demon?) and she deserves to work a whole helluva lot more than she does.
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