Monday, April 28, 2008

Minnie, Mexicans, Meanderings and Murder

IIFF Day 2 & 3
Nathaniel reporting from the Indianapolis International Film Festival
It's going to be tough to top Famke Janssen (day 1). And that's not a play on her Bond Girl name "Xenia Onatopp". That's just the facts.

The Movies
Young @ Heart - is already playing in several of the big markets but when you're in the Midwest you sometimes wait and wait and wait (I grew up in Michigan. I know), hence the festival showing before its actual opening in these parts. This documentary, about a choir of 70-90somethings who sing contemporary songs (some even on key!) as well as rock and roll classics is nearly impossible to resist. I found myself grinning and rarely note-taking. As such it's critic proof though critics are human too and will shove both thumbs as high up as their rotator cuffs allow. That said this doc does want for a little more range, as it's relentlessly upbeat even when it should dig deeper. Its taste for repetition also squeezes out the opportunity to paint a broader picture of the history and inner workings of this organization that seems to be a beautiful and beneficial one, both in concept and longevity. On a final note: I have no idea how cool or uncool it is to love Coldplay these days but, damn, "Fix You" is just a gorgeously moving song.

Take , which is also playing at the Tribeca Film Festival now, tells us two parallel flashback stories: one concerns an overworked mom (Minnie Driver) with an unruly handful of a son and the other a blue collar gambling addict in serious financial trouble (Jeremy Renner). We know from the earliest sequences that tragedy will strike as their paths converge. We just don't know how. The journey then is waiting to see how it happens and how the two will be reunited for the finale. Minnie and Jeremy both have fine moments if at first curiously blank characterizations. Take plays mostly like a confident debut for writer/director Charles Oliver but the structural conceit (I won't spoil it for you though it isn't exactly a twist) is awkwardly handled and little of the final impact that's probably intended comes through. I hope he gets the chance to make a second film (you never know with indies and debut directors)

Here's the trailer...

Munyuranagabo (Rwanda) and Cochochi (Mexico) were two world cinema pieces with surface similarities. Both are leisurely paced cultural snapshot films about two young boys travelling their homeland together. In the former, set post-genocide in Rwanda, two best friends (a Hutu and a Tutsi boy) travel together with disparate agendas and shared naivete on their way to avenge a murder. But after stopping to visit one of their families, their easy friendship is tested by long standing cultural anger, sorrow and prejudices. In the latter film, the first to be shot in the Tarahumara language (it also played in the Discovery section at Toronto) two brothers lose their father's horse on a trip to bring medicine to an old woman. Unfortunately I can't tell you yet which I preferred since I'm on the jury.

Also in the World Cinema section: Magazine Gap Road (Hong Kong) which is about two former escorts (Tawainese model Jessey Meng and Chinese actress Ying Qu) trying to leave the world of prostitution behind. One has become a successful curator and the other is a junkie. It's a crime drama essentially, and despite the lurid subject matter, quite tame in its onscreen depictions.

The only one of these three I can see as a possible Oscar submission in the foreign language film race (based on the size of their respective film industries) is the film from Rwanda. But, given Oscar rules and Rwanda's lack of submissions in the past, that might be a hard sell. Munyurangabo has an American director but the rest of the cast and crew is from Rwanda. If Rwanda decides to submit it, will it be considered indigenous enough?

Other Shenanigans
Inbetween screenings Nick and I talked Oscar (you know how we do) and as soon as he took off --I'm on my own now-- I ran to Borders to buy the book he was raving about: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood (by Mark Harris, Tony Kushner's husband). How he pitched it to me was describing it as one chapter of Inside Oscar but as long as we always wished every single chapter to be. Sold! The book is about the Best Picture nominees of 1967 and the various threads in the overall cultural landscape and Hollywood narrative that they represent (intentionally or un).

We also talked Battlestar Galactica... or watched it rather (shards of season 1). Nick is teaching a course at Northwestern on gender and sexuality in contemporary science fiction so he's got to get caught up in case any of his students decide to write papers on BSG. I'm guessing several of them will.


Robert said...

What do we get to accompany the 1967 Best Picture race reference? The Doctor Doolittle poster of all things.

Oh Rex Harrison... you Oscar darling you.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Nathaniel is generous: he held it together and kept himself to "shards" of Season One. I had an Overeaters Anonymous moment of swallowing the entire thing. But that's just cuz he's been on this journey once, while I'm lagging way behind. Like a spaceship that hasn't made a single jump yet. But I'm getting there!

I knew you were going to buy that book after I left. I hope you're enjoying it!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I LOVED Pictures at a Revolution. It's just fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the sections about Bonnie and Clyde, and some of the Dr. Doolittle portions are hilarious.


Robert --I knew I was being perverse there but couldn't help myself.

Nick & Alex --i haven't started reading it yet for fear that it will swallow me whole

gabrieloak said...

I read Pictures at a Revolution a month ago.It's an excellent book about popular filmmaking in the 60s and makes you wish Mark Harris would tackle the 70s next. I'm jealous Harris and Tony Kushner live in the same household--all that talent.

One thing I didn't realize was that The Graduate was not liked by all the critics at the time. At least three good movies were up for Best Picture the same year. It's too bad Fox pushed Doctor Doolittle for awards rather than Two for the Road.

Dr. S said...

Hah, you know what? Pictures from a Revolution is called *Scenes* from a Revolution over here. Sometimes I don't fully get why titles get changed when books come out on the other side of the world.

aldo √°lvarez said...

Cochochi will be a vote syphoner in this year's race for the mexican submission, imo. It was well received by Mexican Academy, yet it'll be a race between:

Berlin FIPRESCI winner by Fernando Eimbcke (Duck Season), the film is sublime and follows the same style than his first film, he's been described as a mixture between Ozu and Jarmusch, lol. Great cinematography, not quite Oscar material, but c'mon, Silent Light was way more quality than baitiness.

Rodrigo Pla's Cannes Critics Week closing film, really, really, really baity, well crafted, period piece about faith, family and cristero war. It could actually give Mexico its first FLF Oscar.

Roberto Sneider's huge period production based on baity best seller, still no news about its quality.

Other vote syphoners:
Insignificant Things, debut drama by Andrea Martinez, Guillermo del Toro produces. The dark horse.

Rudo y Cursi. Gael, Diego Luna, directed by Alfonso's brother, Carlos Cuaron. But it's like, a soccer comedy.

La Zona. Prizes at Venice and Toronto, debut film by Rodrigo Pla. Urban drama.

Strongest ever year for Mexico, Foreign-Oscarwise.

Dr. S said...

Okay, oh my GOD am I glad you guys talked about that book, because now I've gotten it and am also totally consumed by it. Fantastic! Huzzah.