June 25th, 2008

hot buttered popcorn

SIFF Day 23 & 24

A week and a half after the film festival has ended I've finally decided to complete my mini-reviews for the last two days of SIFF. The delay wasn't exactly unavoidable. However, in my defense, my laptop literally crashed and burned. Okay it didn't literally crash but it did literally burn. It's rather alarming to see smoke coming out of your computer, I can tell you. The electrical burning smell wasn't enjoyable either.

Anyway... back to the fest.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good festival with far fewer parties and only a handful of truly terrible films. The worst thing about the fest is that I had to work so I didn't make it to as many screenings as I generally do. Also, most people had to pay for their drinks at the parties, which is a travesty, I tell ya. A travesty! Thank goodness I was a VIP so I got to drink as much booze as I could tolerate... for FREE! Huzzah!

Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Tennis Shoes (USA) 2008 ***
Poorly made documentary about Garrison Keillor. The director seemed to have no idea how to assemble and edit footage. The film consisted of randomly put together clips of Garrison and Co. working on and performing his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, interviews with Keillor and footage of the doc crew following Garrison around in his daily life.

For me, what made the movie watchable is that I'm a fan of Garrison Keillor and his radio show. I used to listen to it every Saturday but somehow got out of the habit. I have a fond affection for the show and the man that created it. He's charming, funny and he has a beautiful radio voice. So, this movie was not torture to watch.

Days and Clouds (Italy) 2007 **1/2
Boring movie about a couple having financial problems. That was the entire plot. They have bills. They lose their house and they have to work for a living. You know, if I want to experience this all I have to do is live my own life I don't need to go watch a movie about it.

Bottle Shock (USA) 2008 ***
For some bizarre reason SIFF screened the closing night film on Saturday instead of Sunday. The closing night film is about the Judgement of Paris wine tasting in 1976 in which two California wines won the top prizes for whites and reds in a blind taste test. Apparently there's another film being made on the subject that sounds infinitely better and is based on the book written by Steven Spurrier, the British wine merchant who organized the 1976 tasting in Paris.

Bottle Shock follows the story of the winemakers of Chateau Montelena, who created the winning Chardonnay in '76. It is obviously largely fictionalized and focuses on a stupid romantic triangle among the young (and supposed, I guess) "pretty people". I would have rather seen the real story of the California winemakers and the judges in Paris. But no, we get silly Hollywood bullshit instead.

The film was attended by Bill Pullman and Freddy Rodriquez and I think a producer or something. Hey, it was over a week ago and I don't remember. Additional notes: Bill Pullman is still good looking and without a VIP lounge the closing night party was lame. Except for the free drinks. That was good. Bizarrely, Alan Rickman won the audience award for best actor at SIFF. He was the only decent part of Bottle Shock because he is Alan Rickman after all, but... the movie was lame. Whatever.

Secret Festival #4 ***
Straight from a famous film festival, the last entry was pretty good if viewed as a genre film. But it wasn't as good as it should have/could have been. Also, if the filmmaker was going for a "shocking twist" it sadly failed. I figured it out in the first five minutes. I think the director either should have been very clear about what was going on or better at hiding what was going on. The distinctive narrative style was marred by idiocy and/or trying to be too, too clever. If Tarantino had made this movie it would have been great.

Towelhead (USA) 2007 ****
Good adaptation of Alicia Erian's novel of the same name. Directed by Alan Ball of Six Feet Under fame. The plot follows the sexual awakening of a thirteen year old Arab-American living in Texas with her strict father during the Gulf War. Sure we've seen this story before.... about boys. This one is about a girl, which seemed to make some people uncomfortable. I thought it was brilliant with a stunning performance by Summer Bishil as the young girl.

Total Movies seen: 84
Total bags of popcorn consumed: Um... not sure I lost track, must have been about four or five. And one Bagel dog!
Free Booze at closing night party: A glass (well, plastic cup, really) of champagne and two Grey Goose vodka/tonics.

*= Unclean, unclean
**= Crap, but doesn't make your eyes bleed
***= Watchable to good
****= Great
*****= Masterpiece/Classic