Friday, January 25, 2008

Beloit International Film Festival Day 1

Charlotte and I attended this year's Beloit International Film Festival (January 17-21, 2008), and while we experienced organizational and logistical problems we didn't last year, it was still quite a lot of fun. Seeing my hometown as the site of an international film festival is a touch surreal, but encouraging.

To start, here's a list of all of the films we saw. Some will get individual commentary, some not; this probably depends on time.

Day 1: Thursday, January 17, 2008
We arrived on the bus from Chicago too late for the first available slot, at 12 PM, so got settled in and zipped off to the 2 PM.

Short Slot 2
Our first slot was one of our favorite types of venues: a compilation of short films.
The Good Husband: A common story - husband has mistress, wants to kill wife, tries to kill wife, merriment ensues. Decent, but far from great.

Kujira: an abstract illustrated film about a young girl leaving home, and her attendant fears and the shadow of her mother. Perhaps too abstract for the room, or at least for me.

Girls Room: Clever, suspenseful, funny, and touching story of going to the girls' room. Probably the best of these shorts.

Ride of the Mergansers: a short documentary of merganser ducklings about to leave the nest. Cute fun, surprisingly engaging - also maybe the best of these.

Train Town: Two managers of a train / hobby store, one a right-wing control freak and the other a drug-loving ex-hippy, vie for control of the large display train town. Amusing.

The Space Burger: A grim cartoon of patrons at an intergalactic burger joint, and the creatures who police the place. Well-done low-budget mayhem.

Quincy & Althea: Post-Katrina, a squabbling couple tries to break up. Amusing and odd.

Aunt Tigress: Missing children - can they possibly relate to the babysitter who's just dropped by, unannounced, to care for a teenager and her younger brother? OK, but nothing special.

Diva: A man leaves his home, moves to Paris, dresses as a woman, gets robbed, and doesn't enjoy the experience. Pointless yawns.

In Spades: A too-amateurish yarn - woman loves scummy guy, scummy guy owes money, woman card-sharp plays cards to get the money, then an unsurprising "twist," sort of. Yawn.

Planta 4a
Our first feature film, about the pediatric cancer ward at a Spanish hospital. Full of life and engaging characters, this one pulls no punches and succeeds through gutsy performances and a heartfelt script, despite somewhat-obvious scenarios. A very good film.

Away From Her
A woman (Julie Christie) begins to succumb to premature Alzheimer's. Heart-renching, solid, and unexpected in many ways. A very good film.

Let's All Hate Toronto
Despite a great title and premise (do most Canadians hate Toronto, and why?), and our highest expectations, this was a huge disappointment. They had no real clue of where to go with the notion, and it ended up being a pointless collection of set-up interviews driven by "Mr. Toronto," a needless character designed to make it funny. A bad pseudo-documentary.

The day was punctuated by trips to Beloit's year-old and excellent coffee shop, the Pleasant Street Coffee Shop.