Saturday, February 09, 2008

Beloit International Film Festival Day 4

Day 4: Sunday, January 20, 2008

Our last day of films; a sad day, as it was last year. Fortunately, the movies were good today.

Found in China
A very well-done documentary, especially considering it was by a first-time filmmaker. Parents who've adopted children from China head back, with their children, to explore their childrens' origins and original culture. Terrific interviewing and editing made this a well-structured, interesting and informative film.

It's Happiness: A Polka Documentary
Terrific fun about the world of polka, efforts to keep it alive, and the fascinating characters who love and support polka: a blind collector with an astonishing collection of music and a long-running radio show; teenage polka dancers who love the dance and music; and a marketing maven who lobbies continuously for polka, and appeared at the end of the film to talk with us.

Short Slot 3
And as the festival began, so did it end for us: with short films.
Real Men: a guy tries to convince his friend to help convince HIM that he's not gay. Funny.

Moviebonics: Jehovah's Witnesses or some such wander into the home of people who only speak in snippets of famous dialogue from movies.

West Bank Story: a wonderfully well-conceived and -produced musical comedy, as the son of the owner of the Kosher King fast-food restaurant in the West Bank falls in love with the daughter of the rival next-door Hummus Hut. Great fun, well done.

Guide Dog: a wonderful animated short about an aspiring guide dog who just can't seem to keep his blind clients from being horribly injured and killed.

Equal Opportunity: a funny short marred by sound problems, which is unfortunate because it relies on quick verbal exchanges. Coworkers of various ethnic backgrounds greet each other in the lunchroom, using every racial and ethnic stereotypical description they can think of.

How Many Doctors Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb? A woman is having gynecological examination, and the bulb on the exam lamp burns out. The doctor doesn't know how to fix it, so he calls in a colleague, who doesn't know either, so they call in another... and another...

Three-Fifty: a guy attempts to weasel out of paying the $3.50 late fee on his video rental return, only to discover the cosmic ramifications of the lie for his future and his happiness, as determined by the video store's omniscient computer system. A very good short film - the amusing opening premise quickly spirals into surreal panic, deftly and engagingly, and I found myself drawn into imagining what I would do or say in the same circumstance.

Validation: a cute play on words (a parking attendant who validates parking tubs also "validates" the parkers' lives and personalities) blown into a mini-film.
And that was all for films. Sadly, we didn't get to see New Glarus this year, although I did pick up a four-pack of New Glarus "Unplugged" Smoke on the Porter.

Beloit International Film Festival Day 3

Day 3: Saturday, January 19, 2008

George Washington
A depressing look at poor kids from the wrong side of town, the aspirations and minutiae of their relationships, and how they react to crisis. Excellent performances, surprising plot non-twists, but don't see this if you're in a sad mood.

Forbidden Future
A female skiier, a death-metal guitarist and bandleader, and an artist struggle to create their dreams in repressive Iran. Excellent, thoughtful, and honest.

Movement Revolution Africa
Dance troupes create new styles representing Africa, struggling to break style and content free of the tribal rhythms traditionally associated with the continent. Very good, even though I don't much care for dance.

A wonderful story about a septuagenarian teenager, an elderly man who spends his days playing elaborate practical jokes with his friend, and trying to escape his wife's obsession with marching responsibly toward death. Hilarious, occasionally touching, and rich.

Short Slot 5 Our disastrous foray into amateur avant garde cinema. I now hate avant garde... and cinema... and amateur film. Well not quite, but these were truly awful beyond description.
Linda Linda: a short film shot by Robert Lee Morris during his student days at Beloit College in the late 60s. In it, you see Morris's obsession, a girl named Linda, and besides Linda, there's some music. Linda is standing and laying down. Who gives a crap.

Agnieszka 2039: futuristic Poland, where menace lurks everywhere, lesbianism is still viewed as avant garde, and an odd device threatens to destroy humanity.

Butterflies Die In Snow: a pointless, self-referential pseudo-comedy in which the filmmakers repeatedly point out how bad they are at filmmaking, apparently in an attempt to convince you that they're not. But oh, they are.

Mad John's Escape: another Robert Lee Morris film that makes Linda Linda look like genius, though that might only be because Linda Linda was much shorter. Some people run away from Beloit College and frolic in a rural part of Beloit, apparently engaging in bisexual trysts of some kind. Who cares.

Glimpse: something about Willem de Kooning. Not bad - the abstract art is pretty neat. Not a film, but decent art, so that's something.

Synthetik: a dull, hackish attempt to say something about love using goth characters in a series of almost-inanimate scenes doing such things as pulling eggs from one anothers' mouths, throwing eggs at one another, and fellating pistols. Awful, beyond contempts, and the director was sitting behind us. We left quickly as he started to answer questions from the audience, and I resisted the urge to ask what we had done to deserve having to watch his film.

Beloit International Film Festival Day 2

Day 2: Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 2, as far as I remember, probably began with coffee, and was interspersed with visits to the Pleasant Street Coffee Shop.

And now, the films:

Taming Tammy
This was a low-budget relationship comedy, somewhat stiff and telegraphed in places, but overall not bad. This looks, potentially, like the first steps on the road to professional filmmaking. Not bad, and the filmmaker could get better.

Flood Street
An outstanding documentary about a youth boxing program in New Orleans, pre-Katrina (though it of course ends with an epilogue on the aftermath of Katrina). Some of the spotlighted kids are interviewed around age 12, and again around age 17, and the progression and their comments are compelling and insightful. Outstanding black-and-white cinematography too.

Short Slot 1
Coucou Clock: a computer-animated wordless slapstick kitchen romp, a la some of the Pixar shorts that precede their features.

The Job: *SPOILERS* hilarious gag short featuring an Hispanic man driving a pickup truck looking for day laborers... for such jobs as CEO, software engineer, HR director, etc.

Holm Away From Home: a documentarian takes a guy who's never been outside the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the big city, Chicago. Amusing, good but not great.

Carmichael and Shane: outstandingly funny short about a father with twin boys, and his novel approach to parenting with limited resources: choose one as your favorite, throw all your attention on him, and let the other fend for himself.

Diggers: gravediggers speculate on the cause of death of their latest subject. Not nearly as good as it should have been.

Black Rockfordians: a horribly bad documentary that drains every bit of life and interest out of its featured subjects, prominent black citizens in Rockford, Illinois. Even the interviewees seem bored, and there's literally no information conveyed other than a string of names you won't remember.

Small Talk: food items begin to talk to a teenager. Cute, not great.

The Lives of Others
A fantastic movie, probably the best of the festival. The East German police (Stasi) monitor a writer with potential sympathies for the West, and the monitoring agent begins to get personally interested in his life. Stellar performances, writing, and concept. Restrained when it needs to be, and only a small deus ex machina mars the script.

We were shocked to find out the lead actor, Ulrich Muhe, died of cancer in 2007. He did leave a very rich film legacy, one we're going to pursue - he was extremely good.

La Cucina
Three women discuss their relationships. Incredibly talky, even for a film of this type. Flawed by the staggering volume of dialogue, countless too-cute and too-insightful answers, and a flawlessly wise character who gives flawless advice to her flawed friends.

Friday, February 01, 2008


From the delightful tome Depraved and Insulting English:
feist: A silent fart.
Thank you, Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea. I knew there had to be a word for it.

However, there's also this, from
feist: a nervous belligerent little mongrel dog
The combination bodes ill for her: