Archive for February, 2010

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE

HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE

It turns out that Morty IS the HELL IN OTHER PEOPLE.  Morty embodies everything in ourselves that we dislike.  And yet Morty, perhaps because he IS us, is someone we can’t quite help loving.

A clumsily manipulative loser, Morty shuffles through this film pissing off his friends, offending strangers, and generally making sure he never gets ahead.  “Sounds like you’ve got some stuff to work out,” says one character to Morty.  Don’t we all.  And if we’re not working through things now, everyone has at some point in their life – which is why we all cringe as Morty lets himself be degraded by one of the crazier characters in the film after he has run out of people to manipulate on his own.

If this is a mumblecore film, it is most definitely a mumblecore of a different sort.  The lilting Tennessee accents of the characters quickly drew me in, and even with the sometimes blurry handheld camera work the film has a beauty that director Jarrod Whaley’s incredibly touching short film PASSION FLOWER also exhibited.  There was a clear path to the story (a downward spiral, but still), the characters had dialog of value to speak, and there was a great deal of humor amidst the sadness that is Morty. (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: FrICTION

FrICTION

FrICTION played to a packed Repertory Theater on Saturday afternoon, only to have director Cullen Hoback turn the audience’s heads inside out.  Those of us who know Cullen and have seen his previous films were perhaps more confused than anyone, but in the best way possible.  Billed as a feature film gone wrong, FrICTION will leave you scratching your head and wondering just exactly what was real and what was not, even after listening to the Q&A.  FrICTION is simply an enigma wrapped in a mystery and then possibly wrapped in bacon.  FrICTION is the kind of film that Cinequest is all about. (more…)

Tsunami May Reach the Santa Cruz Harbor

The weather service is warning that a Tsunami, caused by the 8.8 earthquake in Chile, may reach the California coast

Special Weather Statement

The Santa Cruz Harbor Patrol has put up notices advising boat owners of the high tide.

People are asked to stay away from beaches and shorelines.

Surfing is not advised.

The advisory includes the Bay Area counties:

San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Marin, Monterey, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Clara, and Alameda.

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

Santa Cruz National Weather Service

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: BABNIK

BABNIK

Writer/Director Alejandro Adams returned to Cinequest for the third year in a row to astound the SJ Repertory Theater audience with the World Premiere of his film BABNIK.  After last year’s controversial CANARY, many in the audience last night were not sure what to expect from Adams third film, but BABNIK is a perfect blend of suspense and Adams’s trademark confusion.  BABNIK is a winner. (more…)

Nancy Kwan to Attend Cinequest 20!

On hearing the name Nancy Kwan the adjectives to follow will include sexy, beautiful and graceful. Miss Kwan’s debut in “The World of Suzie Wong” (1960) caught moviegoers’ attention, and “Flower Drum Song” (1961) made her a Hollywood darling. “To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey” will explore why her next films would not see the same success, and how she has endured a heart-wrenching tragedy.

‘Ka Shen’s Journey’ has been called inspiring.

Kwan Ka Shen – her name in Cantonese (?)

She was born to her Cantonese father, architect Kwan Wing Hong and Scottish mother, model Marquita Scott.

Halfdan Hussey, Director & Co-Founder Cinequest, has just announced that Nancy Kwan will attend the world premier screening of “To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey”.

Saturday Feb. 27 6:45PM – The Repertory Theatre
Sunday Feb. 28 7:00PM – The Repertory Theatre
General Admission -$10

Nancy Kwan

YouTube Nancy Kwan I Enjoy Being a Girl

Real Revolutionaries at Cinequest

Real revolutionaries

For nerds like me, the highlight of Cinequest is likely to be the premiere presentation of a new documentary about the origins of the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. The Real Revolutionaries tells the story of William Shockley, Robert Noyce, and the “Fairchild Eight” or “Traitorous Eight”. Shockley was a genius physicist who later became known for what can safely be called crackpot theories about race and intelligence. Noyce was one of eight physicists and engineers Shockley hired when forming the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, who later quit en masse to form Fairchild Semiconductor. Noyce and Gordon Moore later left Fairchild to start Intel, and others of the Fairchild Eight also went on to found a host of “Fairchildren”, companies with roots at Fairchild.

The film did a good job of covering these events, and included interviews with several of the personalities involved, as well as with Robert Noyce’s widow, and Syl Jones, the African-American journalist for Playboy who interviewed Shockley in 1980 about his race theories. The filmmakers also tried to spice it up with animated segments describing the technology involved. The animations were perhaps too cute for my taste, and the technological explanations were quite superficial given the amount of time taken to present them. But the historical information made the film overall an interesting 90 minutes, and the photos and film of Silicon Valley in the ’50’s and ’60’s were fascinating.

After last night’s screening there was a panel discussion led by NBC 11 reporter Scott Budman (far left, above). Panelists included Federico Faggin, third from left, who lead the design of Intel’s, and the world’s, first microprocessor; and Julius Blank, second from right, one of the actual Fairchild Eight.

The Real Revolutionaries will be screened again Saturday, February 27, at 7 pm at the California Theater.

Cinequest: “Peepers” (Indulge Your Voyeuristic Impulse)

“Peeping Toms are never praised, like novelists or bird watchers, for their keenness of observation.” – W.H. Auden

“Peepers” takes us along with these voyeurs of the night. We find ourselves on the rooftops of Montreal peeping along with Steve (eagle-eye) Sherman, and his band of binocular and walkie-talkie outfitted men.

Are peepers perverts? One of the group, Neal, tells his sister that he is not. He says, “I am an observer, a witness, a watcher from the shadows.” Sherman and his fellow Peepers are code approved peeps. They peep it real by holding to the basic points of the Peepers ancient code and never peep a Peeper, never peep a Peeper’s family, never peep a veteran of the Great War, and so on…

To get one of the best peeps ever – join me tonight for the hit of the year! “PEEPERS” – 2/26/2010 Camera 12 @ 9:30pm.

I asked Seth W. Owen, director and co-author of “Peepers”, about the movies subject matter and its relationship to recent Canadian headlines and privacy laws.

Here is our exchange:

Question: Facebook was accused of violating Canadian privacy laws, yet the laws applied to peeping toms seem antiquated. Peepers only disturb the peace…?

Seth W. Owen: The legal/illegal aspect of Peeping is something we definitely looked into when writing the script, and were kind of shocked to understand how much of a grey area it was.

Question: Your thoughts on Canadian peeping tom laws and Patricia Marshall vs James Cedar, and the Crown’s intriguing and disturbing decision..?

Seth W. Owen: The Marshall vs Cedar case is pretty horrific. And something we became aware of only after completing the film. The hypocrisy on hand in the instance of Cedar’s counter complaint is so audacious, so hard to believe, that it’s also darkly comic. We worked hard to draw a clear line between “our” Peepers and more invasive voyeurs like Mr. Cedar, but I think the film reflects the case in some interesting ways, especially in this darkly comic brand of hypocrisy – that the ultimate affront to a Peeper would be the invasion of THEIR privacy. The female academic in the film Annette Fulvish, is really intended to embody this outside “eye” on the Peepers, and really instigates their coming undone.

I’m a filmmaker, so naturally I am sympathetic to the voyeuristic impulse, but I certainly don’t condone all of the behavior in the film. I would describe myself as a conservative voyeur: I subscribe to the “give a little, get a little” philosophy – which is to say, I leave my blinds open, and I hope you do the same! To me, it’s one of the great advantages of living in a city – and the cheapest entertainment around.

Question: Has the case (Marshall vs Cedar) help bring interest to your film?

Seth W. Owen: We’re just starting to bring the film out now, so we’ll have to see. But I think the film in some ways has less to do with the physical act of Peeping than it does with the voyeuristic age we live in – that’s not to say that the Peeping in the film is strictly metaphorical, but it is certainly an exaggerated and stylized version of what goes on – and here’s hoping it’s nowhere as prevalent as we depict it being! I think the Peepers in the film may actually have a lot more in common with code-named Internet pornography hounds than actual Peeping Toms creeping around in the bushes. These guys really do congregate, and respectfully share their sexual obsessions – and they do live online by a fairly evolved “code of behavior.”

Question: I am interested in how the idea for the film was first suggested. Hopefully not from experience?

Seth W. Owen: As for the actual genesis of the project – Montreal is a city teeming with many enticing rooftops where one might find themselves enjoying a cold beer or a cigarette, or illegal artistic activity, and on one such occasion my old friend Eric Hart and I somehow cooked up the notion of a motley crew of Peeping Toms living by a certain code. The idea simmered for a year or two, before Dan Perlmutter, Mark Slutsky and myself decided to start developing a script. As were working on it, a number of strange things fell into place. We were writing the screenplay in our studio, which has these large, wraparound windows, which just so happened to look out onto an apartment building. We’d be throwing around ideas for a scene, or cooking up dialogue, when all of a sudden our attention would be drawn towards the silhouette of a person showering across the way. And then, of course, we were doing less and less writing and more and more Peeping, so it took us a little longer than planned!

We also discovered, just as we were finishing the first draft of the script, an article about a real Peeping Tom in one of the McGill University newspapers. The routine, and terminology, he brought to light were shockingly similar to what we had dreamt up. So of course I’m now contradicting myself about the “metaphorical” aspect of the Peeping in the film. They’re out there! Close your blinds!

There were certainly a couple of other voyeuristic experiences I’ve had that fed into the script – a shameful incident in Vienna need not be delved into! But I’ve never been a real Peeper, so to speak. A lot of the impulse for the film came from our shared love of early 80s sexploitation films, and our desire to revisit that genre with a more modern eye. We remember Porky’s as a real lascivious picture, but there was a real tender, sensitive side to it that intrigued us, and which we wanted to explore further.

Question: Did the writers, Seth Owen, Mark Slutsky and Daniel Perlmutter, take some of their inspiration from the fact that Canadian law takes a rather cavalier approach to peeping toms?

Seth W. Owen: No, we were actually surprised to learn in researching the subject that it was as cavalier as it is – but we were already well underway in the writing by then.

Question: How long did the film take to complete? Was the set location an actual neighborhood? If so, did the filming attract any peepers?

Seth W. Owen: We worked on the script for several years, but filming itself was an action packed 16 days, much of it on rooftops during a very chilly November. It ended up getting shot in the same neighborhood that initially inspired it, and where a lot of the cast and crew live – Mile End in Montreal. We had some magnificent stretches of rooftop to work with – our ace Associate Producer Sara Johnston developed a real knack for knocking on doors, and an astonishing number of local residents really helped us out. There was a slightly surreptitious element to the shooting – skulking around on residential rooftops in the middle of the night, training the camera on all manner of “peeps” really transformed the entire cast and crew into a merry little band of Peepers. I still remember huddling onto a small balcony with a handful of burly crew members in the dead of night, whispering commands into a walkie talkie as we filmed the strip poker game. I felt absolutely dirty and proud at the same time.

I actually tried to discourage folks from actively “peeping” during the shoot – but it’s hard when every ones running around with binoculars and trying to “get into character”, so my efforts may have been in vain.

We certainly attracted the attention of a lot of concerned residents peering through their blinds at us – but as for whether we got “peeped” by actual Peepers –
not to my knowledge! But I guess if it was any Peeper worth their salt, we never would know it. And we certainly were providing them with ample window fodder, so who knows?

I hope that an audience has a somewhat complicated relationship to the characters. I hope they can evoke disgust in one minute, and sympathy in the next. I think there’s a bit of a voyeur somewhere within us all – even if it’s only as a moviegoer, or a reality TV fan, or a facebook lurker – and that’s ultimately what I hope people can relate to.

CTV NEWS VIDEO PLAYER Marshall vs Cedar

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Peepers

Peepers @ Camera 12
Fri. 2/26 9:30PM
Sun. 2/28 9:15PM
Tues. 3/2 1:30PM

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: THE ROBBERS

THE ROBBERS

Thursday was a great day at Cinequest.  Although I didn’t enjoy GREEN WATERS at all (other people did), I did see two films that I thought were outstanding.  My review of 1981 is below, but before that I had the great pleasure of introducing THE ROBBERS.

Quite the crowd pleaser, this film had everything:  Comedy, Tragedy, political commentary, Chinese culture, beautiful feisty women, exciting battle scenes, romance, and a fabulous soundtrack (not available, to the audience’s disappointment).

Two robbers with hearts of gold come across a village in the middle of a Tang dynasty forest.  After robbing one of the village families they are forced to step in and save the same family from some soldiers who were trying to rape one of the daughters.  This sets off a domino effect of circumstances as the village chief must now hold the robbers responsible for killing a soldier – even though the robber was trying to save a villager.  There is much talk of law vs. mercy and a lot of commentary on the political and judicial systems in China. (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: 1981

Jean-Carl Boucher in 1981

For some reason, 1981 was not really on my radar at Cinequest.  I had seen it in the program but nothing really sparked my interest, so when I was assigned to be presenter for this film my reaction was:  Meh.

I was won over within a minute of the film starting, and I believe the entire audience was.  This is a film that belongs on your Must-See list if you were ever 11 years old and made it to adulthood.  Think Neil Simon directs GOONIES or STAND BY ME without the adventure (No, really, go with me on this).  Narrated from an adult point of view, it’s a look back at being a regular 11 year old kid and the trials and tribulations that we must go through to grow up.

Ricardo Trogi is not an outsider, not a loser, not a nerd or a dork.  Neither is he the popular kid.  He’s just your plain old average 11 year old boy.  He has plenty of friends (who he found with the promise of some non-existent Playboys – as it is done in the world) and he has a loving, average family, which means that no one in it is either perfect or dysfunctional. (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: THE ESCAPE

THE ESCAPE

THE ESCAPE is easily going to be one of the best films at Cinequest.  Just as in HURT LOCKER, we have another female director dealing with the troubles in the Middle East, and doing a masterful job.  This film revolves around the Afghan occupation by European countries and the US.  It is filled with suspense and a hundred twists and turns.  In fact, I am not clear to which escape the title is referring:  this film had easily 25 different escapes, at least, both literal and metaphorical.

It begins when Rikke, a Danish journalist in Afghanistan, is kidnapped by the Taliban.  They want the Danish troops (and others) out of their country, and if it doesn’t happen they threaten to kill Rikke.  But their deadline runs out and they realize that Rikke is “just another journalist” to the media and Europe, so they devise a new plan:  ten days, ten fingers.  Be warned, there are some violent scenes in this film. (more…)

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