The Looking Planet

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RiverRun 2017

Additional addendum:  I’m very excited! We are going to see a bunch of movies at the RiverRun Film Festival in Winston-Salem. We have tickets for 8 feature films and 2 shorts collections. And our AirBnB hostess has given us tickets to the gala Friday night. Hotcha!

Thursday 3/30

Lost in Paris “Fiona visits Paris for the first time to assist her myopic Aunt Martha. Catastrophes ensue, mainly involving Dom, a homeless man who has yet to have an emotion or thought he was afraid of expressing.”

Friday 3/31

Little Wing “Little Wing tells the story of 12-year-old Varpu (Linnea Skog), who’s quickly growing to adulthood, and about her mother (Paula Vesala), who doesn’t want to grow up.”

I Am Cuba.  “This sprawling vision of Cuba from 1964 was poorly received upon release and largely forgotten until the 1990s, when directors like Martin Scorsese pushed for its restoration. Alternatingly dreamlike and neo-realist, I Am Cuba attempts to characterize the Cuban revolution and the suffering of its citizens through an anthology of four varied vignettes.”

Our AirBnB hostess has given us tickets to the Gala.

Saturday 4/1

Pushing Dead, “When a struggling writer, HIV positive for 20+ years, accidentally deposits a $100 birthday check, he is dropped from his health plan for earning too much.”

Documentary Shorts 1

Strange Weather. “A poignant, lyrical drama about a mother (Holly Hunter), who, in an effort to deal with the grief over the death of her son, travels the back roads of the deep south to settle a score.”

Sunday 4/2

Cuban Shorts

Sacred. “Møre than 40 filmmakers travelled the globe to witness religious celebrations and interview people from all sorts of background.”

Thursday 4/6

First Lady of the Revolution  “the remarkable story of Henrietta Boggs, a Southern belle who takes a life-altering journey through marriage, civil war and audacious democratic reforms to become the First Lady of Costa Rica.”

Frantz. “In the aftermath of WWI, a young German who grieves the death of her fiancé in France meets a mysterious Frenchman who visits the fiancé’s grave to lay flowers.”

My son will be house/cat sitting on the weekend.

Addendum 4/3:

After seeing I am Cuba and the Cuban shorts, Chuck was intrigued by the other films in the Cuban series.  So, he’s going back while I’m working on Saturday, 4/8 to see Memories of Underdevelopment and, since he’ll be there anyway,  Purple Dreams.

Additional Addendum 4/17:

We both got sick and neither of us returned to see the Thursday or Saturday films.

Nevermore 2017

My friend, Meg, came up from South Carolina to go to Nevermore with me.  I think she had a good time.  I was disappointed.

The computer system crashed Friday so we were unable to buy the ticket package (buy 8, get 2 free).  I asked to for punch cards (their usual deal is buy 4, get 1 free) and was told those aren’t offered for film festivals.  There was a line behind me and I didn’t feel like having a public fit.

We saw 3 shorts collections and 2 feature length films (Gehenna – Where Death Lives and  2307: Winter’s Dream).   They were entertaining by not particularly memorable.

I think the general manager who had been a moving force behind the festival has moved on.  There were no skulls, plastic rats or other creepy decorations.  There were no “what to do in case of zombie attack” signs in the rest rooms. The juried awards were posted before the festival even started. The volunteers were still handing out ballots, though.

I hope they have regrouped next year.

RiverRun 2016

Monday 4/11

My Friend’s Rubber Ducky  “In a tipsy fit, Joseph kidnaps an old friend who owes him $5,000, enlisting the aide of his hipster girlfriend and stoner roommate.”  This was hilarious.  Pot, tai chi and a kidnapping. Everyone involved did an excellent job.

Jacqueline (Argentine)  “This mockumentary follows an unnamed director and narrator (Wyatt Cenac) down to Argentina, where he’s filming Jacqueline, who claims to be blowing the whistle on a plot to assassinate an Arab politician.” Didn’t live up to my hopes.  The title character came off as a flake rather than an international woman of mystery.  And, if it was meant to be funny, it failed.

Francofonia “A history of the Louvre during the Nazi occupation and a meditation on the meaning and timelessness of art.” This was wonderful.  When it is available, I will watch it again.

Tuesday 4/12

Salero “When the future arrives to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, one of the most secluded places on the planet, the destiny of this ancient salt flat is unearthed and one young salt gatherer becomes the last link between the old world and the new.”  We were moved.  It was thought provoking.

Thursday 4/14

Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers “…follows three women in an all female, predominantly Muslim unit of police officers sent to post-earthquake Haiti as UN Peacekeepers for one year. The mission challenges these women while shattering commonly held stereotypes.”  We liked this a lot.   Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy are names we should remember when looking for documentaries.

Cameraperson “Exposing her role behind the camera, Kirsten Johnson reaches into the vast trove of footage she has shot over decades around the world. What emerges is a visually bold memoir and a revelatory interrogation of the power of the camera.”  This was an interesting memoir.

(Dinner at Willow’s Bistro with 3 Sextons)

Friday 4/15

Heavenly Nomadic “A family of nomads live in the high, remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia…”  This is slow and lyrical.  I enjoyed it very much.

Chevalier “In the middle of the Aegean Sea, six men on a fishing trip on a luxury yacht decide to play a game. During this game, things will be compared. Things will be measured. Songs will be butchered, and blood will be tested. Friends will become rivals and rivals will become hungry. But at the end of the journey, when the game is over, the man who wins will be the best man. And he will wear on his smallest finger the victory ring: the Chevalier.”  This was very funny.

NC Shorts 1  (Oops.)

Nevermore Film Festival – 2016

This year Nevermore received 1275 submissions. From those, they ran 5 shorts collections and 11 feature length films. The collections were:

It’s only a Nightmare, Charlie Brown: PG-13 Animation and Dark Fantasy Shorts

Little Brother (USA) No dialogue, very creepy, uneven black and white line drawings,
The Red Thunder (USA) not animated, funny, if I say anything else, it will give away the punch line,
She’s Mine (UK) fairly standard animation, a stalker creeps into the house of the woman he intends to murder and finds competition,
Pipo (Germany) little conehead, stop motion, weird and sad,
House of Monsters: Frank and the Zombie Girl (USA) Stop motion nicely done, sweet story with monsters,
A Brief Encounter (Iran), there is a dragon and a girl. Not a happy ending.
Life Smartphone (China), line drawings, everybody is totally focused on their cell phones, it’s funny in a too familiar kind of way,
Flight of the Soul (USA) stop motion, there are 4 modified clones, one has a birdcage in its middle. The ending is kind of telegraphed, but it’s sweet.
Cristal Junket (Portugal) stop motion, surreal party, the story is vague
Trolled (Singapore) fairly typical anime, cute
The Seed (Greece) live action, good story, a little Blade Runner-esque, title could have been Monsanto World
Millennium: Eternal Sunrise (USA) live action, daughter trying to get the Millennium Man to reset time so her mother can come back, the ending was unexpected,
Jack is Pretty (USA) live action dystopia, Q&A with the writer and the producer afterward they are hoping to do more with this, planning a couple of “origin story” shorts and a feature film,

Not From Around Here: International Shorts

Gnomes (UK), garden gnomes gone bad, not bad, not great.

5 Ways 2 Die (Cyprus) this is funny and well made, The 5 ways are pills, jump off a bridge, carbon monoxide poisoning, bathtub electrocution and car wreck and that isn’t spoiling.
The Black Bear (Belgium) what not to do in the woods where there are bears, a little Python-esque
The Grandson (Netherlands) I liked this until the very end.
dark_net (UK), the acting was good but the story was uneven, jealous ex hires a hit man online.
A Bite to Eat (UK) at the Midnite Diner, this is cute,
Last Night (France) the story was uneven, it’s the last night in an apartment with friends coming to help move tomorrow, and a threesome ends badly.
They Will All Die in Space (Spain) this was creepy and well made, B&W

Can’t Live Without You: Committee’s Mixed Bag Shorts

The Stomach (UK), A medium uses his stomach to contact the dead.
#Help (Hungary), Very well made, and a good story. I would like to see it expanded into a feature length film
Choice Cuts (USA), This started out making me flinch and I laughed out loud at the end.
A Way Out (USA), Hit men. Entertaining,
El Gigante (Canada), This is straight up slasher gore.
25m2 (Sweden) The wall developed an abscess, which was weird. And there was some grossness because …abscess. And, it was really slow. Not a favorite.

They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara!: North American Shorts

Hag, I loved this take on hag-ridden sleep walking.
The Trap, This was short and funny. There is an alien.
Night of the Slasher, The hero is blond and female. This was fun.
The Fear Box (666 Telemarketing), This is why I don’t answer phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize.
Home Sweet Home, This is what I expect from Alzheimer’s.
Bad Guy #2, How to move up in organized crime. A little cheesy, a little gory, pretty funny.
Never Tear Us Apart, There are cannibals. And grandparents.
Shhh, Older sister Helena deserved to meet the monster. What a bitch!
Thresher, an homage to Guillermo del Toro and H. P. Lovecraft. Locks galore.  in Hell.  I would like to see more from Michael Dahlquist and his friends.
Knob Goblins, A monster movie where men have to deal with a sexual predator. Made me laugh. A lot.

This is my friend, Trey, meeting Knobby and Writer/Producer/Director Christopher G. Moore after we saw the film.

This is my friend, Trey, meeting Knobby and Writer/Producer/Director Christopher G. Moore after we saw the film.

How to Survive a Horror Movie Anthology: Long-Form Narrative Shorts

He Was His Friend (Russia) about a wannabe serial killer and his first victim,

Dance of Death (Latvia) a guy sees a HELP sign in the window of a car he passes, does nothing and is haunted by regret. (See what I did there?)

Don’t Fall Asleep, Motherfucker (Puerto Rico) her snoring is worse than you imagine,
The Fisherman (Spain) set in Hong Kong, special effects are very good, story is good. I could see this being expanded into an interesting feature film.

 

Feature length films that I saw:

Reverie of a Solitary Walker This is awful. There are 4 story lines that hop around in time and don’t seem to have any real connection. I was excite about it and very, very disappointed.

13 Cameras. This didn’t go where I thought it was going to and it creeped me right out. There are many cringes, many jumps and several I-can’t-looks. Should get some mainstream play.

I meant to see Clinger, but it was sold out for the time I expected to be there. I’ll see it via Amazon sometime soon. I could have gotten tickets early, but I didn’t.

Fan Favorites were:

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE – Idila (“Idyll”)

Best North American Feature – 13 CAMERAS

BEST NORTH AMERICAN SHORT – Bad Guy #2

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT – The Black Bear

BEST LONG FORM NARRATIVE SHORT – He Was His Friend

The Jury Awards were:

BEST NORTH AMERICAN FEATURE: Everlasting

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE: Idyll

BEST LONG-FORM NARRATIVE SHORT: The Fisherman

BEST ANIMATION SHORT: Tie She’s Mine and A Brief Encounter

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT: A Bite to Eat

BEST NORTH AMERICAN SHORT: Bad Guy #2

Oscar Nominated Short Films – 2016

We saw 2 collections of Oscar nominated short films today.  My husband will go see the documentaries when I’m at work this weekend.  I don’t object to the documentaries.  These were just easier for me to get to and when I had to choose between 2, these were my preference.

The link in each title is to the Oscar page.  I don’t know if it will last for more than a month.  The link in the country of origin is the best I could do to show you about the film away from the Oscar website.  Or, at least, is a decent starting place for you to try to find out about it for yourself.

Animated: I have put them in the order they appeared in the collection

Sanjay’s Super Team  (USA) This is the Pixar offering.   And it is very cute and very sweet.

World of Tomorrow  (USA) The animation is fairly simplistic.  The story is existential and interesting.  I won’t hate it if this one gets the award.

Bear Story  (Chile) This has a very touching story and clever stop motion animation.  I like it very much and would be happy to see it take the award, too.

We Can’t Live without Cosmos  (Russia)This has pretty straightforward animation and a nice story.  I didn’t find it as interesting as World of Tomorrow or Bear Story.  But, I’m glad I saw it.

There were some fun films that got Mentioned, but aren’t actually up for the award.  They were inserted between the first 4 that ARE nominated and the last one.  They are

If I was God (Canada)  Claymation, cute.

The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse (France) Good animation.  Sweet story.  Nice.  Sadly, absolutely nothing for me to link to to show it to you.

The Loneliest Stoplight (USA) Voiced by Patton Oswalt. It was good but not amazing.

Catch It (France) This is a throwback to Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.  But with a Vulture and Meerkats.  I wish I could show it to you because you would laugh.  I will look for it later to see if I can find a useful link.

Then, the final nominee was Prologue (UK) This is the one that you get a warning about so you can remove your children from the theater.  There  is nudity (free willies) and violence (with spurting blood).  Sadly, there is skill in the animation but no real story.  Men kill each other and little girl is sad.  The end.  If it wins I will be pissed.

Live Action:

Ave Maria   (Israel)  This one as funny.  And a little sweet.  I don’t expect it to win but I was glad I saw it.

Shok   (Kosovo) This one made me cry. I don’t understand how people can be evil to each other and this is about that.  It’s also about what it is to be friends when you’re 12.

Stutterer   (USA)  This is uncomfortable.  And sweet.  I’m glad I saw it.  I don’t expect it to win simply because of what it’s up against.

Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)  (Germany) This isn’t an entirely surprising story.  But the little girl is excellent.  Keep an eye out for Julia Pointner.

Day One   (USA) This one should win.  It is hard to watch.  One couple left the theater because it was going to be so very hard.  But, it got less hard.  And, then, different hard.  It is sad.  It is War.  It is life and death.  This was perfectly made.

RiverRun Film Festival, 2015 – Part 2

Yosemite  “The lives of three 5th graders intertwine in the suburban paradise of Palo Alto circa 1985, as the threat of a mountain lion looms over the town. Featuring James Franco in a supporting role, the film is adapted from short stories in Franco’s collection ‘A California Childhood.’ ”

This wasn’t really what we expected.  We thought we were getting a variation on “Stand By Me” and instead it simply a week in the lives of 3 boys.  So, the 11 year old who went along was completely underwhelmed.

It was scary in an anticipating-something-bad-happening kind of way.  So much so that it was a relief when it finally did.

I like it better in retrospect than I did while I watched it.  Which isn’t uncommon for me watching that kind of film.

The Long Start to the Journey  “Filmmaker Chris Gallaway documents his own personal attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and to learn what the path means to individuals he meets along the way. This is a personal story of struggle and perseverance as well as a historical account of the origins and cultural relevance of the Appalachian Trail.”

I think this is probably the best film about the AT that has been made.  It has a little history, some gorgeous scenery and tons of information about what to expect.  I think anyone considering hiking it, sectionally or through-hiking, should see it.

RiverRun Film Festival, 2015 – Part 1

Anywhere Else  “Noa, an Israeli grad student working on her thesis in Berlin about untranslatable words, returns home to find her family less than enamored with her life choices and struggles to define her connections to both place and family.”  This is an interesting look at how families deal with each other and how other people see those interactions from the outside looking in.  A woman goes home to visit her large, loud family and her boyfriend, who has virtually no family, follows her.

She’s Beautiful When She’s AngryThe brilliant, often outrageous women who founded the feminist movement of the 1960s proclaimed that “the personal is political” and made a revolution–in the bedroom, in the workplace, and in all spheres of life. Labeled as threatening by the FBI yet often dismissed in history books, these radical women changed the world.”  There were a couple of places that made me tear up a little.  I liked the back and forth between the movers and shakers of the movement, then and now. I was frustrated when they were talking about the plaza full of women and there were men there, too.  But, men supporters went unnoticed and unmentioned, except for 2 young men in the present saying “This is what a feminist looks like!”  I recognize that this was about the women and their revolution.  But, I also know that if men don’t participate in change, it won’t happen.

The Tribe goes on the shelf with A Clockwork Orange, Pulp Fiction and Lord of the Flies. There were times when it dragged because sign language that you don’t understand doesn’t constitute dialogue.  It was shocking and brutal and sad. (“Winner of multiple Cannes Film Festival awards, The Tribe is an undeniably original and intensely jarring film set in the insulated world of a Ukranian high school for the deaf. Utilizing no spoken dialogue or subtitles, the film builds upon non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors to a shocking conclusion.)

The Chinese MayorControversial Chinese politician Geng Yanbo demolished 140,000 households and relocated half a million people in order to restore ancient relic walls for the sake of the region’s tourism industry. The film investigates one mayor’s mission to save his city and uncovers the secret workings of China’s Communist Party.”  This is an excellent documentary about a man trying to make a positive difference with limited time.  I think it gives a good look into how modern China is working.  Or not.

Animated Shorts:  (Me without Chuck)

Animator vs. Animation IV  This is cute. A stick figure comes to life.
A Blue Room Surreal
Broken Face Lighthouse keepers and a creature from the Deeps.
Confluence
No actual story, but interesting to see. Would make a good screensaver.
Hopkins & Delaney LLP 
Wow.  I don’t even remember this one, because it is pointless.https://vimeo.com/104270416
Mend and Make Do
This is funThe animation is interesting and the story is good.  I won’t be surprised to see this nominated for an Oscar.
Mirage
Another screensaver
Numb
I nodded off
Tren Italia 
I nodded off, again.
Wire Cutters This is entertaining.  2 robots gem hunting for different corporations encounter each other.

Documentary Shorts: (Chuck without me)

A Day at School
First Lesson
Ozoners
Socotra: The Hidden Land
Vegas
Zima

Narrative Shorts:

Digits This light and brief.  The beginning of a love story, maybe.
Foreign Bodies
Liked this. An amputee coming to grips with his loss.
Jenny and Steph
There was no complexity here.  You know the outcome as the story begins.
The Karman Line
This started as a comedy, but didn’t end that way.
Marathon
This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly gripping either.  Abandoned daughter searching for her missing father. 
Sun Air Water
  Chinese single mother and her young son trying to cope.  Well done. You feel you know them.

Late Night Shorts:  This was awful.  Drunks out to see shorts and, then, technical difficulties.  Some asshole behind me hit me the head with his butt 3 times getting up to go get more booze.  Or to pee.  Whatever.  We won’t do that again.

Day 40 Twisted Noah.  Not interesting.
Dennis 
Not entirely obvious, but not particularly interesting.
Help Point
Vaguely entertaining,
Impact 
I do not remember this one at all.
A Mile in These Hooves 
This was stupid.
Once Upon a… 
YouTube material.
Pink Elephant 
I did like this one.
Rota 
This was horrible.  We think the RiverRun selection committee ran this because it was made by UNC-SA students and they felt obligated.  And the students were trying to shock for the sake of shocking not for the sake of a story.  It was dark and surreal and stupid.
Scrabble
Dark and funny. I liked this one a lot.
Sea Beach Local
This rambled aimlessly.

We were underwhelmed enough with the shorts choices that we won’t bother to include them again.  It wasn’t worth the price or time sitting through crap to see the few that we thought were worth seeing.  An advantage to shorts is that if they are bad, they’re over soon.  But, if there are several in a row, you’re screwed.

Poverty, Inc.  “From disaster relief to TOMS Shoes, from adoptions to agricultural subsidies, Poverty, Inc. follows the butterfly effect of our most well-intentioned efforts and explores the hidden side of doing good. Are we catalyzing development or are we propagating a system in which the poor stay poor while the rich get hipper?” This is excellent.  It’s a look at foreign aid from the perspective of the “beneficiaries.”  The producer who was there for Q&A said that it didn’t have answers, but he hoped it would begin a  conversation about what was really helpful to people in need.  And I think he was correct.  Clearly, the old way hasn’t been working.  A new way of addressing these issues is needed.

Heart of Wilderness  “Fleeing a local drug ring, Travis and Aimee must confront the secrets they keep while navigating the icy waters of the Minnesota wilderness.”  We were at the world premiere, sitting behind the row of producers, actors, director, writer and editor.  (One of the actors kept sneaking vape hits and it smelled like a cotton candy flavor.)  It kind of wandered, but I think it meant to.  It ended without knowing exactly where they would end up and that was fine.

Elephant Song  “A psychiatrist is drawn into a complex mind game when he questions a disturbed patient about the disappearance of a colleague. Adapted for the screen from Nicolas Billon’s play of the same name, the film stars Bruce Greenwood, Catherine Keener, Carrie-Anne Moss and RiverRun alum Xavier Dolan.”  This put me in mind of Equus.  It is dark and twisty.  It will probably make it to regular theaters.

Proud Citizen  “After winning second place in a play writing contest, a Bulgarian woman travels to small town Kentucky for the premiere of her play. Expecting southern hospitality, she instead finds an America full of dichotomy in this funny, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking meditation on the comfort (and discomfort) of strangers.”  This was good.  She is lonely and brave and adventurous.

Patchwork FamilyChristian is a reeling divorced father who only sees his young daughter Vanessa on weekends. When a popular reality TV triathlon comes to town, however, he sees the competition as a chance for redemption and lets it all hang out–figuratively and literally–in this charmingly oddball French comedy.” “French comedy” kind of says it all.  Fun, light, lots of laughs.

When Under Fire: Shoot Back  “The Bang Bang Club were four fearless young photographers who set out to expose the reality of Apartheid in South Africa–a battle that changed a nation but wound up nearly destroying them in the process.”  I didn’t want to speak for an hour after seeing this.  There was no applause in the theater when it was over.  The photos the Bang Bang Club took were too awful and their lives were too shattered by what they saw for applause to be an acceptable reaction.  It is an excellent documentary.  But, it is also hard to watch.

Nevermore 2015

This year, the Carolina Theater messed with me.  Last year, they had shows during the week.  So, I didn’t ask for the weekend off for 2015.  But, they didn’t do week day shows this year.  When I asked about it on their FaceBook page, they told me that 2014 was a one-off and it wasn’t likely to happen again.  And one of my co-workers had already made plans for Sunday.  So, I got to cram all my films in to Friday and Saturday.

Then, they took down the film list as soon as the festival was over. So, I didn’t have any references for the shorts and am hard pressed to remember the titles of the feature films I saw.

I can remember that I saw Savageland and Valley of the Sasquatch and they were both excellent.  And, I spotted David Saucedo, who had played Sergio-the-asshole in Sasquatch, in a small part in Savageland.  I was pleased that my brain worked that well.

He was supposed to be at the festival, but got sick at the last minute and was unable to make it.  And I’m sorry about that because I’m a fan, now.

RiverRun International Film Festival 2014

This was our first year to attend the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem and we had a blast.  We found an AirBnB apartment that is walking distance to 2 of the venues and each of us took a day off from work.  We started with a 2:00 show on Thursday and finished at 8:30 on Saturday.

Nightingale This didn’t have any unexpected plot twists, but it is sweet and we got to see some of China from a different angle.  We both liked it a lot.

Breathe In Not any surprises in this one either.  I did keep hoping one of them would have better sense.

Summer of the Flying Fish We thought this was muddled.

Expedition to the End of the World Gorgeous.  Magnificent.  Funny.  Breathtaking.

My Sister’s Quinceñera is similar in flavor to Ramin Bahrani’s films.  It is a perfect look at what keeps people with bigger dreams in a small town.  The family is Mexican-American, but the story is more universal than that.

Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory  This will make you cry, in a good way.  And buy iPod Shuffles for your old people.

Ida  This is about choosing your life.  It is truly excellent.  I didn’t always know where it was going.

We didn’t see any shorts.  That may be different next year because we are both fans of the form.  Walking to a/perture was handy, but parking was easy at SECCA and UNC-SA.  UNC-SA had us parking at the YWCA across the street and ran a 2 bus shuttle service.  We didn’t see any thing at the Hanes Theater venue and it was the closest to where we were staying.