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 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.
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.
Another screensaver
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
Socotra: The Hidden Land

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.
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.
Not entirely obvious, but not particularly interesting.
Help Point
Vaguely entertaining,
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.
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.
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.

Nevermore 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes!  I was tripped up this year by my job.  Last Spring, I changed to a 30/week shift that has me working 2 12-hour shifts on the weekend and one 6 hour shift on Tuesday.  I get paid for 40 hours and have enough paid leave that I can usually be off if I have something to do on a weekend.

Unless a co-worker beats me to it.  And one did.

BUT, the Universe conspired to allow me to see independent horror films in spite of that.  For the first time ever, they are running most of the films in one of the 3 available theaters during the weekdays before they take over the entire building.

So, on Tuesday we saw The Human Race, The Returned, and Open Grave.

The Human Race was the least impressive of these 3.  Christopher and I both thought it should have stopped when the last guy stepped onto the grass, even though the final bit had some great special effects.

The Returned is  a love story with incidental zombies.  There are actually very few zombies seen in it, which annoyed some people who left early.  (They complained about that to Melissa, the ticket taker, who told us about it later.  We compared notes with her all week.)

We liked it.  In our discussion afterward, we all were of the opinion that asking your loved one to kill you, if you are contaminated with zombie cooties,  isn’t fair to them.  You should do it yourself and spare them that.

I really liked Open Grave. It had some classic horror cliches, but they weren’t heavy handed.  For instance, the blonde does trip when running from zombies in the woods.  BUT, she trips over a stick, not her own feet,  and that whole scene explains the bodies tied to trees all over the place.  And that makes sense in the context of the rest of the story.  As a matter of fact, when you know the whole story, with the exception of the military action toward the end, it all makes sense in that “reality.”

On Wednesday, my son and I saw The Last Days. The plot line on this one didn’t have any huge surprises, but it was well made.  There is bit where the main characters talk about where the planetwide agoraphobia came from, but it is never actually explained and that’s fine.  You don’t need to know.

On Thursday, Carolyn and I saw Grand Piano.  It was good but there was far too much leaving the stage in the middle of a performance.

And on Friday, Christopher and I saw Revolution of the Foreign Invaders, a collection of shorts, before Carolyn joined us for The Visitant,  a decent ghost story that didn’t have the ending I anticipated.

Christopher saw The Shower afterward, catching a ride home with a friend.  I don’t care for slasher films, so I skipped this one.  My son thought it was the best thing he saw.

These are the shorts in Revolution of the Foreign Invaders:

Would you like to die the same way as your favorite movie star? Would you like to imitate the death of some memorable movie scene? Euthanas Inc. is for those who want to put a legitimately spectacular end to their lives. (I voted for this one as my favorite.  The description isn’t very accurate.  In a world where euthanasia is an acceptable choice (think Vonnegeut’s Ethical Suicide Parlors) an old woman has become inconvenient to her family.  She’s not ready to go.)

Joseph Wood is an astronaut set to go where no man has ever gone before in the Universe in Hibernation. (Thought this was awful. Trying to be 2001 and not succeeding.)

Marta returns to her mom’s house to spend some days with her little sister in Madrid in Don’t Look Here.  (Ending was very weak.)

Maid of Horror is the blood-soaked story of Emma, an overlooked Maid of Honor, who would kill to get her fairytale ending.  (I don’t even remember this one.)

Driving through New York City for Christmas Eve dinner, Steve’s car breaks down and he accidentally stumbles upon a crime scene. Mistaken for the notorious cleaner, Mr. Bear, Steve has to face a difficult choice: dismember and get rid of some bodies or become a corpse himself. (This was hilarious.  Nearly got my vote.  It did win the Audience Choice award.)

Have you ever shared a dream with someone else? A young man’s world changes when the love of his life she comes in to the real world to rescue him in REM.  (This one was trying to be Inception and wasn’t.)

A simple iPhone enables people to look into another dimension where murder and mayhem are commonplace and the evildoers may be themselves in Nexo.  (This was jumbled and didn’t work for me.)

A young man jumps off a roof and inadvertently cheats death in The Revenant.  (The story was entertaining.  Special effects are, clearly, a new thing for the filmmakers.)