Monday, October 11, 2010

18th Raindance Film Festival Awards

Last year I did the Raindance International Film Festival in London instead of Screenwriting Expo, this year I was at Expo and missed Raindance. But here are a list of the winning films:

Donoma - FRANCE
** Son of Babylon - IRAQ [winner]
Symbol - JAPAN
Woman With A Broken Nose - SERBIA

** Five Daughters [winner]
Jackboots on Whitehall
Rebels Without A Clue

Armless - USA
Cannibal- BELGIUM
Donoma - FRANCE
Huge - UK
Robert Mitchum Is Dead - FRANCE
** The Story Of My Space [Vidrimasgor] - RUSSIA [winner]

Camp Victory, Afghanistan USA
Rouge Ciel - FRANCE
** Sounds Like A Revolution - CANADA [winner]
** There Once Was An Island - USA/NZ [winner]
This Way of Life - NZ

Armless - USA
Flooding With Love For The Kid USA
Incredibly Small - USA
Lovers of Hate - USA
** Macho - MEXICO [winner]

The Golden Boy
Natural Selection
** Stanley Pickle [winner]

Happiness Is Hate Therapy CANADA
I Am A Fat Cat USA
** LIN UK [winner]
Moustachette USA

The director of I AM A FAT CAT was chosen to make next year's Raindance Fest trailer, which either plays in cinemas to advertize the festival... or is banned from cinemas by the censors and becomes a big hit online.

Look for the winners if they are released in the USA, and any of the other films. One year when I was on the jury the winning film went on to win Best Foreign Film Oscar - Raindance always has the most interesting films. Too bad many never make it here.

More info on RAINDANCE.

- Bill


Dinner: Plate-Of-Shrimp at Denny's.
Pages: Yes - worked on rewrite.
Bicycle: Yes - short ride to a different writing venue.
Movies: LET ME IN - and more on that later.

- not really funny, but that’s okay, because despite all of the comedians in the cast it’s a faux edgey-indie story of a suicidal high school boy (Keir Gilchrist) who is admitted to a mental institution for a week of observation. Sort of BOY, INTERRUPTED or ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST in high school.

Because of construction on the mental hospital’s young people’s floor, he’s thrown in with a bunch of crazy adults. Zach Galifianakis is his guide in the looney bin, a psuedo-rebel who sneaks out of the mental hospital to get ice cream - so I guess he’s rebelling against hospital desserts. Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan are the boy’s suburban parents who are kind of bland - in the voice over Gilchrist says that his father never has time for him because he’s always working... but in every flashback to home, there’s dad... and he’s constantly visiting the hospital... and the story has him constantly pressuring Gilchrist to get into a good college. Doesn’t make much sense.

Viola Davis is the kind, understanding, doctor - not a bit like Nurse Ratchet - who wants to help Gilchrist with his problems. Jeremy Davies is a hip - something - at the hospital. He wears street clothes and hangs around in the background, in the event we need someone for a little exposition or a leading question. There are a bunch of *almost* colorful crazies - like the Hasidic Jewish guy named Solomon who dropped too much acid and now has amazing hearing, and the guy who is sex-obsessed and Gilchrist’s room mate, an agoraphobic Egyptian who never gets out of bed.

Oh, and Emma Roberts (Eric’s daughter) whose face is sliced with scars... and so is the rest of her body. She’s the only other teen in the loony bin, and that means she and Gilchrist with fall in love for no apparent reason. The only other potential love interest for Gilchrist is his best friend’s girlfriend, played by Lisa Bonet’s teenaged daughter, who talks to him on the loony bin’s pay phone which seems to work without ever putting money into it. Lisa Bonet’s daughter is really cute.

The strange thing about this film is that it looks like one of those 1970s indie films were shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm - grainy, and flat lighting, and crude camera work - when all of that is an affectation. No reason it had to look like that, except that’s what those old edgy-indie films looked like. But the story isn’t really edgie-indie - no one in the loony bin is really crazy, they are just a little eccentric. These are TV sitcom crazy people. And despite the kid being suicidal, he never really tries to kill himself and his depression seems like a typical high school kid’s anxiety (not that being a typical high school kid is easy). This kid never *does* anything suicidal, the way the same character might in one of the 1970s films. And the kid draws pictures, so that we can have some animated sequences that are kind of cool. And the kid has to sing in “musical group therapy”, so that we can have a really fun music video number. And all kinds of other things happen that take time away from any actual look at serious depression or suicide... making this an edgy-indie film that I can recommend to my parents, because nothing particularly edgy ever happens in it. One scene, where I thought for sure something serious and dark might happen, ended up a happy scene where the dark possibilities were never even acknowledged!

So... where is the conflict?
Where is even the *potential* conflict?
It's like the whole film is on Zoloft!

The biggest conflict in this movie about a suicidal teen: he tells one girl he loves her while another girl is listening. Um, that’s the conflict for a subplot in an episode of BEVERLY HILLS 90210, not a conflict in a movie about a kid who contemplates suicide (though, as I said, he never even gets close to suicide).

The strange problem with this film is that it is fake. Unlike those 70s film, IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY has no point to make, no point of view of the world, no anger or passion - it’s just this movie where stuff happens. The closest thing to a point it has is that if you are a mostly spoiled upper middle class suburban kid whose dad wants him to go to a good college - don’t worry so much, that’s not really a big deal nor any different than any other kid like you’s problems. There is more drama, more actual thoughts of suicide, and more of a *point* to the silly comedy BETTER OFF DEAD. And if we look at spoiled upper middle class suburban kids who think about suicide? Well, ORDINARY PEOPLE (made at the tail end of the 70s, but not meant to be edgy - it’s a *glossy* film) the troubled teen actually attempts suicide... and then tries again, later in the film! And he’s not just worried about getting into a good college - he feels guilty for an accident that killed his brother! His brother is DEAD. And his mother isn’t just a little weepy, his mother is a stone cold bitch who BLAMES HIM for killing HER FAVORITE SON. Compare KIND OF A FUNNY STORY to ORDINARY PEOPLE - and you wonder why they wanted to make it. Hey, it is based on a novel - is the novel as wimpy as the movie? ORDINARY PEOPLE was also based on a novel - and was angry and dramatic and tragic and explosive and actually had something to say - a point to make. If we’re talking about edgy 70's movies, you can’t help but think of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST - which takes place in a mental institution - and is dramatic and explosive and angry and really has something to say. Those edgy-indie films they made in the 70s weren’t just grainy camera work, they HAD A POINT TO MAKE. They didn’t pull any dramatic punches, they HAD SOMETHING TO SAY. Many of these current edgy-indie films are imitations - they have no point to make, no real passion, and the film makers have nothing at all to say. It's funny, we get fake grindhouse movies like MACHETE and THE EXPENDABLES and PIRANHA 3D and fake edgy-indie movies... everyone loves the 1970s! But no one seems to want to make movies for 2010.

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is a mildly amusing movie, and you really want Gilchrist and Emma to hook up at the end, but it’s lightweight drama. The fake grainy cinematography and fake edgy look and feel of the film is an insult to the films it mimics. Why not just shoot it with the good lighting the film makers could afford? Why try to make it look like some movie it isn’t? I would have liked this film better had they shot it less faux ragged and more like any other competently made film.

- Bill

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