If you don't know who Don Hertzfelt is, he made the famous "Rejected" cartoon (think: "My spoon is too big!"). At an evening with Don Hertfeldt, we saw a couple of old favorites: "BIlly's Balloon", "Intermission in 3D", and "Wisdom Teeth".
BUT the main event was the showing of his Billy trilogy: "Everything will be OK", "I Am So Proud of You", and "It's Such a Beautiful Day". He had been working on it for somewhere around 12 years, but it was worth it. It was an incredibly funny, moving, and deep animation dealing with death, dying, and disease. It was probably one of the best things I've seen, and can't wait until the whole trilogy to come out on DVD. You can watch the first third online. It might not make sense, but wait until the DVD comes out... it all comes together in the final third.
Afterwards he came onstage to answer a few questions. I had to duck out early to go to the next film (which I regret), but it was interesting to see him (I thought he was a lot older and fatter), and to hear him talk about his technique and lack of desire to do any commercial animation work.
Sorry I didn't have much time to put into the Film Festival entry this year... but the movies I saw were:
A Somewhat Gentle Man
This was an... interesting... Norwegian film about a small-time convict released from jail and adapting back to normal life. His one big hurdle? The ugly landlady that's falling in love with him.
A funny Italian flick about coming out, and the effects that has on the family.
Acquainted with the Night
Cool series of stories about what happens around the world after the sun sets.
The Colors of the Mountain
A rather depressing movie about a Columbian armed conflict and the effects it has on local school children
A really cool Japanese anime about young computer hackers.
A rather well done and funny coming-of-age film about a high school wrestler.
An amazingly intense and emotional Spanish movie! Definitely my favorite one of the festival. It's a prison thriller movie in which a guard, on this first day, gets trapped on the wrong side of the prison doors during a massive inmate riot and uprising. The only way to survive is to become one of them. It's also a very graphic movie which makes Shawshank Redemption seem like Sesame Street.
A Danish movie about a Copenhagen police officer who is transfered to a small town after pulling a gun on his wife after finding her cheating on him. The locals, however, do not welcome him and would prefer to take care of matters their own way. Sound familiar? I couldn't help but notice the similarities to Hot Fuzz. Although not a really spectacular movie, it was another interesting take on the premise.
This was an amazing documentary covering the Disney Animation Studio struggles during the 80s with some flops and their comeback in the early 90s with movies such as "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", and "Lion King". It closely follows the tension between Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Roy Disney as they struggle for power and attention, as well as the animators who mostly suffer as the result of the upper management. The animators channeled their anger through funny caricatures, some which are displayed in the film. The style of this documentary was unique: It wasn't interview in modern day, followed by archival footage, followed by another interview... the visuals are made up entirely of archival footage from before 1994. A highlight includes Tim Burton's menacing grin toward the camera back when he was a young animator. This documentary is a good complementary film to The Pixar Story, which was at the festival a couple years ago, and for anyone interested in a great comeback story, I would recommend.
This was an... interesting... British film, the first part of three, about a news reporter (left, in the photo) trying to track down a serial killer in a city filled with corruption by upper management in the media and police. The film got a bit slow in the middle, but finally came together in the end. I'm also told it all doesn't come together until I watch the other two parts, so I won't cast any final judgement just yet.
This was an INSANE fast-paced Belgium comedic claymation about a horse, a cowboy, and an indian who live together. I'm not even sure where to start, but could probably best compare the witty dialog and awkward character movements best to Team America: World Police. The packed Orpheum Theater was in stitches by the end of the movie, as you could hear laughter during the entier hour and a half run of this movie. This is an absolute must-watch, and will probably be picking it up again to catch everything I missed the first time around.
Probably my favorite film from the festival so far this year, and others probably agreed, since it sold out the 1,700 seat Orpheum Theater. This Swedish thriller follows a journalist and a hacker (pictured) who are employed by an old rich man who wants to find his niece that disappeared some 40 years ago. The suspects? The entire Vagner family, which is made up of the type of characters you would expect to find in the game 'Clue'. The two know they are getting closer to unraveling this family mystery as their lives are put more and more in danger. With an exciting ending, the movie keept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. This is also a must-watch, and I'm excited to see if the other two books in the trilogy this movie is based off of also make it to movie form.
This Korean movie is a good old fashioned detective crime movie, as a group of detectives search for a serial killer. The film festival introducer explained this is the "anti-CSI", as they have little to go on except of their instincts (They had to mail a DNA test to USA which took weeks to get back). The tension between the hands-off laid-back detective and the karate-chopping drunk interrogator provides for an interesting conflict. This wasn't a thriller per se, but more of a Law and Order paced movie with some hilarious moments in between. While this movie wasn't anything spectacular, it was enjoyable to watch and I would recommend.
Mixed day for movies today:
And I do have to applaud this movie, because it's the first action movie that I've seen in a long time that I've given any care to the characters whatsoever. (Unlike, for example: Transporter) Granted, they were fortunate enough to have 3 hours to do it in... which would never fly with an American action flick. (Transporter is just around 90 minutes) And those 3 hours flew by. There were no slow spots throughout the movie, and I'd totally watch it again, despite its over-the-top music and cinematography. And I mean, over-the-top.
(Also: Apparently this is mostly copied, and without credit, from Memento, which I never saw. I'm curious, though, if seeing it will change my opinion of this)
Saw two great films at the Wisconsin Film Festival last night:
It started out a lighter comedy, and I thought it turned darker pretty quick. My more cultured friends called it an in-your-face social commentary on the modern Japanese family, although I didn't pick up on that. Minus some over-the-top emotions near the end, I really enjoyed the movie. The beginning is pretty hilarious, and while the second half looks bleak, the director was nice enough to give you a glimmer of hope at the end.
The movie's biggest points were this: The food industry is run by a very small handful of large corporations, and, Monsanto (I think mentioned negatively in every single anti-corporation documentary I've seen) runs the FDA, and this is all really really really really bad.
The only organization or company to be portrayed positively was Wal-Mart, interestingly enough, for their willingness to buy more and more free-range and organic food. (Although, not as much for ethical reasons as for the profit from consumers now demanding food produced more healthy)
It's definitely worth the watch, as long as you're willing to accept your food isn't made by 'Joe the Farmer' like the packaging leds you to believe.
Saw two films today on the last day of this year's Film Festival.
Some notable interviews were that of Wayne Bibbens who collects and has thousands of old Apple computers, and Jim Reekes, who created today's startup Mac sound and was a somewhat disgruntled ex-engineer, calling some of the other engineers from his time "retarded".
I wasn't really a big fan of the documentary itself. I've seen a lot of really really well done documentaries, both inside and outside this festival, and this was not at that caliber. My primary complaint is that it lacked focus-- jumping from being organized chronologically to by some random selection of topics. It was also slowly paced... many of the interviews went for several minutes, uncut.
The directors had a Q&A afterwards and acknowledged both issues, letting us know that this wasn't the final cut. They apparently have 8 hours of usable footage and have had difficulties from the beginning deciding what and what not to include. They additionally acknowledged some of the interview segments were long, and hope to cut them down in time along with adding some additional interviews that didn't make this cut. I think if they work on both of these issues before the DVD and final distribution, it has potential to be enjoyed by those who aren't Mac fanatics.
Equally puzzling was how they were related, why they were lured into this room, and who was behind it. What was disappointing was to the extent every question the viewer had about the movie was spelled out at the end. I'm not a big fan of movies that leave you totally wondering what happened, but you can't just explain everything to us either.
I finished up Saturday by seeing two more films-- suspense films this time.
In panic, he struggles to hide the suitcase and its contents... meanwhile his wife thinks all the sneaking around is because he's cheating on her. This misunderstanding takes over the topic of the film, as you start to hear or learn less and less about the suitcase.
The movie was interesting... funny at times... but nothing spectacular. The ending was weird.
The woman, however, is up for a promotion at work. In panic, instead of calling 911 or dropping the man off at a hospital, she ends up driving home to her garage with the man still in the windshield. She then subsequently learns that he's not exactly dead.
The movie soon turns into a race-- can he somehow get help before she "takes care of" him?
The movie was significantly more gory and bloody than I had expected. It's always fun to watch a movie like this with a large crowd, as you could hear the whole audience of a few hundred people all cringe at once.
Today marked my first day of the Film Festival. Unfortunately with classes and work, I was unable to see any movies from the first two days.
To start off Today, I saw two solid documentaries, both which I would call "magical".
It surrounds a lot around how Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, John Lasseter (right) came to get together, Pixar's origins at Lucasfilm, and struggles and benefits they have had with Disney... featuring interviews with Steve Jobs and George Lucas among others.
My favorite parts were seeing the early animations that Pixar produced, including Luxo (the lamp) Jr.
That's where David Harrison and Gregory Anderson come in. They are linguists traveling the world trying to document dying languages, despite governmental red tape or political unrest.
The documentary surrounds around specific trips to Siberia, India, and Bolivia (left) as they attempt, more difficult as it seems, to find one of the ten or one of the hundred left that speaks a dying language.
I had a good laugh with the linguists as they discovered a language in India that counts using both base 20 and base 12. "Our favorite number is 93," Anderson said. "It's four-twenty-twelve-one."
Last film I saw at the festival. Enjoyable one too. (Aren't they all?) It's going to sound more boring than it actually was, but surrounds around four college students who are aspiring to be famous writers. One of them is quite the arrogant s.o.b. and is quick to point out the flaws of other writers. They just don't realize how much they're being duped.
One of the many series of shorts at the Film Festival. My favorites were "Kompetenz", a couple fighting over skills vs talents, "My Name is Not Carlos", a jazzy music/animation, "Hallucii (upper left)", an animated man stuck on an Escher staircase, and "Startle Pattern", a claymation.[More]
It wasn't a horrible movie though. It had a compelling plot, several bits of humor ("How many pounds is a ton of love?"), and a great but unexpected ending, that without, the movie would have been pretty average.
The very first film I saw was "Manufactured Landscapes". It was quite an eye-opening documentary. Mostly featuring Chinese industry, this film showed how horrible manual repetitive labor can be. It started out with a tracking shot down an entire building of a Chinese Factory, showing aisle after aisle after aisle of teenage-looking men and women assembling, by hand, items such as irons and fans. It took about 10 minutes walking speed to get down the entire building. It was quite stunning. Above left shows each aisle's labor being briefed by their supervisor before going to work. Many were getting yelled at for not producing enough units, or having too many defective units.[More]
Today was the final day of the festival. First I went to see Jim and Joe's Experimental Shorts Program which was a group of avant-garde shorts. It was painful to watch, and as a friend of mine put it, "it sucked out my soul". Some of the techniques used in shorts such as Shape Shift by Scott Stark and SSHTOORRTY by Michael Snow were pretty cool, but almost all of them had flashy fast-paced scenes and high-pitched tones that I guess these directors thought make them innovative. What I did enjoy however was Mirror by Christoph Girardet and Matthias Mueller for the cool lighting effects, and especially enjoyed Pornographic Apathetic (picture above) by T. Arthur Cottam which was the most monotone and expressionless reading of an extremely hot and explicit pornographic script creating a hilarious result.
And the last thing I saw in the festival was Innocence, a French drama. I thought it was really good. It had probably some of the most beautiful cinematography I've ever seen. The story however, while not bad, was very... creepy. It centers around an all-girls boarding school, where they learn science and how to dance, while having many strict rules enforced by the other girls. Anyone caught trying to escape would have a very unhappy future. It's awfully difficult to explain. You could view the trailer, but it's in French.
I'll keep it short today.
I saw a bunch of Wisconsin made shorts today. Some that I enjoyed were:
Kitchen by Brian Dehler, which was a stomp-like short involving every-day kitchen objects.
Monster Team: Episode 6 by Ben Olson and Arthur Jones which was a real-life version of their cartoon series.
Status Quo by Justin Sprecher, which is kind hard to explain. Head-trip of sorts.
The Life and Death of a Pumpkin by Aaron Yonda, the funniest of the bunch, explored the life of a pumpkin from the pumpkin's point of view.
Straight Boys by Dave O'Brien, by far the best in the group of shorts, told the story of a guy in love with his straight roommate and the complications that come from it... filmed right here at Madison in Chadbourne Hall.
Then I saw Same Sex America which documented the big marriage debate in Massachusetts. It was well done and tracked multiple couples trying to get married.
Last day tomorrow!
On Friday I saw three additional moves at the Film Festival.
The first was Le Fantôme de l'Opératrice, a.k.a. The Phantom of the Operator which was a Canadian documentary about women in the telephone operator business, and had several clips from old corporate training videos which were quite funny. Always have a "voice with a smile!" Preceding this was a short montage of old High-School Science videos which were even more humorous, including "Jimmy" not knowing why you need to rationalize the denominator and this guy getting electrocuted by an electric eel.
Next was Ceský Sen a.k.a. Czech Dream which was a documentary about an elaborate hoax two filmmakers put on-- they built the front wall for an elaborate hypermarket, advertised the crap out of the grand opening, and documented the process along with the finale-- when thousands of people realized that they were running not to a hypermarket, but an over hyped front wall.
[Added 4/4 12:30 PM: I found a trailer for Czech Dream online for download. The part about them getting the crap beat out of them was definitely not in the version I saw at the festival, and now I'm pretty upset they left that out.]
[Added 4/4 1:45 PM: It appears as if I had been conned myself. I emailed the Film Festival to ask why the segment in the trailer was not in the actual documentary, and Travis Gerdes from the festival replied "Much like the false advertising campaign behind the Czech Dream hypermarket, we believe the filmmakers took a similar approach when promoting the film itself... it makes sense that the filmmakers would continue their message of misleading promotional campaigns, even for their own film." Makes sense.]
Finally, the best film of the day was a German comedy Die Nacht der lebenden Loser a.k.a. The Night of the Living Dorks. It is kinda hard to explain, but it was absolutely hilarious. It featured three teenagers in high school who smoked too much pot, got in a car accident, and, well, ended up Zombies.
Today was the first day of the Wisconson Film Festival. I saw Awesome, I Fuckin' Shot That!. It was a concert video of a Beastie Boys concert in Madison Square Garden. However, it wasn't your normal concert video. It was filmed by 50 randomly selected audience members who were handed cameras at the beginning of the show and were told to start filming when the lights go down and never stop. Very fast-paced, several cuts a minute. A few times they did a 50-way split screen to show all the cameras at once, which was pretty awesome to see. A few of the funny spots included one of the guys running (and going) to the bathroom, a drunk cameraman buying a beer, and another trying to sneak backstage. It was quite an interesting hour and a half.