Monday, April 30, 2007

The sun's not yellow, it's chicken

Okay, so Spider-Man 3 comes out this week. Then Shrek the Third two after that. Then the next installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The summer blockbuster season will soon be in full swing. It can sometimes be hard to weed through all the muck while the studios overload our senses with these franchise pictures. (Not that I have anything in particular against these three series, but you get my point.)

With that in mind, I think I'd take time here to talk about some smaller films. Ones that I screened about a month ago at the 16th Annual Florida Film Festival (FFF). I probably would've written about some of these movies sooner, but alas, I didn't have my own blog. I won't elaborate too much on each film, but just give a general overview to some of my personal highlights during that week-and-a-half.

As is often the case at FFF, the shorts programs fuel more excitement than most of the features--and the Animated Shorts program this year was particularly inspired. My personal favorite though was Golden Age by Aaron Augenblick. These were a compilation of behind-the-scenes "newsreels" revealing the lives of once-famous, but now-fallen cartoon characters. You can actually see each side-splitting segment here.

Two other films I enjoyed were the Irish film, Speed Dating, and a quirky romantic comedy from New Zealand called Eagle vs. Shark. But, for me, the real gem of the 16 screenings I attended at the festival was Sarah Polley's Away From Her. Polley is probably best known for her work in mostly independent fare such as The Sweet Hereafter, The Claim, and My Life Without Me, although she has appeared in bigger films such as the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead.

With such a background in independent film, you might figure Polley's directorial debut to go in the all-too-typical direction of the edgy, angst-ridden twenty-somethings trying to find themselves--just the kind of pretentious, film-festival artsy junk really bad independent cinema can turn into. But her first film is much like the characters she has been known to play: thoughtful, introspective, and unsentimental. Adapted from an Alice Munro short story, Away From Her deals with the separation of a husband and wife as she is institutionalized with Alzheimer's. The couple are played by Gordon Pinsent and the great Julie Christie. Olympia Dukakis also does nice work as a wife of another Alzheimer's patient who befriends Christie's character in the nursing home.

There is none of the overwrought drama so often found in bigger Hollywood films, no big fake emotional scenes. Also none of the show-offy, first-film director tricks. Just an honest exploration of what age and disease does to two people who have been in love for decades and a great showcase for the still vibrant Christie.

The movie opens in limited release on May 4th, the same day as Spider-Man 3. Polley sarcastically said in EW that she intends her film to wipe the floor with Spidey. Good luck with that!

(Chances are the film won't open here, but our library has a number of smaller, independent films that once screened at FFF and nowhere else in town, so keep an eye out for it in a few months.)

P.S. Anybody else attend the festival and see anything good?

Friday, April 27, 2007

One of the many few

My name is Jason and this is my new OCLS blog. You will read this blog. I will write this blog. You will laugh at the humor and cry at the tragedy. I hope you tune in for future posts. I have never had a blog before. I hope these sentences don't seem choppy.

BTW, I will give 5 completely useless and imaginary bonus points and an all-expense paid trip to anywhere in the U.S. to anybody who can name the movie my blog name is quoting.** Hurry up, first reponse wins!

**(all-expense paid trip not included)