Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - Highlights, Day 7-10


Documentary as activism isn't new to the festival (representatives from Amnesty International were in attendance of the Give Up Tomorrow screening earlier in the week, for example). Films traveling a festival circuit is certainly a way to create awareness. This, perhaps serendipitously, is the case with Girl Model. The film fundamentally follows the stories of two people: Nadya, a 14-year-old, Siberian girl who is plucked from a gaggle of other young Russian girls that are on display on stage to be hired as Japanese ad models; and Ashley, herself a former model a decade or so ago, who now is well-employed as a scout choosing girls like Nadya.

Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - Highlights, Day 6

Two more movies on Wednesday that exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, Kid-Thing from FFF regulars the Zellner Brothers and the biopic, The Lady, from popular French director, Luc Besson.

The Lady follows the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese expatriate living with her husband and two kids in London, suddenly becoming the symbolic and political leader of a burgeoning democratic movement in her home country. The movie is framed by two separate events: the assassination of Suu's father, Aung San, who himself was instrumental in bringing independence and democracy to Burma; and the cancer diagnosis of her British husband, Michael Aris.

And I think this is part of the failure of this movie. By framing Suu's story as both a political one and a personal one, it seems to not do real justice to either. Michelle Yeoh as Suu and David Thewlis as Michael are very good here and do their best to convey their support for each other as longtime partners. But the real-life events of the couple being separated for years while she was in exile in Burma and the movie's decision to not include their courtship and instead jump into their relationship well after their kids had been born doesn't give us any connection to their connection. But the moments of Michael and Suu having protracted phone conversations (don't get me started on how many times someone says, "Hello? Are you there?" followed by a dial tone) and pining to be with each other also take up time that could be better utilized explaining her politics or showing how she was able to mobilize her significant supporters.

If The Lady does little to surpass the conventions of the standard biopic, Kid-Thing complies no ideas of convention. Throughout the early moments I was ready to dismiss the meandering story of Annie, a ruthlessly delinquent child, living on a farm with her mostly inattentive father. But amongst stealing from convenience stores, throwing uncooked biscuit dough at passing cars, and shooting dead cows with paintballs, a potentially tragic discovery gives her at least some semblance of direction. The Zellner's perfectly calibrated pacing and tone matches a great performance by newcomer Sydney Aguirre. The movie languishes in its poor rural setting, but it always knows where it's going. And by that final frame, Kid-Thing just hits the most perfect note.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - Highlights, Day 4 & 5

The beginning of the week often provides a brief respite from the busy weekend of movies at the start of the festival and Monday and Tuesday were no different, as I attended only three screenings--all features--during that time. Two of those movies, Dog Years and The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best, were not only among the best of the fest so far, but also emblematic of what I think this festival and probably many others represent.


Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - Highlights, Day 3

Sunday's Day 3 was a relatively protracted day of screenings, watching only two feature documentaries along with their accompanying documentary shorts. If part of the allure of film festivals is to experience a wide variety of movies, then a natural result of that is being able to experience vastly different cultures. And the two documentary features I screened Sunday--in widely disparate ways--were eye-opening looks at places and situations that exist on the other side of world.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - Highlights, Day 2

Day 2, which is actually the first full day of the Florida Film Festival, always (ALWAYS, I tell you!) seems to begin not with a bang, but with a stutter. Technical difficulties at the makeshift tickets booths outside the Regal screenings generally mark the beginning of each year's festival before things settle down as the week progresses.

In any case, the two Saturdays are usually the busiest days for me during the festival, as I normally try to fit in 5 or 6 screenings. I (and my sister, who joined me for the entirety of Day 2) opted for only five this time, skipping one of our scheduled movies for something I like to call dinner.

Khen Shalem's THE OTHER SIDE

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - A Brief Preview

The arrival of spring is usually one I greet with dread. Plants in bloom make my sinuses go "boom". The Florida heat is beginning to rear its ugly head and this past winter--or should I say "winter"--was almost nonexistent. But another April means another Florida Film Festival. And another week-plus of movie watching and hopping from screen to screen or from theater to theater and sneaking in a meal in between films (or during films) and more movie watching.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Month In Review: March 2012

In a new, hopefully regular feature here, I'll be briefly writing about things I've seen over the past month but didn't get a chance to discuss in longer form. Here's what I watched in March.