14 March 2003

Florida Film Fest Diary - Entry #6

Ack, still trying to catch up a little bit. Let's review the films of Wednesday before they get too cold.

The day started at 4pm with another shorts program, five little films averaging about 20 minutes each. The first one, Bun-Bun, was a cute and beautifully shot (on 35mm -- somebody's daddy is rich!) little effort about rugrats and their toys and the lengths (yuppie white) people will go to to keep them happy. It had a lot going for it, was very well-directed and looked great, but ultimately came over very empty. You wondered why everyone had gone through all the obvious effort they did to make something that was ultimately not going to change anything or anybody. Not every film has to be a Big Important Statement, but every film should say something, even if the message is nothing more substantive than "tits are great."

The only thing Bun-Bun imparted to me was that having kids is a bad idea, which I doubt is what the filmmakers intended. Problem is, I can't tell what they intended. Did they think it was cute to show parents willing to debase themselves and make others' lives a nightmare just to satiate their own brat? Are they trying to tell us that we've let our kids get too dependent on material needs? Or is the child's dependence on Bun-Bun a metaphor for our own spoiled-rotten society?

Actually, I think I've probably inferred more meaning into the film than has ever crossed the filmmaker's minds.

Continuing with the "why did they bother" theme, comes Last Day, a film about some guy's last day at an office where he spent far longer than he intended. They set this up like there's some big coming-of-age message like a yuppified American Grafitti, but there was no payoff whatsoever in the film. As a slice-of-life documentary about white morons and their cubicle existences, I guess it sort of worked. It just seemed to me like this was one of those films that sounded good in the pitch but in the execution they ended up with a far less interesting film than the setup had promised. Note to filmmakers: making the audience care about the characters must have been covered the day you were sick at film school.

Things picked up a bit with Rules of Love, based on a play about a woman, a priest and their triangular relationship with their god. Really well-performed, costumed and filmed, this one actually had something to say and characters you could get into. It wasn't the greatest thing I've ever seen on this topic (that would be Ballykissangel season 1), it was a worthwhile effort.

The next film the program was Virgin, but I talked about that in the previous FFF diary entry (see below) so suffice to say it was the highlight of the program.

Finally we came to The Cutman, which I had hoped was going to be a mini-doc about this now-obsolete fight-doctor type profession. Instead it wussed out into a father-son tribulation thing. Ugh, like we don't get enough of these. Still, this film also hit most of the right notes: well shot, good performances from the cast, glimpses of a world rarely seen. I think they could have explored the Cutman's feelings of impotence and his struggle to re-establish his self-worth in a less meandering way and without having to bring in the unnecessary son angle. And of course the old guy dies in the end -- ho hum. After all, we wouldn't want the old guy we've spent so much time investing in to actually find redemption and come to terms with the changes in his life, now would we?

Next up was the Japanese feature Princess Blade. Despite a lot of buzz at the festival about this one, I considered this a colossal waste of time (I know I sound awfully cranky here but it wasn't just a bad hair day for me, honest!). Japanese filmmakers keep trying to meld martial-arts action pictures and boring arty chick-flick type stories (a la the manga comic book upon which this is based), and it just isn't working. You end up looking at your watch for 70 of the 90 minutes, waiting for the next action sequence -- and unlike a porno movie, you've got no fast-forward control. Result: suckage. Given my penchant for Asian babes (and this movie has several), you know this must suck bad for me to hate it this much. The fight sequences were great, but we just didn't need 15-20 minutes of really lame and only half-explained exposition to set up each fight scene. This movie reminded me a lot of Final Fantasy X (and the influence is very clear here) -- lots and lots of story, little bit of action, lots more story. Problem is, it's not much of a story. Maybe some tits would have helped. Yeah.

The last event of the night was a midnight showing of music videos. Ninety minutes (with intermission) of music videos. The program was exceedingly well-attended for a Wednesday night, and well-received to put it mildly. You'd almost think there was an audience for the concept of watching music videos. You'd almost think that maybe somebody should put on a channel on TV that did nothing but show music videos. Naaah, that's crazy talk.

Here's a rundown of the bands featured: Nerf Herder (funny!), Flaming Lips (nice!), Taking Back Sunday (eh!), Sigur Ros (depressing), Prodigy (bizarre!), Death Cab for Cutie (cute!), the Hives (damn the Hate Bombs must be kicking themselves now!), Badly Drawn Boy (Doug Henning would have been proud!), Queens of the Stone Age (surprisingly good for such a "alternative mainstream" band), Rob Dougan (eh!), Johnny Cash (stole the show covering a NIN song!!), Money Mark (Japsploitation?!), Zero 7 (bad 3D and kinda jazzy), Interpol (video games have really influenced mv directors!), The White Stripes (very cool!), Powder (cute but kinda manufactured), The Avalanches (woah!) and Moby (another good video from him). Kudos to Will Brown who selected the clips, and to those who think hip-hop/rap was underrepresented -- you're right. Now go away.

So let's see ... that makes 50 films (counting the shorts as one film each but counting all the music videos as 1 film total) so far. On to Thursday, the buildup to the climatic final weekend.

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