Friday, March 9, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 10

Three more movies on Thursday, my last night of Cinequest in Redwood City (the festival continues, but I'm spending all weekend at the San Jose venues) and it was a truly grand night.

We started in Canada, Toronto to be specific. And not the good parts of it. LUBA is the story--and the name--of a single, struggling mother (Nicole Maroon.) Okay, technically not single, but her husband Donnie (Vladimir Jon Cubrt)--they're separated but not divorced--is a former crack addict and totally unreliable. But her son Matty (Porter Schaefer) loves him. Of course, because he's the cool dad who always wants to do something fun. He's also the irresponsible dad who will leave him in the movie theater while he goes chasing some tail. So Luba has to be the bad mom, the strict one who looks out for him. She has some help from Donnie's mother, (Jillian Rees-Brown) but things get really bad when Donnie relapses and loses his job (and then relapses harder.) A rich supporting cast rounds things out really well, as Luba desperately tries to hold together and find anyone who can help her. But help is hard to get, since everyone has their own troubles. And there's a really beautiful tension between trying to take care of everything herself and looking for someone who can just make everything better. Of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle. You have to be able to take care of yourself, but also reach out and accept help where it comes. A really beautiful, nuanced film that will destroy any notion that all Canadians are nice and polite.

LUBA plays once more, Friday night (tonight!) in Redwood City

Then a quick jaunt over to LV Mar for a drink and chat with a few Cinequesters, and back for another show, starting with the short HEIMLICH. Thematically, this actually follows LUBA pretty well, in that it's a story of a shitty father/husband, a mother who puts up with it, and a child. In this case, they're not separated, but should be, because the husband is an abusive piece of shit. But eventually the wife decides not to put up with his shit anymore.

And that was the lead-in to my new favorite in the festival, CHARLIE AND HANNAH'S GRAND NIGHT OUT. I don't even know how to translate into words how wonderful and weird this movie is. Charlie and Hannah are two lovely Belgian ladies out for a night of drinking and fun in Antwerp. And when they take some drugs homeopathic candy, things get beautifully insane. I don't know much about drugs, I don't know if there's anything that can create an experience like they had. I think it's something more powerful than psychoactive chemicals--it's cinema! Breasts start talking. Historical figures show up. A homeless person hands out a keychain containing a black hole. Their guy friend endures so many challenges (eat 17 cigarettes, scalp Tilda Swinton while hopping on one foot, swallow this bomb) that he ends up a pile of ash, only to be resuscitated with a beer. Buildings talk to each other (about meeting the Eiffel Tower on Tindr.) Pineapples get chased. Most importantly, it's an immensely playful movie. And a movie that's equally playful about the Grand Unified Theory, operettas, history, and cinema. It's mostly in black and white (with some stunning, beautiful color scenes) and makes no sense other than to just enjoy it.

Oh, and sometimes there's a moment in a movie--a line, a visual, an idea, etc.--that brings a certain clear and simple explanation to your life up until then, and your path forward. It's probably a bad sign that the line "Let's get life-threateningly drunk" feels kinda like one of those moments.

HEIMLICH and CHARLIE AND HANNAH'S GRAND NIGHT OUT plays twice more, Saturday and Sunday, both times in Redwood City.

And then the last film of the night was CROWN AND ANCHOR, which I was very excited to see because I had drunk with the filmmakers several times earlier in the week (they had to return home prior to this screening, unfortunately.) I'm very happy to report that their film totally delivers. Jimmy (writer/director/star Andrew Rowe) is a cop in Toronto, and he has anger issues. His cousin Danny (Matt Wells) has a drug problem. They both suffered different but connected childhood trauma. And the repercussions of that have left them estranged for years. But when Jimmy's mother passes away, he returns home to St. John's, Newfoundland and has to face the past trauma and estrangement, as well as the current shit situation. As his uncle informs him, Danny is is in deep shit. See, though Jimmy is a cop now, the family were a small-time Irish crime racket. Protection stuff, mostly. Sure, they took money and kept the neighborhood in a kind of order. They'd burn down your place if you didn't pay, but they also took care of those who did pay. Like if a priest diddled a kid, they'd eliminate that fucking priest. Or they'd keep drugs (at least the worst of it) out of the neighborhood. Well, Danny kind of dropped the ball on that one, bringing in some drug dealers who now have him by the balls. As well as being a solid story with a strong arc and powerful violence, it's also a gritty, low-budget ($300,000) masterpiece with a punk score to match it's punk attitude and aesthetic. Fucking great. Now I wish I had drunk with them even more. Like maybe gotten life-threateningly drunk.

That was their last screening, save for maybe an Encore screening on Sunday? Here's hoping!

Total Running Time: 293 minutes
My Total Minutes: 473,733

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 9

I started Wednesday night in Redwood City, grabbing a margarita and some nibbles with some Guerilla Wanderers friends Sean and Elizabeth (have I mentioned how cool the festival trailer is every year, and that their series Doucheaholics is coming soon) at Quinto Sol. Then time for some sexy comedy.

First the short SOME BRIGHT WHITE. The son of a Bob Ross-esque famous painter has troubles. Mostly, that he can't find love. And then, when he least expects it, love finds him. And kidnaps him, thinking he's his father. And demands that he paint her. And tortures him when he says he can't. Love always wins, usually be kicking the crap out of you. Hilarious.

And then the feature, THREESOMETHING, a very funny take on sex, relationships, and how complicated and ridiculous they can get. Charlie and Isaac are best buddies. At least, Isaac will admit that Charlie's his best friend, Charlie is a little weird about it. And that's the theme of the movie--people being weird about their feelings. Anyway, they feel like...having a threesome. Charlie knows a girl, Zoe. She's pretty, and she might be down, and he's had a crush on her forever. Well, it turns out, on that night, after some awkward crying, she's really into...Isaac. And Charlie can just wait outside. Well that's just the start. I was afraid for a bit that would be the one joke carrying the movie all the way through. I have a concept I call 'feature length shorts,' which are feature films that have enough of an idea to be a great 10-20 minute short, but are stretched out to feature length. They're very common in independent film festivals, and for a few minutes, I was afraid I was heading into another one of those. In fact, I was ready to say that the short should've been longer and this should've been a short. But then it starts taking some turns and throwing new layers on and realizing there's more hilarious weirdness than just the starting premise. Not to give away too much, but I love Charlie's mom's advice. And when Charlie and Zoe realize they have something they really like doing together, too. But the best joke is Isaac's last name. You have to watch and pay attention to catch it, but as a Mr. Wiener myself, I appreciate humor that involves embarrassing names. And there's absolutely no way I'll ruin the joke by linking to to his character's Facebook profile.

SOME BRIGHT WHITE and THREESOMETHING play one more time, Saturday night in Redwood City.

Then I drove down to San Jose. Although I got lucky with the traffic, it's not something I recommend doing during the festival. There is a convenient Caltrain station that will take you between San Jose Diridon and Redwood City in 30-50 minutes (depending on if it's a bullet train or not.) The problem is that off-peak hours, it only comes by about once an hour. So if you time things right it's easy, but if not you can be waiting for an hour for your train. Best bet to maximize your film-watching is simply pick one locale and stay there all day.

Anyway, I was lucky and it worked out. Not only was I there in plenty of time, I was there with enough time to spare to stop by the Maverick Meetup at Loft to have a couple of drinks before the next movie.

And that movie was VIRGINIA MINNESOTA. Lyle (Rachel Hendrix) is a traveler, living out of her car, writing a travel blog, talking to her only companion, a hitch-hiking robot suitcase named Mister. She grew up in the care of the Larsmont home for troubled girls, or girls from troubled families...I forget the actual name of the place. The important thing is she's one of four girls who last lived there when the place shut down, and the old caregiver has passed away, and mentioned all of the girls in her will. But all four have to be there for the will to be read. And while two of the girls are already there, Addison (Aurora Perrineau) is stubbornly staying in her hometown of Gran Marais (which is a real town, along with Larsmont, along the Lake Superior coast of Minnesota. Well, Lyle has places to go, and can't stay long, so she takes on the mission of finding Addison and dragging her back to Larsmont. Along the way they'll have wacky adventures, but also dig up old childhood trauma. And it's all imbued with this sense of magic realism around the local legends, like the Wendigo, or the Lake Superior Sea Panther, of the Viking who is still looking for his lost daughter. Just fantastic all the way around. Funny and touching, great acting (from very beautiful actresses,) surprises, absurdity, and a recovery of the sense of wonder. An excellent way to end the night.

Well, okay, I really ended the night with one more drink at the Loft. But still...

VIRGINIA MINNESOTA plays one more time, as the early show on Friday at the 3 Below in San Jose.

Total Running Time: 179 minutes
My Total Minutes: 473,440

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 8

Two more films last night, back in San Jose. But first a quick bite and a few drinks at the soiree at Scott's Seafood.

The first show was the documentary shorts program, which top to bottom might just be my favorite shorts program I've seen.
6TH GRADERS SCHOOL ROY MOORE'S ATTORNEY: Returning Cinequester Sam Frazier (CARDBOARD TITANICS: SMART PEOPLE BEING STUPID, THE GHOST PEPPER EATING CONTEST OF JEFFERSON COUNTY) presents a reversal of his standard formula. Instead of smart people being stupid, smart kids are smart and make fun of a stupid adult. Shot over last Thanksgiving, his two young nephews proofread an infamous letter from Roy Moore's attorney. And it's pretty darn funny.
DESCRIBE WHAT YOU HEARD: Milking humor from the worst situations, a sound effects expert gives advice on how to make gunshot noises with your mouth, so the next time you find yourself on the news describing gunshots, you'll do better than just "pop! pop! pop!"
THE DUEL: A remembrance of a father's mental breakdown, that almost ended with him forcing his son into a knife fight. Powerful and frightening.
FREE FALL: On the lighter side, no matter how rich or poor you are, every kid loves a bouncy castle!
THE HAPPINESS MACHINE: Some guys just have life figured out. Like Carl, a septuagenarian from rural Iowa, who gave up his lucrative career as an academic librarian when he realized that rich or poor, what he wanted to do was live on the land his father promised him (his literal Promised Land) and work the land, improving it in sustainable ways, with a wonderful sense of the importance of place for future generations. He lives in a way he calls (if I got this right) IDIYLOCAL - Independent, Do It Yourself, Low Cost, Agrarian Lifestyle. And he's an inspiration.
THE LECTORA: A look at a profession that is going away, replaced by automation. In cigar factories, for over a century, la lectora was someone who read stories and newspapers to the workers rolling the cigars. Most of them have been replaced by radios or television. But sometimes the personal touch is better.
MISTER SUNSHINE: An old black man, who used to be a millionaire, decided to chuck it all and become a shoeshine man. Because that's where he could get some real human connection. It's not about the shine on the shoes as much as the shine on your face.
NOBODY DIES IN LONGYEARBYEN: Or at least, in this northernmost city in the world, nobody can be buried, because the permafrost will just push the body back out. And that can be a problem, when bodies full off once-eradicated disease start coming back and thawing out.
PHOTOTAXIS: An animated examination of West Virginia's mythical Mothman, set to the text of narcotics anonymous literature. There's a demon in West Virginia still. It's haunting much of the nation, in fact, and it's called opiod addiction.
TWILIGHT DANCERS: Colonizers foisted square dancing on the first nations' people. But they incorporated some of their own moves and made it their own.
UNSPOKEN: A profile of Farah Chamma, a young Palestinian poet, and the ways she expresses (and sometimes censors) herself.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND PLAYED AT MY HIGH SCHOOL: The discovery of underground art, told through animation and the narration of one of the few students who dug what the Velvet Underground was doing when it played just 3 songs as one of the opening acts for some rock band I've never heard of.

The documentary shorts program plays again on Sunday in Redwood City.

Then after a couple of drinks at the Maverick Meetup at M Asian Fusion, I wandered down to the California Theater for THE LINE, Slovakia's submission for the 2017 Academy Awards (it did not get nominated.) It takes place on the Slovak-Ukrainian border, where Adam is a no-nonsense father and a no-nonsense businessman. His smuggling cigarettes over the border. And with the EU instituting the Shengen Zone, that previously lax, eminently bribe-able border is going to become one of the most secure and patrolled borders in Europe. So that complicates his business. So does his beautiful daughter marrying the doofus nephew of Adam's second-in-command, Jona. Oh, and Jona's son is in prison for political reasons. And some of Adam's people are sneaking drugs into the cigarette shipments, which is something Adam wants no part of. Well, this film is dripping with genre style, and there are so many side plots that it was hard to keep track of it all (definitely worth a second look when I'm more rested, if I ever get that chance.) And there's tons of dark humor, so of course I loved it.

THE LINE plays again Saturday night in Redwood City.

Total Running Time: 222 minutes
My Total Minutes: 473,261

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 7

Two more films Monday night, up in Redwood City this time.

I started with EYES AND PRIZE, a pretty weird, high concept movie about reality shows and the desperate fascination with fame. Four strangers meet in a flat (oh yeah, this is from the UK.) They've been invited to be contestants on a reality show. But they haven't been told the rules. They just know that they're in this flat together. There's plenty of food and wine, and they...will get instructions some time? Maybe? Well, when one of them locks them in and disappears into a locked, adjoining room, it seems like there's a new wrinkle in the game. Still no rules, but they begin to suspect he might be in on it. There are long stretches where they muddle through daily living, with no idea what the point of this all is. To get a little film-theoretical on you, this brings to mind Paul Schrader's theories on the Transcendental Style in film (and yes, I'm obliquely comparing this film to TAXI a way.) The thing is, the style does require a payoff at the end. And while there is a payoff (actually, I'd say there are two payoff scenes, and intermediate one and a final one,) I'm hesitant to say how satisfying it is. I'm trying not to give away anything, but the intermediate payoff was both more predictable and more satisfying. Then it plunges back into a darker version of the transcendental style, setting up the final payoff not bad, it's just too brief and punctuated for what I wanted. But still, getting there was an audacious and accomplished bit of cinema.

EYES AND PRIZE plays again Wednesday night at 3 Below in San Jose, and Friday afternoon in Redwood City.

Then I caught a short film, EMPIRE ON MAIN STREET. The Main Street would be Main Street in Guerneville, California. And the Empire would be the creation of Crista Luedtke, tireless chef, hotel manager, bar owner, cafe owner, and travel/cooking show star. She grew up watching the exhausting restaurant business split her parents apart. Then she came out of the closet, moved to San Francisco, and then decided to buy a hotel in the sleepy town of Guerneville, a few hours north. And after surviving a flood and eventually making the place profitable, she opened her restaurant. And things just kind of snowballed, until this old run-down town was a thriving destination spot. Which brought its own challenges, as prices went up and the character of the town changed. The film packs a lot into 24 minutes, easily enough that it could be a feature. But I have to say I appreciate a film that understands brevity and the power of the short format.

EMPIRE ON MAIN STREET plays again with HERMANOS on Saturday at 3 Below. I didn't stick around for the feature, because I had another movie to get to...after a quick glass of zinfandel and chatting with HUNTING LANDS team at Cru Wine Bar.

And then I ended the night with SAVIORS, a powerful drama about infiltrating a white supremacist group. Blaze is embedded there, pretending to be one of them. The thing is, her adoptive mother--her adoptive African American mother--is missing, and she thinks this group has something to do with it. So she's dating the leader, going to rallies, etc. And this night, after a rally, she has a surprise for him--a genetic test that proves her 100% pure European heritage. And they've got a surprise for her, too--a test of loyalty in the form of a couple of black hostages. Just kill them, record it, and the whole group will advance to a more secretive, more powerful organization. Needless to say, it's a pretty wild night, and shot in one continuous 81 minute take, which is pretty exceptional. The frank and disturbing racism covers over the fact that these guys are kind of pathetic losers. Some of them are grossly overweight, and all weirdly into homoerotic teasing. I mean, these guys would not be fun to hang out with even if they weren't horribly racist douchebags. But I enjoyed watching a movie where they are taken down for the gross losers they are. And without giving too much away, I also loved the ending, and the promise of what's to come.

SAVIORS plays again Thursday night at the Hammer Theater

Total Running Time: 200 minutes
My Total Minutes: 473,039

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 6

The big first weekend is over, with another 5 shows on Sunday.

I was once again up for some 10 am drinks in the lounge (who the hell needs sleep?) and then off to see some shorts, with Shorts Program 2: Bending Space, Folding Time
THE APOCALYPSE WILL BE AUTOMATED: Clearly the one thing that makes of self-driving cars have not considered is how they will work in a zombie apocalypse.
HYBRIDS: When there's more trash than animals, the two will merge.
NON MERCI: Stop and smell the roses, if you can. Or waste another 24 minutes of your life with this nonsensical film.
RAKKA: Neil Blomkamp playing with short films again. It's pretty clear he's practicing for his rumored ALIEN project. He even got Sigourney Weaver in on this one.
SPACE GIRLS: The most important thing for 9 year old future astronauts--sleep. Or maybe it's dreaming, but sleeping is important, too.
THE TESLA WORLD LIGHT: A wonderful experimental film, about one of the world's most wonderful experimenter. Tesla calls JP Morgan, asking him to invest in his plan to light up the entire world.
TREE HOUSE TIME MACHINE: Those kids need the time machine to go back and solve a past mystery. Excellent short.

I hope you all had a good time bending space and folding time, but there are no more screenings of this program at Cinequest.

Next up was a feature from returning Cinequest royalty, Alex and Katie Orr (BLOOD CAR, CONGRATULATIONS, A IS FOR ALEX.) POOR JANE tells the story--character study, really--of a woman, Jane (Brandy Burre,) who suddenly and without a good explanation, finds she no longer loves her husband. That's it. It happens. So does she stick around just for the sake of it? Does she go find someone else who she does love? Does she focus on her career and herself? In Jane's case, a little of all of it. It's really kind of how this realization throws her into a state where she doesn't really know what she wants, and that's pretty scary. She dates a guy (Robert Longstreet) and they seem to hit it off...but not really 100%. She makes a lot of pretty foolish decisions, but what does foolish even mean if there's no end goal in mind? Burre is excellent in the lead role, and kudos to the film for showing a female point of view that is only her point of view--not how her decisions affect those around her. I mean, you're free to care about what her husband is going through, but this film very clearly and defiantly does not. That's just not the story it's telling.

POOR JANE will play again Wednesday and Saturday in Redwood City.

Next up was BIKINI MOON, an excellent examination of homelessness, mental illness, and the responsibility of a documentary filmmaker. Condola Rashad plays Bikini, a former marine who is now homeless on the streets of New York. A documentary crew is following her around, filming her. They know they've got a bit of indie-film gold here. Not only is Bikini's story powerful and tragic, but she is a charismatic and her antics can be downright funny. I mean, that's not an excuse for not caring about her or if the documentary is actually making her life worse. Which eventually the filmmakers-within-the-film start to realize, and the film is as much about their fights as it is about her. By the time various members of the team either drop out or change their focus to helping her, a lot of damage has been done. Great film, that gives you many different levels of things to think about.

BIKINI MOON will play again Tuesday and Saturday nights in Redwood City.

The next show starting with a really cool animated short, VALLEY OF THE WHITE BIRDS. Cycles of life and guilt, very cool.

That was the lead-in to the feature ARUN, from Thailand. Three childhood friends are not at all ready to face the real world as adults. That's okay, their still kids, right? That is, until Isara, the only girl of the group, is taken away to Bangkok. Arun and Kasem go to find her, their only lead being her fear that she would be taken away to "work in a bar" (i.e., forced into sex work.) And that's the whole movie, Arun and Kasem searching for her in Bangkok, and learning how horrible the real world of adults is. Man, that was uncomfortable. But I guess that's the point.

This program will play again Tuesday and Sunday in Redwood City, and Thursday at the 3 Below in San Jose.

And finally, I ended the night with shorts Program 3: The Reality of Illusion
ALTERNATIVE MATH: 2 + 2 = 4. Or at least it used to. But in a post-fact world, what's more important is what the child thinks it is. But if this teacher is going to lose her job over that, well she's not going down without a fight.
DON'T PASS THROUGH SAN BERNARDINO: Because if you do, you could get murdered. And the government is going to be no help out all for your mother. (Note: the title refers to the village in Mexico, not the city of California.)
THE FIRST OF MANY: Based on a true incident in 1971 (that's fully relevant today,) a young actress was raped by an award-winning songwriter, as she auditioned for his movie. This recreation is directed by that actress, and stars her daughter and returning Cinequest alum Lawrence Levine as the rapist (yikes, I like Lawrence, and I know it's just a role, but I don't like seeing him as such a creep.)
IMAGINARY CIRCUMSTANCES: Dating is hard. Maybe it would be easier to start with the breakup?
MINA TOBIAS: KINGS AND QUEENS: A music video about love and fantasy.
PAGG: A Sikh American faces racist abuse. Still. Because people suck. C'mon white guys, we can do better.
PLAYING IT STRAIGHT: A guy tells his girlfriend about his mother. Who is married to a woman she loves and spends all her time with. You know...I think she might be a lesbian, even if she won't admit it.
SNIP: Weird stop-motion animation about a land accessed through the subway tunnels, and the escape of the two children trapped in there.
TIME TRAVELER: From Ireland, a family is forced to move from their meadow. Hopefully not before the little kid can finish his BACK TO THE FUTURE car. A Honda is a fine replacement for a DeLorean, right?

That was the last screening of this shorts program. Sorry.

Total Running Time: 491 minutes
My Total Minutes: 472,839

Monday, March 5, 2018

Jason goes to Cinequest--Day 5

Saturday started with very little sleep, after keeping filmmakers up in my room partying until 4:30 or so. But I was in the lounge at 10 am for morning drinking, because that's how I Cinequest.

I started with the comedy shorts. Hooray for starting the day drunk and laughing!
BIGFOOT'S LOVE SLAVE: It's exactly what it sounds like, a musical homage to the hairy hunk himself.
FUCK EVERYTHING: Speaking of hairy hunks...of something. The Hairy Soul Man is back with a song that has become my manifesto for the week.
GRAHAM'S MATE: Just don't fuck with the guy who owns the junkyard. If you want a headlight, pay fair price for it.
MIXTAPE MARAUDERS: Stoners, arguing over the art form of mixtape creation, and refusing to call it a mix CD even though it's a CD, not a tape.
MULTIVERSE DATING FOR BEGINNERS: With a flip of a scarf, you can try the same date over and over until you get it right. Or maybe just give up.
MUST KILL KARL: I mean, Karl is a total ass. It's not such an extreme solution. He kind of has it coming.
POSITIVE: It's good to be positive. Unless we're talking about herpes. Then it's not so good.
SPACE BUTTHOLE: Also played at Indiefest. From long time Cinequester and animator David Chai, comes an endless string of poop jokes.
THE SPECTACULAR SUMMER OF WEREDOG AND AMY: Dogs are so much nicer than men. But a dog who turns into a man once a month, that's not so bad.
WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE: The scary side of gentrification
WE SUMMONED A DEMON: If you're gonna play with magic spells, learn to do 'em right, dammit!

You too can laugh it up when this plays again on Saturday in Redwood City and Sunday at the Hammer Theater.

Then back to the lounge for a few more drinks before ENTHUSIASTIC SINNERS. Now I'll admit, my enthusiastic drinking got the better of me, and I kinda snoozed through this movie. Which is a shame, because there's a lot of nudity and sex in it. That's really all I remember. Apparently there's a story about a married cop and a widow who have a lustful day that might end in them actually liking each other. But the important part is all the nudity. Viva la Skinequest!

You can enthusiastically sin when is plays again on Tuesday and Friday in Redwood City, or next Saturday at the 3 Below.

Then Skinequest continued with SNAPSHOTS, a sexy story of three generation of women. The legendary Piper Laurie plays Rose, the matriarch of the family (played in flashbacks by Shannon Collis.) Her daughter and granddaughter are visiting her lake house, and each carrying some relationship issues secret. Turns out, keeping secrets goes way back in this family, as some rediscovered old photographs reveal. Seems like back in the 60s, Rose and her husband Joe were very good friends with the neighbors, Zee (Brett Dier) and Louise (Emily Goss, a returning Cinequester from THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET--Cinequest 2015.) In fact, Rose and Louise were very much more than friends. Louise was a bold, brash woman of the 60s, and taught Rose quite a bit about love. But it was a different time, they were both married, and the thought of leaving their husbands was just not possible. So they had a brief affair, and while they went their own ways, the memories and the snapshots remained, and while they were secret for 50 years, when they're brought out they can offer some wisdom and insight into the complexities of love in every generation.

This plays again Saturday and Sunday in Redwood City.

The I had time for a quick bite and a drink at the VIP soiree at the Fountain restaurant in the Fairmont. Then to the magnificent California Theater movie palace for YOU CAN'T SAY NO, a comedy about how love ends...or maybe doesn't fully. Hank and Alexandra (Hus Miller and Marguerite Moreau) had a good run--14 years and a couple of kids. But it's just not fun anymore, so they're getting a divorce. Hank takes a road trip up to Sonoma to visit his wine-drinking, pot-smoking, eccentric father (Peter Fonda.) Alex takes her own trip, but soon sees Hank stranded on the side of the road. Sometimes fate plays funny tricks like that. So with the kids shuttled off to stay with family, they have a little time to themselves, and decide to play a game. That game is, "you can't say no." I mean, they're clearly not getting back together (right?) but at least they can recapture a little bit of the fun-loving, spontaneous spirit that they once had. Well, wacky hijinx ensue, but maybe the game is just as bad for them as their marriage was. But it's fun while it lasts. As long as no one does something crazy like jump off a bridge.

You can play the game, too, since it plays again Tuesday and Friday in Redwood City, and you can't say no.

Next up I stayed in the California for SEEDS, a psychological thriller/horror film set in New England. Marcus (Trevor Long) has gotten a little too far into drunken debauchery (thank God that hasn't happened to me yet. Worst I do is get drunk and fall asleep in movies.) So he's holing up in his family home, looking for a little solitude and maybe get his life back together. It doesn't really work out when his brother asks him to look after nephew and niece. Which he tries to do, but there's a monster infecting him. I mean, maybe it literally is a monster growing inside him, taking him over. But maybe it's all in his head. The tension is excellent, as this is a film that builds and builds, with the horror elements coming as well-timed punctuation. This one I think will grow in my brain for a wild before I decide how much I like it.

This plays again Monday at 3:15 in Redwood City. Hey that's really soon. Go run see it now! Also next Friday night, again in Redwood City.

And finally I ended the night with a little demonic possession and TELL ME YOUR NAME. Inspired by true event, Ashley (Sydney Sweeney) is mourning her mother and has moved in with her aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth.) She still sees her mother, and she opens up to her best friend (Madison Lintz) about it. A seance gone wrong leads to something far worse. It seems not only is she possessed, but she unwittingly invited the demon in. So we're in exorcist territory, especially after a pretty shocking scene in a church. Reverend Michael (Bruce Davison) takes the role of lead exorcist, assisted by young Pastor John (Matt Dallas.) The title comes from the concept that knowing the demon's name is key to defeating him. But if the demon was invited in, all the commanding in the name of Jesus Christ won't work, he's got the power over her soul now. Well done, solidly scary horror film.

You can get demonically possessed by this film as it plays again Monday at 1 pm in Redwood City (yikes! too late!) and Saturday night, also in Redwood City.

Then it was all over except for the drinking back in the hotel room until security broke up the party around 4 am.

And that's how you do a Cinequest Saturday.

Total Running Time: 552 minutes
My Total Minutes: 472,348

Jason Goes to Cinequest--Day 4

Well, the big first weekend of Cinequest is in the books, I guess I should get to writing about it. Let's see how well I remember any of it. After checking into my hotel, I had a quick beverage (or several) in the lounge, then on to the soiree at Mosaic for some serious drinking.

Finally I made it to a film, TOMMY BATTLES THE SILVER SEA DRAGON. A wild and inventive musical about guilt and inner demons. Tommy Silver (director/writer/star Luke Shirock) is on trial. Well, sort of, he's on trial in his mind, where he has manifested his judge and jury. In particularly, he's battling the guilt over the circumstances of his mother's death. And this is really fucking up his relationship with his girlfriend Carolyn (Celine Held.) Oh, and did I mention it's a musical? And it's a beautiful, kinda insane fantastical trip? Well, it is.

And it plays again next Thursday night at the Hammer Theatre and on Sunday at Redwood City.

And then I caught YOU AND ME, a beautiful romantic comedy of differences. Ella (Hillary Baack) is a sweet, beautiful writer. Oh, and she happens to be deaf, but is great at reading lips. Tony (Paul Guyet) was  recently blinded in an accident. But he tries to keep a positive outlook on life, and not let his disability affect him. Of course, Ella knows a bit about that. So they become friends. They go out on a few dates. And we get to watch it unfold, with all the human vulnerability and sweetness. I love how these characters have their disabilities, but it never defines them. They're fully realized, well-rounded characters with strengths (especially their humor, which IMO is the best strength to have) and weaknesses. And it's just beautiful. I'm not crying, you're crying! Shut up!

If you wanna feel the love, it plays again next Tuesday in Redwood City and Friday at the classic movie palace, The California Theater.

Then it was time for some Mindbender shorts
ARCANE: It bent my mind when a women interrogated for murder tells a story of the creature who did it. Or maybe the guy was a creep and attempted rapist who got what he deserved.
CARGO: It bent my mind with all that dancing.
CONTACT: it bent my mind when the idyllic pastoral scene changed, and we started learning what's actually going on.
DEFUNCTIONARY: It bent my mind learning what a hilarious and terribly run bureaucracy limbo is.
FILIPPA: It bent my mind when a simple game of hide and seek turned super dark.
IMMERSION: It bent my mind when that guy woke up to see a couple of dead guys and a briefcase full of money.
INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY: It bent my mind how a man tested the artificial intelligence of self-driving cars.
PIE: It bent my mind what's really in that pie.
STEVE'S KINKOES: It bent my mind how much making copies can give a guy with a lost (and dead) cat a lot of comfort. Maybe too much comfort.
STRANGERS: It bent my mind with all the crazy, imaginative stuff going on in this wordless film.
VALENTINA: It bent my mind when it was so damn hot that the maid's vagina rebelled and demanded some relief. The climate change revolution will be led by suffocated vaginas.
YOSHUA: It bent my mind how a team of kids from South Central LA harbored an illegal alien.  A big, blue, furry alien. He was cute.

You can get your mind bent as well, when this shorts block plays again on Monday (hey, that's later today!) in Redwood City, or Friday at 3 Below, or Saturday back in Redwood City.

Total Running Time: 305 minutes
My Total Minutes: 471,796