So begins the rest of my coverage of the Savannah Film Festival! (About time) Getting sick slap in the middle of the Fest really fucked my writing schedule (spent every extra moment sleeping). The Fest has closed and things have calmed down, so the coverage flows once again! The first batch of articles can be found here:
Part Three (Brett Ratner Edition)
Day One (The Wrestler)
Day Two (Malcolm McDowell Day!)
…and the rest of the Fest will be covered over the course of this week.
The first weekday was pretty big for me; I started the day with the excellent documentary The Brothers Warner, went through a massive batch of short films, and ended with Happy-Go-Lucky. Here we go:
2008 – Dir: Cass Warner
The Brothers Warner is a fantastic, if relatively standard documentary about the rise of a monolithic studio. Like Hollywood: An Empire of Their Own (aka Hollywoodism), it details the rise of Hollywood, under the incubation of the Jewish immigrants who would eventually shape and control all of the studios. The experience of the four Warner brothers gives this documentary it’s unique lens into the history of Hollywood. More interestingly, the Director/Producer/Narrator, Cass Warner, gives the film its unique voice about the family history of the four brothers. This family perspective allows for a pretty intimate look into the infamous… *achem* dynamics of the four brothers.
This intimacy comes later though, as the first half of the doc tells the fairly standard story of ambitious 1st generation American Jews getting into the moving pictures business. It paints a picture of a risk-taking studio that was willing to experiment with both sound and social issues. A grand portrait is painted of the cutting edge films that helped change hearts and minds towards action in WWII, as well as encourage racial and class tolerance in general.
The latter half of the film is painted by Cass Warner’s (openly admitted) loyalty to Harry W. Jack W., with his inexplicably betrayal of his brother in their later years and other acts jackassery, is looked upon with a palpable bitterness. While there is a touch of familial pity for a man was so obviously troubled, it’s obvious Cass holds a deep grudge against Jack, on behalf of her grandfather.
While the story is one well known to anyone possessing familiarity with the history of Hollywood, the deeper family touch really makes this doc worthwhile.
Short Film A Go-Go!
Between the two Showcase blocks, I watched about a dozen short films on Monday- about half of them SCAD films. Some were undeniably great, others sucked, and some didn’t stick with me at all, but here are a few of the shorts that I thought truly stood out…
2007 – Dir: Wyatt Garfield, Ed Yonaitis
This short has been the talk of the SCAD town for awhile, and I finally got to see why. Often student films are betrayed by their budget, and seem a little rough around the edges. I have no idea what kind of budget they dealt with, but this SCAD-short had no such problems. This iw a fantastic looking piece, backed by a strong story. Running at 8 minutes, Solomon appears to exist as one shot (though it is grafted together from several, with hidden cuts), and this makes it a very tight, anxiety-inducing little film.
Essentially, an execution goes wrong when the power to the chair blips during the electrocution. The warden is forced to deal with a situation where no solution, right or wrong, is clear. The moral and the message are ambiguous, but this film has powerful questions to ask. I enjoyed every second of it, and you should definitely take a look.
This short has shown at Sundance, SXSW, CANNES, among others. It’s won awards at several of them, and nearly swept SCAD’s shorts awards- I definitely know why. It’s available on iTunes, and you Check out the website here.
2007 – Dir: Harun Mehmedinovic
This student film come from AFI money, and it shows. Incredibly well produced and shot, if occasionally over-flashy, it looks beautiful. This is all backed up by a fantastic script, solid acting, and confident direction. The story is about a Bosnian soldier who has immigrated to America following his involvement in the war. A man who once spared his life comes back asking for a pretty serious favor. It plays with some ideas of guilt and forgiveness, but it’s most powerful ideas are the ones dealing with peace. The film runs on the premise that men on both sides of a bloody conflict can bury the hatchet, and move on. This is a message we certainly need to hear more often.
2007 – Dir: Matt Boman
In my observances of film students, there tends to be a very powerful drive to steer away from “cliched” experiment, and go directly for edgy drama. I believe modern film students fear that they will be more quickly dismissed if they make something strange, and instead try to produce things more traditionally dramatic. You get a lot of violence, drama, and seriousness, but it often feels like I don’t see enough weird shit. While I have no interest in oddity for the sake of it, I do love to look for things that are expressive in a personal way. Fortunately the SCAD short, On Homeostasis, came around and delivered a short that was funny, energetic, and delightfully weird.
On Homeostasis deals with the good ole 1999 theme of mundanity and the desire to break out of the cubicle. I don’t really want to ruin any of the truly interesting images, but the short goes a lot of interesting places. The imagery actually seems to be a child of The Fountain, but it turns out the Director hadn’t seen it until halfway through Homeostasis’ Post-Production**. Even the music felt liked it shared some elements with The Fountain’s score, but the composer had never heard of Mansell**.
I had some fantastic conversations with the director. He’s a great guy and I hope he gets some attention for his work. I encourage you to take a look at his pretty fucking nifty demo-reel here. His website doesn’t appear to be working, but feel free to give it a shot.
**Both wrongs I encouraged them to right.
2008 – Dir: Mark Leigh
From Mike Leigh (Vera Drake) we get the most chipper goddamned movie ever made!
Following a woman with a unique look on the world, you’ll find yourself thinking she’s the cutest thing on the planet, or wanting to stab her with the sharpest object you can find. I must give Sally Hawkins credit, as she tread a thin line between cute and obnoxious and, for most viewers, she stays consistently enjoyable for the whole movie.
If you can manage to watch her and retain your sanity, Poppy’s life seems pretty ordinary; she’s a school teacher who lives with her best friend. Poppy is an incessantly positive rock from which the arcs of several other characters develop. Her flat-mate and her driving instructor are the two we see the most from, and it is their insecurities and problem that are often so fascinating when reflected off of Poppy’s consistency.
This movie has a Ferris Bueller quality to it, considering the lead character never really changes, and this could be off-putting to some. Poppy exists as one of those people that many are inclined to hate, and it is the small hateful jealousies of others that prove so interesting. I happen to think Poppy serves as an example of how happy we could all be if we could learn to take nothing personally and enjoy the simple things as we float through our lives.
A good, busy day for sure! More to come, and thanks for reading!
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