Saturday, November 14, 2009

Film Festival: day 2

Here are the Festival's film synopsis, followed by my comments, for the films I saw yesterday.

Fruit Fly
Composer and co-star of the indie hit Colma: The Musical, H.P. Mendoza returns with his directorial debut, FruitFly, an hysterical new musical about finding yourself and finding your (chosen) family. Fruit Fly tells the story of Bethesda, a Filipina performance artist searching for her identity and struggling to establish her career. Upon arriving in San Francisco, Bethesda moves into an artist commune and quickly befriends the eclectic group of gay, lesbian, and straight housemates who have made a sort of rag-tag family there. In the musical tradition –and to hilarious effect - the characters reflect on their lives, speak their minds and open their hearts through the film’s 19 original songs all composed by Mendoza. Pop to its core, and more fun than you can shake a stick at, Fruit Fly is a fun, frolicking and sparkly (of course) musical love letter to San Francisco, or whatever place you call home.

With a synopsis like that, I expected to be blown away by this film, but I wasn't. I was cute and many of the lyrics were really funny, but this film felt like a car that just couldn't get out of 2nd gear. There was nice eye candy and of course San Francisco is gorgeous, but I had higher hopes than this film was able to deliver. On a scale of 1-5 I gave it a 3.

Edie and Thea
Through the lens of documentarians Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir comes the true tale of two stunning, smart, vivacious women, whose endearing love story unfolds amid the historical backdrop of the Stonewall riots in the 1960s and continues over 43 years, including the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, and the emergence of the Marriage Equality Movement. Engaged not only in their personal relationship, but in the larger social, civil and legal recognition of love, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer share their journey of possibilities and of actualized dreams ... of hope and of change ... that will inspire and challenge all who view the film to look
within their own hearts and likewise raise their voices for equality. Through still images, interviews, and live action, the story of Edie and Thea, demonstrates the best of the human heart, and reminds each of us to embrace who we are and what we have and to make the most of it. The film is more than a story about two people; it is the story of life and commitment, of humanity and equality.

I found this documentary and its 2 'stars' to be charming. It is always interesting to hear about how gays and lesbians socialized and how couples met before Stonewall. Although different in many ways, these 2 ladies were a perfect match for each other and lived a lifetime of love. On a scale of 1-5 I give this a 4.

The Burning Plain
In his debut feature as director, Guillermo Arriaga builds on the multi-threaded approach to storytelling he brought to his previous scripts (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) to create an engrossing, interconnected study of guilt and consequences across three generations. Shuttling back and forth through time and space, from oppressive, steel-gray Oregon skies to sweeping New Mexico terrain, the film allows its audience to judge each narrative strand as it emerges and develops, before quietly weaving the stories together. Three compelling performances carry the film forward, backward, and sideways. Charlize Theron,Kim Basinger, and teenager Jennifer Lawrence each command the emotional center of their respective worlds. All three are subtle and sophisticated in their characterization, but gradually their emotionalties become apparent. Far from being a formal exercise designed to elicit widespread head-scratching from the audience, The Burning Plain is an affecting and subtle examination of love, guilt, and family. Lush cinematography, along with standout performances, contribute to an already-accomplished writer’s powerful first feature.

I thought this film was brilliant. I love films which appear to contain unrelated storylines, only to eventually weave all the characters and stories together. I found the acting to be honest and superb. This is definitely a film to add to your Netflix queue. On a scale of 1-5 I would give this film a 6 if I could.

Out in the Silence
Out in the Silence captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when the announcement of filmmaker Joe Wilson’s wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy in his small PA hometown. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson’s journey dramatically illustrates the universal challenges of being an outsider in a conservative environment and the transformation that is possible when those who have long been constrained by a traditional code of silence summon the courage to break it.

This documentary was moderately interesting, only because of the way it was told. It seemed to be an all too familiar story: small-minded, religious bigotry thrives in rural towns. Although Wilson was able to make some inroads with a local clergyman and his wife, this seemed a drop in the bucket compared to highly-organized conservatives who make up the majority there. The film's teenage 'star' also seemed to need some coaching in being a trailblazer. On a scale of 1-5 I gave this film a 3.

Baby Love
This highly romantic comedy-drama explores one man’s insistent need to become a father and its toll on his relationships. French style and wit permeate this wonderful tale of gay parenting in which pediatrician Manu yearns for a child of his own, but his partner Philippe will have nothing to do with it, content in his child-free life. But despite Philippe’s objections, Manu attempts to adopt a child. In a country where same-sex civil unions are legal but gay marriage and adoption are not, the agency turns down Manu’s request to adopt. When Philippe finds out that Manu acted behind his back, they separate. Unconcerned about anything but finding a woman to act as a surrogate and provide him with a child, Manu seeks the attention
of Fina, an illegal Argentine, eventually marrying her for the benefit of each. As their life together begins to assume the domesticity of a traditional married couple, complications surrounding the prospect of having a child arise, causing Manu to rely on Philippe’s assistance.

I really enjoyed this film. The 2 male leads were very handsome and I love the sound of French. However, it struck me odd that when the couple separated there was no talk about 'love' or the length of time they'd been together. It seemed there should have been some conversation about how the one guy's need for a child was going to alter or end their relationship. Fortunately the writer successfully wove sufficient comedy into the drama to keep this film from becoming too heavy. On a scale of 1-5 I gave this film a 5.

Crush du Jour: Andrew Paterini

1 comment:

behrmark said...

On a scale of 1-5 I give Crush du Jour Andrew Paterini a 10. WOWZA! Okay that aside, I look forward to adding your recommendations to my Netflix queue. Thanks Mark! And Behr Hugs to you and Spouse! (Pouncer too!)