Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BUFF Day 3: My Normal, Love on the Rocks, and Red White & Blue

I didn't look to make theme days when I attend film festivals (in fact, I sort of try to avoid it so that films don't run together), but sometimes it just happens. Friday night, well, there wasn't much avoiding a sort of grindhouse theme. On Monday, Asylum Seekers and Stuck! just happened to both be about getting locked up, more or less.

Saturday wound up having a common thread of people getting tied up. For fun in My Normal, for more nefarious purposes in Love on the Rocks and Red White & Blue. Having that happen was kind of distracting, actually - all that intense stuff is going on during the last movie, and I find myself groaning "more people getting tied up? I don't think I've seen this much in the last three months!"

Another sort-of, kind-of amusing thing was how, during the introduction to Red White & Blue, director Simon Rumley goes on and on about Austin. Jeez, guy, if I'd wanted to hear that, I'd have gone to SXSW! This is Boston, buster, and we don't care!

I kid. Sort of. One of the things I took away from my trip to Austin last year was that Austinites really love Austin. I think it's a very specific manifestation of how Texans really love Texas. Practically the first question at any screening was "so, how do you like Austin? Awesome, right?", and if any part of the film was shot there, "so, just how awesome was shooting in Austin, and do you plan to shoot any or all of your next movie here?"

(I'm only exaggerating a little. There's civic pride, and there's this. Just push it a little harder, and you're New Yorkers)

"Valerie Sells Her Panties Online"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #4 (Boston Underground Film Festival, digital video)

A fairly funny movie from student filmmaker Valerie Temple, which is about the building of this actual website, although in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way. I missed the first minute or so of this 11-minute short, but what I did see was pretty entertaining. Sadly, during the Q&A, she informed us that in the year or two that the site has been up, she has not sold a single pair of used panties.

As evidence that this part of the film festival was designed to pander to me specifically, it plays as part of a "cute redhead" double feature with...

My Normal

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #4 (Boston Underground Film Festival, digital video)

My Normal is thoroughly enjoyable, but I've got to be honest: It might come off as just another talky indie/mumblecore film if half the cast of characters were not lesbian dominatrices.

Take Natalie (Nicole LaLiberte); she's a lesbian dominatrix (he said, in case search engines don't recognize the plural). As the film opens, she and a couple of her friends and co-workers (Naama Kates and Maine Anders) are doing a little role-playing with Jim (Heath Kelts). She's not damaged; she regularly has family dinners with her mother and sister (Katie Wallack), though her grandmother doesn't get that fixing Natalie up with boys won't get her anywhere. She doesn't necessarily want to be a dom all her life; she's studying film and writing a screenplay with her neighbor/ganja dealer Noah (Ty Jones). And she's just met Jasmine (Dawn Noel Pignuola), a nice girl who is a little uncomfortable with Natalie's job.

As one might guess from the title, the filmmakers aren't particularly looking to take Natalie to task for the way she lives her life. In the abstract, that's fine and laudable; that life appears to be comfortable and not hurting anybody, including Natalie herself. The film does suffer for it in some ways, though: Sparks by and large fail to fly when Natalie's normal comes into conflict with someone else's. Either things quickly work out for the best or the issue dies out. There is, for instance, no real back-and-forth between Natalie and Jasmine over how Natalie's job makes Jasmine uneasy. Given that, at some points, Jasmine is painted more sympathetically than Natalie (due to a subplot that could be made more clear), it's a conversation that both they and the audience deserve.

Full review at eFilmCritic

"You Ruined Everything"

* * (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #3 (Boston Underground Film Festival, digital video)

Awww, poor mopey guy has been dumped and now mopes about it.

It looks like it has potential early on, with the photography reminiscent of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, so maybe the idea is that this guy's ex-girlfriend really did, somehow, cause the end of the world by breaking up with him. But, no, soon we see it's just a guy feeling sorry for himself, acting like a jerk and deliver pretentious narration about how his break-up has allowed him to create something artistic and meaningful.


Love on the Rocks

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #3 (Boston Underground Film Festival, digital video)

There are many varieties of "edgy", but most can fit within two broad categories: Those that make a mainstream viewer say "ewwwww!" and those that make that same mainstream viewer say "what the hell?". There is, as one would imagine, some overlap, such as in films like Love on the Rocks. This one's got a fair amount of ewwwww before making its major WTH detour.

Amber (Lauren Jennings) is a nice girl. She's been dating Gavin (Nicholas Tecosky) for four and a half years before he dumps her because he wants to play the field, and has probably put up with being taken for granted for nearly that long. Still, a blind date with Patrick (Justin Welborn) goes well, and soon they're seeing each other. After a while, though, she's just not feeling it, but has a hard time breaking up with him. Which may be a blessing in disguise, because Patrick is very clingy, and has a basement full of the corpses of women with whom it didn't work out.

Love on the Rocks starts with Patrick "ending a relationship", but the murders are only a part of the movie's thesis. That would be that neither men nor women are capable of a healthy relationship, because they tend toward certain basic personality types: Men are either monsters like Patrick, or ruled by their animal instincts like Gavin. Women don't come off much better; Amber is a doormat afraid of relationship failure, but women like her best friend and roommate Stacie (Terri James) - and the pop-psychology author she swears by (Noelle Monteleone) - don't seem to consider men their equals, but animals to control.

Full review at eFilmCritic

Red White & Blue

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 March 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #3 (Boston Underground Film Festival)

Red White & Blue takes its time messing the audience up. Even the big event that pulls everything together takes a few scenes to really sink in, as we connect just what's been going on with a growing horror. For the most part, that works to director Simon Rumley's advantage, until the movie has gone from a slow burn to a prolonged end.

Erica (Amanda Fuller) is living on the margins in Austin; maybe she's a runaway. Right now, she's trading chores for a room in a boarding house, though she spends a lot of single nights in random men's beds. Nate (Noah Taylor) is an Iraq War veteran in the same place, and takes an interest in Erica, getting her a job at the local building and supply when the landlady starts insisting she pay rent. She won't sleep with him, though. And Franki (Marc Senter) is a garage musician whom we don't see much until after we've gotten to know Erica and Nate, although he does show up earlier. Things are finally starting to happen with his band, he's ready to get serious with his girl, and his mother's cancer seems to be going into remission. And then...

Well, the "and then" is something that's a giant kick to the gut under the best of circumstances. Then we connect it to a line from earlier in the film, and realize the situation is much worse than we'd thought, and could be worse still. Which it is, because from this point on, Rumley is intent on taking what we'd been seeing as decent, if flawed, people and shows us just what sort of ugliness tragedy can bring out in them. And, fair warning, that ugliness is not for the weak of heart.

Full review at eFilmCritic

1 comment:

mozi premierek said...

I thought the movie You ruined everything is good, is it a love story?