Picked my press pass up on the way from work Monday, got out of work with plenty of time to spare on Wednesday, and saw (most of) the usual suspects doing their thing while waiting in line. Still, there just seemed to be something missing...
THEREMIN! I mean, how can you call it a party until someone is making music by waving their hands through an invisible electromagnetic field?
Seriously, I love Jon Bernhardt's stone-faced-even-when-going-nuts performance on this unique instrument. There was a bit of an awkward pause as he got to the end of his set list before the festival crew was ready to really get things started - but soon enough door prizes were being thrown at the audience and it was time for the movie to start, then finish, and make way for a Q&A.
Megna Chakrabarti & Ira Glass
I'm not a big listener to NPR; my exposure to the radio is basically (1) Red Sox games and (2) the brief moments of talk radio that my alarm clock plays to motivate me to get up, cross the room, and turn it off. After all, it's not like I've got a car, and do people listen the radio anywhere else? I kind of suspect I wouldn't be a big fan of Glass anyway, because I kind of found him annoying during the Q&A. A funny guy at times, but sometimes a person in one of these things will have a set of things he wants to say and he'll do that rather than respond to questions directly. He also had this thing where he would interrupt the audience member to repeat his question to the rest of the audience, and then go off on a tangent even before the question was finished. Good information, but weird presentation.
Also - it doesn't affect me that much as a guy with a pass, but it always amazes me how the first show of the festival, the only thing in that theater at all, can wind up delayed 35 minutes before introductions even start, but the rest of the festival when they've got five films running at once can run relatively smoothly. If I were buying tickets to individual shows, opening night would have me in sheer panic about getting to see the rest.
Sleepwalk with Me
* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 April 2012 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston 2012, digital)
Sleepwalk with Me may not have a large built-in audience, but fans of writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia and the National Public Radio segments from which this movie evolved may be the exact right niche for an independent film like this to have; who's going to be more aware of its existence or ready to see it in theaters? They likely won't be disappointed by how it translates to the big screen, and the good news is that it's both funny and substantial enough to appeal to a larger audience.
Matt (Birbiglia) and Abby (Lauren Ambrose) have been dating for eight years, since meeting in college, and in that time they haven't exactly wound up where they expected: Matt aspires to be a comedian but is still tending bar; Abby is a vocal coach instead of a rock star. Still, they're pretty comfortable after moving into a new place together, at least until Mike's sister gets engaged and everyone, especially his parents (James Rebhorn & Carol Kane) starts asking when they'll finally tie the knot. That he starts sleepwalking right about then probably isn't a great sign.
Birbiglia has been honing this autobiographical material for a while, presenting it as part of his act, stories on NPR's "This American Life", and as a one-man show. There are plenty of remnants of those other media in the finished product, as Birbiglia tends to address his audience directly; he opens and closes the movie with Matt in a car, addressing the audience as if they're sitting in the passenger seat, jumping back there on occasion for an aside or a little bit of explanation. Sometimes this narration can seem a little on the nose (following "that's my mom, she does this" with his mom doing that), but telling stories is the thing that Birbiglia does well, and it would almost be wasteful to insist that someone with that sort of skill limit himself to just acting as if the camera wasn't there.
Full review at EFC.