Sunday, June 1, 2014

SIFF Reflections and Reviews Week 1: May 20 - May 26

I've fallen way behind in my SIFF 2014 reviews over these past couple of weeks. I've seen some amazing films and I hope they come your way in a small art-house theater or on Netflix in the near future.

3 Mile Limit - New Zealand
A sweet film set in 1965 New Zealand that tells the true story of Radio Hauraki, the pirate radio station that was started by a handful of dedicated friends and rock-n-roll fans who fought the New Zealand government who controlled the airwaves with an iron fist at that time. I was totally unfamiliar with this story and found the film quite delightful.

We Are The Best - Sweden
Set in 1982 Stockholm, the awesome coming-of-age story of three teenage outcast girls who form an all-girl punk band and whose friendship bonds them as family. Uplifting and exhilarating; every girl between the age of 12 and 82 should see this movie. The three young leads are amazing.

Mystery Road - Australia
A dark, moody, well done murder mystery, tackling the tough subject of racial tensions in modern-day Queensland. Combining aspects of a classic Western with a police procedural, this tight thriller keeps you engaged. The first of 3 films this festival for me that featured Hugo Weaving in a major role. He's having a good SIFF. Aboriginal actor Aaron Pedersen in the lead role as Detective Jay Swan was a revelation. Where has this tall drink of water been all my life?!

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed - Spain
Hands down, one of my favorite films of this year's festival. This is a heartwarming, lovely comedy set in 1966 southern Spain. It tells the story of Antonio, a high-school English teacher in Madrid who uses lyrics from Beatles' songs to teach his kids and considers himself somewhat of a super-fan. When Antonio finds out that John Lennon is filming a movie in the coastal town of Almeria, Antonio sets out in his little Fiat to meet his hero and tell him just how much his music has made an impact on his students. Along the way he picks up two different hitchhikers, a young pregnant woman, and a runaway teen boy. This is one of those films that sums up why I bother going to SIFF every year - I would never be exposed to a wonderful film like this otherwise. Fingers crossed that Netflix eventually picks it up.

International Male - Various countries
A collection of short films focusing on gay men, ranging in subject, content, genre, and quality. My faves were probably the US "Dragula" featuring an unrecognizable and wonderful Barry Bostwick as an aging LA drag queen, and the Iranian "Aban + Khorsid" a heartbreaking story of a gay couple killed because of their love.

The Turning - Australia
An ambitious, groundbreaking, spectacle - 18 different short stories that are woven together into this staggering piece of work. Featuring pretty much every Australian actor working in the industry today. Hugo Weaving (drink!), Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts...a million others. Not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. This will definitely be coming to your local art-house theater this summer.

The Amazing Catfish - Mexico
A touching family drama introducing us to Claudia a lonely young woman without any family who is hospitalized for appendicitis and there meets Martha, a single mother of 4 in her mid-forties who is dying of AIDS. A fast friendship and a close maternal bond forms between Martha and Claudia, with Martha recognizing that Claudia needs her family, and that Claudia may be the solution that they need to go on making it as a family after Martha dies. I had a hard time connecting emotionally to this film, although it had all of the ingredients to hook me, it just never did. I'd still recommend it though.

Remote Control - Mongolia
Every year, I try to see at least one SIFF film from a country that I've never seen a film from. This year, one of these entries was this drama about a young man who runs away from his rural village and attempts to eek out an existence in the big city. The description in the SIFF catalog did not at all accurately describe this movie's story. I'm still on the fence about it. My friend Ross really liked it; and we managed to discuss it for like 40 minutes afterwards in a coffee shop, so maybe that's what good film is all about.

I Am Big Bird: The Carrol Spivey Story - USA
Unlike previous years, this SIFF I've only seen 2 documentaries. This one about the puppeteer for Oscar the Grouch and the man who has worn the Big Bird framed costume for almost 5 decades was a real gem. Carroll Spivey attended the screening with his lovely wife and was so entertaining. AND he brought Oscar!! It was so great to see my favorite "Sesame Street" character up close. Yes, of course Oscar the Grouch is my favorite. Have you met me?

The Healing - Australia
Completing my Hugo Weaving SIFF trifecta was this moody little movie about a prisoner who learns about redemption and rehabilitation from taking care of birds at a minimum security prison in Melbourne. Everyone in my audience seemed to enjoy this film more than I did. It wasn't terrible; it was just "fine".

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