Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mercedes, Mexicans and Miracle Fish

Day 3 was madness. Once again our team split up for maximum coverage. Adam took in the Japanese Vacation; the very American "To Live and Die in LA" shorts; and the jam-packed, standing-room only 16 To Life--by far the best-attended feature to date. Adam reports on some fine acting from their young cast, and solid storytelling by director Becky Smith.

On the shorts: Adam says they lived up to their thematic grouping. Deeply immersed in the L.A. experience, these were tales of industry people struggling with industry jobs and the toll taken on their non-industry families. A notable and joyous exception was "Dockweiler", which was about two dudes picking up trash on the beach. (Actually, it was a layered, character-driven piece about the struggle between redemption and rage.) Special mention should also be given to “Animated American”, a painstakingly crafted love note to the dying art of hand-drawn animation.

Katie, meanwhile, hit Taking the WaeWae Express (New Zealand) and the "Growing Pains" shorts, which contained her two favorite pieces yet: Luke Doolan’s "Miracle Fish" and Destin Cretton’s "Short Term 12". Both these films screened at Sundance previously-- no surprise given their surehanded styles and unimpeachable quality. "Fish", a visual masterwork from Australia, follows a solitary eight-year-old on his birthday as he discovers his school mysteriously deserted. Spare, haunting, yet utterly crisp, it kept the audience riveted frame to frame. Cretton’s semi-autobiographical "12" was a messier affair but no less fascinating: a guidance counselor at a teen halfway house struggles with maintaining order in the broken world of his young charges. Unsentimental but deeply empathetic, there was not one false note struck.
Nicholas, meanwhile, had great things to say about the Mexican feature Teo's Journey, about a 10-year old who gets separated from his father at a border crossing. Next was the World Premiere of A Deal Is A Deal, starring Mackenzie Crook of “The Office” fame (U.K. version). Deal sported some sterling performances from its pedigreed British cast (Colm Meany, Imelda Staunton, and Quantum of Solace’s Gemma Arterton), anchored by the eminently watchable Crook.

But, of course, none of us have yet learned how to divide ourselves into two or three people, so there were a couple heartbreaker decisions. We’re upset we missed Russo-Young’s You Won’t Miss Me starring Stella Schnabel, given the glowing reviews from other filmmakers. Adam and Katie met the lovely team behind Fiona’s Script, only to learn that their film had been cruelly scheduled opposite the juggernaut Mercedes-Benz gala, held at the Method Fest corporate sponsors' Calabasas dealership. (Fiona’s people: we’re sorry we didn’t make it!)

That said, the party itself was pretty darn entertaining. All the gals got dressed to the nines-- Katie wore something besides jeans for the first time since she got to LA--and we got to see a little of that famous L.A. plastic surgery on parade. The boys, meanwhile, ran the gamut from sharp suits (Adam) to stylishly scruffy (Nicholas). Impoverished indie filmmakers sipping free drinks amidst Benzes they couldn’t in five lifetimes afford to buy-- if that’s not a metaphor of some sort, we don’t know what is. Bottoms up!

Stay tuned, because the next entry will be a doozy: the main event: when If You Could Say It In Words takes its Method Fest bow!

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