Initially I hadn’t planned on trying to see anything that started in the 4:00 hour, figuring it’d be too tight to get there from work, but when I actually did the math, I realized I could get to work like half an hour early and that would leave me plenty of time, since the theatre is so close. Tested the time on Tuesday with a not-too-early 4:40pm screening, and sure enough, it was an easy twenty minutes from sitting at my desk to sitting in the theatre. And with the early screenings not as full as the evening ones, getting a good seat was still pretty simple. So I got to add four more screenings to my schedule. Yay!
Especially yay because the first one I decided to add is precisely the film I was hoping to find here, a low-budget iiiiindie to fall in love with and throw my voice (however small it might be) behind. And to think I almost didn’t add it to my schedule. (Every time I say that I do wonder how many of the other films I actually didn’t add to my schedule are just as amazing, and I may never know.) The Dynamiter isn’t a film I’d ordinarily look twice at, with its small-town Southern setting, coming-of-age story, and general sense of low-income Americana. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they tend not to appeal to me personally. But something about the description of this one, or the still illustrating it in the film guide, kept me glancing back to it. But choosing low-budget, non-actor, first-time director films can be a crapshoot, and even heading into it, I was thinking, oh, should I switch to something else… But I stuck with it, and I was charmed within ten minutes, and in love by half way through. It finds the lyricism in the story, but never becomes pretentious, and the three non-actors leading the cast are wonderfully naturalistic, but most of all, the script and direction handle the subject with incredible humanity, making you care deeply about the main character, a 14-year-old boy thrust into manhood and caring for his family, in the all-too-brief runtime. My full review is on Row Three.
It was tough to break the mood set by The Dynamiter to go into an action crime movie like Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within, but such are the vagaries of festival scheduling. I will admit, though, that that unwillingness to leave The Dynamiter may have played a part in my reaction to Elite Squad 2. Having heard great things about the original, a crime film set in the favelas of Brazil, my expectations were high, and while the film was good, it just wasn’t great to me. It focuses a lot more on the politics of corrupt cops and politicians than the action on the streets, which is not a bad thing (and I did like it more after the director explained a bit about the politics of the film in relation to the actual politics – most of the film is based on real events, just molded and transformed into a bit more narrative-friendly form), but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The action scenes that are here have a great driving soundtrack, and…fall prey to many of the same quick-editing pitfalls that American action films do. I was hoping its foreign origin would protect from that but I guess it’s becoming widespread elsewhere as well. Anyway. It’s still quite a good film, and from what I’ve read since, the first film actually is what I was hoping for, so I’ll probably try to catch that soon. And I will try this one again when I’m more in the right mood and not quite as tired.
I very nearly decided to go home and get some sleep after Elite Squad 2, but the last film on my schedule for Tuesday was a remake of a ’70s Japanese TV show about young Daimon and his motorcycle, which can turn into a karate-wielding robot on command. It looked utterly over-the-top and ridiculous, which is exactly what I need from a film fest 10pm slot (at least if there’s no midnight timeslot). So I stayed, and yes, Karate-Robo Zaborgar is just as ridiculous and awesome as it sounds. More plot: the evil doctor is trying to build a giant, world-killing cyborg, for which he needs the DNA of various politicians, so he sends his android Miss Borg after them. But Daimon and Zaborgar are out to stop him, and all the other scantily-clad, rocket-powered cyborgs he sends after them. And it just gets crazier from there. It was a ton of fun, and just what I needed to finish out the night.
The festival is half done at this point, five days down, five to go. Twelve films down, thirteen to go.