The Atlanta Film Festival brought Jim Henson’s daughter Heather to town, where she presented a collection of puppet films at the Puppetry Arts Center.

Harker (eerie puppet vampire tale)… Sammy and Sofa (and sock monkey, “jumping the shark”)… Ola’s Box of Clovers (chainsmoking puppet imagines her grandmother’s dreams)… Everloving (just a special-effects test)… Herd (alien abducts cows, convinces guy to build mysterious box)… Mother Hubbard… Mary Anning and Her Monsters… Mysterious Mose (fun music video)… Tales of the Tinkerdee (early Jim Henson program shot in Atlanta – troubadour Kermit narrates)… and Henson’s cancelled program of moralist shorts for kids, with a too-appealing baddie.

Brought to mind last year’s Somersault and Lila Says and Keene. Not likeable at all, but not worth hating.

Laura lived in the city, loved Chris, who got killed. So she married (Mark?), had a kid, moved suburb. Sleeps with strangers compulsively and might have killed her neighbor.

Ugly, shot on DV + transferred to film I think. Tops of all heads cut off – can’t tell if mis-framed or mis-projected but neither would be surprising. The lighting is either bad on purpose or just bad. Lots of close-ups on Laura looked great – everything else fell apart.

So why was this so crappy? The repeated scenes and not-at-all-fluidly jumping back and forth in time? The pathetic pointlessness of the dialogue? The boring portrayal of a woman who lost her dream man, dream career and dream life, ending up the one thing she didn’t want to be, a suburban housewife? Not even that bad a story or character – just never comes together into anything exciting! No excitement! No reason to watch it! Especially coming off X-Men 3, a movie with too many reasons to watch.

Oh wait, an IMDB reviewer says “writer/director Jason Ruscio said in Q & A … that he was inspired by the break-up of his relationship with the lead actress.” So another movie-as-therapy. The Squid and the Housewife, or something. How come Clean was so good, then?

Here’s me, running out to see the new Brett Ratner movie.

Kinda loved it, especially after all the badmouthing it got in the last few weeks… but did they have to be so brutal, killing and de-powering so many main characters? Have they no respect for the ongoing nature of the comic and the hundreds of x-men stories that have yet to be told? They just think they can kill off characters left and right because all the actors’ contracts are expiring, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more movies with different actors eventually. Still, super fun movie… intense.

Long, very nicely done. Music and intertitles, mostly-convincing period style but with (forgiveable, for low budget) 30fps video look. Triple Flashback (fb in a fb in a fb) tells of ship visiting uncharted island, seeing stop-motion tentacle-head Cthulhu, fleeing in terror… otherwise a lot of newspaper clippings and people who want their papers burned and unspeakable horror and such.

Also saw “Day of the Dead”, cutie cartoon (animated in korea) about an iguana learning about his mexican heritage or something… well intentioned but tedious. “The Shovel” a twisty little number where the dude from Good Luck Good Night is accused of killing his neighbor. “Tell-Tale Heart” nicely animated Sin City style with Bela Lugosi’s voice narrating from an ancient tape. And “Venom” about an old woman who loves cats, hates bugs. I dig how the AFF played the latter with no sound at all, with no apology or mention of the problem. I know it’s hard to run a festival, but that’s just like them.

Maggie Cheung won best actress at Cannes in May 2004, and it didn’t open here till June 2006, then left in a week. I was busy that week so rented it, damn it all.

Maggie’s rocker husband ODs in a hotel room and she’s off to prison for a few months. The rocker’s Nick-Nolte dad watches the kid while she’s away. She uses all her old connections to try to get back on track, ending up with a bunch of crap jobs and a vague hope for a future in music, while Nick is dealing with his dying wife and a grandkid turned against his mom. Maggie sort of lets Nick down at the end, but he doesn’t throw it in her face. Interesting characters, great looking movie.

I don’t get how talented filmmakers, having a high level of access to a couple very interesting subjects, can make a boring movie. They managed though, for the most part. Gets better towards the end, as the Yes Men schemes actually get less well-planned and more last-minute.

The guys run a website similar in look and address to the WTO site, so get called to speak at conferences. First time they devise gold jumpsuit with inflatable penis TV to monitor third-world employees while on the go. Then in conjunction with McDonalds they announce new recycled-food burger program at a classroom. Finally they disband the WTO completely, saying it’s completely failed to meet its stated objectives. Subversion is fun and they’ve got some particularly hilarious ideas, so movie was worth watching even if I complained about the editing all the time.

Not really a comedy like I’d thought, except for the parts with Grandpa in ’em.

Heaven Can Wait

Guy marries girl he likes, then when he dies, insists he deserves to go to hell but is wrong. I kinda don’t remember much already.

Benny spends a lot of time in his room, given money but not attention by his parents, watching rental movies, news reports and homemade movies of his sister’s pyramid-scheme and a family-vacation pig-slaughter. Eventually, inevitably, he invites another girl home and kills her with the pig gun. Parents find out and help Benny hide the evidence. And Benny turns them in!

So apparently Haneke has been making this movie for years. Comfy rich family meets unexpected bursts of violence, shocking them our of their complacency. And we, the audience, who attend Austrian art movies… we are they! Their violence is ours! Or something, I dunno… Senses of Cinema is smarter than me, and has actual Haneke quotes:

Says the three movies just out on video are a trilogy, “reports of the progression of the emotional glaciation of my country”. “My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.” Mattias Frey points out echoes of Benny in Wes Bentley’s American Beauty character, which I should’ve thought of myself.

Benny's Video

Same ol’ good ol’ movie. Gets better every time. This time paid close attention to: Halle Berry’s acting (not great), Rogue’s hair (you can kinda see it turn white if you pause on the statue of liberty scene), overall pacing, Magneto’s costume. Waffling on seeing X-Men 3 in theaters or at all.

X-Men