The Scarecrow (Limbert Fabian & Brandon Oldenburg)

Seen this before online, because it is an ad for Chipotle. It’s a great ad, but still, ads do not count as movies. Checked out the codirectors’ follow-up, a Dolby ad called Silent, on Vimeo when I got home, a cute piece to show alongside that Mickey Mouse Get a Horse movie. The directors previously worked together on Spy Kids 2.

Strange Wonderful (Stephanie Swart)

Inside the psyche of the school monster, whose fishbowl helmet goes unappreciated in the recess yard.

Confusion Through Sand (Danny Madden)

Daaaaamn, drawn and photographed on differently textured recycled paper, wild perspective-jumping desert battle scene.

The Magnificent Lion Boy (Ana Caro)

Explorer finds feral boy, brings back to London, tries to make feral boy comb his hair and sit still for church while a freak show operator hopes to capture him. Tragedy ensues. If you need a stuffy british guy you get Hugh Bonneville and if you need a guy who acts like an animal you get Andy Serkis, so they did. Animation looks like they erase part of the frame and redraw, fascinating. Funny to watch this right after having seen Feral.

Crime (Alix Lambert & Sam Chou)

Episode of an animated series in which a Hartford CT resident has trouble with car thieves and then bigger trouble with the police.

Fingers Tale (Luca Schenato & Sinem Vardarli)

Time stops at noon and people’s fingers and toes detach and go on adventures, alongside other objects like knives and spiral-cut coke-can monsters. Tragedy ensues. From Turkey!

Dji Death Fails (Dmitri Voloshin)

Grim Reaper accidentally resuscitates the guy whose soul he was coming to take. Fun from Moldova, wherever that is.

Snowdysseus (Evan Curtis)

Stop-motion must be difficult in the snow. I didn’t totally get it, but it involved an astronaut and skeletons.

The Wanderer of Saint-Marcel (Rony Hotin)

Subway bum goes inside the gigantic colorful posters at night, cavorts with babes, swims, finds food, all while trying to avoid a giant black beast, which catches him in the end.

Monkey Rag (Joanna Davidovich)

Girl meets top-hatted tree, bottom-pinching ensues. Looked great all finished and up on the big screen.

Olive (Harriet Ngo)

The second movie in a row in which a girl meets a tree. In this one she falls into hole and the tree helps her find her way home.

Rabbit and Deer (Péter Vácz)

Rabbit and Deer are best friends, but after an obsessive search, Deer finds his way into the third dimension, and now the two are having trouble interacting. This is the one I most want to show Katy, but there’s only a trailer online so far.

Every year I look forward to the Atlanta Film Festival, getting increasingly excited until some offensive act causes me to sit out the second half. This time I was thrilled to see Ruiz’s five-hour Mysteries of Lisbon on the program, but pissed once it started that they were projecting it from DVD. What kind of rinky-dink festival thinks that is an acceptable practice, and without even an apology or excuse? Picture was muddy and macro-blocky, the color desaturated compared even to DVD screenshots I found online. When I complained about the same issue two years ago after a screening of Beket, an AFF official left a comment counterintuitively stating “screening 35mm prints is cheaper for us to do than any other format we use.” I hope he returns this year to explain the Lisbon situation. Also, the dude from Turner who introduced the film called Ruiz, the seventy year old director of over a hundred films “up and coming,” with no knowing wink or chuckle to imply he wasn’t serious.

The movie was very good, worth taking the time off at 1:00pm on a weekday to see in its entirety, but not my favorite Ruiz movie by a long shot, lacking the anarchist humor of That Day and the shorts I’ve seen. If not for a well-placed deep focus shot here, an anamorphic lens-twisting there, I could’ve believe that any of a handful of dedicated European art directors had adapted the 150-year-old novel into this massive period costume miniseries.

Young Joao is having a fit, deathly ill, dreams he sees his mother, whom he’s never met. When he awakens, Father Dinis of the orphanage begins to tell him about his mother, Countess Angela who lives nearby, forbidden by her domineering husband from even seeing her illicit son. The movie takes on a flashback structure that reminds me slightly of The Saragossa Manuscript, even with the storytellers interrupting themselves to go to sleep, then resuming the next day. It seems Angela was in love with a young man (Don Pedro) whom her father wouldn’t let her marry, she got pregnant, and the baby was to be killed – but the assassin (Knife Eater) cut a deal with a passing gypsy (the priest in disguise) and sold the child.

Mysterious gypsy, left, with Knife Eater:

Back in the present, an outspoken Brazilian (Alberto de Magalhaes, formerly known as Knife Eater) is entering high society. Awesome scene when some guy demands a duel and Alberto straight kicks his ass, the fight shot through the window of the priest’s passing carriage. Angela’s husband, who’d married her despite the priest’s ghostly warning that he would be marrying “a dead slave” since her heart was lost to the murdered father of her stolen child, had become a tyrant who openly carried on an affair with Eugenia the maid and locked Angela in a single room. But the husband gets sick and dies, repenting first to the priest. Oh, and priest, while you’re here, an old monk named Alvaro wants to talk to you, reveal that he’s your father and give you the skull of his wife Silvina, your mother, to take home with you. Flashing back to a scene of the priest’s birth (and mother’s death), we get an excellent long take, following the nervous father from room to room. Knife Eater, in an unexplained coincidence (probably detailed in the miniseries version), marries the housekeeper who once tormented Angela.

I can’t remember who this is – found the screenshots online:

Another sidetrack story, as Elise de Montfort (Clotilde Hesme of Regular Lovers and Love Songs) arrives, and the meddling priest visits to tell her about her mother Blanche, who was adored by the priest, and also Benoit (son of the nobleman who watched over the priest) and a colonel whose life the other two men had saved, Ernest Lacroze (Ruiz regular Melvil Poupaud) – Benoit wins, marries the girl and they have two kids – Elise and her brother who died recently in a duel. A grown Joao, now called Pedro da Silva, loves Elise, but she says to earn her love he needs to avenge her brother’s death, caused by the wicked Alberto de Magalhaes. He returns to Lisbon from France after hearing of his mother’s death in the convent where she’d been living since her husband died. Joao/Pedro challenges Alberto, who won’t fight, tells Pedro that Alberto was the would-be assassin the day Pedro was born, who reformed and turned the money the gypsy/priest had paid for the boy’s life into a fortune, says Elise is always sending infatuated young men to kill him.

Poor Joao’s mother, with priest in the background:

Anyway, probably some other stuff happens, and Pedro gives up and sets sail for Tangiers – seems to be dying at the end, dictating his life story, the movie looping back to his illness at the beginning, making me think perhaps he died in the orphanage never meeting his mother, imagining the whole rest of the movie in a five-hour fever dream. Also in both bookend scenes is his puppet theater, which the movie uses to illustrate the scenes or to set up new ones, and a painting that comes to life in a weird Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting tableau moment.

One of my favorite recurring events in the movie is that during many of the major scenes, the lead characters’ servants are shown blatantly listening in, sometimes in the foreground while the conversations are distant from the camera. I’m not sure what it added up to, all the shifting identities and vendettas and love affairs and parental secrets, besides being an entertaining bunch of stories. And for a movie with Mysteries in the title, everything is pretty well explained by the end.

Lots of writing on this online. More than one mention of Great Expectations, which occurred to me too. M. Koresky’s article is my favorite:

The nun who was a countess. The priest who was a soldier. The nobleman who was a thief. The poet who was a bastard. Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon is a costume drama in more ways than one. … Though it may seem daunting, the size of the film is its chief pleasure. There’s so much room to parry and maneuver, so many doors (some literal) to unlock, secrets and coincidences to be in thrall to. … Whether we’re seeing a death or a regeneration, a dream or a remembrance, the final images of Mysteries of Lisbon, filtered through an amber haze of memory, unites all of the film’s disparate strands in one delirious, cinematic consciousness.

A charming little comedy that never lives up to the expectations set by a marvelous opening scene: a drummer in the back of a van playing to a metronome up front, with the driver revving the car to form a bass line, ending in a police chase. The driver will later lead a group of misanthrope drummers through a four-part city symphony, first chased then led by a tone-deaf cop who is strangely affected by their works.

It’s an idea from a short film (Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, which I didn’t watch beforehand because the AFF website wrongly said they were gonna show it before the feature) extended into a feature – and it feels that way. The first half of the four musical numbers (1. played on a hospital patient’s body, 2. bank “robbery” where money is shredded instead of stolen, 3. clanking construction equipment outside the orchestral hall, 4. massive electrical wires are played like a giant guitar by the rappelling musicians) were fun, but as the movie starts to follow the cop, his relationship with his celebrated musician brother and his infatuation with the leader of the noise group, it starts to lose me.

Nerdy Cyril, with his Dante Hicks-looking friend and his vampire-looking other friend, visit a somewhat classy whorehouse. Cyril is cheap (or poor) and socially awkward and ends up sitting by himself railing against society until he meets an intriguing girl named Lisiska.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Malchus talks with the owner of the establishment, trying to locate her housekeeper’s daughter Lisiska, whom Eleanor suspects is working here. The owner (Casti-Piani) dodges the issue of the young girl, wants to engage Eleanor in philosophical debate instead, each relishing the idea of presenting his/her own moral values in a way that makes the other seem worthless.

The two threads turn violent then collide, or at least get to watch each other through a small window. Cyril loses his shit when Lisiska turns out to be not the woman he expected, but then he turns out to be not the man he expected, either, beating her half to death. I’m not sure exactly why the owner shoots himself to death – he’d earlier threatened to kill himself if he ever lost his convictions or pleasure in his job or something like that, but he doesn’t seem to have been overly affected by Eleanor’s arguments or the fight next door when he pulls the trigger.

Lisiska and the brothel owner appeared in Wood’s Psychopathia Sexualis. I think the lead actors were found in the local theater community, and they were all super. Movie was shot on a low budget in a remarkable eight days – everyone involved thinks it came out much better than Psychopathia Sexualis, which I have yet to watch. Based (loosely?) on a couple short stories by Frank Wedekind (“an elegant story of temptation and accusation in life … pessimistic about sex”) and Anton Chekov (original ending: “His friends, among whom is a medical student, are concerned only with his health; they take him to a psychiatrist who cures Vasilyev with bromide and morphine”). The director calls it a “Victorian sex tragedy.”

played with a short:

The Strange Ones (2011, Christopher Radcliff & Lauren Wolkstein)

I can’t comment whether it deserved its best-short prize at the Atlanta Film Festival since it’s the only one I saw this year, but I sure liked it. Two guys (maybe college age and middle school) have car problems, hike up the highway, stop at a motel pool to cool off. Older guy talks to the young woman on duty, she offers them a ride after her shift. The kid tells her in private that his so-called older brother is a dangerous kidnapper. The boys walk off, their true identity remaining ambiguous. Very nice looking, except for the ill-advised unsteady-cam walking shots. “Man” David Call and “Girl” Merritt Wever also worked together in Tiny Furniture, and “Boy” Tobias Campbell played Sam Rockwell’s younger self in Conviction.

A lot like the trailer, but a ton better and with a sadder ending. Katy liked it too!

Much of the same crew as Chop Shop but all new actors – and as before, most of them have never acted in a film before (except for Red West, an old Hollywood vet). Set in Winston-Salem NC, near where Bahrani is from, Solo (Souleymane) is a cab driver who aspires to being a flight attendant but keeps failing the exam. He lives with pregnant girlfriend Quiera and her daughter Alex, is kicked out halfway through the movie, but probably not for good. Cheery, happy dude makes it his mission to solve cranky Red West’s problems, like a Wendy-and-Lucy-realism version of Happy-Go-Lucky. Red warms to him until he feels that Solo has interfered too much with his life and plans (threatening to reconnect Red with his estranged grandson, whom Red secretly visits working at a movie theater) then cuts Solo off. But Solo won’t allow himself to be cut off, sticks close to Red in the last couple days before his suicidal trip, and drives him up there with no further questions. Not the ending I was expecting

Did anyone know it was illegal to be catholic in Mexico in the 1920’s and/or 30’s? That there was some kind of war going on? Thanks to my schooling history of dry, unengaging, U.S.-based history classes, I am barely aware that there is a country called Mexico, so my ignorance of its religious-political history can’t be surprising.

Elías lives with his mom and very pregnant wife, has seven kids and a leaky roof. Wife falls down fixing the roof, thinks her baby is dying, so asks Elías to fetch the preacher. Problem: the government has declared Catholicism illegal so getting a priest is risky. Now either the priest is leaving town, or he’s getting a group together to fight the gov’t, but Elías interferes and everyone (incl one of his sons) is killed. E. himself escapes but now everyone is mad at him so he grabs his newborn son, his newlydead wife and his remaining six kids and heads out to live all reclusive in the desert, building a church to atone for the killing of all those people.

Years pass! Youngest kid grows up sickly then gets better. A boy dies raising the church bell, two boys die of plague, and a girl goes mad and drowns herself looking for signs from god. Another boy visits his grandmother, who thinks he is Elías so he ends up living quietly with her and starting a family. The church is finished but Elías isn’t sure that he has been forgiven, frets about it and starts wrecking the church wall to rebuild it until he gets it right. Meanwhile, the two remaining kids, boy Aureliano and girl Micaela, start having sex with each other. She dies, father kills himself, Aureliano lives to narrate this movie in framing story.

Movie comes off as your standard prestige-pic, professionally made but without anything interesting to recommend it. It’s bummer city for the first half hour, then seems to go on forever and I’m thinking things will get better with the whole church-building, but tragedy and madness slowly follow until the movie dumps us off right back in bummer city where we started. I mean I guess Aureliano is free now, but the death of his sexy sister puts a damper on that, and the thing with the brother taking his father’s place at gramma’s could be fascinating if it was given more than a minute of screen time. Surprised to hear that this swept the Mexican academy awards, leaving the AFF’s big-deal closing-night pic Rudo y Cursi empty-handed.

I didn’t know anything about Samuel Beckett or existentialism, but I’m going to assume from this movie that they involve repetition, jokes, dry absurdism, ponderings on the meaning of life and existence of God, and repetition. The movie’s contributions would be black-and-white photography of wonderful, stark locations – seaside, desert and long, long roads – long shots with blackouts between scenes, and lots of random dance music.

Our heroes are Freak (a former punk rock singer) and Jaja (ex coma patient with drug and family problems). They get driven around by a heavily bearded dude named Agent Zero Six, talk with the Karaoke-loving Oracle, watch a performance by Adam and Eve (and her secret lesbian lover), and finally get killed on the beach trying to swim with a sexy naked lady – the only scene in color.

That color scene, with a stripe of blood through the ocean, looked even more spectacular than the rest of the movie… but spectacularness is relative, since the Atlanta Film Festival was playing us some kinda letterboxed blurry video. IMDB says it was shot in Super 16 and printed to 35mm, so why can’t we get a film print? Expense? Why throw a film festival if you’re not gonna play films? Format complaints aside, great movie and a nice start to the fest.

Wowwww, wonderful movie, lives up to its reputation after I’d had lowered expectations from Several Friends and My Brother’s Wedding. This little masterpiece falls right between those two somehow.

Simply but artistically shot, just follows a guy who works part-time at a slaughterhouse and wants to fix his car and live comfortably with his wife. Things don’t work out that well. Movie not centered on him really, follows some neighbor kids, some friends of his and others nearby. A mostly realistic little neighborhood drama. Don’t know what to say, don’t know what made it so affecting, but that’s why I ain’t no film critic here.

The part where the car engine falls off the back of our hero’s truck had more suspense-and-release than anything in Spider-man 3.

Several Friends (1969)
Just that, several friends. They’re in a car discussing what to do. Eventually some of them do something. Sound isn’t great, movie goes nowhere, looks like a student/demo film.

The Horse (1973)
First one with a “story”, three white guys come to the old farm to have their horse put down, but they gotta wait for the black guy with the gun to arrive first. His son is out in the field taking care of the horse, close-up on son’s face as the trigger is pulled is the final shot. A much better “first film” than the other one.

When It Rains (1995)
Not a first film at all, but a late-career short, about a woman who absolutely needs the rent money and a friend who helps her out by calling in favors all across town. I liked it and all, but don’t see where the Rosenbaum “best short of the entire 90’s” opinion comes from. Guess there’s some jazz structure in there and I don’t know what that means.