[SIFF Weekend One]

Let’s do this thing! Capsule reviews of SIFF 2013, weekend one, minus anything that will be going up on Manga Bookshelf, and…GO:

* Much Ado About Nothing is exactly what it looks like: a fun Rolodex movie. Standouts include Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, and the Nathan Fillion/Tom Lenk double team of ridiculousness who’ve seen one too many cop movies. It’s in a modern setting, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, and Alexis Denisof is a bit of a ham (but then, so is Benedick), and in the end it’s just dang charming. More low-budget Whedon surprises like this, please!

* Five Dances follows a young gay man as he begins working on a performance with a group of dancers in New York. The dialogue is lacking (as is sometimes the delivery), which is fine because the dialogue is not the point. The gorgeous (and beautifully shot) dancing is, and it was right of director Alan Brown to trust these dancers to tell the story of their work together and the complexities of the changing relationships between them.

* Concussion stars Robin Weigert, best known to me as Calamity Jane from Deadwood, but also virtually unrecognizable if you only know her from there. Inspired in part by the elite call girl portion of The Vagina Monologues, it’s a body-positive, sex-positive, sex-work positive film that is also a portrait of a midlife crisis in the context of an upper class lesbian marriage. Halfway through SIFF, it’s still my favorite feature. Easily best actress, too.

* Secret #1 is a secret, obviously, but here’s a Mad Lib style review: it was interesting, but afterwards we thought perhaps we would have liked it better if it had been a _____ of _____ narrated by _____, especially if it focused on the internal life of _____. I’m pretty sure I didn’t give anything away with that.

* Middleton is an affable, opposites attract film about two parents (Andy Garcia & Vera Farmiga) who meet as they’re touring a small college with their children. It doesn’t break any new ground, except insofar as it’s about an older couple, which of course, is groundbreaking in its own way. Perfect ending, shot like a sun-dappled college recruitment pamphlet, and (to our surprise) featuring Vera’s sister Taissa as her daughter.

* Inspired by true events, as the kids say, The Deep portrays an incident from 1984 where an Icelandic fishing boat capsized and a single fisherman managed the considered-impossible task of swimming many hours to safety. Iceland’s submission to the Academy Awards, it was naturalistic & engaging (especially once I adjusted my personal pacing expectations from the incident to the incident plus the aftermath, both personal and public.)

So, clearly my favorite of the lot was Concussion, with no duds in the first weekend. What did you love?

One Reply to “[SIFF Weekend One]”

  1. “Another Woman’s Face” offers the simple joy watching self-absorbed people get pelted with plumbing and meteors.

    “100 Bloody Acres” searches for humor, love, and understanding in the meat grinder.

    Both made me laugh, I’ll likely never re-watch either.

    “The Act of Killing,” however, rang me like a bell; I’ll be thinking about those people–those frighteningly real people–and the things they did and said, for years. I’ll need moral support to watch it again.

    “The East” is a visually striking, surprisingly layered story featuring terrific work by Clarkson, Marling, Skarsgard, and (above all) Page. I have some reservations about the script, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

    We’ve already talked about how unbearable “Key of Life” is.

    If you want to be immersed in the naivety, sarcasm, bitchiness, and phantasmagoria of the 13-year-old imagination, then “I Declare War” is for you. It’s funny, largely unsentimental, and about equidistant from “Stand by Me” and “Lord of the Flies.”

    I enjoyed “Populaire’s” fights, most: scenes where the cameras excitedly circle finalists surrounded by roaring crowds, revealing family squabbles over the dinner table, tearful arguments in a doorway, a parking lot–always on the way somewhere. Deborah Francois is the winning cornerstone of a solid cast, the period detail immersive. I’d watch this again.

    “Scrapper”‘s tale of a working class black man, his mom, and the 18-year-old white girl they take in stands out for avoiding clichés and letting characters take interesting risks.

    Asynchronous, overflowing with keening bluegrass, sexy, weepy, “The Broken Circle Breakdown” is a sweet, layered onion of passionately irreconcilable ambivalences written across a family. I think I need to see it again.

    Everybody is perfect in “The Way, Way Back”: although in many cases (Steve Carrel, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, among others), that means perfectly unbearable (or, in Toni Collette’s case, a perfect doormat); it’s an incredible relief when Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph finally show up to interrupt Liam James’ nightmare. Would I watch it again? Probably.

    “C.O.G.”: I have to say, I really prefer David Sedaris stories as read by the master himself, rather than acted out by doe-eyed actors from Glee.

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