Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Me vs. the Atlanta Film Festival 365

Sorry about that rather ridiculous title, but I still have "Chuck" on my mind after last night's rather seriously entertaining episode.

Like everyone, I just get a tremendous amount of useless e-mails at work, but about a month and a half or so ago, I got easily the best one I've received in several years, inviting me to the upcoming Atlanta Film Festival 365 (this weekend!!) as a "member of the press."

Now, I haven't been called that since I was asked several years ago to talk to a group of fourth-graders about my job. Here's hoping things go better this time, especially since it means two weekends of free movies!

It really is shameful that, since I've lived about 90 minutes from Atlanta for more than nine years, I've never attended this event before. I did try to go to the Savannah Film Festival last year with my folks, but since that's a much more star-studded affair, all the passes were sold out by the time I enquired.

Judging from the movie lineup, the Atlanta gathering, which runs from this Friday through Saturday, April 25, seems to me a more organic affair, offering genuinely independent movies from throughout the Southeast and the world, which is just fine by me. If you're anywhere in the area, individual movie tickets and festival passes are still on sale, with most of the showings taking place at the fabulous Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. Click here to see the movie lineup and learn more.

One certain highlight I'm gonna have to miss because I still have a schooldays job that pays the bills is the Tuesday night screening of the romantic-comedy-of-sorts "500 Days of Summer" starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Check it out if you can, and here are the movies I'll be checking out (assuming they don't sell out, since perfectly understandably the mighty dollar is much more powerful than the pen.)


"I am the Bluebird"

Judging from the plot alone, this Georgia flick sounds a lot like any number of the generic medical thrillers that pollute our multiplexes, but I'm confident it's gonna be a whole lot better than that. In Thomas Verrette's flick, a young man awakens from an experimental surgery performed by his father to find he's suffering from temporary memory loss. From there, I'm hoping this does indeed turn out to be a "taut mystery" (as the promotional blurb promises) as he tries to put his life back together. Here's the trailer.

"Blood River"
I had never heard of the British horror director Adam Mason, but if as promised this - his first American feature film - delivers a brand of horror that's as psychologically intriguing as it is simply bloody, than it will be perfect Friday night fare. In what admittedly sounds like a pretty standard horror flick plot, a couple's car breaks down in the California desert, and they end up in the titular town, where they (of course) meet a mysterious drifter named Joseph. Like I said, I'm hoping this will be a whole lot better than I'm making it sound here.


"Prom Night in Mississippi": Things really start to get potentially great starting with this documentary by Paul Saltzman. It is indeed shameful, and perhaps little known about outside the Southeast, that there are still places where white and black kids still go to separate proms. This flick shows what happens when one town in Mississippi tries to finally do the right thing, and I have a sneaking feeling not everything's gonna run quite smoothly.

"The Desert Within": I'm just a sucker for Mexican movies, and especially ones that deal with the hold that the Catholic church has on the lives and imaginations of its citizens. This flick by Rodrigo Plá takes place during the 1928 Mexican Revolution, and is about a couple determined to have their baby baptized even as churches are being closed all around them. The promotional summary describes it as a "spiritual journey that takes a strange and disturbing turn," and I'm in for that.

"Idiots & Angels": I was just happy to hear that animator Bill Plympton is still making feature-length flicks, so I wasn't about to pass this one by. In the typically odd tale, a morally bankrupt man named Angel (so much for subtletly) wakes up one day with the good wings that make him want to do good things. Here's the trailer:

"Moon": If any of these are going to sell out and block me from attending, I'd have to guess Duncan Jones' sci-fi flick will be the one to do it, but here's hoping I get to see it. In easily one of the movies I'm most anticipating for this year, Sam Rockwell stars as a man who toils in solitude on the far side of the moon mining the Earth's primary source of energy. Just as his three-year stint is coming to an end, he encounters what appears to be a younger, angrier version of himself and, well, I'd imagine things kind of deteriorate from there.


"Rain": In what hopefully be a gritty and at least somewhat inspiring slice of life, Bahamian director Maria Govan's flick tells the story of Rain, a 14-year-old girl who, after the death of her grandmother, seeks out the mother she hardly knows in the big city of Nassau. I don't think I'll ever get to go to the Bahamas myself, so this might be as close as I'll ever get.

"Mississippi Damned": It's a sad fact well worth reporting (and, I think, still true) that Kasi Lemmons is still the only black female director to direct three feature-length Hollywood films ("Eve's Bayou", "The Caveman's Valentine" and "Talk to Me" - all fine films if you haven't seen them), so here's hoping this flick launches director Tina Mabry down that path and further on. Rather than me tell you about her semi-autobiographical flick about growing up in Mississippi, let her do it herself in this interview:

"That Evening Sun": This will be the first time I've seen Hal Holbrook since his rather remarkable turn in "Into the Wild," and since here he's paired with Georgia actor Ray McKinnon (who played the Rev. H.W. Smith in season one of HBO's "Deadwood"), I can only say bring it on. In Scott Teems' flick, Holbrook stars as a man who escapes from the retirement home he's been dumped in to return to the family farm, only to find it's now inhabited by his old enemy, played by McKinnon.

Week two, Friday:

"The Death of Alice Blue": In the realm of vampire flicks, which I almost always enjoy, I'd imagine Canadian vampires just might be the oddest breed of all, and if I have the plot of this one right I'm about to find out. Hopefully this flick from director (I'm not kidding) Park Bench delivers a lot of dry humor along with the bloodsuckers that toil at a Canadian advertising agency (actually, I'm laughing about that already.)

"Tyson": This one may well sell out too, but if not I'm hoping that James Toback's portrait of the rather odd former heavyweight champ provides some insight into what just makes him tick. I love boxing documentaries, so this should be just about perfect.


"Faded Glory": Given how much I love baseball (the Orioles, after somehow hanging on for a 10-9 victory over the Rangers, are now 5-2!), it's probably just a good thing that I'm no good at all at playing it, or I just might be hanging on like these guys. Director Richard Cohen's documentary tracks the just-about-dashed dreams of the member of a Network 38+ team through one season as they head towards the Men's Baseball League World Series. Sounds like nothing but fun to me. Here's the trailer.

"Neshoba": Mississippi is certainly a theme here, and this documentary from directors Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano mines its truly dark side. In returning to the county where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964 (dramatized in "Mississippi Burning"), the directors talk with residents about the improbable 2005 conviction of 80-year-old preacher Edgar Ray Killen for the heinous crime, and ask if that represents any kind of real justice.

"Rudo y Cursi": For it's closing night gala film, which I just might buy a ticket for to make sure I get in, the Atlanta Film Festival 365 has chosen the debut film by Carlos Cuaron, brother of Alfonso. The flick reunites Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, stars of Alfonso's "Y Tu Mama Tambien" (easily one of my favorite movies), in a story about two brothers who work on a banana plantation and have dreams of playing soccer in the Mexican professional leagues. Sounds exactly right up my alley.

So, there you have it. If you're gonna be at the festival, please let me know, and if not, hopefully you still found something in this list worth checking out if you can. Peace out.


J. Marquis said...

Canadian vampires, huh? Do they eat neck bacon?

Reel Fanatic said...

Ha ... I was originally hoping it would be zombies, since I'd imagine that's what advertising people actually are, but vampires will hopefully be fun too

Bob said...

Have fun with the festival! That reminds me that Seattle's is right around the corner. That thing is actually TOO big. It's hard to know where to start.
I have a review of "Observe and Report" up. What did you think of the movie?

Reel Fanatic said...

I haven't bothered to post a review, Bob, because I'm still really not sure what I think about it .. I wanted to love it, but it was really just way too uneven .. I think most people will say it was just too nihilistic and gross, but for me that really wasn't the problem .. I still have high hopes for Jody Hill, though, and I'll definitely stop by to check out your review during my work day tomorrow

Paula said...

Thanks for coming out and covering the Atlanta Film Festival. I'm trying to catch up on a lot of the coverage from the festival. I hope you enjoyed yourself and got to go to some of the parties (where there was schmoozing). Be sure you stay on our radar for next year.