June 23, 2010

LAFF slice Waiting for Superman Lebanon

The Los Angeles Film Festival continues in downtown L.A. through out the week and so do the various screenings, interviews, and retrospectives taking place there.  After the jump you can read my thoughts on Of Love and Other Demons, the excellent Cold Weather, Venice Film Festival winner Lebanon, and the latest documentary from Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) Waiting For Superman. My write up after the jump:

Of Love and Other Demons

of love and other demons movie imageBased on the novel by Gabríel García Marquez, Of Love and Other Demons tells the story of a young woman who is sent to a convent where she is kept as a prisoner after she is thought to be possessed when she is bitten by a rabid dog.  While she is there a young priest, who is also the local bishop’s protégé, is sent to take care of her and almost immediately begins to question his faith when he begins to develop feelings for her.

Director Hilda Hildalgo’s has made a very solid debut with Of Love and Other Demons.  The problem is that the film is a bit too predictable and never really explores its heavier religious themes in a satisfying way.  Everything which might have been interesting to see explored in the film is instead only touched on in a very straightforward way which makes the film, and its central love story, seem very simple and easy which in turn makes the film lose a lot of potential emotional power.  It’s still a good enough film, though, that contains some good performances and some gorgeous photography.

Cold Weather

cold weather movie imageThe very simple logline for Cold Weather is “an indie mumblecore movie meets a mystery-noir movie” I’m personally not the biggest fan of that description, but that really does let you know what type of film it is.  If you read that and thought “hmm…sounds interesting” then you will probably think that the film is interesting and you might like or even love it.   If you read that and thought “ugh” then you’ll probably be annoyed by the film and you’ll probably hate it.  I personally loved Cold Weather and it’s easily my favorite film of the festival so far and will it make my top ten of the year when the time comes to make a list.

Directed by Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA, Quiet City) and starring newcomer Cris Lankenau, Cold Weather is about a 20-something year old guy named Doug who has recently moved in with his sister after abandoning college where he was studying forensic science with hopes of becoming a detective.  The first half of the film finds us following Doug as he begins to work at an ice factory where he makes friends with one of his new coworkers named Carlos, him and his sister hanging out, and then him and his ex-girlfriend hanging out too.  In case if you can’t tell, there is a lot of hanging out during these parts.

cold weather movie imageDuring this time the film is very “mumblecore” and you either love the characters and you dig seeing their natural interactions with each other or you just hate them and want the film to end.  However, when one of the films characters goes missing the film suddenly, and quite brilliantly, turns into a detective film as Doug decides to put his skills to use as he begins to uncover a mystery.

Even though Cold Weather turns into a mystery film, which then turns into a neo-noir film in its final act, Katz has made a film which is always consistent in its tone and humor.  He is always able to squeeze in excellent small character moments even later on in the film when there are stake outs and car chases happening and it really is done in such a great subtle way that I found myself with a smile on my face through out the whole film.

Cold Weather is the kind of indie film which not only shows progress in the filmmaker’s style and writing but also in the genre of “mumblecore” itself.  It’s the kind of film that makes me excited to see where the filmmaker is going next and it’s the kind of film that I want everyone I know to see.  Love it or hate it, Cold Weather really is trying to combine modern day DIY indie aesthetics with classic film tropes and for that alone I applaud and admire its attempts.


lebanon movie imageLebanon has been gaining a bit of buzz since last year when it won the grand prize at the Venice Film Festival.  Set entirely inside of a tank through out the whole film, Lebanon tells the story of 4 young men who experience the first day of The Lebanon War in 1982 from the confines of a tank as they are thrown into the war as part of a squad.

Lebanon is a film which I found incredibly easy to admire but hard to love, and this is because of its “it’s all set inside of a tank” storytelling technique.  Because of this “gimmick” the film wants you to care about these characters but it’s hard to do just that when all you really see them do through out the film is scream at each other, panic, and cry in close-up after close-up.  When the film tries to set up some character moments, the film resorts back to war movie clichés and if you’ve seen any war film then you can kind of figure out where the scene is going.  It’s still a great film, but with a recent film like Waltz With Bashir exploring the same kind of subject in a much better way, it’s hard to really love the film in a non-technical way.

Waiting For Superman

Waiting For Superman is another film that has been gaining a lot of buzz ever since it won the audience award at this years Sundance Film Festival for best documentary.  Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) documentary about the failure of our American public education system is shocking, sad, and a big eye opener to anyone who sees it.  We’ve all heard that our public education system is broken but Guggenheim is able to really dive into the subject in a such an engrossing and entertaining way that by the time its over you feel embarrassed and saddened by what you’ve seen.  Waiting for Superman is a tough film to be against and it’s a film which I’m sure will only continue to get rave reviews and will be talked about come awards season.

waiting for superman movie poster

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