A Good Yarn

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wow, this week went fast!

I had intended to post reviews of the documentaries as the week went on, but I just ran out of time. It was a busy week with work during the days and then the film festival at night. Here's a couple of quick reviews:

Monday night I had dinner with a friend at Campiello first. They have an fixed price early dinner that's incredible. We got a glass of wine, an appetizer, a main entree with two side items for about $22. I figured it would be smaller portions of the food, but it wasn't. It was such a good deal and so very delicious. I had bruschetta and the hangar steak with potato puree and Yukon gold potatoes (yes, I love potatoes). If you can eat dinner before 6:00, I highly recommend trying this out.

After dinner we went to see "The Green Bus vs. The White House." The film covers the Minnesota Senate race in 2002 - Incumbent Democrat Paul Wellstone versus the White House handpicked candidate, Norm Coleman. Wellstone was killed in a plane crash just before the election, a day I'll never forget. This was a pretty important event in Minnesota history and the documentary does a good job of laying out what the election was like before and after Senator Wellstone's death. The director spoke afterward and drew a lot of parallels between that election and the 2004 presidential election - in particular how the GOP "swiftboated" the memorial service. I was really impressed by the director - she was a history professor and decided to take a class on filmmaking and this is her first documentary. Maybe that's what I'll do one of these days.

Tuesday was my last film class, so I could only go to the late show. "The Outsider" follows director James Toback's career and the making of "When Will I Be Loved." I've never seen one of Toback's films and I have to admit "Loved" didn't look very good. He's an interesting guy though and I especially loved the interviews with his frequent collaborator, Robert Downey, Jr. I'd love to see a documentary about RDJ.

Wednesday I went all out and watched all three selections - so weird to be hanging around the theater that long. It was a warm day, but turned pretty cold after the sun went down and I was freezing in the theater, so I did something I never thought I'd do - I bought a scarf. The Gap is right down the street, so I went in and got this scarf:

I was immediately drawn to the cabled selections, but I realized I'd probably never make something like this and it is really cute. I think I could wear it indoors as a "fashion" scarf, too. They showed it with a cute velvet jacket and a cute corduroy jacket.

The first film on Wednesday was "Code 33". This tells the story of the largest serial rape investigation in Miami history. The film starts with a sketch artist drawing a composite and then following the investigation from there. The filmmakers really got a lot of access to the police during the investigation and it's fascinating to see how things work and the sketch artist and police detectives are interesting, passionate people. The filmmakers do a great job of building tension and I was totally absorbed by the end of the film. If you enjoy detective novels/films/tv you'll love this one.

Next up was my favorite film of the festival, "Unknown White Male". The title subject is a wealthy European man living in NYC who finds himself on the subway one morning with no memory of how he got there, where he's going or even who he is. He has complete memory loss. It then follows him from those first few days of panic through his re-introduction to his family and friends and building a new life. The film asks about the very nature of existence - are we born as a unique person and stay that person no matter what or are we the end result of all of our experiences? What happens if you no longer remember those experiences? When the film was screened at the Sundance Festival many questioned it's authenticity - it's just such a strange and unique thing to happen and everyone in the movie looks gorgeous and like movie stars (the amnesiac looks like he's one of the Fiennes brothers), but filmmaker proved everything really did happen. A studio bought rights to the story, so perhaps a regular film will be made of it too. See this if you have the chance, though.

The final film of the night was "Real Life." This is a "mockumentary" by Albert Brooks released in 1979 after the popularity of the PBS documentary "American Family." I first caught this while I was in a hotel room and I missed the first 20 minutes or so, so at first I thought it was a real documentary. It's so funny and outrageous I eventually realized it had to be a parody. I was glad to see it again after so long and to see it on the big screen. If you're a reality tv junkie, rent this DVD someday for a good laugh.

Thursday was a tough day at work, so I was really glad to have a couple of good documentaries to look forward to. It was the last day, so the closing film was the big finale. First up was "Visions of Light", another film I'd seen on tv before, but never on the big screen. In fact, we actually watched part of it in my film class this fall, so I did see the parts about film noir on a big screen. The film is about the art of cinematography and the work of the great Directors of Photography. If you love the art of film and haven't seen this, rent this DVD too.

The last film was "After Innocence".

This film is getting a lot of buzz in the Oscar race. It's about a number of men who have been exonerated by DNA evidence after spending years in prison. In most states, the wrongfully convicted get a handshake, maybe an apology and that's about it. It's pretty difficult to rebuild your life after spending 20 years in prison for a crime you didn't commit. Most of the men in the film are angry, but not possessed by it. Since only a small group of crimes involve DNA evidence, it does make you wonder how many innocent people are in prison for other crimes. Of course it also provides a compelling case against the Death Penalty. One of the subjects of the documentary also appeared after the film and shared some thoughts. It was pretty amazing. I'm not sure if I'd survive that kind of experience.

Last night was movie night with my law school buddies. We saw this one:

I'd give it a mixed review. It's a compelling story and I liked the acting. Charlize Theron once again plays an interesting character in a very realistic way. Frances McDormand gives her usual fantastic performance as a fellow miner with a different approach to the sexual harrassment of her male co-workers. The relationship between Theron's character and her parents in very interesting and moving. However, her parents change in actions toward the end of the film isn't well-supported in the film and seems somewhat inconsistent. The final court room scene is completely unrealistic, but more importantly, it's very trite. Too corny and too unrealistic for me. If you like that type of emotional manipulation in films this film will really appeal to you.