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4/22/14 11:42 pm - SFIFF 2014: Actual Picks

After all the previous heuristic eliminations, there are an even dozen movies left. It'll be a miracle if I make it to two, what with work and the boy's birthday and visiting relatives and writing for Nanos. But here's what's left, in approximate order of my desire to see them:

20,000 Days On Earth

As stated before, @janesuperstar wants to see this, and I'm game. Alas, only rush tickets are available at this point. Ha ha. On another note, I am completely unsurprised that Nick Cave claims to spend all his time writing yet the trailer shows him typing with two fingers.

White Shadow

Coming of age in Tanzania, and staying alert for organleggers who want your albino body parts. Now there's a twist! The trailer looks intriguing and a little exploitative.


Typical Norwegian oil drilling platform political thriller. That's good! Also Rod Armstrong-approved - extra good!

Stephen Merritt accompanying The Unknown

Merritt's accompaniment to "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" a couple of years ago had a lot of filler, but some great moments. And there's also audience participation during the short, "Sissy Boy Slap Party" (embedded above)!

Tip Top: This might be too far out on the quirky tip, but the characters look 200% alive and the music is peppy (the music is in some other trailer).


Trailer: WTF? Online commentary says the movie indeed has plenty of WTF. This movie could be twice as good as Cable Guy or twice as bad as Cable Guy.

If You Don't I Will

Wry French late relationship movie. Relationship movies about grownups, for grownups, probably count as experimental at this point.


A guy tells a priest in confession that he's going to kill him for no reason. OK, I'm in.

Dear White People [NO TRAILER]

There's no actual trailer on the official YouTube channel, which is kind of a red flag, but they do have some other funny stuff ("The official number of black friends you need to not be racist has been raised to 2")

Impossible Light

Doc about the Bay Bridge light project. Not a lot of tension, therefore, but the screening is likely to be a lovefest, which is always fun (past examples: Dogtown and Z-Boys, Murderball).

American Dreams In China

Entrepreneurs in not-entrepreneur-friendly China. Feel good story.

Yves Saint Laurent: All the shots in the trailer are so stylish and I'm sure it's a fascinating story, but I just know if I was watching this I would be constantly saying, "Wait, is that a different dress? I think it's the same dress."
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4/9/14 10:05 pm - SFIFF 2014: Kein Mitleid Fur Die Megaplex

Some movies are skippable because their distribution is guaranteed, say if they have a big star or were made by the Weinstein company. But if you have a terminal disease or a passion for motorcycle rock climbing, these look pretty good:

Frank (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender)

Two Faces of January (Viggo Mortenson, Kirsten Dunst)

Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)

Chinese Puzzle (Audrey Tatou) - the trailer for this one has a great line: "For most people, life is going from point A to point B. I have a point B problem."

The Trip To Italy (BBC, Steve Coogan) - English Comedians in Car Getting Seafood

Firestorm (Andy Lau) - HK shooty action
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4/8/14 12:19 am - SFIFF 2014: Movies With Terrible Trailers

It's well known that a comedy trailer with no gags is a dire warning sign, but the principle can be applied more broadly. If the filmmakers can't tell a story in three minutes, it's unlikely they can do it in 90. Or 120. Or, in the case of Norte: The End of History, 250.

In approximate order from worst to best:

Art and Craft
The Overnighters
Dear White People

These movies have no trailer whatsoever.  Boyhood should maybe get a pass because Richard Linklater, and Dear White People has plenty of teaser on their Youtube channel, but the other two must be desperately seeking obscurity.

Norte: The End of History - Nothing happens in the trailer. The movie is over 4 hours long.

Tracks - A woman starts to walk across the Australian Outback. Everything looks beautiful. There are camels. Then a New-Agey Peter Gabriel-type song starts playing and blows everything.

Of Horses and Men - The description reads "dark comic vignettes", but the trailer has more landscape than horses or men. Two of the horses have sex, so there's that.

Coherence - This movie description reads "Twilight Zone meets Primer", but the trailer is The Big Chill meets Sex In The City (but just the City parts). N.B. I couldn't remember the title of The Big Chill and found it by doing a search for "Yuppie movie".

Manuscripts Don't Burn - Persian men being tense.

Tangerines - A Chechen and a Georgian being tense, but also occasionally trying to punch each other. Someone picks tangerines.
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4/5/14 10:47 pm - SFIFF 2014: Movies Where Nothing Happens

The SFFS generally tries to avoid telling you that nothing happens, but if you see code words like "narrative", "portrait", and "meditation", know ye that an evening of stasis awaits, with more plot in the popcorn you're eating than on the screen. Some of the perps this year and the relevant descriptions:

Manakamana: "Ultimately, the boundaries of the cable car give way to contemplation as the rhythmic cycle of the voyage forms a recursive envelope of prayer, birdsong, sustained silences, idle chatter and the startling clamor of the gondola cab passing over tower junctions"

The Great Museum: "portrait"

Stop the Pounding Heart: "quietly observes her daily life with its chores, sermons and the rare moments of freedom that entice her to see beyond the fences.  Minervini captures the natural rhythm and soul of life in Waller, Texas, in a style best described by Werner Herzog as 'poetic documentary,'"

Three Letters From China: "three diverse, intimate and well-crafted portraits of life in contemporary China, each segment presenting an evocative and penetrating study"

The Seventh Walk: "this subtly hypnotic film meditates upon the figure of Singh commingled with surreal tableaux inspired by the artist's paintings"

Abuse of Weakness: "a simple victimization that is in fact much more complex and ambiguous in Breillat's queasy, thinly veiled self-portrait"

No No: a Documentary: "sports movie, redemption narrative and portrait of an era" - The Dock Ellis legend is awesome, but a narrative *and* a portrait? No thanks!

The Other One - The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir: "portrait of a cultural moment"

Supermensch: "a portrait of the man and his times"

What Now, Remind Me: "Pinto's collage-style narrative mirrors the sometimes mind-altering side effects of the drugs, traveling fluidly between past and present and provoking an examination of memory and of the passage of time" - collage-style narrative means you couldn't afford an editor.

Little Accidents: "an everything-is-connected narrative about bonds forged from indescribable loss"

Ten Thousand Waves: "subtextually comments on the challenges and rewards of telling the story of people from a different culture and narrative tradition"

Coast of Death: " The still frames of Lois Patiño's documentary give one the luxury of contemplation of this storied place, of noticing the shifts in cloud formations or the differences in height between the ceaseless crashing of waves against the rocks", of watching paint dry...
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4/3/14 11:01 pm - SFIFF 2014 - Monkey Rule

The Monkey Rule is this: If the movie's main selling point is the protagonist's identity, then plot has probably been left by the wayside and it could have been automatically made more entertaining just by making the protagonist a monkey.

Here are this year's movies which try to get away with not having a story by having a protagonist carefully calculated to pander to the film festival crowd:

The Last Season: "over 200 seasonal workers, most of them Cambodian, Lao, Hmong, Mien and Thai"

School of Babel: "a Parisian class of immigrant youth from countries around the globe—boys and girls ages 11 to 15—who have come to France to seek asylum, escape hardship or simply better their lives"

All About the Feathers: "an impoverished security guard Chalo"

The Amazing Catfish: "a rambunctious matriarch and a withdrawn misfit"

Bad Hair: "In a Caracas tenement high-rise, Marta (Samantha Castillo) is raising two children alone, their father long gone and her security-job employment recently terminated."

Belle: "two relatives, mixed-race Dido Elizabeth Belle and her white cousin Elizabeth, the great-nieces of William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield"

The Blue Wave: "Deniz, a teenage girl living in the midsize Turkish city of Balikesir"

Difret: "In rural Ethiopia, [...] 14-year-old Hirut"

The Double: "Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), a white-collar drone stuck in a waking nightmare of perpetual humiliation."

The Dune: "Hanoch, a laconic bicycle repairman living in a small town in the Israeli desert and seemingly more committed to playing chess with his buddy Fogel than to his pregnant girlfriend Yael."

Eastern Boys: "a dapper, 50-something Parisian"

Harmony Lessons: "In a rural high school in Kazahkstan, [...] an alpha gangster named Bolat"

Hellion: "Struggling father Hollis Wilson"

History of Fear: "a disturbed young man"

Last Weekend: "an aging matriarch who wants everyone to gather one last time at the family's gorgeous Lake Tahoe manor and reminisce before she puts it on the market."

Manos Sucias: "Estranged brothers Jacobo and Delio"

Mary Is Happy Mary Is Happy: "Thai teenager Mary"

The Militant: "Ariel, a leader of a university occupation in support of the strike in the capital of Montevideo"

Salvation Army: "a gay Moroccan boy finding self-realization and personal strength within a society that shuns him"

The Skeleton Twins: "long-estranged twins Maggie and Milo"

South is Nothing: "17-year-old Grazia"

Tonnerre: "A moderately successful rock star"

Trap Street: "a naïve survey engineer who views the world through his gadgets"

Bauyr: "Eight-year-old Yerkin is an immensely resourceful if irascible third grader"

Child of God: "Lester Ballard (Scott Haze), a backwoods-dwelling resident of Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s"

Club Sandwich: "Chubby, subdued 15-year-old Hector and his doting single mother Paloma"

The Treasure Hunter: "Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi, all grown up from the deaf-mute teenager of Babel) is a true misfit and a blatant weirdo" - Note: It's an extra red flag when the description mentions the character an actor played in another, presumably better, movie

Manila In the Claws of Light: "a provincial youth, Julio, who comes to Manila in search of his childhood sweetheart, Ligaya"

Night Moves: "Three environmental activists, Josh; his girlfriend, the privileged Dena; and his mentor, Marine veteran Harmon"

Our Sunhi: "self-absorbed and neurotic filmmakers"

Ping Pong Summer: "A 13-year-old"

The Reconstruction: "Eduardo, an oilfield engineer"

Stray Dogs: "an impoverished family consisting of a father and two children (and two shifting maternal figures)" - this movie will primarily be seen by people who meant to watch Straw Dogs

We Are The Best: "three young teenagers who form a band"

Intruders: "a blocked Korean screenwriter holing up in a remote cabin to finish his latest script"

The Sacrament: "a three-person camera crew reporting on a commune operating in a remote location outside the United States"

Alex of Venice: "Hardworking activist attorney"

Palo Alto: "Good girl April"

Begin Again: "ex-record company executive"

The One I Love: "Longtime couple Ethan and Sophie"
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4/3/14 09:44 pm - SFIFF 2014: Bad Titles and Bad Seeds

The San Francisco International Film Festival is once again bringing us too many movies to possibly see, and I once again am sharing my winnowing process.

As always, making a movie is really hard, and I'll sit through pretty much anything with decent lighting and sound. So my heuristics are necessarily incredibly unfair. Starting with the titles. I'm not even going to read the descriptions of these ones:

Freedom Summer
Soul Food Stories
A Story of Children and Film
Standing Aside, Watching
When Evening Falls On Bucharest
Young and Beautiful

Also, there's one movie I'm definitely going to see: "20,000 Days On Earth", which has performed the miraculous feat of being a movie Mrs. TD is interested in seeing.
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3/24/14 10:03 am - Oderus Urungus

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3/15/14 11:30 pm - David Brenner

Hearing Nothing!

I must break form and mention that Brenner's mosquito joke on Carson was the first time I appreciated a standup joke. Also, that it's funny. Also, that the joke is in the link, not the embedded video. The video is just there because honestly you could do worse.

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2/12/14 02:14 pm - Sid Caesar

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2/5/14 08:54 am - Arthur Rankin, Jr.

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