Donnybrook reviewed films playing the Starz Denver Film Festival this week on a 100 star system. Why? Because our opinion counts 20 times more than most peoples'. Our panel learned many lessons, one of them being: don't let Adam Scott near your girlfriend, especially if Adam Scott happens to be YOUR BROTHER. Words by Angora Holly Polo, Fritz Godard, and Donnybrook's newest Unnamed Intern #2.
Harmony and Me: 79 STARS
Justin Rice's part time job as mumble core hero can only be rivaled by Greta Gerwig; if they had a child, it would be the first time since Stan Brakhage that a delivery room video could make it on the festival circuit. (Rice's other job, FYI, is singing in the adorably poppy indie pop band Bishop Allen.) In Harmony and Me, Rice plays Harmony, a guy still getting his heart broken by an ex-girlfriend. He mopes around while a cast of quirky characters try to cheer him up with off the cuff jokes, jeers, taunts and a few piano lessons. This shoestring budget film had a casting coup by landing Pat Healy and that one guy who played Leo's cousin in The Departed.
Angora says: "The dialogue was so fucking clever, Justin Rice a great lovable loser, a contemporary hipster Woody Allen. The entire film was simmering with underlying humor; I think I had that almost-laughing smile on my face the whole time. The plot wasn't the strongest though. Remind me what happened?"
Fritz says: "His ex-girlfriend only has moments of screen time, but her shadow crushes Harmony everywhere he goes. Is she the "Me" in the title or are we the "Me"? This enigma is twisting my mind so much my eyes are bleeding, but in a good way. I'm a sucker for Rice and to add the comic heartbreak element, I'm sold. This is a festival gem."
Unnamed Intern #2 says: "This movie was funny. The dialogue was very sharp and witty and I get the feeling writer/director Bob Byington was sure of this while making the film. My main problem was that scenes did not seem connected and if you were to rearrange them, the story would still be the same. That said, individually each short scene could draw a few laughs, particularly one at a funeral service with a very honest description of the deceased. At only 70 minutes running time, the functional-at-best cinematography can be forgiven."
- Harmony and Me is playing # Friday, November 13, 6:45 PM @ Starz FilmCenter and Saturday, November 14, 7:00 PM @ Starz FilmCenter
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench: 90.6 STARS
Guy and Madeline have a fleeting affair in Boston until Guy, a jazz trumpet virtuoso, leaves Madeline for a more outgoing girl. This entirely un-obnoxious musical begins only shortly before their breakup, and follows their separate lives through gorgeous low-fi musical vignettes and their separate attempts at love, which inevitably fall short. The musical aspect ranges from Madeline breaking into song in the middle of her crappy restaurant job, to the camera lingering intimately on Guy teaching his mother piano, or playing an entire jazz number with a band in a small room. The viewer senses they'll find each other again, as they think of each other often, but it's more of a nice surprise to find out how that happens (hint: music proably plays a part in their staying together).
Angora says: "My favorite moments of the film were the simple shots of everyday life, which were made enchanting. That's what the film is, for me--a simple idea with such beautiful execution that depth was added."
Fritz says: "If Glee ran for a thousand seasons, it still wouldn't have as much genuine emotion as this musical. Perfect hybrid of art film and musical, takes away the melodramatic plot of Hollywood musicals, but keeps the showy dance numbers. This film reminded me how great tap dancing is. Mark my word; tap dancing is the new break dancing!"
Unnamed Intern #2 says: "Great film. Artfully shot in black & white and the use of mostly medium and close-up shots made for a very intimate connection to the characters and their music. This film reminded me of another recent realist style musical, Once, only for fans of Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, and Miles Davis. The subtle plot also had a french new wave feel and was reminiscent of one of my favorite films, Jean-Luc Godard's take on the musical, Une Femme Est Une Femme."
- Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is playing on Tuesday, November 17, 9:45 PM @ Starz FilmCenter, Wednesday, November 18, 4:30 PM @ Starz FilmCenter, and Wednesday, November 18, 6:45 PM @ Starz FilmCenter
the Vicious Kind: 76.3 STARS
Caleb (Adam Scott) is clearly a sad bastard, as he starts welling up with tears when no one is looking. And it's no wonder: he has this shitty construction job with a coworker who's a few crayons short of a lunch box; he's not on speaking terms with his father; he's all alone for the holidays; and his innocent younger brother Peter is claiming to be in love with this girl Emma, who he's bringing home to Dad for the holidays and who Caleb suspects to be a raging whore for reasons unidentified. Caleb's strange behavior becomes more and more erratic as he's caught taking photos (possibly of Emma?) and generally creeping around the family's yard, and he finally corners Emma in a grocery store, calling her a whore and threatening her life and grabbing and smooshing her face in an uncomfortable manner. Caleb discovers his father was an adulterer before Caleb's mother died of cancer, the audience discovers Emma sort of looks like Caleb's ex-girlfriend who really fucked him over, explaining the erratic behavior, and then Caleb and Emma bang each other, and everything is ruined and no one is changed for the better. FIN
Angora says: "The acting was phenomenal--Scott is SUPER talented at crying on command; but this will probably blend in with all the other desolate indie flicks about how terribly fucked up people are."
Fritz says: "Everyone wants to be an auteur. Sometimes it's best to know your role; I know for a fact that I could never spit-shine my Italian loafers as good as our servant, what's his name. . .maybe Jose, so I don't try. Film suffers a lil bit from focusing on the trees and missing the forest."
Unnamed Intern #2 says: "Very well produced, brilliantly acted, and pulled off some funny dialogue even though the tone of the film was pretty somber. Overall it was a little depressing to watch another movie that reminded me people are 'vicious' to one another and tend to stay that way.
Odile! Sorry, my dog just ate cat poo." (it's true, his dog got into the kitty litter box at this point)
- The Vicious Kind is playing Sunday, November 22, 12:30 PM @ King Center
Truffe (or "Truffle"): 79 STARS
Due to global warming, Montreal has become a hotspot for the black truffle trade, inflation sending even the most talented truffle-sniffer, Charles, into poverty. Compelled by the love of his lady Alice, and his desire to support her, he takes a job with a shady fur company that is revealed to be a front. The company plants this horrific computer-chipped fuzzy scarf monster inside Charles' stomach that possesses him to hunt truffles underground in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district. Other possessed employees crash through windows to deliver said truffles, canned for mass production, door to door with giant refrigerators strapped to their backs--why they need refrigerators for canned goods, I'll never know. Alice must save her drone boyfriend before the toothy furry worm monsters strangle her or the robots running the corporation kill her. She fights everyone with a piece of wood with a nail in it.
The delightfully bizarre story, old jazzy soundtrack, and gorgeous B & W cinematography suggest another time period altogether, save the random glimpses of Bush on the television or the hummer the in-laws drive, perhaps inviting parallels between this tale and the first world's economic dependence on oil?
Angora says: "This film was so so gorgeous. Also a pure joy of mine was to watch those little scarf monsters scurry around in packs, out to cause terror. The downside is that this film is way more fun to talk about than it was to watch; I think Fritzey even fell asleep. I think some of the human interest got lost in the bizarre plot."
Fritz says: "If you told me this was a French horror film, I'd get it. But French-Canadian, WTF!?"
Unnamed Donnybrook Intern #2 says: "Stylish black and white cinematography. The look of the movie was eerie and made me a little uncomfortable since the story was quite silly (fuzzy muppet snakes!). It was similar to a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film (Amelie, Delicatessan), which is a good thing."
Here's the trailor for Truffe, which you probably won't understand, but at least you can see how cool it looks:
- Truffe is playing Friday, November 20, 11:45 PM @ Starz FilmCenter and Sunday, November 22, 12:00 PM @ Starz FilmCenter
Passenger Side: 87 STARS
In Passenger Side, Scott drives his former junkie brother around the greater Los Angeles area on a mission that isn't quite clear, but it does involve a masturbating tranny hooker, who delivers a show for a cheap forty bucks (sidenote: Denver tranny hookers, there are better deals out there, don't think you're so special next time). As the brothers drive from random destination to random destination, the plot fills in and they reconnect through a lot of smoke screen nonsequitur dialogue. This film looks like every shot could double for a photo shoot in a fashion magazine. The day, the road, and the brothers keep going on this beautiful mediation on LA funded and produced by the Canadian Film Board.
Angora says: "Adam Scott is back at it again, banging his brother's girlfriend. What a dick!
I wanted to take a road trip through Joshua Tree with these guys and blast Dino Jr. and talk about hypothetical situations. It felt '90s and modern at the same time, and everything--the cinematography, the dialogue, the acting, and even the neat plot, that snapped fittingly into the perfect twist at the end--was meticulously thought out and successfully done."
Fritz says:"The grimy underbelly of LA never looked better. It is really hard to keep a film interesting when the majority of the film is shot in a car, but Matt Bissonnette (who brought the great 2006 film Who Loves the Sun to DIFF) succeeds. This script in the hands of lesser talent would be unwatchable, Bissonnette keeps focus and delivers a great film."
Unnamed Intern # 2 says: "The cinematography was really beautiful, almost too much with regard to the plot of the film. I like my dry, honest humor accompanied with raw and true visuals. Still, I enjoyed it and am glad Adam Scott is not my brother.
'Marie Antoinette was right, the peasants are revolting.' A quote from the film that I'm sure I heard first around the Donnybrook Manor."
- Passenger Side is playing Friday, November 20, 6:30 PM @ Starz FilmCenter and Saturday, November 21, 4:00 PM @ Starz FilmCenter
OFFICIAL REJECTION: 81 STARS
At the festival, you'll be asking filmmakers a lot of question post screenings, and if you've ever looked at these titans of independent industry in awe, this film is a window into the world you worship. After getting their feature rejected from the big boy festival, this writer/director tandem takes to the road to follow their dream in an off-off-Broadway festival where independent films live. Their journey is full of corporate bashing, delusional characters, and incompetent festivals. The film lifts the curtain and shows the festival cogs in motion.
Angora says: "Documentaries are pass or fail for me--either I'll love it or I'll hate it. So I guess I loved this one. Not only was it informative for nubes to the film scene such as myself, but it exposed the flaws in the way 'indie' flicks get famous. At times these smaller directors came across as entitled, bitching that the swag they get is different than the swag billionaire directors get. Ya think? But overall the indie festival circuit came across as paradoxically both harrowing and glamorous."
Fritz says: Go see this film and afterward find the nearest Starz employee or volunteer and give them a hug for putting on such a great festival.
Unnamed Intern #2 says: This was a good introduction into the way film festivals are run if you are an independent film maker, and how sometimes they hardly run at all (Chicago IndieFest). An appropriate film to show at a film festival and it was nice to watch a documentary and then not feel bad about clicking ignore when asked to support some cause's page on the Facebook."
- Official Rejection is playing # Wednesday, November 18, 6:30 PM @ Starz FilmCenter and Thursday, November 19, 9:15 PM @ Starz FilmCenter
Stay tuned to see what wacky mishaps Donnybrook gets themselves into at the festival! Wacky!