I finally made it down to CAF to see Nymphaea, a video installation put together by Ted Mills and friends. I had been seeing and hearing good things about it since the reception last Thursday.. but even the lovely photos I had seen didn't really do it justice. Mine don't either.
It's nice to see the Forum so filled-out with gracefully floating screens sporting Lotusland imagery. One of my favorite pieces was Ethan Turpin's kaleidoscopic projection in the Patridge Gallery (side room) set to vintage opera music (I can't remember 'who' the singer is, but it's a nice reference to Madam Ganna Walska, who was an opera singer herself).
The show is only up for another day before installation begins on CAF's annual Valentine's Show - so get in there before 5 tomorrow (the 2nd) if you haven't seen it yet.
Tags: contemporary arts forum, ted mills, ethan turpin, jon smith, ganna walska, lotusland nymphaea, robin bisio, Erika Kloumann, nik Blaskovich, projection, installation
Just photos for now. More to come on the Cinema Vanguard Awards soon.
Attending: Christoph Waltz, Gabourey Sidibe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stanley Tucci, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga.
How it probably feels.
Tags: santa barbara international film festival, sbiff 2010, 2010, c2sbiff, Vanguard Awards, Cinema, Christoph Waltz, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga, photos, best photos, film fest, gabourey sidibe, Lobero Theatre
Note: There is little in the next few paragraphs that isn't hinted at in the official trailer. BUT, I urge you to go see this one blind. Don't watch the trailer. Don't read my review (yet). Just go see it (it's good). It's playing Friday at the IV Theatre at 6pm.
If you live in Santa Barbara, then you've probably driven by Oak Park a
t some point seen a small group of young and not-so-young adults running around in medieval costumes hitting each other with padded swords. Like me, you probably thought something snarky to yourself, like, "I knew a few kids in high school who were into that stuff..but..really?". To be honest, ever since my friend Dieter monologued for an hour in a futile attempt to to explain D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) to me back in middle school, I've been a little curious what role-playing games were all about.
So I was excited when I heard about The Wild Hunt. Having only briefly scanned the one sentence synopsis in the festival brochure, my motivation to go was based almost exclusively on a single sentence that I overheard while waiting in line to buy milk at Ralph's. The guy in front of me said, "yeah, I think I'm going to check out The Wild Hunt tonight - I guess it's like...a D&D Viking thriller or something".
Awesome. Because Vikings are almost as cool as Ninjas or Pirates (and maybe even Dinosaurs), I needed no more convincing. The films unusual elements sounded odd enough to be worthwhile.
Despite knowing that there was a D&D/LARP (live action role-playing) element in the film, the opening sequence (an 'epic battle' Vikings and Celts) still caught me off-guard. In diminishing believability, an almost authentic looking Viking battle scene morphed quickly into something very B-movie-ish, complete with less-than-convincing fight choreography, bad wigs, and uncomfortably clichéd dialogue (think 'The Seeker' but worse).
My friend Steve and I momentarily wondered if we had picked the wrong film, until a fight scene (between a cranky 'King Argyle' and a loud and feisty Viking berzerker) reached it's climax, and ended with a burp ( Argyle yelling 'Whoa whoa whoa! The fight's fuckin over OK? I hit you like ten times! Ref!?" ). There was an audible sigh of relief from the audience (who must have been as concerned as we were that we'd all stumbled into the worst film ever).
Happy, realizing we we'd been playfully duped, we scooched deeper into our seats knowing that the film we were watching was (a) not necessarily horrible, and (b) charming because it was off to a good start
poking light fun at.. uh.. the type of people who take LARPing a little seriously - withou
t making them seem like idiots.
TWH quietly lulls you into thinking you're watching an indie-romantic-comedy-drama-type-
film (something like "Away We Go") as it sets up it's sympathetic and frustrated protagonist Erik (Ricky Maybe), who lives with (and takes care of) his mentally disabled father. His flaky older brother Bjorn (an emotionally arrested Norse-God-Obsessed 30 something, played by Mark Antony Krupa) has more-or-less abandoned Erik and his father to frolic indefinitely in a role-playing camp in the Canadian back-country. Unfortunately for Erik, his aloof and emotionally distant girlfriend ( Kaniehtiio Horn) has a sort-of simultaneous relationship with one of the LARPers ('Shaman Murtagh', played by Trevor Hayes) at said camp. By the time she tells Erik that she's leaving for some 'air' to go role-playing with some other dudes in the mountains, the little voice in the back of my mind telling me that the film is supposed to be a thriller had all but faded - and the bleakness and quiet dysfunction of their 'relationship' had taken center stage.
nd Co-writer Alex Franchi's genius is in allowing us to invest ourselves emo
tionally into Erik's character, and his charming and slightly pathetic 'love quest' to go talk some sense into his cheating girlfriend, which he can only do by (reluctantly) playing along with his brothers geeky friends who constantly insist on him staying in 'decorum' so as not to ruin the game. We trust the films smart and witty storytelling until we learn the hard way that it's not out to make us feel warm and fuzzy.
Of course, eventually, everything goes horribly, horribly wrong (it really goes terribly wrong). The film pivots instantly from an increasingly tense romantic tug-of-war, into very real-feeling panic and disorienting violence. Brilliantly, the quirky and harmless emotional momentum of the film (which by this point has flirted with danger and returned to safety many times) extends slightly past the point of no return - leaving the audience (or at least me) flinching.
It's hard to miss the director tipping his hat to William Golding. But unlike Lord of the Flies or Apocalypse Now, Franchi places mans capacity for acts of horror much closer to everyday life. He makes us watch as his carefully-crafted, charming and emotionally familiar narrative get's convincingly ( and unapologetically) torn limb from limb.
And just in case you were wondering, though I'll cry in a theater at the drop of a hat, (or more likely when a dog is hurt or dies) I'm the kind of guy who is almost never bothered by 'scary' movies. Of course I've jumped once or twice - but never too far. I thought the Saw was campy and a little stupid (duh). Silence of the Lambs was excellent, but more intriguing than scary. And the Blair Witch Project was what it was - but I never lost sleep.
The Wild Hunt terrified me.
During the last 15 minutes of the film, I felt my heart race uncontrollably. I squirmed, cringed & flinched until my whole torso and neck actually tingled with adrenaline (which is usually reserved for getting stalked by hungry bears in the dark on a camping trip in Yosemite).
In the brief calm that follows the films climax, it manages to blend together the banal and the mythological. It articulates a fascinating connection between role-playing games with the horrific realities they romanticize, and somehow erases the gap between typical contemporary real-life breakup drama and Shakespearian tragedy.
The film is a brilliant, emotionally complex and believable piece of storytelling, with compelling acting (especially by Ricky Maybe, Nicholas Write & Mark Anthony Krupa).
Driving by Oak Park will never be the same.
9 out of 10 stars (aka 'go see it').
Tags: santa barbara international film festival, sbiff 2010, 2010, the wild hunt, LARPer, role playing, lord of the flies, Wiliam Golding, Alex Franchi, c2sbiff
Here are some photos from the Virtuosos Award red carpet. In attendance were Carey Mulligan (An Education), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria), Saiorse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man).
Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love, The Young Victoria, Sunshine Cleaning)
Michael Stuhlbarg and partner.
Carey Mulligan ( An Education )
Haaz Sleiman (Nurse Jackie, The Visitor )
Tovah Feldsuch (Ten Stories Tall)
Saiorse Ronan (the lovely bones)
Saiorse Ronan (the lovely bones)
Clifton Collins Jr. and unknown beautiful woman who I should probably know but I don't.
Tags: santa barbara international film festival, c2sbiff, sbiff, sbiff 2010, 2010, santa barbara entertainment news, chopin, carey mulligan, saoirse ronan, gabourey sidibe, michael stuhlbarg, virtuoso, chopin virtuosos award february, american riviera award, dates for sbiff, Emily Blunt, carey Millican, Saiorse Ronan, Anthony Zerbe, Andy Abrahams Wilson, Perry Lang, Jean Brassard, Tova Felsuch, Charlie Haden, Gabourey Sidibe.
This picture is from the back of the room (at CAF) during the 'Amazing Animated Jukebox Vol 2' show (consisting of animated videos compiled by Ted Mills for 2010's first Forum Lounge). The show consisted of a series of hand-picked music videos with exceptional/artful and progressive animation.
This reminded me of how easy I have it as a mostlystill visual artist. Animators work their asses off.
For example, Birdy Nam Nam's video directed/created (?) by Willy Sweeny (see first video below) was a very interesting and artful combination of elements I can't even begin to describe here ('cause I'd say something unintelligible like retro-HeMan-Atari lasers meets acid-trip-orbiting-sugarcube-shooting-katchina-hero narrative).
I think I was more-or-less smitten by everything except for the very last video of the evening (not to be confused with the last video on this page), which felt a little too similar to a lot of post-modern animation that I've seen (think hairy, slimy, extra-appendage-laiden, crooked toothed cartoon characters). I can't remember the name of the artist or director at the moment, but I was slightly sad to see it end on that note. I'm being nit-picky though. It was an impressive and fun show.
I've embedded a few of the highlights below (though there were a few more that I'll have to look up because I stupidly didn't take notes).
Birdy Nam Nam - The Parachute Ending
"Myriad Harbor" by the New Pornographers
"E-Pro" by Beck
"Happy Up Here" by Ryoskopp
"Evil Bee" by Menomena
My apologies for not including more of the director/animator credits.. If I can, I'll ask Mr. Mills for the playlist.
Here are some more pics:
Tags: contemporary art, santa barbara, CAF, contemporary arts forum, animated jukebox, ted mills, videos, animation
Mickey Rourke was presented with the American Riviera Award tonight by Francis Ford Coppola at the Arlington. Here's another short set of red carpet shots including local Christopher Lloyd (with unknown date).
Christopher Lloyd and his cute date.
Don't know this guys name, but he was a great sport and started taking pictures of the press with his phone.
Couldn't resist having a little fun with the camera.
More of that guy.
Mickey Rourke from the side.
Tags: sbiff, santa barbara international film festival, sbarts, mickey rourke, christopher lloyd
I went to the Santa Barbara Shorts screening at Victoria Hall Wednesday night for a very diverse and enjoyable set of films (nine in all). The sb shorts are an interesting and often neglected little vein of SBIFF, which are predominantly attended by those either involved directly in the making of one of the films, or those related to someone who was. From what I gather - due to the relative lack of obstacles for 'getting a piece into SBIFF if you're a Santa Barbarian' - there is a considerable lack of interest on the part of the greater public - probably because it is widely assumed that the quality of local entries is sub-par compared to the rest of the festivals screenings. To some degree, I understand this logic. On the other hand, there is a rushed freshness to most of these pieces, which makes for some truly unique and enjoyable film experiences.
There were probably two or three obvious standouts, some doozies, and others that fell somewhere inbetween. Here are some thoughts on them in order of appearance.
Based loosely on a Dave Eggers short story, Anatomy of Numbers (dir Erin Cantelo) was a sweet, intimate portrayal of two lovers in bed flirting, fondling - and eventually making love. Filmed in warm tones, it showcased subtle human gestures, vulnerable moments, and some of the more complex cultural norms that effect our most personal moments (in this case revolving around how many sexual partners each person had had in the past). Though there were brief moments where I was reminded that the people on screen were acting, Cantelo's sophisticated eye (exquisite lighting and depth of field camerawork), humor, sound choices and a acute sense of human charm, vulnerability, and cultural baggage made it obvious that we'll be seeing more of her wonderful work in the future. ****1/2(4.5 stars)
A Room for Sarah (dir Ginger Swanson) was a faux 1920's era silent film, based on a true story, about a woman confined by her brother (and his nasty wife) to an upstairs room in their late father's house. The film did not hold together (though there was a narrative) for me. The filming was not convincing (even for a Chaplinesque musical silent flim) or particularly engaging. **1/2 (2.5 stars)
Business (dir John McKinney) stood out from the beginning with it's off-kilter edgy humor, augmented pacing and bizarre but compelling characters Caleb and Walker. The 19 minute film chronicles a continuous set of situational non-sequiturs that follow Caleb's challenges after inheriting a very non-glamourous office building that he is determined to use to 'make lots of money'.. somehow. Though there was an almost undetectable narrative, McKinney maintained a comical and spellbinding comedy that had everyone either on the edge of their seats, or in danger of falling on the floor from laughter. Though not intentional (I asked John after the film) I thought it also had subtle shades of Zach, Tim and Eric, which is never a bad thing. Easily, one of my 2 favorite shorts this year. ****1/2(4.5 stars)
The Early Worm (dir Ray Pivato) was a super lo-fi 'day in the life' of a poor business man who gets up early to do his thing, only to be foiled by a series horrible misfortunes. Though it had a lot of cheap laughs, and great cursing repetition, it dragged on a few minutes too long. *** (3 stars)
En Route (dir Karl Mefford) featured race-cars, super sharp bond-like cinematography, and even a little twist, but smacked a little too much of too much budget (and equipment) and too little planning or attention to narrative. Seemed more like an afternoon 'boy's playing with an expensive camera and expensive cars' than something you'd want to go see outside of your friends living-room. ** (two stars).
The Fisherman (dir Jason Hallows) had a fresh take on the old Genie in a Bottle story. A fisherman, while having a smoke catches a typical genie lantern in his fishing net, at which point things get a little weird. Shot and produced in less than a week, this short was impressive both because of it's built in sense of humor and curiosity, and for a very unique set of visual effects. I thought It could have been developed more though. I would love to see what Hallows could come up with in twice or three times the time. ***1/2 (3.5 stars).
Rashi Bahri's film Sarah (yeah, I know, second one with that name in one night) was a difficult to watch, but courageous piece of fiction that depicted a young woman tortured by nightmares of drowning, who decides to confront her fear. Though the director plays some old-school (and possibly played-out) cinematic tricks, there are many stylistic and emotional subtleties that invite a second viewing. it was also consistently and convincingly suspenseful. The film does a good job of showcasing and elaborating on human emotions that are too often oversimplified. ***1/2 (3.5 stars)
Showing Disaster: Tea Fire Reflections (dir Ethan Turpin), which was only 4 minutes long, stood out because of its self-reflexive dissection of ethical questions surrounding the documenting of disaster. Turpin delicately (but simply and clearly) unpacked complex ideas like cultural voyeurism, empathy, and subsistence in a non-conclusive (and refreshingly honest) style. Showing Disaster invited far more comments and questions than the other shorts, which I believe is usually an indication of a very strong work of art. ****1/2 (4.5 stars)
We Have Lost our Wings but Still We Dream of Flying (dir Elia Vargas) was (for me) the low point of the shorts screening. Vargas chose a split screen presentation for this film, depicting both a romantic (and voyeuristic) scene of a beautiful girl rolling around in a field in the wind on one side, and a dismal, green-toned, dark indoor scene with a male figure sitting alone beside a lamp on the other. I thought that the imagery was actually strong, as was the soundtrack - which consisted of compelling swelling squelchy electric ambient noise. But the whole thing was ruined by what sounded like a morbid high-school goth-kids all-too-long monologue about how 'the world' is 'puke', decaying and devoid of goodness. It's not the sentiment that was off-putting, but the delivery, which seemed to lack any awareness of how played-out and sophomoric it might actually be. Though earnest and occasionally interesting, 'Flying' left me pretty flat. *1/2 (1.5 stars)
Tags: sbiff, santa barbara international film festival, sbarts