Friday, April 9, 2010

Aspen Report #1

Karibe and I pulled into Aspen too late on Tuesday to make either of the first competition programs, but we made both shows on Wednesday and Thursday. Each program featured several strong pieces, but a few clunkers as well.

Wednesday's Programs (Three & Four): The first program on Wednesday featured several enjoyable shorts. "Angry Man" was a delightful, yet haunting animation that told the story of an abusive father as seen through the son's eyes. The animation was really neat and fit the mood of the film perfectly. "Glenn Owen Dodds" was a charming comedy about "an ordinary man who meets an extraordinary man" and pretty extraordinary events ensue.

The later show included an animation made from wood-block images, a StoryCorps recording, and Keira Knightley. My favorite piece from this program was "The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers," an absurd short that utilized green screen technology, German surrealism, a haunting score and well played dark comedic sensibility.

Overall, the programs were strong. There were a few pieces that were weaker in comparison to the better shorts but still fit into the overall themes of "identity" or "coming of age." I wasn't, however, blown away by each short as I had expected.

Thursday's Programs (Five & Six): The shows on Thursday were an eclectic collection of animation, documentary, and gripping dramatic pieces. The first program featured three very strong pieces in "The History of Aviation," "Home is Where You Find It," and "Roof Rattling." Aviation is a period piece about a lost little girl and the frantic search to find her. During her time away, the little girl witnesses a horrifying attempt at flight. Home was a touching account of AIDS orphans in Africa. Alcides Soares is a 16 year old orphan who is searching for his younger brother. Soares shoots most of the footage in the film and really becomes a natural filmmaker and charismatic personality. Rattling is a Kiwi short about a young boy, a friend, and their attempt to steal Playboys. After getting caught in the targeted house, James grows close to the old man living there - just in the course of one afternoon.

The second program was the strongest of the fest so far. It featured several styles of animation (including a screening of a short omitted from the previous show). "Alma" is a chilling, Twilight Zone-esque tale about a little girl infatuated with a doll with a hauntingly similar appearance (it also screened at SLIFF in 2009). "Flowerpots" is a fun, hand-drawn animation about outgrowing your surroundings but always ending up where you started.

"Lebensader" is a tale about seeing the universe from a unique perspective and knowing that existence goes far beyond what we can see. It's a colorful, imaginative short that was a lot of fun to watch.

The live action pieces that rounded out the night were highlighted by "The Cage," "Man and Boy," and "Plank." Cage sees a young boy care for an ailing pigeon, much to the disdain of his father. Soon, the father comes to care for the bird as well but it's too late. "Man and Boy" stars the intense Eddie Marsan caught between his past and the gregarious actions of a neighbor boy. "Plank" is a documentary about a Moroccan skateboarder who makes Ryan Sheckler look like the tool douche he really is.

So far, the programs have been enjoyable with a few dazzling pieces in the mix. There has yet to be, however, a short that blows me a way in the fashion of "Sugar" or "Ten for Grandpa." With four programs still to screen, hopefully that will change.

One perplexing inclusion into two programs (the late shows on Wednesday and Thursday) has been the work of Lewis Teague, Charlotta-TS. From what I've gathered, he's connected to Aspen in some fashion but the work is beyond wretched and hampers the style, flow and quality of the programs. I understand including works as a favor or as some sort of political wrangling behind festival doors, but dedicating prestigious festival space on three occasions (another indulgence occurs on Friday) as well as a separate "special presentation" seminar on micro-filmmaking, boggles my mind and changes my perception of the fest. One of the mysteries of the universe, I suppose.

Also, last night Karibe and I saw Meg Ryan, who's cute, sweetheart face has been totally destroyed by Botox. The picture to the left is only a partial representation of the damage that has taken place. Boy, how Hollywood has bastardized the notions of beauty and perfection. I guess as long as roles don't call for Ryan to be emotive through facial features, she'll keep getting work.

No comments: