Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ups and Downs on Day 2

Whew! I spent the early part of this day conducting interviews in Plano for an upcoming cover story, and then attending a screening of Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. (You can get my thoughts on that in two weeks.) All that was before I got back to Fort Worth for the second day of the festival.

I went to Serious Moonlight and was sorely disappointed. As I wrote in my preview piece, it was directed by Cheryl Hines (better known as the lead actress in Curb Your Enthusiasm), who carried the torch for the project after Adrienne Shelly's murder, so much so that a studio executive suggested that Hines direct it herself. Well, her inexperience shows in the piece's wobbly tone and overall staginess. Granted, it's tricky material, and the entire movie takes place in one location when a lawyer (Meg Ryan) ties up her husband (Timothy Hutton) rather than let him leave her for another woman. But the script seems to frame the main character as a romantic when her behavior is psychotic, and Meg Ryan looks totally lost as to how to play her. The violence that comes when a thief (Justin Long) shows up to rob the place jars with what's come before, and the ending is really weak. Kristen Bell pops in as the other woman. She will always hold a place in my heart for starring in Veronica Mars, and she's really good at being mean. Some of the funniest stuff was some slapstick bits late in the film she joins her boyfriend in being tied up on the bathroom floor, but it's not enough to overcome all the problems here.

After that was over, I attended the shorts program, which was entirely made up of films made in Texas. Dig Deep is a documentary that features the eye-catching art of Deep Ellum fixture Frank Campagna, while Sam Lerma's Trash Day strikes exactly the right comic mood in telling the story of a woman with a creepy crush on her garbageman. I was cringing at the synopsis of Sukwon Shin's Unbelievable4, expecting a lot of stale satire in its story about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld protecting the earth from space aliens. However, this animated film scores because its action sequences actually look good, because it shows the four White House officials singing Europe's "The Final Countdown" like they're in an old MTV rock video, and because it's all done so straightforwardly that it would be a Republican rally staple if you took out the last shot. You can watch the whole film here. My favorite shot is the one early on of Condi Rice in a leather catsuit crouching Angelina Jolie-style on top of a skyscraper. Even funnier was Jenny Goddard's Weight of the World, with some delicately scripted and well-acted banter between two boys who've been hung from a tree by their underwear and are now wondering what the impact will be on their adult lives. Hope the other shorts programs will have this many highlights. -- Kristian Lin

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