By Kim Voynar

What to Catch the Second Half of AFI Fest

AFI Fest, which kicked off last Thursday, is a different sort of fest than Sundance or Cannes or Toronto. Many of the films on the schedule are what I would consider more mainstream-friendly fare (which is not at all to say they aren’t good films). Much of the schedule here is kind of a “best of the fests” slate, which is actually great, because it means that the audiences who will pay to put their butts in seats at AFI Fest have a greater likelihood of seeing a film that’s good, rather than the crapshoot chance one tends to take at a fest like Sundance.

I’ve already seen many of the films on the AFI Fest schedule, which makes it a good fest for me to catch up on good films I’ve missed at other fest runs or to catch something new I’m hearing interesting things about. Fortunately for fest-goers, there’s still five more days of AFI Fest in which to catch some great cinema, and almost all of the films I would suggest here haven’t yet played.

There are quite a few fantastic films at the fest that I’d recommend as “must-sees.” Perhaps the most challenging film on the AFI Fest slate is Adam Resurrected, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Jeff Goldblum in a performance that’s garnered well-deserved Oscar-nom buzz. I reviewed Adam Resurrected for Cinematical at Telluride, and it’s a complex, deeply layered film packed full of symbolism; even if you’re not typically a fan of more cerebral films, it’s well worth catching just to see Goldblum’s turn, which I consider one of his strongest ever.

Also falling into the category of thoughtful, more challenging films is Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman, which played at Cannes earlier this year. The film follows a wealthy woman who may or may not have accidentallly hit and killed a lower-class child with her car while trying to find her cell phone while driving, and the way in which her sense of guilt slowly engulfs her as she conceals what happened. It’s one of those films that stays with you long after the closing credits roll, and I’ve found myself thinking about it many times since I saw it in May.

Both of those films are on the heavy, depressing side, so you might want some lighter, more uplifting fare to lift your spirits up. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, the darling of both the Telluride and Toronto film festivals this year, looks to be this year’s little film that could do big things; it’s a tale of a poor chaiwalla in the slums of Mumbai who goes on the Indian version of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” wins big, and is accused of fraud because the show’s producers don’t believe a slum kid could possibly have known the answers to the questions he was asked. Slumdog is a delightful film bolstered by an interesting narrative structure and charming performances by the leads, and is sure to be one of the more crowd-pleasing films of the awards season. The film plays on Friday at AFI Fest, along with a tribute to Boyle; fans of Boyle’s work can also catch a double-feature of his films Trainspotting and Shallow Grave, which will be introduced by the director, on Thursday night.

Also falling into the “fun to watch” category is the Korean spaghetti western The Good, the Bad, the Weird, directed by Ji-woon Kim, a fast-paced romp about a criminal who stumbles upon a treasure map who’s pursued by both bad guys and the military (culminating in a spectacular chase scene on horseback) as he tries to reach the treasure before they do. Also noteworthy is Darren Aronofsky’sThe Wrestler, which stars Mickey Rourke as an aging pro-wrestler trying to make a comeback. The Wrestler was one of the most anticipated films at Toronto this year, and buzz on the film was overwhelmingly positive; the film screens tomorrow night.

If you’re looking to catch up with films from the fest circuit, there are any number of good films you might consider, including several that feature strong female performances: Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments (Sweden’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film), Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale, and Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy, all of which I highly recommend. It’s also a good chance to catch Oscar fare, particularly The Class, France’s Best Foreign entry, which won the Palm d’Or at Cannes, and much-buzzed Waltz with Bashir.

If docs are more your thing, there are several that look intriguing, including Kassim the Dream, which follows a young Ugandan man struggling to overcome the trauma of being a conscripted child soldier who competes in boxing while seeking the pardon of the government responsible for his abduction into military service at the age of six. Other docs on my radar include Russian entry Alone in Four Wallsand Playing Columbine, which follows the controversy that ensued over a video game about the Columbine shootings.

Sci-fi entry Before the Fall looks like a solid pick as well; it looks at the lives of a family in the last three days they have left on earth before a meteor comes to destroy life as we know it; the film debuted at Berlin and recently won the audience award at the Nantes International Science Fiction Festival. Another interesting film to catch is Bill Plympton’s Idiots and Angels, a feature-length animated film about a surly guy who unexpectedly grows wings and finds himself compelled to do good. I saw about 20 minues of this film earlier this year at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and I’d highly recommend catching it here. Idiots and Angels will be presented with Plympton’s short film Hot Dog; animation fans can also catch Plympton speak about animation on Saturday as a part of the fest’s Talk/Show program. I saw Plympton do a similar presentation at Ann Arbor, where he entertained a packed house with a fun, fast-paced talk about his work and how to make a living as an animator, all while drawing pictures on the fly. Well worth catching here at AFI Fest if you’re a fan of Plympton’s work already, or someone who enjoys animation but hasn’t yet discovered Plympton’s particular brand of challenging, smart work.

Below is a list of some recommended films still on the AFI Fest schedule:

Cerebral Cinephile Fare

Adam Resurrected — Saturday, 11/8 7:10, Sunday, 11/9 Noon
The Headless Woman — Thursday, 11/6 9:50PM, Saturday, 11/8 3:30PM

Mainstream Must-Sees

Slumdog Millionaire — Friday, 11/7 7PM
The Brothers Bloom — Saturday, 11/8 3:15PM
The Good, the Bad, the Weird — Thursday 11/6 12:30PM
The Wrestler — Thursday, 11/6 7:30PM

Fest Circuit Picks

The Class — Saturday, 11/8 10PM
A Christmas Tale — Friday, 11/7 7:30PM
Gomorrah — Friday, 11/7 9:30PM
A Quiet Little Marriage — Friday, 11/7 7PM, Saturday, 11/8 3:45PM
Sugar — Thursday 11/6 7PM, Friday, 11/7 3PM
Waltz with Bashir — Friday, 11/7 7PM.
Wendy and Lucy — Saturday, 11/8 7:45PM
Everlasting Moments — Thursday 11/6 6:45PM

Eclectic Offerings

Before the Fall — Wednesday, 11/5 7PM
Idiots and Angels (preceded by Hot Dog) Wednesday 11/5 9:40PM, Thursday 11/6 1PM


Kassim the Dream — Saturday, 11/8 7PM, Sunday, 11/9 12:30PM
Alone in Four Walls — Wednesday 11/5 9:20, Friday, 11/7 12:15
Playing Columbine — Friday, 11/7 7:10PM, Saturday, 11/8 3:15PM

Also …

Bill Plympton — Talk/Show, Saturday, 11/8 3:30PM

– Kim Voynar
Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon