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Wednesday, February 02, 2005
The movie reviews (Sundance)...

…For at least what I had the good fortune (or misfortune) to see.

High School Record

Prior to this movie starting, there was a short called “Let the Good Times Roll” and it was, well, soapy czar. Imagine that being said in a French accent and being heard by someone who had an ecstasy enema. Seriously.

Soapy czar = So bizarre. And no, we weren’t watching someone have that particular… thing, but the person on the camera was telling us about it. Definitely a wigged out druggie sort of thing.

It was definitely soapyczar.

Anyway, High School Record – that’s definitely a movie that should never become a cult classic, and I don’t think that it has the feet to be able to do it. As I said previously, it was a mockumentary that was made by someone who was over 20 trying to be a high school kid. The premise sets a young man in an arts high school, and he asks if he can document his entire school year on video and the school says ok. Of course, the only person we ever see that works for the school is the acting teacher. We focus on 4 kids, two boys and two girls, who are involved with each other as friends and in serious relationships and all the angst that goes with it.

Honestly, if you want to see bad acting and hear about one girl who just wants to sleep with every guy she can, and another guy who *does* sleep with everything he can (including impregnating the acting teacher), then this is the movie for you.

Personally, I shouldn’t have listened to the recommendation for it.

This Charming Girl

I saw a note on the message board at the CEO’s house that said this movie was anything but charming. This was right after I came back from High School Record, and I was concerned that all I was going to see was the worst things at Sundance, and nothing good. This had DH and I scouring the table for free tickets of things to see and grabbing a couple of different items.

The movie was anything but charming, but it wasn’t bad either. Not good, not bad. It’s a Korean film about this girl who just goes through the motions of everyday life with not a lot invested in it, with the exception of a couple of passions – a kitten she finds near her house, and the plants on her balcony. We see her never really sleep, and always being awake and watching television when her alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning. We see, in a series of disjointed flashbacks things that happened to her in the past – that she ran away from her marriage on her honeymoon, that she was raped as a child – but that really doesn’t serve to explain much about the way she is now because we don’t know *why* she ran away from her marriage.

At one point the tables do turn – she asks a man to dinner who has been dropping off mail at the post office she works at. He accepts and she works hard to make a wonderful dinner and then sits down and waits for him. Eventually she starts taking the plastic wrap off the dishes and starts eating because he has not shown up. Abandoned, much like the way she abandoned her marriage – both unexplained. Until the end, when the man finds her and explains why he did not show up. He is her antithesis – he falls unconscious when his head hits the pillow, where she never sleeps.

Like I said, it wasn’t bad, but it left me with an incomplete feeling at the end, and honestly, I didn’t feel anything for the girl’s character at all.

Shorts Program

What can I begin to say about the Short Program? It was great. It opened with a tear-jerker (for me) about a large group of Mexicans who were being snuck across the border in the back of a rig. Apparently it was based on a true story about an abandoned trailer that was found with 19 people dead inside, including a 5 year old boy and his father. Who knew you could pack that much tension and emotion into something that ran under 5 minutes?

Next up was West Bank Story – this is a must see. It’s a take off on “West Side Story” – done with Palestinian and Israeli families. Yes, it was a musical. One family owned Kosher King, the other Hummus Hut, and they were competing falafel stands that were right next to each other. I’m sure you can figure out where the story goes, as it was based on the movie, but you really should find a way to see it. It’s this year’s “Harvie Krumpet” (which is another must-see in my book).

There were a couple of forgettable shorts (I’ve certainly forgotten them), but two others come to mind. One (and I can’t recall the name of it) starred Lukas Haas who was telling his girlfriend a story. She asked him, as they were lying on a bed, about his first time. So he starts talking about walking into the snow with another girl at the age of 12, and how they walked far into the wood to a certain place they liked to sit. Suddenly there were deer all around in a circle, and in the middle was a doe – who was alive, yet the bugs were already feeding on her, and he felt like the deer (who were not afraid of him) were there pleading with him to do something.

Well, he picked up a rock and you can guess the rest. And then he helped his girlfriend (I assume that is what she was) with the IV she had in her hand, and a button plunger she could push, and she died in his arms. That one got DH. I don’t think I’ve ever seen DH shed a tear over anything before in the 13 years I’ve known him, until that short. It would probably have gotten me too, except I was wiped from crying over the first short.

The last noteworthy one (and I’ll be writing more about this one later) had John C. O’Reilly as a survey taker asking passing people if they were someone’s favorite person. It was a laugh, and it made me think.

After that we had to grab a shuttle and run up Main to make it to another screening. I got my Java Cow fix, and we tried to have lunch at the Hungry Moose but they forgot about us being seated and we left after 15 minutes with no server coming to see us, but taking the orders of everyone else seated after us.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Once upon a time there was this really big energy company named Enron. It was run by a really smart guy named Ken who found another really smart guy named Jeff to help him run it. They were called the ‘smartest guys in the room’ as they stared from their individual staterooms at the top of the trading floor. Then something called EGO got involved and they thought they were gods.

Enron’s issues didn’t start in late 1999/early 2000 – they started with a deal that went south much earlier called Valhalla out of New York. The traders gambled away all the money, and Jeff saved the company by making a few edgy bets. This was the life at Enron – the management, and the traders, had too much power and they knew it. They were directly responsible for the rolling blackouts in California because they shut down power plants that should have stayed running – by telling the plant that demand was low. There is so much information that came out of that movie that I can’t possibly detail all of it, but it was excellent. One of the best documentaries about corporate business that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few).

One thing of note – you really feel sorry for Gray Davis, the former governor of California, after watching this movie. If he had made the decision to bring in the National Guard to take back control of the power plants, then he would probably still be governor and have a shot at the Presidency (which was the speculation that was going about). But because he didn’t want to bring the government against corporate business, it just contributed to the recall campaign that he lost.

There was a Q&A that I would have loved to attend, but we had to dash back down the hill and catch another shuttle to meet up with Stasha and watch the next movie (which was our last movie at Sundance)…


…and we really saved the best for last.

This was another movie that I believe came out of Korea and it has already been signed under the Sony Pictures Classics banner. This is the perfect example of a movie that doesn’t need a lot of dialogue to get it’s point across. Of course, what that point actually is is a matter of interpretation. You have a homeless young man whose job is to put restaurant flyers on the doors of houses. He goes back those same houses and breaks in where the flyers have not been removed. Once in, he relaxes in the house and makes himself something to eat. He also fixes things that he finds that are broken, and does the homeowner’s laundry.

A conscientious burglar – he never takes anything from the house other than the time he has spent in it, and perhaps a touch of food. An uninvited guest who leaves the place cleaner than it was when he arrived. So he comes to this one house and picks the lock to come in, and starts making himself at home. He is discovered by a quiet woman with a bruise around her eye and a split lip – she is never allowed to leave the house without her husband’s permission. In a strange turn of events, she leaves the house with him, and becomes his partner at breaking into houses and cleaning them while they stay there. When she left her house, he took something with him – a golf ball. That golf ball gets put on a tether and he practices his swing from time to time. At one point the ball goes loose and strikes someone in a passing car, which reduces our hero to desperate tears on the side of the road while the woman comforts him.

There are too many houses and too many details to go into, but they eventually get caught, and she is returned to her husband. He (our hero) is put in jail and beaten by a guard whenever he hides in his cell. Eventually, we are led to believe, he is released and the husband knows that his wife is waiting for the young man to return to her. But the young man has learned to be stealthy and to stay behind someone completely out of eyeline. He returns to the woman and walks behind her husband, while she finally seems happy for the first time in the movie.

The movie closes with the two of them standing on a bathroom scale (this figured into the story earlier) and the scale reads 0. And then a line about if one is sure if they live in reality or a dream appears on the screen and closes the movie.

I have not done this movie justice in my review of it – it was breathtaking and incredible, and after some more conversations with DH about it, I’m sure I’ll be back with a long discussion about mysticism and treading the line between reality and what you want reality to be.

If you get a chance to see 3-Iron, RUN, don't walk. It's definitely worth the time to sit and read the subtitles and revel in this wonderful story.