We’re down to the wire at Cinequest!
Late last night, the Cinequest encores were announced. These make up the bulk of Sunday programming in the festival’s final day. As I predicted, there are still too many great films to see them all. I covered my recommendations through Saturday last time. So here are my picks for your viewing on Sunday, with one update for Saturday.
The Empire of Corpses
Well of course it’s a zombie film. It’s a full-length anime adventure story. It’s also an alternate reality film, a period drama, and a Wold Newton addition. It’s anime, from the creators of the current hit anime series Attack on Titian, and while the style is a bit more matured and refined here but you can still see the DNA of the prior works in the animation and characterizations.
So, it’s got a lot going for it.
In this way-sideways version of our late 19oo’s, Victor Frankenstein’s not-fully-understood techniques in reanimating the dead have led to Zombie Technology where the walking dead are porters, day-laborers, soldiers, and even personal assistants. The quest for a the next step in this tech would likely lead to a nation’s global advantage, and is being sought by several factions with different goals in mind. We race around the world, encountering various hazards, enemies, allies, and surprising new zombies, as the plot moves ever closer to an apocalyptic edge of revelations into the true meaning of having a soul.
My only problem with Empire is that it falls into a repetition of statement and action that extends its welcome by about 20 minutes past what it should have been. To be clear, I find this endemic in most long-form anime. However, if you are intrigued by the premise, and have already established a patience with such plot-plodding, you’ll likely find The Empire of Corpses‘ the lovely animation and wild devices exactly to your liking.
Oh, and stay for the whole credits. Yes, it’s one of those. Or maybe not… it reveals a twist that really contributes nothing to the film unless there’s actually a sequel in the works. And even that’s a stretch.
Love is All You Need?
If you’ve read my prior reviews or listened to the Fanboy Planet Podcast, you already know that I’m a big fan of this film. Bullying has become a cancer in our society, happening on so many levels, extending even into our political forums and a duality of religious intolerance. As with so many things, empathy is at once terribly important to cultivate in our understanding of others, and tremendously hard to do in the face of ignorant righteousness.
And that’s why K. Rocco Shields’ film is so important. By turning the issue on it’s head, we hope others can see how flawed is their logic-of-hate. We can continue to reverse the roles back and forth in our heads until we give up, exhausted, and accept that they just don’t matter. That everyone has the right to living a life without persecution because of who they love. It’s fundamental, ironically simple, and brought out wonderfully in the film.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you really lucked out because it’s back for an encore. If you saw it once, you should try to bring a friend or five to the Sunday showing. It’s a gift they’ll thank you for, even through their inevitable tears.
I’m hard-pressed to come up with films that are like Creedmoria where that comparison will provide you with a background that helps understand this nicely crafted, uniquely charming film. Tragic and funny, uniquely archetypical, a family story where the individuals peel off until we’re left with the core two personalities that matter, a sister and brother.
I don’t want to be responsible for spoiling anything for you here, so I’ll borrow Kadie Sutherland’s write up from the Cinequest guide.
Family is an institution. Sometimes, you gotta break out.
Candy injects the “fun” in her dysfunctional life. When your brother is found at the neighbor’s naked and drunk, you’re stuck with a caveman of a boyfriend, you have a dickhead boss, and the madness of everyday life competes with your mother’s need to appear “normal,” you have to peek between the cracks to find the warm rays of hope. But, maybe normalcy is just a construct for other people. And, maybe breaking out of the institution is more important than fitting in. Breakfast Club meets Little Miss Sunshine in director Alicia Slimmer’s debut feature—a brilliantly-crafted comedy that asks the question: Who wants to be normal anyway?
That’s all pretty cool, but it doesn’t cover some of the neater mechanisms in the filming. Watch how they shorthand for the audience that a bit of time has passed, or the idea that institutions bounding the town actually bound growth that could let us leave it behind. And enjoy Stef (Hunger Games: Mockingjay) Dawson’s performance as Candy, whose growth is subtle without any betrayal of youthful dedications.
Oh yeah, the soundtrack is awesome too. It sent me directly to Spotify to make a playlist of a few loved songs I’d forgotten I’d loved.
OK, my wife doesn’t typically watch modern goofball comedy romances where the main male character is painfully flawed but somehow still in a relationship with a solid, focused woman. So I was somewhat floored when she said “I’d watch that one again.”
Dependent’s Day is Cinequest’s sole contribution to this male vs his own flaws in maintaining a solid relationship genre. But it’s unfair to try to slot this into a genre so crazily described. To say Cam is a struggling actor is to imply that he’s getting acting jobs at all. So, under pressure to prove he’s not dependent on his girl friend, he attempts to step it up, but simply gets cast as… well, he gets babysitting jobs. And even those prove a bit too much for his somewhat distracted demeanor. Sure, he’s his own worst enemy, but he’s also his wife’s best friend. Can their relationship strengthen, or is it simply doomed by Cam’s inability to focus and apply his actual abilities?
With Director Michael David Lynch’s tight script, and the rapid-fire delivery by Joe Burke, we follow fascinated through Cam’s journey of both denial and revelation. There are so many bits neatly strung along here the film never drags, the plot and characters are always moving along nicely. Case in point; the sequence with the VHS tape, could be made into a complete short film in itself (watch the trailer for a clue about that). It’s a fun and funny journey, providing you’re not a “Cam” out on a date yourself. That would be awkward.
If you’re looking for something that will literally make you laugh (and groan) out loud, this is the film you’re looking for.
Shorts Program 4 – Animated Worlds
Just going to touch on this. I told you the shorts programs were safe bets for viewing and the Animated Worlds collection was one of my Sight Unseen spotlighted recommendations.
No surprise it’s back for an encore. You’ll be charmed, amused, surprised, shocked, and inspired by this collection of a variety of animation techniques telling clever short stories.
The world of robots tangles itself with stories of omnipotent children, obsessed stilt-walkers, and musical bovines. Every kind of animation possible, from ultra-high-tech, computer generated tales to lo-fi creations, stop-motion puppet films to traditional hand-drawn pieces, all combine to make Animated Worlds a program people will be talking about.
As I said before, you really lucked out with this season’s encores.
It’s a rainy weekend in San Jose, the best time to get out there and discover new films! These last two days of Cinequest are the perfect hunting ground for filmgoers looking for those amazing experiences.
March 12, 2016
It’s film festival season again! Cinequest 2016 starts on March 1st and runs through the 13th, so if you’re in the San Jose / San Francisco Bay Area you might check out the films and events for this year. And watch here and at Fanboy Planet for upcoming reviews and podcasts from the Planet’s crew.