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Festival stuff 2016 (Read 5106 times)
Feb 8th, 2016 at 9:26pm

Jay Seaver   Offline
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I've never walked out of a movie ten minutes in before, but I think it's my new policy for deliberately terrible sci-fi spoofs.  Life is too short for the likes of Space People.
 
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Reply #1 - Feb 9th, 2016 at 12:39pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Jay Seaver wrote on Feb 8th, 2016 at 9:26pm:
I've never walked out of a movie ten minutes in before, but I think it's my new policy for deliberately terrible sci-fi spoofs.  Life is too short for the likes of Space People.


C'mon "everyone" who goes to the Fest/Marathon loves spoofs!

How has turnout been with the snow & cold?
 
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Reply #2 - Feb 9th, 2016 at 4:15pm

NetMammal   Offline
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...Jay, you certainly showed some restraint through the shorts and the first movie, I wish I could get those hours of my life back! Smiley

I actually enjoyed Space People more than the shorts and Merge.  Yes, a 12 year old could have done a better job on hanging mylar in his / her garage than they did, but at some point every really low budget film runs up against those shoals.

<Spoiler alert +>
You may have missed the running joke about their iPal robot, who kept interrupting his duties to spout advertising, because the Space Squad was too cheap to buy the ad-free version of iPal. ...And then warnings about low battery, bad edits on Wikipedia, etc. Very witty.
<->
The lack of polish became sorta an homage to really bad pretend play of grade-schoolers.  Aren't adults allowed to do that?  (It WAS really bad)

On the other hand, what it did not do, which every other film that night did was take itself so seriously.  The acting was better, some of the writing was better. That it did not overuse a constant foreboding and loud musical sound-track which the others that night and [b]SkyQuake[/b] the night before suffered from was a relief.  Sound-tracks should be like salt, every dish can use some, but too much is worse than not enough. Its enough to give you high blood pressure.
 
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Reply #3 - Feb 11th, 2016 at 11:21am

Jay Seaver   Offline
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I have a tough time saying too much about Merge because it's kids, and it's hardly their fault that their teacher didn't give them a freakin' script or that Garen programmed it like it was a real movie.  There's at least an idea or two there,

NetMammal wrote on Feb 9th, 2016 at 4:15pm:
<Spoiler alert +>
You may have missed the running joke about their iPal robot, who kept interrupting his duties to spout advertising, because the Space Squad was too cheap to buy the ad-free version of iPal. ...And then warnings about low battery, bad edits on Wikipedia, etc. Very witty.

..
On the other hand, what it did not do, which every other film that night did was take itself so seriously.

Saw the first one; they kept doing it?  Uy.

I'd kind of like to retire "they don't take it too seriously" as a form of praise.  The best funny/self-referential stuff takes that job seriously and respects the audience.

Anyway, a quick rundown of what I've seen:

400 Days - Dreadful despite having a serviceable cast.  I don't think the filmmakers ever settled on what sort of movie they'd like to make.

The Survivalist - Pretty decent sort of grim post-collapse survival story.

Embers - Possibly the best of the festival, which isn't saying a lot, but a good exploration of what happens in a world without long-term memory.

Arrowhead - For a movie with all that it's got going on (spaceship crashes, monsters, duplicates, prison breaks), it's kind of a slow-moving mess, a lot more dull than it seems like it should be.

House of Time - Slick-looking time travel story from France where nothing much happens.  I get trying to create ambiguity, but not to the point of paralysis.  Could also stand to lose a few characters.

Einstein's God Model - An entertaining performance or two, but not nearly as clever as it thinks it is throwing a bunch of pseudoscience around.

Displacement - Decent enough time-travel story, although I tend to like this sort of thing a lot more tightly structured.  I seemed to like the lead a lot more than the other folks there.

Skyquake - Sometimes a filmmaker should hold his impulse to be clever back; this one squeezed a lot out of a small cast and low-key story until the twists and revelations started negating everything we'd seen.  There's a difference between unreliable narrators and just throwing everything out.

Polder - A genuinely odd one that has moments of disappearing too far up its own backside, but it's a heck of a lot more entertaining than you might expect of an artsy German adaptation of a Japanese sci-fi novel.

Merge - Again, it's kids and mostly improvised.  Also, frustratingly non-specific at times.

Space People - Tapped out.  I can respect a bad movie that manages it honestly, by just not having the talent or resources for its ambitions, but being deliberately sub-par is something I'm done with.

Dual City - I think this may be the first Japanese movie the fest has had, which is nuts (did Summer Wars actually manage to play?).  It's strikingly polished for a very low-budget indie, with decent ideas and action as well.

"Pluto Was Dissed" shorts - Some good stuff in there, but kind of uneven.  Unfortunately, the longest entry ("Quest for a Different Outcome") was built around a twist that was obvious with a lot of tangents that didn't really help the central story.  No room for that in a short.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman - Aside from being terrible (I'd kind of like to check out the remake because there's a good movie in here if anybody involved gave a damn), this was also where the projection problems which had been plaguing the whole festival came to a head:  Basically, everything that is not a DCP (that is, pretty close to everything but 400 Days so far) is being run through a Blu-ray/projector that has terrible artifacting, and with this apparently being screened from a print-on-demand DVD, the image was even more brutal than the film itself.

I opted not to stick around for Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, because I didn't know that there was a Blu-ray available for that which might have been shown.  Tremendously disappointed in Warner Archive night, though - I figured the talk of new remasterings might have meant we got a new DCP or something.
 
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Reply #4 - Feb 11th, 2016 at 10:55pm

Jay Seaver   Offline
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Thursday:

Alienated - Those who prefer heavy sci-fi content would do well to steer clear, as this is a "married couple argues" deal with a UFO sighting at the beginning.  Well-enough acted, I guess, but still pretty much 75 minutes with unpleasant people to no interesting end and a finale that seems to validate the worst of what came before.

The Phoenix Incident - Starts out as a pretty dreary found-footage/mock-doc sort of thing, especially as it leans on invisible-conspiracy material.  When it gets down to "aliens chasing the heroes", though, you can at least see that director Kieth Arem has some chops and can stage an action scene, even if it might have been better not done first-person.  Never does explain where the video was found, though.

Mafia: Survival Game - Ugh.  I don't know if I've ever seen a movie where absolutely every scene was the result of completely arbitrary decisions without any sort of justification before.  Awful.  That this Russian movie was dubbed into English (I'm not sure why besides the producer hoping this would help international sales, but, c'mon) only made the sound-sync problems more obvious.

Worth a reminder:  David has nothing to do with the projection of festival films, which has been, with the exception of those with a DCP (The Phoenix Incident and maybe 400 Days), pretty terrible.
 
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Reply #5 - Feb 13th, 2016 at 1:04pm

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OK, here is my summary.  If I don’t do it now, it won’t get in after Saturday night.

iNote: I was here all nights except for Friday and did not get started on the first Saturday until 8PM.

First of all, I want to congratulate the festival organizers on this year’s selection of films and shorts. This is the first year I have NOT come home really annoyed most nights (I have been feeling like I need to go to support Garen and the festival, but it was feeling like a real burden.)  This year, all but one night, I came home raving to my wife about at least one film.  Last year I came home ONLY one night raving about a film.

Astraea:  Well-done. I suspect this was the under-seen festival  film of the year, because it was shown in the micro cinema.  Sad, because it was sorta local (Maine), and really good.  Everybody was in the big theater watching House of Time & Einstein’s God Model. This film did post-apocalypse last-people on earth soap-opera style, yet dealt with issues like jealousy, which is sorta a no brainer, but never done on film I’ve seen before (probably done in Zombie TV series, I don’t watch that) gratuitous borderline fantasy ESP element I could have done without.

Einstein’s God Model: I did not like it, but I arrived a half-hour late, and sat down in front row, which in that theater is like ridiculous.  Walked out after 20 minutes. Maybe if I had been in a better seat, and watched from beginning, I would not have walked out.  This is the only movie I walked out of, not having another movie to go to.

SkyQuake: It was OK, not great. First of several movies with overuse of really annoying overbearing music. A bit of a mess plot-wise. More watchable than Motivational Growth from last year (which I actually liked on second viewing after hearing director speak), unlike that movie, this one did not give you any kind of payoff at the end though.

Polder: Hmmm, don’t know what to say about this one.  Great use of visual cues, although by the end, I was confused as to what was real and what was virtual (was that the point?) What was the point? Smiley  As a computer guy this got a 2 out 5 on my “Is this what real software engineers do, say and use?” The computer terminals were particularly Close’n’Play looking.

Merge: Very well-done for what it was.  Just goes to show that the rich really do live different lives than you and I (and I'm a 2-percenter), when their high school-aged kids can and do (and get to) make a film as good looking as this. (This was a project done by prep-school students at Concord Academy.)  It was a collaborative film done by committee, with emphasis on improv acting.  The small personal dialog was excellent. It did that well.  Plot and pacing struggled. Astonishing great use of zero-budget computer work.  Great animation of ESP-like communication.  Again overuse of loud music.  Started slow, went slow, plot fizzled out. Maybe if an hour were edited out it would be much better? I’m glad I saw it though!

Space People: See previous discussion by Jay and me.  I liked it, but  I now that I have seen The Papier-Maché Boulder, I wished they had done a little better with the props.

Dual City: Yes!  Well, done, although there were too many times where stuff happened, and you were like “I think I know what just happened, but a little exposition might have helped here!”  Maybe translation was poorly done.  Very uneven cinematography. Some stunning outdoor cinematography only emphasized  how awful the basement-boiler room set was. 4 out of 5 on my software engineering scale, though looses because the guy was clearly just banging on keys a billion miles an hour instead of typing.  Not quite sure why this was on the Doc Around The Clock night, because it was not found-footage.

Fanarchy: Well-done, if overly long documentary.  I started writing done a list of fan-films I’ve gotta see, or re-see.  It could probably loose 30 minutes, but maybe die-hard sf-con and comic-con-attendees would disagree.

Vintage Tomorrows: Again a well-done workman-like film.  If you have ever struggled to explain Steam Punk to a spouse (thats me ‘splaining to wife) or friends, this is your film.  (Even after attending a SP get-together in Nova Scotia, I’m not sure my spouse really gets it!)  I’m not into SP, but I’m a maker of sorts, so I get how fun it is to make costumes.  I’m not sure most SPers are into the deep politics.  Wonderful that they got a Black woman talking head to delve into colonialism and the whiteness of SP, but it seems like they did not challenge some of the sex roles built into the mix (…ladies ignore that boring man, you just keep on wearing those sexy cosets and garters, your sweet little rears… I mean you sweet little dears while I get out my bull-whip)

Attack of the 50’ Woman: I only watched first 30 minutes until shorts started.  Was astonished at how good the acting was.  I’m going to have to go back and watch this in full.  That would make it only the second SF movie from the 50’s I’d watch twice. Second of three movies in Fest which had better acting and plot than SF.

Alienated: Covered elsewhere.  My non-SF spouse would enjoy this.  Is that enough of a condemnation? Really well-done acting and conversational script, all bracketed by SF “outer story”. I think the SF part failed.  Outstanding reversal of  typical sex-roles.  I’m going to look for all the other work done by this production company now (I assume its all not SF)

The Phoenix Incident: This is my favorite for the movie “I love to hate” award, but thats just me being annoying. Well-produced.  But everything was derivative. Just goes to show you how even a “Big-Budget-Block-Buster”-looking movie can be done on under $2 Mill. The aliens were great, but they looked like… well…. erh… Alien. The jiggly found footage, was ummmh really jiggly.  The non-jiggly documentary footage was , well, boring. The director is clearly a guy very full of himself and his ideas.  Although it has been done before, he is going to bring the whole off-screen collateral angle to a new level of volume, with ancillary websites and FUD.  I can see a version of my 14-year-old self wasting an enjoyable 3 months chasing down this fake story on the internet. …and now just in time for the 2016 christmas season, the Phoenix Incident line of graphic novels and novelettes, and the new Amazon TV series Phoenix Incident streaming in 2017!

Mafia: Survival Game:  Awesomely bad!  Runner-up (and more appropriate real winner for the Movie I love to hate award.) Huge budget, and supposedly great special effects, maybe it suffered from being a bad DVD copy, but it was all a bit fuzzy and non-HD looking.  That did not diminish it’s overwrought sappy plot, and stupid premise.  Heck, and why not, if those AmerKins can make a movie out of the game Battleship, we Russians should be able to make one out of this game.  Groaner plot and characters, but it was the kind of train-wreck that keeps you glued to your seat to see how it ends.

This Giant Paper Maché Boulder Is Really Heavy: This is my nomination for best film in the festival. Tremendously funny, outstanding production with the sets, props, and special effects just outstanding. I was too busy loving that space-ship steering wheel to pick up on half the film references.  There were even some great sound effects, and well-done homages to 1960’s filmmaking and editing tropes. If this does not win, it should get the Miss Congeniality award at minimum.  The New Zealand accents and colloquialisms just made it better.  (By the way, the film makers need to add sub-titles for some of them.  Its only ‘cause I lived in Australia for 8 months that I know that the word Dunny means bathroom.)

Project-M: I missed the first 30 minutes because of overlapping Q&A for Boulder. Well-done space-station soap opera-cum end-of-the-world (…and no that is not Space Opera).  The special effects were great, but somebody give that team a photo of the Soyez capsule, it does not look like the Apollo Command & Service Module unit. 

Reconnoiter: Wow! They took an old SF short story or Twilight episode plot and ran with it and ran with it.  The space capsule looked like crap, but the on-monitor computer effects for the pilot’s guidance panels were both really good, but then the error messages were sometimes really bad.  The robot dog was awesome, and the other robots were really good, especially that little whining hydraulic machine-noise.  I felt like the choice for weather and locale for his first hours on the planet were the best ever done in any SF film.  I mean have you ever seen it rain when a guy lands on a planet?  It looked like this was done by one guy and his family and friends.  Unbelievable!  The ending eventually sorta telegraphed itself, but it totally kept me in suspense and puzzlement in the middle.

I’ll try to write up the shorts I saw next, but I gotta eat and convince my wife I’m still married to her and not SF.
 
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Reply #6 - Feb 13th, 2016 at 2:29pm

Jay Seaver   Offline
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Friday:

Project-M - Mildly surprised this didn't play the Fantasia Festival in the past couple of years; this seems like the sort of nicely-made Montreal-produced film that would be right up their alley.  Interestingly, it has some of the same failings as 400 Days, never really knowing where to go with what seems like a solid idea either as a psychological thriller or a problem-solving adventure movie.

Reconnoiter - Very solid little movie, impressive in its focus as a short feature, although I must admit that a couple things bugged me:  Sometimes the pilot seemed to just be wandering randomly despite stating a purpose in the scene directly before, and the cinematography was often very blurry in a way that was not helped at all by the crap projection.
 
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Reply #7 - Feb 14th, 2016 at 10:47am

Jay Seaver   Offline
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Saturday:

Somnio - For something marked a work-in-progress, it's in fairly ready-to-release shape.  Not bad, if kind of vague on what it wants to be about, and really fond of its TLAs early on.

Native - Very good indeed, with a lot of attention paid to small details and some excellent work by its two stars.

Tale of Tales - More than a bit out of place, a set of weird fantasies that have twists but little irony to go with them.  Of the three threads, the one with Toby Jones and Bebe Cave is my favorite, just because the bemused, peculiar looks on their faces seem to say more about their characters than the others' scenery-chewing.
 
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Reply #8 - Feb 23rd, 2016 at 10:50am

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Festival Award Winners Announced:

http://bostonscifi.com/sf41-award-winners/
 
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Reply #9 - Feb 23rd, 2016 at 8:29pm

Jay Seaver   Offline
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And, as is typical, they're bullshit.

I sort of get working backwards, making up awards for every movie you want to recognize, but there is no way that high a percentage of the features are award-worthy.  There are a few things in "categories" that only had two entries.  And calling something an "audience favorite" without polling or consulting the audience is just lying.
 
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