Monday, October 11, 2010

Now that the festivals/ conventions are over.... the disappointment and the hope

Sitting home resting. Its been a crazy month or so. Its been film festivals and conventions and movies at home and in theaters, not to mention doctor's offices. Its been a blur, so much so that on one level I never want to see another movie again.

As I decompress I've come up with a few observations that I'd thought I'd share. (This maybe a bit jagged my editor is on a plane home and an I'm posting this before he gives it a once over)

The New York Film Festival

As you may remember the original plan was for me to see most of the films screened during the festival, however I pulled up lame so the number of films that I saw was greatly reduced. On some level I feel like I've failed as a correspondent, on another level I'm not to sure it was as big a tragedy as I think.

In all honesty the Film Festival disappointed me.

Certainly I didn't see nearly the number of films and events as I should have to make a fair decision, but after talking to other people at screenings and reading reviews of the films I missed, I have to come to the conclusion that this years festival is kind of a bust.

The general consensus that I seemed to get was that not many films really stood out. Yes Social Network was lauded, but my viewing of the film leads me to believe its wildly over rated. Actually I'm so disappointed that there is a On Further Review piece scheduled for November.(I'm hoping to see it again). Other films at the Festival seemed to get mixed reactions with films like Uncle Bonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives splitting the audiences into those who fell asleep and those that loved it.

The best film as far as I can piece together was Mike Leigh's Another Year, which had anyone who saw it being rapturous about it. For me this dovetails nicely with the fact that the best thing I saw at the festival was the Mike Leigh talk.

Certainly no film that I know of got the hate that Black Venus seemed to get from the audience. While nothing was thrown at the screen, the death threats and vocal displeasure when it was over(and in the case of the guy next to me all during the film) seems to indicate that who ever picked the film has lost their minds. (and in the five days since I've seen the film I'm turned it over in my head and frankly I can see what it was getting at but on the other hand its a one note look at racism and human nature and loses the ability to be defended because of its wickedly over long running time)

On some level I'm disappointed with the selection committee and I'd like to take them to task. I know this is something that may be cutting me off from future screenings as a member of the press but I think on some level they missed the mark this year. Granted the fact I haven't liked the films this year is a matter of personal taste. However I feel that I can say this because the Festival was advertising it self as presenting the 28 films that were the most important of the year. I don't see it.

On some level the big reveal of Social Network does count for presenting one film that is important. Whether I like it or not and whether the film has problems or not is not the point. The film has gotten people talking which is good. However outside of that what has the festival really done?

I don't know. I think the festival has taken some good, some okay and at least one terrible movie from other festivals and repackaged them as something they are not, namely being of more value than they really are. I don't think the Festival really picked the most important films of the year. In my personal opinion perhaps the only film that they showed that really mattered was Nuremberg, a reconstruction of a lost film on the Nuremberg war crimes trials. No it's not the best film ever. On some level I might even say that it isn't compelling, however as a look back at what we thought of the then recent events, and as view of those events in footage we've never seen before the film is invaluable. Good bad or indifferent it is a film of real value.

What of the rest? I don't know.

I know part of the problem with the festival is that its no longer the only game in town. Not only does it now come after several other film festivals, it is now also competing directly with several festivals in the New York area, for example The Hamptons Film Festival which stole several films I thought would be shoe ins (including Black Swan), and the GSI Film Festival, which seems to have several interesting films on it's slate.

I'd like to give the people picking the films a pass by saying that this was the best of what was available, but at the same time I have to wonder about why some choices were made.

It may be apocryphal but I have heard that Terrence Malik's new film, Tree of Life was offered to the festival a day late, but they refused to look at it. Considering the stature of the director (and this festival loves directors) and the word that has leaked out about it (a film that is a game changer)I'm kind of shocked that an exception wasn't made.

Yes, I know rules are rules, but at the same time they tend to do some questionable things. For example why do they take some director's films seeming with out question? Specifically why must every Godard film that comes out that play the festival? I am not a fan, and while I have not seen the film the word that I got was that it was an interesting mess. One person at one of the Alice Tully screenings I over heard was griping that if it wasn't Godard it would never have played the festival. I kind of a agree especially when you look back and see how many Godard films,many not particularly good, have played the festival when other films have not you have to wonder if some directors have some unfair advantage. The same question goes for Mysteries of Lisbon, which I kind of liked, but I'm not sure it belonged at the festival. Does the fact that the director Raoul Ruiz has had 7 previous films in the festival get called into giving the film a easier in?

I like some directors, say this week's Unseen Films subject Werner Herzog, but while I will take one of his films sight unseen to try it, I will be the first to say that some of his films stink. I could never in good conscious program some of his stinkers in a festival.

I also am highly suspicious of the festival's seeming over reliance on IFC Films releases. Yes, they tend to be good movies, but over the last few years it seems like a large number of films seem to be coming from that company with in weeks of their release to theaters and pay per view. Then again if IFC could program the festival we might actually have had a better festival.

Full disclosure: Why am I upset with the choices this year? Because the festival has been the weakest series of films programmed at Lincoln Center all year. Look at every series that they have programmed and there is a better selection of films than what was at the festival.

Never mind the Asian Film Festival, which they didn't program and which is still the best programmed festival in New York. Forget the Film Comment Summer Meltdown, which may not really have had stuff I wanted to see on a big screen it still had good stuff. One need only see The New Directors New Films and what they ran there to see how badly they misstepped this year. That series was full of great films. Those films mattered. Those films were important- they were not the puffed up self important films of this years New York Film Festival.

Yes there were some good films, but none that sang out that they were great, and even fewer that were truly important.

Yes I'm disappointed, but perhaps they can find the true pulse of film for next year.


I'll be brief. Besides I just did three days of posts.

This is becoming something. I've heard that the film companies have just discovered it and that they will be using it as the use San Diego to market the Christmas big releases and the summer films on DVD.

I know this was a transition year, growing from a small part of the Javitts Center to the whole thing. I've been there every year and this is the first year where the crowds were almost uncomfortable. Its almost too many people. Then again I figured a few things out on Sunday that might have made Saturday easier.

For me the next convention, which I am really looking forward to, will be a make or break year. Will it become too big?

I don't know. I know the problem with the con was that the website wasn't that hot. I know I had problems finding a schedule that was up to date. I found out about some events from the press releases and not the website. I know the lack of maps after day one was a pain in the ass, as was the fact that I found a news print schedule book in the Anime section but not in the comic section. It didn't completely hinder my seeing anything. (I don't want to get into the Artist's Alley map problem from Friday which made finding anyone near impossible)

The real problem was the crowds were so big Saturday that Ken and I couldn't get around. We couldn't get to see the ILM documentary because we simply couldn't move across the Javitts Center fast enough because of the crush of humanity. The lesson here is if you want to see something you will have to plan way in advance...which we learned for Sunday so we got a seat at the Grant Morrison presentation.

I'm kind of hopeful for next year and kind of frightened since I'm left to wonder how crazy will it be? I don't know but I'm willing to find out.

If you must know I think I had more fun at Comicon than the New York Film Festival. There was a sense of heading into a brave new world and really meaning it. The Film Festival this year felt like it made a mistake but they didn't realize it. I think the difference is that Comicon held on to it's sense of wonder, and the NYFF didn't. I think the fact that the NYFF was touting the important films of the year instead of the most fun or enlightening or intriguing or something else, doomed them. Important is boring (and can be ridiculously silly).

You may say that comparing Comicon to the FF is apples to oranges, and on some level you're right, but at the same time I went to both to be entertained and to find something neat. I wanted a positive experience from both. I only really got it from the one with a sense of wonder and a sense of fun.

Yes I will gladly go to both events next year, and yes I will pay to go to both, but in a weird way the one I'm really looking forward to is the over crowded place with too many people in weird costumes.

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