Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Nightcap 1/29/12 Joann Sfar, Adele Blanc-sec, Patton Oswalt and gushing on things I love

Time for our typical Sunday night ramble...

Wednesday night Randi and I attended the penultimate night of the New York Jewish Film Festival and their screening of Joann Sfar Draws From Memory (it was paired with the Silent Historian but because of car problems I had to bail before that or else miss my train home). The film is 49 minutes of artist and film director Sfar talking about drawing. Its Sfar in cafes, cabs and at home talking about what he draws and why.

I’m very mixed on the film.

The problems with the film are both technical and organizational.

Organizationally the film tells you very little about Sfar and his work other than how he does it and in a few cases what he’s drawn. We only know what he tells up and outside of some of his work it’s eye droppered out. There is no context, there is no attempt at organizing anything it’s Sfar just talking. Yes its interesting, but since I only learned of him from his film Gainsbourg I have no context to his life and art. Worse he mentions that he’s done 150 books, and we only see a few of his stories, and only those that are tied to his life and heritage.

But even his heritage isn't really explained. Outside of being from Algerian father, an Eastern European Mother, and a coquettish grandmother his life and family, which influences his work, isn't really explained. There is a comment that the Rabbi’s Cat is him poking fun at his father's religion but then it doesn’t explain his feelings or what that entails. Ultimately if you don’t know him you’re SOL. (In it's defense since looking on line I find that Sfar's background is not well explained anywhere in at least in English).

Technically the film suffers from horrible subtitling. Randi and I don’t speak French and we could tell some of what was subtitled wasn’t what was said. Worse the subtitling is incomplete with Sfar talking talking talking and only part of it being subtitled.

Carrying that theme further the film is full of Sfar’s comics, all of it in French, but only a few lines are translated. How can we understand what people see in Sfar’s work when we don’t know what he’s written? As with the translation of Sfars words, the written text frequently caused laughter and a reaction in some members of the audience who understood French, but blank stares from those of use who had to rely on the subtitles.

To me the film is a draft. It needs a good going over by someone who isn’t so close to its subject.

Onward and upward...

For those looking for another reason to track down The Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec which I reviewed back in January of last year, sans subtitles, Eden has reviewed the film at her own blog, Comicsgirl. The piece can be found here.

I was going write up the Oscar nominations but for the most part there wasn’t anything too exciting. Outside of Chico and Rita and the Cat in Paris getting nominations I really not that that excited by any of them.

There are however two things that I do want to mention.

First off Steven Spielberg’s War Horse should, must… win for best cinematography. This is one of the best looking films you’ll ever see. It raises it all to a high art. England, Europe and World War One never looked so lovely. I just wish the rest of the film was as good as it looks.

The other bit of business is that Patton Oswalt got robbed by not getting at least an Oscar nom for Young Adult. I’m not a fan of Oswalt’s but he hits it out of the box and then some with one of the best performances of the last five years. He is the reason I stayed with the film to the end.

Don’t get me wrong Charlize Theron is equally wonderful but her ex-girlfriend from hell is the sort of unpleasant person you don’t want to spend a minute with let alone 100. On some level. While the fact that she doesn’t learn and stays the same jerk through out the film may strike some as a brilliant move on the part of the filmmakers, to me it made the film an exercise in diminishing returns- except for Patton Oswalt who kept me watching despite wanting to abandon ship. (hopefully the revenge will be a long career that doesn’t end in the obscurity that many supporting actors and actresses end up with)

I’ll say it again, it’s one of the best, most heart breaking performances from the last five years.

Its been remarked that I get gushy when I talk about certain film festivals and film events, and I can’t lie, I do. We all have our passions and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Despite what some people may think I am not trying to butter anyone up or to get anything from anyone, I’m simply trying to spread the love. I genuinely love The New York Asian Film Festival, The New York International Children’s Film Festival, The New York Film Festival and Tribeca, and the others I talk about here.

How do you know?

You know because I go to many of the the screenings on my dime. Yes, I do get invited to some press screenings but I also go to as many screenings as I can afford and that I can attend. I go to the events and the films that I want to see and not what have been picked out for me.

Do I gush? Hell yea, because things like the chance to see Yellow Submarine on a big screen gets me all fired up.

Trust me, if I say I like or love something, I do.

Speaking of which tickets for the New York International Children's Film Festival go on sale Wednesday. I don't want to say too much right now, but this looks like the best year yet, which is saying a great deal.

Before I go I want to share a quick film watching story.

I saw a Korean film Monday night. It had no English on the cover, but it had a picture of a man shooting, so figured what the hell, I'll find out what it was once the film started. The trouble while it was subtitled in English, nothing written was so I had no idea what the film was. All was fine until I realized that the subtitles, which seemed quite good, were in fact for some other film entirely. The film seemed to be about the Japanese occupation and an effort to hide children. The subtitles sometimes were about that, but mostly seemed to be from some sort of gangster film or perhaps a supernatural one... Talk about surreal...

That's it for this tonight.

(This week we spotlight a few films where people try to get away from it all...)

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