Saturday, March 8, 2014

Opening Night New York International Children's Film Festival AMAZONIA in 3D and SNOWFLAKE

Last night was the opening night of spring, er the New York International Children's Film Festival. That comment about spring is apt because over  the course of the four week festival New York goes from too damn cold to green and spring like.

I  was bouncing all day at work because while the opening night film can be a mixed affair with some films just being okay-Monster in Paris or Mars Needs Moms (in retrospect) it does mean spring to me. I wanted to be nowhere else other than the Directors Guild all day.Hell I went into work extra early just so I could get there early enough to get a prime seat.

Outside the Directors Guild things were a tad dicey since there is sidewalk construction going on, with the result that we were let into the theater much earlier than usual.

I have to say that in the lobby and in the theater the staff was, as always top notch and wonderful. How they put up with all of us crazies I'll never know.

Tonight was unique as far as the festival goes, I wanted to cold cock several of the people around me. First and foremost was the obnoxious kid behind me who first spent the time before the film bitching about subtitled films, and then when the movie started providing a running commentary on what all the animals were and their habits.It was in its way incredibly sad since the kid's tone was one of a show off and one upsmanship since he was clearly trying to one up the people who were with him (and were also commenting- despite being shushed). The kid needed a beating.

Also needing a beating were the bathroom runners. The  row in front of me seemed to be going every ten or 15 minutes.COme on it's an 80 minute movie can't you hold it? I'm kind of more forgiving of the lady and her daughter a couple down next to me since they only went once, but announced that they were trying to get by by stepping on you with a semi-loud "toilet".

Enough bitching about the people-

The moment Eric Beckman steps on stage suddenly the world is made right. Its suddenly spring again. This year his welcome was filled with references to past years, the introduction of the jury and assorted thank yous. He sequed right into the t-shirt toss and it was clear that he's had Tommy John surgery since the shirts went farther and faster than in past years.

Before the feature  they showed SNOWFLAKE a Russian short about an African boy who gets a paper snow flake in the mail. He puts it under his pillow and when he wakes up the plains where he lives is covered in snow.

Its a sweet charming film that's worth tracking down (Hey its playing in Shorts for Tots). Here's a clip from the film. It takes place after our hero goes out into the snow covered world and rounds up some freezing animals.

The feature was AMAZONIA.

I'm giving up ever seeing nature films at NYICFF. The Chimpanzee one from a couple years back was okay,  but this was dull.

Not a documentary but a narrative assembled from footage shot during time with the animals in preserves the film tells the story of a monkey in a a cage that survives a plane crash and ends up in the Amazon jungle. He travels down the river until he meets some other monkeys, he finds a girl friend and stays despite finding a way back to civilization.

The film dies early on when  a CGI plane does a half-assed crash into the jungle. I don't think its ever clear what happened to the pilot,  but its possible he walked off since the crash was so inconsequential, despite crashing through trees that anything is possible.

Showing all  the problems of a film assembled by shooting enough film of animals doing things to form a story, much of the film has the monkey just drifting down the river or running through the trees reacting to the animals around him. There is never any sense of danger to any of it, other than his battles with the alpha male of the monkeys. Unfortunately its clear that the film has been assembled from separate shots and not the events depicted. Most times prey and hunter, or even the animals that the monkey is reacting to never appear together. Or else shots are wildly mismatched, for example a sequence that has two sloths swimming involves under water shots of a single sloth  swimming, while the out of the water shots show two.

To be honest the film just sort of goes on showing animals and then the monkey reacts and more animals, then more reaction and so on... there is barely a story.

As for the 3D why did they bother? Many shots are not 3D, and some sequences are comprised of shots that seem to alternate between 2 and 3D.  To be honest outside of the mushroom trip sequence the 3D is a non-factor. This maybe the worst use of 3D I've ever seen in 30 years of watching 3D films. Yes some shots and the mushroom sequence are amazing, but mostly its a bust.

After  the film the director held a Q&A but after a couple of questions I left, I just didn't care.

Outside in the lobby I spoke with a couple of of the staff about the upcoming films. I'm especially high on Boy and the World which everyone seemed to love.

I then headed home.

I have three films at the festival plus one at Rendez-vous with French Cinema tomorrow and three shorts programs Sunday so expect reviews and write ups through next weekend- and the rest of the month.
And now its time for bed.

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