Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Philadelphia Film Festival 2007 - Day 5

Its great to see you all here on a Monday...

Day 5 consisted of a coming of age comedy, a Thai ghost story and the best video game flick since The Wizard.

Starting off with Rocket Science may have been the wrong way to go as it was all downhill from there. This film is simply a joy. The story: a kid from a broken home in Plainsborough, NJ with a stuttering problem who joins the debate team for a girl he's crushed on. This is the second film and first fictional piece from Spellbound director Jeffrey Blitz. Blitz deserves kudos for writing this as the film is not only hilarious (subtle & broad in turn) but also develops strong characters.

This film feels set to follow in the footsteps of last years indie-comic darling Little Miss Sunshine. There is a strong family element and colorful characters. The soundtrack is heavy on indie cred with several Clem Snide and Violent Femmes tracks as well as whimsical instrumental tracks from Snide's Eef Barzelay (Sufjan Stevens and DeVotchka were present in LMS). The film will appeal to everyone who was ever in high school. And its being in released on a limited number of screens in mid August just like LMS. Something tells me it will expand rather quickly. Here's an interview with the director... with the stiffest interviewer ever.

Second on the list was the first doc I saw at the fest this year: The King of Kong. If you have seen any of the recent specials on various networks (Spike, G4, MTV, ect) about the history of games you know who Billy Mitchell is. He is the first person to record a perfect game of Pac-Man along with having held several other classic arcade records at different times. Plus he has a very...er...unique look. Mitchell was proclaimed as Gamer of the Century in '99. He is also the the poster geek of Twin Galaxies, the officially recognized (by consensus i guess) keepers of video game records. So what happens when an out of work engineer from Washington State sends in a video that shows Billy's record which has lasted since 1982 being shattered (while his young son is whining for him to stop playing and wipe his ass no less)? A classic arcade shit-storm that ain't gonna be as easy to clean.

I'm not sure what the filmmaker was initially trying to capture when this materialized or if he was came in after the first "incident" but regardless the story line that develops is a classic underdog vs. establishment tome. Basically this official game community, with a vague air of Todd Browning's Freaks, conspire to shut this challenger down. But Steve Wiebe (said challenger) is a niche honest guy so he goes right ahead and jumps through all the hoops that are set up for him until they finally accept his skill at Donkey Kong. What was captured in this doc has the feel of vintage Michael Moore, but with more facts but less grandiose targets, while the Gamer of the Century comes off as good as Bush in F9/11. There is a powerful shot near the end where Billy and his long-time friend and minister are bring interviewed by the filmmaker and after the ministers comments Wiebe, Mitchell, asked the same question, lyingly says "I don't know about that situation" and the minister can barely believe what he has just heard. If you hate games, if you love games, hell if you are completely ambivalent; this is still a must see film.

Unfortunately the film was shown on DVD. Distributors please! You know this is going to a film festival and will be shown on a big screen so get a print. DVD looks like crap when blown up to that size. I also would've love a Q&A after this one.

Gonna stop here for now as i forgot to plug my computer in and it just shut down erasing the last bitz i wrote. Day 5 part 2, links, spell check and a bit about a blog you should check out will all be dealt with later.

1 comment:

David said...

Hey man.

I was wondering where your reviews were. Great write ups so far!

I'm glad you liked Rocket Science. I was really surprised by it.

I'm happy you saw Red Road. I've been telling everyone to watch it since it opened up here, but I don't think anyone actually went. I read you liked it, but I really loved it. I found it completely intriguing.

I'll definitely check out that film you wrote about the day before, I forget what it was called. Sounded pretty good though.