Traverse City Film Festival

We’ve seen seven films in two days, and that’s a lot. It’s quite late, but here’s a brief rundown, with more to follow, I hope.

Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind. is a quirky documentary based on Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States. Essentially the director films forgotten gravesites of unsung heroes, interspersed with leaves and grass blowing in the wind. No voices, no words. Strangely enough it works – only an hour long.

Sleep Dealer – a compelling sci-fi/political thriller, but not in the same league as Blade Runner, which, I know, is always an unfair comparison. Pacing was slightly off, characters and motives not fully developed, but still an excellent movie.

Goodbye Bafana – set largely in and around Capetown and Robben Island, this movie chronicles the relationship between Nelson Mandela and his prison guard. This is the most fully developed movie of the seven, with a huge scope and broad canvas. Strong acting, no corn. It works.

Mongol – the highly stylized story of Ghengis Khan – visually stunning, but suffers from an excess of stylized violence (blood spewing prettily from untold warriors), and some characters acting entirely too modern and cute (corn). It will be the people’s choice, mark my words, in the tradition of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

CSNY Deja Vu is not just a feel good movie for old farts like me. A surprisingly moving documentary about the band’s 2006 tour, showing the parallels between the Vietnam War era and today – the only difference being the belief by some fans that it’s just not cool to be “political”. God forbid we should have to engage in controversy! It’s a real winner.

Dust– OMG (as the youngsters say), Scotty, beam me up. It’s a German movie about dust (Staub). I thought, with a title like that, it has to be good. But no, it’s a real stinker. Errol Morris style static camera without any overarching point – pictures of stainless steel, white rooms, knobs, dials, guys in white suits with mops. That’s about it. Dust! Germans!

War, Inc.. – very funny, but also very cartoonish. A broad satire. It’s a riff on the privatization and commercialization of war, and I recommend it, but it’s not first rate. Best part: the speakers in the State Theater, which vibrate the solar plexus during jet take off and landing scenes.

Lots of people paid to see Idiocracy (it sold out), and then bitched about it. Not highbrow enough, apparently. Hey, it’s a funny movie, and it does the job, but why queue up to see a movie that’s been out on DVD for ages? And why not loosen up a little. These are probably the same sort of people who would diss Carry On Up the Khyber. Losers!!!

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