Wednesday, February 28, 2007

DANCE OFF! at the IFC Center

I worked late this evening and then hauled myself off to the IFC Center--where I have never been--to see the 7:40 Academy Award nominated short films (live action). Eleven dollars a ticket and you walk up a flight of stairs to theater 2. The seats are magenta and there was a diaphanous curtain over the small screen. Atmosphere? In a room with magenta seats? Ok.

I go places on my own all the time and kind of enjoy it, but I can't seem to shake a weird sort of paranoia about it. As though it's somehow socially unacceptable that I should want to go to the movies alone. So I was a bit relieved to notice several other people there alone. I always bring things to do because I don't like sitting around, so I came armed with The New Yorker and my latest subway book--Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage--in case the film started late. It started fairly close to on time though, and with it, the always enjoyable previews. There's something a little disturbing about loving what are essentially advertisements, but it's always an exciting bit of the movies for me. They had four main previews:
-Private Fears in Public Places-Looked pretty much like every other arthouse film ever made.
-Killer of Sheep-Rerelease I think? Interesting in an I'm-never-going-to-see-that sort of way.
-The Exterminating Angels-So very obviously a man's film. Not necessarily a bad thing. I'm just saying.
-One I can't remember.

So we finally get to the films after some other crap and I have to ask--is there some mandatory level of quirkiness required of a short film? Is it a test they have to pass? "Wait! Before we show your film you need to make sure that your characters are odd enough to make an impression!" And if they have a twist at the end--utterly predictable or otherwise--all the better. All twists will be given away below.

First up we've got The Savior, an Australian bit about a Mormon in that go-door-to-door-harrassing-people stage of his religious life. He falls in love with a woman and does things with her that will surely make him rot in hell. This is offscreen which is fortunate because nothing is making that double chin look good. Short story shorter he knocks her up and her nice but apparently very stupid husband figures that, because the doctors have told him he's impotent, it must be a miracle. Because this makes more sense than him realizing she's shtupping someone else. Our friend the ugly Mormon tells the dumb husband that the Bible contains miracles just like that. Perhaps more people should be converted like that.

Next up for our viewing pleasure is a bit from Denmark called Helmer & Son about an old man in an nursing home type place who has locked himself in an armoir and the son who has to try to get him out. Aside from the forced quirkiness--the dude seems far too with it mentally and physically to even be in a nursing home much less hiding in armoires--I actually liked this one. Turns out he's refusing to come out because he's nekkid and is in there with an equally nekkid old lady. A bit scandalous for the cranky nurses, no? The family dynamic between father and son, brother and sister, uncle and neice, was fairly interesting.

Then we move to Eramos Pocos and, wouldn't you know it, more quirk. In this one we are treated to a man who's wife leaves him and their grown son. Being completely and totally incapable of taking care of themselves, they decide the obvious solution is to go get Grandma--his mother-in-law--out of her nursing home to come take care of them. Except they get the wrong lady. Apparently they haven't seen Grandma in a while. She's rather nicer than the mother-in-law ever was though and she cooks them lots of yummy food, so when he learns of the deception he decides to just go with it. That nursing home must have really sucked for this lady to be so happy living with them because frankly, what a couple of slobs. They are in serious trouble when she kicks the bucket. And also, what the hell? At this point I am beginning to seriously wonder if characters in short films are allowed to have brains. Because the cognitive abilities on display thus far? They have not been impressive.

At this point for better or worse, we veer away from quirky. As it turns out, however, the roadsigns weren't leading us to good. They were leading us to National Geographic Special as done by Hallmark. In Binta and the Great Idea we learn that while there are some things that Europeans do better, when it comes to caring for the community, using imagination, and being happy, the folks in Africa are kicking our sorry asses. The great idea is that Binta's father would like to adopt a white baby and teach them all about what living in their village--represented as fairly idyllic--is like. Apparently the film was shot in an area where there's a fair bit of guerilla activity, but that has no place in this fairy-tale world where guns aren't around and everyone lives in peace and relative harmony. It's also narrated by a disgustingly cute child, and I simply don't do well with movies centered around cute children. I made it about twenty minutes into Cinema Paradiso and that was a lot better than this. There are two things that partially redeem this piece of sap in my mind: 1) it meant well 2) it's very pretty. That's about it though. For the most part I just found it simplistic and cloying.

And finally, we have West Bank Story, which thankfully won the Oscar. This one benefits from being neither Hallmark-y nor carefully quirky. Instead it goes sailing right past quirky into the realm or utterly ridiculous. Honestly when you have a Hasidic Jew singing about other people being religious nuts, you know you've hit the silly jackpot. I mean this in a nice way. It's just that it must take real religious fervor to go through life with a hairstyle that awful. There's also bad yet competitive dancing, silly hats, camels, explosions, and a fiddler on the roof. They even get in a Jews-in-the-construction-business gag. Jews and Muslims unite when they realize that the customer must be fed even when your fastfood restaurant has burned down. After all, nothing can get in the way of the almighty dollar. None of the other shorts had anything quite so serious to say, and yet they all took themselves more seriously than this one. Could the Academy nominate more stuff like this and less stuff that makes me want to leave the theater?. That would be nice, thx. After all I did pay eleven dollars; I should get something impressive, or at least entertaining, for that.

The walk home from the IFC Center was nice.

No comments: