Day Two of the Akron Film Festival was the day about which I was the most excited. The “themes” for yesterday were exceeding expectations — for better or worse — and really, really good soundtracks.
“Rhythmic Uprising,” a documentary about Afro-Brazilian music, its impact on the local culture and how community leaders were using it better their situation, was the first movie in the schedule. Like director Benjamin Watkins, it was bossa nova and other forms of Brazilian music that attracted us to the region. Watkins, by making the film, and I, wanting to cover it. Due to family obligations, I did not get a chance to see this movie, but interestingly enough, it allowed me time to interview Watkins, who was the only filmmaker in attendance last night.
“New Low” is one of two movies I wrote about in Trailer Talk pieces for IJM last week. My initial observation was that it would be a quirky, sarcastic and cynical romcom. I also said that the sarcasm would be its “clever device.” I was right on both counts, I just had no idea how far it would go. This is, in fact, a good movie, but the sarcasm was the one thing that weighed it down, primarily with Wendell’s character. By making him that neurotic, that sarcastic and that cynical, any time director Adam Bowers, who also portrayed Wendell, was put in a (deliberately) awkward situation, it became awkward to the point of being painful. For example, the scene where Wendell meets Vicki for he first time was funny, but parts of it I couldn’t watch because it was more awkward than I felt was required. Otherwise, the acting of the cast was good and the plot made sense and had a few well played turns. The overall level of humor was pretty good, especially the color commentary by Toby Turner. “New Low” is smarter than anything Hollywood has offered in recent memory. All in all, a good job.
“Air Doll” — the second movie covered in last week’s Trailer Talks — completely fulfilled my expectations, then shattered them. First of all, everything about this movie was absolutely gorgeous, even the ugly parts were executed gorgeously. Director Hirokazu Koreeda knew exactly what he was doing behind the camera, the imagery was beautiful, “Lost in Translation”-like even. Doll is precisely the right word to describe Bae Doona in this movie. The way she expresses the duality of pure innocence, and knowing the dirty reality of what she is and her purpose, very nearly made me cry at several points. Yeah, I said that. Add in the music, which was unbelievably good, and you have a movie which should be shown worldwide but probably won’t because of he amount of thought you have to put in to really understand this movie (you actually have to think).
“Blondes in the Jungle,” directed by Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman, is a movie I was going to cover in a Trailer Talk. However, all I learned about the movie between the trailer and the movie’s website was that it’s about three teens in 1987 Honduras who go looking for the Fountain of Youth, and find it to the music of El Jefe and the Executive Look, which contains members of Vampire Weekend and Asobi Seksu. Now that I’ve actually seen it, I can say the best part of the movie was, in fact, the music. I want to download the soundtrack, if I can find it, as soon as possible. As far as the movie is concerned, it was more-so a nature documentary than a comedy. Most of the run time was on closeups of plants and animals with no sound. The jokes were overextended or not based on anything credible, resulting in a lack of comedy. It is worth noting that when it was funny it was really funny, it just didn’t happen often. The idea of finding the Fountain is muddled, almost overshadowed by references of “21 Jump Street’ and the copious amounts of cocaine they snort, provided by a guy named Armani, who came out of nowhere in a business suit claiming that he’s being chased by the law and the cartels. I think one would need something a bit stronger than cocaine to watch this movie more than once.
That wraps up coverage of day two of the Akron Film Festival. Stay tuned for day three coverage, including a program of shorts, the film “Obselidia” and the documentary “Sons of Perdition.”
The Akron Film Festival is taking place Sept. 23 through Sept. 26 in Akron, Ohio. Click here for more information.
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