Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 5:32 pm 
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SF Indiefest

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My first year of covering this local festival. See the Filmleaf Festival Coverage section to read the full reviews, where there are any.

SF Indiefest films depart from the commercial sometimes in very cool ways, holding the Winter Movie Doldrums at bay effectively for a while. I was moved by The Area, made over several years by a sociologist doctoral candidate, David Shalliol, who's also a fine still photographer. It's a Chicago documentary about a poor black neighborhood uprooted to make space for railway sidings. Stuart Swezey's Desolation Center is another documentary, about punk field trips to the desert in the early Eighties that is a study in ultra-cool. These were events so unique and edgy they make Burning Man look like Disneyland, and Swezey, the organizer at the time, provides stunning archival footage.

Callum Crawford's Degenerates is a little improvisational comedy thriller about a young screenwriter whose ultra-lowkeyed mood has an English charm. Others have been less successful. Centerline (Takumi Shimumkai), the Japanese futuristic film about a time when the computer brain of a self-driving car is taken to court for manslaughter, is a cool idea, but I got lost in the details of the case. Paul Osborne's Cruel Hearts (2018) is a tricky neo-noir with a tacky ingenuity about it, pretty forgettable, though. I couldn't stand Sarah Pirozek's feminist horror flick, #Like . If I follow my self-imposed plan, I'm not even half way through my coverage.

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GREEN BOOK (Peter Farrelly 2018). No, I haven't actually watched this yet, but I did buy a ticket for it Saturday (2 Feb.). I mean to watch it to see what all the palaver is about, despite my great suspicion that it's treacle. But today I abandoned ship after fifteen minutes of it (before the Don Shirley character had even appeared) to watch a newer film instead:

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THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING (Joe Cornish 2018). A perfect movie for fifth-graders about a present-day eleven-year-old who is tasked with saving Britain from the evil Morgana. It has surprisingly great special effects for a little English film, enhanced by the cinematography of Bill (not Dick) Pope. It has Patrick Stewart as the adult Merlin (there is also a teenage one, played by Angus Imrie) and some other terrific young actors. Admittedly it lacks the punch of Cornish's 2011 Attack the Block - that one melds the fantastic and real kids in an edgier way - but it's a real charmer and I enjoyed it. Metascore 66.

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MISS BALA (Catherine Hardwicke 2019).

This inferior Hollywood remake of Geraldo Naranjo's 2011 movie was watched as a duty, since I saw and admired the original and knew this has gotten dismal reviews. It preserves none of the originality, particularly in depicting a Mexican gangster story from a captive woman's innocent, static POV. I wrote of Naranjo's Miss Bala (NYFF 2011) that it "still does read as an action film, but one with a distinctive personal style that includes many moments of stillness, and thus is far from the precipitous loud action of the conventional thriller." It was notable for its elaborately staged action sequences shot in remarkable long takes shot with a fixed-position Steadicam, and its restrained music. All of that is abandoned in Hardwicke's movie, which turns the story into a loud, flashy, conventional, uninteresting Hollywood actioner, trying to use Gina Rodriguez to turn the woman protagonist into an action star and her captor Lino into sexy beefcake, not like a real criminal as in the original. Clueless. Doldrums material indeed. Watched at Hilltop Century Richmond 3 Feb. 2019. Metascore 41. (Original film Metascore 79.)

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