Archive for April, 2007

Tribeca: In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Posted in Movies on April 28th, 2007

I totally wasn’t going to check out “In search of midnight kiss.” It was a movie I had picked only because I had my Daytimer pass and it fit into a Friday when I didn’t have any other movies planned. I almost skipped out since I was having fun at work today but in the end I decided to head on over. Billed as a Romantic Drama, I did not have very high expectation heading in. And the opening narration from the main character was stilted enough that I expected to be in for a world of hurt. But the stilted dialog should have typed me off.

Midnight Kiss is “Chasing Amy” for the 21st-century hipster crowd. Yeah it takes place in a single day, rather than spread over weeks, and yeah the leading lady isn’t a (confused) lesbian. But the movie displays all the traits of a good Kevin Smith movie, back before he decided it was easier to be a pastiche of himself rather than actually making thoughtful movies. Like “Chasing Amy”, Midnight Kiss is about unconventional love, in this case between a loser screenwriter and the girl he mets after placing a Craigslist personal on New Years. The movie veers back and forth between the poignant and the adolescent, at one moment dealing with pubic grooming habits and the next with romantic betrayal. The characters swear all the time, behave somewhat irrationally, and generally do their best to get in their own way. They are as flawed and real as people on the street.

The cynical view of romance that Smith portrays in Chasing Amy is in full display here, as well. The movie steams along fantastically for almost the entire ninety-five minutes, but right at the end, the filmmakers decided they needed to have one last ‘twist.’ (It is hard to write about this without spoilers. Let’s just say that you’ll know it when it happens and I won’t say anything else about it.) The movie doesn’t need it. In fact, you could just cut it out completely and the movie would have ended just as well. It seems to be in there to provide justification for something that doesn’t need justification, almost as nod to an audience that won’t ‘get it.’ In the Q+A that followed the film, the director addressed that very issue, saying that it had been a hard decision to include it in the film. I wish he hadn’t. Because it took a clearly excellent movie and downgraded it in my eyes. I’d still give it a 4 out of 5, but I really wanted to give it something higher. Give me two minutes alone in the editing room with the film and it could all be better. “In Search of Midnight Kiss” is still showing on Saturday at 2:30pm, on Tuesday at 7pm, and Wednesday at 11pm. Don’t let my paragraph rant about the one little problem with the movie discourage you. It is still a well-done film and director Alex Holdridge is someone I’d consider a voice to watch. Check it out, let me know what you think about the end . . .

Tribeca: The King of Kong

Posted in Movies on April 28th, 2007

I’m a huge fan of quirky documentaries, especially ones about geeks. Last year’s “Wordplay” was right up my alley (especially given my childhood doing crossword puzzles) and I was looking forward to “King of Kong” this year. I knew it was a documentary about a guy on a quest to set the international high score Donkey Kong, but not much more. So it was a more than pleasant surprise to discover that it was both humorous and a fascinating study in human behavior. The film centers around the attempts of Steve Wiebe to capture the world record, a title held by Billy Mitchell one of the original geeky gods of gaming. Apparently, at some point during Wiebe’s attempts, Mitchell decided that he couldn’t allow this to happen and started channeling “The Plague” from Hackers (seriously, there is just something about Mitchell that reminds me of the dude). He mobilizes the ultra-geek squad, including his close friends from back in the day who started Twin Galaxies (the official arcade game high-score organization) who invalidate Wiebe’s score and show up Steve’s house to search for evidence of cheating.

As a result of this challenge to his integrity, Wiebe goes off to Funzone arcade for an official event with Twin Galaxies, to prove that his high score was real and to face off against Mitchell. Everything is set for an epic geek showdown, except Mitchell doesn’t show. Instead, he stays down in Florida, bunkered up in his home, directing his minions by phone. The access that the film makers got was incredible. They got lucky in two ways: Mitchell has a huge ego and obviously loved having cameras on him at all times and his friends at Funzone often forgot that they were mic’d, allowing the documentarians to capture some incredible back and forth conversations.

In the end, the film is about a really good guy’s quest to prove that not only is he the best at Donkey Kong, but that he isn’t the sort of person who would cheat. There are definite redemption overtones here as Wiebe strives to set the record and to come to terms with Billy Mitchell’s refusal to play him head-to-head whilst manipulating all the people around him. In the end, the fact that it is about Donkey Kong is almost irrelevant. What it is really about is the emotions that drive people (all people, not just geeks) to compete and how being the best can become something unhealthy and counterproductive.

The documentary benefits from having such a theatrical villain as Mitchell. Mitchell clearly suffers from a case of ‘taking-himself-way-to-seriously’ and the resultant posturing and scheming is almost unbelievable. If this had been a fictional film, no one would have believed his character. But because it is real, it just goes to prove that reality can be much more entertaining than anything Hollywood can dream up. This film was a clear five out of five and is playing again on Monday at 9:45pm, Wednesday at 8pm, and Saturday the 5th at 5pm. Go see it. Even if you don’t like video games.

Tribeca Film Festival: Introduction

Posted in Movies on April 28th, 2007

I am a huge fan of the Tribeca Film Festival. This is now the fourth year that I’ve gone, and though I have issues with the festival this year (more to come on that later), it is still an event that I intend to highly enjoy. I’ve got 22 movies lined up and I’ll be blogging about all of them here.

I got a pass for the first time this year. One of the nice benefits of being self-employed is that I can set my own schedule, meaning a Daytimer Pass works out nicely. I can get into any movie before 6pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekend. Of course many of the best flicks in the festival are slated to be after those times (no dummies these Tribeca organizers) so I also picked up a handful of normal tickets to round out my slate.

Expect regular updates over the next couple days as I descend into the world of NYC film. Scoring for the films is based on what I’m giving the film in the Cadillac award voting: it’s a scale from one to five, with five being the best.