I got rejected from two film festivals yesterday.
It wasn’t so much the rejections that bothered me–formulaic emails with my film’s title in quotation marks–as the proximity of the two rejections to each other.
You think at least they wouldn’t pile on.
It took a while between adrenaline-driven, Twitter-powered searches and the frantic misspelled Google Voice free text-messaging that I was employing to figure out that I hadn’t gotten in to Sundance.
This sort of rejection for me was difficult, not because I had expected to get in to Sundance (I hadn’t), but because the mystique and un-knowing of it all set up excessive self-doubt and a further extension of an already self-destructive addiction to determining self-worth through festival acceptance.
The way I found out finally, past all that craziness, was just one text message, an inference that I could tag along to.
Chadd had found after all of our postulation about a Monday notification, that a friend of his had been accepted on Wednesday and had only told him on Monday.
It was let-down to be sure, but I was more surprised that Chadd hadn’t gotten in, his film with its professional quality, name-cast and distinctive look seemed an easy match. Add on that he was an alumnus of the fesitvall ast year and you’d think you had a lock. But none of my friends heard that Monday and none of them would.
Meanwhile, another friend faced a different sort of rejection as Blake LaRue found out that he was being denied funding and equipment for his film in a competitive Advanced Production class; the same class I had made the film that was presently in some sort of intuit-rejection state.
Blake had told me he had been “on the bubble” and I had been prodding him to finish his script to show to me, partially as a desire to see him succeed and in some part as a way to hear myself and reabsorb that motivational energy.
When I did read his script, I liked it . It had some dialogue problems, but I could visualize and feel the emotions come out of the page. I read it through, at a good pace at work and was impressed by the convincing non-conventional nature of the moment he depicted: two juvees on the run from their program, encountering a dead camper in the woods and hiding out near him as they considered life, their plans and survival. It felt like a coming-of-age story in reverse, a story of realizing that one hasn’t come of age.
It was a strong script.
But I could only posit that it was too late in the game, that other students in the Advanced class had had their act (and their script) together for longer and Ezra Sacks, our mutual teacher, had had a tough decision to make with 8 green-lights available for 18 students.
I invited Blake over to commiserate, which for 20-something year-olds (though I maintain that Blake is no older than 17) usually means drinking Malt Liquor of the cheapest variety possible in sufficiently drunk-ening quantities.
Zach came over too, whose films “Bummer Summer” I thought was an amazing feat and a better film than I had seen in theaters for a while. He had submitted to Slamdance, which has unspecified pre-notfication policies and anyway he just needed to get out of the house.
As we put an overdue-if-it-was-possible Netflix copy of “My Dinner With Andre” into my PS3, I realized looking at Blake, reclining on my bed and cracking jokes about Wallace Shawn, that he didn’t care that much about his rejection. Zach seemed to care even less for the anxiety-prone state he found himself in. While I had expected that Monday night to look something like a group of drunken miscreants waving shots and singing “Danny Boy” at Milady’s Bar on Prince St, what I got were my friends relatively unfazed.
Somehow seeing them that way seemed to give me permission to unwind a little bit from the state I’d been in.
After all, they seemed remarkably un-crazy.
Or at least crazy in the familiar ways.
We went on to talk over My Dinner With Andre, thus negating the whole purpose of watching the film.
So Friday, I heard back.
The two festivals (Berlin and Clermont-Ferrand) were big and they had no reason necessarily to accept my film, a jewy New-York-y tender come-tragedy with actors they didn’t know.
I didn’t even feel that bummed out as I found myself on set, script-supervising, while eating fresh-baked pan-brownies and playing on my DSi in my spare time.
In short, there was life to get back to.
Or at least, life and electronic devices.
“2 down.” I sent as a text message to one of my festival co-miserables. “35 more rejections to go.”
MORE FILMS OF THE SEASON!
Part Hitchcock-style mystery and part Fellini-esque stylized self-interment, Broken Embraces sounds like a better movie than it is, though the movie it is is certainly not bad. Pedro Almodovar, chronicler of beautfiul women and their frayed interactions with men, has turned his eye to two directorial foils that seem to split his ego: A disguised, exiled and recently blinded screenwriter who goes by the satisfying pseudonym “Harry Caine” and a pimply, gay, garishly red-headed voyeur who reappears as a videographer named Ray X. Both characters are fun to watch as are the beautiful and complicated women that populate the film (Penelope Cruz justly included). However, the film is full of unwanted revelations and obvious spell-outs for the audience. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out whose son Harry’s assistant is, nor are constant flashbacks necessary to explain Harry’s old flames. However, a literal remake of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” inside the film is a pleasant treat, as is the beautiful area of Spain and the vibrant colors/emotions that Almodovar exposes us to. He has so much craft and humor in his filmmaking it’s easy to want to forgive his flaws. What we get is about 30 minutes that could be removed from the film to make it a very, very good movie. As is, I’ll take it as a step in the right direction from the director’s previous misfire “Volver”.
I saw Home described as an “anti-road movie”, a beguiling title that seems to describe it well. Ursula Meier’s directorial debut starts out with a simple enough premise: A pleasant lower-middle-class French family lives in a nice house on the side of an eternally unfinished road, surrounded on all other sides by the sort of picturesque French countryside that people imagine they’re getting when they move to Westchester. A mother (Isabelle Huppert) takes care of a rambunctious cute son, a budding middle-school daughter and a dangerously attractive and typically alienated older daughter. Dad comes home every day with the bread. There’s TV involved and plans to fix up a pool. It’s by the books that this idyllic existence be disrupted–otherwise what woud the movie be?–but the way it is is strange. “Home” takes a turn towards a mix of horror and symbolic strangeness as the road next to the house is completed during a couple anonymous midnight ventures and the family falls apart at the seams realizing their isolation from society and the din and poison from the world outside their window. What’s meant by it all is uncertain to me. There’s a lot of sexual politics involving the female hierarchy of the family as Mom takes charge and progressively isolates them in her descent into madness, while the oldest daughter deserts them while sun-bathing, causing the middledaughter to later strip naked with a guilt in her eyes that she doesn’t look like “her”. What’s meant by it all, I couldn’t tell you for sure. and I’m not sure the director has it down-pat either. She seems to be appropriating some of the Dardenne brothers’ style without their mastery of form. But nonetheless it’s interesting and the last shot is breathtaking and as beautiful an image as any I’ve seen in cinema for a while.
Finally, when I finally did get a night with Chadd of the sort of drunken pathos that I had asked for previously, we hung out and grabbed some dinner and went to see The Road, which we both thought couldn’t possible be as bad as people said it was. After all, by most accounts the director’s previous film, “The Propostion”, was a well-made movie and this was strong material recommended to me by the likes of both Jason Lee and the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of “No Country For Old Men” by the same author. Also it had some of my favorite actors in it from Viggo Mortensen in the lead, Cronenberg’s muse, to Michael K. Williams in a stand-out cameo. All of these things were bound to be good. And they were. But unfortunately nothing else in the movie was. John Hillcoat, the director, mishandled every moment, from excessive smarmy flashbacks to the casting of an inferior child actor for some weird cuteness factor (?) to the unbelievably bad and unrecognizable score by Nick Cave, of all people. A complete misfire of a movie, that is even more the disappointment for looking so good on paper.