Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ebertfest II

Day two of Ebertfest began with something missing. Patton Oswalt was supposed to appear to discuss his movie Big Fan, but the shooting schedule of his current movie made it impossible. On the plus side, he did write what may be the most eloquent apology I've ever read.

I hated to miss my chance to see Patton, but writer/director Robert Siegel was there. I had seen his film before, but I had forgotten that he had written The Wrestler, directed by Darren Aronofsky. Big Fan is often described as a less bloody Taxi Driver, and Big Fan also has a lot to say about misplaced obsession. On my second viewing, however, I was struck by how similar it was to a later film with Patton Oswalt: Young Adult. The leads of both films are neither totally unsympathetic nor totally right in the head - but what struck me about both was that neither character learns a damn thing in the end. That may be a flaw to some, but it made Big Fan (and Young Adult) that much more fascinating.

I also took this away from Big Fan, as someone who doesn't follow sports: Just because you're deeply into athletics doesn't make you any less of a geek than, say, a film nerd.

Next up was Kinayarwanda, and it was the first film of the festival that left me a bit wanting. I admired it, and indefinitely understood the value of a movie about Rwandan genocide being made by Rwandans. While the film has a number of great moments, including a striking animated sequence, it doesn't hold together as well as Hotel Rwanda, mainly because it lacked a central figure in which I could be emotionally invested.

The third film, however, was flat-out wonderful. Terri resonated with me a lot because it focuses on social mis fits, and I often felt like one. Indie films like this often succumb to self-conscious quirkiness, but in Terri it's essential because it shows how quirky we all are - quirk is what makes us us. I was especially struck when Jacob Wysocki, who plays the title character, spoke at the festival. This was his very first film role, but in real life, Wysocki is gregarious and outgoing - very much the opposite of Terri. Christy Lemire, the AP film critic and a child of the 80s, said it reminded her of The Breakfast Club. I think it may be even better than that.

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