The Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) had an underlying theme this year of addressing environmental and political issues. Certainly some resurgence in this area of exploration can be credited by the popularity of “An Inconvenient Truth,” which offered a free screening tie-in to the festival, which I will cover later in my review. I myself am an auteur among other things, and one interest has always been to go camping; to seek solitude, to follow a road, which leads to a trail, and perhaps from that a lake, a summit, or some marvel I wish I could ironically share with the world once I had found it. I have a tremendous love for the planet; in many regards the rugged wilderness has been my home, a passion to explore, to be much of myself. Then there is that other element of my need for life: the busy cities, the remarkable people I find, human desire, impassioned creation, intellect, and between the two expressions both had the good fortune to pull up a seat with one another at the festival, and regard a few films for awhile, together. Viewing films which are so supportive in pushing back the consumption of what only offers a price tag when used and changed, touches me deeply, yet many mixed emotions are raised, as the complexities of politics are apt to do.
My first experience of movie going was attending “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Director/Writer, Chris Paine, Producer, Jessie Deeter, a humorous and telling film of the systematic dismantling usage of electric cars, especially featured in California. Beginning more tongue and cheek with what is at first a Hollywood mock funeral for the recalled EV1 electric cars by General Motors, becomes a more serious and factual unraveling of the supposition proposed by the film’s title. As many people know, such alternative fuel source efforts have been championed by the state of California in the past, and it appears a potential resurgence of interest could take place. Chris Paine walks a well crafted line of dispensing the factual insights in the film without the sense of a heavy handed slant, which though effective and entertaining, nears some similar controversial documentary films as near anti-propaganda, propaganda. What is required, and unfortunately is missing from the film, when addressing this extremely important issue, is a broader view of the reasons why these political and economic shifts are not allowing for these developments to be realized. The simple answer many conclude is that money and oil is behind the cause, yet that is where an explanation begins, and does not end. There is a telling moment in the film where the developer / supplier of the electrical battery expressed that he expected his product to garner enthusiasm as, after all, this development would lend to saving our lives on a rapidly degrading environment. Yet there was no great support, nor grand congratulations. “What Killed the Applause?” should be the sequel to really make change possible.
“An Inconvenient Truth”, (Director, Davis Guggenheim, Producers, Lawrence Bender, Scott Z. Burns, Laurie David) was offered as a free screening in a lovely setting in the outdoor California Plaza. This also included a special performance by Bon Jovi in support of both the film and for Al Gore who offered a special introduction to the presentation, along with his wife Tipper in attendance as well. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, as well addressed the audience, offering words of encouragement that the city of Los Angeles is making roads to turn its new leaf, as it were, and re-visit the need to rectify the pollution issue in the city known for its culture of being so closely tied to the automobile.
Al Gore’s conveyance of the issues within the film is done with an excellent balance between urgency and calm guidance, traversing what could easily alarm any individual. Certainly the man who traditionally has been so openly jibbed for his methodical and uncandid demeanor, speaks with fluidity and approachable warmth in what follows a near slide-show presentment. At one point, Gore briefly addresses the issue of the tight lipped scientific community, touching on his discovery of how the few who have stepped forward to reveal information have found themselves unemployable. Therein lies one of the most pressing issues today which needs severe addressing. What exists currently is a system in which technological and scientific development requires an environment of absolute control and secrecy. This has created a reality of the carving of human development to rest heavily within those guarded confines, where decisions are only brought to understanding once their implementation is already made. This leaves the people of the world having their lives, and futures of their children decided long before they are aware that a question was ever even posed.
“A Scanner Darkly” (Director/Writer Richard Linklater, Producers, Palmer West, Jonah Smith, Erwin Stoff, Ann Walker-McBay, Tommy Pallotta.) Participating in a Conversation Series showcase interview and audience Q&A separate from the screening, the well admired independent director, Linklater, still exudes much modesty in the face of success. Many recall his film “Before Sunrise” with Ethan Hawk and Julie Delpy. The film follows with a sequel entitled “Before Sunset” almost 10 years later, which Linklater reflectively jokes is one of the few films to emotionally champion adultery, and was a project that he and the two actors had to collectively fight for it to be realized. “A Scanner Darkly” is reflective of the animation employed in the film “Waking Life”. We each have our movies which mark some event in life, this obscure film will always remind me of some romantic and conflicted e-mails I exchanged with an anonymous man who I still wonder about, and likely can never know. A theme befitting Linklater’s work.
The screening was held at the outdoor Ford Amphitheatre on a lovely evening. Strongly supported, I spotted Keanu Reeves and Woody Harrelson in the audience, both appearing more vibrant in person. As well, the “People for the American Way” hosted the event, sporting protest material against residential wire-tapping, as the issue is strongly featured in the film. The film boldly exposes the issue of individuals being monitored in their home by law officials, yet side-steps much of the personal ramification many people would experience in a fishbowl existence. Another theme briefly addresses a concept I have had interest in. Introducing a near future world, one which is in the grip of an addictive drug, is the use of substance D, which is so controlling that people are either on it, or haven’t tried it yet. The film as well explores the personal and unknowing manipulations which occur both with the dealers, and amongst the police themselves. Identities shift, agendas are skewed, and people treat their own like trash for the better good which may or more likely cannot be. A Scanner Darkly, is a well designed and visually refreshing film, which exposes some remarkably important insights.
Eclectic Mix 1 & 2 featuring the music videos of over 35 Directors and Musicians. All materials involving any work of the White Stripes must be omitted from my writing until further notice, although I have to say that Conan O’Brien still makes me laugh, and is pleasantly featured in their video “The Denial Twist.” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs still have that remarkable energy, and Karen O in “Gold Lion” makes me wish I had a friend like her, but only if I could trust that she wouldn’t want to kick my ass at some point. Beck being featured in both “Hell Yes” and “Girl” is the contrary, using heavy Hispanic influences to dominate his recent work in the visual themes. He ages, but still looks like that guy who used to live down the block when you were a kid, and you always figured you should get to know more.
“Tear you Apart” by She Wants Revenge offers an odd visual plotline of children attending a school dance. The story is clear, but I felt it drew away heavily from the near psychotic intensity of the music. I was surprised, but Death Cab for Cutie, who I likely should not enjoy, nearly choked me up with “I Will Follow You into the Dark”. The story follows two loving bunnies that snuggle and persevere through life together to the music of a near loving sonnet. “Nice Day” by Persephone’s Bees got my attention with the animation and contrasts of dark imagery set against butterflies and giant friendly fish, maybe it was just the mood that I was in, but I liked it, and now while writing this, the tune is stuck in my head.
Director, Ben Mor, was present for his involvement in “Get Your Hustle On” by Juvenile, which was shot on location in the artist’s hometown immediately following hurricane Katrina. The lyrics were not written for the event, and from what I have seen, don’t really follow the flow of the video and contrasted the impassioned speaking of Ben at the screening, although the video’s location was a bold move on the rappers part. Really, amongst all of the panel discussions and interviews, Ben’s insights seemed the most frank and invested as he spoke of the conditions he found following the hurricane. Not wanting to use any of the debris from people’s homes, he actually traveled for miles to find plank boards in a garbage pile to use as a sign in the video, and told of the shocked reaction to the affects he experienced working in the disaster.
During the quick Q & A following the initial presentation, they touched briefly on the topic of having access to most videos in the standard fashion. MTV no longer lends much airtime, and other specialty channels offer a tight selection. Other than some film festivals and Canada’s Much Music, few can view music videos in North America. Although if looking for a video in particular, people often can find some means online. At times these films, yes, are used to target and exploit would be sexual opportunities by band members, or to garner promotion for their work. But often times, people do not realize that many videos are the precious and telling reflections of artists who have tremendous information to share with their audience. It is a travesty that these expressions are so overlooked. The music industry in general has tremendous potential, which is not being realized or offered a venue for its voice. I often feel it is as though watching music videos is like I am looking into a glass window past which the people trapped behind throw pastings and pictures for me to regard, and as such they are very special to share.
hmmm hummm hummm “On a nice day, I don’t care what they say…”