So it turns out we have both a graveyard behind our condo (a little weird for a view from a breakfast nook) and a mirror in our living room which has a child's handprints all over it when seen at a certain angle. Perhaps this is only creepy if you remember the original BLAIR WITCH poster that was created for Sundance eight years ago...
Early trends from the first two days of filmgoing include dark subject matter with lots of high school settings, and according to others, consistent male masturbation (!) What this means I have no idea, but here's a quick rundown of my films thus far (with the usual 1 - 5 star rating to be consistent with our Orlando critics):
ONCE (4-Stars) - A disarmingly good musical from Ireland about the friendship between a singer-songwriter who fixes vacuums for a living when he's not playing folk songs in the street, and the Czech woman he meets who happens to be a young mom separated from her husband. Simple, charming, and filled with genuinely good tunes.
THE SAVAGES (5-Stars) - Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are siblings dealing with their own screwed up lives even as they must figure out how to take care of their elderly father (Philip Bosco)who's suffering from dementia. Beautifully written and wonderfully acted, this is one of those frequently hilarious dramas that really hits home. The latest from Tamara Jenkins (SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS), and well worth the wait.
ROCKET SCIENCE (3-Stars) - The first narrative feature from the director of SPELLBOUND, this is a mildly amusing New Jersey high school tale of a teenage boy with a major speech impediment, a kleptomaniac older brother, and the ruthless hottie on the debate team he's got a crush on. Though funny in places, it's also self-consciously quirky and a bit over-the-top in places--think THUMBSUCKER meets Wes Anderson and NAPOLEON DYNAMITE.
SNOW ANGELS (4-Stars) - A small-town drama with tragedy just around the corner, David Gordon Green's haunting new work is one of two films shot by Tim Orr that I saw on the same day (Mike White's YEAR OF THE DOG being the other--more on that later) . The always underrated Sam Rockwell is the mentally unstable and unemployed husband who's having major problems being separated from his beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale), also the mother of his young daughter. Michael Angarano ("24", SKY HIGH, the forthcoming BLACK IRISH in competiton at this year's Florida Film Festival) is the high school student dealing with his own parents' failed relationship and a budding first romance. Fine acting and a powerful story, with some interesting supporting turns by Amy Sedaris, Tom Noonan, and Griffin Dunne.
TEETH (3-Stars) - This is it, the "killer vagina movie" everyone's talking about. A Christian high school girl turns out to have a monster that likes to chomp in her nether regions, but it actually is more like an avenger of sorts against all of the male scumbags that do her wrong. A frequently funny, gross and gory horror-comedy with a satirical bite (sorry), the film stars a game Jess Weixler (from the upcoming FFF film, THE BIG BAD SWIM) as the confused heroine. Docked one star for being in the Dramatic Competition (what?) instead of the MIdnight Features where it belongs.
AN AMERICAN CRIME (4-Stars) - A shocking and emotionally brutal story about child abuse based on testimony from an infamous 1965 case in Indiana. A truly frightening and excellent Catherine Keener is the mentally exhausted and physically ill single mother of seven who agrees to temporarily care for two daughters of a travelling carny couple. Ellen Page (HARD CANDY) is the sister that must endure the unspeakable punishments. Well done with the exception of an unnecessary dramatic flourish like something out of a slasher movie, this was actually directed by Tommy O'Haver of BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS fame. Rumor has it that an ambulance had to be called for a woman who passed out at the first public screening--a laff riot it aint!