Monday, November 12, 2012

AFI Fest Wrap Up: The Movies I Can't Stop Thinking About

Although the line up we caught at this year’s AFI Fest presented by Audi didn’t quite match up with the stellar picks from last year, the 2012 slate was still mighty impressive, and furthermore, boasted some of the strangest festival fare seen all year. This includes two films made up entirely of actual found footage from other films, a surrealist comedy, a meta documentary production of a Shakespeare history, a movie about people who pay to be infected with celebrities diseases and “John Dies at the End.” If nothing else, these films sure are memorable. Here are the most fangirl relevant films from AFI 2012 that I simply can’t get out of my head. For the complete list, head on over to!

Why we can’t stop thinking about it: It must be in the genes.
Turns out creepiness runs in the family! Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, made a huge impact at AFI this year, leaping out of the gate with his original body horror slash science fiction flick, “Antiviral.” The movie depicts a world where plebeians want so badly to be close to their favorite celebrities that they pay good money to be injected with diseased cells harnessed from their very bodies. The cells range from temporary maladies like the flu to more permanent options like herpes, and celebrity cells are additionally used to create colorless edible blobs fans can chow down on. And this is only the set up.
It turns out that Syd (an increasingly promising Caleb Landry Jones) an employee of one of the top clinics that provides these viruses to the public, regularly injects himself in order to cultivate viruses of his own to sell on the black market. Eventually, he finds himself smack in the middle of a relentless murder mystery that excites and disgusts right up until the appropriately disturbing final shot. With his first outing, Cronenberg proves himself in spades. Not only is the premise inventive and the story involving, but he shows a very deft hand when it comes to pacing, imagery, world building and invoking visceral reactions. He never shies away from the grotesque.
Stand-out moment: The skin-crawling final scene.

Why we can’t stop thinking about it: It’s a new way of connecting with the films we love.
“Room 237″ is a documentary, sure, but unlike any documentary you’ve ever seen before, a running theme at AFI 2012. Using only five voiceovers recorded for the film, set against repurposed stock footage and film clips, “Room 237″ delves into the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” Each interviewee is convinced his theory is correct, and often two of them will use identical evidence to support completely different conclusions.
The theories for the most part are completely absurd, and the passion with which these people believe them adds largely to the entertainment factor. The AFI audience actually applauded when one of them concluded his argument as to how “The Shining” proves Kubrick shot the moon landing — not because the theory was sound, but because the undeniable proof we were being presented with so obviously had no grounding in reality.
“Room 237″ demonstrates a totally different way of connecting fan to film, what Chuck Klosterman calls “Immersion Criticism,” a type of examination that can only be undertaken after multiple viewings of a movie, and only if that movie is made by someone who could conceivably have ulterior motives and play with secret meanings and hidden clues, i.e. a Stanley Kubrick or a David Lynch. Ultimately, the film succeeds not because it tells us anything about “The Shining,” but because it is both highly entertaining and a solid commentary on this connection — how film fans can project themselves into the meaning of a film they love. These people LOVE “The Shining” and are now a part of its history. As crazy as that might be, it’s still kind of sweet.
Stand-out moment: As per the instruction of major “The Shining” theorist Kevin McLeod (aka Mstrmnd), we witness footage of “The Shining” playing forwards and backwards simultaneously and superimposed. (He who declined to be interviewed for the film.) While this method still proves nothing about the movie, it’s really cool to see the twins murder overlaid on Jack’s face, where it looks like he is wearing perfectly applied twin-blood clown-makeup.

Why we can’t stop thinking about it: It’s what “The Clock” would be if it had a love story narrative.
Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi’s movie is yet another AFI 2012 film made up of entirely found footage, this time from hundreds of movies and even some TV shows over the course of cinematic history. Three years, four editors, 500 movies from across the world and only the most emotive of film scores and songs are the ingredients in this examination of the tropes, themes, cliches and patterns of the love story.
Statistically, the films shown are roughly 20% Hungarian, 20% Asian and 60% American and European, and it can be watched in a variety of ways. How many films can you name? Could you describe every moment of the narrative? Which movie appears the most? It’s a feast for the movie lover’s senses. As an added treat, the end credits list every movie used and every score used, in order; one can only imagine the eventual Blu-ray release that tells you what’s on screen as you watch. However, a release seems somewhat implausible because the film could only use these movies and music for educational purposes, but fingers crossed there is a way somehow someday that we can all enjoy this 90 minutes of straight smiling soon.
Stand-out moment: Playing on its own examination of themes and patterns, after showing multiple clips demonstrating going back in time, most famously Superman making the Earth rotate in the other direction, the film replays about a minute or so, clip for clip, until the gentlemen universally decided to go the other way and win the ladies back. Nice one, “Final Cut.”

Why We Can’t Stop Thinking About it: It’s absurdist surrealism at its most accessible.
On the surface, “Wrong” is about a man named Dolph (Jack Plotnick) trying to find his lost dog, but from the moment his alarm clock turns from 7:59 to 7:60, you know you’re in for something very out of the ordinary. When all the rules of sense, logic and storytelling go out the window, it may be frustrating for some but delightfully addicting for others. After all, it was written and directed by Quentin Dupieux, who made an entire film about a sentient tire.
Dolph is only slightly bewildered by the mounting absurdities of his life. Although the whole film is a nonsensical delight, perhaps the single best part of it is William Fichtner giving the performance of his career as Master Chang.
Stand-out moment: Jack calls Jesus Organic Pizza and has a long conversation with the delivery girl about the pizza joint’s logo.


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