Festivals and abusive marriages (They go together, I swear)

November 15, 2007 at 8:51 am (watch)

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Last weekend I went to AFI FEST, which is a big festival in LA put on by the American Film Institute. It’s over now, but I wish I’d gotten to see more movies. Plus, at a festival it’s pretty common for the directors and stars to be there, and the directors of the three movies I saw all did Q&As after the movies.

My favorite movie was With Your Permission, a Danish film. It’s about a man who runs the restaurant on the ferry that links Stolkholm to Copenhagen and who is nervous and unbending and sort of unlikeable but has the most amazing hair that you can only sort of see in the picture. Anyway, his manic, depressed wife beats him and it’s affecting his work, so his boss demands that he go to a support group. He accidentally signs up for the group for people who beat their wives, and then a bunch of other things happen that make you cringe and laugh and then hate yourself for laughing at a movie based around an abusive relationship. And opera.

The best thing about the movie is how your understanding of the characters shifts as the story unfolds. Now that I’ve been learning more about screenwriting, I’ve been paying more attention to film structure, and I loved how each new piece of information twists what you thought you knew and changes your sympathies.

I also saw the Prince of the Himalayas, which is a version of Hamlet set in the mountains of Tibet (and spoken in Tibetan, although the Chinese director doesn’t speak it). I thought it needed another round of editing, but it was a beautiful glimpse into the rituals of Tibetan culture. The actor who played Hamlet was at the screening, and it turns out that after making this film but before it was released he went on the Chinese version of American Idol and won. He sang a song for us at the end of the Q&A.

Here is a clip from the movie. You can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube (in 10 segments).

And here’s Mr. Chinese Idol singing some song I don’t know.

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Regina!

November 1, 2007 at 6:54 am (hear)

Last night I saw Regina Spektor at the Wiltern and she was amazing. I love her albums Begin to Hope and Maryann Meets the Gravediggers–she has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard, and a silly sense of humor. Here’s an excerpt from one of the songs she sang last night (“Music Box”):

But when I do the dishes
I run the water very, very, very hot
And then I fill the sink to the top with bubbles of soap
And then I set all the bottle caps I own afloat
And it’s the greatest voyage in the history of plastic

I was expecting her to have a band, but it was actually just her playing piano (and guitar–or at least one string of it–on a couple of songs). Even though a couple of the songs, like her biggest hit “Fidelity,” didn’t sound as good without other instruments, it was really striking to hear the songs stripped down: there’s no hiding when it’s just you and a piano. She also did a cool version of “Hotel Song” with the opening act, Only Son, beatboxing. Here’s a video of that song not from last night, but actually from a show in Sacramento earlier this year. It’s also cute because she messes up on the last chorus, and then jumps around sort of embarrassed.

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