Sunday, June 12, 2016

Spirit of affirmation

The Cinetopia Film Festival finished today. I think I heard this is the 5th year (I attended several films last year) and when I began to hear about it I read through the list of films on the website and came up with seven I'd like to see.

Alas, the recent emergency trip to Austin prevented me from seeing one of the seven. Another was missed because Cinema Detroit changed location without telling me. No need to look up the address, I know where it is, it's … not here. A third was missed because I needed to spend a day at Dad's house after missing last week (including needing to pay for work done on the house).

So over Friday and Saturday I had a list of four films to see at the Michigan and State Theaters in Ann Arbor.

First up was Captain Fantastic. This has nothing to do with superheroes. Ben and his wife moved to the wilderness in Washington State to raise their six kids. But the wife is bipolar and is currently off in an institution. We see the older son kill a deer for food and we get an idea of what life is like. Dad is pretty rigorous with their education, though nearly all of it is daily living or from books. Then Mom commits suicide. It is time for a road trip to visit the cousins and the in-laws and to attend the funeral. But because she is now Buddhist Ben wants to stop the Christian burial.

One might think this is a chance for us to laugh at the country bumpkins as they fail to in their encounters with civilization. There is some of that – older son is clueless around women. But most of the time these kids hold their own.

The family moved to the wilderness over disgust of rampant capitalism. The kids are well steeped in Marxist writings. The youngest, an 8-year-old girl gets a hunting knife as a gift. The family celebrates Noam Chomsky Day – at least he was alive and did something for humanity, not like that fictitious Santa Claus. When we finally get to the in-laws the kids are appalled at the wasteful size of the house that does not at all cherish the desert environment where it sits.

I have a small complaint about the story, though I didn't realize it until later. The kill done by the older son is celebrated as a passage into manhood. He is also shown with letters of acceptance from a half-dozen top universities, putting him at 17, maybe 16. That seems rather old for a first kill for a guy who grew up in the wilderness.

Overall, it was a quirky and enjoyable movie and a lot deeper than I expected.

Because of my emotional involvement of that story (too soon for a movie portrayal of a funeral) I decided to skip the next one on my schedule. That it started only 30 minutes later and at 9:30 at night confirmed my decision. It would have been *Contemporary Color*, a documentary about the latest things flag waving color guards are doing.

My favorite was Suited. This is a documentary about a Brooklyn tailor shop. Rachel, also known as Ray, is on the transgender spectrum, somewhere between male and female. She couldn't get a suit that fit her well, so went to this tailor. At the time he was close to a one-person operation and wasn't sure what to do with her. But the suit fit so well and made her so happy she went back to him saying I want to be your apprentice. She was soon made a partner. And one of their specialties is suits for transgender people. We meet several of those people and hear their stories of being transgender. One was told by a prospective employer "You're exactly what we're looking for, but we can't deal with you being transgender." In a well-fitting suit he looked much more masculine and got the next job. The spirit of affirmation throughout this movie was wonderful! I found this one will begin a run on HBO on June 20.

Saturday I had a convenient supper break. Several years ago my friend and debate partner enjoyed eating at a Jamaican restaurant in Canton. Alas, it closed, though the sign said there was another in Ann Arbor. I found that one for my meal. It is across the street from the west side of Hill Auditorium. I apologize, dear friend, for not telling you about my visits to Ann Arbor in time for us to perhaps share a meal together.

The last movie was Hunky Dory. Sidney is an unsuccessful rock star going for that David Bowie androgynous look. He makes is money begging from friends and performing as a drag queen at a dive bar. He has an 11 year-old son George and gets to play the fun dad every other weekend. But George shows up on Wednesday and Mom isn't answering the phone. George is used to Dad in makeup and in glam clothes and they get along pretty well. We can see they have a decent relationship. But having a son around sure gets in the way of making a living.

I liked this one, though not as well as the other two.

After the movie we met the director and the writer who also played Sidney. They answered questions from the audience, including how the script was developed, where the idea came from, what it was like to shift from writer to actor, and how fortunate they felt to find the boy who played George.

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