SF Film Festival 2018 [Roundup by Marco Cerritos]
The Parsing Haus is pleased to present this HausGuest guest post by Marco Cerritos, fellow member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Here, Marco gives us his rundown and recommendations from the SF Film Festival, on now through April 17. Enjoy!
The San Francisco International Film Festival continues its yearly run this weekend, saving some of its best programs for last. Not to suggest that the first half of the festival has been subpar. Quite the opposite. With many special events and celebrity speakers, the festival has put on an amazing show — but somehow they have also managed to top themselves with the surprises in store for its final days.
Beginning on April 4th and running through the 17th, San Francisco’s yearly party for film lovers has attracted loads of A-list talent. Charlize Theron and Jason Reitman talked up their new maternal comedy “Tully” to Neil Gaiman and John Cameron Mitchell promoting their sci-fi adventure “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.” That’s not even including other exclusive events that attracted celebrated artists such as Paul Schrader, Alex Garland, Henry Winkler, Jason Sudeikis, Boots Riley, Guy Maddin, Wayne Wang and comedian Bo Burnham, just to name a few.
And the celebration isn’t over yet. For the festival’s final half there are more films in store, including the Bay Area premieres of the Joan Jett documentary “Bad Reputation” (she will be in attendance) and the closing night selection of director Gus van Sant’s latest, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot” (he will be there along with composer Danny Elfman).
I will have more articles coming detailing some great adventures from the festival and interviews with some of the talent coming through town to promote their latest movies. For now let’s focus on the films that make this year’s festival so great.
Here are some program highlights to keep on your radar as the festival unfolds:
A comedic road trip between a pot-smoking senior (Christopher Plummer) and his equally feisty daughter (Vera Farmiga) is just the beginning of what this family story has up its sleeve. Secrets and uncomfortable truths bubble to the surface as the bickering duo hit several snags along their journey making for a very wild and entertaining ride. Director Shana Feste and co-star Peter Fonda are expected to attend the premiere screening.
Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska plays lovers separated by chance in this wacky and sometimes surreal Western from the Zellner Brothers (“Kumiko the Treasure Hunter”). Samuel (Pattinson) may not be too bright but he knows that he loves Penelope (Wasikowska) like no other. When she goes missing his only option is to track her down at all costs, even if that means getting into trouble in some of the dumbest and funniest ways possible.
This year’s closing night film focuses on the real-life story of quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan. He is played by Joaquin Phoenix and the story flows by weaving in-and-out of Callahan’s most celebrated and troubled moments, never sugar-coating its true events too much. The film may be anchored by Phoenix but its strong supporting cast includes Jonah Hill, Jack Black and Rooney Mara. Add to that director Gus van Sant and composer Danny Elfman (who will both be at the screening) and it’s easy to see why this tender and moving story was celebrated at Sundance earlier this year.
Speaking of Sundance, if you see one film at this year’s San Francisco Film Festival make it this one. It was my favorite at Sundance and I’m happy to see it premiering at this Bay Area festival as well. This unexpected gut-punch from comedian Bo Burnham proves that you don’t need to be a middle school girl to understand how one thinks. Eighth grader Kayla (played by a dynamite Elsie Fisher) is a typical kid, quiet and introverted on the outside but full of ideas and goals on the inside. The closest she gets to expressing herself is through a YouTube channel, and even that form of expression is scary to her. The more layers are unraveled to this delicate character, the more we sympathize and root for her. It’s one of the best films of 2018 and a cruel reminder of how hard growing up can be.
It’s easy to take Ethan Hawke for granted. He works a lot, is very likeable, and makes solid artistic choices. He is a dependable actor and there’s nothing wrong with that, but in “First Reformed” Hawke hits it out of the park in such a way that you’ll leave the theater with a new appreciation for his talent. The film is the latest from director Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo,” “Auto Focus”) and it’s a slow-burn spiritual drama centering on the pensive and complex thoughts of a young Reverend. Hawke is that central character and he plays the part without the obvious conflict you might expect from a role like this. Instead he digs deep inward and brings a flawed, fiery and unique performance to life.
One of the titans of the French New Wave was Jean-Luc Godard and while his films represented the best of cinema, the artist himself was a walking contradiction. This is a fictionalized portrait of a troubled artist from the director of the Oscar winning film “The Artist” (Michel Hazanavicius) and the results are about what you might expect from this subject matter. Louis Garrel plays Godard during his turbulent period with a much younger muse, making for some great back-and-forth fireworks.
Female filmmakers are a rare breed in Hollywood, but some of the few who are able to practice their craft are interviewed in this new documentary about the very obvious gender gap. It’s common knowledge the system is more male-dominated, but after hearing some of these stories it’s easier to get a much better understanding of the reasons behind that unbalance. More importantly, it sheds an important light on what can be done to change that going forward.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the focus of this very informative and entertaining documentary. She may be a rock star today but the film shows us the hard road to her progressive superstardom. The camera doesn’t shy away from tough moments, making for a genuine and enlightening portrait of one of history’s most celebrated heroes.
At its Sundance premiere, director Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” received many head-scratching WTF’s, and I’m sure the prolific filmmaker wouldn’t have it any other way. Disguised as a social satire, the film packs in many messages in its short running time, some more successfully than others. But it can’t be denied that the film is drenched in style and passion, a welcome combination that makes this film stand out from other safe cinematic tales.
Fred Rogers was a staple in many homes throughout the run of his very popular show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” What becomes easy to forget is not only how long the show lasted (31 seasons!) but how influential Fred Rogers was as a human being. Morgan Neville’s documentary is a loving portrait of a figure missing from today’s television. He tackles the good, the bad and the in-between of Mr. Rogers, inside and outside of his TV neighborhood. It’s a film that should hand out a box of tissues with each paid admission.
The San Francisco International Film Festival runs from April 4th to April 17th. Tickets to all shows are available at www.sffilm.org.
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