LAFF 2008: Not the Dakota Fanning Rape Movie

LAFF 2008: Not the Dakota Fanning Rape Movie

I’d like to thank the festival for admonishing audiences against texting during the films. May the major theater chains take their lead and run with it. It’s funny, because when I was picking up my credentials, I said something about how when I see that little blue light on someone’s PDA come on during a movie, I want to hurt them, and one of the publicists went, “Oh, that’s me!” She had been unaware that anyone ever notices.

We do. And now you guys do. And we’ll all be a happy theatergoing family, free of pain-infliction.

In news that involves little blue things which aren’t annoying, the red room yesterday was serving up a new Hansen’s clear soda that tasted like blueberry, Makes a great mixer with rum. Though I don’t know if that was what a certain major L.A. critic was drinking when he started feeling the rhythm at around 12:30 last night; however, he looked to have had a lot of whatever it was. So don’t tell me critics are humorless jerks who don’t know how to party.

Random utterance of the day: Jeff “The Dude” Dowd, in the middle of doing something online, suddenly stands up and yells “ANYONE HERE A VETERAN?” Nobody was.

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Most pretentious film intro of the fest goes to director Josh Safdie, who used the line, “Take what you want from this scrapbook of emotions.” Josh, if you want to become Henry Jaglom when you grow up, you’re on the right track. Josh’s movie, which isn’t quite Jaglom-esque (though I’d be surprised if the felt-hat-wearing auteur didn’t dig it), is called THE PLEASURE OF BEING ROBBED, despite the fact that nobody in the movie is happy to be robbed. It’s about a young woman (actress name TBA, because of the really annoying and pretentious way the credits are listed on imdb, which isn’t their fault because that’s how Safdie wants it, crediting, for instance, “The Fly” playing a fly. And it isn’t even a real fly. It’s quite blatantly a drawing of one, though the actors valiantly pretend otherwise, with an out of focus shot abetting them. Don’t get me started on the large fake polar bear that shows up later).

But back to the young woman. She steals stuff – purses, a bag full of kittens, a puppy that she promptly lets run away. She doesn’t do this maliciously, just kind of compulsively curiously. And she’s so cute and naïve-seeming that we’re supposed to find this adorable. It works, because this is a movie. In real life, she and the character of Josh (played by Safdie himself) are the kinds of people who would come to your party to drink your beer and steal CDs. Basically, the sort of people that Republicans think nearly all college students are like.

I liked the bag full of kittens, especially when the chick flings one of them across the room and it lands perfectly on the bed. But then she drives off to Boston later on, and I kept wondering how those kittens were doing, since she presumably neither fed them nor trained them in the use of a litter box. We never see them again.

By the end of the movie I was zoning out, but I did find the whole thing fairly agreeable, despite what our Christian fundie friends at would call “an abhorrent pagan worldview.” So I guess I did take what I wanted from it. Okay, Josh Safdie, you win for now.

There was a weird short preceding the movie called “The New Yorkist,” slightly abstract, but involved a guy who likes collecting scrapbook picture of historical dictators, and the country of Kyrgyzstan. It was okay, but I think I missed the point if there was one.

Later in the day, rumors started circulating that the Dakota Fanning rape movie had been added to the line-up at the last minute. I was planning on seeing THE WACKNESS, but being the good journo I am, knew that if the Dakota Fanning rape movie were playing and I missed it, you’d probably all be mad that I didn’t weigh in on it somehow.

So I went to see the apparent world premiere of WINGED CREATURES, and must report that Dakota Fanning does not get raped in it. She starts quoting lots of scripture, which is a far less awful fate. (The rape movie is called HOUNDDOG, it turns out.)

I want to know how it is that scary RING girl Daveigh Chase is now 18, hot, and legal, while Dakota Fanning doesn’t seem to have aged at all, ever. She’s still only 14, apparently, but hasn’t she ALWAYS been, like, 14? Or does it just feel that way because she’s made 30-some movies? (seriously, 37 acting credits on imdb. Some are TV, but still…)

WINGED CREATURES is one of those deceptively titled movies like THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, where you read it in an article and think, “Cool, I like that kind of thing.” Then you find out it’s referring metaphorically to angels. Not that any real angels show up. In fact, they metaphorically die, in the form of a butterfly trapped under a glass. Don’t ask for further explanation; I could get into it, but it’s sooooo not worth it to do so.

A movie like this tends to come out at least once a year. You take a bunch of good actors, add a few who have been kind of okay in more commercial fare and are trying to prove themselves, and give them all a big tragedy to deal with that interconnects them. So we kick things off with a random shooting in a diner, and then get to see how it affects the lives of Forest Whitaker, Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Hudson (who is of course playing Forest’s daughter, because having more than one black family in a movie like this would be just unheard of), and a couple more people you’ll recognize.

Whitaker has cancer, but survives near fatal gunshot wounds and suddenly finds himself on a run of luck that he takes to the Morongo casino. Pearce discovers that a migraine drug makes his wife horny, so he starts inducing migraines by secretly drugging her food with heart medicine. Hutcherson stops talking altogether, and his dad (Jackie Earle Haley) won’t let him got to a therapist because he blames therapy for the death of his other son, who came home from Iraq all crazy. Beckinsale has an annoying baby that won’t stop crying, and she tries to hit on Pearce. Fanning gets all fundamentalist preachy.

Eventually all of them have to stop their crazy trauma-induced behavior, have a big cry, and deal with it. But you knew that. And you can take or leave the movie.

Awn excellent way to cap off the night was the French animated film FEAR(S) OF THE DARK, a compilation of shorts, mostly in black and white, about fear, all in different styles. And not a straight compilation, either – some stories are told in their entirety, while others are episodic and interspliced throughout.

Here’s the rundown:

-A colonial-era guy in powdered wig and tri-corner hat releases the hounds on what seems to be a rabbit, but ultimately turns out to be various deviants he doesn’t like;

-Abstract shapes flow into one another as a woman discusses her (mostly mundane) fears (“I’m scared of being irredeemably bourgeois”);

-An invalid in a sick bed recalls the story that got him there. It involves a very unique bug, and is basically the same tale as Lucky McKee’s “Masters of Horror” episode “Sick Girl,” but in B/W rotoscoped animation. And in French. They love Lucky in France, trust me;

-A Japanese girl experiences strange hallucinations when she moves in next to the cemetery where a famous samurai is buried;

-A holiday in the country gets scary when a wild beast is on the loose;

-And finally, a man emerges from a raging blizzard to find himself in a dark house where all is not what it seems. This was probably the weakest of the bunch, but there’s a crucial visual element that makes it a good way to close things out.

Highly recommended. In a world where the Best Animated Feature Oscar were not basically owned by Disney and Dreamworks, it would be a deserving champion.

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