Florida Film Fest 2012
April 13 - 22, 2012
by Carl F Gauze
It's time for another rocking Florida film festival, with this year's 19th incarnation running from April 13 to 22nd at the Enzian Theater in Maitland as well as the Regal in Winter Park Village and the Garden Theatre way out in Winter Garden. I had a chance to take a look at a few of the offerings and here's what I can advise:
Two things you can count on the Japanese to handle with panache - transforming mecha-robots, and kinky girl sex. Karate-Robo Zaborgar is a wonderfull mash up of Transformers, DynaMan, and Sailor Moon is one of the funniest films in this year's festival. Yutaka Daimon (Itao / Furuhara as old / young Yutaka) grows up breast fed yet rejected by his widowed father (Naoto Takenaka). This might warp tougher children, but Yutaka builds himself a friend so he's not alone, and Zaborgar is the best dirt bike machine gun mouthed ambiguous robo-friend a boy ever had. They fight the evil floating butt-island of the Sigma Gang helmed by Dr. Akunomiya (Akira Emoto) He and his sexy assistant Miss Borg ( Yamasaki) floats over Japan, stealing DNA from wishy-washy politicians by sucking them up into the ass of their island. While officially enemies, Yutaka and Miss Borg get it on and spawn a second generation of half human, half plot device children and the cycle of violence begins all over again. Oh, how can the Home Islands be saved? Here's a hint - flatulence is not only flammable, it has a pretty decent thrust-to-weight ratio.
They might have missed a few minor tropes here, but this is a classic super hero vs. super villain fight with weird stream punk sex. It's all very PG soft core, but you'll find plenty of cartoon discipline, bondage, underage incest, and sweaty vinyl clad robot-sex here to pad the corny dialog and nicely animated fights. There's enough one liners here to start a t-shirt web site, some of my favorites are "Hey! That bike has a face!", "She has the best body, but the worst heart", "Acid Spewing Diarrhea Robot" and "Boiling blood pumps through my veins!" Anime and Magna fans should love this, just as long as they don't take themselves too seriously. After all, how many times haven't we seen Tokyo set on fire by a 30 tall belching girl with the camera looking right up her skirt?
Life's indignities pile pretty high in God Bless America (Directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite.) Frank (Joel Murray) has just about had it with reality shows and talk radio hosts and guys who take two parking spots or talk in the movies. Before he blows his own brains out, he decided to murder a snotty teen reality star and ends up on a platonic killing spree with her underage classmates Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr). Roxy's pretty savvy, she advises "Stop killing people you know - that's how you'll get caught." Wise words. The pair takes off on a scenic tour of America murdering in the name of "niceness" and assemble a stunning collection of vintage clothing before they die like Bonnie and Cycle. You might say they are as mad as hell, and they aren't going to take it any longer. Sometimes it gets preachy, sometimes it's Jack Ass funny and if you think too hard, the murders are little more than disturbing thrill kills. This is the feel good mass murder film of the year.
In Kumaré filmmaker, director and star Vikram Gandhi loses his faith in faith while growing up. Hindi prayers brought his grandmother inner peace but he was more skeptical. An abortive documentary on Indian gurus leads him to a grand experiment: he grows out his hair, dresses in swami drag, and founds his own religion. Not everyone in Phoenix Arizona is sold, but he's a hit in Tucson and enough join his Mediation on the Ball of Blue light to cause a minor sensation on the local yoga circuit. He proves what he set out to disprove: A belief in belief is what most people need to straighten out their lives. And now the hard part - he has to tell them he's bamboozled his followers for the past months, and that's a lot harder the than the bamboozling itself. While poking gentle fun at New Age mysticism and the exotic practices of Yoga, he demonstrates they can have a powerful, positive effect on people if they just believe sincerely. Wait a minute - that's what the Lutherans told me...
If you don't watch soap operas and outgrew 1980's power pop, you might not realize Rick Springfield is alive and well and touring extensively. An Affair of the Heart (Directed by Sylvia Caminer) follows Mr. Springfield from a four night annual stint at the Potowami Bingo in Milwaukee to a heavy metal festival in Sweden to a special Rick Springfield Cruise on the world's largest cruise ship. Springfield comes across as a genuinely nice guy with a knack for connecting with fans, while some of these fans seem way beyond obsessive in their efforts to follow Rick everywhere. He even seems to wield a supernatural power over some of them, but fortunalty uses it for good rather than evil. You'll know "Jesse's Girl" by heart by heart after this film.
A Cat in Paris / Une Vie de Chat (Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, French with subtitles) Here's an animated thriller suitable for older children and art film loving adults. Police officer Jenna (voiced by Dominique Blanc) lost her husband to evil super villain Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui). He plans on stealing an important art work with his bumbling gang of loveable losers, but cat burglar Nico (Bruno Salomone) and Jean's daughter Zoe's (Oriane Zani) cat deflect them leading to a vertigo inducing chase across the roof tops and high rises of Paris. Offering a well balance mix of comedy, pathos and tension, this retro looking animation is a must see for film lovers who want cute felines, cartoonish villains, and an improbable police love story.
Turn Me On, Dammit! / Få meg på, for faen (Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, Norwegian with subtitles) Fifteen year old Alma has hit that crotch-on-fire age and runs up a thousand dollar bill on a phone sex line. She lives on the edge of a fantasy world and when she accuses popular boy Artur (Matias Myren) of a sexual act he may or may not have committed, she's excluded from her small town community middle school set. A trip the big city (Oslo) helps clarify things but ultimately she moves back home and reconciles with the town. Mom is embarrassed, but it's Artur who hangs his privates on the line for love, or at least hot teenage sex. It's a great teenage coming of age tale but its strong erotic content will make this a hard sell to American distributors so I advise catching this while it's on screen at the festival.
Lovely Molly (Directed by Eduardo Sánchez) Ever wonder what happened to the Blair Witch Project people? At least Mr. Sanchez is still plugging away, this is his latest shot at the creepy psychological horror genre. Lovely Molly offers similar tropes - the creepy old house, something weird in the basement, unseen demons pounding at the doors, and grainy camera work. Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new hubby Tim (Johnny Lewis) move into her dead father's old house and are beset by rattling doors and tripped alarms. Reality, fantasy and Molly's internal demons attack us from all angles. Was I scared? Not really, but then Blaire Witch didn't scare me as much as it did my younger friends. But if you don't jump out of your skin, Sánchez gives us a few decent sex scenes to make up for it.
Monsieur Lazhar (Directed by Philippe Falardeau, French Canadian with subtitles) When a faculty suicide devastates an elementary school, M. Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) volunteers to fill the empty slot. Technically, he's not a teacher but he does the students more good than the rule bound administration can tolerate, and when his past catches up with him we get one of the saddest and most poetic endings ever filmed. While the pacing is slow and deliberate, the story telling is a joy and the view into the strictures of modern education leaves you wondering - how do children learn anything these days? The children (including Émilien Néron and Sophie Nélisse) are painted as real people, never cloyingly cute or demonically possessed and Fellag's portrayal of a gentle man cast adrift in a strange land is moving. Despite the darkness of the material, this is a real "feel good" film without the saccharine aftertaste.
Tickets, schedules and location information about the Florida Film Fest can be found at www.floridafilmfestival.com/