Film festival confession: Sometimes, five or six or seven minutes into a screening, I know that I’ve made a terrible mistake. It’s not so much that the movie is definitively bad — who can tell after five or six or seven minutes? But something (the typeface of the credits? The music? The way the camera pans to an actor with a flourish that screams precious!) is giving me an allergic reaction, at least at that hour, at that point in my movie-going marathon. And the best thing I can do, both for myself and in fairness to the filmmaker who did the hard work, is to scram. Leave. Get some fresh air, get a coffee refill, choose another adventure in another screening room.
That was me and Lovely, Still. Ooh, bad choice. Martin Landau plays a lonely old man, and Ellen Burstyn plays an old woman who sneaks glances at him with a dewiness that announces, old-folks romance ahead! At least I’m guessing an old-folks romance was ahead. I sat through Landau’s very slow pantomime of a senior citizen getting out of bed, washing up, and shuffling off to work as a supermarket lackey — and then I bolted.
Here, after the jump, are three festival highlights — films that kept me glued to my seat:
1. The Hurt Locker. Jeremy Renner gives a knockoutperformance as an Army specialist in bomb disposal, on duty in Iraq.Every step he takes is truly a matter of life and death — for him aswell as for the soldiers he serves with. And this guy is a cowboy — inother words, a perfect protagonist for director Kathryn Bigelow, wholikes her filmmaking muscular, efficient, and stripped of falseflourishes: She compresses the anxiety and tension of battle into everyframe.
2. JCVD. As in Jean-Claude van Damme, natch. This fast,funny, and smart action concoction imagines what would happen if JCVDwere caught in an actual hostage situation in his actual Belgium. Theactual JCVD stars, and he’s by turns funny, nimble, knowing, gracious,and kickass.
3. $9.99 The title also happens to be the price of a bookthat promises to reveal the meaning of life, an answer of interest to amild-mannered twentysomething guy who lives at home with his blusteryfather. Both of whom are stop-motion animated creations, part of avivid universe of characters in search of contentment. Using the droll,wise stories of Etgar Keret as her guide, inventive Israeli filmmakerTatia Rosenthal concocts an artiful film that’s enchanted, enchanting,and meaningful, too.