It’s here, it’s here! The most wonderful time of the year! CINEQUEST! In just a week the streets will be flowing with lanyard wearing cinema-heads, the Stella will be generously flowing and the viewing venues will be occupied with laugher, tears, shifting perspectives and everything in between. There will be celebrities of the now sure, but even more exciting there will be artists making debuts and break-outs. It’s time to see some fantastic films as part of some of the most enthusiastic audiences you’ll ever find. My film guide is highlighted, my screeners are queued up, my Cinequest app has populated various film viewing permutations into my mobile phone calendar; I’m primed and planned and I’ve picked as I do every year, a relatively arbitrary list of films I’ll be seeing based entirely on my perusal of the festival guide. In no particular order, here are the Princess Picks!
Vincent and the End of the World – I’m terribly over films about disenchanted generations of the millennial kind, but… if anyone can make this trending topic work, I wager throwing in a crazy French aunt is about as successful a device as one could imagine. Everyone loves a crazy aunt, and if she’s French, so much the better. I’m a firm believer that crazy French aunts somehow get away with delighting where others would be scorned for being totally trite. With enough style, panache and well… “Frenchness” we might just be able to save the world. I’m inclined to think I’m going to like the cut of this film’s jib. And if I do not, I can wittingly toss my head back and throw up my hands and exclaim C’est la vie!
Memento Mori – I’m absolutely fascinated by medical technology. Second only to space exploration in my amazement over how far we’ve come in such a short time is my reverence and wonder in regard to advances in medicine. Even after 54 pints, it blows my mind every time I donate blood. As a Lasik eye surgery patient, it is still unfathomable to me how fast and easy some progress seems now and how we still have such strides to make. I just recently filled out a questionnaire to consider becoming a live kidney donor for a friend. It’s a hugely complicated process that is closely regulated and vetted, taking many months to match, evaluate, approve, prepare and complete, but it is in my eyes a miraculous, fascinating process I’ve considered to at least explore. This documentary film takes place in a transplant hospital. It intrigues me because of the science, because in a way it’s personal research, and also because that realm of life and death that has been blurred by the ability to recycle an organ is tremendously moving to me. It’s a human intervention that begs a deeper philosophical and spiritual conversation, one that I hope to get the chance to have after I’ve seen the film.
Flesh and the Devil – Every year at Cinequest I select a film as my “birthday” film. It my not fall exactly on my birthday (March 12), but I choose a film I think will appeal to the wide variety of tastes shared by friends from all walks of life and I invite them to come celebrate with me in the dark of a theater. Every year also I can’t WAIT to discover which silent film will be shown in the gorgeous California Theatre, with professional live accompaniment. This year I was excited to discover that the 1926 Flesh and the Devil starring Greta Garbo and real life flame and oft co-star John Gilbert was being shown. And so… what better way to start a weekend and celebrate a birthday than getting gussied up in a glittering gown, doing up your eyes all smoky (okay, I’ll totally have to get an assist from the cosmetic counter at Nordstrom for that), and watching a classic cinematic scandal unfold with a bunch of friends from the balcony of a decadent theater. I think this calls for champagne… or perhaps this evening requires a thigh flask? What would Greta do?
The Black Prince – Aside from being a bit obsessed with Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece right now, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why this film jumped out at me. Perhaps it spoke to my crow-like tendencies (it looks really sparkly). Maybe because I know NOTHING of this story, era and very little about Indian culture? Maybe because my identity as “royalty” is one I can relate to? Not sure, but it grabbed me, so I’m grabbing it back.
The Bullish Farmer – I’m a sucker for a story that proves that each of us can make a difference and a film that inspires each of us to stand up and make that difference. The Kaiser Permanente Thrive Award films always succeed in inspiring and challenging the individual. These films nearly always highlight difficult but solvable problems, those that dare to go against the grain, and help to connect us to our communities and world. I trust this will be a film ripe with opinionated conversation at the Q and A too; another great resulting consequence of thoughtful documentary film making and intelligent, engaged Cinequest audiences.
The Commune – One of the great opportunities of Cinequest is to reach outside your comfort zone and intentionally see a film you might not enjoy. There is almost nothing in the description of this film that attracts me to it, but I figure in that way, it serves as a pretty fitting metaphor. If the characters in the film can explore different sides of themselves to what seems like a pretty dysfunctional and dramatic end, so can I. I might learn something and I might be surprised. Risk taking is part of the festival lifestyle.
The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger – I spend a good portion of my time thinking about parallel universes, choice, and destiny. As a totally charmed, super lucky, very fortunate girl (I mean eerily and inexplicably so in some ways) with a strong sense of intuition and a healthy respect for “things happening for a reason,” I’m definitely drawn to films that explore these themes. This one appears to do so and with the extra bonus of it being done artfully and humorously. This has a high probability I think of coming out one of my favorites of the festival.
Revenge (Hevn) – Sometimes it just comes down to a thriller filmed amongst fjords. That’s all. Why elaborate? Maybe all of Norway’s high stakes psychological dramas take place with a stunning geographical backdrop, but I surely haven’t seen such a film. Thank Odin for Cinequest, no?
The Zookeeper’s Wife – And this years nomination for most likely to make Susannah cry goes to…a film who’s trailer I saw last month in the movie theater and… cried. Dude. Normally I’d run screaming for a film that can melt my cold exterior inside of 90 seconds, but I couldn’t turn away. It looks absolutely stunning. Heartbreaking, but just beautiful. And, as a girl who’s sat on the advisory board of the local zoo for the last 6 years, OMG LOOK AT ALL THE ANIMALS. Let’s just say I can relate to animals better than most people and given our current political climate, I’ve thought a lot about WWII lately. This may not be the “high” note laugh riot we all want to end the festival on, but I have no doubt the cinematic achievement of this year’s closing night film is going to move its audience. Just remember to bring a healthy supply of tissues with you. We can all meet at the bar afterwards for a good group cry, okay?
Every year without fail I line up in advance to see the Animated Shorts, Docunation (Documentary shorts) and Comedy Shorts. The short format is a lovely storytelling platform, these programs are exceptionally curated and I always walk away appreciating the art for arts sake that is signified by each of these films. You do not get rich or famous by making a short film. Well, rarely. But the talent is unquestionable when you sit down to see a short at Cinequest.