Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wholphin No. 8

Edited by Brent Hoff

It's hard to know what to expect out of one of these.  The eighth edition of Wholphin starts out strong, but I kind of thought that this one had a few more skipable pieces compared to earlier entries in the series.

The first film, Destin Daniel Cretton's 'Short Term 12' is an incredible study of characters in a youth detention centre.  Denim, the man in charge, is a pretty conflicted guy.  It's clear that he loves everyone in the facility, from the angry and damaged teenagers in his care to his staff, particularly Natalia, who is carrying his baby.  The problem is that he's not so good at expressing himself with her.  What comes naturally with the kids is impossible for him where Natalia is concerned.  It's rare to find child actors as skilled as the ones that play explosive, goth-y Jaden, and quiet brooding Mark.  Great stuff here.

'Kids + Money' is a documentary I've seen before, but it remains very powerful in its depiction of kids with insane opinions of what they are owed by the world, who casually drop hundreds of dollars for items of clothing and expect weekly manicures.  I like how the filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield, doesn't let her own opinion enter into the film; the kids show how vacuous they are just by speaking.

'Love You More' plays like a prequel to the British TV show Skins.  It's about two teenagers, a boy and a girl, who both like the Buzzcocks.  When a new single comes out, they knick it from the local record shop, and go back to the girl's place, where they make love while listening to it.  This is an excellent study in fumbling teenage desire set against working class London.

'Hidden' is a very powerful animated documentary.  That sounds odd, but it works here.  The subject is Giancarlo, a twelve year old boy who is living in hiding in Sweden, so he won't be deported.  He talks about growing up alone in Peru, where he worked as a shoeshine boy and ran from the police.  Now that he is in a 'safe' country, he still has to watch his steps around the authorities, and can't ever make friends at school in case they figure out what's going on.  The filmmakers interviewed the boy, and then animated his account, helping to protect his anonymity, and giving his story true visual power.

Another animated piece is 'From Burger It Came', a Terry Gilliam-esque story about the AIDS hysteria of the animator's childhood.  'Great Man and Cinema' is an attempt by an American to make a North Korean propaganda film, for reasons I don't really understand.  It fell flat.

From here, things get pretty bad.  'My Friends Told Me About You' is an experimental film that manages to be exceptionally boring while working very hard to be cool and profound.

Equally dull is the triptych of films that make up the DVD menus.  Dave Eggers hired three different actors to trash his brother's bedroom.  James Franco's sequence is ridiculous, both in his behaviour, and in the tediousness of it's length.  Marginally better are Creed Bratton and Maria Bamford's versions of the same general thing; luckily they are shorter.  I will say that the interview with Bamford about her character and her own rage is hilarious.

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