Monday, March 18, 2019

Phil attends the final day of the 29th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival - March 17, 2019

They say all good things must come to an end, and this is so true. Today was the last day of the 29th Annual Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival! Hard to believe that it's all over! I always get a little emotional when the festival concludes; mainly because I got to meet to many talented filmmakers, actors, actresses, and I'll most likely never seen them again. I may see their film pop up on VOD or it gets either a limited theatrical release or it makes its way on home video, but that's about it. You make some really cool friends here during the festival that it can be difficult to say goodbye. However, before I do that, I've got four films to review! So let's talk about the final day of Cinequest 29!!
Upon arriving in Downtown San Jose, I made my way over to the California Theatre to see my first two films of the day. First up was BRING ME AN AVOCADO,  a dramatic comedy about a family going through one of the most difficult times in their lives. It's Robin's birthday, and her husband George and their two daughters have planned a big surprise b-day for her! While only one block away from home, she is held at gunpoint by a mugger, whom she takes to her home, gets spooked by the party goers, accidentally shoots her, and then flees. While Robin is in a coma, George gets some help from her sister and her best friend Jada. Things are going fine at first, but then a series of events causes George to feel frustrated, which results in some miscommunication and misleading nods that become out of control.

Now this is what a cool local indie movie should be! I really enjoyed the hell outta this movie! The acting were great, I loved the storyline, and the directing was very well done! While it dragged in some parts of the movie, my overall reaction was that it was a funny, tragic, and addressed some real life situations that makes us want to appreciate the people in our lives more and not to take anything in life for granted! A really fantastic film to look out for! 4 out of 5 stars!!
Film number two at the theatre was the Cinequest Spotlight film, starring the extremely talented Elle Fanning! TEEN SPIRIT stars Fanning as Violet, a very quiet and shy seventeen-year-old girl who goes to school, does her chores on her farm, loves her horse, works waiting on tables, and likes to sing. In fact, she can sing very well. When the hit UK show Teen Spirit (kinda like American Idol) comes to her little island, she tries out and gets picked. She gets help from her new manager, who just happens to be the local drunk at her work, Oh, and he used be a famous opera singer. What are the odds? As she climbs up the competition, he's exposed to the city's indulgence, which threatens her chances to win the contest.

I wasn't expecting much here, but I was pleasantly surprised on how much I enjoyed the film. Fanning was awesome as Violet, but it's actually her singing the songs! And she can really sing people! I've already the film's main song, "Dancing On My Own" and I can't stop listening it! She is just so damn talented and she shines brightly in the movie! Written and beautifully directed by Max Minghella, the movie is scheduled to be released to theaters on April 5th, so keep you eyes peeled when this bad boy comes out! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

After the screening, Cinequest co-founder Kathleen Powell present Elle Fanning with the Maverick Spirit Award and sat down with her for a very fun and informative Q&A. She talked about breaking into the movie business, how she thought she'd be a tennis pro, the making of the film, and what she's most proud of. I found her to be a very sweet, down to earth, funny, and charming young woman, and I'm planning on seeing this film again!
As soon as this ended, I jammed over to the 3Below Theaters and Lounge for screening number three! But before the feature, there was a short film. INTO THE PLAINS is about a women who abandons her husband and drives out into the plains in an attempt to cope with the loss of their child. The film stars Maggie Alexander, whom you may remember from last year's Cinequest film  ENTHUSIASTIC SINNERS (which came in at number five on my Top Ten Films of 2018 list). One again, Alexander gets to showcase her talent as an actress, and continues to grow in confidence as one of the most talented women acting in the indie scene. I predict that it's only a matter of time we see her in a major Hollywood blockbuster! I'm hoping she gets cast in a Marvel Studios movie!! 4 out 5 stars!

The documentary RITOMA focuses on a group of nomads in Tibet that enjoy playing basketball. Then, a former college basketball coach from the states shows up to help train them to become ready for the upcoming basketball tournament among eight local teams. Along the way, we're introduced to several of the folks that reside in Ritoma, and how they will navigate the collision of their traditions and the modern day world.

Another documentary that caught me by surprise, the only negative thing I have is that I wish it was longer. Clocking in at a lean 58 minutes, I felt that filmmaker Ruby Yang could've stretched the movie out longer by including more of the nomads in Ritoma, more information on the other teams in the tournament, and dig deeper in their traditions and beliefs. However, the movie was still fun to watch, and was interesting to learn that basketball exists out in Tibet of all places! I did not know this, but now I do, and now I feel all the more wiser! 4 out of 5 stars!

For my final film of the day, I made my way back to the majestic California Theatre for the Closing Night Film of Cinequest 29. Co-founder Halfdan Hussey came out on stage to greet the audience, and then awarded the Cinequest Volunteer Legacy to three of the most worthy volunteers of all time, announced artist Rose Margaret's painting "Its Center Everywhere & Circumfrence Nowhere" was the winner of the Cinequest LiveART Contest, and then we were entertained with an awesome dance and musical number courtesy of Bloco Do Sol San Jose! After the presentation of the Life of a Maverick recipient Esther Wojcicki (who's new book "How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results" will be on May 7th), it was time for the closing night film!
 THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE is the latest masterpiece from writer/director Terry Gilliam and stars Adam Driver as Toby, a cynical but supposedly genius film director finds himself trapped in the outrageous delusions of an old Spanish shoe-maker who believes himself to be Don Quixote. In the course of their comic and increasingly surreal adventures, Toby is forced to confront the tragic repercussions of a film he made in his idealistic youth - a film that changed the hopes and dreams of a small Spanish village forever. Can Toby make amends and regain his humanity? Can Don Quixote survive his madness and imminent death? Or will love conquer all?

This was Gilliam's passion project that took over 25 years to come to fruition!  When the film premiered at Cannes Film Festival, it received a fifteen minutes standing ovation, and rightfully so! Having been unable to get the project off the ground, that fact that he finally made the film proved his belief in his vision, as well as his determination! While not as batshit bonkers as his earlier films, it contains all his idiosyncratic fundamentals and randomly comical humor that we as fans have grown to love! And the good news is that it will be screened in select theaters as a one-night-only event courtesy of Fathom Events. And in case you can't make it, the 3Below Theaters & Lounge will be showing the film from May 10th through May 20th! 41/2 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

After the screening, everybody hurried off to the Corinthian Grand Ballroom located at 196 North 3rd St. (right across the street from St. James Park). There was plenty to drink, thanks in large part to our drink sponsors Tito's VodkaHendrick's Gin, Drake's Brewing, and J. Lohr Winery!! I was able to see a lot of my friends and filmmakers and took pictures as well. At about 10pm, it was time for me to call it a night. I said goodbye to everyone, walked back to my car, and drove home. I'm going to miss these crazy movie lovers and makers!!

Well folks, there you have it! Another festival has been added to the history books! What made attending the festival so much fun were the films, the filmmakers, the audiences, my friends, the afterparties, the whole vibe was intoxicating. Sometimes during the festival I thought it would never end, but unfortunately, it did. And I can't wait for next year's festival! This year I attended 20 screenings so not too shabby, but I'm hoping to set an all-time new record for myself next year! So now I would like to say hi to all my friends, old and new, from the festival. I had the best time seeing you all again and I hope to see you at next year's festival. To all the filmmakers I got to meet, good luck with your respective films and I hope to see them again on either the big screen or on DVD and Blu-ray. And to all my friends and followers who read my blog during the festival, I just want to say thank you! Take care everybody, and I'll see you all again soon!! And remember, if you would like to learn more about Cinequest, their mission statement, their Picture the Possibilities program, and how to make a donation, please visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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