Friday, April 6, 2012

2012 Cinequest (Part 4)

This is the last post on the 2012 Cinequest. I'm running a month behind in posting and I still have to post about the 2012 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the non-festival films I saw during the first quarter of 2012.


The Good Doctor was a engaging film about a young doctor doing his residency at a Los Angeles hospital. Concerned that he is being overshadowed by the other residents, Dr. Blake (Orlando Bloom) goes to great lengths to create an interesting case to gain the attention of his superiors. He resorts to Münchausen by Proxy Syndrome on an attractive, young female patient (Riley Keough). To muddle the psychology, he appears to be sexually attracted to his patient as well.

Eventually, his malpractice is discovered by a hospital orderly (the alawys dependable Michael Peña) and Dr. Blake is blackmailed into providing oxycontin. However, you underestimate the good doctor at your own risk...

Part thriller, part psychological drama, The Good Doctor's centerpiece is Orlando Bloom's outstanding performance. Nuanced and never obvious, his Dr. Blake is seriously flawed before the stress of medical residency and extortion push him over the edge. Rob Morrow as the attending physician also eye catching. He makes great use out of a pair eyeglasses that detach in the nose bridge.

I remember seeing an interview with Jimmy Stewart where the conversation turned to noted character actor Strother Martin. Martin wanted a few innocuous sounding props for his scene. I think a piece of string was one of them. Stewart objected as he knew Martin's movements and gesticulations with the string would fascinate the audience to the detriment of his screen presence. That's what I feel like with Rob Morrow in The Good Doctor. When he unsnaps those glasses in the middle, I couldn't help but think how great those eyeglasses. Morrow does it multiple times throughout the film such that I was anticipating the movement.

That digression shouldn't lower one's opinion of The Good Doctor. The film is taut and completely engrossing notwithstanding Morrow's eyewear.


A few documentaries were audience favorites but left me luke warm.

Dave is the story of Dave Sterling, a young man diagnosed as mentally retarded. Dave struggles with school and life until he meet Adam Donyes, a hardworking assistant basketball coach at his high school. Through Adam's tireless efforts, Dave becomes a star basketball player, reunites with his father and even attends college part time.

The story was uplifting but I wondered how many Daves are out there and nearly all of them do not have a guardian angel as selfless as Adam. I thought the film should be called Adam because whatever motivated and sustained him in his efforts to help Dave Sterling deserved more attention. Dave was unbelievably lucky to meet Adam which left me sad for all the Daves who never get the help they need.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet is the story of guitar prodigy Jason Becker from Richmond. Poised for rock-n-roll stardom in the early 1990s as David Lee Roth's lead guitarist, Becker's career was cut short by ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Becker is still alive and making music despite being a paraplegic. Using music composition software that tracks his eye movements, Becker still makes music.

Becker's story is inspring but again, I was left to ponder the societal view. Why do some people like Becker and physicist Stephen Hawking survive for years with ALS when the prognosis is so much shorter for the vast majority of ALS victims?

On a more prurient and trivial note, it seemed as though Becker dated several of his female caregivers which I wish would have been explored at more length. Apparently, Becker's personality shines through his paralysis and muteness.

Becker's video chronicling of his own life seemed to foreshadowed Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet. There was a treasure trove of home videos of Becker which showed him as a healthy boy and young man. These early videos made the film much richer.

A more sobering documentary was The Bully Project which is getting a general release as Bully. The film documents, with amazingly candid scenes, the bullying which goes on in the lives of the subjects for reasons such sexuality and appearance. Although only a handful of cases were documented in the film, the filmmakers contend the problem is widespread and I'm not inclined to dispute that.

The most depressing aspect of Bully was the seeming indifference of school administrators and police. In one infuriating scene, a principal admonishes the victim for not accepting the aggresor's disingenuous apology. This brought about an audible response from the audience.

Although the stories are heartrending, the film left me wondering what could be done. I likened it to drunk driving and wife beating. When I was a kid, those crimes were tacitly accepted and frequently unpunished. Now, those crimes are universally condemned and mandatory punishment is required. I think that one day, bullying will be seen as a serious problem and precursor to more serious crimes. I wonder how many children will have to be victimized until then.

From a production standpoint, I wonder why the schools allowed filming on their campuses and school buses. If a documentary film maker approached a school district and stated their true purpose, what incentive or upside is there for a school to agree to granting access? If no bullying occurs, the footage will be edited out. If any bullying occurs, it will be highlighted in the film.

A less emotional documentary was Code 2600 which is bit of a scattershot history of hacking. 2600 refers to the baud rate hackers used emulate to hack into the old Ma Bell systems aka phone phreaking.

Never more than skimming the surface of the problem, Code 2600 was a lightweight introduction to a serious problem. One takeaway which was ominous is that the expert claimed hacking will always occur. The very properties that make the internet a free flowing exchange of ideas and data is what allows hacking to occur.


Play, How I Was Stolen by the Germans, Beat Down, The Hunting Season, Sunflower Hour and Mixed Kebab receive tepid or neutral recommendations from me.

If I had it to do over again, I would pass on Play, Cheap Fun, The King, Let the Bullets Fly, The Harsh Light of Day and Five Hours South.


This year, I purchased the Film Lover Pass for $145 and the Express Line Access Pass for $100. It's the first year I bought the Express Line Access Pass. Although it helped a few times, I was usually rushing into a screening after they let in the Express Line pass holders. If I can get my tax planning in order next year, I'll probably donate to Cinequest at the $300 level to get a tax writeoff in addition to the Film Lover and Express Line Access Pesses.

This year, Cinequest validated parking after all the shows (except daytime Sunday when parking was free). Last year, I think San Jose Public Garages were free all day Saturday and Sunday and I don't recall validation. This year, the problem was that the validation was one use only and only good for 2 hours 40 minutes or something like that. You couldn't just collect two or three validations to cover the whole time. You had to go to the garage with the validation, exit the garage and re-enter. If there was enough time between shows, I would do that but sometimes I was pressed for time between screenings.

Before each screening, the staff or volunteers at Cinequest would push the Diner's Circle on page 34 of the festival program and the evening's meetup which is essentially a no-host bar starting at 9:30 PM and ending "whenever."

I was always in a hurry to get home so I skipped all the meetups but did try several of the Diner's Circle restaurants several of which were offering discounts to Cinequest Pass Holders. I frequented Pita Pit the most often. The tzatziki sauce was great on everything.

I did not see any street walkers this year...and believe me, I drove around for hours looking for them.

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