EIFF: A Generation of Whine
They’re here … and even that reference is out of date (Poltergeist, 1982).
Any ideas? Generation Y is lame, Next Generation is too Star Trek. Generation Whine is insulting.
There may be some help in trolling the ranks of the suspiciously large number of “movies by young people” at the Edmonton International Film Festival this year. Organizers sensed a theme, too, grouping several of them in “EIFF U” screenings at the Garneau Theatre, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.
Here’s a random sampling of some New Gen-Yne Cinema:
THE LIE (Wednesday at 7 p.m., Garneau, above) – It’s frightening to realize that Generation X-ers are now in their 40s, which means that some of their kids are now old enough to not only make their own movies – but to breed their own Next Generation, a topic for another story 20 years from now.
This outrageous black comedy stars and is directed by Joshua Leonard (Blair Witch Project), who plays a young slacker dad who tells a whopper so he can get out of going to work. He spends the rest of the film trapped in a farcical nosedive of shame, deceit and despair. The tension is unbearable as The Title Of The Movie hangs over everyone’s head. Some worthy themes are here about growing up, responsibility, family ties, and so on – plus a nice little shot at the pharmaceutical industry – and while the ending undermines the entire message, it’s fun to watch Lonnie turn into the perfect loser, setting the story up for an equally awkward sequel when he finally has to take responsibility for his actions.
Like, grow up, dude!
HOLLYWOOD TO DOLLYWOOD (Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Empire City Centre): Homosexuality is a huge issue with the Next Generation – the word “tolerance” having long ago been judged insufficient for sexual equality to truly be possible. “Acceptance” is much better, and that’s all a gang of young filmmakers want in this slight documentary detailing a road trip across America (see Title of Movie, above) to deliver a script to Dolly Parton, one of the rare gay-friendly heroes in supposedly redneck Christian America.
The gay twins, Gary and Larry Lane, especially love Dolly. The journey proper comes off like a device to provide picturesque backdrops for one candid interview after another, interviews with themselves, with people met along the way, most of them telling stories of the struggle for Gay Acceptance. There is little “action” here, no unpleasant encounters on the road in the Middle of Nowhere, no interviews expressing even a hint of opposing view – some Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin, maybe – though what would be the point? There’s no arguing with people sometimes.
Still, despite the affecting and inspiring stories from the subjects, nothing much happens. They fulfil their mission and hand Dolly the script. We never even get to find out what the script is really about, though it may be Gary and Larry’s life story. Dolly says she’ll get back to them. That’s it. Sequel time? Or maybe said script is actually the script for the movie about delivering the script! Way to blow our minds, dudes.
ANDREW JENKS: ROOM 335 (Monday at 12:15 p.m., Garneau) – This is one of the best documentaries at EIFF this year, first released by HBO in 2008, featuring 19-year-old filmmaker Andrew Jenks’ amazing experience living in an old folks home for an entire month. Most of us aging Gen-Xers only get to experience this kind of ambience once a week when we visit grandma. Jenks BECAME one of the residents, lived among them 24/7. With bold questions, an unbiased eye and compassionate attitude, the kid gets some amazing quotes from the elders who’ve been effectively imprisoned for their own protection and the convenience of their offspring. There’s the canny 95-year-old lady with the razor wit – “Whatever it was, it was good,” she says on the subject of sex. There’s the gent with the collection of hideous granddad shirts, the frail woman who’s afraid of death, the philosophical woman who claims not to be. Wisdom is dispensed at length, and rest assured the entire Western practice of consigning our parents to long term care facilities is called into question. How did it come to this? If the filmmaker is so deeply moved by his experience – one scene shows him weeping in his own car – there’s little doubt the audience will be, too.
Every single grownup in the film is completely bonkers: the blithe parents, the demented innkeepers, the old guy in the banana suit at the AA meeting, the serial killer karaoke singer. You can see there are a lot of colourful obstacles for our protagonists to overcome. It’s a very slow road trip movie: Darryl (Nick McKinlay) is a 24-year-old slacker who still lives at home, has no visible means of support and no form of transportation except in a wagon towed by his paraplegic buddy Femur’s (Kyle Mac) electric wheelchair, whose maximum speed is about 5 mph. Along the way in the quest to reunite with Darryl’s childhood crush Sarah Cherry – who made it big in show business and drifted away – the pair meets another wayward traveller, Kristin (Paula Brancati), who has Gen-Yne problems of her own. Enjoyable if too a bit too obvious in places, this movie plays out like The Wizard of Oz, except that they all need a brain.
RE-GENERATION (Monday at 10 a.m., Garneau; and Tuesday at 5 p.m., Empire City Centre) – Now we come to one of the whiniest flicks of the Generation Whine Cinema at EIFF this year – but it’s not the kids who are whining. It’s the parade of Gen-X and Boomer experts in this grim, hang-wringing documentary weighing in on the burning question: “What’s the deal with kids today?”
The kids are fine. It’s filmmaker Philip Montgomery who presents the trouble. His sombre doc is a litany of woes, a haunted house condensed blast of Frontline at its most serious, all accompanied by an appropriately dreary soundtrack: The media is evil, the government is corrupt, corporations control our thoughts, the economy is in the tank, schools are useless, teachers are helpless. Add to that sorry state a bunch of apathetic, spoiled brats who think they’re entitled to everything, suffer from entirely too much self-esteem and are tweeting and texting so much they’ve lost touch with humanity and the ability to communicate. The list of experts interviewed runs the spectrum from Fox News’s Tucker Carlson (age 42) to deep thinker Noam Chomsky (82). Non-experts include some precious rock band called STS9 and some typical (bright) high school students – the latter coming off like all kids always do and airing the most positive ideas in the entire film. Hope for the future, and that’s the point, one presumes.
One beef among several: The fuddy-duddies criticize the kids for their texting habits, failing to explore the idea that the Internet may be the greatest force for social change since the invention of written language. But it’s bad because dad can’t understand it.
In short: Things are not what they were in the good old days, con-sarnit! Where have we heard this before? From our parents! And then their parents, and then their parents and so on all the way back to the Stone Age: “Meh, these kids today with their Fire and their Wheel. What is the world coming to?”