AFI Fest 07: On The Road Again!

102011592,52C1DF427992D0ECF18.jpgOn the road again….. Yes indeedy. I am, as they say, on the road again. Or at least I will be a scant 35 hours from now, winging my way Westward towards AFI Fest and the American Film Market. After AFI comes the Starz Denver Film Festival and after that, a liver transplant, more than likely. Maybe I should call the trip the Rabbi Report’s “Ruin the Liver” tour… with opening act Bacon ‘n Onions? Nah, too meta and WAY too off the track.
Back on point, AFI Fest has grown in stature and size over the past several years to the point where I feel like I can’t cover it adequately by myself, such is the fact at so many festivals these days. Next year I am thinking I need a 2nd reporter but this year it’ll have to be solo. At any rate I figure I owe you guys a little bit of a primer on what to expect, should you choose to attend AFI Fest (and I strongly urge you to do so). I’ve seen several of the films on offer and am looking forward to seeing quite a few more, so without further ado, here’s a look at a (very) small selection of what’s on offer in Hollywood for the first 11 days of November.
A Pair of Pages: Juno and The Tracey Fragments
Do yourself a favor and catch this double shot of “The Tiny Canadian,” as she’s been dubbed (according to IMDb). Maybe you’ve read my thoughts on upcoming Fox Searchlight release Juno (more coming, to be sure) and perhaps you’ve heard that Juno scribe Diablo Cody is a possible best original screenplay Oscar nominee, well let me put the “possible” to rest. She’s a mortal lock and as soon as the Academy and critics groups get a load of Ellen Page’s performance as the titular Juno, she’s going to start pulling down kudos, too. The thing is, she’s no fluke.
Juno 1.jpg
Photo © 2007 Twentieth Century Fox

While I can’t say that if you like Juno you’ll like Bruce McDonald’s The Tracey Fragments, I can say if you see Ellen Page in either, you’ll know she’s the real deal. McDonald’s film isn’t for everyone. The split screen treatment virtually rules this film and those looking for a straightforward treatment to this tale of a troubled teenager on the hunt for her missing little brother will be shit out of luck. That said, once you get past the delivery, it’s a compelling story, driven by the excellent Page, who hits the troubled, outsider teenaged girl nail right on the head. While Juno is a smart-mouthed, intelligent, self-confident and sexually aware young woman, Fragments‘ Tracey Berkowitz is a lost, confused and emotionally abused girl, but Page plays them both note perfect. Those looking for a standard narrative and visually ordinary approach to story telling will be put off, so Messers. Denby and Lane need not apply. Simply put? They just won’t get it. Shit, they probably won’t get Juno, either.
[NB: Juno and The Tracey Fragments are also both screening in Denver.]
Photo © Tracey Fragments Inc.

Fall Down (Literally) Funny
Maybe my favorite festival film of the year so far is Bard Breien’s The Art of Negative Thinking. I have to admit being stunned that this award-winning film has not been picked up for US distribution. Is it just me or is there an increase of noteworthy, award-winning foreign language films making the festival rounds that in years past would have been picked up? Well, this is certainly one of them. I can think of quite a few US distribs who could do a good job with this scabrously funny Norwegian film but just in case no one has the stones to release a funny film about the most dysfunctional support group in the history of psychotherapy, see it at AFI Fest. Unless you’re the type to think “clean” humor is the only true funny, you’ll love it. I mean, what’s funnier than nipple clamps, handguns, randy stroke victims and defenestration?

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