I had the great pleasure of filling my entire weekend with some truly incredible independent films at the eighth-annual BendFilm Festival. There was, of course, plenty of partying and other fanfare to be seen over the course of the weekend, but for me, it was about the movies. Here's a roundup of what I saw.
How to Cheat
Strangely enough, half of the movies I saw this weekend dealt with infidelity and crumbling relationships. How to Cheat takes an honest approach to showing the insides of a messy modern marriage. The husband in a couple that's struggling to conceive goes to the internet with hopes of finding a woman to have an affair with. The film, which won Best Narrative Feature and Best Acting (Kent Norton), could have been a bit more polished, but I did like the ending.
The Dish & The Spoon
For my second affair film of Friday evening, The Dish & The Spoon, took a different approach than How to Cheat. Rose (played by indie darling Greta Gerwig) has become a hot mess ever since her husband admitted to having an affair. While seeking out the other woman in order to get revenge, she meets a teenage British boy who becomes her companion. Gerwig (who you may remember from Hannah Takes the Stairs, which showed at BendFilm a couple years ago, and more recently, Greenberg) shines as the wronged woman.
The Color Wheel
This film has a slightly different style than most other films in the festival. Shot in grainy black and white, the film tells the story of JR, who entrusts her brother, Colin, to drive her to her former professor-turned-lover's apartment, in order to retrieve her things. The Colin character reminds me of a less innocent character that Michael Cera might play, and JR seemed to be the certain kind of train wreck that we all know and avoid from high school. The film ended with a big, "WTF!?" moment, which had I read the film's description closer maybe I wouldn't have been as shocked.
Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology
I loved this documentary! Though the title may lead you to believe it's tech-heavy, it's not and that's definitely a good thing. Rather than concentrate on modern technology, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain takes us back through history in her stream of consciousness to delve into the interconnectedness of humankind, nature and progress. Shlain finds the correlation between progress in global society's connection to developments like the alphabet and the computer and relates them to left-vs.-right- brain thinking. Contrary to what you may think, you won't leave the theater feeling scorned for all the tweeting and texting you've been doing.
Rid of Me
This dark comedy was far and away my favorite film of the entire festival. Shot primarily in Portland, the story follows Meris, a socially awkward woman who moved to the Laurelwood neighborhood with her husband and now must try to fit in with his high school friends. The film finds Meris working at a candy store, making friends with some young punks and doing something truly disgusting to her husband's high school sweetheart. Katie O'Grady, who played Meris, attended the screening with writer/director/editor/producer/superman James Westby. The two offered great insight on the making of the film, which was inspired by Westby's ex-wife's high school friends. Don't worry, if you didn't get a chance to see this amazing comedy, O'Grady said the film was picked up for distribution and will have a run in New York, L.A., Portland, and possibly elsewhere.
East Fifth Bliss
From where I was sitting, I could only see one empty seat in the theater at the Saturday night screening of East Fifth Bliss, meaning it had to be one of the festival's most popular. East Fifth Bliss stars Dexter's Michael C. Hall, Peter Fonda, Lucy Liu, and Brie Larson. Hall plays Morris Bliss, a 35-year-old jobless man living with his father who starts a relationship with the 18-year-old daughter of his high school best friend. The acting was incredible, as was the story. Morris' journey takes him through some cringe-worthy situations, but changes him in a way he very much needed. If you didn't get the chance to see it, director Michael Knowles announced during the Q&A that the film's been picked up for distribution and should hit theaters in March.