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    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Eight ideas for personal film festivals

    Have you ever found yourself with six hours to kill and an overabundance of popcorn? Of course you have; it's an all-too-common situation. Your first response then is probably to grab the nearest three DVDs on your shelf and hope for the best. But if there's even a remote threat you'll end up screening Kangaroo Jack, I'd recommend staging one of these mini-film festivals instead.

    Ratcatcher, Trainspotting, Sweet Sixteen
    Perpetually in England's shadow, Scotland often doesn't get the attention it deserves. This unfortunately extends to its film scene as well, although Trainspotting and Ewan McGregor have helped to change that somewhat. Still, there are a lot of smaller gems that are just as potent and poetic about Scotland's young and underclass, like Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen and Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher.

    Topsy-Turvy, Waiting For Guffman, OT: Our Town
    Although Hamlet pithily observed, "The play's the thing," I think the unabridged version went more like "The play's the thing that will take over your life, create complications you never could've imagined, threaten to not be ready by opening night, and forge and destroy relationships in equal measure, all for the brief enjoyment of an audience's applause." These three movies understand that all too well.

    Back To The Future, 2046, 12 Monkeys
    In these movies, time travel may represent regret, tenuous memories, the impact of choices, etc., but it's just also fucking cool. I don't think there's anyone out there who hasn't genuinely considered buying a DeLorean and getting up to eighty-eight miles per hour just to see what would happen.

    Blue (1993), The Blue Angel, Blue Velvet
    Blue seems to be the perfect word for these movies, both for their pervading sadness and sexuality. It's also literally the color of so many images in Kieslowski's and Lynch's works. And if that's still not enough, there's probably a Blue's Clues rerun on Nickelodeon you can catch afterward.

    Together (2000), Insomnia (1997), The Celebration
    Scandanavia seemed fairly placid and pretty when I traveled through it last year, but the region's movies suggest there's a lot of ugliness and strife lurking under the surface. Disagreeable Socialists, killers chasing killers, and sordid child abuse are just some of the reasons to call your travel agent now.

    Straw Dogs, A History of Violence, Caché
    Although I've never seen the comparison made, I'm convinced that A History of Violence is, in part, a conscious revision of Straw Dogs. So many of the same elements are there, just slightly upended in the later movie. And then there's Caché, which also coincidentally explores so much of the same territory: the seemingly ordinary family terrorized by "undesirable" outsiders, the breach of the home, the patriarch driven to action and violence. Somewhere in there, there's a dissertation waiting to be written.

    Breathless, Last Tango In Paris, Before Sunset
    With the gorgeous old-world architecture and postcard vistas, it doesn't take much to make Paris seem romantic. But beyond these movies' scenery are the romances themselves, thorny and tragic, complex and thrilling. In short, everything love can be, regardless of whether you're on the Seine or on your couch.

    Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings, Murderball
    Sure, it's nail-biting to wonder if Emilio Estevez can lead his ragtag team of misfits to victory in The Mighty Ducks, but sports documentaries add a whole other layer of suspense. Away from the contrivances of fiction, the wins feel more profound and the losses even more so.

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