Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt) - 8/10
Unsentimental and honest, this is a fantastic film. Reichardt takes a simple story--poor woman loses her dog in a small town in Oregon--and drains it of all sentimentality, leaving only the harsh, unforgiving reality of being penniless in America, and all without the use of explicit politicizing (that would come later in the day). Heartbreaking and beautiful.
The People Speak - No rating
Not a movie, sort of, thus no rating, but my wife and I just had to see Howard Zinn in person, as he's one of the genuine great American historians. Then we found out Matt Damon was going to be hosting the talk, and suddenly realized that this was going to be one of those "mobbed" screenings, which can be really annoying (though the girl with the poster asking Matt to be her prom date was kind of funny). Thankfully, we entered before the stars, so we missed the excitement (though I did nearly get run over by Tim Robbins entering the theater, which wasn't actually his fault)
(SIDE NOTE: Is anyone else fascinated by celebrity heights? Tim Robbins was freakishly tall, while Ron Perlman, two years ago, was exactly my height, which is only about 5'10". Which is weird, 'cause that guy's Hellboy. Sorry for the digression...)
Anyway, the thing started super-late, so we probably got robbed of about ten minutes of further discussion, but it was excellent and slightly more star-laden than anticipated, as Marisa Tomei and Viggo Mortensen showed up as well. The footage they showed of the documentary was a mixed bag. The first bit peppered history lessons on the American Revolution with brief snippets of readings of letters and speeches by Hollywood stars. Their performances looked decent, but were too brief, with the film falling all over itself to present as much material as possible at the expense of interesting material. The second set of footage was considerably better, as it focused on longer performances and more immediately relevant issues (labor, equal rights, racism, sexism, etc.). It needs work, but it looks like it could molded into something interesting and timely.
Of Time and the City (Terence Davies) - 6/10
I know that score is some kind of critical blasphemy, but I'm standing by it. The film is at its best when Davies gets angry, such as when he rants about Betty (Queen Elizabeth) or the Beatles (who he hates). Much of the running time is taken up by documentary footage of Liverpool past and present, with classical music and the occasional pop song playing over it. Some of this is intoxicating, but often, I felt the images and music failed to coalesce into something grander than themselves. Many will find this film astounding (many already have), but I can't shake the feeling that it's missing something vital that keeps it from greatness. (I should also say that the Q&A slightly skewed my views, as it made me wish that Davies had spoken for the entire film--his Q&A was absolutely charming, the best of the fest so far).
Next: Hunger strikes and flying swordsmen...