Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Z At The Sixth Annual Traverse City Film Festival

Last year, I won a random drawing and received a free pass for the entire Sixth Annual Traverse City Film Festival. Deciding to take full advantage of my good fortune (and on a bit of a dare from Dan Hoag), I decided to see the maximum number of screenings one person could do: 31. That would be two on Tuesday, six a day from Wednesday-Saturday, and just five on Sunday. Do you think I have enough intestinal fortitude to do it? Read on, and note that I rank films on the four-star scale.

Day One – Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (2010) / *** ½ (USA, R, 106 min., 7 pm State Theater)
NOWHERE BOY (2009) / ***½ (UK, R, 98 min., 10 pm State Theater)

Day Two – Wednesday, July 28, 2010

APART TOGETHER [TUAN YUAN] (2009) / ***½ (China, NR, 93 min., 9:30 am Milliken Auditorium)
BUDRUS (2009) / **** (Israel/Palestine/USA, NR, 82 min., Noon State Theater)
THE TILLMAN STORY (2009) / **** (USA, NR, 94 min., 3 pm City Opera House)
- With short film PRAYERS FOR PEACE (USA, NR, 8 min.)
THE CONCERT [LE CONCERT] (2009) / *** (France, NR, 119 min., 6 pm State Theater)
THE TROTSKY (2009) / ***½ (Canada, NR, 114 min., 9 pm Lars Hockstad)
SHORTS FOR MIDNIGHT (2009-2010) / NA (Canada and USA, NR, 77 minutes, Midnight State Theater)

Day Three – Thursday, July 29, 2010

KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS [KIRIKOU ET LA SORCIERE] (1998) / ***½ (France/Belgium/Luxembourg, NR, 74 min., 9:30 am State Theater)
WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” (2009) / **** (USA, NR, 102 min., Noon Lars Hockstad)
RESTREPO (2009) / ***½ (USA, R, 94 min., 3 pm Old Town Playhouse)
CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST (2009) / *** (USA/Australia, PG, 90 min., 6 pm Lars Hockstad)
LEGACY (2010) / * (Nigeria/UK, NR, 95 min., 9 pm City Opera House)
CLASH [BAY RONG] (2009) / *** (Vietnam, NR, 100 min., Midnight State Theater)

Day Four – Friday, July 30, 2010

GASLAND (2009) / **** (USA, NR, 107 min., 9:30 am Lars Hockstad)
AMERICAN RADICAL: THE TRIALS OF NORMAN FINKELSTEIN (2009) / **** (USA/Canada, PG, 84 min., Noon, State Theater)
HORN OF PLENTY [EL CUERNO DE LA ABUNDANCIA] (2008) / ***½ (Cuba/Spain, NR, 107 min., 3 pm Milliken Auditorium)
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964) / **** (UK, G, 87 min., 6 pm Old Town Playhouse)
CZECH PEACE [CESKY MIR] (2010) / *½ (Czech Republic, NR, 100 min., 9 pm State Theater)
TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2009) / **** (Canada, NR, 86 min., Midnight State Theater)

Day Five – Saturday, July 31, 2010

PLEASE GIVE (2009) / ***½ (USA, R, 90 min., 9:30 am Lars Hockstad)
DREAMING IN BLUE [FUERA DE LIGA] (2008) / ***½ (Cuba, NR, 65 min., Noon Old Town Playhouse)
CHERRY (2009) / *** (USA, NR, 100 min., 3 pm Lars Hockstad)
MIKE’S SURPRISE – THIS DIVIDED STATE (2005) / **** (USA, NR, 88 min., 6 pm State Theater)
HEARTBREAKER [L’ARNACOEUR] (2009) / **** (France, NR, 104 min., 9 pm Lars Hockstad)
RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE (2010) / *** (Canada, NR, 107 min., Midnight State Theater)

Day Six – Sunday, August 1, 2010

VIVA CUBA (2005) / **** (Cuba/France, NR, 80 min., 9:30 am Old Town Playhouse)
THE LAST COMMAND (1928) / **** (USA, NR, 88 min., Noon State Theater)
CLEANFLIX (2009) / **** (USA, NR, 93 min., 3 pm Old Town Playhouse)
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (2009) / ***½ (Sweden/Denmark/Germany, R, 129 min., 6 pm State Theater)
SOLITARY MAN (2009) / ** (USA, R, 90 min., 9 pm City Opera House)


- Number of Films I Saw: 30 (31 screenings counting SHORTS FOR MIDNIGHT)
- Number of Short Films I Saw: Nine (One from Canada and eight from USA)
- Number of Countries I Saw Movies From: 18 (14 from USA, four from France and Canada, 3 from the UK and Cuba, and one apiece from Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Australia, China, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine, Czech Republic, Spain, Vietnam, Belgium, Luxembourg)
- Number of Years I saw Movies From: Seven (One from 1928; one from 1964; one from 1998; two from 2005; two from 2008; 19 from 2009; and four from 2010; plus five short films from 2009 and four short films from 2010)
- Venue Stats: State Theater – 14; City Opera House – Three; Old Town Playhouse – Five; Lars Hockstad Auditorium – Seven; Milliken Auditorium – two.


The festival also showed these movies I had already seen –
- TWISTER (1996) / *** (USA, PG-13, 113 min.)
- FINDING NEMO (2003) / **** (USA, G, 100 min.)
- HELP! (1965) (UK, G, 90 min.)
- RAISING ARIZONA (1987) / ***½ (USA, PG-13, 94 min.)
- INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) / ***½ (USA, PG-13, 110 min.)
- MARY POPPINS (1964) / **** (USA, G, 139 min.)
- ME AND ORSON WELLES (2008) / ***½ (UK/USA, PG-13, 114 min.)
- THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES [EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS] / **** (Argentina/Spain, R, 129 min.)
- THE SECRET OF KELLS (2009) / ***½ (France/Belgium/Ireland, NR, 76 min.)

Overall Film Thoughts

As you can tell, the ones marked with “****” are the ones I liked the most. There were only a few duds, notably “Czech Peace,” “Legacy” (thanks a lot Hoag), and “Solitary Man.” By far the most rewarding part of the festival was getting to see four Cuban filmmakers there in person. I’m not sure how they did it, but they broke the embargo, and the level of appreciation the Cuban filmmakers showed to the audience was one of the most emotional things I’ve seen at the Festival. Director Ian Padron video recorded the audience because he said his friends wouldn’t believe that 300 Americans were giving him a standing ovation. Actress Mirtha Ibarra, director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, and the Vice President of their film board were also present. Many other directors from numerous were there as well to present their films. The world-renowned Alloy Orchestra accompanied the screening of “The Last Command,” and they were phenomenal.

My Awards

Best Film, Fiction: TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL; Runner-up: HEARTBREAKER
Best Film, Nonfiction: WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN”; Runner-up: AMERICAN RADICAL
Most Promising New Filmmaker: Josh Fox, “GASLAND”; Runner-up Eli Craig, “TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL”
Festival MVP: All four Cuban filmmakers


Without a doubt this is one of my greatest achievements, one likely not to be duplicated in the near future if ever. That is until some young punk wants to come along and make a name for himself at my expense. This was one of the best six-day stretches of my life, and I want to thank my mom and dad, my sister Tara, my brother Adam, Matt Cooper, Dan Hoag, Marianne Swierenga, Phil Morey, Dara, Michael, Jessica, Lauren Conrad, Greg Reisig, Terri Reisig, and Abbi Gee for making this quite easily the most memorable Traverse City Film Festival of all the times.


  1. nice work jiggz! are you going to follow up with reviews of some of your top picks?

  2. Well, thanks for the thanks! It was great to see you and catch up in the minimal amount of time we had to do so. I agree with your assessment of Gasland. Josh Fox was an engaging narrator; I really appreciated how he let viewers in to his own emotional turmoil. We were able to see his attitude (an therefore, his trip itself) transition from a sort of wary exploration to a fully-invested, passionate political stance. It's a complicated, muddy issue, and I appreciate that Fox let his viewers see that.

  3. @ Will - Hopefully if time allows I can whip up some reviews, especially for stuff that hasn't officially come out yet when it does.

    @ Abbi - Very pleasant surprise to see you, and glad you picked a good movie too!

  4. I miss you Jake. I enjoyed the 22 minutes I got with you.