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Buy one of the following William H. Macy movies on DVD from amazon.com:

'Panic' (2000)

'Focus' (2001)

'Fargo' (1996)

Buy one of the following Val Kilmer movies on DVD:

'Top Secret!' (1984)

'True Romance' (1993) (two-disc special edition)

'The Doors' (1990)

'Heat' (1995)

'Tombstone' (1993) (Vista Series)

'The Island of Dr. Moreau' (1996) (John Frankenheimer's unrated director's cut)

Buy one of the following Ralph Bakshi movies on DVD:

'Fritz the Cat' (1972)

'Heavy Traffic' (1973)

'The Lord of the Rings' (1978)

'American Pop' (1981)


Far From Home: David Thornton plays a horny businessman who figures that the '100 Mile Rule' gives him free rein to ogle.

Cinequest--Week 2

A selective guide to the ups and downs, ins and outs, of the second week of this year's Cinequest

NOTE: The films marked with an asterisk are especially recommended. Also note that most films play more than one day. The capsule description appears under the first screening date.

During its 13 years of existence, Cinequest has walked a very fine line. It's brought some of the best minds in the movies to this valley: a balance of figures like John Waters, Russ Meyer and Paul Bartel, with beloved popular entertainers like Elmer Bernstein, Robert Wise and Jackie Chan. This year's guests are just as impressive. There's no such thing as the typical Santa Clara Valley person (let the outside world stereotype us as they will), so Cinequest has survived an amazing 13 years probably because it is a sum of diverse parts.

More than a festival, it's a nexus of little festivals, including sections on Emerging Mavericks, Documentary Competition, DXD (Digital by Digital) and Global Landscapes, with series specializing in Latino and Pacific Rim works.

Does that mean everything at Cinequest is going to be a cut above? Have a look at the below for tips and remember: Every child, no matter how homely, is some mother's precious darling. And every film represents someone's pain, hard work and sleepless nights, no matter what it looks like on the screen. And there's no film so hated that somebody doesn't love it. And ignoramuses hissed La Sacre du Printemps and Carmen when they debuted, too. Of course, they also hissed Princess Daisy, and deservedly so.

Richard von Busack

Vital Info
C1 is Camera One, 366 S. First St., San Jose
C3 is Camera 3, South Second Street and San Carlos, San Jose
C7 is Camera 7, Pruneyard Shopping Center, 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell
REP is the San José Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. This is a stage theater that has been wired up for digital film programs.
Tickets are $9 for most screenings ($7 for students with valid IDs and seniors), with special events and tributes running $10 to $60.

For details, call the festival at 408.295.FEST or check the website at cinequest.org.

Full Disclosure:
Metro is a sponsor of Cinequest.

Critical Mass:
Sarah Quelland (SQ)
Michael S. Gant (MSG)
Richard von Busack (RvB)
Al Roberts (AR)
Traci Vogel (TV)

March 5 | March 6 | March 7 | March 8 | March 9 | Maverick Spirit Awards

March 5

Making Arrangements
9:15pm, C3. Ah, with the sweet smell of gardenias, the beauty of stargazer lilies and an intoxicating array of scents and colors, people might think that working at a flower shop is a blissful bed of roses. Melissa Scaramucci's Making Arrangements sets out to prove otherwise. This comic mockumentary reveals the thorny interaction between a sniping and griping staff of floral designers who bicker like family. With two weddings, a convention and a funeral to handle, emotions and egos flare as the designers spare no feelings to meet their demanding clients' needs. (Also shows March 8, noon, REP.) (SQ)

March 6

'Ball of Wax'

Ball of Wax
7:15pm, REP. Baseball star Bret Packard (Mark Mench) decides to tear apart his team by urging his fellow players to commit acts of violence and deceit against their opponents, their wives and lovers, and each other. I suppose that Daniel Kraus' exercise in nastiness functions as an antidote to such "baseball as metaphor" schmaltz as Field of Dreams and The Natural. Unfortunately, the film--shot in tight, sweaty close-ups--dishes out more psychological vitriol than the average Neil LaBute movie. Packard's motives are totally opaque, and the actors don't even remotely look as if they could play slow-pitch softball much less thrive in the bigs. (Also shows March 7, 9:30pm, REP.) (MSG)

The Flats
9pm, C7. The Requa Brothers' story is set in horse country in the Pacific Northwest. Solid Luke (Sean Christensen) is on a career path to become a lawyer; his chum Harper (Chad Lindberg, a cross between Ryan Gosling and Dana Carvey), is a wastrel who's about to go to the work farm for a minor act of theft. The two contend for a good girl, Paige (Jade Herrera), a virgin among the easygoing girls who turn up at the two buddies' frequent beer parties. As in Spike Lee's 25th Hour, Harper's carousing disguises his fear of going into jail, but six months in minimum-security county lockup isn't exactly seven years at an upstate New York prison. Though always good-looking, The Flats is talky and underpowered, and the final act of renunciation seems hard to credit. (Also shows March 7, 7pm, C7; March 8, 7:15pm, C7.) (RvB)

March 7

It All Happens Incredibly Fast
9pm, C3. This dark drama chronicles the birth of an urban legend. It was just another night of pints and shots over pseudointellectual conversation and bar banter until a brawl broke out in the pub. In for the long haul, the mixed bunch of regulars stay after hours. Suddenly, the night takes a turn for the worse. Trapped inside their familiar haunt with an enigmatic stranger, these eclectic characters are forced to face their fears. Set in a single location over the course of one dramatic night, It All Happens Incredibly Fast is a suspenseful film driven by dialogue and intrigue. Well-scripted and well-cast, the story takes some unexpected turns and the conclusion effectively brings the urban legend mythology full circle. (Also shows March 9, 1:30pm, REP.) (SQ)

Detective Fiction
9:15pm, C7. Maybe it's time to ban filmmakers from AA meetings. The weight of 12-step confessionalism burdened Samuel Jackson's character in Changing Lanes, and the one-year-sober protagonist of Detective Fiction, Jack Hannan (director/screenwriter/star Patrick Coyle) is another angst-ridden basket case. While his wife, Jennifer (the unnecessarily irritating Mo Collins), dallies with a younger man, Jack holes up in his room writing a faux-hard-boiled detective novel as a way of working out his resentments. At first, the prose he taps out is so parodistic that the film seems headed for Walter Mitty land with our trench-coated hero solving his problems with a gat and a wisecrack. Unfortunately, the premise gets lost in a wallow of therapeutic marriage counseling. (Also shows March 8, 9pm, C7; March 9, 2:15pm, C7.) (MSG)

Desert Song: The annual trek to Burning Man is chronicled in the new documentary 'Confessions of a Burning Man.'

*Confessions of a Burning Man
11:30pm, REP. The big flamer's foster father, Larry Harvey, exec-produced this documentary. Four people are followed as they attend the festival: actress Samantha Weaver, San Francisco cabbie Michael Winaker, L.A. "Jill of all trades" (and heiress) Anna Getty and outta-Hunter's Point filmmaker Michael Epps. Unfortunately, directors Paul Barrett and Un Su Lee work in the touch-and-go style of MTV's The Real World, where you don't learn enough about these four oddly matched characters. Moreover, the feelings I had watching this documentary are the exactly same feelings I'd have if I'd returned to a cheap tropical resort I loved and found it overrun with beautiful people. However, I am Mr. Negative Energy, and the New Age doesn't give everybody hives. It's a tribute to Harvey's hard work and principles that the Nevada fest survives, even at something like six times the population I saw it with. This documentary seriously addresses the white middle-class quotient of the Burning Man attendees, and the scenes at the Mausoleum had me in tears. Friday's show is preceded at 7pm by a chat with Harvey and Barnett at Barnes & Noble at the Pruneyard. At 9pm, there will be a welcome gathering at the San José Repertory Plaza. (Also shows March 8, noon, C3.) (RvB)

March 8

'Book of Rules'

Book of Rules
11am, C3. De Anza College product Sung Kim wrote and directed this Reality Bites-style film about twentysomething Asian Americans adjusting to life post-college in the cappuccino fog of San Francisco. Blue works at a cafe. Bounce is a drifter who gets weeded daily. Yuppie Michael is growing apart from his old friends (and who can blame him). Toss in romantic interests and some dramatic kinks, and the ball of poetic waxing picks up extra lint, although it doesn't roll very far. The characters lack meaning in their lives; unfortunately, they also lack depth. Book of Rules meanders from scene to scene, unsure which direction to turn, letting the sullen characters talk or smoke things out. Whether the audience wants to stay with the conversation is another story. (Also shows March 9, 4:30pm, C7.) (AR)

Our House
1:45pm, C7. There's more humanity and drama in this 83-minute documentary about the residents of a house for disabled adults than in most ordinary films. Director Sevan Matossian follows three residents through a year of trials and tribulations. Laura suffers from Tourette's syndrome, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome, and decides that witchcraft will solve her problems. Tim S. has Down syndrome but didn't know it until junior high and now keeps having run-ins with the law. Tim W. was born with cerebral palsy and mild retardation--but his real struggle is with alcoholism. Engrossing, fantastically edited, raw and honest, Our House opens doors artfully on lives that most would prefer to ignore. (Also shows March 9, noon, C7.) (TV)

*Bitter Jester
7pm, REP. The film aspires to deconstruct what makes a successful standup comic. Is it blind luck, as Chevy Chase theorizes? Why did the chicken cross the road? Because his agents told him it would be good for his career, Garry Shandling says. Bitter Jester's narrator, aspiring comic Maija Di Giorgio, guides us through these harrowing questions after she basically has a nervous breakdown onstage. Partway through, Maija realizes that although these are big questions, there are questions that are bigger. Sept. 11 interrupts her self-examination, and the context of comedy takes on new dimensions. Intense, disturbing, and voyeuristic, Bitter Jester is the documentary about standup that's not afraid to jump right into the muck. (Also shows March 9, 4:45pm, C3.) (TV)

7 Songs
7:30pm, C3. It's hard to care about director and screenwriter Noah Stern's story of a sloppy, pill-popping, so-called rock god named Micah (Chris Eigeman) who's had it with fame. We never see him in his full glory; instead, the film drops us into a day in the life that includes Micah being carted around to various appointments and commitments by his manager/girlfriend Josie (Lola Glaudini) and his shady chauffeur/bodyguard Kato (Terry Camilleri). We're supposed to believe that Micah is a gifted songwriter, but neither the movie nor the featured songs (written by former Smashing Pumpkins member Chris Holmes) reflect any genius. The characters aren't fully explained, their relationships get glossed over and the whole thing needs some severe editing. That said, the acting is mostly decent, and there are some brief moments of humor. (Also shows March 9, 3:45pm, REP.) (SQ)

You Got Nothin'
9:30pm, C3. Filmmakers' fascination with Italian-American mobsters in New Jersey knows no bounds. In the latest entry in the dis-dat-and-dose sweepstakes, two low-level enforcers, Dominick (Steven Langa, who co-wrote with director Philip Angelotti Jr.) and Joey (Angelotti), get sent to L.A. to collect on a debt. Hoping to exert a little pressure on deadbeat Willie (Brian McNamara), our goofball heroes kidnap his daughter, precocious Rachel (Langa's daughter, Rachel), who, of course, charms them over with her winsome ways. The production values are top-notch, and the leads, while not exactly breaking any new ground, establish a comic rhythm early and stick with it, even as the script betrays them with a hackneyed running gag about Joey's aborted baseball career and a way-too-perky ending. (Also shows March 9, 12:30pm, C3.) (MSG)

March 9

100 Mile Rule
6:30pm, REP. Let us now praise Maria Bello: stealer of Auto Focus, transcender of Coyote Ugly; avid and lively, a blonde transgressor who is just now making her mark in the movies. In 100 Mile Limit, Bello plays Monica, a cocktail waitress turned actress. Monica is the monkey wrench in the plans of a group of horny Detroit businessmen from the National Screw Company who've come to a sales-motivation seminar. One of the three is Bobby (Jake Weber), a good family man who soon ends up in Monica's talons. The title comes from the rule that it's OK to cheat when you're 100 miles from home. Ex-Los Gatos director Brent Huff's school-of-Wilder comedy/drama is solid, though he lets the anti-hero, the lecherous Jerry (David Thornton), vamp too long. Still, the talk at the sales seminar is well observed, and the anecdotes about the thwarted horndogs are genuinely funny and probably have some true stories behind them. For example, when the Midwestern salesmen order escorts, they get two hookers who, despite the glossy photos in the ads, look as if they just walked off the pavements of Whitechapel. Michael McKean is impressive in an unusual role as a thrice-divorced sales manager. But this is Bello's picture; she's so authentic that she pulls the film away from its sadder but wiser themes. (Closing night $60 with party after at A.P. Stump's.) (RvB)

The Shootist: Cinequest honoree Val Kilmer had one of his best roles as Doc Holliday in 'Tombstone.'

Festival Specials

Cinequest honors mavericks and looks at digital filmmaking

By Richard von Busack

William H. Macy
Macy needs no introduction to alternative-film fans. Like the late-period Edgar G. Robinson, Macy is one of the few character actors who can carry a film as lead. A specialist in furtive, worried-looking characters, he has done terrific work in two films with dubious premises: Panic, where he played a breaking-down hit man, and Focus, where he is bedeviled by anti-Jewish discrimination. Macy, who gives his most memorable performance in Fargo as the wrecked auto salesman getting in over his head in crime, continues the cinematic tradition of tales of little men in big trouble. (March 7, 9pm, 4th St. Garage Roof, Fourth and San Fernando streets; $20.)

Ralph Bakshi
Bakshi, who did the first film version of The Lord of the Rings, is a veteran of 40 years of animation. He talks about his work and screens Coonskin (1975), an angry and shocking piece of forbidden animation. This fascinating semiunderground cartoon features a scattershot narrative--vignettes within vignettes. Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear and Brother Fox go to Harlem and end up under the thumb of the Mafia. An armed black Savior takes a machine gun to pictures of Elvis, Nixon and John Wayne. A warty, pig-eyed Godfather, modeled on Brando's, murders his sons and his wife. The stereotypes of gay men are apt to cause more walkouts than anything else; still, it's a memorial of an anarchic era in humor when nothing at all was safe or sacred. Absolutely not for children. (March 8, 5pm, C1, $15.)

Val Kilmer
His big-screen debut in 1984's Top Secret!, a musical with a pseudo-Elvis fighting a Commu-Nazi conspiracy, was closer to the Firesign Theater than to Airplane (et al.)'s channeling of Laugh-In. Kilmer's singing and Presleyesque disdain were good enough for him to play a fantasy Elvis in True Romance, as well as a commanding Jim Morrison in The Doors. For TV, Kilmer played Billy the Kid--who was a kind of rock star, too. The off-flavored candy of Batman Forever showed that Kilmer's good looks may be too petulant for even a comic-book fantasy. I preferred his glassy L.A. criminal in Heat. Kilmer's work occupies the middle ground between the mainstream and the flamboyantly exotic; here's hoping he heads straight for the latter. (March 9, 1pm, Imperial Ballroom, Fairmont Hotel, $20.)

Cinequest DXD
For the hard-core filmmaker, the annual Digital by Digital portion of the festival offers some insights into the newest cool tools. Thursday at 7pm at Camera 3, Michael Wohl, one of the designers of Final Cut Pro, talks about how to take advantage of the new post-production technology to make films better, not just more affordable. The title of Friday's panel is "Technology and Art: The Future of Digital Moviemaking" (7:30pm, San José Repertory Theatre). It features Stuart English of Panasonic discussing advances in digital technologies. On Saturday at 2pm, also at the Rep, Laurence J. Thorpe of Sony unravels the variety of formats available to filmmakers. These seminars cost $10 each.

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From the March 6-12, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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