Woodstock Film Festival: Capsule Reviews | Film | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Woodstock Film Festival: Capsule Reviews 

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419 Dir. Ned Thorne

A careless young New York actor gets hooked by an e-mail scam after a vacation in South Africa and loses big money. When he vows revenge, two enabling friends reluctantly accompany him to Cape Town on a fool's mission. Told in a series of videocam segments, iPhone clips, and surveillance camera footage featuring a strong cast, the film builds with the intensity of a documentary-turned-nightmare. An elaborate hoax that will either prompt awe or annoyance.

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I Am Not a Hipster Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton

Singer Brook Hyde is a sensitive artist—and a major asshole. He seems hell-bent on destroying his career while alienating fans and friends alike. But Brook's misanthropy stems from the recent death of his mother. As Hyde, Dominic Bogart tackles a complicated portrayal with gusto, rising above the film's narrative meanderings. San Diego artists and DJs make cameos in a thorny tale of redemption.

In Our Nature Dir. Brian Savelson

Two couples—father and son and their respective girlfriends—carrying a tangle of back-story conflicts converge by accident in a country cabin for a weekend. T'is the stuff from which drama springs. And so it does. There are no surprises here, but the earnest material is heartfelt enough to forgive the predictability. (See sidebar interview with the director, page 67.)

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*La Brujula la Lleva el Muerto (The Compass Is Carried by the Dead Man) Dir. Arturo Pons

Reminiscent of the 1970 cult Western El Topo, this film is a sly, expansive, rambling allegory about the history of Mexico. Its humor is deadpan, its brutality sudden, its dialogue portentous. A mismatched group travels across the desert during an insurrection to find safety, evoking both The Canterbury Tales and The Wizard of Oz. The film's absurdities and existential noodling will keep stoned college students enchanted for a generation. Vimeo.com/31346353

Nor'easter Dir. Andrew Brotzman

Passions, religion, and the unwritten rules of a hermetic community converge in this unsettling character study. On an island off the New England coast, a family prays for the return of a son believed kidnapped. But answered prayers only bring tougher questions and the well-intentioned local priest, struggling with his own vows, tries to set everything right. Strong imagery and portrayals, notably by Liam Aiken (Electrick Children) and Broadway's Danny Burstein, offset an air of sensationalism. Noreasterfilm.com

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Rhymes with Banana Dir. Joseph Muszynski & Peter Hutchings

This film is ripe for cult status by misfit teens. The gifted Zosia Mamet (TV's "Girls") and Jee Han Yung are struggling actors in Brooklyn who become obsessed with the new neighbor, Paul Iacono. Insisting he is a talent agent, they kidnap him and demand work. The story ebbs and flows—endearingly crazy is tough to sustain—but the set design is a triumph worthy of Wes Anderson.

2nd Serve Dir. Tim Kirkman

Director Kirkman is best known for his landmark Dear Jesse, a plea for tolerance from homophobic Senator Helms and a film version of David Drake's The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. Here, he turns to romantic comedy, with Josh Hopkins of TV's "Cougartown" as a washed-up country club tennis player trying to restart his life. Hopkins's boyish charm struggles against the predictable plot mechanics that stall in '80s-era humor. Timkirkman.com

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*Sparrows Dance Dir. Noah Buschel

Mirroring the trenchant observations of a short story, this tale of unlikely love in an increasingly disconnected Manhattan will puzzle before it charms. But stick with it. Marin Ireland is an unemployed actress suffering from severe OCD and Paul Sparks is the jazz saxophonist daylighting as a plumber whom she allows into her agoraphobic world. Theater actors Ireland and Sparks deliver expertly modulated performances in this fully-realized small gem. Onezerofilms.com

Strutter Dir. Allison Anders & Kurt Voss

Indie legend Anders has created a love letter to both the LA music scene and to low-budget film itself, depicting a group of slacker-rockers struggling to fulfill their dreams. The convoluted soap opera is beside the point; the oomph lies in its execution. Slapstick situations, presented in a flattened black-and-white cinematography, infuses the story with a deadpan stoner goofiness. But you must first find charm in the unpolished acting.

The Unlikely Girl, Dir. Wei Ling Chang

Reminiscent of the stylish works of bad boy François Ozon, this film strives equally to titillate and confound. Three longtime pals in Southern France play host to a student from Iowa who isn't accustomed to moody young adults who smoke Gauloises and play mind games. But the biggest put-on is planned for the audience, as the plotlines grow more twisted. Unlike Ozon, Chang strains to create his revelations, but the leads are sexy enough to forgive the missteps.

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