That's a wrap! Cinetopia International Film Festival, June 2014

After a crazy weekend filled with 12 feature-length films and a few short films as well, I have made it through my first film festival: the Cinetopia International Film Fest, held in Ann Arbor and Detroit. I only attended the Ann Arbor screenings, but many people I met there attended screenings in both cities.

If you read my pre-fest post, I told you my Top 5 list, and the good news is that 1) I was able to make it to all five of those movies, and 2) I enjoyed all of them.

Without further ado:

*not included: Detroit Voices short films, including high school and adult divisions.

I'll be doing longer reviews of about half of these, but here are my initial thoughts. All star ratings are out of 5 stars.

  • The Skeleton Twins. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. This was a sad, kind of melodramatic film that I enjoyed, and was the first film I saw at the festival. It will be in theaters in September, I believe.
    4 stars. 
  • Rich Hill. Documentary. A depressing and realistic look at poverty in Missouri.
    3.5 stars.
  • Lilting. A lovely movie that I almost didn't see - I had plans to see another film but saw this instead. One of those rare movies that makes you want to cry during one scene and smile during another.
    4.5 stars, in theaters sometime soon.
  • Buzzard. Probably destined to become a cult/fan favorite like Office Space, but not really my type of film, though there are a few scenes that are hilarious. The Q&A after with the director/writer and actors was also interesting.
    2.5 stars.
  • The Congress. I wasn't going to do a full review of this film, but after trying to explain its premise to people, I feel like I have to. Robin Wright stars as herself, and it's one of the trippiest films I've seen in quite a while - one of those movies where you can't look away. |
    3.5 stars.
  • OJ The Musical. This was my least favorite film at the fest, disappointing because Larisa Oleynik and others were in it, but their talents were underused. A mockumentary about a group doing a musical about O.J. Simpson.
    2 stars.
  • The Sublime and Beautiful. Haunting soundtrack that meshed very well with the movie, some violin parts especially. It turns into a revenge film of sorts near the end. The director/writer/main actor (all one person, Blake Robbins) was there for a Q&A afterwards.
    3.5 stars.
  • Hellion. I had a feeling this one would be good (one can never go wrong with Aaron Paul), and it was. The opening catches your attention right away, and the child actors here are also very good at acting.
    4 stars.
  • Obvious Child. This was the surprise of the fest for me: I was expecting something mildly entertaining, and Jenny Slate ended up being hilarious in it. Good use of music and great cast, it's a rom-com but not your typical fare for the genre. 83 minutes and I wanted it to be longer.
    4.5 stars.
  • R100. Another of the weirdest movies at the fest, very cheesy and had "fourth wall"-esque parts to some of it.
    3.5 stars, mostly for uniqueness.
  • War Story. One of the more frustrating movies I saw, focuses on Catherine Keener's character having PTSD, as she's a war journalist whose colleague was killed in front of her. She has retreated to Italy, and the story plays out almost like a mystery because we don't know her complete past.
    2.5 stars - good acting but we get almost no answers.
  • Hanna's Journey. I originally thought this was in German with subtitles, but it's a mix of German, Hebrew, and English. Beautiful scenery and good acting.
    3.5 stars.

Line for The Skeleton Twins on Thursday night, at the State Theater

Overall I immensely enjoyed Cinetopia, and I hope to return next year as media. I started tweeting about the movies with the #cinetopia14 hashtag, and started conversations with a few other bloggers/journalists, a few of whom I met while waiting in line for the movies, which was fun.

Filmmaker and actor Blake Robbins, with his on-screen self
(The Sublime and Beautiful)

The only criticism I have of the fest is that a sign outside each individual theater (Michigan and the State) would have been good so we knew which movie was playing where - I'm a hardcore Google Calendar user so I had all the information I needed there, and you could also consult the printed Cinetopia program, but a visual would have also been nice.

Check back in the next few days or so for my individual reviews - I plan on doing a joint R100/The Congress review, plus reviews of The Skeleton Twins, Hellion, Lilting, OJ The Musical, Obvious Child, and Buzzard.

Have you ever been to a film festival, and if so, what were some great movies you saw?

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