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Cinequest 2004: The Garcias

...a.k.a. Cinequest: The Christopher J. Garcia Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Maverick Filmmaking Excellence, but as a title for an article, it took up just too much space.

Cinequest, the San Jose Film Festival, is now over, and fellow FanboyPlaneteer Jason Schachat is sleeping it off as I type this. The entire festival was fantastic, with amazing films, incredible people, and a series of parties that my body will be recovering from until early May. And so, with all that in mind, here are Christopher J. Garcia's Best of Cinequest picks, 2004.

Best Party- Closing Night Gala at Blake's Steakhouse. Here's a cool formula: take a classy restaurant, rent it out and have Hometown Buffet provide food. The food was good and the conversation was even better. Lively singing, an incredible amount of booze, a ton of startling comedic bits, and everyone went home having had a good time. My favorite part of these parties? Cleavage ahoy!

Best Performance- Live Musical: Patrice Goodman of the short film Eden's Wake. Closing Night Party, I'm there with a ton of my running mates, and Patrice comes and has a seat. She mentions she was a singer, and I press for a song, recommending Fly Me To The Moon, and Patrice obliges. Mary, Sweet Mother of God, that girl has pipes. She put out a fantastic rendition, right on table side and blew me way out of the water, along with the rest of the table who were allowed to enjoy my personal song. The drunken hammering of TV themes that followed was no match.

Best Performance- Feature Film: Jason rambled on about the film, but Kevin Howarth of The Last Horror Movie was absolutely riveting in his role as the man in close-up for the fine British film. A big hand to the man for being able to pull off what few actors ever get to even try: talking to the camera and keeping it interesting.

Best Incredibly Short Performances in a Short and a Feature: Kate Kelton in Eden's Wake and Ham & Cheese. The unbelievably adorable Kelton had small roles in both these Canadian entries, but alas, not a line in either. She did work wonders with the make-up brush in Ham & Cheese, though.

Next Best Thing to Porn: Arakimentari by Travis Klose. A documentary on the controversial photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, Arakimentari could be called the Film of a Thousand Vaginas. They're everywhere through the film, but still, it remained a highly watchable, and quite funny, work of non-fiction.

Best Must-See Film: Awful Normal by Celesta Davis. This was a powerful piece of work. Davis and her sister were both molested in 1978, and as a part of Celesta's therapy, she made a film in which she confronted the man who abused them. This is a powerful documentary. There were better films at the fest, but none of them had as much power as Awful Normal. A raw emotional experience that everyone should see. This is the film that I would most like to see get distribution.

Best Short- Animated: There are so many choices, but the obvious one for me was Bid 'Em In by Neal Sopata. A beautiful piece of animation based around a song by Oscar Brown Jr. It's a sledgehammer, putting a slave auction into two powerful minutes. It's a must see. You can find more info at www.nealsopata.net.

Best Short- Live Action: Rent-A-Person by Kurt Kuenne. Kurt Kuenne is a legend from DeAnza College's film department, and he has made several great films. In this short, we are treated to the story of a restroom attendant who starts a company to provide ride-along passengers to allow commuters to use the LA Carpool lanes. The comedy is great, but it's also a musical and it stars Angelina Jolie's brother!

Best Documentary: One Man Show: A Musical Documentary by Ira Rosensweig. There were tons of great docs, with Aging Out and Imelda being two of serious note, but One Man Show takes the cake as the top in my eyes. Documenting the life of New York Lottery Winner and Cabaret performer John Falcon, One Man Show is a look at Falcon's life both before and after the win. Though brilliantly shot and amazingly edited, the star of the show is Falcon.

From the awesome renditions of classics in his one man show A Short Puerto Rican Guy Sings Songs of Angst, to his dinner with an obvious mooch, Falcon is amazingly entertaining. A great doc.

Best Narrative Feature: Dorian Blues. The World Premiere of this hilarious film was held at Cinequest and was introduced by the maid from Will & Grace. It was a great coming of age story about Dorian Logatos, a stereotypical gay teen struggling with a Dad who can't seem to come to grips with whatever his son chooses. It's funny, it's sad, it's touching. It's the type of film that can get away with having a hooker with a heart of gold who also does dead on imitations of Billy Holliday and Patsy Cline. Wonderful.

That's all from another Cinequest. Keep an eye open for news from the Sonoma Valley Film Festival the first week of April, and for reviews of shorts and docs from around the world.

Chris Garcia

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