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Cinequest 2007: The Garcias

...a.k.a. Cinequest: The Christopher J. Garcia Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Maverick Filmmaking Excellence. This marks Garcia's fifth year handing out these awards. That doesn't make them any more legitimate, perhaps, but it shows some darn fine dedication. Who needs Harry Knowles? We've got Garcia. And he talks a bit less about himself.

You can't go wrong with Cinequest. While not every movie is a winner, the experience of the festival is always worth it. This year's bests are as good as any other year's, and in a couple of cases even better. I'm revived from just hanging around all week and not sleeping!

Here now, for you gentle reader, are my picks for the Festival Bests

Best Filmmaker Friends a Guy Could Ask For- The Team from The Town That Was
OK, so on the first Sunday, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of great folks, no one as awesome as Melinka and Chris from the Viewers Voice winner The Town That Was. We got to chatting and had a wonderful, if completely scattered and politically incorrect, time at the bar. On Tuesday, Georgie, the co-director, was added to the mix and a couple of days later Chris' girlfriend Lanie showed up. We ended up spending a lot of time drinking together and bowling and playing pool. Oh yeah, and their movie's freakin' fantastic too. Single highlight: Lanie and I
beating Chris and Melinka at Team Cricket darts 596-160.

Best Post-Screening Drinking Spot- Cinnebar
A San Jose institution known for its scruffy clientele and exceptional jukebox. Seriously, it's one of the best I've ever seen. Paragon, the official night spot, proved far too expensive for many who retired to the Cinnebar and made it a secondary home for the fest. It's where most folks go after the other bars roll up there carpets at midnight. The jukebox alone is worth a full evening's visit.

Best Cameo- Alan Cumming in Full Grown Men
While I had troubles with the way the story of Full Grown Men unfolded, Alan Cumming was genius in his slightly extended cameo. There's a scene where Cumming has a gun and the car gets pulled over on the way to Diggityland that's just about the funniest thing ever.

Best Viewer (Kid Division)- The Little Guy Marco
I led a program called Critics for a Day where we invited kids from around the city to come and watch some short films and then we critically analyze them. It's a fun program and this year I asked what movies the kids had seen. Marco, God bless him, said "The Marine". I asked "Did you like it?" and he said, and this is verbatim "The romantic stuff felt tacked on." Then, he kept asking if the next movie had John Cena in it. He's my 8 year old hero.

Best Science Fiction Film- Blood Car
On the surface, Blood Car is an ultra-splatter horror film, but in reality, it's a political Mad Scientist science fiction film in the tradition of Frankenstein...only with amounts of blood and a golden shower shot. It's absolutely hilarious and there are some moments that just had me screaming and howling. The Atlanta-based filmmakers were also good folks and the Q-&-A session afterwards ended up being huge. It also might have been the best job of pre-film announcing that I did the entire festival.

Best Thing Peter Bogdanovich Said to Me- "Hey kid, you got the time?"

Best Moment- The catch
There I was, walking up the Camera 12 escalator (because I'm not the kind to let myself be carried up the escalator) and I heard 'Crap!' yelled from above. I looked and saw that someone had dropped a cell phone. I leaned over and caught it, saving it from falling all the way to the first floor from the 3rd. It was a one-handed masterpiece worthy of highlight reels.

OK, the BIG Awards

Best Short Film- Validation by Kurt Kuenne.
This is the guy who gave us hits like Rent-A-Person and Drive-In Movie Memories. He's done it again with this short that's related to Rent-A-Person. I'm a big fan, and since the lead actor happens to be on Numbers now, it's even topical! Here's a short about a guy who lives to make people feel better about themselves who falls in love with a girl who just won't smile. It's tender and beautiful as well as really, really funny.

Best Documentary Short- Spitfire
A local doc that really used the traditional medium with all sorts of fun editing and animation. The basic premise is that the director found a bunch of films from World War II when his grandfather died and went out to find the guy who piloted the Spitfire that crash landed in one of
them. He found him and showed him the film. The interview is good, watching the reaction of the old man watching his film was amazing. Great film.

Best Dramatic Feature- We Shall Overcome
It's Danish, so it's got to be good! The story is wonderful. Frits is a kid who is inspired by the recently deceased Martin Luther King. His father goes away to a mental hospital and he gets beaten by the school headmaster, setting off a series of events that leads to much trouble for his family. The film is touching, powerful, funny and smart. I'm amazed at how good the kid was. He really carried much of the film.

Best Comedy Feature- Military Intelligence and You
Sometimes you can take a simple thing, like old World War II films, and re-edit them, add voice over gags and some new footage and make it totally about the current political situation. Military Intelligence and You may not be my political point-of-view, but it's damn funny no matter what your take on the world today. The fact that we get cameos from folks like Elisha Cook Jr., Alan Ladd, Ronald Reagan and William Holden makes things even better.

Best Feature (Documentary)- Shootdown
It's a tough doc that walks several lines. It deals with the 1996 shooting down of two civilian aircraft by the Cuban government. It's more than that, really, as those aircraft were a part of Brothers to the Rescue, a group that gathered Cubans who were trying to float to the US from Cuba. With just a slight bit of unattention it could have completely vilified any number of people or governments, but it manages to make it all the way through without going too far in any direction. This is a rare doc that is both angry and reasoned. It's a very powerful piece.

Best In Fest- Super Amigos
It's a documentary that might have been made just for me, but it was also a powerful film that the audience loved. Super Amigos tells the story of several of the Social Justice Crusaders of Mexico City who work tirelessly while wearing traditional wrestling attire and masks. There's Fray Tormenta, the basis for Nacho Libre, and Super Gay, who fights homophobia, and Ecologista Universal and Super Barrio. The star to me is Super Animal. He's an actual wrestler and shoot fighter and he's also a vegetarian who works to save animals and stop bullfighting. He pushes his way through a line of about 200 cops at one point. That's a bad, bad man!

Chris Garcia

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