Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 5 – “Youth Works”, “Prince Avalanche” and “Ernest & Celestine” or “Ernest et Célestine”

Prince_Avalanche_03Having gotten up earlier than planned, thanks to my choosing to bunk with an energetic early bird, my start was an early one. I arrived at the theatre 2 hours before the start of my first movie. What happened then, you ask? Well I’ll tell ya what happened.

Shorts 7: Youth Works

Shorts_7_last_stop_livermoreUnsure of what to do with myself for two hours, I hit the press lounge for a complementary cup of joe. It is then, with complementary cup of joe in hand that I remember my cousin telling me over the weekend that her boyfriend, Joe, is in a short film at the festival called Last Stop Livermore. The film already played and wasn’t going to play again, but that wasn’t going to stop me from seeing it. One of the perks of being Press is having access to the screening room (a darkened room with 4 to 5 computers). So, off to the screening room I go, where sure enough I see Joe in his starring role in a SFIFF accepted movie (he’s the white guy holding his hat in the picture above). Way to go, Joe! Then, as if seeing someone I knew in a SFIFF accepted movie wasn’t cool enough, I see my biggest surprise of the festival, my cousin Harriet. She had a role in the movie as well. Way to go, Harriet! Also Harriet, good job of mentioning to me that little detail of you being a bona fide sultan of the screen. Try not  to forget me when accepting your Best Actress Award at the Oscars.

As for the actual Youth Works block of shorts, as a whole it was pretty damn good. There were Lego dinosaur adventures (Jurassic Floor), a time-lapse M83 inspired music video (Night Skies), a very likable puppet (Dream Boy), a well thought out documentary (The Dogmatic), a touching story regarding Alzheimer’s disease (No Regrets), a couple of poetic interpretations on education (Choices, Check Mate), and a couple of others as well.  Having only seen three other short programs this year, I’d say that this was the best of the bunch. Whether these shorts were exceptional, good, or alright, they all succeeded in at least capturing that feeling of my youth in some way from age 6 – 19, a feat that few other adult-made feature-length films can pull off. Oh yeah, did I mention my cousin was in one of these as well?

Prince Avalanche

Prince_Avalanche_01four-stars4First off, before I even say what this movie is about I have to thank David Gordon Green for successfully returning to form and making the style of film that made me fall in love with his art in the first place. It’s as if his last three films, Pineapple Express (2008), Your Highness (2011) and The Sitter (2011) never happened and he’s picked up right where he left off after making George Washington (2000), All the Real Girls (2003), Snow Angels (2007), and the anomaly of his catalogue that is Undertow (2004). What those latter bulk of films have that his bigger budget predecessors do not is any focus whatsoever on making the characters or their world feel real in any way. Simply put, they had no heart. Sure, they may be fun to spend a couple of hours with and even elicit a chuckle or two, but at the end of the movie all that you’re left with are some hollow laughs and a hungry need for something a little more cinematically substantial. That’s not the case with Gordon Green’s earlier films and is clearly not the case with his newest offering either. Indeed, DGG is back to his old ways, only this time out he’s a lot funnier.

Now, as for the plot it’s basically just two dudes (Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd) shooting the shit while painting lines and inserting sign posts along a new road through a burnt out forest.

Both actors of course turn in good performances and do great jobs at disappearing into their roles and having me forget who they are.  In fact, Emile, who may have gained weight on purpose or not for this role, did such a good job that he was unrecognizable as himself, instead passing for more of a younger Jack Black. For the record, I’m not a big fan of Jack Black, yet even while spotting the similarities of these actors – in looks alone – I was still thoroughly enjoying the film.

Oh yeah, this is also an adaptation/remake of  Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson‘s Icelandic film, Either Way. Just thought you should know.

Ernest & Celestine or Ernest et Célestine

Ernest_&_celestine_03four-stars4Oh rapture! Two years ago it was the wonderful The Cat in Paris that SFIFF brought to Bay Area, and this year they’ve done it again. Yet another refreshing alternative to the bombardment of the CGI DreamWorks/Pixar monopolizing hold on us American lovers of animated cinema.

I loved this 2D hand drawn movie about an adorable and courageous little mouse named Celestine and a BIG BAD SCARY BEAR named Ernest. Just kidding, spoiler alert, the Bear is not big and bad, or scary, except for maybe when he snores at night and your sleeping in the cellar below him. As it turns out, he’s just as sweet and courageous as his new found friend Celestine. In fact, the two of them, after becoming friends whilst in a world where such friendships are criminalized, they embark on some crazy adventures and bond while holed up in a Bear house while on the lam from the law. Phew. Oh yeah, they’re also petty thieves who steal, but it’s out of necessity of course, so give them break and back off, you fascists!

Anyway, aside from beautiful watercolor inspired animation reminiscent of the drawings from the popular kids book of the same title (which is almost impossible to find in USA, by the way) the movie also offers some nice little homages to some animated classics from which the director, Benjamin Renner, who was present for Q&A, was a big fan of. The scene of Celestine camouflaging a van with paint ala looney toons style, or the scene in where a winter landscape comes alive to music much like that of Fantasia are just wonderful, as was practically every scene in this great, soon-to-be-classic (at least in my book) film!


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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival


  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | - May 3, 2013

    […] & Celestine – “Yet another refreshing alternative to the bombardment of the CGI DreamWorks/Pixar monopolizing hold …” – […]

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