PFF17 Film Festival Wrap-Up

PFF 17The 17th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival is over. I had the unexpected pleasure of attending all of it thanks to the slow job market. This is still one of the best events in Philadelphia, although they better keep an eye on Philly Beer Week.

Things started off with a few technical hitches. The Ritz showed my first film in hissy black and white due to a format glitch. They also had crowd control issues that delayed the over-attended first showing of “The Deal” until extra patrons could be coaxed back out of the theater. Maybe the Ritz Theaters changing hands played a part, but I think it’s mostly the increase in ticket sales causing some growing pains. Things quickly settled into a trouble-free routine after the first few days.

The Film Society switched from B-Side to a home-grown website. Some of the features I’ve evangelized in previous years were still on the new site’s drawing board, like sharing movie reviews among friends; it was the most-missed feature among my circle of fest fanatics. Hopefully that and better things are in the works and should be available in time for PIGLFF in July.

One small improvement this year was the badge holder; it was a sleeve this year instead of the press-together laminate of years gone by. Ballots, stubs, and other things finally have a place to go when I’m shuffling in and out of theaters. Sometimes it’s the little things that count.

There were big issues around soon-to-be-released films and paranoia about bootlegging, like the “check mobile phones” policy at “Forbidden Kingdom”. Three things really irked me: First, it wasn’t announced for the first showing. Second, the extra nonsense of reclaiming my phone after the film would have made me miss my next film. Third, who exactly would be responsible if my phone and all the data on it were stolen or lost? So I decided to leave, not a big deal since I had an all-access badge. I heard later that even some ticket holders did the same thing–those that didn’t just sneak their phones in.

The film festivals attract a civilized movie-going crowd–except at The Bridge. I’ve had enough bad experiences with mobile phones and text messaging there that it’s off my list of venues. If adding movies like FK mean the PFS will treat us like movie-going riff-raff–or worse, actually attract movie-going riff-raff–then I’d rather they didn’t include them at all. The festivals aren’t just about the movies; they’re about the whole experience. Let’s hope increasing popularity doesn’t change that.

Lacking B-Side this year, I decided to do micro-reviews on rather than go back to full blog posts per movie or day. Below are stats and 140-character-or-less reviews of the films I saw:

16 films: 1 excellent, 1 very good, 9 good, 4 fair, 1 poor

Median Rating: Good

Mean Rating: 2.8 (1-5)


“Visitor” takes no missteps and has nuance beyond the obvious message and heartstring tugging. NYC locale wins points.

“Hirsute” (short) is a great take on time travel paradoxes and self love.

Very Good

“The Deal” is a kinder-gentler movie within a movie. Too K-G for an excellent.


“Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer” gets a nostalgic rating bump from Fair for its Buffy-like tongue-in-cheek and cheesy monsters.

“Lucky Miles” billed as a comedy but is more a cross-cultural illegal-immigrant survival drama with some good laughs.

“TimeCrimes” is flawed low budget Spanish scifi that makes up for its shortcomings with humor. Fun but obvious.

“Wackness” is a surprisingly tender running-with-weed that entertains. Too heavy on the drug-play for my taste though.

“The End” is interview-style doc where Sopranos meets East Enders. Shot digital but shown B/W with old-film distressed look.

“Sandman” is oddly unaffecting Spanish psycho Shawshank romance. Looks good. Lacks za-za-zoo. Points for hot naked lead.

“Sun Also Rises” opens with brilliant, pretty nonsense but loses steams through the end. Maybe cultural context issues?

“IOUSA” informs about deficits but suffers from being an incomplete truth–still in post for Aug release.

“Heavy Metal/Baghdad” a rougher, more Indie doc looking at mess-o-potamisa from a unique angle.

“Pistoleros” is a quirky, multi-ethnic crime romp. Fun but lost points due to its western overtones and inconsistency.

“Arms of Enemy” overcomes myriad tech issues with good story.


“Me” slow in the middle but great acting by German lead.

“Vexille” has moments exciting and gorgeous but is too derivative and formulaic. Edit it, mute it, and blare the techno.

“Mongol” was visually breathtaking but stifling long. Edit out a half hour and enjoy.

“American Teen” was a longish MTVish docu. I’d rather have brunched at Cuba Libre.


“Dangerous Parking” is “All That Jazz” with a druggie Indie director. A few quality moments don’t justify the whole squirmer.

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