Sunday, October 23, 2016

25th Philadelphia Film Festival , Day 3: "Father's Day!"

After ending day two on a high note with "Jackie", I started my third day with the Cannes' winning "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki", a Finnish black and white film about a boxer going for an international title. Certainly not your "Raging Bull" or "Rocky", "Olli Mäki" was an endearing story of a man fighting for love and not the title. I wasn't over-the-moon like the PFS staff allegedly was, but I didn't hate it, either.

Not expecting to get in to the sold out "Toni Erdmann" screening, I stood in the rush line and got in. And considering it was a Centerpiece selection, you know the screening wasn't going to start on time so I didn't have to worry about walking into an already-started film.

This highly acclaimed German comedy was incredibly heartwarming, and the first great film of the day that encompassed the day's overall theme: dads matter.

Toni Erdmann is the joking personality of a man who crashes in on his workaholic daughter's (Ines) life and makes her open up from her staunch rigidity. She never really endured her father's dark, obvious sense of humor, which includes, but is not limited to, joking with a package deliverer about the bomb that was just delivered to him.

At a hefty 162 minutes, it is not a light film. Sequences of Toni and Ines' adventures with her work colleagues may seem a bit long but they have some hilarious results. All of the time that they spend together is encapsulated in the final scene of the movie which makes you want to love the memories you make and love your father just as much. Sublime.

I followed that up with a documentary I actually have knowledge of the subject matter: "Backpack Full of Cash". Having its premiere Saturday night, this film looks at the impact of charter schools and other publicly-funded, privately-managed learning institutes in the Philadelphia area and abroad.

"Backpack" mentioned most of the problems I, personally, have with charter school and funding issues, but by the end, I couldn't tell if the film was a piece decrying charter schools, or if the funding isn't there for regular public schools. A good overall look at a problem that is a huge political issue (in Pennsylvania, at least).

Following up with that was the epitome of what it means to be a father. "Manchester By The Sea" displays variations on being a fatherly figure through all different stages of life: infancy; childhood; teenage years; adulthood. In an effective turn by Casey Affleck as Lee, "Manchester" is a raw film with bare emotions on life, death and everything in between.

When Lee returns home following his brother's death, the lone building custodian must deal with his ex-wife, his now-fatherless nephew, and a grim past that doesn't keep the audience guessing until the very end. 

From the plot summary in the festival guide, I thought it would be another loved-hometown-boy-returns-home flick à la "Young Adult". That biting comedy takes on the high school personas we've become attached to after 20 years since graduation. "Manchester" is about confronting personal conflicts that have reached all over the coastal New England town. I enjoyed its operatic soundtrack as it deftly flows from one new conflict to the next.

"Toni Erdmann" and "Manchester By The Sea" are astounding looks at what being a father is all about. The hard times, and the good.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki- Good
Toni Erdmann- Excellent
Backpack Full of Cash- Good
Manchester by the Sea- Very Good

I didn't get any knitting down yesterday because I was getting caught up with reading. Here's the dishcloth from Friday! 

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