F.I.L.M of the Week (August 3, 2017)

3 08 2017

Kid-ThingMy brother is eight years younger than I am, and they happen to be situated just so that we’re of different generations. I’m a millennial, he’s “Generation Z” (a name I suspect they might outgrow and replace). One of the distinctive features of my generation, scholars claim, is that we are so-called digital natives. We came of age as the Internet did, and this has made us scrappy and able to navigate it nimbly as it evolved.

But our childhoods were, more or less, still analog. We mostly remember a world without the Internet, or at least one where it was not so omnipresent and omnipotent. Before my adolescence, I recall the Internet as a vehicle for obtaining information and simplifying certain tasks, not the time-sucking black hole that it is now. (Note: I opened Twitter as a reflex during the middle of that sentence as I worked out where it would end in my head.)

My brother’s generation will likely grow up not remembering what a world was like where people couldn’t access the power of the Internet from the palm of their hands. They won’t know what it was like to have a screen nearly everywhere to provide diversion and distraction. (Note: I was just compelled to do a Google Images deep dive of ’90s Leonardo DiCaprio photoshoots. I highly recommend this.) They won’t know what it was like to feel truly and genuinely bored. There’s scarcely a moment in today’s world where it isn’t possible to be productive in some way, shape or form. We’ve killed boredom, and we’re losing something as a result.

This is all a long wind-up to say that David Zellner’s “Kid-Thing,” the scrappy little indie that I’ve selected as my “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” effortlessly portrays a feeling that I rarely feel anymore: boredom. As Zellner documents the humdrum days of young Annie, a ten-year-old girl finding creative ways to pass her days on a Texas farm, he brilliantly captures the fruits of what comes from leaving children with nothing to entertain themselves but their own imagination. It’s a rich, textured invocation too, the kind that recalls the arduous processes required to make even the simplest idea come to pass.

None of this should make you think that “Kid-Thing” itself is boring. The film’s 80 minutes move along at a brisk clip as Annie moves from wild exploit to the next, be it pegging an oncoming car with a wad of (shoplifted) dough or shooting the carcass of a cow with a furious round of paintballs. There’s an interesting through-line involving a hole in the ground where a woman named Esther claims to be trapped, and … well, to me that just felt like another instance of a character letting her imagination run away with her. But I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

REVIEW: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

18 03 2015

kumiko_the_treasure_hunter_ver2A shy, young office worker in Japan mysteriously stumbles upon a VHS copy of the Coen Brothers’ “Fargo” and begins to interpret it as a factual document pointing her to buried treasure in the snows of North Dakota.

That constitutes the basic premise of the odd, eccentric film “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” by the Zellner Brothers.  The duo certainly concocted a unique caper, one that allows a bunny and a tawdry motel duvet cover to dwarf the acting prowess of their Academy Award-nominated star Rinko Kikuchi.  She plays Kumiko as the introvert that her character is, although her timidity and ambivalence at times makes for a frustrating watch.  (For a while, I wondered if she was playing another mute character like she did in “Babel.”)

Kumiko makes for a particularly tough read because the Zellners, quite admirably, provide very little context with which to make sense of her.  Is she a naive, childlike protagonist on a quixotic quest like Thomas Schell from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” or is she driven by sinister demons like the two assassins who claimed that J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” told them to kill people?  The question does not get answered until the very end of “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter,” and it provides a precious sense of tension to hold flagging interest.

The curiosity generated by the Zellners’ novel concept gradually dissipates as their tedious pacing and unrelenting ambiguity steers the film.  “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” is worth watching through to the end, if for no other reason than to find out what on earth will happen with this strange character.  The rewards for enduring such a slog, however, hardly amount to bountiful treasure.  B-2stars