Monday, 28 June 2010

EIFF final: The winners

Yes, that's Ugly Betty herself, America Ferrera who turned up with fiance Ryan Piers Williams, who wrote and directed The Dry Land and took home an award at the final festival ceremony in Edinburgh on Saturday night. Here are the winners...

Michael Powell Award (New British Feature): Skeletons
International Feature: The Dry Land
Feature Documentary: The Oath
Audience Award: Get Low
New Director Award: Gareth Edwards (Monsters)
Performance in a British Film: David Thewlis (Mr Nice)
New British Animation: Stanley Pickle
British Short Film: Baby
International Short Film: Rita
Scottish Short Documentary: Maria's Way

My own top 10 favourites (of the 53 festival films I saw)...
  1. The Secret in Their Eyes
  2. Winter's Bone
  3. Toy Story 3
  4. Get Low
  5. Monsters
  6. Restrepo
  7. Heartbreaker
  8. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
  9. The Illusionist
  10. Mr Nice
And here are some comments on a final handful of films I saw over the past two weeks...

The Dry Land
dir Ryan Piers Williams; with Ryan O'Nan, America Ferrera 09/US ****
Newcomer O'Nan gives a compelling performance in this post-traumatic stress drama as a soldier just back from a tour of duty in Iraq and struggling to return to life with his wife (Ferrara). The film has strong echoes of Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss in its structure and themes, but is a smaller, scruffier film, which gives it a kick all its own. It also features strong supporting roles for Melissa Leo, Jason Ritter and Wilmer Valderrama.

Street Days
dir Levan Koguashvili; with Guga Kotetishvili 10/Geo ****
This story of a low-life junkie on the streets of Tbilisi has an askance charm that continually catches us by surprise as it follows Checkie (the terrific Kotetishvili) through a series of events that squeeze him from every conceivable side - including his wife, the cops, his dealer, a politician's teen son and the scary principal at his own son's school. Fortunately, the film is made with both a gritty sense of realism and an offhanded wit, which combine to draw us into the story and really care what happens to Checkie and the people he is trying to protect.

dir Zach Clark; with Trieste Kelly Dunn, Lydia Hyslop 10/US **
This extremely low-budget American horror comedy had its world premiere at Edinburgh, but it turned out to be one of the festival's more uneven entries. The idea isn't hugely original: four friends take a week-long holiday to a seaside house, where something goes horribly wrong and they completely fail to cope with it. But the film's lurid, leery approach isn't easy to engage with, and the cast members drift wildly over the top. But it's the gaping holes in the script that cause the most trouble.

dir Jeffrey Blitz 09/US ***
The director of Spellbound takes a similar approach with this documentary about lottery winners, following a handful of lucky millionaires who talk about how the money has completely changed their lives. And for each of them, the challenges have outweighed the benefits. This isn't really a surprise, but at least they are all colourful people whose stories are interesting to watch. Intriguingly, none of them are hugely sympathetic, which leaves the film feeling somewhat cold and aloof. So Blitz spices things up with a witty look at the lottery through the ages, with history and stats that are eye-opening in ways the personal stories aren't.

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